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For many people in the Caribbean the word cholesterol is often linked with chronic diseases and is mostly considered unhealthy. Yet cholesterol plays a very important role in how our bodies function. What then is cholesterol?

In a few words …It is a waxy material produced by the liver. In the body, Cholesterol makes cell membranes, insulates our nerves, and supplies certain hormones. The big problem is that our bodies make adequate cholesterol for our use and additional amounts are not necessary. But when we eat animal products, they add to what is already in our body. These sources of unwanted cholesterol include meats, poultry, fish, and dairy products.

Excessive cholesterol in the blood can result in cardiovascular diseases that increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. Our hearts receive oxygen from arteries carrying blood. If the arteries narrow or are blocked, however, the heart will be deprived of life-giving oxygen, leading to chest pain or heart attack. Heart attack may occur when plaque ruptures and blood clots are formed that block or cut off blood supply to the heart.

Not all cholesterol is bad. The high-density lipoprotein or HDL is made by our bodies and help reduce risk of heart attacks. The bad cholesterol is the low-density lipoprotein (LDL) that can clog arteries and cause heart attack and stroke.

Too much LDL cholesterol in the blood, results in the cholesterol mixing with other materials to form plaque and build up deposits on the walls of our arteries, causing them to harden. This build up makes arteries narrow and slows the flow of blood to the heart.

There are a couple of ways you can go about securing the perfect method for you. To do this, you’ll have to consider your vacation lifestyle, needs, desires and personality. Being an adventurous traveler doesn’t necessarily mean exploring the mountaintops and caves in every corner of the world.

To enjoy a healthy heart we must lower blood cholesterol by eating more fiber and foods low in saturated fat. Foods such as Grace Oats are low in fat, high in fiber and help to reduce cholesterol. Oats are also full of vitamins and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron, copper and thiamine.

Scientists believe oats are very good for us, linked to reducing the “bad” cholesterol while maintaining the “good” cholesterol within our bodies. The fiber in oats makes us feel fuller longer and provide long lasting energy throughout the day and especially good for diabetics as it helps maintain healthy blood sugar levels throughout the day. What are you doing to understand and control you cholesterol level? Let’s hear them in the comments

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It’s World AIDS Day today and it’s time to raise awareness, remember those who have died and to help campaign for greater action to help the spread of this epidemic. According to UNAIDS estimates, there are now 33.2 million people living with HIV, including 2.5 million children. During 2007 some 2.5 million people became newly infected with the virus. Around half of all people who become infected with HIV do so before they are 25 and are killed by AIDS before they are 35.

The 2007 AIDS theme is, “leadership”, which highlights the need for innovation, vision and perseverance in the face of the AIDS challenge. The campaign calls on all sectors of society such as families, communities and civil society organisations – rather than just governments – to take the initiative and provide leadership on AIDS.

Stop AIDS in Children

In line with this year’s theme, AVERT is running the Stop AIDS in Children campaign to call for urgent action in the prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT). Currently only 9% of pregnant women living with HIV in the developing world are provided with drugs to prevent the virus being transmitted to their babies. As a result, nearly half a million children become infected with HIV every year.

The Stop AIDS in Children campaign is calling on governments and international agencies to urgently improve PMTCT coverage worldwide.Watch the video to learn more about the campaign. This epidemic affects all of us…Lets help stop the spread

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Health Matters

Fear shot through my body like a jolt of electricity when heard the news that my granddad had Prostate Cancer. On an estimated one in four black men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in his lifetime and, surprisingly, that rate is much higher than sisters’ one-in-ten risk of getting breast cancer. For Black men, the chance of developing prostate cancer are about 33 percent greater than for white men, and they’re twice as likely to die of it. Black males have the highest rate of prostate cancer in the world.

Prostate Cancer has reached almost epidemic proportions, and people don’t even know it, maybe if the death rate were two times higher in white men, you’d see a lot more action. But because the disease targets our community in high numbers, black men and women must take action to learn about the condition, detect it early and get the best treatment possible.A `Silent` Sickness

Cancer of the prostate begins as a silent, stealthy intruder that can fester and grow for years without yielding a telltale clue. Our prostate is a walnut size gland that lies just below the bladder and surrounds the urethra, tube that carriers urine. Cancer usually starts on the outer part of the prostate: a tumor has to grow fairly large before it begins to press on the urethra and cause urination problems. According to the American Cancer Society, signs may include weak or interrupted urine flow; inability to urinate or difficulty starting or stopping the urine; frequent urination, especially at night; blood in the urine; pain or burning while urinating; and persistent pain in the lower back, pelvis or upper thighs. Experts don’t know what causes prostate cancer but in some cases the condition may be hereditary.

Sex, Stigma and Saving Lives

Whatever the cause of the disease, early diagnosis of a prostrate malignancy saves lives. If the condition is caught before the cancer spreads, the five-year-survival rate is 90 percent. Yet, too often our lovers, husband, fathers and brothers wait too long before they agree to see a doctor and even then they put up a fight. That concern, coupled with distrust of white physicians and refusal to submit to the indignities of a prostate examination (a doctor must glide his or her finger into the man’s rectum to feel the prostrate), can set the stage for prostate cancer to flourish. But because Black men tend to develop the condition at younger age, they should undergo annual prostate exams beginning at age 40. The two standard tests for prostate cancer are the digital rectal exams, known as the DRE and the prostate specific antigen or PSA test.

Survival and Side Effects

Depend on the stage of disease, symptoms and a man’s age upon diagnosis. Immediate treatment may not be necessary. Prostate cancers tend to grow slowly and “watchful waiting�? is sometimes the best approach. However, when treatment is called for options typically include surgery, radiation and hormone therapy.

Preserving Prostate Health

In addition to our learning about early detection and treatment, we’ve to education ourselves about the value of preventive health maintenance and to lower our risk of prostate Cancer.

  • Exercise routinely – Physical activity reduces testosterone, which will lower your risk of prostrate cancer.
  • Cut of fat – A high fat diet is thought to increase the risk the disease.
  • Eat five servings of fruit and vegetables per day- These foods contain carotenes,which protect against cancer.
  • Consider supplements- Beta-carotene and selenium supplements have been shown to reduce prostate cancer.

To learn more, turn to these organizations: American Foundation for Urologic Disease, Inc (AFUD) and the American Cancer Society.

Source: Essence Magazine (Nov 1997)

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