Men and Hearing Loss

Men and Hearing Loss

“You don’t know what you got till it’s gone.” Depending upon your age, these words may recall the lyrics of a 1970s folk song by Joni Mitchell. But you might want to listen up and consider these words another kind of warning—especially if you’re a man.

More people with hearing loss. Today, twice as many people have hearing loss as in the 1980s. And sadly the trend isn’t improving. A recent report predicted that the number of U.S. adults with hearing loss will rise to nearly a quarter of the population in the next 40 years.1 Perhaps we’ve adapted just a bit too well to all the noise in our environment—from rock shows and subways to motorcycles and kids’ toys.

The story is even more sobering for men. That’s because hearing loss may be more common and severe in men than in women. One likely reason is that more men than women are exposed to sustained loud noises.2

Links to other health issues. Increasingly, researchers are seeing links between hearing loss and other health issues—problems that often affect men. These include sleep apnea, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, depression, and dementia.3 Consider this:

  • Sleep apnea is strongly linked to hearing loss at both high and low frequencies.
  • The inner ear is so sensitive to blood flow that it could be the “canary in the coal mine” for cardiovascular disease. In other words, blood vessel blockages might show up here first.
  • Hearing loss is twice as common in people with diabetes.
  • Research also shows a link between hearing loss and dementia.
  • In people with both depression and hearing loss, use of hearing aids reduces symptoms of depression.3

Protect your hearing. You may have already experienced some hearing loss. But that doesn’t mean you can’t protect what’s left. Start here:

  • Get earplugs for loud events—and wear them! Even the simple foam plugs you can buy in our store can help protect your ears.
  • Let’s talk painkillers. A study in men found that taking painkillers like aspirin, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), or acetaminophen only two times a week significantly increased the risk of hearing loss. These drugs may do this by reducing blood flow to the inner ear. If you’re concerned, let’s discuss this.4
  • Consider an iron test. By contrast, iron helps carry blood to the inner ear. That may be why low levels have been linked to hearing problems.1
  • Check the volume. It’s really tempting to turn up the volume, especially for your favorite tunes. Resist!

Of course, your doctor should first rule out a medical problem that could be causing any hearing loss. Then, let me know if you would like any guidance about specialists who can help evaluate your hearing or help you choose a hearing device. Just remember: these are not your father’s hearing aids. Today’s hearing aids are nearly invisible, can adjust to different environments, and benefit from many high-tech features.3

Nothing herein constitutes medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, or is a substitute for professional advice.  You should always seek the advice of your physician or other medical professional if you have questions or concerns about a medical condition.

 

Sources

1.       Men’s Journal: “You’re Losing Hearing Faster Than You Think.” Available at: http://www.mensjournal.com/health-fitness/articles/youre-losing-hearing-faster-than-you-think-w475579 Accessed 4-27-17.
2.       Medscape: “Age-related hearing loss in men.” Available at: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/520157 Accessed 4-27-17.
3.       Better Hearing Institute: “Calling All Men: Protect Your Well-Being with a Hearing Check.” Available at: http://www.betterhearing.org/news/calling-all-men-protect-your-well-being-hearing-check Accessed 4-27-17.
4.       Curhan SG et al. Am J Med.2010;123(3):231–237. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2831770/ Accessed 4-27-17.

Seasonal Allergies: Trying to Nip Them in the Bud

Seasonal Allergies: Trying to Nip Them in the Bud

Itchy eyes, runny nose, sneezing, fatigue…. These are just a few of the signs of seasonal allergies—also known as hay fever.1 And get ready: It looks like we may have a real doozy of an allergy season this year.2 Milder winter temperatures in places can cause plants to pollinate early. And a rainier spring leads to quick plant growth, as well as an increase in mold. 1

Allergic reactions mostly occur when your body responds to a “false alarm.” And, as you well know, there isn’t a cure for seasonal allergies. But there’s no reason to let this time of year take all the spring out of your step! Arm yourself with information.

