Blog Posts

Early Cancer Diagnosis Can Save Lives

March 1st, 2018

Getting regular wellness checkups at the doctor is like doing preventive maintenance on your car. If you wait until you know something’s wrong, fixing it becomes much more complicated.Early Cancer Diagnosis Can Save Lives

Let’s say you never change your oil regularly as recommended. You’re subjecting your engine to more wear and tear than necessary and taking the risk of a catastrophic failure.

Our bodies react much the same way if we don’t give them proper care. Someone who is having symptoms but won’t go to the doctor for fear of getting bad news is a lot like the motorist who ignores the check engine light. The solution could be as simple as tightening your car’s gas cap or as costly as replacing the catalytic converter. But you won’t know until you check it out.

Women are used to having annual gynecology exams and mammograms, which can help alert their doctor to the presence of various cancers and other health issues. But how many men get a regular physical and prostate screening?

Prostate cancer is one of the most treatable malignancies if caught early. The cancer begins in tissues of the prostate gland, which produces semen and is located just below the bladder.

By age 50, about half of all men experience small changes in the size and shape of the cells in the prostate. It’s a normal part of the aging process. But sometimes those changes are a sign of prostate cancer. A doctor’s exam and diagnostic tests can help distinguish the difference.

Because the prostate gland is so close to the bladder and the urethra, the tube through which men release urine from their body, prostate cancer may be accompanied by various urinary symptoms. For example, a tumor may press on and narrow the urethra, making it difficult to urinate or hindering the ability to start and stop the flow.

Here are other urinary symptoms of prostate cancer:

  • Burning or pain during urination;
  • More frequent urge to urinate at night;
  • Loss of bladder control
  • Blood in the urine.

Additional symptoms of prostate cancer are: blood in the semen; erectile dysfunction; swelling in the legs or pelvic area; and numbness or pain in the hips, legs or feet.

If left unchecked, prostate cancer may spread, or metastasize, to nearby bones or tissues. One sign that this has happened may be bone pain that won’t go away or that leads to fractures.

Prostate cancer can often be detected in its early stages by testing the amount of prostate-specific antigen, or PSA, in a man’s blood. Or a doctor may perform a digital rectal exam by inserting a gloved and lubricated finger into the rectum to feel the prostate gland for any hard or lumpy areas.

Unfortunately, neither of those initial tests for prostate cancer is perfect. A man with a mildly elevated PSA may not have prostate cancer, while a patient with prostate cancer may have a normal PSA reading. The digital exam isn’t foolproof, either, because it only assesses the back part of the prostate gland. A biopsy of tissue from the prostate may be needed to confirm, or deny, a preliminary diagnosis.

Thus, there’s still a debate over the value of regular prostate cancer screenings because of the risk of overtreating malignancies that may not be fatal. However, researchers have concluded that preventive screening can reduce a man’s risk of dying from the disease.

And there’s no disputing that catching any cancer in its early stages is the best medicine.

Eczema Experience

February 27th, 2018

A few weeks ago, I noticed strange patches of dry, scaly skin popping up all over my face and legs. I can deal with ugly patches of skin, except these itched like a son of a b! I tried to get by with over-the-counter creams and a promise to myself I wouldn’t scratch, but that failed miserably.

With the patches now inflamed, I finally scheduled an appointment with the dermatologist. She took one look at my skin and said, You’ve got eczema. I wasn’t surprised, yet I was. I knew my symptoms pointed to eczema, but I never had it before that I remember. I proceeded to learn more about the skin condition, and I decided to share some of what I learned with you.

Eczema is actually a general term describing many types of rash-like skin problems. The most common type of eczema is atopic dermatitis, or AD, and the terms are often used interchangeably. AD is a common, chronic inflammatory skin condition that most often affects children, but can occur in adults as well.

It is estimated that 17.8 million Americans suffer with AD. Ninety percent of cases are diagnosed in children before the age of 5, and 65 percent are diagnosed in children before their first birthday. Only five percent of AD begins in adulthood. It is more common in people who live in urban areas and dry climates.

The signs and symptoms of eczema are not the same for everyone, and it can appear differently in children and adults. In general, though, it begins as a rash with areas of dry, itchy skin. Eczema can appear anywhere on the body, but some of the more common sites include the face, neck, inside the elbows, behind the knees, and on the hands and feet.

