Monthly Archives: January 2016

20 Things You Didn’t Know About Wool

Wool It hates liquid, loves vapor and is fire-resistant.

By Margaret Shakespeare|Thursday, October 01, 2015

1. Many of us associate wool with sheep, but other mammals — including alpacas, camels and goats — also produce fibers that can be twisted into yarn and then textiles.

2. It’s possible humans started making wool after noticing that, as the fibrous hairs were scraped from the hide of an animal, they twisted together easily into lengths.

3. Wool fibers — made mostly of alpha-keratin, which is found in all mammalian hair as well as horns and claws — stick together easily. The cells of their outer layer, or cuticle, have evolved to overlap like tiny shingles, creating spots for one fiber to catch on another as they are twisted.

4. Clothing and other items made of wool have been found throughout much of the ancient world, from 3,400-year-old Egyptian yarn to fragmentary textiles unearthed in Siberian graves dating from the first century B.C.

5. The process of making wool fabric from fibers was rough going at first — literally. Wild and early domesticated sheep have a bristly overcoat called the kemp and a fine undercoat of wool called the fleece. Over time, animals were selected for more fleece, with finer fibers, and less kemp. The more than 200 domesticated sheep breeds today are mostly kemp-free.

6. Modern wool fibers range from a fine 16 microns in diameter, from merinos, to 40 microns.

7. That itch from your warm winter woolies? Most likely it’s sensitivity to thicker (and coarser) fiber diameter or fiber ends, not a wool allergy, which is practically unknown.

8. Less lush pastures — such as in a drought — can produce finer fibers, with smaller diameters.

9. Wool has been a valuable commodity across cultures and centuries. When Richard I (the Lionhearted) was captured in 1192, Cistercian monks paid their part of the ransom to the Holy Roman emperor in 50,000 sacks of wool (a year’s clip).

Sheep, alpaca and some other animals have scalelike patterns on the outer layer of each hair (above) that allow the fibers to be twisted together to create yarn and, ultimately, textiles valued the world over for their unique properties.
Susumu Nishinaga/Science Source

10. Wool has stood in for even more precious fabrics: In 18th-century Norway, when the king forbade the wearing of silk by commoners, farmers opted for imported worsted wool fabric, which had a similar sheen.

11. Besides clothing, wool has quite a few industrial uses, from piano dampers to absorbent pads for those baaaaad oil spills.

12. Out on some Montana roadsides, woolen silt fences and erosion-control blankets are cropping up, according to Rob Ament of the Western Transportation Institute, which adapted the practice from New Zealand colleagues.

13. Wool has the right properties for the job because it’s a lightweight ground covering that allows seedlings to grow right through it.

14. Wool is also biodegradable. It breaks down slowly, fertilizing the plants with a generous nitrogen content of a whopping 17 percent compared with the 6 percent nitrogen in commercial turf products. And it is water-retentive.

15. In a seeming paradox, wool can absorb and repel water simultaneously.

16. The outer surface of wool fiber is made up of fatty acid proteins and does not absorb liquid. However, structural features in the fiber’s interior, called salt linkages, can sop up copious amounts of moisture in vapor form.

17. In short, wool hates liquid but loves vapor.

18. But wait, there’s more: With a high natural ignition point of about 1,382 degrees Fahrenheit, wool is fire-resistant. And unlike nylon and polyester, wool does not drip or melt when it does catch fire.

19. These qualities recently attracted the interest of the U.S. Army, which is researching wool’s potential in clothing designed to protect combat troops from explosive blasts.

20. We can thank wool for a different kind of explosion — one we actually want. Inside most baseballs, including those used in Major League Baseball, you’ll find layers of tightly wound wool yarn: Each ball contains about 370 yards of the wool windings, which provide resilience to withstand the crushing impact of a batter’s hit off high-velocity pitches.

Veterans are Fighting the War on Sleep

January 18, 2016

Andrew Petrulis is finally getting some rest.

For years, he didn’t want to fall asleep. He was out of the war but sleep put him back in it. His dreams replayed scenes from 11 years of active-duty service as a member of a US Air Force explosive ordnance disposal unit. Master Sgt. Petrulis defused roadside bombs and other improvised explosives with a robot, or sometimes his own hands, throughout Iraq, Afghanistan, and Southwest Asia between 2002 and 2013. He received the Bronze Star twice. He shot at people and got blown up. Bombs went off within feet of him. The explosions rattled his brain.

