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What causes high cholesterol?

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Cholesterol is both good and bad. At normal levels, it is an essential substance for the body. However, if concentrations in the blood get too high, it becomes a silent danger that puts people at risk of heart attack.

Cholesterol is found in every cell of the body and has important natural functions when it comes to digesting foods, producing hormones, and generating vitamin D. It is manufactured by the body but can also be taken in from food. It is waxy and fat-like in appearance.



There are two types of cholesterol; LDL (low-density lipoproteins, bad cholesterol) and HDL (high-density lipoproteins, good cholesterol).

In this article, we will explain the role of cholesterol. We will also discuss the causes of high cholesterol, and its symptoms, treatment, and prevention.

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Fast facts on cholesterol:

  • Cholesterol is an essential substance that is produced by the body but is also ingested from animal-derived foods.

  • The greatest risk factors for high cholesterol are modifiable lifestyle choices – diet and exercise.

  • Having high cholesterol does not usually produce any symptoms.

  • If lifestyle changes are unsuccessful or cholesterol levels are very high, lipid-lowering drugs such as statins may be prescribed.

    What is cholesterol?

    Cholesterol is an oil-based substance and does not mix with the blood, which is water-based. It is carried around the body by lipoproteins.

    Two types of lipoprotein carry the parcels of cholesterol:

    • Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) – cholesterol carried by this type is known as “bad” cholesterol.

    • High-density lipoprotein (HDL) – cholesterol carried by this type is known as “good” cholesterol.

    Cholesterol has four primary functions, without which we could not survive, these are:

    • contributing to the structure of cell walls

    • making up digestive bile acids in the intestine

    • allowing the body to produce vitamin D

    • enabling the body to make certain hormones

    Causes of high cholesterol

    High cholesterol is a significant risk factor for coronary heart disease and a cause of heart attacks. A build-up of cholesterol is part of the process that narrows arteries, called atherosclerosis, in which plaques form and cause restriction of blood flow.

    Reducing intake of fat in the diet helps manage cholesterol levels. In particular, it is helpful to limit foods that contain:

    • Cholesterol – from animal foods, meat, and cheese.

    • Saturated fat – found in some meats, dairy products, chocolate, baked goods, deep-fried, and processed foods.

    • Trans fats – found in some fried and processed foods.

    Being overweight or obese can also lead to higher blood LDL levels. Genetics can contribute to high cholesterol – very high LDL levels are found in the inherited condition familial hypercholesterolemia. Abnormal cholesterol levels can also arise due to other conditions, including:

    • diabetes

    • liver or kidney disease

    • polycystic ovary syndrome

    • pregnancy and other conditions that increase levels of female hormones

    • underactive thyroid gland

    • drugs that increase LDL cholesterol and decrease HDL cholesterol (progestins, anabolic steroids, and corticosteroids).

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Health & Lifestyle

Carbon dioxide could help reduce belly fat

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Scientists have identified a new technique that eliminates stomach fat with the first randomised, controlled trial testing of carbon dioxide gas injections.

A report published in the Northwestern Medicine noted that the changes were modest and did not result in long-term fat reduction.

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The lead author and the vice-chair of dermatology at Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine, Dr. Murad Alam, said, “Carboxytherapy could potentially be a new and effective means of fat reduction. It still needs to be optimised. So, it is long lasting.”

The paper was published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology described the new technique as a “safe, inexpensive gas, and injecting it into fat pockets may be preferred by patients who like natural treatments.”

According to sciencedaily.com, the current technologies routinely used for non-invasive fat reduction include cryolipolysis, high intensity ultrasound, radiofrequency, chemical adipocytolysis and laser-assisted fat reduction.

The new technique, known as Carboxytherapy, has been performed primarily outside the United States, with a few clinical studies suggesting that it may provide a lasting improvement in abdominal contours.

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Researchers Identifies the genome of the most common cancer among younger men

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In the case of UNC’s testicular cancer mapping, researchers analyzed 137 testicular germ cell tumors to find unique molecular features. They discovered certain changes in the RAS gene family. These are the type of genes that make proteins involved in cell signaling pathways that control cell growth and death. Members of the RAS family include KRAS, HRAS, and NRAS, the most common oncogenes in human cancer.

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“We identified distinct molecular events that were associated with different histological types of testicular germ cell cancer,” Hoadley said. “While we found recurrent mutations in KIT, KRAS, and NRAS, they were only discovered in a subset of seminomas. However, we noted strong epigenetic components — DNA methylation and miRNA — that are likely very important in testicular germ cell tumorigenesis. We also identified a previously underappreciated subset of seminomas defined by KIT mutations that likely occur early. These tumors had a complete global lack of DNA methylation that locks them in a state with similarity to primordial germ cells.”

