7 health habits that will make your life more satisfying

Sometimes what we need to simplify is our life, our daily habits. Do you ever feel you’ve been busy all day, and didn’t accomplish anything you really wanted to do? Maybe decluttering, simplifying, and changing our priorities will create a more satisfying -and healthier- life

Do you ever feel you have too much stuff ? Do you spend more time than you want dealing with clutter? Do you organize only to find you still don’t have enough room for your belongings?

If so, maybe you need to discard stuff, not organize it better. This process goes by different names- decluttering, simplifying, minimalism- with a goal of less stress, more peace, and more time to enjoy activities that truly give us pleasure and satisfaction.

Sometimes what we need to simplify is our life, our daily habits. Do you ever feel you’ve been busy all day, and didn’t accomplish anything you really wanted to do? Maybe decluttering, simplifying, and changing our priorities will create a more satisfying -and healthier- life.

Here are some habits that we often neglect and fail to prioritize, but medical science now recognize as vital to optimal health and well being. I’ve illustrated each with a link to an affiliate service or product that you might find helpful (and through which you can help support this blog), but feel free to develop your own ideas on how you can make these a consisent part of your life.

sleep

SLEEP– Too many of us treat sleep like a luxury or a waste of time rather than as the necessity that it is. Some of us need more quality sleep; many people are chronically tired due to undiagnosed sleep disorders  such as obstructive sleep apnea which aren’t recognized without medical evaluation.

Natural Bedding

eating

FOOD– We need  to eat more nutritious food- a whole food, plant based diet with fresh vegetables and fruits, beans, legumes, whole grains, lean meats, dairy- anything that isn’t processed or full of unnecessary sugar or excessive fat.

250x250 Free Shipping on Orders $99+

connection

CONNECTION– We need to spend more time with our family and friends, keeping in touch physically and emotionally. Parents and children connect when they read together. Family vacations create connection through shared activities and memories.

Free Baby Board Books!

giving

GIVING– We need to cultivate generosity and give more, whether it’s of our money, time, talent or possessions. Every community offers ample opportunities to volunteer and serve others.

physical activity

PHYSICAL ACTIVITY– We need to move more often , including sports, exercise, chores, walking, even just standing up more than we sit. Here are guidelines recommended by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

mental activity

MENTAL ACTIVITY– We can read, learn new skills or improve established ones,  start or resume a hobby like photography, learn another language, maybe start a blog.

Digital Photography School Resources

conversation

CONVERSATION– We need communication with other people often and authentically. Social media, phone calls, text and email messages substitute when necessary, but they shouldn’t replace face to face time with others. Book clubs, hobby groups, classes, church groups provide safe places to share ideas and learn from others.

2 women talking over coffee with open bibles
Conversation over coffee can be therapeutic. graphic from the Lightstock collection of stock photos, graphics, and other media, an affiliate link

I am indebted to another physician blogger Vania Manipod, D.O. a psychiatrist who believes “it’s stylish to talk about mental health.” A post she wrote in 2015 addressed these ideas and prompted me to explore them in a previous post here.

Please take time to read Dr. Manipod’s post and others on her blog-

“New Year’s Resolution Ideas to Enhance Your Mental Health”

exploring the HEART of healthy habits

I appreciate all of you who follow this blog; there are numerous other blogs to choose from so I am honored you chose to spend some time here. A special welcome to all my new followers from this past month.

To start following Watercress Words , use this form to get an email notification of new posts . Please find and follow me on Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn. Thanks so much.

 

                              Dr. Aletha 

This website is owned and operated by Aletha Oglesby, an Arbonne Independent Consultant, and is not endorsed by Arbonne. Any opinions expressed on this website are made by and the responsibility of the Independent Consultant and should not be construed as a representation of the opinions of Arbonne.
Arbonne makes no promises or guarantees that any Independent Consultant will be financially successful, as each Independent Consultant’s results are dependent on their own skill and effort.
You should not rely on the results of other Arbonne Independent Consultants as an indication of what you should expect to earn. The annual typical earning statement is contained in the Arbonne Independent Consultant Compensation Summary (ICCS) available iccs.arbonne.com.

Expert advice to sleep well every night

Most of us have trouble sleeping occasionally, but if you persistently have difficulty with sleep, you may have a medical condition associated with sleep disturbances such as sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, depression, or PTSD.