He relived these scenes, over and over, in nightmares.

After an honorable discharge, returning home, and joining the reserves in 2013, an MRI showed scar tissue on his brain. The VA diagnosed Petrulis with traumatic brain injury, severe post-traumatic stress disorder, tinnitus, Achilles and kneecap tendonitis, and depression. The VA rated his disabilities at a combined 140 percent, with PTSD, which his life now revolves around, accounting for 70 percent of that rating. But he was still functional in the sense that he could eat and go to the bathroom on his own. The VA ultimately declared him a 90 percent disabled veteran.

He was running on fumes, getting only two or three fitful hours of sleep each night. He had regular panic attacks. Weekly night terrors. Vivid nightmares every other day, or so. He locked himself in his house, alone. Sometimes he’d drink on the couch until he passed out. But mostly he was too afraid to close his eyes.

“It got really, really bad,” Petrulis, now 31, tells me. “I couldn’t do anything. So I’d just stay up.”

Things are different today. Three or four nights a week, after tucking himself in bed, Petrulis slides a prototype 17-pound weighted blanket over his sheets. The blanket is roughly 3 feet wide by 6 feet long, covered in penguin print, and looks a bit like 60 or so 4 x 4 inch bean bags handstitched together. The pockets are each stuffed with polypropylene pellets and a sort of memory foam material.

Petrulis is a big guy—6’2″, 250 pounds—but the blanket’s weight spreads evenly over him.

“I feel safer when it’s covering my entire body,” Petrulis explains. No one can bother him this way. “It sets my mind up for sleeping hard that night.”

Which he does.

What happens, exactly, while he’s under such pressure? It sounds almost too good to be true. Whatever it is, can heavy blankets help other veterans with combat-related sleep problems get some rest too? What about restless deployed troops? Can heavy blankets offer them relief?

The underlying idea is dead simple: create a cocooning embrace, like being swaddled. Petrulis compares it to a firm, comforting hug. According to Gaby Badre, a leading sleep researcher who’s studied weighted blanket therapy for treating insomnia in adults, there is good reason to believe this is because the deep pressure touch of a weighted material spread over part or all of the body dials down the fight-or-flight arousals of the sympathetic nervous system. (It’s generally accepted that a weighted blanket should be at least 10 percent the person’s body weight.) There is also speculation that lying under heavy constant pressure such as a weighted blanket feels good because it somehow lights up the brain’s reward center, probably triggering the release of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine.

But that’s about the extent of our understanding of the science beneath weighted blankets. No one knows precisely what goes on in the brain and throughout the body under this kind of pressure; whether the mechanism is mere placebo, or if something else altogether makes lying under a weighted blanket feel so reassuring and safe that it could bring deep, restorative sleep to those who need it but can’t otherwise get it on their own.

It’s this mystery that still largely colors weighted blankets as non-evidence-based folk remedies to sleep disorders.

“It’s almost like I have feelings in the dream. I physically feel in the dreams”

They have shown promise as anti-anxiety and stress-relief aids in the very young and the very old. There is data and evidence to support claims that heavy blankets can help calm children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism, and other sensory disorders, as well as elderly people with dementia, added Badre, who’s been studying sleep since the late 1980s and currently oversees sleep medicine clinics at The London Clinic, the Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology at the University of Gothenburg, and SDS Kliniken.

The between years, from roughly age 14 through 60, are murkier. There just isn’t sufficient data from clinical experience, at least not yet. There is hardly any supporting research, just anecdotal evidence, that shows the potential of weighted blankets having the same arousal-reducing effects as well as sleep-inducing ones in adult populations, including combat veterans like Petrulis.

No small number of Iraq and Afghanistan war vets have trouble sleeping. Among patients of the Veterans Health Administration, the healthcare arm of the Department of Veterans Affairs, in 2015, 1,262,393 veterans—over 20 percent—had a sleep disorder diagnosis in the past two years, according to a VA representative. Those million-plus diagnosed sleep disorder cases, to say nothing of undiagnosed cases, are all different; various external factors like back and other muscular, skeletal, and neurological issues, plus prescription drug histories, bring unique forces and circumstances to bear on combat-related sleep disturbances.

