Healthy Behaviors

REDUCE YOUR RISK OF CHRONIC DISEASE: EVERY LITTLE STEP COUNTS

Diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, and cancer are four major causes of morbidity in today’s society. While it may be true that some among us may have family medical histories that seem to predispose us for some of these conditions, it does not have to be a certainty. According to Mark DeHaven, PhD., of the University of North Texas, lifestyle and behaviors account for 50 percent of "a person’s risk of premature mortality" while genetics only account for 20 percent. In short, we are in control of our health; our genes are not to blame.

Many studies have shown that a healthy lifestyle can reduce the risk of chronic diseases. The research and articles seem to point to a few healthy behaviors and habits that we should incorporate into our way of life: not smoking, regular exercise, healthy eating, and maintaining a healthy weight. As reported by the August 10/24 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, these four lifestyle factors may decrease the risk of the 4 major chronic diseases by up to 78 percent.

Baby Steps Still Move You Forward

Behaviors and habits are difficult to alter. They are established through years of repetition and environmental influences. While we are inspired by highly-determined individuals who are able make these changes within one giant leap, the rest of us will probably need more time to cultivate new habits and break old ones.

Choose one or two behaviors you would like to focus on building or losing, and spend time making those changes. Share your goals with someone who can spur you on, or invite someone on this ‘journey’ with you. There is no reason you can’t enjoy company along the way.  Succeeding in little changes at first will motivate you towards bigger goals. Every little step forward counts, no matter how small.

Healthy Behavior #1: Lay Off Those Cigarettes

If you have never picked up a cigarette in your life, you already are a step ahead of about 20 percent of the world’s population. Smoking has been identified as a major risk factor for stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, other cancers, and chronic lung disease. In the United States, the use of tobacco contributes towards approximately 443 000 deaths annually, almost one in every five deaths.

The argument for quitting smoking has made by many medical professionals, organizations, and researchers. There is no denying that it is no easy feat, but the benefits sure do outweigh the cost. It has been found that smokers who quit around the age of 50 can cut their risk of premature mortality by 50 percent while those who quit by age 30 reduce their risk by up to 90 percent.

Smokers should also be aware that the effects of smoking are also experienced by those who share their space. Secondhand smoke, or passive smoking accounts for an estimated 3000 lung cancer deaths in the United States each year. For that same reason, non-smokers should also consider a lifestyle that minimizes their exposure to secondhand smoke.

Healthy Behavior #2: Watch What You Eat

Food is obviously necessary to sustain life, but your choice of food is a major factor in determining the quality and the longevity of that life. Fulfilling your recommended daily amounts of each of the food groups and essential vitamins and minerals does not amount to a healthy diet. Equally important, are the nutritional factors of the food you eat.

Foods that have a high glycemic index can cause a person’s blood sugar level to increase rapidly and strongly. Over time, a high-glycemic-index diet increases a person’s risk for diabetes and heart disease.

Bad fats – unsaturated fats and trans fats – make it into our diets from meat, seafood, dairy, and fast foods. Of late, studies have shown that it is not the total amount of consumed fat, but the type of fat in our diets that correlate to health risks. Diets high in saturated fat and trans fat increases the risks of heart disease, and possibly certain cancers.

Healthy Behavior #3: Watch How Much You Eat

Obesity is generally indicated by a BMI of 30 or higher. However, it is defined as having high amounts of excessive body fat, not weight. It is important to make that distinction because BMI is not a direct measure of body fat, but rather an indicator of body fat.

Millions of people worldwide are overweight or obese and have heightened risks of coronary heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers. An individual’s risk factor increases with his/her weight; the higher the weight, the higher the risk of the related diseases.

Maintaining a healthy weight or BMI is largely tied to the amount of food we eat. Weight gain happens when the calories we consume exceeds the amount of calories we use up. Having said that, maintaining a healthy BMI should take into consideration a healthy weight, good nutrition, and regular exercise.

