Bounce for the Ounce: The Energy of Fruits and Vegetables

By Mary Thoesen Coleman, MD, PhD, FAAFP

Fruits and vegetables are packed with nutrients and minerals needed for our body’s health. They provide lots of energy (bounce) for the amount you eat (ounce).

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Fruits and Veggies are strong components of the Mediterranean diet, which in a number of research studies has been associated with decreased risk for cardiovascular disease.
In people who follow the Mediterranean diet, the good kind of cholesterol, HDL, increases, triglycerides reduce, and so do fasting blood sugar and blood pressure.

The Mediterranean diet emphasizes eating plant foods such as vegetables, fruits, plus nuts and seeds.

How much? We should eat more than 2 servings per meal of non-starchy vegetables (starchy vegetables such as potatoes, peas, and corn do not count) and 1- 2 servings per meal of fruit.

  • A vegetable serving is ½ cup of cooked vegetables or 1 cup of raw vegetables.
  • A fruit serving is one small fruit or ½ cup fruit juice or ¼ cup dried fruit.

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Is fresh best?

The best choices of fruits and vegetables are those that are minimally processed, locally grown, and fresh.

Frozen fruits and vegetables are reasonable alternatives to fresh. Canned fruits and veggies are less beneficial due to loss of minerals and nutrients in processing and addition of salt and preservatives.

Such vegetables and fruit are also good sources of fiber.

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MyPlate recommendations

MyPlate is the current nutrition guide published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. MyPlate is a visual reminder about the right mix of fruits, vegetables, grains and proteins.

Fruits and vegetables make up half of food on a meal plate, with veggies a greater proportion of the half than fruits.

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Things I have learned:

  • You can get too much of a good thing. Smoothies or juices made from fresh ingredients can concentrate too much of good thing. For example, juicers frequently add spinach to smoothies and blended juices but spinach is high in oxalates and when consumed frequently in concentrated form with low Calcium diet may put you at risk for kidney stones made from oxalates. (I believe I contributed to my own kidney stone experience by drinking too many juices packed with spinach and not having enough Calcium in my diet).
  • If you drink too much fruit juice, you can elevate your blood sugar. In one of my patients with diabetes, making one change in his diet (eliminating fruit juices) brought his sugar from very poorly controlled to completely controlled.
  • If you eat too many fruits, you can also elevate your blood sugar. One of my patients who was eating 12 bananas a day was unable to control her blood sugar despite high doses of medication until she lowered her banana intake.
  • Fruit drinks (not fruit juices) do not have the nutrients present in fruit juices and typically add calories without being healthy choices.

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Tips for adding veggies to your diet:

  • Cut up fresh vegetables (I use different ones including asparagus, cabbage, mushrooms, onion, broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts) and cook them in olive oil. Eat for breakfast, lunch, or supper. Olive oil is a healthy part of the Mediterranean diet and it helps to make the vegetables more filling.
  • Cut up fresh vegetables and put them in plastic containers for lunch snacks. I like to cut up yellow and red peppers, radishes, cucumbers, and broccoli.
  • Make a fun salad that includes lots of colorful veggies and fruits–several lettuce varieties (Romaine, butternut), arugula if available, nuts such as walnuts or pecans or pine nuts, pumpkin seeds or other seeds, fresh vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, red peppers, yellow peppers, radishes, green onions, a dash of blueberries or strawberries, maybe some coconut flakes or cilantro or parsley. If desired, add left-over cooked chicken or tuna. Mix with home-made dressing from extra virgin olive oil (1 part olive oil ), 3 parts vinegar (mostly white but some apple cider vinegar), 1-3 tsps. Dijon mustard, and black pepper.
  • Fresh fruits make good desserts and I like to add to yogurt (a good source of Calcium and part of the Mediterranean diet) for a healthy dessert or to whipped cream without sugar.

