Blog Posts

The da Vinci Debate

June 6th, 2019

Medical theories abound over what caused the great master to leave so many works, including his most famous, undone?

For all of its beauty, mystery and technical expertise, the Mona Lisa has long been considered an unfinished masterpiece. It remains a subject of debate even today, and not just among artists and art historians, but among medical professionals as well.

In early May, as the art world began to recognize the 500th anniversary of the death of the Mona Lisa’s creator, Leonardo da Vinci, several doctors began questioning the long-standing beliefs regarding da Vinci’s failure to complete the work, which was first discovered in his studio immediately after his death.

One of those beliefs is that da Vinci suffered a stroke that robbed him of the use of his right hand, which is the hand the ambidextrous artist painted with. Another suggests da Vinci’s right hand became deformed as a result of a condition known as Dupuytren’s contracture.

Two Italian physicians – one a plastic surgeon, the other a neurologist – were the first to question those theories, arguing in The Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine that da Vinci may have simply suffered a fall that resulted in nerve damage to his right hand.

They based their theory on a drawing created by a contemporary of an elderly da Vinci in which da Vinci’s right arm is wrapped in “folds of clothing, as if it was a bandage, with his right-hand suspended in a stiff, contracted position.

The doctors go on to say that, in the drawing, da Vinci’s right hand does not appear to be gnarled or clenched in the way that it would have been had it been disabled by a stroke and otherwise suggest the disabling cause may have been a palsy known as claw hand.

The authors used another drawing, this one a 1505 depiction of a man identified as an older da Vinci playing a lyre, to rule out Dupuytren’s contracture as the cause of the late-life disability in da Vinci’s right hand.

Dupuytren’s contracture is a progressive disease that gnarls the hand slowly over time. The authors argue that if da Vinci suffered from the disease, its symptoms would have been present in the 1505 drawing, which they are not.

The art world was still digesting the two Italian author’s findings when, in late May, a paper published in the journal Brain suggested yet another reason why da Vinci continued to teach and draw until his death but left many paintings unfinished.

According to Marco Catani, a King’s College of London psychiatrist, and Paolo Mazzarello, a medical historian at the University of Pavia, da Vinci suffered from attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, and was a chronic procrastinator who struggled to finish projects.

“Even when Leonardo was finally commissioned with the important project of building a bronze statue of Ludovico’s father, the future Duke asked his allied Lorenzo il Magnifico if he could indicate a more apt Florentine artist for the project because he ‘doubted Leonardo’s capabilities to bring it to completion.’”

Catani and Mazzarello used accounts of da Vinci’s behavior and work habits culled from writings about da Vinci in reaching their conclusion, noting that da Vinci struggled to remain focused on tasks from early childhood on.

They refer to stories of how da Vinci regularly wowed people with his ambitious ideas and projects but often disappointed them because he failed to complete the project he was hired to do. A statue of the father of Ludovico il Moro, the future Duke of Milan, was one such project.

“Even when Leonardo was finally commissioned with the … project … the future Duke asked … if …  a more apt Florentine artist (could be found) because he doubted Leonardo’s capabilities to bring it to completion,” Catani and Mazzarello wrote.

The authors go on to suggest that evidence of ADHD can be found in the history behind the creation of other great works by da Vinci, including The Last Supper, which is painted on a wall in the dining hall of the Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, Italy.

They also suggest that ADHD negatively affected da Vinci’s relationships, career and income, but they note that it may have been at the root of his virtually unsurpassed creativity and imagination.

The difficulties linked to his extraordinary wandering mind caused him deep regrets but did not prevent him from learning and exploring the wonders of human life and nature,” the authors wrote.

 

 

 

 

 

Implants Now The Gold Standard For Replacement Teeth

May 22nd, 2019

The loss of a tooth may be a bit traumatic for a five- or six-year-old child, but it’s all part of the natural growing process, one that adults usually find rather cute. There is nothing cute, however, about adults losing a tooth.

When someone past the age of seven or eight loses a tooth, it’s gone for good, and studies show that more than 178 million Americans have suffered just such a loss while more than 35 million Americans have lost not just one or two teeth but all their teeth.

Most consider tooth loss to be an aesthetic problem, and for those who lose a tooth in their smile line it is. But there are physical problems that develop as a result of tooth loss that are even more concerning.

Over time, the loss of a tooth can lead to a loss of bone in the jaw area where the missing tooth used to be, which can result in changes in a person’s facial appearance, odd shifts in the remaining teeth and a collapse in the person’s bite.