Healthy Behavior #4: Hit the Treadmill

Regular exercise is probably one of the most important behaviors we should incorporate into lives. Apart from reducing your risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and some cancers, it also strengthens your bones and muscles, and delivers that extra dose of endorphins to improve your mood.

For most people living and working in developed countries, our lifestyles are becoming increasingly sedentary. This is why it is even more important to work a sustainable exercise regimen into our weekly routines.

If you do not regularly exercise, it is important to start slowly, and choose an activity with moderate intensity. It is more helpful to pick a modest routine that you are confident you will be able to sustain, than aim for a more ambitious plan only to find it difficult to stick to. If your chosen exercise regimen is of moderate intensity, such as brisk walking, aim for 150 minutes a week. If you are up to a higher intensity workout, such as jogging, plan for 20 minutes of exercise, three days a week.

Healthy Workout

STAY HEALTHY, LIVE LONGER WITH JUST 150 MINUTES A WEEK

150 minutes of physical aerobic activity a week is all it takes to feel better, live longer, and reduce your risks of major chronic disease such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even certain types of cancers. According to Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, “most adults need at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity at least five times a week”.

Exercise benefits us in many ways. It is an integral ingredient in maintaining a healthy BMI (below 25), and plays a big part in reducing your risk of chronic diseases. Additionally, you will find that exercise improves your mood, increases your energy level, and even helps you sleep better at night. So take a brisk walk, go for a swim, hop on a treadmill, jump on your bike, or join a fitness class; the.re are many ways to work in an exercise routine into your daily life. There is no lack of options when it comes to picking out a physical activity and your choice should be something you will enjoy. After all, the best workout is one that you will stick to.

Pace Yourself: You Do Not Have to Become a World-Class Athlete Overnight

The levels of intensity of physical activity mean different things to different people; it depends on your existing level of fitness. The Mayo Clinic suggests that moderate activity should have you breathing more rapidly, but you should not feel out of breath. After 10 minutes you should develop a light sweat, and still be able to carry on a conversation though you probably will not be able to manage a song.

If you have not been exercising, start out slow, even if it means you can only manage a 10 minute workout. It does not matter where you start, as long as you do. Gradually work your way up to a longer workout at your own pace.

Exercise Should be Fun!

If you dread your workout, you are probably setting yourself up for failure. Pick an activity you will enjoy, or if you prefer variety, engage in a few different activities through the week.

A social butterfly may want to look for a group to walk or bike with. Fitness classes and dance classes are also a fun way to interact with others while burning those calories. If you find yourself in need of some “me-time”, then choose activities that will allow you to spend those 30 minutes undisturbed. Take a jog around your favorite park or walk your dog down the beach. Use this opportunity to rejuvenate yourself, whatever your preference may be.

Stay Motivated

It is important to keep up the motivation to sustain and carry on with your workout routine. Work in multiple ways to keep yourself enthused about exercising. If you have a weight goal, for example, set smaller attainable goals along the way and celebrate your progress. Give yourself a small treat with each ‘win’, as long as it does not come in the form of a big unhealthy plate of fries.

Some people find that it helps their commitment level to join a gym, club, or program that requires a fee. That way, there is extra incentive to use the facilities or attend the classes because they have already been paid for.

It also doesn’t hurt to invite a friend or two along, to keep you motivated. On days when you find yourself weighed down on the couch, the knowledge that someone else is waiting for you for that game of tennis may just be the thing that gets you going.

Tips to Remember When Working Out

There are some important things to remember when exercising to ensure that you are truly benefitting your body:

  • Hydration: When you exercise, you lose a lot of water through perspiration and respiration. Remember to replenish those fluids, and if you have been through a long vigorous work out, also consider buying yourself a sports drink to replenish your electrolytes.
  • Proper gear: Educate yourself on the proper equipment required for your choice of activity, and then outfit yourself with it. Using the right equipment is important to keep you safe, and to prevent injuries.
  • Check in with your doctor: If you have a pre-existing medical condition, or are concerned about your health, do consult your doctor before starting any exercise regimen.
  • Warm up and cool down: Jumping straight into a workout without first warming up may lead to injuries, and it is important to cool down to help return your body to its normal pace. Spend at least 10 minutes to warm up your body before your workout, and at least 5 minutes cooling down after.

