Fainting and Blood Pressure

A while ago, my friend asked me if blood pressure had anything to do with fainting. I said, “Yup”, and she said, “Explain it to me later”. So welcome to Later, everyone!

What is fainting?

For the people who don’t know, fainting is the loss of consciousness due to a lack of oxygen reaching the brain. Fainting also has a medical name, Syncope. It’s pronounced sing-co-pee (English is a strange language).

Why do people faint?

Biologically, people faint because they experience low blood pressure (though, there can be other cardiovascular problems). This isn’t necessarily of medical concern; you can have low blood pressure for several reasons. For example, if you are dehydrated, you have less fluid in your blood stream. This means that you have a lower blood volume in your blood vessels, which results in a lower blood pressure.

When you have low blood pressure, your blood vessels lose their tone and are unable to deliver blood cells to your brain as efficiently as it would if you had normal blood pressure. This results in your brain receiving less oxygen. The lack of oxygen is what makes you lose consciousness, since oxygen is required for the sustenance of your brain cells, not to mention your other cells!

So what can I do?

Stay hydrated folks! That’s one of the simplest ways to maintain a normal blood pressure 🙂

And that’s how blood pressure is related to fainting!

 

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Hangover Remedies – Vitamins

Guys, I’m giving you all the tricks of the trade here. First it was some food tips, and now it’s time to listen to your mothers and take your vitamins because they actually play a good role in preventing you from suffering a hangover the morning after a wild night (or a wine night, for you more sophisticated, yet equally as classy, folks).

Why Vitamins?

Like I’ve explained in earlier posts, alcohol is a diuretic. This means it is a substance that causes you to lose water – fast. It does this by inhibiting a hormone that’s important for your body’s water retention, which means all the water you would usually retain is lost in your urine.

Water isn’t the only thing that is lost in your urine. You also lose electrolytes, which are important to replenish and were discussed a bit in an older post, in addition to (…drum roll please…) Vitamins!

That’s right! Unfortunately, your kidneys aren’t the greatest filtration systems when you’re drinking, so they let anything that enters the nephron stay there and be converted into urine. This unfortunately means we lose nutrients and minerals, including some of the vitamins we may have circulating in our bloodstream.

Which Vitamins should we be focusing on?

The most important one, in terms of preventing hangovers, is probably B1 (also known as thiamine). B1 helps prevent the accumulation of a particular molecule, glutarate, in the brain. So after you drink, B1 is released in your urine and glutarate accumulates in your head. This has been linked to headaches. So if you take a supplement for B1 earlier before drinking and then the morning after drinking, your head should feel a little happier with whatever decisions you made. B1 also plays an important role in the metabolism of carbohydrates and proteins as well as the function of your nerves and muscles (which are a lot weaker after you have a couple drinks).

Hospitals also have these things called “banana bags” or “rally packs” that help patients with chemical imbalances or nutritional deficiencies. Yes, I’m comparing someone who experiences a hangover with a patient – take this comparison with a grain of salt. These banana bags have all of the things that can help restore a person who has lost a lot of their vitamins, fluids, and other important molecules. While you probably can’t, and shouldn’t, walk into the hospital to ask for a banana bag after going out all night, it is good to know which vitamins they would supply to you!

So here’s the list:

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin K
  • Vitamin B9 (Folic acid)
  • Vitamin B1 (Our bff a.k.a. thiamine)
  • Potassium
  • Calcium
  • Iron
  • Magnesium Sulfate

I’m not saying to go out and buy supplements for all of these things, but make sure that you are eating foods that have these vitamins in it, regardless of whether you’re planning to paint the town red or not. And if you really want to have these vitamin supplements, look into multivitamins (after asking your physician for his/her opinion).

I’m giving you a lot of information about Hangovers and Alcohol in general, but please keep in mind that everything is great in moderation. Just because you have these tools under your belt doesn’t mean it’s time to re-enact every scene from the Hangover movies. Play safe! 🙂

Hangovers – Electrolytes

Last week, we talked about what a hangover is, what its symptoms are and why hangovers cause headaches. This week, we’ll take a brief look at the importance of electrolytes in relation to hangovers.

A little recap

A little while ago, we talked about how alcohol inhibits a hormone called the antidiuretic hormone, which is the hormone that allows the body to reabsorb water from our kidneys before the kidneys send the final solution to our bladders for release. With this inhibition, not only is there not enough water reabsorbed but, because this hormone is inhibited, we urinate frequently under the influence of alcohol.

Now where do electrolytes fit in?

As a result of this frequent urination, we lose more than just water from our bodies. In addition to water, we lost electrolytes like sodium and potassium.

