Welcome! This blog contains research & information on lifestyle, nutrition and health for those with MS, as well as continuing information on the understanding of the endothelium and heart-brain connection. This blog is informative only--all medical decisions should be discussed with your own physicians.

The posts are searchable---simply type in your topic of interest in the search box at the top left.

Almost all of MS research is initiated and funded by pharmaceutical companies. This maintains the EAE mouse model and the auto-immune paradigm of MS, and continues the 20 billion dollar a year MS treatment industry. But as we learn more about slowed blood flow, gray matter atrophy, and environmental links to MS progression and disability--all things the current drugs do not address--we're discovering more about how to help those with MS.

To learn how this journey began, read my first post from August, 2009. Be well! Joan

Monday, December 10, 2012

MS and the Orkney Islands--the BIG picture

December 10, 2012 at 6:57pm

New research shows that the world's highest MS rates are found on Scotland's Orkney Islands.  Researchers are tying this to the environmental factor of sunshine, latitude and vitamin D levels and potential genetic markers, but there's much more to this story.  Because the Orkney Islands population have some serious health issues.  It's not just MS.

Here's more on the MS rates on the Orkney Islands which was announced today:

The Orkney islands in Scotland have the highest incidence of multiple sclerosis in the world, a new study has shown, lending weight to the theory that the absence of strong sunlight may be a factor.
The north of Scotland has been known for some time to have a high prevalence of MS, but the first study of its kind in 40 years has found that the rates in the Orkney Islands, Aberdeen and Shetland are not only very high but have increased since the 1980s.

The prevalence of the condition in Orkney is far higher than has been recorded anywhere else. One woman in 170 in the islands suffers from the degenerative disease – it is more common in women than in men. Shetland has a rate of 295 per 100,000 and the city of Aberdeen has 229 cases per 100,000. The highest reported rates worldwide were previously 350 per 100,000 in Alberta and Nova Scotia in Canada.

Dr Jim Wilson, of the University of Edinburgh's centre for population health sciences and one of the authors of the study published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, said the answer was at least partly genetic. "Our study shows that Orkney has the highest prevalence rate of MS recorded worldwide. 
The figures will also be welcomed by those who believe the high prevalence of MS in northern climes is linked to an absence of strong sunlight, which is needed to make vitamin D in the body. Some scientists and campaigners have lobbied public health authorities for mass dosing of vitamin D in Scotland.
Dr Wilson said this was an ongoing topic of research. "We have 2,300 people in Orkney who are having their vitamin D measured. We will certainly get the answer," he said. "It is probably important but it is not the only factor."

What this press announcement fails to mention is that this MS study is just one part of several major studies being undertaken on the Orkney Islands.  And Dr. Jim WIlson has been involved in these other studies, as well.   The results have shown high rates in cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke and other cardiovascular issues for Orkney inhabitants.  Here is some information from 2004 and the ORCADES study.

Researchers from the University of Edinburgh are launching a new two-year study aimed at improving treatment for three of Scotland's most common life-threatening diseases: heart disease, stroke and diabetes. The study will recruit 1,000 adults from one of the remotest parts of the UK-- the North Isles of Orkney. The islands have been chosen for the project because the people living there are isolated geographically, which means they share a more similar environment: there is less variety in occupations, diet and other factors compared with most other areas of Scotland.
The stability of the population also allows family trees to be traced back as many as eight generations, which will enable researchers from the University and the Medical Research Council Human Genetics Unit in Edinburgh to understand the impact of genetic factors on the development of the three diseases.
Lead investigator Dr Jim Wilson of Public Health Sciences at the University of Edinburgh explained: "The Orkney Cardiovascular Disease Study (ORCADES) will increase our understanding of the relative roles of inheritance and the environment in causing these diseases, and will include a search for any genes that predispose strongly to illness. The volunteers taking part in the project will have the benefit of a health check and will also be contributing to improving the health of the community in Orkney, and in Scotland as a whole, through medical research."
The project's volunteers will have their height, weight and blood pressure measured, and will have ultrasound tests to measure hardening of the arteries. Their blood sugar and cholesterol levels will be assessed and a number of other risk factors measured. Each participant in the study will also complete a questionnaire covering family medical history, dietary habits, physical activity and health habits including smoking.


MS isn't the only problem on the Orkney Islands.  
There are also high numbers of cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes and other diseases.
75% of the deaths in Orkney in 2001 were from cardiovascular disease and stroke.  
Orkney has much higher rates of obesity and diabetes than the rest of the UK.

Aside from genetic influences, it is important to understand the outside factors of this population which may be contributing to ill health. Vitamin D levels are just one environmental factor. Let's look at other environmental factors on the Orkney Islands that may be affecting cerebral perfusion and endothelial health--

Alcoholism is a major problem on the Orkney Islands.  Alcohol addiction and abuse are reported at higher than average numbers in the populace.  90% of the population drinks alcohol regularly.  
One third of all residents smoke cigarettes.   One in three teenage girls are regular smokers.  40% of all adults said that they came in daily contact with cigarette smoke.
Diet on the islands consists of soups, stews, potatoes, baked goods.  Fresh fruits and vegetables are hard to find.  
Exercise and outdoor activities are limited due to climate.


What happens when we isolate disease and ill-health and focus on the small picture?  We miss the connections:  diet, exercise, drugs, alcohol, smoking, environment.  
And we fail to see the connections between the cardiovascular system and the brain.  

There are lots of things that can affect your health: nutritional deficits, lack of exercise, smoking, toxins in the water and air, processed food, lack of sunshine, lack of UV rays, lack of antioxidants from fruits and vegetables, stress, infections, lack of sleep. 

Every single one of these factors changes the endothelium, or the lining of the 60,000 miles of blood vessels running throughout our bodies. And this affects bloodflow to and from the heart and all our major organs, including the brain. 

If we hyperfocus on just one aspect (like vitamin D) we miss the forest for the trees. We need to take a giant step back and look at how our modern lifestyles are part of chronic disease. And then there can be healing.    http://www.ccsvi.org/index.php/helping-myself/endothelial-health

The Orkney Island studies have a unique opportunity to look for genetic markers across disease profiles.  But there is also the opportunity to see how industrialized, modern lifestyles are affecting rates in cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and neurodegenerative disease.  

And that's the big picture,

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