High-Risk Pregnancy: Healthy Baby, Healthy Mother

Wednesday, March 07, 2012 8:11 AM comments (0)

High-risk pregnancy

Pregnancy brings about many changes—both for the mother and baby.  While most women have normal, healthy pregnancies, everyone is at some risk for problems.

Issues during a pregnancy can range in severity—from poor nutrition, nausea or fatigue to gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, infectious diseases or premature birth. With the proper planning, education and physician involvement, many risks can be greatly reduced or avoided.

Scott MacGregor, D.O., gives his recommendations about what women can do both before and during their pregnancy to ensure a healthy self and baby:

  • Prior to pregnancy begin prenatal vitamins or folate to reduce the risk of birth defects.
  • Exercise and eat a balanced diet.
  • Consult with your physician or midwife before pregnancy if you have medical problems, such as diabetes or hypertension.
  • Consider genetic screening or testing if you are concerned about problems, such as Down syndrome.
  • Optimize maternal and fetal surveillance for medical problems, such as maternal heart disease, diabetes and hypertension.
  • Optimize obstetric management and fetal surveillance for obstetric problems, such as multiple gestation and prior preterm delivery.
  • Consider fetal testing and surveillance during pregnancy to improve outcome.

What are some things you’ve done to prepare for a healthy pregnancy? What have you done during your pregnancy?

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Have high-risk pregnancy questions? Join Dr. MacGregor for a live medical chat on Friday, March 16 at 1:30 p.m. He’ll answer your questions about risk factors, treatments and signs of high-risk pregnancy. Save the date and submit your early questions today.

Surviving Cancer – Learning How to Live Again

Monday, March 05, 2012 8:44 AM comments (0)

Cancer is hard on everyone—families, friends and especially on the individual—even if the outcome is successful. As advances in cancer treatments have led to more cancer survivors, the necessity for supporting and nurturing survivors through the end of treatment and their cancer experience is necessary.Surviving-Cancer

Carol Rosenberg, MD, Director of NorthShore’s Preventive Health Initiatives and Living in the Future (LIFE) Cancer Survivorship Program, provides the following tips to help cancer survivors and their loved ones navigate the end of their battle with cancer. These help to ensure quality of life and long-term health:

  • Learn how to transition from being a cancer patient to a cancer survivor.
    The transition from an intense oncology treatment environment back to your community, family and primary care environment can be difficult. It is important to recognize that you need to develop a new “normal.” 
  • Develop a survivorship care plan.
    After treatment, it’s smart to compile a portable detail of medical records, resources and information that can be shared with your other healthcare providers. As part of the Living in the Future (LIFE) Cancer Survivorship Program at NorthShore, a survivorship care plan is documented in the electronic medical record. This includes a summary of the survivor’s cancer history and treatment, a personalized risk assessment, preventive practice recommendations and more.
  • Prepare for concerns and struggles upon exiting treatment.
    Depending on the type of cancer, concerns post-treatment may vary. The most common concerns for all cancer survivors are fear of recurrence, fatigue, anxiety and weight gain (especially for breast cancer survivors). In the case of breast cancer, lymphedema (swelling of the affected arm) is a major concern.
  • Know how often you should be checked for cancer recurrence.
    The frequency for monitoring recurrence will depend on the type of cancer, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) guidelines, and your oncologist’s familiarity with your particular cancer. Most people who are finished with an active treatment protocol are monitored by their oncologist in three- to six-month intervals for the first five years. Some cancers are monitored more frequently.

Are you or someone you know a cancer survivor? What changes to your or their lifestyle have been made? What words of wisdom do you have for others?

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Additional resources and useful information for survivors are offered on a monthly basis at the MRW Survivorship 101 seminars offered through NorthShore’s Living in the Future (LIFE) Cancer Survivorship Program. These monthly educational workshops address major topics such as a lifestyle, psychosocial issues, genetics, and insurance and employability.

Colon Cancer Prevention: Screening is Key

Thursday, March 01, 2012 8:41 AM comments (0)

Colon Cancer ScreeningColon cancer is one of the most preventable cancers in the United States—nearly 90% preventable with colonoscopy. Despite this, it is the second leading cause of cancer death, affecting more than 29,000 men and women in this country each year.

