University of Pennsylvania Health System

Penn Health and Wellness

Friday, May 30, 2014

We would like your input

Dear readers,

We could use your help.

This blog has covered many topics and questions, sometimes all at the same time. And, every once in a while (hopefully more times than not) we strike a real chord—which is what we would like to do more often and with greater depth.

So this is where you come in: we'd like to hear what sort of topics you would like us to cover or questions you would have us answer. The way we see it, a conversation with you is better than a speech to you. And when it comes to health, we're in this together...searching, striving, looking for answers to questions, big and small.

Please take a few minutes to complete this survey. While we can't offer any reward, we can promise to fully appreciate and thoughtfully consider your input, in where the conversation goes from here.

Thank you for your time and for trusting us with the most important decision you make—your wellbeing.

Monday, May 19, 2014

How to Have Your “Cake” and Eat It, Too

Lori M. Noble, MD, a primary care physician at Spruce Internal Medicine, located at the new Penn Medicine Washington Square building, offers tips on how to satisfy your sweet tooth and do so in a healthy way.

Lori M. Noble, MD
For those that don’t know me, I have a bit of a sweet tooth. Ok, I'm a dessert-a-holic. But, throughout my medical training, I became more aware of the potential detriment this habit of mine could have on my health. It is estimated that diabetes affects 382 million people worldwide and the prevalence continues to increase in every country.

Among adults in the United States, the estimated overall prevalence of diabetes ranges from 5.8 to 12.9 percent. One very large, well-respected study - the community-based Framingham Heart Study- has found that the incidence of type 2 diabetes doubled from the 1970's to the 1990's. Diabetes is one of our country's leading health problems, and as I learned more, I decided I didn't want to become a statistic.

So, over the years, I've found creative ways to satisfy my craving for sweets without breaking the sugar bank. Here are some of the tasty tricks I've developed to make dessert both delicious and healthy:
    Healthy Eating Tips
  • Fruit crisp/cobbler: Slice up a banana or an apple and brown it in a sauté pan that has been sprayed with some non-stick cooking spray. Sprinkle with cinnamon and put the warm fruit over ½ cup of granola. Add two tablespoons of low-fat whipped topping – delicious!
  • "Ice cream": Freeze the older, brown bananas that you would normally wind up throwing out. Once frozen, grind them up in a food processor until they are smooth and creamy. You now have what tastes and looks like ice cream without the added sugar and fat! Mix in whatever you'd like – berries, some crushed graham crackers, a tablespoon of chocolate chips…the possibilities are endless!
  • Oatmeal truffles: Mix one cup of instant oats with ½ cup of dried figs, dates or raisins, two tablespoons of skim milk, one tablespoon of honey and cinnamon in a food processor. Once well mixed, form into balls, roll into coconut flakes (optional) and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  • Bread pudding: Take two pieces of whole wheat bread (stale or fresh) and break them into small pieces, set aside. Mix ¼ cup of egg whites, two tablespoons of raisins, ½ teaspoon of salt, cinnamon to taste and one tablespoon of melted butter. Pour the mixture over the bread, transfer to an oven-safe dish and bake at 350 degrees until warm, about 15-20 minutes.
For those looking for store bought options that don't require preparation, here are two of my favorites:
  • Skinny Cow: Skinny Cow ice cream sandwiches or ice cream popsicles. They typically run between 100-150 calories and are very satisfying.
  • Weight Watchers muffins: Add a side of fresh fruit and you've got a high fiber, cake-like dessert.
So next time you are looking for something sweet, try one of these healthy, satisfying options that have earned high praise in my house and should do the trick in yours.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Win the Battle Against Allergies

Jeffrey Millstein, MD, a primary care physician at Penn Internal Medicine Woodbury Heights, explains what “allergies” are and how you can win the battle against them this season.

It is that wonderful time of year again. The black and white of winter has given way to the bright colors and plush landscapes of spring. Our moods have brightened; our clothes lightened but, unfortunately for some, the sniffling and sneezing of allergies has blurred the idyllic picture.
Jeffrey Millstein, MD

What are allergies?

