Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Winter asthma, a rude awakening

As many of you already know I have asthma and this hasn’t stopped me from living a very active life, physically. This past weekend I ran a 5k trail race and had a rude awakening as I started the run. Before the race I used both my long and short acting inhalers but due to the cold and very dry air I was wheezing through the first 2 miles of the race. I pushed on and finished with a much slower time than I expected.

Many of you have asthma of have children with asthma (I fall into both categories since my daughter has asthma also). Winter can be a very difficult time. We all think of asthma in relation to allergies and as a result think of the warm months when flowers, trees and grasses are producing pollen. But, winter offers another challenge. Cold dry air is a potent activator of asthma. When you, or a loved one with asthma, are exposed to cold dry winter air your airways react by constricting.

If you or a loved one has asthma you need to be vigilant when outside in the cold weather – well before you go outside make sure that you use your medications (follow your doctors recommendations).
  • Rescue inhalers need to be kept warm – keep your inhaler in an inside pocket close to your body and insulated from the outside air and wind (a cold inhaler won’t work when you need it). This also applies to those who need to carry EpiPens (they won’t work if they are frozen).
If you are already aware that cold dry air increases your asthma symptoms some additional things you can do when you go outside are:
  • Gentle exercise outside for 15 minutes prior to engaging in more strenuous activities (like shoveling or snow blowing)

  • If you are going to exercise or run outside do 5 30sec sprints with a 2:30 rest before your actual workout.
Last night I did a 3 mile run, which included the sprints and felt great – compared to my wheezing during the same distance on Sunday with no warm-up.

Yours in health, Dr. Tom Meehan

Thursday, November 20, 2008

FREE STUFF for "Winter Nose"

While supplies last, I’ll be giving away free samples of NeilMeds “Sinus Rinse” and “NetiPot” to any people who stop in and would like one. I don’t sell this product but get free samples from NeilMed a few times a year. If this product works well for you then you can get refill packs at Walgreens or Jewel. Just stop in at any time we are in the office and pick it up.

With the cold weather finally here to stay one of the less pleasant aspects of winter will be following. What I am referring to? Well “Winter Nose” of course (in case you didn’t look at the title). Winter is one of the hardest seasons of the year for our noses – the cold dry air leads to nosebleeds, sinus congestion, runny noses, crusty noses and red noses. One helpful solution that is gaining popularity is the “sinus rinse”. Many of you with dry winter nose are familiar with gels or saline sprays to combat this problem; sinus rinses are another very effective tool.

Below is an educational video on the Sinus Rinse from NeilMed.

Why am I giving away free samples of something I don’t sell? Well, it's simply to let you know where I’m located in case you need my help for some problem in the future.

Yours in health,

Dr. Tom Meehan

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Children, exercise, drugs and obesity

I'll have a new post up Monday on this subject. I always hate to see children who don't enjoy the energy and enthusiasm that you would expect to see at their young age. It is hearbreaking to see children who can't or don't play because of some disease that is attacking them. It is even worse to see the same thing but instead it is due to something we could prevent or control.

Monday I'm posting an article on a problem that we can control but if we don't can rob our children of their health, now and in the future.

Earlier today I had to clean up and straighten our house as well as take care of my 5 year old daughter. While I did let her watch TV for an hour, I worked hard and fast. My motivation, getting her outside to play. Children need to move and play and be outside (not inside watching TV and playing video games). As a father and a doctor I take this seriously, it is my duty to make sure she grows up healthy and active. I hope that you feel the same as me.

(post comments, suggestions or questions to "Comments" below).

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Wii Sports, real exercise?

We all seem to live our lives with computers, remote controls, cell phones etc. which has lead to our more sedentary lifestyles. With this in mind, can a video game improve our fitness? My initial reaction is no, video games require us to remain stationary in front of a computer – in essence remaining sedentary. Well, the Wii game system was designed to challenge this by making gamers actually stand up and move. But, does this actually equal exercise?

