Stroke

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

Researchers have found that living in polluted cities may cause the bones to be weaker and easier to break.

The researchers also found that city-dwellers exposed to toxic air have weaker hips and spines and are more prone to fractures

The Spanish researchers believe that bones are weakened because tiny pollutants seep into the blood when inhaled and speed up the ageing process.

A study carried out India of nearly 4,000 people found that those exposed to toxic particles had less bone density in their lower back and those who inhaled more toxic airborne particles had less bone mass in their spines and hips.

Meanwhile, previous studies have linked pollution to low levels of parathyroid hormone, which regulates calcium production, leading to more fragile bones.

Researchers found that smog-filled towns and cities have been linked to an increased risk of stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, acute respiratory diseases such as asthma and even dementia.

Although, there have only been a few studies into the effect of toxic airborne particles on bone health, the results have so far been inconclusive.

Researchers from the Barcelona Institute for Global Health in their latest paper, looked at 3,700 people who were all residents from 28 villages outside the city of Hyderabad in southern India between 2009 and 2012.

The researchers took measurements of PM2.5 and black carbon in the atmosphere in each village.

PM2.5 is the finest type of particulate matter, while black carbon is a larger toxin. Both come mainly from petrol and diesel vehicle exhausts.

Their analysis revealed average PM2.5 exposure was 33 micrograms per metre cubed (ug/m3) – far above the maximum 10ug/m3 levels recommended by the World Health Organisation.

By comparison, the average level is 13ug/m3 in London, 12ug/m3 in New York and 10ug/m3 in Sydney.

The researchers also cross-referenced pollution levels with X-rays measuring bone mass in participants’ lower back, known as the lumbar spine, and hip.

The results showed that exposure to air pollution was associated with lower levels of bone mass.

For every 3ug/m3 increase in fine particulate matter, there was a decrease of -0.57g of bone mass in the spine and -0.13g in the hip, while an increase of 1ug/m3 of carbon saw bone density shrink by -1.13g in the spine and -0.35g in the hip.

The study lead author, Otavio Ranzani said: “This study contributes to the limited and inconclusive literature on air pollution and bone health.

“Inhalation of polluting particles could lead to bone mass loss through the oxidative stress and inflammation caused by air pollution.’ The findings were published in the journal Jama Network Open.

However, a 2017 study by Columbia University of more than nine million people was the first to find a link between traffic fumes and fractures caused by osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis is a health condition that weakens bones, making them fragile and more likely to break.

The study linked pollution exposure to low levels of parathyroid hormone, which regulates calcium production, leading to weaker bones and more hospitalisations for fractures.

The study found hospital admissions for bone fractures were higher in communities with elevated levels of PM2.5, as more than 80 per cent of the world’s urban population is breathing unsafe levels of air pollution.

Described as an invisible killer, it causes an estimated seven million premature deaths yearly worldwide, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

However, health experts fear that pollution is also fuelling increases in degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

Previous studies found that air pollution has a negative impact on students’ cognitive abilities.

Many pollutants are thought to directly affect brain chemistry in a variety of ways.

For instance, particulate matter from traffic and industry can carry toxins through small passageways and directly enter the brain.

Culled from www.dailymail.co.uk

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.

The term “vasodilation” refers to a widening of the blood vessels within the body. This occurs when the smooth muscles in the arteries and major veins relax.

Vasodilation occurs naturally in response to low oxygen levels or increases in body temperature. Its purpose is to increase blood flow and oxygen delivery to parts of the body that need it most.

In certain circumstances, vasodilation can have a beneficial effect on a person’s health. For example, doctors sometimes induce vasodilation as a treatment for high blood pressure and related cardiovascular conditions. However, vasodilation can also contribute to certain health conditions, such as low blood pressure and several chronic inflammatory conditions.

Keep reading for more information on the effects of vasodilation on the body. This article also outlines the conditions that may cause vasodilation and the conditions in which vasodilation might function as a treatment.

Function

Vasodilation refers to the widening of the arteries and large blood vessels. It is a natural process that occurs in response to low oxygen levels or increases in body temperature. It increases blood flow and oxygen delivery to areas of the body that require it most.

A doctor may sometimes induce vasodilation as a treatment for high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, and its related conditions. Examples of such conditions include:

  • pulmonary hypertension, which is high blood pressure that specifically affects the lungs
  • preeclampsia and eclampsia, both of which are potential complications of pregnancy
  • heart failure

A doctor may also induce vasodilation to improve the effects of a drug or radiation therapy. Vasodilation seems to be beneficial for this purpose because it increases the delivery of drugs or oxygen to the tissues that these treatments are designed to target.

