University of Pennsylvania Health System

Penn Health and Wellness

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Get Moving: A Sedentary Lifestyle Is Harming Your Health

Growing up, how often were you told to “get off that couch and go outside”?

These words of wisdom don’t just apply to children.

We all know that exercise is important and that most of us should be doing more of it. But how and when are we supposed to? With advances in technology extending 9-to-5 work days and the countless items filling our daily to-do lists, there often doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day.

The research continues to mount up, telling us it’s time to stop leading a sedentary lifestyle and get off the couch. Here’s why and how to make it happen.

What Is a Sedentary Lifestyle?

Dr. Schettino
A sedentary lifestyle means an individual is not receiving regular amounts of physical activity. Regular amounts of physical activity, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), consists of a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of a more vigorous regimen per week.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 60 to 85 percent of the population worldwide does not engage in enough activity. This makes physical inactivity the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality.

Many people think that a healthy diet and 30 minutes of aerobic exercise a day is enough to offset the time spent being sedentary. Unfortunately, it may not be enough for most.

“Daily physical activity is paramount in maintaining a healthy lifestyle,” says sports medicine physician Michael C. Schettino, MD. It should be as great a priority as eating, sleeping and working. A simple way to ensure adequate physical activity is to walk 10,000 steps (approximately five miles) each day.”

What Are Some of the Health Risks?

An ever-increasing amount of research has shown that physical inactivity increases a person’s risk level for cardiovascular disease and other conditions. Less active, less fit individuals are more at risk for:
  • High blood pressure and elevated cholesterol levels
  • Certain cancers
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Becoming overweight or obese
  • A decrease in skeletal muscle mass
“There’s no easy way out when it comes to physical fitness,” says Dr. Schettino. "It necessitates sacrifice and commitment. In the end, the fruits of one’s labors will be worthwhile. Trust me. Remember, we ultimately reap what we sow. Start sowing an active physical lifestyle today and you’ll begin reaping the significant health benefits.”

fight the sitting disease How to Fight Back

The battle against a sedentary lifestyle and the various health risks it presents can be one we all win. Here are a few simple steps you can take…some quite literally are more steps.

  • Better utilize your commute. If you take public transportation, stand while riding. If you drive to work, park a bit further from the office so that you can walk for a few minutes before and after work.
  • Workout at work. Having an office job is no excuse. There are many ways to keep active and Get Fit While at Work.
  • Clean up after dinner. Don’t let the dishes sit until tomorrow. After you eat a meal, clean the dishes and countertops. This forces you to stand and be engaged in physical activity, which will help to lower blood sugar levels.
  • Get up and go. Mix in walks throughout your day. If you have a dog, bring him or her along as Your Pup May Be the Best Workout Buddy.
  • Skip the DVR. We all dislike commercials – which makes them an excellent time to get up and get things done. While waiting for your favorite show to come back on, do some push-ups or sit-ups. Even if you fold clothes during the breaks, you’re keeping your body moving.
Simply put: We can all benefit from greater activity and it doesn’t require a gym membership or a change in clothing—often just a change in how you think of exercise.

Ready to get started on a physical activity program that is right for you? Speak with a primary care physician near you.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Tips for Talking to Your Doctor

Paula S. Barry, MD, a primary care physician at Penn Family and Internal Medicine Longwood, explains how to prepare to talk with your doctor at your next visit.

Paula Barry, MD
Don't just choose a doctor. Choose a partner.

Over the past few years, I’ve noticed that patients are playing a more active role in their health care. This is a great thing.

The relationship you build with your doctor is one of the most important you'll ever have. Not only should you feel comfortable talking to your physician about your diagnosis or concerns, you should feel confident he or she can guide your healthcare treatment and decisions.

Get the Most Out of Your Visit

In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, scheduling your doctor’s appointment can become just another item to check off your to-do list. But once you have your appointment scheduled, you should take the time to ensure that you will get the most out of your visit.

Be Prepared

If you were going into a business meeting, you’d take time to prepare beforehand. Why not do the same for your doctor’s appointment? Make a list that includes:
  • Any concerns, symptoms or reasons for your visit
  • Your health history, including recent x-rays, scans, lab results; as well as surgeries
  • Any medical diagnosis, which is the cause for your visit
  • Name of physicians or specialists you see
  • All medications you are currently taking, including over-the-counter medications, vitamins and supplements
  • Any medication allergies
Goals for Healthy Living and Appointment Checklist

Although you may think that doctors only treat what they can see, symptoms don’t have to be just physical. They can also involve your thoughts and feelings, so don’t be afraid to mention if you’re feeling depressed, forgetful, confused a lot, etc.

If you’re a new patient or have had a recent change in your health, it’s important to bring in previous records/diagnostic imaging or test results. This way, the physician can gather data to best suit your needs.

Ask Questions

Remember, you are your own best advocate. If you don’t understand the treatment plan or reason for a certain medication or test, just ask. You need to make sense of what’s going on with you, and your doctor should know if you don’t understand something. You might even consider bringing a friend or family member to your appointment, if you think it will help you better understand or remember the diagnosis and treatment options.

