Thursday, February 19, 2015

Health Care and Measles Update 2015

I have been writing this health care blog since 2007, and have published over 465 articles in the last eight years—sort of a Health Care 101 on all types of health care issues. For the most part, not too many of those have been updated with a follow up report—until this one. In 2012, I wrote an article about measles. With the recent outbreak in the US of this disease, just about wiped out fifteen years ago with only a few cases reported per year, has merited that this health care issue be re-examined.

Late last year, new cases of this very infectious disease started showing up. Since then, the number of measles cases in the United States has reached 141 patients in 17 states and the District of Columbia, federal health officials from the CDC have reported. The outbreak began at two Disney theme parks in southern California in December, the CDC says, and it's believed that the source of the infection was likely a foreign visitor or a U.S. resident returning from abroad.

Measles is still common in many parts of the world, including some countries in Europe, Asia, the Pacific and Africa, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The majority of people who've gotten measles in the current outbreak were unvaccinated. This is not good. Despite the United States having declared measles eliminated in 2000, the virus has awoken anew, and with all the grace and predictability of a large bear coming out of sedation.

According to the UK Independent, Though best known for its telltale dappled rash, measles is a wildly infectious upper respiratory disease. Like the flu, it's airborne  –  and successful. It has a near-perfect infection rate: Put your baby in a room with a measles patient, and nine times out of 10, measles is coming home with you. In the space shared between you and a coughing, sneezing measles-ridden sap, the sweet oxygenated room air and unavoidable door handles are thought to remain infectious for up to two hours.

And measles delivers a double whammy because a person becomes infectious before they even know they have it. Four days prior to the rash is when most people become able to spread the love. Here's how the virus pulls it off.

Symptoms start out like standard-issue wintertime gunk: fever, cough, runny nose, red eyes. A few days of that misery and the decorative stage of the illness starts with a carpet of red lesions. Koplik's spots may appear before the rash  –  that's when the bright, beefy red of the inner cheeks become studded with lots of tiny, blue-white dots.

Complications from measles arise in almost one in three reported cases, and range from diarrhea (8 per cent) and pneumonia (6 per cent) to encephalitis (0.1 per cent) and death (0.2 per cent). It gets worse. For more details about how measles develops, visit this site: http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/features/measles-makes-its-mark-all-over-again-one-of-humanitys-oldest-foes-is-back-on-the-increase-10054872.html#

According to the CDC it’s possible that measles could become endemic (constant presence of a disease in an area) in the United States again, especially if vaccine coverage levels drop. This can happen when people forget to get vaccinated on time, don’t know that they need a vaccine dose (this is most common among adults), or refuse vaccines for religious, philosophical or personal reasons. The measles vaccine is very effective. One dose of measles vaccine is about 93% effective at preventing measles if exposed to the virus, and two doses are about 97% effective.

Research shows that people who refuse vaccines tend to group together in communities. When measles gets into communities with pockets of unvaccinated people, outbreaks are more likely to occur. These communities make it difficult to control the spread of the disease and make us vulnerable to having the virus re-establish itself in the US. High sustained measles vaccine coverage and rapid public health response are critical for preventing and controlling measles cases and outbreaks.

People who received two doses of measles vaccine as children according to the U.S. vaccination schedule are considered protected for life and do not ever need a booster dose. Adults need at least one dose of measles vaccine, unless they have evidence of immunity.

Adults who are going to be in a setting that poses a high risk for measles transmission, including students at post-high school education institutions, healthcare personnel, and international travelers, should make sure they have had two doses separated by at least 28 days. If you’re not sure whether you were vaccinated, talk with your doctor. Significant amounts of material about measles is available at the this CDC site: http://www.cdc.gov/measles/ .

Children are especially susceptible to measles. According to this website: http://kidshealth.org/parent/infections/lung/measles.html, infants are generally protected from measles for 6 months after birth due to immunity passed on by their mothers. Measles vaccine usually is not given to infants younger than 12 months old. But if there's a measles outbreak, or a child will be traveling outside the United States, the vaccine may be given when a child is 6-11 months old, followed by the usual MMR immunization at 12-15 months and 4-6 years of age.

The measles vaccine sometimes causes side effects in kids who don't have underlying health problems. The most common reactions are fever 6-12 days after vaccination (in about 15% of kids vaccinated) and a measles-like rash, which isn't contagious and fades on its own (in about 5% of vaccinated kids). As with all immunization schedules, there are important exceptions and special circumstances. Your doctor will have the most current information about vaccine recommendations. The measles vaccine should not be given to these at-risk groups:

--Pregnant women
--Kids with untreated tuberculosis, leukemia, or other cancers
--People whose immune systems are weakened for any reason
--Kids who have a history of severe allergic reaction to gelatin or to the antibiotic neomycin, as they could have serious reactions to the vaccine

According to Forbes Magazine, it doesn’t take much for this disease to spread through a population that isn’t immune from previous exposure or through vaccination. Or, to put it another way, in an unvaccinated population, each person infected with the measles will transmit the disease to 12 to 18 other people. However, no vaccine can protect 100% of those who receive it; vaccines can fail.

