Partners for the Future: Martin’s Point IT Staffers Volunteer their time with local ESOL to IT Program

Martin’s Point Health Care– like many enterprises nationwide– faces some hard truths as they look at the information technology (IT) landscape. Finding qualified candidates to fill open IT positions can be a challenge and building an IT team that can leverage the benefits of diverse perspectives can be even more difficult. In response, efforts to promote diversity in IT training and hiring are gaining ground across the country—and employees at Martin’s Point are working hard to push that effort along in Southern Maine.

Over the past year, a group of Martin’s Point IT staffers has teamed up with a Southern Maine Community College program called ESOL to IT. The program’s goal is to help immigrants find gainful employment in their chosen field– information technology – here in Maine while feeding qualified candidates to Maine businesses that need IT support.

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ESOL to IT students at PeletonLabs in Portland, Maine

Jim Vernier, Manager of IT Service Operations at Martin’s Point, had been in conversation with SMCC about the ESOL to IT program just as his department’s team was looking for a new project.

“We had already started a talent pipeline with SMCC to help manage our Help Desk, so we had that experience to build on. Plus, I knew the IT department was passionate about increasing team diversity. It seemed like the perfect fit.”

Bridging cultures, creating opportunities

Along with Vernier, Charlie Chandler, business intelligence reporting analyst; and Molly McKechnie, clinical informatics analyst are key players from Martin’s Point, supported by a team of ten other IT staffers. Chandler and McKechnie prepare and present lessons to the ESOL to IT learners, demystifying the American workplace, explaining what to expect in the hiring process, and conducting mock phone screens and interviews.

Most SMCC participants in the ESOL to IT program are asylum seekers between age 30 and 45—with extensive education and work experience—though some are younger. They devote three hours of training, four evenings a week to English-language learning, job-readiness training, plus professional networking, job shadowing and IT education.

The SMCC learners come from across the globe, from Afghanistan to Burundi to Haiti. All have either a strong IT background or high aptitude for IT work. Funded by a private philanthropy group called the Wildflower Fund, the program received 105 applications for the first 20 spots, with future candidates lined up and eager to start.

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ESOL to IT students at Sanford Regional Technical Center

“Most every learner I’ve met has the quality, skills, and passion I’d want to see to hire them, but they have huge gaps in verbal communication, which is critical,” says Vernier.

“Some of these people know every coding language you can think of and speak as many as five languages,” adds McKechnie. “Communicating in English and learning our culture are their biggest barriers.”

Beyond building technical and communication skills, simply interacting with American volunteers adds an intangible that’s equally valuable in putting the newcomers more at ease. “Sometimes learners get isolated in their own communities,” explains David Zahn, ESOL and Global Language Chair at SMCC. “Work-readiness lessons and experiences help them understand the people they might work with, relieving a lot of apprehension.”

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Martin’s Point’s Jim Vernier and Charlie Chandler with  SMCC’s Valerie Green

New perspectives, new solutions

With a department in which just 9 of 60 members are women, Molly and Charlie realize

With the long-term goal of reaping the benefits of a more diverse IT workforce—not just for Martin’s Point, but for the state—McKechnie and Chandler realize change won’t happen overnight. “Our results might be 10 or 15 years out, but it’s worth the time and effort,” says McKechnie. She and Chandler have experienced working in different parts of the country—McKechnie in Atlanta, Chandler in Chicago—and they’ve experienced the value of bringing a variety of views to the table.

“Considering different perspectives makes everybody stronger,” says Chandler, noting that a diverse group is more likely to present solutions that don’t all look the same. “It’s hard to put a value on it,” he adds, “but it changes the way you think and solve problems.”

During a mock phone screen, Chandler asked one learner to tell him about his least favorite job. The answer surprised him: “I don’t have a least favorite because every job offers something to learn from and makes you better.”

“That’s the kind of new perspective diversity can bring,” says Chandler. “And it leads to new approaches and solutions.”

