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Health Q&A

Posted September 19, 2012 in Advice Column, Ankeny

Q: Is it recommended that I get a flu shot this year?

A: For most people, the answer is yes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone aged 6 months and older get the seasonal flu vaccine this year. The immunization is the single best way to protect yourself against the flu.

Immunity from a flu vaccination decreases after a year and the strains of flu infecting the public change, so it’s important to get immunized annually.

Every year in the United States, on average, more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications and between 3,000 and 49,000 people die from it. The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness,and at times can lead to death.

People can begin to get the seasonal flu vaccine now, and it will continue to be offered through the early spring. FluMist intranasal spray will also be available for people ages 2 – 49. Ask your pharmacist if the FluMist is right for you. Walk-ins are welcome at Medicap Pharmacy® — no appointment is needed. For more information about flu vaccines, contact a physician or pharmacist.

Information provided by Jennifer Meurer, PharmD., Medicap Pharmacy, 107 N.E. Delaware, Suite 6, 964-8550.

Q: What is computer vision syndrome?

A: As computer use has increased over the years, the complaints related to their use have increased as well, particularly when related to vision. The term for these combined symptoms is computer vision syndrome, or CVS. It involves headaches, blurry vision, dry eyes, head/neck discomfort and can sometimes be joined by red, tired and/or watery eyes or double vision. These symptoms tend to get worse as computer use increases.

There are various causes related to CVS, including poor lighting, glare from the computer screen, incorrect viewing distances, poor posture, uncorrected vision problems or various combinations of these factors. Some simple adjustments to one’s daily computer use habits can help, but a comprehensive eye exam by an optometrist can diagnose and treat any related eye or vision issues.

One simple change all computer users can make is following the 20/20/20 rule. Every 20 minutes, look at least 20 feet away, for 20 seconds. This gives the eyes a chance to relax, shift focus, blink, etc. Also improving the lighting, monitor position and personal posture can help. If there are still issues after that, further changes are probably necessary, and can range from a pair of computer glasses, treating any residual dry eye problems and possibly vision therapy if the underlying vision issues warrant it. In a world that is becoming increasingly reliant on computers, tablets and smartphones, yearly eye exams to help maintain good eye sight and vision are important as ever.

Information provided by Erik Romsdahl, Child and Family Vision Center, 2525 N. Ankeny Blvd., Suite 109, Ankeny, 964-7541.

Q: Why are steel-cut oats such a healthy breakfast item?

A: Breakfast is known as the most important meal of the day, so why not start the day off right with a bowl of cholesterol-busting steel-cut oatmeal? Steel-cut oats will give you the energy you need to power through your day, while also providing you with a rich, hearty and delicious breakfast.

This super grain contains 2 grams of soluble fiber per serving, which has been shown to help reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol when eaten as part of a heart-healthy diet. The soluble fiber acts like a sponge, binding cholesterol in the digestive track and removing it from the body. Steel-cut oats are also a good source of protein and are sodium-free. Because oats are a plant food, they naturally provide phytochemicals, similar to fruits and vegetables.

Steel-cut oats have gained popularity recently. The difference between steel-cut and old-fashioned oats is mostly texture. Steel-cut oats are cut into two to three pieces, and when cooked have a chewy texture. Old-fashioned oats are steamed and rolled, which reduces the cook time. Nutrition for both varieties is similar, but the cooking time for steel-cut oats is considerably longer than for old-fashioned oats. This makes steel-cut oats perfect for the slow cooker.

Cooking your steel-cut oats overnight in the slow cooker is a great way to offer a breakfast that will please everyone. Provide a variety of toppings so everyone can enjoy customized bowls to suit individual preferences. With this overnight creation, you will have a healthy breakfast that will be ready for early risers and kept warm for those who choose to sleep in.

Information provided by Jenny Norgaard, RD, LD, registered dietitian, Ankeny Hy-Vee,, 515-964-0900.

Q: What is a dental implant? Why should I consider it to replace a missing tooth?

A: A dental implant, simply put, is a wonderful replacement for a missing tooth. It is the closest you can get to your natural tooth. The dental implant itself has two components — a small titanium post that is placed in the jaw bone where a tooth has been lost and a replacement tooth that is attached to the post. Together it looks and functions like a natural tooth.

When a tooth is lost, your appearance is not your only concern. Your ability to chew food is compromised. Teeth may start to shift, creating other problems. The bone that held the tooth in place begins to deteriorate, no longer needed to support the tooth.  A dental implant addresses all of these problems a missing tooth can cause.

The benefits of dental implants exist for patients whether they are missing one or all of their teeth. Placing a single dental implant restores the missing tooth without modifying any existing teeth. For those missing some or all of their teeth, multiple implants are placed that serve as anchors. This enables the partial or denture to be “snapped” into place. This approach provides stability that can drastically improve the quality of life for a denture wearer.

If you are currently missing a tooth, a dental implant is a wonderful treatment option to consider. We’d be happy to discuss implants further with you and put you on a path to a happier and healthier life.

Information provided by Dr. Erika Peddicord, Peddicord Family Dentistry, 121 N.E. 18th St., Suite C, 963-3339.

Q: How can I find breast cancer early?

A: The best way to find breast lumps is to do three things:
• Have regular mammograms (usually every two years starting at age 50). If you are younger than 50, talk to your doctor about your risk factors for breast cancer, including your family history, to decide whether regular mammogram screenings are appropriate for you).
• Have your doctor check your breasts.
• Check your breasts yourself every month.
Doing all of these things gives you the best chance to find cancer as early as you can. Finding breast cancer early makes treatment much easier and more effective.

A mammogram is the most effective way to find breast cancer early, up to two years before the lump is even large enough to feel. A mammogram is a special kind of X-ray of your breasts. The amount of radiation used in the X-ray is very small and not harmful.

Mammograms detect cancer because cancer is more dense (thicker) than the normal part of the breast. A radiologist will look at the X-rays for signs of cancer or other breast problems.

Your breast will rest on a shelf and the X-ray machine will slowly press against your breast until you feel pressure. This pressure is needed to spread your breast out so that a better X-ray can be taken. The X-ray takes one or two minutes, and the entire process usually takes no more than about 20 minutes.

Information provided Dr. Doug Layton, D.O., Family Physicians at Prairie Trail, 2515 S.W. State St., 964-6999.

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