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What’s the deal with stem cell treatment?

If you pay attention to healthcare or scientific news, then there’s a very good chance you’ve heard about stem cells and stem cell treatment. What’s more, you’ve likely come up against people who take one of two sides about the issue. So what’s the deal with stem cell treatment?

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If you pay attention to healthcare or scientific news, then there’s a very good chance you’ve heard about stem cells and stem cell treatment. What’s more, you’ve likely come up against people who take one of two sides about the issue. Some are huge proponents, recommending stem cell treatments of all kinds and even traveling outside the country to get them. Others are vehement in warning us against the dangers of them.

So, what is the deal with stem cell treatment?

What’s the difference between stem cell treatment and other medicines?

Stem cells are not a type of medication synthesized in a laboratory. Rather, they are produced entirely within the human body. Or rather, scientists take a single cell from the human body and grow a whole family of cells directly from it. Different stem cells do entirely different things, but mostly they are used to promote the body’s natural process of repair against diseased, injured, or otherwise faulty tissue. There are already stem cell treatments generally accepted in the medical community, including bone marrow transplants.

The legality of it all

Depending on who you talk to, you might hear that stem cell treatment is illegal. That is an oversimplification, but there is certainly some truth to it. As mentioned, there are stem cell treatments including bone marrow transplants that are used somewhat regularly in healthcare. Stem cell treatment, itself, is legal, but it’s not as simple as assuming that legal is always safe. It’s not just one treatment, but rather a whole body of treatments. Some of them are approved by the FDA, some of them aren’t.

It’s worth noting that many treatments not approved by the FDA are still widely available on the market, but most doctors will tell you to avoid these treatments

The rise of unapproved treatments

Despite the fact that they’re not approved by the FDA, there is a growing market of stem cell treatments for those who really want it. However, there have been recent attempts to crack down on the trend of unapproved stem cell use. This includes selling unapproved and nonsterile stem cells that could end up proving a risk to the patients rather than an effective treatment.

The list of approved stem cell treatments is very short, with many warning that a lot more research is needed into different kinds of stem cells to determine both how effective and how safe they are. After all, different cells work differently. Stem cells are not a one-size-fits-all solution and there are concerns that they are being sold as such.

What can it treat?

As mentioned, the list of fully researched, fully approved stem cell treatment benefits is quite short. But that doesn’t mean that the data on it isn’t looking promising. Ongoing research is showing that stem cells could be one of the most effective treatment options against cancer, for instance. There is also some evidence that stem cells could be used to replace neurons in the brain, undoing some of the damage caused by spinal cord injuries, strokes, head trauma and even Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Furthermore, rehabilitating long-term injuries, chronic pain, fighting arthritis are all uses of stem cells that are seeing a lot of promise. Again, we are still deep in the research phase of learning just what these treatments do and how applicable they are.

Will it impact the fight against HIV and AIDS

HIV and AIDs still remain one of the biggest epidemics in our society. Though we can do a lot to suppress the symptoms and growth from the infection to the symptoms of AIDS, the search of a cure is still an imperative. Most scientists agree that the likely “cure” will suppress the transmission and the symptoms even further, but there are some hopes that stem cell treatment could prove more effective. Stem cells could hypothetically be used by removing HIV+ blood and modifying the stem cells to make them more resistant to or improve their ability to fight HIV. Most of the medical community agrees there is some potential there, but it’s uncertain if it would be wise to assume we’ve found the path to a cure just yet.

What are the potential dangers?

As mentioned, there are a lot of proponents of stem cell treatment that will travel far and wide, even to other countries, to get unapproved treatments. You may have even heard some success stories about unapproved stem cell use in the past. But what are the risks if they exist? One of the biggest risks is simply getting a bad batch of stem cells from an unapproved seller.

Unapproved treatments can cause other complications to your short-term and long-term health. Unapproved treatments can also make you ineligible to receive some future treatments. What’s more, the costs associated with travelling for unapproved treatments can prove enormous.

