Since I was a teenager in London, encouraged by my father as well as the James Bond 'Scottish Shower' idea, I started taking these ice-cold showers every day. It was a bit like the swallowing raw eggs in a cup thing every morning (like all tough guys did in the 70's and 80's). The latter habit didn't last (too nauseating), but I did continue with the cold shower thing until I got married just over 11 years ago. Taking such a shower proved to be quite invigorating and it 'felt healthy', not just during but especially when I got out! As I recently started this practice once again, I thought I’d share with my readers and my patients, so they too can find a New Year’s resolution that will enhance health, without hormones, drugs or other such nonsense that you can see so many people throwing around these days.
In ancient times, hot water was a luxury. People had to live near a hot springs in order to enjoy the comfort of a hot bath, so for most of human history people bathed in cold water. The Spartans, hard-asses that they were, felt hot water was for the weak and timid. When they did take baths (which was, like, once a year) they used only cold water because they thought it tempered the body and made it vigorous for ass kicking I guess.
Many cultures incorporated a cold water dousing into their religious ceremonies. Some Native American tribes would alternate between sitting in a sweat lodge and jumping into an icy river or snow bank. Ancient Russians also took frequent plunges into ice cold rivers for health and spiritual cleansing. Japanese practitioners of Shinto, both in ancient and modern times, would stand under an icy waterfall as part of a ritual known as Misogi, which was believed to cleanse the spirit.
While most other doctors (unlike me of course) may no longer instruct their patients to take a cold shower or bath, and call them in the morning, a shot of cold water can still impart real health benefits:
1. It improves circulation.
Good blood circulation is vital for overall cardiovascular health. Healthy blood circulation also speeds up recovery time from strenuous exercises and work. Cold water causes your blood to move to your organs to keep them warm. Warm water reverses the effect by causing the blood to move towards the surface of the skin. Cold shower proponents argue that stimulating the circulatory system in this way keeps them healthier and younger looking than their hot water-loving counterparts.
2. It’s an anti-depressant.
Depression is yet another thing that cold showers help and prevent. It is caused by the stimulating effect the cold has on the brains "blue spot", the main source of noradrenaline for our bodies, a chemical that might be used to help alleviate depression. You will notice that after having a cold shower, you will feel very happy - sometimes referred to as euphoria. This feeling can be compared to the happiness you feel after exercise because of the endorphin released.
Every morning, after I take a shower with cold water, I leave feeling invigorated and energized. Your heart starts pumping, and the rush of blood through your body helps shake off the lethargy of the previous night’s sleep. For me, the spike in energy lasts several hours. It’s almost like drinking a can of Diet Mountain Dew, minus the aspartame. And while it hasn’t been studied, many people swear that cold showers are a surefire stress reducer. I’m a believer. I bet if you asked the people I work with, they’ll tell you that my energy levels lead them to suspect that I drink a gallon of coffee every morning. I never drink coffee :)
3. It accentuates one’s breathing.What you will notice as an effect of cold showers, especially when you first start, is that you begin inhaling very deeply, while asking yourself if you’re totally out of your mind. This is to try and combat the stress of the shock, the vasoconstriction and the overall need for oxygen to respire and keep yourself warm. I won’t delve into the benefits of something called Pranayama, but the principle is similar: regulation of breathing optimizes organ efficiency.
4. It helps you sleep.
Another great reason to start having cold showers is that for some reason or another, it aids sleeping. Insomniacs are sometimes advised to try this - the physical stress and shock of a cold shower before bedtime really helps you to calm down after the exhilarating feeling of being extra alive under the water. This actually works with hot showers too, but it’s even stronger with cold ones!
5. It augments your immunity.
The most established benefit of cold showers is that overall, they simply increase your chances of fighting off disease and infection. Several studies have suggested that people who take regular cold showers have less chance of getting:
Taking cold showers has been shown to help normalize a healthy human temperature, regulating the amount of sweat you produce in doing so. As a result of the increased brown fat levels, blood pressure and body temperature, chemical reactions in your body will happen faster (heightened metabolism) than they would have without regular cold showers. An increased metabolism is what a lot of people seek out because it means that any process in the body will become more efficient. This also means more weight loss because more calories are being burned to supply energy for more reactions. It also means faster growth/repair of muscles and other cells so any exercise you do will result in better results leaving a fitter, leaner body.
This process opens up the lungs much like strenuous physical exercise does and results in a higher average intake of oxygen, which is good for many things like not feeling tired during the day and doing better at sport or other exercises.
7. It keeps one’s skin and hair healthy.
Hot water dries out skin and hair. If you want to avoid an irritating itch and ashy elbows, turn down the temperature of your showers. In fact, itch receptors don’t even work in the cold, as I tell my patients who have had any kind of allergic reaction. Also, cold water can make your skin look healthier by closing up your cuticles and pores.
8. Potency & Fertility.
Cold showers appear to increase testosterone. During the 19th century, many doctors and ministers recommended that young men take baths in cold water to reduce the sin of “self-pollution”. Cold water was thought to extinguish a man’s flaming carnal desires. How wrong they were! The same study by the Thrombosis Research Institute cited above showed that cold water showers actually increase testosterone production in men. Increased testosterone levels not only boost a man’s libido, but also his overall strength and energy level. If you’re looking to increase your testosterone, instead of hormone supplements (which seem to be the latest fad gripping the nation these days), hop into a cold shower.
