Category Archives: Health


First, let me say that I am blunt in my opinion in regards to health issues. We all make choices every day that effect our health; good and bad (me included). An individual IS responsible for their choices just as I am responsible for mine. It is NOT my fault if a person makes poor choices that harm their health nor is it someone’s fault if I make poor choices that cause me ill affect. Nor IS it my responsibility to pay for the treatment and care that develops from those poor choices, but that is for another discussion time. So, yes, I am steadfast in my opinion, HOWEVER, I am, also, very compassionate in caring for others. I desperately desire individuals to be educated as to how to make good and positive choices when it comes to their health. Often, I don’t believe that individuals are given all the facts, if not any facts, so that they may make good health choices. This is want I am striving to accomplish. My intent is NOT to offend anyone, but ONLY to help those who read my blog. So let’s tackle a touchy subject………TOBACCO USE!

I am going to address this subject in multiple sessions in hopes of not boring you or losing your attention. I have obtained the majority of my information from the American Lung Association, which provides a wonderful wealth of information and assistance to help a person quit smoking.

Session 1

During my clinic office visits, I talk to my patients who smoke cigarettes, about the harmful effects of cigarette smoke. The other day, I walked into the exam room occupied by a mother and her 42-year-old daughter (the patient), and the it literally wreaked of cigarette smoke. As I worked my way through the interview process, we came to the social history. The patient, who is suffering with multiple health issues, stated that she was attempting to quit smoking cigarettes and had recently cut-down to 0.5 pack per day from her usual 1 to 1.5 packs per day for the past 25 years. Kudos to her (and I did praise her for this effort). As we were discussing the harmful effects of cigarette smoking, I stated that cigarette smoking is not only harmful to the smoker, but to anyone around the person smoking in particular children. My comment was, “If you want to harm a child and cause them serious health issues, smoke with them in a vehicle.” Yes, yes, that indeed made the room quiet and earned me some horrified stares for a few seconds. GUILTY!!! Well, they actually took it pretty well. Because I do TRULY care about my patients and I desperately try to convey this compassionate during my patient visits. So you can imagine the excitement I felt today when my daughter reminded me of the Illinois law passed as of January 1, 2014, in regards to no smoking in a vehicle with a child present. Hallelujah!!!!! WOW, Illinois law makers, you have done something that I can truly support and be proud of (no sarcasm intended). Now my daughter has more of a solid leg to support her when she addresses those parents who pull up at daycare when she is dropping off her children and the smoke is literally rolling out of the windows of their vehicles with children in the back seats. (Hmmmmmm……..wonder where she gets that trait from?) Anyway, she has offended several parents in the past. But thank you, daughter, for caring about those helpless children, who would rather be breathing clean air rather then their parents inflicted polluted air that is causing them to feel rotten and possibly even causing them asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia, cancer, weakening their immune system, etc.

THE FACTS: To date, there are approximately 600 identified ingredients in cigarettes. When lit up, they put out more than 4,000 “HARMFUL” chemicals, 50 of which are “KNOWN” cancer causing chemicals and many are poisonous, as well. Some of these chemicals are actually found in household chemicals and labeled as poisonous. However, tobacco smoke does not carry a label for its toxins. A few of these tobacco smoke chemicals and other places they are present include:

Acetone found in nail polish remover
Aetic Acid found in hair dye
Ammonia which is a common household cleaner
Arsenic an ingredient in rat poison
Benzene found in rubber cement
Butane used in lighter fluid
Cadmium which is an active component in battery acid
Carbon Monoxide that is released in car exhaust fumes (a big enough dose of that will kill you won’t it?)
Fomaldehyde which is embalming fluid (getting a jump on things here)
Hexamine used in barbecue lighter fluid
Lead used in batteries
Naphthalene an ingredient in moth balls
Methanol which is a main component used in rocket fuel (fly me to the moon?)
Nicotine that is used as a INSECTICIDE!!!!!! (seriously?????? Doesn’t that kill things??????)
Tar that is used to pave roads (now that should make the lungs feel great and gummy!)
Toluene used to manufacture paint

I’m amazed!!! Why in the world would anyone want to put these harmful chemicals, poisons, cancer causing agents and lethal toxins in their body???!!! Because it makes me feel good…….RIGHT!!! So digest this information if you want, if not, remember, it is only YOU making YOUR health choices. I will be providing more interesting tobacco facts soon.

P.S. Secret time…….I was a cigarette smoker approximately 12 years ago!!! Thank the Lord, He bestowed upon me the blessing to quit!!! Your body is only lent to you by God for a short time. You are to cherish it and treat it with the utmost care and respect. Please don’t abuse it. I TRULY care about your health!!! Blessings until next time………

Acesulfame Potassium: Good or Bad?

So my blogging is not going as I would like.  I am having difficulty finding time to research and write.  Therefore, I am going to try a different approach to get more information out; brief and to-the-point information.

Today, my husband brought home a bottle of dietary supplement tablets that a friend gave him to try instead of drinking such mixtures as Propel, Gatorade, etc.  The bottle reads “sport drink tablets.”  The claim, as stated by my husband’s friend, is that the tablet/water mixture will provide a boost of energy.  Thank goodness my husband asked my opinion on the supplement before he used it.  

