Friday, December 23, 2011

Health Care and Christmas

Hustle and bustle, buying and selling, travel and crowds, rich and poor, teens giving birth to babies---not much has changed in 2,000 years, except there is more of the same, and at a faster pace. Over the last two millenia, the focus on this time of year has waxed and waned depending on how religious societies have been. Most people know the story, in America. That's because the nation was founded on Judeo-Christian principles by Believers who were seeking asylum from religious persecution. Granted there were plenty of secular reasons to come to the New World--gold, freedom, land, safety, and more. But there are many parts of the world where the population does not know the story of the manger.

But the story of a baby born to a teenage virgin Jewish girl is one that has stood the test of time, and it is the Reason for the Season. When a bunch of ragged shepherds outside the ancient town of Bethlehem were startled, or practically scared to death, by a heavenly host of angels that night, it was pretty apparent that this particular birth of a newborn infant boy was no regular occasion. Admit it, how many times have you been given a personal message by celestial beings who covered the night sky? Then, when you checked out the story, it turned out to be true? So there it is--nothing short of miraculous.

In those days, the life span of most people was pretty short, and there was a lot to fear. Death was common; and for the poor, it was an everyday experience. Not a great future for most people--slavery for many, disease, bad food, and horrific living conditions. Good times it was not. Then, if that wasn't enough, you had the Roman army on your case all the time, and everyone else in the countries around wanted you dead, too. Talk about having no reason to celebrate new life!

However, when Jesus who is called the Christ, was delivered to Mary, His mother, and to His earthly father Joseph, the story only just began. Although His parents were stunned at the attention, and often confused by the meaning of it all, they knew there was something special about this child. Although there is no recording in the Bible of Joseph's thoughts or words, and very little is mentioned about him, it is recorded that Mary pondered all these things in her heart. A classic song by recording artist Mark Lowry, "Mary did you Know?" puts the birth of the Christ child into perspective. Listen to it here:

Healthcare in ancient Biblical times was, at best, difficult. According to Biblical Archeology Review (BAR) Magazine, Both the Bible and archaeology indicate that numerous options were available. Generally, however, cult and healing were closely related. Of one thing we may be sure: Raging bellyaches—as well as the other infirmities that flesh is heir to—were not uncommon in ancient times. Archaeoparasitologists (archaeologists who study the remains of ancient parasites) have found evidence of intestinal diseases—both tapeworm (taenia) and whipworm (trichuris trichiura) infections—in ancient Israel. Lice infestation was doubtless a problem if we may judge from lice combs recovered at Megiddo and elsewhere (see scarred skull from Dimona). Numerous other medical problems, from infertility to epidemics, are referred to in the Bible and other ancient literature.

As in modern times, patients usually followed a hierarchy of options, beginning with simple and inexpensive ones, and, if circumstances required, moving to more complicated and expensive ones. Today, our first option for a stomachache might be an antacid from the medicine chest. If the stomachache persists, we seek help from a specialist. Much more detail about medical treatments during the ancient times in the Middle East can be found at this site:  Plus, much info about women, puberty, menstruation, and child birth can be found at this site:

Regardless of the times, what is known concerning the birth of Jesus has been repeated down through the ages by both the spoken and written word. The evidence abounds even in secular literature that He did exist, and there is plenty of evidence that His life, teachings, miracles, death, and resurrection happened. Eye witness accounts from the 33 years of His life, career, and ministry have been substantiated, and the entire calendar of time exists as a result of His birth divided into before (B.C.) and after (A.D). The history of the world has been based on that one single fact.

Believers celebrate this time of year as one of the most days. Those who are not still celebrate the holiday because it's an excuse to party, give gifts, and spend time away from work and see family and friends. In fact, Jesus wasn't even born in December. Most scholars believe His birth occurred in the Spring during the time that shepherds would have been tending flocks of sheep outside at night. Christmas was officially recognized initially by the Church in the third century as a way to piggyback on the Roman pagan holiday of Saturnalia, which was the celebration of the winter solstice typically held on the 25th of December each year. Rather than buck the trend, the thought was, "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em." As a result, Christians have been worshipping the birth of the Savior, the Son of God, on December 25 since then. It is a holy day to be sure, but don't miss the purpose of His birth in the midst of all the fun, food, and fellowship.

Christ came to earth to be a sacrifice for the sins of mankind. He is the perfect lamb that shed His blood over three decades after Mary delivered Him in an animal food trough, in a stable, behind a Jewish Motel 1. He is God with us--Emmanuel. His life was sinless, and He gave it up willingly so men, women, boys, and girls would have a way to escape eternal separation from the Creator. He is the Great I Am. No matter what your religious philosophy or beliefs may be--you're not gonna make it without a personal relationship with Him. That's a given.

So, it's okay to join in the celebrations, the parties, the concerts, the caroling, the food, the memories of Christmases past, the family reunions, the friends, the gifts, the movies and TV shows that Hallmark and others produce showing happy endings, Santa Claus (the Spirit of Christmas), and all the rest -- within moderation of course. And you shouldn't feel guilty about it, unless you overindulge. Then, that is a problem. But, remember, when you pause and give thanks for the gifts you have given and received this Christmas, it's not about all of these things. It's about Him, the real Reason for the Season.

Merry Christmas!

Until next time.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Health Care and Bruising

Have you ever bumped into furniture or some other large item and felt pain in your body where the accident happened? Do your arms or legs sometimes show up black and blue from hitting them against large objects or perhaps from other incidents? Bruising can occur with the least of bumps, to the most serious of physical trauma, and leave the victim in pain and severe skin discoloration if they are sensitive to that type of physical contact, either from inanimate or living objects.

According to the Mayo Clinic, Most bruises form when small blood vessels (capillaries) near the skin's surface are broken by the impact of a blow or injury — often on the arms or legs. When this happens, blood leaks out of the vessels and initially appears as a bright or dark red, purple or black mark. Eventually your body reabsorbs the blood, and the mark disappears over time. Generally, harder blows cause larger bruises. However, if you bruise easily, a minor bump — one you might not even notice — can result in substantial discoloration. Some people — especially women — are more prone to bruising than are others. As you get older, several factors can contribute to easy bruising, including:

Aging capillaries. Over time, the tissues supporting these vessels weaken, and capillary walls become more fragile and prone to rupture.Thinning skin. With age, your skin becomes thinner and loses some of the protective fatty layer that helps cushion your blood vessels from injury. Excessive exposure to the sun accelerates this process. 

According to, different types of bruises include contusions, hematomas and purpura:

Contusions are common types of bruises that are caused by trauma, often blunt-force injury, that damages and breaks open the tiny blood vessels in the tissues of the skin, mucus membranes or other organs. Contusions are often accompanied by pain and swelling due to the body’s inflammatory response to injury. This is why a bruise on your shin caused by bumping a table can become swollen. When a contusion develops in your skin, it turns red, then black and blue or purple, and finally a greenish-yellow shade as the blood is broken down and absorbed by the body. Bone contusions and deep muscle contusions can be very painful and take longer to heal than contusions that only affect the skin tissues. The most serious type of contusions are contusions of important organs, such as the brain, kidneys, spleen, liver, lungs and heart. These contusions can be life threatening and are generally caused by severe trauma, such as a fall from a significant height, being hit by a car, serious crush injury, or motor vehicle accident, especially without wearing a seat belt.

Hematomas are a type of bruising in which there is significant bleeding that results in a collection of blood that pools at the site of injury. Hematomas can be caused by the same forces that cause contusions but generally cause more pain, swelling and complications than contusions. Hematomas can be also be caused by surgical procedures or spontaneous rupture of a blood vessel, such as a ruptured aneurysm. Hematomas can occur in any area or organ of the body, and when they occur in certain organs, such as the brain or spleen, they can be life threatening. Common hematomas include:

• Epidural, subdural and intercerebral hematomas are collections of blood in the brain and/or under the skull, which can cause a critical increase in pressure in the skull and brain.
• Nasal septum hematoma is a collection of blood that pools in the septum that divides the nose.
• Subcutaneous hematoma is a collection of blood that pools just beneath the skin.
• Subungal hematoma is a collection of blood that pools under a fingernail or toenail.
A shearing injury can also cause a hematoma in major organs. For example, shaking a baby can cause dangerous shearing forces inside the brain, a brain hematoma, irreversible brain injury, and death.

