Friday, July 27, 2007

A weighty issue

With the latest news about people’s weight being affected by the company they keep and this newest article on some teen-agers with diabetes manipulating their insulin dosages to manage their weight, it feels as if this whole weight issue has gotten out of control. We’ve known for quite a while that many people go through dangerous measures to keep their weight under control, but when I read of the insulin manipulation, I was surprised to realize I wasn’t surprised – if that makes sense.

What do we have to do to stop girls (mostly) from doing these things to themselves? I look at photos of high-end models and they look so unnatural to me. Why would anyone want to look like that? It’s not appealing, it’s not sexy, it’s not natural. This isn’t the same thing as anorexia nervosa – that’s an illness, but the obsession with being so thin, with looking so thin. I just don’t get it.

News for Today:
Dangerous Eating Disorder Trend Emerging Among Diabetics
Cannabis smokers ‘are taking huge risk of psychotic illness’
Diabetes drugs increase risk of heart failure, research shows
Prescribing of antibiotics to children still at a level to cause drug resistance, warn experts
Physical health problems often accompany PTSD

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Broken hips in the elderly can lead to death

Yesterday, I posted a link to a story about hip protectors not reducing the number of broken hips among seniors in nursing homes. According to the National Center for Health Statistics; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2003 National Hospital Discharge Survey, there were about 345,000 hospitalizations of elderly men and women in the US during 2003. Statistics show that only 1 of 4 patients recovers completely and nearly 1 in 4 will die within a year of the fracture because of complications.

Broken hips among the elderly is a serious problem. What makes it such a problem is not the broken hip itself, but all the issues that surround it.

Picture this: a healthy 75-year-old, walks daily, is fully independent at home and is happy with her life. She visits her grandchildren and volunteers in her community. One morning, she slips on the stairs, falls, and breaks her hip. She’s brought to the emergency, where she waits to be seen. The doctors admit her so they can operate and replace the broken part.

While waiting, she can’t move, she can’t go to the bathroom without help. Her pain level is sky-high. So, this previously active woman is now lying in bed, completely dependent on others to help her.

She has her surgery and works on recovery. However, her bedrest has led to pneumonia (How Can You Die from Pneumonia?), or because she couldn’t urinate in a bedpan, she was catheterized and may develop a urinary tract infection.

She has little appetite because she isn’t moving around, has pain, there’s no-one to help her, and/or doesn’t like the food. The lack of appetite makes her lose weight and get weaker.

She could develop confusion from the pain, the different medications she’s given, or an infection. The hip may not heal, causing further problems. And the list goes on.

While these scenarios are all maybes and perhaps, they happen and they happen often. To the point that this once healthy, active person is now dependent on others and may not be able to live alone again. According to the American Geriatrics Society Foundation for Health in Aging, for seniors the risk of death in the year following a hip fracture is as high as 20% to 25%. The rate varies depending on the person’s sex, age, race, physical condition, and previous medical history.

Women are more prone to breaking a hip, 2 to 3 times more often than men. Hip fracture rate doubles every 5 years or so after the age of 50 years. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons reports that white, post-menopausal women have a 1 in 7 chance of fracturing a hip, and that almost half of women who react the age of 90 years fractured a hip.

What can be done to protect our seniors? Prevention is pretty well the only thing that will help. Wherever an older person lives, the environment has to be as fall-proof as possible.

While falling from dizziness or illness happens, most falls happen as accidents. The American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons offers this page with many tips for seniors to reduce their risk of falls. Some tips include not getting out of bed as soon as they wake up, but to sit on the side of the bed and wait for a moment to make sure their blood pressure doesn’t drop and don’t leave clothes or newspapers on the floor.

I often add other tips such as, no scatter rugs – they are dangerous for slipping. Make sure all electrical cords are tucked away and not where they can be a cause of a trip. If there are runners on the stairs, make sure they’re fastened down well. And, make sure that slippers or shoes have good tread and grip on the floor to prevent slipping.

Since women with osteoporosis have a higher chance of breaking a hip, getting regular check ups, taking medications if prescribed, doing weight-bearing exercises, all help prevent bone mass loss, reducing the risk of a hip fracture.

As the population ages, more hips are going to break. We need to be vigilant and try to prevent as many of them as possible.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Another day, another topic

I received a couple interesting emails over the past few weeks. One person was curious about why I picked the subjects I do and someone else wanted to know why I write a blog on health-related (mostly) information and does anyone really care about such a topic on a daily basis?

I’ll answer the second question first. I get some hits every day. I get people who come and look, and never come back, but I also have some readers who come back often, some as often as every day. I like to think that they care. Of course, I’d love it if the blog was so popular that I received hundreds of hits a day, but I write my blog because I want to. To be honest though, part of it is also for marketing. With my medical and health writing, much of it is very professional or official. Many of my projects that are more casual, for the general public, aren’t readily available to provide as clips, so I like to tell potential clients to visit my more casual style of writing in my blog. I think it gives them a good idea of how my writing can change to suit the audience.

The first question doesn’t really have an set answer. I often choose my topic from something that I read in the news or a link I added to my “News for Today” (or Today’s news, whatever I feel like calling it at the moment). For instance, there are several interesting bits today that I will probably use over the next few days. I like the story on hip protectors and the elderly because broken bones among our seniors is a huge problem. But the NY diabetes story is big, in my opinion. Then again, so is the mammography one and so is the prostate cancer one. So, whichever one feels my particular need of the day is the one that might be chosen.

