Schedule Your Mammogram Today

Due for a Screening? Schedule Your Mammogram Today

In the United States, one in eight women will develop breast cancer. Put another way, every two minutes, one American woman gets this diagnosis. That’s when timing really counts. Because the sooner breast cancer is found, the better the chance for successful treatment. And that’s why mammograms are so important.

Getting regular mammograms – a low-dose X-ray – is a key step in breast cancer detection. “Routine mammograms help to detect breast cancer at an earlier stage, when it is smaller and more localized,” says Smita Sonti, M.D., who practices family medicine at Martin’s Point.

This is especially true for those women age 50 and 70, when the benefits are highest. Mammography images allow doctors to detect changes in tissue like lumps, tumors and tiny calcium deposits that can’t be found with manual exams. 

Know your screening routine

Because breast cancer risk increases with age, the recommendations for getting mammograms are different for women of different ages. Not all experts agree on when to start, but here are three common scenarios:

By age 40: Start annual mammograms.

Age 45: Start annual mammograms.

Age 50: Start mammograms every two years.

Know your options

Three-dimensional imaging is a relatively new alternative. This technology provides additional detail that can lead to more accurate evaluations. Evidence shows that 3-D mammography:

  • Detects 20-65% more invasive breast cancers than 2-D mammography.
  • Results in 40% fewer call backs.

How to keep it on your radar

It’s easy to let the months slip by and forget to schedule. Try using an important date in your life to help you stay on track. “Many of my patients use their birthday as a reminder to schedule this important screening exam,” says Dr. Sonti.

Or just call today!

Get this important screening on your calendar today. Then reach out to a friend, sister or cousin and remind her to do the same – because early detection saves live.

Martin’s Point offers both 3-D and 2-D breast imaging at two Maine locations:

  • Brunswick at 74 Baribeau Drive (207-798-4050)
  • Portland at 331 Veranda St. (207-828-2402)

Check with your insurance carrier to see if they cover 3-D mammography before you make an appointment.

Martin’s Point Sponsors 2019 NH Senior Games!

Martin’s Point Health Care is pleased to announce their collaboration with the 2019 New Hampshire Senior Games as the presenting sponsor of the statewide event. Now celebrating its 32nd year, the Games provide a blend of competitive sports and social interactions for active older adults.

“Beyond the high-quality Medicare Advantage plans and primary care, we provide in New Hampshire and Maine, we invest in strategic partnerships to promote healthy communities as an important part of our mission,” said Dr. David Howes, President and CEO of Martin’s Point Health Care. “We’ve advocated for senior health and wellness through our lead sponsorship of the Maine Senior Games for over ten years. We’re very excited to now support the New Hampshire Senior Games in their cause.”

“We’re thrilled to welcome Martin’s Point as a sponsor and supporter,” said Larry Flint, Chairman of the New Hampshire Senior Games.  “Our primary goal is supporting active, older adults in healthy competition and their mission is very much in alignment with our efforts.”

Dr. Howes noted that, beyond the financial support, Martin’s Point Health Care employees volunteer at a broad range of non-profits in the communities they serve.  “As a community-based organization, our employees share an enduring commitment to the good health of our patients and members. Service to our valued non-profit partners is an extension of that and part of our culture.” 

Flint said that, over the years, thousands of athletes from New Hampshire and throughout New England have taken part in the Games.  “Our slogan— ‘where fun and fitness meet’—truly embodies the spirit of the Games,” he said.  “Whether one is a competitive athlete or trying a sport for the first time, we offer something for everyone.”

This year’s Games will take place June through August and offer 17 different events and sports throughout the state and are open to participants aged 40–90+.  Online registration is now open. To learn more or sign up for the 2019 Games, please visit www.NHseniorgames.org.

About the New Hampshire Senior Games

The mission of the New Hampshire Senior Games (NHSG) is to promote, organize and effectively develop physical challenges, as they relate to the NH Masters Athlete and the 50+ population of the state of New Hampshire, undertake related activities benefitting the well-being of adults as appropriate and focusing on the development of active and healthy lifestyles.  Our mission is accomplished by encouraging fitness and by providing athletic competition in a variety of sports, clinics and creative pursuits. To learn more, please visit www.nhseniorgames.org.

FAQs about Ticks and Browntail Moth Caterpillars

Answers to Your Questions About Ticks and Browntail Moth Caterpillars

Fine spring weather makes us all want to get outside – just when the re-emergence of troublesome ticks and browntail caterpillars present some very real health risks. Here’s what you need to know to keep yourself and your family safe this summer. 

