The classic red flags for a heart attack are familiar to anyone who has watched medical dramas on television. The patient, usually an older man, starts wheezing and gasping for breath. Then he clutches his chest, staggers, and eventually falls over. In real life, the signs and symptoms of heart disease are much more varied and subtle.
Signs Versus Symptoms of Heart Disease
First, some definitions. Heart disease symptoms are indications that you feel or experience, while a sign of heart disease is something your doctor can see or find. Obvious heart disease symptoms include shortness of breath and chest pain. But your doctor will also look for common heart disease signs during an examination or in a patient interview.
Knowing the signs of heart disease is important because you may have them before you have any of the common heart disease symptoms. Letting your doctor know about these warning signs could help you get early treatment for heart disease.
"Signs like ankle swelling or weight gain do not necessarily mean you have heart disease, but taken together with other symptoms of heart disease, laboratory studies, and family history, they are an important part of making a diagnosis of heart disease or heart failure," says Carl E. Orringer, MD, associate professor of medicine and director of the Preventive Cardiovascular Medicine and LDL Apheresis Programs at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.
Swelling of the Feet and Lower Legs
Retention of fluid in the feet and legs is known as peripheral edema. Edema may appear as "sock marks" on your legs and ankles at the end of the day, especially if you wear tight socks or hose. Mild peripheral edema is common. Your doctor may check for this sign by pressing a finger against your ankle or shin bone to see if a depression or dent is left behind. This is called "pitting edema” and it could indicate congestive heart failure.
Edema may be a sign of heart failure because when your heart is not pumping well, fluid from inside your blood vessels tends to leak out into surrounding tissues. The legs and ankles are common areas for edema because of the effects of gravity.
"Peripheral edema may be caused by a host of issues,” says Dr. Orringer. “The bottom line is that most people with peripheral edema do not have heart disease, but it could be an important sign if there are other signs and symptoms of heart failure."
Male Pattern Baldness
"If you watched any of the royal wedding, you might have noticed that Prince William is balding on the top of his head. This type of balding of the crown of the head in young men may be a sign of an increased risk for heart disease," says Orringer.
Several large studies have confirmed the link between baldness and heart disease. Compared with men with a full head of hair, men with crown loss have an increased risk of heart disease of about 23 percent. Men with complete loss of hair on the top of their head have an increased risk of 36 percent.
The combination of hair loss, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol pushes the risk even higher. This link may be due to too much of the male hormone testosterone, which interferes with hair growth on the head and causes hardening of the arteries. That doesn't mean you are doomed to heart disease if you are bald, but it does suggest you should be screened more carefully for other signs and symptoms of heart disease.
Yellow Bumps on the Skin
Xanthomas are deposits of fat that build up under the skin. They may appear as small yellow bumps or as flat, wide plaques on your elbows, knees, hands, feet, or buttocks. A type of xanthoma called xanthelasma palpebrarum appears on the eyelids. These yellow, fat deposits can potentially be signs of heart disease because they may indicate high levels of fats in the blood.
"Xanthomas may be a sign of a rare, inherited type of blood disorder in which high levels of triglycerides accumulate in the blood. Xanthomas may also be a sign of increased cholesterol, and they may disappear once cholesterol levels are under control," says Orringer.
Swollen, sore, or bleeding gums are usually a sign of poor oral hygiene, but may also be an important sign of heart disease. "The association between gum disease and heart disease is the real deal," says Orringer. "There is plenty of research available now that backs up this connection."
Gum disease and heart disease may be linked because they are both signs of poor circulation, or there could be common bacteria that are involved in both gum disease and plaque buildup inside coronary arteries. The link may also have something to do with the body's response to prolonged inflammation. In any case, taking better care of your teeth and gums may be a good way to cut down your risk for heart disease.
Weakening of the heart muscle accompanied by extreme emotional stress, grief, or loss, especially in women, is called takotsubo cardiomyopathy, or broken heart syndrome. When this occurs, surging stress hormones, especially adrenaline, trigger cardiac pain that feels a lot like a heart attack, often with heart palpitations, shortness of breath, and flushing. But unlike during a real heart attack, the arteries are not blocked. This potentially serious and often overlooked condition is more common in women than in men; in fact, men make up for only 10 percent of diagnosed cases.
Signs of Heart Failure
Heart failure means the heart is not functioning as well as it should. It doesn't mean the heart has failed. Another term for heart failure is congestive heart failure, or CHF. Heart failure gradually gets worse over time. Some early warning signs may include:
Weight Gain If your heart starts to fail and fluid starts to build up in your tissue, causing edema, you might see a sudden weight gain.
Frequent Urination Heart failure may cause decreased blood flow to the kidneys, which causes you to retain more fluid. One of the signs of this fluid may be frequent urination.
Cataracts Although the exact cause of the relationship between cataracts and heart disease is not known, studies show that people who have cataracts are at higher risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. "This link is probably more of an association than a sign of heart disease," says Orringer.
Nighttime Cough "One of the signs of heart failure may be the buildup of fluid in the chest and heart when lying flat at night. This increased fluid can cause a nighttime cough," explains Orringer.
Remember that all these heart disease signs may have many different causes. They do not mean you have or will get heart disease. But combined with other heart disease signs and symptoms, your blood tests, and your family history, they give your doctor the best chance to find heart disease early and keep you in good health.
Resting Heart Rate for MEN
Resting Heart Rate for WOMEN
I've never been one of those people. You know the kind, the ones who wake up in the morning or lace up in the evening and "go for a run."
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I've always been envious of my roommates, who can sneak in a jog with ease and carry on with their day, as if they had done something casually simple like taking the trash out. So, I made a vow to give running another chance. After all, the exercise has been shown to make you happier, reduce your risk for disease and even increase longevity.
While group classes and long walks will probably always be more my speed, I did find that I was enjoying running more than I ever did in the past. However, that doesn't come without a few hiccups. Below are a handful of struggles all new runners can probably relate to.
Getting winded in the first few minutes.
Probably one of the most discouraging elements of getting into a running routine is realizing that you're not as in shape as you thought you were. I continuously find myself doing more walking or jogging than actual running. But just because you need those intermittent breaks doesn't mean you aren't a runner. In fact, research shows that walking intervals during your run can help you maintain your overall pace.
Two words: Sore. Muscles.
The second-day pain is real. If you're experiencing those achy muscles, try one of these post-run remedies. Just make sure you're checking in with your body as you establish your routine. A little soreness is OK, but if the pain is more intense you may have sustained a running-related injury.
Feeling overwhelmed by the copious amount of races.
Color runs, beer runs, zombie runs, princess half marathons... the list is seriously endless. However, there are some perks to picking a race. Signing up for one helps you set a goal as you get into a routine, plus there's an opportunity to turn it into a social event by participating with your friends.
If your goal is to become a marathon runner (and props to you!), there are also some benefits there: Research shows consistent long-distance running can improve cardiovascular health and lower the risk for other organ disorders, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The jolting agony of waking up at 6 a.m.
My sleepy brain is constantly telling me my bed feels better than running (and often, the bed wins). If you need a little extra motivation, try one of these hacks to help you jumpstart your morning workout.
Part of the reason I never got into a routine in the first place was because the exercise itself seemed extremely dull to me (the treadmill is my arch-nemesis). Once I discovered more running-path options, I started to have more fun. However, that's not to say that I don't get a little bored sometimes — and that's OK.
Note: If you still just can't get excited by the process most of the time, you may want to try a more entertaining workout option instead. Exercise should be engaging, not mind-numbing.
Trying to find your perfect route.
Finding your favorite place to run is like finding a good apartment: It feels elusive until one day you hit the lottery. Whether you're into lush scenery or a skyline, it's important to find the routes that work for you in order to make the exercise entertaining.
The joy of picking out new workout clothes.
Sleek tanks! Compression pants! Neon shoes!
Running toward (multiple) "finish lines."
If you've ever uttered to yourself just one more pole, you're not alone. In fact, picking out an arbitrary finish line on your run can improve your performance. Research shows those who stare at a target in the distance go faster and feel less exertion than those who don't concentrate on anything, The Atlantic reported.
Bargaining with yourself on your run.
If you run five more blocks, you can binge-watch Scandal when you get home, I tell myself. Chances are I'd probably do it anyway — but at least it encourages me in the moment.
Creating a playlist that will consistently keep you motivated.
No, a simple music-streaming app won't do when your lungs are on fire and your legs feel weak. You need that one specific song that will inspire you to keep going (shout out to all my Shake It Off comrades). If you're looking for a playlist to spice up your run, check out some of these.
Looking in the mirror for changes as you age? A healthy diet helps to ensure that you'll like the reflection you see. Good nutrition is linked to healthy aging on many levels: It can keep you energized and active as well as fight against slowing metabolism and digestion and the gradual loss of muscle mass and healthy bone as you age.
Making healthy diet choices can help you prevent or better manage chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. It's never too late to adopt healthier eating habits.
Strategies for Healthy Eating as You Age
Replace old eating habits with these healthy approaches:
Overcoming Challenges to Healthy Eating
Eating a healthy diet can be complicated by changes you may face as you age, such as difficulty eating or a limited budget. There are strategies you can try to solve these common challenges:
Larson believes in the importance of enjoying your food. Make healthy-diet changes step by step and have fun experimenting to find new tastes and cooking styles. Eat slowly and pay attention to the experience. “Create a pleasant eatingenvironment," she says. "Sit by a window and enjoy every bite.”
Even small skin traumas like a pimple or bug bite can leave you with complexion-busting dark spots. “This is one of the most common ailments that patients come to see me about,” explains Jeanine Downie, MD, director of Image Dermatology in Montclair, New Jersey. “It’s an annoying condition that affects all skin types, but the good news is that it’s fairly easy to treat.”
Find out how Dr. Downie helps patients treat and avoid marks on their complexions.
Everyday Health: What causes hyperpigmentation?
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Jeanine Downie: Any trauma or inflammation to the skin — either from acne, pimples, bug bites, or simply a bump, cut, or scratch — disrupts the surface layers where you have melanin, responsible for skin’s color. As the skin heals, it leaves behind residual pigmentation and dark spots.
EH: Is there anything you can do to prevent it?
JD: Unfortunately, if you’re prone to these dark spots, it’s tough to prevent them. Still, picking or scratching at an irritation will further traumatize the area, so hands off! You’ll also want to be vigilant about wearing sunscreen. As your skin gets darker, so will those hyperpigmented areas — it’s not like a tan is going to even out the color. Obviously, daily sunscreen wear is a must anyway, but this is just one more reason to protect your skin from UV rays.
EH: What steps can you take to treat it?
JD: The sooner you start taking care of your wound, the better it’ll look once healed. I recommend keeping the wound covered, especially if the skin is broken, and applying a topical healing ointment.
For large cysts or cuts, you may even want to see your dermatologist for a treatment plan. Once the pimple or cut has healed, apply 2% hydroquinone cream, which is available over-the-counter, or 4% hydroquinone, available by prescription from your doctor.
If the topical creams don’t quite do the trick, talk to your dermatologist about chemical peels or laser treatments to completely eliminate more stubborn discoloration.
EH: Is hyperpigmentation more common in people with darker complexions?
JD: No matter your skin color, everyone is susceptible to hyperpigmentation. Still, those with darker complexions seem to hold on to those spots for much longer because they have more melanin in their skin. It also means those hyperpigmented areas are going to be darker and more visible as well. Pregnancy and certain medications can increase your body’s production of melanin, and lead to hyperpigmentation as well.
