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home : columns : ask the doctors October 21, 2018

Exercising in middle age can make stiff heart muscle more supple
I've never really enjoyed exercise and have managed to get to a fairly healthy 58 without doing very much of it at all. But I just got remarried and my husband, who is pretty active, wants me to start some kind of fitness program. Really, at my age, what good will it do?
Friday, October 19, 2018


Study shows that too much salt may cause cognitive impairment
I love salty foods, always have, and I don't have high blood pressure or heart disease or anything like that. But I did see a story recently that said high-salt diets can affect the brain. How worried should I be?
Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Grandmother refuses pacemaker to regulate erratic heart rate
What is sick sinus syndrome? Is a pacemaker the only cure? My grandmother was just diagnosed with it but, at age 94, has refused to even consider a pacemaker.
Monday, October 15, 2018

Study shows that 'man flu' appears to be real
When our dad gets sick, he pretty much collapses into bed for a few days. My mom teases him and calls it the "man flu." To us kids, it's a family joke, but a friend insists man flu is real. Is she right?
Friday, October 12, 2018

Influenza and colds most commonly transferred through saliva
How contagious is spit? I read that an Ohio man with hepatitis C was sentenced to 18 months in prison for spitting at police officers and paramedics.
Wednesday, October 10, 2018

'Silent' UTIs present a real health threat to the elderly
Our 92-year-old mother, who's still sharp as a tack, was perfectly fine one moment and then suddenly became weak and extremely disoriented. It was like she had dementia. We expected to hear that she had suffered a stroke, but hospital tests showed she had a UTI. Why would that affect her mind? And why didn't she ever have any other symptoms?
Monday, October 8, 2018

Readers offer remedies for nighttime leg cramps
ello again, dear readers! It's been a busy month for letters, so we'll get right to it.

-- Regarding a column about post-operative cognitive dysfunction (POCD), in which elderly patients experience mental disruptions following surgery, we heard from an anesthesiologist in Florida. In our column, we explored the link the condition has to general anesthesia. However, he points out that the stress of surgery in and of itself can lead to POCD, and that a more accurate definition is an "impairment to the mental functions of an individual following surgery."

Friday, October 5, 2018

Epipen shortage has parents scrambling
Between my sister and me, we have three kids with serious allergies (two peanut and one bee sting), and each of their schools requires us to provide them with an EpiPen for emergencies. Now there's a shortage and we can't find even one EpiPen, let alone three. What's going on? Are there any other options for us?
Wednesday, October 3, 2018

RSV can be life-threatening in babies younger than 6 months
I've been reading a lot lately about something called RSV, which acts like a cold but turns out to be way worse, especially in kids. What is it, and how is a parent supposed to know the difference?
Monday, October 1, 2018

Yoga can reduce stress's effect on the body at a cellular level
I'm one of those Type A people who's pretty much always stressed-out. My wife got me to try yoga about six months ago and I'll admit, I do feel better. Now our local TV station has reported that yoga and meditation might actually be changing my genes. How can that be?
Friday, September 28, 2018

Never partake in a 'food challenge' without medical supervision
It seems like everyone has a food allergy these days. Is it true that kids can outgrow them? Apparently, the test for this is just to eat a little bit of food and see what happens. Can you do this at home -- with an EpiPen at the ready, of course?
Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Pregnant women shouldn't smoke cannabis to ease morning sickness
I read that more women are using marijuana for morning sickness. This doesn't seem like a good idea, but for women with severe morning sickness, might it be an option? Could it really hurt the baby?
Monday, September 24, 2018

Researchers find correlation between pubic grooming and stis
Dear Doctor: Does getting a bikini wax really increase the risk of getting a sexually transmitted disease? How would someone figure that out?
Friday, September 21, 2018

