Blog

Healthy New Year’s Resolutions: Think “Glow,” Not “Glitz”

By Maria Jauhar, M.D.

The sparkle of the holiday season is often reflected in our eyes when we turn our attention to New Year’s resolutions. Our enthusiasm is something to value a great deal, because it gets us going. On the other hand, the tradition of New Year’s resolutions can lead to quick-fix attempts and short-term ambitions.

The fact is, the resolutions that work are almost always steady, incremental efforts. No matter whether it’s exercise, diet, or any kind of positive habit formation, it turns out to be more important to do a reasonable amount with relentless regularity, rather than to take on a lot all at once.

Let’s take a look at some of the “usual suspects” that arise when New Year’s resolution time comes around, and see how a steady approach can turn them from daydreams into parts of our lives.

Think Beyond the Top 10

The 10 most common resolutions people make at the turn of the year show an admirable ambition for change. Getting more education, a better job, a new romantic relationship, and so forth. When we look carefully at these ambitions, though, do we focus too much on the outside world, when the answer may well be within ourselves?

The climactic scene in The Wizard of Oz is uncommonly wise. Each of the seekers discovered that they had been carrying the answer around within them through the whole adventurous journey.

Beyond the Top 10 are the changes we make within ourselves. Our beliefs, our habits, and our expectations are the keys. With them, we open the door of actions that lead to achieving what we desire.

The Goal is Balance, Not Perfection

The single greatest defeater of New Year’s resolutions is unreasonable expectations. We tend to want it all, and fast.

Taking steps toward our goal in the outside world is a vital part of turning resolutions into reality. Don’t think how far off a degree might be; enroll in a class. Don’t defeat your career ambitions by inventorying your faults, call friends and tell them you’re considering a new career path, and then ask them what they think. Wherever we look for improving our lives, the great journey begins with a humble step.

Quality of Life Begins with Life Itself

Quitting cigarettes, eating right, and exercising regularly are the three most vital resolutions of all, because without life, we have nothing to improve. And because these new habits take time and encouragement to form, it’s a good idea to surround yourself with support, from family, from friends – and from a professional.

Lining Up a Professional Ally

Ask any college or professional athlete about the first day of training “camp,” and they’ll tell you it starts with a physical exam. Nutritional resolutions are vulnerable to fads when you start without the perspective of a qualified person, one who knows your unique physiology. And research shows that more people succeed at quitting cigarettes when they have support, like medical supervision. So when you’re serious about your new year’s resolutions don’t forget to talk them over with your family physician.

To schedule an appointment with us at Island Family Medical Center, call 912.897.6832 or use our online appointment request form.

 

Watching Your Weight During the Holidays: It Doesn’t Mean Reducing the Fun

By Maria Jauhar, M.D.

Pick a number. Every year we read something new about how many pounds the “average American” gains between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. Six, four, 10, whatever the number is this year, if we ever meet one of those “average Americans,” we would surely like to help.

If it were just a matter of keeping steady on our routines or counting calories, then holding the line on our weight during the holidays wouldn’t be such a problem. The difficulty is that traditions and memories and expectations may be even more powerful than just the attraction of those delicious holiday meals and treats alone.

Yes, when friends and family gather, when we see the decorations or hear the music, compelling signals fire off in our brains and we want to complete the picture by eating the way we did – and he way we could – when we were growing children.

Don’t Let It Add to Stress

Underlying every tip on holding the line during the holidays is the importance of managing and minimizing the stress we often associate with the season. An expression heard among Broadway dancers who must exert enormous energy and yet stay slim and agile is, “don’t eat your feelings.” What we can learn from them is to make friends with ourselves and consider our needs and feelings, too, in the “season of giving.”

So taking a tolerant and understanding view of what we feel is important for minimizing those urges to hold on too long to the bowl of candied popcorn, or take just one more helping of turkey and dressing. Let’s allow ourselves to think clearly about the images and expectations we might feel. Trying to live up to memories might be one of the unkindest pressures we can put on ourselves.

Let’s remember these are celebrations, not competitions.

Maybe Keep a Checklist Handy

We’ve had all our lives to build up these habits and associations with holiday eating, so turning them around or even tempering them might go better with some reminders. Writing down just a handful of reminders to keep with you might be all the encouragement you need.