Trying to become a dad? Cold showers are good for your little swimmers. Your testes aren’t meant to get too hot; that’s why they hang outside your body. Sperm counts decrease when the temperature of a man’s testes increases. Experiments done in the 1950's showed that hot baths were an effective contraceptive. Men who took a 30 minute hot bath every other day for 3 weeks were infertile for the next six months. Perhaps this also explains why sperm counts drop when a country gets more running hot water.
9. Weight Loss
Brown fat, as opposed to white fat is heavily involved in burning energy. Exposure to cold naturally stimulates the production of these brown fats. These cells burn glucose (the calories you eat and the white fat that you store) to try and produces as much heat energy as possible. Having a higher amount of brown fat leads to more energy being burned per second and therefore, more weight is lost. Brown fat:
10. It improves our lymphatic system.
Unlike blood vessels, the lymphatic system does not contain blood. Instead it has lymph, which carries away waste products and white blood cells which handle infection. Also different from blood vessels is that the heart does not pump lymph around the body like it does the blood.
The lymph relies on the contraction of muscles. This contraction squeezes the lymph up to the thoracic duct so that the lymph can mix with the blood and then be dealt with by our organs.
Cold showers cause whole-body contraction and this works excellently with the lymph system, squeezing the fluid up through the body. If the lymphatic system is compromised and inefficient, then the fluid pools at far away places (usually the feet). This results in what is known as lymphedema (type of edema). The pooling of lymph can result in serious health detriments. Another result of the whole body contraction is that it results in the squeezing of toxins and waste products out of the skin. This means that they do not stay inside the body and cause infection or put extra strain on the organs responsible for breaking them down into manageable pieces. This detoxification can make you feel better and more 'fresh'. It also has a good effect on the skin which appears cleaner and younger.
Before Getting Started with Cold Water Showers
If you’ve spent most of your life taking hot showers, suddenly turning the dial in the other direction can be a big shock to the system. I took a break from the James Bond Showers for over 10 years. When I recently decided to get started again with them, my heart almost jumped out of my chest, and I nearly passed out from hyperventilation when the cold water hit my body.
So don’t try this at home (or anywhere else for that matter), if you’re not in awesome health to start with. Getting into the ‘Scottish Shower’ thing might be too much, too soon if you have the following, amongst other conditions:
Just like initiating a work-out program, it’s often a good idea to see your healthcare provider (physician or nurse practitioner) to give you a clean bill of health, before you start the ‘craziness’. So give me a call! How to start if you’re healthy enough:
If you decide to start taking cold showers, slowly adjusting the temperature is best advised.
1. Start off with the warm water (if you’re new at this)
2. Wash your hair with some Pinaud Elixir shampoo, just like 007.
3. When you’re ready to rinse, just turn it down to cold. Spend a few minutes under the cold water, meditating about a lost love or on how awesome your life is.
However, many people (myself included) decide to "throw themselves in at the deep end" of cold showering and start by simply throwing themselves under as cold water as they can get their hands on! This is of course a much quicker way of reaping the health benefits of cold exposure but carries the downfall of much more discomfort and risk to your health. For those with potentially weak hearts, the gradual 'easing' method is strongly advised.
And don’t forget to Save The Planet, like James Bond would do.
Perhaps not a direct health benefit, but taking cold showers also means using no energy whilst washing yourself - which means less CO2 and other greenhouse gases are emitted into the atmosphere. This results in less global warming and a lower electricity bill! So, if for no other reason, promote a healthier planet by taking a cold shower.
After about a week of getting into these cold showers, you will find yourself dreading the shower, which you know is good for you but..... man it’s cold and uncomfortable etc etc, and other such whining. Just don’t quit. Do it solidly for just 30 days, and your early hesitations will transform into enthusiasm. Yes, it’ll make you into a part-crazy-person (compared with all your weak-willed hot-showering peers), but at least you’ll be a happy and healthy, crazy person! Like anything worth doing in life, it’s tough at first, even off-putting (irritating, annoying, insert blistering negative adjective here), but just a sprinkle of perseverance and tenacity, and you will become a winner before you know it. No drug company is going to promote cold showers. Think about it.
It’s a commonly held belief that as we age, our minds and bodies decline—and life inevitably becomes less satisfying and enjoyable.
Many also believe that as we get older, we become less productive at work.
It seems that these beliefs are wrong! KPLR’s ‘Doctor Is In’, Dr. Sonny Saggar, is here to explain why it’s not so bad getting old...
I hear many people, typically around my age (47) or older, saying things like: "I'm too old to make a difference, take a leap, change the game..."
Sometimes, I even hear this from people as young as 30, and it’s just pathetic. Yes, I know this makes me sound old, but seriously, young people these days…...
People believe that the odds are stacked against them, so there’s no need to even imagine the failure that effort will bring. They just decide it’s better to move along and lower their expectations.
What I believe, and what the research shows is that we can, and we must, contribute to society as we get older.
Contrary to the stereotype of later life as a time of loneliness, depression and decline, a growing body of scientific research shows that, in many ways, life gets better as we get older.
As we get older, friendships, creativity and satisfaction with life can actually flourish.
A growing body of evidence indicates that our moods and overall sense of well-being improve with age. Friendships tend to grow more intimate, too, as older adults prioritize what matters most to them.