So, as I usually do, I read the label.  The first part didn’t sound harmful with such ingredients as sodium, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, magnesium, vitamin C, etc.  But…….the fine print has an ingredient called acesulfame potassium, which is a no-calorie artificial sweetener added to foods and beverages as a flavor-enhancer or to preserve sweetness.  It is 200 times sweeter than regular table sugar(sucrose).  It is added to such food items as candy, baked goods, frozen desserts, dessert mixes, tabletop sweeteners, alcoholic beverages, other beverages, and many other food/beverage items.  It is used alone or in combination with other artificial sweeteners.  

Acesulfame potassium is, also, known as acesulfame K, Ace-K, or Sunett.  It was first approved as a sweetener in 1988 by the FDA, who has set an acceptable daily intake of up to 15mg/kg of body weight per day.

So what is acesulfame potassium?  It is a salt containing methylene chloride, a known carcinogen.  Long-term exposure to methylene chloride can cause such side effects as mental confusion, depression, mood problems, kidney and liver impairment, vision impairment, depression, nausea, headaches, cancer in humans, including breast tumors, and insulin stimulation by the pancreas, which may cause hypoglycemia.  

Of all the artifical sweeteners, acesulfame potassium has undergone the least amount of testing and long-term studies.  To date, the FDA has not required further safety testing. 

As with any food or beverage item that you put into your body, try to be aware of the ingredients and what they truly are and if they have any potential harmful effects on your health.  So many of our diseases and illnesses are caused by what we ingest and long-term exposure.  It’s like I tell my patient’s who smoke, you don’t pick up a cigarette and take a few puffs and get cancer.

Until next time (sooner I hope)………………………………………many blessings:)

Heart Disease and Women

I was approached by a long-time family friend the other day and was shocked to learn that she had recently undergone coronary artery bypass grafting.  She always seemed so vibrant and full of life with an abundance of energy.  Recently, however, she had been experiencing a new symptom of occasional mild shortness of breath.  NO pain!  She mentioned it to her health care provider who was savvy enough to put her through an EKG(electrocardiogram) and cardiac stress test.  The EKG was negative for findings, however, she did not pass the cardiac stress test.  Shortly thereafter, she had three coronary artery bypass grafts.  Her words to me were, “Women are different.  I had no pain.  I could have died if I hadn’t mentioned the shortness of breath to my doctor, which I really didn’t think much about.”

Women often present with atypical symptoms of heart attack or pending heart attack.  I could tell many stories.  Such as the women who only experienced a “twinge” of discomfort between her shoulder blades while climbing stairs and actually was having a heart attack.  Or the women who presented to her health care provider with right shoulder pain thinking that she had pulled a muscle.  Her physical exam was negative for any cardiac findings. After three days of the pain progressively getting worse, she presented to the emergency department and was found to be having a heart attack.  And so on.  These scenarios are not meant to frighten anyone, but to alert you to the fact that WOMEN DO NOT PRESENT IN THE SAME MANNER OR NECESSARILY EXPERIENCE THE SAME TYPICAL SYMPTOMS WHEN HAVING A HEART ATTACK OR WHEN CARDIAC BLOCKAGE IS PRESENT AS IS OFTEN DIALOGUED.  Why is this?  No one seems to have the answer.  So what we do as health care providers is educate the public of what to watch for and when to seek immediate medical attention.


First, what is a heart attack or, otherwise known as, a myocardial infarction(MI)?  A heart attack occurs when the flow of oxygen-rich blood suddenly becomes blocked in one of the heart’s arteries.  The heart muscle is not able to receive the oxygen-rich blood supply due to the blockage and the heart muscle begins to die.  The most common cause of a heart attack is due to a build-up of a waxy substance called plaque in one of the coronary arteries.  This plaque accumulates along the walls of the arteries.  This is known as atherosclerosis.  Over time, the plaque can rupture inside the artery.  The body reacts by forming a blood clot on the surface of the plaque.  If the clot becomes large enough, it can completely block the flow of blood and a heart attack can occur. 

A less common cause of heart attack is when a coronary artery suffers a severe spasm or tightening, which stops the oxygen-rich blood flow.  There are several possible causes of coronary artery spasm that include: 1) certain drugs such as cocaine; 2) cigarette smoking; 3) exposure to extreme cold; and, 4) emotional stress or pain.

All coronary artery blockage has the same affect whether it be from plaque or severe artery spasm.  The heart muscle on the other side of the blockage dies and is replaced by scar tissue.  There are varying degrees of damage.  The heart muscle damage may go unnoticed, cause long-term and devastating health problems, or death.  Heart muscle damage may lead to heart failure and life-threatening irregularities in heart beats, known as arrhythmias.

Heart attacks are a leading killer of both men and women in the United States. The good news is that excellent treatments are available for heart attacks. These treatments can save lives and prevent long-term or life-threatening disabilities, especially if early treatment is received when the heart attack is occurring. Approximately half of all deaths from heart attacks occur within one hour of the onset of the first symptom and before the individual can reach the hospital.

