Heart Month at Arnot Health: Stress Relief and Support

Throughout the month of February, we’ve been sharing important heart health tips from the Arnot Health Heart and Vascular Institute, an advanced support team that provides high-quality, compassionate care in state-of-the-art facilities. This final week, we’re talking about the negative effects of stress and how to find relief.

Dealing with stress is part of growing older; it’s a side effect of life that many of us find unavoidable. However, life itself does not have to be all about dealing with stress. We may not be able to get rid of it altogether, but we can learn strategies on how to deal with it in a positive way.

According to Maureen Tuite, Clinical Director and Nurse Practitioner at the Arnot Health Heart and Vascular Institute, stress becomes dangerous when we search for unhealthy coping mechanisms. “Some people choose alcohol, cigarettes, or over-eating as ways to distract themselves from life’s troubles,” she said, “but these distractions only cause more health problems.” Maureen says weight gain and rising blood pressure can result in increased risks of diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. She also said that sleeplessness is one of the most common signs of stress on our bodies.

One positive way to cope with hardships is by being physically active. Some people prefer the solitude of walking or running while others choose to engage in healthy competition by joining area sports leagues. Swimming, golfing, skiing, bowling, and tennis are all ways to engage friends and deal with stress positively. Prayer and meditation are also common activities for rest and relaxation after a long day.

The Arnot Health Heart and Vascular Institute recently launched two support groups for patients dealing with heart disease, which can help ease the mental anguish that commonly accompanies – and even enhances – the effects of the disease.

“Heart to Heart” is an open forum that provides a safe, peer-to-peer support environment. Members listen, share their experiences and discuss lifestyle changes, recovery and treatment. The group meets every six weeks through December 14 in the Heart & Vascular Institute Conference Room.

“Mended Hearts” is a program that assists patients and caregivers from diagnosis through the journey of recovery with social, emotional and practical support. Meetings include special guest speakers on a variety of topics. The group meets the second Tuesday of each month in the Heart & Vascular Institute Conference Room.

As Heart Month comes to a close, the Heart and Vascular Institute is always available for educational programs, free screenings, counseling, and cardiac rehab. Follow Arnot Health on Facebook for updates on these programs and more, or call the Cardiac Rehabilitation Department at (607) 737-4442 for more information.

Heart Month at Arnot Health: Stop Smoking Right Away

Throughout the month of February, we will be sharing important heart health tips from the Arnot Health Heart and Vascular Institute, an advanced support team that provides high-quality, compassionate care in state-of-the-art facilities. This week, we’re talking about the effects of smoking – and quitting – on your heart and body.

According to the American Heart Association, smoking by itself increases the risk of coronary heart disease. It decreases your tolerance for physical activity and increases the tendency for blood to clot; a severely dangerous combination.

“Smoking can stress the entire body,” said Maureen Tuite, Clinical Director and Nurse Practitioner at the Arnot Health Heart and Vascular Institute. “Inflammation in the lungs makes it harder to breathe, and increased blood pressure and high cholesterol leads to heart disease.”

Many people are familiar with the dangers and side effects of smoking, but the inverse benefits of quitting can be just as powerful. Your lungs can begin to heal themselves right away, and your whole body can recover over time. “After you quit for a year or two, you can help reverse some of the damage to your heart,” said Maureen. The statistics below from the American Heart Association highlight the benefits of quitting:

  • After 20 Minutes: your blood pressure and heart rate recover from the cigarette-induced spike
  • After 12 Hours: the carbon monoxide levels in your blood return to normal
  • After 2-6 Weeks: your circulation and lung function begin to improve
  • After 1-9 Months: clear and deeper breathing gradually returns
  • After 1 Year: your risk of coronary heart disease is reduced by 50 percent
  • After 5 Years: your risk of stroke is similar to that of someone who has never smoked

Quitting is very difficult because tobacco is so highly addictive, but success is more likely with aids like gum, patches, or prescription medications. The New York State Quit Line offers free access to replacement products like these. One of the most important factors, of course, is never starting in the first place.

