Thursday, August 25, 2016

Use Your Medical History As Guide Guideline

Preventive health guidelines were developed to improve one’s health using things that prevent disease and detect it early.  They are based on credible research in which the criteria have been studied extensively.  The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) is a leading resource for preventive health guidelines along with doctor specialty organizations like the American Academy Of Family Physicians and American Academy of Pediatrics.  There are so many that it can become confusing as to what you should do.  Like one size fails to fit all so do the guidelines. How will you know what you need and when you need it?
Use your medical history as your guide in deciphering through different health organization guidelines.   Though they may address the same thing, there will be similarities and differences.  If you have a history of cancer, you may want to get a mammogram or colonoscopy more often. If there is a family history, you may want to get tests sooner than the guidelines suggest.  Abnormal physical exam findings warrant testing regardless of guidelines.
Be sure to review guidelines from different organizations. This gives you a broader view of what you need.  Look at the pros and cons as they fit you.  Focus on those that concern you and your condition.  Discuss them all with your doctors and healthcare providers to plan your guidelines. Your medical history is your guide to the guidelines right for you.  Best health!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Zapping Zika to Zero

The Zika virus is here. This Aedes species mosquito-borne flavivirus continues across the Americas.  Zika is spread primarily by mosquito and/or sexual transmission.  In pregnant females it may be transmitted to the fetus and infant. Blood transfusion transmission has also been a cause.  Known new cases are reported almost daily.  States and U.S. territories with the most reported infections are Puerto Rico (primarily unrelated to travel), New York, Florida, Texas, California, and Pennsylvania

Common symptoms include fever, rash, conjunctivitis, joint and muscle pain.  They have been described as flu-like and mild lasting up to one week.  This usually occurs within 1-2 weeks after being bitten by an infected mosquito or having sex with someone who carries the virus.  The symptoms, travel history, and living in specific infected areas help make the diagnosis.  Blood and urine tests for Zika confirm the diagnosis.  Screening asymptomatic individuals is not recommended at this time.  Major complications include Guillan-Barre syndrome, fetal defects (microcephaly, hearing loss, eye defects), delayed infant growth, and pregnancy loss  Treatment is much the same as flu including rest, fluids, and analgesics.  The vaccine is in experimental stages as are Zika anti-virals.

You should protect yourself from Zika virus as much as possible. This includes the following:
  • stay indoors (better with air conditioning) as much as possible especially during early evening, night, damp/rainy days
  • wear long sleeves, long pants in light colors
  • avoid highly scented perfumes, lotions, soap
  • use insect repellant (e.g DEET, oil of lemon eucalyptus, picardin, essential oils like basil, catnip, lavender, neem) on exposed skin, permethrin on clothes (or wear permethrin treated clothing)
  • use insecticide yard spray, citronella incense/ candle products liberally around your home when outside (if inside use fogger or spray made for indoors)
  • plant mosquito repelling plants in yard like geraniums, lemon balm, citronella
  • use mosquito netting over stroller, carriers, outdoor venues (over beds if open area to mosquitos)
  • keep windows, doors screened or closed to prevent mosquito entry
  • avoid local areas that have yet to spray insecticide especially if a known endemic area
If bitten by mosquito apply cool compress and rubbing alcohol to areas involved.  If itching persists, try calamine lotion or topical diphenhydramine to areas.  Severe allergic reactions may require professional attention in the emergency department.  If Zika is suspected, see your healthcare provider or go to your local health department as soon as possible.  Zap Zika!  Best health!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Timely Tip: Your Medical To-Do List

As  you think over things to discuss with your doctor, you may be amazed to see how many are unresolved, and fortunately not life-threatening. It can be a task to try to get them all taken care of in a timely manner.
Make your medical to-do list before doctor visits. Update it after your doctor visits.  Keep your notes together in a folder (off computer and/or on computer), or notebook.  This creates an overview of your medical issues.  It will also help you keep up with the unresolved as well as resolved issues. Best health!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Stroke Awareness: Know Your Risk Factors

As more people are diagnosed with hypertension the incidence for stroke increases.  Currently about 1 in 3 persons worldwide has been diagnosed with hypertension.  This indicates that the incidence for stroke is more likely than ever before. Diabetes, high lipids, obesity, and cigarette smoking are also risk factors.

