Monthly Archives: January 2014

Can your phone manage your diabetes?

Parents of children with Type 1 diabetes may find ease in managing their children's conditions with smartphone apps.

In order to maintain a healthy lifestyle, diabetics are required to track their blood glucose on a regular basis. In some cases, patients may be required to test their levels two to four times daily.1 While this can sometimes be inconvenient, most people with diabetes get into their own routines. In some cases, patients have opted to use smartphone apps to track their diabetes. However, these may not be as useful as originally thought.

According to HealthDay, most diabetics will tell you that these mobile apps have a long way to go.2 While users are able to track their daily intakes, receive medical alerts and note blood sugar levels, those with Type 1 diabetes do not find them so useful.

"There are so many things they could be helping Type 1 diabetics manage better in their day-in-and-day-out lives," Lynn Marie O'Flaherty, whose daughter has Type 1 diabetes, told the source.

While electronics can offer assistance in managing this blood glucose disease, they can't do it all. No app will ever replace the job of a doctor for diabetics. That's why it's important for patients and parents of little ones with the disease to obtain all the necessary medical supplies from Medex Supply. In addition to infusion sets, you can purchase insulin syringes from this online medical supply store as well.

1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Take charge of your diabetes" January 7, 2013
2 HealthDay, "Smartphone apps for diabetes: Do they really work?" January 29, 2014

It Still Knows How To Pound

white matter

Migraines are painful, unpleasant, inconvenient—and they might be rewiring your brain. Researchers say migraine symptoms—particularly migraine aura, visual symptoms such as spots, flashes, shapes, or temporary blindness, or a pins-and-needles sensation, that can last up to an hour shortly before the onset of the pain, nausea, light and sound sensitivity, and lightheadedness—may be associated with the development lesions, changes in brain volume, and alterations to the glial "white matter" of the brain.

It’s not clear whether these changes are caused by migraines, or cause them, or are caused by another factor that makes people susceptible to migraine. If the headaches themselves are causing the brain changes, that suggests that reducing the frequency of attacks, or stopping them altogether, can stop if not reverse the changes. That means avoiding migraine triggers.

Triggers vary, but there are some things that tend to set off migraines. Certain foods can do it; onions are associated with migraine in many people. Aged cheeses, alcoholic beverages, pickled, aged, smoked, and fermented foods, soy-based foods, chocolate, bananas, figs, snow peas, and a variety of other foods contain a compound called tyramine, which is often a migraine trigger. Cured meats also often have nitrates. Sometimes, giving things up can be a trigger; a migraine is a common symptom of caffeine withdrawal. Other triggers are environmental, such as secondhand smoke, or circumstantial, such as menstruation or changes in sleep.

When avoiding triggers isn’t enough or is not possible, there are a few medical treatments for migraines, though the nature of the condition makes researching remedies difficult. Beta blockers, the antidepressant amitriptylene, and anti-seizure medications seem to prevent attacks. In recent studies, a blood pressure drug called candesartan has proven effective as well.

Schizophrenia

schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is one of the most common mental disorders, affecting around 3 million Americans, and when most people think of "mentally ill," the picture that typically comes to mind is of schizophrenia. The word refers to the patient’s split from reality; the disease is one of emotional impairment and disordered perception of reality. It’s not entirely clear what causes schizophrenia. People who use amphetamines or drink to excess are prone to the disease, but more benign environmental factors also play a role. People who live in urban areas as children or young adults, people who experience social isolation, and people born in the winter or spring are more likely to develop schizophrenia.

In addition, there seems to be a genetic component to the disease—in particular, environmental factors that cause schizophrenia do so in people who have a prior vulnerability, often though not always due to genetic predisposition. An example of a non-genetic predisposition is hypoxia; infants who had low oxygen at birth are more prone to the disease. Another example is maternal prenatal malnourishment. Genetic vulnerability is more common, however. People with a parent or sibling with schizophrenia are ten times as likely to develop the illness themselves as the general population; the children of two schizophrenic parents have a 50 percent chance of being schizophrenic.

