Friday, October 12, 2018

Consequences of Smoking

The consequences of smoking include a higher risk for lung cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and many types of cancer.  Time is a factor in both ill effects of smoking and benefits in staying smoke free.  Both accumulate over time.  If you quit smoking at 30 years of age, you gain 10 years of life.  If you quit at 40 you gain nine years of life.  At 50 you gain six years of life and at 60 you gain three years of life.

Within 20 minutes of stopping smoking, heart rate and blood pressure drop to healthier levels.  After 12 hours, carbon monoxide levels of the blood return to normal.  Within 48 hours, nerve endings begin to regrow and sense of smell and taste begin to return to normal.  Coughing and shortness of breath decrease in one month.  At two months insulin resistance normalizes, and  c   irculation improves and lung function increases in three months.   After a year of not smoking, the risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a smoker.  In five years stroke risk is reduced to that of a nonsmoker.  The risk of lung cancer is reduced to half that of a smoker and there is a decreased risk of mouth, throat, esophageal, bladder, cervical, and pancreatic cancers 10 years after stopping smoking.  In 15 years, the risk of coronary heart disease is reduced to that of a non smoker.

When people stop smoking, there is a physical withdrawal from nicotine as well as the mental effects of quitting.  Irritability, anger, frustration, and difficulty concentrating are common challenges.  Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) includes gum, inhalers, lozenges, nasal sprays, and skin patches, all containing some nicotine.  These are of help to some people, but they must not smoke while using NRT.  Snacks, going for a walk, or lighting a candle can help avoid lighting up.  Your physician may be able to help with prescription medication as well as directing you to a support group.  There is a toll free QUIT line, 1-800-QUIT Now (1-800-784-8669).

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

The Shape of Ears

Some ears are described as being jumbo in size and may even protrude or stick out.  Other people have smaller, flatter ears.  The shape of the ear does have an effect on how a person hears.  Ears deliver sounds to the eardrum and eventually to the brain.  The outer flap of the ear is called the pinna and is the sound-gatherer.  Because the ear is pointed slightly to the front, it gathers more sound from what it is facing rather than from behind.  Large ear flaps should help drown out ambient noise from behind, whereas people with flatter ears may better pick up sound coming from behind.

Earlobe shapes, whether attached or free hanging, tend to be genetic and probably do not affect acoustic ability.  The swirly shape of the ear leads sound down to the auditory canal which acts as an amplifier.  At the end of the canal is the eardrum.  It is protected, hypersensitive to sound, and has the unusual ability to heal on its own, even if it is torn.  Eustachian tubes help equalize pressure, and the inner ear on the other side of the eardrum is a space filled with fluid that transmits sound waves ultimately to the brain.

The ear is a self-cleaning, self-oiling machine, eliminating the need for Q-tips.  Placing objects inside the ear can impact ear wax that is meant to capture and expel dirt.  Cleaning ears can actually dampen hearing.  Ear wax amount and type is inherited as a single gene.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is most often referred to as a vitamin.  However, it is really a steroid hormone obtained from sun exposure, food sources, and supplementation.  Common forms of vitamin D are vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) and vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol).  Vitamin D3 is supposed to be 87 percent more effective than vitamin D2.  Only a few foods contain vitamin D.  Salmon, herring, tuna, mackerel, and fish oils are sources of vitamin D.  Cooked egg yolk and beef liver also contain vitamin D.  Milk is often fortified with vitamin D as are bread, juices, and other dairy products.  Some multivitamins may contain vitamin D.  Cooking foods variably reduces vitamin D content.  Boiled, fried, and baked foods may contain 69 to 89 percent of the original vitamin D content.  Animal sources of vitamin D are considered to be better than plant sources, which provide only vitamin D2.

Sun exposure may be the best source of vitamin D, as it provides UVB wavelengths that the body requires for vitamin D production.  However, when the temperature is lower than 50 degrees F, there is a scarcity of UVB rays.  The best time for exposure to the sun is as near to solar noon as possible.  You will produce more vitamin D more rapidly at this time.  It is recommended that you receive 20 minutes of direct sun on the skin of the arms for 4 to 5 times a week.  During the winter months, the sun may be too low in the sky to produce vitamin D in the skin.  It also may be hard to get adequate sun in cities with tall buildings.

