Low Dose Radiation With Mammograms
Radiation is one of our most useful tools in detecting disease. It is used to diagnose broken bones and pneumonias and also to check for cancers of the breast with mammograms. It is even used in the treatment of many cancers. But radiation is also harmful to cells and must be limited to as low a dose as possible.
Over the years, the amount of radiation used in diagnostic studies has decreased due to improvements in technology and equipment. The dosage of radiation required for most x-ray studies is quite low.
The amount of radiation from a mammogram with the equipment currently used in most hospitals is only 0.05 rads (a measurement of radiation). A routine chest x-ray uses about 0.7 rads, and a CT scan exposes a person to several times that much. A mammogram gives only a fraction of the radiation of other diagnostic tests or even environmental types of radiation, such as radon.
The amount of radiation from a mammogram varies from person to person depending primarily on the person's weight. This low dose of radiation is generally less than the amount of radiation a person is exposed to while being outdoors during the summer or from radon in one's house, although these types of radiation are not exactly the same as that from diagnostic studies and cannot be precisely equated.
While it is always wise to limit radiation, it is uncommon to get excessive exposure from today's diagnostic studies. The amount of radiation from yearly mammograms is well worth the benefits of finding breast cancer at the earliest stage possible when treatment is most effective.
Preventing Breast Cancer
Why does a country like Japan have only a sixth as much breast cancer as the United States? When Japanese women take on the customs and diet of the United States, it only takes 20 years to develop our higher rates for cancer. This indicates that there are factors under our control which can be changed to reduce the risk of cancer.
Diet is a major suspect, and perhaps the easiest factor to alter. High fat diets are known to increase the risk of breast cancer. The total calories may also be a factor, as well as a person's weight. There is now evidence that maintaining a low or normal body weight is important, especially after menopause.
A Norwegian study found women who exercised regularly were less likely to develop breast cancer.
Some feel that the risks of these factors are cumulative. In other words, just as years of sun exposure can cause skin cancer, years of exposure to a high fat diet can contribute to breast cancer.
Hormones are a major factor as well. It is generally helpful to have limited years of exposure to female hormones. Natural factors such as early onset of menses and late menopause add extra years of exposure to estrogens. Taking estrogen replacement during and after menopause may increase your risk.
Hormonal factors that decrease the risk of breast cancer include having a pregnancy before the age of 20 and breastfeeding before the age of 30.
Recently, a couple medicines have been reported to decrease the risk of breast cancer. However, more studies are needed to determine if this will be a valuable form of prevention and if their benefits outweigh their risks.
Many Ways to Protect Your Hearing
Hearing damage from noise is very insidious. The hearing loss takes place so gradually that a great deal of damage can be done before it is noticed and a person begins using protective measures. Protecting your hearing is a life-long process. Damage done in early life stays with you forever!
Any hearing loss is important. Even what is considered a mild hearing loss of 20 decibels makes it much more difficult to understand conversations, especially in a crowd.
Protecting your hearing merely takes a little care and common sense. Here are some ways to help protect your ears.
Several different kinds of ear protectors are available. The simplest ones are small foam plugs that are compressed and inserted into the ear canal where they re-expand to fill the canal. There are several types of these simple plugs. They are inexpensive, easy to use, and disposable. Always keep a supply on hand.
Ear molds are another type of plug that are specially fitted for a person and work well to decrease the intensity of sound. They are most useful for low frequency noise. The molds are made from forms taken of your outer ear and ear canal by an audiologist.
A third kind of protection for the ears is an earmuff. This covers the whole ear and is very protective, especially for high frequency noise. They are most useful around airplane traffic, chainsaws, and other machinery. Ear plugs and earmuffs used together give maximum protection.
Avoid excessive noise whenever possible, but when you can't, be sure to use some form of ear protection.
Heat Exhaustion--Give Fluids
In the hot days of July and August, heat exhaustion becomes an increasing threat to athletes and outdoor workers. Heat exhaustion results from a combination of elevated body temperature and dehydration. The fever is often around 102 degrees and excessive sweating may cause a 5-10 pound weight loss.
The body normally compensates quite well for changes in the weather, but if a person works too hard and for too long in the heat, heat exhaustion can occur. The symptoms include marked weakness, dizziness, excessive sweating and occasionally vomiting.
Several years ago salt pills were recommended, but doctors now know that it is better to drink more fluids instead. Cold water is the best and is absorbed most quickly. Sports beverages generally have little to offer over plain water, and they can slow absorption if they are too concentrated. As for salt, you normally get plenty in your regular meals, but during very hot weather you may want to add a little extra to your food.
Surprisingly, your thirst is not a very good indicator of how much you need to drink. Weighing yourself is a better way to make sure your body has returned to normal after strenuous work or exercise.
If you begin to get symptoms, stop whatever work or sports activity you are doing, get in the shade, and fan off. If possible, drink cool water and sponge off with cool towels to the chest and neck.
Prevention is the best treatment. Always pay attention to the humidity as well as the temperature—the humidity is equally important. A good rule of thumb is to add the two numbers. If the temperature plus the humidity is over 140, be careful of excessive exertion; if it's over 160, be extremely careful.
Decreasing Asthma Triggers
Asthma is still a serious disease. The number of deaths from asthma is only slowly decreasing in spite of better medicines. In fact, the trust people have placed in these effective medicines may be the cause of delays in seeking treatment for some severe attacks.
But preventing attacks is as important as treating them, and often easier. A person can frequently control some of the triggers which cause asthma.
Animal danders are a controllable source of asthma attacks. Cats are the traditional cause, with "cat asthma" being well-known. If a person is allergic to cats, then cats must be kept out of the house. Horses, dogs and birds can also cause problems. And feather pillows should be avoided.
The more common problems occur with dust mites and molds. These are constantly present in homes, although the quantity may vary. Starting the furnace each fall will stir up mites and molds that have accumulated during the summer months. Dust mites and molds can be limited by keeping the house cooler and dryer during the summer months.
Pollen exposure can be limited by using air conditioners and spending less time outdoors, especially on windy and high pollen count days.
Chemical irritants can usually be avoided. These include cigarette smoke, industrial chemicals and even food additives.
Infections are a common trigger of asthma attacks, especially viral infections. While these infections can not always be avoided, some can be prevented by avoiding unnecessary exposure to crowds during flu seasons. Also getting a pneumonia vaccine and a yearly flu shot is very important, especially for anyone over 65.
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