I ran into Don and Sheila the other day on the curb in front of our house. It was Monday…garbage day…as together we rolled our trash cans back into our respective garages. Actually, it was good to see our next-door neighbors. Tom and I hadn’t seen or heard from them for several days.
I quickly learned why as Sheila dressed in heavy sweats with a wool scarf around her neck warned me not to come any closer. Looking like the walking dead, she told me that she and Don had the flu and were so sick they hadn’t even left their house. Taking the trash to the curb was their first outing in days.
It broke my heart to see our friends in such misery. They admitted they hadn’t gotten the flu shot and vowed never to pass on it again.
Secretly, I applauded my own decision to get vaccinated. But it’s my pharmacist who deserves the credit for making that smart choice. As I quizzed him at my local pharmacy, he convinced me the flu shot is still the best way to avoid the miserable symptoms of the flu virus.
I remember using the line, “They never get the formula right anyway,” to justify skipping this year’s vaccination. If that’s your argument, then it may be time to roll up your sleeve. Turns out, a flu shot is effective even if its strains don’t match those going around!
That may sound crazy, but a Canadian review found in years the vaccine hadn’t targeted the viruses circulating, people still got protection that was more than 50 percent effective (when there was a match, protection rose to 65 percent or more).
Bottom line…from my pharmacist and primary care doctor to the Mayo Clinic and the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), the best way to prevent the flu is to get vaccinated.
Like all medications, vaccines can have side effects, but they’re extremely rare. For people with certain health conditions, getting the shot may not be advised. Obviously, if you have any concerns, check with your doctor before getting vaccinated.
Then, before you decide to skip this year’s flu shot…consider this. The vaccine can protect you from the ravages of the flu that wiped out our neighbors – a viral respiratory illness that spreads easily and can make your life miserable for weeks. Worst case? The flu can lead to serious health complications and possibly death. Why chance it?
It’s too late for Don and Sheila. Thankfully, they’re recovering nicely.
But there is still time for you to prevent the fever, chills and body aches that could have you down for the count this holiday season.
For a list of Palomar Health community flu shot clinics, go to www.PalomarHealth.org/flu.
When it comes to food, these days, it’s all about going organic. And that’s great. Count me in! But I must admit, navigating the maze of organic food labels, benefits and claims can be more confusing than an exercise in quantum physics!
Is it just me? I have a college degree but nowhere in my curriculum was there a course on “label language,” and much of it is simply indecipherable. Thank goodness, after decades of talk, the USDA’s National Organic Program has finally standardized the widely varying practices of an unregulated, grassroots movement. The program ensures all producers play by the same rules. What does that mean for you and me? Official, clear-cut definitions of “organic” and its many wannabes.
Here they are! (And if you lose this, not to worry. I’ve got the list posted on my fridge!)
100% Organic: All ingredients must be certified organic, and processing aids must be organic as well. The name of the certifying agent must be on the label, which may carry the USDA Organic seal.
Organic: Products must contain at least 95% certified organic ingredients. The remaining 5% (except salt and water), along with any nonorganic processing aids (such as chlorine to wash packaging equipment), must be from a national list of substance the USDA has approved for use in organics. The product may carry the USDA Organic seal.
Made with Organic: Packaging can’t include the USDA seal, but at least 70% of the product must be certified organic; nonagricultural ingredients must come from the national list. The quality of organic foods is high even at 70%, experts say.
Organic Ingredients: Below 70% organic, the product can’t claim on its packaging that it’s organic, except to list specific certified organic ingredients on the information panel.
Natural: The USDA says that meat, poultry and eggs labeled with this word must have no artificial ingredients and be minimally processed. But the term isn’t defined beyond those items. Assume “natural” means “conventional.”
Fair Trade: Nongovernment organizations certify that growers received minimum prices and community support from buyers and followed specific environmental practices. Standards are not as strict as for organic.
Free-range: Birds such as chickens are sheltered and have continuous access to the outdoors, along with unlimited access to food and water. However, these claims are not certified.
Cage-free: Birds can freely roam inside a building or room with unlimited access to food and fresh water. They’re without cages, but can still be packed very tightly, even when organic.
Grass-fed: Animals receive most of their nutrition from grass throughout their lives, but may also eat hay or grain indoors during winter. Animals may still receive antibiotics and hormones, according to the USDA.
