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The Truth about Malaria

Malaria is a tropical disease caused by a parasite "Plasmodium", and is transmitted by the bite of infected mosquitoes. It takes only one bite from an infected mosquito to become infected. If not treated promptly with effective medicines, malaria can be fatal by infecting and destroying red blood cells and by clogging the capillaries that carry blood to the brain or other vital organs.

With about 660,000 deaths registered each year, about 400,000 are from Sub Saharan Africa alone, the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of malaria have been given priority in many countries around the world. There are four types of human malaria: Plasmodium vivax, P. malariae, P. ovale and P. falciparum. P. vivax and P. falciparum are the most common forms. Falciparum malaria is the most frequent and deadly form, especially in Sub Sahara Africa

What are the symptoms of malaria?

Common symptoms include:

  • High Fever - over 38
  • Chills
  • Sweating
  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle and body pains
  • Weakness
  • Joint pains
  • A cough
  • Jaundice
  • Diarrhoe

More severe symptoms include:

  • Bleeding
  • Haematuria
  • Pallor
  • Strokes
  • Chest pain (angina or heart attack)
  • Cerebral malaria (coma, convulsions, neck rigidity, neurological signs etc.)
  • Death.

Once you get malaria, sometimes in severe cases, some of the symptoms can linger for months.

How do I get malaria?

More than 3000 mosquito species have been identified in both the Arctic and subtropics. They are categorized into 39 different genera. The mosquito responsible for transmitting malaria is the female Anopheles Genus. The female feeds mainly (dusk to dawn) on an infected person to nourish her eggs, the parasite reproduces and develop, then when she bites another person the parasites in her salivary glands then pass to the non-infected person. These parasites move through your system to your liver. Here, they grow and when they reach maturity they leave your liver and slipping into your blood stream, infect your red blood cells, where they continue to multiply causing the blood cells to burst releasing more parasites into the blood stream to infect more blood cells. This is when people typically develop symptoms.

Are there other ways malaria can be transmitted?

Malaria is transmitted mainly by mosquitos. Contracting it via blood transfusions and sharing of needles is rare. Mother-to-child transmission only happens at birth when the parasite passes through the placenta to the child. However during pregnancy a mother with malaria can have serious complications which can affect her and the unborn child. Malaria cannot transmitted directly from one person to another.

Even a small puddle of still water can be a breeding ground for hundreds of mosquitos.

It is a dreadful disease and scientists are trying to develop a vaccine to prevent it. Malaria has become practically resistant to preventative medications so the situation is urgent. In the meantime, world health officials as well as concerned charities and individuals are trying to reduce the numbers of people catching malaria by distributing bed nets.

Who is most at risk?

Travellers from countries with no malaria, young children and infants, and pregnant women and their unborn children are most vulnerable to contracting malaria especially if they live in African countries south of the Sahara Desert, the Asian subcontinent, the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and Haiti. Other contributing factors to the widespread occurrence of malaria is poverty, lack of knowledge, and little or no access to health care.

Malaria, especially the variety found in the tropical parts of Africa, can be fatal. In fact, 90% of all deaths caused by malaria are thought to occur in Africa. The most distressing thing is that the virus in most common in children under the age of 5.

It is important to prevent malaria at all cost, which means keeping mosquitos away from people. Here as some things we can do to prevent and stop the spread of malaria.

  • Sweeping away puddles. Mosquitos can breed even in birdbaths. Make sure you either sweep away the water or, if it is an ornamental pool, make sure it is kept clean and free of mosquito larvae.
  • Taking medication: The use of prophylactic medication when travelling to countries or regions in a country known to have malaria.
  • Sleeping under a net. Bed nets, particularly those treated with human-friendly insecticide, are especially recommended for pregnant women and young children. A fan is also a good idea as it blows the mosquitos away. Spiders, lizards and geckos eat mosquitos so do not be too keen to chase them out of the house.
  • Covering your skin. Wear pants and long-sleeved shirts especially during dawn and dusk when mosquitos are out in force.
  • Spraying clothing and skin. Make sure the products you use are safe for contact with your skin.

