Monthly Archives: August 2016

Several different types of kidney stones

Kidney stones are small chunks of solid material that can form in your kidneys, a pair of organs that filter your blood.

The “stones,” which are usually yellow and brown, vary in size and shape.

For instance, some may be jagged and as small as a grain of sand, while others may be lumpy and the size of golf balls.

A stone may stay in the kidney or travel down the urinary tract — the body’s waste and excess-water drainage system — and get stuck, causing severe pain in the belly or side of the back.

Other symptoms may include nausea, chills, and blood in the urine.

 

Prevalence and Demographics of Kidney Stones

Kidney stones are one of the most common disorders of the urinary tract, resulting in more than a million visits to health care providers and 300,000 emergency room visits each year in the United States, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK).

About one in 11 people in the United States, or 8.8 percent of the population, have had a kidney stone, according to a 2012 report in the journal European Urology.

Kidney stones affect both men and women, though struvite stones are more common in women and uric acid stones are more common in men.

Overall, however, the prevalence of kidney stones is higher in men than women.

Kidney stones are also more common in obese people than non-obese people, and less common in non-Hispanic African and Mexican-Americans than in non-Hispanic Caucasians, according to the European Urology study.

 

What Are the Kidneys?

Part of the urinary system, your two kidneys are fist-sized, bean-shaped organs, located just below the rib cage, one on each side of the spine.

They have a number of important functions, mainly filtering the blood to remove waste and excess water, resulting in the formation of urine, which is stored in the bladder and emptied from the body through the urethra.

The kidneys also:

  • Balance the body’s levels of electrolytes, including sodium, potassium, and phosphate, to maintain the body’s balance of acids and bases
  • Produce hormones involved in regulating blood pressure, producing red blood cells, and maintaining bone strength
  • Prevent the buildup of waste and fluid in the body

The Haiti disaster efforts of the group Doctors

Since the earthquake struck on Jan. 12, many non-profit organizations have been providing search and rescue aid, medical care, shelter, food, and other essential services in Haiti. All need additional funds to continue their work in the coming weeks and months.

Health and Medical Care

Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières)

An international humanitarian organization created by doctors and journalists that provides medical and health services, often in emergency situations.

Direct Relief International

Provides medical care to people harmed by poverty, natural disasters, and civil unrest.

Partners in Health

An organization that provides medical care and advocacy in Haiti and nine other countries.

Emergency Services and Logistical Support

American Red Cross

The U.S. branch of the International Red Cross, which assists people whose lives have been disrupted by natural disasters, humanitarian crises, and health emergencies.

Clinton Bush Haiti Fund

A fundraising group started by Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush at the request of President Barack Obama to support immediate relief efforts such as the provision of food, water, shelter, and medical care, and to work on long-term recovery plans.

The International Rescue Committee

A group of volunteer first responders, humanitarian relief workers, healthcare providers, educators, and other volunteers who provide emergency relief services.

Mercy Corps

A volunteer group of professional engineers, financial analysts, public health experts, and others who help out in times of humanitarian emergencies.

Assistance for Children and Families

CARE

A humanitarian organization that fights poverty by working with poor women to help their families and communities.

Save the Children

Provides prenatal care, immunizations, educational help, and other services to children in need and their families.

Stillerstrong

An organization founded by the actor Ben Stiller to build schools and provide education programs for the children of Haiti.

Reduce the risks and get the most out of your medications

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) judges a drug to be safe enough to approve when the benefits of the medicine outweigh the known risks for the labeled use.

Doctors, physician assistants, nurses, pharmacists, and YOU make up your health care team. To reduce the risks from using medicines and to get the most benefit, you need to be an active member of the team.

To make medicine use SAFER:

  • Speak up
  • Ask questions
  • Find the facts
  • Evaluate your choices
  • Read the label and follow directions

Speak Up

The more information your health care team knows about you, the better the team can plan the care that’s right for you.

The members of your team need to know your medical history, such as illnesses, medical conditions (like high blood pressure or diabetes), and operations you have had.

They also need to know all the medicines and treatments you use, whether all the time or only some of the time. Before you add something new, talk it over with your team. Your team can help you with what mixes well, and what doesn’t.

It helps to give a written list of all your medicines and treatments to all your doctors, pharmacists and other team members. Keep a copy of the list for yourself and give a copy to a loved one.

