MIND YOUR RISKS Now to Protect Your Health Throughout Your Life

For those of us who are child neurologists, it is no surprise that early life exposures, habits, experiences, and health status greatly influence and sometimes even predict health in later life. There is no magic switch that delineates childhood from adulthood. Development is forever, and many influencers on later health happen in very early or even prenatal life. That’s why it is so important that, even if they feel fine, children, adolescents, and young adults watch their weight, their blood pressure, their diet, and their level of regular exercise. After all, nobody’s got you like you got you! You say you spend most of your time taking care of your family, your job, and your community? Well then, where would they be without you? For you and especially for them, you have to take care of yourself.

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May is ALS Awareness Month

May is a month of renewal. The landscape turns green again. Flowers add splashes of color to nature’s palate. Critters in hibernation much of the preceding months are seen venturing out and enjoying the newfound warmth.

May is also ALS Awareness Month. ALS stands for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and denotes a relentlessly progressive group of disorders that, sometimes quite rapidly and sometimes more slowly but always unfairly destroys the motor system in the spinal cord and brain that enables the muscles to move. ALS robs healthy people of their ability to walk, lift a cup, speak so they can be heard and understood, and, eventually, eat and breathe.

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Stroke Awareness Month: May 2021

As I look out the window of the room in my home in which I have been working for over a year, it is hard to believe how green the trees have become!  But Spring is truly here, and if it’s May, it must be Stroke Awareness Month.  Over the past decade, NIH and its government, nonprofit, and hospital partners and scientists and health care providers around the country have worked to make people everywhere aware of the risks and dangers of stroke; help people lower their blood pressure and cholesterol; design and test better drugs and devices to treat heart rhythm disturbances and prevent the blood clots they cause; and implement methods for dissolving or pulling out clots in blood vessels in the brain.  Accordingly, age-adjusted stroke rates and death rates from stroke have decreased over the past decade in both men and women and for all races and ethnicities.  But lest we think we don’t have to worry about stroke anymore, we still have lots of work to do!

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NINDS Recognizes Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month

This month is Parkinson’s Disease Awareness month and, even as a child neurologist, I find myself thinking about how much we have learned and how much we have yet to learn about this common neurodegenerative condition.

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive movement disorder that primarily affects people over the age of 65. However, an estimated four percent of people with Parkinson’s are diagnosed with “early onset Parkinson’s disease,” meaning that they were diagnosed before age 50. Clinically, Parkinson’s disease is characterized by slowness of movement (bradykinesia), rhythmic shaking of the limbs and head (tremor), inflexibility of the limbs (rigidity), and loss of the balancing mechanism (postural control).

In addition to these classic “motor” or movement-related symptoms, people with Parkinson’s also experience a range of symptoms affecting daily activities, including fatigue, pain, changes in mood and thinking, difficulties sleeping, issues with eating and swallowing, and bladder and bowel problems. Under the microscope, the brains of patients who had Parkinson’s disease all show abnormal clumps of proteins, called Lewy bodies, and the loss of nerve cells that make the chemical dopamine.

What has become clear is that Parkinson’s represents a complex spectrum with shared characteristics, including a classic trio of motor symptoms and similar end-term brain changes, but also with a range of physical manifestations such that the experience of each person with Parkinson’s is unique.

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