Blog Posts

Safe Under the Sun

July 8th, 2020

A few precautions can keep your skin safe this summer.

Summer is here and with it comes an increased desire to get out of the house and do something outdoors. That desire may be even stronger this year, what with so many isolating themselves at home in an effort to avoid contracting the coronavirus.

Before venturing outside, though, it’s always smart to take into account the risks associated with exposure to the sun and its potentially harmful ultraviolet rays. That’s why July has been named UV Safety Awareness Month.

UV light is a form of radiation emitted naturally by the sun, which produces three different UV wavelengths. One of those wavelengths, UVC, is blocked by the ozone layer that protects the earth’s atmosphere.

But the other two UV wavelengths, UVA and UVB, can not only pass through the ozone layer but they can penetrate deep into a person’s skin and cause everything from sunburn to wrinkling of the skin and skin cancer.

That’s why it’s so important to protect the skin from overexposure to the sun, which is hottest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. This is also the time when UV levels and radiation levels are highest, especially at the beach, where the sun’s rays can easily be reflected.

If at all possible then, it’s best to plan outdoor activities for the early-morning or late afternoon hours. No matter the time of the outdoor activity, though, it’s also smart to take a few simple precautionary measures to reduce your risk of suffering skin damage.

Those measures include wearing a hat, preferably a wide brimmed hat; wearing lightweight, light-colored loose-fitting clothing and sunglasses. The latter is a step endorsed by the American Academy of Ophthalmology, and rightfully so.

Because overexposure to the sun can lead to the early development of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, the AAO recommends wearing sunglasses that are labeled UV400 or come with a label saying they block 100 percent of UV rays.

When outside, it’s always best to spend as much time in the shade as possible, but it’s important to keep in mind that the sun is so powerful that it can still cause skin damage even on a cloudy day or when someone is in the shade.

It’s also important to remember that reflective surfaces such as a white sandy beach, the water in a pool, lake or ocean, even snow on a bright sunny day in the winter, can intensify the sun’s ability to damage skin through UV exposure.

That’s why one of the most important precautionary measures is to wear sunscreen. But not just any sunscreen will do. For the best protection, the US Food and Drug Administration recommends using waterproof sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at l5.

And don’t be conservative with it. When applying sunscreen, it’s best to apply at least an ounce (which amounts to about a palmful) every two hours and to apply it even more frequently when sweating or swimming.

Another step that can be taken to ensure your safe under the sun is to check the UV index for your area prior to going outside. By simply typing in your zip code, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can give you a UV forecast.

This forecast will give you a number from 1 to 11 that will help you determine just how dangerous the sun is that day and how much protection is needed to avoid serious damage from UV rays. The lower the number, the less protection you’ll need.

Summer is a time for outdoor fun and adventure, but assuring you and others are safe under the sun is one way to ensure you won’t regret you venture outside.

Extra! Extra! Read All About It

July 5th, 2020

Most of the news we’ve been reading about COVID-19 lately seems to be bad news: New cases are spiking across the country. Hospital ICUs are filling to capacity with seriously ill patients. And experts are warning of escalating infection rates in the coming months.

But if you look a little closer, you can find some tidbits of good news as well. Here’s one story I came across recently that gave me hope. On July 1, the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its partner the German biotech company BioNTech announced that its experimental COVID-19 vaccine has shown promising results in early testing.

The initial clinical data from the study revealed that volunteers who took low or medium doses of the vaccine in two injections about a month apart developed immune responses to the virus in the range expected to be protective.1 In fact, their immune defenses were stronger than those of the average recovered COVID-19 patient.

The study involved 45 healthy volunteers. Twelve received a 10 microgram dose of the vaccine, 12 received a 30 microgram dose, 12 received 100 micrograms and nine received a placebo. The main side effects were fever and injection site soreness. The 100 microgram dose caused fevers in half of patients receiving it, so a second dose was not given to those patients.

Pfizer’s experimental vaccine generated antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and some of those antibodies were neutralizing. That means these antibodies may prevent the virus from functioning.

