Why cord blood banking could save lives

Being a new parent comes with countless decisions to make: from simple decisions, like what color to paint the nursery, to much more important decisions, like what to do with your new baby’s umbilical cord after it is detached.

Instead of discarding the umbilical cord as medical waste, some new parents have begun to consider cord blood and cord tissue banking because of the many medical issues a newborn’s stem cells has the potential to treat. Newborn cord blood can be valuable because the stem cells are preserved in their most pristine and natural state.

Why save cord blood?

Umbilical cord blood is rich in stem cells that form new blood. Newborn stem cells have the ability to treat more than 80 diseases, including blood cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma, and other metabolic and immune disorders. The cells can also be used later on to benefit the newborn’s immediate family members should they ever need a stem cell transplant.

Because newborn cord blood stem cells are so young, they are more flexible for medical use than adult stem cells. These young stem cells are known to have a lower risk of complications when used in transplants and by preserving them, it essentially ‘stops the clock’ for the cells growing or aging and also prevents them from being exposed to any environmental factors.

Since umbilical cord blood is so rich in stem cells, it can be used as an alternative to bone marrow during a surgical transplant process for those in need. This is good news for thousands of patients, since bone marrow transplants are the only known cures for many diseases. Preserved cord blood can also be used in an ‘autologous transplant,’ which is where the newborn would be able to use his or her own cord blood later on in life, should they ever need stem cells as a medical treatment option.

Newborn cord blood research is still advancing and has the potential to yield more breakthrough medical discoveries that could help save lives in the future.

The cord blood banking or donation process

Cord blood donation is not harmful or risky in any way to the mother or child at any time during the birthing process. Once the baby’s umbilical cord has been clamped and cut, the remaining blood in the umbilical cord is drawn into a collection bag immediately after birth.

If you want to enroll in this process, you would first have to sign up to receive a collection kit, such as one from the Cord Blood Registry. When you arrive at the hospital for delivery, hand over your kit to your healthcare providers and they will do the rest for you to collect and store your baby’s umbilical cord. After that, you would call a medical courier to transport the kit to the banking facility.

Once the cord blood and tissue have arrived at the banking facility, lab technicians test and process the stem cells, then preserve the sample and store it until you need them, or decide to donate them.

If you think you might be interested in cord blood and/or cord tissue banking, speak with your doctor before delivery to discuss if this could be a good option for you and your new addition to the family.

The Birthplace at JFK Medical Center is a family-focused environment, committed to providing new moms and their babies with the best team, the best care and the best outcomes possible. Our Birthing Center is equipped with the latest diagnostic equipment and technology, as well as experienced physicians and nurses. To learn more about our Birthing Center or to schedule a tour, call 561-548-1000 or visit JFKMC.com

Your Guide to Aspirin and Heart Health

It’s not news that an aspirin can help save your life during a heart attack. But should we take it every day to prevent heart disease? And what kind? How much?

We met with Ashesh Parikh, DO, to clear up some of the confusion surrounding aspirin and heart health. Dr. Parikh practices at cardiology at Medical Center Alliance and Plaza Medical Center of Fort Worth, both part of HCA North Texas.

Can a daily low-dose aspirin regimen help prevent heart attacks/heart disease?

Dr. Parikh: Yes , if you’re a male over the age of 45 or a female over the age of 55, and have certain risk factors for heart disease, you should take a low-dose aspirin once a day. What some people don’t realize is that diabetes is considered a coronary artery disease equivalent, so if you have diabetes and you’re a 46-year old male, hands down you should also take low-dose aspirin every day to prevent heart attack, even if you have no other risk factors. A 50-year-old man with diabetes and a 50-year-old man who’s had one heart attack and a stent have the same risk for future heart disease.

Is taking an aspirin still recommended for a person experiencing the symptoms of a heart attack?

Dr. Parikh: Yes. If you think you’re having a heart attack, the guideline recommendations are to chew one whole aspirin (325 mg). This allows the aspirin to get absorbed into your system much faster than if you simply swallow it.

How does aspirin help during a heart attack?

Dr. Parikh: Aspirin plays a pivotal role in getting your blood thinned quickly. A heart attack is essentially a big plaque rupture, meaning you had a tear in the artery of the heart and it opened, causing a blockage. You need to get your blood as thin as possible as quickly as possible, so you can continue to get that blood flow to the heart.

Do recommendations for an aspirin regimen differ for men and women? How?

Dr. Parikh: For heart attacks, there’s primary prevention and secondary prevention. Primary prevention is preventing a heart attack or stroke from happening; secondary prevention is when you’ve already had a stroke or heart attack. In either case, the aspirin dose is the same for men and women: 81 mg once a day.

What’s the difference between low-dose aspirin, baby aspirin and regular aspirin in terms of heart health?