Replacement options for missing teeth include bridges and dentures, but dental implants have become the gold standard for tooth replacement because they prevent further bone loss and look and function just like natural teeth.

At Dental Specialists of North Florida, John W. Thousand IV, DDS, MSD, is a specialist in implant dentistry, which is the surgical placement into the jawbone of a screw-like post that serves as the foundation for replacement teeth, bridges or dentures.

The Right Choice

The implant itself is a titanium root-shaped body that is surgically placed into the jaw bone. A single implant supports an abutment and a crown, which creates a new tooth. Several implants can be used to support a fixed bridge or even a full denture.

Because implants require a certain amount of bone to attach to, the implant procedure always begins with an examination to determine whether the patient has enough jaw bone to adequately support an implant.

For those who don’t, a bone grafting procedure can be done in which bone from another part of the body or a special bone grafting material designed to enhance new bone growth is seated in the jawbone where the implant is expected to go.

It typically takes between four and six months for the jaw bone to heal to a point where it is strong enough to support implants. During that healing period, patients usually wear temporary, or removable, dentures or bridges.

Once the implants are placed, patients usually need between three and six months for the implants to heal to the point where they can support the abutment and the crown. As with bone grafting, patients typically wear temporary crowns or bridges during that time.

The advantages to dental implants include a more natural feel and look but they don’t end there. Because a full implant-supported upper arch doesn’t cover the palate the way traditional dentures do, they don’t negatively affect a person’s sense of taste.

Another issue associated with traditional dentures that is avoided through implant-supported dentures is the gag reflex that some patients experience because the denture extends over the back of the palate. Implants also aid the digestive process.

That process begins in the mouth with the way we chew our food. Implants allow a person to chew their naturally and properly, which is an important health factor. If certain foods are not chewed properly, some nutrients may not be absorbed into the body.

Implants even have an effect on the foods we eat. People missing teeth or those wearing bridges or traditional dentures may be prohibited from eating certain foods. That’s not the case with dentures, because their natural form eliminates all restrictions.

WATS Happening in Esophageal Cancer

May 8th, 2019

Do you get heartburn after you eat? Maybe you get it once in a while, or maybe you’re one of the 15 million or more Americans who get it every day. That’s about 20 percent of the US population. If you get heartburn often, you may have a condition called acid reflux. If your heartburn is seriously bothering you, you may have gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD.

GERD occurs when acid from your stomach persistently flows, or refluxes, back up into your esophagus, your food tube. What happens is that certain factors, including being overweight, smoking and taking certain medications, weakens the round muscle separating your stomach and esophagus that normally keeps the acid in its place.

GERD doesn’t typically kill you, but it can cause an alteration in the tissue of your esophagus that can turn into esophageal cancer, which is rare but deadly. The alteration occurs when GERD keeps getting worse and the cells lining your esophagus change so that they’re more like cells of the intestines. This is called Barrett’s esophagus.

Barrett’s esophagus can be a precursor to esophageal cancer, the fastest growing cancer in the United States. It starts with a precancerous condition called esophageal dysplasia. Dysplastic cells are those that begin to change and can over time deteriorate further into cancer cells.

Fortunately, esophageal cancer can be effectively treated if caught in its early stages. The way to do that is by visualizing your Barrett’s esophagus using an endoscope and taking samples of the tissue to look for cancer cells.

Detecting cancer cells in Barrett’s esophagus can be tricky, however, because the cells are often flat and spotty in the way they are distributed in the tissue. Getting as many cells as possible in a sample increases the likelihood your doctor will find any cancerous ones.

In the past, samples for biopsy were taken using forceps and pinching off bits of tissue at certain intervals. This method’s chief drawback is that it only gets samples from a small percentage of the total area of the esophagus. Recently, a new system for obtaining cells for biopsy was introduced that can sample up to 70 percent of the affected Barrett’s tissue.

The new technology is called wide-area transepithelial sampling (WATS), and it works with computer-assisted 3-D analysis. That makes it WATS3D. WATS3D uses a special, minimally invasive brush that doctors scrape around the esophageal wall in an up and down motion,. This gathers samples from a wide area and from the tissue layers where dangerous, precancer cells develop.

The samples taken by WATS3D are then analyzed by the computer system. The maker of WATS3D borrowed technology from the US Strategic Defense Initiative, also known as the Star Wars program, and a unique algorithm the WATS3D computer uses to analyze the samples.

