Blog Posts

Afternoon Blues? 5 Easy Ways to Boost your Energy!

August 31st, 2015
Woman running on beach energy boost

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Feeling that mid-afternoon slowdown where you just need a bit of a pick-me-up? Here are a few of my favorite things to do around the office to get my energy up and make it through the remainder of the day.

  1. Move a Little

Even a ten minute stretch break or walk around the office can get the blood moving and produce a lasting pick-me-up. In fact, in a review published in Psychology of Sports and Exercise, researchers found that activities as brief as ten minutes keep you energized for up to four hours. Even that walk around the office will get your blood moving so more oxygen reaches the brain.

  1. Breathe Through Your Belly

Your boy’s number one fuel? Oxygen. If you’re feeling tired at your desk, try taking some deep belly breaths, expanding your ribcage and stomach with every inhale, and pushing your belly button in your spine with every exhale. This great yogic breathing technique will get more oxygen to your brain and throughout the body, to give you an instant wave of energy.

  1. Crank the Tunes!

I’m definitely one of those people that can’t work out without my favorite tunes, because the upbeat tempo of the music keeps the pace of my workout just as fast. Research also shows that people instinctually synchronize movements and expressions to music through a phenomenon called entrainment. So, play some upbeat music and you’re feel that way yourself. Hey, why not dance a little in your chair? No one’s looking!

  1. Drink Water

One of the biggest indicators of lethargy or low energy in dehydration. Because water aids in both body regulation and brain function, it is helpful in regulating our moods. If you aren’t feeling very sharp, boost your alertness with some water!

  1. Dream about your Significant Other

Still sleepy? Try a daydream! Researchers at the University of Western Ontario in Canada observed that when 183 working men and women thought about their current partners, they suddenly increased their blood-sugar levels and, thus, their energy levels.

Autumn Allergy Alert!

August 17th, 2015
Woman having allergy reaction

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For many of us, spring isn’t the only season for suffering with an itchy throat, red and watery eyes, a stuffy nose, sneezing and other distressing symptoms of allergies. The end of summer brings with it a whole new crop of allergens from sources such as ragweed and the mold in autumn’s decaying leaves and grasses.

Depending on how old you are, you might have heard a late-summer/early autumn allergy referred to as “hay fever.” Ragweed, not hay, is the biggest culprit in causing hay fever, also known as allergic rhinitis. Ragweed is known to release pollen from mid-August to about November or, if you live in a colder climate, until there’s a good freeze.

The ragweed plant can grow just about anywhere in the US, but it’s most common in rural areas of the East and Midwest. Don’t think you’re off the hook if you don’t live in these areas. A single ragweed plant can produce up to one billion grains of pollen1, and they’ve been known to travel up to 400 miles!

Mold and mildew, which thrive in the damp environments so common in the fall months, can also trigger autumn allergies. Mold and mildew produce spores that travel through the wind or circulated air in your house. A simple job like raking leaves can send mounds of mold spores into the air – and into your respiratory system!

And don’t forget the everyday allergens like dust and pet dander.1 They can add to your misery when you have an autumn allergy. The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) mentions a few other problem areas for fall allergy sufferers in their article found here.

For people with seasonal allergies that hit at this time of the year, your best bet is to be prepared. There are ways you can get yourself and your environment ready for the autumn allergen onslaught and ways you can manage your allergies once they get here.

First, the ACAAI recommends that you learn what it is that triggers your symptoms. You might think it’s ragweed, but it might be something totally different. An allergist can help you get to the truth of the matter and then find ways to avoid those triggers and reduce – or even eliminate – your symptoms.

An allergist can also recommend appropriate treatments to begin before the season starts to get you ready to handle the allergen attack. Treatment might include over-the-counter or prescription medication or immunotherapy in the form of drops or injections.

Second, create a plan of attack for managing yourself and your environment during this time of year. Here are some suggestions from the ACAAI3, Healthline1 and WebMD4:

  • Monitor pollen and mold counts. When they’re high outdoors, stay inside.
  • Keep your windows and doors closed in your home and car during the height of allergy season.
  • After you’ve been working in the yard or doing an outdoor activity, take a shower, wash your hair and change your clothes to remove any pollen.
  • Before you turn on your heater for the first time, clean out the air vents and put in a new filter.
  • If you have pets, especially cats, try using an air filter to keep the air free of pet dander.
  • Wear a mask when you rake leaves or work around the damp areas in your home or yard.
  • Use a dehumidifier to keep the air in your house at about 35 percent to 50 percent humidity.

