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home : columns : ask the doctors November 21, 2018

Family history of breast cancer may increase males' risk
My husband's mother had breast cancer, and so did both of his aunts. He's really worried about our two daughters' risk, but I've read that breast cancer can affect men as well. Shouldn't he also be worried about himself?
Monday, November 19, 2018


Parents worried that social media is making their teens anxious
Dear Doctor: My wife and I worry about how social media rules the lives of all four of our teens, especially our two daughters. I get that there must be some upsides, but mostly we see it making the kids stressed and anxious. Are we overreacting? Should we take their phones away?
Friday, November 16, 2018

Readers offer feedback on weight loss and extra sunlight
Hello again, dear readers! Once again, you've kept our mailboxes brimming, so let's get right to work.
Wednesday, November 14, 2018

There is no 'right' way to grieve after the death of a spouse
My wife of 40 years died seven months ago after a battle with cancer. Since then, I have been suffering from frequent bouts of depression, haunted by the loss of my life partner. During these episodes I can feel something like a mild form of an adrenaline rush. What is it? Should I be worried?
Monday, November 12, 2018

Study indicates weight loss can lessen breast cancer risk
I recently read an article that said even a little bit of weight loss -- just 5 percent of your total body weight -- can lessen your risk of breast cancer. Why is that? Does it hold true for women who are of normal weight?
Friday, November 9, 2018

Practicing good hygiene won't disrupt oral microbiome
Our dad is a science geek, and his new obsession is the gut microbiome. But now he's telling anyone who will listen that the mouth microbiome is just as important as the one in the gut. Is that really true? Am I helping or hurting it when I brush my teeth?
Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Meningitis vaccine can be a lifesaver
My son is headed for college, and I've heard he should get the meningitis vaccine. Our doctor didn't recommend it, so I figured he'd be fine without it. Is the vaccine really that important?
Monday, November 5, 2018

Penicillin allergy is even rarer than many think
DEAR DOCTOR: How do I know if I have a penicillin allergy? I always tell doctors that, yes, I'm allergic to penicillin, because I think I remember a bad reaction from when I was a kid, but, honestly, I'm not sure. Does it even matter if I continue to avoid the penicillin family?
Friday, November 2, 2018

Studies offer insights into how personality traits affect aging
Just how much of a role do personality traits have in determining how long someone will live? Recent news reports have suggested that they're important, but the explanation didn't really make that much sense to me.
Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Readers offer feedback on cbd and how to treat 'hanger'
Hello, dear readers, and welcome to autumn! You've been keeping our mailboxes full, so let's dive right in.
Monday, October 29, 2018

Study links vitamin B supplements to increased lung cancer risk
I'm 67 years old and because I was told that it's harder for folks my age to get enough vitamin B12, I started taking a B complex supplement. My husband, who is 72, did, too. But now it turns out that these are linked to lung cancer? What should we do?
Friday, October 26, 2018

Try not to yawn while reading this
The 7-year-old in our family has discovered yawns are "catching," and he just loves it when he can get his daddy to start yawning, too. Of course, now he wants to know why, but even after looking online, we're not sure of the answer. Does anyone really understand yawning?
Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Latest study adds to increasing data on benefits of coffee
I'm only 22 and already I've gotten whiplash from all the studies about coffee. First it's bad for you, then it's good. Then, oops, no -- it's actually bad. My girlfriend's a serious coffee drinker, and she's thrilled about another new study that says coffee's going to help her live longer. Is that right? How do we know what to believe?
Monday, October 22, 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












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