Tag Archives: smoking


7 Keys to a Healthy Heart

February is Heart Health Month and Valentine’s Day, so let’s explore the heart and how we can keep ours healthy.

First, I suggest reviewing a previous post  about the HEART’S  anatomy and how it works.

diagram of the human heart

Heart diseases affect any and sometimes multiple parts of the heart- the atria, ventricles, the valves, the aorta, the pulmonary artery and veins, the walls and the coronary arteries (not shown in this diagram. )

At  this post we looked at ways the HEART can “break”.

7 important forms of HEART DISEASE.

  1. Congenital heart disease (problems present at birth)
  2. Cardiomyopathy- disease of the heart muscle
  3. Coronary artery disease/myocardial infarction ( heart attack)- the most common cause of death in the United States
  4. Congestive heart failure
  5. Sudden cardiac death
  6. Arrhythmia-irregular heart beats
  7. Hypertension- high blood pressure
EKG tracing

In sudden cardiac death, the heart stops beating abruptly

Now we’ll look at protecting our HEARTS from disease, disability and death. 

The first step is knowing what increases  your risk of developing HEART disease. There are

7 important risk factors for heart disease 

  1. smoking
  2. hypertension
  3. excess body weight
  4. sedentary lifestyle, too little physical activity
  5. high blood fats (cholesterol)
  6. high blood sugar (glucose)
  7. poor nutrition

complications of high blood pressure

There are other risk factors that cannot be changed. These include

  • Gender– unfortunately males are somewhat more at risk, especially at younger ages.
  • Age– our risk increases as our age does.
  • Ethnicity– some ethnic groups have a higher risk. In the United States these are African Americans, Native Americans, Hispanics.
  • Family history– This means a close relative, like a parent or sibling, who developed heart disease young, or less than 50 years old.

Recognizing that you may have a heart problem can be the first step to getting effective treatment. Here are

7 symptoms that may indicate a heart problem

  1. Chest pain– this is probably the most recognized heart disease symptoms, but is not unique to heart disease, nor is it always found in heart disease.
  2. Shortness of breath– especially if it occurs with minimal exertion, or if you find you have less tolerance for exertion.
  3. Palpitations– this means feeling like your heart is beating too fast, too hard, or at irregular intervals.
  4. Fatigue- especially if out of proportion to physical activity, if you tire more easily or quickly, or seem to have less energy than in the past
  5. Unexplained weight gain or swelling in the feet and legs
  6. Dizziness or lightheadedness when standing or walking, especially after exertion.
  7. Syncope, the medical term for fainting or passing out, especially if no other obvious cause (some people know they faint at the sight of blood, or with certain smells; that form of fainting is usually harmless, unless injured from falling)



Keeping our HEARTS healthy involves doing what we can to change the first 7 risk factors I mentioned, what doctors often call the modifiable risk factors.

  1. Stop smoking– consider these  7 surprising reasons to be smoke free
  2. Control your weight– achieve  and stay at a healthy weight.6 steps to losing weight and gaining hope
  3. Be screened for diabetes and high cholesterol; if found, manage with your doctor’s supervision .10 Silent Signs of Diabetes
  4. Get more active, do some physical activity on a regular basis.Health lessons from the Women’s World Cup
  5. Eat less junk food,make healthier food choices. Learn easy ways to shop healthier from the American Heart Association
  6. Have your blood pressure checked regularly (ask your doctor how often). If you have hypertension,  follow your doctor’s management plan, which may include medication. Learn more from FamilyDoctor.org 
  7. Control and manage stress. Medical studies suggest that emotional stress can bring on cardiovascular disease. You can learn more from Dr. James Marroquin’s fascinating post.




Please share this post with your friends on social media. Have a HEART and help them keep theirs healthy too. Thank you.

Always exploring and sharing the HEART of health.7 Keys to a Healthy Heart-Watercress Words.com               Dr. Aletha









This affiliate helps support this blog., if you purchase it pays us a small commission. Thank you for considering this and our other affiliates. 


200x200 Valentine's Day Collection

sketch of a stack of books with an apple on top

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.


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.


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.


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



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. 


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



Tai chai


Strength training







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


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.


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



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.






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.

black and white person's' hands raised

Say Goodbye for Now- a book review

Say Goodbye for Now

A novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Published by Lake Union Publishers

(This post contains multiple affiliate links.)

