Monday, 25 June 2007

Doctors personal beliefs have an impact on patient care

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The issue over whether pharmacists have to dispense medicine that may go against their religious or moral beliefs (such as early contraception or birth control pills) has been widely publicized. But what hasn't been talked about much is that fact that doctor's, too, can withhold certain types of care or prescriptions if their patients choices differ from their own beliefs.

It's a hotly debated issue on both sides and where the line should be drawn remains unclear. The doctors in question say that their morals matter despite their occupation, and they shouldn't have to feel bad about the choices they make at work each day. Critics say that those who suffer the most are often women and that by not offering treatment, doctors are being unfair. Though abortion would be the obvious and hot-button issue here, there are many, often surprising, services the doctors in question won't provide. One example in the article involved a doctor who wouldn't give a woman -- who was adopting internationally -- a physical, because he believed children should have two parents.

Read more about the issue here, then leave a comment telling us what you think. Should doctors put their personal beliefs aside for their patients, or should patients research their doctors thoroughly before their appointment to make sure they've chosen a good match?

Fat people better protected from TB?

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Normally linked to a variety of health problems such as hypertension, diabetes and cardiovascular, obesity may actually be helpful in preventing tuberculosis amongst the elderly.

That's according to a recent study in Hong Kong, that elderly, obese people are, on average, better-protected against the disease than people who are underweight or of normal weight -- the heavier you are, the lower your risk.

There's no conclusive evidence as to why obese people fair better against the disease, so further research is needed. However, doctors theorize that the connection is due to the fact that our fatty tissues control both our metabolism and our immune systems.

Oddly, this is thought to be the reason that the numbers of people catching TB started to fall before there was a cure. As the populations of certain countries starting getting fatter, less people contracted the disease.

That said, in the long run, your chances of dying from an obesity-related condition are far higher than your chances of contracting and dying from TB. So take the weight off -- it's worth the risk.

Where to place that treadmill?

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I recently moved my treadmill from one room to another and had quite an epiphany -- where you place your exercise equipment has a direct impact on how (often) you use it.

Consider this: for years, the treadmill was tucked away in a dedicated exercise room where I live. This got it out of the way, but also it made me less likely to use it daily. The rule "out of sight, out of mind" really came into play here.

After moving the treadmill right into the main bedroom, it was amazing to find that I actually started using it much more. Why? Well, because I saw it all the time and that constant reinforcement really jogged me into more frequent use. This was a very good thing to have happened. So, the moral of the story is: "where is your treadmill?"

Feed your fat burning furnace

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Strength training is an important component to fitness, but no one will be able to admire those flat abs and strong biceps if they're hiding under a layer of fat! That's why fat-blasting cardio workouts are important too, and if you're finding yourself struggling with too-slow fat loss, check out these tips for feeding your fat-burning furnace. You'll probably be familiar with a lot of these ideas, like eating breakfast, drinking lots of water, being as active as possible -- but there's some new information there as well:
  • Calorie cycling: If you've reduced calories to lose weight, increase your calories by 400 every fourth day. It'll surprise your body into burning more fat, but make sure it's 400 nutritious calories you're eating!
  • Break up your workout: If you're having time squeezing in that daily workout, two shorter workouts will work just as well.
  • Try hydrotherapy: Drink 32 ounces of super cold water 30 minutes before breakfast in the morning. Apparently, this will force your body to raise it's temperature which will boost your metabolism. You can do it before lunch as well, but you have to be cutting calories for this to work. (Word of caution: I tried this yesterday and the cold water on an empty stomach made me really nauseous for about an hour!)
Has anyone tried any of these tips? Share your success with us!

Ham and cheese is the best breakfast?

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You've heard it your entire life, and it's true -- as Martha posted here, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. What you eat doesn't just feed your body and get you physically prepared for the day ahead, it also feeds your mind. But did you know that it's not just whether you eat, but also what you eat for breakfast that impacts how you perform for the rest of the day?

