Health Wire

Potassium is stored within the cells and serves many functions. It plays a role in maintaining electrical and chemical balances and regulating muscle activity. The body’s potassium concentration must be efficiently maintained via the consumption and excretion process to avoid serious health problems, including cardiac arrest. Hyperkalemia occurs when the body has excess potassium in the blood. This condition can develop for several reasons. Impaired kidney function may decrease the body’s ability to eliminate excess potassium via the urine. Some medications may encourage kidneys to retain potassium. Burns, injuries, and reactions from blood transfusions can destroy blood cells and affect potassium levels. High doses of potassium supplements can also cause hyperkalemia.

P.S. Treating hyperkalemia involves addressing and treating the underlying condition.

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Know Your Diabetic Triggers

Health Wire

Managing diabetes is a daily responsibility. Because so many factors can spike or lower a person’s blood sugar levels, it is important for diabetics to know how certain foods, medications, and activities affect them. For those who take diabetes medications, maintaining a balance between diet and medication will help control blood sugar levels. Learn the best times to eat, and how much, without triggering a blood sugar swing. Overeating and undereating can compromise a diabetes medication’s effectiveness. Exercising and drinking alcohol are two activities a diabetic needs to manage by learning their effects. Be especially mindful during times of illness, trauma, and stress, as these situations may disturb blood sugar levels.

P.S. Your doctor can help you develop and follow a diabetes management plan.

Repetitive Stress Injuries

Health Wire

While carpal tunnel syndrome from excess typing receives much attention as a repetitive stress injury (RSI), there are several RSIs and various activities that can lead to one. Pain and weakness in the affected area are usually the first signs of an RSI. If left untreated, symptoms can worsen and permanent damage can occur. Any overuse of the arms, hands, and shoulders can lead to an RSI. Besides computer users, mechanics, musicians, painters, carpenters, nurses, and athletes are prone to overuse injuries. Bursitis, an inflammation of the fluid-filled sacs that protect muscles and tendons, can affect stressed joints. Epicondylitis, also called “tennis elbow” or, more recently, “mouser’s elbow,” can inflame the tendons attaching the forearm muscles to the elbow.

P.S. Consult your doctor if you suspect a repetitive stress injury.

Coordinating Efforts

Health Wire

Because more than half of adults over age 65 have at least three chronic conditions, steps should be taken to ensure that combined treatment strategies do not do more harm than good. The problem is that specialists sometimes focus only on their specific care plan, often without taking a patient’s other conditions into account. As a result, a physician may be unaware of the interventions being prescribed by other doctors. To avoid unnecessary complications, older patients are urged to designate their primary care physicians or geriatricians as their central coordinator, one who is aware of all of their patients’ ailments, interventions, and medications. That way, conflicting medical advice, overlapping therapies, and potentially dangerous drug interactions can be avoided.

P.S. Patients with multiple chronic conditions should request that each of their specialists send copies of records to their primary care physicians.

Antioxidants & Your Heart

Health Wire

The antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables, particularly vitamins C and E, have long been touted for their role in preventing heart disease and fighting cancers, Alzheimer’s disease, and eye disorders. In the heart, antioxidants work by detoxifying cholesterol. If LDL cholesterol – commonly called bad cholesterol – never oxidizes, it is less able to encourage plaque accumulation in blood vessels. Antioxidants also fight inflammation, which can contribute to clogged arteries, heart attacks, and strokes. They enhance the ability of arterial walls to relax, dilate, and respond to inflammation when it does occur. Vitamins C and E have been found to improve vascular function. Finally, antioxidants help the heart by decreasing the stickiness of platelets, which contributes to heart attack-causing blood clots.

P.S. Five to ten daily servings of fruits and vegetables – think green, orange, and red – provide an excellent source of antioxidants.

Combating Chronic Pain

Health Wire, Ticker

Chronic pain sufferers often experience frustration at their inability to manage their discomfort. Pain medications can be effective for chronic pain symptoms. A communicative relationship between doctor and patient in conjunction with a patient symptom diary helps establish the proper dosage of medication and its duration of use. Injections for chronic pain work well for specific joint, muscle, or nerve pain. Anesthetic injections control pain while steroid injections fight inflammation. Some patients receive an anesthetic-steroid combination. Cortisone is an effective steroid when taken for short periods of time and at low doses. Chronic pain patients may find relief with pain rehabilitation, a process of learning how to live more comfortably with pain. Methods include relaxation, exercises, and stress management .

P.S. Ask your doctor about local pain clinics or pain centers, which offer resources for chronic pain sufferers.

A Welcome Change

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Any visitation from family or friends brings homebound or institutionalized individuals a welcomed chance to break with routine. With this in mind, plans should be made to make visits as pleasurable as possible. If available, it’s often a good idea to bring along photographs that help the older person keep in touch with those who are important to him or her. If conversation with an older person is difficult, it may help to read letters aloud. Reading from a book may also provide structure and substance to shared time. When suitable, playing board games or cards are also good pastimes. It should be remembered that a touch, a kiss, or a helpful act, such as brushing hair, are much appreciated.

P.S. Consistent, short, frequent visits to loved ones of limited ambulatory ability are preferable to overly long, occasional ones.

Lung Cancer

Health Wire, Ticker

Several types of lung cancer exist. Small-cell carcinoma is the most aggressive, fastest moving form, accounting for about 20% of all lung cancer cases. The other 80% fall into the non-small-cell lung carcinoma grouping, which progresses more slowly. If a lung cancer is determined to be small-cell, its category is further defined as limited or extensive. Limited cancers affect one lung and possibly some adjacent lymph nodes, while extensive cases have spread beyond the lung. Non-small-cell carcinomas are diagnosed using stages. Stage 0 defines a cancer that remains embedded within the lung, while Stage IV cases have spread to distant organs. Stages I, II, and III fall within these scenarios. Smoking causes up to 90% of all lung cancer cases.

P.S. Other possible causes of lung cancer include exposure to radon, asbestos, and possibly diesel fumes and similar pollutants.