Could Your Headache Be a Sign of Something Serious?

Headaches are a common complaint. The cause is usually minor, such as tension in the muscles, lack of sleep, allergies, or hunger.

Many people experience incapacitating migraine headaches, yet even those aren’t considered life threatening.

So when is a headache more than just a headache, but a sign of something more serious?

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Any headache that is different than what you are used to, occurs in the very young or old, is accompanied by a stiff, painful neck, is preceded by a bump to the head, wakes you up from sleep, or comes on like a thunder clap, needs immediate medical attention.

when in doubt

Consider meningitis, an inflammation of the brain that causes sudden onset of headache, fever, and a stiff neck. Would you recognize it if you had it?

Any new headache is potentially worrisome. Add on other symptoms and there is no question there is a need for prompt, further investigation.  If your headache seems in anyway unusual for you, or is accompanied by a change in neurological function, an emergency consultation is necessary.

Antibiotic Apocolypse: The Rise of The Superbug

In 2013 the Center for Disease Control released a landmark report: Antibiotic Resistance Threats in the United States, 2013 (PDF).

The report gives a bleak picture of our current antibiotic problems.

If folks don’t stop demanding and clinicians don’t stop prescribing antibiotics for every cold, earache, cough, or other illness that is likely viral, we won’t have any effective antibiotics left!

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The consequences of this is catastrophic.

Imagine our world run amuck with superbugs that cannot be killed. These bugs become armed militants capable of mutating and altering their defenses against anything thrown at them, making them more virulent, more deadly. This is not science fiction. Antibiotic resistance is not a potential problem of the future, it is here and now, present day.

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The CDC conservatively estimates that in the US alone, two million people a year get sick with antibiotic-resistant infections, and 23,000 die from their infection.

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I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore.
I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.

Are we too late?  Has the overuse of antibiotics by prescribers and patients caused irreversible repercussions? Yeah, probably.

But with education and action by every one of us, we can help our situation from getting even worse.

What can we do?

CDC’s Dr. Frieden proposes a four-part solution:

  • Preventing infections from occurring and spreading:
    through immunization, hand washing, proper food preparation
  • Tracking resistant bacteria (CDC’s role)
  • Improve antibiotic prescribing/stewardship. This commitment to always use antibiotics appropriately and safely—only when they are needed and to choose the right ones and administer/take in the right way in every case—is known as antibiotic stewardship.
  • Promote development of new antibiotics and tests for diagnosing resistant bacteria.

Important take-aways:

-The use of antibiotics is the single most important factor leading to antibiotic resistance.

50% of all the antibiotics prescribed for people are not needed or are not optimally effective.

Simply using antibiotics creates resistance.

As antibiotic resistance grows, the antibiotics used to treat infections do not work as well or at all.

When someone takes an antibiotic that they do not need, they are needlessly exposed to the side effects of the drug and do not get any benefit from it.

Every time someone takes an antibiotic they don’t need,
they increase their risk of developing a resistant infection in the future.

When a person takes antibiotics, good bacteria that protect against infection are destroyed for several months.

Stopping even some of the inappropriate and unnecessary use of antibiotics in people and animals would help greatly in slowing down the spread of resistant bacteria

Remember, most illnesses resolve on their own, and very few truly require antibiotic treatment.

Let’s fight this war together and agree to be good antibiotic stewards. Otherwise, we risk being destroyed by mercenaries who are capable of assembling their army on a single grain of salt.

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How Do You Know? Is it Normal Panic or a Disorder?

Panic is a sense of overwhelming fear, triggering physical and mental reactions so severe that a person might believe he is dying. Symptoms include palpitations, pounding fast heart beat, shaking, sweating, choking, dizziness, rapid breathing, and tight chest.

The cause of the panic can be real, or imaginary. Unless you are a vulcan, you have experienced panic at some point in your life.  For instance,

  • After stumbling upon a lone bear cub in the woods, the mama spies you and charges.
  • You run out of gas late at night on a dark desert highway during a blizzard.
  • While hiking in the mountains you suddenly hear a distinct rattling sound.
  • You are about to give a speech to a packed auditorium.
  • It is your turn to audition in front of the judges of America’s Got Talent.
  • You speed by a well hidden police car. He immediately pulls out lights on, siren blaring.
  • You wake up and remember your anniversary was yesterday.