Causes

There are several potential causes of vasodilation. Some of the most common include:

  • Exercise: Vasodilation enables the delivery of extra oxygen and nutrients to the muscles during exercise.
  • Alcohol: Alcohol is a natural vasodilator. Some people may experience alcohol-induced vasodilation as warmth or facial skin flushing.
  • Inflammation: Inflammation is the body’s way of repairing damage. Vasodilation assists inflammation by enabling the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to damaged tissues. Vasodilation is what causes inflamed areas of the body to appear red or feel warm.
  • Natural chemicals: The release of certain chemicals within the body can cause vasodilation. Examples include nitric oxide and carbon dioxide, as well as hormones such as histamine, acetylcholine, and prostaglandins.
  • Vasodilators: These are medications that widen the blood vessels. Doctors sometimes use these drugs to help treat hypertension and associated conditions.

Vasodilation vs. vasoconstriction

Vasoconstriction is the opposite of vasodilation. Vasoconstriction refers to the narrowing of the arteries and blood vessels.

During vasoconstriction, the heart needs to pump harder to get blood through the constricted veins and arteries. This can lead to higher blood pressure.

Conditions associated with vasodilation

Vasodilation can give rise to the conditions outlined below.

Low blood pressure

The widening of blood vessels during vasodilation promotes blood flow. This has the effect of reducing blood pressure within the walls of the blood vessels.

Vasodilation therefore creates a natural drop in blood pressure.

Some people experience abnormally low blood pressure, or hypotension. In some cases, this may lead to symptoms including:

  • nausea
  • blurred vision
  • lightheadedness or dizziness
  • confusion
  • weakness
  • fainting

Chronic inflammatory conditions

Vasodilation also plays an important role in inflammation. Inflammation is a process that helps defend the body against harmful pathogens and repair damage caused by injury or disease.

Vasodilation assists inflammation by increasing blood flow to damaged cells and body tissues. This enables more effective delivery of the immune cells necessary for defense and repair.

However, chronic inflammation can cause damage to healthy cells and tissues. This can result in DNA damage, tissue death, and scarring.

Some conditions that can trigger inflammation and associated vasodilation include:

  • infections
  • severe allergic reactions
  • chronic inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, lupus, and Sjogren’s syndrome

Factors that can affect vasodilation

There are several factors that can affect vasodilation. Some of the more common examples are outlined below.

Temperature

A person’s body contains nerve cells called thermoreceptors, which detect temperature changes in the environment.

When the environment becomes too warm, the thermoreceptors trigger vasodilation. This directs blood flow toward the skin, where excess body heat can escape.

Weight

People with obesity are more likely to experience changes in vascular reactivity. This may occur when the blood vessels do not constrict and dilate as they should.

Specifically, people with obesity have blood vessels that are more resistant to vasodilation. This increases the risk of hypertension and associated cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attack and stroke.

Age

Blood vessels contain receptors called baroreceptors. These constantly monitor blood pressure and trigger vasoconstriction or vasodilation as needed.

As a person ages, their baroreceptors become less sensitive. This can reduce their ability to maintain steady blood pressure levels.

Blood vessels also become stiffer and less elastic with age. This makes them less able to constrict and dilate as needed.

Altitude

The air at high altitudes contains less available oxygen. A person at high altitude will therefore experience vasodilation as their body attempts to maintain oxygen supply to its cells and tissues.

Although vasodilation decreases blood pressure in major blood vessels, it can increase blood pressure in smaller blood vessels called capillaries. This is because capillaries do not dilate in response to increased blood flow.

Increased blood pressure within the capillaries of the brain can cause fluid to leak into surrounding brain tissue. This results in localized swelling, or edema. Medical professionals refer to this condition as high-altitude cerebral edema (HACE).

People at high altitudes may also experience vasoconstriction within the lungs. This can cause a buildup of fluid within the lungs, which medical professionals refer to as high-altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE).

Both HACE and HAPE can be life threatening if a person does not receive treatment.

Medications that induce or treat vasodilation

In some cases, a doctor may induce vasodilation as a treatment for certain conditions. In other cases, vasodilation may be what requires treatment.

Medications that induce vasodilation

Vasodilators are medications that cause the blood vessels to widen. Doctors may use these drugs to reduce blood pressure and ease any strain on the heart muscle.

There are two types of vasodilator: drugs that work directly on the smooth muscle, such as that in the blood vessels and heart, and drugs that stimulate the nervous system to trigger vasodilation.

The type of vasodilator a person receives will depend on the condition they have that needs treatment.

People should be aware that vasodilators can cause side effects. These may include:

  • increased heart rate
  • flushing
  • fluid retention

Medications that treat vasodilation

Vasodilation is an important mechanism. However, it can sometimes be problematic for people who experience hypotension or chronic inflammation.

People with either of these conditions may require medications called vasoconstrictors. These drugs cause the blood vessels to narrow.

For people with hypotension, vasoconstrictors help increase blood pressure. For people with chronic inflammatory conditions, vasoconstrictors reduce inflammation by restricting blood flow to certain cells and body tissues.

