Cervical Health Awareness

January is Cervical Health Awareness Month. The goal of this month is to raise awareness on how to protect against Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and cervical cancer. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STIs) in the United States, affecting nearly 80% of women, at least once in their lifetime. According to WomensHealth.gov, though most cases don’t show any symptoms, and usually goes away on its own, if it doesn’t, HPV can lead to:

  • Cervical cancer
  • Other genital cancers (e.g. cancers of the vulva, anus, penis, etc.)
  • Oropharyngeal cancer (i.e. cancer of the back of the throat, affecting tongue and tonsils)
  • Genital warts

However, there is good news. With HPV vaccine shots, regular screenings, and follow-up care, HPV and cervical cancer can often be prevented. This is one of the many reasons why a yearly well-woman visit is important. Other ways to prevent HPV and the risk of cervical cancer include:

  • Get tested – make sure you are your partner are tested for STIs
  • Use condoms – condoms have been linked to lower cervical cancer rates
  • Limit your number of sexual partners – your risk increases with the number of partners you have

As parents, it’s important to understand the benefits of the HPV vaccines, and have them administered to your children, both boys and girls. Though encouraged to get the vaccine during the pre-teen years, teens and young adults are still able to receive the vaccine (boys – up to age 21; girls – up to age 26).

R-Health gives our members access to vaccines right in the office. If you want to learn more about the HPV vaccine, or want more tips to prevent cervical cancer, call your local R-Health office to get started.

Why Weight?

Weight loss is always about what is on the end of your fork – it’s about what you are eating.  Exercise is extremely important to stay healthy, but it is a much smaller player in the weight loss journey.  Patients often express frustration with their progress because they feel that they have been going to the gym, or otherwise working out, and not losing weight.  The reason that they are not losing weight is that they are missing the most important piece, which is changing how much they eat and what they eat.

Slow weight loss is always best – 1-2 pounds weekly.  That is the kind of loss that will be maintained.  Rapid loss usually results in rapid gain that often surpasses initial starting weight.

Try to eat within a 12-hour window – begin about 30 minutes after getting up, and complete the last meal about 12 hours later.  People often get into trouble with nibbling after dinner or during the night.

Weigh or measure all food – many people incorrectly estimate how much they are eating.  And, keep track of what you are eating, a convenient app is called “MyFitnessPal.” In fact, I have had patients lose up to 60 pounds in just this way!

Instead of beverages with sugar or artificial sweeteners, make spa water – Fill up a container with water, and add in fruits/veggies/herbs and let sit overnight.  Some of our patients have enjoyed combos like:

  • Cucumbers and fresh mint
  • Ginger and lemon
  • Frozen peaches/strawberries

For healthy snacks, consider:

  • A cheese stick and ½ piece of fruit
  • A small handful of nuts and ½ piece of fruit
  • A small container of hummus or guacamole (individual serving sizes are available at the grocery store) with veggies
  • A 3 ounce can of tuna spread on a rice cake

These are just a few of the countless methods by which you can lose weight. For tips and much more feedback, visit your R-Health doctor and develop the plan that works for you.

Time to Stick With It

Like clockwork, every year around this time there’s a lot to wrap up – holiday gifts, end of year vacations, or another popular one, New Year’s Resolutions. Thinking about setting your own New Year’s resolution?  Here are some tips to help you set and achieve yours!  What makes a goal more attainable is accountability and proper planning, and HealthAdvocate helps focus on the latter by sharing a few steps that make your health resolutions achievable.

  • Choose something that interests you – Having a clear focus can help drive you towards reaching your goals
  • Choose your resolution as a long-term goal – There’s no quick fix for a long-term plan. Time allows you to better manage your goals, which ultimately brings more success
  • Think simple – Choose something that challenges you, but not taxing that it burdens you
  • Compare your 2018 resolutions with previous years’ – Learn from your mistakes and what worked well to better position yourself moving forward
  • Recognize it may take longer than a year – Some goals take longer to accomplish, but every step towards your resolution is one in the right direction

Breaking down your goals into small pieces can help make large goals more obtainable and more important in your daily life.  For example, if your goal is to lose 20lbs over the course of the year, that cheese steak seems less harmful, than if your goal is to lose 1 lb. that week.  You also get to celebrate more victories along the way!   The American Psychological Association shared these quick tips on how to persevere.