Sneak in Some Extra Calorie-Burning Activities

Other than establishing a regular workout routine, you can also tweak your daily routine to burn some extra calories. Here are some simple changes you can make to counter the effects of our increasingly sedentary lifestyles:

  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator.
  • Take that slightly longer route to the office bathroom or the cafeteria.
  • Wash the car yourself instead of sending it to the car wash. This is a fun activity your kids can get involved in as well.
  • Park your car a little further than you normally would and add a few extra steps between your car and your office desk.
  • Consider cycling or walking to work instead of driving.
  • Instead of emailing or calling your co-worker in the office down the hallway, stroll over to have a conversation with him or her.

150 Minutes a Week

All it takes is to carve out 30 minutes to work out 5 times a week to enjoy all the benefits of exercise. You do not need to dread it, nor do you need to suffer through it. With the right choice of activities, you may just find your workout routine to be the highlight of your day, be it a rousing game of tennis, or a quiet run by the river. Whatever your preference, making exercise an essential part of your lifestyle will help you live a healthier, longer life.

Healthy Nutrition

A HEALTHY DIET: MORE THAN JUST A BALANCED MEAL

Food and nutrition guides have evolved through many years of extensive research by medical and nutrition experts. They have also started to take on different forms, from the many variations of food pyramids, to newer concepts such as the ‘plate’.

Regulating your diet according to any variant of a nutrition guide is a commendable step towards healthy eating. However, can a person’s food choices be unhealthy despite staying within the guidelines? It is absolutely possible. Here are some tips on making healthy choices based on the food groups commonly found in a food guide:



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Protein: The Building Blocks of Life

Protein is absolutely necessary for growth and development. Every cell in the human body contains protein. It is an essential nutrient, but there also exist healthy as well as less healthy protein choices.

Some of the best protein choices come from vegetable sources. Whole grains, beans, and nuts contain protein along with a healthy dose of fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

Animal sources of protein like lean poultry and fish are also good choices. Dairy products and red meats too, are excellent sources of protein, but are often accompanied with a good measure of fat. Therefore, it is advisable to limit the consumption of red meat and dairy products, and to opt for the lean or low-fat versions.

Processed meats, while convenient and accessible, are probably the least recommended source of protein. Consuming processed meats, however rich in protein it may be, usually means consuming high amounts of preservatives, salt, and fat. Another reason to avoid red meats and processed meats are recent findings that link these foods to cancer.

Carbohydrates (Carbs): Unnecessarily Evil

Carbs have been receiving bad press of late, being labeled ‘evil’ by many popular diets. The truth remains that carbs, are, for the most part unavoidable. They are naturally occurring in plant-based foods, and are present in our meals in the form of sugars and other starches.

The trick here is, not to avoid carbohydrates altogether, but to choose good carbs. Whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and beans are excellent carbohydrate choices, as they generally have a low glycemic index. Conversely, the intake of foods with a high glycemic index, such as sugar-laden beverages, desserts, potatoes, and refined grains, should be limited.

Fat: Are All Fats Bad?

Do good fats exist, or are they all bad? Fat is not necessarily bad, but a healthy diet should only include a small amount of it. The body requires fat for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins[3] and young children especially need fat in their diets for the development of their brains and nervous systems.

So what is good fat? Unsaturated fat, available from fish, olive oil, canola oil, and various nut oils are all healthy choices. Fats to stay away from are saturated fat and trans fat. Saturated fat is found in red meat and dairy products, while trans fat is most commonly made available to consumers in the form of snack foods, margarine, shortening, and baked goods. Both saturated fat and trans fat have been found to increase the risk of heart disease.

Fiber: Not Just About Bowel Movements

Fiber is often overlooked when considering a balanced diet, until one encounters the effects of constipation. In that unfortunate circumstance, it would appear that the person was lacking insoluble fiber in his or her diet. Vegetables, wheat bran, and whole grains are rich in this particular form of indigestible carbohydrate, which regulates bowel movements and maintains bowel health.

