Archive for 2015

Which laxative should I take for my constipation?

DEAR DOCTOR K: There are so many laxatives on the market. Which one should I take for my constipation?

DEAR READER: Anyone suffering from constipation should start by boosting fiber and fluid intake. That may do the trick, and you may not need a laxative. If you are age 50 years or younger, the target is 38 grams of fiber per day for men and 25 grams per day for women. For men and women over 50, aim for 30 and 21 grams per day, respectively.

I’ve noticed that my sense of taste has dulled. What could be happening?

DEAR DOCTOR K: Over the past year or so I've noticed that my sense of taste isn't as sharp as it used to be. What could be happening?

DEAR READER: Taste buds line your tongue, throat and the back of the roof of your mouth. When food or drink stimulates them, they send a message to your brain allowing you to identify the taste as sweet, sour, bitter, salty or savory. In addition, thousands of nerve endings on the moist surfaces of the eyes, nose, mouth and throat help you experience the food you're eating. They convey sensations such as heat, cold and texture.

How can I overcome insomnia without drugs?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I struggle with insomnia. How can I overcome this problem without drugs or supplements?

DEAR READER: Insomnia is a common problem in which sleepless nights turn into fatigue-filled days. A form of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) known as CBT for insomnia, or CBT-I, targets the root cause of insomnia without medication. This short-term talk therapy teaches people to change unproductive thinking and behaviors that get in the way of a good night's sleep.

Would I know if I had osteoporosis?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm 65, and my doctor says it's time for me to be screened for osteoporosis. But isn't this condition painful? Wouldn't I know it if I had it?

DEAR READER: Osteoporosis is a condition in which bones become less dense, weaker and more likely to break. But unless it leads to a broken bone, osteoporosis is not painful. Osteoporosis is a disease that causes no symptoms for many years -- until it suddenly does.

Why am I still experiencing pain six months after my stroke?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I've been in pain ever since I had a stroke about six months ago. What will relieve it?

DEAR READER: Pain is a frequent complication of stroke. It generally falls into one of two types, local or central. Local pain results from joint and muscle problems. Strokes can make some muscles weak and stiff. That, in turn, can make the muscles hurt when they move (or are moved). It also can cause the bones in a joint moved by those muscles to shift out of their proper place, producing pain in the joint.

What are triglycerides?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My recent cholesterol blood test came back pretty good, but my doctor said he was worried about my high triglyceride levels. What are triglycerides? Should I be worried, and what can I do about this?

DEAR READER: When doctors perform cholesterol blood tests, they actually test for LDL ("bad") cholesterol, HDL ("good") cholesterol, total cholesterol (a combination of good and bad cholesterol), as well as triglycerides --another type of fat. Levels of triglycerides that truly are high increase your risk for pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas, as well as heart disease and stroke.

How can I continue my walking program during the winter?

DEAR DOCTOR K: Last year I started a walking exercise program in the spring. But by winter the cold temperatures drove me indoors. This year I'd like to keep walking year-round. Any advice?

DEAR READER: Exercising in winter can be difficult, and many avid walkers get derailed when temperatures drop. But with the right clothing and preparation, almost any type of weather can be walking weather: Warm up indoors. Cold air can make the transition to workout mode tougher. Doing an exercise warmup indoors will take stress off your heart and make winter walking feel easier.

Do I really need to take warfarin after getting a stent?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I recently had a stent placed and am now taking warfarin. I hear this medicine causes bleeding. Is it really necessary for me to take it?

DEAR READER: Warfarin is an anticoagulant, or blood thinner. It decreases your blood's ability to clot. There are times when we need our blood to form clots. If we cut our skin and it starts bleeding, or if an ulcer in our stomach starts bleeding, we need the bleeding to stop. When the blood forms clots, bleeding stops. On the other hand, some conditions tend to increase the tendency of the blood to clot.

How can I prevent recurrent UTIs?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm in my 30s and fairly healthy. However, I keep getting urinary tract infections. My husband and I want to know what I can do to prevent them.

DEAR READER: Many women know well the symptoms of a urinary tract infection (UTI). You might feel a frequent urge to urinate, yet pass little urine when you go. It may hurt when you urinate. Your urine might be cloudy, blood-tinged and strong-smelling. Furthermore, many women have a tendency to get repeated UTIs. UTIs are usually caused by bacteria that live in the gut and are present on the skin around the rectum.

How can I quit smoking without gaining weight?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I want to quit smoking, but I'm worried about gaining weight. Is it possible to quit smoking without packing on the pounds?

DEAR READER: Smokers do tend to gain some weight when they quit. Why? Nicotine reduces appetite and revs up metabolism (the rate at which the body burns food). Breaking free of nicotine allows appetite to come back and also slows metabolism. In addition, many people substitute food for cigarettes when they quit. By definition, an unhealthy weight is not good for your health. But quitting smoking is good for a person's health.