Menopause and Osteoporosis

The Prevention and Treatment of Menopausal Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a risk all people face as they age. Menopausal women, however, are even more likely to develop this degenerative bone condition.

Menopause is linked with an increased risk of osteoporosis, a degenerative bone disease. As people age, they experience bone loss. This is a natural consequence of getting older. Women, however, may experience even higher levels of bone loss as estrogen levels drop during menopause. This bone loss often leads to decreased bone density and an increased risk of osteoporosis.

Menopause, Age and Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a condition in which a person’s bones grow weaker over time. This condition can become severe enough to put a woman at an increased risk of breaking a bone. According to the Mayo Clinic, it can become so severe that a cough may exert enough pressure to break a bone.

Women are already at a disadvantage when it comes to developing osteoporosis. They are more likely to break a bone because of osteoporosis than men are. Added to this is the fact that a woman’s bone strength reaches its peak when she is in her 30s. After this peak, a woman begins to experience gradual bone loss.

By the time menopause begins, a woman is already experiencing some bone loss. Dropping estrogen levels only make this worse. In fact, lowered estrogen levels can lead to not an only bone loss, but also a condition called osteopenia, which is decreased bone density. Eventually, the bones become weaker, and an osteoporosis diagnosis may soon follow.

Calcium and Menopause

Calcium can help to slow the weakening of bone tissue that accompanies age and menopause. In fact, getting enough calcium can not only prevent the development of osteoporosis but also treat it in those who have already been diagnosed. Menopausal women should consume at least 1200 milligrams of calcium each day. They may need more if they are not taking estrogen.

There are many foods a woman may consume to get calcium during menopause. Among them are dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt. Other food sources of calcium include salmon, sardines, broccoli, spinach, and turnip greens. It is also found in sesame seeds, oregano, and parsley. Women who don’t get enough calcium in their diets may opt to take supplements for bone health.

Medications for Menopausal Osteoporosis

Hormone replacement therapy can help to treat menopausal bone loss and osteoporosis. Estrogen therapy can not only help to prevent further bone loss and decrease the risk of fractures but also make the bones thicker over time. As an added benefit, hormone replacement therapy can even help with unpleasant menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and mood swings.

Though hormone replacement therapy can help to prevent and even treat osteoporosis, there are some risks for women who opt for it. A woman who takes hormone replacement therapy may have an increased risk of cancer of the endometrium, which is the lining of the uterus. She may also have an increased risk of breast cancer and blood clot development.

Besides hormone replacement, there are many other medications used in treating osteoporosis. Among them are biophosphates, raloxifene, calcitonin, and teriparatide. Each medication has unique benefits and side effects. Additionally, physical therapy may prove helpful for preventing and treating osteoporosis.

Staying Healthy and Active After Menopause

Bone loss and osteoporosis risks are facts of life for women of menopausal age. The risk only increases as a woman grows older. Fortunately, however, there are effective prevention and treatment methods that can help a woman to stay healthy and active.

How Scans Help Diagnose Disease

Modern Imaging Methods Can Reveal Much About Our Health

In around just a hundred years, imaging of the body has gone from the simple X-ray to sophisticated scanning methods that give sharp images of any kind of body tissue.

Although to us X-rays might seem a bit primitive, when they arrived on the medical scene they represented a huge advance in doctors’ ability to diagnose illness. Until then they relied upon the case history and physical examination to determine the nature of a disease. Although limited, X-rays could at least provide an image of dense tissue such as bone and some tumors, something that previously was only available during risky surgery or at a post-mortem examination – which of course is a bit late.

X-rays are still useful and in their modern evolved forms such as CT scans, extremely so. In addition to X-rays, scanning techniques based on different principles have been developed so that the range of scans available to doctors is wide. Here are some common methods of imaging.

X-rays

X-rays are high energy beams of radiation that can penetrate all but very dense material. The densest material in the body is bone and medical X-rays don’t penetrate this to the degree that they do the softer tissues. So although the ghostly shapes of organs can show up on an X-ray, the bones come through most clearly. Some tumors will show on X-ray. The main advantage of X-rays is that they are cheap, the main disadvantage is their potentially harmful effects, especially to rapidly growing cells.

