Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Safe Toys for Children

Safe Toys for Children
Toys range in size and intricacy from plush stuffed animals to entire-assembly-required sets of tiny parts, meaning they also vary in terms of the ages of the children for whom they are intended.  While it may be a really great feeling to buy the kids in your life whichever toys they want most, you’ll feel even better when you give them something that is fun and age range/safety appropriate.

Birth to 6 months old—At this age, when infants develop through exploring with their eyes, ears and mouths, focus on gifts that are textured and safe for mouthing. There should be no small parts that could be swallowed or become lodged in the throat and nothing with potentially “entangling” cords, ribbon, elastic or strings.  
Suggestions: floor gyms, activity quilts, teething toys, large interlocking plastic keys or rings, cloth toys, soft dolls, stuffed animals, musical or chime toys, rattles
6 months to 1 year old—This is a time of learning: to sit up, to crawl and to figure out what toys are made of, including banging them, dropping them, stacking them, and opening and closing them. Avoid anything that is breakable, has sharp edges or is small enough to fit entirely in the mouth (swallowing risk).
Suggestions: push-pull toys, nesting/stacking toys, pop-up toys, soft blocks, bath toys, teething toys, stuffed animals, simple musical instruments, squeeze/squeak toys, rattles, cloth/cardboard picture books, medium-sized balls
1 to 2 years old—Kids at this age are on the move, and that means that they need toys that can keep up with their fast paces. Keep your selections focused on fun, adventurous games and toys without sharp edges or small parts.
Suggestions: wagons, backyard gym equipment, nesting/stacking toys, simple shape sorters, sandbox toys, wading pools, stuffed animals, kitchen toys, playhouses
2 to 3 years old—Physical games rule in this age group! Choose toys that keep kids engaged and active, still avoiding small parts and anything sharp or too rough-edged.
Suggestions: balls, building blocks, blocks with letters/numbers, dolls, puzzles, dress up clothes, play scenes, tricycles/protective gear, play vehicles, storybooks, stuffed animals
3 to 6 years old—Children act like miniature adults in this age group, pretending and imagining their way through the majority of their playtime sessions.  They will love things that engage them and allow the pretending to continue, but make sure to keep those things non-toxic and sharp edge-free.
Suggestions: tricycles/bicycles and helmets, construction toys, puzzles, props for make believe, non-toxic art supplies, simple story games, simple word/matching games, storybooks, lacing sets, basic jewelry sets
6 to 9 years old—Grade school children love informational experiences, games, competitions and crafts.  Give the gift of games that focus on mental and physical engagement.
Suggestions: roller skates/protective gear, swimming gear, jump ropes, construction toys, action figures, doll houses, jigsaw puzzles, magic sets, craft/model kits, art supplies, electronic games, board games, fairytale books
9 to 12 years old—In this period of life, children develop hobbies and life-long interests.  Active play, team sports, art projects, science projects and more will make perfect gifts.
Suggestions—sports equipment, model kits, science kits, chess/checkers, art supplies, advanced board games, video games, strategy games, advanced books

Prevent the Flu Before it Gets to You!

Prevent the Flu Before it Gets to You
Misery loves company and germs know it best! With flu season well underway, it’s always good to be reminded of some simple hand hygiene techniques that everybody can use to reduce the chances of catching the flu or a cold.

Listen to your doctors when they say that you should always wash your hands throughout the day before and after certain activities, such as eating a meal and using the restroom. Your hands are the most active and “touchy” part of your body, meaning that they come in contact with the most germs on any given day. Germs can be on objects like handrails, door knobs, toys, computer equipment and other people’s hands.

How exactly should you wash your hands? A good way to start is with plain old soap and water. The easiest step is to wet your hands in a sink lukewarm water. Apply one or two pumps of soap onto your hands to make sure you have enough. When lathering, be sure to get all around your hands including thumbs, under fingernails, in between your fingers, and the backs of your hands all the way up to your wrists. Some people sing “Happy Birthday” in their heads to assure that they wash their hands for at least 20 seconds, which is the optimal time to scrub away the germs. Afterward, rinse your hands with warm water to remove all of the soap from your hands and dry your hands with a towel. Use that towel to turn off the faucet and, if needed, to grasp a doorknob or handle.