Knowledge and certain types of intelligence continue to develop in ways that can even offset age-related decline in the brain’s ability to process new information and reason abstractly.
Expertise deepens, which can enhance productivity and creativity. Some go so far as to say that wisdom—defined, in part, as the ability to resolve conflicts by seeing problems simultaneously from multiple perspectives—flourishes.
Yes of course, growing older has its share of challenges. Some people don’t age as well as others. And especially at advanced ages, chronic conditions including diabetes, hypertension and dementia become increasingly common and can take a toll on mental, as well as physical, health.
But that ‘old person’ stereotype of being “depressed, cranky, irritable and obsessed with their next bowel movement” represents less than 10% of the older population.
Here are some myths about aging:
Myth No. 1: Depression Is More Common in Old AgeResearch indicates that emotional well-being improves until the 70s, when it levels off.
Even centenarians “report overall high levels of well-being,” according to a 2014 study.
As the participants aged, their moods—measured by the ratio of positive to negative emotions—steadily improved.
Contrary to the popular view that youth is the best time of life, the peak of positive emotional life may not occur until well into the sixties.
Older adults have been observed to focus on the positive rather than the negative emotions, memories and stimuli. In contrast to younger adults, older adults presented with an array of happy, sad and angry faces directed their gazes more often toward the happy ones.
Why the focus on the positive? As people age, they tend to prioritize emotional meaning and satisfaction, giving them an incentive to see the good more than the bad. They notice the positive more.
National data back up the findings. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 5.5% of adults age 50 and over said they experienced a major depressive episode in 2012. For those 26 to 49, the rate was 7.6%, and for ages 18 to 25 it was 8.9%.
While rates of depression in nursing homes tend to be high, when we look at ALL older adults, they tend to be happier, less anxious, less angry and tend to adapt well to their circumstances.
Myth No. 2: Cognitive Decline Is InevitableRecent discoveries also indicate that—except in the case of dementia—older adults perform better in the real world than they do on cognitive tests.
Because knowledge and experience increase with age, older adults who are tested in familiar situations show few of the deficits that crop up in laboratory tests.
Younger adults may also have advantages in laboratory tests that have nothing to do with their cognitive skills. For example, because professors often recruit students for their experiments, some younger participants may be more comfortable in a lab than older participants.
Older adults who believe negative stereotypes about aging can also unwittingly undermine their own performance on memory tests.
The good news: Recent experiments show that certain activities appear to enhance cognitive function and perhaps slow age-related cognitive declines. In two studies published earlier this year, the memories of 239 adults ages 60 to 90 were tested, about one-half of whom spent about 16 hours a week over three months learning new skills, including how to quilt, use an iPad and taking digital photographs.
Compared with peers who performed word puzzles or engaged in social activities and other tasks that required no new skills, those learning new skills showed greater improvements in memory, with some also showing improvement in processing speed.
So older adults who learn challenging new skills tap more diffuse brain circuits and pathways to compensate for age-related deficits.
Novelty combined with mental challenge is very important, so get out of your comfort zone and learn new stuff. Learn something new every month if you can.
Some scientists also believe older adults can make wiser decisions.
Myth No. 3: Older Workers Are Less Productive
Workers 55 or older make up 22% of the U.S. labor force, up from 12% in 1992. Thanks in part to stereotypes that portray older workers as less adaptable than their younger colleagues, they are widely assumed to be less productive.
In fact, the vast majority of academic studies shows virtually no relationship between age and job performance.
In jobs that require experience, some studies show that older adults have a performance edge.
Myth No. 4: Loneliness Is More LikelyAs people age, their social circles contract. But that doesn’t mean older adults are lonely.
In fact, several academic studies indicate that friendships tend to improve with age.
Older adults typically report better marriages, more supportive friendships, less conflict with children and siblings and closer ties with members of their social networks than younger adults.
Older adults have “a higher rate of close ties than younger people” and fewer “problematic relationships that cause them distress.”
The findings: Until about age 50, most people add to their social networks. After that, they eliminate people they feel less close to and maximize interactions with “close partners who are more emotionally satisfying”.
Over time, the participants also assigned their networks more positive ratings. “Their loved ones seem to mean more than ever, and that is protective against loneliness”
While this doesn’t mean loneliness isn’t a problem for some older people, research indicates that, on average, older adults are less lonely than young people!
Myth No. 5: Creativity Declines With Age
Creativity has long been seen as the province of the young, but academic studies that date as far back as the 19th century pinpoint midlife as the time when artists and scholars are most prolific.
Creativity tends to peak earlier in fields such as pure mathematics and theoretical physics, where breakthroughs typically hinge on problem-solving skills that are sharpest in one’s 20s.
In fields that require accumulated knowledge, creative peaks typically occur later. Historians and philosophers, for example, “may reach their peak output when they are in their 60s”.
Creative genius clusters into two categories: conceptual artists, who tend to do their best work in their 20s and 30s, and experimental artists, who often need a few more decades to reach full potential.
Conceptual artists work from imagination, an area where the young have an advantage because they tend to be more open to radical new ideas.
Experimental artists improve with experience. They take years to perfect their style and knowledge of their subjects.
Myth No. 6: More Exercise Is BetterWhen it comes to improving health and longevity, regular exercise is key, but a growing number of studies show that more exercise may not always be better.
There is an optimum amount of exercise you should do in a week. Everything, including exercise, should be in moderation.
