Health & Fitness
Watch Out for Rattlesnakes PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Monday, 29 June 2015 08:14

062515h1With the return of warm weather, humans are not the only species coming out to enjoy the sun. Snakes, too, can be found basking in the sun’s rays.

Although most snakes in the state are harmless, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife reminds you to steer clear of the venomous rattlesnake and know what to do if one strikes.

Rattlesnakes are generally not aggressive and usually strike only when threatened or deliberately provoked. Given room, they will retreat.

Most snake bites occur when a rattlesnake is handled or accidentally touched by someone while walking or climbing. The majority of snakebites occur on the hands, feet and ankles.

The California Poison Control Center notes that rattlesnakes account for more than 800 bites each year in the U.S., causing one or two deaths.

The potential of running into a rattlesnake should not deter anyone from venturing outdoors, as there are precautions that can be taken to lessen the chance of being bitten.

Dos and Don’ts

• Wear hiking boots and loose-fitting long pants. Never go barefoot or wear sandals when walking through wild areas.

• When hiking, stick to well-used trails. Avoid tall grass, weeds and heavy underbrush where snakes may hide during the day.

• Do not step or put your hands where you cannot see, and avoid wandering around in the dark. Step on logs and rocks, never over them, and be especially careful when climbing rocks or gathering firewood.

• Check out stumps or logs before sitting down, and shake out sleeping bags before use.

• Never grab “sticks” or “branches” while swimming in lakes and rivers. Rattlesnakes can swim.

• Never hike alone. Always have someone with you who can assist in an emergency.

• Do not handle a freshly killed snake, as it can still inject venom.

• Teach children early to respet snakes and to leave them alone.

The best protection against rattlesnakes in the yard is a “rattlesnake proof” fence which should either be solid or with mesh no larger than one-quarter inch. It should be at least three feet high with the bottom buried a few inches in the ground. Slanting your snake fence outward about a 30-degree angle will help. Remove piles of boards or rocks around the home and use caution when removing those piles - there may already be a snake there.

Encourage and protect natural competitors like kingsnakes and racers. Kingsnakes actually kill and eat rattlesnakes.

If You’re Bitten

Though uncommon, rattlesnake bites do occur, so have a plan in place for responding to any situation. Carry a cell phone, hike with a companion who can assist in an emergency and make sure that someone knows where you are going and when you will be checking in.

Stay as calm as possible. Wash the bite area gently with soap and water. Remove watches, rings, etc, which may constrict swelling.

Immobilize the affected area and transport safely to the nearest medical facility.

What you should not do after a rattlesnake bite:

• Don’t apply a tourniquet.

• Don’t pack the area in ice.

•Don’t cut the wound with a knife or razor.

• Don’t use your mouth to suck out the venom.

• Don’t allow the victim to drink alcohol.

— Source: California Department of Fish & Wildlife

Rattlesnakes are more common in the warmer months.

Bad Breath, Good Biz PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Monday, 29 June 2015 08:12

062515h2Listerine was first developed as a surgical antiseptic in 1879 by Joseph Lawrence, a chemist in St. Louis, Missouri.

It was promoted to dentists for oral care in 1895 and was the first over-the-counter mouthwash sold in the United States in 1914.

But it wasn’t a runaway success until the 1920s, when it was pitched as a solution for “chronic halitosis” — a then obscure medical term for bad breath.

In just seven years, the company’s revenues rose from $115,000 to more than $8 million.

By last year, sales of all the various mouthwashes in the U.S. totalled about $1.4 billion.

While dentists say mouthwash and other rinses can benefit overall oral health, the American Dental Association has found that just two products eliminate bad breath and they are both toothpastes.

CAPTION: Listerine in the 1920s.

Donate Blood This Summer PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Monday, 29 June 2015 08:10

There are 100 days of summer and the American Red Cross urges eligible donors to choose their day to give blood and help ensure a sufficient blood supply.

Summer is a difficult time to collect enough blood to meet patient needs. Nearly 90 percent of donors surveyed this past spring said they planned to take a vacation this summer, potentially making them less available to give.

