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Healthcare

Eye Exams for Alzheimer’s: Early Detection and More

Sent by Roberto from myvision.org

Source: https://myvision.org

Intro

Advancements in technology and more research into the causes and effects of Alzheimer’s disease have led to the realization that doctors can confirm a diagnosis by using refined eye examinations.

Recent studies and research strongly link eye health to various conditions, including Alzheimer’s. The eyes are essentially an extension of the brain, and because Alzheimer’s affects the brain and its cognitive functions, eye exams reveal warning signs of the disease.

If some of these conditions are detected early, they can be properly managed or even cured in some cases.

What Is Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurodegenerative condition and is the most common type of dementia. Since this is a progressive disease, the initial symptoms might include mild memory loss. However, with time, the disease develops and can lead to a decline in mental functions and interfere with your ability to remember, think, and even speak.

Managing and treating Alzheimer’s disease once it’s progressed beyond a certain threshold is costly, and results aren’t a guarantee. As such, early detection is the best way to deal with the disease. Unfortunately, Alzheimer’s diagnosis tests are invasive, expensive, and hard to acquire.

Fortunately, according to a 2019 Ophthalmology Retina study, doctors can employ certain eye exams to detect and diagnose the disease early on. This study, conducted by the Duke Eye Center, is non-invasive and reveals the results in seconds.

How Are Eyes Linked to Alzheimer’s?

In the 2019 study, researchers found changes in the appearance of retinal blood vessels in Alzheimer’s patients. Changes were evident in patients who were in an early stage of the condition.

In general, there’s a direct link between the eyes and various cardiovascular illnesses. In the future, some of these diseases can be diagnosed early, adequately managed, cured, and prevented in some cases. Some of the eye conditions linked with cardiovascular conditions include:

  • Diabetic retinopathy is common in diabetic patients and occurs when high blood sugar levels damage retinal blood vessels.
  • Glaucoma has been linked to conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and poor blood circulation.
  • Age-related macular degeneration is linked to heart disease and related complications.

Researchers believe there is a direct relationship between Alzheimer’s disease and eye conditions like glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration. They have hope that understanding how these eye diseases impact your cardiovascular and overall health could prove helpful in combating them. In recent times, there have been more studies seeking to understand this relationship.

Can Your Eyes Help Detect Alzheimer’s?        

Alzheimer’s is a complex disease all from start to finish – from diagnosis to treatment to management to conclusion. Diagnosing the disease, especially in the early stages, has proven difficult. While there are existing techniques used to diagnose the progressive condition, most are impractical for mass use.

Doctors can use brain scans, for example, to diagnose Alzheimer’s. However, the scans are expensive and not easily accessible. Spinal taps are another option, but these tests are painful to the recipient and potentially dangerous.

Today, behavioral abnormalities and memory tests are the most-used ways to identify if someone has Alzheimer’s. Unfortunately, by the time notable change is observed through these methods, the disease has already progressed.

An eye test is not only simple, easily accessible and non-invasive, it also is an effective way to diagnose the condition. The change in retinal blood vessels can be detected early enough to start remedial procedures to slow the disease’s progression.

The Duke Eye Center study suggests using the eye test to differentiate between patients with mild cognitive impairment and those with Alzheimer’s disease. While this is the most extensive study so far, the results are promising, and more research into the area could help with better diagnosis, management, treatment and prevention options.

How Retinal Scans Diagnose Alzheimer’s

Doctors use a retinal scan to detect the disease. This biometric testing technique detects specific patterns on the retinal blood vessels.

Essentially, retinal imaging works like a digital picture that shows the optic disk, retina and blood vessels. The test is used by ophthalmologists and optometrists to detect certain diseases and check your eyes’ health.

When detecting Alzheimer’s, professionals use an optical coherence tomography angiography (OCTA) test. This is a state-of-the-art, precise, and non-invasive imaging technique that shows even the tiniest blood vessels at the back of the eyes. Some of these blood vessels are thinner than a strand of hair, so precision is critical when studying them.

According to the study’s researchers, the retina is an extension of the brain. As such, there are various similarities between the eye and the brain. Deterioration of the retina can therefore be likened to changes in blood vessels in the brain.

How Does Alzheimer’s Affect Your Eyes?

Like other dementia conditions, Alzheimer’s can damage the visual-perception system in various ways. The change and damage can differ depending on the type of dementia condition and its progression stage. Among the ways Alzheimer’s affects your eyes:

  • Poor color discrimination
  • Problems with object recognition
  • Loss of depth perception
  • Decreased peripheral vision

Poor Color Discrimination

Dementia patients can face challenges distinguishing among colors. Alzheimer’s patients have a hard time recognizing colors in the blue to the violet range.

Problems with Object Recognition

While the eyes could still see an object clearly, the brain could misinterpret the object in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

Loss of Depth Perception

Alzheimer’s patients may find it hard to differentiate flat pictures from three-dimensional objects as the disease progresses. This could also develop further to a point where the patient can’t correctly judge distances.

Decreased Peripheral Vision

Dementia patients also suffer from a lack of peripheral vision. In some cases, the patient can’t see objects to their side and have trouble walking without tripping.

