All posts by Courteney

A Guide to Coping With a Newly Diagnosed Chronic Illness (Part 2)

It can be both overwhelming and scary to receive a new diagnosis, especially if it is something that may last a lifetime like lupus or diabetes, but there are many things you can do to make your journey ahead easier. In our last post, we looked a the first few tips for coping with a chronic diagnosis, now for some more helpful hints to set you down a positive path:

Be Fair To Yourself

We can all be a little hard on ourselves sometimes, but there’s a special kind of frustration that comes with a chronic illness when it gets in the way of everyday activities or things you want to do. It can be easy to berate yourself, “Why can’t I just do this? I always could before!”, but that kind of attitude will only lead to more frustration. You have to be kind to yourself and give yourself the allowance you may need to adapt to your shifting capabilities. You can only do what you can do.

Restructure Your Life As Necessary  

That brings us right into our next tip, once you receive your diagnosis a lot of things may become clear, like why you’ve been feeling sick for so long. It may also become apparent that your life now holds new challenges that you need to ready yourself for. If you need to ease the burden in your life to avoid harmful stress, that’s okay. If you can’t go for coffee with your friend, pick up the kids, meet your deadline for work and cook supper when you’re not feeling up to snuff, then simplify. Prioritize the things that need to be done, and let the rest wait for another day.

Seek Support

Reach out to others in a way that works for you. Try a local support group, or an one that is based online. If support groups aren’t for you, turn to family or friends if you need some help navigating your newly modified life trajectory. Reach out for help when you need it, don’t suffer in silence while you try to be an island.

Take Downbeats When You Need Them

If you’re overtired or not well, don’t try to be a hero. For certain chronic illnesses like lupus, if you don’t take breaks and rest days when you need them, you’re asking for a full-on attack of symptoms. If you are fatigued, rebuild your energy with a down day so you’re ready to tackle everything the upcoming day or week has in store for you.

Keep an eye out for more helpful tips for coping with chronic illness in the future! Thanks for visiting DocChat! We hope you’ll check back again soon.

 

A Guide to Coping With a Newly Diagnosed Chronic Illness (Part 1)

It can be daunting to receive a new diagnosis, especially if it is of the chronic variety. If you’ve been diagnosed with a chronic illness, it means you have a disease or condition that lasts for a long time (sometimes the rest of your life). Chronic illnesses are usually incurable, but treatable. Let’s take a look at a few helpful hints for coping with a new chronic diagnosis:

Accept What You Can’t Change

As with any serious bump in the road, the first step to dealing with a tricky diagnosis is to accept it. It can be temping to convince yourself you don’t have congestive heart failure or lupus like the doctors have told you and the tests have shown you, but this will only do you a disservice. If you are to do everything in your power to be as healthy as you can be, you need to face your condition head-on.

Be Your Own Advocate

When you struggle with a serious illness, it can be a long and winding road of emotional doctor’s appointments, tests and re-tests and conflicting opinions. While doctors are invaluable to the process, you shouldn’t just coast on blind faith. The best outcome will be achieved if you work together as a team, with you bringing the knowledge of your situation and symptoms, and the doctor bringing the medical expertise. At the end of the day, you are the one who lives your life and knows your body best and a doctor can’t read your mind. Your health journey should be a team trip, with you in the driver’s seat.

Foster Good Communication With Your Docs  

It pays to be on good terms with your attending physicians and specialists. If you have a chronic condition, chances are you’ll be needing them to take good care of you for the foreseeable future. If you’re a difficult patient, you may want to step back and reflect on how to change that. Even though any good doctor doesn’t let his or her feelings toward a patient color their care, it stands to reason that if you have a good relationship, he or she will be more likely to go the extra mile for you.

Knowledge Is A Friend 

While googling health concerns in excess can sometimes lead to health anxiety, if you have a specifically diagnosed illness, it is a good idea to at least read up on it. By learning more about your condition, you will be more aware of new developments in treatment, tips that can help ease your illness or potential complications to be on the lookout for. Just be careful not to let your research get the best of you, as that can have its own negative consequences.

