Worried About Your Health? It Might Be Your Thyroid!

Did you know that thyroid disease is more common than heart disease or diabetes? Nearly 30 million Americans are aware of their thyroid issues, but another 15 million are not. January is Thyroid Awareness Month; a time intended to make more of us knowledgeable about the importance of the thyroid gland to our overall health.  The thyroid gland is small, located below the Adam’s apple, and it plays a vital role in our bodies, greatly influencing a body’s well being. There are two main thyroid issues that can affect your health, but which are often attributed to other health concerns, including aging, heart disease or anxiety.   The slowing down of thyroid processes is known as hypothyroidism, while the process acting in overdrive is known as hyperthyroidism. Both can be traumatic for the body, and can dramatically affect one’s mood and overall health. Hypothyroidism and Hyperthyroidism Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid is unable to produce enough thyroid hormone. Although there are several possible causes for hypothyroidism, the result can make one feel fatigued and cause hair loss and weight gain. Hyperthyroidism is the exact opposite. Here, the thyroid produces too much of the thyroid hormone, causing one’s pulse to race and may cause overheating, weight loss and anxiety. Are You At Risk? Are you at risk for thyroid disease? Take a look at your family health history. A close relative with a history of thyroid disease may put you at a greater risk, as the disease often runs in families. There are also more cases seen in women than men.  Many cases of thyroid disease are caused by autoimmune diseases...

“Drive With Reason” This Holiday Season

Who’s responsibility is it to be sure people are driving safely and are not under the influence of drugs or alcohol? Yours! And mine! Statistics from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System show that although the number of people killed in the US in car accidents has declined, the number of accidents involving drugs, both legally prescribed medications and illegal drugs, has increased 6 percent over the past 6 years. Whether this is due to an increase in the use of prescription and over the counter medications or illegal drugs, including marijuana and cocaine, isn’t clear.  What is clear is that many of us don’t think that being impaired by drugs will affect our driving. Did you know that some antihistamines can impact your driving? Especially if you have a drink or two on top of taking the medication. Some people think that smoking a joint won’t affect your ability to drive. It’s not as bad as drunk driving, right? Wrong! It is well known that some drugs can impair your motor coordination, reaction time and visual perception. One in four fatally injured drivers under the age of 25 tested positive for marijuana! If you are a parent, lay down the law and let your teenage or young adult driver know that it’s not OK to drive while under the influence of anything that can impair your judgement, not even a little bit. If you need to, have your teen drug tested to be sure they are following your rules. A “Trust, But Verify” policy can save your child’s life or the lives of others on the road. If you are...

A Step-by-Step Guide to Preventing Type 2 Diabetes

Do you know your risk of developing type 2 diabetes?  If you are obese your risk is 20 times higher than that of someone of more moderate weight.  Not only will your weight increase your chances of developing diabetes, but if you have diabetes and are overweight, you increase your odds of heart disease and stroke.  Most people (90%) who have type 2 diabetes are overweight.  Diabetes is not only a hassle to manage but can lead to serious long term health problems including blindness, kidney failure and foot or leg amputations. You can prevent, and possibly reverse, the illness just by losing weight. November is Diabetes Awareness Month and a great time to take better care of yourself by following some of these tips to prevent type 2 diabetes.  Losing just 10% of your body weight dramatically improves your health and reduces your risk of type 2 diabetes.  Here’s how to get started: Walking – Start out slowly by taking walks after dinner.  Begin with 5 minutes a day and slowly increase the amount you walk. Eat more vegetables – Increase your intake of vegetables to 5 servings per day.  Add one additional serving per week to reach your goal. Pick an activity – Choose something you love to do so you’ll stick with it, like dancing, hiking or goofing around in the yard with your kids. Read food labels – Many packaged foods contain high levels of sugar and sodium so choose prepared foods with care. Get more physical activity – Take the stairs instead of the elevator or park farther away from the store. Eat smaller...

