Monday, September 29, 2014

Brain power

With all the information from the Internet, we would expect people to be more knowledgeable about many things. However, many unnecesary things distract us from the more important ones.

Filtering the information we get is crucial in maintaing a sharp and astute mind.
As we grow older, we need to always exrecise not only our bodies but also our brain.

According to research, older adults who have active lives keep their brains fit and healthy, too.

Here sre some tips to maintain a healthy mind:
  • Learn something new – or try something different – everyday.
  • Play mind-stretching games such as Scrabble, chess and cards.
  • Do the crossword puzzle in the daily newspaper.
  • Read books and magazine articles.
  • Attend lectures, plays, and exhibits, and watch educational television
  • Use memory aids, such as appointment calendars, “to do” lists, and Post-it notes. 

Also, concentrate on what people say, repeat what you want to remember out loud, and associate an action with an object.    

Used with permission from A Year of Health Hints by Don R Powell, PHD and the American Institute for Preventive Medicine, copyright 2010.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Basic Health Tips While Travelling

When travelling, to avoid getting sick, remember the following tips:

Before travelling:
  • Have a medical check-up to be sure you are healthy before you travel.
  • Find out if the place you are going to has vaccination requirements and see your doctor weeks before your scheduled departure.
  • Research / know more about the place you are going to with regard to weather, medical facilities, etc.
  • Pack a first aid kit and some basic medicines or your usual supplements.
  • Use luggage with wheels so it doesn’t put pressure on your back and joints.
  • If you need a wheelchair or other disability needs, make arrangements for it in advance.
  • Get a travel health insurance.

While travelling:
  • Drink only bottled water.
  • Avoid ice in drinks.
  • Avoid fruits and vegetables that have been washed in local water.
  • Make sure food is cooked thoroughly.
  • Avoid street foods.
  • Wear mosquito repellent.

Monday, September 15, 2014

ALS, Part 1

With the "Ice Bucket Challenge" going viral online, let us discuss the disease behind this fund-raising campaign.

According to medical dictionary, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)—also referred to as "Lou Gehrig's disease" in the United States — is a neurodegenerative disorder. This is also referred to as "Motor Neurone Disease" (MND) in the British Commonwealth.  ALS is characterized by muscle spasticity (tight and stiff muscles), rapidly progressive weakness due to muscle atrophy, and difficulty in speaking (dysarthria), swallowing (dysphagia), and breathing (dyspnea). 

In the U.S., more than 5,600 are diagnosed every year, and up to 30,000 Americans are currently affected. ALS is responsible for 2 deaths per 100,000 people per year.

The survival time from onset to death is 39 months, and only 4% survive longer than 10 years. Rare cases survive 50 years or more (like physicist Stephen Hawking). Most die from respiratory failure, usually within three to five years from onset of symptoms.

The disorder causes the motor neurons to degenerate and impulses to the muscle fibers can no longer be sent, thus the inability to move the muscles.  About 75% of people contracting the disorder experience "limb onset," i.e., first symptoms in the arms or legs. Patients with the leg onset form may experience awkwardness when walking or running or notice that they are tripping or stumbling, often with a "dropped foot" which drags gently along the ground. Arm-onset patients may experience difficulty with tasks requiring manual dexterity such as buttoning a shirt, writing, or turning a key in a lock.

The muscles then begin to atrophy and limbs begin to look “thinner.” Persons with this disorder may ultimately lose the ability to initiate and control all voluntary movement, though bladder and bowel function and the muscles responsible for eye movement are usually spared until the last stages of the disorder.  The eye movements remain unaffected largely until the later stages due to differences in the extra-ocular muscles compared to the skeletal muscles that are initially and readily affected.

Next week we shall continue discussing ALS (possible causes and treatment)  – J.P.

Monday, September 8, 2014

ALS, Part 2

There are no direct known causes yet of ALS. However, a number of genetic mutations have been associated with various types of ALS.

Defect on chromosome 21
A defect on chromosome 21, which codes for superoxide dismutase, is associated with approximately 20% of familial cases of ALS, or about 2% of ALS cases overall. This mutation is believed to be transmitted in an autosomal dominant manner, and has over a hundred different forms of mutation. 

In 2011, a genetic abnormality known as a hexanucleotide repeat was found, which is associated with ALS combined with frontotemporal dementia and accounts for some 6% of cases of ALS. 

Certain studies suggested a link between sporadic ALS, specifically in athletes, and a diet enriched with branched-chain amino acids. BCAAs, a common dietary supplement among athletes, cause cell hyper-excitability resembling that usually observed in ALS patients. The proposed underlying mechanism is that cell hyper-excitability results in increased calcium absorption by the cell and thus brings about cell death of neuronal cells, which have particularly low calcium buffering capabilities.

Lesion to the motor system
Another very common cause of ALS is a lesion to the motor system in areas such as the frontotemporal lobes. Lesions in these areas often show signs of early deficit, which can be used to predict the loss of motor function, and result in the spread of ALS.

Many other potential causes, including chemical exposure, electromagnetic field exposure, occupation, physical trauma, and electric shock, have been investigated but without consistent findings.

There is still no known cure for ALS. But there are treatments. There is Rilutek, which slows down the progression of the disease. Other nutrients that show promise are: creatine, CoQ10, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, alpha lipoid acid and lithium, which has been said to show the most successful demonstration as treatment to ALS.

But naturally, keeping oneself healthy and the immune system strong can help combat any disease.