Petrulis is one veteran battling sleep after war. And one veteran reporting positive results, with no apparent side effects, from a non-evidence-based sleep aid is notable. But it’s not enough to convince the government to fund or conduct clinical research into that aid.

Neither the VA nor the Department of Defense are exploring weighted blanket therapy. Petrulis and Chelsea Benard, a licensed occupational therapist who introduced him to weighted blanket therapy in the fall of 2015, wonder why not. Petrulis and Benard, who handstitched the 17-pound blanket Petrulis currently uses, don’t think the blanket is a cure-all for his sleep problems, but rather a promising, albeit under-researched supplement to other evidence-based treatment options for sleep and anxiety issues.

“What’s neat is it’s a non-pharmacological approach that can be used as a complement tool to any other kind of treatment,” says Benard, who had the idea to try out weighted blankets with adult patients after she saw success using them on kids. “It’s not going to have any side effects.”

She and Petrulis genuinely believe the technique can help people like him who cope with combat-related PTSD or TBI, whose core symptoms include sleep disturbances. And he says he’s tried just about everything when it comes to sleep.

The VA initially prescribed him Ambien, which he tried once with no luck. The VA then upped the dosage, but still nothing; he’d sleep a few hours, then be up the rest of the night. They also put him on Valium for panic attacks, but that didn’t help either, even after an upped dosage. The VA currently has him on Prazosin, a blood pressure medication developed in the 1980s that’s been shown to stanch night terrors, and also has him on Klonopin, an anti-anxiety drug, for panic attacks. He says the Klonopin isn’t working, and is unsure whether or not Prazosin is helping. When he tries to power down at night, his brain is often going a million miles an hour.

Except while he’s under the weighted blanket. He says it’s the only thing that helps him sleep. Nothing else gets him in a place at the end of the day where he can calm down and drift off. To this day, he hasn’t had a nightmare with the blanket on.

But bad dreams still haunt him.

They come when he isn’t sleeping under the blanket, and they often begin at home in Higganum, Connecticut, with Petrulis surrounded by family and friends. Then he’s driving a Humvee around town. He turns a corner, and suddenly he’s in Baghdad or Kandahar or some other place where he’s fighting for his life.

He steps out of his vehicle and there’s a guy pointing a gun at him. Petrulis raises his M4 rifle, pulls the trigger. But it won’t fire. He keeps pulling the trigger and the guy either shoots Petrulis, or Petrulis dreams he shoots the guy.

That bad dream hasn’t come around in awhile. It’s a scene from January 2, 2006, the first time Petrulis was blown up. He was driving a Humvee through Kandahar when a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device—a car bomb—detonated 10 feet from the armored vehicle. Everything went black. His gunner’s face was covered in third-degree burns. It was the first time Petrulis realized, “Hey, I’m not invincible.”

He has lived with that memory—that bad dream—for years, reliving it over and over again in his sleep.

His dreams have expanded with time. Most recently they’ve taken on an Inception-like, dream-within-a-dream quality. Petrulis will be disarming IEDs when suddenly he “wakes up.”

“Oh my god,” he thinks to himself. “It was just a dream. I’m glad I’m not at war.”

He’s fine. He’s in his bedroom. He gets up, walks outside, and guess what? There’s the war again. There’s nowhere for him to take cover. Enemy rounds are popping off over his head. He’s dodging RPG fire. He starts freaking out. Is this reality?

Then he wakes up again. This time he’s screaming. He really is awake.

“These dreams are so real,” he tells me, almost exasperated. “I can’t express how real they are, even when I wake up that second time. It’s almost like I have feelings in the dream. I physically feel in the dreams.”

These layered nightmares are so visceral he has panic attacks when he surfaces from them. He’ll be soaked in sweat, unable to get back to sleep. Why would he want to?

“If you can find science behind it, that’s one thing. But I would be very skeptical”

The psychologist he saw while on active duty recommended Petrulis keep a dream journal. So he writes down a lot of these nightmares. He’s found it helps his brain comprehend them.

Writing this raw material down is a key stage of image rehearsal therapy, an evidence-based treatment for nightmares, said Wendy Troxel, a clinical and health psychologist who does sleep research in both civilian and military concentrations. Image rehearsal therapy involves patients “rescripting” their dreams, and is one in a range of evidence-based treatment options for enduring psychic wounds of modern war like PTSD and insomnia. These options include medications like Prazosin, the anti-nightmare drug Petrulis currently takes; prolonged exposure therapy for PTSD; and cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia.

