All posts by lipsticklogic

Betty Kuffel, MD FACP An honors graduate of the University of Washington School of Medicine, Internal Medicine physician and former nurse practitioner, Dr. Kuffel has broad healthcare experience. After years of directing and working in emergency departments, and directing hospitalist inpatient care, recently Dr. Kuffel retired to pursue many interests including writing this blog for women. Because of a shared desire to help women of all ages achieve healthy fulfilled lives, she joined with her sister Bev Erickson and founded Lipstick Logic ™ to bring health and lifestyle education to women. Their contributions to educating women include hosting and speaking at women’s conferences, writing a health blog on LipstickLogic.com and writing a monthly health column for Montana Woman Magazine. Dr Kuffel has been recognized for her commitment to helping others. The Lipstick Logic concept evolved over years of caring for women in crisis. Dr. Kuffel believes education is the key to living healthier and making informed choices. Heart disease is the focus their collaborative book, Your Heart: Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease. Coronary artery disease is the number one cause of death and it is preventable. See: YourHeartBook.com

THE POWERS OF MISTLETOE


 

How did kissing beneath a sprig of parasitic poisonous plant to ward off evil spirits

and improve fertility come to be celebrated during modern holidays?

Through the ages, ancient Greeks and Celtic Druids bestowed magical powers on mistletoe. This attractive green leafy plant with white berries and strong roots grows through bark and sucks its nutrients from the mother-tree. Mistletoe can grow as a bush and it thrives in trees, but is rarely seen growing in oak trees. When found in an oak, Druid priests considered the parasitic plant a sex symbol and the soul of the tree.

Kissing under the mistletoe has so many powers; it is difficult to keep them all straight. In the Middle Ages, branches of mistletoe hung from ceilings to ward off evil spirits. Today, decorating homes with mistletoe at Christmastime survives from Druid and pre-Christian traditions. In European folklore, mistletoe was even considered an aphrodisiac that could bestow life and fertility on believers.

In Scandinavia, mistletoe was considered a peace-plant helping enemies solve differences and could help warring couples make up. If you attended a Christmastime Kissing Ball in 18th century England, you had to agree to be kissed under the mistletoe. The special kiss might bring romance, lasting friendship and goodwill but any un-kissed girl would certainly not marry in the coming year, so there was a scramble for that kiss.

Many mistletoe beliefs are a mesh of lore and modern-day fun. Kissing under the mistletoe has become a holiday tradition representing peace and love. Just remember, no matter how hungry you are—don’t eat the mistletoe!

Some mistletoe varieties are poisonous and must not be consumed in any fashion. Keep the plant away from children and pets. Plants that contain phoratoxin can cause a variety of symptoms from blurred vision to blood pressure changes and death. Call Poison Control and seek medical attention if any of the leaves or berries are eaten.

ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center hotline at (888) 426-4435

US POISON CONTROL CENTER 1-800-222-1222

Betty Kuffel, MD

BRIGHTEN YOUR HOLIDAYS WITH A MEXICAN FIRE PLANT

The Christmas Flower

Each year, admirers purchase more than 75 million poinsettias during the six-week holiday season between Thanksgiving and New Years. After seeing these brilliant red, pink, white and dappled poinsettias everywhere, have you every wondered how many of the lush tropical “Mexican fire plants” survive the winter months? Not many – based on my experience. Poinsettias in my hands usually became dreadful-looking and leafless by February. But for some reason, a beautiful white poinsettia I received as gift in 2011 not only survived the year, it quadrupled in size and is developing blooms just in time for this holiday season!

Since I didn’t know what I did to make my poinsettia flourish, I decided to do a little research. I discovered more than 60 varieties exist and was shocked to learn poinsettias grow to ten feet in height in their natural tropical habitat in Mexico! Botanist Dr. Joel Poinsett, America’s first ambassador to Mexico in 1825, introduced this unusual plant to our market. National Geographic News says the poinsettia is now the top-selling potted flowering in the US.