Do Your Part

Your illness is not a one-way street where your doctor has to do all the work to better your quality of life, you have an active role to play in this movie too. It is important to do your homework and make the positive lifestyle changes you need to make to ensure a healthier future. If you have extra weight to lose, get it off. If you need to exercise more, get on it. If you should start eating better or following a certain nutritional plan, start today. You can’t expect to gain control of your health if you don’t do your part to get there.

There you have the first few of our chronic illness coping tips, check out Part 2 next! Thanks for visiting DocChat!

 

8 Reasons Some People Bruise More Easily Than Others

There are many potential causes of easy bruising, some of which can be serious, but most are not a threat to your health. Let’s take a look at some of the potential reasons that people to bruise more easily:

  1. Advanced age – Aging causes your skin to produce less collagen. This leads to skin thinning and the protective fatty layer of your skin starts to slowly to break down.
  2. Your genetics – you may be predisposed to weaker, more easily damaged skin if a close relative also bruises easy.
  3. Nutritional deficiencies –Vitamin C deficiency can especially cause easy bruising because one of its main duties in the body is repairing damage and helping heal contusions. Other deficiencies that may contribute to delicate skin include: low iron, vitamin K or bioflavonoids.
  4. Too much sun – While some sun is essential for healthy vitamin D levels, too much can lead to less resilient skin which blemishes and bruises much easier than stronger, healthy skin.
  5. Medications – Certain medications can lead to easily bruised or blemished skin as well, such as blood thinners, NSAIDs (which also thin the blood), cancer treatments and long term use of corticosteroids (they can lead to skin thinning).
  6. Alcohol – speaking of blood thinners, alcohol also has this effect on the body because it causes vasodilation (widening of the blood vessels). This can cause blood vessels under the skin to break.
  7. Obesity – people who have high body fat percentages are at greater risk for easy bruising, partially because the skin is stretched thinner in some areas and this causes tiny blood vessels to stretch or break.
  8. Certain health conditions – those who suffer from certain diseases or conditions may bruise easier and worse than others, or heal much slower. Some of those conditions include:
  • Purpuric dermatosis
  • Diabetes
  • Cushing’s Syndrome
  • Autoimmune conditions (such as lupus)
  • Haemophilia (and other blood-related conditions)
  • Some types of cancer such as leukemia (don’t panic – this is a very rare cause of easy bruising)

These are a few of the many reasons a person may experience easy bruising or slow healing. Thanks for visiting DocChat!

 

 

(QUIZ) Would You Recognize a Medical Emergency?

In a potential emergency situation, it can be difficult to make the call. You may wonder if you are overreacting by calling for help, or underreacting if you don’t. It is important to practice clear thinking and utilize common sense in a troublesome situation. Let’s take a look at some true or false statements about first aid below to see how you might do in an emergency today:

True or false:

  1. Medical emergencies are purely physical, such as an injury, and are almost always obvious to the naked eye.
  2. Fainting is considered to be a medical emergency.
  3. Suspected bones are painful, but do not constitute a medical emergency. You should just check in with your doctor as soon as you can get in to see him or her.
  4. If someone has an injury that leaves them severely mobility impaired (like an acute neck or back injury), you should move them to a comfortable location such as a stiff bed until help arrives.
  5. CPR stands for central practical recovery, and should be performed whether or not you’ve had training.
  6. If your child is exhibiting any odd signs such as clamminess, in combination with an unexplained change in demeanor, you should seek emergency medical treatment.
  7. While vomiting can potentially be an emergency, diarrhea is not a medical emergency. Just be sure to stay hydrated.
  8. An ‘emergency’ boils down to a subjective judgement call. If in doubt, always go to the ER.