In those circumstances, your panic is normal, it is not pathological and you will quickly return to a non panic state once the stressor passes or the situation is dealt with.  If however you experience recurrent episodes of panic, often for no apparent reason, you may have a panic disorder.  Some common symptoms are

shaking, shortness of breath, chest pain, blurred vision, tunnel vision, out of body feeling, pounding heart, trembling legs, spinning sensation, dry mouth, suffocating or smothering sensation, and a feeling that death is imminent

In his book, The Loss of SadnessDr Kenneth Kendler writes:

If an individual experiences a full-blown panic attack when he looses his grip and falls 40 feet before his rope catches him, no psychiatrist I know would consider this to be a psychopathological phenomenon. A panic attack is not—in and of itself—psychopathological. It only becomes pathology when it occurs in certain contexts—at times and in places when it should not.

One panic attack, not a problem. A couple more here and there, still can be dealt with.  If your panic is often, or is starting to interfere with your lifestyle or work, you need to see a health care provider.  There are medical conditions that can mimic a panic disorder, and you should have those ruled out.  Also, it is safer to err on the side of caution.  If you feel you are having a heart attack, call 911. Chest pain or tightness should always be taken seriously.

The good news: you don’t have to be a victim of panic.

Don’t be ashamed or afraid to seek help, panic disorder is way more common than you think, and is very treatable.

He said What?! Einstein’s Best Quotes

Albert Einstein, the most influential physicist of the 20th century was born with a misshapen head to a middle-class German Jewish family.  He didn’t talk until he was nearly four years old. His first sentence was…

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Einstein hated school, especially rote learning and he refused to study anything that he didn’t find interesting.

He dropped out of high-school, but eventually graduated from college. You know the rest of the story.

Einstein is known for many things: the theory of relativity, cavorting with ladies, absentmindedness, crazy hair, and some really cool quotes.  Here’s some of my favorites.

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God did not create evil. Just as darkness is the absence of light, evil is the absence of God.

Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.

The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.

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There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.

If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.

purple spiral

Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.

Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.

I speak to everyone in the same way, whether he is the garbage man or the president of the university.

Never memorize something that you can look up. (I think he came up with that because he was so absentminded!)

mysteriousLogic will get you from A to Z; imagination will get you everywhere.

Thanks Al, for everything. Except those ridiculous rules of marriage. No wonder Mileva divorced you.

How To Handle Seriously Negative People

Moods are just as contagious as a virus. The Killjoy bug can remain in your system for days, even years! Psychologists have a name for this, they call it

Emotional Contagion

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Some people have a perpetual negative outlook on everything. The weather is awful. The food is terrible. Everything is ugly.  Even if you aren’t normally a glass is half-empty person, if you spend enough time around someone who is you will soon start feeling the same way.

Do you have people like that at work or in your family?  You can let them infect you with their gloomy attitude, or you can try to keep away from them.

If you are the resilient type, you can ask what’s wrong.

Sometimes if you dig a little deeper, you might find the source of the black outlook. Chronic pain? Grief? Poor self esteem?

There are tons of reasons why people can be so negative.

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If you are constantly around people who are obnoxiously moody, try telling them their bad mood affects you too. Hopefully they’ll think it over and agree with you. Life is too short to be a sourpuss.

the antidoteJust as bad moods are contagious, positive vibes and sunny dispositions can spread too.

Do what you can to keep your emotions healthy.

Stay clear of bad moods. Stay close to good ones.

And remember to walk on the sunny side of the street.

Technology is the Devil

Bobby Boucher: Mama, when did Ben Franklin invent electricity?
Mama Boucher: That’s nonsense, I invented electricity.  Ben Franklin is the Devil!

I learned lots of lesser known facts about life after watching Adam Sandler’s The Waterboy.  Foosball, girls, electricity, and poor Ben Franklin is the devil.

Can you imagine what Mama would do if Bobby brought home an iPhone6+?

NO SON OF MINE IS GOING TO BE PLAYING WITH NO EYESPHONE! EYESPHONE IS THE DEVIL!

Does Mama, even with her overdramatized, overprotective, and outrageous behavior, have some wisdom for us? Is technology wicked? Does it rob us of love, relationships, and even take our soul?

What are the costs of technology, of living in a digital world?

