Anemia & Chronic Disease

Chronic illnesses often lead to complications and secondary conditions. It’s the nature of the beast. Anemia of Chronic disease, or ACD, is a prime example. When the body doesn’t have enough healthy red blood cells, the result is a condition known as Anemia. Although there are many types of Anemia, ACD is one of the most common. This form of Anemia is prevalent in patients with Chronic illnesses that involve inflammation, malignancies, chronic infections and cardiovascular disorders, i.e. Rheumatoid Arthritis, Crohn’s, Lupus, Cancer, HIV/AIDs, Hepatitis, Diabetes, etc. 

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The exact cause of ACD can vary. Often times, it depends upon the patient’s underlying condition. Research has also discovered that individuals with ACD have an imbalance of iron in the body. Because of this, they cannot effectively use iron to create new blood cells. Researchers believe that the immune system, which is constantly active in Chronic diseases, produces substances that can influence the development, storage and transport of iron within the body. The lack of functioning iron hampers the development of hemoglobin. As a result, this creates a negative impact on the amount of oxygen delivered through the body. In easier terms, “a relentless cycle”. One that can take its toll on the patient. Especially, if it is left unchecked. 

Symptoms of Anemia include:

  • Headache
  • Cold hands and/or feet
  • Fatigue
  • Chest pain
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pale skin
  • Irregular heartbeat

Although these symptoms may go unnoticed, at first, as the anemia worsens the symptoms will worsen. If you or a loved one are experiencing any of the above, it’s time to see your doctor. A simple blood test can confirm the diagnosis.

Living with a Chronic illness is an adventure, to say the least. And it may be impossible to prevent yourself from getting ACD. However, there are ways to help yourself through diet. Try to get enough iron, daily. This can be done by incorporating foods like lean beef, chicken, turkey, oysters, beans, leafy greens, baked potatoes, enriched whole-grain breads, fortified breakfast cereals, cashews, etc., into your meals. Folate and Vitamin B12 are also important. If you aren’t taking a good multi-vitamin, now is the time to start. Managing your condition will help you to feel better and live life to the fullest. So, please, don’t hesitate. Bottom-line, you’re worth it! 

 

Reference Links:

Anemia of Chronic Disease

https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/anemia-of-chronic-disease

https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000565.htm

https://www.eatright.org/health/wellness/preventing-illness/iron-deficiency

https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/health-topics/abr8922

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/anemia/symptoms-causes/syc-20351360

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/14477-anemia-of-chronic-disease/prevention

*Photo by Adrian Swancar on Unsplash

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Stay Hydrated

As the days grow warmer, we venture outside … enjoying outdoor sports, gardening, working, etc. Granted, the sun feels wonderful after a cold winter. But the higher temperatures also demand that we pay closer attention to our hydration level. If our bodies lose more fluid than they take in, we can develop a condition called dehydration. Severe dehydration can even be life-threatening. While dehydration can happen to anyone, it is especially dangerous for children, seniors and those living with Chronic conditions. In fact, there is increasing medical evidence that mild forms of dehydration can lead to a myriad of illnesses. Likewise, maintaining good hydration has a positive effect on many!

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Some medications can cause hydration issues, i.e. diuretics, laxatives and chemotherapy. Dehydration is often seen in cancer patients who are taking the latter. But, note, chemotherapy is used to treat other illnesses too, i.e. Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Multiple Sclerosis, etc. So, talk to your doctor and be vigilant. 

If you are taking any of these medications (many of us do), or suspect that you may be suffering from dehydration. Here are some of the symptoms to watch-out for:

  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Dark urine
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Dry skin
  • Low blood-pressure
  • Extreme thirst
  • Rapid heat-beat
  • Inability to sweat

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, seek medical assistance.

We lose fluids every day, through our body’s functions. Still we can maintain hydration. Water is the best source. Most nutritionists recommend about six 8-ounce glasses per day. Your doctor can help you determine how much is best for you. But there are other options, too. Fruits like watermelon, strawberries, cantaloupe, peaches and oranges have naturally high water content. Vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers, celery, cauliflower, cabbage and lettuce are also abundant. Soups are another source. An 8-ounce serving of plain yogurt is made up of more than 75% water. Cottage cheese has wonderful hydrating properties, too. So does Jello. Popsicles and frozen-fruit bars are also helpful. Even meats like hamburger and chicken breasts can help us to stay hydrated. And it’s pretty easy to incorporate these foods into our daily diet intake.

Spring is in full-swing and summer is just around the corner. Enjoy the weather. Have fun. Exercise. But, remember, to stay safe. Prevention is worth the effort. Whether you drink from a glass jar or not (it’s a bit of a Southern thing) … stay hydrated!