No Added Hormones: Already true of organic, so its conventional producers that tend to use this term, but there’s no certification for these claims.
Whew! It’s still a lot of info…but at least these definitions are clear and should make buying organic a lot easier.
The caricature of a sexy woman adorned with a feather boa and six-inch eyelashes smiled at me from the front of the birthday card. “You’re still hot!” read the caption below the shapely cartoon lady’s stiletto heels. Smiling, I opened the card from my dear friend…only to read the bitter truth, “These days it just comes in flashes!”
Funny card. But for women who deal with the “flashes” of heat that strike with no warning, it’s no laughing matter.
Truth is, most women experience hot flashes at some point before or after menopause when their estrogen levels are declining. While some women are blessed with few to no flashes, others suffer the surges of internal heat numerous times a day causing miserable disruptions in sleep and daily living.
The late-summer heat just makes matters worse.
Summer can be a truly “hellish” time for women coping with hot flashes and night sweats. While comforted knowing my personal heat waves are not a sign of some medical problem, they’re still a royal pain – frustrating and often embarrassing as the tiny rivulets of sweat trickle from my hairline down the side of my face during a business meeting.
If you’re a woman tired of waking up in a pool of sweat every night or carrying around a portable fan all day, don’t despair. There are effective treatments that may either reduce or stop moderate to severe hot flashes including short-term, low-dose estrogen (hormone therapy), certain antidepressant and blood pressure medicines and the herb, black cohosh.
But for some of us, drugs and herbal therapy may not be an option. If you’ve had breast cancer, ovarian cancer, or are at risk for either, you may have been told you’ve just got to put up with the unwanted waves of heat. Like many of women, I take the anti-estrogen medication, Tamoixfen because of a bout with breast cancer. (Some women take a similar medication, Arimidex) so we’ve got to find another way to beat the heat of hot flashes.)
Avoiding tobacco and alcohol, and making sure to exercise and maintain a healthy diet are a great start…but if the heat’s still on, and hormone therapy isn’t right for you; check out these natural remedies that may just give you the big chill you crave!
A 2013 Mayo Clinic study showed that doing slow, deep, abdominal breathing reduces the number and severity of hot flashes. (This really helps me.) Take three or four slow breaths whenever you feel the heat coming on. The hot flash often will just fade away. Practicing calming meditation also helps. Scientists are finding that stress hormones aggravate menopausal symptoms.
Clary sage and Roman chamomile essential oils help balance mood swings, while peppermint can chill hot flashes. To make your own cooling mist (especially great for night sweats!), mix the following ingredients in a 4-oz. dark-glass spray bottle:
* 3 ounces distilled water
* 1 ounce witch hazel extract
* 8 drops each of peppermint, clary sage and Roman chamomile essential oils
Sip Some Sage
This is a fave for reducing flashes and night sweats. Because sage may have estrogen-like effects, avoid therapeutic amounts if you’ve had breast cancer or could be pregnant. To brew a cup of the delicious tea: Pour 1 cup boiling water over 1 tablespoon fresh sage leaves or 1 teaspoon dried. Steep, cover for 5 minutes and then strain. Add a little honey or lemon, if you’d like. Have a cup two or three times a day.
Here’s to a cool you!
As a kid, I did some pretty stupid things.
When I was six, I couldn’t resist the urge to sneak a taste of the dog’s kibble. (Not bad, actually!) In church one Sunday when I was eight, I stuck a rosary bead up my nose. It took a doctor to retrieve the foreign object that had travelled up my sinus cavity.
Fortunately, those acts of stupidity did no long-term damage. I wish I could say the same about the years I spent stupidly lying in the summer sun slathered in baby oil…working on the perfect tan.
Sometimes there are consequences for being stupid.
As I write this, I can’t help but catch a glimpse of the ugly scar on my forearm from recent surgery to remove a second squamous cell skin cancer from my body. That divot in my arm is a constant reminder of my stupid decision to ignore the experts and, for decades, repeatedly overexpose my skin to the sun’s harmful rays.
Sometimes, there are consequences for being stupid.
