Friday, February 20, 2009

Health Care and Green Tea

Since the days of Ponce de Leon, Americans have been fascinated with the search for the fountain of youth and the ever present concern about staying healthy. People are constantly looking for that next new product that will keep us in good health. One of the latest fads for helping to restore health is the use of green tea. Tea has long been known for its medicinal effects in many parts of the world, particularly in the Orient. Tea ceremonies have been a tradition in Japan for hundreds of years and recently have enjoyed a resurgence in popularity.

According to the Mayo Clinic, Green tea is made from the dried leaves of Camellia sinensis , a perennial evergreen shrub. Green tea has a long history of use, dating back to China approximately 5,000 years ago. Green tea, black tea, and oolong tea are all derived from the same plant. Tea varieties reflect the growing region (for example, Ceylon or Assam), the district (for example, Darjeeling), the form (for example, pekoe is cut, gunpowder is rolled), and the processing method (for example, black, green, or oolong). India and Sri Lanka are the major producers of green tea. Historically, tea has been served as a part of various ceremonies and has been used to stay alert during long meditations.

According to WHFoods, green tea is the least processed and thus provides the most antioxidant polyphenols, notably a catechin called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), which is believed to be responsible for most of the health benefits linked to green tea. Green tea is made by briefly steaming the just harvested leaves, rendering them soft and pliable and preventing them from fermenting or changing color. After steaming, the leaves are rolled, then spread out and "fired" (dried with hot air or pan-fried in a wok) until they are crisp. The resulting greenish-yellow tea has a green, slightly astringent flavor close to the taste of the fresh leaf.

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMM), botanical evidence indicates that India and China were among the first countries to cultivate tea. Today, hundreds of millions of people drink tea around the world, and studies are now suggesting that green tea (Camellia sinesis) in particular has many health benefits. There are three main varieties of tea -- green, black, and oolong. The difference between the teas is in their processing. Green tea is made from unfermented leaves and reportedly contains the highest concentration of powerful antioxidants called polyphenols. Antioxidants are substances that scavenge free radicals -- damaging compounds in the body that alter cells, tamper with DNA (genetic material), and even cause cell death. Free radicals occur naturally in the body, but environmental toxins (including ultraviolet rays from the sun, radiation, cigarette smoke, and air pollution) also give rise to these damaging particles. Many scientists believe that free radicals contribute to the aging process as well as the development of a number of health problems, including cancer and heart disease. Antioxidants such as polyphenols in green tea can neutralize free radicals and may reduce or even help prevent some of the damage they cause. Green tea has been consumed throughout the ages in India, China, Japan, and Thailand. In traditional Chinese and Indian medicine, practitioners used green tea as a stimulant, diuretic (to promote the excretion of urine), astringent (to control bleeding and help heal wounds), and to improve heart health. Other traditional uses of green tea include treating flatulence (gas), regulating body temperature and blood sugar, promoting digestion, and improving mental processes.

According to, Today, scientific research in both Asia and the west is providing hard evidence for the health benefits long associated with drinking green tea. For example, in 1994 the Journal of the National Cancer Institute published the results of an epidemiological study indicating that drinking green tea reduced the risk of esophageal cancer in Chinese men and women by nearly sixty percent. University of Purdue researchers recently concluded that a compound in green tea inhibits the growth of cancer cells. There is also research indicating that drinking green tea lowers total cholesterol levels, as well as improving the ratio of good (HDL) cholesterol to bad (LDL) cholesterol. To sum up, here are just a few medical conditions in which drinking green tea is reputed to be helpful:
--Rheumatoid arthritis
--High cholesterol levels
--Cardiovascular disease
--Impaired immune function

The secret of green tea, according to, lies in the fact it is rich in catechin polyphenols. EGCG is a powerful anti-oxidant: besides inhibiting the growth of cancer cells, it kills cancer cells without harming healthy tissue. It has also been effective in lowering LDL cholesterol levels, and inhibiting the abnormal formation of blood clots. The latter takes on added importance when you consider that thrombosis (the formation of abnormal blood clots) is the leading cause of heart attacks and stroke. Why don't other Chinese teas have similar health-giving properties? Green, oolong, and black teas all come from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. What sets green tea apart is the way it is processed. Green tea leaves are steamed, which prevents the EGCG compound from being oxidized. By contrast, black and oolong tea leaves are made from fermented leaves, which results in the EGCG being converted into other compounds that are not nearly as effective in preventing and fighting various diseases. Green tea can even help prevent tooth decay! Just as its bacteria-destroying abilities can help prevent food poisoning, it can also kill the bacteria that causes dental plaque. Meanwhile, skin preparations containing green tea - from deodorants to creams - are starting to appear on the market.

Benefits of specific doses of green tea, however, are not established according to the National Institute of Health (NIH). Most studies have examined green tea in the form of a brewed beverage, rather than in capsule form. One cup of tea contains approximately 50 milligrams of caffeine and 80 to 100 milligrams of polyphenol content, depending on the strength of the tea and the size of cup. Studies have examined the effects of habitually drinking anywhere from 1-10 cups per day (or greater). In capsule form, there is considerable variation in the amount of green tea extract (GTE); there may be anywhere from 100 to 750 milligrams per capsule. Currently, there is no established recommended dose for GTE capsules. Green tea is not recommended for infants or children due to caffeine content. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.

