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November 26th, 2008
12:08 PM ET

The importance of being thankful

By Val Willingham
CNN Medical Producer

Every day I wake up and thank God for another day. It's not a big ceremony. It's just something I do to calm my soul. I am a blessed person and I feel it's important to acknowledge that fact.

When I was a little girl, my parents made sure I always said "Thank you” for the things I was given. I never took anything for granted. A kind word, a small token, I was always appreciative. Even as an adult I keep "Thank you" notes in my desk, ready to send to those who have looked out for me, or been there when I needed them most.

Doctors say giving thanks, taking the time to notice positive things in your life is not only good for your psyche but it's good for your body. University of California at Davis researchers found that practicing gratitude can lower your blood pressure and make you feel less hostile. Grateful people are less angry, less negative and usually look for the cup half full. Studies by Cornell University researchers have shown that those who are thankful appear to have lower risks of developing phobias, alcoholism, even depression. They even have stronger immune systems.

And while Thanksgiving is a perfect time to stop and give thanks for things you have, psychologists say it shouldn't be the only time of year you do it. Being thankful, I mean REALLY THANKFUL, should happen every day. I know in these tough times of foreclosures, unemployment and a bear market, many people think they don't have much to be thankful for. But, as my grandmother used to say, "if you've got your health and are surrounded by the people you love, then you are fortunate." I am a very fortunate person.

While Thanksgiving is a U.S. holiday, ALL of us can make a resolution to wake up and express appreciation for the things we feel grateful for. Take a moment each day to thank a co-worker, your spouse, your child, a friend, the guy who holds the door open for you, or the waitress who brings you coffee with a smile, and see if you don't feel a little better after doing it.

What are you thankful for? How do you express it? What does Thanksgiving mean to you? Please let us know.

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


November 24th, 2008
03:24 PM ET

Managing holiday party behavior

By Jen Pifer
CNN Medical Senior Producer

I love the television show "The Office." In one of my favorite episodes, Dunder Mifflin has its annual holiday party. The party ends up being a dud, so the boss, Michael Scott, brings in booze. Pam Beesly, the receptionist, is skeptical. "You realize that we can't serve liquor at the party?" she says. Michael replies, "Yeah, I know. Dammit. Stupid corporate wet blankets. Like booze ever killed anybody."

The party gets crazy. People get drunk. People make out. The episode ends with Meredith, one of the employees, walking into Michael's office with no shirt.

Chances are you will attend a holiday party in the next few weeks. And according to a recent survey, many of these parties get out of control. Caron Treatment Centers works with people who have drug or alcohol problems. It recently conducted a survey that found 64 percent of people who attend holiday work parties witness alcohol-induced “bad behaviors” such as flirting with co-workers, starting fights and drunken driving. And with all the bad news recently, experts say overimbibing may only get worse. "When alcohol prompts bad behavior at holiday celebrations, that can indicate something more serious is lurking," says Harris Stratyner, regional vice president of Caron Treatment Centers. "The state of the world today only increases vulnerability to holiday alcohol abuse and longer-term problems."

So what can you do to deal with holiday party peer pressure? Experts say if you do choose to drink, make sure you do it on a full stomach and that you alternate alcoholic drinks with non-alcoholic ones. Also, it's smart to have a designated driver, even if you plan to just have a couple of drinks.

I want to know what you think: do you think holiday parties encourage people to over-indulge? Do you have a strategy when it comes to holiday parties? Have you ever witnessed bad behavior at an office party?

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


November 21st, 2008
10:27 AM ET

What happened to Mukasey?

By Dr. Sanjay Gupta
CNN Chief Medical Correspondent

Last night, Attorney General Michael Mukasey collapsed while giving a speech. CNN had a camera rolling during the event, giving us an unusual look at what happened. I got a call in the middle of the night to come take a look. (Watch Video)  Even doctors, while we read about diseases and see patients after they end up in the ER, we hardly ever witness things like this. I decided to blog about it this morning, hoping we might all learn something from seeing what happened to Mukasey.

