Strength of Your Grip May Predict Chances of Heart Attack
The strength of your grip could help predict your chances of having a heart attack or stroke, or suffering a premature death. That’s what researchers at McMaster University have concluded after a large international study.
The researchers looked at blood pressure data collected from nearly 140,000 people from 14 countries to determine the connection between hand grip and cardiovascular health problems.
The results, published in The Lancet, suggest that young women in their 20s have an average grip strength of about 75 lbs, which drops to 53 lbs for 70-year-old women. For young men the average grip strength is 119 lbs, falling to 84 lbs at 70 years of age.
While grip strength naturally declines with age, the study results suggest that for those whose grip strength declines faster, so do their health risks. The research showed each 11 lb reduction in grip strength increased the odds of premature death by 16 percent, with the odds of a fatal heart problem increasing by 17 percent and a stroke by 9 percent.
While the study doesn’t elaborate on why a weaker grip could suggest worsening heart heath, its primary focus is to find an easier, quicker, and inexpensive way for doctors to examine the overall health of patients. Currently, doctors calculate heart health risks by having patients fill out a questionnaire, which relies on patient memory recall and takes more time than a grip a test.
The 1st Vaccination: May 14, 1796
A young English boy named James Phipps is given an unusual treatment by the local country doctor. The physician is Edward Jenner, and he makes an incision in the boy’s arm and applies to it pus taken from a blister on the hand of a milkmaid who had contracted cowpox. Jenner is acting on a theory based on lore among the area’s farmers that milkmaids who developed cowpox somehow avoided catching smallpox.
The young boy did get sick, but within a week or so, he recovered. Then, on July 1, Jenner took the next critical step—he applied actual smallpox matter to an incision on Phipps. The boy suffered no ill effects. Jenner believee he may have found a safe way to protect people from smallpox. Using the Latin word for cowpox—vaccinia—Jenner called his treatment “vaccination.”
Prior to Jenner’s discovery, the most common approach to fighting smallpox was variolation, which involved exposing people to smallpox virus. Those people would develop the disease, but often a less severe version of it, and they seemed more likely to be able to avoid a recurrence in the future. This may first have been used as a way to fight smallpox in China as early as 1000 A.D. It also was used in India, then spread to the Middle East and Africa, and by the 18th century, was well-established as the treatment of choice in Europe, particularly Great Britain. This tactic likewise became accepted in Britain’s colonies and George Washington required that it be used on men drafted into his Continental Army.
But the use of smallpox virus as protection came with risks. It killed some people and caused the spread of other diseases, such as tuberculosis and syphilis, which were transmitted through the procedure. So Jenner’s use of a cowpox virus, which appeared to have no lasting harmful effects, was potentially a great breakthrough.
Still, his approach wasn’t embraced at first by Great Britain’s medical establishment, which doubted that a country doctor could have made such an important discovery. In fact, he was ridiculed in some circles. Critics, especially the clergy, claimed it was repulsive and ungodly to inoculate someone with material from a diseased animal. A satirical cartoon published in 1802 showed people who had been vaccinated sprouting cow’s heads.
In time, though, Jenner’s smallpox vaccinations took hold, and in 1840, 17 years after he died, the British government banned all other preventive treatments against smallpox. Strictly speaking, he didn’t invent the concept of vaccination—although he did name it-- but his work represented the first scientific attempt to control an infectious disease by the deliberate use of vaccination. Scientists throughout the 19th and 20th centuries followed his model to develop vaccines to fight many deadly diseases, including polio, whooping cough, measles, tetanus, yellow fever, typhus and hepatitis B.
In 1979, the World Health Organization declared that smallpox, which killed at least 300 million people in the 20th century alone, had been eradicated on the planet and that no more vaccinations were necessary.
In recent years, though, vaccinations have come under fire by some parents who say they fear a link between childhood vaccines and autism–a connection made by actress Jenny McCarthy during an appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show in 2007.
Since then, numerous medical and health organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the World Health Organization and the Institute of Medicine, have said that there’s no scientific evidence of such a connection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) weighed in with its own study in 2013, one that reinforced the evidence that vaccines did not cause autism.
More slices of history
Human Genes Change with the Seasons
The seasons may have a significant effect on how our genes and immune system function, according to a new study published in _Nature Communications. _
An international team of scientists determined that the genes associated with our immune system were more active in colder months. That’s good news for fighting colds and the flu, but it may also trigger or worsen inflammation and the symptoms of other conditions where the body attacks itself, such as rheumatoid arthritis and type 1 diabetes.
The researchers said this could explain why people were prone to certain diseases at particular times of year.
Experts noted that these gene changes could have developed in prehistoric humans, back when seasonal changes in gene activity related to inflammation could help fight infection. But those changes could now have become a risk factor for diseases of modern life, said the study’s authors.
Personalized Cancer Vaccine One Step Closer
Researchers in Germany say they may have moved one step closer to creating vaccines that can train immune systems to fight cancer based on the specific genetic mutations of a person’s tumors.
In the quest to develop “vaccines on demand” that can targetted at an individual’s tumor, scientists at TRON, a biopharmaceutical research institute, focused on bringing more precision and speed to the technique of immunotherapy–training a person’s immune cells to recognize and attack tumors,
One challenge that researchers addressed was to produce a template of a tumor type from the cancer cell mutations that could then be fine-tuned to incorporate genetic changes specific to each patient. Another challenge was to speed up the process to identify the most effective drug combination before the cancer has a chance to spread.
Researchers addressed the first challenge by identifying the genetic fingerprints for three different types of tumors (skin, colon, and breast cancer). They found that up to 20 percent of all the mutations in a tumor can potentially trigger an immune response. The second challenge was to deliver a specific vaccine catered to a patient in sufficient time, and they found that once the mutations have been identified, customized treatment can be created pretty quickly. They found that by focusing on ten mutations that attack different points on the tumor, and by using messenger RNA to carry the mutations, they could deliver the personalized cancer treatment effectively.
The next step is to test this approach to “personalized” cancer treatment in humans. The team plans to test their findings in an international clinical study of malignant melanoma and also in other clinical trials.