Turned 50? Time to see your doctor. Article by Scott Keith
You’ve just turned 50. Lucky you! Perhaps you are battling the mid-life blues and believe the perfect cure is that nifty, but rather pricey sports utility vehicle at the auto dealership down the street. Or you may be dipping into your dwindling checking account to pay for your daughter’s wedding.
Is a visit to the doctor’s office for a physical examination on your “must do” list? If the answer is no, you’re not alone. Men often delay visits to the MD, but after age 50, it’s critical that you and your doctor engage in a brutally honest dialogue, even if it touches on such squeamish subjects as prostate and colorectal health.
I decided years ago to schedule physicals regularly. I don’t have a family history of disease, but I need my doctor to keep track of my vital stats, just in case an odd or abnormal lab result catches his eye. If I develop a symptom, I confess that I rush to a medical website to calm my nerves. Of course web surfing for this purpose can put you at ease or scare the pants off of you. That’s why I need to schedule regular one-on-one sessions with my doctor.
At age 50, my doctor started screening my PSA levels. Hey, prostate exams aren’t full of laughs, but your doctor needs to keep track of potential problems. These exams can catch a cancer in the early stages. Testing your PSA involves a simple blood draw. And while you may want to flee to the clinic hallway upon seeing the “gloved” hand, it’s a small price to pay and will provide your general practitioner with valuable clues.
Then there is the subject nearly everybody wants to avoid – the dreaded colonoscopy. Again, age 50 is when you should start talking with your doctor. Screening begins years earlier, if there is a history of family colorectal disease. My doctor gave me little wiggle room. He insisted I undergo the procedure when I turned 50, and I’m glad he did. Normally, I love to procrastinate, but I wanted to get the colonoscopy over quickly.
The procedure went well. The hospital staff eased my jitters, and I was given ample sedation. The rough part was the day before, when I was allowed only clear liquids to consume. You are given a concoction that cleans your pipes. Do not schedule any nature walks the evening before the procedure!
My doctor did not find any abnormalities, but these procedures can yield clues, such as polyps that need to be removed. These growths can lead to cancer, so the earlier you’re screened the better.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men need routine exams and screenings that include “, high cholesterol, diabetes, sexually transmitted diseases and cancers of the skin, prostate and colon.”
So if you’ve turned 50, consider that SUV, or ponder the chances of online dating, but schedule that trip to the doctor’s office. It’s the simpler, gentler way.
Article appeared in the May 2007 Edition of Star City Health, a specialty publication of the Lincoln, Nebraska Journal Star Newspaper.
Boomer men need to baby their hearts. Article by Scott Keith
Once you reach 50, it’s harder to break that lazy lifestyle. Perhaps you start your work day by grabbing a fast-food breakfast sandwich that’s loaded with meat and drippy cheese. If you face a hectic schedule at the office, your only chance for lunch may be to visit the local convenience store for a beef stick and a maple bar. You arrive home, watch the first half of your favorite basketball game and eat dinner. Then it’s straight to the computer to forward a joke to your best friend, answer an e-mail and do some office prep work for the next day. Already it’s bedtime.
If this is your lifestyle, consider the harm you may be doing to your heart. Cardiovascular disease affects your heart or blood vessels. These diseases can be fatal. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and is a major cause of disability.” The CDC says blood cholesterol levels, high blood pressure and diabetes are risk factors. Behavioral risk factors include tobacco use, obesity and heavy alcohol use. At a moment’s notice, a baby boomer can find himself in a hospital bed for coronary artery disease, a myocardial infarction (heart attack), a stroke or a number of other diseases. The good news is that healthy habits can reduce the chance of taking that dreaded ambulance ride. Even a simple daily walk around the shopping mall can make a big difference in improving artery and heart health.
Dr. Steven Schnur, Florida cardiologist and author of “The Reality Diet,” says the 50-year-old man “needs to be very concerned with whether or not he is beginning to develop underlying heart disease, because this is the age when you have to be concerned that your lifestyle for the last 20 or 30 years is going to start to catch up to you.” A good first step is to break away from your computer (you can do it) and visit the doctor. Schnur recommends having a lipid profile and developing a family tree to see if heart disease runs in the family. Other tests include a CT heart scan (to check for the beginnings of calcified plaque in the heart) and a screening EKG. Depending on the results, says Schnur, an ultrasound of the heart and a stress test may be necessary.
As you become more comfortable talking with your doctor, bring up your lifestyle. Discuss what you eat. Diet is a critical factor. Schnur suggests a diet higher in fiber. You should eat “the right fat, the right protein and the right carbohydrates.” And while you’re at it, see if your MD can suggest an exercise program. 30 to 45 minutes of daily exercise is important, says Schnur, adding that it’s important to boost the heart rate appropriately. He says aerobic activity is important, with some resistance training to maintain muscle mass.
If your doctor says you’re healthy enough to exercise, you might try the fitness club. But if you’re pressed for time, consider a daily walk at the mall. Leave the credit card at home and be prepared to people watch and help your heart at the same time. Schnur likes the idea of 30 to 45 minutes of continuous, brisk walking in an effort to boost the heart rate. Schnur says exercise, weight loss and diet can help lower blood pressure.
Screening is key for the 50-year-old man. Schnur says, “I would tell baby boomers who are now reaching middle age that screening for colon cancer, a good urologic exam and a good heart scan” are important preventive measures, in conjunction with the right diet and exercise program. And don’t forget stress. Schnur says you should try to engage in activities that lower your stress level.
If all of this doesn’t convince you to exercise more, cut out stress and choose healthier food options, you might consider these sobering statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Almost 700 thousand people die of heart disease in the United States each year.
Walnut-sized gland a major headache for older men. Article by Scott Keith
If you find yourself in an elevator with five older men, chances are good one of them is dealing with a disease or condition affecting his prostate, a tiny gland found below the bladder, surrounding the upper part of the urethra.
About the size of a walnut, the prostate gland aids in the production of seminal fluid. It is not vital; men can get along without one. As a man ages, his prostate can become enlarged, inflamed or cancerous. Prostate cancer generally attacks older men.
Prostate exams may be a key reason men avoid doctors. They fear the “gloved hand.” This is a digital rectal exam, one of two tests that help determine the likelihood of prostate cancer. The other diagnostic tool is the PSA blood test. Known as prostate-specific antigen, PSA is a protein made only by the prostate gland. According to UrologyHealth.org, “High levels of PSA in the blood may be a sign of prostate cancer.” As a man approaches middle age, he needs to discuss prostate issues with his doctor. African American men are at greater risk of prostate cancer as are men who have a family history of the disease. Cancer is a powerful incentive for men to stop procrastinating. Getting these prostate tests at regular intervals help men catch cancer in its early stages, when it’s confined to the prostate. This is when prostate cancer can be cured.
Dr. Sheldon Marks, author of “Prostate and Cancer,” says more men are becoming aware of prostate health thanks to public figures sharing their cancer stories and media exposure to medications such as Avodart and Flomax. Even so, Marks says, “there are still a lot of men who either don’t want to talk about it or don’t understand it, so they kind of just choose to avoid it.”
A man, according to Marks, should first approach his doctor if he has disturbing or alarming urinary symptoms, such as dribbling, urgency and frequency. If you are healthy and not experiencing symptoms, “it’s probably a good idea to get a baseline exam and PSA starting about age 40 to 45, absolutely at a minimum age 50, then annually thereafter.” Those at greater risk of prostate cancer need to start tests at 40.
Marks says the PSA test is “far and away the most sensitive test for detecting prostate cancer. It’s far more sensitive than a mammogram, than a pap smear, than almost any other screening test on the market.” The tricky part of the prostate puzzle is that the PSA blood test is not prostate cancer specific. Marks says if the PSA is elevated or going up, it raises a question that needs to be answered. “It may be, gee, it was the recent infection you had, or maybe it’s because you just had orthopedic surgery and you had a catheter in for three days…or something else.” An abnormal PSA, says Marks, is like the “idiot light” in your car. “It tells you something may be wrong and needs further evaluation.”
It’s important to have both a PSA test and a digital rectal exam. Marks says the exam is not as effective and sensitive as the PSA, but on occasion, “there’s a guy who will have a nodule or asymmetry, one side being fuller than the other, but the PSA is normal, and it turns out there is a cancer.”
While some prostate cancers are found at an advanced stage (typically spreading to the bones), the prognosis is much better with early stage disease. Marks says, “That’s one of the things that’s so exciting about this. If we catch it early, it’s totally curable.” Depending on the stage of the cancer, treatments include prostate removal, radiation and hormonal therapy.
Despite growing publicity about prostate health, men continue to drag their feet. Marks says it remains an issue, observing, “Men are stubborn about their own health. They’ll go and they’ll get their lawnmower fixed, they’ll take their car in every 3,000 miles for an oil change, but when you say you’re age 50, it’s time for your PSA and colonoscopy, they flatly refuse.”
Teach your guy about his prostate. Article by Scott Keith
Last September, I found out I had prostate cancer. At 54, I am younger than most men who get this disease.
I received the news at work and was able to finish my shift focused and energetic. I was composed because I had been talking with both my primary care doctor and urologist. We had discussed prostate cancer after a series of tests showed my PSA bouncing up and down, frequently registering above the normal level. I read as much as I could about a cancer, that if caught early, has a high cure rate.
Men need to study the prostate years ahead of time. The more they know, the more they can stay calm after a cancer diagnosis.
I’m nervous about physicals, but I keep current with doctor visits. I also use the Internet. Medical websites are great, but they can’t substitute for a doctor.
Almost six years ago, I had my first PSA test. It was just shy of 5.0. Antibiotics brought the level down. After fluctuating over the next few years, my PSA began to level out; still above normal. My urologist ordered a needle biopsy, which was awkward, but painless.
The biopsy showed an abnormality. The tissue was sent back east for another evaluation. The second opinion agreed there was an abnormality, but no cancer. Months later, a second biopsy revealed a small cancer confined to the prostate. My urologist discussed my disease and treatment options; he felt confident the cancer was caught early.
Prostate cancer is a disease a man can prepare for years ahead of time. Physical exams are essential. As a guy reaches 40, he needs to talk with his doctor about the prostate and determine when to begin tests. A few uncomfortable moments in the doctor’s office can mean the difference between catching prostate cancer when it is curable and when it is advanced. In many cases, when a man is diagnosed with prostate cancer, he does not have to decide on a treatment immediately. Often, there will be time to research and make a decision with the help of the doctor and family.
Currently, my urologist is using “active surveillance,” meaning I return every four months for tests. Time will tell if I can continue monitoring the cancer or undergo surgery or radiation treatment. Women need to convince their husbands, boyfriends or male relatives to learn about this pesky walnut-sized gland.
This article by Scott Keith appeared in Northwest Senior and Boomer News — April 2009 edition
Innocent polyps can lead to dangerous cancer. Article by Scott Keith
It’s a detail a baby boomer must not overlook. As you approach middle age, it’s time to have a frank discussion with your primary care physician about colorectal cancer.
It’s a tricky cancer; in the early stages you may be symptom free. You could be feeling as strong as a horse, but inside your large intestine, little growths, called polyps, could be making the dangerous transition from benign to malignant.
To date, the best tool doctors have in diagnosing this disease is the colonoscopy. The very word strikes fear in the toughest men. Men and women will postpone the procedure because they don’t like the idea of a flexible tube running through their lower pipes. But screening is vital. Dr. David Lieberman, chief of the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, Oregon, says the exciting thing about colon cancer screening “is that, unlike other forms of screening where the goal is to detect early forms of cancer, with colon cancer we can actually prevent it because there is this pre-cancer phase of polyps.”
People of average risk should begin screening at age 50. “However, for individuals who have a close relative, a father, mother, sister or brother with colon cancer, they need to talk to their doctors earlier about colon cancer screening. Many of those patients need to begin screening at age 40,” says Lieberman. It’s good to get screened before you have any symptoms because “we know from various studies that if we wait for symptoms, often the cancers are discovered at a later stage and they’re much more difficult to treat.” Symptoms can include rectal bleeding (bleeding in stools), and changes in bowel habits.
While the colonoscopy is considered the “gold standard,” there are a couple of other screening tools. Lieberman says the fecal occult blood test “is a reasonably good test for detecting cancer, but it’s not going to detect pre-cancerous polyps.” The blood test has to be repeated every year. The sigmoidoscopy, like the colonoscopy, can detect polyps and cancers. The sigmoidoscopy can be performed in an office setting without sedation. “The problem with the sigmoidoscopy is that you’re only looking at the lower part of the colon, so if you happen to have growths further up in the colon, they can be missed.” Lieberman says use of the sigmoidoscopy has dropped off in the United States. For those with a family history of colon cancer, the colonoscopy is the recommended test.
During a colonoscopy, Lieberman says “we use a long, flexible tube with a light on the end of it and a little camera in it that we pass through the entire colon.” If you’re worried about pain or discomfort, Lieberman adds, “When we perform these procedures in the United States, everybody receives sedation. Most patients don’t remember the procedure. What they do remember is the day before the procedure…getting ready.”
The day before the colonoscopy is a day you’ll probably remember for years to come. You’ll be limited to a diet of clear liquids. You’ll also be given a solution that will cause you to visit the bathroom MANY times the evening before. The idea is to clean the colon so your doctor can easily spot and remove polyps. The important thing to remember is to follow your doctor’s prep list to the letter.
If you’re polyp-free after a colonoscopy, Lieberman says you won’t need to repeat the procedure for about ten years. If a benign polyp is found, a repeat colonoscopy is needed sooner, depending on the appearance and size of the polyp.
Does lifestyle have anything to do with developing colon cancer? Lieberman says, “There are lots of studies, and I’ve done some of them, which show that there are some risk factors that seem to be associated with a higher risk of developing colon cancer.” These include diets high in animal fat and low in fiber, diets low in calcium, obesity, smoking and low levels of physical activity. Lieberman cautions that if you start eating healthier food, including fruits, vegetables and whole grain bread, you still need to get screened.
Patients should be encouraged to get screened. Lieberman says he gives a lot of lectures to fellow doctors. “One of the things we emphasize is that it’s important to have this discussion with patients because this is one of the most preventable forms of cancer that we know of, because we can detect these polyps and take them out before there is cancer.” That, says Lieberman, is an exciting opportunity.
Adult Immunizations: An online tool for the procrastinator. Article by Scott Keith
It’s one of your first childhood memories. Going to the medical clinic, rolling up your sleeve and getting poked with a needle. Immunizations are not just “kid’s stuff.” According to studies released by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID), adults in America are not getting the immunizations they need. Perhaps more troubling, many are not aware of the risk of vaccine-preventable diseases.
Online help has arrived for the procrastinating grown-up. Mayo Clinic and Microsoft have launched the Mayo Clinic Health Manager, a high-tech, yet easy-to-understand tool that will not only keep you current with immunizations, but help protect and manage your family’s health. Gregory Poland, MD, Director of Vaccine Research at Mayo Clinic, says, “You can use it to organize health information for multiple family members in one place and receive real-time, individualized information, reminders and health guidance developed by experts at Mayo Clinic, based on the data you enter.”
Among the features of this free Internet tool is the “Family Dashboard” page. “When you log in to your family’s account, it displays a quick summary of each family member. Depending on the information you enter, these summaries can include a photo and brief information on each person, as well as a snapshot of the number of recommendations available in each person’s individual profile, says Dr.Poland. Mayo Clinic Health Manager can juggle several family needs. “A mom, for example, might receive information reminding her she’s due for a tetanus shot, and a recommendation to update her son’s asthma management plan, along with other useful information to keep her family’s information up-to-date and their health on track,”adds Dr. Poland.
Statistics from the CDC and NFID show that “each year, about 50,000 adults die from diseases that can be prevented by vaccines. Millions more get sick, leading to missed work, not being able to care for those who depend on them, and passing the illness on to others.” More troubling stats reveal “fifteen percent of those surveyed, ages 19-64, have received the Tdap vaccine, which protects against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis.” Of concern to the older set, “about seven percent of senior citizens are vaccinated against shingles, an extremely painful disease caused by the chickenpox virus.”
The Mayo Clinic Health Manager can remind younger woman about a critical health concern. “Ten percent of women aged 19-26 have been vaccinated against the human papillomavirus, which can prevent 70 percent of all cervical cancers.”
Dr. Poland notes the Mayo Clinic Health Manager can help adult children manage an aging parent’s health. “Information can be shared among siblings or health care providers, making it easier for families to interact with an elderly parent’s caregivers or care facility.”
