Blog Posts

Through The Eyes Of A Child

August 13th, 2018

Waiting until after Labor Day to begin the new school year is a thing of the past. It is here in Florida anyway. Students attending public schools in the Sunshine State return to school a full three weeks before the Labor Day holiday this year.

With the summer break now at an end, the time for back-to-school shopping is already at hand. So, too, is the time to make sure your child is as well-equipped as possible to begin the new school year right.

Being properly equipped for school doesn’t just mean having the right notebooks, paper and pencils, however. It also means being in the proper physical state to succeed, which is why August has been designated Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month.

For anyone with school-aged children, it is always a good idea to devote a small part of the summer to getting your children’s eyes examined so that any issues can be corrected long before the first homework assignment is handed out.

Through a brief eye examination, an ophthalmologist can not only detect common issues such as nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism but less common diseases such as amblyopia (lazy eye), ptosis (drooping eyelids) and color blindness.

It’s also possible for parents, friends and family members to detect potential vision issues. Wandering or crossed eyes are easily detected while complaints of sore eyes or headaches from reading, watching TV or playing video games can be a sign of trouble, too.

There’s more to good eye care, though, than just getting an eye exam. Parents should also do everything they can to make sure their son or daughter is taking steps each day to avoid physical damage to their eyes.

For example, it’s just as important for your school-aged son or daughter to wear sun glasses on a bright, sunny day as it is for you. And wearing protective eyewear during sporting and recreational activities should always be recommended, if not insisted upon.

Many children may choose to ignore such recommendations, but before they do, they should know that children suffer the majority of the approximately 42,000 sports-related eye injuries that occur every year in the United States alone.

With the school year already beginning, it’s wise to take steps now to ensure they are fully dressed for success.

A Bit About OAB

August 13th, 2018

Overactive bladder or OAB, isn’t a disease in itself. Rather, it’s a syndrome, a collection of symptoms caused by sudden, involuntary contractions of the muscle of the wall of the bladder, where urine is stored. OAB symptoms can be triggered anywhere at any time and can have a major impact on your quality of life.

The most notable symptom of OAB is a sudden need to urinate that you can’t control. Some of us leak urine when we feel this sudden urge. That’s called urge incontinence, and like stress incontinence, it’s a pain in the keister. Having to go to the bathroom a lot during the day and two or more times at night are other common symptoms of OAB. Unlike urinary tract infections, there’s no pain or burning when you urinate, and there’s no blood in your urine with OAB.

OAB is very common. The American Urological Association says about 33 million Americans suffer with it. The fact is, as many as 30 percent of men and 40 percent of women in this country live with OAB symptoms. Keep in mind that many people who have OAB symptoms don’t tell their doctors because they’re embarrassed, so the actual number of people who have OAB is probably a lot higher than estimates suggest.

Age is a risk factor for OAB. It’s more common as we get older, but it’s not a normal part of aging. It’s also more common in people who have weak pelvic muscles, nerve damage or urinary tract infections. Certain medications and fluids, such as alcohol and beverages with caffeine, can be irritating to the bladder, as can excess weight. The loss of estrogen in menopause put women at a higher risk for OAB.

If you have the annoying symptoms of OAB, swallow your pride and tell your doctor, especially if the problem is affecting your daily functioning. People with OAB tend to avoid going too far from a toilet, so they start skipping social functions and events for fear they won’t have access to a bathroom. Staying home alone all the time can ultimately lead to feelings of isolation and depression. You don’t want that!

Don’t despair, there are treatments available. Most doctors start treatment with behavior modification. This includes monitoring your diet for any foods and drinks that can made bladder symptoms worse. Other aims include treating constipation and getting regular, and maintaining a healthy weight. Giving up smoking and drinking plenty of fluids that don’t irritate the bladder are also steps m this process.

Bladder retraining is another approach to OAB treatment. This involves scheduling times to go to the bathroom instead of going when the urge is felt. You then slowly increase the time between bathroom visits. In addition, doing specialized Kegel exercises strengthens the muscles of the pelvic floor, which control urination.

If these conservative measures fail to relieve your OAB symptoms, your doctor may prescribe a medication. Most medications used for OAB control the muscle spasms in your bladder, which decreases the symptoms of urgency and frequency to urinate.