Why are ticks a problem?

Some ticks carry diseases that spell bad news. The biggest threat is Lyme disease. In Maine, cases jumped from 1,395 in 2014 to 1,769 in 2017, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control. (The real numbers are likely even higher, because many are not reported). As of April 26, there were already 78 cases reported in Maine for 2019.

Lyme disease is caused by bacteria transmitted when an infected deer tick – a.k.a. black-legged tick – bites a person. In the short-term, Lyme typically causes a tell-tale rash and flu-like symptoms. If not treated with antibiotics, the infection can spread to the joints, heart, and nervous system. In Maine, anaplasmosis and babesiosis are also spread by ticks, but they are far less common than Lyme.

What can I do to prevent tick bites?

Be on alert from April to September, when ticks are most likely to be at large:

  1. Know and avoid tick habitat. That’s wooded and brush-filled areas with tall grass and leaf debris. If you’re on a trail, stay in the center.
  2. Use an EPA-approved repellent such as Cutter Advanced or Avon Skin-So-Soft Bug Guard Plus IR3535 that contains DEET, picaridin, or other proven effective and approved ingredients.
  3. Dress right. Some people opt for clothing treated with permethrin. It’s best to choose light colored clothing to make it easier to see ticks. Wear long-sleeves and long-pants. Tuck socks into pant legs.
  4. Check for ticks as soon as you come inside. Scan the whole body (use a mirror), with extra care in these areas:
  5. In and around hair
  6. In and around ears
  7. Under arms
  8. Inside belly button and around waist
  9. Behind knees
  10. Between legs
  11. Shower within two hours after coming inside to wash off loose ticks.
  12. Put your clothing in the dryer right away and run it on high heat to kill any ticks that hitched a ride.

What should I do if I find a tick?

Remove it right away. Fine-tipped tweezers do the job. Grasp the tick close to the skin and pull steadily up without twisting or jerking. Wash the bite site with soap and water or rubbing alcohol and wash your hands.

Watch for these symptoms – which could indicate Lyme – for 30 days: fever, chills, fatigue, headache, muscle pain, joint pain, or a red ring around the bite site. Call your health provider if any of these occur.

Why are browntail moth caterpillars a problem?

It’s those tiny toxic barbed hairs. Some people are extra-sensitive to them, and they’re apt to get an itchy rash and/or have difficulty breathing if hairs touch their skin or are inhaled. It doesn’t help that these nearly invisible hair can be toxic for up to three years – or that the hairs can be almost anywhere outside in infested regions (think trees, lawns, decks, cars, play equipment . . .). Wind, raking, and mowing can also whip hairs up and move them around.

Browntail moth caterpillar

What can I do to avoid contact with browntail caterpillar hairs?

Avoid or be extra careful from April into early July in infested and or/avoid areas, especially if you know you’re sensitive to the hairs. Check this map to see last year’s hot spots, and note that experts predict the infestation will spread west. A few more tips:

  • Shower and change clothes if you think you’ve been in contact with browntail hairs.
  • Don’t hang laundry outside to dry in May, June, or July.
  • If you must do chores or activities that could stir up hairs: Dampen the ground or choose wet days so hairs are less likely to take flight. Wear a respirator, goggles and coveralls.

What should I do if I think browntail is irritating me? 

The rash and breathing issues might last only a few hours – or could hang on for weeks. Both can be severe. You might find relief from anti-itch products like calamine lotion, hydrocortisone cream or by taking an antihistamine. Last year, some area pharmacies created their own sprays and creams, specially formulated for relief from browntail moth rash.

Call your health care provider if symptoms are a problem.

Seniors, Stand Strong with Free Balance Training

If you’re age 65 or older, it probably doesn’t take a slick winter sidewalk to get you thinking about falling. The loss of balance and strength that come with age make us less stable on our feet – and more prone to falls – even in our homes and other seemingly “safe” places.

Seniors fall more often than you may think. Last year 21,722 Mainers over age 65 sought emergency room treatment as a result of a fall, reports the Maine Health Data Organization. “That’s about 60 people each day,” says Anna Guest, Fall Prevention Project Director at the Southern Maine Agency on Aging and part of the Maine Falls Prevention Coalition.

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Balance training keeps you steadier, builds strength, and reduces risk for injury.