Mediterranean diet-friendly options

Vegetables

Artichokes, arugula, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, celery, celeriac, chicory, collard greens, cucumbers, dandelion greens, eggplant, fennel, kale, leeks, lemons, lettuce, mache, mushrooms, mustard greens, nettles, okra, onions (red, sweet, white), peas, peppers, potatoes, pumpkin, purslane, radishes, rutabaga, scallions, shallots, spinach, sweet potatoes, turnips, zucchini.

Fruits

Apples, apricots, avocados, cherries, clementines, dates, figs, grapefruits, grapes, melons, nectarines, olives, oranges, peaches, pears, pomegranates, strawberries, tangerines, tomatoes.

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Dr. Coleman is a physician in the Family Medicine Clinic at UMC and is the Marie Lahasky Chair and Professor for the Department of Family Medicine, Director of Community Health and Director of Rural Education at LSU Health New Orleans. To learn more about Family Medicine at UMC, visit http://www.umcno.org/familymedicine or call (504) 962-6363 to schedule an appointment.

Essential Immunizations for Adults

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You want to pass on certain things like family traditions, a grandmother’s quilt or dad’s love of books—but no one wants to pass on a serious illness. Take charge of your health and help protect those around you by asking about vaccines at your next doctor’s visit.

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Vaccines

Vaccinating our children is commonplace in the United States. But many adults don’t know which vaccines they need, and even fewer are fully vaccinated. Every year, thousands of adults in the U.S. become needlessly ill from infectious diseases. Many adults are hospitalized and some even die from diseases that could be prevented by vaccines.

Not only can vaccine-preventable diseases make you very sick, but if you get sick, you may risk spreading certain diseases to others. That’s a risk most of us do not want to take.

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Babies, older adults and people with weakened immune systems (like those undergoing cancer treatment) are especially vulnerable to infectious diseases. They are also more likely to have severe illness and complications if they do get sick.

You can help protect your health and the health of your loved ones by getting your recommended vaccines.

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The good news is that getting vaccinated is easier than you think. Adults can get vaccinated at their primary care doctor’s office, pharmacies, workplaces, health clinics and health departments.

Most health insurance plans cover the cost of recommended vaccines—a call to your insurance provider can give you the details.

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What vaccines do you need?

All adults should get:

  • Annual flu vaccine to protect against seasonal flu
  • Td/Tdap to protect against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough)

Some additional vaccines you may need (depending on your age, health conditions and other factors) include:

  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Meningococcal
  • Pneumococcal
  • Shingles

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Traveling overseas?

There may be additional vaccines you need depending on the location. Find out here. 

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Still not sure what vaccines you may need?

Take this short quiz.

Be a Good Sport: Tips for Preventing Youth Sports Injuries

Author: Patricia Clesi, RN, UMC Trauma Services Coordinator

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Youth participation in organized sports offers excellent benefits socially and physically, including reducing the risk of childhood obesity.

However, almost 1/3 of all injuries incurred in childhood are sports-related.

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In fact, high school athletes account for about 2 million injuries, 500,000 doctor visits and 30,000 hospitalizations each year in the United States according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A 2016 report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said knee injuries, ankle sprains and concussions are among the most common outcomes in studies identifying risk factors for sports-related injuries. One study from the National Health Interview Survey even showed that sports, on average, account for 14 percent of all emergency department visits for life-threatening injuries, the majority of which (32%) come from those 18 and younger.

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Despite the scary statistics, more and more American children are participating in youth sports in recent years.

To make sure you or your child are not part of the numbers and prevent injury, consider these 5 simple, but potentially lifesaving, tips during this National Youth Sports Week:

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1. Warm Up

Time should always be set aside for warm up and stretching before playing sports. This will help prevent injury to muscles during play.  All major muscles groups should hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds.

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2. Gear Up

Appropriate and properly fitted sports gear should be used always. Helmets should be well maintained, age appropriate, and worn correctly.  There are no “concussion proof” helmets, however, it will help prevent skull fractures and traumatic brain injuries.

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3. Hydrate

Hydration before, during and after practice and games are very important to prevent dehydration, especially in the summer months.

Water is the best option to hydrate athletes.