Purpura is caused by spontaneous leaking of blood from tiny blood vessels (capillaries). It is a type of bruising that causes purple or red flat spots or patches on the skin and mucus membranes. Purpura that results in tiny spots on the skin is called petechiae. A large area of purpura is called ecchymosis, although any type of bruising of the skin is often referred to as ecchymosis. Purpura is not caused by trauma, as are contusions, but by a variety of medical diseases, disorders and conditions including:

• Autoimmune diseases, such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
• Certain infectious diseases, such as meningitis, mononucleosis and measles.
• Certain medications, such as aspirin, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), antibiotics, antihistamines, and blood thinners.
• Insect bites.
• Leukemia.
• Thrombocytopenia (low platelet count that causes problems with clotting).
• Vasculitis (inflammation of blood vessels).

If you experience easy or frequent bruising, especially if it is associated with nosebleeds or bleeding gums, seek prompt medical care. If you, or someone you know, develops petechiae, which are small, flat, purple-colored spots that can indicate meningitis or other serious conditions, seek immediate medical care (call 911).

You know how a bruise changes color over time? That's your body fixing the bruise by breaking down and reabsorbing the blood, which causes the bruise to go through many colors of the rainbow before it eventually disappears. You can pretty much guess the age of a bruise, according to, just by looking at its color:

--When you first get a bruise, it's kind of reddish as the blood appears under the skin.
--Within 1 or 2 days, the hemoglobin (an iron-containing substance that carries oxygen) in the blood changes and your bruise turns bluish-purple or even blackish.
--After 5 to 10 days, the bruise turns greenish or yellowish.
--Then, after 10 or 14 days, it turns yellowish-brown or light brown.
--Finally, after about 2 weeks, your bruise fades away.

It's hard to prevent bruises, but you can help speed the healing process. When you get a bruise, you can use stuff you find right in your freezer to help the bruise go away faster. Applying cold when you first get a bruise helps reduce its size by slowing down the blood that's flowing to the area, which decreases the amount of blood that ends up leaking into the tissues. It also keeps the inflammation and swelling down. All you have to do is apply cold to the bruise for half an hour to an hour at a time for a day or two after the bruise appears.

You don't need to buy a special cold pack, although they're great to keep on hand in the freezer. Just get some ice, put it in a plastic bag, and wrap the bag in a cloth or a towel and place it on the bruise (it isn't such a good idea to apply the ice directly to the skin). Another trick is to use a bag of frozen vegetables. It doesn't matter what kind — carrots, peas, lima beans, whatever — as long as they're frozen. A bag of frozen vegetables is easy to apply to the bruise because it can form to the shape of the injured area. Also, like a cold pack, it can be used and refrozen again and again (just pick your least-favorite vegetables as it's not a good idea to keep thawing and freezing veggies that you plan to eat!).

Another way to help heal your bruise is to elevate the bruised area above the level of your heart, according to KidsHealth. In other words, if the bruise is on your shin, lie down on a couch or bed and prop up your leg. This will slow the flow of the red blood cells to the bruise because more of the blood in your leg will flow back toward the rest of your body instead of leaking out into the tissues of your leg. If you keep standing, more blood will flow to your bruised shin and the bruise will grow faster.

According to, on occasion, instead of going away, the area of a bruise will become firm and may actually start increasing in size. It may also continue to be painful. There are two major causes for this. First, if a large collection of blood is formed under the skin or in the muscle, instead of trying to clean up the area, the body may wall the blood off causing what is called a hematoma. A hematoma is nothing more than a small pool of blood that is walled off. This may need to be drained by your health-care practitioner.

A second and much less common problem occurs when the body deposits calcium, the material that makes up the majority of bone, in the area of injury. The area becomes tender and firm. This process is called heterotopic ossification or myositis ossificans. This condition is diagnosed by x-ray and requires a trip to your health-care practitioner.

The terminology describing different types of bruising often refers to not only their appearance but also to their cause. Petechiae refer to very small, 1- to 3-millimeter accumulations of blood beneath the skin. These can appear like multiple tiny red dots on any part of the body (most commonly the legs). Most often these are multiple, and they can suggest that there is serious health problem present. Examples of these are an infection of the valves of the heart (endocarditis) or abnormal function of the blood-clotting elements (platelets). Bruising around the navel (belly button) can be a result of bleeding within the abdomen. Bruising behind the ear (Battle's sign) can indicate that there is a skull fracture. Lastly, bruises that are raised, firm, multiple, and occur without any injury can be a sign of various types of "autoimmune" diseases (diseases in which the body attacks its own blood vessels). Each of these should be evaluated by a health-care practitioner.

Also, avoid taking the medications that can contribute to bruising, according to MedicineNet. If you have any questions about whether or not your medication can contribute to bruising, ask your health-care practitioner or pharmacist. Do not stop any prescription medications without first contacting your health-care practitioner. Finally, pressure applied to the area (by hand, not with tourniquets) can reduce bleeding. People who take medicines that reduce clotting ("blood thinners") or have clotting abnormalities should seek the advice of a physician or other health-care provider immediately, as should the elderly or those who have experienced significantly severe trauma.

Bruising can be caused by many reasons; but they are never to be taken lightly if the bruised area has been exacerbated by a serious health reason or physical issue, or if the bruising appears to be life threatening or critical. Make sure that your doctor is aware of any serious bruising issues, or if you are the caretaker of anyone who has suffered a serious trauma with bruising or from other reasons they have been bruised. Use common sense to treat bruises, and follow up with your primary care provider if there are any complications or additional problems concerning the healing process or other side effects. Use medication correctly to resolve any bruising issues. Bruises are not pretty, but they can be treated.

Until next time.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Health Care and PTSD

PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, is a symptom that develops after someone has experienced a significant life situation creating a huge amount of stress, typically from an incident that is extremely traumatic such as exposure to death or some other major reason like injury or potential loss of life.

After a traumatic experience, it’s normal to feel frightened, sad, anxious, and disconnected, according to Usually, with time, the upset fades and you start to enjoy life again. But sometimes the trauma is so overwhelming that you find that you can’t move on. You feel stuck with a constant sense of danger and painful memories that don’t fade.

According to the US National Library of Medicine (NLM), PTSD can occur at any age. It can follow a natural disaster such as a flood or fire, or events such as:

•Domestic abuse
•Prison stay

For example, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 may have caused PTSD in some people who were involved, in people who saw the disaster, and in people who lost relatives and friends. Veterans returning home from a war often have PTSD. The cause of PTSD is unknown. Psychological, genetic, physical, and social factors are involved. PTSD changes the body's response to stress. It affects the stress hormones and chemicals that carry information between the nerves (neurotransmitters). It is not known why traumatic events cause PTSD in some people but not others. Having a history of trauma may increase your risk for getting PTSD after a recent traumatic event.

According to the Mayo Clinic, PTSD is a mental health condition that's triggered by a terrifying event. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event. Many people who go through traumatic events have difficulty adjusting and coping for a while. But with time and taking care of yourself, such traumatic reactions usually get better. In some cases, though, the symptoms can get worse or last for months or even years. Sometimes they may completely shake up your life. In a case such as this, you may have post-traumatic stress disorder. Getting treatment as soon as possible after post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms develop may prevent long-term post-traumatic stress disorder. Some factors may make you more likely to develop PTSD after a traumatic event, including:

--Being female.
--Experiencing intense or long-lasting trauma.
--Having experienced other trauma earlier in life.
--Having other mental health problems, such as anxiety or depression.
--Lacking a good support system of family and friends.
--Having first-degree relatives with mental health problems, including PTSD.
--Having first-degree relatives with depression.
--Having been abused or neglected as a child.

Women may be at increased risk of PTSD because they are more likely to experience the kinds of trauma that can trigger the condition. Post-traumatic stress disorder can disrupt your whole life: your job, your relationships and even your enjoyment of everyday activities, according to the Mayo Clinic, and also may place you at a higher risk of other mental health problems, including:

--Drug abuse
--Alcohol abuse
--Eating disorders
--Suicidal thoughts and actions.

In addition, PTSD may increase your risk of certain medical illnesses, including:

--Cardiovascular disease
--Chronic pain
--Autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and thyroid disease
--Musculoskeletal conditions.

The traumatic events that lead to post-traumatic stress disorder are usually so overwhelming and frightening that they would upset anyone, according to Help Guide. Following a traumatic event, almost everyone experiences at least some of the symptoms of PTSD. When your sense of safety and trust are shattered, it’s normal to feel crazy, disconnected, or numb. It’s very common to have bad dreams, feel fearful, and find it difficult to stop thinking about what happened. These are normal reactions to abnormal events. For most people, however, these symptoms are short-lived. They may last for several days or even weeks, but they gradually lift. But if you have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the symptoms don’t decrease. You don’t feel a little better each day. In fact, you may start to feel worse.