The computer has a special neural network, or “brain,” that can see virtually the entire sample. The computer scans the sample three dimensionally and takes the 200 most suspicious areas and projects them on a monitor for the pathologist to read. The images provide crucial information about the cells’ structure that helps doctors accurately detect cancer.

WATS3D has been shown to be an effective tool in the fight against Barrett’s esophagus and esophageal cancer. In one study, using WATS3D increased detection of Barrett’s esophagus by 83 percent and of precancerous esophageal dysplasia by 88 percent. That’s a huge improvement.

It doesn’t take much time, either. WTAS3D is performed during a standard endoscopy. It adds about five minutes, if that, to the time it takes to do the endoscopy. That sounds pretty reasonable to me to increase your chances of catching esophageal cancer in its earliest stages.

Addiction Damage in America

April 9th, 2019

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported some disconcerting news last month when it released the results of a study on drug overdose deaths among American women ages 30 to 64.

The study, published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report on January 10, found that death rates in this group skyrocketed 260 percent from 1999 to 2017.

According to the study investigators, who reviewed death certificate data from the National Vital Statistics System, the death rate among women rose from 6.7 deaths per 100,000 people, or 4,314 total overdose deaths, in 1999 to 24.3 per 100,000, or 18,110 deaths, in 2017.

(Although not investigated by the study, some researchers suggest similar increases in overdose deaths are being seen in American men.)

The study also looked at the types of drugs responsible for the overdose deaths. Investigators found huge increases in deaths involving heroin, as well as those caused by synthetic opioids and by benzodiazepines such as Xanax and Valium, drugs primarily used to treat anxiety.

These statistics highlight the horrendous problem with addition to prescription medications, particularly opioid painkillers, this country now faces. Our first reaction might be to try to find someone – doctors, insurance companies or the pharmaceutical industry – to blame for the problem. However, your brain might be the most culpable.

When it comes to opioids in particular, anyone can become addicted. When you take these drugs, they activate powerful reward centers in your brain. They release those feel-good endorphins, which dull your perception of pain and enhance feelings of pleasure. They also create a sense of wellbeing.

When these drugs wear off, however, so do those good feelings. But you want those feelings to continue, so you keep taking the drugs as prescribed until you develop a tolerance to them. That’s when the dose you’re taking no longer provides the same good feelings they used to and that you desire.

At that point, you might start taking more medication than prescribed or taking it more often. Eventually, you find it impossible to make it through the day without the drug. You feel you simply can’t live without it. That’s addiction.

If your doctor prescribes an opioid pain medication, and you take it as directed, you decrease your risk for becoming addicted. But some of the more than one-third of all Americans in chronic pain do get addicted, and there are often warning signs that they’re in trouble. Here are seven warning signs of painkiller addiction courtesy of WebMD.

  1. You think about your medication a lot. – You’re preoccupied with when you can take your next dose and whether you’ll have enough medication to get you through.
  2. You take different amounts than your doctor prescribed. – As mentioned, you take more than prescribed or take it more often than prescribed.
  3. You “doctor shop.” – You try to find different physicians who will give you prescriptions for the painkillers when your own physician restricts your supply.
  4. You get medication from other sources. – You order the drugs over the Internet, steal them from relatives or friends, or buy them on the street.
  5. You’ve been using the painkillers for a long time. – You’re still taking the painkillers long after the pain should have gone away, or you’re taking them because of the way they make you feel.
  6. You feel angry when anyone talks to you about your use of the drugs. – You get irritated or defensive whenever anybody approaches you about taking the medication.
  7. You’re not quite “yourself.” – You stop taking care of yourself like you used to. You’re less concerned about your appearance. You’re moody, angry, nervous or jittery. You sleep more than usual, and you ignore your responsibilities.

If you suspect you have an addiction problem, seek help. Talk to your doctor. He or she can recommend an addiction recovery center, or you can call a center directly.

You can also call 800-662-HELP (4357). This is the national helpline run by the US government’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. This administration provides free, confidential information and referrals for substance abuse and mental health services.

The most important thing is that you be honest with yourself and your doctor about your drug use. And if you think you have a problem, open up and seek help. Don’t become another number in next year’s overdose death statistics.

A Dialogue on Bleeding Disorders

March 26th, 2019

When most people get a cut or other trauma to their bodies, specialized cells are immediately transported to the site of the injury to form a blood clot and stem the bleeding. To form a blood clot, you need a type of blood cells called platelets and certain proteins known as clotting factors.