Summary

Vasodilation refers to the widening, or dilation, of the blood vessels. It is a natural process that increases blood flow and provides extra oxygen to the tissues that need it most.

In some cases, doctors may deliberately induce vasodilation as a treatment for certain health conditions. For example, they may prescribe vasodilators to lower a person’s blood pressure and help protect against cardiovascular diseases.

In other cases, doctors may work to reduce vasodilation, as it can worsen conditions such as hypotension and chronic inflammatory diseases. Doctors sometimes use drugs called vasoconstrictors to help treat these conditions.

A person can talk to their doctor if they have any concerns about their blood pressure.

For those with metabolic syndrome, the necessary lifestyle and weight changes can be challenging. Now, a study has shown that eating within a certain time window can help tackle that.

Metabolic syndrome is an umbrella term for a number of risk factors for serious conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. These risk factors include obesity and high blood pressure, among others.

This is no small issue in the United States, where one-third of adults have metabolic syndrome. In fact, the condition affects around 50% of people aged 60 and over.

Obesity is also prevalent, affecting around 39.8% of adults in the U.S. Obesity is closely linked to metabolic syndrome.

Receiving a diagnosis of metabolic syndrome offers a critical window of opportunity for making committed lifestyle changes before conditions such as diabetes set in.

However, making the necessary long-term lifestyle changes to improve one’s health outlook is not always easy. Such changes include losing weight, managing stress, being as active as possible, and quitting smoking.

For the first time, a new study has looked into time-restricted eating, or intermittent fasting, as a means of losing weight and managing blood sugar and blood pressure for people with metabolic syndrome.

This new study, which appears in the journal Cell Metabolism, is set apart from previous studies that looked at the health and weight loss benefits of time-restricted eating in mice and healthy people.

“[People] who have metabolic syndrome/prediabetes are often told to make lifestyle interventions to prevent progression of their risk factors to […] disease,” said co-corresponding study author Dr. Pam Taub, of the University of California San Diego School of Medicine.

“These [people] are at a crucial tipping point, where their disease process can be reversed.”

“However, many of these lifestyle changes are difficult to make. We saw there was an unmet need in [people] with metabolic syndrome to come up with lifestyle strategies that could be easily implemented.”

Clinical testing of time-restricted eating

Armed with the knowledge that time-restricted eating and intermittent fasting had been effective in treating and reversing metabolic syndrome in mice, the researchers set out to test these findings in a clinical setting.

“There are a lot of claims in the lay press about promising lifestyle strategies that have no data to back up the claims. We wanted to study [time-restricted eating] in a rigorous, well-designed clinical trial,” said Dr. Taub.

Participants could eat what they wanted, when they wanted, within 10-hour windows.

The good news for the 19 participants with metabolic syndrome was that they could decide how much to eat and when they ate, as long as they restricted their eating to a window of 10 hours or less.

A 10-hour window had been effective with mice, and it offered people enough leeway that would be easy to comply with long-term.

“The participants in the study had control of their eating window,” said Dr. Taub. “They could determine which 10-hour period they wanted to consume calories. They also had flexibility in adjusting their eating window by a couple [of] hours based on their schedule.”

“Overall, participants felt they could adhere to this eating window. We did not restrict how many calories they consumed during their eating window,” Dr. Taub told Medical News Today.

Most of the participants had obesity, and 84% were taking at least one medication, such as an antihypertensive drug or a statin.

Metabolic syndrome is associated with at least three of the following: high blood pressure, high fasting blood sugar, high triglyceride (body fat) levels, low high-density lipoprotein, or “good,” cholesterol, and abdominal obesity.

Weight loss and better sleep

“As they started to adhere to this eating window, they started feeling better with more energy and better sleep, and this was positive reinforcement for them to continue with this 10-hour eating window,” said Dr. Taub.

Almost all the participants ate breakfast later (around 2 hours after waking) and dinner earlier (around 3 hours before bed).

The study lasted for 3 months, during which time the participants showed a 3% weight and body mass index (BMI) reduction, on average, and a 3% loss of abdominal, or visceral, fat.

“All of these improvements reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease,” said Dr. Taub.

Also, many participants showed a reduction in blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as improvements in fasting glucose. They also reported having more energy, and 70% reported an increase in the amount of time they slept or experienced sleep satisfaction.

The participants said that the plan was easier to follow than counting calories or exercising, and more than two-thirds kept it up for around a year after the study ended.

Dr. Taub recommends that anyone interested in trying time-restricted eating speak to their healthcare provider first, especially if they have metabolic syndrome and are taking medication, as weight loss may mean that medications require adjustment.

Asthma makes people’s airways hyperreactive, causing them to get smaller and often resulting in difficulty breathing. While it is not always possible to prevent asthma, people can try to avoid risk factors such as smoking, being overweight, and having prolonged exposure to air pollution.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)asthma is responsible for around 10 deaths per day in the United States.

