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Health Q&A

Posted December 19, 2012 in Advice Column, Ankeny

Q: What are signs an elderly loved one is having trouble?

A: When families live far away from one another, the holidays may be the only opportunity that long-distance caregivers and family members have to personally observe older relatives. Age-related decline can happen very quickly. Following changes are of the most common that may indicate action needs to be made. The help of home care could be the simple solution.

• Weight loss. This is one of the most easily seen signs of ill health. This could indicate serious health conditions or the mere fact that the senior is too tired or just lacks the ambition to cook something to eat. Certain medication can also affect the way food can taste and possibly make their appetite absolute. Talk with your loved one and address your concern, possibly even making a doctor’s appointment.

• Balance. Pay close attention to the way your loved one moves, and how he or she walks. Difficulty walking or reluctance to walk may be a sign of joint or muscle pain or more serious afflictions. The major concern if the senior is unsteady on his or her feet is the risk for falls which can lead to more serious problems if a fall does occur.

• Home environment. Check for home cleanliness and clutter-free living environments. Scorched cookware may be a sign that the parent or loved one is leaving food unattended on the stove top. An overflowing hamper could mean that he or she doesn’t have the strength or desire to do the laundry. These are all possibilities for needed help in the home.

Information retrieved from Susan Levy, M.D., provided by Chelsea Spear, At-Home Care Company Ankeny.

Q: Should I limit my child’s use of video games?

A: This is a common question I hear from parents, especially if glasses are being prescribed. With Christmas time coming, and video games being a common gift, it becomes even more common. The simple answer is yes. Too much time spent gazing at a screen, be it an iPad, smartphone, computer screen or TV, can cause some visual issues. When a person maintains focus at one point for too long, such as a person who does hours of computer work per day, eye strain, variable blurry vision, and headaches can occur.

Child are not immune to this. Video games capture the user’s attention, and thus as they are drawn into the game they are less likely to look around the room, blink or simply shift their gaze to another distance or location. Thus, the eyes can water, eye strain can develope and varible blurry vision and/or headaches can follow. Not only can those things occur, but there is the lack of physical activity that goes with it. Current national programs, such as the NFL’s PLAY 60, advocate for outside or at least physically active playtime for at least 60 minutes a day. Reducing video game and screen time and increasing outside play time can help reduce visual stress, and promotes overal health and wellness.

That said, there are instances where video games, when used in the right context and duration, can help with vision. Research has shown that people with lazy eye can benefit from specially designed video games to help improve visual acuity and hand-eye coordination. Specially designed computer programs have been utilized in vision therapy and rehabilitation, but for set time periods and activities. So in general, everyone can benefit from less screen time and video games and increased physical activity; children especially, as it can help create healthy habits for the rest of their life.

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

Q: What are some healthy options for using cheese?

A: According to the National Dairy Council, cheese is the second-highest source of dietary calcium for Americans. During the past 40 years, cheese consumption in the U.S. has tripled to about 35 pounds of cheese per capita. Consuming cheese can be a great way to get other important nutrients such as protein and phosphorus. Cheese often gets a bad nutrition rap because of fat content, often as high as 70 percent of calories from total fat.

Cabot Creamery, now celebrating more than 90 years in business in Cabot, Vt., has created delicious lower-fat cheddar cheese varieties that reduce fat without sacrificing flavor and melting properties. Cabot 50 Percent Reduced Fat Cheddar Cheeses can be substituted in many recipes and tastes great as a snacking cheese. One ounce of this lighter cheese has 70 calories and 4.5 grams of fat while providing 20 percent of the day’s calcium needs.

Cabot 50 Percent Reduced Fat Cheddar Cheese can be used in many ways and enjoyed during the holiday entertaining season. Cube it as part of a meat and cheese tray, combined with fresh veggies. Melt it on canapés or on top of appetizer pizzas. Mix it in dips and casseroles. Sprinkle it on soups and salads. Skewer it on appetizer kabobs with fresh vegetables and a lean cooked meat

This information is not intended as medical advice. Please consult a medical professional for individual advice.

