Smoking

With many people falling ill from COVID-19 and other ailments, experts have advised the public to ensure good nutrition for maximum protection. They said unhealthy diets contribute to pre-existing conditions that put many more at risk.

A Nutritional Health Consultant, and founder of AskDrNne, Dr Nnedimma Iwueke, said nutrition plays a crucial role in overall health and wellbeing.

She said good nutrition ensures the proper functioning of organs and systems of the body while aiding the regrowth and replenishment of body tissues.

She said carbohydrates required for the energy needs of the body, protein needed for a formidable immune system, fats and oils for various functions and vitamins and minerals needed for different processes all contribute to the role of nutrition.

“In the face of the current coronavirus pandemic ravaging the whole world, the importance of proper nutrition is further emphasised. A stronger immune system is essential in resisting the viral infection; therefore, a proper nutrition is a basic need in this battle against COVID-19.”

Dr Iwueke said in fortifying the immune system, good nutrition helps to provide the building blocks of body cells that play important roles in immunity.

“For instance, antibodies are proteins that help in the recognition and elimination of viruses and infectious microorganisms from the body while macrophages attack and destroy viral particles. Similarly, certain food components such as Vitamin D boost the immune system against viruses and even some types of cancer.”

The nutrition expert also said for a healthy diet during this coronavirus pandemic, the World Health Organisation (WHO) advises on the need for a combination of strategies which includes adequate amount of water, sufficient amount of fresh, unprocessed fruits and vegetables, moderate amount of fats and oils; preferably unsaturated fats, limiting sugar and salt as well as eating at home to avoid contact with crowds.

“Alcohol and drug abuse should be avoided during this period as they also weaken the immune system. Those that consume alcohol should desist and consume more of vegetables and fruits to help them build strong immune system against any form of disease.

She said all forms of canned and carbonated drinks and fruit juices contain large amounts of sugar and should be avoided because such drinks significantly increase the risk of obesity, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and others.

Dr Iwueke also advised that fruits be taken in their fresh form and that vegetables should not be overcooked to ensure that nutritional contents were intact to supply vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” The notion that nutritious and safe diets support good health has been around at least since antiquity, as this quote, often mis-attributed to Hippocrates

Let not thy food be confused with thy medicine: The Hippocratic misquota…

The link between food and health has been documented since Antiquity.

What to eat and not to eat regularly grab news headlines, as consumers try to balance scientific advice and marketing trends with their own culinary traditions, pocketbooks, and local food options.

“Now, with so many people falling ill from the COVID-19, unhealthy diets are contributing to pre-existing conditions that put them more at risk. And in much of the world, illness also means loss of income,” she said.

The Founder and Product Developer, Moepelorse Bio Resources, Mojisola Karigidi, said as the coronavirus death toll continues to rise all over the world, it is definitely not a good time to visit the hospital for mild, non-COVID-19 conditions, adding that, “To the best of everyone’s ability, whether in Africa or elsewhere, it is crucial to maintain good health to avoid the risk of exposure to the disease.”

She said the nature of COVID-19 highlights the need to strengthen the immune system to limit the severity of the disease in the event that one is at risk of infection even as we maintain distance from other people, regularly wash hands and maintain general hygiene.

“The role of the immune system, which involves several interconnected parts like the white blood cells, antibodies, spleen, bone marrow, lymph nodes, and lymphocytes, among others – is to protect the body against diseases.

Studies have revealed that regular consumption of fruits and vegetables can keep one healthy and prevent sicknesses from becoming severe. Orange, grape, carrot, apple, banana, leafy greens are rich in vitamins, and are important for proper immune function. Malnutrition can impair the body’s ability to fight infections and illnesses, thereby, increasing the risk of death from diseases, including COVID-19.

Mrs Chuka Helen said the vegetable garden she cultivates within her compound has been helping her and her family over the years. She said it enables her feed her family with fresh and healthy meals.

She said she learnt from her parents that vegetables and fruits were good for the body and always included them in their meals.

“We also have lots of vegetables in our compound so, I get used to planting them wherever I live for my family consumption but for fruits, we buy from the market.”

Experts said good nutrition means eating varieties of food that give you the nutrients you need to maintain your health, feel good, and have energy. These nutrients include protein, carbohydrates, fat, water, vitamins, and minerals. It also means considering balance, variety and moderation in everything that you eat.

New research uses high quality data to find that the type 2 diabetes drug rosiglitazone raises the risk of adverse cardiovascular events by 33%.

Rosiglitazone is a drug originally developed to treat type 2 diabetes. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved it in 1999 under the name Avandia.

Although Europe suspended the drug due to concerns about its adverse effects on heart health, and the United States restricted its use, the research on its safety has so far yielded mixed results.

Now, a new study, appearing in the journal The BMJ has used more reliable data to investigate the effects of this drug on cardiovascular health.

Joshua D. Wallach, who is an assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at Yale School of Public Health in New Haven, CT, is the lead author of the new paper.

The need for more accurate data

The FDA approved rosiglitazone in 1999, a year ahead of Europe, note Wallach and colleagues in their paper.

Regulatory bodies warned about its potential effects on heart failure as early as 2006, and a meta-analysis of several trials pointed to a 43% higher risk of heart attack in 2007.

