Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Health Care and Coffee Drinking

How is your Java consumption? Are you a one, two, or three cup a day drinker? Or do you just keep a pot going with an IV attached all day? There are studies that can prove drinking coffee is good for you and some that say it’s not that healthy. What do YOU think?

According to HellaWella, coffee is one of the most popular beverages in the world, but is seemingly also one of the most maligned. However, after hundreds of years of consumption and decades of research, it seems the benefits of drinking coffee far outweigh the risks. However, unfiltered coffee — such as that prepared in a French press — proves an exception, as it can elevate cholesterol levels.

In multiple studies comparing people who drink three to five cups of coffee per day with those who drink zero to two cups per day, it has been found that those who drink more coffee are significantly less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and have a reduced risk of developing dementia.

Moreover, drinking caffeinated coffee has been associated with a lower incidence of gallstones and gallbladder disease in both men and women. Similar to the results of the aforementioned Alzheimer’s studies, it has been found that heavy coffee drinkers — those consuming approximately 3.5 cups a day — are significantly less likely to develop Parkinson’s disease later in life, compared with nondrinkers.

Other health benefits of coffee include reducing one’s risk of Type 2 diabetes by up to half, reducing the incidence of cirrhosis of the liver, and reducing the risk of certain types of cancer. Generally, coffee contains a substantial amount of antioxidants.

As with any significant change in diet, you should talk to your doctor before increasing your coffee intake. And also be mindful of what time you are drinking your coffee, as the caffeine can have a negative impact on your sleep patterns, which will in turn have an effect on your overall health.

According to the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), often people think of coffee just as a vehicle for caffeine. But it’s actually a very complex beverage with hundreds and hundreds of different compounds in it. Since coffee contains so many different compounds, drinking coffee can lead to very diverse health outcomes. It can be good for some things and bad for some things, and that’s not necessarily flip-flopping or inconsistent.
 
Few foods are good for everything. That’s why studies are done on very specific health effects—for example, studies of how coffee affects the risk of diabetes—but studies are also conducted such as a recent one looking at coffee consumption and mortality over a long period of time, which better reflects the overall health effect.

Coffee is also a bit more complex to study than some other food items. Drinking coffee often goes along together with cigarette smoking, and with a lifestyle that’s not very health conscious. For example, people who drink lots of coffee tend to exercise less. They are less likely to use dietary supplements, and they tend to have a less healthful diet. So in the early studies on coffee and health, it was hard to separate the effects of coffee from the effects of smoking or other lifestyle choices.

Over the several decades that coffee has been studied, there have been some reports that coffee may increase the risk of certain cancers or the risk of heart disease. But in better conducted studies, such as the one we just published—larger studies that have a lot of information about all other lifestyle factors and make a real effort to control for these lifestyle factors—we do not find many of these health effects that people were afraid of.

HSPH also reports that if people are not used to using any caffeine, and they start to use caffeine, their blood pressure goes up substantially. Within a week of caffeine consumption, however, we see that the effect is less pronounced—there is less of an increase in blood pressure. After several weeks of continued caffeine consumption, however, a little bit of increase in blood pressure remains.

In studies that look at the incidence of hypertension in the general population, drinking caffeinated coffee is not associated with a substantial increase in risk. But if people have hypertension, and are having a hard time controlling their hypertension, they could try switching from caffeinated coffee to decaffeinated coffee, to see if it has a beneficial effect.

With diabetes, it’s a bit of a paradox. Studies around the world consistently show that high consumption of caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee is associated with low risk of type 2 diabetes. But if you look at acute studies that just give people caffeine or caffeinated coffee, and then have them eat something rich in glucose, their sensitivity to insulin drops and their blood glucose levels are higher than expected.