Soluble fiber is fiber that dissolves in water, and is found in oats, beans, psyllium, citrus fruits, and barley. Soluble fiber has been found to be effective in lowering cholesterol levels and in helping to control blood sugar levels.

Calcium: Beyond Dairy

It is common knowledge that calcium is important for building strong bones and helps in the prevention of osteoporosis later in life. For most people, a quest to fulfill this dietary need brings them down the dairy aisle at the grocery store. While milk and other dairy products are rich in calcium, high intake over time may increase the risk of certain cancers. Additionally, dairy products may also contain high amounts of saturated fat. Therefore, it is advisable to moderate the amount of dairy in your everyday diet.

Fortunately, there are other choices of calcium-rich foods. This is especially noteworthy for those who are lactose-intolerant. Fortified soy milk, beans, legumes, and dark, leafy greens are good and healthy sources of calcium.

Equally as important as calcium, is vitamin D, which is vital to the absorption of calcium. Vitamin D is naturally produced by the skin when exposed to sunlight. It is also readily available in the form of a supplement.

Vegetables and Fruits: Load Up On Them

“Finish your veggies”, a familiar phrase often uttered in frustration by parents all over the world. To a young child, it may just be another one of the many nagging statements they seem to constantly receive, but there is much wisdom in it. Eating lots of fruits and vegetables, with the exception of potatoes, can help prevent some cancers, heart disease, stroke, and even control blood pressure; there does not seem to be any downside to it.

Water: The Only Drink You Need

The body requires water to function. Constant and adequate fluid intake is necessary to replenish the body as it loses water through bodily functions. A general rule of thumb is to consume 8 to 9 cups of water a day. Another indicator of sufficient fluid intake is the color of a person’s urine, which should range between light yellow to colorless.

In general, the body’s need for fluids can be fulfilled by water, other beverages, and food. Beverages such as coffee, tea, soda, juice, milk and even beer all count as fluid for the body. However, water remains the best choice, offering maximum hydration without any caffeine, calories, or alcohol.

Calories: How Much Do We Need?

It would be amiss to discuss nutrition without discussing quantity. There are many guidelines as to how a healthy diet should be spread among the various food groups, but how much should we be eating? One of the few things it boils down to is Body Mass Index (BMI). For the average person, it is desirable to maintain a BMI of 25 or less.

The dietary component of maintaining a healthy BMI is mostly about maintaining a healthy weight. It should come as no surprise that the amount we eat is directly related to weight. Weight gain happens when you take in more calories than you expend, while weight loss is the effect of using up more calories than you taken in. Therefore, to maintain a healthy BMI, it is important to balance the quantity of food you eat with the amount of physical activity you engage in.

It’s About Quality And Quantity

If you keep up with the latest nutritional guides and dietary recommendations, there will always be new findings and research that will shed new light on the food we eat. While it is good to be informed, there is no need to jump on the latest diet bandwagon only to find it disputed by another article the following week. Keep to a healthy diet that balances all the necessary food groups, and try to find the best sources possible to supply the nutrition your body needs. Finally, consider the right amount of calories you should be consuming, as well as the amount of physical activity to engage in to maintain a healthy BMI.

DIABETES

Diabetes mellitus, commonly referred to as diabetes is a chronic disease that affects millions of people worldwide [1]. The World Health Organization estimates that in the year 2000, 171 million people were suffering from some form of diabetes, and they expect this number to double by year 2030. In 2004 alone, it is estimated that 3.4 million people died as a result of high blood sugar [2].

What is Diabetes?

The pancreas is responsible for secreting a hormone called insulin, which is used by our bodies to regulate the amount of sugar, or glucose, in our blood. Diabetes occurs when the pancreas is unable to produce enough insulin, or if the body is unable to use the insulin produced [2].

Types of Diabetes

There are primarily two types of diabetes, known as Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. The third type is known as gestational diabetes, which only occurs during pregnancy [2].

