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Introduction by Bob Aronson

I'm sorry cartoonThis blog has addressed many issues over the years, but we’ve never approached the issue of how our behavior when ill sometimes results in hurt feelings, the loss of friends and even the dissolution of marriages because so few of us know how to say, “I’m sorry,” in an effective and meaningful manner.

Anyone who has suffered a serious, life-threatening illness has at one time or another lost their temper, or become overly emotional and said and did things that are out of character.  Unfortunately we rarely know just how deeply our words and actions can hurt others and worse yet, when and if we apologize we do so ineffectively.  “I’m sorry,” are two words that are extremely difficult for most people to say and when we do use them it is often too late and without sincerity.

I’m a member of Alcoholics Anonymous.  It is a twelve step program and two of the steps are devoted to apologizing.  In AA it’s called  “Making Amends” or apologizing to those you have hurt or harmed in some manner.  Specifically step eight admonishes members to “make a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.”  And –Step Nine says, “Make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”

Having been part of that program for 33 years I should have more than a passing acquaintance with apologizing, but I don’t. I’m not very good at it and I don’t like doing it because like most people I don’t like having to admit that I’ve made mistakes….who does?

The bottom line is that making amends or apologizing is good for one’s mental health and I was made aware of that recently by Dr. Priscilla Diffie-Couch a family member with a Doctorate in Communication.  A brilliant woman, Priscilla has for years served as a healthy living advisor to the Diffie family and her advice is always spot on.  Recently I asked her to pen a guest blog for Bob’s Newheart and she responded with this essay on apologizing.  It’s a subject to which I’ve given almost no thought and am grateful that she brought it to our attention.

I’m hoping we can talk Dr. Diffie-Couch into being a more regular contributor to our efforts.   Thanks Priscilla.

 How do You Apologize and Why Should You?

By Dr. Priscilla Diffie-Couch ED.D.

One of the most fundamental communication skills needed to maintain trusting and close relationships is found in the art of apologizing.  The most common mistake we make is to respond to someone who expresses hurt feelings by saying, “Oh, you misunderstood.  I didn’t mean to hurt you.”  That only serves to insult that person’s intelligence. Few people would say, “I meant to hurt your feelings or offend you.”

Effective Apology—Mending Fences by John Kador is an excellent resource for understanding the skills involved in apologies that actually repair hurt feelings.  His five “R’s” explain why an effective apology is far more than simply sincere and why extracted apologies leave us feelingFranklin quote so unsatisfied:

  1. RECOGNITION
  2. RESPONSIBILITY
  3. REMORSE
  4. RESTITUTION
  5. REPETITION

By RECOGNITION, he means acknowledging that feelings are not debatable or deniable.  You must treat that person’s declaration of being hurt as valid and true.  Denying the truth of your offense will do nothing toward healing.  Of course, confining your attacks to the issues–not the persons who raised them–will greatly reduce your need to make apologies.

By RESPONSIBILITY, he means acknowledging your real role in this hurt.  You must own the words that you said and accept that they caused hurt.  Responsibility means saying, “I’m sorry.  I see how that was offensive to you.”   You must acknowledge your guilt and convey a willingness to do something about it.  Saying “You misunderstood” not only adds insult to injury, it suggests you think the responsibility for fixing the hurt belongs with the person who is offended.

By REMORSE, he means verbally admitting that you made a mistake in the way you conveyed a message and you feel bad about causing the hurt.  Arguing with someone who has expressed that your words were hurtful exposes that you do not feel contrite; your real goal is to prove you were right.  Excuses are equally offensive.  They only widen the wounds.

By RESTITUTION, he means the willingness to invest whatever time is required to ensure that the hurt party sees that you are sincere, feels better and knows that you care.  Saying “That’s just the way I am” is tantamount to saying, “You are the problem, not me.  You are too sensitive when I express my strong opinions.  You are the one who should change, not me.”  You are not alone in having strong opinions.  It’s how and when you choose to express them that most affects your relationship with others.

When deeds and words collide, words seldom win.  Saying, “I love you” is meaningless unless you are willing to take specific actions that truly reflect that love.  Words have the power to inflict wounds that only deeds can heal.  When you hurt others, the act of making a full apology is the deed required. It is critical in repairing a relationship damaged by hurt.  Expressions of love are poor imposters of apologies.

By REPETITION, he means promising to avoid repeating the offense.  Apologies that fall short are seldom seen as “wholehearted.”  Vows to change help insure acceptance of your apology and increase the hurt party’s desire to take on responsibilities and benefits that come with forgiveness.  But that is another story.

Effective apologies restore and improve relationships and pave the pathway to personal growth.  People who have good relationships live longer and healthier lives.

This summary focuses on only part of what Kador deals with regarding effective apologies.  Maybe you have questions.  I did.

QUESTION:  Do all my apologies have to include all five dimensions?  The short answer is no.  Passing events in our lives like bumping into someone or creating a disturbing noise call for little more than “I’m sorry.”  The focus in this book, however, is repairing and improving relationships.  Achieving that goal demands consideration of each dimension in framing your apology.

QUESTION:  Isn’t it true that some people are overly sensitive and require an unusual number of apologies?  True, but you have little to gain by excusing yourself from giving an apology based on what you see as the recipient’s personality shortcomings.  Life demands dealing with all kinds of personalities.  You cannot change others.  You can control only your own behaviors.  People with the greatest number of satisfying relationships are those who recognize the value of understanding and adaptation.

QUESTION:  I am not a great communicator.  Can’t I just send the injured person flowers or some kind of gift?  No gift can convey the five dimensions that characterize a wholehearted apology.  Gifts can easily be seen as taking the easy way out of situations that are full of needs and complexities.

QUESTION:  But isn’t it possible that whatever I did or whatever I said does not warrant an apology?  That is possible. Your first objective with someone who claims to be offended is to be sure that you have a full understanding of the basis for that claim.  Use the words “Help me understand exactly what I said or did….”  When no specific examples or explanations can be provided, then an extracted apology will do nothing to promote trust.  Instead, say something like this: “I value our relationship, but giving you an empty insincere apology for something so vague will not bring us closer.”

QUESTION:  Are there specifics about what I should or should not include in my apology?  Begin with “I.”  Use active voice.  Example:  “I’m sorry I hurt you,” not “I’m sorry you were hurt.”  Do not include “if’s” or “buts.”  Don’t joke.  Don’t assume.  Ask how someone feels.  Use the person’s name.  Don’t ramble.  Don’t argue.  Listen.  Really listen.  Then apologize.

Learn to apologize effectively.  It’ll do your heart good.

 -0-

priscilla pictureAn award winning high school speech and English teacher, Priscilla Diffie-Couch went on to get her ED.D. from Oklahoma State University, where she taught speech followed by two years with the faculty of communication at the University of Tulsa.  In her consulting business later in Dallas, she designed and conducted seminars in organizational and group communication.

An avid tennis player, she has spent the last twenty years researching and reporting on health for family and friends.  She has two children, four grandchildren and lives with her husband Mickey in The Woodlands, Texas.

 Bob Aronson  has worked as a broadcast journalist, Minnesota Governor’s Communications Director and for 25 years led his own company as an international communication consultant specializing in health care.

In  2007 he had a heart transplant at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida.  He is the Bob of Bob’s Newheart and the author of most of the nearly 250 posts on this site.  He is also the founder of Facebook’s nearly 4,000 member Organ TransplantMy new hat April 10 2014 Initiative (OTI) support group.

You may comment in the space provided or email your thoughts to him at bob@baronson.org.  And – please spread the word about the immediate need for more organ donors. There is nothing you can do that is of greater importance. If you convince one person to be an organ and tissue donor you may save or positively affect over 60 lives. Some of those lives may be people you know and love.


A note from Bob Aronson

FacebookWhen you become an organ transplant recipient your life changes.  Not only does the quality of life improve but you have a new awareness of the importance of healthy living.  Transplantable organs are in short supply and those of us who are fortunate enough to get one have a special obligation to take care of it.  It is a gift of life that many never receive and your transplant center will make every effort to help you take care of yourself and your new organ.  Follow their advice, eat healthy, live healthy and by all means, exercise as much as possible.

I have researched and written the great majority of blogs that are published on Bob’s Newheart but not this one.  It was researched and published by the American Society of Transplantation (AST).  I only made some minor editing and formatting changes (the complete post can be found here– http://tinyurl.com/pcteky5).   

This entry is longer than most because it offers critical information that you will need.  It is not only comprehensive in scope,  it is easy to understand and the principles are immediately and easily applicable.  Please take the time to read and thoroughly consider every point.  The information contained here can ensure not only a longer life but one of enhanced quality as well.  And…while this post is meant for transplant recipients, the advice contained here will keep you healthy even if you haven’t had and don’t need an organ transplant.

KEEPING A HEALTHY OUTLOOK ON LIFE

After an organ transplant, there is hope for the future. However, there are a number of health concerns that you will face. For example, there is the chance that your new organ will not always function as well as it should. Transplant recipients also have a higher risk of developing certain conditions such as high blood pressure, high blood lipid levels, diabetes, kidney problems, liver problems, and bone disease. Infection and cancer are also conditions you need to keep in mind. Some conditions can affect any transplant recipient and some conditions are specific to the type of organ transplanted.

CARING FOR YOUR NEW ORGAN

Lab Tests for Measuring Organ Function

It is important to keep all of your scheduled checkups and lab appointments for monitoring organ function. Testing allows your transplantheart of love team to monitor the status of your transplant, detect rejection early, and start effective therapy right away.Common tests for checking organ function are listed below:

Liver function tests — Blood tests are used to monitor liver function (e.g. albumin); damage to liver cells (e.g., alanine transaminase [ALT], Aspartate transaminase [AST]) and some with conditions linked to the path by which bile is produced by the liver (e.g., gamma-glutamyl transferase and alkaline phosphatase)

·    Pulmonary function tests — Tests like spirometry show how well you lungs are working

·    Bronchoscopy — A test that uses an instrument (bronchoscope) to view the airways and diagnose lung disease

·    Chest x-ray

·    Upper and lower gastrointestinal (GI) endoscopies — These evaluations can detect abnormalities of your esophagus, stomach, and intestine
·    Hemodynamic monitoring — Sonar-type echos may be used to detect high blood pressure in your heart and lungs or a catheter may be placed           in the heart for periods of six to 12 hours

·    Echocardiogram — Sonar-type echos can show abnormalities in the heart and lungs

·    Electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) — Asseses the electrical activity within your heart

·    Renal function studies — Your doctor may ask you to collect your urine (usually for 24 hours) to evaluate if your kidneys are working                         properly. Blood tests such as serum creatinine are performed to measure kidney function

·    Biopsy — A biopsy may also be taken to determine if a rejection episode has occurred. This is done by collecting a small piece of tissue from the       organ and examining it under a microscope

OTHER HEALTH ISSUES

Anti-rejection medications increase your risk of developing certain conditions such as infection and cancer. Other side effects of some anti-rejection medications include high blood pressure, diabetes, high blood lipids, kidney disease, heart attack, stroke, and bone disease. Knowing the risks and taking steps now to prevent them is a good way to keep you and your new organ healthy.

HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE

High blood pressure (hypertension) is a common complication in patients who receive a transplant. High blood pressure can damage the arteries and the heart, increasing the risk of a stroke, a heart attack, kidney problems, or heart failure.For many patients, the cause of hypertension is not known. However, people with kidney disease, diabetes, or high blood pressure before the transplant are at higher risk of high blood pressure after the transplant. Other factors that contribute to high blood pressure after a transplant include a diet high in salt, clogged arteries, high blood lipid levels, smoking, obesity, and some anti-rejection medications such as cyclosporine, tacrolimus, and steroids (prednisone).

Recommended Blood Pressure Levels

People with a blood pressure of 140/90 mm Hg or higher are considered hypertensive. While most transplant recipients should have a blood pressure of 130/80 mm Hg, the ideal blood pressure can vary from person to person. The American Heart Association (AHA) guidelines for the target blood pressure in the general population can also be used as guidelines for organ transplant recipients. Normal blood pressure values for children are based on age, sex and height and in general are much lower than in adults.

  • Normal Systolic (top) 120 Diastolic (bottom) 80
  • Prehypertension Systolic 120-139, Diastolic 80-89
  • Stage 1 hypertension Systolic 140-159, Diastolic 90-99
  • Stage 2 hypertension Systolic 160 or higher, Diastolic 100 or higher

High blood pressure usually does not cause any symptoms so it is important to have your blood pressure checked by your transplant team at regular follow-up exams. Your transplant team may also want you to monitor your blood pressure closely while at home.

Reducing High Blood Pressure

  • Making some lifestyle changes can lower your blood pressure and prevent hypertension
  • Sometimes hypertension can be controlled with lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise, but most patients also require medication.
  • There are a variety of medications for treating and controlling high blood pressure
  • The most commonly prescribed medications include ACE inhibitors, ARBs, calcium channel blockers, beta-blockers, and diuretics. Some of these medications may have interactions with certain anti-rejection medications.

HIGH BLOOD LIPIDS

While lipids (cholesterol and related compounds) in your blood are necessary for good health, too high levels of some lipids can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, a leading cause of death among transplant recipients. Most transplant recipients develop high blood lipids. Kidney, heart, and liver transplant patients usually display similar elevations in total cholesterol (TC) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (“bad cholesterol”).Eating the wrong foods, lack of exercise, and being overweight can increase your risk of developing high levels of LDL cholesterol (“bad cholesterol”), high levels of triglycerides, and low levels of HDL cholesterol (“good cholesterol”). Transplant recipients who are obese, smoke cigarettes, or have high blood pressure are more likely to have high cholesterol. Steroids and some of the other anti-rejection medications, such as cyclosporine, sirolimus, and tacrolimus, can also cause high blood lipid levels.

Recommended Blood Lipid Levels

Be sure to ask your doctor what your cholesterol levels should be. In some instances, transplant recipients can follow target levels of blood lipids recommended in the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) guidelines.

Lipid
Low
Optimal
High
LDL Cholesterol

100 mg/dL
160-189 mg/dL
HDL Cholesterol
40 mg/dL

60 mg/dL
Total Cholesterol

240 mg/dL
Reducing High Blood Lipid Levels

not easy but worth itMaking healthy lifestyle changes can lower your chances of developing heart disease. You can help lower your blood lipid levels with a proper diet and regular exercise. A diet low in cholesterol and saturated fats may also help reduce your risk of coronary artery disease. In addition to making healthy changes to your diet, exercising for a minimum of 20 to 30 minutes 3 to 4 times a week can also reduce your lipid levels and lower your risk of heart attack or stroke. If you smoke, it is important that you STOP! If adjustment of your anti-rejection drugs, diet, and exercise are not successful in reducing lipid levels, your doctor may want you to take cholesterol-lowering medications. T

Here are several medications that work to lower blood lipids. The most commonly prescribed medications are called statins, which include atorvastatin (Lipitor®), simvastatin (Zocor®), pravastatin (Pravachol®), fluvastatin (Lescol®), rosuvastatin (Crestor®), and lovastatin (Mevacor®). If your doctor prescribes a statin, you will need to be monitored for side effects because the risk of side effects is greater when taken with anti-rejection medications. You will also need blood tests to monitor liver and muscle function. Other types of medication that your transplant team might prescribe to treat high blood lipids include bile acid sequestrants, nicotinic acid, fibric acids, and cholesterol absorption inhibitors.

DIABETES

High blood glucose can cause many health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, kidney injury, nerve damage, and eye problems.Post-transplant diabetes (PTDM) is more common in transplant recipients who have a family history of diabetes as well as those who are overweight, are taking steroids, or have hepatitis C. Diabetes after a transplant is also more common among African Americans and some other ethnic groups such as Native Americans. Other risk factors for PTDM include older age of the recipient.

Controlling Blood Sugar Levels

Most transplant recipients with diabetes can follow the American Diabetes Association (ADA) guidelines. Patients with PTDM should establish a healthy (weight-reducing, if necessary) diet with a structured exercise program. A healthy diet is needed to prevent diabetes or to help control your glucose if diabetes does occur. For all transplant recipients, it is best to eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly to avoid weight gain and reduce the risk of developing high blood glucose or diabetes. Your transplant coordinator or dietician can help determine your recommended daily calorie intake. Limiting the amount of fats and sugar in your diet can also help to maintain a healthy level of blood glucose.

Treatment Options for Controlling Diabetes

There are several types of medications available for patients with diabetes. Depending on the level of glucose in your blood, treatment with oral hypoglycemic drugs and/or insulin may be indicated. For many transplant recipients, insulin injections or an insulin pump is an option for controlling blood sugar. Or, you may be given an oral medication to control blood glucose levels. Your transplant team will determine which medication is right for you.

KIDNEY DISEASE

Kidney function is often decreased in transplant recipients. This may be caused by a pre-existing condition such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or injury to the kidney before a transplant. Or it may be caused by medications used to prevent rejection after a transplant.The best way to help prevent kidney disease is to keep your blood pressure and blood glucose under control and to maintain a healthy weight. In addition, regular checkups with blood and urine tests will give your doctor important information for detecting early changes in kidney function and allowing appropriate steps to be taken.

BLOOD VESSELS DISEASE

Transplant recipients have a higher risk of developing blood vessel disease. Some anti-rejection medications increase the risk of high lipid levels, which can clog arteries and restrict the flow of blood to the heart and brain. Deposits — called atherosclerotic plaque — can completely or partially block blood vessels resulting in a myocardial infarction (heart attack) or acute coronary syndromes.Likewise, a stroke can occur if an artery that supplies blood to the brain becomes blocked. Partial blockage may temporarily reduce the blood supply to the brain. A complete loss of blood supply to the brain results in a stroke.

BONE DISEASE

Bone disease is a problem for many organ transplant recipients. Organ failure before your transplant may cause bones to become thin and brittle (osteoporosis). Other causes of osteoporosis include use of some anti-rejection drugs (corticosteroids), overactive parathyroid gland, cigarette smoking, and not enough calcium in your diet.

Preventing Bone Disease

There are some basic things you can do to help prevent or treat bone disease.

Exercise regularly, including weight lifting or strength training — be sure to discuss weight limits with your transplant team beforebones beginning an exercise program
Eat foods that are high in calcium, including low-fat yogurt, cheese, and milk
Choose foods and juices with calcium added
Get plenty of dietary protein (unless restricted by your doctor)
Take calcium supplements if directed by your doctor
Take vitamin D only as directed by your doctor
Stop smoking
Your doctor or transplant dietician will tell you if you need to take calcium or vitamin D supplements. Your doctor may also want you to take medications that prevent bone thinning, including bisphosphonates such as alendronate (Fosamax®), etidronate (Didrocal®), and risedronate (Actonel®) or calcitonin.

STAYING FIT

Diet – Things are shaping up

The recommended diet for transplant patients consists of 30% fats, 50% carbohydrates and 20% protein.

Your transplant dietician will give you specific instructions about your recommended daily allowance of specific nutrients. Some tips for following a healthy diet include:

Eat high-fiber foods such as raw fruits and vegetables
Increase your calcium intake by eating low-fat dairy products and green leafy vegetables or by taking calcium supplements (if directed by your doctor)
Eat less salt, processed foods, and snacks
Use herbs and spices to add flavor instead of salt
Drink plenty of water (unless you are told to limit fluids)
Eat as little fat and oil as possible
Eat high-protein foods such as lean meat, chicken (without the skin), fish, eggs, nuts (unsalted), and beans
Select healthier condiments such as mustard, low-fat mayonnaise, and low-fat salad dressing
Instead of frying, try baking, broiling, grilling, boiling, or steaming foods
Instead of using oil to cook, use nonstick, fat-free spray
Exercise

Exercise is a great way to help increase your energy and strength after a transplant. A regular exercise routine will also help you maintain your ideal weight, prevent high blood pressure and high lipid levels, and keep your bones strong. It also helps relieve stress and overcome feelings of depression.Soon after your transplant, you’ll want to start slow with a low-impact activity such as walking. With time, you can increase your workout with more demanding activities such as bicycling, jogging, swimming, or whatever exercise you enjoy. Training with dumbbells, cuff weights, or weights will increase strength and help prevent bone loss, but check with your transplant team first to determine how much weight is safe for you to lift. Stretching exercises are also important for muscle tone and flexibility. Be sure to check with your doctor before beginning or changing your exercise routine.

STOP Smoking

smokingSmoking also contributes to already high risk of cardiovascular, particularly in patients with diabetes and may be detrimental to kidney function. Transplant recipients who smoke should to STOP smoking as soon as possible.

Dental Care

Routine dental care is important both before and following transplantation as oral infections can cause significant medical problems and even death. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), pre-treatment with antibiotics is not needed for routine dental care unless the patient has an underlying heart condition that increases the risk of developing a heart infection. These include patients with heart transplants with graft valvulopathy (or a previous history of endocarditis, prosthetic valves, and certain forms of congenital heart diseases.)Gingival overgrowth (hypertrophy) is a dental issue that can arise in transplant patients especially those using cyclosporine. This occurrence of gingival overgrowth can be reduced by practicing good oral hygiene.

ROUTINE FOLLOW-UP EXAMS

All people should have regular exams to help prevent illness.

As we get older, there are some specific tests that should be done on a regular basis

Self-Monitoring

In addition to the tests that your transplant team will perform at regular follow-up visits, you will need to do some self-testing at home. Here are some things you will need to monitor:

Weight – Weigh yourself at the same time each day, preferably in the morning. If you gain 2 pounds in a day or more than 5 pounds total, call your transplant team.
Temperature – You should take your temperature daily, especially when you feel like you have a fever. Call your transplant team if your temperature is too high.
Blood pressure – Check your blood pressure as often as your transplant team recommends.
Pulse – You should check your pulse daily. A normal heart rate when not exercising should be 60 to 100 beats per minute. (If you have had a heart transplant, your resting heart rate may be as high as 110 to 120 beats per minute.)
Blood sugar – If you have high blood sugar or diabetes, you will need to monitor your blood sugar using a glucometer.
Do not take any pain medication (for example, Tylenol®, Motrin®, or Advil®), cold remedy, antacid, herbal medication, or any over-the-counter medication unless your transplant team tells you to.

