Winter is here, and aside from the chilly temperatures, it also brings risks such as the flu. It is important to be familiar with the health risks associated with the season and take necessary precautions
The weather is not the only thing that changes in the winter. Several health conditions that can be life threatening also appear during this season.
Although the human body is created to overcome so many risky health conditions, not everyone fits into this group, especially those who are vulnerable. Medically we say that this group would have higher a frailty score, being old, slim and chronically ill. Winter also puts children under the risk of several conditions.
There are of course several health benefits of winter as well, although I bet none of us appreciate them while shivering! Cold temperatures do a great job and serve public health by killing off disease-mongering insects and microorganisms. Moreover, cold weather may also help us slim down by stimulating metabolically active brown fat. Brown fat is the opposite of unhealthy white fat and is a good type of fat that actually helps the body burn energy in the form of heat.
In northern countries such as Scandinavia and Russia, many people actively seek the cold: wintertime swimming in frigid water or exercising is believed to do health wonders, and there’s some science suggesting that it really might do so. Don’t forget that as far as the temperature goes, if you are just warm enough and used to exercising, there is no temperature you can’t actually work out in.
But obviously there’s a dark side of winter that needs to be considered as well. Interestingly, several pieces of literature have shown that death rates increase and reach a peak during this time of the year. We know that cold weather increases blood pressure, and possibly increases the risk of people who already have cardiovascular diseases. Research has investigated the reason of this peak in death rates, and found out that sudden heart attacks, strokes or other cardiovascular diseases are the main causes of the increase. As a cardiac surgeon, I can confirm these results by just looking at the peak in number of cardiac surgeries I perform during these months.
Also, without hesitation, it can be said that the flu is a winter virus, and flu viruses spread more readily once the air is dry and chilly (not only because of the weather being dry, but also because of the dryness of our airways). Furthermore, as the sun goes away health issues start to arise. I had mentioned the great powers of vitamin D in one of my articles here, as the dark skies start to appear we start to lose this vitamin and its benefits, causing a mainly depressed immune system. So ultimately chilly temperatures and vitamin D deficiency is a poor combination that will risk your health.
Its really important to increase your vitamin D levels, and you may have not heard earlier but you can increase it naturally without taking pills during winter when there is not enough sunlight. Vitamin D is known for its benefits on heart health, skin health, immune health and mental health. In order to increase it you can make simple life changes. Research has shown that loosing weight also counts for vitamin D levels. If you lose 5 percent or more of your body weight, this will in turn make a spike in vitamin D levels. This is not all obviously; lowering cholesterol, exercising regularly and eating fatty fish are other ways to increase vitamin D levels naturally. Don’t forget that wild fish has about four times the amount of vitamin D than farmed ones.
Since winter is also the flu season, its good to get a flu shot as well. Unfortunately, we doctors do not explain all the benefits of getting the flu shot but just mention that it will protect you from the flu! People are more afraid of that shot needle when compared with the disease itself, since its something usual in a persons life when everything goes the right way. But the numbers are frightening when we talk about flu complications. In the United States alone, more than 30,000 people die from flu complications, and about 200,000 get hospitalized. Getting the flu vaccine is equivalent to getting immune. If your immune system is strong enough, this will collectively protect your loved ones as well.
The other two major winter season illnesses are frostbite and hypothermia. Simply, hypothermia is the condition when your body temperature falls below the normal range. On the other hand, frostbite is the condition when part of your skin falls below the freezing point. When ice crystals form in your skin, it starts to kill the cells. Frostbite starts with redness in your skin and can go all the way until it turns black! During the initial stage, frostbite can cause a loss of feeling and color in the affected areas, such as the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers or toes. When your skin turns black, this means that the area is permanently damaged and can even go to amputation.
