BlessWorld Foundation International

Affecting the World Through Health
A Global Health Initiative

Archive for March, 2019

Anemia is the most common blood condition in the United States, affecting about 5.6% of the population. In Canada, approximately 3% of the population had anemia in 2015. People at higher risk of anemia include those with increased need for red blood cells such as young children, pregnant women and people with chronic diseases as well as people who suffer blood loss from internal bleeding, accident and menstruation. Common symptoms of anemia include fatigue, weakness, dizziness, drowsiness, irregular heartbeats, pale skin, cold and in severe cases, heart failure. There are various types of anemia but the most common types include:

Anemia is a medical condition marked by a lack of, or decrease in the number of red blood cells and hemoglobin. It is a disorder in which the number of red blood cells or their oxygen-carrying capacity is insufficient to meet the body’s daily physiologic needs. Red blood cells are produced in the bone marrow and their lifespan is about 120 days. They play an important role in human health by carrying fresh oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. Hemoglobin is the protein contained in the red blood cells that makes them red and binds or carries the oxygen. Red blood cells also remove carbon dioxide from the body, transporting it to the lungs for exhalation. When the body has abnormal or insufficient healthy red blood cells or hemoglobin, the cells and organs in the body will not get enough oxygen to function properly.

  1. Iron-deficiency anemia: The body does not make sufficient red blood cells when the mineral, iron is lacking. Iron-deficiency anemia is the most common form of anemia and may be caused by low-iron diet, loss of blood, or inability to absorb enough iron from food.
  2. Sickle cell anemia: This is an inherited form of anemia where the red blood cells are abnormally shaped. In this disease, the red blood cells are shaped like sickles or half-moons rather than the normal indented circles. This change in shape makes the cells get stuck and unable to move smoothly through blood vessels causing blockage in blood flow. This blockage may cause acute or chronic pain and can also lead to infection or organ damage. These sickle cells also die much faster than normal blood cells- in about 10 to 20 days instead of 120 days, causing a shortage of red blood cells.
  3. Normocytic anemia: This type of anemia is caused by insufficient amount of red blood cells to meet the body’s needs. Diseases that cause this type of anemia are usually long-term conditions, like kidney disease, cancer, or rheumatoid arthritis.
  4. Hemolytic anemia: This occurs when the red blood cells are destroyed by an abnormal process in the body before their lifespan is over. As a result, the body doesn’t have enough red blood cells to function, and the bone marrow cannot make enough to keep up with the body’s demand.
  5. Fanconi anemia: This is a rare inherited disorder in which the bone marrow is unable to make enough of any of the components of blood, including red blood cells. Children born with this disorder often have serious birth defects because of the problems with their blood and may develop leukemia.
  6. Aplastic anemia: This form of anemia occurs when there is a significant reduction in the number of stem cells or absence of these cells. Aplastic anemia can either be inherited or occur without any apparent cause. It can also occur when the bone marrow is injured by medications, radiation, chemotherapy, or infection.
  7. Thalassemia: This occurs when red blood cells are unable to grow and mature properly. Thalassemia is an inherited condition typically affecting people of Mediterranean, African, Middle Eastern, and Southeast Asian descent. The condition varies in severity from mild to life-threatening, where the most severe form is called Cooley’s anemia.

Unfortunately, the genetic and inherited forms of anemia cannot be treated. However, iron-deficiency anemia, which is the most common type, can be prevented or treatable with high iron diet and iron supplements. The risk of iron-deficiency anemia can be reduced by choosing iron-rich foods such as red meat, pork, poultry, seafood, beans, dark green leafy vegetables, iron-fortified cereals, breads and pastas. Additionally, foods containing vitamin C such as citrus juice are important to enhance iron absorption.

Clinical depression is a global health issue characterized by complex mood disorders which results from various factors such as genetic predisposition, personality, gender, stress level and brain chemistry. Depression is a common but serious medical illness that negatively affects feelings, thoughts and actions. It is not merely a feeling of unhappiness or mood swings that can be gotten over, but a health issue that can be clinically diagnosed. Fortunately, it is also treatable. Depression leads to a lack of interest and loss of fulfillment in activities that an individual once enjoyed. It can also lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems which decrease a person’s ability to function both at work and home. Some forms of depression develop under specific circumstances, examples include:

  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD): This form of depression is caused by the weather and time of the year.
  •  Postpartum depression: This occurs in women, following the birth of a child. Over 10 per cent of women will experience this type of depression.
  • Persistent depressive disorder (Dysthymia): This is characterized by a constant moodiness with moderate symptoms of depression.

Symptoms of depression can vary from mild to severe and may include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Loss of interest in work and hobbies
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Pessimism
  • Low self-esteem
  • Irritability
  • Hallucinations or delusions

An estimated 6.7% of adults experience depression at some point in their life in any given year. Additionally, one in six people (16.6%) will experience depression at some time in their life. Depression is most common among teens, young adults in their mid-20s and women. Although there is no single cause of depression, some risk factors include:

  • Family history of depression
  • Psychological vulnerability to depression
  • Biological factors such as imbalances in brain chemistry
  • Stress level
  • Personality and gender

There are no known laboratory tests for depression; however, health care professionals may carry out some tests to rule out conditions with similar symptoms. Questions about feelings, thoughts, behavior, history of mental health problems, physical health problems and routine activities are used determine whether a person may have depression so as to establish or make a diagnosis. Depression is among the most treatable of mental disorders. About 85% of people who suffer from depression eventually respond well to treatment and almost all patients gain some relief from their symptoms. Commonly used treatments are:

  • Psychoeducation
  • Psychotherapy
  • Pharmacotherapy such as antidepressants
  • Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)
  • Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS)
  • Magnetic seizure therapy (MST)

These treatments are used either individually or in a combination to increase their effectiveness. Clinical depression needs to be managed over the course of a person’s life to prevent recurrence. It can be effectively managed and controlled by combining a healthy lifestyle with regular treatments.

