Monthly Archives: June, 2013

If You Must Mask, Mask Correctly

Face-masks come in many shapes and sizes. One normally associates  them with surgical masks, which is meant to prevent germs from the wearer contaminating the environment. However, the haze which is affecting Southeast Asia is another story..

facemask2

Facemasks come in different shapes and sizes..see if you can spot the two wearing the N95.

The Southeast Asian haze event is caused by continued uncontrolled burning from “slash and burn” cultivation in Indonesia, and affects several countries in the Southeast Asian region because the prevailing southwesterly winds carry the pollutants across the water – see below.

haze map

What are haze particles composed of? Haze particles are predominantly made up of fine particles that are 2.5 micrometers or smaller. This means using an ordinary facemask, whether single-ply, 2 ply or 3 ply, hardly protects the wearer effectively from the haze particles Its designed to keep the germs in and should be worn by those having viral illnesses like flu. Nevertheless, ordinary surgical masks will reduce the inhalation of haze particles but NOT eliminate them completely.

N95_Mask

A properly fitting N95 mask/respirator is effective in keeping out haze particles

To eliminate haze particles completely, one needs to wear a N95 mask (so-called because these masks eliminate 95% of particles as small as 0.1 micrometers (or microns). It must be tight-fitting and is rather uncomfortable to wear over long periods as extra effort is sometimes needed to inhale.

For this reason, the N95 mask is a must for those with lung problems, those with reduced immunity and those who have to be in the open for prolonged periods (like traffic cops).

For those who are otherwise healthy and stay indoors most of the time, ordinary surgical masks may be adequate. In all cases, adequate hydration is important mainly to facilitate the removal of the haze particles which have lodged in the lungs.

 

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It’s a Mad, Mad World – 15 New Mental Illnesses

If the latest manual in psychiatry is anything to shout about, ladies and gentlemen, we have quite a number of new mental illnesses to worry about. And maybe throw out a couple of outdated ones out of the window..

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM for short, lists these changes. The American Psychiatric Association released its revised fifth edition of the manual recently, which serves as the official authority on mental health diagnoses (and related insurance claims).

Among the new entries are:

Compulsive Hoarding a pattern of behavior that is characterized by the excessive acquisition of and inability or unwillingness to discard large quantities of objects that cover the living areas of the home. Read more here.

Compulsive hoarding – a form of obsessive-compulsive behaviour?


Excoriation (Skin-Picking) Disorder– Under the group of obsessive-compulsive disorders, this condition is characterized by chronic picking and scratching of the skin that can cause wounds and scabs. The condition can be associated with other disorders involving compulsive eating, buying and stealing. The problem is often treated with antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs or other medications.

Skin-picking disorder – a manifestation of anxiety and depression, say the psychiatrists.

Caffeine Withdrawal– People who are grumpy before they’ve had their morning coffee may welcome caffeine withdrawal to the manual as a legitimate mental affliction. A controversial addition, the new diagnosis directly reflects our increasing dependence on caffeine, from the proliferation of Starbucks outlets to the growing array of non-coffee energy drinks and caffeine-injected alcoholic beverages.

FourLoko – The drink packs the same punch as two cups of coffee and a six pack of beer.

social disorder

Communication disorders start in childhood and may persist to adult life.

Social (Pragmatic) Communication Disorder- With this addition to the manual, psychiatrists can now more precisely diagnose speech and written language problems that are unrelated to autism.  Indeed, while symptoms of this disorder, which must date back to childhood, include “inappropriate responses in conversation” and difficulty communicating, the diagnosis can only be made after autism spectrum disorders have been ruled out. These problems often hamper people’s social lives, academic careers and job performance.

A few entries in previous editions have been taken out. “Sexual aversion disorder,” for example, has been retracted from legitimate diagnoses because of “rare use and lack of supporting research,” according to the APA. By the way, as an illustration of changing times and how time changes society’s values,  until the 1970s, the manual listed homosexuality as a disorder.

So, Is Coffee OK, Doc?

Some patients asked recently whether coffee was good for one’s health. They had apparently noticed that there has been the shift in marketing strategy by coffee-makers  in promoting it as a rich source of anti-oxidants, and therefore beneficial to health.

coffeePour

 

YES,  coffee is a rich source of anti-oxidants, like chlorogenic acid and melanoidins, the latter being the most important component of roasted coffee. Some of the other beneficial effect of drinking coffee include:

  1. Reducing the incidence of Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s. Read “A Cup of Coffee a Day will Keep Alzheimer’s Away”.
  2. Protecting against diabetes. Moderate consumption  may lower the risk of type 2 diabetes in younger and middle aged women.
  3. Preventing liver disease and the formation of liver and kidney stones.
  4. The beneficial effects of caffeine in coffee on alertness, attentiveness, and wakefulness.

NO,  among other things:

  1. Unfiltered coffee (as in Turkish coffee and kahawa) raises blood cholesterol. Filtered coffee, as in instant coffee, does not do so as diterpenes, responsible for raising cholesterol, are removed by filtration.
  2. Coffee consumption is also associated with an increase of plasma homocysteine, a risk factor for coronary heart disease.
  3. Caffeine in coffee can increase the risk of elevated blood pressure and hardening of the arteries, as well as palpitations.
  4. 4 cups or more will hasten osteoporosis, especially in those with low calcium intake in the diet.
  5. Coffee increases heartburn, aka gastro-eosophageal reflux disease (GERD).

What about heart disease? The verdict’s not in just yet..on one hand, diterpenes cause a rise in cholesterol and homocysteine but this seems balanced by the beneficial anti-oxidant properties. As of now, there is no convincing evidence that coffee leads to heart disease, period.

I ought to clarify here that we are talking about coffee, just plain coffee. The pendulum swings the other way when we consume coffee with additives, like milk and sugar. The latte at the local Starbucks will add on quite a substantial amount of fats, sugars and calories (260 to be precise, see here). Compare that to the ZERO calories of plain black coffee!

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