Allergies are an abnormal response of the immune system. People
who have allergies have an immune system that reacts to a usually
harmless substance in the environment. This substance (pollen,
mold, animal dander, etc.) is called an allergen. Allergies are
a very common problem, affecting at least 2 out of every 10 Americans.
If the allergen is in the air, the allergic reaction will likely
occur in the eyes, nose and lungs. If the allergen is ingested,
the allergic reaction often occurs in the mouth, stomach, and
intestines. Sometimes enough chemicals are released from the mast
cells to cause a reaction throughout the body, such as hives,
decreased blood pressure, shock, or loss of consciousness.
Most allergies are inherited, which means they are passed on
to children by their parents. People inherit a tendency to be
allergic, although not to any specific allergen. When one parent
is allergic, their child has a 50% chance of having allergies.
That risk jumps to 75% if both parents have allergies.
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The back is a well-designed structure made up of bone, muscles,
nerves and other soft tissues. You rely on your back to be the
workhorse of the body its function is essential for nearly
every move you make. Because of this, the back can be particularly
vulnerable to injury and back pain can be disabling.
Your lower back bears most of the weight and stress of your body.
Back pain most often occurs from strained back muscles and ligaments,
from improper or heavy lifting, or after a sudden awkward movement.
Sometimes a muscle spasm can cause back pain. Often, there's an
accumulation of stress with one particular event unleashing the
pain. In many cases, there may not be an obvious cause.
Four out of five adults have at least one bout of back pain sometime
during life. In fact, back pain is one of the most common reasons
for health care visits and missed work.
On the bright side, you can prevent most back pain. Simple home
treatment and proper body mechanics will often heal your back
within a few weeks and keep it functional for the long haul. Surgery
is rarely needed to treat back pain. Although it may take several
weeks before it completely disappears, you should notice some
improvement within the first 72 hours of self-care. If not, see
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Type 2 diabetes is a lifelong disease that affects the way your
body uses food for energy. The disease develops when an organ
called the pancreas cannot make enough insulin or when the body
is not able to use insulin correctly. Insulin is a hormone that
allows the body's cells to use sugar (glucose) for energy. Insulin
also helps the body store extra sugar in muscle, fat, and liver
When insulin is not available or is not used correctly, the level
of sugar in your blood gets too high and cells do not get the
energy they need. If your blood sugar stays high for a long time,
you can develop problems with your eyes, heart, blood vessels,
nerves, and kidneys.
Controlling your blood sugar is the best way to avoid serious
complications from type 2 diabetes, such as heart and blood vessel
diseases. Many people who have type 2 diabetes enjoy healthy,
active lives when they are able to control their blood sugar.
Exercising, eating healthy foods, and taking medicines all help
control blood sugar.
More and more adults and children are developing type 2 diabetes.
This is largely because of bad eating habits and a lack of physical
activity. It is important to know whether you or your children
are at risk for type 2 diabetes and to know what you can do to
help prevent the disease.
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Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for both
men and women in the U.S. It is important to learn about your
heart to help prevent heart disease. And, if you have cardiovascular
disease, you can live a healthier, more active life by learning
about your disease and treatments and by becoming an active participant
in your care.
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Coronary Artery Disease
When too much cholesterol is present, plaque (a thick, hard deposit)
may form in the body's arteries narrowing the space for blood
to flow to the heart. Over time, this buildup causes atherosclerosis
(hardening of the arteries) which can lead to heart disease.
When not enough oxygen-carrying blood reaches the heart chest
pain -- called angina -- can result. If the blood supply to a
portion of the heart is completely cut off by total blockage of
a coronary artery, the result is a heart attack. This is usually
due to a sudden closure from a blood clot forming on top of a
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High Blood Pressure
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, often doesn't have any
symptoms, so you usually don't feel it. For that reason, hypertension
is usually diagnosed by a health care professional on a routine
visit. If your blood pressure is extremely high, you may have
unusually strong headaches, chest pain, and heart failure (especially
difficulty breathing and poor exercise tolerance). If you have
any of these symptoms, seek treatment immediately.
