I am not immune to one of the greatest scourges that ever infected the human race, one that killed hundreds of millions in the 20th century. If you’re under 40, you probably aren’t either. Routine vaccinations for it have stopped completely.
That’s because it’s gone.
Smallpox was declared eradicated in 1980, and remains the only eradicated disease that affects humans, though it looks like polio will follow. Thanks to tireless global response efforts, the World Health Organization, and vaccination, no one dies of smallpox anymore.
The thing is, some people seem to think that the era of catastrophic disease is over, that all you need for health is clean living and that modern medicine is some kind of corporate scam. Their myopia and willful ignorance is astounding.
Modern medicine has given us an edge, but we are still fighting the same diseases that we have for hundreds of years.
Cholera spread from India to Europe, and it has been spreading ever since with several pandemics through out the 19th and 20th centuries that left no continent unaffected. The bacteria is transmitted through contaminated food and water, which can be found in most countries without robust sewage systems, especially in slums or refugee camps.
Haiti is going on its sixth year of combating a cholera epidemic that has killed over 9,000 people (which is grossly underestimated) and sickened about 775,000. Haiti doesn’t even have a history of cholera outbreaks; all that’s needed to start one is an infected person and poor sanitation.
A severe case of cholera can kill in hours and without treatment kills about half of those afflicted. It’s a bad way to go: dehydration through intense vomiting and diarrhea measured in gallons a day.
The good news is that treatment is relatively straightforward: rehydration with judicious use of antibiotics. Oral vaccination can also stem the spread of the disease. But prevention is key, and many countries simply don’t have the resources to update sanitation and plumbing for at risk areas.
By the early 19th century tuberculosis, known as consumption, had killed one in seven people who ever lived. Without antibiotics there was no cure, and even now infection prevention and treatment remains an ongoing challenge: about one third of the world’s population is currently infected and 10% of them will become ill.
The combination of TB and HIV is a huge problem, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa. TB will almost certainly kill someone who is HIV positive if they don’t receive treatment. The bacteria start in the lungs and move throughout the body, destroying cells as they spread.
Drug sensitive TB is curable, but requires harsh antibiotics for several months. Multidrug-resistant TB is becoming more common, and some strains are resistant to all antibiotics usually used for TB. Treatment is increasingly complicated when antibiotic standbys are no longer an option.
There is a TB vaccine, but its effectiveness varies widely, and we don’t really know why. But many countries, especially in Africa and Asia, implement routine vaccination. Even when the TB vaccine is far from perfect, for some, it’s far better than nothing.
When I think of the flu, admittedly, my first thought is of discomfort and inconvenience. I like to think of myself as safely young and healthy.
Being young and healthy though, would put me in the demographic with the highest death rate for the 1918 influenza pandemic, which killed at least 50 million people over two years. In some places, public services stopped, medical workers were too ill to care for patients, and coffins couldn’t be made fast enough.
It’s worth noting that pandemic flus are different from seasonal flus; they’re new mutations that human immune systems have never encountered before, making us especially vulnerable.
Most flu pandemics will not come close to the virulence and lethalness of the one in 1918. However, when a virus is an unknown entity, we just can’t say how dangerous it is. It’s also difficult to make an effective vaccine before a flu pandemic starts. Thankfully, difficulty does not stop the World Health Organization from attempting to be as prepared as possible.
We’ve actually made a lot of progress with these diseases through education programs and prolonged efforts to get treatment to the people who need it. Unfortunately, it seems like anti-vaxxers are immune to both.
Thanks in part to those who avoid vaccination, there has been a resurgence of diseases that were thought to be wiped out in the U.S. While mumps and measles aren’t particularly deadly for those in good health, they can be for the very young or immunosuppressed. To act like disease is not a big deal or like disease will magically never affect you is to choose to put yourself and others at risk.
How to get the ball rolling on eating healthier
You may want to start eating healthier, but getting the ball rolling can be an uphill endeavor.
Make a List
When you get hungry, the last thing you feel like doing is running down a mental list of available healthy foods to eat. That’s why you probably end up grabbing whatever is closest to you and chowing down, vowing to start eating healthy tomorrow.
Instead, sit down and make a list of foods that you determine to be healthiest for you and your goals. Don’t just write a shopping list. Make a list of actual meals that you can prepare and eat. Include what day you’re going to have them, and what time. The more prepared you are when hunger strikes, the more likely you will be to have something ready without having to think too hard about it.