Scanning five tips for avoiding holiday weight gain, it’s interesting to note that none of them has to do with self-denial. In fact, one of the interesting tips is to take time and pay attention when we decide consciously to enjoy a special holiday dish. This element of conscious permission and enjoyment can be a big help in avoiding binge eating.

After All, It’s a Practical Matter

Another key to success might be just to look at avoiding holiday weight gain as just a practical matter. It doesn’t necessarily have to be taken so seriously.

Simple things we’ve heard before can be our best tools. Don’t go to parties hungry. Pay attention to the size of your portions at holiday meals. Slow down a little and enjoy every bite. Lighten up a little on sauces and dressings. And remember that a great many holiday calories are liquid. Drinks, not food, may be the biggest difference in holiday calorie intake for many of us, so saying, “not for me, thanks,” a bit earlier in the evening can pay big dividends.

And remember, your family physician is standing by you in these days as well as all the others. To schedule an appointment with us at Island Family Medical Center, call 912.897.6832 or use our online appointment request form.

Holiday Stress Reduction: Reclaiming the Rest from the Festive

By Maria Jauhar, M.D.

The last thing we think of, when we see the bustle of preparations, is the idea that a holiday might be meant for rest and restoration. Yet wisdom traditions around the world and through the ages have seen these short days and long nights as a time for paying attention to what’s inside.

Contemplating the true meanings to be found here calls for at least some moments of tranquility. Yes, rest is an important part of the meaning of “holiday,” and it is still achievable, even amidst the other traditions we have layered on it over the course of many years.

It Starts with the Expectations

Recreating a long-ago memory of childhood or family celebrations is frequently a formula for frustration. Many of us strive in vain to bring back our image of perfection based on times that have changed and circumstances that might be vastly different today.

It’s the spirit of those memorable holidays that we want to experience, not the exact arrangements or circumstances, so give yourself some slack. Creating celebrations that work today is the goal.

Just About Everybody Feels It

Anxiety and stress are so commonplace during the holidays that even the Mayo Clinic published some tips for dealing with it. Just knowing you’re not alone and feeling free to mention your feelings to friends can help. The very groups around which holiday observances are based – religious gatherings, community organizations, and social circles – are places to find a reassuring voice of understanding and encouragement.

Judgment is a good feeling to avoid. Judging ourselves or others harshly for not “living up” to the image we hold of the holidays is a burden we can do without. Often there are relatives and friends we see rarely during the year, or even only at the holidays. Accepting that others are feeling holiday strains based on their own life experiences will help us get along with those friends and relatives we don’t see very often.

Take a Break Now and Then

Even a few minutes away from shopping, cooking, cleaning, and errands can make a difference in how good our holidays feel. Yet time away may be the most often overlooked solution. Whatever quiets your mind and slows your breathing can bring you back refreshed, with your happy outlook restored. For some it’s a massage, a meditation, or an exercise class. For others, just gift-wrapping can be a relaxer, with its manual concentration, repetition, and sense of completion.

A Taste of Routine Can Be Refreshing

Abandoning our normal eating, sleeping, and exercise patterns is a big contributor to holiday stress. Doing our best to stay close to the healthy habits that got us to the holidays is one of the best things we can do to see us through them happily.

Staying in touch with your family physician is one of those practices to hold onto. To schedule an appointment with us at Island Family Medical Center, call 912.897.6832 or use our online appointment request form.

Safe Toys and Gifts Month: A Reminder that Parents are the Authorities

By Maria Jauhar, M.D.

December is observed as Safe Toys and Gifts Month to remind us that regulations alone are not enough to ensure our children’s safety in the season of giving.

The National Safety Council and others have succeeded in seeing competent rules enforced for the safety of toys, even toys imported from abroad. But those rules alone don’t complete the picture. The attention of parents and loved ones is required too, to make sure the holiday season is a happy and healthy one.

We Can Be Confident – But Not Overconfident

The Consumer Product Safety Commission has built a systematic initiative for toy safety that requires third-party testing and sets strict standards.

Choosing safe toys still takes thoughtful attention and a little research from the parents to make sure each child is getting gifts that are both safe and suitable. Even dear relatives can’t be expected to know as much as parents about what gift choices fit a child’s interests, skills, and capacities.

