What is Pneumonia

Pneumonia in the human body illustration
Bacterial pneumonia, 3D illustration showing rod-shaped bacteria inside alveoli of the lung. Photo: iStock

Pneumonia is an infection of one or both lungs that leads to the production of pus. The infection causes the delicate lung tissue to become inflamed, and filled with fluid and creates a hospitable environment for bacteria.

Acquiring bacteria and viruses in the air we breathe is the most common cause of pneumonia. Your body will typically defend your lungs against these germs but sometimes, even if you are in good health, your immune system might not be able to fully neutralize the infection. With that said, under normal conditions and if you are in good health, you should fully recover within a week or two.

But, pneumonia can also be a life-threatening condition that requires treatment in a hospital, especially for the elderly and/or immune-deficient individuals. These more serious cases are known as severe and can lead to long-term consequences such as chronic lung disease or even death.

Different types of pneumonia can be broadly categorized as community-acquired or hospital-acquired pneumonia. Learn more about this condition in this article.

What is the Difference Between Community-Acquired Pneumonia (CAP) and Hospital-Acquired Pneumonia?

Community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) is caused by bacteria present in the environment outside of a hospital. CAP occurs when bacteria enter the lungs through the airway and multiply there. This can happen when you have a cold, or another virus.

Hospital-acquired pneumonia (HAP) is a type of pneumonia that develops in a patient who has been admitted to the hospital, usually due to an infection that the patient already has, such as a urinary tract infection, blood infection, or lung infection.

It is a type of healthcare-associated infection (HAI). This means the person contracted it while being treated for another condition in a healthcare setting, such as a hospital.

It is important to note that not all pneumonia acquired in a hospital setting is also healthcare-associated pneumonia. HAP can be life-threatening for patients and can occur after surgery, as a complication of other infections, or as the result of the use of breathing machines. It is therefore important for healthcare providers to follow infection prevention and control practices to reduce the risk of contracting HAP and spreading it to other patients.

Pathophysiology of Pneumonia

Lungs lllustration
Lung illustration with red vessels and healthy bronchial vesicles. If pneumonia, fluid would build up on the air sacs AKA Alveoli. Photo: iStock

An infection in the lungs can cause inflammation and fluid buildup in the air sacs (alveoli) of the lungs.

The infection can be caused by a virus, bacteria, or other microorganisms.  It can also be caused by inhaling irritants such as dust or fumes.

Bacterial pneumonia is when bacteria infect the lungs and cause an infection. Viral pneumonia is when a virus infects the lungs and causes an infection.

Diagnosis of Pneumonia

Pneumonia can be diagnosed based on symptoms, physical exams, and lab tests. Healthcare providers may order a chest X-ray to confirm if there is an infection in the lungs and if there is pneumonia. Blood tests can also be done to check for bacteria and other microorganisms. Additionally, a cat scan may be used to further determine the infection and possibly the cause.

Severity of Pneumonia

The severity is determined by how quickly the condition progresses. The two main factors that determine how quickly a patient might progress with pneumonia are the person’s overall health before getting the infection and if there are any other health conditions present.

People who are generally in good health have a lower chance of progressing to a severe level compared to people who have preexisting medical conditions. Patients with mild pneumonia may not have any symptoms other than a cough that may be so mild that it can be mistaken for a chronic cough.


Pneumonia is considered mild when patients have a mild cough (that can be mistaken for a chronic cough), an unexplained fever, and/or shortness of breath, as well as other cold-like symptoms.

Its technical name is atypical pneumonia, but it is more commonly known as walking pneumonia since seeking a medical professional is not required, but recommended and the patient can go on with his/her daily routine although feeling like he/she has a bad cold.

Walking pneumonia is most commonly caused by a bacteria known as Streptococcus pneumoniae, which is typically found in the upper respiratory tract. Approximately 900,000 Americans are found to be infected with this bacteria each year.


Pneumonia is considered severe when the patient’s symptoms are exactly that – severe, meaning that your cough, fever, headaches, shortness of breath, etc. are enough to make you feel so uncomfortable that you want to seek medical attention. (This is not to say that you shouldn’t seek medical attention or advice if you have a mild case). Hospitalization is required for the treatment of severe pneumonia because symptoms such as breathlessness, chest pain, and fatigue become more severe.

Treatment for Pneumonia

Pneumonia is treated in several ways, depending on the patient’s overall health and the severity of the infection. Treatment for mild bacterial pneumonia is usually limited to antibiotics and plenty of rest.

For severe cases, patients are placed on mechanical ventilation if their breathing is too shallow or fast or their oxygen level is too low. If the patient is not on a ventilator, they may receive antibiotics intravenously to kill the bacteria causing the infection. Patients who are on mechanical ventilation are given antibiotics through a port placed in their veins as well as supplemental oxygen.

Prevention of Pneumonia

Vaccination is recommended for those who are at a high risk of getting the disease, such as people over 65. Other groups that can benefit from vaccinations include healthcare workers, people traveling to countries where pneumonia is common (such as developing nations), and people who have a weakened immune system.

Smoking tobacco is the leading risk factor for pneumonia as it damages the lungs, compromising their immune function and ability to fight infections.

Stress, particularly chronic stress, can also weaken the immune system and increase susceptibility to pneumonia.

There are also steps you can take to reduce the risk of pneumonia, including getting plenty of sleep and avoiding large crowds during flu season.


Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs that causes inflammation and fluid buildup in the air sacs (alveoli) of the lungs. It can be caused by a variety of microorganisms, including viruses and bacteria.

Symptoms of pneumonia include fever, cough, shortness of breath, and difficulty breathing, but it can be treated with antibiotics, rest, and fluids.

It is important to see a doctor if you think you may have pneumonia, as it can be fatal if left untreated for some people.

There are two types of pneumonia: community-acquired pneumonia and hospital-acquired pneumonia. Community-acquired pneumonia occurs when bacteria enter the lungs through the airway, either as a result of a viral infection or from exposure to irritants in the air.