This user-friendly Internet service, which provides a foundation of privacy and security features with the help of Microsoft HealthVault, can even inspire stubborn baby boomer men. According to Dr. Poland, “When reminders from spouses and family members aren’t enough to get a guy to the doctor, Mayo Clinic Health Manager can help. It provides recommendations that remind him when it’s time for a check-up or a health screening, and keeps information easily accessible and manageable.”
Despite the assistance the Mayo Clinic Health Manager provides, you still have to go to the doctor, roll up your sleeve and take your medicine.
A web tool to help baby boomers burn calories. Article by Scott Keith
These days, John Porten is content eating his Subway sandwiches and keeping off the pounds. Most of his adult life, though, the 47-year-old Indianapolis resident struggled with his weight; he would lose a number of pounds, then gain them right back.
Around five years ago, Porten decided to take action by monitoring his food intake. He would use a spread sheet and a booklet to track his food and calories. Porten noticed that as long as he kept a written record, he would maintain or lose weight. After a bit of prodding from a neighbor on his cul-de-sac, Porten decided to develop a website for the frustrated dieter.
Porten hooked up with a developer in Indianapolis and put together a prototype application called iTrakOnline.com. “When we got the prototype app up and running, it was no time at all before we had 400 to 500 members…people who just found out about it through word of mouth,” says Porten. The feedback led Porten to create a more commercial version of the application, called Graphite, which was introduced to the public in November, 2009. Porten wanted to design the application with a color scheme and language that would appeal primarily to middle-aged guys. Porten says he learned through market research and talks with a lot of people that men were frustrated with forums and advertisements and wanted a simple tool.
According to the new web site, “Graphite is an easy-to-use web-based tool for tracking calorie intake (meals/food) and calorie expenditures (exercise and other activities). Based on the principle of energy balance, Graphite helps you manage the balance of calories you consume with the calories you burn, helping you to reach your weight management goals.”
When you visit www.mygraphite.com, click the “Tour” tab at the top of the main page and discover several ways you can monitor your calories and exercise, and have fun at the same time. The “Track Food” page will help you stay at your calorie intake target, even if you wind up going to the family picnic and eating way too many hot dogs. On the “Create Custom Foods, Recipes, & Meals” page, keep track of your favorite meals. If a combination of swimming, weight training and walking keeps your weight down, make note of it on the “Track Exercise Calories Burned” page. This page also has a nifty motivational tool. At Graphite, you can set personal goals and track your progress.
This attractive and easy-to-navigate website features an impressive number of resources, including several articles on how to eat healthy. Visit “The Graphite Blog” and read about the “power”of tracking.
Porten is excited about getting the word out about Graphite. Says Porten, what it boils down to is “managing what you put in your mouth and managing how many calories you burn.”
Depression: Are men too “macho” to seek help? Article by Scott Keith
It’s hard enough to get a stubborn guy to recognize a physical symptom, set up a doctor appointment and show up at the clinic for a medical evaluation. It’s even tougher for men to determine whether a mood change is normal, or a possible sign of depression.
Depression-related illnesses strike about six million men in the United States. Men are less likely to be diagnosed with depression than woman, yet men are four times more likely to kill themselves. Society teaches men to control their emotions and to be physically tough. It’s this “macho” attitude that causes many men to let depression go untreated. Professor of Psychology at Clark University, Dr. Michael Addis, is a national expert on the subject and will be setting up the first-ever center on men and depression at Clark.
In an interview with Men and Health: It’s a Guy Thing, Addis, an author of over 60 books, says, “We’re probably under- diagnosing depression in men because, as you probably suspect, it’s an illness that’s highly stigmatized in men, so men are taught from a very young age by parents, peers and society to keep emotional vulnerability to themselves.” Addis says men are less likely than women to answer “yes” when asked if they are feeling sad, down, or feeling critical of themselves.
Symptoms of depression can take on different forms in men. Although there is no definitive study, Addis says, “For some men, and probably specifically for those men who adhere to more traditional gender roles… men who are more invested in controlling their emotions and handling problems on their own… those men are more likely to express depression in terms of anger, physical complaints and sometimes social withdrawal.” In general, men are more likely than women to keep their distress hidden from others. According to Addis, stress factors, such as divorce, unemployment, and loss of a loved one, and the reluctance of men to share these issues with others, may contribute to the increased incidence of suicide in men.
Outside forces, such as the sluggish economy, can contribute to the onset of depression. Says Addis, “Despite the progress of the women’s movement, which has come a long way towards re-defining women’s roles, men’s roles still heavily emphasize the bread winner. When that’s taken away, it’s not only an economic stress, it’s a psychological stress, because it essentially says to men, you’re no longer doing what you should be doing, so you fail twice. You don’t have a job and you’re not being appropriately masculine by bringing home the bread.” One of Addis’s students at Clark studied 60 recently-unemployed men in central Massachusetts. Addis says the study found, “the more traditionally masculine men were more likely to develop symptoms of depression then the less traditionally masculine ones.”
Depression can also strike members of the military. Addis says, “The suicide rate among returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan is soaring. It’s higher than it’s ever been and the incidence of depression and other problems (such as post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse) is very high as well.” Addis says this also relates to the psychology of men and masculinity, noting that while the military has made progress in raising depression awareness, there is still a long way to go.
In many cases, the family doctor can start a depression patient on the road to recovery. Addis says, “It’s very important that people find a primary care physician who is knowledgeable about mental health and open to treating mental health in the context of primary care,” adding that it’s the responsibility of both the patient and the doctor.
The Clark University professor offers words of encouragement for men who think they may be suffering from depression. Addis says you’re not alone and there is absolutely no shame in getting help. Depression is a treatable illness. According to Addis, 75 percent or more of people who receive counseling or medication for depression are able to overcome it. Finally, don’t think you’re weak because of your feelings. “This is not a character flaw…no one chooses to be depressed.”
Vitamin D deficiency? You can take a blood test. Article by Scott Keith
When you think about vitamin D, you might imagine gulping down a glass of cold milk after performing an afternoon of hard chores. You probably know vitamin D is good for the body. After all, it’s called the “Sunshine Vitamin.” What you may not know is that vitamin D helps your immune system and could help cut down your chance of getting the flu. But are we getting enough of this vitamin? Many people are vitamin D deficient, according to Dr. Steven Joyal, Vice President of Science and Medical Affairs for Life Extension, the largest non-profit organization dedicated to helping people live longer and healthier.
Vitamin D comes from many sources. Joyal, in an interview with Men and Health: It’s a Guy Thing, says it can be found in fatty fish (salmon), mushrooms, fortified dairy products and supplements. Natural sunlight helps the body manufacture this key vitamin. But remember, if you spend time in the sun, take the proper precautions because sun exposure can lead to skin cancer.
While the science is relatively young, Joyal says studies show the health benefits of higher levels of vitamin D. He says a study in the past year indicates that women with high levels of vitamin D, as defined by 25-hydroxy vitamin D status in their blood, had about a 50 percent lower risk of breast cancer. Vitamin D, according to Joyal, not only helps bone and calcium metabolism, but aids in healthy cell growth, division and maturation. “There’s very interesting data out there that really does support the idea that vitamin D not only has a pretty profound effect on our immune system, but also may help in combating the risk of influenza infection,” says Joyal.
How much of this vitamin should we take in a supplement? It depends. Joyal says, “I’m fair-skinned and have blue eyes, so for me, I go out in the sun for 30 minutes at mid-day and easily make 10 thousand international units of vitamin D in my skin.” He says an African-American or Asian person will likely make less in the same period of time. It’s also harder to produce vitamin D from sunlight as we age.
Supplements can help older men and women. Joyal says a study published about a year ago showed that elderly individuals (deficient in vitamin D) who received supplements noticed an improvement in muscle strength, particularly in the lower body. “We know, too, that there are studies showing that vitamin D supplementation seems to decrease the risk of hip fractures.”
When it comes to vitamin D supplements, while Joyal admits there is a difference of opinion, “we believe most people can benefit from at least 2,000 international units a day.” According to Joyal, the best way to discover your vitamin D status is to take the 25-hydroxy vitamin D blood test. “Current research suggests an optimal level of vitamin D is somewhat north of 50 nanograms per milliliter and somewhat south of 80 nanograms per milliliter.”
If you are concerned about the level of vitamin D in your system, Joyal says, “Learn as much as you can, read as much as you can, ask questions of your health care professionals. Doctors tend not to know a heck of a lot about nutrition, quite frankly.” Adds Joyal, you are your most important health advocate.
Life Extension website: www.lef.org
Information on the 25-hydroxy vitamin D blood test: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003569.htm
The sexual component of good health. Article by Scott Keith
Men have to work extremely hard at achieving and maintaining a high level of health. There’s blood pressure, cholesterol, prostate and colorectal factors to consider. For some, it’s time to correct unhealthy eating, drinking and smoking habits. And then there’s the poor guy who has to search the living room closet for that old, dusty bathroom scale.
That’s a lot for a guy to concentrate on. Another key component of a healthy lifestyle is perhaps not meant to be discussed at the family dinner table: Sexual health. According to a board certified urologist and director of the Los Angeles Boston Medical Group, Dr. Barry Buffman, there are definite psychological and marital benefits to a healthy sexual relationship. In an interview with Men and Health: It’s a Guy thing, Buffman says, “There’s a very good correlation in outcomes if you look at success in the bedroom with success at the board room and success on the field.”
It’s not just psychological health, such as self-esteem, that can benefit from a healthy sexual relationship. Buffman, who has experienced over 20 years of private surgical practice, specializing in sexual dysfunction, oncology, laser and trauma, says it has been well documented that men will have healthier prostate glands and hearts with a good sex life. Other benefits include a better brain function and sleep pattern. To be blunt, Buffman notes, “It’s been cited numerously, in even the lay literature over the last 15 years, that a man will not live a normal life expectancy without frequent sexual expression.”
Buffman has seen patients in several age groups, from 18 and younger (with parental permission) to one man at the ripe old age of 104. “At any age group, whether it’s young or old, specifically starting with the younger population, their greatest fear is ‘am I the only person you’ve seen in this age group, am I very strange, am I very weird?’” Buffman says men 45 and older, a large segment of the population, some in their second and third marriages, are concerned about social, psychological and physical issues. He says men can be concerned about whether sex can be detrimental to their health.
On the other side of the coin, men who aren’t lucky enough to have a healthy sexual life can experience unpleasant side effects. Buffman says when a man doesn’t have sexual confidence and function, it makes a big dent in his social assertiveness. “It all comes down to the confidence level. The effects on that are clear. The emotional, mental and psychological effects are abundantly seen with regard to anxiety disorders, severe depression and being withdrawn from social interaction.” Physically, sex has been shown to be a stress reducer. And, according to Buffman, literature suggests frequent ejaculation may lead to a lower incidence of prostate cancer.
When it comes to sexual issues, men need to take the initiative. Buffman says men need to realize there is a problem and seek the right consultative services. Buffman says he doesn’t believe the average practitioner, in the average medical practice, has the luxury to gather information about a patient’s social and psychological history. “Most of the time, the patient has to take the can opener and take the lid off the physician’s head.”
Los Angeles Boston Medical Group: http://losangeles.bostonmedicalgroup.com/
Sports injuries: Preparation a big reason. Article by Scott Keith
It would be nice if you could participate in sports well into your baby boomer and senior years without suffering the discomfort of back pain. While back pain can strike at any age, there are ways you can cut down the risk of pain while enjoying 18 holes of golf, a tennis match with your significant other or a day soaking up sunshine at the ski slopes.
Dr. Jack Stern, a board certified neurological surgeon, who diagnoses and treats spinal injuries with both surgical and non-surgical approaches, has examined the growing problem of lower back pain and offers advice to men and women who won’t give up golf, tennis and other activities for the comfort of the living room easy chair.
In an interview with Men and Health: It’s a Guy Thing, Stern says you can pinpoint injuries by the sport. Calling it an interesting phenomenon, Stern points out that nearly every sport uses separate muscle groups. He says golfers, because they try to hit the ball long distances, suffer upper neck, mid-back and low-back muscular pain. “Baseball players tend to have cervical problems and upper-extremity problems from pitching and hitting…skiers fall and have significant back pain.”
Lack of preparation is a big reason injuries occur. Stern says there are professional athletes and “week-end warriors.” He says we live in a very fast world where young people will work all day, head to the slopes for a week-end of skiing, yet have trouble getting back to work Monday because of back pain. According to Stern, “They didn’t stretch before they got on the mountain, they didn’t stretch after they got on the mountain, they didn’t hydrate while they were on the mountain, they didn’t dress in layers.” He says another problem is lack of conditioning among amateur athletes.
Stern says sports injury rates are high, noting that in an emergency room on Sunday night, you’ll see people “who can’t move, can’t bend, can’t sit, can’t stoop, can’t turn, because they are having back and neck pains. It’s really an epidemic.”
How does one develop habits that can prevent future sports injuries? According to Stern, one should be taught, at an early age, the importance of stretching and weight training. “Unless we can get coaches and physical education teachers to start doing that early on, we’re going to have 60-year-olds and 30-year-olds who get injured more often than they probably should.” Healthy habits can be taught in elementary school, but for the rest of us, Stern offers several tips on how to guard against back pain: 1.Stay within your healthy weight range. 2. Exercise and strengthen your abdominals (a key element in strengthening your back). 3. Stretch. 4.Create a practice for yourself. Do it on a regular basis. Says Stern, “If you want to age gracefully, and you want to continue to do athletic activities for as long as you possibly can, if you just maintain those things I’ve suggested, you’ll be able to do it.”
Skin cancer stats are staggering. Article by Scott Keith
You’ve probably grown up with a mole or two. You may have one on your back, tummy or face. The mole on your face may give you a look of character. Often these are called “beauty marks.” But a suspicious-looking mole, or dark spot on your skin, could be cancer. It’s important to analyze any strange looking growth on your body, even if you have to reach for the magnifying glass to get a better look. While some skin cancers are slow growing, the more serious melanoma can metastasize, or spread.
Dr. Edgar F. Fincher and his wife, Dr. Helen Fincher, are dermatologists at Fincher Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery in Beverly Hills, California. The two provide services including Mohs surgery to remove skin cancers and cosmetic and laser surgery. In an e-mail interview with Men and Health: It’s a Guy Thing, Dr. Edgar Fincher says skin cancer is a growing problem in the United States. Statistics are stunning. “There are more than one million cases diagnosed every year. One in five Americans will be diagnosed with one form or another of skin cancer. One in 55 will be diagnosed with melanoma.”
According to Fincher, the most common type of skin cancer is basal cell carcinoma, which often grows slowly and rarely spreads through the body. The second most common type is squamous cell carcinoma. The chance of this cancer spreading is low, especially when diagnosed and treated early. That leaves melanoma, highly treatable when diagnosed and treated early. But if melanoma spreads, there are limited treatment options; melanoma cure rates are low.
Skin cancers can take on a variety of appearances. Says Fincher, “Non-melanoma skin cancers commonly present as enlarging pearly bumps that then bleed or scab as they get bigger. They can also appear as pimples or sores that come and go, always in the same spot, or blemishes that never quite heal; a non-healing sore. Many precancerous lesions (actinic keratoses) and some superficial forms of skin cancer can also appear as red and scaly or crusted spots that persist or recur over time.” The dangerous melanomas come from pre-existing moles or, perhaps, new dark spots or moles. If you’re looking for potentially serious moles, or are worried about melanoma, consider the ABC system. According to Fincher, “A = Asymmetry. Normal moles should be symmetric from side to side, not irregular. B= Border. Normal moles should have sharp, discrete borders or edges. Moles with jagged or irregular edges may be abnormal. C = Color. Normal moles should be uniformly colored, usually one even color. Multi-colored (blue, black, grey, red, brown) may signal an abnormal mole. D=Diameter. As a general rule, moles should be less than the size of a pencil eraser (7-8mm). This alone does not signal a dangerous mole, but is taken into consideration with the other features.”The bottom line is to see your dermatologist if a mole changes color, size, or becomes irritated or bleeds.
When you think about skin cancer, you might imagine all those years you spent soaking up the sunshine. Fincher says, “Sun exposure (ultraviolet light) is the number one cause of skin cancer. About 90 percent of non-melanoma skin cancers are attributed to sun exposure.” While your doctor can check for moles, self-examination is vital. Skin cancers, including melanoma, can show up anywhere on the body, including feet, toes, between toes and fingernail beds.
