Category: Disease

What’s Actually Bad For Our Skin?

In today’s age, it’s hard to keep up with what things are good for our skin, bad for our skin, or don’t affect it at all. Skin care is tied into beauty, and thus many people are often searching for a “secret trick” or “hack”. Due to this, many different products and techniques have been recommended. Many of these approaches have are rumored to provide drastic improvements in one’s skin clarity, texture, and overall health. Alongside these claims, we see many people generating fear around certain exposures, and it’s important to examine what can actually harm our skin.

There are many negative things in our lives that can have unexpected side effects. Stress, for one, can play a large role in the health of one’s skin. Experiencing excessive stress can prompt new outbreaks or aggravate pre-existing conditions, like psoriasis, eczema and hives. As many already know, smoking is a habit with many negative health outcomes. However, few often attribute smoking to skincare, and are unaware of the damage it can cause. Nicotine reduces blood flow to one’s skin, and thus smoker’s often have skin which is more wrinkled, thin and less likely to heal if injured.

Alongside these negative factors, there are those which are a bit more complicated. UV rays – coming from sunshine – are a mixed bag. A little sunlight is good for you, it prompts one’s skin to make Vitamin D, which is essential to many bodily processes. However, without proper protection , sunlight can be extremely damaging to skin. Excess exposure to UV rays can cause mutations in your DNA, which can later lead to cancer. Because of this, it’s important to wear protective sunscreen, clothing, and protective gear when exposing oneself to strong sunlight for long hours.









Debate Over Genetic Testing

Genetic testing is one of the newest and most powerful medical advancements of our time. With this privilege, comes promising opportunities to predict, diagnose, treat and even cure certain diseases. One of the most common applications of this testing is in breast cancer patients. Understanding a patient’s genetic lineage can tell doctors a lot about the cancer they are treating.

Some sources  insist that all breast cancer patients should be genetically tested – although there is still quite a bit of debate over this stance. Although there are a lot of perks to genetic testing, some believe it’s an elaborate standard to adhere by, and don’t believe that all providers can or will offer this option.

These conflicting messages are confusing, and creates dynamics which are difficult for patients to navigate. Despite some disagreement, a number of well-respected scientists and clinicians insist that these tests can save cancer patients’ lives.  Dr. Mary-Claire King is a renowned geneticist who discovered the BRCA gene mutation in 1990 and its links to breast cancer. She is one of the many scientists who has come out to speak about the importance of genetic testing in cancer patients. She advocates for the utility of these tests, and insists they are necessary to help prevent and reduce risk of cancer threats.



Food for Thought: How Our Diet Affects Our Mental Health

Few would argue that a healthy diet can provide a wide variety of physical health benefits, such as reducing risk of heart disease, protecting against certain cancers, and preventing obesity and type 2 diabetes. However, few have talked about the potential mental health benefits that may go hand-in-hand with a nutritious diet. Now, research is showing that a diet full of fruits and vegetables may influence an individual’s life satisfaction.

The study was based in Australia and followed a large cohort of nearly 40,000 individuals who increased fruit and vegetable consumption. Over the course of five years, this work showed that individuals reported increased mental well-being and life satisfaction as they ate more fruits and veggies.

Although this study is quite recent, the idea that a healthy diet might impact our mental health is not new. Mental Health America, a community-based nonprofit, has been promoting similar messages for quite some time. Their group has shown that involving key nutrients in your diet and avoiding negative substances can have huge impacts on mental health. These messages promote a healthy diet, but do not advocate that this is curative or causative. It’s important to take these things into consideration when choosing a meal, and to never discount the power of nutrition.



FDA Crackdown on Misleading Dietary Supplements

The United States is in the midst of a scientific wave. We are lucky to live during a time where new and effective medicines have changed the way we can prevent and treat chronic disease. However,  we have begun to see that fraudulent claims and products accompany this innovation. Amongst these deceptive products, dietary supplements are amongst the guiltiest parties.