In addition, many schools that host blood drives are out of session during the summer. But the need for blood donations is constant. Every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood.

Donors of all blood types – especially those with types O negative, A negative and B negative – are needed. The Red Cross must collect 15,000 blood donations every day to meet the needs of patients nationwide.

The Oakland Blood Donation Center is located at 6230 Claremont Avenue and is open from 11:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays, and from 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

To make an appointment, visit or call 1-800-733-2767.


Keep Bones Healthy for Life PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 11 June 2015 14:54

061115hWhen it comes to good health, you can certainly feel it in your bones. That’s because your bones are alive. Every day, the body breaks down old bone and puts new bone in its place.

While it is normal to lose some bone with age, too much bone loss can lead to osteoporosis.

What Is Osteoporosis?

With osteoporosis, the bones become weak and are more likely to break, especially those in the wrist, spine and hip.

Because bone loss often happens over time and doesn’t hurt, many people have weak bones and don’t even know it. A broken bone is often the first sign of osteoporosis. It’s a good idea, therefore, to know risk factors. These include:

• Poor Diet. Too little calcium can increase your chances of getting osteoporosis. Not enough vitamin D can also increase your risk. Vitamin D helps the body use the calcium in your diet.

• Not Enough Physical Activity. Not exercising and not being active for a long time can increase your chances of getting osteoporosis. Like muscles, bones become stronger — and stay stronger-with regular exercise.

• Body Weight. Being too thin makes you more likely to get osteoporosis.

• Smoking. Cigarettes can keep your body from using the calcium in your diet.

• Alcohol. People who drink a lot are more likely to get osteoporosis.

• Medicines. Certain medications can cause bone loss.

• Age. Your chances of getting osteoporosis increase as you get older.

• Gender. Women have a greater chance of getting osteoporosis because they have smaller bones than men and lose bone faster than men do. However, men can still develop osteoporosis as they age.

• Ethnicity. White and Asian women are most likely to get osteoporosis. However, people of all backgrounds are at risk.

• Family History. Having a close relative with osteoporosis may increase your risk.

What To Do About It

Since osteoporosis has no symptoms, it’s important to talk to your doctor about your bone health. If your doctor feels you’re at risk, they may order a bone density test. It’s quick, safe and painless.

If your bone density test shows that your bones are weak, your doctor may suggest lifestyle changes and prescribe medication that can help.

Learn More

For further information on osteoporosis and bone health, visit, the website of the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), or call toll free (877) 226-4267 and order a free publication on bone health, available in English or in Spanish.

— North American Precis Synd., Inc.

Is ‘Stage Zero’ Breast Cancer Really Cancer? PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 11 June 2015 14:53

Thanks to breast cancer awareness campaigns and early detection, more women than ever are getting mammograms, and more cancers are being spotted early — very early.

Many women are told they have something called ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), or “Stage Zero” cancer, in which abnormal cells are found in the center of the milk-producing ducts.

Before universal screening, DCIS was rarely identified. Now, DCIS and the less common lobular carcinoma in situ account for almost a quarter of new breast cancer cases — some 60,000 a year.

A diagnosis of DCIS raises all sorts of questions. Is it cancer? Is it life threatening? What is the recommended treatment?

DCIS is non-invasive. It is, technically, a pre-cancer and is not life threatening. DCIS is an indication of abnormal cells in the milk duct. While most invasive cancer begins as DCIS, not all will go on to become an invasive cancer.

Diagnosing DCIS

Like other cancers, DCIS is usually diagnosed by a team of medical professionals, including radiologists, surgeons and pathologists, using these techniques:

• Mammography. DCIS is likely to be identified during a mammogram that reveals tiny calcium deposits — microcalcifications — which appear as lines or clusters on an X-ray and are sometimes associated with cancer.

A finding of DCIS may indicate a diagnosis before the lesion becomes an invasive cancer. Confined to the ducts, DCIS tumors are often too small to cause symptoms or to be felt on a breast exam.

• Magnetic resonance imaging. MRI is increasingly used in breast imaging, but it hasn’t yet been found significantly better than mammography in screening for DCIS.