Hospital-acquired pneumonia is an infection that results from an infection that the patient already has, such as a urinary tract infection, blood infection, or lung infection. It is important to note that not all pneumonia acquired in a hospital setting is also healthcare-associated.

If you do come down with any of these symptoms mentioned and these symptoms are precise beyond the normal course of time where they should have subsided, or if you are immune deficient, elderly, or have other high-risk issues, you should seek a medical professional ASAP!

World Pneumonia Day

Infographic on how to keep your lungs healthy
Image Source: FreeImages‍

World Pneumonia Day

November 12 is around the corner and that is World Pneumonia Day. It reminds us to come together to demand action against this deadly disease, as it is the world’s leading cause of death among children.

What is Pneumonia?

Simply put, pneumonia is fluid in your lungs. According to the World Health Organization, it’s also the leading cause of hospital-acquired infections in developed countries and accounts for 14% of deaths of children under the age of five.

Pneumonia can be viral or bacterial. If bacterial, antibiotics would be the prominent medication that’s used, and in virtually all cases, the patient will recover 100%. If viral, antibiotics will be of no use and other means of treatment would be necessary.

If you’re over 65, have a chronic illness like diabetes, are a smoker, or have other ‘at risk’ habits, your odds of contracting pneumonia are even higher.

Let’s learn about how our lungs work.

The Respiratory System

Illustration of the lungs
Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay

In general, as with all parts of the body, some mechanisms are at work to keep you healthy. Sometimes they move into overdrive if something goes wrong, such as if the body gets invaded by pathogenic agents (AKA, an infection), which may be bacteria, protozoans, or viruses.

Let’s see what overdrive protection the body uses when the lungs become infected with one of these pathogens.

The Carbon Dioxide Factor

The main function of the lungs is to convert the oxygen we breathe into carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is essential to keep your blood in a healthy state.

If an inefficient amount of carbon dioxide is produced, then we are not breathing enough, and our blood can be negatively affected; consequently, we will breathe heavier to compensate for more carbon dioxide production.

The PH Indicator

PH is a blood indicator. The normal level of pH in the blood for a healthy person can range from 7.35 to 7.45. Any changes in your pH level, meaning changes in your blood; such as low carbon dioxide production, can indicate a health condition, such as heart, kidney, or lung disease, as well as possible numerous other illnesses.

The heaver breathing mentioned above is because the parts of the brain that control the breathing were signaled that there is not enough carbon dioxide available in the lungs, and it activates the body to tell it to produce deeper breaths, known as respiratory compensation, to bring up the PH blood level.

The Oxygen Factor

If you’re not breathing in enough oxygen or something internal is causing you to not acquire enough oxygen, or something is failing to help your body produce the required amount of carbon dioxide, your immune system will get compromised. When this happens, your body is less able to fight off the bacteria and/or viruses that can lead to illnesses such as pneumonia.

What Can We Do to Help Maintain Proper Carbon Dioxide and PH Blood Levels?

Of course, there is no 100% absolute protection against pneumonia, but we can do certain things to help keep it at bay.

Maintain a Healthy Weight

Sandwich with measuring tape around it
Losing weight with the Paleo diet

Needless to say, being overweight can be the catalyst for a range of health issues, and contracting pneumonia is no exception. There was a study conducted that determined that obesity can play a role in a person developing pneumonia; so as we have been saying in numerous articles, work to keep your weight down!

Eat Healthy and Exercise!

Fit Brunette Woman Running on Treadmill with Music
Photo: Graphicstock

This is a no-brainer, but if you’re already at a healthy weight but have been gaining weight over time, make diet and exercise changes before it’s too late.

And above all, talk to your physician or medical professional about what your best plan would be to work that weight off.

Stay Covered When You’re Out in the Cold

Another no-brainer, but if you spend a lot of time outdoors in cold weather, dress appropriately.  One exception might be if you are a member of the Polar Bear Club but we won’t touch on this one.

Get Your Flu Shot Every Year

The flu virus is responsible for millions of infections every year, including many cases of pneumonia. Get your flu shot to minimize your risk of contracting lung diseases. And don’t forget about pneumococcal pneumonia shot too, and this goes double for seniors!

It must be stated that even if you get these shots, that doesn’t mean that you will not acquire the flu or pneumonia. There was one recent case in Long Island New York where a healthy senior who got all his vaccines, including Covid, still got infected with pneumonia. He fully recovered with antibiotics but remained in the hospital until all the fluid in his lungs had been gone.

It is just so much you can do, but doing that so much would be highly recommended.


Pneumonia is a serious infection that can lead to death but can also be cured. Thankfully, there are things you can do to help prevent acquiring it. . Therefore, it is important to stay on top of your respiratory care, maintain a healthy weight, stay covered when you’re out in the cold, get your required vaccines every year, and make sure your home is well ventilated.

For a more detailed explanation of pneumonia, check out our article What is Pneumonia?

As with all diseases, prevention is key!

Safely Disposing Unused Medications

pills in human hand
How Much is Too Much?

When it is time to dispose of old medicines, there are recommended guidelines to prevent drug abuse, protect your identity and personal health information (PHI).

Although it may seem like an easy solution, flushing medicines down the sink or toilet is actually not recommended, unless the disposal instructions on the prescription label specifically direct you to do so, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

How to Safely Dispose of Medications

Your neighborhood may have a drug take-back program, which will allow you to bring unused drugs to a location for proper disposal. However, if this is not available to you and the label does not instruct how to dispose of the medication, the CDC recommends mixing the meds with coffee grounds or kitty litter so that they are not easily recognizable. Then, place the mixture in a sealed bag or empty container and throw it out with the household trash.

The American Pharmacists Association also recommends crushing solid medications or dissolving them in water (which also applies for liquid medications) before mixing them in with the undesirable substances mentioned above.

