Healthy hometown tips from A&M
The Texas A&M Health Science Center is pleased to provide the latest installment of “Hometown Health” with the following tips:
College of Medicine
Healthy stress management
For many people – especially students, parents and teens – spring can be inherently stressful. Tax season, school projects and extracurricular activities can cause anyone to feel stressed and even overwhelmed.
“Learning how to manage your stress is imperative at any age,” says John Simmons, M.D., assistant professor of family and community medicine at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine. “Not only does stress affect you mentally, but it can also affect your body if left unchecked.”
When the brain senses stress, it signals to the adrenal glands to release adrenaline. Adrenaline increases heart rate, blood pressure and the amount of sugar in your blood. The hypothalamus also signals the pituitary gland at the base of the brain to release cortisol, thus maintaining elevated blood sugar and blood pressure.
“These stress responses are suitable for short periods of time, but stress can be damaging if it goes on for weeks or years,” Dr. Simmons says. “Higher levels of cortisol for prolonged periods can hinder your immune system. Constant stress can also affect your blood pressure and the fats in your blood, increasing the likelihood of heart attack and stroke.”
Following a few stress management techniques can help you cope with the onset of stress that spring brings. For starters, identify the sources of stress in your life and prioritize them.
“Take it one object at a time selectively dealing with matters in order of priority,” Dr. Simmons says. “Minimize the number of events in your life in order to accomplish the things that are most important.”
Learn ways to calm your body.
“Simple breathing exercises, yoga and meditation all reduce stress,” Dr. Simmons says. “Take a few minutes each hour to breathe deeply, walk outside or do simple stretches at your desk.”
Exercise is one of the best ways to manage stress. “Work up a sweat!” Dr. Simmons says. “Increasing your heart rate through exercise releases endorphins, the body’s natural pain killers.
College of Nursing
From A-B-C to C-A-B
When it comes to CPR, we’ve always been told to remember the “ABCs” – Airway, Breathing, Circulation. Now, health professionals are saying compressions are more important than airway and breathing. What’s up?
Working to improve survival rates for those having a cardiac arrest, the American Heart Association is introducing new guidelines based on research from people and health care providers giving basic life support.
According to Carolyn Prosise, M.S.N., RN, CNOR, assistant professor in the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Nursing, the rationale for stressing compressions first comes from “hands-only CPR,” which encourages people – even those without formal CPR training – to assist. Research has shown compressing the chest of a heart attack victim hard and fast is as effective as compressions with breaths.
“Many people are reluctant to attempt opening the airway and giving mouth-to-mouth breaths, and rightly so,” Prosise says. “These skills should be taught and practiced to be effective. If that person knows he or she can help someone who has collapsed from a heart attack or a cardiac arrest by merely calling for help and pushing hard and fast on the middle of the chest with the heels of both hands, then that person may be more likely to take part in the rescue effort.”
As a result, the preferred CPR steps are to call 911 or send someone else to call if you see someone collapse and is unresponsive. Begin compressions using the heel of both hands at the center of the chest between the nipples, pushing hard and fast at least two inches down. The rate should be at least 100 times per minute, and give 30 compressions. If you are trained to give breaths, then give two.
School of Rural Public Health
Finding reliable health information online:
If you’ve tried searching for health information online, you may be overwhelmed by the results. How do you know what to trust?
“One issue with searching online for answers to questions regarding your health is that anyone can put up content on the web,” says Suzanne Shurtz, MLIS, AHIP, adjunct faculty at the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Rural Public Health, librarian and assistant professor at the Texas A&M University Medical Sciences Library.
According to Shurtz, there are certain keys to follow:
· Credibility – Does the website state its sources and are these sources authoritative?
· Timeliness – Does the website tell when it was last updated? Keep in mind medical research is ongoing, so try to find the most current information.
· Content – Is the information in terms you can understand? Are there advertisements or obvious biases in the recommendations?
“Government and educational organizations with websites ending in .gov, .org and .edu are typically good sources of quality health information,” Shurtz says. “These resources are usually written by those with expertise in the field, based on current research, updated frequently and often have content written in language understandable to the general public.”
Once you find and evaluate online health information, discuss the content with your health care provider and learn how it may apply to you.
