Monthly Archives: May 2013

Cold Facts On Ice Cream (slideshow)

Cold Facts on Ice Cream
From battling “brain freeze” to choosing healthier cones,
get the full scoop on this addictive summer treat.
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Meds That May Cause Falls

Hi Laura,
Did you know that medications are a common cause of falling among older adults? Be especially wary of new prescriptions or changes in existing prescriptions, such as a new dosage. Sometimes specialists alter a medication without the rest of a medical team knowing, and even a slight change in dosage or a new combination of medications can create symptoms that contribute to falls. Symptoms include dizziness, drowsiness, unsteadiness, and loss of consciousness.
Meds to watch out for in particular: over-the-counter antihistamines and sleep aids (including the PM version of common painkillers), antipsychotics and antianxiety drugs, and drugs for overactive bladder. Blood-pressure medications pose a special risk when dosages are being adjusted; falls are more likely when the dose is too high.

What to expect when caring for someone with dementia

Hi Laura,

Did you know that medications are a common cause of falling among older adults? Be especially wary of new prescriptions or changes in existing prescriptions, such as a new dosage. Sometimes specialists alter a medication without the rest of a medical team knowing, and even a slight change in dosage or a new combination of medications can create symptoms that contribute to falls.Symptoms include dizziness, drowsiness, unsteadiness, and loss of consciousness.

Meds to watch out for in particular: over-the-counter antihistamines and sleep aids (including the PM version of common painkillers), antipsychotics and antianxiety drugs, and drugs for overactive bladder. Blood-pressure medications pose a special risk when dosages are being adjusted; falls are more likely when the dose is too high.

Quick Links
* How long can someone live with Alzheimer’s?
* How can I keep my grandfather from squandering his assets?
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Eighteen Things Your Feet Say About Your Health

18 Things Your Feet Say About Your Health

The state of your feet can yield unexpected clues to your overall health

By , Caring.com senior editor
Last updated: March 19, 2013
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Want to make a simple, ten-second check on the state of your health? Sneak a peek at your feet.

“You can detect everything from diabetes to nutritional deficiencies just by examining the feet,” says Jane Andersen, DPM, president of the American Association of Women Podiatrists and a spokeswoman for the American Podiatric Medical Association.

The lowly left and right provide plenty of insightful data: Together they contain a quarter of the body’s bones, and each foot also has 33 joints; 100 tendons, muscles, and ligaments; and countless nerves and blood vessels that link all the way to the heart, spine, and brain.

Unresolved foot problems can have unexpected consequences. Untreated pain often leads a person to move less and gain weight, for example, or to shift balance in unnatural ways, increasing the chance of falling and breaking a bone.

So when the feet send one of these 18 warning messages, they mean business.

 

1. Red flag: Toenails with slightly sunken, spoon-shaped indentations

What it means: Anemia (iron deficiency) often shows up as an unnatural, concave or spoonlike shape to the toes’ nail beds, especially in moderate-to-severe cases. It’s caused by not having enough hemoglobin, an iron-rich protein in the blood cells that transports oxygen. Internal bleeding (such as an ulcer) or heavy menstrual periods can trigger anemia.

More clues: On fingers as well as toes, the skin and nail beds both appear pale. The nails may also be brittle, and feet may feel cold. Fatigue is the number-one sign of anemia, as are shortness of breath, dizziness when standing, and headache.

What to do: A complete blood count is usually used to diagnose anemia. A physical exam may pinpoint a cause. First-step treatments include iron supplements and dietary changes to add iron and vitamin C (which speeds iron absorption).

2. Red flag: Hairless feet or toes

What it means: Poor circulation, usually caused by vascular disease, can make hair disappear from the feet. When the heart loses the ability to pump enough blood to the extremities because of arteriosclerosis (commonly known as hardening of the arteries), the body has to prioritize its use. Hairy toes are, well, low on the totem pole.