PREGNANCY: BENEFITS AND RISKS

For female transplant recipients of child-bearing age, fertility is usually restored immediately after a transplant.

There have been thousands of births among women with transplanted organs.

Although pregnancy is now an expected part of the benefits afforded to women by organ transplantation, there are also a number of considerations. Getting pregnant is generally not recommended within the first year after a transplant because the doses of anti-rejection medications are highest; there is a greater risk of rejection; and many other medications are prescribed that are toxic to the developing fetus. Female transplant recipients of child-bearing age should continue using birth control until the doctor says that it is okay to get pregnant. Male transplant recipients may also be concerned about their ability to have children. Men may have fertility problems related to some transplant medications, but many men have been able to father healthy children after a transplant. If you are interested in, or thinking about, becoming pregnant you must talk to your transplant team first. Pregnancy should be planned when organ function and anti-rejection therapy are stable and there are no signs of rejection, high blood pressure, or infection.

High Risk Pregnancy

According to National Transplantation Pregnancy Registry (NTPR) over 70% of births to female transplant recipients are live births and most have favorable outcomes for child and mother. Although this success is encouraging, these pregnancies are still considered high risk. There are risks of complications during pregnancy for the transplant recipient as well as risk of infection and exposure to anti-rejection drugs for the fetus.For example, there is a greater risk of high blood pressure during pregnancy in the woman who has received a transplant. The risk of infection is higher for all transplant recipients, and urinary tract infections are the most common infections during pregnancy.

Other infections that may cause concern during pregnancy include herpes, hepatitis, toxoplasmosis, and cytomegalovirus. Other risks include preeclampsia and preterm delivery. The fetus is also at risk for infections such as cytomegalovirus and herpes simplex virus related to the suppression of the mother’s immune system by anti-rejection drugs. A common question is whether the baby born to a woman with a transplanted organ will be normal. We know that some babies are born premature to mothers with transplants and that they have low birth weights. It is not known whether there are long-term effects on the baby’s development. You should inform your baby’s pediatrician that your baby was exposed to anti-rejection drugs in the womb.

pregnancyThere is a higher risk of birth defects with some anti-rejection drugs especially mycophenolate mofetil and azathioprine. The levels of anti-rejection drugs in the mother’s blood must be monitored closely. Monitoring of blood levels is particularly important in the third trimester, when fetal metabolism may increase the clearance of anti-rejection drugs from the blood. Ask your transplant team whether or not you should breast-feed. It is not known whether breast-feeding while on certain anti-rejection medications can harm the baby.

A major concern for transplant recipients is whether pregnancy will lead to organ rejection or decreased function of the transplanted organ. In general, pregnancy does not affect organ function or patient survival as long your organ is working very well. But, it is very important to discuss with your transplant team whether or not a pregnancy will be too risky. Because pregnancy is considered high risk for transplant recipients, your transplant team may recommend and work with an obstetrician who specializes in high-risk pregnancies.

Bob Aronson of Bob’s Newheart is a 2007 heart transplant recipient, the founder of Facebook’s nearly 4,000 member Organ TransplantBob informal 3 Initiative (OTI) and the author of most of these donation/transplantation blogs. You may comment in the space provided or email your thoughts to me at bob@baronson.org.  And – please spread the word about the immediate need for more organ donors. There is nothing you can do that is of greater importance. If you convince one persBon to be an organ and tissue donor you may save or positively affect over 60 lives. Some of those lives may be people you know and love.


 By Bob Aronson

 sugar cartoonIn September 2013, a bombshell report from Credit Suisse’s Research Institute brought into sharp focus the staggering health consequences of sugar on the health of Americans. The group revealed that approximately “30%–40% of healthcare expenditures in the USA go to help address issues that are closely tied to the excess consumption of sugar.”  The figures suggest that our national addiction to sugar runs us an incredible $1 trillion in healthcare costs each year. The Credit Suisse report highlighted several health conditions including coronary heart diseases, type II diabetes and metabolic syndrome, which numerous studies have linked to excessive sugar intake.

This blog is not meant to be a condemnation of sugar.  It is a condemnation of our addiction to it.  We all love a sweet taste and frankly, we deserve it from time to time.  Often,there is no better reward, but we have to learn to limit our intake.  Like so many things in life it is the abuse of any substance that can cause us to suffer.  Sugar is particularly tough because it is unavoidable.  It is in almost everything and often is a naturally occurring substance.  We would all be a lot healthier if we would just read food labels and limit our excesses.  Having established this little disclaimer, we can now discuss sugar and its potential and real dangers.

 Women’s Health Magazine says that the typical American now swallows the equivalent of 22 sugar cubes every 24 hours. That means the average woman eats 70 pounds—nearly half her weight—of straight sugar every year. Women’s Health Magazine. http://www.womenshealthmag.com/health/dangers-of-sugar

In a major story on sugar Women’s Health goes on to say: When eaten in such vast quantities, sugar can wreak havoc on the body. Over time, that havoc can lead to diabetes and obesity, and also Alzheimer’s disease and breast, endometrial, and colon cancers. One new study found that normal-weight people who loaded up on sugar doubled their risk of dying from heart disease. Other research pinpoints excess sugar as a major cause of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, which can lead to liver failure.

The magazine characterized the use of sugar this way, “The instant something sweet touches your tongue, your taste buds direct-message your obesity graphicbrain: deee-lish. Your noggin’s reward system ignites, unleashing dopamine. Meanwhile, the sugar you swallowed lands in your stomach, where it’s diluted by digestive juices and shuttled into your small intestine. Enzymes begin breaking down every bit of it into two types of molecules: glucose and fructose. Most added sugar comes from sugar cane or sugar beets and is equal parts glucose and fructose; lab-concocted high-fructose corn syrup, however, often has more processed fructose than glucose. Eaten repeatedly, these molecules can hit your body…hard.

Anne Alexander, editorial director of Prevention and author of The Sugar Smart Diet provided this explanation of what sugars can do to your body.

 GlucoseGlucose graphic

  • It seeps through the walls of your small intestine, triggering your pancreas to secrete insulin, a hormone that grabs glucose from your blood and delivers it to your cells to be used as energy.
  • But many sweet treats are loaded with so much glucose that it floods your body, lending you a quick and dirty high. Your brain counters by shooting out serotonin, a sleep-regulating hormone. Cue: sugar crash.
  • Insulin also blocks production of leptin, the “hunger hormone” that tells your brain that you’re full. The higher your insulin levels, the hungrier you will feel (even if you’ve just eaten a lot). Now in a simulated starvation mode, your brain directs your body to start storing glucose as belly fat.
  • Busy-beaver insulin is also surging in your brain, a phenomenon that could eventually lead to Alzheimer’s disease. Out of whack, your brain produces less dopamine, opening the door for cravings and addiction-like neurochemistry.
  • Still munching? Your pancreas has pumped out so much insulin that your cells have become resistant to the stuff; all that glucose is left floating in your bloodstream, causing prediabetes or, eventually, full-force diabetes.

FructoseFructose graphic

  • It, too, seeps through your small intestine into the bloodstream, which delivers fructose straight to your liver.
  • ​Your liver works to metabolize fructosei.e., turn it into something your body can use. But the organ is easily overwhelmed, especially if you have a raging sweet tooth. Over time, excess fructose can prompt globules of fat to grow throughout the liver, a process called lipogenesis, the precursor to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
  • ​Too much fructose also lowers HDL, or “good” cholesterol, and spurs the production of triglycerides, a type of fat that can migrate from the liver to the arteries, raising your risk for heart attack or stroke.
  • ​Your liver sends an S.O.S. for extra insulin (yep, the multi-tasker also aids liver function). Overwhelmed, your pancreas is now in overdrive, which can result in total-body inflammation that, in turn, puts you at even higher risk for obesity and diabetes

Robert Lustig, an endocrinologist from California gained national attention after a lecture he gave titled “Sugar: The Bitter Truth” went viral in 2009.  www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBnniua6-oM

Lustig’s research looked at the connection between sugar consumption and the poor health of Americans came to a conclusion that startled many.  The Doctor has published twelve articles in peer-reviewed journals identifying sugar as a major factor in the epidemic of degenerative disease that now afflicts our country.  Lustig’s data clearly show that excessive sugar consumption is a key player in the development of some cancers along with obesity, type II diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. As a result he has concluded that 75% of all diseases in America are brought on by our lifestyle and are entirely preventable.

While most in the medical profession seem to accept Lustig’s assessment of sugar at least one MD David Katz the director of the Yale Prevention Center, disagrees.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-katz-md/sugar-health-evil-toxic_b_850032.html  Katz says, among other things, “So those most motivated to get the sugar they need wind up getting the most sugar. They, in turn, benefit from this by having more of the needed food energy — and thus are more likely to survive. In particular, they are more likely to survive into adulthood, and to procreate. And thus they become our ancestors, who pass traits along to us.”

Lest you think I am making a mountain of a molehill allow some of the body of evidence that sugar can cause health problems.   The claims about the ill health effects of sugar are not just those leveled by Dr. Lustig, they are backed by a solid body of research.  Here are just a few of the research headlines.

  • Consumption of Sugar-Sweetened Drinks Linked to Heart Disease
  • How Fructose Causes Obesity and Diabetes
  • Fructose intake connected with an increased risk of cardiovascular illness and diabetes in teenagers
  • Fructose consumption increases the risk of heart disease.
  • The Negative Impact of Sugary Drinks on Children.
  • Sugar and High Blood Pressure
  • Sugar Consumption Associated with Fatty Liver Disease and Diabetes
  • The Adverse Impact of Dietary Sugars on Cardiovascular Health
  • Rats Fed High Fructose Corn Syrup Exhibit Impaired Brain Function
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup Intake Linked with Mineral Imbalance and Osteoporosis.
  • Diet of Sugar and Fructose Impairs Brain Function

 To be healthy and avoid sugar or at least limit your intake you simply must read labels.  Unfortunately those who seek to force sugar into our systems have found many ways of complying with the law and telling us there’s sugar in their food but they do it in a manner that sounds less menacing.  

SWEET SYNONYMS
Watch for these sneaky ingredients when reading food labels. Some sound scientific, some almost healthy—but in the end, they all mean “sugar.”

Agave Nectar
Barbados Sugar
Barley Malt Syrup
Beet Sugar
Blackstrap Molasses
Cane Crystals
Cane Juice Crystals
Castor Sugar
Corn Sweetener
Corn Syrup
Corn Syrup Solids
Crystalline Fructose
Date Sugar
Demerara Sugar
Dextrose
Evaporated Cane Juice
Florida Crystals
Fructose
Fruit Juice
Fruit Juice Concentrate
Galactose
Glucose
Glucose Solids
Golden Sugar
Golden Syrup
Granulated Sugar
Grape Juice Concentrate
Grape Sugar
High-Fructose Corn Syrup
Honey
Icing Sugar
Invert Sugar
Lactose
Malt Syrup
Maltodextrin
Maltose
Mannitol
Maple Syrup
Molasses
Muscovado Syrup
Organic Raw Sugar
Powdered Sugar
Raw Sugar
Refiners’ Syrup
Rice Syrup
Sorbitol
Sorghum Syrup
Sucrose
Table Sugar
Treacle
Turbinado Sugar
Yellow Sugar

PICK YOUR POISON
Ultimately, added sugar is added sugar—it all affects you roughly the same way, regardless of where it comes from. Below you will find a short list of the most active and dangerous evil doers. .

