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A hereditary Blood Disorder: Mediterranean Anemia

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An inherited blood disorder, Thalassemia is characterized by less hemoglobin and fewer red blood cells in your body than normal and its prevalence is higher in the Mediterranean region. Recent studies in Turkey introduce better treatment opportunities with new drugs

Thalassemia (Mediterranean anemia) is a hereditary blood disease commonly seen in those of Mediterranean origin. It emerges with a mutation in the hemoglobin in the red blood cells as a result of gene disruptions. This deterioration prevents blood, which is tasked with carrying oxygen throughout the body, from carrying oxygen, and causes anemia.

Thalassemia is a very serious disease that can result in death if not treated properly. Paleness in the skin is among the most important symptoms of the said disease in addition to fatigue and lethargy. It emerges at infancy. In case these symptoms are intense, a specialist should be contacted and a simple blood test should be conducted.Thalassemia is tested with a complete blood count and a blood test that determines the proportion of the hemoglobin types present in the blood. If hemoglobin A2 is present at a higher rate in blood than expected, the person is identified as a carrier of thalassemia. Thalassemia major and thalassemia minor can be diagnosed – and distinguished from one another – not only through conventional clinical and blood testing, but also through molecular and genetic tests. These tests permit accurate diagnosis to be made at any time, even before birth. It is commonly found in people of Mediterranean descent, such as Italians and Greeks, as well as those from the Arabian Peninsula, Iran, Africa, Southeast Asia and southern China.

The treatment of thalassemia starts with blood transfusion and supportive medication. If the bone marrow, which can be taken from healthy individuals with compatible tissues, is found, a marrow transplant can also be performed. It is crucial to make an early decision. Too many blood transfusions may make a marrow transplant difficult. The rate of success for the treatment of thalassemia in Turkey is very high with approximately 70-80 percent.

The disease is not contagious. It passes from a carrier mother and father to the child through genetic transmission, meaning that it is a genetic feature transmitted from parents just like hair color and eye color. Every feature develops with a pair of genes inherited one from the mother and the other from the father.

Parents can transfer any of this gene pair to the child. If the mother and father are carriers there is a 25 percent chance that the children are sick. So every child born to these couples will have a 25 percent chance of being sick and 50 percent chance of being a carrier. The risk of delivering a sick child is the same in every pregnancy.

However, it is not enough for only one of the parents to be sick for one to become a carrier. Both parents must carry the disease. If one of the parents suffers from thalassemia, then this person is defined as carrier. Children with a single parent suffering from the disease are usually carriers and do not have the disease. Turkey is a Mediterranean country and kinship marriages are frequent. Close relatives carry the common gene in particular. Degenerated genes are also included in this situation, and when they come together, it is inevitable for the parents to pass them on to their children. Recent studies indicate that more than 1.5 million people have been diagnosed with thalassemia in Turkey.

Thalassemia can be detected and treated prenatally in the mother’s womb. Hence, doubtful couples should make it a point to take a blood test to determine if they are carriers. When the couples, who are determined to be carriers, want to have children, the Ministry of Health leads them to centers for genetic counseling and advanced genetic tests and helps them bring healthy children to the world through prenatal genetic diagnosis methods.

The Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) method has been successfully applied for about 10 years and healthy babies are selected before being placed in the mother’s womb. The egg is fertilized by the sperm with a microinjection in a laboratory dish by means of the In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) method and embryos are obtained.

Cells taken from this embryo by biopsy under microscope are examined for genetic disease. Healthy embryos are transferred to the mother. Thus, the baby is protected from this disease without being placed in the mother’s womb. In November, Turkish scientists have developed a new drug molecule to be used in the treatment of thalassemia. Following a three-year study by Üsküdar University in collaboration with Sabancı University, a new chelating drug molecule from microalgae has been developed. The European Patent has been applied to transform the drug candidate molecule into a drug that prevents iron overload, which can lead to death in patients with thalassemia.

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False Facts About Catching a Cold, Flu

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Everyone catches a cold once or twice in the winter and mid-seasons. Although we take precautions to prevent catching a cold, the false facts that we believe to be true misdirect us. To be able to protect ourselves from the disease, it is important to know facts about the disease in the first place

Even though it is getting warmer, changes in temperature have the potential to lead to different diseases. Some of us have already started to feel tired, get the sniffles or become sneezy. Amid the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives, we do not have time to rest and look after ourselves to fight our sicknesses. One should not forget that the most important point in the fight against a cold is to take precautionary measures.

Well, what do you know about illnesses, such as the cold, which affects the quality of our lives immensely? How accurate is the advice that our elders or neighbors give us? One of the most important things to keep in mind is that the source of sickness (for influenza) is not cold weather, but it is microorganisms and viruses. Here are several points about colds that are actually false.

Does going out with wet hair make us sick?

Cold or flu develops after a virus called “rhinovirus” enters the human body. Regardless of the temperature, weather or environmental conditions, once this virus enters into your body through your nose, mouth or other organs, then you will get sick. Otherwise, this virus will not affect you even though it exists in the same place where you are.