Risk Factors

Approximately every 34 seconds in the United States, a heart attack occurs. Over 1 million individuals suffer a heart attack each year and many of them die. Heart attacks are the number 1 cause of death in the United States for both men and women.  Age does not always equate with cardiovascular health.  For instance, a middle-aged individual who eats a diet high in fat, smokes cigarettes, and leads a sedentary lifestyle(lacks physical activity), may very well have a poorer cardiac health status than an older adult who has maintained a healthy diet, leads an active life and exercises, and doesn’t smoke cigarettes. 

General risk factors for heart attack that can be controlled include: 1) cigarette smoking; 2) high blood pressure; 3) high cholesterol; 4) being overweight or obese; 5) eating an unhealthy diet that is high in saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium; 6) sedentary lifestyle or a lack of routine physical activity or exercise; and, 7) high blood sugar due to diabetes or insulin resistance. When certain risk factors occur together, it is called metabolic syndrome. These include obesity(having a body mass index [BMI] over 30), high blood pressure, and high blood sugar. Having a waist circumference of 35 inches or greater places an individual at risk for metabolic syndrome. In general, a person who has metabolic syndrome is twice as likely to develop heart disease and five times as likely to develop diabetes as someone who doesn’t have metabolic syndrome.

Risk factors for heart attack that cannot be controlled include: 1) age; the risk for developing heart disease for men increases after age 45 and after age 55 for women(which is usually after menopause occurs); 2) family history of heart disease that appeared at an early age; before age 55 in a father or brother and before age 65 in a mother or sister; and, 3) preeclampsia which is linked to a lifetime risk of heart disease. This is a condition that can develop during pregnancy. The two main symptoms are elevated blood pressure and increased levels of protein in the urine.

There are some normal cardiovascular changes that are associated with aging.  These include:  1) heart valves lose elasticity and stiffen, thus decreasing the heart conduction ability; 2) the left ventricular wall thickens; 3) increased potential for postural hypotension(drop in blood pressure with position change to sitting and/or standing); 4) increased risk of arrhythmias(irregular heart beats); 5) arterial elasticity decreases, which increases the risk for systolic hypertension(reflected in the top blood pressure reading) and left ventricular hypertrophy(enlarged left ventricle); 6) increased risk for “silent” heart attack; 7) decreased blood perfusion to vital organs and distance parts of the body(due to the arteries stiffening); 8) veins thicken, which causes the tiny valves in the veins(especially the distant leg veins) to allow the backflow of blood, increasing the risk for varicosities(varicose veins) and lower leg swelling after sitting or standing for prolonged periods of time; and, 9) decreased cardiac ability to handle stressful activities such as shoveling snow.  Although these changes are associated with the older adult’s aging cardiovascular system, it doesn’t necessarily indicate the older adult will have debilitated cardiac functioning.  Being vigil in remaining physically active with an exercise program, not smoking cigarettes, maintaining a normal BMI(body mass index) or weight, eating a healthy diet, and controlling blood pressure and cholesterol, the older adult can lead a healthy life and maintain a healthy cardiac status.


Not all heart attacks occur with the sudden onset of crushing chest pain. In fact, symptoms of a heart attack may develop over a course of hours, days, or even weeks. Approximately one-third of heart attack suffers have no pain at all. These individuals are most likely to be older, females, and diabetics. Remember that we are all different, therefore, our symptoms may be different. In fact, some individuals have no symptoms at all. But, generally speaking, many heart attacks start slowly as mild pain or discomfort in the center or left side of the chest that often lasts for more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back. This may be new chest pain or discomfort or a change in the usual pattern of chest pain or discomfort for those individuals with a known heart condition, such as angina, or occurring when at rest. Angina is chest pain or discomfort that usually lasts only a few minutes and occurs with activity and goes away with rest. Heart attacks that occur without any symptoms or very mild symptoms are called silent heart attacks. Even if symptoms are mild does not make the heart attack less deadly.

So, let’s discuss typical heart attack symptoms. These include chest pain or discomfort. This is often described as a feeling of heaviness in the chest, pressure, fullness, squeezing, or actual pain in the middle or left side of the chest. It can be mild or severe. It can be constant or come and go. There can be accompanying discomfort or pain in one or both arms, upper back, neck, jaw, face or upper part of the stomach. Shortness of breath may occur with the pain or discomfort or before other symptoms occur. Other symptoms include nausea, vomiting, or a sudden onset of dizziness, feeling lightheaded or breaking out in a cold sweat. Symptoms may, also, include a feeling of indigestion or heartburn, a loss of energy, feeling unusually tired or fatigue, and difficulty sleeping.

Not everyone having a heart attack has typical symptoms. If you’ve already had a heart attack, your symptoms may not be the same for another one. However, some people may have a pattern of symptoms that recur. The more signs and symptoms you have, the more likely it is that you’re having a heart attack. Specifically, in regards to women, they may experience no chest pain or discomfort at all. They may experience other symptoms such as shortness of breath, pressure or pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen, pressure or squeezing in the upper back, or become suddenly dizzy, lightheaded, faint, or extremely fatigued. Often, a women will dismiss her symptoms to the normal aging process, heartburn, or having the flu.


