Staving Off Dementia

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Medical Discovery News

“When I was younger, I could remember anything, whether it had happened or not; but my faculties are decaying now and soon I shall be so I cannot remember any but the things that never happened.”

While American novelist Mark Twain can invariably add his iconic sense of humor to any situation, it is no laughing matter when patients lose their memories and cognitive function to dementia. And for their family members, there is hardly anything harder than caring for a loved one who can no longer remember them or any shared experiences. But lowering a person’s risk of dementia may be as simple as changing his or her lifestyle.

The incidence of dementia increases with age. As the average age of Americans increases, the number of people with dementia also increases. In 2010, more than 30 million people worldwide had dementia, and this figure is estimated to more than triple by 2050. Continue reading

How to make the most of a doctor visit

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

If you have an ear infection, a laceration, broken bone or other acute problem, the answer to this question is easy. You expect and likely will receive immediate, competent and focused care of your condition.

However, in the primary care arena in which I work, these kinds of visit are a relatively minor, simple part of our daily work. Much more time and effort is dedicated to the management of chronic diseases, doing annual physicals and attending to preventive and screening issues. Trying to manage these larger issues is not usually possible during an acute care visit so another appointment generally needs to be scheduled.

So how do you make best use of these more complicated visits? In the words of the Boy Scout motto, “Be prepared.” Continue reading

Choose which health insurance plan is best for your family

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Keeping Kids Healthy

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently reported in their Parent Plus column some information about the Affordable Health Insurance Act.

Starting Jan. 1, almost all Americans must have health insurance. If you do not have health insurance, you may have to pay a fee.

Now is a good time to see what health insurance benefits are best for your family and whether you qualify for a lower cost plan.

If your family already has health insurance through an employer, there is no need to change anything. Children 26 and younger can be covered on their parents’ health plan.

If you do not have health insurance, you can find options through your state’s Health Insurance Marketplace. You can sign up for an insurance plan during the open enrollment period through March 31. Continue reading

5 steps toward contentment

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

What does it mean, to be content? Is it even possible?

I will be the first to admit that attaining a mental or spiritual state of feeling truly content is challenging in this busy world.

In our era, the stock market, consumer indexes and virtually the whole economy is keyed around how much stuff we buy and how much we spend. Christmas is an economic failure if we don’t spend enough money.

To feed the open maw of this insatiably hungry beast, we are constantly barraged with ads, images, glamour shots, fashions, toys for old and young, amusements and other titillations encouraging us always to want more, need more and therefore spend more.

It seems we are systematically encouraged to be dissatisfied with our lot in life. This is the opposite of contentment.

Instead, we are encouraged to acquire the latest gadget, bauble or status symbol. There is always something new to buy or some new thrill to distract us and make us feel satisfied, at least for the moment. Continue reading

Breast cancer awareness is more than mammograms

Dr. Tristi Muir

Dr. Tristi Muir

Our Bodies, Our Lives

Breast cancer awareness means more than mammograms

This month my scrub cap for surgery is decorated with pink ribbons. Football players are wearing hot-pink cleats. During October, a variety of products and events encourage us to commit financially to finding a cure for breast cancer.

One in 8 women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer in our lifetimes. While men can develop breast cancer, it is 100 times more common in women. The American Cancer Society estimates that in the year 2013, there will be 232,340 new diagnoses of invasive breast cancer.

Each of these “cases” is a daughter, mother, sister or friend. Continue reading

Where does itchiness come from?

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Medical Discovery News

Anyone ever bitten by a mosquito can attest to its itchy consequences.

New research has discovered just how our bodies detect and process itching, leading to a better understanding of our reaction to itching and hopefully better treatments for it.

The clinical term for an itch is “pruritus,” and at least 16 percent of people experience an itch that just doesn’t go away.

Long-term itching is the most common dermatologic complaint and can be caused by chronic renal disease, cirrhosis, some cancers, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, shingles, allergic reactions, drug reactions and pregnancy.

Prolonged itching and scratching can increase the intensity of the itch, possibly leading to neurodermatitis, a condition in which a frequently scratched area of skin becomes thick and leathery. The patches can be raw, red or darker than the rest of the skin. Continue reading

Tips to follow for a safe Halloween for children

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Keeping Kids Healthy

It’s almost Halloween again. Before sending your little ones out in search of candy, consider the following to ensure that he or she has a trick-free Halloween:

• Don’t buy a costume unless it’s labeled “flame-retardant.”

• Make sure that wigs and beards don’t cover your child’s eyes, nose or mouths.

• Encourage your child to choose a costume without a mask. Masks can make it difficult for your child to breathe. Use face paint instead.

• Suggest a light-colored costume for your child or add glow-in-the dark tape on the front and back of a dark costume.

• Avoid oversized or high-heeled shoes that can cause your child to trip and fall.

• Make sure that accessories, such as swords or wands, are flexible.

• Put a name tag with your phone number on or inside your child’s costume.

If your child will be trick-or-treating: Continue reading

Shameless happiness is easy as A, B, C, D, E

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Some time ago, The Daily News ran a series of columns by a young lady whose optimism and positive thinking I found inspirational.

In a world of bad news and low expectations, it seemed she found something cheerful to write about each column. I used to think of her as Ms. Sunshine and have missed her contributions.

I ran into her and her wonderful family, now with three gorgeous kids and one on the way at the recent Galveston ArtWalk. Watching the very active boys, I could certainly understand why she didn’t have much time to write these days.

Still, it seems to me that happiness is way undersupplied these days and there ought be a remedy.

As a physician, I have the opportunity to see plenty of unhappiness, much of it for good reason — abuse, trauma, stress, horrific family stories, mental and physical pain and disease. These problems are challenging, and sometimes nearly impossible to solve. Continue reading

Synthetic biology could revolutionize medicine

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Synthetic biology sounds like an oxymoron. One word means artificial while the other means natural.

Put together, what those two words really mean is a combination of biology and engineering that will allow scientists to harness biological processes for human use.

Imagine genetic engineering and biotechnology on steroids.

In short, synthetic biology aims to manipulate cells or their components to achieve a certain result, such as advancing human health, producing energy, manufacturing products, producing food or protecting the environment.

There are plenty of applications for synthetic biology in many important fields.

Scientists want to create cells with new and unique properties that are programmed to fulfill a directed purpose.

For example, these engineered cells might be programmed to synthesize new biofuels.

One practical example of the promise of synthetic biology is directed at malaria, a disease caused by a single-celled parasite called Plasmodium that has been killing humans throughout our recorded history. Continue reading

Flu season is arriving and it’s time to prepare for it

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Keeping Kids Healthy

Flu season 2013 is here with the first few cases reported. Protect your family against the flu with vaccination.

The 2013 flu vaccine protects against the most likely strains to be spread this winter.

The flu vaccine is recommended for all children 6 months and older. A nasal spray version of the vaccine is available for healthy older children and adults. You can’t get the flu from the flu vaccine. It can give you a sore shoulder, body aches and a slight fever, but not the flu. The more of us that are protected, the fewer people there are to give you the flu.

The flu is a miserable illness that for most people is like a common cold times 1,000. Most everyone we see, from babies up to teenagers and adults, have at least a fever of 102 to 103, and it’s not uncommon for their temperature to be 104 to 105. The height of the fever does not necessarily indicate the severity of the illness — the flu is still just the flu. However “just the flu” kills children — and adults — every year. Continue reading