But I figure there’s no point beating myself up about it. I can’t go back. Now, all I can do is look forward and come up with strategies that will allow me to enjoy the great outdoors while protecting myself from future sun damage. As you might imagine, I don’t go anywhere these days without hats, sun-protective clothing and lots of sunscreen!
And guess what? My new game plan may do more than protect me from future cancers. The generous coat of sunscreen that’s now part of my daily routine may also help wipe out my wrinkles!
Dermatologists have been telling us for years that using sunscreen regularly can protect skin against aging. Now there’s research to back it up!
In a study just published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers demonstrated that people who applied sunscreen every day showed 24 percent less skin aging (as measured by lines and coarseness of the skin) than those who used regular moisturizers.
Sunscreen has long been touted as a way to stave off photo-aging, or changes to the skin cause by sun exposure. While it makes good sense, from a scientific point of view, most of the evidence has been anecdotal. There simply hasn’t been hard evidence in humans to support the claim.
Well, no more. The numbers are in and they don’t lie. Routine use of sunscreen saves skin. And if, like me as a foolish, young woman, you’re not motivated to slap on a little sunscreen to prevent skin cancer, then could I possibly appeal to your vanity?
As one study researcher explained, the results have “double significance,” since the reduced skin damage from UV rays also translates to a lower risk of skin cancer. It’s a win-win!
Have fun in the sun, but don’t risk the health and beauty of your skin for the few seconds it takes to slather on a little sun protection. Trust me, the consequences aren’t worth it.
Contact Carol by emailing her at Carol@pph.org.
My husband, Tom is a good-looking guy … just a little short in the hair department. “It’s not that I’m bald,” explains my sweet husband. “I’m follicly-challenged.” But Tom’s shiny pate proved to be a blessing in disguise. Because of his receding hairline, it was easy to discover a little “boo-boo” developing atop his head.
Typical guy, Tom put off getting it checked. But the scaly patch continued to grow until I finally insisted he see a dermatologist. I even made the appointment. Long story short, the biopsy found the little lesion was a form of basal cell carcinoma.
Thank God, the skin cancer was found early. Removed by a plastic surgeon nearly two years ago, today the scar is barely visible and Tom is cancer-free. I shudder to think what may have happened had he put off seeing a doctor.
It makes me wonder. Why are guys like Tom (who would never put off servicing his car!) so reluctant to take care of their own bodies? Listen guys, the odds are against you. American men live sicker and die younger than American women. Men also die earlier than women for all the leading causes of death. Why? According to the Men’s Health Network, women are 100% more likely to visit the doctor for annual exams and preventive screenings than men!
But there’s an easy fix! Many diseases can be prevented or treated when symptoms are caught early. In fact, men’s top health threats, including heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, influenza and suicide, are mostly preventable.
In fact, men can start by following five simple recommended screenings:
Cholesterol: Have a cholesterol test at least every five years starting at age 35.
Blood Pressure: Check blood pressure at least every two years.
Colorectal Cancer: Begin regular screening at age 50.
Diabetes: Screen for diabetes if you have high blood pressure or high cholesterol.
Prostate Cancer: Men age 50 or older should discuss screening with their doctor.
Still not persuaded? Well, maybe guys need to be convinced that real men need health care. So, I checked in with one of San Diego’s most famous “real men” for his perspective. Known for his astute sports commentary, Billy Ray Smith co-hosts the popular “Scott and BR Show” with Scott Kaplan on San Diego’s XX 1090Sports Radio.
But the easy-going sports radio guy is probably best known as #54 … the all-pro NFL football star and one of the greatest San Diego Chargers of all time.
Throughout his NFL career, Billy Ray was the picture of health. Now, off the field (and 20 pounds lighter!), BR still makes his health a priority. Check out my Q&A to learn more.
Q&A with Billy Ray Smith
Carol: How did you stay in top form while playing with the Chargers?
BR: I learned from my Dad who also played in the NFL. I used to run with him … even went to the training facility with him.
Jessica Davis Photography
Carol: After 10 years, what made you decide to retire from football?
BR: Another lesson from my Dad. He played 13 years and had to have knee replacement surgery. After suffering a torn calf, I decided not to hang on until the very last second and left the game still happy and healthy.
Carol: You played at 235 pounds. You’re much leaner today. Is that by design?
