Sunday, January 31, 2016

New Years' Resolutions: Take 2

Greek Salad at the Stash
Well, here we are at the end of January already...and how are you doing with your New Year's Resolutions? From the number of FitBits and step counts that I am seeing and hearing, I believe many people are enjoying being more active (or at least enjoying "competing" with themselves or friends over their numbers.) Perhaps the two most common health related resolutions are to increase exercise and to eat "better". What does that really mean?

First let's tackle "increase exercise". Please, focus on the INCREASE. If you are honestly doing nothing, start with walking. Consider a "FitBit" or a smart phone or a simple $10 pedometer, and start charting how many steps you take each day. Next, challenge yourself to up that number each day by 100 steps. We as a society seem to be very motivated by video-game-like challenges, so we know what it takes to "pass" each level, right? Let's apply that to our daily steps. For years, we have been pushing the "10,000" steps per day, which is approximately equal to 4 miles. My encouragement today is simply to see YOUR personal baseline, and push it up by SMALL increments each day.

Eating "better". Okay, I have blogged before about the "unhealthy vegetarian", but for those who have not yet heard my it goes. "Vegetarian" does NOT equal "HEALTHY". It certainly CAN, and even SHOULD- if that person is concentrating their food choices on- wait for it- VEGETABLES. However, especially in my current patient population of college students, "vegetarian" can mean diets of granola bars, chips, nachos, and cheese pizza. Hmm...let's count the fruits and veggies there- anyone have a calculator? LOL.

BOTTOM LINE: My 2016 Gift to you is that the last day of EVERY month, I wish for you a clean slate- a "do-over" for your NYE Resolutions. On this January 31st, why not pick a simple FEBRUARY healthy resolution? And feel free to share with us your success!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Is TEAL the New PINK?

January is Cervical Cancer Awareness month, and the color is TEAL. Did you know there are still over 12,000 women in the United States who are diagnosed with this cancer every year? And although our treatments have greatly improved, there are still over 4000 deaths from this cancer every year. The good news is that we have PREVENTION, and with this prevention, we hope to eliminate cervical cancer within our lifetime! Take this CDC Cervical Cancer QUIZ to test your knowledge.

The HPV vaccine is approved and strongly recommended for all adolescents- girls and boys- as part of their routine vaccinations at age 11-12 years. The second generation of Gardasil vaccine (Gardasil 9) now covers not the HPV strains that cause 90% of cervical cancers (as well as the two strains that cause 90% of genital warts.) If your child has started the series with the original Gardasil, they may finish out the series with the Gardasil 9 to increase the spectrum of their immunity.

YES, the vaccine is safe. YES, the vaccine is effective- extremely effective! YES, my daughters are immunized, and they are the two people my husband and I love and care about the most on this planet! Enough said.

Pap tests- are they still necessary? Yes, but NOT EVERY YEAR (and the crowd cheers)! Our current guidelines recommend Pap testing starting at age 21 years, and then every 3 years till age 65. There is also an option for 30-65 year olds to test only every 5 years when they do combined Pap and HPV testing.

Does the Pap check for all sexually transmitted infections? NO. The Pap test checks for early cervical cancer. To check for STI's such as HIV, gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis, and herpes, you will need additional testing (of blood, urine, and possibly a swab test performed during a pelvic exam.)

Are there support groups for women diagnosed with cervical cancer? Absolutely! For example, I'm honored to be in the picture above with Tamika Felder, the founder of a wonderful support group CERVIVOR- check out her website!

BOTTOM LINE: That magical "cure for cancer" has not yet been discovered for all cancers, but CERVICAL CANCER is preventable- let's end this disease for our children by vaccinating them now!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Out with the OLD, In with the NEW (AKA Healthy New Year's Resolution #1)

Happy 2016! Hard to believe we are nearly half way through January as I look at my home STILL filled with Christmas decorations. Many of us tackle the new year with a cleaning or de-cluttering frenzy after we pack up the holiday decor. In fact, it can be overwhelming as we survey overflowing closets, desks and kids rooms...wishing for that magic wand to neatly organize our lives. I once read an organization plan that suggested a better chance of success if you tackled ONE specific area and thoroughly completed it before you moved on- whether that was one drawer of your dresser, a single shelf of books, or even cleaning the kitchen sink itself. So...instead of the sink or coat rack, may I suggest starting with your MEDICINE CABINET? Whether this means a simple first aid kit or an entire bathroom or kitchen cabinet, let's get rid of the old and bring in a few selected new supplies.

Expired medications, in my experience, are rarely harmful in and of themselves, but they often have lost effectiveness. There is no point in saving the last few drops of prescription cough syrup from's not going to help you any more. If you are having an allergic reaction and your diphenhydramine (Benadryl) or worse, your Epi-Pen, has expired...this is not a good time to find out how much their effectiveness has decreased! Ditto with anti-nausea medications. In general, solid tablets have extended shelf lives more than liquids. Additionally, with liquids such as eye drops, the preservatives break down, allowing potential bacterial growth (and the obvious possibility of causing rather than treating an eye infection.)

However, taking leftover "spare" single or several antibiotic pills actually MAY be harmful- because as you partially treat an infection, you make the bugs effectively only weak and dizzy, not dead...and now you have a strain of bacteria that is resistant to new antibiotics. Just say NO and toss these.

Expired bandaids? Okay, you can keep those. But compression wraps (ACE wraps)? If you have washed them a dozen times- unlikely they have enough spring left in them to do their job. High quality splints from old injuries (wrist or ankle)? I keep those as long as they can be cleaned.

Once opened, over-the-counter acne medications with benzoyl peroxide (hello, high school and college students!) TOTALLY lose effectiveness after only a couple months- explains more than a few breakouts. Toss 'em.

Bottom Line: Make a HEALTHY START in 2016 by cleaning out your MEDICINE CABINET this weekend!