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If you have a rheumatic or musculoskeletal disease — or are a caregiver for a loved one with these conditions — being engaged in your care means staying up to date on research about your condition. With that in mind, we’ve pulled together the latest health-related news and patient-centered studies to keep you informed so you can better manage your condition and advocate for better care. 

From uncovering the correlation between psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis to exploring the intriguing link between long COVID and chronic fatigue, this month’s highlights span a range of captivating topics. We delve into the fascinating connection between smell and memories, examine the impact of diets on immune system and heart health, and explore potential insights from studying migraines and mood changes in young adulthood, offering valuable strategies for managing menopause symptoms later in life. 

Psoriasis Plus Multiple Conditions Increases PsA Risk 

If you’re living with psoriasis, you’re likely familiar with the challenges it presents, from the discomfort of red, flaky patches to the impact on your daily life. But did you know there could be more to consider? 

Recent research, published in Rheumatology, suggests that having psoriasis, especially alongside two or more other health conditions, could increase your risk of developing psoriatic arthritis (PsA) – a form of arthritis linked to psoriasis that affects your joints.  

For people with psoriasis and two or more other health conditions, the risk of developing PsA was significantly higher — more than double — compared to those without additional health conditions. 

Why might this matter to you?

Understanding this connection is crucial because it enables you to take proactive steps in managing your health. By staying vigilant and working closely with your health care team, you can catch signs of PsA early, potentially leading to quicker diagnosis and treatment. 

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: The Brain-Body Disconnection

Imagine feeling exhausted both physically and mentally, even after completing simple tasks. For those living with Post-infectious Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (PI-ME/CFS), this is a daily reality. Often triggered by infections like the flu or COVID-19, PI-ME/CFS brings relentless fatigue, alongside pain, brain fog, and other challenging symptoms. 

In a groundbreaking study published in Nature Communications, scientists made a significant discovery. Unlike healthy individuals, those with PI-ME/CFS struggle to maintain even moderate physical activity, despite having normal muscle strength. This isn’t just about physical tiredness; their brains also show differences in how they respond, indicating a disconnect between the intention to move and the actual movement. 

Why might this matter to you?

The symptoms of long-COVID frequently mirror or are the same as those associated with ME/CFS, which is linked to changes in the immune system and possibly to ongoing issues stemming from the initial infection that triggered the condition. 

Sniffing Out Memories: New Study on Scents 

Imagine trying to remember a special moment from your past, like your favorite birthday party or a fun family vacation. For some people with major depressive disorder (MDD), recalling these memories can be challenging. They often have an enhanced memory for negative events and a poor memory for positive events. It’s called memory bias.  

What if there was a way to make remembering easier, almost like flicking on a light switch in your brain? That’s what researchers explored in a recent study. Instead of using words to jog memories, they tried using smells like the scent of fresh cookies.  

When people with MDD smelled scents presented to them, they were better at remembering specific moments from their lives. It’s like finally finding the center of a maze; the smells helped guide them to the right memory. Even though they couldn’t always identify the exact smell, it still worked like magic to unlock their memories.  

Why might this matter to you?

This discovery could be a game-changer for people living with MDD, offering them a new tool to brighten their days and bring that memory back to life. 

Combo Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment on Trial 

Incannex Healthcare Inc. has initiated a Phase 2 clinical trial for their drug candidate, IHL-675A, aimed at addressing pain and discomfort associated with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).  

IHL-675A is a combination of hydroxychloroquine sulphate (HCQ) and cannabidiol (CBD), both known for their anti-inflammatory properties. The trial will assess the efficacy of IHL-675A in RA patients, focusing on pain reduction and improvement in functional abilities.  

The study involves over 120 participants in Australia who will be randomized to receive IHL-675A, CBD, HCQ, or a placebo. Participants will maintain a digital diary to record pain, fatigue, stiffness, and overall well-being throughout the trial period.  

Why might this matter to you?

Enhancing your knowledge of available treatments enables you to actively participate in shared decision-making with your health care provider. Talk with your doctor about selecting the optimal medication for your RA. 

