Thursday, July 23, 2009

Health Care and Congestive Heart Failure

Heart failure, also known as congestive heart failure (CHF), means your heart can't pump enough blood to meet your body's needs, according to the Mayo Clinic. Over time, conditions such as coronary artery disease or high blood pressure gradually leave your heart too weak or stiff to fill and pump efficiently. You can't reverse many conditions that lead to heart failure, but heart failure can often be treated with good results. Medications can improve the signs and symptoms of heart failure and lead to improved survival. Lifestyle changes, such as exercising, reducing salt intake, managing stress, treating depression, and especially losing excess weight, also can help prevent fluid buildup and improve your quality of life. The best way to prevent heart failure is to control risk factors and aggressively manage any underlying conditions such as coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes or obesity. According to, each year, nearly 300,000 Americans die from heart failure.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), CHF can result from:
--narrowed arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle — coronary artery disease
--past heart attack, or myocardial infarction, with scar tissue that interferes with the heart muscle's normal work.
--high blood pressure.
--heart valve disease due to past rheumatic fever or other causes.
--primary disease of the heart muscle itself, called cardiomyopathy.
--heart defects present at birth — congenital heart defects.
--infection of the heart valves and/or heart muscle itself — endocarditis and/or myocarditis.

The "failing" heart keeps working but not as efficiently as it should, according to the AHA. People with heart failure can't exert themselves because they become short of breath and tired. As blood flow out of the heart slows, blood returning to the heart through the veins backs up, causing congestion in the tissues. Often swelling (edema) results. Most often there's swelling in the legs and ankles, but it can happen in other parts of the body, too. Sometimes fluid collects in the lungs and interferes with breathing, causing shortness of breath, especially when a person is lying down. Heart failure also affects the kidneys' ability to dispose of sodium and water. The retained water increases the edema.

According to the AHA, your doctor is the best person to make the diagnosis. The most common signs of congestive heart failure are swollen legs or ankles or difficulty breathing. Another symptom is weight gain when fluid builds up. CHF usually requires a treatment program of:
--proper diet
--modified daily activities
--drugs such as ACE (angiotensin-converting enzyme) inhibitors: beta blockers, digitalis, diuretics, vasodilators.

Various drugs are used to treat congestive heart failure, according to the AHA. They perform different functions. ACE inhibitors and vasodilators expand blood vessels and decrease resistance. This allows blood to flow more easily and makes the heart's work easier or more efficient. Beta blockers can improve how well the heart's left lower chamber (left ventricle) pumps. Digitalis increases the pumping action of the heart, while diuretics help the body eliminate excess salt and water. When a specific cause of congestive heart failure is discovered, it should be treated or, if possible, corrected. For example, some cases of congestive heart failure can be treated by treating high blood pressure. If the heart failure is caused by an abnormal heart valve, the valve can be surgically replaced. If the heart becomes so damaged that it can't be repaired, a more drastic approach should be considered. A heart transplant could be an option. Most people with mild and moderate congestive heart failure can be treated. Proper medical supervision can prevent them from becoming invalids.

The symptoms of congestive heart failure vary among individuals according to the particular organ systems involved and depending on the degree to which the rest of the body has "compensated" for the heart muscle weakness, according to An early symptom of congestive heart failure is fatigue. While fatigue is a sensitive indicator of possible underlying congestive heart failure, it is obviously a nonspecific symptom that may be caused by many other conditions. The person's ability to exercise may also diminish. Patients may not even sense this decrease and they may subconsciously reduce their activities to accommodate this limitation. As the body becomes overloaded with fluid from congestive heart failure, swelling (edema) of the ankles and legs or abdomen may be noticed. In addition, fluid may accumulate in the lungs, thereby causing shortness of breath, particularly during exercise and when lying flat. In some instances, patients are awakened at night, gasping for air. Some may be unable to sleep unless sitting upright. The extra fluid in the body may cause increased urination, particularly at night. Accumulation of fluid in the liver and intestines may cause nausea, abdominal pain, and decreased appetite.

According to, after congestive heart failure is diagnosed, treatment should be started immediately. Perhaps the most important and yet most neglected aspect of treatment involves lifestyle modifications. Sodium causes an increase in fluid accumulation in the body's tissues. Because the body is often congested with excess fluid, patients become very sensitive to the levels of intake of sodium and water. Restricting salt and fluid intake is often recommended because of the tendency of fluid to accumulate in the lungs and surrounding tissues. An American "no added salt" diet can still contain 4 to 6 grams (4000 to 6000 milligrams) of sodium per day. In patients with congestive heart failure, an intake of no more than 2 grams (2000 milligrams) of sodium per day is generally advised. Reading food labels and paying close attention to total sodium intake is very important. Likewise, the total amount of fluid consumed must be regulated. Although many patients with congestive heart failure take diuretics to aid in the elimination of excess fluid, the action of these medications can be overwhelmed by an excess intake of water and other fluids. The maxim that "drinking eight glasses of water a day is healthy" certainly does not apply to patients with congestive heart failure. In fact, patients with more advanced cases of congestive heart failure are often advised to limit their total daily fluid intake from all sources to 2 quarts. The above guidelines for sodium and fluid intake may vary depending on the severity of congestive heart failure in any given patient and should be discussed with the patient's physician.

An important tool for monitoring an appropriate fluid balance is the frequent measurement of body weight, according to An early sign of fluid accumulation is an increase in body weight. This may occur even before shortness of breath or swelling in the legs and other body tissues is detected. A weight gain of two to three pounds over two to three days should prompt a call to the physician, who may order an increase in the dose of diuretics or other methods designed to stop the early stages of fluid accumulation before it becomes more severe. Aerobic exercise, once discouraged for congestive heart failure patients, has been shown to be beneficial in maintaining overall functional capacity, quality of life, and perhaps even improving survival. Each patient's body has its own unique ability to compensate for the failing heart. Given the same degree of heart muscle weakness, patients may display widely varying degrees of limitation of function. Regular exercise, when tailored to the patient's tolerance level, appears to provide significant benefits and should be used only when the patient is compensated and stable.

According to, congestive heart failure is generally a progressive disease with periods of stability punctuated by episodic clinical exacerbations. The course of the disease in any given patient, however, is extremely variable. Factors involved in determining the long term outlook (prognosis) for a given patient include:
--the nature of the underlying heart disease,
--the response to medications,
--the degree to which other organ systems are involved and the severity of other accompanying conditions,
--the patient's symptoms and degree of impairment, and
--other factors that remain poorly understood.

In cases where the patient is eventually at the end of CHF, death can be imminent with the last stages incredibly painful. The last months, weeks, and days are extremely difficult, and the patient has no quality of life. Congestive heart failure makes the patient totally dependent on caregivers, and hospice is usually recommended for patients who have no alternative options. Medical providers then resort to pain management until the patient dies from the disease. CHF is a terrible way to die; and unless another medical option is reasonable, eventually the patient will succumb to it. Various medications and other health care procedures can attempt to prolong life, but the end result is not favorable for the patient. If you have CHF, or know someone who does, look to your doctor to help assist you in a course of treatment that can help deal with the disease as long as possible.

Until next time. Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Health Care and the Century Mark

To live to the century mark is a phenomenal achievement for anyone. Reaching 100 years of age signifies a fantastic life goal for both men and women. America is seeing the steady increase of centenarians as each year more and more people are living longer. According to Wikipedia, A centenarian is a person who has attained the age of 100 years or more. Because current average life expectancies across the world are less than 100, the term is invariably associated with longevity. Much rarer, a supercentenarian is a person who has lived to the age of 110 or more, something only achieved by about one in a thousand centenarians. Even rarer yet is a person who has lived to 115 years old - only 1 in 100,000 centenarians make it to this age.