As a result, by 2010, the drug was pulled off European markets because it raised the risk of heart attack and stroke.

In the U.S., the drug is still available, although it features warnings on its packaging, and the FDA restricted its availability in 2010-2011.

The fact that the drug is still available is primarily due to the mixed results yielded by the investigation into the drug’s cardiovascular effects.

However, the new research suggests that these mixed results are due to the poor quality of the data that these previous studies used.

Namely, these previous papers did not have access to “individual patient data (IPD),” that is, raw data, such as the medical records of patients, instead of summary-level data, which are the final results of clinical trials, for example.

Studying rosiglitazone and heart health

To rectify this methodological problem, Wallach and colleagues set out to analyze over 130 clinical trials; the researchers had access to IPD for 33 of these trials. This totaled 48,000 adult patient data, of which researchers had IPD for 21,156.

The clinical trials were randomized, controlled, phase II-IV trials that had studied and compared the effects of rosiglitazone with any other control for at least 24 weeks.

“The control group was defined as patients who received any drug regimen other than rosiglitazone, including placebo,” explain the researchers.

The team examined the outcomes of “acute myocardial infarction, heart failure, cardiovascular-related death, and noncardiovascular-related death” in their analysis of trials for which they had IPD.

For the other trials, the researchers examined myocardial infarction and cardiovascular-related death only, using summary-level data.

A 33% higher risk of cardiovascular disease

The analysis revealed a 33% higher risk of heart attack, heart failure, cardiovascular deaths, and noncardiovascular-related deaths combined for people who were taking the drug compared with people who were taking another control substance, including placebo.

Wallach and colleagues conclude:

“The results suggest that rosiglitazone is associated with an increased cardiovascular risk, especially for heart failure events.”

The findings also serve to emphasize the importance of using raw data to accurately assess the safety of a drug, say the authors.

“Our study suggests that when evaluating drug safety and performing meta-analyses focused on safety, IPD might be necessary to accurately classify all adverse events,” they write.

“By including this data in research, patients, clinicians, and researchers would be able to make more informed decisions about the safety of interventions.”

“Our study highlights the need for independent evidence assessment to promote transparency and ensure confidence in approved therapeutics, and postmarket surveillance that tracks known and unknown risks and benefits.”

Asthma is a chronic lung condition in which the airways narrow and become inflamed, which leads to wheezing, coughing, and chest tightness. Extrinsic asthma and intrinsic asthma are subtypes of asthma.

The symptoms of these subtypes are the same, but they have different triggers:

  • Extrinsic asthma symptoms occur in response to allergens, such as dust mites, pollen, and mold. It is also called allergic asthma and is the most common form of asthma.
  • Intrinsic asthma has a range of triggers, including weather conditions, exercise, infections, and stress. People may call it nonallergic asthma.

In this article, we discuss the causes, symptoms, and treatment of intrinsic and extrinsic asthma.

Intrinsic vs. extrinsic asthma

Intrinsic and extrinsic asthma are two subtypes of asthma, which people more commonly refer to as allergic and nonallergic asthma.

Both types cause the same symptoms. The difference between the two subtypes is what causes and triggers asthma symptoms. The treatments are similar for each type, although the prevention strategies differ.

Triggers

Woman taking inhaler for asthma whilst playing football. Intrinsic and extrinsic asthma have the same symptoms but different triggers
Intrinsic and extrinsic asthma have the same symptoms but different triggers.

In people with extrinsic asthma, allergens trigger the respiratory symptoms. Common triggers for extrinsic asthma include:

  • pollen
  • mold
  • dust mites
  • pet dander
  • cockroaches
  • rodents

In some cases, a person is allergic to more than one substance, and several allergens trigger asthma symptoms.

In people with intrinsic asthma, allergies are not responsible for the symptoms. Instead, the following triggers cause symptoms:

  • cold
  • humidity
  • stress
  • exercise
  • pollution
  • irritants in the air, such as smoke
  • respiratory infections, such as colds, the flu, and sinus infections

In some cases, intrinsic asthma can occur with no known cause.

Prevalence

Extrinsic or allergic asthma is the most common form of the disease. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, about 60% of people with asthma have allergic asthma.

Less commonly, intrinsic or nonallergic asthma occurs. Research in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunologyindicates that intrinsic asthma occurs in anywhere from 10% to 33% of people with asthma.

It occurs more often in females than males and typically develops later in life than extrinsic asthma.

Causes

In all types of asthma, a person has overly sensitive airways and airway inflammation, which produces asthma symptoms.

Inflammation causes swelling in the airways that narrows the tubes and makes breathing difficult. The body also produces excess mucus, which further impairs breathing. These factors decrease the amount of air that can get into the lungs.

The inflammatory processes are similar in extrinsic and intrinsic asthma. In both, the immune system releases cells called T-helper cells and mast cells.

Research has found that there may be more similarities between the two types of asthma than researchers previously thought. Both types of asthma involve the production of IgE locally at the airways in response to the relevant triggers:

  • Extrinsic asthma occurs when the immune system overreacts to a harmless substance, such as pollen or dust. The body releases an antibody called immunoglobin E (IgE). The release of this antibody leads to inflammation and asthma symptoms.
  • Intrinsic asthma occurs when something other than allergens triggers an immune system response. People are not always able to identify the trigger.

