January 2006 Health News Tips

Note to media: To reach the media contacts for any of these health news tips, call the Office of News and Publications at 214-648-3404.

Pregnancy calls for sensible resolutions

Making a resolution to work out and diet is a time-honored New Year's ritual, but pregnant women should exercise caution about exercising their bodies. It's not a good idea to start a rigorous program when you're pregnant, says Dr. Robyn Horsager-Boehrer, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

As long as your doctor hasn't cautioned against it, however, a little extra exercise is good, she says — taking the stairs, parking your vehicle so that you have to walk farther, or taking neighborhood walks. And once the baby's born, mom-and-baby classes are a good way to bond while getting back into shape.

The same goes for dieting, Dr. Horsager-Boehrer says. A strict diet is not a good resolution — instead, just think about eating sensibly, while allowing for a few treats.

Visit http://www.utsouthwestern.org/obgyn to learn more about UT Southwestern’s clinical services in gynecology and obstetrics.

Media Contact: Aline McKenzie

Makeshift heating sources often harbor dangers

As the mercury dips, some people turn to alternative sources to ward off the cold. Too often, these practices lead to accidental deaths and injuries.

"Ovens and stove tops should never be used for heating, and space heaters should be kept away from children, animals and flammable objects," says Dr. Paul Pepe, chairman of emergency medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center. 

People with fireplaces should also check their chimney and flue for leaves and branches, and allow for ventilation and fresh air when using the devices. And if everyone in the house develops a headache at the same time, check the fireplace or other sources for carbon monoxide right away, Dr. Pepe says.

Visit http://www.utsouthwestern.edu/patientcare/medicalservices/hospitals/stpaul.html to learn more about UT Southwestern’s clinical services in emergency medicine.

Media Contact: Connie Piloto


Fluid intake ultimately means timely fluid elimination   
 
The proper number of bathroom breaks seems to be one of the great mysteries of life. Not a day passes without a patient asking Dr. Philippe Zimmern, professor of urology at UT Southwestern Medical Center, "How much should I drink per day?"

Patients worry about excessive breaks or fear they might damage their kidneys by not drinking enough water. Dr. Zimmern tries to help his patients distinguish myth from reality in regard to the connection between fluid consumption and urination.

 "Your kidneys filter your blood and produce urine," Dr. Zimmern says. "The more you drink, the more urine your kidneys eliminate because there is no room in your body to store all this fluid. Fluid retention can occur with kidney or heart failure, but generally not otherwise."

Urine produced is stored temporarily in the bladder. The bladder of the average healthy adult holds around 10 to 15 ounces of fluid. So, how often should a person go to the bathroom?

"The answer is on average six times, depending on fluid intake and bladder capacity," Dr. Zimmern says. A person with a smaller bladder volume may have to go up to eight times per day.

To stay within these limits, the average adult should drink no more than six to eight glasses - approximately 64 ounces - of fluids a day, Dr Zimmern says. To avoid having to get up at night to head to the bathroom, simply don't drink after dinner or before bedtime. If you take medications such as a diuretic, do it in the morning or after lunch, Dr. Zimmern advises.

Visit http://www.utsouthwestern.org/urology to learn more about UT Southwestern’s clinical services in urology.

Media Contact: Toni Heinzl

Adjustments can make multiple sclerosis manageable

Simple accommodations, such as organizing a workspace or rescheduling tasks that require exertion, can help people with multiple sclerosis (MS) perform more efficiently, or even continue working at all.

Sometimes simple adjustments can bring substantial relief, including a more ergonomically designed workplace, or adjusting the work schedule according to the patient's capabilities. Employers may relocate an employee's workspace to reduce the need to walk, for instance.

"It is important that patients understand disease-associated limitations, and that a certain workload may become increasingly difficult to manage as the disease progresses," says Dr. Olaf Stuve, assistant professor of neurology at UT Southwestern Medical Center. Similarly, educating co-workers about MS can help avoid frustration on the side of the patient and his or her colleagues.

Symptoms of MS vary, but one of the most common is fatigue, which can worsen during certain hours of the day. Employers should try to schedule tasks that require physical exertion accordingly, while the patient can adjust the schedule of his or her medications.

MS is a chronic, often disabling disease that affects the central nervous system. An estimated 400,000 Americans have it, with most being diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 40. Approximately two-thirds of the cases are women. Symptoms may be mild, such as tingling, numbness or fatigue, or severe, such as paralysis or vision loss.

Visit http://www.utsouthwestern.org/neurosciences to learn more about
UT Southwestern’s clinical services in neurosciences.

Media Contact: Aline McKenzie

'Smoke gets in your eyes' more accurate than ever

If the possibility of heart disease and cancer isn't enough to discourage smokers, maybe the threat of blindness will be.

Researchers have now definitively linked smoking to an eye disease that leads to blindness. Recent research in Britain has found that smokers have a two to three times greater likelihood of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of lost vision in developed countries.

"AMD may reflect accumulation of oxidative damage in the retina," says Dr. Yu-Guang He, assistant professor of ophthalmology at UT Southwestern Medical Center. "Smoking is well known to be associated with the generation of oxygen free radicals, which are directly responsible for oxidative damage. Smoking may also reduce choroidal blood flow in the eye, and promote ischemic, hypoxia and atrophy, all of which could increase the susceptibility of the macular to degenerative process."

Age-related macular degeneration afflicts about 1.75 million people in the United States. Approximately 20 percent of those over 75 years old have some AMD.

"It could cause severe, irreversible vision loss and there is no effective treatment, yet," says Dr. He, whose research is focused on macular degeneration. "Age is the most important risk factor and genetic susceptibility is also highly associated with the disease." Some modifiable risk factors, such as dietary choices and smoking, have been controversial.

The British study reviewed all of the epidemiological studies published in English and concluded the association of smoking and development of AMD. It also suggested there was a lack of awareness about the risks among both healthcare professionals and the general public.

Visit http://www.utsouthwestern.org/ophth to learn more about UT Southwestern’s clinical services in eyes (ophthalmology).

Media Contact: Russell Rian


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