Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Health Care and Better Sleep

How many nights have you tossed and turned, and you just couldn’t sleep well? Or even worse, you have a chronic sleep disorder that prevents you from sleeping without interruption or ability to rest comfortably for just a few hours. Some of that sleep deprivation may be due to issues in your home that are temporary, such as a new baby that requires attention during the night, or perhaps you are sick and need to take medication on a regular schedule at night. Maybe, you have a spouse that snores so loud that you think the roof is collapsing. Or, it could be a more critical reason.

Whatever the reason for your inability to sleep well at night, the health of your body, your spirit, and your mind is too important to ignore issues or patterns that prohibit restful, uninterrupted sleep. Lack of sleep can be dangerous to you mentally and physically to the point that your life and lifestyle can be severely affected. And, your ability to perform simple tasks, not to mention multiple and more complex situations, can be jeopardized.

According to the American Psychological Association, “Sleep is essential for a person’s health and wellbeing, according to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF). Yet millions of people do not get enough sleep and many suffer from lack of sleep. For example, surveys conducted by the NSF (1999-2004) reveal that at least 40 million Americans suffer from over 70 different sleep disorders and 60 percent of adults report having sleep problems a few nights a week or more. Most of those with these problems go undiagnosed and untreated. In addition, more than 40 percent of adults experience daytime sleepiness severe enough to interfere with their daily activities at least a few days each month - with 20 percent reporting problem sleepiness a few days a week or more. Furthermore, 69 percent of children experience one or more sleep problems a few nights or more during a week.” More detailed material on this subject can be found at this site: http://www.apa.org/topics/sleep/why.aspx .

“When you’re scrambling to meet the demands of modern life, cutting back on sleep can seem like the only answer”, according to HelpGuide.org. “Who can afford to spend so much time sleeping? The truth is you can’t afford not to. Even minimal sleep loss takes a toll on your mood, energy, and ability to handle stress. Learn how to determine your nightly sleep needs and what you can do to bounce back from chronic sleep loss and get on a healthy sleep schedule.

It’s not just the number of hours in bed that is important—it’s the quality of those hours of sleep. If you’re giving yourself plenty of time for sleep, but you’re still having trouble waking up in the morning or staying alert all day, you may not be spending enough time in the different stages of sleep—especially deep sleep and REM sleep. By understanding how the sleep cycles work and the factors that can lead to those cycles being disrupted, you’ll be able to start getting both the quantity and the quality of sleep you need.” Sleep is so important that lack of it to any significant amount is detrimental to you. Much more information can be found at this site: http://www.helpguide.org/life/sleeping.htm .

You may suffer from a sleep disorder. According to the National Sleep Foundation, “insomnia, which is Latin for "no sleep," is the inability to fall asleep or remain asleep. Insomnia is also used to describe the condition of waking up not feeling restored or refreshed. According to Dr. Mark Mahowald, Professor of Neurology at the University of Minnesota Medical School and Director of the Minnesota Regional Sleep Disorders Center at Hennepin County Medical Center, insomnia refers to the inability to get the amount of sleep you as an individual need to wake up feeling rested. Insomnia is the most common sleep complaint among Americans. It can be either acute, lasting one to several nights, or chronic, even lasting months to years. When insomnia persists for longer than a month, it is considered chronic.” Much more material can be found at this website: http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/sleep-related-problems/insomnia-and-sleep .

Also, according to iVillage Health, whether you have chronic insomnia or the occasional bout of sleeplessness, these ten secrets will help you can the rest you need. Read more at http://www.ivillage.com/surprising-ways-get-better-night-s-sleep/4-b-485174#ixzz26pN0LJIv .

“Different people need different environments for sleeping and if there is any change in their sleeping environment, they are unable to have a good night sleep. There are people who do not find any comfort in soft beds. It is advisable for those people that they should think about getting hard surfaced beds because it is good for the back, as well as the spine. The hard beds support the entire body and relax it throughout,” according to information about sleep problems found at this website: http://www.soundsleeping.org/ .

You may feel tired, fatigued, and have trouble concentrating and paying attention while awake when you don’t sleep well. Sleepy individuals are at greater risk for driving and other accidents, according to WebMD. If you have trouble getting to sleep or sleeping through the night, if you wake up too early or have a hard time waking up at all, or if you are overly tired during the day, you may have one or more of specific sleep problems. Much more info can be found at their site: http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/guide/understanding-sleep-problems-basics .