• Biopsy. Once DCIS is suspected, a biopsy is done to determine whether cancer is present and, if so, the extent of the disease.

Right now, the treatment for DCIS consists of surgery, either a lumpectomy or mastectomy, depending on how widely the cells appear in the ducts.

If the cells are concentrated in one place, the usual treatment is a breast-conserving surgery (lumpectomy) followed by radiation. Some women may have a mastectomy if the abnormal cells are found in many places.

Because the risk of metastasis is so low with DCIS, it’s not necessary to remove the lymph nodes or treat it with chemotherapy. An important statistic to remember is that the survival rate for women with DCIS is very good, nearly 100 percent.


Bug Bites & Stings: When To Get Help PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 28 May 2015 16:26

052815hAlthough most bug bites and stings are harmless, some can be dangerous. This is especially true if you are allergic to the bug’s venom, or if the bug is carrying a disease.

In the U.S., it’s common to experience a bite or sting from mosquitoes; fleas; spiders; bees, wasps and hornets; biting flies; mites; ticks; fire ants; and bedbugs.

“Most bug bites and stings can be safely treated at home with topical medication, such as hydrocortisone cream or ointment, or an oral antihistamine to reduce the itch,” says Dr. Margaret Parsons, associate professor of dermatology at U.C. Davis. “Sometimes, however, a bug bite or sting could turn into something serious, particularly if you have been bitten or stung by many insects at the same time.”

Dr. Parsons advises going to the emergency room immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms after a bug bite or sting:

• Difficulty breathing or the sensation that your throat is closing

• Swollen lips, tongue or face

• Chest pain or racing heartbeat lasting more than a few minutes

• Dizziness, vomiting or a headache

• A red, donut-shaped or target-shaped rash that develops after a tick bite: This could be a sign of Lyme disease, which should be treated with antibiotics.

• A fever with a red or black, spotty rash that spreads: This could be a sign of Rocky Mountain spotted fever, a bacterial infection carried by ticks, which should be treated immediately.

“Although most bug bites and stings do not turn into a severe or even fatal illness like Rocky Mountain spotted fever, it’s important to pay attention to your symptoms,” says Dr. Parsons. “If you feel tired all the time, you have a headache, fever or body aches, or you develop a rash after a bug bite, see a board-certified dermatologist immediately.”


Danger: Contents Under Pressure PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 28 May 2015 16:25

By Dr. Danika Bowen • Special to the Times

Your heart is under pressure to perform 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And if you are among the one in three adults in the United States living with high blood pressure, you run the risk of your heart “quitting” on you at any time — and you probably don’t even know it.

Virtually symptom-free, the American Heart Association (AHA) estimates that while more than 78 million people in the United States have high blood pressure, half don’t even know it. Uncontrolled and untreated high blood pressure can lead to stroke, heart attack, heart failure, erectile dysfunction, aneurysm, kidney failure, atherosclerosis (fatty buildup in the arteries) and even blindness.

May is High Blood Pressure Education Month. There is no better time to understand the risk factors that lead to high blood pressure and how to best combat this silent killer.

Combating High Blood Pressure

Among the easiest ways to reduce slightly elevated blood pressure or prehypertension is to:

• Lose weight

• Add foods with potassium, magnesium, calcium, lean proteins and fiber to your diet

• Limit foods with sodium, trans fats and saturated fats to your diet

• Limit alcohol consumption

• Quit smoking and avoid second-hand smoke

If you develop hypertension, depending on the severity, the above tactics are recommended in combination with one or more prescribed medications, all of which should be done under a doctor’s care.

Dr. Danika Bowen is Provost/Vice President of Academic Affairs and Accreditation Liaison Officer for Carrington College. Carrington College is located at Bayfair Center, 15555 E 14th St. #500, in San Leandro. For more information, visit

iBlame: An Overload of Technology And the Effect it Has on Your Brain PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 28 May 2015 16:22

By Edie Zusman, M.D., FACS • Special to the Times

Do you feel like you are becoming more forgetful and distracted? Do you have difficulty focusing? Are you losing touch with family and close friends? Could it be the result of aging or stress?

