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Breast cancer deadlier in heart attack survivors

Breast cancer patients are 60 percent more likely to die of cancer after surviving a heart attack.

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Breast cancer patients are 60 percent more likely to die of cancer after surviving a heart attack, a new study finds.

Led by researchers at NYU Grossman School of Medicine, the study shows how heart attacks, by blocking blood flow through arteries, trigger a specific, pro-cancer immune reaction.

Designed by evolution to attack invading bacteria and viruses, the immune system also recognizes cancer cells as abnormal and worthy of attack, say the study authors. But heart attack, along with other blood flow-reducing events like stroke and heart failure – were found to come with changes to immune cells that rendered them less able to respond to tumors.

Published online July 13 in Nature Medicine, the analysis of more than 1700 early-stage breast cancer patients found that those who also experienced heart attack, stroke, or heart failure had a greater risk than those that did not of cancer recurrence, cancer spread, and of dying from breast cancer.

The new work also found that mice with breast cancer saw a two-fold increase in tumor volume over 20 days after ligation (cutting off) of blood flow in the coronary artery, which simulated a heart-attack, when compared to mice with cancer but normal blood flow.

“By blunting the immune system’s assault on cancer cells, a heart attack appears to provide an environment that enables tumor growth,” says corresponding author Kathryn Moore, PhD, the Jean and David Blechman Professor of Cardiology, and Director of the Cardiovascular Research Center at NYU Langone Health. “While further studies will be needed, our results provide support for the aggressive clinical management of cardiovascular risk factors, not only to reduce risk of cardiovascular disease, but possibly breast cancer progression.”

As one in eight American women will develop breast cancer during their lifetimes, and with nearly three million breast cancer survivors in the United States, the need for a better understanding the interplay between cancer and cardiovascular disease is urgent, adds Moore.

Study Details

Past studies had established that having breast cancer increases risk of developing heart disease, due largely to the wear and tear caused by chemotherapy and radiation. While searching the literature, the current team was surprised to find that no lab had yet examined whether heart attacks in turn worsen cancer progression.

To examine the mechanisms behind this link, the authors created a model wherein mice had cancer cells implanted in their breast tissue, and then underwent the surgical closure (ligation) of their left anterior descending coronary artery. The human counterpart of this artery is a common site of blood flow blockage that causes a heart attack, also called myocardial infarction or MI, often triggered by cholesterol deposits or “hardening of the arteries.”

The research team then compared cancer growth in mice with and without the ligation, with the non-ligated mice undergoing a sham surgery to account for changes caused by the surgery itself. While the exact biochemical signal responsible has yet to determined, the study found that the heart attack causes system-wide changes to immune cells in bone marrow, the bloodstream, and in tumors.

Firstly, the researchers found that mice with ligation came with a “marked increase” in the number of cells in tumors with surface markers that indicated they were quickly multiplying (Ki67+ cells), a measure of aggressive growth.

Experiments in mice also linked an induced heart attack to a 30 percent increase in the number of white blood cells called monocytes. Such cells are known arise and mature in bone marrow, enter the blood stream, and home in on sites of injury, infection, and abnormalities like tumors.

Furthermore, the authors found that after a heart attack, there was a 60 percent increase in the proportion of immature monocytes in tumors programmed to no longer attack cancer cells there.

Still other tests revealed that heart attack changed the action of 235 genes expressed in these immune cells in mice, many of which would otherwise amplify immune attack. Other important MI-driven changes occurred, not in the gene code, but instead in the protein superstructure that houses the DNA code, making genetic instructions that amplify immune responses less accessible to the machinery meant to read them.

“Given the evidence of cross-talk between cardiovascular disease and breast cancer, measures that lower the risk for a cardiovascular event, such as exercise and treating high cholesterol and high blood pressure, warrant further study as potential ways to keep patients’ cancer from getting worse,” says first study author Graeme Koelwyn, PhD, who led the study in Moore’s lab.

