Health Wire

Appendicitis

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Appendicitis, an inflammation of the appendix, is a medical emergency. The appendix is a small appendage of the large intestine that hangs down on the abdomen’s right side. Inflammation may occur from a gastrointestinal infection or from an obstruction in the tube connecting the appendix and large intestine. Symptoms include localized pain that worsens with coughing, deep breathing, sneezing, or pressure; appetite loss; low fever; frequent urination; bowel changes; nausea and vomiting; and bloating. The biggest complication associated with appendicitis is the risk of the organ rupturing, which can lead to a potentially fatal infection. Appendicitis is usually treated by surgically removing the appendix and administering antibiotics. Depending on the patient, an appendectomy can be performed traditionally or laparoscopically.

P.S. People typically develop appendicitis in their teens and twenties.


Heart Disease in Women

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Heart disease is the number one cause of death in women, killing ten times more women than breast cancer each year. Women’s symptoms are completely different from men’s, which may explain why so many cases of female heart disease go undetected until a heart attack occurs. Women’s arteries are softer than men’s, which contributes to the different symptoms. Also, calcium accumulation in the arteries does not seem to affect women as much as men – 90% of male heart attack victims have arterial calcium, while just 30% of women do. Warning signs of heart disease in women include nausea; indigestion; back pain; dizziness; unexplained fatigue; chest discomfort; and pain that radiates to the shoulders, neck, arms, or jaw.

P.S. Consult a doctor immediately with any signs of heart disease.


Angina

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Anginais defined as temporary chest pain or a sensation of chest pressure that occurs when the heart is not receiving enough oxygen. Whenever a person works hard physically or experiences strong emotions or stress, the heart works harder and needs more oxygen. If the arteries are narrowed or blocked, blood flow cannot increase enough to supply more oxygen, and pain results. A person suffering from angina commonly feels pressure or aches below the breastbone. It may also affect the left shoulder, the inside of the left or right arm, the back, throat, jaw, or teeth. Angina usually begins with physical activity, lasts a few minutes, then subsides with rest. Most people describe the feeling as discomfort rather than pain.

P.S. Coronary heart disease is typically the cause of angina, but it can result from other heart conditions or abnormalities.


Munchausen Syndrome

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People with Munchausen syndrome seek attention by acting sick or injured. Many patients harm themselves intentionally to receive medical care. They may inject themselves with insulin to induce low blood sugar, or ingest harmful substances to trigger illness. Munchausen syndrome patients differ from hypochondriacs in their awareness that they are not sick – hypochondriacs truly believe they are ill. They actively seek physical exams, diagnostic tests, and hospitalization. Munchausen syndrome often accompanies other conditions like chemical dependency, depression, or chronic coping difficulties. Patients are often secretive about their actions. The disease typically starts in early adulthood, with more women suffering from it than men. Male cases, however, are typically more severe. Treatment involves addressing any valid medical conditions and psychiatric care.

P.S. Munchausen syndrome by proxy involves harming a child in an attempt to receive medical attention.


Gallstone Complications

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Gallstones are cholesterol/calcium/bilirubin deposits that form in the gallbladder and common bile duct (pathway leading to the small intestine) when the liver produces excess cholesterol. While many patients suffer no symptoms from gallstones, some cases can trigger complications. Gallbladder attacks may follow a high-fat meal. Pain begins in the abdomen and may radiate to the chest, back, or shoulder area. Cholecystitis, a painful inflammation of the gallbladder, can develop when a gallstone passes into the cystic duct, which connects the gallbladder and common bile duct. Gallstone ileus, more common in elderly patients, occurs when a gallstone blocks entry to the large intestine. In rare cases, severe gallbladder inflammation can cause the organ to burst and trigger a potentially fatal infection.

P.S. Surgery to remove the gallbladder is often necessary in patients with recurring gallbladder attacks or other complications.


The MMR Vaccine

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Adults born after 1956 and all children should receive the combination vaccine to prevent measles, mumps, and rubella. This MMR vaccine protects both patients and the community against three serious illnesses. A potentially fatal disease, measles causes a rash, cough, fever, nasal congestion, and eye irritation. The mumps virus is rarely fatal but can cause deafness and meningitis. Symptoms include fever, headache, and swollen glands. Rubella, or German measles, causes rash, fever, and arthritis and can lead to serious complications for pregnant women. The first dose of MMR vaccine should be administered at 12 to 15 months of age and followed by a second dose between ages four and six. Talk to your doctor about your vaccination status.

P.S. While side effects rarely occur with the MMR vaccine, getting the vaccine is considerably safer than getting measles, mumps, or rubella.


Feeling Anxious?

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Anxiety disorders are the most frequently occurring mental health problems among the general population. While anxiety is a natural reaction to stress, it can become excessive to the point of disrupting a person’s life. If so, behavioral therapy may be an effective form of treatment. It is based on the belief that, by changing their approach to a given situation, patients can begin effecting a change in how they react to it. This approach involves progressively introducing patients to situations that provoke anxiety in an effort to have them tackle their fears progressively. As patients learn to control their anxiety, they gain self-confidence and achieve mastery over their situations. In this way, many phobic patients experience long-term recovery.

P.S. Recent surveys suggest that as many as one in five Americans experience anxiety disorders.


High Blood Pressure

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Approximately 50 million Americans have high blood pressure, or hypertension, and about 15 million do not even know it. Two factors make up a blood pressure reading. The top number represents systolic pressure, or how much pressure the heart generates as it pumps blood to the arteries. The bottom number represents diastolic pressure, or the level of pressure in the arteries when the heart is resting between beats. A normal resting blood pressure is 120/80 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). Minor fluctuations in blood pressure are normal, with levels increasing with activity or stressful situations and decreasing with rest. A person is classified as hypertensive if his resting blood pressure is consistently 140/90 mm Hg or higher.

P.S. Blood pressure should be checked at least every two years, more frequently if it is above normal.


Exercise to a Longer Life

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Men who exercise regularly live longer – even if they have chronic health problems – according to a recently published study in The New England Journal of Medicine. Researchers worked with 6,000 men, some with heart disease and some with no health problems. Exercise helped decrease the risk of death in both groups. This is not the first study to suggest that exercise programs contribute to a longer life. Researchers say exercising has been shown to increase longevity in men with high blood pressure and diabetes, and those who smoke. And exercise produces results quickly. Studies show improved fitness levels in people after just three to six months of regular exercise. A simple walking regimen can produce significant results.

P.S. Exercise offers other benefits, including weight loss, bone strengthening, improved balance, and a good night’s sleep.


Early Signs of Parkinson’s Disease

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Parkinson’s disease is a motor system disorder that causes progressive deterioration of certain nerve cells in the brain. The affected nerve cells, the basal ganglia and extrapyramidal area, control muscle movement. When they deteriorate, they produce less dopamine, a substance necessary to transmit nerve impulses. The patient becomes less able to control or direct his or her movements. Parkinson’s disease typically begins subtly and gradually. Early signs can include slight tremors, slow movement (bradykinesia), stiffness or clumsiness, a softer voice (dysarthria), and speech and walking difficulties. An arm is often affected first by tremors and stiffness. Individuals over age 55 are most susceptible to developing Parkinson’s disease, but it can strike earlier. More than one million Americans are affected.

P.S. While there is no known cure for Parkinson’s disease, several medications offer relief from the symptoms.