According to the study reported on here, foods that release sugar into your system at a slower and more consistent rate, have the biggest impact on attention, memory and how fast you work. The study, which was conducted on British school kids but which also applies to adults, found that ham and cheese served with wholegrain bread was one of the best possible breakfasts.

Apparently sugary cereal such as Cornflakes (they're not just talking about the really sweet stuff like Coco Puffs and Fruit Loops) served with waffles and syrup was the worst early morning meal, while scrambled eggs with toast and jam sat somewhere in the middle. So while it's alright to enjoy pancakes or your favorite cereal once in a while, it's probably best to avoid it on days when you really need to get a job done well.

Top 10 US phobias

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Fear is normal. A phobia, however, is an irrational fear. It's the difference between being scared of a heights when there's a real danger that you might fall, and being scared simply because you're off the ground -- even when you're perfectly safe.

While there's an enormous number of cataloged phobias, here's a list of the 10 most popular:

1. Acrophobia: fear of heights
2. Aerophobia: fear of flying
3. Agoraphobia: fear of panicking and then not being able to escape
4. Arachnophobia: fear of spiders
5. Brontophobia: fear of thunder
6. Carcinophobia: fear of cancer
7. Claustrophobia: fear of closed spaces
8. Emetophobia: fear of vomiting
9. Necrophobia: fear of death
10. Sociophobia: fear of people or social situations

Most of us have these irrational fears for one reason or another (I'm not a huge fan of enclosed spaces, for instance), but still manage to get through our day without interruption. But once that fear starts making it difficult to live your life then it's time to see a doctor.

Summer six-pack ab season is here

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Ever wish you have those "six-pack abs" that so many models and exercise gurus seem to have? It's not that hard with the right level of effort and commitment, but it does take 100% of both of those to get there.

Getting "ripped" is not easy, but with the right attitude, it's not all that hard either. A complete change in nutrition is in order for most, but adding to right kind of exercise on top of that is essential as well. In other words, get used to some crunching in that ab area. You have to work those muscles.

If you're looking for a step-by-step guide to all the exercises and targets you need to hit to get there, this article over at The Diet Channel will give you the breakdown. Discipline is key and effort is required, but you can do it. Just don't give up a day later -- it will take longer than that!

What happens when we get too much fluoride

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Fluoride is amazing compound. Since being added to our community water supplies, the occurrence of tooth decay has dropped as much as 40 percent in some places. But considering fluoride is now a part of the water which we use to cook, clean and eat with, skeptics are saying too much of a good thing is bad.

Of course, skeptics can find fault in just about anything we use regularly nowadays. A group called the Fluoride Action Network is waging a crusade against fluoride, citing that too much can actually hurt your teeth (discoloration called fluorosis). In an attempt to scare away the public, they even cite studies which show how excessive amounts of fluoride can cause reduced thyroid activity, IQ deficits, premature puberty and... bone cancer?

It's in your toothpaste, baby formula, soda, juice, and cooking, but is fluoride something you should be scared of? We've been consuming the compound in our water for over 50 years now, so in other words "No." I cannot imagine why fluoride would be an issue now after being used for so long.

Woman 'poisoned' by chewing gum

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Moderation, moderation, moderation. Almost anything -- even the most seemingly innocuous habits -- can be disastrous when taken to excess.

Abigail Cormack almost learned that the hard way. She started having severe muscle cramps, tingling in her hands and feet, heart palpitations, anxiety attacks, depression, skin rashes and insomnia. It was so bad that she had to take time off work -- and, at one point, feared she was having a heart attack.

Despite the best attempts by doctors to diagnose the problem, Cormack continued to suffer until she discovered an website that suggested her problems might be the result of aspartame poisoning. Aspartame, she discovered, is used in 5000 foods and beverages -- including chewing gum.

Cormack had been chewing up to four packs of chewing gum every day for years, so she stopped the habit, and within 24 hours, her symptoms disappeared.

While no study has formally linked the compounds found in aspartame to any serious side effects (even in large daily doses), some people are more susceptible to allergic reactions, and -- theoretically -- could experience the same symptoms.