High-Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)

High fructose corn syrup

Derived from corn starch, syrupy HFCS might be the scariest sweet. Much of it contains mercury, a by-product of chemical processing. But another danger is its high artificial fructose content, not to mention that it can be 75 times sweeter than white sugar. (Listen up, agave eaters: The processed nectar can be up to 85 percent fructose and possibly more damaging to your liver than HFCS!)

Honey (http://tinyurl.com/ogge3r6

Honey sugar comparison

Often touted as far healthier than refined sugar, these do contain fewer chemicals and a better glucose-fructose balance (plus a few helpful antioxidants). However, says Anne Alexander, author of The Sugar Smartdiet even if the unique flavors of maple syrup and raw honey may lead people to use less, these sweeteners can still spike the body.

Natural Sugar

sugar

Sweet news! Unless it’s all you eat, it’s hard to go overboard on truly natural sugars that come directly from fruits and some veggies. Here’s the trick: You have to actually eat the produce. Fruit juices, even those without added sweeteners, will still sugar-bomb your bloodstream. The key is in the fiber, which slows sugar’s absorption in your body, preventing an insulin spike. Any fruit is fair game. “Ones with the most natural sugar have the most fiber,” says Robert Lustig, M.D.

So what’s the bottom line?  Should we avoid sugar completely?  Is that even possible?  Are sugar substitutes a healthy alternative?

First, you probably cannot avoid sugar completely and still eat because it appears naturally in so much of our daily diet.  Additionally, sugar is added to almost every product on the supermarket shelves so the best you can do is severely limit the amount you consume.  Here’s what the Mayo Clinic says. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/added-sugar/art-20045328

How to reduce added sugar in your diet

To reduce the added sugar in your diet, try these tips:

  • Drink water or other calorie-free drinks instead of sugary, nondiet sodas or sports drinks. That goes for blended coffee drinks, too.
  • When you drink fruit juice, make sure it’s 100 percent fruit juice — not juice drinks that have added sugar. Better yet, eat the fruit rather than juice.
  • Choose breakfast cereals carefully. Although healthy breakfast cereals can contain added sugar to make them more appealing to children, plan to skip the non-nutritious, sugary and frosted cereals.
  • Opt for reduced-sugar varieties of syrups, jams, jellies and preserves. Use other condiments sparingly. Salad dressings and ketchup have added sugar.
  • Choose fresh fruit for dessert instead of cakes, cookies, pies, ice cream and other sweets.
  • Buy canned fruit packed in water or juice, not syrup.
  • Snack on vegetables, fruits, low-fat cheese, whole-grain crackers and low-fat, low-calorie yogurt instead of candy, pastries and cookies.

The final analysis

By limiting the amount of added sugar in your diet, you can cut calories without compromising on nutrition. In fact, cutting back on foods with added sugar and solid fats may make it easier to get the nutrients you need without exceeding your calorie goal.

Mayo concludes it’s summary on sugary by saying, “Take this easy first step: Next time you’re tempted to reach for a soda or other sugary drink, grab a glass of ice-cold water instead.”

Artificial sweeteners

artificial sweeteners

“So if I am supposed to avoid sugar, but I like sweets what are my alternatives?”  Well, there’s a lot of controversy surrounding this topic so we’ll turn to Web MD for an answer. http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/best-sugar-substitutes

Thanks to the newest sugar substitutes, it’s becoming easier (and healthier) to bake your cake and eat it too!

There are so many alternative sweeteners available now that they seem to be elbowing sugar right off the supermarket shelf. But what’s so wrong with sugar? At just 15 calories per teaspoon, “nothing–in moderation,” says Lona Sandon, R.D., an assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. “The naturally occurring sugar in an apple is fine, but if we can reduce some of the added sugar in our diet, we can remove some of the empty calories.” Less than 25 percent of your daily calories should come from the added sugar in foods like cookies, cereal, and ketchup, she says. To satisfy your sweet tooth–especially if you’re counting calories, limiting carbs, or dealing with diabetes–try these options:

SWEETLEAF AND TRUVIA

What they are: These sugar alternatives are the latest made from stevia, an herb found in Central and South America that is up to 40 times sweeter than sugar but has zero calories and won’t cause a jump in your blood sugar. Stevia was slow to catch on because of its bitter, licorice-like aftertaste, but makers of Truvia and SweetLeaf have solved this problem by using the sweetest parts of the plant in their products.

Where to find them: In grocery stores and natural-food stores throughout the country and online at sweetleaf.com and truvia.com.

 How to use them: Both work well in coffee and tea or sprinkled over fruit, cereal, or yogurt. You can’t substitute stevia-based products for sugar in baked goods, though, because these products are sweeter than sugar and don’t offer the same color and texture. Makers of SweetLeaf promise to come out with a baking formulation soon.

Health Rx: “Truvia’s one of the most promising alternatives out there,” says nutritionist Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., author of The Healthiest Meals on Earth . “Right now, it looks safe. It tastes just like sugar and has almost no glycemic index, which means it won’t spike your blood sugar.”

WHEY LOW

What it is: Three naturally occurring sugars–fructose, the sugar in fruit; sucrose, or table sugar; and lactose, the sugar in milk–are blended to create this sweetener. While individually the sugars are fully caloric, when blended in Whey Low they interact in such a way that they aren’t completely absorbed into the body. As a result, at four calories per teaspoon, Whey Low has one quarter of the calories and less than one third of the glycemic index of sugar, so you’re less likely to crash after consuming it. It’s available in varieties similar to granular sugar, brown sugar, maple sugar, and confectioners’ sugar.

 

bobBob Aronson of Bob’s Newheart is a 2007 heart transplant recipient, the founder of Facebook’s nearly 4,000 member Organ Transplant Initiative (OTI) and the author of most of these donation/transplantation blogs. You may comment in the space provided or email your thoughts to me at bob@baronson.org. And – please spread the word about the immediate need for more organ donors. There is nothing you can do that is of greater importance. If you convince one person to be an organ and tissue donor you may save or positively affect over 60 lives. Some of those lives may be people you know and love.

 


By Bob Aronson

vitamin b from bagelsThe National Institutes of Health (NIH) says Americans have been taking multivitamin/mineral (MVM) supplements since the early 1940s, when the first such products became available. MVMs are still popular dietary supplements and, according to estimates, more than one-third of all Americans take them. MVMs account for almost one-fifth of all purchases of dietary supplements.

“You have to get your vitamins.”  I’ve heard that phrase since I was a child, but why?  What are Vitamins and are vitamin pills or supplements the same as the vitamins found naturally in what we eat and in sunshine?  Vitamins are not all the same.  There can be a huge difference between those that are naturally contained in our food and the sometimes “smelly” things that come in a bottle from your Pharmacy.

Over the past several years there have been a number of news reports about vitamins. Some experts support their use, some say the supplements are worthless and others say they can actually cause harm.  What’s true?  All of the above!  We’ll try to shed some light on the subject so let’s start with their importance to our health.

Vitamin deficiencies lead to a wide range of problems spanning from anorexia to obesity, organ malfunction, confusion, depression and fatigue.  We need vitamins.  The question that must be answered is; how do you know which ones?  We’ll provide an answer.

Tough question when you consider the fact that the NIH says, “No standard or regulatory definition is available for an MVM supplement—NIH LOGOsuch as what nutrients it must contain and at what levels. Therefore, the term can refer to products of widely varied compositions and characteristics. These products go by various names, including multis, multiples, and MVMs. Manufacturers determine the types and levels of vitamins, minerals, and other ingredients in their MVMs. As a result, many types of MVMs are available in the marketplace.”

It is entirely possible that there are no standards because the vitamin industry is huge and can afford heavy lobbying to ensure that they remain free of government regulation.  The NIH says that sales of all dietary supplements in the United States totaled an estimated $30.0 billion in 2011. This amount included $12.4 billion for all vitamin- and mineral-containing supplements, of which $5.2 billion was for MVMs.  If the government set standards, every single manufacturer would have to reformulate their products to meet them.  Doing so would be costly so there is no wonder that the industry would rather not rock their very profitable boat.

vitaminsWhether your vitamins are hurting you is another story. What people are not aware of is that all vitamins are not created equal, and most are actually synthetic and the synthetic vitamins are rarely like the real thing.

The type of vitamins that benefit us most is murky but there are some.  However, a healthy diet should provide most of the nutrients our bodies need.  Sometimes, though, supplements can help. The problem is, which ones?  How do you know what to buy?

For the most part, medical science has made it clear that most vitamin supplements are either useless or cause harm and we’ll elaborate on those claims shortly.  First, though, you ought to know what’s good for you and what seems to work for some conditions.

This article in Smithsonian.com lists five supplements that can be helpful. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/five-vitamins-and-smithsonian.com2supplements-are-actually-worth-taking-180949735/#VsZOfYrBAkvtVYvY.99

Of all the “classic” vitamins—the vital organic compounds discovered between 1913 and 1941 and termed vitamin A, B, C, etc.—vitamin D is by far the most beneficial to take in supplement form. Researchers found that adults who took vitamin D supplements daily lived longer than those who didn’t.

Other research has found that in kids, taking vitamin D supplements can reduce the chance of catching the flu, and that in older adults, it can improve bone health and reduce the incidence of fractures.

Probiotics

A mounting pile of research is showing how crucial the trillions of bacterial cells that live inside us are in regulating our health, and how harmful it can be to suddenly wipe them out with an antibiotic. Thus, it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that if you do go through a course of antibiotics, taking a probiotic (either a supplement or a food naturally rich in bacteria, such as yogurt) to replace the bacteria colonies in your gut is a good idea.

In 2012, a meta-analysis of 82 randomized controlled trials found that use of probiotics significantly reduced the incidence of diarrhea after a course of antibiotics.

All the same, probiotics aren’t a digestive cure-all: they haven’t been found to be effective in treating irritable bowel syndrome, among other chronic ailments. Like most other supplements that are actually effective, they’re useful in very specific circumstances, but it’s not necessary to continually take them on a daily basis.

Zinc

Vitamin C might not do anything to prevent or treat the common cold, but the other widely-used cold supplement, zinc, is actually worth taking. A mineral that’s involved in many different aspects of your cellular metabolism, zinc appears to interfere with the replication of rhinoviruses, the microbes that cause the common cold.

This has been borne out in a number of studies

Niacin

Also known as vitamin B3, niacin is talked up as a cure for all sorts of conditions (including high cholesterol, Alzheimer’s, diabetes and headaches) but in most of these cases, a prescription-strength dose of niacin has been needed to show a clear result.

At over-the-counter strength, niacin supplements have only been proven to be effective in helping one group of people: those who have heart disease. A 2010 review found that taking the supplement daily reduced the chance of a stroke or heart attack in people with heart disease, thereby reducing their overall risk of death due to a cardiac

​Garlic

Garlic, of course, is a pungent herb. It also turns out to be an effective treatment for high blood pressure when taken as a concentrated supplement.

