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Brain Mapping That Seeks To Identify “Normal” Could Aid Alzheimer’s Treatment

Inside Florida’s largest retirement community researchers using new brain-mapping technology are trying to peel back the secrets of the brain.

The goal: Make world-changing discoveries about how our minds work that could lead to earlier detection of Alzheimer’s and other brain diseases. The research’s success could allow physicians to start treatments earlier than ever and perhaps delay the onset of this memory-robbing condition that haunts the older population.

“As you look at people as they grow older, from a health perspective they are probably more afraid of losing their memory than they are of getting cancer,” says Dr. Jeffrey Lowenkron, who is chief medical officer of The Villages Health, a medical practice in The Villages, a Florida retirement community that’s home to more than 125,000 people.

There is no cure for Alzheimer’s. Part of the problem in finding one: For all the world’s scientific and medical advances, there is still a lot we don’t know about the brain, Lowenkron says.

“What happens with the electrical activity of the brain as it ages?” he says. “What’s normal and what’s abnormal? No one really knows.”

With this trailblazing research in The Villages®, we may be drawing closer to finding out.

About 1,000 residents of The Villages volunteered to participate in the brain-health research that’s being conducted in partnership with faculty from the University of South Florida and an Israeli company called ElMindA that originally developed the sophisticated BNA™ (Brain Network Activation) technology for use in concussion treatment with young people. All of the partners believe that the technology holds the potential to revolutionize the diagnosis, monitoring and treatment of brain-related disorders.

Here’s how it works: An electrode monitoring device that resembles a hair net is placed on the volunteer’s head. The volunteer is then given a series of computer tasks to perform during an EEG recording. From there, a 3-D representation can be created to show what the brain looked like when the volunteer was responding to the tasks.

The goal is to develop a baseline of what a healthy brain looks like. ElMindA says the results can give physicians:

• Snapshot mapping of brain-network function in comparison to a healthy/normative group.

• The ability to compare multiple tests over time.

• Objective information to assist with better-informed medical decisions.

“In the future, doctors could routinely test how well a patient’s brain is functioning, just like they routinely test for cholesterol levels, vitamin deficiencies or other health problems today,” said Vandeweerd, the studies CoPrincipal Investigator who serves as Director of Research for The Villages Health and is a faculty member at the University of South Florida

The BNA technology also has been used in assessing brain damage caused by concussions, especially sports-related concussions, and it’s hoped it will be effective with other brain disorders, such as depression and dementia.

For the Alzheimer’s study, there’s probably not a better place in the country than The Villages because no where else can you find a community this large that’s made up mostly of people the right age for the study.

The community has a research board that gave the go-ahead and the project began in July 2017. The goal was to recruit 1,100 volunteers, and so far about 1,000 people between the ages of 55 and 84 signed on to help out.

“We are recruiting enough people to get a sense of how normal looks in the brain based on age categories and gender,” Lowenkron says.

The research participants will be monitored several times over the course of the study, which Lowenkron says will go on for about another year.

Most likely, the residents of The Villages who volunteered to participate will never gain any personal benefit from the research results. But the generations who follow them might, which Lowenkron says is enough to make it worthwhile to them.

“This is a very giving community from this perspective,” Lowenkron says. “If they can do things that will help others in the future, they are eager and willing.”

About Dr. Jeffrey Lowenkron

Dr. Jeffrey Lowenkron is the Chief Medical Officer of The Villages Health in the Villages, a retirement community in Florida. Before joining The Villages Health, he served as Chief Executive Officer of the USF Physician’s Group at University of South Florida and was Chair of the Department of Comprehensive Medicine from 2012 to 2015. Prior to his time at USF, Dr. Lowenkron spent 17 years with Kaiser Permanente. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Johns Hopkins University and his Doctor of Medicine with honors from Creighton University School of Medicine. He also has a master’s degree in public policy from Georgetown University.