“The web can be a wonderful tool to educate yourself about health conditions and treatment options,” Shurtz says. “However, care should be taken that the information you utilize is the best information available. Medical and public librarians can guide you to find reliable health resources.”
Baylor College of Dentistry
High-protein diets produce bad breath
As the weather warms up, people begin shedding their winter clothing for swimsuit season, and that brings on the tendency to diet. Dentists at the Texas A&M Health Science Center Baylor College of Dentistry say the popular high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets can lead to another problem: bad breath.
High-protein foods set off a chemical chain of events once the body starts digesting them. An excess amount of proteins means the body can’t break them down efficiently, resulting in excess amino acids. These amino acids combine with anaerobic bacteria, which are responsible for cavities and decay in the mouth. The result is that noxious sulfur compound that can be smelled on the breath.
“The best and safest way to lose weight is to reduce portion size, cut desserts and snacks, and eat more well-rounded fruits and veggies,” says Dr. Charles W. Wakefield, professor and director of the Advanced Education in General Dentistry Residency program at TAMHSC-Baylor College of Dentistry. “Eat a high-fiber breakfast, don’t eat late at night, and start an exercise program that is supervised by a gym expert, physician or someone who understands not only the physical part of weight loss and diet control but also the psychological part, which is extremely important.”
Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy
Asthma and allergy awareness
May is “National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month,” as more than 50 million Americans have allergies and 23 million have asthma, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
“The most common symptoms of asthma are shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing or when breathing interferes with physical activity,” says Amber Watts, Pharm.D., assistant professor of pharmacy practice at the Texas A&M Health Science Center Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy. “Allergies are known to cause asthma, but this is not always the case.”
There are two main types of treatment for asthma: a rescue inhaler or maintenance therapy that includes two inhaled medications, a steroid and a beta-agonist. Though significant lifestyle changes are unnecessary, there are some important asthma triggers to try to avoid such as pollen, cigarette smoke and pet dandruff, Dr. Watts says.
Allergy triggers are very similar to asthma but include a wide range of categories such as indoor/outdoor, pet, food, insect, skin and eye allergies.
People with asthma and/or allergies should consult their pharmacist or physician about the proper ways to take their medications.
“For both asthma and allergies, it is very important to take the medications exactly as they are prescribed to you,” Dr. Watts says. “This includes proper use of any inhalers that are given to an individual. Specifically, children should be instructed how to use these properly and can be given a device called a spacer to help.”
Coastal Bend Health Education Center
Healthy vision especially important to those with diabetes
When was the last time you had an eye exam? If you’re currently living with diabetes, you should be able to answer that question with no problem.
According to the American Diabetes Association, individuals diagnosed with diabetes should have a dilated eye exam each year.
“It’s not enough just to go into the doctor to have your prescription verified by an optician. People with diabetes need to have their eyes dilated by an ophthalmologist or optometrist to detect any signs of retinopathy,” says Nelda Caceres, RN, CDE, of the Texas A&M Health Science Center Coastal Bend Health Education Center Diabetes Education Program. “Diabetic retinopathy refers to retina disorders caused by diabetes and can lead to serious complications, including vision loss and retinal detachment.”
In addition to an annual dilated eye exam, there are a number of steps that people with diabetes can take to care for their eyes. Keeping blood sugars under control is of particular importance. One trial conducted by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases showed keeping blood glucose levels as close to normal as possible reduced the risk for developing retinopathy by 76 percent.
“Individuals should monitor their blood pressure, avoid smoking and seek the care of an ophthalmologist or optometrist as soon as they become aware of any changes to their vision,” Caceres says. “There are treatments available, but the No. 1 way to avoid complications is to be proactive in caring for your eyes.”
Other eye ailments also affect individuals with diabetes more disproportionately than their counterparts. Research indicates people with diabetes are 40 percent more likely to suffer from glaucoma and 60 percent more likely to develop cataracts.
The Texas A&M Health Science Center provides the state with health education, outreach and research through campuses in Bryan-College Station, Dallas, Temple, Houston, Round Rock, Kingsville, Corpus Christi and McAllen. Its six colleges are the Baylor College of Dentistry, the College of Medicine, the College of Nursing, the School of Graduate Studies, the Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy and the School of Rural Public Health. Other units include the Institute of Biosciences and Technology and the Coastal Bend Health Education Center.