Archive for September, 2012

Is it possible to take too many vitamins?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I take vitamin and mineral supplements. Do I need to worry about getting too much of certain nutrients?

DEAR READER: Many people take individual vitamin and mineral supplements in addition to a powerful multivitamin. But ingesting too much of certain micronutrients can be dangerous.

Could a pet make my kids sick?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My children want a pet, but I'm worried a pet could make my kids sick. Should I bring a pet into the home?

DEAR READER: Pets can make us sick, but that's a reason to take precautions -- not a reason to avoid having pets. Pets make wonderful playmates, keep kids physically active and teach responsibility.

Should I have an advance directive?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I've been very ill and have been hospitalized several times in the past year. I don't have a fatal disease, just a chronic illness. Should I have an advance directive? Can you tell me about it?

DEAR READER: What if you suddenly get very sick, due to accident or illness, and cannot communicate what type of medical care you want to receive? Advance directives are legally binding documents that allow you to control how you are treated if and when you can't speak for yourself.

What is carbon monoxide?

DEAR DOCTOR K: What is carbon monoxide? And why do I need carbon monoxide monitors in my house?

DEAR READER: Carbon monoxide is a tasteless, colorless, odorless gas. It sounds harmless, but breathing it in can cause carbon monoxide poisoning, which can be fatal.

What are the symptoms of hypoglycemia?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I take several medications for Type 2 diabetes. How can I tell if I'm becoming hypoglycemic? And what should I do if I am?

DEAR READER: Like you, many people with diabetes take medications to avoid high blood sugar. The medicines are very effective in preventing or lowering high blood sugar levels.

How can I make my fingernails stronger?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My fingernails chip and split a lot. Is there anything I can do to make them stronger? I've heard eating gelatin can help.

DEAR READER: Misconceptions about fingernails are common, and so are remedies claiming to make your nails better. But like it or not, there's relatively little you can do to change the overall health of your nails.

What is a hiatal hernia?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I had heartburn, and my doctor told me I have a "hiatal hernia." I thought hernias caused pain and swelling in the groin. Could my doctor be wrong?

DEAR READER: Any doctor's diagnosis can be wrong, present company included. Of course, I can't know for sure if your doctor's diagnosis is right, but I'll bet it is.

What is a carotid endarterectomy?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I had a mild ischemic stroke. Now my doctor wants to do a carotid endarterectomy. Is this necessary?

DEAR READER: It might be necessary, but I don't know enough about your case to say for sure. As I explain what an ischemic stroke is, and what a carotid endarterectomy is and when it is valuable, I hope you'll be able to tell if you could benefit.

What is the difference between soluble and insoluble fiber?

DEAR DOCTOR K: Can you explain the difference between soluble and insoluble fiber? Are both good for your health?

DEAR READER: Dietary fiber consists of the indigestible parts of plant foods. As you note, there are two kinds. Soluble fiber dissolves in water; insoluble does not. Both are important for healthy digestion, and both can help prevent heart disease, obesity, diabetes, diverticulitis (an intestinal malady) and constipation.

Should I get a hip replacement?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm 58 and have a bad hip. Should I get a hip replacement now or wait until it's absolutely necessary?

DEAR READER: Many patients have asked me the same question over the years. I answer it somewhat differently today than I did 20 years ago, for two reasons. First, the technology of hip replacement has improved considerably. Second, 10 years ago I faced the same question myself.