Alcohol Awareness Month

April is Alcohol Awareness Month, which provides a focused opportunity across America to increase awareness and understanding of alcoholism, its causes, effective treatment and recovery. This year’s theme is “Changing Attitudes: It’s not a ‘rite of passage.’” This brings an opportunity to decrease stigma and misunderstandings of alcoholism to break down the barriers to treatment & recovery and make seeking help more readily available to all those suffering.

According to the CDC, alcohol abuse is the 3rd highest cause of death in the US with 88,000 per year. More shocking, of the 3.9 million Americans who seek help for substance abuse, 2.5 million seek alcohol treatment. Long-term alcohol use can cause serious health complications affecting every organ in your body, including your brain. Additionally, it can damage your emotional stability, finances, and/or career, as well as negatively impact your family, friends and colleagues. If you or someone you know is unable to limit alcohol consumption, seek treatment immediately. Let’s reduce the statistics today and pave the way for a healthier tomorrow.

In the Know About IBS

Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS, is a functional bowel disorder of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract characterized by recurrent abdominal pain and discomfort. It’s often accompanied by changes in bowel function as well as diarrhea, constipation or a combination of both, typically over months or years. The severity of the disorder varies from person to person

According to the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD), 25-45 million people in the United States have IBS. IBS usually starts in early adulthood, affecting twice as many women as men. Approximately 10-20% of the population has IBS but at least half of all sufferers never seek medical attention. IBS can be uncomfortable however it does not lead to serious disease, such as cancer. Most people with IBS can ease symptoms with changes in diet, medicine, and stress relief.

Some people experience symptoms that come and go and are just mildly annoying. Others have such severe daily bowel problems that IBS affects their ability to work, sleep and enjoy life. In addition, symptoms may change over time. A person may have severe symptoms for several weeks and then feel well for months or even years. Symptoms vary from person to person but may include cramps or pain in the stomach, constipation &/or diarrhea, mucus in the stool, swollen or bloated stomach area, gas, and/or feeling uncomfortably full or nauseous after eating a normal size meal. Additionally, women with IBS may have more symptoms during their menstrual periods. Many women (with and without IBS) experience variations in gastrointestinal symptoms during their menstrual cycle. Several studies also suggest that women with endometriosis have greater bowel symptoms compatible with a diagnosis of IBS.

Symptoms of IBS can be triggered by various things including stress, hormones, and food. Many people have worse IBS symptoms when they eat or drink certain foods or beverages. Your doctor may recommend changes to your diet which includes eliminating high-gas foods, gluten, or FODMAPs. Doctors may treat irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) by recommending changes in what you eat and other lifestyle changes, medicines, probiotics, and mental health therapies. You may have to try a few different treatments to see what works best for you. Some changes your doctor may recommend include eating more fiber, avoiding gluten, following a low FODMAP diet, increasing your physical activity, reducing stressful situations, and/or getting enough sleep. He or she may also recommend certain medications to help ease IBS symptoms.

If you or someone you know have any of the symptoms described, speak with a medical professional. The sooner you seek help, the sooner you will be on the path to feeling better.

By Gina Stallone

References:

Womenshealthmagazine.com

Mayoclinic.com

Aboutibs.org

niddk.nih.gov

Older, but Not Weaker

Bone strength peaks by age 30 in humans. That is it…after that your bones get weaker. Muscle strength peaks at about 25 years old and plateaus until 35 years old. After that, you lose muscle strength. So what does that mean for the aging athlete?

Why do you need to maintain bone mass (strength)? Because weaker bones are more likely to break. The death rate after a hip fracture is14-58%. Studies show up 50% of people die within one year of breaking their hip. You don’t want to be one of these unfortunate victims of death by osteoporosis.

There are a few ways to maintain bone strength. First, it is important to reach your peak strength by developing good bones when you are young. You need to get adequate vitamin D and Calcium in your diet at all ages, but if you deprive your body of either of these at a younger age your bones will start out weak. Impact activities such as running or even walking build bone. Non-weight bearing activities like swimming do not build bone. Using weights and doing resistance exercises also helps build bone.

Similarly, building muscle is done through exercise and strength training. Each year after 35 years old, the average person loses 0.5-1% of their muscle mass. If you do not work out, you will get weaker. Even if you work-out, you will still lose strength but not as quickly.

For bones, the most important and common fractures are the hip and the wrist. Leg work-outs especially for the quads are key to maintaining the hip. I like squats, biking, walking and if able running. If any of these hurt, find out why and don’t do them. See your local orthopedist if you develop pain or swelling.