Cultivated by Aztecs, the brilliant flower was a symbol of purity. In the 17th Century, a group of Franciscan priests near Taxco began using the blooms in a nativity celebration. But, it isn’t only during the holidays you can enjoy this perennial plant. With the right care they will thrive for years.

Details on poinsettia care below were compiled from many sources:

  • Poinsettias do best in natural light in 65 degree daytime temperatures away from drafts and cold windows. Depending on your residence, these plants do well outside if the proper location is chosen. In Montana, it is safer to maintain them as house plants.
  •  The second and very important care is watering—just enough, avoiding over-watering. It must be in a draining pot and watered when the soil is dry to the touch. Discard excess water.
  • Continue above care through March. In April, trim back the main stems to about 8 inches. When new growth appears along the stems, fertilize once a week. Water as directed. In mid-July, snip tops leaving at least 4 leaves on each stem to encourage it to branch and become bushy, creating lots of blooms.
  • In the fall, beginning October 1 and extending until Thanksgiving, the plant prefers 14 hours of complete darkness from 6 pm to 8 am. The darkness can be simply provided by covering the plant with a box or by placing it in a closet.
  • Once the dark treatment is complete, the color-changing leaves (bracts) begin to change to showy colors. Stop the fertilizing, but continue watering when needed. Place the plant in an area that receives natural light away from drafts.

My poinsettia survived through luck —and by careful watering, a little fertilizer and letting it live in the northeast corner of a sunny room. Instead of placing it in complete darkness, the natural shortening hours of daylight in the northern Montana winter has been adequate to trigger the bracts to change color. After this blooming period, I plan to snip off a few of the longer stems to encourage more leaf growth.

Best of luck in your efforts to care for your poinsettia and watch it re-bloom in 2013.

Betty Kuffel, MD

LIGHT UP YOUR LIFE

Do You Have Winter Blues?

If this time of year tends to dampen your spirits and your energy, it could be the result of shorter days and longer nights. A condition known medically at SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder, also called the “Winter Blues” – is a documented mood disorder where people who have normal mental health throughout most of the year, become depressive in winter months.

Although experts were initially skeptical, this condition is now recognized as a common disorder, prevalent across the U.S.  SAD was formally described and named in 1984 by Dr. Norman E. Rosenthal, a researcher, professor, psychiatrist and author of the book “Winter Blues.”

The National Library of Medicine notes “some people experience a serious mood change when the seasons change. They may sleep too much, have little energy, and may also feel depressed. Though symptoms can be severe, they usually clear up.”

If you feel a dampened-down mood change coming on, considering adding more lights inside and outside your home. Energy efficient bulbs now offer instant-on bright white and daylight options while actually reducing your electricity bill if used to replace older filament bulbs.

Our small Minnesota town has a delightful tradition. On the Eve of “Black Friday” – a parade of lighted horses and over 20 floats make their way through main-street. Family and friends gather on the sidewalks wrapped in winter coats and warm blankets (if weather demands), to watch the parade and join in the sounds and songs of merriment that fill the air.

The last float, a shiny fire truck covered in twinkle lights, ushers in Santa. With a wave of his hand and his jolly “Ho-Ho-Ho” the truck siren is sounded and the entire downtown and waterfront area comes alive with sparkling lights.

It doesn’t have to end there. Stores are filled with packages of inexpensive lights designed to adorn your home and landscape. Lighting contests are held throughout our area bringing people of all ages out to tour the spectacular scenes.

Sparkling starlight elicits a feeling of joy whether it is in summer or winter. With longer, darker winter nights now with us, even a few sparkling lights within our homes can add a feeling of joy.

“Deck the Halls” both inside and outside to increase and spread your own holiday cheer throughout your home and neighborhood.

Wishing you a bright cheery Holiday Season.

Bev Erickson

WHY ARE YOU EATING GLUTEN-FREE?

