The Low-Down on Depression

Author: Erika Rajo, Psy.D., Trauma Psychologist, UMC

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Depressive disorders can make you feel exhausted, worthless, helpless, and hopeless. Such negative thoughts and feelings may make you feel like giving up.

Major depressive disorder is not the same as feeling unhappy or in a “blue” mood, feelings that can usually pass with time. It is important to recognize the signs of depression and to know that treatment is often needed and, in many cases, is crucial to recovery.

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According to findings from the National Institute of Mental Health, major depressive disorder is a leading cause of disability in the U.S. for ages 15-44 and affects approximately 14.8 million American adults, or about 6.7% of the U.S. population  age 18 and older in a given year.

Specific symptoms include:

  • Feeling sad, down, empty or hopeless
  • Decreased interest or pleasure in activities
  • Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain or decrease or increase in appetite
  • Changes in sleeping patterns, such as fitful sleep, inability to sleep, early morning awakening, or sleeping too much
  • Listlessness or restlessness that is observable by others
  • Fatigue or decreased energy
  • Feeling worthless and/or helpless
  • Lasting feelings of hopelessness
  • Feelings of inappropriate guilt
  • Diminished ability to think, concentrate, or make decisions
  • Frequent thoughts of death or suicide, wishing to die, or attempting suicide (Note: People with this symptom should seek help right away by calling 911 or going to the nearest emergency room.)

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The Facts

The research shows that depression diagnoses are increasing at a rapid rate in the U.S. One recent study published by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (2018) found that from 2013 to 2016, depression diagnoses increased 63 percent among adolescents (ages 12 to 17) and 47 percent among millennials (ages 18 to 34). Although this rise in depression may seem alarming, the data may reflect a positive trend – an increase in the rate at which symptoms of depression are being recognized.

The bottom line is that increased awareness leads to earlier recognition/identification of symptoms, which then allows for earlier intervention and prevention! On that note, here are a few more facts you should know about depression:

  • While depression can develop at any age, the median age at onset is 32
  • Depression is more prevalent in women than in men
  • There is no clear cause of depression. Experts think it happens because of chemical imbalances in the brain. Many factors can play a role in depression, including environmental, psychological, biological, and genetic factors.
  • Depression and sadness are not one in the same. Sadness is a part of being human, a natural reaction to painful circumstances. All of us will experience sadness at some point in our lives.
  • It’s treatable! You do not need to suffer if you have depression. There are many effective treatment options available, including psychotherapy, medication, and electroconvulsive therapy (used to treat severe, medication-resistant depression).


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When should you seek professional help?

  • If your symptoms are causing notable distress or impairment in social, occupational or other important areas of functioning
  • If self-help strategies or behavioral interventions are not working
  • If your symptoms and associated distress/impairment persist for more than 2 weeks
  • If you have frequent thoughts about self-harm, death, or suicide

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Self-Help Strategies

There are also some strategies you can try on your own. Of note, these strategies can serve as a supplement to professional treatment but not as a replacement.

  • Set realistic goals for yourself each day.
  • Break large tasks into small ones and set priorities. Do what you can at a pace that feels right for you.
  • Avoid the urge to isolate. Spend time with friends and family. Confide in trusted, supportive people in your life and allow them help you.
  • Schedule activities that have boosted your mood in the past, such as going to a movie, gardening, or taking part in religious, social, or other activities. Doing something nice for someone else can also help you feel better.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Eat healthy, well-balanced meals.
  • Write down 3 things you are grateful for at the end of each day. This may help replace the negative thinking that often accompanies depression.
  • Make a list of positive affirmations and recite them to yourself several times a day, especially when you catch yourself having negative thoughts.
  • Stay away from alcohol and drugs, which can make depression worse.
  • People rarely “snap out of” depression. Expect your mood to get better slowly, not right away. Feeling better takes time.
  • Seek professional help. If you think you may be depressed, see a healthcare or mental health provider as soon as possible.

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About the Author


Erika Rajo, Psy.D. is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychiatry for LSU Health Sciences Center (LSUHSC) and the Trauma Psychologist at University Medical Center, New Orleans (UMCNO). She earned her doctorate in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine University and completed both her predoctoral internship and postdoctoral fellowship training at LSUHSC. Dr. Rajo specializes in the psychological assessment and treatment of patients in an integrated medical setting. She also has extensive training and clinical experience in the treatment of psychological trauma and has been working with patients experiencing trauma-related difficulties since 2011.




