Author: Guest Contributor

What is High Blood Pressure and What Should You Know?

You’ve probably heard your doctor, or a member of your family, tell you that it’s a good idea to monitor your blood pressure. Since May is National High Blood Pressure Education month, here are some reasons why it’s important that you pay attention to this number. First, let’s start off with the basics: What is Blood Pressure? At its simplest, blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries as the heart pumps blood. If this pressure rises and stays high over time, it can damage the body. That’s why it is important to know your blood pressure and follow your health care professional’s instructions if it is too high. Why Should We Care About High Blood Pressure? High blood pressure is a serious condition that can lead to heart disease, heart failure, stroke, kidney failure, vision loss, and other health problems. In fact, high blood pressure puts millions of Americans at increased risk for heart disease and stroke – two of the leading causes of death in the U.S. Do I Have High Blood Pressure? Your blood pressure is made up of two numbers, like a fraction. It is measured in millimeters of mercury (abbreviated as mmHg). Both numbers are important in determining whether your blood pressure is normal or high. The top number (known as systolic) represents the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart beats, while the...

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What You Need to Know About: Diverticular Disease

It is estimated that about 50% of people over the age of 60 are living with diverticular disease.  Many people have heard the name, but many more are unsure of what it is, seeing as a large percentage of those who have diverticulosis do not suffer from any symptoms.  Diverticulosis is characterized by pouches forming in the colon, usually caused by a low fiber diet.   Individuals on low-fiber diets are more prone to constipation, which can cause increased colon pressure during a bowel movement and may lead to weakening of the colon wall and eventually diverticula.  Food can back up into the diverticula, or pouches in the colon, and bacteria can begin to thrive there leading to infection.  When these pockets, or diverticula, in the wall of the colon become inflamed or infected, this is specific type of diverticular infection called diverticulitis.  Although most people with diverticulosis never develop diverticulitis, it is more common in people as they grow older and symptoms should not be overlooked as surgery may be necessary for proper treatment. Common symptoms of diverticulitis include: Pain on lower left side of the abdomen Stomach pain Fever Bloating Diarrhea Nausea Cramping Rectal Bleeding A CT scan will typically be recommended for patients experiencing these symptoms.  The problem is diverticulitis will not always appear on a CT scan.  Physicians need to make the diagnosis using alternative means,...

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De-stress yourself and stay away from asthma

Asthma has long been considered as a situation in which the psychological factors play a very important role. Stress is a very well known asthma trigger. Anxiety too is considered to be very harmful for the people with asthma. These are the two factors that may cause your asthma symptoms to become poorer. To avoid stress in today’s life is very difficult. While stressed people start behaving differently, in extreme cases even a thought of something that worries them or startle them trigger the emotional outbursts. If a person is suffering from asthma or any other similar kind of allergy then you should remain aware that stress or too much of emotional outburst can easily worsen the situation. It is like a vicious cycle that keeps on repeating itself time and along with the stress. Stress or anxiety makes you feel short of breath and that may worsen your condition. A personal asthma management plan and a stress management plan should go hand in hand to over all control the outburst of asthmatic attack. One cannot avoid stress but one must try to develop the effective methods of stress management. One must first identify the symptoms of an asthmatic attack. This will help you to feel more confidence about taking care of the asthma: Coughing Shortness of breath or choking Tight chest Heavy palpitations Panic attacks Unable to speak...

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Food-borne Illnesses: Staying Healthy

Although most are preventable, foodborne illnesses continue to be a big problem in the United States. It seems as if every few months we hear about another food-borne illness outbreak, whether it is caused by the well-known culprits Salmonella and E. coli, or less familiar organisms like Listeria, or Vibrio. The CDC (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) estimates that there are almost 50 million illnesses linked to foodborne illness annually.  Why are these outbreaks so common and how can you stay safe? Food-borne illness, also referred to as food poisoning, results from eating food contaminated by infectious organisms and/or their toxins.  These infectious organisms can contaminate food throughout the production process: growing, harvesting, processing, storing, transporting or cooking.  For example, in the recent case of cantaloupes, contamination could have occurred at multiple points.  Their rough, porous skin is an ideal breeding ground for bacteria.  They grow on the ground where they are exposed to dirt, germs and possibly, animal feces; their crevices make thorough cleaning difficult and while cutting them, knives can transfer the bacteria to the inside flesh. Symptoms of food poisoning can begin anywhere from hours to days or even weeks after consuming contaminated food.  Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain/cramps and fever are the most common symptoms associated with food poisoning and last, on average, from one to ten days.  Treatment most often involves rehydration...

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May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month

With May rapidly approaching, and warmer weather giving way to more time spent outdoors – protecting our skin becomes a top priority.  Skin cancer, the abnormal growth of skin cells, affects people of all ages and races and most often develops on those areas most exposed to the sun.  It is the most common form of cancer diagnosed in the U.S. with more than 3.5 million diagnoses annually – more than the new diagnoses of breast, prostate, lung and colon cancers combined.  In 2014 it is estimated that there will be over 140,000 new cases of melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer. 1 There are three major types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and melanoma.  BCC is the most common form of skin cancer and most often occurs on the most sun-exposed areas of your body (i.e. face and neck).  It often appears as a pearly or waxy bump or a flat, flesh-colored or brown scar-like lesion.  SCC also often occurs on sun-exposed areas of your body but presents as a firm, red nodule or a flat, scaly or crusty lesion.  Melanoma, on the other hand, can develop anywhere on your body, even skin that is not often exposed to the sun.  In men, it most commonly appears on the trunk, head or neck, while in women, on the lower legs. ...

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Sperm from Skin? Almost!