If you live somewhere that observes Daylight Savings Time, you get an “extra” hour of sleep the first Sunday in November when you revert to standard time; unfortunately you lose that hour in the spring when DST starts.

But just like the jet lag from travel, these time changes can interrupt our sleep schedule for a few days. And if you already have trouble sleeping, it’s even more of a problem.

Here’s a review of what sleep professionals recommend to help. But for persistent or severe problems, see your own doctor to get started.

 

person sleeping on a couch
Sometimes getting a good night’s sleep can be a challenge.

 

(Affiliate links are used in this post.It costs nothing extra to shop through these links and this blog may earn a small commission, which funds its existence. )

What is Chronic Insomnia ?

Most of us have trouble sleeping occasionally, but if you persistently have difficulty with sleep, you may have a medical condition associated with sleep disturbances. These include

  • sleep apnea
  • restless legs syndrome
  • depression and/or anxiety
  • post-traumatic stress disorder

Some people have true chronic insomnia, meaning persistent sleep difficulty alone. There are various criteria to diagnose chronic insomnia but in general include

  • difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • at least 3 nights per week for at least 1-3 months
  • with impairment of daytime function, such as fatigue/sleepiness, poor concentration, irritability, school or work dysfunction
EXPERT ADVICE TO SLEEP WELL EVERY NIGHT

How is chronic insomnia managed ? 

First step in treatment of chronic insomnia as well as occasional difficulty sleeping  is identifying and treating any underlying medical issues that might contribute to poor sleep. In addition to the ones mentioned above these include

  • pain, of all kinds
  • heartburn (gastroesophageal reflux)
  • congestive heart failure
  • lung diseases like asthma  causes nighttime breathing difficulty
  • menopausal night sweats

Sleep specialists recommend non-drug management of chronic insomnia and reserve sleep medications for more resistant cases. 

Sleep meds were one of the 7 drugs that are overused in my previous post.

a bed with ornate headboard
photo by Dr. Aletha- at the Hemingway house, Key West, Florida

(Read more about Ernest Hemingway’s preserved Florida home at this previous post)

Hemingway’s study- chaos and creativity

 

 

 

Sleep hygiene management

Experts recommend sleep hygiene , basically lifestyle changes, as the initial treatment. Some people have developed bad habits in regards to sleep that need to be unlearned and new behaviors put in place.

For optimal sleep you should

  • Engage in regular exercise- moderate intensity , tai chi , yoga and low-impact aerobic exercise
  • Avoid evening large meals
  • Limit caffeine, tobacco and alcohol
  • Use the bedroom only to sleep and for sex
  • Maintain a regular bedtime-awake schedule
  • Avoid daytime naps
  • Avoid distracting stimuli at bedtime-watching television, using electronic devices, talking on the phone
  • Stay in bed only while sleep

How to dim the lights

The light from electronic devices- clocks, thermostats, televisions, monitors-can disturb your sleep even after you turn off  your phone and tablets. This light can be blocked by stick on light blocking covers than can block out the majority of it.

Light from my clock made it hard for me to fall asleep before I discovered these products. With them I fall asleep easier, and can fall back asleep if I wake up.

Maintaining a regular schedule helps to set or reset your  sleep/wake cycle. So go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning.

However, if you can’t  sleep, rather than lie in bed awake, you should get up, do a non-stimulating activity, then return to bed when sleepy.

woman typing on a laptop keyboard.
Using a computer, laptop, or tablet before going to bed can impair sleep.

If you have persistent sleep loss, consider more intensive therapy by a professional.

Cognitive behavior therapy for insomnia , CBT-I , significantly improves chronic insomnia and daytime functioning and is recommended as first line therapy.

CBT-I combines cognitive therapy with sleep restriction, relaxation training and stimulus control.

Treatment typically requires 5-8 sessions conducted by a health professional trained in its use. Patients need to participate by keeping a sleep diary and writing down daily thoughts in a journal, while continuing with the sleep hygiene practices mentioned above.

person writing in a spiral notebook
Writing thoughts in a journal is often encouraged in cognitive behavioral therapy. (photo from the Lightstock.com collection)

Insomnia sufferers can also get help from an online web-based CBT-I, Sleep Healthy Using the Internet , SHUTi.

One study found 70% of those participating improved their sleep, compared with 43% who received education only.  If you  can’t find a trained therapist or don’t have time for office based therapy, this may be a good option.