  1. Start small – Whether it’s losing 2 pounds a month, or drinking an extra glass of water a day, starting small makes your resolutions easier to keep
  2. Change one behavior at a time – Healthy behaviors take time to develop, don’t rush
  3. Don’t beat yourself up – Everyday won’t be a win, but make sure to continue your pursuit even when you stumble
  4. Ask for support – Share you experiences and find an outlet that helps support and push you to carry on

Attaining better health, is a common New Year resolution.  Maybe it’s through better food, exercise, improved sleep habits, stress management or a combination.  Maybe it’s finally getting a colonoscopy. Whatever it is, you can always reach out to your R-Health doctor and develop plan to make and meet your 2018 health goals. If you want, get a head start, fill out this worksheet to help you think about why the goal is important to you, what might be barriers and solutions to achieving your goal and bring it along.

Finally, don’t hesitate to share.  We can all learn from one another.  Visit our Facebook page and share your trials and successes during your journey.

R-Questions, Answered, Vol. IV

In what’s to be our final 2017 installment of our doctor Q&A, this last stop puts us in New Brunswick. Dr. James Bancroft leads the charge at R-Health New Brunswick, our newest location on Easton Avenue. With roots across the country, discover how Dr. Bancroft got into medicine, despite a few challenging areas. Furthermore, if you have any more questions for Dr. Bancroft, scheduling a meet and greet is the best way to get the answers you need. But for now, please enjoy our fun Q&A with him.

  1. Where are you originally from?  I was born in Omaha, Nebraska. I grew up mostly in Maryland, just outside of Washington D.C
  2. Why did you study medicine? I always had an interest in health. I decided to go to medical school after teaching at a small high school. My favorite part of teaching was the one-on-one interactions.
  3. What was the hardest part of medical school? Being quizzed by the attending physicians and residents on a regular basis was probably the toughest.
  4. What do you do on a day off? I like to spend time with my family, catching up on laundry, doing yard work, working through a honey-do-list, and reading, so, a bunch of things.
  5. What’s your favorite TV show? I can’t say I have one favorite show. If I am watching TV, the channel is usually on a sports game and I am often doing something else at the time.
  6. Do you have bad handwriting? (They say all doctors do) I would consider my handwriting pretty good for a doctor, but, it has deteriorated.
  7. What’s is different about Direct Care that excites you? The opportunity to meet the needs of patients in different ways, such as offering longer appointments, phone visits, and even video visits.
  8. What’s the simplest piece of medical advice you can give? Really simple: stay active and eat more fruit and vegetables.

Dr. Bancroft’s office is open and he and his staff are eager to meet all new patients. If you’re interested in becoming a member of his practice, don’t hesitate – join today!

Wash, Rinse, Repeat!

The little things. It’s always the little things that are often overlooked, but can carry the most importance. Fresh air. Cold pillows. A good breakfast. Washing your hands. Few have the impact of the latter.

Washing your hands is one of the most important steps to not only protecting your own health, but also prevention of germ spread and other bacteria to others. This week is National Handwashing Awareness Week, and with the flu and many other sicknesses very prevalent during this time, now is as good a time as any to discuss the importance of handwashing, and how it’s relative to prevention.

For a little context on how important this topic is, here are a few facts, courtesy of the CDC, related to handwashing:

  • Washing hands with soap and water can reduce diarrheal disease-associated deaths by up to 50%
  • Handwashing can reduce the risk of respiratory infections by 16%
  • A large percentage of foodborne disease outbreaks are spread by contaminated hands, which could be greatly reduced by handwashing.
  • The use of alcohol gel hand sanitizer in classrooms can result in upwards of 20% reduction in absenteeism due to infection.
  • Reducing the number of infections through handwashing may help prevent the overuse of antibiotics (and eventual antibiotic resistance) often prescribed for these health issues.

Looking for more reasons why handwashing is important? Look no further than the main culprit of sickness: germs.  As the CDC describes, feces is a main source of germs, like Salmonella and E.coli that spread many respiratory infections such as, hand-foot-mouth disease and adenovirus to name a few. These germs get onto your hands a variety of ways, including:

  • After toilet use
  • Changing diapers
  • Blowing your nose
  • Handling raw meat
  • Taking out garbage
  • Petting animals
  • Caring for sick people

These are common, everyday activities that people do, yet if people don’t take the initiative to wash their hands, germs will stay on the surface of your hands for hours. With frequent touching of the body (i.e. touching eyes, nose, and mouth) coupled with germ pile up on your hand surface, it gets you sick, and even worse, it transfers to other objects that will get others sick.

