University of Pennsylvania Health System

Penn Health and Wellness

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Health in Your 20s: Good Health Starts With Healthy Habits

Karen K. Baird, MD
Karen K. Baird, MD, an internal medicine physician at Penn Family Medicine Southern Chester County, suggests healthy habits to have in your 20s.

As a 20-something, you’re excited to start a career, move out on your own and meet new people. But what about developing or maintaining good health habits? Probably not so much. But being mindful at a young age can have a lifelong impact on your wellbeing.

Cultivate these nine healthy habits in your 20s to get on the road to good health!

1. Exercise Regularly. Daily exercise is essential for good health. It can help decrease blood pressure, improve blood sugar and cholesterol, and independently reduce your risk of heart disease later in life. And it’s not only good for your body, but also for your mind.

2. Get Enough Sleep. Adults need seven to nine hours of quality sleep every night. Lack of sleep not only leaves you groggy, but can lead to serious health concerns, such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease and stroke. If you find yourself tossing and turning at night, consider putting away your electronics and establishing a bedtime routine. Daily exercise can also help you rest easy, as can cutting back on caffeine after noon and alcohol after 6 pm.

Healthy Eating
3. Eat Right. Keeping track of everything you eat can help you make healthy diet changes. Some simple rules for healthier eating:
  • If you don’t recognize the ingredients on the label, don’t eat it.
  • If the package crinkles when you open it, don’t eat it.
  • Shop the perimeter of the grocery store and focus on produce and fresh meats.
  • Limit white carbohydrates (white bread, pasta, etc.).
4. Don’t Smoke. Smoking causes many health problems, including heart disease and emphysema, as well as lung, oral and other cancers. It can also lead to yellow teeth, bad breath and skin damage.

5. Wear Sunscreen. Be sure to apply a broad spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 15 when you go outside. And remember to reapply every two hours. There is no such thing as a “healthy tan”!

6. Have Safe Sex Every Time. Using condoms with all sexual encounters will not completely eliminate the risk of sexually transmitted infections (STI's), but it will significantly decrease your chances of picking one up.

7. Drink Only in Moderation. If you do drink alcohol, drink in moderation and beware of oversized servings! Remember:
 One drink= 12 ounces of beer (one bottle) OR 5 ounces of wine OR 1 to 1.5 ounces of liquor

8. Treat Mental Illness. If you feel depressed, have lost interest in things you used to love, or are struggling with stress or anger, reach out for help. Your physician can recommend coping strategies and treatment options.

9. Have a Positive Social Network. Studies have shown that people with quality friendships live longer, healthier lives. Your 20s are a great time to think about who you are and who you want to be and to cultivate positive relationships that help you be the best you possible.

These are just a few tips to get you on the right track to a healthy adulthood.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

38th Annual Penn Medicine Radnor Run

It’s time to lace up your sneakers! The 38th annual Penn Medicine Radnor Run will be held on Sunday, October 25.

The Radnor Run is a great race for an even better cause. This family-friendly event benefits the American Lung Association in Pennsylvania and their effort to help improve the lives of those currently living with chronic lung disease. The money raised will help fund important programs, including asthma camp, clean air in schools and smoking prevention/cessation for teens and adults.

By participating in this event you help support the American Lung Association’s mission: to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease.

Date: Sunday, October 25, 2015
Race Day Registration: 7:00 a.m.
Health Fair to follow.
Location: Radnor Township Building
               301 Iven Avenue
               Wayne, PA 19087

Five-Mile Race

Whether you are an experienced or occasional runner, you’ll enjoy the challenging five-mile course through scenic Radnor Township. The run is sanctioned by USA Track & Field and uses certified course PA110135WB. It starts at 8:30 a.m. and finishes at the Radnor Township Building.

One-Mile Fun Run

There is also an untimed walk/run for adults and youth of all ages. The Fun Run starts at 8:40 a.m. Medals will be awarded to the top three finishers and the first 100 kids to cross the finish line.