In 1959, Dr. Lucille Armstrong, or Dr. Lucy as she is called, practices medicine of sorts in a small Texas town. Although she is a “doctor of human beings”, she spends most of her time taking care of stray and injured animals.

To support them and herself, she occasionally treats people; “ it’s not a hobby, I do it for the money.” But because “people there didn’t take well to a woman doctor”, her patients are not always the town’s model citizens.

Dr. Lucy lives alone except for the menagerie of injured animals she has doctored back to life. She likes her life the way it is, until she opens her home to three  unexpected and unlikely guests.


SAY GOODBYE FOR NOW by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Their effect on her life causes her to realize she doesn’t like being alone, it was “just better than being with most of the people I’ve known.”

Two of them were boys, Pete and Justin, who learn they live in a world where “just walking down the street together can get you viciously beaten.” The other, Calvin, a man who quit smoking, helps her learn to trust again. He remembers the day he quit because it was the day the Surgeon General announced smoking is harmful to health.

I  have reviewed several medical books, all of them non-fiction. I also enjoy medical fiction and have read many, mostly along the lines of medical mystery/thriller/drama. Probably the best known medical fiction are those written by physicians –

Michael Crichton- The Andromeda Strain,Robin Cook Coma,Tess Gerritsen- Life Support.

This book is different. I identified with the main character, a woman physician. Like her, I entered medicine when there were not many women physicians.  I like that she doesn’t read the newspaper because “the news breaks my heart.” ( It breaks mine too but I still read it.)  Dr. Lucy saves  letters; not just the ones she receives, but copies of the ones she writes.

As is true in the  practice of medicine, the main subject of this book is pain, along with loss,grief, injustice, loneliness, fear and anger.

But it is equally about resilience,recovery, friendship, love, sacrifice, and healing .

Almost like a surgeon, the author skilfully uses words to dissect and repair intense human interactions and emotions.

man and woman holding the letters L O V E

photo from Lightstock.com

The book intrigued me even more when I learned the author, Catherine Ryan Hyde, has written over 30 books, including Pay It Forward  (1999) named a Best Book for Young Adults by the American Library Association.

The book became a major motion picture, Pay It Forward.

In 2000 Ms. Hyde  founded the Pay It Forward Foundation, a 501 c3 Non-Profit Organization dedicated to promoting opportunities to do just that.

“The philosophy of Pay It Forward is that through acts of kindness among strangers, we all foster a more caring society. In the book, Reuben St. Clair, a social studies teacher in Atascadero, California, challenges his students to “Change the world”. That’s something we would all like to do, right? What if we could change the world, even in some small way?

One of the students in the class is Trevor, who takes the challenge to heart. As he goes about his day, he wonders what he could do, just a twelve year old student, to change the world. He starts by showing kindness to a stranger, and from there, moves on to the next person he can help.”

Besides mentioning the Surgeon General’s warning about tobacco use, Say Goodbye for Now references another historical event that impacted the characters’ lives.

In 1968 the Supreme Court considered the case Loving vs the Commonwealth of Virginia that challenged laws prohibiting interracial marriage. The ruling in favor of Mildred and Richard Loving changed their lives and thousands of  couples since.

The landmark ruling was detailed in a “documentary novel”, Loving vs. Virginia and dramatized in a 2016 movie, Loving.

LOVIE a movie

LOVING “A landmark film”

Like most good fiction, this book left me feeling  I made new friends. They were not perfect people , but none of my real friends or I are either. Each character faced the “rottenness of the world”, finding a way to live in it anyway and doctoring each other back to health.

This book is also sold at these affiliate links

use this link

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org


In the book Calvin successfully quit smoking. You can too. Consider these

7 surprising reasons to be smoke free

No smoking sign

If you need help, talk to your doctor or call 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

7 underused medications

This week I discuss 7 groups of medications that are underused. ( A previous post discussed 7 that are overused. ) Both of these posts contain a lot of information and several links; you may want to bookmark to review later. (This post also has affiliate links, which when used to make a purchase, help fund this blog. )

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

  • That you should always take them
  • That you should start using them
  • That your doctor should prescribe them
  • That you should take them even  if your doctor recommends against them
  • That they are good or perfect 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 familiar with as a family physician, excluding highly specialized medications like cancer chemotherapy, cardiovascular drugs, anti-rheumatics and neurological drugs.