                  Gluten Intolerance: What is it?

 Gluten is a protein found in grains that 99% of the population eat without health risks unless when eaten in excess causing weight gain. Many of the good foods we eat everyday and with every meal contain gluten. Bread, pasta, cereals and many processed foods, even cold-cuts and salad dressings contain the culprit. Some candies contain gluten, too. So, to follow a gluten-free diet is not easy. Most people would not want to follow this restrictive diet for life unless it had proven value.

Symptoms of gluten intolerance include bloating, upset stomach, abdominal pain, weight loss and diarrhea. True gluten intolerance is an autoimmune disease in which the body mounts an inappropriate immune response against its own cells. The disease runs in families. It is sometimes becomes active after surgery, pregnancy, infections or severe emotional stress.

Nutrients including protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals are absorbed into the body via tiny projections in the small intestine called villi. In people affected by gluten intolerance or celiac disease (also known as gluten sensitive enteropathy or sprue), inflammation and damage to the villi occurs when they eat foods containing wheat, rye and barley. The damaged villi cannot absorb nutrients so gluten intolerant people become malnourished and lose weight.

Affected people may also develop lactose intolerance, vitamin deficiency, neuropathy with loss of sensation in feet and hands, skin problems and oral ulcers. Many other symptoms are attributable to the malabsorption: iron deficiency anemia, osteoporosis, fatigue, depression, menstrual irregularity and infertility.

To make a definitive diagnosis, a very sensitive blood test to detect the autoantibodies reacting against the intestine can be done. The autoantibodies are known as: Anti-tissue transglutaminase antibodies (tTGA) or anti-endomysium antibodies (EMA). If you are not eating gluten when you are evaluated, the test will be negative even if the disease is present. In fact, the test must be done before you quit eating gluten because without the stimulus from the abnormal protein, antibodies decrease and return to normal within three-six months. People who have an accurate but negative test and still find they are symptomatic when they eat gluten are said to be gluten-sensitive.

Gluten intolerance can develop at any time. Right now it seems to be a fad to go “gluten-free.” A gluten-free diet is healthy, but there is no scientific evidence that a gluten-free diet is any healthier than a diet containing gluten grains, unless of course, you are gluten-intolerant or actually have the autoimmune disease. A gluten-free diet eliminates wheat, barley, rye and oats, while including corn, nuts, potatoes, rice, soy and wild rice.

Find more information from the Celiac Disease Foundation at: www.celiac.org

Betty Kuffel, MD

BREAST CANCER

 

OCTOBER 2012

BREAST CANCER AWARENESS MONTH

 

One in eight women develops breast cancer. More than half are over age 50.

 Early detection correlates with better long-term health and cure.

The founding goal for Breast Cancer Awareness Month focused on educating women about the importance of obtaining mammograms for early diagnosis. The campaign began in 1985 as a partnership between the American Cancer Society and the drug division of Imperial Chemical Industries (now AstraZeneca). Awareness and evaluations have improved since its inception. Many supportive organizations have partnered to raise money for breast cancer research and help women obtain life-saving diagnosis and treatment.

Doing self breast exams can identify abnormalities and trigger life-saving interventions by a physician. Breast cancer experts may not agree on the frequency of mammograms, but women in high-risk categories typically start having mammograms by age 40 and continue annually. Nearly 75% of all women who develop breast cancer, have zero risk factors.

Recognized risk factors are: cancer in one breast increases your risk for additional unrelated or same type cancer in the other breast, family history, (familial breast cancer genes increase a woman’s risk to 85% chance of developing breast cancer, ovarian, pancreatic and other cancers over a lifetime). Other slight increased risk occurs in women who: give birth to their first child at age 35 or older; have early onset menses (before age 12); are overweight; experience late menopause (over age 55); consume alcohol daily. There are additional factors. For more information consult reliable websites such as: www.webmd.com/breast-cancer/guide

Most abnormalities found on mammograms are not breast cancer. Calcifications are usually non-cancerous and are related to aging. However, tiny specs appearing in clusters called “microcalcifications” raise concerns for cancer.