According to Maureen Tuite, “We work hard in the community to keep adolescents from picking up the habit. While tobacco companies spend exorbitant amounts of money advertising to young people, it’s imperative to keep providing education on the harmful realities of smoking.” As other products like e-cigarettes emerge, it’s important to understand the dangers of those, as well. Manufacturers are not required to release the ingredients of e-cigarettes, and they have not been around long enough to understand their long-term effects.

More research and resources are available from the American Heart Association, and the most important thing to remember is that it’s never too late to quit.

Follow Arnot Health on Facebook for daily heart health tips and more throughout the month of February.

Heart Month at Arnot Health: Nutrition and Healthy Eating

Throughout the month of February, we will be sharing important heart health tips from the Arnot Health Heart and Vascular Institute, an advanced support team that provides high-quality, compassionate care in state-of-the-art facilities. This week, we’re talking about the important transition to a healthier lifestyle through better nutrition.

Eating is such a huge part of life. Sharing meals is a way to bring family and friends together and it’s a way to step back from the daily grind. The choices we make about the things we eat are rooted in everything from taste and experience to mere convenience and simplicity. That’s why, when we find ourselves stuck in unhealthy eating habits, it’s very hard to change.

“We train ourselves to like certain foods,” said Maureen Tuite, Clinical Director and Nurse Practitioner at the Arnot Health Heart and Vascular Institute. “In order to make nutritional changes, it takes a real focus on overall health and lifestyle.”

When deciding to eat healthier, it’s best to think in terms of small changes and realistic goals. It’s also good to build knowledge and awareness around nutrition. For example, keeping a food journal is a very effective way of understanding some bad habits and seeing opportunities for change. This can make it easier to know where the total in-take of calories comes from and how to structure an improvement plan. Another way to build awareness is by reading food labels at the grocery store. You should avoid high levels of sodium or cholesterol in order to improve your overall heart health.

Here are some additional tips on making small changes toward healthier eating habits:

  • know your numbers; checking your cholesterol and blood pressure often can allow you to regulate your diet accordingly before extreme measures are required
  • always choose real over processed foods; the amount of sodium and unnatural ingredients in processed foods can deteriorate your health over time
  • understand the difference between fat and sugar; many foods may claim to be low in fat, but high sugar content can easily contribute to undesired weight gain and even diabetes
  • cut down on overall calories; one of the easiest ways to take in fewer calories is by substituting water for those sugary sodas and energy drinks

If you’re serious about changing your lifestyle and improving your heart health, the American Heart Association has several resources for getting started and staying on track. It’s never easy to make a true lifestyle change, but your heart will be forever grateful for your effort and determination.

Follow Arnot Health on Facebook for daily heart health tips and more throughout the month of February.

Heart Month at Arnot Health: Exercise for Your Heart

It’s Heart Month, and throughout February we will be sharing important tips for taking care of your heart from the Arnot Health Heart and Vascular Institute, an advanced support team that provides high-quality, compassionate care in state-of-the-art facilities.

The first thing to think about is physical activity and how we can start improving our overall health right away. This time of year brings lots of opportunities for outdoor fun in the Twin Tiers. Those big winter storms also bring out the shovels and snow plows that we have all learned to despise. No matter how you’re getting your exercise these days, it’s important to remember to start small and build your way to a healthier heart.

“We all know the advantages of exercise, but sometimes our ambitions – to get the driveway clear, to go sledding with our kids – outweigh our abilities,” said Maureen Tuite, Clinical Director and Nurse Practitioner at the Arnot Health Heart and Vascular Institute. “This time of year, we see lots of patients in our cardiac cath lab from over-exertion; trying to lift heavy snow or running up the hill with a sled can strain the heart. Additionally, the cold air makes it a little more difficult to breathe and causes more cardiac stress than warm-weather climates.”