Troxel told me she’s never heard of weighted blankets. As the co-principal investigator of an exhaustive 2015 RAND report on military sleep, she would be cautious about discussing any potential remedy for sleep disorders or PTSD that isn’t evidence-based. Which a heavy blanket is not.

“If you can find science behind it, that’s one thing,” she wrote in an email. “But I would be very skeptical.”

A review of the literature brings up just one randomized controlled trial examining the efficaciousness of weighted blankets on any psychological health outcome, according to Dr. Daniel Evatt, chief of research production at the Department of Defense Deployment Health Clinical Center. The study, published in 2014 in the journal Pediatrics, found that autistic children and their parents preferred weighted blankets over regular ones (the blankets were “well tolerated”). But the findings also reported that the weighted blankets did not improve overall sleep time for the children any more than the traditional blankets.

In a written statement, Evatt said in light of that evidence, clinicians “might incorporate initial evidence that weighted blankets may be preferred and well tolerated and suggest that weighted blankets could be considered like any other bedding accessory and advise patients to use those bedding accessories that work for them.”

“On the other hand,” Evatt added, “clinicians should be cautious of alternative treatments such as weighted blankets that are advertised with unsupported claims and that could be sought out by some patients in lieu of treatments that have the support of a body of scientific evidence.”

Dr. Vincent Mysliwiec, the US Army Surgeon General’s sleep medicine consultant, is aware of heavy blankets used for sleep.

“From my understanding it’s kind of like a Beanie Baby,” says Mysliwiec, who authored a 2013 American Academy of Sleep Medicine study on active duty military personnel prone to sleep disorders and short sleep duration. “You’ve got this blanket with these tactile-like senses that you can, like, sense while you’re sleeping.”

Mysliwiec is not familiar, however, with any scientific or medical-based studies that have established weighted blankets as an efficacious sleep therapy for any patient population, not just military.

Kind of like a Beanie Baby. That’s about as good of an explanation as any.

Or, maybe, kind of like floating.

Gaby Badre doesn’t have problems sleeping, though he’s tried sleeping under a weighted blanket anyway. He’s also spent time soaking in a sensory deprivation tank, and thinks that somehow the two experiences can share a core operating principle.

“The floating situation is really interesting,” says Badre. “You’re floating. It’s the same thing if you’re under deep pressure that is evenly distributed, so that you don’t feel a change in stimulation. You don’t get more stimulated by moving in your bed.”

Badre is at the forefront of clinical weighted blanket therapy research in adult populations. He led a 2015 study on the positive effects of weighted blankets in adults aged 20 to 66 with intrinsic insomnia, or insomnia not secondary to medical or psychiatric disorders. The weighted blanket used in that study was a Swedish-designed product with adjustable metal chains (providing adequate pressure, depending on body weight).

The results were published in the Journal of Sleep Medicine & Disorders, and found that a weighted blanket might aid in decreasing insomnia and, as such, “may provide an innovative, non-pharmacological approach and complementary tool to improve sleep quality.”

Badre says there are two issues at play.

“We know that deep pressure with a consistent sensory input decreases the level of arousal,” he explains. “The other aspect is that tactile stimulation can decrease the activity of the sympathetic nervous system. We know that an increase in sympathetic activity will increase arousal.”

That might be the limit of our understanding of the science beneath weighted blankets, but for Badre it seems to be enough to justify using one.

“I think everything that can give you this cocooning and monotonous tactile stimulation can have a positive impact,” he tells me.

A positive impact is one thing. A body of evidence supporting that impact is another. Badre admits we simply need more clinical data before considering weighted blankets as anything other than an alternative approach to treating sleep disorders in adult populations. That includes active-duty military personnel and veterans.

Badre says he has worked with at least one former member of the US military—a Marine who’d act out his nightmares—and thinks weighted blankets can help those with sleep problems related to PTSD. There’s even a chance Badre could’ve been studying weighted blankets to treat such disorders in these types of patients by now, if only it were easier to convince the US military community to provide funding to rigorously research the technique. He would know.

It’s unclear which branch of the military he and an American colleague were targeting. Badre says last fall they’d drawn up a weighted blanket research grant proposal, but that according to his colleague the military showed “no enthusiasm” before the idea was even formally presented. The researchers decided to not submit the proposal.