Consider organizing a team to participate. Rally family and friends in honor of someone who suffered from lung disease, or gather your work colleagues together for a day of giving back. Organizing a team is a fun and easy way to be healthy and support an important cause.

Register today. For more details, contact the ALA office at 610-941-9595.

Find out more about the lung program at Penn or request an appointment.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Six Back-to-School Tips for Parents

Charles I. Schwartz, MD, a pediatrician at PennCare for Kids Phoenixville, provides some tips for parents as they help their children prepare for the new school year.

It’s almost that time of the year again - leading to a collective sigh of relief from parents everywhere.

For children across the country, school will soon be back in session. This is a difficult time as schedules become filled and new pressures are put on children and parents. Making sure your child gets off to a good start is crucial and can influence your child’s confidence, attitude and performance in the classroom.

"It is important to plan ahead when helping your children prepare for the first day of school," explains Dr. Schwartz. "If parents are calm, optimistic and supportive, children will feel confident and ready to start the year.

Here are a few suggestions to help get your child on the right track to having a successful school year:
  • Get your forms ready: There may be certain vaccinations your child needs prior to the start of the new school year. Most fall sports programs require completed medical forms prior to student participation.
  • Don't hit snooze: Help your child get used to the back-to-school routine by beginning the transition to earlier-wake up times and bedtimes during the end of summer. This will ensure your child is ready for when the school year starts. Proper rest is vital for a healthy and productive school year.
  • Feed their bodies and brains: Good nutrition influences your child’s school performance. Studies show that children who eat healthy, balanced breakfasts and lunches do better in school.
  • Pick the right size pack: Ensure your child is carrying a backpack which is the right weight and reduces stress on their back.
  • Wash hands: Before your child goes back to school, make sure he or she understands the health importance of proper hand washing, especially before eating and after using the restroom.
  • Exercise: Fitness will help your child sleep easier and allow them to better handle physical and emotional challenges - from running to catch a bus to studying for a test.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Why You Shouldn’t Ignore Sleep Apnea

Karen K. Baird, MD, an internal medicine physician at Penn Family Medicine Southern Chester County, explains why you shouldn’t ignore your sleep troubles.

Do you wake up abruptly throughout the night? Is it from snoring (or from your significant other nudging you because you were snoring)?

Most know that heavy snoring and sleep apnea is not good for your health, but many tend to ignore these signs.

Occasional snoring is usually not very serious. However, if it happens frequently, you are impairing your own sleep quality and could be setting yourself up for several health problems. It doesn’t matter if you wake up every few minutes or once an hour. If your sleeping pattern is making you feel tired the next morning, it’s time to see your doctor.

An individual that wakes up throughout the night could be suffering from sleep apnea. People with untreated sleep apnea stop breathing repeatedly during their sleep. This means the brain -- and the rest of the body -- may not get enough oxygen. Often times, an individual may wake up suddenly, which allows the muscles in their airways to readjust, and then fall back asleep without even knowing what happened.

sleeping problemsSleep apnea can lead to high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, weight gain, heart problems and other health conditions. If you, or your partner, notice any of these symptoms, call your physician for evaluation.

Nightmares Wake You Up

There’s nothing wrong if you experience the occasional nightmare. The problem arises if you have chronic nightmares that cause you to wake in terror at least once a week. Since you are not sleeping through the entire night, nightmares can lead to fatigue, anxiety and depression.

Chronic nightmares tend to be triggered by psychological stress -- such as that stemming from posttraumatic stress disorder or a severe anxiety disorder. However, other factors such as alcohol abuse, sleep apnea, some dementias and the use of certain medications can lead to nightmares.

You Do Things You Can’t Remember

When you wake up in the morning, does your significant other tell you about the odd things you did the previous night? This isn’t something you should simply laugh off. If this happens frequently, you could have a REM sleep behavior disorder. This occurs when your brain is in REM sleep, but your muscles are acting out your dreams. Frequently, many of the common sleep medications that people take, such as Ambien, are the cause of this issue. You should see a doctor if you are experiencing this, as it could escalate to sleep walking or sleep driving depending. Also, speak to your physician if you are having difficulty falling or staying asleep – there are many things you can do without relying on medications that can have potentially dangerous side effects.