Scheduling vacation plans and buying a new swimsuit will mentally prepare you for summer, but your skin may need some help getting ready, too. For gorgeous, smooth skin you'll feel ready to bare, you need to take a few simple steps. Try this head-to-toe refresher to take your skin out of hibernation.
1. Reveal Glowing Skin
Regular exfoliation can be a part of a healthy skin regimen no matter the season; as long as your skin is not sensitive, exfoliation can help you achieve smooth, healthy-looking skin that makes you look more glowing and youthful. “But it must be done with care,” says Doris Day, MD, a dermatologist in New York City. “The goal is to lift off the outer layer of skin cells that are ready to be sloughed off without stripping the skin.”
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Brushes, polishing cloths, and scrubs offer easy ways to smooth away rough spots. Rotating cleansing brushes work by physically buffing off the dead skin cells. Exfoliating cloths, microdermabrasion kits, and scrubs with granular ingredients also operate the same way. “For the body, look for a scrub that contains coarse particles that dissolve over time, like sugar, so you don’t irritate the skin,” says Dr. Day.
Products that chemically exfoliate the skin contain ingredients such as glycolic, salicylic, or polyhydroxy acids that cause the skin to shed its outer layer and reveal the newer layer.
2. Remove Hair Without Irritation
If your summer forecast calls for sunny days at the beach or poolside, you may be putting some effort into removing unwanted hair. But once you rip off the wax strip, it’s also important to care for the skin that’s newly exposed to the elements.
Give your skin some time to recover before rolling out your beach towel or getting active outdoors. “I advise clients to stay out of the sun or heat for at least 48 hours after any hair-removal process,” says Cindy Barshop, owner of Completely Bare spas. “Follicles are vulnerable to irritation, and skin may be sensitive due to any heat or friction from lasers, waxing, or shaving.”
Since most of us don’t plan our hair removal that far in advance, buffer your tender skin with an oil-free sunscreen, wait for it to dry (about 5 minutes), and dust on some talc-free baby powder, says Barshop. To prevent ingrown hairs, it’s helpful to wear loose-fitting clothing and use an after-waxing product that contains glycolic and salicylic acids, which team up to prevent dead skin cells from causing bothersome bumps.
3. Fight UV Rays With Food
All the work you put into making your skin look good won’t be worth it unless you guard it from the sun’s damaging rays, which are strongest during the summer. Surprisingly, you can protect yourself from the inside, too. “In addition to usingsunscreen, eat cooked tomatoes every day if you know you’re going to be in the sun,” says Jessica Wu, MD, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at USC Medical School. According to research, cooked tomatoes are rich in lycopene, an antioxidant that helps fight the effects of UV rays such as redness, swelling, and blistering from sunburn. If you plan to spend a lot of time outdoors, you may benefit from consuming tomato sauce, grilled tomatoes, or even Bloody Marys. “This doesn’t replace sunscreen, but the habit could give you additional protection if you can’t reach your back and miss a spot,” Dr. Wu adds.
4. Clear Up Body Breakouts
It’s no better to have acne on your body than on the face, especially in the heat, when hiding and covering up isn’t an option. The approach to treating acne on the back, chest, and elsewhere on the body is the same as treating facial acne: “Exfoliate regularly, don’t pick, and treat with effective ingredients,” says Day.
Washing with products that contain salicylic acid helps slough off the dead skin cells; a treatment product with micronized benzoyl peroxide can also help by penetrating the skin and killing off the bacteria that cause acne.
If your skin is sensitive, investing in an acne-treating blue light tool may be worth the cost. “You simply wave the light wand over skin for five minutes daily and it helps kill bacteria,” says Leslie Baumann, MD, a dermatologist in Miami. If you have severe body acne, see a dermatologist.
5. Erase Cellulite
First, the good news: Some products may be able to smooth out the undesirable dimples and unevenness of cellulite. The bad news: They won’t get rid of cellulite forever. The smoothing and toning effect, like many good things in life, is fleeting. Still, it may be worth slathering on a toning body lotion to make your skin look and feel tighter for a day at the beach or a special event.
“Products that contain caffeine and theophylline temporarily dehydrate fat cells,” says Dr. Baumann. “However, it’s the massage and the application of the cream that does the work.” The best course of action long-term is to exercise regularly, coupled with targeted massage, suggests Baumann.
Another way to hide cellulite is to apply a fake tan. Take advantage of the newest self-tanners, which have come a long way from the strong-smelling streaky creams or sprays of yesteryear. “There has been so much progress in the formulations — the colors are natural, there’s no streaking, and the scent is so much better,” says Day.
6. Treat Your Feet
If you’ve stuffed your feet inside boots all winter, they probably could use a little TLC for sandal weather. Jump-start your program with a salon pedicure, or if you’re short on time, you can heed Day’s DIY tip, which will help soften feet while you sleep. First, remove thicker skin with a foot file. Apply a rich emollient cream or ointment, then cover the feet in plastic wrap and cotton socks. Leave on overnight. Repeat every day until you achieve smooth skin, then once a week to maintain soft skin.
The New Hampshire primary's in full swing, and if there’s one thing all the presidential hopefuls can agree on, it’s that running for office is the ultimate endurance challenge. They’re canvassing across the country with little time to exercise or sleep, and it doesn’t help that at every stop they’re tempted by unhealthy foods like pizza, pork chops, and pies. So how do the presidential candidates stay healthy and keep their energy levels up during the grueling primary season? Read on to find out!
Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) is an illness that can result in muscle weakness or loss of muscle function in parts of the body.
In people with Guillain-Barré syndrome (pronounced GHEE-yan ba-RAY), the body's own immune system attacks the peripheral nervous system.
The peripheral nervous system includes the nerves that connect the brain and spinal cord to the limbs. These nerves help control muscle movement.
Guillain-Barré syndrome is a rare disease.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that about 1 or 2 out of every 100,000 people develop GBS each year in the United States.
Anyone can get GBS, but the condition is more common in adults than in children, and more men than women are diagnosed with GBS each year.
Doctors don't know what causes Guillain-Barré syndrome.
Many people with GBS report a bacterial or viral infection (such as the flu) days or weeks before GBS symptoms start.
Less common triggers for GBS may include:
Guillain-Barré syndrome is not contagious — it cannot spread from one person to another.
There are several types of Guillain-Barré syndrome, which are characterized by what part of the nerve cell is damaged.
The most common type of GBS is called acute inflammatory demyelinating polyradiculoneuropathy (AIDP).
In AIDP, the immune system mistakenly attacks the protective nerve covering that helps transmit nerve signals from the brain to other parts of the body.
The first symptoms of Guillain-Barré syndrome often include feelings of tingling or weakness in the feet and legs. These feelings may spread to the arms and face.
The chest muscles can also be affected. Up to a quarter of people with GBS experience problems breathing.
In very severe cases, people with GBS may lose all muscle function and movement, becoming temporarily paralyzed.
Signs and symptoms of Guillain-Barré syndrome may include:
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It's unclear what causes binge eating disorder.
Like other eating disorders, BED is probably caused by a combination of genetic, psychological, and social factors.
Some risk factors for binge eating disorder include:
People with binge eating disorder have frequent bingeing episodes, typically at least once a week over the course of three months or more.
Binge eating episodes are associated with three or more of the following:
Some people also display behavioral, emotional, or physical characteristics, such as:
There are several treatments available for BED. Treatment options may include:
If you have ropy, blue blood vessels in your legs, you may think that they’re unsightly but don't cause any overt symptoms. Yet for some people, varicose veins can cause skin damage and, even worse, lead to dangerous blood clots.
They’re incredibly common: Varicose veins affect about one in four U.S. adults, or about 22 million women and 11 million men between ages 40 and 80.
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Your leg veins face an uphill battle as they carry blood from your toes to your heart. Small flaps, or valves, within these vessels prevent blood from getting backed up on this journey, and the pumping action of your leg muscles helps push the blood along.
But if these valves weaken, blood can pool — primarily in the veins of your legs — increasing pressure in the veins. As a result of this increased pressure, your body tries to widen the veins to compensate, causing them to bulge and thicken, and leading to the characteristic twisted appearance of varicose veins.
To help you learn the facts about these enlarged veins, we've set the record straight on 10 sometimes confusing pieces of information, including who gets varicose veins and why, health problems they can cause, and treatment options.
“A lot of people are told by primary care doctors or others that varicose veins are a cosmetic issue only, when oftentimes they can be much more than that,” saysKathleen D. Gibson, MD, a vascular surgeon practicing in Bellevue, Washington.
“A significant percentage of patients with varicose veins will eventually develop symptoms,” says Pablo Sung Yup Kim, MD, assistant professor of surgery at Mount Sinai's Icahn School of Medicine in New York City. “The most common include dull achiness, heaviness, throbbing, cramping, and swelling of the legs.” Other symptoms include severe dryness and itchiness of the skin near varicose veins. People with varicose veins are also at an increased risk for a dangerous type of blood clot known as deep vein thrombosis.
Other not-so-common signs and symptoms, found in less than 10 percent of patients, include bleeding, skin discoloration, skin thickening, and ulcer formation — all due to varicose veins, says Kim. Unfortunately, once you have skin damage, it’s usually permanent.
“It’s very important to seek medical advice if you have varicose veins and experience symptoms — before changes in the skin are irreversible,” he says.
Aging definitely worsens varicose veins, though not everyone gets them. “It's a degenerative process that gets worse and more prominent as we age,” says Dr. Gibson. But young people can get varicose veins, too. While the average age of patients treated in Gibson’s practice is 52, she and her colleagues have treated patients as young as 13.
If you've got varicose veins, it may run in your family. “The cause of varicose veins is primarily genetic,” Gibson explains.
Changes in hormone levels also come into play as a risk factor for varicose veins. “Your risk can be made worse, especially by pregnancy,” she adds.
While varicose veins are more common in women, men get them, too. About one-quarter of adult women have some visible varicose veins, compared to 10 to 15 percent of men.
Steve Hahn, 51, of Kirkland, Washington, first noticed in his twenties that he had varicose veins in his left leg after he sprained his ankle playing basketball. When he injured his knee about 10 years ago, he noticed that the varicose veins had become more extensive.
“After about five years of thinking about it, I finally had them treated,” he says. “Both of my legs felt very heavy all of the time at this point, as opposed to just after walking a golf course or playing tennis or basketball.”
After treatment, Hahn says, “I feel like I have new legs.” The heaviness is gone, as is the ankle swelling, which he didn't know was related to the varicose veins. And as a side benefit, he adds, he looks better in shorts.
Exercise — including running — is usually a good thing for your veins. “Exercise is always good for the circulation,” Kim says. “Walking or running can lead to more calf-muscle pumping and more blood returning to the heart.”
“Being a runner doesn’t cause varicose veins,” adds Gibson, though there's controversy about whether exercise makes them worse or not.” Compression stockings can help prevent blood from pooling in your lower legs during exercise. “For patients who haven't had their varicose veins treated and are running, I recommend compression. When you’re done running and are cooling off, elevate your legs,” she says.
While the varicose veins you notice are right at the surface of the skin, they occur deeper in the body, too, where you can't see them. “It really depends on the makeup of the leg,” Gibson says. “If you've got a lot of fatty tissue between the muscle and the skin, you may not see them. Sometimes surface veins are the tip of the iceberg and there's a lot going on underneath.”
If you have a job that requires you to be on your feet a lot — as a teacher or flight attendant, for example — you may be more bothered by varicose veins. But the jury's still out on whether prolonged standing actually causes varicose veins. “People tend to notice their varicose vein symptoms more when they’re standing or sitting,” Gibson explains.
