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Doctor Housecalls Blog

Healthcare related news and updates



Hormone Replacement Therapy Safe for Menopausal Women

In the past many women have hesitated to use hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to ease symptoms of menopause. This is mainly due to a 2002 study saying that HRT was linked to breast cancer, heart attacks, and strokes. However, a new study reveals that there is no connection between HRT and those diseases. In fact, this 18 year long study found that women who use HRT for menopause symptoms are no more likely to suffer a premature death than those who do not use it. The purpose of this study was to get the message out that hormone replacement therapy is safe and effective for the right patient.

“It is a bit surprising that given the many risks of hormone therapy identified during the treatment phase, the net effect on all-cause mortality was neutral,” says Manson, from the Women’s Health Initiative. That is why it is critical that the latest study researched mortality rates. Where HRT is harmful in some ways, it is beneficial in others. HRT is complex and has different risks and benefits to different diseases. However, researchers from the study still recommend using as low a dose as possible and using it for a short a period of time. While women who took HRT at a younger age had a lower risk of early death, this number dropped off for women who took it for many years.  The data shows that up 7 years of HRT is safe for women, but beyond that the risks may outweigh the benefits.

 



How to Get Rid of Knee Pain

About 18% of the population suffers from knee pain. For some people it comes from knee or hip injuries and for others it may just come with age. Knee pain can be so bad that it forces people to stop having an active lifestyle and become sedentary. However, that can only make the knee pain worse and there are many things you can do to reduce or even eliminate knee pain. Here are some tips to help alleviate knee pain. 

  1. Stay active. Exercising and maintaining an active lifestyle is one of the best ways to prevent and get rid of knee pain. Your joints need movement. Never stop exercising because you think it is causing knee pain, that will only make the pain worse. Just change up the kinds of exercise you engage in.  
  2. Low impact activities. Swimming and cycling are two examples of low impact activities that do not put as much pressure on your knees. These are both great ways to stay active and lessen the pain in your knees.  
  3. Stretch. Knee pain can be reduced when you stretch the muscles that surround your knee. That means stretching your calfs, thighs, hamstrings, quadriceps, gastrocnemius, and soleus on a regular basis.
  4. Buy good shoes. The shoes you wear effect the amount of impact your knees take. The amount of pressure to your knees can depend on how much cushion and support your walking and running shoes have. Be sure to find the best shoes for your body.  
  5. Alternate between hot and cold compressions. Both heat and ice treatments are good for stimulating blood flow and reducing inflammation in your knees.  
  6. Wear a brace. If you are suffering with knee pain while walking or exercising, wearing a brace can provide the support your knees need and help alleviate knee pain. 

 



How to Avoid the Flu

With October just around the corner, it is time to begin thinking about how you are going to avoid the flu this year. The flu can mean being out of school or work for over a week and even worse for some people who are vulnerable to more severe flu complications.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends getting your yearly flu vaccine before the end of October to ensure that it has been in your body long enough before flu season.  The flu vaccine will protect you from the flu virus that is the most common and that you are most likely to get. Young children, adults over 65, people who are pregnant, and people with chronic health conditions are at risk for having severe health complications from the flu. For these people getting the flu vaccine is even more crucial.

After being vaccinated, the next step to preventing the flu is being cautious about the spreading of germs. Here are some tips:

  • Avoid close contact with sick people.
  • Avoid touching surfaces that many other people touch, such as public railings.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, especially after you have been in contact with public surfaces that may carry germs.
  • Always wash your hands with soap and water.
  • Keep an alcohol based disinfectant on you at all times for when you don’t have access to soap and water.
  • Get sleep and have a well-balanced diet during flu season. This will help to keep your immune system strong.

If you do become sick with flu symptoms, take the following measures to avoid spreading the virus any further.

  • Take the medicine that your doctor has prescribed to you.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze.
  • Throw away the tissue after blowing your nose.
  • Avoid close contact with anyone for 24 hours after your fever is gone.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects you touched while sick.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water often.

No one wants to get the flu, so do what you can to prevent getting it this year. There is no reason not to get your annual flu vaccine, you are only harming yourself and the people you spend most of your time with.

 



Higher Coffee Consumption Is Linked with Lower Risk of Death for Many

A new study released by the European Society of Cardiology Congress found that higher coffee consumption is linked with a lower risk of death. That does not mean just one cup of coffee a day. Up to 4 cups of coffee a day can reduce your chances of an early death. Previous studies have shown that high coffee consumption may be linked with a higher risk of mortality, however this research has never been conducted in a Mediterranean country. Researchers thought that the risks or benefits of coffee consumption may be different  for those who consume a Mediterranean diet and lifestyle.

 

The study followed 20,000 patients whose average age was 37.7 years old. The participants were researched and studied for over the course of ten years. The results of the study found that participants who drank four or more cups of coffee a day had a 64% lower risk of death than those who never or almost never drank coffee. For participants over the age of 45, drinking two additional cups of coffee a day reduced their risk of death by 30%. Another study found that drinking coffee contributed to a lower risk of death due to heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes and kidney disease.

 

In conclusion, drinking 4 cups of coffee today as a part of a healthy diet can contribute to that healthy diet. Therefore, if you are following a healthy diet and lifestyle, don’t worry about cutting down on the coffee, consider drinking more instead. However, this study did not show that drinking coffee can benefit people with unhealthy diets.