Buy a Cookbook
Flipping through a cookbook with enticing photographs of healthy food will get you inspired to start eating healthy. Buy a cookbook or two that has nothing but healthy food recipes. Make sure it has a photo for every recipe, so you can visualize yourself dining on the healthy options. Put bookmarks on pages that really make you want to get up and start cooking. These are the dishes that will offer you the best motivation to start your new healthy eating plan. Alternatively, you can create your own cookbook by searching around the internet for healthy recipes and saving them to your phone or computer.
Buy Some New Clothes
Wearing the same clothes every day when you already feel unattractive can keep you in a negative rut that’s hard to get out of. Put on your favorite pair of jeans, jacket, whatever, and go shopping for some new clothes. Buy a few that fit you now, and something special that you can work toward fitting into after you’ve achieved your weight goal. The change will help you to see yourself as someone new and fresh who is capable of switching eating habits for the better.
Stop Looking in the Mirror
If your appearance really gets you down, stop obsessing over your flaws in the mirror. Seriously, you don’t need a visual examination over every wrinkle or bulge. Just stop looking in the mirror, get dressed, and be on your merry way. Wait at least a month before you give yourself a once over again. This time, you’ll be pleasantly surprised, instead of walking away thinking how bad you look.
Buy a Cool Scale
If you’re trying to lose weight (or even gain weight), having a cool scale will make the process easier to measure progress. Get yourself a digital scale that measures ounces as well as pounds. They even have scales that speak your weight, if that’s what you need to keep motivated to eat healthier. Just don’t weigh yourself every day, because daily fluctuations in weight are normal, and have little to do with your eating habits. If you gain a couple ounces after eating healthy all day, you could lose motivation to continue to eat healthy. Every three days or so is sufficient to track your progress and measure your results.
Choose Restaurants With Healthy Food
If cooking isn’t your thing, choose some local restaurants that serve healthy foods with wholesome ingredients. Keep a list of these restaurants at hand so that when you come home late from work and don’t feel like cooking, you’ll have a backup plan that doesn’t involve Domino’s Pizza.
Invest in Partitioned Storage Containers
If you’re short on time like most of us, you need some quick options for meals every now and then. Invest in some portioned storage containers so you can make your own version of TV dinners. Instead of pudding and mashed potatoes, fill them with things like brown rice, steamed broccoli, and turkey breast. Prepare them ahead of time and stack in your refrigerator or freezer. Just pop one in the microwave when all you can think about is flopping on the couch in front of the television.
The key to getting the ball rolling to start eating healthier is to be prepared. When you stock up on the tools that will help you reach your goals, get ready for instances when there’s no time to cook, and be kind to yourself by not obsessing over your image, you stand a pretty good chance of improving your eating habits for good.
WATCH: Tips for Getting Your Significant-Other to Eat Healthier
Is Coffee Good or Bad for You? Myth vs. Fact
THIS CONTENT WAS REPUBLISHED FROM AN EARLIER DATE.
If you Google “coffee+health” and click on a random result, there’s about an equal chance you’ll be told it’s either bad for your health or that it significantly reduces your risk of some disease or other. So it’s understandable that there’s a lot of confusion about whether you should or shouldn’t be having your beloved morning cup of Joe.
The trouble is, both sides of the argument have the backing of scientific research. So what’s the truth—is coffee good or bad for us? Let’s find out by taking a look at some of the big claims:
Coffee Is Addictive
This is true to some extent, but not to the point where it would cause you the same problems as, say, alcohol or heroin. It all hinges on whether there’s some form of chemical dependence there, or whether people just drink coffee out of habit. In some cases, long-term users who attempt to give up coffee may experience withdrawal symptoms such as headache and lethargy, which might compel them to keep drinking the stuff. But the research says that coffee simply doesn’t fit the criteria to be labelled an addictive substance.
Coffee Can Help With Weight Loss
Yep, this one is true. There is plenty of evidence that caffeine consumption temporarily boosts thermogenesis (metabolism), and studies like this one show that it can increase fat burning by as much as 10-29 percent. Plus, the nervous energy you get from coffee means you’ll be more likely to drag your ass off the couch and get some exercise. With that said, don’t be fooled into thinking that more is better. Too much caffeine can cause insomnia, anxiety, adrenal fatigue and a range of other nasty side-effects.