Monitor climate factors. When checking the weather and planning your day, keep these things in mind:

  • Heat and high humidity promote the growth of molds.
  • Cool nights and warm days allow tree, grass, and ragweed pollens to thrive.
  • In spring and summer, tree and grass pollen levels tend to peak in the evening.
  • In late summer and early fall, ragweed pollen levels tend to peak in the morning.
  • Windy and warm days often result in surging pollen counts.
  • After a rainfall, pollen counts may go up, even though the rain temporarily washes pollen away.1

Avoid your triggers. If allergies are making you miserable, you may want to see an allergist. Specializing in allergies, this person can help you figure out what triggers your symptoms. Then you can find ways to cut off those triggers at the pass. During allergy season:

  • Keep windows and doors shut in your car and home.
  • Monitor pollen and mold counts daily. Weather reporters often provide this information.
  • After working or playing outdoors, take a shower, wash your hair, and change your clothes. 1
  • When doing chores outside, wear a NIOSH-rated filter mask. Better yet? Delegate!
  • Be on the lookout for mold, which can build up in moist months. A deep spring cleaning will help get rid of mold and other allergens. Cleanliness may not be close to godliness. But it sure may help you feel better.
  • Clear the air with a HEPA room air cleaner rated with a Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR). If you have central air, use air filters with a MERV rating of 11 or 12. Change air filters every three months.3

Relieve your symptoms. Corticosteroid nasal sprays, decongestants, antihistamines. These are examples of over-the-counter drugs that can help relieve your symptoms. Come talk to me to make sure you’re using them the right way. If side effects are a problem, we can work together to come up with a solution. For example, a few possible side effects of antihistamines are sleepiness, dry mouth, constipation, and light-headedness.4

For some people, allergies can lead to or coexist with other health problems such as asthma or sinusitis. Asthma narrows or blocks the airways. Sinusitis is caused by inflammation or infection of cavities behind the nose.5 Just one more reason why working with your doctor and me is a good idea.

Nothing herein constitutes medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, or is a substitute for professional advice.  You should always seek the advice of your physician or other medical professional if you have questions or concerns about a medical condition.

Sources:

  1. ACAAI: “Seasonal Allergies.” Available at: http://acaai.org/allergies/seasonal-allergies Accessed 3-3-17.

      2.      ABC30.com: “Seasonal allergy sufferers feeling the change in weather.” Available at:        http://abc30.com/health/seasonal-allergy-sufferers-feeling-the-change-in-weather/1780067/ Accessed 3-3-17.

       3.      ACAAI: “5 things to Do to Fell Better During Spring Allergy Season.” Available at:     http://acaai.org/news/5-things-do-feel-better-during-spring-allergy-season Accessed: 2-23-17.

  1. Merck Manual: “Seasonal Allergies.” Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/home/immune-disorders/allergic-reactions-and-other-hypersensitivity-disorders/seasonal-allergies Accessed 3-3-17.

NIHMedlinePlus: “How to Control Your Seasonal Allergies.” Available at: https://medlineplus.gov/magazine/issues/spring13/articles/spring13pg22-23.html Accessed 3-3-17.

 

Mumps Outbreak – Monroe WA

Mumps is a mumps 2017contagious disease caused by a virus. It spreads through saliva or mucus from the mouth, nose, or throat. An infected person can spread the virus by

  • coughing, sneezing, or talking,
  • sharing items, such as cups or eating utensils, with others, and
    • touching objects or surfaces with unwashed                                                                        hands that are then touched by others.

Mumps likely spreads before the salivary glands begin to swell and up to five days after the swelling begins.

Mumps is best known for the puffy cheeks and swollen jaw that it causes. This is a result of swollen salivary glands.

The most common symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Tiredness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Swollen and tender salivary glands under the ears on one or both sides (parotitis)

Symptoms typically appear 16-18 days after infection, but this period can range from 12-25 days after infection.