There isn’t any long-term data on coffee consumption and glucose control. But if people have diabetes and have trouble controlling their blood glucose, it may be beneficial for them to try switching from caffeinated to decaffeinated coffee. Making the switch from caffeinated to decaf may be better than quitting coffee altogether, because some research suggests that decaffeinated coffee actually reduces the glucose response. Much more information on this topic can also be found at this website: http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/coffee/ .

According to the Mayo Clinic, studies have shown that coffee may have health benefits, including protecting against Parkinson's disease, type 2 diabetes (as noted by the Harvard information) and liver disease, including liver cancer. It also appears to improve cognitive function and decrease the risk of depression. However, the research appears to bear out some risks.

High consumption of unfiltered coffee (boiled or espresso) has been associated with mild elevations in cholesterol levels. And some studies found that two or more cups of coffee a day can increase the risk of heart disease in people with a specific — and fairly common — genetic mutation that slows the breakdown of caffeine in the body. So, how quickly you metabolize coffee may affect your health risk. 

Although coffee may have fewer risks compared with benefits, keep in mind that other beverages, such as milk and some fruit juices, contain nutrients that coffee does not. Also, adding cream and sugar to your coffee adds more fat and calories. Some coffee drinks contain more than 500 calories. More details can be found at this site: http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/coffee-and-health/faq-20058339 .

Coffee is actually very healthy, according to Authority Nutrition.  It is loaded with antioxidants and beneficial nutrients that can improve your health. For thirteen very good health reasons why you should drink coffee, visit this website: http://authoritynutrition.com/top-13-evidence-based-health-benefits-of-coffee/ . In fact, there are many advantages to being one of the 54 percent of Americans over 18 who drink coffee every day. Coffee can be pretty amazing for your brain, your skin, and your body. 

Until next time.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Health Care and Fireworks Safety

America’s Independence Day is a gigantic celebration of the nation’s founding and freedoms. July 4 is the nation’s birthday, and this year marks the 238th anniversary. Let freedom ring! Here is what John Adams, one of the Founding Fathers and America’s second President had to say about it in 1776:

“The most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival… It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade with shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”

The National Council on Fireworks Safety offers these common sense safety tips for using consumer fireworks in hopes that injuries to consumers can be greatly reduced this season:

·         Always purchase fireworks from a reliable source.
·         Use fireworks as directed on consumer product safety label; never alter products.
·         Observe local laws and use good COMMON SENSE.
·         Have a designated shooter to organize and shoot your family show.
·         A responsible ADULT should supervise all firework activities.
·         Parents should not allow young children to handle or use fireworks.
·         Alcohol and fireworks do not mix. Save your alcohol for after the show.
·         Use fireworks OUTDOORS in a clear area; AWAY from buildings and vehicles.
·         NEVER carry fireworks in your POCKET.
·         Wear safety glasses whenever using fireworks.
·         Always have water ready if you are shooting fireworks.
·         Do not experiment with homemade fireworks.
·         Never relight a “dud” firework. Wait 20 minutes and then soak it in a bucket of water.
·         Soak spent fireworks with water before placing them in an outdoor trash can.
·         Report illegal explosives, like M-80s and quarter sticks, to the fire or police department.

“Using consumer fireworks on the nation’s birthday is as traditional as cookouts and parades. And it is equally safe if a few common sense rules are followed”, says Nancy Blogin, President of National Council on Fireworks Safety. “We want consumers to be safe from beginning to end when enjoying their fireworks. We want there to be a safe place to shoot, to have a designated shooter that takes responsibility for the show and to have the fireworks disposed of properly.” More info can be found at this website: http://fireworkssafety.org/ .

According to the National Fire Protection Association, despite the dangers of fireworks, few people understand the associated risks - devastating burns, other injuries, fires, and even death. Here are the deadly statistics about misuse of fireworks:

·         In 2011, fireworks caused an estimated 17,800 reported fires, including 1,200 total structure fires, 400 vehicle fires, and 16,300 outside and other fires. These fires resulted in an estimated eight reported civilian deaths, 40 civilian injuries and $32 million in direct property damage.