If you don’t have access to soap and water, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol will do the trick. These products are great to carry on in your pocket or purse. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are very effective as the alcohol kills most bacteria/viruses on contact. These products are actually less drying to hands than soap and water washing.

No matter how clean you may think your hands may be, remember that they touch a lot of germ-laden surfaces throughout the day! Keeping your hands away from your nose and mouth is a great way to prevent germs from infecting your body. Also, sharing food should be kept to a minimum, as that is a prime way for germs to spread from one person to another.

Have you already come down with a cold or the flu? GBMC's primary care physicians are accepting new patients. Visit www.mygbmcdoctor.com or call 443-849-GBMC (4262) to find a physician who is right for you.

Attorney Objects to Persistent Hoarseness

Richard Eventoff -- GBMC patient
For attorney Richard Eventoff, persistent vocal hoarseness presented a challenge in his everyday life. Treatment at the Johns Hopkins Voice Center located at GBMC changed his life. This is his story, in his own words.

Hospitals and doctors’ offices are all too familiar for me. I’ve had more than 15 surgeries during my life, from an appendectomy and tonsillectomy as a child to orthopedic surgeries on my knees and wrists as an adult. After a frightening open heart surgery in 2003, I hoped that my days of medical procedures would be behind me. Unfortunately, that was not the case.

In 2012, I started to develop a raspy voice that didn’t go away. It wasn’t a painful feeling; I was just always hoarse. The symptom continued for about a year and a half. Since I’m a lawyer who negotiates union contracts for a living, it’s important for me to be able to speak clearly and effectively. I finally went to see a doctor, looking for answers. The first doctor told me that I simply needed to rest my voice and the problem would resolve itself. So, for a while, I tried to do most of my work by email instead of speaking.

When the hoarseness didn’t go away, the doctor examined my throat more closely, diagnosed me with vocal cord disease and recommended surgical procedures to remove several lesions that had developed. But the symptoms persisted and the lesions kept coming back. My doctor sent me to see Lee Akst, MD, an otolaryngologist at the Johns Hopkins Voice Center located at GBMC, for more specialized treatment.

When I walked into the Voice Center, I was filled with uncertainty, wondering if I might have cancer or if I would need to have my vocal cords removed. When I met Dr. Akst, he had a calming effect on me. It was apparent that he had cared for patients like me before. He was very knowledgeable and took his time explaining everything to me.

Mr. Eventoff and Dr. Lee Akst, MD -- GBMC VoiceWith vocal cord disease, repeated surgeries can cause scarring in the throat, which affects the long-term quality of a person’s voice. I did not recover quickly from the first surgeries and had to whisper for weeks at a time afterward instead of speaking normally. I was concerned about what my voice might sound like in the future as a result of the procedures. Dr. Akst and the Voice Center team established a way to manage my vocal cord disease while keeping my voice quality intact using a technique called microlaryngoscopy. The treatment was much less invasive than what I had previously experienced. For example, when he looked at my throat, Dr. Akst used a device that went through my mouth instead of my nose. This method was easier and also put my anxiety to rest.

During my most recent appointment with Dr. Akst, he said my throat looks better than ever! I have never liked looking at the screen showing images of my vocal cords, but during this last appointment, Dr. Akst strongly encouraged me to look at the remarkable “before and after” photos. It was truly amazing to see the difference that I can already feel and hear. Today, everyday life is enjoyable. It’s much easier now to communicate with my clients! I’m married to a wonderful woman and a typical weekend finds us relaxing at the pool in our backyard with any of our nine grandchildren. In my free time, I help to rehabilitate birds of prey and tend to my freshwater stingray tank. There’s never a dull moment at our house! I’m so grateful to Dr. Akst and the Voice Center for allowing me to continue living the life I love.