I can attest to just how itchy the skin with eczema becomes; it’s absolutely maddening! However, scratching can lead to redness, swelling, cracking, crusting, scaling and thickening of the skin. You might even get some oozing of clear fluid from the patches you’ve scratched. Ultimately, this can lead to infection of the skin.

An exact cause of eczema is not yet known, but through studies, researchers have learned a few key things about the disorder. For one thing, it’s not contagious. You can’t spread it to others or catch it from someone else. It has also been discovered that genetics plays a part in the development of eczema. People who get it usually have family members who have it or have asthma or hay fever.

While they don’t cause eczema, certain foods and allergens can trigger flares of the disorder or make an outbreak worse. My sister has eczema and she can’t eat anything made with tomatoes. Another trigger is winter weather when the furnaces are on and the heaters in our cars are blowing. This heat dries the air and the skin, playing a role in eczema. Stress has been found to be a contributing factor as well.

There is no test to diagnose eczema. Your dermatologist can generally make the diagnosis based on the appearance of your skin and your description of your symptoms, as well as your family history. There is no cure for eczema, but there are treatments to control it. The goals of treatment are to treat infection; calm inflamed, itchy skin; prevent worsening; and avoid future flare-ups.

Your doctor will develop a treatment plan based on your specific condition. He or she may recommend skin creams or ointments, like corticosteroids, to calm the itching and control swelling. Recently, the FDA approved a new prescription ointment called Eucrisa to reduce the itchiness and inflammation of eczema.

Other treatments may include a topical antibiotic to treat any infection present and a recommended skin care regimen that helps heal the skin and keep it healthy. You’ll also be told to avoid anything that triggers your eczema symptoms. In more severe cases, eczema can be treated with a specialized light therapy in your dermatologist’s office.

Unfortunately, people with eczema will always have it and always face the possibility of a flare-up. Don’t despair, there are things you can do to make living with eczema a less stressful endeavor. There are some tips in these articles that may help you. Here are a few:

  • Keep your skin moist. Try using a humidifier in your bedroom to moisten the air when you sleep. Apply body lotion right after you bathe or shower. Take lukewarm baths and put small amounts of baking soda, bath oil or colloidal oatmeal into the water to moisturize your skin and reduce itching.
  • Know your triggers. Eczema triggers may be certain foods, as in my sister’s case, or it may be detergents, soaps or deodorants you use. It may even be pet dander. If you know what gets the ball rolling for you, you can take steps to avoid these triggers. Stay away from the offending foods, use products for sensitive skin, and limit time with your pets.
  • Don’t scratch your skin. This sounds simple enough, but unless you’ve got eczema you can’t know how difficult this can be. Keep in mind scratching an itch is a temporary solution. And it can lead to bigger problems, including skin thickening, oozing and infection. If you follow your doctor’s treatment plan and keep your skin moisturized, it will help ease the itch and lessen the urge to scratch.
  • Manage your stress. Stress can contribute to eczema, so learning healthy ways to cope with stress can reduce your risk for a flare up. If you have a lot of stress in your life, consider a stress-relieving activity such as yoga, aromatherapy, massage therapy or meditation. Soaking in a warm bath may also help ease tension, and moisturize your skin at the same time. If you can’t manage stress on your own, seek professional help.

I’m treating my eczema now, and I’m hopeful. I believe stress is a factor in my case, so I think I deserve a little massage therapy on top of the treatments my doctor prescribed. I guess I’ll have to make a massage appointment real soon!

Decreasing “Diabesity”

February 20th, 2018

Obesity is a huge problem in our country, pun intended. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one third (37.9 percent) of adults aged 20 and over in the US are obese, which is defined as having a Body Mass Index of 30 or above. Obesity puts people at risk for a number of health problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.Graphic from istockphoto.com.

One of the most common health conditions associated with obesity is diabetes, specifically Type 2 diabetes. These conditions are so intricately entwined that experts have coined the term “diabesity” to describe their relationship. Type 2 diabetes accounts for 95 percent of all cases of diabetes in the US, and more than 90 percent of people with the disorder are overweight or obese.