Although asthma affects both children and adults, adults are four times as likely to die from asthma-related complications than young people.

So, preventing asthma symptoms whenever possible is vital. The following are some avoidable asthma risk factors.

1. Smoking

Exposure to firsthand cigarette smoke can irritate the airways and make it more likely that a person with asthma will have more frequent and severe symptoms.

This is also true for secondhand smoke. Even when people smoke outside the home or in a car, the lingering smoke and chemicals can expose others to secondhand smoke.

Children whose mothers smoke cigarettes during pregnancy are also at greater risk of asthma than children whose mothers do not, according to the American Lung Association.

2. Obesity

Doctors are not yet sure of the underlying cause, but obesity seems to be linked with asthma. Scientists have a theory that obesity can cause inflammation in the body, including in the airways, leading to asthma.

Obesity increases the amount of specific inflammatory factors that can increase the number of white blood cells in the body. This may cause inflammation and airway irritation.

3. Air pollution

People who live in urban areas, where there is more smoke and smog, are more likely to have asthma. Smog is darker air pollution that tends to be present in bigger cities with more vehicles and factories.

Ozone, which is a major component of smog, can trigger asthma symptoms such as wheezing and shortness of breath.

As well as ozone, smog contains sulfur dioxide, which can irritate the airways and trigger asthma attacks.

4. Occupational exposures

Scientists have linked exposure to irritants such as pesticides to a higher risk of asthma. This risk extends beyond those who work with pesticides, such as farmers.

In fact, other at-risk groups include:

  • children of pesticide workers who store equipment near the home or wear clothes that carry pesticide residue
  • people who live near pesticide-treated areas or factories
  • people who live in agricultural areas where it is likely that pesticide spraying occurs indoors or outdoors

Exposure to harsh chemicals such as cleaning products may also be a risk factor for asthma. This is especially true for spray cleaning products distributed into the air.

5. Allergies

Allergens such as pet dander and pollen can trigger asthma attacks. People who have allergy-related conditions such as eczema and allergic rhinitis are more likely to have asthma.

As a result, avoiding allergic triggers can help prevent asthma reactions.

Examples of allergens that may trigger asthma include:

  • pet dander
  • dust mites
  • mold
  • pollens

If certain allergens trigger asthma symptoms, avoiding these triggers whenever possible is vital.

6. Respiratory infections

Children with asthma who have upper respiratory infections are more likely to experience wheezing. During an upper respiratory infection, such as a cold, the airways may be more prone to the wheezing that can lead to asthma symptoms.

While it is not always possible to prevent upper respiratory infections, it is vital to take steps to prevent illness in children. A caregiver can achieve this by encouraging frequent handwashing and avoiding exposure to people with colds or other respiratory infections.

Family history

Scientists have found more than 100 genes potentially responsible for asthma, according to a study paper in the Italian Journal of Pediatrics. However, no single gene by itself causes asthma.

Some research suggests that 35–95 percent of people with a family history of asthma will get the condition, according to a study paper in the journal Pediatrics & Neonatology.

Although it is not possible to change family history, people can be aware that others in their family have asthma and seek treatment if they start to have asthma-like symptoms.

Such people can also avoid common asthma triggers if they know they have a genetic predisposition to the condition.

Treatment and prevention

Some strategies to help prevent asthma symptoms include:

  • stopping smoking and refraining from smoking around others, especially children
  • avoiding public places where cigarette smoking occurs
  • limiting outdoor exposure on days with heavy smog or smoke
  • encouraging a diet high in fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein
  • encouraging childhood vaccinations that can prevent common respiratory infections that could lead to worsening asthma symptoms
  • avoiding allergens that trigger asthma attacks, such as pet dander, dust mites, mold, and pollen

A person should consider talking with their doctor if they think that allergens are triggering their asthma.

Recognizing asthma symptoms, such as wheezing, coughing that is worse at night, and shortness of breath, is vital because it can help people seek suitable treatments for the condition.

An estimated 75 percent of severe asthma attacks are preventable, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology.

Doctors can prescribe many different treatment types and combinations to help a person treat their asthma. This includes inhalers to open up the airways, steroid medications to reduce inflammation, and other oral medications that help reduce airway reactivity.

If a person takes them consistently, medications alongside preventive efforts can help prevent asthma attacks from occurring.

Summary

Asthma can affect a person’s quality of life and cause serious respiratory distress that can sometimes be life-threatening. Knowing risk factors and triggers for the condition can help a person engage in preventive efforts.

If a person has asthma or concerns about risk factors, it is important that they talk with their doctor about how to consistently and effectively manage their symptoms.

The kidneys are small organs in the lower abdomen that play a significant role in the overall health of the body. Some foods may boost the performance of the kidneys, while others may place stress on them and cause damage.