Switchfoot at The Landmark Theater, Syracuse, NY
Switchfoot at The Landmark Theater, Syracuse, NY

We watch concerts, see sunsets, live life through phones. What used to be face to face conversations are done online.

I do it too! I text friends who are sitting across from me. I Skype my kids instead of yelling upstairs to tell them dinner’s ready. I hardly even use the “landline” phone anymore.

It’s great to have this technology, but have we gone too far? Interpersonal communication with a physical human being that includes touch, facial expressions, inflections, tone – remember that?

I don’t  believe technology is the devil.  But it can be a baneful influence if we let it. If you want to be healthy and happy there has to be balance and moderation in everything.

How about you? Do you need to pull the plug on your technology, even a little?

Why not give it a try? Turn off your phone. Shut the computer. Take a walk. Read a book. And when your break is over, grab some clean, cold, high quality H20 and watch The Waterboy.

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Overwhelmed? 5 Easy Ways To Say No

Unless you are a toddler or a teenager, saying no doesn’t always come easy.  Whether it’s your boss piling your desk with tedious projects or your kids wanting you to host a last minute sleepover.  There are times you say yes when you want to say no.

If you actually look forward to hours of overtime or loud tweeners playing all night video games, sounds like you are all set.

But, If you find yourself saying yes when you really want to say no, try these 5 easy ways.

Decline with grace. I really appreciate you thought of me for this assignment, but I will need to decline at this time. Maybe another time?

Compromise. A sleepover sounds like fun! But not tonight. Let’s look at the calendar and pick another date that will work better.  How about I take you kids out for ice-cream instead?

Advise an alternative.  I can’t give you a ride to work. Are you near a bus route?  Have you considered a taxi? Is there a car pool you can find? Do you know anyone who lives by you?

Stall. If you aren’t sure of what to do, buy yourself time. I can’t give you an answer this minute.  Let me think about it and I will get back to you.  How can I reach you, and when do you need my answer by?

Pass.  Just say no. Be nice, grateful, with the apology nothing more than a simple,

I’m sorry I can’t help you.

Skip the details of why you can’t do something.  It’s too much blah blah blah.

18969144739_e872b4904a_mPeople don’t have the time to hear the why, they’ve got to find someone to help solve their problem. And this time, that person is not going to be you.

After you say no, don’t fret about it. We are so afraid of hurting someone’s feelings or letting a friend down that we end up second guessing ourselves and feel guilty for saying no. Don’t feel guilty for wanting balance in your life.   Plus think of how your friend would feel if he found out you said yes even though your heart wasn’t in it.

A word to the wise on saying no; Don’t be too quick to decline an opportunity. Saying yes can be a strategic move and may open a door to a rewarding new adventure.

Give it a try.  Next time someone asks if you can do the coffee run or if you can host Thanksgiving dinner, say

sorry, I can’t help this time.

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Would My Dad Know Who I Am Now?

Father’s Day is a happy day for some, and a sad day for others.  And then there are those like me who are happy/sad.  My dad is gone, but I have a husband who is a wonderful father to my three boys. Now we celebrate the day spoiling him with presents, good food, ice cream, and miniature golf.

My father died when I was twenty.  I have spent more years living without him than with him.  The hardest part for me now is realizing he never got to know the grown up me.  He knew me as a child, his youngest daughter.  I was daddy’s little girl, but my heart aches when I remember how mean I was in my later teenage years.

He knew me when I was bratty and terribly moody.  I have one vivid memory of a sunday afternoon when he drove me back to nursing school. I don’t know what he said or did, but I clicked my tongue, rolled my eyes, and said something horrible to him.  Did he shush me, or lecture me about my behavior? No.  He just looked away and watched the numbers change on the elevator.

He died shortly after that. Why is it on Father’s Day I have to remember that stupid day?

If I had a magic bean that could grant me one day with my dad, would he know me when he saw me? Would he recognize my face, my voice? It’s been thirty-one years and I’m not who I once was. I’ve changed in so many ways.

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I would know him.  His deep brown eyes, his big, toothless smile.  He loved popcorn, country music, horseshoes, and staying up late to watch John Wayne and Kung-Fu movies.  He was most content reclining in his lawn chair in our backyard, smoking his lucky strikes while listening to the birds songs and the scratchy buzzing of the locusts.

