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Good or Bad: What Salt Actually Does to Your Body

Sodium chloride, or table salt, is a vital component in the human body needed for both fluid balance as well as to keep the nerves and muscles functioning normally.

In fact, having too little sodium in the body (hyponatrmia) has been linked to symptoms of dizziness, muscle twitches, and even seizures. The amount of sodium in the body is severely diluted in this case, and if you’re older, these symptoms can be more severe.

However, having too much sodium also gives you all kinds of health problems, from kidney stones to high blood pressure.

How Your Body Regulates Sodium
Sodium is regulated by the kidneys, which do this by removing excess fluid from the blood in order to dilute it. This process helps to retain normal blood pressure, and the by-product is removed from the body as urine.

Sodium is also used as an electrolyte and pairs with potassium to carry, or “pump”, electrical impulses throughout nerve cells and muscles alike. The former is pumped out of cells, while the latter is pumped in, which creates the electrical charge and transmission.

The Dangers of Too Much Salt
Just like most things, salt should be consumed in moderation and too much sodium in your body can have the following effects on your body:

• Higher blood pressure – The more sodium you have in your body, the more your body will try to use up more water to dilute the sodium. This results in having more water in your body, which in turn raises your blood pressure.

• Higher chance of kidney stones – A higher sodium content in your body also means that your kidneys will be strained. Once this accumulates in unhealthy amounts, you increase your risk of getting kidney stones.

• Higher risk of heart attack – Diabetics should especially be on the lookout to make sure they don’t consume too much salt, since it easily doubles the threat of cardiovascular disease.

Sodium is definitely essential, but the good news is there’s no need to worry too much about getting too much or not enough.

In fact, the ideal amount of sodium that you should consume daily is about 2,300 milligrams for healthy adults, and 1,500 milligrams for those with high blood pressure. In fact, most foods you see in supermarkets today contain a significant amount of sodium that can easily exceed the daily recommended amount.

While there are a lot of reasons to cut down on salt and use less of it in your cooking, you can still use it to add flavor to your dishes however you’d like. As long as you maintain a healthy, balance diet, you should be fine.

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4 Amazing Health Benefits You Can Get from Drinking Tea

Tea is an amazing beverage that be served hot or iced, depending on the season, but there’s always more than just the refreshment and the calm, yet alert state of mind when it comes to enjoying a cup at any time of the day.

In fact, studies show that drinking tea is actually good for your health, and there are a lot of reasons why you should start (if you haven’t already). Here are a few out of the different benefits you can get from drinking three to four cups a day:

Catechins in found in certain tea varieties increase muscle endurance.
Catechins are a type of polyphenolic compound that are found specifically in green tea, and not only increases muscle endurance capacity but also promotes the use of stored lipids in the body.

In many studies, subjects who consume tea regularly are also found to have lower body mass indexes (BMI), as well as a lowered risk of cholesterol-related diseases such as atherosclerosis and diabetes.

Another type of tea, oolong tea, not only helps dissolve fat in the bloodstream, but also introduces antioxidants that bind to free radicals and get rid of tooth decay.

Drinking tea helps protect against many different kinds of cancer.
Various antioxidants that can be found in your ordinary cup of tea do this by binding against free radicals that increase the rate of rogue cells in the body, which can lead to cancer in the long term.

Aside from cancer, polyphenols and antioxidants found in tea extracts (i.e. green tea and black tea) also helps against the formation of blood clots and cholesterol build-ups that are the two biggest causes of most heart diseases.

Despite the caffeine, tea actually hydrates the body.
Though commonly believed, caffeinated beverages such as tea and coffee don’t actually dehydrate the body on their own, and tea even contains flavonoids that promote hydration in the body.

For those who need four or more cups to start their day, there is good news. Tea is also credited with having less caffeine than coffee, which lessens the upsetting effect of caffeine’s acidity on the stomach.

Tea improves bone strength and density.
As much as we like to credit bone strengthening to milk, studies have also shown that the polyphenols found in green tea have a positive effect on the body in terms of overall bone quality.

Aside from improving bone quality and body composition, it also prevents against cellular degeneration (i.e. due to radiation exposure) and restore the skin’s elasticity, as well as the onset of certain neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s.

