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The Smart Phone: A Key Part of Your First Aid Kit

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We already know that the cell phone has changed the world. 
At our fingertips, it can bring us countless new apps to monitor our blood pressure or calorie intake, and, in a crisis, it can help you find the nearest medical clinic, or get the fastest taxicab to a hospital. If you are lost in the wilderness, your cell phone can be traced by rescue teams, and it could save your life. 
But there are a couple of other ways you can use the basic features of your cell phone for medical purposes. These are free, and don't even involve apps.

The Back of the Phone
Label your name, a work number or email to get hold of you. If you leave your phone on the bus, and the batteries are dead, how else will a good Samaritan be able to get hold of you? However, as with the labels on your suitcases, do not list your home address, as it could invite crooks to rob you while you are gone. While you are at it, you might also put down any drug allergies or other important medical alerts; if you are unable to communicate your issues in an emergency, the medical staff will be able to see it on the back of your phone, even if the phone doesn't work. Just to be sure, also use a permanent marker to put medical alert info on the back of your driver's license or health insurance card, both of which are usually reached for by emergency staff.

The Camera
Today's cell phones have great resolution with their cameras, and almost infinite storage. You can archive photos in any way you wish. Use your cell-cam to record the following:

  • Your doctors' names and contact info, so followup info like test results or prescriptions used can be sent after the fact. In an extreme emergency, it could also help attending doctors get direct advice from your own team.
  • Any rash or other visible injury should be captured on your camera to help your doctor make a diagnosis. This is especially true if the signs have changed or gone by the time you see your doctor. This can also help document damage to your car or bike if you are in an accident; it might be important for both your medical and your insurance claims.
  • Any prescription drug you ever get! This one can save your life. If you have just returned from holiday, and are finishing the last of your pills for a local illness, take a picture of the prescription. If you break into a severe rash the day you get home, and have tossed the bottle before you climbed on the plane, please don't tell your doctor that it was a "little oval pill," or that it was "kind of pink or orange," or that it "began with the letter "C." I have worked in emergency departments, and can promise you none of us will be able to guess which drug you are talking about -- ever! Each country has its own drug colors, many use different brand names, and some have blends with different ingredients. But all of them list the generic chemical names, which are, thankfully, universal. With a simple click of your phone-cam, you can let us know what that drug was. It could be the one good drug that works better than the rest in your body, or it could be one bad drug that might kill you with the next dose. Don't leave us guessing, and don't assume that your doctor's computer can somehow capture the input from another doctor's computer. We are not like the banks with their ATM trackers; medicine is still in its computer infancy. So please back up any important medical info with a click of your camera. 

The same goes for an X-ray. Photos can be used to show us the exact fracture you got skiing. Or with an abnormal EKG, you can take photos so your doctor at home can see what happened.
For the same reasons, if you have any known disease, take a picture of any relevant tests before you leave for a trip. If you have any prior abnormalities, your baseline EKG or blood tests could prove very important to a new doctor that has to come to your aid in a distant city. And don't forget to take a picture of your list of medications before you leave home!

The Alarm

  • For remembering ergonomics: Set it to vibrate every 15 minutes during your work day, and you will have the perfect reminder to correct your posture and add in some movement. Straighten your spine, roll your shoulders and neck, and pull your shoulder-blades together (see our blogs on neck pain, and back pain, the postural challenge). Also, straighten and bend your knees and ankles. No longer do you need a kitchen alarm or a "cuckoo" clock on your desk or in a meeting, now you can silently remind yourself without disturbing others. 
  • For remembering pills: I have one patient who reminds herself to take her birth control pills every day at 10 minutes before noon, for 21 days in a row. Then, the alarm goes silent for a week, before starting the next cycle of 21 pills. No more mishaps! This feature is also good to ping people who are on more complicated medications, to remind them to take their eye drops, pills, or insulin shots.
  • To help with jet lag: Use your phone alarm to wake you at the proper local time, so you don't sleep until afternoon in your new time zone. Don't always assume your hotel will be perfect in its wake-up calls. If you do sleep in, you will mess up your body's clock for days, and have a miserable week of travel adaptation.

