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.

 

Beware and Be Aware of Carnival Cravings!

Author: Amanda Mitzel, RN, University Medical Center New Orleans

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Carnival season (and let’s be honest, living in New Orleans) can often make mindful eating a hard practice with which to stick. Between king cake, jambalaya and Popeye’s chicken, it seems everyone has food on the brain, but especially between King’s Day and Fat Tuesday.

Although the spirit of Mardi Gras has the power to get people thinking about eating, it does not always promote thinking about what they’re eating.

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If you’ve never heard of the term until now, mindful eating is the art of being aware of what you consume. It’s important because eating mindfully brings a steady awareness of our decision-making when it comes to food, encouraging healthy options and habits (while also making sure we aren’t unkind to ourselves if we have the occasional treat).

Mindful eating is not about restricting food. It’s not a diet.

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It’s about immersing ourselves in the experience, and it’s easy — not to mention, beneficial. Here’s how:

  • It increases your awareness of being full: Being mindful helps us notice when we’ve had enough, so we’re less likely to eat beyond the point of feeling satisfied.
  • It helps with identifying triggers: Our tendencies to eat for reasons other than nourishment are brought to light, such as stress eating or eating to comfort an emotion (sadness, anger, grief).
  • It aids in identifying habits: We can better see our habits, such as eating out of boredom or always having a certain snack during a particular activity. This awareness can help us challenge our need to always do something a certain way, especially if it’s unhealthy.
  • It promotes understanding the need for better coping mechanisms: As we uncover our triggers, we start to clearly see the need to deal with these emotions in a different way. Mindfulness helps give ourselves the space we need to process our feelings in a healthier way, such as breathing exercises, going for a walk, or talking with a friend.
  • It inspires you to make smarter food choices: This inspiration comes from a better awareness of how what you choose to fuel yourself affects how you feel. We start to notice the difference in how we feel when we eat a healthy meal versus post-junk food lethargy and anxiety.

So, now you may ask: How can I begin to integrate mindful eating into my everyday life?

Listed below are some tips to consider the next time you eat, whether it’s a healthy snack or that single slice of king cake you’re determined to savor mindfully:

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Cut out Distractions

Turn off your TV, your cell phone – anything that will distract you from the food in front of you. Focus fully on the meal if you are alone. If you are with loved ones, minimize distractions to the extent that you can. Immerse yourself in the conversation rather than checking your email or going over the day’s events in your mind.

Savor the Flavors

Enjoy your food! Use all five senses to heighten the experience.

Notice Reactions

Be aware of any emotions that come up. Do certain foods make you feel upset with yourself? Or do certain emotions cause you to reach for food as a nervous habit? Noticing these tendencies will help you highlight the need to work on managing your stress in other ways, decreasing that knee-jerk reaction to grab for food.

Don’t Judge

Try your best to keep that feeling of equanimity, no matter what emotions come up. Let those feelings come and go like clouds passing in the sky.

Pause

Make sure to slow down and give yourself enough time to notice when you’re feeling full. We often eat past the point of satiety simply because we’re distracted.

Be Kind to Yourself

Remember that this is not restricting yourself. It’s about paying attention and allowing this process to build the presence of mind to make choices that help us feel good about ourselves.

Making healthy choices becomes easier when we quiet down all the distractions around us and within our minds, and starting a mindful eating practice is as simple as giving your full attention to the plate in front of you.

Join me in trying to stay mindful this Carnival season, which will heighten the experience…and it might just keep us from eating the whole cake, too!

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Problematic Pancreatic: What to Know About Pancreatic Cancer

Author: Jennifer Gnerlich, MD, UMC Surgical Oncologist and Assistant Professor of Clinical Surgery at LSU Health New Orleans

More people are being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer now than ever before. Currently, cancer of the pancreas accounts for 7 percent of all cancer deaths in the United States. This year, an estimated 53,670 adults will be diagnosed with this disease, and more than 43,000 of them will die. (Source: American Cancer Society)

November kicks off Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month at UMCNO’s Cancer Center, so our staff is working to get the word out about this disease.

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Here is what you should know:

  • Most people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer between the ages of 55 years old and 85 years old.
  • Men and women are equally affected by pancreatic cancer.
  • The number one risk factor for pancreatic cancer is smoking and tobacco use.
    • Please call the American Lung Association’s Lung Helpline at 1-800-LUNGUSA (586-4872) if you need help in quitting tobacco use and smoking, or phone us at UMC at (504) 702-5178. 
  • Individuals with BRCA mutations (associated with breast cancer) have an increased risk of pancreas cancer.

There is NO screening test for this disease. You need to be aware of the possible presenting symptoms of pancreatic cancer, which include:

  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes)
  • New onset of pain in the upper abdomen/belly or back pain
  • Indigestion or upset stomach not relieved with Tums or Pepcid
  • Pale, smelly, floating, or light colored stools that may look oily in the toilet
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • New diagnosis of diabetes, especially in people over 50 years old
  • New diagnosis of clots in veins or arteries
  • Pancreatitis

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If you have any of these symptoms, please see your primary care physician or contact the Cancer Center Monday through Friday at (504)702-3697 for an appointment.

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Getting checked is important. Pancreatic cancer has a five-year survival rate of 8%, but with appropriate care that survival can be as high as 27%. Treatment will usually include a combination of chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery.

Just as every person is unique, so is his/her pancreatic cancer. This is why every patient is discussed at a multi-disciplinary tumor board where a panel of experts in fields such as medicine, radiation, surgery, radiology, and pathology can discuss the case and determine the best treatment for that individual.

If you have been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer or want additional information, please contact the UMCNO Cancer Center as soon as possible.

About Dr. Gnerlich

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Dr. Gnerlich is a board-certified surgical oncologist specializing in upper gastrointestinal cancers in the pancreas, bile ducts, liver, stomach, esophagus and retroperitoneal sarcomas. A fun fact – While Dr. Gnerlich was completing her undergraduate degree, she was scouted to go into professional acting. She loves to run half-marathons, especially at Disney World. Dr. Gnerlich is excited to join the staff at UMC because of the “great team we have here.” She hopes to bring new procedures like HIPEC (hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy) to UMC for patients with certain types of cancer that have spread throughout the abdomen.

To make an appointment with Dr. Gnerlich or one of our cancer specialists, please contact (504)702-3697 or (504) 702-5700.