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Monthly Archives: June 2009

Early Disease Detection

First Aid for Cardiac Arrest

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In cardiac arrests, a person’s heart stops beating and he stops breathing, thus cutting the supply of oxygen to the body. To help a person in cardiac arrest, first aid should be done as quickly as possible. Cardiac arrests that last for more than 5 minutes can cause brain damage while those that last more than 10 minutes can cause death. Pop superstar Michael Jackson is said to have died of cardiac arrest.

People who have histories of cardiac arrests, heart attacks and coronary artillery disease have greater risks. Thus, family and friends around these high-risk patients must always be ready with what to do.

A person in cardiac arrest has faint or no pulse and lies motionless. Immediately check the signs of breathing; look at the chest if it moves up and down, listen to breathing sounds and move close to feel air movement. If the patient is not breathing, examine quickly any cause of airway blockage in the throat or the mouth.

automated external defibrillatorAn automated external defibrillator (AED), if available, should be used to revive the heartbeat. Then, call for emergency medical assistance or ask someone to make the call as you administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) to the patient. CPR must be continued until the person has recovered or medical assistance has arrived.

Several organizations in the country, including the American Heart Association and the American Red Cross, as well as different hospitals conduct training courses on the use of AEDs and the proper administration of CPR. It is important that everyone learns this basic life-saving technique and to be updated with recent developments and improvements of procedures.

Early Disease Detection

How to Prevent Sudden Cardiac Arrest

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With the death of the King of Pop Michael Jackson, the world has set its eyes on sudden cardiac arrest, reported as the pop icon’s cause of death. Although often believed to be synonymous with heart attack, our previous post gives a hopefully better picture of the difference between the two.

The question that many people are asking right now is if there is a way to prevent cardiac arrest. Well, there are, actually, although these do not come with 100% guarantees. A lot of factors must be taken into consideration and even then, complete protection is still not guaranteed. It is still extremely significant, however, to consider these preventive ways.

wound after implantPeople who have suffered cardiac arrest before have greater tendency of having it again. An implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) lessens the risk of death due to a second cardiac arrest. This device is surgically inserted under a patient’s skin in the abdomen or chest area. This monitors the patient’s heart rhythm. If it detects dangerously irregular heartbeats, it gives out an electric shock to restore normal rhythm. This is different from a pacemaker, although most have been combined with one.

People who have had a heart attack and suffer from severe coronary artery disease also have high risks for cardiac arrest. Beta blockers or procedures like angioplasty and grafting may reduce the risks. An ICD may also be recommended.

Adjusting diet can also significantly contribute in preventing cardiac arrests. Go for whole-grain foods, fruits and vegetables. Stick to foods that are low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, salt and added sugar. Also adopt healthy lifestyle practices like moderating alcohol consumption, avoiding smoking and getting enough physical exercise.

Early Disease Detection

Cardiac Arrest vs Heart Attack

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The sad and unexpected passing of the King of Pop Michael Jackson is initially being attributed to cardiac arrest. Diseases that involve the heart are usually taken to mean the same thing; what people may not know is that a cardiac arrest is not the same as a heart attack, although a heart attack can eventually lead to cardiac arrest. The official cause of death will not be determined until after toxicology tests are conducted and the results of these come in, and so for now, the superstar’s passing is being attributed to cardiac arrest.

heart diagram courtesy of www.niaaa.nih.govA feature on WebMD sheds a bit more light into the condition. As explained by Douglas Zipes, M.D., a past president of the American College of Cardiology and a professor at the Indiana University School of Medicine, a cardiac arrest is broadly defined as a condition in which the heart ceases to work properly.

Zipes explains what that means in further detail by describing cardiac arrest as a “heart rhythm disturbance”, called ventricular fibrillation, where the ventricles (bottom chamber of the heart) beats very rapidly, reaching up to 600 beats in a minute. This rapid rate leads to the inability of the ventricles to contract rapidly and, as a consequence, it is unable to pump enough blood to the brain as well as to the rest of the body. If the condition is not reversed within four to five minutes, it will be fatal. It is the blood that provides the brain with the oxygen it needs, and if there is not enough blood going into the organ, it begins to die.

CPR, which is being reported as the course of action that was performed on Michael Jackson, can help keep blood flowing. However, it will reportedly take an “electrical shock to the heart”, either through defibrillators or via an internal heart device, to jolt the heart back into its normal rhythm.

Early Disease Detection

June 27 is National HIV Testing Day

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Tomorrow has been declared as National HIV Testing Day, and activities that involve free testing for HIV are being organized across the country. In some places, free HIV testing has already begun. In Asheville, North Carolina, the following testing sites have been identified:

Express HIV Testing KitWestern North Carolina Community Health Services
10 Ridgelawn Rd., Asheville, 28806
Phone 285-0622

Minnie Jones Family Health Center (details)
264 Haywood Rd., Asheville, 28806
Phone 285-0622

Buncombe County Health Center
35 Woodfin St., Asheville, 28801
Phone 250-5000

Planned Parenthood Health Systems Incorporated
603 Biltmore Ave., Asheville, 28801
Phone 252-7928 or 800-230-7256

Similar activities are also being planned for other cities. At some of these events, rapid HIV tests, which will have the ability to provide results within half an hour, will be available.