Some people who get mumps have very mild or no symptoms, and often they do not know they have the disease.

Most people with mumps recover completely in a few weeks.

Mumps Outbreaks

In some years, there are more cases of mumps than usual because of outbreaks. Mumps outbreaks can occur any time of year. A major factor contributing to outbreaks is being in a crowded environment, such as attending the same class, playing on the same sports team, or living in a dormitory with a person who has mumps. Also, certain behaviors that result in exchanging saliva, such as kissing or sharing utensils, cups, lipstick or cigarettes, might increase spread of the virus.

MMR vaccine prevents most, but not all, cases of mumps and complications caused by the disease. Two doses of the vaccine are 88% (range: 66 to 95%) effective at protecting against mumps; one dose is 78% (range: 49% to 92%) effective. The MMR vaccine protects against currently circulating mumps strains. Outbreaks can still occur in highly vaccinated U.S. communities, particularly in close-contact settings. In recent years, outbreaks have occurred in schools, colleges, and camps. However, high vaccination coverage helps limit the size, duration, and spread of mumps outbreaks.

Although it is not mandatory to report mumps outbreaks to CDC, many health departments will contact CDC when they experience an unusually high number of cases. In 2015 and 2016, a number of cases and outbreaks have been reported to CDC, primarily associated with college settings. These outbreaks have ranged in size from a few to several hundred cases, have mostly affected young adults, and are likely due to a combination of factors. These factors include the known effectiveness of the vaccine, lack of previous exposure to wild-type virus, and the intensity of the exposure setting (such as a college campus) coupled with behaviors that increase the risk of transmission.

Resources: https://www.cdc.gov/mumps/outbreaks.html 

Signs & Symptoms:  https://www.cdc.gov/mumps/about/signs-symptoms.html

For information about how to prevent mumps from spreading, see Outbreak-Related Questions and Answers for Patients.

Vaccine Schedule for Children & Adults 

 

Emotions and Heart Disease

In the past 40 years, cases of heart disease in the U.S. have dropped by 20 percent.1 Now, that’s news worth celebrating! Efforts at prevention, detection, and treatment appear to paying off. For example, Americans’ cholesterol levels keep falling. Researchers think that ditching trans fats from our diets may be one reason why.2

Still, heart disease here remains the number-one cause of death in both men and women.2 We can do so much more to support our faithful tickers. You might be surprised to learn how much your emotional health influences your heart. Check out a few recent studies:

Pessimism. A study lasting 11 years looked at the risks linked to pessimism among 3,000 men and women. And guess what? That “glass-half-empty” attitude seemed to have a pretty big impact. Those who were most pessimistic were twice as likely to die of heart disease as the least pessimistic. The researchers can’t prove that negativity caused the rise in heart-related deaths. But this emotion can lead to an increase in hormones related to stress and inflammation. And, that might help explain the link.3

Worry. An even larger study of 7,000 Norwegians also found a link between worrying about a heart attack and actually having one. The “worried well” were twice as likely to have a heart attack as those who weren’t anxious about their health. Again, the link can’t be proven, but physical changes from anxiety are the likely culprit.4

Depression. Over 10 years, researchers tracked 1,100 women and found that those with a history of depression had a much higher risk of heart disease. In fact, in women younger than 65 with no history of heart problems, depression was the only significant risk factor linked with developing heart disease. Depression can produce stress hormones. But it may it may also lead to unhealthy behaviors that can increase the risks.5

Anger. Either intense anger or physical exertion doubles the odds of having a first heart attack. Even worse? Combining the two triples that risk, according to a study of 12,000 people. Chances are, anger and intense activity simply trigger an attack in people who already have artery-clogging plaques, say the researchers. Intense emotions or activity may cause a domino effect: A rise in blood pressure and heart rate constricts blood vessels. That, in turn, causes plaques to rupture and cut off blood flow to the heart.6

Spotting any trends, anyone?