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ESOL to IT students at SMCC

Keeping the IT pipeline primed

Unemployment in Maine is low, and our workforce is aging. Nearly half of Maine’s private workers are age 45 or older. Fast forward 20 years and at least 40% will be at or past retirement age. “We simply have to grow this pool [of workers] to keep business running,” says Charlie.

It’s no small thing to have a hand in shaping the future of your team and your company. “We’re really engaged with the SMCC program, and we want to keep it that way,” notes Jim. “We get to add our vision and guide the future by shaping the programs.”

Chandler sums it up best. “It’s a feel-good story, it’s the right thing to do, and it solves a business problem.” Who could ask for more?

 

Martin’s Point in the Community | Honor Flight Maine (VIDEO)


Martin’s Point physician, Dr. Roy Nakamura, reflects on his experience as a volunteer guardian and chaperone during a recent Honor Flight Maine trip to Washington, DC.

Honor Flight Maine is a non-profit organization created solely to honor America’s Veterans for all their service and sacrifices. Transportation is provided to Washington, D.C. to tour, experience and reflect at their memorials. Top priority is given to our most frail veterans – terminally ill veterans of all conflicts and World War II survivors.

 

Get a Taste of Winter at Your Local Farmers Market

It’s cold and the ground is rock-hard, but it’s still easy to find fresh local vegetables to make winter meals tasty and nutritious. Popular in summer, farmers markets are now thriving through the colder months, too.

They’re stocked with plenty of produce, like cranberries, beets, brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, celeriac, garlic, kohlrabi, onions, parsnips, potatoes, pumpkins, squashes and sweet potatoes. Some vendors even deftly outfox winter by growing fresh local greens indoors.

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In addition to bounty from the garden, many markets also feature live music, tasty baked goods, and wares from local artisans – all in warm, dry spaces out the elements. Check our listings and get to a winter market near you!

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MAINE

1) Berwick Winter Farmers’ Market

Includes fresh greens and produce from eight local farmers and much more.

Every third Sunday through April 15, 10 am to 1:30 pm

Berwick Town Hall, 11 Sullivan Square

Learn more.

2) Brunswick Winter Market

Produce from six vendors, plus coffees, teas, baked goods and local wares.

Saturdays through April, 9 am to 12:30 pm

Fort Andross Mill Complex, 14 Maine St.

Learn more.

3) Greater Gorham Winter Farmers’ Market

Look for produce from Findview Farm, Oscar’s Farm and The Preservation Farm.

The first and third Saturdays of each month, 9 am to 1 pm

Gorham Rec Department Activity Room, 75 South St., Gorham

Learn more.

4) Midcoast Winter Farmers’ Market

Vegetables from three vendors, plus music and cooking demos like making jam or wood-fired pizza.

Fridays through April, 11 am to 4 pm

Topsham Fairgrounds Exhibition Hall, 54 Elm St., Topsham

Learn more.

5) Portland Winter Farmers’ Market

Shop produce from more than 20 Maine farms that includes greenhouse greens, tomatoes and cucumbers. SNAP/EBT shoppers are welcome.

Saturdays through April 20, 9 am to 1 pm

At the former Maine Girls’ Academy, 631 Stevens Ave.

Learn more.

6) Saco River Market

Lively music and a range of local vendors. SNAP/EBT cards welcome.

Saturdays, 9 am to 12:30 pm.

Pepperell Center, 40 Main St., Biddeford

Learn more.

7) South Portland Farmers’ Market
Vegetables from Alewive’s Brook Farm plus local dairy products, meats, and more.

Sundays through April, 10 am to 2 pm

496 Ocean St. (City Planning and Development Offices/old Hamlin School)

Learn more.

NEW HAMPSHIRE

8) Rolling Green Nursery’s Winter Farmers Market

Look for carrots, radishes, greens, microgreens, squash and more from Shagbark Farm, and more from Andy’s Edible Gardens and M & R Harvest.

First and third Saturdays in January and February, 10 am to 2 pm

64 Breakfast Hill Rd., Greenland

Learn more.

