Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Health Care and Fire Ants

Although summer is not quite here yet, one of the scourges of American yards across the land soon to emerge on the landscape is a pesky little varmint known as the Fire Ant. These terrible marauders inflict a poisonous bite that can hurt when you are stung, and then linger on as a sore for some time until the spot on your skin eventually heals. If you’ve ever been bitten by one, you’ll know. And some people are very allergic to the venom.

According to the Orkin Company, though not a native species in North America, the red imported fire ant has become a common nuisance throughout the southern United States, ranging from Florida to California and as far north as Oklahoma and Virginia. The red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta) was accidentally brought into the United States in the 1930s via a shipment of cargo. Initially transplanted into Alabama, they have spread and thrived throughout the southern states with the warm climate and lack of predators.

Fire ants favor warm, sunny conditions. They prefer dry fields and avoid shady areas such as woods. Typical mounds can grow up to 61 cm in diameter and 18 cm high. These colonies can contain several hundred thousand ants, including at least one queen.

When attacking, fire ants first use their mandibles to grip their prey, and then inject venom through a stinger. Fire ant stings are painful for most humans and fatal to some: if a victim experiences a severe reaction such as sweating, nausea or excessive itching, emergency medical services should be contacted immediately. Their sting, which includes alkaloid venom, is highly irritating to humans and results in red bumps and white pustules, which can ultimately lead to scarring.

The sensation of a fire ant burn has been described as “stinging” and “intense burning,” and fire ants are known to attack potential threats or prey in large numbers. A fire ant colony may contain 100,000 to 500,000 insects, thus increasing the likelihood that multiple stings will be inflicted. A pest control agency should be contacted in the event of fire ant activity. Professionals can manage lawn infestations while securing homes against indoor invasions. More information can be found at this website: http://www.orkin.com/ants/fire-ant/ .

This year especially, persistent cold snaps in many traditionally mild areas of the U.S. have prompted questions concerning Imported Fire Ant endurance in the frigid winter weather, according to this website: http://www.extension.org/pages/70330/extreme-temperatures-affect-fire-ants . It’s difficult to expose fire ants to lethal temperatures because they move within the mound to avoid temperature extremes. When temperatures drop, fire ants move deeper into the warmer soil below the surface to avoid the cold. However, if the temperatures drop rapidly they may not be able to avoid the cold, especially if wet soil prevents them from moving deeper in the mound. Persistent cold temperatures are required to impact fire ant populations.

Fire ants die quickly when exposed to temperatures in the teens or lower. Cold impacts on fire ant populations are localized. Fire ant mounds located near homes and other heat sinks will be protected from the colder temperatures to some extent. Even if some colonies die, others will survive. Over time, under optimal conditions, population densities will rebound to pre-existing levels or larger.

A drop in visible activity does not always mean a decreased population. On warmer days after the recent cold snap, dead fire ants workers were found on the top of mound indicating some ants had survived to move the dead ants out of the colony. When the weather warms again in the spring, it will be important to continue to scout for mounds. Problems arise when the perceived drop in population causes population management to cease.

For more information about the effects of temperatures on Fire Ants, check out the FAQ questions on eXtension.org at http://www.extension.org/pages/34823/will-a-hard-winter-kill-fire-ants#.UvkDURbinNA .

For most people a single fire ant sting is a ‘mildly painful’ experience that would quickly be forgotten were it not for the ‘mildly irritating’ pustule, according to Mississippi State University Extension Service. Unfortunately, a stinging encounter with fire ants usually involves more than one ant, and each year many people have the experience of being stung by dozens, or even hundreds, of fire ants.

The pain and irritation associated with a single sting is multiplied many fold in such incidents. Most people recover from such encounters with no lasting ill effects, and it is only when such stinging incidents involve many hundreds or thousands of stings that they become truly threatening. But incidents of this magnitude do occasionally occur, usually involving people who are less mobile due to age, accident or infirmity.

Although a few fire ant stings do not constitute a medical emergency for most people, a very small percent of people develop allergic reactions to fire ant venom. These vary in intensity, but in the most extreme cases even a few stings can result in the life-threatening condition known as anaphylaxis. Each year there are cases of human fatalities resulting from fire ant stings, either due to anaphylaxis or to massive numbers of stings occurring on people who are incapacitated.

Given the pain and discomfort that can result from even a few fire ant stings, it is fortunate that fire ants do not normally aggressively seek out and attack human beings. The vast majority of stinging events occur when people inadvertently ‘attack’ the fire ants, usually by unknowingly stepping in, lying in, or otherwise disturbing the mound. The ants perceive this disturbance as a direct attack and the workers quickly react en masse to defend their colony. More info can be found at this site: http://msucares.com/insects/fireants/sting.html .

According to the National Institutes for Health (NIH), home treatment depends on the location of, and reaction to, the sting. Wash the exposed area with plenty of soap and water. Do not use alcohol to wash the area. Wash eyes with plenty of water if any toxin gets in them. For mild stings, place ice (wrapped in a washcloth or other suitable covering) on the bite area for 10 minutes and then off for 10 minutes. Repeat this process. If the patient has circulatory problems, decrease the time to prevent possible damage to the skin.