Mammograms often detect fluid-filled sacs called cysts. Sometimes an ultrasound of the breast is required to further evaluate the abnormality.  An ultrasound exam using noninvasive sound waves helps determine whether a lump is a solid mass requiring a possible biopsy or a benign cyst requiring no further treatment.

Breast cancer is not generic – there are many unique cell types, some more aggressive than others. Breast tissue consists primarily of lobules which produce milk and ducts that carry milk to the nipple. Fatty tissue enhances size, but the functional part of the breast is two fold: lobules and ducts. Most cancer originates in these two sites. Each cancer cell carries different protein markers on the cell surface. It is from these markers, called receptors that specific cancer types are identified and appropriate treatment of cancer determined. For more details on breast cancer see: www.cancer.org/cancer/breastcancer/detailedguide/

Breast cancer is a complex disease. There are many different cell types and treatment protocols available. Information on treatment plans and outcomes are shared by physicians internationally. Your local cancer specialist has current detailed information to provide the best treatments. Additional diagnostic methods are used including a breast MRI.

On a personal note, after having annual mammograms for years and a few weeks before my next scheduled mammogram,  I felt a lump. A needle biopsy revealed a high grade cell type: negative progesterone and negative estrogen receptors plus positive HER-2 receptors.  Approximately 200,000 new breast cancer cases are found each year; 25% of these are HER-2 + (Human Epidermal Growth Factor-2). This is an aggressive, fast growing form of breast cancer. I believe a self breast exam plus mammography, resulting in early detection, may have saved my life. Time will tell. There is a monoclonal antibody drug targeted specifically to HER-2 cell receptors. In fact there are two similar drugs now available. Following a double mastectomy, I opted for aggressive chemo therapy and a year of Herceptin, (a monoclonal antibody drug).

The over-all survival rate for women with breast cancer is 90%, a big improvement from a rate of 63% – 50 years ago. If the cancer is identified and treated before it spreads to the lymph nodes, survival at 5 years is 98%. Even if it has spread to local lymph nodes the survival rate at 5 years  is 84%. Knowing the incidence of breast cancer and the potential for long-term survival, if it is treated early, I encourage all women to do self breast exams, discuss any findings with a physician and obtain regular mammograms.
Betty Kuffel, MD

Helping Your Heart and Your Memory

Resveratrol: Its Beneficial Effects

Would you like to make a simple healthful change to benefit your heart? Resveratrol elevates HDL levels, the good cholesterol. Having a high HDL doesn’t mean you are protected against developing heart disease, but those with high HDLs appear to have reduced risk for coronary artery disease. Two human studies have also shown resveratrol can boost insulin activity in Type II diabetics and reduce harmful blood vessel disease leading to diabetic blindness. Another effect is the reduction in fat cell production of inflammatory compounds that contribute to heart disease and tissue damage associated with diabetes.

This natural product, obtainable in most pharmacies and health food stores, stimulates a family of sirtuin proteins in the body that are gene regulators. Metabolic and biological aging processes are affected by sirtuins, especially the protein SIRT1. Researchers at Howard Hughes Medical Institute found SIRT1 plays a roll in decreasing aging and aids learning and memory. Most of us could benefit from that!

Another protein resveratrol stimulates is CREB, which  strengthens connections between neurons. The CREB activity is increased by SIRT1.  There won’t be an SIRT1 pill coming soon, but understanding this relationship shows promise in understanding and reversing degenerative processes causing memory loss. Resveratrol in your diet may help your memory.

Diets rich in resveratrol protect the heart, increase fat burning and reduce weight gain—and in mice, extend lifespan. The compound is found in grapes, grape products, wine, peanuts and some plants. A trade product containing resveratrol called Reversitol comes in both pill and liquid forms. It tastes like grape juice and is easily tolerated as a food supplement.

