Archive for September, 2006

Cholesterol: Overview

Monday, September 25th, 2006

Cholesterol is a soft, fat-like, waxy substance found in the bloodstream and in all your body’s cells. It’s normal to have cholesterol. It’s an important part of a healthy body because it’s used for producing cell membranes and some hormones, and serves other needed bodily functions. But too much cholesterol in the blood is a major risk for coronary heart disease, which leads to heart attack. It’s also a risk factor for stroke. Hypercholesterolemia is the term for high levels of blood cholesterol.
You get cholesterol in two ways. Your body makes some of it, and the rest comes from cholesterol in animal products that you eat, such as meats, poultry, fish, eggs, butter, cheese and whole milk. Food from plants — like fruits, vegetables and cereals — doesn’t have cholesterol. Some foods that don’t contain animal products may contain trans fats, which cause your body to make more cholesterol. Foods with saturated fats also cause the body to make more cholesterol.

Cholesterol and other fats can’t dissolve in the blood. They have to be transported to and from the cells by special carriers called lipoproteins. There are two kinds that you need to know about. Low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, is known as the “bad” cholesterol. Too much LDL cholesterol can clog your arteries, increasing your risk of heart attack and stroke. High-density lipoprotein, or HDL, is known as the “good” cholesterol. Your body makes HDL cholesterol for your protection. It carries cholesterol away from your arteries. Studies suggest that high levels of HDL cholesterol reduce your risk of heart attack.

High Cholesterol Causes Heart Disease

Monday, September 25th, 2006

Too much cholesterol in the blood, or high blood cholesterol, can be serious. People with high blood cholesterol have a greater chance of getting heart disease. High blood cholesterol on its own does not cause symptoms, so many people are unaware that their cholesterol level is too high.

cholesterol.jpgCholesterol can build up on the walls of your arteries (blood vessels that carry blood from the heart to other parts of the body). This buildup of cholesterol is called plaque (plak). Over time, plaque can cause narrowing of the arteries. This is called atherosclerosis (ath-er-o-skler-O-sis), or hardening of the arteries.

Special arteries, called coronary arteries, bring blood to the heart. Narrowing of your coronary arteries due to plaque can stop or slow down the flow of blood to your heart. When the arteries narrow, the amount of oxygen-rich blood is decreased. This is called coronary artery disease (CAD). Large plaque areas can lead to chest pain called angina (an-JI-nuh or AN-juh-nuh). Angina happens when the heart does not receive enough oxygen-rich blood. Angina is a common symptom of CAD.

Some plaques have a thin covering and burst (rupture), releasing fat and cholesterol into the bloodstream. The release of fat and cholesterol may cause your blood to clot. A clot can block the flow of blood. This blockage can cause angina or a heart attack.

Lowering your cholesterol level decreases your chance for having a plaque burst and cause a heart attack. Lowering cholesterol may also slow down, reduce, or even stop plaque from building up. Plaque and resulting health problems can also occur in arteries elsewhere in the body.

Healthy Cholesterol Levels

Monday, September 25th, 2006

What cholesterol levels are healthy varies from persong to person. If you have several risk factors for heart disease, such as diabetes, smoking, or high blood pressure, you should find out from your doctor what your own target levels should be. If you have one or no such risk factors, a total cholesterol level below 200 is usually desirable, while a HDL level greater than 35 is also good. Most important, your LDL level should be less than 130. However, since no one’s numbers ever match up exactly with the textbook figures, it’s good to have your doc help you with the figuring and interpreting of your lab values.

What Causes High LDL Cholesterol Levels?

Monday, September 25th, 2006

Some of the factors that can lead to high cholesterol are:

Overweight – Excess weight has been linked with high cholesterol levels.

Heredity – If cholesterol problems or heart disease run in your family, you are at a higher risk for having problems.

Diet – Remember the saying “you are what you eat”? Avoid foods that are high in cholesterol, saturated fat, and trans fat, all of which increase cholesterol levels and your risk of developing heart disease.

Physical activity – Exercise tends to increase HDL levels, which lowers your chance of developing heart disease.

Age – The risk of high cholesterol increases as you get older.