I based my assessment on my 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.

I easily came up with the list of 7 overused drugs but this list was harder. I tend to be a minimalist in using drugs, both in prescribing them for patients and in using medication myself. But once I started considering the issue, I realized there are helpful meds that can be better utilized.

No smoking sign

Smoking cessation meds are available and effective.

Smoking cessation medications

I suggest  reviewing 7 surprising reasons to be smoke free 

Many people use e-cigarettes as a way to stop smoking cigarettes. But other smoking cessation aids are available and effective. There are several types of nicotine replacement products as well as non-nicotine pills which help with the craving for cigarettes. Patients sometimes complain about the cost of these products but if you are already paying for cigarettes, what’s the difference? And you may qualify to get them free through the smoking hot line www.quit.com.

Allergy medication

Many people suffer from seasonal or year round allergy symptoms-sneezing, itching, runny nose, itchy/watery eyes. Once you get the diagnosis confirmed, effective medications available without a prescription  can manage the symptoms.  The key is using them soon enough and consistently enough. Sometimes finding the right ones is trial and error. I see people give up too quickly.

Asthma control medications

In the last post I talked about the overuse of rescue inhalers. Persistent wheezing and shortness of breath indicate uncontrolled asthma that will not be completely controlled by using a rescue inhaler over and over.  You should check with your doctor as to if and  when it is wise to  start or stop an asthma maintenance medication.

The human respiratory system

Respiratory allergies and asthma involve the breathing tract from the nose all the way down to the lungs. (photo complimentary from Pixabay)

Migraine medication

Most people with “sinus headaches” have migraine, a complex disorder that involves more than a headache. While many sufferers get relief with OTC pain relievers, many do not. Opioid pain medication does not work well for migraine but there are other prescription options, mainly the triptan drugs. I find that many patients with migraine have never tried these, or the various preventive drugs available. It’s worth talking to your doctor about these options.

Psychotropic medications

While milder forms of depression and anxiety can be managed without drugs, the more severe forms often require medication to achieve remission. In cases where one’s personal life and work suffer due to a mental illness such as severe depression, mania, panic disorder, PTSD, and alcoholism,  medication may restore control and function. Unfortunately, many of these people quit medication once they feel better, and ultimately relapse.

Anti-viral medications

In my last post I told you we use too many antibiotics, drugs used for bacterial infections. We mistakenly use them for viral infections like colds and bronchitis even though they don’t help. We don’t have anti-viral drugs for colds, but we do have some for other viruses. You may already be familiar with the use of oseltamivir, Tamiflu, used both for prevention and treatment of influenza (flu). 

Here are 6 things you need to know to get through the flu season

Antiviral meds  are available for these infections- 

  • HIV-human immunodeficiency virus
  • HBV, HCV- hepatitis B and hepatitis C 
  • HSV, HZ – herpes simplex virus and herpes zoster (shingles).

For many of these, treatment needs to be started very soon after onset of symptoms, within a few days, for maximum effectiveness.


This class made both lists. While there is little evidence that supplements in general are helpful, medical studies suggest some specific ones may be effective.  

Folic Acid, also known as folate a B vitamin (B9) . The USPSTF recommends folate intake for women who may become pregnant. Medical studies suggest that taking folic acid during pregnancy decreases the risk of neural tube defects such as anencephaly-impaired brain formation and spina bifida- spinal cord malformation. All women with childbearing potential should take 400 to 800 micrograms daily. Learn more at this link 

Fish oil lowers blood triglyceride (fats) levels. Triglycerides contribute to heart attack risk but we don’t know if lowering them with fish oil  decreases the risk. It is available as both OTC and prescription versions.

The herb ginkgo biloba improves mental and behavioral function in people with dementia, including Alzheimer’s patients. Results were similar to those for the prescription Alzheimer drugs.

Probiotics, such as Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium and Saccharomyces can prevent or limit diarrhea from antibiotics. They should be started within three days of starting  the antibiotics and continued for one week after.

St. John’s  Wort (Hypericum perforatum) shows effectiveness for treating mild to moderate depression.

This information is presented for your information only and should not be considered a recommendation for treatment or prevention of any condition.

Discuss the use of these medications with your personal physician if you think they may be helpful for you. 

Please follow this blog for future discussion of non-drug treatments for several common conditions, including allergies, colds, migraine, insomnia, pain, depression, and anxiety.

