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What you need to know as Alberta prepares to launch an online health portal

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So, you’re sitting in a tiny room at a medical clinic as your doctor stares intently at a computer screen — at your medical records.

She clicks the mouse a few times, and then starts to type.

What, you wonder, is in there? What does it say? After all, it’s your personal health information — right there in black and white. Shouldn’t you be able to see it?

Actually, you can.

Canadians have a right to see what’s inside their medical records. It’s well established in Canadian law. But it isn’t always easy.

In most provinces patients have to ask their doctors for copies of their personal health information, which can take time and there can be fees attached. That means doctors can act as a kind of gatekeeper to our personal health information — whether they want to or not. Patients need their cooperation to see it.

But that is changing.

Albertans are on the verge of having instant access to at least some of their medical records.

An online portal, called MyHealth Record, is set to roll out in the coming weeks. Alberta Health is not talking about how it might all work ahead of the official launch. It will only say it is in the final consultation process.

But we know based on information already sent to doctors that patients who sign up will be able to see the results of 59 lab tests, medication history and immunization records on their computer, tablet or smartphone.

Alberta isn’t the first province to make this kind of information electronically available to all patients. But it’s on the leading edge.

So imagine, being able to log in and check out your own test results whenever you want. From your phone. A whole new way of keeping an eye on your own health.

In another five years we may look back and we won’t believe this wasn’t the standard of care.– Dr. Iris Gorfinkel

But this also raises some questions.

What happens if you find out you have a health problem before you have a chance to see your doctor? What happens if you misunderstand the context of your results?

What should you know and when should you know it?

Quebec’s experience

Quebec launched a province-wide online patient portal last year.

So far more than 337,000 people have signed up for the Quebec Health Booklet. It contains a list of medications, lab test results and medical imaging reports such as MRIs, CT scans and x-rays.

And the portal has fans in the medical community.

“I think it’s a great thing because it makes the patients more involved in their healthcare,” said Dr. Vincent Demers, vice president of the Quebec Medical Association.

“Patients are more informed these days, and they want to be informed.”

Demers says his patients like it and the portal could potentially help prevent oversights.

“If for whatever reason a doctor misses an abnormal result, the patient can see it and go to the doctor and ask about the abnormal result,” he said.

Quebec Medical Association vice president Dr. Vincent Demers. (Quebec Medical Association)

But in Quebec test results are not released immediately. According to Demers, they’re held for 30 days, which gives doctors time to set up appointments for people with abnormal results. The delay applies to everything from bloodwork to CT scans.

The Alberta system appears set to handle timelines differently.

While results for scans such as MRIs and CTs are not expected to be made available in the MyHealth Record portal, or at least not right away, patients will have “immediate access” to lab test results.

A joint letter to doctors from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta and The Alberta Medical Association stated: “MyHealth Records is designed to be easily understood by Albertans; patient lab results will include abstract information to help explain tests, and a call-in line will help Albertans with troubleshooting or any health-related questions concerning information found on MyHealth Records.”

But seeing abnormal blood results right away could cause some real anxiety, according to Demers.

“You can discover something in your blood that is really serious — like a leukemia. So if the patient is the first to discover that he has a leukemia and he goes on Google and checks that, and he doesn’t have his physician in front of him to discuss it … it can make the patient very anxious,” said Demers.

He says the Quebec system, which delays results, may not be perfect but it helps avoid that outcome. Physicians can offer context and answer questions and concerns.

“So I think a delay is a good thing — even for the lab results,” he said.

Dr. Google

“What’s natural in the face of uncertainty … is human beings tend to do things to increase certainty,” said Kim Lavoie, a clinical health psychologist and researcher at the University of Quebec in Montreal.

We’ve all been there. Or, at least know someone who has. Something is off. You’re not well. So you whip out your phone and start searching for answers.

“They’re going to turn to the internet and the internet is full of great information and it’s full of terrible information,” said Lavoie.

While Alberta’s patient portal is expected to come with links to information about the tests and the results, Lavoie wonders if that’s enough.

Kim Lavoie is a clinical health psychologist and researcher at the University of Quebec in Montreal. (Submitted by Kim Lavoie)

What happens if someone discovers that their blood sugars are too high and they can’t get in to see their doctor right away?

“You don’t want patients with … pre-diabetes to go and do homeopathy, for example, because some random website says this is going to … decrease your blood sugar levels, which is nonsense,” she said.

Alberta, she says, should consider a delay — similar to Quebec — and have a plan to manage patients who are getting results without medical support.

According to Lavoie those people could become deeply concerned and, as an unintended consequence, jam up emergency rooms and walk-in clinics.

