Fresh and healthy on food banks’ wish lists

Comforting, sweet and cheap, “white food” has its appeals. But the frosted cinnamon rolls and chocolate-chip scones packed by the clamshell into cardboard boxes in a food bank warehouse last week wouldn’t do anyone’s health much good. Read more

Latest stories

Plenty of reasons to toot the horn for beans

Beans, beans, beans – even talking about them makes you smile. And, of course, you know why. Every adolescent seems to have a bean joke or story somewhere in their repertoire. But put those jokes into your back pocket, because beans are making a comeback. New research published in the Archives of Internal Medicine shows these unsexy vegetables might help control diabetes and reduce the risk for heart attacks and stroke. Read more

The importance of the flu vaccine, and what to do if you get sick

Public health officials explain the importance of the influenza vaccine and what to do if you get sick. Q. Should I get vaccinated? Read more

Challenge of flu vaccine lies in strains

Flu viruses are constantly mutating. Which means that formulating the vaccine each year is always “a best-guess scenario,” said Paul Throne, of the Washington Department of Health. Read more

Ask Dr. K: Drug-free ways to treat hand joint pain

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have osteoarthritis in my hand. Could you recommend some drug-free treatments to relieve the pain? DEAR READER: Osteoarthritis causes stiffness and pain in the joints. It develops when cartilage – the connective tissue that covers the ends of bones – deteriorates. In a joint, the ends of two or more bones come together. The softer and more flexible cartilage that covers the ends of the bones acts as a cushion. If the cartilage were not there, the hard bones would grind against each other. Read more

House Call: This isn’t your grandparents’ arthritis

When you hear “arthritis,” your first thoughts are probably of your parents, grandparents or an elderly friend. But it’s not only older people who get arthritis. Children can develop this condition too. While older adults often have osteoarthritis, caused by wear and tear on joints over time, children – nearly 300,000 of them in the United States – develop other types of arthritis, which are grouped together under the name “juvenile idiopathic arthritis.” Read more

Ask Dr. K: Iron deficit in teen girls treatable

DEAR DOCTOR K: My teenage daughter recently learned that she has iron deficiency and anemia. Why would her iron be low? What is the treatment? DEAR READER: Anemia means that the blood does not have enough red blood cells. These cells carry oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. There are many kinds of anemia. In the United States, iron-deficiency anemia is the most common; it occurs when the body does not have enough iron to make red blood cells. Read more

FDA to clarify labels for drugs’ safety during pregnancy

WASHINGTON – Pregnant and worried about your medication? The Food and Drug Administration is revamping confusing labels on prescription drugs to make it easier to understand which are safe to use. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding often agonize over whether a drug needed for their own health might hurt their baby, or even if the woman’s changing body requires a higher or lower dose. Read more

Prediabetes serves as loud wakeup call

I exercise, stay slim and think I am reasonably careful about my diet. Subtract the dark-chocolate habit and minus the Cheetos cravings, I make fairly good choices. So I was shocked to learn that my fasting blood sugars were bordering on high and my numbers were leaning toward becoming prediabetic. How could this be? Prediabetes results from a combination of poor lifestyle choices and hereditary predisposition. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 86 million people, or 1 in 3 adults, in the United States have prediabetes. Read more

Ask Doctor K: Leg swelling has variety of causes

DEAR DOCTOR K: Why are my legs and ankles swollen? DEAR READER: Swelling of the legs from a buildup of extra fluid is known as edema. In addition to the swelling, the skin above the swollen area is stretched and shiny. Your doctor can easily check for edema by gently pressing a finger over your foot, ankle or leg with slow, steady pressure. If you have edema, you will see an indentation where the doctor pressed. Read more

Finding a light in the battle against SAD

Every year at this time, the days become shorter and the nights longer. We look outside at the blackness and wonder, “Gee, is it really only 7:30?” We have to think more about what we eat and how to exercise. And then there is the bogeyman for many of us: seasonal affective disorder. Read more

Can hormone therapy raise heart risk?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I’m 68 years old and have been on low-dose estrogen therapy since I had a hysterectomy (and started menopause) at age 50. My doctor won’t prescribe it anymore because he says it increases my risk of heart problems. Is that true? DEAR READER: The effect of hormone therapy on the heart is a controversial area. Hormone therapy usually involves “combination therapy,” with both estrogens (the main female hormones) and progestins (other important female hormones). Estrogen helps reduce symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes. Progestin reduces the risk of cancer of the uterus. Read more

Reading ‘Potter’ gives clues to brain

WASHINGTON – Harry Potter swoops around on his broom, faces the bully Malfoy and later runs into a three-headed dog. For scientists studying brain activity while reading, it’s the perfect excerpt from the young wizard’s many adventures to give their subjects. Reading that section of “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” activates some of the same regions in the brain that people use to perceive real people’s actions and intentions. Scientists then map what a healthy brain does as it reads. Read more

Left untreated, diabetic eye disease can rob vision

About 10 years ago I met a young woman in her mid-20s who was blind due to retinopathy, damage to the retina at the back of her eyes caused by many years of uncontrolled diabetes. She had juvenile onset diabetes and had struggled with a lack of insurance and inability to get enough medication and care. Retinopathy is one result of uncontrolled diabetes. Retinopathy, cataracts and other eye complications from diabetes are not inevitable and do not have to result in blindness. Blood sugar control, proper preventive care and regular eye exams can reduce the risk and the damage of these complications. When diabetic retinopathy begins, it causes small blood vessels at the back of the eye to swell and form pouches. The condition progresses from mild to severe as more blood vessels swell. If left untreated, people can eventually lose their vision. Read more

Colonoscopy better than home test kit

DEAR DOCTOR K: I heard about a new home test that detects colon cancer. Is it a good alternative to colonoscopy? DEAR READER: The new test appears to be an advance, but I don’t think it’s as good as colonoscopy. Read more

Lifestyle affects odds for long life

DEAR DOCTOR K: Eat right. Don’t smoke. Stay active. Can you give me some motivation to keep up these healthy behaviors? DEAR READER: I think I get your message. This column frequently presents information from scientific studies about healthy lifestyle. But information alone may not be enough to change behavior – and it’s hard to change behavior, particularly when you enjoy it. Information doesn’t equal motivation. Read more

Ask Doctor K: Choose right eye drops for your allergy symptoms

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have allergies, and my eyes are affected the most. They’re puffy, red and itchy. What can I do? DEAR READER: Pollens, animal dander, dust mites and mold: The same allergens that cause sneezing and an itchy nose and throat can trigger allergy symptoms that affect your eyes. If your eyes are red and itchy, you also may have tearing, mucous discharge and swelling of your conjunctiva (the inside of your eyelid). This constellation of symptoms is known as allergic conjunctivitis. It can be uncomfortable, but it is not a threat to vision. Read more