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.

 

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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A Resolution for a Revolution: How to Stay True to Your New Year’s Goals

 

Author: Alan Gatz, MD, UMC Primary Care Physician

Most people have good intentions when making a resolution, but oftentimes, they set themselves up for failure by setting unrealistic goals or not being fully invested in the proposition.

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For example:  “I resolve to transform this overweight, middle-aged couch potato into the new and improved Adonis 2.0.” Okay, you caught me. This has been my standard resolution for the past two decades. After 20+  years, I have yet to achieve this unrealistic, yet admirable result. If I had to guess, I would say that most who read this post have made similar nebulous resolutions.

Well, what’s past is past: I’m vowing to make 2018 different.

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Rather than talking the talk, I’m endeavoring to walk the walk — and you should, too! The days of written vows that never live to see the light of day should be rendered passé. Instead, we should take oaths that describe defined, attainable goals supported by specific actions to reach those goals.

Only in doing that can we measure our success — because we’ll actually have metrics. This tangible action will improve our success significantly by serving as a physical reminder and reinforcement of our commitment.

With that in mind, I present to you my personal oath for 2018.

I vow to take charge of my health and well-being by:

  • Establishing a relationship with a primary care physician
  • Exercising at least 3 times per week for 45 to 60 minutes
  • Developing healthy eating habits and limiting consumption of fast food
  • Working with my physician, dietitian, and exercise physiologist to attain and maintain a weight that reduces my risk for developing diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease and degenerative arthritis

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Each of these actions can be observed/measured and the results, documented. There exists no excuses.

Now that I have not only spoken — but transcribed — the vow for all to see, I guess I better follow through! Just don’t expect Adonis as the end result. Record of my progress will be kept and updated via this HealthyU Blog, so check back often!  I will report the results of my efforts and, hopefully, demonstrate the positive benefits of committing to a healthy lifestyle.

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UMC remains committed to the well-being of its staff and all who present themselves for care. To this end, the Primary Care Clinic, located at 2003 Tulane Avenue, opened on December 20th for all who wish to establish ongoing care with a primary care specialist.

If you desire to make the commitment to improve your health by losing weight and reducing your risk for developing serious medical conditions, please contact the office for an appointment. Dr. Rogers and I look forward to partnering with you in your quest for better health. Call the clinic directly at 504-962-6120.

A belated Happy New Year to all!

You Are What You Eat: Lifestyle Tips for Managing Your Cholesterol

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Author: Rosetta Danigole, Lead Dietitian at University Medical Center New Orleans

September is National Cholesterol Education Month, a good time to consider food and lifestyle choices that benefit your health and prevent illness like heart disease.

For a long time, dietary cholesterol was considered a risk factor for heart disease. More recent recommendations suggest foods high in dietary cholesterol and low in saturated fats – foods like eggs, shellfish and liver – are acceptable and not of as great a concern as once thought in increasing cholesterol levels for most of the population. Keep in mind, however, that saturated fats – those fats found in animal products and solid fats, such as red meat and butter – are still considered to raise cholesterol levels.

Nutrition is an emerging science and dietary recommendations may change, but there are some tried and true guidelines:

A healthy dietary pattern is higher in vegetables, fruits and whole grains, low or nonfat dairy, seafood, legumes and nuts.

It is moderate in alcohol and lower in red and processed meat and low in sugar-sweetened foods and drinks and refined grains.

More studies show it is not only about the cholesterol numbers.  It’s about the inflammatory process associated with disease.

In order to reduce inflammation and reduce the damage caused by oxidative stress and the negative effects of so-called “bad cholesterol,” here are some dietary tips:

  • Fruits and vegetables: At least 4 to 5 cups a day.
    • Nutrition Staff Tip: Try to make it 3 cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit for reduced sugar and calories.
  • Fish (preferably oily fish, like salmon): At least two 3.5-ounce servings a week.
    • Nutrition Staff Tip: While eating tilapia, for instance, is a good choice, the oily fish has more benefits — try it twice per week.
  • Fiber-rich whole grains: At least three 1-ounce servings a day.
    • Nutrition Staff Tip: Breakfast is a great time to get this one in. Try oatmeal instead of grits this month — but go easy on the brown sugar.
  • Nuts, legumes and seeds: At least 4 servings a week, opting for unsalted varieties whenever possible
    • Nutrition Staff Tip: Keep this as your snack daily — you only need a small handful. Portion it out when you get home and make 4-5 small bags per week so you won’t forget!

Other dietary measures:

  • Sodium: Less than 1,500 mg a day.
    • Remember: One teaspoon of salt contains 2,400 mg if sodium per day. Processed food is packed with sodium, so avoid processed foods and the salt shaker. Read labels!
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages: Excessive sugar is very inflammatory.  Avoid if at all possible. Drink water and herbal tea instead. Natural sweeteners such as Stevia seem to be a good choice.
  • Processed meats: Most people should try to avoid this altogether.  We suggest peanut butter, fresh tuna and chicken salad sandwiches with olive oil mayonnaise, and grilled chicken sandwiches to name some options. Also, there are other options such as bean burgers and hummus burgers if you want to try something new and vegetarian.
  • Saturated fat: The American Heart Association continues to recommend no more than 7% of your fat intake come from saturated fats. Trans fats have been of special concern over the last few years. Read your labels and be aware that anything that is a commercially baked good has the potential of some trans fats.

NOTE: Having a cholesterol level that is very low also has potential negative effects and may increase risk of dementia, autoimmune disorders and infections.

Try not to focus on the numbers. Focus on healthy lifestyles, healthy diet and exercise. Epidemiological data reveals that cardiovascular disease occurs within people who have low, normal and high cholesterol.  The implication from this is that total cholesterol is not the only marker for the assessment of cardiovascular risk.