Strokes are cerebrovascular accidents, CVA for short.  Strokes may occur from uncontrolled high blood pressure, but may also occur when blood clots block the major arteries to and in the brain cutting off oxygen.  Hemorrhagic strokes may cause bleeding in the brain secondary to a ruptured artery.  The most common cause is from severe hypertension.  Other causes include aneurysm and malformations of arteries and veins in the brain.  Ischemic or thrombotic strokes happen when blood clots block the carotid arteries or arteries in the brain because of fat deposits in the vessel lining (atherosclerosis).  This cuts off or decreases blood flow to the brain.  Embolic strokes usually result from blood clots elsewhere in the body like pulmonary embolism (PE) or deep vein thrombosis (DVT).  Clots from the area involved migrate to the brain and block blood flow. 

Mini strokes called transient ischemic attacks, TIAs for short, usually last a few hours.  If longer than 24 hours, it is considered a CVA.  The impairments that occur are not permanent.  TIAs signal that one is at risk for a potential stroke with lifelong impairment. 

Signs and symptoms of strokes include:

  • Dizziness, lightheadedness
  • Weakness or loss of function  in arm, leg, face on one side
  • Slurred speech or loss of speech
  • Blindness 
  • Mental  confusion or loss of consciousness
  • Unsteady gait


The pseudonym FAST is a simple way to recognize general stroke symptoms. Face droops; Arm weakens; Speech difficulty; Time to call 911. 

Risk factor reduction is a good way to protect yourself and prevent strokes.  Keep your blood pressure in normal range.  Eat low fat dpet to keep lipids low.  Refrain from smoking.  Stay active with regular exercise.  Make less stress a priority as well. Best health!

Keep Your Medical Records Current

The best way to find the medical care you need and deserve is to be informed and prepared starting with your complete medical history.  Your medical record is the foundation of your health maintenance.  Collecting your records from your PCP (primary care physician) and each healthcare provider helps you stay current and up to date with your medical care and treatment.  Keeping track of the vast amount of medical information that concerns you is very important.  

A medical release authorization form is required to have your medical records released to you.  Medical record release forms are available through your doctors' offices, hospitals, clinics, and insurance providers.  Many providers have them available on their websites.  Internet searches will bring up medical release forms that can be used anywhere.  Once your form is completed, mail or fax to the healthcare provider. Charges may be incurred for copying and mailing records. 

Electronic health records (EHRs), also called electronic medical records (EMRs), are computerized versions of your medical records.  This format is replacing hard copy medical records. Patients are able to access their records anytime through secure patient portals to look at health provider reports and test results. You can also directly email your doctors, make appointments, get medication refills, and much more.  This can eliminate unnecessary visits and phone calls. 

Once you have obtained your medical records, it is important that you check for accuracy.  If any information is inaccurate, report it immediately to your healthcare providers so it can be corrected.  Make a request to the provider to correct the medical record.  If this fails, submit a statement verifying the mistakes so it can be added to your medical record.  This can prevent future medical errors.

As EHRs become more prevalent, it will be easier to see and access yours on a routine basis.  You will be able to print your records at home.  As you gather your medical record information, keep it in a folder off the computer.  Make a cover sheet listing your medical conditions, medication, allergies/ adverse reactions, operations, family history, social history, and any other pertinent information. This medical summary can then be used on your doctor visits, especially an initial one with a new doctors.  

Help your health care providers provide you with optimal health care.  Keep up with your medical records to enhance and improve your health decisions.  Best health!