When in doubt, speak with your pharmacist. Typically, pharmacists are easily accessible and can guide you on how to properly dispose of your unused meds.

They also recommend protecting your personal information by scratching out any content presented on the prescription label before throwing away the bottle.

It is very important to dispose of unused prescription drugs in the appropriate way. If the proper precautions are not taken, children, pets, or people who intentionally go through the trash may get their hands on your unused medications.

Consequences of Taking the Wrong Drug 

There are some prescription medicines that can be harmful if taken by someone other than who the prescription was meant for, the CDC indicates, so it is also not recommended to give your unused medications to family or friends.

Keep in mind: disposal of medications is not the only thing that is important when trying to keep members of the household safe. You should ensure that medicines are also being stored safely

In one case scenario, a three-year-old child happened to wander into his grandmother’s bedroom while the parents were visiting and conversing in the living room with the grandparents. The grandmother had her pills on a table next to her bed. The child found the pills. Opened the containers and started putting them in his mouth, thinking they were candy. Fortunately, the boy was not harmed as those particular meds were not controlled substances nor habit forming. They were mild sleep inducers. They didn’t know how many he had swallowed, but apparently, it wasn’t a lot. This situation could have been much worse though, since the grandmother did have controlled medications in containers right next to the sleep inducers. 

This is why, even if you are visiting someone, make sure they have their meds safely stored away. Either keep prescriptions locked up, or stored somewhere high and out of the reach of children.

Teenage Curiosities

When it comes to teens, we head into a new arena. Many teenagers, especially adolescents are curious individuals, sometimes foolishly curious. If you have meds, especially controlled substances, and have teenagers living with you, hide the medications! 

As per prp.jasonfoundation.com, “More teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung disease, COMBINED.”

Indeed with statistics such as this, being vigilant about teenagers would be an understatement.

In Closing

If you have small children or teens, or even pets, make sure you have your medications stored away properly where they cannot get to them! 

Essential Oils 101: What You Need to Know

Woman with arm filled with oil

Essential Oils

Essential oils are liquid compounds extracted from various plant parts such as leaves, herbs, barks, and rinds. These oils hold the essence of the plants they’re extracted from and have a stronger smell than the plant itself.

The method of preparation is either through distillation or a mechanical method known as cold pressing. The concentrated extract is then added to any carrier oil so it’s ready to use, but it no longer remains pure.

Types of Essential Oils

Several plants contain potentially active compounds. These plants are used in large quantities to utilize the plant oils inside to form essential oils. Essential oils are available in more than 90 types. Each one with a unique scent, chemical compounds, and health benefits.

We’ve listed below ten of the most well-known essential oils and the health benefits that they’re known to offer. 

  • Lavender oil: Relieves stress.
  • Lemon oil: Improves moods, headaches, digestion, and more.
  • Peppermint oil: Helps in digestion and provides a boost of energy.
  • Tea Tree Oil: Stimulates immunity and fights infections.
  • Rose oil: Boosts mood and relieves anxiety.
  • Sandalwood oil: Aids in calming nerves and helps with concentration.
  • Jasmine oil: Effectively helps with depression, childbirth, and libido.
  • Bergamot oil: Eases stress and aids to cure skin conditions like eczema.
  • Chamomile Oil: Helps to improve mood and calm down.
  • Ylang-Ylang Oil: Treats headaches, nausea, and various skin conditions.
Herbal Medicine Tincture with Flowers
Herbal Medicine Tincture with red lilies in the background”


It should be noted that essential oils are for external use (unless otherwise noted). Not for digestion. They are used in many different products, and the beauty industry utilizes them to create perfumes, scent creams, and body washes. Additionally, these liquids are used as a source of natural antioxidants in beauty care products.

It can also be used as an air freshener for the home, to scent the laundry, or as a natural mosquito repellent.


One of the popular methods of using essential oils is through aromatherapy. This practice has been used for centuries for therapeutic benefits, which involves inhaling the oils through different methods. The essential oils diffused into the air are inhaled, and the scent molecules travel from the olfactory nerves to the brain.

The fragrance of the essential oils stimulates certain parts of the limbic system, the part of the brain that is responsible for controlling emotions, behavior, survival instincts, sense of smell, and memory. The limbic system also regulates various unconscious physiological functions like breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure. For this reason, people believe that these oils can affect our bodies physically.

The oils can also be combined with carrier oils, and be used by massaging them on to the skin. The chemicals in the oils are absorbed by the skin. The active compounds in the oils help to relax the muscles when a mixture of oils is rubbed on the skin, or when the oil is added to bath salts to give a stress-relieving soak.

Relaxed young beautiful woman laying on massage table
Relaxed young beautiful woman laying on massage table

However, it’s advised that these oils should not be applied directly onto the skin unless directed by a healthcare professional. Essential oils without dilution are highly concentrated and can irritate sensitive body cells.

Although these oils are not supposed to be swallowed, at times people do consume oral capsules with essential oils inside. But it is only wise to do so when recommended by a medical practitioner. Besides that, the oils shouldn’t be applied in areas such as the mouth, ear, eye, anus, or vagina, from where it can enter the body.


Essential oils are widely used as people believe that they can naturally cure different problems and have favorable effects on the body. The active compounds in the oils can be effective for particular reasons.

However, there’s little research that supports that essential oils can help in treating health conditions. We’ve listed a few of the particular health problems that essential oils can be used to treat.