In one study, those who jog from one to 2.4 hours weekly at 5 to 7 mph and took at least two days off from vigorous exercise per week, had the greatest increase in life expectancy.
Fairly modest doses of running provided benefits as great as a lot of running.
Long-term strenuous endurance exercise may cause “overuse injury” to the heart.
Stick to a moderate cardiovascular workout of between 10 and 30 miles a week or 30 to 60 minutes of vigorous exercise a day, and take at least two days off each week. You don’t need to run a marathon, except to put it on your bucket list. It’s got no proven health benefit, and it might even be bad for the majority of people. That may be one reason why half-marathons are becoming a lot more popular than full ones.
Dr. Saggar, an emergency and urgent care physician, is also an internist. You can reach him via his website at STLHealthWorks.com.
You can also connect with Dr. Saggar, the Director at STLPrimaryCare.com, and ask him any questions you like
via STLPrimaryCare.COM, or
Twitter @DoctorIsInSTL | Facebook: DoctorIsInSTL | Blog: DoctorIsInSTL.com
Why Should Anyone Quit Smoking?The health benefits of quitting start immediately from the moment of smoking cessation. Quitting while you are younger will reduce your health risks more, but quitting at any age can give back years of life that would be lost by continuing to smoke. By quitting — even for one day — smokers will be taking an important step towards a healthier life – one that can lead to reducing cancer risk.
Is smoking still a problem in the US?
Tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the US, and yet 42 million Americans still smoke cigarettes — that’s about 1 in every 5 adults. As of 2012, there were also 13.4 million cigar smokers in the US, and 2.3 million who smoke tobacco in pipes — other dangerous and addictive forms of tobacco.
So, you’ve got three days: perhaps you should increase your desire to quit smoking, so that you can quit this Thursday, or definitely before Thanksgiving!
Can you list some of the health benefits of quitting smoking?
- I sometimes hear these words: ‘I never get a flu shot, and I never get the flu.’
O.K. Let’s play that game. What if people said:
Despite the scientific impossibility of getting the flu from the flu vaccines, this widespread flu myth still won’t die. Experts suspect two reasons for its persistence.
1. people mistake the side effects of the vaccine for flu. While side effects to the vaccine these days tend to be a sore arm, in the past, side effects often felt like mild symptoms of the flu.
2. flu season coincides with a time of year when bugs causing colds and other respiratory illnesses are in the air. Many people get the vaccine and then, within a few days, SOME will get sick no matter what, with an unrelated cold virus. Some of these people immediately blame the innocent flu vaccine that they just received a day or a few days earlier, rather than their co-worker with a runny nose and cough. It’s statistically guaranteed that of all the 135 million people in the USA who get the flu shot every year, some are going to get sick anyway, either with the flu that had already infected them before the vaccine was given, or with another virus or bacteria, and then this vocal minority is going to spread the falsehood that “the flu shot gives people the flu”, which is utter nonsense. Most doctors know this. All hospitals know this and that is why 99% of healthcare workers, including medstudents and nursing students, are required to get the flu vaccine if they are to continue employment.
2. Surely getting seasonal flu is just annoying but mostly harmless?
Unfortunately, many think of the flu as a very bad cold, but it’s much worse than that.
In addition to the congestion and cough, you’ll have nasty body aches and fever and you usually feel terrible. You feel like you’ve been hit by a truck.
Aside from the short-term misery and lost workdays, flu can have more serious implications. Although, most people who get the seasonal flu recover just fine, the seasonal flu hospitalizes 200,000 people in the U.S. each year. It kills between 3,000 and 50,000 people each year. That’s close to the number of women killed by breast cancer each year.
3. But isn’t flu only dangerous for the elderly or people with chronic medical conditions?
It’s true that the people most likely to become seriously ill or die from the seasonal flu are aged over age 65, but flu is risky for anyone, even healthy young adults. Some of the most susceptible people to seasonal influenza are young children.
Children under 2 have some of the highest rates of hospitalization from seasonal flu. Children under 6 months are at the most risk from the seasonal flu because their immune system is too undeveloped to properly process the vaccine.
To protect infants from the flu, keep babies away from people who have the flu. Parents and caretakers of infants should get vaccinated, and first time parents are [tellingly] far more willing to get a flu shot than other young healthy people. Perhaps people will do what they know is the right thing more often to protect a loved one, like their own newborn, than they will to protect themselves.
4. What would you say to young and healthy people, who think they don’t need to worry about getting the vaccine?
First of all, we should all get the seasonal flu vaccine. Sure, if you’re in good health, you’ll probably recover from the seasonal flu just fine if you get it. But why suffer through the flu if you can avoid it? Second, protecting yourself isn’t the only reason to get vaccinated.
Healthy adults forget that while they themselves might be at low risk for getting serious flu complications, other people in their family might not. If you have a small child at home, or an older parent, your failure to get yourself vaccinated could endanger them.
And that’s true on a larger, societal level. People with the weakest defenses, like children under 6 months, can’t get the flu vaccine. Their safety depends on the rest of us getting immunized. Let me rephrase that: THE SAFETY OF THOSE AROUND US WHO ARE LESS STRONG, DEPENDS ON THE STRONGEST AMONG US GETTING VACCINATED.
5. How do you respond to those who say vaccines are dangerous?
In recent years, there’s been growing mistrust of vaccines, including the flu vaccine. Some believe that there could be a link between vaccines -- specifically the ingredient thimerosal -- and developmental disorders in children, like autism. However, there is no evidence that vaccines cause autism, and many healthcare professionals feel we’re losing sight of how important vaccines are.