The level of neutralizing antibodies in the study volunteers were 1.8 to 2.8 times that found in recovered COVID-19 patients, but researchers aren’t sure yet if higher antibody levels lead to virus immunity. Pfizer is planning large-scale studies to prove that people getting their vaccine are 50 percent less like to become infected. Those studies are set to begin this summer.

For its vaccine, Pfizer used specific genetic material called messenger RNA, or mRNA. This mRNA contains directions for making a certain protein used by the virus to invade human cells. The mRNA is taken up by the body’s cells, which then follow the directions and make the protein. The body’s immune system recognizes the protein as foreign and make antibodies to disable it if the virus tries to invade.

The vaccine in this study is one of four candidate vaccines being developed by Pfizer. The company reported that additional information from this particular trial will help it to pick a leading candidate and dose level for a much larger study. Based on the initial trial results, BioNTech and Pfizer hope to progress to a larger US trial involving 30,000 participants.

Pfizer notes that if its vaccine proves safe and effective, and is approved, it expects to make up to 100 million dose by the end of 2020 and “potentially more than 1.2 billion doses by the end of 2021.”

The good news is there. But you might have to look beyond the front page.

Go Purple on the Longest Day

June 18th, 2020

Alzheimer’s Association Seeks to Raise Awareness.

The longest day of the year, also known as the summer solstice, is the day with the most light. Not coincidentally, it is on that day each year that the Alzheimer’s Association strives to bring the most light to its efforts to fight the darkness of Alzheimer’s disease.

That day falls on June 20, a Saturday, this year, and while the impact of the coronavirus may force a few changes in plans, the Alzheimer’s Association still hopes to have thousands of people celebrate its efforts as part of Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month.

The Association’s goal is to devote the entire day to the cause by creating a day-long sunrise-to-sunset event that signifies the challenging journey that those with Alzheimer’s, their family members and caregivers face each and every day.

As part of the program, the Association is asking people who know someone with Alzheimer’s disease to wear purple to honor that person, and already, a long list of celebrities have signed on as Alzheimer’s Association Champions to help get the word out.

The list of personalities includes current and former professional athletes such as Pro Football Hall of Famer Terrell Owens, actors such as Samuel L. Jackson and Olympia Dukakis and television hosts such as Leeza Gibbons and Vivica Fox.

Their goal is to use their faces and voices to challenge 5 million Americans – one for every American living with Alzheimer’s disease – to learn more about the disease and become Alzheimer’s Association Champions themselves.

Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible, progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills and eventually robs people of the ability to perform the simplest of daily tasks such as bathing, dressing and eating.

Currently ranked as the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, Alzheimer’s disease will afflict one out of every 10 people 65 and older this year, and it is the only leading cause of death that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed.

To alter that situation, critical research is needed. That’s why the Alzheimer’s Association is encouraging people to participate in or hold fundraising efforts of their own and is even providing tips and tools on how to hold such a fundraiser.

The Association suggests building a fundraiser through sporting events, community gatherings and hobbies such as painting, dancing and arts and crafts. Almost anything thing can be turned into a fundraiser to bring awareness to the cause.

And for those who are unable to participate or hold a fundraiser, awareness can be brought by simply wearing purple on the 20th of June or by purchasing and wearing some of the purple gear that is available through the Alzheimer’s Association’s website.

It is through the Association’s Go Purple venture that many of the celebrities involved in the fight are making their voices heard by telling stories of friends or loved ones in their lives who have or are struggling with the disease.

The Association is encouraging others to do the same by sharing their stories through social media and through the Association’s website and using the hashtags #ENDALZ and #The Longest Day in their posts.

To learn more about The Longest Day, events associated with Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month or information on how to participate in a current fundraising event or start one of your own, you can call 800-272-3900.

Sounding Off on Scleroderma

June 9th, 2020

Scleroderma is a chronic autoimmune disorder that replaces your body’s healthy connective tissue with thick, hard tissue that’s full of extra collagen, a protein that serves as a building block for connective tissue. Connective tissue is fibrous tissue that supports, protects or gives structure to other tissues and organs in the body.

