How do you treat anemia?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My teenage daughter recently learned that she has iron deficiency and anemia. Why would her iron be low? What is the treatment?

DEAR READER: Anemia means that the blood does not have enough red blood cells. These cells carry oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. There are many kinds of anemia. In the United States, iron-deficiency anemia is the most common; it occurs when the body does not have enough iron to make red blood cells.

What is a left bundle branch block?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I recently had an ECG that showed that I have a "left bundle branch block." What does this mean?

DEAR READER: When your heart beats, it does so in response to electrical signals. Your heart muscle is crisscrossed by a network of electrical pathways. A bundle branch block is caused by an abnormality in one of those pathways. The electrical signals that orchestrate each heartbeat work this way.

Does stress make us age faster?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I recently heard that studies are showing that stress makes us age faster. Is there anything to that?

DEAR READER: I'll bet you are referring to studies about the effects of ongoing stress on our cells. Each of us is a collection of 13 trillion cells. Anything that causes our cells to age causes us to age. And chronic stress does cause our cells to age faster.

What can I do about swollen legs and ankles?

DEAR DOCTOR K: Why are my legs and ankles swollen? What can I do about it?

DEAR READER: In yesterday's column, I answered the first part of your question. I explained the different causes of leg and ankle swelling (edema) -- some not serious, and others very serious. Today I'll explain what your doctor needs to do to diagnose the cause of the edema, and what you and your doctor can do to reduce the swelling.

Why are my legs and ankles swollen?

DEAR DOCTOR K: Why are my legs and ankles swollen?

DEAR READER: Swelling of the legs from a buildup of extra fluid is known as edema. In addition to the swelling, the skin above the swollen area is stretched and shiny. Your doctor can easily check for edema by gently pressing a finger over your foot, ankle or leg with slow, steady pressure. If you have edema, you will see an indentation where the doctor pressed.

What happens during a root canal?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have to have a root canal. What will happen during this procedure?

DEAR READER: You brush your teeth twice a day, but you probably don't know their inner workings. Every tooth has roots that anchor it to the jawbone. Inside the body of the tooth and inside its roots is a hollow central chamber, or canal. And inside that hollow chamber is an inner pulp containing a network of nerves, blood vessels and tissues.

Does estrogen therapy increase the risk for heart problems?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm 68 years old and have been on low-dose estrogen therapy since I had a hysterectomy (and started menopause) at age 50. My doctor won't prescribe it anymore because he says it increases my risk of heart problems. Is that true?

DEAR READER: The effect of hormone therapy on the heart is a controversial area. Hormone therapy usually involves "combination therapy," with both estrogens (the main female hormones) and progestins (other important female hormones). Estrogen helps reduce symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes. Progestin reduces the risk of cancer of the uterus.

Why should I cut back on my heartburn medication?

DEAR DOCTOR K: For years I've been taking a PPI twice a day for heartburn. My doctor wants me to cut back, or stop altogether. But the idea frightens me. Do you think it's possible?

DEAR READER: To anyone tormented by frequent heartburn, not taking your daily tablet -- or tablets -- of omeprazole (Prilosec) or lansoprazole (Prevacid) might seem like a scary idea. These and similar drugs, known as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), are the foundation of treatment for heartburn, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Should I stretch before or after I exercise?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I've been running for years and have always stretched before my morning run. Now I hear that I shouldn't stretch first. Why not?

DEAR READER: You should stretch before your run -- but perhaps not the types of stretches you've been doing. Static stretches are what most people have traditionally done, both before and after exercise. Static stretches involve adopting and holding a position that stretches a muscle or group of muscles.

How does Botox reduces lines and wrinkles?

DEAR DOCTOR K: Can you explain how Botox reduces lines and wrinkles?

DEAR READER: "Botox" is short for "botulinum toxin." Botulinum toxin injections were first used for cosmetic purposes in the late 1980s. Since then, this therapy has gained quite a following. In 2012, these injections were the leading nonsurgical cosmetic procedure in the United States among men and women in nearly all age groups.