The kidneys filter waste products from the blood and send them out of the body in the urine. They are also responsible for balancing fluid and electrolyte levels.

The kidneys perform these tasks with no outside help. Several conditions, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, may affect their ability to function.

Ultimately, damage to the kidneys may lead to chronic kidney disease (CKD). As the authors of a 2016 article noteTrusted Source, diet is the most significant risk factor for CKD-related death and disability, making dietary changes a key part of treatment.

Following a kidney-healthy diet plan may help the kidneys function properly and prevent damage to these organs. However, although some foods generally help support a healthy kidney, not all of them are suitable for people who have kidney disease.

Water

Water is the most important drink for the body. The cells use water to transport toxins into the bloodstream.

The kidneys then use water to filter these toxins out and to create the urine that transports them out of the body.

A person can support these functions by drinking whenever they feel thirsty.

Fatty fish

Salmon, tuna, and other cold-water, fatty fish that are high in omega-3 fatty acids can make a beneficial addition to any diet.

The body cannot make omega-3 fatty acids, which means that they have to come from the diet. Fatty fish are a great natural source of these healthful fats.

As the National Kidney Foundation note, omega-3 fats may reduce fat levels in the blood and also slightly lower blood pressure. As high blood pressure is a risk factor for kidney disease, finding natural ways to lower it may help protect the kidneys.

Sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes are similar to white potatoes, but their excess fiber may cause them to break down more slowly, resulting in less of a spike in insulin levels. Sweet potatoes also contain vitamins and minerals, such as potassium, that may help balance the levels of sodium in the body and reduce its effect on the kidneys.

However, as sweet potato is a high-potassium food, anyone who has CKD or is on dialysis may wish to limit their intake of this vegetable.

Dark leafy greens

Dark leafy greens, such as spinach, kale, and chard, are dietary staples that contain a wide variety of vitamins, fibers, and minerals. Many also contain protective compounds, such as antioxidants.

However, these foods also tend to be high in potassium, so they may not be suitable for people on a restricted diet or those on dialysis.

Berries

Dark berries, which include strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries, are a great source of many helpful nutrients and antioxidant compounds. These may help protect the cells in the body from damage.

Berries are likely to be a better option than other sugary foods for satisfying a sweet craving.

Apples

An apple is a healthful snack that contains an important fiber called pectin. Pectin may help reduce some risk factors for kidney damage, such as high blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

Apples can also often satisfy a sweet tooth.

Foods to avoid

There are several foods that people should avoid if they want to improve their kidney health or prevent damage to these organs.

These include the following:

Phosphorous-rich foods

Too much phosphorus can put stress on the kidneys. ResearchTrusted Source has shown that there is a correlation between high phosphorous intake and an increased risk of long-term damage to the kidneys.

However, there is not enough evidence to prove that phosphorous causes this damage, so more research into this topic is necessary.

For people looking to reduce their phosphorous intake, foods high in phosphorous include:

  • meat
  • dairy products
  • most grains
  • legumes
  • nuts
  • fish

Red meat

Some types of protein may be harder for the kidneys, or the body in general, to process. These include red meat.

Initial research has shown that people who eat a lot of red meat have a higher risk of end-stage kidney disease than those who eat less red meat. However, there is a need for more studies to investigate this risk.

Foods for people with CKD

Sliced cabbage on a board
Cabbage may be beneficial for people with CKD.

While the above foods may support a healthy kidney in general, they are not usually the best choices for people with CKD.

Doctors will put most people with CKD on a specific diet to avoid minerals that the kidneys process, such as sodium, potassium, and phosphorous.

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases recommend that people with CKD eat less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium each day.

As CKD progresses, people may also need to limit their phosphorous intake, as this mineral can build up in the blood of people with this disease.

Choosing the right amount of potassium is also important for people with CKD, as problems may occur when potassium levels get too high or low.

People with CKD should aim to eat healthful foods that are low in these minerals but still provide the body with other nutrients.

It may also be important for people with CKD to reduce their protein intake and only include small amounts of protein in their meals. When the body uses protein, it turns into waste, which the kidneys must then filter out.

As a 2017 studyTrusted Source notes, eating a diet lower in protein may protect against complications of CKD, such as metabolic acidosis, which occurs as kidney function deteriorates. The researchers indicated that eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low in protein might help reduce these risks.

People with CKD can work directly with a dietitian to create a suitable diet plan that meets their needs.

Cabbage

Cabbage is a leafy vegetable that may be beneficial for people with CKD. It is relatively low in potassium and very low in sodium, yet it also contains many helpful compounds and vitamins.

Red bell peppers

In addition to being very low in minerals such as sodium and potassium, red bell peppers contain helpful antioxidant compounds, which may protect the cells from damage.

