The Zen of safer driving

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Driving a car actually takes a lot of skills. It is a daily example of complex multi-tasking.

Since most of us have been doing it so long, it can seem automatic. Yet just think of how many tasks — or switches between what we are paying attention to — happen as we drive.

We glance at the dash, the mirrors, gauge the speed and location of our vehicle and those around us, accelerate, brake, read road signs and so forth.

Now that is just the driving part. It doesn’t include drinking a beverage, adjusting the sound system or answering a phone call.

Having worked in emergency rooms for many years, I have seen some horrific outcomes of poor driving, intoxication, distraction, poor road conditions, equipment malfunctions and bad judgment. Continue reading

What you need to know about measles

Dr. Lauren Raimer-Goodman

Dr. Lauren Raimer-Goodman

Recently, my colleagues and I have been hearing reports about measles outbreaks around the country. New York, California, Dallas and even Hawaii have seen cases this year.

Many epidemiologists feel it’s only a matter of time before most major metropolitan areas in the U.S. are affected. Unless we see an improvement in vaccination rates, the Houston area is at risk of having its own outbreak.

So what is measles and why are doctors across the country up in arms about some people coming down with a little virus?

In short, because it’s highly contagious, can be deadly and is completely preventable with vaccination. Measles causes fever, cough, runny nose and pink eye in the early stages. People then usually develop a rash that starts at the top of the head and spreads down the body. Measles can cause encephalitis or inflammation of the brain. This can happen during the initial infection or any time after you have been infected with the virus, even years later. Some people who get measles will die from it. According to the World Health Organization, 122,000 people died of measles in 2012 globally. That’s 14 people an hour.

Why are we even in this situation? It started in 1998 when Andrew Wakefield, a former surgeon and researcher in the UK, published a paper suggesting a link between the MMR vaccine and autism. Guess what? Continue reading

Poisons can be found all throughout the house

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Keeping Kids Healthy

It’s important for parents to remember that not all poisons are in the garage or basement.

A number of poisons can be found throughout the house. Small children are both curious and fast, so parents have to exercise special care not to leave dangerous products open or within their reach.

Take a tour of your house or apartment to see if some of these dangerous conditions exist.

  • In the kitchen, check that all detergents, bleaches, cleaners and especially drain cleaners, as well as soaps and bug killers are not under the sink in an unlocked cupboard, but up high in a cupboard with a childproof lock.
  • Products containing lye are extremely dangerous. Don’t keep these in your home. Keep alcoholic drinks up out of the reach of children.
  • Buy products with childproof or child-resistant caps. Opening them should require thumb pressure beyond the ability of small children.
  • In the bathroom, besides checking that soaps are out of reach, keep medicines, cosmetics, colognes, toothpaste and mouthwashes out of reach — and preferably locked up.
  • Don’t leave pills in open bottles or in a dish of “the day’s dose of medicine.” Make sure all product labels are clear — both on medicine and on products that might be found anywhere in the house. In an emergency, you will need to know what product was involved. Continue reading

Why Do We Cheat?

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Medical Discovery News

Even a child can explain why cheating is wrong. Students are well-warned about the consequences that ensue, and adults know the legal implications. Yet cases of cheating continue to emerge in classrooms, boardrooms and newsrooms. People cheat on tests, for sports and in elections. Why? Microbiologists Ferric C. Fang and Arturo Casadevall attempted to answer this question by exploring the causes of cheating and why people deceive to get ahead.

Cheating is not unique to any area of society. Seventy-five percent of university students surveyed had cheated, one-third of scientists surveyed admitted to irregularities in their research practices, and an estimated 1.6 million Americans cheat on their taxes. Cheating isn’t even exclusive to humans — even single-celled organisms can “steal” products made by others.

The size of a particular part of the brain called the neocortex is directly related to an animal’s intelligence. It is also responsible for conscious thought and language. Additionally, the size of the neocortex is predictive of the degree that animals engage in deception. The more intelligent the animal, the more it exhibits deceptive behavior. Continue reading

You only need a cleaver and a small knife in the kitchen

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Do you remember “Leave it to Beaver,” the 1950s-60s show with the quintessential suburban American family

Beaver was an 8-year-old with more existential crises than any 8-year-old deserves. His punk older brother, Wally, was always in trouble, and neither his mother, June, nor his dad, Ward, would ever, despite their surname, at least on TV, wield a cleaver.

The cleaver is a large, flat-bladed cutting instrument and, as I grew up, my exposure to cleavers was limited to butchers holding a big one threateningly to cut up a dead animal or maniacs using cleavers to dismember their victims, sometimes their own family members. None of that for the wholesome Beaver and his Cleaver family.

None of these images left me with a great feeling about cleavers. Nor did my folks even own one. We killed our chickens with a regular hand hatchet. So when I got one as part of a knife set, I slid it into the back of my drawer not to be seen again for five years.

