Nitric Oxide

nitric oxide
Nitric oxide is a very simple molecule consisting of one atom each of oxygen and nitrogen. It should not be confused with nitrous oxide which is made up of two nitrogen atoms and is commonly known as laughing gas – once a common anaesthetic.

Outside of the body it often occurs as a pollutant with the potential for causing illness. Much of this pollution comes from car exhaust.

Chemical Nature of Nitric Oxide

Because it is a small and simple molecule, nitric oxide is particularly suited to its function as a chemical messenger both between cells and within cells, easily passing through cell membranes.

Its chemical structure also includes a double bond, this makes it a reactive compound, which means it reacts with other chemicals easily and breaks down quickly. This is a further attribute of a good chemical messenger in that it can quickly be got rid of. However, it is this reactivity that makes nitric oxide a pollutant in the environment.

Biological Role of Nitric Oxide

There is a great deal of research currently being carried out on the many roles of nitric oxide. Sometimes these roles seem contradictory for example in the case of apoptosis – cell death, with nitric oxide sometimes promoting the process and at other times inhibiting it.

Two major areas of physiological function have emerged as having a particular reliance on nitric oxide. These areas are control of blood vessel action and immune function.

Nitric Acid and Blood Vessels

The walls of blood vessels incorporate a thin layer of muscle. Like other muscles in the body this muscle can contract and relax in response to signals from chemical messengers.

Key among these is nitric acid which causes the muscle to relax and therefore dilates the blood vessel to allow more blood to flow. This is important to maintain adequate glucose and oxygen supply to various tissues and organs and to regulate blood pressure.

This function of nitric acid has therapeutic value. The nitrite drugs such as glyceryl trinitrite are used to treat angina. This drug is converted to nitric oxide in the body which in turn relaxes the blood vessels supplying the heart and thus eases the pain.

Nitric Acid and Immunity

Phagocytes are white cells which are central to immune function. They ingest bacteria and destroy them. Phagocytes can produce nitric oxide which is toxic to bacteria. An unfortunate side-effect of this is damage to the body's own cells as well. This is the one of the reasons that inflammation – an integral part of the immune response – is so painful: there is quite a bit of cell damage going on, our own and bacteria.

The reactivity of nitric oxide comes in here. Because it's so toxic to all cells it needs to be produced quickly when needed and rapidly destroyed when its job is done. The body has a number of control systems that regulate the switching on and off of toxic but necessary substances like nitric oxide.
Because of the central role of nitric oxide in inflammation research has looked at the possibility of using exhaled nitric acid gas as a marker for inflammation in certain conditions such as asthma, atherosclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis.

This article is for information only. If you have any health concerns you should consult your doctor.

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Blood Type

blood type
There are four major blood groups (A, B, AB, and O), which were discovered by Austrian scientist Karl Landsteiner in 1901. From those groups, the eight most common blood types are derived (A+/A-/B+/B-/AB+/AB-/O+/O-). Although there are rare exceptions to these categories that affect certain individuals with blood disorders, the vast majority of people fall into one of these eight types.

The blood type that a person has is inherited from his/her parents, and a person who is in need of a blood transfusion must be given blood from someone with a compatible blood type.

How Is Blood Type Determined?

Determining one’s blood type can be done with a simple blood test in the doctor’s office. The physician would then inform the patient of his/her blood type once the results are received.

Should an Individual Be Responsible for Knowing His/Her Blood Type?

While there is no law or regulation that requires each person to know his/her blood type (as this would be ridiculously impractical), it is highly recommended that a person take the steps needed to become aware of his/her type. In the event of an emergency, health care professionals will use extreme caution to ensure that a patient is given a compatible blood type for a transfusion. Yet, as the old adage goes, “knowledge is power,” so knowing your blood type certainly cannot hurt. And, when it comes to everyday life, asking your doctor about blood type can open the door to an important discussion about heart health, high blood pressure, and any inherited risk factors you might have.

Can a Person Give Blood to Anyone or Receive Blood from Anyone?

Blood donation and receipt is another reason why it is important to know your blood type. The percentage of people who share your type differs depending on what type you have. For example, the most common blood type among people in the United States is O-positive while AB-negative is one of the most rare. People with type O-negative blood are known as “universal donors” because these people are able to give red blood cells to recipients of any blood type.

The blood banks encourage every eligible donor to give blood, regardless of type, but those with Type O blood (either O-positive or O-negative) and those with especially rare types, such as AB-negative, are especially encouraged to give. One pint of whole blood can help save the lives of up to three people, so determining your blood type and giving blood is a simple act that can have a profound impact. Additionally, it is also possible for a person to give an “autologous” donation, which means that someone can donate his/her own blood in preparation for a medical event such as a major surgery. In fact, pregnant women are often encouraged to give autologous donations, in the event that there are complications during the pregnancy or delivery.