Regardless of the reasons you are having difficulty having a good night’s rest, or sound sleep for several hours at a time, it is a good idea to see your family doctor if the problem persists. Your physician may be able to help diagnose lifestyle or health issues specific to your situation, and you may be referred to a sleep specialist to help you. If you are suffering from insomnia, or any other chronic sleep disorder, seek professional medical help. Your situation may be temporary due to lifestyle choices; but if your inability to get good sleep persists, don’t ignore the problem.

Until next time.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Health Care and Hospital Acquired Infections

Did you know that many people actually get sicker after they are admitted into the hospital? Infection is one of the most common incidents of health care problems related to being a patient in a hospital. Much of it comes from direct contact with employees who don’t wash their hands prior to touching patients.

Viruses, bacteria, and germs all affect everyone, and when medical staff hands are unclean, patients can get worse instead of better. A hospital-acquired infection is usually one that first appears three days after a patient is admitted to a hospital or other health care facility. Infections acquired in a hospital are also called nosocomial infections, according to www.FreeDictionary.com .

According to US News & World Report magazine online, in recent years, a rise in the rate of in-hospital antibiotic-resistant infections (HAIs) in the United States and abroad has focused public attention on hospital hygiene. Good hand hygiene among health care workers is widely thought to be the number one way to curtail such infection risk; plus, hospital-acquired infections account for about 100,000 deaths in the U.S. alone per year, and 80 percent of all infectious disease is transmitted by either direct contact, such as coughing, talking, sneezing, or indirect contact, such as not washing your hands after touching a bed, a telephone, or a doorknob in a patient's room. However, many health care workers don’t like the reminder about this issue from patients and feel it is demeaning to them as professionals. For more details, see this article: http://health.usnews.com/health-news/news/articles/2012/09/06/third-of-hospital-staff-say-hand-washing-reminders-unwelcome .

About 5-10% of patients admitted to hospitals in the United States develop a nosocomial infection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that more than two million patients develop hospital-acquired infections in the United States each year. Hospital-acquired infections usually are related to a procedure or treatment used to diagnose or treat the patient's illness or injury. About 25% of these infections can be prevented by healthcare workers taking proper precautions when caring for patients, according to information on this topic located at the FreeDictionary.com.

Hospital-acquired infections can be caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites. These microorganisms may already be present in the patient's body or may come from the environment, contaminated hospital equipment, health care workers, or other patients. Depending on the causal agents involved, an infection may start in any part of the body. A localized infection is limited to a specific part of the body and has local symptoms. For example, if a surgical wound in the abdomen becomes infected, the area of the wound becomes red, hot, and painful. A generalized infection is one that enters the bloodstream and causes general systemic symptoms such as fever, chills, low blood pressure, or mental confusion.

Hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) may develop from surgical procedures, catheters placed in the urinary tract or blood vessels, or from material from the nose or mouth that is inhaled into the lungs. The most common types of hospital-acquired infections are urinary tract infections (UTIs), pneumonia, and surgical wound infections. More detailed material can be located at this site: http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Hospital-Acquired+Infections .

According to American Medical News online, physicians and hospitals may have another incentive to strictly follow infection-control protocols — preventing infections could lower readmission rates. Hospital patients with a positive clinical culture for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, vancomycin-resistant enterococci or Clostridium difficile are 40% likelier to be readmitted within a year than other patients, said a study in the June Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology.

The cultures were ordered more than 48 hours after the patients’ initial admission, probably in response to some sign or symptom, meaning they probably acquired an infection in the hospital. About 20% of Medicare patients are readmitted within a month, costing $17.4 billion annually, according to an April 2, 2009, study in The New England Journal of Medicine. Hospitals with high readmission rates face up to a 1% cut in Medicare pay starting in October. More information can be found at this site: http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2012/05/28/prsc0528.htm .

HAIs continue to be a major health problem in the United States, according to the State of Missouri Health and Human Services Department. HAIs can be very serious, increasing the cost and length of hospital stays and even threatening lives. As a consumer, you should be proactive in your healthcare.

• Understand more about HAIs - what they are and why they occur.
• Be informed about hospital and ASC infection rates.
• Learn what you, as a patient, can do to lower your risk of an HAI.

Keep in mind that a facility's experience with HAIs is only one thing to consider when choosing a facility. The advice of your physician, the experience of facility staff, and other factors unique to your situation should be considered as well, per the MO HHS Department.