The future of stem cell research

The safety and legality of most current stem cell therapies is uncertain, to say the very least. However, the majority of the scientific community is in agreement: stem cells are going to play a very big role in healthcare. In the future, at least. The potential they show for improving the body’s tissue repair functions and the immune system is beyond doubt. However, many are still urging caution before going all in on finding stem cell therapies for your own injuries or illnesses. There are a lot of successful test results, but the data is far from in at the moment. It is still a very new field of medicine, so we don’t know everything we need to.

It’s impossible to say what, exactly, it will look like, but there is little doubt that stem cell treatment will someday become a central part of how we fight disease. It could even bring some cures we’ve been waiting on for decades. It’s not as black and white as “stem cells are good” or “stem cells are bad”, but it’s important to be informed so you don’t argue for or against something that is still very much a work in progress.

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Health & Wellness

Sexual minority adults are poorer than their straight peers

Researchers found that sexual minority women were more likely to be near poor, receive public assistance and report economic hardship in the past year. In addition, sexual minority women were less likely to graduate from college and were twice as likely to be unemployed, compared to heterosexual women.

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Photo used for illustration purpose only; by Sam Manns from Unsplash.com

Sexual minorities in have fewer economic resources than their straight peers and the gap is more pronounced among women. This is according to a new study by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law.

The report, “Sexual orientation and sex differences in socioeconomic status: a population-based investigation in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health,” appears in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health and is co-authored by Kerith J. Conron, Blachford-Cooper Distinguished Scholar and Research Director at the Williams Institute, along with Shoshana K. Goldberg, Research Assistant Professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and Carolyn T. Halpern, Professor, Department of Maternal and Child Health, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

Researchers analyzed data gathered from 14,051 participants in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health in the US, and they found that sexual minority women were more likely to be near poor, receive public assistance and report economic hardship in the past year. In addition, sexual minority women were less likely to graduate from college and were twice as likely to be unemployed, compared to heterosexual women.

Among women, sexual orientation inequities in homeownership were more pronounced for whites than racial minorities. However, rates of homeownership were the lowest for Black and Latina sexual minority women and were the highest for heterosexual white women.

“Socioeconomic status is a major contributor to health and disease throughout a person’s life,” said Conron said lead author Kerith Conron, Blachford-Cooper Distinguished Scholar and Research Director at the Williams Institute. “Understanding the extent and nature of sexual orientation differences in socioeconomic status is essential to reducing health inequities, particular as the population of sexual minorities grows and ages.”

READ:  Study finds youths with gender dysphoria have higher rates of Asperger syndrome

Fewer sexual orientation differences in economic status existed for men. Sexual minority men were more likely than their straight peers to have a college education. Yet, they earned less and were more likely to report economic hardship in the past year than straight men, which could indicate that sexual minority men face wage discrimination.

In addition, socioeconomic status among men differed by race. White sexual minority men were less likely than white heterosexual men to be among the highest earners. But Black and Latino sexual minority men did better economically than their Black and Latino heterosexual peers.

“These patterns suggest that multiple forms of inequality, as well as factors that promote resilience, must be considered in analyses of the diverse LGBT community,” said Conron. “Moreover, findings emphasize the need to include LGBT measures in large surveys conducted by the US Census Bureau, including the American Community Survey and the Survey of Income and Program Participation, in order to better track, understand, and respond to observed economic inequities.”

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Health & Wellness

Female to male trans adolescents report highest rate of attempted suicide at 50.8%

A study found that almost 14% of adolescents reported a previous suicide attempt, with disparities by gender identity in suicide attempts. Female to male adolescents reported the highest rate of attempted suicide (50.8%), followed by adolescents who identified as not exclusively male or female (41.8%).

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 Nearly 14% of adolescents reported a previous suicide attempt, with female to male adolescents reporting the highest rate of attempted suicide at 50.8%.

This is according to “Transgender Adolescent Suicide Behavior“, a study done by Russell B. Toomey, Amy K. Syvertsen and Maura Shramko, and released in Pediatrics. The study eyed to examine prevalence rates of suicide behavior across six gender identity groups: female; male; transgender, male to female; transgender, female to male; transgender, not exclusively male or female; and questioning. A secondary objective was to examine variability in the associations between key sociodemographic characteristics and suicide behavior across gender identity groups.

