Wednesday, December 31, 2008

What is influenza (flu)?

Influenza (flu) is a viral infection. People often use the term "flu" to describe any kind of mild illness, such as a cold or a stomach virus, that has symptoms like the flu. But the real flu is different. Flu symptoms are usually worse than a cold and last longer. The flu usually does not cause vomiting or diarrhea.

Most flu outbreaks happen in late fall and winter.
What causes the flu?

The flu is caused by influenza viruses A and B. There are different strains, or types, of the flu virus every year.
What are the symptoms?

The flu causes a fever, body aches, a headache, a dry cough, and a sore or dry throat. You will probably feel tired and less hungry than usual. The symptoms usually are the worst for the first 3 or 4 days. But it can take 1 to 2 weeks to get completely better.

It usually takes 1 to 4 days to get symptoms of the flu after you have been around someone who has the virus.

Most people get better without problems. But sometimes the flu can lead to a bacterial infection, such as an ear infection, a sinus infection, or bronchitis. In rare cases, the flu may cause a more serious problem, such as pneumonia.

Certain people are at higher risk of problems from the flu. They include young children, pregnant women, older adults, and people with long-term illnesses or with impaired immune systems that make it hard to fight infection.
How is the flu diagnosed?

Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and examine you. This usually gives the doctor enough information to find out if you have the flu, especially if many cases of a similar illness have occurred in the area and the local health department reports a flu outbreak.

In some cases, the doctor may do a blood test or take a sample of fluid from your nose or throat to find out what type of flu virus you have.
How is it treated?

Most people can treat flu symptoms at home. Home treatment includes resting, drinking plenty of fluids, and taking medicine to lower your fever.

If you think you have the flu, your doctor may be able to give you medicine that can make the symptoms milder. But you need to start taking it within 2 days of your first symptoms.
Can the flu be prevented?

You can help prevent the flu by getting the flu vaccine every year. The best time to get the vaccine is in October or November, just before the start of flu season. You can get the vaccine as a shot or in a spray that you breathe in through your nose.

Almost anyone over 6 months old can have the flu vaccine. The vaccine is especially important for people who are at higher risk of problems from the flu, including:1

* Children 6 months through 4 years of age.
* Adults ages 50 and older.
* Adults and children who have long-term health problems or an impaired immune system.
* Women who will be pregnant during the flu season.

The flu vaccine is also recommended for health care workers and anyone who lives or works with a person who is at higher risk of problems from the flu. Your doctor can help you decide if the flu vaccine is a good choice for you.

The vaccine usually prevents most cases of the flu. But even if you do get the flu after you've had the vaccine, your symptoms will be milder and you'll have less chance of problems from the flu. You cannot get the flu from the flu vaccine.

source : Here

What is Hepatitis?

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Hepatitis means inflammation (itis) of the liver (hepar), an irritation or swelling of the liver cells. There are many causes of hepatitis which include viral infections A, B and C that most of us have heard of, but also the disease also includes auto-immune hepatitis, fatty liver hepatitis, alcoholic hepatitis and toxin induced hepatitis. Globally, it is estimated that around 250 million people are affected by hepatitis C. Moreover, an estimated 400 million people are chronic carriers of hepatitis B.

How Big is the Hepatitis Problem?
Hepatitis is an enormous health issue; so extensive in fact that there is a good chance you associate with at least one or more people with hepatitis. There is an equally high chance that you know nothing about them because with hepatitis comes a stigma. Often people with hepatitis find it easier to get on with their life by not informing others. This is mainly due to the difficulties they can experience due to the ignorance of others. The problem may however be compounded by the fact that some forms of hepatitis are infectious. However, people who know they have infectious hepatitis need only take a few basic precautions to avoid passing the infection around.

The Liver.
Hepatitis affects the liver. The liver is a wedge shaped organ located on the upper right side of the body, lying beneath the rib cage. The largest organ it makes up 2 to 3 per cent of the body’s total weight. Unlike the heart or stomach, the liver has no one function. Doctors specialising in the liver, hepatologists, believe that it has over 140 functions. These include producing bile needed for digestion, storing minerals and vitamins, assisting in blood clotting (vitamin K), neutralising poisons, producing amino acids to build healthy muscles, regulating energy, maintaining hormonal balance, processing drugs. When someone gets hepatitis the function of the liver is compromised and the functions of it can be affected to varying degrees.

The History of Hepatitis
Hepatitis was believed to exist in viral form from ancient times. It is known that a disease existed that affected the liver and caused yellowing of the skin (jaundice). Between the 1800s and early 1900s, 2 types were identified as either serum type or viral type. In 1963 there was a major breakthrough which identified the cause of serum hepatitis and named the hepatitis B virus (HBV). Ten years later the cause of infectious hepatitis was found and named the Hepatitis A virus (HAV), and although scientists knew other viruses existed it was not until 1989 that the hepatitis C virus (HCV) was isolated.

Although the hepatitis delta virus (HDV) was known about since the mid 1970s, it was only in the late 1980s -1990s that it was understood to exist only in the presence of hepatitis B. In 1990, hepatitis E virus (HEV) and in 1995, Hepatitis G virus (HGV), were identified. Other viruses, hepatitis F virus (HFV) and transfusion transmission virus (TTV) are thought to exist, but are not as yet proven.

Viral Hepatitis
Each type of viral hepatitis is different. They have different characteristics and are known by alphabetical names - hepatitis A through to E. Four other types exist F, G, TTV (Transfusion Transmitted Virus) and S.E.N-V (these are the initials of the person in which this form of the virus was first identified - V standing for virus). Behavioral precautions and treatment depends on the type of hepatitis.

source : Here

What is Herpes?

Monday, December 29, 2008

Herpes is a virus that can spread from person to person through skin-to-skin contact. It can appear on many different areas of the body and is typically marked by an eruption of a cluster of blisters, although some people show very mild or no symptoms at all.

How many herpes viruses are there?

There are many different "herpes" viruses. Human members of this group of viruses include

1. Herpes simplex virus types 1 and 2 (responsible for cold sores and genital herpes)
2. Varicella- zoster virus
3. Epstein- Barr virus
4. Human cytomegalovirus,
5. And, the recently discovered Human herpes virus

The herpes viruses are also widespread throughout the animal kingdom involving simians, cattle, cats, chicken, etc. Of these, only herpes virus simiae is harmful to man.

Conditions caused by the herpes virus group include:

* Cold sores (Herpes simplex virus)
* Genital herpes (Herpes simplex virus)
* Herpes Whitlow (Herpes simplex virus)
* Chickenpox (Varicella- zoster virus)
* Shingles (Varicella- zoster virus)
* Glandular fever or Infectious mononucleosis (Epstein- Barr virus)
* Cytomegalovirus infections (Human cytomegalovirus)
* Roseola or Exanthem subitum (Human Herpes virus Type 6)
* B virus infection (Herpesvirus simiae)

The History of Herpes

Where did it come from?

The herpes virus has been around for a very long time, documented by the ancient Greeks as sores that seemed to 'creep' over the surface of the skin. In fact, the term "herpes" is derived from the Greek word meaning "to creep".

It is also evident that two thousand years ago, Roman Emperor Tiberius attempted to curb an epidemic of herpes labialis (mouth herpes) by outlawing kissing during public ceremonies and rituals.

The term herpes simplex was introduced in 1906 and included herpes labialis (cold sores) and herpes progenitalis (genital herpes) in the belief that both disorders were the same disease affecting different anatomic sites. Vidal (1873) first demonstrated herpes simplex to be infections caused by human inoculation.

The origin of herpes in human history is unknown. HSV-1 has probably been around as long as anyone could diagnose the distinctive fever blisters.

Studies of the elderly in Europe and the United States have shown that 90% have been exposed to the virus. The spread of HSV-1 has declined with the understanding that the herpetic sores shed the virus and that these can be spread with just a kiss. HSV-2 is primarily passed on by sexual contact between humans.

Herpetic whitlow is a herpes infection in the fingers which occurred in dental personnel before the era of mandatory glove use. Like herpetic lesions elsewhere on the body, the herpes outbreaks are often painful and at times disabling.

The herpes virus is related to viruses that cause chicken pox, shingles, infectious mononucleosis and Epstein-Barr. The Epstein-Barr Virus was discovered in 1964 by M. Anthony Epstein and co-workers in Burkitt's lymphoma cells.

However, it wasn't until 1968 that Gertrude and Werner Henle discovered it was actually a herpes virus and, after one of their lab technicians came down with mononucleosis, discovered its link with the herpes simplex virus.

source : Here

Can a Sleep Disorder Predict Parkinson's?

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Calming the tremors of Parkinson disease remains a challenge for both patients and doctors alike, but new research suggests that future therapies for the condition may emerge from an unlikely place: people's sleep habits.

Scientists at Sacre Coeur Hospital at the University of Montreal report in the journal Neurology that Parkinson can be predicted relatively accurately up to 12 years before the first muscle tremors appear. People diagnosed with an unusual sleep condition called REM sleep disorder, in which they physically act out their dreams by kicking, screaming and even harming themselves and others lying next to them, are 18% more likely to develop a neurodegenerative disease like dementia or Parkinson within five years of their diagnosis, and 52% more likely after 12 years. "We have been aware of the potential connection between REM sleep disorder and these diseases for some time, but this is the largest and longest study to estimate the true risk of getting Parkinson and other neurodegenerative diseases if someone has the sleep disorder," says Dr. Ron Postuma, the study's author and a neurologist at Montreal General Hospital. (See the Top 10 Medical Breakthroughs of 2008.)

The trial involved nearly 100 men and women with an average age of 65, all diagnosed with REM sleep disorder. During normal sleep, our muscles become paralyzed when we enter the REM, or dream state, which explains why inside our dreams, we occasionally feel as if we can't move or are operating in slow motion. People with REM sleep disorder, however, never achieve this muscle relaxation, and researchers now believe that this could be the first signs of Parkinson. The latest thinking on the disease holds that the uncontrolled movements that are the hallmark of Parkinson are only the latest, and most advanced signs of the disease, the final stage of a 10 or 20 year gradual decline in nerve function. In fact, experts believe that the condition actually begins with a loss of smell, with degeneration of nerves in the olfactory tract, then proceeds to the gut and brain stem. At some point along this march, the nerve damage hits the pons, a region in the brain that regulates sleep. "So in Parkinson, there is a period, that we don't know how long it lasts, in which the neurons are dying in the brain, just not in the motor areas," says Postuma. "And sleep is an area where this degeneration occurs, indicating that the process of Parkinson has started."

Postuma stresses that REM sleep disorder is a rare condition not to be confused with the tossing and turning that most of us do every night. People with the condition have vivid movements nearly every night, and unlike those who sleep walk or sleep talk and remain confused for a bit after they awake, these patients are completely alert and oriented once they wake up.

REM sleep disorder itself can be treated with medications, but those drugs still won't slow the decline in nerve function that's responsible for Parkinson. But identifying Parkinson at this earlier stage may help scientists to come up with newer ways of protecting the motor neurons from further damage. "We don't have agents now to stop the degeneration of Parkinson," says Postuma. "But once we have those agents, as far as I'm concerned, every patient with REM sleep disorder should be taking it."

source : Here

6 Simple Ways a Woman Can Be Healthy Every Day

Saturday, December 27, 2008

By cutting down on the number of calories taken in and being physically active, women can reduce their chances of becoming overweight or obese. They may also reduce their risk of developing certain life-threatening illnesses, such as heart disease, stroke, and some cancers.

