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.  

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.

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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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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.

 

Open Up: The Truth About Oral Cancer

Author: Rohan Walvekar, MD, Co-Director of ENT Services at UMC

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Oral cancer will be responsible for over 10,000 deaths and will affect over 50,000 people in the United States in 2018.

These numbers may surprise you, because, in general, oral cancers are not thought of as commonly occurring; however, Louisiana is one of the states with highest incidence of oral and pharyngeal cancers in the United States.

What is the rate of these cancers in Louisiana?

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April honors Oral Cancer Awareness, and is a good time to learn about the signs, symptoms and treatment of oral cancer, as well as the importance of early detection.

What are oral cancers and why should we care about these cancers?

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Oral cancers are cancers that affect parts of our mouth such as the gums, tongue or palate. They are most commonly caused by tobacco use and alcohol consumption. There is a new threat called Human Papilloma Virus (HPV-16) that can also cause certain types of oral and oropharyngeal cancers.

These cancers are important because they have a devastating effect on a person’s ability to communicate with the world around them by affecting speech and swallowing, breathing and appearance; treatment, which is most commonly involves surgical removal, may also have an serious impact on these functions that are so vital to us.

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Surgical management is the ideal treatment for oral cancers but comes with the possibility of a disfiguring operation (e.g. removal of jaw bone or tongue affecting appearance or speech) and loss of function.

Early detection of oral cancer plays a vital role improving quality of life and function by limiting extent of surgery and consequently side effects of treatment.

In addition, it’s important to note that early-stage tumors (i.e. tumors detected at an earlier stage of the disease) have better chances of cure (5-year disease-free survival: 60-80 percent) as compared to cancers diagnosed when they are too large or advanced (5-year disease-free survival rates: 30-40 percent).

Unlike other types of cancers that may miss detection until they are too advanced; oral cancers can be diagnosed earlier with inspection and a biopsy – both of which can be easily done during an oral cavity examination by an expert in the clinic or at a cancer-screening event.

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Patients who notice a sore, ulcer or growth in the mouth that has not responded to treatment or a lump in the neck (oral cancers can spread to lymph nodes in the neck) that does not go away either after treatment or spontaneously in 2-3 weeks, should get check by an oral cavity expert such as an ENT surgeon or Head & Neck Cancer Surgeon.

The slogan that the Head Neck Cancer Alliance (OHANCAW) promotes –“All you have to do is open your mouth” is a testament to how a simple cancer screening can save lives and improve outcomes for oral cancer patients who are diagnosed early.

Get screened – promote screening – save lives!

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Click here to learn more about our Cancer Services and future screenings.

To make an appointment with an ENT, visit our website here. 

About Dr. Walvekar

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Rohan R. Walvekar, MD, earned his doctoral degree from the University of Mumbai. After graduating in 1998, he completed a residency in Otolaryngology and Head Neck Surgery at the TN Medical College & BYL Nair Charitable Hospital, Mumbai, India, with triple honors. Subsequently, he completed two head neck surgery fellowships, and trained at at the Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai, which is India’s most prestigious cancer institute, catering to over 5000 new head neck cancer registrations a year. After completing an Advanced Head Neck Oncologic Surgery fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh, he became an Assistant Professor in Head Neck Surgery within the Department of Otolaryngology Head Neck Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh/VA Medical Center, prior to joining the LSU Health Sciences Center in July 2008. His clinical interests are head neck surgery and salivary endoscopy. His research interests include evaluating prognostic markers and clinical outcomes of head and neck cancer therapy and treatment of salivary gland disorders.

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.

 

The Link Between Diet, Obesity and Cancer

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A diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables and good sources of protein are important for good health, but did you know that what you eat can also affect your risk for cancer?

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The good news is that diet and obesity are things that can be controlled through healthful choices and a greater understanding of how our bodies process certain foods.

The link between cancer and diet is the topic of the UMC Cancer Center’s next Breast Health Lunch Lecture, presented by Adam Riker, MD., F.A.C.S. Dr. Riker is an LSU Health New Orleans surgical oncologist and Oncology Service Line Director at UMC.

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The free lecture takes place from 12 – 1 p.m. in the UMC Conference Center, on the first floor of UMC, 2000 Canal Street. Lunch will be provided, and a Q&A will follow.

During the lecture Dr. Riker will share a wealth of information, including the basics of cancer, how many people develop cancer, and most importantly, why people develop cancer.

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According to the World Cancer Research Fund, one of the biggest risk factors for cancer is being overweight or obese. Eating food that is high in fat or sugar can lead to weight gain, and there is strong evidence that being overweight or obese increases the risk of 11 cancers.

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Dr. Riker’s lecture will explore why having too much sugar in our diets is not only dangerous, but potentially deadly, the effects of wheat, flour, gluten and process foods (most of which contain flour and wheat) on our overall health, the effects of dairy consumption and the most common pesticide/herbicide in the U.S. food chain and its impact on the vast majority of food consumed in the U.S.

