Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Beware - The Zoster Lies In Ambush

image by flaivoloka, sxc.hu

A Childhood Condition Resurfaces In Old Age - With Vengeance!

Follies and mistakes committed during childhood and early youth, even unknowingly and unintentionally, can come back to haunt at senescence. And no, we aren't talking promiscuity here. And we also aren't talking about the little fling with crack that we enjoyed along with the rest of the friends below the shade of the tree near the compound wall, where we thought we were safe and out of sight from the seniors who were anyway busy doing their thing and who were actually happy that the kids were out of sight.

image by caami, sxc.hu

We are talking papules and red blisters and dew-drops-on-rose-petals here. Remember the episode of chickenpox that you underwent as a child / youth? The red pockmarks all over the skin that you brought home from school, gifted to you by your best friend and classmate? The pockmarks that caused high fever and so forced you to take some rest, and prevented you from going to school that you always looked forward to going, and stopped you from experiencing the thrill of receiving home-assignments, if only for a week or ten days? Yes, that very episode. Now it so happens that after the pockmarks subside and the fever ebbs and you become normal and begin enjoying the daily home-assignments, you think that the chickenpox virus has been eliminated. And then you continue growing up and begin enjoying the surge of those youthful chemicals that begin creating, ah, other kinds of havoc in your body. And you disdainfully forget the pockmark episode and the chickenpox episode altogether.

Child with chickenpox, wiki_*

* Child with chickenpox, sxc.hu

Unbeknown to you, during those high-fevered days when it keeps you in its hot embrace at the core, cellular level, the virus itself falls for you - hook, line and sinker. The hunter becomes the hunted. And when your immunity guards finally manage to cool the lava of passion, the virus offers a truce. "Let me stay on! I beg thee!", the virus beseeches seductively. "I will keep my passion in check, I promise!" And magnanimous in victory, your immunity guards allow the virus to stay on, and give it shelter in one of the numerous nerve cell bodies. Unfortunately, this magnanimity is what proves to be our folly and mistake.

image by egilshay, sxc.hu

Days pass. Decades pass. You move on. Get married, or stay celibate. Bring forth children, or do not. Make a good career, or loaf off. Loll in money, or loll in penury. And then comes the golden period of life. The time when you hang up your boots and begin taking it easy. The time for navel-gazing and ruminating and dozing off in the middle of conversations. The time to forget whether the dentures and the glasses got left behind on the dining table or out in the hammock. The time when the need for companionship is acutely felt and the discovery is made that everybody around is too busy with their own lives to give you even five minutes, forget round-the-clock companionship. And that is when the old love decides to come out of its hiding. To give you round-the-clock companionship. The virus breaks its vow of silence and decides to give you company. And this it does with all the gusto and passion pent-up for all these years!
image by jazgorn, sxc.hu

You see those red-colored rashes forming in very geometric patterns, suddenly being created in some specific area of the body's terra firma? That's your long-lost friend's style of surfacing and saying hello. As is its wont, the virus embraces you so tightly that you get headaches and fevers and the burning pain and the itching sensations --- well what else can you expect when you are coupling not with a fellow human being but with a virus? The chickenpox of childhood becomes the shingles of old age.

Herpes Zoster on the chest, wiki_*

* Herpes Zoster on the chest, wiki.

Herpes Zoster, as this virus is affectionately called, can zap all the zing from the golden years. As if to offset the decades of self-imposed abstinence, the virus indulges in some extreme forms of sadism, leading to a painful condition called Post-Herpetic Neuralgia (PHN), which lingers on and on, even after the rashes have healed, sometimes till the last breath.

image by wmnwrtr, sxc.hu

The Zoster is said to affect up to half of all people who live to 85 years of age. Approximately one million people in the United States alone are said to be affected by the pain of PHN every year. The good news for those of us who want relief from this pain has been published in a paper in the April 2009 issue of the "Pain" Journal (available here: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pain.2008.12.022). In a study involving 87 subjects from both gender, it has been observed that oxycodone is highly effective in relieving pain. One side-effect of this treatment is constipation, which the paper says can be addressed by initiating laxative therapy along with oxycodone treatment.

image by forwardcom, sxc.hu

The moral of the story? To not get carried away by the crocodile tears of the enemy! In time, we will be able to persuade our immunity guards to not show magnanimity towards our enemies, howsoever bewitchingly seductive they might appear to be in those moments of surrender. Till that time comes, let's get on with the treatment of oxycodone combined with laxative therapy - or whatever new advances are made - under the care of the good doctor.

image by bjearwicke, sxc.hu

[The golden age is not only a time for meeting long-lost friends (and loves) and navel-gazing and introspection and forgetting where we left our glasses and dentures. It is also a time for a rediscovery. Read about it in this article here: "Rediscovering The Self: At Sunset Time".]
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Monday, March 23, 2009

In Pain? Here's How To Reduce Narcotic Medication Intake

image by xymonau, sxc.hu

It's A Very Natural Technique - As Natural As Sunshine!

