Mind Games: Your Brain Needs a Good Workout, Too

Friday, November 22, 2013 1:08 PM comments (0)

mind exercisesEveryone knows your body needs exercise to stay in peak shape. But did you know your brain does too? Physical exercise is essential to the health of both your body and brain, but you can do even more to keep your brain in shape. Challenging your brain with cognitive exercises is another great way to keep your mind sharp.

Chad Yucus, MD, Neurology at NorthShore, answers questions and shares some ways to give your brain the workout it needs to stay sharp at any age:

Do brain teasers and puzzles actually help to keep your mind sharp? Are certain types of puzzles and activities better than others?
There are many types of cognitive activities that help to keep the brain sharp, involving word games and number games, such as crossword puzzles, Sudoku, computer games and board/card games.  There is no strategy that is particularly better than another, but learning a new hobby, game and/or language is a good way to keep the brain sharp.

Why would a new hobby be helpful?
Learning a new skill or starting a new hobby that requires skills you don’t typically use can be helpful because it challenges you to keep learning and function in a way that is not familiar. It’s a great way to stay mentally active whatever your age.

Who benefits from cognitive exercises and activities?
Everyone. 

How do you keep your brain healthy to prevent memory loss?
There is no strategy to truly prevent memory loss, but there are strategies to delay the effects of any pathology (changes caused by disease) that may be developing in the brain.  This is based upon building a cognitive reserve before any problems begin to develop. These strategies include the cognitive exercises above, physical exercise, social activities—spending time with friends, planning events—regular sleep patterns and a low-cholesterol Mediterranean diet.  

How much time should you devote each day to cognitive exercise?
Think of it in terms of regular physical exercise. Your brain and the rest of your body need about the same each day, approximately 30-60 minutes of cognitive and physical exercise every day is a good place to start.

How do you exercise your brain?

The Harmful Effects of Smoking and the Health Benefits of Quitting [Infographic]

Thursday, November 21, 2013 9:51 AM comments (0)

Smoking is more than just a bad habit; it’s the leading cause of preventative death worldwide. Each year, close to 400,000 people in the U.S. will die from smoking-related diseases like lung cancer, heart disease and stroke. 

As part of National Lung Cancer Awareness Month and the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout, NorthShore University HealthSystem has created an infographic that explores the harmful effects of smoking and the big health benefits of quitting. Make today the day you break a deadly habit and begin to look forward to many healthier years ahead. 

Click on the image below to be directed to the full infographic

smoking infographic

Childhood Epilepsy: What to Do in the Event of a Seizure and How to Prevent Injury

Friday, November 15, 2013 12:49 PM comments (0)

epilepsy smallCurrently about 325,000 American children under the age of 15 have epilepsy, with 200,000 new cases being diagnosed each year, according to the Epilepsy Foundation of America.  Epilepsy is a disorder involving repeated seizures, or episodes of disturbed brain function associated with changes in attention and/or behavior. Although some children will outgrow the disorder or can have it easily managed through medication, others may be more severely impacted throughout their lives.

Kent Kelley, MD, Pediatric Neurology, tells parents, caregivers and teachers what they should know in the event of a seizure as well as some steps they can take to prevent harm from seizures before they happen:

  • Always make sure your child is carrying or wearing some form of medical identification, if appropriate. Teachers and caregivers should be made aware of your child’s disorder and how to act should a seizure occur.
  • Monitor your child’s surroundings for potential hazards. Avoid nearby objects that could cause harm if your child were to have a seizure, such as a hot stove or lawn mower.
  • Even if your child has not experienced a seizure for some time, don’t adjust the dosage of medication without the advice and supervision of your child’s physician. In addition, before giving your child any other medication, check to make sure there will not be a negative reaction with his or her seizure medication. If you have questions, call your physician or pharmacist.
  • In the event of a seizure:
  1. Make sure that clothing isn’t restricting the neck and causing difficulty breathing.
  2. Do not try to hold the child down or restrain him or her.
  3. Remove any objects that could cause harm from around the child.
  4. After the seizure has subsided, position the child on his or her side to help keep the airway clear.
  5. Call 911 if the seizure lasts for longer than five minutes, the child cannot be awakened, or if another seizure begins shortly following the first. Depending on the type of seizure, different actions may need to be taken.

 

Drug Facts: Molly, or MDMA

Wednesday, November 13, 2013 2:12 PM comments (0)

drugsMolly, a supposedly pure form of the drug MDMA, is seeing a spike in use among young people. Users of Molly see it as a safe, inexpensive drug with few long-term negative side effects, like addiction. Many celebrities, including most recently Miley Cyrus, have quite literally been singing its praises.