Some hazards are obvious, such as sharp edges, and some are not, such as games involving marbles or any other pieces smaller than an inch and three-quarters. The tendency of small children to twist and “taste” their playthings must be considered, so be watchful for parts that can be broken off and swallowed. Deflated or broken balloons should be discarded right away to avoid this same kind of risk. Straps, strings or cords longer than seven inches can become choking hazards too.

When It’s Time for Skill

Gifts that call for the skills we acquire gradually as we grow, such as bikes and even tricycles, call for instruction and protective gear. Yes, most of us grew up without a helmet, but times have changed for the better in some ways. Helmets for riders and protective knee and elbow pads for skaters are some of the good things about the 21st Century. They make great follow-on gifts, too.

Instruction in how to bike, trike, or skate has for generations been a bonding time for parent and child. It’s also a vital step for safety, so let’s not short-change it.

After the Gifts are Opened

Sometimes the danger is not from the toy itself, so Child & Family Services compiled some excellent tips for what to watch out for after gifts are opened.

Plastic wrapping can become dangerous to small children, so it’s a good idea to dispose of plastic immediately, even if leaving the gift-wraps on the floor as we open others is part of holiday color. Battery charging should be a grown-up job because of the tendency of some chargers to heat up.

And with all the care we devote to choosing safe and appropriate gifts for our small children, we can’t forget to take care that their older siblings don’t hand over gifts that weren’t selected for the young ones.

Giving the Care You Want for Your Family

The extra care your family deserves comes naturally. It is the focus of Safe Toys and Gifts Month just because the know-how needs some tuning up when it comes to selecting holiday gifts. That kind of care comes naturally to us, too, and we made it the focus of our practice.

To schedule an appointment with us at Island Family Medical Center, call 912.897.6832 or use our online appointment request form.

Seasonal Tips for Staying Healthy: Make Wellness a Family Tradition

By Maria Jauhar, M.D.

When we are thankful, we like to show it. So, as families and loved ones gather this holiday season – from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day – why not show how much we’re grateful by focusing some of that holiday glow on our health?

When you think of it, the pause that comes with the holidays, the break from routine could be an annual reminder to take care of what’s precious. It’s strange but true that the everyday often crowds out higher priorities. Like teen or young-adult children’s checkups. Or even your own.

Shift Family Health from Defense to Offense

Getting though the holidays without the added pounds, learning to recognize and mange the stress that can come from holiday expectations, staying safe as we travel – all these are important, and we’ll deal with them in greater depth in later blogs.

For now, we’d like to introduce something more unusual. Let’s have the holidays remind us of the proactive practices that can protect our families and loved ones for many years to come.

Put Time and Togetherness to Good Use

Taking small children for regular checkups is part of many household routines. And we put checkups back up on the priority list later in life, when age reminds us we’re not immortal. But a big span in the middle of our lives – our most active, demanding years – may be characterized by letting the checkups slip.

If that’s true of your teens or young-adult children, or even of yourself, why not let Thanksgiving signal that it’s time to get your checkups on the calendar?

To give thanks is one thing. To show thanks is even better.

Not All the Blocking and Tackling is on TV

Let’s not forget the basics as we make our holidays a reminder of how grateful we are for health. Eating well, exercising properly, managing stress and above all quitting cigarettes – these are the blocking and tackling of avoiding preventable illness.

Proper eating and stress management are so important that we’ll talk about them more specifically in upcoming blogs, as the holidays progress. For now, let’s just say it’s not the holiday foods that threaten our weight control. It’s the recipes. For example, turkey and sweet potatoes would make almost anyone’s healthy eating list, but stuffing and brown sugar are just as likely to be things we want to limit. Portion size is another opportunity to touch all the holiday bases without tipping the scales.

What We Do – the Most Important Factor in Good Health

And here’s an important point about preventable illness. Even the greatest threats to our families’ health can be minimized by what we do. Even our risk of heart disease and cancer, where heredity does play a role, can be reduced significantly by healthy habits and regular monitoring from a family physician.

To schedule an appointment with us at Island Family Medical Center, call 912.897.6832 or use our online appointment request form.

