Enjoy veggies in a nice smoothie

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

When a recent freezing cold front blew in, I decided to get out and harvest my winter garden.

Besides mustard greens, lettuce, herbs, and Swiss chard, I had some beautiful lancinate blue-green kale. Well, right away I made a nice kale salad, described in another article on this website. However, the gift of a fresh turmeric root from my chief resident inspired me to use some of the kale to make a smoothie.

I had seen these before and even tasted a kale or spinach smoothie a time or two. It turns out to be a great way to start your day and getting on your way to getting the recommended five to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables (shoot for 30 percent fruits, 70 percent vegetables) we ought consume daily for optimal health. Continue reading

The altitude gene: A Denisovan gift

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Medical Discovery News

Those traveling to the Himalayas have a tough time adjusting to the harsh altitude. But for those native to Tibet, called the Roof of the World due to its location 14,700 feet up, it’s not a problem. That’s because Tibetans have adapted to this extreme environment partly due to a gene they inherited from an extinct species of prehumans called the Denisovans.

Anyone traveling to high altitudes like those in Tibet can get altitude sickness and there is no way to predict who will get it. The severity of it varies according to genetics and the rate of ascent, but it is not influenced by age, gender, physical fitness or previous altitude experience.

Symptoms can include headaches, nausea, dizziness, fatigue, shortness of breath, loss of appetite and disturbed sleep. Severe symptoms could indicate high altitude cerebral edema, which impairs brain function, progresses rapidly and can become life-threatening in a matter of hours. Continue reading

Zzzzz on snoring

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Do you snore or know somebody who does?

Snoring is usually a benign process caused by vibration of tissue in the back of the throat. While it can be associated with serious problems like obstructive sleep apnea that require medical or surgical intervention, most of the time the causes are more straightforward.

Chances are if you snore, you might not even be aware of it unless you have a bed partner, roommate or grandchild that you are keeping up and who can tell you.

I did see a recent app for those who live alone that can record your snoring patterns and help identify if you have a problem. If you have a lot of daytime drowsiness and don’t seem to get restful sleep, it might be worth checking out.

I saw a TV commercial for a removable mouth device that reduces snoring. In this ad, a hapless guy is kicked out of bed by his wife who is suffering from lack of sleep due to his loud snoring. He is sad faced and gets to sleep on the couch until he gets the mouthpiece. Ouch! After that, of course all is well again. This kind of mouthpiece sometimes works and has the benefit of being inexpensive and safe. Continue reading

Hearing loss in children on the rise

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Keeping Kids Healthy

The latest song is blasting through the earphones of the teen’s iPod. It’s so loud the other kids can hear it, even though they’re a good 10 feet away. We’ve all heard the noise: Whether it’s coming from a car radio, a concert, or yes, even those personal music players that are so popular, it seems the volume on life is cranked up and the knob ripped off.

Can you hear your mother’s words ring in the back of your mind? “Turn that down, you’re going to go deaf!” Nearly 27 million Americans age 3 and older suffer from some sort of hearing loss. That’s double the number 30 years ago.

In children, three main culprits make up the majority of causes of hearing loss. They are otitis media, hearing loss at birth, and other acquired causes, like complications from the measles, mumps, or a head injury. Continue reading

The cough that won’t go away

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Still coughing? A few days ago I was swapping home remedies with a lively Italian grandmother on how coughs were treated in our families. Her favorite was a mix of honey, lemon juice and a splash of bourbon.

During a recent hospitalization for a bronchial infection, her cough was unremitting so she asked the nurses for her favorite cough syrup. Our professional and patient-centered nurses agreed to bring the honey and the lemon juice. The rest of the recipe would be fine if someone brought it in and they just didn’t know about it. Wink, wink!

Well, she was in the office a couple weeks later and though a powerful opiate laced cough syrup helped, she still was up at night and fatigued from a persistent cough.

I recommended the lemon-honey-whiskey mixture at bedtime along with an expectorant and an inhaler. We got along well, I think, and I expect she and her cough will improve. Continue reading

Tips to help families improve fitness, eating habits

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

In the last two to three decades, the number of overweight children has doubled. Almost one child in five is considered overweight. Obesity can lead to risk factors for heart disease, such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure, sleep apnea, orthopedic problems, liver disease, asthma, as well as low self-esteem and depression. The likely cause of the increase in the amount of overweight children is more than likely the same reason that adult obesity is on the rise: overeating and lack of physical activity.