Lisa’s Story: The Wake-up Call that Saved My Life

Author: Lisa Miranda, Chief Operating Officer, UMC

In mid 2012, the sudden death of a colleagues’ husband spurred me to do something I had not done in 10 years. I went to the doctor.

I’ve worked in healthcare since 1986, and I fit the stereotype of a healthcare worker who didn’t always pay enough attention to her own health. So, for more than a decade, I hadn’t had a mammogram, blood work, routine checkup or even a sick visit to the doctor. I didn’t even have a regular physician anymore.


But that unexpected death was a wake-up call that made me realize I had better get a physician and get a checkup. I chose a family medicine physician at Touro and made an appointment. She told me what I knew, and that was I really needed to get caught up on all of my screening exams and tests.

I have a history of very dense breasts and had previous biopsies of cysts that were benign, but because of many benign cysts, a physical exam is very difficult.  The doctor wrote my orders and I had a screening mammogram, which turned into a diagnostic mammogram and an ultrasound on the same day, which I had gone through twice before with benign cysts. This time, the news was serious. A biopsy revealed that I had breast cancer.

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I had always said that if I was diagnosed with breast cancer I would have a bilateral mastectomy to make sure there was no ability for recurrence. I met with my surgeon, who explained that due to the location and the size (very small and on the lower portion of my breast), there was no need for a mastectomy and he would have no problems obtaining clear margins with a lumpectomy.

I had my surgery and doctors found that in addition to the tumor in my breast, the cancer had already progressed to one lymph node.

Had I not had my wake-up call, I would probably had gone another few years without testing and the cancer would have at that time been throughout my body and I would not be here today.


I received chemotherapy and radiation treatment post-surgery which put me into early menopause. Since my tumor was hormone positive, I can’t take hormone treatment for menopause and therefore hot flashes were a huge issue.

Throughout the experience, I was determined to not let my diagnosis rule my life. I went to all of my testing and treatments alone except for the last 3 in which I had neuropathy and couldn’t drive and had what I call “chemo brain.”

I gave myself my own neupegen shots after every treatment to keep my white blood cell count up and continued to work until I was unable to drive.

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During the treatments, I would bring a book, a pillow and a blanket and read until the Benadryl made me sleepy, take a nap, then drive home. One day, when I was receiving my treatment, I heard the patient across from me who was getting her first one (who had 3 people with her) ask the nurse if I was getting Chemo. The nurse later came to me and asked if I could speak to the patient who was very scared. I introduced myself and told her that I was on my 4th of 8 treatments and that I had never been nauseous or sick and used the time to relax and read. She was so surprised because I had “hair”. I laughed and whipped off my wig and showed her that I was bald as a cucumber.

Most people didn’t even realize I was undergoing treatment. My philosophy was to take each day at a time, don’t worry about something that hasn’t happened, and continue living. I feel strongly that the strength to persevere helps outcomes.


I am an example of why it is so important to have your annual exams and testing. I would not be here today if I had waited even another year.


Please join all of us at UMC in saying #YesMamm to an annual mammogram. Scheduling a screening is easy, and if you are over 40 years old with no known breast problems, you won’t need a physician’s order to get your screening mammogram at UMC. For more information, visit or to schedule an appointment, call (504) 702-5700.

Lisa Miranda.jpgLisa Miranda is UMC’s Chief Operating Officer. Prior to joining UMC, she worked for 27 years at Children’s Hospital New Orleans in a number of roles, including Administrative Director of Laboratory Services, Hospital Safety Officer, and Emergency Management Coordinator.

The Importance of Choosing and Using the Correct Child Car Restraints

Author: Bridget Gardner, Injury Prevention Coordinator, UMC 

This week, UMC is participating in National Child Passenger Safety Week.  As motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children and teens, it is important for our community to realize the number one safety feature in a vehicle is a seat belt or child restraint.

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Although so simple to use, many do not take advantage of the engineering properties associated with the life saving measures or bio-mechanics of restraints.  Seat belts or child restraints work in the same way to lessen the impact of force from a motor vehicle crash. There are 5 basic benefits to being restrained prior to a crash.