Coffee Causes Cancer and Other Diseases
This is almost certainly myth. In fact, our most up-to-date research shows that coffee can actually help improve or protect against conditions like type 2 diabetes, liver cancer and Parkinson’s disease. The misconception about coffee and disease probably comes from the fact that previous research neglected to take associated high-risk behaviours like smoking and lack of physical activity into account, but we know better now. Too much coffee will certainly lead to negative side effects, but life-threatening diseases? Nope.
So what’s the verdict then—is coffee good or bad for you? First of all, I don’t agree with the belief held by some that drinking coffee is not a health decision; disregarding the impact it has on your physiology is simply not wise. However, unless you’re drinking silly amounts of it every day or you’re particularly sensitive to caffeine, the effect coffee has on your longevity is probably going to be quite marginal.
If you’re not a coffee drinker but you’re considering getting into it for the health benefits, I’d say don’t bother. There are far more meaningful changes you could make, such as cleaning up your diet, upping your exercise, or even substituting green tea instead. If you are a coffee drinker, just make sure you’re not using it as an energy crutch—stick to 1-2 cups max early in the day, and go decaf after that.
Q: What’s your take on the whole coffee and health argument? Give us your thoughts in the comments below!
David Carroll is a freelance writer, self-published author, and chief health-nut at thepaleotoolkit.com. Outside of work, he loves hurling (an amazing Irish sport), playing video games and hanging out with his dogs. Follow him on Twitter (@DavidAshCarroll) and Google+.
Scientists Develop New Type of Cell That Could Revolutionize the Treatment of Heart Disease
THIS CONTENT WAS REPUBLISHED FROM AN EARLIER DATE.
Heart disease has consistently been one of the biggest killers of both men and women, with hundreds of thousands of families losing loved ones to the condition every year. But now a new study published in the journal Cell Stem Cell has identified a possible breakthrough in the treatment of heart disease, offering hope to anyone suffering from a dodgy ticker. The study was conducted by a team of researchers from the Gladstones Institutes, who have discovered a way to make a remarkable new type of cell that could help damaged hearts repair themselves.
Heart failure occurs when the heart is overworked or the supply of oxygen is too low. A sudden attack can cause the loss of huge amounts of important muscle cells known as cardiomyocytes (CMs). These CMs cannot regenerate by themselves, nor can they be replaced because transplanted heart cells tend not to survive in the patient’s body. As you can imagine, this makes the treatment of heart disease quite tricky; since heart cells can’t regenerate or be replaced, the damage is usually irreversible. “Scientists have tried for decades to treat heart failure by transplanting adult heart cells, but these cells cannot reproduce themselves, and so they do not survive in the damaged heart,” said Yu Zhang, MD, PhD, one of the lead authors of the study.
To overcome this dilemma, the team investigated the possibility of regenerating the heart using progenitors—stem cells that have already been programmed to develop into a specific type of cell. In this case, they targeted cardiovascular progenitor cells (CPCs), which are produced as the heart begins to form within the embryo. Using a revolutionary technique, the team were able to produce CPCs in the lab and halt their development so the cells remained effectively “frozen” until use. They called these lab-grown cells “induced expandable CPCs,” or ieCPCs.
Unlike adult heart cells, ieCPCs have the ability to replicate. If transplanted successfully, they could replace a patient’s damaged heart cells and possibly continue to self-repair. “Our generated ieCPCs can prolifically replicate and reliably mature into the three types of cells in the heart, which makes them a very promising potential treatment for heart failure,” said Zhang. To test this theory, the team injected some of the cells into a mouse that had suffered a heart attack. Remarkably, most of the cells transformed into functioning heart cells, generating new muscle tissue and blood vessels and improving the mouse’s overall heart function.
So what does all this mean for the treatment of heart disease? Well, it’s definitely big news. The cells used to treat the mouse were derived from skin cells, which means a patient’s own cells could potentially be used to treat their heart disease. The next step is to try and form human ieCPCs in the lab, and then follow up with human trials to see if the method is as effective. All going well, this could be a viable treatment for heart disease patients within the next few years.
Q: Is this the most important breakthrough yet in the field of heart disease research? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Copyright 2016 David Carroll
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