Monthly Archives: January 2012
Sudden cardiac arrest isn’t the same as a heart attack.
Someone in the prime of their life — a professional sports star, teen athlete, marathon runner, or other seemingly healthy person — isn’t supposed to collapse and die from heart disease. But it occasionally happens, making sudden cardiac arrest front-page news.
The rare nature of sudden cardiac arrest among the young is precisely what makes it so attention-grabbing. According to the Cleveland Clinic, sudden cardiac death kills 1 in 100,000 to 1 in 300,000 athletes under age 35, more often males.
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Among the most publicized cases: U.S. Olympic volleyball player Flo Hyman in 1986; college basketball player Hank Gathers in 1990; and professional basketball players Pete Maravich in 1988 and Reggie Lewis in 1993.
People wonder if anything could have been done to prevent such an event. They wonder who’s at risk, and whether anyone can survive sudden cardiac arrest.
Fortunately, the answer is yes, says Christine E. Lawless, MD, MBA, a cardiologist and sports medicine doctor in Chicago. She is the co-chair of the American College of Cardiology’s sports and exercise council, and a consulting cardiologist for Major League Soccer.
“We’re trying to get folks to recognize that the person can come back from [cardiac] arrest if you get there within a minute,” Lawless says. With immediate use of an automated external defibrillator, people have a chance to live.
What Is Sudden Cardiac Arrest?
When you hear about a young person dropping dead, you may think “heart attack.” But sudden cardiac arrest (also referred to as sudden cardiac death) is different.
A heart attack stems from a circulation, or “plumbing,” problem of the heart, according to the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Association. It happens when a sudden blockage in a coronary artery severely reduces or cuts off blood flow to the heart, damaging heart muscle.
In contrast, a sudden cardiac arrest is due to an “electrical” problem in the heart. It happens when electrical signals that control the heart’s pumping ability essentially short-circuit. Suddenly, the heart may beat dangerously fast, causing the heart’s ventricles to quiver or flutter instead of pumping blood in a coordinated fashion. This rhythm disturbance, called ventricular fibrillation, “occurs in response to an underlying heart condition that may or may not have been detected,” Lawless says.
Ventricular fibrillation disrupts the heart’s pumping action, stopping blood flow to the rest of the body. A person in sudden cardiac arrest will collapse suddenly and lose consciousness, with no pulse or breathing.
Without immediate CPR or a shock from an automated defibrillator, the person usually dies within minutes — that’s why it’s called “sudden cardiac death.”
There is a connection between heart attack and sudden cardiac death, however. A heart attack can trigger an electrical malfunction that can lead to sudden cardiac arrest.
The researchers also found that the long-term use of another class of diabetes medications known as sulfonylureas was associated with a “substantial” bump in pancreatic risk and long-term insulin use was linked to a bump in pancreatic cancer risk in men.
“This result is somewhat unexpected,” the team wrote in its paper, which is published in the Jan. 31 online issue of The American Journal of Gastroenterology.
Pancreatic cancer is the fourth most deadly cancer in the United States, with an overall survival rate of less than 5 percent, even though it is fairly rare, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
The researchers noted that previous research has suggested that metformin may lower the risk for other cancers, breast and ovarian cancer in particular.
To explore metformin’s protective potential against pancreatic cancer, the team sifted through drug prescription, diagnostic, hospitalization and fatality information that had been collected by the British “General Practice Research Database.” The data also included significant demographic information, such as smoking, alcohol use and body mass index.
The team honed in on statistics regarding nearly 2,800 patients (all under the age of 90) who had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer for the first time between 1995 and 2009. Data concerning almost 16,600 patients who did not have pancreatic cancer was used as a comparison.
The result: Short-term use of metformin or sulfonylureas and/or insulin had no appreciable impact on pancreatic cancer risk.
However, long-term use of each of these medications did appear to have a sizeable impact on pancreatic cancer risk among diabetics. While female patients saw their risk go down with metformin treatment and up with sulfonylureas, male patients saw their risk go up with insulin.
