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INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – A heart condition first associated with a COVID-19 infection is now linked with the COVID-19 vaccine, scientists at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles say in a new paper.

Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, or POTS, is characterized as an abnormally fast heart rate exceeding 120 beats per minute after a person stands for 10 minutes. Symptoms include fatigue, fainting and tremors.

Researchers looked at data from close to 290,000 vaccinated patients and an estimated 12,500 patients diagnosed with COVID from 2020 to 2022. 

While a percentage of vaccinated people did develop POTS after getting shots, people diagnosed with COVID-19 were five times more likely to develop the same cardiac condition after infection than after vaccinations.

“This knowledge identifies a possible — yet still relatively slim — association between COVID-19 vaccination and POTS,” lead study author and cardiovascular specialist Dr. Alan Kwan said in a news release. “The main message here is that while we see a potential link between vaccination and POTS, preventing COVID-19 through vaccination is still the best way to reduce your risk of developing POTS.”

The study was published in Nature Cardiovascular Research.

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — According to a new study published in Nature Communications, scientists say excess fat may lead to a more severe COVID-19 infections. 

In a lab study, researchers in Poland looked at 47 fat tissue samples from people who died from the virus. They looked at both subcutaneous fat, the type that sits just beneath a person’s skin, and visceral fat. Visceral fat surrounds the organs and is considered the more dangerous of the two because of where it is located. 

Investigators found 50 percent of the tissue samples were infected with the virus. 

In the experiment, both types showed infection however, researchers say an excess of unwanted visceral fat is more harmful because of its increased ability to attract COVID-19 than subcutaneous fat.

“Visceral adipocytes are more susceptible to infection by SARS-CoV-2,” lead study author, Dr. Marcelo Mori, wrote in a news release. “Viral load increased far more in this fat cell type than in subcutaneous adipocytes. We believe this was due mainly to higher levels of the protein ACE-2 [to which the virus binds to invade cells] on the cell surface.”

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Public health officials warn fentanyl remains the deadliest drug threat facing our nation and according to a new study, pregnant and postpartum women are now falling to the highly addictive synthetic opioid that is 50 times more potent than heroin.  

Using a national database, researchers at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health looked at pregnancy-related death certificates between 2017 and 2020. An estimated 7,500 deaths occurred. Over 1,200 were marked as drug overdose deaths mainly from fentanyl, meth, and cocaine. The highest number of deaths were in 2020. 

Authors say several factors played a role in the record spike. 

“Pregnant and postpartum people are known to face barriers to accessing drug treatment and harm reduction services, that when compounded by pandemic-associated stressors, health care shutdowns, and an increasingly volatile unregulated drug supply, may have increased fatal overdose risk,” lead study author, Emilie Bruzelius, said in a news release.

The study was published in JAMA.

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention an estimated 6.5 million adults 65 and older are living with Alzheimer’s disease. 

The disease results in a rapid cognitive decline that cannot be reversed. However, if caught early the progression can be slowed. Scientists from the University of British Columbia say a simple urine test could be the key to early detection. 

Researchers tested the cognition levels of 574 participants and divided them into multiple groups based on their scores. Scores ranged from normal cognition to full on confirmed cases of Alzheimer’s disease. They then looked at urine levels of formic acid and formaldehyde. Scientists found significantly higher concentrations of both formic acid and formaldehyde in patients with Alzheimer’s disease compared to patients with healthy brains with no signs of dementia. 

“Urinary formic acid showed an excellent sensitivity for early Alzheimer’s screening,” authors say in the paper. “The detection of urine biomarkers of Alzheimer’s is convenient and cost-effective, and it should be performed during routine physical examinations of the elderly.” 

The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience. 

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — How much physical activity do you get per week? If the answer is very little–or worse, none–you might want to consider stepping up your exercise game. 

Physical activity prevents chronic diseases like heart disease, cancer and diabetes. And now scientists say a daily dose may strengthen the protection of your COVID shot. 

Scientists in South Africa looked at close to 200,000 adults vaccinated with the Johnson and Johnson jab. They found vaccinated men and women who exercised 2.5 hours per week at moderate intensities were 2.8 times less likely to develop severe COVID symptoms when infected compared to people who rarely exercised. Researchers say this translates into 25% higher protection from the vaccine. 

“Our study is the first to use recent, directly measured physical activity data to demonstrate an association between increased levels of regular physical activity and effectiveness of vaccination against COVID-19 hospitalization, suggesting that regular physical activity may increase the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines and exhibit a dose–response,” study author’s say in the paper. “Public health messaging should encourage physical activity as a simple, cost-effective way of enhancing vaccine effectiveness to mitigate the risk of severe COVID-19 illness requiring hospital admission.”

The article was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – According to a new study published in the medical journal Gut, gay men are twice as likely to suffer from inflammatory bowel disease compared to straight men. 

Inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD, is diagnosed based on symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea and constipation. Examples of irritable bowel disease include ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. 

In the largest population study of its kind scientists at Case Western Reserve in Cleveland, Ohio looked at patient records from 58 U.S. databases between 2002 and 2020. They found gay men who engage in risky sexual behavior are at double the risk of IBD compared to straight men who engage in equally risky sexual behavior. Researchers defined risky behavior as sexual contact without barrier protection as well as having multiple partners. 

“Studying the cause of IBD in this underrepresented patient population in comparison to other patient groups will allow us to further investigate the cause of the disease and ulcerative colitis patients and develop personalized precision medicine and treatment strategies, while also reducing stigma,” study author, Dr. Fabio Cominellis, writes in a statement

While scientists can’t say exactly what the connection is, they do suggest gay men may be more susceptible to imbalances in helpful and harmful gut microbes. 

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Dozens of published papers show kids’ levels of depression and anxiety skyrocketed during the pandemic. And now scientists say the stress and sadness aged their brains by almost three years. 

Scientists at Stanford University looked at brain scans of teenagers 15 to 18 years old before and during COVID. Scans showed teens suffered from significant structural decline in areas of their brains responsible for memory, concentration, emotion and judgment. 

“We found that adolescents assessed during the pandemic have neuroanatomical features that are more typical of individuals who are older compared to carefully matched peers assessed before the pandemic,” study authors write in the paper. “Adolescents assessed during the pandemic showed signs of advanced, accelerated brain maturation in the context of the pandemic. Indeed, adolescents assessed during the pandemic also had larger positive brain age gap estimates, indicative of older-appearing brains.”

The study was published Thursday in Biological Psychiatry Global Open Science.

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INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The childhood obesity epidemic in the U.S. is astronomical. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention a staggering 20 percent of kids between age 2 and 19 are obese. That’s 14.7 million children. 

Obesity is linked to chronic disease such as heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. And now, scientists say not only does obesity negatively impact physical health, it also negatively impacts brain health.  

Researchers at Yale School of Medicine looked at over 5,000 children of ages 9 and 10 years old. Using brain imaging tools, they found the brain structure of overweight children was different compared to kids of normal weight. Specifically, what’s called the white matter in the brain was affected. White matter is responsible for learning potential, and coordinating communication between the different brain regions

“At this point, we can’t yet say whether weight influences brain health, or if brain health influences weight, or if it’s a little of both,” lead study author Dr. Simone Kaltenhauser, writes in a news release. But we’re confident we will be able to do so in the future.”

The study was presented November 28th at the Radiological Society of North American annual Meeting. 

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — For so long people have been told to stay away from starches like potatoes for fear of gaining weight. However, a new study shows potatoes could be key in helping dieters actually lose weight.

Click on the link above to find out why.