 

 

 

SleepPhone by Acoustic Sheep

A physician, Dr. Wei-Shin Lai had trouble falling asleep after being awakened at night by calls from the ER. Her husband suggested listening to relaxing music to help her fall asleep.

She designed a comfortable headphone for her own use, and eventually started a company to make and sell them . You can try her SleepPhone  made by her company AcousticSheep.

Manage stress, learn to relax

If you have  occasional trouble sleeping due to stress,  relaxation techniques can help you.  Techniques include  meditation, yoga, imagery, abdominal breathing and muscle relaxation techniques . These can reduce tension and anxious thoughts that inhibit sleep onset and maintenance.

You may find these ideas from a previous post helpful .

5 steps to manage stress and strain

man with hands folded over a book

 

 

Expert advice from physicians

Think alcohol will help you sleep better ? Read this advice from a psychiatrist, Dr. Melissa Welby.

The truth about alcohol and sleep

Curious about sleep apnea? Dr. Deborah Burton offers this review of another common sleep problem.

EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT DIFFERENT SLEEP APNEA TYPES

exploring the HEART of healthy sleep

I appreciate all of you who follow this blog; there are numerous other blogs to choose from so I am honored you chose to spend some time here. A special welcome to all my new followers from this past month.

To start following Watercress Words , use this form to get an email notification of new posts . Please find and follow me on Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn. Thanks so much.

My goal is to bring health and wholeness to everyone who seeks it and hope you will join me.  Please visit my resources page.

Dr. Aletha 
26952564_10213093560871954_4239554644472378905_o

This post was featured at Thursday Favorite Things Link Up

5 spring health risks you need to prepare for now

Spring forward with some health tips for outdoor activity #daylightsavings#spring#allery#sunscreen

Remember it’s Spring forward to Daylight Savings Time

Most of the United States will change to Daylight Savings Time on Sunday March 11, 2018.

So you will either be going to bed an hour later than usual, or awakening an hour earlier.

Either way, your body will tell the difference until your sleep cycle adjusts; I know mine always does.  WebMD offers these tips to make the change easier.

If getting a good night’s sleep is a persistent problem for you, check out the information I shared in this post.

Expert advice to sleep well every night

We welcome the  first day of Spring, March 20,  in the northern hemisphere, with the occurrence of the vernal equinox.

This link to The Weather Channel explains what the vernal equinox means.

graphic of the earth explaining equinox and solstice
original source not known

With more hours of sunlight and warmer weather you may spend more time outdoors.While that may mean greater fitness from the physical activity, you will be at risk of several outdoor injuries. Be proactive and prevent warm weather ailments with these tips.

Protect yourself against mosquitoes and other insects.

5 insect repellents to keep you safe this summer

Protect your skin with  sunscreen while you’re outside.

(These are affiliate links placed here for your convenience. This blog can earn a commission from sales from these links. This does not imply endorsement of these products.)

Protecting your feet.

Whether walking, jogging,  gardening, or sports, our feet can take a beating from outdoor activity.

You probably don’t worry much about blisters- until you get one. Then the pain can inhibit walking, or even  wearing a shoe.

At worst, blisters can become chronic wounds, get infected, and threaten limbs in susceptible persons like those with diabetes or poor blood flow.

 

I wear Skechers shoes for walking.

Ways to prevent blisters include-

  • Proper fitting shoes, not too tight or too loose
  • Breaking shoes in before activity likely to cause a blister, like running, dancing, long walks, sports
  • Wearing absorbent cushioned socks, perhaps 2 pair together
  • Applying protective padding over pressure points on the feet. Even plain paper tape can accomplish this, according to this study published in the New York Times.

What to do about seasonal allergies

Often called “hay fever”, allergic rhinitis doesn’t cause a fever but it can make us miserable with its characteristic symptoms-

  • runny nose, sneezing, congestion

    diagram of the nose and sinuses
    Allergies commonly affect the nose, throat, sinuses, ears, and eyes.
  • scratchy, itchy, or tickly throat
  • cough
  • ear itching and pressure
  • watery, itchy, red eyes

 

 

 

 

Even those  people who have these symptoms year round may have seasonal exacerbations, usually spring and fall.

 

Wearing a filter mask while outdoors may help minimize allergy symptoms.

 

 

 

Here is information about allergy management from the American College of Allergy to discuss with your doctor.

