Friday, December 11, 2015

Noise Pollution

There is much concentration today on pollution and its effects on the human body.  Most of the pollution concerns are with environmental chemicals.  There is a pollutant that most people do not consider, and this is noise.  Unfortunately noise pollution and air pollution may be found together.  People who live near busy traffic, airports, and industrial areas are more likely to be exposed to both noise pollution and air pollution.  The duration, level, and frequency of noise determine its effects.

It is thought that at least 100 million people in the US are exposed to unhealthy levels of noise.  This noise can come from many sources including automobile and aircraft traffic, leaf blowers, 
lawnmowers, chain saws, sports events, target shooting, woodworking tools, and even loud music of all kinds.  Children’s toys that squeak and battery operated toys can pose a risk.  Federal laws protect workers, but no laws control the amount of noise received outside the work place.  Nighttime noise can interfere with sleep, but it is not known just how much noise can be reasonably tolerated.  What is known is that excess noise is a serious risk factor for health.

Noise can increase the risk of serious health problems including hearing loss.  Hearing loss is a problem with which many people are concerned.  A test that you can perform is to hold your fingers 3 to 4 inches away from your ear and rub them against your thumb.  Check each ear.  If you cannot hear your fingers rubbing together you should have a physician check your hearing.  

Sunday, November 1, 2015

The Salt Battle

The Salt Battle
Many people salt their food before they even taste it, while others use practically none.  For years the government has insisted that use of excess salt is dangerous.  Other sources have reported conflicting views on how much salt should be consumed in a day.  The public health lobby is still urging the FDA to regulate salt as though it is a poison.  However, current research suggests that a low-salt diet may be risky.  One study conducted world-wide over a 3 year period showed that people who consumed less than 3,000 mg (milligrams) of salt daily had a 27 percent higher risk of death or a serious medical event. 

Salt (NaCl) contains sodium, one of the electrolytes in the body.  It is essential for the biochemistry of the body to function properly.  The body suffers if there is too much or too little of it.  Biochemical individuality probably is the determining factor in how much salt is needed by an individual.  Everyone has different needs for many substances, including vitamins, minerals, and even medication doses.  While salting food before tasting it probably allows people to become accustomed to and want more salt than is necessary, everyone has a different salt requirement.  We should be glad that the salt debate continues and we are not locked into the same consumption amounts for everyone.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Reading at Bedtime

Many people read to help them fall asleep.  However, technology has caused a change in how reading at bedtime affects sleep.  People who used to read hard copy print books are now reading from tablets.  Reading on electronic devices before bedtime can affect circadian rhythm, making it more difficult to fall sleep and becoming alert in the mornings.  It has long been known that watching TV, working on a computer, and other activities involving artificial light in the evening can disrupt sleep patterns.
The type of light that adversely affects sleep is “blue light,” the type of light that many backlit devices emit.  It is a powerful suppressor of the release of melatonin, the hormone that helps bring on sleep.  Having this type of light shine directly in your eyes when reading from an electronic device can have an adverse effect on your sleep.  Studies funded by NIH (National Institutes of Health)  have shown that reading from an electronic device increased the time it took participants to fall asleep by 10 minutes.  Participants had less rapid-eye movement, and blood tests of melatonin indicated their circadian rhythms were delayed as much as an hour.  Participants also reported that it took longer to become fully alert in the mornings if they read from a tablet the night before.

If you are having sleep difficulties, consider putting down your tablet at bed time and open a book instead!  It just might make a difference for you.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Are Hot Tubs Safe?

Hot tubs were once the rage and are still quite popular.  Sports medicine experts encourage athletes to soak in a hot tub to soothe aching muscles.  In general, all people enjoy the relaxation of warm water and water jets.  However, there are waterborne diseases that hot tubs may harbor.
Hot tub temperature is typically 104̊ F, which is not hot enough to kill the bacteria that cause “Hot Tub Rash.”  Public hot tubs are supposed to be monitored regularly for recirculation, filter cleanliness, and scrubbed surfaces.  Private hot tubs often do not get the maintenance they require.  People owning hot tubs should carefully follow the guidelines of the manufacturer or hire a maintenance company,

When the tub jets are off, the water should be clear and not murky.  Slimy edges may indicate a problem as does a strong odor.  If the water is clear and the tub has been properly maintained, there is little or no risk in contracting a disease from a hot tub.  Pregnant women should exercise caution as the fetus can be damaged by the heat.  Resist having a few alcoholic drinks in the tub  as temperature and alcohol can have a cumulative effect.  A clean and properly maintained tub, either public or private, can be a good soothing and relaxation experience.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

My Hair Is Falling Out!

Women are shocked and surprised that their hair is falling out, and they frequently report to their doctor  that “My hair is falling out by the handful!”  Hair loss can be traumatic, but around 100 to 200 strands of hair loss a day is normal.  Shedding of hair usually occurs on a 5 to 7 year cycle of growth and shedding.  At any time 10 percent of hair is in a resting phase and not growing.  When it grows, the hair root (follicle) will push out the old strand with a new, short strand.