Increased Health Insurance Offerings May Mean More Affordable Healthcare

Has the Affordable Care Act benefited you and your family?  For some people, the insurance premiums are still too expensive and the gap between Medicare and the cost of health insurance, even with subsidies is still too big.  If you are one of those who is still struggling to find affordable health insurance, especially now that it’s required, there is good news. A recent report published by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) shows that the Health Insurance Marketplace will have 25% more insurance issuers in 2015. The report demonstrates that the Marketplace is working to increase competition and lower costs for consumers. As with most products and services that we buy there is a correlation between greater competition and lower costs.    According to HHS, “an increase of one issuer in a rating area is associated with a 4 percent decline in the second-lowest cost silver plan premium, on average.  In 2014, consumers in regions with larger numbers of issuers were able to access a wider range of choices.” If you are still shopping for a health insurance plan, you will have more options and a wider range of plans than you had before.  And it’s important to remember that if you are young and healthy, a high deductible healthcare plan can save you money in the short term.  Many young Americans are opting for these.  This will force many of us to be smarter consumers and to find some of our health services at more competitive prices.  One example is a quick and convenient lab test that used to require a doctor’s order.  This can now be...

Can We Stop Obesity From Starting So Early?

When did you first become addicted to french fries? To chips and ice cream? For many American children it was probably before they can remember. Food addictions, while prevalent now, are not part of our genetic makeup.  They are learned behaviors that can be reversed. This month  is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month and the focus is on preventing and correcting the obesity epidemic that is now a problem not just for adults, but for our children. Nearly one in three children in the United States is overweight and obese, leaving them at risk for adult health conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and cancer. The increase in childhood obesity appears to be slowing, but how do we help those children who are already obese and overweight? Recent research conducted by the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University and at Massachusetts General Hospital shows that food addiction can be reversed. You, and your child, can learn to crave salads instead of french fries.  Ideally, children would never learn to crave junk food, but if they do and it’s more than likely that they will, we can help them to undo that habit.  Obesity can be prevented and you can help. Provide smaller portions at mealtimes with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. Encourage daily activity at home and at school. Support your school’s efforts to provide healthier menu options. A lifetime of eating habits begins with what you put on the table and how you act every day. Set a good example and help your child live a long, healthy life. Reach for the...

Personalized Medicine is the Future: Are You Ready?

Most of us are used to a “one size fits all” methodology of medicine.  You go in, you get your physical and answer a few questions.  Unless you have symptoms, or are already being treated for something, you are sent home with a clean bill of health.  But what if you know that breast cancer or colon cancer runs in the family?  Just having a family history of cancer may not be enough to raise any questions.  Or is it? The rise of Personalized Medicine, an evolving medicine in which treatments are tailored to the individual, is changing the face of medicine.  If you are at high-risk but still healthy, you may benefit from new technologies that are aimed at improving the treatment of certain types of cancer.  Biomarker tests, such as the CA 125 (Cancer antigen 125) test or the CEA (Carcinoembryonic antigen) test, can identify potential cancers before symptoms appear and can be used to determine how well a patient will respond to treatment.  Although cancer marker tests are not foolproof, they are being used more and more by oncologists to define and manage treatment plans. In addition, the FDA is working with drug and device manufacturers to assess and approve additional tests that will personalize cancer drug treatments based on a person’s genetic makeup.  These tests, called Companion Diagnostics, are targeted specifically at the way each person’s body reacts to a specific drug.  Initially used for the breast cancer drug, Herceptin, the first companion diagnostic test evaluates the level of the protein HER2 in the blood.  If there are high levels, it is an indication that Herceptin...

Is the Drug-Free Workplace Act Working?

