Archive for 10/28/2010

Anesthesiologists Use New Environmentally Friendly Chemicals

Doctors are well known for taking care of their patients, and lately for trying to go green. By using anesthesia, surgeons can eliminate stress and pain during a surgery, allowing the procedure to be completed in comfort—at least, in comparison to a surgery without anesthetics.

One group of doctors is looking to care for the environment as well—also concerning the use of anesthesia. By selecting certain anesthetics, some doctors are able to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

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Anesthesiologists Use New Environmentally Friendly Chemicals

Once a doctor finishes a surgery, the anesthetic gas is released into the air.  Many of these gasses have an impact on the environment, contributing to the notorious greenhouse effect. According to a report in the Sacramento Bee, anesthesia used at an average hospital has a carbon footprint equivalent to that of several parking lots full of cars (a carbon footprint is the entire greenhouse gas emissions caused by one product: basically, it’s a calculation of how much of an impact a product has on the environment).

When an anesthetic is inhaled by a patient, the body makes few changes. The gas is generally released into the atmosphere as medical waste, and often acts as greenhouse gases once they have been in the atmosphere for an extended period of time.  Keep in mind that the study does not recommend that doctors cease using anesthetics—rather,

Not all anesthetics have such a deep imprint on the environment. Susan M. Ryan, anesthesiology professor at the University of California, San Francisco, conducted a study on the most commonly used anesthetics to determine their carbon footprints. Certain products are less damaging to the air—like sevoflurane, which the study determined to the product with the smallest carbon footprint.

Sevoflurane is the most commonly used anesthetic at UC Davis Medical Center—however, it’s not because of its toddler-sized carbon footprint.  Rather, doctors prefer sevoflurane because they find it less irritating to patients’ lungs than other options.  In the same vein, the anesthetic with the largest footprint, desflurane, is used less frequently because it irritates the lungs more than other products.

Still, one must not discount the effects of these gases on the environment.  Acccording to the study, using the gas desflurane for just 60 minutes has the same impact on the environment as driving your car for up to 470 miles. In the end, Dr. Ryan suggested that doctors make small changes to help save the environment—while also ensuring the safety of their patients.  The study also proposed that researchers develop a way to dispose of anesthetic gases without releasing them into the atmosphere.

While our own health is undoubtedly important, maintaining the health of the world we live in is equally important. Hopefully doctors can both look after patients and the environment by making Dr. Ryan’s proposed changes happen.

One Vision Issue All Seniors Should Know About

If you’re over the age of sixty, chances are that you’ve already heard about cataracts.  The word “cataract” refers to a condition where the lens of your eye grows cloudy, affecting vision by decreasing your visibility.  The lens of the eye is comprised of protein and water. As time goes on, the protein in the eye begins to bundle together, making it more difficult for light to pass through your eye and fogging up vision.  Consequently, cataracts “fog” vision, preventing sufferers from seeing as clearly as they used to.

Over half of people over the age of 80 have or will develop cataracts in their life time.  Three fifths of people over the age of 60 will eventually develop cataracts as well. This does not mean that younger people don’t get cataracts—you can actually develop cataracts during your 40s to 50s, but the cataracts generally do not actively impact your vision until you reach your 60s or 70s. Why? Well, during middle age, cataracts are much smaller and do not block as much light from entering the eye, and in older age, cataracts have had the time to grow much larger and therefore block out more light.  The good thing is that you can’t “catch” cataracts, and just because you have cataracts in one eye doesn’t mean it’ll “infect” the other eye.

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Diagram of Cataract in the Eye

Generally, cataracts develop because of old age, but can also form in other ways. Cataracts are linked with diabetes and steroid use. Researchers have also found links between cataracts and steroid use, diuretics, tranquilizers, and smoking.

Other people develop cataracts after surgery for other eye diseases, or after injuries to the eye itself.  Radiation exposure is also linked to cataracts.  Babies can even be born with congenital cataracts!

Most practitioners agree all people, regardless of age, should protect their vision by wearing wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses when they’re out in the sun—some studies have shown connections between UV rays and cataracts.  Other providers suggest eating a diet high in antioxidants to cataracts.  Once you hit the age of 60, you should also go for eye screenings at least every two years to keep your eye health intact.

If you notice changes in your eyesight, you may have cataracts. Common symptoms include blurry vision, “faded” color spectrum, a persistent glare, and eyesight that gets worse at night.  These symptoms are also shared with a number of other eye diseases, so it is important to visit your eye care practitioner to confirm your diagnosis.

