Monday, February 21, 2011

Health notes

Doctor gives tips on falling asleep

"Coping with Insomnia" will be the next topic in the Waveny Care Center and Norwalk Hospital lecture series at 4 p.m. Tuesday, March 1. The featured speaker is Ian Weir, associate director of the Sleep Disorders Center and director of the Insomnia Center at Norwalk Hospital.

The talk is at Waveny Care Center, 3 Farm Road, New Canaan. Weir will talk about symptoms of the disorder and offer tips on how people can become more successful at falling asleep. Weir has written about pulmonary medicine topics and sleep disorders, with his work appearing in medical journals. Call 203-594-5334.

MS walks planned to raise awareness

On April 10, there will be nine sites across the state at which people will gather to raise awareness about multiple sclerosis and raise funds for research. Westport will host a walk on Sunday, April 3. The insurance company Travelers is back for the fifth year as the title sponsor for the walks, which are run by the Connecticut Chapter of the National MS Society. Last year, the walk attracted nearly 9,000 participants and raised more than $1.3 million. The chapter hopes to raise $1.4 million.

Walks will take place in Stamford at Cove Island Park, in Westport at Sherwood Island State Park, and at West Haven High School. Check-in begins at 8 and the walk kicks off at 9 a.m. at Stamford and West Haven. Check-in in Westport begins at 9. and the walk begins at 10 a.m. To learn more or to register, visit www.ctfightsMS.org or call 860-913-2550 or 860-913-2550.

Panel on heart disorder, club on respiratory disease

A panel of Bridgeport Hospital physicians will discuss the causes and treatment of atrial fibrillation during a free lecture, "Heart All A-Flutter? Get Your Rhythm Back!" at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 24, at the Trumbull Marriott, 180 Hawley Lane. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Speakers include cardiac electrophysiologist Dr. Murali Chiravuri, director of cardiac electrophysiology Dr. Craig McPherson, and chief of cardiothoracic surgery Dr. M. Clive Robinson.

At 1:30 p.m. Feb. 25, the Better Breathing Club will meet at Bridgeport Hospital, duPont Board Room, 267 Grant St. The support group for those with chronic respiratory disease. For more information, call 888-357-2396.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Dental Health 101: Ten Tips for Parents of Kids with Smiles

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month - a time for parents to focus on healthful habits and practices to ensure that their children enjoy a lifetime of beautiful smiles and healthy well-being.

“Tooth decay is one of the most common childhood diseases, and can cause problems that continue into later life,” says veteran San Antonio cosmetic dentist Dr. Edward Camacho, DDS. “The dental health of a child should be a top priority for parents, starting even before a baby is born.”

Dr. Camacho offers these ten tips for parents:

1) Get the true picture – Everyone understands that you should take care of your teeth to avoid toothaches, maintain your looks and keep dental bills at bay. Many people, however, don’t understand how crucial oral health is to our total health picture. Tooth problems can lead to diabetes, heart disease, systemic infections, an inability to eat or speak properly and other maladies – some life-threatening. Crooked or crowded teeth can contribute to gum disease that can eventually lead to tooth loss. Straight teeth are no longer just for looks.

2) Dental health starts in the womb – By the second trimester of pregnancy, a baby’s teeth are forming. To make sure development is normal, mom should consume generous amounts of foods containing calcium, including dairy, products, whole grains and leafy greens.

3) Avoid baby bottle tooth decay – Don’t use the nursing bottle as a pacifier, or let the baby fall asleep with a bottle containing any form of carbohydrates. Even human breast milk can lead to tooth decay if it remains in a baby’s unrinsed mouth. A better option is to give the child a bottle of water. Never dip a pacifier in sugar, honey or anything sweet. Mothers can also transmit the bacteria that cause tooth decay to their infants through kissing, sharing cups or utensils. It is recommended that new mothers chew gum, consume mints or candy with xylitol, a naturally occurring sugar. Xylitol reduces the amount of a specific type of bacteria (strep mutans) that causes tooth decay. Spry makes xylitol sweetened gum, mint and candy.

