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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Colonoscopy 101

Dr. Ginsberg
Colonoscopies can prevent cancer. It’s that simple. Yet, only about half of those 50 years or older – the population where the disease is most prevalent – get colonoscopies. As a result, more people are needlessly dying of colon cancer – over 50,000 a year in US alone. The disease is currently the third-leading cause of cancer deaths in both men and women in this country and the third most commonly diagnosed cancer.

In recognition of Colon Cancer Awareness Month, we spoke with Greg Ginsberg, MD, director of Endoscopic Services, about why colonoscopies are considered the gold standard for colon cancer screening.

What is a colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy uses a slender, flexible tube with a light and video camera on the end that allows the doctor to view the entire colon. Most colon cancers come from abnormal growths of tissue in the lining of the colon called polyps. A colonoscopy not only identifies potentially pre-cancerous polyps but also removes them. The entire procedure, during which the patient remains under sedation, takes about 30 minutes and is not painful.

Are all polyps the same?

Most people think of polyps are mushroom shaped but now, thanks to high-definition endoscopes with electronic enhancing imaging, we’re finding flat lesions that may have been missed. These lesions have a more accelerated pathway to cancers.

Who should get a colonoscopy?

Screening for the average-risk individuals – those without a family history or the presence of other medical conditions – starts at age 50. Some guidelines recommend that African-American men, who may be at increased risk at a younger age, start screenings at 45.

If a person’s first colonoscopy is normal, the procedure should be repeated every 10 years, unless risk factors exist.

How should you prepare for a colonoscopy?

Prior to getting a colonoscopy, the entire bowel must be emptied. The prep is probably the most feared aspect of colonoscopy. Indeed, at one time, this required drinking a gallon of a prescribed preparation in a short period of time. But there’s been considerable progress in this arena. HUP uses a low-volume (half gallon) and split dose prep. The patient drinks one quart, waits six hours, and then the second.

Providing a prep that people find more tolerable is essential: The quality of the exam is only as good as the quality of the prep.

Is colon cancer treatable?

In its early stage, colon cancer is often highly treatable but it’s a silent disease. There are no symptoms until the advanced stage, when survival rates plummet to less than 10 percent. Preventing the disease from starting remains the goal.

Early detection and proper screening by colonoscopy can prevent 90 percent of colon cancers. I’m glad we’re demystifying colonoscopies. Knowing more saves lives.

To learn more about colonoscopies, download our free Prevention Guide or schedule a screening.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Causes of Bad Breath – And How to Get Rid of It

The fear is real. You’re deep in conversation with a friend when, out of nowhere, you’re slammed with an alarming odor. Was it your breath? Your train of thought veers and all you can think about is a quick exit and searching for gum…mouthwash…any remedy for bad breath.

Bad breath, or halitosis, is an issue we’ve all encountered at one time or another. Whether we’re the culprits or the victims, it’s a problem most hope to avoid. Thankfully, rather than doling out embarrassing apologies for foul-smelling breath, there are several ways to prevent and treat halitosis. Tina McGroarty, CRNP, MSN, a nurse practitioner from Penn Family and Internal Medicine Lincoln shares three tips to keep your mouth smelling fresh and clean.

Limit Potent Foods

After eating a meal heavy with garlic, onion, or other flavorful—but stinky—ingredients, the food is digested and absorbed into your bloodstream, delivering nutrients throughout your body. Unfortunately, the stench of your tasty meal hitchhikes along for the ride, eventually arriving at your lungs, where it pollutes your breath. Since the odor lies in the lungs, the quick fixes for treating bad breath—brushing, flossing and rinsing with mouthwash—are only temporary solutions.

To save your breath, try to limit your intake of garlic, onions, some varieties of fish, and meaty meals. If you want to treat yourself but don’t want to deal with the repercussive stink, a glass of milk during or after a meal has been known to help deodorize breath.

Stay Hydrated

Saliva plays an important role in oral hygiene. One of its main jobs is flushing your mouth of the tiny food particles that stick to your teeth and gums. Without some spittle, those food particles become a tasty treat for bacteria. As the bacteria snacks on the teeny pieces of food left behind, they grow in number and in stench. Gross!

The absence of saliva in the mouth is also referred to as “dry mouth.” Dry mouth has hundreds of causes, such as:

  • Some prescription medications
  • Dehydration
  • Disease and chronic illness
  • Consuming alcohol and caffeine

Lucky for us, dry mouth is easily prevented. Chewing on a piece of sugar-free gum may aid your saliva production and provide some minty freshness to your mouth. Another simple strategy is swapping that second cup of coffee or glass of wine with a refreshing glass of cold water. A simple glass of water can combat dry mouth by hydrating your body and flushing away pesky food particles and oral bacteria. If quick fixes aren’t enough, let your doctor know and he or she may be able to prescribe a more effective approach.