Mosquitos are not only responsible for malaria. They also transmit viruses including Dengue Fever, Yellow Fever, the West Nile Virus and the Zika virus. Combined with malaria these viruses have been estimated to kill over a million people and as many as a billion suffer from brain damage, blindness, serious illness and debilitating pain.

If you have any concerns, please make an appointment with your doctor before travelling to areas where high concentrations of mosquitos are known and where malaria is prevalent, or if you are showing symptoms of malaria.

For more information please contact:
Dr S Silvester,  MD
Emergency Room Physician, ER Manager
Maputo Private Hospital
+258 214 88 600

Disclaimer: Any information contained here is merely a guideline. Always visit your healthcare practitioner for any health-related advice or diagnosis.

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Diabetes is a Lifestyle Disease

Did you know? Diabetes is one of the leading causes of blindness. It also leads to kidney failure, heart attacks, stroke, and lower limb amputation. Type 2 diabetes is fast becoming a common lifestyle disease and is indicative of the environment we live in today. We live fast, eat badly and barely exercise.

About Diabetes

Glucose is vital to us. It is a sugar found in foods containing carbohydrates and is also made in the liver. It provides our muscle and tissue-cells with a much-needed source of energy. It also helps fuel our brain. Diabetes affects the way our bodies use blood glucose, and occurs when the body is resistant to insulin due to factors like weight-gain or when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin to move the glucose into the cells for energy.

Diabetes has grown exponentially since the 1990s. So much so that in 1991 the IDF (International Diabetes Foundation) and WHO (World Health Organization) designated the 14th November as World Diabetes day, to raise awareness of the disease, how it affects people, and how it can be prevented.

There are various types of diabetes. But, one thing is certain, no matter what type of diabetes a person has, it leads to excess sugar in the blood. Too much sugar leads to very serious health issues.

The most chronic diabetes conditions are Type 1 and Type 2. They aren't reversible but can be managed through medical care and a healthy lifestyle plus diet.

The only reversible forms of diabetes are prediabetes and gestational diabetes. With prediabetes your blood sugars are quite high but not high enough to be classified as diabetes. Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy, usually during the third and final trimesters, and is generally resolved after the baby is born.

What is the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes?

Type 1 usually makes an appearance during childhood and requires regular insulin injections to manage blood sugar levels. Type 2 is a disease brought on in our adult years – generally more common in people over 40. Although genetic factors can play a role, it is also directly linked to our unhealthy lifestyles, bad diets and lack of exercise. Fortunately, by seeking medical care, Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes can be managed very well with medication and by making healthy adjustments to our lifestyle.

Symptoms of diabetes

Your symptoms can vary based on how elevated your blood glucose is. If you have Type 2 diabetes, prediabetes or gestational diabetes, you may not even experience initial symptoms, which is why the disease is so dangerous. Have your blood glucose levels checked once a year if you are overweight or diabetes runs in your family. With Type 1 diabetes, symptoms can occur quickly and severely.

Here are the 10 most common symptoms of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes:

  1. Frequent urination
  2. Feeling hungry all the time
  3. Abnormally thirsty
  4. Sudden and unexplained weight loss
  5. Tired all the time
  6. Irritable
  7. Blurry vision
  8. Sores that heal slowly
  9. Frequent gum, skin and vaginal infections
  10. A urine test will show a presence of ketones – they occur when there isn't enough insulin in your blood

When should you seek medical attention?

You should see your doctor if you or a loved one notice any of the symptoms shown above, if you have already been diagnosed with diabetes or if you are concerned. Fortunately, if diabetes is diagnosed early on and managed properly, you can live a healthy life. Don't let your blood sugars get out of control. By living healthily, eating a balanced diet and being aware of diabetes, you and your loved ones lower your risk of getting the disease. If you are diagnosed you will need to keep a close eye on your blood glucose levels and your doctor will insist on regular check-ups.