You Wake Up With Tooth and Facial Pain

Many people that experience this type of discomfort when they wake up are grinding or clenching their teeth throughout the night. This action can be caused by a number of things, including stress, depression and dreams. Interestingly, this action occurs during short awakenings throughout the night.

If you do these actions for an extended period of time, call your dentist or your physician. There may be ways you can relieve stress prior to bed or wear some type of night guard that will help to protect your teeth, thus relieving pain.

You Experience Stomach Aches in the AM

There can be several causes of morning abdominal pain including constipation, indigestion and irritable bowel syndrome. If this is the case, simple changes to your diet or workout regimen, or medications, could help to reduce the discomfort. However, one of most common, and potentially most serious, reasons to experience stomach pain is gastric reflux, or even peptic ulcer disease. Individuals with gastric reflux and ulcers often feel nauseated in the morning. This may be accompanied by loss of appetite, nausea and fever. It is important to see a doctor if you experience these symptoms, consistently.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Ticked About Lyme Disease?

Awareness and Prevention are Key.

The weather is warmer, the days are longer and all you and your family want to do is spend time outside. It really doesn’t matter if it’s hiking, camping, or playing sports -- as long as you are outdoors-- you are happy. It is important to remember that higher temperatures and the more time you spend outside increases the risks of being bitten by a tick and contracting Lyme disease.

Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, which is transmitted to humans from the bite of the deer tick. Most Lyme disease in the northeastern United States occurs during summer or fall, when the small nymphal ticks are most prevalent.

Lyme disease in the summer
The early stage of Lyme disease is usually marked by one or more of these signs and symptoms:
  • Tiredness
  • Chills and fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle and/or joint pain
  • Swollen lymph glands
  • A characteristic skin rash (erythema migrans)
When caught early, Lyme disease is highly treatable and curable with a single course of oral antibiotics. If the disease is left untreated, it can cause neurologic complications, including facial palsy, numbness, tingling and headaches, abnormal heart rhythm and large-joint arthritis.

Tips to avoid ticks

  • Wear light-colored clothing. You’ll have a better chance of spotting a dark tick crawling around.
  • Wear high socks, sneakers and long pants. Tuck your pant legs into your socks, your shirt into your pants and avoid wearing open-toed shoes to minimize areas where ticks can find its way to your skin.
  • Use insect repellents. Apply repellent to any skin that is unprotected. You may need to apply every few hours. Make sure to avoid contact with your eyes!
  • Shower or bathe within two hours. If possible, always wash off within a couple hours after being outdoors to wash away loose ticks. Do a daily tick check. Search all the places ticks love to hide: your hair, under your arms, between your legs, behind your knees and in your belly button.
  • Don’t forget about the kids and pets. Be sure to check any children and pets before they enter the house. Ticks can easily drop off on carpets and furniture.
  • Check all gear. Thoroughly examine all items you brought with you on your trek.
  • Wash and dry your clothes. It is possible for ticks to survive the washing machine, even if hot water is used. Always dry your clothes in a dryer on high heat for an hour as well.
  • Create a tick-free zone at home. Mow your lawn frequently, stack wood neatly and in a dry area and discourage animals by putting up fences. It is also good to keep playground equipment, decks, lawn chairs, etc. away from yard edges and trees.
Tick prevention tips
“While Lyme disease can seem frightening, it is preventable! If you are vigilant about looking for ticks, and can pull the tick off the skin within 48 hours of the exposure, you can't get Lyme disease from that tick. If you're not sure how long the tick was on your body before you were able to remove it, contact your doctor to discuss a one-time dose of an antibiotic to help prevent the symptoms of Lyme disease from developing,” says Lori M. Noble, MD, a primary care physician at Spruce Internal Medicine.

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