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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How To Tell The Difference Between a Summer Cold And Allergies

You know it when you feel it – a sudden onset sore throat. Where did that come from?! Fine one minute, and now a sore throat? You think maybe you imagined it so you swallow a few more times. Still there. Soon you notice your nose is getting stuffy, your ears feel plugged, and come to think of it – you are feeling run down. Oh no – a summer cold! Or is it?

Your average cold (viral rhinitis) and allergies (allergic rhinitis or hay fever) both have those awful symptoms of congestion, stuffy head, runny nose, sneezing, post nasal drip, and ticklish cough.

Generally the key in distinguishing whether your crappy symptoms are a cold verses allergies is the itch factor. “Allergies” will give you an itchy feeling of the throat, nose or eyes.

itchy=allergies

The offender: 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.

17493028699_d876a1b2d2_oTreatment:

  • 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 to 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, watery 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.

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.

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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!

Do You Really Want to Know What Your Doctor Thinks of You?

Did you know you have a right to see your medical record? And if you find a mistake you can request it to be corrected, or if you disagree with something your provider noted, you also have a right to write your own note stating that.

So why do we feel like we are snooping when we steal a glance at our “chart”? It’s our record, our right. Or are we afraid of what we might find out?

Health Information Privacy rules of protection has been around since 1996.  Along with the right to view your chart, you have the right to:

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I hope you want to know what your doctor thinks of you – your relationship with your provider should be one that is based on mutual respect and trust.  If you find out otherwise, it’s time to find a new health care partner.

Beat the Winter Blues with These 10 Proven Ways

Frigid temps, overcast skies with no hint of sun for days in a row can make even the hardiest person feel gloomy.  Don’t become a victim of the winter blues! I have already field tested these 10 interventions and stand behind my word: try one, or kick it up a notch and do them all! You’ll be surprised at how quickly your mood will brighten. 

#Exercise: bundle up and take a walk. The hardest part is finding the oomph to get outside, but once you’re out it’s quite pleasant. 

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#Let there be light, and lots of it.  Turn up the lamps, and splurge on a Light Box. I’ve got mine on as I type. It’s called “Happy Light”. And yes, it makes me happy.

happy me

#Have a tropical theme party.  Guests come dressed in loud hawaiian shirts.  Do the limbo, play some calypso, and have a white elephant gift exchange.

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#Spruce up a dingy room.  Add some new color and a few funky pieces of furniture to liven the area.  Go to second hand shops for good deals.

 

 

 

 

#Change your diet.  Add as many super-foods as your wallet allows for a natural body boost.

 

 

 

 

#Host a book discussion group.  Why not turn it into a pot-luck dinner? Try immersing yourself in the book through role playing. Stay in character through the dinner.  We did this with the Crucible. Kept it clean- nobody got hung for being a witch.

#Embrace the winter.  Take the kids (or borrow the neighbor’s) and go sledding or skiing.  Bring the camera.  Hot cocoa, s’mores and a roaring fire once you are home.

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#Vacation. Overnite at a B&B, ski resort, or if you can afford it, go where the weather is hot and escape for a week. Sign up for price alerts on Kayak, you just might find a deal that can’t be beat.

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#Write.  An e-book, a novel, poetry, music.  The world needs to hear what you have to say.

#Square Dance wif callers. Went t’one be4 an’ ah had so much fun, as enny fool kin plainly see.  Ev’ryone fum th’ old folks t’th’ li’l kids had a whoopin’ an’ hollerin’ time of fun an’ fellership wif friends, kin’t wait t’do it agin. fine fo’ th’ heart an’ is sho’nuff sumpin yo’ will nevah fo’git. YEEHAW!

Author’s note: I originally posted this list on January 24, 2013. I freshened it up with some new pics.  For me, winter in Western NY gets the toughest in mid February.  2015 shall go down in my weather memory banks as the most cruel, bone-chilling, treacherously gnarlsome and poorly plowed roads I have endured.  But remember this: we are all in this together and regular exposure to mild cold may provide a healthy and sustainable alternative strategy for increasing energy expenditure. That means more chocolate.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: How Common is it?

Columbine-Memorial

Research shows that 7% of American adults suffer from PTSD at some point in their lives. That’s a respectable number. Compare it to other medical/mental health issues:

1% have Celiac disease

3% have Hepatitis C

2.6% have Bipolar Disorder

30% have High Blood Pressure

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is defined as:

A pathological anxiety that usually occurs after an individual experiences or witnesses severe trauma that constitutes a threat to the physical integrity or life of the individual or of another person.

Per the DSM-5, PTSD is diagnosed if a person exhibits specific behaviors, such as flash-backs of the terrifying event, nightmares, intrusive or disturbing thoughts, avoiding places that bring back bad memories, numb feelings, edginess, restlessness.  It’s normal to experience these after any life-threatening or traumatic event, but with PTSD the feelings and behaviors persist after a reasonable time.

PTSD is mostly seen in war veterans, child abuse victims, and those who have survived awful incidents such as rape, torture, kidnapping, car accidents, plane crashes, bombings, and natural disasters.

You may have it.  A relative might.  Maybe a co-worker or a neighbor does.  Without a doubt you have brushed against someone who suffers from it.  I see patients with it every day as they have turned to self-medication with either drugs or alcohol.

Here’s something to think about – because we don’t know what other folks are going through let’s be generous with consideration. Don’t unnecessarily argue. Be a peaceful driver. Hold a door. Don’t post derogatory comments on someone’s blog. Give the benefit of the doubt. Get to know people.

Harper Lee quote

It sucks when people are mean.  It sucks more to have PTSD.  If you have it, please get help.  Talk to your health care provider or a trusted companion.  There is hope and healing. If you don’t have it – be thankful, and be nice.  Look around you and remember 7%.

You Can Get the Flu From the Flu Shot and Other Dumb Stuff

C’mon people. You cannot get the flu from the flu shot.  Now stop listening to your Aunt Fanny or your anti-vaccine friends who insist the one year they got the flu shot (against their better judgement) they were sicker than a dog on chocolate.

Let me set the record straight.

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

Flu shots are made either with viruses that have been ‘inactivated’ and are NOT infectious, or with NO  viruses at all!

What about the nasal spray? The nasal spray flu vaccine does contain live viruses. However, the viruses are attenuated (weakened), and cannot cause the flu.  Listen up:

The weakened viruses are cold-adapted –  which means they are designed to only cause infection at the cooler temperatures found within the nose. The viruses cannot infect the lungs or other areas where the temperature is warmer.

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 had a problem with a flu shot, please don’t brag about it on Facebook or get on a soapbox and testify of the evils of modern day immunizations.  What you should do is to encourage your friends to discuss their concerns with their health care provider.

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

All flu-vaccine naysayers allow me to send you back in time where you belong: when germs were copious. You could live in a world where there were no immunizations, no anti-viral medications, and dirty filthy grimy environments sure to boost your immune systems the natural way.

No herds to protect you.

The Black Death
The Black Death

Welcome to 1918, to the Spanish flu pandemic...

and then again to 14th century Europe, to the plague.

Me and my family, we’ll take immunizations and the flu shot any day. Thank you modern medicine.  Now excuse me while I go wash my hands with Purell. All this germ talk is making me phobic.

P.S.  I am not your doctor. Don’t forget to read my disclaimer (about me).

P.S No. 2: Although I am smiling, I am recovering from knee surgery and feeling cranky. Just saying.

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Are You Washing Your Hands The Right Way?

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There are lots of things you can do to keep yourself healthy, but nothing tops regular good old-fashioned sudsy soap and water hand washing. And if your hands aren’t obviously soiled, alcohol based hand cleaners will do. Proper hand washing is vital.

No hand dipping, fingertip only splash n’dry, quick soap rinse and go stuff.  Your technique must be perfect!

  • Wet your hands, generously apply soap, lather and clean under your finger nails outside the stream of water for at least 20 seconds – about the time it takes to sing happy birthday twice – in your head please. Rinse under running water.
  • Use automatic paper towel dispensers to dry.  Avoid the air dryers – they just recirculate germs.  Use your sleeve or paper towel to open the door or patiently wait for someone else to do it for you.

germ farm

Forgo hand washing? That’s gross and you are now a vehicle of disease transmission.  Why would you want to be a germ farm?  Science tells us hand washing removes some of the nastiest bugs: Salmonella, E. coli, Norovirus, Adenovirus, coxsackie, Hepatitis A, C-diff, influenza, and more.

