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A Personal Financial Crisis May Affect Your Health

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As evidenced in the stock market crash of 1929, a financial crisis can evoke a lot of ledge-jumping. The detrimental effects of having the financial “alligators” snapping at your heels are seen both in the acute fall from wealth and the chronic oppression of poverty. A financial crisis may also happen to those between the two extremes--people who are working hard and making a good wage, but lack perspective, discipline, and organization in managing their money. The seductive lure of credit cards and “no money down” purchases of cars, holidays and furniture also lays a trap for the unwary. The ease of refinancing one’s home in recent markets also provided cash that was temptingly squandered.

image of a financial crisis

Recently, in survey after survey, people say that they are either financially distressed, or already in a financial crisis, and dissatisfied with their personal finances. Close to 25% of working adults are seriously financially distressed or already experience a financial crisis. This amounts to about 30 million workers in America. 

In some cases, a financial crisis develops from a poor relationship, where excess spending is thought to “buy” improved self esteem, whether for oneself or one’s spouse or kids. People experiencing a financial crisis  are often living paycheck-by-paycheck with no money for extras. They struggle with money and debt and fret over bills. They worry there will not be enough money to live on once they retire. Perhaps most worrisome is that many do not even have hope that they might one day be able to catch up financially.

The difference between spending 5 percent more than you earn and spending 5 percent less than you earn separates living comfortable from a financial crisis. Money that is wasted on frivolous purchases could often be enough to finance stress reduction measures such as vacations, treats, or part-time help around the home. Without making time and priority for financial stress reduction, burnout is the likely result. In health, this burnout can be disastrous or even fatal; at work it can lead to an even worse financial crisis, and, ultimately, ruin.

A likely consequence of experiencing a financial crisis is a negative impact to one's health as a result of all the mental stress that is also experienced. Disagreements with friends, family members and co-workers, a restricted social life, and reduced job productivity are all possible when in the middle of a financial crisis. Often distress over health care costs and medical bills can further unveil or aggravate a depressive or anxiety disorder, which can affect:

  • coping skills
  • attention and concentration ability to the point of decreased job attendance
  • reduced workplace performance and hamper job retention for employers. 

It should also be no surprise that anyone in a financial crisis spends time at their place of employment worrying about personal finances and dealing with financial issues instead of working and that this behavior interferes with their work. Obvious ways in which a personal financial crisis can negatively impact productivity is:

  • talking with co-workers about personal financial problems
  • communicating with creditors about past due payments
  • paying personal bills
  • balancing a checkbook
  • talking to a lender about a debt consolidation loan

This can also easily turn into a nasty negative cycle of being unable to carry out normal responsibilities, having to cut back on a normal workload, and not being able to accomplish as much as usual. This cycle further interrupts employee performance, workplace attendance and poses greater financial burdens which only increases stress and financial pressures. In the worst case, a personal financial crisis may lead to losing one's job and takes the financial crisis from the frying pan to the fire, so to speak!

When I see a patient with chest or stomach pains, headache, depression, or other signs of stress related conditions, I always ask how things are going financially. Very often the rest of the medical history will be negative, but the health crisis will be caused by too much month left at the end of the money.

In a case like this, a good financial planner can often help more than a doctor.

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Diet Can Help Childhood Migraine Headaches and Epileptic Seizures

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Do you have children in your family who suffer from both migraine headaches and epileptic seizures? Well, there may be relief in putting them on a strict diet. 

An image of stressed childThere has been a great deal of debate between neurologists and homeopathic doctors on the role diet may play in migraine headaches and epilepsy. While traditionalists scoff at the idea of dieting as a preventative therapy, the homeopaths scoff at the idea of using any medications ever. As with most such controversies, both extremes are likely to be blind to new developments that don't fit their theories.

A new study is offering a great deal of hope to parents whose children have frequent, regular attacks of epilepsy and migraine headaches that do not respond to drug therapy. Experts in the departments of neurology, immunology, and dietetics at London's famous Hospital for Sick Children (Great Ormond Street) examined forty five kids with both conditions. As they reported in Journal of Pediatrics, they found that almost eighty percent improved on special diets. Over half the epileptic seizures stopped altogether, four had seizures only when they had chest infections, and the rest found they had seizures only half as often as before the diets. No matter what type of epilepsy the children had, they all improved.