And if you really must get a good dose of daily sunshine, change your behavior to protect your skin.Wear hats (broad brimmed to protect the neck and ears), wear sunscreen and reapply every two hours. Stay out of the mid-day sun and plan outdoor chores during the morning or evening. Fincher’s advice: “Don’t stop having fun in the sun, but be smart about it.”
Diabetes: Young people need to get in shape. Article by Scott Keith
All of a sudden, you have to be super careful about the amount of sugar you ingest. Your eating habits change overnight. You may have to prick your finger numerous times a week to check your blood glucose level. You’re faced with a chronic disease that will take time and effort to manage. You’ve been told you have diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association, 23.6 million people in the United States (data from the 2007 National Diabetes Fact Sheet) have the disease, or almost 8 percent of the population. When you look at the growing number of diabetes cases, one health risk simply can’t be ignored: Obesity, and with it, the growing chance of cardiovascular trouble.
In an interview with Men and Health: It’s a Guy Thing, Dr. Gerald Bernstein says Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes have one thing in common. “The failure of insulin, one way or the other, results in elevated blood sugar.” Bernstein, Vice President, Medical Affairs, Director, Generex Biotechnology, says while insulin is important for growth and for protein construction, “the main role of insulin is to move glucose into the cells for energy…especially into the muscles.” He says higher blood sugar levels can produce acute problems, such as dehydration and coma. Over a long period of time, especially with Type 2 diabetes, eyes, kidneys and nerves can be affected.
When you look at the upsurge in diabetes cases, obesity figures prominently. “The fact is we have this raging epidemic of obesity,” says Bernstein, adding that “obesity presents a roadblock for the effective use of insulin by the body. That puts an early strain on the insulin-producing cells…so those cells can’t keep up with the food that’s coming in.” On the other hand, people with a normal weight, and who perform regular exercise, says Bernstein, may be able to hold off clinical diabetes until they are well into their 60s. Bernstein, who is also an associate clinical professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York and attending physician at Beth Israel Medical Center, presents some troubling statistics: “The Centers for Disease Control, in 2000, made the statement that one out of every three children born at that time will develop diabetes in their lifetime.”
Bernstein says, at one time, Type 2 diabetes was referred to as “old age diabetes.” Not anymore. In the last 10 to15 years, says Bernstein, more children have developed Type 2 diabetes. A big factor, as more younger people develop high glucose levels, is cardiovascular risk. “Looking at our population today, we’re going to have a lot of 15-year-olds, who 20 years from now, will have a heart attack or stroke unless they’ve done something to reduce that risk.”
Considering that risk, federal intervention is needed to help stem the obesity epidemic, says Bernstein. “I think as a public health problem, this needs federal action to mandate that every child in grade school, under the age of 18 or less than 12th grade, must have one full hour of physical activity at school every day, not twice a week, not three times a week.”
There are positive steps we can all follow. According to Bernstein, if you want to reduce your chance of getting the disease, make sure you’re under medical care so you know what your risk factors are. At your doctor’s office, talk about starting an exercise program. Also, consider a nutritionist who can help you understand changes in your food intake.
Bernstein glances to the future and offers an uncomfortable prediction. “I’ll predict at this point that, barring a major change in the behavior of the population of the United States, that in another 20 years, about 2030, we’re going to see a rash of cardiovascular events in a remarkably young population.”
Energy medicine for baby boomer brains. Article by Scott Keith
We all know about the Monday blahs. You either play, relax, or do chores over the weekend, then Monday comes. Simply put, it’s hard to get back to the office. But if you experience the blahs throughout the week, it may be time to snap out of your funk. A doctor in Beverly Hills, California stresses Energy Medicine, a form of complementary medicine aimed at keeping the body’s energies flowing evenly and steadily without interruption.
The idea, according to Dr. Thom Lobe, founder and Medical Director of Beneveda Medical Center in Southern California, is to help patients overcome illness and enjoy optimal health. Lobe, who believes in both Eastern and Western medicine, says there are ways Energy Medicine techniques can help you at home and at the office.
Lobe, who has over 30 years experience in traditional and alternative medicine and has written over 200 books, says “people have lost their reserve capacity.” In today’s society, says Lobe, we are bombarded with stressful events. “Constant stress depletes us.” Another problem is related to high-tech. We aren’t connecting with each other, thanks to devices such as Blackberries and computers. Says Lobe, “people need other people, interaction feeds us…we can’t live in isolation, although some of us try to.”
Another factor to consider, according to Lobe, is how our right brain and left brain works. We can actually exercise our brain. “Most of us are left brain…we intellectualize, we do our jobs with our left brain. The right brain is the more creative side.” Lobe says, in order to gain more energy, we need to exercise the other side of the brain. He suggests a simple exercise: At your desk, take a piece of paper and draw your computer upside down. This works your right brain and allows the left brain to relax and re-charge. Doing this for five to ten minutes every couple of hours will give you an energy boost and lead to better productivity.
If you still need an energy boost, consider a mini-break. Says Lobe, “We have this tremendous burst of activity of creativity in our brain (work capacity), then we spend it. We have to allow it to recharge. To do that, it requires us to take a break from our task for about 15 to 20 minutes out of every 90 to 120 minutes.” This will help you become more productive and less tired at the end of the day. A mini-break, adds Lobe, could be as simple as getting up from the desk and going for a drink of water or a cup of coffee. Or, perhaps a bathroom break followed by a brief walk outside. Lobe says there’s actually software, called DeskActive, that will help you in this task.
When you’re analyzing your blah feelings, examine your food intake. Lobe says, “We have an epidemic of what we call the metabolic syndrome these days. People aren’t getting enough exercise. They’re overweight…eating all the wrong foods…all your metabolic functions begin to deteriorate and you don’t function well.” Lobe suggests a protein-filled breakfast of eggs, fruits and cereal (such as oatmeal). A mid-day snack could include string cheese or a hard-boiled egg. A light lunch might be a tuna salad, light on mayonnaise. For dinner, ease up on the carbs.
Lobe suggests that you stay away from salt, sugar, white flour, white bread, processed foods and fried foods. To boost your energy, get exercise, fresh air and sunshine. For baby boomers, and men and women of all ages, Lobe says, “The most important asset you have is your health…pay attention to what you eat and how you live, because it’s the only body you have.”
Erectile dysfunction: Men need to get proactive. Article by Scott Keith
If you were to develop a “top five” list of ailments to report to your doctor, chances are erectile dysfunction would not be one of them. Yes, it’s the talk with the doctor that you giggle about when you see those television commercials for ED medications. But a frank talk with your doc about sexual performance issues could reveal problems brewing in your body: Heart disease and diabetes come to mind.
The first goal is to get to the doctor’s office for a check-up. And it’s hard enough to get guys to do this! Once there, discuss any erection problems you may be experiencing. And realize you are not alone. According to urologist Brett Mellinger, who has an extensive background in the evaluation and treatment of male ED, Peyronie’s disease, ejaculatory disorders and low testosterone, it’s estimated that half of men between the ages of 40 and 70 have some degree of erectile dysfunction. “The incidence does increase with age, not necessarily because of the aging process itself, which also contributes to some extent in loss of potency over time, but also because of the diseases men acquire as they age,”says Mellinger.
Mellinger says while ED has a physical cause 80 to 90 percent of the time, “men can become withdrawn, not only with their partners, but with family members…It can be quite devastating to some men.” In a small percentage of patients, according to Mellinger, ED can be related to causes such as anxiety or a change in relationships.
According to Mellinger, men who have had prostate cancer treatment can experience ED, but “for most men it’s a vascular cause…in some men it can be the first predictor of impending cardiovascular disease.” Mellinger says, “If I see a 50-year-old man who has no obvious risk factors…hypertension, elevated cholesterol, smoking, diabetes, anything that causes vascular disease, if they don’t have any of that in their history, I will invariably do a penile blood flow study, where we can demonstrate poor circulation to the penis. I’m sending that patient back to his primary care physician or cardiologist advising further cardiovascular work-up.” Some physicians, adds Mellinger, will send him patients requesting a penile blood flow study “to determine if they’ve got penile arterial disease, which may then prompt that physician to be more aggressive in treating the patient’s elevated cholesterol.”
In some cases, a visit to the urologist for an ED symptom can lead to the discovery of diabetes. Mellinger says a patient may see his doctor for ED, and a urinalysis could reveal elevated glucose. “The urologist can be the first physician that can have an impact on that man’s health, because it’s a male health issue.”
It’s a dialogue men need to have with their doctors. Mellinger says guys should be proactive. A healthy lifestyle is vital. “If you’re smoking, stop smoking, if you’re overweight, reduce your weight. Think about what’s good for your heart. What’s good for your heart is going to be good for your penis, your erections, your prostate, your reproductive system, it’s all connected.”
Adds Mellinger, “I’ll see patients with elevated cholesterol, hypertension and diabetes. I call it the three strikes. Three strikes and your penis is out.”
More on Dr. Mellinger: http://imppllc.com/?inc=doctorsbio&dr=mellinger&p=doctors
A battle plan for workplace stress. Article by Scott Keith
April is National Stress Awareness Month. What better time to remind ourselves that stress can affect your performance at work. Sure, it would be nice if you could break away from your cubicle at a moment’s notice, pump a little iron to relieve anxiety, then return to your office computer feeling as fresh as a coastal breeze. But that’s not feasible for most of us. According to a stress and exercise physiologist, there are stress-busting techniques that are much simpler to apply to your work environment.
Jenny Evans blends her knowledge of psychology, nutrition and mind/body wellness to help the multi-tasking office worker build energy and productivity. In an interview with Men and Health: It’s a Guy Thing, Evans points that out that for our ancestors, stress had a lot more to do with survival. These days, we experience frequent, acute bouts of stress that tend to accumulate throughout the day or week. It has to do with “the speed of life,” says Evans, noting that we’re juggling numerous forms of high-tech communications and doing the jobs of two or three persons. When you add economic worries and parental responsibilities to the mix, stress is on the increase, according to Evans.
Stress can have a negative impact on the body, and it’s not simply a matter of emotions. Evans says stress is a physiological response. “Chemicals and hormones are released that alter your physiology.” According to Evans, exposure to stress stimulates the “fight or flight” response. Adrenalin and cortisol (stress hormones) are released to get your body to release fats, proteins, and sugars so that you’ll have the energy to “fight or flight.” This intense activity, says Evans, burns off those stress hormones and releases endorphins (feel-good hormones) that restore balance to the system. The problem in today’s high-stress environment, says Evans, is “you’re getting that ‘fight or flight’ response, cortisol is being released into the body, but a lot of us are very sedentary, so we don’t burn off that cortisol.” She says cortisol is directly linked to fat that’s deposited around the mid-section. This fat can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, certain forms of cancer, stroke and decreasing immunity.
So how do we pick up the pep at the office? Evans, founder and CEO of PowerHouse Performance Coaching and PowerHouse Hit the Deck, suggests some simple steps to reduce stress, even if it’s hard to sneak away from the watchful eyes of your boss. Evans says it only takes 30 to 60 seconds of high-intensity physical activity, such as sprinting up a flight of stairs, to release endorphins. These short, intense bursts of activity, points out Evans, can physiologically re-set your system and get the body back to a state of balance. The result is you’ll do a better job of responding to your stress.
If you simply can’t remove yourself from the computer or office cubby hole, Evans suggests standing up when you’re on the phone or doing several quick walks around the office. “When you sit for extended periods of time, your energy, focus and productivity actually decrease.”
Another way to boost your energy is to take frequent, light-snack breaks. Says Evans, “We actually add more stress to our bodies with some of our eating habits. When you go too long without eating, and glucose levels drop, that is a physiological stress on the body – often when we go too long without eating, we’re so hungry we pig out.” This gets excess glucose in the system, which is also a stress to the body. A light snack, adds Evans, might be a piece of fruit, half of an energy bar, a small handful of nuts or a container of yogurt.
Evans points out the need to cut down on caffeine, nicotine and alcohol. “Ironically, those three things actually stimulate the stress response in the body. Caffeine releases adrenalin, so when you’re feeling stressed out and start drinking caffeine, it’s actually getting the body to release more adrenalin and your sense of stress and anxiety is actually going to increase.” Evans suggests caffeine-free products or tea.
Getting back to multi-tasking, consider these stats from Evans: “When you’re multi-tasking, research (University of London Institute of Psychiatry) shows us that your IQ drops as much as ten points, the same drop you would get from missing an entire night’s sleep or if you smoked marijuana. Other research shows that when you’re multi-tasking, it takes you 50 percent longer to complete a task and that you’ll make 50 percent more errors.”
A few lifestyle modifications can do wonders for your aching back. Article by Scott Keith
Think about the amount of time you spend each day at work, twirling the mouse and typing away on your computer keyboard. Then you go home, find the easy chair in the front room, and relax until the next day. All of this activity…yes, even lounging around in front of the TV set…can do a number on your back.
Back pain is a growing problem in our society, partly because we’re more sedentary, according to a board-certified physician who has practiced medicine for over 30 years. Dr. Dave David, in an interview with Men and Health: It’s a Guy Thing, says we’re less apt to get injuries or back strain if we’re active, because our muscles and ligaments are more limber.
Statistics are dramatic. David says a study he recently read shows 80 percent of Americans will experience back pain at some point in their lives. According to a survey, adds David, the percentage of people with lower back and neck pain (pain that could cause impairment) more than doubled between 1997 and the middle of this decade. Back pain can strike any age group and it’s the number one complaint David gets from his patients.
A good place to start protecting your back is at the office or home computer. Davis says a lot depends on how you sit in front of the screen. He says slouching (not sitting ergonomically) can affect your back. “The way you sit has a big impact, since your muscles in the back are used for stability.” You need to sit up against the back of the chair. According to David, there are other steps you can take to baby your back: Stand up, now and then, and stretch; move side to side at the hips and occasionally bend over to touch your toes. Even twisting side to side in your chair will help keep your muscles limber.
Back protection doesn’t end at the office. Once you get home, consider the furnishings around you. Have furniture that is comfortable for your back. David says sitting in a reclined position can provide full body and lumbar support, which helps your surrounding muscles to relax. “It’s actually more alleviating to the body, if you will, then lying flat,” says David, adding that sitting with the legs up really takes stress off the lower back.
When it comes to your bedroom, it’s not necessarily true that a hard mattress is always good for your back. “What you really need is something that supports. What you don’t want is something you sink into,” says David.
Consider investing in a deep tub. If you have on-going back pain, due to muscle spasms or muscle contractions, a hot tub, or deep tub, can provide heat; heated jets of water can help loosen muscles. David says you don’t want to use heat for acute back injuries; in these cases, it’s better to use ice, in the first 24 to 48 hours, to reduce inflammation.
Check the height of your tables. They should be normal height. Bar-height tables, says David, don’t allow you to anchor your feet. He says these trendy pieces of furniture can put added strain on your back while you sit.
Carpets can do wonders for your back. David says hard floors can lack shock absorption beneath the feet. And don’t forget to store heavy and common items at arm-level. This reduces lifting or bending.
Davis stresses the importance of stretching, noting that it’s best to stretch after your body has warmed up. Says Davis, “It’s like taking a rubber band out of the freezer. You pull on it and it will snap.” Throughout the day, be careful about abrupt lateral (side-to-side) movements and lift with your legs, not your back. Also, carry a box, or similar object, close to your body. For backpack lovers, try to distribute the weight evenly.
If you want to give your back some tender loving care, David says develop a good balance of exercise and rest. Don’t forget obesity: “Watch your weight. The more weight you put on, you’re going to put more stress on your back.”
Learn more about Dr. David at: www.medfacebody.com
Allergies are just a pain in the @#*^@!!! — Article by Scott Keith
Boy, allergies are awful. Do you ever wish you could hide in the bathroom when you’re on the verge of your umpteenth sneezing fit of the day? You simply can’t stop sneezing! A heck of a predicament when you’re in the middle of a job interview or sitting on an examining table in front of your doctor and nurse. Yet allergies have been with us forever.
A southern California allergist and immunologist, Dr. Joshua Davidson, has made a career of seeing patients who sneeze and rub their eyes. Davidson, who has a private practice in Torrance and is an expert for Justanswer.com, says he wanted to be a physician from a very young age. His residency involved pediatrics, but he soon developed an interest in treating allergies. Having suffered allergies and asthma himself, David felt he had a unique perspective.
If you’ve been following the news, you’ve read that this has been a particularly bad year for allergies. “What makes this season worse than others in the past was the degree of precipitation many parts of the country received in the winter, prior to the spring,” says Davidson, in an interview with Men and Health: It’s a Guy Thing. “The precipitation level almost directly correlates with how severe an allergy season will be, because it’s basically the fuel for the fire.”