A healthy diet promotes growth and health at all stages of life- foetus, child, adult and old age. The role of nutrients and vitamins in fetal development and growth cannot be overemphasized. Eating a healthy, balanced diet in pregnancy is particularly helpful in supplying the necessary vitamins and minerals needed for baby formation and nutrition. In addition to a balanced, healthy diet, some vitamins are so important that they have to be supplemented by taking multivitamins to provide adequate amounts for the body. These extra vitamins also help to bridge any nutritional gaps in diet and should be started as early as possible to be effective. Understanding which nutrients are most needed as well as where to find them prepares expecting mothers and helps them optimize the health of their baby.

The first 28 days of foetal development represent one of the most crucial periods as the spine, spinal cord and brain begin to develop. Consequently, the essential prenatal vitamins must be taken in the required dose during this period to aid these developments.

There is actually no special formula for a healthy pregnancy diet; in fact, the basic principles of healthy eating remain binding and constant- fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and healthy fats. However, some nutrients and vitamins are needed in more doses than even a healthy, balanced diet can supply. In such cases, these vitamins deserve special attention and should be supplemented. They include:

  1. Folate and folic acid: Folate is a B vitamin that helps prevent neural tube defects, birth defects, premature birth, serious abnormalities of the brain and spinal cord. Its synthetic form- folic acid is found in supplements and fortified foods. The recommended daily intake is 400 – 800 micrograms before conception and throughout pregnancy. Sources include fortified cereals, leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits and dried beans.
  2. Calcium: Calcium is needed for strong bones and teeth. It also helps the circulatory, muscular and nervous systems run normally. Up to 1,000 milligrams are needed daily for pregnant women while pregnant teenagers need up to 1,300 milligrams. Sources include dairy products, fortified fruit juices, broccoli and kale.
  3. Vitamin D: Vitamin D, like calcium also helps build foetal bones and teeth. About 600 international units (IU) are needed daily. Sources include fatty fish, such as salmon, and fortified milk and orange juice.
  4. Protein: Protein is crucial for foetal growth throughout pregnancy. Recommended intake amount is 71 grams a day. Protein sources include Lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans and peas, nuts, seeds and soy products.
  5. Iron: The body uses iron to make hemoglobin, a protein in the red blood cells that carries oxygen to tissues. Iron is needed to make more blood to supply oxygen to the growing baby. During pregnancy, the need for iron should be doubled because its deficiency causes anaemia, fatigue, premature birth, low birth weight and postpartum depression. About 27 milligrams is needed daily. Sources include lean red meat, poultry, fish, iron-fortified breakfast cereals, beans and vegetables.

Other prenatal vitamins include: Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin B12, Iodine, Zinc, Niacin, Thiamine, and Riboflavin. It is important to consult a healthcare professional who would recommend the specific vitamins and in what doses they should be taken.

Substance misuse or addiction or drug dependence is a major public health problem worldwide. In 2012, a total of 2.8 million Canadians aged 15 and older reported symptoms consistent with major disorders and dependence on alcohol, cannabis or other drugs. Compared to other drugs (4.0%), Cannabis (6.8%) had the highest number of users in Canada. Addiction or dependence on drugs is a chronic, relapsing disorder that causes significant cost on individuals, families, businesses, communities, and nations. Individuals suffering addiction usually engage in destructive and criminal behavior.

Drug rehabilitation or drug rehab services are a collection of programs and services which involve the processes of medical or psychotherapeutic treatment for drug dependency or addiction. These drugs usually include psychoactive substances such as prescription drugs and street drugs such as cocaine, heroin or amphetamines. The overall aim of these services is to enable patients to confront their dependence on substances and discontinue use in order to improve their health, well being, quality of life and avoid the psychological, legal, financial, social, and physical consequences that result from drug abuse.

Treatment, interventions, programs and services can aid these individuals stop using addictive drugs and reduce the consequences of addictive drug use on the rest of society. They enable patients become abstinent and to improve functioning through sustained recovery by reducing drug use, improving the addict’s ability to function, and minimizing medical consequences. Various methods of treatment are used in drug rehabilitation including medication for depression, expert counseling, spiritual healing, focus groups and experience sharing.

Other treatment options include therapeutic communities, behavioral treatments, medications (e.g., methadone, levo-alph-acetyl-methadol (LAAM), or naltrexone for heroin addiction), outpatient drug free programs, hospitalization, psychiatric programs, twelve-step recovery programs, and treatment that combine two or more of these options. Providing treatment for chronic drug users is both compassionate public policy and a sound investment. For example, Drug Abuse Treatment Outcome Study (DATOS) in the United States found that outpatient methadone treatment reduced heroin use by 70 percent, cocaine use by 48 percent, and criminal activity by 57 percent. It also increased employment by 24 percent.