Dr. Michael Choti, a professor of surgery and oncology at the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, stressed the “importance of trying to identify causes for a devastating disease that is often diagnosed late.”
“Over the years, many groups have tried to look at a variety of risk factors, dietary and other things, and there have been some reports over the years,” he noted. “But nothing has really panned out well. So this is indeed an interesting study.”
“But it’s also important to say,” Choti added, “that while these could be associations, we cannot really say that what we have here is a cause-and-effect. Pancreatic cancer is a multi-factorial disease. So, while it makes sense conceptually that these drugs could have an impact on the pancreas, which is a metabolic organ, it’s still too early to be sure what’s happening. And it’s too early to recommend metformin as a preventive therapy for pancreatic cancer.”
“So this is interesting and important,” he said. “But it’s not definitive.”
For more on pancreatic cancer, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
Posted: January 2012
Is supporting marriage equality contagious? The governors of Maryland and Washington, D.C. believe it is, as they support same-sex marriage legislation. More on that in a moment.
We focus a lot on social justice issues during my 11 a.m. hour on MSNBC, particularly marriage equality. I take great pride in shining a light on this issue, and why not? We’re at a pivotal moment in our country when it comes to LGBT issues.
For instance, last year, for the first time ever, a national poll showed that 53 percent of America feels same-sex marriage should be recognized as law. That same poll reveals that Republicans and older Americans remain at odds with marriage equality.
However, most people, young people, feel that full marriage equality is just a matter of time. Specifically, you can thank college kids for that one. A new poll by UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) finds that 71.3 percent of college freshmen support same-sex marriage equality. So if 7 out of 10 college kids feel that way now, then it is logical to think that marriage equality is inevitable.
Is it bold for governors to support same-sex marriage now? It’s certainly not unheard of, but nationally, it is bold. Consider this: only six states and Washington, D.C. recognize marriage equality. Safety in political numbers, right? Or is it the needed proof to demonstrate that marriage equality is not a threat to what is now dubbed “traditional marriage”?
Now more than ever, governors are tackling the basic “fairness” of this issue and are evolving, personally, to understand marriage equality as a civil rights issue. Civil rights.
Politicians are realizing they want to be remembered for standing on the right side of history. Just look at this recent trend and what certain elected officials are willing to do now.
Gov. Chris Gregoire of Washington State wasn’t always in favor of marriage equality. Gregoire was admittedly conflicted because of her Catholic faith, but she admits to a “personal journey” that convinced her to support it. She is also not running for a third term.
Gov. Martin O’Malley, also a Catholic, is putting his political neck on the line and, on a personal level, his religion, too. Catholic church leaders in Baltimore have urged O’Malley against supporting such a bill. I know personally and professionally about the strong Catholic church lobby in the Maryland State Legislature. Strong. O’Malley seems genuine, willing, and more than likely to get marriage equality passed on his watch. Will it cost him, or is this a calculated risk that will help make him a presidential contender in 2016?
Whatever the political calculations, the outcome is the same: the fight for marriage equality is on the move, on the march, and getting results. And as President Obama declared in his State of the Union address, “We’ve come too far to turn back now.”
That gets us to the big interviews of Jan. 27. For months we have been aggressively trying to book Gov. Martin O’Malley to talk about marriage equality in Maryland. The week before last, we finally got him! It just so happens that O’Malley became available the same day we had already booked Gov. Gregoire. She was recently a guest on the show to talk about her bill for marriage equality. We invited her back on Jan. 27 because she has the votes needed to get it passed. Enjoy!
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If you’re wondering why we’re playing a hip-hop group on Electric Tuesday, it’s because it is my birthday today and I’ll play what I want to. So today, in honor of me, Mason Tvert, Pref. Jeffrey Miron, Justin Timberlake, Portia di Rossi, and Nolan Ryan, among others, we “Raise It Up, Blaze It Up” with Da Blaknix!