So, what can you do? Wash your hands multiple times throughout the day and follow standard handwashing techniques:

  1. Wet – Wet your hands with clean water, then apply soap
  2. Lather – Rub your hands together with the soap, making sure to get the back of your hands, between fingers, and under the fingernails
  3. Scrub – Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds
  4. Rinse
  5. Dry – Air dry or use a clean towel
  6. *Tip* For public restrooms, shut the faucet off with a paper towel, and use your shoulder (or another towel on the knob) to open the door

If you’re not near a sink, hand sanitizer is a great substitute. However, if your hands are visible dirty and greasy, this will not be as effective in eliminating the high number of germs. It’s also important to note to avoid the use of antibacterial soap, due to the dangers of triclosan. As the Mayo Clinic describes, although triclosan is an active ingredient in making some soaps antibacterial, excess use can cause small amounts to be absorbed by the skin, which may lead to a damaged immune system and/or antibiotic resistance.

In closing, sometimes it’s the little things that have big impact. Don’t risk getting sick, especially during peak flu season, by not washing your hands. Your R-Health doctor hand-washes every time they see you, so take the lead and follow suit. Or use our R-Health hand sanitizer.

[Healthy] Thanksgiving!

If you haven’t heard already, there’s a pretty big holiday coming up soon: Thanksgiving. In a time of reminiscing and gathering of friends, family, and loved ones, the main star on this day is the food. With an assortment of people and traditions, there’s always an abundance of dishes available to consume. However, how can we distinguish what’s healthy and will benefit our health? There are a few tips we all can follow without sacrificing our appetites.

Studies have shown that people gain on average, between 5-10 pounds during the holiday season (from Thanksgiving to New Year’s). WOW!!! While just averages, this can mean that people gain less than this range, or in the unfortunate instance, gain more. It’s important during the holidays, especially Thanksgiving, to be proactive in maintaining your health and keeping the extra pounds off, so you may have an easier time with your upcoming New Year’s Resolutions.  WebMD has offered a few tips that won’t impede satisfaction of the yummy holiday feasts.

  • Get active
    • Exercise before eating your favorite foods
    • Increase the number of days, and length of workouts before Thanksgiving
    • Plan a post-meal walk and/or workout the following day
  • Eat breakfast
    • Eating a small meal in the morning can give you better control over your appetite
    • More disciplined appetite makes for healthier food and beverage choices
  • Lighten up
    • Whether preparing the meals, or bringing add-ons, try and make your dishes with less sugar, no added fat, and less calories.
    • Use sugar substitutes, and reduce oil/butter when you can
  • Police your proteins
    • Survey the options and select reasonable sized portions
    • Smaller portions allow you to enjoy whatever you’d like
    • Resist the urge for second helpings
    • Stop eating when you’re satisfied. If you wait til your full, it might be too late 😉
  • Slowly savor
    • Eating slowly allows you to taste every bite while being satisfied after one plate
    • Try eating only two meals on holidays and keep them within 8 hours of each other. So perhaps skip breakfast if you expect to eat a big lunch or dinner. This style of eating is called Intermittent Fasting and has been very helpful in weight loss/weight maintenance.
  • Go easy on alcohol
    • Have a glass of wine or sparkling water in between alcoholic drinks to avoid dehydration and the calories that alcohol provide
  • Be realistic
    • During the holiday times, it’s very difficult to try and lose weight, therefore shifting focus to maintaining weight provides more desirable outcomes.

If you’re looking for which foods to include in your Thanksgiving menu you can turn to the Mayo Clinic and/or EatingWell for an assist. They provide countless recipes that are not only fresh, but contain less fat, sodium, and calories to provide guests with healthy options that are equally flavorful. If you have a particular diet or health plan that you’re on, reach out to your R-Health doctor for any meal suggestions. Otherwise, enjoy the holiday and celebrate this time with your family and friends!

Defeat Diabetes!

With Thanksgiving approaching, it may seem like a joyous occasion for most, but for a segment of the population, it may be another day of battling your urges, for the sake of long-term health. November is recognized as American Diabetes Month; and with diabetes affecting nearly 30 million people and their families, it’s important to remind them that they are not alone, and to share information to those who are newly diagnosed.

For a quick summary of the condition, we turn to the Mayo Clinic. Diabetes affects how your body uses glucose. Glucose, or blood sugar, is a major source of energy for the cells in your muscles, tissues, and your brain. However, too much glucose in your blood can cause major health risks such as:

  • Cardiovascular Disease
  • Nerve, Kidney, Foot, and/or Eye Damage
  • Hearing Impairment
  • Skin infections
  • Alzheimer’s

Since there are different types of diabetes (Type 1 and Type 2) there are different risk factors associated with each, and we’ll share a few below:

  • Type 1 Diabetes – more prevalent during childhood/adolescence – removes insulin production from the body.
    • Risk Factors
      • Family History
      • Dietary Factors
      • Environment Factors
      • Geography
  • Type 2 Diabetes – more prevalent during adulthood – body becomes insulin resistant.
    • Risk Factors
      • Family History
      • Age/Weight/Race
      • Inactivity
      • High Blood Pressure
      • Abnormal Cholesterol levels

Consequently, knowing these risk factors, what should you do if you’re diagnosed? Binge eating will certainly not be the answer, however, Diabetic Living shared a few tips on how to approach a new diagnosis.