The antibodies your body creates can wane, or your body may not have sufficiently responded to the vaccine in the first place. But those who are unvaccinated are at a greater risk by far. An unvaccinated person is 35 times more likely to catch measles than a vaccinated person.

Protection against measles is delivered within the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine. The second dose of the vaccine brings its effectiveness up to 99%. It’s a live vaccine, which ramps up the fear factor for some people, but it’s a vaccine we’ve been using since 1971. There is almost five decades of data with hundreds of millions of vaccinated individuals, and the medical community knows precisely the possible side effects of the vaccine.

The most common ones are a fever in one of six people, a mild rash in one of 20 people, and swollen glands in the cheeks or neck in one of 75 people. In one of every 3,000 doses, a child can experience a seizure caused by high fever, but febrile seizures do not cause any long-lasting damage, and they can be caused by illness (including measles) as well. A condition of low platelets, called ITP, can also occur in one out of 30,000 doses but usually goes away on its own. Any other severe occurrences that have been reported after the vaccine are, according to the CDC, “so rare that it is hard to tell whether they are caused by the vaccine.”

Measles is not a harmless childhood disease. It can kill and leave others with lifelong disabilities. Even if a person has an uncomplicated course of the disease, it’s still just a really miserable way to spend your time – a high fever, cough, sore throat and rash covering your entire body.

The problem is, there’s not much anyone can do for you when you’re sick except to help keep you hydrated. Doses of Vitamin A can reduce the severity of the symptoms, but is not a cure. More detailed information about the effects of measles on the population is available at this site: http://www.forbes.com/sites/tarahaelle/2015/01/20/five-things-to-know-about-the-disneyland-measles-outbreak/ .

So, what is the answer? Initially, and very importantly, consult your doctor if you think you or your child have contracted the disease or may be symptomatic. Secondly, get vaccinated if you can at all possible. The benefits and effects of vaccination for measles far outweigh the risks. Third, stay away from anyone who has measles. Practice smart health. It’s simply best for you and your family.

Until next time.

 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Health Care and Herbal Tea

For thousands of years, tea and the art of drinking it has had special significance in cultures around the globe. Japan, China, England, and the US are all huge markets for tea. Drinking tea can help your heart, boost your brainpower, keep your metabolism humming, and more according to Fitness Magazine. Entire industries have been built around tea, and America’s revolution against Great Britain was ignited over the Boston Tea Party in 1773.

Studies suggest that one cup of tea may contain up to five times more antioxidants than any fruit or vegetable. These disease-fighting compounds may help prevent certain cancers, keep your heart healthy, burn fat and ward off weight gain, sharpen your mind, and help your body beat the effects of aging and stress, according to experts reporting in Fitness Magazine. Much more detail on this topic can be found at this website: http://www.fitnessmagazine.com/recipes/drink/tea-health-benefits/ 

Although tea in general is a great beverage and has many healthy attributes, herbal tea has been found to be very good way to achieve even more ways to help your mind and body. According to Reader’s Digest Best Health Magazine, from soothing a troubled tummy to easing insomnia and calming a troubled mind, herbs have all sorts of healing powers. Drinking herbal tea can also be a great source of vitamins and minerals.

Herbal tea isn’t really made from tea—which is a specific kind of plant. The French use the word tisane, which is a little more accurate, since herbal tea is really just an infusion of leaves, seeds, roots or bark, extracted in hot water. In drinking a well-steeped herbal tea, you get all the plant’s benefits in an easily digestible form.

When it comes to choosing a herbal tea, it’s important to look for a well-sourced product made from high-quality ingredients. If you’re drinking tea for the medicinal benefits, then definitely steer clear of products that add things like essential oils or flavors. And to really get the full benefits from drinking herbal tea, make sure you steep your loose tea or tea bags long enough—in some cases, as long as 10 to 15 minutes—to really bring out all the healthful properties. More detailed information about herbal tea can be found at this website: http://www.besthealthmag.ca/best-eats/nutrition/7-herbal-teas-that-will-make-you-healthy#LV9ZqPRy1MCKcwhL.97 .

According to the Dallas Morning News, there are teas that claim to boost the immune system, relieve constipation or sleeplessness, promote healthy liver function, healthy digestion or healthy lactation, or to support the cardiovascular system or prostate health. But do they really work? For most, the benefits are modest at best, according to Michael Rotblatt, professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. He says that “Most of the manufacturers are basing their information on folklore or on whatever studies they can find.”

The good news for tea lovers is that plenty of data suggests health benefits from green or black tea, but few medicinal teas contain either, according to the report. Instead, they’re made with herbals like chamomile, dandelion, sarsaparilla, licorice root, saw palmetto, fennel or stinging nettle. Evidence has shown the benefits of some, such as ginger, hibiscus and peppermint.

