Finding a Doctor
How to avoid the most important doctors in your life
The PC is rapidly replacing the MD as the original point-of-care provider. Eight in ten Internet users have looked online for health information, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project. And while there's a mass of misinformation in cyberspace, here are four sites you should be looking at to treat everything from a bad shoulder to a lousy bedside manner.
You can't pick your genes, but you can decrease your likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease on your own, says John Alexander, a cardiologist at Mid Carolina Cardiology. Here's how:
- Make smart food choices. A heart-healthful diet is rich in fruits, veggies, whole grains, high-fiber foods, lean meats, fish, and low-fat dairy products. Increase your protein: a study in the Journal of Nutrition found that those who ate a moderate-protein diet (40 percent carbs, 30 percent protein, 30 percent fat) lost 22 percent more body fat than those who followed a diet of 55 percent carbs, 15 percent protein, and 15 percent fat.
- Know your cholesterol panel. Cholesterol, a waxy, fatlike substance found in cell walls, can be measured by a simple blood test. "Several studies have proven that lowering cholesterol levels [with diet and medications] beginning in early adulthood can significantly lower the chance of heart attack or stroke," says Alexander.
Only 24 percent of ovarian cancer is caught early, says M. Kathryn Whitten, an OB/GYN at Eastover OB/GYN. Here are tips for better women's health and wellness.
- Get vaccinated. If you're a female between nine and twenty-six, Whitten recommends the HPV (human papilloma) vaccination, a series of three shots over six months that limits your chances of getting cervical cancer by 70 percent. FYI: Some insurance plans don't cover the vaccine.
- Plan your pregnancy. "By the time a woman realizes that she's pregnant, it can be too late to reap the full benefit from folic acid in terms of reduction of birth defects," says Whitten. "Women who want to achieve pregnancy should take folic acid prior to conception [400 micrograms per day for most women]." Folic acid in the appropriate amounts can reduce the risk of some neurological birth defects by 70 percent.
- Mamm up. Women should get mammograms annually after the age of forty (earlier for women at a higher-than-normal risk of breast cancer). And don't bother with the cancer antigen 125 (CA 125) blood test to detect ovarian cancer, says Whitten. "It hasn't been proven to be an effective screening for ovarian cancer. … CA 125 can be normal in up to half of early-stage ovarian cancers, which can falsely reassure patients." And, Whitten explains, CA 125 can also be elevated in many benign conditions, leading to potentially unnecessary surgery.
Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men (one in six men are diagnosed with prostate cancer), says Harrison Rhee, a urologist at Urology Specialists of the Carolinas. Want to avoid Rhee? Read on:
- Get PSA screened. Prostate specific antigen (PSA) is a blood test that measures PSA levels. Generally, very little PSA escapes from a healthy prostate, so PSA testing can help monitor increases. Rhee suggests screenings for men ages forty to fifty. Every PSA test has false positives and false negatives, however. There are other causes of an elevated PSA (such as urinary tract infections, prostatitis, and benign prostatic hyperplasia) so patients should be evaluated by a urologist to determine if a biopsy is necessary, says Rhee.
- Know your options. There are many natural compounds, vitamins, herbal medicines, supplements, medications, and surgeries that can help manage prostate problems.
Forget the scalpel or syringe and protect your skin with these simple tips from Jennifer Helton, a dermatologist at Dermatology Associates:
- Wash your face (gently). Banish blackheads and pimples with a mild cleanser such as Aveeno and Cetaphil two times a day, suggests Helton. "Wash more frequently if you experience increased sweating as with exercise and sports," says Helton.
- Lotion up. Apply moisturizer two to three times a day with a fragrance-free product. She also recommends using oil-free, noncomedogenic moisturizers with SPF 30 to protect your face and hands from the sun while driving. Helton's favorites are Aveeno, Neutrogena, Oil of Olay, and Cetaphil.
- Bug off. "Insect bites are incredibly common in the summer in the South," says Helton. Not only do they cause skin bumps, but they can also carry disease. To avoid bites, Helton suggests avoiding bright clothing, covering exposed skin with clothing, and applying DEET. "DEET is most effective in reducing bites and is easily found in a 10 percent spray," says Helton.
Pediatricians are seeing more children with health problems due to the epidemic of childhood overweight, previously called childhood obesity, says Stephen O'Brien, a pediatrician at Cabarrus Pediatrics. One out of three kids are now considered overweight or obese. Learn how to keep the kiddies healthy:
- Don't distort portions. Today's kids' meal is about the same size of the adult meals served thirty years ago. Serving meals on a smaller plate can help make portions feel bigger, too. According to Brian Wansink, a Cornell University professor and author of Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think, if you take a medium-size hamburger and serve it to a person on a saucer, he estimates it as having 18 percent more calories than if you serve it to him on a normal-size plate.
The International Society for Clinical Densitometry estimates that more than 200 million people worldwide have osteoporosis. The bone disease can be responsible for fractures and stooped posture, says Robert Kipnis, a rheumatologist at Arthritis & Osteoporosis Consultants of the Carolinas.
- Lift weights. Or try weight-bearing exercise for thirty to forty-five minutes, four to seven days a week. Weight-bearing exercises—hiking, running—enhance bone growth and increase bone density.
- Increase your calcium and vitamin D intake. Calcium and vitamin D consumption lay the foundation for strong bones. Kipnis suggests 500 to 600 milligrams twice a day in addition to vitamin D (800 to 1,200 IU).
- Avoid tobacco, excessive alcohol, and prolonged corticosteroids (meds like cortisone, hydrocortisone, and prednisone). Consuming these in excess can interfere with your body's absorption of calcium and vitamin D.
Diabetes is one of the leading causes of death in the United States, says Edith Miller, an endocrinologist at Carolinas Medical Center. Preventing diabetes doesn't mean sacrificing sugar, but it does mean making several lifestyle changes.
- Lose 7 to 10 percent of your body weight. Research studies from the CDC show that moderate weight loss for people at high risk for diabetes can prevent or delay the disease.
- Up your fiber. Fiber slows the body's absorption of carbs, preventing glucose and insulin from spiking and keeping blood-sugar levels stabilized. Women should aim for 25 grams per day and men should get about 30 grams daily.
- Stop smoking. Kicking the habit may be hard, but the results are well worth it—you can lower your risk for developing type-two diabetes.
More from Charlotte magazine's Your Healthiest You package:
- Your Healthiest You: Navigating the modern healthcare system
- Finding a Doctor: How to avoid the most important doctors in your life
- Well Appointed: 5 ways to get more from your next doctor's visit
- Shoot It: Vaccines and immunizations you may not have received yet, but should
- Tests and Screenings You Shouldn't Miss
- ER Dos and Don'ts
- Medical Myths: Debunking junk science
- Tackling Insurance