According to the Mayo Clinic, there are some safety precautions for drinking green tea:
1.) Allergies: People with known allergy/hypersensitivity to caffeine or tannin should avoid green tea. Skin rash and hives have been reported with caffeine ingestion.
2.) Caffeine Sensitivity: Studies of the side effects of green tea specifically are limited. However, green tea is a source of caffeine, for which multiple reactions are reported.
--Caffeine is a stimulant of the central nervous system, and may cause insomnia in adults, children, and infants (including nursing infants of mothers taking caffeine). Caffeine acts on the kidneys as a diuretic (increasing urine and urine sodium/potassium levels and potentially decreasing blood sodium/potassium levels) and may worsen incontinence. Caffeine-containing beverages may increase the production of stomach acid and may worsen ulcer symptoms.
--Tannin in tea can cause constipation. Certain doses of caffeine can increase heart rate and blood pressure, although people who consume caffeine regularly do not seem to experience these effects in the long-term.
--An increase in blood sugar levels may occur. Caffeine-containing beverages such as green tea should be used cautiously in patients with diabetes. In contrast, lowering of blood sugar levels from drinking green tea has also been reported in preliminary research. Additional study is needed in this area.
--People with severe liver disease should use caffeine cautiously, as levels of caffeine in the blood may build up and last longer. Skin rashes have been associated with caffeine ingestion. In laboratory and animal studies, caffeine has been found to affect blood clotting, although effects in humans are not known.
--Caffeine toxicity is possible with high doses. Chronic use can result in tolerance, psychological dependence, and may be habit forming. Abrupt discontinuation may result in withdrawal symptoms.
--Several population studies initially suggested a possible association between caffeine use and fibrocystic breast disease, although more recent research has not found this connection. Limited research reports a possible relationship between caffeine use and multiple sclerosis, although evidence is not definitive in this area. Animal study reports that tannin fractions from tea plants may increase the risk of cancer, although it is not clear that the tannin present in green tea has significant carcinogenic effects in humans.
--Drinking tannin-containing beverages such as tea may contribute to iron deficiency, and in infants, tea has been associated with impaired iron metabolism and microcytic anemia.
In preliminary research, green tea has been associated with decreased levels of estrogens in the body. It is not clear if significant side effects such as hot flashes may occur.
3.) Pregnancy: Large amounts of green tea should be used cautiously in pregnant women, as caffeine crosses the placenta and has been associated with spontaneous abortion, intrauterine growth retardation, and low birth weight. Caffeine is readily transferred into breast milk. Caffeine ingestion by infants can lead to sleep disturbances/insomnia.

According to the UMM, the use of herbs is a time-honored approach to strengthening the body and treating disease. However, herbs contain active substances that can trigger side effects and interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For these reasons, people should take herbs with care, under the supervision of a practitioner knowledgeable in the field of botanical medicine. People with heart problems, kidney disorders, stomach ulcers, and psychological disorders (particularly anxiety) should not take green tea. Pregnant and breast-feeding women should also avoid green tea. People who drink excessive amounts of caffeine (including caffeine from green tea) for prolonged periods of time may experience irritability, insomnia, heart palpitation, and dizziness. Caffeine overdose can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, and loss of appetite. If you are drinking a lot of tea and start to vomit or have abdominal spasms, you may have caffeine poisoning. Lower your caffeine intake and see your health care provider if your symptoms are severe. If you are being treated with any of the following medications, you should not drink green tea or take green tea extract without first talking to your health care provider: Adenosine, Antibiotics, Beta-lactam, Benzodiazepines, Beta-blockers, Propranolol, and Metoprolol, Blood Thinning Medications (Including Aspirin), Chemotherapy, Clozapine, Ephedrine, Lithium, Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs), Oral Contraceptives, Phenylpropanolamine.

As with any type of supplement, food, or drink, always use caution when consuming the product. If you have sensitivity to caffeine especially, be careful with any exposure to green tea. Consult your physician if you have any side effects from any green tea products. Popularity of green tea now is very high in the consumer market place. However, just because something is the new hot item on the planet does not mean it's suitable for everyone. Use common sense. Most people will not have an issue with green tea. But if you happen to be one of those who cannot drink it or use it in another form, stay away from using it.

Until next time. Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Health Care and Do-It-Yourself Diagnosis

In the parlance of the health care industry, according to the New York Times, Plenty of uninsured adults are among the “young invincibles” — people in their 20s who shun insurance either because their age makes them feel invulnerable or because expensive policies are out of reach. Young adults are the nation’s largest group of uninsured — there were 13.2 million of them nationally in 2007, or 29%, according to the latest figures from the Commonwealth Fund, a nonprofit research group in New York. They borrow leftover prescription drugs from friends, attempt to self-diagnose ailments online, stretch their diabetes and asthma medicines for as long as possible and set their own broken bones. When emergencies strike, they rarely can afford the bills that follow.

According to National Public Radio (NPR), on a typical day, about eight million people type "back pain," "migraine," or some other medical symptom into a search engine. Increasingly, the Web is the first stop for health-related information. Guests talk about so-called "cyber-chondriacs" and how the Internet has changed doctor-patient dynamics. The Internet is changing not just the way patients get medical information, but the way they interact with doctors, their families, and even with strangers. A new report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project gives a glimpse of some of that change. It studies people with disabilities and chronic conditions, who are some of the most avid users of Internet health sites. Fewer of them go online than the overall population, probably because many are elderly, a group that is still less likely to use the Internet. But when people with disabilities and chronic conditions do use the Internet, they are more likely than other users to look up health information and use that knowledge to question a doctor, manage pain or change the way they cope with a chronic condition. Overall, the Internet is making health care better.

According to the NY Times, Internet diagnoses, self-medicating and trading prescriptions, of course, come with potentially dangerous side effects. Most family insurance policies cut off dependents when they turn 19 or finish college, and many young adults start out in New York cobbling together part-time or freelance work with no benefits. Many uninsured young people have taken the wrong antibiotics borrowed from friends. People with urinary tract infections are taking meds better suited for ear infections or pneumonia — the problem is, they haven’t really treated their illness, and they’re breeding resistance. Or they take pain medicine that masks the symptoms. And this allows the underlying problem to get worse and worse.

According to the Commonwealth Fund, almost two of five (38%) high school graduates who do not enroll in college and one-third of college graduates are uninsured for a time during the first year after graduation. Several states have passed laws to expand coverage of dependents up to age 24 or 25 under parents' insurance policies. This policy change, in addition to two others—extending eligibility for public insurance programs beyond age 18 and ensuring that colleges require and offer coverage to full- and part-time students to have coverage—could help uninsured young adults gain coverage and prevent others from losing it. About 60 percent of employers who offer coverage do not cover dependent young adults over 18 or 19 if they are not full-time students. Young adults from low-income families are especially at risk: half (48%) of 19-29 year-olds living in households under the poverty level are uninsured. Two-thirds (66%) of young adults without insurance report missing needed care or treatment and/or having problems paying medical bills. About half (49%) of uninsured young adults report being unable to pay medical bills, being contacted by a collection agency, or significantly changing their way of life to pay medical bills, compared to one-quarter (25%) of insured 19-29 year-olds. Over half (56%) of uninsured young adults did not see a doctor when they were sick, did not fill a prescription, or skipped a recommended test, treatment, or follow-up because of cost, vs. to one-third (33%) of insured young adults. Young adults with a time uninsured in the past year faced bill and access problems at rates similar to those who were uninsured all year.