Garlic

Garlic is an excellent seasoning choice for people with CKD. It can give other foods a more satisfying, full flavor, which may reduce the need for extra salt. Garlic also offers a range of health benefits.

Cauliflower

Cauliflower is a versatile vegetable for people with CKD. With the right preparation, it makes a good replacement for foods such as rice, mashed potatoes, and even pizza crust.

Cauliflower also contains a range of nutrients without providing too much sodium, potassium, or phosphorous.

Arugula

People with CKD may have to avoid many greens, but arugula can be a great replacement. Arugula is generally lower in potassium than other greens, but it still contains fiber and other beneficial nutrients.

Berries

bowl of blueberries
Blueberries are a healthful snack for people with CKD.

The fruits below can be a healthful sweet snack for people with CKD:

  • cranberries
  • strawberries
  • blueberries
  • raspberries
  • red grapes
  • cherries

Olive oil

Olive oil may be the best cooking oil because of the type of fat that it contains. Olive oil is high in oleic acid, which is a polyunsaturated fatty acid that may help reduce inflammation in the body.

Egg whites

Eggs are a simple protein, but the yolks are very high in phosphorous. People with CKD can make omelets or scrambled eggs using just the egg whites.

Foods for people with CKD to avoid

For people with CKD, some foods may be difficult for the body to process and might place more stress on the kidney. These include:

  • white potatoes
  • red meat
  • dairy products
  • sugary beverages
  • avocado
  • bananas
  • canned foods
  • pickled foods
  • alcohol
  • egg yolks

People looking to protect their kidneys from future damage may also want to consider eating these foods in moderation.

Summary

The kidneys play an important role in filtering the blood and eliminating waste products in the urine. Many foods may help support an already healthy kidney and prevent damage to this organ.

However, people with chronic kidney disease will need to follow a different set of dietary rules to protect their kidneys from further damage.

It is always best to talk to a licensed dietitian before moving forward with any dietary changes.

Depression is more than just sadness and can be a serious and potentially life threatening illness. Even very young children can develop depression, so parents and caregivers must take the condition seriously.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 3.2% of children aged between 3 and 17 in the United StatesTrusted Source have a depression diagnosis. This figure likely underestimates how common depression is among young people.

A 2018 analysis emphasizesTrusted Source that depression is underdiagnosed in children and that just 50% of depressed teens receive a diagnosis before adulthood. The suicide rate has risenTrusted Source over the past 2 decades, including among children.

It is vital to note that the symptoms of depression are also highly treatable, especially when a child has adequate support from loving caregivers.

In this article, learn more about depression in children, including the signs, symptoms, and how to find help.

Signs and symptoms

Children with depression may feel sad or hopeless. Depression, however, is much more than just sadness. It can affect many aspects of a child’s behavior or mood.

Young children may complain of physical symptoms, such as frequent stomachaches, instead of emotional pain. They may also fear separation from their parents, develop behavioral problems, or seem agitated and restless.

Some other symptoms of childhood depression include:

  • loss of interest in activities a child once enjoyed
  • withdrawal
  • low motivation
  • changes in sleeping habits, such as sleeping very little or too much
  • eating habit changes, such as overeating or not eating enough
  • running away
  • having thoughts of or talking about suicide
  • interest in death
  • giving things away
  • feeling hopeless
  • low self-esteem
  • trouble concentrating
  • new or worsening problems at school, with siblings or friends
  • use of alcohol or drugs, especially among teens

Risk factors

Depression is a complex illness with biological, psychological, and social causes. This means that many factors contribute to depression, including:

  • genetics
  • alterations in brain chemistry
  • personality
  • environmental factors, such as trauma and stress

The chance of depression is highest in children who have several risk factors.

Some risk factors for depression in children include:

  • being female when considering teens
  • family history of depression
  • being born to a mother younger than 18 years old
  • history of stress or trauma, including conflict between the child’s parents or caregivers
  • sleep issues
  • medical problems, especially chronic illnesses, such as asthma
  • overweight or obesity
  • lack of coping skills
  • negative thinking style
  • self-consciousness
  • poor relationships with friends
  • school difficulties
  • recent loss, such as changing schools or the death of a loved one
  • low birth weight

There is no way to predict who will or will not experience depression. Some children with many risk factors never develop depression, while others with few or no apparent risk factors do.

Diagnosis

No blood or imaging test can detect depression. Instead, a mental health professional, for example, a psychiatrist, therapist, or social worker, will ask about the child’s symptoms and behavior.

Looking at the child’s symptoms, the doctor will determine whether they have depression, another mental health condition, or both.

Caregivers can help a doctor make a diagnosis by keeping a list of symptoms. They should be prepared to answer questions about the child’s history, when symptoms first appeared, and whether there is a family history of depression.

The provider may want to meet with the child alone because some children, especially teens, may not feel comfortable discussing all of their symptoms in front of others.

