5 great ways to lower cholesterol naturally!

5 great ways to lower cholesterol naturally!
5 great ways to lower cholesterol naturally!

High cholesterol is the bane of the developed world.  In the modern world we have more, better and much easier to prepare food than in previous centuries. But, this also means,  far too many of us now have the opportunity to overindulge.  (I’ll put my hands up here and say I’m one of those guilty of what I have to call greed).   The problem with this kind of eating is that it does have the tendency to raise our cholesterol levels.

According to the NHS evidence strongly indicates that high cholesterol can increase the risk of:

narrowing of the arteries (atherosclerosis)

heart attack

stroke

transient ischaemic attack (TIA) – often known as a “mini stroke”

peripheral arterial disease (PAD)

So I think we can all agree that we need a few ideas of reducing our cholesterol levels.

So I thought I would share the following five tips which you can use to help reduce your cholesterol with our recourse to medication.

a) Yes indeed I know healthcare professionals sound like a broken record on the subject of drink.  But it is important to cut down (if you do drink) to cut a glass or two a day.  Oh and make sure that you have a few drink free days each week including weekends.

b) Smoking tobacco. If you still smoke please please do give up.  Please check out a previous blog post with a few tips to help you quit.

c) Now I know that many pixels have died in the cause of lecturing us about taking more exercise.  But it also has numerous other benefits as this article shows!

d) Chronic stress can impact on your cholesterol levels.  To have a look at these great ideas for reducing stress in your life.

e) Foods fortified with plant sterols and stanols. Foods which contain sterols and stanols include corn, coconut, olive and sunflower oils, beans, corn, peanut butter, almonds, oranges, apples, and avocados.  A great way of getting down your cholesterol.

 

If you do have any concerns about your cholesterol levels please do speak with a medical professional as they are best able to advise on your best course of action!

And if you do have any other tips for reducing cholesterol please do share them in the comment section at the bottom of this blog post.

Air embolism – what are the signs and symptoms of the bends

Air embulism and the bends
Air embolism and the bends

Introduction

An air or gas embolism is a bubble that becomes trapped in a blood vessel and blocks it. This can lead to many different symptoms depending on where the blockage occurs. It’s one of the leading causes of death among divers.

An air or gas embolism can happen when a scuba diver surfaces too quickly from any depth. This can cause air to escape into the blood vessels from the lungs (pulmonary barotrauma) or bubbles of nitrogen to form in the blood vessels (decompression illness, or “the bends”).

An embolism can develop in an artery or vein. When an air bubble travels along an artery, it moves through a system of blood vessels that gradually become narrower. At some point, the bubble may block a small artery and cut off the blood supply to a particular area of the body.


Bubbles in the veins travel around the body and can cause breathing difficulties when they reach the lungs.

How serious is it?

The seriousness of the blockage depends on which part of the body the affected blood vessel supplies blood to and the size of the air bubble. For example, an air embolism in:

  • the arteries to the brain can cause immediate loss of consciousness and may lead to seizures (fits) or a stroke – it can also cause confusion, dizziness and slurred speech
  • the coronary arteries (which lead to the heart) may cause a heart attack or an abnormal heart rhythm
  • a blood vessel to the lungs may cause a pulmonary embolism

These conditions are very serious and can be fatal, particularly if an air embolism is not recognised and treated promptly.

Even with treatment, some people who survive are left with permanent brain damage, although this is very rare.

Warning signs

Divers should always be carefully monitored by their colleagues and supervisors so any air or gas embolism can be immediately identified and treated.




Signs and symptoms of an air embolism can include:

  • joint or muscle pains
  • low blood pressure, which may cause dizziness
  • an irregular heartbeat
  • breathlessness and fast breathing
  • blurred vision
  • chest pain
  • strong feelings of anxiety and itching of the skin
  • a faint blue tone to the skin (cyanosis)
  • bloody froth from the mouth
  • paralysis or weakness, possibly of one or more limbs
  • seizures (fits)
  • loss of consciousness

If a scuba diver develops these symptoms within 10 to 20 minutes of surfacing, they probably have an air embolism and should be given 100% oxygen and transferred to hospital as soon as possible, preferably one with a recompression chamber.

Treating air embolisms

If a diver develops an air embolism, the only effective treatment is immediate recompression treatment in a special pressurised room called a hyperbaric chamber.

The diver should be given 100% oxygen and laid horizontally until they reach the hyperbaric chamber.

Recompression treatment involves lying in a hyperbaric chamber, usually for several hours, and breathing a mixture of gases and oxygen under pressure. The high pressure can restore normal blood flow and oxygen to the body’s tissues and reduce the size of the air bubbles in the body.

In cases of decompression sickness, the pressure forces the bubbles of nitrogen to dissolve back into the bloodstream.

After recompression, pressure is reduced gradually to allow the gases to leave the body without worsening the problem, similar to surfacing slowly from a dive. Treatment might be continued for several days depending on the severity of symptoms.

Preventing an air embolism while diving

The following advice can help reduce your risk of developing an air or gas embolism when diving.