 

Reference Links:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dehydration/symptoms-causes/syc-20354086

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17921462

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16028566

https://www.webmd.com/drug-medication/medicines-can-cause-dehydration

https://www.cancer.net/coping-with-cancer/physical-emotional-and-social-effects-cancer/managing-physical-side-effects/dehydration

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/19-hydrating-foods#section19

https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/top-10-ways-to-stay-hydrated

*Photo by Ethan Sykes on Unsplash

When It’s Berry Good …

Ah, Spring … after the long, cold winter it’s an awakening of the senses. Nature pops with color … gardens bloom … birds sing. The days are longer … warmer. And our eating habits change, too. Our taste-buds seem to crave the colorful berries available at local markets and roadside stands. Whether you pick them or not, every bite is juicy and incredible. Strawberries are my personal favorite. Blueberries are a close second. And let’s not forget raspberries or blackberries. From now through the sizzling days of summer, berries are in abundance. But did you know, these naturally sweet gems are also good for you?

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Berries are nutritious. They’re packed with antioxidants (substances that help fight cell damage), polyphenols, anthocyanins, micro-nutrients, folic acid and fiber. Just one cup of strawberries offers more vitamin C than a small orange. And berries are low in calories, too. Studies have shown that fruit consumption, i.e. berries, improves cardiovascular and gastrointestinal health. Berries can also lower your blood-pressure and cholesterol. They can boost your immune system. They can even reduce inflammation and may help protect you against cancer, heart disease and dementia. Imagine that! 

If you still need more motivation, consider how easy it is to incorporate berries into your meals. Whether it’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner, there’s a quick and oh-so-simple way to enjoy them. If you need ideas, there are also numerous sites filled with recipes. Though many berry lovers, like myself, would argue that nothing tops eating them right out of your hand! So, be my guest … indulge yourself. Add some color to your meal and vigor to your step. Eating healthy just doesn’t get any better than this!

 

Reference Links:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3068482/

https://www.webmd.com/diet/ss/slideshow-berries-health-benefits

https://www.badgut.org/information-centre/health-nutrition/berries-bursting-with-health-benefits/

https://www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org/signs-of-spring-berries

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/berry-good-for-your-heart

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/287710.php

*Photo by Barry McGee on Unsplash

More Than Tired: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Are you tired? We’ve all been there. For one reason or another, most of us have struggled with fatigue. Perhaps, you couldn’t sleep the night before? Or you burned your candle at both ends until you were exhausted? It happens. A cold, flu, or other illnesses can also result in fatigue. But what if there is no reasonable explanation? Then, like the millions who suffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, you may be more than tired. You may be living with a complex Chronic illness.

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Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, or Myalgic Encephalomyelitis as it is also known, is a complicated disorder. Symptoms of CFS/ME include:

  • Fatigue
  • Loss of Concentration and/or Memory
  • Unexplained Muscle and Joint Pain
  • Headaches
  • Unrefreshed Sleep
  • Extreme Exhaustion

Since these symptoms can accompany other illnesses, it’s important to see a doctor for a proper diagnosis. And your patience is required. It isn’t unusual for the final diagnosis to take a while. Most patients will tell you that they waited months (years, in some cases) and saw more than one doctor. Age and gender play a role, with CFS. Women are much more likely to be diagnosed than men. Patients are usually middle-aged (typically their 40s), at onset. It is also believed that certain “triggers” may initiate the disease, i.e. viral infections, fragile immune systems and hormonal imbalances. Since there is currently no cure or specific treatment for CFS/ME, physicians focus on relieving the patient’s symptoms. This can be daunting and sometimes frustrating.

As with other Chronic illnesses, patients who live with CFS/ME must learn to manage their illness. Daily living becomes a juggling act. But with a few easily implemented tips, it can become easier:

  • Low-impact Exercise done regularly, i.e. walking, Tai Chi, swimming, Yoga, Pilates, etc. It will keep you active & strong.
  • Pay attention to your diet. It’s your fuel. The Mediterranean Diet has been helpful to many CFS/ME patients.
  • Puzzles, Word games, Trivia, etc. will keep your memory sharp.
  • Adjustments to your workload may be necessary, i.e. PT instead of FT, etc. About 50% of all CFS/ME patients remain in the workforce.
  • If you need help, ask for it. Friends, family, co-workers and Support Groups can play an important role in CFS/ME management.

Last, but not least, it is important to keep your expectations realistic. Anyone with a Chronic illness will tell you that overdoing it, pushing yourself, and/or ignoring your illness/symptoms is a recipe for disaster. Be kind to yourself. Make the necessary changes. Stay optimistic. Move forward. Progress, no matter how small, is still a step toward better living. The triumphs do add up. And remember … every day is a gift. Some are better than others. But when you’re living with a Chronic illness, it’s key to make the most of each one. Whether it’s a day of rest in your jammies, or a day doing something really special, it’s important for your well-being. Enjoy it!

 

Reference Links:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/chronic-fatigue-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20360490

https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/chronic-fatigue-syndrome

https://ammes.org/diet/

https://www.webmd.com/chronic-fatigue-syndrome/tips-living-with-chronic-fatigue#1

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/low-impact-exercises_n_1434616

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/mediterranean-diet-meal-plan#foods-to-eat

*Photo by Kevin Grieve on Unsplash

 

The Benefits Of Chocolate?

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day. A day that often involves flowers and/or sweet indulgences. Some of you may have enjoyed a decadent dessert, after dinner. Others may have gotten a nice box of truffles, as a gift. If this describes you, then take heart. There are benefits to eating chocolate. Healthy ones, at that!

