This report from the NPR health blog shares some facts about the role of microbes in a person’s health. Read the full report below:
Not so long ago, most people thought that the only good microbe was a dead microbe.
But then scientists started to realize that even though some bugs can make us sick and even kill us, most don’t.
In fact, in the past decade attitudes about the bacteria, fungi, viruses and other microbes living all over our bodies has almost completely turned around. Now scientists say that not only are those microbes often not harmful, we can’t live without them.
“The vast majority of them are beneficial and actually essential to health,” says Lita Proctor, program director for the Human Microbiome Project at the National Institutes of Health. The project is identifying microbes on key body parts, including the nose, gut, mouth and skin, in order to get a better sense of the microbes’ role in human health.
This sea change began with a pretty simple realization.
“When you’re looking in the mirror, what you’re really looking at is there are 10 times more microbial cells than human cells,” Proctor says. “In almost every measure you can think of, we’re more microbial than human.”
The horde of microbes is so vast that their genes swamp our genes. In fact, 99 percent of the genes contained in and on our bodies are microbial genes.
Scientists are getting a much broader idea of what microbes do for us. We’ve known for a long time that we depend on bacteria to digest food. But there’s a growing realization that they’re really like an 11th organ system. Proctor says, “You know, you have your lungs, you have your heart and, you know, you have your microbiome.”
This week, scientists from NIH and research institutions are gathering in Bethesda, Md., to debate the microbiome’s role in disease and human health, including obesity, behavior, heart disease and cancer.
Perhaps one of the most important things the microbiome does it to train the human immune system, starting at birth.
“It learns early on which microorganisms are friendly and how to recognize microorganisms that are not so friendly,” says David Relman, an assistant professor of medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine who studies the relationships between microbes and humans.
Microbes influence how much energy we burn and how much fat we store. There is even evidence that the microbes in our guts send signals that can affect our minds. These signals may affect how the human brain develops, and our moods and behavior as adults.
People who live in places like the United States tend to have far less diverse microbiomes than people who live in less developed countries and take fewer antibiotics. That, some scientists think, could be a factor in human diseases.
“As organisms are being lost, a lot of diseases have just skyrocketed,” says Martin Blaser, who directs the human microbiome program at the NYU Langone Medical Center. He lists diabetes, celiac disease, asthma, food allergies, obesity and developmental disorders like autism as health problems that have become more common.
But many researchers caution that we’re still a long way from knowing if the microbiome is involved in any of those diseases and conditions.
“Yes, the microbiome is important,” says Jonathan Eisen, a professor who studies genes, microbes and evolution at the University of California, Davis. “Yes, the microbiome differs between all sorts of health and disease states. But no, we don’t know that the microbiome causes these health or disease states.”
Even more important, Eisen says: we don’t know how to fix a microbiome, even if we knew what was wrong with it.
Still, some doctors have already started performing microbe transplants. Fecal transplants have been used to cure people with life-threatening infections with the bacterium Clostridium difficile. The patient’s ailing gut bacteria is replaced with new colonies donated by a healthy person.
Getting good bacteria to drive out bad is also the idea behind probiotics, which are widely marketed as health supplements. But it’s still unclear which of those microbes are helpful, and for whom. The same goes for prebiotics, which serve as food for microbes.
This expanding view of the microbiome is changing how some people think about humans — not as individual entities but as what philosopher Rosamond Rhodes calls a “supraorganism.”
“We’re not just us by ourselves but a combination of us and them,” Rhodes says. “And that makes us very much more a part of our environment as opposed to something freestanding and separate from our environment. Those are very radical changes in the way we see self-identity.”
Rhodes, who is also a bioethicist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, says some people might find this idea shocking or gross. “But I think it’s going to slowly seep into our culture and understanding of ourselves and change our understanding and consequently our behavior in important ways.”
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Aging is an irreversible process that advances through several manifestations in the body, including malfunctioning bones. These physical failures come in the form of hip and joint disorders. When this health problem takes a painful and debilitating turn, either hip replacement or resurfacing becomes a serious need.
But when is hip replacement a better choice than hip resurfacing? What are the differences between the two procedures?
Mayo Clinic explains that hip resurfacing doesn’t replace the damaged hip ball with a metal or ceramic ball, which is usually done in hip replacement. The ball is actually reshaped and capped using a metal prosthesis. Unlike hip replacement, hip resurfacing is technically more difficult and generally requires a larger incision. The risk of complications in resurfacing is also higher than in replacement. Because of the positioning of the metal ball on a metal socket, some patients complain of pain, hypersensitivity, or tissue destruction.
