Archive for January, 2014

Are there symptoms that show heart failure becoming worse?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My doctor says I have heart failure. Are there symptoms I should be looking out for that would indicate my condition is getting worse?

DEAR READER: The term "heart failure" is often misunderstood. People think it means their heart is going to suddenly stop pumping. When that happens, that's not "heart failure"; it's a cardiac arrest -- and it's fatal unless the heart can be restarted.

Are there any foods that don’t belong in a healthy diet?

DEAR DOCTOR K: Are there any foods that don't belong in a healthy diet?

DEAR READER: There sure are -- and like me, you probably eat them now and then. You've heard me say it before: Unhealthy foods are not like poison, where you swallow and then die. They become unhealthy when you have them regularly. An occasional hot fudge sundae won't kill you -- if it did, I wouldn't be here. But a hot fudge sundae every evening is a bad idea.

How important is cardiac rehab after a heart attack?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My father recently had a heart attack. His doctor recommended cardiac rehab, but he refuses to go because he "already has a gym membership." How important is cardiac rehab?

DEAR READER: Cardiac rehabilitation is a safe, proven way to reduce risk factors for heart disease. Dr. Daniel Forman, director of the exercise testing lab at Brigham and Women's Hospital and assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, feels strongly about the subject. He says that for reducing deaths and increasing quality of life, cardiac rehab exceeds any pill or procedure.

What do I need to know if my 9-month-old has another seizure due to a high fever?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My 9-month-old daughter had a seizure last time she had a high fever. The pediatrician said it could happen again. What do I need to know?

DEAR READER: The medical term for what your daughter experienced is febrile seizure. I was taught that febrile seizures are caused by a high fever or a sudden rise in body temperature. The effect of the higher body temperature makes the brain "irritable" and causes a seizure. But in the last few years, we've learned it may be more complicated than that.

Should I be managing my several medications?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm in my 70s. Like many women my age, I'm on several medications. Should I be actively managing them? Or can I leave that to my doctor?

DEAR READER: Many older adults are on a number of medications, prescribed to treat different health conditions. Yet each medication you take has the potential to interact -- sometimes dangerously -- with another. And if you see specialists for various health conditions, your medications may be prescribed by several different doctors.

Is it true that eating late makes you gain weight?

DEAR DOCTOR K: Is it true that eating late makes you gain weight?

DEAR READER: I'd heard the same thing for decades, but I wasn't sure it was true. I had to do some research to answer your question. Several recent studies have looked into this question. The results were not unanimous, but most studies show that eating late in the day does contribute to weight gain and other health problems.

What does it mean if you have elevated eye pressure?

DEAR DOCTOR K: At my last appointment, my ophthalmologist mentioned something about elevated eye pressure. What could this mean?

DEAR READER: Elevated eye pressure is often -- but not always -- associated with glaucoma. Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that cause vision loss by damaging the optic nerve, which transmits visual information from the eye to the brain.

Why do some scars last while others fade over time?

DEAR DOCTOR K: How and why does a scar form after injury or surgery? Why do some scars last, while others fade over time?

DEAR READER: It's actually amazing how few scars most people have despite a lifetime of injuries to the skin. Skin heals in a remarkably complicated process. When you cut yourself (or a surgeon makes an incision), three processes take place in roughly the following order, although they often overlap.

Any suggestions for making my deli sandwiches healthier?

DEAR DOCTOR K: A deli sandwich is my go-to lunch most days of the week. Any suggestions for making my sandwiches healthier?

DEAR READER: If your sandwiches are like those most people eat, the question is not whether I can suggest healthier sandwiches; it's whether I can suggest sandwiches that are less unhealthy. Sandwich shops can be a convenient lunchtime choice. The downside? Many deli sandwiches are made with cured and processed meats that have been linked to higher rates of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and colon cancer.

Will exercising really boost my energy?

DEAR DOCTOR K: When I'm tired, the last thing I want to do is exercise. But my wife says that exercising will actually boost my energy. Is she right?

DEAR READER: Listen to your wife. It may sound strange, but in order to get more energy, you have to do the very thing you don't feel you have enough energy to do: exercise. There are at least four ways that regular exercise makes you feel more energetic.