Tips to Lower Cholesterol Level

Monday, September 25th, 2006

The only way to check your cholesterol is to visit your doctor and have a blood cholesterol test. This is a simple, painless procedure. If you are over 40, you should have your cholesterol level checked each year. High cholesterol levels are the result of three main factors. (a) Our genes. (b) Our diet. (c) Our lifestyle.

We can’t change our genes, but we can change our diet and lifestyle. To lower your cholesterol level, here are five simple tips:

  1. Reduce your total fat-intake.
  2. Eliminate your consumption of saturated fat.
  3. Increase your consumption of soluble fiber. Unprocessed plant foods, like vegetables, dried beans, lentils, fruit (esp. berries, bananas, apples and citrus fruits) and oats or oat-bran are good sources of soluble fiber.
  4. Stop smoking.
  5. Take regular exercise.

What is Tuberculosis

Wednesday, September 13th, 2006

Tuberculosis.jpgTuberculosis (TB) is a disease caused by bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The bacteria usually attack the lungs. But, TB bacteria can attack any part of the body such as the kidney, spine, and brain. If not treated properly, TB disease can be fatal. TB disease was once the leading cause of death in the United States.

TB is spread through the air from one person to another. The bacteria are put into the air when a person with active TB disease of the lungs or throat coughs or sneezes. People nearby may breathe in these bacteria and become infected.

However, not everyone infected with TB bacteria becomes sick. People who are not sick have what is called latent TB infection. People who have latent TB infection do not feel sick, do not have any symptoms, and cannot spread TB to others. But, some people with latent TB infection go on to get TB disease.

People with active TB disease can be treated and cured if they seek medical help. Even better, people with latent TB infection can take medicine so that they will not develop active TB disease.

Difference between TB infection and TB disease

Wednesday, September 13th, 2006

In most people who become infected, the body’s immune system is able to fight the TB bacteria and stop them from multiplying. The bacteria are not killed, but they become inactive and are stored harmlessly in the body. This is TB infection. People with TB infection have no symptoms and cannot spread the infection to others. However, the bacteria remain alive in the body and can become active again later.

If an infected person’s immune system cannot stop the bacteria from multiplying, the bacteria eventually cause symptoms of active TB, or TB disease. To spread TB to others, a person must have TB disease.

Most people who have TB infection never develop TB disease. But some infected people are more likely to develop TB disease than others. They include babies and children, persons with weak immune systems, and persons with some other kinds of lung disease. These people should take medicine to keep from developing TB disease. This is called preventive therapy.

Signs and Symptoms of Tuberculosis

Wednesday, September 13th, 2006

Typical signs of tuberculosis are:

  • Chronic or persistent cough and sputum production. If the disease is at an advanced stage the sputum will contain blood.
  • Fatigue.
  • Lack of appetite.
  • Weight loss.
  • Fever.
  • Night sweats.

Tuberculosis can mimic many forms of disease and must always be considered if no firm diagnosis has been made.

Tuberculosis can be treated

Wednesday, September 13th, 2006

Tuberculosis can be treated very effectively through a combination of drugs. It is important to follow the physician’s directions and take the drugs exactly as recommended. If you forget to take your pills or if you take only one of them, the tuberculosis germs might become resistant to the drugs and start growing again.

Cancer: Overview

Monday, September 11th, 2006

Cancer refers to any one of a large number of diseases characterized by the development of abnormal cells that divide uncontrollably and have the ability to infiltrate and destroy normal body tissue. Cancer can spread throughout your body.

As cells age, there is a constant process of cells dying and being replaced by new cells. This is usually an orderly process, but if too many new cells are created they form a tumour. Some tumours are not cancerous (benign) but malignant tumours (cancers) can spread. Both benign and malignant tumors are abnormal. A benign tumor is encased in a membrane that keeps it from getting to other body tissues. Benign tumors are not images2.jpgconsidered to be cancerous but can cause damage to healthy tissues when the mass is large enough to compress them. A malignant tumor is much more dangerous and harmful than a benign tumor. A malignant tumor is cancerous because the cells are not encased in a membrane and can invade and destroy nearby tissues.  Sometimes cells break away from the original (primary) cancer and spread to other parts of the body through the bloodstream or lymphatic system. These cells may continue to duplicate in an uncontrolled way, forming a new tumour in a different part of the body.

Curing cancer has been a major goal of medical researchers for decades, but development of new treatments takes time and money. Already there are many forms of cancer which are no longer considered untreatable.

