Five Ways to Keep Your Campers Happy and Healthy

Your kids and grandkids are now out of school and ready for the fun of summer camp. But before they dive in, make sure you’ve taken these basic preventive measures to keep their adventures safe.

1. Sun smarts. There’s nothing like a sunburn to put a damper on summer fun – and of course, no one wants to elevate their risk for skin cancer. Stock up now on sunscreen rated 15 to 50 SPF with “broad spectrum” on the label (this means it will block both types of harmful rays). Round up a hat with a brim. Ideally you want one that extends 3” around the entire head, but if you have better odds of getting your camper to wear a cap, that’s better than nothing. Consider sunglasses with UV protection for additional eye protection.

Then, start a daily sunscreen ritual. Every morning before departing for camp, apply sunscreen liberally (most of us fail here) to all exposed skin. Send sunscreen with your camper every day, with instructions to reapply every two hours and after swimming.

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2. Proper fuel. Most camps keep kids on the move, so start the day with a hearty, healthy breakfast – a bagel with peanut butter and banana, low-sugar/high fiber cereal and berries, or poached egg on an English muffin with avocado. Pack healthy snacks like celery and almond butter or cheese sticks and grapes, and lunch that supplies the energy and protein kids need. Include whole-grains, protein (hard boiled eggs, hummus, black beans, lean turkey), fruits and vegetables. More lunch ideas.

What about drinks? Younger kids need at least 7 cups of water a day to stay hydrated; teenagers need 10-14 – more in hot, humid weather and when physically active. Skip or limit sugary options like soda and lemonade.

Cool tip: At night, fill a water bottle halfway and store it in the freezer. The next morning, top off the bottle and send it with your camper.

3. Tick talk. Summer is prime time for ticks, known to carry diseases like Lyme that are harmful to people and pets. Most Maine cases of Lyme are reported from May to July,* and deer ticks are the main culprit (see how to spot them here). To reduce the threat of tick bites for outdoor campers, apply tick repellent with 10% DEET or Picaridin to skin and clothing. After camp, do a thorough tick inspection each day, keeping in mind that ticks can be as tiny as a dot and may be mistaken for moles. Check the entire body, especially the scalp, ears, nape of neck, underarms, back of knees between toes, private areas, and between the toes. If you find a tick, remove it right away. Then thoroughly wash the bite area (and your hands) with soap and water or rubbing alcohol.

“Removing a deer tick carrying Lyme within 24 hours decreases the chance of Lyme disease to under 3%,” says Torah Tomasi, M.D., a Martin’s Point Health Care pediatrician. “Call your doctor if you have questions, especially if there is an area of expanding redness around the bite or if your child develops a fever or flu-like symptoms from one to three weeks after the bite.” Monitor the area for about 30 days – if a round of oval red rash develops around the bite, seek medical advice.

*The Maine CDC reported 1,395 cases in 2014 – and experts suspect only 1 in 10 cases were reported. 

4. Medication check. Camp policy about handling prescription and over-the-counter medications for campers varies. Well before camp starts, check with camp leaders so you have time to plan accordingly. This is particularly important for kids who rely on daily prescription medicines to manage chronic conditions such as asthma and diabetes, and for kids with allergies. If you’re sending medication to camp with your child, make sure contains are clearly labelled with your child’s name and dosage instructions, your pediatrician’s name and phone number, and your name and phone number.

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5. Lice control. Lice. It’s the four-letter threat all parents want to avoid. Like school, camp can be an easy place for lice to spread. Your best defense is to make sure kids understand how to prevent lice from spreading:

  • Don’t let your hair touch another person’s hair.
  • Don’t share hats, uniforms, towels, hair ribbons, barrettes, elastics, or brushes.

If you think your camper has been in contact with another child or adult infested with lice:

  • Disinfect brushes or hair items. Soak in hot water (130°F+) for 10 minutes.
  • Machine wash and dry clothing, bed linens, and other items worn or used during the two days prior to treatment. Use the hot water laundry setting and the high heat dryer setting. Anything you can’t put in the machine should be dry-cleaned or sealed in a plastic bag for two weeks.

Learn more about lice symptoms and treatment here.

Call on us!