According to a recent study, however, five percent of people with schizophrenia have new mutations, that don’t affect the genes of their parents. It turns out that it is not merely a handful of genetic mutations that are responsible for schizophrenia, but a large number of rare mutations, meaning that overlapping but different sets if mutations could be responsible for the disease in different people. However, these mutations seem to occur in groups, affecting the genes responsible for building and managing synapses in the brain and for communication between neurons. Researchers also found that schizophrenic patients have less of a protein in the brain’s learning and memory center that is part of a process that protects cells. The unprotected cells die more often, leading to the symptoms of the disease.

Proper wound care: Dealing with scabs

Scabs are a natural part of the healing process for minor scrapes and cuts, and should not be picked or itched.

A scab is a common occurrence of a healing wound. Also known as an eschar, this crust-like covering protects the injured area while it recovers. In medical emergencies, when a wound is severe and/or deep, it is unlikely that clinicians will allow a scab to form. This is because an eschar only forms because the wound is too dry to heal at a faster pace.1 That's why many health care professionals will advise the use of wet-to-dry bandages. That being said, it is not wise to pick at scabs.

Where scabs come from?
When a minor scrape or other injury occurs and does not require medical attention, the best most can do is clean the wound and place a bandage on it. However, when left exposed to the air to heal, it is likely that a scab will form, and here's why:

  • As the body works to fight off bacteria and infection, it is also creating the protein Fibrin – this is what causes our blood to clot when an cut is experienced.2
  • All of these things come to the surface and pull crust over to begin the healing process.
  • This is the body's way of fighting off infection as well as preventing further blood loss following clotting.

If a scab is removed from the skin before falling off naturally, there are a few issues that may arise. For instance, this puts the wound in danger of developing an infection. Additionally, it will take longer for the injury to heal and is more likely that the skin will remain scarred.

What to do when a scab itches
It's not uncommon for scabs to itch as they are healing, but scratching them can lead to reopening the wound. So, what should you do instead?

  • Practicing proper wound care can help speed up the process of healing and can prevent some of that itching before it begins.3
  • Using antibiotic cream on the wound will alleviate the need to scratch at a scab, as it provides moisture to the dry skin that is causing your irritation.
  • Other products such as vitamin E oil can provide relief when massaged onto the wound.

You can purchase all of the necessary medical supplies for a first-aid kit, complete with wound care equipment, from Medex Supply.

1 Slate, "Does removing scabs from a wound speed up healing?"
2 Science Museum, "What are scabs for, and is it OK to pick them?"
3 Anatomy in Motion, "Why do wounds itch when they are healing?" January 26, 2013

How Fish Is Brain Food

trout

Omega-3 fatty acids are an essential nutrient, meaning we have to get them from food because the human body doesn’t have the ability to manufacture them out of components. There are three types of omega-3 fatty acids, but the two most important of them—the "long-chain omega-3 fatty acids"—are typically found together in the same source. Humans do have the ability to convert the third kind, called ALA, into one of the long-chain kinds, but the process is not very efficient.

These nutrients serve important functions in the body and play an important role in the brain. One of the long-chain varieties, called DHA, has shown signs of being able to slow or stop dementia. Even in healthy people, insufficient levels of DHA have been found to be associated with "senior moments" and other indicators of mental decline with age; a new study suggests DHA may prevent the loss of brain cells that normally comes with age. The other long-chain omega-3, EPA, helps treat hyperactivity symptoms, and ALA can reduce depression.

DHA does some other tricks as well. It helps inhibit tumor growth in some kinds of cancer, and it can enhance the effectiveness of chemotherapy. There is some evidence that the short-chain ALA can be used to help lower the incidence of coronary heart disease. EPA also buffs chemotherapy, and it can help protect the liver. In addition, EPA’s effect on drugs can help people avoid overdose without compromising the effectiveness of medications used as intended. Both kinds of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids help fight inflammation.

Many people turn to supplements to make sure they get the omega-3 fatty acids they need. Not all supplements deliver what they promise, however. Over-the-counter supplements are lightly if at all regulated in the United States; in many cases, manufacturers don’t even have to prove that the products contain the ingredients in the amounts listed on the label. A recent study found that a lot of fish oil supplements had lower levels of omega-3 acids than labeled—in some cases, a third less. Other studies suggest fish oil supplements may not be as effective as fish oil in fish even when the supplements are accurately labeled.

