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What you need to know about food allergies

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May 12 to 18 is Food Allergy Awareness Week and a great opportunity to review common symptoms, problematic foods, and available treatments.

Symptoms
Food allergy episodes typically involve two or more of the body’s systems. A reaction may affect:

• The skin. Hives, itchiness, redness, warmth, and swelling of the face, lips, and tongue.

• The respiratory system. Coughing, wheezing, difficulty swallowing, hoarseness, and hay fever-like symptoms.

• The gastrointestinal system. Nausea, vomiting, cramping, and diarrhea.

• The cardiovascular system. Pale or blue skin, dizziness, lightheadedness, fainting, and a weak pulse.

Additionally, food allergy episodes can cause a slew of other symptoms such as a metallic taste, anxiety, uterine cramps, and headaches.

In some cases, symptoms can come on suddenly, worsen quickly and lead to potentially fatal anaphylaxis. Note that while this type of reaction usually presents with symptoms like swelling, hives, and difficulty breathing, sometimes a drop in blood pressure is the only indicator. In the case of anaphylaxis, immediately call 911 and administer an epinephrine injection.

Common allergens
Food allergies affect a significant portion of the population with approximately five percent of adults and eight percent of children impacted. Though any food can trigger an allergic reaction, the vast majority of food allergies are caused by eight foods.

• Cow’s milk

• Eggs

• Peanuts

• Tree nuts

• Wheat

• Soy

• Shellfish

• Fish

In addition, many people are allergic to various fruits, vegetables, and seeds.

Treatment
The most effective way to prevent allergic reactions is to avoid contact with the known allergen. Various therapies aimed at eliminating food allergies or mitigating their symptoms are currently being studied, but they’re still at the clinical trial and pilot program stage.

To learn more, visit foodallergy.org.

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4 conditions acupuncture may help with

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Derived from traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), acupuncture is a therapeutic technique that involves stimulating specific areas of the skin using fine needles. Though it’s used to treat a wide range of conditions, research suggests it may be particularly effective for the following:

1. Seasonal allergies. Acupuncture can be used as a complementary treatment for common seasonal allergy symptoms such as sneezing and teary eyes.

2. Joint and muscle pain. Acupuncture has been shown to be an effective pain relief treatment, including in cases of arthritis and back pain.

3. Nausea and vomiting. Acupuncture can ease nausea and vomiting typically experienced while undergoing chemotherapy or recovering from surgery.

4. Headaches and migraines. Treatments may reduce headaches and migraine symptoms.

In all cases, studies have found that acupuncture provides the best results when combined with conventional treatments and when patients expect it to work. It’s also important to choose a reputable practitioner.

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Eat cherry pie, ease arthritis symptoms? (Sadly, no)

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Ok, a cherry pie analgesic is admittedly a whole lot of wishful thinking. But if you like cherries, you’re in luck! They’re listed among the foods that can help fight arthritis.

Arthritis, a catch-all term for any of 100 conditions and related diseases that affect joints and connective tissues, usually involves joint pain and stiffness. May is Arthritis Awareness Month. More than 50 million adults and 300,000 children suffer from joint pain or disease, with the most common types being osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, fibromyalgia, and gout.

While you should always consult your doctor and take any medicines as prescribed, consider these foods, which CureArthritis.com says help fight arthritis:

* Tart cherries: With anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits, tart cherries can help provide joint relief and lower the risk of flares in those with gout (one type of arthritis).

* Colorful vegetables: Sweet potatoes, carrots, red or green peppers, and squash. Peppers contain an abundant amount of vitamin C, which preserves bone and may protect cartilage.

* Seafood: Salmon, tuna, sardines, and mackerel can help decrease inflammation and protect the heart.

* Walnuts: High in alpha-linoleic acid (say that three times fast, or just say ALA), a type of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acid, walnuts can also lower cholesterol, relax blood vessels, and reduce blood pressure.

* Garlic: Use fresh garlic if you can to help fight pain, inflammation, and cartilage damage.

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Plaque psoriasis

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Psoriasis vulgaris, commonly known as plaque psoriasis, is a non-contagious and chronic autoimmune skin condition. It usually presents on the skin as raised, inflamed red lesions or plaques covered with a silvery-white scaly layer that easily flakes off.

Symptoms
Although they can manifest anywhere, lesions most commonly appear on the scalp, knees, elbows, and torso. Affected areas of skin are likely to become sensitive and prone to inflammation and bleeding. The lesions can also be painful or itchy.

The severity of psoriasis is determined based on how much of the body is affected: mild (less than three percent), moderate (from three to 10 percent), and severe (more than 10 percent).

Management
Psoriasis can’t be cured. However, the following treatments can help manage symptoms:

• Topical corticosteroids, vitamin D and moisturizers (mild cases)

• Different forms of UV phototherapy (moderate cases)

• Systemic agents, including immune suppression drugs, biologic immunomodulators and vitamin A (severe cases)

Unfortunately, phototherapy and systemic agents come with significant side effects. The former increases the risk of developing a variety of skin cancers while patients treated with the latter need to be closely monitored for medication toxicity.

To learn more about psoriasis, visit the National Psoriasis Foundation website at psoriasis.org.

Access to phototherapy
Despite its effectiveness, access to phototherapy can be limited for some people. Therefore, it’s common for patients to visit tanning facilities with booths that emit UVB light as a way to treat their psoriasis. However, it’s important to be aware that booths emitting UVA light may not be effective. Additionally, patients should always disclose any form of self-treatment to their doctor.

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Get some social distance with a bike ride

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It’s commuting and fitness melded together: Faster than walking and as much exercise as jogging. It lets you enjoy the scenery, which, depending on your time in quarantine, could mean a lot.

If you aren’t already a regular rider, you’ll want to ease yourself into cycling. Begin with half-hour rides every other day or three days a week. And practice your basic skills in an empty parking lot.

Learn to shift gears without wobbling and to look over your left shoulder while steering straight ahead.

When you take to the roads, always ride with traffic, ride in the street on the right. Use hand signals, and obey all the traffic rules.

Buying a bike

If you decide that you like riding, you may want to get a new bike. Be sure to shop for one that suits your normal riding distance. Traditional 3-speeds are good for short rides, and 10-speeds are best for longer rides. Then there are all-terrain bikes that provide an all-purpose alternative.

When riding to work, put your belongings in a backpack or tie them down in a basket or rear carrier. Carry a tool kit to fix flat tires.

You’re never too old to take up cycling and benefit from it for the rest of your life. Studies at the University of California at Davis compared three forms of exercise: Jogging, bicycling, and tennis. Middle-aged sedentary men were assigned to one of the three activities for 30 minutes a day three times a week. After 20 weeks, the joggers and cyclists had an equal improvement in endurance, and both groups lost a substantial amount of body fat.

When riding after dark, make sure you have lights on the bike, reflective tape on your helmet, and wear light-colored clothing.

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Coronavirus can mimic heart attack

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In New York City, doctors began emergency surgery on a patient who had all the signs of a heart attack. An electrocardiogram showed a dangerous heart rhythm. A blood test revealed high blood levels of troponin, a sign of damaged heart muscle.

But, on the operating table, the patient showed no blocked arteries.

What he did have, it turns out, was coronavirus.

Now recovered after a 12-day stay, the patient was one of the similar cases reported around the world.

For doctors the case is troubling.

Should the cardiac test for troponin routinely be administered to Covid-19 patients? Should heart patients immediately be tested for Covid-19?

A March study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association was conducted by doctors in Wuhan, China, where the virus was first identified. The small study was limited to a review of records of 188 patients, according to JAMA. The study found that 20 percent of the Covid-19 patients were found to have heart damage. Upon admission, Covid-19 patients without heart disease were found to show signs of heart injury, including elevated troponin, and abnormal electrocardiograms. Patients showing these symptoms had a four times greater risk of death than a Covid-19 patient with no abnormal heart readings, according to the New York Times.

Some experts believe heart problems are caused by the body’s immune and inflammatory response to the virus.

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Reducing your salt intake after 50

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As you get older, monitoring your daily sodium intake becomes increasingly important. This is because consuming too much salt can negatively impact your health and longevity. Here’s what you should know.

Daily intake
The recommended sodium intake for people between the ages of 14 and 50 is no more than 1,500 milligrams per day. This is the equivalent of less than one-third of a teaspoon.

However, once you reach your 50s, your daily consumption should be reduced to 1,300 milligrams. And after the age of 70, this amount should go down to 1,200 milligrams.

Regardless of your age, consuming more than 2,300 milligrams of salt per day can adversely affect your cardiovascular health.

Consequences
There are numerous health risks associated with a high-sodium diet. Consuming too much salt can, among other things, increase your risk of high blood pressure, stomach cancer, and heart disease. Excess levels of sodium can also damage your kidneys and affect bone density.

How to cut back
The most effective way to reduce your salt intake is to pay attention to what you eat and make conscious dietary choices. Here are a few recommendations to get you started:

• Don’t add salt when you’re cooking

• Avoid processed food and frozen meals

• Use spices, herbs, garlic, and kinds of vinegar to add flavor

• Don’t put a saltshaker on the table at mealtimes

• Limit your use of condiments and bottled salad dressings

• Opt for the low-sodium version of snacks, sauces, and soups

Don’t hesitate to consult your doctor for more information on how to manage your salt intake.

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