Listen to the advice of your doctor and follow your allergy action plan, and you can live through autumn allergy season without a sneezy, sniffly struggle!

See to Your Eye Health!

August 10th, 2015
Woman getting an eye exam, looking at an eye chart

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How often do you think about the health of your eyes? Do you care for them as you do the rest of your body? This National Eye Exam Month, we’re reminded that we need regular eye check-ups, just like regular physicals and screenings, to keep our eyes healthy and optimally functioning. And for some people, a routine eye exam could even be a vision saver.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describes a laundry list of disorders that can affect the eyes. Some are primarily associated with aging, such as macular degeneration, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma. Diseases like these are the leading causes of blindness and low vision in the United States. All of them require close management by a qualified eye care professional. And, of course, regular eye exams are critical.

Eye disorders that get a little less attention but are just as important to the nation’s collective eyesight are the refractive errors, including myopia, hyperopia, astigmatism and presbyopia. These disorders are the most common eye problems affecting our country. In fact, recent studies by the National Eye Institute concluded that about 11 million Americans 12 and older could improve their vision with proper correction of their refractive conditions. They can be detected during a routine eye exam.

Myopia is more commonly known as nearsightedness. With myopia, objects that are up close, or near, can be seen clearly, but objects further away are blurry. Hyperopia, or farsightedness, is a little more complex than just the opposite of myopia. While in its truest sense near objects are blurry and objects further away are clearer, hyperopia can express differently in different people. For some, objects at any distance can be out of focus.


With astigmatism, the eye does not focus light properly on the retina. That’s the light-sensitive patch of tissue at the back of the eye that converts light into the messages that get sent through the optic nerve to the brain. Without the proper focus, images look blurry and can even seem stretched out. Presbyopia occurs as people age. In this case, the eye’s crystalline lens can no longer change shape well enough to focus clearly on near objects. That’s why people in their 40s and 50s start holding out that newspaper in order to read it!

To stay ahead of all these disorders and maintain good eye health, don’t forget to see to your eyes. An ophthalmic exam is nothing to fear.2 How often should you go? Well, for adults between 20 and 39, the recommendation is to have a complete eye exam every five to ten years.

Adults over 40 need more frequent exams. Those between 40 and 54 should be seen every two to four years. Those between 55 and 64 should be seen every one to three years, and those age 65 and older need exams every one to two years. Adults of any age who wear contact lenses should be examined yearly.2 Anyone with symptoms or risk factors for eye disease should follow their doctor’s recommendations.

If you’re interested in eye health and would like to know more, check out this web page. It has links to information about many eye disorders and treatments. Just don’t forget how important your eyes are to your overall health and wellbeing. Happy National Eye Exam Month!

Times of Stress and How to Manage

July 27th, 2015
Woman with hands on head looking stressed or as if she has a headache

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In his 18 years of life, this is undeniably the most stressful time of our lives together.

As I prepare to see my 18-year old son off to military boot camp for 13 weeks, I stand by and watch in awe and amazement of the young man I see him become.

The emotional rollercoaster began in his senior year of high school when the talks with military recruiters began taking place. He made his choice quickly and without hesitation. As his mother, I support him in all that he chooses to do. Including serving this great nation.

In our journey together, I’ve quickly realized the high degree of stress such a decision brings with it to both my son and our family. The fear of the unknown; the impending dangers he faces; leaving home for the first time; the reality of not hearing his voice or seeing his face for 13 weeks. After all, I’ve been with him every day for the past 18 years.

As his mother, I’ve raised him all these years in anticipation of this moment. I have to let go. And he has to know that I will be OK.

Meantime, the emotional and physical stress builds.

So, how does one relieve undeniable stress in situations such as these? Unhealthy choices might include a spoon and a pint of ice cream while parked in front of a television set watching Netflix.

