Yoga – More Than Just Stretching and Flexibility

Wednesday, October 17, 2012 4:57 PM comments (0)

Do Downward-Facing Dog, Plank, Warrior I and Child’s Pose sound familiar? While you’ve probably heard of at least one of these popular yoga poses, maybe you’ve even done a few of them yourself.

Yoga—originating in India—is a practice that has been around for centuries. Yoga is a vast body of knowledge which includes physical exercise done through the practice of yoga poses, breathing exercises to calm the nervous system, meditation practices to focus the mind, dietary practices to detoxify the body, herbal oil massages to nourish the skin, philosophy for living a peaceful life and the Science of Ayurveda (The Indian Medical System which includes Ayurvedic Acupuncture, Ayurvedic Herbs and Ayurvedic Massage Therapies). Yoga is an entire system of self-care and self-realization which was one of the first paradigms of Energy Medicine known to man.

Hatha Yoga is a type of exercise, that when done correctly, can be good for people of all ages and physical abilities. Polly Liontis, Yoga Instructor (Certified by the Himalayan Institute and a Licensed Massage Therapist/LMT), identifies some of the health benefits of practicing yoga:

  • Helps balance the nervous system. Something which distinguishes yoga from any other form of physical exercise is that the movement is always coordinated with the breath. Moving the body through yoga poses while practicing deep diaphragmatic breathing allows the body to oxygenate the blood and muscles and keeps the mind focused on the coordination of the movement with the breath. This calms the mind and moves the body out of the stress response.
  • Builds strength and increases flexibility. Many yoga poses require you to bear your own body weight in different positions for various periods of time which builds bone and muscle strength. Also, many poses focus on developing and using core muscle groups and enhancing your range of motion. These poses increase both strength and flexibility within and around the spine and improve your posture.
  • Alleviates stress and relaxes the body.  An entire branch of yoga is dedicated to breathing exercises, many of which engage the parasympathetic nervous system and naturally slow the heart rate, lower the blood pressure and bring the entire nervous system to a deep state of relaxation by inducing a profound relaxation response in the body. This enables us to take the body out of the “fight or flight” response.
  • Calms the mind. Meditation is another branch of yoga that teaches many different ways to focus the mind, calm the breath and systematically relax the body. This induces a deep state of relaxation and takes the body out of the “stress response.”
  • Improves the quality of your sleep. The regular practice of yoga has also been shown to help you sleep better and reduce insomnia by calming the nervous system.


Have you ever practiced yoga? What are some of your favorite poses?

Oral Health – Important for Your Whole Body

Monday, October 15, 2012 2:16 PM comments (0)

Brush your teeth after every meal. Floss regularly. Avoid drinking too many sugary beverages. There are plenty of things that we can do to help promote oral health. Yet for many of us, we brush our teeth without realizing how important a clean mouth is to our overall health. In fact, your mouth can provide the firsthand view on nutrition and infections, both of which can affect the rest of your body.

Once our baby teeth fall out, we only get one set of teeth. With the proper prevention and care, most oral conditions and diseases can be avoided or greatly reduced. Mira Diora, DDS, and Jennifer Moy, Dental Hygienist, give the following tips to keep your mouth healthy and clean:

  • Brush your teeth after every meal, or at least twice a day, with a fluoride, FDA-approved toothpaste.
  • Floss your teeth every day. By just brushing your teeth, you can’t always remove food between your teeth.
  • Use a mouthwash after brushing and flossing, if desired.
  • Go to the dentist! It is recommended to go to the dentist two times a year. This will help with early detection of any potential problems.
  • Wait 30 minutes after drinking acidic beverages (i.e., soda) before brushing your teeth to prevent enamel wear down.
  • Limit sipping on acidic beverages throughout the day.  Try to drink acidic beverages only during mealtimes.

How many times a day do you brush your teeth? Do you floss every day?

After the Finish Line: Recovering from a Race

Monday, October 08, 2012 10:01 AM comments (0)

The months of training have come to a close and you’ve crossed the finish line. Now what?

Carrie Jaworksi, MD, Director of Primary Care Sports Medicine and a physician at NorthShore, offers her insight on what to expect after the race and how to recover adequately to ensure that you are ready to race again another day:

Immediately After the Race : Once you cross that finish line there are a handful of things that you'll need to do to help your body recover. Eat something! It’s important to replenish the energy stores you depleted during the race. Initially, it’s best to start with a sports drink and food that is easy to digest. If you can’t tolerate sports drinks, then take  bananas, yogurt and pretzels to the finish line instead. Gradually work up to a high-carbohydrate post-race dinner to further assist you in replenishing your energy stores.

