It is very frustrating for the average public to make any sense of health reporting these days. It is no wonder that people no longer listen. It can become irresponsible reporting as well.
Just a few days ago, there was a report that marijuana may help stop osteoporosis. The work was done in mice, of course. But they stated that cannabis is harmful to young bones, but protective in older bones. What’s interesting, and confusing, is that the cannabis’ interaction with the cannabis receptor activates the receptor to cause destruction, yet it prevents bone loss in older mice. It did not reveal how it did this, but the study showed that there was less fat in bones, which is a marker of healthier bones in humans. First of all, we cannot always equate mice and human models. Secondly, were there confounding factors that could explain the decrease in fat in bones? Is it safe to say that less fat in older mice bones meant protection?
Now, another report states that a study in Spain shows moderate drinking can boost bones. The study defined moderate drinking as being up to 5 units a day; yet, experts warn that more than two drinks will harm bones. Since we also know that each person’s ability to tolerate drinking is variable, how can we really estimate moderate drinking? By tolerance, I do not refer to sobriety, but to liver damage. Furthermore, it is not the alcohol, but the natural products that go into the drinks that confer the benefit. So, shouldn’t they concentrate on studying the “phytoestrogens” rather than stating the benefits of drinking?
It is hard to say whether it’s the media or the scientists who are doing the research who are doing a disservice to the general public by reporting on such contradictory findings. And, especially when the research involves such controversial issues. Will they next be calling for leniency on the use of alcohol and marijuana? Of course, those who support such “mildly illegal” drugs will hail these scientific reports as more evidence of their utility.
It will be dangerous to advocate the use of alchol and marijuana to treat osteoporosis, especially as they will increase the likelihood of falls, which is one of the biggest risks for fractures, regardless of how strong the bone is.
It seems not a day passes that you don’t read something about autism. Data states that one in 100 have some form of autism. Though I will not deny that autism exists, it seems everyone has some form of it, such that anything and everything can be excused because of it. It has become a scapegoat for people’s problems. Minor social dysfunction is attributed to autism. What ever happened to the day when someone can just say they have difficulty with social interaction, rather than be classified as a disorder? Can’t we leave these diagnoses to the most severe and obvious cases?
There is so much debate about the importance of having a diagnoses. It is important when there is clear and defined treatment and there are objective data to follow to assess the effectiveness of treatment. For example, blood pressure can be checked, treated, rechecked. Similarly, diabetes can be measured and treated. Less obvious, but still treatable are psychiatric diagnoses such as severe depression. Milder forms fall into those borderline categories because most normal people will experience highs and lows in their life.
But anxiety and depression are no longer the fad diagnoses. It’s autism. I’ll bet everyone who was formerly diagnosed with ADHD, social anxiety disorder, borderline personality disorder, etc., is now being redefined and re-diagnosed as having some form of autism. Is there really any objective measure – a specific gene defect or some biological marker that can be used to diagnose this? If not, what will the next fad diagnosis be?
Now, I know that there are no biological markers for such things as severe depression and schizophrenia and such, but anyone who has been around such people can clearly say something was wrong. Schizophrenics go into phases when they are not normal (of course, many sane people can easily mimic them, but that’s not the point – normal people don’t do it unless they are trying to be manipulative for some reason). Major depression occurs without an inciting event, such as grief. These people cannot understand why they are so depressed and are helpless to improve their moods. Though there are no objective measures, science has been able to identify certain hormones involved in these mood disorders.
But, what about autism? All we have are a set of behavioural disturbances. In severe cases, they appear somewhat retarded. But mild cases where people are high-functioning, how can they really be classified as autistic? Why isn’t it some form of mild retardation? Why isn’t it just severe social anxiety? Why isn’t it just normal but extreme shyness? And is there really any “treatment” for these cases? No! It’s just ridiculous. I have a big issue with it because if I’m not careful, my children might be considered autistic and I know they are not. I will go out of my way to point out their lack of social interaction and will not hide behind silly scapegoat diagnoses.