Some people are very allergic to fire ant venom. If the reaction is severe, seek immediate medical help and call your local emergency number (such as 911) or poison control. Those who have an allergy to insect bites or stings should carry a bee sting kit (which requires a prescription) and become familiar with how to use it in the event of an emergency.

The National Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222) can be called from anywhere in the United States. This national hotline number will let you talk to experts in poisoning. They will give you further instructions. This is a free and confidential service. All local poison control centers in the United States use this national number. You should call if you have any questions about poisoning or poison prevention. It does NOT need to be an emergency. You can call for any reason, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The health care provider dealing with fire ant bites measures and monitors the patient's vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. The wound will be treated as appropriate. The sooner appropriate treatment is started, the better the outcome. Patients not allergic to fire ants should be completely fine in a few hours to a few days. More details can be found at this website: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002843.htm .

Fire ant bites can be painful, and most people don’t have many after affects other than some localized bumps and brief reactions to them. More than anything, the affected area is a nuisance that goes away after a short time. However, for those individuals who suffer from allergies to fire ant bites, seek medical attention as quickly as possible to avoid any serious health emergencies. And, stock up on fire ant bait from your local home improvement store. Plus, just in case, keep the poison control hotline on speed dial.

Until next time.


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Health Care and Texting while Driving

There are actually around 11 million accidents on US roads every year, due to all causes. Please drive carefully -- and make sure you're properly protected with good auto insurance.

In the time it takes you to read this brief note, between 5 and 10 autos will crash because the driver was using a cell phone, according to Tri-Star Insurance in Plano, Texas. It's not just the physical act of using your hands to take a call or, even worse, texting, that's to blame. It's also the fact that drivers become distracted when they focus on the phone.

That's why, increasingly, research shows that even using a hands-free device doesn't significantly reduce the chances of an accident. Just because it's legal to use a hands-free device doesn’t mean it's safe. And you don’t need more evidence than statistics showing that cell-related accidents are going up, not down.

A common distraction problem is to miss traffic signals or fail to spot other road hazards, like a cyclist or an overtaking vehicle. One report suggests a cell phone can impair a driver's ability as much as being drunk. Sorry to have to tell you, there's only one sure way to avoid this problem and that is to put your cell phone out of reach -- either switching it off or putting it in the glove compartment (or even the trunk if you're otherwise likely to be tempted).

You might find this tough to do at first. You need to develop the habit. As it happens, April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, a campaign organized by the National Safety Council (www.nsc.org), so this would be a great time to take the pledge and drive cell-free and encourage others to do the same.

If you have teenagers in your orbit -- through family, work or other connections -- it's even more important to get them to understand the risks they're taking. If they won't listen, get them to visit the non-profit www.cellphonesafety.org. Or tell them that 1 million crashes were caused by cell phone distraction in 2013. It's a shocking statistic you can do something about.

According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the popularity of mobile devices has had some unintended and even dangerous consequences--mobile communications are linked to a significant increase in distracted driving, resulting in injury and loss of life.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that in 2010 driver distraction was the cause of 18 percent of all fatal crashes – with 3,092 people killed – and crashes resulting in an injury – with 416,000 people wounded.

Forty percent of all American teens say they have been in a car when the driver used a cell phone in a way that put people in danger, according to a Pew survey.  The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that text messaging creates a crash risk 23 times worse than driving while not distracted.

Eleven percent of drivers aged 18 to 20 who were involved in an automobile accident and survived admitted they were sending or receiving texts when they crashed.

Distracted driving endangers life and property and the current levels of injury and loss are unacceptable. To stem this problem, the FCC is working with industry, safety organizations, and other government agencies, to inform and educate the public about the dangers of distracted driving and is seeking to identify and facilitate the development of innovative technologies that could reduce the incidence of distracted driving. More info is available at this site: http://www.fcc.gov/guides/texting-while-driving .

Here are some more frightening stats. Texting while driving is a growing trend, and a national epidemic, quickly becoming one of the country’s top killers. Drivers assume they can handle texting while driving and remain safe, but the numbers don’t lie.

Texting While Driving Causes:

1. 1,600,000 accidents per year – National Safety Council.
2. 330,000 injuries per year – Harvard Center for Risk Analysis Study.
3. 11 teen deaths EVERY DAY – Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Fatality Facts.
4. Nearly 25% of ALL car accidents.

Texting While Driving Is:

1. About 6 times more likely to cause an accident than driving intoxicated.
2. The same as driving after 4 beers – National Hwy Transportation Safety Administration.
3. The number one driving distraction reported by teen drivers.

Texting While Driving:

1. Is the same as driving blind for 5 seconds at a time – Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.
3. Takes place by 800,000 drivers at any given time across the country.
4. Slows your brake reaction speed by 18% – Human Factors & Ergonomics Society.
5. Leads to a 400% increase with eyes off the road.

More material on this subject can also be found at this website: http://www.textinganddrivingsafety.com/texting-and-driving-stats/ .

According to the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), states have distracted driving laws. Some localities have additional regulations.

