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Health
05/13/2010
IconI never gave a second thought to the flu or prophylactic vaccines until that one day the symptoms hit like a sledge hammer.' I was in the middle of a counseling session, when my joints spontaneously began hurting.' All of a sudden, I started to feel so weak that I couldn't believe it, and got a bit frightened.' I had to tell my client "I'm so sorry - I'm not feeling well.' We'll have to finish this session some other time." I then called my husband to come and get me.' By the time I got home, the total body pain was so great I could barely tolerate getting my street clothes off and my p.j.'s on.' After that experience, I started getting my flu shots every year, and never had a recurrence.Well, I'm here to nag you!' The flu-shot season has officially begun, and according to Dr. William Schaffner, President-elect of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, "People should start getting vaccinated now...yesterday, actually." There's an ample supply of vaccine this year - somewhere between 143 to 146 million doses (more than ever before manufactured).' As you probably remember, last year's vaccine was somewhat inadequate, because a surprise new influenza strain emerged.' The Centers for Disease Control (CDC)' has checked around the world where the flu virus is already circulating, however, and has found that this year's vaccine is a good match.For those of you who are stubborn about getting these shots, you should know that flu hospitalizes about 200,000 people a year, and kills about 36,000.'You have a choice in vaccines.' The old fashioned flu shot is good for all ages, and the nasal vaccine FluMist can be used in healthy people aged 2 to 49.'The CDC says that 261 million Americans qualify for the shot.' For the first time, the CDC is recommending that every child, age 6 months to 18 years, be inoculated, unless they have a serious egg allergy.' Any child under 9 years of age who is being vaccinated for the first time will need two doses, a month apart.' A single dose suffices for everyone else.There are scads of local places to get flu shots, and you can find out where at www.findaflushot.com . More >>

Tags: Health
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05/13/2010
IconFriday, September 19, 2008, I was reading the last page of the "Weekend Journal" in The Wall Street Journal .' It was adapted from a commencement speech given by David Foster Wallace to the 2005 graduating class at Kenyon College.' Mr. Wallace, 46, died'recently, an apparent suicide.I thought it odd that an entire page of The Wall Street Journal was dedicated to the musings of a man who opted out of life after giving advice to young people just beginning their adult foray into the trials and tribulations of existence.The main focus of his presentation to the students seemed to be on the issue of self-centeredness: "It is our default setting, hard-wired into our boards at birth.' Think about it:' there is no experience you've had that you were not at the absolute center of.' The world as you experience it is right there in front of you, or behind you, to the left or right of you, on your TV, or your monitor, or whatever.' Other people's thoughts and feelings have to be communicated to you somehow, but your own are so immediate, urgent, real - you get the idea.' But please don't worry that I'm getting ready to preach to you about compassion or other-directedness or the so-called 'virtues.'' This is not a matter of virtue - it is a matter of my choosing to do the work of somehow altering or getting free of my natural, hard-wired default setting, which is to be deeply and literally self-centered, and to see and interpret everything through this lens of self." First, he is "right on" with the hard-wiring of self-centeredness.' I remember my mother telling me once that when, as a teenager, she experienced the death of her mother from breast cancer, and was consumed with grief, that she looked out her window to see people outside driving, walking, talking, and going about their business as though nothing had happened.' She related feeling shocked that, somehow, the whole world did not stand still as did her own heart.It is obvious that, of course, we are the most absorbed by our immediate environment and experiences....which pretty much means ourselves.' However, Mr. Wallace's consistent dismissal of virtues is perhaps what was missing from his life. Seeing, acknowledging, and caring about others does not necessarily come naturally.' It is a virtue taught by parents and community as well as by religious teachings.' One of the most central aspects of religious training is to "love thy neighbor."' Why?' Just because it's "nice?"' No, although it is nice.' It is because caring for those outside yourself gives you a connectedness that minimized loneliness and a purpose which minimizes despair.Towards the end of his speech, he points out: "The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little un-sexy ways, every day.' That is real freedom." He then asks the audience to "please don't dismiss it as some finger-wagging Dr. Laura sermon.' None of this is about morality, or religion, or dogma or big fancy questions of life after death.' It is about making it to 30 or maybe 50, without wanting to shoot yourself in the head." So, in attempting to enlighten the young people about a bigger value in life - commitment and obligation to others - he came back to his essential hard-wiring:' it is all about living in a way which makes you not want to kill yourself.' Ironically, his thought process came all the way back to being self-centered.In eschewing morality, religion, dogma, considerations of eternity - all of which he assembled under "finger-wagging Dr. Laura sermon[s]," he disconnected himself from the kind of motivation, identification, support and spiritual reward which may have kept him from committing suicide.' Sad, really. More >>