But, I didn’t see him through to this point in his life and not intend to be sitting, front row and center, in the stands at his boot camp graduation. So, I’m pretty sure a healthy diet, long walks and my iPod will help see me through.

According to one article, other ways to relax the mind include:

  • Hobbies – Do something you enjoy like gardening or volunteer work.
  • Home improvements – Choose one room in your home and renovate. Even if that includes something as simple as a fresh coat of paint.
  • Write it down – I know for sure I will be writing my son positive letters while he is away. You might also choose to keep a journal and share it later.
  • Meditation
  • Let your feelings out – Talking with family and friends can be a tremendous comfort. Laugh, cry, and share memories together.
  • Exercise – Take a Yoga class, join the gym or just take frequent walks around the neighborhood.

I know I plan to engage in at least one of the above suggestions to help relax my body and mind in the months ahead. I will welcome, and need, the distraction.

Wish me luck. Letting go is so hard.

Health At Any Age!

July 20th, 2015

As I cross the threshold into my thirties this year, I suddenly find myself wondering, how can I age gracefully? What do I need to do NOW to ensure health at any age? Here are a few tips that promise to ensure health and happiness as each and every decade approaches.

20’s – ACTUALLY Eat Healthy

Group of People in their 20s with thumbs up

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The 20’s are a great time to build healthy eating habits that can last you a lifetime. Thanks to the internet, we’ve never had more access to healthy recipes, cooking tips and meal plans that can create a lifestyle of eating healthy and taking care of your body with plenty of plant-based foods. I became a health-conscious eater at age 28 and watched in awe as I shed the pounds and transformed my body. Now’s the time to get into the habit of healthy eating, as it will make it a whole lot easier to keep eating well throughout your life.

30’s Get Active, Anywhere

Group of People in their 30s on coffee break

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Your 30’s may find you in motherhood, or fully committed to a blossoming career, or both! However busy your schedule is, you know you need to work out, but it doesn’t have to be at the gym. Your 30’s are a great opportunity to consciously carve out time for doing a little more of the things you love. For example, walk the dog a little bit faster, for a little bit longer every day. Little steps can lead to big changes. If you love dancing, take a dance class. If you enjoy socializing, start a running group. For me, I find joy playing tennis with my tennis partner twice a week after work. If you’re in your 30’s, muscle density starts to decline, so this is a perfect time to develop a fitness routine that fits seamlessly into your daily life, and will help with the stress of all the busy new changes!

40’s Pay Attention to Your Mental Health

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This one can be tough, especially for women who juggle work and family. Your 40’s are a great time to engage in a de-stress routine that helps combat some of the bodily changes you may begin to experience. When feeling stressed, try stretching, deep breathing, or talking to a girlfriend you may have had for 20 years now! In your 40s, you may begin to experience perimenopause, which might affect your sleep, moods, and sex life. Talk to your health care provider about how to deal with your symptoms.  

50’s Get Regular Checkups and Preventative Screenings

Group Of 50- and 60- SomethingsFriends Having Fun On Bicycle Ride

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One of the best ways to reduce your risk of illness and disease is to see your health care provider regularly – before you get sick. If you’re in your 50s, you need to start paying attention to blood pressure, getting regular physicals, and making sure you know which cancer screenings you need and how often. Check your breasts once a month for lumps, get routine pelvic exams, and even an annual eye exam, just to make sure you’re at your best! Your 50s are a great time to be proactive and begin major preventative care, to ensure a happy and healthy retirement.

60’s Protect Your Heart

Group of people in their 60s dipping their feet in the pool

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Today, women in their 60s are returning to college, starting businesses, running marathons and enjoying healthy sex lives. If you’ve taken care of your body and mind up to this point, you’re going to be more active and healthier than you thought possible. Still, there are unique concerns for women as they reach the 60 mark. As heart disease is a leading cause of death for women, it’s important to maintain a healthy diet low in sodium and saturated fat. Try to reduce alcohol consumption to no more than one drink per day, and definitely refrain from smoking. Have your cholesterol and blood pressure checked regularly as an extra precaution. 

