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Decoding Nipah Virus

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The Nipah virus – What you need to know? 

Nipah is a virus that causes the Nipah disease. The virus is part of the family Paramyxoviridae and was first identified in 1999. The outbreak back then began as a mild disease in pigs but spread to over 300 human cases. Out of these, 100 deaths occurred which resulted in the euthanization of more than a million pigs. 
Since 2001, the outbreak has regularly been occurring in countries such as Bangladesh and have also been reported many times in India. Off late, around the beginning of 2018, there have been cases of the Nipah virus happening several times in India as well.  

Transmission

Nipah virus is transferred to humans after direct contact with infected bats, pigs, and other NiV-affected individuals. Initially, people were affected after contact with pigs and bats. 
Soon, person-to-person transmission of the virus occurred in India and Bangladesh and had often been occurring ever since. It occurs commonly in the family as well as caregivers of those affected by the virus. The transmission also occurs from the direct exposure to bats as well. One way in which it is transmitted is when a human consumes the raw data palm sap which is contaminated by the excretions of infected bats.  

Signs and symptoms: 

Nipah virus infection is directly associated with the encephalitis, which is the inflammation of the brain. After being exposed to the virus, within an incubation period of 5 to 14 days, patients will feel 3-14 days of a headache and fever along with disorientation, drowsiness as well as mental confusion. If not treated, this can lead to a coma within 24-48 hours. 
During the early part of the infections, some patients also feel a respiratory illness and more than half the patients show neurological and pulmonary signs that are severe. A general health checkup can help in identifying the presence of the virus in a person’s system.
About 40% of the patients who entered the hospitals back in 1999 were diagnosed with serious nervous diseases that led to their deaths.  

Diagnosis 

A combination of tests can determine whether a patient has the disease or not. A general health checkup might not bring up the signs, but other tests that can determine whether the Nipah virus is in the body include real-time polymerase chain reactions from both nasal and throat swabs, urine, cerebrospinal fluid and blood tests undertaken in the early stages of the disease. 
If the case is fatal, immunohistochemistry done on tissues collected during the autopsy period is another way to confirm the presence of the virus. 

Treatment

A preventive health care checkup could help identify the virus in the early stages of its presence.
Most of the other treatment is generally limited to just supportive care. The virus, transferred from person-to-person requires proper control practices, as well as barrier nursing techniques, are crucial during this stage. 
Ribavirin is one drug that has been effective against the viruses, in-vitro, but there has been inconclusive evidence over its effectiveness of the medicine itself. 
Another method that has proved to be beneficial includes the immunization using a monoclonal antibody that targets the Nipah G glycoprotein.  

Prevention 

The virus can be prevented by ensuring there is no exposure to sick pigs as well as bats in some of the endemic areas. Also, avoiding raw date palm sap can help in preventing the disease.
Other efforts that are mainly centered around awareness and surveillance will ensure that future outbreaks do not occur. There is still a lot of research that needs to be done to understand bat ecology as well as the Nipah virus. 
The other surveillance tools that are available are laboratory assays that will help detect the disease at an early stage. Raising awareness of the symptoms and having standard infection control practices can ensure that the disease does not spread.
A vaccine subunit that is created using the Hendra G protein helps in producing cross-protective antibodies against both the NIPV and the HENV. These methods have been employed in Australia against the Hendra virus, and it offers a lot of potential for the henipavirus protection in humans too. 

 

Women And Heart Disease: What You Don’t Know Could Kill You!

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Heart disease is the number one cause of death in women. The problem is both social and diagnostic in nature – women are more likely to neglect  or misread some of the warning signs and may not be aware of appropriate measures.

With every passing year, the risk of heart disease increases. And yet, women of all ages should be mindful of keeping their heart healthy. This can be achieved by choosing a healthy lifestyle.

The risk factors for heart disease are high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and being overweight. Be aware of where you stand AND learn to to recognize the symptoms.  Remember, the symptoms of a heart attack in women are not the exact same ones seen in men. 

Known symptoms of a heart attack are pressure in the chest, pain in both arms, nausea, and light-headedness. Along with severe chest pain, the neck, jaw, shoulders, the back, and the abdomen can also be affected. So watch out for pain in these areas too.