Hand-held Cell Phone Use: 12 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands prohibit all drivers from using hand-held cell phones while driving. Beginning in October 2013, all laws will be primary enforcement—an officer may cite a driver for using a hand-held cell phone without any other traffic offense taking place.

All Cell Phone Use: No state bans all cell phone use for all drivers, but 37 states and D.C. ban all cell phone use by novice drivers, and 20 states and D.C. prohibit it for school bus drivers.

Text Messaging: Washington was the first state to pass a texting ban in 2007. Currently, 43 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands ban text messaging for all drivers. All but 5 have primary enforcement. Of the 7 states without an all driver texting ban:

--4 prohibit text messaging by novice drivers.
--3 restrict school bus drivers from texting.

See this site for extreme details by state: http://www.ghsa.org/html/stateinfo/laws/cellphone_laws.html .

No matter what your excuse, texting while driving is dangerous. Plus, it’s illegal in many areas. Don’t do it. Looking at a text for two seconds is not worth dying for.

Until next time.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Health Care and Flouride

Over the past several decades, a huge push in public health has been the fluoridation of water in the water of most municipalities in the United States. Fluoride-containing compounds are used in topical and systemic fluoride therapy for preventing tooth decay. They are used for water fluoridation and in many products associated with oral hygiene.

Originally, sodium fluoride was used to fluoridate water; hexafluorosilicic acid (H2SiF6) and its salt sodium hexafluorosilicate (Na2SiF6) are more commonly used additives, especially in the United States. The fluoridation of water is known to prevent tooth decay and is considered by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as "one of 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century", according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to the American Dental Association, there are two ways that you can benefit from fluoride: topically and systemically. Topical fluoride is the type of fluoride you receive at the dental office or when you use dental products—such as toothpastes or mouth rinses. Systemic fluoride is ingested, usually through a public water supply, which in the United States applies to nearly 74 percent of the population.

While teeth are forming under the gums, the fluoride taken in largely from drinking water and other beverages strengthens tooth enamel making it stronger and more resistant to cavities. This provides what is called a “systemic” benefit. After teeth erupt, fluoride helps rebuild (remineralize) weakened tooth enamel and reverse early signs of tooth decay. When you brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste, or use other fluoride dental products, you are providing a “topical” benefit because the fluoride is applied to the surface of your teeth. More info can be found at this site: http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/f/fluoride .

Also according to the American Dental Association (ADA), on January 25,1945, Grand Rapids, Michigan became the world's first city to adjust the level of fluoride in its water supply. Since that time, fluoridation has dramatically improved the oral health of tens of millions of Americans. Community water fluoridation is the single most effective public health measure to prevent tooth decay. Approximately 72.4% of the U.S. population served by public water systems receive the benefit of optimally fluoridated water.

Fluoridation of community water supplies is simply the adjustment of the existing, naturally occurring fluoride levels in drinking water to an optimal fluoride level recommended by the U.S. Public Health Service (0.7 – 1.2 parts per million) for the prevention of tooth decay. Water that has been fortified with fluoride is similar to fortifying milk with Vitamin D, table salt with iodine, and bread and cereals with folic acid.

Studies conducted throughout the past 65 years have consistently shown that fluoridation of community water supplies is safe and effective in preventing dental decay in both children and adults. Simply by drinking water, children and adults can benefit from fluoridation's cavity protection whether they are at home, work or school.

Today, studies prove water fluoridation continues to be effective in reducing tooth decay by 20 – 40%, even in an era with widespread availability of fluoride from other sources, such as fluoride toothpaste. Fluoridation is one public health program that actually saves money. An individual can have a lifetime of fluoridated water for less than the cost of one dental filling. More info can be located at this site: http://www.ada.org/fluoride.aspx .

However, there has been a growing pushback against using flouride in the public water systems. Fluoridation of water has an overwhelmingly large body of evidence that states it is not only unnecessary, but downright unethical, ineffective and unhealthy. The purported benefits of fluoridated water are more in the general imagination than in reality because fluoride's action on the body is purely topical, not systemic. However, the negative impact of fluoride is purely systemic, and could well be topical as well. Fluoridation belongs to an era when hazardous chemicals were used under the erroneous belief that they somehow helped humanity - DDT, leaded petroleum, asbestos and PCBs, effluents being passed off as vanilla essence and BPA-laced plastics that were considered food grade among plastics.

Fluoride has toxic effects and can do more harm than good, especially if one is already vulnerable due to a certain illness or health condition. Far from being the panacea to a lack of dental health, water fluoridation is causing a condition amongst children that discolors their teeth. This condition is called dental fluorosis. Diseases of the bones, such as brittle bones in the elderly or in patients with advanced forms of kidney disease are also one of the dangers of ingesting fluoridated water.

Fluoride, consumed excessively, as can be the case with fluoridated water, leads to its accumulation in the pineal gland, severely slowing down the production of melatonin, an essential hormone for optimal functioning of the body, including sleep regulation. It is also known to accumulate in other parts of the body, thereby rendering them unhealthy. Fluoride can also cause bone cancer in young men, thyroid malfunction, and arthritis in otherwise healthy humans, to name only a few.

