Posts Tagged blood tests
What if you knew exactly which tree was about to bloom and you could jump on top of your allergy medication rather than being smacked with the horrible red eyes, congestion and wheezing, out of the blue? Would that make your life better, more comfortable, and possibly, change your perspective on spring from “Oh No!” to “Wow, what a beautiful day!”. OK, that might be too extreme, but, maybe it would be enough tonot be completely miserable and to be able to be outside briefly without having a complete allergy breakdown. Getting an allergy test is easier than ever, with simple blood tests that are able to identify antibodies to specific allergans so you know whether it’s oak trees or ragweed that is causing you to sneeze, wheeze and sniffle. This coming month, May of 2013, has been declared Allergy Awareness Month because it is peak allergy season in many parts of the country. If you live in the south, as I do, we are already experiencing peak pollen records and have already set new records for extremely high pollen levels.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, food and digestive allergies in the US have been on the rise with an increase of 18% of US children now dealing with allergies up from 1997 levels and 25 million people are now living with asthma which is often triggered by allergies. Why? There are several reasons that scientists have proposed including the “hygiene hypothesis” which claims that we are keeping our houses too clean so children are no longer exposed to bacteria for which their bodies can develop immunities. But newer research says that it is more complex than that, the dirt isn’t the issue. We have moved away from our “microbial friends“, microbes which we have evolved with us and have been in our digestive systems for centuries. These microbes help us battle toxins and allergans. This theory says that perhaps we need to be outside and exposed to the right kind of dirt, eliminate pollutants and reduce stress so that our immune systems are better able to resist allergans. Some allergies are life threatening such as some people’s allergies to nuts and shellfish or bee stings so this issue addresses not just feeling awful, but some very serious business.
To prepare for the upcoming (or current) seasonal allergy symptoms you expect to be feeling there are some steps can help:
- Get tested and know what you are allergic to.
- Monitor the pollen levels in your area. If it has been a very rainy spring or summer you can expect a worse than usual allergy season.
- Protect yourself from the allergy triggers:
- Stay inside on days with very high pollen levels and if you go outside, wear a hat and sunglasses to protect your eyes from the pollen.
- Keep windows closed.
- Rinse off yourself and pets when you come back inside to remove the irritants. Pets can carry pollen inside with them on their paws.
- Get the proper treatment: nasal lavage, antihistamines, eye drops, nasal spray and even allergy shots or immunotherapy.
- Be aware that some foods may trigger your allergy symptoms as well. This is called the “oral allergy syndrome” idea and bananas, cucumbers, melons, zucchini, sunflower seeds, and chamomile tea may interact to trigger symptoms according to the AAAAI.
Get on top of your symptoms early and you can prevent some very uncomfortable days. Knowing what you’re up against is a great first step in having a much better spring!
Written by www.labtestingnow.com
Today is the 10th “National Wear Red Day” to promote heart health and awareness of heart disease risks and prevention. Did you put on something red this morning? Are you aware of your own risks or are you planning to think about it “one day” when you have time? Ignoring warning signs and risk factors won’t pay off in the end, so today is a good day to do a few simple things. You don’t have to do it all today, or this week, but each little step gets you closer to a healthier, longer life.
The Million Hearts Initiative, launched by the Department of Health and Human Services has a very quick way to check your risks and help you pick one or two goals that will help you focus on what’s important rather than a huge list of changes. The ABCs of heart health are something you should think about every day to keep you on the right track and focused on your heart. Start with a visit to get your blood pressure and cholesterol checked so you have a starting point and then get going with these easy steps:
A: Appropriate Aspirin Therapy for those who need it
B: Blood Pressure Control
C: Cholesterol Management
S: Smoking Cessation
Think about these when you start the day, when you talk to your health care provider or get your blood pressure and cholesterol checked and at any point that you know you can make a difference. Or pick one and focus on that first to get started. Taking care of your health isn’t rocket science, but it does take some attention to detail: Your Details. Start today! Red shirt or not, you can make a difference in your health right now.
Written by www.labtestingnow.com
Many Americans know that obesity is a problem in the United States both for adults and for children. In addition, this is the time of year when we all start to think about how things went (or grew) last year and what we want to do better during 2013. Have you decided that you are going to lose weight, eat better, exercise or any combination of these? If so, good luck and I hope that the gym membership and healthy food in the fridge gets put to good use! If you can stick to it for 3 weeks you may have a chance to really establish a good habit.