Aging doesn’t have to bring you down

At Martin’s Point, we want seniors to know their stories can be different – with balance training. Balance training keeps you steadier, builds strength, and reduces risk for injury – as 73-year-old Patricia Sipos of South Portland knows firsthand.

“I’ve had a few falls – one of which landed me in the hospital with a concussion and a hematoma the size of a grapefruit,” says the Martin’s Point’s US Family Health Plan member from South Portland. Then Pat started attending the All About Balance class at the Martin’s Point Health Care Center in Scarborough in March of 2017. “I haven’t fallen in a year,” she says, adding that she’s also able to safely enjoy favorite activities like camping and gardening again.

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At Martin’s Point, we want seniors to know their stories can be different – with balance training.

Building balance, one hour at a time

New evidence shows older adults can improve balance by an impressive 25 to 40 percent with specific exercise training, called high-level perturbation training. “Essentially, that means repeating difficult tasks, such as standing on one foot,” explains Jason Adour, PT, DPT, owner of Maine Strong Balance Center in Scarborough, Maine, and All About Balance instructor.

Balance training also involves building strength. “Weakness increases risk of falling by 2.6 times for older adults,” explains Adour. The seniors in his class work on strength chair rises (modified squats) and more. It’s also important to challenge the vestibular system – which helps us maintain balance in motion – with exercises like standing with eyes closed as you turn your head side to side, as if you were saying “no.”

How much training does it take to improve? The ideal target is 50 hours, completed in under six months. “It’s very different than cardiovascular training, where the recommendation is 150 minutes every week,” adds Ardour. “It helps to think of gaining balance in terms of gaining points, as opposed to a weekly requirement.”

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All About Balance Class at Martin’s Point in Scarborough, ME

Learn the moves in Scarborough for free

Get started on your 50 hours with our All About Balance class. There’s no charge for the one-hour class, which takes place Mondays, 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. at the Martin’s Point Health Care Center in Scarborough.

“It’s a wonderful benefit, and we work at our own pace, without pressure to keep up,” adds Pat. Ardour even gives homework – exercises you can do on your home – so you can build balance, wherever you are.

Call 207-303-0612 today to RSVP for the free All About Balance class in Scarborough. (Dropping in is fine, too, as long as there’s space.) You can also find more information and resources for preventing falls at www.knowfallsforme.org.

School-Year Strategies: Is your child being bullied at school?

Kids often choose to bear bullying silently, rather than tell an adult. According to a 2012 survey, children inform an adult only 40% of the time. And because you can’t help when you don’t know there’s a problem, it’s important for parents and caregivers to know the signs of bullying and help kids be prepared for the possibility.

Bullying online and off

Any behavior that is unwanted, unfriendly, and often repeated over time is considered bullying. Making threats, spreading rumors, launching physical or verbal attacks, and intentionally excluding individuals from groups are all examples of bullying.

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Cyber bullies – also called haters and trolls – may send unkind text messages or emails, distribute rumors by email or on social media sites, or post or send embarrassing pictures, videos, websites or fake profiles – often anonymously. Cyber bullying can occur day or night with dramatic effect, because it can reach a large audience quickly.

Know the warning signs

Bullying can happen to anyone. Some children become targets because they are disabled or socially isolated, or because of their sexual orientation. Every child who is bullied may not show signs, but there are telltale signs:

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“Children do not always show the same textbook symptoms when they are bullied,” says Katie Swan-Potter, NP-C, a pediatric nurse practitioner at the Martin’s Point Brunwick-Baribeau Drive Health Care Center. “Some shut down, become more introverted or sleep less. Others act out, become difficult to restrain or become bullies themselves. When there are also physical symptoms such as headaches, stomach aches or digestive issues, we always consider bullying as a possible cause.”


Prevent bullying before it starts

We all want to protect our children and make sure they feel safe at school, during sports and other activities, and throughout their community. You can help by encouraging your child to talk with you about anything. “A strong relationship between parent and child can be instrumental in their ability to withstand the stress of social pressures and teasing,” adds Swan Potter.

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Another key strategy: help your child build resilience. In the Youth Voice Project, researchers surveyed more than 13,000 students in 31 U.S. schools, and found the steps below can help kids cope with stressful situations, like bullying:

  • Make family time a priority.
  • Encourage your child to have positive relationships with adults outside of your immediate family.
  • Encourage your child to pursue hobbies and interests.
  • Create opportunities to connect with kids outside of school.
  • Help your child learn how to solve problems.
  • Encourage your child to ask for help when necessary.
  • Urge your child to help others and acknowledge the impact he or she makes by helping.
  • Help your child understand that people may act unkindly to others.