The Calendar 
To remind yourself to call for your next Pap smear, or general check up, use your phone's calendar to keep your appointments past and future. If you need to go back for repeat tests in six months, don't trust your memory, just enter it into the phone. If you can't be sure of the exact date that far in advance, just remind yourself to call in to fine-tune the details a week or two ahead.

Some of these tips may save your life. If you think of more ways your phone can be a life-saver, let us know at

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Hip Pain? Hip Tips...

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One of the common complaints I see in my office is that of hip pains, which come in two varieties:  

ACUTE hip pains:   We see these cases a lot as injuries to the groin muscles on the inside aspect of the hip.  These are usually pretty obvious in their origin, for example when a hockey player collides with legs straddling the ice, or when a football player is tackled with one leg extended out to the side.  (Hip fractures are the subject for a separate blog).  These cases often respond quickly, as long as there is no serious tear in the muscle/tendon structure as it inserts from the inner thigh.  Other cases involve the outside of the hip joint, seen with cases of bursitis or capsulitis from extended exercises like rowing, biking, or running.  Treatments include rest, physical therapies like ultrasonic vibrations, electro-stimulation, and medical acupuncture are often all that is required. An anti-inflammatory medication can also help settle things down.  If this is not working, then further investigation with images can prove helpful, and more aggressive treatments like cortisone shots could be considered.  Gentle movements are encouraged, along with a graduated program of stretching and toning of the inner thigh muscles to rehab the area. Assuming the root cause was a one-time injury, recovery is usually excellent.  If continued trauma occurs, then the problems become more chronic.    

CHRONIC hip pains: These occur if the root cause is repetitive, such as the constant pounding felt by rodeo riders, snowmobilers, or moto-cross cylclists. This can lead to the destruction of the cartilage and the build-up of extra bony growth causing osteo-arthritis.   l More commonly, the root cause is just the repetitive effects of gravity as seen in the daily movements of an obese patient.  Especially with the morbidly obese ( 100 pounds or 45 kilograms over their ideal weight) this means the simple acts of standing up, walking, and stair climbing all cause daily damage to the hip joint.  Other conditions such as systemic forms of arthritis can certainly also affect the hip joint itself, leading to “bone-on-bone” instead of smooth surfaces where the hip joint is supposed to move.  Again, we look for any correctable root causes.  This would entail routine blood-work and images, to assess underlying diseases.  It would also involve corrective action for the obese patient, with proper diet and exercise regimens.  In severe cases, that are beyond any such help, replacement of the hip joint may be needed. 

In the meantime, here are some hip tips:

  • Watch your posture: Sitting is hip-hostile.  Try to stand up a few times per hour if you can.  We have already written about the benefits of sitting on a pilates ball for back pains, 
  • it also helps hip pains by introducing some movements into an otherwise frozen posture.  If you can, try to rig your work station for standing up all the time. 
  • Select non-impact exercises, like the bike or elliptical machines in the gym.  Also try yoga and pilates to help with toning and flexibility.
  • Watch your weight.  One of the rules of medicine is that pain is fattening.  If you are in pain, you can’t move much to burn off your daily calories.  This becomes a viscous circle, where any excess calories are simply added to one’s fat stores, adding to the pains of simple movements.  To compound this, junk foods such as white sugar, white flour, etc are all known to cause more inflammation, further adding to the damage to the hips and other joints.
  • See your doctor to seek out underlying diagnoses, from systemic diseases to simple things like one leg being significantly longer than the other.  Depending on the underlying causes, you may also benefit from massage, physical therapy, or chiropractic treatments. Follow their exercise tips to stretch and tone the surrounding hip structures.

For more info,

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Beware the Plastics

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Plastics may be great for consumer.  But they are NOT meant to be consumed. 