If you’re one of the many people who develop cataracts, you’re in luck.  Cataract surgery is a very painless, effective surgery with new developments in eye medicine. In the past, doctors would simply remove the faulty lenses, leaving patients without a lens to focus vision. As a result, patients reported poor, blurry vision.  Now, surgeons replace the old lens with a clear plastic artificial lens, which can actually eliminate the need for glasses.  In fact, the new lenses are so effective that 90 percent of people who have had surgery report improvement in eyesight.

The Crying Game: Does shedding tears help shed stress?

If you’re like me, you love a good cry every once in a while. Every so often, when you’re overwhelmed with emotions and stress, crying can bring you a sense of relief and calmness.

Did you know that crying actually has some health benefits?

There are three different varieties of tears that your body secretes on a regular basis.  First is the reflex tear, which protects your eyes from bad particles and dust, especially when they’ve been irritated by smoke, chemicals, and other types of gas. These tears are comprised of 98 percent water, and act as a sort of shield for the eye.  The next type of tear is continual, which keeps the eyes and nose lubricated and healthy.  Continual tears contain lysozyme, an antibacterial chemical that protects the eye from infections.

The third type is emotional tears, which release stress hormones in the body. Whenever you have an emotional cry, your body releases prolactin, a major stress hormone, and other stress hormones. Thus, after your crying session, your heart rate and breathing will slow down and you will grow calmer. Prolactin actually helps create tears as well: women tend to have higher levels of prolactin than men, which could explain why women are more likely to cry than men. However, prolactin is also released through sweat, and men tend to sweat more than women, so this does not mean that women are naturally more stressed out than men.

According to Dr. Judith Orloff, emotional tears encourage productions of endorphins in your body, leaving you feeling much more happy and relieved than before your cry. In fact, Dr. Orloff actually recommends crying to her patients to improve their emotional well being.

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Crying Releases Stress Hormones

High levels of stress hormones can actually harm your body, especially brain cells. Specifically, the hypothalamus, pre-frontal cortex, and hippocampus are the regions most damaged by stress hormones. In fact, these three brain regions are connected to the reduction of stress hormones—and damage to all three is often linked to mood disorders.

Your brain isn’t the only body part under the fire of stress hormones. Research has shown that stress hormones most notably harm the cardiovascular system, endocrine system, and immune system—as well as most other organ systems in the body. Because the body sheds stress hormones through tears, crying can actually help protect your organs and brain. Not only do you feel better, but your body grows healthier while you cry.

The benefits of crying do not end with simple health benefits. Crying can actually help form relationships! According to a 2009 study completed by evolutionary biologist Dr. Oren Hasson, emotional tears can actually build relationships between two people.  Early on, people cried to gain empathy from enemies and garner sympathy from other groups—leading to alliances and help.  Nowadays, crying can strengthen connections between family, friends, spouses, and associates. According to Hasson, crying can indicate how much you care for or trust another person, further developing the interpersonal relationship

No matter how you slice it, crying can actually benefit both your physical and emotional health (even if you feel awful while bawling your eyes out).  So next time you feel the urge to shed a tear, let ‘er rip and release those stress hormones.

Your Solution for Wrinkle-Free Skin!

With so many Anti-Wrinkle Creams on the market, each claiming to be the best and work the fastest, it’s extremely difficult to narrow down your choices.  You would hate to sacrifice benefits of one cream for other beneficial ingredients in another cream.  We have narrowed down the choices and found the most important factors that you should look for when choosing your Anti-Wrinkle cream.

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Get wrinkle-free skin at any age!

First of all, you should never assume that the most expensive cream will give you the best results.  The price won’t make your wrinkles disappear.  There are many less expensive Anti-Wrinkle creams that work just as well (if not better) than the more expensive creams.  This theory may seem obvious to you since it applies to so many other life situations, but the rest may not be as apparent.  You want a cream that will boost collagen.  Collagen will strengthen your skin’s connective tissue, increasing its elasticity and giving it a younger-looking appearance.  Elastin is another connective tissue that gives your skin its elasticity.  When you get older, your skin loses elasticity and can’t revert to its original position, causing it to wrinkle.  By increasing the strength of the connective tissue on your face with a cream containing Elastin, your skin will revert to its original position and wrinkles will disappear!

So what ingredients should you look for in your Anti-Wrinkle Cream? There are many options for ingredients that will boost collagen and elastin.  One of the most popular ingredients you should look for is Retinol-A, which increases both collagen and elastin. Avocado Oil and Peptides will also work to increase collagen.  Cocoa Butter is another important ingredient in an Anti-Wrinkle cream because it helps to lock in moisture, which will make those wrinkles fade away.  You may also want to look for a cream that has “Argireline”.  This will relax the muscles beneath the skin to create a younger-looking wrinkle free appearance on the surface.

