Archive for March, 2014

Does “mindfulness meditation” really help relieve stress and anxiety?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I've heard a lot about "mindfulness meditation." Does it really help relieve stress and anxiety?

DEAR READER: Mindfulness meditation has become quite popular in recent years. The practice involves bringing your mind's attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future. Many people practice it hoping to stave off stress and stress-related health problems.

What does positive reading on a Mantoux test mean?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My 6-year-old just had a positive reading on her Mantoux test. What does this mean?

DEAR READER: Doctors perform a Mantoux test to see if someone may have been exposed to bacteria that cause tuberculosis (TB). TB is a bacterial infection that typically infects the lungs. Fortunately, in most people exposed to the bacteria, TB never develops.

Which type of tea has the most health benefits?

DEAR DOCTOR K: Is drinking tea good for my health? Which type has the most health benefits?

DEAR READER: Several studies have touted the health benefits of tea, but the benefits of particular foods or drinks are hard to prove. The most persuasive type of study to prove that any practice has health benefits is a randomized trial. When I say "practice," I mean a medicine, a surgical procedure, a particular food or exercise routine -- any practice designed in part to improve your health.

Are there risks of taking a daily aspirin to reduce the risk of a heart attack or stroke?

DEAR DOCTOR K: What are the risks of taking a daily aspirin to reduce the risk of a heart attack or stroke?

DEAR READER: I didn't have to do much homework on this one, because I take a daily aspirin and already know the answer. It was front-page news in 1988 when colleagues of mine at Harvard Medical School reported the results of a randomized trial that found that a daily aspirin protected against heart disease. A simple, cheap, over-the-counter pill could protect against the No. 1 cause of premature death: heart disease (specifically, atherosclerosis of the arteries of the heart)? It seemed too good to be true.

As a longtime smoker should I be screened for lung cancer?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm a longtime smoker. Do I need to be screened for lung cancer even if I don't have any symptoms?

DEAR READER: Until recently, my answer would have been "no." In the not-too-distant past, screening of people without symptoms -- even smokers who were at high risk -- was judged useless for lung cancer. That's because screening for lung cancer involved using standard chest X-rays, and they produced too many "false positive" results: They identified "spots" in the lungs that were harmless.

What replacement lenses should I chose after cataract surgery?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm having cataract surgery in a few weeks. There are so many options for replacement lenses. Which one should I choose?

DEAR READER: I can't tell you which you should choose, since I don't know the specifics of your cataract. But I can suggest how you should think about several options that your ophthalmologist is likely to discuss with you.

Do I need a tetanus shot if I cut my finger on an old nail?

DEAR DOCTOR K: Earlier today I cut my finger on an old nail while doing a home improvement project. Do I need a tetanus shot? How soon?

DEAR READER: My advice is: Better safe than sorry. And getting tetanus will make anyone very sorry. I recommend that you contact your doctor immediately. This is especially true if the nail broke through your skin, and you are not sure when you had your last tetanus booster shot.

What is the latest treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome?

DEAR DOCTOR K:I have CFS. What is the latest information about the condition, particularly treatments?

DEAR READER: For readers who are not familiar with the condition, CFS stands for chronic fatigue syndrome. Fatigue is a universal human experience. In our increasingly pressured and fast-paced lives, many people feel tired a lot of the time. In fact, fatigue is one of the most common reasons people visit their doctor. Yet very few people with fatigue are suffering from CFS.

What do the new blood pressure guidelines mean for the 65+ age group?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm 68 years old and I take blood-pressure lowering medication. What do the new blood pressure guidelines mean for people of my age?

DEAR READER: You're asking about new guidelines for managing high blood pressure, or hypertension, in adults. They were published recently by an expert panel of specialists in high blood pressure.

I’m a 52-year-old man — What causes a stinging sensation and dripping after I urinate?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I am a 52-year-old man. When I finish urinating, I drip much more then I used to. And I have a stinging sensation in my urethra. What could cause this?

DEAR READER: What you're experiencing is a very common complaint. As we age, several things happen. One is some enlargement of the prostate gland. This is called benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH. Your doctor can perform a digital rectal exam to assess the size and texture of your prostate gland.