 



2 Teaspoons of Salt a Day is Too Much for Your Heart

The typical American diet contains too much salt, and it is a direct cause of heart problems. A US Study suggests that the amount of salt each American adult eats a day is enough to damage the heart muscle and make it more difficult to pump blood. It is already well known that a high-salt diet is linked to an elevated risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, heart attacks, strokes, and heart failure. This study reinforces that, but draws a direct correlation between daily intake of salt and heart problems.

In the study, the people who ate two teaspoons of salt a day were “more likely to have enlargement in the left chambers of the heart that are responsible for pumping oxygen-rich blood into the body” in comparison to people who ate less than two teaspoons of salt a day. They were also more likely to have a muscle strain in the heart.

This study makes it very clear that American adults should cut back on their daily salt intake. To be on the safe side, adults should try to eat less than 2 grams of salt every day.

 



Extreme Heat in Arizona Causes a Public Health Hazard

Rising temperatures are causing more and more deaths every year. It is happening all over the country, but the rates are even more extreme in Arizona. The Phoenix area has already experienced extreme heat warnings from the state’s Department of Health Services this summer. Exactly how many people are dying from extreme heat in Maricopa County?

The New York Times reported that in 2016, 130 Maricopa county residents died of heat related causes.  AZ Central claimed that while it is difficult to calculate heat related deaths due to varying definitions, Maricopa County contributed to about 25% of the US’s heat related deaths in 2015. Many of these deaths occur when people do not have functioning air conditioners, especially the elderly and economically disadvantaged. “People who are economically disadvantaged have a harder time paying for increased electricity bills or keeping their water on throughout the entire year and those factors can predispose you to heat-related illness,” Kate Goodin, epidemiology and data services program manager at the Maricopa County Department of Public Health, told NBC News.

It is not just heat related illnesses that have increased with the rising temperatures in Arizona. The extreme temperatures are also contributing to natural disasters, such as wildfires. Governor Ducey stated that “since April 2017, Arizona has experienced more than one dozen large wildfires, aided by high temperatures, winds, and available fuels.”



Beware of Fatal Brain Infection While Swimming in Warm Fresh Water This Summer

With summer coming into full swing and the desire to take a dip in the lake, the last thing you want to hear is that there is a deadly, brain-eating amoeba called Naeglaria fowleri that you need to be aware of while swimming in fresh water. It sounds like something from a horror movie that would never happen in real life. However, while it is rare, the infection that comes from Naeglaria floweri, a single-cell organism living in rivers and lakes, is real and occurs mostly in the summer and in southern states.

According to USA Today, this rare, brain eating amoeba is 97% fatal. The infection is an extreme form of meningitis and has mostly been seen in people swimming in warm fresh water during the summer months. CBS News reported that at least 40 people in the US have died from this infection within the past decade. It is rare, but if infected, the likelihood of survival is minimal. Naeglaria floweri is contracted through the nose, not by drinking contaminated water. The first stage of symptoms are headaches, nausea, and vomiting. Then confusion, loss of balance, seizures, and hallucinations are typical. Most people infected die within 12 days.

The best way to steer clear of this deadly, brain-eating infection is by either avoiding going under while swimming in warm, fresh water or being sure to hold your nose anytime you go under. Be especially cautious this summer if you live in the South.

 



Cancer Survivors with a Healthy Lifestyle Live Longer

NBC News reported that cancer patients who followed the American Cancer Society guidelines for a healthy lifestyle were 42 percent less likely to die than cancer patients who did not follow the guidelines. A University of California, San Francisco study found that cancer survivors who maintain “a health body weight, engage in regular physical activity, and eat a diet rich in vegetables and whole grains and low in red meats and processed meats did better and survived longer than those who didn’t.” The study followed and collected data about the diet, weight and exercise of 992 stage 3 colon cancer patients. They began following the patients two months after surgery and they collected data on them for a total of 7 years.

While the research was conducted on colon cancer patients the researchers have stated that the results most likely apply to all cancer survivors. Before the study, only 10 percent of the patients were following the healthy lifestyle guidelines. Out of the patients who did not follow the American Cancer Society guidelines, 35 percent died within the 7 years. Only 10 percent of patients adhering to the guidelines died within the 7-year study. It was also found that patients who ate two servings of tree nuts a week, were far less likely to die within the 7 years of the study.

 



Failing to Take Prescribed Medication: An American Epidemic

Americans are facing an epidemic that is 100 percent preventable: “non-adherence to prescribed medication.” The New York Times suggests that this is a widespread problem and is affecting people more than any disease. According to the Annals of Internal Medicine, studies show that 20 to 30 percent of medicine prescriptions are left unfilled and about 50 percent of medications prescribed for chronic diseases are not taken as they are prescribed. It was also reported that people who do take their prescribed medications only take about half of the prescribed dosage.

“This lack of adherence is estimated to cause approximately 125,000 deaths and at least 10 percent of hospitalizations, and to cost the American health care system between $100 billion and $289 billion a year,” The New York Times reported. Drugs cannot work if people do not take them. The article suggests that this partly explains why medications that have done well in studies have failed to perform as well in the commercial market. It also explains why patients do not get better or suffer from relapses.

The article details improvements that can be made to help this epidemic, such as “Multiple drugs for a condition could be combined into one pill or packaged together, or dosing can be simplified. Doctors and pharmacists can use digital technology to interact with patients and periodically reinforce the importance of staying on their medication.” Patients who forget to take drugs can also use apps and devices to help them remember.

 


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