References

  1. Early Detection of Disease and Scheduling of Screening Examinations. (December 2004). National Center for Biotechnology Information.
  2. What is Alzheimer’s disease? (January 2019) The Alzheimer’s Association.
  3. Alzheimer’s Disease Clinical Trials Success Rate Globally From 2008-2019, by Phase. (July 2019) Statistica.
  4. Retinal Microvascular and Neurodegenerative Changes in Alzheimer’s Disease and Mild Cognitive Impairment Compared with Control Participants. (June 2019). Ophthalmology Retina.
  5. Alzheimer’s Disease, Dementia and the Eye. (May 2019). American Academy of Ophthalmology.
  6. Dementia, Alzheimer’s and Change in Perception. (January 2021). Alzheimer’s Society.

Heat Stroke

Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related illness. It occurs when the body can no longer control its temperature: the body’s temperature rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails, and the body is unable to cool down. When heat stroke occurs, the body temperature can rise to 106°F or higher within 10 to 15 minutes. Heat stroke can cause permanent disability or death if the person does not receive emergency treatment.

Symptoms

Symptoms of heat stroke include:

  • Confusion, altered mental status, slurred speech
  • Loss of consciousness (coma)
  • Hot, dry skin or profuse sweating
  • Seizures
  • Very high body temperature
  • Fatal if treatment delayed

First Aid

Take the following steps to treat a worker with heat stroke:

  • Call 911 for emergency medical care.
  • Stay with the worker until emergency medical services arrive.
  • Move the worker to a shaded, cool area and remove outer clothing.
  • Cool the worker quickly, using the following methods:
  • With a cold water or ice bath, if possible
  • Wet the skin
  • Place cold wet cloths on the skin
  • Soak clothing with cool water
  • Circulate the air around the worker to speed cooling.
  • Place cold wet cloths or ice on the head, neck, armpits, and groin; or soak the clothing with cool water.

Monkey Pox Virus

Overview:

Monkeypox virus is an orthopoxvirus that causes a disease with symptoms similar, but less severe, to smallpox. While smallpox was eradicated in 1980, monkeypox continues to occur in countries of central and west Africa. Two distinct clade are identified: the west African clade and the Congo Basin clade, also known as the central African clade.

Monkeypox is a zoonosis: a disease that is transmitted from animals to humans. Cases are often found close to tropical rainforests where there are animals that carry the virus. Evidence of monkeypox virus infection has been found in animals including squirrels, Gambian poached rats, dormice, different species of monkeys and others. 

Human-to-human transmission is limited, with the longest documented chain of transmission being 6 generations, meaning that the last person to be infected in this chain was 6 links away from the original sick person. It can be transmitted through contact with bodily fluids, lesions on the skin or on internal mucosal surfaces, such as in the mouth or throat, respiratory droplets and contaminated objects. 

Detection of viral DNA by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is the preferred laboratory test for monkeypox. The best diagnostic specimens are directly from the rash – skin, fluid or crusts, or biopsy where feasible. Antigen and antibody detection methods may not be useful as they do not distinguish between orthopoxviruses.

Symptoms:

Monkeypox presents with fever, an extensive characteristic rash and usually swollen lymph nodes. It is important to distinguish monkeypox from other illnesses such as chickenpox, measles, bacterial skin infections, scabies, syphilis and medication-associated allergies.  

The incubation period of monkeypox can range from 5 to 21 days. The febrile stage of illness usually lasts 1 to 3 days with symptoms including fever, intense headache, lymphadenopathy (swelling of the lymph nodes), back pain, myalgia (muscle ache), and an intense asthenia (lack of energy). The febrile stage is followed by the skin eruption stage, lasting for 2 to 4 weeks. Lesions evolve from macules (lesions with a flat base) to papules (raised firm painful lesions) to vesicles (filled with clear fluid) to pustules (filled with pus), followed by scabs or crusts. 

The proportion of patients who die has varied between 0 and 11% in documented cases and has been higher among young children. 

Treatment:

Treatment of monkeypox patients is supportive dependent on the symptoms. Various compounds that may be effective against monkeypox virus infection are being developed and tested.  

Prevention and control of human monkeypox rely on raising awareness in communities and educating health workers to prevent infection and stop transmission. 

Most human monkeypox infections result from a primary animal-to-human transmission. Contact with sick or dead animals should be avoided, and all foods containing animal meat or parts need to be properly cooked before eating. 

Close contact with infected people or contaminated materials should be avoided. Gloves and other personal protective clothing and equipment should be worn while taking care of the sick, whether in a health facility or in the home. 

Populations have become more susceptible to monkeypox as a result of the termination of routine smallpox vaccination, which offered some cross-protection in the past. Vaccination against smallpox with first generation vaccinia-virus based smallpox vaccine was shown to be 85% effective in preventing monkeypox in the past. Family and community members, health workers and laboratory personnel who were vaccinated against smallpox in childhood may have some remaining protection against monkeypox. 

Source: CDC.gov

How does mold affect your health?

Mold is a vague term used to refer to different types of fungi. They can be of different colors such as yellow, black, green, white, orange or purple and they pretty much grow everywhere. They prefer to grow on moisture and reproduce by releasing spores into the air. We all are exposed to a small amount of mold each day.

Within a house, mold has many places that are favorable for it to grow such as carpet, appliances, curtains, walls etc. However the most important factor is moisture. Mold needs moisture to grow and reproduce which is why they are most commonly found in areas of high moisture such as bathrooms, kitchen, wet walls and basements.

Mold can cause reactions in people who are sensitive to the spores. It can trigger sneezing, runny noise and itching as well as watery eyes. Severe reactions can also cause shortness of breath.

It is very difficult to completely get rid of mold from a house. The best strategy that is used is to decrease the moisture levels in the house with the help of dehumidifiers and air conditions. Keeping surfaces as dry as possible can prevent further growth of mold.