While the cause of hypertension in most people remains unclear,
a variety of conditions -- such as getting little or no exercise,
poor diet, obesity, older age, and genetics -- can lead to hypertension.
The blood pressure reading is measured in millimeters of mercury
(mm Hg) and is written as systolic pressure, the force of the
blood against the artery walls as your heart beats, over diastolic
pressure, the blood pressure between heartbeats. For example,
a blood pressure reading is written as 120/80 mm Hg, or "120
over 80". The systolic pressure is 120 and the diastolic
pressure is 80.
Hypertension treatment usually involves making lifestyle modifications
and, if necessary, drug therapy.
Lifestyle changes include losing weight, quitting smoking, eating
a healthy diet, reducing the amount of salt in your diet, regular
aerobic exercise (such as brisk walking), limiting alcohol drinking.
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Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance made in the liver and
found in certain foods, such as food from animals, like dairy
products (whole milk), eggs and meat. The body needs some cholesterol
in order to function properly. Its cell walls, or membranes, need
cholesterol in order to produce hormones, vitamin D and the bile
acids that help to digest fat. But, the body needs only a small
amount of cholesterol to meet its needs. When too much is present
health problems such as coronary heart disease may develop.
Everyone over the age of 20 should get their cholesterol levels
measured at least once every 5 years. When being tested, your
doctor may recommend a non-fasting cholesterol test or a fasting
cholesterol test. A non-fasting cholesterol test will show your
total cholesterol and HDL cholesterol. A fasting cholesterol test,
called a lipid profile or a lipoprotein analysis, will measure
your LDL, HDL, and total cholesterol. It will also measure triglycerides.
Your doctor may start with a non-fasting cholesterol test and
then recommend a lipid profile, based on your results.
Doctors recommend your cholesterol stay below 200.
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Migraine and Headache
According to the National Headache Foundation, over 45 million
Americans suffer from chronic, recurring headaches and of these,
28 million suffer from migraines. About 20% of children and adolescents
also have significant headaches.
Headaches, especially migraines, have a tendency to run in families.
Most children and adolescents (90%) who have migraines have other
family members with migraines. When both parents have a history
of migraines, there is a 70% chance that the child will also develop
migraines. If only one parent has a history of migraines, the
risk drops to 25%-50%.
Headache pain results from signals interacting between the brain,
blood vessels, and surrounding nerves. During a headache, specific
nerves of the blood vessels and head muscles are activated and
send pain signals to the brain. It's not clear, however, why these
signals are activated in the first place.
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People who have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
usually have some symptoms of both chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
Your symptoms will change depending on the severity of your COPD.
Key symptoms include a long-term (chronic) cough, chronic mucus
(sputum) production when you cough, repeated episodes of acute
bronchitis, shortness of breath that is persistent and gets worse,
occurs during exercise, and worsens during respiratory infections,
such as colds.
You may have a rapid, sometimes sudden, and prolonged worsening
of symptoms (cough, amount of mucus, and/or shortness of breath),
especially if your COPD is mainly chronic bronchitis. This is
called a COPD exacerbation. A COPD exacerbation can be life-threatening,
and you may have to go to the hospital.
A number of medical organizations have classified COPD according
to symptoms and lung function. Lung function is based on spirometry
tests that measure how much air you can breathe out compared to
a person without COPD (the predicted value). The specific tests
used evaluate how much air you can breathe out in one second and
the amount of air you can breathe out after taking a deep breath.
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Fibromyalgia causes pain in your muscles and joints, as well
as tenderness when you press certain spots on your body. You may
not have any energy, or you may have trouble sleeping. These and
other symptoms can be bad enough to cause problems with your work
and home life. But fibromyalgia does not harm your muscles, joints,
or organs, and there are many things you can do to control it.