If you have questions about keeping your camper safe, we’re happy to help. Just call your Martin’s Point Health Care provider and we’ll provide advice or set up an appointment as needed. Together, we can make it a summer to remember – for all the right reasons.

Diabetes: Advice on Prevention

In part two of our three-part series, learn how to prevent diabetes and reverse prediabetes.

In part one of our series on diabetes, you learned all about type 2 diabetes and how to determine if you’re at risk for this chronic disease. Now it’s time to get down to business and uncover the steps to safeguard your health.

Our advice for preventing diabetes and getting a grip on prediabetes may sound familiar. After all, it echoes most everything you’ve heard about staying healthy:

  • Cut back on sugar and high-calorie foods like burgers, fries and doughnuts. Eat more fruits and vegetables.
  • Do something active every day – walk, hike, play a sport, practice yoga, ice skate – anything you find fun and easy to fit in.
  • Lose excess weight by eating better and adding exercise.
  • See your doctor and get your blood sugar tested if you are between age 40 and 70 and overweight.

Even relatively small changes – like losing 10 pounds if you weigh 200 or adding 25 minutes of exercise, six days a week – have big impact and will improve your health in other ways, too.

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All the proof – and support – you need to take charge

There’s more encouraging news for people with prediabetes: Joining a prevention program that follows protocol established by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can cut your risk in half. People over age 70 stand to cut their risk of developing diabetes even more – by 71%.

One such program is the YMCA Diabetes Prevention Program, offered at more than 200 YMCA locations across the country – including southern Maine. This 10-month program uses coaching, lessons on healthy eating and exercising, managing stress and problem solving, plus group support and weekly meetings.

“The goals are for participants to lose 5 to 7% of their body weight and gradually increase physical activity to 150 minutes per week,” notes Nicole Hart, Strategic Initiatives Director at YMCA of Southern Maine.

Still not convinced? Even 10 years out, follow-up research shows people who finish CDC-approved programs like these are 33% less likely to develop type 2 diabetes. Find a program at a YMCA near you.

When to get help

Sometimes blood sugar levels creep up so slowly that it’s hard to recognize a problem. These common symptoms can indicate high blood sugar:

  • Extreme thirst and/or hunger.
  • Urinating more frequently than usual.
  • Blurred vision.

If you experience these symptoms – or if you think you’re at risk for diabetes or prediabetes, talk with your health care provider. “Taking action to reverse prediabetes keeps you in control, whereas if things progress to diabetes, there’s no cure,” says Janet Pachta, M.D., adult medicine provider at Martin’s Point Health Care. “And diagnosing diabetes as soon as possible helps you start management that protects your heart, kidneys and eyes.”

Coming soon – part three in our series, which will focus on managing type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes: Know if You’re at Risk

In this first of our three-part series, we’ll help you determine whether you’re at risk for type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes calls for constant vigilance: Monitoring blood sugar levels, thinking about when and what you’ll eat, and considering how taking your dog for a romp or your kids to the lake could throw everything off. This chronic illness can also add stress, medical expenses and extra risk to an already full plate.

In Maine, this is reality for as many as 133,100 people. It doesn’t have to be for you. There’s plenty you can do to know if you’re at risk for diabetes – and how to lower it.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic illness that throws off the body’s ability to process food into the sugar it needs for fuel. Because the body either can’t make enough of the hormone insulin or can’t use insulin properly, you end up with way too much blood sugar. Over time, high blood sugar can wreak havoc on your eyes, heart, bloods vessels, nerves and kidneys. This elevates your risk for heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney disease and even loss of toes, feet or lower legs.

“Diabetes can be managed, but not cured, which makes it so important to make healthy lifestyle choices in the first place,” says Janet Pachta, M.D., a Martin’s Point Adult Medicine physician.

There are three types of diabetes. Here, we’ll focus on type 2 – far and away the biggest trouble maker in America.

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How common is type 2 diabetes?

One in every four adults – a staggering 30.3 million Americans – aren’t aware that they have diabetes. Today, three times as many adults are diagnosed than were 20 years ago. And though it was once an adult-only problem, type 2 diabetes has trickled down to kids, teens and young adults, too.