Thankfully, the American Council on Exercise performed a study that they published in August on playing Wii Sports

For those of you not interested in reading the actual article here is a brief summary of it:

  • Playing Wii sports does burn more calories than just sitting around (no big surprise).

  • To achieve any benefit from the Wii system you need to stand up and mimic the actual movements of the sport you are playing. Still, it does not provide the same benefit as actually playing the real sport but can act as a bridge – if you like the sport then you may be tempted to actually do it (which is more fun and provides a much greater benefit).

  • The sport that provides the greatest benefit on the system is boxing. Boxing was the only sport that was found to be intense enough to actually maintain or improve cardio respiratory endurance by the standards set by the American College of Sports Medicine. Good news for me, as many of you already know my preferred exercise is boxing and muay thai kickboxing. Even so, Wii Boxing is burns one third less calories than actual boxing practice. If you want a real boxing workout come to Plainfield Fitness and Fight Training currently I train people for free and have a flexible schedule.
Bottom line:
If you are new to exercise than Wii Sports is something you can start with, its fun and gets you moving. If the Wii system gets you off the coach then that is great. But, that is just the first step. Once you are comfortable playing Wii then you really need to get out and do something, for idea refer to my earlier post on “What are you doing today to stay healthy”.

Yours in health,
Dr. Tom Meehan

The American Council on Exercise is currently conducting a study on Wii Fitness. I will be sure to update you when that comes out.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Cure for the Flu?

As the days get shorter and colder our worries start to turn to the cold and flu season. The questions most of us have are “will I get the Flu?” and “is the anything I can do to avoid catching it?” I’m going to provide you with some strategies to drastically improve your chances.

Like all of you; I hate the flu – I’ve had it (more than once) and I never want to get it again. Nobody wants to get sick and no one wants to take off work because of it. As a result I searched the medical research to find some answers and I made a surprising discovery (more on that in a bit).

  • Most of hear the following tips for the flu season:
  • Make sure you get enough sleep
  • Avoiding touching your eyes and mouth and wash your hands
  • Get the flu shot
  • Engage in regular exercise
  • Air out your house on a regular basis
I endorse and encourage all of these and most of us already do them and still seem to get the flu in the winter. So, what else can we do?”

The good new is that recent research has found a possible answer for why we get the flu and colds in winter. The bad news is that many of our common beliefs for what causes us to get sick have been disproved.

Most of us were brought up with the belief that going out in cold or wet weather caused us to get a cold or flu – recent and past studies have consistently disproved that belief. My daughter is 5 years old and I have to fight this old belief as weather gets colder – I want her to be warm outside and want to say “you’ll get sick if you don’t put a sweater on” but now I hold my tongue because I know better now – its not cold or wet weather that cause’s you to get sick.

If its not cold weather you might think it’s being around people more due to it being cold outside? Again the answer is no, we now work indoors close to people year round and still more people get sick in the winter than the summer when we are huddled together inside in the air conditioning.

So what is it that leads us to get sick more in winter months? Recently a doctor made a surprising discovery:
In 2005 in a hospital over run with the flu Dr John Cannel, a psychiatrist, noticed that none of the patients on his ward caught it. What was different about them? Well, the only thing he could find was that his patients were all on high doses of vitamin D. Think about it, vitamin D is known as the “Sunshine” vitamin since our bodies need sunlight to make it. In winter months the days are shorter and the time we do spend outside we are covered up. In addition vitamin D has been the subject of a considerable amount of research with the immune system, it helps in lowering the risk and severity of cancer, heart disease and diabetes, just to name a few. So how does it work on the flu? The current theory involves a chemical called cathelicidin which is produced by our bodies to fight infection. Cathelicidin needs vitamin D to be active in fighting viruses and microbes.

The USDA, the agency that sets the bar for what we should be getting in our diets, has raised the recommended level of vitamin D from 200 to 400 units a day due our need for it and our reduced exposure to the sun year round but many doctors and researchers put it at 1000 – 2000 units a day, especially in the winter.