Dr. Parikh: Low-dose aspirin and baby aspirin are the same. That’s 81 mg a day. A full-dose aspirin is 325 mg, which is only recommended during an active heart attack. Beyond that, there’s no current daily guideline recommendation for a full-dose aspirin for anybody.

Can aspirin prevent heart attacks in everyone, or just those who have previously had a heart attack or coronary artery disease?

Dr. Parikh: Aspirin has been proven to prevent and reduce the risk of a heart attack in men over 45 or women over 55 with risk factors for heart disease. If you’ve already had a heart attack, you should take low-dose aspirin every day to help prevent future heart attacks.

Should people in overall good health take a daily aspirin to prevent heart attacks/heart disease/CAD?

Dr. Parikh: There’s no reason for [healthy women under 55 or healthy men under 45 with no risk factors for heart disease] to be on a daily aspirin. But sometimes, for example, we’ll see a woman in her 30s who’s diabetic, morbidly obese or snores, which are big risk factors for a heart attack. However, the guidelines don’t recommend aspirin for women until they’re 55. So there’s a grey zone in terms of what to do in that situation, and it’s up to the cardiologist to decide what is best for the patient.

5 Heart Attack Risks You Rarely Hear About

You’re probably well aware that high cholesterol and high blood pressure raise your risk for heart attack, and that smoking isn’t good for your heart, either. You may even know that age, gender and family history can increase heart attack risk. But have you ever heard that flu, migraines or sleep apnea also can endanger your heart? Most people haven’t.

Heart problems don’t always begin in the heart. Many times your heart’s health is slowly compromised by conditions like diabetes, obesity or chronic stress.

To protect your heart, discuss your biggest risk factors with your healthcare provider. You also may want to ask about these five surprising heart attack risks:

Migraines. Having migraines doubles your risk of heart attack, according to a 2010 study in the journal Neurology. Migraine sufferers also are more likely to have risk factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. If you experience migraines, be sure to tell your doctor so you can be monitored for warning signs of heart disease.

Influenza. Having heart disease can make you more likely to contract the flu, and getting the flu virus can temporarily increase your risk of heart attack. Infections like the flu trigger inflammatory responses in the body, which can cause a heart attack. Your best strategy: get your flu vaccine at the beginning of flu season. A study released in October 2012 suggests a flu shot can dramatically decrease heart attacks and strokes. So if you haven’t already had your flu shot, get one!

Autoimmune disease. Certain autoimmune diseases and inflammatory syndromes like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis may ratchet up your chances of having a heart attack. The American College of Cardiology notes that several autoimmune disorders are linked to “heart block”—a problem with your heart’s electrical system. Some people may even need a pacemaker. Check with your doctor if you have an autoimmune disease and are experiencing erratic heartbeats.

Stopping aspirin therapy. Aspirin is a blood thinner that can prevent blood clots from forming. If you’ve been taking a daily aspirin as a preventive measure or because you’re a heart attack survivor, don’t suddenly stop taking it. That can boost your heart attack risk by triggering a blood clot (called the “rebound effect”). If you want to discontinue aspirin therapy, ask your healthcare provider how to wean yourself off of aspirin safely. One common method is to reduce how often you take an aspirin. Over several weeks you might go from daily to every other day to once or twice a week.

Sleep disorders. Sleep apnea, which disrupts a person’s breathing during sleep, not only affects sleep quality, it also increases the risk of heart attack, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Treatment for sleep apnea with a continuous positive airway pressure mask (CPAP) at night seems to reduce heart attack risk, perhaps because the therapy also reduces blood pressure, both at night and during the day. Lesson: don’t ignore sleep problems.

The best way to prevent heart attacks, of course, is to take care of yourself. Eating a healthy diet, getting plenty of sleep and exercising regularly helps keep your heart in tip-top shape. For more information about The Heart & Vascular Institute at JFK Medical Center or to request a physician referral, call us 24/7 at 561-548-4JFK (4535).

Rethink your diet drink: 4 refreshing alternatives to diet soda

If you’re among the 59 percent of Americans who regularly sip diet drinks, it’s time for a change.

A new study, published in the journal Stroke in April 2017, linked diet soda with an increased risk of stroke and dementia. The study found that drinking just one artificially sweetened drink a day seemed to raise the risk nearly three times, compared with drinking less than one diet drink per week.

We think it’s time to rethink the use of artificial sweeteners, especially since this news comes on the heels of other discoveries about how they may affect your health:

  • Higher heart health risks. Older women who sipped two or more diet drinks daily had a 30 percent higher risk for a heart attack in a recent University of Iowa study of 59,614 women.
  • Trigger more food cravings. People who had diet drinks were more likely to think about and eat high-calorie, sugary snacks, a new Texas Christian University study finds.
  • May cause weight gain. In several large studies of adults and kids, diet soda-drinkers gained more weight over several years than those who sipped regular soft drinks or none at all.