During the clotting process, the platelets clump together at the site of the injury to form a “plug.” Then, the clotting factors group up to make what’s called a fibrin clot. Fibrin is an insoluble protein that creates a mesh. The fibrin clot holds the platelets together in place and prevents blood from flowing out of the injury.

If you don’t have enough platelets or clotting factors, or if they aren’t functioning properly, you end up with a bleeding disorder. When you have a bleeding disorder, the clotting process takes much longer to complete. This puts you at risk for complications from bleeding too much from an injury to bleeding internally into your tissues and organs, including your brain.

Bleeding disorders are a group of conditions affecting blood clotting. The most well-known is hemophilia, but it’s not the most common bleeding disorder. That distinction belongs to von Willebrand disease. Hemophilia is rare, affecting about 20,000 Americans. Von Willebrand disease, on the other hand, is found in up to 1 percent of the US population, or 3.2 million people.

In addition to hemophilia and von Willebrand disease, there are many other bleeding disorders that have been identified. They include Factor I, II, V, VII, X, XI, XII and XIII deficiencies, named after the specific clotting factors involved.

Most bleeding disorders, including hemophilia and von Willebrand disease, are inherited, which means they are passed on from your parents to you. They’re usually the result of defects on specific genes on your DNA. In rare cases, they can be acquired as the result of another disease such as liver disease or as a side effect of certain medications such as blood thinners.

Each bleeding disorder has its own set of symptoms, but there are a few general symptoms commonly experienced by people with these disorders. They include:

  • Easy bruising
  • Bleeding gums
  • Heavy bleeding from small cuts
  • Frequent nosebleeds
  • Heavy menstrual periods
  • Excessive bleeding following surgery or dental procedures
  • Bleeding into joints

Because bleeding disorders are passed along in families, your doctor will probably ask you a lot of questions about your family’s medical history, as well as your personal history, when making a diagnosis. The doctor will also give you a complete physical examination and will likely order blood tests.

These blood tests may include a complete blood count (CBC), which measures your total amount of red and white blood cells; a platelet aggregation test, which examines how well your platelets clump together, and a bleeding time test, which calculates how quickly your blood clots.

Treatment varies depending on the type of bleeding disorder you have and how severe it is, but it often includes iron supplementation to replenish the iron you lose when you bleed a lot. This can keep you from developing anemia, a condition in which your blood lacks enough healthy red blood cells or hemoglobin, which carries oxygen to your body.

Blood transfusions are a common treatment for bleeding disorders. During a blood transfusion, the blood you lose from bleeding is replaced with blood taken from a donor. Some disorders, including hemophilia, can be treated by injecting often synthetic clotting factor components into your bloodstream. This is called factor replacement therapy.

Another treatment is the infusion of fresh frozen plasma that contains certain clotting factors such as factors V and VIII, which are important to the clotting process. People with severe bleeding disorders may remain on a routine treatment regimen, or prophylaxis, to maintain enough clotting factor in their bloodstreams.

Bleeding disorders can’t be cured, but treatment can help to relieve the symptoms and allow you to live a relatively normal life. It can also help to prevent or control the complications associated with these disorders, including bleeding into the organs and tissues.

But you have to seek treatment as soon as possible, so if you notice any of the symptoms of a bleeding disorder, see your doctor right away.

Concerning Colorectal Cancer

March 17th, 2019

With cancer, the cells of a part of your body grow out of control. When this occurs with the cells of your colon or rectum, it’s colorectal cancer. Colorectal cancer is an equal-opportunity disease. It affects men and women of all racial and ethnic groups. Aging is a key factor for this disease, so it’s more common in people ages 50 and older.

According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the US, excluding skin cancer. ACS estimates there will be more than 100,000 new cases of colon cancer and more than 44,000 new cases of rectal cancer in this country in 2019. Colorectal cancer is also expected to claim more than 51,000 lives in 2019.

On a positive note, death rates from colorectal cancer have dropped over the last 30 years in both men and women, and are still dropping. This decrease is attributed to more attention being given to screening and early detection, as well as the development of improved methods of diagnosis and treatment.

As with other cancers, colorectal cancer is caused by changes, or mutations, in your cells’ DNA, which controls cell growth. Some of these mutations are inherited; they’re passed along in families. These include certain genetic disorders such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP). With FAP, many growths called polyps form on the inner lining of the colon and rectum. Most colorectal cancers start as polyps.

