The Progressive Nurse

Progressive, adj: making progress toward better conditions

Category: Health Topics (page 1 of 2)

Herpes Virus Linked to Alzheimer’s Disease


Experts cannot ignore the strong evidence that Alzheimer’s disease may be caused by viruses and bacteria. Specifically, the herpes virus has been linked to central nervous and limbic system damage, which is strongly associated with cognition and personality alterations associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Scientists found irrefutable evidence of a dormant microbial component and Alzheimer’s, and call for more research into this connection.

Read article here: Herpes Virus Linked to Alzheimer’s Disease

Blueberries – The Superfood


Blueberries are a superfruit known for antioxidant properties that combat heart disease and cancer.  New research suggests that the powerful antioxidant fruit may prevent the effects dementia.  Blueberries contain the flavonoid, anthocyanin which contribute to the helpful antioxidant effects, which studies have found slow down progression of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Flavonoids are a group of plants thought to provide health benefits through cell communication and antioxidant effects. They are found in a variety of fruits and vegetables, such as blueberries, cherries and blackberries, radishes and blackcurrant.  According to the literature, flavonoids can be divided into six major subtypes:  chalcones, flavones, isoflavonoids, flavanones, anthoxanthins and anthocyanins.   The anthoxanthins give rise to the yellow color of plants and anthocyanins are responsible for the red and purple-red colors found in fruits and vegetables.

Health Benefits

It is known that flavonoids are important antioxidants.  Antioxidants are man-made or natural substances that may prevent or delay types of cell damage caused by free radicals, which are highly reactive chemicals that have the potential to harm and kill cells.  Antioxidants interact with and neutralize free radicals, preventing them from causing damage. Antioxidants are also known as “free radical scavengers.”

Antioxidants are found in many foods, including fruits and vegetables. They are also available as dietary supplements and promote several health effects. Flavonoids are powerful antioxidants and also provide the following health benefits:

  • Anti-viral
  • Anti-cancer
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Anti-allergic

Quercetin, is a known flavonoid that may help to alleviate eczema, sinusitis, asthma, and hay fever.  Studies have shown that flavonoid consumption may also reduce heart disease by inhibiting the oxidation of low-density lipoproteins (LDL – harmful cholesterol) and therefore reducing the risk of developing atherosclerosis (hardening and narrowing of the arteries).

Flavonoids are also abundant in red wine and theorized that the incidence of heart disease may be lower among the French (who may have high red wine intake), despite a large consumption of foods rich in cholesterol, such as cheese (known as the French paradox). Many studies support that one to two glasses of wine a day can help protect against heart disease.  Moderation of red wine consumption is advised and intake recommendations include that men not drink more than two glasses per day and women limit intake to no more than one glass per day.

Varieties of teas are also rich in flavonoids and thought to lower blood levels of triglycerides (fats in blood) and cholesterol (waxy, fat-like substance).  Soy flavonoids or isoflavones may also lower cholesterol, protect against osteoporosis and reduce the symptoms of menopause.

Recommended daily intake of dietary flavonoids is dependent upon individuals antioxidant activity and ranges between 50 and 500 mg per day.

Food Sources

Most fruits, vegetables and herbs contain flavonoids.  The more colorful the food, the richer it will be in flavonoids.  Oranges are colorful and contain flavonoids, but they are mainly found in the white and pulp interior of the skin.  Flavonoids may be found in other food sources such as dry beans, grains, red wine and green and black teas.  The best way to ensure a healthy intake of flavonoids is to consume plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables on a daily basis.  Experts advise eating five servings of vegetables and four of fruit.

Flavonoids are also available in supplements.  However,  experts have not confirmed an ideal flavonoid intake and excessive intake may be harmful.  Additionally, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates dietary supplements under a different set of regulations than those covering “conventional” foods and drug products, and “does not have the authority to review dietary supplement products for safety and effectiveness before they are marketed.”

Read article here: Blueberries May Help Prevent Alzheimer’s


“Antioxidants and Cancer Prevention.” National Cancer Institute. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Mar. 2016.