9) Seacoast Eat Local Winter Farmers Markets

With more than 60 vendors, you’ll find plenty of fresh choices. See below for locations and dates/times:

Wentworth Greenhouse
141 Rollins Rd., Rollinsford
Dec. 15, Jan. 26, Feb. 23 and March 23, 10 am to 2 pm

Exeter High School
1 Blue Hawk Dr., Exeter
Jan. 12, Feb. 9, March 9 and April 6, 10 am to 2 pm

Teens and Vaping: What Parents Should Know

Vaping is one of the most significant threats to the health of today’s teens. That’s even more troubling when you consider its growing popularity. Nationally, vaping rates among high-schoolers jumped by 78% from 2017 to 2018, and by 48% among middle-schoolers, according to USDA reports.

As of late November, more than 15% of Maine high school students had used e-cigarettes in the last 30 days. The true percentage is almost certainly significantly higher, reports Becky Smith of the Portland American Heart Association chapter. That’s because many teens don’t count using the popular devices called JUULs (pronounced “jewels”) as e-cigarettes.

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What is vaping?

Vaping is using an e-cigarette or other battery-powered device to heat a liquid. E-cigarette liquids – or e-liquids – typically contain nicotine, glycol, flavors and sometimes more or different ingredients. Heating this liquid creates an aerosol or vapor instead of smoke, which the user inhales and exhales.

Most popular among teens, JUULs are closed-system devices that include attaching a cartridge or pod filled with e-liquid. There are also open-system e-cigarettes, which are filled with e-liquid by hand with a squeeze dropper.

Why teens vape

Not only do teens misunderstand the risks of e-cigarettes, they are notoriously curious. Many are drawn to try vaping by friends or family members. Others are lured by enticing flavors. One study found more than 80% of first-time e-cigarette users started out with a flavored product. And with options like mint, blueberry pie and pink balloon – plus advertising on the social media sites frequented by this age group – there’s no doubt marketers are targeting teens.

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The trouble with vaping

Vaping devices were originally designed to help smokers wean themselves off cigarettes. Ironically, they come with an entire new and equally troubling set of risks.

  1. More nicotine, more addictive risk. A single JUUL pod has as much nicotine as an entire pack of cigarettes, which means it doesn’t take long to become addicted to vaping.
  2. Teen brains are especially vulnerable, because their brains are still developing.
  3. Academic impact. Experts like Sarper Taskiran, M.D., from the Child Mind Institute report that teens who vape have more difficulty focusing, and get easily distracted by cravings.
  4. Health impact. Recent studies flip the misconception of vaping as safe, reporting that it damages lungs and immune system cells – just like smoking tobacco. Others note vaping also increases heart and blood pressure.
  5. Gateway to tobacco. Studies show teens that vape tend to move on to smoking cigarettes. One study of non-smoking high school seniors who had recently begun vaping found that one year later, students were four times more likely to say they’d smoked cigarettes that seniors who had not tried vaping.
  6. Hard to spot. With small, colorful, slick devices and virtually no telltale odor, vaping can easily escape adult detection – even in the classroom.

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What parents can do

Education is your first line of defense. When you have your information straight, your child is more likely to listen and respect your concerns and expectations. “Know that the language varies by product for vaping, dabbing and juuling,” notes Torah Tomasi, M.D., a Martin’s Point Health Care pediatrician.

“I often start by asking whether a child or teen knows someone at home or school that has used e-cigarettes,” says Tomasi, who makes it a point to ask the question during office visits. “Ask your child what he or she would do if someone asked them to try vaping. This can lead to conversation about whether the teen has experimented or is using regularly, and creates opportunity to offer care and guidance.”

Listen to your child’s point of view to build trust and signal you value his or her input. From here, it’s tempting to think you’ve covered it. But substance use is a topic to revisit on a regular basis. Tell your child to expect check-ins and more conversations and remind her you’re willing to listen to talk anytime.

If you notice shifts in your child’s mood or the peers he spends time with, check in right away. Don’t hesitate to talk with your pediatrician if you have concerns. Nicotine addiction is a serious issue that can become a lifelong problem, but there are health professionals who can help teens overcome it.