Then, not long back, I discovered the surprising and easy-to-use aspects of the cleaver for preparation of healthy food. Continue reading

Add to value of your lives as a couple

Drs. Victor & Michelle Sierpina

Drs. Victor & Michelle Sierpina

Walking by a beautiful garden, you admire how lovely it looks. How did it get that way?

Of course, the neighbors tended it carefully over the seasons — pruning, weeding, planting, fertilizing and watering.

As a result, they created a wonderful space for themselves and all who pass by to appreciate.

Much the same can be said about a successful marriage. Good relationships, friendships, partnerships and especially marriages require that we — like that dedicated gardener — give the time, mindful effort and hard work to make the magic happen.

Since we married decades ago, Michelle and I have made it a practice to invest time daily in growing our little corner of the marriage world.

Our marriage commitment has involved a number of shared activities that, like that gardener, add to the value of our lives together.

These have included time each morning reading devotional and inspirational literature, journaling and meditating together. At the end of the day, we take time to debrief, listening mindfully to each others’ experiences — the joys, sorrows, challenges and blessings, along with the hopes and dreams. Continue reading

Turmeric is a dietary delight and health superfood

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

The warm, sunny, orange hue of turmeric is a common feature of Indian food, though it is underused as a culinary spice in the U.S.

According to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal titled “Snow Day Superfood,” more chefs are discovering that the tangy “sour-bittery-lemony” flavor, fabulous color and health benefits makes it a rich addition to a large variety of foods.

It can add surprising notes to Italian food, beets, quinoa, veal, cauliflower, halibut and of, course rice, lentils, noodles, soups, stews and many more.

It may take a little experimentation to add it to your repertoire of herbs.

My usual favorite herbs include oregano, dill, rosemary, garlic, basil, thyme, red pepper and, of course, garlic, but not usually turmeric, except when an occasional recipe calls for it.

In my current annual quest to expand my cooking skills with new recipes every two weeks or so, I am looking to create more dishes with turmeric. Why? Continue reading

Knocking Out Hepatitis C

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Medical Discovery News

Good news awaits hepatitis C patients. In the next few years, new drugs that specifically target the Hepatitis C virus, curing a person more quickly without the severe side effects, will become available. Some physicians and patients are even opting to wait for these new drugs rather than endure the current therapy.

Today, this viral infection is most often acquired by drug users sharing needles. The hepatitis C virus can cause a mild illness lasting a few weeks but in some people it can cause a serious lifelong illness. One major problem is that many people are unaware that they are infected until they have symptoms of liver damage. It is the leading cause of cirrhosis and liver cancer and the most common reason for liver transplantation in the United States.

An estimated three to four million Americans are infected, and deaths from hepatitis C are expected to rise in the future as those unaware of their infections begin to have symptoms. There is no vaccine and the current drug regimens can cure about 70 percent of infected people but the serious side effects include anemia, insomnia, depression, fever and severe rashes. Continue reading

Timeless advice on living good, healthy life

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

I suspect there is a scientific institute somewhere called “The Institute for Everything that Was Supposed to be Good for You but is Now Bad for You.”

The flux and change in science as well as uncertainty in such fields as nutritional research makes it maddeningly difficult to know what are the best choices for a good and healthy life.

In a recent New York Times opinion piece, “Why Nutrition is So Confusing,” health and science journalist Gary Taubes describes the enormous costs and challenges to creating credible long-term studies on various approaches to nutrition.

There are so many confounding variables, and the long-term effects so hard to track and measure, that we often get conflicting advice. Witness recent confusion on vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids.

Pharmacological and medical research is likewise strewed with the carcasses of old theories and practices.

The very day a couple weeks ago that I wrote about testosterone and obesity in men, a report came out documenting a significant increase in heart attack rate in men on replacement testosterone above a certain age.

Coronary bypass surgery and tube feeding, long thought to be lifesavers, have been found not to prolong life in controlled studies. Continue reading

Serve healthier drinking alternatives over sweetened soft drinks

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Keeping Kids Healthy

All of us need to think about ways to encourage healthy lifestyles for your family.

Almost 25 percent of children in the U.S. are overweight.

Lately, there has been a lot of discussion about soft drinks in schools and how they contribute to the increasing obesity problem in the U.S. Some legislators have even suggested a “sin” tax on high-fructose foods and drinks.

In an effort to control the growing number of children becoming overweight, the American Academy of Pediatrics is urging school officials to remove soft drinks from vending machines in schools and replace them with healthier drinks, such as milk, 100 percent fruit juice or water.

Other suggestions for limiting access to sodas while children are in school include turning off vending machines during regular school hours and placing the machines in out-of-the-way places, so they are not as noticeable. Continue reading