Home remedies for headaches

Oh, my aching head!

Headaches must be one of the most common health complaints. They affect all age groups, and have any number of underlying causes. Still, most headaches are a minor annoyance at most, and go away with minimal treatment.

But judging by the amount of money spent on over-the-counter pain relievers and headache medications (about half a billion dollars a year), we must be a country in a lot of pain!

The vast majority (90%) of headaches are the tension-type, or stress, headaches.

Luckily, tension-type headaches can be treated easily with inexpensive over-the-counter medications or simple home … Continue reading

Nutrition is key: “Food, Inc.”

nutrition is keySupermarkets can be scary

Today is Halloween, and I just watched the most terrifying movie!  😯

No, it wasn’t Carrie or Paranormal Activity 4. It was Food, Inc., an exposĂ© of America’s food industry—the multinational, fast-food and junk-food-supporting, animal-abusing, politically-subsidized conglomerations that produce the majority of our food products.

The film maker, Robert Kenner, points out that the average supermarket contains 47,000 items, but most are made by just a handful of giant corporations, such as Coca Cola, Tyson or Proctor & Gamble.

These megacompanies keep hidden some pretty nauseating industry practices. Perhaps they think we are too ignorant … Continue reading

Breast cancer and high blood pressure

Increased risk of breast cancer reported

A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association reports that women who have taken a certain type of medication—calcium channel blockers—for more than 10 years to treat high blood pressure are at increased risk of developing breast cancer.

The study is observational, meaning that it looked at data from a large group of women who had already been diagnosed with breast cancer.

Increased risk of breast cancer was not seen in the women who had high blood pressure but took other types of medications, such as diuretics and beta … Continue reading

Happiness? There’s an app for that!

happiness appThe depression epidemic

I posted last week that prescriptions for antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications have soared in the last 20 years.

I like to blame the pharmaceutical companies that reap the huge profits, but the relentless output of bleak news from the media sure doesn’t help. Political scandals and inertia, the economic roller coaster, global warming (or do we call it climate change?) resulting in natural disasters, terrorists, international crises, racial tensions, gun violence, and on and on and on…

And then I read an article in the Los Angeles Times entitled “Facebook may be making you hate life, study Continue reading

“The Happiness Project”

twelve patientsThe unloved woman

I recently read two books that provoked my thoughts. The first was Twelve Patients: Life and Death at Bellevue Hospital by Dr. Eric Manheimer, the medical director of what is probably the largest public hospital in America.

Located in New York City, Bellevue sees patients from all demographics—incarcerated, homeless, undocumented, uninsured, mentally ill, addicted—and treats the worst trauma cases in the city.

Dr. Manheimer sees it all, and he writes compelling stories about the patients and their situations. He also comments on America’s health and health care in general.

His chapter entitled “The Unloved Woman” struck me … Continue reading

Weekly rounds July 19, 2013

Flight delayed? Learn CPR!

For the next six months, Dallas-Fort Worth airport is hosting a trial program to teach “hands-only” CPR to travelers. An automated kiosk, developed by the American Heart Association in partnership with American Airlines, guides passengers through a simplified CPR technique using video instructions and a manikin torso. If the program is successful, it will be expanded to other airports.

Hands-only CPR does not require rescue breaths and is as effective as regular CPR. It sounds like a useful way to pass some time, and I’d love to try it if I’m ever in one … Continue reading

Weekly rounds July 12, 2013

How much does good health cost? Apparently less than we are spending…

Once again, a study has shown that although Americans far outspend other countries on health care, our health is poor in comparison.

The healthiest citizens, no surprise, are in the wealthier cities and states, and vice versa. And it’s not because they can afford better health insurance. Other studies have linked education and income level to better lifestyle choices – diet and exercise – rather than access to health care.

In my opinion, we should be spending tax-payer dollars on all levels of education (Congress, what about … Continue reading

Weighing in on obesity as a disease

obesity as a diagnosisLast week the American Medical Association voted to recognize obesity as a disease, as opposed to just a symptom of an unhealthy lifestyle or sluggish metabolism.

