Winter Got You Down? Q & A with Dr. Robert Farra on Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Tuesday, February 07, 2012 6:47 AM comments (1)

Seasonal Affective Disorder

As the days get shorter and the temperatures continue to drop during winter, some people experience depression-like symptoms. Robert Farra, Ph.D., Director of Solutions for Depression and Anxiety at NorthShore, shines some light on commonly asked questions relating to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

Q: What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

  • Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a type of depression that affects a person during the same time each year.
  • Anyone can get SAD, but it’s most common with people who live in areas where winter days are short and there is limited sunlight.

Q: What are the symptoms of SAD?

  • Feeling sad or moody
  • Loss of interest in usually pleasurable things
  • Eating more and craving carbohydrates
  • Gaining weight
  • Sleeping more and feeling drowsy during the day

Q: How many people are affected?

  • It is estimated that a half million (500,000) people in the U.S. have SAD.

Q: Why do many people experience depression before the holidays?

  • Typically the days of little sunshine
  • Stress of the season

Q: How can people combat seasonal depression? Any concrete tips? 

  • Light therapy may help. Sitting in front of a high intensity fluorescent lamp (usually 10,000 Lux) for 30 mins to 2 hours can help. 
  • Sometimes people respond better to an antidepressant and specialized treatment called Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT).
  • Depression, regardless of cause, shows up as negative thoughts and feelings.  Ruminating about negative thoughts and feelings can bring us down.
  • CBT teaches that negative thoughts and behaviors, while influenced by such things as a lack of sunlight, are still within a person’s ability to change.

Are you affected by the change of the season? What do you do to stay active even with less sunshine?

 

Beat the Odds: Lifestyle Changes to Prevent Women’s (and Men’s) Heart Health

Thursday, February 02, 2012 8:32 AM comments (1)

Go Red for WomenDespite popular belief, heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. Women, in many cases, tend to get heart disease 10 years later than men.

While the symptoms of heart attack and heart disease can vary significantly between the two sexes, the recommendations for prevention do not. Mark Lampert, MD, Cardiologist at NorthShore, shares his insight on what lifestyle changes women (and men) should be mindful of to promote heart health:

  • Be physically active – regular exercise is better than doing nothing.
  • Eat healthy, well-balanced meals. Be mindful of your intake of saturated fats and carbohydrates.
  • Don’t smoke! When it comes to heart disease, smoking is like adding fuel to the fire.
  • Get your other medical problems checked out and in order. Whether it’s high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma or something else, make sure you see your doctor.

Can you relate to the American Heart Association's Go Red for Women video? What ways are you ensuring your heart is healthy?

Breakfast – The Most Important Meal of the Day

Tuesday, January 31, 2012 8:26 AM comments (1)

BreakfastBetween the morning rush of getting out the door on time and organizing schedules, breakfast isn’t always top of mind. However, it should be.

Michael Rakotz, MD, Primary Care Physician at NorthShore, notes that it is the most important meal of the day, especially for kids. He offers his insight on some healthy breakfast options to help fuel you and your kids throughout the day:

  • Unsweetened Oatmeal
    Sweeten it with raisins, apples, blueberries, or a bit of honey.
  • Eggs – Free Range Recommended
    Free-range hens that roam around eat grass. Their eggs will have more Omega-3s and nutrients. If you don’t have time to make eggs in the morning, make hard-boiled eggs the night before.
  • Yogurt and Fruit
    Greek Yogurt has more protein, making it a good choice for a growing child. Be sure to read yogurt labels to watch out for added sugar.
  • Whole Grain Toast
  • Cereal
    Be sure to read the label, as health claims like “contains whole grains” don’t always mean it’s the best option. It’s best to eat cereals that have 5 or less grams of sugar per serving.

What is your daily breakfast go-to food? Do you change it up throughout the week?

Stroke: A Brain Attack Requiring Immediate Action

Friday, January 27, 2012 10:28 AM comments (1)

A stroke—sometimes also referred to as a “brain attack”—is caused by an interrupted supply of blood to the brain from the heart. Without the proper blood flow, the brain cannot function correctly. Given that the brain is a vital organ—literally controlling everything we do from speaking, to walking and breathing—it is very important to know the signs, symptoms and risk factors involved with stroke.