The Great American Smokeout: No Step to Health is Greater

By Maria Jauhar, M.D.

For ourselves, a loved one, an organization, a workplace, or even a circle of friends, the greatest step forward, the greatest gift, the greatest service we can do is to stop smoking cigarettes.

Smoking is the most ferocious, merciless threat we face. No type of warfare, no terrorist threat takes so many lives. Hands down, smoking is still the number one cause of premature death in the United States. It is the largest single cause of preventable disease. It damages nearly every organ of the body. And it is an addiction, which means that stopping is not easy.

It Begins with a Single Day

Like the process of smoking cessation itself, the Great American Smokeout began with a single day. In 1970, the residents of Randolph, Massachusetts, were challenged to put down their cigarettes for one day and donate the money saved to a local high school. In 1974, a Don’t Smoke Day was promoted in Monticello, Minnesota. And in 1976, the California division of the American Cancer Society promoted the first Smokeout, prompting nearly one million smokers there to quit for a day.

Now observed each year on the third Thursday of November, the Great American Smokeout is credited with hastening the spread of smoke-free public spaces. The attention and information that resulted from the Smokeout encouraged public officials to adopt regulations that recognize smoking for what it truly is, a serious threat to public health and well-being.

The Hidden Danger of Progress

Complacency may be the next great hurdle in further reducing the danger to our society of smoking. People who can remember “before” are becoming senior citizens. The days when somebody was smoking everywhere you went are not even a memory to the young people most in danger of beginning. As a result, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 3,200 Americans under the age of 18 begin smoking every day. Another 2,100 young adults who have smoked occasionally become daily smokers – every day.

As a result, one in 13 Americans aged 17 or younger will die prematurely from a smoking-related illness if the current rate of smoking continues.

People with Help Do Better

Because smoking is an addiction, quitting is a kind of recovery. So although there are “cold turkey” examples among the acquaintances of many of us, just stopping is not the norm. Smoking cessation for the vast majority of persons takes effort, resources and a bit of outside help.

Research confirms it. According to the American Cancer Society, studies show that people most likely to succeed in quitting cigarettes use two or more of these assists to get the upper hand:

  • Telephone smoking-cessation hotlines
  • Stop-smoking groups
  • Online quit groups
  • Counseling
  • Nicotine replacement products
  • Prescription medicine to lessen cravings
  • Guide books
  • Encouragement and support from friends and family members

Many people succeed after more than one attempt to quit, so it is important to keep trying. Judging ourselves harshly, or accepting “failure,” can lead us down the road of disease and death.

We’d be happy to help. To make a support plan for your own new smoke-free life, schedule an appointment by calling 912.897.6832 or use our online appointment request form.

National Diabetes Education Week: It’s that Important

By Maria Jauhar, M.D.

Since all November is National Diabetes Month, aren’t we overdoing it a bit to designate this week National Diabetes Education Week? Experts on the disease have thought about that and concluded no, this is not overdoing it at all.

The threats from diabetes go from head to foot and from painful to fatal. They range from death by stroke or cardiovascular disease to blindness or chronic pain in the legs and feet.

We’ve written here about the scale of the problem, but maybe some of that bears repeating, too. One in every 11 Americans has diabetes. That rate has tripled since 1980, an epidemic by any reasonable definition.

Education as Medicine

Yet the relentless climb of diabetes rates began to plateau after 2010. The causes of that good news are hard to isolate, but undoubtedly awareness is one of the factors for which we give thanks. So, diabetes education may prove to be among the most efficient and effective treatments for Type 2 diabetes that we have in hand. The American Association of Diabetes Educators has a locator that will help you find out more.

Power to the Patient

Though, yes, heredity plays a role in diabetes, more factors than that are well within our grasp. Sensible exercise, good eating, and monitoring blood sugar levels in our annual or semi-annual checkups put us in a position to avoid Type 2 diabetes in many cases, and to control it if it should arise.

Monitoring – It’s Not Just for Patients Anymore

Staying aware of our blood sugar level and adjusting our eating and activity accordingly is part of a healthy life, even for those of us who have not been diagnosed with diabetes. The onset of the disease is subtle. Healthy people today include glucose levels in their “lab work” for the annual or semi-annual checkup they schedule with their family physician. Paying attention to those readings and discussing them with the doctor just makes sense for all of us in the face of the epidemic diabetes around us.

