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Stay Safe in the Heat: Expert Advice on Medication Risks During High Temperatures

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As summer peaks and temperatures soar to record highs in some regions of the U.S., there’s a crucial warning for people on certain medications. Amid the intense heat, one medical expert advises individuals to be proactive, especially if they are on specific medications that could exacerbate potential health risks associated with extreme heat.

Data sourced from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that over a thousand people lose their lives annually due to extreme heat in the United States. The agency’s April 2024 report also brought to light the escalating incidences of heat-related illnesses over recent years as a result of climate change, which has led to increasingly prolonged, hotter, and more frequent periods of intense heat.

“Heat-related illnesses, like heat exhaustion or heat stroke, happen when the body is not able to properly cool itself,” the CDC states. “While the body normally cools itself by sweating, during extreme heat, this might not be enough. In these cases, a person’s body temperature rises faster than it can cool itself down. This can cause damage to the brain and other vital organs.”

Prescription drug use is one of several factors that could heighten the risk of these heat-induced illnesses, the CDC warns. But the question persists: Which drugs should merit concern?

Mount Sinai West’s Emergency Department Medical Director, Michael Redlener, MD, shares in a New York Times interview some of the medications that could potentially increase your risk in the face of a heatwave.

Redlener has highlighted medications for high blood pressure such as angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, beta-blockers, and calcium channel blockers as some of the key groups to keep an eye on.

Notably, ACE inhibitors can heighten the chances of fainting and falling in extreme heat, and they can also suppress the feeling of thirst—making it more challenging to realize when you need to drink more water.

“Drinking enough fluids is one of the most important things you can do to prevent heat illness,” the CDC advises.

Beta-blockers can also enhance the risk of fainting and falling while simultaneously making it harder for you to sweat, which makes it difficult for your body to cool down. Furthermore, calcium channel blockers can complicate body temperature regulation by causing electrolyte imbalances, as added by Redlener.

“Some medications interfere with thermoregulation and/or fluid balance, amplifying the risk of harm from hot weather,” the CDC confirms.

Redlener also warns that specific antipsychotic medications like haloperidol, olanzapine, and risperidone have an impact on your ability to sweat. “Your body temperature has a higher likelihood of getting hotter when you’re on those medications,” he explains.

Contrarily, other medications, including specific antidepressants, can increase sweating and repress thirst, potentially leading to dehydration amid extreme heat. According to a paper published in the Annals of Pharmacotherapy, “Excessive sweating has been associated with antidepressants including tricyclic antidepressants, selective serotonin-reuptake inhibitors, and venlafaxine.”

Furthermore, Mahesh Polavarapu, MD, the medical director of emergency medicine at NewYork-Presbyterian Westchester, points out that stimulants, such as those used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, also belong in the group of drugs that can elevate body temperature.

Polavarapu also noted that over-the-counter antihistamines, including diphenhydramine (Benadryl), promethazine, and doxylamine (Unisom), should be used with caution during high heat periods, as they can inhibit sweating and impact temperature regulation.

These are just a few examples of commonly prescribed medications that could raise your risk in hot weather. Hence, the CDC urges healthcare providers to collaborate with patients to formulate a plan in “advance of hot weather to adjust medication regimens as needed on hot days and for when to seek medical care.”

The CDC further stresses on its website, “Many medicines can make you dehydrated or overheated on hot days. Don’t stop or change your medicines until you talk to your doctor.”

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Understanding Abdominal Pain: Causes, Relief, and When to Seek Help

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Experiencing abdominal pain can be due to a myriad of reasons, ranging from something as mundane as gas to more significant health conditions like appendicitis or Crohn’s disease. Recognizing the intensity of the pain and location within the abdomen can significantly aid in diagnosis.

The abdomen, situated between the chest and pelvis, is often where this discomfort occurs. Manifestations of such discomfort range from crampy, achy, and dull feelings to intermittent or sharp pains. It’s a remarkably common issue within the United States, with up to 1 in 4 people affected by this gastrointestinal symptom.

While the discomfort is typically transient, resolving with dietary changes and lifestyle modifications, it can also be chronic or indicative of a potentially drastic, life-threatening condition requiring immediate medical care.

“Determining the correct treatment for abdominal pain will ultimately depend on the root cause. This can involve a combination of natural remedies, medications, and, in more serious cases, surgical intervention,” says an expert on the topic. For instance, the fleeting pain caused by bloating might not necessitate medical treatment.

There are instances where over-the-counter (OTC) medications can alleviate abdominal discomfort, such as cramps, bloating, and nausea. However, appendicitis that results in severe pain might need a more robust treatment plan involving antibiotics and potentially an appendectomy, a surgical procedure to remove the appendix.

A healthcare professional is instrumental in creating the most effective treatment plan. While there are plenty of home remedies available to help soothe abdominal pain, it’s critical to consult a medical professional before trying anything new, as what works for one person may not necessarily work for another. Always remember health is an individual journey, and taking into account personal medical history is crucial for effective treatment.