Scleroderma is an unpredictable disease. Sometimes, it’s mild and affects only your skin, which is made up of connective tissue. But other times, scleroderma involves multiple organs and can be potentially fatal. The disease varies from person to person, but up to one in three people with the condition develops severe symptoms.

Fortunately, scleroderma is rare. Fewer than 500,000 people in the United States have it. It is more common in women than in men. It’s estimated that six out of seven people with scleroderma are women. It most often develops in people between 35 and 50 years old, but it can affect young children and older adults as well.

Normally, your body’s immune system battles disease and infection by releasing germ-killing chemicals and cells and by triggering disease-fighting processes. With an autoimmune disorder, your immune system mistakes your body’s own cells and tissues as foreign invaders and initiates the process to destroy them.

If you have scleroderma, your immune system triggers your protein-producing cells to make too much collagen. The extra collagen builds up in your skin and internal organs, causing them to become thick and hard. In this condition, your organs can’t function properly and symptoms appear.

One of the first symptoms of scleroderma is thickening of your skin, primarily on your fingers and hands. Swelling of your hands and feet and red spots on your skin may also develop. Other symptoms may appear if additional organs become involved. These include joint pain and stiffness, persistent cough, shortness of breath, heartburn and other gastrointestinal issues, difficulty swallowing, high blood pressure, constipation, weight loss and fatigue.

There are two main forms of scleroderma: localized and systemic. Localized scleroderma, the milder form, primarily affects your skin, but it may also affect your muscles and bones. There are two main types of localized scleroderma, morphea and linear. They differ mainly in the appearance of the thickened patches of skin and the areas affected.

Systemic scleroderma affects the entire body. This includes the blood vessels and internal organs, especially the kidneys, esophagus, heart and lungs. There are two main types of systemic scleroderma. They are limited, sometimes referred to as CREST syndrome, and diffuse.

Limited scleroderma primarily affects the skin on the hands, feet, face, and lower arms and legs, but may also affect the blood vessels, lungs and digestive systems. One of the main symptoms of CREST syndrome is Raynaud’s phenomenon, color changes in the fingers and sometimes toes after exposure to cold temperatures. Raynaud’s occurs when blood flow to these areas is temporarily reduced.

Raynaud’s phenomenon is a common symptom of scleroderma. More than 90 percent of patients with scleroderma have Raynaud’s. But you can have Raynaud’s and not have scleroderma.

People with diffuse scleroderma, the more serious type, typically have skin thickening in the area from the hands to above the wrists. The diffuse type can affect many internal organs as well, hindering digestive and respiratory function, and causing kidney failure. It can become serious and sometimes life-threatening.

The cause of scleroderma is unknown. Researchers believe there are genetic and environmental factors involved in its development, but these theories have not been proven. It is known that scleroderma is not contagious.

Diagnosing scleroderma can be challenging because its symptoms are similar to those of other autoimmune diseases. Diagnosis generally requires consultation with rheumatologists and/or dermatologists. Blood tests and a variety of other specialized diagnostic exams are used depending on which organs are affected.

Currently, there is no cure for scleroderma. Treatment for the condition is aimed at controlling and managing symptoms, minimizing damage and maintaining function. The approach used is typically a combination of medication and self-care. Physical therapy may be recommended to keep your muscles and joints functioning at their best.

Scleroderma can affect many areas of your body, so living with the disease can be quite challenging. It may result in physical limitations and pain, but there are a few things you can do to improve your situation and make your life a little more comfortable. Consider the following tips:

  • If you experience digestive issues, eat multiple small meals throughout the day instead of three large meals.
  • Keep your skin well-moisturized to lessen stiffness.
  • Be careful during activities such as gardening and cooking so that you don’t injure your fingers.
  • Dress in layers to keep your body warm. Wear socks, boots and gloves, and avoid very cold environments.
  • Exercise to ease the stiffness in your joints. Ask your physical therapist for safe exercises.
  • Maintain relationships with your family and friends to create an emotional support system.
  • Seek professional help if you struggle with the psychological consequences of living with a chronic disease.