Learning For Life

Perhaps anyone who is concerned or even interested in getting a life-saving knowledge of diabetes – for one’s self or loved ones – should consider attending one of the personal education classes to which doctors send patients who are at risk, showing signs of pre-diabetes, or who have notched a high glucose reading or two.

The American Diabetes Association’s local program coordinators can direct you to free or low-cost classes that equip diabetics, their families and even people who are becoming concerned about diabetes with what they need to know.

To schedule an appointment with us at Island Family Medical Center for an assessment of your own risk, call 912.897.6832 or use our online appointment request form.

Time to Take Care – And Be Thankful

By Maria Jauhar, M.D.

It’s an interesting coincidence that Thanksgiving and National Healthy Skin Month both take place in November. Though it is the body’s largest organ, the skin seems to go unnoticed. We see it everywhere on ourselves and yet most of us know only a little about the job – or jobs – it is doing. Overlooked, the skin works without thanks, and often without the care that could help keep it healthy.

In addition to defending us from germs and contaminants, protecting and supporting our internal organs, and helping to regulate body temperature, the skin plays a surprising role in nutrition by storing energy and metabolizing it when it is needed. The skin consists of layers and even layers within layers. It is by no means as simple as it looks on the surface.

Returning the Favor

With the skin taking such good care of us, what can we do in return? Thankfully, there are as many ways to care for our skin as there are jobs it is doing for us.

Moisturizing is a good idea to start with, because it’s the one that people might think of first, and at the same time it includes something most likely to be overlooked. You see, moisturizing has to come from within, too. Drinking plenty of water – eight glasses a day – is at least as important as any cream or lotion we might apply. Lotions perform mainly by holding moisture in the skin, and they do little good if there’s no moisture coming up from within to hold. You can feel great about this step because drinking plenty of water makes everything work better, not just the skin!

You can nourish your skin by eating fresh fruits and vegetables, especially vitamin C powerhouses such as oranges, sweet potatoes, berries, and broccoli. Avocados are a source of Vitamin E, great for the skin, and a tasty addition to sandwiches and salads.

Easier On You, Easier On Your Skin

Getting enough sleep and managing stress is good for everything from your skin to your outlook. Yes, stress shows up in skin texture, color, and lines. Sleep refreshes you outside as well as inside. Regular exercise is yet another example of better self-care as better skin care, too.

Need one more reason to stop smoking? Think about your skin. Smoking ages skin prematurely by decreasing blood flow and cutting off oxygen and nutrients. Puffing and squinting make lines around the mouth and eyes, too.

Watchful Care: The Key to Cancer Protection

One in five of us will develop skin cancer, and early detection is vital. Those of us blessed with coastal living have a special challenge because we live even more of our lives outdoors. Limiting exposure to the sun with hats and clothing, and wearing sunscreen year-round, are ideas that thankfully are catching on.

Let’s add to that an annual skin cancer screening. November is a good time for this because skin color usually has paled somewhat since the summer, revealing more easily any irregularities. Thanksgiving can be a fine reminder to get a once-over with the trained eye of our family physician.

To schedule an appointment with us, call 912.897.6832 or use our online appointment request form.

National Women’s Health & Fitness Day: Sharing the Secrets of Living

By Maria Jauhar, M.D.

More than 50,000 American women are expected to take part in local health and fitness events today at more than 500 community resource locations on Wednesday. It’s a focused celebration to do what women always have done for each other – share the secrets of living.

Now in its 15th year, the National Women’s Health & Fitness Day is held every year on the last Wednesday in September. The Health Information and Resource Center established Women’s Day to encourage women to take control of their health, to learn the facts they need to make smart health choices, and to make time for regular physical activity.

Take Control

The giving, nurturing role women generously adopted through history made it easy to sometimes set aside their own well-being. To fully realize one’s own place in the priorities of career, family, and community has taken some tuning-up. It’s not as easy as it sounds to see and claim a woman’s own birthright.

More than any other single goal, National Women’s Health & Fitness Day is designed to raise that awareness and sensitivity through sharing and demonstrating those practices that continue improving the quality, outlook and longevity of women’s lives.

