Tuesday, January 15, 2013

January is Cervical Health Awareness Month

The topic of cervical cancer has gotten a lot of attention in recent years. The disease is caused by out-of-control growth of abnormal cells on the cervix (the lower part of the uterus). The good news about cervical cancer is that, in many cases, it can be prevented completely or found in its earliest stages during routine Pap smears. While a woman may never have symptoms of abnormal cervical cells (other than getting an abnormal result during a Pap), symptoms may occur if cervical cancer is present. Most commonly, symptoms of cervical cancer include:
  • Vaginal bleeding or a change in menstrual cycle
  • Bleeding or pain during intercourse
  • Blood-tinged vaginal discharge

Being aware of one’s own cervical cancer risk is beneficial for all women, as it can encourage discussion with their doctors about screening options and may even prompt them to recognize possible symptoms earlier. Most cervical cancers are caused by a sexually transmitted infection called human papillomavirus (HPV). Therefore, individuals who have been diagnosed with a certain form of HPV known to be capable of causing cancerous changes over time may be at a higher risk of developing cervical cancer. Keep in mind that not all forms of HPV cause cancer.

Similarly, high-risk sexual behaviors such as multiple partners or unsafe sex can make individuals more susceptible to contracting HPV or developing cervical cancer. Women with compromised immune systems (such as those with HIV) and women who smoke cigarettes or are exposed to secondhand smoke are also at higher risk.

The keys to cervical health are minimizing risk factors, along with getting regular gynecologic exams and Pap smears. If these indicate that abnormal cells are present, patients can either be closely monitored or have the abnormal cells removed before they have a chance to become cancerous.

To learn about GBMC’s Women’s Oncology Center, visit

Beginning an Exercise Routine

Starting an exercise routine to improve your health can seem like a daunting task at first. But the truth is that the benefits of exercising are limitless. Exercise increases strength, improves balance and can also positively affect people’s mood through the release of endorphins. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you should get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per day (such as brisk walking) most days of the week. Or, you could opt for 20 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity (such as jogging or running), three days a week. Incorporating strength training two days a week also helps to build lean muscle.

When beginning an exercise routine, keep these tips in mind:
  • Overdoing it during your first workout will leave you sore and discouraged, so pace yourself. Start slow with achievable goals and work your way up. You will most likely see better results.
  • Don’t be in a hurry – perform each movement slowly and hold the end position for several seconds.
  • You build muscle by using resistance, so if you move too quickly, momentum will be doing all the work for you.
  • Try to do one set of 10 repetitions for each exercise. If you can’t, don’t worry! Start with fewer repetitions and work your way up as you gain endurance.
  • Work out until your muscles get tired, but not until they get sore. If you happen to overdo it and your muscles get sore, ice the area with repeated cycles of 20 minutes on and 20 minutes off.
  • Go for short, but frequent, walks if you can – they’re good for your legs, back, lung function and cardiovascular health. Once your endurance builds, you can switch to taking longer and less frequent walks as part of your exercise routine.

Do you have questions about your exercise routine? Check out the answers to common questions below.

Q. How often should I stretch?
A. You should stretch at least 2-3 times per week before, after or during exercise. Be sure to stretch all muscle groups from head to toe and hold them for 15-30 seconds.

Q. What if I get short of breath or feel discomfort?
A. Listen to your body and rest. Stop exercising and call your doctor if you have any irregular heartbeats, chest pain or any other cardiac symptoms.

Q. What if I don’t have time for exercise?
A. Think about your schedule and find places to work it in. You could even substitute multiple short workouts each day in place of longer ones if you can’t find time for one dedicated workout.

Q. I don’t like to run. What other vigorous-intensity workouts can I try?
A. Alternatives include swimming laps; playing tennis (singles); bicycling more than 10 miles per hour or uphill; and circuit training, which combines strength, endurance and aerobic exercises. It’s always good to switch up your exercise routine so you don’t get bored.

Q. What are some moderate-intensity workouts other than walking and doing chores?
A. Try dancing, playing basketball, or water aerobics.

Feeling SAD?

Are you blue in the winter but much perkier when spring rolls around? Consider talking to your doctor about Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also known as Seasonal Depression. SAD is a type of depression that worsens during a certain part of the year. Though depression that occurs in the fall or winter is more common, it is possible for individuals to suffer from SAD in the spring or summer.

