While poor nutrition habits and sedentary lifestyles are among the leading causes of heart disease, a host of other factors can increase one’s risk of developing serious heart problems. Here we answer readers’ questions about heart disease and how to prevent it.   

I have experienced rectal bleeding every once in a while. Should I be concerned about this?

While rectal bleeding is often a symptom of a minor problem such as hemorrhoids, you should see your doctor whenever you experience rectal bleeding for a thorough evaluation and to rule out the possibility of more serious problems such as ulcers or cancer. If the amount of bleeding is more than a small amount, contact your doctor immediately.

Hemorrhoids and anal fissures are the most common causes of minor rectal bleeding. Hemorrhoids are swollen veins located inside the rectum ("internal") or around the anus ("external"); anal fissures are cracks or tears inside the anal canal. Minor bleeding may result when a bowel movement rubs against the hemorrhoid or fissure.

In more serious cases, rectal bleeding may indicate a colon problem such as diverticulitis, cancer, non-cancerous polyps, or a gastrointestinal disorder such as a bleeding ulcer.
What warning signs or symptoms might indicate cancer?

Earlier detection is the number one factor for winning the fight against cancer. Not all cancers produce symptoms in their early stages, but knowing and paying attention to potential warning signs can pay tremendous dividends in better health and less traumatic treatments. Here are seven things to look out for;

  • Blood in your urine or stool; or other discharge coming from any part of your body such as nipple or penis.
  • Change in your bowel or bladder habits: Look for changes in the color, size, shape or consistency, as well as presence of blood, in urine or stool.
  • Sore or wound that doesn't heal: Sores that grow in size, fail to heal, become more painful and/or begin to bleed should be examined by your doctor.
  • Persistent cough: A nagging cough that doesn't go away, blood in your sputum, and/or hoarseness and voice changes.
  • Changes in moles: See your doctor if you have a mole that is asymmetrical in shape, has sharp or uneven borders, is unusual in color, or is large in size (6mm in diameter or longer).
  • Lump: Any lumps, including lumps found in the breast or in the scrotum, should be examined by your doctor.
  • Swallowing difficulties: Feeling discomfort or pressure when swallowing, or feeling full after just a small amount of food.

Be sure to see your doctor if you experience one or more of these warning signs.

Is there a connection between stress and cancer?

The possible connection between stress and cancer has been the subject of much debate in the medical community - and among cancer patients.

It is well documented that the body reacts to physical and psychological stress by releasing stress hormones; these hormones cause a temporary rise in blood pressure, heart rate and blood sugar. Persistent or frequent heavy stress over a long period of time is believed to weaken the body's immune system while also increasing the risk of obesity, heart disease, and other physical and psychological problems. Stress can also reinforce unhealthy behaviors including smoking, poor diet and lack of exercise - all of which can increase one's risk for some cancers.

While research attempting to show a direct link between stress and cancer has so far been inconclusive, recent studies focusing on the immune system have shown promise in explaining the role the immune system plays in fighting off cancer cells.

In short, while a moderate amount of stress can be healthy, too much stress over an extended period of time can inflict serious damage to one's health and quality of life. Consult your doctor to find out more about stress-reduction techniques that have helped millions of people enjoy healthier, less stressful lives.
Have a question? You can submit your question for possible inclusion in future issues of Better Health, by e-mail betterhealth@bumrungrad.com or by mail to Editor, Better Health Magazine, Bumrungrad International, 33 Sukhumvit 3, Wattana, Bangkok 10110 Thailand.

In the next issue:The next issue of Better Health will be published in August. Be sure to submit any questions for possible inclusion no later than July 10, 2009.

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