  1. Inspect your health plan – find the best and most affordable health plan that will cover your upcoming medications and supplies.
  2. Consider medications to lower your blood sugarIt’s now recommended to take at least one glucose-lowering medication as soon as you’re diagnosed (e.g. metformin).
  3. Create a diabetes eating plan – Monitor what you eat, but also track it to see its impact on your blood glucose levels. Most times you don’t have to make drastic changes.
  4. Create a physical activity planJust like your diet, physical activities are important when diabetic. Food provides the energy, and the activity helps burn some of it. Incorporating this into an everyday routine can have great impact.
  5. Shop for Diabetes supplies – Blood glucose meters, test strips, and a blood glucose journal are just a few things that can help you along the way.
  6. Connect with others As we mentioned earlier, you’re not alone in this fight. Connecting with others can relieve you of any anxieties and motivate you to take care of yourself.
  7. Choose your primary care provider

Now if you’re not a diabetes rookie, you’d be more focused on how to manage your diabetes. With help from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), they shared 4 major actions you should take to manage your diabetes throughout your lifetime.

  1. Learn More about Diabetes
    • Get a better understanding about the type of diabetes you have and ones you’re not sure of (e.g. Gestational diabetes).
    • Take classes, join support groups, and talk to your doctors (i.e. dentist, dietician, eye doctor) in your health team to see how it can affect other areas
  2. Know your diabetes ABCs
    • A – A1C test. It measures your sugar levels over a 3-month span
    • B – Blood pressure. Have blood pressure goals and know what gets it too high or too low
    • C – Cholesterol. Like blood pressure, have cholesterol goals and ask your doctor what those numbers should be
  3. Learn to live with diabetes
    • Ask for help, discover new hobbies, voice your concerns to your support system
    • Spend time developing a food palette and compare your sugar levels to see what part of your diet needs changing
  4. Get routine care
    • Getting routine care at least twice a year can help catch any future problems, early
    • Get the A1C test twice
    • Ask your primary care doctor and other members in your health team if any other tests are required

If you’re already an R-Health Member, you’ve already got a great primary care doctor. Your R-Health doctor can spend the time with you to create your own health plan, covering what to eat, medication suggestions, and how to balance physical activity. A strong relationship with your primary can help you overcome some of the obstacles associated with diabetes, including a loaded Thanksgiving plate.

The R-Health Experience, Vol. II: True Mobility

Sarah, the mother of two young children, had been looking for a new doctor. Of the utmost importance to her was convenience since she is extremely busy with her kids. She had been looking for the right fit, but just couldn’t find it, until she got a postcard about Dr. Randi Protter’s practice at R-Health.

Like most people, she thought that what she was reading about R-Health sounded too good to be true, but she soon realized it was everything she was looking for.

“I love the mobile app. I developed a rash and instead of going to the office, I used the app to upload pictures and send it to Dr. Protter. She looked at the pictures, got back to me right away, and sent a prescription to my pharmacy. Not having to take my two children into the doctor’s office for me to be treated for something simple, was fabulous.”

Sarah has experienced a little bit of all the R-Health offerings. She got a same-day urgent care appointment, she has done her comprehensive wellness exam, and she loves to use the Spruce mobile app. For her, more than anything, she loves how Dr. Protter truly listens to her. “It’s so nice to talk to a doctor and have her actually listen.”

Sarah’s husband is also a member of R-Health and has been seeing Dr. Protter for almost a year. He recently had a cold that kept lingering for multiple days. He called the office, got a same-day appointment, and immediately had a prescription sent to the pharmacy.

“For us, the responsiveness of R-Health is so unique, we feel like we are privileged clients. We feel so lucky to have found Dr. Protter and R-Health.”

The Battle of Flu Prevention

Although the weather is a bit misleading, we are in the start of flu season. While many people may have misconceptions about the vaccine, think they are immune to the flu, or may even believe the flu is a myth, it is very important to take the preventative measures to thrive during flu season. Moreover, if you were skeptical about the flu and its vaccine, here are some WebMD stats that might change your mind.