Symptoms

The symptoms of extrinsic and intrinsic asthma are the same and may include:

  • wheezing
  • chest tightness
  • shortness of breath
  • coughing
  • increased mucus production
  • trouble breathing

Symptoms can vary in severity and may develop suddenly. Ignoring the signs and symptoms of an asthma attack can lead to a life-threatening situation. Recognizing symptoms as soon as possible and following an asthma action plan can help decrease the severity of an attack and reduce complications.

Treatments

The treatment options for intrinsic and extrinsic asthma are similar and include medications, lifestyle changes, and the avoidance of triggers. Since the triggers are different, the prevention strategies may differ.

Reducing triggers

It may be easier to identify the triggers for extrinsic asthma because allergies are the culprit. With both types of asthma, the identification of triggers allows an individual to take steps to reduce exposure and decrease symptoms.

The following steps can help reduce asthma symptoms in people with extrinsic asthma:

  • fixing leaky pipes to prevent mold buildup
  • keeping doors and windows closed when the pollen count is high
  • vacuuming often to reduce dust
  • keeping pets out of the bedroom

Triggers of intrinsic asthma do not involve a specific allergen. Due to the variability of triggers, it can take a little longer to determine the cause of flare-ups. People may find that avoiding humid, dry, or cold weather can prevent symptoms.

Medications

People can use the following medications to treat flare-ups of both intrinsic and extrinsic asthma:

Short-acting bronchodilators

Short-acting bronchodilators, also called quick relief medications, reduce symptoms fast. They work by relaxing the muscles of the airways.

Long-acting medications

People take long-acting bronchodilators daily, and they also open up the airways. Long-acting bronchodilators do not treat sudden symptoms as they take longer to work than short-acting bronchodilators.

Corticosteroids

Corticosteroids decrease inflammation in the airways. People take steroids daily to prevent symptoms.

Omalizumab

Omalizumab is an anti-IgE antibody therapy that prevents the release of IgE. Reducing IgE decreases the allergic response and prevents asthma symptoms.

People usually use omalizumab to treat extrinsic asthma, but it may also help with intrinsic asthma.

Lifestyle changes

Lifestyle changes might also help decrease symptoms of both types of asthma.

People with asthma may wish to consider adopting the following lifestyle practices:

  • maintaining a healthy weight
  • quitting smoking
  • avoiding secondhand smoke
  • reducing stress
  • getting a flu vaccine each year
  • washing the hands frequently to decrease the risk of infection

Outlook

Although there is currently no cure for either extrinsic or intrinsic asthma, people can manage the symptoms with medications, prevention methods, and lifestyle changes.

Intrinsic asthma is often harder to control than extrinsic asthma, as identifying its triggers is sometimes difficult. People can work closely with a doctor to determine the causes of asthma symptoms and find an effective treatment.

A team at George Mason University, Fairfax, VA, has uncovered another electronic cigarette health concern. This time, it relates to stroke risk.

In recent years, the popularity of e-cigarettes has soared.

A 2016 study found that 10.8 million adults in the United States were current e-cigarette users. It is common for people to switch from traditional cigarettes to the e-variety because they think they are a healthier option.

But newly issued health warnings have pointed to the potential risks of smoking e-cigarettes. In June 2019, the U.S. saw an outbreak of lung injuries associated with e-cigarettes.

Experts believe that vitamin E acetate — an ingredient found in some e-cigarettes containing THC — may be the link.

In December 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that more than 2,500 individuals from the U.S., Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands were hospitalized or died as a result of using vapes, e-cigarettes, or associated products.

Recent studies, albeit small-scale, have found both benefits and risks to e-cigarettes.

One study that appears in PNAS found that nicotine from e-cigarette smoke caused lung cancer in mice as well as precancerous growth in the bladder.

However, a second study, appearing in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, noted a significant improvement in vascular health within a month of a traditional smoker switching to e-cigarettes.

A trend among the young

Despite their nicotine content, the variety of e-cigarette flavors available has led to the products becoming a trend among young adults. There is also a concern this habit could lead to conventional cigarette smoking.

Equally worrying findings have come from a new study that appears in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. The study found that young adults smoking both traditional and e-cigarettes face a significantly higher risk of stroke.

Using data from the 2016-17 Behavior Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), the study examined smoking-related responses from a total of 161,529 people aged between 18 and 44.

Just over half of the respondents were female, with 50.6% identifying as white and just under a quarter identifying as Hispanic.

The team calculated the adjusted odds ratios for strokes among those who currently smoked, former smokers who now used e-cigarettes, and people who used both.

“It’s long been known that smoking cigarettes is among the most significant risk factors for stroke,” says lead investigator Tarang Parekh from George Mason University.

“Our study shows that young smokers who also use e-cigarettes put themselves at an even greater risk.”

Tarang Parekh

An important message and a ‘wake-up call’

The study identified that young adults who smoked both traditional and e-cigarettes were almost twice as likely to have a stroke compared with conventional cigarette smokers.

This risk rose to almost three times as likely when compared with non-smokers. Results also showed there was no clear advantage to switching from traditional cigarettes to e-cigarettes.