With medical help or even self-care such as meditation or relaxation exercises, you can learn how to shift some of these moods. If these emotions are a challenge for you, I’ll also do what I can to help. For one thing, I can point you to reliable sources of health information.  Together we can work on managing blood pressure including discussing a few changes to your diet and lifestyle.  Review the signs of a heart attack and make an appointment with your doctor today to know your overall health.

Nothing herein constitutes medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, or is a substitute for professional advice.  You should always seek the advice of your physician or other medical professional if you have questions or concerns about a medical condition.

Sources:

  1. HealthDay: U.S. Heart Disease Rates Fell 20 Percent Since 1980s: Study. Available at: https://medlineplus.gov/news/fullstory_162007.html Accessed 1-3-17.
  1. HealthDay: Americans’ Cholesterol Levels Keep Falling. Available at: https://medlineplus.gov/news/fullstory_162292.html Accessed 1-3-17.
  1. HealthDay: Pessimism May Take Unwelcome Toll on the Heart. Available at: https://medlineplus.gov/news/fullstory_162083.html Accessed 1-3-17.
  1. HealthDay: Hypochondriacs May Worry Themselves Into Heart Trouble. Available at: https://medlineplus.gov/news/fullstory_161838.html Accessed 1-3-17.
  2. Women’s Brain Health Initiative: Depression Can Fuel Heart Disease in Midlife Women: Available at: http://womensbrainhealth.org/think-twice/depression-can-fuel-heart-disease-in-midlife-women Accessed 1-4-17.
  1. HealthDay: Anger, Heavy Exertion: Fast Track to a Heart Attack? Available at: https://medlineplus.gov/news/fullstory_161395.html Accessed 1-4-17.

Back to School: A Handy Health & Safety Checklist

Back to School: A Handy Health & Safety Checklist

It’s just about that time again: Time to switch from swimsuits to school clothes and from beach bags to backpacks. That’s the easy part. What about preparing your child to have the healthiest and safest school year possible? Here’s a handy checklist to help.

  1. Schedule medical, eye, and dental checkups. Before school starts, check with the pediatrician to see if your child needs any immunizations. Vision and hearing tests are also a good idea, although schools perform hearing tests during certain grades.1 If your child is playing sports, ask the pediatrician whether a special checkup is needed. With certain sports, concussions can be a serious problem. Talk to the doctor about ways to protect your child.2
  2. Organize your child’s medical history records. Provide copies to your child’s school or daycare providers. I can help you pull some of this together, but the list should include your child’s:
  • Prescription medications
  • Medical problems such as asthma or allergies
  • Previous surgeries
  • Emergency contacts2
  1. Communicate about transportation. Some kids get dropped up and picked up by parents. Others carpool. Still others walk, bike, or take the bus. And, of course, teens may have their own wheels. Regardless, it’s important that your kids be—and feel—safe getting to and from school.
  • If you or another adult picks up your child, agree on a time and place for pickups. Explain what to do if the driver is running late.
  • If your child walks or bikes, do a dry run and explain any potential traffic hazards.
  • If your child or teen takes the bus, find a safe route and agree on a visible pick-up and drop-off spot. Ideally, this is a place where other kids are around and adults can clearly see them.
  • If your teen drives to school, be crystal clear about safe driving—including ditching that teen temptation: texting while driving.

Create an emergency plan in case anything goes awry. In fact, make sure your child knows what to do in an emergency—whether at home or at school or anywhere in between.2

  1. Remember that there’s more to school than hitting the books. For example, good nutrition and exercise are essential for brain health. Here are a few other reminders:
  • Be consistent about bedtime and wake-up times. Growing kids need at least 8 hours of sleep—and teens need even more.1
  • Make homework a habit by having clear routines. But don’t overlook free time and friend time.
  • Explain ways to prevent infection such as by regularly washing hands and by not sharing hats or other clothing. That’s one way lice get around!
  • Keep lines of communication open. Listen for signs of bullying or other concerns. Many parents find that car rides are a great time to have nonthreatening conversations with their kids. Contact the school if a problem like bullying does arise.3,4

Nothing herein constitutes medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, or is a substitute for professional advice.  You should always seek the advice of your physician or other medical professional if you have questions or concerns about a medical condition.