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Bipartisan legislation designed to remove local roadblocks to the long-delayed launch of medical-marijuana businesses in New Jersey is gathering steam. But Gov. Christie has hinted he may veto the measure.
Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon (R., Monmouth) earlier this month introduced a bill designed to prevent local zoning and planning boards from rejecting pot farms and marijuana dispensaries based on residents’ complaints.
The legislation would give the novel businesses protection under the state’s Right to Farm Act. The law protects farmers from restrictions sought by newly sprouted neighborhoods.
O’Scanlon’s bill would allow marijuana growers to operate on publicly preserved farmland and in agricultural zones without “county or municipal interference.”
“We should do all we can to get this drug in the hands of all people who need it desperately,” O’Scanlon said, explaining that only seriously ill people are eligible to buy the drug.
Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D., Mercer) has signed on as a cosponsor.
Sen. Nicholas P. Scutari (D., Union) plans to introduce an identical bill in the upper house Monday.
“We are in our third year of the legislation on medical marijuana, and no dispensary has opened and no marijuana has been prescribed to anyone,” Scutari said, sighing. He was one of the cosponsors of the legislation that legalized the sale of medicinal marijuana, which former Gov. Jon S. Corzine signed in January 2010.
So far, none of the six nonprofits approved to grow and sell marijuana has received all the approvals needed to move forward.
When Christie was sworn into office in 2010, he initially refused to authorize the businesses because the federal government still deems marijuana sales illegal.
Thirteen other states have legitimized the sales, relying upon the Justice Department’s assurances that it would not “spend resources” prosecuting as long as the businesses followed state regulations and dispensed the drug only to sick people.
After reaching out to the Justice Department and reconsidering his position, Christie gave the medical marijuana program the green light over the summer.
Since then, boards and committees in Maple Shade, Westampton, Camden, and Upper Freehold have rejected proposed marijuana operations, mostly because residents objected, citing fears of increased crime.
The marijuana businesses promised 24-hour guards and video surveillance, but still could not get zoning approvals.
Asked about the O’Scanlon bill at a Jan. 12 news conference, Christie said local officials should call the shots.
“If they want a dispensary or a growing facility in their town, that’s up to them. If they don’t, then I will not as governor force them to take one. . . . I am not going to force this down the throats of municipalities,” he said.
Christie went on to warn that the legislation was “not going to be received well at my desk.”
Afterward, Michael Drewniak, the governor’s spokesman, wrote in an e-mail: “We won’t be saying how the Gov will handle that bill at this early stage. We have 45 days from passage in both houses to review it and make a decision to sign, veto, or conditionally veto.”
O’Scanlon said he was not deterred by Christie’s remarks.
“The governor has also shown repeatedly, as any administration . . . that they are perpetually open-minded,” he said. “The goal is to help people get through their fear and reset the debate and get this necessary drug and efficacious drug into the hands of people that need it.”
O’Scanlon said that he had no relatives or friends who would qualify for marijuana treatment, but that he felt compassion for people with cancer, Crohn’s disease, seizures, AIDS/HIV, and other serious conditions that can be treated with the drug.
The dispensaries, he said, “will have more security than your CVS on the corner.” His bill would require round-the-clock “manned security presence” or a security plan approved by a municipality.
Scutari said the bill also “takes away the argument” of towns that say they don’t want to sanction a business not recognized as legal by the federal government. The legislation supersedes local ordinances that regulate marijuana operations.
Scutari predicted the companion bills would receive bipartisan support but said he was concerned about the legislation’s fate upon reaching Christie.
The medical-marijuana program “is the law of the land,” Scutari said, “but it is not moving along swiftly.” He said he hoped the bills would help the dispensaries get up and running this year.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer, The (PA)
Author: Jan Hefler, Inquirer Staff Writer
Published: January 30, 2012
Copyright: 2012 Philadelphia Newspapers Inc.