17 Burning health questions answered

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17 Burning health questions answered

It’s good to have questions and Americans have a lot of them when it comes to their health.  Up to 80% of adults living in the U.S. have at one time or another conducted an online internet search for health information.  With so much advice on the World Wide Web literally at our fingertips in regards to health and well-being, you have to be careful of the source. Online health information can be confusing and conflicting causing unnecessary and unneeded anxiety or possibly even providing dangerous advice.

The best source of credible health information is from trained health experts such as medical scientists, doctors, nurses, dietitians, pharmacists, and physical therapists.  But since visits with these professionals may be only on occasion, here are 17 questions many individuals have on staying healthy and disease-free:

1.  Is it okay to detox or cleanse my body by fasting occasionally?

Detox or cleanse diets are often promoted to improve health by “cleansing” the bowel and removing toxins from the body that come from the air we breathe, food we eat, and beverages we drink.  However, there is no scientific evidence to show cleansing diets, also known as detoxification or detox diets, maintain or improve bowel health, prevent colon cancer or achieve lasting weight loss.  Also, some forms of cleansing can be harmful.  If followed for a long time, they can cause cramping, bloating, nauseas, dehydration, headaches and lack of energy.  Best advice is to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet that includes a wide variety of food.  Besides, our body already naturally knows how to cleanse itself when your kidneys, lungs, liver, and intestines are functioning properly. 

2.  How long am I contagious when I have a cold or flu?

You are contagious as long as you have symptoms.  Your ability to spread these viruses remains until the last sniffle and you are contagious 24 hours before your first symptoms appear. 

3.  How can I reduce eye strain from staring at my computer all day?

With so many of us using computers at work, computer eye strain has become a major job-related complaint.  Studies have shown up to at least 50% of computer workers have bothersome visual symptoms.  To reduce these common problems, start with having proper lighting by reducing excessively bright outdoor light or overhead fluorescent lights.  Eliminate exterior light by closing drapes, shades or blinds or use floor lamps that provide indirect incandescent or halogen lighting instead.  Minimize glare by installing an anti-glare screen on your monitor, adjust your computer display settings, and adjust text size and color – text size should be three times the smallest size you can read from your normal viewing position.  Blink often as blinking moistens your eyes to prevent dryness and irritation.  Take frequent five-minute mini-breaks during your workday from staring at the computer.

4.  Is drinking diet soda harmful?

The answer to this is probably not but it depends.  Several studies have come out stating that consuming diet soda may be linked to weight gain and weakening bones leading to osteoporosis. Artificial sweeteners are chemically made – they trick the body into thinking it is taking in calories when none are there.  This may backfire by making a person more hungry leading to additional calorie intake from other sources.  The best advice is to keep consumption of diet sodas to no more than then two a day.  Drink water the majority of the time.

5.  Is there any guaranteed way to prevent Alzheimer’s disease or cancer?

Unfortunately, there is not. But this doesn’t mean anyone should cast off good health habits as they can and do have an influence in reducing the possibility of developing these diseases or at least, delaying their onset. 

For Alzheimers, studies suggest you can take steps to help your brain – stay socially active, do life-long learning, exercise, and eat more fruit, vegetables, and salmon.  For cancer, bad habits do worsen your odds.  For example, tobacco use causes about one in three cancers overall and diet, inactivity, and obesity contribute to another third of cases. 

6.  Do self-tanners cause cancer?

The answer is no as using a self-tanner can be a much smarter and safer way to get that sun kissed glow without relying on a UV tan. The active ingredient in most sunless tanners is the coloring agent DHA (dihydroxyacetone), which combines with amino acids in skin.  The resulting reaction causes browning but unlike the reaction caused by UV rays, it involves only the outermost, dead cell layer of the skin.  There is no evidence to date of any toxicity at the concentrations currently used. 

7. Is lifting weights really necessary or can I get the same results with yoga?

Yoga can build muscle as certain poses do require you to lift your own body weight.  But it’s less clear if yoga can build or maintain bone density which is a benefit lifting weights provides.  Taking a yoga class that also uses weights is a great combo of combining flexibility and strength at the same time.  Overall, lifting weights and doing flexibility moves like yoga are an essential part of maintaining good physical fitness.