Yes, another one of those blog pieces about nutritious food. A new report states that beetroot juice can increase your stamina. Of course, this was based on a small study, but it is encouraging and means that more research will be put into it.
Though I would not be one to downplay any health benefits from natural food sources, it does make me wonder how these studies come about to begin with. We have been hearing about so many different food links to Alzheimer’s and I remain sceptical about many of those – especially because the links are tenuous and require excessive amounts that would be nearly impossible to achieve. However, this beetroot juice might have some real science behind it.
Beetroot juice contains nitrogen, which is believed to have benefits inside the body. How it does this is still unknown, but it is postulated that it may be converted to nitric oxide, which decreases the body’s need for oxygen, therefore, it can do more work with less effort or stress on the body. As a result, the stamina is increased. Previously, it was shown that beetroot juice can lower blood pressure. If this nitric oxide theory is correct, it may account for the lower blood pressure as well.
So, for those beet lovers, this is good news. My father was the only one in the family who liked beets. We all used to make fun of him. Of course, not having eaten any beets since ages ago, I cannot even remember what it takes like or why I didn’t like it. I suppose I could give it another try. It wouldn’t hurt and it just might help get me through this lethargic period that is brought on by heat and humidity.
Now that there are documented reports of healthy individuals contracting and dying from swine flu, it becomes a more serious issue. Yes, the authorities are still trying to calm people by reassuring them that most cases are mild, but it cannot eradicate the uncertainties that such a thing can strike close to home.
Every time someone coughs or sneezes, we joke about swine flu, and I hope that “normal” bystanders will recognise that we are only teasing and not think that we have swine flu and attempt to have us removed or quarantined. But, I suppose that since it is becoming more serious, the jokes should end.
The school has sent out notices to encourage us to teach the kids to follow good sanitary hygiene, whether at home, school or anywhere else. We do our best, but we cannot guarantee that the kids will follow everything we tell them. It does not help that the state of public bathrooms leaves much to be desired in terms of sanitation and hygiene. Perhaps, the councils should start by having more people inspect these public toilets more often and ensuring that there is adequate soap and water or even hand sanitizer.
Swine flu is not “uncontainable”, so everyone is at risk. But, steps need to be undertaken to prevent the spread or at least, limit it.
We have had seven deaths in the UK linked to swine flu. Though the flu has not been confirmed as the cause of death in all the new cases, it may have hastened it. The only thing reported about all seven cases is that they all suffered underlying health problems, despite the fact that they are all relatively young (under 40), except one. What these “underlying health problems” are is not revealed except in the case of the youngest – a girl of 6 with an immune disorder. The secrecy behind the health problems leaves one wondering if it is not a cover-up.
So far, most cases are mild, but the pandemic is spreading at an extremely rapid pace and it is expected to increase in the coming month, with predictions of around 100,000 new cases a day. At that rate, it would not be surprising for resistance to occur. In fact, it has already occurred outside of the UK. Given these statistics, I find it extremely shocking that there are some ill-informed people giving swine flu parties. With the holiday season coming on, the chances of catching swine flu seem almost inevitable.
We are in a heat wave in southern England. While some may be ecstatic with this heat, as it relates to tanning and such, I am at the other end of the spectrum. So is my younger daughter.
I’ve had my say about the dangers of tanning as well as sun damage. I’ve already mentioned my sun allergies with rashes and such. But the big problem that public health officials would like to emphasise at this time, and rightly so, is heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
My younger daughter is susceptible to heat exhaustion. Despite the fact that she is a big water-drinker, the heat wears her out. Heat tends to make everyone rather lethargic. Hence, the desire to sit or sleep under a tree. My daughter complains of “not feeling well”. This usually equates to stomachaches or nausea. She does mention being “sick in the stomach”. But, unusually, it leads to diarrhea. Since heat exhaustion results from dehydration, diarrhea only worsens the dehydration.