More information on this debate can be found at this website: http://www.naturalnews.com/040986_fluoride_water_supply_chemical_waste.html .

Additionally, as reported in the Huffington Post, a recently-published Harvard University meta-analysis funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has concluded that children who live in areas with highly fluoridated water have "significantly lower" IQ scores than those who live in low fluoride areas. Fluoride can also increase manganese absorption, compounding problems, since manganese in drinking water has also been linked to lower IQ in children. Studies have shown that fluoride toxicity can lead to a wide variety of health problems, including:

• Increased lead absorption
• Disrupts synthesis of collagen
• Hyperactivity and/or lethargy
• Muscle disorders
• Thyroid disease
• Arthritis
• Dementia
• Bone fractures
• Lowered thyroid function
• Bone cancer (osteosarcoma)
• Inactivates 62 enzymes and inhibits more than 100
• Inhibited formation of antibodies
• Genetic damage and cell death
• Increased tumor and cancer rate

More indepth material about this report on water flouridation and its affects can be found at this site: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-mercola/fluoride_b_2479833.html .

Meanwhile, as the argument rages over whether or not to flouridate water systems, dentists recommend using toothpaste with flouride. Parents should use a tiny smear of fluoride toothpaste to brush baby teeth twice daily as soon as they erupt, instead of waiting until children are older, according to new guidelines by the American Dental Association.

To fight the rising number of cavities in the very young, the dental group now advises getting a jump-start on prevention. However, they emphasize only the tiniest amount of fluoride toothpaste should be used to minimize the risk of mild discoloration, white spots or streaking of the teeth, a condition called fluorosis that is caused by ingesting fluoride toothpaste at a young age.

The Journal of the American Dental Association this month concluded that scientific evidence, though limited in children under age 6 and more robust in older children, demonstrated that fluoride toothpaste is effective in controlling tooth decay, and that “the appropriate amount” should be used “by all children regardless of age.” More details can be found at this site: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/02/12/dental-group-advises-fluoride-toothpaste-before-age-2/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0 .

Regardless of your position on flouride, there is a body of evidence on each side of the debate about its effectiveness for dental care. As a concerned and educated person, you should research the material and talk with professionals to determine your feelings about how to proceed. For some, you may consider using flouride as too risky. And for others, there may be no concerns. Talk with your dentist about their opinion and if they can point you to information that can help you learn more about it. The bottom line is, however, don’t ignore your dental hygiene.

Until next time.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Health Care and Bad Breath (Halitosis)

People who have bad breath can really stink up a room. The cause of their social faux pas is due primarily to poor oral health. The technical term is halitosis; but if you mention to anyone that they suffer from that particular issue, you might just get a blank stare. Most people, however, can easily identify with the term “bad breath.” In some parts of the world, the whole country might smell—likely because most of the inhabitants are living with halitosis.

According to the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD), more than 80 million people suffer from chronic halitosis, or bad breath. In most cases it originates from the gums and tongue. The odor is caused by wastes from bacteria in the mouth, the decay of food particles, other debris in your mouth and poor oral hygiene. The decay and debris produce a sulfur compound that causes the unpleasant odor.

In many people, the millions of bacteria that live in the mouth (particularly on the back of the tongue) are the primary causes of bad breath. The mouth's warm, moist conditions make an ideal environment for these bacteria to grow. Most bad breath is caused by something in the mouth, according to Colgate.
Some types of bad breath, such as "morning mouth," are considered to be fairly normal, and they usually are not health concerns. The "morning mouth" type of bad breath occurs because the saliva that regularly washes away decaying food and odors during the daytime diminishes at night while you sleep. Your mouth becomes dry, and dead cells adhere to your tongue and to the inside of your cheeks. Bacteria use these cells for food and expel compounds that have a foul odor.

In addition, bad breath can be caused by the following:
  • Poor dental hygiene — Infrequent or improper brushing and flossing can leave food particles to decay inside the mouth.
  • Infections in the mouth — Periodontal (gum) disease
  • Respiratory tract infections — Throat infections, sinus infections, lung infections
  • External agents — Garlic, onions, coffee, cigarette smoking, chewing tobacco
  • Dry Mouth (xerostomia) — This can be caused by salivary gland problems, medications or by "mouth breathing."
  • Systemic illnesses — Diabetes, liver disease, kidney disease, lung disease, sinus disease, reflux disease and others
  • Psychiatric illness — Some people may perceive that they have bad breath, but it is not noticed by oral-health-care professionals or others. This is referred to as "pseudohalitosis."
A person may not always know that he or she has bad breath. This phenomenon is because odor-detecting cells in the nose eventually become accustomed to the constant flow of bad smells from the mouth. Others may notice and react by recoiling as you speak. More information on halitosis can be found at this site: http://www.colgate.com/app/CP/US/EN/OC/Information/Articles/Oral-and-Dental-Health-Basics/Common-Concerns/Bad-Breath/article/What-Causes-My-Bad-Breath.cvsp .