BR: The first thing I did after retiring was drop 20 – 30 pounds. The extra weight would have taken a toll later on my hips and knees.
Carol: You’re still super-fit. Do you work out?
BR: I walk with Kim every day and use dumbbells at home 2-3 times a week. I like to run and plan to get back into “hot” yoga. I love getting the sweat going.
Carol: What about preventive maintenance?
BR: I definitely keep up with my annual physicals. The League provides screenings and does a great job of making sure all the guys get checked.
Carol: I know Kim is devoted to a Mediterranean style diet. How ‘bout you?
BR: I’m not on the Kimberly Hunt diet … yet! But I try to emulate her, with a cheeseburger thrown in once in a while.
Carol: Hmmm. A cheeseburger with EVOO perhaps?
BR: Extra Virgin Olive Oil? Sure, why not?!
Carol: What about “junk” food?
BR: I love jalapenos … and anything “hot.”
Carol: Any tips for handling stress?
BR: I honestly don’t know what that is. I’m the luckiest guy on earth. Great friends. The greatest wife and daughter. I talk sports and they pay me for it!
Carol: And your co-host, Scott? You seem to get along well…
BR: Funniest guy I know. To be able to laugh things off, that’s huge.
Contact Carol by emailing her at Carol@palomarhealth.org.
Thanks to the Food and Drug Administration and San Diego Union-Tribune journalist R.J. Ignelzi, I finally have clarity on one of the mysteries of the Universe.
Armed with the FDA’s revised labeling and R.J.’s recent article which clearly explains the new rules, I can now boldly and confidently approach the sunscreen display at my neighborhood Rite Aid.
For years I have stared stupidly at the convoluted descriptions on literally scores of different sunscreen products…trying to make a choice often leaving the store empty-handed. SPF 30 or broad spectrum? Anti-aging or UV-B protection? Or UV-A? I don’t know. Waterproof or water resistant? Lotion or spray? It was enough to make me want to stay indoors!
No more! This summer I’m ready to take on Banana Boat, Coppertone or any other sunscreen product that even attempts to intimidate me!
If you haven’t yet loaded up on this summer’s supply of sunscreen, have no fear. A few simple changes on your favorite sunscreen labels will make it a whole lot easier to make the right sunscreen choice for you and your family.
R.J’s informative article in the “Health” section of the U-T, reporting on the government’s revised and updated labeling, cuts through the bureaucratic blather so all you have to do is lather on the sunscreen – confident you’re protected from the sun’s damaging rays.
Here’s what to look for on sunscreen labels now:
SPF value better defined:
The new labeling now tells consumers that sunscreen labeled as SPF 15 (or higher) and “broad spectrum” (see below) not only protect against sunburn, but, if used with other sun protection measures, can reduce the risk of skin cancer and early skin aging.
Any sunscreen that has an SPF value between 2 and 14 must now carry a warning: “Skin Cancer/Skin Aging Alert: Spending time in the sun increases your risk of skin cancer and early skin aging. This product has been shown only to help prevent sunburn, not skin cancer or early skin aging.”
No more super SPFs
Sunscreen products that have SPF values higher than 50 must now be labeled as “SPF 50+.”
According to the FDA, SPF 15 blocks about 93 percent of harmful rays. “Any produce with an SPF value of 50 or higher adds little additional protection.”
Under the new regulations, sunscreen products that protect against all types of sun-induced skin damage are labeled “broad spectrum” on the front of the package.
The FDA now has a standard test for over-the-counter sunscreen products that determines which are allowed to be called “broad spectrum.” Products that pass this test will provide protection against both UVA and UVB radiation. Sunburn is caused primarily by UVB. Both can cause sunburn, skin cancer and premature skin aging. By contrast, any sunscreen not labeled “broad spectrum” must state on the label that the product has been shown only to help prevent sunburn – not skin cancer.
Water resistance claims
Manufacturers cannot make claims that sunscreens are “waterproof” or “sweat proof.” Instead they may label products as “water resistant,” but must say how much time a user can expect to be protected while swimming or sweating. Based on standard testing, two times are now permitted on labels: 40 or 80 minutes.
No immediate protection
Sunscreen cannot claim protection immediately on application (for example, “instant protection.”] or protection for more than two hours without reapplication, unless they get FDA approval.