According to, consumers are using the Net to educate themselves and shake up the medical establishment's Marcus Welby-era doctor-knows-best mentality. Now they're starting to control their own medical spending, especially those with high deductible plans, HSAs, and flexible spending accounts. Thanks to health savings accounts, people are moving over to "consumer-directed health plans" - you, the patient, get a health-care budget from your employer and manage your expenses accordingly. That means you'd better shop around before opting for a $2,000 MRI. Free to buy health care like anything else, tech-savvy consumers are looking at the next generation of medical services, everything from online genetic testing to Wal-Mart medical clinics. But as always, the real opportunity lies with services not yet invented. How about a Priceline for nonemergency surgery? Or an online reservation system for doctors' appointments, à la Open Table? Here are some options for seeking personal health care:
1.) The Gene Screen: Online genetic-testing services are springing up to take advantage of advances in genomics - and the growing willingness of consumers to conduct their most personal business over the Internet.
2.) Retail Therapy: More people are adding health care to their shopping lists as walk-in medical clinics are popping up in Wal-Marts, drugstores, and other retail outlets.
3.) A Second Opinion for Medical Bills: As the number of people paying for medical treatment through health savings accounts soars, software services that help them manage bills and spot errors are on the rise.
4.) Home is Where the Health Care Is: The market for home medical monitoring for chronic conditions is taking off thanks to new interactive devices that remotely track patients at home.

Health care can be done with or without insurance. The coverage helps to take the sting out of the bill, but treatment is available if you need it. Doing your own medical treatment is not a wise idea, and you should always visit a primary physician or clinic if you have symptoms that cannot be treated with over the counter medications. Do-it-yourself health care is not a wise choice when your personal health is on the line. Options are available in many channels, so don't go it alone.

Until next time. Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Health Care and Cholesterol

It may surprise you to know that cholesterol itself isn't bad. In fact, cholesterol is just one of the many substances created and used by our bodies to keep us healthy according to the American Heart Association. Some of the cholesterol we need is produced naturally (and can be affected by your family health history), while some of it comes from the food we eat. There are two types of cholesterol: “good” and “bad.” It’s important to understand the difference, and to know the levels of “good” and “bad” cholesterol in your blood. Too much of one type — or not enough of another — can put you at risk for coronary heart disease, heart attack or stroke.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), cholesterol is a soft, waxy substance found among the lipids (fats) in the bloodstream and in all your body's cells. It's an important part of a healthy body because it's used to form cell membranes, some hormones and is needed for other functions. But a high level of cholesterol in the blood — hypercholesterolemia — is a major risk factor for coronary heart disease, which leads to heart attack. Cholesterol and other fats can't dissolve in the blood. They have to be transported to and from the cells by special carriers called lipoproteins. There are several kinds, but the ones to focus on are low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL). Here are descriptions of both types:

1.) LDL Cholesterol: Low-density lipoprotein is the major cholesterol carrier in the blood. If too much LDL cholesterol circulates in the blood, it can slowly build up in the walls of the arteries feeding the heart and brain. Together with other substances it can form plaque, a thick, hard deposit that can clog those arteries. This condition is known as atherosclerosis. A clot (thrombus) that forms near this plaque can block the blood flow to part of the heart muscle and cause a heart attack. If a clot blocks the blood flow to part of the brain, a stroke results. A high level of LDL cholesterol (160 mg/dL and above) reflects an increased risk of heart disease. If you have heart disease, your LDL cholesterol should be less than 100 mg/dL and your doctor may even set your goal to be less than 70 mg/dL. That's why LDL cholesterol is called "bad" cholesterol. Lower levels of LDL cholesterol reflect a lower risk of heart disease.

2.) HDL Cholesterol: About one-third to one-fourth of blood cholesterol is carried by HDL. Medical experts think HDL tends to carry cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the liver, where it's passed from the body. Some experts believe HDL removes excess cholesterol from plaques and thus slows their growth. HDL cholesterol is known as "good" cholesterol because a high HDL level seems to protect against heart attack. The opposite is also true: a low HDL level (less than 40 mg/dL in men; less than 50 mg/dL in women) indicates a greater risk. A low HDL cholesterol level also may raise stroke risk.

According to WebMD, high cholesterol increases the risk of other conditions, depending on which blood vessels are narrowed or blocked. These diseases include: coronary heart disease, stroke and peripheral vascular disease. High cholesterol has also been linked to diabetes and high blood pressure. To prevent or manage these conditions, take steps to lower your cholesterol if it is elevated. The main risk associated with high cholesterol is coronary heart disease (CHD). Your blood cholesterol level has a lot to do with your chances of getting heart disease. If cholesterol is too high, it builds up in the walls of your arteries. Over time, this buildup (called plaque) causes hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis). Atherosclerosis causes arteries to become narrowed, slowing blood flow to the heart. Reduced blood flow to the heart can result in angina (chest pain) or in a heart attack in cases when a blood vessel is blocked completely.

According to, the liver not only manufactures and secretes LDL cholesterol into the blood; it also removes LDL cholesterol from the blood. A high number of active LDL receptors on the liver surfaces is associated with the rapid removal of LDL cholesterol from the blood and low blood LDL cholesterol levels. A deficiency of LDL receptors is associated with high LDL cholesterol blood levels. Both heredity and diet have a significant influence on a person's LDL, HDL and total cholesterol levels. For example, familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) is a common inherited disorder whose victims have a diminished number or nonexistent LDL receptors on the surface of liver cells. People with this disorder also tend to develop atherosclerosis and heart attacks during early adulthood. Diets that are high in saturated fats and cholesterol raise the levels of LDL cholesterol in the blood. Fats are classified as saturated or unsaturated (according to their chemical structure). Saturated fats are derived primarily from meat and dairy products and can raise blood cholesterol levels. Some vegetable oils made from coconut, palm, and cocoa are also high in saturated fats. Most doctors now believe that the benefits of lowering LDL cholesterol include:
--Reducing or stopping the formation of new cholesterol plaques on the artery walls;
--Reducing existing cholesterol plaques on the artery walls;
--Widening narrowed arteries;
--Preventing the rupture of cholesterol plaques, which initiates blood clot formation;
--Decreasing the risk of heart attacks; and
--Decreasing the risk of strokes. The same measures that retard atherosclerosis in coronary arteries also benefit the carotid and cerebral arteries (arteries that deliver blood to the brain).