Because the rate of HAIs is still a major health care issue, patients should strongly encourage their health care providers to always wash their hands. Medical facilities, urgent care locations, and all hospitals must encourage staff to keep their hands washed, and wear gloves when necessary. Also, a system to maintain clean facilities and equipment should be mandated by each medical facility and hospital. Treating a patient for an illness or accident is important, but having an unnecessary readmission due to lack of infection oversight is not a good way to maintain patient healthcare.

Until next time.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Health Care and Longevity in 2012

Have you noticed that people appear to be living longer these days, and that it seems like there are more senior citizens now than ever before? What now may be taken for granted that you may live into your 80's or 90's was not the case even 50 years ago. In the 19th century and early 20th century, the mortality rates were much higher with the average age of an adult before death was a little more than half what it is today.

According to the US Census Bureau, as public sanitation, personal hygiene, and scientific and medical technology improved, so did life expectancy. The average rate at birth increased by about 30 years over the course of the 20th century, from about 47 years in 1900 to about 77 years in 2000, based on the report issued by the Bureau in 2001.

In the United states today, according to US News and World Report, average life expectancy is 78.49 years, well above the world's norm. Many experts attribute this to ongoing medical developments, which have dealt with conditions that used to mow us down early. Meanwhile, nations without advanced medical care report a much shorter life expectancy, reported as part of their data collection for the World Factbook by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). However, despite the fact that the average American lives into his or her late 70s, the United States ranks 50th on the CIA's life expectancy list. Much more detail about the longevity of people around the world can be found at this site: http://health.usnews.com/health-news/living-well-usn/articles/2012/03/09/top-10-hotspots-for-human-longevity .

Interestingly enough, longevity even differs in the US based on the state where you live. According to National Public Radio (NPR) online, residents in Hawaii have the average longest life expectancy at 80 years, while those people living in the District of Columbia live an average of 72 years. A US map on this site allows you to see stats by state: http://www.npr.org/news/specials/longevity/ .

According to Everyday Health.com, you often hear advice about things you can do to improve your health and increase your longevity. For instance, you’re told to avoid sugary snacks, exercise more, lose weight and control stress. For many individuals, this involves making changes to a normal routine. But how many of the following things are you already doing to increase your longevity?

Engaging in a hobby: Having a hobby that engages you physically as well as mentally is particularly beneficial. Hobbies needn’t be expensive either. Gardening, bird watching and photography are examples of hobbies that will bring you outside and get you moving. Hobbies reduce stress and provide a sense of accomplishment.

Going on vacation: Vacations aren’t optional, they’re essential to optimal health. According to the Framingham Heart Study women who took vacations every six years or less were eight times more likely to develop heart disease or have a heart attack than those who vacationed twice a year. Another study of men showed that those who didn’t take at least one vacation were 21 percent more likely to die and 32 percent more likely to die of a heart attack. While people in Great Britain average 25 vacation days per year and the French 37 days, the average American worker only takes 14 days of vacation.

Sleeping in on the weekends: During sleep the neurons in the brain become less active and undergo repair. Without repair these nerve cells are unable to function properly with the result that people find that they have trouble with memory and concentration. Many other tissues of the body also undergo repair during sleep, and sleep is also important for proper hormone balance. The National Sleep Foundation’s 2008 Sleep in America Poll found that Americans slept an average of six hours and 40 minutes a night, while most people need an average of 7 ½ hours. Sleeping an extra hour or two on the weekends can help make up some of this deficit.

Connecting with other people: In his National Geographic book “The Blue Zone: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest”, Dan Buettner found that one characteristic of regions of the world with greatest longevity are the strong interconnections between family and friends. Studies have found that social isolation has health risks on a par with cigarette smoking!

Flossing your teeth: According to studies done at Emory University by the Centers for Disease Control, common gum problems such as gingivitis and periodontitis lead to a 23 to 46 percent higher rate of death. Gum tissues are common sites for inflammation, which can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. Flossing your teeth every night removes the bacteria that cause the inflammation and it has been estimated that daily flossing can add as much a 6.4 years to your life.

You are probably are doing several of these things already. With a few simple changes to your routine you can be doing all of them and increase your health and longevity. This information, provided by Dr. Terry Grossman who is an anti-aging and longevity practitioner, can be found at his site: www.grossmanwellness.com , and follow up on more health issues can be found at www.everydayhealth.com .

Living longer sure beats the alternative. Practice those techniques in your everyday life to stretch the years for maximum living. Although you never know the total number of days you may have, making the most of each one is what healthy living is all about. Your physical, mental, social, spiritual, and financial health is all tied together. When one part of you is out of whack, the rest of you tends to suffer. Focus attention on those things that matter, and your longevity may be increased.

Until next time.