  1. Keeps you in the vehicle: Being thrown from a vehicle can be deadly.  It’s just too much force on the body and goes back to your old science class about Newton’s Law of Motion.
  2. Restraints cross the bony structure: You are built like a cage, with bony structures that protect the internal organs. Bones can withstand greater forces than internal organs.
  3. Spreads forces: Simple force calculation experienced in a crash is your weight multiplied by the speed of the vehicle. Spreading the force allows a distribution across the body, rather than placing the energy in one place.
  4. Protects the head and spinal cord: Once damaged, injuries can last a lifetime.
  5. Provides ride down: In fractions of a second, seat belts or a child safety seat harness allow a slowing of the force in a crash.

No other devices will offer this type of protection. Children require child safety seats because they are too small to take advantage of the bio-mechanics with a seat belt alone.

Recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics made a few changes to their child safety seat policy. This caused much attention, however there were very few changes.  In summary, the following are considered best practice:

Infants and Toddlers



  • Rear-facing only
  • Rear-facing convertible

General Guidelines: All infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing seat until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by the car seat’s manufacturer. Most convertible seats have limits that will permit children to ride rear-facing for two years or more.

Toddlers and preschoolers

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  • Convertible
  • *Forward-facing with harness

General Guidelines: Children who have outgrown the rear-facing weight or height limit for their convertible seat should use a forward-facing seat with a harness for as long as possible, up to the highest weight or height allowed by their car safety seat manufacturer.

School-age children



  • Booster seats

General Guidelines: All children whose weight or height exceeds the forward-facing limit for their car safety seat should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle seat belt fits properly, typically when they have reached 4 feet 9 inches in height and are 8 through 12 years of age. All children younger than 13 should ride in the back seat.

Older children



  • Seat belts

General Guidelines: When children are old enough and large enough for the vehicle seat belt to fit them correctly, they should always use lap and shoulder seat belts for the best protection. All children younger than 13 should ride in the back seat.

Let’s take the time to focus on the safe arrival of our friends and family.  After all, working in a Trauma Center, we know that no one is invincible from trauma, and the only way to lessen the number of injuries is through prevention.


National Seat Check Saturday

The community is able to join us this Saturday, September 29, as we have 9 FREE child safety seat events occurring statewide on National Seat Check Saturday! Thanks to our partners at Louisiana Sonic Restaurants, we will also be distributing child safety seats to those in need.  The process is no longer accepting applications at this point, as all requests have been confirmed.  If you are in need of a child safety seat and finances keep you from correctly securing your child in the proper restraint, we will open the link for applications again in March.  Follow us on the UMC Injury Prevention page for upcoming announcements.

Seat Check Saturday takes place from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, September 29 across the state at these locations:

  • Alexandria—Rapides Regional Trauma Center Medical Terrace, 211 Fourth St.
  • Baton Rouge—Baton Rouge Police Dept., 9000 Airline Dr.
  • Houma—Home Depot, 1717 Martin Luther King Blvd.
  • Kenner—Divine Mercy Church, 7337 Sal Lentini Pkwy.
  • Lafayette—Babies R’ Us, 5700 Johnston St.
  • Lake Charles—Southwest Beverage Company, 3860 Broad St.
  • Mandeville—Church of the King- Little Creek Campus, 22205 Little Creek Rd.
  • Monroe—Hixson Ford, 6300 Frontage Rd.
  • Shreveport—Sheriff’s Safety Town, 8910 Jewella St.


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Bridget Gardner, RN, is a registered nurse and coordinator of the Community Injury Prevention Program at UMC New Orleans. The Louisiana Passenger Safety Task Force is a network of certified child passenger safety technicians throughout the state, directed by the UMC  Trauma Program.


Yoga: An Exercise for Every Body

Author: Maryann Vicari, UMC Physical Therapist

In honor of September being National Yoga Awareness month, we wanted to shed some light on the practice of yoga and the many benefits it has for those who partake in it.

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Yoga, a series of stretches and poses associated with breathing techniques, offers the powerful gains of exercise. Some yoga styles are intense and vigorous while others are relaxing and meditative. No matter which type you choose, yoga is a great way to stretch and strengthen your body, focus your mind, and relax your spirit.

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Yoga can aid in strength and flexibility, as well as allow you to feel more focused and alert. In addition, a regular yoga practice (3-4 days/week) can improve functional mobility in activities of daily living (ADLs) and decrease fall risk. Moreover, yoga has been found to help improve these specific conditions:

  • Poor blood circulation
  • High blood pressure
  • Arthritis
  • Osteoporosis
  • Limited mobility
  • Lower back pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Headaches
  • Tension or stress
  • Depression


Yoga’s gentle movements are a one of the main reasons for its growing popularity.