4) Protect the baby teeth - Although they’re only with the child for a few years, baby teeth serve an important role in the development of the mouth, serving as space-savers and guides for permanent teeth. Loss of baby teeth can lead to crowded or crooked permanent teeth. Baby teeth are also important to the normal appearance of the face, proper nutrition and speech. And, of course, cavities and infection can affect the child’s overall health.

5) Tooth brushing – Even before a child’s teeth begin coming in, you should develop the habit of cleaning your baby’s gums after feeding, using a damp cloth or gauze. When the first tooth arrives, usually between the ages of 6 and 10 months, you should switch to a small soft-bristle brush. Take care to brush behind the teeth and around the gum line, using just water without toothpaste. From ages 2 to 6, add a small amount of toothpaste – no more than the size of a pea (Spry makes an infant tooth gel with xylitol which reduces bacteria that cause decay). Until about age 7, parents should handle the tooth-brushing, or at least personally supervise. Make sure the kids learn proper brushing techniques, using a circular stroke to reach all surfaces.

6) Flossing – As soon as your child has two teeth touching, you should begin flossing between the teeth. It’s as necessary as flossing for adults, and introducing the practice early will teach the child the proper habits of tooth care.

7) Tooth-friendly diet -- Parents should train their children early toward a healthy diet that has limited candy, soft drinks and other sweets that can fuel the development of cavities. Cheese is an especially healthy snack, because it adds calcium, stimulates saliva production and counteracts chemicals that can eat away at tooth enamel.

8) Prevent decay with xylitol-New research suggests that products containing xylitol, a naturally occurring sugar, can prevent tooth decay and even Otis Media (ear infections). Oral bacteria do not use Xylitol therefore no acid is produced to eat away at enamel. Xylitol also reduces the quantity of caries causing bacteria creating additional protection between meals as well as inhibiting the bacteria from sticking to the teeth. Look for products that only use xylitol as the sweetener. (Young children should avoid non-liquid products such as gum, mints or lozenges until they can effectively chew or suck long enough to gain a benefit without swallowing or choking.)

9) Visit the dentist regularly – Parents should take their children to the dentist by their first birthday, and then continue twice a year. This is also a strategy session to work out a plan for lasting dental health. Ask about dental sealants that can protect teeth against decay. Make the trips fun, so that the kids learn that the dental office isn’t a place to be afraid of.

10) Don’t let small problems become big ones – A toothache is a sign that a cavity has reached an advanced stage. It might also indicate a more serious problem, such as a cracked tooth, an infection, jaw problems, etc. Parents should inspect their kids’ teeth regularly, paying attention to anything unusual, and encourage children to be aware of the first twinge of pain or any changes in their mouths.

“Poor dental health can affect everything from overall physical wellbeing to appearance, self-confidence and emotional health,” Dr. Camacho said. “It’s critical that parents understand the importance of the life skill they are passing along to their children.”

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Red wine and dark chocolate show real love on Valentine’s Day

Susan Ofria, clinical nutrition manager at Gottlieb Memorial Hospital suggests showing real Valentine’s Day love with red wine and chocolate that both contribute to a heart health. She also has some other heart healthy eating tips to share, in a February 10 news release from Loyola University.

The beauty of indulging in dark chocolate and red wine explains Ofria, is you don’t even have to make a choice between the lesser of two evils, given the known health benefits of higher levels of cocoa found in dark chocolate and resveratrol in red wine that is shown to lower blood sugar levels and boost good cholesterol numbers.

Ofria suggests looking for chocolate with cocoa content that is 70 percent or higher this Valentine’s Day. “Truffles, souffl├ęs and even hot chocolate can be a good source of resveratrol and cocoa phenols (flavonoids) as long as dark chocolate with a high content of coca is used.”

You may want to sprinkle chocolate on berries, also good sources of heart healthy nutrients in keeping with February’s national heart health theme. Ofria explains, “Berries are a good source of beta carotene and lutein, anthocyanin, ellagic acid (a polyphenol), vitamin C, folate, potassium and fiber.”

Valentine’s Day brings a special focus to the heart. Other tips for heart healthy eating include oatmeal for breakfast that is high in soluble fiber, potassium, niacin (a B vitamin) and folate.

