Sunday, December 11, 2016

Pet Ownership

There are many benefits of pet ownership: companionship, comfort, and stress reduction. Dogs promote an active lifestyle in their owners and have been shown to detect oncoming seizures. Studies have shown that cat owners are lesser risk of stroke than any other pet owner. But for all of the benefits of pets, owners should be aware that pets carry germs that can make humans sick.

To protect your family from becoming sick it is important to wash hands with soap and water after contact with the animal, their stool and their food. Avoid bites and scratches. All animals should have regular veterinary care.

Good stewardship means picking up dog feces and keeping litter boxes clean. While puppies and kittens are very cute they are more likely to carry worm. Pets can appear to be fine but could be excreting disease-causing bacteria. Keep the animal and bedding clean.

Pets are a wonderful addition to a family but require as much care as any other member.

Here are some terrible disease carried by dogs and some nasties carried by cats. Birdssmall mammals and reptiles may be the pet choice for some but they too can carry disease. 

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Endocrine Disruptors

In recent years, some scientists have proposed that chemicals might inadvertently be disrupting the endocrine system of humans and wildlife. These chemicals are mostly man-made, found in many everyday products including plastic bottles, metal food cans, detergents, flame retardants, foods, food, toys, cosmetics and pesticides. Human exposure to these products occurs via ingestion of food, dust and water, via inhalation of gases and particles in the air, and through the skin.

Disruption of the endocrine system can occur in various ways. Some chemicals mimic a natural hormone, fooling the body into over-responding to the stimulus (e.g., a growth hormone that results in increased muscle mass), or responding at inappropriate times (e.g., producing insulin when it is not needed). Other endocrine disruptors block the effects of a hormone from certain receptors (e.g. growth hormones required for normal development). Still others directly stimulate or inhibit the endocrine system and cause overproduction or underproduction of hormones (e.g. an over or underactive thyroid). Certain drugs are used to intentionally cause some of these effects, such as birth control pills. In many situations involving environmental chemicals, however, an endocrine effect is not desirable.

Research shows that endocrine disruptors may pose the greatest risk during prenatal and early postnatal development when organ and neural systems are forming. Pregnant women and nursing mothers should be especially careful, as should both men and women thinking of having a baby.

Monday, October 24, 2016


Cooler weather ushers in chocolate season – no more unintended melting leading to sticky fingers and lopsided bonbon. M&M’s may have their fan but true chocolate lovers want better.

There is some evidence that chocolate may help heart health since the cocoa bean is rich in flavonoids, which protect plants from environmental toxins and help repair damage. Flavanols are the main type of flavonoid found in cocoa and chocolate. Research shows that flavanols have other potential influences on vascular health, such as lowering blood pressure, improving blood flow to the brain and heart, and making blood platelets less sticky and able to clot.

These plant chemicals aren’t only found in chocolate. In fact, a wide variety of foods and beverages are rich in flavonols. These include cranberries, apples, peanuts, onions, tea and red wine. The flavanols are antioxidants (good things).

Antioxidants are believed to help the body's cells resist damage caused by free radicals that are formed by normal bodily processes, such as breathing, and from environmental contaminants, like cigarette smoke. If your body does not have enough antioxidants to combat the amount of oxidation that occurs, it can become damaged by free radicals. For example, an increase in oxidation can cause low-density lipoprotein (LDL), also known as "bad" cholesterol, to form plaque on the artery walls.

When cocoa is processed into your favorite chocolate products, it goes through several steps to reduce this taste. The more chocolate is processed (through things like fermentation, alkalizing, roasting, etc.), the more flavanols are lost. Most commercial chocolates are highly processed. Although it was once believed that dark chocolate contained the highest levels flavanols, recent research indicates that, depending on how the dark chocolate was processed, this may not be true. The good news is that most major chocolate manufacturers are looking for ways to keep the flavanols in their processed chocolates. But for now, your best choices are likely dark chocolate over milk chocolate (especially milk chocolate that is loaded with other fats and sugars) and cocoa powder that has not undergone Dutch processing (cocoa that is treated with an alkali to neutralize its natural acidity).

Enjoy your treats but watch portion size!  A total of three ounces of dark chocolate per week is a delicious way to add antioxidants to your diet.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Happy Fall

This the first week of autumn – the season that many people regard as the true start of the year. More diets and health improvement projects are started in September than in January. It’s a great time of year: the best weather, the best movies and the desire to cook again.

While it was nice not to have the school bus schedule determine our morning routine there is a lot to be said about getting up and out BEFORE the bus pulls up. A lot can be accomplished with an early start and the wisdom of getting out early is reinforced if you are stuck behind a bus that stops at every driveway for two miles.

When making the school lunches and snacks pack one for yourself as well. Brown-bagging will save a ton of money and means you won’t waste time looking around for something to eat. Use the extra time to take a walk.

Try to make good choices everyday. Get the smaller container of popcorn at the movies. You have more control if you make your own coffee rather than stopping at the drive-through. Start limiting treats now in anticipation of the eating season that starts at Halloween and extends to Valentine’s Day.

Happy Fall!

Monday, August 29, 2016


Tinnitus is a condition when someone hears ringing, buzzing, hissing or roaring in one or both ears. The sound may get louder or softer during movement or exercise.  It may also interrupt sleep. A conservative estimate is that 10% of adults have the condition and many don’t even mention it to their physicians. Certain patterns of tinnitus (such as pulsatile or clicking) may merit a specific evaluation.

Tinnitus may be caused by damage to cells in the inner ear caused by loud noises, some medications, head or neck injuries and certain diseases. Tinnitus is more common in women and becomes more common with aging. Tinnitus is difficult to cure but there are treatment options.

There are wearable masking devices available as well as hearing aids. Amplifying the outside sounds can make the inner noise of tinnitus less bothersome. A tinnitus expert can help train you to ignore the sound and biofeedback may make the sound less annoying or stressful. Listening to quiet music or a white noise machine can achieve a lesser degree of masking

Depression is common in people with tinnitus; there are good treatments for depression as well as for tinnitus. Long-term tinnitus is unlikely to go away completely but with help can be less bothersome.

More information: American Tinnitus Association.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016


The epididymis is a partner to the testicle in the scrotum. It has an important role in helping sperm mature enough to be able to swim. It is almost always a silent partner – until it’s not. Inflammation of the epididymis develops over several days and is almost always only on one side. Symptoms are a hot, tender and swollen hemi-scrotum. Urination may be frequent and painful.

In young sexually active men the most common causes of epididymitis are chlamydia and gonorrhea. In older men enteric pathogens (bad bowel bacteria) are to blame. Treatment relies on supportive measures, including bed rest, scrotal elevation, and analgesics, in conjunction with empiric antibiotic therapy based on the patient's age and clinical and sexual history. If chlamydia or gonorrhea is confirmed all sexual partners should be treated.

There are some unusual causes of epididymitis, such as drug induced and vasculitis. Withdrawal of the medication and treatment of the underlying disease are appropriate. Almost all cases resolve completely and failure to improve within three days should prompt reevaluation of the diagnosis and/or treatment. It is important to complete a full course of treatment to prevent complications.

More information - with pictures