Kim Lavoie, a clinical health psychologist, worries people will turn to Google for answers about their medical information. (Cultura RF/Getty Images)

“In general I think [the portal] is a great idea. But you can’t just give people information and leave them powerless or helpless to do something about it,” she said.

In Nova Scotia, doctors have more control over when and how patients see their records.

‘Its time has come’

Nova Scotia launched a scaled down version of its own in 2016.

Family doctors can sign up and invite interested patients to join too. When test rests are in, physicians can control when the information is released to patients.

“Most routine lab stuff can be released immediately. Other tests such as CT scans, MRIs, pathology reports, the physicians have about five days to release that and it gives them a chance to … look at the result so they can get in touch with the patients,” said Dr. Gerard MacDonald, chair of the information technology steering committee with Doctors Nova Scotia.

Patients have a right to access this.– Dr. Gerard MacDonald

So far about 300 physicians — or roughly one quarter of the family doctors in Nova Scotia — have signed up.

“I think initially there were fears and a lot of those were fears of the unknown,” said MacDonald.

In that province’s system, people can get information, but also chat with their doctor’s through an e-messaging tool. MacDonald says doctors were concerned at the outset that they would be bombarded by messages from patients. But it hasn’t turned out that way.

Dr. Gerard MacDonald says family doctors can sign up and invite interested patients to join too. When test rests are in, physicians can control when the information is released to patients. (Gerard MacDonald)

“We have done some follow-up surveys with physicians,” said MacDonald. “The concern about the workload really has been overblown.”

There were also early worries patients would become anxious if they were confused about test results. According to MacDonald that hasn’t been a big problem yet either.

“Just a small percentage of patients are going to be worried and concerned. But whether you have a portal or not, that’s still going to be the case,” he said.

MacDonald welcomes online access and says patients will eventually want to see their data more quickly than they can in Quebec. 

“Its time has come,” said MacDonald. “Canadians demand to have access to their records. Just like they can access … their bank records. Patients have a right to access this.”

Several other provinces are at various stages of developing province-wide online patient portals. Some regional health authorities and hospitals already have their own versions in place. And patients in some provinces can also access results electronically from private laboratories.

Providing direct access to personal health information is a move many experts argue will push Canadians to be more active participants in decisions about their own health.

‘They don’t have to be afraid of the doctor’

Dr. Iris Gorfinkel, a Toronto-based family physician, would like all Canadians to have full access to their records within a decade.  

Gorfinkel wrote a commentary for the Canadian Medical Association Journal last year, calling on all provincial governments to mandate patient portals.

She believes patients should be able to log on and see their entire medical record with no delays. Having some understanding of their results ahead of time, she says, allows for a better conversation.

“They don’t have to be afraid of the doctor because the doctor isn’t the sole keeper of the records. They’re empowered with that knowledge and now that allows them to ask questions and fill in the gaps in that knowledge to address their worst fears,” said Gorfinkel.

Dr. Iris Gorfinkel is a Toronto-based family physician who says all Canadians should have full access to their medical records. (Craig Chivers/CBC)

The power dynamic, she says, is shifting.

“We need to do everything we can … to equalize the playing field.”

Gorfinkel believes the benefit of immediate access to medical records outweighs the potential harm of seeing an abnormal test result before you can talk to your doctor.

“I don’t call that anxiety. I call that patient engagement,” she said.

“This gives the potential for patients themselves to challenge doctors and say, ‘well wait a second, what about this aspect?’ … It’s a different level of conversation.”

“Hopefully … in another five years we may look back and we won’t believe this wasn’t the standard of care.”

And, Gorfinkel points out, no one is forcing you to look at your chart.

You only click on it if you want to.

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Researchers warn about the severe psychological distress caused by eating junk food

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(Natural News) Does junk food make you sad? While the current state of the American food industry is more than enough to make anyone feel depressed, new research from Loma Linda University demonstrates a link between junk-laden diets and psychological distress. Based on their findings, it appears that what you eat can and does affect your mental health — and that the prepackaged garbage peddled as “food” can have a seriously deleterious effect on your emotional well-being.

Even after adjusting for other external factors, the scientists found this relationship held steady: The more junk food a person ate, the more distress they reported feeling. When you consider the physiological effects junk food has on the body, it is no wonder that people report feeling like they are more distressed: They are in distress, they just don’t know it’s because of what the “food” they’re eating is doing to them on the inside.

Estimates suggest that the average American gets 60 percent of their daily calories from processed or junk food. Junk food consumption is a widespread problem here in the United States. Now, there are questions about whether or not junk food is a driving force in the plague of insanity (and stupidity) striking the U.S.

