The Survival Doctor

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Part 2 in a two-part series on cold weather and your heart. See part 1 here.

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

In my last post, I talked about the effects of cold weather on your heart. But there are other possible reasons winter is prime time for heart attacks even when it’s warm out. So there are even more steps than the ones I mentioned that may help lower your risk.

Beyond the Cold: More Ways the Winter Affects Your Heart

We’re not really certain how much any of the following factors increase your risk for a heart attack. But for now, it’s a best guess that they do at least to some degree.

  • Stress. The winter holidays bring on more stress, which can be hard on your heart.
  • Depression. The holidays can also trigger depression. So can the short days and having to stay in. Depression leads to not really caring about diet or making sure all prescription medicines are taken—like ones for your heart.
  • Vitamin D deficiency. Less daylight and less getting outside may lead to a vitamin D deficiency, [... continue reading]
Author: LAwordsmith
Posted: November 17, 2014, 11:00 am

Part 1 in a two-part series on snowy weather and your heart.

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

Every year people have heart attacks shoveling snow. Your heart attacking you is never good, but a slick road may make quick emergency transport harder than ever. And since the first few minutes can be crucial, that could make a difference in life or death.

Simple solution: Don’t shovel snow, correct? Well, maybe. Maybe not.

There are suggestions that it’s not only the exertion that puts you at risk. Just getting a bit too cold can also. And it doesn’t have to be freezing. There’s evidence that risk starts increasing when the weather is in the 50s Fahrenheit.

Cold Weather and Your Heart

There are two ways the cold affects you that experts think could increase your risk for a heart attack:

  • It constricts your blood vessels, causing your blood pressure to rise a bit.
  • It causes your blood to clot more easily. (By the way, strokes also increase in cold weather.)
  • So, dress warmly or stay inside. Problem solved?

    Not so fast. As with a lot of medical risks and associations, it’s complicated: people living [... continue reading]

    Author: LAwordsmith
    Posted: November 10, 2014, 11:00 am

    by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

    It’s disaster time and you have a problem. Maybe pain from an injury or headache or misery from indigestion or a cold. You delve into your stash of over-the-counter medications you’ve saved for times just like this and take one you’ve taken many times before. Two hours later, you have a rash or stomach pain or some other odd new problem. Is it related to the medicine? I mean, you’ve taken it so many times in the past.

    Remember this: Any medication, herb, supplement, oil, or food that can work on your body in a positive way has the potential to affect it in a negative way as well. No matter how many times you’ve taken something in the past, it can give you just about any side effect you can think of at any given time, and that includes an allergic reaction.

    Some side effects are more serious or debilitating than others. If you’re at increased risk for a bad one, think about whether the medication’s benefits outweigh its potential risks, knowing you couldn’t get expert help if you needed it.

    Below are my [... continue reading]

    Author: LAwordsmith
    Posted: November 3, 2014, 11:00 am

    by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

    You let the dog out one last time before bed, and you hear a yelp. Somehow she’s managed to cut her leg pretty deep.

    Being a fan of The Survival Doctor, you know to apply pressure to stop the bleeding, but she just keeps crying. You know of a vet clinic that stays open until 11, and it’s 10 right now. You tie a rag around the wound and head out the door.

    After a couple of miles, you hear a bump, bump, bump. It gets louder. You pull over and dig out your flashlight from the glove compartment. The batteries are dead.

    You get out and see the flat tire. And suddenly you notice it’s cold outside. The wind has picked up and you didn’t bring a coat. There’s a lot less traffic than you had expected. Someone may stop and help, or not.

    Either way, it’s cold and dark, and you’ve just noticed you’re low on gas. You think you have a spare tire but haven’t checked in a while. Thankfully you have your cellphone. You dig around where you usually [... continue reading]

    Author: LAwordsmith
    Posted: October 27, 2014, 10:00 am

    by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

    In the medical field, other than death, nothing is absolute. One radio interviewer told me recently he would never be comfortable about the Ebola risks until we knew absolutely everything about it and there was zero risk for everyone. Guess what. He’s never going to be comfortable.

    Part of the Ebola fear fuel in America right now is the fact that we don’t know everything about this disease. And when questions arise, people come out of the woodwork with answers, whether they know what they’re talking about or not. Often, their answers boil down to: Well, we don’t know, but maybe, and if so, yikes!

    All I know to do is go with what we do know now. As with any disease, we can ask: How much at risk are we? Can we can change any of our actions to reduce our risk? Is it worth it to us to change those actions? And if what we know changes, we can reassess the risk.

    The facts, for now, Oct 20, 2014:

    • Ebola kills big-time; 50-70 percent mortality rate with this strain. (Keep in mind, [... continue reading]
    Author: LAwordsmith
    Posted: October 20, 2014, 10:00 am

    by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

    If you read my post about Hands-Only CPR Monday, you know that I believe the American Heart Association’s guidelines leave room for interpretation. So my team emailed them to see if they could officially clarify some points.