Hip replacement, on the other hand, utilizes long-lasting artificial joint implants. Older patients do not mind these invasive implants in their advanced age. Younger patients, though, prefer hip resurfacing because it keeps more bones intact and allows wiggle room for a total hip replacement later in life, or if the need arises.
For some patients, a resurfacing hip implant may be the most clinically appropriate for them, but for others, this may not be a good idea. The only one way to determine the more appropriate procedure is by consulting reputable health practitioners and never taking chances.
This IOL Lifestyle article warns that children under 10 years old who get less than an hour’s exercise a day could face heart failure in the future.
Unfortunately, these days, many kids under 10 do not engage in enough physical activities. BBC News Health reveals a UK-wide scientific analysis of primary school children’s activities, showing half of seven-year-olds, mostly girls, having too much sedentary time, or failing to meet recommended durations of physical activity daily. The research compares activities between boys and girls and exposes disparity between the sexes in exercise. Whereas two out of three boys, representing 68 percent of the population, get exercise for about an hour a day, only one in three girls, representing a dismal 38 percent of the sex, do so.
Professor Carol Dezateux, one of the proponents of the study, voiced to BBC News Health her “worry” about the results. Kids of this age are less likely to engage in physical activity as they grow older. She suggests that health and exercise programs need to target girls more by surveying the playgrounds, which are overrun with boys playing football. She also highlights directing research toward discovering the causes of child inactivity, particularly among girls.
As Dr. John Middleton, a member of the faculty of Public Health puts it: “We need our children to grow up to be fit and healthy adults, not just because it’s what any civilized society would want for its children, but it’s also best for our economy too.”
Satori World Medical, a provider of safe and efficient medical travel services based in San Diego, encourages healthy living across all ages to prevent heart ailments and other diseases. Know more about related health topics by visiting this website.
A warning for people who take acetaminophen for fever and pain: the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently announced that the drug causes rare but possibly fatal skin reactions in some people.
The anti-pain medication, also known as paracetamol, is found in drugs like Tylenol, Panadol, Feverall, among others. It is one of the most commonly used over-the-counter pain medications.
Three skin conditions have been linked to the analgesic: the Stevens-Johnson Syndrom (SJS), toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN), and acute generalized exanthematous pustulosis (AGEP). The third is the least worrisome of the reactions as it usually resolves within two weeks of discontinuing the use of acetaminophen. The first two require hospitalizations because they can be fatal.
People adversely affected by the medication will first experience flu-like symptoms of fever and muscle aches. This will then be followed by rashes, blistering, and then shedding of the skin, which carries the risk of infection. Patients may also experience scarring, skin pigment changes, blindness, and organ damage. Full recovery may take weeks or months.
The FDA reminds the public that the warning serves neither to worry consumers and healthcare professionals, nor to encourage the use of other medications. It is an urgent call for people who experience skin symptoms to immediately discontinue their use of the drug and see a health expert to avoid the worst possible outcomes.
REPOST: Buying Health Insurance in 2014 and the Difference Between a Private Marketplace and a Public Marketplace
This report from the Huffington Post shares a rundown of what consumers can expect when purchasing health insurance with the new rules of the Affordable Care Act in place. Read the full story here:
It’s amazing how time flies by. We are now less than three months from the first open enrollment period, which starts October 1 and consumers will be given their first opportunity to purchase health insurance with the new rules of Obamacare in place.
With open enrollment just around the corner, it is very important that consumers understand how they will be able to shop for and purchase health insurance.
Do you qualify for financial assistance?
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) provides for the possibility of financial assistance (referred to as the health insurance premium tax credit) for individuals and families whose household incomes are below 400 percent of the poverty level. This tax credit will be available to purchase health plans called “qualified health plans” that have been approved and are available on a state or federal marketplace.
To determine how much financial assistance a consumer will receive, the consumer will be required to complete an application with the federal government.
How do consumers access plans and apply for subsidies?
The ACA mandated the creation of online public marketplaces, sometimes called “exchanges.” For the first open enrollment, it is expected that 35 states will utilize an individual marketplace created by the federal government and 15 states plus the District of Columbia will create their own online marketplaces. The marketplaces, whether state-run or federally run, will offer consumers the opportunity to comparatively shop for qualified health plans available in the consumer’s geographic area and apply for a subsidy. The government-run marketplaces, however, will not necessarily offer every available health insurance option available to a consumer.
