Blood and health

Avoidable conditions

High blood pressure

Abnormally high blood pressure over a long period of time is called Hypertension and a serious medical condition.Blood pressure is measured in systolic and diastolic pressure – systolic pressure is measured while the heart contracts, diastolic while it is relaxed again. ‘Normal’ values in a healthy adult are 120/80 mmHg (1 mmHg describes the pressure exerted by a mm of fluid mercury) – or in general systolic measurements between 100-140 mmHg and diastolic values between 60-90 mmHg.

Hypertension is diagnosed when the blood pressure is constantly above 140/90 mmHg.

Primary and secondary Hypertension

There are two types of Hypertension .The first category, primary Hypertension has the characteristics that there is no obvious medical reason for the high blood pressure. 90-95% of all cases come into this category. Mostly the patients don’t experience any symptoms, the Hypertension is usually discovered during a regular check up or when being examined for other health issues.

Studies have shown that even a moderate elevation of arterial blood pressure reduces one’s life expectancy. Hypertension is called the ‘silent killer’ – it multiplies the risk for stroke, heart attack, heart failure, aneurysms, chronic kidney diseases and other severe conditions.

Around 70% of all patients who had a stroke were suffering from Hypertension; same refers to around 65% of heart attack patients.

There are genetic factors which may increase the risk for high blood pressure but the main cause is believed to be an unhealthy life style. Mainly at risk are persons who

  • Are obese and overweight
  • Eat food rich in saturated fats and salt
  • Are physically inactive
  • Smoke or drink excessively
  • Are over 55
  • Have a family history of high blood pressure, heart disease or diabetes

So if you believe to be in the risk group – check your blood pressure regularly and eliminate risk factors, be in a good health condition. Changes in your diet and physical exercising can make a big difference. See this guide on nutrition for a healthy heart If you notice your measurements are constantly above the norms consult a doctor and discuss an appropriate therapy.

Secondary Hypertension is caused by renal diseases and should be treated with medication.

Read more about high blood pressure – and be informed. Here even more information.

Diabetes

Diabetes is the name given to a group of metabolic diseases. Characteristically Diabetics have a high blood glucose (a lot of sugar in the blood) because they either can’t produce the hormone insulin which normally dissociates the sugar molecule or the body’s cells don’t respond properly to the insulin. Glucose is essential for the energy balance of our body but can’t be used without the help of insulin which ‘carries’ it into the cells.

Symptoms
  • Blurry vision
  • Excess thirst
  • Fatigue
  • Hunger
  • Urinating often
  • Weight loss

Type 1 Diabetes occurs during childhood or adolescence. The body doesn’t produce Insulin at all, it must be given through injections. Patients must monitor their blood sugar level frequently and take a very strict diet.

Only less than 10% of all diabetes cases are type 1. The majority is Type 2 Diabetes.

With type 2 Diabetes the body can’t use the produced insulin properly. This occurs in a later stage of life – mostly in people being overweight ( especially with a lot of visceral fat, ‘belly fat’) and physically inactive. Age is another risk factor for Type 2 Diabetes. Losing weight and following a well structured healthy nutrition plan is very important. The disease is a progressive one which means it usually gets worse after time. Nevertheless some people manage to control their Type 2 Diabetes through excellent discipline concerning their body weight and health so they can enjoy life without medication.

Complications
  • Hearing and vision loss or impairment
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure) and associated consequences like stroke and heart attack (see above)
  • Foot complication – the ‘diabetic foot’ sometimes must be amputated
  • Infections are more likely
  • Neuropathy – damage of the nerve system
  • Mental health – depression and anxiety are more common among diabetics

Read this excellent description of diabetes to know more! Learn about insulin and how it interacts with the glucose. Great tips for everyday life and treatment for diabetics you’ll find here.

Heart attack

A heart attack or Myocardial infarction is basically cells of the heart dying due to the lack of oxygen supply. Mostly a plaque  made of cholesterol and cells sticks to the wall of a coronary (supplying) artery and attracts blood platelets forming a blood clot that prevents blood to flow through the heart and nourish it with oxygen.

