Meaghan Wamboldt

Risk Factors for ALS

Once considered a rare disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) has become a common condition. About 6,000 new cases of ALS are diagnosed each year, and approximately four to six people per every 100,000 are living with the disease. Also called Lou Gehrig’s disease, it’s a progressive illness that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, resulting in a loss of muscle control. Although there is no known cause for ALS, there are several factors that can increase your risk of getting the disease.   Established risk factors for ALS   ALS usually begins with muscle twitching and weakness on one side of the body and with one limb. You may also notice slurred speech. While the exact cause of these symptoms are unknown, there are a few risk factors that can increase your chances of developing ALS:  Age The risk of developing ALS increases with age. Although people in their twenties and thirties, as well as people in their seventies and older, can get ALS, it is most common between the ages of 40 and 70. The average age at diagnosis is 55. Part of the reason ALS is becoming more common may be because the population is aging, although there may …

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Warning Signs For Suicide

Suicide claims the lives of over 47,500 people every year in the United States. When a person dies by suicide, it affects family, friends, and communities, leaving them lost, confused, and in some cases, feeling responsible for their death.   “Death by suicide” means intentionally ending your own life. It’s often a way for people who are suffering to escape their pain when they feel like there are no solutions to their problems and have lost hope of getting better. Many people think about suicide. In 2019, there was an estimated 1.38 million suicide attempts in the United States. A suicide attempt is when someone harms themselves with the intent to take their life, but they do not die.  Because suicide affects all genders, ages, and ethnicities, knowing the risk factors and being aware of the warning signs can help you identify if someone is having thoughts about suicide and inform the steps you can take to prevent it.    Risk Factors for Suicide   Suicide typically occurs when external stressors, like financial or relationship instability, and health obstacles, like a chronic illness or major surgery, create a sense of hopelessness and despair. Mental health conditions such as depression, eating disorders, psychosis, …

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5 Stages of Parkinson’s Disease and How to Treat Them 

Parkinson’s Disease is a progressive disease, meaning the symptoms develop slowly over the course of several years. Although there are four main motor symptoms that occur with Parkinson’s, not every patient will experience symptoms in the same order and in the same way. However, there are patterns of symptom progression that most patients will experience.  The most commonly used scale to assess the stage of Parkinson’s disease is the Hoehn and Yahr scale. Named for its authors, Margaret Hoehn and Melvin Yahr, the scale was originally published in 1967 in the journal Neurology and described the progression of Parkinsonism, collection of signs and symptoms found in Parkinson’s disease, in five stages. The scale has since been modified to include stage 1.5 and stage 2.5 to account for the intermediate course of Parkinson’s.  The Hoehn and Yahr scale originally classified the five stages in the following manner:  Stage I. Unilateral involvement only, usually with minimal or no functional impairment.   Stage II. Bilateral or midline involvement, without impairment of balance.   Stage III. Mild to moderate bilateral impairment with some postural instability. Stage IV. Fully developed, severely disabling disease; the patient is still able to walk and stand unassisted but is markedly incapacitated.   Stage V. …

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How to Treat Major Depressive Disorder

Feeling sad or down is a normal human emotion. It’s natural to feel negative feelings like sadness or depression when facing a life challenge, such as losing a job, the passing of a loved one, or facing a serious illness. These are usually short-lived and don’t interfere with daily living. But when these feelings become persistent, intensify, and interrupt day-to-day life, a mood disorder like major depressive disorder might be present.   Major depressive disorder is a serious mental illness that significantly impairs a person’s ability to function, causing changes in mood, behavior, appetite, and sleep. Depression is the leading cause of disability, affecting nearly 280 million people worldwide.   Treatment For Depression  When you’re struggling with a debilitating mental illness like depression, recovery can seem impossible. You may find yourself wondering if you can or will ever get better. The good news is, you can.   Depression is a treatable condition that is most effective when treatment begins shortly after a diagnosis, however, it’s never too late to seek help. Treatment is individualized based on the severity of symptoms, how long you’ve been experiencing symptoms, physical and mental health history, and co-occurring disorders.   Treatment options for depression will vary but will usually include …

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Integrative Treatment for MS

Managing multiple sclerosis can be difficult, especially when it comes to choosing between different treatment options. You want a treatment plan that is going to help minimize your symptoms while being mindful of any side effects. All the while making sure that your mental health is being protected.  Many patients with MS use an integrative or complementary approach to manage their symptoms and reduce relapses. That’s because these approaches don’t just focus on the physical nature of MS, but the mental, emotional, and spiritual effects. The mind-body connection works both ways: although MS primarily affects the central nervous system, patients often experience mental and emotional symptoms such as anxiety and depression. Similarly, studies have shown that having a positive outlook can improve MS recovery and health.   What is integrative medicine?  Integrative medicine includes a full spectrum of physical factors, as well as emotional, mental, social, spiritual, and environmental factors that can influence someone’s health. It emphasizes a holistic, whole person view rather than a segmented one that only focuses on one aspect of managing a health condition. Integrative medicine uses appropriate, evidence-based therapeutic and lifestyle approaches to achieve optimal health and healing. It emphasizes the relationship between the patient and the healthcare provider(s) because this too can affect the healing process. …

