Sarcoidosis: Affecting African Americans More Frequently

Sarcoidosis is a chronic inflammatory disease that damages tissues and organs. It is classified as a systemic disease because it affects multisystems throughout the body. It primarily affects people between the ages of 20 and 30 years old. Medical research has not yet determined what actually causes sarcoidosis. At one time it was solely classified as an autoimmune disease. But research now is looking at possible other causes.

The chronic inflammation process of sarcoidosis gradually destroys good tissues and organs, resulting in lumpy structures, known as noncaseating granulomas. A granuloma is a collection of macrophages, the cells that work in the body’s behalf to fight off pathogens. A noncaseating granuloma is a granuloma in which the macrophages remain alive, and do not die. The job of macrophages is to destroy any foreign tissue. In an autoimmune disease, these macrophages attack good body tissue and organs, reacting as if they are pathogens. Noncaseating granulomas can form inside and/or outside of the body. If they form on the skin surface, this disease is called Cutaneous Sarcoidosis.

In the United States, sarcoidosis is more prevalent among the African American race, presenting 10 times more common in blacks, and occurring two times more frequently in black females than in black males. Medical research believes that this prevalence of disease frequency is due to both genetic and environmental factors. According to the Federal Government Source for Women’s Health Information, autoimmune diseases show the following trend in women:

  • Affecting women in their childhood years.
  • Family history.
  • Environmental chemicals exposure: sunlight, solvents, viral/bacterial infections.
  • Certain ethnic groups – African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans.

Signs and symptoms of sarcoidosis

In greater than 90% of cases, sarcoidosis primarily affects the lungs:

  • Dry cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain

Other symptoms of may include:

  • Tiredness
  • Enlarged lymph nodes/tenderness
  • Neurological changes (memory loss, personality changes, stroke)
  • Weight changes (usually weight loss)
  • Watery eyes/soreness,
  • Discoloration to skin/ulcers

Diagnosing and Treatment for Sarcoidosis

Sarcoidosis is a diagnosed by excluding other possible diseases. This may involve obtaining a thorough patient history, lab work, chest x-rays and CT scans to visualize the presence of granulomas in various organs. Lymph node and skin biopsies may also be used to help differentiate this disease from others. Once diagnosis is confirmed, treatment of this disease will vary because of individuality.

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In most cases, sarcoidosis lasts between one and three years. If organs that are not affected by this disease, no treatment is necessary. In other cases, the condition may become chronic and it could last for many years, resulting in permanent lung damage. In this situation, the primary objective is to reduce the inflammation of the lungs by steroid administration to prevent further damage and to promote adequate airway exchange.

Many people live successful lives with sarcoidosis. The key to this success is staying connected with a primary healthcare provider for guidance and treatment. Getting regular check ups is imperative and allows you to stay on top with managing this disease. A chronic disease can be draining because it is a constant challenge to deal with. The National Institution of Health is aware of this and has provided a website to provide information and to assist people who are living with this disease.

If you or someone you know has sarcoidosis, please reach out and take advantage of the help that is available. There is no need to face this disease alone.

Managing Acid Indigestion: Changes In Lifestyle Can Often Improve Symptoms

Characterized by burning discomfort in the central core of the body and gassiness, acid indigestion is a common malady with even its most severe form, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) , affecting more than one-quarter of the US population. It is so often accompanied by hiatal hernia that in 2007 the National Institutes of Health referred to hiatal hernia as “a normal finding in otherwise healthy people over age 50.”

Lifestyle causes of gastric indigestion include whatever puts undue pressure or irritation on the upper stomach and lower esophageal sphincter (LES). Eating too much or too quickly, poor mastication, ingesting foods, fluids, or medications that cause gas build up or act as gastric irritants, wearing too-tight clothing, lying down too soon after eating, obesity, pregnancy, and smoking can all contribute to gastric indigestion.

Easy Steps to Improve Digestion

While it is important to see a licensed health care provider for appropriate diagnosis and treatment of any on-going indigestion, there are lifestyle-related changes people can make to minimize irritation to the upper stomach and LES. These include:

  • Eating mindfully. Take time to chew well and savor foods.
  • Pausing to give thanks, relax, and focus on eating before beginning to eat.
  • Eating and drinking less. Keep the stomach less than three-quarters full to give it room to do the work of digestion.
  • Avoiding irritating food combinations such as meats with breads.
  • Avoiding putting pressure on the stomach.
  • Elevating the head of the bed about three-to-five inches by putting blocks under the headboard legs.