Fibromyalgia is a syndrome-a set of symptoms that happen together
but do not have a known cause.
Doctors can find out if you have fibromyalgia based on two things.
One is widespread pain, which means the pain is on both sides
of your body above and below the waist. The other is tenderness
in at least 11 of 18 points when they are pressed.
You may be able to control your symptoms with regular exercise
and by finding better ways to handle stress. Good sleep habits
are very important, too. If you have trouble sleeping, changes
to your routine, schedule, and sleep surroundings can help. Counseling
can help you cope with long-term (chronic) pain.
If your symptoms are troublesome, your doctor can prescribe medicines
that help you feel better. Some people with fibromyalgia also
find complementary therapies helpful. These include acupuncture,
massage, behavioral therapy, and relaxation techniques.
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Heartburn is a feeling of burning, warmth, heat, or pain that
often starts in the upper abdomen just beneath the lower breastbone
(sternum). This discomfort may spread in waves upward into your
throat, and you may have a sour taste in your mouth. Heartburn
is sometimes called indigestion, acid regurgitation, sour stomach,
or pyrosis. It is not caused by problems with your heart, although
sometimes heart problems can feel like heartburn.
Heartburn may cause problems with swallowing, burping, nausea,
or bloating. These symptoms can sometimes last up to 2 hours or
longer. In some people, heartburn symptoms may cause sleep problems,
a chronic cough, asthma, wheezing, or choking episodes.
Heartburn usually is worse after eating or made worse by lying
down or bending over. It gets better if you sit or stand up. Almost
everyone will have troubles with heartburn now and then.
Heartburn occurs more frequently in adults than in children.
Many women have heartburn every day when they are pregnant. This
is because the growing uterus puts increasing upward pressure
on the stomach.
Symptoms of heartburn and symptoms of a heart attack may feel
the same. Occasionally, a person may dismiss serious symptoms
as "just gas or indigestion." If you have a history
of heart problems or risk factors for a heart attack, your heartburn
symptoms may indicate a more serious problem and need to be checked
by your doctor.
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Hepatitis C is a virus that infects the liver. In time, it can
lead to permanent liver damage as well as cirrhosis, liver cancer,
and liver failure.
Many people do not know that they have hepatitis C until they
already have some liver damage. This can take many years. Some
people who get hepatitis C have it for a short time and then get
better. This is called acute hepatitis C. But most people who
are infected with the virus go on to develop long-term, or chronic,
hepatitis C. Although hepatitis C can be very serious, many people
can manage the disease and lead active, full lives.
Hepatitis C is caused by the hepatitis C virus. It is spread
from one person's infected blood to another person's blood.
Experts are not sure if you can get hepatitis C through sexual
contact. If there is a risk of getting the virus through sexual
contact, it is very small. You cannot get hepatitis C from casual
contact such as hugging, kissing, sneezing, coughing, or sharing
food or drink.
Many people have no symptoms when they are first infected with
the hepatitis C virus. If you do develop symptoms, they may include:
Feeling very tired, joint pain, belly pain, itchy skin, sore muscles,
dark urine, yellowish eyes and skin (jaundice). Jaundice usually
appears only after other symptoms have started to go away.
Most people go on to develop chronic hepatitis C but still do
not have symptoms. This makes it common for people to have hepatitis
C for 15 years or longer before it is diagnosed.
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Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), also called "irritable bowel,"
"irritable colon" or "spastic colon," is a
common condition that affects between 25 and 55 million Americans,
the majority of whom are women. The condition most often occurs
in people in their late teens to early 40s.
In essence, the condition is a combination of abdominal discomfort
or pain and altered bowel habits: either altered frequency (diarrhea
or constipation) or altered stool form (thin, hard, or soft and
People with IBS have traditionally been described as having "constipation-predominant,"
"diarrhea-predominant," or an alternating pattern of
constipation and diarrhea. Each type represents about a third
of the overall IBS population.