Equally worrisome is the prevalence of prediabetes. With prediabetes, blood sugar levels aren’t quite high enough to earn a diabetic label, but there’s still trouble afoot. People with prediabetes have a higher risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke – but prediabetes can be reversed.

Who’s At Risk for prediabetes or type 2 diabetes? You could have prediabetes or type 2 diabetes and not know it—there often aren’t any symptoms. That’s why it makes sense to know the risk factors: 45+ years old, Physically active less than 3 times/week, Family history of type 2 diabetes, High blood pressure, History of gestational diabetes (Diabetes during pregnancy. Giving birth to a baby weighing 9+ pounds is also a risk factor), Overweight. Did you know...African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, American Indians/Alaska Natives, Pacific Islanders, and some Asian Americans are at higher risk. If you have any of the risk factors, ask your doctor about getting your blood sugar tested. CDC-Centers for Disease Control.

Are you at risk?
Having just one of the following factors sends up a red flag that you’re more likely to develop diabetes or prediabetes:

  • You are age 45 or older
  • You are overweight or obese
  • You exercise less than three times a week
  • You have a family history of diabetes
  • You developed diabetes during pregnancy or gave birth to a baby weighing 9 or more pounds
  • You have high blood pressure
  • Your background is African American, American Indian or Alaskan native, Asian American, Hispanic or Latino, or Native Hawaiian or Pacific islander.

You can get a more precise idea of your risk level by taking this quick quiz online or downloading it here. If your score is 9 points or more, make a date with your health care provider right away. If your score is 3 to 8 points, keep up the good work (details below).

“Diagnosing – and then managing – diabetes is key to preventing long-term effects on the heart, kidneys and  eyes,” notes Dr. Pachta. “Recognizing prediabetes and taking action to prevent progression also prevents unnecessary damage.” So, if you think you might be at risk or have diabetes or prediabetes, call your doctor today.

Check back in a couple of weeks for part two of this series, and learn about the many ways you can cut your risk for diabetes and live a healthier life.

Five Ways to Get Your Family Moving This Spring

Warmer temperatures and extra daylight make spring the perfect time to kick your commitment to being more active into gear. Exercise helps prevent disease, maintains a healthy weight, lifts your mood and energy levels and more. With so many benefits, the question might be not if you’re going to get moving today – but what should you do?

Here are five ways to help you launch a healthier, happier you:

1. Toss in something new: disc golf. Make exercise more like adventure-play – especially if it’s muddy or there’s snow underfoot – with a disc golf outing. To play, follow the course, trying to throw your disc ($10 and up) into one metal basket after another in the set number of throws. You may come upon devotees, but the game is decidedly low key. Keep score, or not. Courses have popped up all over. Find one near you at pdga.com or dgcoursereview.com

2. Make Saturday trail day. Get quality family time and exercise, all in one. To get your kids onboard, collect a list of trails near you (visit Mainetrailfinder.com) and put names on slips of paper in a jar or a hat. Each week, take turns picking a destination. Don’t forget sturdy footwear, bug repellent and hats.

 

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3. Slow it down with yoga. You don’t have to go all cardio – in fact, it’s best to add strength training along with flexibility and balance work. You get all three with yoga – plus stress relief. Get started with a class near you, or on YouTube (Yoga with Adriene and Yoga Journal are great for beginners). Get the little ones involved with The Kids’ Yoga Deck by Annie Buckley – pick a card and learn a fun pose like gorilla or airplane.

4. Go out and play. Try something new – or revisit what you loved as a kid: play Whiffle ball, ultimate Frisbee, or tennis, shoot hoops, mark a box with chalk and play four square, ride bikes, make an obstacle course, go on a neighborhood scavenger hunt. Anything that gets you moving is fair game.

5. Start an evening walk habit. Delayed sunsets are the perfect invitation to get outside after dinner and walk. Shoot for 10 minutes on most days and bam, you’ve added an hour of exercise to every week. And it’s likely you’ll choose to go longer once you lace up your sneakers and set off.

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Before you lace up your sneakers, consider how much exercise you need. It all depends on what your goals are.

“For good health, you need a total of at least 150 minutes of exercise every week,” says Michael Bergeron M.D., M.B.A., a physician with Martin’s Point Health Care. “That’s 30 minutes, five times a week. Most of us can make that work.”