According to the Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM), Centenarians are the fastest growing segment of our population. The second fastest is the age group 85+. Currently, there are about 40,000 centenarians in the United States, or a little more than 1 centenarian per 10,000 in the population; 85% of them are women, 15% are men. The age composition of the population is changing dramatically. More and more people are now able to achieve their individual life expectancy potentials. This is a dramatic change from the turn of the 20th century, when many people died prematurely especially in infancy and the average life expectancy was 46 years. Families on average would lose a quarter of their children to infectious diseases.

When current centenarians were young children, the population, in terms of age, was in the shape of a pyramid, with the vast proportion being young and only a very few reaching very old age, according to the BUSM. With the advent of clean water supplies and other public health measures, much of this high childhood mortality disappeared resulting in an average life expectancy of 64 years by 1960. Then with marked improvements in medical prevention and intervention for diseases that befall adults, such as hypertension, diabetes, heart failure and coronary artery disease, and numerous cancers we have seen the average life expectancy climb even higher to age 78 years. Now, the shape of the population is very different. We are experiencing a rectangularization where more and more people are living beyond the vulnerable childhood years and achieving old age, so that the number of older people nearly equals the number of children. A tremendous force in the population will drive the unprecedented growth of the 65+ population -the baby boomers. The first baby boomers recently turned 50 years old. Actually, this 70 million-strong group now constitutes the “elder boomer” generation! By the first decade of the next century, there will be as many seniors as there are people under the age of 20. Approximately 3 million of these elder boomers can expect to become centenarians. An important component of the elder boomers’ ability to achieve extreme age is their relatively high level of education, income and attention to good health habits.

According to, the average life-span of Americans is about two or three years short of an 80th birthday party. And most people don't want to cut out coffee, soda, alcohol, cigarettes and eat healthy. Centenarians, according to Scientific American, may help researchers find the key to living longer, healthier lives. The reason, say scientists who study this elite group: centenarians may possess genes that protect them from disease into old age. For the past decade, researchers have marveled at these folks who often live independently—and free of major disabilities—well into their 90s, if not longer. Also, the odds of centenarians having a relative who lived into old age is 20 times that of the average person. By understanding the underlying biology of aging, it may be possible to develop drugs in the future that will promote healthy aging and delay age-related diseases such as some cancers, arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

According to, the usual picture we have of centenarians is of shrivelled up old things in nursing home beds being tended by a bevy of care workers. In fact, however, 15% of people over 100 are still living independantly in their own homes. About 25% of centenarians are completely free of any significant cognitive disorders and most are usually healthy – healthier than people in their 80s and 90s. Studies have found that the things most people who make it past 100 have in common are:
• Good genes – they have parents, grandparents, uncles or aunts who’ve lived long healthy lives
• Emotional resilience—ability to adapt to life’s events
• Resistance to stress—excellent coping skills
• Self-sufficiency
• Intellectual activity
• Good sense of humor, including about themselves
• Spirituality
• Strong connections with other people
• Low blood pressure
• Appreciation of simple pleasures and experiences
• Zest for life and no smoking or heavy drinking
• Many play musical instruments
They also have in common a simple, sensible diet along the lines of a Mediterranean diet with an emphasis on plant-based foods (fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, nuts, seeds and potatoes); olive oil as the main fat source; only natural sugars; small amounts or no animal products; and no alcohol except one or two glasses of wine per day with meals.

According to the, many healthcare policy gurus have predicted a steep rise in healthcare expenditures as more people live to be 100 years and beyond. However, researchers who have been studying the “super-elderly” say the conclusion that costs will rise significantly for this group may be unfounded. They determined that people who reach 100 are more often than not mentally and physically “independent” - that is, they are able to perform basic tasks on their own while remaining free of serious and disabling cognitive, sensory or physical impairment. People who are currently in their 90’s and are independent and able to care for themselves can expect to have the same ability when they reach 100.

According to, U.S. Census Bureau data shows there are currently more than 84,000 centenarians in the United States -- a figure that is expected to rise to 580,000 by the 2040. Among the centenarians polled, 90 percent said that staying close to family and friends was the most important factor in terms of healthy aging. Nine in 10 said keeping mentally active was critical to a long life, while 88 percent stressed the importance of having a sense of humor.
More than four in five said that maintaining their independence was central to aging well, and nearly two-thirds said that lifestyle choices were the backbone of their healthful longevity -- not genetics. Technology appeared to be front and center in many centenarian lives. Nearly one in five said they use cell phones; 7 percent use e-mail; 4 percent exchange digital photos by e-mail; 3 percent use an online dating service; and 12 percent say they surf the Web. Two percent said they specifically used the search engine Google to look for someone with whom they had lost contact.

How do centenarians maintain a healthy attitude? Staying young in attitude, according to the Centenarians stay connected to news events. Centenarians engage in a wide range of physical activities to maintain their health. Talking to friends and family is the primary outlet centenarians, and centenarians are engaged in volunteer work in their communities. And, according to Spectrum Health, many among the extreme elderly are actively appropriating the cell phones, e-mail, and Internet touchstones of far younger generations to keep abreast of personal affairs, politics, and popular culture. A significant number of centenarians practice what they preach by embracing the 21st century while maintaining 20th-century routines. A recent study indicated Nine in 10 said keeping mentally active was critical to a long life, while 88 percent stressed the importance of having a sense of humor. More than four in five said that maintaining their independence was central to aging well, and nearly two-thirds said that lifestyle choices were the backbone of their longevity—not genetics.

According to Spectrum Health, experts offer this advice for satisfying senior years:
1.) Continue to acquire new skills. Develop a hobby. Learn a foreign language. Many people believe that thinking skills naturally deteriorate as you age. But research shows that people who keep learning tend to retain their mental sharpness.
2.) Be concerned about others. Volunteer, keep pets, make friends with neighbors - anything that keeps you meeting people. Researchers note these two attributes among older adults who have kept youthful attitudes: They maintain close relationships and they remain involved in the community.
3.) Exercise. You can improve your strength, flexibility, and endurance with a surprisingly small amount of effort. The benefits for your physical health will be equaled by the benefits to your mental outlook.

Those individuals who have lived to the century mark can feel blessed and proud that they have a significant milestone they have accomplished. Hearty congratulations are in order for anyone who makes it to that life plateau.

Until next time. Let me know what you think.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Health Care and Rx Errors

No one likes making mistakes; and even more so, no one likes to admit they have made mistakes. This is especially true in the health care arena, and errors made by health care providers, pharmacies, nurses, caretakers, and others responsible for administering medications to patients should be ever conscious about the necessity of handling prescription and non-prescription drugs.

Have you noticed the number of pharmacies opening in your area? As the Baby-Boom Generation continues to age, there is a marked increase in the number of prescriptions being filled each day, according to And the number will continue to increase, with no end in sight. Retail pharmacy is big business. It is not unheard of for a busy retail pharmacy to fill more than 1,000 prescriptions each day, with the pharmacist working a 12-hour shift. Mistakes are inevitable. A one percent margin of error in a pharmacy filling 1,000 prescriptions each day equates to ten people walking out of the pharmacy each day with a wrong prescription.

According to, every year in the United States, 30 million dispensing errors out of 3 billion prescriptions occur at outpatient pharmacies, according to the National Patient Safety Foundation. Some errors are minor. Some patients catch easily. But others can be serious. More health care is happening outside hospitals, putting more of a burden on outpatient pharmacists. Here, from experts, are ways to avoid becoming a victim:

1.) Don't get a prescription filled at the beginning of the month. Research shows that in the first few days of each month fatalities due to medication errors rise by as much as 25 percent above normal. The reason: Social Security checks come at the beginning of the month. Quite a number of people can't afford to get their medicines until the Social Security check comes in, so at the beginning of the month they turn up in abnormally large numbers and swamp the pharmacists. When pharmacists are busy, they make more mistakes. Of course, it's not always possible to wait a week or two to get a prescription, but do so if you can.