If you think your child is a victim

If you suspect your child is being bullied at school, talk to his or her teacher and school officials right away and work together on a plan. This is especially important if events are harming your child’s ability to sleep, eat, learn or participate in other daily activities.

Don’t hesitate to involve your child’s health care provider. Bullying can have long-term health effects on young people, including significantly increasing risk for depression.

“You are your child’s most important advocate,” adds Swan-Potter. “It’s best to seek help sooner, before issues escalate.”

The Martin’s Point Health Care Pediatrics Team is ready to help with advice about bullying – and every other aspect of your child’s health. Learn more about our providers, locations, and services at our website.

Are You Due for Mammogram?

Nearly 100% of women with stage 0 or 1 breast cancer live at least five years after diagnosis. But if cancer has a chance to spread, the chance of survival drops steeply. If you’re a woman age 50 to 74, getting a mammogram every two years improves your chances for early detection and survival of breast cancer. This may be the motivation you need to pick up the phone and make your appointment today.

The National Institutes of Health agree a mammogram – a low-dose screening X-ray – is the most important step you can take to protect yourself against breast cancer. These images give doctors information they can’t get by examination alone, detecting changes in tissue like lumps, tumors or minuscule calcium deposits that might otherwise go unnoticed.

3-D mammograms: the latest screening technology

Three-dimensional imaging provides additional detail that can lead to more accurate evaluations of breast tissue, with benefits that are hard to ignore:

  • Detects 20-65% more invasive breast cancer than 2-D mammography.
  • Allows for earlier detection and a greater range of treatment options.
  • Results in 40% fewer callbacks.
  • Is approved by the FDA as superior for women with dense breast tissue.

Martin’s Point offers both 3-D and 2-D breast imaging at two Maine locations: Brunswick at 74 Baribeau Drive (207-798-4050), and Portland at 331 Veranda St. (207-828-2402). More insurance plans now cover 3-D mammograms, but it’s a good idea to check with your carrier before you make an appointment.

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Need a nudge? Find a buddy.

National TV colleagues Meredith Vieira and Angela LaGreca used to remind each other to make their mammogram appointments and then go together. After several years their system lapsed, but they got back on track just in time. When LaGreca was diagnosed with breast cancer – small in scale and treatable – both friends credited the buddy system for the early catch.

Don’t let this important screening slip. Reach out to a friend today and make your appointments together, because early detection saves lives.

Flu Season Is Coming: Get Vaccinated Now

If you put just one item on your health to-do-list this month, it should be to get a flu shot. This is the most important step you can take to protect yourself from the flu. Last year, Maine saw its worst flu season in five years, according to a May report in the Portland Press Herald. With more than 9,000 reported cases, numbers were up a whopping 55% from the previous season.

“Getting the flu vaccine not only protects you, but also those in your life that are more vulnerable.  Influenza kills thousands every year and is very preventable.  It results in so many missed days of work and school and is miserable to get for everyone!  Influenza is already here this year, so get your vaccine now. “
– Brad Huot, MD (Portland Health Care Center)

When is flu season? The season typically peaks between late November and the end of March.

That said, it’s ideal to get vaccinated by the end of October, say officials from the U.S. Centers of Disease Control. It takes two weeks for your body to develop the antibodies that will safeguard you against the flu, and you want to be ready when the flu reaches your Maine community.

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Who should get vaccinated? Everyone older than six months.

Where can you get vaccinated? Martin’s Point Health Care patients can go to any MPHC location to receive a flu shot. Click here to see walk-in flu clinic hours at our various locations or call your center and schedule an appointment. Please note: Most insurance plans cover flu shots, but it’s a good idea to double-check with your plan.

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CVS pharmacies also provide free flu shots, and you can see a complete list of flu vaccine locations with the Flu Vaccine Finder on the CDC website (when you’re on the site, scroll down and look for the purple box).

Martin’s Point’s CEO testifies before Senate Committee on Aging

Innovative, Tailored Care Models for Maine’s Seniors

Washington, DC (October 3, 2018) – Martin’s Point Health Care, based in Portland, Maine, is implementing forward-thinking programs and care models to meet the health care needs of the state’s rapidly growing, mostly rural, and chronically ill senior population. That was the message Martin’s Point President and CEO, David Howes, MD, shared at an October 3 hearing of the Senate Committee on Aging, chaired by Maine Senator Susan Collins.

