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Greenville Health System (GHS) has been advancing health care for generations. The stories below provide an inside look into GHS and how we’re transforming health care for the benefit of the people and communities we serve.
Greenville Health System (GHS) has been advancing health care for generations. The stories below provide an inside look into GHS and how we’re transforming health care for the benefit of the people and communities we serve.
Friday, May 22 is Don’t Fry Day. Like Skin Cancer Awareness Month, which is observed during the entire month of May, its purpose is to generate awareness of skin cancer and the importance of early detection and sun safety.
The American Cancer Society estimates that more than 70,000 new melanomas will be diagnosed in 2015 and almost 10,000 people will die from the disease. While this is less than 2% of skin cancer cases, melanoma will cause the majority of skin cancer-related deaths and is one of the most common cancers in young adults, especially young women. It’s important to remember, though, that most cases of melanoma are caught early, and when treated at early stages, are curable with relatively minor surgery.
What is melanoma?
Melanoma is a cancer that develops from the pigment-producing cells in the skin and other organs (melanocytes). It can lead to serious illness and even death because melanoma has the potential to spread (or metastasize) to other parts of the body. Fortunately, most melanomas arise on the skin where they are easier to see, so patients are often the first to identify their own melanomas.
While most people have at least a few moles (“nevi”), the vast majority of moles present on most of our bodies do not pose any threat of being or becoming melanoma. In fact, melanoma may not occur in a pre-existing mole. Rather, it may appear on previously normal skin. So, what does that mean? Regularly examining your skin from head to toe, including the “hidden places,” is the only way to be sure that your moles are not changing and that there are no new or suspicious moles. Your doctor is your partner in this endeavor, but he or she cannot possibly replace the importance of self-skin examinations.
What should you be looking for?
There are warning signs, commonly known as the “ABCDE’s,” that make a mole more likely to be one that you should be concerned about:
What raises your risk for melanoma?
A person’s risk for developing melanoma is increased by any of the following:
What can you do to lower your risk for melanoma and skin cancer?
Skin cancer prevention and early detection is an important aspect of ensuring the health and vitality of your skin throughout your life. So, on Don’t Fry Day and every day going forward, be sure to slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher, slap on a wide-brimmed hat and wrap on sunglasses.
Sadly, Memorial Day kicks off what’s known as the “100 Deadly Days of Summer.” There are even more cars traveling on our roadways during the summer and unfortunately, even more distracted drivers. The National Safety Council states that for the past six years, the Memorial Day holiday weekend has averaged 11.5% more traffic fatalities than similar non-holiday periods. This is most likely due to increased travel over the holiday.
Teens are especially at risk during the 100 Deadly Days of Summer. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for American teens, and the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day is the absolute deadliest for teenage drivers. Among the top factors thought to lead to teen driving fatalities are driver inexperience, driving at night, distractions in the vehicle such as cell phones and friends, driving at high speeds, not wearing a seat belt and alcohol use. Compared to older drivers, teenage drivers are more likely to engage in distracting behaviors behind the wheel and they are more likely to find these distracting behaviors acceptable. Driving inexperience, coupled with distractions can greatly increase the risk of a deadly car crash.
From Memorial Day to Labor Day in 2012, nearly 1,000 people were killed in automobile crashes involving teen drivers and more than 550 of those killed were teenagers, according to The National Safety Council. One of the biggest reasons for the summer risk increase is that teens might be driving more frequently with more of their friends. According to The National Safety Council, passengers increase the risk of a teen driver having a fatal crash by at least 44%.
The Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy estimates that by the year 2020, traffic injuries will likely be the third leading cause of death and disability worldwide. Distracted driving most certainly does not help. It is a public health problem that affects everyone. The National Safety Council estimates that cell phone-related crashes have increased for the third consecutive year and now account for 27 percent of all crashes.
So before we all get behind the wheel, we need to put our phones away. These tragedies are completely preventable. Distracted drivers are frustrating at their best and deadly at their worst.
From a cultural stand point, a “Do as I Say, Not as I Do” attitude tends to persist among American motorists, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Many of us admit to engaging in the same dangerous behaviors that we criticize as being “unacceptable.” A random sample was taken of 3,896 U.S. residents of driving age (16 and up). Participants were asked questions about threats on the highway, acceptability of behaviors, support for safety legislation, and frequency of engaging in risky driving behaviors. With regards to texting and driving: 80.7% say it is a very serious threat to safety, and 82.9% say it is completely unacceptable; however, more than a third (34.7%) have read a text or email while driving in the past 30 days and more than a quarter (26.6%) has typed one.