2.) Open the bottle at the pharmacy. Pharmacy errors aren't common, but that there are things patients can do to make sure the medicine inside a bottle is the right drug. Opening the bottle right at the pharmacy and showing the pills to the pharmacist is one safeguard. Another: If it looks different than the medicine you've taken before, or you have any questions, don't be afraid to ask the pharmacist according to the American Pharmacists Association.

3.) Don't be in a rush. patients should take the time to get detailed instructions about how to take a drug. Errors happen not just when the wrong medicine is dispensed, but when the right medicine is taken at the wrong dosage. Also, pharmacies can take additional steps, too. For example, many drug names look alike. The Institute for Safe Medication Practices suggests writing in capital letters the portions of drug names similar to other medications to make distinctions more clear and to prevent errors. The Institute also has suggestions for making abbreviations clearer, too. For example, when a doctor writes "q.o.d." on a prescription, that means the pharmacist should instruct the patient to take the medicine every other day. That abbreviation could be mistaken for "q.d.", which means daily. The solution: Physicians should write out "every day" or "every other day."

According to, pharmacy errors may have serious consequences. Many pharmacy errors go unreported because they remain undetected or cause no obvious harm. Potential problems make it imperative for people taking prescription drugs to always check the medication they receive. Though pharmacy errors are unlikely occurrences, they do happen. A watchful eye can help rectify the mistake quickly. The consequences of pharmacy errors can range from harmless to fatal. Certain actions can help people who take prescription drugs ensure their own safety:
--Know the drug name, dosage, and prescribing instructions for every prescription medication you are filling at the pharmacy. Keep a record of this information by writing it down, keeping a medication diary on your computer, or photocopying the prescription.
--When you pick up your prescription from the pharmacy, compare the label on the prescription bottle to the information you have recorded for the drug.
--If you are picking up the drug for the first time, search on the Internet for the name of the drug and information imprinted on the pill. The photo of the medication online should match the medication you have in your possession.
--If you are picking up a refill, compare the pills in the new bottle to any remaining in the previous bottle. Look at the color, shape, and imprint on both sides on the pills (name of manufacturer and number). The new and old pills should be identical.
--Generic medications come in various shapes and colors because they have more than one manufacturer. It is still possible to check. If Drug IDentifier does not produce the desired results, search Google.
--Don't assume everything is without problem until you actually check. The hassle it takes to be sure you were dispensed the correct medication is minimal and may save you from much greater hassles. It may save your life.

According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), the more medications that community pharmacists dispense each day, the greater the likelihood of medication errors. Aside from the sheer volume of prescriptions they need to fill, community pharmacists are often interrupted by telephone calls from doctors or patients and questions from pharmacy support personnel or in-store customers, which may also influence medication errors. Indeed, higher pharmacist and pharmacy workload at community pharmacies does increase the risk of dispensing medications with the potential for drug-drug interactions (DDIs). Community pharmacies and pharmacists with a greater workload are more likely to dispense medications with potential DDIs (such as coprescribing the anticoagulant warfarin with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). As pharmacists become busier, they have less time to evaluate DDI warnings or to act on those warnings. Pharmacies with automated telephone systems for prescription orders are also significantly more likely to dispense medications with potential DDIs.

According to, your neighborhood pharmacists are probably competent and trustworthy people, but their jobs are not easy. They have to supervise technicians, counsel customers, service the drive-through window, deal with insurance companies, decipher doctors’ handwriting, take telephone calls and faxes from patients, doctors and other pharmacies, all while filling a large volume of prescriptions in a busy environment. Mistakes happen, and when they do, it often leads to someone not getting medicine they critically need, or someone ingesting a medication that does them harm. Always verify the medications you receive from the pharmacy. Ask questions. Do your pills look different than usual? Is there writing, numbers or markings on the pills, and if so are the markings the same as usual? If something does not look right, call the pharmacy or your doctor, or better yet, go back to the doctor or pharmacy to review your medicine. Take your prescriptions to your doctor and have your physician confirm that you are taking the correct medicine. If you discover that you have ingested the wrong medicine, or if you do not feel well after taking a newly-filled or refilled prescription, get medical attention at once and check things out. It may be that the medicine you are taking is not what the doctor ordered.

Also, according to, in the use of bar coding technology for storing and dispensing medication from hospital pharmacies, results found that the rates of medication dispensing errors and potential adverse drug events, which are dispensing errors that can harm patients, were substantially reduced when bar code scanning technology was used in the dispensing process. By comparing the error rates before and after the implementation of bar code technology, the researchers found that the rate of dispensing errors targeted for reduction by bar code technology fell by 85 percent. The rate of potential adverse drug events (or dispensing errors with the potential to harm patients) also fell by 63 percent. Bar coding has been found to be a very good way to reduce the number of incidents of mistakes.

More than 100,000 Americans die each year of adverse drug reactions, according to a landmark report in the Journal of the American Medical Association -- making such reactions one of the six leading causes of death in the U.S. No one knows how many of those deaths are the result of errors in dispensing drugs, but observers say pharmacy mistakes may play a role. Part of the burden comes from soaring demand for prescription drugs. In 1994, Americans bought more than 2 billion prescriptions. Today that number has grown to over 3.7 billion, according to the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS). Meanwhile, according to, the paperwork involved in filling each prescription has become more complicated. Under managed care, for example, each insurer has its own formulary -- the list of drugs it offers under its plan. Before a pharmacist can substitute one drug for another, he must check back with the doctor and the patient for approval -- adding to the time pressure as other prescription orders pile up.

Pharmacists are also required by federal law to counsel customers about prescription drugs, according to Many, however, just don't have the time to spare. The obvious solution is to add more pharmacists and relieve a little of the pressure on them by giving them adequate breaks, say pharmacy groups. But as the number of prescriptions being written has soared, the number of pharmacists to fill them hasn't kept pace. NACDS estimates that between 2004 and 2010 the number of pharmacists will increase by almost 8 percent – however, prescription volume is expected to increase an estimated 27 percent. To cut costs and meet the increasing demand for prescription drugs, pharmacies are turning some duties over to pharmacy technicians or clerks, who often have little training and are paid only $6 to $12 an hour. In some states technicians -- who must always work under a pharmacist's direction -- are allowed to pull drugs off stock shelves and even fill prescription bottles. They also enter prescriptions into the computer and call doctors to authorize prescription refills. Retail pharmacies used to be required to have one pharmacist for every one pharmacy technician on duty. This is no longer true. In fact, some states allow up to four technicians for every pharmacist on duty.

Pharmacists are legally responsible if a mistake is made, and some have been sued for millions of dollars, according to But pharmacy technicians have no legal responsibility -- which means they may have less incentive to double check the prescriptions they're handing out. Of course, beyond the time crunch they face, pharmacists have plenty of other challenges. They have to decipher the almost illegible handwriting of many doctors. They must also keep track of a bewildering number of new drugs with complicated and often similar sounding names -- drugs like Cerebyx, Celexa, and Celebrex, each of which is prescribed to treat very different conditions. One in every four medication errors, studies show, is a name-confusion error. What can you do to make sure the prescription you pick up contains the right drug at the right dose? Take an active role. You should always ask, "What's this for? How do I take it and for how long? Can it interfere with anything else I'm taking? What if I miss a dose?" It's equally important for you to give your pharmacist all the information he or she needs. Make sure you understand exactly what you're taking and why, and tell the pharmacist what other drugs or supplements you're taking. It's up to you to keep track of the drugs you're prescribed.