Here are some tips on healthy eating and physical activity:

1. Start your day with breakfast. Breakfast fills your "empty tank" — it gets you going after a long night without food. Easy-to-prepare breakfasts include cold cereal with fruit and low-fat or fat-free milk, whole-wheat toast with peanut butter, and whole-grain waffles.

2. Get moving! It's easy to fit physical activities into your daily routine. Walk, bike, or jog to see friends. Climb stairs instead of taking an escalator or elevator. Take a 10-minute activity break every hour when you read or watch TV. Try to do these things for at least 30 minutes on most if not all days of the week.

3. Snack smart. Choose snacks from different food groups: a glass of low-fat or fat-free milk, an apple, or celery sticks with peanut butter.

4. Work up a sweat. Regular vigorous workouts — when you're breathing hard and sweating — improve the health of your heart and lungs, help relieve stress and anxiety, and reduce some of the effects of aging.

5. Balance your food choices. Choosing foods based on the U.S. Department of Agriculture's My Pyramid Plan and checking out the Nutrition Facts label on food packages will help you get all of the nutrients you need without taking in too many calories.

6. Make healthy eating and physical activities fun! Take advantage of physical activities you and your friends enjoy doing together, and eat healthy foods you like. Be adventurous — try new sports, games, and other activities, as well as new foods

source : Here

Snacking Healthy

Friday, December 26, 2008

While some dieters happily accept when someone suggests a snack, others feel pangs of guilt when a nibble is merely suggested. However, there is nothing inherently wrong with a bite between meals. In fact, snacking might be the missing ingredient that will help you reach your weight loss goals.

But how can this make sense, since snacking theoretically adds calories?

Snacking doesn’t serve to replace a meal. In fact, you should spread meals and snacks out by an hour or two, and snacks should total a couple hundred calories or less.

Munching between meals can actually reduce your overall caloric intake by curbing overeating at your next meal. By controlling later binging, snacking can help you stay on track. You can actually use this to your advantage. If you know you are going out to a big dinner with friends later, for example, make sure you have a healthy snack before you head out so you’re less likely to order (and finish) a large entrée.

How You Snack Can Make or Break Your Diet
There is definitely a wrong way and a right way to snack. You should avoid sugary items like candy and soda, and shouldn’t be consuming enough calories to constitute a meal. Instead, steer towards foods that will satisfy you and keep you feeling fuller longer. Fruits and vegetables are always a safe bet because they are low in fat and calories. (Just be sure to avoid high-calorie dips.) Yogurt, fruit smoothies, even a slice of whole-wheat toast all make great snacks during the day. Combining lean protein, some healthy fat, and complex carbohydrates will help you feel fuller longer.

Mini Meals
Many experts are recommending several smaller meals throughout the day instead of the usual three. By eating at regular intervals, your blood sugar levels (and therefore your energy levels) remain stable. So, instead of that mid-afternoon crash, you’ll be full of vigor through dinnertime! Eating every few hours (especially if you chew on fruits and veggies) can also help add extra nutrition that might be missing from other meals.

Snacking Isn’t Grazing
Mindless eating is often the downfall of many snackers. You may start with only a handful of your favorite crackers, only to finish the entire box, without even thinking about it. Obviously, this example isn’t the healthy snacking that can help you reach your weight loss goals.

To avoid grazing:

* Fill a small plate with your snack, and leave the kitchen. Just walk away. When your plate is empty, snack time is over.
* Never bring the entire container with you in front of the television or computer. Enjoy your snack without distraction and you won’t be tempted to reach for more.
* If you stand around the snack table chatting at a party, you may find yourself reaching for food when the conversation lulls. This can often lead to an unintentional binge because you simply aren’t paying attention to what you are eating.
* Limit yourself to a single serving.
* Plan out your snacks just like you would a meal. Is one cookie worth the calorie cost, when you could eat a plate of fresh fruit instead?

Practice Moderation
As with the rest of your diet, moderation is crucial when snacking. Make sure that you are adding every snack to your Nutrition Tracker, along with the larger meals you eat during the day. If you don’t keep track, you might add excess calories and fat to your diet without realizing it.

Don’t sabotage your diet with unhealthy nibbles throughout the day; stick to nourishing foods whenever possible. If you know you have a weakness for junk food, do yourself a favor and don’t purchase these items next time you are at the grocery store. Then you won’t have to fight the temptation of ice cream or potato chips when hunger pangs hit.

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Smoking: A Way Out

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Women try an average of seven times to quit smoking before they are successful. But each time you cut down or quit smoking, you are learning something new. Each time you try, it gets easier and you will be prepared next time. Try to be gentle with yourself. Quitting takes time.

What can you do to get started? Women with disabilities told us, "The most important things to help us quit are to find self-worth and to value ourselves enough to stop." They also said it is important to deal with day-to-day stress and feelings of anger.

The use of tobacco affects certain medicines and types of disabilities (e.g. diabetes). It is very important to talk to all your health care providers before you cut back or stop smoking. Although not for everyone, if you are strongly addicted, you may want to consider using the nicotine patch or nicotine gum. Your doctor can help you with this.

Talk to your family and friends about smoking. Ask them, "Have you ever tried to quit? What helped you?" You may want to tell them you might be thinking of quitting or cutting back on your tobacco use, and ask them to support you.

Think what tobacco does for you and what you might get out of quitting. Take a moment to think why you lit that last smoke. Could you wait for the next one? If you have tried to quit before, try to figure out what it was that made you start again. How could you handle the situation differently next time?

You may find help at your local women’s or disability centre. Talking to an elder or Medicine person may be helpful. It may be helpful to join a support group or healing circle.

Yes, it is hard to quit smoking! But with planning and effort, you can do it!



(From A Way Out: Women with Disabilities and Smoking. Complete publication available on DAWN Canada’s website, For information on how to get a copy in a print, Braille, disk, cassette or French format,

contact DAWN Canada, 3637 Cambie St., Ste. 408, Vancouver, BC, V5Z 2X3; tel./fax: (604) 873-1564.)

Send your tips, tricks or coping methods (300 words) to: FYI, Canadian Abilities Foundation, 489 College St., Ste. 501, Toronto, ON, M6G 1A5.

ABILITIES does not research, endorse or guarantee any information supplied in this space. All ideas expressed here are the views of

the writers.

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Stop Smoking Today With Hypnosis

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Many smokers who try to quit have tried all other conventional methods that come to mind without any success. Most products that claim to assist a person to Stop Smoking do not work for long-term smokers and some products may even have side effects. Heavy smokers cannot stop suddenly due to adverse withdrawal symptoms
. Hypnosis is an alternative method to assist people to Stop Smoking without any side effects.

Smoking is an expensive habit as well as being extremely destructive to your health and longevity. You can save not just money but also your general health and prolong your lifespan by trying out a Hypnosis therapy sessions to Stop Smoking. Hypnosis is a cheap and effective method to Stop Smoking and you may only need one or two sessions for the effects to be permanent. Using a hypnotherapy session can rid you of your need and craving to smoke permanently and you will never have to worry about smoking again. A Hypnotherapy session lasts from as little as thirty minutes and can cost less than a packet of tobacco so you really can give up smoking instantly.

Just one or two sessions of Hypnosis can leave you feeling refreshed, healthier and strong enough to say no to your next cigarette and keep you saying no for the rest of your life. You do not even need to visit a Hypnotherapist as you can get the benefits of Hypnosis therapy in mp3 format and easily purchase and download the session to your PC. You do not need to keep paying for a variety of lengthy Stop Smoking products such as patches, nicotine gum or inhalers, just one hypnotherapy session will help you save time, money and effort as well make a brand new healthier smoke free you.

Do not let the nicotine monsters in your brain scream at you all day long begging for just one more cigarette. If you want to Stop Smoking you can do it now, and quickly, with Hypnosis. Normally when a smoker tries to quit there is always a nagging feeling in their brain that tempts the person to just smoke one more cigarette. You can end up convincing yourself that one more cigarette will not matter or that you need just one more to cope with the stress in your life or a particularly stressful situation. Once you pick up that one last cigarette you can end up smoking again just like you never stopped. With Hypnosis you can Stop Smoking instantly without the worry of cravings and urges. Your subconscious mind will be telling you that you do not want a cigarette and you will find yourself completely smoke free within a few sessions, if not less.

The ability to Stop Smoking through hypnosis is just one of the many advantages of hypnotherapy and you could find yourself benefiting from a variety of Hypnosis therapy sessions for a fantastic low fee. It really is that quick and simple to Stop Smoking today and you do not even need to leave the comfort of your own home to do so. You can purchase great Hypnosis therapy sessions online in downloadable Mp3 format. Hypnosis allows you to tap into your own will power and the power of your subconscious mind so if you really do want to give up smoking you will not be disappointed.

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How to Beat Drug Addiction ??

Monday, December 22, 2008

People use drugs for various reasons. Essentially, though, drugs give us a desired effect producing a feeling of euphoria that makes us feel better - at least temporarily. This is where the thought process gets a little skewed. People begin to crave the feeling of euphoria that they get when they use drugs and that's when it becomes a problem. It can be a vicious cycle. You feel you can't live without the feelings that drugs give you and that you just won't be able to cope with life without those drugs. That's what breeds addiction.

Medical research shows two major causes of physical addiction. First, your cells adapt to the drug and, second, your metabolism becomes more efficient. Every time you use a drug, your blood carries it to every cell in your body. Your cells adjust. They grow to expect these doses on schedule. In the long run, however, cell walls break down. At this point, your cells not only lose their ability to keep toxins out but also become unable to retain essential nutrients. Many of them stop functioning altogether or start functioning abnormally. The metabolism system in your body not only helps get vital nutrients to all the cells, but also helps to rid the body of unwanted toxins. The more it "sees" a particular drug, the more efficiently it produces the enzymes that inactivate that drug. That's why tolerance increases, that is, why it takes greater and greater doses of a drug to get the same original effects.

Drug detox is the most important part of becoming free from addiction, and it should be handled with great care. Otherwise, it could be fatal. If you elect to enter a rehab facility, you will have the guidance and help you need to get through the detox procedure. However, if you decide outpatient rehab is more your speed, you must contact a doctor and be under his or her supervision while you are ridding your body of drugs.

It is nearly impossible to effectively journey down the path to recovery without realizing that you deserve to be drug-free. Building your self-esteem requires effort on your part, and, just like during your self-assessment, it also requires personal honesty. Building self esteem helps not only with personal acceptance, but with staying strong during your recovery as well.

Positive affirmations are very important in building your self esteem. They will become your mantra as you work on the parts of you that you want to change. They can also be helpful when you are feeling weak during the recovery process.

A positive affirmation can be anything you want it to be, but it must be positive! Look in the mirror, look into your own eyes, and recite your affirmation over and over again. Change your mindset from not believing what you say to wholeheartedly accepting that it is the truth. Do this several times a day if you have to. Eventually, you'll start believing what you say without having to quiet down those negative thoughts when they creep in.

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Fantastic Method to Eliminate Cellulite!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Contrary to popular myth that cellulite is irreversible, cellulite can be removed!

However, you need to have an effective treatment as cellulite is a build up of several years and is not an overnight accumulation. It is the improper distribution of fat which is joined to the connective tissues in the body. The connective tissues are those which help n the distribution of fat below the skin surface and sometimes due to accumulation of toxins in the body, uneven distribution takes place leading to cellulite or lumping. You need not be obese to have cellulite, as even models are known to suffer from it!