You can lower your risk of developing heart disease and preventing a heart attack from occurring in most cases. Even if you already have heart disease, you can still take steps to lower your risk of suffering a heart attack. These steps involve following a heart healthy diet that includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, poultry and fish, beans, and fat-free or low-fat milk or milk products. A healthy diet is low in saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, and added sugars.

Work with your health care provider to determine your heart disease risk. Create a reasonable weight-loss plan that involves diet and physical activity. Be as physically active as your health allows. Physical activity can improve your overall health and sense of well-being. Talk with your health care provider about what types of activities are safe for you. Controlling your weight helps you control risk factors for coronary heart disease and heart attack. Stop smoking if you do smoke. Your health care provider can assist you with resources and other treatment plans if needed to help with this.


All chest pain should be evaluated by a health care provider. If you experience any of the above listed symptoms, never wait more than 5 minutes to get checked out. And PLEASE, go directly to an actual emergency department and NOT an urgent or prompt care unless an emergency department is not available. This wastes vital minutes, which in turn can have a fatal outcome.

Know the warning signs of a heart attack so you can act fast to get treatment for yourself or someone else. The sooner you get emergency help, the less damage your heart will sustain.

Do not drive to the hospital or let someone else drive you unless it is optimal to save life-saving minutes for you or the individual suffering with the symptoms. It is vital in any situation to call an ambulance so that medical personnel can begin life-saving treatment on the way to the emergency room or meet the patient in route and begin life-saving treatment. Take a nitroglycerin pill if your health care provider has prescribed this type of treatment.

***REMEMBER***CALL 9–1–1 for help right away if you think you or someone else may be having a heart attack. You, also, should call for help if your chest pain doesn’t go away as it usually does when you take medicine prescribed for angina. Talk with your health care provider and develop a plan.

I hope you find this information educational and helpful. Please feel free to comment. As always, blessings until next time……………………………………………………………………

General Health Facts

As you can probably tell by now by reading my posts, my passion is teaching about health and providing important health facts to encourage others to make healthy choices.  I have not blogged for a couple of months due to having surgery and just now getting back into the flow of life.  This morning, I attended my department’s faculty meeting.  After the meeting, one of my collaborating physicians (whom I haven’t been able to speak with in several weeks) stopped me and said that he wanted me to know that he hadn’t drunk any soda in 3 weeks!  “It’s amazing that when you stop drinking soda, your GERD (acid reflux) goes away,” he stated and smiled.  I have to add that he has nicknamed me ‘Debbie Downer’ from the SNL show.  “Jokingly,” he told me, as I am always telling others all the bad facts about what we eat.  But, as he said,  “What God gave us is always going to be healthier than what is man made.”  I love that doc!:)

Anyway, I would like to share some general health information:

1)  BODY COMPOSITION:  There are a number of changes in body composition that occurs as the body ages that can have an impact on nutrition and overall health.  I remember back to sitting in one of my very first nursing classes and listening to my professor tell the class that as we age, our need for caloric intake decreases and the need for physical activity increases in order to maintain a stable body weight.  How depressing I thought.  Well… I am.  At a place requiring less caloric intake and more physical exercise to maintain my same weight, not to mention the diet and exercise adjustments required if I want to lose weight.  And those pounds have a way of slowly sneaking up on us without us realizing until there is an extra 10 – 15 pounds taking up body residency.

In regards to body composition, one such change as we age is the loss of lean muscle mass.  This loss is due to a reduction in physical activity, hormone production and alterations in nutrition.  If caloric intake continues at the rate consumed at a younger age, the older adult will gain weight in the form of fat, not muscle.  Even though the need for caloric intake decreases (usually in direct response to a decrease in physical activity) the need for vitamins and minerals does not decrease.  In fact, based on the type and amount of food intake, there may actually be a need for vitamin/mineral supplements.

Even though the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Pyramid has come under scrutiny in the past and has been replaced, some of the basic food recommendations still remain prudent.  Based on an 1,800 calorie diet, and under normal circumstances:  1 – Eat 6 – ounces of grains daily such as whole-grain cereals, whole grain breads, rice or pasta.  Choose cereals high in vitamin B12.  2 – Eat 2-1/2 cups of vegetables, especially dark-green and orange vegetables, and dried beans and peas.  3 – Eat 1-1/2 cups of fruit daily.  4 – Drink 3 cups of mild or other calcium-rich foods daily such as low fat milk or yogurt or low fat cheeses.  5 – Eat 5-ounces of lean meat, beans and other sources of protein, such as low-fat meats and poultry, and include fish, eggs, beans and nuts as protein sources.  Bake, broil or grill foods rather than fry them.

Vitamin requirements specific to the needs of older adults include:  1 – Vitamin D is important to maintain bone mineralization and to facilitate proper absorption of calcium in the body.  Calcium cannot be properly absorbed without an adequate amount of vitamin D.  Good food sources of vitamin D include liver, milk and juices  fortified with vitamin D and fish such as salmon.  2 – Calcium is important to help maintain or slow loss of bone mineral density.  Several servings of calcium rich foods/liquids daily are recommended.  3 – B vitamins are very important.  Vitamin B6 is necessary to metabolize protein and fat.  Vitamin B12 is required for the process of cell division and central nervous system functioning.