You may have also heard about frostnip. This is the earliest stage of frostbite cases, and starts with a small white dot in the affected zone. This white dot especially occurs in your body extensions, such as your nose or fingers. Since it’s the initial stage of frostbite and there is no black discoloration of the skin, it doesn’t cause permanent damage to your skin. Of course, if you warm them up without loosing time! In extremely cold temperatures, the risk of frostbite is increased in people with reduced blood circulation and when people are not dressed properly.
Hypothermia on the other hand, can be fatal if its not detected promptly and treated properly in a timely manner. While hypothermia can happen to anyone, the elderly and frail carry the greatest risk because their bodies often do not adjust to changes in the temperature quickly and they may be unaware that they are gradually getting colder. If you have hypothermia, you’ll first feel cold, shiver and seem socially withdrawn. As the condition worsens, you can become confused, sleepy and slur your speech. In the most severe stage, the heart can slow down dangerously. To prevent hypothermia, wear warm, multi-layered clothing with especially good hand and feet protection and a warm hat or hood. If medical attention is not available, remove any clothing that’s wet, and wrap yourself in a warm blanket to avoid further heat loss. Although warm beverages can help increase the body temperature, be sure not to drink alcoholic beverages. Additionally, do not take a hot shower or bath, because it may cause shock.
Protect your heart at all costs: How to have a healthy heart
Studies show that heart attacks are one of the main diseases leading to death for both men and women. In its simplest definition, a heart attack can be explained as plaques formed in the blood vessels for various reasons preventing blood and oxygen from reaching the heart and thus stopping the system. Due to the vital importance of cardiovascular diseases, whose reasons have been investigated numerous times, it is important to know the most important prevention measures and adapt them to our lives in a timely manner. Protect your heart at all costs: How to have a healthy heart.
Sleep 7-8 hours every day
Research points out that regular and adequate sleep is one of the most important steps to protect heart health. A study that included people who sleep less than six hours a day and others who sleep between seven to eight hours revealed the relationship between adequate sleep and heart attacks. Accordingly, those who sleep less than six hours a day are twice as much at risk than those who sleep seven to eight hours a day.
Sleep helps regulate the level of insulin in the blood. When you do not sleep well enough, your cells become resistant to insulin, which causes your blood sugar to rise, weight gain, and you can develop long-term cardiovascular diseases. Regular and adequate sleep, which we do not pay enough attention to, is important enough to cause long-term cardiovascular diseases.
Your weight is an important clue to your health. The increasing rate of obesity in recent years has led scientists to examine health problems associated with obesity. According to studies, being overweight invites many vital diseases, especially cardiovascular disease. Some of the recent studies stress that your waist circumference is as important as your height-to-weight ratio. The likelihood of developing cardiovascular diseases increases in direct proportion to your waist circumference. According to scientists, a woman’s waist circumference of over 89 centimeters (35 inches) and a man’s waist circumference of over 102 centimeters increases the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
According to scientifically proven data, losing 5-10 percent of your total weight is enough to significantly reduce your chances of developing cardiovascular disease.
Regular exercise is a miracle-like wish for those who are lost in a busy working tempo and city life. However, we must not forget that health is acquired through discipline. Studies have shown that doing aerobics three days a week for 30 to 60 minutes regulates cholesterol levels, controls high blood pressure and reduces the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases. If you follow a healthy diet program along with regular exercise, you can reach these results much more effectively and quickly.
Laughing is the best medicine ever discovered. Studies have shown that laughter is extremely beneficial for vascular health. When you laugh, a serious decrease in the level of cortisol, known as the stress hormone, occurs. Decrease in stress and cortisol levels regulates blood pressure, strengthens our immune system and makes us feel happier. Scientists studying the effects of human psychology on diseases state that stress increases the risk of heart attacks.
Plaque emerging in the blood vessels for various reasons prevents blood flow, leading to a heart attack. Aspirin naturally distributes blood clots. If you suspect someone is having a heart attack near you, one of the first things you should do is to make them chew aspirin (not swallow). Thanks to this intervention, the clot that is causing congestion in the blood vessels will dissipate in a short time.