These electrolytes are important for several processes in our bodies, including nerve and muscle functions. When you lose a lot of electrolytes, your nerve and muscle functions are weaker as they require the electrolytes to help propagate signals. This is why you feel tired the morning after a rowdy night.

The absence of electrolytes also leaves you feeling nauseous and with an awful headache because of how dehydrated you are.

Help me, what can I do?

There was a post I did a million years ago (it was last July) where I talked a bit about electrolytes. Here’s the deal with them: where electrolytes go, water goes. So it’s time to power up with some electrolytes because the more electrolytes there are in your body, the better your body will retain water and the easier it will be to rehydrate! So grab some sports drinks, make sure it has some potassium in it, and rehydrate! You’ll feel like a normal being soon enough 🙂

Alcohol and Urine

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve talked to you about pee… a lot. But now that we’ve got all of that good stuff down pat, it’s time to get to the point of this whole thing: the effects of alcohol on urine!

Whenever you drink alcohol, you eventually feel the need to urinate frequently. But why?!

Well, last week we learned about the two hormones that are involved in regulating the production of urine: the antidiuretic hormone and aldosterone.

Interestingly enough, alcohol has an inhibitory effect on the antidiuretic hormone. This hormone is responsible for helping the body retain water by preventing the loss of water through excretory pathways, like the urine system.

The inhibition of the antidiuretic hormone results in the loss of regulating how much water is reabsorbed in the kidneys, which means that there is an uncontrollable loss of water in your urine, which is why you feel the need to urinate a lot. Your bladder is always filled because there is no reabsorption of water in the nephron of your kidneys.

So basically, alcohol reduces the amount of water reabsorbed in the kidneys, which leads to the water ending up in your bladder and putting pressure on your urinary sphincters. And then you feel the need to urinate, even if you already went to the bathroom 10 minutes ago.

One of many life’s mysteries have been solved. The inhibition of the antidiuretic hormone by alcohol is another reason why rehydration is so important for post-drinking. You lost all of the water your body would have reabsorbed when you peed, so you need to drink even more water to save your body from being in a state of dehydration.

And that’s how alcohol affects your body’s urinary system! Next week, we’ll look into hangovers.

The Urinary System – Concentration and Dilution

Last time, we talked about how the urinary system allows for our bodies to selectively reabsorbs things that were filtered out of our circulatory system. One of the molecules that can be reabsorbed is water, which is an important molecule for several reasons. In terms of the urinary system, water is important for the concentration and dilution of our urine.

The concentration and the dilution of urine is regulated by 2 hormones: Anti-diuretic hormone and Aldosterone.

The anti-diuretic hormone is released if you’re dehydrated, and literally translates to “against the passing of urine”. In situations where you are dehydrated, your blood volume will be low due to the lack of a sufficient amount of water, resulting in a lower blood pressure. To counteract this, the anti-diuretic acts to reduce the amount of water lost by the body and minimizes how much urine you make and release. This will result in a more concentrated urine that has a less water than usual and is a deeper yellow due to the higher concentration of urea.

Aldosterone is also released when you’re dehydrated. This hormone is responsible for the increase in thirst while also helping your body retain water by increasing the amount of sodium in your body. The more solute there is in your body, the more likely water is to stay with the solute (rules of osmosis, hurray!).

These hormones exert their effects primarily on the distal tubule of the nephron (after the loop of Henle), so that is where the water is reabsorbed!

So when these hormones are released, your urine will be more concentrated because water is retained by your body! Amazing, right?

Next week: We will finally get to talking about the effect of Alcohol on Urine!

Is there something you’d like to learn about? Tell me about it here and I may just do a post about it 🙂

Alcohol – Effects on the Body

I’m a university student and you can bet that I’ve seen a lot of people under the influence of alcohol. They can be loud, giggly, emotional, and sometimes really tired.

I wanted to see just what effects alcohol has on our bodies, so posts about the different effects of alcohol will be popping up every now and then. For now, I thought it would be cool to see the list of effects alcohol has been found to have on our bodies.

Some of these effects are real extremes, so take them lightly. 🙂

List of the effects of alcohol on our body

Short-term effects

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Makes you urinate more frequently (stay tuned, we’ll be talking about this one shortly!)
  • Flushed appearance
  • Reduced cognitive and motor skills(which is why you shouldn’t drink and drive!)
  • Loss of inhibitions and more confidence
  • Blurred vision (aka beer goggles) and slurred speech
  • Intense moods, e.g. aggression, elation, depression
  • Headache
  • Blackouts
  • Alcohol poisoning, which is really lethal

Diseases/conditions (in extreme cases!!!)

  • Can lead to the development of heart disease after long-term excessive use.
  • Potential cancer developing effects
  • May cause pancreatitis, which can lead to the development of diabetes
  • Liver disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Depression and/or anxiety
  • Weakened immune system
  • Anemia

Effects on our reproductive systems?!