After a traumatic experience, the mind and the body are in shock. But as you make sense of what happened and process your emotions, you come out of it. With post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), however, you remain in psychological shock. Your memory of what happened and your feelings about it are disconnected. In order to move on, it’s important to face and feel your memories and emotions. The symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can arise suddenly, gradually, or come and go over time. Sometimes symptoms appear seemingly out of the blue. At other times, they are triggered by something that reminds you of the original traumatic event, such as a noise, an image, certain words, or a smell. While everyone experiences PTSD differently, there are three main types of symptoms:
--Re-experiencing the traumatic event.
--Avoiding reminders of the trauma.
--Increased anxiety and emotional arousal.

1.) Symptoms of PTSD: Re-experiencing the traumatic event.
--Intrusive, upsetting memories of the event.
--Flashbacks (acting or feeling like the event is happening again).
--Nightmares (either of the event or of other frightening things).
--Feelings of intense distress when reminded of the trauma.
--Intense physical reactions to reminders of the event (e.g. pounding heart, rapid breathing, nausea, muscle tension, sweating).

2.) Symptoms of PTSD: Avoidance and numbing.
--Avoiding activities, places, thoughts, or feelings that remind you of the trauma.
--Inability to remember important aspects of the trauma.
--Loss of interest in activities and life in general.
--Feeling detached from others and emotionally numb.
--Sense of a limited future (you don’t expect to live a normal life span, get married, have a career).

3.) Symptoms of PTSD: Increased anxiety and emotional arousal.
--Difficulty falling or staying asleep.
--Irritability or outbursts of anger.
--Difficulty concentrating.
--Hypervigilance (on constant “red alert”).
--Feeling jumpy and easily startled.

There are no tests that can be done to diagnose PTSD. According to the NLM, the diagnosis is made based on certain symptoms. Your doctor may ask for how long you have had symptoms. This will help your doctor know if you have PTSD or a similar condition called Acute Stress Disorder (ASD). In PTSD, symptoms are present for at least 30 days. In ASD, symptoms will be present for a shorter period of time. Your doctor may also do mental health exams, physical exams, and blood tests to rule out other illnesses that are similar to PTSD.

Treatment can help prevent PTSD from developing after a trauma. A good social support system may also help protect against PTSD, according to the NLM. If PTSD does occur, a form of treatment called "desensitization" may be used. This treatment helps reduce symptoms by encouraging you to remember the traumatic event and express your feelings about it. Over time, memories of the event should become less frightening. Support groups, where people who have had similar experiences share their feelings, may also be helpful. In most cases, these problems should be treated before trying desensitization therapy. Medicines that act on the nervous system can help reduce anxiety and other symptoms of PTSD. Antidepressants, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), can be effective in treating PTSD. Other anti-anxiety and sleep medicines may also be helpful. You can get more information about post-traumatic stress disorder from the American Psychiatric Association --

Another great site for PTSD support services is Military Ministry through Campus Crusade for Christ ( has materials available for returning veterans, and they have partnered with the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC) to help those military personnel dealing with stress and PTSD.

Although traumatic events can cause distress, not all feelings of distress are symptoms of PTSD. Talk about your feelings with friends and relatives. If your symptoms do not improve soon or are making you very upset, contact your doctor. Seek help right away if:
--You feel overwhelmed.
--You are thinking of hurting yourself or anybody else.
--You are unable to control your behavior.
--You have other very upsetting symptoms of PTSD.

PTSD is a serious condition and should be treated as soon as possible upon diagnosis. If you or a loved one are suffering symptoms, visit a primary care physician, specialist, counselor, or psychologist to establish treatment. There are ways to treat this emotional and mental situation. Don't put it off.

Until next time.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Health Care and Hair Loss

Over time, all people lose hair which is typically going to be evident on the scalp. Losing hair can be as simple as a few at a time all the way to complete baldness. According to the Mayo Clinic, Baldness typically refers to excessive hair loss from your scalp and can be the result of heredity, certain medications or an underlying medical condition. Anyone — men, women and children — can experience hair loss. Some people prefer to let their baldness run its course untreated and unhidden. Others may cover it up with hairstyles, makeup, hats or scarves. And still others choose one of the medications and surgical procedures that are available to treat hair loss. Before pursuing any treatment option, talk with your doctor about the cause of and best possible treatments for your hair loss.

According to WebMD, hair loss, or alopecia, is a concern for anyone experiencing it. The cause of hair loss varies. Treatments for hair loss include medications such as Proscar, Propecia, and Rogaine, hair replacements, and hair restoration. Hair loss can be caused by any number of conditions, reflected in a specific diagnosis. Some diagnoses have alopecia in their title, such as alopecia areata or scarring alopecia, but many do not, such as telogen effluvium. Alopecia can be caused by many factors from genetics to drugs. While androgenetic alopecia (male or female pattern baldness, AGA for short) is by far the most common form of hair loss, dermatologists also see many people with other forms of alopecia. Several hundred diseases have hair loss as a primary symptom.

Probably the most common non-AGA alopecias a dermatologist will see are telogen effluvium, alopecia areata, ringworm, scarring alopecia, and hair loss due to cosmetic overprocessing. Other, more rare forms of hair loss may be difficult to diagnose, and some patients may wait months, even years for a correct diagnosis and undergo consultation with numerous dermatologists until they find one with knowledge of their condition. Plus, with rare diseases, there is little motivation for research to be conducted and for treatments to be developed. Often, even when a correct diagnosis is made, a dermatologist can offer no known treatment for the condition.

Research into hair biology and hair diseases is a very small field, and even research on androgenetic alopecia is quite limited. Perhaps 20 years ago there were fewer than 100 people worldwide who studied hair research in a major way. In recent years, there may be five times as many. This is still a small number compared to, say, diabetes research, but the expanding numbers of researchers investigating hair biology is positive, and eventually should lead to a better understanding and more help for those with rare alopecias, according to WebMD.

According to, A number of things can cause excessive hair loss. For example, about 3 or 4 months after an illness or a major surgery, you may suddenly lose a large amount of hair. This hair loss is related to the stress of the illness and is temporary. Hormonal problems may cause hair loss. If your thyroid gland is overactive or underactive, your hair may fall out. This hair loss usually can be helped by treatment thyroid disease. Hair loss may occur if male or female hormones, known as androgens and estrogens, are out of balance. Correcting the hormone imbalance may stop your hair loss.

Many women notice hair loss about 3 months after they've had a baby. This loss is also related to hormones. During pregnancy, high levels of certain hormones cause the body to keep hair that would normally fall out. When the hormones return to pre-pregnancy levels, that hair falls out and the normal cycle of growth and loss starts again. Some medicines can cause hair loss. This type of hair loss improves when you stop taking the medicine. Medicines that can cause hair loss include blood thinners (also called anticoagulants), medicines used for gout, high blood pressure or heart problems, vitamin A (if too much is taken), birth control pills and antidepressants. Certain infections can cause hair loss. Fungal infections of the scalp can cause hair loss in children. The infection is easily treated with antifungal medicines. Finally, hair loss may occur as part of an underlying disease, such as lupus or diabetes. Since hair loss may be an early sign of a disease, it is important to find the cause so that it can be treated.

Hair loss in children is more common than most people realize, according to WebMD. Currently children's hair loss is responsible for about 3% of all pediatric office visits in this country. The American Hair loss Association recognizes that children's hair loss can be an extremely devastating issue. However, you can take solace in knowing that most pediatric alopecia patients can be successfully treated with the proper diagnosis. The ALHA recommends seeking the advice of your pediatrician as soon as you notice the onset of even the smallest amount of hair loss in your child.

A complete medical history, family history and physical examination can help in a diagnosis, according to the Mayo Clinic. The pattern and rate of hair loss, the appearance of nearby hairs (for example, if hairs are broken off), and accompanying symptoms are considered when making the diagnosis. Tests may be necessary if the cause isn't apparent after the examination. These include:

--Pull test: Several dozen hairs are gently pulled to see how many come out. This helps determine the stage of the shedding process and can help diagnose or rule out telogen effluvium.
--Skin scrapings: Samples taken from the skin or from a few hairs plucked from the scalp can help verify whether an infection is causing hair loss.
--Punch biopsy: When a diagnosis is difficult to confirm, especially in the case of alopecia areata or scarring alopecia, your doctor may perform a punch biopsy. During this test, the doctor uses a circular tool to remove a small section of your skin's deeper layers.
--Screening tests for related diseases: Your doctor may perform tests to determine if you have a medical condition that causes hair loss, such as thyroid disease, diabetes or lupus. Your doctor may also ask questions about the types of medications you're taking.
--Sometimes hair loss is a side effect of certain drugs, such as those that treat gout, arthritis, depression, heart problems and high blood pressure.