Because of these findings new guidelines have been developed by the Expert Panel on Integrated Guidelines for Cardiovascular Health and Risk Reduction in Children and Adolescents appointed by the National Health, Lung and Blood Institute and endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics. The recommendations are regardless of family history all children between the age of 9 and 11 years undergo lipid screening for nonfasting non-HDH-cholesterol levels or a fasting lipid panel. This is to be repeated with another full lipid screen between 18 and 21 years of age. It is unclear in children what the treatment should be when an elevated LDL-cholesterol is found. However there is strong evidence that healthy eating and increased activity is associated with a healthy heart.

The following are a few suggestions to help your family start a program to improve eating habits and increase physical activity. Continue reading

Beat deafness extremely rare, but actually exists

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Medical Discovery News

Have you ever noticed when someone in the audience can’t clap along with a beat at a concert? Well, it turns out that beat deafness actually exists. The first case was documented nearly five years ago, identified in a 26-year-old man who could not follow the beat at all when listening to music. Chances are, you don’t have it, though. Beat deafness is a form of a musical brain disorder that is extremely rare. Sometimes audience members get so off beat that performers stop in an effort to get back on track. That in part inspired a group of neuroscientists in Montreal to look for people who felt they had no sense of the beat. After screening dozens of people, only one, Mathieu, was found to have true beat deafness.

Mathieu loves music, studies guitar and once had a job as an amusement park mascot that involved dancing, which by his own admission did not go so well. “I just can’t figure out what’s rhythm, in fact,” Mathieu said. “I just can’t hear it, or I just can’t feel it.” However, he can follow the beat if he watches someone else. He could also follow the beat of a metronome, indicating that he did not have a movement disorder. In one test, Mathieu was asked to bounce or bend his knees to the beat of different kinds of music while holding a Wii controller that logged his movements. His results were compared to normal people who could identify the beat. After being tested with merengue, pop, rock, belly dancing and techno music, he was only able to follow the distinct and obvious beats of techno music. Continue reading

Grasping heart health through sound

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

The stethoscope is maybe one of the most iconic items in medicine and health care. Draped around the neck or tucked into a white coat, this instrument symbolizes the knowledge and authority to heal of those wearing it. Invented less than 200 years ago by a French doctor, Rene Laënnec, it was initially a simple tube of paper. Laënnec found the previous method of applying his ear to the chest, especially that of a buxom lass, a bit uncomfortable for both of them. He solved the problem by rolling up a tube of paper to listen to her heart. He was pleased with the improved sound transmission and eventually went on to use a wooden tube, much like the old ear trumpets in order to hear the sounds of the heart.

Of course, the stethoscope has gone through many upgrades and improvements and is now bi-aural instead of mono-aural, fitting into two ears instead of one. The latex tubing and a specially designed diaphragm at the end allow physicians, nurses, EMT’s and others to listen to the various sounds the heart makes, including murmurs, as well as breath sounds, bowel sounds, and the sounds of blood in the vessels. It can also note the crunch of a broken rib, the wheezing of asthma, the rattle of heart failure, the harsh sounds of pneumonia, the size of an organ, fluid levels and can even be used as a reflex hammer if one isn’t available. It is a highly useful medical device but its days may be numbered as illustrated by the following story. Continue reading

Set healthy goals for children in 2015

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Now that the magic of Christmas is complete, there’s a new year to look forward to. It’s a new beginning. We can all wipe the slate clean and start over once again!

Your children can be part of that optimistic time of year when we swear off the chocolate, vow to drink more water, and sign up for the gym in droves. And, while as adults, we saddle ourselves with major pressure, the goals you and your child can set are much more manageable.

The goals for your child are totally attainable. For example, (this is the part where you grab your child, curl up on the couch with this column, and have them repeat after you):

1. I will clean up my toys
2. I will brush my teeth at least twice a day
3. I will wash my hands after going to the bathroom and before eating
4. I will share with my sisters, brothers, and friends Continue reading

The spirit of Christmas giving all year long

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

“Find a need and fill it” is a wise saying by a minister I have long admired.

This is definitely the guiding light of the Luke Society that has been filing needs in Galveston for over 30 years for the underserved, homeless, and social outcasts, many with mental health disorders.

Since 1995, they have, under the leadership of internist Dr. Fritz Zaunbrecher, held a street medical ministry to serve those who have little or no other option for health care.

Dispensing supplies of blood pressure medications, antibiotics, asthma inhalers and more to over a hundred people weekly is a major effort and expense. The Moody Methodist Foundation generously supports some of their expenses for medications and supplies. Even local high school students interested in health care contribute time and efforts.

These potentially lifesaving medications have no doubt kept many of the street people out of the emergency room with strokes, heart problems, asthma attacks, systemic infections and more. This is not only a wonderful ministry of health for those served but reduces the unreimbursed costs of care to UTMB and other county emergency facilities for conditions that might have been dealt with earlier, in a less acute stage. Continue reading