With today’s busy lifestyle, more people are reaching for packaged foods, and most of these are introducing small amounts of chemicals into the foods they touch.   Whether it is the fast food burger in a foam box, raw meats on a Styrofoam (made from toxic styrene) tray in the supermarket, or drinks that now come in plastic instead of glass bottles, unwanted chemicals are entering our digestive tracts, and getting into our bloodstreams.  Now scientists and doctors are starting to take notice.  Higher rates (and earlier ages of victims) of cancers and neurological diseases are starting to be noticed in areas where packaged food is the norm.  While the big food companies may argue that this is untrue, there is certainly no chance that these chemicals like BPA (BisPhenol-A) are “health foods”.  As a consequence, it makes sense to take some simple measures to reduce our exposure.

Action Items to keep plastics out of your body:

  1. Buy fresh food, whenever you can.  Try your local farmer’s markets, or at least get to know the people behind the fish and meat counters at your grocery store.  Have them wrap it in wax paper. 
  2. Buy small quantities, so you won’t have a fridge full of left-overs. Remember the best way to keep food fresh is to leave it in the store!
  3. Learn to cook.  You will save money, and save your health.  You will also save time.  Watch Jamie Oliver’s 15 minute mealson YouTube; you will learn how to make something nutritious from scratch in less time than it takes to go out (or order in) for “fast” food.
  4. Don’t buy landfill along with your groceries.  Today’s foam trays, plastic containers, and packages all end up in next week’s garbage.  Far better to have foods wrapped in paper, foil, or cardboard boxes, and to buy liquids in glass containers. To complete the green concept, take your own cloth bags to the store, instead of using any plastic ones.  You will be amazed at the reduced output when you just buy the product and not the containers.
  5. Throw out your non-stick pans, plastic utensils, and storage containers.  Use stainless steel-lined pots and pans, and glass or steel storage containers. 
  6. Use water for your main drink.  It’s a lot cheaper than sodas and juices.  Besides, you don’t have to carry tap water home!  If your tap water tastes poorly, consider a reverse osmosis water filter. To make it look more appetising, fill old wine bottles with water, and leave them to chill in the fridge.   If you do enjoy fizzy water, seek out those that still come in glass containers. 
  7. Time counts.  If you do need to bring some foods home in plastic containers, transfer them to dishes immediately.    If some of it is to be saved for later, put it in a glass container.  Try not to eat from (or store food in) original plastic containers.
  8. When you absolutely need to use plastic at times, make sure it is the "hard" kind, not the soft opaque version; the opaque one is much easier to scratch with utensils, and much more likely to leech chemicals into its contents, especially when heated for cleaning.

While we can’t control all of the chemicals that touche our foods, we can certainly take these simple measures to fight back.   

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Knee pains: How to prevent and recover

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Knee pains are becoming very common.  Most of the orthopedic surgeons in professional football and hockey are specialists in the knee, leaving others to look after the rest of the bones in question.  In looking after sports injuries in my clinic, I can attest to the high rate of knee injuries among part-time athletes as well. 

Some logical questions follow:

1. Why is the knee so vulnerable to sports injuries?  The main reason is its range of movement is only in one plane.  Other joints can swivel, but the knee is just like a single hinge that straightens or flexes the leg, and is integral in our ability to walk, run, and jump.  However the knee has virtually no protection to a side impact.  Nor does the knee do well with twisting or rotational forces.  With the popularity of contact sports, especially ones with  helmets and hard pads, we are seeing more collisions resulting in serious knee injuries.  

2. Even in non-contact sports, such as running, we are seeing more gradual erosion of the knee structures.  While running is one thing the human body was well designed to do, the knee is not a great shock-absorber when one runs on pavement.  

3. Paradoxically, the inactivity of the modern work place also contributes to the rise of knee injuries.  With movement, the synovial membrane around the knee produces fluid, which not only lubricates the joint, but provides trace quantities of oxygen and food to the cartilege cells.  But today, we don't move our knees at work, we fold them under us like a deck chair.  At the end of day, it gets ugly, watching people trying to force their stiff legs into the standing position.


