Side Effects of Sex

monday-morning-blues--large-prf-1124686656It’s Monday morning, it’s cold and the holidays are still too far away to be a reality for most of us.  Not a lot to be cheerful about?  Right!

Never fear, SRxA’s Word on Health is here to help start your week off right with some health news that may just bring a smile to your face.

While many people associate a healthy lifestyle with grueling workouts, strict dieting and general deprivation and misery  – this is a misconception.

According to Dr Joseph Mercola, an osteopathic physician, web entrepreneur and New York Times best selling author, healthy habits can be among the most rewarding.  Take sex. It counts as moderately intense exercise plus it boosts numerous aspects of both physical and mental health. As long as you’re engaging in safe-sex practices, increasing your sexual activity is a surefire strategy to better health!

benefits of sexMercola suggests regular sex can reduce stress, bolster self-esteem and foster feelings of intimacy and bonding between partners.  Better still, a healthy sex life can result in a longer, healthier and, most would agree, more enjoyable life.

In case that’s not enough – here’s 10 more healthy side effects of sex:

1. Improved Immunity

People who have sex frequently have significantly higher levels of immunoglobulin A (IgA). IgA is part of the immune system that forms your body’s first line of defense. Its job is to fight off invading organisms at their entry points, reducing or even eliminating the need for activation of your body’s immune system. This may explain why people who have sex frequently also take fewer sick days.

2. Heart Health

According to one study, men who made love regularly (at least twice a week) are 45% less likely to develop heart disease than those who did so once a month or less.

Sexual activity not only provides many of the same benefits to your heart as exercise but also keeps levels of estrogen and testosterone in balance, which is important for heart health.

3. Lower Blood Pressure

Sexual activity, and specifically intercourse, is linked to better stress response and lower blood pressure.

4. It’s a Form of Exercise

Sex helps to boost your heart rate, burn calories and strengthen muscles, just like exercise. In fact, research recently revealed that sex burns about 4 calories a minute for men and 3 for women, making it (at times) a ‘significant’ form of exercise. It can even help you to maintain your flexibility and balance.

5. Pain Relief

Sexual activity releases pain-reducing hormones and has been found to help reduce or block back and leg pain, as well as pain from menstrual cramps, arthritis and headaches. One study even found that sexual activity can lead to partial or complete relief of headache in some migraine and cluster-headache patients.

6. Help to Reduce Risk of Prostate Cancer

Research has shown that men who ejaculate at least 21 times a month (during sex or masturbation) have a lower risk of prostate cancer.

sex and sleep7. Improve Sleep

After sex, the relaxation-inducing hormone prolactin is released, which may help you to nod off more quickly. The “love hormone” oxytocin, released during orgasm, also promotes sleep.

8. Stress Relief

Sex triggers your body to release it’s natural feel-good chemicals, helping to ease stress and boost pleasure, calm and self-esteem. Research also shows that those who have sexual intercourse responded better when subjected to stressful situations like speaking in public.

9. Boost Your Libido

The more often you have sex, the more likely you are to want to keep doing it. There’s a mental connection there but also a physical one, particularly for women. More frequent sex helps to increase vaginal lubrication, blood flow and elasticity, which in turn make sexual activity more enjoyable.

10. Improved Bladder Control in Women

Intercourse helps to strengthen pelvic floor muscles, which contract during orgasm. This can help women improve their bladder control and avoid incontinence.

Happy Monday!

SRxA-logo for web

Honoring the Health Sacrifices of Our Veterans

VETERANS-DAY-poster-2012On Veterans Day, America pauses to honor every service member who has ever worn one of our Nation’s uniforms. Each time our country has come under attack, they have risen in her defense. Each time our freedoms have come under assault, they have responded with resolve. Through the generations, their courage and sacrifice have allowed our Republic to flourish. And today, a Nation acknowledges its profound debt of gratitude to the patriots who have kept it whole.