According to, pharmacy errors and prescription misfills can be grounds for personal injury or wrongful death lawsuits if a patient is injured, becomes ill, or dies as a result. Long shifts and minimal breaks can lead to carelessness, fatigue, and inattention when filling prescriptions. Providing speedy customer service can sometimes take priority over carefully filling a prescription. There are few standards within the industry for determining how much volume is too much, according to Prescription volume is rising nationwide. But the number of pharmacists — about 240,000 nationwide, including about 110,000 in chain drugstores — hasn't kept pace. Pharmacy chains say they've spent billions of dollars on safety technology and other improvements that have cut their prescription-error rates to a fraction of 1%. But that still has the potential to lead to well over three million mistakes per year.

Bottom line--check your meds. Make sure what you get from the pharmacy is what you have been subscribed. Talk with the pharmacist, and double check with your doctor what medication and dosage you are supposed to take. Let the pharmacist know if you are taking any other prescriptions and any over the counter medications, including any vitamins or supplements. It only takes a minute to consult with the pharmacy. Use your time wisely when verifying any medication. It's your life. Don't lose it because you are in a hurry or assume they have your back.

Until next time. Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Health Care and Norovirus

One of the worst stomach viruses that many Americans suffer is the norovirus. Typically, this has most recently been found to be rampant on cruise ships or locations where lots of people are in a semi-closed environment that allows the "bug" to spread rapidly to multiple persons in a very short time period, and it usually results in making the affected individuals extremely sick. The norovirus is known to be highly contagious; and, therefore, the illness can literally be passed around like a big bag of chips in a hurry.

Actually, according to, these are a group of related viruses, referred to as "Norwalk-like viruses" or NLV, causing acute gastroenteritis in humans. The incubation period is usually between 24 and 48 hours although cases have been reported to occur within 12 hours of exposure. Symptoms are vomiting, diarrhea with abdominal cramps and nausea generally lasting 24 to 60 hours. Dehydration is the most common complication. Yet even during the worst, most publicized outbreaks of sick ship only a small percentage of passengers are usually affected. According to Princess Cruises, "Statistics have shown that the chance of contracting Norovirus on land is 1 in 12; and 1 in 4000 on a cruise ship."

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, Noroviruses are members of a group of viruses called caliciviruses, also known previously as “Norwalk-like viruses.” Norovirus is also called viral gastroenteritis, food poisoning, and calicivirus. Norovirus infection causes gastroenteritis, which is an inflammation of the stomach and the small and large intestines. And, Norovirus is by far the leading cause of foodborne illness outbreaks. This infection is often mistakenly referred to as the “stomach flu"- it is not related to the flu (influenza), which is a respiratory illness caused by influenza virus. Norovirus is not a “new” virus, but interest in it is growing as more is learned about how frequently noroviruses cause illness in people.

According to the, signs and symptoms of norovirus infection include:
--Abdominal pain
--Abdominal cramps
--Watery or loose diarrhea
--Weight loss
--Low-grade fever
The incubation period for norovirus infection is usually 24 to 48 hours after first exposure to the virus, and signs and symptoms usually last one to three days. You may continue to shed virus in your feces for up to three days after recovery. Some people with norovirus infection may show no signs or symptoms. However, they are still contagious and may unwittingly spread the virus to others.

The norovirus is a contagious virus, according to The virus is spread through the feces of infected animals and humans. Oysters and raspberries that were contaminated at their picking site have caused outbreaks. Food handlers who have norovirus can spread the virus to food prior to the food being consumed by you. Transmission of the virus can happen through the eating of food that is contaminated, consuming contaminated water, or by touching your hand to your mouth after coming into contact with a contaminated source. Norovirus can be dangerous. In these rare instances, malnutrition, severe dehydration and death can occur. These types of complications occur in older adults, children and those who have a compromised immune system. If dehydration becomes severe, prompt medical attention is necessary in order for fluids to be administered through an IV.

According to the Center for Disease Control, CDC, people may feel very sick and vomit many times a day, but most people get better within 1 or 2 days, and they have no long-term health effects related to their illness. However, sometimes people are unable to drink enough liquids to replace the liquids they lost because of vomiting and diarrhea. These persons can become dehydrated (loose too much water from their body) and may need special medical attention. During norovirus infection, this problem with dehydration is usually only seen among the very young, the elderly, and people with other illness. Anyone can become infected with these viruses. There are many different strains of norovirus, which makes it difficult for a person’s body to develop long-lasting immunity. Therefore, norovirus illness can recur throughout a person’s lifetime. In addition, because of differences in genetic factors, some people are more likely to become infected and develop more severe illness than others.

There is no vaccine to prevent norovirus infection according to the CDC. And there is no drug to treat people who are infected with the virus. Antibiotic drugs will not help if you have norovirus infection. This is because they fight against bacteria not viruses. Norovirus illness is usually brief in people who are otherwise healthy. But, the infection can cause severe vomiting and diarrhea. This can lead to dehydration (loss of too much water from the body). During norovirus infection, young children, the elderly, and people with other illnesses are most at risk for dehydration. Symptoms of dehydration in adults and children include a decrease in urination, a dry mouth and throat, and feeling dizzy when standing up. A dehydrated child may also cry with few or no tears and be unusually sleepy or fussy.

It is important to prevent dehydration during norovirus illness, according to the CDC. The best way to protect against dehydration is to drink plenty of liquids. The most helpful fluids for this purpose are oral rehydration fluids (ORF). Other drinks that do not contain caffeine or alcohol can also help with mild dehydration. However, these drinks may not replace important nutrients and minerals lost due to vomiting and diarrhea. Severe dehydration can be serious. If you think you or someone you are caring for is severely dehydrated, contact your healthcare provider right away. Plus, several products with ingredients similar to those in ORFs can be used to prevent or treat mild dehydration. These products—called oral rehydration solutions—are sold as pre-mixed fluids. Following is a list of some oral rehydration solutions commonly available in U.S. food and drug stores: Infalyte, Kao Lectrolyte, Naturalyte, Oralyte, and Pedialyte. If you are unsure about which product to use or how to use these pre-mixed fluids, contact your healthcare provider.

According to, pregnant females with norovirus infections tend to become dehydrated faster than nonpregnant females or males, so these individuals should rehydrate quickly. If individuals fail to take in adequate fluids and start to become dehydrated, seek medical care immediately. Most physicians do not recommend taking over-the-counter antidiarrheal medications such as diphenoxylate atropine (Lomotil) or loperamide hydrochloride (Imodium) because they may prolong the infection or cause complications. Unfortunately, there is no vaccine for norovirus, although at least one company has a vaccine preparation undergoing clinical trials. This may help in the future to prevent many of the 3 million-5 million deaths per year worldwide due to diarrhea. Since many underdeveloped countries have no commercially made electrolyte solutions available (both oral and IV), the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends the following for fluid rehydration, especially for children because they have a smaller fluid and electrolyte reserve than adults: Mix 2 tablespoons of sugar with ¼ teaspoon of table salt with ¼ teaspoon of baking soda in 1 liter of clean (treated or boiled) water. Other investigators suggest adding about ½ cup of clear (no pulp) fruit juice to this solution to provide added potassium.

According to the CDC, you can decrease your chance of coming in contact with noroviruses by following these preventive steps:
--Frequently wash your hands, especially after toilet visits and changing diapers and before eating or preparing food.
--Carefully wash fruits and vegetables, and steam oysters before eating them.
--Thoroughly clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces immediately after an episode of illness by using a bleach-based household cleaner.
--Immediately remove and wash clothing or linens that may be contaminated with virus after an episode of illness (use hot water and soap).
--Flush or discard any vomitus and/or stool in the toilet and make sure that the surrounding area is kept clean.
--Persons who are infected with norovirus should not prepare food while they have symptoms and for 3 days after they recover from their illness.

