Keeping Your Heart Healthy – The Importance of Blood Pressure Screenings

While February may be best known for Valentine’s Day, it’s also American Heart Month. This is a period geared towards spreading awareness of cardiovascular disease, and encouraging your family and friends to be proactive in monitoring their heart health. One of the best ways to do that is getting a heart health screening.

There are many screenings available – Fasting Lipoprotein Profile (cholesterol), Body Weight, Blood Glucose, Smoking/Physical Activity/Diet – but chief among them may be the blood pressure screening. According to the American Heart Association, this is one of the most important screenings because there are typically no symptoms for high blood pressure (HBP). If you have HBP you are at a much higher risk of:

  • Heart failure
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Chronic kidney disease

It’s important to check your blood pressure regularly, especially if it’s outside the range of 120/80 mm Hg. If so, it’s recommended you get this screening at least every two years. While your blood pressure levels may be affected by short-term factors such as emotion, stress, pain, and caffeine use, there are many other risk factors that can contribute to the rise of HBP:

  • Age
  • Race
  • Family History
  • Obesity
  • Tobacco Use
  • Low levels of Potassium/Vitamin D

While there may be many risk factors, the CDC believes there are many things you can do to take control of your blood pressure, and most importantly, developing healthy habits.

  1. Healthy Diet – A balanced diet, individualized for your health needs, can be crafted by your R-Health doctor.
  2. Maintain a Healthy Weight – Additionally, your R-Health doctor can work with you to determine a healthy weight range.
  3. Physical Activity – Physical activities not only help maintain healthy weight, but keep your heart active and healthy.
  4. Do Not Smoke
  5. Limited Alcohol Use

Though there are healthy habits to follow, and risks factors that may increase chances, the best first step is to get a blood pressure screening. With no true signs or symptoms, this screening is a vital step in preventing cardiovascular disease and a first step towards making lifestyle changes. In addition, your R-Health physician can help you decide upon individual lifestyle adjustments to keep your heart and your body healthy and happy.

Recipes for Success

Part of having a good team is having great team members, and our R-Health doctors are exactly that. Not only are our doctors always accessible to their members, but they constantly share insightful and intriguing information unrelated to medicine that our team and our members certainly enjoy. We asked Dr. Miller, our doctor at R-Health Voorhees, if she had any recommendations for our members, and she shared with us both a book and a delicious recipe.

For her book, Dr. Miller recommended Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult. Debuting #1 as a New York Times bestseller, the story follows a nurse who gets sued while battling the ever-present challenges of our time such as prejudice, justice, and race. Garnering great success since its debut, Small Great Things was recently added to the National Network of State Teacher of the Year’s (NNSTOY) booklist in 2017.

Furthermore, if you’re looking for a healthy meal, look no further than Dr. Miller. An R-Health doctor by day and amateur chef by night (we think), Dr. Miller loves to cook. She shared her recipe for Kale Soup below.

Dr. Miller’s Kale Soup

Ingredients:

  • Green Pepper Diced
  • Red Pepper Diced
  • Medium Onion
  • Turkey Kielbasa
  • Red Kidney Beans
  • 16 oz. Stewed Tomatoes
  • 32 oz. Beef Stock
  • 28-32 oz. Chicken Stock, Low Sodium
  • 2 Carrots, Peeled and Chopped
  • 2-3 Potatoes (other than white is healthier), Peeled and Diced
  • Frozen Package of Kale (10 oz.)

Recipe

  1. Sauté red pepper, onion and green pepper in olive oil
  2. Add it to the beef and chicken stock that has 2 tbsp. of adobo and 1 tbsp. of dried jerk simmering
  3. Sauté the kielbasa to brown and add to the pot
  4. Add diced potatoes and sliced carrots cook until tender – take some out and mash then add back to thicken the soup
  5. Add the stewed tomatoes
  6. Add the kidney beans
  7. Add the frozen kale and simmer for a couple of hours
  8. Serve it with sourdough or garlic bread

 

As you can see, our doctors are multifaceted but above all, are experts in primary care. Be sure to schedule your appointment with your R-Health doctor, and with all the time you have with them, maybe you can swap books and recipes too.

Growth: The Expansion of R-Health and Direct Care

The growth of Direct Care continues to spread across the country as more and more people begin to realize its positive influence on healthcare delivery. As awareness has grown, so too has R-Health – as one of the leaders of the industry, R-Health continues to expand its footprint in New Jersey by not only offering unprecedented relationship-based access to doctors, but curating a model that challenges the episodic, transactional, and volume-maximizing traits that presently exist.

Last year, Hint, a software organization that helps streamline administrative tasks for Direct Care practices, released a study on the practice trends of Direct Care, or Direct Primary Care. Hint reported that the average yearly patient panel growth for Direct Care practices is growing at over 8% per year. With more time with the patients due to the elimination of many administrative tasks, Direct Care is great for both the doctor and the patient.

R-Health follows right along these lines. Not only does R-Health offer individual memberships, but after signing a groundbreaking contract with the State of New Jersey, it is able to offer Direct Care as a benefit to over half a million New Jersey school and state employees and their families, completely free of charge.

With such an historic agreement, R-Health saw major growth over the past year. R-Health expanded to seven locations across New Jersey, three which came during the final quarter of 2017. Just like our approach to healthcare, our sites are committed to quality, excellence, and convenience. With comfortable assessment areas along with some of the latest technology in medicine, our locations offer the convenience of a one-stop-shop for all primary care needs whether you’re a patient or doctor. To see a list of all of locations, please visit our website.

Recognized as game changers, in 2017 R-Health received Philadelphia Business Journal’s Healthcare Innovator award for our efforts to reinvent the healthcare industry. Other news outlets such as the Wall Street Journal, Politico, and NJBIZ were just a few others who graciously acknowledged the hard work and commitment towards the success of this model.

In closing, this past year has been a great year for Direct Care, and an even greater year for R-Health. Now having laid a strong foundation in New Jersey, R-Health is driven to expand to more markets and develop new relationships with other businesses more than ever. As a tight knit group that puts our doctors and patients first, excitement ensues for what’s to come and we hope that more physicians join our clinical team to enjoy it with us.

Well, What?

What is a well woman visit and why it is important?

 
It is a designated time for you and your health care provider to discuss your reproductive health. It may also include an exam, screening tests, like a pap smear or blood work, and immunizations. If you have breasts, a uterus, and/or a vulva it is important to have this type of visit to check the physical organs, even if you do not identify as a woman.

 
A well woman visit can be important in different ways for different people, depending on their needs and stage of life.  For young women, it may just be a discussion about periods and immunization for prevention of cervical cancer.  For those who are sexually active, contraception and STD prevention will likely be discussed.  Those thinking about starting a family might have a discussion about optimizing their health for conception and pregnancy.  For those 21-65 the Pap test allows cervical cancer to be detected and treated before it causes problems.

 

For women over 40, getting a mammogram can help detect breast cancer earlier. Those approaching or facing menopause might discuss bone health, changes in their body, symptoms, and strategies to protect them from long term health risks. It may not be necessary to have an internal exam or breast exam every year.  You can discuss with your doctor the risks and benefits.

 

A well woman visit is another important way to be proactive about your whole health. From an evolutionary stand point, one of the most important functions of our body is to reproduce.  So, reproductive health can be an indicator for overall health and well-being.

 
It also is an opportunity to continue to build a good, honest relationship with the doctor. With unlimited access to your R-Health doctor, not only are you not pressured with remembering all your questions for a single visit, but no matter what is discussed, you’ll always get the time you need to fully understand and have your input applied to any course of action.

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!