The Importance of Oral Health

pretty-woman-brushing-teethMost people are taught to brush their teeth and floss every day in order to avoid getting cavities. These become a mundane daily routine in the morning and evening that do not seem very important. However, your oral health is more important than you might think. It is essential to our overall health and our quality of life.

The connection between oral health and general health is not very obvious, but the two are very closely linked. Your mouth is full of bacteria, most of which is harmless. A combination of your body’s natural defenses and good oral care keep these bacteria in your mouth under control. Saliva is one of the main defenses against disease-causing bacteria: it has enzymes that destroy and inhibit the growth of bacteria.

However, while your saliva usually helps protect you against these bacteria, it cannot always do its job, leading the bacteria to build and form dental plaque, which is a sticky, colorless film that coats your teeth and causes health problems. If you don’t brush or floss regularly, plaque builds up along your gum line and in between your teeth. This build up of bacteria can lead to oral infections.

Long-term oral infections can result in dental cavities, gum disease, oral cancer, and even tooth loss. The affects do not stop there: research has show that oral infections can also contribute to various other diseases and conditions including cardiovascular disease, preterm birth, diabetes, osteoporosis, and others. If you don’t already have enough reasons to brush your teeth and flow daily, the link between your oral and overall health provides even more reason.

Here are some tips to protect your oral health:

  • Brush your teeth twice a day
  • Floss daily
  • Decrease sugar intake (including soda, candy, etc.)
  • Replace your toothbrush every three months
  • Quit smoking
  • Schedule yearly appointments with your dentist

Sources:

Mayo Clinic

National Library of Medicine

World Health Organization 

Study Shows that Douching May Expose Women to Harmful Chemicals

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Douching, which is washing out the vagina with water or other mixtures, is common in the United States despite it being widely discouraged by medical professionals. It is estimated that around one in four women between the ages of 15 and 44 use a vaginal douche to get rid of unpleasant odors and feel fresher. However, douching affects the levels of bacteria and the acidity of the vagina, and can increase the risk of infections, pregnancy complications, and various other health problems.

A new study published in the journal Environmental Health suggests that vaginal douches have another problematic effect on women’s health: douches may lead to higher exposure to phthalates, which are potentially harmful chemicals. Phthalates are found in hundreds of products such as adhesives, detergents, plastics, and even personal-care products. These chemicals can disrupts the action of hormones, particularly reproductive and thyroid hormones. Phthalates have been shown to have a great effect in the womb, meaning that they are most problematic and concerning for women of reproductive age.

The data for the study came from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, in which 739 women between the ages of 20 and 29 reported their use of feminine hygiene products, such as pads, tampons, vaginal douches, etc., and provided urine samples to be tested. The urine samples were tested for phthalates levels and researchers found that douches were the only product that showed a significant link to higher levels of the chemical. This means that douching is leading to increased exposure to chemicals that can lead to health problems later in life, which is another reason for concern about the practice.

The authors of the study explain that more research needs to be done about the specific consequences of increased exposure to phthalates. This is one of the first studies that explores the link between feminine products and chemical exposure, and it will hopefully lead to more research in this area as vaginal health is an important women’s health issue.

To read more about douching and why it is not recommended for women, click here.

Sources:

Environmental Health Journal

Time Magazine

Office on Women’s Health

CDC

Stay Safe in the Heat!

This week, cities and towns all over the United States have been hit by heat waves, with temperatures reaching the high 90s and low 100s. The National Weather Service reports that heat is one of the leading weather-related killers and results in hundreds of fatalities each year and even more cases of heat-related illnesses, including heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Spending too much time outside, over-working your body on a hot day, or staying too long in an overheated place can cause heat-related illnesses. In order to stay safe, it is important to know the signs and symptoms:

Heat exhaustion is the body’s response to excessive loss of water and salt that is contained in sweat. It usually occurs after being exposed to high temperatures in combination with not drinking enough water. The warning signs of heat exhaustion include heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, weakness, and fainting. Victims will typically have a fast but weak pulse rate and fast but shallow breathing. Be sure to help the victim cool down by having them hydrate with cool water and move them to an air-conditioned environment. If left untreated, heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke.