According to, because the norovirus has been reported to survive on surfaces up to four weeks at room temperature, disinfection is recommended with commercial products or a solution of ½ cup of bleach to 1 gallon of water. Norovirus is killed at temperatures above 140 F, so steaming or boiling (usual minimal time is one minute) can kill the virus. Also, because of the potentially long (about two to four weeks) environmental survival at room temperature, often an area in which an outbreak occurs will need to be disinfected. Repopulating an area with uninfected people without disinfecting the area may produce another outbreak. So, consequently, areas (for example, dorms, barracks, cafeterias, and cruise ships) should be disinfected after a norovirus outbreak to prevent further infections.

According to the Mayo Clinic, seek medical attention if you develop diarrhea that doesn't clear within several days. Also call your doctor if you experience severe vomiting, bloody stools, abdominal pain or dehydration. Novovirus can be spread rapidly by those who have not followed safe guidelines or who have not used common sense personal hygiene. For most people, the disease is not deadly, just very inconvenient with temporary health issues. For some, the results can be worse, especially if care is not administered in a timely basis. If you feel that you may have symptoms, see your primary care provider as soon as possible and stay away from everyone so you do not pass along the virus.

Until next time. Let me know what you think.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Health Care and Dental Hygiene

Americans love to smile. Keeping those pearly whites nice and white should be a priority for everyone in order to maintain a great smile and a healthy life. Having good teeth and healthy gums provides overall good health, and studies have shown that oral hygiene is critical to maintaining a healthy body. Reports by all dental sources and surveys indicate very strongly that poor dental maintenance leads to poor health and potential fatal results due to infection if not addressed in a timely basis.

According to Dr. Robert Schwartz at, regular cleanings with our office promote good oral hygiene, but did you know they can also prevent a multitude of diseases? That two o’clock chair-side rendezvous may not seem nearly as exciting as a late lunch with a friend, but it will be well worth it in the end. Here are 10 really great reasons to stick with your regular cleaning schedule:

1.) It Prevents Oral Cancer. You may or may not realize that you’re screened for oral cancer during your regular dental cleaning. According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, an American dies of oral cancer every hour of every day. It’s a sad proposition, especially when you consider that it is highly curable with early diagnosis.
2.) It Wards off Gum Disease. Gum disease (an infection in the gum tissues and bone that keep your teeth in place) is one of the leading causes of adult tooth loss. It can be treated and reversed if diagnosed early. Unfortunately, not receiving treatment will lead to a more serious and advanced state of gum disease. Regular cleanings and check-ups and daily brushing and flossing are key weapons in the fight against these conditions.
3.) It’s about More than Your Mouth. Sure, not getting regular check-ups may make you less kissable, but did you know that studies have linked heart attacks and strokes to gum disease associated with poor oral hygiene? A trip to your dentist's office every six months could reduce your risk of serious health problems.
4.) You Want to Preserve Your Smile. As mentioned, gum disease is one of the leading causes of tooth loss in adults. To keep your pearly whites intact, stick with your cleaning schedule.
5.) It’s Best to Detect Dental Problems Early. We’ve already touched upon early detection of gum disease and oral cancer, but don’t overlook more basic dental problems. Cavities and broken fillings are easy to treat. Without regular trips to the dentist, these problems can lead to root canals, gum surgery and tooth extraction. Which sounds worse: a 30-minute cleaning or an hour under the knife?
6.) You Want to Know You’re Doing It Right. Maybe you bought a fancy new electric toothbrush, or aren’t keeping up with what current research has to say about caring for your teeth. Either way, check-ups allow us to examine your mouth and keep you on the right path.
7.) You Have Dental Insurance. Consider how much money you put into your insurance plan. Take advantage of it and save a lot of money in the long run by avoiding costly procedures that result from poor dental habits.
8.) You Want to Upgrade Your Smile. If you’re already suffering from tooth decay or gum problems, regular appointments will allow our office to create a personalized treatment plan that will give you the best smile possible.
9.) You Want to Dazzle. Regular cleanings remove most tobacco, coffee and tea stains, polishing your teeth to a beautiful shine!
10.) You Need Some Time Alone. Okay, maybe not completely alone, but the time you spend in the waiting room and in the chair is really your time. You can forget about the office or the stresses of family life. Read a magazine or work through a crossword if you want. Take advantage of the time you’re given, rather than worrying about how to fit it in your tight schedule. Your health and well-being should never take a back seat to your daily planner.

According to, the American Dental Association recommends that parents take their child to a dentist around his or her first birthday. This gives the dentist a chance to look for early problems with your child's teeth. Pediatric dentists specialize in treating children's dental health. You and your child's dentist should review important information about diet, bottles, tooth brushing and fluoride use. Visiting the dentist from a young age will help your child become comfortable with his or her dentist. It also establishes the good habit of regular dental check-ups. This routine is critical to establish healthy dental practices for children, adolescents, and adults.

According to Consumer Guide for Dentistry, dental hygiene, also known as oral hygiene, is the process by which preventative dental care is provided to avoid dental emergencies. At the core of dental hygiene is the in-home dental care regimen you perform. Your at-home regimen is supplemented with professional preventative dental care provided by dentists and licensed dental hygienists. While you are responsible for day-to-day dental maintenance, dental hygienists, along with general dentists, family dentists and cosmetic dentists, play an integral role in preventative oral care. Tooth brushing is fundamentally important, though it alone will not remove the calculus (also called tartar or dental plaque) that builds up over time. Calculus must be removed to lower your risk of toothaches, cavities, periodontal disease or even the loss of all your teeth. By removing calculus, you can reduce your chances of needing root canals, tooth extractions, dental bridges, crowns, and more.

The Guide, found at, reports that over time calculus builds up on the teeth. If calculus forms below the gum line, bacteria can invade and create a host of other dental problems. Furthermore, the surfaces and areas between the teeth and under the gum line must be maintained and treated on a regular basis in order to ensure proper dental hygiene. These areas are impossible for you to examine yourself; they require a professional touch. Dental hygienists are often responsible for performing professional tooth cleaning, scraping hardened plaque (tartar), removing calculus deposits, taking X-rays, identifying changes in the bite (occlusion), investigating components that relate to the bone and setting up the nitrous oxide (“laughing gas”) that is used, when necessary, to relax people requiring more invasive treatment. Your dentist then works with your hygienist by further examining the teeth, mouth and gums to provide any necessary treatment for tooth decay or gum disease. Regular dental visits are critical at any age for the maintenance of dental hygiene. The American Dental Association recommends that patients visit with their dentist and dental hygienist a minimum of two times each year to maintain proper dental hygiene.

According to, maintaining good oral hygiene is one of the most important things you can do for your teeth and gums. Healthy teeth not only enable you to look and feel good, they make it possible to eat and speak properly. Good oral health is important to your overall well-being.Daily preventive care, including proper brushing and flossing, will help stop problems before they develop and is much less painful, expensive, and worrisome than treating conditions that have been allowed to progress. In between regular visits to the dentist, there are simple steps that each of us can take to greatly decrease the risk of developing tooth decay, gum disease, and other dental problems. These include:
--Brushing thoroughly twice a day and flossing daily.
--Eating a balanced diet and limiting snacks between meals.
--Using dental products that contain fluoride, including toothpaste.
--Rinsing with a fluoride mouth, and rinse if your dentist tells you to.
--Making sure that your children under 12 drink fluoridated water or take a fluoride supplement if they live in a non-fluoridated area.

Modern dental technology has reached a point where saving a tooth is very possible, no matter the condition of that tooth according to Healthy.Net. There are dentists available virtually on every corner with full-page advertisements in the newspapers, yellow pages and even bus benches beckoning the consumer to pay them a visit. There are dental insurances, payment plans at dental offices and dental schools offering low cost dentistry, yet statistics indicate many people are still not making the routine six month visits to their dentist. Whether it's due to lack of insurance, fear or other reasons, many individuals wait until there is pain, before making a dental appointment. Prevention is not a hard concept to understand and carry out, once you know the consequences of disease. Preventing disease in the mouth follows the same path as preventing disease in any other organ in the body. With the mouth it’s even simpler since you can see inside the mouth. It is much simpler to detect and treat illness at the early stages than waiting until it has advanced. Routine 3-6 month visit (depending on health of your mouth), along with 5 other steps are the means of saving all of the teeth all your life.