If you have bumped into this post while writhing in agony over some pain throbbing some part of your body, or reading this post's title suddenly reminded you of some long-forgotten pain and now you can't wait till this post meanders on and finally reaches the climax where the trick to reduce narcotic medication intake during pain is dramatically revealed... then let me give you without further ado the long and short of it: increase your Vitamin D intake. Simply increase your intake of foods and fruits that are rich in Vitamin D, and watch your urge to take more of narcotics to numb the pain, drop.

image by xymonau, sxc.hu

If you are still with me and haven't rushed to the fridge to pick up the fruit that is abundant in this vitamin, or if you are back from the fridge and busily chomping away at the luscious pulp or sipping the tangy sherbet and now ready to satiate your curiosity about how this simple mantra was formulated in the first place - why aren't things in life so simple? -, then here is the lowdown: This is the conclusion of a paper published in the January 2009 edition of "Pain" (accessed here: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pain.2008.11.010.)

image by mattox, sxc.hu

There is now a clear, medically-well-established link between low levels of vitamin D in the body and the degree of chronic pain that one suffers in certain conditions. The paper documents, for example, how chronic backache in a group of post-menopausal women was ameliorated within three months of undergoing Vitamin D medication, and how another batch of 360 people, including 36 males, with chronic low back pain without any obvious cause too were cured miraculously with Vitamin D. Female asylum seekers suffering from Hypovitaminosis D3 and musculoskeletal pain, as well as people who were confined indoors for more than six months and suffering from unusual pain that was resistant to analgesics, too got to experience the magic that this very natural sunshine vitamin brought into their lives. Yet another study that the paper documents, has focused on 51 type-2 diabetics who were suffering from neuropathic pain, and whose pain subsided after Vitamin D intervention.

image by foxumon, sxc.hu

The irony of advances in modern medication is that we rush into the embrace of narcotic medication at the first hint of pain, because all this while, research has focused on how to numb the nerves and the sensations that travel from the point of pain to the brain. To not let the brain know that there is pain, we pull the wool over the brain's eyes. A shift in thinking in the same modern medication research now reveals that the solution does not lie in numbing the senses, it does not lie in pulling any wool over anybody's eyes; it lies in shoring up our healing powers with the energy that the Sun sprays at us in abundance, which it has been spraying in abundance for millions of years. So the take-home message is: Bask in the daily sunshine of vitamin-D dietary intake. And stay away from the dark alleys of narcotics.

image by xymonau, sxc.hu

The statutory caution here is this: in your zest to reduce pain, don't overdo it. Vitamin D intoxication is said to kick in if we go overboard in stuffing ourselves with foods and fruits containing the vitamin, or go sprawl in the sun for hours together.

image by nkzs, sxc.hu

[While taking care to keep our body free from physical pain, shouldn't we also do a favor to ourselves by working on keeping our soul too free from its associated pains? Here is one article that nudges you to heal the soul: "Heal Thyself - You Are Your Own Healer".]
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Monday, March 16, 2009

Now, A Simple Blood Test To Diagnose Alzheimer's

Alzheimer's Awareness Stamp - US Postal Service_*

* Alzheimer's Awareness Stamp - US Postal Service

This Test Can Replace More Costly And Less Reliable Diagnosis Techniques

Over nine months ago, while going through the recent advances made in early diagnosis and intervention techniques for Alzheimer's it was heartening to note the new and creative solutions being developed (a nasal spray that reverses some form of mild cognitive impairment was one such, read here). A recent research has reported a new breakthrough in early diagnosis of Alzheimer's - a simple blood test. A blood test is all that it will take to determine whether the condition is setting in, or even whether somebody is a potential candidate.

image by doortenj, sxc.hu

In an interesting study conducted on 118 adults (the press release on this study appears here), a high positive correlation was found between two antibodies - amyloid-beta and RAGE - whose concentration increases directly with the severity of dementia. They both serve as an advance party that warns of what is to come.

image by smicko, sxc.hu

While RAGE is present at all times in our body, and its levels decline during maturity in normal aging, this protein is found to suddenly surge and throw its weight around in several pathological states, including diabetic nephropathy and inflammation of the vessel walls, besides Alzheimer's. The amyloid-beta is a mystery wrapped inside an enigma under the veil - whence it comes, and what or who produces it in the body, are factors still unknown. Independently, they are neutral folks, very genial, going about their own ways so affably. But the moment they bond together, all hell breaks loose across the blood-brain neighborhood. What brings them together; is it a chance meeting, or does Somebody Play Dice to introduce the two, nobody knows, yet. Hopefully shouldn't be much longer before we figure it out.

image by drx, sxc.hu

According to the research team, after collecting the blood sample, it presently takes three to four days to come out with the outcome - Alzheimer Positive or Alzheimer Negative. While they are working to reduce the processing period to one single day, the test is still considered more economical and less cumbersome - just a pinprick on the forefinger - than the functional MRI or PET scan that people have to undergo nowadays which try to detect brain plaque formation before it is too late.

image by chrissi, sxc.hu
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Monday, March 09, 2009

Coffee - To Drink Or No?

