Could Your Headache Be From Something Life-Threatening?

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 like a stroke?

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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 any change in neurological function, an emergency consultation is necessary. If need be, call 911.

What Do Dogs Dream About?

I love to watch my dog sleep.  He curls up on our couch or his fluffy doggy bed, head and paws touching, tail tucked close to his body and falls asleep in what seems like seconds.  Soon I hear little woof-woofs while his nose twitches and paws move gently as if running through air. Is he dreaming? Is he chasing the bunny, playing at the dog park, or running to greet me?  Or, is his twitching and sleep barking nothing more than reflexive? What does science say about dog dreams?

He hears something, I think it was a car horn. He wakes, pops his head up and looks around the room and our eyes meet.  He seems confused, probably wondering,

How did I get here?  Wasn’t I running with the deer in the woods? Didn’t I chase the squirrel up the tree? I came so close to the edge of the forest where I have never been before.

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His head drops back down and he sighs deeply, sometimes he yawns, then he slop slops his mouth and swallows.  Maybe his dream gave him a juicy steak or his favorite –  a hot dog.  Whatever may have happened, or not happened, he is off to sleep again.

I love my beautiful, gentle, boy, and I adore him when he sleeps. I’m convinced he dreams, just like you and I dream. I laugh when he sleep-barks and am contented by the sound of his rhythmic breathing.  I have to resist the pull to snuggle him close, to stroke his back, scratch behind his ear, and lay my head on his chest.  The boom boom of his heart moves me and the single lick to my face is a sweet gift – he tells me everything is alright, I am loved, I am safe. And in case he had a bad dream and needs the same reassurance, I tell him everything is alright. I’m right here buddy. You are safe, go back to sleep and dream those doggy things.

And just-like-that, he does.
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Summer Cold or Allergies? The Number One Tell-tale Sign

A sudden onset sore throat.  Fine one minute, and just like that, your next swallow feels weird.  You think maybe you imagined it so you swallow a few more times and confirm, it definitely hurts. A little while later you notice your nose is getting stuffy, your ears feel plugged, and come to think of it – you are feeling run down. Crap – a summer cold! Or is it?

Your average cold (viral rhinitis) and seasonal allergies (allergic rhinitis/hay fever), have similar symptoms:

  • sore throat
  • congestion
  • runny nose
  • sneezing
  • post nasal drip
  • ticklish cough

Except for one tell tale sign…

the itch factor

Generally the key in distinguishing whether your crappy symptoms are a cold verses allergies is that itchy feeling of the throat, nose or eyes.  That itch is a tingling or irritation of the skin or mucosal lining that compels you to scratch, rub, or make annoying rumbling hisses and growly sounds that drives your mates and coworkers batcrap crazy.

itchy=allergies

That nasty itch is caused by a protein in pollen produced by grasses, plants, and trees. Other culprits include cat and dog saliva, dander, mold, and dust mites.

The allergic reaction is actually an inflammatory response by your mast cells and basophils. When triggered, these cells produce histamine, which causes the uncomfortable symptoms.  Over several hours, the histamine activates other inflammatory cells and this cycle repeats until the allergen is removed or the histamine release is blocked.

Allergies can make you feel miserable. The good news it they are highly treatable, depending on how severe your reaction is, you can do several things,

  • Avoid trigger allergens: If you know what you are allergic to, do your best to avoid exposure. Pollen counts high? Wear a mask.  So what if you look like a doofus –  it beats sneezing and feeling miserable. Other things that might help: shower before bed and use air-conditioning.
  • Antihistamines: Most are now available over-the-counter. Talk to your friendly neighborhood pharmacist if you need help deciding which one to try.  Side effects are possible (sedation with some), and if you take prescription meds you need to talk to your primary care provider before adding on another med due to potential drug-drug interactions.
  • Prescription nasal sprays: If your allergies last a season or all year round, prescription sprays such as fluticasone or mometasone are a great treatment option.  They control symptoms and are less likely to cause serious side effects.
  • Allergy Shots: Certainly the underdog, allergy shots are something to be considered. If you want to get to the root of your allergy problem and have the patience to do allergy testing and immunotherapy, treat your allergies using this route.

Allergies are not just kid’s stuff.  Some allergies take years of exposure before they finally develop, which explains why adults surprisingly become allergic when they never were before.

If that “cold” seems to be lingering, you are overly tired, and you can’t stand that itchy throat or nose, your problem just might be allergies.

As always, your healthcare provider is your best source of medical information for questions and concerns related to your health.

What Abe Lincoln Taught Me About Suffering

Abraham Lincoln is well known for his quips and clever words. Whether it be advice on civil rights, character, freedom, or success, our 16th president had simple, yet profoundly wise words that are timeless and still worthy of our attention.

Such as…

The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.

Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt

 And this one that I hold dear,

And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.