As we pay tribute to our veterans, we are mindful that no ceremony or parade can fully repay that debt. We remember that our obligations endure long after the battle ends, and we make it our mission to give them the respect and care they have earned. “

These two paragraphs are taken directly from the 2013 Veterans Day Presidential Proclamation.

But getting Veterans the care they deserve is not always easy.  The wounds of war can go far beyond what meets the eye. From mental health issues to pain and illness that persist long after they’ve left the battlefield, veterans face a multitude of health troubles either unique to their service or more frequent among them than the general population.

Folks returning from combat have a constellation of health concerns, including physical issues, psychological issues and psychosocial issues concerning things like work and family,” said Dr. Stephen Hunt, national director of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Post Deployment Integrative Care Initiative.

Some of the most common physical complaints of returning soldiers cannot be classified into a single disorder. They include nonspecific symptoms such as fatigue, pain and cognitive disturbances such as memory and concentration problems.

Here are seven of the most commonly seen health conditions confronting veterans:

vetsparade-79576Musculoskeletal injuries and pain

Just over half of all veterans’ post-deployment health visits address lingering pain in their backs, necks, knees or shoulders.  According to a study in the Journal of Pain, about 100,000 veterans of the Gulf War nearly 20 years ago have reported chronic muscle pain.

Mental health issues

PTSDWhile post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among soldiers has been well publicized, other mental woes can also result from the trauma of war. A study in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry [now JAMA Psychiatry] found that one in 10 Iraq war vets develop serious mental problems, including violent behavior, depression and alcohol abuse. The study found that PTSD or depression seriously impaired daily functioning in 8.5 – 14% of these vets.  Disabling on its own, PTSD is also linked to the development of physical illnesses for veterans as years pass. Researchers from Walter Reed Army Medical Center reported that 54% of veterans with PTSD also had sleep apnea, compared with 20%of PTSD patients in the general population. PTSD in vets is also associated with a greater risk of developing dementia.

Chemical exposure

syria1Research by the American Heart Association found that exposure to nerve agents such as sarin – which can trigger convulsions and death on the battlefield – may cause long-term heart damage in Gulf War veterans. The damage can include an enlarged left ventricle, heart rhythm abnormalities or a reduction in the pumping strength of the heart.

Infectious diseases

Although all military personnel are given routine vaccinations before deployment, veterans suffer disproportionately from certain infections that civilians almost never experience.  They include bacterial infections such as brucellosis, which may persist for years; campylobacter jejuni, which causes abdominal pain, fever and diarrhea; and Coxiella burnetii, which in chronic cases can inflame the heart.

Leishmaniasis, a parasitic disease caused by the bite of a sand fly native to the Middle East, is a particularly brutal condition veterans experience. Those infected suffer weight loss, fevers, headaches, muscle pain and weakness, anemia, and enlargement of the spleen and liver. It can be fatal if untreated, according to the VA..

army-mil-2007-06-28-113715Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

TBI, often brought on by a blow or jolt to the head, disrupts brain function and has been called the signature wound of the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the National Academy of Sciences. Blast exposures and other combat-related activities put service members at greater risk for sustaining a TBI compared to their civilian counterparts, according to the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center.

Common effects of TBIs include cognitive issues such as shorter attention span, language disabilities, and an inability to process information. Vets can also suffer from lack of motivation, irritability, anxiety and depression, headaches, memory loss and PTSD.

However, you choose to mark Veteran’s Day 2013, please remember the sacrifices made by all of our vets and be mindful of the long-term health problems they face. Ladies and Gentleman of the military, we thank you for your service.

SRxA-logo for web

NSAID’s in the News (again)

Medication - Over the Counter - otcLet me start by saying, that despite spending the last 20-something years in or around the pharmaceutical industry, I don’t like taking pills. That said, I’m not particularly partial to pain either. So when my knees or back hurts or I’m doubled over with dysmenorrhea, like many other people, I’ll reach for the ibuprofen.