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Yoga is great for people who have not been active for some time. It is also helpful for people who have certain health conditions like arthritis or osteoporosis because it does not require your joints to move through their full range, which can sometime be painful. Most importantly, you can modify the exercises/poses to fit your needs/abilities. At the same time, yoga is also great if you’re already fit and want a more challenging workout. As you become stronger and more flexible, it’s easier to do other kinds of exercises/activities like dancing, walking, or swimming.

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Yoga can help:

  • Reduce your risk for injury. Each yoga pose targets specific muscles. This helps you increase your flexibility and reduce your risk for injury.
  • Reduce stress and increase concentration. Yoga can help soothe/focus the mind and lower stress levels. It does this by encouraging you to tune into your breathing which helps to focus your mind on the moment and poses.
  • Understand the mind and body connection. Yoga requires you to focus all your energy on each movement or pose exactly. This can help you tap into the connection between your mind and body.
  • Gain strength and stamina. More vigorous styles of yoga promote strength and stamina.
  • Improve balance and stability. Balancing poses require you to use your core muscles. This can help you improve your overall stability and decrease risk of falls.
  • Improve posture. Yoga poses strengthen and open tight areas of the body like the shoulders and muscles of the upper back. This can help you keep good posture throughout your day.
  • Develop body awareness. Yoga requires you to contract or relax specific muscles as you stretch into each pose. This can help you become more aware of your body’s strengths and weaknesses.

How Do I Start?

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It’s easy to find a variety of yoga classes. You can check with your local community centers, such as the Y or look at nearby gyms, dance studios, and health clubs. There are numerous yoga studios in the greater New Orleans area, many of which, offer specials (Groupon, etc) for new students. Finally, you can look up Yoga Journal’s Yoga Teacher Directory to see regional and national lists of yoga teachers and associations.

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It is important to find the right yoga style for you and a teacher you like. It’s hard to know what a class is like until you attend it. Even when two teachers use the same terms to describe their classes, the classes may be quite different, so feel free to experiment with different types of classes at different studios.

As always, be sure to talk with your health care provider before you begin yoga or any other kind of exercise. It’s a good idea to take a class with an experienced teacher. Let the teacher know about any health conditions you may have like high blood pressure or arthritis. Tell him or her about any injuries or physical problems. A good teacher will know which exercises are best for you and tell you which poses to avoid.

Give It a Try!

Yoga can help you get fit for life. It helps you deal with stress, pick up your child, control your dog, carry groceries, or work in your garden. It also can help to prevent or ease back pain and muscle or joint injury and give you self-reliance and self-esteem.


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Most important to keep in mind, the yoga routine is more than just physical — it involves the quieting of the mind. The bottom line is learning to pay attention. You fine-tune your attention, beginning with the body, and then moving to the mind. As you get deeper into your practice over the years, you start to see the mental and spiritual benefits. Namaste!

Maryann Vicari

I have a personal soft spot for yoga, as I have been practicing it consistently for the past two years.  I recently became certified to teach yoga this past spring because I wanted to deepen my personal yoga experience and help bring awareness of yoga to my patients and others in the community. I’m currently teaching classes at Balance Yoga and Wellness Studio, and I sometimes lead my coworkers at lunch when we have time. Yoga has had a profound effect on my life, both physically and mentally, as well as spiritually.  I would recommend it to anyone who is looking for a new exercise routine or a way to improve functional mobility and general quality of life.



Family Ties: Genetics and Breast Cancer

By Alix D’Angelo, Certified Genetic Counselor

While most breast cancers occur sporadically (usually linked to environmental factors such as smoking cigarettes and hormone replacement therapy), up to 10% are hereditary. Hereditary breast cancers are caused by DNA mutations that are typically passed down in families for generations.


Individuals with a personal or family history with the following features may want to consider genetic counseling and genetic testing:

  • Young cancers (particularly under age 50)
  • Multiple family members with the same types of cancers
  • Multiple cancers in the same person
  • Rare cancer types (such as male breast cancer and ovarian cancer)


Identifying individuals who have a gene mutation leading to a hereditary form of breast cancer is important, as there are screening, treatment and risk reduction options that can be life-saving.


Genetic Counseling and Genetic Testing

While most people may be familiar with the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which account for about half of hereditary breast cancers, there are over a dozen other genes that have been implicated in breast cancer risk, including genes such as ATM, CHEK2and PALB2.

