Archive for the ‘Diseases’ Category

February is Heart Disease Awareness Month!

Women account for 52.6 percent of the total heart disease deaths. They also tend to have a worse prognosis with heart disease once they come to the hospital.

Women also may experience different symptoms of heart disease than men. But for both genders, chest pressure is the most common symptom of heart disease. Women, however, may experience shortness of breath, jaw pain, headaches, nausea, fatigue, and stomach upset –which we call atypical symptoms of heart disease — more commonly than men.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2009, an estimated 785,000 Americans will have a new coronary attack, and about 470,000 will have a recurrent attack. About every 25 seconds, an American will have a coronary event, and about one every minute will die from one. Heart disease is often perceived as an “older woman’s disease,” and it is the leading cause of death among women aged 65 years and older. However, heart disease is the third leading cause of death among women aged 25–44 years and the second leading cause of death among women aged 45–64 years.

Why Does a Woman’s Risk of Heart Disease Rise With Age?

Menopause is a normal stage in a woman’s life; it comprises any of the changes a woman experiences either before or after she stops menstruating. As menopause nears, the ovaries gradually produce less estrogen (a female hormone), causing changes in the menstrual cycle and other physical changes.

The most common symptoms of menopause are hot flashes, night sweats, emotional changes, and changes in the vagina (such as dryness).

Menopause usually occurs naturally in women between ages 45 and 55. However, loss of estrogen can also occur if the ovaries are removed during surgery (such as during a total hysterectomy) or if a woman goes through early menopause.

Why Is Heart Disease Associated With Menopause?

The loss of natural estrogen as women age may contribute to the higher risks of heart disease seen after menopause. Other factors that may play a role in postmenopausal risks of heart disease include:

  • Changes in the walls of the blood vessels, making it more likely for plaque and blood clots to form.
  • Changes in the level of fats in the blood (LDL, or “bad” cholesterol increases and HDL, or “good” cholesterol decreases).
  • Increases in fibrinogen levels (a substance in the blood that helps the blood to clot). Increased levels of blood fibrinogen are related to heart disease and stroke since it makes it more likely for blood clots to form, narrowing the arteries and reducing blood flow to the heart.

Keep in mind that there are other factors associated with women suffering heart disease more than men. Many women are now working, rather then staying home raising the children. In addition to work, the women’s responsibilities of cooking, cleaning, doing laundry and helping the kids with the homework still exist after she is done at work. With the responsibilities of work and home, this leaves women tired and not getting the rest they need.

On the other end of the spectrum, imagine being a single mother, raising the children, working one or more jobs, cooking, cleaning, doing the laundry and being the ‘head of the household.’

Furthermore, add in being over 40, with hormone changes occurring, leads to the onset of heart disease more quickly, than for a man.

It’s Not Too Late! Make Stopping Smoking a 2018 Resolution!

We said it before, and if you still haven’t quit, it bears repeating, especially at this time of year:

In case you are: 1) Still a smoker, and, 2) In need of more reasons to make quitting your #1 New Year’s Resolution, here are a few things to seriously think about:

You’ve heard it all before: Smoking leads to lung cancer, heart disease, stroke. But did you know that it can increase your risk of going blind? That smokers are more likely to break their hips? That smoking can even put a damper on your sex life? In fact, there are many surprising ways in which smoking is harmful. Read on to learn some of the little-known effects cigarettes can have on your health.

Macular Degeneration
Macular degeneration is the leading cause of irreversible loss of vision in the developed world — and smokers are three times more likely to suffer from it. Inside your eyes, your lenses are wearing away. The theory is that smoking is a vasoconstrictor, which closes the vessels so you don’t get enough oxygen to your eyes over the years. The resulting damage to the retina can cause a loss of vision in the center of the eye. And, while beta carotene may help ward off macular degeneration, smokers cannot take the vitamin since it increases their risk of lung cancer. The upshot? Just one year after quitting, evidence shows that the chance of developing macular degeneration is reduced by nearly 7 percent.

Rheumatoid Arthritis
You’re trying to avoid inflammation with rheumatoid arthritis, but a cigarette sends 4,000 chemicals that inflame your body.  Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic autoimmune condition in which joints are usually sore and painful. New York University researchers followed 1,405 smokers with RA, finding that the 21.1 percent that eventually quit had fewer tender, swollen joints. And Swedish researchers published a study in 2010 that suggested that smoking accounts for over 33 percent of common RA cases — and more than half of RA diagnoses in people with a family history of the condition.

Various Autoimmune Diseases
People with all autoimmune diseases should be especially aggressive in their quests to quit smoking. Smoking has been linked to the development of such diseases as lupus, hyperthyroidism and multiple sclerosis, among others. Moreover, the chemicals in cigarettes (ammonia, acetone and formaldehyde, for example) may cause flare-ups of chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia. Smoking can even cut down the effectiveness of medications. It’s an irritant, like if you drank a bottle of Mr. Clean. “We’re trying to clear your body out, so why not stop smoking and lower the damage in general?”

Bone Loss
Smoking is a contributing factor in one of every eight hip fractures.  Indeed, smoking has been known to be a risk factor for osteoporosis for more than 20 years. A two-decade study found that smokers had a rise in marginal bone loss, compared to nonsmokers. Those who stopped smoking during the course of the study had much less bone loss than those who continued to smoke throughout. Your bones need oxygen, and the more you smoke, the more you deprive bones of oxygen and the bone de-mineralizes.

Erectile Dysfunction
Medical professionals have long suspected that smoking and impotence are related — and have produced many studies that support the theory. Recently, a Chinese study of more than 7,000 men found a link between the number of cigarettes men smoked and their likelihood of experiencing erectile dysfunction. Researchers even went as far as to suggest that more than 22 percent of all cases of erectile dysfunction might be related to smoking. It’s all about the vessels. A smoker has a higher chance of developing plaques in blood vessels, and there are blood vessels down in that area. So you don’t get enough blood flow and now your erection is limp.  Also, hypertension and diabetes, which are both linked to smoking, are often seen as precursors to erectile dysfunction.

Acid Reflux
Fifteen million Americans suffer from gastro-esophageal reflux disease — and one massive 2004 study found that long-time smokers were 70 percent more likely to have the uncomfortable condition than those who had smoked for only a year. The damage may not be reversible, but it is progressive and preventable: Smoking increases acid production in your stomach and irritates a muscular valve that sits atop the stomach, slowly loosening it over time; eventually, when a smoker lies on his side, acid from the stomach can more easily slip out of the valve and into the throat, causing a painful sensation. People who are smokers usually have some type of heartburn.  Smoking itself is an irritant.

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