Be sure to include:

  • prescription medicines, including any samples your doctor may have given you
  • over-the-counter (OTC) medicines, or medicines you can buy without a prescription (such as antacids, laxatives, or pain, fever, and cough/cold medicines)
  • dietary supplements, including vitamins and herbs
  • any other treatments
  • any allergies, and any problems you may have had with a medicine
  • anything that could have an effect on your use of medicine, such as pregnancy, breast feeding, trouble swallowing, trouble remembering, or cost

Claims Caramel Coloring Is Toxic

The FDA should ban the use of two compounds widely used in food products, including market giants Coke and Pepsi as well as other soft drinks, because they pose a cancer risk, according to a petition filed by a citizen’s group.

But the American Beverage Association denounced the petition, filed Feb. 16, as “nothing more than another attempt to scare consumers” that is not supported by science.

At issue are caramel colorings that contain 2-methylimidazole and 4-methylimidazole.

According to the petition, filed by the Washington-based Center for Science in the Public Interest, both have been found by the National Toxicology Program to cause cancer in animals.

Kick the Soda Habit With These 10 Tasty Alternatives

And last month, California regulators added one of them — 4-methylimidazole — to the list of chemicals “known to the state to cause cancer.” The state said the safe limit for consumption of the chemical is 16 micrograms a day.

However, a recent study suggested that 12 ounces of cola would contain up to 130 micrograms of the substance, according to the petition.

The coloring substances are made by treating sugars with ammonium alone or ammonium and sulfites under high pressure and temperatures; the two compounds are byproducts of the process.

Feeding studies conducted by the National Toxicology Program showed that high doses of the substances led to lung, liver, or thyroid cancer or leukemia in laboratory mice or rats.

The government researchers concluded there was “clear evidence” that 4-methylimidazole caused cancer in mice, although studies in rats were less clear, with significant increases in leukemia in females but no increase in tumor activity in males.

They also concluded that 2-methylimidazole caused cancer in female rats and argued there was “some evidence” the substance caused tumors in male and female mice.

“Carcinogenic colorings have no place in the food supply,” according to Dr. Michael Jacobson, executive director of the citizens’ group.

Health Benefits of Water

Did you know that your body weight is approximately 60 percent water? Your body uses water in all its cells, organs, and tissues to help regulate its temperature and maintain other bodily functions. Because your body loses water through breathing, sweating, and digestion, it’s important to rehydrate by drinking fluids and eating foods that contain water. The amount of water you need depends on a variety of factors, including the climate you live in, how physically active you are, and whether you’re experiencing an illness or have any other health problems.

Water Protects Your Tissues, Spinal Cord, and Joints

Water does more than just quench your thirst and regulate your body’s temperature; it also keeps the tissues in your body moist. You know how it feels when your eyes, nose, or mouth gets dry? Keeping your body hydrated helps it retain optimum levels of moisture in these sensitive areas, as well as in the blood, bones, and the brain. In addition, water helps protect the spinal cord, and it acts as a lubricant and cushion for your joints.

Water Helps Your Body Remove Waste

Adequate water intake enables your body to excrete waste through perspiration, urination, and defecation. The kidneys and liver use it to help flush out waste, as do your intestines. Water can also keep you from getting constipated by softening your stools and helping move the food you’ve eaten through your intestinal tract. However, it should be noted that there is no evidence to prove that increasing your fluid intake will cure constipation.

Water Aids in Digestion

Digestion starts with saliva, the basis of which is water. Digestion relies on enzymes that are found in saliva to help break down food and liquid and to dissolve minerals and other nutrients. Proper digestion makes minerals and nutrients more accessible to the body. Water is also necessary to help you digest soluble fiber. With the help of water, this fiber dissolves easily and benefits your bowel health by making well-formed, soft stools that are easy to pass.

Water Prevents You From Becoming Dehydrated

Your body loses fluids when you engage in vigorous exercise, sweat in high heat, or come down with a fever or contract an illness that causes vomiting or diarrhea. If you’re losing fluids for any of these reasons, it’s important to increase your fluid intake so that you can restore your body’s natural hydration levels. Your doctor may also recommend that you drink more fluids to help treat other health conditions, like bladder infections and urinary tract stones. If you’re pregnant or nursing, you may want to consult with your physician about your fluid intake because your body will be using more fluids than usual, especially if you’re breastfeeding.

Good Personal Hygiene

Mom was right: Good personal hygiene is essential to promoting good health.

Personal hygiene habits such as washing your hands and brushing and flossing your teeth will help keep bacteria, viruses, and illnesses at bay. And there are mental as well as physical benefits. “Practicing good body hygiene helps you feel good about yourself, which is important for your mental health,” notes Donald Novey, MD, an integrative medicine physician with the Advocate Medical Group in Park Ridge, Ill. People who have poor hygiene — disheveled hair and clothes, body odor, bad breath, missing teeth, and the like — often are seen as unhealthy and may face discrimination.