In this case, if we go out with wet hair, are we more likely to catch this virus? Well, wet hair only leads you to feel the cold more intensely. That is why this ongoing belief is still popular among people.

A group of American scientists studied the influence of going out with wet hair in cold weather on catching cold or flu. They first asked a group of participants if they believe this factor increases the risk of getting a cold. Some 41 percent of them responded “yes” to this question.

Then they prepared two different settings where the flu virus existed. In one of these settings, there were cold temperature conditions while the other had normal weather conditions. Some of the participants had wet hair and some had dry hair when they entered their own settings.

The result turned out to be very interesting. According to the study, in the same conditions (cold temperature), no difference was observed between the participants with wet hair and those with dry hair regarding their chances of getting cold. The only difference between the two groups turned out to be that the participants with wet hair felt colder than the participants with dry hair.

There are more studies that point out the same results. Thus, it has been scientifically proven that wet hair in cold weather does not increase the chances of getting a cold. Well, you’d better tell your mother about this fact because it is very likely she will resist changing this strong belief about catching a cold.

Do wool caps protect us from getting cold?

I am sure there are thousands of people who spent their childhood wearing woolen caps like I did, thus you became like a pea in a pod with your cap on until the weather gets better. The common belief that woolen caps protect us from getting cold stems from the belief that the fastest and biggest heat loss in the human body occurs from the head when the body starts to lose heat in cold weather, a belief that dates back 50 years.

The U.S. Army Forces conducted various experiments to increase their chances of survival in the perishing cold, to which the soldiers were likely to be exposed. A pretty cold environment was prepared for the experiment guided by scientists. Some volunteer soldiers started to wait in a cold room without wool caps and scientists measured the head temperatures of soldiers at certain intervals. Results show that soldiers lost up to 50 percent of their body heat from the head.

One of the most important reasons why this belief is still popular is the trust in the results of the scientific research. But, does the fact that we lose heat from our head quickly and in large amounts mean that it is the only part of our body that loses heat? Of course, not. If that was the case, only wearing a woolen cap would be enough to protect us from risk of freezing.

Grounding his research in this argument, Dr. Daniel Sessler, president of Cleveland Clinic Research Center, conducted similar a similar study – in cooperation with the U.S. army again – including participants who wore swimsuits in the same conditions. This study showed that almost every part of the human body experiences heat loss at the same level when the body is not protected in cold weather.

Thus, even if we can’t say that wearing a wool cap does not make any difference in cold weather, we can easily say that protecting only the head does not protect us from getting cold.

To sum up, always remember it is microorganisms and viruses that make us sick, not the cold weather itself. We must be especially careful about keeping our hands clean as we are frequently in crowded places and in contact with people who have a cold or the flu. Hands are in constant contact with the mouth and nose, which serve as an entrance point for microorganisms. We must make a habit out of washing our hands especially while it is still cold.

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Depression: A Hidden Heart Disease Risk Factor For Women

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Depression is almost twice as likely to affect women than men. Difficulty in sleeping, loss of appetite and fatigue are the most common symptoms, but another lesser-known risk is a higher chance of heart attack

If we have not seen for ourselves a person who has had a heart attack before, the first image that comes to our minds in such a situation is similar to those in movie scenes. In most cases, a man holding his chest suddenly collapses, and the diagnosis is a heart attack. There is a strong public belief that a heart attack is seen in men more than women. This partially true data does not necessarily mean that women are at a lower risk.

The human body generally gives signals about what is happening. The important thing is to interpret these messages correctly and in a timely manner. The male and female bodies are two different systems that process things in different ways. This is why the same disease can show up with different signals in the two sexes. A heart attack is one of them.

If you have problems such as fatigue, heartburn, indigestion, sudden dizziness and lack of quality sleep, it may be a sign that you are at risk of a heart attack. Many women can relate these symptoms to busy work life, stress and city life. These are true, yet your lifestyle may assist in developing such symptoms, which can lead to worse health problems.

Do you constantly feel tired?

Fatigue is one of the most common complaints in our lives. Insomnia, the flu or the side effects of medications can easily cause tiredness, but being able to associate your fatigue with these causes does not mean that the actual cause of your complaints is one of them.

The results of a survey on women who have had a heart attack are quite interesting. More than 70 percent of women who had a heart attack reported that they had a feeling of fatigue that did not go away in the pre-heart attack period.

Do you have trouble sleeping?

There can be many different reasons for lack of sleep, and the vast majority requires regular treatment. If you cannot sleep immediately when you get into bed at night or if it takes too much time, you should be careful. A scientific study on women suffering from a heart attack calls attention to women’s sleep disorders. Almost half of the women who had a heart attack reported that they had suffered from lack of sleep that lasted for a while.

Do you suffer from shortness of breath?

If you are having difficulty doing routine activities during the day and the most obvious change that is bothering you is shortness of breath, never ignore this. Studies have shown that unexpected shortness of breath, which cannot be attributed to a known illness, may be a symptom of a heart attack for women. If you suffer from a cough as well as shortness of breath, this can be a signal you need to take seriously.