“We have been far too busy making weighted blankets to commission studies”

What might account for that lack of enthusiasm?

Troxel speculates it could be a matter of military funding. But it could also be that scant preliminary data on weighted blankets is not enough to support deeper investments from the government.

There does seem to be a lack of bandwidth, time, and money among the small handful of weighted blanket providers on the market to commission clinical research.

“We have been far too busy making weighted blankets to commission studies, but we would love to do so (or be part of one),” Donna Chambers, founder and CEO of Sensacalm, wrote me in an email. Sensacalm makes weighted blankets for people with autism, ADHD, Asperger’s, PTSD, sensory processing disorder, anxiety, dementia, and Alzheimer’s. Chambers added that Sensacalm has previously donated blankets to researchers studying them, but has yet to hear back any results.

The irony is that the VA, at least, does offer patients weighted blankets and vests. Just not for sleep disorders.

They can be ordered through the VA’s Rehabilitation & Prosthetic Services and are provided for orthopedic and neurologic balance disorders, such multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, ataxia, and stroke, according to a written statement from the VA. Patients must show documentation of medical necessity and how the blanket is an essential component of their treatment plans. This doesn’t extend to treating sensory processing disorders, post-traumatic stress, and anxiety, the statement adds.

“We don’t necessarily recommend compression blankets,” a VA spokesperson tells me.

That’s one way of putting it.

“We can’t necessarily prescribe this because it’s not a medical device,” says Mysliwiec, the US Army Surgeon General’s sleep medicine consultant.

That’s another way.

That doesn’t mean Mysliwiec thinks there’s nothing to lying under a weighted blanket, however. He thinks it can play a role in people getting better sleep. It’s OK to use one, Mysliwiec admits, so long as it doesn’t cause a person any side effects. Blankets are probably not fit for people with disruptive breathing disorders like sleep apnea, or who have underlying heart or lung conditions. In those cases Mysliwiec would not consider weighted blankets appropriate or exactly safe.

But for people like Petrulis, who does not report sleep breathing disorders or any underlying heart or lung conditions, for whom sleeping under a weighted blanket helps their sleep, Mysliwiec doesn’t think using one is a problem, and he sees no significant side effects either.

“A 17-pound blanket shouldn’t bother a normal adult,” he admits.

For their part, Petrulis and Benard are trying to get the word out and scale up production of her proprietary blanket model. Benard tells me she’s used weighted blankets with at least 200 adult patients over roughly the past five years; about 80 of them were veterans, and she says every one of them had symptoms of anxiety or disturbed sleep negatively impacting their quality of life. Others with PTSD, including rape victims, have also reached out to her, asking how they can get their hands on a blanket.

Benard has 10 blankets as of this writing. She was waiting on a bulk order, paid entirely out of pocket, of 1,000 pounds of the polypropylene pellets and memory foam-like material (she did not elaborate on either) to hopefully make a bunch more blankets. At the same time, she’s trying to figure out if bulk manufacturing would even make sense.

“I’m not sure we’ll be able to keep up with the demands,” Benard tells me. Her and a small group of volunteers still sew blankets by hand.

She does hope to launch a non-profit, called Snug as a Bugz, centered on her model of “battle blanket.” She has a natural spokesperson in Petrulis, who is currently helping her raise funds to get more material to make more blankets. Since launching a GoFundMe campaign on December 5, 2015, “over 400” people have contacted Benard in support of weighted blankets or requesting more information; they have all either been combat veterans or families or friends of veterans. All the money raised through the campaign would go toward making more blankets—Benard and Petrulis would take none of the cut. The pair hopes to get blankets in the hands of as many vets as possible, including at retreat centers like Virginia-based Boulder Crest, a privately-funded rural wellness retreat for combat vets and their families.

I asked Josh Goldberg, director of strategy at Boulder Crest, if the retreat would ever consider keeping a few weighted blankets onsite for guests with sleep disorders. “I would absolutely not rule it out,” said Goldberg. He was careful not to endorse weighted blankets outright, but did say Boulder Crest is “very open minded to the fact that a lot of things that are non-clinical in nature can be very, very effective at giving people the peace that they need to live the life they deserve to live in.”