Along with Moore and Koelwyn, authors of the study from Leon H. Charney Division of Cardiology, Department of Medicine, NYU Grossman School of Medicine, were Alexandra Newman, Emma Corr, Coen van Solingen, Emily Brown, Milessa Afonso, P. Martin Schlegel, Monika Sharma, Lianne Shanley, Tessa Barrett, Karishma Rahman, Deven Narke, Naoko Yamaguchi, David Park, Valeria Mezzano, Edward Fisher, and Jonathan Newman. Also authors were Kathleen Albers and Bette Caan at Kaiser Permanente Northern California; Daniela Quail of the Rosalind and Morris Goodman Cancer Research Centre at McGill University in Montreal; Erik Nelson of the Department of Molecular and Integrative Physiology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; and Lee Jones of the Department of Medicine at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York.

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How to help children build a growth mindset

Consider these three tips to help children build a growth mindset.

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A new year is a perfect time to consider the habits you want to keep and the ones you’d like to develop. One resolution to consider is helping your children develop a growth mindset this year.

“We know one of the greatest boosts to parents’ confidence over the past year came from knowing their children’s whole selves are being nurtured, and we want to see that trend continue,” said Carter Peters from KinderCare Learning Center’s education team. “A growth mindset helps children try new things despite fear of failure. It’s the kind of thinking that allows inventors and creative thinkers to get excited about trying something new and ensures they have the cognitive flexibility and problem-solving skills to work through hurdles.”

Adults can often easily spot when children are engaged in creative thinking and prideful of their work, but that confidence may be lost as failures turn into insecurities. By nurturing a growth mindset and showing children they can learn and develop new skills in any area, it better sets them up for long-term success.

Consider these three tips to help children build a growth mindset:

Photo by Markus Spiske from Unsplash.com

1. Praise effort

It’s easy to fall into the habit of praising successes. However, praising effort encourages children to try new things without the fear of failing. It also teaches children personal growth and achievement are possible, even if their overall effort wasn’t a success.

“Young children often get excited to try something new,” Peters said. “By praising effort and showing children they’ll still be loved and valued despite the outcome, you can reframe how they approach challenges and teach them that difficult doesn’t mean impossible.”

2. Encourage the process

People often withhold praise until there’s a result, which leads children to hurriedly scribble a picture to hold up for a “good job” instead of taking time to focus on their efforts. When children know adults will encourage them during the process, instead of only upon the achievement, they’re more likely to try new things or master a new skill. For example, try providing encouragement such as, “I can see you’re focused on drawing that tree. It looks so lifelike because you’re putting so much thought into what you’re doing.” Once their project is finished, continue the encouragement by hanging up their artwork or school projects in a prominent place.

3. Model a growth mindset

You can model a growth mindset for children by narrating your actions when you are facing a challenge: “I am having a difficult time putting this shelf together, but it’s OK. I’ll take a break then read the instructions again.” Remove negative words from your vocabulary, such as “I can’t” or “I’m stupid.” Even when you are joking, children may not be able to tell the difference. You can also ask your children to join you in problem-solving. Take time to hear their ideas and try them even if you think they won’t work. This not only supports the development of their growth mindset, but the quality time and encouragement reinforces their sense of self-worth and builds confidence.

For more tips to help children develop a growth mindset, visit kindercare.com.

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Signs of a Healthy Marriage

Although there are many different ways to define a healthy marriage, these three qualities are essential for any lasting and fulfilling relationship.

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A healthy marriage is built on trust, respect, and communication. Couples with these qualities in their relationship tend to be more satisfied with their marriage and overall life. They also report feeling closer to their partner and having stronger well-being. With 2.3 out of every 1000 people in the US experiencing divorce in 2022, it is important to frequently check in on the health of your marriage.

Although there are many different ways to define a healthy marriage, these three qualities are essential for any lasting and fulfilling relationship.

Signs of a Healthy Marriage

A healthy marriage is built on trust, communication, and mutual respect. If you and your partner can effectively communicate and share a mutual level of respect, then your relationship is off to a good start. Trust is also important in a healthy marriage, as it allows you and your partner to feel secure in your relationship and rely on each other.

Many other signs can indicate whether or not a marriage is healthy. For example, couples who can spend quality time together and enjoy shared activities usually do well. Couples who can openly discuss their relationship with each other and work through difficulties together are also more likely to have a happy and healthy marriage. Finally, marriages, where both partners feel like they can be themselves without judgment from their spouse tend to be the strongest and most lasting.

Freedom to be yourself

In a healthy marriage, partners feel free to be themselves. They don’t have to put on a facade or pretend to be someone they’re not. They can be open and honest with each other and feel comfortable sharing their thoughts, feelings, and desires.

