Health Conditions – What & Why
Alzheimer’s disease is a neurodegenerative condition characterised by a decline in thinking and reasoning skills. People with Alzheimer’s are eventually unable to perform the basic activities of daily life.
Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a type of arrhythmia, which means that the heart beats both fast and in an irregular fashion. This is caused by a distortion of electrical messages that control the steady rhythm of the heart, which we know as the ‘heartbeat’.
Ankylosing spondylitis is a relatively rare autoimmune condition that involves chronic inflammation of the spine and the joints. It usually starts manifesting itself in early adulthood with back pain and a loss of flexibility in the spine. About 1 in 1,000 people have the condition.
Age Related Macular Degeneration
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the most common cause of irreversible vision loss in the western world among people over 60. The disease affects the central part of the retina, which is critical for activities like reading, driving, or even recognising faces.
Asthma causes the body to overreact to allergens or irritants in the air, constricting and inflaming the bronchial tubes so severely that breathing becomes difficult. A person’s likelihood of developing the condition depends on a combination of genetic susceptibility and exposure to environmental factors, such as air pollution, viral infections, allergens and psychological stress.
Bladder cancer occurs when abnormal cells grow out of control and spread into other parts of the body. Men have a 4% lifetime risk of bladder cancer while as women have a 1% lifetime risk. The exact causes of bladder cancer are unknown but factors thought to increase risk include: smoking; diabetes; and family history.
Breast cancer occurs when abnormal cells grow out of control and spread into other parts of the body. One in eight women will face breast cancer at some point in their lifetime. Next to lung cancer, it is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in women. The good news is that the number of these deaths is steadily decreasing. Medicine is making great strides against the disease thanks to early detection and better treatments.
Coeliac Disease is an autoimmune condition triggered by proteins found in wheat, barley and rye (glutens). When a person with coeliac disease eats gluten their immune system activates to mount an attack on the tissue of the small intestine. The only treatment for coeliac disease is adherence to a completely gluten-free diet. This diet alleviates symptoms (diarrhea and abdominal pain) and allows the intestinal damage to heal.
Coronary Heart Disease
Coronary heart disease (CHD), also called coronary artery disease, is a condition characterised by blockage of the arteries that supply the heart with blood. CHD can result in shortness of breath, chest pain (angina) and heart attack. It is a leading cause of death in both men and women worldwide. Healthy lifestyle choices play a major role in preventing CHD. If a heart attack does strike, prompt medical attention is vital.
Colorectal Cancer (Bowel Cancer)
Bowel cancer is a malignant growth that develops in the lining of the bowel. It’s the third most common cancer (excluding skin cancers) and the second biggest cause of cancer deaths in Australia. The good news is that if caught at an early stage, before it has had a chance to spread to other organs, the chances for survival are extremely high.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) encompasses the lung diseases, emphysema and persistent bronchitis. Emphysema occurs when the lungs are damaged to such an extent that it is difficult to breathe. Bronchitis is an inflammation of lung tissue that causes mucus production that can block the airways. Many people with COPD have a combination of both disorders.
Crohn’s disease (CD) is a chronic bowel disease caused by an overactive immune response to “friendly” intestinal bacteria. Symptoms include diarrhea, cramping and bleeding. About 100-150 out of 100,000 people of European ancestry have CD. The disease is especially common in people of Jewish ancestry.
Diabetes Type I
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition where the immune system activates to destroy the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. We don’t yet know what causes this autoimmune response but we do know that creating a healthy gut bacterial colony helps reduce the chance of an autoimmune reaction.
Diabetes Type II (Adult onset)
Type II diabetes occurs when chronically high blood sugar levels cause a breakdown of the body’s natural response to eating sweets and starches. Left untreated, type II diabetes can result in kidney failure, blindness and circulatory problems that increase the risk of heart attack or stroke.
Glaucoma is a group of closely related eye conditions, all of which display optic nerve damage and abnormally high pressure inside the eye. Glaucoma is the second most common cause of blindness.