Information provided by Jenny Norgaard, RD, LD, registered dietitian, Ankeny Hy-Vee, jnorgaard@hy-vee.com, 515-964-0900.

Q: One of my New Year’s resolutions is to stop smoking. What ‘quit smoking aids’ do you recommend?

A: Congratulations for making the decision to stop smoking. Cigarette smoking increases your risk of developing severe medical conditions including strokes, sudden death, heart attacks, emphysema, asthma, chronic bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung cancer and other cancers.

You reduce your health risks as soon as you stop smoking; in fact, just 20 minutes after quitting your heart rate will start to drop back to a normal range. Twelve hours later, carbon monoxide levels in your blood return to normal. Within weeks, your risk for heart attack can start to lessen and your lung function can begin to improve. After five to 15 smoke-free years, your risk for stroke is reduced to that of a nonsmoker.

There are many “quit smoking aids” available for you to try. Nicotine replacement therapies (gum, lozenges, patches, even teas) can be bought over the counter to help to reduce cravings. If these do not work, talk to your physician about trying prescription medications such as Zyban (bupropion), Chantix, clonidine and nortriptyline.

To help you resist cravings, visit places where you are not allowed to smoke, and keep your hands busy by holding object such as a pencil or paper clip during times you usually have a cigarette. You can also call Quit Line Iowa at 1-800-QUITNOW (1-800-784-8669) whenever you need to talk to someone to get through a craving.

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

Q: What causes a toothache?

A: Toothaches can really affect your life. An ache that starts in the teeth often feels like it radiates through your entire face. Talking, chewing, brushing your teeth seem nearly impossible. Many people pinpoint cavities as being the most obvious cause of a toothache, but there are many other potential reasons that you might feel discomfort in your teeth.

• Sinus infections. That’s right — your toothache might not actually be a toothache. Sinuses and teeth are close neighbors.
• Dental caries. More commonly known as tooth decay. When teeth rot to enough of a degree, pain is likely to follow.
Bruxism. Better known as teeth grinding, this condition generally affects people in their sleep. The motion of teeth rubbing together for hours at a time can wear away tooth enamel and certainly cause toothaches.
• Gum disease. The earliest phase is gingivitis and may only cause puffy gums and some bleeding when you brush your teeth. Full-blown gum disease and periodontitis (severe gum disease) can lead to recession of gingival tissue, periodontal pockets between the jawbone and gums, abscesses and infections in the roots and pulp. These can carry symptoms that could be described as a toothache.
• Dental injury. Certainly accidents can happen no matter what precautions we take. However, people who participate in high-impact sports activities should consider getting fitted with a customized athletic mouthguard.

If you are experiencing a toothache that is severe or just won’t go away, our team at Peddicord Family Dentistry is just a phone call away. You can contact us today at (515) 963-3339.

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

Q: What is the safest way to prepare the holiday turkey?

A: Holiday meals can take a turn for the worse if food safety isn’t a regular ingredient in preparing food. Keep in mind that a whole turkey takes about 24 hours per four to five pounds to thaw in the refrigerator. (For example: a 15-pound frozen bird will take three to four full days to thaw in the refrigerator.) Ideally, purchase your frozen turkey as far in advance as necessary to safely thaw it in the refrigerator. If buying a fresh turkey, purchase it only one to two days before the meal and keep it refrigerated.

• Never defrost turkey on the counter. Turkey can be thawed in the refrigerator or in cold water. The refrigerator method is the safest and will result in the best finished product. Leave the bird in the original packaging, place in a shallow pan and allow refrigerator thawing time at a rate of four to five pounds per 24 hours. To thaw in cold water, keep turkey in the original packaging, place in a clean and sanitized sink or pan and submerge in cold water. Change the cold water every 30 minutes. The turkey will take about 30 minutes per pound to thaw. Cook the turkey immediately after it is thawed. Do not refreeze.

• Take the temperature. Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh, not touching bone. Cook to a minimum internal temperature of 165° F as measured with a food thermometer. Check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast.

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





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