That Smell!

Breakfast on the griddle, jasmine in the garden, your lover’s favorite perfume – No doubt each of these conjure a particularly pleasing emotion. After all, our sense of smell, more than any of the other senses, is psychologically linked with memory and can have a profound effect on the ways in which we connect with the world around us.
 
Common Reasons for Olfactory Loss
So, imagine for a moment, that you’ve lost your sense of smell. Scary, isn’t it? Unfortunately, it’s an all-too-common occurrence. Among the top direct or indirect contributing factors to a partial or full loss of the ability to smell are:
 

  • Nasal obstruction
  • Degenerative nerve disease
  • Exposure to hazardous chemicals, such as pesticides or solvents
  • Head and neck cancers and related radiation treatments
  • Chronic respiratory infections
  • Oral disease
  • Radiation therapy
  • Dementia, Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s
  • Traumatic head injuries
  • Hormonal disturbances
  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Obesity
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Certain medications or drug abuse
  • Advanced age

 
Dangers of Olfactory Loss
Any of these conditions can negatively affect the functionality of not only our olfactory nerve cells (those responsible for your sense of smell) but also your gustatory nerve cells (those responsible for taste). That loss of functionality can affect not only your quality of life, but your safety, and perhaps your very life, as well. For example, the smell of certain gasses, smoke, or spoiled foods can alert us to danger, allowing us to act before it’s too late. And, research on the psychology of smell shows that body odor, produced by the genes which make up our immune system, can help us subconsciously choose our life partners.
 
While most people would report a loss of sight or hearing as a top worry, it’s clear that the loss of smell is a far underestimated misfortune. Fortunately, however, help is available.
 
Treatment Options
If you suspect you’re beginning to lose your sense of smell, a highly-trained otolaryngologist can perform a thorough examination of your head and neck to pinpoint signs of infections, inflammation, or physical obstruction that may be affecting your sense of smell or taste. Treatment options may include prescription or over-the-counter medications, including decongestants or antibiotics, or surgery to remove nasal polyps or other obstructions.
 

5 Most Common Allergy Triggers

Statistics show that some 20 percent of people develop allergies of some sort. Allergic reactions develop when the immune system overreacts to an otherwise harmless antigen, resulting in a range of symptoms from sneezing to hives to life-threatening anaphylaxis. While potential allergens are innumerable, there are a few common culprits.
 

  1. Pollen: Multiple varieties of trees, grasses, weeds, and flowers produce pollen that can trigger hay fever or seasonal allergies. Most result in irritating, but non-life-threatening reactions like sneezing, runny nose, and watery or itchy eyes.
  2. Pet Dander: The physical and emotional health benefits of owning a pet are countless, but life with Fido and Fluffy can be tough if you suffer from allergies. That’s because of pet dander, a protein mix secreted in an animal’s skin and saliva that can trigger allergic reactions.
  3. Dust Mites: You can’t see them, but you sure can feel the effects of their presence if you’re prone to allergies. These microscopic buggers live in house dust and feed on pollen, fungi, bacteria, and dead skin that naturally falls from humans and animals daily.
  4. Insect Stings and Bites: Stings and bites by honeybees, yellow jackets, hornets, wasps, and fire ants can cause mild to severe allergic reactions, including swelling of the face, mouth, tongue, and throat, as well as, difficulty breathing and low blood pressure, itching and hives.
  5. Molds: Multiple types of molds can grow in persistently damp or wet areas, like bathrooms and basements, that lack adequate ventilation.

 
 

 
Other common allergens include certain foods and medications, latex, fragrances, and – believe it or not – cockroaches. Many allergic reactions can be avoided by keeping your home clean and dust-free, using a home air filtration system, changing your air conditioning filters regularly, clearing your home of dust collectors like stuffed animals and certain types of carpet, and bathing your pet regularly.

The Obesity Epidemic

We are in a worldwide crisis, but it is a crisis that we choose to overlook.  No one wants to accept the responsibility because it is an ugly word.  Obesity is a word that brings about feelings of shame, diminished self-worth, and often anger. But we cannot ignore the crisis anymore. Obesity has more than doubled since 1980 and over 69 percent of adults are considered to be overweight or obese. Forty-two million children under the age of five are overweight or obese.
 
Obesity is defined as excessive fat accumulation which can impair your health. The World Health Organization defines obesity as a Body Mass Index (BMI) over 30.
 
What Is Causing Obesity?
In my specialty, Ear, Nose and Throat, I commonly see patients who believe that they have a condition called hypothyroidism (under active thyroid) that is responsible for their weight gain but usually the thyroid labs are normal. This leaves them wondering why they are gaining weight.
 
Next, they immediately want to see a gynecologist because they believe menopause is the second most likely cause of their weight gain. The implications of poor diet or sedentary lifestyle are not often considered.
 
The sleep apnea patients want to have surgery to “cure” their sleep apnea so that they don’t have to wear their CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine every night.  They are shocked that I can’t guarantee a cure with a BMI of over 40.  
 