Learn about your genetic history
Your chances of getting cardiovascular disease are closely related to your genetic heritage. In particular, if there is history of cardiovascular disease among your close relatives get regular checkups. Early diagnosis is of vital importance in cardiovascular diseases as in many other diseases.
Beware if you snore
Studies show that snoring is an important sign of heart disease. If you are snoring, you may need to contact a specialist. Being overweight causes various diseases in a linked manner. One of them is sleep apnea that stops you from breathing during sleep. Studies have revealed that sleep apnea significantly increases the risk of heart attack.
Cut down on salt intake
Salt’s harms have long been discussed. In particular, the claim that cardiovascular disease is closely related to high salt intake is a subject everyone is aware of. According to studies, cutting down on your daily salt intake even by a single teaspoon is enough to reduce the pressure on your heart.
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Psoriasis: Symptoms and Treatments
Psoriasis, which is mostly chronic, is a common dermatological disease with different appearances in different people. The disease is not an infectious one and it can occur in people of all ages, even if it is generally seen in people 15 to 30 years old. Although the reason for its emergence is not completely known, it is thought that it occurs as a result of an interaction of the immune system, genetics and environmental factors. Psoriasis: Symptoms and Treatments
A frequently asked question is, “How do you understand whether a skin rash is actually psoriasis or not?” This article examines the description of psoriasis, its types and treatment alternatives.
The disease takes its name from some of the most common symptoms which are white, bright and dry dandruff on a red skin eruption. It can appear with the hardening of the soles of the feet and palms, and cracks in the skin. It can occur with a rash-like appearance in the folding parts of the body, such as the armpits or belly button. In patients with psoriasis, small pits on nails, yellow-red stains like oil drops, hollow and thickening nails, bleeding under nails and disorder on the surface of nails can be observed. The disease can occur on the skin with hair, knees and elbows, sacrum and hips. Sometimes, it can be mistaken for eczema or allergic skin diseases.
Types and symptoms
Plaque psoriasis: Plaque psoriasis, the most common one, is red lesions covered by blotchy, inflammatory, white and nacred flakes. These plaques, which can be itchy and painful, can be seen anywhere in the body. However, the most common areas are the elbows, knees, waist and scalp. Eighty percent of patients with psoriasis have this type.
Guttate Psoriasis: Guttate psoriasis is the second most common disease after plaque psoriasis and mostly appears in childhood or young adulthood. Its frequency among all psoriasis types is 10 percent. It is seen on the skin of the chest, arms, legs and other parts of the body as small, red, separate spots. These spots are generally not as thick as plaque lesions.
Pustular psoriasis: Pustular is a rare type of psoriasis seen mostly in adults. It is usually observed on a small area on the hands and feet as white blisters filled with non-inflammatory liquid but it can spread to other areas.
Inverse Psoriasis: This is seen on the armpits, groin, inframammary fold, backs of the knees, sexual organs and other skinfolds on the hips. This type appears as nacred, smooth, bright and red inflammatory lesions.
Erythrodermic Psoriasis: This is an inflammatory type of psoriasis which is seen frequently. This disease is the most severe as it covers a great part of the body, more than 75 percent, with itching and redness on the skin and painful, exanthematous flaking.
Psoriatic arthritis: Along with typical psoriasis symptoms on the skin, there can be rheumatic problems. Swelling, pain, redness and mobility restriction can be seen among its symptoms that affect the joints. In many patients, effects such as heel spur, elbow pain, waist and back pain, can also be observed. In some cases, psoriasis negatively affects the fingernails and toenails. Nails generally thicken and the disease causes some effects such as dents on the nails and nail separation from their bed.
As psoriasis can be mistaken for other skin diseases, consulting your doctor can help with getting a proper diagnosis and the best treatment plan for you.