Or, should the blame fall on that iPhone that’s constantly in your hand?

At the end of the day, when we should be relaxing, we often find ourselves sitting in front of the TV, surfing the web and checking Facebook on a laptop, while sending texts on our phones. How much is too much when it comes to technology? And what effect does that information overload have on our brains?

Opportunities for multitasking — and being interrupted — have surged over the last few years. The phone, once mounted on the kitchen wall, is now a constant companion. And it’s not just a phone; it’s a mini-computer offering all manner of technological distractions.

Multitasking can be a wonderful thing. Parents are multitasking geniuses. Knowing how to divide our attention can be a useful skill.

How Distractions Affect Brain Function

The problem arises when you need to focus on a single, essential task. 

Whether you’re a student studying for an important test, or someone engaged in a crucial project at work, constant distractions and interruptions can be detrimental to the task at hand.

An e-mail flashes calling for your attention, or a text message “bings” on your cell phone. When you turn your attention away from the main task, two things happen:

• Even if the distraction is only 15 seconds, it may take your brain two to three minutes to fully return your attention to the primary task. Therefore, your study session or project will take even longer than anticipated.

• Many brain specialists also believe that with frequent interruptions, it may be harder for your brain to convert information into intermediate- and long-term memory. In order words, your brain doesn’t retain the information.

Age and Information Overload

Young people growing up with these devices are more adept at multitasking with them. They are surprisingly good at processing incoming information from various sources. However, the practice can still have detrimental effects.

Multitasking during an important period of learning hampers efficiency. It’s fine for socializing, but not an ideal way to learn or to get something important accomplished.

I have not seen hard science on how technology affects the older brain. But, in my practice, I know that older people often have a harder time rapidly changing topics. For older people, it’s especially wise to shut off distractions during important work.

Still, technology can be a great tool for providing active stimulation and challenges for the brain. Learning new technologies — such as computers and cell phones, exploring new topics, and staying connected with people — are all good ideas for the aging brain.

When it’s time to focus, however, turn off the distracting devices. Return to them when you are done with your project or schedule specific times to check e-mail or Facebook, for instance, every hour or two. All that information will still be waiting for you.

Dr. Edie Zusman is a neurosurgeon affiliated with Eden Medical Center.

Be Aware: Risky Use of Opioids on Rise PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 14 May 2015 15:12

051415hIf you’ve ever taken them, you know prescription opioids can provide a clinically safe and effective solution to pain management.

They can also be very addictive, and protecting against addiction requires vigilance on the part of the patient as well as his or her doctors, nurses, caregivers, pharmacists and benefits providers.

While the number of Americans using prescription drugs like codeine, hydrocodone or OxyContin has declined, the use of potentially dangerous high doses and medication combinations, and other risky usage patterns are all on the rise, according to “A Nation in Pain,” a comprehensive report on pain-medication usage in the United States.

If you believe someone you love is abusing pain medication, it’s important that you act immediately. Addiction to prescription opioids can be fatal. In fact, death from prescription drug overdoses is more common than cases of cocaine or heroin-related deaths combined.

If you or a loved one uses prescription pain medications, be aware of these signs that could indicate a dependence on or an addiction to the medication.

Suspicious Behavior

This can include a wide array of options:

• Seeking or obtaining prescriptions from multiple prescribers and filling at multiple pharmacies, especially ones that are not in close physical proximity.

• Using pain medications to “feel good” rather than to treat discomfort

• Frequent claims that the pharmacy didn’t provide enough medication or that medications have been lost

• Avoiding doctor appointments because the office counts pills or performs urine drug screens

Mood Changes

A prescription drug addiction can drastically alter the user’s mood. Look for the following warning signs in yourself or your loved one:

•  Bouts of anger or depression

• Increased alcohol use or abuse

•  Feelings of anxiety

• Displays of aggressive behavior toward the doctor, pharmacy or caregivers related to opioid medications

Increased Medication Use

One of the most conclusive ways to determine if you or someone is addicted to opioids is to look for abnormalities in the medication’s use. These abnormalities could include:

•  Taking more pills or taking medicine more frequently than prescribed

•  Seeking early refills of opioid medication

• Using opioids with other high-risk medications, like muscle relaxants and anti-anxiety medications that increase euphoria

•  Use of additional medication to treat severe side effects (such as stimulants to combat drowsiness, sedatives to regulate sleep patterns, etc.).