Snacking on almonds and walnuts provides omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, niacin, vitamin E that are a good source of magnesium needed for heart and overall good health. Preparing or ordering meals that incorporate kidney beans, brown or golden flaxseeds, salmon and tuna are other heart healthy ways to show love on Valentine’s Day.

Loyola Medicine: "Go for the Dark Chocolate, Red Wine to Keep Your Honey Heart-Healthy This Valentine's Day"

Monday, February 7, 2011

Eat more fruit, veggies and whole grains, feds say

If I were a betting woman, I'd bet you didn't know the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) releases dietary guidelines every five years. These evidence-based guidelines are the cornerstone of our federal nutrition policy, and are also intended to help Americans make informed food choices, promote health, reduce the risk of chronic diseases and the prevalence of overweight.

The 2010 guidelines have just been released, and the focus is clearly on confronting America's obesity epidemic. The timing is certainly right. Frighteningly, more than one-third of all American kids are overweight or obese. As if that weren't bad enough, more than two-thirds of American adults join them.

The new guidelines place a stronger emphasis than ever before on reducing calorie consumption and increasing activity. Good-bye "Supersize me," hello waistline.

It is the government's hope (and mine, too) that by adopting the recommendations, Americans will live healthier lives and health care costs will diminish, boosting America's productivity and overall economic competitiveness.

The topics I focus on all play a significant part in the 2010 guidelines. That doesn't surprise you, does it? We're talking about vegetables, fruits, whole grain, fat-free and low-fat dairy products and seafood. The suggestions match my own: reduce sodium, saturated and trans fats, sugars and refined grains.

Remember how I always say to avoid products made from oh-so-misleading "enriched" wheat ... and that you should choose "whole grain" foods over "whole wheat?" Well, kudos to the government ... they got all this right.

The new guidelines include 23 general key recommendations for the population as a whole, and six more for special groups such as pregnant women.

In addition, the USDA is releasing some additional health tips in the coming months. No big surprises coming there: Enjoy your food, but eat less. Make half your plate fruit and vegetables. Choose fat-free or low-fat milk. Drink water instead of sugary drinks.

It's not all generic advice, however. There are some very specific suggestions as well, such as reducing sodium intake to 1500 mg or less, per day, if you're over 51. But most of the tips are things I've been telling my clients for years.

It pleases me no end that our government is finally addressing obesity in this report. There are certainly plenty of "quick fixes" and "miracle machines" that get exposure.

Losing weight is not just about eating less, it's about eating correctly. If I've piqued your interest enough to look up the 2010 guidelines, here's a little more of what you'll find:

- Eat dark green, red and orange vegetables.

- Use oils to replace solid fats.

- Eat nutrient-dense foods.

- Choose foods that have more potassium, dietary fiber, calcium, and vitamin D.

- Switch up your proteins and be sure to eat fish and white meats.

The guidelines are available online at dietaryguidelines.gov. True food for thought. And if we can keep our kids from incurring the many risks of childhood obesity (including social stigma) then what a worthy pursuit. Setting a good example can work wonders.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Health Tips: Best Way to Shovel Snow

Dr. Dizon recommends for residents to know their limits when shoveling snow.

"It is physically demanding work," he said. "We don’t normally get this much snow at once."

For those who are young and healthy, they need to be mindful of muscle or joint injuries when shoveling. They should also be careful to not fall while shoveling.

Senior citizens, or those who are sedentary, are at risk of a heart attack because "they don't realize how strenuous shoveling snow can be."

Even if residents have a snow-blower, it still can be a strenuous activity that could be hazardous to residents who are not physically active.

"If you are not physically active, I would try to avoid shoveling snow and get someone else," Dizon said.

Use Proper Techniques

When shoveling, residents should dress warmly and wear proper gloves, footwear and headwear to avoid frostbite.

"At times you are working hard, you don't realize you are having problems," he said. "You are warm, but your extremities are feeling the effects of frostbite."

Dizon recommends snow shovelers to bend their knees and avoid twisting or lifting snow. Snow should be pushed if possible.

"It is better to take a little at a time than to take one huge chunk at once," he said. "You think you are saving time and you could injure your back."