Symptoms of Winter Depression include:

  • Feeling sad, grumpy, moody or anxious
  • Losing interest in typical activities
  • Craving carbohydrates (carbs boost serotonin)
  • Gaining weight
  • Sleeping more and feeling drowsy during the daytime

Conversely, individuals suffering from Summer Depression may experience a loss of appetite, weight loss and inability to sleep.

Women and individuals between the ages of 15 and 55 are more prone to SAD. Those who live in regions where winter days are very short, resulting in fewer hours of daylight, also seem to be more affected. It’s not known for sure what causes SAD, but experts hypothesize that it may be related to reduced sunlight, which can affect sleep cycles and levels of serotonin – the brain chemical that can have a calming effect on a person’s mood.

Fortunately, several options are available to help patients cope with Seasonal Depression. One treatment that may be helpful is bright light therapy, during which the patient sits in front of a bright light for a certain amount of time each day – typically between 10 and 45 minutes. The reason this is thought to be effective is that it can decrease production of melatonin (the hormone that promotes sleep) and increase serotonin levels. Additional options include taking antidepressant medications as prescribed by a physician, receiving cognitive-behavioral therapy and getting regular exercise.

If you have been experiencing the symptoms of Seasonal Depression, talk to your primary care physician about your concerns. To find a GBMC primary care physician in your area, visit www.gbmc.org/mydoctor.

What the Affordable Care Act Means for You and GBMC

Maintaining personal wellness is a necessity for staying healthy. However, for some, keeping up with their preventive care is easier said than done when co-payments are high, they owe money out of pocket and physician offices are open only while patients themselves are at work. Regardless of the politics behind it, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) has paved the way toward making healthcare much more affordable, coordinated and accessible. The goal of the PPACA is to provide better health and better care at a lower cost. Some of the provisions that will directly benefit patients include:

  • Certain preventive services and screenings must be provided free of charge. Women’s preventive services including mammograms, cervical cancer screenings and certain prenatal care are also more affordable and accessible.
  • Dependents who do not have insurance of their own can stay on their parents’ health insurance until the age of 26.
  • Insurance coverage can’t be denied to individuals due to previously existing conditions.
  • Lifetime insurance payout maximums have been eliminated and the annual benefit limit is being phased out.

GBMC has already put special systems in place to provide the community with better health and better care at a lower cost under the new law. It has implemented electronic health records (EHR) to make healthcare information more easily accessible to its patients. EHRs also help eliminate unnecessary procedures by providing doctors with instant access to their patient’s health records. Additionally, the Greater Baltimore Health Alliance (GBHA) was developed to serve as GBMC’s Accountable Care Organization, which brings primary care and specialty providers in the area together using a common EHR system.

According to Colin Ward, Executive Director of GBHA, “By doing this, we’re able to communicate better and deliver more consistent care from primary care to specialty offices and even the Emergency Room, if the need ever arises.” GBMC is also in the process of transitioning to a more patient-centered and evidence-based model of care, focusing on prevention, wellness and the active management of chronic disease. Acting as “Patient-Centered Medical Homes,” its primary care practices strive to be resources for all healthcare concerns and needs. In addition to helping patients navigate the healthcare system, GBMC’s primary care locations offer access to the routine care they need to keep them well, with the added benefit of extended office hours. Selecting GBMC makes it easier than ever to stay healthy and keep up with preventive care, like physicals and screenings.

With many convenient locations throughout the Greater Baltimore area, preventive care is just a call or click away. To find a primary care physician at GBMC, visit www.gbmc.org/mydoctor or call 443-849-GBMC (4262).

Monday, January 14, 2013

Skinny Buffalo Chicken Dip

  • 4 oz. reduced fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup fat free sour cream
  • 1/2 cup hot sauce (whatever type you like)
  • 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
  • 1 tsp. white wine vinegar
  • 2 cups (14 oz. when raw) cooked shredded chicken

Mix the first 5 ingredients together until smooth. Add the cooked chicken and put everything in the crock pot on low for 3-4 hours. Serve warm with celery, chips or crackers.

Servings: 9
Serving Size: 1/3 cup
Calories: 107.9

Fat: 4.9 g
Carbs: 5.4 g
Fiber: 0 g
Protein: 10.3 g

Recipe courtesy of www.skinnytaste.com