Health & Fitness

  • Proton pump inhibitors such as Prilosec and Prevacid do a great job of preventing irritating reflux and heartburn by suppressing stomach acid. But since that acid was put there for a reason, doesn’t this affect digestion, nutrient assimilation, and germ resistance? Clinical trials say no, but it surely can’t hurt to raise your food safety standards anyway if on anti-acids. Watch picnic foods closely this summer.
  • A large, peer-reviewed study has defined a set of criteria which help determine in advance whether spinal manipulation may help your lower back pain. It should be very effective if you meet four out of five of these criteria, whether you have it performed by a chiropractor, a PT, or a physician. With any luck, your provider may be able to train you in a safe and effective way to treat it yourself if it occurs again.
    1. Pain less than 16 days old.
    2. Pain not going below the knee.
    3. Desire or willingness to get back to normal activities.
    4. Lower spine stiffness.
    5. Adequate hip rotation (lie on your back and rotate your foot/knee right and left).
  • Can Do-It-Yourself home Alzheimer’s Disease tests tell you whether you have AD? No, not really. They may detect a change in your sense of smell, but can’t tell which of many causes are behind it, and provide no means of following up a positive test. You may get your twenty bucks’ worth ... or not. Your doctor is the best place to start if reliable internet sites don’t alleviate your concern.
  • Here’s another tough one: terminally ill patients, whether the threat is immediate and extremely painful (e.g., a dying cancer patient) or long-term total dysfunction (e.g., Terry Schiavo). If the threat cannot be reversed, options include ever-increasing morphine for pain and/or refusal of food and water. The secular issue is whether extra morphine accelerates death and whether death by starvation is cruel. Both answers are, “No.” Morphine and related opiates are unique in that the more patients get, the less their pain, and increasing doses neither hasten death (short of deliberate overdoses, of course) nor render patients insensitive to it. Many doctors underdose patients, letting them suffer needlessly. A formal study involving nurses who have witnessed more than a hundred patients voluntarily die by refusing food and water described those deaths as peaceful and non-suffering. The next step is to conduct rigorous lab tests to determine the clinical nature of death by starvation – something many dying people and their families are desperate to learn. Ghandi described death by starvation as a semi-conscious, pain-free, passage. My aunt chose this path after years of throat cancer, and seemed at great peace once she was able to communicate her desire that we remove the tubes feeding and hydrating her.
  • Attention, natural redheads: Getting anesthesia for surgery or a test? Better tell the anesthetist that redheads need much more anesthesia. The same gene that makes your hair red also seems to render you significantly more resistant to anesthesia. You’re much more likely to feel pain, remember the surgery, or even wake up too soon, especially if you also have the classic redhead’s light skin.
  • When you cut or scrape your skin, do you put on some antibiotic cream and slap on a Bandaid? Oops; Bandaid right, antibiotic wrong. Only if the cut or scrape contains visible dirt or grime should we add the antibiotic. More people get allergic reactions to the salve than get infections with clean cuts and scrapes, and overuse promotes the development of bacteria immune to that antibiotic.
  • 1/3 of cancer deaths in the U.S. are attributed to adult diet, including the obesity it often causes ... one more reason to eat right, which does not include the Atkins emphasis on animal fats.
  • Uh, oh . . . you’re getting a cold. Or is it the flu? Should you care, since neither is really curable? Yes, you should, because flu can lead to pneumonia, and colds are most contagious at about the time symptoms appear but flu can remain contagious for up to a week after symptoms appear. Besides, influenza makes us feel much worse than a cold and lasts much longer than a cold, so is likely to have much more impact on plans. The early differences include these factors:
    1. Colds develop slowly, over days, while flu comes on suddenly, more like getting hit by a soft truck.
    2. Flu usually hits from October to April, but colds are year-round, equal-opportunity diseases.
    3. Colds stuff our noses with colorful gunk, crank up the sneezes, and may set our throats afire. Flu feels much worse, like ya wanna just die,with head-to-toe muscle aches including your eyeballs, a horrible and maybe unproductive cough, and extreme fatigue.
    4. Colds don’t produce much of a fever, but flu hits 102-104 degrees for a few days.

    Flu can be prevented with a shot, diagnosed easily, and aided with prescription drugs. Colds can merely be symptomatically eased with rest, nasal decongestants, pain relievers, warm fluids like chicken soup, and salt water gargling.

  • Or maybe it’s a sore throat. DANG, but those can hurt! And they can get serious, too. The most dangerous and painful can often be quickly and effectively cured, and even the incurable ones can be made to feel better while your body cures them. The bacterial type can do some serious harm and can lead to serious abscesses, but respond to antibiotics. Antibiotics won’t help the viral variety, and may even do harm with them. How do you tell which you have? A dark red throat with white patches, a sudden fever, and painful, swollen neck nodes is likely bacterial in origin – strep throat -- and curable with antibiotics. If you have any flu or cold symptoms instead, it’s probably a virus, which can be safely observed by otherwise healthy people until it clears up in about three days. Strep throat is sufficiently serious that unless it’s clearly a cold or flu, you should get a simple swab test for it. If, however, an obviously viral sore throat lasts more than three or four days, if bacterial sore throat is getting worse rather than better, or if you’re exhausted, opening your mouth is difficult, or swallowing is truly difficult, rush to your doctor so s/he can check for an abscess. In the meantime, you can mitigate symptoms with cough drops (trials or no trials, Cold Eeze helps my sore throats), gargling warm salt water, eating ice cream (really), lots of fluids, a humidifier, and throat sprays containing dyclonine.
  • “Oh, that 140/90 is just white coat blood pressure. I measure about 130/75 at home. It’s OK.”

    ANNNGGGHH! Wrong! White coat hypertension (WCH), the elevated readings many of us get in the doctor’s office, may be an early indicator of heart disease. You’re lucky you caught it early, if you take it seriously and treat it like the warning it is. This isn’t just statistics; it is hard clinical evidence based on direct images of beating left ventricles in people whose BP is always low, is high only at the doctor’s office, or is always high. Visible heart damage increased quite obviously from one scenario to the next level, in that order, leading researchers to conclude that people with WCH probably have frequent daily bouts of hypertension which produce the visible heart damage. Both patients and doctors must take WCH seriously and treat it, to reduce our odds of cardiovascular and brain disease.

  • It’s almost hay fever time. Reduce it by wearing close-fitting glasses outdoors, washing hands and face when coming back indoors, and washing you hair before going to bed to keep pollen off your bedding. Those anti-allergy/anti-asthma bedding products, however? Expensive humbug. They don’t help fight mite and dust allergies.
  • Two websites which provide unbiased, current information on prescription drugs are at: They’re free, they don’t require signup (which often puts us on spam lists), and they’re reliable. Thanks to Reader’s Digest for these links.
We hope a couple of these made your life a little easier.

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