Scientists link junk food to poor mental health

Published in the journal International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition in early 2019, a study from Loma Linda University scientists finds a link between poor diet and poor mental health. Even after adjusting for external factors such as gender, age, education and income level, the association between junk food intake and mental illness remained.

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Study leader Jim E. Banta, Ph.D., MPH, an associate professor at the school, says that their conclusions support the findings of previous research. To conduct their study, Banta and his team looked at data from the California Health Interview Survey (CHIS). The scientists used 240,000 phone surveys conducted by CHIS between 2005 and 2015, and included data on socio-demographics, health status and health behaviors.

“This and other studies like it could have big implications for treatments in behavorial medicine,” Banta said of the findings.

“Perhaps the time has come for us to take a closer look at the role of diet in mental health, because it could be that healthy diet choices contribute to mental health. More research is needed before we can answer definitively, but the evidence seems to be pointing in that direction,” he added.

The fact that scientists in the 21st century are only now just beginning to even consider the possibility of a relationship between nutrition and mental health is truly disturbing. Natural health practitioners have long been aware of the importance of good nutrition for total well-being, including mental state.

Is poor nutrition turning America insane?

Vitamin D deficiency is a well-known cause of depression. B vitamins, iron, selenium and magnesium also support good mental health and deficiencies in these nutrients can also cause depression and anxiety. There is a growing body of research which strongly supports poor nutrition as a causative factor not only in depression, but in other mental illnesses — including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, OCD and more.

For example, Dr. Banta notes that some research has linked high sugar consumption to bipolar disorder, while fried foods and processed grains are linked to depression. There is no ignoring the link between diet and disease — whether it is of the body or of the mind makes no difference.

Nearly 60 percent of the American population’s diet comes from disease-causing food, and it is hard not to wonder if obesity, heart disease and death aren’t the only problems being caused by junk food diets.

Are the increasingly insane leftists just running around in a nutrient-deprived, sugar-spiked frenzy? Whether you’re talking about the inanity of “social justice” score-keeping or the rapid acceptance of censorship to silence conservatives, it’s clear that the far left is missing a few bolts upstairs. A diet of GMOs, pesticides and toxic food additives will do that to you, though.

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Eat healthier to improve your physical and mental well-being

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(Natural News) The physical health and mental well-being of a person depend a lot on nutrition and the food that he eats. Diet also influences the risk of developing chronic diseases. While the relationship between physical health and diet is well-understood, little is known about how diet and its quality influence the development of mental disorders. In a recent study, researchers from the University of Regensburg in Germany investigated the behavioral effects of a Western diet on pattern separation – the process of keeping items distinct in memory. They discovered that a diet consisting of increased amounts of sugar and saturated fatty acids, reduced levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids, and an increased ratio of omega-6/omega-3 fatty acids (Western diet) harms memory. The results of their study were published in the journal Food Science and Human Wellness.

The Western diet impairs pattern separation

In this study, researchers investigated the utility of spatial separation – a behavioral process associated with the hippocampus – in the assessment of dietary interventions and the behavioral effects of the transgenerational administration of a Western diet on pattern separation. Pattern separation is the process of keeping items distinct in memory and is mediated by the hippocampus. Previous studies have suggested that there is a relationship between hippocampal function and diet quality in both humans and animals.

To examine the association between them, the researchers used rats, feeding over seven generations a diet containing increased amounts of sugar and saturated fatty acids, reduced levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids, and an increased ratio of omega-6/omega-3 fatty acids. This diet composition is characteristic of a diet known as the Western diet. The researchers administered it transgenerationally because previous studies have shown that interventional diets need to be implemented over several generations to induce behavioral effects.

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They compared the spatial pattern separation (or local discrimination) performance of these animals with that of rats fed a standard diet. For the test, they presented the rats two locations and allowed them to learn across trials to respond to the correct location. During spatial discrimination training, they designated a location as the correct one and rewarded the rats if they touched the correct location. They reversed the correct and incorrect locations every time the rats successfully got the correct ones nine times out of 10 trials.

The researchers found a separation-dependent difference between the standard and Western diet groups in the number of discriminations performed in the pattern separation task. The rats fed with a Western diet performed fewer discriminations. Rats with lesions in the dorsal hippocampus showed impaired pattern separation when the locations were close together but not when they were far apart. The researchers associated this impairment with hippocampal dysfunctioning. Their results align with previous studies which demonstrated that consumption of a Western diet impaired cognitive functions, damaged brain regions, and contributed to the occurrence of neurodegenerative diseases. Their results confirmed that pattern separation could be negatively affected by transgenerational administration of a Western diet.