Treatment

The treatment for depression may include therapy, medication, lifestyle changes, and family counseling.

Many people need to try several treatment strategies before they find one that works for them. It is helpful to ensure the child receives therapy and comprehensive mental health support in addition to medication or other treatments to ensure they get the best results.

A doctor may recommend:

  • family counseling if there are family problems or a history of trauma
  • education about depression and how best to help
  • antidepressant medications
  • increased activity, since some people get relief from depression with exercise
  • individual therapy to help the child better manage their emotions and stress

Effective treatment should avoid stigmatizing the child or punishing them for behaviors that come from depression.

Supporting a child with depression

Parents and caregivers may worry that they caused the child’s depression or believe that they can cure it with love or discipline. Depression is a complex illness and rarely has one cause.

A loved one cannot cure a child’s depression, just as they cannot cure a physical condition, for example, diabetes. Instead, parents should focus on building a supportive environment in which the child can recover.

People may want to try these strategies:

  • Include the child as an active participant in their treatment. Encourage them to participate in making decisions as much as possible.
  • Ask the child about any side effects of their medication and work with them to find treatments that are effective.
  • Encourage the child to talk about their feelings and listen without judgment. Do not tell the child how they should feel.
  • Create a home life that is as stable and secure as possible. Minimize conflict between adults and other family members, and work to help the child manage recent traumas.
  • Educate other family members about depression so that they can offer support and help.

Related conditions

Parents sometimes mistakenly believe that any sign of mental distress in children means the child has depression.

Pediatricians and other doctors may even miss the signs of other mental health conditions. In some cases, symptoms of one disorder may mimic those of depression. For example, a child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) who struggles at school may appear to be feeling hopeless and sad.

Some other conditions that may have similar symptoms to depression in children include:

Certain mental health and behavioral conditions commonly co-occur with depression. According to the CDCTrusted Source, 73.8% of children with depression also have anxiety, while 47.2% also experience behavior problems.

Summary

Children with depression need support and care. Caregivers should remember that the issue is medical in nature, and it is not something that can resolve with discipline.

Very young children may lack the ability to communicate their emotions. On the other hand, older children may feel embarrassed or worry about getting into trouble.

Adults can help children get the right treatment while reassuring them that depression is treatable and not a personal failing. A pediatric mental health expert can be a valuable resource for the entire family.

Recent research has revealed a mechanism through which fish oil, which contains omega-3 fatty acids, might reduce inflammation. A study that tested an enriched fish oil supplement found that it increased blood levels of certain anti-inflammatory molecules.

The anti-inflammatory molecules are called specialized pro-resolving mediators (SPMs), and they have a powerful effect on white blood cells, as well as controlling blood vessel inflammation.

Scientists already knew that the body makes SPMs by breaking down essential fatty acids, including some omega-3 fatty acids. However, the relationship between supplement intake and circulating levels of SPMs remained unclear.

So, a team of researchers from the William Harvey Research Institute at Queen Mary University of London in the United Kingdom set out to clarify the relationship by testing the effect of an enriched fish oil supplement in 22 healthy volunteers whose ages ranged from 19 to 37 years.

The team conducted the Circulation Research study as a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Therefore, neither the participants nor those who gave them the doses and monitored them knew who received fish oil supplements and who received the placebo.

“We used the molecules as our biomarkers to show how omega-3 fatty acids are used by our body and to determine if the production of these molecules has a beneficial effect on white blood cells,” says senior study author Jesmond Dalli, who is a professor of molecular pharmacology at the William Harvey Institute.

Enriched fish oil increased blood markers

The trial tested three doses of enriched fish oil supplement against the placebo. The researchers took samples of the participants’ blood to test.

Each participant gave five samples over 24 hours — at baseline and then 2, 4, 6, and 24 hours after taking their dose of supplement or placebo.

The researchers found that taking the enriched fish oil supplement raised blood levels of SPMs. The results showed a “time and dose-dependent” increase in circulating blood levels of SPMs.

The tests also revealed that supplementation led to a dose-dependent increase in immune cell attacks against bacteria and a decrease in cell activity that promotes blood clotting.

Inflammation is a defense response by the immune system that is essential to health. Various factors can trigger the response, including damaged cells, toxins, and pathogens such as bacteria.

Some of the immune cells that are active during inflammation can also damage tissue, so it is important, once the threat is over, for inflammation to subside to allow healing. Putting a stop to inflammation is where anti-inflammatory agents, such as SPMs, have a role.

However, if inflammation persists and becomes chronic, then, instead of protecting health, it undermines it. Studies have linked inflammation to heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and other serious health conditions.

Although it remains unclear whether those molecules reduce cardiovascular disease, a press release on the study notes that they do “supercharge macrophages, specialized cells that destroy bacteria and eliminate dead cells,” as well as making “platelets less sticky, potentially reducing the formation of blood clots.”