According to the NY Times, cholesterol helps the body produce hormones, bile acid, and vitamin D. Cholesterol moves through the bloodstream to be used by all parts of the body. Cholesterol is found in eggs, dairy products, meat, and poultry. Egg yolks and organ meats (liver, kidney, sweetbread, and brain) are high in cholesterol. Fish generally contains less cholesterol than other meats, but some shellfish are high in cholesterol. Foods of plant origin (vegetables, fruits, grains, cereals, nuts, and seeds) contain no cholesterol. Fat content is not a good measure of cholesterol content. For example, liver and other organ meats are low in fat, but very high in cholesterol. In general, your risk of developing heart disease or atherosclerosis goes up as your level of blood cholesterol increases.

People get cholesterol in two ways according to the American Heart Association. The body — mainly the liver — produces varying amounts, usually about 1,000 milligrams a day. Foods also can contain cholesterol. Foods from animals (especially egg yolks, meat, poultry, shellfish and whole- and reduced-fat milk and dairy products) contain it. Foods from plants (fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds) don't contain cholesterol. Typically the body makes all the cholesterol it needs, so people don't need to consume it. Saturated fatty acids are the main culprit in raising blood cholesterol, which increases your risk of heart disease. Trans fats also raise blood cholesterol. But dietary cholesterol also plays a part. The average American man consumes about 337 milligrams of cholesterol a day; the average woman, 217 milligrams. Some of the excess dietary cholesterol is removed from the body through the liver. Still, the American Heart Association recommends that you limit your average daily cholesterol intake to less than 300 milligrams. If you have heart disease, limit your daily intake to less than 200 milligrams. Still, everyone should remember that by keeping their dietary intake of saturated and trans fats low, they can significantly lower their dietary cholesterol intake. Foods high in saturated fat generally contain substantial amounts of dietary cholesterol. People with severe high blood cholesterol levels may need an even greater reduction. Since cholesterol is in all foods from animal sources, care must be taken to eat no more than six ounces of lean meat, fish and poultry per day and to use fat-free and low-fat dairy products. High-quality proteins from vegetable sources such as beans are good substitutes for animal sources of protein.

More than half of the adult population has blood cholesterol levels higher than the desirable range according to the NY Times. High cholesterol levels often begin in childhood. Some children may be at higher risk due to a family history of high cholesterol. To lower high cholesterol levels:
--Limit total fat intake to 25 - 35% of total daily calories. Less than 7% of daily calories should be from saturated fat, no more than 10% should be from polyunsaturated fat, and no more than 20% from monounsaturated fat.
--Eat less than 200 mg of dietary cholesterol per day.
--Get more fiber in your diet.
--Lose weight.
--Increase physical activity or exercise. Physical activity can also help control weight, diabetes and high blood pressure. Aerobic physical activity raises your heart and breathing rates. Regular moderate-to-vigorous-intensity physical activity such as brisk walking, jogging and swimming also condition your heart and lungs. The recommendations for children's diets are similar to those of adults. It is very important that children get enough calories to support their growth and activity level, and that the child achieve and maintain a desirable body weight.

If you have high cholesterol, it may be necessary for you to make some lifestyle changes, according to (American Academy of Family Physicians). If you smoke, stop smoking. Exercise regularly. If you're overweight, losing just 5 to 10 pounds can help lower cholesterol levels. Make sure to eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fish- all of which promote heart health. Avoid saturated and trans fats, which can raise cholesterol levels. Also limit your overall cholesterol intake to less than 300 milligrams (200 milligrams if you have heart disease) per day. Depending on your risk factors, if healthy eating and exercise don't work after 6 months to 1 year, your doctor may suggest medication to lower your cholesterol level.

Until next time. Let me know what you think.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Health Care and Fertility

For some couples fertility and getting pregnant are as easy as eating cake according to WebMD. For others, the world of reproductive technology becomes the only hope for conception. In between, however, are a growing number of couples playing the fertility "waiting game." Some may not yet be ready to turn to technology while others may have failed to discover their problem even in a high-tech arena. It is for this group that many physicians are now looking to the everyday factors that might make a difference. Among the most important of these outside factors, say doctors, is smoking. While most folks are aware that cigarettes and pregnancy don't mix, fertility experts say fewer seem to realize the impact that smoking has on fertility.

Recently, headlines were made by a single mother of 6 children who gave successful live birth to 8 children--Octuplets!! According to, the six boys and two girls -- ranging in weight from 1 pound 8 ounces to 3 pounds 4 ounces -- were generally doing well in incubators following their Caesarean-section delivery at Kaiser Permanente hospital in Bellflower, California. Three of the babies need breathing assistance, but otherwise the eight don't appear to have had serious problems. The infants could be in incubators for six to eight weeks and in the hospital for 10 weeks. Still, according to the Los Angeles Times, fertility experts consider the birth of more than two kids with fertility medication to be not a medical triumph, but “a serious complication.” Usually, births of this kind are brought on by fertility medication, not in-vitro fertilization. Often, during the medication, several of the mother’s eggs are fertilized. In most cases, the mother chooses to reduce the number of fertile eggs to two, “to make sure the two remaining babies will have the best chance at having good health. To have all those babies, the mother would choose to have selective reduction. Apparently the mother made the decision to carry all the eight babies to viability.” In 1998, the first known set of octuplets was born in the United States. The six girls and two boys were born in Houston. One of the babies later died. The others survived and recently celebrated their 10th birthdays.

According to Fox News, The odds of survival drop off dramatically in multiple births, particularly if there are more than three babies. The risks include breathing and eating difficulties and growth problems because their lungs and other systems are often underdeveloped. They also may have hearing or vision problems and learning disabilities as they mature. In fact, the risks in multiple births are so high that when a woman is pregnant with more than three babies, doctors routinely recommend "selective reduction," or aborting some of them.

However, this decision often crosses over from a medical decision to one based on moral or spiritual grounds, and opinions on this decision will widely vary. Those individuals who believe in life begins at conception would typically not pursue this type of action and commit to carrying all the babies to full term. Many in the medical community usually will not commit to a pro-life stand, but many times will stand on the side of pro-choice. Decisions to end life pre-term can be phrased often in clinical terms that eliminate the moral absolutes of life and death decisions. Another attitude about selective reduction is that it can be viewed as a way to control the population and thereby not strain the economy or the parent based on too many children that require care. Making this type of decision should be based on divine wisdom rather than human insight as does the decision to take fertility drugs and to practice safe sex or abstinence.