Tags: AttitudeFeminismHealthMental HealthPersonal ResponsibilityPurposeSocial IssuesSuicideValues
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05/13/2010
IconWhile it should come as no surprise that psychological, social and academic functioning are impacted negatively by children raised in family chaos, or in situations of profound change and stress, Dr. Kathryn Harker Tillman from Florida State University reports that, on average, adolescents living with half- or step-siblings have lower grades and more school-related behavior problems, and these problems may not improve over time. "These findings imply that family formation patterns that bring together children who have different sets of biological parents may not be in the best interests of the children involved.' Yet half of all American step-families include children from previous relationships of both partners, and the majority of parents in step-families go on to have additional children together. ("Non-traditional" Siblngs and the Academic Outcomes of Adolescents, Social Science Research, 37(1) More >>

Tags: Bad Childhood - Good LifeBad Childhood-Good LifeEducationFamily/Relationships - FamilyHealthRelativesSchool
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05/13/2010
IconAnybody who knows anything knows that stem cells are useful tools in the treatment of certain specific diseases.' Anybody who knows anything also knows that the argument about using embryonic stem cells is an argument that doesn't have to happen.Stem cells are found in a wide variety of places, including body fat, umbilical cord blood, and now, Japanese scientists report that they have derived stem cells from....wisdom teeth!Researchers at the government-backed National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology said they created stem cells of the type found in human embryos using the removed wisdom teeth of a 10 year old girl.Stem cells, which can develop into various organs or nerves, are seen as having the potential to save lives by helping find cures for diseases such as cancer, diabetes, Parkinson's, and many others.' People who give up their wisdom teeth in their youth could use the stem cells later in life if they need treatment.Japan is the largest spender on scientific research after the United States.' In December, they announced a $92 million plan to advance stem cell research over five years. More >>

Tags: Health
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05/13/2010
IconI received a ton of mail about the call I described in yesterday's blog.' The following letter from a listener is representative of the wide range of reactions people had to that call: Dr. Laura:While listening to your program with my incredibly sexy husband yesterday, I couldn't help but feel some sadness and frustration toward the caller who resented her loved one with dementia. My grandparents, who will celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary in just over a month, are currently battling dementia, and watching the progression of the disease can be heart-wrenching.' I spent so much time with my "Pop" and "Mi-mommy," learning important principles like "Can't never could do anything," and "pretty is as pretty does."' They were known by others for their compassion, kindness, and wonderful wit. They both began experiencing symptoms of dementia about three years ago, with simple forgetfulness turning into frequent short-term memory loss and the loss of the ability to perform simple tasks.' Dementia is a progressive illness, and although they battle it with all their might by taking medications to help slow the disease, we can see the constant decline.' Resentment has not been a feeling anyone has expressed. When my grandfather tells the same story 5 or 6 times in a 30-minute period, we listen like it is the first time we've ever heard it told.' When my grandmother weaves together in her mind multiple stories and comes up with a muddled collage of a past experience, we engage her and help her to recall the old memories.' When they are struggling to remember how to pour water in a glass or operate the TV, we patiently help them recall.' We don't do it out of obligation or even to keep from feeling guilty.' We do it because, years ago,' THEY taught us to show kindness and love and compassion. I work in hospice, and on a professional level, I know all too well the course this mean, aggressive disease takes.' I cherish every moment that they can tell me a story, and I will treasure every time I hug them and they know who I am.' I know that one day, I will sit down and hold their hands and they won't be able to tell a story, and they won't know who I am.' They won't be able to hold their heads up or smile, but I will still be there with them, because that's the person they have helped me to become.' If I sat with them and listened to them and held their hands every day for the rest of my life, there is no way I could repay them for what they have given me. In October, I'll be walking in the Alzheimer's' Association' Memory Walk ( http://www.alz.org/memorywalk/ ) in honor of my grandparents.' I will do everything I can to fight this brutal disease and I beg those in our society to think about the compassion we owe our fellow man.' A wise physician I once worked with said "The measure of a society can be seen in how we treat our young, our old, and our dying."' I pray that our society does not let me down, and that we treat our elders with the love, respect and dignity they deserve. Striving to be half as wonderful as my grandparents, Alison More >>