Types Of Heart Disease To Watch Out For

The most common types of heart disease in women are coronary heart disease, coronary microvascular disease, and broken heart syndrome.

  • Coronary heart disease is a result of the buildup of plaque over time on the inner walls of the arteries, blocking the smooth flow of blood. This blockage can lead to a heart attack.
  • Coronary microvascular disease is harder to diagnose because blockages happen at the microvascular level, in the heart’s tiniest of blood vessels. While symptoms are similar to those of a heart attack occurring as a result of coronary heart disease, this form of heart disease is more deadly since it is at a micro level. Unfortunately, women are more likely to suffer from this than men.
  • Broken heart syndrome is a form of heart disease that has only recently been recognized. Women (especially older women) are more likely to suffer from this than men where extreme emotional distress can lead to severe (but usually short-term) failure of the heart. Symptoms are similar to a heart attack and a person can feel discomfort in the chest and can develop heart failure from it. Shortness of breath is another symptom. Heart function can return to normal post-treatment. Recurrence is a possibility.

Fight Heart Disease With The Right Lifestyle Changes

Eat the right foods for a healthy heart: Salmon, tuna, olive oil, orange juice, nuts and some seeds like walnuts, almonds, and flaxseeds are all proven to be excellent heart-friendly dietary options.

Stop smoking: Smoking harms your heart tremendously and leads to other complications as well.

Exercise regularly: Three to five times a week for a good half hour or so has excellent cardiovascular benefits.

Stay lean: Maintain the right weight for your age and body composition. Watch out for that waistline!

De-stress: Meet friends, spend time with family, read a nice book, get outdoors. Take some “me-time” to do what you love.

Get physical examinations at least once a year, learn about your family’s history of heart disease, know your risk factors… and never ignore the symptoms!

The do’s and don’t of dental care when you’re a diabetic!

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Millions of people across the globe suffer from diabetes and taking care of oneself is crucial in this regard. Oral health is often taken for granted and relegated to the backburner but people don’t realize how damaging this can be. Due to the debilitating nature of the disease, diabetics face a lower resistance to infection and don’t recover as fast as non-diabetics.

Diabetes changes the way your body reacts to bacteria. Diabetic or not, we all have millions of bacteria in our mouth; the goal is to maintain a healthy balance. This is easier said than done for someone living with diabetes so they must be extra careful about dental care.

A few of the most common oral health problems faced by diabetics are gingivitis, periodontal (gum) disease, bleeding gums, and dry mouth.

Gingivitis – It is an inflammation of the gums, caused by plaque that accumulates on the teeth over a period of time. It is not as harmful as Periodontitis but can progress to it if left untreated. The signs of gingivitis are swollen, red gums that bleed easily upon brushing. At this stage, it can still be treated and no irreversible damage has been done.

Periodontitis –  This gum infection is more often than not, a result of poor dental hygiene. It damages the gums and erodes the bones that support the teeth. This condition causes teeth to loosen over time and if left untreated, leads to a tooth (or teeth loss).

The damage caused by periodontitis is irreversible. Signs of periodontal disease are

  • Swollen gums that appear bright red and bleed if pressure is applied
  • Tenderness of the gums
  • Gums bleed easily
  • Gums start to draw away from your teeth and make your teeth appear longer
  • Bad breath
  • Loose teeth
  • Pain while chewing

Here’s what dentists recommend you do if you are a person living with diabetes:

  • Keep your blood sugar levels in check
  • Remember to brush after every meal.
  • Use a mouthwash that is alcohol-free if you feel a burning sensation in your mouth or tongue.
  • Using a toothbrush with softer bristles is highly recommended
  • Never forget to floss on a daily basis
  • If you use dentures, clean them every single day, without fail.
  • Stop smoking. It will only worsen your condition.

The major cause of these issues is uncontrolled levels of sugar in the blood which play havoc with your teeth and gums. If you discover that your gums are red, swollen and/or bleeding, visit your doctor immediately. Do not neglect dental health under any circumstances.

Chronic Obstructive pulmonary disease – What is it?