Seasonal Allergies

 5 spring health risks you need to prepare for now- watercresswords.com

 

 

I appreciate your sharing  this post on your social media pages.

And please follow Watercress Words for more information and inspiration to help you explore the HEART of HEALTH.

Thank you for  viewing  the advertisements and using the affiliate links  that fund this blog; with your  help, we can grow, reach more people, and support worthy causes that bring health and wholeness to people around the world.

 

                                                         warmest regards, Dr. Aletha 

stethoscope with a heart
exploring the HEART of health

non-drug ways to get well and stay well

In a previous post I introduced you to Mind Over Meds by Dr. Andrew Weil . I reviewed 7 classes of medications he teaches we should use less often. MIND OVER MEDS- book cover

In another previous post I shared 7 drug classes I consider overused, 4 of which he discusses in his book.

In this follow up post I list alternatives to drug therapy. These are also adjuncts to medication- meaning we recommend using them even if you do need medication.

Dr. Weil mentions these in his book, and I’ve pulled from other sources too.

This is a brief overview of several approaches, not a complete list. If you are interested in knowing more, I suggest exploring the reference links. I invite you to send me a message about a topic you would like me to explore in more depth here.

This post uses affiliate links  that support this blog and non-affiliate links that don’t.

EAT TO TREAT

I, Dr. Weil and most physicians recommend diet changes to treat and prevent many common medical conditions. Almost any health issue can be improved with better food choices.

bottle of olive oil
Olive oil is an important ingredient in the Mediterranean diet .

The Mediterranean diet, emphasizing fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish,  and healthy fats like olive oil, seems to protect against heart disease and increase longevity.

The DASH diet is the first choice to lower blood pressure. DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension and also emphasizes fresh foods and healthy choices.

The American Diabetes Association offers extensive information on eating to control diabetes.

Food choices are also important in treating high cholesterol, GERD, allergy, heart disease, overweight, gout, kidney stones and other kidney disease, and possibly other conditions.

PLANTS THAT TREAT

Herbal medicines are endorsed by Dr. Weil; he points out that early synthetic drugs were derived from plants. Unfortunately most physicians have not had extensive training in their use. They are also not regulated as stringently as prescription drugs so quality may not be uniform.

Herbal medicines are used to treat a wide variety of conditions and symptoms including headaches, gastric distress, hot flushes, depression, insomnia, pain, allergy among others. Scientific confirmation of their effectiveness is lacking for most, but some patients find them helpful and some physicians endorse, or at best tolerate their use.

The unsupervised use of herbs and other dietary supplements can be dangerous, especially if combined with other drugs.

USING OUR MINDS

Mind-body therapies can be helpful in managing painful conditions such as IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), migraine, joint pain, and anxiety/depressive disorders. These include

  • Hyposis
  • Biofeedback
  • Meditation
  • Relaxation techniques

 

 TAKE A DEEP BREATH

Breath work- changing habits of breathing and specific breathing techniques can relieve anxiety, and manage stress. Dr. Weil calls

Breathing: The Master Key to Self Healing and teaches how to do it in this recording. 

GET MOVING

Exercise and other forms of physical activity help manage all kinds of musculoskeletal pain, fibromyalgia, lowers blood pressure, aids weight loss,relieves anxiety and depression.  They may even have a role in preventing or delaying the onset of dementia. This includes

woman standing on a rock in a forest
Walking, especially outdoors, can relieve feelings of stress and tension as well as improve physical fitness.  Photo from Lightstock.com

graphic

Yoga

Tai chai

Aerobics

Strength training

Dance

Sports

Walking

Jogging

Bicycling

 TOUCH

Manual medicine is used to manage back, neck, and other musculoskeletal pain and headaches.

  • Chiropractic manipulation
  • Osteopathic manipulation
  • Acupuncture
  • TNS-transcutaneous nerve stimulation
  • Massage
  • Support with splints, wraps, slings, braces

TRAINING THE MIND

CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) and other forms of psychotherapy should be a part of the treatment of most mental disorders and may be the only treatment needed for mild conditions. The use of therapy animals also fits here.

CHANGING OUR LIVES

Lifestyle evaluation and adjustments can improve any medical condition and is also one of the most important factors in prevention of disease.

 

Hygiene                           

a sink with colorful wall decorations
Who knew handwashing could be entertaining?

Hand washing is the most effective way to prevent many infections, especially those that can be transmitted by food and water. Proper food preparation and storage and kitchen clean up also contribute to safety.

