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Even if you are in good physical shape, your doctor may still surprise you with a high cholesterol diagnosis when you have your annual physical. If this happens, there is a very good chance that your doctor will want to talk to you about a medication known as statin.

Below, we are going to try and answer some of the more common questions about cholesterol and statins.

  1. What are statins, and how do they work?

Statins are medicines that are used to treat high cholesterol in the blood, most of which is made by your liver. Statins help get the amount of cholesterol made under control, whilst also ridding the blood of the excess cholesterol that is already there.

  1. Why is high cholesterol considered to be unhealthy?

The human body requires cholesterol, but when too much is produced, it can form as a plaque buildup on the artery walls, which can then potentially lead to heart disease or stroke. For many years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have issued numbers showing that heart disease is the number one killer of both men and women in the U.S.

  1. What’s the difference between “good” and “bad” cholesterol?

When cholesterol enters the bloodstream, it us carried by particles known as lipoproteins. Most cholesterol is carried by low-density lipoprotein (LDL) particles. These are what are referred to as “bad” cholesterol, since higher LDL levels are often the cause of heart disease and stroke.

Good” cholesterol is found in high-density lipoprotein (HDL) particles. These are considered to be good because they are carried back to the liver, where they can then be removed from the body. Your doctor can better explain your levels, and what they might man for your heart health.

  1. Can cholesterol levels be kept in check with a healthy diet and regular exercise?

If you are looking to reduce the risk of heart disease and keep cholesterol in check, then a healthy diet and regular exercise should be considered a must. That said, there are other factors, like genetics, that we can essentially do nothing to control. Some people will find that living a healthy lifestyle will not be enough to keep their cholesterol numbers at a healthy level.

Even if your current cholesterol levels do not appear particularly high, your doctor may still recommend statins if you are considered to be at a higher risk of heart attack or stroke. Statins have proven effective in reducing the risk of both stroke and heart attacks.

  1. Are there any risks associated with taking statins

Generally speaking, there are very few issues associated with taking statins. Two risks that patients should be aware of are muscle-related complaints, as well as an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Muscle issues can be experienced by anyone, so you need to check with your doctor to see if they are indeed being caused by statins. It is in very rare cases that severe muscle issues come as a result of statin use.

  1. Is it okay to drink grapefruit juice while taking statins?

Fresh grapefruit and grapefruit juice have been known to have an effect on how some medicines work. This is true with some, but not all, statins. It is also possible that other medications may also interact with the efficacy of statins. Always talk to your healthcare professional about potential issues before you start taking statins.


 

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Claustrophobia is one of the most common phobias. It is a situational phobia triggered by an irrational and intense fear of tight or crowded spaces. It frequently results in a panic attack and can be triggered by things such as being in a crowded elevator, a small room without any windows, or driving on a congested highway.

Claustrophobia Symptoms: For some people, claustrophobia may disappear on its own. Others may need therapy to manage and cope with their symptoms. Symptoms of claustrophobia vary. However, some common symptoms include: sweating, increased heart rate, dizziness, hyperventilating, inability to breathe, headaches, and trembling.

Claustrophobia Treatment Tips: If you experience any of these symptoms, you should see a doctor. Don’t wait until your claustrophobia becomes too overwhelming because an early diagnosis can help you better manage your symptoms. Claustrophobia is most commonly treated by psychotherapy. Different types of counseling can help you overcome your fear and manage your triggers. Counter conditioning and exposure therapy (gradually exposing people to situations that trigger anxiety) can help people build a tolerance and learn coping mechanisms. Others can benefit from therapy or medication.

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Cardiovascular disease, commonly known as heart disease, can lead to serious health issues. The fact of the matter is that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. for both men and women, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Death rates could be much higher were it not for devices such as defibrillators and pacemakers, which save millions of people around the world each year.

Medical devices in this country are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Safety and effectiveness are tested before a product hits the market. Devices in the heart disease category are used to treat cardiovascular diseases, conditions, and other heart related issues. Some of the devices that are approved by the FDA are implanted in the human body, while others are used on the outside.

A List of Some of the Available Heart-Related Devices

All manners of cardiovascular issues are treated by FDA approved devices, including those listed below:

  • Automated external defibrillators (AEDs): These come in portable and automatic formats, and are used to restore a normal heart rhythm when a patient goes into cardiac arrest. These devices analyze the heart rhythm so that medical professionals can decide whether or not a shock needs to be administered to restore normal function.
  • Cardiac ablation catheters: These are long, thin tubes that are threaded into or onto the heart. Cardiac ablation catheters are used on patients with heartbeats that are abnormally fast, and they work by making modifications to small areas of heart tissue where the abnormalities are originating.
  • Cardiovascular angioplasty devices: These tubes are thin, long, and flexible, and are threaded into the heart or blood vessels in areas that have experienced a blockage. Blood flow is improved, and chest pains are reduced using these devices.
  • Cardiac pacemakers: Battery-operated pacemakers are implanted into the body to help regulate a heart that sometimes beats too slowly. They work by checking electrical impulses of the heart and delivering electrical stimulation when the heartbeat gets out of its natural rhythm.
  • Implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs): These devices are used to monitor heart rhythms and deliver an electric shock if those rhythms become too fast. Some devices will even record patterns so that they can be reviewed by health professionals. Newer models will even send basic information to the doctor of the user.
  • Prosthetic (artificial) heart valves: Heart valves direct blood flow through the heart, and need to be replaced when they become dysfunctional. There are two replacement options: mechanical valves are comprised of man-made materials, while bioprosthetic valves are created using tissue from human cadavers or animals.
  • Stents: These lattice-shaped tubes are permanently inserted into arteries to help improve blood flow. Some stents will contain drugs that are there to ensure that further blockages do not occur.
  • Ventricular assist devices (VADs): These devices are used to help weaker bloods become more effective at pumping blood. VAD’s were initially used as a short-term treatment for heart transplant recipients, but are now often used on patients with heart issues who are not considered a good candidate for a heart transplant.


 

Cervical Health

May 14, 2018

Cervical cancer is a scary diagnosis, but the good news is that is can usually be prevented and potentially cured with early detection. Vaccination is a must in the prevention of this form of cancer, while there are two tests used to detect it.

The cervix is found in the lower portion of the uterus that is connected to the vagina, and it is there where cervical cancer forms. The human papillomavirus (HPV) serves as the cause of this disease, and back in 2016, the National Cancer Institute estimated that close to 13,000 women in the U.S. would be diagnosed with this form of cancer. They also claimed that over 4,100 women would likely die from the disease.

The Two Cervical Cancer Tests

The Pap smear and the HPV test are what is used to detect and diagnose cervical cancer. Shyam Kalavar, who serves the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a cytologist and expert in the microscopic examination of cells, tells us that the Pap smear is used to look for abnormalities in the cervix that may eventually lead to cancer if not treated.

If abnormalities are found during the Pap test, the patient may be subjected to further testing. These additional tests may include a second Pap smear, an HPV test to look for the cancer-causing types of HPV, or a cervical biopsy. With over 100 different types of HPV, finding out if the abnormalities are those which lead to cancer is incredibly important.

Kalavar makes it clear that early detection is often the key to successful treatment. The problem with cervical cancer is that is often painless, which is why it is often not detected until the later stages. This is why women need to submit to regular testing.

While the pap smear is not 100% accurate, the number of times that cervical cancer is missed during testing is small. Abnormal cells can take many, many years to develop into cervical cancer, which is once again why regular testing is so important. This information comes from guidelines put together in 2012 by the American Cancer Society, the American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology, and the American Society for Clinical Pathology.

A process referred to as Pap and HPV co-testing can be used to look for the high-risk types of HPV in women. Abnormalities sometime missed in Pap testing will almost certainly be caught using the co-test process. It should be noted that HPV testing is now the first-line of defense in the screening for cervical cancer, but women should talk to their doctor first before making a decision.

The Importance of Vaccination

Gardasil 9 is a cervical cancer vaccine that has been approved by the FDA. This vaccine works just like other disease prevention methods in that it prompts the immune system in the body to fight disease-causing viruses and bacteria.

Nine different types of HPV are covered by Gardasil 9, which helps prevent roughly 90% of cervical, vaginal, anal, and vulvar cancers, as well as genital warts. Females aged 9 through 26 are approved to use Gardasil 9.

Gardasil 9 delivers its full benefits when used by patients who get vaccinated before HPV infection occurs. What this vaccine does not do is serve as protection against diseases caused by the other forms of HPV outside the 9 that Gardasil covers. It should not be considered a treatment, but rather, a prevention.

Women who have been vaccinated should still not take their health for granted, and should still go for regular Pap tests so that any precancerous changes can be detected early.


 

Infant Formula is not Approved by the FDA

Infant formulas do not require FDA approval before going to market. That said, formula manufacturers are subject to regulatory oversight from the agency.

Federal nutrient requirements need to be adhered to when the formula is being made. Manufacturers looking to bring a new product to market must first register with the FDA and provide notification of intent.

Manufacturers facilities are inspected by the FDA on a yearly basis, during which time samples of the infant formula are collected for testing. If these tests show that the formula presents any type of health risk, the manufacturer will be asked to conduct a recall.

Dietary Supplements are Not Approved by the FDA

While new drugs need to be approved by the FDA before going to market, the same is not the case with dietary supplements. The exception here is if the product includes a new dietary ingredient, which would be one that has not been marketed in the U.S. prior to October 15, 1994. Manufacturers using such an ingredient must notify the FDA 75 days prior to marketing.

When the manufacturer submits the notification information to the FDA, they must deliver a conclusion that shows that their dietary supplement is safe. If a health concern arises after a new product hits the market, the FDA will use research and event monitoring to better evaluate the safety of the dietary supplement.