Tags: CommitmentHealthMarriagePersonal ResponsibilitySocial IssuesStay-At-Home-Moms
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05/13/2010
IconI was a bit flabbergasted when a recent caller to my radio program described how incredibly resentful she was that her elderly aunt, deep in Alzheimer's Disease, would repeat and repeat and repeat old history again and again and again.' This caller was furious that her aunt wouldn't recognize her, wouldn't deal with the here and now, and was so "unbelievably annoying with the same old stories."What pressed my "flabbergasted" button the most was that this caller had been neglected and abandoned by her mother and father and had been raised by this aunt.' Notions of gratitude, graciousness, patience and, above all, respect seemed beyond her view, as she was simply focused on what she wasn't getting from her aunt now .' This caller was no sensitive, confused, na've teenager - she was in her late forties!I explained that the word shouldn't be "wouldn't;" it is, indeed, "couldn't."' It was as though the caller was hauling her resentment about her abandonment by her parents into this "mental abandonment" by her aunt, and making the decision not to see her aunt anymore out of ancient, misplaced rage.By the end of the call, I think she understood and realized that, as uncomfortable and annoying as her aunt's behavior might be, she was as honor-bound to be there for her aunt, as the aunt had been there for her. More >>

Tags: CommitmentHealthMarriagePersonal ResponsibilitySocial Issues
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Tags: HealthPersonal ResponsibilityValues
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05/13/2010
IconAs I have mentioned on the air many times, I race sailboats.' I've won some races and lost some, but the favorite wins have been the ones that I least expected would or could happen.' I remember the time that we were over early at the start and had to do a penalty turn of 360 degrees, after getting out of the way of the other starting boats.' We had a heck of a time starting again, as, by the time we finished our penalty turn, many boats were already in our way.'This incident happened early on in my sailing training, and I became despondent almost immediately, because I realized we now had absolutely no chance of even a third place finish, let alone a first.' My coach and tactician sternly yanked me out of my doldrums and told me that we were "down but not out," and we had to work even harder now to catch up.' Frankly, I thought this was philosophically lovely, but hugely impractical, and I could barely see the sterns of the boats in front of us as they had so much distance on us.Nonetheless, after considering breeze, windshifts, current, direction choices, steering, and crew work, there were enough variables to work with to keep our chins up.'We pulled together as a team, and worked very hard to maximize every option we had, and we ended up winning the race.' I learned a lot that day.' It's a lot more gratifying to succeed when it is a righteous challenge than when it seems like more of a slam dunk.Jason Lezak knew this lesson.' Fifty meters from the finish line in the 4x 100 meter freestyle relay at the Beijing Olympics, Mr. Lezak doubted he could overcome the half-body length lead of his French opponent, Alain Bernard, who also happened to hold the world record in the 100-meter freestyle.Instead of just accepting the probable loss, a determined Mr. Lezak pulled grit from down deep, and swam the fastest he's ever done, and touched the electronically sensored wall, winning by eight one-hundredths of a second.' He shattered a world record and won a gold medal.'And then he heard the fat lady sing...the American national anthem! More >>

Tags: AttitudeEat Less-Move MoreFitnessHealthHobbiesHolidaysPersonal ResponsibilityPurposeSailingSocial IssuesValentine's Day
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05/13/2010
IconNo, I don't mean by the age of forty; I mean that if the trends of the past thirty years continue, it's possible that every American adult could be overweight forty years from now.' This is the warning coming from the Federal government's Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.' You can read all about this in the journal Obesity (online 7/24/08). They estimate that 86% of American adults will be overweight by 2030, with an obesity rate of 51%.' By 2048, all U.S. adults could be at least mildly overweight, a/k/a fat .The researchers also estimate that the healthcare costs directly related to excess body weight will double each decade, and reach almost $1 trillion in 2030, accounting for at least one of every six healthcare dollars spent in the USA.Being fat is voluntary.' Healthcare costs are skyrocketing, largely because people "volunteer" to move less and eat more.' Our Presidential candidates can mull over healthcare plans, but we need to take more personal responsibility for the state of our own health. More >>

Tags: ChildrenHealthParenting
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05/13/2010
IconBecause I need my voice for my daily radio program, I've been quick to use the Z-pack (zithromycin) whenever I get the feeling I have a sinus issue.' Evidently that's been the wrong thing to do.It turns out that almost 21% of antibiotic prescriptions written in the U.S. for adults are for sinusitis, even though studies show the drugs often do little or no good in the overwhelming majority of cases that begin as viral infections.' Less than 2% of those turn into bacterial infections (the kind that CAN be helped by antibiotics) so the American Academy of Otolaryngology suggests that you wait 10 days after the onset of a sinus problem.' If you're still suffering after 10 days, then it's antibiotic time.' Otherwise, saline irrigation, Tylenol, topical steroids and decongestant sprays (used for no more than three days) are the way to go. More >>

Tags: BehaviorCivilityHealthValues
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