According to, Depending on your type of hair loss, treatments are available. If a medicine is causing your hair loss, your doctor may be able to prescribe a different medicine. Recognizing and treating an infection may help stop the hair loss. Correcting a hormone imbalance may prevent further hair loss. Medicines may also help slow or prevent the development of common baldness. One medicine, minoxidil (brand name: Rogaine), is available without a prescription. It is applied to the scalp. Both men and women can use it. Another medicine, finasteride, is available with a prescription. It comes in pills and is only for men. It may take up to 6 months before you can tell if one of these medicines is working. If adequate treatment is not available for your type of hair loss, you may consider trying different hairstyles or wigs, hairpieces, hair weaves or artificial hair replacement.

According to the Mayo Clinic, The following tips can help keep your hair healthy and may minimize the appearance of hair loss:

--Eat a nutritionally balanced diet.
--Handle your hair gently. Whenever possible, allow your hair to air-dry naturally.
--Avoid tight hairstyles, such as braids, buns or ponytails.
--Avoid compulsively twisting, rubbing or pulling your hair.
--Check with hair care experts about hairpieces or styling techniques that help minimize the effects of balding.
--The over-the-counter (nonprescription) medication minoxidil (Rogaine) promotes new hair growth and prevents further hair loss in a small percentage of people. Other over-the-counter hair growth products have no proven benefit.

According to the American Hair Loss Association (AHLA), the following organizations are the only hair loss related non-profit or consumer organizations currently recognized by AHLA:
1. The American Academy of Dermatology :
2. International Alliance of Hair Restoration Surgeons :
3. National Alopecia Areata Foundation :
4. Children's Alopecia Project :
5. The Bald Truth :
6.  The Rapunzel Project :

For more information about this organization, go to their site: .

Until next time.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Health Care and Holiday Foods

During the Holiday Season--Thanksgiving through New Year's Day--there seems to be an abnormal overabundance of delicious foods available to consumers, more so than any other time of the year. With this ode to food and drink, people like to over indulge, using the excuses that it's the Holidays, "everyone is doing it", there are so many parties to attend, and they can lose it after January 1. And foodies go nuts during November and December with all the tremendous options available at specialty stores, online food merchants, department and grocery store locations, warehouse clubs, and more. So much food, and so little time!

According to WebMD, wherever you come from or wherever you're going home to this season, here's how to serve up fare that is both festive and light. Whether your table offerings lean toward Norman Rockwell-worthy all-American, Latino, Jewish, Italian, or German traditions, the time-honored dishes you love can be made with less fat and fewer calories -- without sacrificing taste. Inspired by the foods ladled up by the Pilgrims, the traditional American meal has come to mean eggnog, hot apple cider, and gingerbread cookies on Dec. 24. Christmas Day is usually spent with relatives over a big meal centered around an oven-roasted turkey, honey-baked ham, or other impressive cut of meat -- accompanied by all the fixins. Here are some options to eat more healthy fare:

Traditional treat: What's a holiday office cocktail party without savory finger foods, creamy dips, and fried canapés?

Leaner eat: Bypass the chips and other fried pound-packers and help yourself to a small handful of nuts, reduced-fat cheese and fresh fruit, or chilled shrimp, says Arthur Agatston, MD, author of The South Beach Diet Parties and Holidays Cookbook: Healthy Recipes for Entertaining Family and Friends. Or serve a hummus dip with a holiday-themed veggie platter: red or green pepper, zucchini, and jicama strips.

Traditional treat: Dark turkey meat covered in gravy -- because nobody, but nobody, wants to eat the breast meat (not till the next day, that is, when everyone wants white-meat turkey sandwiches, slathered with mayo).

Leaner eat: Choose lower-fat white meat without the skin and enjoy it with just a drizzle of gravy made with defatted pan juices, dry white wine, and low-sodium chicken broth, Agatston tells WebMD.

Traditional treat: A "must" at most Americans' holiday table is a big mound of mashed potatoes drowning in butter and salt.

Leaner eat: Enjoy vitamin-rich mashed sweet potatoes or baked sweet potato rounds or fries. Spritz the strips with cooking spray, add a dash of cinnamon, and bake at 450 degrees for 30 minutes.

Traditional treat: Corn bread stuffing cooked inside a turkey is a mainstay of the meal for many and usually loaded with a variety of meats, nuts, and veggies, with plenty of butter, of course.

Leaner eat: Try wild rice as stuffing instead, and bake it separately in a covered casserole. Cooked inside the turkey, the stuffing absorbs too much fat from the meat.

Traditional treat: Sweet, rich, oh-so-fattening pecan pie is a holiday highlight. While the antioxidant-packed nuts are good for you, in moderation, the corn syrup, butter, and sugar can pad your hips with up to 800 calories per slice.

Leaner eat: Opt for a small slice of pie minus the crust, and make it pumpkin, which is lower in fat and calories and also provides a good dose of beta-carotene. Or try a couple of strawberries dipped in  dark chocolate.

According to the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA), Parties, family dinners, and other gatherings where food is served are all part of the holiday cheer. But the merriment can change to misery if food makes you or others ill. Typical symptoms of foodborne illness are vomiting, diarrhea, and flu-like symptoms, which can start anywhere from hours to days after contaminated food or drinks are consumed. The symptoms usually are not long-lasting in healthy people—a few hours or a few days—and usually go away without medical treatment. But foodborne illness can be severe and even life-threatening to anyone, especially those most at risk:

--Older adults.
--Infants and young children.
--Pregnant women.
--People with HIV/AIDS, cancer, or any condition that weakens their immune system.
--People who take medicines that suppress the immune system; for example, some medicines for rheumatoid arthritis.

Combating bacteria, viruses, parasites, and other contaminants in our food supply is a high priority for the Food and Drug Administration. But consumers have a role to play, too, especially when it comes to safe food-handling practices in the home. The good news is that practicing four basic food safety measures can help prevent foodborne illness.

1. Clean: The first rule of safe food preparation in the home is to keep everything clean. Wash hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling any food. For children, this means the time it takes to sing 'Happy Birthday' twice. Wash food-contact surfaces (cutting boards, dishes, utensils, countertops) with hot, soapy water after preparing each food item and before going on to the next item. Rinse fruits and vegetables thoroughly under cool running water and use a produce brush to remove surface dirt. Do not rinse raw meat and poultry before cooking. Washing these foods makes it more likely for bacteria to spread to areas around the sink and countertops.

2. Separate: Don't give bacteria the opportunity to spread from one food to another (cross-contamination). Keep raw eggs, meat, poultry, seafood, and their juices away from foods that won't be cooked. Take this precaution while shopping in the store, when storing in the refrigerator at home, and while preparing meals. Consider using one cutting board only for foods that will be cooked (such as raw meat, poultry, and seafood) and another one for those that will not (such as raw fruits and vegetables). Keep fruits and vegetables that will be eaten raw separate from other foods such as raw meat, poultry or seafood—and from kitchen utensils used for those products. Do not put cooked meat or other food that is ready to eat on an unwashed plate that has held any raw eggs, meat, poultry, seafood, or their juices.

3. Cook: Food is safely cooked when it reaches a high enough internal temperature to kill harmful bacteria. Color is not a reliable indicator of doneness. Use a food thermometer to make sure meat, poultry, and fish are cooked to a safe internal temperature. To check a turkey for safety, insert a food thermometer into the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast. The turkey is safe when the temperature reaches 165ºF. If the turkey is stuffed, the temperature of the stuffing should be 165ºF. Bring sauces, soups, and gravies to a rolling boil when reheating. Cook eggs until the yolk and white are firm. When making your own eggnog or other recipe calling for raw eggs, use pasteurized shell eggs, liquid or frozen pasteurized egg products, or powdered egg whites. Don't eat uncooked cookie dough, which may contain raw eggs.