Maine health care providers, including Martin’s Point, are on the front line of tackling a collection of senior health care challenges other states will face in the years ahead. Maine’s average population age is rising faster than that of any state in the nation. Projections show that, by 2020, those over the age of 65 in Maine will outnumber those under 18—a statistic that is 15 years ahead of the national projected date of 2035. Adding to the complexity of this issue, 31 percent of Maine’s senior population lives below 200 percent of the poverty line and 51 percent lives in rural areas.

In describing their innovative approach to caring for a this progressively aging population, Dr. Howes highlighted the fact that Martin’s Point provides Maine seniors with both direct patient care and Medicare health plans. This unique combination of services allows the organization to leverage health care information to inform targeted and closely managed care, resulting in improved patient outcomes and experience and driving down costs.

 “I regard our [health plan] care management programs as some of our best innovation work at Martin’s Point,” said Dr. Howes. “They continue to illustrate to me that the little things can make a big difference.”

In his Senate testimony Dr. Howes described several programs that illustrate this strategic approach to delivering care, managing costs and helping seniors live independently. These programs feature a care model that emphasizes close care coordination and chronic disease management. Some of the programs included in the testimony include:

  • A home-based comprehensive care program tackling all factors that impact health, including physical, emotional, social and environmental. As part of the program, patients are screened for mental illness, addiction and depression. More than half of invited members in the home-care program are accepting nurses into their home for the first visit and then inviting them back.
  • A pilot program for patients with congestive heart failure, providing in-home assessments, education on symptoms and telemonitoring devices for participants. The effort led to significant improvements in members’ medication adherence, as well as decreased hospital admissions and a nearly 70 percent reduction in readmissions.

To read the full testimony from Dr. Howes, click here.

Pull the Plug on Stress with these Five Simple Yoga Poses

Calming frazzled nerves can be as easy as shifting your body into a different position.

“Any yoga posture that assists natural exhalation of breath instantly reduces tension in the body,” says Erin Compton, owner of Riverbend Yoga in Yarmouth, Maine. Forward folds, seated or standing, are a great example. “Breathing out and giving in to gravity allow your body to shift from fight-or-flight to rest and digest, releasing stress-carrying hormones and easing tension from areas where we tend to hold it the most, like the hips and jaw.”

Also, postures that invert your body reverse the flow of blood and flush toxins. “It’s like a reset for your nervous system and body, inside and out,” says Compton, who has been teaching yoga for six years.

More good news, the poses don’t have to be complicated to do the trick. Compton shares her favorites here. For each pose, focus on inhaling and exhaling slowly and deeply.

Forward fold

1 | Forward fold (also known as rag doll). Stand with feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent. Clasp opposite hand to opposite elbow, and hinge upper body forward, moving from hips. Shift weight forward to the front of your feet. Let your head hang heavy. Breathe. Work up to 1 minute.

Make it easier: Bend knees more, even to the point of resting upper body on thighs.

 

Wide leg forward fold

2 | Wide-leg forward fold. Step feet wider than hips, knees slightly bent. Hinge upper body forward, moving from hips. Rest hands on the floor and lift up through hips as you lengthen spine toward the floor, shifting weight forward to the front of your feet. Let your head hang heavy. Breathe. Work up to 1 minute.

Make it easier: Bring the floor closer by resting your hands on a stack of books or a yoga block.

 

3 | Child’s pose. Start on the floor on your hands and knees. Sink back as you slowly shift hips toward heels, extending arms overhead, palms on floor. Breathe. Work up to 3 minutes.

Make it easier: If your hips are tight, keep knees together and rest chest on thighs.

 

Supported fish

4 | Supported fish. Sitting on the floor, place a bed pillow or a couple of throw pillows behind you at the base of your spine; don’t sit on them. (The pillows expand your chest, making it easier to fill your lungs with oxygen and improving the flow of oxygen to the brain.)

Lower onto your back, legs extended in front of you, arms stretched to the sides, palms up. Rest back of head on floor or under an additional pillow. Lift chin off chest, close eyes. Breathe. “Let your muscles melt away from your bones,” cues Compton. Work up to 5 or 6 minutes, or more.