A 2008 meta-analysis of 11 randomized controlled trials (in which similar groups of participants were given either a garlic supplement or placebo, and the results were compared) found that, on the whole, taking garlic daily reduced blood pressure, with the most significant results coming in adults who had high blood pressure at the start of the trials.

On the other hand, there have also been claims that garlic supplements can prevent cancer, but the evidence is mixed.

Vitamin Supplements are unnecessary and may cause harm.

In December of last year, the Annals of Internal Medicine reported that, “Not only are the pills mostly unnecessary, but they could actually doAnnals of internal medicine logo harm those taking them. We believe that the case is closed—supplementing the diet of well-nourished adults with (most) mineral or vitamin supplements has no clear benefit and might even be harmful.  These vitamins should not be used for chronic disease prevention. Enough is enough.”  http://www.cbsnews.com/news/multivitamin-researchers-say-case-is-closed-supplements-dont-boost-health/

Based on three studies examining multivitamins’ links to cancer prevention, heart health, and cognitive function, the research is a blow to the multi-billion dollar industry that produces them and to the millions of Americans who religiously shell out their dollars for false hope.

The doubts about vitamin supplements are not new.  In his 2013 book Do You Believe in Magic, Dr. Paul Offit pointed to a handful of major studies over the past five years that showed vitamins have made people less healthy. “In 2008, a review of all existing studies involving more than 230,000 people who did or did not receive supplemental antioxidants found that vitamins increased the risk of cancer and heart disease.”

Last year, researchers published new findings from the Women’s Health Initiative, a long-term study of more than 160,000 midlife women. The data showed that multivitamin-takers are no healthier than those who don’t pop the pills, at least when it comes to the big diseases—cancer, heart disease, stroke. “Even women with poor diets weren’t helped by taking a multivitamin,” says study author Marian Neuhouser, PhD, in the cancer prevention program at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, in Seattle.

That said, there is one group that probably ought to keep taking a multi-vitamin: women of reproductive age. The supplement is insurance in case of pregnancy. A woman who gets adequate amounts of the B vitamin folate is much less likely to have a baby with a birth defect affecting the spinal cord.

The problem is that many vitamin and mineral supplements are manufactured synthetically. Some estimates place the amount at 90 percent and higher and while they are made to mimic natural vitamins they are not the same. Natural vitamins come directly from plants and animals, they are not produced in a lab and — most synthetic vitamins lack co-factors associated with naturally-occurring vitamins because they have been “isolated.”

Isolated vitamins can’t always be used by the body, and are either stored or excreted. Most synthetic vitamins don’t have the necessary trace minerals either and must use the body’s own mineral reserves which can then cause mineral deficiencies.

Most synthetic supplements contain chemicals that do not occur in nature. The history of the human race is such that our bodies have grown accustomed to consuming the food we grow and gather naturally, from the earth, not food that is synthesized in a lab.

web md logoWeb MD offers this assessment.

What Vitamin and Mineral Supplements Can and Can’t Do

http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/nutrition-vitamins-11/help-vitamin-supplement 

 By Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD

Reviewed By Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD

Experts say there is definitely a place for vitamin or mineral supplements in our diets, but their primary function is to fill in small nutrient gaps.  They are “supplements” intended to add to your diet, not take the place of real food or a healthy meal plan.

 WebMD takes a closer look at what vitamin and mineral supplements can and cannot do for your health.

Food First, Then Supplements

Vitamins and other dietary supplements are not intended to be a food substitute. They cannot replace all of the nutrients and fruits and veggiesbenefits of whole foods. 

 “They can plug nutrition gaps in your diet, but it is short-sighted to think your vitamin or mineral is the ticket to good health — the big power is on the plate, not in a pill,” explains Roberta Anding, MS, RD, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association and director of sports nutrition at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston. 

 It is always better to get your nutrients from food, agrees registered dietitian Karen Ansel.  “Food contains thousands of phytochemicals, fiber, and more that work together to promote good health that cannot be duplicated with a pill or a cocktail of supplements.”

 What Can Vitamin and Mineral Supplements Do for Your Health?

 When the food on the plate falls short and doesn’t include essential nutrients like calcium, potassium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12, some of the nutrients many Americans don’t get enough of, a supplement can help take up the nutritional slack. Vitamin and mineral supplements can help prevent deficiencies that can contribute to chronic conditions.

 Numerous studies have shown the health benefits and effectiveness of supplementing missing nutrients in the diet.  A National Institutes of Health (NIH) study found increased bone density and reduced fractures in postmenopausal women who took calcium and vitamin D.

  Beyond filling in gaps, other studies have demonstrated that supplemental vitamins and minerals can be advantageous. However, the exact benefits are still unclear as researchers continue to unravel the potential health benefits of vitamins and supplements. 

 Web MD offers these tips to guide your vitamin and mineral selection:

  • Think nutritious food first, and then supplement the gaps.  Start by filling your grocery cart with a variety of nourishing, nutrient-rich foods.  Use the federal government’s My Plate nutrition guide to help make sure your meals and snacks include all the parts of a healthy meal.
  •  Take stock of your diet habits. Evaluate what is missing in your diet. Are there entire food groups you avoid? Is iceberg lettuce the only vegetable you eat? If so, learn about the key nutrients in the missing food groups, and choose a supplement to help meet those needs. As an example, it makes sense for anyone who does not or is not able to get the recommended three servings of dairy every day to take a calcium and vitamin D supplement for these shortfall nutrients.
  • When in doubt, a daily multivitamin is a safer bet than a cocktail of individual supplements that can exceed the safe upper limits of the recommended intake for any nutrient.  Choose a multivitamin that provides 100% or less of the Daily Value (DV) as a backup to plug the small nutrient holes in your diet.
  •  Are you a fast food junkie?  If your diet pretty much consists of sweetened and other low-nutrient drinks, fries, and burgers, then supplements are not the answer.  A healthy diet makeover is in order. Consult a registered dietitian.
  •  Respect the limits. Supplements can fill in where your diet leaves off, but they can also build up and potentially cause toxicities if you take more than 100% of the DV.
  •  Most adults and children don’t get enough calcium, vitamin D, or potassium according to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines.  Potassium-rich foods, including fruits, vegetables, dairy, and meat are the best ways to fill in potassium gaps. Choose an individual or a multivitamin supplement that contains these calcium and vitamin D as a safeguard.
  •  The best way to judge any supplement or medication is by reviewing clinical trials. There aren’t a lot of them done on vitamins, vitamin clinical trialbut those that have been conducted are quite revealing.  The NIH concluded that most supplements not only don’t work as intended, they actually make things worse. They examined the efficacy of 13 vitamins and 15 essential minerals as reported in long-term, randomized clinical trials and there were some positive results like:
  • A combination of calcium and vitamin D was shown to increase bone mineral density and reduce fracture risk in postmenopausal women.
  • There was some evidence that selenium reduces risk of certain cancers.
  • Vitamin E maydecrease cardiovascular deaths in women and prostate cancer deaths in male smokers.
  • Vitamin D showed some cardiovascular benefit.

Those few positives are overwhelmed by the negative findings.

  • Trials of niacin (B3), folate, riboflavin (B2), and vitamins B6 and B12 showed no positive effect on chronic disease occurrence in the general population
  • There was no evidence to recommend beta-carotene and some evidence that it may cause harm in smokers.
  • High-dose vitamin E supplementation increased the risk of death from all causes.

So what’s the bottom line?  Our research indicates that most medical authorities pretty much dismiss the usefulness of most vitamin supplements. Most revealing, though, and also dangerous is the fact that there are no standards for vitamin supplements.  The companies that make them can each have their own formulations and there is no approval process so the consumer may be at great risk.  Buyer beware.  Don’t believe the advertising.  If you are determined to take these supplements, though, google them and look for clinical trials.  If there are none, don’t buy.  If there are, read them carefully.  For the most part the best advice is, save your money because most of us don’t have a clue as to what we are buying.

Bob Aronson of Bob’s Newheart is a 2007 heart transplant recipient, the founder of Facebook’s nearly 4,000 member Organ Transplant
My new hat April 10 2014Initiative (OTI) and the author of most of these donation/transplantation blogs. You may comment in the space provided or email your thoughts to me at bob@baronson.org. And – please spread the word about the immediate need for more organ donors. There is nothing you can do that is of greater importance. If you convince one person to be an organ and tissue donor you may save or positively affect over 60 lives. Some of those lives may be people you know and love.


By Bob Aronson

aching back cartoon

When I was growing up in Chisholm, Minnesota my dad swore that a chiropractor did more for his aching back than anyone else.  Dad was a meat cutter (he despised the term “Butcher” because he butchered nothing) and carried quarters of beef from the truck into his supermarket meat cooler.  Those things are heavy, bulky and very hard to handle and as a result he suffered back problems all his life.  Sometimes he could barely get out of bed he hurt so badly.  When that happened he would call Dr. Cole who, like all doctors then, made house calls.

My mom had an old fashioned, very heavy, super sturdy all wood ironing board set up in the living room and that’s whaironing boardt Doc Cole would use as a treatment bed.  Dad would lie face down on that old ironing board and Doc Cole would begin doing whatever manipulation Chiropractors do.  I don’t remember a time when it didn’t work.  Dad always felt better and was back at work the next day, but the pain always returned.  That’s the sum total of my experience with Chiropractors.  I have never been to see one or been in the care of a Chiropractor nor do I know anyone who has.

Here is the definition of the treatment as provided by the American Chiropractic Association (ACA).   Chiropractic is a health care profession that focuses on disorders of the musculoskeletal system and the nervous system, and the effects of these disorders on general health.  Chiropractic care is used most often to treat neuromusculoskeletal complaints, including but not limited to back pain, neck pain, pain in the joints of the arms or legs, and headaches.

logoDoctors of Chiropractic – often referred to as chiropractors or chiropractic physicians – practice a drug-free, hands-on approach to health care that includes patient examination, diagnosis and treatment. Chiropractors have broad diagnostic skills and are also trained to recommend therapeutic and rehabilitative exercises, as well as to provide nutritional, dietary and lifestyle counseling (there is much more to the definition. You can read it here http://www.acatoday.org/level2_css.cfm?T1ID=13&T2ID=61

There is no shortage of definitions of the practice so “Cherry Picking” a few can be misleading but from what I can find, traditional medical science is becoming more accepting of the practice in recent years, but still seems to stop short of an endorsement.  Here is the definition of Chiropractic according to Medicine Net dot com. http://www.medterms.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=2706

Chiropractic: A system of diagnosis and treatment based on the concept that the nervous system coordinates all of the body’s functions, and that disease results from a lack of normal nerve function. Chiropractic employs manipulation and adjustment of body structures, such as the spinal column, so that pressure on nerves coming from the spinal cord due to displacement (subluxation) of a vertebral body may be relieved. Practitioners believe that misalignment and nerve pressure can cause problems not only in the local area, but also at some distance from it. Chiropractic treatment appears to be effective for muscle spasms of the back and neck, tension headaches, and some sorts of leg pain. It may or may not be useful for other ailments.