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The Key Benefits of Cuddling (And Why You Should Do It with Your Partner More Often)

Finding time to relax today can be really difficult, especially with a hectic schedules, long hours, and equally long commutes, but there are a few ways to wind down after a really long day – and the easiest way to do that is by cuddling.

Here are the biggest reasons why cuddling is amazing, and why you should cuddle more often with your partner:

1. It releases a feel-good hormone
Physical intimacy releases oxytocin, a neurochemical made by the hypothalamus in the brain, and plays a lot in helping you feel connected to not just other people, but also towards your partner.

If you’re feeling quite isolated after a significant amount of time at work, hugging your partner after long stretches of time can really do a lot to curb symptoms of depression, and life your spirits.

2. It relieves pain and lowers the risk of heart disease
Oxytocin is a feel-good hormone that reduces the symptoms of pain, which is great if you’ve been feeling discomfort all day, whether you’ve been feeling pain in your neck or anywhere else on your body.

And because it’s crucial in lowering stress, it also in turn lowers blood pressure, which means that your heart doesn’t have to work as hard to combat stress and sickness. This lowers the risk of heart disease, and allows you to live healthier and for longer.

3. Cuddling reduces stress
The effect of oxytocin on the human body not just lowers heart and breathing rates, but in turn also reduces stress and gives you more confidence when dealing with social situations. It can even allow you to manage stress better.
Because it lowers heart and breathing rates, it also helps you sleep better with your partner, and you’re more likely to fall asleep faster when your breathing and heart rates are lower thanks to cuddling.

4. It deepens relationships
Communication is a lot more important in relationships than you think – and your partner’s meaningful touch after a long, stressful day can give you the much-needed break and give you time to focus solely on your partner.

This also gives way to a deeper and stronger relationship, and a hug or more is great for not just relieving stress, but also an easy way to keep having regular intimacy (and even sex) with your partner, which is always a plus.

The more frequently you cuddle, the more likely you also are to trust your partner and vice versa, as it fires up the neurons in your brain that tell you to trust your partner, which in turn leads to a deeper and more fulfilling relationship.

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What is Parkinson’s Disease?

Neurological disorders affect at least 1 billion people worldwide according to the World Health Organization. The most common illnesses include epilepsy, headache disorders, multiple sclerosis, dementia, and Parkinson’s disease. In Singapore, it was estimated in 2015 that 4,000 people suffer from Parkinson’s and 3 out of a thousand of these are the elderly.

What are the Symptoms?
Parkinson’s disease is a form of movement disorder that can disrupt the person’s ability to perform everyday activities. It is also a chronic and progressive illness that cannot be reversed. Parkinson’s affects a specific region of the brain called substantia nigra, where loss of neurons occurs. The neurons in this area are responsible for producing dopamine, which help in the movement of the body. Low levels or loss of dopamine will result in the inability to control movement.

Most of the people afflicted are aged 50 and above, but there are cases of early-onset or young-onset Parkinson’s. A person with Parkinson’s disease will suffer from various symptoms (and symptoms will usually manifest on one side of the body), but the most common are following:

1. Muscle tremors at rest
2. Slow voluntary movements or akinesia
3. Stiff or rigid muscles
4. Stooped posture
5. Less control over facial expressions
6. Mood swings, anxiety and/or depression
7. Fatigue and difficulty concentrating
8. Sleep problems
9. Digestion and bladder problems
10. Deterioration or loss of the sense of smell
11. Poor memory and speech difficulties

At stage 5 of the disease, the person might not be able to stand and walk and will experience hallucinations.

What are the Treatments?
The causes of Parkinson’s depend on the form of the illness. The most common type of Parkinson’s is idiopathic, which means that there is no clear cause that can be found. The damage is done to the nerve cells that produce dopamine, a neurotransmitter that sends electrical impulses to the muscles from the brain. There are cases, however, where Parkinson’s is caused by other neurological disorders, tumors, infections, or it could be a side effect of drugs.