It has a drastic effect on your self esteem and especially in the summer months you feel embarrassed wearing short skirts and minis. However, it not restricted to women as equal number of men suffer from it. Cellulite accumulates usually on the buttocks, things and hips which makes it unsightly when you need to wear a swimsuit.

Accumulation of toxins is one of the biggest reasons for cellulite formation as built in toxins hinder proper blood circulation. You must be wondering as to what you eat to accumulate so many toxins- well, think about all the preservatives, alcohol consumption, smoking, colors and artificial flavors all contribute to some extent for the toxin built up in the body. Improper drinking of water becomes the last straw.

To completely flush out toxins, one must drink at least 8 to 10 glasses of water which goes a long way to eliminate cellulite also as all of these are inter connected. Proper exercise and inclusion of fresh fruits and vegetable also helps. With research and study, many herbal creams and oils are now available which help in smoothening out the skin. The orange peel look is attributed to lumping up of fat cells under the thin layer of the skin. Effective remedies help in breaking the fat cells accumulations while walking, leg squats, leg exercises also help in proper blood circulation. A rejuvenating massage is also a good idea to reduce the cellulite lumps as massage helps to increase blood circulation and breaks muscle, fat lumps in the body.

There are many anti-cellulite creams, essential oils and lotions available which are known to be effective in curing cellulite completely. However, left alone cellulite creams will not be effective unless you exercise and increase blood circulation in the body but it can definitely go away, is a fact.

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Phytochemicals Fact Sheet

Saturday, December 20, 2008

What are phytochemicals?
Phytochemicals (or “plant chemicals”) contribute to the vivid colors found in fruits and vegetables and have a major positive impact on human health. It should be obvious that vegetables and fruits are healthful — this is probably due to some balance of phytochemicals, carotenoids, fibers, vitamins and minerals.

What are polyphenols and flavonoids?
Polyphenols include flavonoids (or “catechins”) and appear to be powerful antioxidants. Certain flavonoids, including quercetin, are more active than others. Laboratory studies have shown that flavonoids suppress tumor growth, interfere with sexual hormones, may help prevent blood clots, and have anti-inflammatory properties. Flavonoids are found in celery, cranberries, onions, kale, broccoli, apples, cherries, berries, tea, red wine, parsley, soybeans, tomatoes, eggplant and thyme. Most common berries, which contain flavonoids, are particularly rich in potent antioxidants.

What are isothiocyanates?
Isothiocyanates and the related substances, indoles, are often referred to as mustard oils, and are responsible for the sharp taste in cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, collards, kale, kohlrabi, mustard greens, rutabaga, turnips, bok choy). They stimulate enzymes that convert estrogen to a more benign form and may block steroid hormones that promote breast and prostate cancers. Cruciferous vegetables are also high in fiber, vitamin C and selenium.

What are monoterpenes?
Monoterpenes have two important phytochemicals, perillyl alcohol and limonene. They block proteins that stimulate cell growth and reproduction and are being tested for actions against cancer.

Limonene is found in the peels of citrus fruits.

What are phytoestrogens?
Phytoestrogens, also called isoflavones, have actions that are similar to the female hormone estrogen. Important phytoestrogens are genistein, daidzein, enterolactone and equol. Phytoestrogens act as antioxidants and tumor suppressors. These compounds may improve cholesterol, prevent bone loss and suppress enzymes that stimulate breast cancer.

Phytoestrogens are found in soy products (not soy sauce), whole grains, berries, fruit, vegetables and flax seed.

What are organosulfur compounds?
Organosulfurs, which include allicin, boost the immune system, assist the liver in rendering carcinogens harmless, and may reduce production of cholesterol in the liver. These compounds are found in garlic, leeks, onions, chives, scallions and shallots.

What are saponins?
Saponins are forms of carbohydrates that neutralize enzymes in the intestines that may cause cancer. They also may boost the immune system and promote wound healing. Saponins are found in ginseng, beans (including soybeans) and whole grains.

What is capsaicin?
Capsaicin seems to reduce levels of substance P, a compound that contributes to inflammation and the delivery of pain impulses from the central nervous system. Research suggests it may inhibit cancer-generating substances. Capsaicin is found in hot red peppers.

What are plant sterols?
Plant sterols, which include sitosterol and squalene, are found in vegetable oils and may have cholesterol-lowering effects.

What are the benefits of vitamins and phytochemicals?
Currently, the most important benefit claimed for vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin C and many of the carotenoids and phytochemicals is their role as antioxidants, which are scavengers of particles known as oxygen-free radicals. These unstable particles are by-products of many of the body’s normal chemical processes and are increased by smoking, environmental toxins and stress. They can damage cell membranes and interact with genetic material, possibly contributing to the development of a number of disorders, including cancer, heart disease, cataracts and the aging process. Oxygen-free radicals can also enhance the dangerous properties of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, a major player in the development of atherosclerosis.

Antioxidant vitamins and many phytochemicals can neutralize free radicals and may reduce or even prevent some of their damage. Although it is clear that vitamins are required to prevent deficiency diseases, the possible benefits of higher-dose supplements are still unproven in most cases. In fact, there is some evidence that in high doses vitamin C, vitamin E and beta-carotene have pro-oxidant effects that can be harmful. The best way to obtain combinations of antioxidant vitamins and nutrients is to eat plenty of dark-colored fresh fruits and vegetables.

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Friday, December 19, 2008

Leukemia or leukaemia (see spelling differences) is a cancer of the blood or bone marrow characterized by an abnormal proliferation of blood cells, usually white blood cells (leukocytes). It is part of the broad group of diseases called hematological neoplasms.


Damage to the bone marrow, by way of displacing the normal marrow cells with increasing numbers of malignant cells, results in a lack of blood platelets, which are important in the blood clotting process. This means people with leukemia may become bruised, bleed excessively, or develop pinprick bleeds (petechiae).

White blood cells, which are involved in fighting pathogens, may be suppressed or dysfunctional, putting the patient at the risk of developing infections.

Finally, the red blood cell deficiency leads to anaemia, which may cause dyspnea. All symptoms may also be attributable to other diseases; for diagnosis, blood tests and a bone marrow biopsy are required.

Some other related symptoms

* Fever, chills, and other flu-like symptoms
* Weakness and fatigue
* Loss of appetite and/or weight
* Swollen or bleeding gums
* Neurological symptoms (headache)
* Enlarged liver and spleen

Four major types

Leukemia is a broad term covering a spectrum of diseases.

Acute vs. chronic

Leukemia is clinically and pathologically split in to its acute and chronic forms.

* Acute leukemia is characterized by the rapid growth of immature blood cells. This crowding makes the bone marrow unable to produce healthy blood cells. Acute forms of leukemia can occur in children and young adults. (In fact, it is a more common cause of death for children in the US than any other type of malignant disease). Immediate treatment is required in acute leukemias due to the rapid progression and accumulation of the malignant cells, which then spill over into the bloodstream and spread to other organs of the body. If left untreated, the patient will die within months or even weeks.

* Chronic leukemia is distinguished by the excessive buildup of relatively mature, but still abnormal, blood cells. Typically taking months to years to progress, the cells are produced at a much higher rate than normal cells, resulting in many abnormal white blood cells in the blood. Chronic leukemia mostly occurs in older people, but can theoretically occur in any age group. Whereas acute leukemia must be treated immediately, chronic forms are sometimes monitored for some time before treatment to ensure maximum effectiveness of therapy.

Lymphoid vs. myeloid

Furthermore, the diseases are classified according to the type of abnormal cell found most in the blood.

* When leukemia affects lymphoid cells, it is called lymphocytic leukemia.

* When myeloid cells are affected, the disease is called myeloid or myelogenous leukemia.

Prevalence of the four major types

Combining these two classifications provides a total of four main categories:

* Acute lymphocytic leukemia (also known as Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia) (ALL) is the most common type of leukemia in young children. This disease also affects adults, especially those age 65 and older.
* Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) occurs more commonly in adults than in children. This type of leukemia was previously called acute nonlymphocytic leukemia.
* Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) most often affects adults over the age of 55. It sometimes occurs in younger adults, but it almost never affects children.
* Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) occurs mainly in adults. A very small number of children also develop this disease.

The most common forms in adults are AML and CLL, whereas in children ALL is more prevalent.


The exact cause of leukemia is unknown but is influenced by both genetic and environmental factors. Leukemias, like other cancers, result from somatic mutations in the DNA which activate oncogenes or inactivate tumour suppressor genes, and disrupt the regulation of cell death, differentiation or division. These mutations may occur spontaneously or as a result of exposure to radiation or carcinogenic substances and are likely to be influenced by genetic factors. Cohort and case control studies have linked exposure to petrochemicals, such as benzene, and hair dyes to the development of leukemia.

Viruses have also been linked to some forms of leukemia. Certain cases of ALL are associated with viral infections by either the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV, responsible for AIDS) or human T-lymphotropic virus (HTLV-1 and -2, causing adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma).

Fanconi anemia is also a risk factor for developing acute myelogenous leukemia

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What's Keeping You Up at Night?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Disability and Sleep Problems

Dreaming of a good night’s sleep? You’re not alone. Getting enough shut-eye is difficult for many people with disabilities. Sleep disorders can be caused by physiological, biological and psychological factors, and certain disabilities predispose individuals to sleep problems.

Kathleen Morrison knows how it feels to have poor-quality sleep. Several years ago, the Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, resident sustained a brain injury in a car accident and spent a month in a coma. For several weeks afterwards, dealing with her recovery and feeling stressed, she had trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. “I was getting as little as four hours of sleep every night. I was so tired, it was horrible,” she says.

After talking to other people with brain injuries, Morrison found that almost all of them experienced insomnia. Morrison says a doctor explained to her that after a hard hit to the head, “the pathways in your brain get jumbled and mixed up,” and that can lead to problems sleeping. Dr. Douglas McKim practises respiratory rehabilitation and sleep medicine at the Ottawa Hospital and is an associate professor at the University of Ottawa. He says that people with brain injuries can exhibit reduced alertness or hyperexcitability, their circadian rhythm (biological clock) may be off, and they may not respond normally to environmental cues to sleep, such as the dimming of light in the evening.

“Someone with a brain injury may be unable to initiate sleep properly, have fragmented sleep, take meds that affect sleep, or be depressed,” says McKim. Depression itself often causes abnormal sleep patterns. In addition, people with disabilities are also susceptible to the same sleep disorders as the non-disabled population.

Despite the fact that we spend roughly one-third of our lives sleeping, sleep itself is still a scientific mystery. “We think of sleep as an on-off switch, an absence of consciousness,” says McKim. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Adequate sleep is essential to health, and the effects of sleep deprivation can be serious. Sleepless people may be more irritable, have trouble remembering things and be more prone to accidents. Lack of sleep may also be related to diabetes, obesity, immune-system dysfunction, and many illnesses.


There are two kinds of sleep: Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep is related to dreaming and composes about one-quarter of our time sleeping. Non-REM sleep includes lighter and deeper (slow-wave) stages, with the latter usually predominating in the first three hours of sleep. It is believed that slow-wave, non-REM sleep might be related to restoration of our physical functioning, while REM might be connected to the functioning of intellect and memory.

There are approximately 88 distinct sleep disorders listed in the International Classification of Sleep Disorders (ICSD). These include dyssomnias (disorders of initiating and maintaining sleep and disorders of excessive sleepiness); parasomnias (disorders that primarily do not cause a complaint of insomnia or excessive sleepiness); sleep disorders associated with medical/psychiatric disorders; and proposed sleep disorders (those for which insufficient information is available to confirm their acceptance as definitive sleep disorders).