    Here’s part of their response. It addresses some issues related to Hands-Only CPR, a trademarked term for doing chest compressions only (no mouth-to-mouth), but doesn’t clarify completely.

    First, the AHA explained the rationale for not doing respirations (mouth-to-mouth) in most teens and adults:

    … when a teen or adult suddenly collapses with cardiac arrest, his or her lungs and blood contain enough oxygen to keep vital organs healthy for the first few minutes, as long as someone provides high-quality chest compressions with minimal interruption to pump blood to the heart and brain. This is the rationale for Hands-Only CPR for these folks.

    Then, the AHA answered our question about bullet point three in their guidelines. That point says respirations are still recommended for “anyone found already unconscious and not breathing normally.” I assumed this referred to people who are exhibiting agonal breathing (which, as I explained in [... continue reading]

    Author: LAwordsmith
    Posted: October 13, 2014, 10:00 am

    by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

    A child collapses; there’s no sign of life. You call for help and start CPR. But wait. Didn’t you hear somewhere that they say now not to do the respirations part? Just do Hands-Only CPR? Or are kids one of the exceptions?

    Well, whatever you do, do something, and do it quick.

    When to Add the Breathing

    These days, Hands-Only CPR is the way to go in most situations for people who aren’t medical professionals. It’s easier; it works as well as adding respirations, at least most of the time. And the feeling is, it’ll help more people act and act quicker.

    But there are exceptions.

    The American Heart Association recommends CPR with a combination of breaths and compressions for:

    • All infants (up to age 1)
    • Children (up to puberty)
    • Anyone found already unconscious and not breathing normally
    • Any victims of drowning, drug overdose, collapse due to breathing problems, or prolonged cardiac arrest

    Source: American Heart Association, “Hands-Only CPR.”

    But What Does That Mean?

    Now, truthfully, I wonder about these guidelines.

    With children with no signs of life, yes. Do the mouth-to-mouth (or mouth-to-nose-and-mouth). In fact, a breathing [... continue reading]

    Author: LAwordsmith
    Posted: October 6, 2014, 8:22 pm

    by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

    I’m really excited.

    Today, my new online training course is finally available to you!

    It’s taken me over a year to put together this professionally produced project, and I think it has turned out fantastic. In The Survival Doctor’s Emergencies Training Course, you’ll learn some of the lifesaving knowledge that I’ve amassed over 30 years of practicing medicine. I cover some of my readers’ most-often-worried-about questions, and I teach you how I’d handle common life-threatening medical problems, in easy-to-understand language and with minimal medical equipment.

    Here’s a preview:

    What do you think?

    But you’ll get even more than these videos. There are quizzes, printable transcripts, and downloadable audio files to listen to on the go. Plus, we’ll all connect and learn from each other in an exclusive Facebook group just for students.

    Master Program

    If you’re really ready to take your medical knowledge to the next level, you should also know that right now, I’m accepting students into my exclusive Master program.

    This program includes the entire video course (including all the quizzes and downloads) plus five interactive online workshops with me. You can even invite a friend to train with [... continue reading]

    Author: LAwordsmith
    Posted: September 30, 2014, 11:35 pm

    Here’s an exclusive behind-the-scenes sneak peek at The Survival Doctor’s Emergency Training Course.

    It’s my new video course that’s over a year in the making, and I’ve crafted it especially for my readers who want to gain confidence in their medical skills.

    To celebrate it releasing, I’ve also create a new free minicourse on how to save a life confidently.

    Sign up below to get started with the free minicourse.

    Update: The minicourse is now closed. But you can still get into my video-based, online training course. Click here to learn more.

    Want to find out about future minicourses? Subscribe to The Survival Doctor (free):

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    Author: LAwordsmith
    Posted: September 27, 2014, 10:00 am

    Special note: I’ve crafted an exciting new course especially for my readers who want to gain confidence with saving a life. Don’t miss the end of this post for more.

    by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

    You’re in the midst of a storm. The streets are dangerous for travel. There’s no electricity and cell phones are not working. You notice movement outside your window and watch your neighbor drop slowly to the ground.

    After making sure the scene is safe—no strange, suspicious-looking people or animals, etc.—you grab your pepper spray, just in case, and go out to check on him.

    He’s awake but lethargic, says he’s just not feeling well and wants to sleep. He lives alone and was coming over to your house for help.

    You have no idea what’s going on, and he’s no help. In fact, he’s snoring now.

    What can you do? The possible causes of an altered mental status make up a pretty long list if you include the many you’re probably not going to think of.

    Well, how about doing what we medical people do sometimes? Use a special trick to [... continue reading]

    Author: James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.
    Posted: September 22, 2014, 9:59 am




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