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!

 

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.  

6 Health Screenings to Help Women Prevent Disease

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May is women’s health month, a perfect time to remind the caregivers of the family to take care of themselves.

Don’t let heart disease, stroke, and other serious health conditions sneak up on you. Instead, prevent them by seeing your doctor for a yearly well-woman checkup

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At your checkup, your doctor will likely suggest health screenings. These tests can help spot potentially deadly conditions before they become life-threatening.

 

Here are 6 health screenings every woman needs in order to help prevent disease and stay healthy.

How many have you checked off your list?

1. Blood pressure

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Nearly half of all Americans older than age 20 have chronic high blood pressure—130/80 mmHg or greater. Getting your blood pressure checked, and changing your lifestyle or using medication, if necessary, can reduce your risk for stroke and heart disease.

2. Cholesterol

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This simple blood test—after an overnight fast—measures levels of HDL, or “good,” cholesterol and LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol, as well as triglycerides. These fats in your blood can affect your risk for heart disease and stroke.

3. Pap test

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This test, as part of a pelvic exam, takes a sample of cells from the cervix to check for cervical cancer. Women ages 21 to 29 should get a Pap test every three years. From ages 30 to 65, you should get screened every three to five years. Cervical cancer and the beginning stages of the disease are treatable if caught early.

4. Mammogram

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This breast X-ray can find breast cancer in its early, most treatable stages. Talk with your doctor if you’re between ages 40 and 49 about when to start getting a mammogram. If you’re between ages 50 and 74, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends a screening every two years.

5. Blood glucose

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This simple blood test helps detect type 2 diabetes and prediabetes, which can increase the risk for heart disease and other complications. It’s recommended for adults ages 40 to 70 who are overweight.

6. Colonoscopy

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During this test, the doctor will examine your colon, looking for signs of cancer and small growths that can become cancerous over time, which can be removed during the test. Experts recommend getting a colonoscopy starting at age 50.

Consider bringing a copy of your family health history to your checkup.

Create one here.

 

Drink Up: 10 Reasons Water is a Key Ingredient in Your Good Health

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Author: Rosetta Danigole, UMC Lead Dietician

Water is an essential nutrient and a thirst quencher that can also trim our waistlines.

Here are 10 reasons you should be drinking enough water daily:

1. Boosts Your Metabolism

Drinking water helps the body burn fat. Studies show that drinking 17 ounces of water can increase the metabolic rate by 30% in both men and woman. Even mild dehydration can slow down metabolic rate by 3%. So drink up and burn fat.

2. Fills you up

If you’re feeling hungry, try sipping some water first because what feels like hunger might be thirst. When you drink water between meals, you’re less likely to overeat and you won’t eat as much junk.

3. Naturally helps your body release fat cells

Water helps rid the body of waste. During weight loss the body has a lot of waste to rid itself of and metabolized fat must be shed. Water helps flush out the waste.  Therefore your cells shrink when they are plumped up by water.

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4. Keeps food moving through your system

Staying hydrated helps your body break down food so that your body can absorb nutrients.  Water also softens stool which helps prevent constipation.

5. Flushes toxins from your system

Your kidneys and liver get rid of toxins.  Water helps the kidneys to have enough fluid to function properly leading to flushing out metabolized waste.

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6. Improves your mood

Mild dehydration leads to moodiness, problems concentrating and fatigue in a recent study.  Remember 85% of your brain tissue is made up of water.

7. Reduces muscle fatigue while working out

Blood flow to muscle is reduced when dehydrated.

8. Helps you recuperate faster from a workout

Water helps keep the body in homeostasis and electrolyte balance.

9. Keeps your organs healthy while you’re sweating

Our organs are made of high concentrations of water, and we need to stay.

10. Keeps you from feeling groggy in the morning

Drinking a few glasses of water in the morning will help to wake you up.

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Don’t like the taste of water? Try infusing it with lemons, limes,  cucumber and mint for a tasty and healthful summer drink.

Sugary sodas, lemonade and sweet tea or smoothies — although refreshing  – for some can pack a lot of empty inflammatory-type calories.

Please remember to drink your water and stay hydrated!