·         In 2012, U.S. hospital emergency rooms treated an estimated 8,700 people for fireworks related injuries; 55% of 2012 emergency room fireworks-related injuries were to the extremities and 31% were to the head.

·         The risk of fireworks injury was highest for young people ages 15-24, followed by children under 10.

·         On Independence Day in a typical year, far more U.S. fires are reported than on any other day, and fireworks account for two out of five of those fires, more than any other cause of fires.

Additionally, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission says fireworks can be dangerous, causing serious burn and eye injuries. You can help us prevent fireworks-related injuries and deaths. How? By working with a national, state or local organization where you live to promote fireworks safety in your community. Follow these additional safety tips when using fireworks:

·         Avoid buying fireworks that are packaged in brown paper because this is often a sign that the fireworks were made for professional displays and that they could pose a danger to consumers.

·         Always have an adult supervise fireworks activities. Parents don't realize that young children suffer injuries from sparklers. Sparklers burn at temperatures of about 2,000 degrees - hot enough to melt some metals.

·         Never place any part of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse. Back up to a safe distance immediately after lighting fireworks.

·         Never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not ignited fully.

·         Never point or throw fireworks at another person.

·         Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap.

·         Light fireworks one at a time, then move back quickly.

·         Never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers.

·         After fireworks complete their burning, douse the spent device with plenty of water from a bucket or hose before discarding it to prevent a trash fire.

·         Make sure fireworks are legal in your area before buying or using them.

The USCPSC reports that 240 people on average go the emergency room every day with fireworks-related injuries in the month around the July 4th holiday. Be very careful when handing fireworks. This organization provides more helpful hints at this website: http://www.cpsc.gov/en/Safety-Education/Safety-Education-Centers/Fireworks/ 

On the 4th of July, when you celebrate America’s freedom and gather with family and friends to watch fireworks and enjoy the nation’s  greatest national holiday, please take a moment to thank the men and women of the United States military who have given the greatest measure of devotion in defending our country for centuries. Ask God to preserve and protect America, and provide continued liberty, wisdom, and freedom for you and your children.

Until next time. Let Freedom Ring!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Health Care and Eyewear

Chances are, if you are over 50, you are wearing glasses, or at least contacts some of the time. Eyewear has been around in one form or fashion for hundreds of years. According to this website, www.glasseshistory.com most historians believe that the first form of eyeglasses was produced in Italy by monks or craftsmen in Pisa (or perhaps Venice) around 1285-1289. These magnifying lenses for reading were shaped like two small magnifying glasses and set into bone, metal, or leather mountings that could be balanced on the bridge of nose.

The first known artistic representation of the use of eyeglasses was Tommaso da Modena's painting in 1352. His painting depicts monks reading and writing manuscripts. One monk uses a magnifying glass, but another wears glasses perched on his nose. The first eyeglasses can only be used to rectify hyperopia and presbyopia. And those eyeglasses for myopia appeared much later, sometime in the early 1400's.

Throughout history and even today, eyeglasses have served as one of the oldest and improved upon accessories around the world. Yes, there are now contacts and laser surgery, but if you are conscious of the way you look and the way you are perceived by others, know that eyeglasses can drastically improve your appearance and the way others view you. More info can be found at this website on styles and how glasses have changed over time: http://www.vintageiwear.com/history.html .

According to this website: http://inventors.about.com/od/gstartinventions/a/glass_3.htm, in 1784, Ben Franklin developed bifocal glasses. He was getting old and was having trouble seeing both up-close and at a distance. Getting tired of switching between two types of glasses, he devised a way to have both types of lenses fit into the frame. The distance lens was placed at the top and the the up-close lens was placed at the bottom.  

And, Sam Foster started the Foster Grant Company in 1919. In 1929, Sam Foster sold the first pair of Foster Grants sunglasses at the Woolworth on the Atlantic City Boardwalk. Sunglasses became popular in the 1930s. More details about eyewear can be located at that site.

