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As many as 15 million Americans may suffer from chronic glaucoma. The majority of glaucoma cases are the chronic form called open angle glaucoma. Glaucoma (chronic open angle) is an insidious disease that can be difficult to detect until a significant portion of a person=s vision is lost. The disease is dangerous because most people do not have any symptoms; they feel no pain and most have 20/20 vision. Glaucoma is caused by damage to the optic nerve of the eye. Only about half of people with glaucoma are ever diagnosed with the disease and of those, almost 2 million suffer loss of vision and more than a quarter million are blind in one eye. These numbers are expected to increase as the baby boomer generation ages.

About 1 in 50 Americans over 40 have chronic open-angle glaucoma and that risk increases with age. Obesity and arthritis can also increase one=s risk. Also, many studies have found high blood pressure to be related to glaucoma.

There are simple and painless tests that can determine whether a person has glaucoma. The conventional treatment for glaucoma typically involved prescription medications like beta blockers, alpha-agonists, and prostaglandin analogs.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) uses acupuncture, herbal medicine and lifestyle changes and nutrition to help treat over 20 visual conditions including glaucoma, macular degeneration, cataracts and dry eyes. According to TCM all diseases of the eye are closed the Liver organ and require a specific differential diagnosis in order to select the most appropriate acupuncture points and herbal medicines. There are specific treatment protocols based on these diagnoses. Individuals with a medical diagnosis may have one of three or four different TCM diagnosis. Much of the TCM treatment is directed to restoring a holistic balance and harmony to the body based on the diagnosed pattern of disfunction.

Additionally, nutrition and diet have a role in the treatment of glaucoma. Some studies suggest that food allergies may have an effect on increasing inner eye pressure. Reducing the causes of food allergies have been shown to lessen inner eye pressure. The following are some of the most essential nutrients for the prevention and treatment of glaucoma: Vitamin C, essential fatty acids (omega-3 fatty acids, black current seed oil, and flaxseed oil), alpha-lipoic acid, taurine (an amino acid), and billberry.

Exercise is important in maintaining healthy eyes and vision. Studies have shown the glaucoma patients who take a brisk 40 minute walk 5 days a week for three months can reduce their eye pressure by approximately 2.5 mm of Hg.(mercury). Finally, it comes as no suprise that emotions affect health and that stress worsens glaucoma. Meditation, yoga, tai chi and chi kung exercises, psychotherapy or a combination of these may help reduce life=s stress. Traditional Chinese Medicine offers a complementary and successful approach in the treatment of glaucoma.

Stroke is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. and is the No. 3 cause of death, affecting almost 800,000 Americans each year. It is caused by an interruption to blood flow to the brain. There are two main types: clogged blood vessels (ischemic, the most common) and broken vessels (hemorrhagic). The main signs and symptoms of stroke are: sudden numbness or weakness of the arm or leg, particularly on one side; sudden difficulty speaking or understanding speech, seeing, or walking; or a sudden, very severe headache.

A similar but related problem is a mini-stoke called Atransient ischemic attack@ (TIA). This occurs when a blood vessel is blocked for a few minutes, causing no permanent damage. While not as serious as a stroke, it is a dangerous warning sign that a major stroke is imminent and requires serious, immediate attention and treatment. Some studies have found that almost half of those who have had a TIA never tell a health care provider.

Stroke also affects people differently. Recent studies show that African-Americans have strokes at twice the rate of whites and are more likely to die. Hispanics are also at increased risk of stroke.

There is now a very effective treatment for the clog type of stroke involving the drug Tissue Plasminogen Activator (tPA). Since most strokes are like a clogged pipe, the drug tPA, can be a very effective treatment but only when administered within the first few hours of the signs of a stroke. The drug helps dissolve the clog and restore blood flow to the affected part of the brain. allowing it to recover. Unfortunately since many people do not recognize the signs of stroke, the most common response is to lie down and rest. This prevents the use of a very effective treatment, because tPA must be administered very soon after a stroke to be effective.

Following a stroke, after the patient has been stabilized, the most common treatment involve physical and occupational therapy to retrain the brain to perform the tasks that were previously done by the damaged brain cells. One relatively unknown therapy (at least here in the U.S.) is the use of acupuncture. In China many regional medical centers offer both Western Medicine (and its related physical therapy) and Oriental Medicine (including acupuncture). There, acupuncture is the rehabilitation treatment of choice once the patient=s condition has been stabilized. Their studies show that patients recover more quickly and more thoroughly using acupuncture along with physical therapy. The most common type of acupuncture is a type of scalp acupuncture, where fine needles are inserted into regions of the scalp associated with the damaged portion of the brain affected by the stroke. Scalp acupuncture works on either the clog type or the bleeding type. Needles are manipulated while the patient or therapist moves or attempts to move the affected body part. When administered by a trained acupuncturist as part of an overall treatment plan, the results can be quite dramatic. This technique can be very effective up to one year after the stroke, although starting within six months is best. Occasionally, starting treatment longer than one year can produce good results.

One of the most successful types of scalp acupuncture is that pioneered by Dr. Ming Qing Zhu, originally from Taiwan and now residing in San Jose, CA. Dr. Zhu is recognized as the world=s leading expert on scalp acupuncture to treat stroke recovery, neurological conditions and closed head injuries. He has developed his style over the past 40 years and has taught all over the world. While new to this country, this technique offers hope to those who have recently suffered from stroke. One benefit of scalp acupuncture immediately following a stroke is that is can significantly reduce the brain swelling that follows a stroke and make the assessment of brain damage more clear at an earlier stage. However, it is important to realize it may have limited success for someone who has suffered a severe, devastating stroke affecting a significant portion of the brain. In addition to treating the affects of the stroke, it can also be used as a preventative measure to help guard against future strokes when used as part of a total program that monitors high blood pressure and cholesterol. It is not intended to be a substitute for necessary medications and supplements to control and regulate these serious conditions.

