The Minnesota Veterans Medical Research & Education Foundation (MN Vets) is dedicated to advancing the health and well being of our country's veterans through cutting-edge medical research and education leading to prevention, diagnosis, and management of disease and disability.

Reducing the impulse to be impulsive

kelvinAlmost all of us are capable of doing things on impulse once in a while. Buying the occasional pair of shoes we don't need. Or eating another piece of pie when we know we are already full.

But for some people, impulsive behavior (also known as impulsivity) is a much more serious problem than the odd splurge on food or clothing. For these people, the inability to think before acting results in behavior that exhibits little or no sense of rational control. Sometimes impulsivity (which often occurs following traumatic brain injury) can lead to things such as alcoholism or drug abuse, though most afflicted with impulsivity are those who frequently "fly off the handle" in fits of rage. Their behavior frequently forces those around them to "walk on eggshells." 

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In Search of Better, Safer Pain Management

krebsChronic pain is a serious issue among the U.S. civilian as well as military veteran population. Estimates from the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies of Science indicate approximately 100 million Americans suffer some degree of pain and that pain costs the U.S. economy more than $600 billion per year. In fact, three of the top five causes of medical disability in this country are pain-related.

Erin Krebs, core investigator for Center for Chronic Disease Outcome Research and medical director for Women’s Health at the Minneapolis VA Health Care System, as well as an associate professor of medicine at the University of Minnesota, is one health care professional who is all too aware of the serious pain management issues that exist throughout the American medical system.

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Meditate on this: Using meditation to treat PTSD

kelvinAlthough meditation has been practiced in the East for thousands of years, much of the Western world first learned about it when the Beatles (with many journalists in tow) traveled to India in 1967 to study Transcendental Meditation.

Since then, millions of people worldwide have taken to daily meditation. Medical research has shown that meditation helps reduce stress. There also is evidence that suggests meditation may help with issues including high blood pressure, heart disease, asthma, cancer, depression, and substance abuse, among others.

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Standing, Sitting and Living Well – Despite Spinal Cord Injuries

GoldishThe late actor Christopher Reeve may have been the most famous example of someone with a spinal cord injury but he was by no means alone. Approximately 250,000 Americans are living with spinal cord injuries and some 10,000 to 12,000 people in the U.S. sustain such an injury annually. About 26,000 military veterans live with such injuries, including some 13,000 who are receiving treatment at VA health care systems.

While the major focus of Reeve’s post-injury life involved supporting research that might lead to a cure for spinal cord injuries, the truth is that a cure is not yet available.

 

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The E. coli You May Not Know

johnson RAlmost anyone who has paid any attention to recent news has heard about serious (and sometimes deadly) E. coli bacterial infection outbreaks.

Most of these outbreaks were caused by one particular strain of

E. coli (short for Escherichia coli) bacteria, 0157H7, a member of one of the three major E. coli groups. This strain is often food-borne, found in things such as hamburger, lettuce, or tomatoes contaminated by fecal sources bearing the strain. It can cause severe diarrhea and other illnesses and is sometimes fatal.

But many people don’t know that among the two other E. coli groups, one is composed of strains that are mostly quite benign. The other includes strains that cause illnesses that are just somewhat annoying (or cause no illnesses at all and are just present in a body), along with somewhat serious illnesses including urinary tract infections (UTIs). In 2007, one of the strains in this second group, ST131, may have caused the most significant antimicrobial-resistant E. coli infection episode in the U.S.

 

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More Than 40 Years of COPD Research – And Still At It

dennis1 REven a casual observer of the many television ads for medications for COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) will know that the disease is a huge health concern for a great many people.

In fact, COPD is the third leading cause of death in the country. It accounts for nearly 750,000 hospitalizations in the U.S. every year, including 17,000 throughout the nation’s VA health care system. Early symptoms include a cough that won’t go away, excessive mucus production while coughing, and shortness of breath (especially when exercising). Most who suffer from COPD also have histories of chronic bronchitis as well as emphysema. Nearly all are current or former heavy smokers and most are at least 45 years of age.

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VA Research Profile: Apostolos Georgopoulos, M.D., Ph.D.

20100119 apostolosgeorgopoulos 33Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has figured prominently in the news since the start of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Apostolos Georgopoulos, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Brain Sciences Center at the Minneapolis VA Health Care System, has worked to ascertain specific brain biomarkers and brain functions so that accurate and precise diagnoses of PTSD can be made by physicians regarding an often very serious psychiatric disorder that can pose a lifetime risk for as many as seven percent of all adults worldwide, including military members and veterans as well as civilians. Timely and correct PTSD diagnoses can help ensure that proper and effective treatments can be administered as soon as possible after diagnosis.

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Is There a Role For Religion and Spirituality In Coping With Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

Harris photoMany of us don't think twice, much less try to analyze things, when we hear (as we often do) phrases such as "one nation, under God" or "so help me, God" or "God bless the United States of America."

It's likely we don't do so because approximately 80 to 90 percent of Americans consider themselves to be at least nominally religious and/or spiritual. This figure includes those who are current and former military service members.

And when it comes to experiencing trauma, including post-traumatic stress disorder (or PTSD, which is estimated to affect some 14 to 30 percent of current and former military service members) many people "turn to religion."

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Can Vitamin E Really Help Those with Alzheimer's?

Dysken photoVitamin E has been in the news a great deal during the past two decades or so, touted as a marvelous treatment or preventive agent for disorders ranging from heart disease, diabetes, premenstrual syndrome, adverse skin conditions, and asthma, as well as a protective agent from possibly harmful effects from radiation and chemotherapy.

The vitamin, found naturally in meats, poultry, cereals, eggs, many fruits and vegetables, and in wheat germ and vegetable oil, also has been used to treat diseases of the brain and nervous system, including Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia. Currently, Alzheimer's disease afflicts some four million Americans, with some 13 million cases expected by 2050 unless effective treatments can be found within the next 10 to 15 years.

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Multiple War Zone Deployments and Mental Health Effects upon Soldiers and Families

Polusny picAnyone who has paid attention to news reports during the past decade knows that many of the soldiers serving in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have made more than one (or even more than two or three) deployments to those battle zones. We also know that psychological issues have been a serious concern for at least some of these soldiers, as well as for their families and senior military and government officials.

What is not yet known is exactly how deployments, and especially multiple deployments, affect the mental health of soldiers and their loved ones. We hear stories of high divorce rates among soldiers, or extreme levels of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or that there are many cases of domestic violence or drug or alcohol abuse. Or so we hear. But what is the real story?

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