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Do yourself and everyone else a service: Help prevent infections. Wash your hands!  

Note: there are no known data to support the claim that water temperature is associated with hand-washing efficacy.

Flu Health Advisory: Something Wicked this Way Comes

John Henry Fuseli's The Nightmare

The CDC issued a health advisory yesterday.  The vaccine for this flu season will NOT provide protection against the predominant “drifted” strain of H3N2 that is now circulating and has already caused five pediatric deaths.
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Yes, you should still get the flu shot because some protection is better than none, but you also must be prepared for the worst:

Despite being vaccinated, you may still get the flu.

How do you know if you have the flu?

The flu is a nasty. Bad, horrible, agonizing…and potentially deadly.

  • It comes on suddenly.  It usually starts with a headache and fever.
  • You’re exhausted but can’t sleep.
  • You get hot and feverish and then you break out in a cold, uncontrollable sweaty spasm of shaking chills (rigors).
  • Your head and lungs fill up and you cough, cough, cough.
  • Raw, sore throat.
  • Kids may get diarrhea, stomach pains, vomiting.
  • Your bones hurt, and your body is so achy you can’t even blink without pain.  You know you’ve got the flu because the only way to describe it is,
                           I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck.

    The flu is a respiratory illness – it is not a cold, it is not a stomach bug. Although It is caused by a virus, there is treatment for it:

    If you think you have come down with the flu, call your primary care provider as soon as your symptoms start.  If it’s the weekend, don’t wait for monday, if it’s the middle of the night, don’t wait for morning.  There are two FDA approved anti-viral drugs recommended to treat the flu: Oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and Zanamivir (Relenza) .

    These drugs work best when started within 48 hours of getting sick, but they can still be useful if given later in the course of the flu. The medications can make the flu milder and shorter. More importantly, if you are at high risk for complications, the treatment can divert a hospitalization and reduce the risk of dying.

    Now that we know what to expect, we can prepare.

    Something Wicked This Way Comes

    Something wicked this way comes and right now I feel like I just ate a cold snail raw.

Could Miss Piggy Have Pre-Diabetes?

Drop that donut. Spit out the candy. No triple-scoop chocolate indulgence drizzled with hot fudge, caramel and dusted with butterfinger bits for you or you’ll get diabetes.  You probably have heard that one before. Confession time: I too have said something similar  to my boys when they were little and gullible. It was usually around Easter or Halloween.

Truth? Sugar itself doesn’t cause diabetes. However, frequent sweet binges are a bad idea because you are robbing yourself of the nutrients your body needs to function properly.  Keep it up and your teeth will suffer, you’ll feel sluggish, maybe get headaches, and you will gain weight.  It’s carbs that are the the offender as our body  can quickly convert them to glucose.  A carb heavy diet over a long period (say a lifetime) will add to excess weight which makes one a prime candidate for pre-diabetes.

Pre-diabetes (or impaired fasting glucose) means that your blood sugar level is higher than normal, but not high enough to be type 2 diabetes. It is usually picked up on routine blood work for a physical. If you were told your fasting blood sugar (at least an 8 hour fast) was 100-125 on more than one occasion, that is impaired fasting glucose.  Your provider would next check a Hemoglobin A1c.

The A1C test measures your average blood glucose for the past 2 to 3 months. If it comes back 5.7-6.4%, that is pre-diabetes.

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Consider it a blinking warning sign – because with this type of diabetes, most people don’t exhibit the  physical signs that are associated with diabetes: constant thirst, frequent urination, and extreme fatigue.

Unless you make some lifestyle changes, odds are you will progress to type 2 diabetes in about 10 years. Pre-diabetics may already have the start of circulatory system damage, so take this seriously.

Book nook: The Everything Guide to Managing and Reversing Pre-Diabetes: 

If you haven’t had your glucose level checked, get one done, and have it re-checked yearly.

If you have impaired fasting glucose, there is  good news. Research shows you can lower your risk of developing diabetes if you:

The bad news is if you don’t make these changes now, you are on the road to diabetes. Now that you know what you know, you can change your future. You can bypass the road to diabetes and take the route to health and longevity.

Does Miss Piggy have pre-diabetes? Nope. Muppets can get muppilomas and muppicitis, but not  pre-diabetes.