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Chronic Obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is an umbrella term for lung diseases such as emphysema, bronchitis and non-reversible asthma. India has one of the highest rates of COPD related deaths in the world. As of now, it is a progressive and incurable disease but with timely diagnosis and treatment, one can keep it under control.

Having COPD makes it difficult to breathe and going about everyday chores or climbing the stairs can literally take one’s breath away. People who are heavy smokers, those who are exposed to industrial fumes for a number of years, air pollution and sadly, people who inhale it as second-hand smoke is all at risk. A rare genetic disorder known as a1-antitrypsin deficiency is sometimes associated with this disease.

The symptoms of COPD are coughing that may produce mucus, shortness of breath during physical activity, a feeling of tightness in the chest, a lack of energy and sudden weight loss that occurs in advanced stages.

COPD issues like chronic bronchitis and emphysema affect two different parts of the lungs so let’s take a look at them separately.

Chronic bronchitis – This is essentially an inflammation of the bronchial tubes (the passageway that allows air to enter the lungs). Thick mucus builds up in the tubes preventing adequate air from reaching the lungs.

Emphysema – In this condition, the air sacs of the lungs, known as alveoli, get damaged. With the passage of time, the inner walls of the air sacs rupture due to the pressure, creating a large space instead of the small, normal ones. As a result, the surface area of the lungs reduces and the amount of oxygen that reaches your bloodstream also gets reduced. Old air gets trapped, leaving no space for fresh oxygen to enter.

People who have one condition usually have the other as well. Treatment can improve breathing but can’t reverse the damage caused to the lungs.

What precautions can you take to avoid COPD?

Stop smoking
This is the most common cause of COPD. Cigars and pipe smoking also contribute to the problem. If you don’t smoke, stay away from people who are smoking. Second-hand smoke is worse in many ways since most of the smoke doesn’t go into the lungs of the smoker, it disperses in the air. When someone breathes it in, there’s no puffing it out.

Protect yourself against fumes of any kind
This is especially necessary if you work in a factory or are around chemicals a lot. Always keep your mouth and nose covered. Also, be mindful of air pollution.

Public education
Since COPD is such a widespread problem with no cure in sight yet, it is important that the general public is made aware of this dangerous and debilitating disease. Protect yourself and others by spreading awareness as much as possible. Find out if anyone in your family is suffering from this disease and if there have been fatalities associated with COPD.

Pay attention to coughing that won’t go away. Many people tend to wave it off by calling it “smoker’s cough“. Millions of people are living with COPD without being diagnosed. Get regular health check-ups by a medical professional in case you have any of the above-mentioned symptoms. In case your doctor suspects COPD, they might ask you to go in for a lab test, a chest X-ray or a CT scan. If a diagnosis is made early, treatment can start early and you can live a more active and productive life.

 

 

Types of heart attacks: what you need to know!

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People tend to use the term ‘heart attack’ for what is actually two main types of Acute Coronary Syndrome (ACS) and the least serious one, unstable angina. The two main types are STEMI (ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction) and an NSTEMI (non-ST segment elevation myocardial infarction. A myocardial infarction is a technical term for a heart attack.

When we speak of STEMI, this is the worst type of heart attack where a major artery to the heart is completely blocked. There is a complete blockage of the artery and no flow of blood. The risk of damage caused to the heart muscle is during the first few hours of blockage. A STEMI is a medical emergency that requires immediate attention.

For the right diagnosis of a STEMI, an Electrocardiogram (ECG) is used. The signs and symptoms of a STEMI are central chest pain, difficulty in breathing, lightheadedness, nausea or vomiting and breaking out in a cold sweat.

An ECG will show a raised ST wave, a progression to the Q wave and a full blockage to the coronary artery.

An NSTEMI may be less dangerous for a person since the supply of blood to the heart is not completely blocked but only partially. This means that a smaller section of the heart can face damage as opposed to a larger one. An NSTEMI is a serious condition nonetheless and should not be taken lightly. Without proper and timely treatment, it can progress to serious heart damage similar to a STEMI.