Martin’s Point Military Health Plan Among Highest Rated in US

Martin’s Point Health Care has announced that its US Family Health Plan has been named one of the highest-rated health insurance plans in the nation. The plan is a TRICARE Prime® option that covers over 46,000 active-duty and retired military families throughout the Northeast.

The National Committee on Quality Assurance (NCQA) has awarded the health plan a 4.5-out-of-5 overall rating for Maine, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania and Vermont as part of its Private Health Insurance Plan Ratings for 2018-2019. The plan also earned an “Excellent” (ME) and “Commendable” (NH, VT, NY, PA) accreditation status from NCQA.

NCQA uses measures of clinical quality (HEDIS®) and patient experience (CAHPS®) and standards from the NCQA Accreditation process to annually rate over 1,000 health plans (over 90%) across the country. Measures include:

  • Management of chronic disease
  • Prevention and wellness efforts, including recommended screenings and immunizations
  • Access to quality primary and specialty care
  • Quality of member experience

“This recognition from NCQA underscores our commitment to providing the highest-quality care for our US Family Health Plan members,” said Dr. David Howes, Martin’s Point Health Care President and CEO. “We are especially proud of our 5-out-of-5 rating for the “Consumer Satisfaction” measure, as it reflects the dedication of our service team, as well as our network providers and hospitals, to deliver an excellent health care experience for our military families.”

ABOUT MARTIN’S POINT HEALTH CARE

Martin’s Point Health Care is a not-for-profit organization, based in Portland, Maine, providing primary care and health insurance plans. It operates seven Health Care Centers in Maine and New Hampshire and offers Medicare Advantage insurance plans in Maine and New Hampshire and TRICARE® insurance plans in northern New England, New York and Pennsylvania. More information is available at MartinsPoint.org.

ABOUT NCQA

National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) is a private, non-profit organization dedicated to improving health care quality. NCQA accredits and certifies a wide range of health care organizations and recognizes clinicians in key clinical areas. NCQA’s HEDIS® is the most widely used performance measurement tool in health care. NCQA’s Web site (www.ncqa.org) contains information to help consumers, employers and others make more informed health care choices.

CAHPS is a registered trademark of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Back to School Part 2: Sleep and Back to School

Make Back-to-School Better with A+ Sleep Habits

During July and August, it’s easy to let summer fun and late sunsets push your child’s bedtime. But with school back in session, sleep should be a bigger priority. Well-rested kids tend to do better at school. Their memories work better. They behave better. Their mental health is sounder. And their bodies are more prepared to fend off colds, flus and more.

Back to school is a great time to reboot sleep routines,” says Alyssa Goodwin, M.D., a pediatrician at the Martin’s Point Health Care Center in Brunswick at Baribeau Drive. “Kids and teens need a good night’s sleep to tackle their busy days. Plus, sleep is important for focus, behavior and school performance.”

How much sleep do kids need? Children in grade school – 6- to 12-year-olds – need 9 to 12 hours a night, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Teens too need a substantial amount of sleep – 8 to 10 hours through age 18.

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For better sleep at any age

Whether your student is 6 or 16, getting enough sleep comes down to routine.

  • Stick to the same bedtime and wake up time – every day.
  • Establish pre-sleep rituals that prepare kids to go to bed and fall asleep.
  • Manage the transition time. At least 60 minutes before bedtime, turn off and put away all electronic devices. Help younger children transition to quieter, less stimulating activities, like drawing, doing a puzzle, or yoga.

For grade school children

The bedtime routine. The routine you may have relied on for your toddler and preschooler is still your best friend, with a little tweaking. Start 15 to 30 minutes ahead of lights out. After teeth are brushed and the rest of the bathroom routine is done, read together, or snuggle up and listen to mellow music or an audiobook together. Then say goodnight and turn out the lights. Same thing, same order, every night.

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A bedroom that says “sleep.” Close the shades. Keep lights dim, minimize noise and keep the temperature cool. Keep devices with screens – TVs, computers, tablets, gaming devices, phones, etc. – out. Put away toys that encourage activity or noise.