The evidence of healthy benefits is much more credible for green tea and black tea, according to Neva Cochran, a registered dietitian in Dallas who has written about tea’s healthy ingredients in Food & Nutrition Magazine, published by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. However, the experts interviewed agreed on this: Tea is more healthful than soda. Unless you sweeten it with lots of sugar, tea will quench your thirst and help you hydrate without adding a lot of calories. All teas — black, green or herbal — contain phytochemicals, a key ingredient in the fruits and vegetables that we already know are part of a healthy diet.

The Dallas Morning News continues to report that more research is needed to back up the claims of most herbal teas, but nutritionists point to three exceptions that they say may offer modest benefits:

Ginger tea: Helps with nausea. Studies have shown that ginger may have a positive effect on digestion. Ginger helps with digestion by speeding up the movement of food from the stomach into the small intestine, according to one study.

Hibiscus tea: One study showed lowered blood pressure among people who drank this tea three times a day.

Peppermint tea: The oil in peppermint leaves may help with upset stomach by calming muscle spasms in the digestive tract.

Regardless of the science, the reason most people drink tea is because they like it. On any given day, 158 million Americans drink tea (including iced tea), and about three-quarters of them say they’re aware of the health benefits, according to the Tea Association of the U.S.A. More information can be found at this site: http://www.dallasnews.com/lifestyles/health-and-fitness/health/20140428-do-the-health-benefits-of-herbal-teas-live-up-to-the-hype.ece

Be careful, though, about any medical issues related to drinking various herbs, especially if you are pregnant, are on prescription medications, or have a reduced immune system. Herbal tea may taste good and help make you feel better or relax you. It may even provide a healthy stimulus to your day and provide the opportunity to enjoy the company of others who share the same desires and interests. However, if you are in one of the health watch categories mentioned here, talk with your family doctor or a health care provider to make sure you are approved to drink herbal tea.

Until next time.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Health Care and Diabetes

One of the fastest growing health issues worldwide is diabetes. People with type 1 diabetes today lose more than a decade of life to the chronic disease, despite improved treatment of both diabetes and its complications, a new Scottish study reports. Men with type 1 diabetes lose about 11 years of life expectancy compared to men without the disease. And, women with type 1 diabetes have their lives cut short by about 13 years, according to a report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

 Glucose (blood sugar) is vital to your health because it's an important source of energy for the cells that make up your muscles and tissues, according to the Mayo Clinic. It's also your brain's main source of fuel. If you have diabetes, no matter what type, it means you have too much glucose in your blood, although the causes may differ. Too much glucose can lead to serious health problems.

Chronic diabetes conditions include type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes. Potentially reversible diabetes conditions include pre-diabetes — when your blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be classified as diabetes — and gestational diabetes, which occurs during pregnancy but may resolve after the baby is delivered. More info about this health topic is available at this website: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetes/basics/definition/con-20033091 .

According to the American Diabetes Association, type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and young adults, and was previously known as juvenile diabetes. Only 5% of people with diabetes have this form of the disease. In type 1 diabetes, the body does not produce insulin. Insulin is a hormone that is needed to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy needed for daily life. With the help of insulin therapy and other treatments, even young children can learn to manage their condition and live long, healthy lives. Much more detailed information can be found at this website: http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/type-1/ .

However, type 1 diabetics younger than 50 are dying in large numbers from conditions caused by issues in management of the disease -- diabetic coma caused by critically low blood sugar, and ketoacidosis caused by a lack of insulin in the body. These conditions really reflect the day-to-day challenge that people with type 1 diabetes continue to face, how to get the right amount of insulin delivered at the right time to deal with your blood sugar levels, according to the study. 

A second study, also in JAMA, suggested that some of these early deaths might be avoided with intensive blood sugar management. Strict control of blood sugar appears to be key. Life expectancy lost for people under 50 is due to diabetes management-related complications like diabetic coma or ketoacidosis, a condition in which the body suffers from high levels of poisonous acids called ketones. These ketones are created when the body burns fat for energy, because low insulin levels are preventing the conversion of blood sugar into fuel. More details can be found at this site: http://media.jamanetwork.com/news-item/scottish-study-finds-substantially-shorter-life-expectancy-for-patients-with-type-1-diabetes/ .

Also,  people with diabetes are less likely to take their diabetes medications if they've been diagnosed with cancer, researchers report in Diabetologia. This study revealed that the medication adherence among users of [blood sugar-lowering drugs] was influenced by cancer diagnosis. Cancer patients with diabetes are also much more likely to die than those without diabetes, and part of that might be explained by the decline in medication adherence, according to the study. More information about this particular diabetes health issue is located at this website: http://www.diabetologia-journal.org/ .

