What You Really Need to Know About Cholesterol

cholesterol
When a person eats fatty foods, those fats are ultimately absorbed by the small intestine and sent along to the liver, which breaks them down into various other fat products, but mostly cholesterol. The liver then transforms 80 percent of this cholesterol into cholic acid (bile), which is necessary to digest fats and proteins.

The rest of the cholesterol is then used as building blocks for all cell membrane construction, all hormone fabrication, stem cells and the insulation of nerves cells in the brain. Pretty important stuff. In fact, huge amounts of cholesterol are required for these functions. Remember that the brain is 80 percent fats by weight, mostly cholesterol and omega-3.

Cholesterol's Bad Rap

Then why does cholesterol have such a bad reputation? It’s because there are two types of cholesterol. The first is high density lipid (HDL) cholesterol, which is beneficial and does not harm blood vessels. In fact it protects them because it actually collects some of the negative cholesterol and carries it back to the liver for removal.

The negative cholesterol is low density lipid (LDL) and it acts as a free radical in the body. A free radical has nothing to do with the 1960s. It is an unstable protein molecule that can do great damage to the body and cells. The damage done by LDL cholesterol attracts inflammation which obstructs blood vessels and allows excess cholesterol in the circulation to be deposited in the damaged vessel walls. It is when clots form on these blockages in the blood vessels that flow is restricted and heart attacks or strokes may result. That is the cause of cholesterol's negative reputation.

Arteriosclerosis

This inflammation and blockage of the blood vessels is called arteriosclerosis. (By the way, calcium is also deposited in the vessels when inflamed and in this case is as dangerous as cholesterol.) And since it can have such dangerous consequences for human health it's worth understanding more clearly how it develops.

The lining of blood vessels can be damaged by many factors, not just cholesterol. The inflammation caused by the free radicals actually tries to repair damage, but the swelling it causes allows cholesterol and calcium to deposit. There has to be damage for cholesterol to stick and cause and arteriosclerosis.

So it's not so much LDL cholesterol, but the damage done by free radicals that are created by LDL cholesterol, that eventually lead to heart attacks and strokes. The blockages in the blood vessels cause protrusions, which lead to clots, which deprive the heart or brain of oxygen.

Guarding against arteriosclerosis

  • Exercise is the best cure. It can actually reverse arteriosclerosis.
  • Maintain a high intake of potassium. Bananas, orange juice, tomato paste and potatoes are among the foods high in potassium, or take a supplement.
  • No smoking.
  • Eat a balanced diet, low on toxins, fats and meat. Also avoid high amounts of sugars, starches and prepared foods.
  • Lower intake of saturated fat, but don’t cut it out entirely.

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Exercises for Air Travel

exercises for air travel

Travel often involves extended flights. Long periods of time seated in a cramped atmosphere can lead to reduced movement. In addition to general discomfort, this immobility can lead to dangerous health events.

Excessive sitting has the potential to cause blood clots in the legs. This condition is referred to as Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), sometimes also called traveler’s thrombosis. When blood pools in the legs, these clots can form which may have varying degrees of size and effects on health. Small clots often go unnoticed. Moderately sized clots can cause swelling, stiffness and pain.

Unfortunately, large clots can have life threatening consequences. The clot can break off and transfer to the lungs causing a pulmonary embolism, also termed a venous thromboembolism (VTE). The effects of a pulmonary embolism may not result until hours after it has occurred. The signs include chest pain and shortness of breath. In some cases it may cause sudden death.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has recently launched a project evaluating DVT and its relationship to air travel. The project, WHO Research Into Global Hazards of Travel (WRIGHT), is evaluating if higher risks of DVT and VTE are related to air travel versus other modes of transportation such as sitting in a car.

Preliminary research from the WRIGHT project indicates that the risk of VTE doubles for flights that last four hours or more. The risk increases as the flight time increases and can also be present in instances where travelers take several flights within a short time frame.

Move to Reduce Risk

Regular movement is advised during long flights to improve blood circulation. This can be done through standing and walking around the cabin every 60 to 90 minutes. Exercises performed in a seated position can also be beneficial in reducing the risks of DVT. Focus on the calf muscle may be related to increasing the blood flow in the legs and the prevention of clotting.

Many airlines provide suggestions and even explanations of exercises on their web-sites. Northwest Airlines provides a list of 10 possible movements complete with graphics for instruction.
A few examples of exercises that can improve blood flow include:

Ankle Circles

Slowly rotate the feet at the ankle in circles both clockwise and counter clockwise.

Seated Calf Raises

Start with the feet flat on the floor. Slowly raise the heels off the ground bringing the feet up on the toes. Lower the heels and press them into the floor and try to raise the toes off the ground.