To strengthen your arms, biceps and triceps are important. If your forearms don’t get tired working out, add wrist flexions and extensions with light weights. Wrist fractures are very common in patients older than 65 years old and can be prevented in many people by strength training.

Unfortunately, a common consequence of weak bones is compression fractures of the spine. When older people say they are shrinking it is often due to collapse of the bones of the spine from osteoporosis. Core strengthening and impact exercises can help prevent these fractures.

At any age, you need to eat well and exercise. If you don’t do both, you will get older quicker. You will become frail and more likely to die at a younger age. This is up to you. If you develop pain, don’t give up but find out what the problem is. Have a good doctor you trust available to help you maintain your good health.

By Rick Weinstein, MD, MBA

Director Orthopedic Surgery Westchester Sport & Spine at White Plains Hospital

Time to Invest in a Pedometer

Currently, roughly half of Americans do not meet the recommended guidelines for physical activity. Physical activity has many physical, emotional, and physical benefits, and it is one of the best things you can do for you health. It been shown to help decrease and maintain weight, to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease, to decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes, to strengthen bones and muscles, and to improve mental health and mood.

Many Americans find it difficult to start an exercise program and stick with it. A new study published in PLOS Medicine showed that participants who use a pedometer daily tended to be more active than those who didn’t.  When they utilized a pedometer  and received advice on how to increase physical activity, people had longer exercise sessions and they were more likely to continue to exercise long term,  3-4 years later.

So if you are having difficulty starting and sticking to walking more, buy a pedometer! It will help you stay accountable to your goals and keep you on the right path!

What is the Ketogenic Diet?

It seems like every year there is a new diet craze or a new way of eating. Many people are searching for the magic bullet for weight loss, and they go from diet to diet hoping that one works. The “new” craze is the ketogenic or keto diet. What is the ketogenic diet, and is it right for you?

The keto diet is based on scientific evidence and has been utilized for almost 90 years. It was originally created for patients with epilepsy since the keto diet mimics fasting, which has been shown to reduce the number of seizures for patients.  It is a very low carbohydrate diet which enables the body to use dietary fat and body fat storage as the primary fuel source for energy, rather than carbohydrates.  The body believes it is fasting because of the very low carbohydrate intake, and it starts to burn fat for energy. ”Ketosis” is a physiological mechanism that occurs in the body when adequate carbohydrates are not available to burn for energy, and instead, the body burns fat for energy, producing ketones as a by-product. When ketones rise in the body, it enters into ketosis, which is a fat-burning metabolic state that results in weight loss.

The diet works by severely limiting the number of carbohydrates that you consume to 10% of total calories. Carbs should come predominantly from leafy greens and non-starchy vegetables. For most people, this is about 30-50 net grams of carbohydrates, but some people get the best results on only 20g of carbohydrates. 20% of the diet should be from protein, especially fish high in omega-3s and grass fed and organic meats. All processed meat should be avoided. The remaining 70% should consist of healthy fats from avocados, nuts, seeds, coconuts, and medium-chain triglyceride oils. Dairy is allowed, but it should be limited. All sugar, grains, processed foods, and alcohol should be avoided.

In addition to weight loss, the keto diet has been shown to decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes and to improve blood sugar management. It also protects against cancer, decreases the risk of heart disease, and protects against Alzheimer’s and other neurological conditions. It may also increase mental focus and alertness as well as increase energy.

The keto diet has been shown to work for weight loss, but it can be difficult to adhere to. Additionally, some people, especially those who have difficulty metabolizing fats, will not do well on the ketogenic diet. Consult a health care practitioner before starting the keto diet and see if it is the best option for your weight loss and daily regimen.

End the Silence

March is Endometriosis Awareness Month. It is during this month where we raise awareness to an illness which affects millions of women worldwide.

1 in 10 women in the US are living with endometriosis, and sadly, they are often suffering in silence. It is a disorder that is commonly misdiagnosed as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), or simply ‘period pains.’ It can take an average of 10 years between symptom onset & proper diagnosis.

Endometriosis is a disorder in which the tissue that normally lines the inside of the uterus, grows outside instead. Endometriosis growths bleed in the same way the lining inside of your uterus does every month. This can cause swelling and pain because the tissue grows and bleeds in an area where it cannot easily get out of your body. The growths may also continue to expand and cause problems, such as: cysts, inflammation, problems in the intestines and bladder, or formation of scar tissue & adhesions, which may not only cause pain, it may also make it difficult to become pregnant.