CT Scans

These are really highly sophisticated X-rays. They use the same type of radiation but at varying strengths so that the soft tissues are picked out. Beams are directed into the tissues to pick out varying levels of tissue density. All this information is processed by a computer which produces pictures of ‘slices’ of the body. Most body tissues can be imaged this way. Safety concerns are the same as for X-rays. CT scanning may take up to about 30 minutes to complete.

MRI Scans

These are based on an entirely different principle to X-rays. They work because all the tissues of the body contain water – some a great deal like blood and some rather less like bone. When hydrogen atoms in this water are placed in a magnetic field – as in an MRI scanner – they will align in a particular direction, a bit like iron filings would. During a scan radio pulses are sent through the body to knock the hydrogen atoms out of alignment; surprisingly you don’t feel this and neither is it harmful. When the hydrogen atoms realign themselves they emit energy which is then detected by the scanner. A computer collects this information, which shows the amount and distribution of water in the tissues, and constructs detailed images of the body’s organs. Because MRI scans do not use beams of high energy radiation they are less risky than X-rays.

Ultrasound Scans

These use beams of sound waves which are directed at internal organs and analyzed when they are bounced back. Very safe and cheap to do, they are used to determine the condition of the internal organs and blood vessels. They do not give such clear information as CT and MRI scans but are useful for picking out major anomalies. Often used to detect clots in blood vessels and to monitor the progress of the growing fetus.

Cataracts: Symptoms and Treatment

Cataracts_ Symptoms and Treatment

Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness in America today. By the age of 80, over half of the population will have at least some cataracts. Fortunately, cataracts are easy to diagnose, and there are treatments available which can prevent the loss of vision in a majority of cases.

Cataracts are opaque plaques which develop on the lens of your eye. These plaques do not let light through to the retina. There are many causes of cataracts. By far the most common type is known as a senile cataract, which simply refers to a cataract in an older person which has no obvious known cause. Other causes include congenital cataracts (which are caused by infections acquired at birth or hereditary metabolic problems), the use of corticosteroids, and some infections of the eye.

SYMPTOMS

Cataracts_ Symptoms and Treatment - Blurry VisionCataracts typically develop over a long period of time. A person will notice progressively blurry vision, which worsens slowly. Most of the time cataracts are seen in both eyes, however it is possible to have a cataract on only one eye. Cataracts are not associated with pain, redness or any inflammatory response.

Cataracts are typically diagnosed by looking into the eye with a device known as an ophthalmoscope. Even when a cataract is very new and small, it can be quite easy to see by a trained doctor or technician who is using the right equipment. As the cataract becomes larger it will block more and more light from entering the eye. When the eye is examined, it will become harder to see into the eye and visualize the retina. Eventually a cataract in progress to a point where the retina is completely secured, and no light is allowed into the eye properly. At this point a person becomes functionally blind. The video below further explains how cataracts are diagnosed.

TREATMENT

Definitive treatment for a cataract involves surgical correction. Surgery is usually delayed until the cataract reaches a point where it is functionally impairing vision so ophthalmologists usually recommend prescription eyeglasses or contact lenses to address blurry vision. Many patients prefer to use breathable contact lenses with high water content. Attempting to repair a cataract in its early stages is often not worth the risk involved in even these relatively routine surgical procedures.

There are several techniques available for surgical repair of a cataract. All of these techniques involve the removal of the lens on which the cataract is growing. After the removal of the lens which contains the cataract, and artificial lens is inserted in order to preserve proper vision. In most cases these surgical procedures are done on an outpatient basis. It is highly unusual for cataract surgery to require an overnight stay in hospital.

Cataract surgery can be expected to successfully improve vision in over 95% of all cases. Needless to say, this can have a profound effect on a person’s quality of life. Restoring vision which has been lost can dramatically improve many aspects of a person’s life. Despite the high success rate however, it is important to keep expectations reasonable, as many people will still require the use of glasses or contact lenses for vision correction. Your doctor knows the best affordable premium contact lenses for your needs. 