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5 Ways A Healthy Gut Makes A Healthy Brain

The idiom “trust your gut” means relying on intuition, rather than thoughtful, deep analysis, to make a decision. But research shows there is actually a tangible connection between gut health and brain health, and that linkage can affect emotions and cognitive processing.
Research conducted at the California Institute of Technology by Elaine Hsiao showed how unhealthy or healthy microorganisms in the stomach can influence behaviors differently. Another study, led by Kirsten Tillisch at UCLA, suggested probiotics can have a positive effect on behavior, mental outlook and brain function.
“Scientists have now determined that humans have two brains; the second one resides in the gut and is called the enteric nervous system,” says Richard Purvis, author of Recalibrate: Six Secrets To Resetting Your Age and CEO of Skin Moderne Inc. (www.skinmoderne.com). “It has more neurons than the spinal column or central nervous system. Understanding the relationship helps to clarify why the process of taking care of the gut and the brain within it also helps improve the health of the brain in your head.”
Given Americans’ notoriously poor eating habits, Purvis says gut health has never been more important. A Tufts University study estimates that over 318,000 deaths a year – or nearly half of American deaths caused by heart disease, stroke and diabetes – were hastened by unhealthy eating.
“Processed foods and sugar are among the biggest culprits for promoting the growth of bad bacteria in the gut,” Purvis says. “You can greatly improve your gut health – and by extension your brain health – by being kinder to it on a daily basis.”
Purvis recommends four nutritional tips – and a nature trip – that benefit your gut and your brain:
• Daily servings of cultured, fermented probiotic-rich foods. “Sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha pickled veggies, yogurt, and kefir encourage the growth of good bacteria,” Purvis says. “By ingesting healthy, probiotic-rich foods, you are guaranteed colony-forming units of bacteria, plus food sources are much cheaper than supplements.”
• Prebiotic foods. Non-digestible short-chain fatty acids help your good bacteria flourish, says Purvis. These are found in artichokes, garlic, leeks, dandelion greens, beans, oats, onions and asparagus.
• A diet that keeps blood sugar balanced. “This also keeps gut bacteria balanced,” Purvis says. “A diet high in rich sources of fiber, especially derived from whole fruits and vegetables, feeds the good gut bacteria and produces the right balance of those short-chain fatty acids to keep the gut lining in check.”
• Gluten reduction. Reducing gluten, or avoiding it altogether, Purvis says, will further improve gut health as well as healthy brain physiology. He agrees with medical professionals who say gluten can interfere with the absorption of nutrients, hurting digestion and sometimes leading to “leaky gut,” or damaged intestine walls.
• Getting outside and into nature. “You need to connect with more microorganisms – the more, the merrier,” Purvis says. “Their purpose is to perform life-sustaining functions. Move outside, do some gardening, plant flowers, mow the lawn, take a walk in the woods. Do things that connect you and your immune system with all the microorganisms in the soil.”
“Lifestyle choice is considered by most the culprit contributing to our unhealthy bacteria,” Purvis says. “So you have a choice, and the one you make with your diet will affect your whole body, and not least of all, your brain.”
About Richard Purvis
Richard Purvis is the CEO of Skin Moderne Inc. (www.skinmoderne.com) and author of Recalibrate: Six Secrets to Resetting Your Age. He has more than 30 years of experience in nutrition, exercise, anti-aging and overall wellness. Along with starting Skin Moderne, he is the founder of wellness companies Nutrimax, Nutritbrands and Skin Nutrition, and the co-founder of Noggin Nosh.

Geisinger Holy Spirit offers pulmonary rehabilitation for patients with chronic lung diseases
CAMP HILL – Geisinger Holy Spirit now offers a pulmonary rehabilitation program for patients with chronic lung diseases.
Pulmonary rehabilitation is an exercise and symptom management program that helps to improve the quality of life for those living with chronic lung conditions. Participation can be beneficial for those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), interstitial lung disease, pulmonary fibrosis, pulmonary hypertension, sarcoidosis, and a variety of other lung-related conditions.
“Pulmonary rehab is intended to be an open, friendly, supportive atmosphere where a patient can learn about their disease and how to manage it,” said Diana Prowell, lead therapist. “This is accomplished through interaction and education with both healthcare professionals and other patients suffering from similar diseases and symptoms.”
Geisinger Holy Spirit’s Pulmonary Rehabilitation program is located within the hospital, 503 N. 21st St., Camp Hill. Patients must have a physician referral. For more information, call 717-972-4545.