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In the second half of his lecture, Dr. Riker will drill down on how our body processes food, especially sugar and wheat. Sugar is linked to insulin resistance, weight gain, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Gluten, a protein in wheat, has been linked to a number of ailments, including inflammation, intestinal disorders and autoimmune disorders.

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He will discuss the dietary guidelines in the food pyramid and affect on childhood and adult obesity.

The Standard American Diet

1970: 2,077 calories

1990: 2,343 calories

2010: 2,590 calories

Additionally, “I’ll focus upon the striking increase in obesity and diabetes (and other health problems) as a result of the U.S diet and then discuss what we can do about it, in order to live a healthy, happy, fulfilled and cancer-free lifestyle,” Dr. Riker said.

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Know Your Numbers

Authors: Alan Gatz, MD and Kendria Holt-Rogers, MD, UMC Primary Care Physicians

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Today,  many people are aware of the need to focus on the effect of risk factors and life choices on overall health and wellness. Health professionals speak to patients about cholesterol, blood sugar, blood pressure, BMI (body-mass index), and hemoglobin A1c, but many individuals become overwhelmed and do not totally understand all of the information as presented.

Here’s a condensed and simplified description of the above mentioned health determinants.

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Cholesterol

This term actually should be changed to lipids, which includes the entire family of proteins sub-divided into three major subcategories:

  1. LDL (low density lipoprotein) cholesterol
  2. HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, and
  3. Triglycerides (TG).

The two numbers the majority of people need to remember are their LDL and HDL levels.

A simple way to understand the concept of reducing heart and vascular disease is to keep the low low and the high high. LDL level above 150 mg% increases the risk of developing blood vessel blockage while HDL above 50 mg% helps protect against the development of this problem.

High triglycerides also can affect a person’s health including development of pancreatic disease.  Any intervention – including lifestyle changes and medications –  that will improve the overall cholesterol readings will also improve the total TG.

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Interventions to improve the cholesterol numbers and reduce risk of cardiac disease:

  • Exercise – 30-45 minutes 3 times per week
  • Diet – increase fiber, reduce fat and sugar
  • Weight loss – even 5 pounds will affect the level
  • Medication – effective but comes with risk of side effects

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Blood sugar (Glucose)

Important in the proper functioning of most all body systems, if the blood level is too high, many of the major organs can be damaged irrevocably, most notably the heart, kidneys, circulatory system and eyes. Normally, people think of getting a blood sugar reading by having their finger lanced to obtain a drop of blood.  This “spot” reading will give an idea of current glucose level but the Hemoglobin A1c (Hgb A1c) is much better at allowing us to determine average blood sugar level over several weeks.

Without getting too scientific, the higher the average blood sugar, the higher the level of Hgb A1c.  In general we strive to get the level below 7%.

Ways to improve Hgb A1c :

  • Take your medications as prescribed
  • Prescribed exercise program
  • Improve diet and control your weight

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Body Mass Index

This number is determined by a patient’s height and weight.

The ideal BMI is between 18.5 and 25.  Below 18.5 is considered underweight with 25-30 being overweight.

Those individuals above 30 are classified obese.  The importance of BMI lies with the effects of stress on the heart, circulatory system, joints, muscles and metabolism.  Severe obesity with BMI greater than 36 increases the individual’s risk for hypertension, myocardial infarction (heart attack), stroke, diabetes, degenerative arthritis, decreased independence.  Obviously we cannot affect the BMI by growing taller but anything we can do to reduce weight will improve the BMI.

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Blood Pressure

The measurement of blood pressure is important in determining the stress the heart experiences pumping the blood through the thousands (approximately 60K) of miles of blood vessels in the body. Like a body builder the heart, if faced with greater weight (pressure), will grow to meet the challenge.  But, also like the body builder, there can be too much growth (the heart becomes muscle bound) which results in the heart failing to “lift the weight”. The result is heart failure which many times causes permanent disability and death. 

We don’t have the time or space to discuss the effects of blood pressure on the kidneys,  but suffice it to say untreated blood pressure is a leading cause of kidney failure and need for dialysis.

Remember these numbers – Systolic 135, Diastolic 80. 

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If your readings fall above these numbers you should seriously consider speaking with your health care provider about intervention.

Interventions to improve blood pressure:

  • Reduce weight
  • Reduce alcohol intake
  • Reduce salt in the diet
  • Exercise with emphasis on aerobic activity
  • Adequate rest – sleep 6-8 hours/night
  • Stress reduction – yoga, meditation, therapeutic massage

Hopefully, this primer will help you manage your health with greater confidence and purpose.

Dr. Gatz and Dr. Rogers look forward to being your partner in wellness. To schedule an appointment, call the clinic at 504-962-6120. Visit www.umcno.org/primary-care to learn more about UMC’s Primary Care Center and its services.

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