  • Stress and Anxiety: People, who deal with stress or anxiety, tend to use alternative therapy methods for relief. The fragrance of the essential oils during aromatherapy can help to treat stress and anxiety. Using these oils during massaging may also effectively relieve stress.
  • Headaches and Migraines: Combinations of essential oils particularly, chamomile and sesame oil mixture, peppermint and lavender oils, or peppermint oil and ethanol combination, when applied on the forehead and temples can help cure headaches and ease migraine pain.
  • Sleep and Insomnia: Studies have found the smell of essential oils can help induce sleep. Lavender oil, in particular, helps women after childbirth, heart patients, and insomniacs sleep better.
  • Reduced Inflammation: It is believed that these oils may have anti-inflammatory effects. Mixtures of thyme and oregano oils and rosemary and caraway oils can aid in soothing abdominal pain.
  • Antibiotic and Antimicrobial: Few essential oils like peppermint oil and tea tree oil might have antimicrobial effects.


Oil bottle next to a rose

As essential oils are made using plants, they also contain bioactive compounds that can be harmful to your health. Even though they are natural, in order for them to be safe for use, they need to be combined with a base oil when applied on the skin or inhaled. Additionally, you must be careful about the others in the environment, particularly children, pregnant women, and pets who might also inhale the oils.

The side effects that these oils may have on the human body include headaches, asthma attacks, rashes, or allergies. Some of the oils that are known to have side effects are tea tree, ylang-ylang, peppermint, and lavender.

Cinnamon oil and other oils that have high concentrations of phenols result in skin irritation and should only be used on the skin when mixed with a base oil. On the other hand, the skin’s reaction to sunlight and burns might get worse with the use of essential oils made from citrus fruits.

Swallowing essential oils is extremely dangerous and it might also result in death. Young children, pregnant women, and new mothers are advised to avoid using essential oils.

Dehydration – How Does It Affect the Body?

What is Dehydration?

Girl Drinking Water After Aerobics Exercise
Everyone on this planet has at some point feel thirsty. This is the body’s way of telling you that you need water to replenish your physical system, but if you go long enough without compensating for your thirst, you can fall into the category of dehydration and that is not a good prospect for your body to be in to. 

Around 70% of the human body is composed of water. Water helps our system to perform all its vital functions, including the transportation of blood. It aids in digestion, lubricates the eyes and mouth, and helps flush out toxic waste from the body. 

Dehydration is a condition in which the body loses more water than it replaces. Normally, we tend to lose water from the body regularly. We lose some water in the form of water vapor as we exhale, but most water is lost as sweat, urine, and stool. Along with H2O, the human body contains a certain amount of salt (known as electrolytes).

Water and electrolytes together help the body perform all its vital functions. When excessive water is lost from the body, it can create an imbalance of electrolytes. This, in turn, can affect many all the vital functions of the human body. 

Symptoms of Dehydration 

One of the first symptoms is changes in the color of the urine. Clear urine is an indication that you are well hydrated. While darker urine indicates dehydration. The symptoms of dehydration vary with age. Infants often experience the following symptoms:

      • A sunken fontanel – It is the soft spot in the middle of the skull 
      • No tears when crying  
      • Dry mouth 
      • No wet diaper for more than three hours

Infants are at a much higher risk of dehydration due to their lower body weight. While some of the symptoms of dehydration are the same in adults as in infants, others vary.  Symptoms of dehydration in adults include the following: 

      • Dry mouth 
      • Fatigue/lethargy 
      • Headache 
      • Dizziness 

As the condition progresses, it can lead to the following symptoms: 

      • Low blood pressure 
      • Increased heart rate 
      • Unconsciousness 

Causes of Dehydration

There are many causes of dehydration. One of the most important causes is drinking less water. People are often so tied up with their schedules that they do not drink enough. Athletes or people who spend more time outdoors in warmer climates are also likely to suffer this condition. 

However, there are some medical issues that can lead to this. 

Diarrhea and Vomiting 

In case of severe diarrhea and vomiting, the body ends up losing most of its fluids. This loss of water can lead to an imbalance of electrolytes in the body. 


High-grade fever is another important cause of dehydration. The body tends to lose more water in cases such as this.

Increased Urination 

Uncontrolled or chronic diabetes can lead to excessive urination and can cause dehydration. 

How Does It Affect the Body?

Water is an integral part of the human body and there is a reason for it. It allows the body to perform all important functions including transportation of blood, brain function, attention, and excretion of toxic waste. According to research, even slight dehydration can negatively affect your mood, memory, attention, and coordination. Some of the effects of dehydration on the human body include the following: 

Strains the Heart 

Since water is an integral component of the blood, lack of water results in the thickening of the blood. When the blood becomes more concentrated, its volume reduces, and subsequently, your heart needs to pump faster to compensate for the missing liquid volume. This is the reason why dehydration results in a faster heartbeat, which can cause you to become lightheaded and even faint. 

Affects Brain Function 

Electrolytes play an important role in performing cognitive functions, including attention and motor skills. When the body is dehydrated, there is an imbalance of electrolytes and that can affect brain function. 

Can Lead to Kidney Failure 

Kidneys perform an important role in filtering out toxic waste from the body in the form of urine. When the body is dehydrated, it becomes harder for the kidneys to perform their functions. Severe dehydration can lead to a buildup of waste in the body, which can form clogs in the kidneys. This is the reason why dehydration is considered to be a leading cause of kidney stones and urinary tract infections. 

Hampers the Body’s Ability to Regulate Temperature 

The skin is one of the most vital organs when it comes to maintaining the body’s internal temperature. When the body temperature rises due to exercise, the skin allows the body to release excess heat in the form of sweat. When the body is dehydrated, it can affect the skin’s ability to regulate temperature. This can cause a condition known as hyperthermia, which is an overheating of the body. 

Tips for Staying Hydrated 

An average adult in a temperate climate needs between 2-3 liters of water every day. Now that you know how dehydration affects the body, here are a few tips for staying hydrated:

Keep a Water Bottle 

Try and keep a bottle of water along with you all the time. A bottle at your desk, in the car or in your bag, and on the table will remind you to drink frequently throughout the day. 

Add Natural Flavor

If you find plain water tasteless, adding natural flavors can help. A slice of lemon, few mint leaves, or berries can give color and taste to your water. 