NorthShore Gastroenterologist, Monica Borkar, MD,  provides a list of risk factors that affect the development of colon polyps—and thereby, colon cancer—including:

Colon cancer starts as a polyp, or growth, in the colon.  These polyps grow slowly over many years, and larger ones are more likely to be dangerous.

In most cases people do not have symptoms, although common symptoms of colon cancer include:

  • Change in bowel habits
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Weakness
  • Abdominal pain
  • Blood in the stool
  • Age  - Most people who develop colon cancer and colon polyps are over 50 years old.
  • Genetics - A family history of colon cancer imparts a greater risk of developing polyps and cancer; people are usually screened earlier than 50 and are advised to return at shorter intervals if colon cancer has affected someone in their immediate family.
  • Diet - A diet high in red meat and low in dietary fiber may lead to colon cancer development.
  • Exercise - A sedentary lifestyle may be associated with colon cancer so exercise at least one hour three times per week.
  • Personal history of colon polyps - Individuals who have a history of colon polyps are more likely to develop them in the future.
  • Personal history of colon, endometrial, breast or uterine cancer.
  • Certain genetic conditions - Specific types of colitis or inherited diseases can make colon cancer more likely.

National guidelines recommend that individuals with a lack of the risk factors listed above undergo colonoscopy at age 50. Colonoscopy for colon cancer screening—a 20-minute procedure—is the most important test to check for polyps and cancer, even before symptoms arise, and leads to prompt diagnosis and treatment with an excellent survival rate.

Are you surprised by any of the risk factors listed above?

Home and Herbal Remedies to Help with Common Problems

Tuesday, February 28, 2012 8:34 AM comments (0)

Home Remedies

We don’t always have time in our busy lives to go to the doctor or pharmacy for common ailments (such as a cold, flu or upset stomach). In many cases you can help relieve symptoms with herbal remedies and treatment methods at home.

Leslie Mendoza Temple, MD, a NorthShore Integrative Medicine physician offers some at-home tips to help cure common illnesses:

  • Common cold/congestion/sinusitis:
    Place a few drops of eucalyptus essential oil on a warm, wet washcloth. Fold the washcloth over and breathe in the vapors. Dropping some of the oil in the shower or bath creates a steambath that can soothe irritated airways. Avoid this if you’re sensitive to eucalyptus or dislike the scent.
  • Sore throat and spastic cough:
    Ingest a teaspoon of raw, locally sourced honey during a coughing fit or dilute it in hot water and drink frequently to soothe inflamed tissues in the throat. (Not recommended for children under the age of one year.)
  • Upset stomach:
    Place a warm water bottle on belly and perform a “Hara” abdominal massage. Start at the bottom right of your belly, move hands gently up under the right rib cage. Then move hands across to the left under the rib cage, and move them down the left abdomen to the lower middle of the belly. Drinking fennel, chamomile or licorice tea liberally will help soothe the stomach and aid hydration.
  • Cold sores
    Soak a Q-tip with licorice root extract (in glycerin base, not alcohol base) and apply the Q-tip directly to the lesion at the first tingling sensation. Do not touch the dropper to a used Q-tip. Dab liberally and often until resolved. This may also be used in the genital area during herpes outbreaks.
  • Mild, first-degree burns (skin is intact)
    Apply the juice and gel from an aloe vera leaf directly on the burn. To soothe the skin, alternate with calendula cream or ointment.
  • Diaper rash or irritated genital tissues
    Mix an A & D ointment or thick diaper cream with equal parts of calendula cream or an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream into the palm of your hand and apply to irritated tissues twice daily. Do not use the hydrocortisone cream for longer than two weeks at a time. The A&D and calendula creams may be used long-term.

What home remedies do you use? Have you ever tried any of these home remedies?