 

 

 

 

Sleep

Habits that create sleep deprivation or poor sleep contribute to depression,musculoskeletal pain, headaches, fatigue, and even make us more prone to infection. Check out this previous post on how to get a good night’s sleep

a bed in a room
One’s sleep environment affects quality of sleep.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chemicals and pollutants

Avoidance of allergens and toxins should be automatic. For allergy, any known allergens -substances that cause allergy symptoms-can often be eliminated from one’s immediate environment, although I have had patients who insisted on keeping pets that they were allergic to. If the allergens cannot be completely eliminated, you can at least minimize exposure.

At this affiliate link you can find products to help eliminate allergens in your home


 

It seems we call everything a “toxin” these days, and detox regimens are popular. (although our bodies naturally detox us every day).

Anything in excess can be harmful. But our overall health as a society would improve immensely if more people would avoid the obvious toxins of tobacco, excess alcohol, and illicit drugs.

sign says NO smoking, wilderness area
When walking, wear proper shoes; and don’t smoke.

Review 7 surprising reasons to be smoke free

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stress management 

Many of the techniques I’ve mentioned help with stress management. In turn, managing the stressful events and situations in our lives can help us feel more rested, less tense, more relaxed, calmer, and able to manage our other medical problems better.

FamilyDoctor.org offers these steps to Managing Daily Stress 

 

 

Dr. Weil recommends these resources about  integrative and complementary medical treatments

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health

The Office of Dietary Supplements 

 

Dr. Weil’s books are also available at


Barnes & Noble – Free Shipping of $25+

 

If you found this post helpful, please share with friends and colleagues. And let me know too. I welcome feedback and use it to plan future posts.

Expert advice to sleep well every night

What medical experts recommend to sleep well without drugs

 

 Almost everyone has trouble sleeping occasionally, but for some it is a frequent or persistent problem. Here is information that may help.

person sleeping on a couch
Sometimes getting a good night’s sleep can be a challenge.

(Affiliate links are used in this post.It costs nothing extra to shop through these links and this blog may earn a small commission, which funds its existence. )

What is Chronic Insomnia ?

Most of us have trouble sleeping occasionally, but if you persistently have difficulty with sleep, you may have a medical condition associated with sleep disturbances. These include

  • sleep apnea
  • restless legs syndrome
  • depression and/or anxiety
  • post-traumatic stress disorder

Some people have true chronic insomnia, meaning persistent sleep difficulty alone. There are various criteria to diagnose chronic insomnia but in general include

  • difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • at least 3 nights per week for at least 1-3 months
  • with impairment of daytime function, such as fatigue/sleepiness, poor concentration, irritability, school or work dysfunction

How is chronic insomnia managed ? 

First step in treatment of chronic insomnia as well as occasional difficulty sleeping  is identifying and treating any underlying medical issues that might contribute to poor sleep. In addition to the ones mentioned above these include

  • pain, of all kinds
  • heartburn (gastroesophageal reflux)
  • congestive heart failure
  • lung diseases like asthma  causes nighttime breathing difficulty
  • menopausal night sweats

Sleep specialists recommend non-drug management of chronic insomnia and reserve sleep medications for more resistant cases. 

Sleep meds were one of the 7 drugs that are overused in my previous post.

a bed with ornate headboard
photo by Dr. Aletha- at the Hemingway house, Key West, Florida

(Read more about Ernest Hemingway’s preserved Florida home at this previous post)

Hemingway’s study- chaos and creativity

Sleep hygiene management

Experts recommend sleep hygiene , basically lifestyle changes, as the initial treatment.

For optimal sleep you should

  • Engage in regular exercise- moderate intensity , tai chi , yoga and low-impact aerobic exercise
  • Avoid evening large meals
  • Limit caffeine, tobacco and alcohol
  • Use the bedroom only to sleep and for sex
  • Maintain a regular bedtime-awake schedule
  • Avoid daytime naps
  • Avoid distracting stimuli at bedtime-watching television, using electronic devices, talking on the phone
  • Stay in bed only while sleep

 

 

How to dim the lights

The light from electronic devices- clocks, thermostats, televisions, monitors-can disturb your sleep even after you turn off  your phone and tablets. This light can be blocked by stick on light blocking covers than can block out the majority of it.

affiliate link

Light from my clock made it hard for me to fall asleep before I discovered these products. With them I fall asleep easier, and can fall back asleep if I wake up.