Other mutations are acquired, meaning they occur during your lifetime and you don’t pass them on to your children. There are certain risk factors that can lead to these mutations in your DNA. Some risk factors you can’t control, like your age, but others you can control, and doing that can help you lower your chance of developing this cancer.

Many controllable risk factors are linked to your lifestyle habits, including diet, weight and exercise. The risk of developing colorectal cancer is higher in people who are overweight or obese, are inactive, or eat a diet high in red meats and processed foods. Other lifestyle habits that can have a negative impact include smoking and heavy drinking.

Colorectal cancer might not have symptoms in its earliest stages, and some of its symptoms are common to other disorders. But if you experience any unusual symptoms for four weeks or longer, see your doctor right away. Symptoms of colorectal cancer include:

  • Changes in bowel habits
  • Diarrhea, constipation or a feeling that your bowel is not emptying completely
  • Blood in your stool that makes it appear black
  • Bright red blood coming from your rectum
  • Frequent gas pains, bloating or cramps
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Feeling very tired
  • A feeling of fullness in your belly, even after not eating for a while

If your doctor suspects colorectal cancer after you describe your symptoms, he or she will likely perform a digital rectal exam (DRE) to feel for lumps in your rectum. Your doctor may then order certain tests to confirm a diagnosis. Among these tests are a fecal occult blood test (FOBT), which looks for blood in your stool, and a barium enema, during which x-rays are taken of your colon and rectum after you drink a contrast liquid called barium.

Your doctor may also order a sigmoidoscopy, which looks inside your rectum and lower colon with a lighted scope, and/or a colonoscopy, which looks at your rectum and deeper into the colon. These tests are used to look for and remove polyps and/or take tissue samples for examination under a microscope for signs of cancer, which is called a biopsy.

Surgery is the most common treatment for colorectal cancer. Your doctor will remove the areas affected by the cancer using one of several techniques, which cut out varying sections of the rectum and/or colon. The technique used depends on the stage of the cancer and how far it has spread. But all of the techniques have the same goal: to remove as much of the cancer as possible.

Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are other options that are sometimes used, often following surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells. Ablation is another treatment option that destroys cancerous tumors without surgery to remove them.

Ablation can be accomplished using radiofrequency waves, microwaves, ethanol or cryosurgery. These treatments are performed through a probe or needle that is guided by ultrasound or CT scanning technology.

Targeted therapy and immunotherapy are newer methods for treating colorectal cancer. Targeted therapy works differently than standard chemotherapy. It uses drugs aimed at specific genes and protein changes known to cause the cancer. Immunotherapy works to boost your body’s own immune system to fight against the cancer cells.

While not all cases of colorectal cancer can be prevented, you can take steps to lower your risk. Make changes to those controllable risk factors: eat healthy, manage your weight, exercise, stop smoking and moderate your drinking. Also, follow your doctor’s advice about when to get screening exams for colorectal cancer.

The outlook for people with colorectal cancer varies by the extent of the cancer, but is best when the cancer is found in its early stages. That can only be done if you’re vigilant about managing your risk factors, monitoring your body for symptoms and getting screened appropriately. Do that and you can be a survivor.

Fact graphics courtesy of
Fight Colorectal Cancer

LipiFlow: A Defining Therapy for Dry Eye

March 11th, 2019

Among eye disorders, dry eye disease is one of the most common. It affects 30 million Americans. It’s also one of the most uncomfortable. With it, your eyes feel dry and may itch, sting and/or burn. There’s also a feeling you’ve got something foreign in your eye. And even though it’s called dry eye, your eyes may tear a lot, too.

Dry eye disease is generally divided into two types. One is the aqueous deficient type, which means you’re not producing enough tears. The other is the evaporative type, which means your tears aren’t staying on your eyeball long enough to maintain a good protective layer on your eye’s surface.

The majority of people who have the evaporative type of dry eye disease, the more common of the two types, have a condition called Meibomian gland dysfunction, or MGD. The Meibomian glands make the oil component of tears. Oil is necessary so that your tears maintain that protective layer and leave your eyes with a good tear film.

Meibomian glands are located in the eyelids. There are about 25 to 40 glands in your upper eyelid and 20 to 30 in your lower. MGD is generally from a blockage of some of these glands with debris. This prevents the glands from secreting their oils effectively.