For North Carolina residents who do not live in an area or a town where a free testing event has been organized or will be unable to attend an event, there are free HIV tests as well as syphilis tests that can be taken through local health departments or community-based organizations across the state.

Those who are concerned with their privacy may take home HIV tests. If you prefer this option, you need to make sure you get kits that are approved by the Food and Drug Administration and deal only with reputable suppliers. These tests are accurate and easy to use as they come with easy-to-follow instruction booklets. The kits also come with an access code that would serve as your identity and ensure complete anonymity.

Early Disease Detection

South Pole Cancer Survivor Dr. Jerri Nielsen Dies

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Dr. Jerri Nielsen was on an adventure of a lifetime, having accepted a position as a physician for the National Science Foundation assigned for a year at the South Pole. She arrived at the polar station in November, 1998, serving as an all-around medical team for a two-bed hospital. She was the nurse, the x-ray technician and the dentist – aside from being the storekeeper as well as the post master.

Dr. Jerri NielsenIt was in March of 1999 when the doctor discovered a lump in her breast. When she realized that this lump was no benign cyst, the polar winter was in full swing and there was no chance of being airlifted out of the area until October. Dr. Nielsen had to perform surgery – on herself – with a welder for a co-surgeon, trained to perform needle pricks and incisions through a potato and thawed chicken, in order to get enough tissue for a biopsy. A mechanic set up a microscope and a computer, allowing Dr. Nielsen to transmit images of the biopsy to the United States.

The diagnosis came back as an aggressive form of cancer. The sponsoring foundation decided to embark on a risky mission to airdrop supplies, including anti-cancer drugs as well as an ultrasound machine, through the US military. The mission captured the world’s attention. The drugs survived the airdrop, but the ultrasound machine didn’t. This was enough, however, to allow Dr. Nielsen to self-administer hormone injections and intravenous chemotherapy while in consultation with doctors based in the US through videoconferencing and e-mail. As the winter began to die down, however, Dr. Nielsen had developed several infections, which lead to the earliest airlift from the South Pole – she was extracted from the area on October 16, 1999.

The cancer had been in remission until 2005, but eventually, the disease still claimed her life. When her cancer returned, it spread to her liver, bones and brain. She passed away on June 23 at the home that she shared with second husband Thomas FitzGerald at the age of 57.

Early Disease Detection

Daniel Hauser to Continue Chemotherapy

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It has been almost a month now since we shared with you that Daniel Hauser and his mother, Colleen, have opted to return home after fleeing Minnesota to evade chemotherapy. The thirteen year-old was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma and he and his family was resisting chemotherapy for religious reasons, and a judge had ruled in favor of chemotherapy for the boy. Daniel and Colleen Hauser’s disappearance, reportedly to escape to Mexico, prompted a manhunt that involved even the FBI and Interpol, and resulted in various debates regarding appropriate cancer treatment.

Daniel HauserDaniel and his family were at court for a hearing on Tuesday, June 23, where the status of Daniel’s illness relative to his course of treatment, among other things, was discussed.

According to court documents, it seems that chemotherapy – despite the fact that Daniel complained about “feeling worse today” compared to how he felt prior to the court-mandated chemotherapy treatment – is working. After a recent round of treatment, tests indicated that his tumor had shrunk significantly and that he manifested improvements as far as other symptoms were concerned: his cough has improved and he has been able to breathe better and sleep well. Doctors said, though, that his appetite has been poor and that he was fatigued and nauseated.

These reports, as presented in court, may have led to a ruling by Brown County Judge John Rodenberg that Daniel should continue receiving chemotherapy. Thus far, the family is bent on following court orders although their concerns regarding the risks of chemotherapy have not diminished. The Hauser’s lawyer, Barbara Gislason, has said that the family is still looking for alternative treatments.

Early Disease Detection Substance Abuse

Marijuana Smoke Added to California List of Carcinogens

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Last Friday, the state of California added marijuana smoke to the state’s official list of known carcinogens. Scientists have reportedly found that marijuana smoke shares the same harmful properties as that of tobacco smoke. The state is required by law to publish a list of chemicals that are known to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity. With the addition of marijuana smoke to the list, businesses such as dispensaries will be required to post warnings regarding marijuana smoke. The same does not hold true, however, for the plant itself.

cannabisAdvocates of medical marijuana as well as those pushing for the legalization of marijuana for recreational use, however, are concerned that the addition of marijuana to the list might provide leverage to those who are opposed to the legalization of marijuana to push for further restriction of access to marijuana.

The labeling requirements are not set to take effect until June 19, 2010. Medical marijuana dispensaries with 10 employees or more will be required to either post a warning in the shop or put the warnings on the product itself. Those who will not abide by the labeling requirements may be fined as much $2,500 per day for each violation.