However, people using e-cigarettes who had never smoked before did not display an increased stroke risk. This may be down to factors including young age and normal heart health.

This study relied on self-reported data, which is a limitation. However, the findings prove the need for large-scale, long-term studies to confirm which detrimental health effects e-cigarettes are causing and which ingredients are responsible.

“This is an important message for young smokers who perceive e-cigarettes as less harmful and consider them a safer alternative,” Parekh states.

According to Parekh, the results are “a wake-up call” for policymakers to urgently regulate e-cigarette products “to avoid economic and population health consequences.”

“We have begun understanding the health impact of e-cigarettes and concomitant cigarette smoking, and it’s not good.”

Tarang Parekh

A big stress factor that isn’t usually addressed is pre-menopausal or menopause effect on sleep. If you’re 40 or over, you can agree that insomnia is real! This culprit must be addressed. Many women experience sleep problems before and during menopause when hormone levels and menstrual periods become irregular. Often, poor sleep sticks around throughout the menopausal transition and after menopause.

Hormones shift throughout women’s lives, and changes to estrogen, progesterone and other hormones can lead to recurring sleep problems well before the transition to menopause actively begins. You might think that a good night’s sleep is nothing but it becomes a precious commodity once you reach a certain age.

Hot flashes are sometimes referred to as, “personal summers.’ Any woman in this stage of life will tell you that if feels like your body has turned into an oven. Sleeplessness due to menopause is often associated with hot flashes. These unpleasant sensations of extreme heat can happen during the day or at night. Nighttime hot flashes are often paired with unexpected awakenings.

There are changes in the brain that lead to the hot flash itself, and those changes — not just the feeling of heat — may also be what triggers the awakening.

When they happen at night, hot flashes are called night sweats. Some women find that hot flashes interrupt their daily lives. The earlier in life hot flashes begin, the longer you may experience them. Research has found that black women get hot flashes for more years than white and Asian women.

Lifestyle changes to improve hot flashes
Before considering medication, first try making changes to your lifestyle.
If hot flashes are keeping you up at night, keep your bedroom cooler and try drinking small amounts of cold water before bed. Layer your bedding so it can be adjusted as needed. Some women find a device called a bed fan helpful. Here are some other lifestyle changes suggested by research:
• Dress in layers, which can be removed at the start of a hot flash.
• Carry a portable fan to use when a hot flash strike.
• Avoid alcohol, spicy foods, and caffeine. These can make menopausal symptoms worse.
• If you smoke, try to quit, not only for menopausal symptoms, but for your overall health.
• Try to maintain a healthy weight. Women who are overweight or obese may experience more frequent and severe hot flashes.
• Try mind-body practices like yoga or other self-calming techniques. Early-stage research has shown that mindfulness meditation, may help improve menopausal symptoms.

Here is what works for me and my suggestions from a few years of trial/errors, research, doctor’s input, etc:
1. Stop worrying about sleep! Period. It also meant I had to address other areas of my life. Most of what ails us is addressed holistically. As a first born with a type A personality, my default to is to find solutions which means my brain is working constantly. Sometimes, I ponder problems that have not yet been invented. Which also means that I’m not present in the moment. I lived in the future somewhere. However, I’ve learned to pay attention to the Here and Now, and enjoy those in my life circle. I endeavor to Live my best life and not try to fix everything. This helps quiet my mind.
2. It is perfectly okay to give yourself a limited amount of time to ‘stress or fuss’ after which you stop and move on to a mindless activity. Sleep will come.
3. Exercise is my go-to therapy. When I run, I sleep better.
4. Sex is a great precursor to sleep but only after both parties are fully satisfied. If the woman is a passive participant, she’ll have to watch her partner sleep joyfully next to her.
5. I am an avid aromatherapy advocate. We must be consistent in this. It takes a while for your body to acclimate to a particular scent. My scent of choice is lavender because it calms me.
6. I drink chamomile or any relaxing tea at night. This is a staple.
7. I love baths and my doctor suggested I take one before I sleep. I soak in the tub with bath beads, light candle. OR take a shower in the dark but rub your body with aroma oils and inhale.
8. Finally, once in a while, I find my way to my massage therapist, who usually says that my body is knotted up; however after 2 hours or so, I am loose and ready to climb in bed

Lung cancer is the second most common type of cancer in adults in the United States. It is also the leading cause of death from cancer.

Lung cancer treatment is much more effective when the disease is in its earlier stages. However, most people with lung cancer do not experience symptoms until the disease has spread.

Some people experience subtle symptoms of early stage lung cancer, but these symptoms more often stem from other health issues or factors such as smoking.

Below, we describe early symptoms of lung cancer, as well as risk factors and when to see a doctor.

Possible signs and symptoms of early stage lung cancer

According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), most types of lung cancer do not cause symptoms until they have spread to other areas.

However, some people experience subtle symptoms during the earlier stages of the disease.

The early lung cancer symptoms that we describe below usually result from some other cause. However, people who experience these symptoms should consider visiting their doctors as a precautionary measure.

Sudden weight loss

The American Society of Clinical Oncology report that weight loss is often the first noticeable sign of cancer.

