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Date: 11-13-2014;

State encourages pregnant women to get flu shots...

Kentucky Press News Service

FRANKFORT – Pregnancy can increase the risk for complications from influenza, such as pneumonia, making it even more important for expectant mothers to get a flu vaccination.

In fact, pregnant women are more likely to be hospitalized from complications of the flu than non-pregnant women of the same age. For this reason, as well as other health concerns, officials from the Kentucky Department for Public Health urge pregnant women to be immunized against the flu before the upcoming holidays and before onset of the peak flu season, which typically occurs in Kentucky in February or March.

"Pregnancy changes the mother’s immune system, as well as affecting her heart and lungs,” Dr. Stephanie Mayfield, commissioner of DPH, said in a state news release. “These changes may place pregnant women at increased risk for complications from the flu as well as hospitalizations and even death. Contracting the flu virus during pregnancy may also cause an increase in serious problems for their unborn baby, including premature labor and delivery.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend that women who are or become pregnant during the flu season should receive an inactivated flu vaccine. It can be given to pregnant women at any point during their pregnancy.

“Leading health officials agree that the flu vaccine is safe for pregnant women at all stages of pregnancy and for breastfeeding mothers,” Mayfield said. “The Kentucky Department for Public Health urges all pregnant women to get vaccinated against the flu.”

Immunizing the mother during pregnancy also has the added benefit of protecting her newborn. Immune antibodies are passed across the placenta before delivery, which could help to protect the infant during the first months after delivery, as the vaccine is not recommended for infants younger than six months of age. 

“Vaccinating pregnant women protects mothers, their unborn babies and their babies after birth,” Mayfield said in the news release. “Vaccination of the mother and all other household contacts before birth is the most effective measure to prevent flu infection in infants less than six months old.”

Infection with the flu virus can cause fever, headache, cough, sore throat, runny nose, sneezing and body aches. Flu is a very contagious disease caused by the influenza virus, which spreads from person to person through contact with infected nasal and oral secretions. While vaccine supplies are expected to be ample this season, DPH advises individuals to call ahead to check with their health care provider, local health department or pharmacy about the availability of flu vaccine.

 

Don’t Let a Stroke Surprise You

Recognize the signs; reduce your risk...

Louisa, KY -- A bad headache. Difficulty focusing. Confusion or fumbling to find words. It’s tempting to explain away troubling symptoms and chalk them up to fatigue, eye trouble, one too many cups of coffee. But these symptoms – particularly if they’re severe – may signal a stroke.

Stroke is the third leading cause of death, behind cancer and heart disease. A disease that affects the blood supply to the brain, stroke occurs when a blood vessel or artery is blocked by a blood clot or bursts. When this happens, the area of the brain that is supplied with oxygen and nutrients by this blood vessel is damaged. As a result, the body part or function controlled by this part of the brain doesn’t operate the right way.

Another frightening statistic: according to the National Stroke Association, people who have a stroke are four times as likely to have another stroke during their lifetime. Recurrent strokes carry an even higher risk of death and disability because the brain has previously been injured by the original stroke.

A stroke can change a person’s life forever. It can leave the victim with moderate to severe physical, mental or psychological disabilities. Depending on the area of the brain affected, a stroke victim may lose their memory, speech, balance, certain fine motor skills, control over certain muscles or movement of entire limbs – even paralysis of one side of the body. A person’s personality or behavior can be forever changed by a stroke. They may have difficulty reading, processing information or even eating.

About 87 percent of all strokes are ischemic strokes, where a blockage of a blood vessel that supplies blood to the brain occurs. The clot can form in the brain area, or in a blood vessel elsewhere in the body – the heart, chest area or neck – where it can break loose and travel to the brain. The remaining 13 percent are called hemorrhagic strokes – strokes caused by a weakened blood vessel that breaks and bleeds into the surrounding brain tissue. A brain aneurysm refers to the bulging of the weakened blood vessel, which continues to weaken and, if not treated, breaks and bleeds into the brain.


If you suspect that someone is having a stroke, act quickly. A stroke is an emergency – and mere seconds can make an enormous difference in the outcome for a stroke survivor. Call 9-1-1 and try to recall the time that symptoms first appeared. If a stroke victim receives immediate medical assistance, a clot-busting drug can be administered by medical personnel within three hours of first symptoms which may reduce the likelihood of long-term disability resulting from a stroke. The quicker that medical care is received, the greater a stroke victim’s chances are of not only surviving a stroke, but minimizing its effects.