  • Between 5% to 20% of the U.S. population will get the flu, each year
  • 200,000 Americans are hospitalized each year from the flu and its complications
  • In the U.S., 3,000 – 49,000 people will die each year from flu-related causes
  • Finally, it can take between 1-4 days before flu symptoms begin to show, and you may still be contagious 5-10 days after the illness starts.

As you see, it’s important to take the preventative steps that aid in virus prevention, not only for yourself, but for those around you. Where can you find these tips? Look no further than your R-Health doctors, who are always available for you.  Remember, staying positive and relaxed helps the immune system.  If you are not yet an R-Health member, here are some tips to get you started.

  1. Get the Flu vaccine
  2. Wash hands frequently
  3. Eat Well (plenty of veggies, fruits, and healthy fats, while avoiding added sugar)
  4. Stay well hydrated.
  5. Get enough sleep.
  6. Wear a coat and other cold weather gear (hat/gloves/scarf) when needed
  7. Vitamin D (take 1000-20000 iu daily) unless otherwise recommended by your doctor

In the unfortunate instance you contract the flu, there are a few treatment options you can explore as well.   Talk to your doctor as soon as you have symptoms to find out if a prescription anti-flu medication is needed.  If you don’t have any special medical circumstances, often natural measures are best.  Subsequently, below are some natural treatment tips for the flu:

  1. Elderberry – Take Sambucol (1 tablespoon, 4x a day, for 5 days at first sight of the flu).
    • If you have contact with the flu you can also use Sambucol as means of prevention (2 tablespoons, 2x a day)
  2. Zinc – Take Zinc Lozenge (avoid intranasal zinc) every 1-3 hours for 3 days at first signs of the flu
  3. Steam inhalation with Eucalyptus oil and Chamomile can ease congestion, cough, and mucous membrane irritation
  4. Bone Broth – Soup helps boost the immune system
    • Beef bone broth, and yes, even chicken noodle soup works well!
  5. Honey – A natural cough suppressant, honey works better than Delsym. Take ½ to 1 tsp every 1-2 hours as needed.
  6. Treat a fever only to feel comfortable – High temperatures boost your immune system, but if needed, use the lowest effect dose of fever reducers like ibuprofen and acetaminophen.
    • Try the wet sock technique: put on a pair of wet socks, then a dry pair overtop

As a note, it’s important to inform your doctor on all herbal medicines you plan to take, and more importantly, if you experience shortness of breath, severe headache, confusion, and/or the inability to keep fluids down.  Remember you have unlimited access to your R-Health doctors who are available to you.

 

Prostate Cancer Awareness

September is prostate health awareness month. Just in 2017, the American Cancer Society reported over 160,000 new cases. Outside of skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men, affecting about 1 in every 7 during their lifetime. September is a month for raising awareness of prostate health in hopes of encouraging men to get their necessary screenings.

There are a variety of symptoms related to prostate cancer, chief among them are urinary. Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) described these symptoms being a result of the proximity between the prostate gland to the bladder and urethra. The following can be urinary symptoms of prostate cancer:

  • Burning or pain during urination
  • Difficulty urinating (trouble starting/stopping while urinating)
  • More frequent urges to urinate at night
  • Loss of bladder control
  • Decreased flow or velocity of urine stream
  • Blood in urine (hematuria)

Outside of urinary symptoms, other signs and symptoms that may be related to Prostate cancer:

  • Swelling in legs or pelvic area
  • Numbness or pain in the hips, legs, or feet
  • Lingering bone pain that leads to fractures
  • Painful ejaculation
  • Blood in semen

While Men’s Health offers a few tips for a healthy prostate, one of the best methods to prevent Prostate Cancer from affecting your life is to get screened. There is no definitive opinion on when or how often men should get screened, but it is important for the screening to occur.

Research has indicated that typically, men who are aged 40 or older, should be screened for risk factors. The Prostate Cancer Foundation urges all men to be proactive in their prostate health plan, but especially men who are at higher risk (i.e. positive family history or African American men).

There are different prostate screenings, including but not limited to a digital rectal exam (DRE) and prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test. If either of these tests detect an abnormality, doctors may recommend some additional test including:

  • Ultrasound
  • Collecting a sample of prostate tissue
  • MRI

These tests typically aid in confirming the presence of Prostate cancer and the extent to how aggressive it is may be.

As you can see, prostate health is important, especially if you’re at higher risk. Although many prostate cancers grow slowly, it’s best to get your screening sooner rather than later to treat any cases early. As always, your R-Health doctor is available for you to help answer any questions you may have, so reach out to your doctor to help you decide what’s best for you.