I would know my father.  He is etched in my memory, cut into my heart. I’d recognize his voice, his walk, his whistling.  He’d smell of old spice and Wisk laundry detergent.

My tall, kind, patient, long-suffering, always there till he wasn’t, dad.

I think he would know me. I imagine him saying,

Sweetie, I saw it all.  Your career, your wedding.  I was there when your boys were babies – handsome kids. Will reminds me of myself when I was his age.  I saw them walk across the stage to get their diplomas.  I saw it all.  I’ve watched you all these years, and you have made me so proud. I love you.

Of course he would know me – he’s my dad. He would always know me.

I love you too dad. Miss you. XO

Me and my dad.
Me and my dad.

Originally published June 16, 2014

Secrets revealed: the surprising thing most patients dread

9 out of 10 patients would rather get a shot than step on a scale.

By far the thing most patients dread when going to their doctor’s office is getting weighed. Me included.

Unless you live in a cave as deep as Krubera, you already know –

we lead the world with the most obese individuals, 67% of adults are overweight, and nearly 30% of kids are either obese or overweight.

Yes, there’s an obesity epidemic going on around us and as much as we hate to admit it, the odds are we are part of it.

If you happen to be in the minority with a BMI of 24.9 or less, good job. Keep up the good work and tell me in the comments what has helped you keep your weight ideal.

No one likes to get weighed. But we need to do it. The problem is not going away on its own. We need accountability, education, and encouragement if we are ever going to make serious progress in becoming a healthier nation.

Our bodies weren’t meant to carry so much weight.  You wouldn’t drive your car around with 95 extra gallons of gas in your trunk just in case.  Why that would be a hazard, rob you of good gas mileage, and contribute to extra wear and tear.

The same applies to bodies.

Carrying too much weight is a major risk for heart disease, diabetes, joint problems, and a host of other issues.

Don’t dread the scale.

You don’t have to feel guilty, get angry, or make excuses.

Why not acknowledge the problem and make a choice to do something about it?

Your weight didn’t get to where it is overnight, and it isn’t going away on its own.

Eat less. Move more. Repeat.

It has been and will always be the only thing that works.

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Out Of The Mouth Of Abe’s

Why is it that some people languish in suffering while others who have similar troubles thrive despite?

It amazes me how people with things like crippling arthritis, cancer, disfigurement, chronic pain, traumatic abuse or other terrible circumstances can adapt and cope despite the pain of their situation. They continue to believe that just to be alive is a grand thing.

Others groan about a hangnail and see life’s little inconveniences as monumental tsunamis. They make sure you know just how miserable they are and don’t you agree the world is a wretched place?

Yeah rain oh rain stop fallin'... I said the bridge washed out and I can't swim and my baby's on the other side..Slim Williamson
Yeah rain oh rain stop fallin’…
I said the bridge washed out and I can’t swim and my baby’s on the other side..Slim Williamson

It doesn’t have to be that way.  Yes, life is full of pain and suffering. It is also full of joy and hope.

Bad things happen. Life isn’t fair. And you have a choice of whether to accept that and rise above, or

you can cloak yourself in sackcloth and ashes and live in misery.

Yes, I do believe we can live and thrive in spite of an awful childhood, a debilitating disease, a loved one gone too soon, or any other tragedy that has crossed our path.

How??? You ask, How can I go on? How can I be happy? You have no idea what I’ve been through.  

You’re right. I have no idea what you have been through. But I can try to understand. I only know what I have suffered through, and I can share with you what I know to be true.

I know good triumphs over evil. I believe there is a God who loves us, despite what the world tells us.  I am sure we are never truly alone.  I can say broken hearts heal, and the pain lessens in time.  I am certain that no matter what, life is always worth living.

When you arise in the morning – let your first thought be what a glorious privilege it is to be alive.

To breathe, to think, to create, to hope, to love.

Be the person who carries on despite suffering.  There are many who stand by us, offering us their life and words as a comforting embrace and reminder.  Here is Abraham Lincoln’s heartfelt condolences to a friend.  They are just as timely today as they were in 1862. ALquotescover-JPG-18

No matter what you are going through, no matter what has happened – let me, like Abe, alleviate some of your suffering.

You are not alone. You are more resilient than you think. Life is what it is. Suffering is inevitable,

but misery is optional.