During his speech, he seemed to have word-finding difficulties. He started to say a word, paused and repeated it. He then began to slur his words, and had a slight drooping of the right side of his face. After that, he slumped forward and passed out, requiring assistance to the ground. All of these events serve as clues as to what may have caused the problem in the first place.

Word-finding difficulties are sometimes an indication there is a problem with the speech center of the brain, typically located on the left side of the brain. It could be because of inadequate blood flow to the brain or sometimes bleeding within the brain itself, as was the case in late 2006 with Sen. Tim Johnson. (Read more) The fact that the right side of his body began to droop and he slurred words was also important signs. After all, the right side of the body is controlled by the left brain. Another clue:  He seemed to pass out, probably because of overall decreased blood flow to the brain. And, finally, he reportedly is now doing well able to talk and in good spirits. Clearly, whatever caused this seems to be temporary.  It could have been a fainting spell.

In the emergency room, doctors probably checked his blood pressure to see whether he was dehydrated, drew his blood to look for a blood sugar that was too low or other abnormalities. They may have obtained a CAT scan of his brain and taken a look at his carotid arteries, the vessels that lead to his brain, to see if there is any blockage, and his heart to see if any clots were present that may have traveled from his heart to his brain.

One of the questions his doctor will most likely want to answer: Was this a TIA, a transient ischemic attack, also known as a mini-stroke? That is a temporary interruption of blood flow to the brain. The person may experience a sudden weakness or numbness of the arms, legs and/or face, difficulty with speech and loss of balance.

If you have ever experienced those things, you should definitely tell your doctor about it – even if the symptoms lasted just a few minutes. That’s because about a third of people who have a TIA go on to have a full stroke sometime in the future.

Here’s the good news: Preventing that stroke may be as simple as starting an aspirin a day or another blood thinner. That may be all that is needed for the attorney general as well. We wish him a speedy recovery.


Editor’s Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


November 19th, 2008
03:55 PM ET

Gupta and friends reveal secrets to success

By Danielle Dellorto
CNN Medical Producer

Last night was the second CNN Fit Nation Solution summit in New York City, a night to offer answers, instead of just placing blame, for the obesity crisis in America. Practicing neurosurgeon and CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta has a formula for success: Eat healthy + move more = live healthy.

Rachel Ray, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Jillian Michaels, Eric Shanteau

Gupta moderated a discussion with TV host and cookbook author, Rachael Ray; life coach and fitness trainer from NBC’s “The Biggest Loser,” Jillian Michaels; and Olympic swimmer Eric Shanteau. Together they developed tips on how to motivate America to exercise and eat healthier foods.

Rachael Ray’s Top Tips:
1. Cook with extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
2. Use whole-wheat pasta
3. Get some fish in you
4. Load your pasta with veggies
5. Have fun!

Jillian Michaels’ Top Tips:
1. Put yourself first
2. Make nutrition a priority
3. Exercise
4. Make mental health a priority
5. Stop and smell the roses

Eric Shanteau’s Top Tips:
1. Exercise with a purpose
2. Try new workouts
3. Get outdoors
4. Have a workout partner
5. Listen to music

Gupta reminds us all that small changes reap big results. Losing just 10 percent of your weight can lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk of heart disease. Also, regular exercise will reduce type 2 diabetes, keep your bones stronger as you age. But don’t stress if you can't hike a mountain or go jogging. You will see a difference by just increasing the amount you walk by 30 minutes each day. The key is to eat healthy and get moving. No magic pill needed. This simple formula really does work.

One of the best aspects of the CNN Fit Nation Solution Summit was hearing real life weight-loss success stories from CNN iReporters in the audience. You can read their stories here. They inspired all of us (even gave Rachael Ray “goosebumps”) with their determination and fight to live healthier lives.

Now I want to hear from you! Have you had weight loss success? What motivates you? Share your top tips below!

