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Improve Communication With Your Doctor While In The Hospital

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If you are in hospital, don't expect your memory to do all the work for you. If you have a question, write it down, then, when the doctor does come for a visit, you won't forget to ask.

Under the best of circumstances, going into hospital as a patient is stressful, because it invokes great change in your life. You have changed your environment, your daily routine, and your eating habits. There are the intrusions of strangers poking and prodding, and wheeling you down the hall for tests.

An image of a doctors stethoscope

Coordinating the whole scene is your doctor, who usually sees you for just a few minutes each day. If this encounter is not handled well by both parties, it can lead to further anxiety and confusion. That’s why doctors need coaching in bedside manner.

Especially while you are in the hospital, the ability to communicate accurately with your doctor leads to better healing and potentially can even mean the difference between life and death. This has been confirmed in a series of studies performed and published over the past forty years. Good doctor-patient communication makes a difference not only in patient satisfaction but in patient outcomes including resolution of chronic headaches, changes in emotional states, lower blood sugar values in diabetics, improved blood pressure readings in hypertensives, and other important health indicators.

However, in a recent national survey of both doctors and hospitalized patients, effective communication remains elusive.

Only 48% of patients said they were always involved in decisions about their treatment, and 29% of patients didn't know who was in charge of their case while they were in the hospital.

Here's an action tip:

While your doctor's ability to communicate with you will vary by personality and training, you can benefit from a few tips as well. The following suggested questions were compiled by the Mayo Clinic, and serve as a good model for each patient.

  • What do my symptoms mean?
  • Do the medications have any side effects?
  • What is this test for?
  • What risks are involved in my treatment?
  • Do I have any options other than the treatment you've prescribed?
  • How do the benefits of the treatment compare with the risks?
  • What emotional reactions can I expect from my illness?
  • How long do I have to stay in the Hospital?
  • Do I have any limitations on my activity at home?
  • What should I call you about once I'm at home?

With these questions in hand, you should be well prepared to take some of the stress out of the hospital stay.

But what about the case where, despite your best attempts, you just can't establish that rapport with your doctor? Here are some resources for helping you decide what to do if you and your doctor don't communicate well.

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Boxing for Fitness

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Sometimes rehearsal is a lot safer than the real thing. 

boxing for fun and exercise

Ski and snowboard acrobats rehearse over a trampoline with bungee cords tied above them to prevent injuries as they learn new flips.  Even sword-fighters in the days of the French musketeers had to come up with a rehearsal format.  Thus was born the art of ballet, which basically incorporates all the jumps, thrusts, lunges and spins needed to keep the swordsmen sharp between wars.

Boxing is another such sport.  In actual combat, or a pro fight, boxing is indeed very dangerous.  Every blow to the head counts as a potential brain injury, from which the brain has very limited powers of recovery. In addition, head injury is also possible including injuries to both the the scalp and skull.

For the few who do this as a profession, there are now a great number of safety measures installed, such as pre-fight physical examinations, MRI’s of the brain, neuropsychological testing, and on-site physicians.  But for the general public, one can gain a lot from boxing as a rehearsal - especially in terms of eliminating the risk of brain injury or head injury.  In other words, be the boxer, not the box-ee. 

 As the popularity of arena fighting surges, ordinary people are learning to get their fitness from fighting against inanimate objects such as the heavy punching/kicking bags, or the hand-pads held in place by the trainer.  In a way, this gives the best of options; no head contact, yet full benefits of the sport.


having fun punching a bag!

For most people working at a computer all day, the back hunches, the neck is craned forward, and the abdomen sags.  Over time, this becomes a habitual then permanent “posture creep”.  In order to reverse this trend of the modern office work, boxing (as training) is extremely efficient.

As with any sport, there are issues of technique.  Boxing is more than just beating away on a bag, as any coach will tell you.  Proper technique involves good posture, balance, footwork, and rotation around your core.  As one arm advances to land a jab, the other shoulder rotates backward, in order to add strength to the punch.  This involves great use of the back and shoulder-blade muscles, as well as the abdominal ones, all of which are ignored in our desk posture.

Boxing is a higher-impact alternative cardio exercise routine. If you are looking for something new to add to your regular exercise routine then perhaps you look for boxing gloves and bags. Boxing is a good way to build both strength and endurance and can be a great way to add to your abdominal exercises. Speed bags and heavy bags offer different ways to develop a core work out, letting you choose what’s most comfortable for you. Workout balls offer another option, allowing you to stretch, strengthen muscles and augment your abdominal workout exercises.

Even without equipment, shadow boxing in front of a mirror, (or, in the picture below, on a beach) can be very useful, especially for your core mid-section or abdominal exercises.

shadow boxing on the beach

In much the same way as Tai Chi can rehearse martial arts, one can even slow down the motions, and practice good boxing form between lessons.

While the subject of professional risks is best left to another forum, be sure to consider boxing lessons as one way to strengthen your core, improve your cardio fitness, and burn off a lot of calories in just a few minutes.  You will quickly appreciate how long a two or three minute round can be!

Professional trainers demonstrate great results in teaching the “sweet science” to all age groups, from school children to octogenarians. 


For more info, see

Toronto gym, boxing for fun and exercise

That's where I train with Stephan Boyd, Canada's middleweight champion in 2012.  He and his professional coaches make a great training team.  If you are interested, check out similar facilities in your area.  As a break from the mental and physical stresses of office work, this could be one of the more fun fitness options for you to explore.