If medications don’t help you or if you can’t tolerate their side effects, an injection of BOTOX into the bladder muscle may be an option. BOTOX temporarily paralyzes the  muscle, stopping its contractions, which in turn, stops the OAB symptoms. The results of BOTOX therapy lasts anywhere from four to eight months. The injection can be repeated.

Two types of neuromodulation or direct nerve stimulation are also available to treat OAB. They are percutaneous tibial nerve stimulation (PTNS) and sacral neuromodulation. These treatments work by reorganizing the spinal reflexes involved in bladder control. When all else fails, reconstructive bladder surgery may be an option, although surgery is rarely necessary.

Take heart. If you have OAB, your outlook is good. For most people, the combined approach of behavior modification and medication significantly improves urinary symptoms and your quality of life.

 

Studying Psoriasis

August 4th, 2018

August is one of the hottest months of the year for nearly everybody, so it’s a great time to stay in the air conditioning and get a little education. This week’s lesson is on psoriasis, a chronic condition that’s more than skin deep. Research shows it’s the result of several factors, including your immune system, genetics and environmental exposure.

There are different types of psoriasis, but I’m going to concentrate on the most common form, plaque psoriasis. The American Academy of Dermatology reports that about 80 to 90 percent of people with psoriasis develop this form. With plaque psoriasis, people get red, itchy patches on their skin called plaques.

So, where do these plaques come from? Well, normally, the life cycle of skin cells involves producing new skin cells and shedding the old. This cycle takes about a month to complete. With plaque psoriasis, your immune system goes into overdrive and triggers inflammation, causing the skin to produce new cells double quick.

So, the skin cell life cycle gets cut to about a week instead of a month. The problem is the skin can’t shed the old, dead cells that fast. Instead, the old cells pile on top of each on the surface of the skin, forming the thick, red, flaky plaques. Often, the plaques get thin, dry, silvery scales on them. The skin around them might burn or be painful or crack and bleed.

The plaques can form anywhere on your body, but the most common locations are the knees, elbows, torso and scalp. They tend to vary in size, and can appear as a single spot or as a cluster that covers a large area of your body. Most people who have psoriasis have it their entire lives, but it generally clears up for a while then flares up again.

There are many things that can cause your psoriasis to flare. Some people carry one or more genes linked to the development of psoriasis. One out of three people with the condition have a relative who also has it. However, not everyone with these genes gets the disease. It’s believed that certain environment factors trigger the genes and result in the disease becoming active.

There are a number of outside factors that trigger a psoriasis flare or worsen one in progress. Some of the more common triggers include infection such as strep throat, injury to the skin, smoking, changes in the weather, heavy alcohol use, a deficiency in Vitamin D, stress, and medications, including lithium, iodides, and certain blood pressure and antimalarial drugs. Identifying your triggers and avoiding them is one way to help manage your psoriasis.

Your dermatologist can usually diagnose psoriasis by asking you questions about your medical history and symptoms, then examining your skin. He or she may take a small sample of affected skin to examine under the microscope. This may be done to rule out other skin disorders as well as to confirm the psoriasis diagnosis and determine the type of psoriasis.

Following diagnosis, your doctor will develop a treatment plan. The plan usually begins with topical creams and ointments, especially if you have mild to moderate disease. These treatments include topical corticosteroids, Vitamin D and retinoids.

If your disease is more severe or you don’t respond to the topical creams, your dermatologist may try phototherapy or oral or injected medications that work throughout your body. Phototherapy uses natural or artificial ultraviolet light to slow the creation of new skin cells. Your doctor may try a systemic oral medication such as methotrexate or cyclosporine, or an injected biologic such as Humira, Cosentyx, Stelara or Taltz to clear your skin from a flare.

In March of this year, a new, purportedly more powerful drug was approved by the FDA for the treatment of adults with moderate to severe plaque psoriasis. It’s called tildrakizumab-asmn or Ilumya. It became available by prescription in the US earlier this summer.

Ilumya, an injection administered every 12 weeks, is approved for patients who are candidates for systemic medications or phototherapy, according to its manufacturer Sun Pharmaceuticals. The drug works to reduce inflammation by inhibiting the release of certain pro-inflammatory substances from the immune system called cytokines.