  • Limit the depth and duration of your dives.
  • Come up to the surface slowly and always perform safety stops to allow any air in your tissues and blood vessels to escape safely. Use a dive computer or dive tables, and don’t dive again if you have broken these rules until you have had a suitable time at the surface.
  • Don’t dive with a cold, cough or chest infection.
  • Avoid rigorous exercise before, during and after a dive.
  • Make sure you’re well hydrated before diving.
  • If planning several dives, leave adequate surface intervals between dives to allow the nitrogen to leave your body.
  • After diving, wait for 24 hours before flying or going to a higher altitude.

If in doubt, contact a dive professional or doctor, who can provide further advice.

Other causes of air embolisms

Air embolisms also occur during surgery or other medical procedures, but this is rare.

In hospitals and health centres, care should be taken to prevent this. For example:

  • before injections, air should be removed from syringes and intravenous lines
  • catheters or other tubes inserted into the body should be inserted and removed using a technique that minimises the possibility of air getting into the blood vessels
  • patients should be closely monitored to help ensure air bubbles don’t form in blood vessels during surgery

Air embolisms resulting from surgery, anaesthesia or other medical procedures can be difficult to treat. Treatment is usually needed to support the heart, blood vessels and lungs.

For example, fluids may be used to treat a fall in blood pressure and oxygen may be given to reduce levels of other gases in the blood vessels

Be Aware of Early Warning Signs of a Stroke

stroke2

Have you or a loved one ever had a stroke? It can be a frightening thing to experience. Strokes are the leading cause of death and the risk of permanent disability for many in the United States. When it comes to your health and well-being, it is important to be aware of signs of a potential danger. There are ways to prevent a negative outcome and even death. Being aware of the factors that lead to a stroke as well as preventative measures is very important to keep in mind.

The Side Effects & Risks

Not only are strokes the leading cause of death for thousands of patients each year, they can also lead to permanent brain damage. The major cause of strokes is clogging of an artery in the brain, low blood pressure, and blood clots. The risk factors include cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, alcohol abuse, and heart disease. Unhealthy habits and even stress can affect the immune system leaving room for sickness and disease.

It is important to be aware of the signs of a stroke so that you can be prepared to take immediate action if needed. As a patient, you have the right to be informed and have a level of control over your health to prevent a stroke that can have potential permanent adverse effects on your health and future, especially in the case of a delayed medical diagnoses. Seeking legal advice along with medical assistance can prove to be beneficial and even preventative.

Physical Signs of a Stroke

The following are early warning signs of a stroke:

Numbness of the face or arm. The loss of voluntary movement or sensations is a sure sign of a stroke. Usually these are followed by heart palpitations. It is important to be aware of these signs in order to take immediate action.

Confusion. If a person finds themselves unable to process thoughts or speak coherently this could be a sign of a serious problem. It can be accompanied by a slurring of words and even foaming at the mouth. Make sure to ask them questions to see if they respond back to you. If they are unable to respond clearly or coherently it is a clear sign that the person is in need of immediate help.

Blurred vision. An inability to see clearly or even losing focus in one eye can be a sign of an issue. If the person complains of vision impairment, it can be a sure sign that they are in danger of experiencing a potentially life-altering stroke.

Trouble with walking or balance. If a person seems off balance or suddenly loses their step, it could be a signs of an impending stroke. If you notice irregularity in your movement it is important to seek the advice of a physician. Don’t wait to seek a medical checkup.

Be well-informed about your medical condition and ask your physician key questions about your health. One can never go wrong with preventative measures that add to their quality of life and prevent potential life-threatening disease. Often heart conditions will lead patients to make life-changing decisions like changing their eating habits, exercising or walking regularly, and cutting healthy habits from their lives.

It is important to be an active participant in your health and well-being. Take control of your health! Be well informed.




First Aid – what to do when a stroke occurs

The next in this week’s series of blog post on first aid looks at strokes.

When have covered some of this area before so you might be interested in our previous posts which you can find here.

What to do when someone has a stroke

What to do when someone has a stroke [Infographic] by the team at imperative training




Acupuncture – Does it work? Read some of the evidence here

Acupuncture
Acupuncture

Have you ever used Acupuncture?

Did it work?  Tell us your view in the comments section below?

Acupuncture is a treatment derived from ancient Chinese medicine in which fine needles are inserted at certain sites in the body for therapeutic or preventative purposes.

It is often seen as a form of complementary or alternative medicine (CAM), although it is used in many NHS general practices, as well as the majority of pain clinics and hospices in the UK.

Theory

Western medical acupuncture is the use of acupuncture after a proper medical diagnosis. It is based on scientific evidence that shows the treatment can stimulate nerves under the skin and in muscle tissue.


This results in the body producing pain-relieving substances, such as endorphins. It is likely these substances are responsible for any beneficial effects seen with this form of acupuncture.

Traditional acupuncture is based on the belief that an energy, or “life force”, flows through the body in channels called meridians. This life force is known as Qi (pronounced “chee”).

Practitioners who adhere to traditional beliefs about acupuncture believe that when Qi does not flow freely through the body, this can cause illness. They also believe acupuncture can restore the flow of Qi, and so restore health.