IBS is not a life-threatening condition and it does not make
a person more likely to develop other colon conditions, such as
ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, or colon cancer or any diseases
of the heart or nerves. Yet IBS can be a chronic problem that
can significantly impair quality of life in those that have it.
For example, people with IBS miss work 3 times more than people
without IBS and the condition is associated with absenteeism from
school, decreased participation in activities of daily living,
alterations of one's work setting (shifting to working at home,
changing hours) or giving up work altogether.
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Being obese means having so much body fat that your health is
in danger. Having too much body fat can lead to type 2 diabetes,
heart disease, high blood pressure, arthritis, sleep apnea, and
You can use a measurement called a body mass index, or BMI, to
decide whether your weight is dangerous to your health. The BMI
is a combination of your height and weight. If you have a BMI
of 30 or higher, your extra weight is putting your health in danger.
When you take in more calories than you burn off, you gain weight.
How you eat, how active you are, and other things affect how your
body uses calories and whether you gain weight. If your family
members are obese, you may have inherited a tendency to gain weight.
And your family also helps form your eating and lifestyle habits,
which can lead to obesity.
Also, our busy lives make it harder to plan and cook healthy
meals. For many of us, it's easier to reach for prepared foods,
go out to eat, or go to the drive-through. But these foods are
often high in fat and calories. Portions are often too large.
Work schedules, long commutes, and other commitments also cut
into the time we have for physical activity.
There is no quick fix to being overweight. To lose weight, you
must burn more calories than you take in.
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It's a frustrating, annoying problem -- accidental urine leakage
-- and typically caused by various problems. Although it may be
more common as a person ages, urinary incontinence is not a normal
part of aging. Having an overactive bladder makes it more difficult
to perform daily activities, yet many people don't consider the
problem a valid medical condition, according to a new study.
Researchers found three-fourths of people with overactive bladders
said the condition interfered with daily activities. But less
than half of them would consider seeing a doctor about the problem
or consider an overactive bladder a valid medical condition. The
study also showed that an overactive bladder can take a toll on
people's emotional health, with about one-third with the condition
noting that it made them feel depressed or stressed.
Overactive bladder (OAB) affects about one in six adults over
age 40, causing symptoms such as an urgent need to empty the bladder,
more frequent urination during the day and night, and incontinence.
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Many health risks related to tobacco smoking can be reduced by
smoking cessation. Smokers who quit smoking before the age of
50 have up to half the risk of dying within 15 years compared
to people who continue to smoke, and the risk of dying is reduced
substantially even among persons who stop smoking after age 70.
The risk of lung cancer is 30% to 50% lower than that of continuing
smokers after 10 years of abstinence, and the risk of oral and
esophageal cancer is halved within 5 years of cessation. Former
smokers also lower their risk of cervical and bladder cancer.
In a randomized trial of heavy smokers, the long-term follow-up
results demonstrated that compared with the nonintervention group,
those randomized to a smoking cessation intervention experienced
a 15% reduction in all-cause mortality rates. The smoking cessation
intervention consisted of a strong physician message plus 12 group
sessions and nicotine gum delivered during a 10-week period. Decreases
in the risk of lung and other cancers as well as coronary heart
disease, cardiovascular disease, and respiratory disease contributed
to the benefit in the group randomized to the smoking cessation
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Strep throat is a bacterial infection of the tissues in the back
of the throat and the tonsils. The tissues become irritated and
inflamed, causing a sudden, severe sore throat.
The most common symptoms of strep throat are a sudden, severe
sore throat; pain or difficulty swallowing; fever over 101 F;
swollen tonsils and lymph nodes; and white or yellow spots on
the back of a bright red throat. Strep infection may also cause
a headache and abdominal pain. Less commonly, strep throat can
cause a red skin rash, vomiting, loss of appetite, and a general
feeling of discomfort or illness.
