Woman’s road to health inspires others

Irene Gonzales did her milestone 50th birthday so big she landed on NBC’s “Today” show Aug. 8 to share her infectious enthusiasm with the entire country. Like many baby boomers looking to do something extraordinary to mark the big 5-0, Gonzales, the principal at Spokane’s … Read more

Latest stories

Feeling the burn

As a person with COPD, Peggy Clymore catches the air-quality reports on the early-morning news and adjusts  accordingly. On dirtier-air days, she tends her flower and vegetable gardens soon after rising or in the evening, when she finds it easier to breathe outdoors than during midday. But under recent smoky skies in Spokane as a massive wildfire raged in north-central Washington, Clymore, 71, stayed indoors all day, windows clamped shut and swamp cooler running. For someone with COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – or asthma, emphysema or other respiratory ailments – smoky air can lead to serious complications. Read more

Ask Dr. K: Memory function, sleep may be linked

DEAR DOCTOR K: I read about a new study on sleep and memory. I understand why too little sleep could affect memory. But why would too much sleep be harmful? DEAR READER: When it comes to memory, sleep is a Goldilocks issue: Neither too much nor too little is good. Aim for “just right,” says Dr. Elizabeth Devore, an instructor in medicine at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Dr. Devore led a new study that suggests getting an “average” amount of sleep – seven hours per day – may help maintain memory in later life. Read more

Nation’s aging population faces a shortage of geriatric specialists

ATLANTA – Lillian Brown didn’t think much of it when she noticed one of her feet was darker than the other. Her doctor, though, recognized it as a sign of poor circulation. When she turned a little forgetful, Brown, 62, figured she’d be told, “That’s just part of aging.” But her doctor ordered an MRI and found a cyst on her brain. Read more

Health bulletin board www.spokesman.com/livewell/

New listings Type 2 Diabetes/Heart Disease Prevention Study – Participants are sought for a Washington State University research study for adults at risk for type 2 diabetes and/or heart disease. Participants will take part in a lifestyle change program to help prevent diabetes and lower risk for heart disease. For more information call (509) 368-6710; or email alissa.underhill@email.wsu.edu. There is no cost to take part in this study. Read more

In the end, muscle cramps always win

The cramping began in Maggie Barton’s toes during a tennis playoff match six summers ago. It swept up her body like a torrent, overtaking her calves and her entire body, leaving in its wake excruciating pain and an inability to move her arms. “My arms were around a bench, and it took three people to get me off of it,” says Barton, 39, of Dallas. “You’re not in control. It’s really, really painful, and it’s scary. You feel like it’s going to go to your heart.” Read more

Ask Dr. K: Cervical cancer screening has changed

DEAR DOCTOR K: I am 31 years old and have always had normal Pap smears. I just read that HPV testing might be better. What do you suggest? DEAR READER: Screening for cervical cancer has led to a dramatic decrease in the disease. Until fairly recently, all cervical cancer screening was done by Pap smear. But the FDA recently approved the use of a new screening tool – the HPV DNA test – that may eventually take its place. Read more

TOPS offers weight-loss support at skinnier price

Near the top of every TOPS meeting, there’s a weight-loss roll call. Or weight gain or weight maintenance, depending on what kind of week the member had. At one such gathering last week in north Spokane, women who reported losses received cheers and applause. But the responses were positive for those who’d gained some weight, too. Read more

Ask Dr. K: Monitoring sufficient for some cancers

DEAR DOCTOR K: I was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer. My doctor says my cancer is slow-growing and that we should just monitor it for now. Why not treat it right away? DEAR READER: I know this will sound odd, but cancer is not always bad for your health. There are types of cancer that can cause no symptoms, that grow slowly (if at all) and that are unlikely to spread. There are types of cancer that you will never know you had. You will die with these cancers, but you won’t die from them. Read more

At seven months, babies ‘rehearse’ to start speaking

Even when they are only 7 months old, babies are mentally working out the mechanics of how to form words with their mouths - well before they’re able to utter their first recognizable syllable. The latest discovery from the University of Washington’s Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences (I-LABS), in Seattle, underscores the importance of speaking to babies from the moment they are born, even though, in those early months, it may not look like it’s having much effect, said Patricia Kuhl, co-director of I-LABS. Read more

Health bulletin board

New listings Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes - Annual event presented by the American Diabetes Association. The walk is open to people of all ages and activity levels; you can walk any distance up to 4 ½ miles. Register online at www.diabetes.org/spokanestepout. For more information call (509) 624-7478, ext. 2281 or like the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/adaspokane. Oct. 5, 8:30 a.m., Riverfront Park, 507 N. Howard St. Read more

Manufacturer, pediatricians clash over drug’s necessity

CHICAGO – A costly drug given mostly to premature babies is at the center of a clash between the manufacturer and the nation’s leading pediatricians group, which recommends scaling back use of the medicine. The dispute involves new guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics, which say medical evidence shows the drug benefits few children other than very young preemies. The medicine guards against a common but usually mild virus that can cause serious lung problems. Read more

Shawn Vestal: Gains made by, for kids eclipsed by poverty

It sometimes seems that – in the realms where concerns about poverty and childhood are taken seriously – the news is always bad. This is not because the news is always bad, however. And sometimes, in the push to address very real problems, underlying improvements go unseen. When that happens, the crisis mindset can begin to seem false or incomplete, eroding the very belief that we need, as a society, to try to address these problems to improve the lives of poor children. Read more

Study links DNA to the risk of developing schizophrenia

WASHINGTON – Scientists have linked more than 100 spots in our DNA to the risk of developing schizophrenia, casting light on the mystery of what makes the disease tick. Such work eventually could point to new treatments, although they are many years away. Already, the new results provide the first hard genetic evidence to bolster a theory connecting the immune system to the disease. Read more

Melanoma diagnosed decades later often linked to childhood sun damage

Oh, long, sunny summer days. So bright and inviting and treasured by schoolchildren. Oh, warnings about the dangers of the long, sunny summer days and the importance of sunscreen and protective clothing for children, along with adults. So predictable. Read more

House Call: The long road to becoming a doctor

Last year, I became one of four faculty guides for second-year students in the new medical school program in Spokane. We now have all phases of medical training here, and you will likely encounter medical students, residents and fellows in your doctor’s office or at the hospital as they rotate through these locations to gain clinical experience with local physicians. You are an important part of helping them become full-fledged physicians. The path to becoming a physician begins at a four-year university where premed students take the chemistry, physics and biology courses necessary to enter medical school. Premed students can major in any subject as long as they also take the required science courses. The next step is taking the Medical College Admission Test. Read more

Washington law bans kids, teens from tanning beds

Tanning beds in Washington are now for adults only. A state law that took effect in June prohibits people younger than 18 from using ultraviolet tanning devices such as tanning booths and beds and sunlamps without a doctor’s prescription. The law aims to protect children from the harmful effects of UV radiation. Read more

Ask Dr. K: Main culprit in skin damage: Sun

DEAR DOCTOR K: As I’ve entered my 40s, the skin on my hands and face has started to change. What happens to our skin as we age? DEAR READER: The shortest answer is that our skin gets old, like the rest of us. In fact, the three layers of skin get old in different ways. Read more

Studies find health risks for prescription niacin

New details from two studies reveal more side effects from niacin, a drug that hundreds of thousands of Americans take for cholesterol problems and general heart health. Some prominent doctors say the drug now seems too risky for routine use. Niacin is a type of B vitamin long sold over the counter and in higher prescription doses. Some people take it alone or with statin medicines such as Lipitor for cholesterol problems. Read more