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Doctors' Orders

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Illustrations by Jesse Kuhn

From your oh-so-helpful family members to the talking heads on television and the Internet, it seems we can’t escape advice about what’s healthy and what’s not—and a lot of the information is just plain bad. We went to the real experts—the doctors themselves, in a variety of specialties—and asked them for medical advice they wish would break through all of the noise.

Sports Medicine

“Static stretching—touching your toes, reaching over your shoulder, etc.—does not prevent injury; it can actually result in injury. It is better to do a light jog or sprints, which warm up your body more properly.”
—Dr. Howard Luks, Chief of Sports Medicine, Westchester Medical Center

Podiatry

“Wear a good, supportive shoe that absorbs shock; it is vital to protecting your feet. A supportive shoe can help stabilize the joints and ligaments and can keep the integrity of the alignment in your foot. The heel is the first part that hits the floor. Without any kind of arch on your shoe, you give no protection or shock absorption to your feet. Over time, the possibilities of deformities in your foot and heel and arch pain intensify. An arch of three-quarters of an inch to an inch is just fine; you don’t want to have really high arches.”
—Dr. Richard S. Giordano, Mount Kisco

Pulmonology

“There are tens of thousands of deaths each year that are attributed to the flu virus and other respiratory illnesses, especially with older people. My one piece of advice for everyone is get the flu vaccination.”
—Dr. Steven Meixler, Chief of Internal Medicine, White Plains Hospital

Pediatrics

“Let your kids get bored for a while. When my kids were growing up, they’d tell me they were bored and eventually find their own way, trying a new activity. Particularly in Westchester County, everything is scheduled and planned out, and there is no time to step back and take everything in. Kids in high school now scramble to fit as many activities as possible into their schedules just so they have a good resumé. It is important—and healthy—to have time for reflection, particularly in the long run.”
—Dr. Peter Acker, Pediatric Associates, Rye Brook

Ophthalmology

“Everyone knows that ultra-violet rays can harm the skin. But not everyone knows that they also affect your eyes. The damage the sun can give off to your eyes can contribute to cataracts and macular degeneration. These are blinding diseases. With the ozone layer thinning, we are getting much more UV light exposure than we did even twenty years ago. To help protect yourself, have one-hundred-percent UVA and UVB blockage on your glasses, sunglasses, and contacts.”
—Dr. Richard Most, Ophthalmologist, Northern Westchester Hospital

Dentistry

“Be aware that the same tartar that builds up in your mouth and on your teeth is caused by the same bacteria that can cause heart disease. Tartar is caused by food debris. The calcium that is in your saliva covers and surrounds the debris over time. The result is plaque or tartar. That same tartar can travel down your mouth. It is a straight, clear path to the heart. So eliminate as much food debris as possible and you can prevent tartar build up, not only on your teeth but also in your heart.”
—Dr. Barry Steinberg, General and Cosmetic Dentist, Yorktown Heights

Dermatology

“Put moisturizer—which only seals in moisture, it doesn’t add any—on damp skin. Otherwise, it’s like putting Vaseline on a dry sponge—all you get is a dry, greasy sponge. If you use lotion on damp skin, it’s more like putting a wet sponge in a Ziploc bag. It locks in the moisture and makes skin soft and supple. You can never use too much moisturizer in the winter, and you can never use too much sunscreen in the summer.”
—Dr. Neil S. Goldberg, Attending Physician, White Plains Hospital Center and Lawrence Hospital

“Save your money on fancy skin products. Most creams and lotions are created equal. They’re either oil in water—the lotions—or water in oil. The differences in the prices have very little to do with the content of these products and more to do with the added ingredients that give a product its fragrance or increase the elegance of application.”
—Dr. Erin Walker, Dermatologist, Westchester Medical Group

Obstetrics/Gynecology

“Be careful when going to a spa while pregnant. There are oils used in spa treatments that can cause uterine contractions. These oils are also present in certain flavored teas, too. Jacuzzis are actually very unsafe during pregnancy—the heat and staying underwater with those jets can cause injury to the baby’s brain.”
—Dr. Shahram Razmzan, Chief of Obstetrics/Gynecology, St. John’s Riverside Hospital

