Posts Tagged ‘CDC’

Men’s Health Matters

June 16th, 2022

In the US, women outlive men by five years. Researchers believe certain biological and hormonal factors contribute to this phenomenon. Men tend to make matters worse, however, by neglecting their health and ignoring symptoms when they appear. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, women are 33 percent more likely to visit the doctor than men. Women are also 100 percent better at maintaining screening schedules and preventive care.

June is Men’s Health Month. In this blog post, we aim to heighten awareness of a few common health threats facing American men. We also seek to encourage early detection and treatment, as well as screening and prevention for these common disorders.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men in the US. Heart disease includes a number of conditions that affect the structure or function of the heart. Among them are coronary artery disease, arrhythmia, heart valve disease, cardiomyopathy, congenital heart defects and heart failure. All types of heart disease can lead to serious, sometimes fatal, complications if undetected and untreated.

Men are more likely to develop heart disease at a younger age than women, about 10 years earlier on average. Besides being male, other risk factors for heart disease include smoking, poor diet, family history, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, being overweight or obese, sedentary lifestyle, excessive stress and diabetes.

You can reduce your risk by controlling your blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes; stopping smoking, eating a heart-healthy diet; getting regular exercise; moderating your alcohol intake; maintaining a healthy weight; managing stress; and visiting your doctor for routine checkups.

Cancer is the second leading cause of death for men in the US. Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men, followed by lung cancer and colorectal cancer. However, lung cancer is responsible for more deaths than prostate and colorectal cancers combined. Fortunately, better treatments and early detection are improving the survival rates for all of these cancers.

Early detection is the key. If you are between ages 50 and 80, have a long history of smoking, currently smoke or quit in the last 15 years, annual screening for lung cancer using CT scanning may be recommended for you. Screening this way has been found to lower the risk of death from lung cancer by 20 percent.

The US Preventive Services Task Force recommends colon cancer screening with colonoscopy beginning at age 45 for people at average risk for the cancer. If you have a family history or another colon-related medical condition, your health care provider may recommend beginning the screening process at a younger age.

Discuss the options for prostate cancer screening, such as the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test, with your health care provider. Together, you can determine if the PSA test is right for you based on your risk factors and symptoms.

It’s important to be aware of your cancer risk factors and the screening recommendations because some cancers don’t produce symptoms until they are advanced. At that point, the cancers are often more difficult to treat, and you are less likely to have a positive outcome.

Men are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, or adult-onset diabetes, at a lower weight than women in part because they store more fat in the bellies, which is a major risk factor. Type 2 is the most common type of diabetes, affecting 90 to 95 percent of the 13 million men with diabetes. With type 2 diabetes, your body has a problem with the way it breaks down and uses glucose (sugar) for fuel. As a result, there is too much glucose circulating in the bloodstream.

High glucose levels damage the body’s blood vessels, including the tiny blood vessels in the eyes, causing a condition called diabetic retinopathy. It also increases the risk for kidney and heart disease. Damaged blood vessels lead to poor circulation, which can cause erectile dysfunction (ED), the inability to produce and maintain an erection suitable for sex.

To avoid these complications of diabetes, including ED, exercise regularly, eat healthy food, manage your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, check your blood sugar throughout the day and visit your health care provider for routine blood tests. Your provider may prescribe medication and/or insulin injections to help control your blood glucose and reduce the risk for complications of diabetes.

Remember, routine checkups and screening tests can spot disease in its early stages, when its most treatable. These exams may save your life. Take control of your health; make an appointment with your health care provider for a checkup today.

– Patti DiPanfilo

The Health Care Appointment in the Age of COVID-19

May 21st, 2020

On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared COVID-19* a global pandemic. In response, health care providers across the US closed their office doors to all but the most emergent patients as a precaution against the spread of COVID-19.

Today, these providers are reopening to non-emergent patients, but practices must follow strict protocols to prevent transmission of the coronavirus.

With all the safety precautions in place, seeing your provider in the age of COVID-19 is an entirely new experience. But before you schedule an appointment with your provider, there are a few questions you should be prepared to ask about their process for seeing patients in this new era.

First, ask your provider if they are following the guidelines recommended by the CDC, state medical board, professional societies, and state, federal and local authorities for the screening and management of suspected COVID-19 patients in their practice. New regulations and guidance are issued regularly, so ask if your provider is staying on top of the changes.