Convalescent Plasma Therapy for COVID-19

June 6th, 2020

Even as you read this, researchers are feverishly working to uncover potential treatments for COVID-19, the highly infectious illness caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. One of the treatments being studied is the use of plasma from people who’ve recovered from COVID-19 on currently sick patients. It’s called convalescent plasma therapy.

If you had COVID-19 and recovered, your body developed natural defenses against the disease called antibodies, which are located in the liquid portion of your blood called plasma. Convalescent plasma, which is donated by people who recovered from COVID-19, contains disease-fighting COVID-19 antibodies. In theory, once convalescent plasma is transfused into sick patients, the antibodies battle the active virus and help the patients get better.

The use of convalescent plasma therapy is not a new concept. It dates back to at least the time of the Spanish flu of 1918. It has also been used to fight measles, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), Ebola and other lesser known diseases.

There are several risks associated with convalescent plasma therapy. The treatment is given by transfusion, so blood-borne germs can be transmitted to the recipient, which can cause infections. Another risk is transfusion-related acute lung injury, or TRALI, in which the transferred antibodies damage blood vessels in the lungs.

Transfusion-associated circulatory overload, or TACO, is another risk of convalescent plasma therapy. TACO occurs when your body can’t handle the added blood volume from the transfusion, which can be up to half a liter of fluid. Both TRALI and TACO lead to difficulty breathing and death. Fortunately, these risks are rare.

Several studies have been conducted across the globe to determine the safety and effectiveness of convalescent plasma therapy for the treatment of sick COVID-19 patients. Doctors in China began experimenting with the therapy in January 2020.

In one of their studies, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in April, the Chinese doctors reported that 10 out of 10 patients who received convalescent plasma improved, whereas three out of 10 patients with the same characteristics who didn’t get the therapy died. Other Chinese studies, as well as small studies from Italy and elsewhere look promising as well.

In the US, a comprehensive nationwide study, the results of which were posted on a public server called MedRxiv May 14, found convalescent plasma therapy safe for use on COVID-19 patients. A team of more than 5,000 doctors from more than 2,000 hospitals and laboratories tested the experimental therapy. Of the 5,000 seriously ill patients treated as part of the study, fewer than 1 percent experienced serious adverse events.

The study’s principal investigator, Dr. Michael Joyner, a physiologist at Mayo Clinic, said researchers will start receiving data on the treatment’s effectiveness in the next few weeks, and he expects to have a “much clearer picture” within the next several months.   

“We’re very encouraged that the treatment is safe,” Dr. Joyner says. “That was really the first hurdle for us. And showing that it’s safe gives us confidence to move on and begin to try to understand the efficacy.”

A study from Houston Methodist Hospital published in the American Journal of Pathology May 26, confirmed that convalescent plasma therapy is safe for COVID-19 patients. In that study, 19 out of 25 patients improved with the treatment and 11 were discharged from the hospital. Houston Methodist was also the first academic medical center in the nation to transfuse plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients into two critically ill patients.

With no adverse side effects caused by the convalescent plasma transfusions, the Houston Methodist study concluded that the treatment is a safe option for patients with severe COVID-19 disease.

While these initial studies are promising, randomized controlled clinical trials (RCTs) are necessary to truly gauge the overall safety and effectiveness of convalescent plasma therapy for the treatment of sick COVID-19 patients.

RCTs are clinical research studies in which participants are allocated at random to receive either the new treatment being studied or a control treatment. The control may be the current standard or care, a placebo or no treatment. RCTs are the most effective way to study new treatments without bias.

These clinical trials, which will provide more definitive answers on convalescent plasma therapy for sick COVID-19 patients, are currently being conducted in the US.

A Hernia History Lesson

June 5th, 2020

Even as the country reopens amid the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us are still staying close to home as much as possible and spending time at our computers. The computer is a good tool for learning about many topics. Join us today for a short history lesson on hernias as we celebrate June as Hernia Awareness Month.

According to The Cleveland Clinic: “A hernia occurs when an internal organ or other body part protrudes through the wall of muscle or tissue that normally contains it.” There are several common types of hernias that develop in different areas of the body. The most common is the inguinal hernia.