They estimate that 40% of people who receive a cancer diagnosis experience unexplained weight loss during that time.

Cancer can cause weight loss for many reasons, including:

  • changes to immune function
  • changes to metabolism
  • changes to hormones
  • a sudden loss of appetite
  • difficulty swallowing

Shortness of breath

Shortness of breath and wheezing can also be early symptoms of lung cancer.

Some people may experience a slight cough in addition to shortness of breath. Others may have difficulty catching their breath but have no cough.

Cough

A slight cough that does not go away can indicate early stage lung cancer. Some people assume that this cough is only a result of smoking.

A person who regularly coughs because of another lung condition may notice changes in their cough, and these can likewise indicate lung cancer.

Also, a cough that produces blood may result from lung cancer or another issue with the lungs. Anyone who experiences this symptom should see a doctor.

General fatigue

Lung cancer can cause the number of red blood cells in the body to drop. The medical term for this issue is anemia.

Because red blood cells carry oxygen, a person with anemia may not take in enough oxygen to support their body’s needs. This can result in tiredness and fatigue. Severe fatigue can make it difficult to function on a day-to-day level.

Shoulder, chest, or back pain

Most people with lung cancer do not feel pain or other symptoms during the early stages. This is because there are very few nerve endings in the lungs.

However, pain can occur when lung cancer invades the chest wall, ribs, vertebrae, or certain nerves. For example, Pancoast tumors, which form at the very top of the lungs, often invade nearby tissues, causing shoulder pain.

As a tumor develops, a person may begin to feel pain in their:

  • arms
  • chest
  • back

Hoarse voice

A person with lung cancer or another respiratory disease may develop a hoarse, raspy voice.

This can happen if a tumor presses on the laryngeal nerve, which is located within the chest. When the nerve is compressed, it can paralyze a vocal cord, causing the voice to change.

Risks

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)cigarette smoking is still the biggest risk factor for lung cancer, accounting for 80–90% of lung cancer-related deaths.

Other risk factors for lung cancer include:

  • using other tobacco products, such as cigars or pipe tobacco
  • inhaling secondhand smoke
  • being exposed to radon gas, possibly from materials within the home
  • working with dangerous chemicals, such as asbestos, arsenic, or diesel
  • living in a highly polluted area
  • having other lung conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • having a family history of lung cancer

When describing risk, organizations and experts sometimes use the term “pack-year.” A pack-year refers to the number of cigarettes smoked per day each year. So a person with a 30 pack-year smoking history may have:

  • smoked one pack per day for 30 years
  • smoked two packs per day for 15 years

The ACS recommend yearly lung cancer screenings for people aged 55–74 who:

  • currently smoke or have quit smoking in the past 15 years
  • have at least a 30 pack-year smoking history
  • currently smoke and are receiving counseling to help them quit
  • are aware of the potential benefits and harms of screening
  • have access to a facility that has experience with lung cancer screening and treatment

Screening cannot detect every instance of lung cancer, but it does lower a person’s chance of dying from the disease.

Smokers vs. nonsmokers

According to the CDC, people who smoke are 15–30 times more likely to die from lung cancer than people who do not.

Meanwhile, according to statistics from 2013–2014, about 1 in 4 people who do not smoke, including children, are exposed to secondhand smoke. This increases their risk of developing the disease.

Quitting smoking at any age can lower the risk of lung cancer.

When to see a doctor

The symptoms above usually result from issues other than lung cancer. However, anyone who experiences any of the following issues should visit a doctor:

  • a cough that lasts longer than 2–3 weeks
  • a persistent cough that worsens
  • a cough that produces blood
  • aches or pains when breathing or coughing
  • persistent shortness of breath
  • persistent tiredness or fatigue
  • recurrent chest infections
  • unexplained weight loss

Summary

Lung cancer is the second most common form of cancer. It can affect anyone but is particularly prevalent among people who smoke.

Usually, lung cancer does not cause symptoms until it has spread. As a result, it is not always possible to detect lung cancer in its earliest stages.

Nonetheless, some people experience subtle symptoms during the initial stages. It is important to recognize these because treatment is typically more effective when a person receives it early.

Anyone who experiences early symptoms of lung cancer should see a doctor. In many cases, something other than cancer is the cause. Still, it is best to seek medical advice as a precaution.

Depression is a widespread mental health condition. Pregnant women have a higher risk of depression due to increased stress, physical health changes, chemical changes in the body, and other factors.

While estimates vary, a 2016 analysisTrusted Source suggests that between 7% and upwards of 20% of pregnant women around the world have depression. The actual rate could be higher, since some women may be reluctant to seek help.

Depression during pregnancy can have emotional, health, relationship, and financial effects. Some people know this condition as prenatal depression. However, the American Psychiatric Association no longer use this term. Instead, they use the term major depressive disorder with peripartum onset.

Depression during pregnancy is treatable.

In this article, learn more about the symptoms of depression during pregnancy, as well as the treatment options and when to see a doctor.

Signs and symptoms

It is normal to feel a mix of emotions during pregnancy and about being pregnant.

While a person with depression may feel sad, sadness is just one of many depression symptoms.

