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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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Huge Study: Statins Associated with Cataracts, Not Dementia

statin drugs

Statin drugs are a family of medications known to reduce the risk of heart attack and death in people with cardiovascular disease. The drugs usually can be identified by the letters “statin” in their names. They include simvastatin, atorvastatin, fluvastatin, pravastatin, and rosuvastin.

Many have worried that statins might increase the risk of dementia, or cancer, or some other serious medical condition, and there have been studies that support those concerns. However, those studies are relatively small. A very large study would be necessary to truly understand the possible risks of taking statin drugs.

The British health care system provides the opportunity to gather huge amounts of data. Medical practices in England and Wales typically use electronic health records.

To look precisely at the issue of the risks of using statins, investigators collected data on almost two million people from over 300 general practices. About 225,000 people, about 10% of the subjects, were new users of one of the statin drugs. Data over five years were used.
The researchers presented their data mostly as relative risks. The five year risk of cataract in a person not using a statin was 0.0495. This means that for 100 people, about five would usually get cataract. Among people using a statin, the five year risk was about a third more, or between six and seven cases in 100 people. Put another way, treating 1000 people with a statin would produce about 19 “extra” cataract cases.

Meantime, the benefit would be a reduced risk of heart attack and sudden death. For every 100 users, about three people would be spared from a new cardiovascular event. Put another way, treating 1000 people with a statin would prevent 27 new cardiovascular cases.

Statin Use Did Not Affect Cancer Risk

There was no association with taking statin medications and the following cancers:
  • Colon cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Stomach cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Melanoma
  • Breast cancer
  • Prostate cancer

Statin users had a slightly reduced risk of cancer of the esophagus.

Statin Use Associated with Liver, Kidney and Muscle Problems

A few medical conditions were associated with statin use, as previously known and expected. These were:
  • Liver dysfunction
  • Kidney failure
  • Myopathy (muscle inflammation)

Statin Use Not Associated with Osteoporosis, Parkinson’s, Blood Clots

Other conditions for which no association with statin use was found include: dementia, Parkinson’s disease, osteoporotic fractures, and rheumatoid arthritis. The risks and benefits of taking statin medications must be evaluated in light of personal goals and preferences, and in the context of frank discussion with the health care provider.

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Heart Disease and Cancer Top Killer-Disease List

health

The two diseases are cited in 54.7 percent of U.S. deaths in1997, the last year for which totals are available from the Center For Disease Control (CDC), according to a newly-released report.

The Center confirms how greatly things changed in the century between the end of the 19th century and today. As the 20th century began, the nation was mostly rural. In the 20th Century, infectious diseases were the most feared of killers.

The Center reports, "Infectious diseases ran rampart in the United States and worldwide and topped the leading causes of death." Today, the report concludes, infectious diseases are less a threat now. "Chronic diseases top the threat list."

Heart disease accounts for 31.4 percent of all deaths, followed by cancer, accounting for 23.3 percent of deaths each year. Strokes, at 6.9 percent, finished a distant third.

While health care in America is better than ever, and - because of affordable health insurance plans - medical treatment more widely available to American families than ever before, the United States nevertheless is falling behind levels of care and treatment of other industrialized nations.

The United States ranked only 19th in life expectancy for women when the figures were complied for 1997. U.S. males ranked 25th. There was a four year longevity gap between Japanese women, the highest ranked, and U.S. women. In the same time frame, life expectancy for men in 1997's report was 72.4 years. Today’s rating is 76.4 years.

The center warns that statistics, while fascinating, provide only a part of the picture. In the United States today, the report notes, quality of health care is widely divergent, depending greatly on income levels, area of residence, cultural assimilation or lack of it, and age.

Unintentional death, primarily from automobile crashes, is the fifth leading cause of death for the total population, but they are the primary cause of death for people aged 1 to 44 years of age.

Similarly, HIV/AIDS is the 14th leading cause of death for the general population, but it is the leading cause of death for African-American men between the ages of 25-44 years.

Overall, the CDC report notes, the leading causes of death in the U.S. "...generally result from a mix of behaviors; injury, violence, and other factors in the environment; and the unavailability or inaccessibility of quality health services."

The federal agency suggests a program aimed at better understanding and monitoring population behavior patterns, controlling environmental factors and upgrading community health systems might ultimately "... prove more useful to monitoring the nation’s true health, and in driving health improvement activities, than compilation of death rates that reflect the cumulative impact of those factors."