Ask if your provider is following the CDC’s patient assessment protocol for triage and early disease detection. All visitors to the practice should be screened for symptoms of COVID-19 and contact exposure. If you have symptoms or have had exposure, are their protocols in place for you to be isolated from other patients and staff?

Find out how your provider is screening patients for COVID-19 symptoms before they enter the office. Are staff members taking temperatures and histories at a station outside the building, such as in the parking lot? Or, are they asking you to wait in your car for a staff member to meet you to take your information and temperature before you go inside?

Does your provider offer alternatives to face-to-face visits, such as telephone or telemedicine appointments or online self-assessment tools? Trained staff should be available to determine which patients may be managed safely at home versus at the office or a community health center.

Does your provider routinely test their staff for symptoms of COVID-19? Do they take staff members’ temperatures before each work shift, and are staff members provided with appropriate personal protective equipment (masks, gowns, gloves)? Does your provider require you to wear a mask while you’re in the office? What happens if someone refuses to wear a mask in the office?

Does your provider follow the recommended protocols for disinfecting waiting areas and exam rooms between patients? Do they have a formal infection control policy that includes transmission-based precautions such as contact precautions, droplet precautions and airborne precautions? Is this policy available for you to review?

Are the waiting areas and other common areas in the office set up for social distancing? Are the chairs spaced to keep visitors six feet apart? Or does your provider ask you to wait in your car until it’s time for you to be seen? Does your provider have protocols for patient movement through the office that limits contact with others?

You may have other questions for your provider as well. But remember, this is an unprecedented time in health care and the changes to practice procedures are new to providers and patients alike. Be patient with your provider as they adjust to the new guidelines and regulations and put them into practice in their offices. The rules are for everyone’s safety and health!

Useful Links:

*COVID-19, primarily a respiratory illness, is caused by the severe acute respiratory coronavirus 2, or SARS-CoV-2. As of May 21, 2020, more than five million people worldwide have been infected with COVID-19 and more than 328,000 people have died from the infection.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people with COVID-19 have shown a wide array of symptoms that range from mild to severe. The most common symptoms reported are cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fever, chills, muscle pain, sore throat and new loss of taste or smell.

Other, less common symptoms have also been reported with COVID-19. These include gastrointestinal ailments such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion, inability to wake up or stay awake and bluish lips or face are emergency warning signs that require immediate medical attention.

Life Expectancy: We’re Losing It

May 11th, 2020

The US was on the upswing for a while. Between 1959 and 2014, life expectancy for Americans, which is the average length of time we are expected to live, increased by nearly ten years, from 69.9 years to 78.9 years. But something started happening in the 1980s, and the increase slowed considerably. By 2010, it plateaued.

By The New York Times | Source: Journal of the American Medical Association

Between 2010 and 2017, death rates for people aged 25 to 64 increased in nearly every state.

Then in 2014, life expectancy in America began reversing, and by 2017, the latest year for statistics, life expectancy in the US had decreased for three straight years to 78.6 years. Our decline persisted despite the fact that the US spends more dollars per capita on health care than any other industrialized nation.

The findings of a comprehensive study that explored the nature of life expectancy in America as well as possible causes for its decline were released at the end of November and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

For the study, the researchers reviewed more than a half-century of data from the US Mortality Database and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s WONDER database. That’s an integrated information and communication system for public health practitioners and researchers.

One key finding of the study was that adults ages 25 to 64, or working-age Americans, saw the largest increase in death rates, a rise of six percent. The increase in death rate in this age group was seen in nearly every state in the US.

According to the study, the death rate in working-age Americans from all causes increased from 328.5 deaths per 100,000 people in 2010 to 348.2 deaths per 100,000 people in 2017. The statistics showed this increase occurred across all racial and ethnic groups.

Dr. Steven Woolf, one of the study’s authors, noted this increase in mortality was driven, in part, by “deaths of despair.” Those include deaths from drug overdoses, which reflect the opioid crisis in this country, as well as those from alcohol abuse and suicide.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images, FILE

Men sit passed out in a park where heroin users gather to shoot up in the Bronx borough of New York, May 4, 2018.