The experts found a wide variety of 42 foods prompted symptoms, and half of these provoked epileptic seizures. Cow's milk seemed to be the most common food eaten before symptoms, although the food additive benzoic acid, pork, and eggs were involved in one case each. Brain waves were checked on the EEG, and found to improve when the children were on the allergy-free diet. Now it must be noted that these children were selected only because they had received no help from drugs, but the point is that others who do need drugs may well find that an allergen free diet could well reduce their doses.

In a world that changes constantly, it is always good to keep an open mind. If you suffer from epilepsy or migraine headaches, remember that it is possible that some of your foods may be triggering the episodes, so it is worth experimenting by excluding foods one at a time from your diet. But if you are already on medications, do not suddenly stop them without consulting your doctor.

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Top Ten ways Stress can Hurt You

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For the past year, I have been working in active Family practice, including busy walk-in clinics, as well as my private office.  Having seen thousands of new people in these past months, it is clear that Stress is still one of the major factors in our Health Care Crisis. 

Stressed Worker

Our headlines have never been more stressful, and are all about issues that are beyond the grasp of the individual reader, even though the effects are felt by all.  For example, the gulf oil spill, the worsening economy, the jobless "recovery", and, not to forget, our two wars that are claiming more lives, more treasure, and seem to be generating more corruption from the governments we are supposed to be saving.  To paraphrase the old saying: "if it weren't for bad news, we'd have no news at all". 

But bad news preys on the human body and mind.  Especially because we are bombarded with these disasters dozens of times a day (newspapers, emails, talk radio, 24-hour TV news, cell phones, twitter etc).  Granted, stations now try to lighten up with idiotic stories, like "Skippy the Squirrel Learns to Water Ski...with film at 10".  But the omnipresence of bad energy leads to predictable results.  The following is the result of a survey of over 500 patients whose health drove them in to see me in the last three months, and asks the question "What does Stress Do to You?".  Each patient could mention more than one choice, depending on their body's responses.

Let's take a look at the Top Ten Ways that Stress Hurts:

1.  Insomnia  (71%)  From having difficulty falling asleep, to having troubles staying asleep, this was the most common complaint.  Waking up refreshed was rare.

2.  Anxiety (65%)  Bad news contaminates our conversations, our dinner hour, and our "down time" that we try to carve out of our busy days.  People are developing white knuckles on their Blackberries and I-phones, consuming the latest iterations of horrible news.

3. Depression (52%) With so little control over these stressful stories, no wonder people are depressed.  Sales of Effexor have never been higher! (note, antidepressant medications are rarely the best line of defense here, but more about that in other blogs!) 

4.  Skin reactions (acne rosacea, excema etc) (38%) Breakouts of acne, including rosacea, as well as itchy patches of excema are very common as a manifestation of stress. 

5.  Cardiac effects: racing beat, increased blood pressure.   (23%)  Many people can "hear" their heart pounding, as the internal carotid arteries pump close to the ear mechanisms.  Palpitations are often felt in the chest, and people will often break into a sweat.  Blood pressures can also rise, along with heart rates.

6. Indigestion, stomach pains. (22%)Sales of medicine for heartburn, stomache aches, and acid reflux have never been better. 

7. Change of bowel habits (constipation or diarrhea)  (22%) Some respond to stress with diarrhea, while others seize up and get constipation. 

8.  Headaches (including tension, migraines)  (20%) Lasting anywhere from a few minutes to a couple of days, headaches are a powerful reminder of the mind-body connection. 

9.  Fibromyalgia  (17%) When you have pain in a joint, it is called "arthritis".  When you have pain between the joints (in the muscles and soft tissues) it is called "fibromyalgia".  No blood tests or X-rays will pick it up, but millions of Americans know it is sure real.

10. Obesity.  (60%)  While some respond to stress by cutting down their food intake, the majority are seeking comfort with "comfort foods".  Obviously badly named!  The "white death" of white sugar and white flour contributes to our epidemic of obesity, especially in our children.

While the Prescription Drug Cartel wants us to all believe that each of the above symptoms is caused by the Lack of a Brand-Name Drug, there are a host of ways to defend ourselves before reaching for a prescription pad.  We will discuss each of these in upcoming articles!

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