Personal Hygiene: Healthy Habits Include Good Grooming

If you want to minimize your risk of infection and also enhance your overall health, follow these basic personal hygiene habits:

  • Bathe regularly. Wash your body and your hair often. “I’m not saying that you need to shower or bathe every day,” remarks Dr. Novey. “But you should clean your body and shampoo your hair at regular intervals that work for you.” Your body is constantly shedding skin. Novey explains, “That skin needs to come off. Otherwise, it will cake up and can cause illnesses.”
  • Trim your nails. Keeping your finger and toenails trimmed and in good shape will prevent problems such as hang nails and infected nail beds. Feet that are clean and dry are less likely to contract athlete’s foot, Novey says.
  • Brush and floss. Ideally, you should brush your teeth after every meal. At the very least, brush your teeth twice a day and floss daily. Brushing minimizes the accumulation of bacteria in your mouth, which can cause tooth decay and gum disease, Novey says. Flossing, too, helps maintain strong, healthy gums. “The bacteria that builds up and causes gum disease can go straight to the heart and cause very serious valve problems,” Novey explains. Unhealthy gums also can cause your teeth to loosen, which makes it difficult to chew and to eat properly, he adds. To maintain a healthy smile, visit the dentist at six-month intervals for checkups and cleanings.

Health Boost or Health Risk

A large number of studies have shown that moderate alcohol intake can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease in men and women. Moderate drinking means one drink per day for women and one to two for men, says Donald Novey, MD, an integrative medicine physician with the Advocate Medical Group in Park Ridge, Ill. “The difference in amounts is because of how men and women metabolize alcohol,” Dr. Novey explains.

“When you say one drink, the size of that drink matters,” Novey adds. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture one drink is equal to:

  • 12 ounces of beer or
  • 5 ounces of wine or
  • 1½ ounces of spirits (hard liquor such as gin or whiskey, 80-proof)

The Dangers of Drinking Too Much

Unfortunately, some people can’t stop at just one or two drinks. Too much alcohol can result in serious health consequences. Heavy alcohol intake can damage the liver, causing cirrhosis, a fatal disease. Excessive drinking also can raise blood pressure and damage the heart, and is linked to many different cancers, including mouth, esophagus, breast, prostate, and colorectal cancers. The health risks are even greater for those who not only drink but smoke as well.

The consequences of excessive drinking can be serious not only for the alcoholic, but also for their friends, family, and even innocent bystanders. According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, more than 16,000 people die each year in automobile accidents that involve drunken drivers. Other data indicates that one in three violent crimes involves the use of alcohol and as many as three out of four violent incidents against a spouse involve alcohol. “Alcohol is a depressant. It makes people sad over time, not happy,” Novey says. When depressed, people can do some rather unfortunate things to themselves and their loved ones.

Talking as Recovery Continues

U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is walking with assistance, mouthing the words to songs, and speaking simple sentences as she recovers after being shot through the head at a public event on Jan. 8, according to reports from friends, family, and the congresswoman’s staff.

Although doctors have not provided an update on Giffords’ condition since she began full-time rehabilitation on Jan. 26 at The Institute for Rehabilitation and Research (TIRR) Memorial Hermann in Houston, a report in the New York Times noted that she has lip-synched words to several songs and is walking the halls with assistance.

A spokesman from the congresswoman’s office confirmed the information from the Times report for MedPage Today.

Experts contacted by ABC News and MedPage Today said reports of her progress are about what would be expected for someone with a good recovery pattern.

“Her overall recovery seems good but perhaps not overly surprising for someone who regained consciousness so quickly after her injury,” according to Dr. Shari Wade, of the division of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

Giffords was reportedly able to respond to requests immediately after the shooting and shortly before undergoing surgery at University Medical Center in Tucson, Ariz., where she was treated before moving to Houston for rehabilitation.

“Duration of unconsciousness is the single best predictor of recovery,” Wade explained in an e-mail, “and someone who is unconscious for a few hours or a few days will recover much more rapidly and more completely than someone who is unconscious for a month or more.”

According to Dr. Gregory O’Shanick, chair of the board of directors of the Brain Injury Association of America, “her recovery curve is somewhat rapid but is what we expect to see when someone has the benefit of a comprehensive inpatient rehab program immediately after their brain injury and receives therapies from an experienced team in an aggressive program.”