WebMD gives several reasons that affect fertility:

1.) Diet: While few folks connect diet to fertility, new research shows that very often those who are infertile are also lacking important nutrients in their diet. A group of Harvard researchers found that 79% of infertile couples had a lower-than-average intake of foods high in antioxidants -- like fruits and vegetables. The finding takes on even greater importance in light of previous research showing that both vitamins C and E may play roles in male fertility. In one study published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Medicine, doctors found that after one week of daily doses of 1,000 milligrams of vitamin C, sperm counts rose by some 140%. More recently, a study published in the Archives of Andrology showed the antioxidants vitamin E and selenium improved the ability of sperm to swim -- a skill necessary to reach the egg. Also, eating less fish (due to high mercury levels in some types of seafood) and cutting down on calories overall can give fertility a boost. Additional studies show certain nutrients and plants can offer a fertility boost to both men and women. In research published in the journal Reproductive Biomedicine Online, sperm quality and function improved with the intake of complementary food supplementation using either a combination of zinc and folic acid, the antioxidant Astacarox, or an energy-providing combination containing (actyl)-carnitine (Proxeed).

2.) Pesticides: While a number of factors can help boost fertility, there are some that can diminish your chances of conception. Among one of the most important is exposure to pesticides. Exposure to the manmade chemical methoxychlor (a member of the DDT family) reduced testosterone levels, which may, in turn, reduce male fertility. In a new study just released by Yale University, researchers found this same pesticide -- which is used to kill flies, mosquitoes, and other insects -- can also impair the function of a woman's reproductive system. The good news here--Taking steps to avoid exposure -- particularly in your home and yard -- may help improve your fertility profile overall.

3.) Sleep: Although the impact is not quite as direct, another factor that could impact fertility--Getting more sleep! The link here, say experts, is the hormone leptin, known for being an appetite and weight-regulation hormone. Researchers have found that it plays a critical role in female fertility. Leptin levels falls when we are sleep-deprived. Perhaps not coincidentally, researchers have now found that in some infertile women, leptin levels are low. Research shows that women are chronically sleep deprived are likely to have some irregular cycles -- and that in turn means ovulation is being affected, which can certainly reduce the chance for conception.

Medical News Today also reports that obesity in women can be a determining factor in fertility and pregnancy. Obese women have alterations in their ovaries which might be responsible for an egg's inability to make an embryo. The Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM) indicates that obese women trying to become pregnant experience longer times to conception, even if they are young and have a regular menstrual cycle. Obese women have abnormally high levels of fats and inflammation in the fluid surrounding their eggs which can impact an egg's developmental potential. The fats might alter the very sensitive metabolism of the egg and such changes are known to be harmful to embryo formation. In addition, inflammation can damage cells and when this happens to eggs it can affect embryo survival.

According to the American Fertility Association, 7.3 million American women have difficulty conceiving a child. Young women may not be quite ready to have a baby now, but they should be seeking the answers to essential questions that may determine if they’ll be able to have a baby when they are ready. The best time to seek these answers? For women in their 20s, infertility prevention is often ignored until it’s too late. Most young women have been taught to do everything possible to keep from getting pregnant without thinking about the possibility of having children in the future. Exposure to certain STD’s and environmental toxins compromise fertility. There often comes a time when a woman should move from her OB/GYN to a fertility specialist. The challenge is that most young women will not attend a fertility conference or even visit a doctor’s office to ask important questions and have them answered.

Couples who have a history of fertility issues should seek professional guidance through licensed counselors and medical professionals. Becoming pregnant is a life-altering decision. Those couples who have difficulty in conceiving children should seek advice on several levels before committing to proceed with having a family. Both husband and wife need to weigh the consequences and costs to become pregnant. Fertility can be affected by several issues, and the desire to have children should be considered in conjunction with all of them.

Until next time. Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Health Care and Steroids

With the recent news about professional athletes using steriods, many Americans wonder how these drugs affect your health. The reports about Alex Rodriguez using steroids early in his career has made front page news this month. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS) are manufactured substances related to male sex hormones (e.g., testosterone). “Anabolic” refers to muscle-building and “androgenic” refers to increased male sexual characteristics. “Steroids” refers to the class of drugs. These drugs can be legally prescribed to treat conditions resulting from steroid hormone deficiency, such as delayed puberty, but also body wasting in patients with AIDS and other diseases that result in loss of lean muscle mass. Some people, both athletes and non-athletes, abuse AAS in an attempt to enhance performance and/or improve physical appearance. AAS are taken orally or injected, typically in cycles of weeks or months interrupted by shorter resting periods (this is referred to as “cycling”). In addition, users often combine several different types of steroids, a practice referred to as “stacking.”

According to ESPN, Alex Rodriguez met head-on allegations that he tested positive for steroids six years ago, telling ESPN on Monday that he did take performance-enhancing drugs while playing for the Texas Rangers during a three-year period beginning in 2001. Rodriguez's admission came 48 hours after Sports Illustrated reported that Rodriguez was on a list of 104 players who tested positive for banned substances in 2003, the year when Major League Baseball conducted survey tests to see if mandatory, random drug-testing was needed in the sport. Rodriguez tested positive for testosterone and Primobolan, an anabolic steroid.

The immediate effects of AAS in the brain, as reported by the NIH, are mediated by their binding to androgen and estrogen receptors, which can then shuttle into the cell nucleus to influence patterns of gene expression. Because of this, the acute effects of AAS in the brain are substantially different from those of other drugs of abuse. The most important difference is that AAS are not euphorigenic, meaning that they do not trigger rapid increases in the neurotransmitter dopamine, which are responsible for the “high” that often drives substance abuse behaviors. However, long-term use of AAS can eventually have an impact on some of the same brain pathways and chemicals—such as dopamine, serotonin, and opioid systems—that are affected by drugs of abuse. Considering the combined effect of their complex direct and indirect actions, it is not surprising that AAS can affect mood and behavior in significant ways. Taken together, the preclinical, clinical, and anecdotal reports suggest that steroids may contribute to psychiatric dysfunction.

According to the NIH, research shows that abuse of anabolic steroids may lead to aggression and other adverse effects. For example, many users report feeling good about themselves while on anabolic steroids, but extreme mood swings can also occur, including manic-like symptoms that could lead to violence. Researchers have also observed that users may suffer from paranoid jealousy, extreme irritability, delusions, and impaired judgment stemming from feelings of invincibility. The potential for AAS abusers to become addicted is consistent with their continued abuse despite physical problems and negative effects on social relations. Also, steroid abusers typically spend large amounts of time and money obtaining the drugs, which is another indication of addiction. Individuals who abuse steroids can experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking AAS, such as mood swings, fatigue, restlessness, loss of appetite, insomnia, reduced sex drive, and steroid cravings, all of which may contribute to the need for continued abuse. One of the most dangerous withdrawal symptoms is depression, because, when persistent, it can sometimes lead to suicide attempts.