Although it is a common practice to try pills before insulin if you are diabetic, you may start on insulin based on several factors. Insulin is a naturally occurring hormone secreted by the pancreas. Many people with diabetes are prescribed insulin, either because their bodies do not produce insulin (type 1 diabetes) or do not use insulin properly (type 2 diabetes), according to the American Diabetes Association.

There are more than 20 types of insulin sold in the United States. These insulins differ in how they are made, how they work in the body, and how much they cost. Your doctor will help you find the right type of insulin for your health needs and your lifestyle. For more details on this medicine and how it should be administered, visit this website: http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/treatment-and-care/medication/insulin/.

Type 2 diabetes can have a slow onset, and early symptoms can be confused with signs of stress, being overweight, or a poor diet. But the arsenal of tools to combat diabetes grows every year. Diabetes affects 24 million people in the U.S., but only 18 million know they have it. About 90% of those people have type 2 diabetes, according to Health.com. In diabetes, rising blood sugar acts like a poison.

Diabetes is often called the silent killer because of its easy-to-miss symptoms. The best way to pick up on it is to have a blood sugar test. But if you have these symptoms, see your doctor.
If Also, if you need to urinate frequently—particularly if you often have to get up at night to use the bathroom—it could be a symptom of diabetes.

The kidneys kick into high gear to get rid of all that extra glucose in the blood, hence the urge to relieve yourself, sometimes several times during the night. The excessive thirst means your body is trying to replenish those lost fluids. These two symptoms go hand in hand and are some of your body's ways of trying to manage high blood sugar.

Overly high blood sugar levels can also cause rapid weight loss, say 10 to 20 pounds over two or three months—but this is not a healthy weight loss. Because the insulin hormone isn't getting glucose into the cells, where it can be used as energy, the body thinks it's starving and starts breaking down protein from the muscles as an alternate source of fuel. The kidneys are also working overtime to eliminate the excess sugar, and this leads to a loss of calories (and can harm the kidneys). For more detailed info on more symptoms, visit this site: http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20442821,00.html.

There can be complications in your health caused by diabetes, according to Medical News Today. Here are a few complications linked to badly controlled diabetes:

Eye complications - glaucoma, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, and a few others.

Foot complications - neuropathy, ulcers, and sometimes gangrene which may require amputation.

Skin complications - people with diabetes are more susceptible to skin infections and skin disorders.

Heart problems - such as ischemic heart disease, when the blood supply to the heart muscle is diminished.

Hypertension - common in people with diabetes, which can raise the risk of kidney disease, eye problems, heart attack and stroke.

Mental health - uncontrolled diabetes raises the risk of suffering from depression, anxiety and some other mental disorders.

Neuropathy - diabetic neuropathy is a type of nerve damage which can lead to several different problems.

Stroke - if blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and blood glucose levels are not controlled, the risk of stroke significantly increases.

Erectile dysfunction - male impotence.

Infections - people with badly controlled diabetes are much more susceptible to infections

Many presumed "facts" are thrown about in the paper press, magazines and on the internet regarding diabetes; some of them are, in fact, myths. It is important that people with diabetes, pre-diabetes, their loved ones, employers and schools have an accurate picture of the disease. For a more exhaustive overview of information about diabetes, visit this website: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/info/diabetes/ .

Over 25 million men, women, and children currently suffer from diabetes in the country. It is the fastest growing health problem in the US. And, almost 80 million people are considered pre-diabetic. This disease is complicated and often takes time to diagnose, unless the complications are severe. Your doctor or health care provider should run tests to see if your symptoms are conclusive. If you or a loved one has diabetes, don’t ignore your lifestyle regimen. Diabetes can lead to severe medical problems or death when left untreated. Keep your diabetes under control, and you can lead a better life.

Until next time.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Health Care and Private Health Exchanges

The world is changing for healthcare in large part due to the Affordable Care Act, or ObamaCare as it is known in the common tongue. One of the key elements currently driving the market is the concepts of health exchanges, both public and private. The public exchanges are run by several of the states, and the federal government also has one that has been historically problematic. However, this material is dedicated to private exchanges in the commercial business market.

According to MCOL, private health insurance exchanges are gaining currency as a way for employers to cut health care costs, reduce their administrative burden and increase the benefit choices they offer to covered employees. Multiple studies now indicate that U.S. employers are increasingly looking at private exchange options for both active and retired employees. Brokers, consultants, payers and other intermediaries offer private exchanges, but a mix of vested interests is at play among these service providers.

The second annual study by the Private Exchange Evaluation Collaborative (PEEC) affirms a continuing interest in private exchanges among employers. The national survey, based on the responses of 446 employers, reports heightened interest on the part of employers in private exchanges as a strategy for full-time active and retirees, but the potential transition must address a number of critical considerations. The survey is also the first national assessment that specifically captures the experience of early adopters of both private exchanges for active employees as well as retirees.