With an inguinal hernia, fat tissue or a piece of small intestine bulges through a weakness or tear in the peritoneum, the thin, muscular wall that holds the abdominal organs in place, and into the inguinal canal, a tubular passage through the lower layers of the abdomen. This type is more common in men than in women.

The femoral hernia is another common type. It occurs when fat or small intestine protrudes into the groin at the top of the inner thigh. This type is more common in older women. An umbilical hernia occurs near the belly button and most often affects babies and young children. An incisional hernia is found near the site of an incision from a previous surgery.

All of these types of hernias present with a noticeable bulge or lump on the outside of the body. But there’s one type of hernia you can’t see, the hiatal hernia. This type occurs when the upper portion of the stomach pushes out of the abdominal cavity and into the chest cavity through an opening in the diaphragm, the sheet of muscle that separates the chest from the abdomen.

Graphic courtesy of MedicineNet. (https://www.medicinenet.com/hernia_overview/article.htm)

Picture of different types of hernias.

The presence of a bulge or lump in the affected area is the most common symptom of a hernia. Typically, a hernia is painless, but it may result in discomfort when standing, straining or lifting heavy objects. Symptoms of a hiatal hernia may include heartburn, trouble swallowing and chest pain.

A hernia can be congenital or present at birth, such as a developmental weakness in the muscles of the abdomen or groin. Hernias can also develop later in life. There are certain activities and medical conditions that put you at greater risk for developing a hernia.

Hernia risk factors include straining on the toilet, intensive exercising, lifting objects too heavy for you or not lifting properly, being overweight or obese, having fluid in your abdomen, having an enlarged prostate, smoking and having a persistent cough. Being pregnant and having had surgery also increase your hernia risk.

Most hernias don’t cause problems and don’t require active treatment. Once your doctor has discovered a hernia, often on a routine physical exam, they will likely choose to “watch and wait.” This involves observing the hernia over time to see if it becomes larger, causes pain or threatens complications. If this occurs, your doctor may recommend hernia repair surgery.

Hernia repair surgery is quite common. More than one million procedures are performed each year in the United States, and approximately 800,000 of those are performed to repair inguinal hernias. Inguinal hernia repair is among the most frequently performed surgeries in the nation.

Surgery to repair a hernia may be open or laparoscopic. With open surgery, an incision is made near the hernia, the bulging tissue is pushed back into place and the weakened tissue is stitched back together, often using a mesh material for support.

During laparoscopic surgery, the same steps are taken, but the entire surgery is performed through several small incisions using tiny surgical instruments and a lighted camera. Sometimes, doctors perform laparoscopic hernia repair surgery using robotic techniques, where the surgeon operates by maneuvering a precise robotic arm that holds the surgical instruments and camera.

Hernias caused by congenital weaknesses generally cannot be prevented, but you can lower your risk for developing a hernia later in life by concentrating on a few key steps. Stop smoking, maintain a healthy body weight, try not to strain when going to the bathroom, eat a high-fiber diet to avoid constipation and perform exercises that strengthen abdominal muscles. Also, avoid lifting weights that are too heavy for you and when you do lift, use proper lifting techniques.

There you have it: a short history lesson on hernias. While there’s no test, you are encouraged to share what you know with others and share this site with your online friends. Stay healthy and be aware of hernias!

Stressed by the Headlines? There’s Hope

June 4th, 2020

Infections. Deaths. Racism. Brutality. Rioting. Looting. Shooting. Killing. It seems today’s headlines herald terrible news that the world we live in is in utter chaos. If you’re like me, you’re probably feeling somewhat frazzled by it all. And if you’re a news junkie, you may even be feeling downright depressed! There’s actually a name for that feeling.

Psychologist Steven Stosny originally coined the term election stress disorder to describe the feeling of anxiety caused by the onslaught of news surrounding the 2016 presidential election. Stosny later renamed the condition headline stress disorder when the anxiety persisted past the election. The term is pretty fitting for what’s happening today as well, don’t you think?