The dietary supplement industry is extremely prosperous, with a market size of nearly $112 billion. Although some dietary supplements are effective, there are many which provide no benefit or can even cause harm to a consumer. Many false products make sweeping claims which have absolutely no backing evidence – such as dietary supplements which advertise that they can prevent Alzheimer’s Disease. Dietary supplements do not have to be reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before hitting the market. They can only be taken down afterwards if they have shown to cause adverse health outcomes or if the product is fake/misleading.

Just this week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released a statement regarding just this. This press announcement calls for a new, massive regulation of dietary supplements. The FDA is addressing this issue because they believe ineffective dietary supplements can cause a great deal of harm when people take them as alternatives to approved treatments. This new statement provides a hopeful potential of establishing a more honest and less misleading supplement market.



Blame it on the Alk(aline)?

These days, it’s hard to keep up with what’s truly “good” or “bad” for your health. However, through all the changing trends, one thing has been steadfast: water. Water is one of the most necessary and obvious components for healthy living. Now, people are turning their eyes towards alkaline water, wondering if there’s a way to make drinking water even more healthy.

Alkaline water is just like regular water, except it has a higher pH level. pH levels dictate how acidic or non-acidic (basic) your water is. If it has a higher pH level – like alkaline level – it’s more basic than regular water. Alkaline water has salts and metals which make it unique from normal drinking water. It’s more common than you think, brands like Smart Water and Essentia offer alkaline water products.

So why drink it? Many sources claim drinking alkaline water has a number of health benefits. According to those who support it, alkaline water is rich in antioxidants, can help balance pH levels, lead to better hydration, boost the immune system, and many more benefits. However, like many nutritional fads, there is still not conclusive evidence these claims. And like anything going into your body, it’s important to consume everything in moderation.


State of Emergency: Measles Outbreak in Washington State

Washington State declared a state of emergency on Friday, January 25. At the time, officials had confirmed 26 cases of measles in Clark County, Washington. On Monday, just three days later, there were 36 confirmed cases and 11 suspected cases. The number of affected people had nearly doubled—and health officials expect it to get worse before it gets better.

Measles is dangerous. One in four people who get measles will be hospitalized. Some will experience brain swelling and lasting disability. Some will die.

Measles is also incredibly infectious. Around 90% of unvaccinated individuals who are exposed to the disease will get it. In an unvaccinated population, one person can infect up to eighteen others. For comparison, a person infected with Ebola usually infects two others.

In vaccinated populations, though, cases of measles are rare—the vaccine is 97% effective. In fact, low rates of immunizations are directly related to the severity of this outbreak. And the Disney Land Outbreak in 2014. And the chicken-pox outbreak that occurred earlier this year in Asheville.

So why aren’t people getting vaccinated?

The answer is complex. The United States holds a core belief in autonomy, or that a person ought to be able to do with their body what they want to without unreasonable interference. Our country also has a core belief in religious freedom; people ought to be able to practice their religion as they see fit.

These two tenants form the bedrock of most anti-vaccine arguments. If a person doesn’t want to have their body injected with a vaccine because it violates their philosophical, moral, or religious beliefs, then the government cannot force them to.

This, combined with an increase in vaccine myths (FYI, the MMR vaccine DOES NOT CAUSE AUTISM!), has led to more and more people choosing not to get vaccinated. When the percentage of the population that is vaccinated drops below a certain level, outbreaks like this one are almost a guarantee.

Of course, the solution is simple. Get vaccinated. Vaccinate your kids. Advocate to remove loopholes to vaccine requirements. If you hear (or see) people spreading misinformation about vaccines, correct them.

Not sure what’s vaccine fact and vaccine fiction? Check out this article:

We can rebuild the so-called “herd immunity” that protects us from outbreaks like the one in Washington.


For more information, check out these sites:

The Washington State Measles Outbreak

Refusing Vaccinations

CDC + Measles

Herd Immunity

Brown Fat is Good Fat

Picture this: near-freezing temperatures, more darkness than daylight, and the pain of breathing in brittle, cold air. These conditions sound pretty terrible for exercise, right? Think again. Taking the time to exercise outside during winter can have a range of benefits, as long as one is also mindful of the risks.