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Geisinger Holy Spirit to host ‘World Day of the Sick’ retreat for healthcare professionals

CAMP HILL – Geisinger Holy Spirit will host a “World Day of the Sick” retreat for healthcare professionals on Saturday, March 17. The retreat will begin at 9 a.m. in the hospital auditorium, 503 N. 21st St., Camp Hill.

The retreat is designed for doctors, nurses, therapists, pharmacists, social workers, and other healthcare providers, offering an opportunity to reflect on Pope Francis’ annual message to healthcare providers, listen to reflections by others in the field, and share personal experiences. Geisinger Holy Spirit is offering the retreat as a part of its mission integration initiatives to incorporate caring, faith, solidarity, and respect for human dignity in the delivery of healthcare.

The schedule is as follows:

8:30 a.m. Registration

9 a.m. Opening prayer

9:05 a.m. Remarks on the theme of the retreat by Arlene Bobonich, M.D., Geisinger Holy Spirit Palliative and Supportive Medicine

9:10 a.m. “The Life of Blessed Mother Pauline” by Sister Mary Joseph Albright, SCC, mission integration director, Geisinger Holy Spirit

9:45 a.m. Discussion: “The Message of His Holiness Pope Francis for the 26th World Day of the Sick”

10:15 a.m. “Drawn Near to a Hidden Divine Presence” by Michael Brescia, M.D. (video presentation)

10:45 a.m. Personal reflection time

11:30 a.m. “Caring for a Loved One” by Maureen Asper, RN

11:50 a.m. Closing remarks

12:15 p.m. Liturgy in the hospital chapel (for those wishing to participate)

12:45 p.m. Lunch

There is no cost to attend the retreat and lunch will be provided to all attendees. Registration is requested at abobonich@geisinger.edu, cnpham@geisinger.edu, or kmccormack2@geisinger.edu.

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My Vision Is Blurry, But Eyeglasses Don’t Help

(NAPS)—Some eye conditions cannot be corrected with eyeglasses—but they can be helped. If you have a cataract, a condition in which the lens in your eye has become cloudy and vision becomes blurry—as if you’re looking through a foggy windshield—you need to see an ophthalmologist.

As physicians who specialize in medical and surgical eye care, ophthalmologists treat all diseases and conditions that affect the eye. You will first need a comprehensive dilated eye exam. The ophthalmologist will dilate your pupil to see the back of your eye to make the cataract diagnosis.

Here are some vision changes you might notice if you have a cataract:

• Difficulty seeing clearly or sharply

• Seeing two images instead of one

• Being extra sensitive to light, needing to shield eyes to prevent eye pain

• Trouble seeing well at night or needing increased light to read

• Seeing bright colors as faded.

EyeCare America May Be Able To Help

If you are concerned about the cost of the exam, the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s EyeCare America program may be able to help. This national public service provides eye care through volunteer ophthalmologists for eligible seniors 65 and older, and those at increased risk for eye disease. To see if you or your loved ones are eligible, visit www.aao.org/eyecareamerica.

I Have Cataracts, What’s Next?

You and your ophthalmologist should discuss your cataract symptoms. Together, you can decide whether you are ready for cataract surgery.

Surgery is the only way to remove a cataract. During surgery, your ophthalmologist will remove your eye’s cloudy lens and replace it with an artificial lens. If you decide to have cataract surgery, your doctor will discuss several options with you.

Check to see if you are eligible for EyeCare America by completing a simple online questionnaire. There are more than 5,500 volunteer ophthalmologists across the U.S. waiting to assist you.

Since 1985, EyeCare America has helped nearly 2 million people with sight-saving eye care and resources. More than 90 percent of the care provided is at no out-of-pocket cost to the patient. Grateful patient Connie, from Toledo, OH, said, “Thank you for the chance to get help. I went 20 years without checking my eyes.” EyeCare America is co-sponsored by the Knights Templar Eye Foundation, with additional support from Alcon.

