Mom’s weight and baby’s heart

April 27, 2010 by  

Excess weight on anyone is associated with a lot of health problems. Excess weight on a pregnant woman is associated with health problems for herself as well as for her baby. Previous research has shown that obesity among pregnant women is linked to cardiovascular problems and gestational diabetes on the maternal side that can cause pregnancy complications. Less is known about the effect of maternal obesity on the fetus but research shows that the apple does not fall far from the tree.

Women are expected to gain weight during pregnancy. However, current estimates indicate that 1 in 5 American women are obese even at the start of pregnancy and will thus gain more weight during the course of the gestation period.

A recent study showed that babies of women who were extremely overweight during pregnancy have higher chances of suffering from congenital heart defects. These are structural defects of the heart at birth and affect 8 in 1,000 newborns in the US. Congenital heart defects can be mild or life-threatening and usually require corrective surgery. Even if corrected, these defects are associated with lifetime health problems.

The researchers analyzed the health records of over 1.5 million births that took place during an 11-year period.

They compared about 7,000 women whose children were born with major heart defects to about 56,000 women whose offspring had no birth defects. The researchers calculated the mothers’ body mass index (BMI), a ratio of weight to height. A normal BMI is 18.5 to 24.9; overweight is 25 to 29.9 and obese is 30 and above. [The authors] reported that the chance of having a child with a congenital heart defect increases for obese women, and rises sharply for morbidly obese women. While moderately obese women are 11% more likely than normal-weight women to have a child with a heart defect, morbidly obese women are 33% more likely. Women who were overweight but not obese had no increased risk.

According lead author Dr. James L. Mills, researcher at Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD):

“The trend is unmistakable: The more obese a woman is, the more likely she is to have had a child with a heart defect. If a woman is obese, it makes sense for her to try to lose weight before becoming pregnant. Not only will weight loss improve her own health and that of her infant, it is likely to have the added benefit of reducing the infant’s risk for heart defects.”

Other infant conditions linked to maternal obesity are type 2 diabetes and neural tube defects.

Watching over our aging parents

December 17, 2009 by  
Filed under AGING

old woman gardenAs we approach middle age, our parents approach old age, and we are faced with the possibility that our aging parents will run into problems that comes with age. I lost both my parents years back. I come from Asia, where many countries have low life expectancy. I guess we were lucky that our Dad lived up to his 80s and our mom to her 70s. My husband’s family, like many European families, is family of mainly elderly people. European life expectancies are among the highest in the world. My husband’s parents in their 70s are both well and his grandma is approaching her 90th year with optimism. Uncles and aunts in their 70s are all healthy and active.

In Asia, it is tradition that the young take care of the elderly. In Europe, the elderly are more independent and tend to live alone. Initially, it was very difficult for me to accept this but I have learned to live with it.

However, I still believ we shouldn’t take for granted that our aging parents and grandparents can manage on their own all the time. Old age is something that the elderly people themselves may find difficult to accept. After all, old age can mean loss of independence and mobility. It is up to us to be vigilant about our elders’ health and well-being. The health experts at Mayo Clinic gives us some tips on what to watch out for as we watch over our aging parents:

Weight loss. When the elderly loses weight, this could mean a lot of things. Weight loss may be due to certain medical conditions. However, it could well be due to physical difficulties that may restrict the elderly from shopping or cooking. It could also be due to loss of sense of taste or smell that comes with the aging process. In any case, finding out the cause of weight loss is of utmost importance.

Physical appearance. We should pay attention to other parents’ appearance, their clothes, their grooming behavior, and their personal hygiene. Deviation from the normal or routine can indicate conditions that need to be investigated further.

Safety. As our parents age, their mobility and physical capabilities deteriorate. Stairs that used to easy can eventually become a difficult hurdle. We should pay more attention to health hazards (e.g. things that increase risks of falls or other injuries, fire hazards, etc.) in the elderly’s accommodations.

Behavior and social life. We should watch out for mood swings and abnormal behavior in the elderly. This will include looking for signs of depression and looking into their social life. It is well-known that an active social life keeps the elderly fit and lowers the risk for dementia. Depression, on the other hand, can be indicative of underlying medical conditions.

Mobility. Loss of mobility becomes a big risk with age. This loss can mean loss of independence for the elderly and can greatly affect all of the abovementioned problems. The elderly sometimes are the last to admit that they have problems with movement. It is up to us to monitor them and watch for signs of loss of mobility.

By watching out for these problems related to aging, we can take action to prevent the problems to worsen. Mayo Clinic recommends the following course of action:

■Share your concerns with your parents.

■Encourage regular medical checkups.

■Address safety issues.

■Consider home care services.

■Contact the doctor for guidance.

 ■Seek help from local agencies.

Don’t let health problems stop you from celebrating Christmas

December 14, 2009 by  
Filed under Featured, HEALTHCARE

christmas wreathChristmas is not only for the healthy and fit. Each of us should have something to celebrate, big or small during the holiday season, whether we are healthy or ill. When we are ill we sometimes wonder whether we have the strength and the will to celebrate during the holiday season. Here are some tips from health experts which I ahve compiled for you.

MayoClinic cancer education specialist Nicole Engler gives some tips to cancer survivors on how to enjoy the holiday season with their loved ones, which getting overstressed.

Simplify the holidays

christmas family2Live in the moment

Share the hope


Now, diabetes and holiday feasting. Those are two things that can never go together. Or can they?

Well, the American Diabetes Association thinks they can. Here are six holiday tips to guide you in your holiday events:


The holiday season is a special time for families to get together, families that may span several generations. Celebrating Christmas with loved ones who have Alzheimer’s disease is a bitter-sweet experience, when we feel robbed of memories past, presentand ure. However, we shouldn’t let the disease put a dark cloud on your holiday plans. Health experts at the MayoClinic give us the following advice to family members and caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients:

Keep it simple at home. If you’re caring for a loved one who has Alzheimer’s at home:

Be practical away from home. If your loved one lives in a nursing home or other facility:

In the coming days, I will bring you more tips about celebrating the holiday season without jeopardizing your health.

Photo credit: stock.xchng

Canines to the rescue: how dogs sniff out health problems

July 8, 2009 by  
Filed under Featured

dog1Check out how dogs can sniff out hypoglycemic attacks before they happen and how are they are being trained to detect cancer.

How binge drinking can block your arteries

January 19, 2009 by  

As part of out lifestyle change series 2009 on Battling Heart and Stroke, let’s touch once again on alcohol consumption, particularly binge drinking and its effect on your cardiovascular health. Binge drinking is the excessive consumption of alcohol. However, “excessive” is a subjective term. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines binge drinking more specifically as

“as a pattern of drinking that brings a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 grams percent or above. This typically happens when men consume 5 or more drinks, and when women consume 4 or more drinks, in about 2 hours.”

NIAAA defines “a drink” as half an ounce of alcohol, which is equivalent to either of the following:

  • one 12 oz. beer
  • one 5 oz. glass of wine
  • one1.5oz. shot of distilled spirits

Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center investigated the mechanisms that connect the dots between binge drinking and clogged arteries, and eventually atherosclerosis. It seems that the type of alcohol present in alcoholic drinks – called ethyl alcohol or ethanol – is converted by the body in acetaldehyde. When the levels of acetaldehyde in blood surge up due to binge drinking, the compound induces the immune cells monocytes to stick to the walls of the arteries, leading to inflammation and blockage of the blood vessels. The increase in monocyte adherence to the arterial walls due to binge drinking is estimated to be 700%!

People have some misconceptions about binge drinking that make them think this drinking pattern is OK. Some of these are:

  • Binge drinking is not synonymous to alcoholism. It is usually practiced irregularly, not routinely and does not yet amount to alcohol dependence.
  • Binge drinking is not the same as “risky drinking” which, according to the NIAAA has peak reaching “a peakBAC between.05grampercentand.08 grampercent.” It is also not the same as a “bender” which according to the NIAAA, refers to sustained heavy drinking for 2 or more days.
  • Although binge drinking is always associated with college drinking, 70% of binge drinking cases actually involve people older than 25 years old, according to a national survey cited by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
  • Many people think that binge drinking, if done on an irregular, short-term pattern, does not have long-term health consequences. This is, however, untrue, as many research studies have shown.

Aside from blocking arteries as described above, binge drinking is also linked to the following health problems:

 Photo credit: stock.xchng

Protecting yourself and your family from BPA

October 1, 2008 by  



















Ever since the bad news about bisphenol A (BPA) broke, I have become more and more wary of plastics. Unfortunately, I’ve found out that we can’t seem to do without plastic in our daily lives. If I have to get rid of all the plastic stuff at home, my kitchen would be more than half-empty. So I decided to tackle BPA head on and try to know as much as I can about the enemy. If you remember, BPA is used in the manufacture of plastic and has been found to leach out of plastic containers into our food and drinks. The latest reports indicate that BPA is linked to a lot of health problems ranging from cancer, behavioural and neurological disorders in children and cardiovascular diseases. In this post, I share with you what I know about BPA and the ways to avoid it.

Know your plastics

According to wikipedia, there are 7 classes of plastics used as packaging. If you turn over your plastic cup, you will see a triangular recycling symbol formed by 3 bent arrows. At the center of the symbol is a number and below the symbol are letters. The number at the center is the plastic class type and the letters are usually abbreviations of the plastic names.

I’ve learned that not all plastics contain BPA. The plastics we should pay attention to are plastic Type 3 and plastic Type 7. Type 3 is polyvinyl chloride, abbreviated as PVC or C while Type 7 is polycarbonate and therefore identified as PC but also sometimes with the letter O – short for “other”. All Type 3 and most of Type 7 used BPA during their polymerization process.

The other classes of plastics do not use BPA during manufacturing and can therefore be considered BPA-free. So next time you buy a baby bottle or a sippy cup, you know what to look for.

Look at your food packaging

Not all packaging are marked with plastic symbols. Some cans are lined with epoxy resin that contains BPA. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) gave some recommendations with regards to packaging, as follows:

  • Use fresh or frozen rather than canned food.
  • Drink soda contained in BPA-free polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles. PET bottles are non-reusable but easily recyclable.
  • Plastic packaging materials are sometimes not labelled. If you are sure of the plastic type, go for foodstuff packed in aseptic cardboard boxes.

Watch out what you do with plastics in the kitchen

  • Do not watch BPA-containing plasticware in the dishwasher.
  • Do not place hot hotwater inside plasticware.
  • Do not use BPA-containing plasticware in the microwave over.
  • Check your shrink wraps and freezer bags. The plastic type should be on the packaging.
  • Better still, get rid of all Type 3 and Type 7 plastics from your kitchen. Other types of plastics are simply safer.

Download this helpful brochure from CSPI!

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.