Closest Thing to a Wonder Drug? Try Exercise

06.26.2016

Aaron E. Carroll THE NEW HEALTH CARE JUNE 20, 2016 After I wrote last year that diet, not exercise, was the key to weight loss, I was troubled by how some readers took this to mean that exercise therefore had no value. Nothing could be further from the truth. Of all the things we as physicians can recommend for health, few provide as much benefit as physical activity. In 2015, the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges put out a report calling exercise a “miracle cure.” This isn’t a conclusion based simply on some cohort or case-control studies. There are many, many randomized controlled trials. A huge meta-analysis examined the effect of exercise therapy on outcomes in people with chronic diseases. Let’s start with musculoskeletal diseases. Researchers found 32 trials looking specifically at the effect of exercise on pain and function of patients with osteoarthritis of the knee alone. That’s incredibly …

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Tension Headache Treatment and Prevention

05.24.2016

Up to 80 percent of people suffer from an occasional tension headache: a dull pain across the forehead, temples, or around the back of your head. Anxiety, eye strain, fatigue, and stress can all trigger a tension headache by causing muscles to tighten in the neck and scalp. New research also suggests a link between tension headaches and changes in certain brain chemicals, similar to what happens with a migraine. Treat It First With Drink water, if you’re dehydrated. A 2004 study found that people who drank one-half to three-quarters of a liter of water lessened their headache pain. If after an hour or so you’re still suffering, you can turn to an over-the-counter pain reliever like acetaminophen (Tylenol and generic), ibuprofen (Advil and generic), or naproxen (Aleve and generic). Taking a hot or cold shower and resting in a quiet room with a cool cloth on your forehead may …

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Addictive Pain Medication: How to Protect Yourself

05.11.2016

Our brains are hardwired to seek pleasure and avoid danger. It’s what helps the human species survive. Biting into something luscious, enjoying a passionate kiss, or delighting in a baby’s laugh lights up the brain’s pleasure centers. Negative experiences set off fear and alarm. Addictive drugs can “hijack the brain’s reward system,” says Andrew Kolodny, M.D., a senior scientist at Brandeis University and chief medical officer at Phoenix House, a national nonprofit center for addiction treatment. “They can overstimulate the brain’s reward centers and also inhibit the part of the brain that reacts to potential harm.” It’s a cruel trick. Over time, the brain changes: overstimulated pleasure circuits start shutting down, causing people to feel joyless, anxious, and depressed. Eventually they “are no longer using to feel good but to avoid feeling horrible,” Kolodny says. In addition, repeated exposure to the addictive substance can damage the brain’s frontal cortex, where …

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Tricare to Allow Military Families Urgent Care Access Without a Referral Starting May 23, 2016

04.27.2016

Under a new Tricare pilot program, select users will soon be able to receive care at an urgent care clinic without a referral. According to Tricare’s website, the pilot begins on May 23, 2016, and ends on May 23, 2019. The three-year program was ordered by Congress as part of the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act. It’s intended to allow nearly all Tricare users two urgent care visits per fiscal year without authorization from a provider. Once both visits have been used, beneficiaries will need a referral if they want to continue using an urgent care. As it stands right now, beneficiaries can only be seen by referral or by their primary care manager for acute conditions. The program aims to fix an age-old problem where military families are using emergency room services when they are not able to get an appointment with their primary care doctor. Not requiring a …

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Get the Scoop on Spring Allergies

04.20.2016

Spring allergy season seems to get worse each year, and climate change may be the culprit, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Increasing temperatures and carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere help plants grow faster — and produce more pollen. For many people, this can trigger allergy symptoms. “Spring allergy symptoms can lead to a major disruption in quality of life,” says allergist and immunologist Dr. Neeta Ogden. “It’s important for allergy sufferers to manage these symptoms, so they can feel their best and enjoy the season.” Dr. Ogden is providing some information and tips to help make spring more bearable for allergy sufferers. • Seasonal Allergies Can Strike at Any Age: Some people develop seasonal allergies as adults. If you think you don’t have seasonal allergies, but find yourself sniffling and sneezing this spring, it might be time to see an allergist. • Pets are …