It is important to practice good oral hygiene, such as brushing and flossing your teeth at least twice a day, according to the AGD. Proper brushing, including brushing the tongue, cheeks and the roof of the mouth, will remove bacteria and food particles. Flossing removes accumulated bacteria, plaque and food that may be trapped between teeth. To alleviate odors, clean your tongue with your toothbrush or a tongue scraper, a plastic tool that scrapes away bacteria that builds on the tongue.

Chewing sugar-free gum also may help control odor. If you have dentures or a removable appliance, such as a retainer or mouth guard, clean the appliance thoroughly before placing it back in your mouth. Before you use mouth rinses, deodorizing sprays or tablets, talk with your dentist, because these products only mask the odor temporarily and some products work better than others.

A dentist or physician may notice the patient's bad breath while the patient is discussing his or her medical history and symptoms. In some cases, depending on the smell of the patient's breath, the dentist or physician may suspect a likely cause for the problem. For example, "fruity" breath may be a sign of uncontrolled diabetes. A urine-like smell, especially in a person who is at high risk of kidney disease, can sometimes indicate kidney failure.

Your dentist will review your medical history for medical conditions that can cause bad breath and for medications that can cause dry mouth. Your dentist also will ask you about your diet, personal habits (smoking, chewing tobacco) and any symptoms, including when the bad breath was noticed and by whom.

Your dentist will examine your teeth, gums, oral tissues and salivary glands. He or she also will feel your head and neck and will evaluate your breath when you exhale from your nose and from your mouth. Once the physical examination is finished, your dentist may refer you to your family physician if systemic problems are the most likely cause. In severe cases of gum disease, your dentist may recommend that you be seen by a periodontist (dentist who specializes in gum problems).

You will need diagnostic tests if the doctor suspects a lung infection, diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease or Sjögren's syndrome. Depending on the suspected illness, these tests may include blood tests, urine tests, X-rays of the chest or sinuses, or other specialized testing. More information on bad breath issues can be found at this website: http://www.knowyourteeth.com/infobites/abc/article/?abc=W&iid=306&aid=1254 .

According to US News & World Report, there are several kinds of natural remedies, like chewing parsley, eating herbs like rosemary or drinking black tea. The important thing is to find out the cause of your bad breath before committing to one of these remedies or picking up a bottle-of-mouthwash-a-day habit. Not only are these temporary fixes, but they could prevent you from catching serious dental or medical issues. You can find more material at this site: http://health.usnews.com/health-news/health-wellness/articles/2014/01/08/how-to-prevent-and-treat-bad-breath .

Halitosis affects an estimated one in four adults, not to mention the scores of us with healthy mouths who go the extra mile to ensure that our exhales don't offend, according to http://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/oral-care/problems/halitosis.htm . Then there are those who experience the fear of bad breath -- halitophobia -- so intensely that their dentists may refer them to psychologists.

As a result, the oral hygiene industry is booming. Grocery store and pharmacy shelves are packed with a vast array of products to slay those oral odors, including gums, sprays, toothpastes and more. One of the most common products people purchase to combat halitosis is mouthwash. The British Medical Journal recommends using solutions with chlorohexidrine gluconate, which is proven to kill pesky bacteria. Rinsing with it at night preps you for a fresher-smelling morning since dry mouth that occurs when you sleep fosters bacteria production.

Not surprisingly, what you put into your mouth during the day can also influence the olfactory impact of your breath. Drinking water throughout the day is not only good for your body, but also good for your breath. It washes away bacteria and particles that prompt halitosis. Certain foods including parsley, fennel seeds and carrots can freshen your mouth as well.

Bad breath is no laughing matter, as typically you are the one laughed at if it’s your mouth. Do yourself a favor and practice good oral hygiene. If you still have problems, see your dentist or doctor to find out if your halitosis stems from a medical issue or some other reason. It pays to have “minty fresh breath.

Until next time.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Health Care and Suicide

Suicide is the end result of someone who has seen no end in sight for a particular problem. Taking your life because you seemingly feel there is no way out of an issue is not an answer—coldly, it’s an excuse. It may be a solution to your crisis that in your mind is the only way to escape; but to end your life can be tragic not only for you, but for those who know and love you. Suicide is not an acceptable answer to a question you anticipate has no other resolution.

If you are in intense emotional and/or physical pain, remember that your judgment is being clouded by that pain. If you are considering suicide, you are trying to end that pain. Please do not confuse ending your pain with ending your life. The two are very different, according to www.suicide.org, a prevention organization.

If you are suicidal, you probably are suffering from clinical depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, postpartum depression, PTSD, or something similar. And if you have something along these lines, you actually have a chemical imbalance in your brain -- and you cannot possibly think straight because of it. That is beyond your control. You are not weak. You just need some treatment. This imbalance can occur for several reasons, from genetics to a traumatic life experience, and it is extremely common for people to have this imbalance, so do not feel like you are alone. You are not.