Hopefully, this turns out to be yet another piece in the puzzle on the road to curing cancer once and for all. While we’re still a long way from that, mapping the genome of existing cancers will give scientists far more information about exactly what it is that they’re up against.

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What causes webbed toes in humans?

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Syndactyly, a condition that causes webbed or fused toes or fingers, is one of the most common types of birth abnormality.

Researchers do not understand precisely why webbed digits develop, but, in some cases, there is a definite genetic cause.



Usually, surgeons will correct webbed digits when children are quite young to prevent complications.

Most corrective surgeries are successful and give the child full function of their digits on a hand or foot that appears normal.

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What are the causes?

Syndactyly is one of the most common birth abnormalities, affecting an estimated 1 in every 2,000–3,000 children born each year.

It occurs when the toes or fingers do not separate correctly during fetal development.

Syndactyly can also occur when the skin or another body structure does not heal properly after a significant injury, such as a burn.

Syndactyly often presents as webbing, so people often refer to the condition as webbed toes or fingers.

The majority of cases of webbed toes occur when the skin fails to separate during fetal development.

However, more severe cases of syndactyly may also involve other parts of the body, including:

  • bones

  • blood vessels

  • muscles

  • nervesSyndactyly may appear as a symptom of another syndrome or medical condition, but most cases are non-syndromic, meaning that they have no apparent cause.

    Currently, there are 300 different syndromes linked to syndactyly, most of which are genetic conditions. The most common ones include:

    • Down syndrome

    • Apert syndrome

    • Crouzon syndrome

    There is a well-established genetic basis for some types of syndactyly, and most people would consider webbed toes to be an inherited condition. However, researchers still do not understand the full range of factors that cause the condition to develop because each case is different.

    According to the available research, boys are more likely to develop syndactyly than girls. And Caucasian children seem to be more likely to develop webbed digits than children from other ethnic backgrounds.

    Although it can affect any of the toes or the spaces between them, syndactyly most frequently develops between the second and third toes.

    What are the main symptoms?

    Each person with syndactyly tends to experience different symptoms, as webbed toes may be:

    • Unilateral or bilateral: Impacting only one side of the body or both.

    • Severe, moderate, or mild: With digits almost entirely fused, with digits partially fused, or with only minor webbing between digits.

    • Symmetric or asymmetric: Appearing alike and in the same region on both sides of the body, or appearing dissimilar or in different places on each side of the body.

    • Simple or complex: Involving only two digits or a few bones, or including multiple digits or bones.

    • Painful or asymptomatic.

    Minor cases may not interfere much with toe or foot movement and function. However, if the toes are severely webbed or fused, the condition can be disabling.

    What are the treatment options?

    In most cases, it is possible to correct webbed toes surgically, and this usually occurs between the ages of 12 and 18 months before full development has happened.

    It is best to fix webbed toes before they can cause any joint malformation.

    A doctor will usually order an X-ray or ultrasound of the webbed area to determine exactly which structures it involves and the best surgical approach.

    They may also order blood tests and chromosomal tests to check whether the webbing relates to another condition, or is syndromic, particularly if a child has other physical signs of a genetic syndrome.

    The exact surgical procedure to correct webbed toes depends on the severity of the webbing and the structures it involves.

    Typical surgical procedure

    In most cases, once the child is unconscious, the surgeon will cut through the webbing in a zigzag manner along the midline point.

    Cutting the webbing in this way will help to prevent the scarring from interfering with healthy growth and development. If any structures other than the skin are fused, the surgeon will carefully work to divide them as they make the zigzag cuts.

    The surgeon will sometimes stitch skin grafts, or transplanted pieces of healthy skin, over the top of the exposed wounds to protect them as they heal. This will also minimize scarring by reducing tension as the wound heals. The surgeon will usually take skin grafts from the child’s inner groin area or the back of the upper arm.

    They will then wrap layers of bandages around the affected area, or fix it in a cast that will cover and immobilize the corrected toes to protect them from injury as they heal. In total, most surgeries to repair webbed digits take 2–5 hours.

    Recovery time

    Most children will have to stay in the hospital for a few days after the surgery. There is usually some bruising, swelling, and nail discoloration on the toes. After discharge from the hospital, children are likely to need pain medications as they recover.

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