But Molly, known previously in the 1980s and ‘90s as Ecstasy, is an illegal drug and it comes with many risks. A mind-altering drug that is a stimulant and hallucinogenic, it boosts both serotonin and dopamine levels in the body. Users of the drug report feelings of happiness, euphoria, empathy, decreased anxiety and fear, as well as enhanced sensory perception, which makes it a popular dance club drug.

Jerrold Leikin, MD, Medical Toxicology and Emergency Medicine at NorthShore, dispels some of the myths surrounding Molly:

  • Myth: It is safer than other drugs.
    Truth: A stimulant, like speed or amphetamines, it comes with many of the same dangers. It can increase your heart rate and blood pressure. It can cause tremors, cramps, nausea, chills, blurred vision and dehydration, especially if combined with hours of dancing. High doses of the drug in the bloodstream can increase one’s risk of seizure and heartbeat irregularity.  There have been cases of brain bleeding requiring surgery after use of Molly.  It has also been known to cause hyperthermia, or a rapid increase in the body’s temperature, which can cause life-threatening heat stroke. 
  • Myth: There are no after effects or long-term negative side effects.
    Truth: As the drug wears off and serotonin levels drop rapidly, users report a depression that can last for several days and range from mild to severe. And while prolonged use eventually begins to diminish users' highs, which means a relatively low risk of physical addiction, it also means that many users take larger doses to achieve a high, increasing the risk of overdose. Over time, repeated use may cause memory loss. Bleeding from the brain can be deadly, and brain surgery to prevent death carries many potential risks and complications that may result in permanent damage and neurologic dysfunction.
  • Myth: Unlike Ecstasy, Molly is pure.
    Truth: Molly is short for “molecule” and as such, it is a myth that all Molly is Ecstacy and is pure.  Those involved in the drug trade make different molecules from MDMA and call them “Molly” to evade governmental regulation and law enforcement.  Other chemicals are sold under the name “Molly” as well.  This results in a mixture of different molecules with unknown short-term and long-term effects that have not been fully studied by scientists. Additionally, it could be cut with potentially hazardous chemicals or it could be a completely different drug altogether.  There is no way for the user to know what is actually in that powder or pill.

How do you talk to your kids about drugs?

Beating the Odds: Diana Pacholski Five Years After Being Diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer

Thursday, November 07, 2013 7:08 PM comments (0)

cancerApproximately 45,000 people in the United States will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer each year, and over 38,000 will die from it.

Diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at age 53, Diana Pacholski was shocked to discover there is only a six-percent chance of survival of five years for pancreatic cancer patients. Now 58, Diana and Mark Talamonti, MD, Surgeon at NorthShore, discuss pancreatic cancer and how she beat the odds in this NorthShore University HealthSystem patient story.

Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer death. November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month, so this month help us spread the word about the disease and importance of continued research. 

Take Charge of Your Own Diabetes Care

Wednesday, November 06, 2013 4:53 PM comments (0)

diabetes careThere is no cure for type 2 diabetes but it can be controlled. Controlling type 2 diabetes can become a seamless part of your daily life, from eating a healthy, well-balanced diet to making time for regular exercise.  Lifestyle changes like these are important to prevent diabetic health issues, but it is equally important to stay on top of appointments and health checks with your physician. It doesn’t take long for high blood sugar to damage your body, so regular testing and checkups to catch problems as early as possible are vital. 

Mary Bennett, RD, LD, CDE, Diabetes Education Outpatient Manager at NorthShore, shares a checklist of important diabetic tests and when they need to be done to help you take control of your own type 2 diabetes care:

  • A1c test. Lowering A1c reduces diabetes complications.
    How often: Every 3-6 months.
  • Blood pressure. Lowering your blood pressure reduces your risk of stroke, kidney and eye problems.
    How often: Every visit.
  • Cholesterol (LDL) levels. Lowering your LDL level reduces your risk of heart disease and heart attacks.
    How often: Every year.
  • Depression screen. A diabetes diagnosis can be difficult. This test monitors your emotional health and allows you the opportunity to discuss the effect that diabetes may have on your lifestyle.
    How often: Every year.
  • Diabetes kidney function test. Catching and treating early kidney damage may prevent the need for dialysis.
    How often: Every year.
  • Eye exam. Diabetic retinopathy is the most common diabetic eye disease. It can cause loss of vision and blindness. Early detection is very important.
    How often: Every year. 
  • Foot exam. Diabetes can cause neuropathy, or nerve damage. This nerve damage can lessen your ability to feel pain in your feet and extremities, which means injuries might go unnoticed and worsen over time. Check your feet daily. More comprehensive checks should be done by your doctor as well. He/she will observe your feet, check pulses and test sensation using a monofilament.
    How often: Every year. 
  • Immunizations. Some illness like the flu, pneumonia and tetanus can be very serious for people with diabetes. It is important to stay up-to-date on vaccines to prevent complications.
    How often: Every year. 