3 Effects of Traveling on the body

I recently travelled abroad after 2 years. Usually, I visit my parents every year in India but due to the pandemic, I skipped a year. Traveling has become an essential part of our lives today. Most of us travel for business as well as for pleasure, to visit a new place or to visit family that live abroad. Today we will discuss the affects that traveling has on the body and also some tips to avoid the negative effects of long distance journeys.

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  1. Jet Lag: Those who regularly travel long distances are familiar with the concept of ‘Jet Lag’. The body’s natural biological clock is disturbed due to a difference in the time zone resulting in the body attempting to sleep and wake according to the time zone at the origin, even though the time zone changed. This usually results in the traveler sleeping during the day and waking up most of the night. It takes a few days for a person to get adjusted to the new timezone however it may be time to return back once that happens and the traveler will have to go through this again once he/she returns.
  2. Sometimes, travel distances can be very large and it takes us a while to reach our destination, sometimes days. During this time travelers are usually immobile and undergo long periods of inactivity. This can put a person at a higher risk of blood clots due to pooling of blood in the legs which can result in Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), which can be potentially fatal. It is therefore very important to remain mobile during traveling by stretching, occasional walking and travel exercises.  
  3. Since a large number of people are constantly traveling around the world, we expose ourselves to all kinds of pathogens while traveling. There is a high likelihood to contract viruses and bacterial infections while traveling, such as the flu, common cold, gastroenteritis as well as increased chances to contract infections that are endemic at your destinations. Visit the CDC website to view recommended vaccines for different countries and regions and get vaccinated before traveling. Avoid drinking tap water and always use mineral or bottled water. 

Remember to stay hydrated during your journey. It is very easy to get dehydrated while traveling. 

Safe Journeys Everyone!

Screen Time! Good or Bad

In today’s day and age, we have all incorporated electronics in our lives to make it easier for us. Weather that be in our workspaces, kitchen, home or bedroom, we rely on electronic devices for essential as well as non-essential tasks. Electronics have become a part of everyone’s life.

New studies shows negative effects of screen time on the health of children as well as adults. It is important that we learn what the negative effects are and work towards cutting down screen time and the use of electronics.

1. Obesity: Too much screen time such as gaming or watching TV can lead to a sedentary life style. This alone can cause multiple health issues since it leads to a lack of exercise which can intern lead to early onsite diabetes, cardiovascular problems and obesity.

2. Sleep Issues: Bright lights from electronic devices can cause issues in the initiation of sleep. It disturbs the sleep cycle of the body causing it to be more difficult to fall asleep. This is the reason many modern smartphones and laptops have a ‘night shift’ mode which dims the screen and shifts the colors to a more softer tone to reduce this affect.

3. Posture Issues: Sitting too long for extended periods of time can cause posture issues and chronic neck and back pain. It is important to take breaks, do some walking and stretching intermittently. To reduce strain on the body, remember to ensure proper back support while seated and the screen should be at eye level.

4. Mental health issues: Increased screen time can lead to a decrease in a persons social life and interaction with others including family and friends. This can lead to depression and anxiety. Children who spend more time on their phone were found to have lower grades on thinking and language tests, according to a study conducted by the National Institute of Health.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends avoidance of screens in children less than 18-24 months. For children over the age of 2 years, the recommended screen time is 1-2 hours per day.

Dementia: The Facts and Questions You Need to Know

Dementia is a general term for loss of cognitive function severe enough to interfere with daily life. It can be caused by many diseases including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s disease, as well as other less common conditions. This blog post will give you the facts about dementia and answer some questions that are commonly asked by people living with this condition or caring for someone who has it.

What is dementia?

Dementia is a general term for loss of cognitive function severe enough to interfere with daily life. It can be caused by many diseases including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s disease, as well as other less common conditions. Dementia affects people in different ways and can cause a wide range of symptoms including problems with memory, thinking, communication, and movement.

How common is dementia?

Dementia affects an estimated 47 million people worldwide. It is most common in older adults, with around half of all people aged 85 or older having some form of dementia. However, dementia can occur at any age and is now being seen more frequently in younger adults.

What are the main types of dementia?

There are many different types of dementia, but the most common ones are Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, and Lewy body dementia. Each type is caused by a different underlying process in the brain.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia and accounts for around 60-70% of cases. It is a progressive disease that gradually destroys memory and thinking skills.

Vascular dementia is caused by problems with the blood vessels in the brain, usually as a result of stroke. It is the second most common form of dementia and accounts for around 20-25% of cases.

Lewy body dementia is a relatively rare form of dementia that is caused by deposits of abnormal protein in the brain. It accounts for around 15-20% of cases.

What are the main symptoms of dementia?

The main symptoms of dementia vary depending on the type of dementia, but can include problems with memory, thinking, communication, and movement. In general, dementia causes a gradual decline in overall ability to function.

How is dementia diagnosed?

Dementia can be difficult to diagnose because its symptoms overlap with those of many other conditions. usually a combination of tests is used to make a diagnosis, including medical history, physical examination, and cognitive testing. Sometimes brain imaging or blood tests may be used to help rule out other causes of dementia-like symptoms.

How is dementia treated?

There is no cure for dementia, but there are a number of treatments that can help improve symptoms. These include medications, therapies, and support services. It is important to seek early diagnosis and treatment to maximize the benefits.

What is the outlook for people with dementia?