What Happens if a Person Receives the Wrong Kind of Blood and How Do Doctors Prevent This?

Blood contains antigens (either A, B, or both) that are present on the surface of the red blood cells. As the Red Cross points out, “antigens are substances that can trigger an immune response if they are foreign to the body. Since some antigens can trigger a patient's immune system to attack the transfused blood, safe blood transfusions depend on careful blood typing and cross-matching.” In a trauma situation, before medical professionals have the opportunity to review one’s medical file or if the patient is unconscious, O-negative blood is generally administered because it is the only blood type that can be given to any recipient. Because this is the case, there is often a shortage of O-negative blood, and individuals with this blood type are in high demand as blood donors.

Is there Some Sort of Documentation that I should Carry with Me?

A person's blood type is almost always a part of his/her medical file and can be accessed by health care professionals. However, those who donate blood regularly are often provided with a blood donor card that indicates their blood type. Keeping this card in your wallet or some other easily accessible location can be helpful in the event of an emergency. And, asking your health care professional about your blood type at your next appointment is a step well worth taking.

For more information about blood typing and blood donation, please see “National Blood Donor Month: Help Save Up to Three Lives This January with a Blood Donation.”
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Avoiding H1N1 Influenza

H1N1 Influenza
There are many things that can be done to avoid contracting the Swine flu virus. Some of them are common sense and some of them are absurd and bred out of fear. What needs to be remembered is that this is a flu virus much the same as flu viruses that circulate yearly. And much the same, life must continue and people must utilize strategic and thoughtful ways to avoid, combat, and carry on. Listed below are signs and symptoms of normal life amidst a global flu pandemic.

Symptom #1 Rational Thinking and Absence of Panic

Turning off the television is an integral step in escaping the fear propagated by hourly updates of Swine flu statistics and potential lack of vaccinations available. There is simply too much information coming in and it is difficult to filter out what is pertinent and what is being used to increase viewership, and what is just plain sensationalistic. So, if turning off the TV and considering that this is a flu virus like any other without succumbing to a panic attack is a possibility, it is likely that infection of both flu and fear have been avoided.

Symptom #2 Taking Risks in the Face of Fear

It has been said and repeated over and over again. Probably the most common advice given to prevent H1N1 spread or any other infection is to wash hands often. This is not only to combat the flu but it is just good sense. And if this is done, one need not be afraid to go out in public; to grab the door handle; to push the shopping cart; to pay with cash. After all, there are much more valid fears out there which go by undetected and ignored everywhere, everyday.

Symptom #3 Showing off Fall Fashions

The wind is cooler, the leaves are changing, the nose is running during a brisk walk in the woods and the back of a wool mitten is the only substitute for Kleenex around. Fall is a time of cozy earth toned fashion as much as it marks the beginning of cold and flu season. Except there is one thing often ignored: All of the woodland creatures chattering and foraging and crackling in the crisp foliage are not suffering from H1N1. Getting out of the house, breathing fresh air, expelling a little energy with a mild aerobic workout in a naturally beautiful setting is one of the best, most invigorating and life sustaining things a person can do at any time. Has there ever been such thing as a depressed squirrel in the wild? Put on that new matching wool sweater and scarf and show them off, even if it’s just for a few docile deer.

Symptom #4 Accepting an Invitation to a Public Gathering

Deactivate Facebook, sign out of MSN, Tweet “brb” or even better “gtg.” Go to the staff party, meet someone new, shake their hand, and have a conversation face to face. This is not just to combat H1N1 fears but is generally a good idea. People are still people and human contact is necessary for sound mental health. The winter months are coming and the chances to participate are diminishing. After shaking someone’s hand it is not appropriate or necessary to immediately retrieve the little bottle of hand sanitizer. All signs indicate a healthy immune system.

Symptom #5 Travel and Tourism

The island paradise is still there and the tickets are non-refundable. If anything, the heat and sun and seclusion will alleviate all imagined flu symptoms picked up in the airport. Of course none of these symptoms are valid, just as they aren’t in ninety-nine percent of the other travellers in Pearson or JFK or Heathrow airports. The hotel sheets and remote control are no more suspect than ever before. Consider that the neighbour just backpacked for 3 months across Europe and he is alive and well. Showing off a deep golden tan next to a mountainous fridgid snowbank upon return is the ultimate victory.

So if any of these symptoms are present and active, then it is likely that so far, H1N1 influenza type A, also known as Swine flu, has been thus far avoided.

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Better Sleep

Achieve better sleep, improve moods and health. Lack of sleep results in an irritable mood and affects behavior. Depression is also more likely with a lack of sleep. Most adults need around eight hours of sleep a night, children need more.

better sleep
Deep sleep is when hormones are released in the body. These hormones fuel growth in children and repair cells and build muscle mass in adults and children.