Start Your Day by Drinking Water

A few sips or a glass full of water as soon as you wake up will help you stay hydrated throughout the day. It is also one of the best ways to reduce excess body fat. 

Add Fruits and Vegetables to Your Diet

Assorted Fruits

Besides being an excellent source of nutrients, fresh fruits and vegetables including cucumbers, watermelons, berries, and oranges have high water content. Adding such fruits and vegetables to your diet will help replenish lost water from the body. 

Other Forms of Water

No doubt, pure natural water is the best for your body, but drinking other liquids is not out of the question. Coffee, tea, juice, and milk (an excellent source of hydration) are great sources to keep your system plenished. Soda also, but be careful because they do have negative factors, such as weight gain. 

And alcohol? Now that’s a loaded question (yes, pun intended). Be wary, some alcoholic drinks can cause dehydration, but there is more to it than that. Low alcohol drinks are better at hydration than high alcohol ones, so the best thing to do is make sure you are still gulping down that plain, fresh natural H2O when you go out to drink the happy juice. 

Four Most Common Cardiovascular Diseases

What are Cardiovascular Diseases?

Graph of a heart rate
Heart Rate Vector Design Element Over White. Bigstock

The cardiovascular system is made up of the heart, blood vessels, and blood. The heart is responsible for pumping oxygenated blood to the entire body. The blood vessels act as a transporting agent, carrying oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to and from the heart to our other organs. When the organs receive this oxygen-rich blood, they can perform their respective functions. 

Cardiovascular diseases are a category of conditions that affect the heart and blood vessels and encompass various conditions, but the most common ones are highlighted below. 

Heart Attack

Also known as myocardial infarction, is one of the most common cardiovascular diseases. Every year, around 0.7 million Americans suffer from this debilitating ailment. It is one of the leading causes of death globally and causes one in every four deaths in the US. 

The heart muscles need a constant flow of oxygen-rich blood, providing adequate blood supply to the body’s organs. In the case of cardiovascular diseases, the blood vessels are narrowed and consequently result in a higher risk of blood clots. A heart attack occurs when the supply of blood to the heart is suddenly stopped due to these clots and this problem can seriously damage the heart muscle. 

Not all heart attacks are due to blood clots, however. A heart attack can be a result of a spasm of blood vessels carrying blood to the heart. During a spasm, the blood vessel is unable to perform its function normally. As a result, the heart is deprived of oxygen-rich blood and the heart muscle suffers permanent damage.

This heart muscle deterioration depends upon the period the heart was deprived of oxygen. The muscle can begin to heal right after a heart attack and full recovery can take up to eight weeks. In case of serious damage, a heart attack can be fatal.  

Coronary Artery Disease 

Coronary artery disease is a specific medical condition related to the arteries, which are the blood vessels for carrying oxygen-rich blood to the heart. The heart then pumps oxygenated blood to the rest of the body. 

Coronary artery disease occurs when the arteries become too narrow, due to a thick lining of fatty deposits. This is caused by a sedentary lifestyle and a diet rich in fats. The fatty deposits, called plaque, exert pressure on the arteries and result in damage to the vessel’s inner layers. This injury causes inflammation within the artery and the plaque further deposits in the artery; subsequently, pressure is exerted on the blood vessel and this may cause it to rupture. It also increases the risk of clot formation. 

Congenital Heart Defect

This condition is associated with a defect in the structure of the heart or major blood vessels. A congenital heart defect is one of the most common birth abnormalities. Every year, around 1% of babies in the US are born with congenital heart defects. This birth defect either causes blood to flow through the heart irregularly or it may restrict the flow of blood in the heart or other blood vessels. Previously, children born with congenital heart defects were unable to survive. However, with advances in technology, it is possible to successfully treat some of these birth defects. 

There are over 30 different types of congenital heart defects. Medically, these defects can be divided into two categories. 

Cyanotic Heart Disease 

This condition is often characterized by low oxygen levels. This can cause breathlessness, fatigue, and fainting in infants. There may also be blue skin and lips, as well as fever, nausea, or vomiting. 

Acyanotic Heart Disease   

The oxygen levels in this condition are normal, but there is a flaw in the structure of the heart. This restricts the heart’s ability to pump blood to all the other parts of the body effectively. 

Most of the patients suffering from congenital heart defects have a higher than normal blood pressure. This means that the heart needs to work harder to transport blood throughout the body. This can weaken the heart muscles over time and may lead to heart failure. High blood pressure also increases the risk of other medical conditions, including stroke and kidney failure. 


Some changes in the heart rate are normal. When a person sleeps, the heart rate drops and increases during exercise or stressful situations. However, an abnormally high or low heart rate can be a sign of a dangerous cardiovascular disease. 

Arrhythmia is a cardiovascular disease related to the rhythm of your heartbeat. People suffering from this condition experience irregular cardiac rhythm. There are two common types of arrhythmia. Either the heart beats too slowly. This condition is referred to as bradycardia. Or the heart rate is too high. This is known as tachycardia and occurs when you have more than 100 heartbeats per minute. 

Though the condition is not related to blood vessels, it is categorized as cardiovascular disease. This is because it is associated with the heart and the electrical impulses of the heart. The condition is particularly dangerous because if the heart is beating too fast or too slowly, it cannot effectively pump blood to all other organs. Ineffective blood supply to vital organs like the lungs, brain, and other organs can damage them. 

We are just scratching the surface here to give you a quick overview of heart ailments, but there is an amazing abundance of heart-related websites on the Internet. Be sure to read up on cardiovascular diseases for more detailed information, but make sure the information you find is from a reliable source.

As far as prevention is concerned, there is no guarantee that you will not acquire a cardiovascular disease sometime in your lifetime and there is also the possibility that you will never have a heart-related issue, but good exercise and proper diets can always reduce the odds. Of course, if you feel that something is wrong, contact your doctor immediately. Don’t wait! 