***Alert****Excess intake of vitamin B6 such as with supplements, can result in toxic side effects leading to sensory neuropathy (nerve damage that usually results in numbness and/or tingling in the feet and hands).  Use of vitamin/mineral supplements should always be under the direct supervision of a health care provider.  Fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamins A, D, E and K are stored in the body and not excreted in the same manner in which water-soluble vitamins are, therefore, taking large amounts of these fat-soluble vitamins could result in toxic side effects.  This is further compounded by the fact that there is as much as a 15 percent decrease in water content and an increase in body fat as we age.  The extra fat means that the effects of fat-soluble vitamins and drugs may be increased, and the reduction in water content means that water-soluble vitamins and drugs exist in more concentrated amounts.

2)  SLEEP:  I can’t say enough about getting a restful and uninterrupted nights sleep.  Sleep is when the body repairs itself and rids free radicals and toxins from the system.  An adequate restful nights sleep is important for overall health and well-being.  There are five recurring stages of sleep:  Stage 1 – This stage lasts approximately 5 – 10 minutes and is characterized by light sleep or drowsiness.  If a person is awakened during this stage, they may feel as if they haven’t even been asleep.  Stage 2 – This stage is characterized by a period of light sleep from which the person is easily aroused.  Brain waves slow, eye movements stop and heart rate and body temperature decrease.  Stages 3 & 4 – Theses stages are characterized by slow-wave or delta sleep.  Sleep is deep with stage 4 being more so than stage 3. ***Sleep stages 1 – 4 compromise non-REM sleep and last from 90 – 120 minutes total.  REM sleep – This stage of sleep is characterized by rapid eye movements, rapid respiration, increased heart rate and blood pressure, increased brain activity, and temporary paralysis of the limbs.  Dreams occur during this stage.  It is believed that REM sleep is necessary for psychological restoration, learning, memory and concentration during the day.  REM sleep is greatest during infancy and early childhood and decreases during adolescence and young adulthood with the greatest increases occurring in the older adult.  It IS extremely important to get a restful nights sleep.

3)  SLEEP APNEA:  This is an important topic.  Many, many individuals have undiagnosed sleep apnea which can lead to elevated blood pressure, lower leg swelling, enlarged heart after a prolonged period of time, excessive daytime drowsiness, decreased thought processes, irritability, low energy levels, headaches, as well as other symptoms/results.  Sleep apnea, also known as obstructive sleep apnea, is an intermittent, temporary pause in breathing during sleep.  These pauses can occur multiple times during the night and last for approximately 10 seconds each time it occurs.  These interruptions can lead to hypoxia (lack of adequate oxygenation to tissues).  Research shows that older adults who suffer from hypoxic episodes are more likely to experience sudden death, stroke, angina and uncontrolled high blood pressure.  If you or your partner experience heavy, loud snoring; choking, coughing or struggling to breathe while sleeping; extreme sleepiness during the day; headaches in the mornings; trouble concentrating; and, frequent nighttime awakenings, it is recommended that you talk with your health care provider and and get tested for sleep apnea with a sleep study.  Proper treatment can extremely improve overall health and a sense of well-being.  ***Tip:  Some antidepressants such as Amitriptyline (Elavil) and Sinequan (Doxepin), can have sedating effects and should be taken in the evening.  Other antidepressants such as Sertaline (Zoloft) and Paroxetine (Paxil) have stimulating effects and should be taken in the morning.  If you take an antidepressant, please check with your health care provider to determine what the best time of day is to take your medication.

Well…..that is enough information for now.  I plan on addressing women and atypical heart attack presentation with my next blog.  Hope that you enjoyed the information and can put it to healthy use.  Blessings until next time……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

Not because I work for a division of gastroenterology and hepatology, but……March is ‘Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.’ I am sharing my interview talking points that will broadcast live on a local radio station Thursday morning. The DJ is actually going to undergo a live colonoscopy to promote colorectal cancer screening. In order to share a wealth of information with my readers that could possibly save a life, I am posting my interview. I hope that you find the following informative and useful. The information may not pertain to you at this time in your life, but please share with friends and family as early detection of colorectal cancer and routine screening DOES save lives!

1. With March being recognized as colorectal cancer awareness month, can you tell the listeners what colorectal cancer is?

Colorectal cancer is a common and can be a lethal disease. It is a cancer that occurs in the large intestine, that is otherwise known as the colon and rectum which is the last few inches at the end of the colon. Cells that line the colon become abnormal and grow into an uncontrolled mass of cells. Colorectal cancer usually begins as a polyp or polyps, which usually start out as benign or noncancerous tissue, but if left in place, overtime can become cancerous.

2. What is the incidence of colorectal cancer in the United States?

Globally, colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in males and the second in females. In the United States, of cancers that affect both men and women, colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths. According to the CDC, in 2009, 51,848 people in the United States died of colorectal cancer; that was 26,806 men and 25,042 women. It is, also, one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in the United States. Annually, approximately 142,820 new cases of colorectal cancers are diagnosed, of which 102,480 are colon and the remainder are rectal cancers. This turns out to be approximately 1 in 19 people who will develop colorectal cancer.