Obesity is a huge (no pun intended) problem in the US; over 60% of adults and 30% of children are considered overweight or obese. Proponents of the decision argue that accepting obesity as a disease will focus more attention on the problem and allow physicians and patients greater access to and reimbursement of weight loss counseling, drugs and surgeries. Sounds good, right?

So why does this decision trouble me? Three reasons come … Continue reading

Weekly rounds June 7, 2013

Don’t want hepatitis A? Get vaccinated!

At last report there were 61 cases of hepatitis A resulting from contaminated frozen berries sold at Costco in several states. Hepatitis A is an infection of the liver, and the virus is usually passed along from an infected person through contaminated food.

The CDC recommends the hepatitis A vaccine for all children, and for adults who might be at higher risk, such as those who travel frequently. But the vaccine is available (requires 2 doses) to anyone who wants to be protected. Bonus: the vaccine is covered under Obamacare’s preventive care services mandate.… Continue reading

“Farmacology”

farmacologyHow are farming and medicine alike?

I just finished reading a thoughtful and informative book by Harvard-educated physician, Daphne Miller, MD. In Farmacology: What Innovative Family Farming Can Teach Us About Health and Healing, she makes an analogy between the “complex and dynamic” systems of soil and modern farming practices, and the human body and modern medicine.

After reading a book about soil ecosystems, Dr. Miller was struck by the similarities of the chemical processes that occurred in soil and those that happened in our own intestines.

Like our own biosystems, it [soil] too depends on bacteria and fungi

Continue reading

Weekly rounds May 24, 2013

ADHD? Start counting your calories

A 40-years-long (so far) study evaluating the effect of having attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in childhood reported that the disorder seems to be connected to adult obesity, at least in men. The study actually brought the 40-something-year-old men back to look at their brain imaging, and just happened to notice that many were too big for the scanners!

The researchers don’t know why. One theory is that the impulsive behavior common in ADHD makes it difficult to control eating patterns, suggesting that more needs to be done to counsel young ADHD patients … Continue reading

Weekly rounds May 17, 2013

Stock up on DEET?

Any report that contains the word “deadly” gets the attention of the media, and this report by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) was no exception. Last year 5,674 cases of the mosquito-borne virus were reported, and 286 people died. In comparison, only 43 deaths were recorded in 2011.

Weather conditions that favored the mosquito – warm and humid – were probably factors in last year’s increase in cases.

This news reminds me that I want to spend some time researching insect repellents and then write a post about them. Does anything work as well as … Continue reading

Diet for cancer prevention

My belief as a frugal nurse is that each of us has the power to improve our health and lower our health care costs. Prevention is key, and in my posts I advocate such preventive actions as vaccinations, hand washing, adequate sleep, drug safety, exercise and a healthy diet.

Diet is an important part of a healthy lifestyle and, I think, is crucial to cancer prevention.

Therefore, I read with keen interest a recent post by David Katz, MD, on the HuffPost Healthy Living Blog.

Dr. Katz interviewed a one-time student, Nicole Larizza, a nutritionist currently … Continue reading

“Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead”

dvd fat sick nearly deadSometimes drastic change is required

Last night I watched a truly inspiring documentary, a testament to the power of a healthy diet.

Fat Sick & Nearly Dead chronicles Australian filmmaker Joe Cross’s journey to health. Fat, fortyish, and suffering from an autoimmune disease, Joe spends 60 days traversing America. But no fast food stops for Joe—his mission is to drink only fresh fruit and vegetable juice (he travels with his own juicer) for the entire 60 days. Joe believes fasting on juice will allow his body to heal from the inside out.

We all know the typical American diet (and … Continue reading

Lights out for better sleep

Light triggers chemicals in our brains that wake us up. That’s why it’s so much easier to rise and shine in the summer than in the winter.

But I used to dread the long summer days when light would sneak into my bedroom and wake me up before 5 am. I couldn’t find curtains or blinds for my bedroom window that adequately blocked the morning sun. Finally, I invested in some heavy, black-out drapes, the kind used in hotels. They aren’t very decorative, but they help me sleep longer in the morning.

Artificial light also disrupts our sleep. It mostly … Continue reading