If you suspect that your vision may be suffering from a cataract, get in touch with your doctor as soon as possible and have your eyes examined. Although cataracts are not a medical emergency and they take many years to develop, the sooner you are aware of their presence, the easier management will be over time. 

Allergy Asthma Relief: No Cures for Asthma

Allergy Season Ahead

Allergies and allergy induced asthma is serious. While there are no cures for asthma, identifying and managing the early signs of asthma can save a life.

It’s allergy season and folks are really suffering from all sorts of allergic reactions, allergy-induced asthma, and asthma. Breathing problems can be serious and may be an early symptom of something to come, or a bigger problem. Asthma inflammation can be triggered by allergies causing already restricted airways to become even more restrictive.

Signs of asthma may be hard to distinguish from a typical allergy attack or allergic reaction to pollen, air pollution, or some other airborne allergen. It’s vital that folks who do suffer from allergies, asthma, or allergy-induced asthma know the triggers and be aware of the early signs and symptoms of these serious conditions.

Causes of Allergies

The body is really quite amazing in the way it responds to the environment and provides a method for protection and prevention from further exposure to certain substances. Pollen, a harmless substance, is not going to affect certain people. However, people with “allergies” will have an altogether different reaction to pollen.

The body’s immune system treats these allergens as invaders that wish to harm the body or disrupt normal body functions. An allergic reaction is what happens when the body senses that it has been invaded by what it considers to be a harmful substance. Reactions by the immune system toward the invading allergen vary from skin reactions, a runny nose, sneezing, or worse.

Allergy Asthma Causes

So just about anything can cause an allergic reaction in an individual. What causes a reaction in one person may not affect another person at all. These allergens can cause other problems in the body. Allergy induced asthma is basically asthma triggered, or brought on by the body’s allergic reaction to something.

Dust, air pollution, pollen, animal dander, dust mites, mold, and a number of other substances may cause an allergic reaction that in turn brings about an asthma attack. Doctors and medical experts advise folks with asthma and allergies to identify any and all possible inhaled substances or airborne allergens that may trigger an asthma attack.

There Are No Cures for Asthma

While there is no known way to completely eradicate asthma from humans, there are cures to treat some of the symptoms and side effects of asthma. Doctors and researchers know a great deal about the relationship between asthma and the body’s immune system. What is not known yet is why asthma occurs in some individuals and not in others.

So the bad news is there is no cure for asthma. The good news is that asthma can be managed and treated successfully. Many children with asthma may outgrow the condition. Many adults with asthma have learned how to manage their condition and go on to lead full and productive lives.

If one suffers from asthma, it is important to know the signs of asthma, one’s particular allergy asthma triggers, how to identify early symptoms and treat them quickly and keep in close contact with an allergist, doctor, or a good allergy and asthma clinic.

Relieving Allergies with Natural Treatments

Herbal Remedies and Therapies as an Alternative to Medicines

For those suffering allergies, relief is a blessed thing. Relief from a natural source, without side effects like lethargy and drowsiness, might be even better.

Although many of the 50 million Americans suffering from seasonal or year-long allergies turn to pharmacies and medicinal treatments for relief, a growing number of allergy sufferers are looking to more natural remedies. In most cases, natural remedies provide relief without the irritating side effects (drowsiness, fatigue, lethargy) associated with pharmaceutical alternatives (Bouchez). There are several nature-based products that have proven to show a reduction or cessation of symptoms.

Many of the following suggested remedies are meant to prevent an allergic reaction before triggers are encountered, which is the best method of treating allergies. Including these supplements and changes into a daily routine before symptoms present will yield the best results year-round.