That said, even Cormack admits her habit was "excessive."

Fighting cancer with lip balm?

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Cancer is one of the most terrifying words in the modern lexicon. There are so many types that you can get in so many ways, it is pretty overwhelming. Some forms of the disease are influenced by genetics, but many of these, as well as loads of others, can be prevented.

Oral cancer, which affects the mouth and pharynx (a section of the throat that includes part of the digestive and respiratory system) is one of the forms of the disease that each individual can take measures to try to prevent on their own. According to this, regular use of lip balm with SPF is an important step, as excessive sun exposure can lead to lip cancer and the sunscreen in lip balm can help protect your kisser.

In addition, one of the most important things to avoid is tobacco products including cigars and cigarettes. You should also avoid drinking too much alcohol and make sure to include a cancer screening in each check-up at the dentist. Oral cancer is very serious but steps can be taken to avoid it, so make sure to look after yourself accordingly.

Where is your protein intake at?

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One of the many things a health-conscious person measures in their diet is protein -- how much is enough and what kind is the best? I prefer my protein from plant-based sources (and nuts & grains), and many others get their daily protein from dairy and meat sources.

Do you get enough protein, though? Especially if you are older, protein intake should be right up there with fiber, calcium and other concerns. It generally isn't though, which is not a good thing for aging bodies.

Based on your appetite and eating habits, the mix of certain components needed more at different stages of life may change without you realizing it. Protein is only one centerpiece of a strategy that needs monitoring closely, and this article will get you up to speed on exactly what to look for and make choices on when it comes to ensuring the right amount of protein is consumed -- now and in your future.

Are you fatter than you think?

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Obesity is a problem in this country and around the world, and I don't think anybody would argue about that. But there seems to be a gap between how many people believe there's a general and growing problem with weight and how many believe that they are at all included in that problem. A whopping 66% of Americans are overweight or obese, but only 12% have ever been told by a doctor that they need to lose weight. And it seems that although many people realize they are overweight (with or without the doctor telling them), many don't believe they actually fall into the category of obese or even morbidly obese when in fact they do.

Why is this gap so big? Although I'm big on personal accountability, if doctors aren't telling their patients exactly where they stand health-wise then that's the most obvious issue.

Many U.S. kids use personal trainers

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As Bethany reported on recently, personal trainers are a great way to engage in a formal and social contract to ensure you get the exercise you need. I've found them very valuable to not only provide sage advice on getting in shape and staying there, but as a friend to cheer you on to a healthier lifestyle.

It's gratifying to know that almost a million small children (pre-teenage as well) are using personal trainers to help them build confidence and motivate themselves into a healthy disposition as they enter adulthood. Personal trainers dealing with kids, though, should be not only certified but trained to deal with children, as Bethany pointed out.

To me, this shows busy parents can take the time to make sure their kids are getting the exercise they need and more. So many kids currently are overweight from lack of activity and eating more food than needed that these kinds of measures, hopefully, are swaying those attitudes more towards the healthy side.

A tasty and healthy recipe for blueberry pie

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One of my favorite things about summertime is all of the fresh fruit that is available in abundance from farmer's markets and roadside stands. For a special treat, there are few things better than a delicious fruit pie after a healthy meal. If you're looking for a guilt-free dessert, try this recipe for blueberry pie. It is relatively easy, and is filled with the colorful berry, which is loaded with vitamin C and is known for being high in antioxidants.

There's not much sugar in the pie and most of the flavor comes from lemon juice, cinnamon and, of course, lots of tasty, ripe and healthy blueberries. There are less than 170 calories per serving and only a few grams of fat. In addition, each piece contains 3g of fiber and 2g of protein, so this is one treat that you don't have to feel guilty about.