Here are some tips for those who would like to be more active this winter, but are not used to strenuous activity:

  • Go for walks at the mall or in a school gym, or find an indoor workout facility like the Senior Center or YWCA/YMCA
  • Shovel lightly and take breaks often. When a big storm is upon us, try shoveling more often so the snow never becomes too deep
  • Dress warmly to help prevent the affects of extremely cold air on your lungs
  • Drink lots of water to help hydrate your muscles and keep your body working efficiently

Preventing injuries and set-backs by setting realistic goals is important to long-term success. Your heart and your whole body will be much healthier in the long run, and your driveway will still be clear (until the next storm)!

Follow Arnot Health on Facebook for daily heart health tips and more throughout the month of February, and visit our Heart Month page to find out more about free screenings and classes.

The Ultimate Guide to Frostbite from Arnot Health

As you head off to the slopes, send the kids out to play in the snow, or simply make a wintery trek out to the grocery store, keep this in mind- it can only take a few minutes for frostbite to occur. Exposed skin can develop frostbite at 20ºF with winds at 20 mph in less than five minutes. You don’t have to be stuck in the wilderness for hours; it can happen in your own front yard.

When exposed to cold temperatures, the body begins to move blood away from the extremities, pulling it towards the core to protect vital organs and systems. This leaves fingers, toes, ears, the nose and eventually hands and feet more vulnerable to damage, known as frostbite. Frostbite occurs when ice crystals form in the cells, damaging the tissue. Frostbite can range from effecting the top layer of skin all the way to deep tissue damage.

Signs and Symptoms:
Here are signs and symptoms to look for while you’re in the elements:

  • Tingling and numbness
  • White, yellow, or grayish coloration
  • Waxy look to the skin or skin that feels abnormally hard to the touch

When rewarming or returning indoors:

  • Flushing
  • Blistering
  • Burning sensation
  • Black scab which can form several days or weeks following exposure

Next Steps:
If you believe you may have frostbite, seek medical attention as soon as possible. If medical help is not immediately available, here are a few steps you should take to minimize damage:

  • Warm the area by submerging the area in warm, not hot, water
  • Avoid dry heat such as fires and radiators, and avoid direct heat
  • If blisters form, leave them intact- they are sterile, biological dressings that form to help mend damage and avoid infection
  • Do not apply pressure or rub the affected areas; if the toes/feet are effected, avoid walking as this can increase damage

What can increase your risk for developing frostbite?
While everyone can develop frostbite under the right conditions, several circumstances can increase your risk. Some of these include:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Consumption of Alcohol or other substances
  • Damp clothing
  • Previous frostbite

Long-term Effects:
If you experience frostbite, some of the lasting effects may include:

  • Increased sensitivity to cold
  • Numbness
  • Stiffness
  • Pain
  • Gangrene
  • If the effected tissue has died, amputation of the affected area/body part may be necessary.
Skier Avoids Frost Bite

Avoiding frost bite is important whenever you’re outside in the winter.

Frostbite can be a fast-acting and serious condition. Make sure when you head out into the elements this winter you know your environment, your limits, and your risk. IF you suspect you may have frostbite, seek medical attention as soon as possible. Stay safe out there!

A few extra tips for our winter sports enthusiasts: Frostbite isn’t the only cold weather injury to be concerned with. To keep yourself safe, use the buddy system, know yourself and your limitations, stay hydrated, and be sure to warm up your muscles and tendons prior to heading out for optimal range of motion. Have fun and stay safe this winter!

11-Year-Old Girl Hopes to be a Surgeon; Writes Letter to Arnot Health

Andrea is 11 years old, she lives in Elmira, and she wants to be a surgeon when she grows up. While others her age are just starting to think about their career paths, or perhaps haven’t even considered the options, Andrea is already beginning to research her chosen field. This past summer, she sent a letter to Arnot Health expressing her desire for information.