Read more about what happens during acupuncture.

What is it used for?

Acupuncture practitioners – sometimes called acupuncturists – use acupuncture to treat a wide range of health conditions.

It is often used to treat pain conditions such as headache, lower back pain and osteoarthritis, but is also sometimes used in an attempt to help people with conditions ranging from infertility to anxiety and asthma.

Acupuncture is occasionally available on the NHS, although access is limited. Most acupuncture patients pay for private treatment.

Read more about the common uses of acupuncture.

Does it work?

Currently, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) only recommends considering acupuncture as a treatment option for chronic lower back pain, chronic tension-type headaches and migraines. NICE makes these recommendations on the basis of scientific evidence.

There is also some evidence that acupuncture works for a small number of other problems, including neck pain and post-chemotherapy nausea and vomiting.

Acupuncture is sometimes used for a variety of other conditions as well, but the evidence is not conclusive for many of these uses.

Read more about the evidence for and against acupuncture.

Having acupuncture

When it is carried out by a qualified practitioner, acupuncture is generally very safe. Some people experience side effects such as feeling drowsy or dizzy, but these are usually mild and short-lived.

If you choose to have acupuncture, make sure your acupuncture practitioner is either a regulated healthcare professional or a member of a recognised national acupuncture organisation.

Read more about acupuncture safety and regulation.

[Original article on NHS Choices website]

Evidence for and against acupuncuture

There is some scientific evidence acupuncture has a beneficial effect for a number of health conditions.

However, there is less clear scientific evidence about the benefits of acupuncture in the majority of conditions it is often used for.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) only recommends considering acupuncture as a treatment option for chronic lower back pain, chronic tension-type headaches and migraine.

Assessing the evidence

One of the best ways researchers can assess the evidence behind a particular treatment is by carrying out a systematic review. This is a “study of studies” that combines findings from separate but similar studies to come up with an overall conclusion.

Systematic reviews are an important part of health research because they can identify findings that might otherwise be missed in individual studies. They can also help distinguish the effects of treatment from the effects of chance.

It is important to remember that when we use a treatment and feel better, this can be because of a phenomenon called the placebo effect and not because of the treatment itself. Systematic reviews can help reduce the potential influence of the placebo effect.

While systematic reviews cannot always determine conclusively whether a treatment does or does not work, they can be useful in assessing how a particular treatment (such as acupuncture) compares to another (such as “sham” acupuncture or medication).

However, even this can be challenging – both acupuncture and placebo treatments can stimulate the release of natural painkilling substances called endorphins, which can make it difficult to distinguish between them.

What evidence is there for acupuncture?

One of the largest and most respected organisations that carries out and publishes systematic reviews into the effectiveness of medical treatments is The Cochrane Collaboration.

A number of systematic reviews into the effectiveness of acupuncture have been published by The Cochrane Collaboration, and the basic results are summarised below.

Some positive evidence

Systematic reviews carried out by The Cochrane Collaboration have found there is some evidence acupuncture may have a beneficial effect on the following conditions:

However, because of disagreements over the way acupuncture trials should be carried out and over what their results mean, the existence of some positive evidence does not mean acupuncture definitely works for these conditions.

In many cases, the evidence appears contradictory. For example, some high-quality studies may suggest acupuncture is no better than “sham” acupuncture, whereas some lower-quality studies may suggest acupuncture is better than an established medical treatment.

The issue is sometimes also further complicated by the fact some “sham interventions” include active needling and are therefore not true placebos.

In addition, it can be difficult to make sure the patients involved in acupuncture studies are unaware of the specific treatment they are receiving (known as “blinding”).

This is because it is obvious whether you are receiving a conventional medical treatment such as medication or if you are receiving acupuncture, for example. This is a problem as it means the preconceptions of the person being treated may influence the result.

Some systematic reviews, however, have demonstrated the effects of acupuncture over sham treatment in studies where patients are unaware whether they are having real acupuncture or sham treatment.

For example, one large meta-analysis (a type of systematic review) not carried out by The Cochrane Collaboration included data from more than 17,000 patients. It compared acupuncture to sham acupuncture or no acupuncture without patients being aware of whether they had received real or sham treatment.

This review found acupuncture to be superior to both sham and no treatment for headaches, osteoarthritis, back pain and neck pain.

Little or no evidence

In many conditions where acupuncture is used, there is not enough good quality evidence to draw any clear conclusions over its relative effectiveness compared with other treatments.

For example, systematic reviews published by The Cochrane Collaboration have suggested more research is needed to assess whether acupuncture is effective for: asthmaglaucomaschizophreniadepressionshoulder, painelbow, painrheumatoid arthritisBell’s palsyrestless legs syndromeinsomnia vascular ,dementiastroke, stroke rehabilitation and swallowing problems caused by stroke

More research is needed to establish whether acupuncture is better or worse than best standard treatments for these conditions.

More information and research

If you want to find out more about studies into acupuncture, you can search for high-quality research using the NHS Evidence and Cochrane Library websites.