Research on Nervous System Disease and Cardiovascular Disease
Nervous System Disease
Nervous system disease is a term that is used to describe any one of several nervous system or neurological diseases or disorders, including Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, Bell's palsy, Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) migraines, and dementia. Autonomic nervous system disorders are included in the extensive list of conditions that occur in nervous system disease. To narrow the discussion in this paper, discussion encompasses how autonomic nervous system disorders affect the body, applicable current cures, and projected future cures.
The autonomic nervous system controls involuntary actions (e.g. heartbeat, widening or narrowing of blood vessels) that, when functioning improperly, can cause serious problems including "blood pressure problems, heart problems, trouble with breathing and swallowing, and erectile dysfunction in men" ("Autonomic" par.1). As with many nervous system diseases and disorders, autonomic nervous system disorders can occur alone or as the result of another disease (e.g. Parkinson's disease) and "can affect either part of the system, as in complex regional pain syndromes, or all of the system" (par. 2). While some types are temporary, others worsen over time and can be life-threatening.
The anatomy of the autonomic nervous system is the part of the nervous system that supplies the internal organs (blood vessels, stomach, intestine, liver, kidneys, bladder, genitals, lungs, pupils and muscles of the eye, heart, and sweat, salivary, and digestive glands) (Low). The function of the autonomic nervous system is to control blood pressure, heart and breathing rates, body temperature, digestion, metabolism, balance of water and electrolytes, production of body fluids, urination, defecation, sexual response, and other processes (Low). Many affects can be controlled or cured by adjusting daily habits (e.g. diet and exercise), but some of the more serious nervous system diseases, such as Parkinson's are more complex and have no current cure, although much research and clinical trials are constantly undertaken to find a cure. Collectively, however, there are more than 600 neurologic diseases, all of which are impossible to cover within this paper.
Many nervous system diseases and disorders cannot be cured at the present time; however, there are treatment options to reduce symptoms and manage pain. Neurosurgery is an option in some cases but is not applicable across the wide spectrum of nervous system diseases.
Parkinson's disease, for example, is typically linked to symptoms resulting from a lack of dopamine. As such, most medications for treating Parkinson's mimic the effects of dopamine. Medications are used to supply the dopamine that the brain lacks, but do not affect the progressiveness of this disease.
While there is no cure for many nervous system diseases, there are ongoing clinical trials for new medications and treatment options combined with extensive studies that collectively strive for a cure. In 2007, one study revealed findings of a study where the blood pressure drug isradipine "slowed down the progress of Parkinson's disease in genetically altered lab mice, and in some cases prevented it from occurring" ("Cure" par. 1). Findings of the study revealed that the drug "rejuvenates aging dopamine cells, whose death in the brain causes the symptoms of the disease" (par. 2), which is directly linked to earlier findings that dopamine type drugs reduce Parkinson's symptoms. Despite these findings indicating that scientists may have found a cure for reducing the progressiveness of Parkinson's, there remains no present cure and the disease is fatal.
Current studies reveal promise for some nervous system diseases, including Parkinson's. Gene therapy has proven successful in treating Parkinson's and findings of a new study reveals that "doctors successfully treated Parkinson's patients by injecting genetic material into an area of the brain in charge of motor function" ("Study" par. 1). Patients have shown 23% improvement after injection; however, the process remains widely untested and has not received FDA approval. If doctors can receive approval to test on a larger population, FDA approval will be forthcoming and the treatment may become available within the next five years ("Study").
Most studies look at the underlying or believed links that lead individuals to develop Parkinson's disease. Many of the predominant factors are linked to genetics, which leads researchers to look harder in the area of gene therapy as a potential treatment and ultimate cure. With gene therapy studies, however, comes controversy and this is one of the hindrances science faces in developing a cure for Parkinson's and other nervous system diseases.
"Autonomic Nervous System Disorder." MedlinePlus. 14 February 2011. Web."Cure for Parkinson's Disease?" News Medical. 11 June 2007. Web.
Low, Phillip. "Brain, Spinal Cord, and Nerve Disorders." Merck Manual of Medical Information, Second Edition. November 2006. Web.
"Study: Gene Therapy Effective In Treating Parkinson's Disease; New Study Under Way." ABC News: Boston Channel. 17 March 2011. Web.
Cardiovascular disease is a disease that affects the heart and vascular system within the body. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), cardiovascular disease is a category that includes both heart diseases and vascular diseases ("Health Topics"). The affect is determined by the specific disease, but the ongoing contributing factors that make up cardiovascular disease are constantly being waged in the body (e.g. poor dietary and exercise habits, smoking, et al). The main organ in the cardiovascular system is the heart and it is necessary for the optimal functioning of the vascular system. Likewise, a healthy vascular system is important to a healthy heart.