Taking a cold bath and icing your muscles is recommended to help prevent muscle soreness but don’t do that immediately. It is more important to keep moving in that first 30 to 60 minutes. You'll be tired but try to resist the urge to sit; instead, take a long walk back to your hotel or car. Your body will thank you for it later.

The Next Day: You ran for a long time and chances are you are you'll wake up sore the next day. To help ease your muscle pain, plan ahead and schedule a massage for the days following the race. It will certainly help to alleviate your soreness and speed your recovery. Plan on being sore for a few days. Take it easy while you are recovering.

Post-Event Emotions: You may feel down after the race. Think about it: You’ve been training for this event, both physically and mentally for months, and now it’s over. The early recovery period will likely be the most difficult transition because you won’t be running and will have more time to reflect on your experience. There are several ways you can combat this: 1) Plan to meet up with your running friends the Saturday after the race to discusses personal experiences with the race. 2) Combit to a new goal whether it's another race or even just to keep up with a regular running routine once you recover. 3) Splurge on a treat for yourself, from a new pair of running shoes to that racing watch you’ve been eyeing. Whatever you do, enjoy your downtime and get some much-needed rest.  

Preparing for the Next Race: How long should you rest before training for the next race? While your break time depends on your own level of experience with distance running, it’s recommended that you give your body at least one day off per mile before running your next distance race. This means the earliest you should race again after a marathon is almost a month. Everyone should plan on a reverse taper over the first three to four weeks post-marathon. The first week post-marathon should be mainly rest for three days, with some gentle jogging and cross training to round out the end of the week. By the weekend, most of your muscle soreness should be gone, so a longer distance may be reasonable. Remember to go slow and keep it to an hour at most. 

After the first week post-marathon, you can begin to build more mileage based on your level of experience. Be sure to keep some cross-training days on your schedule to keep your body strong and injury-free. Any persisting soreness or undue fatigue may be your body’s way of telling you it needs more time to recover. Be sure to listen to your body and adjust your training, or see your physician as needed.

How did you feel after the race? What tips would offer to others?

Breast Cancer – Not Just a Women’s Disease

Wednesday, October 03, 2012 12:58 PM comments (0)

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and one fact many of us may not be aware of is that breast cancer can affect both women and men. Men, just like women, have breast tissue, thus making it possible to also develop breast cancer. Breast cancer is not very common in men, and most men who are diagnosed with it do not develop it until they are older (50 to 60 years of age). However, younger men can also develop breast cancer, making it very important to identify signs and symptoms. The incidence of breast cancer in men is very low. Yet, a strong family history of breast cancer, particularly in younger family members, increases the risk of breast cancer in men. In patients with a BRCA genetic mutation, the age of diagnosis is younger. If present, the lifetime risk of developing breast cancer in a man is approximately 6%.

David J. Winchester, MD, Breast Surgeon at NorthShore, identifies what men should look for to determine breast cancer:

  • A painless lump in the breast. This can be identified on a self breast exam.
  • Discharge from the nipple (may include bleeding).
  • Breast asymmetry.
  • Nipple retraction or deformity.

Breast cancer is often diagnosed at later stages in men. If you notice any of the signs listed above, plan to reach out to your physician for evaluation.

Are you surprised that breast cancer affects men? What other information would you want to learn about on the topic?

Alzheimer’s Disease – Knowing Your Risk

Friday, September 21, 2012 8:39 AM comments (0)

Alzheimer's DiseaseIt’s one thing for an elderly relative, friend or loved one to be forgetful from time to time, but if you begin to notice changes in memory, thinking and problem solving you may want to consider getting him or her screened for Alzheimer’s disease. While the progression of this condition may vary from person to person, there are tell-tale signs to help determine diagnosis.

Felise Zollman, MD, Neurologist with NorthShore, recommends looking for the following warning signs for those who may be suffering from Alzheimer’s disease (AD):

  • Forgetting important dates, such as family members’ birthdays and anniversaries
  • Repetitively asking the same questions during conversation
  • Getting lost or disoriented in familiar surroundings
  • Frequently forgetting common words
  • Having trouble managing your finances and/or checkbook when it never used to be a problem 

While it can be normal to have any of these problems occur once in a while, they become concerning if they begin to affect the person’s daily life. 