“Blueberries May Help Prevent Alzheimer’s, New Research Suggests.” The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group, n.d. Web. 15 Mar. 2016.

“U.S. Food and Drug Administration.” Dietary Supplements. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Mar. 2016.

“What Are Flavonoids?” N.p., 11 Apr. 2010. Web. 15 Mar. 2016.


Breast Cancer Recurrence Rates Refined


Medscape released findings from a new study conducted in the Netherlands that found the risk of breast cancer recurrence plummets to 1% if there are no events within three years after first diagnosis.

According to an analysis of a large database from the Netherlands, the risk for local recurrence of breast cancer decreases as event-free survival lengthens.  This study, which also demonstrated that recurrence risk varies substantially by subtype, should help physicians counsel women with breast cancer.

Dr. Moossdorff, MD, a doctoral candidate at Maastricht University Medical Center in the Netherlands, presented the study at the Society of Surgical Oncology (SSO) 2016 Cancer Symposium.  Her remarkable findings support that the risk of local recurrence decreased with event-free time.  Overall, the risk of recurrence is 1% after 3 event-free years.

Download Article Here:    Study Refines the Risk for Breast Cancer Recurrence


Study Refines the Risk for Breast Cancer Recurrence. Medscape. Mar 07, 2016.

The Opiate Painkiller Epidemic – Heroin to the Rescue


Deaths caused by drug overdoses have jumped dramatically in the United States, driven largely by addiction to prescription painkillers and heroin.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the death rate from drug overdoses is climbing at an alarming rate and faster than other causes of death, jumping to an average of 15 per 100,000 in 2014 from nine per 100,000 in 2003.

The opiate addiction epidemic was fueled by misuse of highly addictive prescription painkillers to treat chronic pain, poor physician prescription management, and irresponsibility of the pharmaceutical industry that sold the notion that opioids were safe.  Nationally, opioids such as OxyContin, Percocet, and Morphine were involved in more than 61 percent of deaths from overdoses in 2014.  Carl R. Sullivan III, Director of Addiction Services at the West Virginia University School of Medicine, found that as laws were passed to address the misuse of prescription painkillers, addicts began turning to heroin.  In many cases, heroin may be cheaper to buy and easier to find, use and abuse.  Deaths from heroin overdoses have more than tripled since 2010 and are double the rate of deaths from cocaine (CDC).

Prescription opioid narcotics and heroin are both derivates of the opium poppy and used interchangeably by many addicts. Oxycodone, Percocet and other legally prescribed opioids mimic the effects of heroin on the mind and body, predisposing users to addiction while giving rise to an “epidemic of death” caused by prescription opioids, surpassing that of illicit drugs.

Opiate addiction does not discriminate, as no community or socioeconomic level is immune to this deadly affliction.  Surprisingly, death rates from overdoses in rural areas now outpace the rate in large metropolitan areas, which historically had higher rates.  To fight this national problem, more research is needed to help understand effective chronic pain management.  Researchers are exploring alternative methods and medications to alleviate pain and decrease abuse potential, including abuse prevention and identification of predisposing factors to addiction.

Read Article Here:  How the Epidemic of Drug Overdose Deaths Ripples Across America



“Drug Poisoning Mortality: United States, 2002–2014.” NCHS Data Visualization Pilot. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Mar. 2016.

Park, Haeyoun, and Matthew Bloch. “How the Epidemic of Drug Overdose Deaths Ripples Across America.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 06 Jan. 2016. Web. 08 Mar. 2016.

“Prescription Opioid Narcotics and Heroin.” ARPO RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Mar. 2016.

Train Your Brain – Neuroplasticity


The brain is a like a muscle. If you don’t use it, you will lose it.  Train your brain like a muscle with continuous learning, and it will get stronger and grow new neural connections (neuroplasticity).

The brain has the capacity to change with learning and recover from brain injury. “Plasticity” refers to the brain’s ability to change and make remarkable recovery after brain injury and rehabilitation.

It was once believed that humans were born with a finite amount of neurons that when destroyed by unhealthy lifestyle behaviors (drugs, alcohol, stress, etc.), injury, disease and aging, these cells were permanently eliminated. However, it is now well known that the brain has tremendous potential to reorganize by creating new neural pathways to adapt in response to new information and life demands.