GOALS written on a sheet of paper

5 health resolutions worth keeping

I don’t make new year’s resolutions, but I do think the start of a new year, whether it’s the calendar year, your birthday, or some other anniversary date, is a good time to evaluate our priorities and what we are doing to make them happen.

So today I suggest 5 health issues we can evaluate and resolve to improve in 2017. I’ve listed links to previous blog posts and other sources that will help you set goals and make them happen.

milk, yogurt, fruits, vegetables

Resolving to make better food choices.

 Resolving to eat healthier and safer –

6 steps to losing weight and gaining hope

Less red meat + more vegetables = less cancer


Top Cancer-Fighting Foods from WebMD





jogging trail sign

Resolving to do more physical activity


Resolving to be more active physically

A tour of the U.S. Olympic Training Center, Colorado Springs, Colorado- Tuesday Travels

Use your phone to get fit






No Smoking sign with pumpkins

Resolving to quit smoking and to remain smoke free.


Resolving to quit  smoking


It’s never too late to stop smoking from the Chicago Tribune 

7 surprising reasons to be smoke free





Resolving to read more- it helps the brain stay active. (photo by Dr. Aletha at Full Circle Bookstore) 




Resolving to learn more

Reading books may add years to your life  according to Harvard Medical School


6 Best Medical Books of the Past 75 Years

10 health blogs you should read- a pair of docs and more






let us love with actions and truth 1 John 3:18

Resolve to do more to help others.



Resolving to give more

The Good Samaritan


Please leave a comment about what health resolutions you have made or will make this year. I  want to encourage and cheer you on.


Next week, read here about 7 drugs that are overused, as we explore the heart of health.



6 steps to save your sight

Thinking about prevention in health care, we tend to focus on the worst diseases, those that threaten life- cancer, heart attacks, stroke, violence. But non-fatal conditions can also “threaten life”, putting the quality of our lives in danger.

Limited vision contributes to severe and significant loss of function and well being.

If you include people whose vision problems can be corrected with glasses or contacts, it may be the most common disability in the world. But even excluding those people, vision loss still affects millions of people in the world.


diagram of the eye

Courtesy: National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health (NEI/NIH)

(This post includes several affiliate  and non-affiliate links for your reference and to support this blog. )

Here are some key facts about vision loss from

WHO (World Health Organization)

  • 285 million people are estimated to be visually impaired worldwide
  • 39 million people  are blind and 246 million  have low vision.
  • About 90% of the world’s visually impaired live in low-income settings.
  • 82% of people living with blindness are aged 50 and above.
  • Globally, uncorrected refractive errors are the main cause of moderate and severe visual impairment.
  • Cataracts cause most  blindness in middle- and low-income countries.
  • The number of people visually impaired from infectious diseases has decreased in the last 20 years .
  • 80% of all visual impairment can be prevented or cured.

Braille system: A system of raised-dot writing devised by Louis Braille (1809-1852) for the blind in which each letter is represented as a raised pattern that can be read by touching with the fingers.

Braille system: A system of raised-dot writing devised by Louis Braille (1809-1852) for the blind in which each letter is represented as a raised pattern that can be read by touching with the fingers.

A refractive error is a very common eye disorder. It occurs when the eye cannot clearly focus the images from the outside world, causing blurred vision.

The four most common refractive errors are:

  1. myopia (nearsightedness): difficulty in seeing distant objects clearly;
  2. hyperopia (farsightedness): difficulty in seeing close objects clearly;
  3. astigmatism: distorted vision resulting from an irregularly curved cornea, the clear covering of the eyeball.
  4. presbyopia: which leads to difficulty in reading or seeing at arm’s length, it is linked to ageing and occurs almost universally.

Refractive errors are commonly corrected with glasses or contact lenses, or refractive surgery.

Glasses or contact lenses for myopia, hyperopia and astigmatism need to be made with a prescription based on the results of an eye exam by a professional.

Glasses for presbyopia, commonly called reading glasses, can be purchased online or in many retail stores and get be fitted by trying on different strengths until you find one that works the best. Most people use them for close work like reading, sewing, crafts, drawing, and games.

I use contacts  to correct my vision impairments-myopia, astigmatism, and presbyopia. One eye is corrected for distance and the other corrected for near . I can read, drive, watch television, dance, take care of my home and work without difficulty.