Ten Facts to Know About Arthritis

 X-ray of a patient with rheumatoid arthritis in ankle jointyayimages.com

Arthritis is one of the most common medical conditions of the bones and joints. With that said, this disease is greatly under-rated and highly misunderstood. Over 50 million adults and 300,000 children currently suffer from atrhritis. Women and seniors are most affected by it, feeling frequent joint pain and swelling. Although it is not related to gender, race, or age group, the condition can worsen as we get older. 

The pain and stiffness can hamper the motor skills and the ability to move. The symptoms can be temporary or permanent, mild, or severe. A patient can experience difficulty in carrying out daily tasks like climbing stairs or walking. Since the bones affected by arthritis deteriorates with time, it is important to understand what is happening and there are ways to limit acquiring this bone disease. Let’s take a look at what arthritis is all about first.

There are more than 100 types of Arthritis Conditions

Arthritis is a term used to represent numerous types of bone and joint conditions. The types are categorized by degenerative, inflammatory, infectious, and metabolic arthritis. The two most common are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis targets the hard, lubricated tissue lining the joints, called cartilage, whereas rheumatoid arthritis triggers the immune system which works against the joints.

Rheumatologists are Arthritis Specialists

When dealing with specialized conditions, it is important to refer to the professionals trained in that specific area. To provide effective care for arthritis, rheumatologists should be referred to. They’ll be able to diagnose the type of arthritis and plan a treatment plan accordingly.

Arthritis Patients Face Difficulties in Daily Tasks

Person bending with knee injuryModerate to severe arthritis can cause physical limitations and even a person’s daily chores can become painful. Bone and joint pain make bending, walking, and climbing difficult. People may also need assistance in cooking, cleaning, bathing, and other home chores.

Arthritis is Incurable

This might be the worst thing about arthritis. There is no known treatment or medication that can be used to cure it completely. However, your doctor will be able to prescribe antibiotics for Lyme’s arthritis or medication to reduce pain, swelling, and other symptoms. These medicines can be effective in slowing down the disease and controlling the associated conditions, but there’s no way currently available to cure the disease completely.

Early Diagnosis Can Definitely Help

Like all other diseases, diagnosing arthritis in its initial stages can help treat the disease. If the symptoms worsened with time, there’s not much that can be done. The ideal treatment plan would entail an early diagnosis and medication to regress the progression of the disease.

Arthritis Can be Controlled by Adopting Healthy Habits

A healthy lifestyle can make a huge difference for arthritis for patients if they adopt habits like regular exercising, healthy eating, managing stress, maintaining a healthy weight, and getting sufficient sleep. It is important to quit smoking and drinking as these habits can worsen the illness.

A Lot of Information about Arthritis Is Misleading

You’ll be surprised to know that several things associated with arthritis are based on myths, misconceptions, and rumors. The belief that this disease is age-specific and will affect only old people is incorrect. Age is not a cause of arthritis. Similarly, climate and diet have nothing to do with it either. Even though the thought of curing the disease is a good one, it is still just a myth. Lack of compassion also gives birth to some myths. Arthritis pain is not “just pain”, it can get quite severe and can interfere with the daily life anyone who acquires it.

Each Person Will Have a Different Reaction to Treatment

Senior Citizen showing hands hurt from arthritis

The treatment of arthritis will differ from patient to patient. The doctor will adopt a trial and error method and prescribe different medications including NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), DMARDs (disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs), analgesics (pain medications), biologics, or corticosteroids. The treatment plan will be refined based on the patient’s reaction until the most optimum combination of medicines is found.

The Treatment Can Be Expensive

Arthritis is the number one cause of disability in America and its treatment can be quite expensive. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). The national arthritis-attributable medical expenditures were estimated to reach annual medical expenditures can be as high as $140 billion in 2013. The disease can leave the patients impaired and this may lso costs them wage losses along with medical costs, which can almost double this amount. In 2013, this was estimated to be $303.5 billion or 1% of the 2013 US Gross Domestic Product

Arthritis Can Be Emotionally Exhausting

A person can suffer from depression due to feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. While there are numerous physical limitations of the disease, the emotional trauma goes beyond that. There lies a huge responsibility on the family and friends of the patients. At its worst, the anger, resentment, and fear can lead to self-destructive practices and may even take away the will to live. People suffering from arthritis should be treated with love and support.

Arthritis and associated conditions can affect a patient’s life and the society in general. We hope that this brief article can hlep you gain some introductory knowledge about this disease. Living a life with pain and discomfort is no fun, but knowing about the disease can help in early diagnosis and effective treatment. Talk to your doctor and find out what he/she recommends!

When Time is Optimal for Exercise?

Woman exercising on the beachThe early bird catches the worm – a familiar term we’re used to hearing, especially when being woken up for school by our parents in the early hours of the morning.

But does this phrase hold true for physical fitness? Keep on reading to find out.

Importance of Exercise

The benefits of regular physical activity and exercise have long been proven and hold to this day. From strengthening bones to building muscle and burning body fat, physical exercise offers a wide range of advantages. Enhancing memory, improving blood flow, and building up a better immune system are just some to start with.

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, an adult should get at least 150 minutes to 300 minutes of moderate physical exercise every week.

The Edge of the Early Worm

Smartwatch being set for time

Morning workouts, particularly on an empty stomach, is one of the best times for burning stored fat, making this time ideal for weight loss. This is mainly because the body’s hormones are set up physiologically to shed the most during that time. The same reason is attributed to the body being more energized during morning workouts.

Even if you hate early alarms, exercising as early as 7 a.m. may shift your body’s internal clock earlier, making you feel more alert during mornings. This habit also makes you feel tired at night so you go to bed early and get enough rest to get a fresh, early start and repeat the same process.

A morning workout has also been associated with better mental health, creativity, and productivity throughout the day since exercise is a great stress reliever. It is also easier to pick up and stick to healthier habits that you start with in the mornings.