But that may be about to change. Results from a new, large international study of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), showed that high doses of them increase the risk of a major vascular event such as heart attack, stroke or death from cardiovascular disease by around a third.

In other words, for every 1,000 people with an average risk of heart disease who take high-dose ibuprofen for a year, about three extra would have an avoidable heart attack, of which one would be fatal, the researchers said.

vioxxThis puts the heart risks of generic NSAIDs on a par with Vioxx – the painkiller that U.S. drugmaker Merck famously pulled from sale in 2004 because of links to heart risks.

The study team from Oxford University in the UK, gathered data, including on admissions to hospital, for cardiovascular or gastrointestinal disease, from all randomized trials that have previously tested NSAIDs.

This allowed them to pool results from 639 trials involving more than 300,000 people and re-analyze the data to establish the risks of NSAIDs in certain types of patients.

In contrast to the findings on ibuprofen and diclofenac, the study found that high doses of naproxen, another NSAID, did not appear to increase the risk of heart attacks. The researchers said this may be because naproxen also has protective effects that balance out any extra heart risks.

Researcher, Colin Baigent stressed that the risks are mainly relevant to people who suffer chronic pain, such as patients with arthritis who need to take high doses of for long periods. “A short course of lower dose tablets purchased without a prescription, for example, for a muscle sprain, is not likely to be hazardous,” he said.

He also warns patients not to make hasty decisions or change their treatment without consulting a doctor.

For many arthritis patients, NSAIDs reduce joint pain and swelling effectively and help them to enjoy a reasonable quality of life,” he said. “We really must be careful about the way we present the risks of these drugs. They do have risks, but they also have benefits, and patients should be presented with all those bits of information and allowed to make choices for themselves.”

Donald Singer, a professor of clinical pharmacology and therapeutics at Warwick University, who was not involved in the study, said its findings “underscore a key point for patients and prescribers: powerful drugs may have serious harmful effects.

In the meantime, I for one, will be revising my pain versus pill-popping habit, or switching to naproxen.

SRxA-logo for web

Stiffness, Swelling and the Sticky Issue of Sugary Soda

knee osteoarthritisThose of us of a certain age, probably know all about osteoarthritis, the “wear and tear” disease in which joint cartilage is lost. Losing cartilage from your knee is similar to having the shock absorbers go on your car.  It leads to pain, stiffness and other symptoms.

According to a large 2007 study, nearly 20% of women and 15% of men over the age of 45 have  symptoms of knee osteoarthritis.

Until now, many experts thought disease progression was inevitable. I’m pretty sure that’s what my knee surgeon thinks. One such clue: he always says “when I see you again” rather than “if I see you again” at the end of every visit.

Bloomberg Moves To Ban Sugary Drinks In NYC Restaurants And Movie TheatersNow, for men at least, this may be about to change. A new study of more than 2,000 with osteoarthritis of the knee showed that disease progression in men is linked to consumption of sugary soda.

Researchers reviewed the records of 2,149 men and women with confirmed osteoarthritis of the knee.

All filled out dietary questionnaires that asked how many soft drinks, not including sugar-free beverages, they drank on average each week.

Every year for four years, the researchers tracked their osteoarthritis progression by measuring the space between the joints. The more cartilage that is lost, the less the space. Body Mass Index (BMI) was also measured.

After taking into account BMI and other risk factors, men who drank five or more soft drinks a week had twice as much narrowing of joint space compared with men who did not drink sugary soda.

man drinking sodaOur main finding is that the more sugary soda men drink, the greater the risk that knee osteoarthritis will get worse,” says researcher Bing Lu, MD, DrPh. Lu is assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and associate biostatistician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

If you’re thinking something along the lines of ‘Duh! Tell me something new. Soda=calories=weight gain= risk factor for osteoarthritis, think again.