If you have injured your knee, here are some important action items:

1. Apply ice to ease swelling and pain, for about 10 minutes every half hour.  Make sure you have a layer of cloth between your skin and the ice, to protect from freezer-burn

2. See your doctor if you are not improving.  Images of Xray, Ultrasound, and MRI can help identify pathology.

3. When bending the knee, there is never any need to go beyond 90 degrees, unless you are just stretching. 

 For example, when you are doing a squat in the gym, just bend as far as if you were about to sit in a chair, then back up.  

Never bend the knees so far you can sit on your haunches if you are loading the joint with weights, or even your body weight.  If bending to pick something off the ground, bend just one knee to touch the ground, so both knees are at 90 degrees.  Its much easier to stand up, and much less likely to hurt the knee.


4. Watch your leg posture at the desk.  If your knees are hyper-flexed all day under your chair, they you will have a host of issues from dry knees, including stiffness of the surrounding muscles.  Try to set a timer to remind you to bend and flex the knee every fifteen minutes, even if you have to cradle it in your hands to get it started.  

5. Consider a soft knee brace when standing or doing activities.  

Not great for sitting with bended knee, as they tend to cut off the return blood flow if they crinkle behind the knee.  But when the knee is more straight, it can provide support, and may help reduce some of the swelling.  At the very least it will remind you which one is the sore knee, so you won't accidentally land on the wrong foot when running down the stairs for a train!

6. For rehabilitation, seek exercises that don't hurt, and that don't create impact.  Eliptical machines, bikes, swimming, skating etc are all good suggestions, along with controlled weight lifting and stretching exercises.  Make sure you seek professional guidance to make sure your ergonomics are good.  



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Eye Infections - Be Sure to Treat Correctly

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Eye infections are very common, and very important to treat correctly.

When an infection starts on the outer surface of the eye, the conjunctiva, or thin membrane that covers it, becomes inflamed.  As with any inflammation in medicine, we append the suffix “itis”  to make it into conjunctivitis, otherwise known as “Pink-Eye”. 

Considering the thousands of particles of dust laden with bacteria we have bombarding our bodies every day, one might wonder how the eye avoids constant infections.  The answer lies in its brilliant design:

  • Lids to close out sudden gusts of particles, form sand storms to sneezes, and lightning fast reflexes to operate them
  • tears to flush water under these lids to drain through the lacrimal ducts into the nasal passages
  • enzymes in the tears to destroy any invading organisms (which is why contact lens wearers can pop out a lens in an emergency, flush it under tap water or even lick it, then reinsert  without  getting infected). 

However, these defense mechanisms can still be overcome, and the result will be crust or pus forming between the lids, and a characteristic redness of what is supposed to be the “whites” of the eyes.

Parents know that this condition is an absolute reason to quarantine their child away from classmates or day care peers.  But it can also occur in adults just as easily. 


Once this yellowish material forms in your eye, it is very important to see a doctor.  While the diagnosis is pretty obvious from the history and findings, there are some important steps for follow-up to consider:

  • Pink-eye is extremely contagious.  Simply by rubbing the infected eye, one transfers the germs onto the hand.  
  • When that same hand later touches the other eye, the infection can now start there.  If that hand touches a door knob, then the next person touching that surface can get it too.  Schools and day care centers are quite right to keep pink-eye cases out of contact with the rest of the kids.  If you do catch yourself rubbing an infected eye, wash your hands immediately.
  • Try to flush it away.  In the old days, people were told to use an egg-cup full of water, which was a real mess. The simplest way is under the shower; turn the eyes into the direct spray, and open them even a little. 
  • Use disposable wipes, or tissues.  Do NOT use your towel to dry your eyes, as this will leave infection on the fabric, which will then reinfect you the next time you use it.
  • Sterilize or discard any cosmetics, sponges,brushes, that touch the eye lids or lashes.  
  • Your doctor will give you some prescription eye drops with anti-bacterial ingredients.  Use these as directed, and make sure you insert them correctly.  For directions, see Eye Drops Made Easy  
  • After the second day, improvements should be noted, and the infection should be all gone by the fourth day.  If not, then go back to see your doctor.  At this point a more thorough exam by an eye specialist might be needed.
  • I always suggest patients use the drops for an extra day after the last of the symptoms, for good measure.