Steroid abuse can lead to serious, even irreversible health problems according to the NIH. Some of the most dangerous among them include liver damage, jaundice (yellowish pigmentation of skin, tissues, and body fluids), fluid retention, high blood pressure, increases in LDL (bad cholesterol), and decreases in HDL (good cholesterol). Other reported effects include renal failure, severe acne, and trembling. In addition, there are some gender- and age-specific adverse effects:
1.) For men—shrinking of the testicles, reduced sperm count, infertility, baldness, development of breasts, increased risk for prostate cancer.
2.) For women—growth of facial hair, male-pattern baldness, changes in or cessation of the menstrual cycle, enlargement of the clitoris, deepened voice.
3.) For adolescents—stunted growth due to premature skeletal maturation and accelerated puberty changes; adolescents risk not reaching their expected height if they take AAS before the typical adolescent growth spurt.

In addition, people who inject AAS run the added risk of contracting or transmitting HIV/AIDS or hepatitis, which causes serious damage to the liver, according to the NIH. There has been very little research on treatment for AAS abuse. Current knowledge derives largely from the experiences of a small number of physicians who have worked with patients undergoing steroid withdrawal. They have learned that, in general, supportive therapy combined with education about possible withdrawal symptoms is sufficient in some cases. Sometimes, medications can be used to restore the balance of the hormonal system after its disruption by steroid abuse. If symptoms are severe or prolonged, symptomatic medications or hospitalization may be needed.

But doctors never prescribe anabolic steroids to young, healthy people to help them build muscles according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Without a prescription from a doctor, steroids are illegal. Steroids do have legitimate medical uses. Sometimes doctors prescribe anabolic steroids to help people with certain kinds of anemia and men who don't produce enough testosterone on their own. Doctors also prescribe a different kind of steroid, called corticosteroids, to reduce swelling. Corticosteroids are not anabolic steroids and do not have the same harmful effects. There are many different kinds of steroids. Here's a list of some of the most common anabolic steroids taken today: anadrol, oxandrin, dianabol, winstrol, deca-durabolin, and equipoise.

The NIDA reports that some steroid users pop pills. Others use hypodermic needles to inject steroids directly into muscles. When users take more and more of a drug over and over again, they are called "abusers." Abusers have been known to take doses 10 to 100 times higher than the amount prescribed for medical reasons by a doctor. Some abusers pyramid their doses in 6-12-week cycles. At the beginning of the cycle, the steroid user starts with low doses and slowly increases to higher doses. In the second half of the cycle, they gradually decrease the amount of steroids. Neither of these methods has been proven to work. Steroids can make pimples pop up and hair fall out. They can make guys grow breasts and girls grow beards. Steroids can cause livers to grow tumors and hearts to clog up. They can even send users on violent, angry rampages. In other words, steroids throw a body way out of whack. Steroids do make users bulk up, but the health risks are high. It's true, on steroids biceps bulge; abs ripple; and quads balloon. But that's just on the outside. Steroid users may be very pleased when they flex in the mirror, but they may create problems on the inside. These problems may hurt them the rest of their lives. As a matter of fact steroid use can shorten their lives.

The bottom line is that taking illegal steroids is not smart or healthy. The short term effects are vastly outweighed by the long term results. Athletes or anyone who abuse medications, especially steroids, have a short sighted view of life time goals. Learning how abuse of illegal medications can affect your physical, mental, and emotional health is time well spent. Learn and live.

Until next time. Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Health Care and Sodium Intake

Americans like their table salt. But you've been trying to eat less sodium — just a pinch of table salt on your baked potato and a dash to your scrambled eggs. According to the Mayo Clinic, a pinch and a dash can quickly add up to unhealthy levels of sodium, especially when many foods already contain more than enough sodium. About 11% of the sodium in the average U.S. diet comes from adding salt or other sodium-containing condiments to foods while cooking or eating. But the majority of the sodium — 77% — comes from eating prepared or processed foods that contain the mineral. So even though you may limit the amount of salt you add to food, the food itself may already be high in sodium.

Your body needs some sodium to function properly according to the Mayo Clinic. Sodium:
--Helps maintain the right balance of fluids in your body.
--Helps transmit nerve impulses.
--Influences the contraction and relaxation of muscles.
Your kidneys regulate the amount of sodium kept in your body. When sodium levels are low, your kidneys conserve sodium. When levels are high, they excrete the excess amount in urine.
If your kidneys can't eliminate enough sodium, the sodium starts to accumulate in your blood. Because sodium attracts and holds water, your blood volume increases. Increased blood volume, in turn, makes your heart work harder to move more blood through your blood vessels, increasing pressure in your arteries. Certain diseases such as congestive heart failure, cirrhosis and chronic kidney disease can lead to an inability to regulate sodium. Some people are more sensitive to the effects of sodium than are others. People who are sodium sensitive retain sodium more easily, leading to excess fluid retention and increased blood pressure. If you're in that group, extra sodium in your diet increases your chance of developing high blood pressure, a condition that can lead to cardiovascular and kidney diseases.

According to the American Heart Association, limiting sodium — which we get through salt, baking powder, baking soda and other substances in foods we eat — is one of the most important things that people with heart failure can do. Sodium makes the body hold on to fluid. To pump the added fluid, the heart has to work harder. People with heart failure shouldn't put this extra strain on their hearts.Also, too much salt can worsen symptoms like swelling and shortness of breath and cause weight gain. If those symptoms become severe, the person may need to be admitted to the hospital. Physicians often recommend keeping salt intake below 2,300 milligrams (mg) per day for most people. However, for people with heart failure, recommended sodium intake is no more than 2,000 mg per day. Most people eat considerably more than this, so it's likely that a person with congestive heart failure will need to find ways to cut down on salt. Since most salt intake comes from eating and drink prepared and packaged foods, reading food labels to determine how much sodium is in a food or beverage is a great start to lowering sodium intake.