Working too hard can give you a heart attack-ack-ack-ack-ack
Could working too much actually give me an irregular heartbeat later in life as a study I heard about suggests? I'm 55 and run my own tech support business, so I keep some really long and often irregular hours.
Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Study examined how low muscle mass may be predictor of dementia
I heard that for senior citizens, being overweight and losing muscle can be bad for your memory. Is this really true? I'm worried because my husband has pretty much taken a seat on the couch since he retired two years ago. He hasn't gained any weight, but our sons have been saying that he's lost a step or two mentally. What can we do?
Monday, September 17, 2018

Boys' intense video game interaction worries grandparents
Dear Doctor: It's a real nightmare trying to pry our two grandsons away from their online video games when they are visiting. There's always a fight followed by hours of sulking and crankiness. Our son and his wife say it's easier to just let the kids play. Could they be addicted?
Friday, September 14, 2018

Our understanding of how to stop cancer is growing exponentially
Is it just me or has it been forever since we've seen any real advances in cancer treatments? The new miracle drugs work only in very specific cases and the rest of us cancer patients are left with 20th-century treatments. Are there breakthroughs we aren't hearing about?
Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Preserve immobilized limb's muscle strength with cross education
My son, who plays several sports, recently broke his right arm. Now he's worried that the muscles will waste away while it heals. I read that exercising his left arm could help his broken arm. When I told him this, he scoffed. It does seem crazy, but is it true?
Monday, September 10, 2018

Soap and water more effective than using hand sanitizers
Dear Doctor: I know that plain old soap and water are best for washing your hands, but sometimes it's either do nothing, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. So, I'm wondering, though they promise to kill "99.9 percent of germs," just how effective are hand sanitizers with respect to disease-causing viruses like the flu?
Friday, September 7, 2018

Mice experiment furthers understanding of gut-mood connection
I switched jobs just over a year ago to an office big on birthday cakes, group lunches and sharing homemade treats. I've now managed to gain almost 20 pounds and have started feeling low. My mom says she heard on television that it's because of my gut bacteria. Is that true? Should I try probiotics?
Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Study reveals probiotics may slow osteoporosis
I'm 55 years old and am going through menopause. My grandmother had osteoporosis and so does my mother, so I'm worried. My dad read that probiotics can help, which sounds a little nutty. What on earth do a bunch of bacteria have to do with your bones?
Monday, September 3, 2018

Majority of typhoid cases are contracted while traveling abroad
How common -- and dangerous -- is typhoid fever? I read that a day care center was recently shut down because a student there was sick with it. I thought typhoid was a thing of the past.
Saturday, September 1, 2018

A final farewell to readers
Dear Readers, this will be my 250th column over the past two years. Writing for you has been a great opportunity, and I thank all of you for the questions you have given me. In trying to convey the best information possible, I have learned a great deal. I have pored through multiple articles in my attempt to glean the truth buried within the scientific evidence and to explain how it applies to our everyday life. Now, however, other duties beckon, and so this is my last article for you. My colleagues, Dr. Eve Glazier and Dr. Elizabeth Ko, will continue writing the column and addressing your medical queries.
Friday, August 31, 2018

Study offers strong argument for benefits of fecal transplants
I just read that some parts of the medical community may finally be taking the idea of fecal transplants seriously. What are the latest advances? And what's taking so long?
Thursday, August 30, 2018

Kicking sugar addiction will lower your risk for dementia
I recently saw a TV show in which a physician said sweets cause dementia. Is this true? As a sweet-aholic, I hope not.
Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Readers offer feedback about recent columns
Hello again, dear readers, and welcome to late summer! Please indulge us as we remind you (yes, again) to wear sunscreen, use bug sprays, watch for ticks and stay hydrated. We hope the recent columns about the dangers of excessive heat and the warning signs and physical effects of dehydration were of use to you.
Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Antibiotics curb spread of rocky mountain spotted fever
I am a 66-year-old female currently recovering from Rocky Mountain spotted fever. I was prescribed Vibramycin and Atarax. I stopped taking the Atarax after a few days because of the confusion that I was experiencing. I am wondering, though, if there are any lasting effects of this rare disease?
Monday, August 27, 2018

