University of Pennsylvania Health System

Penn Health and Wellness

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

National Diabetes Awareness Month: Know the Facts

As one of the most prevalent diseases in the United States, diabetes impacts nearly 9.3 percent of the entire population. That translates to around 29.1 million Americans who have diabetes -- with 8.1 million of them undiagnosed -- according to the American Diabetes Association.

There are two common types of diabetes, Type 1 and Type 2. To understand the differences between these types and what it means for the people who have it, it’s important to first understand a few key terms they share: insulin and glucose.

What is Insulin?

Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas. Insulin allows your body to use the carbohydrates (sugar) it gets from food sources. It acts as a “regulator” for carbohydrates in your body and prevents your blood sugar levels from becoming too high or too low.

When you eat carbohydrates (sugars), your body either breaks them down for energy, or stores them for future energy needs.

Insulin also helps your body store the sugars and allows the body to release the sugars into your blood stream when your body needs the energy.

What is Glucose?

Glucose, a simple sugar, is an important energy source needed by all cells and organs of our bodies. Glucose comes from various foods we eat, such as fruit, bread, pasta and cereals. Within our stomachs, foods are broken down and then absorbed into the bloodstream.

Type 1 Diabetes

People with type 1 diabetes are not able to make insulin. Without this important hormone to regulate blood sugar levels, they develop high blood sugar called hyperglycemia.

If left untreated, hyperglycemia can cause long-term complications such as:
  • Nerve damage
  • Kidney failure
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Vision problems
  • Neuropathy, or nerve damage
  • Infections and non-healing wounds
  • Foot complications
There is no current cure for Type 1 diabetes, which is usually diagnosed in children. The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia are two of the leading global organizations focused on curing Type 1 diabetes, or T1D as it’s also known.

People with type 1diabetes need to take medications (insulin) in order to help their body process carbohydrates.

Type 2 Diabetes

People with type 2 diabetes have insulin in their bodies, but are unable to use insulin effectively. Over time, they become more and more insulin resistant, and their pancreas produces less and less insulin.

Like type 1 diabetes, if left untreated, people with diabetes can experience serious complications such as:
  • Nerve damage
  • Kidney failure
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Vision problems
  • Neuropathy, or nerve damage
  • Infections and non-healing wounds
  • Foot complications
Type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed by maintaining a healthy weight, staying active and eating a healthy diet. Type 2 diabetes is usually diagnosed in adults; however, more children are being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

People with type 2 diabetes may need a combination of medications to get their blood sugar levels stable. Depending on the severity of their blood sugar levels, people with type 2 diabetes may also be able to manage their disease with diet and exercise.

Diabetes treatment at Penn

Endocrinologists at the Penn Rodebaugh Diabetes Center specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, pre-diabetes, gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy) and other related conditions.

They work closely with patients’ primary care providers to treat and manage diabetes and related conditions.

Managing Holiday Stress

Elizabeth Y. Fung, DO, a primary care physician at Spruce Internal Medicine, located at the new Penn Medicine Washington Square building, discusses healthy tips for managing stress during the holiday season.

As the brilliant colors of the fall foliage fade and the crisp winter air settles in, a flurry of activities begin and it is now time to prepare for the holidays.

The holiday tradition started as a period of time set aside for religious or cultural celebrations. Today, many of us have an unrealistic or overly romantic notion of what the holidays should be, and often aren’t.

To help, here are a few tips to rekindle the holiday spirit:


  • Put together a list of what you expect from the holidays and be realistic with what can be accomplished.
  • If you’re looking to take it easy over the holidays, consider a vacation or simply a ‘stay-cation.’ Take it easy and relax, refresh and re-energize.
  • If family, friends and feasts are on your holiday horizon, prioritize commitments and schedule them on your calendar. Don’t forget to include time for rest and relaxation.
  • Plan your travels – purchase tickets in advance and arrive early for departure.

Holiday Gatherings

  • If you’re hosting a holiday party, divide up the menu and give guests an opportunity to prepare and “show off” one of their favorite dishes.
  • Prepare in advance – I have a patient who bakes 20 pies the week before her holiday parties in preparation to give to friends and relatives.
  • Those who break bread make bread together - Share in the peeling, dicing, chopping and cleanup in the kitchen. It is a great opportunity for everyone to catch up while preparing the meal.
  • Purchase prepared menu items to reduce the amount of cooking and increase the amount of family time.
  • Avoid overindulgence - have a healthy snack before your holiday parties, continue to exercise and get a good night’s sleep.

Gift Giving

  • Set a budget. You will be surprised how creative you can be with a budget in place.
  • Ask people what they want for the holidays. This eliminates the guesswork and holiday returns.
  • Online shopping – Shop at your leisure. Last year, I did most of my shopping online while on the train to/from work!
  • Get creative with gift-giving. During my medical training, I gave my brother and his wife a “gift certificate” redeemable for a weekend of babysitting my nieces and nephews.

Holiday Blues

  • Surround yourself with family and friends if you’re feeling lonely and sad. Reminiscing about the past, the loss of loved ones or being away from home during this time of the year can be difficult.
  • Volunteer – Helping others can help us better appreciate what we have.
  • Despite your best efforts, if you find yourself feeling severely anxious, persistently sad or hopeless and these feelings are affecting your daily activities, please talk to your doctor.
The holidays are an exciting time celebrating with family and friends. With some planning and a positive attitude, it is possible to be jolly during this season and to find peace and joy as we celebrate.

