Cholesterol – Understanding the Numbers

Monday, February 25, 2013 3:50 PM comments (0)

High-CholesterolRoutine blood work can be done to test whether or not you have high cholesterol. The challenge for many lies in determining what the numbers mean and what risks you may be at for developing other health conditions, including heart disease.

This blood work measures three different components:

  • LDL (low-density lipoproteins), otherwise known as “bad” cholesterol
  • HDL (high-density lipoproteins) or “good” cholesterol 
  • Triglycerides

The general standard for healthy levels state your LDL should optimally be below 100, HDL should be above 40 for men and above 50 for women, and your triglycerides value should stay below 150. So what can you do if your levels are a little high?

Jeffrey Marogil, MD, Cardiologist at NorthShore, offers the following suggestions for keeping your cholesterol in check:

  • Get regular aerobic exercise and work at losing excess weight. Even losing a small amount of extra weight, such as five to 10 pounds can be a big help. If you aren’t sure what diet is best, seek a registered dietitian to get you off on the right foot.
  • Avoid all trans fats. These are artificial fats that your body is not designed to handle. Also, be sure to read labels and avoid items that include partially hydrogenated oils, as these contain some trans fats.
  • Learn which fats are “good” fats. When trying to lose weight you shouldn’t cut out all fats— the body needs fat and some (like the Omega 3 fatty acids) are helpful for optimal cholesterol levels. A good rule of thumb to follow is to replace some of your carbohydrates with vegetables when trying to lose weight.
  • Know your family history and other risk factors. Medical problems such as diabetes, hypertension, sleep apnea, smoking and obesity, along with a family history of high cholesterol or coronary artery disease, can be reasons for getting screened more frequently.

Do you know what your cholesterol levels are? Have you made any changes in your diet or lifestyle to reduce them?

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Winter Woes: Remedies for Dry Skin

Thursday, February 21, 2013 9:00 AM comments (0)

Dry-skinDoes it ever feel like you just can’t put on enough lotion during the winter months to keep your skin from being dry? With the cold temperatures and icy walkways, winter can be tough on your body. And, it can be just as hard on your skin.

Dry, sometimes even itchy and flaky skin is a common condition for many when temperatures begin to drop. While the cooler outdoor temperatures may be one of the leading causes for dry skin, there are a handful of ways you can help keep your skin soft and well hydrated.

Stephanie Mehlis, MD, Dermatologist, provides the following tips for reducing dry skin:

  • Increase your home’s humidity. Using a humidifier will help add moisture to the air of your house.
  • Keep water cool when showering. While a hot shower can feel good, especially in the cold of winter, when water is too hot it can dry out your skin. You also shouldn’t plan to linger in the shower – keep it short.
  • Moisturize, moisturize and moisturize!  When your skin is dry, be sure to apply plenty of lotion. The best time to use a moisturizer is right after you get out of the shower when your skin is still a little damp. Depending on how dry your skin is, consider using a thicker cream or ointment to create a barrier between your skin and the air. Despite the fact that the cosmetic industry has not produced the ideal moisturizer, studies have shown that most moisturizers will work if used frequently.
  • Choose your soap carefully. Soaps tend to dry out skin as well.  Try to use a moisturizing soap or a soap for “sensitive skin,” and do not use a washcloth or sponge when washing – hands work the best.

What skin products do you swear by to heal dry skin?

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Sleep Disorders – When It’s More Than Just Snoring

Friday, February 15, 2013 9:00 AM comments (0)

Sleep-DisorderSnoring can impact more than just a restful night of sleep for you and a partner. Snoring is a condition that is caused by the narrowing of the airways and relaxation of muscles in the back of the throat. When chronic, it can reduce the amount of oxygen being supplied to the body, put unnecessary stress on the heart or cause you to stop breathing.

Snoring can be an indicator of other health conditions. For example, sleep apnea—a condition that nearly half of chronic snorers have—can often be linked to cardiac and pulmonary diseases.

Alfredo Gonzalez, MD, Cardiologist at NorthShore, identifies the following symptoms to help determine if you have a sleep disorder:

  • Trouble staying awake during the day (daytime somnolence). If you have a tendency to fall asleep while driving or while in a conversation, you should consider being screened for a sleep disorder. Having a hard time staying awake when doing less-strenuous activities (such as reading or watching a movie) may also be a signal.
  • Feeling tired or fatigued. Not feeling refreshed and re-energized after a night of sleep can be an indicator of a sleep condition, especially if you feel this way consistently.
  • Complaints by your partner that you snore either frequently or all the time at night. There is no way that you can know if you snore at night or not, so it can be helpful if another person tells you.
  • Leg movement in your sleep that disturbs the other party. This can consist of involuntary movement of your limbs—often  jerky—that may or may not wake you up.