Data from the “Profiles of Student Life: Attitudes and Behaviors” survey (N = 120 617 adolescents; ages 11–19 years) were used to achieve the study objectives. Data were collected over a 36-month period: June 2012 to May 2015. A dichotomized self-reported lifetime suicide attempts (never versus ever) measure was used. Prevalence statistics were compared across gender identity groups, as were the associations between sociodemographic characteristics (i.e. age, parents’ highest level of education, urbanicity, sexual orientation, and race and/or ethnicity) and suicide behavior.

The study found that almost 14% of adolescents reported a previous suicide attempt, with disparities by gender identity in suicide attempts. Female to male adolescents reported the highest rate of attempted suicide (50.8%), followed by adolescents who identified as not exclusively male or female (41.8%), male to female adolescents (29.9%), questioning adolescents (27.9%), female adolescents (17.6%), and male adolescents (9.8%).

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Identifying as non-heterosexual exacerbated the risk for all adolescents except for those who did not exclusively identify as male or female (i.e. non-binary). For transgender adolescents, no other sociodemographic characteristic was associated with suicide attempts.

According to the researchers, “Suicide prevention efforts can be enhanced by attending to variability within transgender populations, particularly the heightened risk for female to male and non-binary transgender adolescents.”

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Health & Wellness

Trans-inclusive policies on college campuses improve the well-being of trans students

New report provides recommendations to institutions of higher education regarding the creation of trans-inclusive communities.

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report by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law finds that transgender-inclusive policies and support systems on college campuses provide transgender students a greater sense of belonging and more positive perceptions of the campus environment.

The report reviews previous research on the experiences of transgender students and presents new findings from interviews, surveys and focus groups conducted with transgender students.

“The majority of transgender students arrive at college having endured harassment and bullying in secondary school, which research shows have a negative impact on their academic performance and mental health. This cycle may be compounded by further adverse treatment and institutional invisibility at college,” said author Abbie E. Goldberg, former visiting scholar at the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law. “However, through relatively small changes, faculty and administrators can make a world of difference in the lives of transgender young adults.”

The current research focused on the institutional structures and interpersonal interactions at colleges and universities that either enforce biases or serve as sources of support for transgender students. The report concludes with ten recommendations to institutions of higher education on how to create more transgender-inclusive campus communities.

Key recommendations include:

  • Colleges and universities should explicitly include gender identity and expression in their nondiscrimination policies.
  • College curricula should address gender identity and specifically transgender identities and experiences.
  • Students should be provided with education/training to enhance their understanding and acceptance of gender diversity.
  • Faculty/staff should be exposed to mandatory training on gender identity issues.
  • Students should be able to list their preferred name on campus records and alternatives to male/female should be provided.
  • All university literature and publications should use gender-inclusive language.
  • Gender-inclusive or single-stall restrooms should be readily available on campus.
  • Universities should provide trans-inclusive/trans-accommodating housing options.
  • Counseling and health services staff should receive training on trans-inclusive and trans-affirming practices and health insurance coverage should be inclusive of trans students.
  • Trans-specific spaces and/or groups should be created with sufficient resources to support programming and events.
READ:  Report identifies unique challenges for LGBT community facing Alzheimer's and other dementias

“A growing body of research indicates that gender, including gender identity, expression and gender norms, plays a key role in academic, health and economic outcomes,” said Kerith J. Conron, the Blachford-Cooper Distinguished Scholar and Research Director at the Williams Institute. “Colleges should engage students and faculty in conversations about gender and examine policies, including those related to information systems, through a comprehensive gender lens. This would have the potential to improve campus safety and promote academic success for all students.”

READ THE REPORT HERE.

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Health & Wellness

Report identifies unique challenges for LGBT community facing Alzheimer’s and other dementias

Despite recent advances in LGBT rights, LGBT older people are often marginalized and face discrimination. They are twice as likely to age without a spouse or partner, twice as likely to live alone and three to four times less likely to have children.

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LGBT and Dementia – a new issues brief developed by the Alzheimer’s Association and SAGE – outlines the unique issues that arise when Alzheimer’s disease, sexual orientation, and gender identification and expression intersect, allowing advocates and care providers to better meet the needs of LGBT elders and their caregivers facing dementia.