Typical signs of heat exhaustion and dehydration are fatigue, headaches, nausea/vomiting, weakness, excessive sweating, paleness, and rapid pulse. If not treated early and appropriately with fluids and electrolytes as well as cool air, heat exhaustion can progress to heat stroke, which is especially dangerous. Heat stroke has led to death, even in young healthy individuals.
Heat stroke signs include confusion and coma, excessively high blood pressure and very rapid heart rate. Other signs of heat exhaustion are intensified. Those most at risk of heat stroke are infants, elderly and athletes who have to play in the heat. Heat stroke is a medical emergency and requires immediate attention.
So, if you’re going to have your fun in the sun, take the necessary precautions with adequate sun protection and adequate and frequent hydration with fluids, especially those with some electrolytes. I know if my daughter wears a hat, her susceptibility to exhaustion is reduced. However, she usually recognises when it’s time to get indoors or to a cooler place. For those who cannot recognise this, we should do our part to help them.
I often get headaches for the few days surrounding my cycle, but I don’t believe I truly suffer from menstrual migraines. Yet, I do believe that some of those headaches are migraines and a few may be related to the menstrual cycle. However, I do not suffer from the regularity of true menstrual-related migraines.
Menstrual migraines are believed to be associated with the drop in estrogen that is seen at the end of a monthly cycle (and the beginning of menstruation). It can start anytime from about 2 days before the flow of menses and end a few days after. Migraine sufferers may only experience these headaches around their cycle, while others may have their migraines exacerbated by it. Yet, inexplicably, others may experience migraines outside this relationship.
Symptoms of menstrual migraines are similar to any other migraines. Some experience auras while others may not. The headaches are usually one-sided, though it may spread to the other side, and are usually described as pounding. The severity differs from individual to individual and episode to episode, but it can be quite severe. Other associated symptoms, such as visual disturbances, nausea/vomiting, dizziness, and confusion may be present.
I do get migraines and most of the time, I get the nausea/vomiting/dizziness more than the headache. It can be quite incapacitating. These migraines are usually triggered by some kind of stress, but sometimes the only “stress” I can identity is the start of the cycle. That is why I believe some of them are menstrual migraines. However, because I do not get them every month, I do not consider myself one of those who have a true diagnosis of menstrual migraines.
I make this clarification because in recent years, menstrual migraines have been getting public attention, especially when drug companies are trying to market medications for the treatment of such things. I am not a pill pusher and do not like the idea of taking a pill for anything and everything. However, I am not averse to taking some Tylenol for pain occasionally.
I may not get migraines, but I often get headaches around my cycle. I attribute this to the tightening in the muscles in my upper back and shoulders as a result of cramping. I know this must be the case because I can feel the tension as I do neck exercises to work it out, or when I massage myself and can feel the pain in the muscles from the scalp down to the upper back and shoulders. I just wish I had more willing masseurs. It’s hard to reach back and give yourself a massage without causing other parts of your arm to go sore.
Headaches are common, but it’s surprising that menstrual migraines are also very common amongst women. It may explain why migraines are much more common in women than in men.
Following on my issues about constipation. I remember a colleague called in the maintenance man because the toilet was plugged up and she couldn’t unplug it. He joked about the women in the office and suggested they added fiber to their diet. She countered with, “But that would make it worse!”
Strange isn’t it that they recommend fiber for constipation? There are reasons for it, but sometimes it seems counter-intuitive. I guess it really depends on what the constipation problem is. If someone produces large, hard stools, but has a hard time passing it, fiber might not be a good option. Fiber bulks up stool and helps the bowels move. However, if you already have bulky stools, you wouldn’t want to bulk it up some more. If you have small, hard stools, fiber might help.
If stools are hard, some use stool softeners. They are not laxatives in themselves, but because they sometimes soften stools too much, some people complain they get diarrhea. Perhaps, the best suggestion for some of these people may be to drink more water. Or even juices. Some people feel apple or grape juice can induce diarrhea. But, the one juice most people associate with bowel movements is prune juice. Prune juice is probably ideal because it contains fiber and liquid. However, it does not work for everyone, either. Of course, nothing is ever 100% guaranteed to work. I’ve tried prune juice and sometimes, it can cause cramping when it takes effect.