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4. Rest

Overuse injuries are common, especially in youth playing on multiple teams of the same sport at the same time. Rest will help avoid these injuries.

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5. Report

Players should be encouraged to report any pain, injury or illness to their coaches and parents.

For more child safety tips, visit http://www.umcno.org/injuryprevention.

Summertime Skincare

Author: Brian D. Lee, MD, UMC Dermatologist and Kelly R. Stewart Chairman of the LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans Department of Dermatology

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The warmth of summer sunshine draws many people outdoors to participate in a variety of activities during these beautiful days.

It’s important to protect your skin from the damaging potential of sunlight.

This article focuses on the simple steps necessary to avoid sun damage and maximize your fun in the sun.

The Truth about Tanning

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First thing’s first: There is no such thing as a healthy tan. Tanned skin is simply an indication of damaged skin. People who tan dramatically increase their risk of developing skin cancer and destroying the elasticity of the skin, causing sagging, leather-like skin that will make them look much older than their actual age.

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Artificial sun tanners afford no protection against the harmful rays of the sun and may give one a false sense of protection. People with dark skin need to wear sunblocks because their darker natural skin color does not afford them enough protection.

The Damaging Effects of the Sun

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The damaging effects of the sun includes the induction of:

  • Skin cancers
  • Premature aged appearance
  • Sun induced eye diseases including eye cancers, and increased risk of cataracts and glaucoma.

Protecting Yourself and Your Children

To protect oneself from the sun, sunblocks, sunglasses, and sun protective clothing must be used.

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Children less than 6 months of age should not use sun blocks because of concerns regarding their absorption of the sunblock ingredients. They should wear loose fitting, long sleeve shirts and pants, wear a hat of tightly knit material (when held up to light there should be darkness inside cap) and sunglasses where are labelled to protect against the two types of sun rays: UVA and UVB.

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Everyone should limit their outdoor exposure between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. Shade areas may contain 80% of non-shaded areas. It is best to be inside at the peak sunlight intensity hours.

Sunscreen

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Sunblock should be of a SPF of 30 or greater and the container should also indicate 100% blockage of UVA sunlight.

One ounce of sunblock (a small jigger) is necessary to rub into the skin 20 to 30 minutes prior to sun exposure to allow sunblock absorption. Spray sunblocks should be sprayed onto the hands and rubbed into the skin to avoid eye exposure.

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There are two types of sun blocks: physical and chemical. Physical sun blocks contain zinc oxide and titanium dioxide and protect by causing reflection the harmful rays. These are excellent products which eliminate the risk of allergic reactions to ingredients in chemical sun blocks. They are available in lotions, gels and sprays.  Most sun blocks sold are chemical sun blocks.

While the potential for allergic reaction (rashes/itching) is very rare, the possibility exists. When shopping for chemical sunblocks read the ingredient label and look for a product that contains avobenzone and does not contain oxybenzone. Oxybenzone may have a possible link to the production of hormone imbalances (low testosterone). Clear spray sunblocks are favorites of men for applying to their skin. Perspiration, degradation and swimming eliminate the sunblocks, so application every 2 hours is recommended.

Grab your sunblock, sun glasses and a hat and have a wonderful day at the beach!

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Top Items to Keep in Your Hurricane “Go-Bag”

Author: Melissa Mitchell, UMC Emergency Management Coordinator

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Hurricane season begins June 1 and ends November 30. People living around the Atlantic coastline and the Gulf of Mexico should take note of the proper precautions for this hurricane season. Listed below are the top items every household should have ready to go in the event of a hurricane.

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1. Personal Identification

Consider including copies of the following items for each family member:

  • a driver’s license
  • social security card
  • birth/marriage certificates
  • vehicle registration
  • proof of insurance
  • will and insurance documents
  • property deeds

The best way to keep track of all information is to have it in a waterproof container or a binder, labeled, with a protective sleeve on it. During hurricane season there is always the potential threat of flooding and damaging important papers. The best solution for this problem would be to have all of it packaged and ready to go. And don’t forget to bring cash! ATM’s may not be operating.