Headline stress disorder reflects the fact that to grab attention, news headlines often use words that create fear or anger in readers. Stosny recommends reading past the headline. Typically, once you read on and get all the facts, the situation being reported is not as awful as the headline portends.

But today’s news is stressful beyond the headlines. And we must learn to deal with stress in our lives because it can have a profound effect on our physical and mental health.

Stress is a natural response to life experiences. In potentially threatening situations, your central nervous system reacts to stress by initiating the “fight or flight” response. Your CNS triggers your adrenal glands to release the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol, which increase heart and breathing rates and send blood to your organs and muscles to prepare them for action.

Ideally, when the threat is over, your body returns to a normal, relaxed state called homeostasis. But with chronic stress, your body remains hyped up on stress hormones. This can lead to symptoms such as irritability, anxiety, depression, headaches and insomnia. https://www.healthline.com/health/stress/effects-on-body#1

Chronic stress can also elevate blood pressure, cause chest pain and sexual problems and worsen symptoms of existing diseases, including heart disease, cancer and lung disease. It’s also been linked to low back pain, inflammatory bowel disease, changes in women’s menstrual cycles and structural changes in the brain leading to memory, thinking and learning difficulties.

Some people living with chronic stress develop unhealthy behaviors as a way of coping. They may misuse food, alcohol, tobacco or drugs, or gamble compulsively, engage in sex, shop or use the internet excessively. Unfortunately, these behaviors tend to cause more stress rather than relieve it. It becomes a vicious cycle.

Today, we’re bombarded with a nearly constant flow of news about COVID-19 and the riots surrounding the George Floyd protests. And the bad news is keeping some in a state of chronic stress beyond headline stress disorder. The American Psychological Association notes that a few lessons learned from past disasters are applicable to what’s happening now.

We’ve learned that social media may escalate anxiety more than traditional media, but too much media of any kind can undermine mental health. Also, it was found that trustworthy information sinks in. The bottom line: you can stay informed of events, but be sure to find authoritative sources and be mindful of how much time you’re absorbed in the news.

To help you tune out the bad news for a while, set a limit on how much time you spend looking at the news on TV or on your social media on your phone or computer. This can give you a chance to relax from headline stress disorder and allow your body’s stress response to return to homeostasis.

You can also benefit by engaging in stress management. Regular exercise is a good way to manage stress in your life, as is spending time with your friends and family. Practicing relaxation techniques such as meditation, deep breathing and yoga can also help with stress. If you find that you can’t handle stress on your own and it’s affecting your health, seek professional help.

It’s important that you take care of yourself, especially if you feel stressed about the latest headlines. Self-care enhances your nervous system’s response to stress, and that improves your physical health and overall wellbeing. And when you feel good, you can better handle the negative impact of headline stress disorder and whatever crises are in the news.

Men: Is Low T Slowing You Down?

June 2nd, 2020

Hey guys, are you feeling sluggish, having trouble building muscle through your workouts or experiencing a slowdown in the bedroom? You could have low testosterone, or low T. Low T is a condition in which the male reproductive glands, the testes, don’t produce enough of the hormone testosterone.

Image: Zerbor/Dreamstime

When you think of testosterone, what comes to mind? Macho men? Aggressive, impatient, type A behavior? Road rage? Violence?

Testosterone is necessary for male development and sexual function. It’s also responsible for building muscle and bone mass in men as well as for sperm production and sex drive. In addition, testosterone has an effect on male fat distribution, bone density and red blood cell production.

In healthy men, testosterone levels peak during their early to mid-thirties, then they slowly decline as a normal part of the aging process. A man’s testosterone level typically declines by about one percent a year as he gets older.