 Sources

  1. WebMD: Back-to-School Health Checklist. Available at: http://www.webmd.com/parenting/features/back-to-school-health-checklist Accessed 7/3/16.
  1. EmergencyCareForYou: Homework for Parents—Your Child’s Back-To-School Health Checklist. Available at: http://www.emergencycareforyou.org/Health-Tips/Child-Emergencies/Homework-for-Parents-%E2%80%94-Your-Child-s-Back-To-School-Health-Checklist/ Accessed 7/3/16.
  1. National Association Of School Nurses: Back to School Family Checklist. Available at: https://www.nasn.org/portals/0/resources/BacktoSchoolChecklistFamily_2015.pdf Accessed 7/3/16.
  1. CDC: Back to School Health & Safety Checklist. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/media/dpk/2013/docs/back-to-school/Back-to-School-Checklist.pdf Accessed 7/3/16.

Fun in the Sun – or Defeat in the Heat?

Fun in the Sun—or Defeat in the Heat?

Did you know that the number of hot days—and warm nights—is increasing? In the U.S., record high temperatures now outnumber record lows at least two to one.1 What can you do to protect yourself in a heat wave—or simply in the hot summer sun?

Know signs of trouble. Heat cramps are an early sign that your body is suffering from the heat—they’re more likely with heavy exercise or work. Along with muscle cramps, you may sweat heavily and feel very thirsty or fatigued.2

Heat exhaustion can happen when you lose lots of fluids from heavy sweating.3 These are a few other signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness or feeling weak or confused
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Cool, moist skin
  • Dark-colored urine, a sign of dehydration2,4

If not treated, heat exhaustion can develop into heatstroke, which can be deadly because the body loses the ability to cool itself. Call 9-1-1 if someone shows signs of shock, becomes very confused, has a seizure, has a fever over 102 degrees F, breathes rapidly or has a rapid pulse, or loses consciousness. 2,3

Nip problems in the bud. If you have symptoms of heat exhaustion, get out of the heat as quickly as you can. Rest in a cool, shady place with your feet raised. Drink plenty of fluids, but avoid alcohol or caffeine. Apply cool compresses or take a cool shower or bath. Contact a doctor if you don’t feel better within 30 minutes.4

Beat the heat. In a heat wave, take these steps:

  • Avoid taxing activities if you can.
  • Stay indoors during the hottest hours of the day. The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays are strongest between 10 am and 4 pm.5
  • If you don’t have air conditioning, go to a library, mall, or other public place to cool down for a few hours.
  • Wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing. Avoid dark colors, which trap the heat.
  • Use a hat or umbrella outdoors.
  • Allow your car to cool off before you get in.
  • Drink water and eat small meals often. Drink less alcohol and fewer caffeinated drinks.
  • Don’t take salt tablets unless your doctor tells you to.2,3,4

Protect those at increased risk. Help protect those who are most vulnerable in the heat. That includes children, older adults, and people who are obese, ill, exercising vigorously, or not used to the heat or high humidity.2 For example, make sure young ones drink plenty of water. And you might check in on your elderly neighbor once in a while.

It’s important to know that certain medicines can also increase your risk of heatstroke. This includes allergy, blood pressure, and seizure drugs as well as medicines used for mental health conditions. Let’s talk this over to make sure you stay safe and know the signs of problems. And, if you have a chronic condition, it’s a great idea to ask
your doctor about other ways to lower your risk of heatstroke. 4

Nothing herein constitutes medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, or is a substitute for professional advice.  You should always seek the advice of your physician or other medical professional if you have questions or concerns about a medical condition.