 

 

 

Maintaining a regular schedule helps to set or reset your  sleep/wake cycle. So go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning.

However, if you can’t  sleep, rather than lie in bed awake, you should get up, do a non-stimulating activity, then return to bed when sleepy.

woman typing on a laptop keyboard.
Using a computer, laptop, or tablet before going to bed can impair sleep.

 

 

 

If you have persistent sleep loss, consider more intensive therapy by a professional.

Cognitive behavior therapy for insomnia , CBT-I , significantly improves chronic insomnia and daytime functioning and is recommended as first line therapy.

CBT-I combines cognitive therapy with sleep restriction, relaxation training and stimulus control.

Treatment typically requires 5-8 sessions conducted by a health professional trained in its use. Patients need to participate by keeping a sleep diary and writing down daily thoughts in a journal, while continuing with the sleep hygiene practices mentioned above.

person writing in a spiral notebook
Writing thoughts in a journal is often encouraged in cognitive behavioral therapy. (photo from the Lightstock.com collection)

 

 

Insomnia sufferers can also get help from an online web-based CBT-I, Sleep Healthy Using the Internet , SHUTi.

One study found 70% of those participating improved their sleep, compared with 43% who received education only.  If you  can’t find a trained therapist or don’t have time for office based therapy, this may be a good option.

SleepPhone by Acoustic Sheep

A physician, Dr. Wei-Shin Lai had trouble falling asleep after being awakened at night by calls from the ER. Her husband suggested listening to relaxing music to help her fall asleep.

She designed a comfortable headphone for her own use, and eventually started a company to make and sell them . You can try her SleepPhone  made by her company AcousticSheep.

SleepPhones

 

 

Manage stress, learn to relax

If you have  occasional trouble sleeping due to stress,  relaxation techniques can help you.  Techniques include  meditation, yoga, imagery, abdominal breathing and muscle relaxation techniques . These can reduce tension and anxious thoughts that inhibit sleep onset and maintenance.

You may find these ideas from a previous post helpful .

5 steps to manage stress and strain

 

man with hands folded over a book

Expert advice from physicians

Think alcohol will help you sleep better ? Read this advice from a psychiatrist, Dr. Melissa Welby.

The truth about alcohol and sleep

Curious about sleep apnea? Dr. Deborah Burton offers this review of another common sleep problem.

EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT DIFFERENT SLEEP APNEA TYPES

 

 

 

 

Please share on your social media sites and follow Watercress Words as we continue to explore the heart of health. My goal is to bring health and wholeness to everyone who seeks it and hope you will join me.  Please visit my resources page.

Dr. Aletha 26952564_10213093560871954_4239554644472378905_o

7 overused medications

What 7 drugs are overused? Find out here.

This week I discuss  7 groups of medications that are overused. This, and the next post about drugs which are underused, has many links; you may want to bookmark for future review.

medication capsules
Sometimes we need medication, but sometimes we don’t.

 

I call these drugs overused.  However, I do not mean

 

  • That you should never take  them
  • That you should quit using them
  • That your doctor should not prescribe them
  • That you should quit taking them if your doctor prescribed them
  • That they are bad or dangerous drugs

 

We should think more about when, why and how to use these drugs.

 

By drugs and medications, I consider any substance we put into our bodies to treat or prevent a disease or symptom, whether prescribed or over-the-counter (OTC), synthetic or “natural”. I’m not considering foods,nor any substance that is illegal or mostly recreational in this discussion.

I picked classes of drugs that I am most familiar with as a family physician so excluded highly specialized medications like cancer chemotherapy, cardiovascular drugs, anti-rheumatics and neurological drugs.  

I based my assessment on my professional experience as well as medical literature and the opinions of other physicians. As always, your best source of information about the right drugs for your conditions is your personal physician.

 

Antibiotics

Every infectious disease expert says we use  too many antibiotics unnecessarily-but we keep doing it. Doctors and patients share the responsibility of using antibiotics appropriately.

Reasons to avoid antibiotics

They don’t help most of the things we use them for, namely respiratory infections which are usually caused by viruses.

They add to the cost of medical care.

They frequently cause side effects; they are one of the top four causes of adverse drug reactions that lead to ER visits and hospital admission.

They can change the balance of the good bacteria that live in our bodies, the microbiome.