Much to the researchers’ surprise, the link between knee osteoarthritis progression and sugary soft drinks could not solely be explained by weight.  When the men were divided into obese and non-obese, the link between sugary drinks and worse knee damage held true only in the non-obese men, suggesting that soft drinks worsen knee osteoarthritis independently of the wear and tear on the joints caused by carrying around excess weight.

So what’s a man who enjoys soda to do?  According to Lu the answer is simple. “just don’t drink it!”

Causes-and-Symptoms-of-OsteoarthritisAnother expert says that’s going too far. “As with everything, enjoy soda in moderation. If you are a man with knee osteoarthritis and are drinking a lot of soda, this might be a reason to curb back,” says American College of Rheumatology spokesman Scott Zashin, MD.

He argues that the study doesn’t prove cause and effect and needs to be repeated before any recommendations to patients can be made, he says.

Furthermore he advises, that in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee, every excess pound of weight is 4 extra pounds of dead weight on the knee joint.

And it’s not only Zashin who’s speaking out. The American Beverage Association (ABA), has also taken issue with the findings.

In a statement, the ABA writes: “The authors’ ‘novel  findings’ – as they call them – suggest only a possible association of soft drink consumption with osteoarthritis in knees, which they state cannot be proven without further testing. Consequently, this presentation fails to establish that drinking soft drinks causes any negative health outcomes or even that they are linked to negative health outcomes.”

Lu however is defending his work. He claims that certain ingredients in soda, including phosphoric acid, caffeine, as well as coloring and sweetening agents may affect absorption of calcium and overall bone health.

He even has an explanation as to why the link between soda and disease progression could not be established in women. “It could be due to sex hormones. For example, estrogen has been associated with cartilage degeneration. Further research is needed to understand the pathways.”

Although the jury is still out on this issue, it seems cutting back, or cutting out soda may not be a bad idea.

Could or would you give up your cola?  Let us know!

SRxA-logo for web

Ho Ho Ho: health hazards for Santa

santa_claus obesityAfter weeks of harried holiday shopping, when the stores finally close on the evening of December 24, it will be a welcome reprieve from the madness. Families and friends gather together and enjoy a relaxing day or two of rest.

But for one man, the real work is just beginning. That’s right – Santa Claus is coming to town!

And while he spends most of the year enjoying a flexible work schedule, monitoring naughty-and-nice behaviors around the world and occasionally checking in on his elves and reindeer, things are about to get frantic for Old Nick.

And to be honest, this year we’re a little concerned about his health.  That belly fat!  The all-nighter he’s about to pull!  All those cookies!

He may know when you are sleeping, but the only way for Santa to get the job done is to stay up all night on December – and that can lead to some serious health concerns.
Studies have suggested that drowsy driving is as dangerous as drunk driving.  Even if he manages to get Rudolf and his friends safely parked on the rooftops, sleep deprivation could cause his judgment to become fuzzier, leading to the wrong presents traveling down the wrong chimneys.
What’s worse is that sleep loss has a cumulative effect. So while people in the Southern hemisphere might do OK, those of us in Northern climes, and especially those on the West Coast aren’t so lucky. Chronic sleep deprivation could mean he could fly over some houses altogether.

santa + sackBut even if we manage to keep him awake with coffee and Red Bull rather than the usual glass of milk, we’ve got to change Santa’s sack. By carrying something that weighs more than 10% of his body weight, one shoulder is going to end up taking on most of the burden, which could lead to back strains, sprains and spasms.
If you’re thinking of getting Santa a gift this season maybe you could consider a backpack, or better still, a rolling suitcase.

That’s not to say Santa doesn’t need the exercise of his Christmas Eve jaunt. Like 70% of adult men in the US, he is severely overweight. The health risks linked to obesity include Type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension, certain types of cancer and osteoarthritis.

With his giant waist comes the risk of belly fat associated problems such as insulin resistance, high triglycerides, heart disease and metabolic syndrome.