If you have any concerns, please make an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible.

For more information please contact:
Dr S Mashamaite
General Practitioner
MBChB (Natal), MPH (Unisa), Dip HIV Man (CMSA)
Zamokuhle Private Hospital
(011) 923-7751/2

Disclaimer: Any information contained here is merely a guideline. Always visit your healthcare practitioner for any health-related advice or diagnosis.

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Why Washing Your Hands is Effective

The quickest way to spread germs and disease is through physical contact. Not only by touching other people but from everything with which you come in contact. Having come into contact with germs you can infect others and even infect yourself by touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Knowing how and when to wash your hands properly is important.

When to wash your hands

Wash your hands whenever they are clearly dirty.

Preparing food is one of the most important times to have clean hands. Even if the food you're preparing is going to be cooked, it is important to wash your hands before and after preparing food.

If you use contact lenses you need clean hands when you put them in your eyes and taking them out.

Wash your hands after blowing your nose, sneezing or coughing, as well as after using the toilet, changing a diaper or doing housework, and especially after handling garbage of any kind.

If you are caring for caring for someone who is sick, treating wounds – and that includes even when putting a plaster on a scraped knee, it is important to have clean hands. Germs pass even more quickly through an open wound.

Which is the best soap to use?

Regular brands of soap are as effective at fighting germs as antibacterial soaps. Using antibacterial soaps may result in antimicrobial agent resistant bacteria. It really is best to use ordinary soap. Be wary of any product including liquid, foam and gel hand soaps, bar soaps, and body washes which contain triclosan and triclocarban.

When soap and water are not available, 60% alcohol-based hand sanitizers are a good alternative. Carrying an alcohol-based sanitizer in your handbag or pocket means you will never have to worry about washing your hands when you are not near bathroom facilities. It is also safe for children, but always supervise young children and store the product out of reach when it is not in use as swallowing the sanitizer can cause alcohol poisoning.

There is an art to using a hand sanitizer. Ensure you have enough of the product on the palm of your hands to wet your hands completely. Rub your hands together so the product covers all the surfaces of your hands, up to your wrists. Keep rubbing until your hands are dry.

The right way to wash your hands correctly

Although alcohol-based sanitizers are a good alternative, it is always best to wash your hands with soap and water. It is also important to do it right.

To begin with, wet your hands with either warm or cold running water. Apply the soap. It doesn't matter if it comes in bar, liquid or powder soap form. Lather your hands well and, for a minimum of twenty seconds, rub them vigorously, palm to palm, back of hands, wrists, between your fingers and under fingernails. After that, make sure you rinse your hands well and dry them on a clean towel.
Keep yourself and others healthy by developing a habit of washing your hands correctly and at the right times.

For more information Please contact:
Dr F Amod
(Infectious Disease Specialist)
MBchB(UKZN), FCPATH (Micro), FCP(med), Dip(HIV Micro)
Shifa Private Hospital
+27 (0) 31 240 5260 or 

Disclaimer: Any information contained here is merely a guideline. Always visit your healthcare practitioner for any health-related advice or diagnosis.

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Lenmed High Blood Pressure Quiz

How much do you really know about high blood pressure? Here's a short 'TRUE or FALSE' quiz to find out.

  1. High blood pressure is a result of your heart beating too fast. True or False?
  2. High blood pressure is caused by eating too much spicy food. True or False?
  3. High blood pressure is known as the 'silent killer' because some people don't know they have it. True or False?
  4. High blood pressure makes you cough blood. True or False?
  5. High blood pressure only affects white people True or False?
  6. High blood pressure only affects old people. True or False?
  7. High Blood pressure only affects people who are overweight. True or False?
  8. Children never suffer from high blood pressure. True or False?
  9. Only people who have a bad temper suffer from high blood pressure. True or False?
  10. People who are physically fit don't suffer from high blood pressure. True or False?
  11. In South Africa, high blood pressure is responsible for 1 in 2 strokes. True or False?
  12. In South Africa, high blood pressure is responsible for 2 in 5 heart attacks. True or False?
  13. In South Africa, 1 in 3 adults live with high blood pressure. True or False?
  14. Lifestyle changes alone can reverse high blood pressure. True or False?
  15. Only medication can control high blood pressure. True or False?
  16. You only need to take high blood pressure medication for a short time. True or False?