Traditionally, treatment for MGD included warm compresses over the eyelids to loosen any clogs in the glands. This was usually combined with manual massage of the glands to dislodge the debris blocking them.

These methods have had limited results for several reasons, one of the main being patients simply don’t do it. The treatment routine can be difficult to keep up with, so patients often don’t comply with it.

Another reason for failure may be that the heat from the warm compresses is insulated from the glands by the skin of the outer eyelid, so there’s not enough heat by the time it gets to the glands to make a difference. Also, patients often don’t have the know-how or dexterity to apply enough pressure while massaging the eyelids to be effective.

Another option to treat MGD was the physical expression of the Meibomian glands by a trained ophthalmologist. Unfortunately, this could be a painful experience for patients due to the heavy pressure on the eye necessary to accomplish the goal.

Then along comes the LipiFlow Thermal Pulsation System, which signals a breakthrough in the treatment of MGD and, in turn, dry eye disease. LipiFlow is designed to address the limitations of  traditional treatments.

LipiFlow combines the controlled application of therapeutic heat with a gentle, pulsating massage from a hand-held device. The two functions of the device work to liquefy then remove clogging debris from the glands, enabling them to function efficiently.

The LipiFlow device has two components. The first is a small eyepiece that resembles a large contact lens. The eyepiece slides beneath your eyelid and over the round portion of your eye. It delivers heat outward to the eyelids. It also protects the eye itself from the heat.

The second piece of the device sits outside your eye on the eyelid. It provides the pulsating massage of the glands that gently squeezes them to open up the blockages and express the oils. While not considered especially painful, the LipiFlow procedure is generally performed using drops to anesthetize your eyes and make you more comfortable.

LipiFlow has proven effective at treating MGD and dry eye. Clinical studies show it provides better results than traditional methods alone. In one study, patients receiving LipiFlow had a statistically significant improvement in objective measurements of Meibomian gland function and dry eye symptoms, while warm compresses did not.

In another study, the treatment increased the amount of time people with contact lenses, who are prone to getting dry eye, could wear their lenses by four hours. As a contact lens wearer, I can attest that that, too, is significant.

One of the physicians I work with offers LipiFlow at his practice, and he’s noted excellent results with his patients first hand. In his experience, 80 to 90 percent of his patients had significant improvement in their dry eye symptoms after adding LipiFlow to their existing treatment regimen. That’s pretty impressive.

LipiFlow is performed in your ophthalmologist’s office, and you can drive and do your regular activities immediately after. In some cases, patients notice some improvement in their symptoms right away. Most will begin to see a difference after three weeks, and the full benefit of the LipiFlow is usually seen by six weeks post-procedure.

There’re already 30 million Americans with dry eye disease, and that numbers is just going to get larger, mostly because we can’t put down our laptops and phones. When you use digital devices, you don’t blink as often as when you’re not in front of a screen, and that can lead to dry eye.

At least now you know there’s an effective treatment for dry eye disease if you should need it. But give your eyes a break once in a while and blink!

Defining Diet and Nutrition

March 4th, 2019

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word diet? Did you immediately think of a restrictive eating regimen that deprives you of your favorite foods? I think most people look at “diet” that way, and because they see it as depriving, they consider diet a bad thing.

For most people, a diet is a tool for losing weight. And according to a survey spearheaded by the International Food and Information Council, 77 percent of Americans are trying to lose weight. The sad truth, however, is most of them will fail to achieve sustaining weight loss if they approach their diets in the traditional way.

The better way to look at diet is in the context of overall nutrition. Nutrition is more than eating healthy food. It’s your total nourishment. And diet is more than an eating plan. It’s what you eat and drink every day, as well as the physical and emotional conditions associated with consuming them.

Having a nutritious diet is more than eating good food to fill you up. It’s also getting enough nutrients to keep you healthy and full of energy to perform your daily activities at a high level. A side benefit of good nutrition is you naturally get to and maintain a healthy body weight. (You get even better results when you add regular exercise.)

A critical feature of good nutrition and a healthy diet is variety. Eating a wide variety of foods helps ensure you get the important vitamins, minerals and other nutrients your body needs to function properly.

One recommendation is to keep your plate colorful with foods of a variety of hues. The elements that produce the color in these foods are actually nutritious substances. These substances can help lower your chances of getting certain chronic diseases, such as heart disease, as well as some cancers.