Though he couldn’t have known it when he said it, his years were cut short at 56. And much of his life was suffering. He was born poor, he was plagued with melancholy and suicidal thoughts, his wife had mental health problems, and three of their four sons died young.

Yet, he persevered despite these terrible life circumstances.

Thinking about that made me wonder-

Why is it that some people can’t cope with disaster or difficulties, while others with similar troubles thrive despite?

It blows me away when I meet people with things like terminal cancer, disfigurement, chronic pain, traumatic childhoods, or great loss are able to adapt and cope despite the atrocity of their situation.

They don’t give up. They still believe that God is good. That life is precious, and that they will overcome.

Others with similar circumstances groan how miserable they are and believe the world is a wretched place and life has no meaning.

I know life is unfair and full of pain and suffering. It makes no sense.

But life is also full of love and hope.

Bad things happen. But you and I have a choice –  to rise above, or to drown in the muck.

Yes, I do believe we can live and thrive in spite of an awful childhood, a debilitating disease, or a loved one gone too soon.

Lincoln with his son Willie

You may wonder,

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’ve gone through, what I have wrestled with, and I’m still here.

  • I believe good triumphs over evil.
  • I believe there is a God who loves us, despite what the majority may believe.
  • I am sure we are not abandoned. 
  • I don’t think everything happens for a reason, rather life is fragile, an accident is an accident, and we will all die someday.
  • I can say broken hearts heal, and the pain lessens in time.  
  • And 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, like Abraham Lincoln, who carries on despite suffering. There are many who stand by us, offering us their example as a comforting embrace and reminder.  Like Abe, who wrote these loving words to a friend who just lost her father. 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, existing in wretched desolation, is optional.

Although Lincoln’s melancholy “dripped from him as he walked“,  his hardships and intense distress gave him an unlimited supply of sapient guidance and an innate ability to truly empathize with anyone. If Abraham Lincoln was able to endure countless tribulations on top of his lifelong (untreated) clinical depression, surely you can, and most definitely I can too.

I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to 
succeed, but I am bound to live up to what light I have.

Abraham Lincoln

Can You Really Get the Flu From the Flu Shot?

Nope.

THE FLU SHOT DOES NOT, CANNOT, WILL NOT, DARE NOT GIVE YOU THE FLU.

Flu shots are made either with viruses that have been ‘inactivated’ and are not infectious, or with no viruses at all.

why the hey

Most likely because you were already exposed to the flu and the shot didn’t have enough time to work.

It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against influenza virus infection.

It is possible to get minor side effects (low grade fever, aches, and a sore arm at the injection site).

If you are anti-vaccine, that’s your choice, but I hope you don’t spread your agenda to the point where some one who really needs a vaccine doesn’t get it because you told them not to. That’s shameful, and deadly.

What you should do is encourage others to discuss their concerns with their own health care providers.

In regards to the myths, Gizmodo has an excellent post  that addresses all that crazy talk like the flu shot contains antifreeze, causes Alzheimer’s, and weakens your immune system.

All flu-vaccine naysayers allow me to remind you of a time,

14th century Europe,

when germs were copious.

No immunizations, no anti-viral medications,  filthy oozing with death environments, and an average life expectancy of less than 30 years old.

And then there was the Spanish flu pandemic... of 1918.

Our lives are far better, and longer because of vaccines and other advances in medicine.

The flu vaccine is not perfect, but it beats taking your chances and potentially succumbing to an illness that could have been prevented.

And besides, the worst thing you’ll get is a sore arm because you really can’t get the flu from the flu shot.

Can Panic Attacks Be Life-Threatening?

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.

We all have felt panic before – before a speech or performance, when pulled over by police, stuck on an elevator, or forgetting your anniversary.

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. On the other hand, if 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 clinician.  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.

Achieving Life Balance: How To Say No

Just listen to your heart. That’s what I do. Napoleon Dynamite

Saying no doesn’t always come easy.  Whether it’s your manager flooding you with last-minute-i-need-this-yesterday assignments, or your kid wanting to go to the mall NOW – there are times you say yes when you really want to say no.

Why do you do it? Why do you keep doing things for others and forget about what you want?  Has it been so long since you’ve considered what you want that you don’t even know any more?

Do you feel tired, restless, taken advantage of, or unhappy? Are you afraid to answer the phone because you know someone wants something from you and you can’t say no?

Doing something begrudgingly is not good for you. When you give of your time, emotions, and talents, it should stem from a sincere desire to want to do good, meet a need, or invest in someone’s future.

When you are overworked, stretched to the max, and leave little time for meeting your own need for recreation, and restoration, you are teetering on the edge of physical exhaustion and mental decline.

Excessive, prolonged stress is linked to burnout, depression, Alzheimer’s disease, and more really bad stuff.