Here are the answers:

1. False     2. False       3. True       4. False
5. False     6. False       7. False      8. False
9. False     10. False     11. True    12. True
13. True    14. False     15. False    16. False

So, how did you do?

Are you an expert on high blood pressure or have you realised that what you know may be nothing more than myth? If you are concerned that you may have high blood pressure please make an appointment with your doctor today.

For information please contact:
Dr T Kathawaroo
(Specialist Physician)
MBBCh (Wits), FCP (SA)
Daxina Private Hospital
Tel: 087 087 0644

Disclaimer: Any information contained here is merely a guideline. Always visit your healthcare practitioner for any health-related advice or diagnosis.

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The Truth about High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is the underlying cause of 1 in every 2 strokes and 2 in every 5 heart attacks. It is a sobering fact and yet so many people do not take high blood pressure seriously, probably because it rarely has symptoms. Without visible signs, almost half of the people who have it are completely unaware of it.

How do I know I have high blood pressure if there are no real symptoms?

High blood pressure rarely has symptoms but that's not to say it has none. There are definite visible symptoms and when you experience these you need to seek medical advice without delay. Facial flushing, headaches, nausea, nose bleeds, sleepiness, visual disturbances and vomiting and are all symptoms of extremely high blood pressure. As we said earlier, because of the lethal nature of high blood pressure, it is best not to wait until you experience these symptoms. At this stage, an appointment with a doctor is vital.

The best advice we can give you is to have your blood pressure checked at least once a year.

There is a very good reason for this. Anyone can develop high blood pressure. It is not dependant on age, gender, fitness or lifestyle.

It is true that it becomes more likely you will develop high blood pressure as you age, but it is not wise to assume that because you are in your twenties that you won't have it. As we've said, to be on the safe side, have your blood pressure checked once a year.

How is blood pressure measured?

There are 2 measurements that you need to be aware of when it comes to blood pressure; systolic and diastolic. Systolic measures the pressure of your heart's contractions, while diastolic measures the pressure of the heart while it is resting between beats. The measurement is given as the systolic over the diastolic.

High blood pressure occurs when both readings are consistently higher than normal.

If your blood pressure is 140 over 90 you need to see a doctor and begin making lifestyle changes immediately. While lifestyle changes may be enough, your doctor may also prescribe medication for you. High blood pressure medication needs to be taken regularly for it to work and it will, more than likely, have to be taken on a permanent basis. It is not a quick fix solution and should not be treated as such.
If you have any concerns, please make an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible.

For more information please contact:
Dr T Kathawaroo (Specialist Physician)
MBBCh (Wits), FCP (SA)
Daxina Private Hospital
Tel: +27 (0) 87 087 0644

Disclaimer: Any information contained here is merely a guideline. Always visit your healthcare practitioner for any health-related advice or diagnosis.

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The Truth about Lifestyle and Heart Disease

Heart disease is on the rise and the statistics are alarming. According to the heart and stroke foundations of South Africa, 225 South Africans are killed by Heart disease daily. It seems an obvious thing to say but, if your heart cannot function properly your risk of having heart disease or even a stroke is significantly higher. No heart, no life. Above all else, 80% of all heart disease conditions can be prevented. Taking care of your heart is vital for life. Taking care of your health should be the first step in preventing heart disease and stroke. But how do you ensure your heart is healthy and operating at its best? Your lifestyle plays the biggest part. And that means diet and exercise.