 

Legs up the wall

5 | Legs up the wall. Find about 3’ of clear wall space. Sit next to wall, hip to baseboard, palm on floor for support. Lift leg that is closer to wall, and raise it so back of leg faces wall with heel resting on wall. As you raise the other leg to meet the first, shimmy toward wall so buttocks touch baseboard, or come as close as is comfortable for you. Place heels hip-width distance apart on wall. Spread arms to the sides on floor, palms up. Relax your feet and toes. Breathe. Stay for 5 to 6 minutes, or more.

If you’re a senior and you’d like to try yoga with an instructor to guide you, we can help! Join us for free, 1-hour Senior Chair Yoga classes at the Martin’s Point Community Center in Scarborough. Learn more, and watch the video to get a taste.

Looking for more stress-busting strategies? Talk to your Martin’s Point health care provider about other approaches you can try, like meditation, getting out into nature, journaling, mindfulness, counseling or coaching and more.

Back to School Part 3: Time Savers

Six Ways to Make School Mornings Easier

Sometime between the OJ flash flood on the kitchen counter and the frantic search for last night’s math homework, morning calm slips into morning chaos. Sound familiar? Take heart. Getting out the door smoothly often feels like mission impossible for a lot of families, no matter how good our intentions. But it may be that all you need to make mornings smoother are a few simple strategies.

1 | Get your kids to bed on time.
What does last night have to do with today? A rested kid wakes up with less fuss and is better prepared to zip through morning routines, well, routinely. To be well-rested, your school-age child needs 9 to 12 hours of sleep every day; your teen needs 8 to 10.

“While it may be difficult to stick to a new school schedule, ensuring that children get the sleep they need is essential to learning and growth,” says Torah Tomasi, M.D., a pediatrician with Martin’s Point Health Care. “I can’t emphasize the importance of setting a regular wind-down routine and bedtime enough.”

Freshen up on healthy sleep habits HERE.

2 | Get yourself to bed on time.

Adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep to keep a lid on stress, maintain a decent mood and function at full capacity. As tempting as it can be to relish your downtime at the end of the evening, do yourself a favor. Skip the extra episode of Ozark and turn in.

3 | Set your alarm 15 minutes earlier than usual.

You’ll be amazed the difference it makes to unload the dishwasher and get yourself ready for the day before it’s time for everyone else to get up. You’ll feel calmer. You’ll be able to focus on what your kids need. And when a mini-crisis pops up, you can take it in stride.

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4| Prep breakfast and lunch the night before.

Plan a healthy breakfast and stage everything you can. Making scrambled eggs? Crack, beat, and store the eggs in an airtight container in the fridge, and set the pan on the stove. Pre-slice and refrigerate a cantaloupe or strawberries. Put whole wheat bread and plates by the toaster. Set up the coffee maker.

Make your kids’ lunches – or have them make them – and stow them in the fridge. At the very least, set out lunch boxes and pack non-perishables like apples, dried fruit and nuts. Then place a cutting board and bread so it’s easy to make sandwiches and pop in other items that need refrigeration – like yogurt, cheese and cold packs – in the morning.

5 | Pack the night before.

Help kids create and follow a get-ready-for-school checklist to pack their school bags ahead and avoid last-minute scrambles. They may need help thinking about the next day – do they need a musical instrument for band or sneakers for gym class? Then set their backpacks by the door, ready to grab and go.

If you’re heading out the door along with your child, pack your belongings – laptop, water bottle, workout gear, phone, sunglasses, etc., and set your bag by the door. Establish one place for your car keys – maybe a hook or shelf near the door – and make sure they’re in place.

6 | Plan outfits and set out clothes.

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Anyone can get bogged down by having to decide what to wear under time pressure. That’s easy to dodge by having each family member set out everything they will wear the next day. “Asking kids to learn to take care of themselves on a schedule – preparing clothes, school supplies and more the night before – is a perfect way to teach responsibility,” adds Tomasi.

Give these tips a try! Your self-discipline and preparation are sure to pay off in more smiles and calmer send offs – for both you and your child.

Back-to-school tip: Are you child’s immunizations up-to-date? Has he or she had a physical exam in the last 12 months? Get your child’s school year off to a healthy start with a visit to the Martin’s Point Health Care pediatric team. Learn more and give us a call today.

Back-to-School Part One: Start the School Year in Good Health

While you’re chasing down backpacks, binders and back-to-school shoes, make time for these important to-dos and set your child up for a healthy year.