Choosing the right eyeglasses often depends on individual traits such as hair color, face size and even the type of vision correction you need, according to this website: http://www.allaboutvision.com/eyeglasses/. If you have an unusually wide face, for example, you may need to shop around for extra-large eyeglass frames. On the other hand, smaller faces may require a petite frame size. Unusually strong corrections also can make lenses look thick or distorted when eyeglass frames are oversized.

For example, a rough-and-tumble teenager who engages in all manner of outdoor activities will have far different needs for eyeglasses than an office worker who spends hours at a desk. Active people also may need to consider extra eye protection such as sports or safety goggles. For those who love fashion, designer eyeglasses with embellishments such as crystals and logos are a fun option.

If you have reached your 40s, you will need to consider different eyeglass options for correcting near vision problems caused by presbyopia such as:

·         Progressive lenses
·         Bifocals or trifocals
·         Occupational lenses
·         Reading glasses
·         Computer glasses

In some cases, you may need different pairs of eyeglasses depending on whether you are driving down the highway or sitting indoors in front of a computer screen. Your eye doctor or optician can advise you about the right fit for you, as well as discuss coatings and tints that can help you see your best in different circumstances such as low lighting at dusk. Much more detail about this subject can be referenced at the website.

One drawback to purchasing ready-made ("drugstore") reading glasses is that they are essentially "one-size-fits-all" items. The prescription is the same in both lenses, and the location of the optical center of the lenses is not customized for each wearer. Most people do not have exactly the same prescription in both eyes, and almost everyone has at least a small amount of astigmatism correction in their prescriptions.

Headaches, eye strain, and even nausea can result from wearing reading glasses that are too far off from your actual prescription or that have optical centers too far away from the center of your pupils. If you experience these problems, visit your eye doctor for a customized reading glasses prescription.

Also, don't confuse reading glasses with computer eyewear. If you're using reading glasses to try to view your computer screen, it's probably not working very well. For one thing, reading printed matter is done at a closer range than reading text on a computer screen. And, if your reading glasses are the type that force you to lean your head back in order to view your monitor, you're placing unnecessary strain on your neck muscles. Computer users really should invest in prescription computer glasses.

When choosing ready-made reading glasses, always examine the lenses for little bubbles, waves, or other defects. Insist on the best quality, and if you can't find it in ready-made readers, buy a custom-made pair, which many eye care practitioners offer at special prices. Much more information can be found at this website: http://www.allaboutvision.com/over40/readers.htm .

Getting your eyes examined at least once a year is very important, especially if you are over 40. Prior to that, unless you are experiencing problems with your vision, perhaps once every 3 to 5 years is acceptable. Children and teens should be tested to make sure they can see classroom materials. One major problem that has developed since the advent of the smart phone and computers is an increase in vision issues, particularly with kids and teenagers. If you have similar problems with your vision, it’s time to see your optometrist or opthalmologist.

Until next time.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Health Care and Cosmetic Dental Care

If you are concerned about the quality of your smile, there are many ways to take care of your teeth and gums that help produce good oral hygiene and give you a quality visual appearance. More now than ever before the interest in cosmetic dental work has been growing at a rapid pace. Dental offices are offering teeth whitening, and that consumer interest also has been exploding in the retail market with all types of products that are available to make your teeth whiter.

In addition to getting a brighter smile, cosmetic dentistry has huge dollars going into veneers, bonding, implants, orthodontia, grills, and other types of dental work. People want their pearly whites to look like the ones that movie stars have; and if they can afford it, the cosmetic work for a brighter, whiter, more beautiful mouth is where they spend their money. But, cosmetic dental work is not cheap. And, in most cases it is not covered on most dental insurance plans.

