Sleep apnea affects nearly 30 million people in the US. That’s approximately 9% of the population. The condition causes interruptions that pause breathing because the throat or airway has collapsed, creating blockage. This is called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and is the most common type. Central sleep apnea (CSA) occurs due to neurological issues when the brain doesn’t communicate to continuously breathe during sleep. There is also a complex type which is the combination of OSA and CSA. The CPAP machine, which stands for continuous positive airway pressure, has become a widely used tool to help address these sleep issues. Almost 8 million people use a CPAP machine, and studies point towards it being 99% effective. The machine can send pressurized airflow into the nose and mouth which keeps the airways open for normal breathing.
The CPAP machine has a motor that produces pressurized air that generates a steady stream of air through a tube. The person wears an air mask that fits around the nose or mouth and the flexible tube is connected to the mask. The air that comes through pushes through the blockages so that the airways remain open. Now nothing will obstruct the oxygen getting to the lungs and breathing won’t be paused. There are several benefits to using a CPAP. These include of course better sleep quality, feeling less sleepy during daytime, lower blood pressure, reduction in blood glucose, lower cholesterol levels, and lower risk of heart attack and/or stroke.
The machines are all very similar in style based on brands and designers, but there are variations between the CPAP, BiPAP, and APAP. The BiPAP stands for bi-level positive airflow pressure. There are two pressure levels. One is for inhaling and the other is for exhaling. This machine is used by people who don’t like the CPAP and who have high levels of carbon dioxide in their blood. The APAP machine stands for automatic positive airflow pressure. It checks your breathing through the night and automatically adjusts the pressure accordingly. This works for people who change positions a lot or take medications that can affect breathing. There are different options for masks. Selection of which mask type is based on comfort, type of sleep apnea you have, and your breathing habits. There are nasal masks with pillow type cushions and there are full masks that cover the nose and mask.
A person who has Medicare Part B and who is officially diagnosed with sleep apnea, will qualify for Medicare paying 80% of the machine cost. Whether renting it or buying it, the person will need to pay their deductible and the other 20%. Otherwise, CPAP machines can vary between $500 and $3,000 dollars.
Some people complain of dry mouth, nosebleeds, feeling claustrophobic, feeling bloated, nasal congestion, feeling uncomfortable, and skin irritation. However, left untreated, sleep apnea can cause headaches, depression, high blood pressure, higher risk for heart attack and stroke, diabetes, and feeling constantly tired and fatigued. There can be pros and cons to using the CPAP, but the health issue should not be ignored. Sleep is essential and interrupted sleep over a period will catch up with the body. Some people can be in denial, but if you’re snoring loudly, having mood swings, feel tired too much of the time, have headaches, and insomnia, then it’s best to get checked for sleep apnea. Being proactive versus reactive when it comes to our health is always the recommended protocol.
Eventually, all of us will get gray hair. More friendly terms are silver, salt and pepper, or charcoal. We associate gray with aging or a phenomenon that occurs only in the elderly. That is not the case for all people, in fact some can gray as early as in their 20s. The reason that hair goes gray is because the color-producing cells stop making pigment. The color becomes naturally bleached and hydrogen peroxide actually builds up in the hair. The pigment in our hair is called melanin which is released by melanocytes. As we age, our hair follicles and hair shaft wear down. The melanocytes don’t work as efficiently. Almost half of all people have some amount of gray hair by age 50. However, Caucasians start to go gray in their mid-30s, African Americans in their late 40s, and Asians in their late 30s. If a Caucasian person goes gray before age 20 and an Asian or African American before age 30, then they are considered to have premature gray hair.
This is not classified as a medical problem, but rather more of a vanity concern. There is no scientific proof that stress causes gray hair. Although we have watched each of our president’s hair turn grey while in office, this wasn’t the result of their chronic stress. Genes play a major role. Problems with the thyroid or low vitamin B-12 levels can cause graying. Inadequate levels of vitamin C, D, and E can also cause graying. Sun damage and smoking have been linked to graying.
There are of course ways to cover the gray or rather, to just embrace it. Stars such as Steve Martin and Anderson Cooper wear their gray with pride. Unfortunately, you can’t really escape gray. Antioxidant rich foods can slow the process of aging. Great foods to consider are vitamin B-12 (eggs, fish, poultry, milk), vitamin A (eggs, carrots, dark leafy greens), vitamin C (citrus, berries, sweet potatoes), vitamin E (nuts, seeds, green vegetables), iron (leafy green and red meat), and antioxidants (berries, onion, garlic, and legumes). Hormonal problems should be treated. Stopping smoking will reduce the rate at which gray hair produces. You may just have the DNA for graying. You might just have the same gene that causes lighter hair in Europeans (IRF4).
Gray can be sophisticated so don’t always say you are getting old. Graying means you have experienced life. Just like your age, your number of grays is only part of your timeline. You are as young as feel. Most importantly, take care of your health and your body will take care of you. Just be glad if you still have hair gray or not.
The stigmatism around gluten has been growing especially as more and more people have discovered food allergies and digestive problems with their diets. In fact, 1 in 100 people have celiac disease (Celiac Disease Foundation, 2022). Complaints of diarrhea, fatigue, nausea, bloating, and anemia warrant a trip to the doctor who is likely to ask you about the foods you are consuming. Nearly 80% of people with celiac disease go undiagnosed for a prolonged period living in pain and discomfort before seeking help or finding the culprit (Celiac Disease Foundation, 2022). Eventually the two-step process for a blood test and endoscopy would find celiac disease. The large intestine is speaking to you, but the cause of discomfort isn’t always clear at first. Sometimes by elimination, one can discover it’s gluten that is causing havoc. Gluten is found in wheat, barley, and rye, which are ingredients in many processed foods and bread type items. Most of us have lived a life with plenty of bread, buns, cereals, pastries, noodles, crackers, and bagels. Take those away and real, whole foods are put in place by default that are gluten free.