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Unlocking the Parkinson’s Puzzle: Vital Vitamin Links Revealed

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Parkinson’s disease, a neurodegenerative disorder whose precise origins continue to elude the scientific community, may have a new suspect in its etiology: vitamin deficiencies. While physicians and scientists have long hypothesized that an interplay between genetic and environmental factors contributes to the disease’s onset, new findings suggest a possible role for the absence of certain vitamins.

A recent study undertaken in May 2024, published in the Parkinson’s Disease journal, endeavored to uncover “gut microbial features” prevalent in individuals diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. The research involved a meta-analysis of fecal matter from a group of 94 diagnosed Parkinson’s patients, juxtaposed with 73 healthy individuals hailing from Japan. The data from this study was compared with earlier studies carried out in the U.S., Germany, China, and Taiwan.

The study’s findings were illuminating. It appears that those suffering from Parkinson’s disease were lacking in bacterial genes, which may cause a deficiency in two B vitamins, namely riboflavin (B2) and biotin (B7). The researchers stated: “Pathway analysis showed that genes in the biosyntheses of riboflavin and biotin were markedly decreased in Parkinson’s disease after adjusting for confounding factors.”

Riboflavin, known as B2 vitamin, is a component of the B-complex vitamins and is commonly found in a variety of food items including meats, fortified grains, and nuts, as confirmed by the Cleveland Clinic. “Riboflavin is an essential micronutrient that helps cells develop and work well,” says registered dietitian Kayla Kopp, RD. “Healthy bacteria in your gut microbiome make small amounts of riboflavin. But your body needs more to function. That’s why it’s important to get enough of this B vitamin in your diet every day.”

Significantly, the study also highlighted how riboflavin has been shown to improve conditions such as “oxidative stress, mitochondrial dysfunction, neuroinflammation, and glutamate excitotoxicity,” all of which are associated with Parkinson’s disease onset.

Biotin, or B7, is another B-complex vitamin that supports vital bodily functions. It is found in foods like meat, eggs, fish, seeds, nuts, and certain vegetables. The study notes that biotin produces anti-inflammatory substances and has the ability to decrease inflammation, providing relief from symptomatic allergies, immunological symptoms, and inflammatory bowel disease.

Given the implications of these vitamin deficiencies on health, the researchers suggest that introducing vitamin B supplements might be beneficial to Parkinson’s patients. In their words, “Supplementation of riboflavin and/or biotin is likely to be beneficial in a subset of Parkinson’s disease patients, in which gut dysbiosis plays pivotal roles.”

Nonetheless, it is critical to exercise caution before hastily adopting the study’s conclusions. “I think these data are much too premature to warrant therapeutic interventions,” warns Tim Sampson, PhD, assistant professor in the department of Cell Biology at Emory University School of Medicine. He emphasizes that these findings just widen the understanding of how the gut microbiome might be contributing to Parkinson’s disease.

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Endocrinologist Reveals Top Gut Health No-Nos to Live By

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Our gut health is more important than many of us realize. With more than 100 trillion microbes, including bacteria, fungi, yeast, and viruses, the gut microbiome plays a crucial role in how our bodies function and respond to stress, certain foods, and even some medications. Registered dietitian Kristian Kirkpatrick, RD, calls it the ‘second brain,’ thanks to its vast influence on our overall health.

1. Limit Red Meat Intake

Endocrinologist and researcher, Max Nieuwdorp, PhD, highlights the vital role gut microbes play in the production and release of various hormones, affecting our daily processes like mood and metabolism. One of the items Nieuwdorp suggests we limit for optimal gut health is red meat. He told Business Insider, “I try to not eat meat every day.”

While red meat can alter the composition of the gut microbiome, producing “dangerous” metabolites during the digestion process, Scripps Health also warns that a diet centered around red meat may increase risk for diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and colorectal cancer due to its high cholesterol, saturated fats, and sodium content.

2. Avoid Ultra-Processed Foods

Nieuwdorp also advocates for reducing the intake of ultra-processed foods, including sweetened breakfast cereals, processed meat, soda, and some frozen ready-to-eat meals. Instead, he recommends prioritizing fresh, additive-free foods.

Gastroenterologist Preeya Goyal, MD, explained in an interview with PIH Health that “ultra-processed foods contain large quantities of saturated fat and trans-fat, added sugar, salt, and food additives that seriously affect the gut and physical health.” Additionally, the consumption of ultra-processed foods can disrupt brain functions.

3. Use Antibiotics Only When Necessary

Lastly, Nieuwdorp suggests using antibiotics only when absolutely necessary. “They drive dysbiosis in the gut,” he said.

Cleveland Clinic explains that dysbiosis means a lack of diversity in the gut’s microorganisms, which can make us vulnerable to infections. An imbalanced gut microbiome can also negatively affect our hormones and other essential microbiome services.

Harnessing the power of hormones for optimal health means nourishing our ‘second brain’ — the gut microbiome. By reducing red meat intake, avoiding ultra-processed foods, and using antibiotics only when necessary, we can better care for our gut health, positively impacting our overall wellbeing. Just like every part of our body, our gut requires thoughtfulness and care. With these tips from Dr. Nieuwdorp, we can take actionable steps to improve our gut health and consequently, our general health.

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