Our bodies need energy to function, and they get that energy from the food we eat. During digestion, food is broken down into a sugar called glucose that travels through the bloodstream. Insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas, is like a key. It opens up your body’s cells to let the glucose enter to be used by the cells as fuel.

Some people’s bodies don’t make enough, or any, insulin, or they don’t use insulin appropriately, and glucose remains in the blood instead of getting into the cells. When the glucose level in your blood is too high, you’ve got diabetes. High glucose levels can damage many parts of the body, including the eyes, heart, kidneys, nerves and feet. With Type 2 diabetes, your body does not make or use insulin properly. Its onset can occur at any time, but it most often starts when people are middle-aged or older.

Many studies have demonstrated a link between obesity and diabetes, but just how diabesity occurs is complex and yet to be understood fully. What we do know is that people who are overweight or obese put added pressure on their bodies’ ability to use insulin properly to control glucose levels in their blood. This makes them more susceptible to developing diabetes.

One way obesity may lead to diabetes is by triggering changes in your metabolism, the processes that occur in your body in order to function. It’s believed that these changes cause fat tissue to release fat molecules into the blood. The increased fat in the blood affects the cells that are responsive to insulin and reduces insulin sensitivity. Calorie-dense foods leads to increased fat accumulation, and calorie-dense diets are common with overweight individuals.

When the body has to store excess fat and cannot properly control insulin levels in the blood, substances called free fatty acids are deposited in the liver, causing a condition known as fatty liver. Free fatty acids also move through the circulatory system causing reactions within other organs such as the pancreas, heart and muscles. This starts a vicious cycle of organ damage, inflammation, and deteriorating insulin resistance and insulin secretion from the pancreas.

Where the fat accumulates on your body is also a factor in diabesity. If your fat is primarily located around your belly, which is a predictor of visceral fat that lies around your internal organs, you are at an increased risk for developing Type 2 diabetes. Like diets high in fat and carbohydrates, visceral fat is associated with worsening insulin resistance.

It’s no surprise that major factors contributing to diabesity are chronic unhealthy behaviors, including eating a high-calorie diet and avoiding physical activity. We know weight loss has a beneficial effect on blood glucose control and fat metabolism, so lifestyle modification through changes in diet and exercise is generally the first diabesity management strategy. If you are also taking diabetes medications, your doses will have to be reviewed regularly, as they may need to be adjusted as you lose weight.

In certain cases, weight loss medications may be used to assist those with diabesity achieve and sustain substantial weight reduction. For some people, a surgical weight loss option, such as a gastric band or bypass, is a good choice, especially if they’ve not achieved positive results with lifestyle modification and medication therapies.

With 90 percent of people with Type 2 diabetes being overweight or obese, diabesity is expensive, too. More than one in five US health care dollars are spent on diabetes, about $245 billion. That doesn’t include the indirect costs of absenteeism, reduced work productivity, inability to work and lost workers due to premature death, accounting for another $68.6 billion.

Because it can damage many organs and tissues, diabesity lowers quality of life as well. If you are overweight, especially if you notice any symptoms of diabetes, have your blood glucose level checked by your doctor. Type 2 diabetes doesn’t always have symptoms, but some of the possible symptoms include increased thirst, frequent urination, hunger, fatigue and blurred vision.

Don’t wait until diabesity damages your body, get tested today, and get on the road to weight loss and glucose control. And a healthier, higher quality of life!

Flu Review 2018

February 14th, 2018

Here’s some advice. If you haven’t gotten a flu shot, get one. The 2017-2018 flu season is turning out to be a real monster, and it isn’t close to over yet. In fact, we’re only about halfway through the season.Flu Review 2018

In general, flu season starts getting worse in October, then peaks between December and February. The latest data show this year’s season has not yet peaked, and many more weeks of serious flu activity are expected.

One of things making this flu season so harsh is that the main bug in this year’s viral combination is the particularly nasty H3N2 influenza A strain. This year, it’s combined with another influenza A virus and two influenza B viruses. The H3N2 is known to cause serious seasonal flu epidemics. H3N2 is the most dangerous of the flu strains this flu season.

According to Daniel Jernigan of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Of the viruses we hate, we hate H3N2 more than the other ones.” They hate it because it’s able to adapt rapidly in order to evade the efforts of the immune system, the body’s natural germ-fighting force.

