Archive for the ‘General Health’ Category

What are Noroviruses?

Monday, April 19th, 2010

The noroviruses are a group of viruses which commonly cause vomiting and diarrhea (gastrointestinal symptoms), usually during the winter months in the Northern Hemisphere. Noroviruses often cause outbreaks of illness among people who live in close proximity (i.e. nursing homes, cruise ships). Infection may be passed person-to-person or by the ingestion of contaminated food and water.


  • Sudden onset illness 24 to 48 hours after being exposed
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain/cramping
  • Malaise
  • Headache
  • Low-grade fever
  • Aching muscles

You can reduce your risk of contracting the virus by frequently washing your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based product. Avoid spending prolonged periods of time in crowded areas during the winter months. Make sure all fruits and vegetables are washed well before eating. Cook all foods thoroughly before eating.

Should you become ill with a gastrointestinal virus (“stomach flu”), get plenty of rest. Try to take sips of fluids frequently, rather than large amounts of fluids less often. You may want to try oral replacement solutions (ORS) if the vomiting and diarrhea are prolonged. There can be purchased from a drugstore. If you become very weak or notice blood in your stool, or do not start to improve within 48 hours, consider a visit to the emergency room.

Source: Norwalk and Noroviruses

Passing of Health Reform Bill Celebrated by ADA

Friday, April 16th, 2010

The ADA (American Diabetes Association) is celebrating the passage of the Health Reform bill, which they see as tearing down the barriers that have stood between diabetics and the health care they deserve. The ADA issued a statement to make clear their elation at the passing of the bill.

It is not only those already diagnosed with diabetes who stand to win from the passage of the bill, states the ADA. The American Diabetes Association sees the bill as a necessary step towards prevention of diabetes for the estimated 57 million people who are living with pre-diabetes, and also for the one-third of America’s youth who will one day be diagnosed with diabetes if the current health climate does not change. In order for health prevention to become reality, citizens need equal access to programs designed to educate them regarding prevention, as well as access to screening and prevention programs designed to detect and treat pre-diabetes before it turns into full-fledged diabetes.

The ADA has stated that they see this health reform bill as a means of giving diabetics a real opportunity to manage their disease and prevent known complications of the disease, such as amputation, blindness and heart disease.

Source: Health Reform Bill Ends The “Just Because You Have Diabetes” Excuse

Statement on U.S. House of Representatives Passing Health Reform Bill

Male Infertility Linked to Prostate Cancer

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

The American Cancer Society has recently de-emphasized screening for prostate cancer, stating that men should be counseled by their doctors regarding their personal risk for prostate cancer, and should make up their own mind about screening based on the most current information and their own risk for the disease. The reason for this laid-back attitude lies in the fact that most prostate cancers are very slow-growing and are not usually immediately life-threatening. Overzealous treatment can result in potentially damaging consequences, such as incontinence and impotence.

However, a new study has discovered a group of men who should not heed advice to relax regarding prostate screening. Researchers tracked down more than 22,000 men who had been diagnosed as infertile and discovered that these men had more than twice the rate of aggressive prostate cancer in comparison to the rest of the fertile male population.

Men who are infertile may be at higher risk for aggressive prostate cancer, and perhaps should be screened earlier than their fertile counterparts. Physicians who treat infertile males should consider testing for the disease earlier and providing this information to their male patients who have been diagnosed with infertility. More studies should be done to clarify the risk of prostate cancer in infertile men.

Source: Infertility linked to prostate cancer

The Dangers of Polypharmacy in the Elderly

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

A new Canadian study sheds light on a growing trend: the prescribing of multiple medications to seniors.

The study showed that almost 2/3 of Canadian senior citizens are taking more than 5 prescription medications; 1/5 of seniors were taking more than 10 medications, and 1/20 of seniors were taking more than 20 medications to treat conditions such as heart disease, arthritis, high blood pressure and Alzheimer’s disease.

Polypharmacy in adults, especially seniors, can be cause for concern due to the fact that there can be significant interactions between drugs. Seeing more than one physician or having prescriptions filled at more than one pharmacy adds to this risk, as doctors and pharmacists may be unaware of other drugs a patient may be taking.

Part of the reason for the study was to examine which drugs were being prescribed the most often and which drugs have fallen out of favor. This is important to policy makers, who will have to determine where funding should be concentrated. What the study revealed was hardly surprising:

  • Statins are the most commonly prescribed (almost 40% of seniors over age 65)
  • Ace-inhibitors used to treat blood pressure are the second most popular (27% of seniors)
  • Proton-pump inhibitors used to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease are third in line (21% of seniors)

The fastest-growing drug classes are those that treat arthritis, COPD and Alzheimer’s.