Along with warning signs, Dr. Zollman also outlines some of the most common risk factors for developing this condition, including:

  • Age and sex: Alzheimer’s is most common in those who are 65 years of age or older, and more frequently affects women.
  • Family history:  Those with a first-degree relative (parent or sibling) with Alzheimer’s disease have a modest increased risk of developing the condition themselves.
  • Genetics:  Inheriting certain genes, like the APO-e4 , can increase the chance that a person will develop AD—but having the gene does not make development of the condition inevitable.   More rarely, and usually associated with early onset of AD, there are inherited genes which do run in families and directly cause the condition.

Do you know someone with Alzheimer’s disease? What recommendations would you have to others who are just finding out someone they know has this disease?

Prostate Cancer – Identifying your Risk and Getting Screened

Tuesday, September 18, 2012 8:58 AM comments (0)

Prostate HealthProstate cancer is one of the common cancers found in men (especially in those over 65). Although diagnosis of any type of cancer can be scary and lead to feelings of uncertainty, in most cases, prostate cancer is slow growing and can be easily managed and treated when identified at its early stages.

Michael McGuire, MD, Urologist at NorthShore, offers the following tips to men about determining their risk and identifying prostate cancer:

  • Know your family history. It is recommended that men starting at age 50 get screened for prostate cancer. If you have a family history of prostate cancer (especially from either your father or brother), earlier screening may be recommended.
  • Be aware of changes to your urinary system and sexual health. If you notice changes in your urination or erections, or find blood in your urine or semen, it is recommended to see a physician. It is important to note that these symptoms may be caused by another condition.
  • Maintain healthy living standards.  Eating a nutritious, balanced diet and staying active can help promote recovery and quality of life if you are diagnosed with prostate cancer.

While there are mixed reviews about when you should receive the Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) test, it is important to talk to your physician about any of your health concerns during your annual visit.

Do you know if your family medical history includes prostate cancer?

Ovarian Cancer – Simple Screening that Could Save your Life

Wednesday, September 12, 2012 12:48 PM comments (0)

Ovarian-CancerSeptember is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month and an important time to recognize that this disease is the 5th leading cause of cancer deaths in American women.  The cause of ovarian cancer is poorly understood, and in addition, ovarian cancer can be much more difficult to detect than other types of cancer.

Symptoms of ovarian cancer may be vague and may mimic other common women’s health conditions.  Women and health professionals may attribute symptoms to menopause, aging, stress, changes in diet or depression.  This may result in a delay in the diagnosis of ovarian cancer.  The most common symptoms include:

  • Bloating or increased abdominal size
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Urinary symptoms
  • Difficulty eating or feeling full

Carolyn Kirschner, MD, Gynecological Oncologist at NorthShore, identifies some strategies available for women:

  1. In general, symptoms that last longer than a month, or become more frequent or severe than before, should be investigated.  This may be as simple as a pelvic exam in your doctor’s office, a pelvic ultrasound or more extensive testing.
  2. Become familiar with your family history.  The most important risk factor for ovarian cancer is a family history of breast or ovarian cancer.  A family history of ovarian cancer in a mother, sister or daughter triples your risk.  A personal or family history of breast cancer prior to age 50 or of bilateral (both breasts involved) breast cancer may indicate increased risk.  NorthShore’s Center for Medical Genetics can access your family cancer history and provide recommendations based on your personal risk.
  3. Currently, the only group of women for whom routine screening, in the absence of symptoms, is recommended are those with high risk, primarily carriers of the BRCA genetic mutation.  Prophylactic (preventive) removal of tubes and ovaries may be considered in these women.  The surgery is usually done using a laparoscopic technique which requires general anesthesia but is an outpatient procedure.  For women in the childbearing age group, birth control pills may have a protective effect on ovarian cancer.

Have you known someone with ovarian cancer? Do you know if it’s in your family history?

Guest Post: Beth Pieroth, PsyD, ABPP –Academics Performance After Concussion

Monday, September 10, 2012 9:21 AM comments (0)

Concussion-AcademicsConcussive injuries in sports have been a hot topic for a number of years.  As of July 2011, a new Illinois State law requires that any athlete who exhibits the signs of a concussion must be removed from that practice or game, and cannot be returned to play until he or she has been cleared by an appropriately trained healthcare professional.  However, the law makes no mention of academics and most youth athletes will attend school before they are cleared to return to the field of play.  Our attention should then turn to addressing the issues of injured students.

A concussion occurs when a person suffers a blow or force to the head that results in changes in his or her mental status; this includes confusion, disorientation, memory or mental cloudiness.  The individual may complain of headache, dizziness, nausea, visual changes or fatigue, and may experience problems with attention and memory.