3. Are there any risk factors for getting colorectal cancer?

The risk of developing colorectal cancer is influenced by both environmental and genetic factors. Low socioeconomic status is associated with an increased risk for the development of colorectal cancer thought to be at least partially due to the lack of adequate screening for the disease. Unhealthy lifestyle behaviors such as physical inactivity, unhealthy diet that is high in fat especially animal fat, low in calcium, folic acid or folate, and fiber, cigarette smoking, excessive alcohol intake, and obesity are thought to play a role in the development, as well. Age, however, is the most common risk factor for the development of colorectal cancer. It is most common in people 50 years of age or older encompassing 9 out of 10 people of this age group, and as noted, both men and women can be affected. Individuals with a family history of colorectal cancer in parents, brothers, sisters, or children are somewhat more likely to develop colorectal cancer themselves, especially if the relative had the cancer at a young age. If several close relatives have a history of colorectal cancer, the risk is even greater. Other risk factors include a personal history of colon or rectal polyps or if the individual has a disorder known as inflammatory bowel disease; with Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis being the two most prevalent of the inflammatory bowel diseases.

4. How is colorectal cancer detected?

There may be no warning symptoms early in the disease. This means that an individual may have polyps and even colorectal cancer without knowing it. However, some individuals do have symptoms that include a change in bathroom or bowel habits such as diarrhea or constipation, bright red stools or dark stools, feeling that their bowels do not empty out completely, stools that become narrower than usual, unexplained weight loss or fatigue, unexplained stomach pain, bloating or fullness, cramping, or increased gas, and nausea and/or vomiting. However, these symptoms may be caused by other health conditions, so it is important to see your healthcare provider for further evaluation. Given that symptoms may not occur until the disease is more advanced is why colorectal cancer screening is very important and can save lives.

5. What types of screening options are available?

Gastroenterologists, such as SIU HealthCare, Division of GI, conduct screenings to help detect, as well as, prevent colorectal cancer by finding and removing polyps before they become cancerous. Several tests are available for colorectal screening. These include annual fecal occult blood test, which is testing a sample of stool for blood on three consecutive specimens. If this test is positive for blood, then other tests are needed to find the source of the blood, such as a colonoscopy. Not all cancers or polyps bleed, however. Other screening methods include flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years, which is performed with direct visualization using a lighted flexible colonoscope, but only on the lower portion of the colon and rectum; both fecal occult blood test and flexible sigmoidoscopy together to increase the chance of finding polyps and/or cancer; a double-contrast barium enema every five years where barium is instilled into the large intestine to outline the colon and rectum and x-rays are taken; and, colonoscopy, which is the gold standard of colon cancer screening and the preferred method because of its thoroughness and advantages of examination. A colonoscopy entails using a lighted flexible scope as with a flexible sigmoidoscoy, but the entire length of the colon and rectum is inspected and if any polyps are detected during examination, they can be removed at that time. This is the most comprehensive and complete method of colorectal cancer screening. It is recommended every 10 years unless polyps or suspicious or cancerous tissue is found and then the timing of repeat examination is altered.

6. Who should be screened for colorectal cancer?

Anyone, male or female, 50 years of age or older should be screened for colorectal cancer and should discuss screening options with their healthcare provider. If an individual is under the age of 50, but believe that they could be at increased risk for developing colorectal cancer, they should talk with their healthcare provider, as well, to discuss possible earlier screening recommendations.

7. Why are these screening tests important?

Although colorectal screening, especially with colonoscopy examination, is effective at preventing and detecting colorectal cancer, fewer than half of Americans 50 years of age or older have been screened. According to the CDC, 2010 statistics showed that Illinois ranked among one of the lowest states in being up-to-date with colorectal screening by any method, ranking in the mid to upper 50th percentile range. The most important strategy to prevent colorectal cancer from occurring, is to remove polyps before they become cancerous. If detected early, the 5-year survival rate is over 90%. The longer cancer is allowed to progress undetected, the harder it is to treat and the greater the risk for poor outcome.

8. Most individuals are apprehensive or reluctant to perform the bowel cleansing or preparation required for a colonoscopy. Can you address this process for the listeners?

Again, colonoscopy, because of its obvious thoroughness and benefits of the exam with polyp detection and removal, is the preferred method for early detection of colorectal cancer. It does require colon cleansing prior to the procedure. If the colon is not properly emptied or cleaned out, the gastroenterologist may miss polyps or abnormal tissue during the exam. A poorly prepared colon may lead to an incomplete exam, a missed cancer diagnosis, or the need to repeat the colonoscopy screening sooner than usual recommendation. Therefore, it is of extreme importance to consume all of the bowel preparation and follow all of the instructions provided by the healthcare provider. However, there have been new developments in bowel cleansing with lower volume preparations. The bowel preparation prescribed by your healthcare provider would be based on your individual circumstances. I always tell my patients, that if you can forgo a few challenging hours of bowel preparation, the benefits of having a thorough and complete colonoscopy are well worth the challenge and may even save your life.