 

 

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Answers

  1. FALSE. Suicidal thoughts or feelings are also a medical emergency. Changes in mental state such as unexplained confusion could also possibly indicate a medical emergency.
  2. TRUE. You don’t know why the person momentarily lost consciousness, therefor, it should be treated as an emergency so the attending medical team can determine if it is a crisis or if the person is okay.
  3. FALSE. Broken bones (or suspected broken bones) should be treated as an emergency and attended to as soon as possible.
  4. FALSE. If a person has serious mobility-impairing injuries you should not try to move them as that could cause much worse damage. You should try to make them comfortable where they are until help arrives.
  5. FALSE. CPR stands for cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and generally should be performed by a person who knows the proper technique, as it can cause damage in some situations. However, if the person is not breathing you will have to try it regardless of whether or not you’ve been trained. See the proper technique for reference here.
  6. TRUE. A baby or small child cannot tell you what is wrong, and it is so easy for a child to get their hands on a poisonous substance around the house when your back is turned. If your child is violently ill all of a sudden, shaking, clammy or experiencing any other out-of-character signs, you should seek immediate treatment.
  7. FALSE. Severe or prolonged diarrhea or vomiting, especially that which contains blood, should be treated as a medical emergency as it could indicate any number of serious underlying conditions.
  8. TRUE. It can be very hard to tell if something is critical or just appears serious momentarily, but if you’re ever unsure, it is best to check it out before things make a turn for the worst.

Thanks for visiting DocChat! Aim to get your First Aid training soon so you will be ready to save a life if need be!

 

 

The Dangers of a Fatty Liver

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and alcoholic fatty liver disease are two subtypes of a dangerous condition whereby a person’s liver is comprised of over 5-10% fat. While fatty liver disease is generally a reversible condition, if it is left unchecked, it can be fatal in its later stages.

What Are the Symptoms of Fatty Liver Disease?

Fatty liver disease can be asymptomatic initially, or it may cause such symptoms as: fatigue, weight loss or loss of appetite, nausea, weakness, confusion or poor concentration. It may also cause an enlarged liver. Eventually, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease can lead to cirrhosis (irreversible scarring) of the liver, which is a life-threatening condition. Symptoms of cirrhosis of the liver include:

  • Abdominal swelling
  • Gynecomastia
  • An enlarged spleen
  • Enlarged blood vessels under the skin
  • Jaundice (yellowed skin)
  • Reddened palms

Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

Alcoholic fatty liver disease is caused by exactly what its title suggests: consuming too much alcohol. It could be the result of long term alcoholism, or it could even be caused by one or two large-scale drinking binges. Some people have a genetic predisposition that may prevent their body from efficiently breaking down alcohol, making them more likely to develop alcoholic fatty liver disease. Luckily, many cases of alcoholic fatty liver disease are reversible if the person abstains from drinking more alcohol, but if it is left untreated and the person continues to drink, they are risking deadly liver complications.

Causes of Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

While every case is different and the exact causes aren’t always pinpointed, some causes may include:

  • Being overweight or obese
  • Losing a large amount of weight too quickly
  • Certain medications
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Certain viruses
  • High triglyceride level in the blood or high cholesterol
  • A chronically poor, or high fat diet may contribute
  • Hyperglycemia (high blood sugar)
  • Insulin resistance (type 2 diabetes is highly associated with fatty liver disease)
  • Those with diabetes, thyroid problems, polycystic ovarian syndrome or sleep apnea are at higher risk of developing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease than others.
  • Rarely, pregnancy can cause fat to build up in the liver

Diagnosis and Treatment

Fatty liver disease is typically diagnosed when routine blood test screening of the liver (such as the ALT or GTT test) shows abnormal readings. It can also be diagnosed if the liver feels enlarged during a physical examination or ultrasound test. The doctor will likely order further tests to confirm his or her suspicion of a fatty liver. Treatment for fatty liver disease usually focuses more on lifestyle modification and treating comorbid conditions such as hyperglycemia or high cholesterol. If the person has alcoholic fatty liver disease the primary objective is break the dependency and have the patient quit drinking completely. If the patient is overweight, a healthier diet would be implemented and weight loss of 5-10% of the person’s overall body weight would be recommended.

That concludes our look at fatty liver disease, thank-you for visiting DocChat!