The most common type of hair loss, called alopecia, is hereditary thinning.  It is popularly believed that it is inherited through the mother, but can come from either or both parents.  Fifty percent of people (both men and women) will develop some hereditary hair loss by 50 years of age, but it can occur in some people as early as age 20 or in their teens.  In females it is referred to as female pattern thinning.

Improper hair care and hair treatments can damage hair and cause it to break off.  Hormones can cause hair loss.  In and around menopause when the estrogen of women goes down, hair thinning may be noticed.  Around age 60 or 70 aging can cause further thinning.  Low serum iron and low thyroid levels can also cause hair loss. Stress (such as a death in the family, birth of a baby, severe illness with high fever, major surgery, or stressful relationships) may trigger a shedding episode.

There are many products at drugstores that claim to build back hair volume.  Most are empty claims.  Hair, like nails, is made up of protein.  Eating adequate amounts of protein helps keep hair in peak condition.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Why Are My Allergies So Bad This Year?

Why Are My Allergies So Bad This Year?

There can be bad allergy years and better years.  What causes the difference? People who suffer from pollen allergies should hope for favorable weather.  A dream year is one in which there is a long winter and rain in the spring.  This is, if mold allergy is not a problem!  Allergy season, when there are allergic reactions to tree, grass, or weed pollen, depends largely on weather, both day to day and season to season. If a summer is hot and dry, the buds of the dormant winter trees will be stressed and there will be fewer flower buds during the spring.  A harsh winter can also reduce the pollen load by damaging the tree buds.  Rain in the spring may wash out the tree pollen from the air.

A dry spring with sunny skies and breezes are the ideal conditions for pollen to be released and spread.  If the winter is long and spring is short, everything seems to bloom at once.  Itchy eyes and drippy noses result.  The recent torrential downpours in many parts of the country have caused high damage, but are an advantage for people with pollen allergy.  The rain has washed out any pollen in the air.  However, the rains can make growing conditions ideal for summer grasses and weeds, increasing the allergies during that time.  Rain also affects how much pollen is present day to day.  High-pollen days may alternate with low-pollen days.   The allergy season, both short term and long term is weather-driven and varies from region to region. 

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Generic Drugs

Generic Drugs
New or brand name drugs are protected in the United States by patent for 20 years.  After the patent expires other companies can market the drug.  These generic drugs may be identical chemically, and they may or may not be equivalent therapeutically to the original drug.  They will have different binders, fillers, and dyes.  Sometimes when a brand goes off patent the company may withdraw the original drug from the marketplace and begin making the same drug in a different form.  They may produce a tablet instead of a capsule.  Tablets and capsules have different bioavailability to the body and many times one cannot be substituted for the other.  The body may not absorb the drug/generic as well or a rapidly.
Many generic drugs are just as effective as the proprietary (brand name) drug.  Biochemical individuality of the patient can cause a wide variance in drug processing by the body.  Doctors write prescriptions for the generic drugs because they are generally cheaper.  Some insurance companies will not pay for a brand name or proprietary drug if a generic is available.  In these cases the doctor must specify that the proprietary drug is a medical necessity, which is written as “dispense as written” on the prescription.

The FDA rates generics as A – an exact equivalent or B-if the bioavailability profile is different.  Pharmacists are usually the only ones who know the rating for a generic.  When switching from a brand drug to a generic, some patients may be able to tell a difference.  In most cases the body will adjust to a generic drug with ease.  For serious diseases a patient may want to check with the doctor or pharmacist before switching to a generic.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

I have published little Kindle books

I have 10 books in my "Allergy and You" series.  Frances Taylor and I are busy writing more Kindle books on other health subjects.

Food Poisoning

The CDC estimates that 1 in 6 Americans are affected by food borne illness each year.  Food poisoning is defined as an illness caused by the consumption of food or water contaminated with bacteria and/or their toxins, or with parasites, viruses, or chemicals.  The symptoms vary in severity and include abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and headache, with serious cases resulting in life threatening symptoms.  Most of the illnesses are mild, improving without specific treatment, but severe cases may require hospitalization.  A food borne illness must meet the following criteria:  Similar illness, often gastrointestinal, in a minimum of two people and evidence of food as the source.

The most common pathogens causing food borne illness include Norovirus, and the bacteria Salmonella, Clostridium perfringens, Campylobacter species, and Staphylococcus aureus.  There are others, most of which are responsible for the hospitalizations.   Fish are the most common cause, followed by spices that include fresh or dried peppers.  Green leafy vegetables, poultry, and dairy items may be causes, as can contamination by food handlers, and improper pasteurization. Travel, and globalization of food production, manufacturing, and marketing increase the risk of food borne illness.  The best way to prevent food poisoning is to practice strict personal hygiene, cook all foods adequately, avoid cross-contamination of raw and cooked foods, and to keep all foods at appropriate temperatures whether hot or cold.