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Tai Chi, a Sure Way to Balance your Health Defense

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Our bodies were designed, built, and programmed for movement.  Our joints need movement to self-lubricate through the bag of synovial membrane. 

This movement even feeds food and oxygen to the bloodless cartilage inside the joints, and carries away the products of metabolism.  Movement also benefits our muscles, by contracting, toning, and stretching them.  Even our stress defenses were wired to energetic  responses.

But now we have redesigned our ancestors' active workplace to remove most movements as we sit all day at a desk.   So the modern response to stress has gone from the “fight and flight” option to  a not-so-energetic “sit and stare” response.  

But new research is indicating that even more is at stake with our modern inactivity.  Mental functions are all sharper if we move, and duller when we sit.  Even our immune mechanisms are enhanced with movement.  Scientists have emphasized h that sitting still for 4 hours at a time is basically an “inflammatory”event, sort of like eating a donut.  (Worse, obviously, if you are sitting and eating for the same four hours!).  Not only do bones lose their density and muscles lose their mass, but our mental alertness suffers from this inactivity too.

 So our basic instincts of movement are correct, and we indeed need room to roam.  In other articles, I have reviewed posture at the office, as relates to carpal tunnel and low back pains

 But another solution comes from the world of Tai Chi.

 An interesting discipline, Tai Chi basically is a slow motion version of martial arts.  Speed up the film of people doing Tai Chi in the town square, and you get a Jackie Chan fight scene.  While it may look simple, it involves weight shifting, swaying, stretching and toning.  And, above all, balance.  Now doctors are appreciating how well it works with patients suffering from Parkinson’s as well as many other medical conditions.  See this link to learn more

Requiring no equipment, Tai Chi is easy to start.  While learning can be an infinite process, even a  beginner can benefit right away.

So if you are getting stressed by your desk job, try to interject a few moments of Tai Chi into your breaks.  Remember to set a timer for every fifteen minutes, to remind yourself to move something.  For example, at least pull back your shoulders, neck and head away from the computer, and try to touch your shoulder-blades together in a “rowing” motion .  At the very least, make this a simple part of your routine for a few seconds.  If space and time permit, use one of your 15-minute breaks to stand up and try a few Tai Chi moves, and notice the difference.    Who knows, the whole office might join in!

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Stress: The Fountain of Youth!

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Stress has always been considered a bad element in our lives.  In fact, the whole basis for financial planning is all about achieving a stress-free status.  We have called them the "Golden Years", and , for many, the goal is to be as idle as possible.  No kids to raise, no more mortgage to pay, no need to go into work on Monday.  But the economy has changed the whole dynamic of retirement.  With home equity slashed, with retirement funds severely shrunken, and with the collapse interest paid on savings, most people nearing their sixties are afraid they might never retire.  But is an active retirement such a bad thing?

Mercifully, idleness is not at all the goal we imagined.  We can take heart in some excellent examples of people who do not retire. 
Christopher Plummer


Christopher Plummer, the famous movie actor, could certainly spend his days languishing on a porch somewhere, and never having to work again.  Or he could certainly show up for a few well paying cameo appearances in the movies, and still have most of the week off.  Instead, he works in Stratford Ontario, at one of the most stressful jobs in his industry: live Shakesperian theater. 

The rehearsals are very stressful for both brain and body.  The brain needs to quickly assimilate all of the lines of the actor, plus know the other players movements and cues.  The body also has challenges; Plummer notes that his back aches from hours of standing on the cement rehearsal floor.

Then the real stress begins, with opening night, and every performance thereafter.  The live audience sits just a few paces away, close enough to see any blemish, or even the explosive drops of spittle that might be projected along with the lines.  No luxury of the movies here: no director shouting "CUT", no editor hiding any mistake of movement or memory, and no camera-man to film "Do-Overs".  The most stressful scrutiny in the business, and, for Christopher Plummer, just about the least pay per week that he could earn.



So why does he do it?  Its the Stress: if he was just reading Shakespeare to himself on the porch, he would probably never memorize the lines properly! 

1. For the body to stay young, avoid sloth.  Our muscle tissue needs exercise to stay toned.  The metaphorical rocking chair is good for recess, but not for your only exercise.  I remind my patients that there are hundreds of sports, and many other ways to exercise from Yoga to Dance.  Just pick something(s) that you are suited to, and that you will actually do.

2. For the brain to stay young, avoid mental sloth: never seek an idle retirement.   If you can keep working at your current job, consider doing so, even if it is for a few less hours than before.  If you cannot, or would like a career change, consider learning new skills as part of your "retirement" preparation.  No reason why we all can't be able to type, download, and process new skills.  If you are lucky enough to have preserved your financial status, you still need to work at something, but make sure there is some stress to it.  Hitting a plastic golf ball in your garage is not any good, you need to have the stress of keeping score on a real course.  If you are going to study a course, take one with an exam, preferrably even one where you have had to pay some tuition. If you are going to learn a new language, make sure you try speaking it to real people, not just mumbling it to yourself in your room. 

Remember Hanson's Stress Rule of "F"s:   Fear Forges Focus!  

Then the stress of aging can keep you young at heart. 

To see live Shakespeare for yourself, contact

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