Herbal Remedies

Beyond a lack of side effects, many herbal remedies are readily available without a prescription and at a much lower cost:

  • Butterbur (Petasites hybridus) is growing in popularity as an allergy treatment in the United Kingdom. In recent studies, it has been as effective as an antihistamine drug in controlling hay fever symptoms without drowsiness (Bouchez). Allergists and researchers recommend 32 milligrams of butterbur daily. However, caution should be used before taking butterbur, as the weed is in the same family as ragweed and can worsen symptoms for some people (Kelley).

  • Quercetin, or a bioflavonoid, a compound that is derived from a natural plant, will help suppress the release of histamines in the system. It’s also an antioxidant by boosting the immune system and fights free radicals. Supplements are the best way to add the recommended 1,000 mg per day to the diet, but quercetin can also be found in onions, citrus fruits, parsley, broccoli, apples, lettuce, tea, tomatoes, and wine (Kelley).
  • Grapeseed extract is another option, similar in function to quercetin. It is also abundantly present in red wine and reduces allergies best when used in conjunction with vitamin C (Bouchez).
  • Nettle (Urtica dioica) behaves like many of the drugs sold to treat allergies, without the side effects. About 300 milligrams a day is enough to offer temporary relief to some allergy sufferers, but may only last a few hours (Kelley).

Foods to Love and Foods to Avoid

Allergy sufferers may also find some relief in the kitchen by choosing and avoiding certain foods. Researchers have shown that spicy foods can go a long way in thinning mucus secretions and clearing the sinus passages (Bouchez). Cooking foods with cayenne pepper, hot ginger, and fenugreek have the best results.

Further, choosing foods that are rich with omega-3 fatty acids may lower the risk of suffering allergy symptoms by fighting inflammation. Found in coldwater fish,  grass-fed meats, walnuts, eggs, and flaxseed oil, omega-3’s can limit symptoms (Kelley).

On the other hand, sometimes what a person avoids may do more than what they choose to eat. Allergy sufferers should pay close attention to their reactions to food, cutting out anything that triggers even mild hives or an upset stomach. These can over-tax the immune system, which can heighten the level of reaction to other allergens (Bouchez).

  • Those suffering from ragweed or other weed pollen allergies should avoid melon, cucumber, banana, chamomile, sunflower seeds, and echinacea.
  • Those with a mold allergy should avoid cheese, mushrooms, yeast, sour cream, potatoes, hot dogs, sausages, canned fruit and fruit juices.

Other Natural Therapies

Used in conjunction with daily supplements, these alternative treatments might provide additional relief to those suffering multiple allergies:

  • Nasal Irrigation, or use of a neti pot, is the process of rinsing the sinus cavities with a gentle saline solution. Perhaps the most natural treatment available, neti pots flush the sinuses and keep them clear with regular use (Kelley). They can be used for prevention and relief before, during and after the pollen season.
  • Acupuncture is growing in popularity among those suffering from multiple allergies, as it targets and stimulates points outside the body to change or initiate reactions inside. In the case of allergies, acupuncturists seek to stimulate the immune system, where allergy reactions begin (Bouchez).
  • Sublingual Immunotherapy, an alternative to receiving allergy shots which can take three to five years to become effective, is another natural treatment. It involves oral exposure to small doses of allergens with the intended purpose of building a gradual immunity (Kelley). Because it can trigger significant reactions in some people, it should not be used without the assistance of a physician.

Using Caution with Treatments

Nonmedical allergy relief can be very helpful and cause fewer reactions, but it’s important to remember that “naturally doesn’t always mean better – or safer” (Bouchez). Even mild preparations, if overused or mixed with other treatments or over-the-counter medications, can lead to harmful side effects. As always, it’s best to use allergy treatments under a physician’s direction to avoid any kind of toxic reactions.

Further, in the case of those with moderate to severe allergies, self-treatment should never be conducted without checking with an allergist beforehand (Bouchez). Seemingly benign natural products can worsen the situation is derived from plants similar to those that trigger allergies.

 

How to Get Rid of a Common Cold Fast: Hints to Reduce Illness Time

Learn about some easy ways to help the body get rid of the flu or common cold quickly, such as eating chicken soup and cutting out dairy products.