Early Detection Of Pancreatic Cancer

jaundice

Cancer of the pancreas is the fourth most common cause of cancer death in the United States, and has one of the lowest survival rates of any form of cancer. The five-year survival rate is only six percent. The lethality of this form of cancer is primarily due to the speed with which it spreads and the difficulty of detecting it when it is at an earlier stage and responds better to treatment. As with all forms of cancer, early treatment is more successful than later treatment, but in pancreatic cancer the window is so short, and early detection so difficult, that early treatment is not often possible.

Part of the reason for this is that there are often no symptoms in the early stages. Even when symptoms do appear, they are so vague and general—upper abdominal pain, poor appetite and weight loss, jaundice—that symptoms alone do not clearly point to, let aline definitely indicate, pancreatic cancer. There are some signs to look for, however. The sudden onset of diabetes may be the result of pancreatic cancer. Someone who goes from liking coffee or wine to being disgusted by them should be checked as well. Another sign is stool that is pale and greasy, the result of undigested fat; this indicator is often ignored or deemed too embarrassing to address.

Even without any signs, people may benefit from screenings if they have risk factors for the disease. Diabetes and other disease of the pancreas may be cause or symptom, or at least related in some way. Pancreatic cancer tends to recur, so someone who has recovered should be vigilant. There’s a genetic component as well, so family members of people who have had pancreatic cancer—or, since some of the same mutations are involved, breast cancer—are at risk. Smokers are nearly twice as likely to develop pancreatic cancer as non-smokers. Another avoidable risk is a diet high in red meat, especially processed meats, and low in fruits and vegetables.

The good news is that new diagnostic techniques may make pancreatic cancer screening easier and more effective. In addition to potentially expensive and time-consuming CT scans, a blood testing protocol is being investigated that scientists say could find signs of developing pancreatic cancer. The investigation indicates that certain patterns in genetic material may be the disease’s signature.

Are antibiotics in animals responsible for making you ill?

What's in the feed of farm animals could cause you an infection when it makes its way to your table.

Over the years, the Food and Drug Administration and many other health organizations have been questioning what risks are associated with the use of antibiotics in farm animals. In December 2013, the FDA even implemented a voluntary plan for farmers who were interested in phasing out antibiotic use.1 At the time, it was with the hope that this initiative would have a positive domino effect across the industry.

According to The New York Times, the FDA conducted an analysis of 30 different antibiotics that are used in animal feed, only to find unfortunate results.2 Out of those investigated, 18 of the antibiotics were found to put humans at risk of exposure to antibiotic-resistant bacteria. There is a chance that this is what's behind some of the 23,000 deaths due to infections that are caused by such viruses.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is hopeful that these findings will force the FDA to put more strict guidelines in place. The NRDC also points out that the tested antibiotics only make up half of those used in the industry, meaning the the FDA needs to conduct further research.3

Health care facilities looking to prevent infection from spreading can turn to Medex Supply for all of the needed medical supplies.

1 U.S. Food and Drug Administration, "Phasing out certain antibiotic use in farm animals" December 13, 2013
2 The New York Times, "Antibiotics in animals tied to risk of human infection" January 27, 2014
3 Natural Resources Defense Council, "Playing chicken with antibiotics" January 27, 2014

Thrush Gets Bottled Up

thrush

It is estimated that half of all people have in their mouths—and elsewhere—the fungus Candida albicans. It’s ordinarily harmless, even beneficial; in fact, it is one of many microorganisms that are found in healthy people and help the body to function, while the immune system keeps them in check. However, sometimes these microflora, including C. albicans, overpower their immune cell guards and cause disease. C. albicans is responsible for diaper rash and yeast infections, but when it is in the mouth, it is called oral candidiasis, or thrush.