The Pacific Northwest is one of the worst, if not the worst, part of the country for allergies, notes Davidson. Other rough spots include the Northeast and the South, because of their high levels of humidity. Allergy sufferers may find relief in dry, arid regions, such as Arizona.
There are a variety of allergies. Indoor allergens are year-round, caused in part by pet dander and dust mites. In the outdoors, grass pollen levels start to peak in May and June. Trees cause allergies a bit earlier, in April and May. After a brief break, weed and mold levels come up in August and September. Davidson says exact times vary across the country.
Do you ever wonder why some people grow out of their allergies as they get older, yet others experience the reverse? There’s no answer, according to Davidson. One factor to consider is exposure. “Sometimes I’ve seen people who have lived their whole lives in one area, and outgrown their allergies….then move to an area with different allergens, and BAM, they have allergies again because their bodies haven’t become tolerant.”
You may have childhood memories of going to the doctor’s office for an allergy shot. According to Davidson, there are several treatment options. First-line treatments include antihistamines. If these don’t work, there are targeted treatments, which include eye drops and nasal sprays; the sprays help relieve congestion and itching. If those treatments fail, allergy shots are available. Shots, says Davidson, can produce a change in the body so symptoms won’t appear for decades. “To me that’s a wonderful option. Of course it’s a difficult option because it requires a commitment of time.”
Allergies can impact work and school productivity. “In terms of quality of life studies, where they’re measuring how certain illnesses will affect one’s daily quality of life, allergies and asthma are usually near the top of the list,” says Davidson. “In the allergy season, you’re seeing kids missing school, and your definitely seeing adults missing work….it’s something that affects you throughout the day; it’s often worse in the morning when people are getting ready to go to work.”
How can you guard against allergies? Davidson suggests that you shut your windows when pollen counts are high. Also, dry your clothes indoors; clothes can collect pollen if dried outdoors. Take a shower at night because pollen accumulates on your hair, skin and clothing. Learn about pollen levels and find out what time of year you may be at risk for getting allergies.
In case you’re wondering if there’s a connection between allergies and asthma, Davidson says, “The numbers show that about 80 percent or so of asthma is tied to allergies….for the vast majority of people, the two often go hand in hand…when allergies get worse, asthma follows suit.”
Help is available for the sufferer who can’t survive the day without going through a bucket of tissue. Get tested for allergies, says Davidson. Your primary care physician can get the ball rolling. “They can get blood work and make a referral, if necessary.”
Dr. Davidson’s practice is at www.davidsonallergy.com
Doctors still rely on the PSA blood test. Article by Scott Keith
Did you know that Prostate Specific Antigen, better known as PSA, is an enzyme produced by the prostate? If you’re a women not familiar with prostate issues, you may be thinking, “so what.” But if you’re a man approaching middle age, you need to get familiar with PSA. Get to know it like the back of your hand. Your PSA level can help determine your chance of developing prostate cancer.
Over the last year or so, you’ve probably read a series of articles about mammograms, pap smears and PSA tests. At what age do you need to be tested? You may be totally confused, based on conflicting opinions from experts. In the absence of any stunning breakthrough in prostate cancer research, the PSA blood test and digital rectal exam remain the best screening methods to catch an early-stage tumor, which is confined to the prostate.
While a prostate biopsy is the only certain way to diagnose prostate cancer, urologists still depend on the two screening tests. Dr. Barry Buffman, a board certified urologist with Boston Medical Group Los Angeles, says the PSA test has been used for many years. Before PSA, a lot of men would present with advanced disease. “If anything, PSA allowed us, as it evolved, to pick up earlier disease, that was more treatable,”says Buffman, Even so, PSA is not always specific to prostate cancer. A bump in the PSA, adds Buffman, can also come from prostate enlargement and prostate inflammation.
Patients may wonder what is a “normal” PSA reading. “It’s not cut and dry,” according to Buffman, in an interview with Men and Health: It’s a Guy Thing. Traditionally, that number has been 4 or lower. But some urologists prefer a reading closer to 3. “Everybody looks at these numbers a little differently, due to their own professional experiences and their own biases.” Buffman says what’s important is PSA velocity, or the change in the amount of PSA over a period of time.
What happens when a man approaches middle age? Buffman says if you’re between 40 and 45, and have no family history of prostate cancer, you may only need a digital rectal exam. For men 45 and over, a PSA test would be practical to establish a baseline count. For African-Americans, and those with a family history of the disease, the first PSA test, says Buffman, should be done at a younger age, closer to 40. And any change in urinary symptoms (including stream, difficulty, bleeding and pain) should prompt a visit to the doctor. While more men are becoming aware of the prostate, a walnut-sized gland between the bladder and rectum, Buffman says, “usually it takes a prompting from the doctor to ask a battery of questions…most men, unless they’re really having a lot of symptoms, don’t bring up the subject.”
Buffman is encouraged that more people are aware of screening. ” I think the public is much more educated today than they’ve previously been, and so they’re much more aware of screening tests and the ability to be proactive and to prevent later, or aggressive disease.”
Visit Dr. Buffman at http://losangeles.bostonmedicalgroup.com
Varicose and spider veins: Not just a cosmetic issue. Article by Scott Keith
When your body is functioning normally, it’s hard to pay much attention to your circulatory system. After all, it’s hard to see your blood pumping. But occasionally, your veins will act up and it will be time for medical treatment. Be on the lookout for varicose and spider veins. Usually found on the legs, varicose veins are stretched or swollen veins that appear near the surface of the skin; they resemble unsightly ropes. Spider veins are dilated capillary veins found just below the skin surface on the legs or face. Blue, red, or purple-colored veins look like a spider web.
A doctor who has experience treating both conditions says family history plays a large role and that women are more likely to be affected because of female hormones and pregnancies. In an interview with Men and Health: It’s a Guy Thing, Luis Navarro, MD, founder and director of the Vein Treatment Center in New York City, says varicose and spider veins can also strike young people in their 20s.
Navarro says symptoms of varicose veins are cosmetic at the onset because people don’t like how the veins look. “Then they have heaviness, achiness of the legs…then it progresses to swelling at the ankles. Swelling comes and goes, then it becomes chronic.” Complications can include a darkening ankle color, infections, bleeding and ulcers. Usually, these conditions are not life threatening. Says Navarro, “The disease takes a long time to evolve. You can have veins for 15 to 20 years with not many problems, except cosmetic ones.”
Lifestyle, such as obesity and lack of exercise, can have an impact on the formation of these veins. Navarro cautions against standing too much. “Anything that strengthens the muscles of the leg will delay the appearance of these veins.” He says there’s a higher incidence among those who have to stand all day at work, such as nurses, flight attendants and waitresses. Navarro says exercise and dietary fiber will not only help your veins, but help your heart. Other lifestyle variables include birth control pills, constipation and aging.
The sooner varicose and spider veins are treated, the better, says Navarro, noting that all spider veins and small and medium-sized varicose veins can be treated with sclerotherapy, where a chemical compound is injected into the veins. Sclerotherapy collapses the veins. Other treatments, performed at Navarro’s clinic, include laser therapy and Endolaser.
According to Navarro, there are myths and misconceptions in his field of expertise. It’s not true that crossing your legs will result in varicose and spider veins. Also, Navarro says it hasn’t been proven that high heels have an impact.
Oddly enough, Navarro says men respond to these vein conditions differently. Men usually see the doctor when varicose veins become severe. This is because, according to Navarro, men wear pants and their legs can be covered with hair. Men and women need to find a doctor that specializes exclusively, or almost exclusively, in treating varicose and spider veins, according to Navarro. “Technique makes a very big difference in treatment.”
Learn more about varicose and spider veins at www.veintreatmentcenter.com
The aches, pains and swelling of arthritis. — Article by Scott Keith
Arthritis is probably one of the first medical conditions you became familiar with as you were growing up. Not because you had it. More likely, you remember your grandparents suffering from stiff and painful joints. You may have formed the opinion that arthritis only strikes the elderly.
Not necessarily so, according to Dr. Kenneth Hudspeth, a board certified family practice physician at the Executive Wellness Center of the Heart Hospital of Austin, Texas. “The more physically active you’ve been, and the more you’ve abused your joints, the earlier you get the disease,” says Hudspeth, recalling that his uncle, who played college football, began having arthritis in his 30s.
While you can get arthritis in your third decade, it’s still more likely to show up in senior citizens. According to Hudspeth, “If you take a group of 75-year-olds, 80 percent of them will have significant arthritis symptoms.”
Hudspeth, in an interview with Men and Health: It’s a Guy Thing, says there are a couple of forms of arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is a connective tissue disease; it’s an inflammatory reaction in the joint that can gradually invade the tendons. “Osteoarthritis, on the other hand, is a gradual deterioration of the actual articular, or joint surface. The joint fluid is there, but the joint space begins to shrink because there’s less cartilage to pad the joints. That’s what causes the pain and stiffness.”
Arthritis can affect different parts of the body. Hudspeth says osteoarthritis can strike major joints, such as the knees and hips. The rheumatoid form can be noticed in the hands, shoulders, feet and ankles. Symptoms can vary. “It usually starts with some morning stiffness, particularly with osteoarthritis…the pain tends to be more of a manifestation as we get further into the disease…you have stiffness, loss of dexterity, loss of flexibility…those first few steps out of bed in the morning can be really uncomfortable,” notes Hudspeth. Joint swelling is possible with any form of arthritis.
Hudspeth says there’s a genetic tendency to get the disease, but it’s “sort of random.” According to Hudspeth, “In my own case, I have ten aunts and uncles. I can think of three of them who have osteoarthritis pretty severely. One of those had his hip replaced.”
How does one treat arthritis? Hudspeth says anti-inflammatory medications are excellent for relieving inflammation, but you need to be aware of possible kidney and liver problems if you take too much of these medications. A second-line treatment can include creams; injections can provide temporary relief. Hudspeth says steroid injections (used for acute inflammation and pain) can be problematic. “The problem with steroid injections in an arthritic joint is that it gives immediate relief, but down the road it’s going to cause some increased erosion of the joint surface. It’s just one of those little Catch 22’s that we run into,” says Hudspeth. If mobility becomes an issue, an artificial knee or hip can be surgically implanted.
When it comes to activities, the idea is not to injure the joint further. Looking at senior groups engaged in low-impact exercises, “we want them to stretch, we want them to get full range of motion of the joint, we want them to get some muscle stimulation, so they keep muscle fiber healthy. But we don’t want them doing things like jogging distances or high-impact aerobics, because that tends to injure the joint further and worsen their symptoms,” according to Hudspeth.
Don’t get discouraged if you discover you have arthritis. Says Hudspeth, “Stay active. Don’t let it beat you. Take every chance that you can to do some sort of (low impact) activity. Don’t overdo it, but you need to be doing something every day…it’s still that old thing about mind over matter.”
Gout: One of the oldest recorded medical conditions. Article by Scott Keith
Printer, scientist and founding father of our country, Benjamin Franklin, had this condition. It’s believed the cantankerous one himself, Henry the VIII of England, suffered from it. Gout is not just associated with public figures who lived rich lives centuries ago. Gout is, unfortunately, alive and well today and affects about five million people in the United States.
Dr. N. Lawrence Edwards, chairman of the Gout and Uric Acid Education Society, specialist in rheumatology and professor of medicine at the University of Florida, Gainesville, says, “Hippocrates used to write a lot about gout…he already had figured out a lot of the clinical correlations and aspects of gout…it is probably one of the most frequently, or most commonly written about medical conditions in the ancient literature.”
Edwards, in an interview with Men and Health: It’s a Guy Thing, says gout is a form of inflammatory arthritis. While arthritis causes pain in the joints, “this is unique…without question the most painful form of arthritis. It’s a disease that comes on suddenly, which distinguishes it from most of the other types of arthritis.” The joint becomes swollen, red and tender. Early on, the disease strikes lower extremity joints, such as toes. But ankles and knees can be affected by the pain. “People just won’t get up and walk around. Hippocrates called it the ‘unwalkable disease,’” says Edwards. Intense pain can last several days. Symptoms can go away, but early in the disease course, gout can return, perhaps several months later and in a different joint. With advanced gout, “that pain gets worse and worse, and more debilitating, and with this advanced stage of gout, lot’s of joints can be involved,” says Edwards, adding that in the worst cases, gout can become so painful that people can become sedentary and die of pneumonia.
According to Gouteducation.org, “Gout is caused by an accumulation of sodium urate crystals in the joints. The crystals form when the amount of uric acid in the body reaches an abnormally high level.” Genetics can play a role, as can obesity, heart disease, diabetes and kidney disease. Gout can occur in all age groups, but, according to Edwards, it’s very rare in people under the age of 35. “The youngest patient I’ve ever seen with gout was 2 years old. They’re born with a condition that causes them to accumulate uric acid rapidly.” Edwards says the target group is men between the ages of 35 and 55. With gout, “it’s usually an overweight person, maybe somebody that imbibes a little too much, but that’s not necessarily the case.” Because of estrogen’s effect on the kidney to excrete uric acid, women are usually protected through most of their middle ages; women are more likely to suffer from gout after menopause. Says Edwards, “The incidence of gout in later years is pretty equal in males and females.”
The Gout and Uric Acid Education Society is spreading the word about gout, one of the oldest recorded illnesses…going back to 5 B.C. “If you ask primary care physicians, most of them would have some awareness of gout. It’s one of the more poorly treated forms of arthritis…there hasn’t been much of an educational approach in 50 years.” Through the society, Edwards gets the chance to talk with primary care physicians.
As with conditions such as cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes, patients need to be informed, so they can communicate with their doctors. Edwards says, “that kind of pressure back on physicians is very good, and with a disease like gout, it’s necessary.”
Learn more about gout and treatment options by visiting www.gouteducation.org
The Medicine Hunter says you can battle inflammation the natural way. Article by Scott Keith
When we think about health symptoms that can signal a serious problem, inflammation may not come to mind. Yet inflammation, whether brief or chronic, needs attention.
A man who has looked for plant medicines in over 20 countries says natural remedies can help battle inflammation. Chris Kilham, better known as the Medicine Hunter, has been fascinated by herbs since his teen years. “It just seemed to me, based on a few herbal books that I found when I was around 17 or 18, that there was really something worth knowing about medicinal plants,” says Kilham, whose travel destinations have included the Himalayas, the Peruvian Andes, Thailand, Malaysia and Morocco.
After investigating plants in their host countries, Kilham, who is the author of 14 books and has appeared on over 1,500 radio programs and more than 500 TV shows worldwide, says he’s “convinced, more than I ever have been, that plant medicine is the clear path out of our current health crisis.” Kilham says these medicines need to be more broadly available so people can improve their health and “get off toxic, dangerous…bad drugs.”
Traditional herbs may provide a solution to chronic pain and inflammation. Kilham, in an interview with Men and Health: It’s a Guy Thing, says “we know that inflammation is one of the foundation occurrences in all chronic and degenerative health disorders.” Kilham describes turmeric root, a common spice that’s widely used throughout Asia, as “rather extraordinary.”
According to Kilham, this particular root contains a group of compounds known as curcumin. “Curcumin is one of the best-studied medicinal agents from plants in the whole world. We know this is a superbly powerful anti-inflammatory agent,” says Kilham.
Kilham contrasts this natural ingredient with common pharmacy products such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, aspirin and cortisone. He says while these drug store options help relieve pain, kidney and liver damage can result; aspirin can be bad on the digestive tract. “We know that ginger is a spectacular anti-inflammatory. Rosemary has anti-inflammatory properties. But nothing is quite like turmeric root. It really is the biggest of them all,” says Kilham.
If you’re interested in choosing products from nature, Kilham suggests going to a good quality natural food store. “You’ll find there are many different herbal products out there designed to deal with inflammation. There are some based on hops, the same flower that’s used in making beer.” Kilham recommends Curamin, a concentrated curcumin product, which he says “is very effective for relieving pain within about a half hour.”
Doctors may not be as well-versed on natural products as you might think. Kilham says, “Most medical doctors in practice today don’t know that much about herbs, but they’re starting to be aware that herbs are real legitimate medicines, because articles on herbs show up constantly in the medical journals.”
When it comes to natural products, Kilham has advice, particularly for baby boomers: “You can either age well (maintain health span) or not.” Kilham says we need to eat good foods, exercise, and take the time to do the things that matter in life. He describes the importance of eating natural products, such as ginger, garlic, onions, turmeric and antioxidant-rich berries. “That sends us down the path to increasing health span.”