Most people with high blood pressure (or hypertension) do not show symptoms until the condition has reached an advanced stage. Left untreated, severe hypertension can lead to heart failure, stroke, vision loss or kidney problems. Both genetic and environmental factors including, weight, inactivity, diet and stress can contribute to hypertension.
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in Australia, more than colon, lymphoid, prostate, and breast cancers combined. Nearly 90% of lung cancers can be attributed to smoking. Risk of the disease increases with the amount of time and the number of cigarettes a person smokes. Quitting, even after many years of smoking, can significantly decrease the chances of developing lung cancer.
Migraines are severe headaches often accompanied by nausea and sensitivity to light and sound. They can be triggered by a wide variety of environmental factors and in some cases are preceded by visual symptoms called an “aura”. Migraines are 3 times more common in women than in men, and up to 40% of people will experience a migraine in their lifetime.
Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system, causing unpredictable and varying symptoms that differ from person to person. Multiple sclerosis usually strikes between the ages of 20 and 50, and affects 2 to 3 times more women than men. Although there is currently no cure for multiple sclerosis, there are treatments that can slow the progression of the disease and enhance the quality of life for people who have this condition.
Most ovarian cancer tumors are present for some time before they’re diagnosed. The only definitive way to confirm a diagnosis of ovarian cancer is by taking a tissue sample (biopsy) and looking at the cells under a microscope. This is usually done during an operation, which means that the cancer is diagnosed and treated at the same time. The good news is if diagnosed and treated early, the cure rate is 90%.
Parkinson’s disease is a disorder of the brain’s motor system caused by a loss of dopamine producing brain cells. The main symptoms are: trembling in the hands, arms, legs, jaw, and face; stiffness of the limbs and trunk; slowed movement; and impaired balance and coordination. Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease usually come on gradually and affect people over the age of 50, however there are rare forms that progress more quickly and strike at a younger age.
Prostate cancer occurs when abnormal cells grow out of control and spread into other parts of the body and is by far the most common cancer affecting men. Whilst women don’t have prostate glands and therefore cannot contract this cancer, they can pass markers on to their children.
About one in six men will develop prostate cancer in their lifetimes. Fortunately, most prostate tumors grow slowly and if detected early, treatment may help control their size. A family history of prostate cancer is understood to increase the risk of prostate cancer.
Psoriasis is an autoimmune disorder characterised by patches of itchy, scaly skin. In its mild form, psoriasis may be just a nuisance. In the most severe cases it can be painful, disfiguring, and disabling. It’s estimated between 2% and 10% of people are affected by psoriasis (depending on the method used to characterise the disorder).
Restless Legs Syndrome
Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a neurological disorder characterised by throbbing, pulling, creeping, or other unpleasant sensations in the legs and an uncontrollable, and sometimes overwhelming, urge to move them. The most distinctive or unusual aspect of the condition is that lying down and trying to relax activates the symptoms. Most people with RLS have difficulty falling and staying asleep. Left untreated, the condition causes exhaustion and daytime fatigue.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic autoimmune disease that affects the joints. Early symptoms of RA include swelling, pain and stiffness. As the disease progresses, more debilitating symptoms can arise. In particular, joints lose their shape and ability to flex. It can strike at any age, but onset is usually between the ages of 30 and 50. Like many autoimmune diseases, RA is more prevalent in women.
Sjögren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disorder in which the body’s defense system mistakenly attacks the mucous membranes and moisture-secreting glands of the eyes and mouth, and sometimes other tissues as well. Sjögren’s is often found in combination with other autoimmune disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. Sjögren’s sometimes runs in families and is much more common in women. It usually strikes after age 40.
A dependence on alcohol for creating greater feelings of wellbeing is common. This dependence comes from the interaction of genetics, environment and stress.
A standard drink contains about 10g of alcohol. When consumed, about a quarter of this passes straight into the bloodstream from the stomach and the rest is absorbed through the small intestine. The average person can process about 10g of alcohol every hour.
Caffeine is a stimulant drug that acts on the brain and the nervous system. It is found in coffee, tea, some soft and energy drinks as well as chocolate bars. Caffeine is absorbed in the small intestine, metabolised in the liver and distributed to body tissues within 45 minutes of ingestion. Caffeine has a half-life of 3 to 5 hours in fast caffeine metabolisers and 6 to 10 hours in slow caffeine metabolisers.