But what should you sip? Not sugary drinks. We agree with our friends at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, who say, “No diet-soda drinker should interpret the study as license to switch to regular soda.” There’s no doubt that the calorie and sugar overload in regular soda – and in bottled tea, iced coffee and energy drinks – is bad news for your weight, your waistline, your heart and your blood sugar. Steer clear of lower-sugar sodas starting to pop up in stores, too. They still contain a lot of refined sugar – nearly nine teaspoons in a 12-ounce can. Instead, try some of these refreshing alternatives:

1. Fruit water - Add some flavor to your water with a squeeze of lemon or lime, or use single-serve packets of tart, unsweetened lemon or lime flavoring. You can also plop a couple of strawberries, orange slices, lime wedges or cucumber rounds into a pitcher of water and refrigerate overnight.

2. Unsweetened iced tea - Brew unsweetened iced tea. Try caffeine-free or herbal flavors.

3. Iced coffee - Rustle up homemade iced coffee with or without a splash of skim milk and with a shake of cinnamon and/or a dash of vanilla extract. Brew extra in the morning or put on a pot of decaf later in the day so your iced coffee doesn’t keep you up at night.

4. Seltzer water - Try calorie-free seltzer or club soda with a citrus spritz or mix in a splash of your favorite real fruit juice for a treat.

For more information about the Neuroscience Institute at JFK Medical Center or to request a physician referral, call us 24/7 at 561-548-4JFK (4535).

This content originally appeared on Sharecare.com.

When treating stroke: Time equals brain function

JFK Medical Center has been a designated Comprehensive Stroke Center since 2007 — and was the first hospital in Palm Beach County to receive the designation.

As such, it is known as one of the best-equipped hospitals in the state to treat any kind of stroke or stroke complication.

In 2016, JFK Medical Center treated more than 700 stroke patients, of which 80 percent had suffered an ischemic stroke and 20 percent had suffered a hemorrhagic stroke.

The former occurs as a result of an obstruction within a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain. The latter is caused by a ruptured blood vessel, aneurysm or abnormal tangle of blood vessels (AVM).

“Think of it this way,” said Dr. Teresita Casanova, JFK’s Medical Director of Neuroscience and Stroke, “An ischemic stroke is an interruption of blood flow to the brain; a hemorrhagic stroke is bleeding from the brain.”

JFK is the place to go
JFK Medical Center receives a large number of transfer patients from surrounding primary stroke centers, including transfers from Martin and St. Lucie Counties.

“What being a Comprehensive Stroke Center means is we can do more involved procedures — such as catheter removal of brain clots — than typical primary stroke facilities can,” said Dr. Casanova.

Round-the-clock access to minimally invasive catheter procedures to treat stroke, as well as neurosurgical availability to perform complex neurovascular procedures, such as brain-aneurysm clipping, vascular malformation surgery and carotid endarterectomy, is also available at JFK Medical Center.

Treating strokes
The main goal when treating stroke patients is to prevent the brain cells from dying in the area where the stroke occurred, explained Dr. Casanova.

“For every minute that passes after a person has a stroke, 1.9 million neurons die,” said Casanova.

For patients to survive and recover, blood flow must be restored as quickly as possible. Thus, fast treatment is critical.

The only FDA-approved treatment for ischemic stroke is tissue plasminogen activator (tPA).

The way tPA works is by dissolving the clot and improving blood flow to the part of the brain being deprived of blood flow.

If administered within three hours, tPA may improve the chances of recovering from a stroke.

Unfortunately, a significant number of those who experience a stroke do not get to the hospital in time for tPA treatment. This is why it is so important to identify stroke immediately.

Know the signs

Dr. Casanova stressed the need to know the signs of stroke.

Thus, be on the lookout for any sudden change in any or all of the following: speech (slurring of words, inability to speak); weakness — especially on one side; blurred or double vision; vertigo, dizziness or loss of balance.

“Strokes can happen at any age — and are often missed in young adults, and even children, because people figure that they’re too young to be suffering a stroke,” noted Dr. Casanova.

But again, the most important thing to remember when it comes to stroke is that EVERY SECOND counts.

As Dr. Casanova said of strokes: “Time equals brain!”

Nationally recognized for its Neuroscience services, JFK Medical Center is a leading treatment and resource center for people affected by complex neurological conditions. Their team of multi-disciplinary neuroscience specialists use the latest technology and treatments to diagnose and treat diverse and challenging problems involving the brain, spine, cerebrovascular system and nervous system.

For more information on the Neuroscience Institute at JFK Medical Center or to request a physician referral, call us 24/7 at 561-548-4JFK (4535) or visit www.JFKMC.com.

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