The symptoms of Parkinson’s are apparent even before the person can get a diagnosis. The doctor, however, needs to do a physical exam and examine all the symptoms by testing the person’s reflexes, agility, and sensitivity to pain. Additional tests such as the L-Dopa, CT and/or MRI scans are also performed to rule out other potential illnesses that share the same symptoms with Parkinson’s.

There is no cure for Parkinson’s to date, but there are treatments that will help ease the symptoms so that the afflicted can still function and live a productive life. The treatment will be based on the stage or progression of Parkinson’s using the Hoehn scale, Yahr scale or UPDRS.

Parkinson’s is treated with medications to replenish the dopamine levels. This is adjusted as the symptoms progress and are paired with other treatments such as occupational therapy, physiotherapy, speech therapy, and deep brain stimulation.

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Healthy Tips to Help You Start a Vegan Diet

Eating a healthy, balanced diet has been a challenge for a number of people over the years. Especially if you’re fond of consuming meat, eggs, and other dairy products, adapting a vegan diet is almost close to impossible. There are just some things you feel like you cannot give up, but you’ll be surprised to know how this lifestyle change can improve your health in general and even make you shed off some few pounds!

Here are some healthy and easy tips for you to follow in getting started with a vegan lifestyle. A plant-based diet doesn’t have to be difficult— if you know how to motivate yourself to keep going, that is.

• Eat a variety of foods
In order to make the most out of adapting a vegan diet, you have to ensure your daily meal plan is well-balanced so you do not miss out on essential vitamins and nutrients or consume only processed vegan food items. Your meals must be rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. Include a variety of healthy foods which can offer you different nutrients. For instance, beans can give you the protein and fiber you need, while leafy greens can provide the body with vitamins C, A, and K.

• Choose whole grains
Substitute your usual refined grains (white bread and pasta, for instance) with whole grain food items. You can start off with quinoa and rice. Whole grain foods add B vitamins and iron to your vegan diet, both of which are essential to the body. They also offer extra fiber — which can keep you full for long stretches of time and help you in shedding off some unwanted fats!

• Try plant-based proteins
Eating more plant-based proteins is one effective way to improve your health in general. Vegan sources of protein contain less unhealthy saturated fat (contrary to animal sources), and thus they are essential to include in your vegan diet. Your choices can include tofu, lentils, chickpeas, edamame (soybeans), and other beans. Nuts such as walnuts and almonds can also deliver protein to the body.

• Incorporate lots of vegetables
There are lots of good meal dishes which revolve around vegetables of all kinds. Keep in mind that a hearty meal doesn’t have to necessarily contain meat. Vegetable-based meals are a win-win choice for everyone. They are rich in essential vitamins and minerals (such as Vitamin A, K, and Potassium), and they also keep your daily calorie consumption in check. Vegetables are also high in fiber content. With that, you are most likely to feel more satisfied after consuming one hearty veggie meal.

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Causes and Treatment of Atherosclerosis

Atherosclerosis is one of the diseases a person with untreated hypertension might acquire. Just because hypertension cannot be cured doesn’t mean you should not guard against possible complications. What do you need to know about this illness and why do you need to see a cardiologist in Singapore?

The Risk Factors

People who have high blood pressure are at risk of developing atherosclerosis. But that’s not the only criteria. Smokers, diabetics and the obese are also more likely to develop the illness. Other factors such as high levels of cholesterol, physical inactivity coupled with unhealthy diet, alcohol abuse and low consumption of vegetables and fruits are also taken into consideration.

One important factor is the balance of the low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels. LDL cholesterol is often called “bad” cholesterol because an increase will also raise the risk of development of cardiovascular diseases. When you go to Singapore to get a cardiologist opinion not only do you have to keep your cholesterol level in check, but you should watch your sugar level and blood pressure as well. If you have type 1 diabetes, a specialist might also recommend that you consult a heart doctor in Singapore for further tests. If you already have hypertension, it’s important not to miss the medication recommended by your cardiologist.