9. What can an individual do to reduce their risk of colorectal cancer?

Get screened for colorectal cancer routinely starting at age 50 and earlier is there are special risks or concerns, be physically active for at least 30 minutes daily, maintain a healthy weight, eat a healthy diet low in fat and containing fruits and vegetables, take a daily multivitamin containing folic acid or folate and selenium, limit daily alcohol consumption, and do not smoke or stop smoking if you do smoke.

Take away……….
Again, get screened for colorectal cancer routinely starting at age 50 and earlier is there are special risks or concerns. Three out of four cases of colorectal cancer occur in people with no known medical risk factors. Many people do not have early warning signs or symptoms; therefore, screening is critical. Less than 50% of all Americans 50 years of age and older are screened within recommended timeframes. Early detection can save lives.

Blessings until next time…………………………………….

Let the Journey Begin Progress

Well…..I feel that I have failed miserably! NOT in the fact that I haven’t made great strides in my dietary changes and overall health status, but that I have not kept my posts up. I failed to even post in January. Why or why do I have to have a full-time job? But that’s another topic for another day as the latest national dependency level is up around 51% I believe. But, please don’t quote me on that figure.

So, this post will be brief as I have not had time to complete the research that I wanted to. My topic is in regards to soda. Here are the facts and progress. As I stated in my last post, I am a sugar junky. So that burst of Mt. Dew every morning not only provided me with a caffeine fix, but a bolus of sugar, as well. Even though I only drank approximately 12-ounces of Mt. Dew every morning, it was way more than enough to cause health issues; unforeseen health issues. I often tell my patients, you don’t smoke your first cigarette and immediately get cancer (not only lung), but it takes repeated cellular insult to injury and that repeated pounding away at healthy cells until they finally give up and can’t repair themselves any longer. That’s when the erratic cell growth takes over called cancer. So, those of us who have “bad” dietary behaviors and habits, are constantly pounding away at our once healthy vibrant cells until they finally give out exhausted. Oh, then I’m sick and wonder why. But usually I have experienced bothersome symptoms first and for a while, but I ignore them. Now not all diseases fit this mold, but let’s face it, we are what we eat, our environmental exposure, and genetics.

So, on Lent, I gave up the Mt. Dew (I needed a motivation day). It was tough for a few days to a week. I had weaned myself down enough hoping I wouldn’t get the dreaded caffeine headache, which I didn’t. I needed a new crutch now. I had some Lipton Raspberry White Tea which is loaded with antioxidants and is sweet. It worked well. I was gradually feeling GOOD! My brain was clearing of it’s progressively fogging that was beginning to concern me and my mood overall improved. I didn’t feel the daily fatigue that I had been experiencing for quite sometime. I eventually ran out of the white tea, which is not available in my area and cannot be purchased online. So, I started drinking Arizona Green Tea with honey and ginseng. After 10 days, I truly feel great! Getting off of the soda has cleared my brain, provided me with mental mood stability, and I feel healthy, the first time in along time. Yes, I’ve had cravings, but I am past giving into those cravings now. I knew that I was destroying my health by my choice and addiction in consuming soda on a daily basis and for the past 20+ years.

I will be addressing diet soda soon. There are SO many ill effects from drinking diet drinks. Excessive use can cause extreme health consequences. I had a patient in clinic the other day who previously drank one case of diet soda a day. She is currently down to one 6-pack daily. She is morbidly obese, has bilateral breast cancer, diabetes mellitus, sleep apnea, hypertension, and more. It is a vicious cycle when you start abusing your body and feeding it processed foods and unhealthy foods and fluids. I had another patient with the same pattern, however, he doesn’t have the same health issues, but did have prostate cancer. He consumed a case of diet soda a day, as well. He purchased so much of the wicked drink that he actually was given a free soda machine for his garage. WOW! Now that’s a gift to be proud of. Why doesn’t that work for other items such as gas, etc? Anyway, more to come on the diet soda issue when I get my data together.

So, please, if you consume soda, diet or regular, STOP!!! You will feel SO much better. I take a Protandim supplement and Vitamin B12 supplement daily, eat an apple, drink 6 glasses of filtered water, and eat healthy for the most part, and I TRULY FEEL GREAT!!! I’m still working on my diet, but I am getting there.

Best of luck and may God bestow His blessings upon you……………………………………………………………

Let the Journey Begin!

My youngest son and I occasionally get enthralled in discussions in regards to God’s divine provision of healing plants. That comment is intriguing in itself. Anyway, our battering back-and-forth entails a discussion usually originating with natural health, (as I hope he takes after his mother, which I see the low flame igniting), and progresses to the long-standing debate on medicinal marijuana, then lopping out our personal opinions into the ring in regards to all of the natural remedies found in nature, and ending with me feeling proud that he holds a belief to some degree in healing with what God has provided for us naturally, but a little reserve that I have to keep a neutralizing, mild grip on his path. He has his ideas and perspectives in balance, I must admit, though. He does not believe in illicit, harmful drug use, but is there a role for medicinal marijuana for end-stage, suffering cancer patients? Most definitely. Now that can be a debate provoker with people by itself. My point is, though, God did provide many natural remedies and natural food to make and keep people healthy. So why so much disease? For goodness sakes, haven’t we poured billions of dollars into research to find out? Maybe, just maybe, it’s right under the tip of our noses, if we look down. IT COULD JUST BE WHAT WE EAT & DRINK!!!