The outlook for people with dementia varies depending on the type and severity of the condition. In general, however, the disease tends to progress gradually over time and leads to a decline in overall ability to function. There is no cure, but treatments can help improve symptoms.

Are there any factors that can reduce a person’s risk of developing dementia?

In general, there are no ways to completely prevent dementia because it has many different causes. However, maintaining good health and staying active throughout life may help delay or slow down the onset of symptoms. In particular, eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, not smoking cigarettes, and controlling blood pressure and cholesterol levels may help reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia.

What is the role of caregivers in managing dementia?

Caregivers play a very important role in managing dementia. They provide physical and emotional support to people with the condition, as well as assistance with activities of daily living. Caregivers need to be patient and understanding, and should seek support themselves to manage the stress of the role.

What resources are available for caregivers?

There are a number of resources available for caregivers, including support groups, education programs, and online forums. It is important for caregivers to access these resources to get information and advice on how best to care for their loved one.


Why and How to Cure Migraines

Migraine headaches are known to be debilitating and can cause significant pain, vomiting, and dizziness. If you’re looking for a cure for this condition, there is help available. This article will provide information about the causes of migraines, possible treatments that may work for sufferers, and what you can do to prevent them from happening again in the future.

Do you suffer from migraines? There are a lot of people who do. Around 12% of the world’s population suffers from some form of this condition, and women have been found to be more likely than men to get them. On average, 15 days per month is spent dealing with the pain caused by these types of headaches for sufferers.

The causes of migraines are still unknown, but it is known that genetics play a role in this condition. People who have parents or siblings with migraine problems should be aware they may develop them too, and take steps to manage the problem if so. Since there’s no cure for migraines at present time, management is the key to living with this condition.

There are a variety of treatments that have been found to help migraine sufferers. Some people respond well to medications like ibuprofen or aspirin, while others need prescription drugs like triptans in order to get relief. There are also some natural remedies that may work for some people, such as ginger or magnesium supplements.

In order to help prevent migraines, it’s important to understand what triggers them. Some common triggers include stress, changes in weather, bright lights or loud noises, and certain foods like chocolate or cheese. Once you know what sets off your migraines, you can try to avoid those things as much as possible.

You can also try to reduce the frequency of your migraines by having good sleep hygiene and eating a healthy, balanced diet. Getting enough exercise is another key component in preventing these types of headaches from occurring regularly. Migraine sufferers should stay hydrated during their attacks to avoid getting dehydrated as well.

There is hope for people who suffer from migraines. With the right treatment and management plan, you can live a relatively normal life despite this condition. Talk to your doctor about the best way to treat your migraines and find relief from the pain.

Sources: [World Health Oragnization](), [Mayo Clinic]()

Signs of Stress: Overcoming the Effects

Stress can be a difficult thing to overcome. When we feel stressed, it is often because we are feeling overwhelmed and unable to handle the stressors in our life. Stress can have negative effects on your mind and body, but there are ways that you can reduce or even eliminate its effects by learning how to recognize signs of stress! These tips will help you learn what causes stress, how it affects your health, what helps reduce the effects of stress, and more!

How to Reduce the Effects of Stress:

-Eat a Healthy Diet: Eating unhealthy foods can increase your risk for certain diseases and also make it harder to manage stress. When we are under high levels of stress, it is hard to eat healthy meals or even get proper nutrients in our bodies because we often lose interest in food. This makes it even harder to manage the effects of stress. Eating healthy foods can help you properly fuel your body and make it easier for you to deal with stressful situations in life!



-Exercise: Exercise is another great way that you can reduce the effects of stress on your mind and body. When we exercise, our bodies release endorphins and we feel more relaxed and happy as a result. It is also important to note that exercising regularly can help reduce your risk for certain diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, some cancers, high blood pressure, etc., which are all things that stress affects!



-Recover: Recovering from stressful situations in life is extremely beneficial and something that should be done regularly. When we don’t take the time to recover, our minds and bodies pay the price. Recovering can involve many different things such as relaxation techniques, spending time with friends and family, listening to calming music, etc. It is important to find what works best for you and to make sure that you take some time for yourself every day to recover!



-Take a Break: Sometimes, the best way to reduce the effects of stress is to take a break from whatever is causing it. If you are feeling overwhelmed at work, take some time for yourself during your lunch break or after work to relax and de-stress. If you are having trouble with a friend or family member, taking a break and coming back to the situation later can be beneficial. Taking breaks is crucial for reducing stress in life!



-Be Active: Being active is great for our bodies and minds both mentally and physically. When we are active on a regular basis, it helps reduce stress levels because exercise releases endorphins and makes us happier! We can find ways to be active every day such as walking the dog, taking a bike ride, or even just going for walks around your neighborhood.



-Take Care of Yourself: Self-care is so important and something that everybody should prioritize regularly. Taking care of yourself involves many different things like exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, eating healthy meals regularly, scheduling time for relaxation and fun activities, etc. When you take care of yourself on a regular basis, it makes difficult situations easier to handle because you have more energy throughout the day!



-Manage Stress Through Meditation: Meditation is extremely beneficial in reducing stress levels both physically and mentally. It has been shown to help reduce stress hormones, lower blood pressure, decrease anxiety and depression symptoms, etc. There are many different types of meditation that range from mindfulness-based breathing exercises to guided meditations with calming music or nature sounds!