Your Overall Health (Schedule Annual Checkups)

Those of us with allergies or a cold, which can lead to post nasal drip, may notice our breath suffering along with our health. All that excess mucus is a feasting ground for bacteria, which creates an unpleasant scent.

In addition to acute ailments, chronic illness has been known to effect breath. Liver, gum, and kidney disease, along with many other conditions, may contribute to halitosis. Make sure you’re getting annual wellness check-ups to prevent and treat any underlying health issues. Once your general health improves, your breath will follow.

Tobacco products are also a sure way to infuse bad odor into a close conversation. Added to the natural stench cigarette smoke brings with it, smoking-related oral health problems can cause chronic and painful conditions such as gum disease and oral cancer.

With the various causes of halitosis, there remains the most crucial and well-known path to fresh breath: maintaining your oral hygiene. This means brushing at least twice a day and flossing regularly. For extra coverage, rinse with mouthwash and give a tongue scraper a try. Cleaning out any extra food debris and bacteria will do your hygiene and health a world of good. Here’s to clean, fresh and healthy breath!



Monday, January 4, 2016

Get Fit While at Work

These days, it seems as though more and more people are working longer hours and using the old "no-time-to-exercise" excuse.

Unfortunately, this lack of physical activity can be harmful to your health, as it increases the risk of obesity, back pain, poor posture, leg cramps and tense muscles, among other things.

Wouldn't it be great if you could find a way to fit in some type of workout during those 8+ work hours?

Well, the good news is…you can. It just requires a slight change in how you work or get to work, to make a meaningful improvement.

Cardio

Schedule walk-and-talk meetings. Who says a meeting needs to be held around a table? Take a brainstorming stroll with a colleague. If you need to take notes, schedule the meeting at a park where you can sit on a bench.

Avoid the elevator. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends adults get two hours and 30 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercise to stay fit. Stair climbing for just 10 minutes, three times a day, for example, will total 30 minutes of heart-strengthening exercise, putting you well on your way to reaching that mark.

Take a stand. Set a timer to remind yourself to get out of your chair every 30 minutes. Use this time to walk to the water cooler or check in on a project.

Flexibility

Workout at WorkReach for the sky. Sitting at a desk all day can lead to neck pain between the shoulder blades. You can reduce the pain by reaching both arms up to the ceiling and arching your back. Then bring your arms down and stretch forward, opening the upper back. Do this every 20 minutes.

Stretch out your shoulders. Sit straight in your chair and reach one hand behind your back with your palm out. Then reach your other hand up and bend it down, trying to touch both hands. Hold for 10 seconds.

Point your fingers. Typing for eight straight hours can be harmful to your hands, wrist and forearms. Stretch one hand in front of you, pointing your fingers toward the ground. Use your other hand to gently push your fingers down and toward your body. Repeat on the other side. Then, stretch your hands upward doing the same.

Strength

Tone your arms wherever you can. A great way to sneak fitness into your day is to do a few push-ups here and there. Remember, all you need is a flat surface – and it doesn’t need to be horizontal. Simply lean against a wall, desk or other sturdy surface and get a few reps in.

Rise up out of your chair. Even if you are stuck in your chair all day, you can still get some core work in. Throughout the day, simply lift yourself off your chair with your arms.  If your chair is on wheels, it'll be even harder to hold your body still.

Get your legs up. While sitting in your chair, extend one leg out straight in front of you and hold for a few seconds. Then raise it up as high as you can and hold it again for a few seconds. Repeat with each leg multiple times.

These simple actions can significantly increase your physical health. Squeezing in a little exercise also improves concentration and could actually improve your productivity.


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

New Year, Healthier You

The beginning of the new year is often seen as a time of rebirth, a chance for individuals to start anew.

Each January, millions of Americans resolve to better themselves – many focusing on their health. However, it's been reported that under 10% of individuals will actually achieve their goals.

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try. It means that you need a plan in place and must be realistic about the challenges ahead.

Check out five of the most common New Year’s resolutions and how you can achieve your goals:

Lose Weight

One of the most popular resolutions is also one of the most difficult to achieve. People want results immediately, but losing weight takes time. Each day presents a new opportunity to make a change: improve your diet, be more active or embrace a healthier lifestyle overall.

Keeping track of what you eat will help you realize change is happening even if it’s not yet visible. It is also very helpful to have a support system in place for those days that are a bit more challenging than others.

Take it one step at a time and plan for bumps in the road.

Fit in Fitness

Getting into better shape doesn’t mean you have to spend countless hours at the gym or on the track.

For the average person, a good fitness program consists of exercises that work the entire body and lasts between 30-60 minutes throughout the day. Cardio work improves the health of your heart, lungs and blood vessels. Weight-bearing exercises enhance the function and health of the bones, muscles, joints and connective tissues.

