Archive for June, 2013

What is chelation therapy, and can it reduce my risk of heart attack?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have heart disease. Will chelation therapy help reduce my risk of a heart attack?

DEAR READER: That's a timely question, because a recent study of chelation therapy has generated a lot of interest and debate. Chelation therapy is used to eliminate metals or other toxins from your body. Its use for heart disease is more controversial.

Should I be worried about the new kind of “bird flu” discovered in China?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I heard that a dangerous new kind of "bird flu" was recently discovered in China. Should we in the United States be worried?

DEAR READER: You're right: In March 2013, cases of a brand-new kind of bird flu were discovered in China. One of the hardest things to predict is what will happen when a new strain of the influenza ("flu") virus first infects humans. I'm not exaggerating when I say it could turn out to pose no threat at all in the U.S., or it could be truly terrible.

Are there exercises I can do to strengthen my weak ankles and prevent sprains?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I tend to sprain my ankle fairly often. Are there any exercises that could help me strengthen my ankles and prevent future sprains?

DEAR READER: Your ankles are remarkable joints. They must bear the full weight of your body, yet stay nimble and flexible. Every step, every jump, every move puts your ankles through a surprising range of motion. Even when you stand quietly, your ankles are constantly making minute adjustments to help you stay balanced.

I have “prediabetes” — what does this mean?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I recently had some blood tests done, and my doctor told me I have "prediabetes." What does this mean? Do I have diabetes or not?

DEAR READER: Diabetes doesn't usually appear all of a sudden. Many people have a long, slow, invisible lead-in to it called prediabetes. During this period, blood sugar levels are higher than normal. However, they're not high enough to cause symptoms or to be classified as diabetes. It's still possible at this stage to prevent the slide into full-blown diabetes.

Should I take steroids for my chronic sinus infections?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have chronic sinusitis and nasal polyps. My specialist suggested trying oral corticosteroids. What do you think?

DEAR READER: "Steroids" is short for anti-inflammatory hormones called corticosteroids, and "oral" means steroids taken in pill form. I think a short course of five to seven days of oral steroids is worth a try. That's particularly true if your sinusitis isn't getting any better.

What is “mindful eating” and could it help me lose weight?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I recently heard someone discuss "mindful eating" as a weight-loss strategy. Could that help me lose weight?

DEAR READER: Mindful eating is a slower, more thoughtful way of eating. It's based on the Buddhist concept of mindfulness, which involves being fully aware of what is happening within and around you at the moment. A small yet growing body of research suggests that mindful eating could help with weight problems and aid people in making more healthful food choices.

How do blood pressure drugs work and how can I find the one that’s right for me?

DEAR DOCTOR K: How do blood pressure drugs work? And how will my doctor know which one is right for me?

DEAR READER: There are many different drugs for blood pressure and they work in different ways. Finding which one will work best for you may involve a process of trial-and-error. But in the end, you'll be rewarded with a medication that offers the best blood pressure control with the fewest side effects.