-Limit Alcohol Use: While alcohol can be helpful in making us feel more relaxed quickly when we are feeling stressed out, it is not a long-term solution and can actually lead to more stress in the future. When we drink alcohol, it releases endorphins which make us feel good in the short-term, but when the effects of the alcohol wear off, we often feel even more stressed out than before. Additionally, drinking too much alcohol can have many negative effects such as liver damage, high blood pressure, increased risk of certain cancers and heart disease, etc.



-Manage Stress Through Mindfulness: Mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing on the present moment and acknowledging thoughts and feelings without judgment. It can be helpful in helping us deal with stressors that we encounter throughout our day. There are many different ways to practice mindfulness, such as through meditation, yoga or tai chi, etc. When we take the time to be mindful of our thoughts and feelings, it can help us manage stress more effectively!



-Talk To Someone: When we are feeling stressed out, talking to someone about it can be extremely helpful. Talking to a friend, family member, therapist, or any other trusted person can help us process our thoughts and feelings, which can in turn reduce stress levels. Talking about our problems is often the first step on the road to solving them!



-Identify Triggers: One of the best ways to manage stress is to identify what triggers it. Once we know what sets us off, we can begin to develop strategies for coping with it. For example, if work is constantly causing you stress, try talking to your supervisor about ways that you can reduce your workload or take some time for yourself during the day to relax. If loud noises bother you and trigger a stress response, try wearing noise-cancelling headphones when you’re in a situation that is likely to cause stress.

What is IQ

IQ stands for Intelligence Quotient and is a measure of your reasoning and problem solving abilities. A set of standardized tests exists for which a score of 100 is the average score. If you score above 100, your intelligence is considered higher than average and a score below 100 indicates an intelligence below the average. A complete IQ test includes a structured test with clinical assessments, unlike the many tests available online that may not be completea. Psychologists are not very likely to administer an IQ test just for curiosity.

Why do an IQ test?

IQ tests are usually done on children if they show continuous poor performance in school. Adults may also have the test to determine suitability for a job that may require critical thinking. It may also be used to determine mental disabilities. Serial IQ tests are used to monitor changes over time.

What does an IQ test comprise of?

IQ tests are specifically designed to check your memory, both long-term and short-term. It also checks your ability to solve puzzles of increasing complexity as well as how fast a person is able to solve the questions. It therefore measures verbal comprehension, perpetual reasoning, working memory and processing speed. The verbal comprehension portion tests reading, writing and communication abilities. The test questions include picture identification and definition words.

The working memory portion of the test includes questions to test both long-term and short-term memory. It requires the ability to remember and process information as well as sequencing abilities.

The perceptual reasoning part of the test assesses the ability to solve spatial problems. It includes the skills of visual perception and organization. The processing speed part of the test assesses the speed to process and react to information.

IQ tests are good in clinical practice and education but we have to remember that an IQ score does not tell the complete picture. A poor IQ score does not mean the person will not be successful in life and likewise a high IQ score does not take into account how the person will perform under stress, motivation, opportunity etc.

Covid Omicron Variant

The symptoms of the Omicron variant of Covid have been described as ‘extremely mild’ by doctors in South Africa where this variant was first detected. The symptoms were mild enough that no hospitalizations were required. The initial presenting symptoms in South Africa were an itchy throat, fatigue, headache and body aches. There were no complaints of cough or loss of taste or smell. Multiple patients began presenting with similar symptoms after which the vaccine advisory committee was notified. This gave an indication on the transmissibility of the strain.

More research is being done on this strain of the virus. Initial observations suggest that reinfection is common. Studies are being done to investigate the affects that this would have on diagnostics and vaccine coverage. The WHO has declared the strain a concern due to high rate of reinfection.

Many different countries have suspended travel to South Africa to avoid spread of the variant however South African authorities deemed the move unnecessary and raised the possibility of the strain already present in multiple countries. The variant has already been detected in the U.K, France, Israel, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Australia, Canada and Hong Kong. The U.S has not reported any cases yet.

We encourage everyone to be up to date on vaccinations, avoid gatherings, keep your distance and wear a mask. Let us play our part in stopping the spread.

Holiday Food Safety

Feasting with family is part of many holiday celebrations. Follow these tips to help prevent food poisoning, or foodborne illness, during the holidays.
• Keep foods separated. Keep meat, chicken, turkey, seafood, and eggs separate from all other foods at the grocery store and in the refrigerator. Prevent juices from meat, chicken, turkey, and seafood from dripping or leaking onto other foods by keeping them in containers or sealed plastic bags. Store eggs in their original carton in the main compartment of the refrigerator.
• Cook food thoroughly. Meat, chicken, turkey, seafood, and eggs can carry germs that cause food poisoning. Use a food thermometer to ensure these foods have been cooked to a safe internal temperatureexternal icon. Roasts, chops, steaks, and fresh ham should rest for 3 minutes after you remove them from the oven or grill.
• Keep food out of the “danger zone.”external icon Bacteria can grow rapidly in the danger zone between 40°F and 140°F. After food is prepared, keep hot food hot and cold food cold. Refrigerate or freeze any perishable food within 2 hours. The temperature in your refrigerator should be set at or below 40°F and the freezer at or below 0°F.
• Use pasteurized eggs for dishes containing raw eggs. Salmonella and other harmful germs can live on both the outside and inside of normal-looking eggs. Many holiday favorites contain raw eggs, including eggnog, tiramisu, hollandaise sauce, and Caesar dressing. Always use pasteurized eggs when making these and other foods made with raw eggs.
• Do not eat raw dough or batterexternal icon. Dough and batter made with flour or eggs can contain harmful germs, such as E. coli and Salmonella. Do not taste or eat raw dough or batter that is meant to be baked or cooked. This includes dough or batter for cookies, cakes, pies, biscuits, pancakes, tortillas, pizza, or crafts. Do not let children taste raw dough or batter or play with dough at home or in restaurants. Some companies and stores offer edible cookie dough that uses heat-treated flour and pasteurized eggs or no eggs. Read the label carefully to make sure the dough is meant to be eaten without baking or cooking.
• Thaw your turkey safelyexternal icon. Thaw turkey in the refrigerator, in a sink of cold water (change the water every 30 minutes), or in the microwave. Avoid thawing foods on the counter. A turkey must thawexternal icon at a safe temperature to prevent harmful germs from growing rapidly.
• Wash your hands. Wash your hands with soap and water during these key times when you are likely to get and spread germs:
○ Before, during, and after preparing food
○ Before eating food
○ After handling pet food or pet treats or touching pets
○ After using the toilet
○ After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
○ After touching garbage
○ Before and after caring for someone who is sick
○ Before and after treating a cut or wound
○ After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
Pregnancy and Holiday Food
Pregnant women are at increased risk of food poisoning, so take extra care if you’re pregnant or preparing food for someone who is.