It’s not always clear what leads the ordinarily harmless microbe to attack. When the immune system is weakened—for example, by certain medications—that can result in opportunistic oral candidiasis. People with compromised immune systems due to AIDS or other illnesses are also at risk. Antibiotics can upset the balance of microflora, allowing the fungus to overwhelm the body’s defenses. Similarly, people with uncontrolled or poorly controlled diabetes will have more fungal growth and are more prone to thrush. The disease is also likely to affect smokers and other people with mouth dryness, since it makes it easier for infection to occur.

Thrush was named for the resemblance of the lesions to the bird. Other symptoms include pain and bleeding in the mouth, a cottony feeling, and reduced ability to taste foods. Mild cases can be treated by eating unsweetened yogurt to help restore the microfloral balance, or with acidophilous supplements. In more severe cases, anti-fungal drugs are used, though these can damage the liver. Preventing infection is also important—brushing your teeth regularly, eating sweets in moderation or not at all, and not smoking can all protect your mouth from thrush.

Recently, scientists found that polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, the material plastic bottles are made from, can be turned into an anti-fungal material that doesn’t harm healthy tissue and is particularly tough on drug-resistant microbial strains. In experiments, researchers found that the plastic itself did not lead to resistance, and was phenomenally successful against the fungus.

How much sodium is in your dinner?

Learn which burger is better for your cardiovascular health.

If you're one of the many Americans who suffer from high blood pressure due to sodium intake, you may be wondering how you can eat out and still keep your health on track. While fast-food items are often believed to the the worst offenders when it comes to salt (at nearly 1,850 milligrams per 1,000 calories)1, sit-down restaurants are actually worse. For every 1,000 calories in a dish, there's about 2,100 milligrams of sodium.

According to CNN, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are working to reduce the use of sodium in the restaurant industry. While you can control how much salt you put on a dish and what items you order off the menu, you have no say over the sodium contents of that food. And, in most cases, you also don't have access to the nutrition information of most foods sold at restaurants.

In Philadelphia, there's currently a significant push for improving food options for local residents. By way of The Healthy Chinese Take-Out Initiative, the Philadelphia Department of Health is working jointly with a number of other organizations to help people eat less salt.2

So, what can you do when you're not eating at home? If you're swinging by a burger joint for a quick dinner, avoid the over-sized portions found in on the value menu. Not that Wendy's junior cheeseburger deluxe has 830 milligrams of sodium, compared to Ruby Tuesday's bacon cheese pretzel burger, coming in at 3,257 milligrams of sodium. When it comes to breakfast on the go, Panera Bread can be a great pitstop. Their breakfast power sandwich has 920 milligrams of sodium, and only 340 calories.3 However, when trying to control your blood pressure, it may be best to head into the kitchen yourself.

Individuals can purchase blood pressure equipment and monitors from Medex Supply, an online medical supply store that carries an assortment of medical supplies.

1 CNN Health, "How restaurants can reduce salt in your food" January 23, 2014
2 Food Fit Philly, "The Healthy Chinese Take-Out Initiative"
3 CNN Health, "Eat out? Best, worst choices"

Caffeine And Your Health

coffeecup

Millions of people all over the world start the day with a cup of coffee, or two, or more. Caffeine is a stimulant, it wakes you up, gets the juices flowing. Some of history’s finest creative minds even attributed their success, in part, to caffeine—J.S. Bach wrote music in praise of coffee, and the French writer Voltaire and the American pianist and composer Oscar Levant drank coffee all day while working.

That’s why it’s important to be aware of the ways—good and bad—that caffeine can affect your health:

  • Consuming 200 mg of caffeine per day, about two cups of coffee and about two-thirds the average, is good for long-term memory.
  • Three cups of coffee a day may cut the risk of liver cancer by as much as half, and recent studies suggest the same is true of other types of cancer.
  • A similar amount has been shown to reduce suicide risk.
  • Going up to 400 mg per day is associated with insomnia.
  • People with anxiety disorders find them exacerbated by caffeine.
  • Caffeine is a diuretic.
  • Drinking caffeine helps protect against stroke and Parkinson’s disease.

If that makes you want to give it up entirely, remember that caffeine is a drug, and quitting cold turkey can result in withdrawal symptoms. Headache is probably among the most common, and tiredness resulting from not having that morning cup is made worse by the withdrawal. Symptoms generally last less than a week.