“Living with Alzheimer’s or another dementia is not easy for anyone,” said Sam Fazio, Ph.D., director of quality care and psychosocial research, Alzheimer’s Association. “But LGBT individuals can often face additional challenges that need to be considered and addressed to ensure this population gets respectful and competent care.”

It is estimated that there are 2.7 million LGBT people over age 50 living in the US alone, and that number is increasing rapidly as baby boomers age and more people self-identify as LGBT. New research presented at the 2018 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference found that about one in 13 lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB) seniors in the US are living with dementia. Dementia rates for the LGB population are 7.4 percent, compared to about 10 percent for the general population.

“While the LGBT community faces similar health concerns as the general public, LGBT people who receive a dementia diagnosis and LGBT caregivers face uniquely challenging circumstances,” said SAGE CEO Michael Adams. “This brief shines a light on these challenges, so we can begin taking steps to address them and improve the care and support LGBT people receive.”

Despite recent advances in LGBT rights, LGBT older people are often marginalized and face discrimination. They are twice as likely to age without a spouse or partner, twice as likely to live alone and three to four times less likely to have children – greatly limiting their opportunities for support. There’s also a lack of transparency as 40 percent of LGBT older people in their 60s and 70s say their healthcare providers don’t know their sexual orientation.

READ:  the_advocate: Living a new life

The brief identifies seven areas which can create unique or additional challenges for LGBT individuals living with dementia and their caregivers. They include:

  • Stigma
  • Social isolation
  • Poverty
  • Health disparities
  • Sexuality and sexual expression
  • Barriers to utilizing existing services
  • Living with HIV/AIDS

According to the brief, LGBT individuals may not reach out for services and support because they fear poor treatment due to their LGBT identity, because they fear the stigma of being diagnosed with dementia, or both. Several studies document that LGBT elders access essential services, including visiting nurses, food stamps, senior centers, and meal plans, much less frequently than the general aging population.

The Institute of Medicine identified the following pressing health issues for LGBT people: lower rates of accessing care (up to 30 percent); increased rates of depression; higher rates of obesity in the lesbian population; higher rates of alcohol and tobacco use; higher risk factors of cardiovascular disease for lesbians; and higher incidents of HIV/AIDS for gay and bisexual men. Risk factors for heart disease — including diabetes, tobacco use, high blood pressure and high cholesterol — are also risk factors for Alzheimer’s and stroke-related dementia.

Among the recommendations for organizations and service providers, the Alzheimer’s Association and SAGE suggest:

  • Expand your definition of family.
  • Educate yourself and your staff on LGBT cultural competency.
  • Find or create support groups specifically for LGBT people.
  • Partner with local LGBT community groups and political organizations.
  • Help LGBT people and their families with legal and financial planning.
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Health & Wellness

6 Ways you’re wrecking your mental health

In recent years, the stigma surrounding mental health has started to lift, allowing us to finally have open conversations about our well-being. However mentally healthy you may be or think you are, it’s crucial that you do what you can to take care of yourself.

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Like physical health, we all have a state of mental health, with some people being deemed relatively healthy and others requiring professional help. In recent years, the stigma surrounding mental health has started to lift, allowing us to finally have open conversations about our well-being. However mentally healthy you may be or think you are, it’s crucial that you do what you can to take care of yourself.

Keeping that in mind, here are six mental health mistakes to avoid.

1. Lack Of Physical Activity

Everyone knows that exercise helps us to stay physically fit, but what many people don’t realize is that it can prevent stress and anxiety too. In fact, experts believe that a simple thirty-minute walk can have an effect, with more physical activities having a bigger and better outcome. Because of this, it’s vital that you make time to exercise for at least thirty minutes every single day.

2. Not Getting Enough Sleep

While it’s important to stay active, this doesn’t mean sacrificing sleep in the process. When you have a rough nights sleep, it can leave you feeling cranky, emotional, and stressed, and this will start to cause damage unless you get into a proper routine and stick to seven or eight hours a night. To help you ensure this, you should keep your room dark and cool, with no electronics.

