Ask the Doctor - Round 2

May 29, 2013


UHCGA520079-000.indd This year, we are excited to announce our new collaboration with UnitedHealthcare to bring you wellness information throughout the year to support your journey to better health. In addition, you now have the opportunity to ask UnitedHealthcare’s Dr. Jacqueline Stiff some of your most burning health questions. By the way, Dr. Stiff loves the sport of running, too! Every month, she will answer five (5) questions from BGR! members ranging from injury prevention to clinical check-ups. If you have a question, please send it to and look for answer in an upcoming post. Click here to download information, such as wellness tips, articles and healthy recipes. PRESERVE THE SEXY and PRESERVE YOUR HEALTH! ASK THE DOCTOR by Dr. Jacqueline Stiff Dr. Stiff   The following information provided by UnitedHealthcare herein is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for your doctor’s care. Please discuss with your doctor how the information provided is right for you. When I am running longer than seven miles, my fingers and hands swell. Is there something I can do to prevent the swelling? It is not uncommon for swelling of hands and fingers to occur while running, especially during long runs. It can be the result of a few things – most commonly, running causes your increased heart rate to pump blood flow to various part of your body, including your muscles.  As a result, extra fluid may build up in the tissues of your hands and fingers causing swelling. Perspiration from increased body temperature can also lead to this type of swelling.  Less commonly, the loss of salt and electrolytes from long distance running may cause swelling of your hands.  Make sure you are well hydrated during your runs; for long runs such as what you described, replace your electrolytes with appropriate types of sports drinks.  Rings or watches may also increase your discomfort, so you may want to remove those on your runs.  During the run, you can move your arms in a circular motion, and open and close your hands to keep the fluid moving. Avoid running outdoors on really hot days.  If the swelling increases tremendously during your running, or if it persists after your running, you may need to seek care from a health care professional. I am almost 52 years old and would love to start a running regimen. I have a small amount of knee pain so is it still advisable for me to run? Congratulations on taking the first step to better health with a new exercise routine! However, if you are having knee pain, increased motion and pressure in the form of running may aggravate your knee condition, especially if you don’t know the source of the issue.  Knee pain is a very common occurrence especially as we get older.  As we age, the wear and tear on the cartilage in our knees can cause osteoarthritis (the most common type of arthritis).  Being overweight, injuries and genetics can also contribute to this condition.  Less common types of arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis and arthritis from lupus can occur at any age.  Other conditions such as bursitis, tendinitis and gout may also lead to knee pain.  Of course, sudden knee injuries, such as an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears, sprains and strains can be causes of immediate pain. Most types of knee pain can be treated at home.  Resting the knee, icing it, elevating it and using compression in the form of ace bandages are steps that can be helpful.  Over the counter pain relievers can also be used to relieve pain and swelling.  You should seek immediate care from your doctor if your knee pain persists; if your knee is swollen, hot and painful and you have a fever; and if your knee locks into place and can’t be bent. Overall joint health can be achieved by working with your health care provider – first by identifying the source of your knee pain; and then by developing a good exercise and nutrition program.  Again, congratulations on your move to better health! I am 37 years old and my general health is good. My recent blood test showed my LDL level was too high, and my HDL level was good. How do I lower the bad cholesterol while keeping the other levels the same? High cholesterol is a major risk factor for developing g heart disease.  Heart disease is still the number one cause of death for both men and women in the United States.  As you probably know, too much cholesterol (either because your body doesn't properly break it down or your intake is too high) can build up in your body especially in your arteries, leading to plaque buildup. Cholesterol is a combination of your LDL (low density lipoproteins) level, also known as the bad cholesterol; and your HDL level (high density lipoproteins), the good cholesterol. Total cholesterol should be below 200 mg/dl.  Your LDL level, the bad cholesterol should be below 130 mg/dl but the optimal level is 100 mg/dl and below.  While your HDL level (good cholesterol) should be above 40 mg/dl; and it sounds like you are already successful here so keep the good work! So what can you do to lower your elevated LDL level (bad cholesterol)? •            Eat a healthy diet.  Choose healthier fats - increase your good fats, such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (i.e., canola, peanut oil, olive oil, etc.); avoid the unsaturated and trans-fats. •            Eat a high fiber diet. •            Maintain a healthy weight.  Obesity and overweight can lead to increases in the bad cholesterol so stay active and watch your overall dietary intake. •            Exercise regularly, which can lower your LDL level and raise your HDL level. •            Don't smoke. Finally, make sure you know your numbers and work with your health care provider to achieve and maintain a good cholesterol level. I am in my early thirties and haven’t had a mammogram yet. At what age should I have one? Research has shown that compared to other races, African-American women are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer at advanced stages; and more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer that is more aggressive and more difficult to treat.  Thus, it is important to be diligent about breast awareness and preventive screenings.
  • The National Cancer Institute (NCI) recommends that women have annual mammograms starting at age 40.
  • If you have a history of breast cancer in your immediate family, speak with your health care provider about earlier screenings.
  • If it is recommended that you have a mammogram before age 40, the NCI recommends that women have clinical breast exams every three years from ages 20 - 39.
  • The NCI also recommends that women start their own monthly breast examinations at age 20 so they can become comfortable with the anatomy of their own breasts, which may help detect any future abnormalities.
Finally, speak with your health care provider to determine what’s best for you in terms of preventive breast screenings based upon your age and family history. LEARN MORE ABOUT DR. JACQUELINE STIFF

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