Allergies – also known as “hay fever” or seasonal allergic rhinitis – is the fifth most common chronic condition in the United States. Pennsylvania and New Jersey have three allergy “seasons” the spring (when trees pollinate), the summer (when grasses release their pollen) and the fall (ragweed season).

An allergy occurs when your immune system overreacts and mistakes an ordinary substance, such as pollen, as a harmful invader. Inflammatory cells swarm to the area of contact (nose, sinuses, skin and eyes) and release antibodies, histamine and other destructive chemicals in an attempt to combat the “invader”, resulting in an allergic reaction.

How do I know if I have allergies?

Because common symptoms include runny nose, sneezing along with itchy and watery eyes. It can be difficult to distinguish allergies from an upper respiratory infection. There are, however, some clues to help determine what you are suffering from. Allergies can cause fatigue and misery from congestion to irritation of the respiratory tract, but will usually not make one feel truly “ill.” A fever, green or yellow mucous, deep cough or shortness of breath are indicative of infection and should prompt a call or visit to your primary care provider.

Allergies typically begin in childhood or adolescence, but they can develop at any time thereafter. While specific allergies are not directly inherited, your risk of developing allergies is increased if family members are affected.

Are there ways to fight allergies?

Below are some tips to help you get through the sneezing season more comfortably:

Avoid the thing you’re allergic to. Monitor pollen counts in your area and avoid outdoor activity when the count is especially high. The National Allergy Bureau or local weather stations provide accurate, accessible pollen count information. Keeping windows closed, and showering after coming indoors may also help prevent symptoms.

Fight allergies
Try over-the-counter medications. Antihistamines are the most common of these remedies. Newer types, like certrizine, fexofenadine and loratadine are effective and are much less sedating than ones of the past. Nasal steroids, mast cell inhibitors and montelukast are other prescription options for refractory symptoms. A number of eye drops are available as well, specifically to treat itchy and watery eyes. Talk to your primary care provider to discuss what options would be best for you.

Natural remedies have shown efficacy for treating allergies. A few natural or homeopathic remedies have been shown to be effective, though some are outside the FDA’s purview: the European herb butterbur has shown some efficacy in clinical studies, similar to antihistamines and migraine relief medicine; salt water nasal spray can help wash out pollen from the nose and sinuses and, some cases, acupuncture can be helpful.

When symptoms do not respond to these interventions, as expected, and symptoms are severe or persistent, it may be time to see an allergist. They can perform skin and serologic testing for specific allergens and offer immunotherapy (allergy shots) when appropriate. Immunotherapy is based on the concept that the immune system can be desensitized to substances that trigger allergies. Injections can potentially lead to a lasting solution to allergy symptoms.

Allergies can be very annoying and sometimes disabling, but many effective options for prevention and treatment are available.

Establishing or maintaining a good rapport with your primary care provider or allergist will most likely lead to a satisfactory solution to this common problem.

Spring Skin Health Seminar

Penn Dermatology will be a hosting a free reception on Monday, May 19 to provide tips on how to keep your skin healthy and safe this summer.

During the Spring Skin Health Seminar, Penn Dermatology staff will give information on sunscreen, self-skin checks and topical cosmetic products. Joseph F. Sobanko, MD, Director of Dermatologic Surgery Education, will discuss the latest technology and products to help you look and feel your best. His lecture will cover cutting-edge cosmetic techniques, such as lasers for scar reduction and skin resurfacing, injectable products that require minimal downtime and innovative products that are coming out soon.

Event Details

Date: Monday, May 19
Time: 6 pm to 8 pm
Location:  Smilow Center
                for Translational Research
                3400 Civic Center Blvd
                Philadelphia, PA 19104

Hors d'oeuvres and beverages will be served. Attendees will receive a complimentary gift bag.

To RSVP or find more information, call 215.662.6534 or email

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