Archive for March, 2016

What changes can I make to help reduce falls in my home?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have osteoporosis, so my bones are going to break more easily. My doctor told me I should therefore try to avoid falls, but he didn't say how. Any ideas?

DEAR READER: A tumble can send a person with osteoporosis down the road to disability. Many factors can increase your risk for falls. Some have to do with your physical condition; others come from the environment. There is much you can do to reduce both types of risks.

What will happen during laboratory sleep testing?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My doctor thinks I may have sleep apnea, and he wants me to go to a sleep lab to be tested. What will happen during the testing?

DEAR READER: Sleep apnea is a serious health condition in which breathing stops or becomes shallower. In the most common form, obstructive sleep apnea, the tongue or throat tissues temporarily and repeatedly block the flow of air in and out of your lungs. This can happen hundreds of times each night. Laboratory sleep tests are the most reliable way to diagnose this problem.

How does weight loss help control Type 2 diabetes?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I was recently diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. My doctor said the best thing I can do right now is to lose weight. Why?

DEAR READER: Type 2 diabetes usually starts after a person becomes an adult. It is by far the most common type of diabetes. It has been clear for many years that people who are overweight are at much greater risk for developing Type 2 diabetes. In the past 20 years, research discoveries have begun to explain why.

Are there any natural remedies for hot flashes?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm afraid to take hormone therapy for my menopausal hot flashes. Are there any natural remedies that work?

DEAR READER: Natural remedies can help for hot flashes, but hormone therapy is helpful more often. For that reason, I'll come back to the pluses and minuses of hormone therapy after answering your question.

Can exercise help prevent back pain?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I get back pain every so often. It can last a week and interferes with my life. Can exercises prevent more attacks in the future?

DEAR READER: Absolutely yes -- IF you do them regularly. Exercise is a great way to prevent repeat episodes of low back pain. The right exercise program will help you build strong, flexible muscles that will be less prone to injury.

Does the weather affect arthritis symptoms?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I swear my arthritis pain gets worse on cold, wet days. My husband is skeptical. Is it possible that the weather could affect my symptoms?

DEAR READER: I hear from my patients all the time that the weather affects their arthritis symptoms. But is it true? If so, how does that work? And is there any scientific evidence to explain it?

Is “lower is better” the right approach when treating high blood sugar in someone with diabetes?

DEAR DOCTOR K: In a recent column you said that doctors are not trying to lower blood sugar as much as they used to in people with diabetes. My husband's doctor always tells him that "lower is better" when it comes to his blood sugar. Can you explain?

DEAR READER: When I was in medical school, and for many years thereafter, "lower is better" was what doctors believed. We knew that people with diabetes could develop severe, even fatal, complications if their blood sugar got very high. Plus, we had powerful blood-sugar-lowering treatments available.

Are generic drugs as good as their brand name counterparts?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My doctor switched me from several brand-name drugs to generic versions of those drugs. It has saved me a lot of money -- but are they really as good for me?

DEAR READER: The vast majority of generic drugs have been shown to be equally effective as brand-name drugs, and no more likely to cause side effects. There have been a few exceptions, which I'll mention. But that is my bottom line -- and I vote with my feet: I take generic drugs. They work as well as the brand-name drugs they replaced, they haven't caused side effects and they save me money. What's not to like?

Do 3D printers have any role in medicine?

DEAR DOCTOR K: It seems like the latest "hot" new electronics technology is 3D printers. Do they have any role in medicine?

DEAR READER: 3D printers already are starting to be used in medicine, and I think we'll be seeing a lot more of them. These printers are directed by computers to build three-dimensional structures. Designs for the structures are entered into a computer. The computer communicates the shape of the structure to the 3D printer. Then the printer sprays liquid plastic (which later hardens) in the shape of the structure directed by the computer.

Can growth hormone help fight the effects of aging?

DEAR DOCTOR K: A friend of mine who is in her 70s is getting growth hormone shots. She says it fights aging. I'm dubious that anything can fight aging and worry about side effects. Am I just old-fashioned?

DEAR READER: Well, you certainly are right to ask these questions. If there was a treatment that could slow aging and was risk-free, I guess we'd all take it.