• Experiencing withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, diarrhea, muscle pain, sweating and agitation. These are all signs of a body’s dependence on prescription opioids.

Where to Get help?

If you identify with any of these signs or symptoms or recognize them in a loved one, notify the prescribing physician immediately. The doctor can alter the pain therapy to a less-addictive option or begin to safely withdraw the patient from the medication.

Patients should not try to abruptly discontinue any medication without a physician’s supervision.

There are many resources for parents and caregivers concerned with opiate dependence/addiction. The patient’s physician can refer counseling services and addiction treatment as needed. Support groups, such as Narcotics Anonymous, offer counseling and other services for patients dealing with addiction to pain medications.

In addition, many employers offer free, confidential assistance programs to help employees, or their dependents, who are trying to overcome an addiction or other personal concerns.

The one thing you can’t afford to do is wait. Addiction to pain medication is an illness, not a crime, and your immediate intervention could save a life.


Take Steps to Sleep More Soundly PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 23 April 2015 15:10

042315h1If you’re like most people, there are some nights you toss and turn in bed, especially Sunday night.

Many Americans find Sunday the most difficult night to fall asleep whether it’s from stress of the upcoming work week or getting the kids ready for the school week. 

According to a National Sleep Foundation (NSF) survey of Americans who struggle to fall asleep on Sunday nights, 68 percent attribute this to upcoming stresses in the work or school week.

Twenty-two percent of those who struggle to fall asleep more on Sunday night are young adult Americans (age 18-34.)

Here are a few tips to make your bedtime routine to get the good night sleep you need Sunday night and every night of the week:

1. Establish a relaxing bedtime routine, suggest the experts at the NSF, with time to wind down. Stop using computers or smartphones at least 30 minutes before bed.

2. Take a warm bath. This can help you relax and ease the transition into a deeper sleep. According to the survey, the average time spent falling asleep after getting into bed on Sundays is 64 minutes, and 84 percent of Americans say they wake up at least once during the night on Sundays with the average being 2.2 times.

3. Try to get up and go to bed at the same times every day. Many people sleep in on weekends and then have trouble falling asleep Sunday night.

4. Darken the room. Even streetlight is a big sleep disrupter. Swap thin, transparent drapes for thick ones, even blackout drapes. Unplug electronic gadgets that glow in the dark.

5. Install a ceiling fan. It creates a gentle, soothing breeze while giving off a soft sound to reduce unwanted noise.

6. Paint your room a soothing color. A calming shade from a cool-color family like grey, taupe, or a cool neutral can be relaxing, she adds, and paired with cozy bedding is a great way to get a restful night sleep.

For further information and expert advice from the National Sleep Foundation, visit

— North American Precis Synd., Inc.

Help Stop Medicare Fraud PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 23 April 2015 15:08

By David Sayen • Special to the Times

Most doctors, pharmacists, and other health care providers who work with Medicare are honest. Unfortunately, some aren’t.

One common form of Medicare fraud is when Medicare is billed for health care services or benefits that you never received. Someone could have gotten access to your Medicare number and submitted a false claim. In some cases fraudsters pay Medicare beneficiaries to use their Medicare numbers.

To prevent this from taking place, never share your Medicare number with anyone you don’t know and trust.

Medicare fraud costs taxpayers and people with Medicare lots of money each year. So what can you do to help stop it?

When you get health care services, write down the dates on your calendar and save the receipts and statements you get from your doctors and other providers to check for mistakes. If you think you see an error, or you were billed for services you didn’t get, take these steps:

• If you are in the Original Medicare program (where the federal government pays health care claims for you), check your monthly “Medicare Summary Notice” (MSN) to see if the applicable services were billed correctly to Medicare. The services and claims should match, like checks on a bank statement. If there are services, doctors, or suppliers that you don’t know and can’t reconcile, there may be a problem.