The season of the common cold is beginning, and the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that between 5 and 20% of the population gets the flu every year. Some people tend to catch a cold or flu virus more than others, and when you catch it, it can feel like it lasts forever.

Although supermarkets and chemists are stocked with cough medicine and tablets, there is only so much these can do. While they may ease the symptoms, there is nothing that can prevent a cold. Some, such as cough sweets, may make the person feel better, but actually, mask a cough and therefore do not do much good. However, there are several things that people can do in order to in order to speed up the course of the cold. Most of these are standard detoxing techniques, but others are vitamins and amino acids that help the body and its white blood cells attack the cold bug.

Keep Warm to Sweat out the Cold

Just because it is cold doesn’t mean the person received it because they didn’t have enough clothes on they probably caught it from someone who had the germs on their skin, such as a workmate, family members or friends, the person they were sitting next to on the train.

When you are ill, you may notice your temperature rises. This is because the body is raising the temperature in an attempt to sweat the cold bug out. Germs, like humans, have an ideal temperature (roughly 37°C, 98°F in humans) and by raising the temperate the body makes it uncomfortable for the germs and stops them reproducing so rapidly.

Help your body out by wearing a jumper, turning on the heating, having hot drinks and showers or baths. Add a drop or two of Olbas Oil or any other inhalant decongestant to bath water in order to help relieve nasal congestion at the same time.

Hydrate Throughout the Day

Sweating out a cold means that liquid is lost throughout the body, and this can lead to dehydration. Therefore, it is important that liquids are drunk in order to keep the body hydrated. This also helps to flush out the toxins from the body.

While water is one of the easiest ways to hydrate, other drinks are just as effective. Choose energy drinks such as Lucozade, which contain glucose. The body uses glucose sugar for energy, which can help the body fight the cold.

However, people should avoid drinking milk, either in hot drinks or by itself. Dairy products do not do well with the sinuses and can make a cold worse.

Have Chicken Soup

Having chicken soup during a cold is not just a family tradition. Chicken contains an amino acid called cysteine which helps clear out mucus, which is what the body is trying to cough up.

Soup in itself is also a soothing food, which can still be ingested with a sore throat. While it can be handmade, shop bought chicken or chicken noodle soup such as Heinz or Campbell’s will work just as well and takes a lot less effort to prepare when ill.

Take Supplements and Vitamins to Help the Body

Everyone knows that vitamin C helps the immune system. Fruit such as oranges and kiwi fruit are high in vitamin C, and of course, fruit is good for the body in general. Taking vitamin supplements are a helpful way of topping up the body, but there are more health benefits in eating fresh fruit.

There are also several herbal remedies which can help speed up the process of colds. One of the best known is echinacea, a plant native of North America. It is part of the daisy family (which is why some of the products will have a picture of a pink daisy on the front – this is what the flower looks like).

A 2007 study by the University of Connecticut which looked at data from other experiments suggested that taking echinacea can help reduce the chances of getting a cold by chance, and can reduce the period of the illness by one and a half days. While some researchers have condemned the figures produced by this study, echinacea does shorten the duration of colds.

Echinacea can be taken in several ways – in a pill form, as a drop to take on the tongue or in a drink (for children who may not enjoy its strong taste, drops could be added to diluting juice), or in effervescent form added to water.

However, echinacea should not be given to children under one and is not recommended for under 12s because not enough research has been done into if there are any side effects on a child’s immune system. It is also not recommended during pregnancy, or to be taken over a long period of time.

Lower Back Pain

Many people live with constant back pain. Management of chronic pain is possible with exercise and pain relief options.

Back pain has got to be one of the worst kinds of pain, especially when it is located in the lower back. When you have injured yourself, you soon discover that there are very few movements that do not involve the lower back, especially everyday tasks like getting dressed in the morning. One of the most feared events is sneezing, which sends a ripple of uncontrolled motion which can cause unbelievable pain.