According to Dr. Bradford Thompson, Director of the Division of Neurocritical Care at Rhode Island Hospital in Providence, damaged areas of the brain can reconnect pathways between healthy neurons and form new circuits.  Breakthrough examples of brain recovery have been documented in stroke survivors.

Jill Bolte Taylor, neuroanatomist, experienced a massive stroke in 1996 at the age of 37, and her subsequent eight-year path to recovery is eloquently detailed in her 2008 TedTalk.  Jill experienced full recovery and shares her insightful story here:  Jill Bolte Taylor TedTalk

With any brain injury, immediate medical care is essential.  Recognizing the signs and symptoms of stroke can reduce brain damage and improve recovery.  Acting F.A.S.T. and obtaining medical care within 3 hours can save lives and brain function.  Follow the simple test below and visit this CDC link for more information:  CDC Stroke Signs and Symptoms

F—Face: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
A—Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
S—Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is their speech slurred or strange?
T—Time: If you observe any of these signs, call 9-1-1 immediately.



  • Landau, Elizabeth. “The Brain’s Amazing Potential for Recovery.” CNN. Cable News Network, 05 May 2011. Web. 02 Mar. 2016.
  • “My Stroke of Insight.” Jill Bolte Taylor:. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Mar. 2016.
  • “Stroke Signs and Symptoms.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 30 Apr. 2015. Web. 03 Mar. 2016.


Diabetic Management During Stress or Illness



The Cleveland Clinic offers excellent advice for managing diabetes during times of physical or emotional distress.  Experts offer the following five tips to help maintain blood sugar and  minimize the dangerous complications of uncontrolled diabetes.

1. Stay hydrated

Dehydration occurs quickly when you have fever, vomiting or diarrhea. The main risk from dehydration is hyperglycemia (high blood sugar).  Cold medications, skipping diabetes medications and eating food erratically may also lead to high blood sugar.

According to diabetes specialist Bartolome Burguera, MD, “when you’re ill, it’s very important to check your blood sugar regularly, continue to take medications on a schedule and drink fluids regularly.”  He also suggests that when your blood sugar goes over 250, check your urine for keytones (produced when your body has difficulty processing blood sugar) and call your clinician with the results.

2. Change up your diet

When you are ill or stressed, your diet may change.  If you are unable to eat normally or have a decreased appetite, meal replacement drinks are often helpful.  “Nutritional shakes formulated for people with diabetes have a moderate amount of carbohydrate, which is appropriate” (Burguera).  Homemade meal-replacement shakes are also helpful by using:

  • Frozen fruit
  • A protein source (e.g., protein powder, Greek yogurt, peanut butter, tofu)
  • Milk, soy milk or almond milk

Alternatively, “noodle soups are typically well tolerated and the noodles offer carbohydrates, which may help prevent low blood sugars” (Burguera).

3. Create a sick-day tool kit

Dr. Burguera recommends putting together a “sick-day diabetes tool kit” that includes items to be eaten or drank when feeling unwell.  “Some non-food items to include in your tool kit are extra blood-sugar monitoring supplies and a thermometer to check for a fever”  (Burguera).  Your kit may include:

  • Regular soda pop or juice (to prevent low blood sugars)
  • Broth-based soups
  • Gelatin (regular, not sugar-free)
  • Water
  • Electrolyte-supplemented beverages

4. Make sure you’re monitoring

Monitoring your diabetes is essential during times of stress.  “In general, if you’re taking insulin at meals and long-acting insulin once a day, you should monitor your blood sugar four times per day — before each meal and before bed”  (Burguera).

5. Talk to your clinician

Individualized care is important with diabetic management and your clinician will adjust your diabetes medications as necessary and dependent on:

  • The type of medications you’re taking
  • The extent to which your food intake has decreased

Dietician Dawn Noe states that “if you’re taking long-acting insulin, which is typically given at bedtime, we usually recommend you continue with the same dose, as long-acting insulin is mainly responsible for insulin needs not related to food intake.”