Private companies will also run private marketplaces, or exchanges, that may offer the same qualified health plans, but may also offer additional “off-exchange” health plans. The private online platforms are called web-based entities, or web-based brokers. A “web-based entity” (WBE) is a government-approved phrase to describe online websites where consumers will be able to shop and purchase health insurance on the private market.
The services of WBEs have been around for a long time in the individual health insurance market. The biggest players have already enrolled millions of consumers in individual plans and have created shopping experiences that may differ slightly from how the government-run marketplaces operate. The WBEs offer their service free to consumers and they generally receive their compensation straight from the insurance carriers.
Most, if not all, WBEs will also offer off-exchange health insurance policies that provide consumers different health care benefits at different prices than the qualified health plans and the off-exchange plans will also satisfy a consumer’s obligation under the ACA to maintain health insurance.
A well-run WBE will offer the same qualified health plans available on the government run marketplaces, at the same prices, plus additional products such as off-exchange products and ancillary products, including dental and vision insurance. If a consumer decides to purchase a qualified health plan, then the WBE can still integrate with the government-run marketplace to assist the consumer in applying for a subsidy and the information that the consumer gives regarding the subsidy calculation will be collected and maintained solely by the government.
Because of the experience in the market and the unique products they offer, it makes sense that these already established web-based entities should play a role in the state and federal marketplaces.
What if a consumer has questions or needs assistance?
Regardless of whether a consumer accesses available plans via a public government-run marketplace or a privately run marketplace, there will be assistance available should the consumer have questions. The government-run public exchanges will utilize trained staff known as “navigators” or “assisters” to help consumers through a portion of the process.
It should be noted, however, that these navigators and assisters are likely not going to be licensed health insurance agents and not necessarily have the same training. In fact, many states have mandated that navigators will not be permitted to provide advice regarding policy benefits.
Consumers should be aware that licensed agents will still be available and ready and willing to assist with any policy questions that each consumer may have, however, it is not clear whether the government will facilitate the contact with the licensed agent or whether the consumer will be responsible for locating an agent.
One of the benefits of using a private exchange marketplace is that many of these companies will employ trained and licensed health insurance agents to walk consumers through the process from start to finish, should the consumer request the assistance and without requiring the consumer to take any additional action.
With October 1 approaching, there will be an overload of information hitting consumers regarding open enrollment and purchasing health insurance. It is important that consumers know their options and know what assistance is available to them.
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With rising obesity rates in the US, viewpoints have arisen on how best to tackle the problem. Questions like ‘whose problem is it really?’ and ‘who is to blame?’ inform the search for solutions. Fast food and soda companies have taken criticisms in the swirl of discussions, as their products have been deemed the key culprits to obesity.
In their defense, food and beverage companies have come up with promotional materials highlighting healthy lifestyles to combat obesity rates. This move, however, is still seen as problem avoidance. Alexandra Sifferlin recently pointed out in a TIME article that these promotional materials merely impute irresponsibility on consumers.
Naturally, these companies cannot be expected to shoulder all of the blame in the interest of protecting their businesses. However, they could do better than current initiatives to inform consumers of the effect of soda and fast food on overall health and wellbeing.
By accepting their liabilities and by sending the right messages to consumers, food and beverage companies can keep their loyal customers while discouraging unhealthy eating habits such as overconsumption and a preference for only one type of food.
This report from ABC News talks about a few health hazards linked to sleep deprivation. Find out about these diseases below:
Beyond leaving you drowsy and irritable, sleepless nights can take a serious toll on your physical and mental health.
“We know sleep is a critical biological function that influences a wide variety of physiological process,” said Dr. Susan Redline, a sleep specialist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “Sleep deficiency can affect mood and the ability to make memories and learn, but it also affects metabolism, appetite, blood pressure, levels of inflammation in the body and perhaps even the immune response.”
Lack of sleep has been linked to stroke, obesity, diabetes, anxiety, depression and the country’s No. 1 killers: heart disease and cancer. Read on to learn the health hazards of sleep deficiency and how you can sleep better.
Getting seven hours of shut-eye after a day of healthy eating and moderate exercise can lower the risk of heart disease by up to 65 percent, according to a 2013 study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.
“It is always important to confirm results,” study author Monique Verschuren of the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment in the Netherlands said in a statement. “But the evidence is certainly growing that sleep should be added to our list of [cardiovascular disease] risk factors.”