The study found that between 1999 and 2017, fatal drug overdoses by working-age Americans increased by 386.5 percent. Deaths linked to alcohol use, including those from chronic liver disease and cirrhosis of the liver, rose 40.6 percent during those years. And suicide rates by that population rose 38.3 percent.

The study also pointed to health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease as other causes for the death rate increase. It noted that these conditions are exacerbated by unhealthy behaviors such as smoking, being overweight or obese, eating a high-fat diet and living a sedentary lifestyle, problems that are rampant in our society.

And these problems impacted the death rates for working-age Americans. For example, deaths in this age group linked to obesity increased 114 percent between 1999 and 2017. The majority of American adults, about 71 percent, are overweight or obese. And obesity increases the risk for cancer, diabetes, heart disease and other chronic conditions.

Deaths related to high blood pressure increased by 78.9 percent in the 25 to 64 age group during the same time period. And about 80 percent of American adults don’t meet the physical activity guidelines. If we don’t manage chronic conditions better and change our unhealthy behaviors, our life expectancy will continue to decline.

And according to the new study’s findings, the increase in working-age death rates coincided with major shifts in the US economy dating back to the 1970s and 1980s. It was during those years that the US started to lose manufacturing jobs, and the middle class began to shrink, Dr. Woolf noted.

These loses hit certain areas of the country harder than others, and that is reflected in the statistics. The Ohio Valley, which includes Ohio, West Virginia, Indiana and Kentucky, is part of the  nation’s “Rust Belt.” This area was highly stressed economically with the closing of steel mills and auto plants.

The Ohio Valley, as well as northern New England, which includes New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont, experienced the largest relative increases in working-age mortality rates in the US. Both of these areas were hit hard by the opioid crisis and by declines in their economies

Dr. Woolf said it’s noteworthy that the largest increases were seen in these areas. The people living there have gone through long periods of economic stress, which can lead to a set of consequences that can affect health in many ways.

People struggling financially are more likely to turn to drugs, alcohol or suicide, he said. In addition, they may not be able to afford routine or emergency medical care, prescription medications or healthy food. And they are less likely to effectively manage chronic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure. These factors can lead to increases in mortality rates.

It’s pretty clear that reversing the downward trend in life expectancy will take a combined effort on the individual, community and national levels. As individuals, we must commit to changing unhealthy behaviors and eat healthier, exercise more and pay closer attention to our overall health. And we need to put our pride aside and seek help for substance abuse disorders.

Communities must work harder to increase local access to health education and services. And as a nation, we must continue to focus on battling the opioid crisis, tackling the obesity epidemic and increasing economic opportunities, especially in distressed areas. There’s a lot more to be done, but these steps are a good starting point. After all, our lives depend on our action.

EVALI: A New-Age Killer

October 21st, 2019

In its weekly report released October 11, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that as of October 15, 2019, 1,479 cases of lung injury associated with the use of e-cigarettes, or vaping, were reported in 49 states, the District of Columbia and the US Virgin Islands. In addition, Thirty-three deaths have been confirmed in 24 states, with more deaths under investigation.

The CDC also announced it gave the mysterious illness a name: EVALI, which stands for “e-cigarette or vaping product use associated lung injury.” The CDC is working closely with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as well as state and local health departments to identify patients with EVALI and determine the specific chemical exposure or exposures that led to it.

If you’re not familiar with vaping, it’s the term for using electronic, or e-cigarettes. E-cigarettes work by heating a liquid to produce an aerosol users inhale into their lungs. The liquid can contain nicotine, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or cannabinoid (CBD) oils, as well as cutting agents, diluents and other additives. THC is the psychoactive component of marijuana that produces the “high.”

There is a common misperception in this country that vaping is less harmful than smoking. But this recent outbreak of EVALI and the deaths associated with it have triggered an intense debate. So just how popular is vaping? Here are a few facts about the practice in America, according to a July 2019 Gallup poll:

• Nearly one in five 18- to 29-year-olds reports vaping regularly, more than twice the national average.
• Americans with a household income of more than $100,000 per year (5%) are about half as likely to use e-cigarettes as those earning less than $40,000 per year (9%).
• E-cigarette use is lower among those with higher levels of education: College graduates (3%) are three times less likely to vape than those without a college degree (10%).