When insulin is taken before meals (also called rapid-acting insulin, fast-acting insulin, or mealtime insulin) your clinician may need to reduce your dose, depending upon your daily meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner. “If you skip a meal, skip the mealtime insulin” (Noe).

Oral medications may need to be adjusted by your clinician.  Diabetes medications, such as metformin, SGLT-2 inhibitors or DPP4- inhibitors, rarely cause low blood sugars and may not need adjusting.  “These medications usually bring down blood sugar from high to normal, but very rarely drop blood sugar too low” (Burguera).  However, sulfonylureas or acarbose may cause your blood sugars to drop if you are eating less. “These medications should be adjusted based on blood-sugar readings” (Burguera).

Whether during stress or illness, blood sugar management is imperative to control diabetes and maintain a healthy lifestyle and quality of life.

Read the Article Here:   5 Best Tips to Manage Diabetes When You’re Sick

Fighting Disease and Illness with the Mind-Body Connection


“If you’ve been there in the mind you’ll go there in the body.” -Dr. Denis Waitely

“Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you are right.” -Henry Ford

Mind-Body Connection and Improved Immunity

Can you imagine fighting disease and illness just by changing your mental game?  The way we think and feel can have a profound effect on our health. It is said that everything begins in the mind, “between the ears.”

Psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) is the study of the mind, nervous and immune systems. It is the scientific study of how emotions and behavior affect the brain and immune system function. PNI focuses on the “integrated information circuit” between these systems, and relationships between psychosocial factors (behavior, emotion, environment), the central nervous system, and how alterations in the brain and spinal cord affect the immune system response.  Simply, the state of the mind directly affects illness or wellness.

The literature is stacked with evidence-based research supporting the mind-body connection to immunity, well-being and how the mind affects the body.  It is known that highly stressed individuals are at greater risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD), impaired immunity, diabetes and obesity. Recognizing stressors, controlling our reactions and practicing stress management techniques can reduce risk factors and improve health. The mind has the power to heal or destroy.

Mind-body interventions like the relaxation response can reduce stress and enhance wellness in healthy individuals, and counteract the adverse effects of stress in conditions like hypertension, anxiety, diabetes and aging. The relaxation response is a breakthrough technique that reverses the detrimental effects of stress on our body.

Developed by the father of modern mind body medicine, Dr. Herbert Benson found through his research, that by eliciting the relaxation response, which is a physiologic state of deep rest induced by methods such as meditation, yoga, deep breathing and prayer, immediate changes are produced in the expression of genes involved in energy metabolism, insulin secretion and immune functionality. His research identified biological pathways that regulate and assume specific roles in stress, inflammation and human disease.

The mind-body connection is a vital concept to understand and integrate into a healthy lifestyle to prevent disease and illness, and assist in the development of positive coping skills such as self-control, self-esteem, self-efficacy, and stress management. Learning and implementing positive coping skills now, will provide life long health benefits that will transcend all aspects of the human experience.

Many methods exist that employ techniques to train the brain and reduce the effects of stress induced illness and disease.  In general, these techniques encompass the same basic principals to strengthen new behaviors through reinforcement, motivation and practice.

Key Factors for Stress Management:

  • Assess your perceived and real stressors
  • Change your response, pause and breath
  • Prepare ahead of time for potential stressors
  • Downshift – Consciously attempt to simplify life, determine your ultimate goal and make short and long-term plans
  • Change the way you think
    • Examine your self-talk and emotional responses
    • Practice optimistic and positive thinking techniques
  • Learn to laugh, cry and control your anger
  • Manage your time, prioritize and learn to say no
  • Practice mindfulness and living in the present moment
  • Eat a balanced healthful diet to improve stamina
  • Exercise to raise endorphins, eliminate excess stress hormones and improve mental alertness
  • Relax to restore and preserve energy stores
  • Practice deep breathing and meditation techniques

The mind is the master organ that has a powerful influence over our body, thoughts, emotions and immune system. It controls our daily functions, and constantly interprets and processes information. It is the cognitive (thinking) center of the body where emotions are experienced, ideas are created, and memory is stored. However, you are the master of your mind. Whatever you tell yourself is true, as the mind cannot differentiate between what is real and what is imagined.