70’s and Beyond … Preserve Your Senses 

Group of people in their 70s exercising

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Lifestyle plays a major role in helping to maintain your senses as you age. Eat a balanced diet to ward off such age-related eye disorders as macular degeneration, and preserve hearing by staying away from loud noises for long periods of time (no headphones!). If you do begin to experience some degree of hearing loss, swallow your pride and get tested for hearing aids, which have recently been associated with less cognitive decline and dementia. Wearing the devices could pay off in the long run, experts say, by helping you stay engaged with others and your environment.


Hyped About Hypertension Control

July 13th, 2015
Nurse taking blood pressure

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If you’re like me, you’re one of the estimated 70 million American adults who have hypertension – or high blood pressure. That works out to 29 percent or one in every three American adults.

While many of those millions are able to control their blood pressure, some with lifestyle changes alone, and some with the help of medication, I’m one of those who is struggling to lower their numbers. I thought that maybe writing about some key strategies for controlling blood pressure might help all of us whose numbers hover on the high end.

Most physicians start treatment by suggesting some adjustments to your routine before diving into the drugs. The Mayo Clinic has a great article about ten lifestyle changes that you can make to lower your blood pressure and, as a result, reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute confirms many of these strategies. Here are just a few of them.

Shed a few pounds. Excess weight can have a big effect on blood pressure, and losing as little as 10 pounds can help bring your numbers down. I’m definitely convicted on this one. I have 10 pounds and more to spare.

Exercise regularly. This is a no-brainer. It’s advice for preventing or controlling just about every disorder known to man. It could also help you achieve goal number one. Various “experts” have different ideas about how much you need to exercise to achieve a benefit, so just follow your doctor’s recommendation. I guess I need to dust off the stationary bike.

Eat a healthy diet. Your doctor might recommend a specific diet for you to follow, but there are a few general considerations. You want to eat a diet that is rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products. It might include foods like fish, poultry and nuts. You’re going to want to stay away from foods that are high in saturated fat, cholesterol and, especially, sodium. You should eat less red meat, sweets and, basically, anything that contains a lot of sugar or salt. I’m actually pretty good on this count.

This one’s a little trickier to do. Manage your stress. A lot of ongoing stress definitely raises your blood pressure. Just go to the doctor after a crazy day at home or work and see what your readings are. There are many good stress management techniques that work well. Santa Clara University has a list of ideas for reducing stress that might be a good place to start.3

Take your medication. Some people can control their blood pressure by making lifestyle changes such as these, but for others of us, we need the big guns – medication. There are many types of medicines doctors can prescribe for high blood pressure: diuretics, beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors, calcium channel blockers, the list goes on. Likely, one of these medicines will be effective in controlling your blood pressure. It might take a few tries to find it, or you may need more than one. My doctor and I are still searching for the magic potion for me.

If you’re one of the 70 million and you’re having trouble keeping your numbers down, try a few of these suggestions. Get moving, drop a few pounds, cut out the salt and be sure to see your doctor routinely to keep an eye on your blood pressure. Help your doctor out and take readings regularly between visits so he or she can get a better overall perspective of your numbers over a period of time. Try to de-stress and if you’re on medication, take it regularly, exactly as prescribed.

I now know what I have to do while my doctor and I work to find an effective medication for my hypertension. What other suggestions do you have to offer?

No Bark, No Bite: Pets at Work

July 6th, 2015
Dog and Cat Family at FHCN

Part of Florida Health Care News’ Fur Family

Ours is a pet-friendly workplace, as are about 20 percent of all companies in the United States, according to a survey by the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association (APPMA) — and that number is growing. It’s about time American companies realized the many benefits of having furry friends on the job. Stress reduction is the most obvious and most talked about benefit, but there are others.

In their survey, APPMA found that the majority of employees felt that having pets at work leads to a slew of advantages. For one, they felt that the freedom to have their best friends at work inspired a more creative environment. But, that’s not all. Other benefits they described included increased employee satisfaction, decreased absenteeism and improved relationships between managers and employees. Not bad.

Not only that, but there’s research to back it up. In a study conducted in 2010, researchers discovered that having a dog in the workplace increased collaboration among employees. In another study in 2012, investigators were able to demonstrate that dogs in the workplace reduced stress and increased employee satisfaction. Go, dogs, go!