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Cocoa, the key ingredient of chocolate, reduces bad cholesterol (LDL) and can raise your good cholesterol (HDL). This can help to lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. 

The Flavanols found in chocolate can lower blood pressure and improve your overall vascular function. Flavanols are a type of Flavanoid. These are plant-based antioxidants. And antioxidants protect the cells in your body from the damage caused by free radicals. Dark chocolate contains more flavanols (45%-80%) than Milk chocolate (5%-7%). Dark chocolate is also packed with minerals, i.e. zinc, iron, selenium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, etc. So, choose your chocolate wisely!

If eating candy isn’t your thing, consider drinking some hot cocoa. A study conducted at Harvard Medical School found that drinking 2 cups of hot cocoa a day led to increased attention, cognitive functioning, processing, etc. Wow! This can help guard against memory loss. It may even help to prevent illnesses like Alzheimer’s. Adding marshmallows and/or cinnamon is strictly your choice.

I admit, it all sounds too good to be true. But we now have research telling us otherwise. Some research has even linked chocolate consumption to reduced risks of diabetes, stroke and heart attack. Exactly how much of a role it plays is still being studied. One last note, chocolate does contain calories. Too much consumption can lead to weight gain. So, as with other foods and drink, it’s important to eat in moderation (1-2 ounces or 30-60 grams RDA). Here’s having a truffle to your health!   

 

Reference Links:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/healthy-chocolate/faq-20058044

https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/cocoa-sweet-treat-brain-201502057676

https://healthyeating.sfgate.com/flavonoid-chocolate-8424.html

https://www.express.co.uk/life-style/health/823208/Chocolate-Alzheimers-Cocoa-boosts-blood-flow-to-the-brain-new-research

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/270272.php

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/health-fitness/nutrition/chocolate-10-health-reasons-you-should-eat-more-of-it/

https://nccih.nih.gov/health/antioxidants/introduction.htm

*Photo by Kyaw Tun on Unsplash

Living Heart-Healthy

It’s February, my friends! Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching. And retailers are stocked with an array of gifts. Couples are making plans for a special evening. Or, maybe, an indulging get-away? Singles are contemplating their next move. And florists, God bless them, are getting ready to work over-time. Romance is definitely in the air — melting this polar vortex. Some enjoy this time of year. Others loathe it. Decisions. Decisions. Decisions. Amid the excitement, many of us seem to forget that the heart is more than emotions. It’s about sustaining life. So, for a moment, put down that fancy box of truffles and think. Are you and your loved one living “Heart-Healthy”

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No matter your age, diet and exercise are two key components of living Heart-Healthy. If you (or your loved one) need to lose some weight, the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet is a great way to start! Watching your salt intake is also important. If you are already living with heart disease, then you probably know how crucial these things are to your health and well-being. It’s vital to make changes that will strengthen your heart. 

This isn’t difficult. Start with a commonsense approach. When you eat, at home or in a restaurant, use portion control. An average serving of meat, fish or chicken is 2-3 ounces.  So, skip that 16-ounce T-bone on the menu and order the 6-ounce filet instead. It’s a little more than average, but not excessive. Eat more fruit and vegetables. Try whole-grains like oats, corn, barley, cracked wheat or quinoa. I highly recommend the latter — WOW! Limit your fats. And, occasionally, treat yourself to something special, i.e. a candy bar, a slice of cheesecake, ice cream, etc. You’ll be pleasantly surprised, with your results!

Exercise, like eating, can be done with a simple commonsense approach. Walking is an easy way to get started. It doesn’t require equipment, or a gym membership — just a comfortable pair of shoes. It also provides couples with an activity that they can share as well. A 30-minute walk takes little time, or effort. But the benefits, physically and emotionally, are endless. If you would prefer something else, talk to your doctor. He or she can discuss exercise options that are safe and effective. Reducing sedentary living is your goal. You can do this!

Let’s be honest. We all have bad habits, in some form. But there are simple ways to overcome these behaviors:

  • Identify Cues. What triggers your bad habit?
  • Disrupt. Once you recognize these cues, you can help throw them off-track!
  • Replace with a good behavior. The new behavior, i.e. a piece of fruit instead of cookies, will prevent your brain from going into auto-pilot.
  • Keep it simple. It will be easier to make the change/s.
  • Think long-term. Remember why you are doing this — a healthier you!
  • Be persistent. Soon your changes will feel like the norm.

Whether Cupid has taken aim at you or not, feel the love this month. Think beyond Valentine’s — beyond February. Love yourself. Think of ways to take care of your health. Make the changes. Positive behaviors will lead to a happier you. A healthier you. And if your loved one will join in … well, that’s the real heart of the matter. So, talk about it. Invest in your future. Take the Heart-Healthy journey, together. You’ll be glad that you did!

 

Reference Links:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/dash-diet/art-20048456

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/in-depth/heart-healthy-diet/art-20047702

https://wholegrainscouncil.org/definition-whole-grain

https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/heart-healthy-lifestyle-changes

https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-lifestyle/mental-health-and-wellbeing/how-to-break-bad-habits-and-change-behaviors

https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/risk-factors/smoking

*Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash