How to Prevent Arteriosclerosis—and Possibly Reverse It

We’re here to break down arteriosclerosis for you and explain what a diagnosis means for your heart and your health. We’ll also tell you how to treat and prevent arteriosclerosis as well as the latest news from doctors working to find a way to reverse arteriosclerosis.

Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States, and the majority of these deaths can be attributed to arteriosclerosis. But what is arteriosclerosis, and can it be prevented or possibly even reversed? To find the answers to these questions, we’re going to take a deeper look at this public health problem as well as its causes, risk factors, and treatments. So come with us as we uncover how to prevent arteriosclerosis and protect both your heart and your life.

What Is Arteriosclerosis?

Arteriosclerosis is a condition that results when the arteries that carry blood away from the heart thicken and lose their flexibility. This process occurs slowly—usually over the course of many years—and can eventually lead to restricted blood flow.

If arteriosclerosis progresses to the point where the flow of blood becomes obstructed—as may be seen with coronary artery disease, carotid artery disease, and peripheral artery disease—organs and tissues can become starved of oxygen and nutrients. And this can lead to serious complications like heart attack (from damage to the heart muscle), heart failure, stroke, and gangrene.

Arteriosclerosis Causes and Risk Factors

The exact cause of arteriosclerosis is still unknown, but it’s thought that the condition is related to damage to artery walls. In addition, certain risk factors are known to put an individual at greater risk of developing the disease. These include:

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Elevated triglycerides
  • Tobacco use
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Inflammation

Types of Arteriosclerosis

Many people use the terms arteriosclerosis and atherosclerosis interchangeably, but arteriosclerosis is actually a broad category that encompasses three specific medical conditions:

  • Atherosclerosis
  • Arteriolosclerosis
  • Mönckeberg medial calcific sclerosis


Atherosclerosis occurs when substances like fat and cholesterol build up on the surface of artery walls. This plaque buildup results in narrowing of the lumen, or opening, which in turn leads to thickening and hardening of the arteries. Of the three types of arteriosclerosis, atherosclerosis is the most common.


Arterioles are small blood vessels that branch out from the main artery and lead to capillaries. These small vessels are responsible for regulating both blood flow and blood pressure. And like the arteries themselves, arterioles can also become hardened and thickened.

Mönckeberg Medial Calcific Sclerosis

The most benign form of arteriosclerosis is Mönckeberg medial calcific sclerosis, or Mönckeberg arteriosclerosis, which is most commonly seen in older adults and individuals with diabetes or end-stage renal disease. This type of arteriosclerosis is characterized by diffuse calcium deposits within the middle layer of an artery. A finding of Mönckeberg medial calcific sclerosis is generally considered incidental, as the calcification doesn’t affect the lumen of the blood vessel.

Symptoms of Arteriosclerosis

Because arteriosclerosis develops slowly—sometimes beginning in childhood—most people don’t know they even have it until an artery becomes so narrowed that blood supply is reduced to organs and tissues or a blood clot breaks off and causes a heart attack or stroke.

However, if symptoms are present, they tend to indicate which arteries are affected. For example, symptoms may include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Shortness of breath
  • Temporary vision loss
  • Slurred speech
  • Chest pain
  • Leg pain while walking
  • Kidney failure

Diagnosing Arteriosclerosis

To diagnose arteriosclerosis, your health care provider will first perform a physical exam to evaluate for signs of the disease—for example, weak pulse, sounds indicating turbulent blood flow, or decreased blood pressure in an extremity.

Depending on the findings, your health care provider may then decide to conduct a series of tests. These can include:

  • Blood tests: Elevated blood sugar or blood cholesterol levels can indicate an increased risk of arteriosclerosis.
  • Electrocardiogram: An EKG is a noninvasive test that measures the electrical activity of the heart. This test can detect whether a heart attack is currently in progress or has previously occurred.
  • Ultrasound: This noninvasive procedure uses sound waves to measure both blood pressure and flow of blood in the arteries.
  • Exercise stress test: This test measures the heart’s response to stress during exercise and can identify abnormalities in blood pressure and heart rate and rhythm as well as symptoms such as shortness of breath and chest pain.
  • Ankle-brachial index: This test compares blood pressure in the ankle with blood pressure in the arm to look for differences that may indicate a buildup of plaque.
  • Cardiac catheterization: This invasive procedure uses a flexible tube called a catheter to inject dye into the heart, which is then imaged using coronary angiography to look for areas of blockage as the dye moves through the heart and its major vessels.

Arteriosclerosis Risk Factors, Treament And Prevention

Treating and Reversing Arteriosclerosis

If you’ve been diagnosed with arteriosclerosis, treatment will depend on the severity of your condition. In all but the most severe cases, treatment usually consists of lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and managing stress.

However, in more advanced cases, medications may be prescribed as well. The most commonly prescribed medications for arteriosclerosis are:

  • Cholesterol-lowering drugs: These medications work by lowering levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the so-called “bad” cholesterol. The most commonly prescribed drugs for lowering LDL cholesterol are statins.
  • Anti-platelet medications: These medications help keep platelets from clumping together and forming blood clots. The most widely prescribed medication for this purpose is aspirin.
  • Blood pressure medications: Several types of medications may be used to lower blood pressure levels. Beta blockers, angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, calcium channel blockers, angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs), and diuretics are all commonly used for this purpose.

In situations in which arteriosclerosis has advanced to the point where symptoms are severe or a blockage has become limb- or life-threatening, surgery will likely be required. Some of the most commonly used procedures to treat arteriosclerosis are:

  • Angioplasty and stent placement: In this procedure, a tiny balloon is used to widen the blocked artery, followed by placement of a wire mesh tube to help keep the artery open.
  • Coronary artery bypass graft: A CABG involves using healthy arteries from the chest wall or veins from the legs to bypass blocked coronary arteries.
  • Endarterectomy: This procedure is most often performed on the carotid arteries in the neck and involves surgically removing plaque buildup from the artery walls.

How to Prevent Arteriosclerosis

Preventing arteriosclerosis comes down, in large part, to making healthy lifestyle choices. While you may not be able to do anything about a family history of heart disease, there are a variety of lifestyle changes that can help prevent or slow the progression of the disease. These include:

  • Eating a heart-healthy diet: The cornerstone of good health is a nutritious diet, and studies have shown that diets that emphasize fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains and reduce or eliminate saturated and trans fats, sugar, artificial sweeteners, and refined carbohydrates can help lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar and control weight.
  • Increasing physical activity: Regular exercise not only builds muscle, improves circulation, and increases oxygen levels in the blood, but also encourages the body to perform its own form of bypass surgery by actually creating new blood vessels to bypass blocked arteries. When upping your physical activity, a good number to shoot for is 30 minutes a day most days of the week. And to make this easier to accomplish, exercise can be broken up into 10-minute blocks.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight: If you’re overweight, losing just a few pounds can lead to decreases in blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels—an achievement that can be made easier by simply eating a heart-healthy diet and increasing physical activity.
  • Quitting smoking: The chemicals in tobacco smoke have a negative effect on every organ and tissue in the body, including the endothelium that lines the walls of your blood vessels. Smoking is also one of the most preventable risk factors for arteriosclerosis, and quitting can significantly reduce the progression of the disease.
  • Managing stress: Studies have shown that chronic stress triggers an immune response that leads to inflammation, long-term exposure to which is associated with the development of disease, including arteriosclerosis. What’s more, a 2014 study found that chronic stress changes the nature of arterial plaque, making it even more likely to break off and cause a heart attack or stroke. However, practicing relaxation techniques like meditation, deep breathing, and yoga can help reduce the stress hormones that contribute to these negative changes.

Incorporating more amino acids into your diet can also help you in your efforts to maintain a healthy lifestyle, as these building blocks of life are involved in almost every biological process, including:

  • Neurotransmitter production
  • Muscle growth and repair
  • Blood flow regulation
  • Energy production
  • Immune system regulation
  • Fat metabolism
  • Blood sugar regulation

As you might assume from this list, amino acids likely play a role in the development of arteriosclerosis as well. In fact, a 2015 study found that a greater intake of dietary amino acids was associated with a concomitant reduction in both blood pressure and arterial stiffness in women.

And a 2018 study demonstrated that amino acids not only assist the body in efficiently metabolizing fats, but one amino acid in particular, leucine, also has the ability to inhibit the accumulation of lipids, which has a direct impact on the development of arteriosclerosis.

Both of these studies provide exciting evidence of the role amino acids may play in the treatment and prevention of arteriosclerosis. However, it’s important to remember that amino acids work in concert with one another, so to ensure the best results, always look for a formula that contains a balanced mixture of all nine essential amino acids.

What You Need to Know About Bed Bugs, Kissing Bugs and Chagas Disease

Many of us heard “don’t let the bed bugs bite” throughout childhood. Believe it or not, bed bugs are real. Kissing bugs are real too, and they are not as sweet as they sound. Both bugs spread Chagas disease, which is no laughing matter.

“Don’t let the bed bugs bite.” Many of us heard this phrase growing up and probably thought of it as simply a silly yet loving thing our parents said while tucking us into bed. But bed bugs are real, and they’re no laughing matter. And their larger cousins, the kissing bugs? Well, they’re real, too, and not nearly as sweet as they sound. That’s because both bed bugs and kissing bugs have the ability to spread Chagas disease (American trypanosomiasis).

So join us as we uncover the role bed bugs and kissing bugs play in Chagas disease and how you can protect yourself and your family from this potentially serious infectious disease.

What Is Chagas Disease?

Chagas disease is an inflammatory disease caused by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi. The disease is commonly spread through the feces and urine of infected triatomine bugs, also known as kissing, or assassin, bugs. These bloodsucking insects pick up the T. cruzi parasite when they ingest the blood of infected animals (or people). Animals that have been known to contract Trypanosoma cruzi infection from kissing bugs include:

  • Dogs
  • Opossums
  • Woodrats
  • Armadillos
  • Coyotes
  • Mice
  • Raccoons
  • Skunks
  • Foxes

Kissing bugs can hide in the cracks and crevices of houses during the day, coming out only at night to feed. They’ve been given the moniker “kissing bug,” as they tend to bite exposed areas of skin, especially the face.

After a kissing bug has fed, it generally urinates or defecates. And because the kissing bug bite is almost painless, an individual may not know they’ve been bitten and may inadvertently rub the feces or urine—and thus the parasite—into the bite wound or the mucous membranes of the mouth or eyes.

Chagas disease was discovered in 1909 by Brazilian physician Carlos Chagas, after whom the disease is named. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Chagas disease is found only in the Americas.

Moreover, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that approximately 6 to 7 million people are infected with Trypanosoma cruzi, with most cases occurring in the poverty-stricken rural areas of Latin America, especially the countries where the disease originated—Mexico, South America, and Central America.

In addition, the CDC estimates that more than 300,000 people in the United States may be infected, though most of these infections are thought to have originated in Latin America.

However, some cases of Chagas disease have been reported in the Southern United States as well—specifically in states that border Mexico—especially Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona.

Chagas disease has been grabbing more headlines in the United States in recent years, but you shouldn’t take that to mean the disease is new to the country. On the contrary, the CDC reports that kissing bugs were reported in Georgia as far back as 1855. However, it’s thought that rates of infection may be lower because the species found in the U.S. prefer wooded areas to people’s homes.

Nevertheless, the CDC has declared Chagas disease one of five neglected parasitic infections (NPIs) the agency is prioritizing for public health action due to the number of infections, the severity of the illness, and the ability to prevent and treat the disease.

But most troubling of all may be the recent studies indicating that the T. cruzi parasite has been found in a much more widely spread insect—the bed bug.

What Are Bed Bugs?

Like their cousins, the kissing bugs, bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) live in cracks and crevices during the day and come out at night to suck the blood of humans and other animals. While these pests have become the bane of modern travelers, many people may not even realize they have a bed bug infestation, as the insects are rarely seen, and their itchy bites may be attributed to mosquitoes.

Until recently, bed bugs were considered more of an irritation than a health concern. However, more and more studies are suggesting that bed bugs may share their larger cousins’ ability to transmit the parasite that causes Chagas disease.

A 2014 study by researchers at Penn Medicine found that bed bugs harbor Trypanosoma cruzi in large numbers and are able to spread the parasite to mice. A 2015 study highlighted similar findings.

Moreover, a 2018 study from New Mexico State University demonstrated that bed bugs infected with T. cruzi maintain levels of the parasite throughout the molting process. Researchers describe this as a particularly notable finding, as bed bug nymphs molt five times before they reach adulthood, and their ability to hold on to the parasite through this process could make them an even more important vector in the spread of Chagas disease.

Many of us heard “don’t let the bed bugs bite” throughout childhood. Believe it or not, bed bugs are real. Kissing bugs are real too, and they are not as sweet as they sound. Bed bugs and kissing bugs are tiny insects that spread Chagas disease, which is no laughing matter.

Chagas Disease Symptoms

There are two phases of Chagas disease: acute and chronic. The acute phase of infection can last for weeks to approximately two months after infection. During the acute phase, an individual may experience mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. However, if symptoms are present, they may include:

Swelling at the site of infection Swollen lymph nodes
Eyelid swelling Body aches
Fatigue Fever
Rash Nausea
Vomiting Diarrhea
Headache Liver or spleen enlargement

Because these symptoms are common to a variety of conditions, diagnosing Chagas disease can be difficult—a reality that’s compounded by the fact that health care providers in the United States have little experience treating the disease. Moreover, the acute symptoms of Chagas disease usually resolve themselves, though they can be severe in young children and people with compromised immune systems.

But if left untreated, people with Chagas disease will advance to the chronic phase. Although the majority of people with chronic Chagas disease never display any symptoms, approximately 20% to 30% may develop serious complications—sometimes decades after initial infection. These serious and even life-threatening health issues may include:

  • Sudden death from cardiac arrest
  • Heart failure
  • Arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat)
  • Cardiomegaly (enlarged heart)
  • Megaesophagus (enlarged esophagus)
  • Megacolon (enlarged colon)

In addition to the potentially life-threatening cardiac complications, enlargement of the esophagus and colon can lead to difficulty swallowing and abdominal pain and constipation, respectively.

Diagnosing Chagas Disease

If you’re experiencing symptoms and think you may have been exposed to the parasite that causes Chagas disease, your health care provider will speak with you about your symptoms and risk factors and perform a physical exam. If your provider suspects Chagas disease, blood tests that can identify the parasite or the antibodies the body produces to fight it may be performed as well.

If blood tests come back positive, additional procedures may be conducted to determine whether you’re in the acute or chronic phase and if complications have occurred. These tests may include:

  • Chest X-ray: This test can be used to evaluate the heart for signs of enlargement.
  • Electrocardiogram: An EKG is used to measure the electrical activity of the heart and can identify abnormalities in heart rhythm.
  • Echocardiogram: This test employs the use of sound waves to identify irregularities in the heart’s structure and motion.
  • Upper endoscopy: An upper endoscopy uses a lighted, flexible tube with a camera on one end to look for anomalies in the esophagus.
  • Abdominal X-ray: Similar to a chest X-ray, this procedure can identify abnormalities in the gastrointestinal tract.

Treatment of Chagas Disease

If you’ve received a diagnosis of Chagas disease, treatment will involve eradicating the parasite and/or managing symptoms. If caught in the acute phase, Chagas disease can be successfully treated with the following prescription antiprotozoal medications:

  • Benznidazole
  • Nifurtimox

However, because cases of Chagas disease in the United States continue to be rare, these medications must be obtained from either the manufacturer (benznidazole) or through the CDC (nifurtimox). Nifurtimox is offered as an investigational drug by the CDC, as its use has not yet been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

While antiprotozoals are most effective during the acute phase of T. cruzi infection, it’s now recommended that they be offered to all patients in the chronic indeterminate phase up to the age of 50. After that, the CDC recommends an individualized treatment plan based on symptom severity.

Preventing Chagas Disease

According to WHO, vector control is the single best way to avoid the parasite that causes Chagas disease. In the United States, where Chagas disease is not widespread, control strategies are more focused on preventing transmission via blood transfusions and organ transplantations as well as congenital transmission from infected mothers to their infants.

However, additional steps can be taken to reduce your risk of coming into contact with the T. cruzi parasite. These include:

  • Spraying insecticides around the home to repel insects
  • Sealing cracks around doors and windows
  • Removing wood and rock piles around the home
  • Using proper hygiene when preparing and cooking food

If you’ve been to areas where Chagas disease is endemic—or have noticed bed bugs or kissing bugs in and around your home—and are experiencing symptoms, don’t hesitate to contact your health care provider right away. While Chagas disease is most likely not to blame, if you do have American trypanosomiasis, early treatment can prevent the possibility of serious complications later in life.

Ascites: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment for Fluid in the Abdomen

Ascites is a medical term that means abnormal fluid buildup in the abdomen. It is a serious condition that should receive attention right away. We’re here to share the causes and symptoms of ascites so you can stay informed and be proactive with your health should any ascites symptoms pop up.

The occasional bloating or weight gain can be a normal occurrence. Several factors can cause the belly to suddenly expand, including eating certain foods, illness, or premenstrual syndrome in women. But if you have an underlying health condition with your liver, kidneys, or heart, abdominal swelling could be a sign of ascites.

Ascites is a medical term that means abnormal fluid buildup in the abdomen. It is a serious condition that should receive attention right away. We’re here to share the causes and symptoms of ascites so you can stay informed and be proactive with your health should any ascites symptoms pop up.

Causes of Ascites

Doctors believe the cause of excess fluid in the abdomen is a disruption in normal blood flow to the liver. If the blood vessels inside the liver experience an increase in pressure (a condition called portal hypertension), fluid may be redirected into the abdomen.

It’s important to understand that ascites itself is not a medical condition but rather a symptom of an underlying medical condition. Various underlying conditions may cause ascites, most of them relating to issues with the heart, liver, or kidneys.

Liver damage is considered the primary cause of ascites. According to the American College of Gastroenterology, cirrhosis of the liver is the most common type of liver damage that leads to ascites. Liver damage may also be caused by prolonged alcohol use or hepatitis B or C.

If cirrhotic ascites develops in a patient with liver disease, it usually indicates that the disease has progressed to late stage. The patient may be considered for a liver transplant at that point.

Other health conditions that may cause ascites include:

Ascites is a medical term that means abnormal fluid buildup in the abdomen. It is a serious condition that should receive attention right away. We’re here to share the causes and symptoms of ascites so you can stay informed and be proactive with your health should any ascites symptoms pop up.

Ascites Symptoms

Ascites often happens gradually, though it can sometimes occur quickly. So symptoms may appear suddenly or may go unnoticed for a few weeks. Ascites symptoms are the same as those of several other health conditions. Unless there is a known underlying health condition, ascites symptoms may initially be misdiagnosed or dismissed as something not concerning. But ascites is a serious indication that something is not working properly, and symptoms should never be ignored.

If you experience any of the following symptoms, speak with your doctor about the possibility of ascites or other potential health issues.

  • Fatigue
  • Sudden weight gain
  • Bloating
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Swollen/distended stomach
  • Shortness of breath/difficulty breathing
  • Decreased appetite
  • Abdominal discomfort/pain
  • Back pain
  • Constipation
  • Frequent urination/urgent urination
  • Heartburn

Ascites is a medical term that means abnormal fluid buildup in the abdomen. It is a serious condition that should receive attention right away. We’re here to share the causes and symptoms of ascites so you can stay informed and be proactive with your health should any ascites symptoms pop up.

Diagnosing Ascites

If you have a heart condition or another health condition such as liver disease and begin to experience the symptoms listed above, such as abdominal pain and loss of appetite, your doctor will likely suspect ascites and order tests to confirm the diagnosis. Common methods used to confirm an ascites diagnosis include a physical exam of the abdomen, an ultrasound of the abdomen, and a fluid sample from the abdomen.

If the symptoms of ascites are present but there is no known underlying health condition, then your doctor will order a series of tests to diagnose the underlying condition causing the ascites. These tests typically involve checking the condition of the liver and liver function since liver damage is the most common cause of ascites. Your doctor may also order some of the following tests to diagnose your condition.

  • Physical exam and full medical history including:
    • Previous liver problems
    • Previous hepatitis diagnosis
    • Previous cancer diagnosis
    • Alcohol use
    • Medication history
    • Family history of issues with the liver, heart, kidneys, or cancer
  • Ultrasound
  • CT scan
  • Blood tests:
    • A complete metabolic panel
    • A complete blood count

Ascites Treatment

The prognosis of ascites mainly depends on how far the underlying condition has advanced. If that condition can be treated, then the ascites should improve. We’ve curated a list of common treatments for health conditions that cause ascites.


Restricting salt (sodium) and increasing the amount of water in your body is a large part of treating ascites, particularly when caused by cirrhosis of the liver. Diuretics are often prescribed to help increase water intake. Increasing water intake helps combat the buildup of fluid by expanding the amount of urine and fluid leaving the body, as well as the amount of salt being filtered out of the body. While most people don’t react adversely to diuretics, they have been known to cause side effects, such as sleep disturbances, skin issues, low blood pressure, and exhaustion, in some individuals.


In late-stage cases of liver disease or other conditions in which salt restriction and diuretics are not helping the ascites, paracentesis is the next step in treatment. Paracentesis is the process of removing large amounts of fluid from the abdomen. Therapeutic paracentesis is done by inserting a needle into the abdominal cavity to extract the fluid.

Liver Shunt

If a patient is not responding to ascites treatment, a shunt may be surgically placed inside the patient’s liver. A shunt is a tube that redirects blood flow to reduce the blood pressure in the liver and thereby reduce fluid retention in the abdomen. A shunt is a permanent procedure that remains in the liver once placed.

Amino Acids

A study published in Molecular Medicine Reports revealed that branched-chain amino acid supplements were successfully used to treat a patient who was suffering from severe ascites due to liver cirrhosis. Amino acids are often referred to as life’s building blocks because they help form protein, tissue, and chemicals the body needs to function properly. According to this study, amino acid supplements may also be used to treat ascites. When using amino acid supplements, it’s best to take a balanced mixture of all essential amino acids, not just the branched-chain amino acids, to make sure that the blood concentration of amino acids is optimal.

Liver Transplant

When all other means of treatment have been exhausted, a patient will often be evaluated for a liver transplant. The American College of Gastroenterology states that patients who develop ascites already have a severe problem with their liver, such as liver failure. While the treatments listed above may help relieve ascites symptoms, the primary issue that needs to be treated is the deterioration of the liver. Often liver deterioration is so severe by the time ascites sets in that a patient will require liver transplantation to have a chance at full recovery.

Ankylosing Spondylitis: Symptoms, Causes and How It’s Treated

Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is an inflammatory disease that can erode your spine or fuse parts of it, leading to loss of mobility. We’ll take a closer look at the most common symptoms, who is typically affected, what causes AS, and the treatments available.

A healthy and strong spine is essential to your overall well-being, as it is the structure that holds you all together and allows you to do the activities you love. Arthritis comes in many forms and affects all parts of the body, but there is a certain type of arthritis that can affect the joints and bones within your spine. Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is an inflammatory disease that can erode your spine or fuse parts of it, leading to loss of mobility. In advanced AS cases, this fusion can result in spinal deformity. We’ll take a closer look at this condition, the most common symptoms, who is typically affected, what causes AS, and the treatments available to help relieve the pain and stiffness associated with ankylosing spondylitis.

What Is Ankylosing Spondylitis?

Ankylosing spondylitis is a rheumatic disease under the umbrella of spondyloarthritis (or spondyloarthropathies).

Spondyloarthritis refers to a group of inflammatory rheumatological conditions that target the joints, including the spine.

Axial spondyloarthritis is a subgroup of spondyloarthritis that damages the axial joints, which are the spine, pelvis, and chest joints.

Moving further down the categorization tree, ankylosing spondylitis is a subgroup of axial spondyloarthritis, and it develops when parts of the spine and the sacroiliac joints become inflamed (a condition called sacroiliitis). Your sacroiliac joints are where your tailbone at the base of your low back meets the bones on either side of the upper buttocks of your pelvis.

When the inflammation becomes a chronic condition, you can experience pain and stiffness in and around your spine, including your neck, middle back, lower back, and buttocks. As time goes on, this inflammation of the spine (spondylitis) can lead to the development of new bone that causes a complete cementing together, or fusion, of the vertebrae (ankylosis). Ankylosis can lead to reduced range of motion and loss of mobility and flexibility of your spine.

Ankylosing spondylitis can also affect other tissues throughout your body, including joints besides the spine, as well as your organs, such as your lungs, kidneys, heart, and eyes.

What Causes Ankylosing Spondylitis?

The exact cause of this form of arthritis remains unclear, but the tendency to develop ankylosing spondylitis may have a genetic link that runs in families.  Scientists have identified this genetic component and believe that people with AS carry the HLA-B27 gene. Your doctor may order a blood test as part of your diagnosis to see if you are HLA-B27 positive.

Researchers continue to investigate how and why inflammation occurs in different joints and organs in someone with ankylosing spondylitis. The illness appears in each person differently, and symptoms can vary greatly from patient to patient.

Your immune system may be activated due to an illness or environmental factor such as an infection that kicks inflammation into overdrive and sets the AS wheels in motion. In this case, your immune system is unable to switch off because it senses inflammation and continues to send out hormones and chemicals. If this persists for a long time and the inflammation becomes chronic, additional issues can arise and lead to AS and other autoimmune diseases.

What Are the Symptoms of Ankylosing Spondylitis?

Signs of ankylosing spondylitis include spine and joint inflammation, as well as inflammation in other areas of the body. If your back is the main focus of inflammation and pain, there is a probable chance you have AS. Your doctor will discuss other common symptoms to help identify the exact cause of your condition.

AS symptoms include:

  • Pain that does not improve with rest
  • Pain that disturbs your sleep
  • Back pain (not caused by injury) that starts gradually before the age of 40
  • Symptoms that continue 3 months or more
  • Spinal stiffness in the mornings, which improves with exercise and motion
  • Low-grade fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Anemia
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue

As AS begins to develop, you may notice pain and discomfort in your lower back, traveling down into your buttocks. You may also feel especially stiff upon getting out of bed in the morning and if you are sedentary for a length of time. AS can even affect parts of your feet, lower legs, and neck.

If your condition persists and turns into a chronic condition, the inflammation affecting your bones can cause ankylosis, which, as previously mentioned, is when parts of your spine begin to fuse together. Unfortunately, once this begins you start to lose flexibility and strength within your spine and movement and activities become very difficult. If allowed to progress, your upper torso can begin to curve, which is not only painful but can also affect your breathing capacity.

If AS is affecting your eyes, you may notice redness and pain or possibly experience vision issues such as uveitis/iritis, or eye inflammation, or digestive distress that could progress to inflammatory bowel disease. With the inflammation caused by AS, your risk for heart disease can increase. Symptoms include dizziness, difficulty breathing, and chest pain because parts of your heart and surrounding valves may be inflamed, making it difficult to pump blood properly.

Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is an inflammatory disease that can erode your spine or fuse parts of it, leading to loss of mobility. We’ll take a closer look at the most common symptoms, who is typically affected, what causes AS, and the treatments available.

Risk Factors for Ankylosing Spondylitis

According to the latest estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) program, AS and related conditions affect 2.7 million Americans.

Ankylosing spondylitis can afflict either gender, but men more commonly suffer from AS. For women, other joints in the body besides the spine are typically affected. AS is seen in all ages, including children, but the most common age of onset is 20s-30s.

Ankylosing Spondylitis Diagnosis

If you are experiencing any signs of AS, your health care provider will discuss your family history, medical history, and symptoms, conduct a physical examination, and order any necessary tests during your appointment. No blood test can confirm AS, but certain tests can help determine a diagnosis and eliminate other causes. In addition to a blood test to check for the presence of the HLA-B27 gene, your doctor may order a blood test called the erythrocyte sedimentation rate to check for inflammation.

You may also be tested for other conditions to rule out inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, enthesitis-related idiopathic juvenile arthritis, and psoriatic arthritis that present with similar symptoms. Imaging tests, including X-rays and an MRI, can take a closer look at any changes in your spine and pelvis and identify fractures, inflammation, or other issues.

Treatment Options for Ankylosing Spondylitis

AS is not curable and the damage is unfortunately irreversible, but on a positive note, there are treatments that can help alleviate symptoms, manage progression, and maintain movement and posture. Options include physical therapy, exercises, and medications that reduce inflammation and pain. In rare cases, surgery may be necessary to correct a severe deformity.

If you are diagnosed with AS, you will routinely see a rheumatologist, since he or she specializes in inflammatory diseases and can help create a treatment plan that works for you. You will also likely meet with a range of specialists, including physical therapists, eye specialists, and gastroenterologists since AS can affect the whole body.

To ease your pain and inflammation due to AS, your doctor may prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as:

  • Ibuprofen
  • Diclofenac
  • Naproxen
  • Indomethacin
  • Meloxicam (Mobic)
  • Celecoxib (Celebrex)

Other options include taking codeine and acetaminophen, especially if NSAIDs do not work for you, or directly injecting medication into the affected site.

Symptoms of AS, such as swelling, pain, and stiffness, can also be alleviated with anti-inflammatory disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs called (DMARDs). Methotrexate is a DMARD that can be administered in pill or shot form, while sulfasalazine is available in pill form.

DMARDs do, however, come with side effects that range from mild, such as bloating and mouth sores, to severe, such as liver damage. Folic acid supplements can help protect against milder side effects like nausea.

If symptoms aren’t responding to NSAIDs or DMARDS, your doctor may prescribe biologics that inhibit tumor necrosis factor (TNF) , such as infliximab (Remicade), adalimumab (Humira), golimumab (Simponi), and etanercept (Enbrel). These TNF blockers act on your immune system to reduce inflammation and its associated side affects, as well as helping to mitigate further damage to the spine and other joints. Biologics have been linked to a greater risk of infections and cancer, although instances are rare.

Physical Therapy Exercises

Physical therapy and at-home exercises can help alleviate your symptoms and slow the progression of AS. Many patients work with a physical therapist to help maintain mobility, flexibility, and strength of surrounding muscles and joints.

A couple exercises you can practice daily if you suffer from ankylosing spondylitis include:

  1. While standing with your back against a wall, heels flush, push your head back so it is straight against the wall. Do not tilt your head back. Hold for 5 seconds, take a break and relax your head, then repeat up to 10 times.
  2. With your feet spread and hands on hips, stand up straight. Turn to one side, keeping your hands on your hips, hold for 5 seconds, relax, and then turn to the other side. Repeat 5 times on each side.

Diet and Supplements

Following a well-balanced diet is important when living with AS and trying to minimize the pain and discomfort brought on by the condition. Include nutrition-rich foods with your meals to reap as many body-nourishing, inflammation-fighting benefits as possible. Suggested dietary supplements include the following.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Helpful at reducing inflammation, particularly in your joints, these fatty acids are important for many bodily functions. Fatty acids are found in foods such as salmon and tuna, flax and chia seeds, walnuts, soybeans, and also in supplement form.

Calcium and Vitamin D

Healthy bones need calcium alongside vitamin D to help your body effectively absorb the calcium it requires to build strength. If you have AS, these vitamins can help increase bone density, leaving bones less susceptible to breaks and fractures. Since AS often affects your spine, not having enough calcium and vitamin D can leave it more brittle and subject to injury.

Foods rich in calcium and vitamin D include dairy products, spinach, okra, orange juice, soy milk, and egg yolks. You can also find calcium and vitamin D in supplement form.

Glucosamine and Chondroitin

Used to build cartilage, glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate can help supplement the loss that occurs from the joint-wearing effects of AS. Since AS causes the body’s immune system to attack the joints, taking supplements that support joint health can be very beneficial. Glucosamine can lower inflammation, reduce joint pain and tenderness, protect and repair gut lining, and help rebuild tissue and stronger bones.

Amino Acids

Known as our body’s building blocks, amino acids play a vital role in nearly everything that happens within our bodies. They are also very important for someone with an inflammatory disease such as ankylosing spondylitis.

  • The amino acid methionine can help relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and boost the development of cartilage.
  • Another beneficial amino acid is arginine, which helps develop bone strength and collagen production. Collagen is a protein that brings shape and structure to your connective tissues, skin, bones, and organs.
  • Histidine also plays a vital role in maintaining joint health and provides potent anti-inflammatory benefits to reduce swelling in and around your joints.
  • The amino acid lysine helps your body absorb calcium, which preserves your bone density and strength. If you take an amino acid supplement containing lysine along with your calcium supplement, your calcium absorption is given a greater boost. In addition, lysine works in tandem with vitamin D to build and nourish strong bones.

It’s preferable to take a complete amino acid supplement that provides the essential building blocks for enzymes, neurotransmitters, and hormones and is specially formulated to deliver a broad array of amino acids in optimal balance and form.

Ankylosing Spondylitis Outlook

How AS progresses in one person differs greatly from another. Sometimes symptoms appear and disappear, then return at a later time. Your doctor will better identify your prognosis based on how well your spine moves, the severity of inflammation, and if other areas of your body are affected. A few people can experience complications that damage the heart, digestive system, and lungs.

Overall, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, weight, and exercise program can help lessen AS symptoms and improve your day-to-day life and general well-being. If you or a loved one has ankylosing spondylitis, visit the Spondylitis Association of America website for additional educational resources and support.

Arrhythmia: Irregular Heartbeat and Its Risks

Many influences can cause your heart rate to speed up or feel like it skips a beat. But if you find that interruptions in your normal heartbeat (irregular heartbeat) happen frequently or continuously, they could be a sign of a more serious or even life-threatening condition.

Many things can cause your heart to speed up or feel like it skips a beat. Stress, anxiety, and even diet can all cause the occasional extra beat, skip, or flutter. Most of the time, these irregular heartbeats, or arrhythmias, are relatively brief and perfectly harmless. But if they happen frequently or are associated with significant symptoms, they could be a sign of a more serious or even life-threatening condition. In this article, we’re going to uncover what causes an irregular heartbeat and discuss the risks of having one as well as available treatment options.

What Causes Arrhythmia?

The heart muscle has four chambers—two upper and two lower—all of which are involved in controlling blood flow. The upper chambers of the heart are called the atria, and the two lower chambers are called the ventricles. Each heartbeat begins with electrical impulses produced in the upper right chamber of the heart, in a group of cells called the sinus node, also known as the heart’s natural pacemaker.

After the electrical impulses move across the atria, they reach the atrioventricular (AV) node, where they’re slowed down to give the ventricles time to fill with blood. The impulses then cause the ventricles to contract, which sends the blood out to the lungs and the rest of the body. However, if something happens to disrupt this process, the heart rhythm becomes abnormal and arrhythmia occurs.

Risk factors for an arrhythmia include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Scarring from a heart attack
  • Hypo- or hyperthyroidism
  • Sleep apnea
  • Diabetes
  • Excessive caffeine or alcohol
  • Stress
  • Certain supplements or medications
  • Abnormalities of heart structure
  • Electrolyte imbalances

Types of Arrhythmia

Although there are many different types of arrhythmias, each is classified based on whether it originates in the atria or ventricles and whether it involves a slow heartbeat (bradycardia) or a fast heartbeat (tachycardia). While a resting heart rate below 60 beats a minute is generally considered bradycardia, a resting heart rate above 100 beats a minute is generally considered tachycardia.

However, unlike tachycardia, bradycardia can be considered a normal variant in physically fit individuals, whose hearts are capable of pumping adequate supplies of blood at rates less than 60 beats a minute at rest.

But bradycardia may also be the result of certain medical conditions. And the two most common causes are:

  • Sick sinus syndrome: If the sinus node isn’t working properly, bradycardia, tachycardia, or a combination of the two may result. Sick sinus syndrome is most commonly seen in older adults.
  • Heart block: If electrical impulses are blocked at any point on their way to the ventricles, heart block may occur. Bradycardia caused by heart block can be the result of a congenital abnormality, old age, or scarring from a heart attack.

There are several different types of tachycardia as well. However, unlike bradycardia, tachycardias are classified based on whether they originate in the atria or ventricles. Tachycardias that begin in the atria include:

  • Atrial fibrillation: This is the most common form of arrhythmia and occurs when the electrical impulses in the atria become chaotic. Sometimes atrial fibrillation will spontaneously correct itself, but some episodes may require medical intervention. Left untreated, this type of arrhythmia can lead to serious complications, including heart failure and stroke.
  • Atrial flutter: Although atrial flutter is similar to atrial fibrillation and can cause complications of its own, the electrical impulses seen with this condition are not as chaotic as those seen with atrial fibrillation.

Tachycardias that begin in the ventricles include:

  • Ventricular tachycardia: This type of tachycardia involves a rapid but regular heart rate that prevents the ventricles from filling and contracting adequately and thus supplying the body with enough blood. If left untreated, ventricular tachycardia can lead to ventricular fibrillation.
  • Ventricular fibrillation: If the electrical impulses within the ventricles become erratic, the ventricles can begin to quiver (fibrillate) instead of contract. Ventricular fibrillation is considered the most serious type of abnormal rhythm and can lead to cardiac arrest and death within minutes if not reversed.
  • Long QT syndrome: Like ventricular fibrillation, long QT syndrome causes rapid, chaotic heartbeats and may lead to episodes of fainting, seizures, or even sudden death. This type of tachycardia can be caused by congenital anomalies or medications that prolong the QT interval—the section on an electrocardiogram (EKG) that indicates the time it takes for the heart to contract and recover.

A normal heartbeat has a steady, regular rhythm. With atrial fibrillation, the heart beats irregularly, which makes the heart’s job of transporting blood less effective.

Arrhythmia Symptoms

Not everyone with an arrhythmia experiences symptoms, and even if symptoms are present, they’re not necessarily a sign of a serious medical condition. That being said, symptoms of arrhythmias may be severe and may include:

  • Chest fluttering
  • Slow or rapid heartbeat
  • Dizziness
  • Sweating
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fainting
  • Chest pain

Diagnosing Arrhythmia

If you’re experiencing an arrhythmia without symptoms, you may not even know you have the condition unless it’s found during a routine medical exam. But if you are having symptoms, your health care provider will likely speak with you about your medical history, conduct a physical exam, and perform a variety of tests designed to evaluate the heart. These include:

  • EKG: This noninvasive procedure is used to evaluate the electrical activity of the heart.
  • Holter monitor: This wearable EKG is used to monitor the activity of the heart continuously for 24 to 48 hours.
  • Echocardiogram: This noninvasive ultrasound uses sound waves to evaluate the heart’s structure and motion.
  • Tilt table test: This test uses changes in body angle to evaluate differences in heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Electrophysiology (EP) study: An EP study is an invasive procedure that uses a catheter equipped with an electrode to measure electrical activity within the heart. Because the catheter is placed within the heart itself, an EP study can determine where an arrhythmia is originating and what might be causing it.

Arrhythmia Treatment

If you’ve been diagnosed with arrhythmia, treatment will depend on your symptoms. If symptoms are relatively mild and benign, no treatment may be recommended. However, serious arrhythmias that cause significant symptoms or that may lead to life-threatening complications will require treatment.

In cases involving bradycardia, patients are often offered pacemaker implantation. This device, which is usually implanted under the skin near the collarbone, uses electrodes to send out electrical impulses, which stimulate a regular rhythm when the heart rate becomes too slow or the heart stops.

By contrast, treatments for tachycardia are more varied and may include:

  • Vagal maneuvers: Arrhythmias that arise in the upper half of the heart can often be stopped by performing certain maneuvers that stimulate the vagus nerve. For example, holding your breath and straining, coughing, and submerging your face in ice water may all help slow down a fast heart rate.
  • Medication: Many types of tachycardia can be helped by medications designed to prevent abnormal heart rhythms and control heart rate. And in people with atrial fibrillation, blood thinners may also be prescribed to prevent the formation of blood clots.
  • Electrical cardioversion: This type of procedure is often used in people with both atrial fibrillation and atrial flutter. Unlike defibrillation, which uses strong shocks to normalize heart rhythm in patients with life-threatening arrhythmias, cardioversion is an elective procedure that employs milder shocks to correct irregular heart rhythms. Cardioversion can also be performed using medications, but electrical cardioversion works much faster and is the method normally used.
  • Catheter ablation: This procedure is often performed after an EP study has identified what section of the heart is causing the arrhythmia. During an ablation, electrodes are used to deliver heat, cold, or radiofrequency energy to the affected tissue. Once these areas are damaged, they can no longer conduct electrical impulses and are unable to disrupt the heart’s rhythm.
  • Maze procedure: In people who don’t respond to other forms of therapy, a maze procedure may be performed. This heart surgery involves the use of incisions, temperature, or energy to create a maze of scar tissue that directs electrical impulses to the ventricles via a controlled pathway.

Whether you have a mild form of arrhythmia that can be alleviated by simply limiting caffeine consumption or a more serious type that requires surgery, there are many techniques available that can help you take control of your heart health. So if you’re experiencing symptoms, don’t hesitate to speak with your health care provider. They can help you find the treatment plan that’s right for you.


How to Treat and Prevent Coronary Artery Disease

Coronary artery disease (CAD) is a heart disease that afflicts millions of Americans each year and is responsible for close to 16% of all deaths globally. It is important to identify CAD signs and risk factors early to help prevent its deleterious effects.

Coronary artery disease, or coronary heart disease, affects millions of Americans. In fact, it’s the most prevalent type of heart disease and the leading cause of death in the United States. However, while this monstrous health problem is responsible for the deaths of one in four Americans each year, it’s also largely preventable. So read on to discover how you can treat and even prevent coronary artery disease.

What Is Coronary Artery Disease?

Coronary artery disease is the result of plaque buildup (atherosclerosis) in the blood vessels that supply blood to the heart. In people with this condition, plaque lines the walls of the coronary arteries until the flow of blood is restricted and the heart doesn’t get enough blood—a condition known as ischemia. This restriction of blood flow to the heart can eventually damage the heart muscle, reducing its ability to pump blood efficiently.

Because coronary artery disease develops over time, symptoms depend on the stage of the condition and may be nonexistent, mild, or severe. In the most extreme cases, plaque buildup can suddenly rupture, forming a blood clot when blood platelets attempt to repair the damage. If the blood flow in the artery becomes completely blocked by this process, a myocardial infarction, or heart attack, occurs.

In most people, symptoms of coronary artery disease don’t appear until later in life. However, children and teenagers may sometimes develop the condition as well.

Coronary artery disease (CAD) is a heart disease that afflicts millions of Americans each year and is responsible for close to 16% of all deaths globally. It is important to identify CAD signs and risk factors early to help prevent the deleterious effects of coronary artery disease.

Coronary Artery Disease Risk Factors

Coronary artery disease is associated with a host of risk factors, many of which can be reduced with lifestyle changes. Unfortunately, though, some factors can’t be changed. These include:

  • Sex: According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), men are more likely to develop obstructive coronary artery disease (narrowed arteries due to plaque), and women are more likely to develop nonobstructive coronary artery disease (arteries with plaque that doesn’t obstruct blood flow).
  • Age: In men, the risk of developing coronary artery disease begins to increase after age 45. In women, the risk increases after menopause.
  • Family history: People with a family history of coronary artery disease have a higher chance of developing the condition.
  • Race: Coronary artery disease is the leading cause of death in most groups, regardless of race. However, for Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, and American Indians, heart disease is second only to cancer.

Again, however, the vast majority of coronary artery disease risk factors are within our control. Some of these factors include:

  • Smoking
  • High cholesterol
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Elevated body mass index (BMI)
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Chronic stress
  • Sleep apnea
  • Heavy alcohol use

Coronary Artery Disease Symptoms

As mentioned, the symptoms people experience with coronary artery disease depend on the stage of the disease. Sometimes the first symptoms noted are mild episodes of shortness of breath and chest pain (angina) with activity. But some people may not experience any symptoms until they have an episode of severe chest pain, or even a heart attack. And sometimes coronary artery disease causes no symptoms.

When this happens, it’s known as silent coronary artery disease. Unfortunately, this particular manifestation of coronary artery disease may not be diagnosed until it’s progressed to the point where a person begins to show signs of having a heart attack, heart failure, or irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia).

Acute signs of coronary artery disease, such as may occur during a heart attack, include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Angina
  • Cold sweats
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Neck pain
  • Nausea
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Weakness

Symptoms of chronic coronary artery disease may include:

  • Angina
  • Anxiety
  • Neck pain
  • Fatigue

Diagnosing Coronary Artery Disease

Coronary artery disease is diagnosed based on personal and family history; risk factors; physical exam; blood tests to measure levels of certain fats, cholesterol, blood sugar, and proteins; and diagnostic procedures. Common tests performed in the diagnosis of coronary artery disease include:

  • Chest x-ray: A chest x-ray may be the first test performed, as it’s able to identify overt abnormalities in the shape and size of the heart, lungs, and blood vessels.
  • Electrocardiogram: An EKG (or ECG) is a painless procedure that’s also the most commonly used test to screen for heart problems. Used to record the electrical activity of the heart, an EKG can detect arrhythmias, current or previous heart attacks, and the likelihood of coronary artery disease.
  • Echocardiogram: This ultrasound procedure, which is also referred to as an echo, may be recommended in the face of abnormal EKG results. The test uses sound waves to detect structural abnormalities in the heart.
  • Stress test: A cardiac stress test uses either exercise or medication (that mimics exercise) to measure the heart’s response to stress. The test can identify abnormalities in blood pressure and heart rate and rhythm as well as symptoms such as shortness of breath and chest pain.
  • Cardiac catheterization: This is an invasive procedure that may be performed if preliminary testing or symptoms lead your physician to suspect you have coronary artery disease. During the procedure, a flexible tube called a catheter is threaded to the heart, where dye is injected and an imaging procedure called a coronary angiography is performed to look for areas of blockage as the dye moves through the heart and its major vessels.

Treating Coronary Artery Disease

Treatment of coronary artery disease depends on several factors, including the severity of the disease, a person’s current health status, and whether they have any complicating health conditions. That being said, treatment may include:

  • Lifestyle changes
  • Medications
  • Procedures

Lifestyle Changes

The same lifestyle changes recommended to prevent coronary artery disease are also used to help treat it. And for many people with only early signs of the condition, lifestyle changes may be all they need. Typical lifestyle changes recommended for the prevention and treatment of coronary artery disease include:

  • Eating a heart healthy diet
  • Quitting smoking
  • Getting regular exercise
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Managing stress

In fact, controlling the risk factors for coronary artery disease has even been shown to help reduce the risk of heart disease by more than 80%.


If lifestyle changes aren’t enough, your doctor may also recommend medication to help relieve symptoms, lower cholesterol or blood pressure, or prevent blood clots. Some of these medications include:

  • Cholesterol-lowering drugs (statins)
  • Antiplatelet drugs (aspirin)
  • Beta blockers (metoprolol)
  • Calcium channel blockers (diltiazem)
  • Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors (lisinopril)
  • Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs) (valsartan)


For people in the more severe stages of coronary artery disease, lifestyle changes and medication may still not be enough. In these cases, surgery will be required. This may take the form of a coronary angioplasty to widen a blocked artery by inflating a tiny balloon or placing a wire mesh tube known as a stent or a coronary artery bypass graft, which involves using healthy arteries from the chest wall or veins from the legs to bypass blocked coronary arteries.

How to Prevent Coronary Artery Disease

By far, the best way to treat coronary artery disease is to prevent it before it starts. And as we’ve just discussed, a few simple lifestyle changes can reduce your risk by more than 80%.

Along with stopping smoking (or avoiding secondhand smoke), losing weight, getting regular exercise, and working on reducing your stress with techniques like deep breathing, meditation, and yoga, there’s no better way to prevent coronary artery disease than eating a heart-healthy diet.

If you’re looking for ways to get the most benefits out of your diet, think about including plenty of:

  • Lean proteins
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Fatty fish
  • Whole grains
  • Olive oil
  • Fruits
  • Beans
  • Nuts

While certain coronary artery disease risk factors—such as family history, age, and sex—can’t be changed, the majority can be decreased, or even eliminated. So speak with your health care provider, find out what your risks are, and make changes as necessary. Your heart will thank you.

Coronary artery disease (CAD) is a heart disease that afflicts millions of Americans each year and is responsible for close to 16% of all deaths globally. It is important to identify CAD signs and risk factors early to help prevent the deleterious effects of coronary artery disease.

Asperger’s Syndrome: Symptoms in Children and Adults

We’re here to explain what Asperger’s syndrome is as well as to share Asperger’s syndrome symptoms for children and adults. We’ll help you stay informed so you can seek medical care should you or your child have behavior that aligns with these symptoms.

Not all children develop at the same rate. Some children walk or talk early while others may be the last in their age group to master a particular motor skill. Other children will develop awkward social skills that make them stand out from their peers. Developmental delays may be attributed to a number of factors, including developmental disorders. One such developmental disorder that has gained much attention over the last couple of decades is Asperger’s syndrome.

Children with Asperger’s syndrome tend to develop normal cognitive skills, including speech and language, but have difficulty socially. Because their other skills develop normally or even above average, children with Asperger’s can sometimes go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed, leading to adults with undiagnosed Asperger’s syndrome. We’re here to explain what Asperger’s syndrome is as well as to share Asperger’s syndrome symptoms for children and adults. We’ll help you stay informed so you can seek medical care should you or your child have behavior that aligns with these symptoms.

What Is Asperger’s?

Asperger’s syndrome is named after Dr. Hans Asperger, a Viennese pediatrician who was the first to describe the syndrome in the 1940s. Considered a form of autism for years, Asperger’s has often been referred to as high-functioning autism.

Autism is a pervasive developmental disorder in which developmental delays vary in severity from individual to individual. A common symptom of autism is a lack of speech or delay in speech development. Individuals with Asperger’s usually have symptoms that are less severe than those of autism. Most notably, the speech delays that are seen in autism are not seen in Asperger’s.

It wasn’t until 1994 that Asperger’s syndrome was officially named a separate disorder from autism by the American Psychiatric Association. Then in 2013, Asperger’s syndrome and autism disorder were both categorized under the umbrella diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Under the ASD umbrella fall various brain development disorders that involve repetitive behaviors, difficulties with communication, and social difficulties. Asperger’s is generally considered to be on the high end of the spectrum and is still described by some physicians as high-functioning autism.

We’re here to explain what Asperger’s syndrome is as well as to share Asperger’s syndrome symptoms for children and adults. We’ll help you stay informed so you can seek medical care should you or your child have behavior that aligns with these symptoms.

What Causes Asperger’s?

According to the Autism Society, research has revealed that children with a disorder under the ASD umbrella have exhibited brain scans with shape and structural differences from children without ASD. This research leads physicians to attribute ASD to abnormalities in brain structure and brain function.

But what causes the brain abnormalities? Physicians also believe that genetics play a role in ASD, as patterns of ASD have been discovered in many families. Further research is being conducted to determine what, if any, additional factors may contribute to the development of ASD, including genetics, issues during pregnancy or delivery, and environmental factors.

Asperger’s Symptoms

Asperger’s symptoms vary greatly, and rarely are all known behaviors associated with Asperger’s syndrome present in one individual. Asperger’s symptoms in children and Asperger’s symptoms in adults are often the same.

Common Asperger syndrome symptoms include:

  • Social limitations
    • Lack of eye contact
    • Inappropriate and/or limited social interactions
    • One-sided, self-oriented conversations
    • Missing social cues
  • Difficulty with nonverbal communications such as:
    • Facial expressions
    • Gestures
    • Body language
  • Repetitive or monotone speech
  • Repetitive patterns of behavior
  • Focus on unusual topics
  • Obsessive interests
  • Awkward mannerisms
  • Difficulty understanding emotions
  • Difficulty understanding nonliteral phrases

The Autism Speaks website is a wonderful source for more in-depth information on Asperger’s, including symptoms.

Asperger’s Symptoms in Children

Asperger’s syndrome is often initially misdiagnosed in children. Unlike children with autism, children with Asperger’s do not experience delays in language development or cognitive development. On the contrary, children with Asperger’s may exhibit exceptional vocabulary and language skills. The issue arises from the child’s inability to use language appropriately or the child’s tendency to use language awkwardly during social interactions.

Asperger’s disorder is sometimes misdiagnosed in children as a behavioral disorder such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). But difficulties for children with Asperger’s don’t stem from an inability to focus or concentrate on something but rather on challenges with socializing.

Sometimes, children with Asperger’s will exhibit a delay in motor skills and pronounced clumsiness. Children with Asperger’s may have difficulty playing with other children. They may not understand how to play a sport, catch a ball, or play on the playground, even though they observe their peers doing these physical activities.

Asperger’s Symptoms in Adults

While Asperger’s does not develop in adulthood, it can be undiagnosed or misdiagnosed in children, leading to an adult diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome. The symptoms of Asperger’s in adults are the same as symptoms in children, namely showing up as impairments in communication skills.

Adults with Asperger’s will often be socially awkward, have difficulty understanding emotions and social issues, may lack empathy with others, and may have one-sided conversations with a focus on themselves or a particular topic that he or she finds interesting. Undiagnosed Asperger’s in adults can lead to several issues, including difficulties with relationships and job-related difficulties.

We’re here to explain what Asperger’s syndrome is as well as to share Asperger’s syndrome symptoms for children and adults. We’ll help you stay informed so you can seek medical care should you or your child have behavior that aligns with these symptoms.

Treatment of Asperger’s Syndrome

Early diagnosis and treatment can set your child up for maximum success in life. Treatment varies depending on how Asperger’s syndrome manifests in young children, but typically focuses on social skills training, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and occupational and/or physical therapy.

  • Social skills training: To prepare a child with Asperger’s for social situations, a trained therapist might teach skills such as how to follow the rules, play with others, take turns, and manage feelings so that he/she doesn’t succumb to tantrums or retreat into social isolation.
  • Occupational and physical therapy: Occupational therapists help people with Asperger’s disorder strengthen their fine motor skills, such as hand-eye coordination, and regulate sensory input. Those with Asperger’s are especially sensitive to touch, noise, smell, or visual stimuli. A physical therapist can help Asperger’s patients develop movement mastery and strength so they are better able to participate in sports.
  • CBT: This type of therapy helps those with Asperger’s cope with their emotions and better navigate social interactions and interpersonal relationships by providing effective tools for impulse control, anxiety, and overwhelming obsessions.
  • Medication: Any medication prescribed is intended to help alleviate the symptoms of Asperger’s syndrome, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), antipsychotic medicine, and stimulant medicines for anxiety.

Beyond Asperger’s Syndrome

While social communication may be a bit of a struggle and personality quirks might call misunderstood attention on a child diagnosed with Asperger’s, their uniqueness can also be cultivated into a one-of-a-kind life and purpose with targeted help and direction. For instance, a person with Asperger’s might be laser focused on a particular area or subject that makes them the perfect candidate for a high-paying job in a growing industry.

Take inspiration from Temple Grandi, a renowned author and professor at Colorado State University. She didn’t start speaking until she was 4 years old and her parents were told she would be best institutionalized. She went on to become one of the foremost experts in animal sciences and was one of TIME Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People.”

Proof that different doesn’t have to be debilitating.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Know the Causes, See the Symptoms, Get Relief!

The pain in your carpal tunnel is due to excess pressure in your wrist and on the median nerve. This inflammation can cause swelling in your wrist and sometimes obstruct blood flow. Here is more information about carpal tunnel syndrome, the symptoms to look out for, and what treatments are available to provide relief.

Are you experiencing tingling or numbness in your hand and wrist, but are unsure what it is? Is the occasional shooting pain and discomfort a random glitch? Or could it be carpal tunnel syndrome? In a world where many of us work several hours at a desk or engage in repetitive motions as part of our everyday tasks, the risk of carpal tunnel syndrome can certainly be a concern. Here is more information about carpal tunnel syndrome, the symptoms to look out for, and what treatments are available to provide relief.

What Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Your carpal tunnel is the narrow passageway that runs from wrist to hand and is made up of tendons, ligaments, and bone. The carpal tunnel has a median nerve passing through it that registers what you feel and sense with your thumb and index and middle fingers. If the surrounding tissue is altered or becomes inflamed, it can cause the carpal tunnel to irritate and put pressure on the median nerve. When this happens, you can feel a tingling and numbing sensation in the areas of your hand and wrist, known as carpal tunnel syndrome.

Carpal Tunnel Symptoms

The first signs you may be dealing with carpal tunnel syndrome are a tingling feeling in your hand and numb sensation in the area of the median nerve including your thumb, index, middle, and ring fingers. You may have the sensation that your hand is asleep or you may drop objects because you can’t quite get a firm grip.

Nighttime may cause the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome to worsen and disrupt sleep. When we sleep and lie horizontal, our wrists may flex, irritating the nerve and causing fluid to accumulate around the wrist and hand.

Carpal tunnel syndrome can be a temporary occurrence that eventually disappears, or it can get more severe with time and adversely affect your home and work life.

Carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms include:

  • Itching, tingling, or burning in the fingers or the palm side of the hand
  • Inability to get a firm grip to pick up objects
  • Intense pain in your wrist or radiating through your arm
  • Hand or wrist feels asleep with the need to shake it awake
  • A decrease in hand sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures

As carpal tunnel syndrome progresses, you may start to feel a burning or cramping in your wrist, and your hand may begin to gradually lose grip strength. Chronic carpal tunnel syndrome that is left untreated can sometimes cause your hand muscles, particularly in the palm and the base of the thumb, to atrophy and become difficult to use.

What Causes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

What’s causing the pain in your wrist and hand? The excess pressure that has built up on the median nerve. This pressure and inflammation can cause swelling around your wrist, leading to a blockage in blood flow. Some of the most common conditions tied to carpal tunnel syndrome are:

  • Fluid retention from pregnancy or menopause
  • Fractures or trauma to the wrist
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Thyroid dysfunction
  • Obesity
  • Autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis

If you have a job or do an activity that overextends your wrist repeatedly, symptoms will likely be more intense. When you repeatedly move your wrist, especially in the same motion, it can cause swelling and compression of the median nerve. This may be the result of:

  • How you position your wrists while typing on a computer or using a mouse
  • Using hand tools or power tools with extreme vibration
  • Repeated movements that overextend your wrists (i.e, playing the piano)

Carpal tunnel syndrome can often show up temporarily during pregnancy due to the increased fluid retention and hormone-related swelling that commonly goes along with carrying a baby. It can happen at any point during the 40 weeks of pregnancy, but your chances increase after 32 weeks. Most people see their symptoms resolve within 12 months after delivery.

Who Is at Risk for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Women are 3 times more likely to have carpal tunnel syndrome than men, and it often begins to affect people in their 30s to 60s. Certain conditions like diabetes, arthritis, and high blood pressure increase your risk for developing carpal tunnel syndrome.

If you are a smoker, obese, eat a diet high in salt, or do not exercise, your risk for carpal tunnel syndrome increases. Jobs that involve repetitive wrist movement also boost your chances of developing carpal tunnel syndrome. These occupations include:

  • Manufacturing
  • Construction work
  • Assembly line work
  • Typing and computer work

Diagnosing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

To diagnose carpal tunnel syndrome, your doctor will assess your medical history, conduct a physical examination of your neck and joints like your wrists, elbows, and shoulders, and look at results from nerve conduction studies.

Many other conditions can mimic carpal tunnel syndrome, so it’s important to rule these out to successfully identify what is going on. Your doctor may look at your wrists for swelling, tenderness, discoloration, and heat. Your physician may do the Tinel test in which he or she taps the front of your wrist to see if you experience a tingling sensation in your hand.

To measure the rate of speed of electrical impulses as they travel down a nerve, a procedure called a nerve conduction velocity test can take a closer look at how your nerve is functioning and reacting. With carpal tunnel syndrome, the impulse will slow as it passes through the carpal tunnel. Along with this test, you may have an electromyogram (EMG) to rule out other conditions causing your symptoms.

Your health care provider may also order blood tests to identify medical conditions associated with carpal tunnel syndrome. Tests that look at your complete blood count, thyroid hormone levels, and blood sugar can help pinpoint the culprit of your discomfort. You may also have an X-ray of your wrist and hand taken to spot any abnormalities of the wrist bones and joints.

Treating Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

The choice of treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome depends on the severity of your symptoms and any underlying disease that might be causing your condition.

Nonsurgical Treatment

If you are experiencing mild symptoms and discomfort, your doctor may suggest resting the hand and wrist, putting your wrist in a wrist splint, and occasionally applying ice to the area. If you have an occupation that worsens your symptoms, you should try to find ways to modify your actions and reduce the motions that aggravate your condition. For example, you may need to adjust your chair height at your desk or the position of the computer keyboard to improve your comfort and decrease strain.

Stretching exercises that help loosen and flex your hands and wrists can help prevent carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms from worsening or negatively affecting your day-to-day life. If you have a wrist or hand fracture, an orthopedic specialist will help develop a pain management plan to help minimize your symptoms.

Conditions like rheumatoid arthritis will need to be treated specifically. If you are experiencing wrist swelling and carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms during your pregnancy, they often dissipate after you’ve delivered your baby.


Hand exercises can help relieve your carpal tunnel symptoms. If your condition worsens or you feel pain while performing the following exercises, stop immediately. You may be given exercises specific to your condition that help strengthen the muscles and joints in your hands and wrists and improve overall flexibility and mobility.

  • Prayer stretch: With your palms together in a prayer pose, hold them below your chin in front of your chest. Lower your hands slowly toward your midsection while keeping your hands close to your torso and your palms together. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds and repeat several times.
  • Wrist flexor stretch: With your palm facing the sky, extend your arm in front of you. Point your fingers backwards toward the floor, feeling the stretch in your wrist. Using your other hand, gently push to increase the bend until you feel a mild stretch in your forearm. Hold for at least 30 seconds; repeat two to four times.
  • Wrist extensor: This time, place your palm down while extending your arm in front of you. While pointing your hand toward the floor, slowly bend your wrist. Using your other hand, gently push your wrist to increase the bend until you feel a mild stretch in your forearm. Hold for at least 30 seconds; repeat two to four times.

Massaging your own wrists for several minutes, especially after overuse, can help ease some of your discomfort. Using your opposite thumb, rub your wrist with your palm facing up, moving the pressure back and forth. Since you have muscles in your forearm that control your wrists and hands, also use your thumbs to massage both sides of your forearm, starting at your elbow and moving down to your wrists.


Several types of medications have been used in the treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome. There have been cases in which vitamin B6 has helped relieve symptoms, but how it works remains unclear. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can be used to decrease inflammation and reduce pain, but this may only be a good option for acute cases. Long term use of NSAIDs can cause gastrointestinal issues and stomach ulcers. You should always take these medications with a meal. If you are having stomach issues, let your doctor know.

Corticosteroids are also an option that bring rapid relief and are either taken orally or injected directly into your wrist joint.


Most people with carpal tunnel syndrome improve with noninvasive methods, medications, and exercises. Occasionally, if the pressure on the median nerve becomes persistent, it can lead to constant numbness and weakness. In these severe cases, surgery can help prevent permanent nerve and muscle damage.

During the surgical procedure, called carpal tunnel release, the band of tissue around the wrist (the carpal ligament) is severed to alleviate the pressure on the median nerve. This can be performed using an arthroscope or, in some cases, an open wrist procedure is necessary. Surgery is followed up by physical rehabilitation and an at-home exercise program to strengthen hand and wrist muscles.

Can You Prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

You can prevent carpal tunnel syndrome by making lifestyle changes and avoiding risk factors. Pay closer attention to your posture and how you use your hands during certain activities. It can be very beneficial to modify job tasks that overextend your wrists. It’s also very important to work with your doctors to manage diabetes, high blood pressure, and arthritis to help keep carpal syndrome from developing.

Tackling potential factors that may lead to carpal tunnel syndrome provides a bigger preventative success rate. It’s important to lose weight if necessary and incorporate healthy practices into your life.

Choose foods that help reduce inflammation and encourage healing and regeneration of healthy tissue. A diet that includes amino acids, vitamins, minerals, omega-3 and 6 fatty acids, and probiotics supplies your body with the resources and tools it needs to keep working properly and fight potential issues. Always incorporate fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and adequate amounts of water into your daily routine.

To protect your joints, you must nourish and strengthen your muscles, so activities like resistance exercise and low-impact aerobics are essential in both treating and preventing carpal tunnel syndrome. Also follow the necessary regimen for treating any underlying conditions.

Benefits of Amino Acids

Amino acids are required for the production and maintenance of almost every function and tissue in our bodies. They play critical roles in how our bodies function and are the building blocks of our bones, muscles, and hormones. When looking at managing pain, specific amino acids produce neurotransmitters that can help decrease pain levels.

Not only do amino acids produce chemicals and hormones in reaction to pain and inflammation, but they are essential for building and maintaining the health of our soft tissues, muscles, and bones. If you already have carpal tunnel syndrome, amino acids can be helpful in combating chronic pain by supporting your body’s pain relief system. If you lack or have low levels of specific amino acids, you fall short on the needed pain-fighting hormones and chemicals that are essential to managing stress. You can obtain certain amino acids through your diet, as well as through supplementation, but taking a balanced amino supplement of the essential aminos is ideal.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Outlook

Treating your carpal tunnel syndrome early with physical therapy and lifestyle changes can reduce your symptoms and produce a much more positive long-term outlook. When left untreated, carpal tunnel syndrome can lead to permanent nerve damage, loss of hand strength and feeling, and constant tingling or pain. If your muscles begin to atrophy, your strength begins to decrease and it becomes difficult to open and close your hand, hold objects, and move your fingers freely. Unfortunately, once damage to your muscles occur, it cannot be reversed and managing your symptoms becomes much more difficult.

Never wait until the wrist and hand pain become so disruptive and uncomfortable that you begin to lose movement. When treated early, you can fully recover from carpal tunnel syndrome without any long-term side effects.

The pain in your carpal tunnel is due to excess pressure in your wrist and on the median nerve. This inflammation can cause swelling in your wrist and sometimes obstruct blood flow. Here is more information about carpal tunnel syndrome, the symptoms to look out for, and what treatments are available to provide relief.

Understanding Autism: Signs, Characteristics and Coping

We’re here to share the signs and characteristics of autism so you can stay informed as you monitor your child’s development. We’ll also share some common methods of coping with an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis.

According to the National Institutes of Health, approximately 2.41% of children in the United States have autism spectrum disorder. The term autism refers to a type of developmental disorder that strongly impacts an individual’s social and communication skills. Autism is not a single disorder but rather is the abbreviated term for autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Under the ASD umbrella lie various types of developmental disorders, including Asperger syndrome, that affect individuals to varying degrees. According to the American Psychiatric Association these include:

  • Autistic disorder
  • Childhood disintegrative disorder
  • Pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS)
  • Asperger’s syndrome

Basically, autism doesn’t look the same on any two individuals but rather manifests differently in each person. There are, however, common autism characteristics, such as difficulties with communication and social interaction.

While various factors can cause a child to experience developmental delays, such as speech delays, ASD should never be ruled out as a potential cause. We’re here to share the signs and characteristics of autism so you can stay informed as you monitor your child’s development, as early intervention is key to improving daily life for both those with autism and their caregivers. We’ll also share some common methods of coping with an ASD diagnosis.

What Is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Autism is a developmental disorder that specifically affects an individual’s verbal and social skills development. What is important to understand about autism is that it is a spectrum. This means that one may fall on the high or the low end of the spectrum. Those on the low end have more severe developmental disabilities, behavioral challenges, and social communication symptoms, while those on the high end are thought to have less severe symptoms, or what is referred to as high-functioning autism.

Autism affects both children and adults. Autism does not develop later in life but sometimes goes misdiagnosed or undiagnosed in young children, particularly if the children are high functioning. Misdiagnosing and underdiagnosing leads to adults with ASD who don’t know that they have ASD and who likely never received any treatment.

What Causes Autism Spectrum Disorder?

ASD is believed to be caused by abnormalities in brain structure and brain function. What causes these abnormalities has not yet been determined. Health care providers do believe, though, that genetics play a role in ASD. A diagnosis of autism has been linked to genetic disorders such as Rett syndrome and fragile X syndrome. Certain genetic mutations may increase the risk of autism, while other genes can influence brain development and affect patterns of behavior or severity of symptoms.

Patterns of ASD in families have been observed, although a specific gene or identifying genetic marker has not yet been found. Researchers continue to study genetic factors as well as environmental factors, such as viruses or air pollutants, which may contribute to the development of ASD.

Autism and Vaccines

For several years, there has been a concern among parents about whether common infant and childhood vaccines may lead to autism. After extensive research, various reputable health organizations have concluded and asserted that vaccines are not a risk factor for autism. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Mayo Clinic, and Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital have each stated that there is no link between vaccines and autism and that the studies which suggested there may be a link have not been able to provide any reliable research to back up their claims.

One of the earliest studies, published in 1998, suggesting a connection between a vaccine and autism has since been proven false, leading to the loss of the medical license of the physician who wrote it, as well as the article being pulled from publication. To date, no research has been able to provide a viable link between vaccines and autism.

We’re here to share the signs and characteristics of autism so you can stay informed as you monitor your child’s development. We’ll also share some common methods of coping with an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis.

Signs of Autism

According to the Autism Speaks website, signs of autism may appear as early as 18 months old, though the most apparent autism characteristics typically don’t emerge until around age 2 or 3. Autism causes developmental delays, so as a child ages it becomes evident if he or she is not hitting certain milestones. It’s important to note that not everyone with ASD will exhibit the same symptoms, and those who do share symptoms may experience them to varying degrees. Autism Speaks lists the following common signs of autism to help parents evaluate their child’s development.

6–24 months:

  • No social facial expressions, such as smiles, directed at people
  • Limited or no eye contact
  • No vocal sounds or nonverbal communication such as smiling
  • No babbling
  • Does not use gestures that babies typically use to communicate, like pointing, reaching, waving
  • Does not respond when name is called
  • No words

At any age (including in teens and adults):

  • Avoids eye contact
  • Prefers to be alone
  • Lacks the ability to understand other people’s feelings
  • Is nonverbal or has delayed language development
  • Repetitive speech, especially words or phrases over and over
  • Repetitive behaviors, like flapping, rocking, or spinning
  • Unusual movement or body language
  • Relies on routine and gets upset over minor changes
  • Very restricted interests
  • Unusual and intense reactions to senses including:
    • Sounds
    • Smells
    • Tastes
    • Textures
    • Lights
    • Colors

Coping with Autism

Learning that a family member has autism is taxing on the entire family, especially parents and siblings. The earlier a child receives a diagnosis of ASD and begins treatment, the better the outcome may be for the child. There is no cure for ASD and no one treatment is effective for every ASD patient. However, when ASD is diagnosed early, intervention may help a child with ASD develop essential social, communication, and behavioral skills. If your child has been diagnosed with ASD, the best approach to take in helping your child is to talk with your physician about creating a treatment plan. Keep in mind that treatment will change over time as your child ages.

Autism Treatments and Therapies

Common ASD treatments include:

  • Family therapies
  • Behavioral and communication therapies
  • Educational therapies
  • Individualized therapies depending upon needs such as:
    • Speech therapy
    • Occupational therapy
    • Physical therapy
  • Medications to control some symptoms such as hyperactivity
  • Treatments for accompanying health issues such as:

Amino Acids

A 2012 study published in the journal Science revealed that a rare form of autism that is complicated by epilepsy might be treatable using an amino acid supplement. Amino acids help the body form protein, tissue, muscles, and chemicals needed for proper functioning, including proper brain function. Autism Speaks reported on the study, in which an amino acid supplement successfully reduced symptoms of autism and seizures in mice. While further research is needed to determine the potential effects of the amino acid supplement on humans, this is a step forward in finding new ways to treat autism disorders.

Recovering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: A 9-Step Plan

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a debilitating long-term illness, yet its cause remains a mystery. Chronic fatigue sufferers often experience extreme fatigue, pain, and sensory issues that can prevent them from performing simple daily tasks, like getting out of bed. Here’s a 9-step plan for chronic fatigue recovery.

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a debilitating long-term illness, yet its cause remains a mystery. CFS is also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS). Systemic exertion intolerance disease (SEID) is a new name that some health advocates insist more aptly describes the complex, aggregate nature of the disease’s cognitive, physical, and emotional components. According to a 2015 report published by the Institute of Medicine, chronic fatigue syndrome afflicts approximately 836,000 to 2.5 million Americans.

Chronic fatigue sufferers often experience extreme fatigue, pain, and sensory issues that can prevent them from performing simple daily tasks, like getting out of bed. Any level of physical or mental exertion can worsen symptoms which do not improve with rest and which can’t be explained by the presence of other ailments. Roughly one-third of chronic fatigue syndrome patients are either bedridden or housebound at some point during their illness.

Chronic fatigue syndrome has been described as a social illness, since it severely limits patients from participating in family, work, and other social activities. It is estimated that the United States economy loses $17 to $24 billion annually in incomes and medical costs, as a result.