8.  Why am I always tired?

There is a wide variety of answers to this question.  However, common lifestyle factors that can cause fatigue include lack of exercise or excessive exercise, lack of sleep, alcohol or drug use, certain medications, unhealthy diet, and jet lag.  The other possible reason could be due to a more serious condition such as sleep apnea, acute liver failure, cancer, heart disease, hypothyroidism, multiple sclerosis, or diabetes.  If you’ve been getting enough sleep but still feel tired, see your doctor for a complete evaluation. 

9.  What helps to relieve nausea?

There are several things you can try to relieve nausea – drinking clear or ice-cold drinks and eating bland foods like saltine crackers; or you could try the BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast).  These foods would provide nutrients during the time you are feeling nauseated and not wanting to eat much.  Avoid fatty, greasy, or fried foods, overly sweet foods, spicy foods and foods with strong odors.  Also eat small amounts, often and slowly and drink a half hour before or after meals but not with your meals.  Rest after you eat and wear comfortable, loose fitting clothes.

10.  How to stop a panic attack

 Panic attacks are when your body is on full alert and responding to danger although the threat is not real.  If you have been having symptoms of shaking, irregular heartbeat, breathlessness, sweating or overall anxiety, it’s important to see your doctor for an appropriate diagnosis and treatment. 

However, when in the moment of a panic attack, place your hand on your stomach, holding your breath for a few seconds and then release the air slowly through pursed lips.  Or get outdoors to breath in some fresh air or using aromatherapy such as smelling lavender can do wonders to calm and restore.  Also try picturing a place that evokes happiness and peace or practice self-talk telling yourself to stop, relax and that you will be fine. 

11.  How can I lower my triglycerides?

Triglycerides are a type of fat or lipid that circulates in your blood.  If your levels are high, it can put you at a greater risk for developing heart disease.  A normal range for triglycerides is less than 150 milligram per deciliter (mg/dl), borderline high is considered 150 to 199 mg/dl, and high is considered anything above 200 mg/dl.  To reduce triglycerides, make lifestyle changes of not smoking, drink less or avoid alcohol, exercise most days of the week, reach and maintain a healthy body weight, eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and foods high in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, tuna, lake trout, flaxseed and walnuts.  Also, significantly reduce your intake of highly concentrated sweets or sugar by reducing candy, desserts, cake, cookies, pastries, and sugary beverages.

12.  Do short workouts make a difference?

They do and in a good way.  A longer workout is ideal but you can get by with quick bouts of activity when that’s all you have time for.  Several 10-minute bursts of exercise each day are better than no workout at all and do positively impact your overall health.

13.  Is a daily glass of wine healthy?

Not for everyone.  There have been studies showing small amounts of alcohol may stave off heart disease and lower your odds of stroke and diabetes.  But it is well-documented that heavy drinking increases your chances for liver and heart damage, plus breast, colon, and other cancers.  If you don’t drink, don’t start.  If you do, limit yourself to one drink a day if you’re a woman or two if you’re a man.

14.  Is tap water safe to drink?

The answer to this is yes.  The U.S. has some of the safest drinking water in the world.  The only exception to this is if your water source comes from a small community system or private well.  Water that comes from a municipal water treatment plant are carefully monitored and better regulated than bottled water.  If you want to ensure your drinking water is as pure as possible, consider adding a filter to your tap.

15. Is eating microwaved food safe?

 It is safe to consume foods that have been microwaved as microwaves do not make food “radioactive.”  All your microwave does is make the water molecules in food move to create friction that heats it up.  Microwaves do create a small magnetic field but it does not cause a safety concern in eating the food. 

16.  Can I get brain cancer from cell phone use?

This has been a concern in recent years since so many of us rely on these devices.  But, it is unlikely from what most research has shown that there is no connection between brain tumors and cell phone use.  However, a study found a link between a specific type of brain tumor called a glioma and heavy cell phone use. If you are worried, wear a headset, use the speaker and limit your phone time.

17.  Can I be fat and healthy?

The verdict on this is still not certain.  Different studies find different conclusions from some saying heavier people may live longer than thinner people with others saying those who carry extra pounds are more likely to get heart disease, cancer, or die at a younger age.  The best advice is to do what you can to stay healthy.  Be physically active every day and eat a well-balance diet focused on plenty of plant-based foods.