Old school "virtual reality" exercise bike

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Now that Brian's got us all thinking about where to put our exercise equipment for optimum use, let's all be thankful that we're not finding a home for this monstrosity. Ah, yes -- the LaserTour. Introduced in 1982 for a whopping $20,000 a piece, these exercise bikes came complete with your very own (and very enormous) virtual reality station -- utilizing the "modern magic of microelectronics to create a totally new concept of surrogate travel."

So as you pedal faster, the landscape moves faster -- far out!

The machine is even constructed to help you "feel" the ups and downs of going over hills.

Of course, none of this takes into consideration that you can buy a real bike, that you can ride in the real outside, for about $19,800 less than the cost of a LaserTour. I guess it's not surprising that these didn't stick around through the decades.

[via Boing Boing]

Medical error 5th leading cause of death in U.S.

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Of all the threats we face in the world today (disease, accidents, terrorism, and the list goes on) who would have thought something perfectly preventable like medical errors would earn 5th place on the list of leading causes of death in this country? Transcription errors, adverse drug reactions, and incomplete patient records account for as many as 98,000 deaths in the U.S. every year. The strained health care system is dealing regularly with too many patients for too little staff, which is obviously a dangerous combination, but thankfully there are some moves being made to help reduce this problem. CIS (clinical information systems) are being utilized by more and more hospitals to hopefully reduce errors by providing an easy and reliable resource, but I'm afraid that mistakes will continue to be a problem as long as medical facilities are chronically understaffed and patient loads soar higher and higher.

Why don't doctors prescribe regular exercise?

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It's great to hear that some physicians actually prescribe exercise as a way to rectify and prevent certain physical ailments. I wish this happened more, but with most doctors being trained in repair instead of 'preventative maintenance,' it's no surprise that pharmaceutical drugs are used more than exercise to attempt an improvement in personal health.

But, with so much overwhelming evidence showing the physical benefits of exercise, why don't more doctors prescribe regular exercise as a way to treat certain maladies?

A good start would have patients track how much they should walk every day (using a pedometer) along with other normal activities that really can lead to good health if followed diligently. What has your doctor told you to do recently in regards to exercise?

Can a Gila monster help you lose weight?

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A synthetic form of a hormone found in a Gila monster's saliva may hold the key to weight loss, at least for some. The hormone -- exendin-4 -- was used to treat diabetics over the course of three years. On average, the 217 participants took off (and kept off) 11 pounds. Because gaining weight is a problematic part of diabetes and can increase risk factors for other diseases, maintaining a healthy weight is especially important.

The drug was previously approved by the FDA in 2005 for use in diabetics with unstable blood sugar that wasn't well controlled by other commonly used drugs. Now drug manufacturers Amylin Pharmaceuticals and Eli Lilly and Company are collaborating on the study in hope, I presume, of developing the next big weight loss drug.

I'm no scientist, but if you aren't diabetic, taking off 11 pounds over the course of three years seems doable with diet and exercise, which I'd much rather do than tangle with a Gila monster. What do you think?

Know the warning signs

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As you know, there are many reasons to start exercising, but in some rare instances there may also be reasons to stop. I don't mean to stop indefinitely, but to stop immediately. While working out you may be experiencing something that pops up out of the blue and that can signal that something else (underlying) is wrong.

Determining if these symptoms are serious or not may be difficult, but there are five warning signs that can tip you off. Take note of these symptoms, and get to know your body, as that can help you determine if the symptoms are just normal aches and pains associated with working out or something much more serious.

Continue reading Know the warning signs

Video game addiction: does it exist?

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I've heard so much media talk recently on the subject of video games being addictive. Are they? They way I've seen so many kids recently spending so many hours playing them that this conclusion seems natural to reach for many of us, especially parents.

Interestingly, some doctors shied away from the video game addiction mentality just yesterday. A group od doctors said that psychiatrists should study the issue of game playing and related involvement more before the medical and psychiatric community classified video game 'addiction' as a mental disorder similar to alcoholism.

Additional addiction experts also chimed in with support of this notion instead of setting up video game addiction on the same level as drug or alcohol addiction. Do kids really have to have video games? That would be a central question for discussion, right?