Type 1 diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is also known as insulin-dependent diabetes or juvenile diabetes happens when the body does not produce sufficient insulin. At present, the cause and prevention of type 1 diabetes are still unknown [2].

Type 2 diabetes
Type 2 diabetes, also known as non-insulin-dependent diabetes is strongly linked to obesity, being overweight, and the lack of physical activity. This type of diabetes is due to the body’s inability to effectively use insulin. About 90 percent of people diagnosed with diabetes have type 2 diabetes.

Gestational diabetes
During pregnancy, some women may experience a condition known as hyperglycaemia (excessive blood sugar). It is common for your medical practitioner to test for this condition during prenatal screenings.

Symptoms of Diabetes
Symptoms of diabetes may occur suddenly, or gradually, and may include excessive urination, weight loss, thirst, changes in vision, and fatigue.

Effects of Diabetes
Diabetes can affect the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys, and nervous system over time. It is not uncommon for persons living with diabetes to eventually experience visual impairment, even to the point of blindness. Other common long-term effects include increased risk of heart disease and stroke, kidney failure, and nerve damage that could even lead to limb amputation [2].

Treatment of Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes requires insulin, often administered in the form of an injection. Type 2 diabetes may be treated with oral medication, but may also require insulin in certain cases [2]. Persons with diabetes should also avoid high-glycemic-index foods, and consume more whole grains.

Prevention of Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is preventable through maintaining a normal body weight or BMI, a nutritious and healthy diet, and regular exercise [2].

ANEMIA

Definition:

Anemia is an abnormally low number of circulating red blood cells (RBC), low hemoglobin (Hb) concentration, or both.

Causes of anemia are:
Blood loss
Inadequate RBC production
Increased RBC destruction
Insufficient or defective hemoglobin within RBCs

Symptoms of anemia may include:
Pallor of the skin, nail beds and conjunctiva
Fatigue
Dizziness
Dim vision
Palpitation (Conscious awareness of heart beating)
Worsening of heart problem

The types of anemia are:
Blood loss anemia results from acute or chronic bleeding. The risk for blood loss anemia is shock and circulatory failure.
Nutritional anemia results from nutrient deficiency (e.g. iron deficiency, folic acid deficiency or Vitamin B12 deficiency, which is more commonly known as pernicious anemia) that affect RBC formation or Hb synthesis. This is usually cause by inadequate diet, malabsorption or increased need for nutrients.
Hemolytic anemias are characterized by premature destruction (lysis) of RBCs. Some of the examples of hemolytic anemias are sickle cell anemia, thalassemia and Glucose-6-Phosphate Dehydrogenase (G6PD) anemia. The intrinsic causes are RBC cell-membrane defects, Hb structural defects (e.g. sickle cell anemia and thalassemia), inherited enzyme defects (e.g. G6PD deficiency). Whereas the extrinsic causes are drugs, chemicals, toxins, venoms, trauma, burns, bacterial or infections.
Aplastic anemia happens when the bone marrow fails to produce all three types of blood cells. The cause is unknown (i.e. idiopathic aplastic anemia).
When anemia is suspected, laboratory and diagnostic tests may be ordered.

Treatment:

Medications used to treat anemia usually depends on its cause. Supplements may be given by mouth or injections. Other options are blood transfusions or dietary therapy which is mainly for those with nutritional anemias.
Iron is found from animal sources (Heme) such as beef, chicken, egg yolk, pork loin, veal, turkey. The remaining sources from animal sources such as plants, legumes, nuts, oatmeal, brown rice, whole grain breads are non-heme. Non-heme irons is enhanced by vitamin C and inhibited by tea and coffee.
Folic acid is found in green leafy vegetables, broccoli, organ meats, eggs, wheat germ, asparagus, milk, yeast and kidney beans. Sources of Vitamin B12 are liver, fresh shrimps and oyster, eggs, milk, kidney, meat (muscle) and cheese.