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3 Tips for Achieving Fitness Goals this Season

04.03.2016

Was your New Year resolution to get more active this year? A whopping 60 percent of these resolutions fall by the wayside after only six months, according to research from the University of Pennsylvania. You might have already cancelled your gym membership, but warmer weather and enjoyable time outside is ideal for revamping a fitness routine. Improving your fitness level can mean a variety of things depending on your goals and abilities — beginning marathon training, trying out a new physical activity or simply taking longer walks around the neighborhood. To help map out a plan to get back on track, Dr. Fred Pescatore, natural physician and author of the New York Times best-selling book, “The Hamptons Diet,” is sharing three tips for achieving fitness goals this season. • Set a Goal: Want to look great for your 10 year high school reunion? Do you have a big trip on …

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8 Brain Foods You Should Be Eating

03.28.2016

Chances are, you purposely ate something today that you know is heart-healthy, but did you think about consuming some foods that are good for your brain? Probably not. Only relatively recently have researchers begun to study the link between diet and cognitive function, and the findings are promising. “You can’t control your genes, which are mostly responsible for any decline in brain function as we age, but with diet, there’s the potential to do something,” says Lon S. Schneider, M.D., a professor of psychiatry, neurology, and gerontology at the University of Southern California. But it takes more than eating familiar brain foods such as fish or blueberries once in a while. “It’s what we eat as a whole,” says Martha Clare Morris, Sc.D., director of nutrition and nutritional epidemiology at the Rush University Medical Center. Research by Morris and her colleagues shows that following a diet that includes the right …

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It’s Not Too Late to Get the Flu Shot

02.25.2016

Still haven’t gotten your annual flu shot? “It’s not too late to get one, especially because this year’s flu got a late start in our hemisphere,” says Marvin M. Lipman, M.D., Consumer Reports’ chief medical adviser. And getting a flu shot now is a very good idea: This year’s flu is so severe that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a severe flu warning advising doctors to encourage all patients who have not yet received the flu shot to get vaccinated ASAP. A full-blown case of the flu can put you in bed for a week or two with symptoms including fever, chills, a sore throat or stuffy nose, body aches, and fatigue. On average of 5 to 20 percent of Americans get the flu every year, more than 200,000 are hospitalized, and thousands die. It poses special risks to the very old and the very …

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Healthy Snacks for Super Bowl Sunday

02.05.2016

Break tradition on Super Bowl Sunday by serving up healthy snacks and meals. Yes, for many people, food and drink—and lots of it—share center stage with the game and the highly anticipated TV commercials. But with a few simple strategies, you can make healthy snacks that still taste great. To keep the damage to a minimum, try this food game plan. Set an eating schedule. Eat a light breakfast and lunch to help keep you from overindulging during game time (because even too many healthy snacks can derail a diet). Then, sip some water and go for a walk or do some other exercise because by game time, you’re likely to be sitting down in front of the TV—and staying there for the duration. If you’re hosting, plan to serve early in the game so you (and your guests) can slow down by halftime. And, instead of full-size dinner plates, …

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Zika: The Dangerous Mosquito Virus You Must Know About

01.29.2016

A mosquito-borne illness called the Zika virus is now spreading rapidly in South and Central America and the Caribbean, and it could arrive in the U.S. soon. It can make anyone sick for up to a week with symptoms like fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes. But it’s especially dangerous for women of childbearing age who are pregnant or considering pregnancy because it has been linked to microcephaly, a serious birth defect that causes an abnormally small head and incomplete brain development. The outbreak has prompted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to issue a warning to take precautions for anyone traveling to 24 destinations in the Americas, but, most important, the CDC is recommending that all pregnant women should consider postponing their trip altogether. Here’s what you should know to protect yourself and your family. Why Zika Is So Concerning The Zika virus normally does not cause …

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