Americans need to take an honest inventory of diet and exercise routines to accept responsibility for their lifestyle choices. The American diet consists of highly processed and sugary foods. Obesity can be reduced by increasingly replacing these foods with fruits, vegetables, whole grains and nuts.  Fats found in fried foods and oils should be replaced with healthy fats. Regular physical activity of a minimum of 150 minutes per week should be part of the required routine.  Obesity is preventable.  
 
Health Risks of Obesity
Advertising is largely to blame.  We all see commercials to “grab a Coke and a smile” or “fight your hunger with a Snickers”. There are never any sexy television commercials advertising broccoli, carrots, or asparagus!
 
The health risks of obesity include the following:
 

  1. Coronary Heart Disease
  2. High Blood Pressure
  3. Stroke
  4. Type 2 Diabetes
  5. Abnormal Blood Fats – high levels of triglycerides and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and low levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol. Abnormal levels of these blood fats are a risk factor for coronary heart disease.
  6. Metabolic Syndrome – a group of risk factors that raises your risk for heart disease and other health problems, such as diabetes and stroke.
  7. Osteoarthritis
  8. Sleep Apnea
  9. Obesity Hypoventilation Syndrome (OHS) – breathing disorder that affects some obese people. In OHS, poor breathing results in too much carbon dioxide (hypoventilation) and too little oxygen in the blood (hypoxemia).
  10. Reproductive Problems
  11. Gallstones

 
Our country’s health care burden would be significantly decreased if our nation started being more focused on preventing disease rather than treating it.  “There’s nothing more important than our good health – that’s our principal capital asset.” Arlen Spector

Should You Get the Flu Vaccine?

Every year, the influenza epidemic results in significant morbidity and mortality, as well as a significant economic cost to society. An estimated 200,000 excess hospitalizations and 36,000 deaths occur each year due to influenza and its complications. Influenza kills more Americans than any other disease that can be prevented by a vaccine. Therefore, physicians and the CDC (Center for Disease Control) urge Americans to get their flu vaccine, but each year, Americans hesitate to get the vaccine for many reasons.
 

  • The flu vaccine doesn’t work. Flu shots are at best 50-60% effective at preventing lab confirmed influenza requiring medical care. Despite this shortcoming, the CDC still recommends the vaccination as it prevents some infections with the currently circulating influenza virus and can prevent serious influenza-related complications. Each year medical researchers do their best to determine which strain of the influenza virus will likely hit each season, and they prepare the vaccine accordingly.
  • I will get the flu if I get the vaccine. There has been some speculation that live virus vaccines can potentially transmit influenza, but the consensus is that this is unlikely, unless you are immunocompromised or allergic to the vaccine.
  • I don’t need it because I don’t get sick. Getting vaccinated not only protects you, but it also helps others who may not be able to fight off an illness as well as you can.
  • The vaccine has side effects. The side effects are usually mild, including redness and soreness surrounding the area of the shot or mild body aches. Gillian Barre syndrome is a rapid onset muscle weakness caused by the immune system damaging the peripheral nervous system. It is a well recognized side effect of the influenza vaccine, but there are only 1.7 cases per 1 million people vaccinated.
  • It’s too late to get the vaccine now. Flu activity usually peaks in January and February, and in some cases, the season can last until May.

 
Keep in mind that there are also other ways of preventing against the flu, including optimizing Vitamin D levels, eating a proper diet avoiding sugar and processed foods, getting plenty of sleep, minimizing stress, and of course, frequent hand washing.
Medical professionals have not come to a consensus on the flu vaccine, but there are more doctors in favor of it than not. The biggest debate is whether influenza is too much of a low-risk disease to vaccinate against, but since there is a large number of people that are hospitalized and even killed by influenza-related complications, the answer seems obvious.

Three Reasons to Run When Nothing is Chasing You

When I tell people that I love running, there are two reactions I encounter the most.  Some people are impressed and commend me for being able to such run long distances.   However, the grand majority of people will mock the idea and say, “I would only run if I was being chased!”
Running is not easy – and I guarantee you, if you are being chased, your chances of not getting caught are much better if you are a runner.
Here are the reasons why I run, especially when I am not being chased:

  1. Running significantly improves my stress levels and my sense of well-being.  Because I have trained my body to run up to 13 miles, I truly believe there is nothing I can’t accomplish.  After all, many things in life seem easy in comparison to a 13 mile run.
  2. Running improves your mental focus. My life is complicated. But when I run, I am able to solve problems much more easily.  I have also come up with my most creative business plans when I am on a run.
  3. My level of physical fitness in my mid 40s sets a great example for my children. Although they don’t enjoy running, they are both physically fit and are extremely conscious of maintaining a healthy lifestyle.  I would rather be running and inspire them to be fit as opposed to inspiring  them to be potato chip munching couch potatoes.

Leave us a comment and let us know what you do for your mental and physical health.