How many hours of sleep on average do you get a night? Do you know if you snore?

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Seeing the Full Picture: Your Eyesight as You Age

Tuesday, February 12, 2013 11:31 AM comments (0)

Elderly-VisionA lot can change with our bodies over time, and it’s normal for our vision to be one of these changes as we get older. Some of the first signs of changing vision come in the form of needing reading glasses to view smaller print and requiring better, brighter lighting. Some people may also notice that they have trouble making out certain colors as well as trouble focusing on objects.

Some of the most common eye conditions to appear in elderly individuals include:

  • Cataracts—a cloudy area that covers part or all of the eye’s lens.
  • Glaucoma—damage to the optic nerve that can include an increase in pressure.
  • Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)—gradual loss of sharp vision.

There is a lot that can be done to prevent and manage common eye conditions. Joshua Herz, MD, Ophthalmologist, gives the following advice on what to look for to identify eye problems early:

  • Sudden change in your vision. This may include blind spots, blurriness and increased sensitivity to light.
  • Swelling and pain in and around the eye.
  • Flashing lights or floaters . Floaters appear as specks or spots in your line of vision. They are often normal, so if a change is noted it may be a sign of another issue. 
  • Loss of central or peripheral vision.
  • Wavy lines (resembling street dividing lines).

Many eye conditions and diseases do not have symptoms. For this reason, it’s important to see an eye care professional for a comprehensive dilated eye exam.

What do you do to keep your eyes healthy?

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Living a Heart-Healthy Life

Friday, February 08, 2013 8:31 AM comments (0)

 

Heart-Health-blogLet’s put the heart back into February. Aside from Valentine’s Day, this month is a great time to give some heartfelt attention to our cardiovascular systems. Small changes can be made to your day-to-day routine to help keep your heart in shape.

Hani Salti, MD, shares the following advice for ensuring a healthy heart:

  • Maintain a healthy weight and exercise often. Physical activity not only has great benefits on our cardiovascular system—improvements can often be seen within a few weeks of beginning a routine—but it also can reduce blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels. This in turn can help reduce your chances of developing heart disease.
  • Give up tobacco for good. Smoking takes a toll on your lungs, but it does the same for your body. Smokers have a much higher risk of developing coronary heart disease than those who don’t smoke.
  • Eat right and watch your portions. A smart, nutritious diet can greatly improve many body functions—and the heart is one of them. If you have a hard time watching your portions, try to eat slower. You may be surprised to learn you’re full before needing to reach for seconds.
  • Eliminate stress and focus on the positive. We live in a world where multi-tasking has become the new normal. Be sure to take time out of your busy day on a daily basis to unwind and relax.
  • Know your genes. If heart disease runs in your family, you may want to pay closer attention to ways to keep your heart healthy. You may also want to consult with your physician to see what other prevention and early detection measures you should employ to reduce your risk.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services through their Million Hearts™ Initiative identifies the “ABCS” of improving cardiovascular care: Aspirin for those at risk; Blood pressure control; Cholesterol management; and Smoking cessation.

How do you keep your heart healthy?

 

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Choosing Herbal Remedies to Ease Illness

Wednesday, February 06, 2013 8:10 AM comments (0)

Herbal-remediesNot all health conditions need to be treated with prescription or over-the-counter medications. In fact, in some cases, herbal remedies and supplements can help relieve symptoms and improve health.

While there is no “magic” supplement or “quick fix,” it is important to discuss any new treatment method (herbal or not) with your physician. This will ensure that no unwanted side effects or drug interactions will occur. To learn more about herbs and supplements, visit Consumerlab.com.

Leslie Mendoza Temple, MD, Director of NorthShore’s Integrative Medicine program, offers the following herbal alternatives:

  • Allergies – An alternative to allergy medications may include nettles or D-Hist. This remedy includes four ingredients—quercetin, stinging nettle leaf, bromelain and N-acetyl cysteine (NAC). You can either purchase these supplements separately or combined as D-Hist. Before combining these supplements with an existing treatment or medication, you should consult with your physician to confirm there won’t be any potential drug interactions.
  • Basic Health – A healthy diet is best for maintaining basic health. Many individuals can also benefit from taking Vitamin D, Omega-3  fatty acid and probiotic supplements.
  • Sleep – Having trouble sleeping? L-theanine, melatonin, 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) or SAM-e can all help aid sleep. It’s important to note that these herbs might not solve the problem immediately—sometimes it can take a few months before the full effects can be noticed.
  • Menopause—For many women, taking hormones or pain medication throughout menopause is not preferred. Black cohosh and eating organic whole food soy (edamame, tofu, miso, soy nuts) may help ease and improve symptoms.

