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How Machine Learning Is Helping Us Predict Heart Disease And Diabetes

How Machine Learning Is Helping Us Predict Heart Disease and Diabetes

How Machine Learning Is Helping Us Predict Heart Disease and Diabetes

While debate drags on about legislation, regulations, and other measures to improve the U.S. health care system, a new wave of analytics and technology could help dramatically cut costly and unnecessary hospitalizations while improving outcomes for patients. For example, by preventing hospitalizations in cases of just two widespread chronic illnesses — heart disease and diabetes — the United States could save billions of dollars a year.
Toward this end, my colleagues and I at Boston University’s Center for Information and Systems Engineering have been striving to bring the power of machine-learning algorithms to this critical problem. In an ongoing effort with Boston-area hospitals, including the Boston Medical Center and the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, we found that we could predict hospitalizations due to these two chronic diseases about a year in advance with an accuracy rate of as much as 82%. This will give care providers the chance to intervene much earlier and head off hospitalizations. Our team is also working with the Department of Surgery at the Boston Medical Center and can predict readmissions within 30 days of general surgery; the hope is to guide postoperative care in order to prevent them.
The hospitals provide patients’ anonymized electronic health records (EHRs) that contain all of the information the hospital has about each patient, including demographics, diagnoses, admissions, procedures, vital signs taken at doctor visits, medications prescribed, and lab results. We then unleash our algorithms to predict who might have to be hospitalized. Th Continue reading

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Cough Medicine As Diabetes Treatment? Dextromethorphan Found To Increase Insulin Release

Cough Medicine As Diabetes Treatment? Dextromethorphan Found To Increase Insulin Release

An ingredient found in cough medicine may assist in treating diabetes, according to a new study out of the Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf, Germany.
According to the study, published in the journal Nature Medicine, dextromethorphan, often listed simply as “DM” on the labels of cold medications, boosted the release of insulin in mice, human pancreatic tissue samples, and then in a small group of diabetes patients. DM has far fewer side effects than most current type 2 diabetes drugs, which is what prompted the doctors to believe it may be a new potential treatment option.
Type 2 diabetes is characterized by very high levels of blood sugar, or glucose, which the cells require to live. But people with type 2 diabetes don’t produce enough insulin (which comes from the pancreas and moves glucose out of the blood and into the cells where it’s needed). As a result, blood sugar remains high, unable to move to the cells.
The authors of the study interestingly did not plan on studying dextromethorphan as a potential treatment for diabetes initially; instead, they fell into it by chance. Inspired by previous research, the authors were originally focusing on a disorder called hyperinsulism, which is essentially the opposite of diabetes in that it involves a person having too much insulin. They hypothesized that dextromethorphan would actually lower and suppress insulin release in patients with hyperinsulinism.
But while studying it, they discovered that a certain compound that’s released as a byproduct of DM, dextrorphan, actually increased insulin release from a pat Continue reading

Why Asian Americans have diabetes but don’t know it

Why Asian Americans have diabetes but don’t know it

This post has been updated.
More than half of Asian Americans with diabetes don’t know they have the condition, according to new research that quantifies, for the first time, how common Type 2 diabetes is among that minority group in the United States.
What’s even more surprising: Asian Americans have the highest proportion of undiagnosed diabetes among all ethnic and racial groups, at 51 percent, according to researchers from the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
And something else to keep in mind: Asian Americans may be less overweight, generally, than the rest of the U.S. population, but they may actually be at greater risk for developing diabetes.
Compared to Americans in general, Asian Americans are “not as overweight, but they should still be mindful of their activity levels and their diet and see their doctors to make sure they don’t have diabetes,” said Catherine Cowie, the study’s senior author and director of diabetes epidemiology programs at the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
“Because at lower weight levels, they actually have a higher risk for diabetes,” she said in an interview.
That’s because Asian Americans often develop diabetes at a lower body mass index, or BMI, than the U.S. population overall. (BMI estimates how much a person should weigh based on their height.) But it doesn’t address the distribution of fat in a person’s body. Fat around the waist is a risk factor for diabetes and other diseases, research has shown.
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First Aid for People with Diabetes

First Aid for People with Diabetes

First-Aid Kit. (© 3dman_eu/Wikimedia Commons/CC0 1.0)
More than 30 million people have diabetes in the US. According to the National Diabetes Statistics Report, this growth of diabetes correlates with the upsurge of visits to the emergency room from people in a life-threatening situation. As the condition continues to rise so does the likelihood of providing first-aid for someone with diabetes.
Understanding Diabetes
First-aid providers have important choices to make before providing care to a person with diabetes. The best way to effectively manage an emergency that involves a person with diabetes is through understanding the mechanisms behind the medical condition.
Every cell in the body requires glucose as a foundation of energy. People with diabetes, though needing glucose, have an inability to process, or metabolize, it efficiently because the pancreas is either producing too little insulin or none at all—either way, glucose can accumulate to dangerously high levels. A healthy pancreas regulates the production of insulin proportionate to the amount of glucose in the blood.
Classification of Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is primarily an autoimmune condition manifesting in children and young adults. These people do not produce insulin; they require routine injections of insulin to aid in glucose metabolism. Without insulin injections a person with type 1 diabetes cannot use the sugar in their blood for energy.
People with type 2 diabetes produce small amounts of insulin, or they cannot properly use the insulin hormone, also known as insulin resistance. This condition usual Continue reading

Thank you, Diane Abbott, for speaking out about your diabetes

Thank you, Diane Abbott, for speaking out about your diabetes

Diane Abbott’s disclosure that she struggled with fluctuating blood sugar levels during the election campaign will chime with many of the 3.6 million people in the UK who, like her, live with diabetes. “During the election campaign, everything went crazy – and the diabetes was out of control, the blood sugar was out of control,” she told the Guardian. She said that doing several interviews one after the other without eating enough food, had left her feeling befuddled.
It’s interesting that two of our highest-profile female politicians, live with diabetes: Theresa May was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2013 and Abbott found that she has the more common type 2 diabetes two years ago. The question is whether the recent media attention will raise awareness, help to uncover the estimated 1 million of us in the UK who have undiagnosed diabetes and improve the treatment of this common and potentially devastating condition.
The campaigning charity Diabetes UK says: “The luck of where you live, what type of diabetes you have or your age can determine the quality of your care. There are key targets for managing diabetes in terms of blood glucose, cholesterol and blood pressure. Two out of five people with type 2 diabetes meet them – but fewer than one in five people with type 1 diabetes do.”
New technologies to monitor blood glucose levels and track diabetes care, as well as treatment options such as surgery for obesity and insulin pumps, are exciting developments. But provision is patchy and optimal care for all is still a distant dream.
Diabetes sets in when the Continue reading

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