Diet Debates: Vegan vs. Keto Immune Study 

Curious about how your diet shapes your immune system? A National Institutes of Health (NIH) study reveals the impact of dietary changes, specifically switching to a vegan or ketogenic (keto) diet, on your immune system.  

Researchers leading the study discovered that within just five days, these dietary shifts can significantly alter immune function. Participants were given the freedom to eat as much as they wanted of either a vegan or a ketogenic (keto) diet for two weeks each. The two-week buffet was followed by switching to the other diet for another two weeks.  

Researchers found that following a high-fat, low-carb ketogenic diet resulted in a boost to parts of the immune system that adapt to new threats. On the other hand, following a vegan diet (low in fat and high in carbohydrates) seemed to strengthen the parts of the immune system that respond quickly to viruses. 

Both diets also affected microbes in the gut and how the body processes amino acids (building blocks of proteins). Compared to the vegan diet, the ketogenic diet led to a decrease in many microbial functions. 

Why might this matter to you? 

By being aware of how our food choices affect our bodies, we can potentially help our immune system and make decisions that could improve our overall health and immune function. 

Heart-Healthy Showdown: Mediterranean vs. Lacto-Ovo! 

If you have heart-related conditions in addition to inflammation from arthritis, it’s essential to consider dietary choices that not only address arthritis inflammation but also support heart health 

A recent study, published in Nutrition & Metabolism, compared the effects of two popular heart-healthy diets — the Mediterranean diet and lacto-ovo vegetarian diet — among individuals with a low-to-moderate risk of heart disease.  

Researchers looked into how the diets affected certain substances in the blood and traditional factors that could lead to heart problems. While both diets were proven to have heart-health effects, the Mediterranean diet was found to have a stronger effect on heart health markers, particularly in women, people over 50, and those with fewer heart disease risk factors.  

Why might this matter to you? 

Working with your doctor to make lifestyle changes to protect your heart is a great first step toward lowering your risk of heart disease. Learning which diet benefits specific groups, like women or older people, allows for personalized dietary choices aligned with individual health goals.   

Middle School Memories: Predicting Hot Flashes? 

I’ve tried to suppress those uncomfortable memories of mood swings in middle school, but now it seems they could be helpful in later years.  

A recent study delved into the factors that may predict hot flashes and night sweats, also known as vasomotor symptoms (VMS), later in life to shed light on how experiences during early adulthood, such as depression, migraine, and smoking, can predict the likelihood of experiencing these symptoms. 

Researchers analyzed secondary data from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study, focusing on women who reported VMS at three or more check-ups. They discovered three trajectories in VMS:  

  • Minimal (40%) 
  • Increased (27%) 
  • Persistent (33%)  

These findings suggest that early adulthood experiences, like migraines and mood changes, could help identify potential treatments for VMS later in life, offering hope for better management of these common symptoms. 

Why might this matter to you? 

Understanding these associations can lead to personalized treatments to ease these symptoms. 

Want to Get More Involved with Patient Advocacy?

The 50-State Network is the grassroots advocacy arm of CreakyJoints and the Global Healthy Living Foundation, comprised of patients with chronic illness who are trained as health care activists to proactively connect with local, state, and federal health policy stakeholders to share their perspective and influence change. If you want to effect change and make health care more affordable and accessible to patients with chronic illness, learn more here. 

Kim, C, et al. Prospective early adulthood risk factors for vasomotor symptoms in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults study. Menopause. February 2024. doi: 

Leiker EK, et al. Recall of Autobiographical Memories Following Odor vs Verbal Cues Among Adults with Major Depressive Disorder. JAMA Network Open. 2024. doi: 

Pagliai, G. et al. Effects of a dietary intervention with lacto-ovo-vegetarian and Mediterranean diets on apolipoproteins and inflammatory cytokines: results from the CARDIVEG study. Nutrition & Metabolism. 2024. doi: 

VM Link et al. Differential peripheral immune signatures elicited by vegan versus ketogenic diets in humans. Nature Medicine. 2024. doi: 

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