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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

How to Beat the Summer Heat

Lori M. Noble, MD, a primary care physician at Spruce Internal Medicine, located at the new Penn Medicine Washington Square offers tips on how to stay safe in the summer heat.

Beat the Summer Heat
Lori M. Noble, MD
Summer is a time for family fun in the sun, lazy days by the pool or ocean and countless outdoor activities.

As the summer heat beats down, though, it can sometimes seem like it’s impossible to stay cool. Not only can it be uncomfortable, but in some cases, it can actually be serious or even life-threatening. It is important to be able to recognize the signs of both heat exhaustion and heat stroke, and to know how to treat and prevent them.

Heat exhaustion is due to either not having enough water or salt in the body, both of which come from a combination of excess sweating and lack of hydration. Common symptoms that you should be on the lookout for include:
  • Pale skin or cool, moist skin with goose bumps when in the heat
  • Fatigue
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Headache
  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea
  • Heavy sweating
  • Dark-colored urine, (a sign of dehydration)
  • Rapid heartbeat
If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, the most important step is to get out of the heat as quickly as possible. Preferably, get to an air-conditioned space or at least out of the sun. Then, drink water, remove tight clothing and take a cool bath or shower. If the symptoms continue for more than 30 minutes despite these treatments, call your doctor. If untreated, heat exhaustion can progress to a more dangerous heat-related illness, called heat stroke.

The common symptoms of heat stroke are:
  • Body temperature over 105° F
  • Throbbing headache
  • Dizziness and light-headedness
  • Lack of sweating despite the heat
  • Red, hot and dry skin
  • Muscle weakness or cramps
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Rapid heartbeat (which may be either strong or weak)
  • Rapid, shallow breathing
  • Behavioral changes (such as confusion, disorientation or staggering)
  • Seizures
  • Unconsciousness
If you see someone demonstrating these symptoms, immediately call 911. While waiting for the paramedics to arrive, some simple first aid should be administered, which can be life-saving: fan air over the patient while wetting his or her skin with water from a sponge or hose, apply ice packs to the patient's armpits, groin, neck and back to help reduce body temperature, and if the patient is conscious, help them get into to a shower or tub of cool water, or an ice bath.

Preventing heat-related illness is just as important as being able to recognize and treat the common symptoms. Children under age four and adults over 65 or with chronic medical illnesses (like heart disease, lung disease, kidney disease, and diabetes) are at increased risk for both heat exhaustion and heat stroke, so be sure to check in on your loved ones during these hot summer months.

When the temperatures soar above 90 degrees, encourage people without air conditioning to go to a public place that does have air conditioning, like a shopping mall or senior center.

Finally, keep plenty of water on hand and always wear loose, breathable clothing.

Taking these simple steps can help insure that you and your loved ones have a healthy, happy summer.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

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.

Friday, June 27, 2014

The Benefits of Physical Activity

Risha Hertz, APNC, discusses the numerous health benefits of keeping an active lifestyle. Risha practices at Penn Family Medicine Gibbsboro.

The Benefits of Physical Activity
Risha Hertz, APNC
For many of us, as kids, our parents probably sounded like a broken record: Go outside and play! Sitting inside and watching television is not good for your health.

As it turns out, they were right. Being sedentary or not really engaging in any physical exertion, can take a toll:

“Regular physical activity greatly helps many of the body’s systems function better,” said Risha Hertz, APNC. “For those that aren’t very active, they face increased chances of becoming overweight and developing a number of chronic diseases.”

“For my patients that are just becoming more active, it is a joy to see the positive effects just days into their individualized activity program.”

Below are just a few of the benefits of regular exercise and living a healthy lifestyle.

Controls weight and improves appearance. Perhaps most important, exercise can help prevent excess weight gain or help you to maintain weight loss. Adding muscle also helps your body look lean and toned. Exercise also makes you sweat, which purges the body of toxins that can clog pores and plague your skin with pimples and blemishes.