 “The brain needs screen-free space to wind down and be ready for sleep,” explains Goodwin. “Consider using a quiet noisemaker or soft music and a gentle night light for kids who are afraid of the dark or have a hard time settling.”

For teens

Sleep is a particular challenge for teens. Their bodies work against them by moving the time they naturally feel sleepy about two hours later. On top of that, they’re busy. Homework, sports, play practice – they can all take away valuable sleep – and excess screen time only makes this worse.

Set the scene for success. Make the bedroom sleep-friendly. Save the bed for sleep – find another place to do homework. Keep the room cool, dark and quiet toward bedtime. Collect electronics 60 minutes before bedtime, and be consistent about removing them.

Make time for key conversations. Talk about consistent wake up/go to bed times and why they’re important. Help teens be smart about caffeine. Remind your child where it lurks – soda, coffee, tea, chocolate, energy drinks and more – and suggest avoiding it after 3 p.m. Talk about waking up in the morning. Some teens may want you to make sure the alarm went off or open the shades in the morning to help nudge them into the day.

Compromise. If your teen resists a radical shift in bedtime, take it in steps. Over a week, try having your teen go to bed 15 minutes earlier each night, until you reach the ideal time. Give it another week, and talk about the effects he or she feels.

No matter what your child’s age, keep in mind that it takes several weeks to establish any new routine or habit. Be patient. Know that helping your child get even 15 to 20 minutes more sleep makes a difference. If you get stuck or have a question, reach out to your pediatrician. The Martin’s Point Health Care pediatric team is here to help – learn more at our website.

Summer Vacationland Festivals for the Whole Family

Maine festivals always have a bit of something for everyone and these five unique festivals are great examples. From blues shows and antique showings to local town festivals—each one offers a snapshot of the natural Maine lifestyle that will have you back in touch with your northern roots in no time. Come, enjoy these festivals and embrace Vacationland…the way life should be!

Art in The Park, (August 11, 9 am–4 pm)
Mill Creek Park at 185 Ocean Street in South Portland

This free outdoor art show offers everything from paintings to wood carvings for sale, and also features artwork by local high school students. There will be something for everyone, including your children—from 10 am–2 pm the “Kids in the Park” area will be available for kids to make their own artistic creations! The park venue also provides a wide selection of food and live music, making it a fun option for the whole family.  Learn More    

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First Friday Art Walk, (First Friday of every month 10 am–10 pm).
Portland–Downtown and Old Port areas

This free monthly event opens the doors of Portland’s visual arts community to the public with art on display in galleries, museums, and on the streets. It’s a family-friendly,  quintessential Portland experience. With vendors lining the streets and the smell of good food and live music in the air, you can bet there is something for everyone. Learn More

York County Blues Fest, (July 28, 12–6 pm)
Waterboro Friendship Park, Old Alfred Road

This Saturday, the Grammy-award-winning Paul Nelson Band headlines an afternoon of great blues acts including Nathan Michaud, Andy Schoenfeld, and more.  Admission charged and gates open at 11:30. Learn more  

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Maine Lobster Festival, (August 1–5, 12 pm–11 pm)
Oceanside East High School, Rockland

Children’s races, art shows, cooking contests, beauty pageant, live music, parades, and most importantly, a lobster tent! This classic Maine festival has it all! The first day of the festival has a $1 entrance fee for adults and kids are free. The following days are $8 adults/$2 kids. Come enjoy an authentic Maine experience. Learn More   

Portsmouth Antiques Fest, (August 25, 8 am–2 pm)
Swasey Parkway, Portsmouth (NH)

For our neighbors to the south, think Portsmouth Farmers Market, but with unique furniture and collectibles. This market is more than a big yard sale. Swag On Swasey features some of your favorite dealers including; Todd Farm, the Dover Indoor Antique Market and the Arundel Flea Market. More than 25 dealers in one location. No admission and plenty of free parking. Swasey Parkway has easy access from route 101, 125 and Interstate 95. Learn More

Protect Yourself from Lyme Disease

Here in the northeast, summer means it’s time to keep ticks on your radar. Deer ticks may be infected with a bacteria that causes Lyme disease, and spread it to humans and animals through their bite. Most people who are bitten by ticks do not get Lyme disease, but incidence of Lyme is rising. In 2016, the state recorded 1,769 cases of Lyme disease in Maine, up from 1,395 in 2014 – and experts suspect many cases go unreported.