Santa beardThen there’s that beard to worry about. After a month or so of letting thousands upon thousands of kids sit on your lap at the mall, we wouldn’t be surprised if he’s harboring some germs in his whiskers.  So if Santa touches his beard followed by his eyes, ears or mouth, he’s pretty much bound to catch something, especially in the midst of this cold and flu season.

We suggest leaving some hand sanitizer next to the milk and cookies this year to give him a fighting chance.

And finally we’re worried about that thin Red Suit. While we’ll give Santa props for covering his head with a hat, traveling outside all night in December in a red velvet suit and a touch of faux fur seems ill advised. In addition to the hat, he should probably throw on a scarf or knit mask, mittens, thermals and a water-resistant coat to ward off hypothermia.

So whether you’ve been naughty or nice, there’s still time to give some thought to Santa’s Health, as well as your own this Christmas season.

SRxA-logo for web

Getting Cheery Over Cherries!

Regular readers of SRxA’s Word on Health will be familiar with the many claimed health benefits of fruit. Bananas for HIV prevention, citrus to safeguard us against stroke, berries to prevent Parkinson’s Disease and even exotic cupuaçu for improved reproductive health.

According to many, including TV’s Dr. Oz, the latest superfruit on the block is tart cherries. Extensive research has linked the delicious bright red fruit to a number of benefits, including better sleep, reduced pain from gout and arthritis, reduced post-exercise muscle and joint pain as well as reduced cholesterol, and decreased risk for atherosclerosis and metabolic syndrome.

Dr. Oz, has gone so far as to say that tart cherries are the ultimate antioxidant.

New research from Oregon Health & Science University presented last week at the American College of Sports Medicine Conference confirmed that tart cherries can help to reduce chronic inflammation and can help people with osteoarthritis manage their disease.

In a study of twenty women ages 40 – 70 with inflammatory osteoarthritis, the researchers found that drinking tart cherry juice twice daily for three weeks led to significant reductions in important inflammation markers – especially for those women who had the highest inflammation levels at the start of the study.

With millions of Americans looking for ways to naturally manage pain, it’s promising that tart cherries can help, without the possible side effects often associated with arthritis medications,” said principal study investigator Kerry Kuehl, M.D. “I’m intrigued by the potential for a real food to offer such a powerful anti-inflammatory benefit – especially for active adults.”

Often characterized as “wear and tear” arthritis, osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. Athletes are often at a greater risk for developing the condition, given their excessive joint use that can cause a breakdown in cartilage and lead to pain and injury.

Anthocyanins – the antioxidant compounds in tart cherries – appear to reduce inflammation to levels comparable to some well-known pain medications.

Previous research on tart cherries and osteoarthritis found that a daily dose of tart cherries helped reduce osteoarthritis pain by more than 20%.

Leslie Bonci, Director of Sports Nutrition at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center for Sports Medicine, has incorporated tart cherries into the training menu of her professional athletes. She claims they are a natural and easy way to manage pain and also taste great.

Never heard of tart cherries, or concerned that they have such a short season?  The great news is that they are available year-round in dried, frozen, powder and juice forms too.

An aspirin-a-day keeps fat away

Aspirin is one of the most widely used medications in the world. A staggering 40,000 tons of it are consumed each year.

It’s also one of the oldest known medicines. First reports of its use date back to an Egyptian papyrus in 1543 BC. Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, who lived sometime between 460 BC and 377 BC, left historical records describing the use of powder made from the bark and leaves of the willow tree to alleviate headaches, pains, and fevers. The active ingredient of this willow bark extract – salicylic acid.

In addition to its use as an anti-inflammatory pain reliever, aspirin is also used  as an anticoagulant / antiplatelet agent  to prevent strokes and heart attacks, and to stop coronary and carotid stents from blocking and to prevent deep vein thrombosis associated with long distance travel.

Aspirin has also been theorized to reduce cataract formation in diabetic patients and three studies published last month suggest that taking an aspirin every day may significantly reduce the risk of many cancers and prevent tumors from spreading.

