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?
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Suggestions for car seats, restraints to save children’s lives

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Keeping Kids Healthy

Toddlers between the ages of 12 and 23 months who ride in rear-facing car safety seats are five times safer than a toddler of the same age group in a forward facing car seat.

Overall, children 2 and younger are 75 percent less likely to die or experience a serious injury when they ride in a rear-facing car seat, according to Drs. Marilyn Bull and Dennis Durbin in “Rear-facing Car Safety Seats — Getting the Message Right,” Pediatrics, March 2008.

Rear-facing seats support the back, neck, head and pelvis because the force of the crash is distributed evenly across the entire body.

Forward-facing children will have the force of the crash concentrated on the seat belt contact points.

Also, younger children’s heads are large related to their small bodies, making whip lash much more dangerous for their small, weak necks.

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death in children and, as new research indicates that toddlers are five times safer in a rear-facing car seat.

Here are some recommendations from the Academy of Pediatrics: Continue reading

Humor, laughter are essential for optimal healing environment

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

As a kid, one of my favorite sections of the Reader’s Digest was “Laughter is the Best Medicine.”

I read it voraciously as each issue arrived and reread it as the Reader’s Digest was conveniently placed in our family bathroom.

I really liked the idea of good humor as a lubricant to the wheels of life. As I grew older, even as s a serious student, I found good humor in tasteful jokes, the elegance of TV comedians like Red Skelton, Jack Benny, George Burns, Jackie Gleason and many more.

After college, I washed out of marine biology graduate school because of recurrent, intractable seasickness.

Following a couple interesting years driving a truck, I entered medical school.

There, the idea that laughter was the best medicine seemed far removed from the life of a medical student. We reverentially dissected donated cadavers, extracting all the knowledge we could from this final last gift of families and patients.

In fact, when some of our classmates propped up five cadavers around a table with poker cards and chips, they were immediately expelled.

It was disrespectful and not funny, an immature prank that offended many, including those whose families had donated bodies. Continue reading

Aging and Our Biological Clock

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Medical Discovery News

The questions of how we age and how our bodies know what to do during that process have puzzled scientists for years. The answers lie in our biological clocks, which aren’t fully understood. Some scientists think that if we can learn how our biological clocks work, we would hold the key to slowing down or even reversing aging.

A group from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) achieved astounding results that offer insight into the mechanisms of aging. They used existing sets of data to compare DNA patterns in normal and cancerous tissue samples from humans. They examined almost 8,000 samples from more than 50 different people that were taken from various places in or on the body. This allowed them to take a comprehensive look at the changes that occur throughout the body during the aging process and how tissues of the body keep time.
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Watch children for delays in their language development

Keeping Kids Healthy
By Drs. Sally Robinson and Keith Bly

Communication with your child begins long before he or she speaks a single word.

A baby’s cry, smile and responses to you help you understand his or her needs.

Children develop at different rates, but they usually are able to do certain things at certain ages.

The following are general developmental milestones. Keep in mind they are only guidelines. If you have any questions about your baby’s development, ask your child’s health care giver — the sooner the better. Even when there are delays, early intervention can make a significant difference. 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

A Blood Test for Suicide

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Medical Discovery News

The 10th leading cause of death in America is completely preventable – suicide. In 2010, 38,364 people died by suicide, more than chronic liver disease, septicemia, and Parkinson’s disease.

While strongly linked to depression, there are not always clear warning signs that someone is about to commit suicide. Unlike a viral or bacterial infection where there can be a number of signs like changes in body temperature, white blood cells, and signaling molecules, there is no simple clinical test to diagnose suicidal tendencies. Now, new research is working toward a blood test using biomarkers that may identify those likely to commit suicide.

Biomarkers are biological materials that are seen under specific conditions. For example, during a viral infection proteins called cytokines are produced by the human body to help defend cells and tissues from the virus. Identifying these proteins is a signature of viral infection. The challenge is that these signatures change over the course of the infection and different viruses can produce different signatures. Scientists have been working extensively to use this concept of biomarkers to help with the early detection of other diseases from cancer to Alzheimer’s. Continue reading

Children can have OTC acetaminophen, NSAIDs

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Keeping Kids Healthy

Your child has a fever, cough and headache. You reach in the medicine cabinet and find several bottles of pills and liquid medicine.

Brand names vary, but the generic names include ibuprofen, acetaminophen, naproxen and aspirin. How do you know what is right for your child’s discomfort? Is there any difference?

The answer depends on your child’s age, weight and symptoms. If you are not sure which medicine to give your child, check with your pediatrician or heath care provider according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Two main kinds of pain relievers are available for most children without prescription — acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

There are many brands of these two pain relievers/fever reducers. Most can be found in the children’s section of your drugstore. Continue reading

Cultivate technique for living peacefully

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Have you noticed the general lack of civility and courteous dialogue these days?

It is not just politicians but regular people who seem not to be able to cope well with those they disagree with.

The hateful, negative tone of letters to the editor, nasty conversations with store clerks, shouting at kids, feisty disagreements with colleagues and so on all create an overall atmosphere of negativity in our world.

Though we just got through both Passover and Easter seasons, it still seems a lot of us still need deliverance and redemption, not from the Pharaoh or the devil, but from ourselves.

There always are individuals, thugs, gangs, boss types and their national or political leader equivalents who seem to think that they can force others to do their bidding through threats and physical or verbal violence and even lethal force. Continue reading

Breaking Bad in the Neighborhood

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Medical Discovery News

Drug abuse is not confined to street drugs like methamphetamine, heroin and cocaine. America is facing an epidemic of prescription drug abuse, particularly with pain relievers, anti-depressants and stimulants. In 2010, 7 million Americans abused prescription drugs every month.

People are able to abuse such medications by taking medicines prescribed for someone else, using them in excess, or by taking them in a way not prescribed, such as crushing and snorting pills or liquefying and injecting them to hasten the effects needed to produce a high.

Anti-depressants, sedatives and tranquilizers are abused by more than 2.5 million people each month. The mood-altering drug Zoloft ranks sixth on the list of abused pharmaceuticals and earned more than $500 million in sales. It is prescribed for depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and social anxiety disorder. The 10th most abused prescription drug is Xanax (alprazolam), called Xany, blue footballs, Xanybars or just bars on the street. Xanax had sales of almost $275 million in 2012. This drug is intended to treat anxiety or panic disorders. It is often abused because it creates what is described as a sense of well-being, but can be fatal when abused. Continue reading