Protect your eyes from the sun

protect your eyesUV rays are damaging

Just as the sun can injure your skin, it can hurt the delicate tissue of your eyes, too. 

Long-term exposure to UVA and UVB rays contributes to cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. Cataracts, cloudy areas on your eye’s lens, can be corrected with surgery; there is no effective treatment for macular degeneration, and it can lead to blindness.

Did you know you can also get melanoma of the eye? Unprotected UV exposure from the sun or tanning beds increases the risk of this type of cancer.

And, of course, squinting against the sun’s glare … Continue reading

Concussion assessment apps

There’s no such thing as a “mild” concussion

Last week I posted about first aid for concussions, which is important because head injuries in kids are a growing concern in the medical and public health communities.

Of particular importance is avoiding the potentially fatal “second impact syndrome”; if a young athlete suffers a “mild” concussion and then sustains another within a few weeks, “diffuse cerebral swelling, brain herniation, and death can occur.” Luckily, it’s rare.

But even minor concussions need to be recognized and treated, and it can be difficult because symptoms are often subtle and most parents … Continue reading

“The Treatment Trap”

the treatment trapWhat is too much medicine and why is it bad?

I’ve talked about it before: Health care costs are crazy high; the cost of insurance is increasing to meet those costs; and more patients than ever are being harmed by the treatment that is supposed to help them.

The overuse of medical care is directly responsible, and increased patient (consumer) awareness is needed to help turn this trend around.

Reading The Treatment Trap: How the Overuse of Medical Care is Wrecking Your Health and What You Can Do to Prevent It by Rosemary Gibson and Janardan Prasad Singh would be … Continue reading

Neti pot for spring allergies

neti pot for spring allergiesBecause allergy drugs have unwanted side effects

I couldn’t help but smile when I read a health headline last week: “Can allergy meds affect sexual health?” 

A urologist explained that two of the most common allergy medications, antihistamines and decongestants, both act to uh, inhibit arousal in men.

Antihistamines, even those marketed as “non-drowsy,” suppress the central nervous system; decongestants, such as Sudafed, constrict blood vessels—just the opposite response men are looking for.

My first thought when reading the story was, “Wow, that’s a win-win for the drug companies. They sell a popular drug that causes the problem, and then Continue reading

First aid for concussions

first aid for concussionsRest, rest and more rest

Gone are the days of the middle school football coach telling a player to “Shake it off and get back in the game.”

Proper first aid and treatment of concussions has received a lot of attention in recent years, mostly due to the alarming increase in long-term neurological problems—memory loss and behavior changes—suffered by professional athletes and soldiers.

Concerned pediatricians and public health officials are pushing schools, youth sports organizations and parents to be more aware of head injuries in young athletes.

Childrens’ brains are still developing, after all, and are especially vulnerable to Continue reading

Improve your posture

Learn how to sit properly

As someone who spends a lot of time sitting at a desk, and who has a family history of arthritis and back problems, I am always concerned about taking care of my spine.

I recently discovered a great series of YouTube videos by Esther Gokhale (pronounced go-CLAY), known as “the posture guru of Silicon Valley.”

 

As she explains in this introductory video,

In modern society, we have forgotten how to use our bodies, and we suffer a lot of aches and pains and dysfunction because of that.

But the good news is that we

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Choosing Wisely for kids

choosing wisely for kidsEducating patients and doctors

I’m a big fan of the Choosing Wisely® campaign sponsored by the ABIM Foundation, a non-profit group established by the American Board of Internal Medicine.

Why? Because the campaign’s objective is to reduce the number of unnecessary and potentially harmful (not to mention expensive) medical procedures being done in the US.

Choosing Wisely® aims to promote conversations between physicians and patients by helping patients choose care that is:

  • Supported by evidence
  • Not duplicative of other tests or procedures already received
  • Free from harm
  • Truly necessary

In response to this challenge, national organizations representing medical specialists

Continue reading

Consumer Reports hospital ratings

Ratings for safety

Yesterday, Consumer Reports published its annual hospital ratings, and this year it focuses on hospital safety. Why? Because hospitals can be hazardous to your health.