A GP might refer a patient to a sleep specialist or clinic if he or she exhibits symptoms such as excessive daytime sleepiness; sleep apneas (frequent cessations of breathing during sleep, accompanied by loud snoring each time breathing resumes); and disrupted nighttime sleep, during which the patient awakes several times. Other symptoms include waking up with headaches, a reduced sense of well-being, forgetfulness, a lack of energy, depression, and difficulties with learning and concentration.

To diagnose a sleep disorder, a specialist needs a person’s thorough clinical history and often a polysomnograph, an all-night test that is used to analyze sleep patterns. Electrodes are placed on the person’s scalp, at the outer edges of the eyelids and on the chin and legs. Bands to measure chest and abdominal respiratory efforts are added.

A multiple sleep latency test (MSLT) using similar recording equipment may be taken during the day while the patient is given opportunities to nap. The test measures the amount of time needed to fall asleep and determines if the patient enters REM sleep quickly.

Availability and accessibility of sleep clinics across Canada can be problematic. McKim says that most hospital labs would have some accommodations for people with disabilities, but they may be expected to bring a family member or attendant to assist with transfers and personal needs. “I personally try to manage sleep-related breathing disorders at home with overnight oximetry studies [which measure the concentration of oxygen in the blood] instead of full sleep studies,” says McKim.


Often, people who have recently acquired a disability may assume their sleep difficulties are part of the territory, or rank sleep as a low priority compared to other medical needs associated with their disability. That was the case for Spencer Bevan-John of Dartmouth, who had an arteriovenous malformation (AVM) in 1988 that required an operation. It left him in intense and unremitting pain.

“When I was in hospital, it was a nightmare. I have never been in so much pain in my life,” Bevan-John says. The fact that the pain kept him awake almost 24 hours a day was secondary in importance to the pain itself. “I’d wish I could sleep because it was the only escape from constant pain.”

Bevan-John is clearly angry as he describes how the surgeon would not prescribe him narcotics for the pain, although studies show their use in pain control does not usually result in addictions. He did a lot of reading about spinal cord pain, and tried some of the techniques he came across in the literature. He visited a pain clinic, where he was told that he was already doing everything possible to relieve the pain.

Bevan-John now has a GP whose practice includes a number of people with spinal cord injuries. “Having a knowledgeable, empathetic and good GP has been crucial for me in helping me cope with pain and many of the attendant problems, such as sleep disruption,” he says.

The doctor prescribes Bevan-John strong sleeping pills as well as drugs to help control the SCI pain and spasticity. Bevan-John doesn’t need to take all of the drugs every week or even every month, but says, “Medication has been my salvation. Just knowing I have it on hand is a tremendous tonic.”

Kathi Giberman of Chester, Nova Scotia, has fibromyalgia, which can also cause sleep problems. She used to lie awake for hours at night, and experienced symptoms including anxiety, a “crawly” feeling on her skin, restlessness, lower back and leg pain, and muscle spasms. She would wake up exhausted, with migraines and short-term memory problems. Giberman’s doctor prescribed the antidepressant amitryptiline, which reduces her insomnia and pain. “Since then, I’ve rarely not taken amitryptiline,” she says.

Besides medication, there are other tools in a sleep specialist’s arsenal, including lifestyle changes, cognitive-behavioural therapy, medical devices and even corrective surgery.


Pain, spasms and problems with breathing and swallowing can interfere with the sleep of people with disabilities. People who have had a stroke are at greater risk for sleep apnea and difficulty swallowing, which may result in aspiration (secretions normally swallowed are sucked into the airway).

People with respiratory problems, such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis, have no greater risk of sleep apnea, but have less breathing capacity to deal with it when it occurs, says McKim.

People with post-polio syndrome, multiple sclerosis or spinal cord injuryoften have muscle weakness that causes their coughs to be less effective. This can make clearing secretions from the airway a problem during sleep as well as at other times. Where gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD) is also present, aspiration may occur with limited ability to clear the airways.

In individuals with weak or paralyzed diaphragms, lying flat may interfere with breathing. For example, about half of people with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease), McKim says, have orthopnea, the inability to lie flat and breathe comfortably. It is important that this symptom is brought to the attention of physicians. Elevating the head of the bed or sleeping on a wedge or additional pillows may help.

Up to 10 percent of the adult male population may have sleep apnea, which accounts for 60 to 70 percent of referrals to the sleep lab, says McKim.

In general, sleep apnea takes two forms: obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), in which the brain drives the body to breathe but the process is blocked by an upper airway obstruction; and central sleep apnea, where the central nervous system’s drive to breathe may not be strong enough.

A continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device, which provides pressured air through a mask, helps most people with obstructive sleep apnea. Non-invasive ventilation, which involves the use of a face mask and doesn’t require intubation, may help some people with SCI and other neuromuscular diseases, while those with higher spinal cord injuries may require a tracheotomy or full life support.

Many people with Down syndrome also have OSA, which could be due to the shape of the head and tongue, enlarged adenoids and/or tonsils. McKim adds that the OSA may also be due to neurologic and cognitive issues and the fact that many people with Down syndrome are overweight.

According to a study published in the Journal of Pediatrics in 1999 titled “Sleep Characteristics in Children with Down Syndrome,” children with Down syndrome also experience “significant sleep fragmentation, manifested by frequent awakenings and arousals, which are only partially related to obstructive sleep apnea syndrome.”

Visual disabilities, particularly those that reduce light perception, seem to lead to a greater incidence of sleep disorders.

Visual cues of light and dark signal the pineal gland in the brain to produce melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate biological rhythms such as the sleep/wake cycle. According to an article by Deborah C. Lin-Dyken and Mark Eric Dyken published in Infants and Young Children in 2002, Sleep problems may occur in up to 88 percent of children with developmental and visual disabilities.

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Hepatitis B - A Deadly Killer

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Hepatitis B is a caused by a virus named hepatitis B virus. This virus is similar to hepatitis C as it attacks the liver which in turn becomes a lifelong struggle. This is a very dangerous virus as it causes liver infection, cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver, liver cancer, liver failure and also death. There is no reason to fret as Hepatitis B vaccine is available for all age groups. It is one of the most powerful and a deadly virus to ranks among the top ten killers. Many have lost their lives due to this virus and the numbers have been increasing. It comes from the Hepadnaviridae family which can be a double-stranded virus causing hepatitis in humans as well as in ducks, ground squirrels and woodchuck. Even though this virus is rarely seen in Europe, in Asia hundreds have fallen victim to this disease.

This virus spreads through direct contact with blood, from infected mother to the unborn child and through sexual transmission (unprotected sex). Homosexual men are at a greater risk of getting infected with hepatitis B or hepatitis A virus. You can catch Hepatitis B virus very easily in comparison to HIV because of the concentration level of the blood in an infected person. This virus could also survive outside your body, making it more dangerous. Some of the common causes of getting infected with this virus are by sharing dirty needles, through tattooing, razors, nail clippers, biting another person and many more reasons. Common symptoms of hepatitis B infection are abdominal pain, loss of appetite, exhaustion, diarrhea, fever, dark yellow colored urine, light-colored stools and yellowish eyes and skin.

Some Simple Measures

* Avoid too much stress while suffering from this infection.
* Over-exertion may make you sick again.
* It is better to take rest and let your body catch up on the lost energy.
* Have protein, vitamin and mineral
rich diet which would help you regain strength.
* As you suffer from nausea and loss of appetite it would be better to have small meals to undo those symptoms.
* Avoid dehydration and drink plenty of water.
* Consume liquids like fruit or vegetable juices, soups and broths to add strength to your body.
* You may show signs of vomiting which can be dealt by increasing electrolytes consumption.

Warning: The reader of this article should exercise all precautionary measures while following instructions on the home remedies from this article. Avoid using any of these products if you are allergic to it. The responsibility lies with the reader and not with the site or the writer.

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Staying Healthy on the Road

Monday, December 15, 2008

Are you planning the vacation of a lifetime? Maybe you're gearing up for yet another business trip or packing gifts for a visit with relatives. Whatever the destination, if you’re feeling fit and healthy, you may be concerned about losing ground or getting sick on the along the way. How can you stay healthy while traveling?

Bettye Allis, regional sales manager and former fitness instructor at Canyon Ranch in Tucson, is an avid traveler and fitness enthusiast. She’s developed some techniques for herself that help you stay on a healthy track from the moment you leave home.

“I want to hold my own while traveling,” says Bettye. “My goal is to maintain my health and fitness on the road, so that I can get right back into my regular fitness routine when I get home.”

In the air
Because most travelers fly, Bettye suggests a number of pre-travel preparations to keep you feeling great during and after the flight.

* Make a small travel kit to go in your carry-on bag. Take hydrating spray for your face and hair, a hand sanitizer, eye drops if dry eyes bother you.

* Fill your water bottle with green tea.

* Take an over-the-counter cold prevention product or similar megavitamins designed to help ward off infection from the dry, re-circulated air in planes.

* Pack your own food, making sure to include the same fresh whole grains, fruits and vegetables that regularly keep you healthy. Airline and airport food are notoriously poor candidates for good nutrition.

* Drink lots of water as you fly.

* Get up and walk the aisle, do simple stretches.

* Avoid alcohol.

On the ground
Your next best friend is a pedometer. Especially when you’re on the road, you can strive for 10,000 daily steps. So strap it on before you go.

“Never sit in the airport,” says Bettye. “Walk between planes!”

If you’re dressed for business travel, change into a comfortable pair of walking shoes, grab your rolling carry-on and keep moving. Remember that you’ll be sitting again for hours in the air.

Away from home
Once at your destination, health and fitness can still figure into your routine. Bettye suggests planning your activity route to include lots of walking. Book your hotel in a safe part of the city, perhaps near a park or fitness facility. If you rent a car, park at a distance from your destination and enjoy the walk. Keeping aware of your surroundings, you can also walk to appointments, take the stairs instead of the elevator, and make good use of the fitness facilities and swimming pools available at most hotels.

Better yet, if you travel frequently to the same destinations, make friends there and plan ahead to exercise with them during your stay.

If you prefer to exercise in your room, Bettye suggests that you travel with a yoga or Pilates mat, your favorite exercise video or DVD, or an exercise tube – a stretchy rope used for resistance training. Another often-overlooked tool is your laptop computer, a convenient substitute for free weights.

If you’re coming to the Ranch in Tucson, Bettye urges you to attend Michael Hewett’s 8-minute workout class. Easily memorized, “you'll learn the ideal exercise routine for busy travelers.”

Food for thought & fitness
What about eating out? Be aware of the foods you eat and work a little harder to maintain a healthy diet. Order whole grains whenever possible, and take your own low-calorie salad dressings in little packets. Ask for sauces on the side and use sparingly. Select dishes cooked with olive oil instead of butter.

“And you can ask to have your order split, with half of the meal boxed up in advance,” says Bettye. "This keeps your portions manageable."

Bettye also carries a little journal to record the number of servings of fruits, vegetables and proteins she eats every day, along with the final number of steps on the pedometer. That information tells her whether to take a walk after dinner, how vigorously to exercise, or how to adjust her diet and activities for the following day.

Plan for everything
Beyond staying fit, think ahead in the event of illness or injury away from home.

“Come prepared,” says Bettye.

Don’t pack medications. Carry them with you, along with your normal vitamins, allergy remedies, first aid items, copies of prescriptions (including eyeglass prescription) copies of credit cards, insurance card and drivers license. Program your doctor’s number into your telephone, and call if you become ill.