  • Linked to damaging fertility (extreme case)
  • Small amounts of alcohol can affect a woman’s menstrual cycle
  • Alcohol can reduce the amount of testosterone a man produces
  • May affect the quality of a man’s sperm

And this is just a sampling of all of the effects of alcohol. In a couple of weeks, we’ll be talking about urination so that we can get to explore the effects of alcohol on it the week after :).

So, take it easy with eggnog for now, ladies and gents. No need to binge drink, it may just lead to some unhealthy effects!

I will be on hiatus until the first week of January, due to the holidays but Happy holidays and Happy New Year 🙂 Stay safe!

Prostate Cancer – Risks and Prevention

The end of Movember is upon us, so I thought it would be good to cover a tidbit on the risks and prevention tips in regards to prostate cancer!

Risk Factors for Prostate Cancer

There are four main categories for the risk factors:

  • Age: Men who are over the age of 40 with a family history of prostate cancer and are African Americans, for other men there is an increased risk after the age of 50. 60% of individuals with prostate cancer were found to be over the age of 65.
  • Family History: As mentioned in the point above, family history plays a role in a man’s risks for prostate cancer. Your risk is doubled if any close male blood relative has or had the disease.
  • Race: African Americans have been found to have the highest rate of prostate cancer in the world.
  • Diet: If you’re not eating healthily (i.e. all meat, no vegetables), then your risk for developing prostate cancer increases. High fiber diets with low red meat/fatty foods consumption is recommended as an alternative diet to help lower your risks.

Tips to maintain and monitor your prostate

  • After you reach the age of 40, it is recommended that you get your prostate checked every year. Prostate cancer is a slow growing cancer, so it doesn’t always display symptoms. This is why it is so important to get your prostate checked yearly.
  • Exercising regularly to stay physically active is important in maintaining your health. Also, maintaining a healthy body weight is important as obesity appears to play a role in the development of cancers
  • Watch what you eat! I’m not saying that you need to count how many fries you eat, but make sure to incorporate more vegetables and fiber into your diet and try to stay away from the red meats and fatty foods when you can! Fish is also very helpful. Some studies found that diets that were high in calcium were also linked to the development of cancers, so let’s not take too many calcium supplements (if your doctor recommends you take a calcium supplement, stick to how much they tell you to take).
  • There are also drugs that help stop the conversion of testosterone into another hormone (dihydrotestosterone), which has been found to promote prostate growth. This growth can lead to abnormal growth (in order words, too much growth).

And those are the risks and prevention tips for prostate cancer! Know your body, stay safe and have a great weekend! 🙂

 

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American Cancer Society. 2013. Can cancer be prevented?. Cancer.org. <http://www.cancer.org/cancer/prostatecancer/detailedguide/prostate-cancer-risk-factors> November 28, 2013.

Men’s Health Network. 2005. Risk factors. ProstateHealthGuide.org. <http://www.prostatehealthguide.com/cancer_risk.html> November 28, 2013.

Blisters

My roommate’s boots were extremely vicious today, causing these alarmingly large blisters to form on the back of her heels. But what allows boots, and other footwear, the right to ruin our days so easily with the formation of blisters? How do they even do it?

Let’s start with the basics: What’s a blister?

A blister is a layer of skin, more specifically one of the epidermis layers, that splits from the other layers of skin, allowing pus to squeeze between them.

Pus is the term used to describe the blood serum (without red blood cells and clotting factors) that usually consists of water, white blood cells, blood proteins in addition to a few other things (it can sometimes have bacteria, gross).

How do blisters form?

Footwear can cause blisters as a result of the friction between the two. This friction leads to the uppermost layers of the epidermis peeling away from some of the other layers, without falling off. This is is normally referred to as a Friction Blister (fitting, right?). Some footwear need to be broken into so that they don’t keep rubbing against your skin too often.

But there are things other than friction that can cause blisters too! These factors are:

  • Heat (sunburns can lead to blisters!)
  • Chemical reactions
  • Medical conditions (like cold sores or the chicken pox)

Don’t burst your bubble

Like most other things the body does, the formation of the blister is actually a good thing. If they remain intact, then the liquid in the blister will be reabsorbed after a new layer of skin has been formed underneath the blister and the old layer of skin will peel away completely.

If you pop the blister, however, it can lead  to the further infection of your skin since the unhealed area has been exposed. The raised layer of skin and the pus act as a protective shield against infections and allows your body to regenerate its new skin in peace.

However, if they hurt too much then you may need to let the pus out using sterile equipment, a sterilized needle or blade. It may hurt a lot when the pus in the blister has infectious particles or intrusive particles. If the pus is white/yellow, then it definitely contained infectious particles (this differs from healthy pus, which would be clear). If your skin around the blister is red or warm for a long time, that’s another sign of infection! If you think your blister is infected, it is best to get medical attention.