“Let Food be Your Medicine”- Hippocrates

Eating a diet about half of which consists of whole grains and protein-rich foods in approximately equal proportions; about a third of which consists of vegetables, herbs, and spices; about a fifth of which consists of high quality fats like olive oil, sesame oil, and ghee; and the remainder of which consists of foods such as fruits and fruit juices has been shown to alleviate symptoms of gastric indigestion for many people. Herbs and spices such as caraway seeds, cardamon, dandelion root, goldenseal, slippery elm, and sweet basil have been reported to help relieve some cases of acid indigestion.

Because red meats can trigger inflammatory processes and cow’s milk contains lactose which many people cannot digest, cow products may be best avoided by people suffering from acid indigestion. Low quality fats and oils in combination with refined grains not only increase acid indigestion for many people, the combination is also implicated in obesity, high cholesterol, and atherosclerosis. Other products highly implicated in acid indigestion which are usually best avoided include alcohol, caffeinated foods and beverages, carbonated beverages and tobacco.

Medical Treatment for Acid Indigestion

Persistent or severe symptoms of acid indigestion may require allopathic treatments beyond lifestyle change. Medications a physician may prescribe include antacids containing mineral salts to absorb gastric acid; histamine-2 (H2) receptor blockers to block stomach inflammation; foaming agents to prevent reflux; proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs) to block stomach acid secretion; or prokinetics to strengthen the LES and cause the stomach to empty more quickly. While considered relatively safe, these medications can have side effects ranging from mildly inconvenient, such as nausea, to dangerous, such as heart arrhythmias.

Check Also: Kool-Aid For The Environment; Kool-Aid For Health.

Surgery may sometimes be required for treating severe gastric indigestion. The most common surgeries for treating gastric indigestion include repair of hiatal hernia, and a variety of surgeries performed to strengthen the LES. Because there are risks inherit in any surgical procedure, healthcare providers will usually recommend lifestyle changes and other treatments before resorting to surgery.

Lifestyle Changes for Acid Indigestion Relief

Acid indigestion encompasses a group of lifestyle related disorders which may respond well to lifestyle changes. An attitude of respect for one’s stomach and digestive needs can go a long way in managing symptoms of acid indigestion. Many people find digestion improves when they choose balanced food combinations, relax before eating, focus on eating, eat less to give the stomach room to do its work, avoid stomach pressure, and stay upright after eating.

Some herbs may be helpful in soothing the stomach. A licensed health care practitioner should be seen for any on-going symptoms of acid indigestion. A variety of medications are available which can help manage acid indigestion. In persistent or severe cases, surgery may be recommended by one’s health care provider.

Kool-Aid For The Environment; Kool-Aid For Health

For many Americans the word “Kool-aid” brings to mind pleasant memories of long, hot summer days and fun backyard barbecues. A pitcher, a packet, and some sugar yields a satisfying beverage treat for a whole patio full of people. The drink mix originated during the Depression years of the 1930s and today’s consumers have rediscovered it for its value and its benefits to the ecology and general health.

Kool-aid is an Economical Soft Drink choice

The packets of Kool-aid come in a wide array of flavors and generally sell three for a dollar. Each packet yields two quarts of beverage. In contrast, a two-liter bottle of store brand soda checks in at well above a dollar, with an added return value in many states. The cost of sugar to sweeten Kool-aid adds a nickel to the price per envelope cost.

Find interesting facts about Kool-aid history and its inventor Edwin Perkins in the Hastings Museum.

Beyond the obvious costs at the checkout register, there is the cost of refrigeration for soda bottles. True, they can be stored warm in a cabinet and then served in glasses with ice cubes, but they still take up much more space than the small, thin packets.

The True Costs of Plastic bottled and Aluminum Canned Beverages

The production of a bottled or canned soft drink is a resource-intensive process. Energy and raw materials are needed for the PET plastic used for the bottles and the aluminum for the cans. These mountains of beverage pallets must be warehoused and then loaded onto gasoline guzzling trucks for retail delivery. For the plastic bottles the oil needed to produce them packs a double whammy.