Signs and Symptoms of Cancer

Monday, September 11th, 2006

Cancer, initially as a tiny mass of cells, produces no symptoms whatsoever. When cancer grows in an area with a lot of space, such as in the wall of the large intestine, it may not cause any symptoms until it becomes quite large. In contrast, a cancer growing in a more restricted space, such as on a vocal cord, may cause symptoms (such as hoarseness) when it is relatively small.

Cancers produce symptoms by growing into and thus irritating or destroying other tissues, putting pressure on other tissues, producing toxic substances, and using energy and nutrients normally available for other bodily functions. Cancer may cause one set of symptoms as it grows in its initial site and cause different symptoms as it spreads (metastasizes) to other parts of the body.

As a cancer grows and spreads throughout the body, a number of complications can result. Some of these complications can be serious and require emergency treatment. Certain complications, called paraneoplastic syndromes, result when substances produced by cancers spread throughout the body.

Danger Signs of Cancer

  1. Unusual bleeding or discharge.
  2. A lump or thickening in the breast or otherwise
  3. A sore that does not heal
  4. Change in bowel or bladder habits.
  5. Persistant hoarseness or cough.
  6. Persistant indigestion or difficulty in swallowing
  7. Change in a wort or mole

Major causes of Cancer

Monday, September 11th, 2006

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Major causes of cancer, as identified by the joint Cancer Care Ontario / Canadian Cancer Society, Ontario division report Cancer 2020 summary report are:

  • Tobacco use
  • Diet, obesity and inactivity
  • Occupation and environment
  • Family History
  • Other Factors (biological agents, reproductive factors, radiation & sunlight, alcohol, socio-economic class, drugs, food additives/contaminants)

In 2001, the most frequently diagnosed cancer continues to be breast cancer for women and prostate cancer for men. The leading cause of cancer among both sexes continues to be smoking.

The majority of these cancers occur because of lifestyle or environmental factors. These factors can easily be changed! When we adopt new, healthy behaviours that focus on cancer-prevention, we lower our risk of cancer by up to 70%.

Types of Cancer

Monday, September 11th, 2006

Several factors, like location and how the cancerous cells appear under the microscope etc. determine the type of cancer. All cancers, however, fall into one of four broad categories:

Carcinoma

Carcinoma is a malignant neoplasm of epithelial origin. It is a tumor that arises in the tissues that line the body’s organs like the nose, the colon, the penis, breasts, prostrate, urinary bladder, and the ureter. About 80% of all cancer cases are carcinomas.

Sarcomas

Sarcomas are tumors that originate in bone, muscle, cartilage, fibrous tissue or fat. Ewing sarcoma (Family of tumors) and Kaposi’s sarcoma are the common types of sarcomas.

Leukemias

Leukemias are cancers of the blood or blood-forming organs. When leukemia develops, the body produces a large number of abnormal blood cells. In most types of leukemia, the abnormal cells are white blood cells. The leukemia cells usually look different from normal blood cells, and they do not function properly. Leukemia can either be acute or chronic. In acute leukemia the abnormal blood cells are blasts that remain very immature and cannot carry out their normal functions. The number of blasts increases rapidly, thus creating a greater and earlier impact on the victim. In chronic leukemia, some blast cells are present which are comparatively more mature, and thus can carry out some of their normal functions.

Lymphomas

Lymphomas affect the lymphatic system, a network of vessels and nodes that acts as the body’s filter. The lymphatic system distributes nutrients to blood and tissue, and prevents bacteria and other foreign “invaders” from entering the bloodstream. There are over 20 types of lymphoma. Hodgkin’s disease is one type of lymphoma. All other lymphomas are grouped together and are called non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma may occur in a single lymph node, a group of lymph nodes, or in another organ. This type of cancer can spread to almost any part of the body, including the liver, bone marrow, and spleen.

Cancer Treatment

Monday, September 11th, 2006

Treatment of Cancer varies depending upon type, stage and overall condition of the cancer. In addition it depends upon the goal i.e. whether the treatment is to cure hte cancer, or prevent it from spreading, or to relieve the symptoms caused by cancer.  Depending on these factors, one may receive one or more of the following:

Surgery: Surgery is used to diagnose cancer, determine its stage, and to treat cancer.

Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is any treatment involving the use of drugs to kill cancer cells.

Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy, or radiotherapy, uses high-energy rays to damage or kill cancer cells by preventing them from growing and dividing.

Hormonal therapy: Hormones are naturally occurring substances in the body that stimulate the growth of hormone sensitive tissues, such as the breast or prostate gland.

Targeted therapy: A targeted therapy is one that is designed to treat only the cancer cells and minimize damage to normal, healthy cells.

One or more treatment modalities may be used to provide you with the most effective treatment.  Increasingly, it is common to use several treatment modalities together (concurrently) or in sequence with the goal of preventing recurrence.  This is referred to as multi-modality treatment of the cancer.

Osteoporosis Overview

Friday, September 8th, 2006

osteoporosis.jpgOsteoporosis, which means “porous bones,” causes bones to become weak and brittle — so brittle that even mild stresses like bending over, lifting a vacuum cleaner or coughing can cause a fracture. In most cases, bones weaken when you have low levels of calcium, phosphorus and other minerals in your bones. Osteoporosis can also accompany endocrine disorders or result from excessive use of drugs such as corticosteroids.

A common result of osteoporosis is fractures — most of them in the spine, hip or wrist. Although it’s often thought of as a women’s disease, osteoporosis also affects a significant number of men. And compared with the number of women and men who have osteoporosis, many more have low bone density. Even children aren’t immune. Yet it’s never too late — or too early — to do something about osteoporosis. Everyone can take steps to keep bones strong and healthy throughout life.

Osteoporosis Symptoms

Friday, September 8th, 2006

The osteoporosis condition can operate silently for decades, because osteoporosis doesn’t cause symptoms unless bone fractures. Some osteoporosis fractures may escape detection until years later. Therefore, patients may not be aware of their osteoporosis until they suffer a painful fracture. Then the symptoms are related to the location of the fractures.

Fractures of the spine (vertebra) can cause severe “band-like” pain that radiates around from the back to the side of the body. Over the years, repeated spine fractures can cause chronic lower back pain as well as loss of height or curving of the spine, which gives the individual a hunched-back appearance often called a “dowager hump”.

A fracture that occurs during the course of normal activity is called a minimal trauma fracture. For example, some patients with osteoporosis develop stress fractures of the feet while walking or stepping off a curb.

Hip fractures typically occur as a result of a fall. With osteoporosis, hip fractures can occur as a result of trivial accidents. Hip fractures may also be difficult to heal after surgical repair because of poor bone quality.

Osteoporosis Causes

Friday, September 8th, 2006

There is no single cause of osteoporosis. Our bodies constantly build new bone and remove older bone. In childhood, more bone is built than removed, and so the bones grow in size. After age 30 or 40, however, the cells that build new bone do not keep up with those that remove bone. The total amount of bone then decreases, and osteoporosis may develop as a result.

The average rate of bone loss in men, and in women who have not yet reached menopause, is small. But after menopause, bone loss in women accelerates to an average of one to two percent a year.

This is because after menopause, the level of the female hormone estrogen in a woman’s body sharply decreases. Estrogen protects the skeleton by helping the body’s bone-forming cells to keep working. After menopause, when the level decreases, some of this protection is lost.

What is Blood Pressure

Monday, September 4th, 2006

Blood pressure is the force of the blood against the artery walls. High blood pressure (hypertension) and low blood pressure (hypotension) can both cause cardiovascular problems.

Ambulatory blood pressure monitoring or tilt table tests may be used to diagnose these conditions. There are many types of high blood pressure, which may be treated with antihypertensive medications, such as diuretics, beta blockers and ACE inhibitors.

How blood pressure is measured

Monday, September 4th, 2006

Hypertension can be mild, moderate or severe. Your blood pressure is naturally higher when you are exerting yourself, such as during physical exercise. It is only a concern if your blood pressure is high when you are at rest, because this means your heart is overworked and your arteries have extra stress in their walls.

Blood pressure is measured in two ways:

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Systolic – the highest pressure against the arteries as the heart pumps. The normal systolic pressure is usually between 110 and 130 mm Hg. 

  Diastolic – the pressure against the arteries as the heart relaxes and fills with blood. The normal diastolic pressure is usually between 70 and 80 mm Hg.