Betty Kuffel, MD

INNOVATIONS IN CANCER TREATMENT

Understanding Cancer: Targeted Treatments

Cancers develop from multiple causes including genetic factors, infection, environmental toxin exposure and lifestyle factors such as tobacco use. Some are very slow growing while others grow and spread rapidly. No cure-all for cancer is likely in the near future. A strong immune system efficiently suppresses cellular and precancerous changes. With age and reduced immunity and sometimes for unknown reasons, abnormal cells grow and spread by direct extension to surrounding tissues, and metastasize throughout the body via blood and lymph. Each year treatments improve and many more of them are targeted at mutations and cell surface markers.

Two heritable disorders are mutations in the human genes that belong to a class of genes that are tumor suppressors, the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. The normal genes help stabilize DNA and prevent uncontrolled cell growth. Mutations block the stabilization and lead to early breast and ovarian cancer.

BRCA= BReast CAncer Susceptibility gene 1 and 2, affect both men and women. Men who carry this gene are also at risk for breast, and possibly pancreatic, testicular and early prostate cancer.

Other harmful mutations in the BRCA 2 gene increase risk of many other cancers including melanoma skin cancer.

Knowing you carry the BRCA gene can allow you to make decisions before the cancer develops. In women without the abnormal gene, the lifetime risk of developing breast cancer is 12% or 120/1000. In women with the harmful BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation, they have a 60% chance or 600/1000, of developing the cancers. Many affected women make the decision to have both breasts and ovaries removed before cancer develops. This may sound drastic, but it is life saving.

An example of targeted treatment based on cell surface receptors is the Human Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor 2 (HER2) an abnormal protein found on breast cancer cells. The abnormal cancerous cell growth is triggered by an excess of HER2 due to a gene mutation and is found in other cancers, not just breast. This form of breast cancer tends to be more aggressive than other types. It is also less responsive to hormonal treatment.

Luckily there are two very specific drugs that target HER2, killing the abnormal cells but not the normal ones. These are Herceptin (Trastuzumab) and Tykerb (Lapatinib). Both may be used in combination with other chemo therapy drugs. They are not without side effects as both can cause heart toxicity and allergic reactions.

Other examples of innovations in the treatment of cancer patients are a vaccine that targets a particularly aggressive brain tumor (glioblastoma). This new treatment significantly prolongs life.  Another is melanoma skin cancer.  40-60% of them contain a mutation that encodes BRAF gene. The BRAF mutation is associated with features of high risk aggressive melanoma. This gene makes a protein (B-Raf) which is involved with directing cell growth. Inhibitors have been developed to target the abnormality; one year ago Vemurafenib was released to treat late-stage melanoma.

Betty Kuffel, MD

LEARNING ABOUT VIRUSES

 

VIRUS OVERVIEW AND UPDATE

 

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)

There is a new strain of the potentially deadly virus related to SARS. The initial fear was we’d be facing an aggressive form like the outbreak in China that killed one in ten victims and infected about 8,000. The World Health Organization reports this new form is not as easily spread from person to person. Like the SARS outbreak which began in China in 2002, it is related to a common cold virus of the coronavirus family. Only one person has died. One person is critically ill. Both are from the Middle East where this new form was first identified.

Influenza A (H3N2v) Variant Virus Outbreaks

The H1N1 virus, found in pigs (2010) and humans (2011) has now surface as a new variant which has infected humans resulting in one death. The variant is transmitted from pigs to humans by droplet contact. Most infected developed only mild symptoms. Any one who is under age 5, over 65, or are pregnant, have diabetes, heart disease or weakened immune systems are at high risk of serious complications. They must have no contact with pigs. There is no risk with eating cooked pork. The seasonal flu vaccine will not protect you from this disease. See a doctor early if you suspect this infection as antiviral drugs may help.  http://www.cdc.gov/flu/swineflu/h3n2v-outbreak.htm

Viruses in Health and Disease

We have all had numerous viral illnesses with little evidence of persistence. Yet, after mapping the human genome, scientists found viruses incorporated into human genes. In fact, 8% of the human genome consists of endogenous (embedded segments) of virus sequences we pass on to our offspring. Many of these are retroviruses, based on RNA. To be functional, RNA viruses must insert themselves into a DNA-based genome which contains reverse transcriptase. The enzyme allows the RNA virus to reproduce itself using the cell’s machinery.