Identifying your triggers and following your doctor’s treatment plan are both important for managing your psoriasis. Here are a few more suggestions that also might help:

  • Avoid skin injuries. Be more careful when working and shaving (men and women) to avoid nicks and cuts, and be sure to use insect-repellant outdoors to prevent bug bites.
  • Get a small amount of sunlight, but don’t get burned. A brief period in the sun can help improve your psoriasis, but too much can trigger or worsen a flare, not to mention put you at greater risk for skin cancer.
  • Soak in a lukewarm tub every day. Put colloidal oatmeal, Epsom salts or Dead Sea salts in the water to calm inflamed skin. Don’t use very hot water or harsh soaps. Mild soap has oil and fat that can help soothe your skin. Pat yourself dry after soaking about ten minutes.
  • Limit your alcohol intake. Alcohol can be a trigger, and it can decrease the effectiveness of many of the medications used to treat psoriasis. If you drink, do it in moderation.
  • Control stress. Stress can be a trigger and it can make managing psoriasis more difficult. Take time in your day to relax. Try a relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation or deep breathing. If you need more help de-stressing, talk to your doctor.
  • Exercise and Eat Healthy. A healthy lifestyle is good for you in general and can help you maintain a positive attitude. That positivity will make you stronger and more capable of managing your psoriasis on a daily basis.

Concentrating on ADHD in Adults

July 31st, 2018

The national nonprofit organization Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) estimates 10 million adults have ADHD. We hear more about ADHD in children, but 30 percent to 70 percent of kids with the disorder continue having symptoms into adulthood. In adults, ADHD affects men and women equally.

ADHD is a developmental disorder that has emotional, intellectual, behavioral and physical symptoms. These symptoms include distractibility, impulsivity and hyperactivity. They can cause problems in your relationships, as well as your ability to function at work or socially.

Some signs that an adult may have ADHD are commonplace behaviors, so their significance in many cases is not recognized. Aa a result, ADHD in adults often goes undiagnosed.

Common signs of ADHD in adults include chronically running late and driving haphazardly, because they can’t keep their minds on their current task. Problems with self-control, including outbursts of anger or insulting comments, are also signs of possible ADHD.

Some adults with ADHD are easily distracted and have trouble prioritizing and starting and finishing tasks. However, they may become hyper-focused on tasks they enjoy or find fun and interesting.

It’s believed that in people with ADHD, chemicals that transmit messages from brain cell to brain cell, called neurotransmitters, are less active in the parts of the brain that control attention. Thus far, researchers haven’t determined what causes this chemical imbalance in the brain. They believe that genetics may play a role in developing ADHD because the disorder often runs in families.

There are no medical diagnostic tests for ADHD. A diagnosis is generally made by a qualified physician or mental health professional using a thorough history and the guidelines outlined in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5).

The DSM-5 lists three presentations of ADHD, predominantly inattentive, hyperactive-impulsive and combined. The inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive presentations have their own sets of symptoms. The combined presentation has a mixture of those symptoms.

The diagnosis of ADHD in an adult is made based on the number and severity of symptoms and the extent the symptoms impact the person’s daily life. The clinician performs a thorough examination to look for other possible causes of the symptoms, as well as any co-existing conditions.

Once a diagnosis of ADHD is made, a treatment plan is created. Treatment generally involves medications, a specific type of psychotherapy or a combination of both. The type of medications most often used for ADHD in adults is a stimulant. Stimulants actually help affected adults stay focused.

The psychotherapy method most often recommended is cognitive behavioral therapy. This type of psychotherapy focuses on the thoughts and behaviors that are occurring in the present. This differs from other types of therapy that involve looking into the past and resolving emotional problems that began in childhood. CBT may help the person get organized, set helpful routines, repair relationships and improve social skills.

Adults with ADHD don’t grow out of the disorder, but with treatment, many learn to manage and cope with it. Studies show that treatment with stimulant medications and CBT often improves the outlook for adults and decreases the risk for developing other mental health disorders. It also helps people perform better in school or work.