Vaccines are, arguably, the greatest medical advance in history AND IN HOMELAND SECURITY. They’ve prevented more illness and death than any other implemented strategy or protocol.
If you’re still concerned despite the evidence, you should know that there are thimerosal-free flu vaccines available. In fact, every year, manufacturers produce more of this vaccine than people use. If you want your child to get it, just ask your doctor.
The flu vaccine is not out best vaccine for at least three reasons:
(1) every year the immunologists developing the vaccine have to make an educated guess as to which which influenza strains will be circulating 9 months in the future. The better the guess, the better the protection the vaccine should provide. Some years they choose better than others. But often the match between the vaccine and the disease is not optimal, so vaccine efficacy can be decreased. The vaccine works best when there is a good match between the vaccine and circulating strain of influenza.
(2) response to the vaccine is not 100%. The older and those with weaker immunity are the least likely to develop a good antibody response to the vaccine, and yet they need this vaccine the most.
(3) vaccination rates are often suboptimal to get benefit in populations, i.e. herd immunity. The elderly will more likely benefit if they are not exposed to influenza at all rather than relying of vaccine mediated protection. It may be more important if those around them, say their health care provider or family, receives the vaccine and as a result does not pass flu on to more vulnerable people. But we rarely get vaccination rates at levels for herd immunity to kick in.
There are some anti-vaccine people who seem to require that vaccines either be perfect, with 100% efficacy and 100% safe, or they are not worth taking.
The influenza vaccine is not 100% efficacious in preventing disease, but it is as close to 100% safe, and much safer than the disease.
Or you can look at the preponderance of data, with all the flaws, nuance, subtleties and qualifiers, and conclude the flu vaccine is of benefit. The vaccine decreases the probability of morbidity and mortality. It is a good thing.
6. Does cold weather cause the flu?
No matter what your grandma may have said, going outside in the winter without a hat or warm coat does NOT increase your risk of flu. While there might seem to be a connection -- since flu season coincides with colder months in the U.S. -- there isn’t. Flu season is the same throughout the whole country: even if it’s freezing in Minnesota while still warm in Florida. Colder weather might increase the risk of flu in one way: We do come into closer contact with other people because we’re all stuck inside. That does make it easier for the virus to spread.
7. I’ve heard people say that if you haven’t gotten the seasonal flu vaccine by November, there’s no point getting vaccinated at all. Is that true?
While supplies of vaccine used to run out by November, that’s not the case anymore. Nowadays, there should be enough vaccine for anyone who wants it, and you should be able to get it as late as December or January. Besides, the flu often doesn’t hit its peak until February or sometimes as late as March. The flu vaccine will protect you for the strain that is going around, even if it’s 6 months later, so I say get it as early as possible, like this week!
No matter what month it is, if you haven’t had your flu vaccine yet, go get it. You could spare yourself -- and your family -- a lot of misery.
8. So where is the best place to get a flu shot?
You can get your influenza vaccine from your local pharmacy, although they’ll typically charge you $30, which is another annoying part of getting a vaccine. One thing we do at all four of our clinics is to offer patients who comes in for any other problem, such as a sprained ankle, a flu shot, at no extra charge, meaning if their insurance doesn’t pay, the patient won’t have to pay anything more for the shot. Yes, it costs us, but we believe in doing whatever we can to get the whole community vaccinated, so this is our strategy, as well as a marketing ploy to come to us for your illness or injury, instead of anywhere else! You can find out more at STLFluShots.com
3. What are the symptoms?
It is not always easy to know if someone has a concussion.
Symptoms of concussion can last for hours, days, weeks, or even months, and they fit into four main categories:
Concussions in the elderly can also be dangerous and these too are often missed. If you are caring for an older adult who has had a fall, check him or her for symptoms of a concussion. Signs of a serious problem include a headache that gets worse and/or increasing confusion. See a doctor right away if you notice these signs. If you are caring for an older adult who takes blood thinners—warfarin (Coumadin) is an example—and who has had a fall, take him or her to a doctor right away, even if you don't see any symptoms of a concussion. If you can’t get in to see your doctor immediately, come and see us at STLSportsClinic.com, open 7 days a week.
Sometimes after a concussion you may feel as if you are not functioning as well as you did before the injury. This is called postconcussive syndrome. New symptoms may develop, or you may continue to be bothered by symptoms from the injury, such as:
5. How is a concussion treated?
Any person who may have had a concussion needs to see a doctor. Some people have to stay in the hospital to be monitored overnight. People who go home still need to be watched closely for warning signs or changes in behavior. Call your doctor or come and see us, or go to the ER if you are watching a person after a concussion and the person has:
Rest is the best way to recover from a concussion. You need to rest your body and your brain. Here are some tips to help you get better:
6. How can you prevent a concussion?
Reduce your chances of getting a concussion:
Have you ever noticed that you feel better when you're around your pet?
It's true. Spending quality time with a dog, cat or other animal can have a positive impact on your mood and your health.
1. A Healthier Heart
Your dog may make you less likely to get heart disease. Why? Dog owners walk more and have lower blood pressure than people who don't have dogs.
Pets can also be good for you if you already have heart problems.