No more sun blocks
Since no sunscreen product completely blocks all UV rays, manufacturers cannot use the term “sun block.”
Thanks R.J. Thanks FDA.
Now, be strong and courageous! Consider yourself armed as you take on the sunscreen display this summer and choose the sun protection product that’s just right for you!
See you at the beach!
Contact Carol by emailing her at Carol@palomarhealth.org.
From the cheerful red geraniums adorning my neighbor’s patio to the symphony of color popping up along the freeway…spring has arrived in the southland in an explosion of buds and blooms. That’s the good news.
The bad news? For many of us, springtime means seasonal allergies. But is it really those poor little petunias, poppies and pansies causing my eyes to water and itch? Are daffodils, daisies and dandelions to blame for my incessant sneezing? I wanted to know so did a little research that helped separate fact from fiction when it comes to allergies.
What a surprise to learn a lot of what I believed about allergies wasn’t true! Check this out and find out what’s really making you sneeze this spring!
1. Desert Climates Cure Allergies
MYTH. Changing climates can affect your reaction to allergy-triggering substances called allergens – but only to a limited extent. Some Easter and Midwestern plants are rare out west, but grass and ragweed pollens are found nearly everywhere. Besides, once you move, you may simply start reacting to different allergens.
2. Flowers Commonly Trigger Allergies
MYTH. Some florists with prolonged exposure to flowers can have allergy symptoms. But very few people are allergic to a bouquet of beautiful blossoms. (Yay!) The culprit is usually the pollen produced by trees, grasses and weeds (and yes, occasionally flowers) picked up by breezes and carried through the air.
3. There’s No Pollen at the Beach
MYTH. (Surprise to me!) Beaches generally have lower pollen counts. However, grasses are common near beaches, and ragweed pollen can be found as far as 400 miles out to sea! Also, even a short drive or walk from the sand will expose you to the region’s pollen-emitting plant life.
4. Pollen Counts Can Predict Bad Days
FACT. Pollen counts determine how many grains of pollen were measured in a specific amount of air over a specific amount of time. You can use the daily pollen count as a tool for minimizing allergen exposure.
5. You Will Outgrown Your Allergies
MYTH. Some children do outgrow certain allergies. But very few outgrow hay fever. A study in Sweden tracked 82 patients with allergic rhinitis. The patients reported 99 percent still suffered from the allergy 12 years later, although 39 percent reported improvement.
6. Rain Washes Away Pollen
FACT. The best day for allergy sufferers to go outdoors are those immediately following heavy rains. Pollen levels can be affected by temperature, time of day, humidity and rain. Pollen counts run lowest on chilly, soggy days and highest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., especially on hot, dry, windy days.
7. Mold Allergies Strike Only Indoors
MYTH. Mold spores are fungi and can be found almost anywhere. They grow on soil, decaying leaves and rotting wood – especially in damp weather. You’re most likely to have an allergic reaction to mold in the summer. Most outdoor molds aren’t active during the winter.
8. Hay Fever Comes From Hay
MYTH. Hay fever isn’t a fever and it doesn’t come from hay! (Sure taught this Iowa girl a thing or two!) Hay fever or allergic rhinitis is caused by tree, grass and weed pollens, as well as mold spores. If you have allergies, you may be more likely to suffer a reaction in a rural area. (But, some studies show children who grow up on farms are less likely to develop allergies.)
9. No Childhood Allergies? No Worries.
MYTH. Allergies often begin in childhood. But you can develop them as an adult, too. Some occur after you change your environment and encounter new allergens. Some adults redevelop symptoms they had during childhood.
10. Regular Injections Can Ease Allergies
FACT. While there are no full cures for allergies, allergy shots – also known as immunotherapy are the closest thing. If you have bad allergies or reactions to many different allergens, you may benefit from immunotherapy. Regular injections may dramatically reduce your reaction to certain allergens.
Contact Carol by emailing her at Carol@pph.org.
Our pastor recently gave a thought-provoking sermon on prayer. While extolling the virtues of communicating with God, Pastor Jim also emphasized the two-way aspect of the discipline. “Prayer is more than rattling off a laundry list of needs and concerns,” he explained. “We need to “be still and listen to what God has to say.”