You cannot be a couch potato, consuming fatty, deep-fried foods and sugary drinks all the time and expect to have a healthy heart. In fact, if your lifestyle is unhealthy, you are putting your heart under great strain and you can become overweight very quickly. On the other hand, you don't need to be a tri-athlete to have a healthy heart. What you do need is to eat correctly and exercise.

Your weight affects your heart

Did you know, being overweight puts you at a 50% higher risk of having heart disease? Being overweight means your heart has to work much harder to get blood to every part of your body. If you are overweight, not only is the chances of having heart disease higher, but you can also develop diabetes, hypercholesterolemia or high blood pressure. You need to be the right weight for your height and age. This is done by calculating your Body Mass Index (BMI). Have a chat with your doctor or dietician about what your ideal weight and your BMI should be.

How does my diet affect my heart?

To start with, when we say, 'diet', we do not mean a crash diet over a couple of weeks. We mean your eating lifestyle. According to studies, the Mediterranean Diet is considered to be the best dietary guidelines to follow for a healthy heart and lifestyle. It consists of a large intake of fresh fruits and vegetables, predominately white meat like fish and chicken. It includes healthy fats like olive oil, nuts, and seeds. The Mediterranean diet is also considered to be high in soluble fiber with focus on whole wheat carbohydrates, beans, peas and lentils. This is the preferred diet to follow not only when one has heart disease, but also considered safe to be used by diabetic, liver disease or renal failure patients.

Your diet affects more than just the roll around your tummy. It affects everything in your body; your weight, your hormones, your organs and the way they function. Getting off the couch and being more active improves your emotional well-being as well.

Healthy food choices does not mean you will be missing out on tasty and delicious meals. Instead, embrace the change. Discovering new foods and new ways of cooking can be both exciting and healthy at the same time. You might be surprised at how delicious healthy food is.

Here are 7 tips for a healthy heart diet

1. Choose good fats over bad fats
Not all fat is bad for you. The good fats are not only tastier, but indeed good for your heart and healthy. Bad fats are considered to be fats known as saturated and trans fatty acids. These fats are well known to build up in the blood and can cause high cholesterol or even blockages within the arteries which could lead to heart disease or strokes.
Mono- and Polysaturated fats are considered to be healthy fats and can be found in olive, sunflower, or canola oil, margarines, tree nuts, seeds, peanuts, peanut butter and fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, herring, trout and sardines. These fats have been proven over the years to keep your heart healthy and can help prevent heart disease. It is therefore important to remember to never cut out all fats from your diet. Healthy fats are also known by the terms of Omega 3 or Omega 6 fatty acids. These fats have many functions in the body and they include decreasing inflammation, keeping arteries soft and maintain the health of your eyes, brain and joint health. Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids cannot be produced by the body. It is essential to eat these foods to obtain the benefits they provide. Guidelines have shown that you must at least consume fish twice a week and rather use olive oil when cooking or preparing foods. Remember to never deep-fat fry any foods.

It's also important to remember, that even a very large consumption of good fats can also be unhealthy. Use all fats in moderation.

2. Choose complex carbohydrates high in soluble fiber
Refined carbohydrates like white bread, cake, cupcakes, biscuits, pies, noodles, vetkoek, crisps are not good for your heart. These foods not only contain a large amount of bad fat, and calories contributing to weight gain. They are also very easily digested and can leave one feeling hungry very quickly or maybe even craving something sweet. Complex carbohydrates high in soluble fiber, have a very low GI, which means the food digests very slowly, making you feel fuller for longer and can curb prevent energy levels dipping during the day. Complex carbohydrates also contain fiber which has been shown to help protect your heart against heart disease. The preferred starches to eat would be brown or whole wheat bread, rice, pasta, potatoes and sweet potatoes (with the skin), fruits and vegetables, beans peas and lentils, whole grain cereals and whole grain crackers. Always remember to use these foods in moderation, as once again, even a large intake of these foods can also be unhealthy and lead to weight gain.