Learn to recognize stroke signs, and be prepared – to save a friend or loved one’s life, or your own.

available that may help reduce the long-term effects of stroke.

Three Rivers Medical Center has been awarded Joint Commission Top Performer distinction three years in a row.  The Emergency Department is an Accredited Chest Pain Center.  TRMC is a 90-bed, acute care facility.  It is accredited by The Joint Commission.  With over 80 medical staff members, TRMC offers cardiology, general surgery, nephrology, orthopedics, urology, gynecology, ophthalmology, otolaryngology, gastroenterology, podiatry, 24-hour emergency care, diagnostic radiation, rehabilitative services and mental health.

www.threeriversmedicalcenter.com

Parkinson’s Disease 
Understanding a Complicated Condition

Illustration of an older man standing with a cane and a woman holding his arm to aid balance. 

We rely on our brains for every movement we make, whether writing, walking, talking, or even sleeping. But a serious brain disorder like Parkinson’s disease can rob a person of the ability to do everyday tasks that many of us take for granted. There’s no cure, but treatment can help. And researchers continue to seek new understanding to improve medical care.

Parkinson’s disease evolves gradually over time. The early signs may be barely noticeable. A person’s movements may change slightly. You might notice slowness, rigidity, or difficulty balancing or walking. The person’s face may lack expression, or handwriting may become small and cramped. Eventually, these changes can become more severe and interfere with daily life. It might become harder to sleep, think, eat, speak, smell, and make decisions. As the disease worsens, symptoms may become difficult to control.

Parkinson’s disease usually arises after age 50, but can also appear earlier in life. It affects about 600,000 people nationwide. As Americans age, the number of people with Parkinson’s disease is expected to rise dramatically.

Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder, which means that brain cells gradually malfunction and die. The disease damages brain cells that make a chemical called dopamine. The resulting dopamine shortage causes the movement problems that mark Parkinson’s disease.

Although researchers don’t yet understand what causes Parkinson’s disease, the body’s genes likely play some role. A number of genes have been linked to the risk of developing Parkinson’s. “Diving deeper into the genetics of the disease is providing us with hints about the underlying biology,” says Dr. Beth-Anne Sieber, an NIH expert on Parkinson’s disease.

But genes are only part of the picture. NIH-funded scientists are searching for other factors that might lead to the disease. One goal of this research is to discover new targets for drugs that can slow disease progression.

If you notice any of the common signs of Parkinson’s disease, see a health care provider. Your doctor may refer you to a neurologist, a physician specializing in the nervous system. A careful exam and certain tests can help with diagnosis.

To treat Parkinson’s, doctors prescribe combinations of medicines that work to regulate dopamine in the brain. “This helps free up people to move better and lessens the troubling movement problems of Parkinson’s,” Sieber says.

A surgical procedure called deep brain stimulation is an option for some patients. In this approach, a small pacemaker-like system is placed in areas of the brain that control movement.

Research suggests that eating right and exercising may help reduce or delay symptoms. Scientists are studying how much and what kinds of exercise can most help improve patient health and quality of life.

Many potential new treatments for Parkinson’s disease are now being studied in NIH-funded clinical trials. “There’s a great need for people with Parkinson’s and their families to participate in clinical research,” says Sieber. “Participation is key.”

To learn more about participating in NIH research on Parkinson’s disease, or to find a clinical trial, visit www.nih.gov/health/clinicaltrials.

Diabetes: It’s heart-felt...

The National Diabetes Education Program and its Partners Raise Awareness About the Connection Between Diabetes and Heart Disease during National Diabetes Month

More than 29 million Americans—or about 9 percent of the U.S. population—have diabetes, and it is estimated that one in every four people with diabetes does not even know they have the disease. In Kentucky alone, diabetes affects more than 370,000 people. If left undiagnosed or untreated, diabetes can lead to serious health problems, including heart attack and stroke.

This November, the National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP) and the Lawrence County Health Department are encouraging people with diabetes to “Be Smart About Your Heart: Control the ABCs of Diabetes.”  This is a critical message because people with diabetes are nearly two times more likely to die from heart disease or stroke than a person without diabetes.