Mediterranean diet study's flawed analysis warrants correction
Dear Doctor: For years now, I've been trying to eat more fruits and vegetables, less meat and a whole lot of olive oil and mixed nuts. Now I'm seeing that one of the studies supporting this has been retracted. Can I go back to hamburgers and fries?
Friday, August 24, 2018

'Incredibles 2' strobe light scenes prompt health advisories
How often do flashing lights cause seizures? Does it happen only in people with epilepsy? I ask because I recently saw a warning about flashing lights in the new "Incredibles 2" movie.
Thursday, August 23, 2018

FDA reminds consumers that sunscreen pills do not work
My husband and I are terrible at remembering to wear sunscreen. I don't like how it feels, and he just plain forgets. I recently saw an ad for sunscreen pills. Could they be an option?
Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Heat stroke deaths on the rise during dangerously hot summer
My siblings and I are very frustrated that we can't get our grandparents to pay attention to those "excessive heat" warnings that get issued during a heat wave. Can you help? They don't take information coming from us grandkids seriously, but I bet they'd listen to actual doctors.
Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Dehydration takes a mental, physical toll on the body
How does someone know they're dehydrated? I'm worried because my husband swears he drinks "tons" of water, but as best I can tell, he doesn't have more than a glass or so per day, even when it's really hot. He's very active and he's always got headaches, which he blames on air quality, and he's often tired. How can I persuade him to drink more water?
Monday, August 20, 2018

Cyclospora outbreak traced to veggie trays
What's the deal with this new bug that made a bunch of people who ate raw vegetables get really sick? So much for trying to eat healthy!
Saturday, August 18, 2018

Stretching before bedtime can help prevent nighttime leg cramps
Everyone I know has leg cramps at night. Other than the multitude of "home remedies" and stretching (which is the advice my doctor gave that make mine worse), what can I do? They interfere with my sleep.
Friday, August 17, 2018

Mom insists daughter try to control her 'hanger'
My 16-year-old daughter is normally very sweet and accommodating. But when she's hungry, she becomes a completely different person. I think she can control her mood when she's hungry; she insists she can't. Who's right?
Thursday, August 16, 2018

Parents' decision to not vaccinate baby worries grandma
My son and his wife have a 13-month-old son, born at home, whom they refuse to have vaccinated. In fact, the only time he's seen a doctor was a month ago when he had a bad cold. How can I convince them of the merits of vaccination?
Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Sleep aids are meant only for short-term use
My doctor offered to prescribe sleeping pills because I'm under a lot of stress at work and am suffering from insomnia. I'm tempted, but the side effects scare me. How often do people sleepwalk or binge-eat or do other activities after taking sleeping pills? I even heard that one woman drove across the country!
Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Going gluten-free brings relief to those with celiac disease
DEAR DOCTOR: My 40-year-old grandson has just been diagnosed with celiac disease after months of feeling poorly and being underweight. What's next? Where can he go for guidance and what should he do? I want to help, but don't know where to start.
Monday, August 13, 2018

Weight lifting can boost mood and build self-confidence
DEAR DOCTOR: I'm a 45-year-old woman and, ever since my divorce, I've struggled with depression. I tried yoga and meditation, and they're fine. But when a friend gave me a gift certificate to a gym and I started weight lifting, I saw a real change. I'm less stressed and I feel more like myself again. Am I imagining things, or does weight lifting help you feel better emotionally? Why would that be?
Saturday, August 11, 2018

Study results point to the importance of diet in fertility
DEAR DOCTOR: I recently read that fast food interferes with a woman's chances of conceiving. What's the connection?
Thursday, August 9, 2018

Recent studies show the benefits of eating eggs
I'm old enough to remember when eggs were good, then bad, and then so bad they were probably going to give you a heart attack. Now I'm hearing we've come full circle and eggs are good for you again. What gives?
Thursday, August 9, 2018