Private exchanges are flexible and can be customized to address the needs of any employer group, unlike public exchanges, which are targeted to individuals and small groups, according to Booz & Company. For instance, private exchanges can design benefits tiers specific to employer segments with robust multichannel employee decision support. Another advantage is that private exchanges can offer a broader range of retail products, such as dental and life insurance and even non-insurance products, than public exchanges can. Two private exchange models are emerging:

Single-carrier exchanges: These exchanges are promoted by a single payor and target employers that wish to maintain some role in choosing both the insurance carrier and plan design. Depending on how involved employers want to be in benefits design and negotiation, products may be customized and priced for the employee group or individuals.

Multi-carrier exchanges: These exchanges, predominantly promoted by third-party intermediaries such as brokers or benefits consultants, will provide a broad range of payor and plan design options and encourage employers to take a more hands-off role. For payors, multi-carrier exchanges that list individual prod­ucts on a menu of offerings pose com­moditization risk that could squeeze payor margins.

According to Array Health, purchasing health insurance through a private exchange will become the new normal as more and more employers move to defined contribution plans and customers become much more comfortable taking more of an active role in selecting and personalizing their health coverage. However, insured's need to educate themselves and understand how the system really works. Hopefully this technology will help, but if insured's do not have "Skin in the Game" they will continue the life habits that cause high claims.

At the end of the day it’s still a matter of premium in vs claims paid out. Exchanges are good at lowering the premium side of the equation by offering less expensive plans for the low utilizers to take advantage of. However, the exchange really doesn't impact the cost impact of the heavy utilizers who really drive the overall cost of the employer’s plan. If premium goes down and claims stay the same the outcome is obvious. To cut costs, you have to cut claims - pure and simple.

According to Forbes Magazine, a recent report by the Kaiser Foundation underscores one such lesson – the growing take up of private exchanges has the potential to be a catalyst for some major revolutions in our health care system. In 2014, about 2.5 million people across companies of all sizes will be enrolled in health insurance through so-called private exchanges. These are analogous in some ways to ObamaCare’s state and federal-based health insurance exchanges but instead are run by private consultancies like Aon Hewitt or Mercer.

The Kaiser report also notes that consultancies Accenture and Oliver Wyman both predict somewhere around 40 million enrollment by 2018. If these projections bear out, that would make the private employer exchange market about 24 percent of the total employer market, based on CBO projections. Much more detail on this info can be found at this site: http://www.forbes.com/sites/theapothecary/2014/10/15/are-private-exchanges-the-future-of-health-insurance/ .

But not all employers are wild about the private exchange approach. The National Business Coalition on Health produced a survey the organization said “resoundingly” rejects private exchanges as a way to control rising health care costs, according to Forbes Magazine. Though the language in the coalition’s release was strong, its survey showed 5 percent of more than 330 employers already use a private exchange and “8 percent are considering such a move within the next three years.”

NBCH said 55 percent of respondents will “never” stop sponsoring health coverage in favor of giving employees money to buy through a private exchange. More material on this topic is available at this website: http://www.forbes.com/sites/brucejapsen/2014/10/08/more-employers-shifting-health-to-private-exchanges/ .
 
According to Benefits Pro, Bruce Hentschel leads strategy development for the Specialty Benefits Division of the Principal Financial Group, and writes that private exchanges are here to stay; but for advisors and their small employer clients, questions still remain about their value. Is the opportunity they offer more myth than reality? Likely, the answer is a bit of both. If you are participating or plan to participate in one or more private exchanges, here are a few suggestions for you to consider:

·         Define your strategy first and then seek an exchange that provides the best fit. There are dozens of types of exchanges all designed to meet different types of objectives, at varying levels of sophistication, service and support. For example, some generate a quote for an employer; others don’t. Some offer ongoing benefit data management; some don’t. Some use defined contribution concepts exclusively; others don’t offer defined contribution at all.

·         Practice due diligence. Even some of the best and most successful exchanges lack the necessary infrastructure to allow for scale and administrative simplification.

·         Experiment, and don’t be afraid to switch exchanges if the one you’re working with isn’t meeting your needs. Yes, they can be time-consuming and potentially expensive to implement. But, it’s okay to “fail fast and fail cheap” versus dumping additional time, resources and/or money into an exchange that doesn’t really get the result you desire.

Private exchanges will go through tremendous change and in a relatively short period of time, and the options will eventually narrow down to a few winning models. For more details, visit this website: http://www.benefitspro.com/2015/01/29/private-exchanges-myth-vs-reality.

Employers must review material and the value proposition for any participation in the private exchange market. Granted, more transparency and education are needed. Brokers can play a big part with those opportunities. If you are considering transferring your health care business for you and your employees into a private health exchange, it pays to do your homework and listen to trusted experts in the field. Don’t go it alone, or you could find yourself with more issues than you imagined.

Until next time.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Health Care and Leukemia

One of the most dreaded diagnoses you can get from your doctor, and one that everyone fears, is the word cancer. In particular, those who are diagnosed with Leukemia have a difficult time understanding why and how they contract this disease. Children can be especially hard hit with various types of leukemia; but caught early enough, the outcome can be very positive.