 Protect yourself.

  • Take precautions when you go outside. Before you enter wooded or grassy areas, apply bug repellent with 10% DEET or Picaridin and wear light-colored long pants, long-sleeves and a hat.
  • Do a thorough check when you come in. After your outing, thoroughly check your body and clothing for ticks as soon as possible. Be sure to check your scalp, armpit, and groin areas, as well as pets, which can carry ticks inside.
  • Remove ticks immediately. Grasp the tick with tweezers as close to the skin surface as possible and pull upward with even pressure. Clean the bite area and your hands with soap and water. Most infected ticks do not spread the disease until they have been attached for at least 36 hours.
  • If you get a round, red rash at the site of the bite or flu-like symptoms within several weeks of a tick bite, see your doctor immediately and tell him or her you’ve been bitten by a tick. Deer ticks can be very small and hard to find. Even if you have not found a tick on your body, if you develop this rash and/or other symptoms, see your doctor as soon as possible.

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If Lyme disease is suspected, doctors typically prescribe an antibiotic, which normally cures the disease, if treated in the early stages. Left untreated, Lyme can spread to joints, heart and nervous system.

To learn more about Lyme disease, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

Farm To Blanket: 5 Farmers’ Markets with Nearby Picnic Spots

Farmers’ markets are a healthy alternative, so you can justify that ice cream later in the day. These markets are the best place to support local farmers while enjoying fresh, organic produce and more. The markets are full of wonderful, healthy fare for your summer picnics. So, throw out the woven wooden basket, grab the GPS, and head for these top five farmers markets and picnic locations in southern Maine!

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Portland Farmers’ Market – Portland: Deering Oaks Park, (Saturday 7am-1pm). This market has a huge variety of local fresh options for you to choose from, check out Old Ocean House Farms for fruits, plants, and smoothies before you stretch out on the well-shaded lawn.

Scarborough Farmer’s Market – Scarborough: 259 US-1, (Sunday 9am-1pm). There’s a delicious selection of healthy foods to choose from, try Clover Hill Breads on your way to the warm sands of Scarborough Beach State Park for a seaside picnic. Learn more

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Kittery Community Market -Kittery: 10 Shapleigh Rd, (Sunday 10am-2pm). Like the town itself, Kittery’s farmers market is gorgeous, and boasts live music, fresh local food choices, and a special arts and craft section just for kids. Continue the adventure with a stop at Fort Foster. The fort offers three small, sandy beaches, an extensive trail system, restroom facilities in season, picnic areas, and old military fortifications to explore. The park features an excellent view of the entrance to Portsmouth Harbor, including Whaleback Light, Portsmouth Harbor Light, and Fort Constitution. Learn more

Greater Gorham Farmers’ Market – Gorham: 71 South St, (Saturday 8:30am-12:30pm). Gorham’s Baxter Memorial Lawn teams with farmers and artisans offering seedlings and plants, beautiful local produce from Oscars Farm, baked goods, meats, cheeses, honey, gorgeous fiber arts, handcrafted bath products, and artisan wares. The location itself is a great family friendly picnic location, or head just down the road to Shaw Park, where there are gorgeous trails, swings, and canoe and kayak rentals. Learn more

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Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust’s Farmers’ Market – Brunswick: 277 Pleasant Hill Road, (Saturday 8:30am-12:30pm). The Brunswick/Topsham Land Trust’s Farmer’s Market was established in 1999, making it one of the oldest farmers markets in the state with 40 artisans selling an exceptional array of products, like Wildflour’s amazing gluten-free baked goods. The market is a part of theYou can find more information about the market and the Land Trusts events on their website. Learn more

Diabetes: Living Well and Staying Healthy

In the final part of our three-part series, you’ll learn key strategies for managing type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes cannot be reversed and can eventually trigger serious health problems ranging from eye damage to cardiovascular disease. That’s why the preventive information outlined in parts 1 and 2 of this series is so critical.