We have known for years that cancers arise from viruses. The Human T-cell Lymphotropic Virus (HTLV) was the first human retrovirus discovered. This virus affects T lymphocytes, white cells responsible for fighting infection. HTLV-1 and HTLV-2 are involved in numerous disease processes including leukemia, lymphoma, skin and neurologic disorders.

The Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) causes a variety of aggressive cancers: cervical, penile, oral and throat. Prevention of HPV-based cancers is now possible with an immunization. (HPV Vaccination) For guidelines: www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/hpv/

 

A recent discovery by researchers at the University of Texas broadens understanding of the viruses embedded in our genes. They found human genomes and those of other mammals contain Bornavirus DNA. This is an RNA virus which activates viral factories within the cell nucleus establishing persistent infection, and has been passed in mammals throughout evolution. Researchers looked at more than 200 genomes and found Bornavirus sequences in them. Why do you care?

First of all, Bornavirus infects a large number of animals internationally from birds to primates. It causes a severe and usually fatal form of encephalitis with striking behavior changes in horses, but is also seen in cattle, sheep, cats and canines. Changes in horses include: staggering, agitation and depressed behavior. Transmitted by contact with secretions, there is an incubation period from weeks to months.

Viral infections caused by influenza, cytomegalovirus (CMV) and herpes simplex virus (HSV) may be involved with psychiatric disorders but no clear causation has been reported. Bornavirus antibodies and viral RNA have been found in humans with psychiatric disorders but there is no proven direct causal link between Bornavirus infection and mental problems. Genetic and environmental factors both interact in the expression of psychiatric illness including schizophrenia and mood disorders. Research is ongoing and is a field to watch.

Information on this virus, its diagnosis and correlation with evidence for possible infection in humans causing mental disorders is discussed in detail in the following source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC164222/ from Clinical Microbiology Reviews.

There is much we do not know about how latent viruses may affect our health. Maybe they will never surface and will lie dormant in our genes over a lifetime. Many people are all too aware of Varicella Zoster Virus. This one lies dormant after having chicken pox as a child. Anyone who has had chicken pox and recovered may develop this painful blistering skin rash that follows nerves along one side of the body. One out of three people develop shingles. The best treatment is prevention and an immunization is available, even at local pharmacies. There are medications that help and you should see a doctor if you develop shingles. Zostavax® immunization is recommended by the CDC for those over age 60.  Guidelines at the CDC:

http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/shingles/vacc-need-know.htm#get-vaccine

Studies show viruses change the way genes turn on and off in embryonic stem cells. As more research information surfaces, studies using new molecular mechanisms to turn cell functions on and off are designed. Cancer treatment studies are now targeting the on-off switches which could stop rapid growth of abnormal cells and halt cancer growth.

Betty Kuffel, MD

BEAT THE FLU SEASON: IMMUNIZE NOW

Prevent Influenza: B and A including H1N1, H3N2

Influenza is always around, but the typical “flu season” in the US extends from October to May. It takes about two weeks for your body to generate antibodies against the flu following an immunization, so now is the time to immunize yourself and your family. Vaccines are available at many convenient locations, even in pharmacies, so there are no long lines.