The pain that women with endometriosis suffer, which can often be severe and feel sharp or stabbing, occurs in the pelvis or belly and usually won’t go away with medication. Some women with mild cases have intense pain, while others with advanced cases may have little pain or even no pain at all. Other symptoms include excessive bleeding during and/or between periods, backache, leg pain, painful sex, painful bowel movements, and infertility.

While there is no known cause, there are several factors which place you at greater risk for developing this illness. These include:

  • Never giving birth
  • Starting your period at an early age or beginning menopause early
  • Short menstrual cycles
  • Having high levels of estrogen
  • Family history of endometriosis
  • Any medical condition that prevents the normal passage of menstrual flow out of the body
  • Uterine abnormalities

Unfortunately, there is no cure but there are several treatment options. The doctor will talk to you about your symptoms and take the one of the following steps to determine if, in fact, you do have endometriosis:

  • Pelvic exam
  • Imaging test, such as ultrasound or MRI
  • Hormonal birth control
  • Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies such as acupuncture, chiropractic care, herbs like cinnamon twig or licorice root, or supplements, including thiamine (vitamin B1), magnesium, or omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Lowering your estrogen level by exercising regularly, taking birth control, or avoiding large amounts of alcohol and caffeine

If you are experiencing any signs or symptoms of endometriosis, contact your doctor immediately. The sooner you get a diagnosis, the sooner you can be on the path to feeling better.

 

 

References:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/endometriosis/symptoms-causes/syc-20354656

https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/endometriosis

https://www.endostrong.com/#end

 

By Gina Stallone

What is a Free Radical?

Free radicals and oxidative stress are buzz words that have been trendy in the press. The media touts consuming foods with antioxidants to promote health and longevity, but why is it so important to fight free radicals and what damage do they cause?

Free radicals, or reactive oxygen species, are unstable forms of oxygen that have an unpaired electron. Electrons usually exist in pairs, and since free radicals are constantly looking for their missing electron, they move around the body trying to find a way to pair it. Some amount of free radicals in the body are normal, since free radicals are the products of normal cellular metabolism and are created through ordinary body functions. They help defend against infectious agents, regulate biochemical pathways, and signal cellular functions.  However, free radicals are also created from environmental exposure, such as pollutants, radiation, antibiotics, and chemicals. Additionally, they are produced from emotional and physical stress, overtraining, alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, and a poor diet, especially one high in unhealthy fats, sugars, and pesticides. These uncharged molecules can be very harmful to the body because they are unstable while moving around the body, and they may damage cell structures, including DNA, lipids, membranes, enzymes, and proteins, and they derail important biochemical pathways.

Antioxidants are molecules that donate an electron to free radicals to neutralize them. By reducing the number of free radicals, they protect against free radical damage. Normally, the amount of free radicals and antioxidants in the body balance each other out. However, when there is an imbalance between free radicals and the body’s antioxidant system, oxidative stress, or rusting, occurs. During oxidative stress, the immune system becomes overloaded, which harms and ages the body due to the damage to the structures in the cells. This can affect every organ and system in the body and is linked to the development of most chronic diseases.

It is important to consume a diet rich in antioxidants to combat free radicals. Some foods rich in antioxidants are berries, grapes, cocoa, green and white tea, and fruits and vegetables high in carotenoids, bioflavonoids, lycopene, quercetin, lutein, and resveratrol. Many herbs and spices are high in antioxidants, including turmeric, oregano, cinnamon, and rosemary. In addition to consuming antioxidants, our bodies create antioxidants by using vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals from the diet. The most important antioxidants in our body are glutathione, superoxide dismutase, and catalase.

The Western Diet is one of the primary reasons free radicals are increasing. It is devoid of many antioxidants and is too high in calories. Because our diet is mostly “empty calories,” it lacks many nutrients and antioxidants, which are important for our internal antioxidant system. Additionally, the more calories consumed, the more work for the mitochondria, which produces free radicals as a byproduct.

In order to eliminate oxidation, we need to change our diet, lifestyle, and environment. First, avoid overeating and try to maintain a healthy weight. Eliminate sugar, processed foods,and refined carbohydrates. Eat organic fruits and vegetables when you can and avoid pesticides. Avoid toxins and air pollution and find methods for reducing stress. Supplements are available, but is better to have a healthy lifestyle and diet to reduce free radicals.