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Easy Ways to Minimize Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms

If you’re living with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), you know that the symptoms often flare up at inconvenient times. It can be difficult to do everyday activities when you’re dealing with the pain, stiffness, and other symptoms that come with the disease. Fortunately, there are lifestyle changes you can make and some home remedies you can try to help minimize your symptoms throughout the day.  What is rheumatoid arthritis?  Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune and inflammatory disease that affects more than 1.3 million Americans. The immune system makes antibodies that attack bacteria and viruses to fight infection. But when you have RA, your immune system mistakenly sends those antibodies to the healthy lining of your joints and attacks the tissue surrounding the joints. As a result, the thin layer of cells called synovium that covers your joints becomes sore and inflamed.   RA primarily affects the joints, especially joints in the hands, wrists, and knees. In severe cases, RA can attack internal organs like the lungs, heart, and kidneys.   The exact cause of rheumatoid arthritis is unknown. However, evidence has shown that autoimmune conditions run in families. There may be certain genes you are born with that make you more likely to get RA. …

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How to Adapt Your Living Space and Daily Activities for ALS 

Your home is your sanctuary, but if you’ve recently been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), it may feel like that sanctuary isn’t as safe as it used to be. As the illness progresses, it can become harder to move around your home and do the daily tasks you used to do.   Because ALS is a disease that affects motor function, navigating spaces that do not have enough room to get around can be challenging. But there’s no way around it. As the condition progresses, you will need to address home modifications. They may be minor at first but will be more drastic later. Modifications will feel significant because they are changes to your home – no matter how small or large the changes may be.   In addition to home modifications, there are a few techniques you can use to make it easier to get around when you leave your home.   What is ALS?  Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. According to the ALS Association, the term amyotrophic comes from the Greek: “A” means no, “myo” means muscle, and “trophic” means nourishment. In short, that’s exactly what ALS is—the muscles don’t get …

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What You Need to Know About Creatinine Levels

The main function of the kidneys is to remove waste products from the body. One way to measure kidney function is by testing creatinine levels. High or low levels of creatinine aren’t necessarily harmful on their own but can be an indicator of serious health conditions like chronic kidney disease. What is creatinine? Creatinine is a waste product of creatine, a compound that provides energy to the muscles and helps improve performance. Creatine is one of the most researched compounds that’s often taken in supplement form by athletes, or people with neuromuscular and heart conditions. However, most creatine comes from the diet through seafood and red meat. The liver and kidneys can also produce up to 1 gram of creatine, about half of the recommended daily amount for healthy individuals. Creatine is transported through the blood to be used by parts of the body that require a lot of energy, such as muscles and the brain. As your muscles use energy, the tissue that produces energy in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) starts to break down. The breakdown of muscle tissue causes creatinine to be released into the bloodstream. The kidneys filter creatinine and other waste products out of …

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Things I Wish My Doctor Would Do

You have been experiencing a mix of symptoms for a while, fatigue, headaches, muscle soreness, and shortness of breath. Wondering if it’s something like stress or a more serious condition, you visit your doctor with the hopes of getting some answers. But instead, your doctor gives you a quizzical look and sends you on your way with more questions than you originally came in with.  During your visit, you didn’t feel “heard”.  Maybe the doctor keyed in on only a few symptoms, was quick to give a prescription medication, or dismissed your symptoms altogether. The inability to find the common thread that could lead to the diagnosis you hoped for makes you feel disappointed and frustrated.  Know you are not alone in feeling this way. Most people leave the doctor’s office feeling unsatisfied with their experience and may turn to other resources in hopes of getting answers. All symptoms are connected, sometimes the connection is more subtle than others. Instead of leaving patients to connect the dots themselves, here are a few things people wished their doctor would do:   Admit when they don’t know    When faced with sudden and unwanted symptoms, it can be scary. The goal of seeking medical advice from a professional is to get some answers as to what might be causing them. …

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Early Signs of Parkinson’s Disease

One day, you’re relaxing on the couch and notice your hand is shaking. Has it always done that, or is it new? But when you go to pick something up, you notice the shaking stops. You may have noticed other minor changes like your movement is slowing down or your limbs feel unusually stiff. You could pass all of these instances off as being dehydrated or needing more sleep, but these symptoms put together could be early indicators of Parkinson’s disease.   What is Parkinson’s disease?  Parkinson’s disease is a chronic neurodegenerative condition that is caused by damage to nerve cells in the substantia nigra, the area of the brain that controls movement. The disease is progressive, meaning the symptoms generally develop slowly over the course of several years. Because the disease is so diverse, not every person with Parkinson’s will experience the same progression of symptoms as others. Scientists believe that Parkinson’s is caused by certain genetic and environmental factors.   Symptoms of Parkinson’s usually start appearing in middle or late life. Because a diagnosis can take months, or even years, it’s not usually diagnosed until age 60. A diagnosis younger than 50 is called young-onset Parkinson’s. Nearly one million people in the United States have Parkinson’s disease, and about 60,000 Americans …

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