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Cholesterol and stroke awareness

September is also National Cholesterol Awareness month!

Do you know your numbers? It is important to know your cholesterol levels as they influence your risk of stroke.  Talk to your provider today to find out where you stand!

Do you have trouble remembering “good” cholesterol versus “bad” cholesterol?  An easy way to keep them straight is to think HDL = happy (“good” cholesterol) and LDL = lousy (“bad” cholesterol).  Check out the American Heart Association’s Meet the Fats for memorable information about cholesterol.

How does cholesterol affect stroke risk?  Build-up of cholesterol plaque within your arteries increases your risk of stroke by blocking normal blood flow.  This reduces the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the affected area.

How can you improve your cholesterol numbers?

Control your blood pressure to prevent stroke

High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is a leading risk factor for stroke. Yet, more than 1 in every 3 adults in the Northwest has been diagnosed with high blood pressure.

Here are some things you can do:
  • Visit your healthcare provider:  Have your blood pressure checked at least once a year – more often if you have a history of high blood pressure, have heart disease, have diabetes, or are overweight. 
  • Get involved:  If you have high blood pressure it's important to work with your provider to improve your health.  This may include changes in diet, exercise, and medications.  Implement changes incrementally for success!
  • Know your family medical history:  If high blood pressure runs in your family, it’s important to ...

What do parathyroid glands do?

Our parathyroid glands are four tiny glands that lie in our neck, just to the sides of our thyroid gland. When normal, they are the size of a grain of rice or a small flat bean.

These glands control calcium balance in our bodies. They do this by producing a hormone named parathyroid hormone (PTH). PTH acts on our bones, kidneys, and gut to keep the right amount of calcium in the right places.

When one or more of these glands become abnormal, they produce too much of this hormone (PTH). This can cause our bones to...

Hardening of the arteries is a disease for the ages

A couple of months ago the New York Times published an interesting article summarizing recent findings of researchers who performed CT scans on mummies from Egypt, Peru, the Aleutian Islands and the American Southwest. One of the striking findings was that 38 percent of Egyptian mummies and 29 percent of all other mummies had definite or probable evidence of hardening of the arteries. The incidence was higher in mummies of people of 40 years or older. The geography and diets for the mummies varied greatly and yet the rates of calcified arteries were fairly similar.

What you should know about atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries:

Hardening of the arteries (also known as atherosclerosis) is a disease that has been strongly associated with multiple risk factors. The risk factors in addition to age include smoking, diabetes, high cholesterol and hypertension. Many of these risk factors are associated with diets that are high in saturated fats or complex carbohydrates and thus to connect this study to modern times is not easy...

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 ....

What is Gastroenteritis?

This past week, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II was hospitalized with a “stomach bug”. Gastroenteritis (also called the “stomach flu”) is the second most common illness in the United States. So, chances are good that your family has been affected by gastroenteritis already this year!

What are the symptoms of gastroenteritis?
Gastroenteritis is inflammation of the stomach and intestines causing symptoms of diarrhea, vomiting, cramping, and fever. If a person is not able to keep up with fluid losses from diarrhea and vomiting, then they can become dehydrated. Gastroenteritis occurs year-round and affects people of all ages. Those who are young, old, or have a suppressed immune system are more susceptible to severe gastroenteritis and to dehydration.

What causes gastroenteritis?
The majority of cases are caused by a viral infection (occasionally, a bacterial infection) transmitted through contact with another sick person or contaminated food/drink.

I have gastroenteritis, how can I feel better?
Rest and fluids! Staying hydrated is the most important step to controlling gastroenteritis. Some good options for staying hydrated include sports drinks or oral rehydration solutions (such as Pedialyte in drug and grocery stores).

I typically do not recommend any anti-diarrheal medications as this may even prolong the illness. In addition, antibiotic therapy is not helpful unless a specific bacterial cause is identified.

When should I call my doctor?
If you have questions or concerns you should always call your provider. However, things to watch for if you have gastroenteritis include:

Do self breast exams matter?

Self breast exams: to do or not to do?

Remember when there were monthly emails you could sign up for to remind you and your friends to do your self breast exams at home? Remember seeing the news anchors talking about their monthly self breast exams in an attempt to remind you to do your breast “due diligence?” What happened to self breast exams and are they still important?

Initially, self breast exams were recommended as a screening tool to help early detection of breast cancer. Unfortunately long-term studies have not confirmed that they actually live up to their hype. Two large studies looking at over 200,000 women in both Russia and China didn’t show any difference in breast cancer mortality after 15 years between the women who were performing routine self exams and those who were not. In fact, the women that were practicing self exams found more lumps and underwent more biopsies for benign reasons. Reviews of several other studies failed to show a benefit of regular breast self-examinations including no benefit of early diagnosis, or reductions in deaths or stage at diagnosis. Hence in 2009, the US Preventative Services Task Force advised that clinicians no longer recommend routine self breast examination as a screening tool for breast cancer detection.

Even though you don’t need to be doing a monthly self exam, you should...

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