LIFESTYLES by Ronda Gates Smart Behavior

Emails That Make Me Scream

AAAAGH! My Email box continues to be filled with dire warnings about the toxins poised to invade my body, foods that assuredly will improve or ruin my health and weight loss methods that are (supposedly) the secret to the winning our individual war against aging and obesity. Meantime, the media, eager to report the "latest research" to a disease-wary population, continues to provide confusing, and often contradictory information about the latest research emerging from a variety of sources. Because it is widely known in the circles I frequent that I have a pharmacy and nutrition degree and am eager to ferret fact from fiction when it comes to health issues, that information quickly finds its way to me via these posts and client health queries or discussions I overhear at the activity-filled events I frequent.

My experience last week with Beverly is a good example. Beverly had been diagnosed with cystitis. Cystitis is a bladder inflammation most commonly caused by a bacterial infection. Beverly's doctor prescribed Cipro, a well-known synthetic antibiotic commonly used to treat this malady. Many antibiotics interact with other drugs, foods and supplements and Cipro is no exception to these potential side effects. But Mary, an avid sixty year old tennis player, had earlier received an Email warning that active seniors should avoid using this medication because it was associated with an increased risk of tendonitis and tendon rupture-especially in older women. Like many consumers today, Beverly also read about the drug on the internet where the tendonitis warning was confirmed. In between sets at a tennis match she asked me if I thought she should take it.

My views about whether or not to eat any food or take any medication is tempered by understanding the pros and cons, and examining the risks of the choices. And, this was not the first time I'd been asked what I call "the Cipro question." In fact, untreated urinary tract infections can cause permanent damage to the urinary system, leading to serious health consequences. But, I also knew that the incidence of tendonitis in the general population is 1 in 100,000. It increases to 3 in 100,000 in people taking Cipro. There's no question, from my perspective, that the benefit of treating cystitis with Cipro far outweighs the risk of the activity tempering, rare side effect. So, I explained the risks and benefits from my perspective, left it up to Beverly to decide what to do and went home to read my Email.

Ironically the mailbox included a much forwarded post that provided useful health information. The subject of this one was "How to Recognize a Stroke." I know that treatment for a stroke is critical to preventing debilitating infirmities and saving lives. If you haven't received this post yet, know: if you suspect someone is having a stroke simply ask the individual to:

  1. smile
  2. raise both arms
  3. speak a simple sentence.

An inability to do any of these is a trigger to call 911 immediately.

 Another useful post warned parents that products with benzocaine, an anesthetic that's useful to relieve oral discomfort from teething or mouth sores. Benzocaine, in some individuals (especially babies) can produce a rare but serious reaction in which skin and lips can turn blue followed by shortness of breath and a rapid heart rate within minutes of using the product.

On the other hand, advice that an attempt to cough hard to increase the ability to survive a heart attack is useful only if an individual has been trained to do the procedure correctly. Cough CPR is sometimes useful to patients who have survived an initial heart attack and are subsequently trained by professionals to cough at the right time in the heart rhythm cycle. Coughing at the wrong time in the cycle can turn a miled heart attack into a fatal one.

Other useless health-related posts that lead to the "AAAAAAAGGGGGHHHHHH" that introduced this column include that: "Mountain Dew causes testicles to shrink." "Drinking cold water with a meal will solidify any fatty food you eat thus predisposing you to cancer when ‘the sludge' lines the walls of the intestine." "Fruit should be eaten only on an empty stomach."

Many of the hoax Emails you may receive will end with the usually incorrect claim, "checked out on" to discourage you from seeking verification of the information. is a website that aims to debunk or confirm what the founders describe as "urban legends." Urban legends are, according to, "a modern story of obscure origin and with little or no supporting evidence that spreads spontaneously in various forms..."

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LIFESTYLES by Ronda Gates
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