We may have forgotten the scare and severity of the H1N1 (swine) flu illness in the past, but recent illnesses and a death from swine flu contracted by people attending fairs and touching pigs has brought the disease back into focus. Treatment may not be effective, so it is best to avoid the disease altogether. You can do that by arming yourself against the H1N1 viral illness and other seasonal flu types by an immunization which covers a variety of influenza strains.

An annual immunization is recommended because flu viruses change. The vaccine is re-formulated based on the observed changes. Just because you had the “flu” once, doesn’t mean you are immune. Natural immune responses decline over time. The inclusion of a viral strain in the vaccine is based on research and anticipated spread of illness type. This year the vaccine protects against three different flu types: influenza A (H3N2 virus, influenza A (H1N1) and influenza B viruses.

You have a number of immunization options:

“Flu shot”-an inactivated vaccine containing a killed virus is given with a needle and is for healthy adults, children older than 6 months and for people with chronic medical conditions

  • Regular: 6 months and older
  • HD (high dose): for people age 65 and older
  • Intradermal: for ages 18-64

Nasal-Spray: Made from weakened viruses which do not cause the flu. Approved for healthy people ages 2-49 that are not pregnant.

At the website listed below there are immunization guidelines. People who have severe egg allergies and anyone who has had a severe reaction to the vaccine in the past should not be re-immunized. Others who are ill and feverish, and those who have had a paralytic illness called GBS (Guillain-Barré Syndrome) should discuss the situation with a physician. Children younger than 6 months of age are not approved for flu immunization.

General immunization recommendations include: People with lung conditions such as asthma and COPD; Diabetics and people 65 years and older; Pregnant women; Those associated with the above examples including caregivers and household contacts.

If you develop influenza, what are the symptoms?

  • Sudden onset of a high fever
  • Headache, cough, sore throat, runny nose, aches and tiredness
  • Diarrhea and vomiting can occur but are less common and more often in children

What to do: Although the above symptoms might be flu, other illnesses have similar symptoms. If you are concerned, especially if you have asthma, diabetes, chronic lung disease or have been diagnosed with congestive heart failure, you should discuss your symptoms with your doctor. There are some medications that help, in fact, some specifically treat viral infections. These antiviral drugs may make you feel better faster and help prevent complications, but must be started within two days to have benefit.

There are actions to decrease your risk of infection, such as:

  • Avoid people who are coughing or other flu symptoms
  • Be sure to wash your hands
  • Don’t shake hands with people
  • Use alcohol based wipes or sanitizer solutions frequently

It takes about two weeks for your body to produce antibody protection after you receive the vaccine. The best protection is to GET YOUR IMMUNIZATION NOW!

You have two options:

  • The shot—when this vaccine containing a killed virus is injected, your body begins building antibodies against the illness. Generally healthy people, those with chronic disease and children over 6 months of age are approved for this method
  • The nasal spray—this vaccine is made from live but weakened viruses that do not cause the flu. The body senses it’s presence on the nasal mucus membrane and mounts an antibody response. This is approved for healthy people between the ages of 2-49. It is not used in pregnant women.

NOTE: You cannot get influenza from the vaccine. But vaccine effectiveness varies and flu viruses are constantly changing.

Possible Side effects: Soreness, redness and swelling at the site of the injection, low grade fever and aches, runny nose, wheezing, headache, vomiting, muscle aches, fever, sore throat, cough.

For more information: www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/keyfacts.htm and Influenza Vaccine Safety at the same site.

For questions related to your personal health issues, consult your physician.

Betty Kuffel, MD

Crisis Survival: Find a Passion

After interviewing many successful women who not only survived but excelled following personal losses, serious health issues or tragedies, I found their crisis recovery and survival methods carried hope and lessons of success for all women.

The process used by these women to gain strength and overcome adversity is three fold. Without being able to state the mental mechanics of their recovery, descriptions of their actions and end results are the same. Through their actions, they became survivors.