Stroke

Barbara Small, RN, nurse specialist at the NorthShore Stroke Program outlines some the common facts:

Risk Factors

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Atrial Fibrillation
  • Carotid Artery Disease
  • Smoking
  • Excessive alcohol intake
  • Overweight
  • Lack of Exercise

Common Stroke Symptoms

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg, especially occurring on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause

If you or someone you know has any of these symptoms, please call 911 immediately.

What are you doing to reduce your risk for stroke?

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Additional Resources

Protecting Young People from HPV Infection

Thursday, January 26, 2012 8:56 AM comments (1)

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a common virus simply spread by skin-to-skin contact. There are many different types of HPV (nearly 200). However, 40 of these types can infect the genital areas, mouth or throat of men and women during sexual contact.HPV

Over 80% of sexually active women and more than 50% of sexually active men will have acquired genital HPV infection at some point during their life. This makes genital HPV the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI). However, most people who become infected remain unaware of it and infect their partners before they clear it on their own.

Some HPV types result in genital warts; other types are associated with cervical, vaginal, oral, anal and penile cancers. Fortunately, parents and patients can take important steps to help reduce HPV infection risks.

Kenneth Fox, MD, Pediatrician at NorthShore, offers tips on reducing HPV infection risks:

  • Communicate: Talk to your children and teens about safe sex and STIs. Let them know that their risks can be reduced by abstinence (including oral sex), by delaying sexual initiation, by limiting the number of sex partners and by using latex condoms during sexual contact.
  • Vaccinate: HPV vaccine helps prevent the most common types of sexually acquired HPV. The vaccine is available for males and females ages 9-26. Three doses of the vaccine are recommended, and the greatest protection is achieved if all doses are completed before sexual initiation and exposure to HPV. Notably, 75% of new HPV infections occur between ages 15-24 years, and over half of these new infections occur within the first 3 years after sexual initiation.

Have you spoken with your child or his/her primary care physician about this vaccine?

Diabetes - Knowing the Symptoms and Your Risk

Monday, January 23, 2012 8:20 AM comments (1)

This past week, diabetes has taken the spotlight after celebrity chef Paula Deen announced that she has Type 2 diabetes. As the most common form of diabetes, this condition affects more than eight percent of children and adults in the United States.

Mary Bennett, RD, LDN, CDE, a Diabetes Education Manager at NorthShore, identifies who is at risk for being diagnosed with diabetes. She also talks about key symptoms to be mindful of in her video interview.

Diabetes

According to Bennett, the following risk factors exist for diabetes:

  • Family history of diabetes
  • Lack of physical exercise (less than 150 minutes each week)
  • Being overweight
  • High blood pressure (more than 130/80)
  • Being over 40 years old
  • Giving birth to a baby weighing more than nine pounds or having had gestational diabetes during pregnancy
  • Being African American, Native American, Asian American, Hispanic, Eastern Asian or Pacific Islander

What are you currently doing to help reduce your risk of diabetes?

Fitness First - Losing Weight and Staying on Track

Friday, January 20, 2012 8:02 AM comments (1)

Getting and staying fit, isn’t always about losing weight. It’s also about increasing your cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, joint flexibility and energy levels – all while fitting it into your normal routine and lifestyle.

April Williams, Exercise Physiologist at NorthShore’s Center for Weight Management has some tips to keep your exercise route on track:

  • Check in with your physician first if you’re new to exercising. This is especially important if you have other underlying health concerns.
  • Start slow. If you haven’t been exercising frequently, there’s no reason to rush into a rigorous routine.
  • Pick three days a week to go to the gym and exercise (starting out with 30 minutes) and work your way up from there. Gradually increase your workout sessions to last 45-60 minutes five times a week. Don’t feel you have to work out for five days in a row; be sure to give yourself rest days in between to relax and recover.
  • Partner with a friend or family member. Choose someone who is also committed to exercise, and either go to the gym or take a walk with them. Listening to books while exercising can also help make the experience more social and make the time go by faster.
  • Schedule time in your calendar in advance for exercise. We all get busy and it’s easy to overlook exercise when other life events occur (shopping, laundry, cleaning, etc.)
  • Keep an exercise log. This way you can measure your progress.
  • Skip the gym if it’s not for you, and look into doing exercise routines and workouts at home. There are plenty of free options and resources available.

What does your exercise schedule look like? What keeps you motivated to workout? Which types of exercise do you enjoy most?

