Impaired decision has effect on many lives

Dr. Tristi Muir

Dr. Tristi Muir

Our Bodies, Our Lives

Two and a half years ago, my phone rang. “Tristi (sob, sob), Alli has been hit by a car.” A wave of disbelief raced through my body.

My 26-year-old compassionate, strong, beautiful niece had been walking along a road in the wee hours of the morning when she was hit by a car and left on the side of the road to die.

The woman who hit and killed her was only 22 years old and had been drinking all night.

This story and the tremendous grief that is left in its wake are all too familiar.

In June, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control published its findings that excessive drinking accounted for 1 in 10 deaths among working-age adults in the United States — most commonly, the impact is as sudden as the lights of an oncoming car.

Any bartender can tell you that the less mixer you add to the alcohol, the stronger the kick. The natural “mixer” in the body is water.

As the alcohol is absorbed from the gut, it’s distributed in the water of the body. Continue reading

A few tips for handling that rash down under

Dr. Tristi Muir

Dr. Tristi Muir

Our Bodies, Our Lives

Like it or not, it’s swimsuit season. You hit the gym and work out to look good in revealing summer wear — causing sweating and rubbing of the vulva and inner thighs (“chub rub”).

When you dive into the summer itself, you find yourself lounging in a wet swimsuit bottom. This constant moisture provides a perfect environment for bacteria and yeast to proliferate.

Breaks in the skin due to rubbing, itching or shaving can lead to a secondary infection that can cause enough redness, itchiness and pain to ruin a beautiful summer day.

Unfortunately, many women suffer in silence — they are embarrassed to see a doctor — and search for an Internet cure.

Let’s explore what could be going on down under. Continue reading

Goodbye to annual Pap smear

Dr. Tristi Muir

Dr. Tristi Muir

Our Bodies, Our Lives

The musical “Evita” depicts the true story of Eva Perón, who rose from an illegitimate birth to become the passionate “spiritual leader of Argentina.”

During her lifetime, she promoted labor rights, championed women’s right to vote in Argentina, established a foundation to help the poor and won the hearts of a nation.

As Eva was riding this wave of political momentum, she was diagnosed with advanced cervical cancer and died at the young age of 33.

Can you imagine how much more she could have accomplished if Pap smears were available? Unfortunately, the tests were just being introduced in the United States at the time of her death in the early ’50s.

Cervical cancer once was the No. 1 cancer in women. After the introduction of Pap smears, cervical cancer rates in women in the United States fell to No. 14.

Even today, screening is not available in many developing countries, and in those countries, cervical cancer remains the leading cause of cancer death in women. Continue reading

Are you under a powerful spell or is it just PMS?

Dr. Tristi Muir

Dr. Tristi Muir

Emotional explosions, bloating, food cravings, diarrhea. No, this isn’t a travel misadventure; it’s the dreaded premenstrual syndrome, more commonly known as PMS.

Have you ever gone through your closet trying on clothes but they all seem too tight because your belly is so bloated? When you look in the mirror, have you burst into tears because you feel fat?

To calm yourself, you rush into the pantry to devour the fresh chocolate chip cookies and quickly move on to the jalapeño potato chips?

Ahhh, you have calmed yourself down, but the end result is water retention in addition to your bloating. Ugh!

But your frustration ends as your period starts. Calm and stability — and estrogen — blossom within you and make life amazing … for about two weeks. Then it all starts again.

About 75 percent of women experience some symptoms of PMS, beginning with the second half of their cycle and receding with the onset of a woman’s period.

PMS describes a constellation of symptoms, including bloating, mood swings, agitation, food cravings, breast tenderness, change in bowel habits (including constipation and diarrhea), insomnia and loss of sex drive. Continue reading

4 key questions, 7 steps to health

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

The noted heart surgeon Christiaan Barnard once said that our goal in life should be “to die young, as late as possible.”

These words of wisdom suggest that we need to tend to those things that keep us young functionally, mind, body and spirit. As we ascend in age, our goal should be to postpone as long as we can the depredations of unhealthy aging, premature disease and loss of function.

At a recent national conference for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes, a nationwide organization including an OLLI here in Galveston that is dedicated to promoting healthy aging, I heard a terrific and highly practical presentation.

The keynote speaker was a friend of mine, Dr. Margaret Chesney, head of the University of California in San Francisco’s Osher Integrative Medicine Center and also former head of the National Institutes of Health National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

Dr. Chesney shared data that showed the answer to four simple questions can largely determine how healthy your lifestyle is.

The four questions were:
1. Are you a nonsmoker?
2. Is your Body Mass Index (BMI) less than 30?
3. Do you engage in mild or moderate physical activity at least 21⁄2 hours per week?
4. Do you eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily?
Continue reading

Young girls’ change starts with menarche

Dr. Tristi Muir

Dr. Tristi Muir

Our Bodies, Our Lives

Menarche is the time when a girl has her first period. The normal age range of menarche is 9-15.