Fruits and vegetables are among the most colorful foods. They provide added protection by decreasing free radicals in the body. Free radicals are unstable molecules that damage cells, which can, as a result, lead to the development of many diseases.

A nutritious diet includes plenty of fruits and vegetables. It also includes whole grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy products, protein in the form of lean meats and seafood. A healthy diet doesn’t eliminate any group of foods, like some popular fad diets today, but instead concentrates on portion sizes.

For help with food choices and portion sizes, consult the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, developed by the US Department of Health and Human Services and the US Department of Agriculture. And don’t forget to balance your healthy eating with physical activity.

With a healthy, nutritious diet, you don’t have to deprive yourself of all the foods you love. But think about these foods before you eat them and decide which ones are really important to you.

Consider eating only the foods you absolutely love and avoiding the foods you find mediocre. That way you can eliminate the foods you can really live without and replace them with healthier options like fruits and vegetables.

By assessing your eating patterns, you can mindfully include foods you love that might be considered unhealthy. With careful planning, you can eat those foods but in a more controlled manner.

Now you know that diet is not a dirty word, and it’s possible to eat healthy and still have your favorite foods. Here are a few other tips for enjoying the eating experience, courtesy of the University of Minnesota:

  • Start small. Pick one thing to change and focus on that until you get comfortable with it, then move on.
  • Acknowledge and honor your hunger. Pay attention to what your body wants. Allow yourself to feel hunger. It’s very satisfying to eat after experiencing hunger.
  • Get rid of distractions. Turn off the televisions, computers and cells phones. Focus on your food.
  • Lose the “good” and “bad” labels. If you’re putting energy into taking better care of yourself, then you deserve treats, snacks and junk food from time to time without judgment.
  • Eat with others. Share the pleasure of the food itself with others. You get valuable emotional support from family members and friends when you eat together.
  • Stop before you feel full. It takes your brain about 20 minutes before it gets the message your belly is full. But there’s a point before that when your hunger is satiated. Keep in mind that a typical portion is more than you need.

Diets that restrict calories can do more harm than good. Often, people lose weight initially, but the weight loss is usually unsustainable. When they go off the diet, they generally gain all the weight back, and sometimes more.

Calorie-restrictive diets are not healthy for your body. You need to eat enough calories for your body to function properly. A nutritious, balanced diet gives you all the calories, vitamins and nutrients you need. It also helps you, along with exercise, to lose and/or maintain weight by keeping your metabolism operating optimally.

So, eat well and enjoy!

Caring For Baby Teeth

February 17th, 2019

How to get your child started on the right path to good oral hygiene.

Long before they take their first steps and possibly before they utter their first words, babies will develop their first couple of teeth. Typically, it’s the lower front teeth or central incisors that show up first, and when they do, it’s time to start caring for them.

https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/b/baby-teeth

A baby’s 20 primary teeth are already present in the jaws at birth and typically begin to appear when a baby is between 6 months and 1 year.

Though baby teeth will eventually fall out, decayed baby teeth can lead to poor speech development, negatively impact a child’s ability to digest his or her food and cause the permanent teeth to come in crooked.

That’s why it’s important for parents to begin caring for their child’s teeth as soon as they show up. It’s also important to note that caring for a baby’s teeth is a little different than caring for an older child’s teeth.

For those first few baby teeth, it’s best for parents to clean them as well as the front of the tongue using a damp washcloth or pediatrician-approved finger brush dotted with what amounts to a grain of rice worth of cavity-preventing fluoride toothpaste.

Cleaning a baby’s gums with either the toothpaste-dotted wash cloth or the finger brush is also recommended as this helps to fight bacterial growth long before the permanent teeth show up.

One thing to keep in mind when using a finger brush is to throw out the brush after a month or so and start using a new one as the brush tends to become a breeding ground for bacteria that can eventually damage the teeth and gums.

As baby’s grow into toddlers they tend to want to try brushing their teeth themselves, but parents should always monitor their toddler’s brushing habits and perhaps even finish the job for them to ensure the cleaning is thorough.

Of course, parents will eventually find that one of the more difficult tasks they’ll take on is to get their children to brush their teeth regularly. There are a couple of tips parents can follow to make sure tooth-brushing is not perceived as a chore.

For starters, let children pick out their own toothbrush. A toothbrush with a favorite character or color will help make the job of tooth-brushing seem more fun to the child. So too will brushing together with other family members.