According to the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD), a skilled, experienced cosmetic dentist can help to improve your appearance, your smile, even your self-esteem, and confidence. Today, cosmetic dentistry has continued to evolve to where cosmetic dentists can address functional and esthetic patient concerns. While you feel you know a beautiful smile when you see one, there is no perfect smile.

That’s because each person has a different perception of what is beautiful; you and your cosmetic dentist may even have a difference of opinion. So it’s important that you discover what you really like and then communicate that to your dentist. There have been great advances in materials used in the field of dentistry in the past few years, with crowns and bridges improving by leaps and bounds, according to the AACD.

Selecting a cosmetic dentist is crucial. The first step is to look at your smile and determine what you want to change. Your cosmetic dentist may have some other concerns when you visit, but it's best to arrive having your own wish list. Next, ask your family and friends for referrals. Evaluate the skill level of those dentists you are considering, then check the credentials and experience level. At your consultation appointment, be sure to ask again about their experience level and if you can see some photographs of their work.

Have an honest discussion with your dentist about your cosmetic goals to be sure they're realistic. Then discuss the risks, benefits, and alternatives to the recommended procedures. Finally, ask about the cost and treatment time frame. Much more info about this subject is available at this site: http://www.aacd.com/index.php?module=cms&page=727 .

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), if you have stained, broken or uneven teeth, cosmetic dentistry can help. Cosmetic dentistry is different from orthodontic treatment, which can straighten your teeth with braces or other devices. You can visit this website for many additional resources: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/cosmeticdentistry.html . Plus, some additional tips about cosmetic dental procedures include:

·         Bleaching to make teeth whiter
·         Repairing chips or rough spots with fillings that match your teeth
·         Filling cavities with tooth-colored materials
·         Reshaping teeth that don't match the others
·         Closing gaps between teeth
·         Covering broken teeth with porcelain crowns

The rough-and-tumble of life can result in chipped or cracked teeth. Your teeth may look dingy or yellow, or worse, according to Aetna. Habits such as smoking or drinking coffee also stain teeth.  Until fairly recently, the average person couldn't do much about how teeth looked. In the past two decades, however, dental materials and techniques have greatly improved. Now, most people can have almost model-perfect teeth using materials that resist color changes and are almost as strong as the originals.

There's never been a better time to brighten your smile or fix imperfections. Demand for cosmetic dental procedures is greater than ever. That's partly because baby boomers with money to spend are looking for ways to feel and look younger. However, you should keep a few things in mind while making your decision:

·         It can be expensive. For example, porcelain tooth veneers may cost $600 to $2,000 per tooth.
·         Insurance doesn't cover most cosmetic procedures.
·         Materials aren't indestructible. Crowns, inlays and veneers are stronger and more durable than they used to be, but they won't last forever. They may crack or chip or the cement may weaken. They may have to be redone within 10 to 15 years.

It's important to be realistic. Cosmetic dentists are enhancers. They can manipulate, shape and polish materials to create dazzling smiles. What they can't do is change the shape of your mouth or your overall appearance. In order for tooth restorations to truly look natural, they have to work for you. Cosmetic dentistry can improve your appearance; it won't completely transform it.

One of the benefits of cosmetic dentistry is that the final results are easy to predict, if only cosmetic problems are being fixed. Whether you decide to have a gap filled, a chip repaired or a stain concealed, you're unlikely to have unpleasant surprises later. But if the work is more extensive, such as a full mouth reconstruction, then results are not as predictable. More info can be located at this website: http://www.simplestepsdental.com/SS/ihtSSPrint/r.WSIHW000/st.31846/t.32269/pr.3/c.354237.html .

For a very affordable way to pay for cosmetic dental work, you may wish to buy a dental discount plan that includes access to providers in network. All cosmetic procedures are usually included at a discounted rate. One plan in particular that is very inexpensive and provides savings on all cosmetic and general dentistry is available through Careington International. For more information about the plan and how it works, visit their website at www.careington.com.