“And as obvious as it sounds, take the right shoes,” Bettye says, pointing out that foot fatigue or injury can curtail all of your best fitness intentions on the road.

Whether you’re winging your way to an exotic New Year’s Eve in Venice, a hometown holiday reunion or another business convention, you can feel just as good when you return to your doorstep as you did on the way to the airport. According to Bettye, maybe even better.

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How To Stop Snoring

Friday, December 12, 2008

Knowing that you need to better understand this topic I recommend that you take a few minutes to read what we have to say.

There are many who faced with snore issues that disturbs our propel sleep.

Some may ask, what precisely is snoring? Snoring is the noise that is created by the soft palate and other tissues of the mouth, the nose and the throat which is caused by the fractional obstruction of the airway.The problem of snore has spread all over the world. This problem gets worsened with the progressing age.

Physiologic changes which take place in our body and the changes in our life style makes us more prone to snoring and have an effect on large numbers of both men and women. This problem is more familiar in men and in the people who are overweight.

What is a self-cures for snore ? Gentle Snoring that is not affiliated to sleep apnea act in response well to home remedies. Finding a cure for your snoring problem can consequently improve and influence on a quality of life for you and for your dear ones. Tackle some of the self-help tips below to obviate or lessen your snoring.

One thing someone could do is to stop smoking and lose weight. Losing weight will help to forestall snoring by decrease the fatty tissue in your airway. Your ability to breathe freely when you sleep can be improved well by eating less and improving your physical fitness level. If you would consider to stop smoking that would help to forestall from snoring.

Reducing exposure to smoke can also help you with the noise and strength of your snoring. Improve your sleep posture. Sleeping on your back will more probably worsen your Snoring problem. The soft tissue which are at the back of your throat and tongue are more probably to glide backwards to block your airway. Changing your sleeping position to your side will help mild snorer to remedy snore and improve sleeping.

Breaking the habit of sleeping on your back might be tough initially. Still you can try the "tennis ball trick". In this trick one has to sleep with a tennis ball or any other ball more or less of the same sizing attached to the back of your pajama top. You can sew a pocket at the back of your pajama top and then put the tennis ball in it.

Sleeping on your back will be not that at ease and you will react by turning on your side. Soon you will build up the habit of side-sleeping and no more need for the tennis ball. Elevate your head. Sleeping with pillows can cause obstruction in your airways due to turn away of neck. Thus to prevent Snoring you should avoid sleeping with pillows.

Specially designed pillow can be exploited by snorers which are available online or at any specialty stores. You can also lift your bed to a higher position which will help you to stop snoring. Elevating your bed by four inches will help you to make your breathing soft and further your tongue and jaw to move forward. Using a pillow while sleeping can cause a twist in the neck which helps in contributing to snoring. Thus elevating the whole head of the bed can be more helpful to stop snoring... for further information please check our web site by following our link.

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Heart Disease Risk: Are You an Apple or Pear?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Did you know that susceptibility to heart disease is not just dependent upon your body weight, but where you carry it?

Heart disease researchers refer to this as the "distribution of body fat," and it appears to be an important determinant of risk, not just in adults but in children as well. Think of it as "apple shape" versus "pear shape."

An apple shape means the bulk of fat is distributed around the abdomen. This shape, also called "central obesity," is associated with a higher risk of heart disease, as well as risk factors such as diabetes, high cholesterol, low HDL cholesterol (the "good" cholesterol), and high blood pressure.

Pear-shaped persons, who carry more fat in the hip and thighs, appear to be at less risk for these conditions. Men tend to be apple-shaped while women tend toward pear shapes.

In one study, researchers at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine discovered that children with chubby stomachs have more heart disease risk factors than their pear-shaped peers. The researchers measured fat distribution in 127 children and related the findings to other measurements of cardiovascular risk factors, such as cholesterol and blood pressure. In children as young as 9 years old—including some who were not necessarily "overweight"—those with the most upper body fat had the greatest risk factors for heart disease.

It may be hard to change the way your body or your child’s body naturally distributes its cushioning, but it is a good idea to maintain normal body weight and cut down on high-fat foods.

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Healthy Snacks Okay Anytime

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Kids everywhere take note: Kathy Walsten says it's okay to play with your food. For that matter, she thinks eating between-meal snacks is a pretty good idea, too.

Hmmm...imagine that.

"Kids love to turn any eating occasion into an interactive experience," says Walsten, a nutrition educator with Kansas State University Research and Extension. "[Parents] may have a 'don't play with your food' rule at meal times, but I suggest relaxing the rule at snack time."

From a health standpoint, Walsten says the afternoon hours pose a problem for kids. When they get home from school, children may be tempted to rush into the kitchen and grab whatever is easy and available - typically soda pop, potato chips and sweets.

But Walsten says parents can encourage healthful eating by letting their children "construct their own snacks."

"Even those 'dreaded' good-for-you foods are a hit when cleverly disguised, like the carrot sticks that first were the masts for potato boats," Walsten said. "And, you never know, you might just be sparking a lifelong interest in cooking."

For times when they're not home, parents should designate a shelf in the refrigerator or pantry as a "snack shelf" for their children, with the understanding that it's okay to eat anything on the shelf without first asking permission.

Walsten says some good choices include canned foods (such as pineapple, mandarin oranges, applesauce cups or dried fruit), tuna, vegetable soup, nuts, peanut butter, pretzels, whole grain crackers, animal crackers, ginger snaps, bagels, pita bread and more. In the refrigerator or freezer, good choices include yogurt, cheese sticks, low-fat milk, and fruit juice pops. Or, designate air-tight snack containers for grapes, melon balls, berries or kiwi chunks.

"It's important for kids to have choices when it comes to snacking," Walsten said. "If all the choices you give them are reasonably nutritious ones, then everyone's happy because your kids get to choose their snacks and you get to ensure that they're eating healthfully."

Walsten also offers these snack-time tips for parents:

* Offer similar choices. For example, parents should not let children choose between ice cream and pretzels. Instead, offer them foods with similar nutrition value, such as ice cream or yogurt; graham crackers or soda crackers; apples or oranges. "When you offer foods that are dissimilar, you set the child up for a decision that may be in conflict with what you're really wanting them to choose," Walsten said.

* Limit portion sizes. Parents should allow children to have a certain number of crackers, rather than the whole box. Snacks should provide just enough nutrition to get kids to the next meal: "You want them to be hungry for the main meal," Walsten said.

* Set a good example. Parents who want their child to eat fruits and vegetables should do so themselves. "Different studies indicate that it really does make a difference for children to see adults eating healthy foods," Walsten said.

"Just remember," she says, "that snack times should be planned as mini-meals emphasizing nutritious foods and beverages from the Food Guide Pyramid (established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture). Encourage kids to include at least two of the major food groups at every snack, such as cheese and crackers; animal cookies and milk; or granola bars and fruit."

For more information on health and nutrition, interested persons may contact their local K-State Research and Extension office.

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Thursday, December 4, 2008

Anemia (AmE)) or anaemia (BrE), from the Greek meaning "without blood", is a deficiency of red blood cells and/or hemoglobin. This results in a reduced ability of blood to transfer oxygen to the tissues, causing hypoxia; since all human cells depend on oxygen for survival, varying degrees of anemia can have a wide range of clinical consequences. Hemoglobin (the oxygen-carrying protein in the red blood cells) has to be present to ensure adequate oxygenation of all body tissues and organs.

The three main classes of anemia include excessive blood loss (acutely such as a hemorrhage or chronically through low-volume loss), excessive blood cell destruction (hemolysis) or deficient red blood cell production. In menstruating women, dietary iron deficiency is a common cause of deficient red blood cell production.

Anemia is the most common disorder of the blood. There are several kinds of anemia, produced by a variety of underlying causes. Anemia can be classified in a variety of ways, based on the morphology of RBCs, underlying etiologic mechanisms, and discernible clinical spectra, to mention a few.

Different clinicians approach anemia in different ways; two major approaches of classifying anemias include the "kinetic" approach which involves evaluating production, destruction and loss, and the "morphologic" approach which groups anemia by red blood cell size. The morphologic approach uses a quickly available and cheap lab test as its starting point (the MCV). On the other hand, focusing early on the question of production (e.g., via the reticulocyte count) may allow the clinician more rapidly to expose cases where multiple causes of anemia coexist. Regardless of one's philosophy about the classification of anemia, however, any methodical clinical evaluation should yield equally good results.

Signs and symptoms

Anemia goes undetected in many people, and symptoms can be vague. Most commonly, people with anemia report a feeling of weakness or fatigue. People with more severe anemia sometimes report shortness of breath. Very severe anemia prompts the body to compensate by markedly increasing cardiac output, leading to palpitations and sweatiness; this process can lead to heart failure in elderly people.

Pallor (pale skin and mucosal linings) is only notable in cases of severe anemia, and is therefore not a reliable sign.


The only way to definitively diagnose most cases of anemia is with a blood test. Generally, clinicians order a full blood count. Apart from reporting the number of red blood cells and the hemoglobin level, the automatic counters also measure the size of the red blood cells by flow cytometry, which is an important tool in distinguishing between the causes of anemia. A visual examination of a blood smear can also be helpful in some cases, and is sometimes a necessity in regions of the world where automated analysis is less accessible.

In modern counters, four parameters (RBC Count, hemoglobin concentration, MCV and RDW) are measured, allowing others (hematocrit, mean corpuscular hemoglobin and mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration) to be calculated, and compared to values adjusted for age and sex. For males, the hemoglobin level that is suggestive of anemia is usually less than 13.0 g/dl, and for females, it is less than 12.0 g/dl.

Depending on the clinical philosophy, whether the hospital's automated counter can immediately add it to the initial tests, and the clinicians' attitudes towards ordering tests, a reticulocyte count may be ordered either as part of the initial workup or during followup tests. This is a nearly direct measure of the bone marrow's capacity to produce new red blood cells, and is thus the most used method of evaluating the problem of production. This can be especially important in cases where both loss and a production problem may co-exist. Many physicians use the reticulocyte production index – a calculation of the ratio between the level of anemia and the extent to which the reticulocyte count has risen in response. Even in cases where an obvious source of loss exists, this helps evaluate whether the bone marrow will be able to compensate for the loss, and at what rate.