I keep trying, but truthfully it’s often a struggle to clear my cluttered mind long enough to hear from the Almighty. And that got me to thinking. Do I keep my mouth shut long enough to actually listen to those around me? The answer? A resounding NO!
Listening does not come easily for me. Most of my adult life, I was paid to talk. As a TV newscaster and public speaker, “dead air” is the enemy and must be filled with something…anything. Even in social situations, I’m the one yakking – not listening. So it’s come as something of a revelation that I can do more with my ears than I can with my mouth.
In her book, “Listening to Others,” Joyce Huggett relates personal experiences of listening to suffering people. She said they often talk about all she’s done for them. On many occasions, she wrote, “I have not “done” anything. I have just listened.” Joyce says she quickly came to the conclusion that “just listening” is indeed an effective way of helping others.
According to author, David Roper, listening is a lost art. We don’t listen well and we aren’t used to being listened to. Most of our words simply fall to the ground.
I don’t want to be like that anymore. Says Roper, “I want to listen well so that when I finish conversations others will walk away knowing there’s at least one person in this careless world who has some inkling of what they’re doing, thinking and feeling.”
Here are some things I’ve learned about listening from Roper’s essay, “Learning to Listen.”
1. When I’m thinking about an answer while others are talking – I’m not listening.
2. When I give unsolicited advice – I’m not listening.
3. When I suggest they shouldn’t feel the way they do – I’m not listening.
4. When I apply a quick fix to their problem – I’m not listening.
5. When I fail to acknowledge their feelings – I’m not listening.
6. When I fidget, glance at my watch and appear to be rushed – I’m not listening.
7. When I fail to maintain eye contact – I’m not listening.
8. When I don’t ask follow-up questions – I’m not listening.
9. When I top their story with a bigger, better story of my own – I’m not listening.
10. When they share a difficult experience and I counter with one of my own – I’m not listening.
Ouch! Based on this list, I am officially a lousy listener. If you are, too…how ‘bout we try putting aside our “Chatty Cathy” ways, put a sock in it and let the other guy talk.
Maybe he just needs someone to listen.
Contact Carol by emailing her at Carol@pph.org.
Emily Taylor hasn’t missed the Susan G. Komen 3-Day™ walk for breast cancer in nine years. Along with tens of thousands of other enthusiastic pink-clad advocates, the 48-year-old Northrup-Grummon administrative assistant makes the annual 60-mile trek in passionate support of her sister and other breast cancer survivors.
But Emily, a wife and mother of three, came dangerously close to missing her 10th Komen 3-Day in October. While on a training run a couple months earlier, the avid softball player and triathlete came face to face with a disease even more deadly for women than breast cancer.
A mile into her routine run, the Ramona resident felt something “really different.” She described it as a “very centered, deep chest pain.” Emily admits, “I didn’t think it was a heart thing.” She figured she’d pulled a chest muscle moving boxes days earlier. No big deal.
During a subsequent workout, not only did the chest pain return, but it was accompanied by an “odd feeling” in both arms. “This isn’t right,” she thought. So the next day, Emily headed to the Urgent Care at Arch Health Partners in Poway to get checked out. Good decision. Within hours, Emily learned what she was experiencing was indeed a “heart thing.”
While a breast cancer diagnosis can be terrifying, heart disease is actually the number one killer of women…more deadly, in fact, than all forms of cancer combined. Thankfully, Emily did not become a statistic. And she owes that fact to her own action and the prompt, professional care she received at Palomar Health.
It wasn’t an easy diagnosis, which is often the case in women, but a couple of irregularities on her EKG (electrocardiogram) was enough to alert the attention of cardiologist Dr. Bill Joswig, who ordered a stress test at Pomerado Hospital. This test confirmed there was a problem and Emily was whisked to the new Palomar Medical Center (PMC) for an angiogram in the facility’s state-of-the-art Cardiac Catheterization Lab.
Emily’s symptoms were the first indication a serious problem. By the time she arrived at PMC, she was a ticking time bomb. Emily’s left anterior descending artery (ADA) was 95 percent blocked. That’s the scenario that often leads to a deadly outcome known as the “widow maker.”