Pregnant women are 10 times more likely than others to get listeriosis, a rare but deadly foodborne infection caused by the bacteria Listeria. Learn how to protect yourself from this harmful germ.
• Do not eat or drink raw or unpasteurized milk and products made with it, such as soft cheeses. They can contain harmful germs, including Listeria. Do not eat soft cheeses such as queso fresco pdf icon[PDF – 2.49 MB], Brie, Camembert, feta, goat cheese, or blue-veined cheese if they are made from raw or unpasteurized milk.
○ Be aware that cheeses made from pasteurized milk, such as queso fresco, also have caused Listeria infections, most likely because they were contaminated during cheese-making.
○ Processed cheeses, cream cheese, mozzarella, and hard cheeses are safer choices.
• Don’t drink raw or unpasteurized juice and ciderexternal icon.
• Be careful with seafoodexternal icon. Do not eat smoked seafood that was sold refrigerated unless it is in a cooked dish, such as a casserole. Instead, choose shelf-stable smoked seafood in pouches or cans that do not need refrigeration.
• Avoid certain holiday beverages. Drinking any type of alcohol can affect your baby’s growth and development and cause fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. Don’t drink holiday punches and eggnogs that contain alcohol. Avoid eggnog entirely unless you know it doesn’t contain alcohol and is pasteurized or made with pasteurized eggs and milk

Source : cdc. Gov

Common Cold

Sore throat and runny nose are usually the first signs of a cold, followed by coughing and sneezing. Most people recover in about 7-10 days. You can help reduce your risk of getting a cold: wash your hands often, avoid close contact with sick people, and don’t touch your face with unwashed hands. 

Common colds are the main reason that children miss school and adults miss work. Each year in the United States, there are millions of cases of the common cold. Adults have an average of 2-3 colds per year, and children have even more.

Most people get colds in the winter and spring, but it is possible to get a cold any time of the year. Symptoms usually include:

  • sore throat
  • runny nose
  • coughing
  • sneezing
  • headaches
  • body aches

Most people recover within about 7-10 days. However, people with weakened immune systems, asthma, or respiratory conditions may develop serious illness, such as bronchitis or pneumonia.

Boy washing hands
Help reduce your risk of getting a cold by washing hands often with soap and water.

How to Protect Yourself

Viruses that cause colds can spread from infected people to others through the air and close personal contact. You can also get infected through contact with stool (poop) or respiratory secretions from an infected person. This can happen when you shake hands with someone who has a cold, or touch a surface, like a doorknob, that has respiratory viruses on it, then touch your eyes, mouth, or nose.

You can help reduce your risk of getting a cold:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. Wash them for 20 seconds, and help young children do the same. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Viruses that cause colds can live on your hands, and regular handwashing can help protect you from getting sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. Viruses that cause colds can enter your body this way and make you sick.
  • Stay away from people who are sick. Sick people can spread viruses that cause the common cold through close contact with others.

Girl sneezing into shirt sleeve
Practice good cough and sneeze etiquette: always cough and sneeze into a tissue or your upper shirt sleeve, completely covering your mouth and nose.

How to Protect Others

If you have a cold, you should follow these tips to help prevent spreading it to other people:

  • Stay at home while you are sick and keep children out of school or daycare while they are sick.
  • Avoid close contact with others, such as hugging, kissing, or shaking hands.
  • Move away from people before coughing or sneezing.
  • Cough and sneeze into a tissue then throw it away, or cough and sneeze into your upper shirt sleeve, completely covering your mouth and nose.
  • Wash your hands after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose.
  • Disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects, such as toys, doorknobs, and mobile devices.

There is no vaccine to protect you against the common cold.

How to Feel Better

There is no cure for a cold. To feel better, you should get lots of rest and drink plenty of fluids. Over-the-counter medicines may help ease symptoms but will not make your cold go away any faster. Always read the label and use medications as directed. Talk to your doctor before giving your child nonprescription cold medicines, since some medicines contain ingredients that are not recommended for children. Learn more about symptom relief of upper respiratory infections, including colds.

Antibiotics will not help you recover from a cold caused by a respiratory virus. They do not work against viruses, and they may make it harder for your body to fight future bacterial infections if you take them unnecessarily. Learn more about when antibiotics work.