Heat stroke is the most serious heat illness and it is considered a medical emergency. It occurs when the body temperature rises rapidly due to exposure to high temperatures and dehydration, which leads to failure of the body’s temperature control system. The warning signs are: extremely high body temperature, usually 104 °F or above, red, hot, dry skin, no sweating, a rapid, strong pulse, dizziness, disorientation, and nausea. If you see someone with any of these signs, immediately call for medical assistance. It is also crucial that you begin to cool down the victim by placing them in a cool shower, spraying them down with cool water, wrapping them in a cool, wet towel. Do NOT give the victim fluids to drink.

Heat related deaths are 100% preventable. Here are some tips to staying safe during a heat wave:

  • Drink plenty of water and avoid drinks with alcohol or caffeine
  • Wear lightweight, loose fitting, light-colored clothing
  • Stay indoors and avoid strenuous exercise during the hottest part of the day
  • Never leave children, disabled adults, or pets in parked vehicles
  • Minimize direct exposure to the sun and wear sunscreen
  • Use air conditioners or spend time in air-conditioned places such as malls or libraries
  • Listen to local weather forecasts and stay aware of upcoming temperature changes

Sources:

National Weather Service

CDC

Beyond the Bruises: Domestic Violence and Chronic Illness

screenshotThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that on average, 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. They also report that 1 in 3 women are victims of some form of physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime. However, these numbers underestimate the problem, as many victims do no report the violence to police, family, or friends for a variety of reasons.

In 2013, MORE Magazine and the Verizon Foundation conducted a survey about domestic violence in the United States. The survey found that 80 percent of domestic violence victims experience chronic health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, chronic pain, asthma, and insomnia, among others. Abused women are not only more likely to suffer from chronic illness but they are also more likely to suffer from multiple chronic conditions than women who have never experienced abuse.

Many of these health problems begin to show up in abused women later in life, years after the abuse has ended. While this fact is not yet fully understood by doctors and researchers, Bruce McEwan, a neuroscientist at Rockefeller University, explains that these conditions can be triggered by the brain being in high stress and a constant fight-or-flight response mode, a strain on the brain he calls “allostatic load.” This state of hyper-arousal can last long after abuse ends and the body can become desensitized to the regulating effects of cortisol, which is a stress hormone, and as a result lead to impairment of brain function, the immune system, and endocrine system. As Michele Black, an epidemiologist at the CDC, said in the original article, “All that stress is really toxic. There’s no organ that’s immune. Your whole body is at risk.”

Inspired by the groundbreaking and award-winning report from MORE Magazine, the Society for Women’s Health Research, a national non-profit that promotes research on the biological differences in disease, and the Verizon Foundation partnered to launch the “Beyond the Bruises” campaign, which unites survivors, advocates, and organizations in bringing awareness to the correlation between domestic violence and chronic health issues. The campaign has a website resource center at BeyondtheBruises.org and features a short video in which survivors of domestic violence share their stories about struggling with chronic illnesses due to their abuse. The goal of the campaign is to bring attention to the link between domestic violence and chronic illness, urge doctors to screen for domestic violence, encourage women to have honest conversations with their doctors, and start a national dialog about these issues.

If you or someone you know need help, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or visit their website here.

To learn more about Domestic Violence from the CDC, click here.

Sources:

Society for Women’s Health Research

MORE Magazine

CDC

Huffington Post 

STDs Affect Women Differently Than Men

Most of us have heard of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). It is very easy to read about STDs and think to ourselves, “well that will never happen to me.” However, STDs are a major public health issue in the United States, especially among women. Women are disproportionately affected by these diseases, which include chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis. Below is the CDCs list of 7 ways that STDs impact women differently than men. 

1. The vagina places women at risk for infection because it has a thin, delicate lining and a moist environment, two factors that make it easier for bacteria to enter and grow.

2. Women are less likely to experience symptoms of sexually transmitted diseases, which makes the diseases hard to notice

3. Women typically have normal discharge and burning/itching of the vagina is commonly related to yeast infections, which makes women more likely to confuse the symptoms of STDs with other vaginal infections

4. Due to the fact that the vagina is an internal organ, it can be harder for women to notice symptoms in their vagina. Men are more likely to notice sores and rashes on their penis because it is external.