Has your employer instituted a Drug-Free Workplace policy yet? According to the American Council for Drug Education, since the act was passed in 1988, more than half (57%) of all employers have begun drug testing all employee. Even though the act did not mandate drug testing, federal agencies started testing soon after the act was passed to provide safe workplaces and many private organizations followed suit. So whether employees like it or not, drug testing is here to stay.  Studies show that drug testing deters drug use in the workplace and employers are trying to protect themselves in our litigious society. Due to drug testing, drug use in the workplace has declined 74% in the past 25 years.  If someone is hurt because an employee was using drugs on the job, it is possible that the employer will be sued. Florida’s death rate from prescription drug use has also fallen due to stricter drug laws for prescribing pain medications, such as oxycodone, one of the most addictive prescription drugs on the market. This provides hope that drug testing, drug-free workplace policies and stricter prescribing laws and enforcement of those laws can save lives, not only for those who use drugs themselves, but for those who are put at risk by others’ use. You may not like a policy of drug testing, but you most likely appreciate being safer from the effects of drug abuse and misuse! Written by www.labtestingnow.com...

Dad: Take Care of Yourself!

Are you a father?  Even if you aren’t I’m sure you know one: your own, a friend,or a brother.  Men can be great at taking care of their yards, their homes, and their cars as well as providing for their wives and children, but they are not so great at taking care of themselves.  Studies have shown that men are more likely to ignore symptoms of disease, skip annual physicals and be generally unaware of their health status.  So many diseases that cause death and disability in men are preventable, but you can’t treat what you don’t know.  June is Men’s Health Month with a focus on the week ending with Father’s Day to remind men that they need to take care of their health because their families and loved ones need them to stick around. The Men’s Health Network dishes up some sobering statistics that should make you pay attention or try to motivate the men in your life to get some basic tests done.  For example, “women are 100% more likely to visit the doctor for annual examinations and preventive services than men”, “men die at higher rates than women from the top 10 causes of death and are the victims of over 92% of workplace deaths” and “by the age of 100, women outnumber men 8 to 1”. PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) Test: While this test is controversial, some believing that it leads to unnecessary treatment, having an initial test can set a baseline against which future levels can be measured.  Treatment decisions can get complicated with new therapies and guidelines changing daily.  It’s important to know where you...

May is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month! Are You Moving Yet?

Why should you care?  Again? Warnings about getting exercise?  Yes, again.  Less than 20% of adults meet the minimum requirement of 30 minutes of physical activity per day.  Are you one of them? Obesity in US adults has doubled since the 1970s and it is linked to multiple health conditions and disorders that are preventable.  Health conditions like diabetes, stroke and heart disease can leave you disabled. But, physical activity reduces your risk of serious health events and death significantly. Not a fan of physical activity?  There are many ways to squeeze in some movement during the day without going to a gym, sweating profusely or purchasing a lot of expensive gear.  Walking your dog, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking at the other end of the parking lot…all of these burn calories and get your heart moving a little more.  If you sit at a desk all day, get up every 30 minutes and get some water and stretch out. If you don’t know your risks for diabetes and cardiovascular disease, find out.  It’s never too late to work on improving your health.  Put one foot in front of the other and start moving towards better...

Will Your Allergies Be Worse This Spring?

If you live in the south, you may already be feeling the pain of allergies: the sniffling nose, the red, itchy eyes, the sinus headache…you know the drill.  Because we have had a long, harsh winter the plants have had lots of time to rest and are ready to burst into bloom and spread pollen at a tremendous rate!  Some experts are predicting a robust pollen season and the results will mean a robust allergy season. If you haven’t had an allergy test to confirm which plants you react to most strongly you may not be as well prepared to deal with your allergies as you could be.  Trees are the first to cause allergies, followed by weeds and then grass.  Cedar, Oak, Birch and Sweetgum are primary trees allergens and are already at extremely high levels in some areas.  Ragweed and pigweed top the list for weeds and when the grass pollens hit, you’ll need to watch out for the Ryegrass.  If you have a treatment plan ready to launch, you know what you are allergic to and you watch the pollen counts, you can save yourself a lot of discomfort. In addition, keep windows closed to keep pollen out of the house and the car, take a shower when you come in from outside to remove the pollen from your body and stay on top of allergy medications.  Some cities are worse than others for pollen with Louisville, KY topping the list and Dallas, TX and New York moving up in the Spring Allergy Capitals rankings.  Allergists are predicting specific peak allergy time periods for regions of...