Distracted driving is more than just texting. A recent study by the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center tracked 52 high-school-age drivers in North Carolina who agreed to have cameras installed in their cars. It appeared that loud conversations and horseplay between passengers were even more likely than technology to result in a dangerous incident involving a teenage driver.
Keep in mind that the average text takes our eyes of the road for approximately 5 seconds. But, passengers can be a distraction the entire time a teen is driving. We may need to think very carefully about the situations in which we allow our teens in particular to carry passengers. Currently, 43 states restrict newly licensed drivers from having more than one passenger in their vehicle.
For all ages, aggressive driving also tends to be a factor in more than half of all traffic fatalities. Aggressive driving practices include: speeding, racing, tailgating, and failing to observe signs and regulations. And, despite a strong public awareness and understanding of the dangers of aggressive driving, many people are willing to excuse aggressive driving behaviors. According to The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, many admit to engaging in the same dangerous behaviors that they criticize as being “unacceptable”. Of those polled, 45.2% say speeding (10+ mph) on residential streets is a very serious threat, 63% say it is completely unacceptable, but nearly half (46.8%) admit to having done it in the past month.
Here’s another sad fact, South Carolina is now ranked worst in the nation for traffic deaths related to drunk driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. South Carolina rose to number one due to 44% of all state traffic deaths being caused by drunk driving. The national average is 31%.
To help ensure a safe summer, it is recommended that drivers exercise safe driving practices:
*Refrain from all cell phone use behind the wheel.
*Make sure all children are in age-appropriate safety seats. Safe Kids Upstate offers free car seat inspections. Go to www.safekidsupstate.org to schedule an appointment or call (864) 454-1108 for assistance. All children 12 and under should always be secured in the back seat.
*Drive defensively and exercise caution, especially during inclement weather.
*Avoid driving while drowsy.
*Do not drive after drinking. Drunk driving deaths tend to spike during the holidays. If you plan to drink, designate a “non-drinking” driver to drive. Keep in mind that even moderate consumption of alcohol impairs reaction time and driving judgment.
*Buckle up for every trip and buckle up every single time. The National Safety Council estimates that 149 people may survive the Memorial Day holiday weekend because they will be wearing safety belts, and another 107 lives could be saved if all people wore safety belts.
At times, sleeping well can become a challenge, especially for cancer survivors. Some people complain of not being able to fall asleep, while others report waking up during the night unable to return to sleep. The “4-7-8” breathing exercise, also called the relaxing breath, aids in achieving a relaxed and clear state of mind. Stress and anxiety cause adrenaline to course through your blood vessels, your heart to beat at a rapid rate, and your breath to become quick and shallow. Allowing your heart rate to slow down, this breathing technique helps improve sleep by reducing anxiety and stress.
How it works. Simply breathe in through your nose for four seconds, hold your breath for seven seconds, and exhale through your mouth for eight seconds. The studied combination of numbers has a chemical-like effect on your brain, slowing your heart rate. In the beginning you may feel desperate to take another breath or speed up counting. However, if you stick to the numbers and don’t take any breaks, you can literally feel the heart rate slow down, your mind get quieter and your body relax. A calm feeling washes over you like a soothing, relaxing drug.
People who are stressed or anxious are chronically under-breathing, shortly and shallowly, sometimes even unconsciously holding their breath. By extending your inhale to a count of four, you allow yourself to take in more oxygen. The seven-second breath hold allows the oxygen to fully enter your bloodstream. The slow, steady eight-second exhale helps carbon dioxide release from your lungs. The “4-7-8” technique slows your heart rate and increases the oxygen in your bloodstream. It may even make you feel slightly lightheaded, which contributes to the mild sedative-like effect. It will immediately relax your heart, mind and your overall nervous system because you are controlling your breath instead of continuing to breathe short, shallow gasps of air.
How it can work for you. Practicing this technique can provide clinical benefit to you and improve sleep. Not only is it free, it avoids the side effects of sleeping pills. It also works in a number of different situations. In addition to using it to fall asleep, you can use the relaxing breath if you wake up in the middle of the night and have difficulty falling back asleep. You can also use it to relax even when sleep is not the goal. If you are angry or anxious about something and want to calm down, this technique will surely ease your mind.