• If you’re in a Medicare Advantage private health plan, check the statements you get from your plan.

• If you’re unsure what services were billed, call and ask the doctor or other supplier for an itemized statement. They should give this to you within 30 days.

• In any case, the sooner you see and report errors in your health care billing, the sooner we can help address and stop fraud.

If you’ve contacted the health care provider or supplier, and you suspect that Medicare is being charged for a service, device, or other supplies that you didn’t receive, or if you don’t recognize the doctor or other providers listed on the claim:

• Call the fraud hotline at 1-800-HHS-TIPS (1-800-447-8477).

• Alert Medicare’s customer service team at 1-800-633-4227 that you have concerns or questions about information appearing on your MSN.

Keep in mind that every tip counts. Medicare takes all reports of suspected fraud seriously.

When you report fraud, you may not hear of an outcome right away. It takes time to investigate and build a case. Be assured that your information is helping us protect Medicare and you.

David Sayen is Medicare’s regional administrator for California. You can always get answers to your Medicare questions by calling 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).

Fill ‘Gaps’ with Supplemental Insurance PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 09 April 2015 13:54

By David Sayen • Special to the Times

Medicare helps to pay for a wide variety of health services, from flu shots to hospital stays to hospice care. But it doesn’t cover everything. And it doesn’t cover all your out-of-pocket costs.

Many services covered by Medicare require co-payments, coinsurance and deductibles. You can purchase supplemental insurance to cover these “gaps” in Medicare. Such insurance is called Medigap. Some policies cover benefits that Medicare doesn’t, like emergency care in a foreign country.

If you have Medicare and you buy a Medigap policy, Medicare will pay its share of the Medicare-approved amount for covered health services. Then your Medigap policy pays its share.

You have to pay for Medigap yourself, and it’s sold through private insurance companies. You can buy it only if you have traditional Medicare, not Medicare Advantage, which is managed care provided by private insurers.

Every Medigap policy has to follow federal and state laws designed to protect you. Medigap insurance companies can sell you only a “standardized” Medigap policy identified in most states by the letters A through D, F through G and K through N. Each standardized policy must offer the same basic benefits, no matter which company sells it.

So, beware when you’re shopping for a Medigap policy: Cost is usually the only difference between Medigap policies with the same letter sold by different companies.

And, there can be significant differences in how much various insurers charge for exactly the same coverage.

These are some costs that Medigap policies often cover:

•Medicare Part A (hospital) coinsurance and hospital costs for up to 365 days after Medicare benefits run out;

• Medicare Part B (medical) coinsurance or co-pays;

• Blood (first three pints);

• Part A hospice care coinsurance or co-pays;

• Skilled nursing facility coinsurance;

• Part A and Part B deductibles.

Medigap policies generally don’t cover long-term care (like care in a nursing home), vision or dental, hearing aids, eyeglasses and private duty nursing.

The best time to buy a Medigap policy is during your six-month Medigap open enrollment period, because you can buy any Medigap policy sold in your state, even if you have health problems. This period automatically starts the month you both turn 65 and are enrolled in Medicare Part B, and once it’s over, you can’t get it again.

Medigap insurance companies are generally allowed to use medical underwriting to decide whether to accept your application and how much to charge you for the Medigap policy. However, if you apply during your Medigap open enrollment period, you can buy any Medigap policy the company sells, even if you have health problems, for the same price as people with good health.

Some other points to keep in mind:

• You must have Medicare Part A and Part B to buy a Medigap policy;

• A Medigap policy only covers one person. If you and your spouse both want Medigap coverage, you must each buy a separate policy;

• You pay the private insurer a monthly premium for your Medigap policy, in addition to the monthly Part B premium that you pay to Medicare;

• Any standardized Medigap policy is guaranteed renewable even if you have health problems. This means the insurance company can’t cancel your Medigap policy as long as you pay the premium.

David Sayen is Medicare’s regional administrator for California. You can get answers to your Medicare questions by calling 1-800-633-4227.



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