Remember, having perfect teeth is only in a perfect world. It doesn’t exist. However, you can buy perfect teeth, but consider the cost before you go. Research dentists who can do good work, and follow their directions once the dental procedures have been completed. Paying for a new smile is expensive, but may be worth the investment if you are interested in that movie star look.

Until next time.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Health Care and Short Term Memory Loss

There’s a long standing joke about people who can’t remember where they put their keys, or what they were supposed to buy at the grocery store, or where they parked their car at the shopping mall, or what instructions to follow:

Two men met on the city street in the evening, and had a number of drinks together. The one who lived in the suburbs became confidential, and exhibited a string tied around a finger.

"I don't dare to go home," he explained. "There's something my wife told me to do, without fail, and to make sure I wouldn't forget, she tied that string around my finger. But for the life of me I can't remember what the thing was I am to do. And I don't dare to go home!"

A few days later the two men met again, this time in the afternoon. "Well," the one asked, "did you finally remember what that string was to remind you of?" The other showed great gloom in his expression, as he replied:

"I didn't go home until the next night, just because I was scared, and then my wife told me what the string was for all right--she certainly did!" There was a note of pain in his voice. "The string was to remind me to be sure to come home early."

You might laugh at such a silly story, but the actual truth is that short term memory loss, beyond just being an inconvenience or temporarily embarrassing, can be a problem for many people—especially if it persists or gets worse. It can be dangerous, and may be a precursor of more problematic health issues such as alzheimer’s or dementia. Short-term memory loss can be a natural side effect of aging, or can be caused by disease, injury, stress, or as a side effect of drug use.

You have difficulty concentrating or it feels like your short-term memory isn’t as good as it used to be. You may also notice that normal tasks seem hard to focus on, you are more forgetful, you forget things that you normally wouldn’t, or you have difficulty forming thoughts or carrying on conversations.

You may also start something and uncharacteristically forget what you were doing soon after. You may also have difficulty remembering where you placed things, who you just called, what you just talked about, or what you were looking for or thinking about. You uncharacteristically may have difficulty remembering what you just ate, phone numbers, names, or things you recently did. Things that you would normally not forget, you now do.

According to a report issued by Rutgers University, short-term memory refers to memories which last for a few minutes. Unlike sensory memory, which is stored in the exact form it was experienced, short-term memory has received some processing; thus, "A" is stored not as a visual stimulus, but as an abstract concept of the letter "A". Short-term memory is of limited capacity, usually 5-9 items ("7-plus-or-minus-two"). Beyond this capacity, new information can "bump" out other items from short-term memory. This is one form of forgetting.

Objects in short-term memory can be of indefinite complexity: thus short-term memory can hold several numbers, or several words, or several complex concepts simultaneously. Thus, while an individual may only be able to remember seven random digits, it may be possible to remember more digits if they are "chunked" into meaningful objects: thus, "1776-2001-1941" represents twelve separate digits -- well beyond most people's capacity -- but only three easily-remembered chunks.

Items can be maintained indefinitely in short-term memory by rehearsal: e.g. by repeating the information over and over again. An example would be a seven-digit phone number, which is maintained in short-term memory by repetition until the number is dialed, and then fades from short-term memory once the conversation starts. Repetition may also increase the probability that items in short-term memory will enter permanent storage in long-term memory. More details about how your memory works can be found at this website: http://www.memorylossonline.com/glossary/memory.html .

When testing for any type of memory loss, a doctor will take a medical history and perhaps ask a few questions to test a patient's memory. Other exams may include cognitive testing to check the patient's mental status and ability to think. The doctor may also order blood tests to check for various conditions including vitamin B-12 deficiency and thyroid disease, according to LiveScience.com.

Depending on the results, other tests may include an MRI or CT scan of the head and an EEG to measure electrical activity in the brain. A cerebral angiography may also be ordered to examine blood flow to the brain. If the cause of the short-term memory is related to a psychological trauma, a therapist or psychologist may be consulted.