Moving Matters

July 24th, 2018

For years, groups like the American Heart Association released guidelines for physical activity for adults. The AHA, for instance, recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity at least five days per week. Another option is at least 25 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity at least three days per week.Moving Matters

The old benchmark of a total of 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week rightly suggests that people get health benefits from exercise. But it added that the benefits were obtained only if the activity lasts for ten minutes or longer. Results from a study released earlier this year challenges that theory.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, found that the length of time a person performs an activity is unrelated to the benefit of living longer. It reported that even short bursts of vigorous activity, like five minutes of brisk walking or jogging, add up to produce health benefits.

The researchers studied the activity habits and health of nearly 5,000 adults age 40 and older for four years. They gathered the participants’ activity levels through wearable tracking devices. After looking at the impact of activities as brief as one minute, the researchers discovered that all of the activity, whatever its duration, helped reap health benefits, as long as the activity reached a moderate or vigorous intensity.

To help update its own physical activity guidelines, the US Department of Health and Human Services commissioned an advisory committee to systematically review the scientific evidence on physical activity, fitness and health. The committee issued their report in March.

The committee’s findings will help HHS as they prepare their new edition of Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. It remains to be seen if the new HHS guidelines will include the benefits of shorter bursts of activity or if it will stick to the “ten-minute rule.” The guidelines are due out later this year.

OK, let’s talk about the health benefits of adding physical activity to your weekly routine. There are lots of them, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The benefit most people know about is that it reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases, mainly heart disease and stroke. What’s more, it can lower blood pressure and improve cholesterol levels.

Physical activity can help you control your weight, whether you need to lose or just maintain your weight. It can reduce your risk for developing Type 2 diabetes; and if you’ve already got it, it can help you control your blood glucose levels.

Being physically active lowers your risk of colon and breast cancer. Some studies suggest it reduces the risk of endometrial and lung cancer as well. It can keep your bones and muscles strong and even help with the pain of arthritis in your hips or knees. Stronger bones and muscles improve balance and prevent falls.

That’s not all. Physical activity can improve your mental health and your mood. It can keep your thinking sharp longer and reduce the risk for depression. When you feel better physically and mentally, you’re better able to perform your daily activities, which improves your quality of life.

Then there’s that little thing about increasing your chances of living longer. Yeah, there’s that.

The government, the American Heart Association and the study’s researchers may state it a little differently, but the message is basically the same. Getting some moderate-intensity or vigorous physical activity into your day is good for your health. Moving really does matter.

Remote Control

July 15th, 2018

Minimally invasive robotically assisted heart procedure proves effective.

Adam* describes himself as a fitness fanatic. The 55-year-old retired Naval officer works out at the gym at least five days a week and usually gets in a jog of at least five miles every other day.

He’s in excellent physical condition for a man his age, which is why he thought something must be wrong when he suddenly found himself out of breath midway through the 30 minutes it usually takes him to mow his lawn.

After taking the advice of his general practitioner and visiting a heart specialist, Adam was surprised to learn that he was suffering from mitral valve disease, which is the most common form of heart valve disease in the United States.

Nearly half a million patients are admitted to a hospital each year as a result of some form of mitral valve disease.  In turn, those visits result in approximately 40,000 Americans – most of them 50 or younger – undergoing surgery for the malady.

One of four heart valves, the mitral valve is the one that allows the blood received from the lungs to flow from the left atrium, also known as the upper chamber of the heart, to the left ventricle, or lower chamber of the heart.

What Adam learned upon his visit was that he was suffering from mitral valve regurgitation, a condition in which the mitral valve fails to close tightly when the left ventricle contracts. This failure results in a leakage or backward flow of blood through the valve.

When this leakage occurs, blood flows through the valve in both directions, causing an increase in the volume of blood in the valve as well as an increase in pressure in the atrium. This, in turn, increases the pressure in the veins leading from the lungs to the heart.

In mild cases of mitral regurgitation, sufferers may not feel any symptoms at all. In more severe cases, however, the lack of efficient blood flow can cause palpitations and may leave sufferers feeling tired and short of breath the way Adam did.

For years, the primary treatment for mitral valve regurgitation was a surgery designed to repair or replace the valve that required the surgeon to access the affected area by sawing the sternum in half, spreading the ribs and operating through the front of the chest.