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


November 17th, 2008
01:39 PM ET

Caring for your teeth at every age

By Linda Saether
CNN Medical Producer

I am not a great dental patient. For that, I blame an encounter I had as a teen with a Scandinavian dentist. Don't get me wrong - I have nothing against the idea of socialized medicine and dental care, but to this day I wonder whether this guy really had a license to practice dentistry. I won't go into details, but imagine it somewhere in the realm of that scene in the movie "Marathon Man" where Dustin Hoffman is tied to a dental chair.

Ok it wasn't torture but to a 13-year-old it came close.

So it probably explains why I don't have my dental appointments neatly filed in my Outlook calendar months a head of time (much to the dismay of my extremely kind dentists). And more crucial than not wanting to disappoint my dentist, who understands my fears and still treats me very well, I really need to see a dentist regularly because I’m among the many people with a family history of periodontal disease.

My teeth might be strong, but my gums are weak.

That, plus the fact that I am growing older means I have two strikes against me, says Susan Estep, a cosmetic dentist. She cautions that women, especially those with a family history of oral issues and who are going through hormonal changes, from pregnancy to menstruation to middle age, probably need to see the dental hygienist more often. Those women need to go from an annual visit to possibly semiannual or maybe even more if other symptoms arise.

Otherwise, mouth care as we age is a unisex issue. Estep says another reason to make sure you are getting to the dentist often enough is for an overall health checkup. “Our gum health might be an oral snapshot to our overall health,” she says, “indicating bigger issues like heart disease and other internal problems."

And finally a new name has cropped up on the oral fear factor list: toxic mouth. Sounds creepy, right?

Well, it is and it isn't; basically some dentists think that if you are getting older and walking around with a lot of old silver filings in your mouth, you might want to chat with your dentist about replacing them.

They might be just fine and your dentist can tell you that, or they could just might be leaking toxics or breaking down your teeth. Neither of these options is good, but they are usually easily fixed, so don't be afraid to broach this topic with at your next dental appointment. (Because you have already one scheduled, right?)

Well if not, do so! And in the mean time don't forget those standard oral health guardians: the toothbrush and dental floss.

Estep has one final word of advice in protecting your teeth and gums: Don't forget that sugar-free gum!

It can protect teeth from cavities, and many have other dental benefits such as whitening teeth or building stronger teeth, and better yet they make your breath smell great!!! Now that's one weapon I am happy to employ.

What about you? Got any healthy dental care secrets to share?

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


November 14th, 2008
05:59 PM ET

Not the cure for AIDS

By Miriam Falco
CNN Medical Managing Editor

A German hospital announced this week that a 42-year old American living in Berlin who did not want to be identified had come to them three years ago for treatment. It was determined that he had acute leukemia (blood cancer) and was HIV positive too.

After a bone marrow transplant, it appears that not only did the man’s cancer go away, so did the virus that causes AIDS.  This has been reported worldwide as a "cure" for AIDS. But even the doctors involved in this case say they don't know if they cured this man of HIV.  So what's all the fuss about? Should HIV patients be treated with a bone marrow transplant?

One of America’s top AIDS expert doesn’t think so. "This is interesting but not a practical application. It's not feasible and has extraordinarily limited practical application" long-time AIDS researcher and Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN.  He and other researchers first learned of this case back in February. But this study of one patient has not yet been published or been reviewed by other AIDS experts. It didn't get much attention back then because of the many limitations it has.  Dr. Robert Gallo is one of the scientists who discovered HIV. "While this procedure might help a very small minority of people living with AIDS,” Gallo says, “it is by no means the answer to the world's HIV/AIDS pandemic."

Doctors first began treating the cancer with chemotherapy. They also gave him anti-retrovirals to contain the virus that causes AIDS. Doctors said at a press conference this week that the patient did go into remission, but eventually the cancer came back. The next step to treat the cancer was a bone marrow transplant, which is common for leukemia patients.

His doctors emphasized that without further treatment, without the bone marrow transplant, he would have died of cancer – not HIV or AIDS.