It is often difficult for a newly concussed student to manage the demands of school and their grades may suffer if their injury is not appropriately addressed. If a student athlete suffers from a concussion the following steps for an optimal recovery are recommended:

  • After the student has been evaluated by an emergency room physician, primary care physician, athletic trainer or a concussion specialist, have them rest.  They should avoid stimulating activities, such as loud televisions or music, video games or computer use. 
  • It is often best to allow the student to stay home from school for a few days.  The noise and chaos of a school environment, along with the demands of focusing in the classroom, can cause an increase in the student’s symptoms.  Many students will attempt to go to school, only to end up in the school nurse’s office with a headache.
  • If symptoms are manageable, I encourage students to return to school.  Missing too many days of school will often result in increased anxiety about the amount of schoolwork to be made up and isolation from friends.  However, it is recommended that the students not be required to complete homework, quizzes or tests during the acute recovery period. 
  • Most students will require brief academic accommodations, typically 1-2 weeks.  Some may not require any accommodations because they do not have significant cognitive deficits from their concussions.  However, a small percentage of students will benefit from additional accommodations and this should be handled on an individual basis.  The student should undergo cognitive testing to better determine that type of impairment he or she is experiencing and ways to manage the symptoms.

Migraine Headache Surgery: A New Treatment Option

Thursday, September 06, 2012 9:39 AM comments (0)

Migraine-SurgeryRelief from migraine headaches can come in many different forms – from pain medication, preventative drugs, massage and acupuncture to at-home remedies including relaxation techniques and proper sleep.

Approximately 20 percent of women and 10 percent of men in the United States suffer from migraine headaches. Those who are able to identify “trigger” sites on the head or face where the migraine pain starts or localizes may be able to consider a plastic surgery treatment option. Botox, traditionally used to relax facial muscles to reduce wrinkles, can also be used to relax muscles around the nerves that may trigger migraines.

Michael Howard, MD, a plastic surgeon at NorthShore, works closely with our neurologists to evaluate candidates for migraine headache surgery.  Dr. Howard identifies some of the factors that may help determine if a patient is a good candidate for this surgery:

  • A diagnosis of migraine headache is confirmed with the patient’s neurologist. In most cases, success in reducing pain has not been achieved through other treatment methods, such as medication.
  • Specific trigger sites for headaches can be determined. These are often caused by a compression or entrapment of specific nerves in the head and neck region. 
  • A Botox injection test is performed at the trigger sites.
  • Patients with a positive result from injection—a 50 percent or greater reduction in migraine frequency, duration or severity —may be considered for this treatment.
  • Once patients are considered appropriate candidates, and trigger sites have been identified, the procedure finds the nerves responsible for the headaches through a small incision in the skin. The nerves are then cut and the incisions are closed. Recovery is fast and most patients are able to resume their normal activities within a few days.

Do you suffer from migraine headaches? Do you know your trigger sites?

Promoting Urological Health

Friday, August 31, 2012 10:48 AM comments (0)

Urological-HealthUrologists treat all conditions involving the urinary system in both men and women, including the kidneys and bladder. They also treat all conditions involving the male genital system (prostate, penis and testicles).

While urinary incontinence and bladder infections are some of the first conditions that may come to mind, urologists treat other major diseases, including cancer, kidney stones, infertility and sexual health concerns.

Even though urological conditions differ in severity, they are relatively common. The American Cancer Society estimates that urological cancers –of the bladder, kidney, prostate and testicles—account for nearly one quarter of all cancers in the United States. In infants and children, abnormalities of urological organs occur more commonly than in any other organ system.

Charles Brendler, MD, Co-Director of the John and Carol Walter Center for Urological Health, identifies some of the key preventative measures for maintaining urological health:

  • Visit your physician annually for a physical exam and laboratory tests. All men over 50 should undergo an examination of their prostate annually as part of their routine physical check-up, and men between the ages of 50-75 should undergo a prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test to check for early prostate cancer.  If you have a family history of urological conditions, share this information with your physician.
  • Drink plenty of fluids (especially water) throughout the day, especially during the hot summer months. Staying properly hydrated will decrease the risk of developing both kidney stones and bladder cancer.
  • Make healthy diet choices and maintain a normal body weight. Unhealthy saturated and trans-fats, along with obesity, not only increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, but also promote the growth of several types of cancer, including prostate cancer.
  • Avoid smoking. In addition to being the major cause of lung cancer, smoking is also the leading cause of bladder cancer.
  • Maintain proper hygiene. This may decrease the risk of developing bladder infections, particularly in women.

What are you doing to reduce your risk of urological conditions? What other questions do you have about urological health?

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