Knee Raises

Lift the knees up towards the chest. This can be performed with both knees together or one at a time.

Reach

Raise the arms above the head and elongate the finger tips towards the ceiling, stretching the upper body.

Neck Stretch

Slowly drop the head to one side, almost to touch the shoulder. Circle the head to the front, chin to chest, and over to the other side.

More Tips

Travelers can incorporate additional practices during long flights for comfort and safety. Avoid tight fitting clothing when traveling. Garments should be loose and comfortable while seated. Also, increase leg room by removing items from under the seat in front. If there is no room in the overhead bin, pull the bag out and allow it to sit under the knees so that the legs can be stretched out. Air travel can be very dehydrating to the body. It is beneficial to regularly consume water and fruit juices throughout the duration of the flight.

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Beta Carotene and Vitamins A and E

beta carotene
In a recent press release, a Chicago study of 68 existing studies on Beta carotene and vitamins A and E have been found to increase the risk of death. The review consisted of studies on almost 250,000 people using these antioxidants.

According to critics, many of the study's participants were chronically ill before starting antioxidant treatments. Researchers have not found evidence of risks associated with natural antioxidants found in fruits or vegetables; only in synthetic supplements.

Synthetic supplements have higher concentrated levels of antioxidants and can therefore be more problematic. Antioxidants fight free radicals that can cause cell damage. The study explained that by wiping out the free radicals from our bodies, we are interrupting important defense mechanisms needed to fight disease.

According to the study, using antioxidants Beta carotene and vitamin A and E, can increase the chance of mortality by 5 %. Vitamin C, which is thought to increase longevity, was shown to have no real effect on longevity at all.

While the study may demonstrate that Beta carotene, vitamin A and B may not help you live longer it does not have the valid and reliable support needed to back the claim that antioxidants can actually increase your risk of death.

Check with you physician, especially if you are using anitoxidants as a form of treatment for a serious illness, and consult other surveys that contradict this latest study and recommend antioxidants.

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Acupuncture Treatments

Acupuncture has been practised in Asia for thousands of years and its use as a treatment for numerous illnesses have been well documented.

acupuncture treatments

What is Acupuncture?

A form of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Acupuncture is an increasingly popular type of complementary/alternative medicine that uses needles to help stimulate different "meridians" in the body. It is based on the concept that the life-force energy of the body runs through various areas or pathways in the body. By inserting small needles into various points and depths, it's considered that a rebalancing of this life-force energy (called 'Qi') will promote good health and correct many ills. Currently there are over 400 known points on the body and each correspond to various bodily functions.

There are documented cases that have shown that acupuncture is effective in treating maladies such as nausea and vomiting associated with pregnancy and chemotherapy, minor aches and pains, dental pain, headaches, migraines, osteoporosis and fibromyalgia to name a few. However, major diseases such as diabetes, cancer or high blood pressure do not tend to respond to this treatment, although it can be prescribed for help in symptoms associated with them.

While the treatment can help with the whole host of illnesses listed above, there is still some controversy which surrounds this treatment for the reduction of cravings. The results have been mixed, especially around the issue of smoking cessation. Although it may reduce withdrawal symptoms, it isn't being touted as an entirely reliable cure for this addiction.

In China, where the most extensive and comprehensive schooling is available, it can take 3 to 4 years to graduate. The needles must be placed in the correct spot, so it is essential that qualified individuals perform the procedure.

Interest in the West

Although Western medicine has embraced acupuncture as a treatment in recent years, many insurers still refuse to cover these treatments and repeat visits can be costly.

Yet just because the insurance company doesn't pay for it, its many benefits have been acknowledged by the medical community. In the US, the Mayo Clinic has had a full time staff for acupuncture since the 1970s and the National Institute of Health has recommended acupuncture for various treatments since 1997. It is generally accepted that acupuncture has its place and should be considered as an alternative, or in addition to, conventional treatments.

Ultimately, the best way to figure out which treatment is best for you is always to discuss your options with your physician and follow their recommendations.

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Causes of Hypoglycaemia

hypoglycaemia

Hypoglycaemia means that the glucose in the blood has dropped to a level that may cause harm if prolonged. This level is around 2.5mmols/litre in most people.

The most frequent reason for this is seen in diabetics due to the failure to adequately match insulin dose (or diabetic tablets) with food intake and energy expenditure – in effect, an insulin overdose. However it can occur in non-diabetics for a variety of reasons. As the effects of low blood glucose can be serious, rapid attention to the problem is paramount.

Control of Blood Glucose Level

Blood glucose is a prime source of energy for the muscles and organs of the body. Whereas many tissues can also utilise fat for their energy needs the brain can only use glucose, a fact that has considerable bearing on the consequences of hypoglycaemia.

