Heart Diseases

If you’re like most people, you think that heart disease is a problem for others. But heart disease is the number one killer in the U.S. It is also a major cause of disability. There are many different forms of heart disease. The most common cause of heart disease is narrowing or blockage of the coronary arteries, the blood vessels that supply blood to the heart itself. This is called coronary artery disease and happens slowly over time. It’s the major reason people have heart attacks.

Other kinds of heart problems may happen to the valves in the heart, or the heart may not pump well and cause heart failure. Some people are born with heart disease.

You can help reduce your risk of heart disease by taking steps to control factors that put you at greater risk:

  • Control your blood pressure
  • Lower your cholesterol
  • Don’t smoke
  • Get enough exercise

NIH: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

HIV/AIDS and Infections

Having HIV/AIDS weakens your body’s immune system. It destroys the white blood cells that fight infection. This puts you at risk for opportunistic infections (OIs). OIs are serious infections that take advantage of your weak immune system. These infections are less common and less severe in healthy people.

There are many types of OIs:

  • Bacterial infections, including tuberculosis and a serious related disease, Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC)
  • Viral infections, such as cytomegalovirus (CMV) and hepatitis C
  • Fungal infections, like yeast infections, cryptococcal meningitis, pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP) and histoplasmosis
  • Parasitic infections, such as crypto (cryptosporidiosis) and toxo (toxoplasmosis)

Having HIV/AIDS can make infections harder to treat. People with HIV/AIDS are also more likely to have complications from common illnesses such as the flu.

You can help prevent infections by taking your HIV/AIDS medicines. Other things that can help include practicing safe sex, washing your hands well and often, and cooking your food thoroughly.

Rotavirus Infections

Rotavirus is a virus that causes gastroenteritis. Symptoms include severe diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and dehydration. Almost all children in the U.S. are likely to be infected with rotavirus before their 5th birthday.

Infections happen most often in the winter and spring. It is very easy for children with the virus to spread it to other children and sometimes to adults. Once a child gets the virus, it takes about two days to become sick. Vomiting and diarrhea may last from three to eight days.

There is no medicine to treat it. To prevent dehydration, have your child drink plenty of liquids. Your health care provider may recommend oral rehydration drinks. Some children need to go to the hospital for IV fluids. Two vaccines against rotavirus infections are available.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Staphylococcal Infections

What are Staphylococcal (staph) infections?

Staphylococcus (staph) is a group of bacteria. There are more than 30 types. A type called Staphylococcus aureus causes most infections.

Staph bacteria can cause many different types of infections, including

  • Skin infections, which are the most common types of staph infections
  • Bacteremia, an infection of the bloodstream. This can lead to sepsis, a very serious immune response to infection.
  • Bone infections
  • Endocarditis, an infection of the inner lining of the heart chambers and valves
  • Food poisoning
  • Pneumonia
  • Toxic shock syndrome (TSS), a life-threatening condition caused by toxins from certain types of bacteria

What causes staph infections?

Some people carry staph bacteria on their skin or in their noses, but they do not get an infection. But if they get a cut or wound, the bacteria can enter the body and cause an infection.

Staph bacteria can spread from person to person. They can also spread on objects, such as towels, clothing, door handles, athletic equipment, and remotes. If you have staph and do not handle food properly when you are preparing it, you can also spread staph to others.Who is at risk for staph infections?

Anyone can develop a staph infection, but certain people are at greater risk, including those who

  • Have a chronic condition such as diabetes, cancer, vascular disease, eczema, and lung disease
  • Have a weakened immune system, such as from HIV/AIDS, medicines to prevent organ rejection, or chemotherapy
  • Had surgery
  • Use a catheter, breathing tube, or feeding tube
  • Are on dialysis
  • Inject illegal drugs
  • Do contact sports, since you may have skin-to-skin contact with others or share equipment

What are the symptoms of staph infections?

The symptoms of a staph infection depend on the type of infection:

  • Skin infections can look like pimples or boils. They may be red, swollen, and painful. Sometimes there is pus or other drainage. They can turn into impetigo, which turns into a crust on the skin, or cellulitis, a swollen, red area of skin that feels hot.
  • Bone infections can cause pain, swelling, warmth, and redness in the infected area. You may also have chills and a fever.
  • Endocarditis causes some flu-like symptoms: fever, chills, and fatigue. It also causes symptoms such as rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, and fluid buildup in your arms or legs.
  • Food poisoning typically causes nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, and a fever. If you lose too many fluids, you may also become dehydrated.
  • Pneumonia symptoms include a high fever, chills, and cough that doesn’t get better. You may also have chest pain and shortness of breath.
  • Toxic shock syndrome (TSS) causes high fever, sudden low blood pressure, vomiting, diarrhea, and confusion. You may have a sunburn-like rash somewhere on your body. TSS can lead to organ failure.

How are staph infections diagnosed?

Your health care provider will do a physical exam and ask about your symptoms. Often, providers can tell if you have a staph skin infection by looking at it. To check for other types of staph infections, providers may do a culture, with a skin scraping, tissue sample, stool sample, or throat or nasal swabs. There may be other tests, such as imaging tests, depending on the type of infection.What are the treatments for staph infections?

Treatment for staph infections is antibiotics. Depending on the type of infection, you may get a cream, ointment, medicines (to swallow), or intravenous (IV). If you have an infected wound, your provider might drain it. Sometimes you may need surgery for bone infections.

Some staph infections, such as MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), are resistant to many antibiotics. There are still certain antibiotics that can treat these infections.Can staph infections be prevented?

Certain steps can help to prevent staph infections:

  • Use good hygiene, including washing your hands often
  • Don’t share towels, sheets, or clothing with someone who has a staph infection
  • It’s best not to share athletic equipment. If you do need to share, make sure that it properly cleaned and dried before you use it.
  • Practice food safety, including not preparing food for others when you have a staph infection
  • If you have a cut or wound, keep it covered

Stress

Everyone feels stressed from time to time. Not all stress is bad. All animals have a stress response, and it can be life-saving. But chronic stress can cause both physical and mental harm.

There are at least three different types of stress:

  • Routine stress related to the pressures of work, family, and other daily responsibilities
  • Stress brought about by a sudden negative change, such as losing a job, divorce, or illness
  • Traumatic stress, which happens when you are in danger of being seriously hurt or killed. Examples include a major accident, war, assault, or a natural disaster. This type of stress can cause post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Different people may feel stress in different ways. Some people experience digestive symptoms. Others may have headaches, sleeplessness, depressed mood, anger, and irritability. People under chronic stress get more frequent and severe viral infections, such as the flu or common cold. Vaccines, such as the flu shot, are less effective for them.

Some people cope with stress more effectively than others. It’s important to know your limits when it comes to stress, so you can avoid more serious health effects.

NIH: National Institute of Mental Health

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