A single plastic bottle or aluminum can added to the waste stream may not seem like such a burden but over the past few decades, billions and billions of them have brought dire consequences. They clog landfills and contribute to a massive garbage patch in the middle of the Pacific Ocean (Good Morning America featured the Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch in a recent video feature).

Healthwise, Kool-aid Makes Sense

Beyond hydration, the typical can/bottle of soda or sport drink offers virtually no health benefits. Many contain forty-two grams of sugar in a twelve ounce serving. This is equal to fourteen packets of restaurant style sugar. And no, the sugar in sodas and other drinks does not come from a cane. Since the late 1970s beverages have been sweetened with a compound known as high-fructose corn syrup, or HFCS. This chemical derives from processed and distilled corn husks, and as study after study has shown, plays havoc with glucose levels and metabolic rates.

With Kool-aid, the consumer can control both the type and the amount of sweetener. The package directions call for one cup of sugar to yield two quarts of beverage but of course this can be lessened. Even the lowest-priced, bargain aisle package of white cane sugar is better than HFCS, but raw cane sugar offers an even more natural sweetener. Finally, Kool-aid as produced does provide the ten percent recommended daily allowance of Vitamin C. Clever consumers have even added other vitamins to their preparations.

You may check: Genetic Markers For Heart Disease: Why Genetic Factors May Increase Heart Attack Risk.

Kool-aid: Now more than Ever

Edwin Perkins originally named his creation “Fruit Smack” and shipped the product in small glass bottles.

Problems with breakage led him to dehydrate the mixture and ship it in the packet form which has lasted for seventy-five years. Kool-aid makes fun beverage consumption a process of reuse and renewal since washable pitchers and glasses are used. As green consciousness and health concerns escalate, Mr. Perkins’ relatives have seen his humble product enjoy a renaissance.

Genetic Markers For Heart Disease: Why Genetic Factors May Increase Heart Attack Risk

Heart disease is caused by a variety of factors. The most common form of heart disease is coronary artery disease (CAD), which can be controlled with medication and lifestyle changes. High blood pressure, high cholesterol and obesity also increase the risk of heart disease. There are also some genetic factors that may predispose individuals towards heart disease.

LDL Cholesterol and Heart Disease

Varying factors associated with cholesterol, including the presence of lipoprotein(a), (a specialized form of LDL), low LDL (levels below 30 mg/dl) and small LDL (smaller particles of LDL that can more easily penetrate arterial walls) are all genetically-influenced factors that can contribute to heart disease. LDL stands for low density lipoprotein and is a protein responsible for transporting substances to cells. It can build up in the walls of blood vessels and eventually block arteries.

Read More: Simple Diet Changes For Greater Weight Loss Results.

HDL Cholesterol and Heart Disease

Variations in a gene called PON1 may be responsible for either high or low levels of HDL, or “good cholesterol.” HDL stands for high-density lipoprotein. High levels of HDL can help protect against heart disease. Genetic factors may predetermine an individual’s levels of PON1 and therefore may be indicative of heart disease risk or conversely, of a more protective level of PON1.

Genes and Heart Disease

Scientists have discovered gene sites that appear to affect the likelihood of heart disease. According to the journal Nature Genetics, nine specific genes are associated with a higher risk of heart disease. While more research is needed regarding how these specific genes influence heart disease, individuals who carry these genetic markers may wish to work closely with their doctors. Speak with a doctor regarding any questions.

Considerations About Traditional Markers for Heart Disease

According to a January 2010 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association entitled “Association Between a Literature-Based Genetic Risk Score and Cardiovascular Events in Women,” traditional methods of determining heart disease risk, including lifestyle and family history, were more accurate at predicting heart disease than genetic markers. Patients with genetic markers should continue to work with their doctors to create a health plan but knowledge of genetic influences is not enough to predict heart disease risk or rule out the possibility of future heart disease.

Heart Disease and Genetic Factors

Scientists have recently discovered nine specific genetic markers that may predispose certain individuals towards a higher risk of heart disease. These factors, in combination with other factors such as family history, lifestyle and body weight, may make it more likely that some individuals will develop heart disease. To find out if you possess these genetic markers, speak with your doctor about testing.