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Have fitness questions? Join April Williams on Tuesday, February 7 from 11a.m.-noon for an online chat about how to stay fit in 2012. Submit your questions in advance and save the date.

Managing Your GERD Symptoms

Wednesday, January 18, 2012 8:14 AM comments (1)

It happens to the best of us – we overindulge during the holidays, on a night out or at a family dinner and experience stomach pains, acid reflux and heartburn. It’s estimated that Gastroesophagael Reflux Disease (GERD) regularly affects close to 50 percent of the adult population.

This digestive disorder happens when stomach acid and/or bile flows up into the esophagus leading to acid reflux, heartburn and in severe situations even esophageal cancer.

Mick Meiselman, MD, NorthShore Gastroenterologist and a GERD expert, offers suggestions to reduce GERD symptoms:

  • Maintain a healthy body weight. Simply gaining 10 pounds can aggravate the condition and increase painful symptoms.
  • Limit your consumption of fats, as they can delay emptying of the gastric chamber and increase the likelihood of reflux.
  • Decrease the intake of caffeine, including chocolate, coffee (regular and decaffeinated) and caffeinated tea.
  • Avoid heavy consumption of alcohol.
  • Avoid late-night eating. Wait at least three hours after eating before lying down.
  • Raise the torso (6-8 inches) when sleeping. This can be done with either an adjustable bed or a wedge pillow.
  • Take it easy and relax. Stress magnifies the symptoms of reflux; exercise is a good way to combat stress and help maintain a healthy weight.

Which of these recommendations works best for you? Which of these recommendations is the hardest to follow?

If you think you may be at risk for GERD, take our GERD Risk Assessment.

Are You Getting Enough Sleep?

Monday, January 16, 2012 8:22 AM comments (0)

More than 30 percent of working Americans report less than six hours of sleep a night.Sleep

Studies show that regularly sleeping less than six to seven hours a night may be associated with:

  • Decreased performance on the job
  • A higher risk of car accidents
  • An increased risk of cardiovascular disease, colon polyps, and metabolic problems
  • An increased risk of mortality


A common myth is that people can make up for a lack of sleep by sleeping longer on the weekends. Yet according to Cathy Goldstein, MD, Neurologist and expert in sleep medicine at NorthShore, the body does not have the ability to catch up or make up for chronic sleep deprivation.

Dr. Goldstein offers the following tips for getting a good night’s sleep:

  • Be vigilant about getting enough sleep.
  • For shift workers or those who are forced to sleep on what would normally be waking hours, use bright light therapy or over-the-counter melatonin supplements. 
  • Leave electronics like laptops and BlackBerry devices out of the bedroom.
  • Avoid exercise, heavy meals and alcohol in the hours before bedtime. 
  • Keep the bedroom cool and dark during the night.

Patients with actual sleep disorders like sleep apnea are urged to talk to their physician and undergo a sleep study for diagnosis and treatment.

How many hours of sleep do you typically get a night? What do you do to ensure a good night’s sleep?

Tags: sleep

Trimming Down in 2012 – A Quick Guide to Weight Loss

Thursday, January 12, 2012 8:10 AM comments (2)

The New Year is upon on us, and with that comes the resolution of many: to lose weight and adopt more healthy living habits.

According to Goutham Rao, MD, Primary Care Physician at NorthShore, weight loss can be achieved through incremental behavior change. He provides some quick tips about healthy behaviors to help lose weight.

Healthy behaviors include:

  • Eat a balanced breakfast. Skipping breakfast encourages overeating later in the day.
  • Eliminate all sweet beverages from your diet and switch to water exclusively. (Sweet beverages include: fruit drinks, punches, regular soft drinks, fruit juices, sweetened iced tea, flavored milk, sports drinks and energy drinks).
  • Limit fast food consumption to no more than once per week. 
  • Incorporate about 15 – 30 minutes of physical activity into your daily routine (e.g. aerobics classes). Walking—even part of the way to work—is a good example.
  • Limit all non work-related screen time to no more than two hours a day. This includes computer, video games and TV. 
  • Eat meals as a family. Don’t eat in front of the TV; mindless eating promotes obesity.
  • Avoid snacks or meals just before bedtime (when energy is least needed).

What tips do you have to stay trim in 2012?

For more information about Childhood Obesity, please check out Dr. Rao’s book, Child Obesity: A Parent’s Guide to a Fit, Trim and Happy Child.

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