Now, a group of researchers from Canada, Scotland and Australia have discovered that salicylate, the active ingredient in aspirin, directly increases the activity of the protein AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK).  AMPK is a key player in regulating cell growth and metabolism.  It is considered a cellular fuel-gauge which can be switched on by exercise and the commonly used oral anti-diabetic medication metformin.

We’re finding this old dog of aspirin already knows new tricks,” says McMaster University associate professor of medicine Dr. Greg Steinberg.  The research shows that, in contrast to exercise or metformin which increase AMPK activity by altering the cells energy balance, the effects of salicylate depend on a single amino acid.

Salicylate increases fat burning and reduces liver fat in obese mice which does not occur in genetically modified mice lacking the beta1 subunit of AMPK.

These findings are important as a large clinical trial is currently underway testing whether salsalate (a well-tolerated aspirin derivative), can prevent Type 2 diabetes.  With many recent studies showing that metformin may be important for cancer prevention the authors’ study raise the interesting possibility that aspirin may also be working in a similar manner.

While further studies are needed, the prospect that this cheap, over-the-counter drug can increase fat burning while simultaneously preventing pain, clotting problems and possibly cancer, is probably one of the best health news stories of the year.

Solved! The Mystery of the Stones

Kidney stones strike an estimated 1 million Americans each year.

Those who have experienced them say it is among the most excruciating pain known to man (or woman).

Now, new research provides evidence to explain why some people are more prone to develop the condition than others. The discovery by scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis opens the door to finding effective drug treatments and a test that could assess a person’s risk of kidney stones.

Now, we finally have a more complete picture detailing why some people develop kidney stones and others do not,” says Jianghui Hou, PhD, assistant professor of medicine. “With this information, we can begin to think about better treatments and ways to determine a person’s risk of the condition, which typically increases with age.”

Although the research was in mice, the new findings will help scientists to understand the root causes of kidney stones in patients because their kidneys function the same way as ours.

Most kidney stones form when the urine becomes too concentrated, allowing minerals such as calcium to crystallize and stick together.  Diet plays a role – not drinking enough water or eating too much salt (which binds to calcium) increases the risk of stones.

But genes are also partly to blame. A common genetic variation called claudin-14 has recently been linked to a 65% increased risk of kidney stones.

In the new study, the researcher demonstrated how alterations in the gene’s activity influence the development of stones.  Typically, the claudin-14 gene is not active in the kidney. Its expression is dampened by two snippets of RNA, that essentially silence the gene.  When claudin-14 is idled, the kidney’s filtering system works like it’s supposed to. Essential minerals in the blood pass through the kidneys and are reabsorbed back into the blood, where they are transported to cells to carry out basic functions of life.

But when people eat a diet high in calcium or salt and don’t drink enough water, the small RNA molecules release their hold on claudin-14 and the subsequent increase in the gene’s activity prevents calcium from re-entering the blood.  Without a way back to the bloodstream, excess calcium passes into the urine. Too much calcium in the urine leads to the development of stones in the kidneys or bladder.

Then when a large stone gets stuck in the bladder, ureter or urethra the flow of urine is blocked and the characteristic intense pain, that can reduce even the most mild-mannered man to a cursing, foul-mouthed monster, develops.

People with the common, genetic variation in claudin-14 lose the ability to regulate the gene’s activity, increasing the risk of kidney stones.

The results of this research lead to the hope that drugs that will keep the activity of claudin-14 in check can be developed.  Additionally, it may be possible to develop a diagnostic test to measure levels of the claudin-14 protein excreted in urine. Elevated levels would indicate an increased risk of stones, and people could take steps to prevent stones by modifying their diet.

Many genes likely play a role in the formation of kidney stones,” Hou says. “But this study gives us a better idea of the way one of the major players work. Now that we understand the physiology of the condition, we can start to think about better treatments or even ways to prevent stones from developing in the first place.”