The treatment of psoriasis should be planned, considering the general health, age and lifestyle of the patient and the type of psoriasis. The first thing that should be done while struggling against the illness is to prefer soaps that do not dry the skin, and moisturizing creams and lotions should be applied in order to clear up the dryness and to stop the flaking. The itch should be taken under control in this way as well.
Psoriasis is treated with various methods, such as steroid medicines, light therapy and edible medicine.
Topical medicines that are among the treatment methods that are applied to the skin directly, i.e., creams and sprays. Some of them contain a steroid, some have an analog of vitamin D, some have both a steroid and vitamin D and some contain retinoid.
More naturally, honey is applied to the skin and is accepted as a treatment option.
If topical medicines don’t provide adequate relief, your dermatologist can prescribe oral medicines that you take two times a week or a day. One of the recommended medicines that is generally prescribed is Apremilast. For some people, Acitretin, which is a derivative of vitamin A, is also recommended as an alternative, but you should inform your doctor about any medicine, like vitamins, food supplements and et cetera, which you use. You should also let him/her know about any allergies, health problems that you have or had, like pregnancy and surgery, before using this medicine.
If you use another medicine, the effects of Acitretin can change. This situation can both increase side effect risks and also prevent the medicine from working the way it should. Acitretin cannot be taken with some chemotherapy medicines, like Methotrexate and Tetracyclines. As a result, serious side effects can be observed. The treatment can be practiced by natural (solar) rays and artificial UV rays. In this practice, treatment can be done together with other medicines.
UVB phototherapy: UVB phototherapy can increase the symptoms of light and moderate psoriasis while it can treat spots, common psoriasis and problems that are resistant against the topical treatments. Its side effects can be itching, redness and skin dehydration.
Psoralen plus UVA: UVA rays can penetrate into deeper regions than UVB rays. Its short-term side effects are nausea, headache, burning and itching while long-term effects can be dry skin, increased sun sensitivity and skin cancer risk.
Atomic laser: This is used for light and moderate illnesses and applied to only the problematic skin area.
Injections: You can bid farewell to psoriasis with biological treatment – the success rate of which is between 80 and 90 percent – which is a much safer alternative that has fewer side effects. Injections are given every other week or once every three months to treat the illness.
However, medicines are expensive so be sure to consult with your doctor before deciding on a treatment plan.
If you’re suffering from this disease, you should definitely see a dermatologist instead of thinking that there is no cure.
Triggering factors for psoriasis
Mechanic trauma, such as sunburn, bath-glove or wax, that cause skin injury
Smoking and alcohol
Vitamin D deficiency
Stress, emotional trauma
Strong painkillers, some heart and malaria medicines
Infection and hormonal changes like pregnancy and menopause
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How to Protect Children From Diseases
Schools are undoubtedly ideal teaching spaces for children’s education. However, schoolchildren face the risk of catching diseases in schools as there are many children using shared spaces. Especially during mid-seasons, the immune system tends to weaken, which makes schoolchildren vulnerable to various diseases. As I stated in my previous articles, diseases spread faster in indoor areas whereas the lack of personal hygiene is the root of many diseases. So, parents are required to pay more attention to children’s hygiene as crowded places play an active role in the spread of diseases. Showing care in personal hygiene is important for the health of your child and their schoolmates. You cannot prevent your child’s exposure to infections and germs in school, but you can reduce the child’s risk of catching diseases by teaching them personal hygiene habits. How to Protect Children From Diseases
Why hygiene matters?
After your child catches an illness, germs can spread quickly to the rest of your family. Diseases such as colds and enteric infections, which are frequently seen in children, can be transmitted to families. Therefore, helping your children understand the importance of hygiene will enable them and the rest of your family to stay healthy.