4. Chill: Refrigerate foods quickly because harmful bacteria grow rapidly at room temperature. Plus, refrigerate leftovers and takeout foods—and any type of food that should be refrigerated—within two hours. That includes pumpkin pie! Set your refrigerator at or below 40ºF and the freezer at 0ºF. Check both periodically with an appliance thermometer. Never defrost food at room temperature. Food can be defrosted safely in the refrigerator, under cold running water, or in the microwave. Food thawed in cold water or in the microwave should be cooked immediately. Allow the correct amount of time to properly thaw food. For example, a 20-pound turkey needs four to five days to thaw completely when thawed in the refrigerator. Don't taste food that looks or smells questionable. A good rule to follow is, when in doubt, throw it out. Leftovers should be used within three to four days.

5. Use care with stuffing: Whether it is cooked inside or outside the bird, all stuffing and dressing must be cooked to a minimum temperature of 165ºF. For optimum safety, cooking your stuffing in a casserole dish is recommended. Stuffing should be prepared and stuffed into the turkey immediately before it's placed in the oven. Mix wet and dry ingredients for the stuffing separately and combine just before using. The turkey should be stuffed loosely, about 3/4 cup stuffing per pound of turkey. Any extra stuffing should be baked in a greased casserole dish.

With all the fun and food you have available during the Holidays, it pays to be very careful when eating. If you overindulge, you definitely will feel the after effects. If you aren't careful in food preparation, you and your family and guests may suffer later. Regardless of the edible options you have at this time of year, make sure you make wise choices when it comes to eating and drinking. Too much fun can be too much. After the first of the year, make up for your lack of resistance now. At least pace yourself til the end of the year, then as you make your New Year's resolutions--especially about losing weight--keep in mind that consuming lots of great food means lots of exercise to shed the pounds. Enjoy the Season!
Until next time.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Health Care and the Day of Infamy

Seventy years ago today, the nation was rocked with a surprise attack on American naval forces at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. On an early Sunday morning, December 7, 1941, the government of Japan launched a deadly raid that killed thousands of service men and women and destroyed a huge portion of the US Sixth Fleet. The next day, President Franklin Roosevelt addressed the American public by radio and announced the horrific deed as the Day that will live in infamy. Congress immediately declared war on Japan, and then Americans were thrown into the largest worldwide conflict in history. Besides the nearly 2,400 who were killed, the attack left 1,178 people wounded, sank or heavily damaged a dozen U.S. warships and destroyed 323 aircraft, badly crippling the Pacific fleet.

Today, seven decades later, there are far fewer survivors left to remember and give honor to those that were casualties on that dark day. In 1991, which marked the 50th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States Congress established the Pearl Harbor Commemorative Medal. This is also known as the Pearl Harbor Survivor's Medal and can be awarded to any veteran of the United States military who were present in or around Pearl Harbor during the attack by the Japanese military. The medal can be awarded to civilians, who were killed or injured in the attack.

Memorials have been built to remember or to symbolize the day. For example, the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor is a marble memorial built over the sunken USS Arizona, which was dedicated in 1962. The memorial remembers all military personnel who were killed in the Pearl Harbor attack. The memorial was designed by architect Alfred Preis, an Austrian-born resident who lived in Honolulu and was placed at a detainment camp after the Pearl Harbor attack as part of the internment policy of Japanese and German Americans at the time.

Another memorial that commemorates Pearl Harbor Day is the USS Utah, a battleship that was attacked and sunk in Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. A memorial to honor the crew of the USS Utah was dedicated on the northwest shore of Ford Island, near the ship's wreck, in 1972. The ship was added to the National Register of Historic Places and declared a National Historic Landmark in 1989. It is also Utah’s official state ship. Memorabilia, books, and movies about the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 have also been made available to the public over the years.

According to the New York Times, for more than half a century, members of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association gathered here every Dec. 7 to commemorate the attack by the Japanese that drew the United States into World War II. Others stayed closer to home for more intimate regional chapter ceremonies, sharing memories of a day they still remember in searing detail. But no more. The 70th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack will be the last one marked by the survivors’ association. With a concession to the reality of time — of age, of deteriorating health and death — the association will disband on Dec. 31.

The fact that this moment was inevitable has made this no less a difficult year for the survivors, some of whom are concerned that the event that defined their lives will soon be just another chapter in a history book, with no one left to go to schools and Rotary Club luncheons to offer a firsthand testimony of that day. The association was founded in 1958 with a roster of 28,000, all members of the military who had been on the island of Oahu the morning of the attack. It was granted a Congressional charter in October 1985. Membership had fallen to 2,700 as of Sept. 1; given the continuing death toll and the declining health of men who are all around 90 years old or older, that figure exaggerates the actual strength of the organization, which is why the their board voted to close down. Deaths were only part of the problem. Most of the survivors are well into their 90s; and a lot are housebound and can’t travel. Plus, a lot are in rest homes, so it becomes a tremendous problem at this age.

Due to the aging of these veterans, and many in poor or declining health, Pearl Harbor Day has now started to fade in the memories of survivors from that fateful day. Although horrific in its impact, the sacrifices made by those who paid the ultimate price should never be forgotten by a nation who continues to be at the forefront of international military action. Providing for the health care of those who are still living is a way to honor those now in their late 80's and 90's. May America remember, and may it stand beside the memorials of those who kept it safe. May those who still live from that time and continue to draw breath know that their service will not be forgotten. Give thanks today for our liberty and freedom, and never forget.

Until next time.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Health Care and Dental Savings

Americans love to save money, especially in a tight economy. And everyone loves a good deal when a great product or service can be purchased at little to no money. Plus, when you profit from using what you bought, you are ahead financially and have a great feeling that you saved money and got a great bargain. On top of those benefits of being fiscally conservative and being a savvy shopper, when you can come out with being healthier as a result you have won the Trifecta of Consumerism. That is really something to smile about.

Saving money is a great goal, especially with your dental health. Oral hygiene is no laughing matter, but you'll be laughing all the way to the bank when you score a deal with a dental plan that saves you a lot. Discount dental plans are a really good way to keep your costs down and receive significant value. They are typically sold as a non-insurance membership that provides consumers access to participating dental offices in a network. Most often, there is no out of network privilege, but if the dental network is sizeable, most members should not have too much difficulty finding a location near their home or office. The downside is that if you are already seeing someone who is not in the dental network, then you would need to change dentists. But when considering the fact that you may save an average of 50% on your dental work, that's a pretty good incentive to find someone else who can help you with your teeth and gums. Imagine the smile on your face when you realize that you stopped paying for another Mercedes or country club golf membership, and you can keep the savings in your pocket instead.

Keeping your teeth and gums in good shape is important. 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. 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.

There are dental insurances, payment plans at dental offices and dental schools offering low cost dentistry, and discount plans. 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. Poor dental hygiene has been proven to lead to many more serious health problems, such as cancer, low birth weight in newborns, heart disease, diabetes, and more.

Discount plans with Careington or other companies allow you to visit a dentist and receive significant savings at the time of service with participating dentists including specialists for oral surgery, periodontal work, orthodontia, and more. Payments as low as $10-$15 a month for a family can be found that provide huge savings between 20% and 60% for most all procedures. A family can save as much as $1200 a year or more using a discount dental plan. You pay a discounted rate to the dentist at the time of service, and may end up with a cleaning for a cleaning, a set of X-rays, and an exam for under $100 on your first visit. And, you have a fee schedule that tells you in advance what you pay the dentist. How about that--no surprises, and you know how much it costs before you go. There are several advantages for consumers:

1.) Nationwide access to providers with no penalty for changing dentists.

2.) No waiting. You can use your plan immediately with any participating provider.

3.) No limit on the amount of work to be done. You can use your plan as often as you need, and the membership rates will typically never increase for your plan.

4.) The entire household is often automatically included in your membership.

5.) There are no contracts, and no forms to fill out at the dentist when you use your plan.

6.) You receive immediate savings at the time of service.

7.) Low monthly membership fees.

8.) Discount plans can be used in conjunction with some insurance plans.

9.) You can use your pre-tax flex dollars (FSA/HRA/HSA) to pay for procedures.

10.) You can cancel your plan at any time with no penalties.

The company is currently offering a real deal with a new membership for only an initial payment of $.99 for the first month to get started. You and your family can see a dentist right away and have a real smile worth showing off--your teeth are better, and so is your wallet! Through a membership in a plan called Healthy Discounts North America, the company offers you significant savings on dental and vision care. With Healthy Discounts, you can reduce your out-of-pocket expenses and receive care from qualified dentists and optometrists. For only $.99 for your first month, anyone can join this plan. Your spouse and children are eligible too. This is not an insurance plan, but a dental discount savings plan designed to fit your needs and budget. Your first month is only $.99 if you do not cancel the plan; then you will be billed monthly at $6.95 for member only, $11.95 for member plus one other family member, or $15.95 for the entire family. Now that's a deal--look good, feel good, and save money! You can find more about it at their website:
An economic recession requires consumers to tighten their fiscal belts, but don't skimp on your health care and your dental needs. Spending money to save money to keep your teeth and gums, and your physical health, in good shape is a good idea. When you have an opportunity to find a good deal in the current financial environment, act on it to take advantage of the savings and value. After all, it's not every day that you can get access to a new smile for less than a dollar!