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A High School Senior is College Shopping Thanks to His Mom’s Kidney

March is National Kidney Month, which is a month-long, awareness-raising grassroots effort to spread the word across the country about the importance of kidney health. An East Coast transplant family knows all too well the life-saving difference a healthy kidney can make.

The Hoover family of Redding, Connecticut, assumed the role of transplant family with absolutely no warning. Theirs is the type of story that strikes fear in all parents’ hearts. Wyatt Hoover was born to his adoring first-time parents in April 2000. He was the light of their lives. His baby sister, Josie, was born a year later. Their family’s daily routines were much like those of their neighbors and friends. Wyatt soon fell in love with scouting and theater, which became passions for parents Herb and Jeanmarie as well. The Hoover Four had many great years of watching Wyatt and Josie grow up and become close as siblings. They played hard and they all loved each other ‘to the moon and back.’

But the Hoover family’s lives literally turned upside down in early June 2016 during Wyatt’s Boy Scouts’ summer camp physical. Wyatt’s mom, Jeanmarie, recently looked back and wrote a first-person narrative of their family’s transplant journey, and some of her thoughts are shared here:

It was June 2016 – the end of the school year. It is always such a busy time in the Hoover house. On top of the usual bustle, we were getting ready to move. At the same time we had to get Wyatt ready to go to his first real summer job as a residential camp counselor at Boy Scout Camp. Wyatt is an Eagle Scout. I picked Wyatt up from his high school finals and we drove to his camp physical at the pediatrician’s office. We had no idea our lives were about to change forever.

At the appointment we started realizing something was wrong. Wyatt’s hemoglobin came up way too low and he had lost over 20 pounds since the previous fall. Later Wyatt’s theatre costumer would tell me she had to special order a child’s size for Wyatt (for the spring production) as he had gotten so thin. Had we noticed anything else? Yes. Wyatt was utterly exhausted all the time and having trouble focusing in his classes. We had always thought he just was not a morning person. He always made the honor roll so we did not pay much attention to his tiredness. When Wyatt’s urine test came back hundreds over normal for protein our pediatrician told us it could be mono or Lyme disease or maybe even nephrotic syndrome and sent us to Hartford to the children’s hospital ER.

            Truly unbelievable but within 24 hours of entering that ER our Wyatt, who had never had so much as a cavity, was having surgery to implant two dialysis catheters. We were told he would soon need a life-saving kidney transplant and a lifetime of immunosuppression.

Within the month we left the children’s hospital behind and transferred to Yale for Wyatt’s dialysis care while researching Boston Children’s Hospital for his kidney transplant. We spent the summer adjusting to dialysis and taking turns breaking down emotionally over the incredible loss we were feeling. Instead of camp and hiking Wyatt and I spent many warm summer days driving to Yale. We passed the time singing in the car to the soundtrack of “Hamilton” and it became a joyous escape for both of us.

In mid-July, upon a transplant social worker’s urging, Jeanmarie called the Children’s Organ Transplant Association (COTA) to learn more about fundraising for transplant-related expenses. COTA uniquely understands that parents who care for a child or young adult before, during and after a life-saving transplant have enough to deal with, so COTA’s model shifts the responsibility for fundraising to a community team of trained volunteers. COTA is a 501(c)3 charity so all contributions to COTA are tax deductible to the fullest extent of the law, and these COTA funds are available for the patient’s lifetime. On July 19th the Hoovers called COTA’s 800 number to learn more and they signed the paperwork and became an official COTA family soon after.

At the beginning of Wyatt’s transplant journey, COTA’s support was invaluable.  Learning that we were not alone as a transplant family was a huge relief for us. COTA gave us guidance in choosing a team of volunteers to help with fundraising. COTA worked individually with our chosen team members to discuss ideas and fundraising guidelines. COTA gave a great deal of support to our team members and volunteers throughout the COTA in honor of Wyatt H fundraising efforts. They answered questions, helped with troubleshooting solutions, and provided easy-to-follow guidelines to assure the fundraising complied with all regulations.