Select a specific time, such as right before bed, and have the entire family brush its teeth together. That will allow the child to see the job of tooth-brushing as a family activity during which the child can learn good habits by watching mommy and daddy.

Another good idea is to be flexible, especially when it comes to what toothpaste your child uses. As children develop their own tastes, they may not like the taste of the typical minty adult-style toothpaste that mommy and daddy use, and that’s OK.

There are plenty of child-oriented toothpastes available that provide the same cavity-prevention and cleaning power as adult toothpaste but come in flavors that children will like better such as strawberry or bubble gum.

Again, the idea is to get your child into the habit of brushing regularly so that they develop good habits and maintain good oral health. The best way to do that is to get them started early and find ways to make tooth-brushing an activity they actually look forward to.

Holding Off Heart Disease

February 17th, 2019

It’s February, and you know what that means – it’s American Heart Month. It’s that annual opportunity to review what we know about heart disease. And it’s our chance to be sure we’re doing everything we can to prevent or manage it in our lives.

After all, heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the US. In fact, one in every four deaths in this country is the result of heart disease, to the tune of about 610,000 deaths each year. What’s more, almost half of all Americans are at risk for developing the condition. The good news is heart disease is preventable in most people.

Heart disease encompasses a wide array of different conditions affecting the heart and blood vessels. These include arrhythmias, cardiomyopathy, congenital heart defects, heart infections and the main form of heart disease, coronary artery disease (CAD).

 

Heart disease is often grouped with stroke and related conditions under the more global term cardiovascular disease (CVD). CVD involves a number of diseases of the heart and circulatory system. Other conditions that fall under CVD include heart attack, heart failure and valve disorders.

While stroke, heart attack and the other CVD disorders are serious conditions, we’ll concentrate our discussion today on heart disease and primarily on CAD, its most prevalent form.

CAD is a disorder of your coronary arteries, the blood vessels that supply your heart muscle with fresh, oxygenated blood. In CAD, the coronary arteries become blocked with a fatty material called plaque, which prevents the oxygen and nutrients from getting to your heart. This can lead to a heart attack and to the death of  heart muscle tissue.

Common symptoms of CAD include chest pain or discomfort, a sensation of pressure or squeezing in the chest, shortness of breath, nausea and feelings of indigestion or gas. Symptoms of heart disease can differ in women and may include dizziness or lightheadedness; anxiety; jaw, neck or back pain; cold sweats and fainting.

There are certain factors that put you at a higher risk for developing CAD. They can also make it more likely existing heart disease will get worse. Some of the risk factors, such as age, having a family history of heart disease or a history of pre-eclampsia during pregnancy cannot be changed.

Age is a big factor. Your risk increases if you’re a women over age 55 or a man over 45. The same is true if your father or brother had heart disease before age 55, or your mother or sister had it before age 65. These are all things you can’t do anything about.

There are other risk factors, however, that you can control. These include having high blood pressure and/or high cholesterol, having diabetes or prediabetes, smoking, being overweight or obese, being physically inactive, eating an unhealthy diet and drinking a lot of alcohol. These are the risk factors you should be putting your energy into.

The best way to determine your risk for CAD or other type of heart disease is by partnering with your doctor. He or she will evaluate your blood pressure, cholesterol level, blood glucose to check for diabetes, weight, personal and family medical history, and lifestyle.

Your doctor can then recommend steps to lower your risk for heart disease or treat the condition if you already have it.

If you are at risk for heart disease or have been diagnosed with it, there are some steps you can take to reduce the chance of getting heart disease or keep it from getting worse. Your doctor may recommend simple lifestyle changes and/or drug treatments.

One of the changes you can make to reduce your risk of heart disease or slow its progression is by controlling your high cholesterol and high blood pressure. This can often be done by adjusting your diet and getting more exercise, but it may require medications. Be sure to have your cholesterol and blood pressure checked regularly.

Lifestyle changes are pretty much common sense. They including eating a heart-healthy diet rich in high-fiber foods and low in saturated and trans fats; becoming more active; getting and staying at a healthy weight; quitting smoking; drinking alcohol in moderation and managing stress, which can have a negative effect on your heart.

If you’re at high risk for heart disease or already have it, your doctor may recommend you take an aspirin every day to reduce your chances of having a heart attack. Don’t take aspirin on your own without talking to your doctor first, however. It isn’t the best course of action for all people.

Now that you’ve been reminded about the basics of heart disease and CAD, you can better take care of your heart health.

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