Eating Disorders: Importance of Support from Family Members and Friends

Thursday, February 23, 2012 4:54 PM comments (0)

Eating DisordersEating disorders can be easy to miss in our busy, health-conscious and appearance-focused culture. However, they are a serious problem affecting an estimated 7-11 million women and men in the United States. When left untreated, eating disorders may develop into a chronic, destructive, emotional illness with many physical complications. Friends and family members can help combat this illness by offering support and being aware of early warning signs. Suellyn Alexander, Clinical Program Manager at NorthShore Center for Eating Disorders offers some tips for friends and family members of someone struggling with an eating disorder:

Early warning signs may include:

  • Making excuses for not joining the family for meals
  • An excessive interest in wanting to eat healthy, food preparation, calorie counting, personal appearance and compulsive exercising
  • Unusual food rituals
  • Mood and behavior changes including depression, irritability, social isolation and sleep disturbances
  • Don’t ignore the issue. Express your concern openly, honestly and with compassion.
  • Denial of any possible problem when confronted with symptoms does not mean there is not a problem. Don’t be deterred by a strong, negative reaction.
  • Suggest an evaluation with a professional who has experience treating eating disorders.
  • Continue to provide support and avoid getting into a power struggle.
  • Be a good role model in terms of nutrition, exercise and body image issues. Seek professional advice and support for yourself.

Do you know anyone who struggles with an eating disorder? What have you done to help? What advice would you give to others? -- For additional online education and support resources, visit:

Further questions or concerns? Call NorthShore Center for Eating Disorders at 847.480.2617.

 

Guest Post: Wes Fisher, MD - Listen to your Heart

Tuesday, February 21, 2012 12:34 PM comments (0)

The middle aged man sat cheering his favorite football team.  Just after the game while sitting in front of his TV, he felt strange: lightheaded, sweaty, somewhat short of breath.  He tried to stand, but felt worse. So he sat and re-gained his composure.  He noted a slight bead of sweat on his brow and felt like he just couldn’t take a full breath in.   Other than that, he didn’t feel too bad at first.
Heart Health
So he waited a bit.  “Maybe going outside will help,” he thought.  He managed to walk outside and did feel a bit better for a while, but when he returned inside, he felt the same.  Slowly, nausea overcame him and he had to go to the bathroom and get sick.  Again after that, he felt improved but never felt back to normal.

He waited a bit more and called his wife.  He described to her what he was noticing as she googled his symptoms: some 399,478 search results appeared.  She read the list to him: heart trouble, stomach trouble, neurological trouble – the possibilities seemed endless.  Uncertain what to do, they finally decided to call their family doctor.

“Do you have any aspirin in the house?” he asked.

They scoured their cabinets.  “I can’t believe it!” she said. “No, we can’t find any.”

“Then why don’t you take him over to the Emergency Room right now to get checked out,” the doctor suggested. They thought about it a bit and because his symptoms had not resolved for over an hour and a half, they agreed.

Upon arrival to the emergency room, he was found to have a sustained heart rate of 206 beats per minute at rest – far outside the normal 50-100 beats per minute he should have had.    The process to determine the cause and treatment were started immediately and, gratefully, he left the hospital several days later with his treatment regimen in place.

So why should you care?

Because sometimes, despite all of the information available to all of us these days thanks to news agencies, public service announcements, smartphones, and instant search engines, heart disease can present in unpredictable, unimaginable ways.  When it does: denial is our worst enemy in providing effective treatment.

So if you’re not sure if your symptoms could be caused by your heart, don’t wait.  Get it checked out.  

More often than not, you’ll be glad you did.

-Wes Fisher, MD

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Have questions about heart disease? Join Dr. Brian Shortal, cardiologist for a live online chat on Thursday, February 23 from 12-1p.m. Submit your questions in advance.

Watch Your Step – Avoid Foot and Ankle Injuries this Season

Friday, February 17, 2012 7:46 AM comments (0)

Foot-Ankle_InjuryWhat do you do to avoid slipping? Do have a preferred method for staying injury-free?

Our feet and ankles get a workout every day – even if it’s just from walking around the house or to and from the car running errands. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, one hour of strenuous exercise puts up to one million pounds of pressure on your feet. Now imagine how much additional stress your feet and ankles can be subjected to when roads and sidewalks are icy and snowy.

