Essential Immunizations for Adults

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You want to pass on certain things like family traditions, a grandmother’s quilt or dad’s love of books—but no one wants to pass on a serious illness. Take charge of your health and help protect those around you by asking about vaccines at your next doctor’s visit.

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Vaccines

Vaccinating our children is commonplace in the United States. But many adults don’t know which vaccines they need, and even fewer are fully vaccinated. Every year, thousands of adults in the U.S. become needlessly ill from infectious diseases. Many adults are hospitalized and some even die from diseases that could be prevented by vaccines.

Not only can vaccine-preventable diseases make you very sick, but if you get sick, you may risk spreading certain diseases to others. That’s a risk most of us do not want to take.

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Babies, older adults and people with weakened immune systems (like those undergoing cancer treatment) are especially vulnerable to infectious diseases. They are also more likely to have severe illness and complications if they do get sick.

You can help protect your health and the health of your loved ones by getting your recommended vaccines.

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The good news is that getting vaccinated is easier than you think. Adults can get vaccinated at their primary care doctor’s office, pharmacies, workplaces, health clinics and health departments.

Most health insurance plans cover the cost of recommended vaccines—a call to your insurance provider can give you the details.

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What vaccines do you need?

All adults should get:

  • Annual flu vaccine to protect against seasonal flu
  • Td/Tdap to protect against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough)

Some additional vaccines you may need (depending on your age, health conditions and other factors) include:

  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Meningococcal
  • Pneumococcal
  • Shingles

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Traveling overseas?

There may be additional vaccines you need depending on the location. Find out here. 

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Still not sure what vaccines you may need?

Take this short quiz.

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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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.