More clues: The reduced blood supply also makes it hard to feel a pulse in the feet. (Check the top of the foot or the inside of the ankle.) When you stand, your feet may be bright red or dusky; when elevated, they immediately pale. The skin is shiny. People with poor circulation tend to already know they have a cardiovascular condition (such as heart disease or a carotid artery) yet may not realize they have circulation trouble.

What to do: Treating the underlying vascular issues can improve circulation. Toe hair seldom returns, but nobody complains much.

Bring up heart disease, and most people think

10 Early Warning Signs of Lung Cancer

Many people see a lung cancer diagnosis as a death sentence. That’s understandable, since lung cancer kills more than 1.3 million people a year. But when caught early enough, lung cancer can be treatable and, often, curable. According to the National Cancer Institute, the five-year survival rate for lung cancer that hasn’t metastasized, or spread, is slightly more than 50 percent, as compared to nearly 4 percent for lung cancer that’s already spread to other organ systems. So pay close attention to these early — and sometimes surprising — signs of lung cancer, and be assertive about bringing anything suspicious to your doctor’s attention.

Depression or other mood changes

Researchers have recently noted a surprising connection between first-time diagnosis of depression, anxiety, and other psychiatric symptoms and lung cancer. In a surprising number of cases, cancer patients — particularly those with lung cancer — discover they have a tumor after being referred for psychiatric care. One study that followed more than four million people for ten years, for example, found that when people ages 50 to 64 were referred to a psychiatrist for the first time in their lives, the overall incidence of cancer increased almost fourfold.

How it feels: Psychiatric symptoms can take many forms, from the fatigue, lethargy, and low spirits characteristic of depression to racing, panicky thoughts. Irritability, unexplained outbursts of anger, and other personality changes also can indicate psychiatric issues. As one lung cancer patient recalls, “Everything just seemed to get to me.”

What causes it: The connection between anxiety, depression, and lung cancer isn’t clear, except that people may be feeling generally subpar without knowing why.

What to do: If you notice personality and mood changes that are out of character, either for yourself or someone else, talk about them and search for a cause. If they seem to come out of the blue, bring them to a doctor’s attention and ask if there might be a physical explanation.

Frequent illness

Getting sick over and over again with colds, flu, bronchitis, or even pneumonia may make you wonder if your immune system is to blame. But another possible culprit for repeated illness is lung cancer. That’s especially true for women who smoke.

How it feels: The symptoms are the same as they are for unrelated colds, flus, and infections. The difference is in how persistent the symptoms are: either lasting a long time or going away only to recur.

What causes it: As the cancer settles into the tissues of the lung and the bronchial tubes, it causes symptoms similar to a cold or flu. Lung cancer also makes the lungs more susceptible to illness and infection. With the body’s immune system busy fighting the cancer, it’s less able to defend itself against germs, resulting in more serious infections, such as bronchitis and pneumonia.

What to do: Keep close track if it seems as if you’re getting sick more than usual, and bring the situation to your doctor’s attention.

6 Ways to Wreck Your Blood Sugar

6 Ways to Wreck Your Blood Sugar Level

What not to do if you have type 2 diabetes.
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By 
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

 

Type 2 diabetes is a tough disease. It requires constant vigilance to keep your blood sugar level under control. 

It also requires avoiding some common mistakes, many of which are the product of long-held bad habits. 

 

Recommended Related to Diabetes

 

Diabetes and Weight Loss

Diabetes and weight loss: It is the yin and yang of optimal health. There’s no question about it. If you’re overweight and have type 2 diabetes, dropping pounds lowers your blood sugar, improves your health, and helps you feel better. But before you start a weight loss plan, it’s important to work closely with your doctor or diabetes educator — because while you’re losing weight, your blood sugar, insulin, and medications need special attention. Make no mistake — you’re on the right path. “No…

Read the Diabetes and Weight Loss article > >

 
 

Here are six mistakes that you can learn to avoid.

1. Not Knowing Your Disease

“You are your own doctor 99.9% of the time,” says Andrew Ahmann, MD, director of the Harold Schnitzer Diabetes Health Center at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, Ore.