Leukemia is cancer of the body's blood-forming tissues, including the bone marrow and the lymphatic system. Many types of leukemia exist. Some forms of leukemia are more common in children. Other forms of leukemia occur mostly in adults. The disease starts in the white blood cells; in people with leukemia, the bone marrow produces abnormal white blood cells, which don't properly function.

According to the Leukemia Research Foundation, every four minutes, someone is diagnosed with blood cancer – more than 176,000 new cases are expected this year in the United States. More than 310,000 Americans are living with leukemia. This disease causes more deaths than any other cancer among children and young adults under the age of 20; however, leukemia is diagnosed 10 times more often in adults than children. Every day 143 Americans are diagnosed with leukemia, and 66 lose the fight. Much more detailed material can be found at this website: http://www.allbloodcancers.org/disease-information-support .

The exact cause of leukemia is unknown. Different kinds of leukemia are believed to have different causes. Both inherited and environmental (non-inherited) factors are believed to be involved. Risk factors include smoking, ionizing radiation, some chemicals (such as benzene), prior chemotherapy, and Down syndrome. People with a family history of leukemia are also at higher risk.

There are four main types of leukemia: acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), acute myeloid leukemia (AML), chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), as well as a number of less common types. Leukemia is part of a broader group of neoplasms which affect the blood, bone marrow, and lymphoid system, known as tumors of the hematopoietic and lymphoid tissues.

Treatment may involve some combination of chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted therapy, and bone marrow transplant, in addition to supportive care and palliative care as needed. Certain types of leukemia may be managed with watchful waiting. The success of treatment depends on the type of leukemia and the age of the person.

The average five-year survival rate is 57% in the United States. In children under 15, the five-year survival is greater than 60 to 85%, depending on the type of leukemia. In people with acute leukemia who are cancer-free after five years, the cancer is unlikely to return. More details on Leukemia can be located at this site: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leukemia .

According to the American Cancer Fund, leukemia symptoms can vary widely, depending on the type of leukemia you have. Common leukemia symptoms include:

·         Fever or chills 
·         Recurrent nosebleeds
·         Persistent fatigue, weakness
·         Frequent or severe infections
·         Bone pain or tenderness
·         Losing weight without trying
·         Swollen lymph nodes, enlarged liver or spleen
·         Easy bleeding or bruising
·         Excessive sweating, especially at night

Leukemia symptoms are often vague and not specific. You may overlook early leukemia symptoms because they may resemble symptoms of the flu and other common illnesses.
Rarely, leukemia may be discovered during blood tests for some other condition. Much more info on this topic can be found at this site: https://americancancerfund.org/cancer-types/leukemia/ .

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), also called acute lymphocytic leukemia or acute lymphoid leukemia, is a fast-growing cancer of a type of white blood cells called lymphocytes. About 6,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with ALL each year. It is the most common type of leukemia in children under age 15. However, it can affect people of any age. The cause of ALL is unknown, according to the National Cancer Institute.

If you are diagnosed with a blood cancer like leukemia, or an immune system or genetic disease, a bone marrow or cord blood transplant (also called a BMT) may be a treatment option for you. Learning more about your disease and treatment options will help you make informed decisions about your care. A significant amount of material concerning this disease can also be found at this site: http://bethematch.org/For-Patients-and-Families/Learning-about-your-disease/.  

ALL progresses rapidly, replacing healthy cells that produce functional lymphocytes with leukemia cells that can't mature properly, according to Cancer Treatment Centers of America. The leukemia cells are carried in the bloodstream to other organs and tissues, including the brain, liver, lymph nodes and testes, where they continue to grow and divide. The growing, dividing and spreading of these leukemia cells may result in a number of possible symptoms. You can find options for treatment and more at this website: http://www.cancercenter.com/leukemia/ .

It is impossible in one short article to discuss all the ramifications about leukemia, its affect on your body, and possible outcomes. The list of websites in this information can serve as an initial guide to help with how to begin researching more options and resources to know more about leukemia. If you feel that you or someone you know may be experiencing certain health issues symptomatic to this disease, visit your health care provider or family physician for a more thorough diagnosis. The sooner you can begin treatment, the better opportunity you have for long term survival. Always consult a doctor or trained medical practitioner for any problems regarding your health.

Until next time.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Health Care and Anti-Aging

Ever since Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden of Eden, mankind has been looking for ways to stop the aging process. Although the life span thousands of years ago when they were around was hundreds of years, the thought lingering in the back of everyone’s mind at some point was “How do I get rid of these wrinkles?” Well, when you’re 698, likely you look like a Sharpei anyway. However, since the average life span today is typically in the 70’s for most people, looking younger is much more of an issue.