The medical term for the heart is myocardium, which is a muscular pump about the size of a human fist located at the left center of the chest between the lungs. Surrounding the heart is a thin sac called the pericardium that consists of an inner and an outer layer. Typically, a small amount of fluid fills the space between the myocardium and the pericardium. Some cardiovascular diseases cause excess fluids to develop in the pericardial sac, which can accumulate to the extent that the excess pushes against the heart making it hard for the heart to function properly (restricted expansion and blood intake problems). This condition can cause severe chest pain. In severe cases, surgery may be needed.
The myocardium pumps blood through the vascular system which is compromised of an intricate system where each part is dependent on the other for optimal health. The heart consists of two chambers: two atria for receiving blood returning from the veins and two ventricles that pump blood into the arteries. Valves allow the blood to flow in one direction. The mitral valve on the left side and the tricuspid valve on the right side control the flow of blood from the atria to the ventricles. Blood carries oxygen and nutrients to the body's organs and carries carbon dioxide and other waste away. Arteries constantly transport blood to all the cells of every organ while veins join together, bringing blood back to the heart from every organ. Arteries branch until they become capillaries which are so tiny that only one blood cell can pass at a time.
Poor heart and vascular health are commonly linked to heredity and poor lifestyle choices. However, there are some diseases, such as diabetes, that increase the risks and play a major contributing force in developing cardiovascular disease. While there is no "set" cure for cardiovascular disease, there are steps and habits that one can develop that will reduce the chances of developing cardiovascular problems. For one, smoking is a common lifestyle choice around the globe, particularly among working people as many smokers claim that smoking reduces stress. While this claim is unfounded, the addictive factors of smoking are relieved when smoking continues thereby making it possible that stress is relieved –at that given moment. In reality, smoking increases breathing and heart rates and can eventually cause many cardiovascular problems.
More than one million people in the US have a heart attack and about 515,000 die as a result each year. On average, 50% of heart attack related deaths occur within the first hour of the onset of the symptoms and before the individual is able to reach a hospital. The majority of heart attack victims were found to also have high blood pressure. As such, there are steps that individuals can take to reduce the chance of developing cardiovascular disease and related health problems. A balanced diet is the first step. Most people do not realize what is going into their bodies until their bodies begin to reject the negative changes. Relaxation and physical exercise are important to maintaining a health cardiovascular system as each part of the body is designed to work in specific ways. When one part of the body is not functioning properly, it can directly impact the proper function of other parts. Working to develop and maintain healthy lifestyle habits is the first and most important step to maintaining an optimal cardiovascular system.
Ageing used to be believed as a major factor linked to cardiovascular disease but research reveals that cardiovascular disease is increasingly reaching a younger audience (Bolton). While ageing does impact heath and vascular health, the impact is only in specific ways whereas there are more extensive affects that come from lifestyle choices and environmental impacts. Bolton and Rajkumar report that the major lifestyle effects upon the vascular system as diet, smoking, and alcohol. As such a low sodium diet and intake of fish oil increases vascular compliance, increases arterial distension, improves endothelial function, and increases arterial compliance. Isoflavones reduce arterial stiffness while obesity increases arterial stiffness. Smoking contributes to decreased carotid artery compliance and decreased brachial artery distensibility, while acute inhalation leads to increased augmentation index and increased pulse wave velocity. Passive smoking results in reduced arterial compliance. Low to moderate alcohol ingestion decreases arterial stiffness and lowers cardiovascular risk. Post-alcohol ingestion can decrease in blood pressure, decrease in pulse wave velocity, and decrease in augmentation index, and blood pressure rise 10 hours post-ingestion. Increased alcohol ingestion leads to an increased augmentation index and hypertension (Bolton).
As the information presented within this paper support, the best outlook for cardiovascular disease is early action by developing and maintaining healthy lifestyles habits that include proper diet and exercise, stopping smoking, and ensuring minimal alcohol consumption. In fact, moderate alcohol consumption has been linked to improved heart health ("Heart").
Bolton, E., and C. Rajkumar. "The ageing cardiovascular system." Reviews in Clinical Gerontology 21.2 (2011): 99-109. ProQuest Psychology Journals, ProQuest. Web. 18 Mar. 2011.
"Health Topics." MedlinePlus. 24 Jan. 2011. Web.
"Heart Disease; Drinking alcohol in moderation protects against heart disease." Food Business Week 10 Mar. 2011: Sciences Module, ProQuest. Web. 18 Mar. 2011.