However, if you are not a morning person, do not force the habit upon yourself as it could lead to an inefficient workout routine.

Afternoon Workouts are Just as Good

If you are doing an intense or rigorous routine, swinging in a workout at lunch is a good fall back option as well.

Morning workouts are best for shedding weight and losing fat. But workouts performed during the afternoon will be boosted by the energy received from the one or two meals you had eaten before starting out.

An afternoon workout is also a great way to get over the end of the day slump. Exercising between 1 pm and 4 pm can shift the body clock similar to morning workouts. Even a brisk walk can rejuvenate you and help you focus better.

Nighttime Perks

Most people only find time to work out in the evenings after work. Some people believe that exercising at night makes it difficult to fall asleep later. This is a common misconception.

As long as you are not exercising, showering, and immediately jumping into bed, you are still safe from this belief. But research conducted found that exercising between 7 pm and 10 pm does delay the body clock. Instead, other stress relieving activities performed at night can be more beneficial and help you fall asleep. These activities include meditation and yoga.

How to Make Your Workout More Effective

Two Men Exercising on MatNow that you know the advantage different workout times hold for you, check out the following strategies that can make you get the most from your training.

  • Don’t push your limits too much. If you have time constraints and are limited to a few hours each week, do not go for overkill within that short time frame. You should have a more patient approach and combine in other factors like sleep quality and diet if you are aiming for weight loss.
  • Shift the focus. Exercising, especially weight training, requires more focus on the quality of reps rather than the amount you do. Proper form not only leads to a better physical appearance but also prevents injury.
  • Keep challenging yourself. The progressive overload principle is a cardinal rule among trainers which states that in order for the muscle to grow stronger the body must be forced to bear greater work than it is used to. In other words, if you keep on doing what you do every day your body won’t change.
  • Learn to have fun and enjoy. Exercising for most people is just a means to an end and they only start because they feel obligated to. After a certain point, learn to have fun and enjoy instead of feeling obligated to performing repetitive tasks. If you feel the gym has become too monotonous, you can opt for other forms of exercise such as boxing or dancing which are more engaging.

The Bottom Line

Young asian man meditatingTo pick a time that is most optimal for exercise, experts recommend going for the morning sweat. Early workouts make the most of your physiology and biology and do wonders in the long run.

However, sticking to a strict schedule and time is not easy while living a demanding life that requires one to pay attention to friends and family. To get the most benefits from exercise, the best time to do it is when you will actually do it and not slack off.

Picking a time and sticking to it like a bee on honey, regardless if it is morning or evening, is the best approach. Exercising consistently at the same time each day develops a habit that is hard to lose.

Bipolar Disorder – Much More than Just Mood Swings

Photo by Bambarayayimages.com

One could say that people exhibiting bipolar disorder are the most emotional people in the world; although possibility true, this would be a rather simplistic way of describing it, but it would definitely give a good illustration of how those who have this disorder react.

When you see someone with quick and extreme mood changes, it may be more than just regular emotional swings. Although not always, a person exhibiting episodes of drastic mood changes may actually be suffering from bipolar disorder and is a mental illness that affects around 60 million people all over the world, according to the World Health Organization.

What is Bipolar Disorder and How is It Different from Regular Mood Swings?

It is normal to experience mood changes in everyday life – there are days when you feel happy and content and there are times when you can’t help feeling down or maybe even depressed. However, if the mood changes are too drastic and start to affect your daily life, there could be an underlying problem.

Drastic and severe mood changes with depressive and manic episodes are the key symptoms of bipolar disorder.

This is a disease that affects the brain and as defined by the National Institute of Mental Health as an illness that is characterized by dramatic changes in one’s mood, activity levels, and energy. The highs and lows are so severe that they interfere with the patient’s everyday life and often makes it difficult (or impossible) to even carry out everyday tasks, not to mention the impact it has on that person’s friends and loved ones. The mood swings can last for prolonged periods, which then cause psychological distress.

The disease is also called manic-depressive disorder, which was a term used more often in the mid-20th century, reflecting the two extreme states of mood swings. Mania, or the high, is characterized by hyperactivity, grandiosity, and euphoria whereas the depressive state makes the person feel hopeless and lethargic. During the depressive stage, the patient loses interest in everything and becomes pessimistic.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Unfortunately, there is no test that can tell if a person is suffering from bipolar disorder. This makes the diagnosis quite difficult. The evaluation generally includes the following:

  • Physical Exam and Lab Tests – Since there is no test for bipolar disorder, doctors have to perform different types of tests, like body scans and blood tests, and a physical exam in order to rule out any physical medical condition that may be causing the symptoms.
  • Mood Charting – The doctor may ask you or a family member to keep an eye on (and maintain a record of) your mood swings, sleep patterns, and other behavioral factors on a daily basis.
  • Psychiatric Assessment – The diagnosis of bipolar disorder is often not made without the involvement of a psychiatrist. A person exhibiting some symptoms of the disease is often referred for a psychiatric assessment. This includes a number of things, like filling out a questionnaire or self-assessment form and consultation sessions with the psychiatrist during which the doctor will talk about your feelings, behaviors, and thoughts. The psychiatrist may also need to talk to a family member or a close friend regarding the symptoms a person is showing, in order to reach a decision.  Usually the psychiatrist can determine if the person is bipolar after just a few visits.

While the diagnosis is not solely made on the basis of symptoms, it can definitely help to reach a conclusion. According to experts, a person suffering from bipolar disorder generally shows at least three symptoms of mania and hypomania (a less severe stage of mania) and at least five symptoms of severe depression.