Visit The Medicine Hunter, Chris Kilham, at www.medicinehunter.com
Nighttime urination: A frequent boomer complaint. Article by Scott Keith
It can really be frustrating. You’re snoozing away in the middle of the night, trying to get your eight hours of quality sleep. In the middle of a good dream, you wake up and your bladder is telling you it’s time to visit the bathroom. You take care of business, get back to sleep, and hope you can avoid another visit to the porcelain throne before your alarm clock goes off.
Nighttime urination is the problem. There’s even a fancy medical name for it: Nocturia.
Dr. Jeffrey P. Weiss, Professor, ACGME Program Director and Chair in the Department of Urology at SUNY Downstate Medical School, says nocturia is “a rising at night (or other times of the day when you get your normal sleep) because of the desire to pass urine.” It’s tricky determining why one urinates during the wee hours. “Many people wake up for reasons other than the desire to pass urine, and then urinate because they figure it will allow them to sleep a little bit longer. Technically, that’s not nocturia,” says Weiss, adding that the other form of urination is a “convenience void.”
Getting up to urinate can have several causes, from drinking too much liquid during the evening to prostate issues (in men). “Particularly in the older population, the majority of the people who get up at night do so because they make much more urine than their bladder can hold, rather than it being a prostate problem,” says Weiss, in an interview with Men and Health: It’s a Guy Thing. Enlargement of the prostate can be a cause. “It used to be thought, exclusively, that nocturia was due to the prostate. That’s because we really didn’t understand the condition nearly as well as we do now. But many unnecessary prostate operations were done because people got up too much at night.”
Regarding the prostate, Weiss says nocturia is not a likely symptom of prostate cancer. “Prostate cancer today is diagnosed at an early stage. Only if someone has a high-grade blockage of the bladder (by the prostate) would you expect they might present with nocturia. That would be a pretty advanced presentation of prostate cancer, particularly today.”
Studies suggest nocturia is a frequent complaint of older baby boomers. Weiss says, “Population-based studies demonstrate that the vast majority of people urinate at least once at night, when they’re older. A very significant number, when they’re elderly, are getting up twice or more at night.” One common issue is swelling in the lower extremities, due to poor circulation. Says Weiss, “the fluid that’s locked in their legs returns to the central circulation when they lie down and go to sleep. That fluid has to return to the circulation. The body recognizes when there’s too much fluid on board and it kicks it out into the kidneys.”
Nocturia is not just a men’s condition. “Women do have nocturia. In fact, younger women have more nocturia than men. As men and women age, the incidents equal out in mid-life (fifth or sixth decade). And then in the more elderly, men take over and have a higher incidence of nocturia.”
If you develop symptoms of nocturia, see your doctor. Your primary care physician is a good starting point. Weiss says, “a primary care physician that’s interested and knows something about it most definitely can evaluate and treat nocturia.” He says most nocturia is probably not urologic in nature, although urologists tend to be experts on the subject. Weiss suggests a physical exam and a check of the urine to see if there’s infection or blood in the urine. A good next step is to complete a diary, logging a 24-hour collection of urine. Time and amount of urination can be recorded on a chart. Based on the diary, a doctor can determine how much the bladder can hold, and whether too much urine is being produced around the clock. The chart can help doctors determine the cause of too much urine, one cause being diabetes.
Weiss says there are several ways you can treat nocturia. “Usually, nocturia is multi-factorial in its cause. It’s unusual that one treatment is going to resolve nocturia. It’s usually a couple of things.” He says, for instance, he may treat swelling of the legs with compressive stockings or a diuretic (water pills).
Asked if he has a special message for baby boomers, Weiss says, “If they’re bothered by any amount of nocturia, they should know there is help. There’s an approach to it, even if it’s benign…there is effective and safe treatment.”
Are you constantly pitted out? — article by Scott Keith
This article is going to deal with an indelicate subject. Hyperhidrosis strikes about 3 percent of the population. Millions of people throughout the world suffer from this embarrassing condition. Let’s drop the fancy medical term, for a moment, and call it what it really is: Excessive sweating. It’s when the body produces more sweat than needed to cool itself.
And don’t think it’s just a baby boomer guy thing. Men and women are affected, according to Dr. Suzanne J. Friedler, a dermatologist in private practice in New York City. Friedler says, “Hyperhidrosis frequently becomes pronounced at puberty when the sweat glands become more active and peaks in the third and fourth decades. However, severe sweating can be seen in childhood, infancy and old age.”
In an e-mail interview with Men and Health: It’s a Guy Thing, Friedler says she sees several patients who suffer from excessive sweating. While it’s more noticeable in summer, most patients experience hyperhidrosis throughout the year.
Don’t think all sweat is bad. You might consider sweating a bodily “thermostat,” designed to cool the body when it overheats – a perfectly normal function. The problem in hyperhidrosis patients, says Friedler, is that “the sweat glands produce excessive amounts of sweat even when the body is at a normal temperature.”
Hyperhidrosis can affect your emotional well being. “Sufferers of severe sweating spend considerable time thinking about and dealing with sweat – changing clothes, ‘freshening up,’ wiping, placing napkins or pads under their arms, bathing and hiding under dark-colored, bulky clothes,” says Friedler, who is a board certified fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology with expertise in several areas of medical and cosmetic dermatology. Hyperhidrosis can have a huge impact on social interactions. According to Friedler, “Patients commonly report that it ruins their clothing, causes anxiety, and impairs their work and social activities…some people avoid social situations where their sweating could be noticed. Businessmen frequently report avoiding shaking hands, having difficulty with their grip, trouble handling paperwork and constantly carrying a towel to wipe away their excessive sweat.”
Not only can excessive sweating make your daily routine miserable, but complications can prompt you to visit the doctor. Hyperhidrosis, adds Friedler, can cause painful or irritating skin problems, such as bacterial or fungal overgrowth, infections and disintegration of the skin.
Friedler says there are several ways to combat this debilitating condition. “Treatments include prescription-strength anti-perspirants, iontophoresis, which uses an electrical current to disrupt sweat activity, Botox injections, and in the most challenging cases, oral anticholinergic medications; even surgery to cut the sympathetic nerves.”
Botox, says Friedler, is FDA approved for the treatment of severe underarm sweating, which is known as severe primary axillary hyperhidrosis. Friedler says, “most of my patients report that the treatment is pain free and that they are very satisfied with the results.” One clinical study, according to Friedler, involved 322 patients with severe underarm sweating. “81 percent of the patients receiving Botox injections achieved a greater than 50 percent reduction in sweating, and 50 percent of the patients had their excessive sweating relieved for at least 201 days.”
If you suffer from hyperhidrosis, check with your dermatologist. Friedler says dermatologists are specially trained to diagnose and treat excessive sweating. Others who may treat the condition include primary care physicians, family practitioners, internists, neurologists and surgeons.
Don’t be afraid to bring up your issue with a medical specialist. Friedler says experts in hyperhidrosis evaluation and treatment can be found through the International Society of Hyperhidrosis’s physician finder at www.sweathelp.org.
Learn more at: www.botoxseveresweating.com
Brats, burgers and drinks: Watch for heartburn — article by Scott Keith
There’s still plenty of summertime left. In many parts of the country, September is simply gorgeous – still warm, but a better chance for cool breezes. A perfect time of year for outdoor barbecues. Neighbors are sure to be attracted to the smell of hot dogs, steaks and hamburgers grilling in your backyard.
As you enjoy your late summer barbecue, remember to baby your stomach. A frequent complaint is heartburn, a painful condition caused by acid that moves from the stomach to the esophagus. Stress, smoking, aging, and obesity are among factors that can contribute to “acid reflux.” If you suffer from heartburn two or more days per week, you have “frequent heartburn.”
In an e-mail interview with Men and Health, It’s a Guy Thing, Dr. Michael G. Rahmin, board certified internist and gastroenterologist at The Valley Hospital in Ridgewood, New Jersey, says, “Heartburn is often described as a painful, burning sensation in the lower chest, behind the breastbone, that often happens after eating. The feeling can last from a few minutes to several hours.”
Rahmin says you should examine the types of food that you eat. Acidic fruits, fried and oily foods, onions, peppers, highly-spiced foods, fatty meats, chocolate, coffee and mints can contribute to heartburn. There’s also a chance you’ll get heartburn if you eat within three hours of going to sleep.
Heartburn should not be ignored. Don’t think you can spend a lifetime popping antacids without having any thought of your digestive system. Rahmin, who also has a private practice in the New Jersey area, says, “In some cases, the acid reflux that causes heartburn can lead to changes in the lining of the esophagus, which is a serious condition and requires the care of a physician.”
Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs), H2 blockers and antacids are among the possible medications to discuss with your doctor. They each work in a different way, says Rahmin. “PPIs are specifically indicated for treating frequent heartburn. The most recent PPI to receive FDA approval for over-the-counter use is Zegerid OTC, which offers 24-hour relief for frequent heartburn with one dose a day as part of a 14-day course of treatment.” Rahmin cautions that, “as with any over-the-counter heartburn medicine, you should thoroughly read the label before deciding whether the product is right for you, and stop use and ask a doctor if you need to take one of these products for more than 14 days.”
Rahmin has advice for baby boomers, in particular. “While young at heart, boomers need to recognize that their digestive tracts aren’t as forgiving as they once were. More than any generation, boomers want to enjoy life and, for most, there is no reason to write off any food category, particularly in moderation. But even with a watchful diet, some may need medication to help keep stomach acid under control.”
Some great food for thought as you plan your late summer picnics and barbecues.
A new study examines the effectiveness of a saw palmetto extract — article by Scott Keith
We hear a lot about prostate cancer. It’s a big baby boomer issue. But as a man ages, his walnut-sized prostate can cause other problems.
The prostate, a pesky problem-prone gland found below the bladder, surrounding the upper part of the urethra, can grow, causing urinary symptoms such as hesitancy, weak stream, nocturia and incontinence. BPH, or an enlarged prostate, affects more than 50 percent of men over the age of 70. Treatment options vary, but a recent study shows that a saw palmetto extract is as effective as finasteride in blocking the critical enzyme that leads to BPH. Finasteride is a commonly prescribed medicine for benign prostatic hyperplasia.
The study, published in the July issue of Advances in Therapy, is sponsored by Euromed, makers of the extract, SPET-085. Euromed is a large European-based manufacturer of standardized botanical (herbal) extracts. Joe Veilleux, General Manager of Euromed USA, says saw palmetto is classified as a nutritional supplement in the United States.
In an interview with Men and Health: It’s a Guy Thing, Veilleux says saw palmetto is a plant. “Nearly all the world’s known supplies of it are in Florida. It’s what they call a dwarf palm tree. It’s a palm with saw-like edges on the leaves…Native Americans have used saw palmetto for years for various ailments.”
The extract has caught the eye of the National Institutes of Health. Veilleux says, “They picked this particular extract (SPET-085), the one we used in this study, and they’re currently doing a five million dollar clinical trial in human patients, at various doses of our extract, to confirm its safety and efficacy in humans. This is one of the first steps towards registering this extract as a drug, even though it can be sold today as a supplement.”
Veilleux says clinical studies don’t all agree on how effective saw palmetto is in treating prostate problems. According to Veilleux, “Part of our wanting to do this particular study was to confirm the bioactivity of our extract…the exciting thing about this particular bioactivity test was the levels we saw were similar to a common prescription drug called finasteride in it’s ability to block the enzyme that leads to BPH.”
According to Veilleux, there are urologists that prescribe saw palmetto because they know the literature and have had experience with the product. On the other hand, says Veilleux, many urologists could be reluctant to recommend saw palmetto until they’ve gone over studies and data.
“Here in the United States, because it’s not regulated like a drug, you and I could start a business tomorrow and sell saw palmetto extract and the consumer would have no way of knowing if it’s active or not,” says Veilleux. “Because of the way the product is regulated here in the states, it opens the door for a lot of varieties of quality and activity. Rather than get involved in what may be active and what might not be active, we just felt it’s up to us to prove what our product does.”
Saw palmetto can’t cure BPH, but it can help with symptoms. Veilleux says if you’re noticing some BPH symptoms, a several-week trial of saw palmetto might be a good idea, but be sure to bring up the subject with your doctor.
Addressing baby boomer men, Veilleux says don’t be afraid to go see the doctor about possible BPH symptoms, especially as you near the age of 50. “There’s so much help out there.”
Visit Euromed at www.euromedusa.com
Sleep deprivation: Be sure to get your Z’s — article by Scott Keith
Imagine getting eight hours of quality sleep each night. You fall asleep, enjoy a few pleasant (you hope) dreams and wake up refreshed and eager to start the day. It’s a nice thought, and some may actually get this much-needed nightly rest. But in this frantic world, it’s getting increasingly tough to snooze your way to better health.
One doctor specializing in the mechanics of sleep is Michael Nolledo, Director of the Institute for Sleep Medicine at Deborah Heart and Lung Center in Browns Mills, New Jersey. In an interview with Men and Health: It’s a Guy Thing, Dr. Nolledo says many people don’t realize how much sleep they require. He says 90 to 95 percent of people are going to require somewhere between seven and nine hours of sleep every night. “What a lot of people say is, ‘yeah, I require maybe four or five hours…I seem to be doing pretty well,’ but what many of those folks don’t realize is that they’re probably not functioning at peak efficiency…they’re not giving themselves the best shot at performing the best that they could be during the day.”
Sleep deprivation is found in all age groups, according to Nolledo, a sleep medicine specialist. On the one hand, children, ages one to two, require an average of about 14 to 16 hours of sleep daily. Nolledo says this amount of sleep helps secrete substances, such as growth hormone, and helps toddlers incorporate their learning experiences. “For the elderly, the reason to get enough sleep is because your coping mechanisms are not going to be as sufficient. The effects of sleep deprivation are going to be more pronounced as one gets older, because we don’t have either the physical or mental ability that younger folks have in order to compensate and make up for sleep deprivation effects,” says Nolledo.
In this wild, multi-tasking world, we tend to give sleep low priority. “We have 24 hours in a day,” says Nolledo. “All of us have a lot of things we would like to do…we end up prioritizing things because there’s simply not enough time in the day to do everything we would like to accomplish…most people would probably put ten or fifteen things on top of the (priority) list before sleep.”
The benefits of a sound sleep are many. Nolledo says sleep is meant to mentally and physically restore us, adding that memory and learning improves with a good sleep. Without a good sleep, “Your ability to multi-task during the day is not going to be as good. You’ll end up, overall, being less efficient.” Regarding long-term health effects, Nolledo says a lot of the data focuses on conditions such as sleep apnea rather than sleep deprivation. Sleep apnea has been linked to high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, heart attacks and strokes.
If you think you’re suffering from sleeping disorders, you might want to see a specialist. Sleep medicine is a board-certified specialty. “There are a number of physicians who are specially trained to handle this sort of thing,” says Nolledo, noting that we spend one-third of our lives asleep.
Considering the amount of distractions we face in a world dominated by high-tech contraptions such as cell phones, computers and Blackberries, one should not forget the importance of sleep. “One should have a healthy respect for sleep,” says Nolledo. “It’s important to get the right amount of sleep. I think that (sleep) should not be something that should be sacrificed.”
Visit Dr. Nolledo at www.deborah.org
Baby boomer men need to focus on exercise and nutrition — article by Scott Keith
A baby boomer guy who is interested in getting healthy needs to consider the importance of both exercise and nutrition. Nutrients are important, according to a nationally recognized expert in nutrition, weight control and wellness, Dr. Madelyn Fernstrom. Men may not be focusing on these two components of good health. It’s just one more example that men need to get more in tune with their bodies. For many baby boomer men, that’s not easy.
Fernstrom, in an interview with Men and Health: It’s a Guy Thing, says men, often, don’t have this “wake-up call” to improve their lifestyle until they’ve experienced a health issue, such as high blood pressure, knee pain or chest pain. Fernstrom says a big “wake-up” call is when men reach age 50. According to Fernstrom, this is when men need to explore their family history, to see if there is a tendency in the family for heart and cholesterol issues, diabetes and cancer.
Fernstrom, who is the Diet and Nutrition Editor for NBC’s TODAY show, suggests baby steps to improve your health. “It’s time to stick your toe in the water and say, ‘Alright, let me make some small changes,’” says Fernstrom. Men need to find out what they’re willing and able to do. A good first step is to visit your primary care physician and get a full physical. Fernstrom stresses the silent nature of some conditions, such as high blood pressure. You should also make a list of health concerns or symptoms. Fernstrom suggests men make behavioral changes to stay on track. A good place to start is to find out what to eat and how to increase your activity.