Annual physical exams. A yearly visit gives your child’s doctor a chance to assess and record your child’s developmental, emotional and social health. It’s an important touch point for sharing information about everything from growth to sleep to eating habits and keeping vaccinations current.

Some schools offer on-campus physical exams to clear students to play school sports. While these exams may be convenient, they should not replace an annual appointment with your child’s pediatrician.

“Yearly wellness checks allow parents and providers to create a team approach to a child’s health care,” says Torah Tomasi, M.D., a Martin’s Point Health Care pediatrician. “They give also us a better view of progress and development, so we can better understand what is normal for your child and detect any issues that may be emerging.”

If you haven’t already established a regular time for an annual exam, call for an appointment today. (Then add a reminder on your calendar to set up next year’s appointment to help you stay on track.)

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Vaccinations. State law dictates , with limited exceptions, thatchildren who attend all public and most private schools provide evidence of receiving all vaccinations recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Legality aside, keeping your child’s immunizations up to date is an important safeguard against potentially dangerous diseases, from chicken pox to meningitis.

“Vaccines are one of the best defenses we have against serious, preventable diseases – diseases that most of today’s parents have never seen,” says Tomasi. “Vaccines help individuals and families stay healthy, and help protect communities by reducing the spread of diseases.”

Many of the recommended immunizations for school age children are completed by age 7. Another set is indicated for middle schoolers between ages 11 and 12, plus a meningitis booster for kids in their late teens. Fall is also time for influenza vaccines for all ages – and many schools make this easy with free clinics.

For a complete picture of your child’s needs, refer to these recommendations for 0 to 6 years and 7 to 18 years.

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Medications. If your child needs medication during the school day, you have a little extra homework. It might help to think of it in steps:

  • Get sign off. In most cases, parents need to provide written consent and authorization from their child’s doctor for a child to be given medication at school. Find out your school’s requirements now, and complete any required forms.
  • Provide essential information. Make sure any medication you send goes in the original container and is labelled with:
    • Your child’s name
    • Medication name
    • How much to give and how often to give it
    • How to administer the medication
    • Your child’s pediatrician’s name
    • The prescription date and expiration date
  • Double up at the pharmacy. Have your pharmacist divide medication into two bottles – each labelled – so you can send one to school.
  • Plan ahead. Talk with your school administrators about how to handle medications during field trips and other outings, and mark your calendar to remind yourself to replenish the school supply of your child’s medication as needed.

If your child is college-bound, connect with health center staff to find out what they need from you, how to handle prescription refills and whether other university staff (like a resident advisor) should be aware of your child’s situation. Before your child leaves home, talk about potential side effects of any medication, including how it may interact with alcohol.

If you have questions on any of these points, give your child’s doctor a call. Otherwise, follow the checklist below to make your way through these tasks, and you can be confident you’ve given your student a healthy send off.

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Three Ways to Take Summer Salads from Boring to Brilliant

See how tasty nutrient-packed vegetables can be, with recipes from local kitchen pros that feature summer’s bounty. Bet you’ll be back for seconds!

Summer Greek Salad

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“I love this in the summer because the cucumbers are so cool and crunchy,” says Lindsay Sterling, host of immigrantkitchens.com and a food writer from Freeport, Maine.

Prepare the salad:

In a large bowl, combine lettuce and sliced tomato, cucumber, green onions, red pepper, green pepper, crumbled feta cheese and kalamata olives.

Add a small handful of fresh mint leaves (tear larger leaves in halves or thirds). “They make the salad come alive,” adds Lindsay. “But you could substitute a pinch of dried oregano or dried mint.”

 Prepare the dressing:

Nothing beats fresh lemon juice and olive oil for flavor – so bright and refreshing – and it’s simple to make. No lemon handy? Use red wine vinegar instead.

Cut a lemon in half. Over a cereal bowl, press the tines of a fork into the open half of lemon to start the juice flowing.

Pour the lemon juice through a strainer to discard any seeds, or pick them out with a fork.

Add a little more olive oil than you have lemon juice, or use equal parts if you like your dressing strong and tangy.

Grilled Vegetable Salad

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Use the same dressing from Lindsay’s Greek Salad to start off another summer favorite.

Prepare the dressing:

Start with the oil-and-lemon dressing in our Greek Salad recipe.

Add chopped garlic and chopped fresh herbs (Lindsay uses parsley, oregano, and thyme from her garden) and a little salt and freshly ground pepper.

