September 15, 2014

Remaining on the Job Helps Depressed Workers AND their Employers

A new Australian study shows that remaining on the job is better than taking time off from work, both for depressed individuals and their employers.

As soon as I read the September 10 press release from the University of Melbourne, I remembered an email I received many years ago from a friend who for months had been nearly incapacitated by depression. She finally took a simple retail job and – after getting through the stress of her training – started to feel better. In her note to me, she described “the healing power of work.”

After evaluating the records of Australians with depression, researchers at the University Of Melbourne and the Menzies Research Institute at the University of Tasmania tallied the costs based on several factors, including lost productivity, medications, health services, and the costs to replace absent workers.

Absenteeism and Presenteeism
According to lead researcher Fiona Cocker, Ph.D., the study provides more insight into the costs and consequences of both work absenteeism and “presenteeism.” She said that her group’s findings facilitate “more informed recommendations” that will benefit both employees and employers.

“We found that continuing to work while experiencing a depressive illness may offer employees certain health benefits, while depression-related absence from work offers no significant improvement in employee health outcomes or quality of life,” she said.

September 12, 2014

Blood Pressure Fluctuations = Increased Stroke Risk

A few days ago, I had dinner with my kids. Among other things, we discussed my current problem with blood pressure (bp): most days, my systolic (upper) numbers typically range from under 100 to over 200. We all agreed these wild fluctuations can't be good.

The next morning, my son sent me an email with a link to a report with this headline:
High blood pressure: New research suggests that see-sawing readings are the key danger sign for strokes.
Needless to say, that got my attention! I immediately opened on the link.

The report is based on work by Professor Peter Rothwell, director of the Oxford Stroke Prevention Research Unit in England.

What Matters are the Blood Pressure Variations
For years, experts thought consistently high bp created the greatest stroke risk. But evidence now suggests the real risk is more a function of dramatic blood pressure variations from hour to hour, day to day, week to week.

September 11, 2014

Alliance for Natural Health Lists "Best" Supplement Suppliers

Since I began this blog about five years ago, one clear trend has emerged: readers seem reliably interested in dietary supplements.

By far, the topic that has generated the most traffic here is coconut oil… particularly the (unproven) claims that coconut oil can treat Alzheimer’s, or retard the disease’s inexorable progression. I’ve devoted lots of ink in an effort to debunk that cruel, harmful mythology.

On September 9, I was interested to see an article – What Supplement Companies Do the Experts Swear By? -- published on the Alliance for Natural Health website.

I’ve never heard of most of these companies, and I’m certainly not endorsing any of them. I’m a firm believer that – in the realm of pills and most everything else – less is more.

My Favorite: Douglas Labs
But whenever I'm looking to replenish one of the supplements  I take (5-HTP,  curcumin, ashwaganda) I look to see if Douglas Laboratories is on the list. Here's why:

I've been impressed with the work being done by Dr. Rudy Tanzi.  He is a leading Alzheimer's researcher, having won the top AD awards. He also is  a neurology professor at Harvard, and director of the genetics and aging unit at Massachusetts General Hospital. I recently reported on an interview in which he was asked about his use of supplements and he responded:
The only supplement I take is called ashwagandha . . . Unfortunately, most of the ashwaganda you'll find online does not work. The best one comes from Douglas Labs.
The Alliance for Natural Health
Knowing the interest in supplements that exists out there, I wanted to share the ANH's list… if for no other reason than to see if readers have any reaction to it, one way or another.

September 10, 2014

Let's Take a Break and Relax with These Video Clips

Truth be told I need a break to delve into the continuing mystery of how my carbidopa/levodopa continues to produce blood pressure readings ranging from 69/47 to 191/103 -- and that's just this morning. It's now 11am and I'm typing this while wearing my wrist blood pressure monitor to remind me to take frequent readings to see if I can make any sense out of this craziness.

I'll report back on this in a few days.  Meanwhile . . .

Wonder how old you have to be enjoy watching this woman as she returns to work after 30 years:

Nice to see that a youngster has my problem with passwords:

Clever commercial for Depends:

Brazilian kids learn English by talking to lonely Chicago seniors:

#       #      #

While working on this post, I lost track of time and, as a result, I didn't take my 11am carbidopa/levodopa  until 11:45. This resulted in a blood pressure reading of 211/104!

Taking pill and meditating brought the reading down to 130/66 within an hour.

Go figure.

September 9, 2014

Do You Use Your Local CVS or Walmart Walk-In Clinic for Medical Services?

Are those clinics – the facilities you see at CVS, Walmart, Walgreens – a good idea?

If used wisely, yes.

Their very existence is an indication of American business ingenuity. These clinics also show just how inadequate the American healthcare system is at the moment.

As reported in a recent article in the Washington Post’s Health & Science section, the USA has the most alarming shortage of primary care physicians of any developed country in the world. Nearly three out of four Americans cannot readily access medical care at night, on weekends or holidays unless they go to an emergency room.

Enter the realm of quick-care medical services: those walk-in clinics at local pharmacies – typically staffed by nurse practitioners – or free-standing urgent care centers, where physicians are usually in charge.

No question: these places fill a need. In addition, the price is usually right, and the waiting time is almost always better than it is at the local hospital’s crowded emergency room. They also provide healthcare services to the millions of Americans who do not have their own primary care doctor. Nearly 40% of all visitors to these clinics do not have their own GPs.

Comparative Study Validates Clinic Use
In 2009, the Annals of Internal Medicine published a study that compared the care provided for urinary tract infections, sore throats, and ear infections at walk-in clinics, urgent care centers, and emergency rooms… all in Minnesota.

Using 14 generally accepted indicators of quality, the survey discovered that ratings were similar among clinics, centers, and doctors’ offices… but lower in hospital emergency rooms.