Archive for April, 2015

I have COPD, how can I improve the quality of life?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have COPD. My doctor is great about prescribing medication, but he doesn't give me much other advice. So I'll ask you: What can I do to improve my quality of life?

DEAR READER: There's a lot you can do. And I have to admit that not all doctors are very good about telling you how your actions can protect your health. First, some basics. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) refers to a group of disorders that damage the lungs and make breathing increasingly difficult. Common symptoms include a mucus-producing cough, breathlessness, rapid breathing, wheezing, tightness in the chest and fatigue.

Does stretching help relieve arthritis pain?

DEAR DOCTOR K: Will stretching exercises help to relieve my arthritis pain?

DEAR READER: Yes, they will. That may seem strange. After all, arthritis affects the joints -- the ends of two adjacent bones and the space between them. In contrast, stretching involves muscles. But the joints and the muscles around those joints are intimately connected. A joint with arthritis hurts when it is asked to move. It is the muscles that move the bones that form a joint. When movement is painful, as it so often is for people with arthritis, it's natural to limit movement. For example, if you straighten a leg, and feel pain owing to arthritis in a knee, you'll tend to keep that knee bent.

What is borderline personality disorder?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My daughter is in her 20s. She had a hard time during her teenage years and was recently diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. Can you tell me what this is?

DEAR READER: Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a mental health condition that involves poor self-image, a feeling of emptiness and great difficulty being alone. BPD is surprisingly common: About 6 percent of the U.S. population suffers from it at some point in their lifetime. People with BPD have intense moods and unstable relationships. They can be impulsive and have unsafe sex, drive dangerously, eat too much, drink too much and squander money.

Could you share some ideas for a healthy, balanced breakfast?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm trying to eat better, but breakfast has me stumped. Could you share some ideas for a healthy, balanced breakfast?

DEAR READER: Eating a small, nutritious breakfast is a great way to jump-start the day. Yet many people skip breakfast because they are in a rush, aren't hungry or are trying to cut calories. That's a mistake because eating a healthful breakfast has benefits. Studies suggest that eating breakfast regularly can reduce the risk of high cholesterol and decrease insulin resistance.

Are ready-made toddler foods unhealthy?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I buy lots of ready-made infant and toddler foods for my little one. A friend told me I should make my own foods for my son at home. Are ready-made toddler foods unhealthy?

DEAR READER: Eating salty, sugary foods in childhood can set the stage for childhood obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. Therefore, you might assume that foods created for infants and toddlers would be low in salt and sugar.

How can I recover quickly from a knee replacement?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm having knee replacement surgery next month. What can I do to speed my recovery and get back on my feet as quickly as possible?

DEAR READER: I'm glad you asked, because you are very important in making the outcome of your surgery completely successful. A knee replacement is major surgery. During the procedure, the surgeon removes damaged sections of your shin bone and thigh bone. He or she cuts the bone to precisely fit the shape of the replacement implant, then attaches the artificial joint at the knee.

Is there a “correct” way to walk in order to reduce the risk of injury?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'd like to start walking more for exercise. Is there a "correct" way to walk in order to reduce the risk of injury?

DEAR READER: Walking comes so naturally to most of us that we may not even give a second thought to proper walking technique. But bad walking habits can lead to a host of problems. What could be more natural than walking? We've been doing it since we were toddlers. It is natural, but in fact a complex series of things happens when we walk. First, your heel touches the ground, absorbing the impact of your weight. As the rest of your foot reaches the ground, your weight shifts forward to the ball of your foot and your toes.

What can I do to minimize the mold in my home?

DEAR DOCTOR K: We just found out that my son is extremely allergic to mold. What can I do to minimize the mold in my home?

DEAR READER: Even if your son is getting allergy shots or taking medications, the best way to control his allergy is to reduce his exposure to mold. Mold, along with mildew and yeasts, are the spores of fungi. Spores are very light and travel in the air. Because spores are capable of surviving in dry, unpleasant conditions, they can live a long time. But they especially thrive in damp, warm environments.

I take low-dose aspirin to prevent a heart attack. Do I need to worry about bleeding risks?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I had a heart attack several years ago. I have been taking low-dose aspirin ever since to prevent a second one. Do I need to worry about bleeding risks?

DEAR READER: Every medicine contains risks as well as benefits. The question with any medicine is: Do the benefits outweigh the risks? Aspirin helps prevent repeat heart attacks in two ways. A heart attack occurs when the flow of blood through one of the heart's arteries is blocked.

Restore sex drive by changing dose or kind of depression medication.

DEAR DOCTOR K: Last year I started taking an SSRI for depression. It has done wonders for my mood -- but it has really dampened my sex drive. Any suggestions?

DEAR READER: Since depression is so common, and since SSRIs are often used to treat depression, I've known many people who share your problem. Fortunately, there are several options that often help people restore their sexual desire and function. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are currently the most commonly prescribed antidepressants.