The mind leads the body and has the power to heal.  Where your mind leads, the body will follow.

Click here for the Relaxation Response Technique Guidelines



  • Donatelle, Rebecca J. Access to Health. San Francisco: Benjamin Cummings, 2004. Print.
  • Karren, Keith J. Mind/body Health: The Effects of Attitudes, Emotions And, Relationships. Boston: Pearson, 2014. Print.
  • Herbert Benson, MD – The Connection.” The Connection Herbert Benson MD Comments. N.p., 07 Apr. 2014. Web. 03 Feb. 2016.
  • Mack, Gary, and David Casstevens. Mind Gym: An Athlete’s Guide to Inner Excellence. New York: Contemporary, 2001. Print.
  • Seligman, Martin E. P. Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life. New York: Vintage, 2006. Print.
  • Steps to Elicit the Relaxation Response.” Steps to Elicit the Relaxation Response. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Feb. 2016.
  • “Through the Wormhole S03E08 Mysteries of the Subconscious Stress, Oh Well, Peach Herbert Benson.” YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 19 Nov. 2014.


Zika Virus and Pregnancy


The fast-moving Zika virus epidemic has crossed from Latin America into Texas, prompting the CDC to develop interim guidelines and recommendations for health care providers in the United States caring for pregnant women during this outbreak. Health care professionals should:

  • Educate all pregnant women considering travel to an area with Zika virus transmission about the risks of infection
  • Ask about recent travel
  • Provide screening, testing, and management of pregnant travelers returning from areas with ongoing virus transmission

The Zika virus is a mosquito-borne infection that produces mild symptoms in adults, but has a devastating effect on the unborn child. Pregnant women exposed to this virus have a higher risk of miscarriage and babies born with microcephaly (small head). In Brazil, cases of microcephaly, in which the brain does not develop fully before birth, increased from an average 150 per year to almost 4000 cases in 2015. Finally, a link between Zika and microcephaly was established when Zika was found in the amniotic fluid of two women and in the brain and heart of an affected infant (Kelly, 2016). This public health issue has led Brazilian health authorities and other high risk countries, to advise women to delay conception to reduce the risk of bearing children with devastating birth defects.

The full spectrum of outcomes that may be associated with Zika virus infections during pregnancy is unknown at this time and requires further investigation. Prevention is the key. Advice for travelers is to Prevent and Present: Prevent being bitten by mosquitoes, and if you develop symptoms don’t ignore them, present yourself immediately for medical care (Shah, 2016).


CDC guidelines and recommendations for pregnant women:

Signs and symptoms of Zika virus:

Updates on areas with ongoing Zika virus transmission:

Medscape Medical News:

Perinatal Care Fact Sheet – Women’s Health Organization

To advance the care of American women, the Office of Women’s Health (OWH) was established in 1991 to provide leadership to coordinate the improvement of health in women and girls through policy, education and model programs. Perinatal care is a focus of OWH and the Prenatal Care Fact Sheet is a small example of evidenced based health information provided by OWHs website

It is known that women who receive prenatal care have better birth outcomes, such as babies born after 37 weeks and of normal birth weight.  A strong correlation exists between the lack of prenatal care and poor birth outcomes related to preterm labor (babies born before 37 weeks) and low birth weight (babies born under 5 pounds 8 ounces).  Babies born to mothers who do not receive prenatal care are three times more likely to be born at low birth weight and are five times more likely to die than those born to mothers who do receive prenatal care.

The evidence based information provided by OWH does not replace the professional advice of your care provider.  It is intended to improve your knowledge and serve as a discussion tool to individualize care.

Click here to read the Prenatal Care Fact Sheet

Nurses are Number One!


Number One, again!  Since 2005, Nurses have topped the Gallup list for “U.S. Views on Honesty and Ethical Standards in Professions.”  Americans have been asked to rate the honesty and ethics of various professions annually since 1990. Nurses have topped the list each year since they were first included in 1999, with the exception of 2001 when firefighters were included in response to their work related to the 9/11 attacks. Well earned!

Read Gallup study here: Gallup Poll

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