About the Author

Rosetta

As the lead dietitian at University Medical Center New Orleans, Rosetta Danigole manages clinical dietetic operations. She is a member of the Academy of Dietetics and Nutrition and belongs to the clinical dietitian practice group. She has been a dietitian for 35 years.

 

Stroke Strikes Fast: Knowing the Signs and How to Prevent

By Toni Rougeou, RN, UMC Stroke Program Coordinator

A stroke is a “brain attack” that happens when blood flow to your brain is stopped. It’s a medical emergency in which knowing the signs and symptoms is vitally important.

May is Stroke Awareness Month, an opportunity to spread awareness of stroke and a good time for everyone to identify their personal risk and learn the steps they can take to reduce the risk of stroke.

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There are two types of strokes:

Ischemic stroke – caused by clot or plaque accounts for about 87% of all strokes

Hemorrhagic stroke – Bleeding in or around the brain caused from uncontrolled elevated blood pressure, ruptured aneurysm, or Arterial-venous malformation.

Every minute you are having a stroke, you lose about 2 million brain cells.  The longer you take to seek medical attention, the more brain cells are lost.  “Time is Brain.”

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Stroke is the 5th leading cause of death in the United States and the leading cause of disability in adults.

Each year nearly 800,000 people have a stroke (every 40 seconds stroke happens), and almost 130,000 people die from stroke per year.

Stroke kills twice as many American women as breast cancer each year. More women than men die from stroke and risk is higher. Women suffer greater disability after stroke than men.

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African-Americans have double the incidence of stroke than that of Caucasians and suffer more extensive physical deficits. African Americans are also twice as likely to die from a stroke. Mexican–Americans are at higher risk for all types of stroke and TIA at younger ages than Caucasians.

In 2012 the total stroke related cost in the US was estimated to be $105 billion and is projected to hit $240 billion by 2030.

Who is at Risk for a Stroke?

Anyone can have a stroke at any age. But your chance of having a stroke increases if you have certain risk factors. Some risk factors for stroke can be changed or managed, while others can’t.

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What are the risk factors for stroke that can be modified?

  • High Blood Pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Elevated Cholesterol
  • Atrial Fibrillation – a type of irregular heartbeat; Makes a person 5X’s more prone to having a stroke.
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol – more than two drinks a day
  • Illegal drug use – Cocaine, Mojo
  • Diets high in fat and salt
  • Lack of exercise routine
  • Sleep apnea

What are some risk factors that we cannot change?

  • Being African-American
  • Being a Female
  • Being over age 55
  • Having a previous TIA or stroke
  • Having a family history of stroke

What impact does stroke have?

  • In 2012 the total stroke related cost in the US was estimated to be $105 billion, and is projected to hit $240 billion by 2030.

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  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg on one side of the body (Right or Left)
  • Sudden trouble speaking, understanding or confusion.
  • Sudden trouble seeing out of one or both eyes.
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness or loss of balance. Falling to one side.
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause “Worst headache of my life.”

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STROKE IS NO JOKE!    RECOGNIZE!  RESPOND!  AND PREVENT!  

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Toni Rougeou, RN, is the Stroke Program Coordinator for University Medical Center New Orleans. UMC is an Advanced Primary Stroke Center with a full stroke team on call 24/7 to immediately care for patients with stroke symptoms. To learn more, visit umcno.org/strokecenter.

Hand Washing 101

Author: Peter DeBlieux, MD, Chief Medical Officer at UMC

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Washing your hands is one of the best ways to protect yourself and others from germs and infectious diseases.

At home or at work, it’s important to wash your hands often and properly with soap and water to combat germs that accumulate and linger. But what if you’re at Jazz Fest or at one of the area’s many outdoor fairs and festivals, when access to soap and water may be limited?  Proper hand hygiene is still important and possible when you plan ahead and use this tips.

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The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests washing your hands at these key times:

  • Before, during and after preparing food.
  • Before eating.
  • Before and after caring for someone who is sick.
  • Before and after treating a wound.
  • After going to the bathroom.
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the bathroom.
  • After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
  • After touching an animal, animal feed or animal waste.
  • After handling garbage.