Some other signs include:

  • new or worsening feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness
  • not enjoying activities that were once fun or meaningful
  • withdrawing from friends, family, school, work, or hobbies
  • new physical health symptoms, such as headaches or stomach aches
  • trouble feeling excited about the pregnancy or bonding with the baby after childbirth
  • feelings of isolation and low self-esteem
  • trouble sleeping
  • sleeping too much
  • changes in eating habits, such as eating more or less than usual
  • thoughts of death or suicide
  • frequent crying
  • unexplained anger
  • relationship stress
  • difficulty following prenatal health recommendations because of feelings of helplessness or hopelessness

Suicide prevention

  • If you know someone at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting another person:
  • Call 911 or the local emergency number.
  • Stay with the person until professional help arrives.
  • Remove any weapons, medications, or other potentially harmful objects.
  • Listen to the person without judgment.

Risk factors

Anyone can become depressed during pregnancy, though some people are more vulnerable.

The authors of a 2017 analysisTrusted Source reviewed 5 years of previous studies on the topic and identified the following risk factors:

  • previous history of depression
  • little or no exercise
  • not having a partner
  • a history of abuse or trauma
  • abuse by a partner
  • feeling out of control
  • smoking
  • using certain drugs, such as opioids
  • sleep problems
  • immune system problems
  • having an unintended pregnancy
  • not having a job

Effects on pregnancy

Many women who experience depression during pregnancy have healthy pregnancies. Depression does not mean the baby will be unhealthy or make any particular pregnancy outcome inevitable.

However, research suggestsTrusted Source that depression during pregnancy may raise the risk of:

  • postpartum depression
  • depression in the baby’s father
  • premature birth
  • low birth weight
  • behavior problems or a difficult temperament in the baby
  • changes in the baby’s brain development

2011 studyTrusted Source emphasizes that untreated depression increases the risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes. Prompt treatment can improve the outcomes for both the pregnant woman and the developing fetus.

Treatments

Many people find that they must try several treatments or a combination of treatments to get relief from depression symptoms.

Some treatment options that may work include:

  • antidepressants to manage the chemical changes in the brain that depression causes
  • therapy to help the pregnant woman talk through emotions, identify coping skills, and getting support for the challenges of pregnancy
  • support from friends and family
  • family or relationship counseling to help expectant people talk about their emotions and manage the challenges of parenting
  • lifestyle changes, such as doing more exercise, as long as it is safe during pregnancy
  • support groups for expectant parents
  • treatment for any underlying medical conditions

Are antidepressants safe during pregnancy?

handful of studiesTrusted Source link antidepressant use during pregnancy to an increased risk of congenital disabilities. Some studies have also found an increased risk of premature birth and low birth weight.

However, many studies fail to control for other factors that might explain these outcomes, such as worse health in women with depression or the effects of depression itself on the pregnancy. Additionally, some of the research is contradictory and inconclusive. The side effects are not consistent across studiesTrusted Source.

The risks of untreated depression may outweigh any potential risks of antidepressants. Research has found that 60–70%Trusted Source of women who stop using antidepressants during pregnancy experience a return of depression symptoms.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists advise that the risk of side effects from antidepressants during pregnancy is low. The risk, they add, is highest in very early pregnancy—during the 3rd to 8th weeks.

Antidepressants are not the only treatment for depression during pregnancy, however. Therapy, lifestyle changes, support from friends and family, and sometimes family or couples counseling are also good options. Most people use a combination of treatments.

Some pregnant women prefer to try other treatments before choosing antidepressants. This strategy may work for some people, but not others.

When to see a doctor

Anyone who is pregnant and suspects they have depression should see their doctor as soon as possible. Most obstetricians and midwives have basic training in detecting depression in pregnant women.

They can also help a person decide on the right treatments and answer any questions they have about potential risks to the baby.

To get quality, comprehensive treatment, most people need additional support from a mental health professional.

A psychiatrist can help with deciding on the right medication, assessing the risk of side effects, and switching medications if necessary. A therapist, psychologist, or clinical social worker can also offer therapy and may recommend lifestyle or other changes to improve symptoms.

Summary

Depression during pregnancy can be an isolating experience. Friends and family may have unfair expectations that pregnant women always feel happy and fail to recognize the many challenges associated with pregnancy and parenthood.

Some women feel guilty or ashamed of their emotions or worry that depression means they are unfit for parenthood.

Depression is no one’s fault. It is a treatable medical condition. The hopelessness that comes with depression may convince a person that treatment will not work, or that they will feel miserable forever. These feelings are symptoms of depression, not a reasonable assessment.

Prompt treatment is vital to relieve symptoms and to help a woman have a healthy and content pregnancy.

As the use of marijuana is increasing in the United States, researchers are asking whether the use of this substance — particularly smoking joints — is associated with an increased risk of any form of cancer, and, if so, which.

Marijuana is one of the most widely used drugs in the United States, with more than one in seven adults reporting that they used marijuana in 2017.

Statistical reports project that sales of cannabis for recreational purposes in the U.S. will amount to $11,670 million between 2014 and 2020.

According to recent researchTrusted Source, smoking a joint remains one of the main ways in which individuals use marijuana recreationally.

While specialists already know that smoking tobacco cigarettes is a top risk factor for many forms of cancer, it remains unclear whether smoking marijuana can increase cancer risk in a similar way.