If you follow the above steps, and take your prescribed eye drops as directed, you should be quickly back to normal. 

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Sitting is the New Smoking

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Times have certainly changed.  Smokers were “cool” in the early days of movies, and they were even hailed by doctors in media ads. 

Smoking became so popular that anyone who didn’t light up at work was considered “anti-social”. 

 Today, the few remaining smokers are kicked out of the building.  

So smoking is in decline.  It seems the old generation of smokers have killed themselves off faster than new recruits can be found

But just as we have turned back one self-inflicted threat to public health, we see another take its place.  SITTING is now the new smoking.

 In my practice of urban millenials, almost all earn their living by sitting all day long.  Those that commute will sit even more in their cars or trains.  Then, by the time they have eaten, they are too mentally exhausted to do much other than sit in front of their screens.  (That explains part of our fascination with professional sports: it is a lot easier to sit and watch somebody else exercise than it is to do it ourselves!).

Our bodies were carefully evolved for movement, but the new workplace denies all but a few finger strokes on a keyboard or screen.  As a consequence, we are seeing a host of self-inflicted medical complications, from obesity to neck and back pains, and from insomnia to attention deficit disorders. 

Our ancestors never had to think about exercise; they got plenty working the land, rowing the fishing boats, chopping the firewood, walking miles every day.  But today, we need a strategy for movement.  This needs some time management, and some creativity to pull it off. 

One can join a fitness club, buy a bike, or take up a sport like tennis, soccer or ultimate frisbee. For those who find these options impractical, be creative.   Remember that exercise doesn’t need to be formalized as a solid hour, it could also come in random short bursts.  Any kind of movement is better than finding a new place to sit as your day goes along.  Here are a few examples my patients have found useful:

  • Add a few extra minutes to your commuting schedule to allow for some movement.  Get off at the wrong stop on your bus, train, or subway, and walk the rest of the way.  Park your car a long walk from where you work, and walk or jog the rest of the way in. If you are in a huge parking lot, try to find a spot in the most remote corner. 
  • If you work or live in a tall building, get off at the wrong floor, and take a few flights of stairs up and down.  If you see an escalator, make a point of not taking it, but try the adjacent stairs instead. 
  • When you get a break for lunch, take it in a different building, so you need to incorporate some walking.  If you want to catch up on lunch conversation with friends, invite them to walk and talk once the food is eaten. 

If you absolutely have to sit, consider sitting on a Pilates ball, instead of a chair. 


With a chair, you can stay at your place without moving a single muscle.  Indeed, you could even fall asleep at your desk.  Can’t do that on a Pilates ball, or you’ll roll right out of the cubicle.  Like riding a horse, sitting on a ball requires great core strength, good posture, and the constant adjustment of muscles from your toes to your neck.  If the actual ball looks too silly to use at your work, consider rigging your work station for standing.

If all else fails, use the front few inches of your chair seat as a “pseudo-ball”, keeping well away from the back rest and arm supports. 

So if you have joined the ranks of the sedentary, don’t despair.  Sitters don’t need to be Quitters!

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WEXTING: Walking while Texting is the Traffic Accident for Pedestrians

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One of the newest forms of preventable injury comes via your cell phone.  Now that these devices are ubiquitous and addictive, we are seeing some very serious medical consequences not only for drivers, but for pedestrians.  

Walking while Texting, otherwise known as "WEXTING" is the latest hazard to clog up emergency wards. Sometimes the results are comical, but serious inuries or even death can be the consequence of your next step. 

In headline news we have seen carnage caused by train and bus drivers who are texting and not paying attention to their driving.  Hundreds of needless deaths are caused by such dereliction of responsibility.  Even thousands more are killed as a consequence of texting drivers of cars and trucks.  Driving while talking on a cell phone is illegal in many jurisdictions, so many people have switched to texting.  The results are not much better than talking; one's focus is taken up by the phone, not the road ahead.  To this point, many police now can charge drivers with "driving while distracted", even if they were not actually holding the phone to their ear .  But the one place people think is safe to text is walking.  After all, what harm could come to a pedestrian who walks and texts at the same time?  Well, as it turns out, a lot.  Maybe walking and chewing gum is as much multi-tasking as most people should handle.