The doctor may prescribe treatment, but for many people, the result is lifelong management of the pain and living with the inconvenience of having to restrict work and social activities such as sports and hobbies.

See the Doctor First if it Does Not Recover

Back injuries are often beyond the ability of a doctor, but doctors must be consulted first for a new pain that persists or an obvious injury. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders states that:

Most patients with back pain recover without residual functional loss, but individuals should contact a doctor if there is not a noticeable reduction in pain and inflammation after 72 hours of self-care.”

They define the pain that is in the lower back as pain that lasts a few days to a few weeks and chronic pain as pain that lasts for over three months.

Most of us Will Experience Back Pain

Although the majority of back injuries are avoidable, the American Pain Society states:

Of all the different types of aches and pains people experience, the most common pain is the back pain. A majority of us – eight out of ten – will experience back pain at some point in our lives.”

The injury may be a result of a trauma or strain in work, sports, gardening or through some kind of accident. Anything that puts an excess of stress on the bones or tissue can bring about the lasting muscle ache or a sharp or shooting pain.

The First Extremely Effective Way to Reduce Pain

Other than drugs, with all the side effects they can bring with them, the cold-pack has got to be one of the most efficient pain relief. Although there will sometimes be conflicting advice from those who advocate heat, chiropractors advise a cold-pack and most sufferers will profess that the cold-pack works best.

The cold-pack may simply be a bag of ice or even a pack of peas or a specially made bag of gel that can be put into a freezer. (Note that a cloth or tee-shirt should be placed between the bag and the skin). The first moment of placing the ice on the lower back can be quite a shock, but within seconds the healing effect is felt.

The pain is numbed and flexibility begins to return due to the secondary effect which is the reduction of inflammation. The cold causes the blood vessels to contract to reduce the amount of blood that can get to the area.

Natural Anti-Inflammatories and Pain Relievers

It is very easy when in great pain, to grab medicines like ibuprofen. They are certainly very effective when used to relieve back pain. However, herbalists are now referring to studies carried out that compare the anti-inflammatory characteristics of turmeric and ginger with that of ibuprofen.

Ibuprofen has many side effects and there can be great risks in taking too much. The side effects are including digestive problems, dizziness, nausea, and hypertension.

Turmeric and ginger are both well known for their anti-inflammatory benefits but together they appear to have a superior effect. The National Institute for Health recognizes the effects and states that it is safe in “food doses.”

Ways to Reduce the Possibility of Injury and Re-injury

The most common causes of back pain, excluding arthritis, are:

  • lifting some objects that are too heavy
  • lifting that is not proper
  • sudden or improper movements of the back
  • overreaching or over-stretching

Being sensible and aware of the possible dangers can greatly reduce the risk of injury and reduce the pain while trying to manage an injured back. The most well-known advice is to bend the knees when picking up a weight (do not bend at the waist) and also to turn the whole body when holding a weight rather than twisting around.

Healthy Exercise for the Back

An important way to reduce the pain and the risk of further injury is to do regular exercise. The right exercise can not only strengthen the muscles around the back but also increase general flexibility and strength making the body better able to cope with any further strain.

Stretching Exercises

The first place to start is with stretching exercises. One particular problem with a back injury is that the pain causes the person to change their posture and walk and stand differently. This puts an uneven strain on the hips and the legs and can bring about further injury.

Stretching exercises can loosen the joints and re-train the body in the correct posture. The stretches should not hurt and so should be stopped if they begin to make pain worse rather than better.

Weight Training

Training with weights increases overall strength but when done carefully can also work the large and small muscles around the lower back to reduce the chances of strain. Most weight exercises involve the back and so unless the doctor has advised otherwise, they can all be performed.

The important thing to remember for most people is that every exercise is safe as long as it does not involve bending at the waist. Always bending at the knees still works the lower back but will not over-strain it. The waist can still be worked but slowly and carefully to ensure that any problem can be detected before it does any further damage

For some people, the back pain will be with them for the rest of their lives but through stretching; weight training and careful choices, the risk of further damage is greatly reduced and the pain can be managed.