Start slow and if you are unable to commit a full 30-60 minutes at a given time throughout your day, spread it out. Go for a walk on your lunch break, ride your bike after work or do a few reps while dinner is in the oven.

Quit Smoking

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are more former smokers in the United States - nearly 50 million - than current smokers. That means it’s a popular goal and that many people succeed.

Regardless of how long you’ve been smoking, quitting will be a challenge. Research the various methods available and be prepared to try different ones until you find the one that works best for you.

As with losing weight, let others help you. Tell your friends, family and co-workers about your plan and explain to them that you would like their support throughout your journey. It also may be helpful to talk with your healthcare provider as they will have suggestions on how to lessen the urge.

Get More Sleep

Have you been unsuccessful in past quests to get fit, lose weight or eat healthier? Perhaps your plan to healthier living is missing one of the most important pieces of the puzzle: sleep. A lack of sleep has been linked to a greater risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes, among other things.

Although everyone has different sleep patterns and slightly different needs, it is recommended that you get at least seven hours of sleep per night. If you have trouble doing so, try avoiding electronics an hour before bed. The blue light emitted from your television, laptop or smartphone can trigger alertness, keeping you awake longer. Also, try to stick to a schedule, regardless of the day. If you go out late on Saturday and sleep in on Sunday, you may have trouble being ready for Monday morning.

Cut your stress

We all do it. Work is overwhelming, we have a list of chores we need to take care of or we are trying to stick to these New Year’s resolutions. We put added stress on ourselves, which leads to a lack of sleep, poor eating choices or other unhealthy habits.

Make sure to make time for yourself. If you’re like many, you have vacation time saved up – use it. Don’t make yourself available 24/7. Turn off your smartphone, television and computer for an hour a day.

Removing unnecessary stress will go a long way in helping you achieve your other New Year’s resolutions.

Here’s to a healthier you!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Avoiding Holiday Hazards

Robyn S. Medina, DO, a family medicine physician at Penn Family Medicine Valley Forge, offers tips on how to avoid the added risks that accompany the holiday season.

The holiday season is a time for relaxing and celebrating with friends and family. Sitting in front of the fireplace, admiring the decorations and, possibly, sipping on some seasonal cocktails are likely some of the items on your to-do list.

Sorry to be the coal in your stocking, but the most wonderful time of the year can be the most hazardous. Dr. Medina is here to help you prepare for the holidays without the added risks sometimes associated with them.

Enjoy the glow without going up in flames.

Although candles and fireplaces can create a cozy ambiance, increased use combined with other seasonal decorations means more risk for fire. Make sure you:
  1. Never leave burning candles unattended or sleep in a room with a lit candle.
  2. Keep candles out of reach of children and pets.
  3. Don't burn candles near trees, curtains or other flammable items.
  4. Don't burn trees, wreaths or wrapping paper in the fireplace.
  5. Check and clean the chimney and fireplace area at least once a year.

Get into the festive d├ęcor while leaving out the danger.

From tinsel to mistletoe, and Poinsettias to spray snow, holiday decorations are all around. Creating festive displays is one of the best ways to get in the holiday spirit; however, you should make sure you pay attention to any small children or pets that may be around.
  1. When trimming the tree, place breakable ornaments and those that have metal hooks toward the top, away from the smaller creatures in your house.
  2. Keep poisonous plants (including some Poinsettias) out of reach of curious children or pets.
  3. Keep indoor paths clear of wrapping paper, decorations, light wires, toys, etc.
  4. Remember not to spray chemicals when others are around. Adding a frosty look to a surface is easy with spray paint; the problem is it can irritate lungs if inhaled, especially those of little tikes. 

Keep holiday drinking under control.

If there is ever an opportunity to overindulge, the holiday season is it. Between the eggnog, mulled wine, champagne and other alcoholic beverages, the options just seem to be a bit more enticing this time of the year.

If the concern of becoming the topic of water-cooler chatter or making those family gatherings a bit uncomfortable isn’t enough, keep this in mind: The time between Christmas and New Year’s is one of the most dangerous times of the year to be on the road. This is because of the number of people on the road significantly increases, which also means those driving under the influence increases. On New Year’s Day, nearly half of all traffic fatalities involve alcohol, the most of any U.S. holiday.

So, make sure you:
  1. Know who’s the true man (or woman) of the hour (AKA who’s your designated driver?).
  2. Buckle up, no matter how long or short the distance being traveled.
  3. Don’t text and drive. Distracted driving causes one-quarter of all crashes.
  4. Are prepared for more traffic than usual and possibly bad weather.
Ensure this month is a time of joy and cheer. Just a bit of preparation can go a long way in helping you and your friends and family safely enjoy the season.

Happy Holidays!

Interested in learning more helpful tips?


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