Drugs that have fallen out of the popularity contest include Cox-2 inhibitors such as Vioxx (which was linked to heart disease) and HRT drugs, which were also linked to heart disease and breast cancer.

Polypharmacy is more common and is therefore a growing danger to seniors. Physicians, pharmacists and caregivers should be certain that medications are prescribed only as needed and reviewed regularly to ascertain whether they are still required.

Source: Study warns about seniors’ prescriptions

Doctors Support New Bill

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

The new health care legislation reform bill which will be put to a vote March 21, 2010 has gained the support of American doctors and the AMA- perhaps not their unqualified support, but support nevertheless.

Doctors have expressed concern that further debate will only make a bad situation worse, and although the new bill is not exactly as they wish it could be, it is better than the current state of affairs. They expressed their concern that delaying health reform longer will only mean that more patients will lose access to medical care. These patients are often forced to use the emergency room for their medical needs. Primary care is not within their grasp, and prevention is a concept they do not have the luxury of debating. These patients who lack insurance come to the hospital sicker and do not enjoy good health, often dying younger than their counterparts with insurance.

The AMA has taken exception to several proposals in the legislation, such as:

  • Medicare’s proposed 21.2% pay cut that could take place later this year (which may force some doctors to stop accepting Medicare patients in their practices)
  • No support for tort reform, such as placing a cap on damages awarded in malpractice cases
  • Regulations which could ban the ownership of hospitals by doctors (doctors argue that it shouldn’t matter who owns the hospital)

These are just a few of the concerns that the AMA is hoping will be addressed eventually, but for now everyone agrees that some sort of change is needed. The rest can be argued over at a later time (and undoubtedly will be).

Are You Getting Enough Vitamin D?

Monday, April 5th, 2010

Vitamin D is often referred to as the “sunshine vitamin”. It is also well known for increasing the absorption of calcium. Beyond these facts, most people are not aware of what important functions vitamin D plays in the body.

What does vitamin D do?

  • aids the body to use vitamin A and to absorb calcium and phosphorus
  • can be helpful in treating eye infections, such as conjunctivitis
  • can help in preventing colds, especially when taken with vitamins A and C
  • essential for maintaining normal levels of calcium and phosphorus in the body
  • helps build healthy bones and teeth
  • necessary for growth
  • aids in the ability of blood to clot
  • helps to regulate the heartbeat
  • helps to prevent osteoporosis

How do I get it?

There are two main ways to obtain vitamin D: diet and sunlight. Dietary forms of vitamin D are vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) and D2 (ergocalciferol). These two forms of vitamin D are inactive. Absorbed vitamin D must be transformed by the kidneys and liver to the active form of vitamin D. Foods that are high in vitamin D are cod liver oil, oily fish, milk, eggs and cereals.

Most of our vitamin D comes from ultraviolet irradiation (sunlight exposure) of the skin. Sunlight is absorbed through natural oils present on the skin, and is then absorbed into the body. Dietary intakes of vitamin D are only critical when there is little or no skin exposure to ultraviolet light or when the body’s requirements are particularly high, such as in young, growing children or during pregnancy.

Vitamin D has been implicated in the prevention of many disorders, including multiple sclerosis, premature birth, osteoporosis, heart disease, breast cancer and colorectal cancer.

Source: Vitamin D

Magnesium- The Forgotten Mineral

Sunday, April 4th, 2010

Many people are aware of magnesium and realize that it should be included in a healthy diet, but few can identify what role magnesium plays in the body or what foods are good sources of this mineral.

Why is magnesium important?

Almost half of the body’s total magnesium comes from bone, while the other half is found mostly in the cells of various tissues and organs. Only 1% of magnesium is found in the bloodstream. The body tries to maintain the serum level of magnesium within a narrow range. Magnesium:

  • can help prevent colon cancer, especially in men
  • regulates cell growth and division
  • monitors and repairs DNA
  • is important in normal muscle and nerve function
  • supports a healthy immune system
  • assists in maintenance of normal blood pressure
  • assists in maintaining a steady rhythm of the heart
  • helps to regulate blood sugar
  • is involved in protein synthesis

Foods that are good sources of magnesium include:

  • legumes
  • seeds
  • nuts
  • unrefined grains
  • halibut
  • peanut butter
  • yogurt

Magnesium can help prevent colon cancer, arrhythmia, hypertension and diabetes, and can also help prevent postmenopausal osteoporosis. The RDA (recommended daily allowance) is 310 to 420 mg/day. Remember magnesium during March, which is colorectal cancer awareness month. Magnesium can help to prevent this disease, as well as many others.