Mindful breathing practices have been a part of yoga and Eastern wellness modalities for centuries. The most well-known champion of the “4-7-8” breathing technique in the U.S. is Dr. Andrew Weill. Dr. Weill popularized the “4-7-8” technique among integrative medicine practitioners, yogis and those in search of stress reduction and relaxation. We have had great success with the “4-7-8” breathing technique at the GHS Center for Integrative Oncology and Survivorship (CIOS). If you would like to learn more about mindful breathing to sleep, call CIOS at (864) 455-1346.
I recently attended the GHS Minority Health Summit on April 11 and was impressed with the size of the audience and the excellent content of the presentations. The theme of the program was stroke prevention. As a cancer specialist who reminds his patients daily to limit added sugar, I was impressed that limiting added sugar is also critical to reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke. One big take home message of the Minority Health Summit was the need to limit added sugar in our diets. Doing so, however, requires considerable effort, because added sugar is present in most processed foods.
The World Health Organization recently lowered the recommended daily sugar intake to six teaspoons, which corresponds to 25 grams. This amount of sugar contains 100 calories. This is not the sugar naturally present in honey or fruits. These sugars count only for their calorie content, which is usually low. The problem in the American diet is the sugar that is artificially processed and added to foods such as soft drinks, tea, cereals, pastries, cookies, cakes, breads and other processed foods.
One way to reduce added sugar in the diet is to substitute artificial sweeteners such as saccharin, the active ingredient in Sweet’N Low. Like many, I have had some suspicion of artificial sweeteners as a possible cause of cancer. I was pleasantly surprised to recently discover that not only does saccharin not cause cancer, it may have some beneficial anti-cancer properties. The saccharin story dates back to the 1970’s, when studies showed that saccharin causes bladder cancer in laboratory rats. This finding led to a warning label on products containing saccharin. It turns out that rats have unique physiology in their kidneys, making them susceptible to bladder cancer that humans do not have. In the late 1990s, expert groups looked at all the available research on saccharin and determined it is not a human carcinogen. In 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency removed saccharin from its list of hazardous substances and saccharin no longer has a warning label.
The saccharin story gets more interesting with a new study presented in April at the 249th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society. Researchers found a protein called carbonic anhydrase IX drives the growth of aggressive cancers, including those of the breast, lung, liver, kidney, pancreas, and brain. The new study shows that saccharin-based drugs may slow the growth of these cancers by binding to the carbonic anhydrase IX. This is by no means a cure, but it could be a clue for future development of drugs to control cancer.
This information makes me a lot more comfortable with Sweet’N Low and other artificial sweeteners. I believe it is much healthier to sweeten drinks and foods with artificial sweeteners (which are not carcinogens) than it is to use added sugars that are now known to cause cancer as well as heart disease and stroke. I encourage everyone to look at the fine print on food labels, to minimize added sugar in foods and drinks, and to use artificial sweeteners like saccharin where needed.
Regular meditation–it can help decrease anxiety, pain and depression. It works without taking a medication with side effects. It works with your personal daily schedule. It works without financial cost. It sounds too good to be true. So, does it really work? Is it hard to do? How do you know if you are doing it right? I shall try to answer these questions in this post and share some new information.
The type of meditation that I am discussing is called mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR). The practice of MBSR involves sitting quietly (the seated, lotus position is optional) and breathing slowly in and out. While doing this, you are aware of yourself and you pay attention to your thoughts. You keep this sustained attention and focus on the present moment. As thoughts come to mind, you gently set them aside without making judgments. Thinking in the present moment means not worrying about yesterday’s shortcomings or tomorrow’s anxieties. This self-training in “present-focused” awareness is what is meant by “mindfulness.”
Mindfulness-based stress reduction is usually not based on religion. Although many religious traditions practice various forms of meditation, for most people meditation is not a religious practice but an exercise of the mind to improve mental health. A meditation session can last 30-45 minutes or longer. It can run as little as 10 or 20 minutes. It is important, however, to have a regular routine of daily meditation if possible. I recommend that you start with as little as five or 10 minutes a day and work your way up to a greater time as is comfortable for you.
Interestingly, there is good evidence of medical benefits to meditation. A scientific review published online in JAMA Internal Medicine in January showed benefits across a variety of conditions. The researchers studied 47 clinical trials on 3,515 participants that involved meditation, mental and physical health issues, depression, anxiety, stress, insomnia, substance use, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and chronic pain. Smaller studies of meditation in cancer survivors have shown stress reduction and immune function improvement.
