Tag Archives: western medicine

Better Than Before: Making the Best of Arthritis

arthritisThe Europeans have it all figured out. At the first sign of any aches they don’t take to bed with a bottle of Aleve. No, they head for the thermae of Italy, the baden of Germany, the baths of England, and station thermales of France The treatments at these detox meccas include water (fresh and sea) and mud therapies that promise freedom from pain — not to mention a cleaner liver. And the concept goes back millennia. After all, Spa is not an acronym for Super Place for Aerobics. Rather, it is named after the town in Belgium favored by Peter the Great. (Yes, that Peter the Great!). They are based, instead, on the restorative and healing powers of thermal and mineral springs and imbibing waters that come directly from those sources.

Alas, we in America may be hard pressed to find these types of cures closer to home as there are only a handful of natural hot springs indigenous to this country. And, truth be told, most people don’t even know they exist. Just ask someone in your office to name a liquid that makes you feel really good. I doubt hot, bubbling water would be the first thing that comes to mind. In fact, make mine a kale and celery smoothie — and a Dirty Margarita for The Lawyer.

Does this mean, though, that we have to suffer such inflammatory ailments as arthritis in silence? After all, about 50 million Americans have been diagnosed with one of the seven common forms of Arthritis. Yes, I am one of them. But limited space will not allow me to regale you with stories about my recent hip replacement! (Call me!) Curative spas aside, it is important, therefore, for patients and care givers to understand the potential impact of the disease and how best to manage it. It can be a critical part of making the decisions to make good on your intent to live a healthier lifestyle that is Better Than Before.

Let’s start with learning a little more about the illness itself. For this I turned to Phyllis Crockett, a specialty-trained pharmacist in the Accredo Rheumatoid Arthritis and Inflammatory Disease TRC.

“Arthritis is a complex family of musculoskeletal disorders consisting of more than 100 different diseases or conditions,” she says. “Although common belief is that arthritis is a condition affecting the elderly, two-thirds of people with arthritis are under the age of 65, including 300,000 children. Also, arthritis affects people of all ethnicities.”

According to Crockett the vast majority of sufferers, about 27 million Americans, have what I have, Osteoarthritis (OA), which is characterized by a breakdown of joint cartridge. A vast majority of OA patients are elderly. (But it could be genetic, and the result of what sets in after you’ve sustained an injury! Hellooo!!)

The rest of arthritis sufferers have the more severe form: Rheumatoid arthritis. “Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is characterized by inflammation of the membranes lining the joint. Although it can strike at any age, women are typically diagnosed between the ages of 30 and 60, while male patients are usually older. There are about 1.5 million affected individuals in the United States. Finally, Juvenile Arthritis (JA) is a term used to describe many autoimmune and inflammatory conditions that can affect children ages 16 and younger.”

The disease takes a heavy toll. “Each year, arthritis accounts for 44 million outpatient visits and over 900,000 hospitalizations. In fact, it’s the leading cause of disability in the United States and is a more frequent cause of activity limitations than heart disease, cancer or diabetes. By some estimates, 67 million Americans will have arthritis by 2030.”

So what do we do?

“Managing the disease so that patients can continue to live normal lives is important,” Crockett continues. “Each patient is different and a physician can help determine the best treatment plan, including pain management and managing the symptoms of arthritis.”

She shared with me some tips that she offers her patients, starting with exercise. “It is a valuable tool in the fight against arthritis. OA and RA patients particularly can benefit from both endurance and resistance training.”

Maintaining a healthy weight and protecting against joint injury can help prevent OA. “Every pound of weight lost reduces the pressure on each knee by 4 pounds. Even a small weight loss can be a big help in fighting it.”

Apart from lifestyle modifications, there are also many drug therapies available for arthritis patients—and doctors and specialist pharmacists can help identify the best one for you.

For patients who already are on medication to treat the condition, adherence – taking medications as prescribed – is critical to healthier outcomes.

“But do not self-medicate!” she cautions: “Combining over-the-counter medications with prescription medications can be risky, and can cause side effects such as an increase in GI irritation or a GI bleed. And don’t adjust doses or making changes to the medication regimen without checking with your health care team.”

“Watch for drug interactions: Some common medications like acetaminophen can have a drug-drug interaction with arthritis medications. Limit intake and remember that acetaminophen is often a component in common sinus, cough/cold and pain medications.”

Opt for an anti-inflammatory regimen like the Mediterranean diet – you know the drill, easy on the acidic foods like sugar, white flours, and alcohol, and sticking with leafy greens, whole grains, and lean proteins. “But some foods and beverages can block the effects of arthritis medications,” Crockett concludes. “These include grapefruit, apple and orange juice as well as milk and yogurt. Wait at least four hours after taking medications. Exact times can vary depending on the disease and the treatment. Check with a trained clinician.”