For the most part, the blisters are here to help us with our silly needs like uncomfortable (but fancy!) shoes or going out in the sun without sunscreen. They’ve got our backs, for sure, so let’s let them be.

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Breast Health

The month of October was Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so naturally I’m talking about Breast Health on the first of November. But since all diseases need year-long awareness, let me carry this one into November.

Who needs to monitor their breast health?

We all have breasts! That’s right, breasts for everyone! The only difference between female and male breasts is that male breasts lack specialized lobules, which are divisions of the breast required to aid in the production and excretion of milk. Apparently, Mother Nature thought men didn’t need to be able to produce milk, but I’m sure there are plenty of mothers out there that would argue otherwise.

Either way, there is only one difference between male and female breasts, which means that both women and men need to continuously monitor their breast health.

Why monitor breast health?

Breast cancer usually originates in the lobules of your breasts, which is probably a super great reason to keep an eye on them. And a scary one.

But I thought men don’t have lobules, so why do they get breast cancer? is probably what you’re thinking. Well, calm down, I’ll explain.

Men don’t have the lobules required to produce milk; they do, however, have lobules. The good ol’, regular lobules that give your breast its mass. So guys, girls, everyone, check your breasts regularly.

How do you do it though?

Here are some tips brought to us by the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation:

  • Know how your breasts normally look and feel
  • Look and feel for changes, such as
    • Lumps
    • Thickening of the skin
    • Nipple changes and/or discharges
    • Redness of any part of the breast
    • Skin changes (rashes, colour, etc)
    • Dimpling or puckering of the skin or nipple
    • Swelling or pain in the breast area or under arm

Make sure to look and feel at each of these regions:

  • Each whole breast
  • Under and above each breast
  • Under both arms

If you’re ever worried, contact your family physician and set up an appointment. It is always better to be safe.

Next week we’ll look at the established Risk factors for Breast cancer to keep this ball of awareness rolling. Hope your Halloween night was great! Stay safe, lovelies! 🙂

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Bruises

Whenever you run into something or take a bad fall, you’ll find a bruise in the place that hurts (so long as your skin didn’t tear!). But what causes bruising and is there a way to treat it?

What is bruising?

Bruises, also known as contusions or ecchymosis, are the localized pooling of blood outside of blood vessels. So a bruise is simply when your blood escapes your blood vessels in a tissue yet remains in a certain area.

Why do we bruise?

When a part of your body is struck, the impact causes your blood vessels (more specifically capillaries, though sometimes it’s venules) in that area to rupture. This releases blood cells close to the skin’s surface, which spread out under the skin giving it a reddish colour.

The Colour changes of a Bruise

  1. This reddish colour changes over the period of healing for a bruise. At the beginning, your bruise will be red because it will have an iron-oxygen complex.
  2. After a couple days, however, your bruise will change to a deep purple or a blue colour; this is because the oxygen will have been used up by the surrounding tissues, resulting in the loss of an iron-oxygen complex (which gave the blood its red colour).
  3. Then you bruise will slowly begin to heal; at around 5 days, your bruise may turn a green colour which is the result of hemoglobin, the protein found in our blood cells that contains iron to attract oxygen, breaking down in the blood cells that escaped.
  4. The final colour stage is a yellow or brown colour, where the body is reabsorbing the lost blood and in its last stretch of healing itself. This usually occurs after 9 or 10 days.

How to help your bruise heal

When your bruise is healing, the blood that remains in the blood vessels needs to clot to prevent the further loss of blood. To help with the clotting process, it is recommended that you rest the affected area to ensure that there is no additional stress on the tissue.

Also, apply something to cool the area, perhaps a bag of ice or an ice pack. By cooling the area, you help influence the blood vessels to constrict. By constricting, the blood vessels reduce blood flow which means that there will be less blood that is lost through the rupture. Icing the area will also help calm down any swelling that occurs, but make sure to only apply ice intermittently for a maximum duration of 20 minutes. For the first day, it’s recommended that you ice the bruise for 20 minutes, take a break from the cooling for 20 minutes, and then repeat.

Both of these methods will help prevent the spread of blood underneath the skin but outside of the blood vessels; in other words, it helps contain the blood that escaped from the blood vessel in one area.

If you don’t rest the tissue after its blood vessel ruptures, it is likely that blood will spread to other areas in the vicinity of the impacted area. This is why you will sometimes find that there is a new bruise near the original one a day or two later.

Your blood vessels will heal themselves over the roughly 9 day period and your skin should go back to normal; just remember, rest and ice up! If you don’t, it can take a lot longer for the tissue to heal.

 

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