Causes of Atherosclerosis

Atherosclerosis is characterized by the buildup of fatty material called atherosclerotic plaques or atheromas. These atheromas are deposited on the walls of arteries that result in a blockage or reduction of blood flow. Healthy arteries according to cardiologists in Singapore, are supposed to be elastic and flexible. Although cardiologists cannot illustrate specifically how this condition develops, one known cause of atherosclerosis are the injuries to the artery walls. Injuries may be caused by unchecked blood pressure, high cholesterol and high blood sugar, high levels of triglycerides, infections from bacteria or viruses.

When the artery wall is damaged, they send signals to the white blood cells to repair the damage. The white blood cells, which are made up of T cells and monocytes, attach themselves to the injured wall and become foam cells. The foam cells, however, collect cholesterol and fats so that the muscles in the damaged wall can be repaired. When these accumulate over time, they become atheromas. These atheromas could block the arteries and even split and start a blood clot. Don’t wait for complications or a heart attack before you visit your cardiologist.

Three Types of Lesions

Atherosclerosis is just one type arteriosclerosis. Your heart doctor in Singapore might use the two terms interchangeably, but there are marked differences between the two. Arteriosclerosis is divided into three types based on the location of the lesions.

1. Atherosclerosis is commonly found in medium and large arteries. The arteries have plaque buildup which block or slow down the normal flow of blood. The plaques are caused by an injury to the artery walls.

2. Arteriosclerosis comes from the words “arterio” which means arteries and “sclerosis” or hardening. This is a condition marked by the hardening of the arterioles which damage the artery by making it less elastic and thicker. The arterioles are small arteries usually found in the organs. Arteriosclerosis is common among people suffering from diabetes and/or hypertension. The most affected organ is usually the kidney so don’t be surprised if your doctor refers you to a cardiologist if you have diabetes.

3. Moenckberg Medical Calcific Sclerosis manifest in small and medium arteries. The culprit is the buildup of calcium deposits in the arteries which make the opening stiff. The arteries do not necessarily become narrow, however. Some heart doctors in Singapore also consider this harmless. This condition is also uncommon among people younger than 50 years old.

Arteriosclerosis Sub-types

1. Hyperplastic Type affects the lumen. It is usually caused by hypertension and occurs together with fibrinoid necrosis of the arterial intima and media. When the condition is not given proper care from a cardiologist, it could lead to ischaemia and even kidney failure.

2. Hyaline Type is the thickening of the arteriole walls because of the accumulation of pinkish materials. The walls become harder as a result of the deposits. Those at risk of developing this condition usually have hypertension and diabetes. In other cases, this could be the result of calcineurin inhibitor drugs.

Symptoms of Atherosclerosis

You need to consult the best cardiologist nearest you if you experience the following symptoms:

    1. Chest pain
    2. Numbness in your legs or arms
    3. Weakness in your legs or arms
    4. Changes in vision
    5. Drooping facial muscles
    6. Difficulty speaking
    7. Pain in your legs when walking

If you have a pre-existing conditions such as hypertension, diabetes and other cardiovascular diseases, you need to see your cardiologist regularly for check-up, blood tests and general heart screening procedures. Your daily medication will help reduce the likelihood of developing complications in the future including atherosclerosis.

Complications of Atherosclerosis

If left untreated, atherosclerosis can lead to carotid artery disease, coronary artery disease, peripheral artery disease, aneurysms, and chronic kidney disease.

The heart doctor will perform a general check-up to determine the best treatment program for you. You will be required to undergo some of the following procedures: blood tests, electrocardiogram, stress test, Doppler ultrasound, ankle-brachial index, cardiac catheterization, angiogram, CT scan, and magnetic resonance angiography.

Treatment of Atherosclerosis

Treatment of the condition may be in the form of medication or surgical procedures. The progress or damage to the arteries will have to be assessed by various specialists and not just your cardiologist. If you have a pre-existing condition other than hypertension, you will also have to treat the symptoms of those conditions. Medications for lowering cholesterol levels will also be recommended. Other medicines might include the following: Beta-blockers, anti-platelet, calcium channel blockers, and diuretics.

Surgical procedure is usually done by a heart surgeon. The following might be recommended by the heart surgeon after a heart screening or when the condition of your heart and blood vessels need to be assessed: bypass surgery, angioplasty, stent replacement, fibrinolytic therapy, and endarterectomy.