As a result of advances in medical technology, however, surgeons can now perform the same operation remotely with the aid of a small camera and thin robotic arms that are fed into the body through a series of small incisions on the right side of the chest.

While the surgeon works at a computer console that provides complete control of the movement of the robotic arms, the camera provides a clear, three-dimensional view of the mitral valve and its surroundings.

Like traditional mitral valve surgery, the robotically assisted version requires general anesthesia and the use of heart-lung bypass machines to perform the functions of those organs during the procedure. It provides several advantages, however.

In addition to alleviating the need to break or cut the breastbone, the advantages of robotically assisted mitral valve surgery include less blood loss, less post-operative patient pain, less scarring and a shorter recovery time than with traditional surgery.

And research shows that robotically assisted mitral valve surgery is just as successful as the traditional option. In an NYU Langone study of 1,000 patients who had the minimally invasive surgery, their long-term clinical outcomes were equivalent to those achieved by patients who had a traditional sternotomy.DaVinci Robot Heart Valve

Adam is among those who can attest to the fact that the robotically assisted surgery works. He opted for that approach after he was told of his condition and says now that the surgery has given him a new lease on life.

“When I was told I needed to have heart surgery I wasn’t just shocked, I was scared,’’ Adam says. “Along with the concern I had for my general overall health, I was worried about the long layoff that I thought I’d be facing after surgery.

“But I was in the hospital for only two days with this new surgery and within a month of leaving, I was back working out and going through my normal routine. If had been forced to have the traditional surgery, it might have been months before I was active again.”

Need New Hip Joint?

July 9th, 2018

Positioning system makes replacement surgery more precise.

The number of Americans having hip replacement surgery has grown steadily over the past eighteen years. It’s estimated that this year, more than 300,000 people will undergo the procedure, up from 138,000 in 2000. The procedure, fortunately, has matured as well.

A recent advancement to hip replacement surgery was the release and FDA approval of a technology that helps surgeons determine the most accurate alignment of the replacement implants. This technology is the optimized positioning system or OPS™.

The inspiration behind OPS is the fact that no two people move the same way, and this can make a significant impact on the proper positioning of the hip implants. OPS is designed to account for the differences. It tailors the implant placement to each patient.

OPS factors in that no two people move the same way.

The hip joint has two essential parts, the ball and the socket. The ball of the joint is the head of the femur, or thigh bone. The socket, or acetabulum, is a concave depression in the pelvis, in which the ball sits. The ball and socket are the parts that are replaced during surgery and must be positioned appropriately for the best outcome.

To get the proper position, hip replacement surgery using OPS begins long before the procedure is performed. An extensive preoperative evaluation is first performed to determine how the patient’s femur, pelvis and spine work together during routine daily activities. This evaluation provides a specific functional simulation of the patient’s movement.

This information is essential to achieving optimum results during surgery. If the implants aren’t positioned precisely during surgery, there’s a greater risk for complications such as premature wear, implant loosening and dislocation, as well as nerve impingement.

The preoperative evaluation also includes imaging such as x-rays and CT scans to generate pictures of how the patient’s hip moves in three dimensions. The imaging captures the anatomical geometry around the person’s hip joint.

Using all of the information gathered from the preoperative evaluation, surgeons create exact 3-D models of the patients’ anatomy. They then use these models as guides to optimize implant position during the hip replacement procedure.

The preoperative evaluation is the first step in the hip replacement using OPS process. The second step is using the system during the procedure itself. During surgery, the 3-D model, which is unique to each patient, is combined with a laser guidance system. Surgeons match up the laser points to ensure the optimized plan is accurately recreated during surgery.

Need for OPS

The most common reason for needing hip replacement surgery with OPS is deterioration of the hip joint from arthritis. The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis, also known as “wear and tear” arthritis. Osteoarthritis generally develops with age. It’s estimated that more than 28 million Americans suffer from the disorder.

Osteoarthritis can develop in any joint in the body, but it most often affects weight-bearing joints such as knees and hips. The hip is one of the largest joints in the body, and like other joints, its surfaces are covered with a smooth cushioning material called articular cartilage. This cartilage enables the bones to slide over one another more easily.