This year’s flu season is one of the worst in years. The CDC reports that as of the beginning of February, infection rates were higher this year than any year since the swine flu hit in 2009. In addition, the number of people being admitted to hospitals due to the flu is the highest they’ve ever recorded at this point in a season.

Currently, there have been more people admitted to hospitals than were admitted during what was a horrendous flu season in 2014-2015. That year, 710,000 Americans went to the hospital, and 56,000 people lost their lives as a complication of the flu.

Many people are being hospitalized, but what about those who don’t get that bad. The CDC releases statistics on the flu weekly. The most recent report indicated the percentage of people going to their doctors with flu symptoms is 7.1 percent. That’s an increase over the previous week, which was 6.5 percent.

Flu symptoms can be different in each person, but there are a few symptoms that are pretty common signals you’ve got the bug. These include fever, chills, cough, sore throat, body/muscle aches, headaches and fatigue. Some people may get diarrhea or start vomiting.

For most, otherwise healthy people, the virus will run its course in a few days without treatment other than managing the symptoms. For others, especially the elderly, young children, pregnant women and people with chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart or lung disease, the flu can be a serious proposition requiring treatment with anti-viral medications. This year, Baby Boomers are getting hit hard by the flu, but health officials aren’t sure why.

As of February 5, the CDC rated the flu as widespread in 48 states. Hawaii and Oregon were the only states reporting activity that rated lower than the widespread designation. Also, as of that date, 53 children have died from the flu. It’s not been reported how many adult deaths there have been thus far.

Flu kills by compromising the immune system or using it against you. When a virus enters the body, the immune system sends out special cells to find and kill it. Inflammation occurs as part of this process, but inflammation can keep oxygen from reaching the tissues in the organs. In the lungs, it can affect the blood vessels where oxygen transfer is done, leading to pneumonia. That can be deadly in anyone, but especially in older adults and those with heart or lung disease.

The flu can kill in other ways, too. If inflammation affects several organs, it can lead to body-wide inflammation, or sepsis, which can cause multiple organ failure and death. In addition, the energy needed for the initial reaction to battle the virus takes a toll on and weakens the immune system. This makes the body more susceptible to other infections that can lead to death.

Prevention is your best weapon against the flu, and that includes getting a flu shot. You may think it’s too late or think this year’s flu shot won’t protect you, but do it anyway. Remember, we’ve still got a long way to go before this flu season is over, so don’t put off getting the flu vaccine any longer.

The H3N2 strain tends to be resistant to vaccines, but health officials don’t know how effective this year’s vaccine is against this year’s version of the bug. They won’t know until the flu stops spreading. Keep in mind, though, there are also the three other strains of viruses in this season’s combination. They can also make you sick, and the flu shot protects you against those, as well. It doesn’t guarantee you won’t get sick, but it helps.

There are a few additional things you can do to help prevent the flu or stop the spread of it. One of the most important is to wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. And if you do have symptoms, stay put at home. Don’t go out, and stay home from work or school to keep from giving the virus to someone else.

Also, clean surfaces you touch regularly. This includes common things like doorknobs and the TV remote, especially if you stay home and park in front of the TV while you’re sick. Keep your tooth brush separated from those of the other people in your house, and wash the sheets and blankets on your bed frequently.

Your best bet against this virus? Use common sense – and get a flu shot.

Heady Advice for Winter Sports Enthusiasts

February 11th, 2018

One of the great advantages of spending a winter in Florida is that it allows sports enthusiasts to not only watch but participate in some popular winter sports and activities without having to deal with the cold and snow that often accompanies them.Stock photo from istockphoto.com.

Since the arrival more than 20 years ago of the National Hockey League’s Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers, skating rinks have cropped up all throughout the state as interest in ice hockey, figure skating and even speed skating has grown substantially among not just youths but adults as well.

As it is with any sporting activity, of course, there are health risks associated with those winter sports, and they stretch far beyond the bumps and bruises that a novice skater or hockey player can expect to get. Of far greater concern is the potential for traumatic brain injury (TBI), which is why the month of January was designated National Winter Sports TBI Awareness Month.

Traumatic brain injury can occur anytime the head is impacted during a fall or even jostled by a shove or bump, and there’s a lot of falling involved in winter sports such as ice hockey, skating and skiing. That’s one reason why the American Physical Therapy Association reports that approximately 1.7 million TBI’s occur in the U.S. each year.