Cholesterol & Alcohol
Cholesterol is essential for our health as it creates cell membranes, hormones and Vitamin D.
Cholesterol is transported to where it is needed by lipoproteins, the two main types being high density and low density lipoproteins, HDL and LDL. High levels of HDL and low levels of LDL are associated with a lower risk of heart disease and stroke whilst the reverse mix is associated with a higher risk of heart disease and stroke. Alcohol affects the levels of HDL and LDL differently depending on your genetic make-up.
Our diet is made up of three main nutrients: fats; carbohydrates; and protein.
We each have a genetically based preference for a certain balance of fats, carbohydrates and proteins in our diets. When we have these nutrients in balance we can better manage our weight and control our health.
Emotional or ‘comfort eating’ is triggered by feelings like sadness, anxiety, depression, loneliness or boredom rather than hunger. Most people are familiar with eating for comfort or emotional reward. Some overcome the urge whilst others find it more difficult. We have genes that are linked to reward systems in our brains and in some cases these genes make it even more challenging to overcome emotional eating.
Our genetic make-up delivers us a preference for a certain balance of strength and aerobic exercise. When we have our exercise regime in balance, we can better manage a range of health conditions including cardio-vascular disease.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Symptoms of gluten intolerance include gastro-intestinal problems, joint pain, fatigue and depression.
The hunger genes make us…. well hungry. When we exercise for extended periods we turn off genes associated with weight gain and turn on the genes associated with weight loss; this leads us to become ravenous. Intensive exercise can cause excessive hunger and derail your weight loss program.
When our body is threatened with injury, bacteria or a virus, it responds by becoming inflamed, reddened, hot, swollen. In some situations inflammation can be misdirected or excessive and in these situations it can damage our bodies. For example, moderate exercise is very beneficial as it reduces inflammation, but if prolonged, it can cause inflammation.
People with lactose intolerance have difficulty digesting the sugars in milk. Lactose intolerance is more often found in children than adults. The symptoms of lactose intolerance may include abdominal pain, bloating, flatulence and diarrhea.
Methylation is the process of modifying DNA by turning on or off our genes. For example, moderate exercise turns on many health promoting genes and turns off a number of harmful genes.
Omega 3 metabolism
Omega 3 contains two fatty acids, EPA and DHA. EPA is a very powerful anti-inflammatory and helps protect us from many health conditions including heart disease, whilst DHA helps with the maintenance of normal brain functions.
The ‘snacking genes’ have variants that correlate strongly with the risk of being overweight or obese and this is due to their effect on hunger. The presence of these risky variants can drive the desire to eat high fat, high sugar foods, such as, biscuits, cakes, pastries, cheese and fast foods to combat hunger.
So called ‘thrifty genes’ are genes that are involved in fat storage. In times gone by they protected us from famine and improved odds of survival, which is why these genes have been passed on through many generations. Nowadays we have plenty of food and so there is no need to store extra fat for periods of famine. Having certain variations of ‘thrifty genes’ can lead to excess fat storage and therefore obesity.
Vitamin A metabolism
Vitamin A helps maintain healthy skin as well as our digestive and respiratory systems. Vitamin A promotes a healthy immune system to fight infection. It is essential for reproductive processes and promotes good vision (especially in low light).
Vitamin B12 metabolism
Vitamin B12 is essential for a healthy nervous system as it makes red blood cells and ensures that our DNA can generate healthy new cells.
Vitamin C metabolism
Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant and protects us from the ‘free radicals’ that damage cells and accelerate the ageing process. Vitamin C enhances the immune system, prevents cardiovascular and eye problems. It’s also important for maintaining healthy blood vessels, bone and skin.
Vitamin D metabolism
Vitamin D maximises the absorption of calcium and phosphorous essential for good overall health and strong bone growth. It’s also important for cell growth, a healthy immune system and the reduction of inflammation.
Vitamin E metabolism
Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that also contributes to the maintenance of a healthy immune system, healthy blood vessels and clotting.