Visit a dentist on a regular basis, and practice good oral hygiene consistently to maintain your health. Brushing your teeth is the best way to keep your smile and your health.

Until next time. Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Health Care and Asbestos

Asbestos related illnesses have had an impact on Americans. And, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), asbestos is the name given to a group of minerals that occur naturally in the environment as bundles of fibers that can be separated into thin, durable threads. These fibers are resistant to heat, fire, and chemicals and do not conduct electricity. For these reasons, asbestos has been used widely in many industries. Chemically, asbestos minerals are silicate compounds, meaning they contain atoms of silicon and oxygen in their molecular structure.

According to, although statistics have shown a growing number of individuals who have never worked with asbestos are suffering with asbestos-related illness, most documented cases of such diseases are caused by occupational exposure. This is due to the likeliness of repeated exposure, which occurs through standard operations in a variety of industries and jobsites. Naturally, jobsites such as asbestos mines, processing plants, and manufacturing plants where asbestos products were made, have a legacy of high occupational exposure. However, there are many other jobsites such as shipyards, auto-manufacturing plants, metalworks, oil refineries, power plants, and chemical plants that also share a long history of asbestos exposure as well. Those who worked at these jobsites during the 1900's were probably exposed to a number of asbestos-containing products and materials and are now at risk of developing mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses.

People may be exposed to asbestos in their workplace, their communities, or their homes according to NCI. If products containing asbestos are disturbed, tiny asbestos fibers are released into the air. When asbestos fibers are breathed in, they may get trapped in the lungs and remain there for a long time. Over time, these fibers can accumulate and cause scarring and inflammation, which can affect breathing and lead to serious health problems. Although it is clear that the health risks from asbestos exposure increase with heavier exposure and longer exposure time, investigators have found asbestos-related diseases in individuals with only brief exposures. Generally, those who develop asbestos-related diseases show no signs of illness for a long time after their first exposure. It can take from 10 to 40 years or more for symptoms of an asbestos-related condition to appear.

Several factors, according to NCI, can help to determine how asbestos exposure affects an individual, including:
--Dose (how much asbestos an individual was exposed to).
--Duration (how long an individual was exposed).
--Size, shape, and chemical makeup of the asbestos fibers.
--Source of the exposure.
--Individual risk factors, such as smoking and pre-existing lung disease.
Although all forms of asbestos are considered hazardous, different types of asbestos fibers may be associated with different health risks. For example, the results of several studies suggest that amphibole forms of asbestos may be more harmful than chrysotile, particularly for mesothelioma risk, because they tend to stay in the lungs for a longer period of time.

According to NCI, individuals who have been exposed (or suspect they have been exposed) to asbestos fibers on the job, through the environment, or at home via a family contact should inform their doctor about their exposure history and whether or not they experience any symptoms. The symptoms of asbestos-related diseases may not become apparent for many decades after the exposure. It is particularly important to check with a doctor if any of the following symptoms develop:
--Shortness of breath, wheezing, or hoarseness.
--A persistent cough that gets worse over time.
--Blood in the sputum (fluid) coughed up from the lungs.
--Pain or tightening in the chest.
--Difficulty swallowing.
--Swelling of the neck or face.
--Loss of appetite.
--Weight loss.
--Fatigue or anemia.
A thorough physical examination, including a chest x-ray and lung function tests, may be recommended. The chest x-ray is currently the most common tool used to detect asbestos-related diseases. However, it is important to note that chest x-rays cannot detect asbestos fibers in the lungs, but they can help identify any early signs of lung disease resulting from asbestos exposure. More info can be found at .

According to, certain occupations also carry an elevated risk of asbestos exposure. Because asbestos was used in a wide variety of both industrial and domestic products, many occupations came in contact with the toxic substance. For example, since asbestos was integrated into so many plumbing and electrical materials, both plumbers and electricians have an increased risk of contracting asbestos-related disease. Firefighters also fall under this category because exposure can occur while working around older asbestos-contaminated homes. Many other occupations share a history of asbestos exposure as well, such as construction and railroad workers, auto mechanics, and machinists. Asbestos products were widely used by every branch of the U.S. Armed Forces, mainly for insulation purposes in buildings, aircraft, and vehicles. But no other division of the Armed Forces utilized asbestos quite like the Navy, which found hundreds of uses for asbestos materials in its vessels and shipyards from the 1930s through the mid-1970s. The need to supply World War II efforts caused a spike in demand, which led to increased production among the nation's shipyards. Over the decades, thousands of shipyard workers and Navy veterans who were stationed aboard the contaminated vessels were heavily exposed to asbestos, often in small places with little to no ventilation. For these reasons, veterans and shipyard workers have an elevated risk of developing an asbestos-related disease.

While most accounts of asbestos exposure occur in an occupational setting, accidental exposure is another way people have come in contact with this caustic substance, according to For example, the World Trade Center attacks that took place on September 11, 2001 set an estimated 2,000 tons of asbestos into the air in the form of a fine dust. According to a 2006 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report, an alarming 62 percent of those caught in the dust cloud are coping with respiratory problems. Another incidence of accidental exposure was caused by the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history-Hurricane Katrina. The hurricane damaged thousands of older asbestos-contaminated homes, many of which remain standing today. Nearly three years after the storm hit, the area is still struggling to restore infrastructure and prevent asbestos exposure from the remaining asbestos-laden structures.

Research has shown a clear link between exposure to asbestos and respiratory cancers (cancer of the lungs and mesothelioma) in humans, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry (ATSDR). Significant exposure to any type of asbestos will increase the risk of lung cancer, mesothelioma and nonmalignant lung and pleural disorders, including asbestosis, pleural plaques, pleural thickening, and pleural effusions. However, the link between exposure to asbestos and other types of cancers is less clear. Some epidemiologic studies suggest an association between gastrointestinal and colorectal cancers and asbestos exposure. However, very few studies suggest an elevated risk for cancers of the kidney, brain, larynx, and bladder and asbestos exposure.

According to the ASTDR, if you think you might have been exposed to asbestos:
1.) Tell your doctor. Your doctor may take an exposure history and recommend a thorough physical exam, including a chest x-ray and lung function tests. Your doctor may need a specialist who is experienced in reading x-rays for asbestos-related illness to help interpret the results. Other tests may be necessary.
2.) Quit smoking. If you are a smoker, quit smoking. Smoking combined with asbestos exposure greatly increases the risk of getting lung cancer.
3.) Get regular influenza (flu) and pneumonia shots. Regular inoculations help reduce the chance of lung infections.

Being exposed to asbestos, according to the ASTDR, does not mean that you will develop health problems! Many things need to be considered when evaluating whether you are at risk for health problems from asbestos exposure. A doctor can help you find out if you have health problems from asbestos exposure. More info about dealing with asbestos related issues can be found at .

Until next time. Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Health Care and Lawnmower Safety

Americans in force are mowing this season--cutting grass like crazy, some daily and some weekly. And once in a while, someone will get cited by their municipality because they have refused to harvest their crop. Regardless of the size of the yard, cutting grass is a task that falls to everyone that has more than a few blades of San Augustine, Bermuda, or countless other grasses and weeds. A fear by many is suffering injury by a variety of means including accidents, ignorance, and natural means.