Those injuries result in 52,000 deaths and 275,000 hospitalizations each year, according to the APTA, which is one of the reasons the Johnny O Foundation was founded five years ago. Named in honor of its founder, Johnny O’Ravitz, who died of Alzheimer’s Disease in 2015, the foundation was established in part to raise awareness for all individuals and athletes participating in winter sports.

The foundation reminds participants in those sports that head safety is always paramount, which is why it is recommended that participants always wear appropriate head gear, such as helmets, that the safety equipment is maintained properly and that safety rules are always followed.

That doesn’t just go for contact sports such as hockey. There are safety rules associated with skiing and snowboarding as well and rules of etiquette associated with both skiing and public skating that are designed primarily with safety involved. Most of the rules are common-sense rules, and common-sense rules apply to head trauma as well.

If you take a fall or hit your head, make sure you check it out immediately. Most recreational and youth leagues do not have doctors who can administer a test for a concussion on site, and such help is certainly not readily available at a public skating rink or even at some low-level competitions. So let common sense be your guide.

If your fall causes you to black out or feel dazed, affects your vision or memory, leaves you sensitive to light or results in a headache, it’s time to quit. Even if you feel fine immediately after a fall but begin to experience any of those symptoms later, go see a doctor.

And remember, symptoms of a concussion can take hours, days, even weeks to appear. As a result, you should never consider yourself out of the woods until a doctor has examined your and cleared you for further activity. That’s why the simplest rule of thumb to follow when dealing with a head injury is to – use your head. After all, it’s the only one you’ve got.

“Silent thief” Steals Sight From Millions

February 6th, 2018

Millions of Americans are being robbed of their vision, and many of them don’t even know it.

They have glaucoma, often called “the silent thief of sight” because it can cause irreparable harm before the patient notices any vision loss, which can’t be reversed. The disease is the leading cause of blindness in the United States and can occur at any age, although it’s more common among older adults.

January was National Glaucoma Awareness Month, so now is a great time to become familiar with the condition, what causes it and what can be done to treat it.

Glaucoma is actually a group of diseases that damage the optic nerve, a bundle of more than a million nerve fibers carrying information from the retina to the brain. The retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of each eye, is vital to good vision.

The two main types of glaucoma are open-angle and angle-closure, which refers to the drainage angle where the iris (the colored part of the eye) meets the cornea (the outer covering). Open-angle is the most common type of glaucoma, accounting for at least 90 percent of the cases.

Both forms of the disease are caused by increased pressure inside the eye resulting from impaired drainage of the clear fluid flowing in and out of the eye to nourish nearby tissues. The fluid can build up when the eye’s drainage canals become clogged over time (open-angle glaucoma) or are blocked completely (angle-closure).

Open-angle glaucoma is a slow-developing, lifelong condition, and symptoms and damage aren’t noticed in its early stages. As the disease progresses, patients may develop patchy blind spots or tunnel vision.

Angle-closure glaucoma can cause eye pressure to increase within hours, demands immediate medical attention and can result from other conditions, such as cataracts or tumors. Symptoms may include severe headache, eye pain, redness, nausea and vomiting, blurred vision and halos appearing around lights.

Not everyone whose eye pressure increases will develop glaucoma because some people can tolerate higher levels than others. A comprehensive exam can determine what level of eye pressure is normal for each patient.

Also, there’s a form of glaucoma called low-tension or normal-tension that can develop without increased eye pressure.

Immediate treatment for early-stage, open-angle glaucoma can delay the disease from worsening, which is why early diagnosis is so important. Drops or pills can help lower eye pressure, either by causing the eye to produce less fluid or by helping it drain.

An outpatient laser procedure can open the drainage holes in the eye, allowing the fluid to drain better. Another option is conventional surgery that involves making an incision into the eye’s drainage system to create new channels for a more normal flow of fluid. Shunts or stents also can be implanted in the eye to increase the flow.

Consult an eye care professional for more information on diagnosing and treating glaucoma.

Wear Red on Feb. 2 to Support Women’s Heart Health

February 1st, 2018

Supporters of the Go Red for Women movement hope to see a sea of scarlet on Feb. 2 as part of the American Heart Association‘s national effort to end heart disease and stroke in women.