Knowing that obesity is a problem for so many of us isn’t surprising. What is surprising is that many people are unaware of how many ways being overweight or obese impacts their health. A recent poll conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research indicates that although most of us know obesity is related to heart disease and diabetes we are unaware of other serious effects including:
- Higher risk of cancers of the colon, breast, protate and uterus
- Greater difficulty locating tumors
- Arthritis – the vicious cycle of gaining weight makes it more difficult to exercise and shed pounds which helps to improve arthritis
- High blood pressure and high cholesterol
- Respiratory problems such as sleep apnea and asthma
If more Americans were aware of the additional risks of being overweight or obese, it might motivate them to work harder to shed excess weight. It is not only about looks but about the ability to live a longer, healthier life. Since now is the perfect time to jump on the health bandwagon you should start with a baseline of your current health with blood tests for cholesterol, blood pressure and overall heart health, along with your weight and measurements so you can create a picture of where you want to be and what changes or improvements you’ll need to make to reach your goals. According to the survey most people support posting nutritional information in restaurants so as this information becomes available we need to take advantage of it. The majority of Americans are against any government restrictions including food taxes and restrictions on what we are able to buy. This means it is up to each of us to make the right choices for so many reasons!
Written by www.labtestingnow.com
An interesting study has been released in the Journal of the American Medical Association showing that obese people who contract diabetes live longer than normal weight people who develop the disease! What’s up with this? So now, if I have diabetes, I don’t have to worry about losing weight? Not so fast. As always, the results aren’t clear cut and the researchers are trying to determine what the results mean for how people with diabetes should react. The study followed 2,600 people who developed diabetes during the study. 12% of them were of normal weight. 2.8% of the normal weight participants died during the study while only 1.5% of the obese participants died. The study controlled for age, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking, which are all factors for heart disease. The death rate was twice as high for lean diabetics than for their obese peers. Normally, heart disease is linked to obesity, which is causing some head scratching among the researchers, although this “Obesity Paradox” has been seen in other diseases.
It appears that there may be something about being obese that protects the heart or it could be that those who are of normal weight and develop diabetes have other things going on that causes their higher mortality. The findings apply to a growing segment of the population and will make it more confusing for doctors who are treating the lean diabetes patient. Controlling blood sugar and exercising will still be key for controlling diabetes but losing weight may not be as important. The next step in studies like this may shed more light on how to handle the “Obesity Paradox” as some researchers have dubbed it. Doctors will want to watch normal weight people who contract diabetes more carefully as they are at a higher risk of death, but what should they tell them that they haven’t already been telling diabetic patients? If you have diabetes, you’ll want to follow this study and others like it carefully, along with all the other monitoring of blood sugar, cholesterol, and weight that you are already tracking.
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If you are a male over 50 have you had a PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) test? Should you? The results of a new study, the Prostatectomy Versus Observation Trial (PIVOT) study provided a lot of information but how you and your doctor should interpret the information doesn’t seem any clearer than before. The message that is clear is that each person is different and men will need to make decisions based on what they are comfortable with. If you have more than 10 years to live then having a PSA test makes sense, but surgery may not. Prostate surgery carries signficant risks of unwanted and unpleasant side effects like urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction. Physician responses are mixed on these results which suggest that there is not a significant difference in survival for those who had surgery during the study period (1994 and 2002) and those who maintained a watch and wait attitude.
Men who have a aggressive prostate cancer, those with high Gleason scores between 7 and 10 and those with high volume prostate cancer, appear to have benefited most with surgery. A large percentage of men over 85 have prostate cancer but their cause of death is from something else. Up to two-thirds of men who have received a diagnosis of prostate cancer have a low PSA value or low-risk disease, but nearly 90% receive early intervention — typically surgery or radiotherapy. The study appears to show that the early intervention may cause more harm than good. So what would you do? Deaths due to prostate cancer have dropped 50% since the early 1990′s when PSA testing became more common. Ultimately, each man is on his own, wading through the research and their own personal health, to make the decision. And isn’t that true for most important decisions anyway? Read up all you want, but take the precautions that make sense, like knowing your PSA score, and then muddle through.