Wake up refreshed by evaluating sleep conditions. Many people are not getting the quality and quantity of sleep they need.

Take a look at a few better sleeping tips to make improvements:
  • Don't drink a lot of fluid right before bed. Too much fluid before bed will result in trips to the bathroom during the night.
  • Don't eat a large amount of food right before bed. Digestion problems can interfere with deep sleep.
  • Exercise regularly, but not right before bed. The body takes a while to slow down and relax.
  • Darken the room. Sometimes even a tiny light on an electronic device can be an annoyance. Wear a sleeping eye mask or tape over any LED lights that might cause irritation.
  • Keeping the temperature cool in the bedroom can aid in sleep. Just a degree or two might be all it takes.
  • Maintain a regular bedtime schedule. Don't take naps after 3 p.m. Go to bed the same time on the weekends as well as weekdays.
  • Avoid alcohol and drinks with caffeine, as well as nicotine in the evening. These are stimulants which can keep people awake, and as the nicotine wears off smokers will experience withdrawal symptoms.
  • Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillow. Support and comfort are the main points of a good mattress. Bad mattresses hinder good sleep. The life expectancy for a mattress is around 10 years for good quality brands.
  • Some people need low background noise, like the gentle sound of a fan, to cover other environmental noises to fall asleep. Other people might need absolute silence.
  • See a physician if sleep problems persist.

Sleep Disorders

Some people are in bed the recommended amount of time and still have problems sleeping. Common sleep disorders are sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, narcolepsy and insomnia.

Doctors are able to diagnose sleep disorders, sometimes through the use of a sleep lab, and provide a treatment to give relief.

Better Sleep

Spend some time to consider current sleep habits and develop a plan to make a change for the better. Better sleeping can be achieved, and the benefits will be worth it.
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Augmentin

Augmentin is a combination of amoxicillin and clavulanate potassium. Amoxicillin is an antibiotic from the penicillin group. It works by fighting bacteria in the body. Clavulanate potassium is similar to penicillin. Clavulanate potassium helps fight bacteria that is resistant to other antibiotics and to penicillin. Combined, these drugs form the antibiotic Augmentin, which can be used to treat a wide array of bacterial infections.
augmentin

Contraindication Information About Augmentin

Patients with a known history of allergic reactions to any form of penicillin should not take any form of Augmentin.

Augmentin is contraindicated in patients with a history of hepatic dysfunction or cholestatic jaundice that is associated with amoxicillin/clavulanate potassium.

How to Take Augmentin

Augmentin in should be taken exactly as prescribed. Follow the instructions on the prescription label. Augmentin XR (extended release) should never be crushed or chewed. The pill can be broken in half and both halves need to be taken one at a time.

Augmentin needs to be taken at evenly spaced intervals. Always take the medication for the entire time prescribed, even if symptoms get better.

This medication should be taken with a full glass of water and at the start of a meal, to help reduce stomach upset.

Side Effects of Augmentin

Always seek emergency treatment if signs of an allergic reaction occurs while taking Augmentin. Allergic reaction symptoms can include hives, difficulty breathing, and swelling of the lips, tongue, face, or throat.

Augmentin should be stopped and a physician notified if a patient experiences any of the following serious side effects:
  • easy bruising or bleeding
  • watery diarrhea or diarrhea with blood in it
  • severe tingling, numbness, pain, or muscle weakness
  • skin rash
  • pale or yellowed skin
  • dark colored urine
  • fever, confusion, or weakness
  • agitation, confusion, unusual thoughts or behavior
  • seizures
  • sore throat and headache with blistering, peeling, or red skin rash
Common side effects while taking Augmentin may include:
  • nausea or vomiting
  • mild skin rash or itching
  • white patches in the mouth or throat
  • mild diarrhea
  • gas or mild stomach pain
  • vaginal yeast infection
If any other unusual or bothersome side effect occurs, patients should notify their physician to determine if the antibiotic should be continued.

Doses and Dosage for Augmentin

Augmentin is available in 250mg, 500mg, and 875mg doses. Two 250mg pills should never be substituted for a 500mg dosage. They are not equivalent.

Adult dosage is one 500mg tablet every 12 hours or one 250mg tablet every eight hours. In severe respiratory infections, 875mg may be prescribed every 12 hours or 500mg every eight hours, may be the indicated dosage.

Pediatric patients weighing less than 40kg will be weight based. Pediatric patients weighing over 40kg are generally prescribed according to adult recommendations.

Considerations Regarding Augmentin

Augmentin, when taken as prescribed, is an effective antibiotic against many bacterial infections. Common infections treated with Augmentin include but are not limitied to pneumonia, sinus infection, urinary tract infection, skin infection, bronchitis, and ear infections. This medication needs to be taken on time and at regular intervals without missing doses and without stopping before the medicine is finished.