Let’s face it. Pets at work are bound to make you smile. And that’s infectious, so everyone’s mood gets a boost. Just ask anyone in our office, and they’ll tell you that the presence of our “Morale Officer,” Luna – an amazing Malinois-Tervuren mix (a Belgian shepherd for us laypeople) – is a daily pick-me-up.

Dogs are great to have around the office, but don’t discount the value of having cats on board, too. They might be more aloof than dogs in general, but nothing beats the calming effect of petting a purring feline — and watching them dart through the halls can be a very entertaining break in the day.

You don’t have to tell the government employees of Doña Ana County in Las Cruces, New Mexico, about the benefits of having cats at work. They’ve got a unique set-up in their office where they’ve got cats from a local shelter “on loan” that they can spend time with at their desks. If they prefer, they can spend time with the cats in a special space set aside in their office that they call “the library.”

As an aside, a secondary benefit of having the cats on site is that many of them are being adopted. There is a lot of public traffic through the government office, and when people see the cats in the library, many choose to give them forever homes. Great story. It’s got benefits for everyone.

Sure, there’s some work involved in having pets in the workplace. They have to be fed and watered, and dogs have to be regularly walked outside. But these are small inconveniences considering the many benefits associated with their presence. Higher morale, better relationships, and increased team cooperation, commitment, focus and satisfaction, along with decreased stress and absenteeism more than make up for those inconveniences.

Good planning and a few guidelines can easily deal with the little complications that some places use as excuses, such as allergic employees, so few barriers remain in the way for more companies to employ pet-friendly policies. Let’s hope they do!

A Pain in the Butt

June 29th, 2015
Man Getting Colonoscopy

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Getting a colonoscopy is not something most of us want to think about. But as we reach age 50 (earlier if there’s a family history of colon cancer or other issues), it’s an imperative screening test that we all need to have.

I will tell you this – the test itself is not bad at all. A shot of propofol, a little nap, and boom. It’s over.

It’s the preparation for the test that is the real challenge.

For doctors to get a good look at the colon during a colonoscopy, it has to be empty. To check for polyps and diverticulitis and a myriad of other possible conditions, the colon has to be clean. I’m talking spic and span.

Unfortunately, there’s only one way to do this, and it’s not especially pleasant.

The day before the procedure, patients are prescribed a liquid that tastes sort of like the ocean. It’s not so much the taste, but the amount of this liquid that must be ingested in a roughly four-hour period the evening before the test: You need to drink 8 ounces of the chilled liquid every 10 minutes. Trips to the bathroom will begin about an hour later and will continue until the stool is watery and clear (which takes three or four liters of the solution. Give yourself a good three hours). After this, you can only have liquids until after your procedure (clear juice, soup broth and jello are good choices, but expect to be hungry).

Tips of the trade: invest in soft toilet paper, warm wet wipes and a good book. You’ll need them.

With luck, your test will be a good one, and you won’t have to do it again for 10 years.

Screening Sense

June 22nd, 2015
Woman getting a Mammogram Cancer Screening

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Everybody wants to stay healthy and live a long life, and prevention of disease is one way to help you meet that goal. But some disorders, like many cancers, can’t be prevented. The next best thing is to detect them in their earliest stages when they’re most amenable to treatment. Routine screening tests are recommended for some of the more common cancers like breast and prostate.

Until recently, the guidelines for screening set by the medical community in this country were designed with maximum detection in mind. The goal was to use the most sensitive testing available in order to find every possible case of early cancer. It is a noble objective, but not without flaws. Now, the medical community is revisiting this issue.

In the May 19 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine, a group from the American College of Physicians (ACP) suggests that many medical professionals and the public have overestimated the benefits of this “high-intensity” approach to cancer screening. Increasingly, however, they are becoming more aware of the other side of the coin. Intensive screening leads to greater harm to patients and increased medical costs.

This awareness has prompted a new way of looking at the screening issue that considers the tradeoffs between benefits, and harms and costs of various screening strategies in terms of value. The authors write:

High-value screening strategies provide a degree of benefit that clearly justifies the harms and costs; low-value strategies return disproportionately small health benefits for the harms and costs incurred. Value and intensity are not the same.

