The second problem is often known as a "shadow disease." Although they don't know the exact reason for the development of shadow diseases, some believe genes or poor health behaviors are contributing factors. In other cases, one disease may lead to damage that causes the second illness. Awareness about common shadow diseases can help patients by promoting early diagnosis and treatment.
HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE AND DIABETES: After following 38,000 women for 10 years, Harvard researchers found constantly elevated blood pressure doubles a person's risk of developing diabetes. The risk of diabetes goes up if a person's blood pressure increases over time even if it stays under the "hypertension threshold." Experts say if you have mild high blood pressure or are at risk for it, get tested for diabetes. You can prevent diabetes by getting more exercise, losing excess weight, limiting salt and quitting smoking.
ASTHMA AND DEPRESSION: Research on military veterans found those with the most post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms were more than twice as likely to have asthma than those with the mildest cases. Some speculate that breathing difficulties may cause anxiety or depression. Others believe psychological problems may make asthma worse. Experts say if you have either asthma or a mental health disorder and suspect you have the other condition as well, get tested for it.
ENDOMETRIOSIS AND MELANOMA: In 2007, French researchers confirmed that women with endometriosis are 62 percent more likely to suffer from melanoma. Researchers are unsure why the connection exists but say one possibility is a genetic defect that triggers both conditions. Experts say if you have endometriosis, ask your doctor to check your skin for melanoma.
MIGRAINES AND STROKE OR HEART ATTACK: A study conducted in 2007 revealed that frequency matters in determining whether your migraine episodes put you at risk for a heart attack or stroke. The study showed if you have fewer than one migraine a month, you're still 50 percent more likely to have a heart attack than people who don't suffer from migraines. If you experience migraines at least weekly, you have four-times the risk of having a stroke. To lower these risks, doctors say eat right, control weight and cholesterol levels and exercise often.
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Marla Oxenhandler, Media Relations Specialist
Memorial Healthcare System