My husband fights to protect his vision. He had severe myopia which was partially corrected with surgery. He subsequently developed early onset macular degeneration, a condition which destroys the retina of the eye causing loss of central vision. Progression of the degeneration is slowed with regular injections of a drug originally developed to treat cancers. (If a shot into the eye sounds painful, it is.) He has  had removal of cataracts. So far he is able to function visually, but he appreciates his sight and does whatever he can  to preserve it.

The New York Times reviewed the latest treatments for macular degeneration 

Globally, the causes of blindness are

  • cataract (47.9%) the leading cause of visual impairment in all areas of the world, except for developed countries.
  • glaucoma (12.3%),
  • age-related macular degeneration (AMD) (8.7%),
  • corneal opacities (5.1%),
  • diabetic retinopathy (4.8%),
  • childhood blindness (3.9%),
  • trachoma (3.6%)
  • onchocerciasis (0.8%).

Visual impairment and blindness can be prevented.

Preventing some of these conditions such as trachoma and onchocerciasis, infections that target the eye and occur in the developing world, need public health measures to control.

basic supplies for eye exams in a developing country

Eye doctors on a volunteer medical team used these supplies to do eye exams  in a remote area.

You can protect and save your sight with these steps-

(The following sections contain several affiliate links; using these links costs you nothing extra and helps support this blog. thank you. )

  1. Have an eye professional examine your eyes.

An eye doctor, either an optometrist or ophthalmologist, can detect early signs of eye disease, even before you notice a problem. Go here for an explanation of what each of these professionals do .

6 steps to save your sight -watercresswords.com

  1. Avoid smoking cigarettes.

Smoking constricts the blood vessels supplying the eye with oxygen rich blood, thereby suffocating the tissue. This contributes to cataracts and macular degeneration.

2015-08-07 14.55.59

Here are some other other surprising reasons to avoid smoking

  1. Protect your eyes from sunlight.

Sun exposure also contributes to cataracts so wearing UV protective sunglasses is recommended.

  1. Eat a healthy diet, high in fruits, vegetables and healthy fats.

Macular degeneration has been associated with low intake of vitamins A, C, and E, omega 3 fatty acids, lutein and zinc. The best source for this is food.  For people who already have macular degeneration or who are at high risk, eye doctors may recommend a vitamin supplement which provides these nutrients.

  1. Manage chronic health conditions.

Diabetes contributes to blindness by damaging the retina. Good control of blood sugar helps to prevent or slow this, as well as regular monitoring and laser treatment when needed.

Vision loss is one of the most common complications from diabetes and one that can be prevented or minimized. If you have diabetes, take it seriously and work with your doctor to manage it well.

You may have diabetes and not know it. Certain symptoms may indicate diabetes; read about them here.

If you have not been tested for diabetes, ask your doctor if you should. It’s a simple blood test called Hemoglobin A1c and  is available at this affiliate link . (This link will pay a commission to this blog).

Other chronic conditions associated with vision loss are heart disease and stroke, hypertension, high cholesterol, sickle cell disease, and multiple sclerosis.

  1. Protect your eyes from trauma.

In addition to wearing sunglasses when outdoors, appropriate protective lenses should be worn during sports. People who work at jobs involving power tools or chemicals need protective goggles in case of splashes or flying bits of material. Children, adolescents and young adults are most likely to lose vision from traumatic injuries.

  1. Know and observe the rules for contact lens use.

    This is a bonus tip for those of you like me who need contact lenses to correct their vision.

I know how tempting it can be to cut corners when cleaning, storing, discarding and wearing contacts. But when used incorrectly, contacts can cause more problems than they solve. Contact lens wear can cause trauma, infections and dryness that can damage the cornea. Don’t risk turning correctable vision problems into long term harm. Get the details on caring for contacts here.




The Story of My Life is an autobiography of Helen Keller, a woman who was both blind and deaf since infancy. Her remarkable story was also told in a movie.

The Miracle Worker  for which Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke as Helen won Oscars for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress

Children may enjoy reading I Am Helen Keller

For you who may be needing reading glasses now (an affiliate link)

I appreciate your reading and 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.