5. Untreated STDs can affect women’s reproductive systems and future plans for reproducing. These diseases, if left untreated, can result in ectopic pregnancy and even infertility.

6. Women who are pregnant can pass STDs to their babies and can result in brain damage, blindness, low birth weight, and even stillbirth.

7. The most common STD in women, Human papillomavirus, is the main cause of cervical cancer. HPV is also common in men, but they do not develop any serious health problems from the disease.

While this list may seem scary and daunting, know that there is good news! According to the CDC, women see their doctor more often than men, which means they should use this time to get Pap smears and get tested for STDs. There are also medications and treatments available for STDs that can prevent serious health consequences.

The CDC has a great list of resources available to learn more about STDs, how to protect yourself, and where to get testing and treatment: www.cdc.gov/std and findstdtesting.org.

Be sure to check out our upcoming blog series on STDs to learn more about specific diseases!

Source:

CDC

The Path to Anesthesiology

AnesthesiologistAdriana Cortes

In order to have an operation run smoothly, anesthesiologists are in charge of taking care of the patient during the surgery. Anesthesiologists make the patients lose their consciousness in order to help the surgeon go through the operation quickly and effectively. Anesthetizing a patient before a surgery or painful medical procedure is very important. It allows the patient to be comfortable and safe while their surgery is taking place. An anesthesiologist also carefully monitors the unconscious patient during the surgery and makes sure that their vital organs are still functioning.

Although the path towards becoming an anesthesiologist is not an easy one, this job plays an important role in surgeries. People pursuing anesthesiology are in school for about 6-8 years. A bachelor’s degree is the first thing you will need in order to become an anesthesiologist. While in college you will need to take the required college classes such as chemistry, organic chemistry, biology, physics, English and math. After earning a bachelor’s degree you will need to pass the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) and go to medical school. After completing the 4 years of medical school, you have to pass U.S. Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) in order to obtain a medical license in the United States. After this anesthesiologist are required to complete an anesthesiology residency program.

Anesthesiologists play a very important during surgeries and there are only about 30,000 employed in the US.

Sources:

BLS

ASA

Explore Health Careers

HSS

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

GADAdriana Cortes

18% of the U.S. population has an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States. Generalized Anxiety Disorder affects around 3.1% of people in the U.S. and women are twice as likely to be affected. This disorder occurs mostly in teenagers aged 13-18. Biological factors, genetic factors and environmental factors could all have caused an anxiety disorder, however the exact cause is still unknown.

Since Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) affects such a large amount of people, it is important to know how to take care of yourself if you have GAD or if anyone you know has GAD.

First you have to know if you have GAD. Some of the symptoms of GAD include persistent worrying, uncertainty/indecisiveness, unable to relax, and fear of making the wrong decision. GAD can also have physical symptoms such as, fatigue, irritability, trembling/twitching, sweating, trouble sleeping, easily startled, nausea, and headaches. While it is normal to feel worried about certain things it is recommended to see your doctor if you have any one of the following issues…

  • You feel like your worrying is interfering with your day-to-day activities
  • You feel depressed and started using drugs/alcohol
  • You have suicidal thoughts/behaviors

GAD can be treated using psychotherapy or medications. Psychotherapy can also be described as talk therapy. This is when the therapist talks to the patient and attempts to reduce their anxiety symptoms. It is also possible to talk to your doctor about medication for GAD. It is important to communicate with them in order to be informed on the medication’s side effects, risks, and benefits. It is also possible to take both of the treatments at the same time if needed.

A change in your lifestyle/diet can also alleviate your anxiety levels. You should avoid alcohol, coffee, and smoking since these can worsen the anxiety. Eating healthy and being physically active can improve your mood and anxiety levels.

Having Generalized Anxiety Disorder or any other type of anxiety disorder is nothing to be ashamed of. It is better to treat these disorders so you can live a less stressful life.

Sources:

Office on Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Mayo Clinic

CDC

SAMHSA

ADAA