Until next time.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Health Care and Holiday Blues

Have you ever heard Elvis Presley's recording of "Blue Christmas", or any of the countless other songs during the Holiday Season that refer to being blue for one reason or another? Many people suffer depression and dark times during November and December, and this time frame has the highest suicide rate than any other during the year. There is something about these months that make people sad or cause them to be depressed.

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC), the holidays are a time for festive partying with friends and family, sharing gifts and laughter -- and getting depressed. That's right. For many people, the holidays bring on feelings of sadness and anxiety that can be hard to shake. According to the National Mental Health Association, reasons for feeling blue around the holidays are numerous. They range from fatigue -- a result of all of the increased holiday activity -- to financial limitations and family tensions.

Experts say one of the fastest routes to holiday depression is unrealistic expectations. People often hold on to what they remember as an ideal holiday from years gone by, and are unable to reproduce it. There are also expectations around the holidays that 'everything must be perfect', and perfection is, of course, rarely obtainable. Other factors that can contribute to feelings of sadness around the holidays are memories of deceased loved ones and strained family dynamics. The holidays are associated with family and togetherness. In today's world of high divorce rates and fragmented family units, stress is commonly experienced as family members attempt to find some compromise in defining shared time.

According to, sadness is a truly personal feeling. What makes one person feel sad may not affect another person. Here are some examples of what may cause you to experience sadness, stress, or depression during the Holidays, and how to deal with it:

1.) A number of factors, including unrealistic expectations, financial pressures, and too many commitments can cause stress at holiday time.

2.) Certain people may feel depressed around the winter holidays due to seasonal affective disorder (SAD), sometimes referred to as seasonal depression.

3.) Headaches, excessive drinking, overeating, and insomnia are some of the possible consequences of poorly managed holiday stress.

4.) Those suffering from any type of holiday depression or stress can benefit from increased social support during this time of year. Counseling or support groups can also be beneficial.

5.) In addition to being an important step in preventing the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder, regular exposure to light that is bright, particularly fluorescent lights, significantly improves depression in people with SAD during the fall and winter.

6.) Setting realistic goals and expectations, reaching out to friends, sharing tasks with family members, finding inexpensive ways to enjoy yourself, and helping others are all ways to help beat holiday stress.

The holidays cause many people to feel anxious and depressed in a general sense; but for some, holiday tensions can lead to full-blown clinical depression. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 19 million American adults suffer from depressive illnesses every year. Unfortunately, many people with clinical depression don't seek help, even though depression is a treatable condition. Some people still look at mental illness as a character flaw, but the truth is that it is no different from any other kind of illness. If your body couldn't produce enough insulin, no one would tell you to 'get over it'. You'd need to go to the doctor and get treated for your insulin deficiency. It is the same with mental illness.

Below are a list of depressive symptoms compiled by the National Institute of Mental Health. NIMH experts suggest that you seek professional help if you experience five or more of these symptoms every day for two weeks. If you have recurring thoughts of death or suicide, you should get help immediately from professional sources. Depression may exhibit itself in the following ways:

•Persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" mood.
•Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism.
•Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness.
•Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed, including sex.
•Decreased energy, fatigue, being "slowed down".
•Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions.
•Insomnia, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping.
•Appetite and/or weight loss or overeating and weight gain.
•Restlessness, or irritability.
•Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pain.

According to MedicineNet, a simple history and physical exam may be all that is needed to diagnose a case of the holiday blues. Your health-care professional may perform lab tests or other tests to rule out any medical conditions that may be causing your symptoms. Likewise, a full history of your symptoms is likely to provide clues that can help distinguish a mild case of the holiday blues from SAD or a more serious and chronic depressive disorder. Those suffering from any type of holiday depression or stress may benefit from increased social support during this time of year. For uncomplicated holiday blues, improvement may be found by finding ways to reduce the stresses associated with the holiday, either by limiting commitments and outside activities, making arrangements to share family responsibilities such as gift shopping and meal preparation, agreeing upon financial limits for purchases, or taking extra time to rest and rejuvenate.

Counseling or support groups are another way to relieve some of the burdens of holiday stress or sadness. Knowing that others feel the same way and sharing your thoughts and experiences can help you manage your troubling feelings. Support groups also provide a further layer of social support during this vulnerable time period.

In addition to being an important step in preventing the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder, regular exposure to light that is bright, particularly fluorescent lights, significantly improves depression in people with SAD during the fall and winter. Phototherapy is commercially available in the form of light boxes, which are used for approximately 30 minutes daily. The light required must be of sufficient brightness, approximately 25 times as bright as a normal living room light. The light treatment is used daily in the morning and evening for best results. Visiting other areas of the world that are characterized by more bright light (such as the Caribbean) can also improve the symptoms of SAD.

For extreme conditions, Antidepressant medications, particularly serotonin selective reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) medications, can be an effective treatment for seasonal affective disorder. Examples of SSRIs include fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), paroxetine (Paxil), and citalopram (Celexa).

In addition to relationship problems, according to CBN, another source of sadness at at the holidays is the belief that happiness depends on how much money you spend. And with unemployment in double digits, there may be lots of people who feel inadequate. Here are 9 great ways to help beat the holiday blues:

--Plan ahead. Make a budget for gifts, travel, food and donations. Schedule tasks such as holiday shopping, baking, decorating so they are less stressful.

--Reach Out. Focusing on someone else tends to lift your spirit and theirs. Churches, hospitals and nursing homes all need volunteers this time of year.

--Let Go of Grievances. In other words, bury the hatchet.

--Be With People. Schedule get-togethers well in advance, attend meetings, parties, church services, etc. Don't get caught alone. Isolation can lead to depression.

--Get Creative. If you can't be with your loved ones find new ways to celebrate together such as sharing pictures, e-mails or videos.

--Exercise. It's a powerful mood booster because during exercise the body releases endorphins, neurotransmitters that have euphoric and pain-relieving properties similar to morphine.

--Eat Healthy. Overindulgence leads to feelings of guilt and lethargy.

--Get Plenty of Rest. You'll need a good night's sleep to tackle the emotional demands of the holidays and to prevent getting sick when you can least afford to be side-lined.

--Pray Daily. Prayer helps to center  you--it's important to make time to get your life in focus.

By taking spiritual and practical steps, you can enjoy good emotional health throughout the holidays. Find help professionally and with family and friends you trust to help you through any challenging issues relative to depression and sadness. There are plenty of resources to help you if you are dealing with problems around the Holidays. Seek help, and then work on your mood to get back to where you belong--happy and healthy.

Until next time.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Health Care and a Day of Thanks

Thanksgiving serves as a singular American holiday, and is celebrated annually during the fourth Thursday in November. This event was set aside as a day to give thanks for the blessings of life.

The first American Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1621, to commemorate the harvest reaped by the Plymouth Colony after a harsh winter. In that year Governor William Bradford proclaimed a day of thanksgiving. The colonists celebrated it as a traditional English harvest feast, to which they invited the local Wampanoag Indians. Days of thanksgiving were celebrated throughout the colonies after fall harvests. All thirteen colonies did not, however, celebrate Thanksgiving at the same time until October 1777. George Washington was the first president to declare the holiday, in 1789.

Thanksgiving is a holiday, special and well-commemorated to express gratitude and appreciation, and as well as a sincere thanksgiving, offered to God for all His blessings, and as well as to the family, loved ones and friends for all their support. Traditionally, it has been the day to give thanks for a harvest that is bountiful and rich. Unfortunately, modern time Thanksgiving celebration is primarily identified as a secular holiday, with Thanksgiving dinner consisting of baked or roasted turkey is usually the main highlight of the holiday. Current society treats it often as the official start of the Christmas holiday season, with football games on TV, shopping til you drop, and endless relatives who don't know when to leave your house. Instead of considering the day in quiet contemplation and joyous celebration of life, Thanksgiving is considered a great day to catch up on your sleep and spend money.