A manic or hypomanic episode is characterized by the following signs and symptoms:

  • Increased energy, activity, or agitation
  • Acting abnormally jumpy, or upbeat (hyper)
  • Talking much more than usual
  • Distractibility
  • Decreased sleep
  • Racing thoughts
  • Making poor decisions, for example, bad financial decisions, going on shopping sprees, etc.
  • Euphoria characterized by exaggerated self-confidence and sense of well-being

Some of the most common symptoms a bipolar person shows during a severe depressive episode include:

  • Feeling extremely sad, hopeless, and empty
  • An increase or decrease in appetite
  • Significant weight gain or weight loss without any apparent reason
  • Feeling restless
  • Sleeping too much (hypersomnia) or too little (insomnia)
  • A constant feeling of fatigue
  • Low energy and slowed behavior
  • Reduced concentration and ability to think
  • Indecisiveness
  • Losing interest in everything
  • Feeling guilty or worthless
  • Suicidal thoughts and attempts

Depending on the type of bipolar disorder and its severity, some patients may also experience and exhibit anxiety, psychosis, ADHD, or substance abuse. The initial signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder often first appear during teen age. However, the mental condition can also affect children.

Unlike the common perception, it is possible to live a normal life even when you are diagnosed with this disease and the even better news is that there are many medications available to help the individual maintain a normal lifestyle. Therefore, consult a doctor if you or a loved one is experiencing any of the symptoms – it may be more than just mood swings.

Lastly, we all need to be a little more empathetic towards people suffering from mental illnesses. They may not appear as severe as diseases that affect our body, they are equally (and maybe more) traumatic and painful. Instead of labeling anyone as psychotic, try and help them in some way –they may be suffering from a mental condition and may not be aware of it themselves.   

11 Ways to Be a Better Parent of an Autistic Child

Autistic-boy-looking-at-a-river Photo by alexx60yayimages.com

This coming April is National Autism Month.  and so we find it prudent to take the time to cover some important aspects of Autism.

A Brief Overview of Autism 

Autism is a spectrum disorder that makes one develop differently in terms of communicating and forming social skills. Everybody falls on a different spectrum. If you are a parent of an autistic child, then it is understandable that every day is a challenge for you.

It’s a responsibility as a parent to make their child thrives in this world, regardless of any conditions they are born with. Autism is not impossible to deal with and once you learn how to manage it, things can become easier for you and your child.

Here are 11 ways on how you can be a better parent:

Have a Fixed Schedule

Autistic children learn better if they have a schedule fixed for them. A highly structured daily routine is just what they need to do their best. Consistency is something they can easily depend on and thrive towards. A regular set of activities such as school, play time, meals and therapy makes autistic children feel safe and something they are familiar with. It will less likely cause any tantrums or outbursts as well. Avoid any distractions or disruptions in their schedule. Anything out of the routine can make them upset. Inform your child in advance for any changes.  

Be Consistent

Autistic children need consistency in order to learn something. It is difficult for them to apply the skills learned in just one setting.  Your child can do one thing at school such as using sign language but doesn’t think he/she has to do it at home. Consistency is the key to reinforcing learning and acquiring new skills.

Creating consistency for autistic children makes their emotional development smoother and easier to manage. You must make your child practice and apply all the skills learned in different environments and settings in order to expand the learning process. Consistency should not only be done for learning but also the way you interact with your child during good and challenging behavior.  

Have a Special Safe Area at Home

Even though your home is a safe place for your autistic child, there will be some challenging times when your child will feel unsafe. This is why you need to create another safe place within your home where your child goes to relax and not feel pressured or disturbed in any way. It should be a private space where he can calm down and feel secure. Make sure that the area is marked for easy recognition. Whenever your child feels uneasy, he can come whenever possible. Safety-proof your entire house so that no place is dangerous for any outbursts or self-injurious behavior.

Connect with Your Child Non-Verbally

Autistic children might not speak or communicate much but you can still connect with them non-verbally. You can communicate and connect with your child through other cues such as the eyes, hand gestures, the tone of your voice and other signs of facial expressions and body language. It can even include the way you touch her. You can create your own mix of language as long as it helps the both of you stay connected. Pay close attention to your child’s non-verbal cues as well so that you recognize what they need to express.

Have Some Fun Time

Both you and your child need to have some fun time together to strengthen communication and connection. There should be more to life than just coming in and out of therapy sessions and special classes for your child. Find out how both of you can have fun through incorporating your child’s favorite activities or introduce new games or recreational pastime. Play is an important part of children’s learning and development, and autistic children are no different.

Know Your Child’s Triggers

Autistic children respond differently to different things. Some are highly sensitive to certain things that can trigger them such as light, touch, sound, smell or anything that they perceive to be uncomfortable or dangerous. It is essential to know what triggers your child so that you can avoid any challenging or difficult behavior and reaction.

Don’t Confine Your Child

Interacting is quite difficult for many autistic kids but that doesn’t mean that they should be left by themselves most of the time in their room. Take your child outside every day, whether it is to a store, a walk in the park or even in your own backyard. Autistic children are part of the community and must participate in their own way, no matter how different or limited it might be.

It’s Ok to Take a Break

As a parent of a child, a break is not only normal but a must. This is true whether your child has special needs or not. Don’t feel guilty if you want to leave your kid with a babysitter and go have some fun time with your friends or spouse. You take on the daily challenges and struggles every day. It’s only natural that you take out time for yourself so that you are better able to take care of your child later on.

Join a Support Group

Interacting with other parents of autistic children will let your mind at ease and you can learn from one another on how to manage your kids.

Take Care of Yourself

This one can’t be stressed enough. If you can’t take care of yourself, then you won’t be able to care for your kid as well. Create a schedule for your own activities such as gym, classes, spa treatments, movies etc. If your whole day revolves around your child, then you will be more likely to get burnt out and exhausted.  A healthy and happy you can definitely make everything for your child so much better.

Split the Responsibility

Don’t let all the responsibility of taking care of your child rest on you. There can be just one parent who the child connects with more but you got to make them learn that there are two people watching out for them. This is important because if either one of you is busy or sick, you have the other to rely on.