The process of turning back the clock for your skin starts when you’re young—stay out of the sun, don’t go to the tanning booth so much, and eat healthy food. Most 6 year olds aren’t that concerned about frown lines, age spots, and crowfeet around the eyes; but when people get into their twenties, the need to suppress the aging process becomes much more critical. Too much exposure to UVA and UVB rays, smoking, drinking alcohol, stress, less sleep, and bad food all start to add up to damaging your health.

At the risk of sounding vain, the need to look younger is very common among most adults. What’s the secret to great hair, pore-free complexion, or flawless teeth? Everyone wants to have the inside scoop. And, since no one has yet been able to locate the Fountain of Youth, the best way to begin the process of looking younger is going to be found in common sense and some practical application of products designed to help you do just that.

According to Health.com, “anti-inflammatories are the best anti-agers out there. From improving heart and immune functions to helping hair grow and skin look supple, they truly do wonders.” Also, another tip is to avoid processed sugar in your diet. The reason: It speeds up the aging process by binding to and eventually weakening the collagen in your skin, which can lead to premature wrinkles and sagging.

For better looking teeth, you can snack on anything with malic acid—like strawberries, apples, and grapes—which act as a natural tooth cleanser and help break down stains. Coffee has the same affect on staining teeth. Avoid drinking a lot over a long period of time at one sitting, especially if you use cream or sugar. Plus, blow drying your hair damages it over time. Put a small amount of conditioner or treatment mask into damp hair before blow-drying. The conditioner not only tames fly-aways and frizz but also provides serious hydration. 

Additionally, Q-tips and cotton balls will only get you so far—you need the right gadgets to get gorgeous. These essentials make it easy to look flawless. So, stock your beauty kit now. For many more anti-aging tips, visit this website: http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20306759,00.html .

Also, if you want an entire video library on anti-aging secrets, you can always visit Dr. Oz’s recommendations on his website: http://www.doctoroz.com/topic/anti-aging . Dr. Oz has cutting-edge information on anti-aging techniques and guidelines. Learn how to slow aging from the inside out! Plus, get pertinent information on beauty products, supplements, diet and nutrition, mental health, and fitness routines to turn back the clock.

As well, be careful not to overuse retinol based products for your skin. Vitamin-A derivatives [like retinol and the widely prescribed Retin-A] are strong molecules that focus on short-term results, over-stimulating the skin without considering the long-term consequences. This is not a sustainable approach for beauty and youth, according to Simon Erani, the founder and CEO of The Somme Institute in New York, and reported on Into The Gloss.com.

According to information on this website: http://intothegloss.com/2013/03/anti-aging-in-your-twenties-too-much-too-soon-skin-care-products-retinol/ ,   “The only problem with those drugs is that women’s skin is already considerably thinner than men’s, and these medications take off the top layer—so you’ve lost the first or second layer of your skin, and though your skin looks fresh and bright and great, it can actually get worse. With repeated use, retinol products begin to thin out your skin and will eventually make you more susceptible to UVA rays. If you're not wearing adequate SPF all the time, with passing years you’ll have more melasma, more discoloration... Plus, they can be way too harsh on the skin, even if you don’t feel the redness.”

From Dr. Elizabeth Hale, vice president of the Skin Cancer Foundation and a Clinical Associate Professor of Dermatology at the NYU Langone Medical Center “…there’s two types of aging of the skin: intrinsic aging, which would happen if you lived in a vacuum or a bubble, and then there’s extrinsic, which is sun-exposure and smoking, which accelerate your skin’s break-down. I’m a believer in prevention, even in your twenties, so that you can age gracefully and naturally, versus trying to reverse the signs of UV exposure or smoking later on. The number one thing you can do is just wear sunscreen. Every single day. Ninety percent of the signs of premature aging come from UV exposure.”

According to the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine, around the world, people are seeking medical guidance for ways to stay healthy, active, and vital well into their older years. As a result, the principles of the anti-aging lifestyle are gaining rapid and widespread acceptance as a framework for lifelong habits for healthy living. Anti-aging medicine is the pinnacle of biotechnology joined with advanced clinical preventive medicine.

The specialty is founded on the application of advanced scientific and medical technologies for the early detection, prevention, treatment, and reversal of age-related dysfunction, disorders, and diseases. It is a healthcare model promoting innovative science and research to prolong the healthy lifespan in humans. As such, anti-aging medicine is based on principles of sound and responsible medical care that are consistent with those applied in other preventive health specialties.

The anti-aging medical model aims to both extend lifespan as well as prolong healthspan - the length of time that people are able to live productively and independently. Much more material about this topic is located at this site: http://www.a4m.com/conferences-attendees-what-is-anti-aging-medicine.html .

For seniors, the need and desire to turn back the aging clock is even greater. According to a study on physical activities in the senior population by Humboldt University, “Running mitigates the age-related deterioration of walking economy whereas walking for exercise appears to have minimal effect on the age-related deterioration in walking economy.”  Active seniors who regularly run or walk experience a definite difference in aging over those who are sedentary. For more details, visit this website: http://www.worldhealth.net/news/run-stay-young/ .