 Skin pigmentation affects the production of vitamin D.  Fair skinned people can max out vitamin D production more rapidly than dark skinned people.  The skin around the eyes is thinner than it is on other body parts.  Skin protection is advised for this part of the body.  Excessive use of sunscreen can decrease vitamin D production by the skin as it prevents much of the ultraviolet rays from reaching the skin.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Febrile Seizures

Seizures are a frightening side effect of fevers that can occur in some children.  “Febrile seizures” occur in 2 to 4 percent of children under age 5. Approximately one in every 25 children will have at least one febrile seizure, and some of them will have additional febrile seizures before they outgrow the tendency to have them.  Febrile seizures tend to run in families and are more common in boys than girls.  They may cause jerking movements in the body or look like “passing out.”  Some children may feel sleepy afterward, and others feel no lasting effects. 

While they are frightening, febrile seizures usually end without treatment and do not cause other health problems. For example, they do not mean that a child will have epilepsy or brain damage. A high fever can cause seizures, but they are usually caused by a sudden or rapid elevation in temperature, even if it is a small amount.  Reducing fever does not prevent seizures, and most occur during the first day of a child’s fever. Children may have a febrile seizure before it is known that they have a fever.  This type of seizure affects the entire body, not just one side.

If a child has a seizure, put the child on his or her side on a protected surface.  Do NOT put anything in the child’s mouth.  A person who is seizing cannot swallow their tongue and usually are breathing.  Do not try to hold or restrain the child.  These seizures normally last less than 5 minutes, some are as brief as a few seconds. If the seizure lasts more than 5 minutes, call 911.  After the seizure is over, you may give the child fever-reducing medications, or put them in lukewarm water to cool them off.  

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Facts You May Not Know

·         Exposure to sun mobilizes nitric oxide (neurotransmitter) and helps lower blood pressure.
·         One third of new drugs require additional safety warnings, even after they have been approved.
·         One study shows that men who drank sodas daily increased their risk of gout by 45 percent.
·         Red onions are higher in phytonutrients than are white onions.
·         Birth control pills are linked with an increased risk of depression.
·         Low vitamin D and calcium may increase risk of early menopause.
·         Stroke rates are declining among older people, but are increasing in the 25-44 age group.
·         Mothers who eat a lot of sugar during pregnancy can cause a higher risk of allergies and allergic asthma in their babies.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Why Do Some People Sweat More Than Others?

The reasons why some people sweat a lot while others stay dry are not completely understood.  Sweat glands are located all over the body and are concentrated in the palms of the hands, the armpits, and the soles of the feet.  Sweating is a natural process.  Most people sweat because they are too hot, and as the water from the sweat evaporates, it cools them off, keeps the skin hydrated, and helps maintain the body’s balance of electrolytes and salts. Sweating can also be triggered by stress.  Excessive sweating occurs when a gland cluster is over-activated by very little stimulation, and the “faucet” cannot be turned off.

Less fit people tend to sweat more, but fit people start sweating earlier during equivalent exercise.  Nervousness, many medications, caffeine, alcohol, smoking, and even eating spicy foods can increase sweat production.   Obese people seem to sweat more, but there is no good research on why this is true.  In an estimated 1% to 3% of people the sweating cannot be turned off, and this condition is known as hyperhidrosis.  These people have a hard time taking a test on paper and are reluctant to turn in school work or paperwork at their job because they smudge the paper.

Healthy, but sweaty people, should dress in loose, natural fabrics and use an over-the-counter aluminum-based antiperspirant on super-sweaty areas.  If the problem persists, a prescription antiperspirant with a higher aluminum content may be necessary.  Showering and changing clothes frequently may be necessary.  Perspiring heavily during sleep or only in one area of the body signals that you may need to see a physician.

Iontophoresis or drionics is one of the most controversial of all methods to stop sweating.  It is reported to be about 85% effective.  The therapy machine is a battery powered device designed to stop excessive perspiration.  It sends a very weak electrical current to shock and temporarily disable sweat glands.  Most machines allow adjustment of the voltage.  It is most commonly used for hand or foot sweating, but there is an attachment for underarm sweating.  Some people say this therapy is slightly uncomfortable, but not painful and consider it very effective. Others say nothing happened even after weeks of use.