Easy ways to add activity to your routine include walking up stairs, walking up escalators and parking your car further from the mall. You can add exercises, depending on your preference. Fernstrom says the buddy system is a great way to get active; it’s a chance to join other people. If, on the other hand, “you’re a loner, and you like to walk and just be by yourself, or take a run, that’s good, too.”
Exercise is not the only route to a healthier body. Consider what you’re eating. When it comes to food intake, you need, once again, to examine your medical history and pay attention to your doctor’s advice. “If you have a tendency towards high blood pressure, you’re going to have to watch your salt a lot more…if you have lipid problems, you’re going to have to watch your cholesterol and animal fat intake.”
For men and women, Fernstrom suggests an increase in fruit and vegetable consumption. “You don’t have to eat everything, just pick a few things you like that involve a lot of color…fruits and vegetables are nature’s perfect foods, they’re high in water and high in fiber,” adds Fernstrom.
Aside from fruits and veggies, you’ll want to focus on skinless chicken, fish and lean cuts of meat, like flank steak or ultra-lean beef. In general, you need to look for lean protein sources. Whole grains are important. “That’s hard to get used to. Many men think whole wheat is really chewy…it doesn’t taste good,” says Fernstrom. She says you can ease into a whole grain routine by eating brown rice, or using a combination of white and whole wheat pasta. What’s so great about fiber? Fernstrom says fiber helps digestive health.
When it comes to fats, there are heart-healthy alternatives. Fernstrom says, “these are mostly going to be any vegetable source – olive oil, walnut oil, corn oil, soybean oil.” Stay away from hard, solid fats, such as butter, lard and solid-stick margarines. Men will often confuse heart-healthy with low-calorie, says Fernstrom. Men may decide to fry chicken in olive oil instead of lard. While that’s OK, there are still the same calories.
Fernstrom notes that men start to develop “weight creep” in their 30s, due to less activity. Men, according to Fernstrom, may consider adding olive oil and nuts to a salad, but they don’t pay attention to portions. She calls this, “Portion Distortion.” When it comes to weight loss, Fernstrom says it’s calories in and calories out, adding that it’s a good one-two punch to be physically active. As you age, you lose muscle mass.
Fernstrom says you might want to consider vitamins. “Even with a healthy diet, it’s really hard to get all of your requirements, especially for things like Vitamin D. She calls vitamins “good insurance.” It’s always a good idea to talk with your doctor about which vitamins you should be taking.
If you’re inactive and spending far too many hours in front of the computer screen, Fernstrom suggest you take small steps to become active, such as walking 30 minutes a day. It’s also a good idea to manage your stress better and see your doctor for a check up. Fernstrom calls this a “sound, but dull message.”
Visit Madelyn Fernstrom at www.drmadelynfernstrom.com
Baby boomers benefit from good dental health — article by Scott Keith
Many of us have been given the lecture from our dentist or dental hygienist: Floss and floss often. Frankly, it’s easy to let up on this practice. The result: Bleeding gums, gingivitis and periodontal disease. Not only can these conditions lead to tooth loss, but your overall health could suffer.
Gingivitis, according to Dr. Ramin Tabib, is one of the most common infections of the mouth. A sticky film forms on the teeth; sugary and starchy foods can react with bacteria in your mouth. Plaque forms. If the plaque is not removed within a few days, it can harden and form tartar. “It’s like barnacles underneath a ship,” says Tabib, who is a faculty member of NYU College of Dentistry. If left for a long time, tissue lining can break down, leading to a pocket formation.
A symptom of gingivitis is bleeding gums. As you’re brushing your teeth, you may notice a reddish color on your toothbrush or in the sink (after rinsing). If this problem persists, see your dentist. While some people may dismiss bleeding gums, Tabib says gingivitis is a serious problem. In an interview with Men and Health, It’s a Guy Thing, Tabib says, “It’s a low-grade inflammation. A low-grade inflammation is something the body is constantly fighting. It can systemically cause problems. It should be taken very seriously.” Adds Tabib, there’s a link between gum disease and heart disease. Tabib’s wife, Dr. Elisa Mello, says bacteria in your mouth, if it gets into your blood, can travel throughout your system. The two say families should not share toothbrushes.
Gingivitis can lead to periodontal disease. Tabib says, “Periodontal disease is an infection that’s starting to affect the attachment level for the tooth. Gingivitis is affecting the marginal gum line around the tooth. It doesn’t affect the support of the tooth.” The tooth loosens once the support starts to break down. That’s when a patient has to consider options such as implants.
Mello, who is a Clinical Assistant Professor at NYU College of Dentistry, says gingivitis can happen at any age, but a child, with more spaces between teeth, is less likely to get the condition. Even so, it’s always important to teach your youngsters good oral hygiene.
Other conditions can lead to gingivitis, such as leukemia. Tabib says hormonal changes, during pregnancy, will cause a proliferation of certain bacteria. It’s recommended that pregnant women get more teeth cleaning. Poor nutrition and smoking can lead to a higher risk of periodontal disease.
You need to stay aware of gingivitis and periodontal disease. Tabib says you need to brush and floss properly mornings and evenings, but especially evenings. At night, your saliva shuts down. Saliva has protective factors, according to Tabib, that help prevent gum disease and cavity formation. Tabib also recommends you see the dentist for a professional cleaning because gingivitis is easily treatable.
The cost benefit of good oral hygiene can be tremendous. Tabib says, “You can really be your own dental insurance if you develop really good oral hygiene habits early on.” Tabib recalls
a study that says flossing your teeth can increase your life span by 6.4 years.
Visit Dr. Tabib and Dr. Mello at www.nycsmiledesign.com
This octogenarian has a great outlook on life — article by Scott Keith
If you’re a baby boomer, do you think you’re past your prime? Are your best years behind you? If your answer is yes, you may need a swift kick to your behind. And a man who could administer that good kicking is 85-year-old Al Weatherhead.
Weatherhead is CEO of Weatherchem, a private firm that makes plastic closures for food, spice, pharmaceutical and nutriceutical products. Weatherhead has also written, along with Fred Feldman, a popular book: The Power of Adversity: Tough Times Can Make You Stronger, Wiser, and Better. Don’t think it has been an easy road for Weatherhead. He knows adversity and has battled back. Weatherhead has suffered from depression, rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease and alcoholism. These days, Weatherhead still goes to the office. More importantly, he stills finds time to help those who are struggling with life’s challenges.
In an interview with Men and Health, It’s a Guy Thing, Weatherhead, a philanthropist, business leader and World War II veteran, says adversity can provide you with enormous opportunity. Weatherhead looks back nearly 3 years ago when he fractured a lumbar vertebra. “The vertebra was squashed down to a pancake and I had a seven-hour operation,” recalls Weatherhead. After struggling to take care of himself after the operation, Weatherhead says his neurosurgeon told him, “Al, go in the swimming pool and swim, swim, swim, then you should go to the office every day for a couple of hours. That’s the way you recover.” Weathehead is happy he took the advice. “Now I go around and it’s a miracle. I say, ‘holy smokes, how lucky I am.’”
Positive thinking is key. Many of us wonder how we can stay upbeat. Weatherhead says it’s terrible if our only thought, upon waking up, is how we can get through the whole day. He has a different, and more uplifting, take: “Wake up, put a smile on your face and say, ‘oh what a happy day. I’ve been given a gift by the good Lord to have another day. I’m going to do as I wish with it. It’s a present. I don’t have to get through the day.’”
Weatherhead recently completed a ten-year plan for himself. He says, while you can’t forecast the future, you can get a pen and pencil and jot down some personal goals. “Well, I’d like to do this, I’d like to try that, I’d like to be in such and such a place, I’d like to paddle a canoe down the Columbia River.’” Weatherhead says you can make a ten-year or a daily plan.
These days, Weatherhead remains active. He exercises, writes, and helps universities and medical facilities. He is also the father of three grown children.
Recent statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau show that 6.2 million Americans, ages 65 and older, were either working or actively seeking work. This news is hardly surprising to Weatherhead. “You’re just as old as you think you are.”
Al Weatherhead’s book is at www.powerofadversity.net
It’s the prostate, not the prostrate — article by Scott Keith
The more I interview doctors and specialists for this blog, the more I notice that men do not have the same laser-sharp focus on their personal health as women seem to have. While women keep current on all their medical screenings, men find it hard to see the doctor, until they are doubled up in pain or frightened to death over a symptom.
A urologist who notices this is Dr. Edward Karpman, who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of male sexual dysfunction. “It is true that women tend to be more proactive about their health care. They tend to see a doctor for their routine screenings, mammograms and tests…It’s hard to explain at a physiological or biochemical level.” Karpman says it may have something to do with our society and culture. “Guys have to appear resilient and indestructible. I think going to the doctor is almost an admission of some type of vulnerability in their armor…they don’t want to go see a doctor until it’s too late, until it hurts,” says Karpman.
The road seems especially tough for single men. In an interview with Men and Health: It’s a Guy Thing, Karpman believes female partners help men focus on health. “I think that’s really the reason why we see longer life spans in guys who are in relationships.” Many men see the doctor only after being told to do so by their partner.
Women can provide the careful nudge, convincing their hubbies, fathers or boyfriends to pay better attention to aches, pains, even subtle symptoms. Karpman says a survey of households in the Silicon Valley revealed that women (approximately 80 percent of the time) were the primary medical caretaker in the family. “I think it’s kind of an enigma as to why this happens. We can probably look at our society and culture and attribute some of this kind of behavior to the way we’re brought up,” says Karpman.
Foot dragging and a lack of knowledge can cause men to delay prostate screenings. “I think there is still a gap in knowledge about the prostate among the general population. Guys still refer to it as the prostrate,” says Karpman, adding that he’s surprised some guys still don’t know about PSA blood tests. “That tells me that our general knowledge about prostate health is not where it really should be.”
Men need to know that many diseases, in the early stages, show no symptoms. So it’s not a good idea to think you are free of illness, just because you feel healthy and strong. “The vast majority of medical problems only manifest themselves when it’s kind of at a critical point,” says Karpman, Medical Director of the Men’s Health Center at El Camino Hospital in Los Gatos, California. The idea behind cancer screening is to catch a cancer early, when there’s a much greater chance of cure.
Regardless of how good you feel, Karpman says “You’re not immune, you’re not invincible to disease. Get checked out.”
Visit Dr. Karpman at www.healthy-male.com
Aspirin in an emergency — article by Scott Keith
You pop an aspirin when you experience a headache, a toothache or a sore body part. In a way, it’s a wonder drug, but you may not know that the bitter-tasting tablet could save your life if you start experiencing a heart attack.
Heart health is a major concern in medicine today, thanks in part to the growing obesity epidemic in the United States. Frank Alvino, president and chief operating officer of Advent Consumer Healthcare, LLC, is in the business of providing consumer products that help doctors and healthcare providers increase a patient’s awareness of potential health problems.
Alvino’s recent project is to bring an emergency aspirin dispenser, At Heart, to market. Alvino, in an interview with Men and Health: It’s a Guy Thing, says, “I’ve always maintained an interest in cardiovascular disease…there are about a million heart attacks a year. About half of the people do not survive a heart attack. Most of the heart attacks occur when someone is away from home and never gets to the hospital.” Aware that seconds count in a heart attack, Alvino started thinking about providing an easy-to-use device that could provide the patient easy access to an aspirin tablet.
With At Heart, says Alvino, “You press a button. The button pushes out an aspirin, which is in a sealed pack within the dispenser.” Each dispenser contains two blister-sealed 325 mg aspirin tablets. The dispenser is easy to attach to a key chain, pocket or purse. He says At Heart, which is meant for emergency use (they are not refillable) only, is available nationally at all CVS stores and at www.at-heart.com. “We’re very pleased because it gives us a very broad distribution…we’ve gotten some incredibly good response to the product.” Alvino says good candidates for the product include men over 40, men with a family history of heart disease, men who don’t get regular physical activity, men who smoke, men who are obese and men who have diabetes, high cholesterol, or high blood pressure. “Many of these people don’t recognize that they’re at risk, it’s just amazing,” says Alvino, noting that it’s always a good idea to talk with your doctor about these and other subjects.
Women can also benefit from At Heart. Alvino says heart attacks do not strike men only. “It affects women just as readily – people don’t assume women have heart attacks. Their symptoms are often different. They don’t have the classic chest pains…theirs are far more subtle, so, often times, they are ignored, even in an emergency room.”
Over the last several years, doctors have become more familiar with how aspirin can assist a heart attack victim. Alvino says around 1998, the Food and Drug Administration examined large blocks of international studies. It was shown that if you took an aspirin at the first sign of a suspected heart attack, you were able to increase your chances of survival significantly.
It’s vital to become aware of heart health, especially with obesity so prevalent in this country. Alvino says around 85 million people have some form of cardiovascular disease. “More people die from heart disease than from any other disease.”
Learn more about At Heart at www.at-heart.com
Iodine is not a forgotten mineral — article by Scott Keith
Do you remember those little bottles of iodine when you were growing up? Do you know what iodine is? If you’re a little hazy, the founder and president of EuroPharma, Inc., Terry Lemerond, has the answers.
To put it simply, iodine is a mineral, such as calcium or magnesium. According to author and educator Lemerond, it’s a trace element. “It’s one that we do not really have a source for in the American diet. Our soil is very depleted of iodine; certain regions of the United States have no iodine in the soil,” adds Lemerond.
Lemerond, in an interview with Men and Health: It’s a Guy Thing, says iodine is important in our diet. Lack of iodine “causes goiters (enlargement of the thyroid gland), and causes a disruption of the thyroid function…every cell in the body has a receptor site for iodine, particularly breast tissue, prostate tissue, ovaries and uterus.” Alternative doctors have discovered that the incidence of cancer in those tissues are much less in Japan than in the United States. The Japanese have a high intake of iodine because of a diet rich in seafood and sea weed.
In the United States, a large number of women are deficient in iodine, and have hypothyroidism. About 50 percent of men have hypothyroidism. Lemerond says iodine is what’s required to improve the function of the thyroid. “Unfortunately, when doctors discover hypothyroidism, they never think about suggesting iodine…iodine seems to be one of those forgotten and misunderstood minerals.”
Iodine has a lot of great properties, says Lemerond. “It acts as an anti-viral, an anti-bacterial; it improves healing…it’s an alkaline substance, so it helps to alkalize the body from an overly acidic condition…alternative physicians are finding that it improves the well-being (energy levels) of individuals… the thyroid is kind of like the thermostat of the house. It sets the temperature, sets the metabolic rate, sets how fast we burn calories.”
Lemerond says most doctors (general practitioners) aren’t well versed in iodine. “Out of about 12 years of medical school, they get about four hours of nutrition. They really don’t have a background or history of studying nutrition, vitamins and minerals, and what they’re necessary for,”says Lemerond, noting that these doctors tend to give something synthetic rather than natural.
Lemerond recalls that when he was in grade school, youngsters received chocolate-flavored goiter pills as an iodine supplement. Iodine was an ingredient in salt, but, says Lemerond, “Iodine has fallen out of favor because salt is no longer suggested, because it’s responsible for a lot of sodium intake and it causes high blood pressure and other medical conditions. So we don’t really get much iodine anymore.”
If you’re considering iodine (capsules and tablets are available in health food stores and pharmacies), it’s always a good idea to talk with your doctor. Lemerond says, “There are good alternative practitioners who are using iodine…iodine is one of the most critical factors in improving quality of health.”
Visit Terry Lemerond at www.terrytalksnutrition.com
Arthritis cases on the increase in the United States — article by Scott Keith
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, arthritis cases in the United States are on the rise. It’s estimated that one in five adults suffer from doctor-diagnosed arthritic conditions. Just shy of 50 million Americans live with this painful joint disorder.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a connective tissue disease. It’s an inflammatory reaction in the joint that can gradually invade the tendons. On the other hand, osteoarthritis is a gradual deterioration of the actual articular, or joint surface. A doctor who is well versed in these conditions is Dr. Kenneth Hudspeth, a board certified family practice doctor at the Executive Wellness Center of the Heart Hospital in Austin, Texas.
In an interview with Men and Health: It’s a Guy Thing, Hudspeth says while we are living longer and managing our chronic diseases, “More people are reaching the age where arthritis becomes more prevalent. 80 percent of us are going to get some sort of symptoms (arthritis or joint-related) by the time we’re 75 years-old.” In addition to aging, a lot of us are getting heavier. “We’ve always kind of known that getting bigger was harder on our joints.”