Cardiology

“Exercise for at least thirty minutes every single day. The cardiovascular benefits are immense. “
—Dr. Lynne Perry-Böttinger, Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine, Columbia University, and Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine, Weill Medical College of Cornell University

Plastic Surgery

“Get problems taken care of early; that works with everything, not just plastic surgery. If you get work done earlier in life, you’ll have to do less later on. If you wait, it’s like letting all of your teeth rot and then going to the dentist to try and correct your teeth. Instead, if you fix things as they break, you get an overall better result. Some people think that they can come in and one vial of Botox will make everything look better, but it won’t be enough.”
—Dr. John F. Farella, Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon, White Plains and Mount Kisco

Psychiatry

“The core requirement for feeling healthy is feeling in control and moving in a productive fashion. Take control of your life and work towards a real goal. Reaching for ‘happiness’ is ultimately unhelpful.”
—Dr. Samuel C. Klagsbrun, Executive Medical Director, Four Winds Hospital and Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Albert Einstein College of Medicine

Bariatric Medicine

“If you can’t lose weight, check your medications. Certain medicines can make you gain weight; in fact, studies show that five percent of obesity is caused by medication. I have one patient who was trying his hardest to lose weight. We switched his pain medication and very quickly he lost eighteen pounds.”
—Dr. Louis Aronne, Director of the Comprehensive Weight Control Program, Westchester Medical Group, and author of The Skinny on Losing Weight Without Being Hungry

Internal Medicine

“Get screened for vitamin D deficiencies. Now that we spend a lot of time indoors and wear so much sunscreen, more and more of us are becoming vitamin D deficient. Sunscreen blocks the skin’s ability to absorb UV light, and the reaction with UV light is what makes vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency can lead to osteoporosis, fatigue, aches, even depression. There’s even a link between vitamin D deficiencies and cancer risk. The best way to get vitamin D is by going out in the sun. If you have light skin, you can go out without wearing sunscreen for five to ten minutes, three to four times per week. People with darker skin need to stay outside longer, ten to fifteen or even twenty minutes. It’s difficult to get vitamin D from food; it’s only present in small amounts in milk, egg yolks, and fish. If you don’t go outside, take a supplement. The FDA recommends taking a supplement that’s eight hundred to one thousand international units of vitamin D a day, but I recommend two thousand IUs, especially in the winter months. It’s amazing how much better you will feel.”
—Dr. Tania Dempsey, General Internist, Westchester Medical Group, White Plains Hospital Center and Greenwich Hospital

“Invest in your health the same way you think about investing your money. With money, everyone knows they have to save and sacrifice a little now to make their lives better in twenty, thirty, forty years. With health, there are also things we should be doing now to make our lives better in twenty, thirty, forty years. Eat right, stop smoking, exercise, and follow the advice of your physicians, and be a better consumer of your medical dollars. Become more knowledgeable about when to see a doctor and which procedures and medications are really needed. You wouldn’t buy a car or washing machine without reading everything Consumer Reports has to say about them, but people don’t investigate as much when it comes to their health. Just taking the time to put in the research and start doing things now is the best way an average person can improve his or her health overall.”
—Dr. Elliott Rosch, St. John’s Riverside Hospital

Geriatric Medicine

“Get your house checked by a professional for safety. The worst thing is having loose carpets around, or high-pile carpets that can catch and cause falls. Also, use a cane at night. Most falls tend to occur at night; keep a cane by the bed at night to use around the house. Consider buying hip guard bands to wear under your trousers, which can protect from fractures in the case of a fall. The three most common causes for falls among elderly patients are poor eyesight, muscle weakness, and balance issues due to diseases like Parkinson’s. There isn’t much you can do for those except for maybe the balance issues where you can take yoga classes, dance classes, or Tai Chi to help improve balance. However, you can be extra cautious and control the environment.”
—Dr. Sudhir Vaidya, Family Physician and Director of Sports Medicine and Pain Management, Burke Rehabilitation Hospital.

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