As the average weight of people — including children — in our country has increased during the past four decades, the age of the onset of puberty and menarche has decreased.

Periods are usually light and irregular in the beginning. Within two years of menarche, two out of three girls will progress to regular, predictable periods occurring about monthly — anywhere between 21 and 45 days — and lasting from three to seven days.

Menarche is a sign that the orchestration between the brain (the conductor) and the ovarian hormones (the orchestra) has resulted in stimulation and shedding of the uterine lining.

The uterus contracts to shed the uterine lining, which is the source of pelvic cramping and back pain. Through the course of a period, vaginal bleeding may change in intensity and color.

Along with hormonal effects on the uterus, girls also may notice water weight gain, bloating, breast tenderness and of course moodiness before the start of her period, called PMS or premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). Continue reading

Explore all options with your doctor during menopause

Dr. Tristi Muir

Dr. Tristi Muir

Our Bodies, Our Lives

The change of life sounds so dramatic. Life is always changing.

Hormonally, we have menarche (starting periods), cyclic changes (including premenstrual syndrome), pregnancy and postpartum hormonal changes, and alas — menopause.

It should probably be called meno‘stop’ rather than meno‘pause,’ because the ovaries have sputtered out and are not likely to get going again.

Women spend about one-third of their lives in menopause. The loss of estrogen in our bodies manifests itself in more ways than hot flashes. Estrogen receptors are present throughout our bodies and impact our mind, mood, heart, waistline and sexual function.

Estrogen receptors are abundant in the areas of our brain that are important for working and episodic memory. Limited clinical trial evidence has shown that women undergoing surgical menopause (having their ovaries removed) may benefit from the prompt initiation of estrogen therapy to preserve their ability to remember words.

Additionally, estrogen promotes neuronal growth and formation of synapses, acts as an antioxidant to protect the brain from damaging free radicals and elevates levels of neurotransmitters in the brain such as serotonin, which can have a profound effect on mood. Continue reading

Violence against women hurts us all

Dr. Jeff Temple

Dr. Jeff Temple

The arrest in recent weeks of more than 30 fugitives wanted in Harris County on domestic violence charges should bring home the fact that intimate partner violence is widespread. Last year, and the year before, the Harris County District Attorney’s office filed more than 10,500 cases of domestic violence. Thirty people were killed in cases of domestic violence in the county, the most in the state.

Violence against women is a pervasive and widespread plague on our society – one that crosses geographic, economic and racial lines. In the United States alone, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1.3 million women each year are victims of physical violence at the hands of their partners; one in four will be physically assaulted by a boyfriend or husband in her lifetime. Texas is no exception to this problem.

While men also are victims of family violence, women overwhelmingly are the targets. In 2012, which saw nearly 200,000 instances of family violence, 114 women were killed by their partner in the Lone Star State. Continue reading

Fight back against stress

Dr. Tristi Muir

Dr. Tristi Muir

Our Bodies, Our Lives

Just as I started writing this column on stress relief, I had an unexpected stressful event.

My mother had a subdural hematoma and emergency neurosurgery in California — with no other family around her.

I felt my adrenal glands squeeze and the stress hormones bathe my body as I sat by her intensive care bed.

What I realized at that moment was the thought of starting stress relieving measures at such a stressful time was overwhelming. The only way for stress relief to be there when we need it is if stress-relieving measures are part of our daily routine.

In a world where stress is a constant companion, what can we do to fight back?

  • Stop multi-tasking. Multi-tasking is a myth. That’s a difficult pill for women to swallow, because we are the queens of multi-tasking.

It seems that life demands that of us; however, we can truly only focus on one thing at a time. Continue reading

Stress affects every aspect of health

Dr. Tristi Muir

Dr. Tristi Muir

Our Bodies, Our Lives

A fire races toward your house. This is definitely a stressful situation, but how you handle it may be programmed in your sex genes.

Fight or flight is typically a male response to this type of situation — sticking around to fight the fire or running as fast as you can away from it.

Women have a tend and befriend response to sudden stress. Estrogen blunts the fight or flight response, and we engage in nurturing activities to protect ourselves and our children.

These responses allow us to don a superman or superwoman cape and rise to the occasion. But what happens to our physical and emotional health when the stress is here day in and day out?

Most of us allow stress to sit on our shoulders like unwanted cellulite. You don’t want it, but it tenaciously hangs on.

Stress stimulates the release of various chemicals in our body. The primary stimulating response is the release of catecholamines and corticosteroids, or cortisol, from our adrenal glands. This rush can provide that superwoman response to acute stress. Continue reading