Research has also shown the molecules to play a role in tissue regeneration. As Prof. Dalli notes, “These molecules have multiple targets.”

Beware of unregulated supplements

An earlier 2019 study in NEJM showed that a prescription formula containing eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) could reduce heart attacks and strokes — and deaths relating to these events — in people who are at high risk of cardiovascular disease or already have it. EPA is an omega-3 fatty acid that is present in fish oil.

However, Dr. Deepak L. Bhatt, who is a cardiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, both in Boston, MA, and who led that study, says that there is no reliable evidence that over-the-counter supplements can have the same effect.

In the United States, federal regulators have approved two formulations: one containing EPA and a second that combines EPA with another omega-3 fatty acid called docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

The American Heart Association (AHA) recently issued a scientific advisory that cautions consumers to avoid unregulated omega-3 supplements.

An earlier AHA advisory had stated that while such supplements may slightly lessen the risk of death following a heart attack or heart failure, there is no evidence that they prevent heart disease in the first place.

Prof. Dalli says that there is a need for further studies to establish whether people over the age of 45 years would experience the same results from enriched fish oil supplements that they saw in the younger volunteers.

Compared with healthy people, those living with chronic inflammation have lower levels of SPMs, he remarks, noting that the enzymes that produce them do not work as well in these individuals.

He suggests that this is the kind of information that developers will need to consider when formulating supplements for treating disease. It will also be important to check that the body is breaking down the supplements into protective molecules.

“We’re still far away from having the magic formula. Each person will need a specific formulation or at least a specific dosing, and that’s something we need to learn more about.”

Prof. Jesmond Dalli

Stroke is one of the leading causes of death and disability worldwide and in the United States, specifically. New research finds that excessive sleep considerably raises the risk of this cardiovascular problem.

Globally, 15 millionTrusted Source people experience a stroke each year. Almost 6 million of these people die as a result, and 5 million go on to live with a disability.

In the U.S., over 795,000Trusted Source people have a stroke each year.

The list of traditional risk factorsTrusted Source for stroke is long, ranging from elements of lifestyle, including smoking, to preexisting conditions, such as diabetes.

More recently, researchers have started exploring sleep duration as another potential risk factor. Some studiesTrusted Source have found that either too much or too little sleep can increase the risk of cardiovascular events, including stroke.

According to these findings, regular sleep deprivation and sleep for more than 7 hours per night are each associated with a higher risk of stroke.

Now, a study appearing in the journal Neurology finds an association between daytime naps, excessive sleep, and stroke risk.

Dr. Xiaomin Zhang, from Huazhong University of Science and Technology, in Wuhan, China, is the corresponding author of the paper that details this study.

85% higher risk in long sleepers, nappers

Dr. Zhang and the team collected information from 31,750 people in China. None of the participants — who were 62 years old, on average — had a history of stroke or any other serious health condition at the start of the study.

The participants answered questions about their sleeping patterns and napping habits, and the researchers clinically followed the group for an average of 6 years.

The team found that 8% of the participants were in the habit of taking naps that lasted longer than 90 minutes, and 24% reported sleeping for at least 9 hours each night.

Over the study period, there were 1,557 strokes among the participants. Those who slept for 9 or more hours per night were 23% more likely to experience a stroke than those who regularly slept only 7–8 hours each night.

People who got less than 7 hours of shuteye or 8–9 hours had no higher risk of stroke than those who slept 7–8 hours.

Importantly, people who both slept for longer than 9 hours and napped for more than 90 minutes per day had an 85% higher risk of stroke than those who slept and napped moderately.

Finally, sleep quality seemed to play a role — people who reported poor sleep quality were 29% more likely to have a stroke than those whose sleep quality was reportedly good.

These results continued to be significant after adjusting for potential confounders, such as hypertension, diabetes, and smoking.

“These results highlight the importance of moderate napping and sleeping duration and maintaining good sleep quality, especially in middle-age and older adults.”

Dr. Xiaomin Zhang

Study limitations and potential mechanisms

The researchers acknowledge some limitations to their work, as well as the fact that more research is necessary.

First, because the study was observational, it cannot prove causality. Second, the research did not account for sleep apnea or other sleep disorders that may have influenced the results.

Third, self-reported data is not as reliable as data recorded by researchers who observe participants’ sleep.

Finally, the results may only apply to older, healthy Chinese adults and not to other populations.

“More research is needed to understand how taking long naps and sleeping longer hours at night may be tied to an increased risk of stroke, but previous studies have shown that long nappers and sleepers have unfavorable changes in their cholesterol levels and increased waist circumferences, both of which are risk factors for stroke,” explains Dr. Zhang.

“In addition, long napping and sleeping may suggest an overall inactive lifestyle, which is also related to increased risk of stroke.”