The annual observance was created in 2004 and adopted the red dress as its symbol. The campaign advocates for more research and awareness of the often-overlooked fact that heart disease isn’t just a health hazard for older men. It’s the number one killer of women, causing one in three deaths each year.

While chest pain, shortness of breath and cold sweats are obvious symptoms, a heart attack can happen without the person even knowing it. Those suffering a so-called “silent” heart attack sometimes pass off their symptoms as indigestion, the flu, asthma, anxiety, a strained muscle or some other condition.

What’s more, they may feel discomfort in their jaw, upper back or arms instead of their chest. Fatigue that’s prolonged, excessive and can’t be explained also may be a symptom of a silent heart attack.

Scarring and damage to the heart from such an attack can put the patient at greater risk of other heart issues.

A silent heart attack happens when plaque builds up in the coronary arteries and blocks the flow of blood. Risk factors include high blood pressure and high cholesterol, smoking, family history of heart disease, obesity and age.

Everyone knows what feels normal for them, so people should listen to their bodies and consult a doctor if something isn’t right. Those who suspect they’re having a heart attack should stay calm, call 911 immediately and be vocal when they get to the hospital about what’s going on. If they can’t speak up for themselves, they should bring along someone who will do it for them.

Another health challenge for both women and men is atherosclerosis, often called hardening of the arteries. It’s caused by a buildup of plaque – cholesterol, cellular waste products, calcium and fatty substances – in the inner lining of an artery. Atherosclerosis typically starts in childhood and often progresses as people age.

Family history, high cholesterol and blood pressure, smoking or exposure to tobacco smoke, excess weight, a sedentary lifestyle and diabetes can increase the risk of developing atherosclerosis.

Plaque is especially dangerous when it becomes fragile and ruptures, causing blood clots to form. Those can break off and travel elsewhere in the body. Clots can cause a heart attack or a stroke if they block blood vessels to the heart or brain.

Knowledge is power, and 80 percent of cardiac events can be prevented with education and lifestyle changes, the heart association says.

On Feb. 2, and throughout the year, women are encouraged to “go red” by following an exercise routine, eating more healthful foods, visiting a doctor for a regular checkup or tests when necessary and educating others about heart health.

For more information, go online to www.goredforwomen.org.

How Low Can You Go?

January 30th, 2018

When you’re stressed, like you might be during a confrontation or when you’re running late, it’s normal for your blood pressure to run a little higher than usual. It’s what’s “usual” that you need to concentrate on, and you want your usual blood pressure to be in the normal range or lower.Stock photo from istockphoto.com.

Recently, the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology released new guidelines that lower the threshold for what can be considered hypertension, or high blood pressure. The guidelines are based on an individual’s risk for heart disease. By the new standards, tens of millions of Americans should be treated for high blood pressure.

To understand the importance of keeping your blood pressure at a healthy level, it helps to understand what blood pressure is and how it’s measured. Simply put, blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of the blood vessels in the heart when it beats. When blood pressure is measured, it is recorded as two numbers, one on top of the other.

The top number is the systolic pressure, which is the pressure in the arteries when your heart is contracting to pump blood out to the body. The bottom number is the diastolic pressure, and that’s the pressure in the arteries when your heart relaxes between beats. As you might expect, the systolic pressure should be higher than the diastolic due to the force of the pumping.

Too much pressure during either phase of the heartbeat can damage the blood vessel walls and lead to serious, even deadly, conditions. These include heart attacks and strokes.

In general, normal blood pressure is a systolic reading of 120 or lower and a diastolic of no more than 80. Systolic pressures of 120 to 129 are considered elevated, and are risk factors for hypertension. High blood pressure is a pressure of 130 or higher systolic or higher than 80 diastolic that stays that way over time.

There are some risk factors for developing high blood pressure that cannot be controlled, such as having a family history of high blood pressure and getting older. There are other risk factors that you can control, such as smoking, being overweight, eating an unhealthy diet and being physical inactive.

Most doctors take your blood pressure every time you go in for an appointment. If your blood pressure is high on two or more readings done on two or more occasions, you are typically diagnosed with high blood pressure.