When to See a Doctor

You should call your doctor if you or your child has one or more of these conditions:

  • symptoms that last more than 10 days
  • symptoms that are severe or unusual
  • if your child is younger than 3 months of age and has a fever or is lethargic

You should also call your doctor right away if you are at high risk for serious flu complications and get flu symptoms such as fever, chills, and muscle or body aches. People at high risk for flu complications include young children (younger than 5 years old), adults 65 years and older, pregnant women, and people with certain medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, and heart disease.
Your doctor can determine if you or your child has a cold or the flu and can recommend treatment to help with symptoms.

Causes of the Common Cold

Many different respiratory viruses can cause the common cold, but rhinoviruses are the most common. Rhinoviruses can also trigger asthma attacks and have been linked to sinus and ear infections. Other viruses that can cause colds include respiratory syncytial virushuman parainfluenza virusesadenoviruscommon human coronaviruses, and human metapneumovirus.

Know the Difference between Common Cold and Flu

The flu, which is caused by influenza viruses, also spreads and causes illness around the same time as the common cold. Because these two illnesses have similar symptoms, it can be difficult (or even impossible) to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone. In general, flu symptoms are worse than the common cold and can include fever or feeling feverish/chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches and fatigue (tiredness). Flu can also have very serious complications. CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccination as the first and best way to prevent the flu. If you get the flu, antiviral drugs may be a treatment option.

Source: CDC.gov

Is VideoGame Addiction Real?

Playing video games is considered fun for adults and children alike. Nowadays a large number of people play online or offline video games and is part of peoples daily routines. But when can video gaming be considered an actual problem?

The World Health Organization added Gaming Disorder to its International Classification of Diseases in 2018. The American Psychiatric Association also has guidance on when gaming can be considered problematic.

Some of the symptoms that can be associated with gaming disorder are:

  • Thinking about gaming all or a lot of the time
  • Feeling bad when you can’t play
  • Needing to spend more and more time playing to feel good
  • Not being able to quit or even play less
  • Not wanting to do other things that you used to like
  • Having problems at work, school, or home because of your gaming
  • Playing despite these problems
  • Lying to people close to you about how much time you spend playing
  • Using gaming to ease bad moods

We should set a fixed time for gaming and try not to spend too much time gaming since apart from this disorder, it can take a toll on the body due to long stretches of inactivity. Seek counselling if you have difficulty reducing your gaming time. 

Fun Facts About Your Body

The human body is amazing and so much goes on within our bodies that we are not even aware of and all the different systems of the body work together seamlessly so we can carry on with our daily activities without much thought. Below are some interesting facts about our body.

  1. Blood flows to all our organs and carries all the necessary nutrients for the organs to function properly, including oxygen and glucose among many other constituents. The highest blood flow of all the organs in our body goes to the kidneys. This is because the kidney acts as a filtration system and removes waste products from the blood that are harmful to the body.
  2. The longest bone of the human body is the femur located in our thighs. It can support around 30 times the weight of the person which equates to being stronger than steel however bones are brittle and can fracture when impacted.
  3. Our ears and nose never stop growing during our life.
  4. The jaw muscle is the strongest muscle in the body
  5. The fastest muscle in the body is the muscle used when blinking your eye. They can contract in around 1/100th of a second.
  6. In an adult human, blood circulates approximately 12000 miles in one day.
  7. The DNA in the human body can be stretched out to about 10 billion miles.
  8. Beards are the fastest growing hairs on the human body.
  9. Humans have more facial muscles than any other animal on earth.
  10. Plaque begins to form 6 hours after brushing our teeth.
  11. People with darker skin wrinkle later than those with lighter skin.
  12. Your brain is sometimes more active when you are asleep than while awake.
  13. Humans are the only species known to blush.
  14. Human teeth are as strong as shark teeth.
  15. You lose about 4 kg of skin cells every year.

How Does Winter Affect the Body

Winter is upon us and some people enjoy the winter months while others prefer the spring or summer months. Today, we will be looking at how winter affects the body and what we can do to protect ourselves from the negative affects of winter and enjoy safely and healthy.

  1. Winters are when cases of Influenza rise and is commonly referred to as the flu season. We have all experienced flu symptoms at some point in our lives and it is not the best feeling to go through that. We also risk spreading the flu to other vulnerable members of the population once we contract it. Get your flu vaccines from your local pharmacy or doctor’s office this season to protect yourselves and others.
  2. For some people, the cold air during the winter months can exacerbate a person’s Asthma. If this is the case, avoid exposure to the cold air and refrain from doing outdoor activities. Be mindful of activities or triggers that can make your asthma worse. Remaining indoors can also trigger asthma attacks in some people due to prolonged exposure of dust, mold, carpet etc. Keep your inhaler handy and consult a doctor if your symptoms increase.
  3. Outdoor activities are limited during the winter months, and this can cause people to decrease their activity levels as well as exercise which can have a negative affect on health. Remember to remain active and exercise even when indoors. Going to the gym is a perfect alternative. Remember to wash your hands frequently since diseases can spread a lot faster indoors.
  4. The cold dry air during the winter can cause your skin to become dry and can cause skin irritation, rash and eczema. Remember to use moisturizing creams and lotions to protect your skin. If symptoms are severe, consult your doctor.
  5. Prolonged exposure to low temperatures can cause hypothermia which can be very dangerous. Remember to get yourself familiar with the symptoms of hypothermia so you can recognize it and check in with elder relatives since they may have a harder time recognizing the symptoms.

Remember to enjoy the winters and stay healthy!

