Editorials, Health, Health

When it Comes to Minorities, Improving Men’s Health Improves the Health of the Whole Community

With the launch of President Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative in 2014, many of the issues facing young African American men suddenly hit the front pages. However, there has been an unfortunate tendency to look at African American men’s health issues as narrowly affecting only that particular group. The reality is quite different. Health problems affecting African-American men may also have a profound impact on health outcomes for African-American women and children. Consequently, it is critical that healthcare professionals—and society as a whole—start paying more attention to minority men’s health.

Why it Matters

In 2010, U.S. Census Bureau reported that life expectancy at birth for white females was 81.3 years and for black females, 78 years. For males, however, life expectancy was 76.5 years for whites, 71.8 years for blacks. Those numbers vary greatly by region. In Fulton County Georgia, for example, which comprises most of the city of Atlanta where I life and work, the average African American male life expectancy remains below 65 years—too young to collect social security. According to the Fulton County Department of Health and Wellness, African American males constituted only 24% of the population but 42% of all premature deaths and 50% of all years of potential life lost.
Nine of the ten leading causes of death (as defined by CDC) affect men more than women. Eight of those ten affect African Americans more than whites. African American men as a group are at extraordinarily high risk of illness and death. That impacts the African-American community at many levels, and limits the overall potential for health in the African American community.

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Nutrition, Others, Prostate

Essential Cancer Prevention Tips for Men

Cancer. Just the name sparks fear in the hearts of men all around the world. Whether you’re talking about lung cancer, prostate cancer, stomach cancer, esophageal cancer, or any of the other numerous forms, cancer is frightening and too often deadly. However, it doesn’t have to get you. While genetic predisposition certainly plays a role in whether you develop cancer or not, there are numerous things that you can do to prevent it.

  1. Stop Using Tobacco

If there is one absolutely must-do step you can take to prevent cancer, it’s kicking tobacco out of your life. Tobacco in any form (including cigarettes, cigars, pipes and chewing tobacco) is a cancer causing substance. Lung, throat, and mouth cancer are just for starters. If you can’t quit smoking, consider switching to an electronic cigarette or other smoking substitute (although be aware: e-cigs have plenty of health risks too). It’s not the nicotine that will kill you. It’s the tobacco.

  1. Take Steps to Prevent Cancer-Contributing Infections

Cancer doesn’t come only from radiation and smoking. In fact, a number of infections can actually contribute to the likelihood that you’ll develop cancer. HIV, hepatitis, and HPV are just three of the viruses that may increase your chances of also developing cancer.

  1. Watch What You Eat

What you eat is important for energy, health, and weight considerations, but it’s also important for cancer prevention. A number of foods can make you more susceptible to cancer, including grilled meats, red meat, and salty foods. By extension, anything that adds pounds to your frame could also be considered a cancer encourager, since being obese also increases your cancer risk.  If you’re overweight or obese, take steps to shed those pounds now.

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Substance Abuse

Is Addiction Caused by Genetics or Environment?

Addiction drops you in a dark prison of mazes, and everyone who falls into it comes out a different way. The path to addiction is different for everyone, which begs the question just what causes addiction anyway? Is it genetics, or is it environment? Just as addiction is very complex, so is the answer to this question.

Is Addiction Genetic?

Drug abuse comes from two places: the want to feel good or the want to suppress negative feelings. Typically, the drug will act like a natural chemical created in the brain to supplant its function, such as the THC from marijuana acts like anandamide which controls pain, appetite, memory, and mood.

There isn’t a single gene that is the cause of addiction. It is a combination of genes, which predispose a person to addiction, and having those genes does not guarantee addiction is the absolute result. The combination of genes is as complex as addiction itself. Those combinations can cancel each other out, or create a biological minefield of addiction disasters.

All addictive drugs have an effect on dopamine, which helps to control the reward and pleasure centers in the brain. These drugs allow the brain to generate a greater amount of dopamine than it would in normal situations thus the high of drugs. Dopamine is a key component on the biological side of addiction. People who have few dopamine receptors react positively to mood altering drugs, while those with high numbers of dopamine receptors reacted negatively. This is a strong argument for genetics being a key factor.

Addiction also runs in families, which would lead to the belief that is does have a strong genetic component. On the other hand, families generally have similar environments which counteract the purely genetic component. Tests on mice have shown that certain genetic combinations incline the subject to addiction. Since mice and humans share similar pleasure and reward pathways, this suggests that the groundwork of addiction is in our genes. Unlocking this potential does not lie in the biological realm.

Is Addiction Environment?