For the million or so sufferers and their loved ones we guess that day can’t come soon enough.

Fit to be President?

President Barack Obama knows a thing or two about fitness. Photographers have snapped him playing golf in Hawaii on Christmas Eve, doing impromptu pull-ups before giving a speech in Montana, and even playing a game of pick-up basketball on Election Day. His love of these sports, coupled with his well-documented gym habits and disciplined diet, has led the media to herald Obama as the new face of presidential health.

But, as SRxA’s Word on Health has learned, not all American presidents have been such model specimens of health. Some of them, far from it.  In fact, disease, injury, and destructive habits have run rampant in the 43 commanders-in-chief.

To mark this President’s Day we decided take a look at some the least healthy presidents in American history.

James Monroe, the Fifth President (1817-1825) was shot with a bullet during the Battle of Trenton.  To save his life, a doctor stuck his index finger into the wound to stop Monroe from bleeding out. In 1785, Monroe contracted malaria while visiting a swampy area of the Mississippi River. Sporadic feverish flare-ups plagued him for years afterwards.

In August 1825, Monroe suffered a severe seizure. Though the cause was never pinpointed, it’s speculated that it was triggered by either mushroom poisoning, a stroke, or cerebral malaria.

In 1830, Monroe developed a chronic lung illness that crippled him for several months, leaving him with labored breathing, fever, night sweats, and a nagging cough that sometimes had him spitting up blood. Though never officially diagnosed his symptoms are strongly suggestive of tuberculosis.

Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President (1901-1909) was a frail and sickly child. In the hope of alleviating his asthma and other ailments Roosevelt was encouraged to do lots of physical activity. Boxing became one of his favorite hobbies. However, after being elected to the White House, he suffered a blow to his left eye resulting in a detached retina which left him blind on that side. Later he also lost the hearing in his left ear as a result of surgery necessitated by a middle ear infection

Roosevelt then contracted malaria and suffered an infected leg wound during an expedition into the Amazon rainforest. These injuries resulted in chest pains, high fever, and delirium. Though he didn’t die, he returned to America in a decrepit physical state, and was often unable to leave his bed for years afterwards.

Ronald Reagan, the 40th President (1981-1989) had many well documented health problems. Just like Roosevelt, these included hearing and sight issues. Reagan was so nearsighted that he was disqualified from serving during World War II. Later, when he got glasses, he was surprised to see that trees had leaves – something he’d never known before.

Reagan used a hearing aid in his right ear early in his presidency but later started wearing one in his left ear. It’s been speculated that his hearing was damaged during his early years as a Hollywood actor, when he was exposed to repeated loud gunshot during the filming of his Western movies.

Other health problems included multiple urinary tract infections, prostate stones, colon tumors and skin cancers.  Finally, though he was famous for having a near-photographic memory during his prime, Reagan’s memory deteriorated when he hit his 70s, and he would sometimes forget the names of key staffers and visiting dignitaries. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease in 1994.

Woodrow Wilson, the 28th President (1913-1921) suffered from hypertension, headaches, double-vision and multiple strokes throughout adulthood. His third stroke, in 1906, left him blind in his left eye. Finally, in 1919, the president suffered a massive stroke that paralyzed his left side and forced him into a wheelchair. Wilson decided to keep his condition a secret from the public, so isolated himself in the White House, where for the last 3 years of his term his wife Edith made all presidential decisions for him.

, the 34th President (1953-1961) was a four-pack-a-day smoker. He also suffered from Crohn’s disease and gallstones, both of which required surgery. In 1955 Eisenhower suffered a heart attack so severe that his cardiologist advised the president not to run for a second term. Eisenhower ignored his advice, ran, and was reelected. His second term was marred by even more heart trouble: during a five-month span in 1968, he suffered four heart attacks and 14 cardiac arrests. These weakened him to the point where he could only be out of bed for 45 minutes a day, and he died the next year.