I know lots of people who resort to over-the-counter laxatives. Some people actually abuse them, because they wrongly assume they have constipation when it may not be. Then, there are those anorexics who abuse them for the sole purpose of remaining thin. However, you look at it, laxative abuse is dangerous. For that matter, many doctors hate it when people use laxatives, especially when they don’t inform their doctors about their use. It may interfere with other medications or cause other problems that may be misdiagnosed.
Regular exercise is also supposed to be good as it keeps the body fit and functioning properly. Yet, how to gauge the effect of exercise is difficult. I’m not a couch potato, but neither am I excessively active. But, summer is here, so I should make a conscious effort to engage in real exercise every day.
One of my most common complaints, though not a serious health issue, is constipation. Now, I realise that to actually have a diagnosis of constipation it should be a change in bowel pattern, such that it is not normal to myself. Everyone’s bowel habits are different – some go twice a day, while others may not go more than once a week. I fall somewhere in between, but there are other symptoms I suffer when I know I have constipation. One of those symptoms is bloating. And last night was one of those severe nights of bloating.
I was unable to sleep because every position was uncomfortable. I felt I needed to vomit to release everything inside my stomach. The stretching of the bowels was painful and as I rubbed my belly for comfort, it felt like I was distended from pregnancy. A large, loud burp relieved some of the pain and distention, but immediately, it would build up again. I had to sit, leaning forward to ease some of the pain.
In the past, I would turn to liquid antacids for relief. It did not always help and for many years, I have taken nothing. Yet, last night I was wishing for some. I had to turn to a peppermint lozenge. Why? Because I know that mints are one of the no-nos for people who suffer from acid reflux. (It may be that I have a problem with acid reflux due to my love of mints, which may be the culprit for all this bloating.) However, I understand that the mechanism of action is that mints lower the pressure in the lower esophageal sphincter, that muscle that separates the end of the esophagus and the stomach. This muscle relaxes in order to allow food to enter the stomach and contracts to prevent food from returning to the esophagus. Mints act to relax the muscle, which exacerbates acid reflux. However, I felt I needed it to relax to release all the trapped air. Whether or not it worked, or whether the gas finally dissolved on its own, I cannot say. But, I do know that eventually, I felt sufficiently comfortable to return to bed.
Now, I’ve tried to identify the triggers for the bloating, but it never is constant. I can be eating the same thing day after day and not have a problem and then bang! I’m bloated. The one thing I can associate it with is constipation. If the bowels are blocked up at one end, gas cannot pass through that end. So, when I feel bloated, I try to burp. Excessive burping warns me that my bowels are blocked.
People may not find passing gas very pleasant, but it is a necessary and vital part of life. Kids love it, though – they think it’s hilarious. Now, one should be careful not to encourage them to fart too loudly in public or amongst crowds, but one should not discourage them from relieving themselves when necessary, either. They should do it tactfully and others should tactfully try to ignore it.
It’s interesting that a recent study regarding macular degeneration, which recommended eating oily fish to prevent progression of the disease, mentioned omega-3 but not lutein.
For the past few years, the antioxidant lutein was believed to be so beneficial that ophthalmologists recommended it to their patients. But, this new study shows mixed results. Of course, the focus was on omega-3, which showed to be protective for eye health against age-related macular degeneration. The use of additional antioxidant vitamins, unfortunately, seemed to negate the positive benefits in early macular degeneration. However, it did show benefit in advanced stages.
The recommendation on oily fish limits it to twice a week. Experts warn that too much oily fish would lead to accumulation of low levels of pollutants. So, every advice has a silver lining.
I eat quite a lot of fish and I wear glasses. I don’t have macular degeneration, but I suppose I should avoid taking vitamins in case I should develop macular degeneration and push it to an advanced state. Eat fish – don’t take vitamins. Take vitamins – don’t eat fish? The article did not address whether omega-3 or lutein had more benefit.