Lan Chen, MD, an orthopaedic physician at NorthShore offers her insight on how to avoid a foot or ankle injury this season:

  • Wear the right shoes for the right weather.  High-heeled boots may be fashionable, but flat or low-heeled boots with good traction soles are best for the snow.  Avoid wearing long flowing dresses or coats as they can get tangled with your feet and cause you to lose your balance.
  • Use caution and check for slick walkways or roads when exiting your car or home.  Keep doorways clutter-free and watch out for slippery areas. Most importantly, keep your hands free for better balance and support in case you begin to fall.
  • Don’t ignore an injury.  If you have pain, swelling and inability to put weight on your foot or ankle, or just feel as if something isn’t right, seek medical attention.  Some seemingly minor sprains can lead to significant ligament and cartilage damage resulting in long-term pain, instability and, ultimately, arthritic changes if they are not treated.
  • If you aren’t able to immediately see your doctor, use the R.I.C.E method:
    o    R: Rest your foot or ankle.  Staying off it will minimize pain.
    o    I: Ice your injury to help reduce swelling.  Never put an ice pack directly  
         onto bare skin; use a thin towel to cover the ice pack and ice for 20
         minutes at a time.
    o    C: Compress the area of swelling with an ACE wrap or an elastic brace.
    o    E: Elevate the foot above the level of the heart. 

National Donor’s Day – How to Become an Organ/Tissue Donor

Tuesday, February 14, 2012 11:01 AM comments (0)

Organ DonorOrgan and tissue donation is an important decision that can help significantly enhance and save the lives of others. There are many myths about organ and tissue donations, and it’s important to know the facts before you choose to become a donor.

According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services:

  • A new person is added to the national waiting list every 11 minutes.
  • An average of 18 people die each day waiting for a transplant.
  • One organ donor can save up to 8 lives.

The process for becoming a donor in Illinois and other states has changed in recent years. Effective January 1, 2006, a new law—First-Person Consent legislation—makes your decision to become a donor legally binding without necessary consent from witnesses or family members at your death. This new law keeps your family from needing to make a quick decision about your end-of-life wishes.

To join the First-Person Consent Organ/Tissue Donor Registry, complete one of the following Web forms:

If you are under 18 years of age, you cannot sign up for the registry; instead, donation decisions will need to be made by your parents when and if necessary. You can opt out of the registry at any time.

If you still have questions, please refer to the following websites’ frequently asked questions:

Do you know someone who has benefited from an organ donation? Is it something that you would consider?

Childproofing your Home – Keep your Kids Safe

Monday, February 13, 2012 2:16 PM comments (1)

Child Proof

Accidents involving children happen. The good news is that most of these accidents can be prevented by proper childproofing and preparation. According to the National Safe Kids Campaign, accidents disable and kill more children than disease, drugs and kidnapping combined. It’s important to childproof your home early and to make adjustments as they get bigger and become more active and mobile.

Julie Holland, MD, pediatrician at NorthShore shares a few key tips for childproofing your home:

  • Cover all electric outlets. Be sure that cords for small appliances/electronics (radios, coffee makers, toasters and computers) are not within reach.
  • Secure all furniture and large electronics. Bookcases and shelves should be fastened and anchored to the wall, so they cannot be pulled or tipped over.
  • Be sure that televisions are properly installed to the wall and/or are properly positioned on a console. When selecting furniture to place your TV on, confirm that the weight limit is sufficient and appropriately sized for your TV. Make sure that your child cannot reach the TV or the electric cord, as either of these can cause the TV to topple over.
  • Place all small objects, trinkets and decorations out of reach. A good test for height is to go on your hands and knees. If you can reach it, so can your child.
  • Put soft covers on all furniture that has sharp edges. Cover any areas (especially fireplaces) with screens or pads.
  • Store all cleaning supplies, alcohol and other hazardous materials in a top cabinet. Be sure that all cabinets and drawers are properly secured and locked.
  • Confirm that all window blinds and curtains do not have cords hanging within reach, as these can be a choking hazard for young children. Do not place furniture too close to windows.

What have you done to childproof your home? What other child safety tips would you like to learn more about?

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For more household safety lists, visit:
•    KidsHealth
•    Safe Kids USA

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?

 

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