The Mayflower's voyage to the new world was a "survival test" on a huge scale, according to The passengers had sold their possessions and had to work for years to pay for their passage. The ship had no heat or plumbing. Storms raged, and a main beam cracked in mid-ocean. But after more than two months on the Atlantic Ocean, this band of 102 people arrived before Christmas, 1620. William Bradford wrote in his journal, "Being thus arrived at a good harbor, and brought safely to land, they fell on their knees and blessed the God of heaven who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean and delivered them from all the perils and miseries thereof." But just after Christmas a serious sickness broke out, and in the next three months nearly half the Pilgrims died. Hunger and illness stalked them, but they never wavered in their purpose.

Today, Americans can learn these six lessons from the Pilgrims:

(1.) Be Strong in Your Faith--First, the Pilgrims have left us an example of their deep, unwavering religious convictions. What were these convictions? They believed in Christ and in His Kingdom. They found fulfillment in Him. They had purpose in their lives. They had encountered the living Christ and they knew it. They feared neither monarch nor people, only God. Because they belonged to God, they had a deep faith and confidence in themselves. They believed in their own dignity, were confident that their cause was just, and walked with an uprightness that only fearless and free people can display. Agnosticism, anxiety, emptiness, meaninglessness, have gripped much of the world—and even the Church. People are broad but shallow. Today's youth are desperately searching for purpose and meaning and fulfillment in their lives. By contrast, these Pilgrim forebears stand as shining examples of people who were narrow but deep, certain of what they believed, unswerving in their loyalty, and passionately dedicated to God whom they trusted and for whom they willingly would have died. A return to biblical faith and conviction would have a great impact at this hour.

(2.) Practice Discipline--Second, the Pilgrims left an example of disciplined living. They were Puritans who were ready to order everything—personal life, worship, the church, business affairs, political views, and even recreation—according to the commandments of God. The word "Puritan" itself in the contemporary mind identifies those who followed a strict and closely regulated life. The ethic of self-mastery and spiritual discipline falls strangely on the ears of today's generation.
(3.) Enjoy Freedom Under the Law--Third, the Pilgrims have left the example of freedom under law. The Mayflower Compact forged before the Pilgrims left the ship was the wedge that opened the door to a government controlled by the people, a government that has endured in the United States for centuries. Most historians agree that the Mayflower Compact was the forerunner of the Constitution of the United States. This little band of people searched for an equitable manner of earning a living and for a way of survival. They tried living a communal lifestyle, but, according to Governor Bradford: "This communal system conceived by Plato was found to breed much confusion." When communal living failed, they assigned a parcel of land to every family; with individual enterprise, prosperity came to the colony. Many rebellious young people live, enjoying what they call "absolute freedom." They are free to take narcotics, free to experiment with sex, free to go unwashed, free to dress as they please and do what they like. The freedom exercised by the Pilgrims didn't degenerate into license. Theirs was a liberty under law. The lawbreakers, malcontents, dissidents and criminals of our day would have been rejected by the Pilgrims. To them freedom under the law meant judgment for the lawless.

(4.) Care about Others--Fourth, the Pilgrims left an example of a people who had keen social concern. They believed that every person was made in the image of God, that each one was of infinite value and worth in the sight of God. They lived with Native Americans who had a different religion, a different skin color and a different culture. In March of 1621, Chief Samoset visited the Pilgrims' village and signed a peace treaty that lasted for many years. It was a treaty with high social and ethical content, showing a deep concern for the social, political and spiritual needs of neighbors. Though the Pilgrims knew that they were citizens of another world, they sought to improve the world they were passing through. The Pilgrims made their new world better, not by tearing down the old, but by constructive toil and fair dealings with their neighbors.

(5.) Share Your Faith--Fifth, the Pilgrims were evangelists who set an example in sharing their spiritual and material blessings with others. In the Mayflower Compact the Pilgrims committed themselves to the "advancement of the Christian faith." The Pilgrims at Plymouth were followed by the Puritans at Massachusetts Bay. Together they built churches and schools. In 1636 Harvard College was founded to train men for the ministry. By 1663 the first Bible was printed (the Algonquin Bible) for the Native Americans in their own tongue. These settlers came to the new world not only to find freedom for themselves but also to tell others of their faith.

(6.) Dream Great Dreams--For "where there is no vision, the people perish," says the Bible. The Pilgrims dreamed great dreams. They dreamed of a haven for themselves and for their children. They dreamed of religious freedom. They dreamed of a world where God would rule the hearts of men. They lived and died with these hopes. The Pilgrims' strength of spirit was forged by a personal faith in Christ, by tough discipline and by regular habits of devotion. Today it seems that many people have neither vision nor hope. But if you chose, you too could become like the Pilgrims. You could regain hope. You could recover the spiritual and the moral strength that you may have lost. But you would have to be willing to take up the same cross of Christ that they bore. You would have to put our faith in the same Christ that they did. Youwould have to make the same kind of lifetime commitments that they made. You would have to discipline ourselves as they did. And, like the Pilgrims, you need to dream great dreams, embrace great principles, renew your hope, and above all, believe in the Christ who alone can give total meaning and an ultimate goal to your life: "For in him we live, and move, and have our being."

Thanksgiving is a time to reflect, to love, to share, to hope, to believe, and to give thanks. You likely have received many blessings in your life over time. And, even when enduring difficult days, you can have the hope that life can be better, and eternity is only awaiting for your best. Celebrating the Season of Harvest is a time to spend with family and friends, and Thanksgiving is a great time of year to show your love and thanks to all those who have been close to you. Remember that the gift of life is your first reason to be thankful, and that all the material reasons you have been given follow far after that. To be thankful can be summed up in a single phrase: "Thanks be unto God for His indescribable gift." (2 Corinthians 9:15).

Happy Thanksgiving!  Until next time.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Health Care and Financial Stress

Going through tough economic times can cause stress, not only financially but also emotionally and physically. The physical stress on your body may even cause serious health issues and medical problems if not handled in an effective manner. When you are short on financial resources, and you have bills that are due or expenses that must be met, the toll on your physical well-being can be enormous, and painful at times.

According to Symptoms Of, what you don’t always realize is that daily stress, including money stress, can cause a seriously negative effect on the way your body functions. Diseases including cancer, heart disease, and stroke are frequently brought on earlier and more seriously because of frequent or chronic stress. And, stress causes several physiological effects in the body. It can increase your heart rate and your blood pressure. This, of course, leads to stress on your heart – the body’s hardest working muscle. Stress can also alter hormone levels in your body.

Financial stress is linked to health problems like depression and sleep problems, according to this website: With the rising cost of gas and food, the mortgage crisis, and the new bank troubles we're seeing, many Americans are feeling the crunch of financial stress. Anxiety over money can negatively affect health in several ways:

• Unhealthy Coping Behaviors: People experiencing financial stress can be more likely to numb their anxiety by drinking, smoking, overeating and practicing other unhealthy coping behaviors. This in turn leads to more stress.

• Less Money For Self-Care: With less money in the budget, people who are already under financial stress tend to cut corners in areas like health care to pay for basic necessities like food. Small problems can go unchecked and turn into larger problems. This also leads to more stress.

• Lost Sleep: When under financial stress, people often experience trouble sleeping, which can add up to a sleep defecit, impairing immune functioning and cognitive abilities, causing additional moodiness, and more.

• Unhealthy Emotions: Credit card debt can cause unhealthy emotions that can take a toll on health. People can experience anxiety, frustration and a sense of hopelessness as the debt piles up and increasing amounts of money are needed just to pay the interest. This causes additional stress, which compounds with the stress from poor coping and self-neglect, to become a menacing amount of stress.

The hormone cortisol (our stress hormone) is increased when you are under stress, according to Symptoms of Stress, org. Increased levels of cortisol typically cause such problems as adrenal fatigue, increased weight gain, most often, around the midsection of the body–which puts physical stress on your heart and may cause uncomfortable joint pain. Stress can also lead to sleep deprivation. Even those who have never experienced any sort of difficulty sleeping may find themselves tossing and turning all night long due to anxiety and stress. To make matters worse, when you finally do fall asleep, you may have difficulty staying asleep. When your body is sleep deprived, you’re more like to gain weight, have difficulty concentrating, and hamper your ability to successfully complete daily tasks such as driving and performing duties at work.

And while the physical symptoms of frequent stress troubling, stress is even more noticeable when it comes to your mental and social health. Unresolved stress will almost always eventually lead to problems such as anxiety and depression which, in turn, makes it very difficult to manage the stress at hand. As you can see, unresolved stress can snowball and affect every area of our lives quite quickly.