Do you use herbal remedies to help relieve common health concerns? What works for you?

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A Recipe for a Healthy Heart

Friday, February 01, 2013 8:49 AM comments (0)

Healthy-HeartSo often when we are making meal choices, we don’t skip a beat to think about the health implications our decisions have on our body. Eating a well-balanced, nutritious diet is one way to stay healthy,  and being diligent about making smart choices day-after-day can also help you feel better (both physically and mentally). Along with these benefits, eating right can help reduce your risk of illness and disease.

February is Heart Awareness Month and a great time to focus on your cardiovascular health while still enjoying what you eat.

Kimberly Hammon, Registered Dietitian, gives some nutrition tips on eating right for your heart:

  • Maintain a healthy weight. Half the battle with staying healthy is to make sure that you maintain a consistent weight. This can be achieved through diet and exercise.
  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Green, leafy vegetables are usually high in vitamins and nutrients. Adding a handful of spinach, broccoli or kale to a salad or stir-fry can bump up the nutritional value of a meal.
  • Add omega-3 fatty acids to your diet. Foods that are high in omega-3s include many nuts (such as almonds and walnuts) and salmon.
  • Become aware of what you are eating. Start by writing down everything that goes into your mouth.  We don’t always realize what we are putting into our bodies.  A lot of times we are eating more fat and sugar than we realize.
  • Change your cooking methods.  Bake, grill or broil your meals instead of frying.  Use non-stick sprays instead of oil.
  • Make small changes. These changes can include switching to mustard instead of mayonnaise on your sandwich or changing to low-fat salad dressing instead of regular.  Enjoy sandwich thins as a healthier bread substitute; they are high in fiber, and lower in calories and carbohydrates.

Kimberly shares one of her favorite, healthy recipes to get you on track for a healthy heart.

Easy Chicken Pot Pie:
6 servings
Cook time: 45 minutes
Ingredients:
1 2/3 cups   frozen mixed vegetables (thawed)
1 cup     cooked chicken (cut-up)
1 can     low-fat cream of chicken soup (10 ¾  oz )
1 cup     reduced-fat baking mix
½ cup    low-fat or skim milk
1          egg

Instructions:

  1. Wash hands and any cooking surfaces.
  2. Pre-heat oven to 400° F.  
  3. Mix vegetables, chicken and soup in ungreased, 9-inch pie plate.
  4. Stir remaining ingredients in a mixing bowl with fork until blended.  Pour over vegetables and chicken in pie plate.
  5. Bake 30 minutes or until golden brown. 
  6. Let cool for 5 minutes and serve.

1/6 of Pie:  180 calories, 3 grams of fat, 13 grams of protein, 420 mg sodium. 
Source:  Texas Cooperative Extension

What is your favorite healthy recipe? 

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Pain Management – Methods to Help Reduce Pain

Tuesday, January 29, 2013 11:35 AM comments (0)

Reduce-PainDo you know the feeling of having pain and not being able to do much of anything to reduce or minimize it? Managing chronic pain can be difficult and frustrating, especially when over-the-counter medication just doesn’t seem to relieve symptoms.

James Grober, MD, Rheumatologist, suggests some methods for helping to reduce pain:

  • Exercise – Make an effort to get active and move around more. The endorphins your body produces during a workout can act as pain relievers.   Stretching properly can eliminate muscle and tendon tightness as causes of pain.  In addition, exercise may help reduce your risk of chronic conditions, such as heart disease, high blood pressure and more.
  • Healthy Diet – Eat healthy and choose smart food options. Healthy eating, especially a low-fat diet, encourages improved digestion, circulation and weight control.
  • Sleep – Get a good night’s rest. This can help restore your energy and body functions. Try to get at least seven hours of sleep each night.
  • Relaxation –Reduce the stress in your life and take time to relax (whether through meditation or scheduling time to unwind). We all get stressed out and lives get hectic, but tension, soreness and tightness may be reduced through relaxation techniques.
  • Alternative medicine – Look into trying additional therapy options, such as massage and acupuncture.

Chronic pain often cannot be cured, but when managed properly its effects on your body and lifestyle can be minimized. As with any change in your routine, please consult with your physician if pain worsens or persists.

What pain management techniques work best for you?

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End of Life Decisions – Having a Plan is Key

Thursday, January 24, 2013 4:19 PM comments (0)

End-of_life_decisionsIt’s not a topic we like to think or talk about, but whether we plan for it or not, each of us will reach the end of our lives at some point. “I wish we knew” is a phrase that medical professionals hear all too often when loved ones are in the difficult position of making medical care decisions for someone who is unable to speak for himself or herself.