An individual’s environment gives opportunity for drug use, which should be explored as a factor in the disease. A person’s socio-economic surroundings will control how drugs can be introduced into their life. Stress and one’s peers are going to create excuses and chances to either take or not take drugs. Early physical and sexual abuse is also a major contributor to addiction, along with being a witness or victim of violence. The need to self-medicate to deal with the horrors of one’s past is not to be ignored. Tie in predisposition to enjoyment or dislike from a biological standpoint, and you either have a cocktail for disaster or a nontoxic situation.

The more access to non-drug rewards that a person has available reduces the chance of addiction. Conversely, a person who is in an environment that allows easy access to drugs will have a greater chance of addiction. If your genes make you more susceptible to cocaine addiction, but you never have the opportunity to try it you’ll never become addicted to it. Opportunity is a component of one’s environment which makes it the piece that starts the disease.

Vulnerability to addiction is a combination of factors that include biology and environment. The answer is not simple because the factors interplay so much in the final result. Genetics are the fuse, and environment is the match to igniting the fire that is addiction.

Sources:

http://blackbearrehab.com/addiction-treatment-glossary/

http://www.drugandalcoholdependence.com/article/0376-8716(95)01118-I/abstract?cc=y=

http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/addiction-science/why-do-people-abuse-drugs/dopamine-important-brain-chemical-in-drug-abuse-addiction-other-brai

http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/addiction/genes/

http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/addiction-science/genes-environment-comorbidity/many-environmental-factors-also-contribute-to-persons-propensity

 

Education, Events, Family, Fatherhood, Lifestyle, Masculinity, Parenting

Lab Grown Sperm: Fact or Fiction?

Did it really happen? Did a company in Lyon, France actually make human sperm in a dish, as touted in a press release? Or will our hopes be dashed as before? Your guess is as good as mine.

A Symphony of Biology

Compare spermatogenesis to a symphony score, but a masterful one, like a work of Beethoven or Sibelius. Exquisitely orchestrated, with complex movements performed by a sea of instrumentalists. And the harmonic result? A fully formed sperm.

Is this a human sperm? This work was retracted from publication in 2009, never to be seen again

Is this a human sperm? This work was retracted from publication in 2009, never to be seen again

The press release announcing the feat was disappointingly bereft of details. Were all the score’s movements included? Were all of the instrumentalists there? Were the instruments in tune? How did the piece sound? Could they repeat the symphony the next evening? Continue Reading

Education, Fitness, Health, Lifestyle, Nutrition, Well-being

Culture and Health Behavior

As a robust young man and future health professional, I lead a healthy life by maintaining a healthy body weight in order to minimize my risk of getting certain diseases in the future. There are a myriad of reasons that can explain why some people engage in risky health behaviors, and culture is one of the most influential ones.

First, what do I mean by lifestyle choices?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)  explains that people “establish patterns of behavior and make lifestyle choices that affect both their current and future health.” These behavior patterns of that are established have positive or negative effects on health. For example, a person who regularly consumes a high sodium/fat diet and does not exercise will become more susceptible to cardiovascular disease (CVD) and other related diseases. On the contrary, making a daily effort to engage in physical activities and eating a healthy diet will reduce one’s susceptibility to chronic diseases.

Second, what relation is there between culture and behaviors with respect to certain health conditions? Continue Reading

Education, Lifestyle, Nutrition, Well-being

Gluten-Free Diet Isn’t Just Another Fad Diet

Many people think a gluten-free diet may be just another fad diet. However, going gluten-free can have a number of health benefits for people suffering from either celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity. First off, what is a gluten-free diet? Simply put, a gluten-free diet is a diet that eliminates gluten. Gluten is a complex protein found in wheat and grains such as rye and barely. It is the component of dough that gives it its elasticity which helps it rise, gives it shape and texture.

A gluten-free diet is mainly used to treat people who have been diagnosed with celiac disease. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that occurs when consuming gluten leads to damage in the small intestine. It is estimated that celiac disease affects every 1 in 100 people worldwide. In the U.S., 2.5 million people are undiagnosed with celiac disease and are at risk for long-term health complications.

Gluten is commonly found in bread. It allows the yeast in dough to rise.

Gluten is commonly found in bread. It allows the yeast in dough to rise.

In people with celiac disease, gluten causes inflammation in the small intestine. When people with celiac disease eat gluten, the immune system responds by attacking the small intestine. The small intestine has villi in the lining which are needed to absorb nutrients. When the immune system attacks the small intestine after consuming gluten the villi get damaged which does not allow for nutrients to be absorbed properly in the body. Continue Reading

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