To try to find out whether there is a link between recreational marijuana use and cancer, researchers from the Northern California Institute of Research and Education in San Francisco and other collaborating institutions recently conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of studies assessing this potential association.

In their paper — which appears in JAMA Network OpenTrusted Source — the team notes that marijuana joints and tobacco cigarettes share many of the same potentially carcinogenic substances.

“Marijuana smoke and tobacco smoke share carcinogens, including toxic gases, reactive oxygen species, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, such as benzo[alpha]pyrene and phenols, which are 20 times higher in unfiltered marijuana than in cigarette smoke,” write first author Dr. Mehrnaz Ghasemiesfe and colleagues.

“Given that cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States and smoking remains the largest preventable cause of cancer death (responsible for 28.6% of all cancer deaths in 2014), similar toxic effects of marijuana smoke and tobacco smoke may have important health implications,” they go on to emphasize.

‘Misinformation — a threat to public health’

Dr. Ghasemiesfe and team identified 25 studies assessing the link between marijuana use and the risk of developing different forms of cancer. More specifically, eight of these studies focused on lung cancer, nine looked at head and neck cancers, seven examined urogenital cancers, and four covered various other forms of cancer.

The studies found associations of different strengths between long-term marijuana use and various forms of cancer.

The researchers note that the study results regarding the link between marijuana lung cancer risk were mixed — so much so that they were unable to pool the data.

For head and neck cancer, the researchers concluded that “ever use,” which they define as exposure equivalent to smoking one joint a day for 1 year, did not appear to increase the risk, although the strength of the evidence was low. However, the studies produced mixed findings for heavier users.

There was insufficient evidence to link this drug to a heightened risk of nasopharyngeal carcinoma, oral cancer, or laryngeal, pharyngeal, and esophageal cancers.

Among urogenital cancers, the investigators found that individuals who had used marijuana for more than 10 years appeared to have a higher risk of testicular cancer — more specifically, testicular germ cell tumors. Once again, however, the strength of the existing evidence was low.

There was insufficient evidence that marijuana use was associated with an increased risk of other forms of cancer, including prostate, cervical, penile, and colorectal cancers.

Dr. Ghasemiesfe and colleagues note that the studies that they had access to had many limitations, including numerous methodological problems and an insufficient number of participants who reported high levels of marijuana use.

Going forward, the team suggests that there is an urgent need for better quality studies assessing the potential relationship between marijuana and cancer. The researchers conclude:

“Misinformation [on this topic] may constitute an additional threat to public health; cannabis is being increasingly marketed as a potential cure for cancer in the absence of evidence, with enormous engagement in this misinformation on social media, particularly in states that have legalized recreational use.”

“As marijuana smoking and other forms of marijuana use increase and evolve, it will be critical to develop a better understanding of the association of these different use behaviors with the development of cancers and other chronic conditions and to ensure accurate messaging to the public,” they add.

The majority of people can donate blood. However, those who use nicotine products, cannabis products, or both may wonder whether or not they can donate blood.

Hospitals and health clinics use donated blood to treat various medical conditions. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the number of blood donations collected around the world per year exceeds 117.4 millionTrusted Source.

Blood donations can help with:

  • serious injuries
  • surgery
  • anemia
  • cancer
  • chronic illnesses

Read on to learn more about how different ways of using cigarettes, cannabis, and other drugs can affect a person’s ability to donate blood.

Nicotine

If a person smokes cigarettes or vapes, it does not disqualify them from donating blood.

However, both tobacco cigarettes and electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) contain harmful chemicals that may affect a person’s blood.

The American Lung Association claim that a burning cigarette produces more than 7,000 chemicals, including carbon monoxide, ammonia, and arsenic. Several of these chemicals are toxic, and 69 of them can cause cancer.

In addition to nicotine, e-cigarettes may contain the following harmful substances:

  • propylene glycol, which is present in paint solvents, antifreeze, and some foods (as an additive)
  • acetaldehyde, which is a toxic product of ethanol alcohol
  • formaldehyde, which is a chemical preservative present in disinfectants, glue, and plywood
  • diacetyl, which is a flavoring agent that tastes like butter
  • heavy metals, including nickel and lead
  • benzene, which is a chemical compound present in car exhaust

Currently, minimal information exists regarding the exact effects of vaping on blood donations. One thing to keep in mind is the fact that both vaping and smoking cigarettes can increase blood pressure.

According to American Red Cross guidelines, people can donate blood as long as their blood pressure is between 90/50 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) and 80/100 mm Hg.

In one 2018 studyTrusted Source, researchers compared blood donations from people who smoke with donations from people who do not smoke. They concluded that smoking cigarettes does not affect the overall quality of the donated blood.

However, the researchers did note that the donations from the people who smoke had higher concentrations of carboxyhemoglobin (COHb) in the red blood cells. COHb forms when red blood cells come into contact with carbon monoxide, significantly reducing the amount of oxygen that red blood cells can carry.

Based on these findings, the researchers recommend that people avoid smoking for 12 hoursTrusted Source before donating blood.

Cannabis

Like smoking cigarettes and vaping, smoking cannabis does not disqualify a person from donating blood.