When the cause is not obvious, clinicians use other tests to further distinguish the cause for anemia. These are discussed with the differential diagnosis, below. A clinician may also decide to order other screening blood tests that might identify the cause of fatigue; serum glucose, ESR, ferritin, serum iron, RBC folate level, serum vitamin B12, renal function tests (e.g. serum creatinine) and electrolytes may be part of such a workup.
Microcytic anemia

* iron deficiency anemia is the most common type of anemia overall, and it is often hypochromic microcytic. Iron deficiency anemia is caused when the dietary intake or absorption of iron is insufficient. Iron is an essential part of hemoglobin, and low iron levels result in decreased incorporation of hemoglobin into red blood cells. In the United States, 20% of all women of childbearing age have iron deficiency anemia, compared with only 2% of adult men. The principal cause of iron deficiency anemia in premenopausal women is blood lost during menses. Studies have shown that iron deficiency without anemia causes poor school performance and lower IQ in teenage girls. In older patients, iron deficiency anemia is often due to bleeding lesions of the gastrointestinal tract; fecal occult blood testing, upper endoscopy and lower endoscopy are often performed to identify bleeding lesions, which can be malignant. Iron deficiency is the most prevalent deficiency state on a worldwide basis. Iron deficiency affects women from different cultures and ethnicities. In countries where meat consumption is not as common, iron deficiency anemia is six to eight times more prevalent than in North America and Europe. This is due to the importance of meat in the diets of North Americans and Europeans. A characteristic of iron deficiency is angular chelitis, which is an abnormal fissuring of the angular sections (corners of the mouth) of the lips.
* hemoglobinopathies -- much rarer (apart from communities where these conditions are prevalent)
o sickle-cell disease
o thalassemia

Microcytic anemia is primarily a result of hemoglobin synthesis failure/insufficiency, which could be caused by several etiologies:

* Heme synthesis defect
o Iron deficiency
o Anemia of Chronic Disorders (which, sometimes, is grouped into normocytic anemia)
* Globin synthesis defect
o alpha-, and beta-thalassemia
o HbE syndrome
o HbC syndrome
o and various other unstable hemoglobin diseases
* Sideroblastic defect
o Hereditary Sideroblastic anemia
o Acquired Sideroblastic anemia
o Reversible Sideroblastic anemia

A mnemonic commonly used to remember causes of microcytic anemia is TAILS: T - Thalassemia, A - Anemia of chronic disease, I - Iron deficiency anemia, L - Lead toxicity associated anemia, S - Sideroblastic anemia.

Normocytic anemia

* Acute blood loss
* Anemia of chronic disease
* Aplastic anemia (bone marrow failure)

Macrocytic anemia

* Megaloblastic anemia due to a deficiency of either vitamin B12 or folic acid (or both) due either to inadequate intake or insufficient absorption. Folate deficiency normally does not produce neurological symptoms, while B12 deficiency does. Megaloblastic anemia is the most common cause of macrocytic anemia.
* Pernicious anemia is an autoimmune condition directed against the parietal cells of the stomach. Parietal cells produce intrinsic factor, required to absorb vitamin B12 from food. Therefore, the destruction of the parietal cells causes a lack of intrinsic factor, leading to poor absorption of vitamin B12.
* Alcoholism
* Methotrexate, zidovudine, and other drugs that inhibit DNA replication. This is the most common etiology in nonalcoholic patients.

Macrocytic anemia can be further divided into "megaloblastic anemia" or "non-megaloblastic macrocytic anemia". The cause of megaloblastic anemia is primarily a failure of DNA synthesis with preserved RNA synthesis, which result in restricted cell division of the progenitor cells. The megaloblastic anemias often present with neutrophil hypersegmentation (6-10 lobes). The non-megaloblastic macrocytic anemias have different etiologies (i.e. there is unimpaired DNA synthesis,) which occur, for example in alcoholism.

The treatment for vitamin B12-deficient macrocytic and pernicious anemias was first devised by William Murphy who bled dogs to make them anemic and then fed them various substances to see what (if anything) would make them healthy again. He discovered that ingesting large amounts of liver seemed to cure the disease. George Minot and George Whipple then set about to chemically isolate the curative substance and ultimately were able to isolate the vitamin B12 from the liver. For this, all three shared the 1934 Nobel Prize in Medicine. Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency include having a smooth, red tongue.

Dimorphic anemia

Here there are two types of anemia simultaneously, e.g., macrocytic hypochromic, due to hookworm infestation leading to deficiency of both iron and vitamin B12 or folic acid [1] or following a blood transfusion.

Specific anemias

* Fanconi anemia is an hereditary disease featuring aplastic anemia and various other abnormalities
* Hemolytic anemia is a separate constellation of symptoms (also featuring jaundice and elevated LDH levels) with numerous potential causes. It can be autoimmune, immune, hereditary or mechanical (e.g. heart surgery). It can result (because of cell fragmentation) in a microcytic anemia, a normochromic anemia, or (because of premature release of immature red blood cells from the bone marrow), a macrocytic anemia.
* Hereditary spherocytosis is a hereditary disease that results in defects in the RBC cell membrane, causing the erythrocytes to be sequestered and destroyed by the spleen. This leads to a decrease in the number of circulating RBCs and, hence, anemia.
* Warm autoimmune hemolytic anemia is an anemia caused by autoimmune attack against red blood cells, primarily by IgM

Possible complications

Anemia diminishes the capability of individuals who are affected to perform physical labor. This is a result of one's muscles being forced to depend on anaerobic metabolism. The lack of iron associated with anemia can cause many complications, including hypoxemia, brittle or rigid fingernails, cold intolerance, impaired immune function, and possible behavioral disturbances in children.

Hypoxemia resulting from anemia can worsen the cardio-pulmonary status of patients with pre-existing chronic pulmonary disease. Brittle or rigid fingernails may be a result of abnormal thinness of nails due to insufficient iron supply. Cold intolerance occurs in one in five patients with iron deficiency anemia, and becomes visible through numbness and tingling. Impaired immune functioning leading to increased likelihood of sickness is another possible complication.

Finally, chronic anemia may result in behavioral disturbances in children as a direct result of impaired neurological development in infants, and reduced scholastic performance in children of school age. Behavioral disturbances may even surface as an attention deficit disorder.

Anemia during pregnancy

Anemia affects 20% of all females of childbearing age in the United States. Because of the subtlety of the symptoms, women are often unaware that they have this disorder, as they attribute the symptoms to the stresses of their daily lives. Possible problems for the fetus include increased risk of growth retardation, prematurity, intrauterine death, rupture of the amnion and infection.

During pregnancy, women should be especially aware of the symptoms of anemia, as an adult female loses an average of two milligrams of iron daily. Therefore, she must intake a similar quantity of iron in order to make up for this loss. Additionally, a woman loses approximately 500 milligrams of iron with each pregnancy, compared to a loss of 4-100 milligrams of iron with each period. Possible consequences for the mother include cardiovascular symptoms, reduced physical and mental performance, reduced immune function, tiredness, reduced peripartal blood reserves and increased need for blood transfusion in the postpartum period.

Diet and anemia

Consumption of food rich in iron is essential to prevention of iron deficiency anemia; however, the average adult has approximately nine years worth of B12 stored in the liver, and it would take four to five years of an iron-deficient diet to create iron-deficiency anemia from diet alone.

Iron-rich foods include red meat; green, leafy vegetables; dried beans; dried apricots, prunes, raisins, and other dried fruits; almonds; seaweeds; parsley; whole grains; and yams. In extreme cases of anemia, researchers recommend consumption of beef liver, lean meat, oysters, lamb or chicken, or iron drops may be introduced. Certain foods have been found to interfere with iron absorption in the gastrointestinal tract, and these foods should be avoided. They include tea, coffee, wheat bran, green leafy vegetables, rhubarb, chocolate, soft drinks, red wine, ice cream, and candy bars (Bauer, 2). With the exception of milk and eggs, animal sources of iron provide iron with better bioavailability than vegetable sources (Scrimshaw).

Treatments for anemia

There are many different treatments for anemia, including increasing dietary intake of readily available iron and iron supplementation; the treatment is determined by the type of anemia that is diagnosed. In severe cases of anemia, a blood transfusion may be necessary.

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Gum Disease

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

What are the Stages of Gum Disease?

What is Gum Disease?
Gum disease is an inflammation of the gums that can progress to affect the bone that surrounds and supports your teeth. It is caused by the bacteria in plaque, a sticky, colorless film that constantly forms on your teeth. If not removed through daily brushing and flossing, plaque can build up and the bacteria infect not only your gums and teeth, but eventually the gum tissue and bone that support the teeth. This can cause them to become loose, fall out or have to be removed by a dentist.

There are three stages of gum disease:

* Gingivitis: this is the earliest stage of gum disease, an inflammation of the gums caused by plaque buildup at the gumline. If daily brushing and flossing do not remove the plaque, it produces toxins (poisons) that can irritate the gum tissue, causing gingivitis. You may notice some bleeding during brushing and flossing. At this early stage in gum disease, damage can be reversed, since the bone and connective tissue that hold the teeth in place are not yet affected.
* Periodontitis: at this stage, the supporting bone and fibers that hold your teeth in place are irreversibly damaged. Your gums may begin to form a pocket below the gumline, which traps food and plaque. Proper dental treatment and improved home care can usually help prevent further damage.
* Advanced Periodontitis: in this final stage of gum disease, the fibers and bone supporting your teeth are destroyed, which can cause your teeth to shift or loosen. This can affect your bite and, if aggressive treatment can't save them, teeth may need to be removed.

How do I Know if I Have Gum Disease?
Gum disease can occur at any age, but it is most common among adults. If detected in its early stages, gum disease can be reversed so see your dentist if you notice any of the following symptoms:

* Gums that are red, puffy or swollen, or tender
* Gums that bleed during brushing or flossing
* Teeth that look longer because your gums have receded
* Gums that have separated, or pulled away, from your teeth, creating a pocket
* Changes in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
* Pus coming from between your teeth and gums
* Constant bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth

How is Gum Disease Treated?

* The early stages of gum disease can often be reversed with proper brushing and flossing. Good oral health will help keep plaque from building up.
* A professional cleaning by your dentist or hygienist is the only way to remove plaque that has built up and hardened into tartar. Your dentist or hygienist will clean or "scale" your teeth to remove the tartar above and below the gumline. If your condition is more severe, a root planing procedure may be performed. Root planing helps to smooth irregularities on the roots of the teeth making it more difficult for plaque to deposit there.

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Heart Attack


A heart attack is an injury to the heart muscle caused by a loss of blood supply. It usually occurs when a blood clot blocks the flow of blood through a coronary artery — a blood vessel that feeds blood to a part of the heart muscle. Interrupted blood flow to your heart can damage or destroy a part of the heart muscle.

Years ago, a heart attack was often fatal. But today, thanks to better awareness of signs and symptoms and improved treatments, the vast majority of people who have a heart attack survive.

Your overall lifestyle — what you eat, how often you exercise and the way you deal with stress — plays a role in your recovery from a heart attack. In addition, a healthy lifestyle can help you prevent a first or subsequent heart attack by controlling risk factors that contribute to the narrowing of the coronary arteries that supply blood to your heart.
Signs and symptoms

Heart attacks have many variable signs and symptoms. Not all people who have heart attacks experience the same ones or experience them to the same degree. Many heart attacks aren't as dramatic as the ones you've seen on TV or in the movies.

For example, heart attack symptoms in women, in older adults and in people with diabetes tend to be less pronounced. Some people have no symptoms at all. Still, the more signs and symptoms you have, the greater the likelihood that you may be having a heart attack.

Warning signs and symptoms of a heart attack include:

* Pressure, fullness or a squeezing pain in the center of your chest that lasts for more than a few minutes
* Pain extending beyond your chest to your shoulder, arm, back, or even to your teeth and jaw
* Increasing episodes of chest pain
* Prolonged pain in the upper abdomen
* Shortness of breath
* Sweating
* Impending sense of doom
* Lightheadedness
* Fainting
* Nausea and vomiting

A heart attack can occur anytime — at work or play, while you're resting, or while you're in motion. Some heart attacks strike suddenly, but many people who experience a heart attack have warning signs and symptoms hours, days or weeks in advance. The earliest predictor of an attack may be recurrent chest pain (angina) that's triggered by exertion and relieved by rest. Angina is caused by temporary, insufficient blood flow to the heart. The medical term for insufficient blood flow to the heart is "cardiac ischemia."