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2. First Aid-Kit

To be prepared, a first aid kit is a must.  It would contain all health-related items and medicines a family may need, especially prescription medications. Each family member should have a list of medications that are prescribed to them and other important health concerns in this kit.   Include things like waterless hand cleaners, antibacterial soap, and sunblock.

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3. Toiletries

An emergency pack should always hold any toiletries a person would use daily. It is best to change out these items every hurricane season due to expiration dates. Items like deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrush, soap, and personal should be included.

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4. Bottled Water

Water is a necessity and having it ready and bottled to go is essential. Each person should have one gallon of water per day.

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5. Food

At least 4 days’ worth for each person. It is best to pack the following types of food:

  • High Energy Foods: Along with water, high energy foods should be considered as well. High energy foods are foods that do not contain a high amount of water and would fill a person’s stomach up more. The best option to stack up on would be peanut butter, crackers, and protein or energy bars.
  • Pre-Packaged, Non-Perishable Food Items: Food items like oatmeal, mac and cheese, fruit snacks, and chips/pretzels are pre-packaged food that last a long time. A family should pack enough to accommodate family size and the pack should be updated and checked every hurricane season.

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6. Electronics

  • Flashlight: Each family member should have their own flashlight. Wind-up flashlights work very well and don’t require batteries.
  • Lantern: Even though flashlights are on the list, a lantern would be a good thing to have as well. The lantern would help in larger rooms and are easier to use if a person needs two hands to do a job.
  • Radio: The radio should be battery operated and the frequency for the weather channel can be taped to the radio itself.
  • Batteries: Batteries are a must have for being prepared for any inclement weather season.
  • Cell phone charger, computer cords, and a wind-up or solar powered cell phone charger.

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7. Clothes and Shoes

Enough for 4 days per person. Be sure you have:

  • Rain jacket
  • Protective shoes
  • Hat for shade

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8. Pets

  • Pet food
  • Veterinarian info & medications
  • Bottle water and bowls
  • Carrier or crate
  • Bedding
  • Tags, collar, and leash
  • Plastic refuse bags or litter

With the top items listed above, every family should print and review the Louisiana Emergency Preparedness Guide.  This guide will have everything a Louisiana resident should have on hand to be prepared this hurricane season.

For more information on Emergency Preparedness or helpful tips, visit: 

 

For up-to-date emergency alerts, follow your local news and weather channels.

Click here to watch how to pack a basic storm survival kit.

3 Summer Treats Perfect in this Heat

While not all may side with iHob’s decision to enter the burger industry, we can agree on this:

This summer is HOT!

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With temperatures approaching triple digits, you may be reaching for popsicles, ice cream sandwiches and snoballs to cool you down. After all, you know what they say: “if you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen!” But before you overload on sugar and throw in the towel, consider a set of treats that are cool, healthy, and perfect for beating the heat.

Here are three healthy, dessert-style recipes you need to try this summer:

Stacked Fruit Salad

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Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons fat-free vanilla yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons fat-free ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup crushed pineapple, drained
  • 1/4 cup blueberries
  • 1/4 cup mandarin oranges
  • 1/2 small kiwi, peeled and sliced
  • 1 ring spiced apple

Directions

Mix the yogurt and ricotta cheese in a small bowl. Use a small spatula to smooth each layer as you add it to a parfait glass or a ring mold (place the mold on a plate). Spread 1/4 cup drained pineapple in the bottom. Spread half the yogurt-ricotta mixture over the pineapple. Top with a layer of blueberries. Mandarin orange segments come next, then another yogurt-ricotta layer. Arrange slices of peeled kiwi. Top with the spiced apple ring. Cover loosely and refrigerate, unless you’re ready to eat it at once. If you use the ring mold, some juice may leak out during refrigeration. Use a paper towel to dry the plate just before serving.

Serves: 1

The serving contains about 175 calories, 7 g protein, 0 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 38 g carbohydrates, 3 g fiber, and 56 mg sodium.