An ECG is used to determine an NSTEMI as well. Doctors consult graphs and determine if the waveform they are seeing is an NSTEMI or a STEMI. These two kinds have very distinct patterns. An NSTEMI will show a T wave inversion, no progression to Q wave and a partially blocked coronary artery.

The signs and symptoms of an NSTEMI are similar to those of a STEMI. However, a blood test and ECG will be able to diagnose it correctly.

The least serious type of ACS is what is known as an ‘unstable angina.’ This can occur even when you’re in a resting state and not active. The pain you feel can be very strong and last for a long while, returning again and again. This is a warning sign that your heart is in trouble and could turn into an NTEMI or a STEMI. Do not ignore persistent chest pains.

How can you reduce your risk of a heart attack?

A change in lifestyle habits can help prevent a heart attack.

Eat the right food for your heart – Fruits and vegetables, whole grains and foods that are high in Omega-3 fatty acids are heart-healthy. Add lesser salt to your meals if your regular intake is considered high. Reduce food consumption that is high in saturated fat and sugary treats. Avoid trans fat altogether.

Take time off to de-stress – Stress of any kind is bad for your heart, mental as well as physical. Find ways to relax that you find enjoyable.

Quit smoking – Tobacco use and smoking cause heart disease. Seek help if you have trouble quitting.

Watch out for high blood pressure, sugar levels and cholesterol. These three are a deadly combination that could soon lead to a heart attack.

The heart is one of the most important organs in our body but receives the least amount of thought and care, being burdened on a daily basis with unhealthy diets and bad habits. Lifestyle changes are incredibly important to give your heart the care it needs. Additionally, regular checkups are an excellent way to ensure your heart is in excellent shape.

Can HDL cholesterol levels be too high?

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High-Density Lipoproteins (HDL), is also known as the “good cholesterol” for what they do; the removal of harmful cholesterol from the human bloodstream. Healthy levels of HDL in the bloodstream have been shown to reduce the instances of heart disease, whereas lower HDL levels are said to have the opposite effect, ie, an elevated risk of heart disease.

There are numerous articles, social media posts and other guides on the internet that talk about ways and methods to increase HDL levels in your body. Too much of a good thing cannot possibly be bad, right? Wrong.

What the research says

High-Density Lipoproteins are great. They help the human body flush out toxins from the bloodstream and you need a decent level (Above 40-60 mg/dL) in order to ensure optimal heart health. However, there is a limit to how high the HDL levels can be before they don’t have any further positive effects on your health anymore, and if research conducted at Harvard University is to be believed, the upper limit cap has been set at 90 mg/dL.

You might be thinking… so what? Even “too much” of HDLs in the bloodstream don’t really matter, they just stop helping beyond 90 mg/dL. That’s what the study shows! But unfortunately, that’s not all.

As per research conducted by the Washington State School of Medicine, both low AND high levels of HDL cholesterol in the bloodstream can cause detrimental health effects, including death. To their credit, the research documents do say that further research is required before they reach any concrete conclusions.

In a separate study conducted by the Medical Centre at the University of Rochester (whose findings were published in a journal of the American Heart Association), high levels of HDL cholesterol can place some people at a risk of chest pain, increased heart attacks, and even death.

The solution to High Cholesterol levels

So, what’s the solution then? Should you stop trying to increase your HDL levels? Should you just turn a blind eye to your Cholesterol test results altogether? Should you break off your friendship with the “good” Cholesterol for good?

The solution is very similar to how you’d control elevated levels of LDL, by keeping a constant vigil on your Cholesterol test results.

Time and again, we’ve stressed the importance of a regular health check-up, and issues such as both high and low levels of something like HDLs is one of the biggest reasons why you should not only get the health check-up but why you should also read and understand the values properly.

If the research is to be believed, it’s best for you to ensure that your HDL levels stay well north of 40-60 mg/dL, while at the same time, it’s probably best to keep them lesser than 90 mg/dL. If you drink alcohol, eat a fat-rich diet (Keto etc.) or take any special medication or supplements to increase your HDL levels and they’re becoming too high as a result, you may want to cut back on the consumption of such dietary inclusions, to maintain neither high, nor low, but “healthy” levels of HDLs.