Not all chiropractors are alike in their practice. The International Chiropractors Association believes that patients should be treated by spinal manipulation alone while the American Chiropractors Association advocate a multidisciplinary approach that combines spinal adjustment with other modalities such as physical therapy, psychological counseling, and dietary measures. For some years the American Medical Association (AMA) opposed chiropractic because of what it termed a “rigid adherence to an irrational, unscientific approach to disease.” However, Congress amended the Medicare Act in 1972 to include benefits for chiropractic services and in 1978 the AMA modified its position on chiropractic.

So, now that we have defined terms the question is, “When should I choose a chiropractor to treat a condition, and which conditions can they successfully treat?”  The answer to that question depends entirely on who you talk to.  Even Chiropractors differ with one another on exactly what conditions they can and can’t treat.

Preston H. Long is a licensed Arizona Chiropractor who practiced for almost 30 years.  Be warned, his assessment of the Preston long book coverChiropractic profession is quite negative.

Long has testified at about 200 trials, performed more than 10,000 chiropractic case evaluations, and served as a consultant to several law enforcement agencies. He is also an associate professor at Bryan University, where he teaches in the master’s program in applied health informatics.  What follows is just a half dozen bullet points from a blog he wrote titled, “20 Things Most Chiropractors Won’t Tell You.”(I Bob Aronson selected only the first six points and edited them for brevity) you can read the entire unedited version here http://edzardernst.com/2013/10/twenty-things-most-chiropractors-wont-tell-you/

Have you ever consulted a chiropractor? Are you thinking about seeing one? Do you care whether your tax and health-care dollars are spent on worthless treatment? If your answer to any of these questions is yes, there are certain things you should know.

 1. Chiropractic theory and practice are not based on the body of knowledge related to health, disease, and health care that has been widely accepted by the scientific community.

Most chiropractors believe that spinal problems, which they call “subluxations,” cause ill health and that fixing them by “adjusting” the spine will promote and restore health. The extent of this belief varies from chiropractor to chiropractor. Some believe that subluxations are the primary cause of ill health; others consider them an underlying cause. Only a small percentage (including me) reject these notions and align their beliefs and practices with those of the science-based medical community. The ramifications and consequences of subluxation theory will be discussed in detail throughout this book.

 2. Many chiropractors promise too much.

The most common forms of treatment administered by chiropractors are spinal manipulation and passive physiotherapy measures such as heat, ultrasound, massage, and electrical muscle stimulation. These modalities can be useful in managing certain problems of muscles and bones, but they have little, if any, use against the vast majority of diseases. But chiropractors who believe that “subluxations” cause ill health claim that spinal adjustments promote general health and enable patients to recover from a wide range of diseases. Some have a hand out that improperly relates “subluxations” to a wide range of ailments that spinal adjustments supposedly can help. Some charts of this type have listed more than 100 diseases and conditions, including allergies, appendicitis, anemia, crossed eyes, deafness, gallbladder problems, hernias, and pneumonia.

3. Our education is vastly inferior to that of medical doctors.

I rarely encountered sick patients in my school clinic. Most of my “patients” were friends, students, and an occasional person who presented to the student clinic for inexpensive chiropractic care. Most had nothing really wrong with them. In order to graduate, chiropractic college students are required to treat a minimum number of people. To reach their number, some resort to paying people (including prostitutes) to visit them at the college’s clinic.

4. Our legitimate scope is actually very narrow.

Appropriate chiropractic treatment is relevant only to a narrow range of ailments, nearly all related to musculoskeletal problems. But some chiropractors assert that they can influence the course of nearly everything. Some even offer adjustments to farm animals and family pets.

 5. Very little of what chiropractors do has been studied.

Although chiropractic has been around since 1895,  little of what we do meets the scientific standard through solid research. Chiropractic apologists try to sound scientific to counter their detractors, but very little research actually supports what chiropractors do.

6. Unless your diagnosis is obvious, it’s best to get diagnosed elsewhere.

During my work as an independent examiner, I have encountered many patients whose chiropractor missed readily apparent diagnoses and rendered inappropriate treatment for long periods of time. Chiropractors lack the depth of training available to medical doctors. For that reason, except for minor injuries, it is usually better to seek medical diagnosis first.

Obviously the previous report is pretty damning but the author’s views are not universally shared.  The problem with finding positive reports about the Chiropractic profession is that there are very few traditional double blind placebo studies.  Double blind studies are the “Gold Standard” in medicine.  Most of the supporting evidence for Chiropractic medicine is of the testimonial variety otherwise known as “Anecdotal” evidence. Often you will see ads that suggest 9 out of 10 who tried something got relief and while that sounds good, it is anecdotal, not double blind and that’s why Chiropractors are suspect in the eyes of the medical profession, even though Medical Doctors will on occasion for specific ailments send their patients to Chiropractors.

Here’s an evaluation of the top ten Chiropractic studies of 2013…it is not positive because, the author says, the studies were not really studies. http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/top-10-chiropractic-studies-of-2013/

web md logoThe Medical Profession Does Recognize that Chiropractic Manipulation Can Help.

So, what about the good side of the profession? Where’s the evidence that Chiropractic manipulation of the spine actually has lasting benefits?

I searched for a long time and the best non anecdotal defense I could find for the Chiropractic profession was in Web MD. You can read all of it here, but note that the endorsement is strictly for back pain. http://www.webmd.com/pain-management/guide/chiropractic-pain-relief

Among people seeking back pain relief alternatives, most choose chiropractic treatment. About 22 million Americans visit chiropractors annually. Of these, 7.7 million, or 35%, are seeking relief from back pain from various causes, including accidents, sports injuries, and muscle strains. Other complaints include pain in the neck, arms, and legs, and headaches.

Learn The Truth About Back Pain Causes and Treatments

What Is Chiropractic?                                       ,

Chiropractors use hands-on spinal manipulation and other alternative treatments, the theory being that proper alignment of the body’s musculoskeletal structure, particularly the spine, will enable the body to heal itself without surgery or medication. Manipulation is used to restore mobility to joints restricted by tissue injury caused by a traumatic event, such as falling, or repetitive stress, such as sitting without proper back support.

Chiropractic is primarily used as a pain relief alternative for muscles, joints, bones, and connective tissue, such as cartilage, ligaments, and tendons. It is sometimes used in conjunction with conventional medical treatment.

The initials “DC” identify a chiropractor, whose education typically includes an undergraduate degree plus four years of chiropractic college.

What Does Chiropractic for Back Pain Involve?

A chiropractor first takes a medical history, performs a physical examination, and may use lab tests or diagnostic imaging to determine if treatment is appropriate for your back pain.

The treatment plan may involve one or more manual adjustments in which the doctor manipulates the joints, using a controlled, sudden force to improve range and quality of motion. Many chiropractors also incorporate nutritional counseling and exercise/rehabilitation into the treatment plan. The goals of chiropractic care include the restoration of function and prevention of injury in addition to back pain relief.

What Are the Benefits and Risks of Chiropractic Care?

Spinal manipulation and chiropractic care is generally considered a safe, effective treatment for acute low back pain, the type of sudden injury that results from moving furniture or getting tackled. Acute back pain, which is more common than chronic pain, lasts no more than six weeks and typically gets better on its own.

Research has also shown chiropractic to be helpful in treating neck pain and headaches. In addition, osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia may respond to the moderate pressure used both by chiropractors and practitioners of deep tissue massage.

Studies have not confirmed the effectiveness of prolotherapy or sclerotherapy for pain relief, used by some chiropractors, osteopaths, and medical doctors, to treat chronic back pain, the type of pain that may come on suddenly or gradually and lasts more than three months. The therapy involves injections such as sugar water or anesthetic in hopes of strengthening the ligaments in the back.

People who have osteoporosis, spinal cord compression, or inflammatory arthritis, or who take blood-thinning medications should not undergo spinal manipulation. In addition, patients with a history of cancer should first obtain clearance from their medical doctor before undergoing spinal manipulation.

All treatment is based on an accurate diagnosis of your back pain. The chiropractor should be well informed regarding your medical history, including ongoing medical conditions, current medications, traumatic/surgical history, and lifestyle factors. Although rare, there have been cases in which treatment worsened a herniated or slipped disc, or neck manipulation resulted in stroke or spinal cord injury. To be safe, always inform your primary health care provider whenever you use chiropractic or other pain relief alternatives.

On my OTI Facebook group I asked for individual experiences with chiropractors and got very few, most were positive but general in nature offering few details.

Other Non-Traditional Remedies

There are other non-traditional remedies for back pain that we have not mentioned here.  Below you will find several that were listed in “About dot com. “ For the full list of 15 options click on this link. http://altmedicine.about.com/od/chronicpain/a/back_pain.htm

 Acupuncture

A 2008 study published in Spine found “strong evidence that acupuncture can be a useful supplement to other forms of accupunctureconventional therapy” for low back pain. After analyzing 23 clinical trials with a total of 6,359 patients, the study authors also found “moderate evidence that acupuncture is more effective than no treatment” in relief of back pain. The authors note that more research is needed before acupuncture can be recommended over conventional therapies for back pain.

 

Just how does acupuncture work? According totraditional Chinese medicine, pain results from blocked energy along energy pathways of the body, which are unblocked when acupuncture needles are inserted along these invisible pathways. Acupuncture may release natural pain-relieving opioids, send signals to the sympathetic nervous system, and release neurochemicals and hormones.

 See Also: Using Acupuncture to Help Relieve Chronic Pain | Sciatica – Causes, Symptoms, and Natural Treatments | What is Trigger Point Therapy?

Massage Therapy

massage therapyIn a 2009 research review published in Spine, researchers reviewed 13 clinical trials on the use of massage in treatment of back pain. The study authors concluded that massage “might be beneficial for patients with subacute and chronic nonspecific low back pain, especially when combined with exercises and education.” Noting that more research is needed to confirm this conclusion, the authors call for further studies that might help determine whether massage is a cost-effective treatment for low back pain.

Massage therapy may also alleviate anxiety and depression associated with chronic pain. It is the most popular natural therapy for low back pain during pregnancy.

The Alexander Technique

Alexander Technique is a type of therapy that teaches people to improve their posture and eliminate bad habits such as slouching, which can lead to pain, muscle tension, and decreased mobility.

 There is strong scientific support for the effectiveness of Alexander Technique lessons in treatment of chronic back pain, according to a research review published in the International Journal of Clinical Practice in 2012. The review included one well-designed, well-conducted clinical trial demonstrating that Alexander Technique lessons led to significant long-term reductions in back pain and incapacity caused by chronic back pain. These results were broadly supported by a smaller, earlier clinical trial testing the use of Alexander Technique lessons in treatment of chronic back pain.

You can learn Alexander technique in private sessions or group classes. A typical session lasts about 45 minutes. During that time, the instructor notes the way you carry yourself and coaches you with verbal instruction and gentle touch.

Hypnotherapy

Also referred to as “hypnosis,” hypnotherapy is a mind-body technique that involves entering a trance-like state of deep relaxation and concentration. When undergoing hypnotherapy, patients are thought to be more open to suggestion. As such, hypnotherapy is often used to effect change in behaviors thought to contribute to health problems (including chronic pain).