According to, Sodium in the body is mainly found in the fluids that surround the body's cells, such as the blood and lymph fluid. When sodium intake exceeds the amount the body can handle it builds up within the interstitial areas and the kidneys have to work extra hard to excrete a constant rise in daily sodium intake. A build up may cause the body to hold extra fluids in the blood and around the cells which contributes to increased blood pressure and also excess weight gain from water. The average diet in the western world is commonly made up of fast, packaged or convenient foods. These always consist of high levels of salt and salt contains sodium. If a diet is mainly composed of high sodium foods then naturally the sodium intake also rises thus extra weight is gained quickly as the body holds onto water. It has been estimated that many people in the USA may be carrying up to 5 pounds of extra weight due to the effects of a high sodium intake. The opposite effect also happens when an individual reduces food intake in order to lose weight quickly. A percentage of the loss will be water because a reduction in high sodium foods means a reduction in daily sodium intake which results in water loss as the kidneys have a chance to finally rid the excess sodium from the body. This also helps partly explain why a dieter may experience the yo-yo effect when dieting, water weight is lost with food reduction but quickly regained when old eating habits are back to normal and daily sodium intake rises once more.

Rates of hypertension (high blood pressure) are rising and affect more than 25% of Americans; another 25% or so is considered "pre-hypertensive" and will develop hypertension if they keep eating the way they do according to the San Francisco Chronicle. And a hefty majority of older Americans, African Americans and Hispanic Americans have full-blown hypertension. Blood pressure rises with age in response to sodium in the diet. Many people have high blood pressure but don't know it. For these reasons, most people would be better off eating less sodium and, therefore, less salt. Table salt is sodium chloride. In America, high-salt diets are the default. About 80% of dietary salt is added to processed, restaurant, fast and catered foods. We have no choice about their salt content, which is why most Americans eat twice as much salt as the recommended upper limit (2,300 mg a day) and three times as much as is actually required (1,500 mg a day). We don't need extra salt. So wouldn't it be better to change the default? If companies used less salt in processed and prepared foods, it would be easier to eat less of it. People who want more salt can always add it at the table.

One side of experts says everyone needs to cut back on salt to reduce heart disease risk according to Medical News Today. The other side says universal salt reduction would be a needless deprivation for many people. Which is correct? There isn't a simple answer.In the most general terms, getting less sodium (the problematic component of salt) in the diet lowers blood pressure. But how sodium reduction affects an individual depends on his or her genes, age, and medical conditions, reported in the Harvard Heart Letter. But there really isn't a one-size-fits-all recommendation for daily sodium intake. If you are under age 50, your blood pressure is in a healthy range, and your health is good, you probably have little reason to worry about salt intake. A lower-sodium diet is good for people who are older, who are of African American descent, or who have high blood pressure or diabetes.

You may or may not be particularly sensitive to the effects of sodium according to the Mayo Clinic. And because there's no way to know who might develop high blood pressure as a result of a high-sodium diet, choose and prepare foods with less sodium.
You can cut sodium several ways:
1.) Eat more fresh foods and fewer processed foods. Most fresh fruits and vegetables are naturally low in sodium. Also, fresh meat is lower in sodium than luncheon meat, bacon, hot dogs, sausage and ham are. Buy fresh and frozen poultry or meat that hasn't been injected with a sodium-containing solution. Look on the label or ask your butcher.
2.) Opt for low-sodium products. If you do buy processed foods, select those that have reduced sodium.
3.) Remove salt from recipes whenever possible. You can leave out the salt in many recipes, including casseroles, stews and other main dishes. Baked goods are an exception. Leaving out the salt could affect the quality as well as the taste of the food.
4.) Limit your use of sodium-laden condiments. Salad dressings, sauces, dips, ketchup, mustard and relish all contain sodium.
5.) Use herbs, spices and other flavorings to enhance foods. Learn how to use fresh or dried herbs, spices, zest from citrus fruit, and fruit juices to jazz up your meals.
6.) Use salt substitutes wisely. Some salt substitutes or light salts contain a mixture of table salt (sodium chloride) and other compounds. To achieve that familiar salty taste, you may use too much of the substitute and actually not use less sodium. In addition, many salt substitutes contain potassium chloride. Though dietary potassium can lessen some of the harm of excess sodium, too much supplemental potassium can be harmful if you have kidney problems or if you're taking medications for congestive heart failure or high blood pressure that cause potassium retention.
7.) Your taste for salt is acquired, so it's reversible. To unlearn this salty savoring, decrease your use of salt gradually and your taste buds will adjust. Most people find that after a few weeks of cutting salt, they no longer miss it. Start by using no more than 1/4 teaspoon (1 milliliter) of added salt daily, and then gradually reduce to no salt add-ons. As you use less salt, your preference for it lessens, allowing you to enjoy the taste of food itself.

Too much of a good thing can be dangerous. Check with your family doctor about your sodium levels to make sure that you are getting just the right amount. Pay attention to sodium levels in processed foods, and go light on the table salt. Be attentive to your health by watching what you eat, and get the lab tests you need if you are having problems with too much sodium in your system.

Until next time. Let me know what you think.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Health Care and Viruses

Americans pass viruses around like a bag of chips. Viruses are strange things that straddle the fence between living and non-living, according to MicrobeWorld. On the one hand, if they're floating around in the air or sitting on a doorknob, they're inert. They're about as alive as a rock. But if they come into contact with a suitable plant, animal or bacterial cell, they spring into action. They infect and take over the cell like pirates hijacking a ship. A virus is basically a tiny bundle of genetic material—either DNA or RNA—carried in a shell called the viral coat, or capsid, which is made up of bits of protein called capsomeres. Some viruses have an additional layer around this coat called an envelope. That's basically all there is to viruses.

According to MicrobeWorld, there are thousands of different viruses that come in a variety of shapes. Many are polyhedral , or multi-sided. If you've ever looked closely at a cut gem, like the diamond in an engagement ring, you've seen an example of a polyhedral shape. (Unlike the diamond in a ring, however, a virus does not taper to a point, but is shaped similarly all around.) Other viruses are shaped like spiky ovals or bricks with rounded corners. Some are like skinny sticks while others look like bits of looped string. Some are more complex and shaped like little lunar landing pods. In some viruses, the capsid is covered by a viral envelope made of proteins, lipids and carbohydrates. The envelopes may be studded by spikes made of carbohydrates and proteins that help the virus particles attach to host cells. Outside of a host, viruses are inert, just mere microbial particles drifting aimlessly.