With five fresh ideas and a reasonable time-goal, it’s easy to launch your fitness plan. You could even find that for you, variety is the key to sticking with it. Worse case? Hopefully you find at least one new thing you love to do, week after week, and before you know it, it’s spring again!

This article originally appeared in the Coastal Journal

Five Ways to Fight Winter Blues

In June, Mainers savor over 15 hours of daylight. In December, we get only nine. Add frigid temperatures to short days, and no wonder many of us feel down and out in winter. The most extreme form of the winter blues – Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD – only troubles 1%-2% of Americans. But as many as 20% feel down, unmotivated, grumpy and tired this time of year, compared to spring and summer.

Thankfully, the outlook isn’t all bleak. In spite of our northern location, you can take action that will help you feel sunnier all winter long.

Keeping it Light in the Season of Darkness

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Keep moving. Get outside daily, regardless of weather. Physical activity taps feel-good chemicals in the brain like serotonin and endorphins. “In fact, research shows exercise is as effective as an antidepressant for easing depression,” says Kathryn Hamann, a Nurse Practitioner at Martin’s Point in Portland.

You’ll get the most impact by getting 30- to 60-minutes of rhythmic activity on most days. “Add the fun of adventure by snowshoeing or cross-country skiing in your own backyard or on local trails, or ice skating on local lakes, ponds or rinks,” says Hamann.  Sledding, pond hockey and ice fishing are more great ways to get outdoors and move during winter.

With the right clothing and footwear, outdoor exercise in winter is totally doable. Squeeze it in during daylight hours, and you’ll get an additional mood-boost from exposure to natural light, too.

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Be mindful. As with exercise, there’s a lot to choose from. Yoga, meditation (on your own or guided), progressive muscle relaxation, mindful walking and tai chi are all effective techniques to calm the mind and replace negative emotion with uplifting ones. Even 10 minutes a day can help.

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Connect with others. Isolation is the last thing you need when you’re feeling down – even if you don’t feel like putting on a bright face. Gather a friend or two for coffee or a walk. Join a book club. Volunteer once a week at your local school or library. Pick up the phone and catch up with a relative. “Support from people we care about and community engagement create a sense of purpose that keeps you going,” explains Hamann

Practice sound sleep habits. Stay rested. Rise and go to bed at the same times each day. Avoid caffeine and vigorous exercise late in the day. Have a bedtime ritual to signal your body that it’s time to wind down.

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Pay attention to what you eat. You know the drill – more vegetables and fruits, fewer processed foods and fewer “bad” fats. It’s good for your physical health and it keeps your mood balanced. “Your body may crave pasta, doughnuts and French rolls, but try to opt for whole-grains like oatmeal and brown rice instead,” says Hamann. Boost your omega-3 fat intake by adding flaxseed, chia seeds, walnuts and fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines. Add vitamins D and B12 and fish oil to supplement your diet.

Consider indoor light therapy. If the strategies above don’t help, your provider might suggest light therapy. This artificial exposure to intense light using a device called a light box is thought to kick off chemical shifts in the brain that calm symptoms of SAD.

If you can’t get out of your winter rut, your health care team can also suggest other avenues, such counseling at Spurwink in Portland, and medication, which you may only need during winter months. Let your providers know how you’re feeling, and together, we’ll find an approach to make winter bearable – and maybe even fun.

Heart Disease: What Every Woman Should Know to Safeguard Her Heart

Only 54% of U.S. women know heart disease is the leading killer of women in our country, causing one of every four female deaths. Here in Maine, stroke occurs more often than in any other New England state. “Women should stay vigilant for new or different symptoms – including those that seem minor or vague,” says David Ghiorse, a physician assistant in Martin’s Point Health Care’s cardiology department. Learn the facts and share them with the women in your life.

KNOW THE CAUSES, LOWER YOUR RISK

Tackling heart disease calls for a one-two punch. First, learn the factors that increase your risk. Then work with your health care providers on steps to rein it in.

Don’t smoke. When it comes to heart disease, smoking is even more deadly for women than it is for men. If you smoke, quit. If you don’t, don’t start. Need help getting smoke-free? Start here.