One of the most common suggestions for a better short-term memory is to use mnemonics. Mnemonics is the technique of attaching a word, phrase or image to an object. One example of a mnemonic is the trick many people learned in school to remember how many days are in a month. “Thirty days hath September, April, June and November …” You can also use the trick to remember things such as a name, such as "Rob wore a red shirt."

Another trick is to have someone put a number of objects out on a table. Give yourself 30 seconds to memorize them. Then take the objects away and try to write down as many as you can in 30 seconds. Doing activities that engage your brain, such as Sudoku and crossword puzzles, and reading in general can also help improve your memory. More material on this subject can be found at this site: http://www.livescience.com/42891-short-term-memory-loss.html.

And did you know chewing gum impairs short term memory? According to Prevention Magazine, a study out of Cardiff University in the UK found that not only does chewing gum not help your short term memory: It impairs it.  In a series of three experiments, 97 university students were asked to recall either a short sequence of letters or identify the missing item in a list.

They performed significantly worse when chewing gum, no matter how vigorously or how lazily they chomped. Researchers speculate that the tongue, mouth, and jaw movements of gum chewing disrupt short-term memory. More info on this topic can be found at this site: http://www.prevention.com/health/brain-games/chewing-gum-hurts-short-term-memory-study .

Much more detail on memory loss in general can be found at the National Institutes for Health (NIH) website: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003257.htm .

Short term memory loss may be just a sign of being distracted or some other issues that are not really problematic. However, it could be a signal that more serious mental health problems are developing. If you are seeing this condition develop more and more in yourself or someone you know, see your doctor for testing. Don’t excuse it away, or you might forget why.

Until next time.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Health Care and Sepsis

Bloodstream infections -- also known as sepsis -- occur in about 10 percent of hospital patients in the United States but contribute to as many as half of all hospital deaths, a new study says by the American Thoracic Society (ATS). Sepsis is common, affecting as many as 750,000 hospitalized patients in the United States each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As reported in HealthDay.com, even though hospitalization rates fell between 2000 and 2010, the number of sepsis-related deaths among hospital patients rose 17 percent during that time, from 45,000 to 135,000. Sepsis is the most expensive cause of hospitalization in the United States, with an annual cost of more than $24 billion, according to the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.  More info on this topic can also be found at this site: http://consumer.healthday.com/infectious-disease-information-21/misc-infections-news-411/blood-infections-play-role-in-up-to-half-of-hospital-deaths-687819.html .

Medical professionals have been debating the exact definition of sepsis for decades, according to the Sepsis Alliance. However, one thing they can agree upon is the origin of the disease. The word sepsis comes from the Greek meaning “decay” or “to putrefy.” In medical terms, sepsis is defined as either “the presence of pathogenic organisms or their toxins in the blood and tissues” or “the poisoned condition resulting from the presence of pathogens or their toxins as in septicemia.”

Patients are given a diagnosis of sepsis when they develop clinical signs of infections or systemic inflammation; sepsis is not diagnosed based on the location of the infection or by the name of the causative microbe. Physicians draw from a list of signs and symptoms in order to make a diagnosis of sepsis, including abnormalities of body temperature, heart rate, respiratory rate, and white blood cell count. Sepsis may be diagnosed in a 72-year-old man with pneumonia, fever, and a high white blood cell count, and in a 3-month-old with appendicitis, low body temperature, and a low white blood cell count.

Sepsis is defined as severe when these findings occur in association with signs of organ dysfunction, such as hypoxemia, oliguria, lactic acidosis, elevated liver enzymes, and altered cerebral function. Nearly all victims of severe sepsis require treatment in an intensive care unit for several days or weeks. While most cases of sepsis are associated with disease or injury, many events follow routine, even elective surgery.

