The Costco Connection
Costco pharmacists can help answer questions about medical terms and terminology. Most prescriptions can be filled at
Costco or through Costco.com.
Learn common medical terms
You can start by learning common medical terms. To help decode other medical
terms, use an online glossary. MedicineNet.
com has a “Med Terms Dictionary” tab you
can click to search for explanations of particular words and phrases. The Medical Library
www.mlanet.org) has a very
simple glossary that translates medical terms
into everyday language.
Here are a few definitions
BMI (body mass
index): The most widely
used measure of weight
relative to height. A
normal BMI for an adult
is between 20 and 25.
Adults with BMIs between
25 and 30 are overweight,
Doctors may recommend that “morbidly
obese” adults (a BMI over 35 or 40) consider
weight-loss surgery, as lifestyle changes
alone are unlikely to bring them down to a
CBC (complete blood count): The two
most important measurements are the white
blood cell (WBC) count, which is usually
higher in the presence of a bacterial infection
and lower in some viral infections, including
HIV (the virus that causes AIDS); and the
hemoglobin level, which, if low, suggests
blood loss, cancer or kidney problems.
LDL (low-density lipoprotein): Better
known as “bad cholesterol.” The less LDL you
have in your blood, the lower your risk for
heart attack or stroke. A normal level is 130 or
less; people with heart disease or diabetes
should have levels well below 100.
Negative: Doctors use this word to mean
“normal.” Abnormal test results are deemed
“positive,” which actually means bad news—
for example, “the chest X-ray was positive for
NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflamma-tory drug): These medicines (think over-the-counter ibuprofen, such as Advil or Motrin)
treat occasional aches and pains as well as
chronic arthritis. Unfortunately, long-term
NSAID use can cause stomach ulcers and
heart and kidney problems.
Prediabetes: Unlike diabetes, prediabetes is usually treated with diet and exercise
rather than medicine. In most people, a fasting (not eating for at least eight hours) blood
sugar level should be less than 100. A person
whose fasting blood sugar level is persistently
above 126 has diabetes; between 100 and 126
means a person has prediabetes, which hikes
his or her future diabetes risk. C
Author Chrystle Fiedler specializes in writing
about health issues.
How to better
DR. RICHARD C. SENELICK, a neurologist and
medical director of HealthSouth Rehabilitation Institute of San Antonio, Texas,
offers the following tips to make
the most of your doctor’s visit.
• If you do not understand what your
doctor is saying, stop the doctor immediately and ask her to use simpler language.
Don’t pretend that you understand when
you do not.
• Be assertive, but friendly. Let the doctor know if you still have questions.
• Tell the doctor what you think he said
to be certain that you understood him. This
is called a “teach back.”
• If you feel you need more time, ask to
schedule another visit in the near future.
• If the doctor is very busy, ask if there
is a nurse or assistant who can answer your
• Take a relative or friend with you for
another set of ears, and always take notes.
• Ask who you can call if you still have
questions when you get home.
For more information on being a prepared patient, visit the website for the
Center for Advancing Health’s Prepared
www.cfah.org/blog/. To see a
slide-show tutorial from the National Library
of Medicine on how to understand medical
words, go to
Ask Me 3
THE NATIONAL PATIENT Safety Foundation
www.npsf.org/) has created
a simple program called
Ask Me 3 to help you
better understand your
doctor. Use these three
questions when talking to your doctor at
your next visit:
• What is my main
• What do I need to do?
• Why is it important for me to do this?
For more information, brochures and a
“words to watch” fact sheet, visit
for pain—can damage instantly. Research in
the last five years proves just a one-time exposure to loud sound causes irreversible hearing
damage and gets the snowball rolling toward
cumulative hearing loss, says Rauch.
“At a microscopic level there is ongoing
degeneration of the nerve endings in the inner
ear,” he explains. “When you get that noise
injury, while there’s a superficial appearance
that you’ve recovered the next day, in fact
there’s a progressive and accelerating damage.”
Rauch recommends downloading a
sound-level meter app to your smartphone, to
check decibel levels when in doubt. “You can
get sound-level meter apps that are just as
accurate as $10,000 meters that we use in our
research laboratories,” he says.
Lower everyday noise
Whenever possible, avoid or mitigate
loud sounds. Rauch recommends carrying
foam earplugs at all times. Earplugs placed
inside the ear canal or earmuffs that fit snugly
and completely over the ears can reduce noise
by 15 to 30 dB, according to ASHA.
Many MP3 players can reach 110 dB, and
the open-style earbuds that come with many
gadgets can cause wearers to crank the volume
to dangerous levels to block out external noise.
For better sound quality, at a lower volume,
choose occlusive earplugs and headphones,
which completely block out external noise, as
described above. Several manufacturers also
make earphones that limit the sound level to a
maximum 85 dB no matter the volume.
How is your hearing health?
Most of us don’t think about our hearing
health until damage has been done. The
inability to hear sound levels between 26 dB
and 40 dB means hearing is already slightly
impaired, according to the World Health
Organization. Signs of hearing loss include
tinnitus, pain, muffled hearing, needing to
increase volume on electronics, asking people
to repeat things and avoiding conversations
or social situations.
Dawn Myers, an audiologist with Costco in
Pocatello, Idaho, says a common complaint
among her patients is “everyone mumbles.” She
also sees many members with dizziness and
balance problems. “Because those systems are
linked together, oftentimes there’s hearing loss
associated with that,” she says.
Dawn recommends that everyone get a
baseline hearing test and follow up with
yearly exams, just as you would a physical.
She explains, “It’s really good to have a baseline test done so that if you do go [attend]
some loud activity, you actually know where
your hearing level used to be, and we can
determine if there has been some loss caused
by that incident.” C
Rita Colorito is a health writer based near
HEAR, THERE AND EVERYWHERE
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