Marginally lower testosterone levels are normal as men get older, but there are certain factors that can cause you to have a more significant underproduction or lack of production of testosterone. The causes low testosterone include:

  • Injury or infection of the testes
  • Chemotherapy for cancer
  • Medications such as opioids, hormones to treat prostate cancer and steroids such as prednisone
  • Acute or chronic illness
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Obesity or extreme weight loss
  • Uncontrolled type two diabetes
  • Severe hypothyroidism
  • Previous anabolic steroid use

Among the most troublesome symptoms of low T are decreased sex drive and erectile dysfunction (ED). ED is the inability to achieve or maintain an erection suitable for sexual activity. There are other symptoms of low T that you may notice and some that are going on inside your body that you don’t notice. Symptoms of low T include:

  • Decreased sense of wellbeing
  • Depressed mood
  • Difficulty concentrating and remembering
  • Fatigue
  • Moodiness and irritability
  • Loss of muscle strength
  • Decrease in body hair
  • Breast development
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Decrease in hemoglobin in the blood
  • Thinning of the bones
  • Increased body fat
  • Infertility

Your doctor can diagnose low T by taking a blood test to measure the amount of testosterone in your blood and correlating that with your symptoms. It may take several measurements of your testosterone level because levels change throughout the day. They tend to be highest in the morning, so your doctor will likely order the blood test to be performed at that time.

The treatment for low T is testosterone replacement therapy, or TRT. There are several methods for delivering the testosterone including intramuscular injections, transdermal patches, gels and pellet therapy.

TRT is typically effective at increasing bone density, providing greater muscle strength and physical performance, and improving mood and sense of wellbeing, sexual function and mental sharpness.

But TRT can result in some side effects as well. These include acne or oily skin, swelling of the ankles caused by mild fluid retention, urinary symptoms caused by stimulation of the prostate, breast enlargement or tenderness, worsening of sleep apnea, overproduction of red blood cells, decrease in testicle size and skin irritation.

In January, the American College of Physicians (ACP) released new clinical guidelines for providing TRT to adult males with age-related low T. The evidence-based recommendations, which were published online on January 6 in Annals of Internal Medicine, highlight data from a systematic review of evidence on the safety and efficacy of TRT in that population.

The ACP recommendations suggest that clinicians should initiate TRT in adult males with age-related low T to help them improve their sexual function. The ACP also recommends that clinicians should avoid prescribing testosterone for any other concern, including depressive symptoms, low energy and decreased vitality.

In addition, the ACP recommends that clinicians reassess men’s symptoms within 12 months of initiating testosterone treatment, with regular re-evaluations during subsequent follow-up appointments. They should discontinue TRT if sexual function fails to improve.

For the most part, the ACP’s recommendations mirror the guidelines proposed by the Endocrine Society and the American Urological Society.

In any case, you should discuss the risks and benefits of TRT with your physician before beginning treatment. And it’s critically important that you be honest with your provider about your symptoms. Don’t be embarrassed. There’s help for you, but you have to open up to your provider. Do it today!

Aim Lower

May 24th, 2020

Blood Pressure Education Month seeks to reduce dangerous highs.

Did you know that the temperature inside the room, talking or simply crossing your legs can cause a spike in your blood pressure? It’s true, and recognizing such facts is why May has been dubbed National High Blood Pressure Education Month.

Sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the goal behind the event is to raise awareness about the impact high blood pressure can have on a person’s health and to educate people on ways they can better control their blood pressure.

To achieve those objectives, it’s important first and foremost to understand how a person’s blood pressure is measured and what constitutes a normal or abnormal blood pressure reading.

Written or expressed as one number over another, a blood pressure reading is the measurement of the pressure read when the heart has pumped (systolic) and the pressure read when the heart is between beats (diastolic).

The systolic number is typically higher than the diastolic, with a normal reading being in the range of 120 millimeters of mercury (mmHg) over 80 mmHg and high blood pressure reading being anything that is 140 mmHg or higher over 90 mmHg or higher.

The higher the numbers in those readings, the more at risk people become for suffering heart disease and stroke, which currently rank as the first and third leading causes of death in the United States respectively.

High blood pressure can also cause congestive heart failure and even kidney disease, and in the U.S. alone one in three people suffer from this condition. Most, though, don’t even know they have it because, unlike a cold or the flu, it has no symptoms.

That’s why it’s important to understand who is most likely to suffer from high blood pressure and what the lifestyle choices are that one can make that can positively or negatively impact a person’s blood pressure.