An Inside Look at the Voice Center

Fender Voice & Music Studio—Voice therapy for performing artists is provided in the fully equipped music studio offering guitars, a digital baby grand piano, amplifiers, microphones and recording capabilities to meet the needs of performers.

Laryngeal Procedure Room—Laryngeal Stroboscopy, vocal fold augmentation/injections and vocal fold laser treatments are performed in the laryngeal procedure room. These procedures are performed for a variety of vocal fold impairments.

Stroboscopy Room—In the stroboscopy room, a physician or speech pathologist uses an endoscope, which provides telescopic video recordings of a patient’s larynx, to help diagnose underlying causes of a patient’s voice issues. During the procedure, the physician and the speech pathologist instruct the patient to perform various vocal tasks in order to observe vocal cord movement and to identify any vocal pathologies.

Body & Movement Room—The movement education studio is designed for body-centered therapy to enhance body awareness, release chronic muscular tensions and promote the physical freedom necessary for vocal flexibility

For additional information about the Johns Hopkins Voice Center located at GBMC, visit www.gbmc.org/voice or call 443-849-GBMC (4262).

Red Wine: Good for the Heart, Mind and Body

Red Wine: Good for the Heart, Mind and BodyMore than ten years of studies have suggested that moderate alcohol consumption can help improve cardiovascular health.  As if that wasn’t reason enough to enjoy a glass of red once in awhile, recent research has shown that red wine seems to provide an even wider variety of health benefits. Read on for more information about how it works.

Heart-Healthy Antioxidants

Red wine contains polyphenols, antioxidant-rich compounds that the Mayo Clinic says may aid in promoting overall health and well-being. Red wine also contains flavonoids, which have antioxidant, antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties, as well as resveratrol, a health-boosting substance that comes from the skin of the grapes used to make the wine.

Benefits of a 5-Ounce Glass of Red Wine

Increases “good” cholesterol levels (HDL)
Decreases “bad” cholesterol levels (LDL)
Reduces injury to blood vessels and arteries
Helps minimize inflammation in the body
Reduces risk of coronary heart disease
Prevents blood clots

Better Body Functioning

Antioxidants in red wine affect more than just heart health. Oxidants, also called “free radicals,” travel throughout the body on a daily basis and can interrupt normal cellular function if they build up. According to an article in Dermatology and Therapy published by dermatologists at the University of California, antioxidants in polyphenols fight the oxidants raging through the body, breaking up buildups and helping the body to go back to normal functioning.

More Radiant Skin

Believe it or not, red wine is now being praised for its possible role in clearing up acne, according to studies performed by dermatologists at UCLA. Antioxidants in resveratrol, which was added into anti-acne solutions, seemed to keep acne-causing bacteria from growing back.

Improved Neurological Function

According to an article by the Yale-New Haven Hospital, studies performed at the University of California observed a possible link between resveratrol and a decrease in tumor cell formation in some cancers.  The same study showed that the substance might help form nerve cells, which could possibly help to treat neurological conditions like Parkinson’s disease.

Red Wine Helps Exercise

In a recent study published in the May edition of the Journal of Physiology, the resveratrol found in red wine might “enhance exercise training and performance” by improving the benefits of moderate exercise. While this doesn’t mean that it is time to give up gym memberships, it does mean that a glass of wine post-workout might help with recovery and improve the effects of moderate exercise performed by those who are physically incapable of working out.

Slow Cooker Hearty Oats and Grains

Slow Cooker Hearty Oats and GrainsIngredients

Cooking spray
3 cups water
2 cups apple cider
1 cup, uncooked, steel-cut oats
1 cup, uncooked, 7-grain blend
1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp salt
1 cup 2% reduced-fat milk, warmed
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 ½ cup sliced apple
½ cup chopped, toasted almonds

Directions

Coat the inside of a 6-quart, electric slow cooker (crockpot) with cooking spray. Pour and mix into slow cooker water, apple cider, steel-cut oats, 7 grain blend, ground cinnamon and salt. Stir well.