According to the University of Michigan Health System (UMHS), a lawn mower definitely has the potential to become an extremely dangerous instrument when it's used carelessly or without the proper safety precautions. Lawn mower injuries can be devastating to the patients and their families, so it's important to never take lawn mower safety for granted. The vast majority of lawn mower injuries are preventable. Riding lawn mowers cause some of the most serious injuries for both adults and children. Adults often allow young children to ride on their lap while they cut the lawn, which is never a good idea. With young passengers riding aboard the mowers, there is always the potential that they could fall off the machine while it's running. This type of occurrence can result in the child's hands, feet or entire body being run over by the mower, often resulting in limb amputation or a life-long debilitation injury.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the power lawn mower is one of the most dangerous tools around the home. Each year, approximately 68,000 persons with injuries caused by power mowers were treated in emergency departments. More than 9,000 of the people hurt were younger than 18 years. Older children and adolescents were most often hurt while cutting lawns as chores or as a way to earn money. Lawn mower injuries include deep cuts, loss of fingers and toes, broken and dislocated bones, burns, and eye and other injuries. Some injuries are very serious. Both users of mowers and those who are nearby can be hurt. To prevent lawn mower injuries to children, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following:
--Try to use a mower with a control that stops the mower from moving forward if the handle is let go.
--Children younger than 16 years should not be allowed to use ride-on mowers. Children younger than 12 years should not use walk-behind mowers.
--Make sure that sturdy shoes (not sandals or sneakers) are worn while mowing.
--Prevent injuries from flying objects, such as stones or toys, by picking up objects from the lawn before mowing begins. Use a collection bag for grass clippings or a plate that covers the opening where cut grass is released. Have anyone who uses a mower wear hearing and eye protection.
--Make sure that children are indoors or at a safe distance well away from the area that you plan to mow.
--Start and refuel mowers outdoors, not in a garage or shed. Mowers should be refueled with the motor turned off and cool.
--Make sure that blade settings (to set the wheel height or dislodge debris) are done by an adult, with the mower off and the spark plug removed or disconnected.
--Do not pull the mower backward or mow in reverse unless absolutely necessary, and carefully look for children behind you when you mow in reverse.
--Always turn off the mower and wait for the blades to stop completely before removing the grass catcher, unclogging the discharge chute, or crossing gravel paths, roads, or other areas.
--Do not allow children to ride as passengers on ride-on mowers.

But with a little extra lawn mower caution and safety, many of the serious and even life-threatening injuries often caused by lawn mowers can be prevented, according to the UMHS. In addition, any time adults are using lawn mowers, they should make sure to keep children out of the yard and in a well-supervised area to avoid injury. Nearly 10,000 children in America are injured each year as the result of a lawn mower accident. Adults, too, need to use extra caution while operating a riding mower to protect themselves from personal injury. Riding mowers have the potential to tip over onto the driver when going up slopes, often resulting in serious injury to the hands and feet. Also, with both riding mower and traditional power mowers, it's important to make sure the yard is free of loose objects, like sticks or rocks, that can project out of the mower during use and cause injury to the face or eyes.

According to the UMHS, any clutter left laying around the yard can fly up into the engine and be projected out the side, almost like a missile, and it can cause serious injury to a person. Personal protective equipment is also a must for anyone cutting the lawn. To prevent injury, everyone who operates a lawn mower wear pants, steel-toed boots and goggles. Loose or scanty clothing could potentially put you at risk for becoming burned by the machine or injured by projectiles. One should wear relatively close-fitting clothing and non-skid, strong footwear like hiking boots that could provide some safety if a blade should come too close to the foot. Some form of hearing protection, since lawn mowers, at an average of 95 decibels, are extremely loud. However, they caution lawn mower operators against using portable music players, which may distract the operator from other potential dangers. And with more than 22 percent of lawn mower injuries involving the hands, fingers or wrist, it's important to always make sure the engine is off and the mower blade has completely stopped rotating and remove the spark plug before attempting to remove debris from the mower or make adjustments. Even when the mower's turned off, the blade is still turning and there's still the risk for a severe injury. And even if there are times when you just want to adjust the height of the mower's wheels, you should pull out the spark plug to ensure that there's no way for the lawn mower to turn on. Lawn mower operators should also use extra caution when fueling the machine. Improper fueling can result in burns or explosions, which could cause the loss of an eye, limb, skin or prove fatal. In all cases, lawn mower owners are strongly encouraged to read their owner's manuals for proper safety operating instructions.

For more safety tips, visit this website: . Remember to use common sense when mowing. That will go a long way to prevent injuries and more severe issues when using lawn mowers. Always consider your safety and for those near you, as well as property concerns from using lawn mowers of any type. Although a well cut yard is beautiful, it is not worth putting your health, life, or anything else at risk.

Until next time. Let me know what you think.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Health Care and Liberty

Americans are preparing to celebrate the Fourth of July holiday with a full weekend of activities. Much of that will include getting together with family and friends for backyard cookouts, fireworks displays, and special events sponsored by local communities and other civic entities. There will be ballgames and events with the national anthem played and sung, and flyovers by military aircraft to honor the country's heritage and national pride. Countless homes across the nation will fly the U.S. flag on their front porch, and the country will be flush with displays of red, white, and blue.

However, in all this national display of patriotism, let us not forget the true meaning of what our liberty represents as the land of the free and the home of the brave. Americans have a rich history of freedom defended both at home and abroad, going back over 230 plus years to our colonial roots. Beginning with the initial struggle against Great Britain by the colonists in the early 1770's, following with a long war for independence, a second onslaught by British troops and their monarchy to topple the young America in the early 1800's, a long and bloody Civil War in the 1860's that pitted family against family that created a split between North and South and resulted in the deaths of over 600,000 men and women on our own soil (finally culminating in a resolution bringing all Americans together again--though with lasting effects to today), more conflicts with Mexico, Spain, and other nations through the end of the 1800's, two major World Wars in the 20th century--not to mention other major conflicts in Korea, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East which still are in turmoil today--Americans have given the ultimate sacrifice for liberty and freedom. Those events must ever be forefront in the national conscience when the July 4th Holiday is celebrated.

Less we forget, there are hundreds of books and media sources that outline the events and catastrophic loss of life and property for each of the epic struggles for liberty. A website that shows casualties by conflict for the Revolutionary War is . One source for casualties in the Civil War alone can be found at , and another site for overall casualties from all major conflicts can be seen at . Needless to say, America has lost many of its best and brightest to maintain liberty.

Many who served in those military endeavors died from disease and inadequate health care, especially in the 18th and 19th centuries. Health care has always been an issue during times of both peace and war. However, it is not a right but a privilege. Americans have certain inalienable rights as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. Certainly freedom of choice is a key ingredient for establishing life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. When the national government attempts to legislate or mandate regulations that are detrimental to the safety of its citizens and its own welfare, Americans must take a stand to let their elected representatives and politicians that enough is enough. Freedom to choose your health care provider is key to your own personal and moral freedom. Freedom to purchase or not purchase your own health insurance is key to your financial freedom. Nationalized health care is not constitutional, nor does it represent any freedoms based upon our history as Americans.

When you consider how much blood, toil, energy, and sacrifice has taken place since 1776, remember the picture of George Washington kneeling in the snow at Valley Forge. Although it is a painting, it represents our American heritage of reliance on "Providence", as Washington often referred to a higher spiritual being. Although there has been some controversy about his personal religious beliefs, Washington was known as a morally righteous man, and a defender of faith and liberty. He knew that a fledgling nation would not survive unless its dependence was upon God and not on its own merits. The concept of religious freedom was then and is now paramount to our central core as a people, and from that basis stems all other freedoms Americans hold dear. It is the cornerstone on which all other freedoms are based because it focuses on the knowledge that without dependence on God, there is no liberty or freedom.

America's true history has been largely ignored in much of the media today. Unfortunately, too much focus is based on fireworks and fun times, going to the beach or on vacation, and taking advantage of the big holiday sales events. Too little attention is focused on our heritage as a Christian nation, our memories of those who sacrificed life, liberty and their sacred honor to defend America, and the reasons Americans enjoy freedom and liberty. This weekend, take time to remember our liberty, our nation, our history as Americans, and then enjoy your country with new found respect and honor. Fly the U.S. flag at your home, sing the national anthem with gusto, and say a prayer of thanks to God that you live in a nation that provides freedom and liberty. If you know someone who has served in the military, tell them you appreciate their service. When you go to church, tell those around you that the Fourth of July should be honored with true Christian service and humility. Send your Congressman a note or call his/her office and encourage them to stand up for freedom and liberty.

