Daily Archives: November 24, 2010

Holidays are a great time to obtain a family medical history

Healthcare professionals have known for a long time that common diseases (like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes) as well as some rare diseases (like hemophilia, cystic fibrosis, and sickle cell anemia) can run in families. If one generation of a family has high blood pressure, it is not unusual for the next generation to have similarly high blood pressure. Tracing the illnesses suffered by your parents, grandparents, and other blood relatives can help your doctor predict the disorders to which you may be at risk and take action to keep you and your family healthy.

To help focus attention on the importance of family history, the Surgeon General has launched a national public health campaign called the Surgeon General’s Family History Initiative, to encourage all American families to learn more about their family health history.

A recent survey found that 96 percent of Americans believe that knowing their family history is important. Yet, the same survey found that only one-third of Americans have ever tried to gather and write down their family’s health history.

Because family health history is such a powerful screening tool, the Surgeon General has created a new computerized tool to help make it fun and easy for anyone to create a sophisticated portrait of their family’s health.

The “My Family Health Portrait” tool is a Web-enabled program that runs on any computer that is connected to the Web and running an up-to-date version of any major Internet browser. The new version of the tool offers numerous advantages over previous versions, which had to be downloaded to the user’s computer.

The Web-based tool helps users organize family history information and then print it out for presentation to their family doctor. In addition, the tool helps users save their family history information to their own computer and even share family history information with other family members. You can access the My Family Health Portrait Web tool here.

Each year since 2004, the Surgeon General has declared Thanksgiving to be National Family History Day. Over the holiday or at other times when families gather, the Surgeon General encourages Americans to talk about, and to write down, the health problems that seem to run in their family. Learning about their family’s health history may help ensure a longer, healthier future together.

ABC News interviewed NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins yesterday and he advised all of us to learn about their families’ medical histories during the holidays. Collins said, “There is a tool that the Surgeon General has put together which is freely available on the Web to allow people to collect their own family medical history, and then present it to their physicians in a way that can start a conversation. This would be the single most important thing to do as far as assessing your genetic risks for future illness. DNA tests can help with that in many situations, but it’s always good to start with the family history.”

Devotional for Men – Healthy Through and Through – Part 5 – The Relational Wheel of Health

Devotional for Men – Healthy Through and Through – Part 1 – IntroductioHere’s the fifth of an eight-part devotional for men based upon my chapter on health in Coach Joe Gibbs best-selling book, Gameplan for Life. The devotional was featured by the Men of Integrity ministry of Christianity Today. I hope you enjoy the series. Here’s Part 5 of 8:

Here’s the fifth of an eight-part devotional for men based upon my chapter on health in Coach Joe Gibbs best-selling book, Gameplan for Life. The devotional was featured by the Men of Integrity ministry of Christianity Today. I hope you enjoy the series. Here’s Part 5 of 8:

THE SERIES’ THEME: Healthy Through and Through. What does it mean to be a truly healthy man of God?

THE RELATIONAL WHEEL

KEY BIBLE VERSES: Be gentle, kind, humble, meek, and patient. Put up with each other, and forgive anyone who does you wrong, just as Christ has forgiven you. (Colossians 3:12-13) Dig Deeper: Colossians 3:14-15

We’re socially healthy if we’re succeeding in all our relationships—those with family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, the members of our church, everybody. Does that mean living without any conflict? Absolutely not! We’re talking about human beings, after all. But we can help prevent and even treat injured relationships—that’s part of being highly healthy.

A pastor I know had a spiritual wheel that seemed intact, but he was a physical and emotional mess. As his doctor, I spent many months trying to help him balance his physical and emotional wheels. But no matter what I did for him medically, he always came to my office completely out of balance.

I finally realized that his real problem stemmed not from physical or emotional disease, but rather from a series of broken relationships—beginning with his own dad.

Only after he agreed to work on mending his relationships, with the help of a Christian psychologist and a support group, could the other parts of his life become balanced.

As his relational wheel came into balance, he began to experience a smoother ride, both physically and emotionally.

My Response: Are there changes I need to make so that my relationships are healthier, more God-honoring?

1)

2)

3)

THOUGHT TO APPLY: The concept of total wellness recognizes that our every thought, word, and behavior affects our greater health and well-being. And we, in turn, are affected not only emotionally but also physically and spiritually.—Greg Anderson (writer, wellness expert)

I have a free assessment tool that can help you evaluate your four wheels of health. You can take it now, or at the end of this devotional series. You can download it for free here.

You can also learn more about this principle in my book, 10 Essentials of Happy, Healthy People: Becoming and staying highly healthy. Autographed copies are available here.

10 E's

Here’s the entire series:

Adapted from Game Plan for Life (Tyndale, 2009) by permission. All rights reserved by the copyright holder and/or the publisher. May not be reproduced.

Physicians’ group and FDA say radiation risk from TSA scanning is “miniscule”

With all the news today about the new body scanners that TSA is using, I thought it might be reassuring for my readers to understand that the radiation exposure in these scans is incredibly low. In fact, a national group of radiologists is now saying that it would take 1,000 TSA whole body scans in one year to reach the effective dose of radiation a person gets with one standard chest X-ray.

USA Today reports,”The nation’s Homeland Security chief asked for air travelers’ ‘cooperation’ and ‘patience’ with full-body scanning and pat downs this holiday season amid a growing public backlash that the airport tactics are intrusive.”