It can be hard to sleep while at war. But adjusting to sleep long after battle can be a war unto itself

Lying under a heavy blanket has given Petrulis a little bit of that peace. He sleeps and feels a lot better than he did just a few years ago because of it. If the potential is there for something as dead-simple as weighted blankets to help other vets with sleep issues and perhaps even deployed troops with similar problems, Petrulis wants military brass to understand something.

“I want the military to really understand that this is something—and they really don’t know about it, or talk about it, and there’s no information on this—that will drastically help people even if you just have ‘em in your mental health units,” he says. “Or bring them into every EOD shop.” If someone’s having a bad flashback or is unable to sleep, just wrap them up. “It’s such an easy thing to do.”

He’s talking about people who are deployed, who are in war zones, not just vets at home. A reality of modern war is that a generation of tired troops are being raised up through the ranks, and that has a big impact on sleep and life during and after war.

The 2015 RAND military sleep study Troxel co-authored included 1,957 participants from across all four branches of the armed forces, and found a “high prevalence” of sleep issues like poor sleep quality, nightmares, insufficient sleep duration, and daytime sleepiness among those subjects. The participants were “older and all married,” Troxels points out. Their battle rhythms are in stark contrast—they’re just not as zipped up—compared to the twenty-something deployed men who Troxels says are the highest-risk demographic today for, say, slugging energy drinks. And then crashing.

“It’s concerning that we’re raising this population of service members who are using a variety of techniques to stay awake, which then further compromises sleep,” Troxel says. “It’s a vicious, perpetuating cycle of trying to stay awake and then not being able to fall asleep at night, which perpetuates not being able to sleep the subsequent night.”

“There’s something endemic to military culture that’s contributing to sleep problems,” she adds.

It can be hard to sleep while at war. But adjusting to sleep long after battle can be a war unto itself.

Petrulis misses the person he used to be, before the PTSD and sleepless nights. But he knows he will never be that person again.

“I feel like a person who pops 30 pills a day from 10 different doctors all trying to figure out what’s wrong with me and how to help me,” he says. “I used to care but now I don’t. I feel like a test subject that is fed pills until my brain is numb and I don’t have to think anymore.”

He has good and bad days.

Today, he is in the process of being medically retired from the reserves. He heads up a CrossFit gym, which recently celebrated its one-year anniversary. He brings the blanket to work sometimes, wrapping himself up there if he can’t concentrate. Or if he had a bad night sleeping. He seems somewhat relieved that sleeping with the blanket some nights is helping him sleep during nights when he doesn’t use it.

The night terrors are down to once every two weeks, but he’s still having issues allowing his body to rest. He does report sleeping soundly the three or four nights per week he currently sleeps under the blanket, accepting its weight.

He pulls it down toward his feet as these nights progress. Sometimes bad dreams happen after that, but never when the blanket is physically on top of him. When he wakes up it’s not on him at all. Eventually Petrulis hopes to wean himself off the blanket entirely.

“I want to try and be a normal human being again,” he says. There’s a hesitance in his voice, as if staring down a long struggle ahead. “I don’t want to go to sleep still.”

You’ll Sleep When You’re Dead is Motherboard’s exploration of the future of sleep. Read more stories.

TOPICS: Full Plastic Blanket, You’ll sleep when you’re dead, sleep, war, military, nightmares, night terrors, ptsd, TBI, post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, depression, veterans, Andrew Petrulis, weighted blankets, heavy blankets, compression,

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Learning from the Greeks – An Exceptional Seminar

Improving patients’ life – An exceptional Seminar

Want to learn how the Mediterranean diet, curative and preventative uses of herbs, oils, perfumes and therapeutic massages, and the art of healthy living can improve patients’ life?

Historian of medicine Alain Touwaide will guide an exceptional journey through ancient Greek medicine and therapies.

This Seminar will promote a scientific approach to practices for a better living of patients. It will present the Greek foundations of therapists’ practices together with the philosophy, knowledge and wisdom that underpinned their approach to medicine and a healthy life. It aims to provide practitioners with insights that will help them develop new and better-informed care for patients.

The Seminar will be held at the MOA Wellness Center, 4533 S Centinela Ave., Los Angeles, CA 9006, Saturday February 13 and 20, 2016, 2:00 to 6:00pm. Besides an introduction to ancient Greek medicine, the Greek way of maintaining good health, the Greek therapeutikon, and the art of restoring a healthy life, topics will include:
• Treating illness: herbs;
• Wellness: oils, perfumes, therapeutic manipulations and masssages;
• Prevention: eating the right food and living a health life.