Join us November 14th at 10 a.m. for an online medical chat "Living with Diabetes: The Importance of Foot Health" with Harry Papagianis, D.P.M., NorthShore-affiliated Podiatrist. Submit your questions here. 

Fall into Wellness with Health and Fitness Tips Suited to the Season [Infographic]

Wednesday, October 30, 2013 12:49 PM comments (0)

Cooler temperatures are no excuse to let your health and wellness fall by the wayside. In fact, fall is the perfect time to take advantage of some of the highlights of the season, from incorporating seasonal fruits and vegetables into your diet to kicking your fitness routine up a notch with fall-friendly activities. 

NorthShore University HealthSystem has created an infographic filled with fall health tips and creative fall fitness suggestions. Click on the image to see our full Fall into Wellness infographic

Breaking the News: How Katie Clarke Told Her Children About Her Breast Cancer Diagnosis

Tuesday, October 29, 2013 12:20 PM comments (0)

Katie Clarke was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011. She underwent a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction at NorthShore Glenbrook Hospital, followed by four months of chemotherapy and a year-long course of Herceptin treatments at Evanston Hospital. 

Before her own diagnosis, and in memory of her best friend who lost her own life to the disease in 2006, Katie and her family would make a point of cheering on the participants of the three-day breast cancer walk in Chicago armed with motivational signs and licorice. This, and her own breast cancer journey, would later inspire Katie and her sister to found The Licorice Project, an organization devoted to spreading joy during a difficult time and bringing together breast cancer patients, survivors, families and friends. 

In part two of her NorthShore patient story, Katie shares one of the most difficult but important moments following her breast cancer diagnosis:

Katie ClarkeI’m often asked, “How and when did you tell your kids you had breast cancer?” My husband and I agreed that we wanted to be open and truthful about everything as soon as my diagnosis was confirmed. We turned to my breast surgeon, Dr. Winchester at NorthShore University HealthSystem, for advice on what to say to our three middle school-aged boys. We planned a family meeting and decided that I would do the talking.

I began the conversation by telling them that I’d found a lump in my chest, to which my youngest shouted, “You’re pregnant!?” When I said, “No,” he answered, “Phew!” I told them that the lump was in my breast and they wanted to know immediately if it was cancer. When I said that it was, they all began to cry. It broke my heart to see them so sad and frightened. Holding their hands, I assured them that the doctors were very encouraged and had given me a good prognosis since the lump was very small and I had caught it early. I explained to them that there would be many steps, tests and procedures. I explained that it would take time and patience but that when I finished the therapy, I would be okay. Of course, many questions followed:

“Are you going to die?”
“Will you lose your hair?”
“Will you get a wig?”
“Who knows about this already?”
“Can we tell people?”
“What should we say?”
“Does this mean we can get breast cancer?”
“Are people going to bring us dinners?”

My husband and I answered the questions as best as we could, which, of course, led to even more questions. Since school was about to end for summer vacation, we assured the boys that all their summer plans would stay intact. We wanted to keep their lives as “normal” as possible. The family meeting concluded with lots of hugs and kisses.

Telling our children that I had cancer was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do; however, it was also one of my proudest moments because of the strength and composure that I maintained during such a difficult conversation. There’s no right or wrong way to explain a cancer diagnosis to children. Each family will deal with it in their own unique way and to the best of their ability.

 

Flu Season: Protecting Your Family from the Bug

Thursday, October 24, 2013 9:00 AM comments (0)

flu seasonEvery flu season is different but there’s one thing you can count on: there will be one.  Flu season in the U.S. can begin as early as October and continue into late May. Perhaps you’ve already noticed an uptick in coughing and sneezing on the train, in the office or at school, but it’s not too late to take action and keep your family happy and healthy throughout flu season. 