This dish is gluten-free.

Cherry Swirl Pudding

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Ingredients

  • 2 cups fat-free plain yogurt
  • 2 cups sweet black cherries, pitted
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup dried, unsweetened coconut

Directions

Increase the yogurt’s density by putting it in a strainer lined with cheesecloth or a coffee filter over a bowl. Refrigerate. After 2 hours, you’ll see about 1/2 cup liquid to discard. Halve the cherries. Mix the cherries, vanilla extract, and coconut into the yogurt. Refrigerate until ready to serve in stemmed cocktail glasses (just spoon it in).

Serves: 4

Each serving contains about 145 calories, 8 g protein, 9 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 24 g carbohydrates, 4 g fiber, and 100 mg sodium.

This dish is gluten-free.

Pineapple Smoothies

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup fresh pineapple chunks
  • 1 cup light vanilla yogurt
  • 1 cup crushed ice

Directions

Put ingredients in a blender. Puree and pour.

Serves: 2

Each serving contains about 110 calories, 5 g protein, 1 g fat, 23 g carbohydrates, 1 g fiber, and 66 mg sodium.

This dish is gluten-free and gout friendly.

Click here for more healthy recipes!

 

Is HIV How you ID?

Author: Lauren Richey, MD, MPH, FIDSA, UMC Internal Medicine and Infectious Disease Specialist and LSU Health Sciences Center Associate Professor of Medicine

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Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is an infection that can cause serious damage to your body and immune system if not treated; however you can be without symptoms for many years. The lack of symptoms makes people think they are healthy, and, as a result, they often do not seek out or request testing.

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It is important to find out about the infection early because there are simple, effective treatments which can keep you healthy and prevent any damage to your immune system.

The only way to know if you have HIV is to get tested.

How Do I Get HIV?

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HIV can be transmitted through:

  • sexual fluids during sexual activity,
  • mother to child during birth,
  • breast feeding, and
  • blood.

Blood transmission can occur through blood transfusions and the use of intravenous (IV) drugs.

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How is HIV/AIDS Diagnosed?

As mentioned before, early HIV infection often causes no symptoms, and must be detected by testing a person’s blood for the presence of antibodies — disease-fighting proteins — against HIV. These HIV antibodies generally do not reach levels high enough to detect by standard blood tests until 1 to 3 months following infection, and may take as long as 6 months to do so.

People exposed to HIV should be tested for HIV infection as soon as they think they may have been exposed to HIV.

When a person is highly likely to be infected with HIV and, yet, antibody tests are negative, a test for the presence of HIV itself in the blood is used. Repeated antibody testing at a later date, when antibodies to HIV are more likely to have developed, is often recommended.

Who Should Get Tested?  Everyone! 

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There are a lot of misconceptions about HIV and how it is transmitted but anyone, regardless of race, sex, gender, sexual orientation, or educational level, who has had sex should be tested.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 gets tested for HIV at least once as part of routine health care. About 1 in 7 people in the United States who have HIV don’t know they have it.

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People at higher risk should get tested more often. Sexually active gay and bisexual men may benefit from more frequent testing (for example, every 3 to 6 months).

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If you’re pregnant, talk to your healthcare provider about getting tested for HIV and other ways to protect you and your child from getting HIV.

What are My Options for HIV/AIDS Treatment?

As with many other conditions, early detection offers more choices for treatment. Today, there are medical treatments that not only can slow down the rate at which HIV weakens the immune system, but  may keep HIV in check so that the individual has a chance to live a normal life span.

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Unfortunately, there is no cure for an HIV infection.

Talk with your healthcare provider for more information regarding various drug therapies for the treatment of HIV/AIDS.

Where Can I Get Tested?

We offer testing at University Medical Center New Orleans in the Infectious Disease Center (ACB building, Clinic 4C). There is also routine HIV testing in our Emergency Department. So if a medical condition or any risk of exposure to HIV brings you to the ED, you can get tested!