By that he means that you are the one watching your diet, making sure you exercise, and taking your medication on schedule. Understanding how diabetes works will help you make better decisions about how to monitor and manage it. Classes on coping with diabetes are an excellent but underused resource.

“Not enough patients seek them out, and not enough doctors send their patients to them,” Ahmann says.

That’s unfortunate, because not only do they offer essential information; they are often de facto support groups as well, bringing together people who are experiencing the same issues and difficulties and giving them a forum in which to meet and talk with each other.

2. Expecting Too Much Too Soon

One of the biggest hurdles in controlling your blood sugar is sticking to the necessary adjustments you must make to your eating and exercise habits. Many patients become frustrated and give up because they don’t see results right away, says endocrinologist Preethi Srikanthan, MD, assistant clinical professor of medicine at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine.

“Most people expect something dramatic is going to happen right away,” she says. “But it has taken them a decade or two to get to this point, and it will take a while for them to even to get to that initial 5%-10% reduction in weight…These are challenges that must be taken in small steps.”

Expecting too much change right away is a mistake. So is doing too much before you are ready, especially when it comes to exercise, Ahmann says. He advises starting off slowly and easing into the habit.

“If they do more than they can tolerate, they will often quit,” he says. “Or they will do too much and hurt themselves.”

Be sure to talk with your health-care provider before starting a new exercise program, especially if you aren’t already active. He or she can help plan a routine that’s safe and effective, as well as set realistic goals.

 
 
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5 Foods to Eat When You’re Depressed

Feeling blue? Many people seek comfort from favorite foods like chocolate kisses, salty chips, and pillowy pastries when they’re feeling down. But if you really want to boost your mood, make different choices, nutritionists say. Although clinical depression is a serious illness that requires treatment beyond nutrition, changing what you eat can help beat garden-variety blues caused by stress, and will boost low energy, too.

“We reach for what we think will make us feel better, but we too often wind up making ourselves feel worse in the long run,” says Beth Reardon, director of nutrition at Duke University’s Duke Integrative Medicine. The wrong foods can cause physiological reactions that intensify symptoms such as lethargy, irritability, and cravings. Meanwhile the right foods — like the following five — can stabilize blood sugar, eliminate mood swings, and boost neurotransmitters in the brain, all factors that influence your emotions.

Try these smart choices when your mood needs a little boost:

1. An omelet — just don’t skip the yolk

Eat it for: The B vitamins and protein. Egg yolks are the vitamin-B-rich part of the egg.

Other examples: Lean beef, wheat germ, fish, poultry

Why they help: A diet rich in B vitamins can help lessen the severity of depression symptoms. B vitamins, especially B-6 and B-12, can help improve neural function — the way the neurotransmitters of the brain send signals, which helps govern mood. There’s also a growing link between vitamin B deficiency and depression. A 2010 study of 3,000 older adults followed over 12 years found that those with lower intake of these vitamins had a higher risk of depression, according to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The protein in eggs (as with lean meats) helps you feel satisfied longer, stabilizing blood sugar. And eggs can be consumed in a variety of ways, from scrambled to used as a French toast batter to boiled and chopped up as a salad topper — so long as you go easy on the accompanying animal products that are high in saturated fats, like bacon or butter.

2. Nuts and seeds

Eat it for: The magnesium

Examples: Pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, cashews, almonds, peanuts. (Green leafy vegetables and whole grains are also high in magnesium.)

Why they help: Magnesium, a mineral found naturally in nuts and seeds, influences production of serotonin, a “feel-good” brain chemical. Magnesium also affects overall energy production.

Bonus: Nuts are also a good source of protein and healthy fats. And as a whole food, they make a healthy alternative to processed snacks, provided you choose unsalted and unsweetened varieties. Salt and sugared coatings don’t add any health benefits and may make you overeat because they set up cravings in the brain for more and more salt or sugar.