What’s interesting is that many people don’t develop celiac disease until later in life. It’s important to address it right away because the gluten allergy is causing the lining of the small intestine to not absorb nutrients as it should. Malabsorption can lead to nutritional deficiencies, hence some of the side effects of fatigue and discomfort occur because the body isn’t getting what it needs for functioning. Most people with celiac disease are deficient in iron, fiber, calcium, folate, zinc, B12, and vitamin D (Celiac Disease Foundation, 2022). To date, there is no cure-all for celiac disease other than just adjusting one’s diet accordingly or taking medications that address side effects.
Not all celiac disease side effects are necessarily digestive related. Other side effects due to the allergy include skin rashes, blisters, joint pain, headaches, dysfunction to the spleen, and numbness in hands and feet. Dermatitis herpetiformis can develop on the elbows, knees, scalp and buttock which causes a very itchy and blistering rash. Getting rid of gluten is needed and there is medication for this.
It actually all boils down to having a leaky gut. When eating gluten and a person is sensitive to it, zonulin is released. It is a protein that when not activated correctly, causes tight junctions in the lining of the gut, which then leads to the leaky gut. When a person has a leaky gut, toxins and even gluten gets released into the bloodstream. A leaky gut can be a big deal because 70 to 80% of our immune system is located in our gut and our gut is our second brain. When our gut is not in proper operating ability, health risks are rampant (Johnson, 2015).
This does not mean that gluten is bad for everyone, and there is no long-term association between poor health or increased poor health risks for persons who consume gluten their whole life. Although not scientifically backed, there have been claims that all people should partake in a gluten-free diet suggesting that the modern digestive system is not equipped to break down the proteins from gluten. For those who do eliminate gluten, there can be benefits and claims of feeling better mainly because getting rid of gluten naturally leads to getting rid of many processed foods. That takes away many fast-food options, snacks and cereals out of boxes, and most sugary treats. Yes, these foods have gluten, but they also have tons of unnecessary carbohydrates, sugars, and fats that make the desire to have them so tasty. High sugar and carbohydrate diets do typically cause weight gain and fatigue and we can all attest to not feeling our best went we aren’t exactly eating healthy.
From a fitness standpoint, clean eating practically eliminates gluten in and of itself. Besides some protein bars or snacks and possible powders, clean foods aren’t processed, and that takes care of plenty of gluten choices. Furthermore, we do want to have our gut working optimally for us for performance purposes. Having malabsorption or digestive problems can hinder training and performance. Imagine trying to powerlift or compete on stage at a bodybuilding show when your stomach is inflamed and even worse if you both feel and look bloated? Skip the gluten if that’s the case.
There are so many gluten-free products available, and many restaurants now include options. It’s always important to ask if gluten is included despite what the menu might say. Reading labels and nutrition panels becomes a regular task. For a label to meet gluten free requirements, the food cannot contain more than 20 parts per million gluten. Otherwise, below this amount is considered the safe threshold of gluten someone can have (Celiac Disease Foundation, 2022). Making your own food is probably the safest and eating fruits, vegetables, and lean meats is the right way to go. Furthermore, gluten free doesn’t mean calorie or fat free, so it doesn’t mean portions don’t matter anymore. Our intake and expenditure remain, but less processed foods are probably the best when it outcome to having celiac disease and learning to eat nutritionally packed choices.
The flu season is here. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), annually there have been close to 11.7 million cases of the flu, up to 5.6 medical visits related, and nearly 141,000 hospitalizations. We know that the flu is highly contagious and is caused by the influenza viruses. It can be mild, severe, or even lead to death. Unlike a cold, the flu strikes quickly. It is a respiratory illness that happens suddenly. Symptoms include fever, headaches, fatigue, coughing, runny nose, or vomiting. The duration of the flu can be just a few miserable days, or it can last up to two weeks. Anyone can fall victim to the flu, and it typically spreads during the colder months.
The flu itself is not easy to endure. Complications can arise especially for those over the age of 65, pregnant women, and children under age 5. Sometimes a person can develop an additional sinus infection or even pneumonia in addition to the flu. When these complications arise there are typically warning sides that should not be ignored. Medical help should be sought right away if a person has trouble breathing, severe vomiting, confusion, dizziness, and any pain in the abdomen or chest. In children, warning signs include fever with a rash, bluish skin color, trouble breathing, not being able to keep fluids down, and constant irritability. For infants, warning signs include having no tears when crying, being unable to eat, trouble breathing, and having few wet diapers.
The CDC does recommend the flu shot for anyone ages 6 months or older and to receive an annual vaccination. The risk is reduced by as much as 60% when vaccinated. There are different strains of the virus, and the shot seems to be most effective in the fight against influenza B and influenza A (H1N1). A doctor can test you for the flu within 10 to 15 minutes using one of the rapid influenza diagnostic tests (RIDTs). Upon diagnosis, antiviral drugs can be used to at least lessen the duration of the illness. In most cases just staying home and resting away from people is best. Medication can be used to help suppress fever.
When the flu hits, it’s time to isolate and wash your hands. You should stay home at least 24 hours after your final fever is gone to avoid spreading germs. The flu likes to make friends with all those you are in contact with so don’t let it become anymore popular than it is. Anyone who has had the flu doesn’t have anything nice to say about it at all. The fear or catching it makes vaccination a yearly task. Do what you can to reduce your risk and stay flu free again this year.