Joints also contain another cushioning substance called synovial fluid. This fluid lubricates the joint cartilage and aids in movement. With osteoarthritis, the articular cartilage begins to wear away, and the synovial fluid begins to thin out. This results in the bones of the joint rubbing together without cushioning. Damaged bone may also start to grow. These resulting growths are called bone spurs.

All of the damage to the hip joint is degenerative; it gets worse over time. It also causes pain, swelling and other symptoms that get progressively more intense. Additional symptoms of osteoarthritis include tenderness around the hip, limited range of motion, a grating sensation with movement and difficulty walking.

The doctor can generally diagnose osteoarthritis through a complete history and physical exam. The doctor will confirm the findings with an x-ray of the patient’s hip.

Treatment for osteoarthritis generally begins with lifestyle modifications, such as switching from high-impact activities to lower-impact activities and losing weight. Other conservative treatments include doing physical therapy, using support such as a cane when walking and taking anti-inflammatory and/or pain medications.

If conservative treatments fail to relieve symptoms, the doctor may suggest surgery. Surgical options include hip resurfacing and total hip replacement.

“Wasting” a Donation

July 2nd, 2018

During Digestive Disease Week in early June, a group of researchers from the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada presented the results of their study to a gathering of physicians and researchers in the fields of gastroenterology, endoscopy, gastrointestinal surgery and liver disease. The study results came from a 32-question online survey of about 800 people in the US, Canada and UK.

Graphic from istockphoto.com.

Lead researcher Breanna McSweeney, a medical student at the University of Alberta in Canada, says “As studies come back showing that fecal transplant is beneficial for more conditions, most likely we’re going to need more donations.”

The purpose of the survey was to gauge the respondents’ attitudes toward donating stool samples for fecal transplantation. That’s right, poop donations. But before you laugh, consider how donated stool is used in medicine and how it can help people who’ve failed all other treatments.

Currently, fecal transplants are used to treat Clostridium difficile infections. C difficile is a bad news bacterium that can cause life-threatening diarrhea if its allowed to flourish in the digestive tract. It generally runs wild after people have taken a lot of antibiotics that have killed off all the beneficial bacteria. These “good” bacteria keep the environment in the gut balanced and healthy.

C difficile causes nearly half a million infections and 15,000 deaths in the US each year. In many cases, C difficile infections are resistant to most available antibiotics. This leaves many infected people with no effective treatment. Remarkably, fecal transplantation has been shown to be a lifeline for these otherwise untreatable patients.

During fecal transplantation, doctors take a donated stool sample from a healthy donor and purify it. The purified sample is then used in the sick individual to create colonies of healthy bacteria in the digestive tract. This levels the playing field. One, healthy bowel movement can help up to five people.

Right now, the FDA has approved fecal transplantation only as a last-ditch treatment for C difficile infection, but studies have shown it’s just as effective as antibiotics as a first-line treatment, too. Researchers are currently studying its potential to treat other nasty gut disorders as well, such as irritable bowel disease and ulcerative colitis.

What makes a person agreeable to donating? According to the study results reported in June, the majority of respondents said the opportunity to help others was their primary motivation. The payment for donating helped a little, although the amount is minimal, from $15 to $40 depending on the country and the donation center. The researchers also noted that the majority of those who agreed to become donors were also blood donors. Altruistic at heart, I guess.

There were a couple turn-offs to stool donation, of course. The inconvenience of donating was one. Most centers ask for a donation three times a week for at least two months. Talk about pressure! In some cases, donors have to make their donations at a hospital if their transplant centers aren’t set up to accept them. The ickiness of collecting their own stool was cited as another hindrance to participation.

Becoming a poop donor isn’t as easy as it seems. Potential donors go through a rigorous screening process that includes an exhaustive questionnaire, a thorough clinical evaluation, and intensive stool and blood screening. In the end, nearly 97 percent of applicants are rejected. Apparently, they’re pretty particular about poop. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to find a stool bank and make a deposit!

To find a provider near you, please visit the Fecal Transplant Foundation.

Do You Feel How You Eat?

June 27th, 2018

The broiled fish filet with steamed broccoli and rice you had for dinner last night and the salad you opted for over the hamburger at lunch yesterday may be doing more for you than just keeping your waistline in check.Do You Feel How You Eat

It may be giving your mental health a boost as well.