But the patient’s physician, Dr. Gero Huetter, wanted to combine the cancer treatment with something he had heard about in medical school 12 years ago. That’s when researchers found out that a certain genetic mutation prevents the virus from getting into a person’s cells. But to be resistant to HIV, one has to have inherited this mutation from both parents.

So when it came to looking for a bone marrow donor for his patient, Huetter decided to see if he could find a donor that not only was a marrow match for his patient, but one who also had these two copies of the genetic mutation to see if they would get the bonus of treating the HIV, while treating the more urgent need – cancer.

Here's where the German doctors admit they were very lucky. They told reporters they normally find one to five qualified donors for their patients in need of a transplant. In this case they found 80 donors. So they systematically tested each donor for the mutation and when they came to the 61st potential donor they hit the jackpot. Nearly two years after the bone marrow transplant, the patient is still in remission from his cancer and he doesn't seem to have any detectable HIV either.

This is probably why many newspaper headlines interpreted the success as being a cure.

However there are many caveats to this story.

1. Even though their tests do not show a presence of HIV in his system, doesn't mean it's not there. This virus is known for hiding well and popping up later. It's been seen before in patients taking anti-retroviral drugs. It is possible that if more sophisticated tests were used on this patient, they would detect the virus that is still in his body. So it's still not entirely clear that he is HIV-free.

2. The chances of finding a bone marrow donor with two copies of this genetic mutation for everyone one of the 33 million people worldwide living with HIV or AIDS is not realistic because only one percent of Caucasians and zero percent of African Americans or Asians have this particular genetic mutation.

3. Bone marrow transplants are dangerous for patients. Before they can get the donated stem cells that will replace their own, they have to take strong chemotherapy to destroy their own bone marrow - leaving them without an immune system to fight off any disease - until the transplanted bone marrow can make new blood cells. Plus patients run the risk of rejecting the new cells, which means they have to take immune-suppressing drugs for the rest of their life.

4. Bone marrow transplants are very expensive and not an option for many people living with this disease around the world.

Both the doctors in Berlin and AIDS experts we've spoken with say this is a "proof of principle." "It's an interesting case for researchers," according to Dr. Rudolf Tauber, from the Charite hospital in Berlin, where the patient was treated. The hope is that this one case could lead to future treatments. Dr. Gallo says, "If patients living with HIV and AIDS have access and can adhere to today's retroviral therapy, many will live longer, healthier lives, perhaps full length lives."

Editor’s Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


November 12th, 2008
11:58 AM ET

Music of the heart

By Val Willingham
CNN Medical Producer

l love my iPod. From Etta James to Roy Rogers, my playlist is pretty diverse. Each song is part of who I am. And I guess I have a lot of parts, because I've loaded over 4,000 songs into that tiny device. I take it with me everywhere. On the train, in my car, on trips, I even have a port in different rooms of my home. There's just something about music that makes me feel good. Even on a very bad day, my tunes can calm my inner "savage breast."

So it was no surprise when I read, that researchers from the University of Maryland Medical Center had found that listening to your favorite music may be good for your cardiovascular system. That's right: Beyonce, Kenny Chesney and Joshua Bell could be good for your heart! Now before you replace your statins with an MP3 player and Yo Yo Ma, listen up. The study was tiny - only 10 people, but this is the same group of doctors that conducted the "laughter is good for your heart" study a few years ago. "We had previously demonstrated that positive emotions, such as laughter, were good for vascular health. So, a logical question was whether other emotions, such as those evoked by music, have a similar effect," says principal investigator Michael Miller, M.D., director of preventive cardiology at the UMM. "We knew that individual people would react differently to different types of music, so in this study, we enabled participants to select music based upon their likes and dislikes."