Sources:

  1. Climate Communication: Heat Waves. Available at: https://www.climatecommunication.org/new/features/extreme-weather/heat-waves/ Accessed 5-23-16.
  2. MedlinePlus: Heat emergencies. Available at: https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000056.htm Accessed 5-23-16.
  3. Healthy Roads Media: Heat Waves. Available at: https://healthreach.nlm.nih.gov/documents/EngHeatWaves.pdf Accessed 5-23-16.
  4. org: Heat exhaustion and Heatstroke. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/prevention-wellness/staying-healthy/first-aid/heat-exhaustion-an-heatstroke.printerview.all.html Accessed 5-23-16.

FDA: Sun Protection. Available at:  http://www.fda.gov/Radiation-EmittingProducts/RadiationEmittingProductsandProcedures/Tanning/ucm116445.htm

Too hot? Too Cold? Just right!

Too hot? Too cold? Just right!

Here’s something you may not give a second thought: “Climate control” for your medications. Those little pills (or liquids) may appear untouched by the environment. But they’re not. Extreme heat or cold can make a big difference in how well your medications work.1 Proper storage is key. Here are a few things you should know.

When you receive a medication, check to see if there are specific instructions about storage. Know which need refrigeration, if any. If none do, follow these general guidelines. Store medications:

  • In their original container
  • At room temperature (59°F to 86°F)
  • Away from moisture
  • Protected from light1

At home. At home, a good storage spot might be a locked dresser drawer or kitchen shelf—not in a bathroom medicine cabinet, next to the stove, or on a countertop where the sun comes streaming in. Both bathrooms and kitchens not only get hot at times, but can also be very high in humidity.2

Keep all medications in the same place, except for those that need refrigeration. Be sure that your fridge’s temperature setting isn’t too high. That can put medication at risk of freezing. Insulin is an example of a drug that needs cooler temperatures. Keep unopened insulin vials, cartridges, and prefilled pens in the fridge at a temperature between 36°F to 46°F. Once punctured, however, most types of insulin can be stored in the fridge or at room temperature.1 Ask, if you have questions about yours.

When traveling. What if you are traveling during the “dog days of summer”? Don’t be leaving your medications in the glove compartment or trunk of your car while off scouting the Grand Canyon! Temperatures can skyrocket in a closed car.

In fact, don’t even leave them in the trunk while driving—keep them inside the car, where you can control the temperature. One British study found that trunk temperatures can go as high as 81.5°F to 110.3°F during a heat wave.3

For medications that need to be refrigerated, use a refrigerator (or freezer gel pack for longer periods), cooler, or fridge throughout your whole trip.

When flying, avoid packing away your medication in checked luggage. Baggage compartments can also undergo extremes of temperature. Instead, keep your medications in your carry-on luggage in their original, labeled containers. Don’t be alarmed if airport security asks to inspect your medication.

Any more questions? I’m glad to talk this all over with you. Or, if it helps, I can print out more information as a reference. Need it in a different language or in bigger type? Let’s see what we can do.

Just remember this: extreme environmental changes can affect your drug’s potency. And, depending upon your condition and your type of medication, that can be serious—even life threatening.

Nothing herein constitutes medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, or is a substitute for professional advice.  You should always seek the advice of your physician or other medical professional if you have questions or concerns about a medical condition

Sources

  1. University of Texas at Austin: “Medication Storage Tips.” Available at: http://www.utexas.edu/pharmacy/news/di_11medstorage.html Accessed 5-7-15.
  2. Learn about Rx Safety: “The Quick Scoop: Medicines and Your Family.” Available at: http://www.learnaboutrxsafety.org/quick-scoop.aspx#safely Accessed 5-7-15
  1. Crichton B. Keep in a cool place: exposure of medicines to high temperatures in general practice during a British heat wave. J R Soc Med. 2004;97:328-9.