Hudspeth says other factors may be responsible for arthritis and points to the need to reduce high-impact exercise. He recalls that he and another runner train on country roads, which are much easier on the joints. “When you go to a competitive run, you have to run on concrete or asphalt. Those hard surfaces are really hard on your cartilage, joints, ligaments and tendons. Even in the fitness craze, we tend to use and abuse some joints,” says Hudspeth.
High-impact tools, such as wrenches, nail guns and screwdrivers, can have a negative effect. “Unfortunately, we have to keep moving. You can’t stop exercising and you can’t just quit working. That’s not an option,” notes Hudspeth.
Hudspeth says there are various treatment options for arthritis. “Rheumatoid and some of the other connective-tissue diseases have very specific drug therapies. With osteoarthritis, you’re mainly concerned with any inflammatories, whether they’re oral or topical, and pain relief.”
For the baby boomer, Hudspeth says, “We need to stay active in spite of our disease.” It’s also important to manage our diet. “Every day is not a special occasion. It’s alright to turn down dessert now and then,” says Hudspeth, adding that if you pick an exercise, be faithful about it. Find a group, if possible, and exercise regularly. But, “don’t overdo it.”
Statistics show that medical practitioners see a million new arthritis patients every year. By the year 2030, 67 million are expected to suffer from this painful condition. When it comes to arthritis, Hudspeth says, “Treat it, but don’t let it get the best of you.”
Learn more about arthritis at www.arthritis.org
An organization of vets hopes to increase public awareness of post traumatic stress — article by Scott Keith
A Maui, Hawaii music producer is on a nation-wide mission to raise awareness of a debilitating condition that can strike men and women who serve or have served in our military.
Gresford Lewishall is vice president of Stay Strong Nation, a group of volunteers dedicated to helping servicemen and women cope with post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury. Statistics reveal that about 8 percent of all Americans have some form of post traumatic stress. That number leaps to 30 percent for veterans and active service personnel. With post traumatic stress, some returning service members take out their feelings on family members. Some fall into substance abuse, while others commit suicide. Lewishall says, “The suicide rate, right now, is very, very high for guys and gals coming home. We have to create awareness for post traumatic stress.” Post traumatic stress can surface the moment a service member returns home or it can present itself a couple of years later. Lewishall notes that traumatic brain injury can occur if a soldier is hit by a roadside bomb or fires a big gun.
Stay Strong Nation is offering a CD of “Stay Strong,” written by Keith Crosby, a decorated Vietnam War vet, and Michael Lietz. In return, you’re asked to return a postcard of support for our troops overseas. Featured vocalist on the CD is Charles Cook, a veteran of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. A country version has just been released, which concludes with a Stay Strong Nation military prayer, written by Gene Rabbai. Stay Strong Nation’s aim is to collect postcards from Americans to send to military personnel in Afghanistan and Iraq.
In an interview with Men and Health: It’s a Guy Thing, Lewishall says there’s no charge for the CD, but donations are welcome. You’ll find a postcard with the CD. Lewishall (he likes to be called Lewis) says it’s important to add your name, city and mail back to Stay Strong Nation. With the government’s help, Lewishall hopes to send the postcards of support to hospitals, mess halls and areas where our military forces congregate. “It’s very, very hard being there, in a war zone,” says Lewishall.
The group wants to raise money to build a 20 million dollar facility in Maui that will help military personal cope with post traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury through a no-cost therapy-based life-changing program. “We think Maui, or someplace quiet in Hawaii, would be ideal,” says Lewishall, adding that ocean-front property is preferred to provide a more relaxing atmosphere for service members.“We’ll have doctors teach them how to re-enter society.”
Lewishall, a native of Jamaica who moved to the United States in 1978, says his organization hopes to have members in all 50 states. “It’s not about war, it’s about the guys and gals who have to go over there, give up their family, and put their lives in harms way.”
For more information on how you can obtain the CD of “Stay Strong” and postcard, go to www.staystrongnation.org
Reiki is a way to combat stress and pain — article by Scott Keith
It’s easy to get swallowed up in our high-paced culture. In this world of computers, cell phones, Blackberries and iPads, stress hits. As they say, it’s not stress (we all feel stress), but how we handle stress. Do we need therapists? Can medication help with stress, anxiety and depression? It is comforting to know there are many treatments available. Sometimes a combination of treatments can work wonders.
A Seattle licensed mental health counselor, Eileen Dey, teaches a way to relieve pain and reduce stress: Reiki, pronounced Ray-key. Reiki is a bit difficult to describe in an article; you really need to witness or experience this therapy. Reiki (Japanese for universal energy) describes energy that is all around us. Essentially, the practitioner gently places his or her hands over portions of the client’s body and energy flows from the practitioner to the individual. “It’s about yielding to that which is greater, called Reiki,” says Dey.
Dey’s professional background is in social work and counseling. In an interview with Men and Health: It’s a Guy Thing, Dey says she first found out about Reiki about 15 years ago, while studying at the Open Center in New York City. Dey found someone in New Jersey to help her with Reiki training. “It was completely different than any other training I’ve ever done,” says Dey. “It’s also an incredible spiritual journey…I just wanted an answer to what I was experiencing as a counselor with the elderly.”
Reiki, says Dey, “really enhances the healing ability of the practitioner as well as the individual receiving. It’s like you become a pipeline for that which is kind of nebulous all around us…super-concentrated oxygen…super-concentrated energy.”
Not only can Reiki help with anxiety, stress, tension and depression, Reiki can also combat some physical symptoms. Dey says it can help you recover more quickly from surgery. Reiki is beneficial in the birth process (labor and delivery) and helps elderly people deal with the agitation involved with dementia.
Reiki, according to Dey’s website, was discovered by Dr. Mikao Usui (1865-1926) after a 21-day meditation on Mt. Kurama in Japan in the late 1800s.
Reike has spread throughout the world. Dey, who has been promoting her book, “Touching the World through Reiki,” says most major cities have at least one Reiki practitioner; some have more. Dey recalls that there are about eight million Reiki practitioners throughout the world.
Faced with a busy multi-tasking society, Dey says Reiki can provide you with an “off-switch.” According to Dey, “A lot of people I train work in traditional corporate environments. They take five minutes, and instead of taking a coffee break (on-switch), they take a Reiki break (off-switch). Yes, you can learn to do “hands-on” Reike yourself, even on your ten-minute work break.
“I like to say Reiki is like acupuncture without needles,” adds Dey. “The same thing acupuncture can do, Reiki can do.”
Visit Eileen Dey and learn more about her book, “Touching the World through Reiki,” at www.reikitrainingprogram.com
More about Reiki at www.reikifellowship.com
Flu season: Consider some natural ways to boost immunity — article by Scott Keith
It’s that time of year. Coughing, runny nose, sneezing, and fever can indicate an old-fashioned flu. A practitioner from ChicagoHealers.com says there are natural ways we can boost our immunity.
After spending some 30 years in the tertiary healthcare system, Dr. Sharon M. Weinstein became interested in more holistic, alternative and natural remedies. Weinstein says ChicagoHealers.com “is a wonderful alliance, if you will, of holistic practitioners who work collaboratively within the ChicagoHealers community to bring the best information related to health and wellness modalities to clients. It’s an amazing consortium.”
A big concern this time of year is influenza. “We are smack in the middle of the flu season,” says Weinstein, in an interview with Men and Health: It’s a Guy Thing. “About 10 to 20 percent of Americans get the flu each year. Some people get very, very sick; many people are hospitalized and/or die as a result of complications.” Weinstein says she has spoken to several people who tell her they never got the flu until they received an influenza shot.
Who should be concerned? Weinstein says all youngsters, from six months to age 19; all adults 50 and older; all women who are or will be pregnant during the flu season; people who live in nursing homes or long-term care facilities or work with those who are ill; individuals with long-term health problems or chronic diseases and those who work with and around kids who are compromised.
Faced with another flu season, Weinstein says there are natural ways you can boost your immunity. “Your immune system is the only thing that prevents you from being riddled with infection and a host of other chronic diseases.”
Weinstein mentions a product that you might spread on your morning English muffin: Honey. “Honey is a natural germ-killing agent, readily available…you want to get something that is, in fact, raw, unprocessed honey.” It’s great as a sweetener.
Aloe Vera is also readily available and, according to Weinstein, kicks in the immune modulators and fights off disease. “I drink Aloe Vera every single day.”
A popular pizza topping may give you ammunition in your fight against the flu. “Mushrooms are amazing. Many mushroom extracts from shiitake and all kinds, have excellent immune-boosting properties…these are really good in terms of boosting the body,” adds Weinstein.
Don’t forget products rich with Vitamin C. Says Weinstein, “Vitamin C is fabulous. There are great sources of vitamin C in nature: guava, papaya, strawberries, kiwi, cantaloupe, oranges and grapefruit.” Vitamin E is a good immune booster, available in seeds, vegetables and whole grains. Carotenoids, including carrots, sweet potatoes and spinach, are also good for boosting the immune system.
Weinstein says other influences keep the immune system from doing a good job. Too much sugar, says Weinstein, reduces the ability of white blood cells to kill germs by 40 percent. “Obesity can lead to a depressed immune system. It affects the ability of white blood cells to multiply, to produce antibodies and to rush to the site of an infection,” says Weinstein, adding that it’s also important to avoid generic table salts because they’ve been processed and stripped of vital minerals. Sea salt, on the other hand, has natural germ-fighting capabilities; natural sea salt (processed properly) contains 70 living minerals required for healthy cell function.
One thing we overlook is water. Weinstein says the body doesn’t work unless it’s well hydrated. Weinstein says you should be consuming at least half of your body weight a day in ounces of water to flush out the toxins. Coffee and alcohol dehydrate your body. If you consume coffee and alcohol, you should drink double the amount of water that’s recommended.
Don’t forget the obvious. Wash your hands frequently, cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough and use those little plastic bottles of hand sanitizer. They’re there for a reason. Weinstein recalls an interesting situation after taking a colleague to the emergency department. “I have to tell you that they had a hand sanitizing system in the reception area, that they expected all of the patients to use. But in the emergency department itself, not a single care giver washed their hands. Not one.”
Boomers need to boost their Omega 3’s — article by Scott Keith
When you hear the term Omega 3, you may think of a group of stars, such as the Big Dipper. In reality, Omega 3 is another name for fatty acids – acids that are good for the body. Omega 3 can help in your growth and development and may cut your risk of heart disease.
We are not getting enough of this valuable product, according to Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum, medical director of the National Fibromyalgia and Fatigue Centers. “The impact of that is not just more heart attacks, but depression and pain,” says Teitelbaum.
Teitelbaum, in an interview with Men and Health: It’s a Guy Thing, says our cell membranes need special kinds of oil; if they don’t get the oil, they become stiff and less flexible. We need to boost our intake of Omega 3. These fatty acids are found naturally in our foods. According to Teitelbaum, you need three to four servings a week of fish (oily fish such as tuna, salmon, sardines and herring). It’s suggested you pick white (albacore) tuna, because it has three times the amount of Omega 3’s. “It’s worth paying a little bit extra,” says Teitelbaum, adding that grass-fed beef is another source.
In a major breakthrough, French scientists have come up with a process that uses whole food from North Atlantic Salmon to produce an Omega-3 supplement. This supplement, available in one tablet, is up to 50 times more absorbable than smelly fish oils. Teitelbaum says people will see health benefits from taking this new supplement. “They’re going to see their mood is going to improve. A lot of depression is not Prozac deficiency, it’s Omega-3 deficiency.”
Omega 3 can help not only your mood, but painful inflammation and, in the long term, heart health.
If you are interested in this new supplement, called Vectomega, Teitelbaum suggests you try a health food store or search online.
Noting that the American diet is poor, Teitelbaum says we need to take good multi-vitamins (Teitelbaum prefers vitamin powder) and get more sunshine. “Move the television set to the back yard, put on your barbecue, get some grass-fed beef, put some salmon on the grill, along with tuna…and get some sunshine while you’re out there doing it.”
Visit Dr. Teitelbaum at www.vitality101.com
A California doctor is highly critical of western medicine — article by Scott Keith
When you look at the field of medicine today, it seems there’s a pill for just about any condition or symptom. But a California doctor believes the number one killer in the United States is medical treatment. Dr. Brad Case contends in his new book, Thugs, Drugs and the War on Bugs, How the Natural Healthcare Revolution will Lead us Past Greed, Ego, and Scary Germs, that folks in control of our healthcare system don’t actually want us to experience good health.
According to Case, “These corporate thugs are addicted to wealth, and they’ve manipulated and brainwashed us into relying on a self-perpetuating system of ‘wealth care’ that keeps us sick and a never-ending stream of money flowing to them.”
In an interview with Men and Health: It’s a Guy Thing, Case says he started in the chiropractic field to help people the natural way, without the need for drugs and surgery. “I started learning about nutrition, trying to create a broad holistic practice,” says Case, noting that while he prefers mostly whole-food concentrates, some patients may need herbs, homeopathic remedies and adjustments. “We see miraculous things with these natural approaches,” says Case, adding that western medicine does not believe it’s possible to get these results.
Case, who is the clinic director of the Holistic Healing Center in Prunedale, California, is concerned about the “underhanded things that you see in western medicine.” For instance, western science, says Case, suggests cholesterol is not the cause of heart disease. Yet cholesterol medicine is given to the public “because the doctors are basically trained by the pharmaceutical reps, and then they have certain standards of care, which are also kind of governed by the drug companies. In order to keep their licence, they have to continue following these standards of care, which are not in line with their own science.”
Drug companies have far too much control, says Case. The United States and New Zealand are the only countries that allow drug companies to market directly to consumers (television, print media). “Television stations (and other media) are relying on drug companies for their advertising dollars. Drug ads make up about a third of all advertising on television.” Drug companies, according to Case, get doctors to prescribe the “latest and greatest” drug; they also have “massive control” over congress and elected officials through their lobbying and campaign contributions.
Case is concerned with western medicine’s “drugs for every disease” approach. “If you change your diet, and exercise, you can cure yourself of Type 2 diabetes,” says Case. “But western medicine doesn’t focus on that. They just say, ‘OK, well let’s find a drug that can handle this.’” According to Case, diseases are being created that fit their drugs. For instance, shyness is named social anxiety disorder. Says Case, “In doing that, instead of finding a niche and filling it, they’re finding the drug and creating the niche.”
Thugs, Drugs and the War on Bugs reveals that infectious diseases are making a comeback because of the overuse of antibiotics; the book also points out that chronic diseases, such as diabetes, cancer, Parkinson’s and fibromyalgia, are on the rise.
“People that avoid drugs live long, healthy lives,” says Case.
Visit Dr. Brad Case at www.healthisnatural.com
A brain map to help treat psychological conditions — article by Scott Keith
The human brain is a complicated organ. It’s essentially the “computer software” that enables us to speak, see, hear, talk, think, move and function in our daily lives. A doctor in South Carolina makes it his practice to analyze the brain when treating his patients.
Dr. Howard J. Rankin heads the Rankin Center for Neuroscience and Integrative Health, on Hilton Head Island. Rankin handles issues ranging from developmental problems in children to cognitive difficulties affecting senior citizens.
Rankin, a clinical psychologist, in an interview with Men and Health: It’s a Guy Thing, says he looks beyond the importance of interviewing patients to determine their thought processes. Rankin asks, “What happens if I do a brain map and look what’s going on in their brain? What happens if I do some cognitive testing and see how their mental functioning actually works? What happens if I put all that stuff together and integrate it? What do I get? What I get is a much fuller picture and a more unique picture of that individual.”
It’s the blending of all this information that helps Rankin determine a person’s strengths and weaknesses so he can work out a rational plan to help the patient.
Rankin doesn’t see brain-mapping technology as the only answer. “I don’t think that neuroscience has replaced more conventional psychology. I think they exist very well together…In my practice, looking at people’s brains as well as asking them about their backgrounds and their experiences really helps you get a clear picture of what’s going on,” says Rankin.
Compared with several years ago, technology is now allowing doctors to take a more precise look at the brain. According to Rankin, “What we’re able to do, then, is not just look at the brain, but now we have brain-training tools that can directly address the brain.” Rankin believes we need to rebalance our brains. He recalls a woman who had a 30-year history with anxiety and depression and had been in therapy for a long time. After about ten sessions of neuro- feedback, the women felt better.
Rankin is not anti-medication. He says, “Medications, where appropriate, are really effective…there are some cases where I wouldn’t even see people unless they were on medications.” The problem with medications, says Rankin, is they are more of a shotgun approach. “We are going to get to the point in the not-to-distant future where medications are going to be much more targeted to very specific areas of the brain, even down to cells.”
