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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...

Are you ready for surgery?

For most folks, the idea of undergoing an operation can be a stressful and confusing time. If the thought of having a surgery is a little daunting, it may be helpful to arm yourself with some useful information.

Before any operation, you should have the opportunity to talk with your surgeon. This consultation should include an explanation of why you need a surgery, what other options are available, and what the surgery and recovery entail. All operations have risks and complications and you should learn about them as part of the decision making process.

It is often necessary to perform certain tests or studies prior to your surgery. These are for your benefit so that your surgeon has as much information about you and your situation as possible. Surgeons do not like surprises.

Make sure to follow your preoperative instructions. This is your side of the bargain after you have decided to have surgery. Following directions about medications, fasting (not eating), and other preparation for an operation is essential to making the day go as smoothly as possible.

Some other tips for the day of your surgery include...

How to cure toenail fungus

I have been asked many times about toenail fungus and how to treat it. It is a common condition and distressing to look at, at least from the patient's perspective. There are theories abound as to the cause or causes, and I've heard of treatments from tea-tree oil soaks to surgery, but the really bedeviling part about this affliction is the generally high likelihood of recurrence no matter what you do. The medications and some of the other treatments available seem to work for a time, only to fail later on. But there may be a solution.

A curious observation is that exercise...

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...

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:

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 ....

High blood pressure in the doctor’s office

“I don’t get it! Everytime I come to your office my blood pressure is high. It’s never like that anywhere else!”

“White Coat Hypertension” is very common and affects many people, even those who feel at ease with their physician. But whether your blood pressure is low or high at the doctor’s office, if you’ve been told you might have hypertension, you are likely to find yourself at home, or in a grocery or drug store with your arm in a cuff trying to figure out if your blood pressure is reasonable. A key to successful self-measurement is knowing the proper technique.

The big studies of blood pressure in the population upon which we base all our definitions of normal and high values were careful to take their measurements in a standardized way. The patient should avoid coffee, tea, nicotine, and other stimulants for at least 30 minutes prior to the test. She should sit quietly for a full 10 minutes reading or softly conversing before measurement. Even reaching across the table to pull the BP cuff near is to be avoided. (Get the machinery next to you when you first sit down.) Use an upper arm cuff. Forearm and finger devices are not reliable. Feet should be flat on the floor, clothing comfortable, and a bare arm may be needed for some machines. Two or three measurements a few minutes apart may be averaged.

A few caveats to mention: if one arm is higher than the other, you have to go by the higher side. Humans have a natural ‘diurnal’ variation, with most of us having a little higher blood pressure in the morning compared with later in the day. Blood pressure rises with physical and mental exertion and takes some time to come down, so don’t expect a resting value if you’ve not been at rest for 10 minutes or more.

Blood pressure is dynamic and always changing. The majority of values should be in a good range; your physician can help you determine if your numbers are in the range you need for optimal health.

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