Research has shown that exercising outside in cold weather (50°F or colder) can actually be beneficial for your health in a number of ways. This experience has been shown to boost one’s metabolism. Exercising in cold weather increases the production of brown fat by 45%, which is a type of fat that is highly calorie-burning. Having more of this type of fat generally aids metabolic function, and can contribute to active weight loss. Alongside this, it has been shown that outdoor recreation is in general a healthier choice than the indoor alternative. Studies have found that those who exercise outdoor regularly have lower risks for cardiovascular disease.

These studies are promising, but it’s always important to keep in mind the risks of exercising in frigid weather. Those who have a history of heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, and/or sedentary lifestyle should be extra careful during these conditions, as exercising in cold weather can lead to higher risk of heart attacks.


Designer Babies: Questions of Ethics

Imagine a world with no disease. No one gets cancer, birth defects are a thing of the past, and STDs like HIV have been eliminated. At the end of 2018, Chinese scientist He Jiankui announced that we were one step closer to this reality. He had successfully created genetically altered babies, who were, he claimed, resistant to HIV. This announcement threw the scientific community into an uproar. It reignited a decades old debate over the role of eugenics amid our increasing ability to alter—and select—the human genome to create the “perfect” human. Some countries banned all gene-editing in response, pending review. The ethical implications of gene-editing are complex, and we can no longer delay discussing them. These are some of the questions that you should be asking:
1) Does creating “designer babies” increase disadvantages or discrimination within a society? In other words, if we can create the “perfect” human, how are the less than perfect humans affected?
2) When should we allow gene-editing in humans? Gene editing that removes a devastating disease may be acceptable. What about gene editing that determines eye-color or intelligence? Where do we draw the line?
3)What are the population-level implications of gene-editing human embryos?
4) What are the potential benefits of gene-editing in humans? Beyond addressing illness, could gene-editing also be used to change personality traits?
5) Who gets to decide whether gene-editing is permissible? What gives them the authority to do so? Who else deserves a say?
6) What are the appropriate legal measures in favor or against gene editing in humans?
Check out these links for more in-depth discussion of these issues:

A Lack of Vacc’s in this “Mild” Flu Season

Every year, our immune systems are exposed to a new strain of the flu. The flu evolves and changes constantly. This is why we have to get a new vaccine or “flu shot” every year. However, as the viruses change, so does the severity of their disease.

The impact of the flu virus is unpredictable, and that is why the CDC (and many other public health professionals) will always advise people to get their flu shot.  However, this year, a majority of adults are refusing to get their shot. A survey from mid-November showed that only 43% of 18+ adults have gotten their flu shots in the US.

From this survey, many of the people who have not been vaccinated claim they do not intend to get vaccinated. People seem to believe this is a “mild” flu season – as the death toll is not comparable to the high burden from the previous year. However, there is no way to know if the flu itself is actually “mild” this early in the season.




Drug Overdose & Suicide Rates Climb in the US While Life Expectancy Falls

Despite being leaders in medical innovation, the United States is often criticized for healthcare problems that don’t exist in other developed nations. Lately, increasing rates of suicide and drug overdose have taken a toll on our population’s life expectancy. Recent government reports from the CDC have shown a decrease in life expectancy from 2016 to 2017.


In 2017, approximately 70,000 yearly deaths were attributed to drug overdosing, which is almost 7,000 more than the year before. In addition to this, suicide rates had increased by nearly 4% from the previous year. Both of these statistics are alarming and disturbing. For while we are constantly advancing science and medicine to create novel disease treatments and cures, we often are ignoring preventable public health crises.


These statistics contribute to the evidence that drug overdose is a mishandled and somewhat neglected epidemics in the United States. Other sources suggest that mental health has been on the decline in the United States for years. Taken as a whole, these findings highlight the need for more attention to these preventable morbidities and mortalities.