Your lifestyle does matter, because obesity can worsen varicose veins, and getting down to a healthy weight can help ease symptoms. Becoming more physically active is also helpful. “Wearing compression stockings, doing calf-strengthening exercises, and elevating your legs can all improve or prevent varicose veins,” saysAndrew F. Alexis, MD, MPH, chairman of the dermatology department at Mount Sinai St. Luke's and Mount Sinai Roosevelt in New York City.
The only treatment available for varicose veins used to be a type of surgery called stripping, in which the vein is surgically removed from the body. That’s no longer the case. While this procedure is still the most commonly used varicose vein treatment worldwide, according to Gibson, minimally invasive procedures that don't leave scars have become much more popular in the United States.
Endothermal ablation, for example, involves using a needle to deliver heat to your vein, causing it to close and no longer function. While the procedure doesn't leave a scar, it can be painful, and you may have to undergo sedation before being treated. “You have to have a series of injections along the vein to numb it up; otherwise, you wouldn't be able to tolerate the heat,” Gibson explains. You may need to take a day off from work to recover, as well as a few days off from the gym.
Some medications, called sclerosing agents, close a vein by causing irritation. Others are adhesives that seal a vein shut and don’t require the area to be numbed. Gibson and her colleagues have helped develop some of the new technologies and products used in treating varicose veins, including adhesives.
Milder varicose veins can be treated by dermatologists with non-invasive approaches, such as laser therapy and sclerotherapy, says Dr. Alexis. “For more severe cases where symptoms may be involved, seeing a vascular surgeon for surgical treatment options is advised.”
Although treatment for varicose veins means losing some veins, you have plenty of others in your body that can take up the slack, explains Gibson. “The majority of the blood flow in veins in the leg is not on the surface at all; it's in the deep veins within the muscle,” she says. “Those deep veins … are easily able to take over for any veins that we remove on the surface.”
Newer treatments have quicker recovery times. “These procedures can be performed in an office within 20 to 30 minutes with no recovery time. Patients can usually return to work or daily activities on the same day,” Kim says.
Treatments are effective, but they aren't a cure, Gibson says. Sometimes, varicose veins can make a repeat appearance after treatment. “What I tell my patients is it's kind of like weeding a garden,” she says. “We clear them all out, but that doesn't mean there's never going to be another dandelion popping out.”
Statistically speaking, ovarian cancer is relatively rare: It represents just 1.3 percent of all new cancer cases in the United States each year, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI). But although its numbers are small, the fear factor for many women may be disproportionately large.
We spoke to two leading ovarian cancer experts: Robert J. Morgan, Jr., MD, professor, and Mihaela C. Cristea, MD, associate clinical professor, of the medical oncology and therapeutics research department at City of Hope, an NCI-Designated Comprehensive Cancer Center in Duarte, California.
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Here are 10 essential facts about ovarian cancer that you should know:
1. About 20,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year. As a comparison, nearly 250,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year, according to the American Cancer Society. Of the women diagnosed with ovarian cancer, 90 percent will be older than 40; most ovarian cancers occur in women 60 or older, according to the CDC.
2. You should see your doctor if you experience any of these ovarian cancer symptoms:
It’s important to pay attention to your body and know what’s normal for you. If you have abnormal vaginal bleeding or have any of the other symptoms for two weeks or longer, see your doctor right away.
These symptoms can be caused by many different problems, but it’s best to have them evaluated, suggests the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.
3. It’s tricky to pinpoint early, milder symptoms of ovarian cancer. However, the findings of a study published in Cancer in 2007 point to a cluster of vague symptoms that may suggest the need for ovarian cancer testing, says Dr. Morgan. In the study, researchers linked these symptoms to the possibility of ovarian cancer:
If a woman experiences these symptoms on more than 12 days a month for less than one year, she should insist that her doctor perform a thorough ovarian evaluation, says Morgan. This might include the CA-125 blood test or atransvaginal ultrasound exam.
4. Early detection can mean a better prognosis. When detected early enough, ovarian cancer can be cured. “Stage 1 and stage 2 ovarian cancer is curable about 75 to 95 percent of the time, depending on the tumor grade and cell type,” says Morgan. But because this cancer occurs deep inside the body’s pelvic region, it is often diagnosed in later stages, he says. The cure rate for stage 3 ovarian cancer is about 25 to 30 percent, and for stage 4 it's less than 5 percent, he adds.
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5. Ovarian cancer has several key risk factors. These include:
6. Ovarian cancer is not a single disease. In reality, it’s a diverse group of cancers that respond to different treatments based on their molecular characteristics, says Dr. Cristea. Treatment will also depend on other health conditions, such as diabetes or heart problems, that a woman might have.
7. Ovarian cancer treatments are evolving and improving all the time.“Immunotherapy is emerging as a new treatment option for many malignancies, including ovarian cancer,” says Cristea. In another recent development, the firstPARP inhibitor, a DNA-repair drug, has been approved for women with BRCA-mutated ovarian cancer when chemotherapy hasn’t worked. “Women should also ask their doctors about clinical trials that are evaluating immunotherapy as well as other new treatments,” she adds.
8. Surgery may prevent ovarian cancer in women at very high risk. For women who carry the BRCA or other genes that predispose them to ovarian cancer, doctors often recommend surgery to remove the ovaries and fallopian tubes.Angelina Jolie, the actor and human rights activist, decided to have this surgery in March 2015. “Removing the ovaries can decrease the risk of developing the disease by 98 percent, and can substantially decrease the risk of developing breast cancer,” notes Morgan. Women in this very high-risk group should opt for this surgery after they’ve completed childbearing at around age 35, he notes.
9. Even after remission, ovarian cancer can still respond to treatment. “About 80 to 90 percent of ovarian cancer patients will achieve remission after chemotherapy treatment,” says Morgan. However, many of those women will later experience a recurrence of the cancer. The longer the remission, notes Morgan, the better the chances are for achieving a second remission.
10. It’s best to see an ovarian cancer specialist. When you’ve been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, getting a referral to an ovarian cancer specialist is a wise move, says Cristea. If you’re having surgery, it’s best to have a gynecologic oncologist perform the operation instead of a gynecologist, she adds. And to make sure you’re getting state-of-the-art treatment, consider seeking a second opinion at a NCI-Designated Cancer Center.
Do you have trouble following a conversation in a noisy room? Do other people complain that you have the television turned up too loud? If the answer to either of those questions is yes, you may already have some degree of hearing loss.
Hearing loss can start at any age. According to the National Academy on Aging and Society, the number of affected Americans between the ages of 45 and 64 has increased significantly since 1971. But it’s much more common in seniors: Some 40 percent of the 20 million Americans who have hearing loss are 65 or older.
Contrary to popular belief, however, hearing loss is not an inevitable part of aging. Some causes of hearing loss can be prevented, and most types of hearing loss can be helped.
There are three basic types of hearing loss:
RA Signs And Symptoms
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If you are having trouble hearing or develop sudden deafness, you need to get your hearing checked as soon as possible. Sudden deafness is a serious symptom and should be treated as a medical emergency. For many people, though, hearing loss may be gradual and not obvious. Here are seven warning signs to watch out for:
If you think you have any kind of hearing loss, the place to start is with your doctor. Whether your hearing loss is gradual or sudden, your doctor may refer you to an audiologist (a medical specialist in hearing loss) or an otolaryngologist (a medical doctor specializing in disorders of the ear).
Depending on the cause and type of your hearing loss, treatment may be as simple as removing ear wax or as complicated as reconstructive ear surgery. Sensorineural hearing loss can't be corrected or reversed, but hearing aids and assistive devices can enhance most people’s hearing. For those with profound hearing loss approaching deafness, an electronic hearing device, called a cochlear implant, can even be implanted in the ear.
One type of hearing loss is 100 percent preventable: that due to noise exposure. Noise is measured in units called decibels: Normal conversation is about 45 decibels, heavy traffic may be about 85 decibels, and a firecracker may be about 120 decibels. Loud noise — anything at or above 85 decibels — can cause damage to the cells in the inner ear that convert sound into signals to the brain. Here are some tips for avoiding noise-induced hearing loss:
You should also see your doctor if you have any symptoms of ear pain, fullness, or ringing, or if you experience any sudden change in your hearing. These symptoms could be early warnings of preventable hearing loss.
Hearing loss or deafness can have a serious effect on social well-being. It can cut you off from the world around you. Know the causes of hearing loss, and practice hearing loss prevention to preserve the hearing you still have.
1 / 8 Serotonin Syndrome
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter (a naturally occurring brain chemical) that helps regulate mood and behavior, and increasing serotonin is one way of treating depression.
But if you're taking antidepressant medication that increases serotonin too much, you could be at risk for a dangerous drug reaction called serotonin syndrome.
"Serotonin syndrome usually happens when a doctor prescribes a drug that increases serotonin to a patient already on an antidepressant," said Mark Su, MD, assistant professor of emergency medicine at Hofstra University and director of the Toxicology Fellowship at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y.
Study finds weekly sessions, plus deep breathing, helped ease cases when medications failed.
The calming poses and meditation of yoga may be just what the doctor ordered when it comes to beating depression, new research suggests.
Researchers found that weekly sessions of yoga and deep breathing exercises helped ease symptoms of the common condition. They believe the practice may be an alternative or complementary therapy for tough-to-treat cases of depression.
The intervention seemed helpful for "people who are not on antidepressants and in those who have been on a stable dose of antidepressants [but] have not achieved a resolution of their symptoms," study lead author Dr. Chris Streeter said in a news release from Boston Medical Center. He's a psychiatrist at the hospital and an associate professor of psychiatry and neurology at Boston University.
Major depression is common and often persistent and disabling, Streeters' team noted. Up to 40 percent of people taking medication for this form of depression won't see their depression go away, according to the researchers.
RELATED: Depression May Hasten Death in Years After Heart Diagnosis
However, prior studies have shown that the ancient practice of yoga may be of help.
"The mechanism of action is similar to other exercise techniques that activate the release of 'feel good' brain chemicals," explained Dr. Alan Manevitz, a clinical psychiatrist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, who reviewed the new findings.
He added that exercise, especially yoga, may also "reduce immune system chemicals that can worsen depression."
Then there's yoga's meditative quality, as well, Manevitz said.
"It has been demonstrated that 'mindful' movement -- conscious awareness -- has a much more beneficial impact on the central nervous system," he said.
But would this bear out in a rigorous study? To find out, Streeter's team tracked outcomes for 30 people with major depressive disorder. All were randomly assigned to partake in either a "high-dose" or "low-dose" yoga intervention. The high-dose group had three 90-minute yoga classes each week along with home practice, while the low-dose group engaged in two 90-minute yoga sessions each week in addition to home practice.
The participants practiced Ilyengar yoga, a method that focuses on detail, precision and alignment in posture and breath control.
The study found that both groups had significant reductions in their depression symptoms. Those who took three weekly yoga classes had fewer depressive symptoms than those in the "low-dose" group, but Streeter's team said even two classes a week was still very effective in improving people's mood.
Streeter noted that this intervention targets a different neurochemical pathway in the body than mood-altering medications, suggesting that yoga may provide a new, side effect-free avenue for treatment.
For his part, Manevitz called the study "practical and well-designed." He believes the findings support yoga as a treatment "that can help the millions of people suffering from major depressive disorders around the world."
Dr. Victor Fornari is a psychiatrist at Zucker Hillside Hospital in Glen Oaks, N.Y. He agreed that the new study "supports the use of yoga for the treatment of depression... Yoga, like regular exercise, is good for most people for health maintenance as well as to treat what ails them."
The singer — who gave birth to a son in May — recently appeared on MTV’s House of Style and continues to work with Degree Women for the brand’s Do More campaign. Users can search for fitness classes and view behind-the-scenes rehearsal footage on Degree’s web site.