The study added to a growing body of evidence that sleep is key for heart health. A 2011 study published in the European Heart Journal found people who slept fewer than six hours a night were 48 percent more likely to develop or die from heart disease.
A study of more than 5,600 people found those who slept fewer than six hours a night were more likely to suffer a stroke than their well-rested counterparts.
“We speculate that short sleep duration is a precursor to other traditional stroke risk factors, and once these traditional stroke risk factors are present, then perhaps they become stronger risk factors than sleep duration alone,” Megan Ruiter of the University of Alabama at Birmingham said in a statement.
Stroke risk is also higher in people who are overweight, diabetic or hypertensive — all conditions linked to poor sleep.
Obesity and Diabetes
Sporadic and irregular sleep can raise blood sugar levels and slow the body’s metabolism, increasing the risk of obesity and diabetes, according to an April 2012 study published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
“The evidence is clear that getting enough sleep is important for health,” said study author Orfeu Buxton, a neuroscientist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
Sleep deficiency can also lead to bad food choices, according to a study that found the sight of unhealthy food activated reward centers in the brains of sleep-deprived people.
“The results suggest that, under restricted sleep, individuals will find unhealthy foods highly salient and rewarding, which may lead to greater consumption of those foods,” said study author Marie-Pierre St-Onge from St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital Center and Columbia University in New York. “Indeed, food intake data from this same study showed that participants ate more overall and consumed more fat after a period of sleep restriction compared to regular sleep.”
Anxiety and Depression
Sure, sleepless nights make for miserable mornings. But chronic sleep deficiency can lead to anxiety and depression — both serious mood disorders.
“People feel more anxious, restless, irritable, less satisfied,” said Dr. Mark Dyken, director of the University of Iowa’s Sleep Disorders Center in Iowa City, Iowa, adding sleep deficiency can impact careers and relationships. “They have difficulty focusing and sometimes feel like they just don’t care anymore.”
Brain imaging suggests sleep deprivation can boost activity in the brain’s emotional centers, according to a study presented at the Associated Professional Sleep Societies in Boston.
“Our results suggest that just one night of sleep loss significantly alters the optimal functioning of this essential brain process, especially among anxious individuals,” study author Andrea Goldstein from the Sleep and Neuroimaging Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley, said in a statement. “This is perhaps never more relevant considering the continued erosion of sleep time that continues to occur across society.”
Sleep deficiency has also been linked to an increased risk of cancer.
A 2008 study published in the British Journal of Cancer found women who slept fewer than six hours a night were more likely develop breast cancer, and a 2010 study published in the journal Cancer found those who slept fewer than six hours a night were more likely to have colorectal polyps, which can lead to colon cancer.
The biological mechanisms are unclear, but lack of sleep has been shown to boost levels of inflammation in the body and interfere with the immune response, both of which have been implicated in cancer.
“Sleep is restorative,” said Dyken. “And if you don’t get it, your health will suffer.”
Dry, Damaged Skin
Dark circles and puffy eyes can make you look tired, but new research suggests lack of sleep can take a serious toll on your skin, causing it to lose moisture and recover more slowly from sun damage.
“When our skin gets dehydrated we’re more prone to eczema and other skin conditions,” said Dr. Elma Baron, director of UH Case Medical Center’s Skin Study Center in Cleveland, who led the study of 60 women sponsored by Estee Lauder. “Good sleepers have better skin barrier function, and poor sleepers lose more moisture through the skin.”
Sleep quality and duration also seemed to impact skin’s pigmentation and laxity, according to Baron, and good sleepers tended to feel better about the way they looked.
“I think it emphasizes the importance of good quality sleep and adequate sleep,” said Baron.
The study was presented at the International Investigative Dermatology Meeting in Edinburgh, Scotland, and is currently being prepared for publication, according to Baron.
Get Your Sleep
With hectic work and family schedules, getting a good night’s sleep is no easy feat. But experts say a little planning can go a long way, helping you feel refreshed the next morning and for many to come.
“Make sure your bedroom is dark and quiet, and avoid reading anything that’s going to make you excited or worried,” said Dyken. “Try not to exercise or eat a big meal within three hours of your bedtime, but don’t go to bed hungry, either.”
Caffeine and alcohol can also interfere with sleep, according to Redline.
“Much of sleep deficiency is self-inflicted,” she said. “But adults should do their best to get to bed at regular times and aim to have seven-and-a-half hours on average of sleep. Set your schedule such that you honor and respect your sleep needs.”
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