Archive for February, 2014

What are trans fats and why are they bad for me?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I see trans fats listed on food labels, and I've read that the FDA may ban them. Can you remind me what trans fats are, and why they're bad for me?

DEAR READER: Trans fats are a type of unsaturated fat. Once upon a time, we consumed only small amounts of naturally occurring trans fats in some meat and dairy products. But by the end of the 20th century, trans fats were everywhere. That's because chemists discovered that they could turn liquid vegetable oil into a solid or semi-solid by bubbling hydrogen gas through it (think margarine). When hydrogen is bubbled through liquid oils, they are called "partially hydrogenated" oils, or trans fats.

Do I have colon cancer if my doctor found a polyp during my colonoscopy?

DEAR DOCTOR K: During a screening colonoscopy, my doctor found a polyp in my colon. Does this mean I have cancer?

DEAR READER: Colon polyps are common, non-cancerous growths of tissue inside the colon, or large intestine. Some of them are benign. However, other colon polyps can progress into colon cancer. These are called adenomatous polyps.

Can you still have symptoms of Lyme disease after you’ve completed your treatment?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My neighbor was diagnosed with Lyme disease. Why does he still have symptoms, even though he has completed his treatment?

DEAR READER: The great majority of people diagnosed with Lyme disease, and properly treated, are cured. However, there are some people like your neighbor, who are never fully cured, and we do not understand why proper diagnosis and treatment does not always lead to the elimination of suffering. Here's what we do know. Lyme disease is an infection caused by bacteria that are transmitted through tick bites.

What are the best ergonomics to help reduce my neck pain while at my desk?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I spend most of my day at my desk. Can you describe the correct ergonomics to help reduce my neck pain?

DEAR READER: I'm glad you asked, because I've spent all of this day writing my columns, and my neck hurts. I'm not very good at following the advice I'm about to give you. For readers not familiar with the term, "ergonomics" is the science of using our bodies (primarily bones and muscles) for a particular task in the safest and most efficient way. It teaches us about how best to arrange our homes and workplaces.

I can’t sleep because I keep waking up to urinate– What can I do?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm an older woman in good health, but I can't get a good night's sleep because I keep waking up to go to the bathroom. What can I do?

DEAR READER: "Nocturia" is the medical term for the need to get up frequently to urinate during the night. It's a common cause of sleep loss, especially among older adults. In severe cases, a person may get up as many as five or six times during the night. This can lead to sleep deprivation and daytime fatigue.

Can you explain what will happen during LASIK eye surgery?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I've just scheduled LASIK surgery. Can you explain what will happen during the procedure?

DEAR READER: To understand LASIK surgery, you first need to know a few things about the eye and what it does. Basically, your eye is like a camera: It focuses the light coming into it to make a sharp image. That image then is captured on a kind of film (or, in digital cameras, a sensor).

What do I need to do to lower my cholesterol?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My cholesterol has always been fine, but recently it's started to rise, though not high enough for medication. What do I need to do?

DEAR READER: There are several ways you can lower your cholesterol besides taking medicine. They involve cholesterol-friendly lifestyle changes: dietary modifications and regular exercise. Start with your diet. First, let's consider fats. The types of fat you eat are as important as the amounts you eat. Most animal and dairy fats are full of unhealthy saturated fats, which raise cholesterol levels.

Do I need to give up snacking on nuts since they’re high in fat?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I love to snack on nuts, but they're high in fat. Do I need to give them up?

DEAR READER: You most certainly do not need to give up your beloved snack. They are a very healthy food if taken in moderation. I always loved to eat nuts as a kid, but I kept hearing that they were full of fat -- and that fat was bad. But as we've discussed before, there are "good fats" and "bad fats." You need to eat the good fats, and nuts are full of them.

I’m a man– Why are my breasts suddenly bigger?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm a man. Why are my breasts suddenly getting bigger?

DEAR READER: Everything that happens to a woman's breasts can also happen to a man's breasts, including cancer. Enlargement of a man's breast is known as gynecomastia (guy-ni-co-MAST-ia). It is usually harmless and is often reversible. It's an oversimplification, but basically a breast is filled with breast glands and fat.

What are exercises that will help with my stiff hands?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm bothered by pain and stiffness in my hands. It's nothing significant, but enough to interfere with some tasks. Are there any exercises that might help?

DEAR READER: You never realize how many different and essential things you do with your hands until something happens to them. Pain, stiffness or swollen joints can transform even a simple task into a painful ordeal. And millions of people have problems using their hands. Fortunately, the right exercises may help. Start by asking your doctor if you should work with a hand therapist -- an occupational or physical therapist who has specialized education and training in hand rehabilitation.