With regular health check-ups, being attentive of your test results and a few lifestyle changes, you can continue to remain best friends with the helpful HDLs without letting them turn into your worst enemies.

As always, we wish you the best!

Which conditions are associated with diabetic foot?

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Diabetes is a condition that requires constant vigilance – blood sugar monitoring, food intake, timely medication and personal care. Many vital organs and systems come under fire as a result of this disease such as the eyes, the heart, the kidneys, blood vessels, the digestive system, the skin and the feet to name a few. One has to be very careful about monitoring daily processes and the progress of this disease.

Below we highlight some of the complications arising out of damage to the nerves and blood vessels in the feet brought on by diabetes and how you can prevent and care for them.

Diabetic neuropathy – There are various types of diabetic neuropathy but the one that affects the feet and legs most is known as peripheral neuropathy. Having high levels of sugar in your bloodstream damages blood vessels and since the feet are at the very end of the body (at the bottom when one is standing) they are the most susceptible to complications.

When the nerves get damaged, they cannot send signals to the brain alerting the person to injury. The patient can sense no prodding, prick, pinch, heat, cold or pain. This puts them at risk for a variety of problems like cuts that could get infected because of not being treated, as well as ulcers and sores.

Peripheral vascular disease – A patient suffering from this condition has a buildup of atherosclerotic plaque resulting in inadequate blood flow in the arms and legs. If a person gets cut, it takes much longer for the injury or wound to heal. If untreated it can even become gangrenous, requiring amputation.

Diabetics can face a lot of other foot-related problems like corns, calluses, bunions, ingrown toenails and hammertoes which are extremely painful and prevent movement.

Therefore it is crucial to ensure the health of one’s feet. Here are a few ways recommended by experts:

  • Keep diabetes in check and maintain healthy blood sugar levels
  • Examine your feet closely before you go to bed each night for cuts, swelling, blisters etc. If you have difficulties, use a mirror to help you.
  • Wash your feet regularly in warm, NOT hot water. Dry your feet carefully especially between the toes.
  • The skin of a diabetic has a tendency to be dry and callused so be sure to use a good moisturizer to keep your skin soft and supple. Avoid applying lotion between the toes.
  • Smoothen out corns and calluses as gently as possible.
  • Trim your toenails regularly.
  • Always choose comfortable footwear, avoid walking around barefoot. Wearing socks is always a good idea.
  • It is crucial to keep changing feet positions. Try to stretch and keep your legs slightly elevated to enable blood flow to your feet. Wiggle your toes and move your ankles up and down a couple of times a day.
  • Be as active as possible under the advice of your doctor.
  • Get your feet checked by your doctor regularly. He/she will notice signs of a problem that you could easily miss or overlook.
  • Follow your doctor’s instructions on footcare.

Can Too Much Salt Damage Your Blood Vessels?

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According to WHO recommendations, our salt intake shouldn’t have more  than 2000 mg (2 grams) of salt a day. That’s less than a teaspoon. Now compare that to the salt we add while cooking two or three meals. And that’s not counting the sodium we take in through processed and packaged goods, which are often loaded with salt.

Salt (like sugar) hides in everyday foods we take for granted like bread, buns, processed cheese, pasta, spaghetti, chips, and soups

How Our Body Reacts To Excess Salt

We need the sodium in salt to survive as it plays an important role in many bodily functions. But go overboard and you risk some serious grief. When we eat salt, the sodium eventually ends up in our bloodstream and tries to draw more water into our blood vessels to balance the concentration levels.

Our blood vessels are really tiny and too much liquid in them can cause a lot of pressure. This pressure that is being raised is your blood pressure.

Over several years, this constant surge of pressure will damage the walls of your blood vessels. Soon, plaque buildup will narrow the walls of your blood vessels, forcing your heart to work harder to pump the same amount of blood.

Too much salt not only raises blood pressure, it reduces the ability of your kidneys to clear away waste from your body. It also puts greater strain on your heart and your brain, leading to heart attacks, strokes, dementia, and kidney disease.

How To Reduce Your Salt Intake

Increase your fresh food intake 
Apples, pears, pineapples, watermelons are some low-sodium fruits that you can load up on. Okra, lettuce, cauliflower and green cabbage are good veggie options that are low in sodium. Choose fresh meat over packaged meats. And be sure to read food labels. You can use more herbs and spices to flavor your food so you don’t miss salt.