I would like to share a few interesting and controversial items of information. Back in the late 1800s, Coca Cola was formulated and contained the coca leaf (that contains cocaine). In 1903, under much scrutiny, instead of using the fresh coca leaf, the formula was changed to contain the remains of the coca leaf after the cocaine was removed. Before this time, when cocaine was believed to be the root of crime, you could purchase cocaine over-the-counter, much like you can purchase Tylenol today. It was called “snow,” which brings to my mind pretty, light, fluffy, and fun. Right! Yes, this is one of God’s natural provisions, but causes many harmful health effects. I have to use this one my son next time. LOL!

And really? Is there prune juice in Dr. Pepper? Well, we may never really know if we continue to ask the manufacturers and formula owners of Dr. Pepper. But a few of my patients believe it prevents their constipation.

Artificial sweeteners; now there’s a HOT topic. This will be a discussion for later as it is lengthy and there are several. Just be aware that sorbitol, and some other sweeteners, cause gastrointestinal problems if enough quantity is consumed. Such symptoms include abdominal pain, nausea, bloating, cramping, gas, and diarrhea to name a few. Ick! But it’s good for us, correct? Much better than the evil sugar!!!

My husband, who is a diabetic, and I often verbally batter when he says, “I can’t have sugar,” when I am offering him some fruit. I reply, “But you would rather kill yourself with artificial sweeteners,” and so on goes the battle. Now, I do not believe that he should consume large quantities of sugars, but an apple is better than the artificial junk any day!

So, all this is leading into my revealing my beginning of my challenge (or maybe more appropriately stated, my battle). I am compassionate about natural health and disease prevention. I preach and teach to an audience (mostly 1 on 1) most days of my life and have for years. My knowledge is lacking to where I would like it to be, but I am learning. My challenge is this. I have drunk a certain soft drink for years. Gone off of it at times, especially during acute illnesses, which hasn’t been often. But after re-aquiring a taste for the nasty stuff, I get right back on the wagon. It is one of the highest caffeine laden and sugar laden drinks there is on the soft drink market. And the carbonation, well that is powerful acid reflux or heartburn and indigestion causing medicine. Yes, I drink Mt. Dew! But, my excuses to self are, I don’t smoke, rarely consume alcohol, and eat rather healthy, or so I thought. I am realizing that I am a sugar addict and am fortunate that I do not have diabetes mellitus or cancer at present (at least that I am aware of). So with my recent wake up call from God, as He usually doesn’t let me stray too far unless I am adamant about ignoring Him, I am in the self-realization phase. I am disappointed in what I have done to myself. I only consume about 8 – 12-ounces of the wicked drink a day, but that is enough to cause the horrible withdraw headache and sugar cravings that I suffered two days ago when I went cold turkey. My other son, the eldest one, said to me in the same voice that I often communicate to him with on health issues, “You can’t go cold turkey. You have to wean yourself off the stuff. It’s just like alcohol. It’s bad.” Really? I know this (thanks for the reality check, though)! But I wasn’t drinking that much! Enough to make me suffer withdrawals and enough to cause me health issues and maybe even serious disease. So, my confession is that I am a sugar and caffeine addict, and have caused myself health issues due to my choices and poor habits. Sugar causes inflammation in our body. It leads to harmful effects and even cancer. I do not want to leave this world before my destined time that God has prepared for me, so my dietary habits and health choices need to improve!

I am currently reading a book that my oh so wise, brother, gave to me called, Confessions of a Kamikaze Cowboy, by Dirk Benedict. Who? You know, the guy who was face on the A-team. Intriguing book right out of the gate. I have so much to share with those who truly want to be healthy. I often say that I could be sued easily by some of the big fast food corporations if they heard me speak their name in the same sentence as diarrhea or the soft, little spongy cake and fatty liver disease. And here’s some irony……”Buy a 5-Hour Energy Drink and Help Fight Breast Cancer Today!” You know, the cute little pink bottle of 5-Hour Energy that is raising money to fight breast cancer?!!! I REFUSE to buy the drink (wouldn’t anyway) to support breast cancer when excessive intake of caffeine has AN ILL EFFECT ON BREAST TISSUE!!! WOW, is my response! But, it’s all about the money, to line some pockets at whatever the cost and possibly causing harm to those unknowing.

It is a choice to be healthy and a choice to harm one’s body. We still have genetics, environmental exposure to harmful toxins, unknowing exposures in food and drink, etc. that can cause us health problems that we often have no control over. My thought is, let’s make healthy choices and try to stay ahead in the journey of life. So, as I take on my personal battle of sugar and caffeine addiction, learn to prepare healthy foods for my family, and lecture them on their unhealthy dietary intake (oh, you know it’s coming my beloved family), I hope you will journey along with me, and if I can help you feel better and live healthier, God has truly blessed me! Blessings as always until next time……………………………………………….