It is crucial for all of us to learn the signs of stroke and TIA and to know what to do. At the first sign of a stroke, dial 911 and arrange for the individual to be taken to a hospital where they can be evaluated to determine if a stroke has occurred and the proper treatment be administered. Once the patient=s condition has stabilized, consider acupuncture as part of a recovery program.

The start of the new year is associated with making New Year=s resolutions. For many, this involves resolutions to improve their health habits. Exercising more, eating an improved diet, and losing weight are examples. Focusing on improving one=s health is a common theme.

If you ask someone if they are healthy, they will usually say that they are. If you ask them what they base this opinion on, they will say something like, AI am not sick, so I must be healthy.@ I believe the absence of illness is a poor measuring stick for health. Instead, think of your health like a bank account. Just because you have $5 in your account does not mean you are rich. It just means that so far today you are not overdrawn. You can have $5, $5,000 or $50,000 worth of health in your account and each level represents a different level of health. Clearly, the $50,000 level is more desirable and useful than $5. Life is about adapting to the changing circumstances of your life. Adapting to these requires spending some of the capital in your health account. If you are only making withdrawals and no deposits, at some point your health account will become overdrawn. Exercise, health diet, maintaining proper weight, good mental health and emotional habits along with effective stress management are examples of things that can be considered a deposit. So also are things like Tai Chi Chuan, Chi Kung exercises, meditation and yoga. These practices are best done daily to maintain optimum health.

If you ask someone if they plan on retiring and how they will support their retirement, you will get a range of replies from Social Security, Individual Retirement Accounts, investments, real estate and the like. Most everyone appreciates it is important to plan for the future (retirement), long before it arrives. Many set aside some money today for tomorrow. However, not as many think and plan on what type of body and mind they will have when they retire, and what shape they will be in then. In order to be in good health at retirement, some work is needed today to be fit and healthy. Typically, this involves exercise, weight control, and healthy eating habits. However, just like retirement funds, it is almost impossible to wait until the last minute and make an 11th hour investment. Health is something that is best maintained over time and not taken for granted or abandoned. Regular exercise and healthy eating and lifestyle habits are the secret to long term success. Moreover, staying healthy and in good shape, will help avoid many pharmaceutical drugs that control some of the symptoms of our bad habits, like hypertension, obesity, and diet-influenced high cholesterol. Not needing to go on these medications also avoids some of the long-term problems and side effects that accompany some of these drugs (like Statins). Staying healthy by our habits and actions is far better than relying on a pill.

In order to assess how we are doing, it is important to look closely to how things are going in our lives. Are there areas of your health where you struggle? Frequent colds and flu? Airborne or dietary allergies that produce strong sinus or digestive problems? Loss of range of motion, flexibility or strength of body or limb? Heartburn, acid reflux disease, digestive or elimination disorders? Prolonged muscle pain or fibromyalgia? Strong mood swings, sudden, inappropriate emotional outbursts or bouts of anger? Depression or emotional withdrawal? Sleep problems or insomnia? Skin rashes? Menstrual or reproductive problems? Any one or more of these, if they persist over time, suggests a person=s health is weakened or compromised. If these symptoms were like warning lights on the dashboard of your car, you would address them immediately. You should treat them as similar warning signs for your health. Over time, if left untreated, the amount and quality of health in that person=s health account can be drawn down, making them more susceptible to other health problems. Pay attention to changes in sleep, digestion, and emotional and mental health. If ongoing, they may be warning signs.

Increasingly, we are discovering the important role that stress (and our inability to manage it) causes in our life. Recent studies suggest that stress can damage or lower our immune response and make us more susceptible to getting sick. We are continuing to discover the insidious problems that unresolved stress can cause in our lives.

It is important to make an honest assessment of how we are handling the stress in our life. Examples of stress are: Mental stress (overthinking problems); Emotional stress (fear, anxiety, worry and anger); Depression and withdrawal; and Lack of physical and mental activity; and Overeating and an unhealthy diet. These are some of the most frequent causes of the imbalances in our life. These create stress on the mind and body that predispose one to succumbing to illness.

It is not possible to eliminate stress totally from our lives. It is continuously around us. What we can do is better manage it by changing or adding some new mental health habits. Look at some of the things that annoy you and work on another way to deal with them, as well as creating other habits and responses to them. Develop daily practices to relieve stress like exercise, meditation, Tai Chi, Chi Kung, and yoga. We can work on releasing stress before it builds up and creates problems.

Focusing on just one element like diet or exercise alone is not enough for a total health package. That is like trying to make a pie better one slice at a time. Instead, the slice is a reflection of the whole pie. Exercising while neglecting one=s diet, regulating diet while continuing to smoke or drink alcohol to excess can neutralize or negate the otherwise healthy new habit. You need to focus on the whole pie and not just one slice of it. There are numerous examples of people who have focused on one area, like exercise, and still died of a heart attack. Overemphasis on one element cannot always make up for deficits in other areas. It is essential to evaluate total body health, the entire, holistic, total package. Having a health care provider who is able to look at the total big picture is much better than focusing on only one element of health. Recently, we are becoming aware that some medicines which are necessary and useful will nevertheless cause other health problems down the road. Better to be so healthy that there is no need for such medicine in the first place.
Looking at health as a package deal is a very useful approach. It allows a person to look more closely at some of the causes of our illnesses and health problems and implement some new strategies to better manage our stress and increase our health. In a world of increasing costs for medical insurance, medical care, treatment and co-pays, a strategy of self-help that can help avoid unnecessary health problems and their associated expenses is definitely worth considering.