Do you suffer from heartburn and indigestion?

Eating habits and existing stomach disorders may cause you to develop heartburn. What should be noted here is whether you have a known illness that can explain your stomach problem. If you have not developed heartburn or indigestion complaints before, do not ignore it.

Another scientific study on women who had a heart attack draws attention to the finding that women who suffer from (unexpected) heartburn and indigestion should be careful. According to the study, almost 40 percent of women who had a heart attack reported that they suffered from heartburn or indigestion before the heart attack occurred.

Apart from heartburn, nausea and vomiting that occur without reason are among the heart attack symptoms for women. A study examining pre-heart attack symptoms showed that women had twice as many stomach and intestinal system diseases as men. In this case, women who have complaints such as heartburn, indigestion, nausea and vomiting that develop without cause should pay twice as much attention as men.

Do you have serious anxiety problems?

Depression, angst and anxiety are frequently experienced among many people. Panic attacks, which have seriously increased in prevalence, are one of the psychological disorders that go along with a heart attack. As I mentioned before, if there is no known cause of the situation you are experiencing, you should take it seriously.

A study on women who had heart attacks call attention to the fact that women suffering from anxiety and angst should be careful. According to the survey, most of the women who had a heart attack said that they suffered from unexpected anxiety and angst in the pre-heart attack period.

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A Heart-Friendly Grocery List For Your Next Shopping Trip

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While walking along a supermarket’s aisles, the temptation to buy a variety of food items sets in, not aware that your basket is already full. For a healthy diet especially for the heart, you need a smart grocery list

Having a well-thought grocery list does not only save you time but helps you stick to a healthy diet. The items on your grocery list show how much you prioritize your health without being fooled by the marking hype.

The same thing goes when it comes to your heart health. Avoiding unhealthy food is as crucial as consuming foods rich in nutrients, fiber and healthy fats to prevent heart attacks. We have put together a shopping list for a heart-healthy diet.

The following foods that have been proven to be healthy for your heart should be included on your shopping list.

Beet greens

Are you throwing beet greens in the trash? Don’t! Beet greens is the top item on our list to protect yourself against heart diseases. Studies have revealed many advantages of beet greens for health. Fibers found in beet greens are known to decrease cholesterol absorption. Particularly those who have high cholesterol should definitely take advantage of the health benefits of beet greens. The heart-friendly product also helps stabilize your blood pressure thanks to its potassium content.

Canola oil

Marketed as heart-healthy oil, canola oil, which used to be widely available in local markets is currently a rarity. Made from crushed canola seeds, it has less saturated fat than any of the other oil kinds. It is higher in the omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Studies show that sterols found in the canola plant lowers bad cholesterol levels. Canola oil is also very rich in antioxidants and (thanks to antioxidants) it reduces inflammation in the body. You need to consume one table spoon of canola oil to get the expected benefits.

Bitter chocolate

There are enough studies to make any chocolate lover happy. Findings show that bitter chocolate speeds metabolism and aids weight loss, putting a smile on women’s faces in particular. However, in order to accelerate your metabolism, you need to make sure that your choice of bitter chocolate contains no less than 70 percent cacao.In addition to boosting metabolism, bitter chocolate is also good for your heart. Flavanols found in cacao help your vessels to flex and your blood to dilute, thus, reducing your blood pressure. Flexing your blood vessels is an important factor helping you reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases. However, do not forget that bitter chocolate must contain at least 70 percent cacao in order to protect your health.

Garlic

A staple of traditional Turkish cuisine, garlic is usually an indispensable item in the preparation of dishes. Researchers say consuming one clove of garlic – or if you are taking it in powder form, 1 teaspoon – will also provide protection against cardiac diseases. Garlic flexes your muscles and prevents plate formation in vessels and high cholesterol.

Apples

The struggle to lose weight has been one of the most popular subjects in the last few years. A number of scientific studies spotlight the fiber content of apples. There is about 5 milligrams of fiber in an apple – enough to meet (+/-) three-quarters of our daily intake need. Those trying to lose weight must definitely include apples in their diet. There are some other studies revealing that eating an apple a day helps you protect against heart diseases. Apple ranks fifth on our list of heart-healthy products. Scientists say that the high fiber flavonoid content of apples reduces the risk of heart attacks and strokes and lowers cholesterol levels! Consuming an apple a day is crucial for your health.

Olive oil

Used frequently in Mediterranean cuisine, olive oil is deemed as one of the miracles of nature. Very rich in antioxidants, olive oil helps lower LDL (bad cholesterol) levels without affecting HDL (good cholesterol). Therefore, it ranks sixth on this list. In order to benefit from olive oil, you need to consume about 2 tablespoons per day. It is advised to consume it raw by adding it to salads. There are a myriad of olive oil varieties available at supermarkets, which perplexes shoppers. It is very normal that you might not be able to decide which one to buy. The packaging and labels are sometimes confusing. My personal advice is to go for the “natural extra virgin olive oil.”

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