This imbalance may be rectified in several ways, but first you need to be assessed so that the cause may be understood. I would request that you please go to a medical doctor. The doctor can determine if there is a secondary problem (such as a thyroid problem) that is causing the imbalance. If so, an appropriate medication may be prescribed to you. Next, you should visit a therapist. This will allow another assessment to occur and will also allow you to begin talking about your feelings. If the therapist determines that you need a prescription, he or she may refer you to someone who may assist you in that area. More information can be found at this website:
http://www.suicide.org/ .

According to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, also it can be scary when a friend or loved one is thinking about suicide. If someone you know has any warning signs you should encourage them to call 1-800-255-TALK (8255) so that the individual can find out what resources are available in his or her area. The call is routed to the Lifeline center closest to the caller’s area code. The local crisis center may have resources such as counseling or in-patient treatment centers for your friend or family member.  The Lifeline offers tips to you to help with someone who is threatening suicide:

o   Be direct. Talk openly and matter-of-factly about suicide.
o   Be willing to listen. Allow expressions of feelings. Accept the feelings.
o   Be non-judgmental. Don't debate whether suicide is right or wrong, or whether feelings are good or bad. Don't lecture on the value of life.
o   Get involved. Become available. Show interest and support.
o   Don't dare him or her to do it.
o   Don't act shocked. This will put distance between you.
o   Don't be sworn to secrecy. Seek support.
o   Offer hope that alternatives are available but do not offer glib reassurance.
o   Take action. Remove means, such as guns or stockpiled pills.
o   Get help from persons or agencies specializing in crisis intervention and suicide prevention.
Many people at some time in their lives think about suicide, according to the American Association of Suicidology. Most decide to live because they eventually come to realize that the crisis is temporary and death is permanent. On the other hand, people having a crisis sometimes perceive their dilemma as inescapable and feel an utter loss of control. These are some of the feelings and thoughts they experience:

o   Can't stop the pain
o   Can't think clearly
o   Can't make decisions
o   Can't see any way out
o   Can't sleep, eat or work
o   Can't get out of depression
o   Can't make the sadness go away
o   Can't see a future without pain
o   Can't see themselves as worthwhile
o   Can't get someone's attention
o   Can't seem to get control
Get more material about this topic at this website: http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ .

Many times, people who are considering suicide have conflicting thoughts about how their spiritual life may be affected, especially if they are members of a certain faith. Christians can feel depressed and have suicidal thoughts also. It can happen for all of the same reasons mentioned above. The trials of life touch everyone, including Believers.  If the situation you are in is something you can't change, know that God can intervene miraculously. As hard as it may be to do, continue praying for God's help. Don't stop.

Professional help in the form of a qualified Christian counselor is one of the best ways to fight depression and thoughts of suicide. Look in the phone book and make some calls. Ask for references. A good counselor can help you get a new perspective on your problems. Get a medical check-up. Sometimes depression can be caused by a chemical imbalance or other biological factor.

Seek out a support group (starting with your church) that ministers to the area of difficulty in your life. Interacting with others who are facing similar challenges in their lives will help you feel less isolated. Force yourself to do something the next time you feel down. Inactivity only makes depression worse. Here are some things to try:

·         Talk to someone. Call a friend and share your feelings.
·         Take a walk. Exercise causes your blood and oxygen to circulate faster, which makes you feel invigorated. Your brain produces chemicals called endorphins that fight depression.
·         Do something to help someone else. As you focus your attention on another's needs, your own cares may become less burdensome.
·         Listen to music. Choose your favorite songs and sing along.
If you need ongoing support, you are encouraged to contact the pastor of your local church. With the guidance of a minister, you might also consider seeking professional Christian counseling. Here is an example of one of many national ministries that has resources to help:  The American Association of Christian Counselors, and you can call them at 1-866-611-HELP (1-866-611-4357). Much more information on this topic can be found at this website: http://www.cbn.com/spirituallife/cbnteachingsheets/suicide.aspx .

Regardless of your situation, suicide is fatal. If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts to end life, seek help as soon as possible. Most people who contemplate suicide really don’t want to die; they are calling out for attention or help due to some personal crisis. If you recognize the symptoms, don’t wait to do something about preventing the taking of life into your own hands. Act sooner rather than later. In this type of case, time is only your friend when you take advantage of it.

Until next time.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Health Care and Diverticulitis

If you suffer from chronic pain in your lower left abdomen, that also may be accompanied with tenderness and some fever, you may be experiencing diverticulitis. Some people may additionally experience leukocytosis (an elevation of the white cell count in blood tests). Patients may also complain of nausea or diarrhea; others may be constipated.

According to MedicineNet.com, as a person ages, pressure within the colon causes small outpouchings (sacs) that push out from the walls of the colon. A single outpouching is called a diverticulum. The plural of diverticulum (two or more outpouchings) is diverticula. Diverticula may occur throughout the colon, but they are most common near the distal end of the left colon called the sigmoid colon. People who have diverticula in the colon are referred to as having diverticulosis. Diverticulosis is very common in adults in the U. S., and most people will eventually develop them.

Diverticula are common in the Western world but are rare in areas such as Asia and Africa. Diverticula increase with age. They are uncommon before the age of 40, and are seen in more than 40% of people over the age of 60 years in the U.S.