What Causes Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

There is no clear cause of CFS. Investigators suspect there may be more than one factor that triggers CFS. A compromised immune system may either be a cause or an effect of the illness, as progressively poor immunity to viral infections is a hallmark of the illness.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has suggested that chronic fatigue syndrome may be the end result of infectious disease. Human herpesvirus, Ross River virus (RRV), Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), and rubella are viruses that have been studied in relation to CFS. Mycoplasma pneumoniae and Coxiella burnetii are suspected bacterial triggers.

In addition to a weakened immune system and microbial infections, psychological distress and hormonal imbalances may further aggravate or initiate CFS, either jointly or separately.

Chronic Fatigue Risk Factors

Chronic fatigue syndrome is most prevalent among adults between the ages of 40 and 60 years old, but it can affect people of all ages, including children. Females are 2 to 4 times more likely than males to develop the illness. Some people may be genetically predisposed to CFS. Although the disease is diagnosed in Caucasians more than in any other racial group, it is estimated that 90% of people living with chronic fatigue syndrome are not diagnosed. Here are other factors that may increase the risk of developing ME/CFS:

  • Environmental pollutants
  • Allergens
  • Stress
  • Recent or previous infectious disease
  • Obesity
  • Alcohol use
  • Depression
  • Sleep disorders
  • Certain medications (e.g., antihistamines)

Chronic Fatigue Symptoms

The effects of chronic fatigue syndrome on every individual are different. Chronic fatigue syndrome patients may look completely healthy. Symptoms of CFS can be quite unpredictable and can appear similar to those of other illnesses. In fact, one or more symptoms may trigger other CFS symptoms. Some people can exhibit many or a few typical CFS symptoms that may come and go, or that may change in severity. Chronic fatigue symptoms are likely to change over the course of the illness.

Most CFS sufferers will never recover their pre-disease health status and often find it difficult to maintain a job, go to school, or participate in social activities. Chronic fatigue syndrome limits a person’s ability to do simple tasks—like making a sandwich, standing up, or bathing—and can lead to severe impairment lasting for many years.

Chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms include:

  • Sleep problems (unrefreshed feeling after sleep, chronic insomnia)
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Frequent headaches and dizziness
  • Cognitive dysfunction (memory loss, concentration difficulties)
  • Depression
  • Pain (muscle pain, multiple joint pain with inflammation, redness, or laxity)
  • Poor immunity (inability to heal from infections, frequent sore throat)
  • Gastrointestinal issues (lack of appetite, nausea especially in the morning, abdominal pain, heartburn, feeling “full” after eating very little food, bloating, aversions to certain foods, irritable bowel syndrome)
  • Lymphadenopathy (tender, swollen, or enlarged lymph nodes, especially of the neck and armpit regions)
  • Fever
  • Gynecological problems
  • Allergies or serious intolerances to medications, toxins, or environmental elements
  • Nervous system abnormalities

Chronic fatigue syndrome usually induces a few keystone conditions. Orthostatic intolerance (OI) describes how a patient’s symptoms worsen while standing upright; however, symptoms tend to improve (but oftentimes not completely) once the person lies down again.

Post-exertional malaise (PEM) occurs when a patient attempts to perform as much as they want or need to, but their symptoms worsen as a result. PEM can occur 12 to 48 hours after physical or mental activity and the effects can last for days or weeks.

Chronic Fatigue Diagnosis

Chronic fatigue syndrome is a poorly understood disease, and its symptoms are often mistaken for those of other illnesses. CFS sufferers are strongly encouraged not to self-diagnose. There are no specific laboratory tests to verify chronic fatigue syndrome, making the disease difficult to diagnose. Nevertheless, a doctor should be able to eliminate the possibility of other illnesses based on the rigorous assessment of a patient’s symptoms, review of a patient’s medical history, review of a patient’s family history, a medical exam, and a psychological evaluation.

Other illnesses have similar symptoms to chronic fatigue syndrome. Illnesses that exhibit some symptoms similar to chronic fatigue syndrome include: multiple sclerosis, lupus, mononucleosis, and fibromyalgia. Your doctor can rule out these other medical conditions with urine and blood tests.

Doctors will investigate the severity and frequency of symptoms, as well as how these symptoms impact a patient’s daily life in order to determine a diagnosis of CFS. Patients who have experienced at least four of the aforementioned symptoms concurrently for more than 6 months are considered strong candidates for chronic fatigue syndrome.

Chronic Fatigue Recovery

There is no direct cure for chronic fatigue syndrome, but some symptoms can be treated or managed with proper medical supervision. Effectively managing CFS is a team effort. A network of physicians, mental health professionals, rehabilitation specialists, therapists, counselors, family members, and friends all working together is the best way to accommodate CFS patients’ care needs. Family members and friends, especially, should maintain a high degree of vigilance and be prepared to take over a patient’s immediate needs whenever necessary.

Although challenging, steps to recovery are incremental and should focus on improving a patient’s quality of life, as well as their perception of such. All involved, including the patient, should have a tolerant outlook for the months and years ahead. Each person may benefit from or suffer from different types of chronic fatigue treatment in a variety of ways, which is why self-care measures should be thoroughly vetted and revised when needed.

The following are 9 recommended steps to chronic fatigue recovery.

1. Identify Safe Healing Spaces

Patients who are able to venture outside of home should do so with the understanding that there are safe spaces available to them in the event they need to rest. Identify these spaces ahead of time inside the homes of friends and family members, at work, at community centers, and in places of worship. Retreat spaces in the patient’s home should be designated so that patients are assured privacy and peace. These spaces can be used for a number of relaxation rituals that include listening to music and engaging in mindfulness-based cognitive therapy.

2. Educate All Participants

Education is a crucial aspect of managing CFS symptoms. Patient’s who maintain a clear and logical understanding of their illness will be in better mental condition to encourage their own healing. A well-informed team is better able to take over a patient’s duties and tend to a patient’s concerns if it knows what to expect. Doctors can begin the education process by talking with CFS patients and team members about what they already know concerning chronic fatigue syndrome, while dispelling any myths about the illness and promoting healthy expectations regarding outcomes.

3. Regularly Monitor and Discuss Specific Symptoms

A patient’s care team can help foster a synergistic approach to managing a patient’s symptoms through effective communication. Seek health care professionals and counselors who are well-informed about chronic fatigue syndrome and encourage these professionals to speak with each other about best treatment options.

A patient should feel comfortable expressing any fears or concerns about their illness or the care they are receiving, so it is important that all involved be sensitive to a patient’s perceptions. Often, a patient may feel they are failing at treatment if they do not see noticeable improvements. Skilled professionals should master the art of revising treatment methods that address consistent issues. Pacing mental and physical activities can be effective when journaling a patient’s progress.

4. Develop a Treatment Strategy

Address symptoms that may hinder the improvement of other symptoms. For example, patients who experience sleep disturbances or chronic pain are likely to suffer profound emotional distress. Identify solvable problems that can remedy the sleep and pain issues to alleviate the patient’s emotional burden.

Treatment strategies should include setting and recording goals, as well as time management methods. Setting and meeting even minor constructive mental or physical goals can be intellectually rewarding. Developing a daily routine is especially helpful for housebound patients, giving them something to look forward to. Instill a rewards system for achievements, especially for younger CFS patients who may feel excluded from more conventional activities.

5. Adhere to a Strict Sleep Regimen

Discourage napping during the day so that it does not affect a patient’s sleep at night. Family members may try sleeping and waking at the same times as chronic fatigue syndrome patients so that patients do not feel like a burden. In any case, patients should aim to go to bed at the same time each night and wake up naturally around the same time each morning.

6. Engage in Physical and Cognitive Exercises Incrementally

Assess a patient’s ability to sit upright first before taking on any level of physical or mental activity. Some patients may feel more comfortable engaging in these activities while lying down. Patients can practice moving their limbs while supine and stationary, or they can listen to and learn from audible literature and lessons through digital devices.

Higher functioning patients should not take on too much even if they feel okay during and after the activity. Symptoms may erupt hours or days later causing the patient to feel worse. This cycle is more widely known as “push-and-crash,” and can lead to quite serious complications. Pacing activities involves engaging in activities for short periods of time, then resting for adequate periods of time.

7. Adhere to a Sound Diet

Eating small meals throughout the day can encourage a healthy appetite and help combat insomnia. Avoid consuming too many fluids with meals to discourage bloating. Eating mild foods can help relieve gastrointestinal issues. Water is the ideal beverage. Infuse water with cucumbers and citrus fruits to improve taste and electrolytes. Alcohol and too much caffeine can worsen chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms. Patients with heart disease may need to closely monitor their salt intake.

8. Manage Pain, Depression, Infections, and Fatigue Effectively

Over-the-counter medications, like aspirin or acetaminophen, are rarely effective when managing CFS pain symptoms. Doctors may prescribe pharmaceuticals, such as dexamphetamine to address fatigue or methylphenidate for concentration issues. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors can address depression symptoms, while anticonvulsants are for widespread pain.

Work with physicians and specialists to increase or decrease dosage when necessary, but never completely stop or start taking any medications without a doctor’s supervision, even if patients have taken this medication in the past. Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) has been used to address chronic infections, but this treatment is not scientifically verified and can be costly. Antibiotics are widely prescribed to treat infections.

9. Use Vitamins and Supplements

Taking vitamins and supplements, such as a complete essential amino acid blend, can be a safe and easy way to improve the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome and make daily activities easier to manage. Be sure to consult with your doctor before taking vitamins or supplements since they can interfere with current medications. Also, excess supplementation can irritate CFS symptoms.

  • Vitamin D is especially helpful for patients who lack sunlight. It can help relieve headache and pain symptoms if taken in proper doses.
  • Magnesium can encourage more restful sleep. Take with apple juice for better absorption before bedtime.
  • Probiotics can counter gastrointestinal issues, especially if patients take antibiotics to treat frequent infections.
  • Vitamin B12 aids brain function and helps to increase energy levels.
  • Amino acid L-carnitine and its derivative acyl-L-carnitines were shown to reduce physical and mental fatigue, while improving cognitive status and physical functions in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome.

Before starting any steps to recovery from chronic fatigue syndrome, it is important to work with your health care providers, who can help cater a treatment plan that best suits your specific needs. Many treatments that exist are not scientifically backed, may be costly, and may cause further harm.

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a debilitating long-term illness, yet its cause remains a mystery. Chronic fatigue sufferers often experience extreme fatigue, pain, and sensory issues that can prevent them from performing simple daily tasks, like getting out of bed. Here’s a 9-step plan for chronic fatigue recovery.