The Rankin Center for Neuroscience and Integrative Health helps patients with neuro-feedback, brain training, psychotherapy, cognitive therapy and behavioral training. Among the conditions the Center addresses: eating disorders, addictions, anxiety, mood disorders, post-traumatic stress and neurocognitive conditions.
Rankin likes to say, “People are more than a set of symptoms and they’re more than just a diagnosis.”
Visit Dr. Rankin at www.scienceofyou.com
Driving at night: Boomers may notice it gets harder — article by Scott Keith
If you’re a baby boomer, you can probably recall that uneasy moment when your vision went south and you had to buy your first pair of “cheater” glasses. Chances are, your distant vision was OK, but, all of a sudden, you couldn’t read the words on a restaurant menu; you needed glasses whenever you cracked open your morning paper to scan the baseball scores.
Don’t think you’re alone, vision eventually fails nearly everybody. It’s just a normal part of the aging process.
As we age, according to Dr. Michael Pier, the portion of the eye that allows us to focus at different distances has a tendency to lose it’s flexibility. “In doing that, we lose the ability to focus at different distances quite as rapidly as we did when we were young,” says Pier, adding that there’s a loss of clear vision up close, the medical term being presbyopia.
Pier, director of optometric professional relations and practitioner education for Bausch & Lomb’s North American Vision Care division, says the first notice of presbyopia is usually between the ages of 35 and 40. This “slowly progresses to be more absolute in its manifestation around 50 to 55,” says Pier. Both men and women are affected by presbyopia and it strikes all ethnic groups.
Pier, in an interview with Men and Health: It’s a Guy Thing, says while the human eye has adapted well to our changing lifestyles, our eyes do change throughout our lives. One manifestation of this is the difficulty older men and women experience while driving at night.
Pier describes why it can be difficult to drive at night. He says our pupils dilate to allow more light, but “what we’ll start to do is lose our contrast, our clarity and crispness. We notice that as glare or halos when we’re driving on headlights and street lights,” says Pier, who has more than 29 years of clinical experience in optometric patient care.
Technology has advanced dramatically since founding father Benjamin Franklin invented bifocal lenses a couple of centuries ago. “We’ve moved from those two lenses in a frame to single-lens surfacing that now has invisible lines and is progressive so lenses actually flow smoother from distance to near-focus and areas in between,” says Pier. “We’ve even gotten to the point where we’re incorporating those technologies and others in contact lenses.” Pier notes that his Bausch & Lomb leads in that technology.
Pier recommends you keep regular with eye examinations throughout your life. If you’re getting up in age and you have concerns with night-time glare or halos from headlights or streetlights, see a good eye care practitioner (an ophthalmologist or optometrist) to discuss your vision issues. “You don’t have to fight it.”
Learn more about contact lenses at http://www.bausch.com
It’s never too early to guard against heart disease — article by Scott Keith
It’s never too early to check out your heart health. At your doctor examination, you may be focusing on the need for a mammogram, a PSA test or a pap smear. These are critical tests and can help detect an early cancer, but don’t be shy about asking your doctor to examine your heart. After all, it’s the organ that keeps you alive – second by second.
Dr. Renee Bullock-Palmer, director of The Women’s Cardiac Center at Deborah Heart and Lung Center, says heart disease can show up in both younger and older patients. “We definitely are seeing a younger population of patients presenting to us with their first heart attack,” says Bullock-Palmer. “The poor habits adopted during the childhood years tend to come to bear as we enter adulthood. I know there has definitely been an increase in childhood obesity in the United States.”
Bullock-Palmer, in an interview with Men and Health: It’s a Guy Thing, says obesity can lead to other diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension and, ultimately, heart disease. “Any form of diabetes ultimately will increase the risk of heart disease. In fact, patients with diabetes are treated as what we call a coronary artery disease risk equivalent,” says Bullock-Palmer.
A heart attack can have different symptoms in men and women, adds Bullock-Palmer. The classic symptom of a heart attack is chest pressure, which tends to move to the neck and arm. Bullock-Palmer says, “Subtle features tend to present more often in females (shortness of breath related to exertion). Females may not present with chest pressure, but may complain of symptoms similar to heartburn (especially upon exertion).”
For woman and men, there are risk factors for heart disease: Among them are physical inactivity, obesity, high cholesterol and smoking. Bullock-Palmer says risk factors we can’t do anything about include age, genetics and, to some degree, gender.
The focus needs to be on prevention. And it’s never too early to start guarding against heart disease. According to Bullock-Palmer, the cornerstone of prevention is a healthy lifestyle. That includes physical activity, such as at least 30 minutes (most days) of aerobic activity to get the heart pumping. A healthy diet is key. You should avoid trans fats, processed foods, sugary treats and sodas, foods with high cholesterol and high fructose corn syrup. Instead, focus on fresh fruits and vegetables. Whole-grain and high-fiber foods are good for the body. Avoid fried food. Baked and broiled foods are better options.
Also, check your blood pressure and cholesterol at your next doctor visit. Discuss with your doctor your family medical history and consider taking a body mass index test.
If you find it’s just too hard to remove yourself from the TV or computer, Bullock-Palmer recommends, “Get on your feet and start getting physically active.”
Dr. Bullock-Palmer recommends two website, both sponsored by the American Heart Association:
Visit Dr. Bullock-Palmer at http://www.deborah.org
Need a baby boomer energy boost? Try honey — article by Scott Keith
You know that familiar bear-shaped squeeze bottle. It may be in your kitchen pantry right now. If you haven’t used it for a while, reconsider. There are some great energy-boosting powers in a bottle of honey.
You can thank bees for putting in the extra effort to manufacture the delicious treat. The website Honey.com says, “The 60,000 or so bees in a beehive may collectively travel as much as 55,000 miles and visit more than 2 million flowers to gather enough nectar to make just a pound of honey.”
You probably know that honey is great to spread on your morning muffin, but according to both a nutritionist and a former Major League Baseball player, honey can give you that added “zip” to get you through the day.
Mitzi Dulan, who has served as the team nutritionist for the Kansas City Chiefs over the past eight seasons, says, “Honey is actually a natural energy booster…It’s so versatile.” She says it’s a natural source of carbohydrates, which gives our muscles energy.
Honey is also a great sweetening option. “The good thing about honey is that it is about 25 percent sweeter than other sweeteners, so you can actually use a little bit less of it in recipes,” says Dulan, in an interview with Men and Health: It’s a Guy Thing. Not only can honey give you a much-needed afternoon energy surge, but it can also help soothe your throat. “It’s a natural cough suppressant.”
Amateur and professional athletes can benefit from honey. Sid Bream, who came up through the Los Angeles Dodger’s minor league system and eventually played for the Pittsburgh Pirates, recalls enjoying honey at an early age. “As I’ve grown older, I’ve started to understand some of the benefits of honey. But at the same time, I enjoy the sweetness. I enjoy the natural part of it all,” says Bream.
Nearly every morning, Bream starts off with some flat bread (multi-grain) with almond butter, banana slices and honey. “It’s something that will allow me to have extra energy to keep going forward,” says Bream, in an interview with Men and Health: It’s a Guy Thing, noting that it’s essential that today’s athletes eat the right kinds of healthful foods.
In addition to banana smoothies, Bream enjoys a blueberry smoothie, with nutmeg, milk and honey.
Honey is by no means one-dimensional. It’s similar to wine, according to Dulan. “There are over 300 different types of honey. Bees visit different kinds of flowers…The honey that they produce has a unique taste to that flower.” Varieties go by colorful names such as Alfalfa and Orange Blossom. Dulan says Honeylocator.com is a great website to help you research the different varieties of honey.
Don’t worry about getting too creative when deciding how to incorporate honey in your diet. Dulan suggests a honey-banana (frozen banana) smoothie; you can mix in a little protein powder for good measure. A breakfast option is to include a bit of honey in your oatmeal, sprinkled with dry, tart cherries. If you’re slumping in the afternoon, try a honey-banana-peanut butter sandwich.
If you haven’t figured out, Dulan is bullish on honey, “It tastes delicious and works so well in a variety of recipes.”
A surgeon in Texas explores the inner workings of an operating room — Article by Scott Keith
In the many decades since television sets came into our homes, medical dramas have remained popular. Viewers made ER a huge success. Grey’s Anatomy gives you a glimpse of a fictitious Seattle hospital, plenty of romance included. I’m old enough to remember Dr. Kildare from the 1960s and Marcus Welby from the 70s. But do these shows give you an accurate reading of what an actual surgeon’s life is like?
Probably not, according to a general and vascular surgeon, who practices in the Houston, Texas area.
Dr. David Gelber has written Behind The Mask: The Mystique of Surgeons and the Surgeons Who Perform Them (Ruffian Press, August 2011). In an interview with Men and Health: It’s a Guy Thing, Gelber says he started writing health care and surgery articles when the health care debate was in the news. He has also written a couple of science fiction novels.
According to Gelber, “A lot of the things in the book (Behind The Mask) are recollections of experiences I’ve had as a surgeon.” He adds, “The textbook part gets into some of the technical aspects of being a surgeon, how we approach patients, how we do surgery, what are the things we think about, what are the problems we deal with.”
Gelber says readers will get an insight into what goes on in a surgeon’s mind during an operation and after surgery. Gelber says one chapter describes his step by step (stream of consciousness) approach to an operation in which the patient had some problems right after surgery. “It gives my thoughts, as well as what we did, almost every step of the way, until we were sure the patient was OK,” says Gelber.
The book is a look inside a part of medicine that most people never see. You’ll “get a look inside at what an operating room is like, from a perspective of the sights and the sounds and the smells, things that you certainly can’t get on television,” points out Gelber.
Gelber says while a bit of humor can sometimes surface in an operating room, death is a fact of life at a hospital. “The toughest situation is when someone comes in for an elective operation…and the patient doesn’t survive, which is actually extremely rare, but it happens,” says Gelber.
The book helps connect you to patients. Gelber says, “There are a lot of different patient case studies in the book that help to shed light on different things I’m trying to talk about.” He says part of his book highlights memorable patients, how their medical problems were approached, and how he learned from each one.
Behind The Mask highlights the importance of nurses in surgical procedures. “During surgery, they help the operation go more smoothly. After surgery, they are the eyes and ears of a doctor and a surgeon. They’re with the patient all the time,” says Gelber.
Gelber admits he almost never watches doctor shows on television. “I never found one that actually comes close to what it’s like in real life.”
You may purchase Dr. Gelber’s book at Amazon.com or at his website: http://www.davidgelber.com.
Visit Dr. Gelber’s blog at http://www.heardintheor.blogspot.com.
Sex after prostate cancer? An Arizona-based writer tackles the touchy subject in a new book — article by Scott Keith
Let’s face it. Prostate Cancer is a “Guy Thing.” It’s an extremely common cancer as men get older. Luckily, in recent years, with effective prostate cancer screening, more men have been diagnosed while the cancer is small enough to be treated or cured. But guys will be guys. There are sexual side effects associated with prostate cancer treatment, whether the treatment is surgery or radiation. And many guys simply don’t want to talk about it.
The wife of a prostate cancer survivor, Cindie Hubiak, is out to help married couples navigate through the ups, downs and sexual frustrations associated with the disease. Hubiak, a Scottsdale, Arizona-based author and co-founder of Solutions for Intimacy, has written A Woman’s Guide to Thriving afer Prostate Cancer.
Nearly one in six men are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year in the United States. Treatment can lead to unpleasant side effects, such as erectile difficulty. Hubiak, noticing there were very few prostate cancer resources for women, decided to spark a dialogue, and help married couples face the disease.
Hubiak, in an interview with Men and Health: It’s a Guy Thing, says it was time to write this book. “Steve (her husband, diagnosed in 2007) and I had struggled so much with how prostate cancer had impacted our relationship that it was an important topic for me to write about, for my own healing.”
Hubiak recalls meeting a woman at a class called “Men and Marriage.” She says the woman and her husband had divorced after 16 years because of his prostate cancer. According to Hubiak, “They could not get their relationship back together. I told Steve this just isn’t right. Relationships should not break up because of prostate cancer. Women should not have struggles with their sexuality. What can we do to help?
“For me as a woman, it was all about Steve’s health. Let’s get him healthy, cancer free and treat it. Once that happened, though, I realized I had a whole lot of healing to do myself. I needed to do a lot of grieving, I needed to look at sex in a whole new way. I had to learn some new skills to support Steve…Men don’t tend to want to grieve and they may feel that’s not masculine,” says Hubiak.
According to Hubiak, “Steve retreated and withdrew from me. I now realize that was his way of surviving. He needed to take care of himself so that he could then be around to take care of me later. I didn’t understand that. It was extremely isolating and frightening for me.” Hubiak says this is a similar occurrence among men, according to women she has talked with.
Steve, also interviewed by Men and Health, says, “I’ve always been a rather private person. This was not something that I felt I wanted to share with a lot of people.” He says his relationship with Cindie was affected because Cindie had difficulty getting the support she needed from her friends.
Cindie and Steve decided to create a business called Solutions for Intimacy to help men and women who face prostate cancer
In A Woman’s Guide to Thriving after Prostate Cancer, readers will learn how to honor and grieve losses, effectively communicate desires, build deeper physical, emotional and spiritual connections, and improve intimacy through tantric principles.
Hubiak says, “Sex is different after prostate cancer. I believe it can be much better than it was before. Steve and I have a much improved sex life…Women can really learn to take the lead after prostate cancer.”
Visit Cindie and Steve at http://www.solutionsforintimacy.com
The book is available at Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.com.
A Southern California emergency room physician launches a program to close the gap between doctors and patients — article by Scott Keith
Imagine traveling across the country on a business trip and you suddenly feel a chest pain. Chances are, if you can get to a hospital (and that, by the way, is the top priority with chest pain), your doctor will not know your medical history.
A board certified emergency room physician, Dr. Martin H. Orens, has launched KARE Information Services, also known as KIS. It’s an electronic health records (EHR) system that’s secure and easy to use. The idea is to give patients more power and help health care providers offer better service.
In an interview with Men and Health: It’s a Guy Thing, Orens recalls that, not too many years ago, medical records departments were closing up in hospitals (during the week-ends), trying to cut costs. “We would do these humongous work-ups on people that really didn’t need it. It was done because we didn’t have the information and we had to protect ourselves against medical liability. I realized this was crazy. This was a terrible way to practice medicine,” says Orens.
Orens started developing an electronic medical records business in 1999. Since then, KIS, a service sold directly to patients, has gone through three major developments. The member fills out all the health information. An electronic medical record is created for both the member and his/her physicians. The idea is to create one log of medical care and to prevent a scattering of health information.
According to Orens, medical records should really belong to patients. He says a patient may have had a huge work-up done just a few weeks before seeing a doctor in another city. The doctor (in the other city) may have to get records from the original doctor (which could take a couple of weeks) or start from fresh. Orens says that would be “ridiculous because everything is so expensive.”
Orens says he created KIS with the intention of making the patient the “conservator of their records.” The records are given to their doctors and the permission to see that file is created for the doctor by the member (patient). The doctor, says Orens, gets to use it for free.
KIS can help a patient with a serious disease such as lung cancer. This particular patient may have an internist, a pulmonary specialist, an oncologist and, perhaps, a cardiologist. Sometimes, notes Orens, it may be hard for these doctors to communicate with one another through their paperwork. “KIS is a single product where all of these physicians, with the click of a mouse, can move their information into one journal and build this continuously-developing journal that all other physicians can get in and look at,” says Orens, noting that this can prevent a repeat of costly procedures that were done recently.
KIS allows doctors to order lab tests and prescriptions through the KIS site. Once that’s done, says Orens, medications are immediately logged into their new medication log (by their physicians). Another benefit is lab results come back through the KIS site. The patient is able to see the lab results at the exact time the doctor sees them. This can cut down on the anxiety involved with waiting for lab results.
KIS is secure, adds Orens. He says KIS uses the same virus protection (security) programs as the Pentagon, the Air Force, the Navy and Microsoft.
The KIS program can help you if you are traveling overseas. Orens says, “No matter where you go in the world, the records, because they’re Internet-based, will follow you wherever you go. You can be out on a cruise ship and the records can be there in a manner of seconds…Our records can be translated into 34 different languages,” says Orens.
Orens says, “KIS gives empowerment to the patient…It allows them to not only get the best medical care possible, but cut the cost of their health care tremendously,” adding that eliminating one blood test would pay for two years of the service.
Learn more about KIS at http://www.kisemr.com