What is Celiac Disease?

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that affects the small intestine and absorption of nutrients from food. Also known as celiac sprue, the disease is really an intolerance to gluten, a component of wheat, rye and barley. When people with celiac disease eat gluten, it sets off an inflammatory response in their bowel, resulting in destruction of intestinal villi, the tiny finger-like projections of the bowel wall which allow nutrients from food to be absorbed into the body. Celiac disease is both a food intolerance and a malabsorption disease.

Celiac disease is a hereditary disease and can be triggered by numerous events, such as infection, stress, surgery or pregnancy. People with celiac disease may also be more prone to develop other disorders such as type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid disease, liver disease, Sjogren’s syndrome and Addison’s disease. In the United States, it is estimated that 1 in 133 people have the disease. The disease can be mild or very severe, and the reason for its variability in expression is not fully understood.

Symptoms of celiac disease vary from person to person. Children are more likely to experience digestive complaints, such as:

  • Weight loss
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Bloating
  • Vomiting
  • Pale or fatty stools

Adults may experience more systemic symptoms:

  • Anemia of iron deficiency
  • Fatigue
  • Arthritis
  • Osteoporosis
  • Infertility
  • Mouth sores
  • Tingling in hands and feet
  • Joint pain
  • Infertility

Celiac disease can be diagnosed by a simple blood test or by a biopsy of the small bowel. Once a person has been diagnosed with celiac disease, the only treatment is the avoidance of foods containing gluten. Avoiding gluten will allow the intestine to heal. This may take several months in children and several years in some adults.

The Relationship between Erectile Dysfunction and Heart Disease

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

Although the two disorders may seem to be worlds apart, research has shown that men who suffer fro erectile dysfunction (ED) have a much higher risk of developing heart disease. Why is this?

The answer lies in the commonality of the two health conditions. Erectile dysfunction is often a result of damage to the blood vessels that supply blood to the penis, resulting in difficulty getting and maintaining an erection. Long thought to be due mainly to psychological factors, it is now recognized that ED can result from problems with blood flow. Many men seek help from their doctor when they experience ED and are prescribed medications that improve ED by improving blood flow. However, research shows that many men (and doctors) do not take into account that the same issue that results in inability to achieve an erection may be occurring elsewhere in the body, including the heart and its associated blood vessels.

Men who experience ED should be screened for cardiovascular disease. Because the blood vessels of the penis are smaller than those that supply the heart, ED may show up before a problem with the heart is detected. Nevertheless, ED should prompt physicians to actively search for blood vessel disease or cardiovascular disease elsewhere in the body. Examining risk factors for cardiovascular disease may be the first step in this process. Men with ED should be assumed to have heart disease until proven otherwise; actively screening for heart disease in men with ED may prevent deaths from cardiac disease.

Source: Erectile dysfunction is strong predictor of fatal heart ailments, study finds

Exercise for Bone Health

Sunday, March 28th, 2010

Anyone entering into middle age and beyond is at higher risk of developing osteoporosis, a condition in which bones become fragile and are more prone to breaking. People who have osteoporosis may sustain fractures of their spine, hips and wrists with very little provocation. Both men and women can develop osteoporosis, but the condition occurs more commonly in women who are in perimenopause or menopause and beyond, due to declining estrogen levels.

Although some risk factors can’t be changed (i.e. age, sex, heredity, race), there are some risks for developing osteoporosis that can be modified, such as:

  • Smoking
  • Diet
  • Exercise
  • Alcohol intake

Exercise can be a powerful tool in the prevention of osteoporosis. Specifically, exercise which involves weight bearing, or impact loading exercises, act on the bones by stressing bones, forcing them to remodel and strengthen themselves. Examples of weight bearing exercises include walking, aerobics, jogging, lifting weights, skiing and even yoga.

Incorporating regular impact loading exercise into your daily routine, as well as ensuring a healthy diet high in calcium, vitamin D and other minerals important to bone health, can help you avoid the development of osteoporosis.

Source: Osteoporosis (MedicineNet)