The hormone insulin removes glucose from the blood and transports it into the muscles and the liver where it is stored. Glucagon, also a hormone, has the opposite effect and removes glucose from storage to enter the circulation.

Clearly fine control of these two hormones, and incidentally many other factors, is needed to maintain blood glucose at appropriate levels.

Causes of Hypoglycaemia

  • Reactive hypoglycaemia: probably caused by an overproduction of insulin following a high carbohydrate meal. The left over insulin mops up too much glucose from the blood.
  • Tumour: pancreatic tumours, which are usually benign, can secrete large amounts of insulin
  • Addison’s disease; a disease of the adrenal glands. Some of the hormones secreted by the adrenal have a marked effect on glucose metabolism
  • Reduced liver function; dysfunction of the liver can disturb the control of glucose storage.
  • Poor functioning pituitary gland.
  • Partial gastrectomy: when the stomach is made smaller food enters the small intestine quicker than it should. This stimulates overproduction of insulin leading to a reactive hypoglycaemia.
  • Cancer: many cancers can have a marked effect on the body’s energy metabolism.
  • Fasting or malnutrition
  • Excess alcohol

Signs and Symptoms of Hypoglycaemia

Depending on the individual and degree of hypoglycaemia, some or all of those listed below may be experienced.
  • Pallor, trembling, perspiration
  • Hunger, agitation rapid heart beat
  • Feeling weak, irritability, fatigue
  • Poor concentration, blurred vision
  • Convulsions, loss of consciousness.

The last two – convulsions and loss of consciousness suggest that the brain is becoming impaired through lack of glucose. As indicated earlier the brain has no other energy supply to fall back on so permanent damage can occur unless action is taken rapidly.

Treatment

The important first step is to make sure your signs and symptoms really are due to low blood sugar. The only way to do this is to get it measured by your physician. If hypoglycaemia is occurring the cause needs be found and treated.

Reactive hypoglycaemia is treated by diet. The trick is to avoid large surges of insulin. This is best done by avoiding refined sugars and eating more complex carbohydrates. Essentially these are carbohydrates that require effort by the body to digest and assimilate ensuring slower entry of glucose into the blood stream. Wholemeal breads, particularly with grains in, whole fruits rather than smoothies are best. It’s also important to eat plenty of fresh vegetables as the presence of these in the gut will help ensure slower absorption of glucose.

This article is intended for information only. If you think you might be experiencing low blood glucose you should visit a health professional.

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Fractures of the Hip

fractures of the hip

Hip fractures are like any other broken bone in the body, but they are also distinctive. Such injuries can result in the inability to walk and lead to major functional disruptions. Fractures of the hip occur often in the elderly, a population that is prone to these fractures. Such reasons make hip fractures a commonly discussed condition.

The following is an overview of how these fractures occur and how they are managed.

Relevant Anatomy of the Hip

The hip joint consists of the femur, or thigh bone, and the pelvis. The head of the femur fits into the acetabulum, a round socket in the pelvis. The femoral head comes out of a narrow femoral neck, and below the neck are two bony prominences called the greater trochanter and lesser trochanter. These anatomic landmarks comprise the upper portion of the femur involved in hip fractures.

The blood circulation to the upper femur is also noteworthy. Of three arteries that carry blood to this region, about 90% of circulation comes from the lateral epiphyseal artery. Despite being a main vascular source, this artery carries more blood to specific areas of the femur than others, a characteristic that may worsen some hip fractures.

Types and Causes of Hip Fractures

Hip fractures involve the upper femur in one of three places: the femoral neck (femoral neck fractures), through the greater and lesser trochanters (intertrochanteric fractures), and below the greater and lesser trochanters (subtrochanteric fractures). They often occur secondary to trauma, which can involve high-energy impact but may also occur with falls and minor injuries in people with more brittle bones. Factors that may weaken the femur and make it susceptible to injury include but are not limited to age, osteoporosis, inactivity of thigh muscles, and deficiency in calcium and/or vitamin D.

Treatment of Hip Fractures

After evaluation of a hip fracture by x-ray, an orthopedic surgeon decides whether surgical correction of the fracture is appropriate. He or she takes several things into account, mainly the features of the hip fracture and the overall surgical risk of the patient. If operative treatment is planned, the surgeon performs a hip arthroplasty, repairing the femur using screws, plates, and other fixating devices.

As counterintuitive as it sounds, not all patients with hip fractures are treated surgically. Such patients are of high operative risk with multiple comorbid conditions, have hip fractures that are relatively minor in severity, or have insufficient bone mass for orthopedic fixating devices to function appropriately. Certain patients may be given a walker or cane for ambulation, provided that they bear as little weight as possible on the injured leg.

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