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What is the best way to wash your hands?

  • Use clean, running water. Use hot water if it’s available.
  • Wet your hands before applying soap.
  • Rub your soapy hands together for at least 20 seconds. Make sure to wash all surfaces well. This includes your wrists, palms, backs of hands, and between fingers.
  • Clean and remove the dirt from under your fingernails.
  • Rinse your hands thoroughly to remove all soap.
  • Dry your hands with an air dryer or a clean paper towel.
  • Turn off the faucet with a paper towel.

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If you’re at one of the area’s many outdoor fairs, festivals and special events soap and water may be limited. In such cases, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer is a must-have for cleaning your hands. When using hand sanitizer, be sure to:

  • Apply the gel to the palm of one hand.
  • Rub your hands together.
  • Rub the product over all surfaces of your hands and fingers until they are dry.

Our hands are exposed to countless germs daily through normal activities.  These steps detailed above can reduce the burden of germs that accumulate on our hands and will reduce the likelihood of infectious disease transmission.

 

Simple Stretches for those Stretched Too Thin

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Stretching is an important part of every workout, but it also has benefits beyond the gym. Stretching improves flexibility, helps maintain a good range of motion in your joints and also relieves stress. Stretching can be done at home, work or on the go. Here are some simple stretching exercises for busy people.

Remember to listen to your body as you stretch and stop if you feel pain of any kind.

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Wrists

Reach your arms out in front of you. Rotate your wrists 10 times in a clockwise direction, then 10 times counterclockwise.

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Arms and Hands

Clasp your hands together in front of your chest at shoulder height. Extend your arms forward until you feel a stretch in your upper back, shoulders, arms, and hands. Hold for 15 seconds and relax. Repeat for 30 seconds.

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Arms

Lift one arm in front of you as if to grab something. Then use the other arm to pull the outstretched arm gently across the chest so that the muscles are stretched. Hold for 15 seconds and relax. Repeat for another 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat, using your left arm.

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Neck

Close your eyes. Drop your ear to your shoulder and hold for 15 seconds. Roll your chin across your chest to the other shoulder and hold for 15 seconds. Repeat.

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Overhead Reach

Inhale slowly and deeply. Raise arms overhead. Exhale completely and release. Repeat.

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Chest

Bring your arms behind your back and link your fingers with your palms facing inward. Straighten your arms and lift them up until you feel a stretch in your arms, shoulders, and chest. Hold for 15 seconds and relax. Repeat the stretch for another 15 to 30 seconds.

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Back

Sit tall in your chair and try to turn to grab the back of the chair while keeping your feet flat on the floor. Hold for 15 seconds and relax. Repeat the stretch turning to the other side.

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Hips

Cross one ankle onto the opposite knee and sit tall. Then, lean forward from your hips, keeping your chest upright. This stretches the outer hip, which is the reason for many back problems. Hold for 15 seconds and relax. Repeat using the other leg.

The Benefits of Breakfast

Author: Rosetta Danigole, Lead Nutritionist at UMC

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Are You a Breakfast Eater?

Studies show that there are many benefits to choosing a healthy breakfast every morning.

First, there’s the energy factor. Your brain needs glucose from food – especially good carbohydrates such as whole grains, fresh fruits and low-fat dairy products – in order to work well.

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What Happens When You Skip Breakfast

When you skip breakfast you may end up with a brain-energy slump by mid-morning.

Skipping the benefits of breakfast can lead to an increase in LDL (“bad” cholesterol) levels, according to researchers.

Going without breakfast means you likely will eat more throughout the day. People who eat breakfast, on the other hand, get their metabolism humming and tend not to consume as many calories during the entire day, so they wind up weighing less than those who don’t get the benefits of eating breakfast.

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You may be jeopardizing your long-term health. One study found that those who skipped breakfast were more resistant to insulin. Insulin resistance increases the risk of developing diabetes.

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If you are not a breakfast eater and have a hard time eating in the morning you may just have a bad habit.  To start breaking that habit try a light breakfast such as a banana and a glass of milk or even a cup of low fat low-sugar yogurt and fruit.  You may just need to re-train your system to accepting food in the morning.