Aging happens. What you can do about it to either slow down or mask the process is literally based on your lifestyle, medicine and certain products, and your genes. Inevitably, at some point, you are going to be old. Looking old and acting old are not always the same thing. Remember, the older you get, the more responsibility you have to take care of yourself so that the features you were given at birth are still recognizable when you come to the end of life.

Until next time.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Health Care and Phlebitis

When individuals have medical issues with veins that get inflamed, the pain can be severe. Inflammation of veins is called phlebitis. Typically, it is not life threatening if treated right away and can be easily cured in many cases. The inflammation may cause pain and swelling.
 
Superficial phlebitis affects veins on the skin surface. The condition is rarely serious and is usually resolved with local treatment of the inflammation with warm compresses and anti-inflammatory medications.

However, more severe cases of inflammation in veins may be caused by a blood clot. When the inflammation is caused by a blood clot or thrombus, it is called thrombophlebitis and usually occurs in leg veins; but it may also affect the veins in the arms. There are two sets of veins in the arms and legs, 1) the superficial veins that run just under the skin, and 2) the deep veins.

According to Dr. Andrew Weil, symptoms depend on the location of the inflammation. Superficial phlebitis can cause symptoms such as:

·         Redness along the path of the vein
·         Warmth, tenderness, or swelling in affected area
·         Itching or burning in affected area
·         Low-grade fever.

These symptoms may feel worse when the affected area (such as a leg) is lowered, particularly in the morning. Superficial phlebitis is uncomfortable but rarely serious. If clotting occurs, the inflamed vein will feel like a hard string or cord under the skin, and won't collapse like a normal varicose vein.

Deep vein thrombophlebitis often causes no symptoms at all. When it does, symptoms include warmth, redness, and swelling in the affected limb. Deep vein thrombophlebitis is dangerous because the blood clot lodged in the vein (called a deep venous thrombosis or DVT) can break free and travel to a person's lungs, a situation that is often fatal. Chest pain and shortness of breath are early signs that this has occurred. Much more detail on this topic can be found at this website: http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART03146/Phlebitis.html .

The following, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), increase your chances for thrombophlebitis:

·         Being hospitalized for a major surgery or with a major illness
·         Disorders that make you more likely to develop blood clots
·         Sitting for a long period of time (such as on a long airplane trip)

Your health care provider can usually diagnose the condition based on how the affected area looks. You may need to have your pulse, blood pressure, temperature, skin condition, and circulation frequently checked to make sure you don't have complications. If the cause cannot be easily identified, one or more of the following tests may be done:

·         Blood coagulation studies
·         Doppler ultrasound
·         Venography

Thrombophlebitis and other forms of phlebitis usually respond to prompt medical treatment, according to the NIH. More detailed material can be found by visiting this site:  http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001108.htm .

According to New York University (NYU) Medical School, some factors that increase your chance of developing superficial phlebitis include:

·         Trauma especially to the lower leg
·         Blood clotting disorder
·         Sitting for long periods of time, such as riding in a car or on an airplane
·         Prolonged bed rest
·         Prior episodes of phlebitis
·         Certain cancers
·         Paralysis, which may be caused by a stroke
·         Family history of blood clotting disorders
·         Obesity
·         Pregnancy

If you are diagnosed with superficial thrombophlebitis, follow your doctor's instructions. More info on this medical problem can be found at this site: http://medicine.med.nyu.edu/conditions-we-treat/conditions/phlebitis .

The long-term goals of treatment of superficial phlebitis are to reduce symptoms and reduce the risk of complications. Your health care provider will recommend the treatment option that is right for you, according to the Cleveland Clinic. The main goal of initial treatment is to control pain and inflammation. You will likely be prescribed pain medication and an anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen.

Rarely is anticoagulation with medications such as Coumadin or Heparin warranted. Much of this process is self-limited, with complete resolution of symptoms within a few weeks. You can find more info about phlebitis at this site: http://my.clevelandclinic.org/services/heart/disorders/hypercoagstate/vs_phlebitis .

Superficial phlebitis inflammation generally is reduced within 7-10 days, but it may be 3-6 weeks for the problem to be entirely gone. Deep vein thrombophlebitis may require more aggressive treatment, including hospitalization, strong anticoagulants, and a variety of possible surgical procedures, according to this site:  http://www.diagnose-me.com/symptoms-of/phlebitis-thrombophlebitis.html .

If you feel that you may be suffering from symptoms related to phlebitis, see your doctor or a health care provider right away. You don’t want to delay treatment as the issue may be beyond your immediate relief by self examination and care at home without medical diagnosis. The condition can quickly escalate to more severe medical issues. Although, phlebitis is a temporary problem, it pays to be careful with treatment and professional medical advice.  

Until next time.