In one US study recently it was estimated that over 60,000 people were injured while walking/texting, and 4,000 of them were killed.  

Distracted walkers have been run over by cars, as they tend to step into an intersection without looking in either direction.  Most take an extra 2 full seconds to cross the road, as they walk 20 percent slower while their fingers dance across the keyboards.  Some have fallen into manholes, fountains, and down staircases.  Others have walked of the ends of piers into the sea, and still others into plate glass windows.  Injuries tend to be fractures to bones in the face, eye injuries, concussions, or fractured feet and legs.  If the victim walks into a moving vehicle, the whole body can be crushed with fatal results.

 In the city of London, experiments have started with padding telephone poles to prevent concussions as pedestrians lead with the top of their heads, while focussing on the little screen in their hands. 

 Whether dialing for new songs on your iphone, talking to a real person via your telephone, or texting, the results can be a catastrophe.


In the car, it has now been shown that talking , even through your car's speakers, can be just as distracting as holding an actual phone to your ear.  Our heads are already swimming in an information overload, so even the mental stimulation of conversation can have disastrous results on your present reflexes. This fact has led to police charging distracted drivers even if their phone conversation allowed both hands to be on the steering wheel.  With pedestrians who text, their entire head is pointed to the ground, leaving them blind to forward obstacles.  Even worse when combined with ear buds, now they are also deaf to the noises of surrounding runners, bikes, and cars. 

View this brief news video for some Wexting visual images.

So the action tip is clear.  Just because you are not driving does not mean that walking is always safe.  Texting, dialing up songs, or watching YouTube while you walk is an invitation to trouble.  Give yourself a break, and try to unplug when you are in motion.  Otherwise your next text could be to call for an ambulance.  From a time management point of view, its worth spending a few seconds to stop moving while using your cell phone, in order to avoid spending hours or years recovering from your injuries.  

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Manage Your Stress and Enjoy Better Health

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Studies show that the more stressed you are the less likely you are to fight back against a visiting flu virus, and, once infected, the course of the disease is likely to be longer and more severe.

An image of a healthy family having fun

In my 25+ years of family practice, it was remarkable how certain individuals seemed to never get sick, while others never missed a flu virus, or should I say the virus never missed them. Well, a recent study confirms that this is not just a fluke and that there are reasons for this.

Dr. Lorne Becker, an assistant professor of family practice at the University of Toronto, organized questionnaires that asked patients about two areas of their family life. First, family cohesion, or support an individual felt from family members, then adaptability, or flexibility. In a scientific way, he was really asking for a measure of happiness. The results indicated that rigid, inflexible families, who were fragmented and non-supportive of each other had fifty per cent more flu infections than those who had balanced, happy family lives. Mind you, even the most convivial of households were not immune, and still had a 22% rate of infection in flu season, but this is significantly better than the 33% rate for their more miserable neighbors.

None of this would have been any surprise to the Late Dr. Hans Selye, Canada's great pioneer in stress research. A half a century ago, Dr. Selye noted that when laboratory animals were stressed by controlled shocks or punishments, their lymph glands shriveled up, and the rest of their immune systems went into steep decline. This means that a stressed person is less likely to be able to fight back against a visiting flu virus, and, once infected, the course of the disease is likely to be longer and more severe.