“As a hardworking woman, I’m always trying to figure out how I can get better and improve at everything I do," explains Ciara. "I really love being able to share this message with other women and encourage them to keep pursuing their dreams.”
At a Degree Women press event, Ciara gave Everyday Health the scoop on how she stays fit, healthy, and gorgeous while trying to juggle a packed schedule.
On her fitness regimen: “I work out an hour a day. That’s all you need — the rest of it’s all about how you eat,” says Ciara. “When I train with Gunnar [Peterson], we do a mix of plyometric moving and weight training because you want a good balance of cardio, while still maintaining your muscle.”
On eating right: “For breakfast, I love an egg white omelet with spinach and turkey. I’ll also have a side of fruit and wheat toast,” she says. If she gets a late-night craving, Ciara satiates herself with chocolate Ensure protein shakes. “Sometimes I get hungry before I go to bed — I’ll drink one of these and it holds me over until the morning.”
On how she motivates herself before a performance: “I think about what it is that I want to do onstage and how great I want the show to be,” she says. “I pray, stretch, jump, and move around to get my body warmed up.”
On maintaining her glow: “When I wake up, I wash my face with my dermatologist’s [Dr. Sabena Toor] foaming cleanser, which is made with organic ingredients,” says Ciara. “Then I put vitamin C and Revisions tinted moisturizer all over my face. I do that twice a day.”
Consuming more meals from the sea linked to lower risk, study suggests, but cause-and-effect not proven.
Can eating a lot of fish boost your mood? Maybe, say Chinese researchers.
Overall, the researchers found that people who consumed the most fish lowered their risk of depression by 17 percent compared to those who ate the least.
"Studies we reviewed indicated that high fish consumption can reduce the incidence of depression, which may indicate a potential causal relationship between fish consumption and depression," said lead researcher Fang Li, of the department of epidemiology and health statistics at the Medical College of Qingdao University in China.
But this association was only statistically significant for studies done in Europe, the researchers said. They didn't find the same benefit when they looked at studies done in North America, Asia, Australia or South America. The researchers don't know why the association was only significant for fish consumption in Europe.
The study was also only able to show an association between eating fish and the risk for depression, not that eating fish causes a lower risk for depression, Li said.
Still, Li thinks there may be reasons why fish may have an effect on depression.
"Fish is rich in multiple beneficial nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids, high-quality protein, vitamins and minerals, which were associated with decreased risk of depression from our study," Li said.
The researchers pointed out that it's possible that the omega-3 fatty acids in fish may change the structure of brain membranes, or these acids may alter the way certain neurotransmitters work. Neurotransmitters are the brain's chemical messengers, sending information from brain cell to brain cell. Some neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and serotonin, are thought to be involved in depression, the researchers said.
RELATED: 10 Foods I Eat Every Day to Beat Depression
The report was published Sept. 10 online in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.
Depression affects 350 million people around the globe, according to background information in the study. The mood disorder is the leading cause of disability worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.
Past research has suggested that dietary factors may play a role in depression, the researchers said.
To look at the possible connection between eating fish and depression, Li and colleagues reviewed 26 studies published between 2001 and 2014. The studies included more than 150,000 people. Ten of the studies were done in Europe.
This process, called a meta-analysis, attempts to find consistent patterns across multiple studies.
In addition to an overall benefit from fish in curbing depression, Li's team found a difference between men and women. Specifically, the researchers found a slightly stronger association between eating a lot of fish and lowered depression risk in men by 20 percent. Among women, reduction in risk was 16 percent, the researchers said.
Simon Rego, director of psychology training at Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, said it's "impossible to draw any definitive conclusions about direct cause and effect" due to the study's design.
But, he added, "While the exact way fish may prevent depression is unknown, it's promising to learn that depression may be preventable for some people by making simple modifications to their lifestyle, such as by eating more fish."
Rego said it's especially important to look for novel treatments because depression can have a significant impact on people's lives, and many people don't respond fully to first-line depression treatments.
Future research needs to look into whether the effects of fish on depression vary by the type of fish eaten. In addition, this review didn't look at whether or not fish oil supplements could have the same effect.
Long shifts of on-the-job training, and caring for patients in life-or-death situations, is enough to wear a person down. And it does.
Close to one-third of medical residents (doctors out of medical school and in training) experience depression, according to a new study published online in JAMA. The risk starts on the first day of residency training, when the probability that a doctor will become depressed more than quadruples compared to those not in residency.
“This is remarkable considering how patients often don’t report their depression because of the social stigma that’s attached to it,” says study author Douglas A. Mata, MD, MPH, a resident physician himself at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and a clinical fellow at Harvard Medical School in Boston.
“We also found that the number of depressed residents might be going up — that is, the prevalence of physician depression might be getting worse with time,” adds Dr. Mata. “It’s certainly not getting any better, so we’ve got a public health crisis on our hands that isn’t being talked about enough.”
Depression among doctors in training has been studied extensively over the years, so this study looked at what the research shows as a whole. Mata and his colleagues searched four databases of medical research for all relevant studies from 1963 through September 2015.
They found 31 studies that assessed depression at one point in time, and 23 long-term studies. Together, the studies involved more than 17,500 doctors and showed that 29 percent of them had depression or symptoms of depression. Most of the studies relied on self-reporting, but their methods also differed significantly.
In studies using a nine-question survey to assess depression symptoms, about one in five medical residents (21 percent) had depression. Studies that used another depression measure doubled that, to 43 percent of doctors experiencing depression at some point in their residency.
How Stressful Work Conditions Boost Depression Risk
“Doctor training has a deluge of risk factors for depression,” Mata says. “Many residents spend all their waking hours working like crazy, so their relationships with friends and family go on the back burner, making them feel isolated. Also, constant lack of sleep, combined with ‘time zone changes’ take a toll on the mind and body.”
What Mata means by time zone changes is the effect of being on overnight call every third or fourth night, which is much like taking transatlantic flights twice a week and dealing with the resultant jet lag. Worse, residents must often relocate to new cities each year, where they may lack essential support systems, he says.
“They may have tens of thousands of dollars of debt hanging over their heads as well, since the United States places the financial risks and burdens of training on the students themselves, not on the public health system they’re training to serve,” adds Mata. “To top it all off, they’re responsible for the care of ill patients, and they’re exposed to some mentally traumatic scenarios in the process.”
Is Patient Safety at Risk?
Depression among MDs appears strongly linked to the start of residency training, when the percent of doctors with depression jumped 16 points in the study, putting them at 4.5 times greater risk of depression once residency has begun.
“As clinicians, we’re used to treating others, but we’re often bad at taking care of ourselves,” Mata says. “Doctors need to pay more attention to their own mental well-being, and to that of their colleagues.”
Not doing so could have serious ramifications for patients, points out Victor Fornari, MD, chief of the division of child and adolescent psychiatry at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in Manhasset, New York.
RELATED: 5 Things Psychologists Wish Their Patients Would Do
“Depressive symptoms and depression may interfere with attention and focus,” says Dr. Fornari, who was not involved in the study. “Depression in resident physicians may also interfere with the development of the doctor-patient relationship. Patients may experience their depressed resident physicians as less engaged or less interested in their care.”
And attempting to counteract that impression could potentially make the situation worse, suggests Mata. “The doctors who care the most may overextend themselves to give their patients more empathy, which puts them at a higher risk for depression,” he says.
At the same time, sleep deprivation during residency contributes to depression and possible medical mistakes, he says.
“Sleep deprivation has been linked to a high risk of needle-stick injuries and exposure to bloodborne pathogens,” Mata says. “Depression has also been linked to more medical errors. Depressed doctors report more anxiety about making mistakes, whether or not they actually do.”
How Thanking Your Doctor May Help
While patients should not necessarily worry about their doctors’ health and safety, Mata says, they can help in small ways.
“Just tell your doctors ‘thank you’ and make sure they understand what they mean to you,” he says. “That goes a long way.”
But such kindnesses will not solve a problem that appears to be worsening. The study found that prevalence of depression among residents increased by half a percent each year, though the authors note the rise could relate to increased awareness of depression among docs.
Recognizing the problem is the first step. Residents also need support and mentoring, and modified work hours, which is already occurring in many institutions, Fornari says.
“Part of medical training is encouraging the resident physician to regulate their own self-care in an effort to learn how to manage their stress and ask for assistance with depression,” Fornari says.
Mata would like to see a proactive model rather than the current reactive one, which relies on residents to identify their own depression and seek help. Year-long resilience-based programs that teach coping skills from the first day of residency would be an important measure, he says.
“Widespread depression among doctors will inevitably cause good docs to work fewer hours and even leave the field,” Mata says, adding that the situation may even dissuade people from entering the medical field. “This has broad social implications for the health of our population as a whole.”
Herbal remedy isn't regulated, and can have side effects and serious drug interactions.
St. John's wort is a popular herbal therapy for depression, but a new Australian study highlights the fact that "natural" does not always equal "safe."
Using reports filed with Australia's drug safety agency, the researchers found that adverse reactions to St. John's wort were similar to those reported for the antidepressant fluoxetine -- better known by the brand name Prozac.
Those side effects included anxiety, panic attacks, dizziness, nausea and spikes in blood pressure, the researchers reported in the July issue of Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology and Physiology.
"It's concerning to see such severe adverse reactions in our population, when people believe they are doing something proactive for their health with little risk," lead researcher Claire Hoban, of the University of Adelaide, said in a university news release.
Research has shown that St. John's wort can help ease mild to moderate depression. But the fact that it works also means there is a risk of side effects, said Dr. Samar McCutcheon, a psychiatrist at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus.
"Even if the bottle says 'natural' or 'herbal,' it still has ingredients that are active in your body," said McCutcheon, who was not involved in the study.
It has long been recognized that St. John's wort can have significant side effects and interact with certain medications, McCutcheon pointed out.
But many consumers may not know that, she noted, largely because dietary supplements are not regulated in the way that drugs are.
"I definitely think this [lack of awareness] is still an issue," McCutcheon said. "People think St. John's wort is safe because they can buy it at a health food store."
In the United States, dietary supplements do not have to be studied for safety and effectiveness before they reach the market.
"Plus," McCutcheon said, "you're relying on companies to make sure these products include the ingredients they're supposed to, and keep out ingredients that they shouldn't."
The situation is similar in Australia, and many consumers there are unaware that supplements are largely unregulated, according to Hoban's team.
RELATED: 7 Supplement Risks Every Woman Should Know About
The researchers based their findings on doctors' reports to Australia's national agency on drug safety. Between 2000 and 2013, there were 84 reports of adverse reactions to St. John's wort, and 447 reports on Prozac.
But since those are voluntary reports, they do not reflect the actual rate of side effects from either therapy, according to the researchers. And, Hoban said, bad reactions to St. John's wort are particularly likely to go unreported, since the herb is often not even considered a drug.
According to McCutcheon, it's important for people with depression symptoms to see a health professional before self-medicating with St. John's wort. "That will help ensure you have the right diagnosis," she said.
If your symptoms are actually part of a different disorder, St. John's wort may be ineffective -- or possibly even risky. For example, McCutcheon said that in people with bipolar disorder, the herb might fuel a manic episode.
But possibly the biggest concern, she said, is the potential for St. John's wort to interact with commonly used medications.
The herb can dampen the effectiveness of birth control pills, blood thinners and heart disease drugs, along with some HIV and cancer drugs, according to the U.S. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
What's more, it can interact with antidepressants. It's not clear exactly how St. John's wort works, McCutcheon said, but it's thought to boost levels of the brain chemical serotonin -- which is how the most commonly used antidepressants work.