Strengthens mental acuity. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, research has shown that doing aerobics or a mix of aerobics and muscle-strengthening activities three to five times a week gives you numerous mental health benefits. Regular physical activity can help improve your thinking, learning, concentration and reaction time as you age. It can also reduce the risk of depression and may help you sleep better.

Gives you an energy boost. Exercise and physical activity transport oxygen and nutrients to your tissues and help your cardiovascular system work more efficiently. When your lungs and heart are working more efficiently, you have more energy.

Reduces risk of injury. Exercise is critical for strong muscles and bones. As you age, muscle strength declines, but studies show that people who exercise on a regular basis are stronger and leaner than others in their age group. Because muscles act as both cushions and shock absorbers for your joints, strong muscles help to protect joints, improve balance and can help reduce the pain of arthritis.

Reduce risk of disease. Two of the leading causes of death in the United States are heart disease and stroke. Living an active lifestyle increases your high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good," cholesterol and decreases unhealthy triglycerides. This combination, which helps blood flow, decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease. Regular activity can also help prevent a number of other health concerns, including stroke, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, depression, some types of cancer and arthritis.

Now that you know the positive effects of living an active lifestyle, how do you get started?

“At Penn Medicine, we partner with our patients to develop individualized activity programs that will work for them,” said Hertz. “Many think that they have to go to the gym for half an hour to an hour and perform weight lifting and cardio. Formal activity is great, but is not for everyone. My patients and I explore ways in which they can become more active throughout the day as much as possible.”

If you haven’t exercised consistently in some time, you might want to talk to your primary care doctor first.

Already a Penn patient? Use Penn’s Goals for Healthy Living worksheet at your next primary care appointment to help determine and track your activity goals.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Always on Call: The Role of Team Doctors Prior to NBA Draft

Each May, many of the top college and international basketball players come together for the NBA Draft Combine, a multi-day showcase occurring prior to the annual June NBA Draft. During this event, players are put through a variety of drills and interviews, their physical measurements are recorded and they are examined by team physicians.

Penn Medicine is proud to serve as the Official Healthcare Provider of the Philadelphia 76ers. Through a team of core physicians, Penn Medicine provides medical services and treatments to the Sixers players.

Despite this very busy time of the year, Brian J. Sennett, MD, Head Team Physician & Orthopaedic Surgeon and Rahul Kapur, MD, Chief Medical Physician, took the time to provide just a glimpse of their roles during this very important offseason for the 76ers.

Read the full story.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Men: It's Time to Make Health a Priority

Raza Ahmad, MD, discusses the importance of men’s health. Dr. Ahmad practices at Delancey Internal Medicine, now located at Penn Medicine Washington Square.

Raza Ahmad, MD
Raza Ahmad, MD
When it comes to taking care of the house, men will clean the gutters, cut the grass, fix leaky pipes and do many other things to make sure it “stays in good shape”. But, when it comes to their own well-being, they are sometimes less motivated to put the same amount of effort into it. Perhaps this sounds like your dad, brother, son, husband or, even, yourself?

The summer is a great time to remind the men in your life about the importance of getting annual check-ups, proper screenings and taking a look at their overall approach to good health. Make sure that they look as good from the inside as from the outside.

Even if feeling healthy, it’s important to have annual check-ups. This gives your physician the opportunity to obtain a detailed medical history and a thorough physical exam. Additionally, we will collect baseline blood work, including cholesterol, and refer you for proper screening tests, if needed.

With these wellness checkups, potential problems can be identified before they become serious. This also gives you and your physician an opportunity to build a relationship, which will help you and your care team stay ahead of any issues. Should a health situation arise, these previous interactions will help your care team develop a personalized and focused treatment plan.

Your doctor can also provide advice on a proper diet and the best ways to exercise by taking into account your age, weight and family history.

Timetable for Maintaining Good Health

Below is a basic guide providing general medical evaluations for adults. This guide does not take into consideration any existing symptoms, chronic conditions or family history.

Timetable for Men's Health

If you have any specific questions, your regular well checkup would be the time to ask. Playing catch up in the bottom of the ninth inning with two outs is not a position you want to be in when it comes to your health. Preventative medicine is the best medicine!

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