6 smart facts about antibiotic use

 

Here is a previous post about the use and misuse of antibiotics for respiratory infections, the most common culprit in the inappropriate antibiotic battle.

How to navigate the antibiotic highway

 

Opioid pain medication

These are the drugs that comprise the current opiate epidemic. Like antibiotics, they are a frequent cause for ER visits and admissions for adverse reactions.  Unlike antibiotics, they can create physical and mental dependency and addiction, and can be fatal in overdose which is happening more often. The New York Times reports 

 

Opioid poisonings increase in toddlers and teenagers

 

Some of the overdose deaths are accidental, especially in children, but in adolescents and adults are too often intentional.

Used properly, opiates relieve severe pain due to cancer, trauma,and  surgery, but doctors and patients should consider other alternatives for less severe pain first, especially if it is a long term condition.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN medical correspondent, suggests doctors and patients work together to achieve pain relief without the risk of addiction.

“But most simply, we as doctors need to engage our patients and discuss treatment with them, whether its short term opioids or alternatives like physical and occupational therapy. We need to help set realistic expectations for our patients: Living entirely pain free is not always possible. As doctors, we need to have follow-up conversations with our patients to see how treatment is going. If we better understand our patients, we can provide better treatment and help develop pain strategies that are effective and safe.”

 

Talk to your doctor if you believe your use of opiate pain medication has become a problem.

Doctors must lead us out of our opioid abuse epidemic

 

lying woman with palm full of pills
Deaths from accidental and intentional opioid overdoses are skyrocketing.

 

Anti-inflammatory drugs

These are the  non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs, referred to as NSAIDs. This includes generic ibuprofen and naproxen, available in both otc and prescription strengths. ( Brand names include Motrin, Advil and Aleve.) There are other NSAIDs but these are most frequently used.

 

When these drugs first hit the market, we were excited to have effective drugs for people with joint pain from  arthritis. Then we recognized they also worked well for headaches, menstrual pain, and other  forms of muscle and joint pain.

 

Now they seem to have become the go-to drugs for almost any discomfort or symptom, with people taking multiple doses daily (often exceeding the recommended dose) without medical supervision. 

 

Although usually well tolerated, they do pose risk to the kidney, heart and liver, especially in people who already have disorders of those organs. And they can cause stomach ulcers with bleeding in anyone.

 

Acetaminophen

 

The name Tylenol has become synonymous with the drug acetaminophen, although there are other brands and generic versions. Sometimes abbreviated APAP, this drug relieves pain and reduces fever, and is used frequently by adults who also give it to their children. It does not carry the risk of stomach ulcers as do the NSAIDs. However, it also can cause harm to the liver and kidney.

 

At this link you can

understand your OTC pain reliever options better 

 

 

Sleeping medications

Many people have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or getting a restful sleep and turn to medications, both prescription and non-prescription for help.

Sleep specialists avoid the routine use of sleeping medications, due to lack of effectiveness long term and potential side effects and risks. They recommend altering conditions related to sleep such as bedtime, sleeping arrangements, temperature and activities, often called sleep hygiene, or mind-body interventions like meditation, hypnosis, yoga, tai chi and music.

Here is a Consumer Reports review of

Sleeping pills for insomnia 

person sleeping on a couch
Sometimes getting a good night’s sleep can be a challenge.

 

 

 

 

Rescue inhalers for asthma

 

People use quick acting or rescue inhalers for asthma or COPD symptoms. The inhalers usually relieve symptoms promptly and if they aren’t, people may believe the inhaler “isn’t working”.

 

Instead, it may mean that the lungs aren’t “working” to full capacity  and need more aggressive treatment. Continuing to use the inhaler repeatedly with little or no relief can be dangerous and lead to respiratory failure. Instead, you need to seek medical attention at a  clinic or hospital emergency room.

This article explains

Inhaled asthma medications 

 

 

Vitamins,  minerals and other supplements

 

People spend $37 billion annually on vitamins,  minerals  and other supplements with little to no  proof that they prevent or treat anything. Most nutrition scientists teach that appropriate eating will supply our requirements for vitamins and minerals.

 

Vitamins and/or minerals are recommended in some medical situations, including-

  • Pregnancy and nursing
  • People with intestinal disorders who absorb nutrients poorly
  • People with restricted diets for any reason
  • People with or at high risk of macular degeneration, a cause of blindness

 

Find out why

most adults don’t need dietary supplements 

In a future post I will discuss non-drug alternatives to these drugs and others.