"If you use the two together, you run the risk of having too much serotonin," she said. And that raises the risk of a potentially fatal condition called serotonin syndrome, whose symptoms include confusion, tremors, diarrhea and a drop in body temperature.
Some side effects of St. John's wort are caused by the herb itself, such as skin rash that's worsened by sunlight, said Dr. John Reed, director of inpatient services at the University of Maryland's Center for Integrative Medicine in Baltimore.
But the main concern is still its potential for interacting with other medications, he said. "Compared with other herbs, St. John's has more drug interactions," Reed explained. "So if you're using it, don't take other medications unless it's under medical supervision."
He added that anyone on any medication should do some homework before starting an herbal product. "Go online and do a search for drug interactions. Ask your pharmacist or doctor," Reed advised.
"Unfortunately," he said, "this type of information [on drug interactions] doesn't have to be printed on product labels."
The bottom line, according to McCutcheon, is that people with depression should talk to their providers about any supplements they take, or want to take. And those providers, she said, should be willing to have nonjudgmental discussions.
"I want all my patients to be comfortable enough to bring up anything with me," McCutcheon said.
Bone broth was the hipster darling of 2015 food trends, but if healthy eating is one of your resolutions, just sipping on broth isn’t going to cut it. It’s a new year, and 2016 is all about doubling down on fruits and veggies in the most delicious way possible. Sure, salads pack in a lot of produce, but broth-based soups may be the most satisfying — and warming! — route to healthy eating this winter. If you’ve been mainlining gingerbread and peppermint bark for the past two weeks, a detoxifying veggie soup is the perfect way to usher in a healthier new year, one satisfying slurp at a time. Here are five recipes that’ll give your resolutions staying power all month long:
Getting a correct diagnosis of multiple sclerosis (MS) can be a challenge.
No single test can determine a diagnosis conclusively, and not everyone has all of the common symptoms of MS, such as numbness, tingling, pain, fatigue, and heat sensitivity. And to complicate matters, the symptoms you do have may resemble those of some other condition.
To figure out what’s causing possible MS symptoms, doctors look at your medical history, the results of a neurological exam, and an MRI — and sometimes do a spinal tap (also called a lumbar puncture), says Jack Burks, MD, a neurologist and chief medical officer for the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America. "The diagnosis can also require eliminating the possible MS mimicker diseases," he says. That leads to an MS diagnosis by exclusion.
Here are some of the conditions that are sometimes mistaken for multiple sclerosis:
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection transmitted through a tick bite. Early symptoms include fatigue, fever, headaches, and muscle and joint aches. Later symptoms can include numbness and tingling in the hands and feet, as well as cognitive problems such as short-term memory loss and speech issues. If you live in an area that’s known to have Lyme disease or have recently traveled to one, your doctor will want to rule out the possibility, Dr. Burks says.
A migraine is a type of headache that can cause intense pain; throbbing; sensitivity to light, sounds, or smells; nausea and vomiting; blurred vision; and lightheadedness and fainting. A study published online in Neurology in August 2016 found that a migraine was the most common correct diagnosis in study subjects who had definitely or probably been misdiagnosed with MS, occurring in 22 percent of them. That said, headaches — and migraines in particular — do commonly occur with MS, shows a study published in Neurological Sciences in April 2011. And according to a study published in the Journal of Headache Pain in October 2010, they are also significantly associated with other types of pain, as well as with depression.
Migraines can be difficult to diagnose, and doctors use some of the same tools to diagnose the headaches as they do for MS, including taking a medical history and performing a thorough neurological examination.
Conversion and psychogenic disorders are conditions in which psychological stress is converted into a physical problem — such as blindness or paralysis — for which no medical cause can be found. In the Neurology study on MS misdiagnosis, 11 percent of subjects definitely or probably misdiagnosed with MS actually had a conversion or psychogenic disorder.
Neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder (NMOSD) is an inflammatory disease that, like multiple sclerosis, attacks the myelin sheaths — the protective covering of the nerve fibers — of the optic nerves and spinal cord. But unlike MS, it usually spares the brain in its early stages. Symptoms of NMOSD — which include sudden vision loss or pain in one or both eyes, numbness or loss of sensation in the arms and legs, difficulty controlling the bladder and bowels, and uncontrollable vomiting and hiccups — tend to be more severe than symptoms of MS. Treatments for MS are ineffective for and can even worsen NMOSD, so getting an accurate diagnosis is extremely important. A blood test known as the NMO IgG antibody test can help to differentiate between MS and NMOSD.
Lupus is a chronic, autoimmune disorder that, like MS, affects more women than men. It can cause muscle pain, joint swelling, fatigue, and headaches. The hallmark symptom of lupus is a butterfly-shaped rash covering the cheeks and bridge of the nose, but only about half of people with lupus develop this rash. There is no single diagnostic test for lupus, and because its symptoms are similar to those of many other conditions, it is sometimes called “the great imitator.”
Rheumatologists (physicians specializing in diseases of the muscles and joints) typically diagnose lupus based on a number of laboratory tests and the number of symptoms characteristic of lupus that a person has.
A stroke occurs when a portion of the brain stops receiving a steady supply of blood, and consequently doesn't get the oxygen and nutrients it needs to survive. Symptoms of a stroke include loss of vision; loss of feeling in the limbs, usually on one side of the body; difficulty walking; and difficulty speaking — all of which can also be signs of an MS flare. The age of the person experiencing the symptoms may help to pin down the correct diagnosis. "While MS can occur in 70-year-olds, if the person is older, you tend to think of stroke, not MS," Burks says. A stroke requires immediate attention; if you think you’re experiencing a stroke, call 911.
Fibromyalgia and MS have some similar symptoms, including headaches, joint and muscle pain, numbness and tingling of extremities, memory problems, and fatigue. Like MS, fibromyalgia is more common in women than in men. But unlike MS, fibromyalgia does not show up as brain lesions on an MRI.
Sjögren’s syndrome is another autoimmune disorder, and the symptoms of many autoimmune disorders overlap, Burks says. Sjögren’s causes fatigue and musculoskeletal pain and is more common in women than in men. But the telltale signs are dry eyes and dry mouth, which are not associated with MS.
RELATED: The Complex Process of Diagnosing MS
Vasculitis is an inflammation of the blood vessels that can mimic MS, says Kathleen Costello, an adult nurse practitioner and at The Johns Hopkins MS Center in Baltimore and vice president of healthcare access at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Depending on the type of vasculitis, symptoms can include joint pain, blurred vision, and numbness, tingling, and weakness in the limbs.
Myasthenia gravis is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes muscle weakness that typically comes and goes, but tends to progress over time. The weakness is caused by a defect in the transmission of nerve impulses to muscles. In many people, the first signs of myasthenia gravis are drooping eyelids and double vision. Like MS, it can also cause difficulty with walking, speaking, chewing, and swallowing. If a doctor suspects myasthenia gravis, a number of tests can help to confirm or rule out the diagnosis.
Sarcoidosis is another inflammatory autoimmune disease that shares some symptoms with MS, including fatigue and decreased vision. But sarcoidosis most commonly affects the lungs, lymph nodes, and skin, causing a cough or wheezing, swollen lymph nodes, and lumps, sores, or areas of discoloration on the skin.
Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause MS-like symptoms such as fatigue, mental confusion, and numbness and tingling in the hands and feet. That's because vitamin B12 plays a role in the metabolism of fatty acids needed to maintain the myelin sheath. Vitamin B12 deficiency can be identified with a simple blood test.
Acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM) is a severe inflammatory attack affecting the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms include fever, fatigue, headache, nausea, vomiting, vision loss, and difficulty walking. A very rare condition, ADEM typically comes on rapidly, often after a viral or bacterial infection. Children are more likely to have ADEM, while MS is more likely to occur in adults.
Last week we posted a blog about the risks of PML for patients taking Tysabri, based on news from the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) meetings which took place earlier this month. In the comments section, Chris asked that we check our facts and report back.
Well, once again, your commitment to the Life With MS Blog community has paid off.
I jotted off a quick e-mail to the Public Affairs department for Biogen/Idec and waited… and waited… and got nothing. Because, however, of the active participation of our community the conversation was noted and I got an e-mail asking if we needed any assistance directly from the senior manager for international public affairs.
I am not happy that I was wrong, but I am happy to know that we can get the correct information out to you today.
I had reported that Alfred Sandrock, MD, PhD, of Biogen/Idec, presented findings from the company’s study on progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML) in patients using Biogen/Idec’s MS drug, Tysabri. I was mistaken in my assessment of “immunosuppressive” (IS) therapy in the list of risk factors for PML.
Risk factors for PML include:
More than two years on Tysabri
Prior immunosuppressant therapy
Positive serology for JC virus infection
According to Biogen, immunosuppessants, in the context used by Dr Sandrock are limited as:
“A prior IS would be considered mitoxantrone, azathioprine, methotrexate, cyclophosphamide, mycophenolate, cladribine, rituximab, and chemotherapy (not otherwise specified).”
Not included, as you can see, are any of the other MS disease modifying therapies (DMT) or even corticosteroids like Solu-Medral or Prednisone — which is normally considered an IS drug, but not for the case of the PML warning.
The original press release that I received on the topic was incomplete and I apologize for the misunderstanding.
As a side note, I took advantage of the conversation to request more information on the companies rational in keeping the patent on the JC Virus assay test that I also mentioned in that same blog post. I’ll update you on that conversation as soon as it happens.
Once again, your voice was heard by the people who have the answers and I think we’ve cleared up the misunderstanding. Thank you all for your continued involvement in our community. It makes a big difference in the lives of so many!
Wishing you and your family the best of health
The active ingredient in "magic mushrooms" may help patients with tough-to-treat depression, a new study suggests.
Twenty patients received psilocybin -- the psychoactive compound in a group of mushrooms that cause hallucinations. Nineteen who completed the study showed improvement in their depression symptoms for up to five weeks after treatment, according to the researchers at Imperial College London.
None had responded to traditional depression treatment, they noted.
"We have shown for the first time clear changes in brain activity in depressed people treated with psilocybin after failing to respond to conventional treatments," said study leader Robin Carhart-Harris, head of psychedelic research at Imperial.
However, his team emphasized that patients with depression should not try to self-medicate with magic mushrooms. While these results are promising, the study was small and did not include a comparison group of patients who did not receive psilocybin, they noted.
Still, brain scans before and after treatment suggest psilocybin may reset the activity of brain circuits that play a role in depression.
"Several of our patients described feeling 'reset' after the treatment and often used computer analogies," Carhart-Harris reported in a college news release. One said he felt like his brain had been "defragged" like a computer hard drive, and another said he felt "rebooted," the researcher added.
RELATED: Depression May Hasten Death in Years After Heart Diagnosis
"Psilocybin may be giving these individuals the temporary 'kick-start' they need to break out of their depressive states, and these imaging results do tentatively support a 'reset' analogy. Similar brain effects to these have been seen with electroconvulsive therapy," Carhart-Harris said.
Larger studies are needed to see if this positive effect can be reproduced in more patients, said study senior author David Nutt.
"But these initial findings are exciting and provide another treatment avenue to explore," said Nutt, director of neuropsychopharmacology in the division of brain sciences.
He added that a trial scheduled to start early in 2018 will test the psychedelic drug against a leading antidepressant.
For this latest study, patients received two different doses of psilocybin, one week apart.
In recent years, promising results have emerged from a number of clinical trials testing the safety and effectiveness of psychedelics in patients with conditions such as depression and addiction.