1. Make sure they acquire the habit of hand washing
Disinfecting your hands frequently is indispensable for personal hygiene. Especially in places with many shared spaces like schools, doorknobs, tables, desks, boards, chalks and toilets pose a serious infection risk. Consequently, washing hands is the most effective way to prevent infections that can be transmitted in school. At this point, you are responsible for teaching your children how often and how they should wash their hands. Start with telling them about shared spaces and items. And explain that they should wash their hands for an average of 20 seconds by rubbing their hands together and that they should wash their hands in the following cases:
After using the bathroom
After playing outdoors
After touching a dirty item
After coughing, sneezing or touching their noses
After petting animals
If their hands look dirty
2. Don’t skip breakfast, make sure they eat healthy
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Keep in mind that by letting your children sleep 5 minutes more, you cause them to skip breakfast. The variety in a child’s diet must be ensured as children grow in height; thus, they must often consume starchy carbs and fiber-rich foods and get sufficient levels of vitamins and minerals, while consuming fat and sugar must be limited. Schoolchildren are in a process of slow yet constant growth. To grow up healthily, they must consume the foods they need. Do not fret over what I write; you do not need to make a special diet plan for these needs. It is enough to make sure that your child eats six meals a day, three main meals and three side meals and cook the meals at home. A child grows in height the fastest between the ages of 7 and 14. This age group needs more calcium compared to the others. So, foods like milk, yoghurt, cheese and ayran must be included in their daily diet.
3. Cafeterias and canteens are important
I am sure you have other criteria you prioritize while choosing a school for your child, but you must also pay heed to the meal alternatives provided in schools for your child’s success. In most private schools, a fixed menu is served. In these cases, you must certainly check up on where the meals come from and in which conditions they are prepared. The situation is more dangerous in schools that do not serve meals. If your child is obliged to eat in the school canteen, which only has fast-food menus, you have to prepare a lunch box for them. Do not forget that children do what they see rather than what they hear.
4. Encourage drinking more water
Teach your child that he/she should not wait to get thirsty to drink water. It is no exaggeration to say that water is the most vital component of the human body and ecological balance. I am sure you have already heard that 3/4 of the human body consists of water. The human body undergoes dehydration during the day to exercise vital functions. The body needs 2-6 liters of water on a daily basis to function properly. Also, water protects the immune system against diseases.
5. Follow your child’s vaccination chart
Schoolchildren are generally exposed to infections and flu viruses that could cause diarrhea. Such infections can spread quickly if your child touches dirty surfaces. Also, your child’s contact with other children might transmit the infection to others. Pay attention that infection is not transferred through touching. Sneezing and coughing can also transmit infections.
As of the first month your child is born, a vaccination chart is formed against possible infections. Following the Hepatitis A vaccination during the first month after the birth, the child must get other vaccinations, including measles, chickenpox, diphtheria and tetanus. Other vaccinations are made during the first and eighth years in elementary school. Most of these vaccines do not provide life-long protection. Consequently, additional vaccine doses are needed at certain time periods. The vaccinations for your child must be completed before starting school. Do not forget that your school-age child can infect your baby. Also, children having active infections should not go to school until fully recovering since they can transmit infections to others.
6. Make a menu according to allergic diseases
Allergic diseases can also cause a disruption in education. Allergic diseases can affect both adults and children. Therefore, before your child starts school, you should take her/him to a doctor’s office and get information about his/her allergies. Also, if the school is away from your house, take a look at the hospitals in the vicinity of the school in case of possible allergic reactions.
If your child is allergic to certain foods, you can prepare a menu before leaving home. This menu should include snacks, fruits and other foods that the child is not allergic to. And make sure that the child’s medications are with her/him in case of possible allergic reactions.
7. Pay attention to hand and foot hygiene
Nails are a breeding ground for bacteria. Germs living under children’s nails can easily infect their eyes, noses or mouths. Therefore, their nails must be clipped once a week, and hands must be disinfected thoroughly after clipping the nails. Foot hygiene is also important for schoolchildren. Foot perspiration can cause fungal infections. To allow their feet to breathe, children must wear cotton socks instead of synthetic ones and wear leather or canvas shoes.
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