Brian Svazas

When shoveling snow, use tools that are friendly to your back. Snow can be beautiful, but we generally don’t want it to linger on our sidewalks and driveways. At the same time, removing it presents challenges, including for our hearts and backs. Heavy snowfall appears to correlate with an increase in the incidence of heart attacks and back strains. Medical science backs up, to a degree, the risk of a heart attack while shoveling snow. People often try to clear…

Hepatocytes as seen in chronic hepatitis B. Everyone, and travelers especially, should be vaccinated for hepatitis. Image: Wikimedia Commons I often get questions about vaccinations from individuals planning to travel, and most of these are about hepatitis, the general term for liver inflammation. In this case the inquirers are asking about protection from viral hepatitis, as contrasted with drug-, toxin- or alcohol-induced hepatitis. When the liver becomes inflamed, it cannot effectively clear toxins, the body’s waste products or some medications….

This year, a number of vaccines are being offered to target three multiple flu strains. Image: CDC The Centers for Disease Control have announced the new vaccines for the coming flu season. The vaccines’ formulation is based on a best guess as to which of last year’s flu strains will return to trouble us this season. There are a number of vaccine types being proffered this year. The target strains in common for all vaccines are: A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)-like virus A/H3N2…

Stay hydrated to beat the heat and humidity. It’s summer in Chicago, and that means heat and humidity, which can pose challenges for exercising. If you are unaccustomed to exercising in these conditions, give yourself a chance to acclimate by building up your workout routine. It generally takes about two weeks for the body to fully adapt to warm weather. The body typically cools itself by increasing surface blood flow or, on a windless day, relying on mainly evaporation. Add…

Summer heat is here, so take the necessary precautions to save your skin from sun damage. A suntan may look attractive, but skin damage and cancer can leave behind a permanent reminder of summers past. Some simple measures can help save your skin from ultraviolet-light medium waves (UVB), which cause sun burns, and long waves (UVA), which accelerate skin aging. The best precaution is to monitor when you expose your skin to sun. High-risk times are from 10 a.m. to…

The warmer months encourage people to venture into wilderness areas, thus increasing insect encounters, including tick bites. The latest CDC data report that there have been about 30,000 cases per year nationwide of the tick-borne Lyme disease, with almost all cases occurring in an 18-state area, including Illinois. The number of those infected appears to be increasing year to year, though not everyone becomes ill. The most severe manifestations of Lyme disease are arthritis, heart conduction problems or nerve inflammation….

The pollen of Timothy grass is a common allergen in DuPage County. We welcome summer but perhaps not its allergy issues. Predominant pollens vary across the country, so if you are new to the area, you may notice a “cold” that doesn’t leave—a runny nose and itchy eyes might be among the symptoms—as temperatures warm. There are ways to enjoy the outdoors with some observations and planning. The time of year that you have allergy problems can give you a…

Over the top

Take a lesson from tennis players when reaching overhead: Dip the shoulder opposite the reaching arm to reduce neck and shoulder strain. Photo: GavinZ Baseball and tennis season is beginning, and whether you play or not, you can take away from the field and court tips to make your life safer and healthier. Have you ever noticed pitchers and serving tennis players tilt their shoulders so that the shoulder opposite the ball or tennis racket is dipped? There is an…

Bean jumpy?

Coffee is perhaps the best known source of caffeine, but the amount of caffeine in energy drinks usually surpasses that in coffee. Photo: eyeore2710 An estimated 90 percent of North American adults consume caffeine. Increased caffeine intake can cause irritability, jumpiness and, more seriously, heart rhythm disturbances. Although consuming too much coffee can lead to unhealthy caffeine levels, coffee isn’t the only culprit. Drugs such as Luvox, used to treat depression, or quinolone antibiotics, used to treat infection, amplify caffeine…

Do foot-stretching exercises to keep the tissue in the sole of your foot free from pain. If you’ve ever had pain in the mid-sole of your foot on those first few steps out of bed or after getting out of a chair, then you’re acquainted with your plantar fascia. This tendon complex, along with the deeper spring ligament, serves as the tension cable along your foot’s sole that keeps the foot arched and provides shock absorption. There are several ways…