Remember. It's your country. Enjoy liberty and freedom. Most of all, keep it free.

Until next time. Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Health Care and Freedom

Freedom isn't free! You have probably heard that saying some time, or maybe you have read it in a magazine or book at some point. This week, you will undoubtedly hear the phrase repeated through the July 4th holiday weekend. Freedom is a concept that has dwelt in the heart of mankind since the dawn of creation. For thousands of years, men and women have suffered under the cruel hand of dictators, emperors, kings, and overlords who mandated complete obedience to their sovereignty. America is that one true city on a hill, that light in the darkness that has represented true freedom since its founding in 1776. The freedoms enjoyed by everyone living in the United States are available to anyone who lives here, regardless of origin, race, or belief. They are guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution as the ultimate, premier body of law.

However, there are those who would seek to destroy the fabric of the Constitution, Bill of Rights, the American way of life and all civil liberties. There are evildoers whose mandate is the socialism of America, including politicians at the highest levels of government, media and journalists, and many others whose only interest is the personal gain from whatever is popular or whatever will serve selfish interests best. Even everyday citizens who have not searched for the truth or researched the facts are wanting change just for the sake of change. They are blown about like chaff in the wind. They have no root, and they seek only personal gain.

One of the factors relative to freedom is freedom of choice--the right for Americans to achieve personal goals and the American dream of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. One threat to our society is government mandated health care. Currently, Americans have the opportunity and privilege to have health insurance or opt not to buy it. There are severe constitutional issues at play if the government forces everyone to purchase health insurance. Additionally, of the reported 47 million uninsured, the true numbers are much lower and can be documented. The federal government, administration, and Congress are working at a fever pitch to ram through health care legislation that has the potential to bankrupt the country as well as deeply and critically impact businesses and families in an overall negative effect.

According to FIRM(Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine), America was founded on the principles of freedom and individual rights. Applied to medicine, the law must respect the individual rights of doctors and other providers, allowing them the freedom to practice medicine. This includes the right to choose their patients, to determine the best treatment for their patients, and to bill their patients accordingly. In the same manner, the law must respect the individual rights of patients, allowing them the freedom to seek out the best doctors and treatment they can afford, and the only moral and practical way to obtain medical care is that of individuals choosing and paying for their own medical care in a capitalist free market. Federal and state regulations and entitlements are the two most important factors in driving up medical costs. They have created the crisis Americans face today and violate the philosophy of individual rights, personal responsibility, and free market economics in health care. Universal health care will create a "nanny state on steroids" deeply antithetical to core American values of individual freedom and responsibility. Americans must reject the entitlement mentality in health care and instead adopt individual rights as the moral basis for real and lasting solutions to our health care problems.

And most dentists (74%) according to a recent national survey by are opposed to nationalized dental care as noted in comments below:
--“National Dental Care would destroy what now is the best care in the world.” (Maryland dentist).
--"We have already had a government-run dental system for years — it's called Medicaid — and it doesn't work." (California dentist).
--“Centralized bureaucratic control of anything is always dehumanizing at best. Everyone becomes more or less a 1984 robot.” (New York dentist).
--“Too many government handouts. People feel they have a right to get everything instead of working for it.” (California dentist).
--“When the government gets involved, everything gets worse!" (General dentist).
--“Where is the government going to get the money to fund Universal Healthcare? Mmm…How about being able to properly fund Social Security first?” (Ohio prosthodontist).
--“Communism, Marxism, and Stalinism are not American.” (Vermont prosthodontist).
--“Even Canada, with its government-ruled medical system, isn't foolish enough to try that with dental care.” (California dentist).

More info about freedom to choose medical providers can be found in an article located at , and it is solid evidence why universal health care is not the answer. According to the, contrary to claims that government-imposed “universal health care” would solve America’s health care problems, it would in fact destroy American medicine and countless lives along with it. The goal of “universal health care” (a euphemism for socialized medicine) is both immoral and impractical; it violates the rights of businessmen, doctors, and patients to act on their own judgment—which, in turn, throttles their ability to produce, administer, or purchase the goods and services in question. Although health care and health insurance are often conflated, there is a crucial difference between the two. Whereas health care consists of the actual goods and services necessary for medical care, health insurance is one means of affording such care. The two are closely related but distinct, as are the services of an auto-body repair shop and an automobile insurance company. Unlike those in more openly socialist countries who obtain health insurance directly from the government, Americans typically purchase health insurance from increasingly government-controlled insurance corporations, giving health insurance in America the veneer of a free-market industry. Behind the veneer, however, the industry is subject to countless state and federal laws, regulations, and taxes—which do not apply to all insurance companies equally.

According to the article, the only moral and practical solution to this now-behemoth problem is to acknowledge that government intervention in health care and in health insurance is wrong, and to start in earnest to eliminate all such interference. This is the moral approach to solving the problem because it recognizes that the producers of health care goods and services have an inalienable right to dispose of the fruits of their thought and labor as they see fit, seeking their best interests through free trade in the marketplace. And it is the practical approach to solving the problem because it will lead to high-quality medical care at the prices that make such care possible—the prices on which providers and patients voluntarily agree.

According to FIRM, any mandatory and comprehensive plan will finish off quality medicine in this country--because it will finish off the medical profession. It will deliver doctors bound hands and feet to the mercies of the bureaucracy. Under the American system you have a right to health care if you can pay for it, i.e., if you can earn it by your own action and effort. But nobody has the right to the services of any professional individual or group simply because he wants them and desperately needs them. The very fact that he needs these services so desperately is the proof that he had better respect the freedom, the integrity, and the rights of the people who provide them. You have a right to work, not to rob others of the fruits of their work, not to turn others into sacrificial, rightless animals laboring to fulfill your needs. And, government is not a productive organization; it has no source of wealth other than confiscation of the citizens' wealth, through taxation, deficit financing or the like. But the fact is: You don't abolish charity by calling it something else. If a person is getting health care for nothing, simply because he is breathing, he is still getting charity, whether or not any politician, lobbyist or activist calls it a "right." To call it a Right when the recipient did not earn it is merely to compound the evil. It is charity still--though now extorted by criminal tactics of force, while hiding under a dishonest name. As with any good or service that is provided by some specific group of men, if you try to make its possession by all a right, you thereby enslave the providers of the service, wreck the service, and end up depriving the very consumers you are supposed to be helping. To call "medical care" a right will merely enslave the doctors and thus destroy the quality of medical care in this country, as socialized medicine has done around the world.

That is why the U.S. system defines rights as it does, strictly as the rights to action, according to FIRM. This was the approach that made the U.S. the first truly free country in all world history--and, soon afterwards, as a result, the greatest country in history, the richest and the most powerful. It became the most powerful because its view of rights made it the most moral. It was the country of individualism and personal independence. Today, however, we are seeing the rise of principled immorality in this country. We are seeing a total abandonment by the intellectuals and the politicians of the moral principles on which the U.S. was founded. We are seeing the complete destruction of the concept of rights. The original American idea has been virtually wiped out, ignored as if it had never existed. The rule now is for politicians to ignore and violate men's actual rights, while arguing about a whole list of rights never dreamed of in this country's founding documents--rights which require no earning, no effort, no action at all on the part of the recipient.

Americans have the right to certain freedoms as enumerated in the Constitution. Health care is not one of them. The free will of the people in a representative government called the United States of America should have and deserve to have the privilege to pursue their own course relative to health care--not the government.

Until next time. Let me know what you think.