Money stress may also interfere with your friendships and family relationships. This is usually a result of irritability that causes discord in your relationships. Unfortunately, most of us tend to take things out on those closest to us—probably because we know (or hope) they will love us through it. But stress may also cause you to withdraw to yourself and become isolated—which usually leads to anxiety and depression.

According to, the state of the economy has left many people and families worried about money. From paying bills to finding a job to coping with high medical costs, it can be hard to think of anything else when financial woes come your way. It's no secret that stress from finances can play a big role in changing your mental state, causing mood swings or even depression, but many may not realize what a marked effect it can also have on your physical well-being. Stress, whether from finances or other conflicts in your life, can do a number on your overall health, often in ways that you may not even realize are related to stress. If you're going through a stressful financial situation, make sure you take good care of your body, take time to relax, and get help to make sure these harmful physical effects don't take a toll on you.

Wellness takes place when you are physically, mentally, and socially healthy. And, according to Symptoms of, when any one of those areas is affected, your overall health decreases. Money stress is one of those problems that can affect all three types of health and really put you at risk for major problems. If money stress is affecting your health, don’t ignore it. The longer you let it go, the bigger your health problems will become.

It’s no wonder financial stress is one of the leading causes of stress in Americans, according to management. Here are some resources to help you handle your financial situation and feel more in control of your life, reducing stress and helping you build toward a more secure future:

--Find Out Where You Stand: Do you have a major money problem, or is your situation relatively under control? Ask yourself these questions and find out how much help you need to get on the right track.

--Learn About Implementing Systems That Can Help: Find out why budgets are important to your financial success, and learn how to create one that will fit well with your lifestyle.

--Work Toward Getting Out of Debt: Getting out from under credit card debt is much easier with a plan. Here’s a three-step approach that can help you.

--Learn How to Save Money and Cut Costs: Keeping a budget and working toward reducing what you owe is easier if you have more money. Here are some ways to hold onto more of yours!

As you work on improving your financial situation, you can reduce stress by practicing stress-reducing techniques and making other changes to create a low-stress lifestyle. By following the advice provided in the above links and making these lifestyle changes, the burden of financial stress can soon be a thing of the past!

Finally, consider being a better steward of your resources. Spending money you don't have is a serious problem. Not managing your financial accountability well definitely gets you into hot water--not only with your creditors, but also with your family and friends. Use wisdom when you consider a purchase. If you can live without that object of desire, then don't buy it. If you are able to function financially in your current lifestyle, then don't live like you'll never run out of funds. Establish a "rainy day fund", and keep your greed in check. Remember, you can lose it often faster than you can make it.

Until next time.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Health Care and Concussions

A blow to the head can be a serious injury. With the advent of football season and other school sports, concussions occur with frequency during the fall season. A concussion, according to WebMD, is a type of traumatic brain injury that is caused by a blow to the head or body, a fall, or another injury that jars or shakes the brain inside the skull. And, although there may be cuts or bruises on the head or face, there may be no other visible signs of a brain injury.

According to the Mayo Clinic, concussions are common, particularly if you play a contact sport, such as football. But every concussion injures your brain to some extent. This injury needs time and rest to heal properly. Luckily, most concussive traumatic brain injuries are mild, and people usually recover fully. The signs and symptoms of a concussion can be subtle and may not be immediately apparent. Symptoms can last for days, weeks or even longer. The most common symptoms after a concussive traumatic brain injury are headache, amnesia and confusion. The amnesia, which may or may not be preceded by a loss of consciousness, almost always involves the loss of memory of the impact that caused the concussion.

The brain is made of soft tissue and is cushioned by spinal fluid. It is encased in the hard, protective skull. When a person gets a head injury, the brain can move around inside the skull and even bang against it. This can lead to bruising of the brain, tearing of blood vessels, and injury to the nerves. When this happens, a person can get a concussion — a temporary loss of normal brain function, according to Concussions and other brain injuries are fairly common. About every 21 seconds, someone in the United States has a serious brain injury. One of the most common reasons people get concussions is through a sports injury. High-contact sports such as football, boxing, and hockey pose a higher risk of head injury, even with the use of protective headgear. People can also get concussions from falls, car accidents, bike and blading mishaps, and physical violence, such as fighting. Interestingly, boys are more likely to get concussions than girls. However, in certain sports, like soccer, girls have a higher potential for concussion.

Signs and symptoms of a concussion, according to the Mayo Clinic, may include:
--Headache or a feeling of pressure in the head.
--Temporary loss of consciousness.
--Confusion or feeling as if in a fog.
--Amnesia surrounding the traumatic event.
--Dizziness or "seeing stars".
--Ringing in the ears.
--Nausea or vomiting.
--Slurred speech.

Some symptoms of concussions may be immediate or delayed in onset by hours or days after injury:
--Concentration and memory complaints.
--Irritability and other personality changes.
--Sensitivity to light and noise.
--Sleep disturbances.
--Psychological adjustment problems and depression.
--Disorders of taste and smell.
--Symptoms in children.

Head trauma is very common in young children, according to the Mayo Clinic. But concussions can be difficult to recognize in infants and toddlers because they can't readily communicate how they feel. Nonverbal clues of a concussion may include:
--Listlessness, tiring easily.
--Irritability, crankiness.
--Change in eating or sleeping patterns.
--Lack of interest in favorite toys.
--Loss of balance, unsteady walking.

You should see a doctor within one to two days if you or your child experiences a head injury, even if emergency care isn't required. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you call your child's doctor for advice if your child receives anything more than a light bump on the head. If your child remains alert, moves normally and responds to you, the injury is probably mild and usually doesn't need further testing. In this case, if your child wants to nap, it's OK to let them sleep. If worrisome signs develop later, seek emergency care. Seek emergency care for a child who experiences a head injury and:

--A headache that gets worse over time.
--Changes in his or her behavior, including irritability or fussiness.
--Changes in physical coordination, including stumbling or clumsiness.
--Confusion or disorientation.
--Slurred speech or other changes in speech.
--Vision or eye disturbances, including pupils that are bigger than normal (dilated pupils) or pupils of unequal sizes.
--Changes in breathing pattern.
--Lasting or recurrent dizziness.
--Blood or fluid discharge from the nose or ears.
--Large head bumps or bruises on areas other than the forehead, especially in infants under 12 months of age.

Seek emergency care for anyone who experiences a head injury and are suffering the following:
--A loss of consciousness lasting more than a minute.
--Repeated vomiting.
--Obvious difficulty with mental function or physical coordination.
--Symptoms that worsen over time.

No one should return to play or vigorous activity while signs or symptoms of a concussion are present. Experts recommend that an athlete with a suspected concussion not return to play until he or she has been medically evaluated. Experts also recommend that child and adolescent athletes with a concussion not return to play on the same day as the injury.

The severity of concussion is determined after all of the symptoms have resolved, the neurologic exam is normal, and brain function has returned to normal, according to Kids Health. There are different types of concussion:

1.) Simple concussion. Someone with a simple concussion experiences symptoms that get better in 7-10 days.

2.) Complex concussion. Someone with a complex concussion experiences persistent symptoms that last longer than 7-10 days. Doctors also consider it a complex concussion if a person loses consciousness (passes out) for more than 1 minute or has a seizure at the time of the injury. It's also a complex concussion if someone has had a concussion before, no matter how long ago. It's important for anyone who sustains a complex concussion to see a concussion or brain injury specialist.

A player should not return to sports practice or a game on the day that they are injured and they should not return to sports activities until they are no longer experiencing symptoms. In many teens the physical symptoms get better before the symptoms related to thinking, according to Kids Health. During the first few days following a concussion, a player should rest. Both physical and cognitive rest are important. Activities that require concentration and attention may make the symptoms worse and delay recovery. After a player's symptoms have resolved, he or she may begin a supervised gradual return to play. The player should advance from one step to the next only if there are no symptoms. The steps to return to play are:

--no activity.
--light aerobic exercise, such as walking or stationary cycling (no resistance training).
--sports-specific exercise (for example, running in soccer, skating in hockey).
--non-contact training drills.
--full contact training after medical clearance.

A concussion is a serious brain injury, and if left untreated can cause more health problems or worse. It is critical that trained athletic personnel or a medical professional treat someone who has suffered a concussion as soon as possible. Concussions are not to be taken lightly, and anyone who has one should be careful on how quickly they try to recover. If you suspect you or someone in your care has had a concussion, go to your family doctor or an emergency room as soon as possible. Don't delay medical treatment as the repercussions from ignoring a concussion are significant.

Until next time.