The researchers concluded that spatial pattern separation can help detect the effects of dietary interventions and that the Western diet can impair pattern separation.

How to make your diet healthier

A healthy diet can provide many benefits, the most important of which is the prevention of chronic diseases. Here are some things that you can do to make your diet healthier:

  • Eat slowly
  • Choose whole grains
  • Add probiotics to your diet
  • Increase your protein intake
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Avoid frying food and eating fast food
  • Take vitamin and mineral supplements
  • Try new and healthy recipes
  • Eat vegetables first before every meal
  • Eat fruits instead of drinking them
  • Exercise regularly
  • Stop drinking sweetened beverages
  • Get adequate sleep

Eating healthier and becoming aware of your nutritional needs will not only improve your physical health, but these will also benefit your mental and emotional well-being.

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Apples: Eat them to keep the doctor away – and boost stem cell therapy

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(Natural News) There is some truth behind the saying, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Apples are superfoods, and they are good sources of antioxidants that protect cells from oxidative damage and boost the immune system. They also contain dietary fiber, which is good for digestion and the maintenance of gut microbiota. But there is more to apples than just being healthy, antioxidant fruits. In a recent study published in the journal Nutrition Research, researchers from Sungkyunkwan University in South Korea showed the beneficial effect of apple extracts on the proliferation of adult stem cells. They also identified the possible molecular mechanisms underlying apple’s pro-proliferative effects.

Apple ethanol extracts can enhance the proliferation of stem cells useful for tissue regeneration

Tissue regeneration using adult stem cells (ASCs) has significant potential in the treatment of many degenerative diseases. It also provides a promising means of repairing chronic tissue or organ failure due to injuries, congenital defects, and aging. Stem cells are essential in regenerative medicine because they can be used directly in cell replacement therapies. However, studies on their application in clinical settings suggest that age negatively affects the proliferation status and differentiation potential of ASCs. This presents a possible limitation in their therapeutic use.

In the hopes of addressing this limitation, researchers turned their attention to the pro-proliferative activity of apples. Apples are rich sources of valuable phytochemicals that are known to be beneficial to human health. They possess anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and even anticancer activities. These antioxidants can help maintain human cells and protect them from harmful oxidation products. In addition, apples contain metabolites that could ensure longevity and increase the number of human cells in culture. (Related: Apples could hold key for increasing lifespan.)

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Because of this, researchers hypothesized that apple extracts might exert beneficial effects on ASCs. They obtained apple extracts using ethanol as the extraction solvent and tested these on human adipose tissue-derived mesenchymal stem cells (ADSCs) and human cord blood-derived mesenchymal stem cells (CB-MSCs). They also used 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide and Click-iT 5-ethynyl-2?-deoxyuridine flow cytometry assays to evaluate the pro-proliferative effects of the extracts.

The researchers found that treatment with apple extracts promoted the proliferation of ADSCs and CB-MSCs. Apple extracts also induced the stepwise phosphorylation of p44/42 MAPK (ERK), mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR), p70 S6 kinase (p70S6K), S6 ribosomal protein (S6RP), eukaryotic initiation factor (eIF) 4B, and eIF4E in ADSCs. p44/42 MAPK (ERK) is a signaling pathway involved in the regulation of cell proliferation and differentiation. Inhibition of this pathway results in cell apoptosis. mTOR is a key signaling node that coordinates cell cycle progression and cell growth. p70S6K is a cytokine that regulates cell growth by inducing protein synthesis. eIFs, on the other hand, are proteins or protein complexes involved in translation and protein biosynthesis.

The researchers also reported that apple extracts significantly induced the production of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and interleukin-6 (IL-6) in both ADSCs and CB-MSCs. VEGF is a potent angiogenic factor, which means it promotes the formation of blood vessels. VEGF also plays a role in other physiological functions, such as hematopoiesis, wound healing, and development. IL-6 is a promoter of proliferation. The researchers further confirmed that the apple extract-induced proliferation of ADSCs under serum-free conditions is mediated by ERK-dependent cytokine production because when they pre-treated cells with PD98059, a specific ERK inhibitor, it inhibited the phosphorylation of the mTOR/p70S6K/S6RP/eIF4B/eIF4E pathway.

Based on these findings, the researchers concluded that extracts from apples are potent pro-proliferative agents, and the beneficial effect of apple extract on the proliferation of ASCs may overcome the limitation in their therapeutic use in tissue regeneration.

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