Other topics depend on the mood I’m in. The day I wrote about my brother’s suicide, I had been reading a few things on depression on suicide and he was really on my mind. Writing about letting kids take chances is something that’s long been on my mind. I went for a walk the other evening and during my 25-minute walk in suburbia in the early evening when it was still light out. My husband and I did not see *1* child or teen-ager outside. That bothered me a lot. It was too quiet. There were no street hockey games, no basketball being played, no cycling, no skateboarding. There was no laughing or playing coming from back yards, there were no pool splashes to be heard. It was dead calm, dead quiet.

Or, sometimes, I just choose to write about something totally different. My greyhound has disc problems in his neck that may require surgery – I have a disc problem in my lower back. Might have a blog entry there comparing the two of us. Who knows?

Why do most people write blogs? Some write to use it as their journal, others because they have a passion for a topic.

If this blog can get some interest in health issues, great. If it can help me get some more work as a medical/health writer, great. If it’s just something that I enjoy doing for as long as I feel like doing, that’s great too. And if you enjoy reading these, just let me know. Then I don’t feel like I’m whistling in the dark in an empty room. Although I can’t whistle. Never could. Tried many times…

News for Today:
Use of hip protector does not reduce risk of hip fracture for nursing home residents
New diabetes report documents devastating effects in New York City
Success rates for prostate cancer depend on experience of surgeon
Additional mammogram readers improve breast cancer detection
Three Contraceptive Implants Prevent Pregnancy Equally Well

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Sunshine can be our friend

Multiple sclerosis, a disease that affects the central nervous system, has been puzzling researchers for a while, especially because it seems to occur more in northern countries than more southerly ones. In fact, according to the MS Society of Canada has the highest rates of MS in the world. Newest research published in the July 24 issue of Neurology is backing up theories that sunlight plays a role in the development – or prevention of MS. Interestingly, Caucasians have a higher rate of MS than do people of colour or Natives.

MS strikes people in the prime of their lives, particularly women in their 20s and 30s. Although it can affect people who are younger and older, the fact that it hits primarily in the late 20s and 30s and that it happens 50% more often in women, means many young mothers fall into this category.

Symptoms of MS include muscle weakness and/or spasms, problems with balance and coordination, fatigue, among others. Usually, the signs come on slowly so most people brush them off, thinking that they are just tired or under the weather.

MS can be slow to progress, with many remissions or periods where there are no symptoms or increase in symptoms, or it can progress quickly.

What caught my eye about the press release about sunshine and MS is the news that came out recently about the rising rate of rickets among children. When my children were born, I was against them getting a “good tan,” but I also felt that they needed to get out in the sun for some healthy doses of sunshine. After all, humans have been living with the sun for thousands of years – it can’t be all bad. I believe that we, as a society, tend to over-react to certain types of medical and health findings. We hear that something may be bad for us, so we eliminate it completely or we hear that it’s good for us, so we embrace it whole-heartedly. There has to be a happy medium. Of course, I’m not advocating an occasional snack of hemlock or digoxin, but we really have to be more reasonable in our approach of how we take care of ourselves and how we approach life. At least, that’s what I’m trying to teach my children.

News for today:
Childhood sun exposure may lower risk of MS
Antioxidants may protect against knee arthritis
Group Therapy Doesn't Extend Life in Breast Cancer
Sperm banking before treatment preserves fertility in young male cancer patients
Poor health literacy associated with increased mortality in the elderly

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Patient + Doctor = Healthcare team

When you go visit your doctor, do you know ahead of time what questions to ask and what topics you want to be certain are discussed? Many of us go in to a doctor’s office thinking we know what we want to discuss but after we leave, we think “Shoot, I forgot to mention [insert the blank].”

Learning how to talk to healthcare professionals is an important aspect to taking control of your own health. Doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals know how to do their jobs, but they don’t know you. If you don’t talk to them about your concerns, your worries, your thoughts, they can’t help you and may think that everything is just fine.

In this day and age of medical care, it’s easy to feel as if you’re being rushed through an appointment and, quite honestly, sometimes you are. But as a healthcare consumer, you can also slow things down if you’re feeling rushed. In all fairness to the doctors, sometimes they don’t even realize they’re doing it because they have so many things on their plate.

When I worked in the hospital, I often had patients who were asking me questions just moments after the doctor had been in to visit. When I asked why they hadn’t discussed this with their doctor, they would often respond that they forgot when he or she was in the room. Whenever I did patient teaching in the hospital or discharge counseling, I always said to my patients, anything time they thought of something to ask the doctor, write it down. Keep a notebook in your purse, on your desk, at your bedside, and write down your worries and your concerns. And then most importantly, bring these notes with you and use them.

Learn as much as you can about your illness or injury. Ask the nurse what the different pills are as you are given them to take, ask the doctor why the pills are prescribed, as the physiotherapist why a certain exercise will help your therapy. You need to work together as a team and the only way that will happen is with good communication between you and the other team members.

News for today:
Coaching for Doctor Office Visits Helps Patients Ask Right Questions
23 Children Visit An Ontario ER Daily Due To Playground Injuries, Canada
Teens Harming Themselves At Rates Higher Than Previously Suspected
Advice, Devices Ineffective in Preventing Worker Back Pain
Exelon® Skin Patch Recommended For European Approval, The First Use Of This New Technology To Treat Patients With Alzheimer's Disease