OSTEOPOROSIS

Osteoporosis is a bone condition which affects millions of people globally every year. The likelihood of a person developing osteoporosis increases with age. Women are also more likely to develop osteoporosis as compared to men. According to the International Osteoporosis Foundation, osteoporosis is estimated to affect 200 million women worldwide.

What is Osteoporosis?

The human body breaks down and rebuilds bone tissue as we advance in age. Bones predominantly consist of minerals like calcium and phosphorus and require a constant supply of these minerals to maintain their integrity. Vitamin D is also important to allow assimilation of these minerals into the bones. Osteoporosis occurs when the body breaks down more bone tissue than it rebuilds. This decreases bone density, thus weakening the bone and increasing the likelihood of a fracture. The lack of the aforementioned vitamins and minerals also increase the chances of developing osteoporosis.

Types of Osteoporosis

In general, there are two kinds of osteoporosis:

Primary Osteoporosis
This form of osteoporosis occurs in more than 95% of female cases and more than 80% of male cases. Primary osteoporosis may also be referred to as post-menopausal, involutional, senile or age-related osteoporosis. One of the major causes of this type of osteoporosis is low estrogen levels associated with menopause or aging. This results in an increase in bone breakdown leading to rapid bone loss.

Secondary Osteoporosis
This type of osteoporosis is caused by external factors. Disorders such as hyperthyroidism and diabetes mellitus and drugs like anticonvulsants and corticosteroids may lead to secondary osteoporosis.
In rare cases, perfectly healthy children or young adults with normal hormone and mineral levels may also get osteoporosis. This form of osteoporosis is called idiopathic osteoporosis. The word “idiopathic” refers to the fact that the cause is unknown.

Symptoms and Effects

There are no obvious symptoms in the early stages of osteoporosis. However, in the later stages fractures may result due to bone deterioration and may occur at any part of the body. Bones located in the middle or lower spinal region, hip or wrist are highly susceptible to fractures. Chronic back pain may also result if the bones in the lower spinal region collapse. These fractures are known as vertebral crush fractures or osteoporotic fractures.

Detection and Treatment

An accurate diagnosis of osteoporosis may be obtained by gauging bone density. A painless technique known as dual energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) is used to measure bone density at places like the hip and the spine where the probability of major fractures developing is high. Biphosphonates are used to treat and prevent osteoporosis from occurring by increasing bone density and preserving bone mass.

Prevention

There are some risk factors that may amplify the probability of developing osteoporosis, such as eating disorders and inactive lifestyles. These factors can be managed to lower the risk of getting osteoporosis. A diet which is rich in the necessary minerals like calcium and phosphorus may reduce the risk as well. At the same time, there are other risk factors which cannot be changed. These include age, gender, race and family history. People who have a low body mass index (BMI) also stand a high chance of developing osteoporosis.

CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE

The leading killer in the world is cardiovascular disease. The World Health Organization predicts that by 2030, cardiovascular diseases will account for almost 23.6 million deaths worldwide, mostly from coronary heart disease.

The Risk Factors of Cardiovascular Disease

Heart disease are mostly attributed to an unhealthy lifestyle, which includes unhealthy eating, lack of physical activity, and smoking. Being overweight or obese puts you at higher risk of cardiovascular disease. Heart attacks are most commonly caused by clogged blood vessels that lead to the heart or brain. Over time, these blood vessels are narrowed by a build-up of fat along their inner walls.

On the other hand, being underweight may also lead to heart problems. If a person is underweight because of inadequate nutrition or caloric intake, the body may begin to slow down its processes to conserve energy. To do so, the heart may reduce its pace significantly, which in turn lowers blood pressure. If this condition persists, the person could face permanent heart damage, and subsequently, heart failure.

Symptoms of a Heart Attack

The onset of a heart attack may be accompanied by pain or discomfort in the chest area, arms, the left shoulder, elbows, jaw, or back. The person may also experience shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, light-headedness, and cold sweat.