Happy Holidays!

Any tips you'd like to add?
Leave your thoughts below.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Tips To Stay Active This Fall

It seems as though everything is just a bit easier during the summer. People tend to be a little more laid back at work, there are less people on the road because many are on vacation and, with the added sunlight and warm temperatures, being active seems to be much less of a hassle.

Penn Medicine Fall Tips to Stay Active
Autumn, though, is here. Say goodbye to the warm temperatures and hello to shorter days and cooler weather. Perhaps it’s the fewer hours of sunlight, but this time of the year seems to be when many go into hibernation and ease up on their active summer lifestyles.

This doesn’t have to be the case as there are many fun things to do to stay fit during the cooler months.

“The change of seasons is a good time to focus on health and wellness goals," said Ngozi Onuoha, MD, FACP, of Penn Internal Medicine Mayfair. "Autumn is a great season to walk. Walking is a great form of exercise that does not require much preparation."

Here are some other tips to keep you moving and feeling healthy this fall.
  • Make exercise fun: Autumn is synonymous with harvest season. What better way to stay active than to go pumpkin or apple picking with your family or friends? For the younger ones (or those simply young at heart, take part in physical activities such as corn mazes and haunted trails.
  • Sign up for a holiday run: Fall is the season in which many fun runs and events occur. Participate in Halloween runs, turkey trots, reindeer romps, etc. Setting a specific goal, such as a race to train for, increases adherence to an exercise program. Signing up with friends or family will motivate you even more.
  • Enjoy the colors: Grab a friend, and find a local park that has great trails to walk, run, or ride a bike on.
  • Go to a farmer’s market: Many of the root vegetables are in season and are inexpensive. Grab some apples while you’re at it as they’re rich in antioxidants and flavanoids, both of which can reduce cholesterol.
  • Take advantage of the cooler weather: Play catch, walk the dog, get a group of friends together to play ultimate Frisbee or touch football.
  •  Make Fall chores fun: Raking your lawn can be a real workout. Have fun with it (perhaps by jumping in the leaves??).

  • Tell us how you plan on staying active this Fall.
    Leave your thoughts below.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Halloween Safety Tips for Parents

Halloween is fast approaching. Soon, the streets will be filled with ghosts, goblins, princesses and cowboys. To help make this year's festivities a trick-free treat, follow these simple safety tips:

For the Young Ones

  • Spotted in the dark. Bright-colored costumes are more likely to be seen after dark. Add reflective tape to your child’s costume or to the trick-or-treat bag so you and cars can keep an eye out. 
  • See and breathe easy. If the costume has wigs or beards, make sure they don’t cover your child’s eyes, noses, or mouths. Same goes for wearing a mask.
  • Toxic makeup. Consider using nontoxic face paint or makeup. Test the face paint or makeup on your child's arm or hand before applying; ensuring the paint doesn't irritate the skin.
  • Don’t trip. Try to avoid oversized and high-heeled shoes and costumes that have long fabric that can cause children to trip.
  • Home safe. Check all treats to make sure they are sealed. Throw out any candy with holes in the packages, spoiled items and any homemade foods from strangers.

For Parents with Older Kids

  • Be aware. If your child is trick-or-treating on their own, find out the route they'll be taking.
  • Safer in groups. Make sure they go in a group and stress that they stay together.
  • Welcome in. Advise them to only go to houses with porch lights on and walk on sidewalks on lit streets. 
  • Don’t play with fire. Steer clear from candles and other flames. 
  • Light it up. Equip your child with a flashlight with new batteries.
Finally, make sure trick-or-treaters will be safe when visiting your home as well. Remove anything that could cause kids to trip or fall on your walkway or lawn. Double check to see if the lights are on outside your house and light the walkway to your door, if possible.

Have a safe and fun Halloween!

click here to enlarge image.

Any other tips you’d like to share? Add them to the comments section.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Transition Your Skin Care Routine from Summer to Fall

You likely have your skin care routine and products that you’ve been using for as long as you can remember. But as the seasons change, your skin does too. The same way you trade in your summer flip flops for boots in the fall, you need to modify your skin care routine and products.

You should seasonally change up heavier moisturizers, Vitamin C complexes and eye creams for puffiness and dryness. Try using a serum to add additional ingredients to your skin while your sleep. Because your skin can build up tolerance to certain products after some time, it’s important to note what works and what doesn’t, as well as which products your skin has a positive reaction or a negative reaction to.

To keep your skin looking young and fresh this autumn, we recommend:
  • Exfoliating the face and body to remove the dead, dry skin from the summer 
  • Starting with moderate or aggressive treatments, such as microdermabrasion or chemical peels
  • Adding a slightly thicker moisturizer, depending on your skin type 
  • Continuing using SPF under your makeup
Moreover, if you were ever out in the sun and not completely covered up this summer, odds are that you have some sun damage. Sun damage can range from freckles to dark tans, wrinkly skin and that taut-almost-leathery look. As we head into the fall, laser treatments are popular and effective to treat sun damage and refresh your skin.

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