Immediately following a serious blow to their existence, that moment, in a heart beat, when everything changed, the initial response was shock and disbelief. Instead of withdrawing and giving up, three things occurred. Each woman was able to:

  • Acknowledge their nightmare as real
  • Compartmentalize the overwhelming grief
  • With time, deal with each facet and move on with a passion

Each woman innately used the protective mental process, “compartmentalization.” This adaptive mechanism blunts emotional overload. In other words, they placed their shock aside, hid it in a “shock box” and went on with life. By hiding their pain, an inner strength gradually developed allowing each woman to regain control and deal with each painful issue.

A loved one dies, a frightening diagnosis is delivered, financial ruin occurs or even blindness strikes. Some life events are so devastating they must be absorbed gradually. When the initial shockwave strikes, it is much like a rock being dropped in water. At first a large splash surges upward. The splash is followed by ring after ring of spreading waves. The waves move outward becoming smaller and softer. With their initial shock buried beneath the surface like the stone, these women were able to perform jobs and care for their families; they had to. Although the initial shock and pain of the spreading waves weighed heavily on their ability to function, emotions gradually stabilized and life order returned.

Each of us experience crisis; it is part of living. Some women survive, and in the end, excel. Others collapse in despair and never fully recover. Instead, they become victims of their experiences and stagnate in depression or self-destructive behaviors. You can take control and avoid becoming a victim of your grief. You have the power.

A broad recovery base developed for the ones who found the strength to survive. Many discovered new friendships and found a passion. “What is a passion?” When you find yours, you’ll know it. A passion is a focus of enjoyment. It makes you smile even when a blur of pain surrounds you. It provides a focus for your brain and meaning for existence. You can share it, but the passion is yours alone.

Does this mean finding a man? No. If your loss is related to a failed relationship, divorce or loss of a loved one through death, it is essential you become “whole” first. Before developing any new relationship, it is essential to recover and experience who you are first. You are not the same person as before the life-changing event. There is a new you, within you, a resilient woman able to succeed without an immediate mate. After an event, you are vulnerable and a target for many men for various reasons. Entering a relationship too soon will leave you muddled and searching.

A word of caution: Internet dating sites are not for everyone. There are many sordid tales of rape, violence and thievery. When you are ready, meeting someone through a group, such as a college class, a writers group or when learning a new skill, provides a start in a safe setting and in a situation where you already share an interest. After a failed marriage, I met my husband when taking sailing lessons. I have a close friend who met a man through a personals column. He was good looking, charming, employed and—a pathological liar. She nearly died at the hands of this violent man who is now in prison. She is very lucky to be alive and is truly a survivor.

Each of us is different. Women who have a passion before a life-changing event occurs find it helps them recover more quickly. If you need a focus, consider using your life skills to help others. You may find a niche volunteering or helping others less fortunate, such as reading to the vision-impaired, helping at a pet shelter, visiting the elderly or delivering Meals-on-Wheels.

Some women helped their recovery by taking a class at the community college to learn something new, like how to make cheese, weave beautiful pine needle baskets, make jewelry, excel in marital arts, or to write a memoir. All things you may not have been interested in previously.

Daily activity is important for mental and physical health. Consider walking or hiking with a group. Try reviving an old interest. It may set you in the direction of finding your passion in a place you least expect.

We all need something to energize daily life. For me, it’s watching the sun rise and looking at an image of my granddaughter’s beautiful face before I start my day of writing. Writing is my passion, but I love walking my dog Valkyrie, reading and learning new skills, such as computer applications like PhotoShop, which feeds my interest in photography.

We can all find strength in the words and life example of Helen Keller, who at 19 months of age, suddenly lost both hearing and vision. With these profound disabilities, she learned to speak, became a prolific writer and graduated with honor from Radcliffe College. Throughout her life, she worked incessantly for the improvement of others and became a symbol of triumph over adversity. She said, “Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.”

Studies show people who socialize, are physically active and engage their brains learning new things every day, live longer happier lives.

Search for your passion.

Lipstick Logic /Betty Kuffel, MD