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PAMF Health Blog

Be Well, Be Well Informed

When Depression Prompts Thoughts of Suicide

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The recent death of actor Robin Williams is prompting many people to take a hard look at depression and suicide. Suicide rates among middle-age Americans – once the least likely age group to commit suicide – is rising sharply. In fact, the rate of suicide among people age 35-64 rose 28 percent between 1999 and 2010.

There are many theories: Baby Boomers facing retirement may be under financial stress. People may struggle to care for both aging parents and their children. Or they may be affected by the growing use of strong pain medicine for age-related conditions such as arthritis.

Meg Durbin, M.D., an Internal Medicine doctor and pediatrician at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, offers these insights into depression, and tips on how to help someone at risk for suicide.

What puts someone at risk for suicide?
People who have a diagnosed mental disorder such as depression or bipolar disease are at higher risk of suicide. Substance abuse is also closely tied to suicidal thoughts, as is a family history of attempted or completed suicide. Suicide risk is also higher when someone has a serious medical history, prolonged pain and major life losses. The risk of suicide also increases in people who have a close association with another person’s suicide, and have access to the tools required to take their lives in a moment of despair. Read More

Breastfeeding Challenges – and Support

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All major medical organizations, including the World Health Organization and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), agree that breastfeeding is the preferred way to feed newborns. Breastfeeding also protects against respiratory illnesses, ear infections, gastrointestinal diseases and allergies. The AAP recommends mothers breastfeed babies exclusively for about the first six months of life.

But breastfeeding is not without challenges. It can take a few days for a new mom and baby to adjust to breastfeeding, which can be stressful for everyone involved.

Read More

A New Look at Circumcision

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Are you expecting a baby boy? If yes, the topic of circumcision is sure to come up. Before you know it, you’ll be immersed in a lively discussion about whether it’s best for baby to be circumcised or not. Some parents choose to have their son circumcised for religious or cultural reasons. Others want their little boy to “‘look like dad or the other men in the family.”

Although recent scientific studies show some important health benefits of circumcision, it is not essential to your child’s good health, says Paul Protter, M.D., a pediatrician with the Palo Alto Medical Foundation. “Ultimately, it’s up to the parents to decide what’s best for their child,” he says. Here are his answers to expecting parents’ most common questions about circumcision.

What is circumcision and what should I expect for my baby boy after circumcision? Read More

Vaccinations: Why Children Need Them

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With so much media attention on vaccinations, parents often wonder if they should have their children vaccinated.

“Although this may seem a personal choice, it’s important to know that vaccinations offer two critical benefits,” says Kathrin R. Sidell, M.D., Ph.D., a pediatrician at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation. “Not only do they protect your own child against dangerous diseases, they also ensure other children don’t get them either.”

Parents often have concerns about vaccinations. Here Dr. Sidell provides answers to some of the most common questions. Read More

Four Tips for Giving a Child Medicine

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Giving medicine to a child can sometimes be stressful for parents — and children. It is important to give the correct medication and dose, at the right time and in the right way. Gretchen Berry, R.N., BSN, a Palo Alto Medical Foundation pediatric advice nurse, offers these simple tips to ease the process of giving medication to a child. If you have any questions about medications or dosage, consult your pediatrician or pharmacist.

Read More

How to Prevent Common Foot Problems

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Did you know one foot has 26 bones, 33 joints and more than 100 tendons, muscles and ligaments? It does. We cram this intricate structure into a narrow shoe. We pound it running, jumping, or just by standing all day. Is it any surprise that most people have foot pain at some point in their lives?

“People go out and often buy expensive shoes, spending a lot of money,” says Jeffrey M. Gregori, DPM, a podiatrist at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation. “But we don’t really think about the health of our feet – until they hurt.”

Dr. Gregori has these tips for three of the most common foot problems: bunions, flat feet and plantar fasciitis.

Battling Bunions Read More

The Risks of Energy Drinks


Ads for energy drinks are plastered on the walls of sporting events and on the jerseys of leading athletes. The beverage makers sponsor models, music events and videos games. Red Bull, the market’s leading drink, even has its own TV series and printed magazine. They claim to boost your immune system, enhance your performance, and help you stay up longer.

No wonder 30 to 50 percent of adolescents and young adults say they buy energy drinks. But are they safe for young people to drink?

“No,” says Stephanie Nguyen Lai, M.D., a pediatrician at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation. Energy drinks are loaded with caffeine – often twice as much as coffee and eight times as much as a soda. They’re especially dangerous when mixed with alcohol.

“As a parent, it is important to talk with your adolescent, and explain the risks of these products,” Dr. Lai says. “Their health could be at stake.”

Hidden Caffeine in Energy Drinks Read More