Infections, surgical mistakes, and other medical harm contribute to the deaths of 180,000 hospital patients a year, according to projections based on a 2010 report from the Department of Health and Human Services. Another 1.4 million are seriously hurt by their hospital care. And those figures apply only to Medicare patients. What happens to other people is less clear because most hospital errors go unreported and hospitals report on only

Continue reading

Great health care books

Be informed, stay healthy, save money

I’ve read dozens of books about health care, but I know not everyone is as obsessed about the state of our health care system as I am.

However, listed below are the few books I think are the most useful and informative for you to at least read, if not have on your home health bookshelf.

Is there a health care book you’d like to recommend? Please let me know—I’m always looking for new reading material!

Self-care and first aid

health care booksTake Care of Yourself, 9th Edition: The Complete Illustrated Guide to Medical Self-Care by … Continue reading

Home remedies for gas and bloating

home remedies for gas and bloatingWhat causes gas and bloating?

In short, gas is caused by what we eat and how we eat it.

Most gas is formed in our lower intestines where bacteria are busy breaking down any undigested food. Gas is the normal byproduct of this process. In fact, our bodies produce between 1 and 4 pints of gas a day! Thankfully, most of the time this gas is passed unnoticed by us or others.

At other times, however, excessive gas can be embarrassing or even painful. Anyone who has ever doubled over with colicky gas pain knows what I mean!

Gas … Continue reading

Protect yourself from new prescription drugs

prescription drug safetyWhen in doubt, opt for the tried and true

Last week I posted the humorous parody video Bohemian Polypharmacy.

But its serious message was clear: Americans take too many prescription medications and are at risk of harm.

As Dr. McCormack pointed out, many new-to-market drugs have recommended starting doses that are way too high. Also, in recent years many more newer drugs have been recalled because of potentially fatal side effects.

Prescription medications are coming to market faster than ever. Most are not really even new–they are just slightly “improved” reformulations or combinations of older drugs that allow the … Continue reading

Health-sharing ministries rise in popularity

A few months ago I posted about health-sharing ministries as an affordable alternative to Obamacare’s marketplace.

And recently I read that these groups are enjoying a surge in enrollment.

Since the launch of HealthCare.gov on Oct. 1, membership at each of the ministries has exploded, with nearly 30,000 new enrollees — more than the number of people who selected a plan through ObamaCare in 24 states.

Anyone participating in a health-sharing ministry is exempt from the mandate to buy ACA-compliant health insurance.

For more information about these ministries, read one of my posts on the topic:

Is your electronic health record (EHR) accurate?

electronic health recordsAccess to your records is important

If, like me, your health care has been disrupted by new insurance coverage and the loss of your doctors and/or hospital network, it’s important that you have a hard copy of your health records.

I’ve always advised patients to keep copies of all their important health reports—x-rays, lab results, operative and pathology reports, etc.

A timeline of surgeries and hospitalizations is a good idea, too.

And it’s vital to keep an up-to-date medication list, including any frequently used over-the-counter products such as baby aspirin, ibuprofen, antacids, vitamins and herbal supplements (to name but a … Continue reading

Screening for Alzheimer’s and dementia

Will there soon be a blood test?

My father-in-law recently passed away after suffering with Alzheimer’s for several years. I also have an aunt who is currently living with some form of dementia, probably vascular.

Few diseases strike more fear into those over the age of 50 than Alzheimer’s. Needless to say, both my husband and I worry when we find ourselves saying:

“Oh, what’s the word I want?”

or “Where did I put it?”

or “Why did I come in here?”

So when I read the prevailing health headlines this week about a blood test to predict Alzheimer’s, … Continue reading

Bohemian Polypharmacy

A musical plea to stop over medication

I ran across this informative and creative YouTube video on one of my favorite blogs, Health News Review by Gary Schwitzer.

I don’t know how James McCormack, Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of British Columbia, finds time to produce these videos, but I’m a big fan.  His latest is “Bohemian Polypharmacy” – a parody of Queen’s classic song “Bohemian Rhapsody” – a song all about polypharmacy – taking more medicines than are clinically indicated.

The vocals and the new lyrics are awesome, especially if you agree wholeheartedly with Professor McCormack, … Continue reading