Use fewer sodium-overdose condiments
Ketchup, dips, salad dressings, and sauces are top of the charts on the sodium scale.

Skip processed foods  
Opt for fresh food options as much as you can. Some common everyday processed foods include packaged breakfast cereals, cakes, biscuits, and soft drinks. These are things we tend to indulge in on a daily basis so choose wisely.

Cut out fast food
This one is a seemingly impossible task for most people.The big, chunky, cheesy burgers, those hefty salami sandwiches, nuggets, and wings you look forward to? Salt traps, all of them. Although these may be quicker to get and cheaper than other options, your body will pay the price for them.

Our urban lifestyle has got us eating way too much salt, most of it without our knowledge. It’s time to cut back and be more mindful of what you are feeding your body.

Detoxing yourself: The Do’s and Don’ts

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Detoxification (Detox) diets have been around for several decades. These diets and “cleanses”, that promise to help you reduce your weight and to “flush out” the toxins from your body, are supposed to be your pathways to a clean living and a healthy life. However, is it even possible to “detox” yourself in this manner and do these Detox diets and cleanses even work? Let’s find out.

The weight loss industry is one of the biggest ones out there, with estimates showing the annual volume of business for diet plans and products at close to $70.3 Billion. Everyone’s trying to either lose weight or look better, and the sales pitch for most Detox diets and cleanses seems highly compelling for taking another step towards a healthier life, however, most of these diets and cleanses are nothing but fads.

The term “Detoxification” used to refer to ridding the body’s dependence on addictive substances until the dieting industry took over it and introduced a new meaning to it, however, most Detox diet plans, although they don’t expressly rid your body of any toxins per se, do certainly promote a healthier living. Here are some Do’s and Don’ts that you should take care of:

   Do’s
  • Check your deficiencies: If your medical reports show you as deficient in vitamins or vital nutrients, acquire appropriate supplementation for these deficiencies and include it in your diet. Detox diets can be very low in calories and can often skip out on certain nutritional elements altogether, so be careful!
  • Do your research: It’s important that you create a nutritional profile of the Detox diet or cleanse that you’ll be doing and look for clinical studies, trials and credible sources that could validate its’ efficacy. The 7-day Lemon detox program, for instance, has clinical studies backing up its’ results, making it something worth considering. Similarly, foods such as Coriander, Olestra, and Nori have been proven to have certain “Detoxification” properties, making them viable and effective inclusions in such diets.
  • Seek a dietitian’s advice: Before you start any kind of a detoxification diet, please make sure that you speak to your dietitian, share your medical reports with them and get the go-ahead.
    Don’ts
  • Severely limit calories: Calories are not bad for you, an excess of them is. Most detoxification diets have very low caloric intakes, helping you lose weight, which ends up being mostly water weight that you gain back. It’s important to understand that lowering calories in a severe manner can be rather counter-productive and unhealthy without medical supervision.
  • Drink unpasteurized juices: Fruit juices that haven’t been treated for the bacteria can make people sick. Most “detoxification” diets and cleanses recommend liquid diets, and the inclusion of such juices can cause terrible problems for those with weakened immune systems due to chronic diseases or kidney problems.
  • Detox if you have Diabetes: Detox diets can cause complications for Diabetes patients. It’s always best to consult your doctor for a diet that helps with insulin resistance and promotes a healthier lifestyle if you have Diabetes, fad diets and detoxes are not solutions you should be looking at.

Additionally, make sure that you don’t introduce any quirky additions to your diet or go for any fad remedies (such as colon cleansing) in the name of a detox before doing your proper research, as they may be very harmful to your health.
As always, maintaining a balanced diet goes a long way in the overall improvement of your health, compared to any Detox or Cleanse program.
Eat balanced meals with enough protein, green vegetables, and healthy fats to ensure that your body is getting all the nutrition it needs, keep a keen eye on your medical reports and don’t take unnecessary risks without consulting a medical professional.

Your health is your most important asset, take care of it!!

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