Dr Alain Touwaide is a world-renown historian of ancient medicine. In recent years he has been
affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution and has been selected among the 100 scientists whose work might change the way of doing science. In 2007 he has co-founded the Institute for the Preservation of Medical Traditions of which he is the Scientific Director.

Participation is limited to 20 (first come, first served). Registration is required. Fee: US $ 350,-.

Contact: Clifton Matsuno, PT. MOA phone #: 310-574-9900.
Institute for the Preservation of Medical Traditions: Email:

Asthma may lead to migraines

Pre-existing asthma may be a strong predictor of future chronic migraine attacks in individuals experiencing occasional migraine headaches, according to researchers from the University of Cincinnati (UC), Montefiore Headache Center, Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Vedanta Research.

The findings were published online in November in the journal Headache, a publication of the American Headache Society.
“If you have asthma along with episodic or occasional migraine, then your headaches are more likely to evolve into a more disabling form known as chronic migraine,” explains Vincent Martin, MD, professor of medicine in UC’s Division of General Internal Medicine, co-director of the Headache and Facial Pain Program at the UC Neuroscience Institute and lead author in the study.

Martin teamed with Richard Lipton, MD, and Dawn Buse, PhD, both of Montefiore Headache Center and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and Kristina Fanning, PhD, Daniel Serrano, PhD, and Michael Reed, PhD, all from Vedanta Research, to study about 4,500 individuals who experienced episodic migraine or fewer than 15 headaches per month in 2008.

“Migraine and asthma are disorders that involve inflammation and activation of smooth muscle either in blood vessels or in the airways,” says Lipton, director of Montefiore Headache Center, vice chair of neurology and the Edwin S. Lowe Chair in Neurology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and founder of the American Migraine Prevalence and Prevention Study. “Therefore, asthma-related inflammation may lead to migraine progression.”

About 12 percent of the U.S. population experiences migraine, which is almost three times more common in women than in men, according to Martin. Individuals with chronic migraine have headaches 15 or more days per month; this affects about 1 percent of the U.S. population and takes a severe toll on sufferers who often miss work and social events.

Asthma affects about 8 percent of American adults, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The researchers analyzed data from the American Migraine Prevalence and Prevention (AMPP) Study. Study participants completed written questionnaires both in 2008 and 2009. Based on responses to the 2008 questionnaire, they were divided into two groups—one with episodic migraine and coexisting asthma and another with episodic migraine and no asthma. They were also asked about medication usage, depression and smoking status. The 2008 and 2009 questionnaires included questions about their frequency of headache, which enabled the authors to identify the participants who had progressed to chronic migraine.
Researchers found that after one year of follow-up, new onset chronic migraine developed in 5.4 percent of participants also suffering from asthma and in 2.5 percent of individuals without asthma. “In this study, persons with episodic migraine and asthma at baseline were more than twice as likely to develop chronic migraine after one year of follow-up as compared to those with episodic migraine but not asthma,” says Martin.

“The strength of the relationship is robust; asthma was a stronger predictor of chronic migraine than depression, which other studies have found to be one of the most potent conditions associated with the future development of chronic migraine,” explains Martin.

Researchers have considered various theories as to why asthma may have a predictive role in chronic migraine development for individuals with episodic or occasional migraine. Asthmatic patients are more likely to also have allergies and the researchers have shown in prior studies than patients with allergies might be prone to more frequent headaches particularly if they have hay fever, explains Martin.

Another possibility is that patients with asthma may have an overactive parasympathetic nervous system that predisposes them to attacks of both migraine and asthma, says Martin. It’s also possible that asthma may not directly cause chronic migraine, but that a shared environmental or genetic factor, like air pollution, which has been known to trigger both asthma and migraine attacks may play a role, he explains.

So what does someone suffering from occasional migraine do to avoid chronic migraine? Martin says physicians may want to prescribe preventive medications for migraine at an earlier stage in these patients.

“Also, if allergies are the trigger it begs the question should we treat allergies more aggressively in these patients?” says Martin.

Explore further: IHC: stigma towards migraine sufferers high
Journal reference: Headache
Provided by: University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center