"Psilocybin can be a promising agent for depression," said Dr. Scott Krakower, assistant unit chief of psychiatry at Zucker Hillside Hospital, in Glen Oaks, N.Y. "For decades, there has been suspected benefit of psychedelic agents for the treatment of psychiatric and neurological disorders."
However, he said, the clinical trials to date have been very small, and without a placebo arm for comparison. He agreed that replication in larger studies is warranted.
The study was published Oct. 13 in the journal Scientific Reports.
Part of your next visit to your family doctor's office should be spent filling out a questionnaire to assess whether you're suffering from depression, an influential panel of preventive medicine experts recommends.
What's more, people concerned that they might be depressed could download an appropriate questionnaire online, fill it out ahead of time and hand it over to their doctor for evaluation, the panel added.
In an updated recommendation released Monday, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force urged that family doctors regularly screen patients for depression, using standardized questionnaires that detect warning signs of the mental disorder.
If a patient shows signs of depression, they would be referred to a specialist for a full-fledged diagnosis and treatment using medication, therapy or a combination of the two, according to the recommendation.
These questionnaires can be self-administered in a matter of minutes, with doctors reviewing the results after patients fill out the forms, said Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, vice chair of the task force.
"This could be a checklist that patients fill out in the waiting room, or at home prior to the visit," she said. "The good thing is we have many instruments, measures that have been studied for screening for depression."
About 7 percent of adults in the United States currently suffer from depression, but only half have been diagnosed with the condition, said Bibbins-Domingo, who is a professor of medicine, epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco.
"We know that depression itself is a source of poor health," she said. "It leads people to miss work, to not function as fully as they might, and we know it is linked and associated with other types of chronic diseases."
It makes sense that family doctors perform front-line screening for depression, since they are more likely than a mental health professional to come across a person with undetected symptoms, said Michael Yapko, a clinical psychologist and internationally recognized depression expert based in Fallbrook, Calif.
"Only about 25 percent of depression sufferers seek out professional help, but more than 90 percent will see a physician and present symptoms and signs that could be diagnosed," said Yapko, who is not on the task force.
The panel has recommended regular depression screening for adults since 2002, but their guidelines currently urge doctors to ask two specific questions that provide a quick evaluation of a person's mood. The questions are, "Over the past two weeks, have you felt down, depressed, or hopeless?" and "Over the past two weeks, have you felt little interest or pleasure in doing things?"
The updated recommendation expands doctors' options for depression screening, adding commonly used questionnaires like the Patient Health Questionnaire, or PHQ-9.
The PHQ-9 is a list of 10 questions that focus on problems that a person might have experienced during the past two weeks, including poor appetite, low energy, sleep problems and a lack of interest in doing things.
"These are not instruments that diagnose depression," Bibbins-Domingo noted. "They give clinicians the first indication of something that should be followed up on."
RELATED: 10 Drug-Free Therapies for Depression
Yapko said that someone who wanted to could lie on the questionnaires and avoid having their symptoms detected, but he added that in his experience it's not a very likely scenario.
"When you have people who are suffering who genuinely want help, they're happy to give you as accurate a portrayal as they can give you," he said. "Generally speaking, the people seeking help want help and they want to do their best in filling these things out. That's what makes the test worthwhile."
The task force is an independent, volunteer panel of national experts that has been issuing recommendations on preventive medicine since 1984.
Yapko and Bibbins-Domingo said depression screening shouldn't eat into a doctor's time, since patients can fill out and score the questionnaires on their own.
Instead of wasting time reading magazines in the waiting room, patients "could be filling out an inventory that is self-administered, self-scored and wouldn't take any physician time at all," Yapko said.
Patients also could download and fill out a depression questionnaire at home and hand it in when they go to the doctor, but Yapko said patients should make sure they're using the form their doctor prefers.
"Which of the many inventories and questionnaires a doctor might wish to use is a matter of personal and professional judgment," he said. "So, a doctor would need to specify which form to obtain online and the patient would then need to remember to bring it in, not always easy when depression negatively affects your memory. Easier to have the form in the office and have them fill it out in the waiting room."
Yapko added that it's important that doctors who screen for depression follow up by referring patients to a mental health professional, rather than trying to diagnose and treat depression themselves.
"When physicians get a diagnosis of depression, their most immediate thing to do is prescribe an antidepressant," Yapko said, noting that more than 70 percent of antidepressants are prescribed by non-psychiatrists. "Only a minority of people walk out of a doctor's office with a referral to a mental health professional, a fact which drives me a little crazy."
For people who battle depression and can't find relief, stimulating the brain with electric impulses may help. But a new study by Brazilian researchers says it's still no better than antidepressant medication.
In a trial that pitted transcranial, direct-current stimulation (tDCS) against the antidepressant escitalopram (Lexapro), researchers found that lessening of depression was about the same for either treatment.
"We found that antidepressants are better than tDCS and should be the treatment of choice," said lead researcher Dr. Andre Brunoni. He's director of the Service of Interdisciplinary Neuromodulation at the University of Sao Paulo.
"In circumstances that antidepressant drugs cannot be used, tDCS can be considered, as it was more effective than placebo," he said.
The researchers used the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale. This test has a score range of zero to 52, with higher scores indicating more depression.
People who received brain stimulation lowered their depression score by 9 points. Those taking Lexapro had depression scores drop by 11 points. Patients receiving placebo experienced a drop of 6 points in their depression score, the researchers found.
RELATED: Depression May Hasten Death in Years After Heart Diagnosis
"tDCS has been increasingly used as an off-label treatment by physicians," Brunoni said. "Our study revealed that it cannot be recommended as a first-line therapy yet and should be investigated further."
The report was published June 29 in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Dr. Sarah Lisanby is director of the Division of Translational Research at the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health. "When you consider if this treatment adds anything to the ways we have to treat depression, you want to know that a new treatment is better than or at least as good as what's available today," she said.
"But this study failed to show that tDCS was better than medication," said Lisanby, who wrote an accompanying journal editorial.
Lisanby pointed out that unapproved tDCS units are being sold on the internet. She cautioned that trying brain stimulation at home to relieve depression or enhance brain function is risky business, because side effects can include mania.
"There are people who are doing do-it-yourself tDCS," she said. "People are trying to find ways to treat depression, but it's important for them to know that tDCS is experimental and not proven to be as effective or more effective than antidepressant medications."
To get a better idea of how well brain stimulation worked for depression, Brunoni and colleagues randomly assigned 245 patients suffering from depression to one of four groups. One group had brain stimulation plus a placebo pill, another had fake brain stimulation plus Lexapro. The third group had brain stimulation plus Lexapro, and the final group had fake brain stimulation plus a placebo.
Brain stimulation involved wearing sponge-covered electrodes on the head. The treatment was given for 15 consecutive days at 30 minutes each, then once a week for seven weeks.
Lexapro was taken daily for three weeks, after which the daily dose was increased from 10 milligrams (mg) to 20 mg for the next seven weeks.
After 10 weeks, patients receiving brain stimulation fared no better than those taking Lexapro. Patients receiving brain stimulation, however, suffered from more side effects, the researchers found.
Specifically, patients receiving brain stimulation had higher rates of skin redness, ringing in the ears and nervousness than those receiving fake brain stimulation.
In addition, two patients receiving brain stimulation developed new cases of mania. That condition can include elevated mood, inflated self-esteem, decreased need for sleep, racing thoughts, difficulty maintaining attention and excessive involvement in pleasurable activities.
Patients taking Lexapro reported more frequent sleepiness and constipation.
Brunoni, however, is not ready to write off brain stimulation as a treatment for depression based on this study.
"We did not test, in this study, the combined effects of tDCS with other techniques, such as cognitive behavior therapy and other antidepressant drugs," he said.
"Previous findings from our group showed that tDCS increases the efficacy of antidepressant drugs, however, it should not be used alone, and its use must be supervised by physicians due to the side effects," Brunoni said.
Lisanby said the tDCS dose in the study may be in question. She said it may have to be adjusted to each individual patient in terms of how strong the electrical stimulation should be. The treatment length also needs to be individualized, as does what part of the brain it should be directed toward.
Also, "we need larger studies to give us the definitive answer about whether tDCS is better than the treatments we have today," Lisanby said.
Carolyn Jacob, MD, director of Chicago Cosmetic Surgery and Dermatology, doesn’t just treat patients with psoriasis — she manages her own. Dr. Jacob has been living with psoriasis since she was 14 years old.
Jacob’s psoriasis primarily affects her scalp and nails, both of which can be tough to hide. “I hated it when I had scalp involvement, which would show flakes on my clothing and itch constantly,” Jacob says.
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Embarrassed about her nail psoriasis, Jacob used to paint them a color that would mask her symptoms. The National Psoriasis Foundation says that about half of all people with psoriasis will have symptoms affecting the nails, which can include changes in color, thickening of the nails, separation of the nail, and the formation of pits or holes.
For healthy skin, Jacob knows she has to keep her skin clear and moisturized as much as possible. She uses CeraVe cleanser, available at many drugstores. “It adds ceramides to the skin, which help to rebalance the natural moisturizing factor in your skin,” she says. She follows that up with CeraVe lotion.
Other daily psoriasis treatment tips that Jacob offers her patients and practices herself include:
When Jacob’s psoriasis flares, she turns to a prescription Avène product called Akérat cream because it contains exfoliators and softeners to soothe the skin.
Jacob knows that psoriasis and its treatments are more than just skin deep. She sticks to a healthy, balanced diet to help keep inflammation down and her symptoms in check. She eats salmon and walnuts for the omega-3 fatty acids, which can help reduce inflammation and promote better heart health. Jacob also takes omega-3 supplements for an extra boost. “They are great for inflammatory conditions, especially psoriasis, and they help balance cholesterol levels and improve your skin texture,” she explains. The heart-healthy supplements can prove particularly beneficial since people with psoriasis have a 58 percent greater chance of suffering a major cardiovascular event like a heart attack, according to the National Psoriasis Foundation.
Stress is also a trigger for psoriasis, so Jacob tries to keep it in check, particularly by exercising. With twin toddlers and a busy schedule, she has to make time to work out. How does she fit it in? “I get up early to exercise so it is done for the day,” she says. It’s a prudent strategy that’s backed by a study from the August 2012 issue of Archives of Dermatology, which found that women who engaged in regular vigorous exercise were less likely to develop psoriasis.
Another of Jacob’s secrets: avoiding alcohol. “It makes stress worse and makes psoriasis worse,” she says. The National Psoriasis Foundation notes that alcohol can interfere with psoriasis treatments and causes side effects when combined with many psoriasis medications. Plus, alcohol can change the way you perceive and manage your stress, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
Jacob’s psoriasis is now well controlled with biologic medications, and she says her skin, scalp, and nails stay pretty healthy. Her best advice? Work with your dermatologist to find the right treatment for you.
“The availability of biologic medications was life changing — to not have to deal with other messy medicines that do not work well, to not itch, and to have normal nails is wonderful,” she says. “This type of treatment makes me feel like a normal person again!”
Bariatric surgery isn't a spur-of-the-moment operation. In fact, preparing for the procedure may begin a year or more before your surgery date, and lifestyle changes continue well after the surgery has been performed. Be prepared by knowing what will be asked of you every step of the process.
Leading up to the procedure, your surgical team will likely recommend becoming more informed about diet and exercise.The amount of time you spend in this stage depends on several factors, including your insurance and your team’s recommendations, says bariatric surgeon Ann Rogers, MD, director of the Penn State Hershey Surgical Weight Loss Program in Hershey, Pennsylvania.