Food Labels, Which Include the Nutrition Facts Panel, are Not Approved by the FDA

Individual food labels are not approved by the FDA before food products hit the market. That said, food manufacturers are required to show nutrition information on foods, as well as dietary supplements. When manufacturers make claims about their products, they cannot include false or misleading information.

The Nutrition Facts panel on a food label must show the serving size of the food, as well as the nutrient content. With dietary supplements, that information is usually shown on the Supplement Facts panel.

The FDA Does Not Approve Structure-Function Claims Found with Foods and Dietary Supplements

Foods or food components that are made to affect the structure or function of the human body will have structure-function claims that describe their role. “Calcium building stronger bones” is an example of such a claim.

Manufacturers of dietary supplements who create products with structure-function claims on their labels are required to submit a notification to the FDA. This notification needs to be submitted to the agency no later than 30 days after the product has gone to market. Items that need to be included in the notification are things such as the text of the claim, the notifier’s name and address, and other relevant information. The structure-function claims made on dietary supplement come with a disclaimer which makes it clear that the product has not been granted approval by the FDA, and that it is not intended as a treatment, cure, or diagnosis of any disease.

Conventional food manufacturers do not need to notify the FDA, nor do they need to carry a disclaimer, about structure-function claims.


 

Age-related macular degeneration — also called macular degeneration, AMD or ARMD — is deterioration of the macula, which is the small central area of the retina of the eye that controls visual acuity.

The health of the macula determines our ability to read, recognize faces, drive, watch television, use a computer, and perform any other visual task that requires us to see fine detail.

Macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss among older Americans, and due to the aging of the U.S. population, the number of people affected by AMD is expected to increase significantly in the years ahead.

According to a recent study by researchers at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 6.5 percent of Americans age 40 and older have some degree of macular degeneration. Other research suggests there were 9.1 million cases of early AMD in the U.S. in 2010 and this number is expected to increase to 17.8 million by the year 2050.

AMD is most common among the older white population, affecting more than 14 percent of white Americans age 80 and older. Among Americans age 50 and older, advanced macular degeneration affects 2.1 percent of this group overall, with whites being affected more frequently than blacks, non-white Hispanics and other ethnic groups (2.5 percent vs. 0.9 percent).

Progression to wet macular degeneration is the main complication of dry age-related macular degeneration. At any time, dry macular degeneration can progress to the more severe form of the disease called wet macular degeneration, which may cause rapid vision loss. There is no accurate way to predict who will eventually develop wet macular degeneration.

Other eye diseases such as cataracts, glaucoma, retinal detachment, or dry eyes are not complications of macular degeneration. Patients with macular degeneration can, however, develop these or other eye diseases and people with these conditions can also develop AMD concurrently.

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FDA-Regulated Products Use Color Additives Approved by the FDA

The above statement covers color additives used in food (human and animal), cosmetics, drugs, dietary supplements, and some medical devices. All color additives, other than coal-tar hair dyes, must legally be approved by the FDA and must be used in compliance with its approved uses, specifications, and restrictions.

Before granting approval, the FDA examines all related safety data to ensure that the color additive is safe to use for its intended purpose.

Food Additives Used in Animal Products are Approved by the FDA

Drugs for animals – pets, livestock, poultry, etc. – require FDA approval. (Minor animal species include chickens, turkeys, cats, dogs, horses, swine, and cattle).

The FDA plays no role in approving foods for animals, including pet food, but they do have a say in the food additives used in such products. The FDA goes to great lengths to ensure that animal foods, including pet treats, are made in conditions that are both safe and sanitary. They also ensure that all foods are properly labeled.

FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) came up with a new regulation called the Preventive Controls for Animal Food rule. This legislation was put in place to make sure that food manufacturers took the proper steps required to prevent potential food contamination and to also ensure that proper practices (sanitation, safety, equipment use, etc.) are employed when food is being made for animals.

Cosmetics are Not Approved by the FDA

Cosmetics include such items as shampoos, perfumes, makeup, hair dyes, shaving preparations, and face and body cleansers. The ingredients and labels used in cosmetics are not subject to FDA approval before they go to market. The exception to this rule is color additives, other than coal-tar hair dyes. All cosmetics must be properly labeled and safe to use.

Medical Foods Do Not Require FDA approval

Medial foods are those which are used for patients in need of dietary management for a specific health issue or nutrient needs. One example would be the medical food that is used on patients who suffer from phenylketonuria, a genetic disorder.

Someone suffering from this specific disorder would be required to eat foods that do not contain the amino acid phenylalanine. These types of food are intended for patients under the supervision of a medical professional. Meal replacements and diet shakes are not considered medical foods, as are foods used to manage ailments like diabetes. Making changes to a normal diet is generally what is required for those who have weight issues or who suffer from diabetes.

Premarket approval from the FDA is not required with medical foods, although there are other requirements that need to be met by the manufacturers of these products. These include things like the registration of food facilities and the following of good manufacturing processes. While nutrition information does not need to appear on the labels of medical foods, the information shown on the label cannot be misleading in any way.