You can learn meditation on your own, through a class, or individual meditation training by a professional. A variety of resources exist to help one learn the basics of meditation. Mindfulness for Beginners by Jon Kabat-Zinn is an excellent resource. And, yes, there are apps for that. Classes and individual instruction are available to cancer survivors at the GHS Center for Integrative Oncology and Survivorship (CIOS). The classes are free as part of the GHS Cancer Support Community, they last about two hours each and run weekly for four weeks. To learn more, call at (864) 455-1346.
How do you know if you are “doing it right?” You will know by the sense of peace and relaxation. You will know by the feeling of connectedness to the world around you. You will know by the decrease in anxiety, stress and depression. There is not a “right way” that that will “click,” but there is a present-focused awareness that will feel right and could be life-changing. I recommend MBSR meditation. I think of it as exercise for mental fitness, the same way we undertake physical exercise for physical fitness.
Summer talk about vacations or upcoming weddings and graduations can be hard on caregivers. As caregivers listen to others’ plans to plant a garden or take a trip, feelings of depression and loneliness can arise even though they are content with their decision to stay with a loved one instead. Spring and depression don’t go well together, so caregivers often suffer silently while listening to friends plan or celebrate. Some choose to withdraw from relationships to avoid feelings that are so out of sync.
What can help? Admit your feelings to yourself; consider writing them down in a journal. Talk to a good listener or share in a caregiver support group (see below). If feelings of depression prevent you from taking care of your loved one and yourself, consider seeing a doctor or therapist.
As you do caregiving, take time to enjoy each moment. Instead of focusing on what you can’t do, notice the small gifts you do experience. Consider taking your care receiver outside or to a place you both love. Many people tell me they are more aware of the beauty of a simple flower or bird song more when faced with chronic illnesses and death.
Allow the one you care for to teach you how to enjoy the simple gifts in life like smiles, hugs, songs, and being together. Google “mindfulness” to find tips on how to enjoy each moment more.
Exercise counters depression, so find time to walk, bike, swim…. To find time for self-care, recruit a friend to stay with your loved one while you exercise, keep appointments, get a massage, go to family events or shop. Or call the Family Caregiver Program (Appalachian Council of Governments, 864-242-9733) to apply for a respite grant.
If you miss traveling, consider ways to travel virtually. Just like watching a football game on the TV allows you to see more than someone in the stands, taking a guided video tour of a great destination can be better. Besides avoiding the costs of traveling and jet lag, virtual travel even allow you to visit exotic locations with your care receiver.
If you’re a caregiver’s friend, find ways to include home-bound family in events like weddings. Consider calling them during the festivities or using technology like Skype to let absent family members see and even participate. Send post cards while traveling and afterwards visit loved ones to share trip memories and souvenirs.
Sadness sometimes feels sadder when everyone around you is happy. Allow yourself to feel the sadness and perhaps cry. Then start reminding yourself of what you are grateful for such as time with your care receiver, a comfortable chair, electricity, good neighbors, etc. Gratitude, an antidote to sadness, helps you enjoy now.
Local caregiver support groups:
A caregivers group for people with terminal or chronic illnesses –
First Tuesday of each month at 3 p.m., Cottingham Hospice House, at 390 Koewee School Road, Seneca.
A caregivers group for people with dementia –
Third Friday of each month at 11:30 a.m., Oconee Memorial Hospital, 298 Memorial Drive, Seneca.
Each year on Mother’s Day and for the week that follows, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recognizes National Women’s Health Week. The goal of Women’s Health Week is to encourage and inspire women to make their personal health a priority. Managing stress, getting sufficient sleep, making healthy food choices, and getting regular physical activity are all part of the picture of balanced health for women of all ages. While each of these elements—stress, sleep, nutrition, and exercise—are important and interconnected components of an overall healthy lifestyle, the American College of Sports Medicine cites regular physical activity as the one behavioral choice that can have the most far-reaching consequences in terms of disease prevention and enhanced quality of life. Unfortunately, more than 60 percent of women in the U.S. do not meet the minimum physical activity recommendations necessary to achieve these life-enhancing benefits of exercise, and 25 percent of U.S. women are not exercising at all. Here are a few simple tips to help women pursue the health benefits of a regular and well-balanced exercise regimen.
Aim for 150. The CDC states that adults should get two hours and 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise each week. This sounds like a lot of time, but when you break it down into 150 minutes over a seven day stretch, it’s really not that daunting. This goal is achievable even on your busiest days when you recognize that performing three separate 10-minute bouts can be just as beneficial as performing a single 30-minute exercise session.