Because of quick action by her doctors and access to the latest technology and skilled staff in PMC’s Cath Lab, Emily not only avoided a fatal heart attack, but open-heart surgery as well. During her procedure, cardiologist Dr. Mikhail Malek re-opened Emily’s blocked artery and placed a stent. Today, she’s not only back at work, she’s symptom-free and training for a half Ironman later this year!
I love happy endings, but that’s not always how this story goes. According to the American Heart Association, heart disease kills an average of one woman every minute. But making the diagnosis can be a challenge, as Emily experienced, because women’s symptoms often differ from those in men.
As manager of PMC’s Cath Lab, Nancy Islas can attest to the fact that women are more likely to experience subtle and vague symptoms. “I see women with acute fatigue, weakness, indigestion, upper back pain and abdominal pain,” says Islas. “Even hot flashes can be symptomatic of heart disease.”
Emily credits her return to health to Palomar Health’s caring, competent staff and cutting edge technology. Whether it’s 3-D imaging or intravascular ultrasound, Islas explains that all of the diagnostic tools are incorporated for quick and easy access. “We have an expression,” says Islas. “Time is muscle. Our goal is to get that artery opened up. Once the heart muscle is dead, it’s too late.”
We women can all learn from Emily’s experience about the need to be vigilant when it comes to our health. As a breast cancer patient, I believe we all need to “think pink” in the fight against a disease that kills one in 31 women. But now that I know more about the disease that takes the lives of one in three women, I also plan to “Go Red” this February, heart month, in the fight against heart disease.
Ladies (and gentlemen), the take-away from Emily’s story is clear. Listen to your body. If you know something’s “not right,” don’t risk becoming a statistic. Get checked out.
Contact Carol by emailing her at Carol@pph.org.
The moment I woke up, I knew something was wrong. The left side of my throat was scratchy and sore. Mildly dizzy and a touch achy, I felt like going back to sleep. In retrospect, that may have been a good idea.
Looking forward to a good workout with my Saturday morning swim group at La Jolla Cove, I discounted my symptoms and told myself I wasn’t going to let a little head cold get in the way of my plans. Why, a chilly dip in the ocean might just be what I needed to ward off my symptoms.
Bad decision. The next two weeks I was down for the count – sore throat, runny nose, body aches and fatigue. Hard to say for sure, but that brisk swim may have just turned a little head cold into the virus from hell!
The onset of the flu season brings some tricky exercise questions: Is it OK to hit the gym with a stuffy nose? Or take your Pilates class while nursing a fever?
Whether to exercise while sick depends on your symptoms. Doctors say in most cases, exercise is fine if you have simple cold symptoms, including a runny nose, sinus headache or scratchy throat.
But you should probably avoid exercise with flu-like symptoms including a heavy cough, body aches, chills or diarrhea. Even with a cold, it may be difficult to work out with the same intensity. I’ve found I need to lower my exercise expectations when I’m fighting a bug. (Some easy laps in a heated pool may have been a healthier alternative to my planned open water workout.)
“When you’re feeling ill,” says Dr. Keith Veselik, medical director of primary care at Loyola University, “first take your temperature. If you have a fever, your heart is already pumping harder and your metabolism is revved, so working out would make you feel worse and raise your body temperature.” He adds, “If your temperature is above 100.5 degrees, take time away from the gym.”
My doctor suggests doing a “neck check” for a quick answer on whether to work out. Symptoms originating below the neck mean you should take a few days off. Those above the neck mean you shouldn’t have to break your routine.
As a general rule, avoid group exercise classes to keep from spreading germs. Obviously, those with chronic conditions including heart disease or diabetes should check with their doctor before exercising.
Fearing I’ll lose my fitness level, I become impatient getting over the flu and come back too quickly. That mistake has cost me more time without exercise due to relapse. Best advice I’ve ever received? Listen to your body. If you find yourself literally “willing” yourself through your workout, take some time off. (There’s nothing like “fresh” arms after a little break from swimming!) It’s ok to rest and let your body heal itself.
And for those who tend to give up a little too quickly, it is possible to be too cautious when feeling sick. Know when to ease up, but don’t stop exercising at the first sign of illness because exercise is a natural immunity boost says Dr. Veselik.
Just give it a try and see how you feel. Trust what that still, small voice is trying to tell you. Because staying healthy can sometimes be more art than science.
Contact Carol by emailing her at Carol@palomarhealth.org.