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Asthma

Asthma and allergies often go hand in hand, especially during childhood but a recent study conducted by researchers at Columbia University suggests growing up with cats in the house may reduce the risk of developing asthma and allergies to cats, among other things.

When respiratory irritants trigger an immune-system response, asthma is the result.  Wheezing, failure to catch one’s breath, and exhaustion can become severe enough to jeopardize a child’s health.

The Columbia study found it likely that children with cats might develop a mild wheeze by age three but they usually outgrow it by age five.  That’s just a signal that the immune system has developed antibodies to the cat allergens and the child is now protected from allergic reactions to it.

This same protection against cat allergens strengthens the immune system enough to fend off other allergens that may be encountered later in life.


Batten Disease

If there’s any bright side at all to Batten disease it’s that it’s so rare that only about 200 children have it at one time.  That’s 200 children in the entire world.

A deficiency in the enzyme, TTP-1, causes Batten disease by turning off a brain cell’s ability to expel waste from within it.  Eventually this toxic build-up kills the cell and, when enough brain cells die, the child’s life is in jeopardy.

Children with Batten disease, otherwise known as Late Infantile Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinosis (LINCL), typically begin showing symptoms at age four when speech difficulties arise.  Muscle control and vision become affected, too.

Most LINCL children require wheelchairs before age six but quickly become bedridden shortly afterward.  Neurological degeneration usually claims the child’s life around age eight but some children live as long as twelve years.

There is no cure for Batten disease nor is there any effective treatment.  It’s the tragically short lives of children with Batten disease that make it such a rare one.


Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

More than 16 million Americans are thought to suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a cluster of medical complications that make breathing painful and difficult.  It’s the #4 leading cause of death in the United States.

COPD is most often associated with cigarette smoking and patients must often rely on steroids, anti-inflammatory medications, and portable oxygen supplies to conduct daily affairs.  Doctors at Johns Hopkins Medical School say broccoli helps, too.

The antioxidants in broccoli are said to prevent a certain enzyme in the lungs from breaking down.  The health of the lung depends on the integrity of this enzyme, NRF2, which is instrumental in defending the lung against inflammatory damage caused by smoking.


Depression

Don’t believe everything you see on TV, especially all those ads touting the benefits of so many antidepressant medications.  Depression is a very complicated medical condition and merely taking drugs isn’t always the most effective treatment.

The February 2008 issue of the Journal of General Hospital Psychiatry carries a study involving 573 depressed patients, some of whom were taking Zoloft, Prozac, or Paxil.  In general, patients felt better after a few weeks but they didn’t feel cured.  This limbo of depression only contributed to the malaise for which they sought treatment in the first place.

A more integrated approach to treatment, involving drugs and cognitive-behavioral strategies, proved to be the most beneficial.

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