As far as who is more likely to suffer from high blood pressure, studies show that men and women both suffer from the condition equally, but men under the age of 45 and women over the age of 65 are among those most affected.

Studies also show that in the U.S, where one in every three adults suffers from high blood pressure, the condition is more common among African Americans than Caucasians and Mexican-Americans.

The good news, though, is that high blood pressure can be controlled and not just through medication. For many, a simple change in lifestyle and food choices can help reduce blood pressure levels.

Since a lack of exercise, smoking and alcohol intake can all cause increases in blood pressure, developing an exercise routine, quitting smoking and drinking less are three lifestyle changes that can help lower a person’s blood pressure.

Eating healthier is another. Because a heavy intake of salt can lead to increases in blood pressure, reducing salt intake can reduce blood pressure levels. But less salt is just one of several food choices that one can make to improve their blood pressure levels.

Foods rich in potassium such as bananas, potatoes, fish, green leafy vegetables and citrus fruits are known to lower blood pressure levels, so incorporating more of those into your diet can help you maintain healthy blood pressure levels.

And finally, there are a few things you can do when having your blood pressure checked that can help you get a more accurate reading of your actual blood pressure. They include not talking and not crossing your legs.

Along with the temperature in the room, which can cause a spike in blood pressure if it causes you to feel chilly, talking and crossing your legs while receiving a blood pressure check can also cause blood pressure spikes.

So can caffeine from sodas and coffee, neither of which should be consumed more than 30 minutes prior to receiving a blood pressure check, a full bladder, your emotional state or sitting in a position where neither your legs nor your back are supported.

Any of those can cause a spike of 10 mmHg or more in the systolic reading of a person’s blood pressure, and as we now know, that 10 mmHg spike could be the difference between receiving a normal blood pressure reading and an abnormal one.

You Are Not Alone

May 21st, 2020

Mental Health Awareness Month Focuses On Solutions.

Shortly after the coronavirus first began to spread across the United States, public health officials expressed concern that mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression would soon be on the rise as well.

Their concern was so great that in New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced plans to establish a free mental health service that allowed anyone needing counseling to speak to a medical professional about the stresses caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.

Two months later, the effects of a spike in cases of anxiety and depression caused by the coronavirus is still being felt, which is why the selection of May for Mental Health Awareness Month carries as much meaning now as it ever has.

As it is every year, the goal during Mental Health Awareness Month is to “fight stigma, provide support, educate the public, and advocate for policies that support people with mental illness and their families.”

Sponsored by the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI), the program also seeks to draw attention to suicide, and it does so through the “You Are Not Alone” campaign, which features real-life stories told by real-life sufferers of depression.

The NAMI website contains hundreds of personal stories that detail people’s trials and tribulations with depression. It also offers advice on how best to deal with anxiety and depression, which affects millions of people in the U.S. alone each year.

In 2018, for example, one of every five adults in the U.S. suffered from some form of mental illness and one of every 25 adults in the country suffered from some form of “serious” mental illness, according to a government study.

Another study showed that in 2016, nearly eight million youths between the ages of 6 and 17 experienced a mental health disorder, while another showed that more than nine million people struggled with both mental illness and substance abuse at the same time.

And like the coronavirus, mental illness does not discriminate. It affects people of all races and nationalities, with members of the gay, lesbian and bisexual community accounting for more than 37-percent of its sufferers.

Unlike the cold or flu, though, symptoms of mental illness are not always identifiable. What is typical behavior for one person may be a sign something is wrong with another, but the most common signs to look out for include:

  • Feeling excessively sad or low
  • Strong feelings of irritability or anger
  • Decreased desire to socialize with friends or family
  • A strong desire to sleep all day or not get up in the morning

The good news is that solutions for all these problems can easily be found. In fact, in accordance with Mental Health Awareness Month, Mental Health America has created the #4Mind4Body Challenge.

It’s designed to improve people’s overall health and well-being through small lifestyle changes that include eating better, sleeping longer and avoiding many of the habits and practices that can increase depression and anxiety.

For more on the #4Mind4Body Challenge, check out the MHA website at mhanational.org.

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