To find other testing centers near you, you can enter your zip code into: gettested.cdc.gov.  Other places include your primary medical doctor, OB/GYN doctor, or at a community testing event.

How Can I Protect Myself Against Acquiring HIV?

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  1. Use Condoms: Using condoms during sexual encounters is one of the simplest ways to prevent HIV transmission.
  2. Take PreP (pre-exposure prophylaxis): PreP involves taking a daily medicine to prevent HIV acquisition and is very effective.
  3. Use Clean Needles: If you inject drugs, using clean needles, and never sharing needles, is another way to prevent HIV transmission.
  4. Talk to Your Partner: Before having sex for the first time with a new partner, you and your partner should talk about your sexual and drug-use history, disclose your HIV status, and consider getting tested for HIV and learning the results.

Where Can I get PreP? Where Can I Receive Treatment for HIV?

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The HOP (HIV Outpatient Program) clinic nested in the Infectious Disease Center of the ACB building Clinic 4C provides both comprehensive HIV care and PreP.

Call (504) 702-4344 to make an appointment or to refer a patient. 

Click here for more HIV Resources.

About the Author

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Dr. Lauren Richey, MD,MPH, FIDSA is an Internal Medicine and Infectious Disease specialist in New Orleans, Louisiana. She has more than 11 years of diverse experience with HIV and other infectious diseases.

 

 

The Lasting Impact of Sudden Impact

Author: Natalie Moll, Student and Sudden Impact Graduate

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Driving is the first freedom teenagers often experience.

Unfortunately, motor vehicle crashes are the number one killer of teens.

When I was 16 years-old I had my first Sudden Impact experience, and since then, I have never viewed driving the same.

What is Sudden Impact?

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Sudden Impact is an interactive program that educates high school sophomores about the dangers of driving impaired, driving without a seat belt, and distracted driving. It is facilitated by the Injury Prevention Program for UMC’s Level 1 Trauma Center and by the Louisiana State Police.

The program also offers mock crashes and mock trials to further educate teenagers on the consequences of reckless driving. It has a big reach. Since the program’s inception 20 years ago, it has been expanded to 16 additional hospital host sites in 9 regions of Louisiana. It is in more than 120 schools.

The Presentation

On day one of Sudden Impact, we were presented a slide show filled with information on the risks of driving without seat belts and driving impaired (at the time, distracted driving wasn’t a large part of the program).

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I remember we took an anonymous test before the start of the presentation that asked questions such as:

  • How often do you wear your seat belt?
  • Would you or have you gotten behind the wheel after having a drink?

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Then, we heard from three speakers — a woman from the Trauma Prevention Team, a state trooper, and a woman who had been injured because of a drunk driver — that really ingrained three lessons I still think of when I get behind the wheel:

  1. Sometimes bad things happen to good people.
  2. 100 percent of crashes are preventable.
  3. Seat belts save lives.

Following our three speakers, we took an anonymous post-test that asked the same questions as the previous one. However, when compared to the pre-test, we noticed a 22% increase in responses that aligned with safer driving habits.

For example, one of the questions asked: How often will you wear a seat belt while in a car? During the pre-test, only 64% of students answered “always,” but for the post-test, 97% of students answered “always.”

The Mock Crash

About a year later, I had my second Sudden Impact experience. It was the mock car crash, which stressed the consequences of motor vehicle crashes as a result of impaired driving, distracted driving, and not using seat belts…along with everything that happens next — EMS arrival, the trip to the hospital, the family being notified…the list goes on. While the presentation I went through the year before was eye-opening, the only way to describe the mock crash is INTENSE.

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Sudden Impact set up a crash in our faculty parking lot in the morning, and while I knew there was going to be an assembly, I never thought I would have to witness girls I knew hanging out of cars screaming in agony. Although it’s all fake, it’s chilling how real it feels. Watching a classmate being loaded into a coroner’s van while her mother is crying is an image that will forever with me. It reminded me that I have to make the conscious decision to think about the consequences of my actions, especially when driving.