Both partners should pursue their interests and hobbies without compromising or sacrificing for the sake of the relationship. There’s no need to agree on everything – in fact, it’s healthy to have some separate interests – but overall, both partners should feel like they’re able to be true to themselves within the relationship.

Lots of good communication

In a healthy marriage, partners can communicate effectively. It means expressing needs and wants and listening and responding to what the other person is saying. There are mutual respect’s opinions, even if there are disagreements. Couples in a healthy marriage feel comfortable communicating with each other about both the good and the bad.

Good sex life

A good sex life can be a major sign of a healthy marriage. A lack of sexual activity can be an early warning sign that something is wrong in the relationship. Often, couples who have a good sex life are more connected emotionally and physically. They are also more likely to trust each other and communicate openly.

Trust in each other

In any relationship, trust is essential. Without trust, there is no foundation for the relationship to grow. In a marriage, trust is even more important. Trusting your spouse means you feel confident in their ability to support you emotionally and financially. It also means that you feel safe sharing your innermost thoughts and feelings with them.

When you trust your spouse, you know they have your best interests. You feel comfortable being yourselves around each other and sharing your hopes, dreams, and fears. Openness and honesty in your relationship allow you to be vulnerable with each other. This vulnerable honesty creates a deeper level of intimacy in your marriage.

When you trust each other, you can be more forgiving when mistakes are made. You know that everyone makes mistakes and that nobody is perfect. You also understand that your spouse is human and capable of making mistakes like anyone else. If they make a mistake, you are more likely to forgive them because you know they are sorry and will try not to make the same mistake again.

Trust is one of the most important foundations of a healthy marriage. If you want your marriage to thrive, build trust in each other.

A successful, strong marriage takes work, but with communication, trust, respect, vulnerability, and affection as its core components, you can together create a partnership that will be long-lasting.

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Obesity linked to macular degeneration

Immune cells are also activated when the body is exposed to stressors such as excess fat in obesity, making being overweight the number one non-genetic risk factor for developing AMD, after smoking.

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A Canadian study published in the prestigious journal Science elucidates a new molecular mechanism that may cause age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

The research at Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosement, in Montreal, shows how life stressors such as obesity reprogram immune system cells and make them destructive to the eye as it ages.

“We wanted to know why some people with a genetic predisposition develop AMD while others are spared,” said Université de Montréal ophtalmology professor Przemyslaw (Mike) Sapieha, who led the study by his postdoctoral fellow Dr. Masayuki Hata.

“Although considerable effort has been invested in understanding the genes responsible for AMD, variations and mutations in susceptibility genes only increase the risk of developing the disease, but do not cause it,” Sapieha explained.

“This observation suggests that we must gain a better understanding of how other factors such as environment and lifestyle contribute to disease development.”

AMD is a major cause of irreversible blindness worldwide and affected approximately 196 million people in 2020. It comes in two forms:

  • dry AMD, characterized by the accumulation of fatty deposits at the back of the eye and the death of nerve cells in the eye,
  • and wet AMD, which is characterized by diseased blood vessels that develop in the most sensitive part of the sight-generating tissue, called the macula.

Contact with pathogens

It is already known that the immune system in the eye of a person with AMD becomes dysregulated and aggressive. Normally, immune cells keep the eye healthy, but contact with pathogens such as bacteria and viruses can make them go awry.

At the same time, immune cells are also activated when the body is exposed to stressors such as excess fat in obesity, making being overweight the number one non-genetic risk factor for developing AMD, after smoking.

In their study, Sapieha and Hata used obesity as a model to accelerate and exaggerate the stressors experienced by the body throughout life.

They found that transient obesity or a history of obesity leads to persistent changes in the DNA architecture within immune cells, making them more susceptible to producing inflammatory molecules.

“Our findings provide important information about the biology of the immune cells that cause AMD and will allow for the development of more tailored treatments in the future,” said Hata, now an ophthalmology professor at Kyoto University, in Japan.

The researchers hope their discovery will lead other scientists to broaden their interest beyond obesity-related diseases to other diseases characterized by increased neuroinflammation, including Alzheimer’s disease and multiple sclerosis.

About this study

“Past history of obesity triggers persistent epigenetic changes in innate immunity and exacerbates neuroinflammation,” by Mike Sapieha and Masayuki Hata, was published in Science.

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