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High blood pressure was recently redefined for first time in 14 years

Know your blood pressure readings. New national guidelines mean that nearly twice as many women from age 20 to 44 now have high blood pressure. If you’re not sure what your numbers are or what steps you should be taking, talk with your provider.

Keep a healthy weight and stay active. Carrying excess weight stresses your whole body – including your heart. Staying active controls your weight and keeps heart strong. Find one (or several) types of exercise you enjoy, and aim for 30-45 minutes of continuous exercise, three to five times of week. “Make your goal at least 150 minutes total every week” says Ghiorse. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables, decrease fat and salt, and cap alcohol at one drink per day.

Keep diabetes on your radar. Like smoking, diabetes puts women at higher risk for high blood pressure than it does men. Ask your provider if you should be tested. If you’re positive, be a stickler about management.

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Staying active and social are great ways to help with stress

Find healthy ways to handle stress and depression. Research shows this is especially important for women. Yoga, meditation, walking and staying social are all effective strategies; your provider can share advice, too.

Don’t think you’re too young. Heart disease is not just for seniors. All women should be on watch, particularly if heart disease is common in your family.

Additional risk factors for heart disease for women include:

  • Too much alcohol.
  • Menopausal hormone therapy/menopause.
  • Certain birth control methods.
  • Sleep apnea.
  • High blood pressure and/or diabetes during pregnancy.

KNOW WHEN TO ACT – AND DON’T DELAY

A heart attack can be the first sign that a woman has heart disease. And women are notorious for brushing aside symptoms and until harm is already done. That’s why it’s so important to know and heed these warnings:

  • Chest pain. Most women experience pain, pressure or tightness in the chest. It could be severe. It could be mild. It might not show up at all.
  • Pain or uncomfortable sensations in the neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back or abdomen.
  • Difficulty breathing normally.
  • Pain in one or both arms.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Sweating.
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness.
  • Unexpected weakness or fatigue.

“Even healthy women develop cardiovascular disease,” emphasizes Ghiorse, so trust your intuition and don’t ignore these signs. Call 911 for emergency medical help if you’re experiencing these symptoms, and don’t try to drive to a hospital unless it’s your only option.

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Diets rich in vegetables and fruits such as strawberries may help prevent cardiovascular disease and other diseases

TEAMING UP FOR HEALTHY HEARTS

Should you need cardiovascular care, the cardiology team at Martin’s Point Health Care is ready to help, from consultation and testing to state-of-the-art treatment. Learn more here.

Now that you know more about women’s heart health, help us spread the word. Share this story with your friends and family – they’ll thank you, from the bottom of their hearts.

The Flu and You: 7 Habits to Stay Healthy

This year Maine, like many other states, has been hit especially hard with flu cases. According to a recent Portland Press Herald article, 531 new cases of influenza were reported the week of January 15th, 2018 and many were of a more severe type.

Here are some simple habits you can practice to stay healthy during flu season.

1. Avoid close contact.
Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.

2. Stay home when you are sick.
If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness.

3. Cover your mouth and nose.
Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.

4. Clean your hands.
Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.

5. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.

6. Practice other good health habits.
Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is ill. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.

7. Get a Flu Shot (It’s not too late).
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a yearly flu vaccine as the first and most important step in protecting against flu viruses.

“I strongly advise getting the flu shot this year.  The flu vaccine is not perfect,  but it will make  you less likely to get the flu, and  if you do get it, you will likely get a milder case. The flu is all around us, but it is not too late to get vaccinated. A flu shot now may also  make you less likely to get the flu next year too”, adds Dr. Patrick Connolly, MD from Martin’s Point’s Health Care Center in Portland.

Martin’s Point Health Care patients can call and schedule an appointment for a flu shot at a local Martin’s Point Health Care Center. Generations Advantage members can learn more about your flu shot benefit by clicking here.

“The single greatest advance in medicine in the last 50 years are immunizations. Diseases such as measles, small pox and pox, which used to have devastating effects and killed or crippled  millions of people, have been effectively eradicated thanks to vaccines. Protect yourself,  protect your loved ones, protect your neighbors. Get  vaccinated today!” –  Dr. Patrick Connolly, MD

Visit the CDC website for more information on the Flu and You.

http://www.cdc.gov/flu/consumer/