Most of the patients who suffer with EVALI report a history of using THC-containing products, suggesting THC may be connected to the illness, but research has yet to confirm a clear link. Still, the CDC and FDA recommend people not use e-cigarettes or vaping products that contain THC, especially those obtained off the street or through other illicit sources.

Symptoms of EVALI reported by some patients in the current outbreak include cough, shortness of breath and chest pain. Other patients experienced symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, fatigue, fever and weight loss. Some patients report their symptoms developed over a few days, but others say their symptoms developed over several weeks.

A study reported in the New England Journal of Medicine earlier in October shed some light on the damage EVALI does to the lungs. Researchers looked at biopsies of 17 patients with the vaping-related lung injury and discovered inflammation suggestive of an inhaled toxic substance. They found the lungs and airways of those patients were damaged in ways similar to those exposed to chemical spills or harmful gasses. The study didn’t suggest what type of chemicals may have caused the damage, however.

Photo courtesy of Sarah Johnson. though most patients with EVALI, as many as 87 percent, have reported using products containing THC, nicotine users aren’t safe, either. Exclusive use of products containing nicotine has been reported by some patients with EVALI, and many people reported combined use of products with THC and nicotine. This suggests nicotine products may play a role in the development of EVALI.

As it stands, the CDC and FDA don’t know for certain what causes EVALI. The only commonality among the EVALI cases in the most recent outbreak is that patients report using e-cigarettes or vaping products. This outbreak may have more than one cause, and the specific chemical or chemicals associated with it are still unknown.

But the CDC has some recommendations for the public to protect itself from EVALI. For one, they suggest people stop using e-cigarettes and vaping, products that contain THC, and they should not use any of these products bought off the street.

The CDC also warns people against modifying or adding any substance to e-cigarettes or vaping products that are not intended by the manufacturer. This includes any products they buy at retail stores. Because they don’t know the role of nicotine, the CDC recommends people refrain from using e-cigarettes and vaping products that contain nicotine.

If you have a problem and can’t stop vaping, there are resources on the national, state and local level to help you quit. Be sure to choose evidence-based treatment options, such as health care provider counseling and FDA-approved medications to help you quit.

If you’ve used e-cigarettes and have symptoms of EVALI, it’s best to visit your health care provider right away. You can also call your local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222.


Addiction Damage in America

April 9th, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Skyrocketing STDs

September 24th, 2018

With all of the breakthroughs science has made on complicated diseases like cancer, you’d think we’d have the simple stuff figured out. But that’s not the case with sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs. For a while there, doctors seemed to have a handle on these infections, but over the past four years, their rates have skyrocketed. 

According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report, last year was no different. It posted the highest rates of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis in history, with nearly 2.3 million cases diagnosed. That turns out to be 200,000 more cases than in 2016, which was the previous record-breaking year.

Chlamydia, as usual, was the most common of the STDs. In 2017, there were more than 1.7 million cases of chlamydia diagnosed. However, the CDC was especially concerned about the dramatic rise in syphilis cases, which increased by 76 percent since 2013. Gonorrhea diagnoses grew by 67 percent since 2013.

The reality of these numbers is made worse by the fact that gonorrhea might soon become resistant to the last-ditch antibiotic we have to treat it. Over time and through genetic mutations, gonorrhea has built up resistance to nearly every class of antibiotics we have except one, ceftriaxone.

Now, the CDC is worried that the bug’s immunity to antibiotics could spread to ceftriaxone and become untreatable by anything currently available. And unfortunately, development of new, stronger antibiotics has not been a priority for researchers. As a result, gonorrhea is on course to becoming one of the world’s treatment-resistant “super bugs.”

If anything, that highlights how important it is for us to shift our priorities, provide the necessary funding and work to develop new antibiotics and novel treatments such as vaccines. We don’t want 2018 to be another record-breaking year.

There are several factors contributing to the recent rise in STD rates in the US. One of the biggest is insufficient funding for STD education and prevention programs. For example, the budget for the STD awareness and prevention program at the CDC has remained stagnant for the past two decades.

Without adequate funding, STD prevention workers have limited resources for outreach, education and awareness programs. These programs are important because many STDs have no early symptoms, so infected people end up passing the infections to their partners without realizing it. The partners pass it on and so forth.

The lack of funding has also forced the closing of many publicly-funded STD clinics across the country. Because of this, many infected people are unable to get appropriate care and are going to emergency rooms or urgent care centers. Unfortunately, these facilities don’t have the expertise with STDs to properly test and treat infected individuals.