Can skin be turned into sperm? The answer is “yes” in mice and “almost” in man. Yup, we are one small step closer to the holy grail of making sperm from stem cells. And this time, it looks like it might happen using stem cells that are widely available for men. What’s the Buzz? You know that I am obsessed with helping men who have no sperm become biological fathers. When FNA mapping yields no testicular sperm, I ask men to do what they have to do to keep moving forward…but to stay tuned to the research advance as well. Honestly, I consider our latest published research a significant “moment” in the sperm-from-no-sperm continuum. And, it hinges on the great potential of good ole’ stem cells. Where’s the Beef? In this study, we took tiny skin biopsies from generous patients who were deemed, by the latest and greatest techniques such as sperm mapping, to have no testicular sperm. They also had good reason for there circumstance: each harbored a genetic issue called a Y chromosome microdeletion. Then, using Nobel Prize proven technology, my collaborators at Stanford University cleverly converted these adult skin cells into stem cells. A cool, and now old-school technique in stem cell science. They then transplanted these adult stem cells into mouse testicles to see what they would do within a relatively natural and ready-made, “live” testicle. You see, stem cells like to “fit in” and typically respond to their environment or “niche” and develop into cells that suits...

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Protect Your Eyes: Celebrate Healthy Vision Month this May!

Did you know an estimated 61 million Americans are at high risk for serious vision loss? Or that every 13 seconds, someone in the United States goes to the hospital for a sports-related injury? Our eyes are not always top of mind, but they’re important! May is Healthy Vision Month, an observance coordinated by the National Eye Institute (NEI) under the National Institutes of Health (NIH), dedicated to empowering Americans to make their eye health a priority and educating them about steps they can take to protect their vision.  So what are some steps you can take to protect your eyes? Get a dilated eye exam. When it comes to common vision problems, many people don’t realize their vision could be improved with glasses or contact lenses. In addition, many common eye diseases have no symptoms. A dilated eye exam is the only way to detect these diseases in their early stages.  Live a healthy lifestyle. Almost everything we do affects our eyes, so it’s important to live a healthy life. To keep our vision healthy, it is important to: Eat healthy foods, especially dark leafy greens such as spinach and kale and fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, including salmon, halibut, and tuna. Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese can increase your risk of developing diabetes and other systemic conditions, which can lead to vision loss....

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Do You Know Your Numbers? Why Blood Pressure is Important to Your Well-Being

Author: The Measure Up/Pressure Down © Campaign The next time you’re sitting in the bleachers at a sporting event or in a pew at church, take a look around. Odds are that someone sitting next to you – or you – has high blood pressure. Nearly one in three adults in the U.S. has high blood pressure, also called hypertension by medical professionals. May marks National High Blood Pressure Education Month – a time for raising awareness about the disease and encouraging men and women to get in control. High Blood Pressure Basics At its simplest, high blood pressure means that the force of blood pushing through your body is too strong. That pressure puts a strain on your arteries and causes damage to your body. If this pressure stays high over time, it can lead to heart disease, heart attack, stroke, and other serious conditions. Blood pressure measurements are quick and painless. At a doctor’s appointment, your physician, nurse, or other health professional will wrap a cuff around your upper arm and take measurements. Automatic machines can be purchased for home use or used in many pharmacies. Your blood pressure consists of two numbers. The top number (systolic reading) is your blood pressure at the moment your heart beats. The bottom number (diastolic) is your pressure at the moment between heart beats. The chart below shows what your...

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Artificial Sweeteners: Friend or Foe

Despite intense scrutiny of artificial sweeteners for years, the product continues to be popular with dieters, diabetics and many just looking for a sweet fix. Even in the face of declining soda sales, the market share of diet soda continues to expand, with the second most popular soda being a diet variety. At the same time, the global market for non-sugar sweeteners has had impressive sales in recent years. In 2010, over 9 million dollars were spent on non-sugar sweeteners, with the industry anticipating continued growth in coming years. Similarly, artificial sweeteners have been embraced by those seeking to lose weight. Obesity is a growing global epidemic, representing a serious public health problem. In the United States over one third of people are obese and thus at an increased risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Overall, the cost of obesity exceeds 110 billion dollars annually, representing a major economic burden. Interestingly, recent studies have actually shown a relationship between weight-gain and artificial sweeteners. Researchers speculate that when we consume sugar-substitutes, the body expects to see surge in glucose. When this expectation is not met, we continue to crave sweets, consuming food until the craving is met. The key to weight loss however is cutting the total number of calories consumed, thus it is essential to be a mindful eater. One of the main health concerns associated with artificial sweeteners is a possible increased cancer risk. In the 1970’s, studies...

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‘Robotic’ Sperm to Fight Infertility

Up until recently, health and medicine was basically a hit or miss affair. We would discover interventions such as drugs that had benefits, but also many side effects. With recent research information from Dresden, Germany sperm can now be trapped in nanotubes (grown in a lab with a cylindrical structure that exhibits heat and electrical properties, which are then fabricated on a wafer or “chip”). Then a magnet is used to direct the sperm to the egg, giving the patient a larger chance for impregnation or fertilization. The problem when sperm is released naturally, it can travel anywhere. You start off with millions of sperm that typically last for two days, but unfortunately only one sperm makes it to the egg. You ask yourself, how will this be done? The method for this technology, is simply using the tail of the sperm to do the electrical work then using a magnetic field to direct the sperm. Think of it like a compass needle aligning with the Earth’s magnetic field. It is far easy to control a single cell (like the sperm) that propels itself through fluid with its whip-like tail. Until now, researchers had only managed to persuade groups of cells to cooperate, with the help of mathematical measurements over a distance and magnetic fields. To create the spermbots, the research team builds the nanotubes from using iron and titanium nanoparticles (very small particles). They then add the tubes to a...

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