“If you’re diagnosed with this chronic disease, don’t give up hope. There’s a lot you can do to manage diabetes, so you can feel your best and live fully,” says Janet Pachta, M.D., adult medicine provider at Martin’s Point Health Care.

The following strategies and steps all focus on one goal: Controlling your blood sugar levels so they stay in your target range.

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Start a lifestyle revolution.

Take it from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – the following changes can truly help fend off the health problems that typically come with diabetes:

  • Eat smart. You’ve heard it before, but it’s worth repeating. Add fruits and vegetables. Cut sugar and salt. Drink more water and fewer sugary drinks (soda, lemonade, sweet tea, hot chocolate).
    • Swap calorie-dense foods like French fries, burgers and doughnuts with healthier choices like roasted sweet potatoes, turkey or tuna sandwiches on whole wheat bread or wraps and berries.
    • Cut back on or eliminate alcohol. It’s also important to spread your intake of refined carbohydrates out over the day to keep blood sugar low. Learn more about healthy eating here.
  • Be active. There’s nothing like icy sidewalks, driving rain, or bone-chilling winds to challenge your good intentions to get and stay moving. So be ready. First, find one – better yet several – things you’ll look forward to. Walking, hiking, cycling, yoga, swimming, cross-country skiing, tennis, ultimate frisbee, golf (no cart!), dance and fitness classes are all great choices.

Second, have a plan for bad weather. Get clothing and footwear that keeps you comfortable in all conditions or be ready with indoor options at home or a local YMCA or gym.

“Over the phone, we’ll teach you exercises you can do in a chair for your arms and legs,” says You can also walk inside using your hallways, and use soup cans or water bottles for weights,” add Elaine Blackwood, RN, Chronic Care Case Manager at Martin’s Point.

  • Stop (or don’t start) smoking. This is an important way to slash your risk of heart disease and stroke.

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Monitor readings and keep in touch with your health care team.

  • Test your blood sugar regularly. Knowing what’s normal for you from day to day helps you keep blood sugar levels in hand. According to the American Diabetes Association, the goals are:
    • Before meals: 80 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) to 130 mg/dL.*
    • After meals: Less than 180 mg/dL 1 to 2 hours later.*
  • Take medications your doctor has prescribed according to his or her instructions.
  • Schedule medical appointments as recommended – and keep them. Monitoring your health is a team effort.
  • Talk with your doctor about your goal for A1C tests. This blood test provides a snapshot of your average blood sugar levels over the previous three months. Your target? Under 7%, says the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Disease.
  • Control your blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
  • Keep a close eye on skin and feet. Diabetes can cause nerve damage the makes it hard to feel problems or minor injuries. Untreated, these issues can escalate into troubling infections. Your defense: Daily foot checks and wearing shoes and socks that fit right. More foot care tips.

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Don’t go it alone

If you’re frustrated or overwhelmed by the efforts of diabetes self-care, getting support can help keep you on track. Lean on friends, family, leaders from your church or faith, support groups – whatever works for you.

“Taking care of yourself is even more challenging if the stress of managing diabetes gets you down,” adds Dr. Pachta. “If you’re feeling depressed or struggling, talk with your health care provider and ask for help.”

“If you’re ready to make healthier choices and set goals, we can help,” says Blackwood, who leads a team that supports any member who would assistance managing a chronic disease like diabetes. “We’re here to listen and offer suggestions without judgement. We help you decrease complications and take steps toward feeling better.”

You can also sign up for the American Diabetes Association’s FREE one-year program, designed to help people adjust to and live well with diabetes. The program includes information packets, e-newsletters, Diabetes Forecast magazine and more.

Adding so many new components to your routine can be overwhelming. In that case, focus on the most important steps – most agree these are controlling your blood sugar and adding physical activity. With these key habits in place, you can work on adding the rest gradually. Every step you take counts!

*Pregnant women, please check with your doctor for recommended target levels.