Panel genetic testing that includes all of these genes and more is now available for individuals who meet medical criteria.GettyImages-865900230.jpgIf you think that you or a family member may warrant genetic testing for hereditary forms of breast cancer, speak with a genetic counselor or your doctor.

Alix D’Angelo, MGC,Angela D'Angelo.jpg CGC,  is an Instructor at LSU Health New Orleans Instructor and a Genetic Counselor at UMC New Orleans.

Join her on August 29th for the next talk in the series of Susan G. Komen-New Orleans lunch lectures,  “Family Ties: Genetics and Breast Cancer.” It will take place 12 – 1 p.m. in the UMC New Orleans Conference Center, First Floor. Lunch will be provided. Click here to RSVP.


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).

GettyImages-611075624.jpgMediterranean diet

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.

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.

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.

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.


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


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.


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 or call (504) 962-6363 to schedule an appointment.

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


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.”


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.


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.


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.

GettyImages-177292657 (1).jpgWhat are the signs and symptoms of Stroke?

  • 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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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

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.


Give to Live: How My Son Saved 54 Lives

Author: Amy Deubler Foy, Mother of former UMC patient Cameron Dice 

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On Sunday, March 11, my son, Cameron Dice, was riding his 4-wheeler across a piece of land near our home until it flipped over on him and crushed his skull. He was brought by ambulance to a small hospital in Franklinton, LA and from there, he was air lifted by helicopter to University Medical Center New Orleans. Upon arrival, he was on a ventilator and the outlook did not look very promising, but still, we prayed for a miracle to happen.

He arrived at UMC Sunday afternoon around 3 p.m. Their amazing nurses and doctors worked on him to try and save his life. But, unfortunately, the damage to his brain was too severe and there was little that they could do. On Monday night, March 12 at 7:28 pm, at the age of 19, he was legally pronounced dead.

My family and I made the decision prior to the final apnea test that would determine whether his brain had any activity:

If Cameron did not have any chance at survival, we wanted him to be an organ donor. 

This was a decision that Cameron had made not long before his accident –  just 2 years prior at the DMV when he received his driver’s license.


The decision to save other’s lives when yours cannot be saved seems, to me, to be the only decision. I stand firm in this decision even more so now after Cameron’s death. Why would you not want to save someone else’s child, mother, father, brother, sister, etc.?

Cameron becoming an organ donor was not only the right decision for others, but it also gave me 50 more hours to hold his hand, kiss him, stroke his hair and tell him everything I needed to tell him before he was taken into surgery.

Those 4 days were the absolute hardest days I have ever experienced, but that little bit of extra time has made the pain of all this a little easier. I am so grateful that I had those days to just hold my baby and tell him goodbye.


If Cameron would have been on the other side, needing a transplant for an organ to save his life, I would hope and pray that others would give the gift of life to save my baby.

My Cameron, my angel, now lives in 54 different people between his organs, bones, skin, muscles, tendons, veins, arteries, etc. 

While he was here on earth, he touched so many people’s hearts and lives and now that he has passed on, he still is doing the same.

I cannot explain how proud I am that my baby is truly a hero to these people that now have a chance at life because of Cameron. There is little to no comfort that anyone can provide to a mother that loses their child, but knowing that my baby is still around me physically walking around in all of these people helps tremendously.


If you are an organ or tissue recipient, please – I beg you – reach out to the family who saved your life.  I pray for the day to meet the people that my child now lives through!

There is no reason, in my eyes, for people to not be an organ donor.  If you can save another person from going through the pain that my family is enduring, why wouldn’t you?

The people with LOPA (Louisiana Organ Procurement Agency) were absolutely amazing.  Everyone was very considerate of me and my family the whole time while they prepared Cameron for his surgery.  They have kept in touch with me and have offered me support with their kind words.

I just received a letter from them giving me the sex and age bracket that Cameron’s major organs went to. I pray to meet every single one of them!!


April is National Donate Life Month, which honors organ, tissue and eye donors and their loved ones. One organ donor can save the lives of up to nine people.  

At University Medical Center, our dedicated professionals have helped, in coordination with LOPA, to save the lives of over 95 organ recipients in the past year.

Please join us on April 16 at 1:30 p.m. near the flagpole at UMC’s Galvez Street entrance for a LOPA flag-raising and butterfly release to honor the silent heroes at UMC and their families.