Curtis Mann, MD, Family Medicine at NorthShore, shares some top tips for keeping the flu from catching up with you and the rest of your family this season:

  • Vaccinate! The annual flu vaccine is the best way to protect against and prevent the spread of  the flu. Everyone over the age of six months can and should be vaccinated against the flu each year, especially children under five and people over 65 because they are at high risk for serious flu-related complications.
  • Wash your hands. You, but especially your hands, come into contact with millions of germs and bacteria every single day. You can pick them up from surfaces, computer keyboards and the shake of a hand. Regular handwashing is one of the very best ways to avoid spreading illness and getting sick. Washing your hands frequently throughout the day can’t get rid of everything but it prevents the build-up of germs. It only takes a little water, some soap and the ABCs—don’t stop washing until you get to Z.
  • Remember your devices. One of the best ways to prevent the spread of germs, especially during flu season, is to keep surfaces clean. Countertops and door handles are obvious hotspots but when was the last time you disinfected your phone or tablet? Phones and tablets go everywhere you go, but unlike hands, they aren’t washed after every trip to the bathroom and then they spend the majority of their time near your hands, nose and mouth. Studies show that phones and tablets are likely to carry many of the same contaminants in the same numbers as the door handle of a bathroom.  Wipe down the screens and bodies of your gadgets regularly with a non-alcohol based cleaner. 
  • Be healthy to stay healthy. The key to avoiding illness is stay healthy on a day-to-day basis. Make sure you are getting adequate sleep, stay active with exercise, make sure you are managing your stress levels and eat a healthy, well-balanced diet whenever possible. 
  • See your doctor. If you think you were exposed to someone with the flu, anti-viral drugs, which are 70-90% effective, can help prevent you from developing the flu. 
  • And a friendly reminder. You can't get the flu from the flu shot or nasal spray, so vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate!

Do you make sure to get the flu vaccine every year? 

Finding the Strength to Smile: Krissy Posey's Breast Cancer Diagnosis at Twenty-Eight

Tuesday, October 22, 2013 9:00 AM comments (0)

When Krissy Posey was diagnosed with breast cancer at only 28, the first words out of her mouth were, “Okay. Just tell me what I need to do next.” Her next steps were to get a second and third opinion before returning to NorthShore for treatment, choosing the expertise of Katharine Yao, MD, and the team of caregivers at NorthShore Kellogg Cancer Center for a bilateral mastectomy and chemotherapy, followed by reconstruction. 

In her NorthShore patient story, Krissy recounts the difficult and surprising moments of her battle with breast cancer, but also how and why she found the strength to smile: 

How did your journey to diagnosis begin?
I hadn’t started mammograms since I was only in my twenties. I don’t really have a family history of breast cancer other than a great-aunt who has been battling the disease for over 10 years.

I came home from work one day and, as I was stepping out of my work clothes, I felt an itch in my right breast. When I went to scratch it, I felt a small mass. I was on the phone with my sister at the time and told her I felt a lump in my breast and she encouraged me to get it checked out.

What went through your head when you learned that you had breast cancer at only 28?
I was at work when I received the call from my doctor, Catherine Dillon. She asked me if I wanted to come into the office for the results. I told her to just lay it on me. After she told me that she didn’t have good news, that the test came back indicating cancer, my response was, “Okay. Just tell me what I need to do next.” 

Dr. Dillon said the doctors wanted to see me right away. In a matter of two hours, I was told that I had cancer, made my way to the hospital and was sitting in a room with Dr. Yao discussing my diagnosis and next steps. I remained calm and at peace during this time. Yes, it was all happening so fast but after I got off the phone with Dr. Dillon, I prayed and then called my family to tell them the news. 

What stood out about your care at NorthShore?
After receiving a second and even third opinion at other healthcare facilities, I came back to Northshore for treatment. My team of doctors included: Catherine Dillon, MD, Obstetrics/Gynecology; Katharine Yao, MD, General Surgery; Teresa Law, MD, Medical Oncology; Mark Sisco, MD, Plastic Reconstruction Surgery and, of course, all of their fabulous nurses.

My team of doctors and nurses are simply the best in the business. I wasn’t just a patient to them; I was a person. They showed care and concern, and made what could have been a very traumatic time in my life a lot easier to get through. I never second guessed the treatment I received. I trusted the doctors and their recommendations. 

What was the most difficult part of treatment?
The doses of Adriamycin Cytoxan (chemotherapy drug). The nurses call it the “Red Devil,” and now I know why. The medicine is red and really takes a toll on your body. After a while, I couldn’t even eat or drink anything red without getting nauseated. 

What surprised you most about the experience?
This may sound bad but I was surprised that I didn’t “look” as sick as I thought I would during such an extensive treatment plan. It was important to me to look as “normal” as I could and not show many signs of weakness for two reasons: 1) That’s how I chose not to let the disease get the best of me and 2) I wanted to remain strong for my family. I knew if they saw me in a certain condition that it would really worry them.

What advice would you give other women currently undergoing treatment?
Try to be positive, see what good can come out of this situation and smile. I know you are going through a lot but if others see you can smile through all of this, it not only gives them hope but it also does something good for you too.

 

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