Stress can also affect your health in a number of other ways and inhibit your ability to cope. Under stressful condition your response may be eating high-fat, high-calorie comfort foods, smoking, drinking too much, not sleeping, and not exercising. The combination of changes in your body from the way you respond to stress, combined with other behavioral and emotional responses may lead to chronic health problems. These include:

  • Obesity. In many people, stress can lead to overeating. But that's not all. High levels of stress may increase the risk for visceral fat. This type of fat develops around waist and the organs in the abdomen, causing metabolic changes that can lead to diabetes and heart disease.
  • Cardiovascular disease. Stress does not directly cause heart disease. However, stress can put a strain on the heart and blood vessels, thereby contributing to heart disease.
  • Diabetes. Stress can make it hard to follow your diabetes treatment plan, which can lead to poor health. Stress also directly increases glucose levels, especially in people with type 2 diabetes.
  • Anxiety and depression. It's no surprise that ongoing stress can wear you down mentally, and if severe, lead to anxiety and depression.
  • Asthma. Stress does not cause asthma, but it can trigger asthma attacks and worsen symptoms.
  • Skin conditions. Stress can trigger or aggravate skin symptoms in people with psoriasis and eczema. Stress management may help control these conditions.
  • Stomach problems. No, stress does not cause ulcers. But it can worsen symptoms of ulcers and irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Acne. One large study confirmed what many teenagers already know: high levels of stress makes acne worse in teens.

Here's an action tip:

Stress doesn't cause infections, for that you still need a bacteria or a virus. But stress does interfere with your defenses to any disease. So workaholics beware, if you don't invest enough time and energy in building strong support at home, you may be headed for an avoidable illness. 

It’s also impossible to completely avoid stressful situations. But you can learn t manage the stress you do encounter:

  • Get enough sleep and eat a healthy diet. Get 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night so you have the energy to cope with stressful situations. Fill up and fuel your body with healthy choices rather than getting bogged down by high-fat comfort foods.
  • Nurture close relationships. Often, we don't appreciate how important friends and family can be for good health.
  • Learn to let go. Remember, the sky won't fall if you wait another day to do laundry, clean the bathrooms, or write that thank-you note.
  • Try new ways to relax. Some studies have found that yoga, meditation, and relaxation exercises may help reduce stress in people. Yoga will also help build strength and flexibility.
  • Get help if you need it. If you can't get seem to get relief from under stress and nothing seems to help, talk with your family physician or a counselor.

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Stress and Synthetic Fingernails

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Are you one of the thousands who use acrylic fingernails? Well, there are a few things you should know about them first.

An image of someone typing on a keyboard

For today's working woman, and increasingly, for today's working man, fingernails have become a cosmetic fashion point. With most people now working in front of keyboards, and with many driven to distractions such as chewing their fingernails,  more cases of broken or damaged nails are being seen. An easy way to fix the problem is to check-in for fake fingernails, which use acrylic in one form or another. Some are plastic nails glued with an acrylic adhesive, some are repaired by wrapping them in silk or linen, then bonding them to the nail plate with acrylic glue, and still others use various acrylate polymers which are then shaped or sculpted onto the surface of the fingernail plate. The problem is that there can be risks, and they are right at your fingertips.

Fake fingernails lengthen the nail plate, meaning greater leverage is applied to the nail beds. That is why longer nails break more often, and the real fingernail underneath can come away from its nail bed. Real fingernails are highly permeable to water, fake nails of course are not. This means that fingernails  made soggy through sweat or immersion cannot evaporate water through a fake nail that is adhered on top of it. This means the real nail has a greater chance of separating and becoming infected with bacteria and yeast. In some people, acrylic glues can cause a local allergic reaction with dermatitis or inflammation, infection, and even permanent fingernail loss. In addition, the common practice of sanding the fingernail surface before attaching the acrylic can damage the natural protective coating.

Sometimes a gap develops between the acrylic nail and the natural nail. If the acrylic fingernail is bumped or jarred, it can separate from the natural nail. This gap provides a moist, warm environment in which a nail infection can flourish. A fingernail infection might also occur if acrylic nails are too long or too rigid, or the nails are applied with unsanitary tools. If you develop a nail infection, your natural nail might become thick or ragged and appear discolored.

It's also possible to have an allergic reaction to components of acrylic nails or the adhesives used to apply them. This can result in redness, swelling and pain around the nail.

Here's an action tip:

Prevention is always the best technique in nail care. If you damage your fingernails  in housework, wear gloves. If you break them on keyboards, try keeping them trimmed a little shorter. If you chew your fingernails, why not save a step by simply chewing acrylic nails straight out of the box.