Multiple Sclerosis Fast Facts

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic, progressive disease of the nervous system that can cause severe, and sometimes debilitating, symptoms. Let’s take a look at some of the key facts to help gain a better understanding of this mysterious and devastating disease:

  • MS causes damage to the protective myelin sheaths surrounding the nerve cells of the brain and spinal cord. This causes interruptions in the nerve signals.
  • MS is classified as an autoimmune disease, because it is understood that the body’s own immune system mistakenly attacks the myelin.
  • MS is relatively rare, afflicting an estimated 400,000 people in the United States and 2.5 million people worldwide.
  • People with other autoimmune conditions like type 1 diabetes or inflammatory bowel disease are more likely to develop MS.
  • Like many autoimmune diseases, MS is much more prevalent in women than men.
  • It is suspected that MS is caused or triggered by a combination of genetic and environmental factors such as certain viral infections or vitamin deficiencies.
  • MS usually follows a course that includes multiple flares followed by periods of better health (known as remissions).
  • There are different types of MS, but the most common type is relapsing-remitting, where symptoms sometimes recede with the help of certain medication.
  • Contrary to decades ago, there are many viable treatment options available today for MS including corticosteroid treatment and DMARD (disease modifying antirheumatic drug) options that can really help alter the trajectory of the disease.
  • MS can have widely varying symptoms ranging from mild to disabling. Some of the main symptoms include: fatigue, confusion or fogginess, depression, speech difficulty, dizziness, vision problems, numbness of the extremities, bowel or bladder dysfunction, inflammation, facial numbness and tingling, muscle spasms and pain.
  • When diagnoses is made and treatment starts early in the disease, there will more likely be a better outcome.
  • Even though some MS sufferers are wheelchair-bound, the majority of MS sufferers will not be significantly disabled.
  • MS appears to be most prevalent in more polar areas of the world (further north or south of the equator).
  • The diagnostic process of MS can be long and convoluted. It may involve years of testing and multiple different specialists. Some people get a quick, straightforward diagnosis but for many it can be a long, hard road.
  • MS is usually diagnosed in middle-adulthood but can occur or be discovered at any age.
  • MS is not a terminal condition, but it can cause many complications. People with MS live an average of 6-7 years less than the general population.
  • MS does not usually interfere with pregnancy, and pregnancy doesn’t usually impact the course of the disease either way.
  • There is currently no cure for MS, but medical researchers are still at work to find one.
  • As with many autoimmune diseases, a person can be suffering with a difficult case of MS but it may not be apparent to the average onlooker. So, always be kind, you never know what someone is going through!

Thanks for visiting DocChat!

 

How Smoking Can Mess With Your Entire Body


Smoking causes nearly half a million deaths in the United States annually. And while most people know that smoking is a leading health hazard, many don’t realize just how many different ways it can adversely affect your health. Let’s take a look at how smoking affects the different systems in your body:

Your Head and Face:

  • Smoking increases your risk of developing oral Cancer. Chewing tobacco further increases this risk.
  • Smoking can lead to tooth loss and gum disease (periodontitis).
  • Increased stroke risk: Smoking can lead to a buildup of plaque in the blood vessels, as well as greatly increase risk of blood clots. Both of these factors combined puts smokers in greater danger of having a stroke.
  • Smoking increases your risk of developing cataracts or blindness due to macular degeneration.

Your Lungs:

  • Lung cancer – According to the CDC, smoking causes over 90% of lung cancer deaths. Moreover, even more women are killed by lung cancer than breast cancer.
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a group of life-threatening lung conditions primarily caused by smoking. 80% of COPD deaths are a result of smoking.
  • Smoking increases your risk of developing pneumonia when you catch a viral or bacterial lung infection because your lungs are already compromised by smoke toxins.
  • Smoking can cause general damage to your airways and alveoli because of the influx of harmful chemicals directly to the lungs.

Your Heart:

  • Heart Disease. Smokers have a 2-4 times higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease than non-smokers.
  • Smoking puts you at an increased risk of developing an aneurysm or aortic rupture.
  • Smoking can contribute to blockages that can restrict blood flow to the extremities.
  • Smoking spikes adrenaline levels in your blood steam which can cause tachycardia, making your heart work harder than it has to.

Your Stomach:

  • Smoking can lead to different types of cancer of the digestive tract such as colorectal, esophageal or larynx cancers.
  • Smoking can worsen pre-existing gastrointestinal conditions such as GERD.
  • Smoking increases your risk of developing intestinal complications such as gallstones, ulcers or polyps.