Most people with diverticulosis have few or no symptoms. However, when a diverticulum ruptures, bacteria (always present in the colon) spread into the tissues surrounding the colon and cause infection and inflammation—when the condition called diverticulitis finally results.

Many doctors believe that seeds and nuts that are eaten can get caught in the opening to a diverticulum and increase the chance of rupture and developing diverticulitis. There is insufficient scientific evidence that seeds and nuts promote diverticulitis, however, to support dietary restrictions. More information can be found a this site: http://www.medicinenet.com/diverticulosis/article.htm .

According to the National Institutes for Health (NIH), scientists are not certain what causes diverticulosis and diverticular disease. For more than 50 years, the most widely accepted theory was that a low-fiber diet led to diverticulosis and diverticular disease. Diverticulosis and diverticular disease were first noticed in the United States in the early 1900s, around the time processed foods were introduced into the American diet.

Consumption of processed foods greatly reduced Americans’ fiber intake. Diverticulosis and diverticular disease are common in Western and industrialized countries—particularly the United States, England, and Australia—where low-fiber diets are common. The condition is rare in Asia and Africa, where most people eat high-fiber diets.Two large studies also indicate that a low-fiber diet may increase the chance of developing diverticular disease.

However, a recent study found that a low-fiber diet was not associated with diverticulosis and that a high-fiber diet and more frequent bowel movements may be linked to an increased rather than decreased chance of diverticula.

Other studies have focused on the role of decreased levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin in causing decreased relaxation and increased spasms of the colon muscle. A neurotransmitter is a chemical that helps brain cells communicate with nerve cells. However, more studies are needed in this area.

Studies have also found links between diverticular disease and obesity, lack of exercise, smoking, and certain medications including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin, and steroids.

Scientists agree that with diverticulitis, inflammation may begin when bacteria or stool get caught in a diverticulum. In the colon, inflammation also may be caused by a decrease in healthy bacteria and an increase in disease-causing bacteria. This change in the bacteria may permit chronic inflammation to develop in the colon. More material on this malady can be found at this website: http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddISeases/pubs/diverticulosis/ .

Your doctor will start your diagnosis by talking to you about the symptoms that you’re experiencing and your medical history. Your doctor will also perform a physical exam, checking for any pain in the abdomen. A blood test might also be ordered to find out if your white blood cell count is higher than normal, which would indicate an infection. Your doctor might also order a computed tomography (CT) scan (which uses computer-guided X-ray images) to find out if you have diverticula that are infected, according to HealthLine at this website: http://www.healthline.com/health/diverticulitis#Overview .

According to the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons, Increasing the amount of dietary fiber (grains, legumes, vegetables, etc.) - and sometimes restricting certain foods reduces the pressure in the colon and may decrease the risk of complications due to diverticular disease.

Diverticulitis requires different management. Mild cases may be managed with oral antibiotics, dietary restrictions and possibly stool softeners. More severe cases require hospitalization with intravenous antibiotics and dietary restraints. Most acute attacks can be relieved with such methods.

Surgery is reserved for patients with recurrent episodes of diverticulitis, complications or severe attacks when there's little or no response to medication. Surgery may also be required in individuals with a single episode of severe bleeding from diverticulosis or with recurrent episodes of bleeding.

Surgical treatment for diverticulitis removes the diseased part of the colon, most commonly, the left or sigmoid colon. Often the colon is hooked up or "anastomosed" again to the rectum. Complete recovery can be expected. Normal bowel function usually resumes in about three weeks. In emergency surgeries, patients may require a temporary colostomy bag. Patients are encouraged to seek medical attention for abdominal symptoms early to help avoid complications. More info can be located at this site: http://www.fascrs.org/patients/conditions/diverticular_disease/.

While the reason is not exactly known, there is some evidence that links smoking & stress to symptoms becoming worse. Other factors that increase risk of diverticulitis are disease in the genes, gallbladder disease, obesity & coronary artery disease. The best steps you can take in treating diverticulitis have to do with your lifestyle.

A high fiber diet has been shown to be protective against diverticular disease. You'll need at least 20 to 35 grams of fiber a day to help prevent problems from diverticulosis. Consume fresh fruits and vegetables, cereals that are high in fiber and bran. Be sure to drink plenty of pure water each day, as a high fiber diet will not be effective without adequate water consumption.

Studies have also shown physical activity, specifically jogging or running, to protect against symptomatic diverticular disease. For naturopathic or holistic options to control or limit the inflammation that may lead to diverticulitis, find a lot of material on the subject at this website: http://www.naturalnews.com/021334_diverticulitis_digestive_disorders.html.

Diverticular disease is stressful, and painful. However, there are steps you can take to lessen the impact of it as you grow older. Lifestyle, diet, and preventive medicine can help you live with this medical condition. See your doctor right away if you experience symptoms that may be causing you abdominal discomfort. Don’t delay treatment, and make dietary changes that can help you deal with diverticular problems.