Dr. Aletha  , sharing the HEART of health 

No smoking sign

7 surprising reasons to be smoke free

On a trip to Colorado , I visited Seven Falls in Colorado Springs. Seven Falls is a series of seven cascading waterfalls of South Cheyenne Creek in South Cheyenne Cañon. To get to the falls, you walk a one-mile scenic path through the canyon, passing trees, towering cliffs and a winding stream. Along the way, I  passed more “no smoking” signs than I have seen anywhere else.

2015-09-14 13.33.50

On the path to Seven Falls, Colorado Springs



Those signs inspired me to write a post about smoking. I grew up when smoking was socially acceptable and widely practiced, and no one worried  about the health effects. My mother and her friends smoked, even in our house. She would drive us to the grocery store, stay in the car and send me inside with 50 cents to purchase a pack of cigarettes for her. She told me, “Tell the clerk it’s for your mother.” In today’s world, my mother would be arrested for child neglect for doing that.

When I was an adult, she quit the habit but unfortunately not before smoking had caused atherosclerosis (hardening) of her leg arteries,limiting blood flow and making walking  painful. Surgery corrected this, but the arteries in her brain were also affected, leading to dementia in late life.

Cigarette advertising was everywhere; billboards, television, magazines. Even JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association, had cigarettes ads. I went to medical conferences where, during the breaks, physicians would go into the lobby and light up cigarettes. After just listening to a lecture on heart disease!

All that changed when scientists uncovered the harmful effects of smoking. The Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act of 1965 required the following health warning, prescribed by Congress, to be placed on all cigarette packages sold in the United States:


Gradually,  almost all public places in the United States have been made smoke free.  But even though the smoking rate has steadily declined, smoking is still the leading cause of death and preventable illness in this country and  much of the world.


Most people know that cigarette smoking harms our health, being directly linked to heart attacks, strokes, lung and other cancers and emphysema.

But you may not know about some other effects that are less well known or more recently discovered. I’m going to share those with you along with some photos from my walk at Seven Falls.

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Effects on pregnancy and babies

Smoking affects fertility, pregnancy, and infants . Smoking can make it harder for a woman to become pregnant and can affect a man’s sperm. Smoking increases risks for:

  • Preterm (early) delivery
  • Miscarriage
  • Stillbirth (death of the baby before birth)
  • Low birth weight
  • Sudden infant death syndrome (known as SIDS or crib death)
  • Ectopic (outside the uterus) pregnancy
  • Cleft lip in infants


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Effects on diabetes

Smoking is a cause of type 2 diabetes mellitus and can impair control of blood glucose (sugar).  The risk of developing diabetes is 30–40% higher for active smokers than nonsmokers. Diabetes is a major cause of atherosclerosis, hardening of the arteries in the heart, kidney, legs, which is also aggravated by smoking. Double trouble.

Effects on bones

Smoking can affect bone health, leading to osteoporosis. Women past childbearing years who smoke have weaker bones than women who never smoked, and are at greater risk for broken bones. Smokers tend to hurt more than non smokers and narcotic type pain meds don’t relieve pain as well as in non-smokers.

Effects on teeth

Smoking affects the health of your teeth and gums and can cause tooth loss. It yellows the teeth as tar builds up in the enamel, also leading to bad breath.

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Effects on eyesight

Smoking can harm your eyesight. It increases your risk for

  • cataracts (clouding of the eye’s lens that makes it hard for you to see) and
  • age-related macular degeneration (damage to a small spot near the center of the retina, the part of the eye needed for central vision).


Effects on inflammation

Smoking aggravates and may even cause several chronic inflammatory diseases, including

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Systemic Lupus Erythematosus- SLE or lupus
  • Multiple sclerosis

Effects on skin

And, it affects your appearance.

By decreasing circulation, smoking causes the skin to weaken and be more susceptible to infection, wrinkles and acne.

And it increases the risk for grey hair and baldness.


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This is the bad news. Fortunately, the good news is that there are many resources available to help you quit smoking. The link at the bottom will lead you to help. Of course, you should ask your  own physician for advice.

If you don’t find the information you need, ask me a question; this is a vast topic and there is much more we can explore.


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arrived at the falls


Here is the link to becoming


For help from your state quitline:

1-800-QUITNOW (1-800-784-8669)


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at the base of the last fall

Another interesting and fun attraction in Colorado Springs

the U.S. Olympic Training Center 


In this fictional story, one of the main characters quit smoking. You can too.

                                                  Say Goodbye for Now


SAY GOODBYE FOR NOW by Catherine Ryan Hyde