Seek balance in your life. Take a good look at what you’ve been doing this week and see if there may be some things you should have said no to. Next time you feel that twinge in your gut, listen to it! The majority of people will understand a no. And if they don’t, then they just showed you their true self.

If you say yes when you really want to say no, try one of these suggestions.

Decline with grace. You can be nice, and feel honored if you were selected for a cool opportunity. You can’t say yes to every request or adventure, even if it sounds fun.  Hey, good to hear from you!  I really appreciate you thought of me for this assignment, but I will need to decline at this moment.  Maybe later down the road when things quiet down for me. Thanks for understanding.

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

Advise an alternative. Often a person truly doesn’t know what else to do, it can be hard to problem solve your own dilemmas.  I can’t give you a ride to work. Are you near a bus route?  Have you considered using Uber? Is there a car pool you can find? Do you have a friend from church or your exercise class that can help?

Stall. If you really aren’t sure what to do, buy yourself time. Don’t be too quick to decline an opportunity. Saying yes can be a strategic move and may open a door to a rewarding path.  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 response nothing more than a simple, I’m sorry but I can’t help you.

Skip the details of why you can’t do something.  It’s too much blah blah blah. People don’t have the time to hear the why, they’ve got to go down their list of people, and you can be sure you probably weren’t their first call, and definitely not their last hope.

After you say no, don’t fret about it. We are so afraid of hurting 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 (true) friend would feel if he found out you said yes  though your heart wasn’t in it.

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

 Thanks for thinking of me, but I need to pass. 

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Super Simple Tips for a Healthy, Happy Life!

Nearly everyone has heard of Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine. He taught that disease had a natural cause (as opposed to a supernatural), and that clinical observation was an essential aspect of “do no harm” medical care.

Hippocrates teachings were revolutionary at the time (400 BC), and while he may be the father of modern medicine, he has legions of sons/brothers/daughters/cousins and such who continue to build on his ideas.

One Roman fellow, Aulus Cornelius Celsus was a huge fan of Hippo and translated Hippocrates and other Greek writings to Latin. Celsus wasn’t a physician – yet he had a major influence on medical thinking and is known as having coined,

accurate diagnosis must precede treatment

Aulus was a wise man – see below for a link to his most famous work, the De Medicina.  I like his simple tips for staying healthy and happy. You won’t need to buy organic ancient seeds drenched in glacier mineral water, no special supplements or aloe vera cranberry infused gluten free goat milk smoothies, just no fuss stuff. Sounds like exactly what I tell my patients!

Super Simple Tips For A Happy, Healthy Life

  • Make your home bright and cheery, keep it clean and free of clutter. 
  • Get regular and varied exercise – include long, brisk walks.
  • Do not overeat! (George Burns followed this rule: he attributed his longevity to his practice of eating only half of whatever was on his plate).
  • Start your meals with greens. Eat apples, dates, or other fresh fruit for dessert.

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  • Drink wine only in moderation. If you are indulging nightly, take a break.
  • Get massages whenever you can.
  • Get plenty of fresh air all year round. 
  • Treat your digestive tract kindly: don’t overdue it with fatty, fried, processed, or junk food in general. Stay hydrated! 
  • Make sleep a priority. 
  • Surrounded yourself with friends, loved ones, and never forgo a yearly vacation.

 

Celsus (ca 25 BC—ca 50) was considered to be way ahead of his time in regards to his teachings on maintaining good health. Ironic he died so young. His suggestions are common sense and accepted practices. I will overlook his blood-letting instructions and vomit obsessions. After all, none of us are perfect.

If you want to know what Celsus had to say about such things as treating gangrenous mouth lesions, agglutinating wounds, or helping women who collapse speechless, consult his expansive De Medicina.

Cheers to good health!

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.

 

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.

Turn Heads With These 10 Gramazing Words

Awesome is an excellent word.  So is amazing. But don’t you agree they’re over used?

I had an awesome time.  That movie was amazing.  How ya doing?

Amazingly awesome.

I like to use the A words reverently, sparsely, when no other words will do.

Maybe you’d like some alternate words to use too?  Try These 10 gramazing stand-in words. They’re fun, and just as powerful. Sprinkle them in your writing or in your feedback to others.

Kryptonian You reached kryptonian heights with that speech!

Fly That car is so fly!

Kickass  Those are some kickass moves!

Wicked That sequel was wicked!

Transcendent I am blown away by his transcendent writing.

Capital You did a capital job on the presentation!

Magnificent The hotel was simply magnificent!

Rawk That song is so rawk!

The honey pot The finale was the honey pot – a sweet ending to a perfect day.

Double rainbow brilliant Are you kidding me? That was double rainbow brilliant!

awesome

Why not try your hand at coming up with your own sparkling wordage to describe something really impressive?

How about exponentially excellent. Deluxe. The capstone. Over the top great. Phi Beta Kappa…

And when no other word will do,

go ahead and use awesome.

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