Archive for April, 2014

Does testosterone therapy really work?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I've seen a lot of commercials advertising testosterone therapy for "low T." Does it live up to its promise? Should I be on it?

DEAR READER: I've seen the commercials, too. They promise that testosterone therapy for low blood levels of testosterone, or "low T," will make you feel more alert, energetic, mentally sharp and sexually functional. Testosterone therapy is a good option for some men, but there are also risks.

How can I tell if my son has a learning disability?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I think my son may have a learning disability. How can I tell if there really is a problem?

DEAR READER: Most kids have some difficulty in school at one time or another, and usually it's nothing to worry about. Sometimes, though, it can be a sign of a learning disability. "Learning disability" is a broad term that can cover different types of problems. A child with a learning disability may have a hard time receiving, organizing, remembering or using information.

What are the basics of a heart-healthy diet?

DEAR DOCTOR K: What are the basic tenets of a heart-healthy diet?

DEAR READER: I once had a patient who had a history of heart disease in his family. When he first came to see me, he was in his late 20s. He knew that having heart disease in his family put him at higher risk for it later in life. He told me he had decided to do something to protect himself: He had consulted a cardiologist.

Does eating fish help prevent prostate cancer?

DEAR DOCTOR K: Does eating fish help prevent prostate cancer?

DEAR READER: You've certainly heard me encourage readers to eat plenty of fish, particularly fatty fish such as salmon and mackerel. That's because many good studies have found that people who eat fish frequently have lower rates of many serious diseases, including heart disease and several types of cancer. A recently published study from the Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial (PCPT) was described in the media as coming to the opposite conclusion. I don't agree, but to explain why, I first need to talk about the substances in fish that are thought to be beneficial for humans.

What is the best treatment option for scoliosis?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My granddaughter has scoliosis. What is the best treatment option for this condition?

DEAR READER: For readers who may not be familiar with the condition, I'll start by explaining what scoliosis is. Normally, when you look at a person's spine, it appears straight. With scoliosis, the spine typically curves out to one side and then back again. Or it may have two bowed-out areas, resembling an S shape. Here you'll find an illustration of a normal spine and a spine curved by scoliosis:

What are symptoms of a panic attack?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I think I might be having panic attacks, but I'm not sure. What does a panic attack feel like?

DEAR READER: People who have never experienced a panic attack typically think it's a mild feeling of nervousness. But in fact, it's a lot more than that.

First of all, it usually starts very suddenly; it doesn't slowly creep up on you. Second, it's not mild. A panic attack causes a sudden wave of intense anxiety, apprehension, fearfulness or terror. Usually, you have a terrible sense of impending doom, or of a looming catastrophe.

What happens during a heart attack?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My husband recently had a heart attack. Fortunately, he's doing well. But I'd like to understand better what happens to the heart during a heart attack.

DEAR READER: The heart is a special kind of muscle that keeps blood circulating throughout your body. Your husband's heart doesn't just pump blood to the rest of his body; it also pumps blood to itself -- it needs that blood to survive. Your husband's heart attack occurred when a blood clot blocked a coronary artery -- an artery that provides blood to his heart muscle. This prevented the artery from delivering oxygen-rich blood to a specific part of his heart's muscular wall.

Can I exercise without getting off my couch?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm a couch potato. Can I exercise without getting off my couch?

DEAR READER: Every month the evidence grows stronger: The more time you spend sitting, the greater your risk of developing various serious illnesses. Most of our ancestors -- going back thousands of years -- were a lot more physically active than most of us are today. They had to be: Their survival depended on it.

How can I prevent my bad morning breath?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My breath is OK during the day, but when I wake up in the morning, it's terrible. What causes bad morning breath? And what can I do to prevent it?

DEAR READER: Bad breath, or halitosis, is a common problem -- especially "morning breath." (Some people call it "dragon breath.") Certain foods can cause bad breath. Garlic and onions are classic examples. Reflux of stomach contents can do the same. So can serious diseases of the liver or kidneys. Infections of the tonsils, sinuses or respiratory tract can also be responsible for bad breath.