I can assure you from very painful, personal experience that if arthritis does go too far, surgery may be the only option. So if your intent is to help avoid – or at the very least, prolong – this possible outcome, be aware that lifestyle modification and medication may be the answer.

 

Deepak Chopra: Medicine Keeps Changing But Not Well-Being

One Dollar, Sir!By Deepak Chopra, MD, FACP

Anyone who regularly follows the medical news from the Associated Press or New York Times will get the impression of fickleness. Research studies sometimes advance medical knowledge, but basic findings also seem to contradict one another. Take a recent study that seemed to show that the recommended low-salt diet for preventing high blood pressure and heart disease in fact increased the risk of both conditions (the Centers for Disease Control issued a warning that the study contradicted a large body of accepted research, making it, if not invalid, at least very confusing).

This is just one example of similar debates over basic areas like depression, autism, cholesterol, and cancer where the shifting sands of medical opinion never seem to settle. In addition, the huge profits of drugs aimed to treat these things add a note of suspicion. How do we know that findings aren’t being manipulated by those who have an economic interest in them?

The net result of contradictory research is unfortunate. It gives the average person yet another reason to shrug off prevention. Yet it’s the area of prevention that has remained solid for decades. In fact, more and more disorders have been added to the preventable list – many cancers are now included – and up-to-date genetics indicates that the functioning of genes is strongly affected by positive lifestyle changes.

The bottom line is that our focus can’t be on magic bullets from the drug companies or long-awaited genetic therapies. As the cost of American medicine continues to climb, the biggest push should be to end the era of noncompliance. We know what leads to well-being, but as a society we don’t comply with common sense and best advice. Yet look at how good the news really is if you make an effort to comply:

  • Maintaining your desired weight reduces the deleterious effects of fat on the body, which have been well documented. Being overweight is also associated with chronic inflammation, which increasingly looks like a major culprit in heart disease and cancer.
  • It has long been known that a sedentary lifestyle increases the risk of many lifestyle disorders, but only a small percentage of people regularly exercise. So it’s good news that just moving your body throughout the day, doing as little as walking around every hour, taking the stairs, and stretching, delivers some of the fundamental benefits of exercise. The more you exercise, the greater the benefits, yet the widest health gap is between those who don’t move at all and those who bother to do the minimum.
  • Nutrition has suffered from a lack of substantiated studies and a wealth of fads, received opinions, and myths. One hopeful exception was the recent Spanish study that saw a decrease in heart attacks and strokes among subjects who were put on a Mediterranean diet heavy in fish, olive oil, and nuts while generally avoiding red meat, butter, and cheese. Arguments over the best diet will continue to rage, but no evidence has contradicted a simple guideline: Eating a diet of fresh, whole foods that tends strongly toward vegetarianism while eliminating excessive intake of, fat, red meat, salt, and sugar is strongly indicated. Since fast food and junk foods are generally heavy on the salt, fat, and sugar, weaning yourself off them should have high priority.
  • The benefits of meditation and stress management have been established for a long time. Now the results of these practices are only becoming more valid. The indication is that simple meditation, for example, causes a change in genetic activity from the first session onward, and the connection of stress with chronic inflammation is getting stronger. In other words, meditation and stress management are biologically sound; a far remove from the attitude that stress can be good for you by increasing your competitive edge and that meditation was a cultural curiosity from the East.

In a nutshell, prevention is about the two-edged sword of adaptability. The human body is incredibly adaptable, allowing for lifestyles that contain extremes of diet, exercise, and stress. If you abuse your body’s adaptability, it will do its best to keep you in balance anyway, but there will be a high price to pay over time. Yet if you change the trend toward positive health habits, the same adaptability becomes your greatest ally. The body’s set point is for well-being, and the more you allow it to regain that set point, the faster it will return to it. Noncompliance remains the thorn in the side of the prevention movement. Even so, the astonishing intelligence of the human body can’t be nullified. It waits for each person to act as intelligently as every cell, tissue, and organ already does.

 

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Deepak Chopra: Brotherhood – Dharma, Destiny, and the American Dream

Probably every immigrant has encountered the appeal of the “American Dream.” But many also feel pulled and deeply tied to their cultural roots.

In Brotherhood, a new memoir by brothers Deepak and Sanjiv Chopra, the two reveal the story of their personal struggles and triumphs as doctors, immigrants, and brothers going down two very different paths toward achieving their goals. Both pursued medicine, one from a straight, Western approach, the other from a path informed by ancient practices and his own cultural heritage.

Brotherhood is available now at Amazon and other booksellers. Read Deepak and Sanjiv’s remarkable journey, and tell us your thoughts in the comments section below!

 

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