 

Listen to a podcast by two physicians at 2 Docs Talk

Are supplements good medicine?

 

Come back in 2 weeks to find out what 7 medications I call underused.

 

Use your phone to get fit

Tips on using health/fitness apps #Fibbit#MyFitnessPal#SleepCycle#MapMyRide

Do you perform some type of physical activity regularly, or wish that you did?

jogging trail sign
Parks with trails help people stay active.

You probably know that medical experts recommend physical activity; it not only helps us feel and look better, but it can even prevent certain chronic illnesses and delay death.

Physical activity fact sheet from the World Health Organization-WHO

Ask yourself these questions :

  1. Did you make a new year’s resolution to exercise more?
  2. Has your doctor told you to increase physical activity to treat a chronic condition or to prevent one?
  3. Do you need to lose weight, lower your blood pressure, control your blood glucose(sugar) or cholesterol?
  4. Do you want to feel more fit, stronger, and energetic?

blood pressure cuff, pill holder with medication
Controlling blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol can help prevent and manage heart disease.

 

 

If you answered yes to any of these, and you own a smartphone, consider installing and using a fitness app.

Using a health or fitness app can

  • Motivate you to be more active
  • Monitor your compliance with activity
  • Measure your progress, and
  • Manage data that you and your doctor can use to improve your health.

Look for these features in a health/fitness app –

you may not need or want all of these, but they increase its usefulness

  • Has a user-friendly interface
  • Offers free trial version
  • Easy to initiate
  • Reliability during the activity
  • Includes a goal setting option
  • Offers real-time feedback
  • Customizable to user
  • Expert consultation available
  • Incorporates behavior change techniques based on science
  • Syncs with other apps and devices/computers for review and sharing
  • Supports social networking
  • Offers periodic summaries

Based on sales and independent reviews, here is a small sample of some of the top fitness apps available now.

They are organized by category, using the mnemonic FITNESS.

(This list contains affiliate links which may pay  this blog  a commission at no extra cost to you.)

FantasyZombies, Run!

Run, walk or jog while completing an adventure mission

 also a book based on the app

Intense CardioRun Tracker

 

 Tracking and Analytics Fitbitfeet in sports shoes

tracks exercises, food intake, calorie, weight and sleep

Net weight loss MyFitness Pal 

tracks food calories intake by barcode scanner , tracks nutrients, sugar and fiber

milk, yogurt, fruits, vegetables
Nutrition apps can help you make better food choices.

Eating/diet Fooducate

ranks overall nutritional value of food item and suggests alternative food choices when needed; customized to user

someone standing on a scale

SleepSleep Cycle 

tracks sleep quality and quantity, optimizes wake-up interval

person sleeping on a couch
Sometimes getting a good night’s sleep can be a challenge.

 

SpecializedCharity Miles

motivates more miles of walking, running, or cycling as users can earn donations to a charity of their choice for each mile travelled.

With an app and a fitness device you can  overcome

some of the barriers to physical activity such as

  • Lack of time
  • Inconvenience
  • Boredom
  • Lack of motivation
  • Lack of enjoyment
  • Fear of injury
  • Social isolation
  • Lack of ability to  exercise

 

Some reasons you may not use a fitness app or device include

  • Apps require basic  technical skill and knowledge to use.
  • The financial resources to purchase and maintain.
  • You must “actively engage” with it to benefit.
  • The value of health apps to change behavior and health outcomes has not been scientifically established.

 

 

I have been using the app MapMyRide on my phone. When I’m walking or riding my bicycle, it keeps track of the distance , route and calories burned. I can manually enter activities I do when I’m not carrying my phone, like ballroom dancing. I can even enter activities like gardening, vacuuming, swimming and exercise. I like being able to look back at my workout log and see all that I’ve done the past week, month or year. It motivates me to keep it up, or step it up if I’m lagging .

Map My Ride app

If you choose to use a health app and device, set a goal for its use and periodically assess if it is helping you achieve them.

two champion athletes
You may even become an Olympic champion.

Reference for the information in this blog post-

“Smartphone Applications for Patients’ Health and Fitness”,

by John P. Higgins, MD, MBA, MPhil

The American Journal of Medicine (2016) 129, 11-19

 

Links in this post are provided for your convenience and do not imply endorsement or recommendation by Dr. Aletha.