The point is that although a high-intensity screening approach may, indeed, have many benefits, when objectively measured, the benefits often do not outweigh the negatives of significant harm to patients and added cost. That makes it a low-value strategy. The ACP suggests that the American medical community consider more high-value strategies when setting screening schedules. These strategies often take an intermediate level of intensity that best balances benefits with harms and costs. That might mean reserving the most sensitive tests only for people with certain risk factors for that particular cancer.

The ACP offers advice for screening recommendations for five common cancers – breast, cervical, colorectal, ovarian and prostate – in average-risk adults. These are people who have no family history or other risk factors and who do not have any cancer symptoms. Before dispensing this advice, the ACP reviewed clinical guidelines and evidence from a number of sources including the US Preventive Services Task Force, The American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Cancer Society, the American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the American Gastrointestinal Association and the American Urological Association. Most of these organizations have already embraced high-value strategies, so the ACP’s advice for screening is not earth shattering.

Screenings remain an important part of your routine preventive health care, so continue to follow your doctor’s recommendations. He or she follows the guidelines approved by the American Cancer Society or other appropriate medical organization and will have access to the most up-to-date schedule for exams. If you have questions or concerns about the necessity of a screening, bring them up to your doctor. Be smart and be your own advocate!

The Ginger Gene: Testing proves redheads need more anesthesia

June 15th, 2015

Red Head Stock Photo

It was just a typical visit to the dentist. An old filling had cracked and needed to be replaced. No biggie, right?

Well, five shots of Novocain later, I’m thinking it’s kind of a biggie. Not the actual repair, but rather the fact that apparently my body thinks its immune to Novocain, a wonder drug that allows modern man to have dental work done without an ounce of pain (minus the shot to get it in there, of course).

I’m typically pretty relaxed when it comes to dental work – I pop in the headphones, turn on the iPod and lay back. But when my dentist sat down to make sure I was numb a few minutes after my first shot – forget about it. I could feel it all and almost jumped out of the chair.

She gave me two more shots in the fleshy part of my cheek, and I waited another few minutes, rocking out and relaxing. It was getting numb, but not like it should have.

“The left side of your tongue should feel numb by now,” she says.

Wrong. Not even close, doc.

“Hmm,” she thinks out loud. “This is strange.”

She proceeds to give me two more shots (that’s five, for those of you who weren’t counting), directly into the gum surrounding the tooth.

Finally, it takes. She quickly gets to work and finishes the procedure before it starts to wear off.

Later, a colleague mentioned to me that redheaded people have a predilection for being especially resistant to anesthesia. Say what?

Guess what – it’s true!

“Some anesthesiologists share an anecdotal impression that patients with natural red hair require more anesthesia than patients with other hair colors,” according to the National Institutes of Health.

Testing proved that gingers, nearly all of whom have a “distinct mutation of the melanocortin-1 receptor gene,” did indeed need more anesthesia – 19 percent more, exactly.

Now I’m not what you’d call a ginger. (Truthfully, I’m now more like a silver.) However, my dad has red hair, and my brother’s hair was basically orange when he was a kid. So clearly, I’m carrying that ginger gene.

Does this mean I have a higher pain threshold, too? I’ve had a few small fillings done without anesthesia, and once I cut my finger pretty deep and had several stitches put in by a Special Forces medic in his office without benefit of pain relief. He said I was tougher than a lot of some of the super commandos he had taken care of. I even gave birth once without benefit of pain relief (not by choice, believe you me), but that sure didn’t feel like I had a high pain threshold.

I’ve never been under general anesthesia, so learning this fact about my DNA makes me a little leery. What if I’m one of those people who can’t move or speak but can feel everything during an operation? That would be just my luck.

Redheads (or ginger gene carriers, like me) who’ve had problems with needing extra anesthesia, or having anesthesia wear off quickly – tell me your story. Nurses, doctors, dentists – what have you seen in your practice? Does this redheaded anesthesia syndrome hold water? Or is it just an urban myth?

I’m not sure what it is exactly, but I know I’ll be asking for lots of Novocain the next time I need dental work.

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