In the music study, participants listened to pieces they enjoyed and picked themselves. In another phase they tuned into music that made them anxious and in a further setting, they listed to music designed to relax them. After each session, a number of their larger blood vessels were scanned and measured through a special ultrasound device. Researchers were looking at the endothelium, or the lining of the blood vessels, and its response to the musical stimuli. By looking at these images doctors found that when participants listened to music they really enjoyed, the average blood vessel diameter increased by 26 percent compared to not listening to music at all. That's even better than relaxing music, which opened the vessels by 11 percent. And while listening to music that caused listeners anxiety, like heavy metal or rap, the blood vessels narrowed by 6 percent compared with music such as country, gospel, pop and rock and roll.

Could other types of music produce similar positive effects on blood vessels? It's possible, Miller said. "The answer, in my opinion, is how an individual is 'wired.' We're all wired differently, we all react differently. I enjoy country music, so I could appreciate why country music could cause that joyful response." Miller believes the physiological impact may also affect the activity of brain chemicals called endorphins. "The emotional component may be an endorphin-mediated effect," says Miller. "The active listening to music evokes such raw positive emotions likely in part due to the release of endorphins, part of that mind-heart connection that we yearn to learn so much more about.
“Needless to say, these results were music to my ears because they signal another preventive strategy that we may incorporate in our daily lives to promote heart health."

This morning the traffic was brutal and the train was packed. I forgot my briefcase and my computer was giving me problems. But it didn't matter. Because I just pushed the “PLAY” button and let Ella sing my cares away.

Do you believe music is good for your health? Tell us about it.

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


November 11th, 2008
10:14 AM ET

PTSD: The invisible wounds of war

By Jennifer Pifer
CNN Medical Senior Producer

On Veterans Day, I often think of two men I never knew. Richard Hartman was a pilot during World War II. His plane was shot down over Czechoslovakia in early September, 1944. Around the same time, back in a small southern Illinois town, his wife, Mary, gave birth to their first child, a daughter they named Jane. Mary’s family found out while she was in labor that Dick was MIA. They decided to wait to tell Mary that her husband was missing. A few days later, word arrived that Richard had been killed in action. Mary later said that she knew something was wrong when she stopped receiving daily letters from her husband. This event isn’t written in any book, but its part of my history. Mary is my grandmother. Her little girl Jane is my mother.

One soldier survived the plane crash. My cousin Roberta, who is now on the shady side of 90, recently told me a little bit about what happened to him. He ended up in a VA hospital. Richard’s father and brother visited him once when he returned stateside. The soldier told the family that Richard was a hero and that he did everything he could to save the crew. Imagining the horror of such an event, I asked Roberta if knew if the soldier suffered “shell shock” as it was called back then. Roberta was silent for a moment. “The war changed a lot of people,” was all she said.

When I see battle pictures from Iraq and Afghanistan, I often think about the psychological effects of war. A report by the RAND Corporation this spring found that nearly 20 percent of men and women who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan report symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder or major depression. Yet – and this is a big deal – only slightly more than half have sought treatment. The reasons vary: Some soldiers are afraid that seeking treatment will ruin their careers. Others don’t have access to care. Some use alcohol and drugs to dull their pain.

There is a bit of good news. Some civilians are helping to fill in the gaps. Give an Hour is non-profit organization that is creating a national network of mental health experts to help soldiers and their families deal with PTSD and other psychological issues related to war. So far, according to the organization, nearly 3,000 experts have agreed to volunteer their services. “It’s a great way to commemorate the service of our military members,” says Dr. Barbara Van Dahlen Romberg, founder and president of Give an Hour.

Now it’s your turn. Have you had personal experience with PTSD either as a soldier or a family member? What happened? Do you think we do enough to help the men and women who defend our country deal with the ‘invisible wounds of war”?

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


November 10th, 2008
11:59 AM ET

Cholesterol drugs and heart disease

by Miriam Falco
Managing Editor CNN Medical

A new study presented at a major heart conference over the weekend suggests that many of us who have good cholesterol numbers could help prevent heart disease by taking cholesterol-lowering drugs. Currently these drugs, known as statins, are prescribed only for people with existing heart problems and/or high bad cholesterol.