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The Injury Prevention Team also returns to some schools three years after the first presentation for an anonymous survey for high school seniors that asks about the effectiveness of the overall program.

97% of the seniors said they felt that Sudden Impact kept them from driving impaired, driving distracted and not using their seat belts as well as practicing safer driving habits.

The Impact

I’m a college junior now, and I practice safer habits when I’m driving or riding in a car because of the Sudden Impact program. It gave me a true perspective of the dangers that come with driving. I think it was important that I learned the risks of reckless driving the same time I was learning the rules of the road, and it was important for me to hear it from those three speakers. I paid more attention to the things they were saying because they were the ones saying it.

Now, I never get in a car without using the seat belt or while impaired, and I never have to remind my friends who went through the program with me to do the same. It’s because we all understand the consequences of our potential actions…and that may not be the case had we not experienced Sudden Impact.

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Remember: 100% of all motor vehicle crashes are preventable. Drive safely, and remember the impact you have while on the road.

 

About the Author: Natalie Moll

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Natalie Moll is a junior at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. She is majoring in mass communication with a concentration in public relations and a minor in sociology. Natalie is also a founding member of the Omega chapter of Alpha Delta Pi, where she serves as Sisterhood Chair.

Am I Experiencing Vicarious Trauma?

Authors: Jennifer Hughes, PhD, and Alisha Bowker, LCSW, UMC Trauma Recovery Clinic Team

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At times it can feel nearly impossible to find the motivation to keep showing up to work, week after week, especially after working long hours or dealing with crises and looming deadlines. Working in the medical and helping fields, especially, we are often overwhelmed with horrific stories of violence, pain and trauma, which can dramatically alter the way in which we understand the world, ourselves and others.

The clinical term for this phenomena is Vicarious Trauma (VT).

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What is Vicarious Trauma (VT)?

Vicarious Trauma can be defined as a change in a helper’s inner experiences after working with people who have experienced traumatic events. Trauma can be defined as a deeply or distressing event that one directly witnesses or hears about. This can include natural disasters, interpersonal violence, war, divorce, childhood abuse and so on.

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Does Everyone Experience VT?

VT is a natural consequence of being an empathetic human, and being exposed to a population who has experienced trauma. Those often impacted by VT are social workers, case managers, doctors, nurses, first responders, etc. It is an inevitable hazard in these lines of work and, unfortunately, cannot be avoided, but definitely can be addressed and managed.

VT can also extend not only to helping professionals who work with this population, but also to the caregivers or loved ones of a survivor.

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How Does VT Impact My Life?

Vicarious Trauma is an ongoing process that slowly builds over time the longer we are exposed to the stories of trauma survivors. It generally begins to impact us in three different realms:

  1. Identity: It begins to impact our identity, which changes the way we see and define ourselves.
  2. Worldview: It impacts our worldview by skewing the ways in which we understand others or understand how to interact with those around us.
  3. Spirituality: It can impact our spirituality, and replace feelings of hope with feelings of cynicism and despair.

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VT Versus Burnout

Vicarious Trauma is different than burnout, as it truly only develops after being exposed to traumatic stories. Burnout is a state of chronic stress, particularly in a work environment, that leads to physical and emotional exhaustion, cynicism, detachment and feelings of worthlessness.

While the symptoms are similar, burnout is generally not rooted in trauma exposure.

Signs and Symptoms of VT

Some of the most common signs and symptoms of VT fall under these 5 areas:

  1. Cognitive: Intrusive thoughts, sounds or images about the traumas an individual has been exposed to, difficulty concentrating, constantly thinking about survivors outside of work, becoming more cynical or negative in one’s thinking patterns.
  2. Physiological: Ulcers, headaches, chronic pain, stomach aches, sweating or heart racing when reminded of a trauma
  3. Spiritual: Lose hope, see others as bad or evil and lose sight of the good in humanity, difficulty trusting our own beliefs
  4. Behavioral: Hair trigger temper, isolating, using unhelpful coping to manage big feelings (drinking, drugging, gambling), need to control everything and everyone
  5. Emotional: Lose touch with one’s own self-worth, isolate from loved ones, feeling overwhelmed or emotionally restricted

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So now that we have the language to define the symptoms we are experiencing, what can we do about it?

