Nurse Alice: New Research Suggests Alzheimer’s Presents Differently in African Americans

Nearly 5.7 million people live with Alzheimer’s disease in the United States. The disease, however, seemingly presents more problematic for African Americans. Studies show African Americans are twice as likely of developing Alzheimer’s disease compared to whites. And while health, lifestyle, and socioeconomic factors contribute to our susceptibility for this disease (as well as others), more and more research is suggesting genetic differences could explain some of the disparity between African Americans and whites.

Research from the Department of Neurology, Washington University School of Medicine suggests Alzheimer’s disease may develop differently in blacks. That could possibly mean the way we diagnose and treat African Americans for Alzheimer’s may need to change as well and become race specific.

Much of what we know about Alzheimer’s disease is from research based on white people. Yet numerous studies have shown racial differences exist in African American genetics which influence how we respond to different diagnostic tests, medications, and treatments. And this isn’t new information. Differences in cardiovascular treatment and diabetes diagnosis for African Americans are well documented.

What is Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disorder that causes brain cells to degenerate and die. It’s the most common cause of dementia, causing changes in memory, speech, judgment, personality, and overall cognitive functioning. This steady decline in thinking, behaviorally and socially, disrupt a person’s ability to function independently.

While there is no definitive diagnostic test for Alzheimer’s, some of the biological hallmarks of the disease are abnormal amounts of protein plaques – amyloid Aβ42 and protein tau tangles that present throughout the brain. Its been thought that the higher your levels are, the higher risk you were for the disease. And because we know that to be true, companies have spent millions of dollars creating anti-tau medications and therapy to counter the disease.

In people with Alzheimer’s disease, tau proteins for unknown reasons collapse into twisted strands called tangles. These twisted strands keep the brain cells from getting nutrients and other essential supplies, and the cells eventually die.

 What Does This Mean for You?

In a research plot twist, researchers at Washington School of Medicine discovered that when they scanned the brains of participants for plaques – there wasn’t any significant differences between whites and blacks. However, when they performed lumbar punctures testing cerebral spinal fluid levels of tau proteins, the levels were much lower in African Americans. This debunks the theory that lower levels of tau proteins mean lower risk for Alzheimer’s disease. African Americans having lower levels of tau protein did not seem to have the same decreased risk as it did in their white counterparts. What this means is there is the potential for African Americans to still have the disease, but present with lower levels of tau proteins which may lead to delayed diagnosis and treatment for Alzheimer’s.

What’s Next?

So how do we properly and efficiently identify and treat Alzheimer’s disease in African Americans? Do we start with race specific thresholds for tau protein levels?…. maybe we need to.

While this question remains unanswered, it needs to be addressed sooner than later. But the only way to garner enough scientific information to do so is to gather more evidence. So while these findings are from a relatively small sample size (173 black participants) it is still worthy of a serious look because it comes from research done with African Americans. And last I checked – I was African American. So while some medical research can be generalized to different groups– it’s still not a one size fits all. If we have reason to believe race plays a role in how someone is diagnosed, and what medications and treatments work best for them – then we need to apply that information. This is one step closer to the goal of precision medicine, an emerging approach for disease treatment and prevention that takes into account individual variability in genes, environment, and lifestyle for each person. Ask your provider today whether they practice precision medicine. If not, you may want to consider changing to one that does.





The post Nurse Alice: New Research Suggests Alzheimer’s Presents Differently in African Americans appeared first on Black Enterprise.

Lifestyle | Black Enterprise


Nurse Alice: America’s Next Top Model Dies of Breast Cancer at 34

On Dec. 4, 2018, Jael Strauss gave her last breath—ending her battle with stage 4 breast cancer. Strauss had been a contestant on season eight of Tyra Bank’s America’s Next Top Model, was of African American (mother) and Jewish (father) descent, and only 34 years old.

On Oct. 4, she announced her diagnosis in a Facebook post. “I was gonna write some long thing but some of you guys deserve to know, On October 2nd I was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer. It has aggressively spread throughout my body and is incurable,” she wrote. “With treatment it may prolong my life longer than the ‘few months’ doctors said I could make it. I don’t want to die. I need another one of those miracles that I got back in 2013.”

Following her diagnosis, Strauss’ friends set up a GoFundMe page on her behalf to help alleviate some of the medical costs.

At the end of November, Strauss announced that she had entered hospice care. “First night in hospice. So many things I never knew about life. Or death,” she wrote on Facebook. “So many things.”

According to nationally recognized board-certified diagnostic radiologist, Dr. Nina Watson (aka Dr. Nina) who specializes in Women’s Imaging, this is a story she’s seen one too many times. She goes on to say, “although we would like to think that breast cancer in a woman of her age would be unheard of, unfortunately, it is not. According to the American Cancer Society, it is estimated that 12,770 women in the United States less than 40 years of age were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2017. Since this is below the age of recommended annual screening for the general population, it is important that all women, but particularly black women, know the signs and symptoms of breast cancer and their own personal risk.”

The most common sign of breast cancer is a painless lump. Although most of these lumps will be benign (not cancerous) growths, a woman should have any new lump evaluated by their doctor. Other signs and symptoms would include changes in your skin (new area of thickening or dimpling), changes in your nipple (nipple starting to stick in), or discharge from your nipple (especially if it is bloody). If you notice any of these changes, it is important to be seen by your doctor. Additional testing such as a mammogram or breast ultrasound may be necessary.

There have been important developments in the medical community’s understanding of breast cancer. It is now being recognized that a “one approach fits all” does not apply to breast cancer. While it has been recognized for some time that women of Ashkenazi Jewish descent have an increased risk of breast cancer, it is now being recognized that black women are also at increased risk for the disease. So for Strauss, her risks were greater considering her mixed descent. The American College of Radiology and Society of Breast Imaging are recommending that all women, especially black women, have a risk assessment (calculation of a woman’s lifetime risk of breast cancer) performed at age 30 to see if early screening for breast cancer is needed.


