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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...

Why you should be eating more fiber

The recommended daily intake of dietary fiber is 25-35 grams per day. Despite this, the average American consumes about 15 grams of fiber per day. You may have heard fiber is important, but read on to learn more about why it matters in your diet.

What is fiber?

Fiber is the portion of plants that is not digested in the gastrointestinal tract. Therefore, it stays in the intestine, aiding in digestion and contributing to stool consistency. Dietary fiber is categorized into soluble fiber and insoluble fiber.

  • Sources of soluble fiber: fruits, legumes, oats, and barley
  • Sources of insoluble fiber: wheat, rye, grains, and many vegetables

What are the health effects of fiber?

  • Decreased risk of coronary artery disease and stroke. This is the leading cause of death in the United States and a diet high in soluble fiber decreases this risk by 40-50%.
  • Decreased risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus and improved glucose control in people with diabetes on a diet high in soluble fiber.
  • Insoluble fiber is beneficial for many digestive diseases including hemorrhoids, diarrhea, constipation, and diverticular disease.

Is there a downside to a high-fiber diet?

How to prepare your child for surgery

Surgery can be a stress and anxiety producing event for anyone, let alone a child. At Swedish, Child Life Specialists help children and families cope with the surgery process. Child Life Specialists are available to help educate and prepare children and families prior to surgery in our outpatient surgery center.

There are some things you can do as a parent to help better prepare yourself and your child for surgery before coming to the hospital:

  • Talk to your healthcare provider to educate yourself about the surgery process and what to expect.
  • Talk to your child in advance about their surgery in an honest, matter-of-fact manner. Younger children need to start hearing about their upcoming surgery 2-3 days prior to their visit. School age and teenage children can handle talking about their surgery a few weeks in advance. Using books and similar resources can be helpful in talking to your child about their surgery.
  • Offer children some control wherever possible. Have your child ....

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:

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 ....

Why is it hard to swallow?

Many people suffer from difficulty swallowing (dysphagia) acutely or chronically. Difficulty with swallowing may be a result of a problem anywhere from the lips to the stomach. It may be identified by weight loss, coughing or choking when eating, delayed cough or regurgitation, or outright obstruction. This is more likely to be an issue after a stroke or in elderly and frail individuals. In the inpatient population, symptoms suggesting some level of dysphagia may be as high as 34%. So what do you do if you feel like your swallow isn’t quite right?

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