Preliminary research suggests that hypnotherapy may be of some use in treatment of low back pain. For instance, a pilot study published in the International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis found that a four-session hypnosis program (combined with a psychological education program) significantly reduced pain intensity and led to improvements in mood among patients with chronic low back pain.

 Balneotherapy

One of the oldest therapies for pain relief, balneotherapy is a form of hydrotherapy that involves bathing in mineral water or warm water.

For a 2006 report published in Rheumatology, investigators analyzed the available research on the use of balneotherapy in treatment of low back pain. Looking at five clinical trial, the report’s authors found “encouraging evidence” suggesting that balneotherapy may be effective for treating patients with low back pain. Noting that supporting data are scarce, the authors call for larger-scale trials on balneotherapy and low back pain.

Dead Sea salts and other sulfur-containing bath salts can be found in spas, health food stores, and online. However, people with heart conditions should not use balneotherapy unless under the supervision of their primary care provider.

Meditation

An ancient mind-body practice, meditation has been found to increase pain tolerance and promote management of chronic pain in a number of small studies. In addition, a number of preliminary studies have focused specifically on the use of meditation in management of low back pain. A 2008 study published in Pain, for example, found that an eight-week meditation program led to an improvement of pain acceptance and physical function in patients with chronic low back pain. The study included 37 older adults, with members meditating an average of 4.3 days a week for an average of 31.6 minutes a day.

 Although it’s not known how meditation might help relieve pain, it’s thought that the practice’s ability to induce physical and mental relaxation may help keep chronic stress from aggravating chronic pain conditions.

One of the most commonly practiced and well-studied forms of meditation is mindfulness meditation.

Tai Chi

Tai chi is an ancient martial art that involves slow, graceful movements and incorporates meditation and deep breathingTai chi. Thought to reduce stress, tai chi has been found to benefit people with chronic pain in a number of small studies.

 Although research on the use of tai chi in treatment of back pain is somewhat limited, there’s some evidence that practicing tai chi may help alleviate back pain to some degree. The available science includes a 2011 study published in Arthritis Care & Research, which found that a 10-week tai chi program reduced pain and improved functioning in people with long-term low back pain symptoms. The study involved 160 adults with chronic low back pain, half of whom participated in 40-minute-long tai chi sessions 18 times over the 10-week period.

 Music Therapy

Music therapy is a low-cost natural therapy that may reduce some of the stress of chronic pain in conjunction with other treatment. Studies find that it may reduce the disability, anxiety, and depression associated with chronic pain.

 A 2005 study published in Annals of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine evaluated the influence of music therapy in hospitalized patients with chronic back pain. Researchers randomized 65 patients to receive, on alternate months, physical therapy plus four music therapy sessions or physical therapy alone and found that music significantly reduced disability, anxiety, and depression

 Conclusion

It is difficult at best to arrive at a conclusion about the effectiveness of Chiropractic manipulation for two reasons. 1) there are very few real scientific studies and 2) The members of the profession don’t even seem to agree on just when and on which conditions Chiropractors can offer lasting relief.  I can only conclude with this thought.  At one time Chiropractors were ridiculed by the medical profession and not covered by health insurance.  Now, that has changed and the profession seems to be enjoying a degree of legitimacy It has never before had.

If you will take anecdotal evidence as scientific proof then Chiropractors are very effective.  If you prefer to make a decision based on scientific studies…well, the jury may still be out.

The bottom line is quite simple.  If you have been to a Chiropractor and the visit or visits have resulted in relief from what ails you, then keep going.  You are the best judge of what’s right for you.

 

Bob AronsonBob Aronson of Bob’s Newheart is a 2007 heart transplant recipient, the founder of Facebook’s nearly 4,000 member Organ Transplant Initiative (OTI) and the author of most of these donation/transplantation blogs. You may comment in the space provided or email your thoughts to me at bob@baronson.org. And – please spread the word about the immediate need for more organ donors. There is nothing you can do that is of greater importance. If you convince one person to be an organ and tissue donor you may save or positively affect over 60 lives. Some of those lives may be people you know and love.


By Bob Aronson

loneliness cartoonDepression, what is it? Why can’t you just snap out of it? Many people including family and friends who have not experienced depression have great difficulty understanding it much like people who are not addicts can’t understand addiction. In both cases we often hear advice like, “Snap out of it, you’ve got things pretty good. There’s no reason to be depressed.” Or, “You made the choice to start drinking or using drugs so choose to stop.” Oh, if it were that simple.

Here’s a cold slap in the face to bring us into reality. Depression is a mental illness, like the common cold is a physical illness. There has long been a stigma associated with mental illness held over from the days of Insane Asylums and “Crazy” people. That stigma is rapidly disappearing because so many people suffer from depression which is often a chemical imbalance that is quite treatable. Your mental health is every bit as important as your physical health and one can affect the other.

Here are some shocking statistics from the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH).

Major Depressive Disorder

  • Major Depressive Disorder is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for ages 15-44.3
  • Major depressive disorder affects approximately 14.8 million American adults, or about 6.7 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year.1, 2
  • While major depressive disorder can develop at any age, the median age at onset is 32.5
  • Major depressive disorder is more prevalent in women than in men

Major or clinical depression is an awful feeling. It is a gnawing at the pit of your stomach, in your gut that makes you feel hopeless, helpless and alone. It is as though someone locked up your ability to reason, your sense of humor and your will to live in a windowless, dark, solitary confinement jail cell from which there is no escape. It is a constant feeling of impending doom combined with a profound sadness and even fear. It can steal your energy, memory, concentration, sex drive, interest in activities you used to love and…it can even destroy your will to live. Depression may not be as common as the common cold but it is much more common than ever before. Nearly 20 percent of Americans suffer from it at one time or another.

Logic says that you should be able to “Will” yourself out of this mood, but will power alone cannot give you tStop being sadhe boost you need to get your life’s engine started again. Mental illness is not unlike physical illness. You cannot use will power to eliminate depression any more than you could use it to stop cancer. No one wants to be depressed, no one,. Think about it. If will power would work as an anti-depressant there would be no depression because again, no one wants to feel like what I described.

Let’s get to the medical description and symptoms as offered by the Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/expert-answers/clinical-depression/faq-20057770

“To be diagnosed with clinical depression, you must have five or more of the following symptoms over a two-week period, most of the day, nearly every day. At least one of the symptoms must be either a depressed mood or a loss of interest or pleasure. Signs and symptoms may include:
• Depressed mood, such as feeling sad, empty or tearful (in children and teens, depressed mood can appear as constant irritability)
• Significantly reduced interest or feeling no pleasure in all or most activities
• Significant weight loss when not dieting, weight gain, or decrease or increase in appetite (in children, failure to gain weight as expected)
• Insomnia or increased desire to sleep
• Either restlessness or slowed behavior that can be observed by others
• Fatigue or loss of energy
• Feelings of worthlessness, or excessive or inappropriate guilt
• Trouble making decisions, or trouble thinking or concentrating
• Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide, or a suicide attempt
Your symptoms must be severe enough to cause noticeable problems in relationships with others or in day-to-day activities, such as work, school or social activities. Symptoms may be based on your own feelings or on the observations of someone else.
Clinical depression can affect people of any age, including children. However, clinical depression symptoms, even if severe, usually improve with psychological counseling, antidepressant medications or a combination of the two.”

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has this to say about depression.

What causes depression?

Several factors, or a combination of factors, may contribute to depression.
• Genes—people with a family history of depression may be more likely to develop it than those whose families do not have the illness.
• Brain chemistry—people with depression have different brain chemistry than those without the illness.
• Stress—loss of a loved one, a difficult relationship, or any stressful situation may trigger depression.
Depression affects different people in different ways.
• Women experience depression more often than men. Biological, life cycle, and hormonal factors that are unique to women may be linked to women’s higher depression rate. Women with depression typically have symptoms of sadness, worthlessness, and guilt.
• Men with depression are more likely to be very tired, irritable, and sometimes even angry. They may lose interest in work or activities they once enjoyed, and have sleep problems.
• Older adults with depression may have less obvious symptoms, or they may be less likely to admit to feelings of sadness or grief. They also are more likely to have medical conditions like heart disease or stroke, which may cause or contribute to depression. Certain medications also can have side effects that contribute to depression.
• Children with depression may pretend to be sick, refuse to go to school, cling to a parent, or worry that a parent may die. Older children or teens may get into trouble at school and be irritable. Because these signs can also be part of normal mood swings associated with certain childhood stages, it may be difficult to accurately diagnose a young person with depression.

get out of bedOk we’ve defined the malady and we know how clinicians determine if patients have it so the next logical question is, “What can you do about it.” Well, the answer is simple, but it will take a major commitment on your part to make the answer work for you, we can start by identifying some hazards, potholes on the road to good mental health.

Depression: Ten Traps to Avoid

Dr. Stephen Ilardi, author of “The Depression Cure,” has identified several things that can make depression worse. First, know this. Depression is a serious medical condition and should be treated by a doctor or licensed therapist. Having said that, here”s what Dr. Ilardi suggests.

Trap 1: Being a Couch Potato

When you’re feeling down, it’s tempting to hole up in your bed or on the couch. Yet exercise – Even moderate activityclinical depression image like brisk walking – has been shown to be at least as effective against depression as antidepressant medication. It works by boosting the activity of the “feel-good” neurochemicals dopamine and serotonin.
For an “antidepressant dose” of exercise, try at least 40 minutes of brisk walking or other aerobic activity three times a week.

Trap 2: Not Eating “Brain Food”

Omega-3 fats are key building blocks of brain tissue. But the body can’t make omega-3s; they have to come from our diets. Unfortunately, most Americans don’t consume nearly enough Omega-3s, and a deficiency leaves the brain vulnerable to depression. Omega-3s are found in wild game, cold-water fish and other seafood, but the most convenient source is a fish oil supplement. Ask your doctor about taking a daily dose of 1,000 mg of EPA, the most anti-inflammatory form of omega-3.

Trap 3: Avoiding Sunlight

Sunlight exposure is a natural mood booster. It triggers the brain’s production of serotonin, decreasing anxiety and giving a sense of well-being. Sunlight also helps reset the body clock each day, keeping sleep and other biological rhythms in sync.

During the short, cold, cloudy days of winter, an artificial light box can substitute effectively for missing sunlight. In fact, 30 minutes in front of a bright light box each day can help drive away the winter blues.

Trap 4: Not Getting Enough Vitamin D

Most people know vitamin D is needed to build strong bones. But it’s also essential for brain health. Unfortunately, more than 80 percent of Americans are vitamin D deficient. From March through October, midday sunlight exposure stimulates vitamin D production in the skin – experts advise five to 15 minutes of daily exposure (without sunscreen). For the rest of the year, ask your doctor about taking a vitamin D supplement.

Trap 5: Having Poor Sleep Habits

sleepChronic sleep deprivation is a major trigger of clinical depression, and many Americans fail to get the recommended seven to eight hours a night. How can you get better sleep?

Use the bed only for sleep and sex – not for watching TV, reading, or using a laptop. Turn in for bed and get up at the same time each day. Avoid caffeine and other stimulants after midday. Finally, turn off all overhead lights

Trap 6: Avoiding Friends and Family

When life becomes stressful, people often cut themselves off from others. That’s exactly the wrong thing to do, as research has shown that contact with supportive friends and family members can dramatically cut the risk of depression. Proximity to those who care about us actually changes our brain chemistry, slamming the brakes on the brain’s runaway stress circuits.