What Is A Balanced Diet

Having a balanced diet is a very important part of staying healthy. We need to understand what it means to have a balanced diet. According to dictionary.com, a balanced diet is defined as ‘a diet consisting of the proper quantities and proportions of foods needed to maintain health or growth.’ This means eating a wide variety of foods in the correct proportions to maintain a healthy bodyweight.

The essential components needed by the body to remain healthy are carbohydrates, protein, fat, fiber, vitamins, minerals and water. These essential components of the diet can be found in 5 main food groups:

  1. Vegetables: 

The recommendation of vegetable intake for adults is 2 to 3 cups of vegetable per day. According to the CDC website, in 2015, only around 9-16% of adults met this recommendation. The report highlighted that very few Americans eat the recommended amount of fruit and vegetables which can put them at a higher risk for chronic diseases.

2. Protein: 

The Recommended Dietary Allowance for protein is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram body weight. This is the minimum amount of protein required to remain healthy. Depending on your level of activity, you may require much more than this amount. Proteins are used by the body to build muscles, connective tissue, enzymes, organs, tendons, neurotransmitters and also has many other functions.

3. Fruits:

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend 2 cups of fruits per day. Studies have shown that this is the most optimum amount that plays a part in preventing chronic diseases along with 3 servings of vegetables per day. Eating more than 2 servings of fruits per day did not show any additional health benefits.

4. Grains:

Grains consists of complex carbohydrates and minerals. It is recommended that men eat 6-8 servings of grains per day and women eat 5-6 servings per day. At least half should be whole grain. Grains can include bread, tortilla, cereal flakes, rice, pasta, popped popcorn etc.

5. Dairy:

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends 3 servings of dairy per day. Examples of dairy include milk, yogurt, cheese etc. Diary is important for bone health among other benefits.

Even when we decide to go on a diet to lose weight, we need to ensure that we are taking a balanced diet. Click here to learn more about intermittent fasting.

Phases of Medicare Part D

Medicare Part D has 4 different phases that each member passes through during each year. Each of these phases have different coverage benefits for the member. It is important to understand these phases to know the financial impact that your health expenses can have on you and also when you should opt for that elective surgery.

1. Deductible Phase

This is the first phase and in this phase, the member is responsible for the entire dollar amount of the medication/s up to the Plan’s deductible amount. For example, the Plan’s deductible amount is $400. The member goes to the pharmacy to pick up his/her medication and the total cost of the medication is $600. The member will have to pay the entire amount up to the plan deductible which in this case means the member will have to pay $400 for the deductible phase. The remaining $200 goes into the next phase called the Initial Coverage Phase. If the total cost of the drug is less than the Plan’s deductible amount, then the member pays the full amount and remains in the deductible phase. For example, at the pharmacy, the total cost of the drug is $300 and the Plan’s deductible is $400. The member would have to pay the full cost of the drug $300 and would remain in the deductible phase. The next time the member picks up a medication, the remaining deductible would be $100 after which the remaining amount goes into the Initial Coverage Phase.

Please note that some plans may choose not to have a deductible phase and in that case, when the member goes to pick up their medication at the pharmacy, they start off the year being in the Initial Coverage Phase. The standard deductible amount for 2021 is $445.

2. Initial Coverage Phase

In the Initial Coverage Phase, the member pays a fixed copay or a coinsurance, depending on the plan. The standard coinsurance for the Initial Coverage Phase is 25% which means that the member pays only 25% of the drug cost in this phase and the remaining 75% is paid by the plan. For example if the member already met the deductible amount and is in the Initial Coverage Phase, and goes to pick up a medication that costs $100, the member would only be required to pay $25 for the medication.

Two dollar amounts that the plan keeps a count on is the total drug cost and the amount the member paid (True Out of Pocket TROOP). In the deductible phase, these 2 values would be equal due to the fact that the member pays the total drug cost until the deductible is met. So the total drug cost would be equal to the TROOP in the deductible phase. In the initial coverage phase, since the member is only paying 25% of the total drug cost, the TROOP would be 25% of the total drug cost.

The member remains in the initial coverage phase until the total drug cost accumulates to $4,130 for the year 2021. Once the total drug cost accumulates to $4,130, the member moves into the next phase known as the Coverage Gap Phase

3. Coverage Gap Phase

Once the member enters the Coverage Gap Phase, as the name suggests, there is a gap in coverage resulting in the member responsible for 95% of the total drug cost and the plan responsible for only 5%. In lay man terms, this phase is also called the ‘Donut Hole’ phase of coverage.

This may sound like a very high member responsibility in the coverage gap phase however this is not the case. Manufacturers for brand drugs are required to provide a discount to Medicare beneficiaries of 70%. This means that out of the 95% member responsibility in this phase, there is a 70% Manufacture discount resulting in a member pay of 25%. The plan counts the Manufacture discount as part of the TROOP. To put this in perspective, if the member picks up a brand medication in the coverage gap phase that costs $100, the manufacture discount would be $70, Member pay $25 and the TROOP that the plan keeps track of would be $95.

The member remains in this coverage gap phase till the TROOP reaches $6,550 for 2021. Note that the member moves on from this phase once the TROOP reaches the designated dollar amount and not the total drug cost as for the previous phases.

4. Catastrophic Coverage Phase

Once the member reaches this phase, the member is only responsible for 5% of the drug cost. This is the final phase and the member remains in this phase for the rest of the year. Once the year is over, the cycle repeats and the member starts back in the deductible phase and moves through these phases again.

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