STDs have a higher prevalence in certain community and socioeconomic groups, so the closures of  local STD clinics have a larger impact on these groups. In addition, other public health issues can compound the problem of soaring STD rates, issues such as substance abuse and domestic violence.

Without the benefit of outreach programs, there are no programs in place to educate people about STDs and encourage safe sex practices and screening for infections. One thing is sure, more comprehensive community education and outreach is necessary, along with better screening and treatment practices by doctors.

If we want to lower the skyrocketing STD rates, we all have a lot of work to do.

Stop Suicide

June 8th, 2018

Victims may appear happy when in fact they’re not

In the days just prior to the moment in which she took her own life, world renowned fashion designer Kate Spade was described as happy, jovial and in good spirits by friends and family members.Graphic from

Three days later, friends and associates of Anthony Bourdain were saying the same thing after the celebrity chef took his own life while he was on location in France shooting an episode of his CNN TV show, Anthony Bourdain, Parts Unknown.

Mental health experts weren’t surprised to hear that. It’s not unusual they say for suicide victims to mask their true emotions all while displaying a completely different set of feelings while they’re with family and friends.

Many with suicidal thoughts simply do not want to burden their friends or family members with their darkest feelings. Others refuse to share those thoughts out of fear they won’t be taken seriously and will be see as simply seeking attention.

But attention is precisely what anyone experiencing suicidal thoughts needs, and as the recent deaths of Spade and Bourdain suggest, anyone from any walk of life can develop and eventually act on his or her suicidal tendencies.

Simply put, suicidal tendencies do not discriminate. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among people aged 10 to 24, but people 85 and older have the highest suicide rate among all adults.

Some members of the population are, however, more prone to falling prey to suicidal tendencies. For example, it has long been known that members of the Native American and Alaskan Native communities are more prone to suicide.

The same goes for members of the LGBTQ+ community, and according to a 2016 report by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs in which the records of 55 million veterans were analyzed, 20 veterans take their lives each day.

But suicide is not a problem only for those suffering from depression, such as Spade. In 2016, more than half of the nearly 45,000 suicide victims in the United States had not been previously diagnosed with a mental illness, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

That’s one reason clinicians are convinced that many potential suicide cases can be prevented, and why most of those clinicians believe that by simply paying attention, friends and family members can do the most to prevent a suicide from happening.

In particular, it’s important to look for significant behavioral changes such as a sudden desire to withdrawal from or avoid social activities involving family and friends, decreases in activity levels and increases in anxiety, agitation or restlessness.

The reason, according to Dr. Dan Reidenberg, executive director of the Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE), is that suicide is not something that someone typically attempts on a spur of the moment basis.

“It’s not as if one morning someone wakes up and says, Today is the day I’m going to do this,” Dr. Reidenberg told ABC News shortly after Spade died.  “It happens over time and falls on a continuum.”

Dr. Reidenberg added that simply being available to talk to someone who may be contemplating suicide can change that person’s plans and that letting someone know you are always there for them can save a life as well.

The National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH) provides several tips for helping someone who may be contemplating suicide that also apply to anyone who may be going through a crisis that could lead to such thoughts.

They include asking the person if they are thinking about suicide. That may seem to be a rather blunt approach, but studies show that asking someone if they are contemplating suicide does not increase the risk of it happening.

It is also wise for those around someone who may be displaying suicidal tendencies to rid their environment of anything that might be used to commit suicide, such as guns, knives and drugs.

Finally, encouraging someone to seek professional help, be it from a volunteer at a crisis center, a doctor or a spiritual advisor clergyman, can go a long way toward preventing a suicide as well.

It’s also important to remember that, should the crisis pass, it’s wise to continue to keep tabs on a person who may have expressed suicidal thoughts. After all, that person may seem to be happy, jovial and in good spirits, when in fact they are not.

A Message About Men’s Health

June 3rd, 2018

This blog may be about men’s health, but women need to read it, too. Women have to encourage the men in their lives to pay more attention to their health. June is Men’s Health Month, and it’s the perfect time to review a few of the biggest health issues men face.Message About Men’s Health

Since forever, women have lived longer than men. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that on average, women today live more than five years longer than men, and that gap is getting wider. Men have higher rates of death in most of the top ten causes of death. They also tend to have higher rates of complications from many disorders.