Talk to your doctorMost offices are also now using and providing patients access to electronic health records, such as myPennMedicine. Within this patient portal, you may be given a summary of your visit at its conclusion, which typically displays your vital signs, diagnosis, recommended tests and follow-up. This is just another way to help you stay informed, keep in touch with your care team and play a vital role in your healthcare.

Follow up with your Doctor

Make sure you follow any instructions your doctor provided during the appointment, like taking medicine, scheduling a test or scheduling an appointment with a specialist.

Your relationship with your doctor shouldn’t end once you leave the office. If you’re uncertain about anything mentioned during your visit or have questions about your treatment plan, contact him or her immediately. If you had any tests done and didn’t hear back or are feeling worse since starting any new medications, reach out. Any successful relationship requires communication.

Take it from someone who is a physician: Most doctors are happy to spend time with you and answer questions. We’re appreciative of patients that take an active role in their health and it all starts with a little preparation and a few direct questions. For more information, check out Penn Primary Care’s patient resources.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Spring into Good Health

Spring is here - at last! The flowers are blooming, the sun is shining and people seem to have just a little extra hop in their step.

But if you're still finding it difficult to get out of hibernation mode, Penn Medicine offers some spring wellness suggestions to help:

Get Up, Get Out and Get Active

It can be hard to get back into the swing of things, especially after the brutally cold winter many of us just endured. Your body, though, will thank you once you get out into the fresh air. Go for a jog, hike, walk the dog, do some yard work, anything that gets your body moving.

Ever think about trying a 5k or 10k run/walk? Now is the perfect time to sign up and give it a shot.

Set goals for yourself in terms of the amount of activities you want to do in a week and have fun reaching them.

Eat Healthier

We know, it's easier said than done. But here's really why: with the additional outdoor activities you’ll be enjoying in the nice weather, your body needs more vitamins and nutrients. Spring is when many different fruits and vegetables come into season, which means your grocery store will be stocked with all kinds of produce. Take advantage of these fresh foods by integrating them into your diet. Not only are they good for you, but they will give you extra energy.

Be Prepared for Allergy Season

We all know the saying, “April showers bring May flowers”. For those that are prone to sniffles and sneezes as the weather warms, now is the time to prepare a plan of defense.

Although the thought is to open windows and allow some fresh air to come in, this can have consequences to those suffering from allergies. By keeping windows closed during this time of year, you can reduce the amount of pollen entering the house. It is also recommended that you change filters in air conditioning units and vents frequently throughout springtime.

When venturing outside, wear sunglasses and a hat to block pollen from landing on your head or entering your eyes. After being outside for an extended period of time, be sure to shower to remove any pollen from your hair and skin.

Finally, talk to your doctor about a seasonal allergy drug that may be appropriate for your symptoms. Or, just schedule an appointment before the season really kicks in.

Get Ready for Spring Cleaning

Did you know there are health benefits to spring cleaning? Not only can spring cleaning help reduce sneezing and sniffling by removing dust buildup, it can also help your mental health. By living in a clutter-free environment, you can reduce stress and anxiety. Remember that spring cleaning needs to be an ongoing activity because of the additional foot traffic, pollen, etc.

A few tips to guide your cleaning:
  • In an attempt to control pollen, wash bedding every week in hot water.
  • Wash throw rugs every couple weeks to reduce mold.
  • Change filters in air conditioning units and vents every 30-60 days.

Work Out With Your Dog

Work out with your dog
Taking long walks or runs with your dog can help both of you stay in shape! The recommended time per day for walking your dog is 30 minutes. Just think, you can burn calories and enjoy time with your pup. In fact, a 140-pound woman walking at a leisurely pace for a half an hour can burn up to 100 calories! Of course your pet benefits as well.

Benefits of getting fit with your dog include:
  • Motivation to exercise – there's nothing like an workout partner who's waiting by the door with a wagging tail to keep you motivated!
  • Helps digestive system – a brisk walk can help aid digestion after a big meal.
  • Increased cardiovascular fitness – steady movement can get your heart rate up and can help lower blood pressure.
  •  Improve balance and coordination.
All the above benefits go for your dog as well. In addition, this time together strengthens the bond between you and your pet, and leads to a strong, trusting relationship.

Find out more about how Your Pup May Be the Best Workout Buddy.

Spring brings many opportunities, so say goodbye to snow shovels and warmer jackets and say hello to extended days and new outdoor adventures. Like all good things, this time of year is fleeting. So be sure to make the best of it!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

What is Musculoskeletal Pain?

Let’s face it, “musculoskeletal” is tough to pronounce, let alone explain or fully understand.

Musculoskeletal PainMusculoskeletal disorders are actually one of the most common medical conditions, affecting approximately one-third of all adults in the United States. And that number is growing exponentially, thanks to an aging and still active population.

Musculoskeletal disorders are actually one of the most common medical conditions, affecting approximately one-third of all adults in the United States. And that number is growing exponentially, thanks to an aging and still active population.