Thankfully there is an answer for this and it can be broken down into three phases:

Anticipate and Protect, Address and Transform

  1. Anticipate and Protect: Arrange things ahead of time to anticipate the stress of your work and its impact on you.
    • Become aware of VT and start to look out for signs and symptoms. Intentionally plan for a healthy balance between your work life and personal life.
    • Find a support system, particularly amongst colleagues who share this language and can support you as needed.
  2. Address: How you take care of yourself in and out of work
    • Engage in Self-care: Attending to yourself physically, spiritually, emotionally and psychologically
    • Self-nurture: Engaging in activities or things that provide comfort, relaxation and play
    • Escape: Getting away (whether literally or mentally)
  3. Transform: Transform the negative aspects of this work into positive connection and meaning
    • Create Meaning: Find ways to hold onto your values and identify even in the face of trauma
    • Infuse current activities with new meaning: Mindfulness, Connection to others
    • Challenge negative beliefs: Actively challenge negative thoughts or cynicism/ Re-frame your thinking

While vicarious trauma is a very common and inevitable consequence to the work that we do, the exciting news is that we have the tools to fight back. This is an ongoing process that will continue to look different at different stages of our careers, so it is a process we must continuously be engaging with.

Both individually and collaboratively, begin to identify the signs of VT in your own life and use the template above to make a plan for how to begin addressing and counteracting these symptoms.

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Remember, you are not alone with your vicarious trauma, and do not have to manage it alone either.  

Tobacco and Heart Disease

Author: Johnny d’Aquin MS, RRT, RPFT, UMC Pulmonary Services Director 

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May 31, 2018 is World No Tobacco Day, an annual program of the World Health Organization, and I can’t think of a better day than that one to quit smoking.

The focus of World No Tobacco Day 2018 is “Tobacco and heart disease.” The goal is to raise awareness on the link between tobacco, and heart and other cardiovascular diseases (CVD), including stroke, which combined are the world’s leading causes of death.

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The Truth About Tobacco and Heart/Cardiovascular Disease

The American Heart Association (AHA) says diseases caused by smoking kill more than 440,000 people in the U.S. each year.  Smoking puts people at high risk of lung disease, including lung cancer and emphysema. Smokers also have increased risk for heart disease and stroke.

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Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) kill more people than any other cause of death worldwide, and tobacco use and second-hand smoke exposure contribute to approximately 12% of all heart disease deaths.

  • One out of every 5 smoking-related deaths is caused by heart disease.
  • Women older than 35 who smoke and take birth control pills are at much greater risk for heart disease or stroke.
  • Cigarette smokers are 2 to 4 times more likely to get heart disease than nonsmokers.
  • Cigarette smoking doubles a person’s risk for stroke.

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How Does Smoking Change the Heart and Blood Vessels?

Smoking:

  • Causes an instant and long-term rise in blood pressure.
  • Causes an instant and long-term increase in heart rate.
  • Reduces blood flow from the heart.
  • Reduces the amount of oxygen that reaches the body’s tissues.
  • Increases risk for blood clots.
  • Damages blood vessels.
  • Doubles the risk of stroke (reduced blood flow to the brain).

Smoking has also been linked with depression and stress.

The good news is that quitting smoking can reduce the risk of heart disease.

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According to the AHA, stopping smoking reduces the risk for heart disease, the risk for repeat heart attacks, and death by heart disease by half.

GettyImages-672597012.jpgGet Help/Quit Smoking

UMC is partnering with the Smoking Cessation Trust to help people quit smoking.

If you smoked just one cigarette before September 1, 1988 and are a current Louisiana resident, you are eligible to register with the smoking cessation trust and get free help.

You can get free smoking cessation medications, doctor visits, quit-line coaching and counseling. Call our office at (504) 702-4636 or enroll online.

Why Wait Another Day?

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