You may think you’re getting enough vitamin D since you drink milk, a glass of milk provides just 100 units of vitamin D while 15 minutes in the sun give you up to 20,000 units.

Even if you go outside in the winter you have to cover up to stay warm which limits your exposure to the sun. So supplementation makes sense.

Thankfully, vitamin D supplements are very inexpensive. My current recommendation is to take 1000 to 2000 units of vitamin D a day from November to March – the peak flu season. Investment is minimal – under $10 for a month, less than most people spend on lunch for one day, – is that worth the possible lost work or even your job?

Personally I supplement with 2000 units of vitamin D a day from November to March. I did this last year and even though I didn’t get vaccinated I avoided getting the flu.

In summary

Follow the usual recommendations:

  • Get Enough Rest
  • Clean Hands
  • Flu Shot
  • Regular Exercise
  • Airing out the house
  • Vitamin D 1000-2000 units a day
While Vitamin D supplements are safe for most there are some of us who shouldn’t take them: If you’ve been diagnosed with high blood calcium levels, kidney disease or are taking digoxin or other cardiac glycosides, consult your medical doctor or chiropractor before taking vitamin D supplements. Vitamin D toxicity can occur, usually when the dose taken exceeds 10,000 units a day

Yours in health,
Dr. Tom Meehan

If you’re skeptical, please check out the experts below:
Articles and interviews with Dr Cannel -
Baltimore Sun article http://www.healthy.net/scr/news.asp?Id=8826

Epidemic Influenza and Vitamin D, Cannel’s original article

Vitamin D in Clinical Practice (vitamin D supplementation reduces deaths from numerous diseases) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18377099?ordinalpos=1&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_DefaultReportPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum

On the epidemiology of influenza (Cannel’s most recent article, full text, on vitamin D and influenza)

Related articles on vitamin D -
Kids should get more vitamin D: http://www.cnn.com/2008/HEALTH/diet.fitness/10/13/vitamin.d.kids.ap/index.html

Life Extension Foundation article http://www.lef.org/magazine/mag2007/feb2007_report_vitamind_02.htm

Another plug for vitamin D from Opra’s friends (second question on the page)

Monday, November 3, 2008

How long have you got?

We all have a finite time on this planet and I hope that you want that time to be as long and productive as possible (I know that I do). There are many factors that influence how long we all live, some we can control and some we can’t (even those we can’t control we can still influence). Below you’ll find an interesting test that will leave you thinking. Every question is relevant to how we age: stress, nutrition, lifestyle etc. Just taking the test gives you insight, by answering the questions and seeing the other answers you get an idea of what you need to change to live a longer healthier life.

Life Calculator

Take the test today to learn what you need to do to live a longer healthier life.

My number surprised me, despite some of the bad habits that I have I came out at 101 years.

Wishing you a long, healthy and happy life,

Tom Meehan, DC

Sunday, November 2, 2008

What are you doing today to stay healthy?

Beyond getting a yearly physical, which I hope you do, what are you doing on a daily basis to stay healthy? Two areas that all of us can benefit from are exercise and nutrition.

In Plainfield we are gifted now with numerous gyms and programs that help us be active depending on how you want to approach fitness. It is important to find something that you enjoy doing, for me its boxing and fight training for you it may be aerobics, weight training, a sport like basketball or something else. As long as you enjoy it you’ll keep doing it. The point is finding something you like doing.
If you prefer working out at home there are numerous online resources, personally I like Art of Strength for kettlebell training (you can actually get kettlebells at Target now, and you only need one to start exercising), another great resource is the American College of Sportsmedicine Keys to Exercise Success

Local gyms and programs

Clubs – bowling, soccer, etc.

Nutrition – if you are having trouble with your weight then check out

This is not a complete list; just enough to let you know that there are resources in our Plainfield community that you can use to achieve your goals of a healthy and active life. Stay healthy and Keep Moving Toward Better Health.

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