Rev. Nancy Waite, Chaplain, Director of the Spiritual Care and Music Therapy Department, provides the following tips on how to start thinking about and planning your end of life wishes and preferences:

  • Make your plan before you become ill. The best time to reflect on, discuss and plan for a time when you cannot make your own medical decisions is when you are healthy.
  • Talk with your family or loved ones about your wishes. Communication is the most important aspect to consider with regard to end-of-life-care planning. Schedule some time with your loved ones to talk about your desired plans.
  • Include your physician in your conversation.
  • Put your wishes in writing by completing either the POA document or the Living Will document.
  • Make copies of your completed Advance Directive, and give copies to your loved ones or tell them where your Advance Directive document is located.  If you complete the POA form, then it will be very important to give a copy of that document to your appointed agent.
  • Give your physician a copy of your Advance Directive and ask her/him to place it in your medical record.
  • Remember that Advance Care Planning is a process and that it usually is ongoing.  You may decide to change your end-of-life-care plan at some point.  If you do, then it is important to complete the POA document or the Living Will document again, and to destroy any previous Advance Directive documents.  It is also important to give your physician a copy of the new document, and request that he or she place it in your medical record and remove the old document.
  • If you complete a POA, it is vitally important to maintain ongoing communication with your healthcare “agent” so that he or she can participate fully as your advocate in the event that you are no longer able to communicate your preferences. (The POA goes into effect only when you become unable to communicate your preferences or speak on your own behalf.)

Do you have an Advance Directive?

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Advance Care Planning is the process of reflecting on, discussing  and planning for a time when, due to illness or injury, you cannot make your own medical decisions. This process is vitally important for the purpose of assisting your loved ones and your physician to provide you the best care when you cannot make your own decisions. Through this process you can create a plan. This plan is called an Advance Directive.  There are two main types of Advance Directives: the Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, and the Living Will.  Both are legal documents.

  • Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, also referred to as a “POA”:  A document that allows you to appoint another person, referred to as your healthcare  “agent” or “proxy,” to make medical decisions for you in the event that you are not able to make your own decisions and speak on your own behalf.  The POA also provides you with the opportunity to provide written instructions.  For most adults, the best way to document your plan is to use a POA form.
  • Living Will: A document which informs your physician, if you are near death from an incurable or irreversible illness or injury, that you wish to be allowed to die rather than be kept alive by life-prolonging measures that may postpone death but will not restore health.  There is no “agent” in a Living Will. If you have also completed a POA, then the POA will override your Living Will.
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Antibiotics: When You Need Them, When You Don’t

Tuesday, January 22, 2013 8:21 AM comments (0)

AntibioticsSome of the most common illnesses that send us to the doctor’s office can be easily treated with medications; however, there isn’t an easy, one-stop solution for every sniffle, cough or infection.

While antibiotics are one of the most frequently prescribed medications for a variety of conditions, they are not a cure-all for everything. In fact, for many common illnesses caused by viruses (flu, colds and sore throats), antibiotics are not recommended. So when do you know if an antibiotic will help relieve symptoms?

Dirk Killelea, Manager of the NorthShore Evanston Hospital Pharmacy, offers his insight on antibiotics, including when you should take them and when you shouldn’t:

  • Antibiotics are most effective in the treatment of illnesses caused by bacteria, which can include sinus infections and strep throat. They should not be prescribed or taken for viral infections such as the common cold, as this can lead to the build-up of a tolerance, also called resistance, within some forms of bacteria and will not improve symptoms.  This resistance makes it harder to treat bacterial infections later.
  • Follow prescription instructions. Make sure you take the antibiotic the prescribed number of times per day. It is also very important to take an antibiotic for the duration of the prescription time, even if you are feeling better. Stopping treatment too soon may not allow sufficient time to get the bacteria out of your system.   Additionally, not finishing the full course of an antibiotic prescription can lead to increased resistance among bacteria. If you are told by your physician to stop an antibiotic before it has finished, however, always dispose of them properly.
  • Don’t share medications. Even if you’re certain you have a sinus infection and someone in your family had a similar infection recently, don’t use their antibiotics. What you are experiencing may not be the same infection, or even an infection that requires treatment.  This can cause more problems related to bacterial resistance.
  • Ask Questions.  Let your pharmacist or physician know any concerns or questions you have before taking antibiotics.  If you have read information from an online source about an antibiotic, verify any questions with a healthcare professional. Make sure to tell him or her what over-the-counter medications you use as well as any new prescriptions that you may have started recently.
  • Do your part.  If you are feeling sick and are prescribed antibiotics, make sure to get plenty of rest, keep drinking fluids and eat a balanced diet. Antibiotics can only do so much, it’s up to you to keep yourself rested and help the medicine do its job.

How frequently do you take antibiotics?

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