The medical term for a heart attack is "myocardial infarction." "Myo" refers to "muscle;" "cardio" refers to "heart;" "infarct" refers to "death of tissue from lack of oxygen." Like any muscle, the heart needs a steady supply of blood. Without blood, heart cells are injured, causing pain or pressure. If blood flow isn't restored, heart cells can die and scar tissue can form, replacing working heart tissue. The lack of blood flow to the heart also may trigger irregular heart rhythms that can be fatal.

Your heart beats approximately once a second. During a day, your heart pumps about 2,000 gallons of blood through your circulatory system. Your circulatory system includes arteries and veins. Veins bring oxygen-poor blood back to your heart. Arteries deliver oxygen-rich blood to all of the tissues of your body — including your heart muscle.

A heart attack occurs when one or more of the tiny arteries supplying your heart with oxygen-rich blood (coronary arteries) become blocked. These arteries are called coronary arteries and encircle your heart like a crown. Blockages are usually due to a blood clot that forms suddenly where a coronary artery has narrowed over the years from a buildup of cholesterol and other substances.

This buildup of cholesterol and other substances — collectively known as plaques — in arteries throughout the body is called atherosclerosis. When the coronary arteries narrow due to atherosclerosis, the condition is known as coronary artery disease. Coronary artery disease is the major underlying cause of heart attacks.

Rarely, a heart attack can occur when a blood clot from inside a diseased heart breaks loose and lodges in a healthy or narrowed coronary artery. Another uncommon cause of a heart attack is a spasm of a coronary artery that shuts down blood flow to part of the heart muscle. Drugs, such as cocaine, can cause such a life-threatening spasm.

A heart attack is not a static event. It's a dynamic process that typically evolves over several hours. With each passing minute, more heart tissue is deprived of blood and deteriorates or dies. However, if blood flow can be restored in time, damage to the heart can be limited or prevented.
Risk factors

Certain factors, called coronary risk factors, increase your risk of a heart attack. These factors contribute to the unwanted buildup of deposits (atherosclerosis) that narrows arteries throughout your body, including arteries to your heart. Coronary risk factors include:

* Tobacco smoke. Smoking and long-term exposure to secondhand smoke damage the interior walls of arteries — including arteries to your heart — allowing deposits of cholesterol to collect and hamper blood flow. Smoking also increases the risk of deadly blood clots forming and causing a heart attack.
* High blood pressure. Blood pressure is determined by the amount of blood your heart pumps and the amount of resistance to blood flow in your arteries. Over time, high blood pressure can damage arteries that feed your heart by accelerating atherosclerosis. High blood pressure can be an inherited problem. The risk of high blood pressure increases as you age, but the main culprits for most Americans are eating a diet too high in salt and being overweight.
* High blood cholesterol or triglyceride levels. Cholesterol is a major part of the deposits that can narrow arteries throughout your body, including those that supply your heart. A high level of the wrong kind of cholesterol in your blood increases your risk of a heart attack. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (the "bad" cholesterol) is most likely to narrow arteries. A high LDL level is undesirable and is often a byproduct of a diet high in saturated fats and cholesterol. A high level of triglycerides, a type of blood fat related to your diet, also is undesirable. However, a high level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (the "good" cholesterol), which helps the body clean up excess cholesterol, is desirable and lowers your risk of heart attack.
* Lack of physical activity. An inactive lifestyle contributes to high blood cholesterol levels and obesity. Conversely, people who get regular aerobic exercise have better cardiovascular fitness, which decreases their overall risk of heart attack. Exercise is also beneficial in lowering high blood pressure.
* Obesity. Obesity involves having a high proportion of body fat. Obesity raises the risk of heart disease because it's associated with high blood cholesterol levels, high blood pressure and diabetes.
* Diabetes. Diabetes is the inability of your body to produce or respond to insulin properly. Insulin, a hormone secreted by your pancreas, allows your body to use glucose, which is a form of sugar from foods. Diabetes can occur in childhood, but it appears more often in middle age and among overweight people. Diabetes greatly increases the risk of a heart attack by speeding up atherosclerosis and negatively affecting blood cholesterol levels.
* Stress. You may respond to stress in ways that can increase your risk of a heart attack. If you're under stress, you may overeat or smoke from nervous tension. Too much stress, as well as anger, can also raise your blood pressure.
* Alcohol. Consumed in moderation, alcohol helps raise HDL levels — the "good" cholesterol — and can have a protective effect against heart attack. On the other hand, excessive drinking can raise your blood pressure and triglyceride levels, increasing your risk of heart attack.
* Family history of heart attack. If your siblings, parents or grandparents have had early heart attacks, you may be at risk, too. Your family may have a genetic condition that raises unwanted blood cholesterol levels. High blood pressure also can run in families. In addition, families may contribute to coronary artery disease by practicing or promoting poor health habits, such as smoking or eating high-fat diets.
* Homocysteine, C-reactive protein and fibrinogen. People who have higher blood levels of homocysteine, C-reactive protein and fibrinogen appear to have an elevated risk of heart disease. These factors have only recently been identified as players in increasing cardiovascular disease risk. Research to pinpoint their exact role is ongoing. In the meantime, homocysteine levels can be reduced with folic acid supplements and a healthy diet. Fibrinogen and C-reactive protein levels may be reduced by modifying other risk factors for heart disease, such as quitting smoking, lowering cholesterol and exercising.

You can modify or eliminate many of these risk factors to reduce your chances of having a first or second heart attack. However, you can't change some risk factors, such as heredity and gender. Men are generally at greater risk than are women of heart attacks. However, the risk for women increases sometime after menopause, usually after age 55. If your father had heart disease before 55 or your mother had heart trouble before 65, your risk of developing heart disease is greater.
When to seek medical advice

During a heart attack, some people waste precious minutes because they don't recognize the important signs and symptoms — or they deny them. Some people also delay calling for help because they're afraid to risk the embarrassment of a false alarm.

However, one of the most important things you can do to increase your survival after a heart attack is to recognize what's happening and to take immediate action. Of the people who die of heart attacks, about half die within the first hour after the onset of signs and symptoms.

Don't "tough out" the symptoms of a heart attack for more than five minutes. Call 911 or other emergency medical services for help. If you don't have access to emergency medical services, have someone drive you to the nearest hospital, such as a neighbor or friend. Drive yourself only as a last resort, if there are absolutely no other options. Driving yourself puts you and others at risk if your condition suddenly worsens.

If it turns out you weren't having a heart attack, doctors may be able to pinpoint the cause of your signs and symptoms and treat them.
Screening and diagnosis

Ideally, your doctor should screen you during regular physical exams for risk factors that can lead to a heart attack.

If you're having a heart attack or suspect you're having one, screening and diagnosis will likely happen in another setting — an emergency room. Once there, you'll probably be asked to describe your symptoms and will have your blood pressure, pulse and temperature checked. Your doctor will listen to your heart and lung sounds with a stethoscope. You'll be asked about your health history and the history of heart disease in your family. Emergency room doctors may also want to conduct tests to determine whether your signs and symptoms, such as chest pain, signal a heart attack or another condition. These tests may include:

* Electrocardiogram (ECG). This is often the first test done to diagnose a heart attack. This test records the electrical activity of your heart via electrodes attached to your skin. Impulses are recorded as "waves" displayed on a monitor or printed on paper. Because injured heart muscle doesn't conduct electrical impulses normally, the ECG may show that a heart attack has occurred or is in progress.
* Blood tests. Certain heart enzymes slowly leak out into your blood if your heart has been damaged by a heart attack. Emergency room doctors may take samples of your blood to test for the presence of these enzymes.

Additional tests
If you've had a heart attack or one is occurring, doctors will take immediate steps to treat your condition. You may also undergo these additional tests:

* Chest X-ray. An X-ray image of your chest allows your doctor to check the size and shape of your heart and its blood vessels.
* Nuclear scan. This test helps identify blood flow problems to your heart. Trace amounts of radioactive material, such as thallium, are injected into your bloodstream. Special cameras can detect the radioactive material as it flows through your heart and lungs. Areas of reduced blood flow to the heart muscle — through which less of the radioactive material flows — appear as dark spots on the scan.
* Echocardiogram. This test uses sound waves to produce an image of your heart. During an echocardiogram, sound waves are directed at your heart from a transducer, a wand-like device, held on your chest. The sound waves bounce off your heart and are reflected back through your chest wall and processed electronically to provide video images of your heart. An echocardiogram can help identify whether an area of your heart has been damaged by a heart attack and isn't pumping normally or at peak capacity.
* Coronary catheterization (angiogram). This test can show if your coronary arteries are narrowed or blocked. A liquid dye is injected into the arteries of your heart through a long, thin tube (catheter) that's fed through an artery, usually in your leg, to arteries in your heart. As the dye fills your arteries, the arteries become visible on X-ray and videotape, revealing areas of blockage. Additionally, while the catheter is in position, your doctor may treat the blockage by performing an angioplasty, also known as coronary artery balloon dilation, balloon angioplasty and percutaneous coronary intervention. Angioplasty uses tiny balloons threaded through a blood vessel and into a coronary artery to widen the blocked area. In most cases, a mesh tube (stent) is also placed inside the artery to hold it open more widely and prevent re-narrowing in the future.

In the days or weeks following your heart attack, you may also undergo a stress test. Stress tests measure how your heart and blood vessels respond to exertion. You may walk on a treadmill or pedal a stationary bike while attached to an ECG machine. Or you may receive a drug intravenously that stimulates your heart similar to exercise. Stress tests help doctors diagnose coronary artery disease, which can cause chest pain and may underlie a recent or future heart attack.

At the very least, a heart attack can occur without recognized pain and discomfort. At the most, a heart attack can cause death. Complications are often related to the damage sustained by your heart during a heart attack. This damage can lead to the following conditions:

* Abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias). If your heart muscle is damaged from a heart attack, electrical "short circuits" can develop resulting in abnormal heart rhythms, some of which can be serious, even fatal.
* Heart failure. The amount of damaged tissue in your heart may be so extensive that the remaining heart muscle can't do an adequate job of pumping blood out of your heart. This decreases blood flow to tissues and organs throughout your body, producing shortness of breath, fatigue, and swelling in your ankles and feet. Heart failure may be a temporary problem that remedies itself after your heart, which has been stunned by a heart attack, recovers over a few days to weeks. However, it can also be a chronic condition resulting from extensive and permanent damage to your heart following your heart attack.
* Heart rupture. Areas of heart muscle weakened by a heart attack can rupture, leaving a hole in part of the heart. This rupture can cause fatal bleeding and other complications.
* Valve problems. Heart valves damaged during a heart attack may develop severe, life-threatening leakage problems.


During a heart attack, act immediately. Take these steps:

* Call for emergency medical help. If you even suspect you're having a heart attack, don't hesitate. Immediately call 911 or your local emergency number. If you don't have access to emergency medical services, have someone drive you to the nearest hospital. Drive yourself only as a last resort, if there are absolutely no other options. Driving yourself puts you and others at risk if your condition suddenly worsens.
* Take nitroglycerin. If your doctor has prescribed nitroglycerin, take as instructed while awaiting the arrival of emergency medical personnel.

If you encounter someone who is unconscious from a presumed heart attack, call for emergency medical help and, if you have received training in emergency procedures, begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). This helps deliver oxygen to the body and brain. If you're not trained in emergency procedures, doctors recommend skipping mouth-to-mouth rescue breathing and proceeding directly to chest compression. The reason is that if you're distracted by trying to perform unfamiliar breathing techniques, valuable lifesaving minutes might be lost for the person who needs help. The most important thing you can do is to proceed directly to chest compression in order to deliver blood to vital organs, particularly the brain and heart. Do chest compressions at a rate of 100 a minute.

