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Archive for May, 2011

As summer vacation rapidly approaches, many of us are planning to travel on commercial aircraft. It has long been known that, with air travel, there is a risk of forming blood clots in the legs, a condition called deep vein thrombosis. Fortunately, this is not very common during travel, but there are other situations that place a patient at risk for DVT that I will also discuss.
The major problem associated with DVT is that part or all of a clot may come loose and travel to the heart and, from there, directly to the lungs. This is called a pulmonary embolism, and it can be very serious and sometimes fatal. It is estimated that about 350,000 Americans a year are affected by DVT or pulmonary embolism.

Certain factors can make one more prone to this condition:

– Sitting for long periods of time, such as when driving or, especially, flying

– Prolonged bed rest, such as during hospital stays or chronic illness at home

– Recent surgery or injury involving major broken bones

– Pregnancy

– Blood clotting disorders

– Cancer

– A history of DVT

– Obesity

– Cigarette smoking

Symptoms of DVT may include swelling in a leg (usually only one is involved); leg pain, usually in the calf; and redness or warmth over the problem area.

Symptoms of pulmonary embolism are unexplained shortness of breath or chest pain; a feeling of light-headedness or dizziness; and coughing up blood.

For most healthy adults, DVT is very rare. If you feel that you are at risk, or to prevent a recurrent episode, consider the following:

– Take precautions while traveling. Stay well hydrated with nonalcoholic drinks. Take hourly breaks from sitting to walk around, or at least exercise your calf muscles while seated.

– Make healthy changes, such as losing weight and stopping smoking.

– Follow the instructions from your doctor if you have recently had surgery or a serious illness.

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I recently had the pleasure of visiting my healthy 95-year-old aunt Grace, and then I thought about my 97-year-old neighbor Vic, and it made me realize just how amazing the human body is to keep functioning for so many years. I am awestruck by this body of ours that began with just two microscopic cells coming together and developing into a complex living organism made up of some 75 trillion cells, many of which have specialized to perform amazing functions, making us the incredible beings that we are.

I’d like to share with you some interesting statistics about the human body.

Let’s take an 84-year-old person, for example. This person:

– Has a heart that beats 100,000 times daily — 35 million beats a year and more than 3 billion beats in a lifetime.

– Has a heart that has pumped over 48 million gallons of blood in a lifetime, which is enough to fill more than 2,000 average-sized in-ground swimming pools.

– Has lungs that breathe 23,000 times daily, producing 2,600 gallons of air or almost 80 million gallons per year. That’s enough in a lifetime to fill about 160 full-sized hot-air balloons.

– Has two kidneys that produce 1½ quarts of urine a day, or more than 10,000 gallons per lifetime. Those same kidneys have processed a quart of blood per minute: 423 gallons per day, and 13 million gallons per lifetime.

– Has consumed and processed 3½ pounds of food a day, equating to more than 53 tons of food since birth.

– Has produced almost 10,000 gallons of saliva in a lifetime.

Other interesting facts about our bodies

Our bodies are composed of 50 to 100 trillion cells, and 300 million cells die and are replaced every minute. Fifteen million blood cells die every second.

We have more than 650 muscles; the largest is the gluteus maximus (buttock), and the smallest, the stapedius in the middle ear.

We have 206 bones. The largest, at an average of 18 inches, is the femur (thigh bone), and the smallest, just one-tenth of an inch, is the stapes, again in the middle ear.

We have about 20 square feet of skin, with 35,000 dead skin cells coming off the body daily, which means our entire skin is replaced once a month. We shed 40 pounds of skin during an average lifetime.

We have 60,000 miles of blood vessels, which would wrap around the world more than twice.

Our noses can detect 50,000 scents.

We blink 6 million times a year.

There are roughly 20,000 diseases that affect the human body, and there are more than 600,000 physicians representing 150 medical specialties to deal with human health and disease.

Take good care of that amazing body of yours.

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Have you ever had any of these experiences?

**You walk into a room and forget what you wanted to do.

**You want to drive somewhere but you can’t remember where you left the car keys.

**You’re shopping and you see one of your close neighbors, but you can’t remember his or her name.

These are but a few examples of what are commonly referred to as “senior moments.” Many people who have these forgetful moments fear that they might be in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, but the fact is that almost everyone, especially starting around the age of 50, has these experiences.

Factors that can worsen memory loss are:

**Lack of sleep

**Uncontrolled high blood pressure

**Excessive use of alcohol

**Medications

**Loneliness, anxiety and depression

Just as aging affects our bodies, it also causes changes in our brains. Memory lapses are some of the more obvious changes that we will all experience.

Although we can’t keep our brains from physically aging, we can be proactive to slow down those changes. The following are my recommendations to keep our brains as healthy as possible as we age:

**Concentrate, pay attention and use mental images to help remember things.

**Maintain a positive attitude and continue to find purpose in life.

**Remain physically active with some form of regular exercise.

**Stimulate the brain by doing puzzles and word games, reading and conversing.

**Maintain adequate sleep. A regular brief nap is very beneficial.

**Eat a healthful, balanced diet.

**Avoid alcohol, or at least limit its use.

**Get organized. Use calendars, notes and lists to jog the memory.

**Do not isolate yourself. Remain socially active with family and friends.

**Relax through yoga, meditation and prayer.

The bottom line is that we all experience occasional memory loss. This is part of the normal aging process. Senior moments usually cause only minor annoyances, occasional slips and inconvenience and are no cause for worry or concern. If your moments become persistent, worsen or interfere with daily activities, however, you should see your doctor so your symptoms can be evaluated.

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