Archive for February, 2013

How can I make sure to get regular exercise?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I know I should exercise regularly, but I just can't get motivated. Do you have any suggestions?

DEAR READER: Practically everyone has heard that exercise is good for you. But not many people know just how good it is for you. For example, did you know that walking briskly for 30 minutes, at least five times a week, can do more to reduce your risk of getting diabetes than any medicine yet invented? It cuts your risk of diabetes in half.

Do I have a drinking problem?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I started drinking more during the holidays. It seemed natural, as there were so many parties and happy hours. But the holidays are long over, and I haven't cut back. Could I have a problem?

DEAR READER: You ask a difficult question. What constitutes "healthy" versus "harmful" drinking can vary quite a bit from person to person. So where is the line between social drinking and problem drinking? Does drinking every day or drinking a certain amount indicate a problem?

How long should I wait to fly after scuba diving?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm planning a diving vacation. A friend told me it's not safe to fly within 24 hours of diving. Why not?

DEAR READER: I'm not a diver myself, so I had to do some research to answer your question. The concern with flying soon after diving (or rising too quickly to the surface of the water after a deep dive) is something called decompression sickness. It's also known as "the bends."

What are some good exercises to strengthen my back?

DEAR DOCTOR K: Every few months I throw out my back. Are there any exercises I can do to strengthen my back and prevent this from happening?

DEAR READER: Exercise is a great way to prevent repeat episodes of low back pain. The right exercise program will help you build strong, flexible muscles that will be less prone to injury.

Why is abdominal fat bad?

DEAR DOCTOR K: Why is abdominal fat worse for your health than fat around the hips and thighs?

DEAR READER: When it comes to body fat, location counts. Fat above the waist (the "apple" shape) is much more dangerous than fat in the butt and thighs (the "pear" shape). In most people, about 90 percent of body fat lies in a layer just beneath the skin. The remaining 10 percent -- called visceral fat -- lies out of reach, deep within your abdomen.

Does endometriosis affect fertility?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have endometriosis. Could this affect my fertility?

DEAR READER: Endometriosis can affect fertility -- but not in every case. Let me explain. Endometrial tissue is the inner lining of the uterus. Normally, that's the only place in the body where it grows. However, with endometriosis, the same type of tissue also grows where it shouldn't -- in places outside the uterus.

Do epidural injections help with sciatica?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have terrible pain from sciatica. Will epidural injections help?

DEAR READER: I wish I had a definite and non-controversial answer. But as with so many areas of medicine, not every study of that question comes up with the same answer. Some say "yes" and some say "no" -- for the average patient in the study.

How does Pradaxa compare with warfarin?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My wife has atrial fibrillation. Her medication was recently changed from warfarin to Pradaxa. Her doctor says the new medicine does not require regular INR tests and is just as effective. Is that so?

DEAR READER: Yes, it is. Before I explain why, let me provide some background. In people with atrial fibrillation, the upper chambers of the heart (the atria) lose that strong beating action that keeps the blood moving efficiently. As a result, blood tends to pool in the atria. When it does, clots are more likely to form.

How can I reduce my risk of osteoporosis?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm a woman in my 40s. Both my mother and grandmother had osteoporosis. What can I do now and in the coming decades to reduce my risk?

DEAR READER: All people lose bone as they age. For women, that process starts to accelerate when they enter menopause. One important reason for that is the lower level of estrogen in a woman's body after menopause begins, as estrogen helps to build bone. Osteoporosis is not inevitable, and there's much you can do to shield your bones from this disease.

Is my teenager’s anger normal?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My 19-year-old son is always angry. Is this a normal developmental stage, or should I be concerned?

DEAR READER: The late teenage years are tough. Childhood is over. The protection offered by home and parents will soon end. Teens know that they will have to make it on their own in the world. Becoming a part of the society of teens around them is very important. Plus there are big challenges ahead: starting college, entering the work force, living away from home for the first time. So it's not at all uncommon for teens to be moody, and that includes periodic outbursts of anger that they didn't have when they were younger.