Top Five Health Scares: Are You at Risk?

Buzz-Kill Pill
A new pill under development promises to counteract the effects of alcohol. Appropriately named the buzz-kill pill, it’s designed to interrupt the euphoric feeling that alcohol consumption produces. The Doctors say that something like the buzz-kill pill could be an effective tool in the treatment of addiction.

Do Not Resuscitate
Seems like everywhere you look, someone is sporting a yellow Live Strong by Lance Armstrong wrist band. Unfortunately, hospitals also use color-coded wrist bands to quickly identify patient status like “fall risk,” “allergy,” and yellow wristbands often symbolize “do not resuscitate (DNR),” which is quite the opposite of “live strong”!Health
groups are advocating that hospitals standardize color-coded bracelets nationwide.

“In one hospital, yellow can mean one thing, and in another hospital, it can mean something completely different in another. It’s caused big mistakes,” Dr. Ordon says.

“You do run a risk of confusion,” Dr. Travis adds.

Top Five Health Scares
5. Pandemics

A pandemic is when an infectious disease cuts a swath through epic portions of a population. HIV, Bird Flu and SARS are all examples of pandemic diseases.

Influenza viruses like avian flu occur when the virus undergoes an antigenic shift, which is when an animal virus and a human virus converge on a host cell, creating a disease that can then be spread from animal to human.

“Don’t live your life in fear. We do have new technology to help us in these circumstances,” Dr. Travis says. “But be prepared. Stock up on non-perishable food items and water.”

4. Stroke

Does the pounding in your head mean you have a headache, or the beginnings of a stroke? A stroke occurs when one or more blood vessels that supplies blood to your brain, is either blocked or bursts. As a result, a portion of the brain is deprived of vital oxygen and suffers damage. Oxygen is vital to brain cells, and without it, cells die within minutes. “It’s like a heart attack in the brain,” Dr. Travis notes.

Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States and affects 600,000 more women than men. Over 80 percent of strokes are due to blockages of the blood flow to the brain, and strokes are the leading cause of disability in the United States. Immediate treatment is vital. A clot-busting drug can reduce the damage of stroke, but only if administered within the first three hours.

Savannah suffered a stroke when she was just 21. She recounts that she first felt a tingling in her leg, and then it went numb. “I took a nap! If it hadn’t been for my mom and my boyfriend, I wouldn’t have gone to the emergency room,” she says. “Just don’t ignore symptoms!”

Savannah was diagnosed with an angioma, which is a malformation of blood vessels in the brain. Some people are born with an angioma and some develop them spontaneously. She had a hemorrhagic stroke, which resulted in significant bleeding in her brain stem.

“I think one of the biggest things when you’re in the hospital is keeping a positive attitude,” Savannah explains, “because so much of your recovery depends on your outlook.”

Signs of Stroke
Here are three questions to ask someone if you think they are having a stroke:
• Ask them to smile: if one side of their face droops, it could be a stroke.
• Ask them to say: “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” If they slur their speech, they might be having a stroke.

• Ask them to hold their arms out in front of their body at a 90 degree angle. If one side droops, they might be having a stroke.

3. Miscarriage

Fifteen percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage, leaving many couples heartbroken. OB/GYN Dr. Lisa Masterson explains that a miscarriage, or loss of a fetus, can occur in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. Loss of a fetus after 20 weeks of pregnancy is defined as a stillbirth.

If a woman has what’s called an incompetent cervix, her cervix will dilate, or open, painlessly and without contractions, in the second trimester of pregnancy. The cervix is meant to remain closed until the baby is ready to be born, so this dilation can cause a miscarriage. To prevent this from happening, doctors can sew the cervix closed in a procedure called cervical cerclage, which is performed at approximately 13 to 14 weeks.

One of the symptoms of miscarriage is bleeding, but 50 percent of pregnancies can have bleeding, so remaining in constant contact with your doctor is vital if this happens. If you want to get pregnant, make sure to schedule pre-conceptual care, where your obstetricians/ gynecologists will look for potential complications such as:

Infectious problems:
Autoimmune problems like lupus
Thyroid problems
Thrombophilias (blood clotting disorders) Genetic disorders

2. Heart Attack

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for American women. But how do you know if you’re at risk? Guest cardiologist Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum stresses that 75 to 80 percent of the time, heart disease is preventable.

Risk factors:
• Smoking

High blood pressure High cholesterol

The cardiologist explains that chest pain isn’t the only indicator of heart disease in women. Symptoms can masquerade as seemingly harmless complaints, such as nausea, shortness of breath and fatigue.

“Everybody needs to pay attention to their own bodies, know their risk factors, and do something about it!” Dr. Steinbaum instructs. “And empower themselves to make a difference in their own health!”

Anxiety Attack or Heart Attack?
Twenty-eight-year-old Deanna started having heart palpitations and turns to cardiologist Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum for help. Though Deanna reported heart palpitations before, her doctors dismissed her concerns as anxiety.

Dr. Steinbaum assures Deanna, “It’s very important that you do not think, ‘this is all in my head,’ because even if it is just anxiety, it’s real.”

Dr. Steinbaum performs three tests on Deanna:
1. Electrocardiogram (EKG)
Measures the electrical activity of the heart
2. Echocardiogram
An ultrasound that looks at the walls and the chambers of the heart
3. Stress Test
Measures the function of the heart during exercise

The tests reveal that Deanna has a mitral valve prolapse, which is a common heart disorder. It occurs when the valve between the heart's left upper chamber (left atrium) and the left lower chamber (left ventricle) doesn't close properly. However, the doctor assures Deanna that her heart is just fine.

The cardiologist explains that, due to the physiology of women’s hormones, a panic attack can often simulate heart palpitations. Dr. Steinbaum suggests that every time Deanna feels stressed, she should take deep breaths and hold them for four seconds and exhale for six seconds, which will decrease the flutters.

1. Cancer
Can you prevent cancer? Dr. Lawrence Piro, president of The Angeles Clinic and Research Institute, says that most forms of the disease are preventable. He shares simple tips to extend your life and keep the doctor away. Often, people are so fearful of what the doctor will find that they will avoid making an appointment for as long as possible, even when they know something is wrong.

“Most cancers, when you detect them early, are curable,” Dr. Piro assures.

“It’s really important to know your body, so that way you’ll know if something different is coming up,” Dr. Lisa adds.

Common warning signs of cancer:
• Change in bowel or bladder habits
• A sore that doesn’t heal
• Unusual bleeding or discharge
• Unusual lumps

• Changes in warts or moles

Cases of cancer have been declining in the United States, due mainly to three factors: less smoking, early detection and better treatments.

Ways to prevent cancer:
• Don’t smoke. If you do smoke, quit.
• Maintain a healthy weight
• Eat five servings of fruits and vegetables a day
• Vigorous exercise – 30 to 60 minutes per day, 5 days a week
• Wear sunscreen every day
• Get recommended cancer screening tests:

1. Colonoscopy, a procedure performed to see inside the colon and rectum. For those squeamish about the standard colonoscopy procedure, a virtual colonoscopy is available, which is performed on a CT machine.
2. Breast/Mammograms
3. Prostate
4. Cervical




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OAD 2/2/09