Viruses are found on or in just about every material and environment on Earth from soil to water to air according to MicrobeWorld. They're basically found anywhere there are cells to infect. Viruses have evolved to infect every form of life, from animal to plant and from fungi to bacteria. However, viruses tend to be somewhat picky about what type of cells they infect. Plant viruses are not equipped to infect animal cells, for example, though a certain plant virus could infect a number of related plants. Sometimes, a virus may infect one creature and do no harm, but cause havoc when it gets into a different but closely enough related creature. For example, the Hantavirus is carried by deer mice without much noticeable effect on the rodents. But if Hantavirus gets into a person, it causes a dramatic and frequently deadly disease marked by excessive bleeding. True parasites, viruses are basically little more than molecular syringes moving genetic information from one cell to another. Some viruses enter a host and leave virtually unnoticed. Others cause disease and destroy the host.

Examples of certain viruses are shown below:
--rhinoviruses (frequent cause of the common "cold")
--noroviruses (frequent cause of outbreaks of gastrointestinal illness — especially in "closed" settings like cruise ships and nursing homes)
--coronaviruses (includes the agent of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)
--rubella (causes "German" measles)
--yellow fever virus
--West Nile virus
--dengue fever viruses

According to, some of the most common or best known viruses include the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which is the virus that causes AIDS, the herpes simplex virus, which causes cold sores, smallpox, multiple sclerosis, and the human papilloma virus, now believed to be a leading cause of cervical cancer in adult women. The common human cold is also caused by a virus. Since a great deal of mystery still surrounds the origins of most modern viruses, ways to cure these viruses and the diseases they cause are still in the very early stages of development. Even though the smallest viruses are only about one-millionth of an inch long, they live up to their Latin namesake—poison. They are capable of infecting and hijacking a human body, creating health hazards as minor as the common flu and as disastrous as the AIDS epidemic. Viruses prey upon all living organisms, turning them into virus Xerox machines.
Unlike a bacterium or a cell of an animal, a virus lacks the ability to replicate on its own. A virus does contain some genetic information critical for making copies of itself, but it can't get the job done without the help of a cell's duplicating equipment, borrowing enzymes and other molecules to concoct more virus.

Vaccines play a key role in fighting viruses according to LiveScience. Many scientists consider the vaccine the greatest medical breakthrough of the twentieth century. In 1955, Jonas Salk developed the first widely used vaccine, which gave people lifelong immunity to poliovirus. Vaccines jump-start the human immune system by teaching it how to produce protective shields, called antibodies, to battle a specific virus. Each year, millions of Americans roll up their sleeves for a shot of flu immunity. The shots occur annually because, as the flu travels around the globe, it mutates into new strains. Researchers work to stay ahead of the flu, creating new vaccines to combat each year's version. In order to keep up our immunity, we must continue getting shots in the arm.

According to, researchers have grouped viruses together into several major families, based on their shape, behavior, and other characteristics. These include the herpesviruses, adenoviruses, papovaviruses (papilloma viruses), hepadnaviruses, poxviruses, and parvoviruses among the DNA viruses. On the RNA virus side, major families include the picornaviruses (including the rhinoviruses), calciviruses, paramyxoviruses, orthomyxoviruses, rhabdoviruses, filoviruses, bornaviruses, and retroviruses. There are dozens of smaller virus families within these major classifications. Many viruses are host-specific, causing disease only in humans or specific animals.

Humans are protected in a couple of ways according to information from the University of Kansas. First, if a particular virus infects one or more cells of a given tissue in our body, the infection leads to the synthesis and secretion of substances called interferons. Interferons are proteins and may be designated as alpha, beta, or gamma interferon). These proteins interact with adjacent cells which help adjacent cells become more resistant to infection by the virus. Sometimes, this resistance isn't quite good enough to prevent the spread of the virus to more and more cells, and we begin to feel sick (we are now experiencing a disease caused by the viral infection). The body's immune system takes over and begins to fight the infection by killing the virus on the outside of the cells, and kills the infected cells, too. The killing of the infected cells prevents the spread of the virus, since as was stated above, a virus requires a living cell in order for the virus to be able to replicate. Eventually, the virus will be completely removed, and we'll get over the illness. HIV is an exception to this situation because HIV infects cells of the immune system which are necessary to kill the infected cells. So, although HIV does not itself directly cause the condition known as AIDS, the eventual death of immune cells due to infection with HIV allows other infections to harm a person.

According to, viral infections are both spread in basically the following ways:
--A person with a cold can spread the infection by coughing and/or sneezing.
--Viruses can be passed on by touching or shaking hands with another person.
--Touching food with dirty hands will also allow viruses from the intestine to spread.
--Body fluids such as blood, saliva and semen can contain the infecting organisms; and transmission of such fluids, for example by injection or sexual contact, is important, particularly for viral infections like hepatitis or AIDS.

NetDoctor also reports how to avoid viral infection:
--Wash your hands thoroughly (often one of the best ways to avoid catching a cold).
--Shaking hands with someone who has a cold is risky, so avoid rubbing your eyes or nose afterwards.
--Food should be cooked or cooled down as quickly as possible.
--Vegetables and meat must be stored separately and prepared on separate chopping boards.
--Meat should preferably be served well-done.
--Remember that food with these invisible organisms does not necessarily smell bad.
--Some organisms are killed as the food is cooked, but they can still leave toxic substances that may cause diarrhea and vomiting.
--The use of condoms during sexual intercourse reduces the likelihood of spreading sexually transmitted diseases.

Viruses can't multiply until they are inside the body's cells according to NetDoctor. This is the reason why the treatment of virus infections is usually left up to the patient's own immune system, although it may be hard to accept when the doctor says the only cure is for 'nature to take its course'. The treatment of virus infections such as influenza will usually involve:
--Drinking plenty of water.
--Staying at home. People who go to work or school in this condition not only risk spreading the virus to their colleagues, but also run a higher risk of catching a bacterial infection.
--Taking a painkiller such as acetimenophen or ibuprofen to bring your temperature down.
Vaccines have been developed against most viral diseases. The vaccine gives the body some help in quickly and effectively fighting the virus. An increasing number of antiviral remedies are being developed that prevent the virus multiplying and cause the illness to run its course more quickly. Unfortunately, these remedies can still only be used on very few viruses. Antibiotics have no effect upon viral infections such as colds or flu.

People can use all the common sense health care rules and still be infected with a virus. Unfortunately, this type of "bug" must be treated as soon as you feel that symptoms are evident, and medical treatment is a must. Even with the flu and other types of viruses that are common, you should see your doctor or go to a medical provider right away. Delaying the visit may result in worsening conditions for your health and life. Be careful, and be wise when dealing with viruses.

Until next time. Let me know what you think.