Treatment of Cardiovascular Disease

A variety of medications are available to treat almost all types of cardiovascular diseases, and to help prevent recurrences. Surgical treatments are also available for more severe conditions. These include coronary artery bypass, balloon angioplasty, and valve repair or replacement. Additionally, some conditions may warrant the use of devices such as pacemakers and prosthetic valves.

Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease

The risk of cardiovascular disease can be mitigated by eating healthily, exercising regular, not smoking, and avoiding second-hand smoke.

DIGESTIVE DISEASES

Digestive diseases come in all shapes and forms, from the common and often harmless stomach upset to the more serious and life-threatening colorectal cancer. Studies show that 95 million people worldwide suffer from some form of digestive disorder. On one hand, some of the more common disorders include diarrhea, appendicitis, constipation and indigestion. On the other hand, there are more serious disorders like irritable bowel syndrome and gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a functional disorder where the bowels do not function properly. It is normally characterized by symptoms such as bloating, abdominal cramps and diarrhea. People suffering from IBS tend to have sensitive bowels. There is no known organic cause for IBS, but the predominant theory is that diet and stress play a large role in causing IBS.

Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) is a more severe form of gastro-esophageal reflux (GER) or heartburn. GER takes place when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) opens too often or does not close properly and contents from the stomach enter the esophagus. GERD occurs when heartburn happens more frequently than normal due to a hernia known as a hiatal hernia.

Symptoms and Effects

The symptoms for digestive disorders vary vastly depending on the actual disorder and its severity. Loose stools and sharp pains in the upper and lower abdominal region are among many of the symptoms that could indicate a digestive disease. Obese people tend to have sluggish digestive systems, hence increasing their chances to develop IBS. People who are underweight are also more susceptible to digestive disorders. In some cases of GERD, the person may not have heartburn but instead have symptoms like trouble swallowing, a dry cough, or asthmatic symptoms.

Detection

A procedure known as an esophagogastroduodenoscopy may be used to diagnose GERD and IBS. Also known as an upper endoscopy or EGD, this process involves inserting a thin, flexible tube down through the throat that allows the physician to examine the esophagus, stomach and duodenum for any signs of the aforementioned disorders.

Treatment and Prevention

Drugs like H2-blockers and acid pump inhibitors may help alleviate the symptoms of heartburn whereas a physician may prescribe antispasmodic or antidepressant drugs to treat the symptoms of IBS. However, these disorders can also be addressed by changes in diet and lifestyle. Maintaining a healthy BMI is may also assist in managing these disorders.

RESPIRATORY DISEASE

The term “respiratory disease” usually refers to diseases that primarily afflict the body’s respiratory tract. There are many forms of respiratory diseases, ranging from serious, ongoing conditions like asthma to severe infections like tuberculosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Based on statistics from the World Health Organization, it is estimated that 235 million people worldwide suffer from asthma and another estimated 64 million people suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease globally.

Asthma
Asthma is a common respiratory disorder that causes the airways to swell and constrict, causing breathing difficulties. This disorder can be easily identified by its symptoms which include difficulty breathing, wheezing and coughing. Certain allergens may trigger asthma attacks in sensitive people. These triggers include dust, animal hair, pollen and even tobacco smoke.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a serious lung ailment which causes a constant blockage in the lungs and limits airflow, thus leading to breathing difficulties. Common symptoms that are synonymous with COPD include chronic coughing, breathlessness, and abnormal sputum. Like asthma, COPD may stem from or be aggravated by certain environmental triggers such as air pollution and other airborne irritants.

Diagnosis and Treatment

COPD and asthma may be diagnosed with a test known as “spirometry”, which gauges the volume of air a person inhales and exhales, and the velocity of air to and from the lungs. Both these respiratory disorders have no particular cure, and are usually treated by addressing the individual symptoms. Medication for asthma patients may be classified into long-term control medication and quick-relief medication. The latter is more frequently used to address sudden asthma attacks. These quick-relief medications are usually in the form of sprays or aerosols.