Could I be one of those candidates? Maybe I am, I don’t know. My cholesterol level is well below 200, which is what folks should aim for. But It’s been a couple of years since I last had my cholesterol checked, and I’m not sure how good my LDL, or “bad” cholesterol level is.

More important, people who participated in this study may have had optimal ‘bad” cholesterol levels, but they had high levels of “high-sensitivity C-reactive protein” or hsCRP, an indicator of inflammation in the body, which can contribute to the clogging of arteries. You may have had heard about CRP, but I for one have never had it tested.

Now, after folks read about this new research, they may be asking their doctors if they should get the test.

The men who particpated in this trial were 50 and older; the women were over age 60.

But as Dr. Elizabeth Nabel, director of the National Heart, Lung, Blood Institute, points out, adults at any age who are at "intermediate risk" for heart disease probably will want to talk to their doctor about having a 'high-sensitivity C-reactive protein or 'hsCRP" test.

How do you know if you are at intermediate risk?  Nabel suggests one way to determine your risk for heart disease is by checking the so-called "Framingham score," which estimates the risk of developing coronary heart disease within 10 years based on risk factors including age, gender, cholesterol levels, blood pressure and if you smoke.

By using a simple risk calculator, which can be found here, anyone can calculate his or her risk for heart attack and coronary death.

If your score suggests you have a 10-20 percent risk of having a heart attack within the next 10 years, you are at “intermediate” risk.

Dr. Paul Ridker, from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts who is the lead researcher of this big study says there are two types of CRP tests – but only one tests for the high-sensitivity C-reactive protein. So patients who want to know if they should be taking statins even though they have good cholesterol levels, need to ask for an “hsCRP” blood test. The regular CRP test isn't sensitive enough to detect the risky inflammation in people with normal to good cholesterol levels.

Do you think you might get your hsCRP tested?

Editor’s Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


November 5th, 2008
01:45 PM ET

Confronting medical challenges

By Georgiann Caruso
CNN Medical Associate Producer

Anxiety, despair, hopelessness... all feelings people may have when recovering from a major illness. That's why I feel very fortunate to have crossed paths with Shelia. A two-time stroke survivor, she impressed me immediately with her zest for life and hopeful attitude that many people with medical challenges are not as fortunate to share. I confronted my own life-changing illness three years ago. Our experiences were very different, yet very much the same.

Shelia explained that recovering from stroke presents her with many day-to-day challenges. She has trouble maintaining her balance, and even falls occasionally. She explained that she picks herself up and keeps on moving. She has made the best of what she's been given and hopes to help others recover from their own illnesses.

I turned to psychologist Dr. Helen Grusd to discuss how others can keep a similar attitude, or how their friends and family may best help them to do so.

Getting one out of his or her pity party is key, Grusd says. This can be empowering because, she says, even though we can't have unrealistic expectations or control what is going to happen in our lives, we can remain hopeful and take action.

She recommends keeping in mind these 3 C's:

-Keep on viewing the illness as a CHALLENGE instead of a threat.

-Stay COMMITTED and involved in your life as much as possible, to keep a sense of purpose.

-Take CHARGE and be in CONTROL. Examine what is working in your life and those things for which you are grateful.

For those trying to help friends or family members in difficult situations, taking on a role of a "coach" often helps, Grusd says. She recommends getting the person out of the house as much as possible by making him or her feel good through things he or she likes.  An example would be saying, "I know you love to hide, but I'm picking you up and we're spending the day at the beach." Other things include setting up a social network for the person. She pointed to a strong support network as important because many people are anxious during their recovery when, sometimes, the illness may return. Equally as important is having someone to open up to about their fears.

We can have great expectations and a sense of joy in our lives, according to Grusd. We just have to choose to say positive things to ourselves. Over time, the American Psychological Association says, negative feelings can cause depression, leading to other health complications. Those with cardiovascular disease are more inclined to future strokes or heart attacks.

Were you ever touched by a medical challenge that affected you or someone in your life? How did you keep your emotional health strong or help that person to remain emotionally strong?

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.

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