3. Increase your veggie and fruit intake
Enjoy a variety of fruit and vegetables on a daily basis. The national recommendations is 5 fruits and vegetables in our daily diet. They not only contain a large amount of vitamins and minerals which keep the heart healthy, but also contain lots of fiber and anti-oxidants to help protect your heart from disease and stroke. If you struggle to include these foods in your diet, start off by replacing your snacks with a fresh fruit or try and add a fruit to your breakfast by either cutting it into your cereal in the morning or adding it to your yoghurt and muesli. For supper, try to pack at least half of your plate with vegetables or salad.

4. Choose lean and fresh proteins
White meat like fatty fish, chicken and eggs have been proven to be better for your heart. The Heart and Stroke Foundation suggests that out of the 7 days a week, at least 4 days must consist of the consumption of white meat. If one does choose red meat, please choose lean cut of meat and avoid processed meats. It is also important to remember, that when you do prepare your meat to choose preparations methods that involve very little oil and no deep fat frying. Braaing, grilling, stir-frying, boiling, steaming your meat is considered to be the healthiest options. Meat should be eaten in moderation. The human digestive system is not equipped to manage large quantities of animal protein and an excess can cause severe damage to your kidneys

5. Beans are best
Beans, lentils and peas are an excellent substitute for meat. They are packed with fibre, anti-oxidants, low in fat and high quality protein. They are also considerably cheaper than meat with the same benefits (if not more) than meat. Start including these foods by adding a tin of beans when preparing stews, curries, pasta or one pot dishes.

6. To lose fat, go low fat
When choosing dairy products remember to either choose low fat or fat free dairy products like low fat (2%) or fat free milk, low fat yoghurt or sugar free yoghurt, low fat cheeses like mozzarella, fetta, reduced fat gouda and cheddar, low fat cheese wedges and low fat cottage cheese.

7. Drink more, drink less
Keep well hydrated with at least 8 glasses of fluid per day. Water is considered the best of all the fluids to drink as your body needs water in order to function correctly. Every cell in your body requires fluid. Instead of soft drinks which have large quantities of sugar or fruit juices, rather sip on water, sugar free soft drinks or sugar free cordials. You can add freshly cut lemon, mint, cucumber, apples or lemon juice to the water to give it a nice fresh flavor.

Your heart is a muscle, make it stronger

Exercise builds muscle, including your heart. A strong heart pumps less times per minute but pushes out more blood with each pump. More blood means more oxygen being pushed around your body. Your body needs oxygen to function efficiently.

Exercise also lowers blood pressure, reducing the risk of heart disease and levels of the bad cholesterol known as LDL. LDL is known to build up inside the blood and can clog your arteries causing hardening of arteries, narrowing of arteries or can even cause complete blockages. The end result is most possibly a heart attack or a stroke.

When we exercise, our bodies require more energy to function and as an effect, the body can use cholesterol (bad or good) for energy production. Exercise helps reduce cholesterol which in return with helps prevent heart disease. It is also important to remember that the heart is a muscle and if you exercise, you also strengthen your heart muscle so, it pumps better and harder and help prevent cardio vascular disease. The end result - a healthier, more active, fitter and leaner you. Exercise, combined with a healthy diet, speeds up weight loss.

If I want a healthy heart which exercise should I be doing and how often?

Walking, cycling, dancing, jogging, running and swimming are all great aerobic exercises. And aerobic is the best kind of exercise for your heart, as it makes your heart work harder, burning calories to get oxygen to your body. For a healthy active lifestyle it is recommended that you do either 45min of vigorous activity 3 times a week or a minimum of 20min moderate activity 5 times a week.

For more information or if you are unsure about what kind of diet and exercise you should be on, make an appointment with your doctor today.

For more information please contact:
Dr M Pienaar
B.Sc Diet (UKZN) PG.Dip (UKZN)
Randfontein Private Hospital
+27 (0) 72 392 3020

Disclaimer: Any information contained here is merely a guideline. Always visit your healthcare practitioner for any health-related advice or diagnosis.

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