Sepsis can rage in response to incidents as seemingly benign as a playground scrape or a nicked cuticle from the beauty parlor. Sepsis has been named as the expensive in-patient cost in American hospitals. Forty percent of patients diagnosed with severe sepsis do not survive. Until a cure for sepsis is found, early detection is the surest hope for survival. Up to 50% of survivors suffer from post-sepsis syndrome. More information can be found at this website: http://www.sepsisalliance.org/ .

According to the National Institutes for Health (NIH), sepsis is an illness in which the body has a severe response to bacteria or other germs. This response may be called systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS). A bacterial infection anywhere in the body may set off the response that leads to sepsis. Common places where an infection might start include:

·         The bloodstream
·         The bones (common in children)
·         The bowel (usually seen with peritonitis)
·         The kidneys (upper urinary tract infection or pyelonephritis)
·         The lining of the brain (meningitis)
·         The liver or gallbladder
·         The lungs (bacterial pneumonia)
·         The skin (cellulitis)

For patients in the hospital, common sites of infection include intravenous lines, surgical wounds, surgical drains, and sites of skin breakdown known as bedsores (decubitus ulcers). In sepsis, blood pressure drops, resulting in shock. Major organs and body systems including the kidneys, liver, lungs, and central nervous system stop working properly because of poor blood flow. A change in mental status and very fast breathing may be the earliest signs of sepsis. In general, symptoms of sepsis can include:

·         Chills
·         Confusion or delirium
·         Fever or low body temperature (hypothermia)
·         Light-headedness due to low blood pressure
·         Rapid heartbeat
·         Shaking
·         Skin rash
·         Warm skin
·         Bruising or bleeding may also occur.

A person with sepsis will look very sick, according to the NIH. If you have sepsis, you will be admitted to a hospital, usually in the intensive care unit (ICU). Antibiotics are usually given through a vein (intravenously). Oxygen and large amounts of fluids are given through a vein. Other medical treatments include:

·         Medications that increase blood pressure
·         Dialysis if there is kidney failure
·         A breathing machine (mechanical ventilation) if there is lung failure 

In the hospital, careful hand washing and proper care of urinary catheters and IV lines can help prevent infections that lead to sepsis. Much more material on the subject of sepsis can be found at this website: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000666.htm .

Sepsis can affect people of any age according to KidsHealth.org, but is more common in
infants under 3 months, whose immune systems haven't developed enough to fight off overwhelming infections, including the following:

·         The elderly
·         People with chronic medical conditions
·         Those whose immune systems are compromised from conditions such as HIV or cancer.

If your infant is less than 3 months old, has a rectal temperature of 100.4°F (38°C), seems lethargic, irritable, uninterested in eating, having difficulty breathing or appears ill, take your baby to see a doctor immediately. More info can be found at this site: http://kidshealth.org/parent/pregnancy_center/newborn_health_conditions/sepsis.html .

According to the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), severe sepsis and septic shock represent one of the oldest and most pressing problems in medicine. With advances in intensive care, increased awareness, and dissemination of evidence-based guidelines, clinicians have taken large strides in reducing the risk of imminent death associated with sepsis. However, as more patients survive sepsis, concern mounts over the lingering sequelae of what was previously a lethal event.

Strategies are also needed to reach the many millions of patients with sepsis who are far from modern intensive care. At the same time, advances in molecular biology have provided keen insight into the complexity of pathogen and alarm recognition by the human host and important clues to a host response that has gone awry, according to the NEJM. However, harnessing that information to provide effective new therapies has proved to be difficult. To further improve the outcome of patients with sepsis through the development of new therapeutic agents, newer, smarter approaches to clinical-trial design and execution are essential. Much more clinical material can be found at this website: http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMra1208623 .

Sepsis can be deadly. Do all you can to avoid it if possible, but if diagnosed get immediacte and aggressive medical treatment. If you may be in a high risk category, please avoid any issues or situations that can lead to a possible infection. Know your body, and recognize possible symptoms.

Until next time.