Don’t fear the weight rack. Regular strength training improves lean muscle mass, which leads to improved metabolic rate. This means that people who incorporate strength training into their exercise routine will burn more calories during exercise and at rest than people who do not strength train. In addition, strength training can help to improve posture and increase bone density, which becomes increasingly more important for women in later years of life.
Ditch the “all or nothing” mindset. Recognize that there will be days when you don’t feel the greatest. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you should ditch your workout altogether. If you simply cannot fathom lacing up your running shoes or setting foot in the gym, give yourself permission to go for a brisk walk in the neighborhood instead. Something is better than nothing.
Do it because you enjoy it. Otherwise, do something else. Refuse to accept exercise as a form of drudgery. There are so many ways to challenge your body in a fun and healthy way, but not everybody will enjoy every method. Explore your options: walk, jog, swim, kickbox, hike, rollerblade, dance. If you choose a form of exercise and you don’t enjoy it, try something else! Keep exploring until you find something you love enough to stay committed to.
Get an expert opinion. If you are one of the 25 percent who is not currently exercising but you’re ready to begin—good for you! Start off on the right foot by talking to your doctor first. Then, consider joining a fitness center where you’ll have access to certified personal trainers who can help you design an exercise program that is most appropriate for your personal goals.
With the beautiful weather upon us we are sure to see the young and young-at-heart venture outside more to play. The backyard can truly be a fun-filled and exciting place full of wonder and fresh-cut grass. We cannot forget, however, to make sure it’s a safe place as well.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, in 2010, 253,000 people were treated in the United States for lawn mower-related injuries. About 17,000 of those were among children under the age of 19.
The even sadder truth about these injuries is that they are not simple cuts or bruises. You see broken and dislocated bones, deep cuts, missing limbs, burns and eye injuries. And lawn mowers are not the only culprit. Farming equipment and machinery can be extremely dangerous as well if not operated in a safe manner. This is why it is so important to prevent these injuries by following these simple guidelines from the AAP.
Other outdoor safety tips include…
By taking these simple precautions, you can do your part to keep spring and summertime fun and safe for you and the kids!
When a person walks into a fitness center, they usually see all kinds of equipment and it can be overwhelming. One of the most recognizable pieces of fitness equipment that is pretty much synonymous with exercise is the treadmill. When used correctly, it can be a calorie-torching machine that is rather effective in helping anyone attain their desired physique. When used incorrectly it can often lead to overuse injuries, achy joints, distracted exercise and even death.
Treadmills used to be simple and easy to use. However, thanks to technological advancements they now look like moving entertainment centers. With so many options and distractions, it can be easy to lose focus and slip off the moving belt causing minor to serious injury. It’s not all the equipment’s fault though; it can sometimes be the user’s fault that these accidents happen.
Treadmill safety should not be taken for granted; even the most gym savvy users can go down with one misplaced step or by sending text messages on a moving piece of fitness equipment. When using a treadmill, it’s important to start by straddling the belt before selecting a speed. Make sure all your personal items (cell phone, water bottle, IPad, towel, etc.) are placed securely. Also, make sure all cords and attachments are out of the way of your arms or areas where you can get tangled while moving. Start by selecting a speed that is the equivalent of a very slow walk; while keeping your hands on the handrails, place one foot on the moving belt followed by the other. Once you feel secure, you can either keep holding the handrails or let go altogether and get into a more natural walking posture. Next, you can either increase the speed or the incline—or both—to your desired workout intensity.
Be attentive to the signs that your body is giving you throughout your workout. If you’re feeling lightheaded, nauseous, or out of control, slow the treadmill down. Keep your hands firmly on the handrails for support and see if the slower pace makes you feel better. If the symptoms do not subside, it’s best to just stop the treadmill using the emergency stop switch and find the nearest health professional for help. If you’ve been exercising on the treadmill for a long duration, it’s advisable to use a period of time to cool down. The cool down period usually consists of 5-10 minutes of gradually decreasing speeds to the point where the user is walking casually allowing the heart rate to decrease.
Treadmills are not to be feared. They are excellent machines when used properly, but it all comes down to focus when you’re exercising on one. Disconnect from as many distractions as you can and concentrate on the task of operating the machine to aid your exercise regimen. When in doubt, don’t hesitate to ask one of the health professionals in your fitness center to show you how to properly use the equipment.
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