Doctor Housecalls Blog

Healthcare related news and updates



How to Check Your Body for Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer and early detection of skin cancer can save your life. The best way to find skin cancer while it is still in its early stages is by having a doctor examine your skin once or twice a year and by examining it yourself at least once a month. So what should you, someone without a medical degree, look for during your monthly skin examinations? 

Check your moles.

Most skin cancer becomes visible in the form of a mole. However, examining moles can be tricky. This is especially true for people whose bodies are covered in moles, most of which are healthy. 

The American Cancer Society suggests using the ABCDE rule when examining moles for skin cancer.

  • Asymmetry: Asymmetric moles are not neatly shaped and circular. Sometimes they are darker in some areas than others.
  • Border: If the border is not a clean line and instead blurred, ragged, or irregular.
  • Color: When the color is not the same throughout the mole. They sometimes have darker shades in certain spots or patches of red, pink, white, or blue in them.
  • Diameter: Any mole that has a diameter greater than ¼ and inch.
  • Evolving: If the mole changes in size, shape, and color over time. 

Other characteristics you should look for are if your moles are itchy or painful, have growths or lumps, open sores with oozing, or if any new moles appear. If your moles have any of the above characteristics, it does not mean they are definitely cancerous, but it does mean you should ask your doctor or dermatologist to have a closer look at them.



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.

 



Fewer Overweight and Obese Americans Trying to Lose Weight

 

The AP reported that fewer overweight and obese Americans are trying to lose weight in recent years. It has been speculated that “fat acceptance” may be one of the many reasons.

 

Some researchers have concluded that the socially accepted body weight in the US has gotten heavier and heavier. Many people do not view being overweight as a problem anymore.

 

Other reasons may be that people are giving up after a few failed attempts at losing weight. A government health survey showed that over the last 30 years less and less of the participants had tried to lose weight, while more participants in the study were classified as overweight or obese.

 

There has specifically been a decline in black women trying to lose weight. It is hard to tell whether that is due to social acceptance of being overweight or diet frustrations. However, many researchers do believe in a recent incline of “fat acceptance”, and while it is good that less people are being ridiculed for their weight, there is a major concern for the health risks associated with obesity. Obesity can increase risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and other ailments.

 



Menopausal Hot Flashes in Women May Come Down to One  Thing

A recent study pinpointed that how often menopausal women experience hot flashes may depend on variations in their genes. The study was printed in the journal Menopause, published by the North American Menopause Society.

Researchers examined the entire genomes of more than 17,000 women who participated in the U.S. government’s Women’s Health Initiative.

CNN reported on the findings.



A study published in the British Medical Journal found that consuming too much vegetable oil may increase the risk of heart disease rather than decrease it. The research re-evaluated experiments conducted between 1968 and 1973 that suggested that vegetable oil helped to protect the heart from the damage that animal fats were thought to do. It was discovered that only part of the trial’s results were published, particularly contrary data that suggested that vegetable fats did not protect the heart when they replaced animal fats.

http://www.bmj.com/content/353/bmj.i1246



A new study from researchers at the Texas A&M Health Science School of Public Health reports that 15 percent of eldery patients in residential care facilities suffer injuries from falls every year. The results of the study were published in the Journal of Aging and Health.

http://www.houstonchronicle.com/local/prognosis/article/Elderly-in-residential-care-facilities-at-risk-7378949.php


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