As things stand currently, birth defects are by far the leading cause of death for children under one year of age.

For 1-4 years, unintentional injury is by far the biggest killer, as it is the case for children 5-14 years of age.

For young people aged 15 to 24, accidental death accounts leads the list, but homicide and suicide reflect substantial percentages.

For persons aged 25-44 years of age, accidental death leads, but cancer and heart disease are prominent.

For ages 45-64, cancer is the big killer, closely followed by heart disease with a smaller percent of unintentional injuries.

Over 65 years of age, heart disease is the primary reason for death; cancer, and strokes are well back.

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Controversial Drugs Serve Double Duty

controversial drugs

Medications have been a part of life since time began. There are some safe natural medications to be taken and some not so safe, highly controversial drugs being prescribed. Now, these same health risk drugs are being prescribed to help cure other health problems. Below are some of the top medications, used for double duty, that doctors are giving their patients.

Finasteride or Propecia May Cause Cancer

Finasteride, also known as Propecia, is a hair-loss drug. The American Society of Clinical Oncology and the American Urological Association are recommending that the millions of men, age 55 and older, ask their doctor about finasteride. In recent studies, taking this drug has shown that it wards off prostate cancer. In a study of 18,000 men done in 2003, finasteride cut the risk of prostate cancer by 8 percent.

The down side to this drug is that it will cost an average of $90 per month. Not only that, the use of this drug may lead to high-grade cancers. While the proponents have denied these findings, many doctors have voiced their concern over the use of finasteride. Dr. Aaron Katz, director of the center for Hostistic Urology at Columbia University, and Robert Getzenberg, director of Urology Research at the Brady Urology Institute at Johns Hopkins Hospital both agree that this drug may be potentially dangerous, and its use leaves too many unanswered questions.

Phosphatidylcholine May be Unsafe to Use Cosmetically

Phosphatidylcholine is a soybean based, FDA approved treatment for breaking down fat in the blood. Its other names include lipostabil and lipodissolve as a surgery-free fat buster. ABC News interviewed Dr. Malcolm Roth, director of plastic surgery at Maimondes Medical Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. In a report to ABC News, he said that there is no real scientific study showing that phosphatidylcholine definitely works. He wonders about the chemicals and if they are safe when injected into fat.

Despite the dangers of this procedure, the number of clinics offering this treatment is growing. Many of the physicians performing this procedure lack the training in liposuction, plastic surgery or dermatologic surgery. Startling enough, even dentists are using it. Cosmetic surgeons and dermatologists agree that people just wanting a slimmer look should avoid these injections. Brazil and other countries have banned its use for cosmetic purposes.

Ecstasy Used in Medical Studies

In 1985, the use of Ecstasy became an illegal substance in the United States, but researchers hope that one day it can be used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder. They are thinking it will be especially useful for the returning veterans. A group of psychiatrists discovered that Ecstasy affects the level of serotonin.

Serotonin is a brain chemical that regulates the mood and is effective used as a therapeutic tool. In 2004, the U. S. government authorized a human study, even though it is still illegal to use, but they have hopes that it can help heal those suffering from emotional scars, or traumatic events that have happened to them.
Today, Ecstasy remains on the government’s list of Schedule 1 drugs. This classification also includes heroin, cocaine and methamphetamines. Researchers and others are still hopeful that the restrictions will be lifted so it can help the returning solders.

Thalidomide Causes Birth Defects

Thalidomide is a very controversial drug. It was first used in 1957 to help ward off morning sickness that pregnant women experience. While it helped in the morning sickness, it had severe side effects. Babies were born with severe birth defects, such as cleft palates, missing or abnormal limbs, spinal cord deformities and organ abnormalities.

A very small group of people benefited from this drug. It helped those that had erythematic nodosum leprous (ENL). This is a severe and debilitating leprosy-associated complication. Although the World Health Organization is against the use of this drug, in 1998 the FDA cleared this drug to be used for leprosy. Since it has big risks to unborn babies, the use of this drug is under strict supervision. Women must undergo pregnancy testing before and during their treatment. Men are required to use a condom whenever they have sex. All patients receive a 28-day supply and must see their doctor before they get any more refills of this drug.

The list of these drugs is only a partial one. As in all things, before considering any kind of medication know the risks involved. Do those side effects outweigh the problem? Can a safer solution be found? Talk to your doctor and make an informed decision.

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