Many of these Anti-Wrinkle creams contain additional benefits for your facial skin – other then just reducing wrinkles.  You can now find Anti-Wrinkle creams that help reduce the discoloration of your pores and increase the development of new skin cells, which give a younger look.  Many creams will also help you escape your dry skin and some are designed for specific wrinkle problem areas like around your eyes or mouth.  Unfortunately, the more benefits you receive from a cream, the more expensive it is going to be.  So, you must consider your skin type and the benefits you are looking for in a cream.

Facial creams are not the only way to reduce wrinkles.  The foods you eat as well as your daily habits can help reduce your wrinkles.  Foods that contain hyaluronic acid can diminish your wrinkles.  Smoking causes your skin to age faster, giving your wrinkles earlier – so cut that habit!  Also, protect your skin from the sun when you’re outside.  If you’re totally focused and ready to eliminate your wrinkles, Anti-Wrinkle creams and living the right lifestyle can help to reduce your wrinkles.

Yummy Meals with ALL Your Food Groups

Let’s face it, eating a balanced diet isn’t necessarily at the top of our priority list. The official United States guideline to a health diet changes from year to year. While many Americans do work on eating a balanced diet, many others have fallen victim to over processed junk foods and fast food. With the obesity epidemic raging on and heart disease rates skyrocketing, encouraging healthy diets has never been more crucial in the United States.

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She's got veggies covered, but are the other food groups in there?

By consuming nutritionally rich food, you can encourage the proper growth and development of your body.  In order to maximize diet benefits, it’s important to eat food from a variety of different groups and sources.  The US Department of Agriculture frequently updates its guidelines to healthy eating, and the most recent model emphasizes balancing food groups and physical activity.

There are six different food groups that you should consider when planning your and your family’s meals. You should aim to eat around 3 ounces of whole grains—including breads, rice, pastas, and cereals—every day, focusing in on whole grains like oatmeal and brown rice. Try to avoid white, refined grains, which have less vitamins, fiber, and iron.  If you’re eating white rice, white bread, or white flour products, you’re eating refined grains—unless the product is enriched.

You should also aim to eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables every day to stay healthy.  You can eat fruits and vegetables dried, cooked, and raw, and can easily incorporate them into your diet as snacks throughout your day.  For vegetables, try to eat more dark, leafy greens and orange vegetables like carrots. As for fruit, try to change up what you eat and try more delicious fruits.

To incorporate more bone-strengthening calcium into your diet, try do incorporate 2-3 cups of milk products into your daily diet. Drinking milk itself is an easy way to get the dairy you need.  Cheeses, yogurts, and even the occasional ice cream cones are also alternatives for adding dairy to your diet.

Don’t forget to add oils to your diets! While at first you may feel the urge to cut fats completely out of your diet, a limited supply (around 5-6 teaspoons, depending on your age and gender).  However, avoid “solid” fats like butter, which contain saturated and trans fats that can increase your cholesterol levels. You can use cooking oils like olive oil or sunflower oil, and can also eat foods like avocado, nuts, olives, and fish that naturally contain the oils you need.

Finally, make sure your diet is full of protein! To do so, cook meals full of lean meats and beans.  Beef, ham, pork, chicken, turkey, eggs, and fish are all examples of quality lean meats.  Beans, peas, and nuts are also excellent ways of boosting your protein intake.  Depending on your age and gender, try to eat around 5-6 ounces of protein daily.

If you’re still unsure when it comes to balancing your diet, try the USDA Balanced Meal Planner. It’s a great tool that visually shows you how much of each group you’re eating.

If you’re looking for ways to add healthy foods into your family’s diet, check out  Fix Me A Snack, a great blog by Cindy Rowland, which promotes healthy snacking and shows a variety of easy recipes for all the food groups. It’s Not About Nutrition by Dina R. Rose, PhD is a great resource for nutrition as well.

Breast Cancer Awareness Week!

This week marks the beginning of breast cancer awareness week.  Breast cancer is a cancer that primarily affects breast tissues.  Both men and women can develop breast cancer, although male breast cancer is relatively rare.  People of all ages, races, sexual preference, and social backgrounds are at risk for breast cancer.  In 2010, over 200,000 American women and nearly 2,000 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer. Almost 40,000 women and 400 men will succumb to the disease this year.

People of all ages, races, sexual preferences, and social backgrounds are at risk for breast cancer.  Still, white women are more likely to develop breast cancer than any other group—specifically, Jewish women of Eastern European descent are disproportionately affected. However, African American women are more likely to die from breast cancer than white women. Plus, although younger women can develop breast cancer, older women are at a higher risk than any other age group. Remember, women and men with a family history of breast cancer are at a higher risk than the general population—especially if family members were diagnosed with the disease before the age of 50.