However, the new guidelines set by the AHA and ACC look at overall risk for heart attack and stroke in determining when a person should be diagnosed with high blood pressure. They suggest anyone with a 10 percent or greater risk in the next decade should be treated. Using their formula, that works out to about half of all Americans and 80 percent of those over age 65. To determine your risk, you can use an online calculator such as this one.

Since so many of the risk factors for high blood pressure can be controlled, treatment generally begins with lifestyle modification.

Many times, taking steps such as quitting smoking, achieving an appropriate weight, eating a nutritious diet, limiting alcohol consumption and becoming more physically active is enough to reach and maintain a healthy blood pressure. Other times, people need to add medication to their healthy lifestyles to control their elevated pressures.

There are a number of blood pressure medications, or antihypertensives, available. They work in different ways to lower blood pressure and improve blood flow through the vessels. A few of the more common are listed below, but you’ll find more information in this article from AHA:

  • These drugs help the body rid itself of excess water and sodium, which decreases stress on the blood vessels and lowers pressure.
  • ACE inhibitors. ACE stands for angiotensin-converting enzyme. ACE inhibitors help the body produce less angiotensin, a chemical that causes the arteries to narrow. With less angiotensin, blood vessels relax and widen, enabling freer flow of blood.
  • Beta-blockers. These medicines reduce heart rate, and the heart’s workload and output of blood.
  • Calcium channel blockers. These drugs prevent calcium from entering the smooth muscle cells of the heart and arteries. Without a lot of calcium acting against it, the heart doesn’t have to contract as forcefully.
  • Vasodilators. Also called blood vessel dilators, these medications cause the muscles cells in the walls of the blood vessels to relax, allowing them to widen.

High blood pressure has no symptoms, and it’s often called a silent killer. That’s why it’s important to visit your doctor regularly, so he or she can keep an eye on your readings. Of course, you don’t need your doctor’s advice to make positive lifestyle changes. Quitting smoking, eating heathy and exercising is good for everybody!

Reduce Radon Risks

January 21st, 2018

It’s a new year, and for most of us, that means making a resolution or two. Here’s an important resolution you may not have thought of: Resolve to test your home for radon. January is National Radon Action Month, and it’s a good time to take time to protect yourself and your family from this dangerous element.

So, what’s the deal with radon? Radon is a radioactive gas that can leak into your home from the surrounding environment. You can’t see or smell it, but in high concentrations, it can be deadly. In fact, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer deaths behind smoking, killing approximately 21,000 Americans each year.

Radon is produced by the natural decaying of uranium, which is abundant in soil, rock and even water. Radon gets inhaled and accumulates in the lungs, where it irradiates the cells of the airways. It is this process that increases the risk for lung cancer. If you smoke AND your home has a high radon level (EPA Assessment of Risks from Radon in Homes), your risk for lung cancer is especially high.

There are no immediate symptoms of radon exposure. Lung cancer is the only health condition conclusively linked to it, and lung cancer can develop years after radon exposure. Lung cancer symptoms include persistent coughing, shortness of breath, hoarseness, coughing up phlegm tinged with blood and recurrent bronchitis or pneumonia. To date, no other respiratory illnesses have been definitively linked to radon exposure.

The amount of radon found in the soil around your home depends on the chemical makeup of the soil, and soil chemistry can be slightly different from house to house. The volume of radon that escapes from the soil and gets into your house depends on several factors. These include the weather, the amount of moisture in the soil and the suction power within your house.

To make its way into your home, the radon gas escapes the ground soil and seeps into the air. It then gets into your house through cracks and other holes in the foundation that might not be apparent. The gas can get trapped inside your home and build up to a dangerous level. Sometimes, radon can get into the house through well water; and in some homes, the actual building materials can give off radon, although this is not common.

It is estimated that nearly one out of every 15 homes in the US has an elevated radon level. The only way to be sure if your home is affected is by testing. The EPA and the Surgeon General recommend radon testing in all homes and schools. You can also find out about any radon problems in schools, day care centers, other child care facilities and many workplaces by visiting EPA – United States Environmental Protection Agency.

There are two general ways to test for radon, short-term testing and long-term testing. Short-term tests are left in your home for two days to 90 days, depending on the test. Short-term tests don’t tell you your year-round average radon level, but they can help you decided whether or not to make changes to your home to fix any problem. People typically do two or more short-term tests to confirm a radon problem.