Current scientific researchTrusted Source suggests that cannabis use can negatively impact the cardiovascular system by:

  • increasing blood pressure and heart rate
  • narrowing the blood vessels
  • causing inflammation in the vessel walls
  • promoting blood clots

However, these potential adverse health effects should not impact the quality of any donated blood.

That being said, Vitalant — a nonprofit blood service provider — explain that people must not be under the influence of recreational drugs or alcohol at the time of donation.

Other drugs

According to the American Red Cross, people with a history of recreational intravenous drug use are not eligible to donate blood. This requirement helps prevent the spread of HIV and hepatitis.

It is important to note that this is not the case for people who have used drugs in other ways, such as by smoking them or taking them orally. The American Red Cross and other blood donation companies do not specify drug use as an excluding factor.

However, a person does need to make sure that substances such as nicotine and cannabis are not in their system when donating blood.

Excluding factors

To donate blood, the general requirement is that a person should be at least 17 years old. A person can be 16 years old, but they must have a legal guardian’s consent.

Other factors that may disqualify a person from giving blood include:

  • feeling sick or having cold or flu symptoms
  • using intravenous drugs not prescribed by a licensed doctor
  • having an active infection
  • having HIV or testing positive for hepatitis B or C
  • having uncontrolled diabetes
  • having a blood clotting disorder
  • having ever had the Ebola virus
  • having blood cancers, such as leukemia or lymphoma
  • having received a blood transfusion within the past 12 months
  • having a heart rate below 50 beats per minute (BPM) or above 100 BPM
  • having recently traveled to a foreign country
  • being pregnant, or having given birth within the past 6 weeks

Read more about the advantages and disadvantages of donating blood here.

Summary

Although smoking cigarettes, vaping, and using cannabis will not disqualify a person from donating blood, they should refrain from smoking for at least 2 hoursTrusted Source before and after donating blood.

A person may feel lightheaded or weak after giving blood, and smoking can exacerbate these symptoms. It is a good idea to avoid smoking until these symptoms go away.

People with high blood pressure taking medication for their condition are more likely to benefit from the therapy if they have good oral health, according to new research in the American Heart Association’s journal Hypertension.

Findings of the analysis, based on a review of medical and dental exam records of more than 3,600 people with high blood pressure, reveal that those with healthier gums have lower blood pressure and responded better to blood pressure-lowering medications, compared with individuals who have gum disease, a condition known as periodontitis. Specifically, people with periodontal disease were 20 percent less likely to reach healthy blood pressure ranges, compared with patients in good oral health. Considering the findings, the researchers say patients with periodontal disease may warrant closer blood pressure monitoring, while those diagnosed with hypertension, or persistently elevated blood pressure, might benefit from a referral to a dentist.

“Physicians should pay close attention to patients’ oral health, particularly those receiving treatment for hypertension, and urge those with signs of periodontal disease to seek dental care,” Pietropaoli said. “Likewise, dental health professionals should be aware that oral health is indispensable to overall physiological health, including cardiovascular status,” said study lead investigator Davide Pietropaoli, D.D.S., Ph.D., of the University of L’Aquila in Italy. The target blood pressure range for people with hypertension is less than 130/80 mmHg according to the latest recommendations from the American Heart Association/American College of Cardiology.

In the study, patients with severe periodontitis had systolic pressure that was, on average, 3 mmHg higher than those with good oral health. Systolic pressure, the upper number in a blood pressure reading, indicates the pressure of blood against the walls of the arteries. While seemingly small, the 3mmHg difference is similar to the reduction in blood pressure that can be achieved by reducing salt intake by 6 grams per day (equal to a teaspoon of salt, or 2.4 grams of sodium), the researchers said.

The presence of periodontal disease widened the gap even farther, up to 7 mmHg, among people with untreated hypertension, the study found. Blood-pressure medication narrowed the gap, down to 3 mmHg, but did not completely eliminate it, suggesting that periodontal disease may interfere with the effectiveness of blood pressure therapy.

“Patients with high blood pressure and the clinicians who care for them should be aware that good oral health may be just as important in controlling the condition as are several lifestyle interventions known to help control blood pressure, such as a low-salt diet, regular exercise and weight control,” Pietropaoli said.

While the study was not designed to clarify exactly how periodontal disease interferes with blood pressure treatment, the researchers say their results are consistent with previous research that links low-grade oral inflammation with blood vessel damage and cardiovascular risk.

Untreated or poorly controlled hypertension can lead to heart attacks, strokes and heart failure, as well as kidney disease. Hypertension is estimated to claim 7.5 million lives worldwide.

Red, swollen, tender gums or gums that bleed with brushing and flossing are tell-tale signs of inflammation and periodontal disease. So are teeth that look longer than before, a sign of receding gums, and teeth that are loose or separating from the gum line.

Co-authors on the research included Rita Del Pinto, M.D., PhD candidate; Claudio Ferri, M.D.; Mario Giannoni, M.D., D.D.S.; Eleonora Ortu, D.D.S., Ph.D.; and Annalisa Moaco, D.D.S., M.Sc., of the University of L’Aquila, Italy; and Jackson Wright Jr., M.D., Ph.D., of Case Western Reserve University.