According to a report from the World Health Organization, men have higher death and complication rates for conditions like coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and cancer. Yet, many of the risk factors for those diseases that have increased in the past few years aren’t male-specific and are preventable. These include increases in smoking, alcohol consumption, sedentary lifestyles and obesity.

According to WHO, there’re other factors that can contribute to a poorer life expectancy for men. For instance, men generally have greater exposure to occupational hazards such as physical or chemical hazards. They tend to engage more often in behaviors involving risk-taking, they’re less likely to see a doctor when they’re sick, and when they do, they’re less likely to fully report their symptoms.

A board member of the Men’s Health Network notes that certain conditions common in men, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, have no detectable symptoms. Many cancers also have few detectable symptoms in their early, most treatable, stages, so health care monitoring is crucial.

That’s where women can come in. We can help our men be aware of screenings, adopt healthy eating habits and promote exercise by setting an example and doing it with them. We can also encourage them to see the doctor when they complain of not feeling well or show signs of illness. They’re protecting the family by staying healthy.

So, what are the big health issues facing men? I read a couple of articles that listed the Top 10 or Top 5 Men’s Health Issues, but I’m going to condense the list to three big ones. You can read more at these three sites:

Still high on the list is cardiovascular disease. The American Heart Association tells us that one in three men have some form of cardiovascular disease. It’s the leading cause of death for men in the US, responsible for one of every four male deaths. Another condition that’s common in men and can contribute to cardiovascular disease is high blood pressure, which slowly damages the heart and blood vessels over time. These disorders can be controlled if detected early.

Here’s one you might not have thought of but is a growing problem. It’s skin cancer. Men 50 and older are at high risk for developing skin cancer, more than twice as likely as women. The reason is because men have generally had more sun exposure and tend to have fewer visits to the doctor for skin checks. More men than women die of melanoma, a lethal form of skin cancer. Regular skin checks can catch skin cancer in its early stages.

Diabetes is a problem in itself, and it can result in a whole bunch of other problems. It can lead to erectile dysfunction and lower testosterone levels. Low testosterone also decreases a man’s muscle mass and energy level. Low blood glucose can cause depression and anxiety, as well as damage to the nerves and kidneys and lead to heart disease, liver disease, stroke and vision issues. Routine blood work can monitor blood glucose levels and detect pre-diabetes.

Men face many more health issues that affect them not just physically, but mentally as well. This month, encourage the men in your life to take advantage of screenings, get regular physicals, lead a healthy lifestyle and see the doctor when necessary. Help them take control of their health and live longer.

Perspective on Psoriasis

August 28th, 2017

We mustn’t forget that August is Psoriasis Awareness Month. As we close out the month, let’s take a closer look at this irritating, chronic condition. Psoriasis is more common than you might think. A recent national survey by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 6.7 million American adults suffer with the condition.


Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease. It occurs when your protective immune system sends faulty signals to your skin. These signals tell the skin cells to grow at a faster rate than usual. Healthy skin sloughs off excess cells that hit the skin’s surface and die. But with psoriasis, skin cells multiply too rapidly, and dead cells pile up on the surface, causing thick patches to form.Photo courtesy of

These patches generally surround red skin and have loose, silvery scales on them. They most often appear on the elbows, knees, scalp, torso, palms and soles of the feet, but they can be found on other areas of the body as well. This is also known as plaque psoriasis.

For many people, psoriasis is embarrassing and unsightly, but it has some physical symptoms, too. In some cases, the scaly patches become itchy and painful. The skin may also crack and bleed. In addition, the patches may grow together and cover large areas of the skin.

Psoriasis in certain areas of the body may be mistaken for other conditions. When psoriasis affects the fingernails and toenails, you may notice small pits in the nails or yellowish-brown separations. Nail psoriasis is often misdiagnosed as a fungal infection. Psoriasis on the scalp can look like severe dandruff or a type of dermatitis.

People who have psoriasis experience cycles of remission and flare-ups throughout their lives. There are a number of factors that can lead to flare-ups, ranging from bacterial infections to injuries to emotional stressors. Nearly 80 percent of people with psoriasis report flare-ups after experiencing stress, such as a new job or a loved one’s death.