Prepare the vegetables:

Prepare whole portobello mushroom caps, asparagus, tomatoes, onions, corn, and zucchini sliced lengthwise into 1/4-inch planks and planks of red bell pepper

Lightly dress the vegetables, reserving the rest for serving.

Grill vegetables.

Place a mound of lettuce on a serving platter (Lindsay’s pick: arugula). Arrange grilled veggies on top. Drizzle on some dressing, nestle in wedge of blue cheese and serve.


Spinach, Arugula, Carrot Thinnings and Sunshine Vinaigrette

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Carrots grow in crowded rows that need to be thinned. Luckily, those thinnings – or sliced carrots from your nearby market – make a great addition to a summer salad like this one, featured in Full Moon Suppers (Roost Books, 2017), by Annemarie Ahearn, founder of the Salt Water Farm Cooking School in Lincolnville, Maine. Annemarie’s assistant, Rebecca, named the dressing – and its combination of sweet, acid, and aromatic flavors is sure to delight!

Prepare the dressing:

Mash two cloves of garlic and a pinch of salt with a mortar and pestle (or a rolling pin and cutting board). Add the juice and zest of 1 lemon and 1 lime, and 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar. Add 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, 2 tablespoons of honey, 2 tablespoons minced lemon thyme, 2 tablespoons minced lemon balm, 1 tablespoon minced sorrel and more salt and pepper. Gradually whisk in a half-cup of olive oil. Let flavors meld for 15 minutes.

Prepare the salad:  

Place 2 cups of young spinach and 2 cups of young arugula (clean and dry) in a large bowl.

Add 1 large handful carrots thinned from your garden or thinly sliced carrots.

Season with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, then toss with some of the dressing.

Serve remaining dressing on the side.

Four Local Walks with Great Views

Add spark to your summer walking routine with new scenery and greenery, and you might just be tempted to go an extra mile.

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Southern summit walk. A new one-mile trail loops the summit of Mount Agamenticus, making it easy to enjoy amazing views as far as Cape Ann and Mount Washington while you walk. Park at the summit and follow Big A trail. A great choice for people with physical limitations, this trail is designed for universal access.

Add a climb: Park at one of the lots along the access road, then set off on Ring Trail. Follow Ring to Witch Hazel to make a gradual ascent to the Big A summit trail (just over 2 miles). Return the way you came, or consult the map and take a different trail down.

Directions and more information.

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Urban ocean walk. The 2.1-mile Eastern Promenade Trail affords some of the best views of Portland Harbor and Casco Bay – and easy, level walking on either pavement or packed dirt/stone dust. With parking at either end (along Commercial Street on the harbor end; off Marginal Way on the Back Cove-end) or at the East End Beach, you can access the trail any way you like.

A favorite loop (about 2 miles): From East End Beach, take Eastern Promenade Trail toward Back Cove. After the water treatment facility, look for Loring Stairs on your left (marked). Take the short climb to Loring Memorial Park and savor views of Portland, Back Cove and beyond before following the sidewalk along Eastern Promenade (the street) back toward Portland Harbor. Pick up Midslope Trail on your left. This under-used gem traverses the hill with great ocean views, and ends East End Beach.

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Northern coastal walk. Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park in Freeport is honeycombed with more than three miles of gentle trails that meander from dense pine forest back toward Casco Bay. Our route saves the water views for last. From the parking lot, follow  Old Woods Trail. Turn right turn onto Harraseeket Trail, left onto Hemlock Ridge Trail, and left again to rejoin Harraseeket. Soon you’ll catch a glimpse of the shore, and then the trail follows the shoreline, eventually joining Casco Bay Trail. Pause to savor ocean views from the rocky shore and look for osprey or sea glass before a short hop to the parking lot.

Make it longer: Continue along the shore on White Pines Trail, overlooking scenic salt marsh.

Directions and more information.


Eastern Trail marsh walk. 
This out-and-back walk features Maine’s largest saltwater marsh as your backdrop. Start at the southern end, where the ET crosses Pine Point Road, or at the northern end, near Black Point Road. The 2.2-mile stretch features a flat, 10-foot wide path, leaving plenty of room for passing cyclists and runners. Keep an eye out for snowy egrets, great blue heron, and more wildlife as you cross the Scarborough River. Directions and more information (see map 6 on the downloadable map).

Before you head out, choose a distance that suits your fitness level and bring water to stay hydrated. Then share your review, or tell us where you love to walk, and inspire others to stick with walking, too!

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/