Heart attack survivors and people with serious abnormal heart rhythms who own dogs live longer than people with the same heart problems who don't have pets, studies show.
2. Stress Soothers
Petting your cat or dog feels good. It can lower your blood pressure, helps your body release a relaxation hormone, and cuts down on levels of a stress hormone.
It also soothes your pet!
3. Social Magnets
Pets, especially dogs, can help you connect with other people.
Many people don't feel comfortable striking up a conversation with a total stranger, but they could if the stranger had a dog . It's an acceptable interaction that otherwise wouldn't be possible.
People who use wheelchairs say that other people make eye contact with them more often and ask if they can be of help when they're with their dogs.
4. Better Mood, More Meaning
People with pets are generally happier, more trusting, and less lonely than those who don't have pets. They also visit the doctor less often for minor problems.
One reason for that may be that your pet gives you a sense of belonging and meaning. You feel like you have greater control of your life.
5. Benefits for Baby’s Immune System
Babies raised in families that have pets may be less likely to get allergies and asthma, some studies show.
Babies with dogs or cats at home have fewer colds and ear infections during their first year than babies living in pet-free homes, one study found.
6. Social Support for Autistic Children
Kids tend to relate better to their classmates who have autism when pets are in the classroom.
Animals change the classroom environment and help to integrate those who are a little less typical. Once the children get involved with animals, they view each other more positively and work together better.
7. AND ONE MORE THING:
With the high temperatures we’re having right now, although we covered all the ways to prevent heat exhaustion and heat stroke, please remember that dogs left in cars have a very high risk of heat stroke. Just a few minutes" could be an eternity in a 120F degree car. Never ever leave your pets alone in a car. Not even for a minute. Not even with the car running and air conditioner on. On a warm day, temperatures inside a vehicle can rise rapidly to dangerous levels. On an 85-degree day, for example, the temperature inside a car with the windows opened slightly can reach 102 degrees within 10 minutes. After 30 minutes, the temperature will reach 120 degrees. Your pet may suffer irreversible organ damage or die.
As more people are getting a private health insurance plan this year, many for the first time ever, there’s still a lot of confusion about what it all means. Dr. Saggar, the ‘Doctor is In’, is here to help understand a few of the words and phrases you hear being thrown around...
What do you mean by premium?Your premium or rate is what you pay each month for your health coverage. Your rate is based on the plan you select, where you live, your age and tobacco use for yourself and any dependents you may be covering.
What is a copay?
The copay is your share for the upfront cost, as the patient, for getting seen when you go and see a healthcare provider like a doctor or nurse practitioner. It’s usually a flat amount, such as $15 for a primary care visit, $50 to $75 for an urgent care visit, and $200 to $300 for an ER visit.
What’s a deductible?
The deductible is the amount you and your family has to pay before your insurance company actually starts paying for anything. For example, if your deductible is $3,000, that’s what you must pay before the plan will start to pay.
So plans with lower deductibles will have a higher monthly premium, and plans with a higher deductible will have lower monthly premiums.
What is coinsurance?
This word means the share of the health care costs you’re responsible for paying. It’s listed as a percentage. For example, if you choose a plan with 20 percent coinsurance you will pay 20 percent of the cost of care AFTER you’ve reached your deductible.
So what is meant by the ‘out-of-pocket maximum’?
The amount you have to pay each year for health care before it’s covered 100 percent by your plan. This is the most you’ll pay for care during the year. This includes three things: your copays, your deductible and the coinsurance, but not your premiums. In other words, only after you’ve paid (1) your monthly premium and (2) your copay and (3) your deductible and finally (4) your share of the coinsurance - only THEN will your insurance company start paying for your medical care.
Understanding this makes people wonder why they even have insurance to begin with! The answer: it’s important for those catastrophic things that you can never really afford to cut a check for, such as a big heart attack or stroke, getting hit by a truck or getting cancer.
What is a formulary?
A formulary is a list of medicines covered by your health plan. You’ll often pay a lower copay or coinsurance for formulary medicines than non-formulary medicines. This is usually because the insurance company has negotiated lower prices for one drug compared with another, so obviously they want you to choose the drugs that they have to pay less for.
What is my coverage outside of the network?
Most individual plans, but not all, have some kind of out-of-network coverage. This is important if you travel around the country, or if you want more choice. If your insurer has no out-of-network coverage, then you’re as good as uninsured if you go somewhere they don’t want you to go. Plans with no out-of-network coverage are usually the cheapest you can find.
The amount you pay (deductibles and coinsurance) for using out of network providers will be higher than if you receive care in-network. Again, the insurance companies have negotiated lower rates with the network providers, and hence try to steer you towards seeing their ‘favorites’, because it’ll cost them less money.
What is the Direct Care network?
Direct Medical Care, aka DMC, is a capitated model, which a growing number of people are using throughout the country, in an effort to reduce or eliminate their out-of-pocket costs. For a low fixed monthly fee, like $59/month in Saint Louis for example, you can get primary care or urgent care, and never pay a penny for a copay, deductible or coinsurance again, for that particular kind of visit. The good thing is that over 80% of visits are primary care or urgent care, so this really does help cut your costs dramatically.
So, if you get a [much cheaper] catastrophic or bronze insurance plan with a direct medical care plan, then your out-of-pocket expenses are limited to around $700 per year if you can restrict your visits to primary care or urgent care, and things are a lot more predictable.
So why should we get health insurance?