Trap 7: Mulling Things Over

When we’re depressed or anxious, we’re prone to dwelling at length on negative thoughts – rehashing themes of rejection, loss, failure, and threat, often for hours on end. Such rumination on negative thoughts is a major trigger for depression – and taking steps to avoid rumination has proven to be highly effective against depression.

How can you avoid rumination? Redirect attention away from your thoughts and toward interaction with others, or shift your focus to an absorbing activity. Alternatively, spend 10 minutes writing down the troubling thoughts, as a prelude to walking away from them.

Trap 8: Running with the Wrong Crowd

Scientists have discovered that moods are highly contagious: we “catch” them from the people around us, the result of specialized mirror neurons in the brain. If you’re feeling blue, spending time with upbeat, optimistic people might help you “light up” your brain’s positive emotion circuits.

Trap 9: Eating Sugar and Simple Carbs

Researchers now know that a depressed brain is an inflamed brain. And what we eat largely determines simple carbsour level of inflammation. Sugar and simple carbs are highly inflammatory: they’re best consumed sparingly, if at all.

In contrast, colorful fruits and veggies are chockablock with natural antioxidants. Eating them can protect the body’s omega-3s, providing yet another nice antidepressant boost.

Trap 10: Failing to Get Help

Depression can be a life-threatening illness, and it’s not one you should try to “tough out” or battle on your own. People experiencing depression can benefit from the guidance of a trained behavior therapist to help them put into action depression-fighting strategies like exercise, sunlight exposure, omega-3 supplementation, anti-ruminative activity, enhanced social connection, and healthy sleep habits.

So you think you’ve avoided all the traps, but you are still depressed, now what? According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) here are the options. (http://www.nami.org/Content/NavigationMenu/Mental_Illnesses/Depression/Depression_Treatment,_Services_and_Supports.htm)

Treating Major Depression

pillsAlthough depression can be a devastating illness, it often responds to treatment. The key is to get a specific evaluation and a treatment plan. Today, there are a variety of treatment options available for depression. There are three well-established types of treatment: medications, psychotherapy and electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). A new treatment called transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), has recently been cleared by the FDA for individuals who have not done well on one trial of an antidepressant. For some people who have a seasonal component to their depression, light therapy may be useful. In addition, many people like to manage their illness through alternative therapies or holistic approaches, such as acupuncture, meditation, and nutrition. These treatments may be used alone or in combination. However, depression does not always respond to medication. Treatment resistant depression (TRD) may require a more extensive treatment regimen involving a combination of therapies.

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Bob Aronson of Bob’s Newheart is a 2007 heart transplant recipient, the founder of Facebook’s nearly 4,000 mmagic kindom in backgroundember Organ Transplant Initiative (OTI) and the author of most of these donation/transplantation blogs. You may comment in the space provided or email your thoughts to me at bob@baronson.org. And – please spread the word about the immediate need for more organ donors. There is nothing you can do that is of greater importance. If you convince one person to be an organ and tissue donor you may save or positively affect over 60 lives. Some of those lives may be people you know and love.


By Bob Aronson

If you have cataracts, even the beginnings of cataracts, you could experience the same sudden and painful glaucoma attack I did.  Recently on my Facebook group, Organ Transplant Initiative (OTI) I wrote about my experience with Acute Closed Angle Glaucoma.  It started headache imagewith a little headache and by the time I got to the ER had foolishly endured 16 hours of searing hot, constant, ever increasing pain.  I knew I had early stage cataracts but never associated that condition with the pain I was experiencing.

Since that episode I have learned that transplant recipients or anyone taking corticosteroids (Cortisone, Hydrocortisone and Prednisone) may have a greater risk of contracting Glaucoma, more on that in coming paragraphs.

We rarely hear about Glaucoma  and when we do we get the impression that it develops slowly and only affects old people.  I have spent a good share of my lifetime working with the medical profession and have had the beginnings of cataracts for a while and still did not know that Glaucoma could attack suddenly, with intense pain and be caused by a cataract.

Before I go into any detail about what you can do should the same thing happen to you, let me first explain the two eye afflictions.  They are very different diseases and both can lead to blindness if not treated.  Here’s the simple answer.  A cataract is an opaque (you can’t see through) area on the lens. It’s kind of like one of those windows that lets light in but you can’t see through it.  Research indicates that about 90% of people have some cataract activity by age 65, but many get it earlier.  Regular eye exams will reveal it, even if it is just getting started.  The surgery for cataracts is pretty simple and very effective because the medical team will replace the lens.  There is a marked and significant improvement  in vision.

Glaucoma is totally different.  It is a complicated group of eye diseases which affect the optic nerve and can lead to progressive, irreversible vision loss.  It is the second leading cause of blindness caused by fluid accumulation that increases pressure inside the eyeball.

There are two main types of glaucoma, 1) open angle and 2) closed angle glaucoma. I won’t go into the medical details here., just some quick definitions.  If you would like more information just Google Glaucoma.

1) Closed Angle Glaucoma (acute angle-closure glaucoma). This is the condition that affected me.  It can come on suddenly closed angle glaucoma(and it did) and the patient commonly experiences pain and rapid vision loss. Fortunately, the symptoms of pain and discomfort make the sufferer seek medical help, resulting in prompt treatment which usually prevents any permanent damage from occurring.  In my case I waited too long and was lucky they were able to save my left eye.

 

 

2) open angle glaucomaPrimary Open Angle Glaucoma (chronic glaucoma) – progresses very slowly. The patient may not feel any symptoms; even slight loss of vision may go unnoticed. In this type of glaucoma, many people don’t get medical help until some permanent damage has already occurred.

 

 

Here are some of the signs and symptoms of closed angle glaucoma

  • Eye pain, usually severe (It came on suddenly and kept getting worse.  Like a red hot poker in the eye.  It finally becomes unbearable pain).
  •  Blurred vision(in started out blurred and by the time I got to the ER I had no vision in the eye)
  • Eye pain is often accompanied by nausea, and sometimes vomiting (the symptoms were not unlike the worst hangover you’ve ever had.  Or…if you don’t drink, like the worst case of stomach flu you’ve ever had).
  • Lights appear to have extra halo-like glows around them
  • Red eyes
  • Sudden, unexpected vision problems, especially when lighting is poor

Signs and symptoms of primary open-angle glaucoma

Peripheral vision is gradually lost. This nearly always affects both eyes.

  • In advanced stages, the patient has tunnel vision

Rrisk factors are linked to glaucoma?

  • Advanced age – people over 60 years have a higher risk of developing glaucoma. For African-Americans, the risk rises at a much younger age.
  • Ethnic background is a risk factor as well.  For example,  East Asians, because of their shallower anterior chamber depth, have a higher risk of developing glaucoma compared to Caucasians. The risk for those of Inuit origin is considerably greater still. Studies show that African-Americans are three to four times more likely to develop glaucoma than whites.  Also…it appears as though Glaucoma favors women over men.  Studies indicate that women are three times as likely to develop glaucoma as men.  There are other risk factors as well and included among them is the use of corticosteroids.
  • Patients who take Corticosteroids like cortisone, hydrocortisone and prednisone for long periods of time have a raised risk of developing several different conditions, including glaucoma. The risk is even greater with eyedrops containing corticosteroids.

Now that you have some background lets talk about the disease.  I get frequent headaches, I always have and aspirin has always worked for me.  When this attack hit me, I took some aspirin, it did nothing.  Then I remembered telling a physician about my headaches and he suggested that maybe they were mini-migraines but we did not pursue the topic even though his suggestion stuck with me.

As the headache worsened I thought about the mini migraines and my wife Robin went to the pharmacy to get some over the counter migraine medicine.  It had no effect and the headache kept getting worse.  Then we called my primary care doc, told him I was having a migraine and he called in a prescription.  I was to take it every four hours, which I did but the headache got worse.  Several times during this ordeal Robin asked me if I wanted to go to the ER to which I responded negatively.  Finally after 16 hours of worsening pain, loss of vision and vomiting I gave in.  It was 4 AM when I awakened Robin to tell her I could no longer tolerate the pain so she drove me to the Mayo Clinic Emergency Department in Jacksonville.

Upon entering the ER I was asked to describe my symptoms which I did but also said I was experiencing a migraine headache.  The Doctor listened but immediately looked at my eyes and expressed some doubt about my self-diagnosis.  She ordered morphine for pain a CT scan of my head and called for an ophthalmologist, who arrived within minutes and conducted a more thorough exam of my eyes which included testing for pressure on the eyeball.  He quickly arrived at the conclusions that I was suffering from  acute closed angle glaucoma.  Subsequent research tells me that medical people are concerned about eye pressures that are over 23-25.  Mine was 60.  I had waited far too long to come to the ER.  The eye specialist continually put drops in the eye until the pressure was down to a safer level at which time I was hurried into a laser surgery room where they zapped the eye to create a tiny hole that would release more pressure.  It took only a few minutes.  The headache was gone, my stomach was back to normal and I was high on morphine for two days.

I’m writing this so that others don’t make the same mistake. Headaches can be serious, and when you combine a bad headache with vision loss and vomiting the Emergency Room is where you should be headed.  I got lucky….my vision was not lost.  A few days after this incident I went back to Mayo and they did the laser surgery on the other eye.

In about six weeks I will return to the clinic and have the cataracts repaired and that, I hope, will be the end of this vision episode.

There are some steps you can take to prevent this condition.  Here’s what the Mayo Clinic Says.  http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/glaucoma/basics/definition/con-20024042

  • iglaucoma preventionGet regular eye care. Regular comprehensive eye exams can help detect glaucoma in its early stages before irreversible damage occurs. As a general rule, have comprehensive eye exams every three to five years after age 40 and every year after age 60. You may need more frequent screening if you have glaucoma risk factors. Ask your doctor to recommend the right screening schedule for you.
  • Treat elevated eye pressure. Glaucoma eyedrops can significantly reduce the risk that elevated eye pressure will progress to glaucoma. To be effective, these drops must be taken regularly even if you have no symptoms.
  • Eat a healthy diet. While eating a healthy diet won’t prevent glaucoma, it can improve your physical and mental health. It can also help you maintain a healthy weight and control your blood pressure.
  • Wear eye protection. Serious eye injuries can lead to glaucoma. Wear eye protection when you use power tools or play high-speed racket sports on enclosed courts. Also wear hats and sunglasses if you spend time outside.

Don’t make the same mistake I did.  Don’t  self-diagnose, don’t delay.  When a condition has the potential to destroy your vision you must get immediate medical attention.


Bob Aronson of Bob’s Newheart is a 2007 heart transplant recipient, the founder of Facebook’s nearly 4,000 member OrganMy new hat April 10 2014Transplant Initiative (OTI) and the author of most of these donation/transplantation blogs. You may comment in the space provided or email your thoughts to me at bob@baronson.org. And – please spread the word about the immediate need for more organ donors. There is nothing you can do that is of greater importance. If you convince one person to be an organ and tissue donor you may save or positively affect over 60 lives. Some of those lives may be people you know and love.