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Celebrate this Breast Cancer Awareness Week!

Most breast cancers begin in the ducts, which carry breast milk to the nipple, or to the lobules, the glands that create breast milk.  During the first stages of breast cancer, there are few noticeable symptoms. Breast tumors tend to develop very slowly—in fact, it can take up to a decade before you can even notice a lump in your breast.  However, there are symptoms that every woman (and even man) should be aware of.  Some patients notice nipple discharge, a change in the shape and size of the breast and nipples, and lumps in and around the breast.  Others develop scaly red skin around the breasts.

Once diagnosed, breast cancer is treatable: there is an 89% survival rate through the first five years after diagnosis.  Women who find that they have breast cancer early on have a very high survival rate. There are many different types of treatment that vary in effectiveness from person to person. Mastectomy (breast surgery) and radiation can remove tumors in the breasts. Hormone therapy and chemotherapy are also used to target the cancer through the bloodstream. Depending on the person, the treatments can also be combined depending on the stage of breast cancer.

Due to increasing levels of awareness, major steps have been made in breast cancer research. In August, researchers released the results of a study that linked a certain protein to breast cancer treatment. Ferroportin is a protein that removes iron from cells.  According to the study, patients with lower cellular ferroportin levels, tumors thrived on elevated iron levels, expanding in size and increasing in aggressiveness. Patients with low levels of  ferroportin were more likely to have aggressive cases of breast cancer, while women with high ferroportin levels were 90% more likely to beat the cancer. As a side note, the study followed iron levels within the cells, not iron consumed in your daily diet. This development may help researchers create new treatments, and is also a good marker for survival.

This Breast Cancer Awareness Week, be sure to spread the word about the disease. By raising awareness, we can develop treatments and hopefully eliminate breast cancer once and for all.

Electronic Healthcare?

In today’s world, the focus seems to be on electronics and new technology.  Electronics are attractive to companies because they compile information all in one place and leave space more organized.  With this, practices that have been around for centuries are in need of restructuring themselves to keep up with the modern times.  So, what does this mean for doctors and the medicinal practice? They need to start going electronic, too!  This is a profession that is centuries old and has the newest advancements in technology on some terms, but is extremely lacking in others – like all the paperwork!  Doctors and hospitals are moving towards electronic prescriptions and records.  Although concerns have arisen about this new system, the many benefits seem to outweigh those concerns.

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E-Prescriptions May Be in Your Future

Many doctors have already chosen to use electronic prescriptions because they see the many benefits of this practice.  Electronic prescriptions (e-prescriptions) will help to eliminate many dilemmas that arise with paper prescriptions.  For example, e-prescriptions reduce the chance of a paper prescription being misplaced or misread (since doctors are notorious for their bad handwriting).  They will also be faster because the doctors can send the prescription directly to the pharmacy and it should be ready when you arrive.  E-prescriptions will be able to forewarn if the patient is allergic to the prescribed medication. Importantly, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has approved the use of e-prescriptions for the time being as they prove themselves beneficial to the world of medicine.

E-prescriptions can prevent medical incidents before they happen, such as asthma attacks.  One of the many advantages of using this new system is it gives doctors the ability to regularly track patients’ use of medications.  A doctor can automatically refill the prescription and alert the patient about the refill.  This could prevent an asthma attack because the patients’ meds won’t run out and their inhaler will always be ready at hand.  A full prescription will get patients in the habit of routinely using their inhaler; therefore, reducing the risk of asthma attacks.  By monitoring a patient’s routine use of an inhaler, doctors can also decide if the prescribed medication is the best one for the patient.

Additionally, electronic patient records seem to be the next step for hospitals.  In fact, hospitals will be required to have most of their records filed electronically by 2015.  This will endure prompt and correct information.  Patients will receive better care because electronic records will be able to alert a doctor before they make a mistake.  This will help to eliminate medical malpractice and medication mistakes that may be otherwise overlooked.  Also, hospitals and doctors will benefit from the use of electronic records because they will receive money from Medicare and Medicaid for complying with the electronic system.

One concern that has arisen from the practice of electronic prescriptions and health records is confidentiality.  Patients have expressed fear that personal information will be exposed to public access.  However, the electronic information is secure.  Doctors and hospitals can ensure confidentiality and privacy to its patients.  Hence, the future of electronic healthcare looks bright.  Now that the journey is underway for many, we will wait and see if the hectic schedules of remaining doctors and hospitals can allow time for conversion to electronic healthcare.