If you choose to have acrylic fingernails applied in a salon, take steps to minimize the risks:

  • Stick to salons that display a current state license, and work only with technicians also licensed by the state board.
  • Be wary if you notice fumes. A strong odor could be a sign that the salon is poorly ventilated.
  • Make sure your nail technician properly sterilizes all tools used during your treatment and washes his or her hands between customers.
  • Soak your fingernails in a fresh bowl of soapy water before treatment begins.
  • Don't allow your cuticles to be pushed back or trimmed. This can increase the risk of a fingernail infection.
  • Don't allow the surface of your natural nails to be filed or roughened before the acrylic nails are applied. This weakens your natural nails.
  • Request a new nail file — or consider bringing your own, since nail files can't be sterilized.

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Have a Glass of Red Wine to Relieve Stress and Fight Heart Disease and Cancer

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Do you drink an occasional glass of red wine in the evening after a stressful day at work? Are you also a bit confused about which foods are good for you and which ones to avoid? Well, its getting even more interesting now.

An image of glass of red wine

We've long known that dietary factors are being found by researchers to play a role in the prevention or cause of cancers. Edible items from fats to chewing tobacco have been implicated as cancer causing agents, while others such as fiber and some vitamins can offer protection. Well, add to the list of good dietary products: red wine, garlic, onions, and soy sauce, although please, not all at once.

Dr. Terrance Leighton, professor of microbiology at the University of California in Berkley, identified a substance called quercetin which is found in these foods and, ironically, can also be a carcinogen. However, he says that its power as an anticancer agent simply overwhelms its danger as a mutagen, or cancer causing one. Found in a wide variety of foods, quercetin is active in the micromolar range, in directly blocking the proliferation of cancer cells. In case you are not familiar with the micromolar range, try looking for it just this side of the Rocky Mountain range. Dr Leighton noted that Chinese who are on diets high in allium vegetables, such as onions and garlic, which have incredible levels of quercetin, have twenty times less cancer risk than those without these vegetables.

Meanwhile, Dr. Michael Pariza, director of the Food Research Institute at the University of Wisconsin reported that mice given a cancer-causing diet developed fewer tumors if they had soy sauce on their food. Mind you, what they don't tell you is that the salt in the soy sauce probably gave the mice swollen ankles, high blood pressure, heart failure, and kidney disease, but hey, this is only a cancer experiment.

Here's the news about red wine: in moderation, it has long been thought of as heart healthy. The alcohol and certain substances in red wine called antioxidants, such as flavonoids or a substance called resveratrol, have heart-healthy benefits and may help prevent heart disease by protecting against artery damage. Antioxidants in red wine called polyphenols may help protect the lining of blood vessels in your heart. A polyphenol called resveratrol is one substance in red wine that's gotten attention. Some research shows that resveratrol could be linked to a reduced risk of inflammation and blood clotting, both of which can lead to heart disease. 

The resveratrol in red wine comes from the skin of grapes used to make wine. Because red wine is fermented with grape skins longer than is white wine, red wine contains more resveratrol. Simply eating grapes, or drinking grape juice, has been suggested as one way to get resveratrol without drinking alcohol. Red and purple grape juices may have some of the same heart-healthy benefits of red wine.

Other foods that contain some resveratrol include peanuts, blueberries and cranberries. It's not yet known how beneficial eating grapes or other foods might be compared with drinking red wine when it comes to promoting heart health. The amount of resveratrol in food and red wine can vary widely.

While this update about red wine might sound great if you enjoy a glass of red wine with your evening meal, the medical community is wary of encouraging anyone to start drinking alcohol. That's because too much alcohol can have many harmful effects on your body.


Here's an action tip:
Medical research comes and goes, and foods that were the villains of yesterday can come back into favor. In the meantime, until we hear evidence to the contrary, it seems we can all sit back to a Chinese vegetable meal, have a glass of red wine, and take the medical news not with a grain of salt, but with a shake of soy.

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