Coffee cortado, wiki

Confusion Abounds About This Brew's Relation With Our Health

Coffee. The beverage of choice for millions. The day begins with a cup of this brew. The liquid begins its action on the brain no sooner it washes down the mouth into the gullet - actually even the aroma is enough to trigger something in the brain. One sip of the hot decoction has the power to revive sagged spirits and tired muscles of a weary body. This one drink has been at the center of so many businesses - ask Messieurs Siegel, Baldwin and Bowker, the gentlemen from Starbucks or members of the Mathivat family that owns Les Deux Magots (I hope I got the owners' name right) - and they will be happy to tell you how they earn their living. The GDPs of entire swathes of countries are driven by the sale of the dark-brown beans. The culture of coffee has spun so many stories, weaved so many mysteries, and deepened so many relationships down the ages --- as one slogan on the banner of a coffee-shop says intriguingly, "A lot can happen over coffee".

The two Chinese mandarin statuettes adorning the walls at Les Deux Magots - www.paris-bistro.com_*

* The two Chinese mandarin statuettes adorning the walls at Les Deux Magots - www.paris-bistro.com. Coffee is said to have stirred the imagination and creativity of the likes of Sartre and Camus.

And perhaps because of its ubiquitousness at the coffee table (sigh), coffee is also surrounded by the usual controversies about its impact on health. Is drinking coffee good for health? Or bad?

 Playing cards in a coffeehouse, Damascus, wiki

Recent research suggests that consumed moderately, the brew is beneficial to health because of its inherent antioxidant properties. For certain individuals however, the beverage is a strict no-no. Plus, the preparation process from the raw beans to the dark-brown liquid that is poured into the cup also apparently makes a difference.

image by brybs, sxc.hu

For instance, if you like your brew unfiltered-regular or decaff or boiled or French-pressed, then beware! These preparation processes let certain chemicals pass through into the cup that can raise your LDL, or bad, cholesterol. On the other hand, filtered coffee is safe - it holds back the LDL.

image by flaivoloka, sxc.hu

Do you also smoke while drinking coffee? Researchers say that's not good for your blood pressure, and negatively impacts the flow of blood between the lungs and the heart. Coffee has been found to be a probable preventive (not curative) measure in Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. For offspring of families where these two medical conditions run in the genealogical tree, coffee could be _the_ elixir of life, and they might consider incorporating coffee-drinking - low doses, daily, along with small intake of wine and regular physical exercise - in their daily ritual right from childhood. On the other hand, one conjecture is that heavy coffee drinking increases seizure frequency in people with epileptic conditions. Stop drinking coffee, and see the seizure-frequency drop.

image by magdisma, sxc.hu

Science also cautions post-menopausal women against heavy consumption of coffee; in fact the recommendation is to cut down even the usual daily intake at onset of menopause. The reason is that heavy caffeine intake has been associated with increased risk of hip fracture, which has been in turn linked to the calcium in the bones getting dissolved and expelled through urine.

image by weirdvis, sxc.hu

Coffee has a paradoxical impact on diabetes 2 cases. Those of us who are not yet diabetic, can postpone / avoid-altogether its occurrence in their life by making it a point to drink coffee every day. On the other hand, once it is established that you have this condition, you are advised to reduce or totally eliminate its intake. This paradox is because coffee triggers an enhanced insulin response when the insulin is already there in the blood. But, when insulin is not there or is in low quantity, caffeine goes and expends all its belligerence on gastrointestinal hormones, which then sulk and pout and refuse to ooze from their glandular homes as abundantly as they should, resulting in slower glucose absorption.

image by spindoc, sxc.hu

Symptomatic gallstone disease, a condition that affects more than 20 million Americans every year, can be prevented or altogether banished from occurring in one's life by making coffee-drinking a lifelong affair.

image by lusi, sxc.hu

As you can see, it's indeed a complex relationship - between man or woman and coffee. You have to assess where you stand healthwise, and then decide how much you would like to indulge in your favorite cuppa. A lot can happen over coffee, as you know.

image by jellyeater, sxc.hu

[All research information gleaned from a 2007 paper published in the Journal: Nutrition & Food Science.]
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