Due to the possibility of stomach upset, it is best to take with food at the beginning of meals. If stomach upset becomes severe or nausea and vomiting occurs and the patient is unable to keep the medication down, consult the prescribing physician.

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Appropriately Planned Vegetarian Diet

vegetarian diet
Studies have confirmed that vegetarian diets do not pose health risks as long as they are "appropriately planned" and in accordance with the dietary guidelines outlined by the American Dietetic Association (ADA). Therefore, any potential risks of a vegetarian diet are caused by unhealthy dietary choices that do not meet the ADA nutrient and caloric guidelines. A vegetarian diet that does not meet basic nutrient needs is at risk of protein and vitamin deficiencies. Additionally, a vegetarian diet that does not meet basic caloric requirements poses a risk; recent studies have linked disordered eating, such as anorexia and bulimia, to some individuals who identify themselves as vegetarians.

Protein Deficiencies only a Risk for Unhealthy Vegetarian Diets

According to the Livestrong.com article "Protein Deficiency Risk with Vegetarian Diet," vegetarians need to include a combination of plant-based protein sources in their diet to ensure that they meet essential amino acid and daily protein needs. However, most vegetarians easily reach their daily protein and amino acid needs, especially because soy, a large part of most vegetarian diets, is a complete protein (contains all of the essential amino acids). For appropriately planned vegetarian diets, there is a very small risk of a protein deficiency.

Most Americans’ consume far more protein than required or recommended for health. Many diseases and conditions are related to an overconsumption of protein, so a vegetarian diet is actually a healthy diet choice, especially regarding protein consumption. Only when a vegetarian diet does not meet ADA recommendations, such as ones that include the consumption of a large amount of junk food (usually protein-poor foods), is there a risk for a protein deficiency.

Appropriately Planned Vegetarian Diets are not at Risk for Nutrient and Vitamin Deficiencies

According to the ADA, an appropriately planned vegetarian diet is not at risk for vitamin or nutrient deficiencies. However, an unhealthy vegetarian diet (one that is not appropriately planned) or vegan diets (a diet that does not consist of any animal products), is at risk of vitamin deficiencies, most notably a vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is only found in meat products. Because vegetarians eat animal products such as eggs and milk, they meet their B12 needs; vegans, however, will not. Unhealthy vegetarian diets and vegan diets are also at risk for vitamin D deficiencies and have the potential to be deficient in iron, zinc, and calcium. However, eating a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and good fats, as required by the ADA in a “well-planned” vegetarian diet, eliminates any risk of deficiency.

Potential Link Between Vegetarian Diets and Eating Disorders

An appropriately planed vegetarian diet must meet daily caloric recommendations. When a vegetarian diet consistently does not meet caloric needs, it poses a significant health risk. Research has indicated a potential link between disordered eating, such as anorexia and bulimia, and individuals who identify themselves as vegetarian. According to Julianne Trautman et al for the College Student Journal (2008) titled "Vegetarian Students in Their First Year of College: Are They at Risk for Restrictive or Disordered Eating Behaviors?" some researchers believe that vegetarianism can provide students with a socially acceptable means to avoid certain foods as a form of weight control. Marjaana Lindeman in Vegetarianism and Eating-Disordered Thinking (2000) stated that 45% of anorectics classify themselves as vegetarians; according to the Eating Disorder Review (2003) one-third of vegetarians seemed to be at risk for an eating disorder.

There has not been enough research to conclusively link eating disorders with vegetarian diets. Lindeman concludes that it is more likely to be an "intertwined phenomena,” without a causal link between vegetarian diets and eating disorders. Additional research is required to understand and establish a conclusive link; however, it is a potential risk to be aware of in individuals identifying themselves as vegetarians.

"Appropriately Planned" Vegetarian Diets do not Pose Significant Risks

In the past, concerns have been raised about the potential of vegetarian diets to lead to protein, vitamin, and nutrient deficiencies; however, as long the diet is "appropriately planned" those deficiencies should not arise. Instead, research has shown that a vegetarian diet, instead of presenting any significant risks, is actually directly related to a lower incidence of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and cancer. The health benefits attributed to a vegetarian diet combined with its relative lack of risk means that a vegetarian diet is a healthy choice, even for children and pregnant women.

More research is needed on the link between vegetarian diets and eating disorders; it is more likely that those with eating disorders use vegetarianism as an excuse to avoid certain foods or social situations, not that a vegetarian diet leads to eating disorders. Regardless, when a vegetarian diet is appropriately planned, and meets the guidelines outlined by the ADA, there are no risks for protein, vitamin, or caloric deficiencies.
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