Expert Advice on Health and Fitness
`Since my son has asthma, should he be allowed to play basketball?'
Q My 14-year-old son has had asthma for most of his life, and I have spent some scary moments trying to help him get through an attack. He is an active child who now has hopes of playing basketball in high school. I'm afraid for him to participate because some people say exercise and asthma don't mix. Since my son has asthma, should he be allowed to play basketball? M.T., New York City
A Following the tragic death of Northwestern University football player Rashidi Wheeler, who the Cook County (Ill.) medical examiner said died as a result of exercise-induced asthma, more attention has been focused on asthma and how physical activity affects it.
Asthma is a very serious, potentially fatal condition that requires proper treatment. Exercise-induced asthma affects more than 80 percent of asthmatics, but with preventive care and proper treatment, doctors say athletes (like Olympic gold medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee) can compete safely at the highest levels of competition.
For people whose symptoms are almost exclusively related to exercise, inhaled medication shortly before exercise can help prevent symptoms, which include chest tightness or pain, shortness of breath, wheezing and coughing.
Many medical experts say exercise is healthy for asthmatics and should only be restricted in severe, uncontrolled cases. Take your son to your physician and, together, determine if your son's condition will be seriously affected by the increased physical activity.
SEXUAL DYSFUNCTION IN WOMEN
Q There has been so much talk about erectile dysfunction and other sexual problems in men since Viagra came on the market, but what about the problems that women have? We all know that women experience sexual problems, but they aren't highlighted like those of the men. What's being done to help women? H.G., Los Angeles
A Traditionally, men's sexual problems have gotten most of the attention of medical experts, leading to treatments that include the very popular Viagra. But studies indicate that a large percentage of American women also experience sexual dysfunction, including diminished sexual sensation, a decrease in overall sexual satisfaction and low sexual desire.
A Doctors say sexual dsyfunction in many women (as it is in men) could be the result of underlying physical problems such as vascular disease, diabetes or other problems related to insufficient blood flow.
Several drugs are under development that may help women, and other drugs are awaiting Federal Drug Administration approval. Currently, one of the already-established approaches to boost some women's libido is the ingestion of the male hormone testosterone, taken in pill form. Medical researchers say testosterone can heighten a woman's sex drive, sexual appetite, sexual fantasies and the intensity of her orgasms.
Doctors say women with sexual problems should also consider getting a complete physical examination to determine if poor health, urinary-tract problems, sexually transmitted diseases, or stress might be contributing to their difficulties.
RESTLESS LEGS SYNDROME
Q I have always been a pretty heavy sleeper and now my husband has begun to complain that I kick him throughout the night. I've never done this before. What could be causing this? C.B., Nashville
A You could be the victim of Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS), a condition that affects about one out of every seven Americans and is characterized by involuntary leg movement during sleep. The cause is unknown; it often runs in families; and doctors say there is no cure. RLS appears to be triggered by a number of conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis, varicose veins, smoking, diabetes and iron deficiency. Various drugs to treat the condition have yielded varying results.
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