Written by www.labtestingnow.com
Do you wait until the last minute to make your doctor’s appointment? Do you put it off completely and never get around to it at all? This month is Men’s Health Month and the Men’s Health Network is trying to get you to pay attention. Many people feel too busy to take care of themselves until something’s wrong. The truth is that most disease is either preventable or easily treatable if it’s caught early enough. Waiting and hoping that the day you are sick will never come is the wrong approach.
It has been proven that one of the best ways to stay healthy is to get tested, establish a baseline, and then track your test results over time. Critical tests that should be on your list, whether you get the tests at a doctor’s office, health fair or lab testing facility, include a PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) test, a Testosterone test, and basic chemistry and lipid panels. Establishing a baseline for your PSA level allows you and your doctor to be aware of changes. Everyone’s levels are different so a change is an important factor in catching prostate problems early.
As men age their testosterone levels may drop which can cause fatigue, low libido, depression, and even diabetes and coronary artery disease. Until recently most people, including doctors, thought that reduced testosterone was a normal part of aging, but it is now recognized as a deficit that can lead to other serious disorders. New research shows that men taking supplemental testosterone due to low levels lost weight, in addition to other expected benefits like more energy and increased libido! Obesity causes numerous health problems. What if low testosterone is an underlying cause of obesity? With one simple test and follow on treatment some diseases can be avoided.
Most of us are aware that we should be having our cholesterol levels checked and adjusting our lifestyles to keep these levels low, it’s easier said than done. Getting poor lipid test results may be what you need to motivate you to really change things. Knowing where you are is essential to getting where you want to be: a long, healthy life. Even just making the appointment and working hard to keep it can be the first step to a not only a healthier month but a healthier life.
Written by: www.labtestingnow.com
Yesterday an FDA advisory panel recommended approval of Truvada for pre-exposure phylaxis (PrEP) of HIV. While many in the HIV and AIDS medical and research community support the move, many others fear that it will reduce the use of condoms, which are critical for HIV prevention. The question is: Will those in high risk categories, those who engage in risky sexual behaviors or use intraveneous drugs, actually adhere to a medical prevention protocol, especially if they are already having difficulty consistently using condoms? While I think it’s possible that there are those in committed relationships with someone who is HIV positive who may be able to tolerate the serious side effects, the majority of those at risk for contracting HIV may not be able to stick with the regimen.
Studies have shown that getting tested and realizing that you are positive reduces the risk you will pass it on. Just the awareness that someone is putting someone else in danger may deter people from risky behavior. But getting tested and the use of a preventive medication requires that people actually care about their role in the spread of HIV. The continued large number of new cases every year, which is approximately 50,000 according to the Centers for Disease Control, and the 21% increase in new cases in young men aged 13-29 is fueled by the 34% increase in cases among young gay and bisexual men. It would be great if this could be another tool in the HIV prevention toolbox that doesn’t make people feel safe skipping the condom. Let’s hope that the right message on this “HIV Prevention Pill” gets out and it helps to stem the tide of new HIV infections and unnecessary disease.
Written by www.labtestingnow.com
I know I’m not the only one suffering from horrendous allergies this year. With the warmer winter in the south and the earlier spring many more of us are suffering from allergies in the form of sneezing, sniffling and coughing than usual at this time of year. The number of people with allergies continues to rise and a lot of them don’t even know that allergies are causing their particular sneezing and discomfort. New research printed in Nature last week suggests the possibility that some peoples’ bodies are actually trying to protect them from environmental toxins. It is often thought that allergies are your immune responses going haywire. But what if your body is trying to tell you to stay away from something that causes cancer? The article in Nature suggests that the immune response is trying to expel a toxin, such as helminthes (parasites), noxious chemicals, animal venoms, and environmental irritants that may cause cancers, such as gliomas or brain tumors. Alternatively, your immune system may be telling you to avoid that particular toxic environment.
There are now easier ways to determine what you are allergic to, including a simple blood test for allergies that can identify hundreds of allergens that you may be allergic or sensitive to, allowing you to avoid it or treat it. The research also suggests that eliminating symptoms, other than those that are extreme, such as anaphylactic shock, may not be the right option. If we stay in a particular environment because we can eliminate the sniffling then we may be continuing to take in the toxin our body is trying to protect us from. This is an interesting study and provides hints of possible treatments and preventatives from allergies the future. For now, since I know I’ll need to go outside at some point, I’ll continue treating my allergies with antihistamines, like most of my family and friends.
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