In the initial minutes, a heart attack can also trigger ventricular fibrillation. This unstable heart rhythm produces an ineffective heartbeat, and the heart quivers uselessly. Without immediate treatment, ventricular fibrillation leads to sudden death. The timely use of an automatic external defibrillator (AED) that shocks the heart back into a normal rhythm can provide emergency treatment before a person suffering a heart attack reaches the hospital.

Most ambulance teams, police and fire rescue units carry portable defibrillators. AEDs are also increasingly available in commercial airplanes and public places, such as schools, shopping malls, office buildings and sports venues. If you're not trained to use an AED, a 911 operator may be able to guide you in its use. Trained staff at many public places also are able to provide and use an AED.

Once you reach a hospital emergency room and it's clear you're having a heart attack, you may be treated with medications, undergo a surgical procedure or both — depending on the severity of your condition and the amount of damage to your heart.

With each passing minute after a heart attack, more tissue is deprived of oxygen and deteriorates or dies. The main way to prevent progressive damage is to restore blood flow quickly. Doctors may give you aspirin in the emergency room. Aspirin inhibits blood clotting, which helps maintain blood flow through a narrowed artery.

Initial treatment of a heart attack in the emergency room may also involve aspirin or prescription medications, typically given through a vein in your arm (intravenously):

* Aspirin. You may be given aspirin by emergency medical personnel soon after they arrive or as soon as you get to the hospital. Aspirin inhibits blood clotting, thus helping maintain blood flow through a narrowed artery. When taken during a heart attack, aspirin can significantly decrease death rates. Take an aspirin yourself while waiting for help to arrive only if your doctor has previously recommended that you do so if you have symptoms of a heart attack. If your symptoms are caused by a medical problem other than a heart attack, taking aspirin may cause serious complications.
* Thrombolytics. These drugs, also called clot-busters, help dissolve a blood clot that's blocking blood flow to your heart. The earlier you receive a thrombolytic drug following a heart attack, the greater the chance you will survive and lessen the damage to your heart.
* Superaspirins. Doctors in the emergency room may give you a thrombolytic drug along with a second drug called a platelet IIb/IIIa receptor blocker, or superaspirin. The second drug, which is more potent than regular aspirin, helps prevent new clots from forming. This "one-two punch" combination may cancel out the need for further treatments.
* Other blood-thinning medications. These drugs, like aspirins, make your blood less "sticky" and less likely to form more dangerous clots.
* Pain relievers. If your chest pain or associated pain is great, you may receive a pain reliever, such as morphine, to alleviate your discomfort.
* Nitroglycerin. This medication, used to treat chest pain (angina), temporarily opens arterial blood vessels, improving blood flow to and from your heart.
* Beta blockers. These medications help relax your heart muscle, slow your heartbeat and decrease blood pressure making your heart's job easier. Beta blockers can limit the amount of heart muscle damage and prevent future heart attacks.
* Cholesterol-lowering medications. Examples include statins, niacin, fibrates and bile acid sequestrants. These drugs help lower levels of unwanted blood cholesterol and may be helpful if given soon after a heart attack to improve survival.

Many medications improve survival and help heal your heart during and after a heart attack. Your doctors will determine which medications are best for you. You may receive different drugs depending on the cause of your heart attack and the overall health of your heart.

Surgical and other procedures
In addition to medications, you may undergo one of the following procedures to treat your heart attack:

* Coronary angioplasty. Emergency angioplasty opens blocked coronary arteries, letting blood flow more freely to your heart. Doctors insert a long, thin tube (catheter) that's passed through an artery, usually in your leg, to a blocked artery in your heart. This catheter is equipped with a special balloon tip. Once in position, the balloon tip is briefly inflated to open up a blocked coronary artery. At the same time, a metal mesh stent may be inserted into the artery to keep it open long term, restoring blood flow to the heart. When getting an angioplasty for heart attack treatment, studies have shown the sooner the better. If an angioplasty is performed days or weeks after you've been stabilized with a completely blocked artery, there may not be any benefit.
* Coronary artery bypass surgery. In rare cases, doctors may perform emergency bypass surgery at the time of a heart attack. Bypass surgery involves sewing veins or arteries in place at a site beyond a blocked or narrowed coronary artery (bypassing the narrowed section), restoring blood flow to the heart. Or your doctor may suggest that you have this procedure after your heart has had time to recover from your heart attack.

Once blood flow to your heart is restored and your condition is stable following your heart attack, you may be hospitalized for observation. Because physical exertion and emotional upset place stress on your heart, be sure to rest. Visitors are usually limited to family members and close friends.

The goal of emergency treatment of a heart attack is to restore blood flow and save heart tissue. The purpose of subsequent treatment is to promote healing of your heart and prevent another heart attack.

Some hospitals offer cardiac rehabilitation programs that may start while you're in the hospital and, depending on the severity of your attack, continue for weeks to months after you return home. Cardiac rehabilitation programs generally focus on three main areas — medications, lifestyle changes and emotional issues.

It's never too late to take steps to prevent a heart attack — even if you've already had one. Drug therapy has become an increasingly important part of reducing the risk of a second heart attack and helping a damaged heart function better. Lifestyle factors also play a critical role in heart attack prevention and recovery.

Doctors typically prescribe drug therapy for people who've had a heart attack or who are at high risk of having one. Medications that help the heart function more effectively or reduce heart attack risk may include:


Blood-thinning medications. Aspirin makes your blood less "sticky" and likely to clot. Doctors recommend a daily aspirin for most people who've had a heart attack. Your doctor may, in some cases, prescribe a stronger blood thinner than aspirin.

Doctors may prescribe aspirin and an anti-clotting drug such as clopidogrel (Plavix) for people undergoing an angioplasty or stent procedure to open narrowed coronary arteries, both before and after the procedure.

If you're taking aspirin to help prevent a heart attack, be aware that taking the painkiller ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others) at the same time may increase the risk of gastrointestinal problems and may interfere with the heart benefits of aspirin. If you need to take a pain-relieving medication for a condition such as arthritis, discuss with your doctor which is best for you.
* Beta blockers. These drugs lower your heart rate and blood pressure, reducing demand on your heart. You generally need to take beta blockers for one year or more following a heart attack.
* Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors. Your doctor may prescribe ACE inhibitors if you've had a moderate to severe heart attack that has reduced your heart's pumping capacity. These drugs allow blood to flow from your heart more easily.
* Cholesterol-lowering medications. A variety of medications, including statins, niacin, fibrates and bile acid sequestrants, can help lower your levels of unwanted blood cholesterol. The majority of people who've had a heart attack take cholesterol-lowering medications — drugs that help lower the risk of a second heart attack. These medications can help prevent future heart attacks even if your cholesterol was not very high at the time of the heart attack.

How you live your life can largely affect the health of your heart. Taking the following steps can help you not only prevent but also recover from a heart attack:

* Don't smoke. If you smoke, the single most important thing you can do to improve your heart's health is to stop. It's very hard to stop smoking by yourself, so ask your doctor to prescribe a treatment plan to help you kick the habit.
* Check your cholesterol. Have your blood cholesterol levels checked regularly, through a blood test at your doctor's office. If "bad" cholesterol levels are undesirably high, your doctor can prescribe changes to your diet and medications to help lower the numbers and protect your cardiovascular health.
* Get regular medical checkups. Some of the major risk factors for heart attack — high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes — cause no symptoms in their early stages. Your doctor can perform tests to check that you're free of these conditions. If a problem exists, you and your doctor can manage it early to prevent complications that can lead to a heart attack.
* Control your blood pressure. Have your blood pressure checked every two years. Your doctor may recommend more frequent measurement if you have high blood pressure or a history of coronary artery disease.
* Exercise regularly. Years ago, doctors forbade exercise following a heart attack for fear it would cause another. But regular exercise helps improve heart muscle function following a heart attack. Exercise is now a major component of a cardiac rehabilitation program. Exercise helps prevent a heart attack by helping you to achieve and maintain a healthy weight and control diabetes, elevated cholesterol and high blood pressure.
* Maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight strains your heart and can contribute to high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes. Losing weight can lower your risk of heart disease.
* Eat a heart-healthy diet. Too much saturated fat and cholesterol in your diet can narrow arteries to your heart. If you've had a heart attack, limit fat and cholesterol — and sodium. A diet high in sodium can raise your blood pressure. Follow your doctor's and dietitian's advice on eating a heart-healthy diet. Prepare heart-healthy meals together as a family. Fish is part of a heart-healthy diet. It contains omega-3 fatty acids, which help improve blood cholesterol levels and prevent blood clots. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants — nutrients that help prevent everyday wear and tear on your coronary arteries.
* Manage stress. To reduce your risk of a heart attack, reduce stress in your day-to-day activities. Rethink workaholic habits and find healthy ways to minimize or deal with stressful events in your life.
* Consume alcohol in moderation. Drinking more than one to two alcoholic drinks a day raises blood pressure, so cut back on your drinking if necessary. From a heart-healthy standpoint, one to two drinks daily is fine for men, and women can have one alcoholic beverage a day. One drink is equivalent to 12 ounces of beer, 4 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of an 80-proof liquor.

Coping skills

Having a heart attack is a scary experience. Even if your doctor says you're OK, you may still be afraid. How will this affect your life? Will you be able to get back to work or resume activities you enjoy? Even more frightening — will it happen again?

Fear is just one of the many emotions you and your family must deal with. Other emotions that can be particularly difficult to cope with after a heart attack may include:

* Anger. You may be angry and wonder: "Why did I have to have a heart attack, and why now?" It's normal to feel some resentment after a heart attack.
* Guilt. Family members may feel scared at first and then guilty about your heart attack. Some may even feel that they're somehow responsible for doing something that gave you a heart attack.
* Depression. Depression is common after a heart attack. You may feel that you can no longer do things you used to do — that you're not the same person you were before the heart attack.

These feelings are common, and openly discussing them with your doctor, a family member or a friend may help you better cope. You need to take care of yourself mentally as well as physically after a heart attack. Exercising and participating in cardiac rehabilitation sessions with other people who are recovering from a heart attack may help you work through these feelings.

Sex after a heart attack
Many people worry that sex after a heart attack will be too strenuous on their hearts. However, most people can safely return to sexual activity after recovering from a heart attack. Each person has a different timeline, depending on his or her level of physical comfort, psychological readiness and previous sexual activity.

The demands sexual intercourse places on your heart approximate those of taking a brisk walk, scrubbing a floor, or climbing one or two flights of stairs. In a way, sexual activity parallels any other physical exertion — your heart rate, breathing rate and blood pressure level increase. Ask your doctor when it's safe to resume sexual activity. With time, you'll likely be able to resume your normal sexual patterns.

Some heart medications, such as beta blockers, may affect sexual function. However, sexual dysfunction following a heart attack is more often due to depression or anxiety than to medications. If you're having problems with sexual dysfunction, talk to your doctor. He or she may be able to help you pinpoint the problem and seek the appropriate treatment.

You and your family may have a lot of questions and concerns following your heart attack. If so, it might be helpful to talk to others who are experiencing some of the same things as you and your family. Many cardiac rehabilitation programs offer counseling services and support groups for heart attack survivors.

Surviving a heart attack doesn't mean that life as you knew it is over. On the contrary, most people lead full, active lives after a heart attack. But it may mean making some positive changes in your daily habits, being patient as you recover and adopting a can-do attitude.

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