Chiefly because of the serious catastrophic big stuff that could happen.
Our out-pocket-costs far exceed the value we get for them when we use insurance for the ‘small-ticket’ items such as urgent care or most ER visits, but we continue to want to have health insurance as a nation, because we’ve been hypnotized to believe that we are somehow exposed or suffering without it. Prevention of disease for those who are perfectly healthy, in the form of an annual physical with your physician or nurse practitioner, is definitely a good idea, but this can still be done affordably without all the copays, deductibles and so on, associated with health insurance.
In summary, insurance was originally created for big-ticket catastrophic problems, much like car insurance, so we should use it for that. For the small stuff, use a much cheaper option in the form of a Bronze plan plus a monthly plan such as DirectMedicalCareUSA.com
1. So what’s wrong with not having your regular doctor, and just going to the ER whenever you`re sick or injured?
Absolutely nothing, if you don`t mind waiting a few hours, paying through the nose with a copay and seeing someone who doesn`t know anything about your past medical history.
Let me first be sure that I do think many people should ALWAYS be seen in the Emergency Room, and these are the patients who have real emergencies. Things like:
● An unconscious person
● Suspected heart attack or chest pain
● Difficulty breathing or choking
● Severe bleeding
● Serious burn
● Gun shot or stabbing
● Suspected stroke
● Altered mental status or confusion
● Suicide attempt or plans
● Drug overdose or poisoning
● Trauma, serious limb/sight/life-threatening injury
● Near drowning or electrical shock
● Imminent childbirth
● Any emergency in which you are unable to safely get to hospital on your own
But for those people who don`t have an emergency, or perhaps a chronic medical condition, there are far better, far cheaper, far quicker and far more efficient ways to get seen and treated.
2. Are you talking about urgent cares again?
Actually no. I`m not here to talk about urgent cares. I want to encourage people to get set up with a primary care provider. I say `provider` because it might be a doctor or a nurse practitioner or physician assistant. Basically someone who knows everything about you and whom you can reach by phone, text or email. Someone you can go and see whenever you have a problem. If it`s not an emergency, then it can wait until the office is open.
What I`m emphasizing here is getting yourself established with a general internist or family physician, or even an OBGYN or pediatrician for the kids. That way, we will have the best care available to people, who might otherwise just think they have to go to the Emergency Room, whatever their illness or injury may be.
3. But what if you need stitches or an x-ray? Don`t those patients need to go to the Urgent Care at least, if not the ER?
There are some primary care groups that actually have arrangements set up with urgent care clinics, so that their patients can go and be seen, get the x-ray, the suturing, the breathing treatment and so on, and not have to go through the costly process of registering as an ER or Urgent Care patient.
DowntownMedicalSTL.com is just such a group, which has a presence in both the City and County. If you really want to have access to all those procedures and tests, ask your primary care provider if they have such an arrangement.
4. So, people can be seen at an Urgent Care, for the cost of a Primary Care copay?
It`s the best of both worlds. You get the more expensive urgent care management (which is the same as the even more expensive ER management), but at a primary care price, which is a fraction of the copay and wait time. Not only that, you have continuity of care.
5. You mean your primary care provider will know what happened when you came in?
That`s right. It`ll be documented in the same EMR, or Electronic Medical Record, software that your primary care provider is using, so he or she just has to login and read the chart, knowing exactly what happened to you when you went to the urgent care clinic the previous day.
DowntownMedicalSTL.com has done exactly that, resulting in An Affordable Alternative to Expensive Emergency Room or Urgent-Care. Now your primary care provider is fully equipped to treat any non-emergency problem. Doesn`t that make you feel better already?
6. Why do so many people have this knee-jerk reflex to go to the ER or Urgent Care, whenever they`re sick or injured?
I think it`s human nature to see red, in this case blood from a wound, and panic, not caring at all about the cost or the wait time, and head straight for the ER, or worse, call 911 when they don`t even have an emergency. Over 85% of ER patients can easily be managed in the Urgent Care, thereby drastically reducing the cost and the wait time.
And now, with the walk-in primary care arrangement with urgent care clinics, we can reduce the cost even more, but now also have some continuity of care.
7. What other advantages are there to having a primary care provider?
You have a relationship with someone who can help control your high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and other chronic medical conditions.
You also have someone who will protect you from being exposed to unnecessary doses of dangerous radiation. Many emergency physicians, and less so, even urgent care providers, will be a little more hasty to get a CT scan for a headache or a tummy ache, than that patient`s own doctor might.
There`s a disturbing trend of people getting far more CT scans (equivalent to the radiation of 500 x-rays) than they should, often because the ordering physician is afraid of litigation or sometimes because there`s money to be made. If you`re ever in doubt about getting a CT scan or other test, at an ER or Urgent Care, don`t be afraid to question the physician who is suggesting it, and be sure it really is a good idea. Having your own primary care provider on speed-dial is a great way to prevent such unnecessary testing.
8. A primary care provider is really like having a medical advocate?
Exactly. The primary care provider is, by definition, the first person in the medical field who should be looking out for your wellbeing as well as your safety. It`s like having that family member who is also a doctor, but you can ask him anything you want about your health and he`ll be totally honest with you.
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DowntownMedicalSTL.com partners with St. Louis Urgent Cares which presently has 4 urgent care clinic locations around St. Louis.