John F. Kennedy, 35th President (1961-1963) is remembered as a glamorous, tragic playboy, assassinated too young. What’s less well know is the litany of health problems he suffered throughout his life.

Kennedy’s childhood was riddled with health issues. At 2 years old, he contracted measles, whooping cough, chickenpox and then scarlet fever, which almost killed him. Later in his childhood, he frequently had upper respiratory infections and bronchitis, as well as allergies, frequent colds, asthma.

During his teens, Kennedy underwent an emergency appendectomy, had his tonsils removed, suffered a severe case of pneumonia, and two episodes of jaundice.

While studying at Harvard, Kennedy contracted urethritis, an inflammation of the urethra that results in painful urination. As he failed to seek immediate treatment, this became a chronic problem for many years.

After years of suffering back pains, Kennedy was diagnosed at age 30 with Addison’s disease, a rare endocrine disorder that generally results in fatigue, muscle weakness, nausea, and bronzing of the skin. Kennedy was so ill that he was given the last rites and physicians speculated that he would die within the year. However, steroid therapy and experimental medicinal implants of hormones, animal organ cells, vitamins, enzymes, pain killers and amphetamines and kept him alive. Then in 1966, he was diagnosed with hypothyroidism. The presence of two endocrine diseases raises the possibility that Kennedy had autoimmune polyendocrine syndrome type 2 (APS 2).

We wish all our readers a Happy and Healthy President’s Day.

When Doctors Don’t Listen

He was the third dentist I saw last week. After 7 days of unrelenting pain, no sleep, and a failed root canal, I was referred to an oral and maxillofacial surgeon. During the long drive to his prestigious offices, I imagined him to be my knight in shining gloves, mask and goggles, the hero who was going to extract the fractured, unsalvageable tooth. Although his introduction was a little brusque, I gave him the benefit of the doubt when he said he’d get me out of pain. Even after he’d roughly forced open my swollen, inflamed jaw I followed him like a lamb to slaughter into his O.R.

Knowing I have a high pain threshold, I opted to have local, rather than general, anesthesia.   Smiling, I braced myself for the needle, almost looking forward to the numbness that would finally take away the discomfort.  One, two, three cartridges of local anesthetic later, I was still waiting.  “Numb?” he asked.  “No, nothing’s happened yet” I replied.   He looked at me with the kind of look normally only seen on the face of a driver who’s just been rear-ended.  “If we are going to do this,” he said, “you’re going to have to be straight with me.

Straight with you? Do you think I’m making this….Oh My God!  It suddenly hit me. This white-coated icon of the medical establishment had branded me a hysterical female. Everything I’d said, every symptom I’d described was being filtered through his base conclusion: This bi**h is crazy.

Whether to prove his point or the invincibility of his drugs he started to prod and poke at the problem tooth.  I almost hit the ceiling, and let out a high decibel scream. Not my finest moment, I admit, but it was to be followed by one that was even worse.

Naively, I guess I expected some sort of apology or maybe a placating hand on my shoulder. What I got was a stream of expletives, the dramatic gesture of him peeling off his surgical gloves and throwing them to  the floor and a parting image of his backside as he stormed out of the O.R.

I could not have known that my pain would call into question my right to treatment.  Was it my fault that he’d failed to provide adequate anesthesia?

His assistant looked acutely embarrassed, his receptionist told me I may want to find another doctor.

I slunk back to my car, in tears, in pain…and angry beyond belief.  If it wasn’t so painful to talk, I’d have called the American Dental Association and reported him.

Instead, I’ve let a week pass and tried to learn a lesson from this encounter. I’ve asked myself again and again: what did I do wrong? The answer is clear. I trusted a doctor who did not trust me.  It’s a common mistake. And it’s one I would urge patients everywhere not to repeat.

Nevertheless, I still believe in the medical profession and I know most clinicians put their patients above their egos.  But, I’m still hurting. Anyone know a good tooth-puller in the Washington DC area?