November 2012

For Motivation To Exercise, Get A Dog

I love to walk, but now that the weather is getting cold and wet, I just want to stay inside under a blanket. Fortunately, I have someone who will not let me do that. She is relentless and she pesters me until I get off the couch. Her name is Lucy. She is a German shepherd basset hound mix (I know it sounds impossible and a bit strange but it is true).

Her front legs are shorter than her back legs so she hops. At times walking for her is not easy, but nonetheless she gets me out there every day, twice or three times a day.
How can I beg off the walk when she needs it to keep her joints agile and it is such an obvious struggle for her at times? To top it off with all her doggy disabilities, she is always happy, and she makes me laugh. I have no excuse.

Lucy keeps me in shape. She also helps me to stay calm and control my stress. These benefits are among many reported by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and the NIH (National Institutes for Health). Pets can lower blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels, reduce stress, help maintain social engagement and prevent loneliness.

Not too long ago, there was a national meeting hosted by the NIH where data was presented from large, well-designed studies of people and their pets. One of the studies found that of those people who suffered a heart attack, dog owners were more likely to be alive a year later regardless of the severity of their heart attack compared to those without dogs. Another study looking at married couples found that pet owners had lower heart rates and blood pressures than those without pets even in times of great stress.

Of more than 2000 dog owners, those who regularly walked their dogs were more physically active and less likely to be overweight than those who did not own or walk a dog. Older dog owners had better mobility in as well as outside their homes.

Dogs are great for helping people to be more social. They provide companionship, and people are always stopping dog owners to pet their animals and chat. Those who feel connected and engaged live longer.

If you are having trouble finding reasons to go outside when it is cold, wet or snowy and/or you are feeling a bit lonely and out of sorts then I suggest you go to your local humane society and find your Lucy. There are so many dogs that need a home. They can be a great comfort and motivation to become fit.

And if I haven’t given you enough good reasons to adopt a dog here is one more,

“You can say any fool thing to a dog and the dog will just give you this look that says, ‘My GOSH, you’re RIGHT! I NEVER would’ve thought of that!”
― Dave Barry

A Treatment for PTSD

Trauma is more common than you may think. Sixty percent of men and 50% of women have experienced at least one traumatic event in their lifetime. It can be due to sexual assault, suffering an injury, witnessing violence, and fighting in the military (just to give a few examples). Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) occurs in a certain percentage of those who experience trauma. When it comes to our soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan 11-20% are affected. Thirty percent of Vietnam veterans suffer from PTSD.

I have many patients who have this potentially crippling disorder. Symptoms can include nightmares; insomnia, anxiety and depression, headaches, joint and belly pain just to name a few. Most experience emotional pain and suffering on a daily basis.

Fortunately, I have found a treatment that has worked on ALL of those who are willing to do it. It is called EMDR or eye movement desensitization reprocessing. It is quick, safe and effective. Most of my patients only need a total of four treatments. It is remarkable. What is this treatment? Read on.

In 1987, Dr Francine Shapiro, a psychologist realized that eye movements can diminish the intensity of disturbing thoughts. She found that utilizing this observation she could treat PTSD with a specific protocol involving eye movements and or tapping.

EMDR is able to change the way that we process painful and traumatic memories. Subjects will still remember the events but without the emotional attachment. I have a great therapist to whom I refer the majority of my patients. The way she explains it is as if you are driving a flat bed truck. All your emotional baggage is in the back of that truck. You leave the bed down and start to drive. Watching in the rearview mirror you can see the stuff flying out the back. You just keep on driving and leave it there.

I have seen remarkable changes. I know it sounds like voodoo. But it is a very effective therapy. There have been at least 20 controlled studies done on EMDR. A study done at Kaiser Permanente found that 100% of those suffering a single trauma and 77% with a history of multiple traumas no longer had PTSD. They were treated for only six 50- minute sessions. In another study, 77% of combat veterans no longer suffered from PTSD after 12 sessions.

EMDR is now an established therapy that is done by psychologists, psychiatrists and therapists who have received special training. The biggest challenge I have had is convincing my patients to try it. Once they do it, the results are nothing short of a miracle.

If you or someone you know is suffering with PTSD you might want to look into finding a therapist who does EMDR. There is an EMDR network (http://www.emdrnetwork.org/) that can help you to find a therapist in your area. Your primary care provider may also be able to help your search.

It’s Not Just Men Who Lose Their Hair

A common complaint for many of my female patients is hair loss. Here is a repeat of a blog I posted two years ago that is still relevant.

If you have been experiencing excessive hair loss and you are female, you are not alone. Approximately 37% of women experience hair loss after menopause. The most common cause is female pattern baldness.

What Is It?

Female pattern baldness is hair loss from the top of the head, the hairline and general thinning over the entire head. It is normal to lose about 100 to 125 hairs a day. More than this can result in female pattern baldness.

What causes it?

Of course there is no easy answer. There are many things that contribute to this including genetics, aging, and changing hormone levels. In particular dropping estrogen levels in relationship to testosterone levels can contribute (resulting in a higher ratio of testosterone to estrogen). The myth of women inheriting their baldness from their fathers is just that, a myth! Thank goodness! (My dad started losing his hair in his 30’s!).

Are there treatable causes?

The most common cause of hair loss that I see is thyroid disease. It can happen with hypo or hyperthyroidism. It also can occur with diabetes and autoimmune diseases such as lupus.

Is there a treatment for female pattern baldness?

There is one approved treatment for women and that is minoxidil or Rogaine. It helps hair growth in 20 to 25 % of women. It can stop or slow down hair loss. It only works as long as it is being used. Once stopped, hair loss continues. Hair transplants can be effective for reducing the appearance of hair loss.

Final Words

If you are losing hair, it is important to find out if there is an underlying cause. If it is due to female pattern baldness, you can consider Rogaine. In the future there may be hormone creams for the scalp. They are in the process of being studied.

 

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