Last week I met a lovely couple in their late fifties who came to establish their care with me at my office. They both had been diligent about keeping up with regular checkups and with preventive screening tests and lab work. During a routine physical exam with the husband, I noted that he had an irregular heartbeat, and a subsequent EKG showed atrial fibrillation. This is a cardiac rhythm that can lead to a stroke, if not treated. I discovered that for years, the couple shared a bottle of wine each day. This was part of their nightly, winding-down routine. When I mentioned that alcohol likely contributed to his arrhythmia and blood pressure elevation, he and his wife were shocked.
As oncologists, we do our best to care for our patients through all phases of their illness. Many times the goal is to optimize the chance that the person we’re treating will be cured and go on to live a long life free of recurrent cancer. Other times, we know that cure is impossible and that our patient will eventually succumb. In that case, the goal is to help the patient live as good a quality of life as possible for as long as possible.
When it comes to watching cholesterol levels, we think of it as an adult concern, not a childhood issue. However, one in five teenagers have abnormal cholesterol levels. A normal level should be under 170 mg/dL. About 40 percent of obese teenagers have abnormal cholesterol. When studies say “abnormal cholesterol levels,” this means total cholesterol level could be normal, but low-density lipoprotein—also known as LDL could be too high. The LDL should be less than 130 mg/dL. This situation still counts as abnormal and it should. LDL is what damages the lining of blood vessels and allows for fatty build up inside a vessel.
Before your first visit with a primary care physician, there’s a lot of information you’ll want to gather. Be sure to take your previous medical records with you. (Some physicians ask that you drop this information off before your visit. If you have a digital copy, it’s best you drop it off in advance, so it can be downloaded and included in your chart.) Your medical record should include any previous diagnoses, treatments, imaging done of your body, laboratory results and immunization history.
This is supposed to be a column on living, but sometimes you gain a new appreciation for something when you contrast it with its opposite—in this case, dying. The truth is you never really know what you have until it’s gone. And death is certainly all around us, making life seem pretty scary. How many news stories detail deaths, often untimely and tragic, and sometimes gruesome? Reading about deaths in the news can give you a skewed idea of why we die, and that can affect the way we live.
We’ve all heard the saying, “Juice your vegetables; eat your fruit.” But do we know why, and is it true?
The rationale for juicing vegetables comes out of a few schools of thought. First, vegetables just aren’t as fun to eat as hamburgers, so most of us don’t eat enough vegetables. We’re supposed to eat at least three servings of vegetables a day. One way to sneak veggies into our diet is to juice them.
If you take a multivitamin every day, then you’re part of multi-billion dollar industry that has been marketing various health claims. As consumers, we spend an average of $14 billion a year on tablets that contain vitamins and minerals. Many people take a multivitamin because they believe it gives them more energy, or makes them feel better. Others take multivitamins to supplement what they believe is a poor diet. Still others believe taking a daily multivitamin is a preventive measure against the common cold or flu or to prevent chronic diseases.
We’re at a nice restaurant, and the couple sitting at the table next to ours is clearly enjoying their dinner, but especially their wine. They’ve spent at least 10 minutes poring over the wine list, and when the waitress brings over the bottle of Williams-Selyem 2014 Pinot Noir to their table, their eyes light up. They savor every aspect, commenting on the hints of dark cherry, nutmeg, and faded rose—the power, the finish, the polish and grace of the wine.
Every now and then, it’s worthwhile to explore medical folklore, alternative treatments and home remedies. Just because it isn’t taught in medical school, doesn’t mean there isn’t a kernel of truth in it. Sometimes all it takes is an exploration and a good scientific study to learn grandma’s old-fashioned treatment isn’t farfetched.
The opiate crisis is affecting everyone. It’s crucial that we protect ourselves, our loved ones and our community from opiate abuse, misuse, addiction and overdose. The best way to do that is with information, so we can recognize this when it happens to us or to someone we care about. Opiates, which include prescription pain medications such as hydrocodone, codeine, oxycontin, fentanyl and heroin, killed more than 33,000 people in the United States in 2015. Six out of every 10 drug overdose deaths involve an opioid.
I met Maura Johnston two months ago. (Her name and patient details have been altered to protect anonymity.) She was an intriguing person, but what was most interesting was it seemed she\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\'d done everything “right” in her life, which I find unusual. She\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\'d grown up in the Bay Area with a supportive family, attended college and holds a challenging and rewarding job in marketing for a winery. Now 42, she has a loving husband and two daughters, ages 6 and 8. Maura gets up early every morning to run four to five miles before heading to work. She had smoked “two cigarettes” in college, none since. She enjoyed a glass of wine a few times a week, never more. No one in her family was ever diagnosed with cancer.
The risks and benefits of sugar substitutes have been argued and studied since their invention. For those of us not old enough to remember, saccharin was invented in 1879 and used as a food sweetener for decades before it was banned in 1912. It was allowed back into the market during World War I, where it has stayed. The next big contender didn’t show up on the market until 1951.
Small and specific gestures of gratitude are the most powerful.
A case of the real flu is putting you in the Octagon with the biggest meanest bully on the block. You're going to to take a beating.
Health care systems will be given a fixed dollar amount to care for a set population.
Taking good care of your heart is a matter of doing the things we've advocated in this column over and over again.
As a society, American patients are out of control with their appetite for more and more drugs.
I’m quite certain that most doctors today rely on their instincts in much the same way.
Doctors need to know, as completely as possible, what's going on with you if they're to help you with your health.
It’s important to recognize poison oak in all its seasonal phases to avoid contact.
Firefighters are our heroes. They face the menace of raging wildfires while others seek safety, and every day, they assist individuals experiencing traumatic events. Incredibly, many firefighters perf...
Indeed, viewing Saturn’s rings, as well as nebulae, clusters of stars and other galaxies millions of light years away at the top of the Mayacamas Mountains is truly breathtaking—an experie...
As the sun sets behind Sonoma Mountain, a talented group of professional singers and dancers perform on a stage set within the old winery ruins at Glen Ellen’s Jack London Historic State Park. T...