While you should certainly distance yourself from people that make you feel bad, you shouldn’t isolate yourself from everyone you know.
PHOTO BY STOCKSNAP FROM PIXABAY.COM

3. Associating With Negative People

Regardless of the state of your mental health, associating with people that make you feel bad about yourself will always cause some damage. If the person making you feel this way is a family member or spouse, then you should consider family counseling and couples therapy retreats to deal with your issues. For those that aren’t family, you may want to distance yourself.

4. Isolating Yourself From Friends

While you should certainly distance yourself from people that make you feel bad, you shouldn’t isolate yourself from everyone you know. Even introverted people need social interaction now and then, or you’ll start to feel lonely, depressed, and may even develop social anxiety. If you start to spend lots of time alone, arrange to meet up with friends after work or give your mom a call.

5. Refusing To Get Help

No matter what people tell you, there’s nothing wrong with asking for help when you need it. In fact, that’s the very best thing you can do. With that in mind, it’s crucial that you speak to a doctor, counsellor, or therapist when you start to notice problems with your mental health. They’ll be able to offer advice on ways to boost your mental health, including possible treatment options.

6. Self-Medicating With Substances

Drinking, smoking, and taking drugs may offer a temporary release from your mental health issues, but they are far from a cure. In fact, all they’re ever going to do is make your problems worse, while adding an addiction to the mix. Instead of trying to handle things yourself, speak to a professional for support and advice on proper treatment methods.

Mental health is not something that should be taken lightly, so avoid making the mistakes listed above.

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Health & Wellness

LGBQ adolescents at substantially greater risk for substance use, according to study

Almost 72% of LGBQ teens had tried alcohol in their lifetimes, as had 63% of heterosexual youth. With cigarettes, 47% of LGBQ youth said they had smoked at least once, as did 31% of heterosexual teens.

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Lesbian, gay, bisexual or questioning teens are at least twice as likely than their heterosexual peers to use illegal drugs like cocaine, ecstasy, heroin and methamphetamines. This is according to a US study, “Substance Use Among Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Questioning Adolescents in the United States, 2015” by Theodore L. Caputi, Laramie R. Smith, Steffanie A. Strathdee and John W. Ayers; and published in the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH) this August.

This ought not to come as a surprise, with earlier researches suggesting that various stressors related to being closeted or coming out, and being rejected by family or friends could contribute to an increased risk of substance use among sexual minority teens.

For this study, the researchers looked at data from 14,703 high school students who were surveyed about their lifetime and prior-month use of 15 different substances, including illegal drugs, as well as tobacco, alcohol and prescription drugs that weren’t given to them by a physician.

Sadly, LGBQ teens were 12% more likely than other teens to report any substance use in their lifetimes and 27% more likely to report substance use in the previous month.

Other findings included:

  • LGBQ youth were more than three times more likely to try heroin or methamphetamines at least once, and more than twice as likely to try ecstasy or cocaine.
  • The vast majority of teens didn’t use illegal drugs, regardless of sexual orientation.
    For example, “only” 6.6% of LBGQ teens had used heroin in their lifetimes, compared with 1.3% of heterosexual youth. Also, 8.6% of LGBQ adolescents had used methamphetamines compared with 2.1% of other teens.
  • Marijuana was more commonly used at some point by half of LGBQ youth and almost 38% of other teens.
  • Teen drinking and smoking were more common. Almost 72% of LGBQ teens had tried alcohol in their lifetimes, as had 63% of heterosexual youth. With cigarettes, 47% of LGBQ youth said they had smoked at least once, as did 31% of heterosexual teens.
READ:  MSM most affected by rising HIV rates, says UN report

Interviewed by Reuters Health, one of the study’s authors, John Ayers, was quoted as saying that stressors faced by LGBQ teens, such as stigma and isolation, “may make drugs foolishly appear attractive as a coping mechanism.”

Ayers quipped that “even experimentation with these harder drugs can derail a teen’s future.”

It is worth noting that the study wasn’t a controlled experiment designed to prove whether or sexual orientation might directly influence substance use or impact how much teens smoked, drank or did drugs.

All the same, the researchers of this study stressed that “policymakers should invest in prevention and early intervention resources to address substance use risks among LGBQ adolescents.”

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