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.

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.