Because Wyatt’s transplant was unexpected and completely unplanned for, the COTA in honor of Wyatt H team of volunteers quickly got to work planning fundraisers for transplant-related expenses. The Redding theater community and Boy Scouts all got involved to creatively raise funds for COTA in honor of Wyatt H. As Jeanmarie told COTA recently, the fundraising gave so many of their friends, family members and colleagues something tangible they could do to help. In very little time, the COTA team of volunteers raised nearly $75,000 for transplant-related expenses.

COTA also gave the team a fundraising website at no charge. Wyatt was even able to submit blog entries to tell his story in his own words. The blog provided a really positive and cathartic outlet for Wyatt. Through the website, supporters were able to contribute online after reading Wyatt’s blogs. Many contributors told us how excited they were to take part in such a wonderful community effort with such amazing momentum. Seeing loved ones, friends, colleagues, acquaintances and even people we have never met come together to support COTA for Wyatt H truly renewed our faith in the goodness of humanity.

Also critical to us is that contributors to COTA for Wyatt H knew they were giving to a legitimate and trusted 501(c)3 charity that is fiscally responsible. We never worried that people were going to ask us how their donation is being spent because it can only be used for transplant-related expenses. Many contributors have told us they feel completely confident donating to COTA — unlike when they are asked to donate to internet fundraising sites. They pointed out how some internet fundraising sites collect fees from both donors and the recipients while COTA does not charge any fees.

It gives us tremendous peace of mind to know that COTA will always be there for Wyatt.

By the end of August 2016 it was time for Wyatt to return to school to begin his junior year of studies. He was excited to receive his driver’s license on September 16th but a trip to the hospital four days later due to an emergency catheter breach brought his dialysis reality and eventual transplant back into focus. Amazingly through all of his health hurdles, Wyatt managed to play the role of the Narrator in the Joel Barlow High School’s production of “Into the Woods” during mid-November.

Wyatt worked at his junior year classes (two AP classes and an honors class no less) as I worked through testing to be his kidney donor. We were healing with the help of the love and support we felt from our community. During this challenging time, our friends came through for us and we will be forever grateful. Wyatt’s theatre group held a comedy improv night COTA fundraiser, his Boy Scout Troup held a Fright Night COTA fundraiser, and Wyatt’s old school (where Herb and I met in eighth grade) held a volleyball tournament COTA fundraiser. It all meant the world to us. We can never thank everyone enough for their support for our family and for COTA in honor of Wyatt H.

Once Wyatt’s first semester was over it was time for the transplant in Boston. With COTA’s help we stayed at the hotel next door and it became our home base. Wyatt was very scared but also very courageous. He went through the grueling process of bringing his immune system down so his body could accept my kidney. We were in it together and stayed with him until it was time for Herb to take me to my surgery. The team at Boston Children’s Hospital was amazing.

Because of our transplant team and COTA, we did not have to worry about having the proper care or how to pay for everything. Having those concerns taken care of allowed us to focus on Wyatt’s healing and mine.

On December 29, 2016, Wyatt received his Mom’s life-saving kidney at Boston Children’s Hospital. On New Year’s Eve, Jeanmarie was released from her hospital a few blocks away to visit Wyatt just three days after their surgeries. She was discharged on January 2, 2017, and went to sit at Wyatt’s bedside. On January 13th the Hoover family was able to return to Redding for their first weekend visit – Wyatt’s post-transplant surgical recovery was truly text book.

Today, Wyatt is in his senior year of high school trying to decide what is next for him. He still loves theater and being an Eagle Scout. Wyatt is contemplating pursuing a college degree in school psychology because he would love to help high school students in need of assistance while working with the high school’s theater program. Since his transplant Wyatt has had good days and bad days due to his many post-transplant medications. But as his family likes to point out, Wyatt is not only a survivor … he is a thriver and he will most definitely find his way.

According to Jeanmarie and Herb, “When we first heard our son was going to need a transplant, we were overwhelmed and had many questions. We wanted to get him the best possible care, but how could we afford it? From our first conversation with the Children’s Organ Transplant Association (COTA) we felt a huge sense of relief. Throughout our transplant journey to date, COTA has encouraged and inspired us. We always had great hope that Wyatt would have a bright and healthy future.”

“Having COTA by our side has helped us hold onto that hope.”

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