Your Reproductive Organs:

  • Smoking can reduced fertility in both males and females.
  • It can also lead to impotence in men.
  • An Ectopic pregnancy can occur in women who were smokers around the time of getting pregnant or continue to smoke throughout the pregnancy.
  • Smoking can lead to a miscarriage or increased risk of SIDS death in babies exposed to smoke in the womb or to second hand smoke after birth.

Your Circulatory System:

  • Smoking can lead to thickened blood vessels, causing them to narrow so blood can’t flow efficiently. This can lead to hypertension or blood clots.
  • Smoking damages blood cells.

Your Immune System:

  • Smoking can cause decreased immune function and general inflammation in the body.
  • Smoking increases your risk of developing certain autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.
  • You are more likely to develop Crohn’s disease if you are a smoker.

Your Pancreas:

  • Smoking is a lead contributor to type 2 diabetes and diabetes mellitus because it increases blood sugar levels, leading to insulin resistance.
  • Pancreatic cancer is more likely to develop in those who smoke.

Your Bones and Joints:

  • Smoking lowers estrogen levels in the body which can lead to early osteoporosis.
  • Smoking can weaken your bones in general, which can contribute to easy fractures.

These aren’t even all the problems smoking can cause. Second hand, or passive smoking, can cause many of these health problems as well. It is particularly dangerous to children and can lead to stunted growth, lung conditions and many more issues. So, do your health (and the health of those around you) a favor and quit smoking today!

Thanks for visiting DocChat!

 

 

5 Reasons to Consider Nighttime Workouts

There is nothing wrong with a hearty a.m. workout routine if you’re a born morning person, but what about those of us who’d rather fall in a nice, deep hole than get up extra early for a pre-workday run? If you aren’t a morning person, fear no more. The theory that it is better to workout in the morning has recently been debunked, apparently both morning and nighttime workouts have their respective benefits. Let’s take a look at some of the pros to sweating it with the moon instead of the sun:

  1. Your metabolism is better prepared for the ridestudies have found increased endocrine levels and lower blood glucose levels in subjects who exercised later in the day than in the morning, meaning their metabolisms were working more in their favor for the workout. This can make a difference in the long run for those on a weight loss journey.
  2. It makes for a good de-stress after a long day – Wouldn’t it be great to have a productive outlet for the stresses that build up during a day at the office? Well, look no further than a nightly exercise routine to help you shake off the tension of the day while also working on enhancing your bod. So, hit the treadmill, gym or dance studio for an evening fitness session and just watch as your stress rolls off your back (along with the sweat).
  3. You may be more alert and ready to rumble – as you go about the day, you’re gaining nutrients from your meals and most likely picking up more steam than you had in the morning. Because of this, you may be more ready to really hit that workout harder.
  4. It may help you catch some zzz’s – Recent studies refute the theory that nighttime workouts may hinder sleep (unless you’re an insomniac). It appears that generally, working out a couple hours before bed won’t make a difference to your sleep. Doing activities like yoga may actually help induce a deeper, more satisfying sleep.
  5. You’ll have more sleep time in the morning – Few can argue that a major pro to getting your workout done in the evening is that you’re saving yourself precious morning moments for more sleep. If you’re someone who dreads having too many items on your a.m. to-do list, why not cross off working out by saving it for later?

Regular exercise is an essential component of a healthy overall lifestyle and lower disease risks. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter when you workout as long as you do. Adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-to-intense physical activity a week. Thanks for visiting DocChat!

 

 

Go Green or Go Home – 10 Benefits of Dark Green Veggies

Dark and leafy green veggies are some of the healthiest fuel you can put into your body. They contain a myriad of healthful goodies and help the body in countless ways. Let’s take a look at some of the many, many health benefits of stockpiling your green veggies:

  1. They help prevent glaucoma – A long-term study that was recently published in JAMA Ophthalmology has discovered a link between eating moderate to larger amounts of leafy greens and a 20-30% lower risk of developing glaucoma.
  2. They contribute to healthier blood – Leafy greens are a major source or vitamin K, which is responsible for helping blood clot correctly.
  3. Greens strengthen bones – Dark green veggies can really help the bones as well. Both calcium and vitamin K help prevent age-related problems such as osteoporosis. Many green veggies are rich in both calcium and vitamin K.
  4. They help your heart – More specifically, steamed kale can help nix bad cholesterol by emitting substances that bind bile acids, effectively decreasing the level of cholesterol in the body which will be good for your heart in the long run.
  5. Help reduce inflammation – Many dark greens have natural anti-inflammatory properties to help with chronic inflammation some diseases can cause, or counteract inflammation caused by other foods.
  6. Help fight cancer – as with many fruits and vegetables, green veggies contain a plethora of antioxidants (helpful substances that protect the body against oxidative stress and diseases). In particular, dark green veggies contain lutein, a carotenoid that has been proven to help fight color cancer.
  7. Add nutritional goodies – Dark green veggies contain countless nutritional goodies including: vitamins B, K, C and D, fiber, folic acid, magnesium, potassium, helpful phytochemicals and beta-carotene.
  8. Add essential fiber to your life – Dark green veggies are a rich source of dietary fiber, which is essential for healthy digestion. Getting enough fiber can also aid in weight loss and maintenance.
  9. Fight obesity – Green veggies are low in calories and fat. By adding more veggies and less saturated fats or animal fats to your plate, you’ll be helping your waistline as well as the rest of your body.
  10. Protect your gut from the bad guysImmunology research has identified a gene, T-bet, that produce beneficial immune cells in the gut and help lower bad bacteria. It is activated by certain types of food (most namely, green veggies).

So, give the body what it needs – fill your grocery cart with green veggies! Thanks for visiting DocChat.

Boost Your Brain With These 7 Foods

Dementia is a prevalent, devastating condition that has been on the rise in recent years. Approximately 5.5 million Americans live with Alzheimer’s alone, and over 47.5 million people suffer with dementia worldwide. What’s more, is that people are getting dementia earlier than ever before, even affecting people in their 40’s. So, what can you do to help protect your brain against this destructive disease? Aside from exercising regularly and avoiding smoking, you can help give your brain power by making the right food choices. In our last post, we checked out some of the worst foods for your brain, now let’s take a look at some of the best:

  1. Leafy green veggies are known for all kinds of health wonders, one of which is protecting the brain and promoting cognitive function as the brain ages. Lutein, a natural dark green pigment is one of the key veggie components responsible for boosting brain health.
  2. Red wine – While we know that drinking too much alcohol can lead to a myriad of diseases, according to the Memory Foundation, drinking small to moderate amounts of alcohol (specifically red wine) may reduce the risk of developing dementia by nearly 40%. Red wine is rich in antioxidants, specifically resveratrol, which is responsible for maintaining and protecting the health of your hippocampus, as well as helping to prevent blood vessel damage.
  3. Whole grains – help release a steady stream glucose (your body’s energy source) into the bloodstream and directly to the brain, which can help keep you alert and stave off mental fogginess for the long run.
  4. Fish, nuts and seeds are all rich in essential omega-3 fatty acids, namely DHA and EPA. Low levels of both of these forms of fatty acids have been linked to Alzheimer’s, as well as other conditions such as certain types of heart disease. So aim to get a couple servings of fish weekly, and plenty of nuts and seeds for snacks in between.
  5. Berries and certain fruits contain anthocyanins, the natural pigment of purple, dark red and dark blue fruits and veggies. Anthocyanins also happen to be powerful and protective antioxidant compounds that linked with brain (and body) health. They work to combat oxidative stress, in turn protecting the brain against degenerative disease.
  6. Coffee – While you may have heard some conflicting health-based arguments about coffee over the years, it certainly has its pros when it comes to health. Coffee is rich in helpful antioxidants that help protect the brain. Another pro to coffee is that caffeine plays with your neurotransmitters in an oddly beneficial way. It works to suppress adenosine in the brain, which leaves you more energetic and less lethargic, while simultaneously triggering the release of serotonin to boost your mood. Studies have shown that coffee can help promote better brain functioning.
  7. Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)– While margarine isn’t so hot for the brain, polyunsaturated fatty oils like EVOO are just what the doctor ordered for brain health. Olive oil also contains natural anti-inflammatory properties that help combat disease.

There you have it! Some of the best and worst foods for your brain. So, what are you waiting for? Hit the grocery store! Thanks for visiting DocChat!