The designation was made by the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment. According to its chief deputy director Allan Hirsch, smoke from marijuana is a mixture of various chemicals, some of those already listed on the Prop. 65 list. A panel of scientists reportedly reviewed an “extensive body of research,” where links between marijuana smoke and cancer were found. Specifically mentioned in the report were head and neck cancers. The review did not include studies that indicate the various medical benefits of marijuana, which include the reduction of nausea and the restoration of appetite following chemotherapy as well as hampering the progress of glaucoma.

Substance Abuse

Steroids for Better Grades?

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For those who think that “performance enhancing drugs” and “steroids” are words that will inevitably lead you to the playing field or the arena or to a locker room somewhere, think again. Steroid use is not only being linked to or exclusively being done by athletes or people who need to outdo someone else.

steroids for better focus?Recently, we did a feature on those who take steroids in an effort to be the best they can be from a physical point of view. This time, we share with you how seemingly intelligent young people who are at the prime of their lives,  preparing themselves for a bright future through various academic pursuits, are also finding themselves getting hooked on steroids.

An increasing number of students are reportedly getting hooked on a drug that is normally prescribed for those who have been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. The drug – Adderall – reportedly helps those who take it pay more attention or be more focused.

Those who follow the series Desperate Housewives may recall a couple of episodes where this issue was played out, with one of the characters taking her son’s ADHD pills in order to become “super mom”. The drug allows people to not only focus but accomplish so much more – it helps people stay alert and awake longer. For the harried college student with a gazillion papers to write and exams to study for, this means more energy and time to study and cram.

It is disheartening that such noble intentions – trying to finish on top of the class to make mom and dad proud – may now also be tainted by the use of prescription drugs. As a society, there may be a serious need to revisit our priorities and criteria for success in order to understand what may be driving people to resort to extreme and dangerous measures in order to get ahead.

Some people contend that taking drugs to help focus on schoolwork is not necessarily unethical – it has been parallelized with taking an extra cup of coffee or two in order to stay awake the evening before an important exam, and there is definitely nothing wrong with that, especially if your only objective anyway is to do well. With the danger of addiction and other side effects that addiction may bring with it, though, will the end really justify the means?

Home Health Hazards

Lead-Free Toys and Art Supplies for Your Kids

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A couple of days ago, we did a feature on contamination of everyday items – such as dinnerware and toys – by heavy metals such as lead. We ended that post by suggesting that parents ask themselves whether their children are truly safe. For those who figured out that, after checking the items that their children either handle or are exposed to, they are unsure about the safety of their children, we would like to share information regarding a company that creates products that are truly safe for your kids.

Are your kid's toys safe?Bluedominoes.com is the brainchild of mom Debbie Lindgren, who, along with her partner Linda Manaster, started the site as an online information resource for parents concerned with toxic substances that may exist in the ordinary, everyday things that they are using. Debbie’s passion comes from a rather personal experience with lead poisoning. Her son Mark was diagnosed with lead poisoning, which came as a surprise as they lived in a new home that ideally would have been free from the dangers of lead. The contaminant, however, was traced to their dinnerware.

Another experience also made Debbie arrive at another realization – toys and art supplies are not as harmless as they may seem. When her son was in kindergarten, he would cry each time he handled play dough in class, and after a week, Debbie and the teacher discovered that he was particularly sensitive to yellow play dough. Calls to the manufacturer in an attempt to discover why this was so proved futile; ingredients used in these items are confidential.

This led to the development of Safe Art Activity Dough, a product that is not only lead-free; it is also free of the seven most common allergens, such as wheat and gluten, as well as other heavy metals such as mercury and arsenic and chemicals such as bromine. The product uses natural colors and, though it is not required, its package lists all the ingredients used in the product for the benefit of parents.

Pregnancy & Fertility

Natural Ways to Improve Sperm Quality

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You have probably heard that wearing boxer shorts can improve semen quality. This may help in a way as elevated body temperature can affect sperm count, but relying on the use of boxers to enhance sperm health is not really a very promising idea. Improving male fertility is actually a bit more complex, and it definitely needs more than just a change in undergarments.

spermEat fruits and vegetables regularly. Studies have shown that men who ate more fruits and vegetables have better sperm quality compared to men who don’t. This has been attributed to the high antioxidant content of fruits and vegetables, which can reduce oxidative stress and consequently improve sperm count and motility.

Get regular exercise. Adopt a moderate-intensity fitness regimen to keep your body in healthy shape. While it is good to push yourself to exercise daily, it is not also advisable to go all the way with too intense workouts.

Relax. Stress has been found to significantly affect the quantity and quality of sperm, so avoid stressful activities and engage in relaxation exercises like yoga or simple breathing exercises. If you’re thinking of hitting the sauna to relax, better think again. Heat can compromise sperm quality.

Quit bad habits. Avoid smoking or drugs and keep alcohol consumption at a minimum. While smoking and drugs have been proven by several studies to lower sperm count, the effect of alcohol on male fertility is still the topic of several arguments; some studies show that alcohol has negative effects while some indicate otherwise. When your goal is to improve sperm health, it is always best to stay on the safe side and quit the bad habits altogether.