The post Nurse Alice: America’s Next Top Model Dies of Breast Cancer at 34 appeared first on Black Enterprise.

Lifestyle | Black Enterprise


Nurse Alice: When Your Help isn’t Wanted with Suicide Prevention

Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels is reportedly sending Pete Davidson to “get help” after the comedian posted a now-deleted suicidal message online, hours before the show aired on NBC recently. And from the sounds of it, Davidson is going along with recommendations.

i really don’t want to be on this earth anymore. i’m doing my best to stay here for you but I actually don’t know how much longer I can last, read the actor’s cryptic Instagram post.

Davidson was confirmed to be fine Saturday by the New York Police Department, which visited NBC Studios to check up on him following the alarming post. He briefly appeared on SNL when he introduced musical guests Miley Cyrus, Mark Ronson, and Sean Ono Lennon.

His friend, rapper Machine Gun Kelly, rushed to New York City to support and be by Davidson’s side. Kelly wasn’t the only one who rushed to Davidson’s side over the weekend, however. A source told Us Weekly on Monday that pop star Ariana Grande, the comic’s ex-fiancée, showed up to NBC Studios, too, but Davidson refused to see her. Sources also say he even changed his phone number after the break up to further distance himself from Grande.

Earlier this month, Davidson stated on Instagram that he’d been bullied for months both before and after his split from Grande in October. He said he’d spoken about his borderline personality disorder and about “being suicidal publicly only in the hopes that it will bring awareness and help kids like myself who don’t want to be on this earth.”

Rejected Help

We can only imagine that Grande was hyper-concerned by Davidson’s concerning tweets, especially since her other ex-boyfriend, rapper Mac Miller, died earlier this year. But what do you do when your help is rejected?

It is possible that you can say all the right things and your friend will still be upset with you. Each person is an individual with unique thoughts and feelings, and being angry and upset is the nature of depression. Sometimes people will lash out at those trying to help them because they are hurting and don’t know where to direct those bad feelings. Whoever is nearby becomes a convenient target and, as a result, they may direct anger toward you and reject your assistance. And something else that you have to consider is: Could you have in any way contributed to their unhappy feelings? If so, this may be another reason why they are not receptive to your offers of help.

If this happens, try not to take it personally. Stay calm and continue to do what you can to love and support your friend in whatever way they will allow. According to board-certified psychiatrist Dr. Nicole Washington, “If you do find yourself on the receiving end of an angry reaction, just give that person space. This is not the time to argue, reason, or explain why you did what you did. Maybe once everyone involved has cooled down, a discussion can be held where you both get to express your views of what happened.”

Washington goes on to say that if this is able to occur, take this time to talk through what is helpful for them and what is not so that you know how to better respond to them in the future during these times.

The priority is that the distressed person gets the help they need, even if it isn’t from you. So don’t get salty and turn a blind eye if this happens; rather, continue to be supportive. These can be awkward, complex, and even challenging situations, but focus on the individual’s safety. If the person is in immediate danger – don’t leave them alone, call 911 and get help. Make sure to be on the lookout for warning signs of suicide and know when to seek help from others, even in cases when your help is rejected.

The post Nurse Alice: When Your Help isn’t Wanted with Suicide Prevention appeared first on Black Enterprise.

Lifestyle | Black Enterprise


Nurse Alice: Don’t Ignore this Kotex Tampon Recall

While some of you may cringe that we’re talking about tampons this is a serious matter. No matter how much you despise Auntie Flo, this is one recall you should not ignore. Some Kotex tampons have been recalled after reports that the feminine-care product was unraveling and coming apart inside consumers’ bodies.

Kimberly-Clark, which manufacturers personal-care products, announced last Tuesday that the regular absorbency U by Kotex Sleek Tampons have been recalled in the United States, and Canada, because of “a quality-related defect,” explaining that some consumers reported having to seek medical attention “to remove tampon pieces left in the body.”

The company said in a news release that some consumers also reported irritation, infections, injuries and abdominal pain among other issues.

Women should be on high alert for symptoms of any retained tampon product. Unless the tampon has completely unraveled it may not be as obvious that all of its contents have not been removed. So please be sure to inspect the removed tampon to make sure it has been removed in its entirety. If the product has unraveled or come apart upon removal, please follow up immediately with a health professional who can inspect the area and remove any retained product. The provider can also inspect for any irritation, damage, injury, or infection that may be a result of remaining material.

In worse case scenarios, retention of tampon products can lead to Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS). This is a rare lethal complication from a bacterial infection that creates toxins that overwhelm the body. TSS is treatable if recognized early. Signs and symptoms include sudden fever, nausea, vomiting, low blood pressure, confusion, muscle aches, and headache. Initial treatment includes a cocktail of antibiotics, medications to maintain adequate blood pressure, and IV fluids for dehydration and to flush out toxins.

The recall is limited to specific lots of U by Kotex Sleek Tampons, Regular Absorbency, that were manufactured Oct. 7, 2016 – Oct. 16, 2018, and distributed Oct. 17, 2016 – Oct. 23, 2018. Consumers can identify this product by looking for specific lot numbers found on the bottom of the package. A full list of recalled lot numbers is available on the U by Kotex website. Retailers have been alerted to remove the recalled lot numbers from shelves and post a notification in their stores.

No other U by Kotex-branded products are subject to this recall.

Watch Nurse Alice discuss it on NBC:

The post Nurse Alice: Don’t Ignore this Kotex Tampon Recall appeared first on Black Enterprise.

Lifestyle | Black Enterprise