Until next time.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Health Care and Spring Fever

When the flowers start to bloom and the trees begin to bud, the end of Winter and the beginning of Spring is near. Have you ever been so depressed or have feelings of being cooped up like a caged bird as you await the arrival of warmer temperatures and milder weather that you can hardly stand it? You just want to run outside without worrying about freezing to death from all the blustery winds and snow of the colder months. You seem like you are going to burst if you don’t get some fresh air and enjoy the outdoors without the fear of frostbite.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Spring fever, that reputed and seemingly infectious malady that strikes when the days lengthen and temperatures begin to climb, has been blamed for feverish bouts of house-cleaning, restless behavior in the classroom, distraction in meetings and love struck dazes. Some scientists think spring fever is more than just a colloquialism -- they think it's a constellation of symptoms brought about by hormonal changes in the body.

In winter, the body secretes high levels of melatonin, a hormone that governs sleep-wake cycles. Come spring, the increasing amount of daylight is registered by light-sensitive tissue in the eye, which signals the brain to stop secreting so much melatonin. As the hormone's levels drop off, greater wakefulness results. On the other hand, levels of another chemical, serotonin, rise in spring. This mood-elevating neurotransmitter may be at the root of the giddiness, energy boost and enthusiasm that characterize spring fever. More information can be found here: http://articles.latimes.com/2008/mar/31/health/he-esoterica31 .

Just as your bare legs are soaking in the sun, your brain is busy processing the bright light as well. The increased sunshine signals the body to produce less melatonin, which plays an important role in sleep, as noted above. There's more daylight, so people have more energy, sleep a little less. Some would argue it's not just hormones at work, but that there's another possible reason people are happier the more time they spend outdoors on a sunny day: It's likely you're logging extra hours exercising.

Although there is little evidence that spring turns people to romance, according to studies done by the UNC School of Medicine. As warm weather returns, “People feel better. They have more energy. That would make them prone to a relationship.”

Several studies have found seasonal variation in sperm counts, with the lowest sperm concentrations occurring during the hot summer months. Other research suggests that in the United States, there is a small peak in births in February and March, indicating conception the previous spring. But more babies are born in August and September, and they would have been conceived in the darkness of winter.

·         Warm weather is a great incentive to exercise outdoors. “Twenty to forty minutes of exercise most days of the week is a terrific baseline.”

·         But as you spend more time outside, make sure to stay well-hydrated. To reduce your exposure to pollen, which can affect people with allergies and asthma, exercise in the early morning. Plants open up and flower as the sun comes up.

·         Resume outdoor exercise gradually to avoid injury.

·         Take steps to avoid too much sun, which can lead to skin cancer. To reduce your risk, try wearing protective clothing and staying indoors during the brightest part of the day.

For some however, spring fever can mean the opposite-a loss of energy with the onset of spring (“spring tiredness”), according to this site: http://www.prlog.org/11793658-understanding-spring-fevers-symptoms.html . Spring fever cannot be classed as a diagnosed illness, rather it is a phenomenon that seems to be caused by a change in the seasons. People usually experience symptoms from mid-March to mid- April.

The most common symptoms are weariness even with enough sleep, a sensitivity to changes in the weather, dizziness, irritability, headaches, and sometimes aching joints. Your hormone balance may play a role in this. Possibly your “happiness hormone”: seratonin which relies on daylight for production depletes over the winter, which allows the “sleep hormone”: melatonin to have more effect. In the spring your hormones readjust with more daylight. Temperature and food can also affect ”spring fever”.

According to Scientific American, clearly, there are marked correlations between moods, behavior and the lengthening days of spring, but the precise cause for our renewed energy remains elusive. The evidence for spring fever remains largely anecdotal. But, just as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) has proved sadly real, spring fever edges away from science fiction, even if it is not quite science fact. More info can be found at this site: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/spring-fever-means-lighter-moods-and-more-love/ .

 As the weather gets warmer and sunnier in the spring, the opposite happens: body temperature goes up, blood pressure goes down, and the feel-good hormone serotonin begins to dominate. The problem is that the transitions between these different stages don’t always go smoothly. In any case, hormonal imbalances take place that can cause all sorts of physical and mental responses. Some experts say that spring fever or spring fatigue are a bit like having a “ hangover” after a period of dormancy, perhaps a lighter version of what hibernating animals go through , according to Timi Gustafson R.D., a registered dietitian, newspaper columnist, blogger and author of the book “The Healthy Diner – How to Eat Right and Still Have Fun” .

Because your experience of seasonal changes has become so much mitigated through artificial light and heating, your natural reactions may be even less predictable. The effects of seasonal changes on the body’s equilibrium are stress-producing, says Karina Seizinger, a homeopath and yoga teacher who recommends taking a number of measures for the treatment of spring fatigue symptoms. Among them are eating a healthy, balanced diet consisting of lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, drinking plenty of water, exercising, exposing the body to sunlight and engaging in calming practices like yoga and meditation. More info on this topic can be found at this site: http://blog.seattlepi.com/timigustafsonrd/2013/04/13/spring-fever-season/ .

So, when you start to feel like you are experiencing the symptoms attributed to Spring fever, then take time to review where you are physically and mentally to adjust. If you are not affected, check your blood pressure.

Until next time.