Prevention

Environmental triggers are usually the cause of COPD and asthma. Therefore, one way of to control or prevent these disorders would be to minimize contact with allergens or triggers which may set off or cause these diseases. Tobacco smoke, mould, animal dander, and dust mites are just a few of the things that may trigger an asthma attack or cause COPD. A person’s BMI also plays a part in preventing respiratory diseases. Underweight people have weaker immune systems; hence they are more susceptible to developing not only respiratory diseases, but other diseases as well. An overweight person, on the other hand, would also be more inclined to develop a respiratory disorder due to the face that a person’s fitness level is linked to his or her weight.

HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE

High blood pressure, as the name suggests, is when the body’s blood pressure exceeds the normal pressure. According to the US National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, about 1 in 3 adults in the United States have high blood pressure. Blood pressure readings are given as two numbers in this form: x/y mmHg. The top and bottom numbers represent the systolic and the diastolic blood pressures respectively. The systolic reading refers to the pressure when the heart beats and the diastolic reading refers to the pressure when the heart is at rest. High blood pressure is also known as hypertension.

What is high blood pressure?

Blood pressure is described as the force that is applied to the walls of the arteries as blood is pumped through the body. Normally, the body’s blood pressure registers lower than 120/80 mmHg.
Hypertension is when the body’s blood pressure is equal to or exceeds 140/90 mmHg. However, if the body’s blood pressure is equal to 120/80 mmHg or higher, yet lower than 140/90 mmHg, this condition is called pre-hypertension. The risk of developing high blood pressure is much higher when the pressure in the arteries is in the pre-hypertension range.

Symptoms and Effects

In most cases of high blood pressure, detection is only through a medical check-up as there are no visible symptoms. Minor symptoms like dizzy spells or headaches may manifest themselves in select cases. However, unchecked hypertension may lead to secondary conditions which are more serious such as heart or kidney disorders and stroke.

Detection and Treatment

As hypertension has no obvious external symptoms, it may only be picked up during a medical check-up. A good precaution is to take routine blood pressure readings. According to the Mayo Clinic, regular readings at least every two years starting from age 20 are a good way to spot hypertension. Medication like beta-blockers and diuretics are also used to treat cases of hypertension.

Prevention

There are many uncontrollable risk factors for hypertension such as age, race, gender and family history. On the other hand, there are also factors which can be controlled like diet and frequency of exercise. A balanced diet helps keep the body’s blood pressure in check. A diet with too much sodium (salt) and a lack of potassium increases the risk of high blood pressure. Obesity also contributes towards an increased chance of developing hypertension. So, maintaining a low body mass index (BMI) reduces the chances of developing high blood pressure.

WEIGHT AND THE IMMUNE SYSTEM

What is the Immune System?

Our immune system is an incredibly complex system in our body which functions as a defense against invasions from viruses, bacteria, parasites, and fungi that may cause infections. It consists of an intricate network of organs, tissues, and cells that are able to identify and remember millions of “invaders” and produce secretions targeted to neutralize or wipe them out.

How does Weight Compromise an Immune System?


Lack of Nutrition
A healthy immune system requires sufficient nutrients from a well-balanced diet. If you are underweight, or are not eating a well-balanced meal, your immune system is probably not functioning at 100 percent.

Excess Pro-Inflammatory Cells
The cells that make up the immune system are held in a delicate balance. Overproduction of any of those cells could cause them to do more harm than good. Excess fat, especially abdominal fat, triggers the production of pro-inflammatory immune cells. These cells are found in our bloodstream and, as the name suggests, promotes inflammation in our bodies. Studies have found chronic inflammation to be linked to coronary artery disease and diabetes. It has also been found that weight loss of just 10-13 pounds in obese subjects can reduce pro-inflammatory immune cell levels to more normal levels.

How to Maintain a Healthy Immune System

A strong immune system is a natural product of a healthy lifestyle. You can help keep your immune system functioning at its best by doing the following:

  • Eat well-balanced, nutritious meals, avoiding excessive sugar, alcohol, saturated and trans fats.
  • Exercise on a regular basis.
  • Keep a healthy weight and BMI.
  • Do not smoke.

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