The good news is that people with diabetes can lower their chance of having diabetes-related heart problems by managing their Diabetes ABCs:

A is for the A1C test (A-one-C).  This is a blood test that measures your average blood sugar (glucose) level over the past three months.

B is for Blood pressure.

C is for Cholesterol.

S is for stopping smoking.

“Managing the Diabetes ABCs can help prevent diabetes-related heart problems such as heart attack and stroke,” said Carolyn McGinn of the Lawrence County Health Department. “Many people with diabetes do not understand that having diabetes puts them at increased risk for having a heart attack or stroke.  The NDEP has many practical resources that can help people with diabetes understand how to manage their disease, which includes managing blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol, and stopping smoking.”

If you have diabetes, ask your health care team what your A1C, blood pressure, and cholesterol numbers are, and what they should be. Your ABC goals will depend on how long you have had diabetes and other health problems.

Please visit www.YourDiabetesInfo.org/DiabetesMonth2014 for more information about the link between diabetes and heart disease. Also, call the Lawrence County Health Department at 606-638-9500 to learn more about diabetes and the services available in Lawrence County.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP) is jointly sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) with the support of more than 200 partner organizations.

 

Date: 10-17-2014

Medical marijuana promoted at legislative committee meeting...

When his father came home with change he had taken from a payphone to pay for his sister’s prescription, Dr. Nick Kouns understood the importance of medicine and decided he would become a doctor. 

Earlier this week, Kouns, who now chairs the department of medicine at Clark Regional Medical Center in Winchester, became involved in a contentious discussion about his medical opinion supporting the medicinal benefits of marijuana with the Interim Joint Committee on Health and Welfare.

Kouns emphasized to lawmakers that since he was a child he understood how precious medication can be to a patient and after receiving a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, Kouns studied medicine abroad in countries including Israel, Egypt and South Africa.

Citing reports and literature from the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health, Kouns said 75 percent of the world’s doctors endorse the use of cannabinoids, the active compounds found in marijuana, to be beneficial for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, nausea, controlling loss of appetite and symptomatic treatment for cancer patients. 

“If physicians are lieutenants when it comes to controversial or new treatment protocols, those are the people we need to look to,” Kouns said. “I can talk about the National Institute of Health, the National Cancer Institute, the American College of Physicians, the American College of Neurology and on and on who have very similar opinions in their advocacies of medical marijuana.”

Better alternative

Using medical marijuana for relief from chronic pain, Kouns said was a better alternative to the withdrawal symptoms and abuse associated with benzodiazepines and opiates. 

“The fact that medical marijuana is a medicine to my mind is incontrovertible,” Kouns said. “To not move forward in a rational and meaningful way is a willful disregard of the medical literature.” 

Kouns encouraged lawmakers to look at the evidence and literature in support of medical marijuana and the states that have adopted or are in the process of adopting medical marijuana policies, including the District of Columbia. 

More doctors don’t come forward to policymakers, Kouns said, because of the stigma of marijuana and that it is a crime. 

Rep. Robert Benvenuti (R-Lexington) remarked that instead of Kentucky adopting any medical marijuana legislation, the state should allow the FDA to do its due diligence in researching the substance’s medicinal properties. 

Support not there

Moreover, Benvenuti said he had position statements from the American Cancer Institute, American Society for Addiction Medicine and the American Psychiatric Society that say the research in support of medical marijuana isn’t there. 

As many organizations show opposition to the legislation, Kouns said he has research supporting medical marijuana such as that from the National Cancer Institute. 

Sen. Joe Bowen (R-Owensboro) asked Kouns if had ever recreationally used marijuana and if it impaired his ability to drive a car. Kouns candidly answered that he had recreationally used marijuana in college, and the only casualty was eating a large portion of a sheet cake and that marijuana’s safety profile couldn’t be compared to something as dangerous as oxycontin.

Co-Chair Rep. Tom Burch (D-Louisville) reined in the discussion saying the doctor was invited to the committee to give his medical opinion and that he was brought before legislators to answer their questions not debate personal beliefs. 

“I’m very much a believer in facts,” said Sen. Reginald Thomas. (D-Lexington) “I guess the question before us…what is it going to take to convince us of its usefulness.”

By Brad Bowman
The State Journal