April 2013
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April 2013 posts

Eat a garden of nutrition to celebrate Earth Day

Today is Earth Day, the day to recognize and support environmental protection around the world. You can show your love for our Earth (and your health) by increasing your consumption of fruits and vegetables.

To eat organic or not to eat organic?

One of the most common questions I’m asked is about organic produce. My first response is always that eating any fruit or vegetable is better than eating NO fruits or vegetables. The health benefits of consuming produce far outweigh the potential side effects of exposure to pesticide contamination.

However, there are recommendations of certain fruits and vegetables to purchase organic.
This list of fruits and vegetables (known as “The Dirty Dozen”) are considered to contain the highest levels of containments and pesticides. Although the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has now been controlling the use of toxic pesticides, some foods still test positive for high levels of harmful toxins.
Today, the Environment Working Group (EWG) has released their updated guide for shoppers for 2013.

Consider purchasing organic versions of these foods whenever possible:

Dizziness from loose crystals in your head

This sounds a bit like the punch line of a bad joke, doesn’t it? But believe it or not, it’s true.

Dizziness can be caused by loose crystals called “otoconia” in your inner ear, which is known as BPPV. Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, or BPPV, is the most common cause of vertigo, and is also the most common vestibular (inner ear) disorder. BPPV occurs when tiny calcium crystals are displaced from either one or both of the otolith organs of the inner ear and fall down into one of the semicircular canals, disrupting the flow of the fluid of that canal.

What results from that disruption of fluid is essentially a false sense of motion. People with BPPV will most often report experiencing short episodes of severe vertigo with change in head and/or body position, such as turning over in bed or getting up and out of bed, tilting their head back in the shower to wash their hair, or turning their head from side to side while driving. The onset of vertigo can be very sudden and very frightening. And while the classic sign of BPPV is episodic severe vertigo related to changes in head position, many people experience a more mild or low grade constant unsteadiness between attacks or episodes.

Why do those crystals come loose?

About half of the time, the cause is...

Training the “Village”: Preparing Non-Parents

“It takes a village to raise a child” but as a new or expectant parent or “village member,” preparing for a new baby can be daunting. From siblings, to grandparents, to aunts, uncles, cousins, and family friends, all of these people feel the ripple effect of having a baby. However, unlike parents, this larger social network may not have had the chance, motivation, or tailored resources to prepare for this change. So how can new or expectant parents help prepare non-parents for the birth of a child? Though the answer depends on the person’s age and their relationship to baby, here are some general tips to prepare your “village.”

  • Involve friends and family in preparing for the baby: Depending on your comfort level and your audience, involve your loved ones in preparations from going to doctor’s appointments, to packing your bag for the hospital, to deciding on a layout or paint color for the nursery. Inviting people to help you prepare...

Breast Cancer Screening Recommendations Revisited

Are you confused about breast cancer screening recommendations? If you are, you are not alone.

Multiple organizations have come out with conflicting studies, data, and recommendations. Those advocating for reduced screening argue that screening does not improve the death rate from breast cancer; that women who have biopsies that are found to be benign suffer significant psychological harm; and that cancers are found that would never cause death.

Significant flaws have been found in these arguments by physicians who have committed their careers to understanding and treating breast cancer. There are multiple problems with the scientific methodology, assumptions, endpoints and analyses used in these critiques of mammogram screening recommendations. One problem is that medical science currently does not have the ability to distinguish between lethal cancers and those that will not cause death. Based on rigorous scientific data, we do know that the best way to improve survival from breast cancer is to detect it before it becomes clinically obvious and to treat it early.

None of the major oncology organizations support the guidelines calling for reduced screening. A letter to the New England Journal of Medicine ....

Misconceptions & Misunderstandings About Genetic Testing For Hereditary Cancer: Don’t Test Me, Test My Family!

As a genetic counselor with 30 years of experience, I have met with many families who have been concerned about their hereditary risks to develop cancer and other disorders. I have found that the complexity of genetics can sometimes cause misunderstandings about some critical information.

A common question that patients ask is this: I already have cancer, it makes no sense for me to have genetic testing, so why don’t you test my family instead?

As it turns out, the best strategy for most families is to for genetic testing to start with a relative who has already been diagnosed with cancer.

  1. If that person has a normal genetic test result, there is usually no need to test any other healthy family members.
  2. Because of the complicated nature of cancer genetics, accurate interpretation of a negative result usually requires an affected relative to have a positive genetic test.
  3. If a patient has a positive genetic test, the cost of testing all other family members will usually be considerably less expensive and increases the likelihood that health insurers will cover the test.

Let’s clarify this with a specific example.

Three sisters, all in their 30s, want to undergo genetic testing because their mother is a breast cancer survivor, and ...

Employment Matters: New Workshop Series for Multiple Sclerosis

What do I tell my boss? Will I have to quit? How will I afford my future?

A multiple sclerosis diagnosis can come with a lot of uncertainty and questions about the future. But it does not have to be career-ending. Learning about your employment options and planning ahead can help you make informed decisions about your career.

Beginning May 8, 2013, the Multiple Sclerosis Center at Swedish Neuroscience Institute will offer free workshops to help people navigate their employment options. Employment Matters is a monthly series  designed to prepare people with the knowledge to confidently approach challenges, build a career plan and strengthen their employment options.

Shaheen Virani, CRC, leads the Employment Matters workshops. Shaheen is a rehabilitation counselor who specializes in helping people with MS make plans and decisions to support their individual employment needs--whether it is to continue working, make a career change or apply for disability.

Here are a few Employment Matters topics coming up this spring (or click here for the full 2013 schedule):

What should you know about pain killers after surgery?

Recovering from major surgery is an active process that typically takes 6 weeks. Surgical pain is normal and expected, but the pain experience may be different for individuals. Since pain can interfere with your ability to participate in activities to prevent complications (coughing, deep breathing, walking), treating pain is critically important for a successful surgical recovery. Many patients are afraid to take prescription narcotics or “pain killers” because they do not want to become “addicted.” However, untreated pain can lead to the development of permanent pain pathways to the brain, which can delay your recovery and possibly even result in chronic pain.

Narcotic use varies among individuals and there is a big difference between drug dependence and addiction. Dependence is when the body has become accustomed to the medication. This can occur anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks after you start taking pain killers regularly, like after surgery. Addiction, however, generally implies that the medication or substance is interfering with your life in some way. You can become dependent on pain killers during your surgical recovery, but with medical management of your withdrawal from these medications, you will avoid addiction. It is important to use your prescription pain killers as directed to avoid overuse. On the other hand, you do not want to avoid using pain killers when you need them to remain comfortable and active. Stopping your pain killers “cold turkey” can be dangerous and it may cause considerable discomfort. The surgical team will work with you to develop a plan to wean you off your pain killers gradually and safely, at a time when you are ready.

The universal goal is to taper as quickly as your physical, mental and emotional status allows. Since there is ....

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