Cover and cook on LOW for 3 hours.

Spoon 2/3 cup oat mixture into each of 8 bowls. Top each with 2 tbsp milk, 2 tsp syrup, 3 tbsp apple and 1 tbsp nuts and enjoy!

Makes 8 servings

Nutrition
Serving size: 1/8th of the dish
Calories: 292
Fat: 7.3 g
Protein: 8 g
Carbohydrate: 53.8 g
Fiber: 5.8 g
Iron: 1.7 mg
Sodium: 162 mg

Recipe courtesy of My Recipes, www.myrecipes.com  
Photo by Iain Bagwell

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

More GBMC Physicians Honored as “Top Doctors”

More GBMC Physicians Honored as Top DocsGBMC physicians have always had a strong presence in the Baltimore magazine Top Doctors edition, and this year is no exception. Nearly 10,000 physicians throughout the region were surveyed on where they would send members of their own family for specialized care, and it is truly an honor to have so many of those esteemed medical professionals put their trust in GBMC.

Once again, survey responses have proven that GBMC has some of the Baltimore area’s best physicians! The 2014 results of this selective peer-responded survey are in, and GBMC is proud of its 138 medical staff members recognized in 60 different specialties, more than any other community health system or hospital in the region. Several of those medical staff members were recognized in more than one category, and some have been recognized several years in a row.  Through these physicians’ hard work, dedication to patient care and a commitment to excellence in their respective fields, GBMC is continuously able to provide the highest quality of care the people have come to expect from the GBMC HealthCare system.

GBMC physicians have committed to upholding the organization-wide vision of always providing the same level of care that they would want for their own loved ones.  A full list of the physicians recognized in the November 2014 issue can be found at www.gbmc.org/topdocs.

To find a physician that is right for you and your loved ones, visit www.gbmc.org/findadoc or call 443-849-GBMC (4262).

Five Easy Ways to Manage Daily Stress

Five Easy Ways to Manage Daily Stress
We all have it, we all experience it and we all feel it at some point in our lives. Between work, school, family life, busy schedules and plenty of things that just don’t go exactly as planned, stress affects everyone in some shape or form. Whether yours manifests as anxiety, fear, frustration or in some other way, these easy tips will help you conquer your stress levels and get back to living your life.

1) Take a deep breath. 
While it may seem like a cliché, the American Institute of Stress states that a few slow inhales and exhales results in increased metabolism, slower heart rhythm, relaxed muscles, slower breathing cycles, a decrease in blood pressure and lowered nitric oxide levels.  All of those result in an overall feeling of calm and well-being, effectively minimizing anxiety.

2) Figure out what is stressing you and put it in perspective.
According to a 2013 article by PsychCentral, humans have a tendency to personalize stress, making the stressor seem much bigger, worse and more influential than it actually is.  Taking a moment to stop and identify what is causing the stress, then looking at the stressor in the context of the world as a whole, can be extremely helpful in remembering that the sky won’t fall if things aren’t always perfect.

3) Utilize soothing affirmations and mantras.
The Stress Institute and the Mindful Living Network both note that thoughts and emotions create chemical reactions that affect neurochemicals in the brain, affecting total body health.  Repeating a positive affirmation or mantra when stressed helps to change the mind’s thought pattern, which, in turn, changes the chemical reactions that affect the body. Try phrases that keep you present in the current moment instead of thinking about the rest of the world, like “I am here,” or “I am at peace.”

4) Make a cup of green tea. 
According to research by the Institute for Natural Healing, a compound found in green tea can help burst the anxiety bubble. The amino acid, which is called L-theanine, reduces stress while increasing alertness, getting you back on track to tackle the day.

5) Give yourself a break.
While it’s great that we can constantly stay up-to-date with the latest news, not knowing when to quit can lead to an even greater anxiety level.  Research by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee suggests that you unplug, turn off and set aside your electronics in the name of stress relief, giving yourself the opportunity to leave work stress at your home’s front door and vice versa.