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“There’s always some component of nutritional education and some expectation that patients will lose some weight in that program,” explains Dr. Rogers. The dietitians and others who work with you during this stage will send reports on your progress to your surgical team before you schedule your surgery date.
In this phase, you may need to make additional lifestyle changes as well depending on the program. Rogers’ program, for instance, requires smoking cessation, though other weight-loss surgery clinics do not.
The final days before your surgery can be extremely emotional, filled with excitement, nervousness, and anxiety. Taking these steps as you prepare for your surgery will ease tension and ensure that everything goes smoothly the day of your procedure:
• Read the materials from your clinic.
• Eat and drink as directed. “We have a preoperative diet for eight days, which consists of bariatric-friendly protein shakes,” Rogers says. “They are high in protein, and they do not have sugar.” Most programs have a preoperative diet, although the duration varies, she says. Make sure you understand how long that diet lasts and exactly what you can eat.
• Adjust medications as needed. Discuss how to manage any other conditions you might have, such as diabetes, with your weight-loss surgery team and your primary care physician.
• Meet with the anesthesiologist. Once your surgery date is scheduled, you'll also meet with the anesthesiologist, who will ask about your health history. Although patients will have lots of tests done and medical information detailed during the months before surgery, the anesthesiologist might ask for more tests, advises Rogers.
• Take a blood thinner. Clotting is a risk associated with surgery, says Rogers. Your doctor might recommend taking a blood-thinning medication before and after the surgery.
What to Pack
Rogers suggests taking the following items with you to the hospital:
• Instructions. Bring the manual or other instructions you’ve been given, as well as any preoperative paperwork.
• Identification. You’ll need it to check in.
• CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine. If you've been using one for sleep, take it with you.
• Laptop and cellphone.
• Pajamas and toiletries.
• Pillow and blanket.
What your weight-loss surgery will entail varies depending on the specific type of surgery you'll be having.
• Roux-en-Y: This procedure is also known as “gastric bypass.” Your stomach will be divided into a small top pouch and a larger lower pouch. Your small intestine will also be divided and the lower part raised up to attach to your new, smaller stomach. This procedure reduces the quantity of food you can eat at any given time.
• Sleeve gastrectomy: In this procedure, the majority of your stomach will be removed, creating a banana-shaped stomach.
• Biliopancreatic diversion with duodenal switch: In this procedure, a portion of your stomach is removed. The remaining portion is then attached to a lower segment of your small intestine.
• Banding: In this procedure, an inflatable band is wrapped around the upper part of your stomach, creating a small stomach pouch. The band can be adjusted as needed.
• Have a ride home in place. Expect to spend at least one night in the hospital, Rogers says. When you're discharged, you'll need to have someone drive you home.
• Prevent blood clots. You will need to adhere to strategies to prevent blood clots from developing. These include taking blood thinners and getting up and walking around while in the hospital and at home.
• Take pain medication. You'll probably get a prescription for pain medication. Laparoscopic surgery reduces pain and hospital stays, but you still may need prescription pain medication for a day or two after discharge, Rogers says.
• Anticipate constipation, as it's a byproduct of the pain medications and the surgery itself. Be sure to talk with your doctor or nurse about how to prevent constipation.
• Eat a restricted diet. Your diet will be restricted to liquid protein shakes for a week or so after the procedure, and then soft foods following that period. Most people can transition to eating food with texture after their one-month follow-up appointment. By three months you should be able to eat fruits and vegetables, Rogers says. The ASMBS recommends cutting down on carbohydrates and increasing protein.
• Drink lots of fluids. The ASMBS recommends at least 64 ounces, or 8 cups, of fluids daily.
• You may need to take supplements. Calcium, vitamin D, and B vitamins are among those your doctor might recommend.
• Exercise – but nothing too strenuous. Walking daily, starting the day you get home, is good for you, says Rogers. However, skip the gym until you have your doctor’s permission. You should be able to lift small weights, she says, but avoid heavy items.
• Plan on missing work for a while. People with desk jobs usually can go back to work in about three weeks, Rogers says. Those with physical jobs or jobs that require extended periods of sitting, such as driving trucks, will have to wait a longer period of time.
For those of you who’ve been with HealthTalk for some time, my name is probably familiar. I’m the founder of this health education company that creates and publishes free audio programming on the latest treatments and quality of life innovations for chronic illnesses such as multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, asthma and various types of cancer.
And also, more recently, I’m a patient treated successfully for chronic lymphocytic leukemia.
Quite frankly, I stumbled into the healthcare arena by accident some 20-plus years ago. And I’m glad I did, because I’ve become fascinated with the improvements to treatment and patient care over the years.
And it may have saved my life.
When I was diagnosed with CLL in 1996, I had been doing this for more than a decade. I carefully researched my options and found a doctor at the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center who recommended what was then an experimental treatment (today, it’s the standard of care). Now I’m in molecular remission.
At HealthTalk, I’m responsible for partnering with advocacy groups and major hospitals (including M. D. Anderson) and I still host many programs, including the upcoming Crohn’s webcast on November 10.
Getting back to my broadcasting roots, I also just launched a radio program called This blog will feature my perspective on the news of the day and other interesting nuggets of useful knowledge that I come across in my work exploring the world of patient empowerment.
This is a very exciting time in medicine. I hope you’ll join me as we travel down the path toward better care together.
By the time David Clark was in his early thirties, he owned a chain of 13 retail stores that reported $8 million a year in sales, and he was married with three children. “I should be happy,” he recalls thinking. But he wasn’t.
He was depressed. “I couldn’t find simple joy in anything, and had thoughts of stepping in front of a bus to end it,” he says. The depression caused him to eat massive amounts of fast food and drink recklessly, he says, and that led to obesity. At his heaviest, the nearly 6-foot-tall Clark, from Lafayette, Colorado, weighed 320 pounds.
Clark was not alone in suffering from depression and obesity. Nearly half of all adults who live with depression — 43 percent — are obese, and adults with depression are more likely to be obese than adults who aren’t depressed, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Whether depression or obesity comes first can vary from person to person, says Kim Gudzune, MD, MPH, assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore. “But if you have one condition, you’re more likely to have the other,” she says.
Depression and obesity are often linked because of the stigma of obesity. Some who are obese have a poor body image and can become depressed as a result, Dr. Gudzune says, and others eat to drown their sorrows.
In addition, “there may be shared neural pathways between obesity and depression that may place individuals at risk for both,” says Leslie Heinberg, PhD, director of behavioral services for the Bariatric and Metabolic Institute at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.
How Clark Turned His Life Around
After his weight gain, Clark was at risk for high blood pressure and was borderline diabetic.
He says he overcame both of his health conditions essentially on his own. One morning, when he was 34, Clark says he woke up and realized how close to death he was. He knew that if he didn’t change, his children would be fatherless.
“I didn’t want my kids to see their father drink himself to death,” he says, so he joined Alcoholics Anonymous and followed the group's 12 steps to stop drinking. “I went on a spiritual journey to make peace with my path,” says Clark, who grew up poor and homeless. As a kid, he and his dad had roamed the country in the back of a pickup truck, he says.
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He also began running. And running. Some years earlier, he'd seen the New York City Marathon on television and always had it in the back of his mind that that was something he might do. Eventually, Clark became an ultra-marathon runner. Now 44, he runs at least 80 to 100 miles a week and competes in some of the most challenging endurance races on the planet, including across Death Valley in California.
At first, it was painful to run, but he says the pain was also motivating. “I knew the stakes had to be pretty high to make such a dramatic change in my life," he says.
Running: A Low Cost Mood Booster
After Clark revamped his diet to be plant-based, stopped drinking alcohol, and began running regularly, his weight began to drop. It took him 18 months, but he got down to a healthy 180 pounds. When he switched to competitive running, he lost another 20 pounds and has stayed at 160 for years now, he says.
The running also improved his mood, says Clark, who chronicles his journey in the book Out There: A Story of Ultra Recovery. Exercise releases endorphins — hormones that reduce your perception of pain and improve your mood, according to Harvard Medical School in Boston.
Clark advises others who struggle with obesity and depression to do like he did and “draw a line in the sand” to say, “I’m not going to live this way anymore — I’m going to move on to a better place.”
What You Can Do
Though Clark lost weight on his own, not everyone can. So if you're struggling, consider working with a nutritionist or your doctor to find a weight-loss program. The key is to make low-calorie, healthy choices and exercise more so that you burn more calories than you consume, according to the National Institutes of Health. If you're extremely overweight, your doctor might suggest medication to curb your appetite, or weight-loss surgery.
Exercise and eating well may also help treat your depression. You can work with a therapist who can help you find the right treatment plan. That could include individual or group therapy, stress-reduction techniques, medication, or some combination of these.
Treatment can be difficult, because a side effect of some depression medications is weight gain, Gudzune says. But treating depression and weight issues simultaneously, Heinberg says, can be beneficial because if people who are depressed are able to lose weight, that could benefit their depression.
Treating expectant mothers -- and fathers -- might help prevent early birth, study suggests.
It's known that an expectant mother's mental and emotional health can affect her baby. New research, however, finds that depression in either the father or the mother may be linked to an increased likelihood of preterm birth.
Screening for and treating mental health problems in both parents may help reduce the odds of a preterm delivery, according to study author Dr. Anders Hjern and his colleagues.
"Depressive fathers influence the stress hormone balance in the mother, and depression may also -- but this is more speculative -- have an effect on sperm quality," said Hjern, professor of pediatric epidemiology with the Centre for Health Equity Studies in Stockholm, Sweden.
Hjern and his colleagues analyzed more than 360,000 births in Sweden between 2007 and 2012. They determined parental depression by prescriptions for antidepressants that the expectant parents were taking. The researchers also looked at the parents' outpatient and hospital care. All this information was from 12 months before conception until six months after conception.
Mothers who had either a first bout with depression or recurring depression appeared to have a 30 percent to 40 percent higher risk of delivering a baby moderately preterm -- at 32 to 36 weeks. Full term is 39 to 40 weeks, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).
For expectant fathers, only those who had "new" depression were linked to a greater risk of a preterm child. (People with new depression had no depression 12 months prior to their diagnosis.) These fathers had a 38 percent higher risk of a very preterm baby, defined as 22 to 31 weeks, the study authors said.
However, the study authors only found an association, and not cause-and-effect proof, that parental depression may affect a child's birth outcome.
RELATED: Should You Have Kids If You’re Depressed?
Preterm birth is a leading cause of infant death. Preemies that survive often face long-term health consequences.
Janet Currie, director of the Center for Health and Wellbeing at Princeton University, said stress can certainly be a culprit in causing early delivery.
"There is quite a bit of literature suggesting that stress could trigger labor," said Currie, who was not involved with the new research. "Possibly paternal depression could also have that effect on the mother, for example, if she is stressed out by a father's health problem, or if a father's depression leads to other stresses like loss of employment or income."
Hjern theorized that the effects of antidepressants and unhealthy factors such as obesity and smoking also may contribute to a greater likelihood of preterm labor.
Some experts recommend that couples planning a family or expecting a child seek advice if they are experiencing irritability, anxiety or a change in mood.
Hjern expressed concern that men are less likely to seek professional help for any mental health problems, suggesting a proactive approach toward targeting the well-being of expectant fathers may be beneficial.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force -- a panel of independent health experts -- recently recommended screening all adults, including pregnant and postpartum women, for depression.
ACOG applauded the recommendation, saying "routine screening by physicians is important for ensuring appropriate follow-up and treatment." Treatment might include lifestyle changes, therapy and/or medication, the association said.
"Perinatal depression or depression that occurs during pregnancy or in the first 12 months after delivery is estimated to affect one in seven women, making it one of the most common medical complications associated with pregnancy," ACOG said in a statement.