By Denise Groothuis RD

Get Some Sleep!

Ever wonder why you’re extra irritable or lack patience after a sleepless night only to return to normal after getting some shut-eye? This is because sleep & mood are directly connected. A lack of sleep can hinder you from thinking clearly and keeping your emotions at an even keel. Studies show that excessive sleepiness can hurt work performance, wreak havoc on relationships, and lead to mood problems like anxiety and depression.

It’s rare for people to sleep well all the time. You may be sleep deprived temporarily due to life events but can catch up after a few extra hours of sleep. However, long-term sleep deficits can cause long-term side effects and health concerns. Research has shown that long-term sleeplessness adds vulnerabilities to the common cold, diabetes, cancer, coronary heart disease, anxiety, and depression. It can also be dangerous. Sleepiness makes your reaction time slower, which is especially dangerous when driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that at least 100,000 crashes reported to police each year are due to driver fatigue. You don’t need to fall asleep at the wheel to be a danger — drowsiness alone can be as dangerous as driving drunk. Driving while sleepy is like driving with a blood alcohol content of .08% — over the legal limit in many states. If you find that you consistently get less than 5 hours of sleep per night, you should speak with a medical professional regarding the best ways to remedy the problem before it becomes a bigger issue for you and for others.

 

by Gina Stallone

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a group of diseases that affect how your body uses blood sugar, or glucose. Normally, the pancreas releases insulin to help your body store and use the sugar and fat from the food you eat. However, when the pancreas produces very little or no insulin, or when the body doesn’t respond appropriately to insulin, diabetes can occur. Glucose is vital to your health because it’s an important source of energy for the cells that make up your muscles and tissues. It’s also your brain’s main source of fuel. If you have diabetes, no matter which type, it means that you have too much glucose in your blood, which can lead to serious health problems. Chronic diabetes conditions include Type 1 diabetes and Type 2 diabetes. Potentially reversible diabetes conditions include pre-diabetes, which occurs when your blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be considered diabetes. Another is gestational diabetes, which occurs during pregnancy but may resolve after the baby is delivered. For someone without diabetes, a fasting blood sugar on awakening should be under 100 mg/dl. Before-meal normal sugars are 70–99 mg/dl. Speak with your doctor to learn more and always go for annual physical exams/blood work to keep on top of your levels.

A key component to managing diabetes, regardless of which condition you have, is to maintain a healthy weight through a healthy diet and exercise program. Studies show that following a “diabetes diet,” rich in nutrients & low in fat and calories, is best. This generally consists of eating more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains while cutting down on animal products, refined carbohydrates, and sweets. Speak with a registered dietitian to help create a meal plan that will work specifically for your needs. In addition, everyone needs regular aerobic exercise. Exercise lowers your blood sugar level by moving sugar into your cells where it’s used for energy. Speak with your physician about the appropriate exercise regimen for you.

By Gina Stallone

 

Kids and Concussions

Each year, approximately 30-45 million children & adolescents between the ages of 6-18 participate in organized sports. The young brain is especially susceptible to concussions. In fact, sports-related concussions account for more than half of all emergency room visits by children ages 8-13. Despite that large ratio, experts say that certain terms have minimized the serious nature of the injury. These terms, which are used to describe a hit, include “ding” or “bell ringer” and should be replaced by the actual medical term, mild traumatic brain injury.

Virtually no sport is free of concussion hazard. A concussion is caused by a direct or indirect blow to the head. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to lose consciousness to sustain a concussion. Approximately 90% of concussions involve no loss of consciousness or only a brief disruption of mental alertness. You don’t even have to hit your head — a whiplash injury can cause one. Recognizing concussion symptoms in children can be more complicated than in adults, since a child may not be capable of articulating certain symptoms of a concussion, such as feeling “in a fog” or vertigo. Other symptoms, including irritability, may be mistakenly interpreted as a behavioral issue rather than a sign of a brain injury. Some competitive young athletes are so eager to get back on the playing field that they deny having any symptoms, or they downplay their symptoms, in order to get back in the game. Others may exaggerate their symptoms to avoid returning to school. It’s best to err on the side of caution and take all reported symptoms seriously. Find a balance between returning too soon and sitting out too long is an important part of the plan for optimal recovery.

 

by Gina Stallone

References:

https://concussion.weillcornell.org/about-concussions/kids-and-concussions

https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/08/24/concussions-can-occur-in-all-youth-sports/