People tend to explain it as their entire body aching or that their muscles feel as though they have been pulled or overworked with the most common symptoms being pain, fatigue or a disruption in normal sleep patterns.

Musculoskeletal pain can affect anyone and impact all major areas of the body, including the:
  • Neck
  • Shoulders
  • Wrists
  • Back
  • Hips
  • Legs
  • Knees
  • Feet

How is Musculoskeletal Pain Diagnosed and Treated?

Musculoskeletal pain and disorders can be treated by a number of different medical specialists. Diagnosing musculoskeletal pain requires a physician to take numerous things into account. They will begin by thoroughly reviewing your medical history, looking for possible causes of your pain (strenuous work conditions, sports, repetitive motions, etc.). Your physician will then conduct a hands-on examination looking for the source of pain. Finally, they will likely conduct various diagnostic procedures that may include X-rays, blood tests, CT scans and MRIs, to know the physical extent of that pain.

Once the cause of your pain and discomfort has been determined, your physician will go through the treatment options available to you. For acute pain, physical therapy, exercise programs, analgesics (such as acetaminophen), non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and injections are all possibilities. For those suffering from more severe pain, surgery may be the appropriate treatment option. Surgeries could include: arthroplasty (or replacement), arthroscopy, soft tissue and cartilage repair.

The Region’s First Musculoskeletal Center

The Penn Musculoskeletal Center, the first of its kind in Philadelphia, is revolutionizing the way musculoskeletal care is delivered. The Center provides the latest diagnostic techniques and the most advanced surgical and non-surgical options for a range of musculoskeletal disorders, injuries and pain found in muscles, ligaments and tendons, and bones.

By bringing together multiple specialists as a seamless unit, the team works together to consider a wide range of treatments, not just surgery. This team-based model of care creates a seamless, integrated patient experience and the most efficient process of diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Get back to living pain-free.
Schedule an appointment today.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Prevent the Dreaded Afternoon Crash

We’ve all been there. You plowed through the morning, checking off all the items on your to-do list, sorting through your emails and, even, tackling that project you’ve been putting off for weeks.

Avoid the Afternoon Crash
Then, out of nowhere, it happens. You hit the proverbial wall. Your energy is zapped, and all you want to do is turn off the lights, hide under your desk and close your eyes for just a few minutes.

Don’t fear. You are perfectly normal. That tired, mid or late-afternoon feeling is your body’s response to its natural circadian rhythm — your internal clock that tells you when it’s time to wake up and go to bed — and the changes in blood-sugar levels that are largely dependent on what you eat.

Luckily, there are ways to fight the urge to curl up in your cubicle:

Eat Healthy

As if there weren’t enough reasons to watch what you eat, a healthy diet will help you stay focused throughout the day.

Many times, people will start to feel drowsy and rush to the vending machine for a candy bar or to the cafeteria to grab a piece of pizza or French fries. Rather than racing to sugary treats or fat-heavy foods that may provide a short high followed by a sugar crash, try eating a balanced lunch that includes protein and carbohydrates. The protein helps keep your blood sugar and energy at a good level, while the carbohydrates will keep you feeling full.

It’s also important you don’t skip the most important meal of the day. Yes, you know which one we’re talking about: breakfast. You’ve heard the old saying, eat breakfast like a king (or queen), lunch like a prince (or princess) and dinner like a pauper. Well, that’s because a nutritionally dense and filling breakfast will help sustain you during the times when your mental skills are in highest demand.

Paula S. Barry, MD
Paula S. Barry, MD
“Even if you don’t have time for a large meal each morning, try to include some protein and complex carbohydrates like fruits, vegetables and  whole grains into your daily routine, says  Paula S. Barry, MD, a primary care physician at Penn Family and Internal Medicine Longwood, in Chester County. “This will help to balance your glucose or sugar levels and keep you more focused throughout the day. By changing the food you eat for lunch you can obtain a more steady glucose level throughout the afternoon. Avoiding the peaks and troughs of fluctuating sugars may help you have a more energetic and productive day.”

Also try to watch  your alcohol or caffeine consumption throughout the week. If you simply can’t miss that office happy hour, limit yourself to a drink or two so that you don’t become fatigued later in the week.

Keep Active

One of the best ways to escape the tiredness is to hit the gym or go for a run on your lunch break. Unfortunately, many of us don’t have the time during work hours. If you’re unable to get away, there are things you can do in the office to boost productivity.

If you’re short on time and have just a few minutes between meetings, try some desk stretches to keep your muscles loose or consider a walking meeting. Not only will this provide a quick jolt of energy and inspire new ideas but it can also increase circulation to the brain and allow you to re-focus.

Pushing through the afternoon slump can be tough, but there are things you can do throughout the day to reach the finish line. Remember, there is no break from a healthy lifestyle.

“Always keep in mind that if you have severe or more prolonged symptoms, you should always check with your doctor to be sure you do not have diabetes or some other underlying medical condition,” suggests Dr. Barry.

Interested in other tips for office workouts? Check out Get Fit While at Work.

Need help developing a plan to fight your drowsiness? Speak with a primary care physician near you today.

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