The new study was published online recently in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.
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It's unclear what causes binge eating disorder.
Like other eating disorders, BED is probably caused by a combination of genetic, psychological, and social factors.
Some risk factors for binge eating disorder include:
People with binge eating disorder have frequent bingeing episodes, typically at least once a week over the course of three months or more.
Binge eating episodes are associated with three or more of the following:
Some people also display behavioral, emotional, or physical characteristics, such as:
There are several treatments available for BED. Treatment options may include:
Juggling the responsibilities of work, life, and family can cause too little sleep, too much stress, and too little time.
Yet even when you're at your busiest, you should never cut corners when it comes to maintaining a healthy diet. Your body needs food to function at its best and to fight the daily stress and fatigue of life.
Energy and Diet: How The Body Turns Food Into Fuel
Our energy comes from the foods we eat and the liquids we drink. The three main nutrients used for energy are carbohydrates, protein, and fats, with carbohydrates being the most important source.
Your body can also use protein and fats for energy when carbs have been depleted. When you eat, your body breaks down nutrients into smaller components and absorbs them to use as fuel. This process is known as metabolism.
Carbohydrates come in two types, simple and complex, and both are converted to sugar (glucose). “The body breaks the sugar down in the blood and the blood cells use the glucose to provide energy,” says Melissa Rifkin, RD, a registered dietitian at the Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, N.Y.
Energy and Diet: Best Foods for Sustained Energy
Complex carbohydrates such as high-fiber cereals, whole-grain breads and pastas, dried beans, and starchy vegetables are the best type of foods for prolonged energy because they are digested at a slow, consistent rate. “Complex carbohydrates contain fiber, which takes a longer time to digest in the body as it is absorbed slowly," says Rifkin. Complex carbs also stabilize your body’s sugar level, which in turn causes the pancreas to produce less insulin. This gives you a feeling of satiety and you are less hungry.”
Also important in a healthy, energy-producing diet is protein (preferably chicken, turkey, pork tenderloin, and fish), legumes (lentils and beans), and a moderate amount of healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (avocados, seeds, nuts, and certain oils).
“Adequate fluids are also essential for sustaining energy,” says Suzanne Lugerner, RN, director of clinical nutrition at the Washington Hospital Center in Washington, D.C. “Water is necessary for digestion, absorption, and the transport of nutrients for energy. Dehydration can cause a lack of energy. The average person needs to drink six to eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day.”
Energy and Diet: Foods to Avoid
Simple carbohydrates, on the other hand, should be limited. Ranging from candy and cookies to sugary beverages and juices, simple carbs are broken down and absorbed quickly by the body. They provide an initial burst of energy for 30 to 60 minutes, but are digested so quickly they can result in a slump afterward.
You should also avoid alcohol and caffeine. Alcohol is a depressant and can reduce your energy levels, while caffeine usually provides an initial two-hour energy burst, followed by a crash.
Energy and Diet: Scheduling Meals for Sustained Energy
“I always recommend three meals and three snacks a day and to never go over three to four hours without eating something,” says Tara Harwood, RD, a registered dietitian at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. “If you become too hungry, this can cause you to overeat.”
Also, try to include something from each food group at every meal, remembering that foods high in fiber, protein, and fat take a longer time to digest.
Even if life is hectic, it’s important to make wise food choices that provide energy throughout the day. Your body will thank you.
The legendary talk-show host is helping raise awareness about heart health and the importance of staying on drug treatment.
Regis Philbin has been entertaining us for more than 50 years — from his legendary morning show with Kathie Lee Gifford and Kelly Ripa to . With his carefree personality and love of the sharp, off-the-cuff one-liner, at age 86 he remains one of America’s favorite television personalities. Seemingly forever young, he got a wake-up call in 1992, when he faced a major health scare that spurred him to lead a more .
Philbin was away from the TV studio and on a trip in Florida when he started to experience sharp chest pains.
“My heart was driving me crazy, I couldn’t believe it, I had these chest pains,” Philbin says. “We did an down there in Florida and my doctor told me my cholesterol levels were at 300. Are you kidding me? Three hundred!”
High blood cholesterol is one of the major markers of heart disease. According to the , a healthy total cholesterol level is less than 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). Any levels at 240 mg/dL or above — like the levels Philbin had — would be considered significantly high.
Once Philbin was back in New York, his doctor put him on his first , and Philbin, with his wife, Joy, by his side, decided that he would make significant to fight off the progression of his heart disease.
“I think things changed in a hurry,” Philbin says about his approach to his health.
“It shook us both up, it was a wake-up call,” Joy recalls of her husband’s health scare. “Quite frankly, I didn’t give cholesterol a thought myself. I mean, Regis didn’t have the best diet, but I never thought it was that bad. It kind of set him on a new regimen. You really start to feel your mortality. He was only 61 when he had his first event.”
This wouldn’t be his only heart health scare. Philbin had triple bypass surgery in 2007 because of a buildup of .
The ‘Take the Cholesterol to Heart’ Campaign
Right now, the Philbins are raising awareness about heart health through the “” campaign, which they launched in October 2017 in cooperation with Kowa Pharmaceuticals and the American Academy of Family Physicians Foundation. The campaign aims to encourage people to remain on a heart-healthy routine while also seeking out better information and asking questions before considering stopping their . Philbin, who has shared almost everything about his life over decades of being on air, has always been very open about his experiences with and was approached by the campaign to be its public face.
Joy says that what was most stunning to her about being part of the campaign was learning that 50 percent of people who are on statins stop taking the drugs after one year of use. She adds this shocked her because of how helpful the drugs were for her husband’s health.
Statins are drugs that lower blood cholesterol levels by blocking an enzyme that produces cholesterol in the liver. Getting people to maintain their drug regimen is one of the big challenges of treating high cholesterol, says , the president of the Utah Lipid Center and a fellow at the American Heart Association and the National Lipid Association.
“The big question is, why do these people stop taking their statins? One issue is you don’t necessarily feel better or worse when you take a statin; you have to go through testing to know your cholesterol is lower, so you don’t necessarily have a daily reminder every morning telling you you’re getting better,” Brinton says. “Another thing is that some patients will experience , like muscle pain or weakness. They might have stomach pain or a skin rash.
"There’s also a lot of negative and sometimes factually inaccurate information on the web. However, reputable medical sites cite evidence that highlight the positive health benefits of statins and show that these side effects do not occur in anywhere near the high numbers some of these other sites might lead you to believe.”
Reasons to Stay on Your Statins
A looked into the effectiveness of both statin and non-statin therapies for lowering cholesterol. The study reviewed 49 trials from 1966 to 2016 that involved 312,175 people in total. The report’s authors assert that statins should remain at the front of the line in treating cholesterol, but alternative therapies could be just as helpful if a person can’t tolerate statins or is looking for a different source of treatment. These could involve bile acid sequestrants or even a simple .
“I’ll say this up front, . They prevent heart attack and can prevent stroke. But a statin can’t work if you don’t take it,” Brinton stresses.
Brinton says there are a few things people should keep in mind when looking to lower their cholesterol with statin treatment:
Stay informed. To help counter some potentially inaccurate information out there, Brinton says the first person to turn to is your doctor. Beyond that, he says there’s useful information at places like the , the American Heart Association, and the National Lipid Association website, .
Know your options. Brinton says that people who are discouraged by one drug should know that there are multiple statin drugs out there. “A lot of people who stop their statin for whatever reason didn’t talk to or consult their doctor, who then doesn’t have a chance of helping them decide what to do,” he adds. “There are several statins out there, and people need to realize that there are other options if what they try first doesn’t work out.”
Be vigilant. If you’re having a bad experience, your statin medication could be reacting with other medications you are taking. Brinton says it is important that people tell their doctor about other medications or supplements they're on. They could then be prescribed a different statin.
How Regis Stays Healthy in Retirement
This all rings true for the Philbins. After his scare in the early '90s, Philbin started seeing a cardiologist, , and became even more of a “fitness freak,” Joy says.
“When you’re in your thirties, for example, you aren’t running to a doctor. But when you hit your sixties, you become a little more proactive about your health,” Joy says. “If your diet is wrong, you start looking into it. You become more aware.”
Echoing Brinton, Joy says that communication between you and your doctor is key in maintaining the best possible heart health.
“Some people avoid going to the doctor; they’re afraid of bad news,” she adds. “It’s important to maintain that [relationship]. You get closer to your doctor as you age, it’s one of the things you do. That’s crucial. It was so important for Regis.”
For his part, Philbin is doing everything he can to stay healthy in retirement. The talk-show host with the gift of gab is more than happy to share his heart health journey.
“I’ve been dealing with this for 25 years. It’s been a long time,” Philbin says. “I'm always more than happy to talk about this. For me, it’s everything.”
You might write off a feeling of fatigue to doing too much. You work, run a home, raise kids, volunteer in your community — all of these activities can leave you feeling overtired, you tell yourself as you collapse on the sofa.
But there’s fatigue, and then there’s chronic fatigue, a feeling of exhaustion that probably signals a medical condition and needs a doctor’s evaluation to help you start feeling like your old self again.
If you experience a level of fatigue that leaves you exhausted at the end of the day, but is not so severe that it’s keeping you from living your normal life, making a few healthy lifestyle changes may help. Try taking these steps:
If your fatigue is more than garden-variety tiredness, a visit to your doctor can help pinpoint a cause. About 40 percent of people who have symptoms of chronic fatigue turn out to have a treatable, underlying medical condition, such as:
Fatigue means being too beat to go to the movies or shopping, or to engage in any number of the other normal activities you're used to. With chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) you might be struggling to get through each day; for some people it can get bad enough that even holding down a job becomes difficult, forcing them to consider going on disability leave.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that between 1 and 4 million Americans have chronic fatigue syndrome. It is four times as common in women as men and usually begins in the childbearing years, although in rare cases it may occur in teenagers.
At this time, there are no tests to diagnose chronic fatigue syndrome. Your doctor can only diagnose CFS when other medical conditions known to cause fatigue are ruled out. Doctors call this "a diagnosis of exclusion."
The most debilitating symptom of CFS is severe, unexplained, persistent fatigue, lasting six months or more. It’s a fatigue that doesn’t go away after rest or sleep and keeps you from doing at least half the things you would normally do each day. To make the diagnosis, doctors will also look for four or more of the following symptoms:
Just what causes chronic fatigue syndrome is still unknown. Originally, scientists thought that being infected with certain viruses, especially the Epstein-Barr virus that causes mononucleosis, might be at the root of CFS, but there have been no conclusive findings. Now researchers are looking at whether inflammation brought on by an abnormal, overactive immune response occurrs in the nervous system of those with chronic fatigue.
Nakazawa believes that shifts in our 21st-century lifestyle, including daily exposure to toxins, pesticides, heavy metals, chemicals in our processed-food diets, and modern stress levels, are partly responsible. "Scientists who study autoimmune disease have called this epidemic 'the global warming of women's health,'" she says.
Advises Nakazawa, "At the same time that you work to lessen exposure to things that might overwhelm your immune system, you also need to relax and find joy in the world every day. How optimistically you perceive the world around you also impacts your stress level and your well-being."
In picture shows that "Teens are more likely to use e-cigarettes than cigarettes."
Past-month use of cigarettes was 3.6 percent among 8th graders, 6.3 percent among 10th graders, and 11.4 percent among 12th graders. Past-month use of e-cigarettes was 9.5 percent among 8th graders, 14.0 percent among 10th graders, and 16.2 percent among 12 graders.
Two times as many boys use e-cigs as girls.