Andrea meets with Drs. Sadhasivam and Kopicky“I want to be a surgeon when I get older and would like some facts about that,” she wrote.

Well, rather than simply providing some basic information that may otherwise be found on the Internet, two of our staff agreed to meet with Andrea and her mom at Arnot Ogden Medical Center. Dr. Subramanian Sadhasivam, a General Surgeon, and Dr. Lauren Kopicky, a Surgical Resident, gave them a tour of the hospital, focusing on the Operating Room area to show Andrea where surgeons do much of their work. Andrea got a chance to talk with both doctors about their education and experience, including what it takes to train and become a surgeon.

“It’s hard work,” both doctors agreed, “and it takes a lot of dedication and perseverance.” At only 11 years old, Andrea has a chance to get a head start on that hard work. “If you set your goals now and keep your grades up,” the surgeons told her, “you’ll have the option of pursuing a career in surgical medicine when the time comes.”

We wish Andrea and her family all the best and we’re thankful for the opportunity to respond to her letter. See below for the original letter from Andrea and its full contents.

Letter to surgeons from 11-year-old AndreaDear Arnot:

Hi, I’m Andrea and I’m 11 years old. I am writing to you because you are the best people who save lives. I’m also writing to you because I want to be a surgeon when I get older and would like some facts about that. I hope you can honor my request. Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,
Andrea

 

The Backpack: Dispelling Myths and Finding the Right Fit

At the start of a new school year, every so often I hear a rumor begin to circulate that a heavy, ill-fitting backpack can cause scoliosis. Scoliosis can be described as a condition in which there is a horizontal curvature of the spine, typically occurring during a child’s growth spurt just before puberty. While the cause of most scoliosis cases is unknown, it is generally agreed upon by physicians that the backpack is not a likely culprit.

Now that we’ve put that rumor to rest, there are still many reasons a well-fitting backpack is important. A poor-fitting, ill-constructed, overloaded backpack can cause unnecessary stress and vertical pressure on the shoulders and back taxing core muscles and bowing out the spine, which, in addition to being uncomfortable, can be harmful. Choosing the right backpack may not seem like a difficult task until you hit the store or on-line retailer of your choice and find yourself faced with every size, shape, style, and color imaginable. So what makes for a good fit?

Safe Backpacks for Children

To start, the size of the backpack should be no larger than your child’s actual back- roughly from the outer edges of the shoulder blades for the width and from shoulder line to a few inches below the waistline for the height. Selecting the right size will assist in making sure the weight of the bag is distributed evenly throughout and ensure the straps hit in just the right spot (about half way between the neck and the shoulder joint).

Second, and speaking of straps, you want to choose a bag with two, well-padded straps. When wearing, make sure the straps are nice and tight. This will protect the shoulders and again help to distribute the weight evenly. One-shoulder, or messenger style, bags may look studious but unless your child is packing lightly I wouldn’t recommend them. To the coffee shop with a light laptop perhaps, but not from the house to the school locker hauling every text book imaginable … for that I’d stick with the standard two straps for sure. Finally, try to find a backpack with a padded back panel to cushion the spine. Furthermore, you may also want to find one with a waist strap to further secure the bag keeping it and it’s contents from bumping and jostling around. You may get a not-so-enthusiastic look from your pre-teen, but I’ll let you handle any ensuing style disagreements.

If you start to notice your child complaining of back pain, numbness, or tingling in their arms, there may be an issue. Try repacking the bag, putting the heaviest objects low and in the center, and encourage them to take only what they need for the day. Leave the bowling ball collection at home.

If the fit is correct but it’s a struggle to pick up or they appear to be to be one soft breeze away from toppling over backward, it still might just be too heavy, even without the bowling balls. In this case, you may want to consider a rolling bag in lieu a traditional backpack. They’ll be prepared for school and their next trip to the airport. It’s a win-win.

If you’d like more information, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Beth Dollinger, click here to find her contact information listed in our provider directory.