Long-term tests are left in your home for longer than 90 days and give you a better idea of your yearly average radon level. You can do the testing yourself, or you can hire a professional tester to do the job for you. Do-it-yourself test kits are available at many home improvement and hardware stores or online. If you choose to hire someone, be sure to first check with your state radon office and ask for a list of qualified testers in your area.

If two consecutive short-term tests or a long-term test indicates a high level of radon in your home, it’s time to consider making repairs to mitigate the problem. There are several ways to reduce radon levels in your home. The most common method is by installing a vent pipe system and fan that pulls the radon from beneath your house and releases it outside. Sealing cracks in the foundation and other openings can make this repair more effective and cost-efficient.

Like the testing, you can choose to do the repair work yourself or hire a qualified radon mitigation professional. If you choose to do it yourself, there are many resources online that give you suggestions and directions for reducing radon levels in your home. More information can be found in this booklet and others from the EPA.

Excessive exposure to radon can be prevented through careful testing and, if necessary, repairs to your home. By taking a few common-sense steps, you can protect yourself and your family from an increased risk for lung cancer. That’s a New Year’s resolution that can save your life!

Adults Get Bullied, Too!

January 16th, 2018

We all know bullying is a rampant problem in our schools, and most everyone – from students to political leaders – is working on effective ways to combat that issue. But did you know bullying can be a problem in the workplace as well? Yes, adults can be victims of bullying, too!Stock photo from istockphoto.com.

The American Psychological Association defines bullying as “a form of aggressive behavior in which someone intentionally and repeatedly causes another person injury or discomfort.” Discomfort is the operative word when it comes to bullies at work. There are several types of adult bullies and different ways they bully others.

One type is the physical bully. These bullies may simulate violence, such as raising a hand like they’re going to hit you or throwing objects in your direction. They may sexually harass you, violate your personal space or loom over you. Some of these bullies use their titles or positions of authority to intimidate or harass others.

Verbal bullies use words to make people uncomfortable. They might threaten, shame, insult or tease you in a hostile way. Maybe they criticize you constantly or use sarcasm, or racist, sexist or other demeaning language to dominate or humiliate you.

Passive-aggressive bullies are harder to spot because they do their bullying on the sly. These bullies behave OK outwardly, but bully subtly. These are the people who spread gossip and lies about you, and use condescending eye contact, facial expressions and gestures toward you. They might deliberately try to embarrass you, leave you out at social gatherings or sabotage your work, success and advancement.

Secondary, or ancillary, bullies are also common in the workplace. These are the employees who don’t initiate the bullying, but join in on the abuse. Secondary bullies generally participate in the bullying to suck up to the primary bullies in order to avoid becoming victims themselves.

Don’t forget cyber bullies. They’re at work, too. A lot of these verbal and passive-aggressive behaviors can be spread through company email, websites and social media, as well as by phone and text. Without intervention, it becomes a living, breathing cycle of abuse.

There’s are negative emotional and psychological impacts of bullying in the workplace. It’s pretty obvious it can lead to reduced job performance. But studies show it can also result in anxiety, depression and even PTSD in the person at the center of that abusive cycle.

What are you supposed to do if you’re getting bullied at work? This article includes ten tips for dealing with workplace bullies, and it’s worth a quick read. Here is a small sampling of its list of solutions:

  • Don’t get emotional. Bullies thrive on getting others all worked up, so stay calm and rational. It may help diffuse the situation.
  • Document everything. This tip is common to many of the articles I read on the subject of dealing with workplace bullies. Keep a journal or diary, something in writing, that notes everything that occurred with dates. If things get really bad, take it to Human Resources. Don’t leave your journal in the office, though.
  • Get counseling. Talking about what’s happening to you will help you manage the stress. This is especially important if you’ve already started feeling anxious or depressed. Some companies have counseling services available on site or close by for their employees.
  • Do your best work. If a bully is trying to make you look bad, don’t make it easier for him or her with a poor performance on the job. Don’t do things you can control like come in late, take long lunches or miss deadlines on your projects.

These steps and the others in the article may not change things right away, so be patient. Also, be assertive. If you consistently present a confident self and remain calm, your bully may back down. He or she is not going to change, but your reaction to them can, and that can make a world of difference for you.

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