We’ve all heard that Vitamin D and Calcium are important for our health, and that we can get them from being out in the sun and eating dairy products.
But some scientists argue that protecting yourself from UV Rays is actually bad for your health. While others say, dairy may not be the best source for calcium at all.
So what`s the truth?
Dr. Sonny Saggar is in today on News 11 at noon, to sort it out for us all.
1. Why are Vitamin D and Calcium important?
Getting enough vitamin D and calcium are two of the best things you can do to keep your bones healthy.
These two nutrients work together to make you less likely to break a bone or get osteoporosis, a disease that weakens them and can lead to small and not-so-small fractures.
To protect your bones you do (1) need calcium in your diet, but you also (2) need to keep calcium in your bones.
2. How Much Vitamin D and Calcium Do You Need?
Vitamin D is measured in international units (IU). The Institute of Medicine recommends getting this 600IU vitamin D every day for most adults, with smaller amounts for kids and the elderly:
3. How Can You Get Vitamin D and Calcium?
Unlike a lot of the traditional advice you may get, I`m not a big supporter of calcium from dairy consumption. Dairy products do contain calcium, but this calcium is accompanied by animal proteins, lactose sugar, animal growth factors, occasional drugs and contaminants, and a substantial amount of fat and cholesterol.
The most healthful calcium sources are green leafy vegetables and legumes, or “greens and beans” for short.
Collards, Oatmeal, Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Kale, mustard greens and other greens are loaded with highly absorbable calcium and a host of other healthful nutrients. The exception is spinach, which contains a large amount of calcium but tends to hold onto it very tenaciously, so that you will absorb less of it.
Beans are humble foods, and you might not know that they are loaded with calcium. There is more than 100 milligrams of calcium in a plate of baked beans. If you prefer chickpeas, tofu, or other bean or bean products, you will find plenty of calcium there, as well. These foods also contain magnesium, which your body uses along with calcium to build bones.
If you are looking for a very concentrated calcium source, calcium-fortified orange or apple juices contain 300 milligrams or more of calcium per cup in a highly absorbable form.
Although many people think of dairy calcium in the diet as good protection for their bones, this is not completely true. In fact, in a 12-year Harvard study of 78,000 women, those who drank milk three times a day actually broke more bones than women who rarely drank milk.
Similarly, a 1994 study of elderly men and women in Sydney, Australia, showed that higher dairy product consumption was associated with increased fracture risk. Those with the highest dairy product consumption had approximately double the risk of hip fracture compared to those with the lowest consumption.
4. Exercise and stay active, so that calcium has somewhere to go.
Exercise is important for many reasons, including keeping bones strong. Active people tend to keep calcium in their bones, while sedentary people lose calcium.
5. Get vitamin D from the sun or supplements if you need them.
Vitamin D controls your body’s use of calcium. About 15 minutes of sunlight on your skin each day normally produces all the vitamin D you need. If you get little or no sun exposure, you can get vitamin D from most multi-vitamins.
Very small amounts of sun exposure provide all the vitamin D the body can manufacture. Even when you wear sunscreen, some UV reaches the skin, and this may be plenty, at least for fair-skinned individuals. Greater exposure adds nothing to vitamin D stores, while increasing DNA damage in a linear fashion, many dermatologists will argue.
Also, it can be hard to make enough vitamin D from the winter sun, depending on where you live.
If you’re not getting all the vitamin D and calcium you need from food, talk with your doctor about taking a multivitamin or supplements.
6. How to Keep The Calcium from being wasted away.
It’s not enough to get calcium into your bones. What is really critical is keeping it there. Here’s how:
6a. Reduce calcium losses by avoiding excess salt.
Calcium in bones tends to dissolve into the bloodstream, then passes through the kidneys into the urine.
High sodium (salt) in the foods you eat can greatly increase calcium loss through the kidneys. If you reduce your sodium intake to one to two grams per day, you will hold onto calcium better. To do that, avoid salty snack foods and canned goods with added sodium, and keep salt use low on the stove and at the table.
6b. Get your protein from plants, not animal products.
Animal protein, fish, poultry, red meat, eggs, and dairy products tends to leach calcium from the bones and encourages its passage into the urine. Plant protein in beans, grains, and vegetables does not appear to have this effect.
6c. Don’t smoke.
Smokers lose calcium, too. A study of identical twins showed that, if one twin had been a long-term smoker and the other had not, the smoker had more than a 40 percent higher risk of a fracture.
Steroid medications, such as prednisone, are a common cause of bone loss and fractures. If you are receiving steroids, you will want to work with your doctor to minimize the dose and to explore other treatments.
Alcohol can weaken your bones, apparently by reducing the body’s ability to make new bone to replace normal losses. The effect is probably only significant if you have more than two drinks per day of spirits, beer, or wine.
A lower than normal amount of testosterone can encourage osteoporosis. About 40 percent of men over 70 years of age have decreased levels of testosterone.
In many of the remaining cases, the causes are excessive calcium losses and inadequate vitamin D.
First, avoid animal protein, excess salt and caffeine, and tobacco, and to stay physically active in order to reduce calcium losses.
Second, take vitamin D supplements as prescribed by your physician. The usual amount is 600 IU (5 micrograms) per day, but it may be doubled if you get no sun exposure at all.
Finally, the risk of skin cancer, based on your skin tone and family history, should be borne in mind, when you weigh the relative risk of not wearing sunscreen to not getting enough Vitamin D.