The incubation period-the period from when you are first exposed
to the bacteria until you develop symptoms-is 2 to 5 days.
You are considered contagious (able to spread the infection to
others) while you still have symptoms; you are usually no longer
contagious within 24 to 48 hours after starting antibiotics. However,
if you do not seek treatment for strep throat, you may continue
to be contagious for 2 to 3 weeks even if your symptoms go away.
In general, sore throats are most often caused by a viral infection
and not strep bacteria. Strep throat does not occur with coldlike
symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, or a runny or stuffy nose.
The more coldlike symptoms you have, the less likely it is that
your sore throat is a strep infection.
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One of the most important questions many people have about vaccines
is: Are they safe? Parents, especially, may be concerned about
the many vaccinations recommended for infants and young children.
Experts who monitor the use of vaccines agree that today's vaccine
supply in the United States (US) is the safest and most effective
in history. All vaccines undergo years of testing before they
are approved for use. Once they become available, vaccines are
continually checked for safety and effectiveness. Any problems
that arise can be reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting
System (VAERS), which reviews the problems and further investigates
those determined to be vaccine-related. Appropriate actions may
be taken, up to and including withdrawing the vaccine from use.
Like any medication, no vaccine is 100% safe; however, most people
experience no side effects after vaccination. If side effects
do occur, they are usually mild. Typical mild side effects are
soreness, swelling, or redness at the spot where the injection
was given, or mild fever. Severe side effects, including severe
allergic reactions, are extremely rare.
The most important thing to remember is that the benefits of
immunization are much greater than any possible risks. Vaccines
protect us from many serious diseases. Thanks to vaccines, most
people in the US have never seen a case of polio, measles, or
diphtheria. But before vaccines were available, these and other
diseases caused widespread illness, complications, and death.
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If you are overweight, you are more likely to develop health problems, such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, certain types of cancer, gout (joint pain caused by excess uric acid), and gallbladder disease. Being overweight can also cause problems such as sleep apnea (interrupted breathing during sleep) and osteoarthritis (wearing away of the joints). The more overweight you are, the more likely you are to have health problems. Weight loss can help improve the harmful effects of being overweight. However, many overweight people have difficulty reaching their healthy body weight. Studies show that you can improve your health by losing as little as 10 to 20 pounds.
- How you eat, how active you are, and other things affect how your body uses calories and whether you gain weight. If your family members are overweight, you may have inherited a tendency to gain weight. And your family also helps form eating and lifestyle habits, which can lead to weight gain.
- Today’s busy lives make it harder to plan and cook healthy meals. For many of us, it's easier to reach for prepared foods, go out to eat, or go to the drive-through. But these foods are often high in fat and calories. Portions are often too large. Work schedules, long commutes, and other commitments also cut into the time we have for physical activity.
There is no quick fix to being overweight. To lose weight, you must burn more calories than you take in. To have lasting results, weight loss should be approached methodically, and viewed as the beginning of a lifelong commitment toward improved health.
It is hard to change habits. You have to be ready. Make sure this is the right time for you. Are you ready to make a plan and stay on it? Do you have the support of your family and friends? Do you know what your first steps will be? Have you consulted your physician for a health assessment and to receive guidance in setting reasonable goals?
Most people have more success when they make small changes, one step at a time. For example, you might eat an extra piece of fruit, walk 10 minutes more, or add more vegetables to your meals.
Studies show that people who keep track of what they eat are better at losing weight. Keep a notebook where you can write down everything you eat and drink each day. You may be surprised to see how much you are eating. As you keep track of calories, look at whether you skip meals, when you eat, how often you eat out, and how many fruits and vegetables you eat. This will help you see patterns that you may want to change.
You may want to write down the amount of physical activity you've had each day and compare the calories you burned to those you took in.
When you stray from your plan, do not get upset. Figure out what got you off track and how you can fix it. Focus on your determination to make a lifestyle change, not your momentary lapse with an irresistible food item.
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