But, “some consumer, civil rights and pilots groups are protesting new Transportation Security Administration (TSA) methods,” in part because they “could emit dangerous radiation,” even though “a Food and Drug Administration review found no health threat.”

CNN also covered  the story, and noted that the “American College of Radiology, an organization of more than 34,000 professionals, including radiologists, oncologists and medical physicists, said it believes backscatter technology is safe.”

The group stated, “The ACR is not aware of any evidence that either of the scanning technologies that the TSA is considering would present significant biological effects for passengers screened.”

The organization referenced a report from the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements, citing that a traveler would need to receive 100 doses of backscatter radiation per year to reach what it calls a “Negligible Individual Dose.”

“By these measurements, a traveler would require more than 1,000 such scans in a year to reach the effective dose equal to one standard chest X-ray,” the group’s statement said.

The probability of dying from radiation from a body scanner and that of being killed in a terror attack are roughly the same, he said. About one in 30 million.

The bottom line, and I’m on the road over 150 days a year, I won’t think twice about going through the whole body scanner at the airports this year.

How to help kids follow a healthy diet even over holidays

This is a reprint of one of the more popular blogs I posted last year. It’s adapted from an AP story on how we, as parents, can help our children with more healthful nutrition during the holidays. I also have a ton of tips in my book, SuperSized Kids: How to protect your child from the obesity threat which in on sale in both hardback and softcover at my DrWalt.com book store. Better yet, they’re autographed:

SuperSized Kids - .161 MB JPEG copy

Many parents are trying to figure out how to have a healthier holiday without depriving their kids of holiday treats. About a third of American kids are overweight or obese, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates.

Studies show Americans gain about a pound between Thanksgiving and New Year’s; people who are overweight or obese are at risk of gaining five pounds, said Dr. Susan Z. Yanovski, an obesity expert at the National Institutes of Health. She said the weight gain is slight, but it accumulates over time.

During the winter holidays many children are “indulging in their favorite foods and sitting around with nothing to do,” said Dr. Joanna Dolgoff, a pediatrician and author of the forthcoming Red Light, Green Light, Eat Right: The Food Solution That Lets Kids Be Kids.

“Then there’s the fact that kids realize it’s the holiday season,” she said. “‘I deserve to indulge. How come everyone else is indulging?’ They start to feel resentful and entitled.”

Dr. Goutham Rao, clinical director of the Weight Management and Wellness Center at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, said some of his patients gain five to seven pounds for that very reason. They see the holidays as a time to unwind and treat themselves. Some aren’t even thinking about their weight, said Dolgoff, promising to get back on track when school starts.

“If they say, ‘I’m going to start in the new year,’ they have given themselves free rein to eat anything and everything in sight,” she said. “That’s unfortunate. They wind up gaining more.”

Children face a greater challenge when it comes to holiday eating than adults, said experts. They have less impulse control — they see tempting sweets and want them without thinking of the consequences, said Rao. Many are unsure which items are healthy and what an appropriate portion size is.

Tracie Brosius, 46, of Greensburg, Pa., said she tries to keep the goodies in her house to a minimum. Her 17-year-old daughter, Torie Washington, is down 22 pounds since enrolling in Dr. Rao’s program 1 1/2 years ago.

She said last Christmas Torie ate whatever she wanted, especially pizzelles — Italian cookies. This year she is more focused, wanting to slim down for college next year.

“We don’t deprive her of anything,” said Brosius, who works for an insurance company. “If you are really craving something, you have a little bit of it.”

That’s a good strategy, according to Dr. Thomas Robinson of Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford, who warns parents not to be the food police. He suggests parents and kids work together to prepare healthier holiday meals.

Vetter said her son has since calmed down. They went out for a sushi dinner on Thanksgiving — California rolls, Yellowtail, Spanish Mackerel — and he loved it, she said.

“We are still on track for more fish and we don’t have the sweet carbs sitting around the house,” she said. “Now my son wants sushi for Christmas.”

Go healthy, not hungry for Thanksgiving dining

The holiday season means you’ll be faced with a seemingly endless buffet of food temptation. While some people simply give in and eat too much, others deny themselves any holiday treats.

But there are ways to navigate between overindulgence and deprivation, according to Julie Redfern, manager of Nutrition Consult Services at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. She offers the following advice in a report by Health on the Net Foundation:

  • Eat a light snack before you go to a holiday party. That will prevent you from arriving hungry and overeating or gobbling down foods high in calories and saturated fat.
  • When you’re invited to a party, offer to bring a healthy food dish.
  • Research how you can use healthy ingredients in your favorite holiday recipes. For example, using 1 percent milk instead of whole milk and cream in a traditional eggnog recipe can save almost 200 calories and 20 grams of fat per serving.
  • Wear tight clothes, such as form-fitting slacks, to holiday events. People who wear loose clothing tend to overeat without realizing it.
  • Staying away from the food table at gatherings will help you resist the urge to eat.
  • Carrying a clutch or handbag will keep your hands busy and reduce the likelihood that you’ll reach for every treat that passes your way.
  • Use a small plate or no plate. You’ll eat less if you have to walk back and forth to get food.
  • Keep portion control in mind. A dinner plate should be half vegetables, a quarter protein, and a quarter carbs. Avoid going back for seconds and thirds.
  • You can have dessert, but keep the portions small.
  • Beware of high-calorie holiday drinks such as eggnog and apple cider. Have only a small cup.
  • Plan to go for a family walk after your main holiday meal.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!