Symptoms
  • Pain in the chest, the feeling as if something heavy is sitting on it
  • This pain may spread to the back, arms, jaw, throat and head
  • Indigestion
  • Heavy sweating, shortness of breath
  • Coughing
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Dizziness, even fainting
  • Anxiety
  • Fast and sometimes irregular heart beat

It is very important to get instant professional medical help!

The affected part of the heart becomes scar tissue after the heart attack and can’t contract anymore. Therefore the heart’s ability to convey blood is lessened with a heart attack. The risk to have another myocardial infarction after the first one is very high.

Risk factors
  • High blood pressure – Hypertension
  • Diabetes
  • High cholesterol
  • Smoking
  • Family heredity – other cases in close relatives

Again we collected further reading suggestions for you. Learn what actually happens during the heart attack, how it is taken care of, why and how one should change the lifestyle after having one.

Iron deficiency

Symptoms
  • Fatigue – feeling weak and tired
  • Reduced work performance
  • In children slow social and cognitive development
  • Reduced immune activity therefore increasing number of infections
Role of iron in our body

Iron is part of hemoglobin, the protein in the red blood cells that carries oxygen through our body. In all cells the iron helps our body store and use the oxygen.

Furthermore it is part of many other enzymes, big protein structures which basically keep our body running. They digest food and are responsible for the energy balance, they regulate a huge number of processes.

Causes

Two major fields of circumstances can cause iron deficiency: Either the excess need for iron or the body’s inability to absorb the iron in food or the undersupply through nutrition. So there are the two cases of 1. the body needs more iron 2. the body gets less iron

Who is at risk?

Group 1:

  • Toddlers / children during growth periods
  • Pregnant women
  • Girls / women with heavy menstruation
  • Others who lose a lot of blood (trauma or blood donation)
Group 2:
  • Vegetarians as iron in plants etc is not as easily absorbed as that from meat
  • Substances in milk (especially Calcium) or certain ant acids (in some drugs treating ulcer problems) as well as  those in coffee and black tea reduce the body’s ability to absorb iron

Vitamin C (in most fruits like oranges) however can increase the amount of iron taken by the body if it is consumed with the same meal.

See this table indicating which foods are especially rich in iron and scroll up and down for more information on iron deficiency.

To be added soon: Malaria, AIDS/HIV

Genetic conditions

Leukemia

Leukemia is cancer of the blood cells, namely of the Leukocytes, the white blood cells (WBCs).

A mutation in the bone marrow causes the production of faulty, nonfunctional WBCs. Those are immature – in a developing stage, not ready to work properly and therefore useless for the body. Normally all cells in our body die after a specific period and are replaced by new ones which are only formed on this time to control the number of cells.

Due to the mutation this system doesn’t work in a person with Leukemia. The nonfunctional WBCs are produced in uncontrolled manner so that at some point there are more faulty than healthy cells That is when the cancer occurs (cancer is defined as unregulated, invasive and fast growth of a tissue).

There are two categories of Leukemia: Acute and chronic Leukemia. Learn about the difference here.

Complications
  • Immune system – as WBCs are an essential part of the specific defense system of our body this is not able to work properly when they are nonfunctional. One is likely to have infections; sometimes the own immune system even attacks other body cells.
  •  Blood clotting – due to the high number of WBCs there is no more space for platelets. The clotting is affected and might not work properly.
  •  Anemia – just like they crowd out platelets the enormous number of WBCs expels red blood cells which may lead to breathing difficulties, fatigue, paleness and being listless. It can become a severe medical condition.
  •  Flue like symptoms like night sweat, fever, chills, tiredness and nausea
  •  Organ enlargement of liver and spleen
  •  this may cause a swollen abdomen and pain
  •  as well as poor appetite
  •  Attacks against the central nervous system (CNS) and then headache
Treatment

Induction Therapy and chemotherapy should be considered and start as soon as possible. Being a genetic condition affecting the bone marrow Leukemia is theoretically curable through stem cell transplantation. It is very important to consult an expert!

Great resources on treatment and cure as well as the basic facts you can find here.

Thalassemia

Please see our special page for Thalassemia and learn about Thalassemia patients in Madurai

To be added soon: Haemophilia

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