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Lastly, what are the good and bad breakfast choices?

  • Try not to load up on caffeine — one cup is a good limit, but if you need two cups maybe try a cup of hot tea as it is higher in antioxidants.
  • Avoid muffins, large bagels, sweet pastries, sweetened cereal, & high-fat meats such as bacon.
  • Eggs are good choices (high in protein and not the cholesterol offender as once thought). Studies say to it is good to include eggs 3 to 4 times per week; preferably organic and high in omega 3 fatty acids.
  • Try whole grains coupled with high quality protein such as eggs and oatmeal or yogurt and fruit.
  • Don’t forget the healthy fats such as almonds/walnuts/or flax seeds.

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…But What About Grits?

Here in New Orleans we love grits and a lot of folks ask dietitians about that. Grits are made from corn and is not that bad in and of itself but it is a refined food. Include it occasionally for breakfast but not daily as other options offer more nutrients.

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About the Author

Rosetta

As the lead dietitian at University Medical Center New Orleans, Rosetta Danigole manages clinical dietetic operations. She is a member of the Academy of Dietetics and Nutrition and belongs to the clinical dietitian practice group. She has been a dietitian for 35 years.

 

Tell It to My Heart: The Effects of Emotions on the Heart

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Since ancient times, the heart has been a symbol of our emotions. But, scientists have uncovered a physical link between emotions and heart health.

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What the Research Shows

Science suggests an association among stress, depression, and heart disease. Several studies strongly suggest that certain psychosocial factors such as grief, depression, and job loss contribute to heart attack and cardiac arrest. Stress may affect risk factors for heart disease such as high blood pressure. Stress may also affect behaviors that increase risk such as smoking, overeating, drinking too much alcohol, and physical inactivity. Managing and treating these conditions is important to reduce your overall health risk.

Our primary care physicians are trained in doing just that.

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Stress and Your Heart

Emotional stress causes a negative chain reaction within your body. If you’re angry, anxious, tense, frustrated, frightened, or depressed, your body’s natural response is to release stress hormones. These hormones include cortisol and adrenaline. They prepare your body to deal with stress. They cause your heart to beat more rapidly and your blood vessels to narrow to help push blood to the center of the body. The hormones also increase your blood pressure. This “fight or flight” response is thought to date back to prehistoric times, when we needed an extra burst of adrenaline to escape predators.

After your stress subsides, your blood pressure and heart rate should return to normal. If you’re continually stressed out though, your body doesn’t have a chance to recover. This may lead to damage of your artery walls.

Although it is not clear that stress alone causes high blood pressure or heart disease, it does pose an indirect risk and also has a negative effect on your general wellness.

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Stress and Your Reactions

You can manage stress in both healthy and unhealthy ways. Unfortunately, many people deal with stress by smoking, drinking too much, and overeating. All of these unhealthy habits can contribute to heart disease. But using healthy ways to keep your stress under control allows you to better protect yourself against heart disease. Try these ideas:

  • Exercise. When you are anxious and tense, exercise is a great way to burn off all that excess energy and stress. Go for a walk, a bike ride, or a swim, or go to the gym for your favorite class. Plan to exercise for 30 to 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity, 4 to 5 days a week to relieve stress and improve your heart health.
  • Breathe deeply. Yoga is not only good for your body, but for your mind, too. The meditative, deep breathing done in yoga is calming and relieves stress, especially if you do it regularly.
  • Take a break. When your stress level rises, take a few minutes to escape your surroundings. Spend a few quiet moments alone, read a short story, or listen to your favorite music. Cultivate gratitude. Make a list of what you’re grateful for in your life to focus on the positives.
  • Get together with friends. Social media is no substitute for being with people you love. Create some weekly rituals with your friends. If they live far away, try volunteering or joining a local group of people with similar interests to yours. Research suggests that people with frequent social connections enjoy better protection against high blood pressure.

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Research is ongoing to look more closely at the link between emotional health and heart health. But the existing evidence is consistent enough to prove that you should take its potential effects on your heart seriously. Exercise regularly and keep your emotional health in check, and you’ll build a stronger buffer against heart disease.

To learn more about Heart and Vascular Services at UMC, click here.