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What to do when Seattle gets hot

The area is heating up. The National Weather Service has announced an excessive heat watch for this Thursday and Friday, with temperatures that will rise into the low to mid 90s. When outside temperatures are very high, the danger for heat-related illnesses rises. Older adults, young children, and people with mental illness and chronic diseases are at particularly high risk.

Here are some safety tips to avoid overheating and things to consider for the weekend:

Stay cool:

  • Spend more time in air conditioned places. If you don't have air conditioning, consider visiting a mall, movie theater or other cool public places.

  • Cover windows that receive morning or afternoon sun.

  • Dress in lightweight clothing.

  • Check up on your elderly neighbors and relatives and encourage them to take these precautions, too.

Drink liquids:

  • Drink plenty of water; this is very important. Avoid drinks with caffeine, alcohol and large amounts of sugar because they can actually de-hydrate your body.

  • Have a beverage with you as much as possible, and sip or drink frequently. Don't wait until you're thirsty to drink.

If you go outside:

  • Limit the time you're in direct sunlight.

  • Do not leave infants, children, people with mobility challenges and pets in a parked car, even with the window rolled down.

  • Avoid or reduce doing activities that are tiring, or take a lot of energy.

  • Do outdoor activities in the cooler morning and evening hours.

  • Avoid sunburn. Use a sunscreen lotion with a high SPF (sun protection factor) rating.

  • Wear a hat or use an umbrella for shade.

What test is best for breast screening?

I often get asked why can’t a woman just get a breast MRI rather than a mammogram. The imaging tests that we do for breast cancer screening and evaluation of abnormalities have different strengths and weaknesses.

Mammograms are very useful as a screening tool. They can be done quickly and read efficiently by the breast radiologist. They have minimal radiation exposure. They can be done by a mobile coach in locations that are more convenient to patients. They are excellent for identifying abnormal calcium deposits within the breast tissue and for seeing disrupted tissue and masses. They may be less effective in women who have dense breast tissue but the digital techniques have helped some with that. 

Ultrasound is a great tool for evaluating a mass or tissue asymmetry found on mammograms. It can distinguish between a benign appearing solid mass, a fluid filled cyst, a mass that is suspicious for cancer, or normal appearing breast tissue. There is no radiation exposure. It is less reliable as a screening tool because it can be dependent on the skill of the physician or technologist doing the procedure. It is possible to miss abnormalities or to mis-interpret normal findings as abnormal. There are studies underway evaluating using an automated version of ultrasound as a screening test but the results are not conclusive and this is not considered ready for standard practice.

Breast MRI is a highly sensitive test that is very dependent on...

Getting a mammogram

Frequently women will ask me: Where should I get my mammograms? There are several things to think about.

First, you want to go to a Center that is accredited by the American College of Radiology. This means that they have high quality images and well-trained radiologists. It is preferable to have a digital mammogram but if that technology is not available, then film mammograms are better than not having one done. While it is not clear that digital mammograms improve survival, they do allow the radiologist to examine the images more clearly and to use computer assisted diagnostic tools.

The radiologists’ experience is also important. Dedicated breast centers usually have radiologists who are specialized in breast imaging. These sub-specialized radiologists are very experienced in using mammograms, ultrasound, and breast MRI to diagnose breast disorders and are less likely to miss abnormalities.

Convenience is also a consideration. You want to make it easy to get your mammograms. Some Breast Centers will have mobile mammography programs that will bring mammogram screening to your place of work, local community or senior center, or even your church or synagogue. If possible, it is a good idea to get your mammograms at the same Center or within the same hospital system every year. That way the radiologists have easy access to your prior studies and can compare them to the current ones.

Here are some other things to know about getting mammograms:

Gluten-Free in a Gluten-Filled World

For this French/Italian girl that grew up on bagels and loaves of bread, it wasn’t easy to read the lab results telling me gluten was the source of all my problems (digestive anyway). Despite a degree in nutrition, I’m here to break the news that it’s far from easy, not just for me, but the unfortunate waiter, the distressed party hostess, or the sibling that doesn’t quite understand why you are no help in devouring the Oreos.

This post is for anyone with a new diagnosis, those just coming to terms with an old diagnosis, and those that think that gluten intolerance might be a possibility. It’s also for the friends and family of those affected by celiac disease or gluten intolerance, and for those that just want to learn more about it.

What’s the deal with wheat, gluten, and these allergies?

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. You can be allergic to wheat, which is different than being gluten-intolerant (a broader category of things to avoid), which is different from having celiac disease. Here’s a little about each.

Celiac Disease

  • What it is: Not an allergy, but an autoimmune disorder that ....

When to get a second opinion

Dr. Carl Janzen and Dr. Mark Kasper discuss the importance of seeking a second opinion as well as when and why they can be most valuable:

All About Organics

Far too often the word organic is misused and misunderstood. I think it’s most important to understand the reasons behind the difference staring back at you on the price tag, and then only you can decide for yourself whether it’s worth the financial, physiological, and environmental costs.

Educate Yourself

Organic standards prohibit the use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, fertilizers, antibiotics, growth hormones and genetically modified organisms. Additional organic requirements are set to support the environment, including soil improvements and prevention of soil erosion.

What does this mean for you as a consumer? Potentially a greater chance of a reduction in your exposure to harmful chemicals. As an environmentally-conscious consumer? Hopefully refraining from further contributing to soil erosion, energy use, and water pollution while contributing to biodiversity.

Side tantrum: Just because it’s organic does NOT mean it’s healthy. Organic jelly beans (my favorite) are packed with organic cane sugar, tapioca syrup, and full of fruit juice and natural flavors. Can I consume them obliviously thinking I’m fulfilling my quota of that “rainbow” of fruit and veggie servings for the day? Not exactly. Anything full of sugar (even organic sugar) is not a “healthy” food. I would say the importance of selecting organics is greatest for items in the perimeter of the grocery store (think produce, meats, dairy, eggs). Easy, right?

What’s With the Seal?

The USDAs National Organics Program ensures ...

Healthy Traveling Tips

It’s officially summer and many of us—over 36 million Americans—have embraced international travel recently. For students and families in particular, this is the season for exciting adventures overseas. It may not be very glamorous, but, before heading off with passports in hand, how can we ensure the healthiest trip possible?

Your mother was right: plan ahead

  • Check if your health insurance goes beyond the US border. If not, it is easy to purchase a short term travel insurance policy.
  • Find out as much as you can about your destination’s health risks or dangers.
  • Most diseases are preventable. Talk it over with your doctor or see a travel doctor who specializes in such advice.
  • Be certain you have the needed vaccinations and medicines before heading out.
  • Don’t let ....
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