Certain medications, including ibuprofen, can also lead to flare-ups. Some people note a worsening of symptoms in the colder winter months.

Most of the time, psoriasis can be diagnosed from the physical examination and patient history alone. In cases where the psoriasis resembles an infection or another disorder, closer study of the tissue via a skin biopsy may be needed.

Treatment of psoriasis depends on the severity of symptoms. The goal is to control flare-ups and prevent infections that might develop due to the destruction of the skin’s normal protective barrier function. Treatment falls into three general categories: topical, systemic and phototherapy.

Graphic courtesy of iStockphoto.comTopical treatments include topical steroids in various formulations and strengths; ointments containing salicylic acid, lactic acid and a form of Vitamin D; and a topical retinoid. Systemic treatments include medications such as methotrexate, acitretin, cyclosporine and mycophenolate mofetil.

Newer biologic injectable medications are now also available to treat psoriasis. These include Humira, Enbrel, Remicade and Stelara. Some of these can be self-administered and some must be administered through an IV by your physician or staff.

Phototherapy involves carefully monitored exposure of your skin to ultraviolet light. It can be used alone or in combination with a topical or systemic therapy. Phototherapy uses both UVA and UVB light, and the therapy is generally provided in a dermatologist’s office or a treatment center under close supervision.

Psoriasis is an irritating and often embarrassing condition. There is no cure, but it can be treated and generally kept under control. While this condition can look pretty bad when it flares, it’s not life threatening and not contagious. To get it, you must inherit the genes that trigger your immune system to send the faulty signals to your skin cells.

Research on psoriasis and additional treatments for it is ongoing. If you suffer from this disorder, consider joining a clinical trial of a new treatment. To find a clinical trial near you, visit

Humbled by HPV

July 10th, 2017

Photo Courtesy of iStockphoto.comHuman papilloma virus, or HPV, is a bad dude, and actually quite common. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are about 79 million Americans currently infected with HPV. That adds up to about four in ten American adults currently infected, and about 14 million new infections occurring each year.

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) explains that HPV is actually a family of more than 200 related viruses. More than 40 types of HPV can be easily spread through direct sexual contact, including vaginal, anal and oral sex.

Genital HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. It’s been referred to as the “common cold” of sexually transmitted infections.

The NCI adds that nearly all sexually active men and women get HPV at some point. They estimate more than 90 percent of sexually active men and 80 percent of sexually active women will be infected with at least one type of HPV during their lifetimes.

In the sexually transmitted HPV group are viruses that cause warts on the skin on or near the genitals of the infected person. These are low risk for causing more serious disorders such as cancer. Other types of HPV viruses are high risk for leading to cancer.

In most cases, the immune system can battle the viruses and flush them from the body without causing any problems. These viruses occur without symptoms and go away within one to two years. However, some can hang on for many years, and if it’s a high-risk virus, it could progress to cancer.

The low-risk types of HPV can cause the genital warts, which often appear as a small bump or group of bumps that your doctor can diagnose on sight. The high-risk types of HPV can lead to cancer in areas such as the cervix, vulva, vagina, penis, anus and back of the throat. Routine screening is needed to detect these cancers in their early, most treatable stages.

Fortunately, there is a vaccine against HPV, and it’s making a difference. Since it’s introduction in 2006, there has been a significant reduction of genital HPV in teenage girls and young women. In the first group, HPV infection has dropped 60 percent, and in the second group, it dropped 34 percent. This has decreased the risk of cervical cancer considerably.

The target for the HPV vaccine is young girls and boys. The current recommendation is for all children aged 11 or 12 to receive the two-dose vaccine. The idea is to give the vaccine before these children become sexually active and more likely to be infected by and spread the virus.

Catch-up vaccines are recommended for males through age 21 and females through age 26 if they were not vaccinated when they were younger. Vaccination is also recommended for people with compromised immune systems through age 26.

Many primary care doctors don’t include the HPV vaccine as part of a child’s regular vaccination schedule, so many American children don’t get it. According to Electra Paskett, a cancer control researcher at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, “The vaccine has the potential to prevent 30,000 cases of cancer each year and is woefully underused.”

There are other steps you can take to help protect yourself against HPV infection. They include using condoms correctly every time you have sex and getting your routine cancer screenings as recommended by your doctor.

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