Consider getting most of your 'eye vitamins' from your diet
Do "eye vitamins" have any benefit at all? I know a lot of seniors who believe in them, but I'm skeptical. 
Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Readers follow up with questions regarding past columns
Hello, dear readers, and happy summer! We hope you're getting a chance to enjoy the longer days and warmer weather. Here at Ask the Doctors headquarters, our mailboxes continue to overflow. Let's dive in.
Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Stretching can help alleviate pain of Plantar Fasciitis
I recently began running again after a six-year hiatus. My only problem is that my heels hurt after I run -- so much so that I limp for a few minutes the next morning until my body adjusts. As the day progresses, I stop noticing the pain. Any suggestions?
Monday, August 6, 2018

Cannabinoids' effect on glucose control still not yet understood
I have Type 1 diabetes and have used marijuana for years to control my blood sugar. I've seen my blood sugar drop 100 points in five minutes with marijuana, a lot faster than my Humalog insulin can manage. Why is that? Will medical marijuana ever go mainstream?
Saturday, August 4, 2018

Ionizing radiation increases cancer risk for frequent flyers
My daughter isn't a flight attendant, but she flies a lot for business. Is she at an increased risk for cancer?
Friday, August 3, 2018

SPF scale indicates length of time you can spend in the sun
I always reach for the highest SPF when I'm buying sunscreen, especially for the kids. But my mom says what matters most is the type of UV rays the sunscreen is blocking. Why is that? What does SPF actually measure?
Thursday, August 2, 2018

Patient's foot cramps relieved by Guaifenesin
I was recently diagnosed with COPD and prescribed two inhalers and two nebulizers, only to quickly develop severe cramps in my feet. I noticed, however, that when I take Mucinex (guaifenesin), the foot cramps disappeared completely. Is it safe to continue to take it?
Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Rates of colorectal cancer rising among younger Americans
I'm 47 years old and was very happy to have three more years before my doctor started bugging me about a colonoscopy. But my husband says there are new guidelines, and I'm now actually two years late! Why the changes?
Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Finasteride's side effects take toll on married couple
My husband's doctor prescribed finasteride to treat his enlarged prostate, and he's been taking it for years. Gradually, the side effects became noticeable, specifically erectile dysfunction. Shouldn't men be warned about this? Aren't there other options for an enlarged prostate?
Monday, July 30, 2018

Physiological effects of running can slow aspects of aging
Dear Doctor: I've been an avid runner since high school, but I'm turning 65 this summer and my wife and my kids have been after me to switch to walking. I think I remember hearing about some study that said running actually makes you younger. If so, can you help with a recap? I need some good arguments for our next family gathering.
Saturday, July 28, 2018

Cases of menstrual-related toxic shock have dropped steeply
Dear Doctor: I recently read about a woman who lost a leg from toxic shock syndrome and might lose another one. How is this possible? I thought toxic shock was related to using tampons.
Friday, July 27, 2018

Diet, exercise and flexibility training can alleviate OA pain
I just learned that the constant pain in my right knee, which I injured playing college basketball, is osteoarthritis. I'm only 33 and want to do everything I can to get better. Is it true that fish oil can help? Is there anything else I can do?
Thursday, July 26, 2018

Recent study suggests dark chocolate can improve mood and memory
I have some dark chocolate every day and my (otherwise kind and loving) husband teases me for believing the news stories that chocolate is good for you. Please tell me that I haven't fallen for a bunch of quack science!
Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Study's participants lost weight without counting calories
Is it true that just cutting back on refined sugar, refined grains and highly processed foods can lead to weight loss without cutting calories? If so, count me in. But I could eat a whole lot of whole grains and vegetables before being satisfied. That's still a lot of calories.
Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Getting enough sunlight is crucial to our emotional well-being
It seems as if people, without fail, say they feel better when the sun is shining, yet the medical community seems to tell people to stay away from the sun. The sun is shining as I ask: Is there some conspiracy here?
Monday, July 23, 2018















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