Medical researchers have long known that people who are depressed tend to eat greater quantities of fast food. New research suggests, however, that by simply changing their diet, depressed individuals may be able to improve their mood.

Through a study using 67 participants who had either been prescribed antidepressants or were attending regular psychotherapy sessions, the researchers at Deakin University’s Food and Mood Centre discovered what may be a new link between food and mood.

When the three-month study began, the diet of each of the subjects involved was virtually void of dietary fiber, fresh meats or vegetables and consisted almost exclusively of processed fast foods and sugary or salty snacks.

During the study, half of the subjects were allowed to continue eating as they were before the trial began while the other half were given diets made up exclusively of lean proteins such as grass-fed beef, fish, fresh vegetables, eggs and nuts.

All of the subjects’ depression levels were tested both before and after the trial began, and what the researchers found was that among those who ate healthier during the 12-week study, the scores improved by an average of 11 points.

In addition, nearly a third of the 33 individuals in the intervention group recorded scores so low they were deemed to be in remission. As for those who continued to eat normally, only 8 percent achieved remission while depression scores on average rose just 4 points.

While the study is hardly definitive, it suggests that any individual suffering from major depression could improve his or her mood simply by eating a healthier diet, which will likely result in better overall physical health as well.

All of this does, of course, fall under the category of easier said than done. After all, it is well known that when people are depressed, they often have a tendency to reach for comfort foods that they hope will lighten their moods.

It’s doubtful, though, that a bowl of ice cream or a box of chocolates will actually make anyone feel better. It’s quite possible, though, that by substituting a handful of grapes or some nuts and raisins for the ice cream or candy will make you feel better.

Some other eating tips that might help swing your mood in a more positive direction include eating a health breakfast; eating foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids such as fatty fish and walnuts and consuming at least 600 international units of Vitamin D per day.

It’s National Migraine and Headache Awareness Month

June 26th, 2018

Migraines are not “all in your head,” and the pain is not only real but may have serious consequences for your life and bank account.

June is National Migraine and Headache Awareness Month, a time to support those whose lives are often made unbearable by chronic migraines that can be difficult to treat, even with prescription medication.

An estimated 36 million Americans suffer from migraines, but only one of every three talks to a doctor about them, according to the American Migraine Foundation.

A migraine is an inherited neurological disorder in which specific areas of the brain become overexcited, the foundation defines. Sufferers are more susceptible to “triggers” that raise their risk of having a migraine attack.

Those triggers include hormonal fluctuations, weather changes, bright lights, specific smells or foods, alcohol, poor sleep and high stress.

A chronic migraine recurs 15 or more days a month for at least three months and has the features of a migraine at least eight days out of the month, according to the Chronic Migraine Awareness organization.

“Chronic migraine poses a greater impact on the patient’s life than episodic migraine, including lower household income levels, less ability to do chores and more missed workdays,” according to the tax-exempt group’s blog.

The World Health Organization considers migraines one of the 10 most disabling medical illnesses globally, with chronic migraines impacting patients even more severely.

Migraines cost the United States more than $20 billion each year, the American Migraine Foundation reports. That includes direct medical expenses such as doctor visits and medications and indirect expenses such as missed workdays.

“But the burden doesn’t stop there. Those afflicted with migraines are more likely to have depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, other pain conditions and fatigue,” according to the foundation.

“People who have a history of experiencing an aura phase (migraine with changes in vision) have been shown to be at an increased risk for stroke and heart attack,” the foundation adds.

How do you know if you’re suffering from a migraine as opposed to a garden-variety headache? Consider these migraine symptoms:

  • A headache with moderate to severe pain;
  • A headache that worsens with physical activity
  • A throbbing headache that’s often worse on one side of the head;
  • A headache that leads to missed school, work or other activities;
  • Increased sensitivity to light, sound or smells during the headache;
  • A headache that lasts four to 48 hours if left untreated.

If your migraines are negatively impacting your quality of life, and over-the-counter medications don’t help, visit your primary care provider, who may refer you to a neurologist or a headache specialist.

For more information on migraines, visit americanmigrainefoundation.org or https://chronicmigraineawareness.blog/.

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