Health Wire

Crohn’s Disease

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Crohn’s disease is a relatively rare inflammatory condition involving the gastrointestinal tract. Any area from the mouth to anus can be affected, but Crohn’s usually strikes the ileum – the lower part of the small intestine. The disease can also affect the colon. The bowel wall’s entire thickness is typically inflamed, with intestinal segments appearing normal in some areas, diseased in others. Between one and five people per 10,000 suffer from Crohn’s disease. Patients experience a wide range of bowel symptoms, including normal movements, urgency, cramps, and watery or bloody diarrhea. Some patients also suffer fever and fatigue. Crohn’s disease tends to be chronic, as patients enjoy periods of remission that are sometimes followed by progressive symptoms.

P.S. Crohn’s disease rates seem to be rising. There is no known cause, but genetics and environmental factors are considered influential.

The Wonders of Water

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Water plays a vital role in numerous bodily functions. It regulates body temperature, cushions the joints, carries oxygen and nutrients to the cells, and helps dissolve vitamins and minerals into the bloodstream. Water also removes wastes, prevents constipation, and flushes toxins from the kidneys and liver. Because the average adult loses about 10 cups of fluid daily through sweating, exhaling, and elimination, 10 cups of water per day need to be consumed to keep the body balanced. This may sound like a cumbersome amount to drink, but solid food accounts for about three to four cups per day. In addition, beverages like juice, soup, and milk help meet the water requirement, whereas alcohol, caffeinated beverages, and soda do not.

P.S. Water comprises about 75% of the brain, 80% of blood, and 70% of lean muscle.


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Antibiotics are medications designed to kill bacterial infections. They do not work for viral infections. Antibiotics work well when taken for strep throat, some sinus infections, and ear infections. Because viruses cause colds, the flu, most coughs, and most sore throats, antibiotics do not cure them. These illnesses most often need to run their course naturally, which can take about two weeks. See your doctor if you suspect strep throat, a sinus infection, or ear infection. It is important to take antibiotics only as prescribed, and always take the full course of medication even when you feel better. When antibiotics are used improperly or excessively, certain bacteria resist them, rendering the antibiotic ineffective.

P.S. If any illness lasts longer than two weeks, consult your doctor.

Better Sleep

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Getting a sufficient amount of quality sleep each night promotes creativity, physical health, and makes you look and feel younger. Sleep deprivation contributes to a lack of concentration, fatigue, and irritability. It is also a factor in many minor and major injuries and accidents. Due to our circadian rhythms, the best sleep hours are before midnight. A good sleep goal would be to sleep from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. nightly without the aid of medication. For those currently retiring much later, gradually move bedtime up by half an hour each week, until you are in bed by 10 or 10:30 p.m. Avoid heavy foods after 7 p.m., and take a relaxing stroll in the evening.

P.S. Avoid mentally stimulating tasks or exciting television shows before bedtime.

Be Savvy with Supplements

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The best way to get enough vitamins is through food. Eating recommended amounts from the Food Guide Pyramid – grains, vegetables, fruit, dairy, meat, and fats/sugars – promotes good health and high energy. Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) are gender and age specific, geared toward children, adults, males, non-pregnant females, and pregnant females. Many Americans rely on nutritional supplements to get enough vitamins and minerals. A recent study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine reports nearly half of all adult Americans take supplements. Those who may benefit from supplements include people on a doctor-prescribed very low-calorie diet, the elderly, strict vegetarians, lactose-intolerant individuals who cannot drink milk or eat dairy products, and women of child-bearing age who need folate.

P.S. Because excess amounts of certain supplements can be toxic, always check with a doctor before taking them.

Urinary Troubles

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Certain foods, medications, and supplements can cause harmless changes in urine color, odor, and appearance. Urinary changes can also signal illness and disease, however, so they are worth mentioning to a doctor. A urinary tract infection, for example, may make the urine appear cloudy or murky. Urine may appear black or darkened due to simple causes like laxatives or high doses of iron, or it could be due to liver or kidney disease. Yellow or orange urine could simply mean a person has eaten carrots, beets, or rhubarb, but it could also indicate dehydration. Strong or foul-smelling urine can signal dehydration, a urinary tract infection, or uncontrolled diabetes. Difficulty with urination could mean the prostate gland is enlarged or infected.

P.S. Decreased urination is sometimes a sign of kidney disease.

Promising Study for Lupus Patients

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A recent study published in Arthritis and Rheumatism offers hope for lupus patients who currently take steroids to regulate their immune systems. When added to a patient’s treatment regimen, the male hormone prasterone has been shown to delay the onset of symptoms, reduce mortality, and reduce the need for steroids. Prasterone, known sometimes as DHEA, also seems to build bone in lupus patients on steroids. Lupus is an autoimmune disease affecting approximately 1.4 million Americans, 90% of them women. The patient’s immune system attacks its own tissues and organs, causing joint pain, anemia, arthritis, fatigue, and kidney problems. Many lupus patients take steroids, which can cause serious side effects like bone thinning and breakage, heart problems, muscle weakness, and cataracts.

P.S. Major advances in lupus treatments are expected in the near future.


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Potassium is stored within the cells and serves many functions. It plays a role in maintaining electrical and chemical balances and regulating muscle activity. The body’s potassium concentration must be efficiently maintained via the consumption and excretion process to avoid serious health problems, including cardiac arrest. Hyperkalemia occurs when the body has excess potassium in the blood. This condition can develop for several reasons. Impaired kidney function may decrease the body’s ability to eliminate excess potassium via the urine. Some medications may encourage kidneys to retain potassium. Burns, injuries, and reactions from blood transfusions can destroy blood cells and affect potassium levels. High doses of potassium supplements can also cause hyperkalemia.

P.S. Treating hyperkalemia involves addressing and treating the underlying condition.

Vein Conditions

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Varicose veins and spider veins are two common vein conditions affecting millions of Americans. About 40 million Americans suffer from painful varicose veins, which are caused by a weakening of the vein walls and valves that leads to an enlargement of the veins. Veins in the legs and feet are most often affected. Symptoms include the appearance of bluish blood vessels; pain, burning sensations, and a “heavy” feeling in the legs; and ankle swelling. With spider veins, symptoms are more cosmetic. Veins close to the skin surface become dilated and look like tiny spider webs of red, purple, and blue. Spider veins commonly occur in the ankles, calves, thighs, and face and sometimes cause aching, leg cramping, and swelling.

P.S. Vein conditions should be evaluated by a doctor, who can then determine the best course of treatment.

The Alcohol-Blood Pressure Connection

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Much information has been published about how moderate alcohol consumption may lower blood pressure. A recent study of women, however, showed that it pays to know what “moderate” really means. Researchers found that women who drank more than a few drinks per week actually experienced a rise in blood pressure. More than 70,000 women between the ages of 25 and 42 were studied. Those who drank two to three drinks per week lowered their risk of high blood pressure by 15%. Those who drank more than 10 drinks per week had a 30% greater risk of high blood pressure. Results were the same with beer, wine, and liquor. Hypertension increases a person’s risk for heart disease, stroke, and kidney damage.

P.S. Earlier studies have shown that heavy drinking causes about 3-8% of female high blood pressure cases.