Learn the Facts

What we “always knew” in the last century about women’s health was never what it was cracked up to be. And the facts about it changed somewhat as women took on new challenges over the past 50 years. So there is new knowledge to catch up with. One blunt way to see it is that, as women excelled in career paths men used to dominate, women became more vulnerable to health threats that used to be thought of as mainly the concerns of men. Rates of heart attack and stroke, for example, have joined breast cancer as hazards women take a watchful stance on now.

Make Smart Choices

Many of the most serious threats to women’s health are related to occupations that swing from stressful to sedentary, with no “time for me” in between. Lifestyle plays a part in the top threats to women’s health, and so regular physical activity and smart food choices play a big role in prevention.

Make Time

The importance of taking time for regular physical activity and health awareness is what Women’s Day is all about, so walking events, exercise and sports demonstrations, health screenings, and health information workshops are hosted by community resources ranging from colleges to retirement centers, from health clubs to hospitals – more than 500 of them from coast to coast.

How can you do your part? Invite a friend to join you today on your fitness routine – walk, jog, golf, gym, swim – whatever your thing might be, share it. And if you haven’t had a checkup recently, now may be the time to do so. To schedule an appointment with us, call 912.897.6832 or use our online appointment request form.

National Diabetes Month: How to Avoid an Epidemic

By Maria Jauhar, M.D.

The statistics are staggering. New diabetes cases in the U.S. tripled between 1980 and 2014. In the U.S., one of every 11 people has diabetes. If this were a contagious disease, we would be tracking down the virus or bacteria like a serial killer. In fact, though, the causes of this epidemic expansion of diabetes have their roots in diet, behavior, and the habits of culture.

So, the bad news is that the incidence of diabetes exploded. The good news is that many of the risk factors for getting it are within a person’s power to influence. And the means of treating diabetes, while they call for attention and care, are good and improving.

American Diabetes Month is observed each November to enlist greater awareness in the effort to overcome the disease, spread know-how among those who suffer from it or are threatened by it, and inspire a fitting urgency for preventing, diagnosing and treating diabetes.

Why It’s a Life-or-Death Subject

Diabetes can damage the heart, kidneys, eyes, and nerves, so it threatens not only a person’s quality of life, but also life itself. In Type 2 diabetes, by far the most common kind, the body develops a resistance to insulin, the hormone that puts blood sugars to work. So the level of sugar in the blood rises, but it fails to bring energy to the cells for which it was intended.
Knowing Where You Stand

About 5% of diabetes patients have Type 1 Diabetes, usually detected in children and young adults. People with Type 1 diabetes lack the insulin that gets glucose from the blood stream into the cells where it can help the body do its work. Once diagnosed, insulin therapy and other treatments usually enable these people to live long and well.

Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, develops over time and can go undetected without appropriate testing. Some persons with Type 2 diabetes can control it through diet and exercise, but Type 2 diabetes tends to get worse over time, so eventually medications are often prescribed to maintain a healthy blood glucose level.

Heredity is a factor in diabetes, but even people in high-risk populations can greatly reduce their risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by making healthy eating a habit and building physical activity into their daily plans.

Food Without Fanatics

The diet that nourished people when 80% of Americans worked in farms and factories just stopped making sense when most of us were working at a desk. But tradition plays a role in nutrition, and many of us were slow to adapt. Later, the digital age made even recreation a sedentary, second-hand pursuit for many people. Teens and young-adults especially were struck with this one-two punch.

So, it’s not necessary to become a “health-food nut” to improve your chance against diabetes. Substituting healthy choices where you can, discovering the good taste of foods that might be unfamiliar, and then expanding this base more and more. This is how normal diets are transformed. And it’s well worth the attention and effort to avoid the consequences of Type 2 diabetes.

Exercise Without Obsession

The exercise “boom” and fitness “craze” may have left us at a disadvantage in appreciating the value of just being active. Moderate exercise, within the abilities of most everybody, turns out to accomplish many of the health benefits of even the most advanced programs. Walking, dancing, gardening and doing the active things people have done for generations brings most of the well being that “serious” athletes experience, and without the risks and discouragement that come with competitive goals and unrealistic expectations. The key is to do that moderate exercise regularly.

Ongoing Intelligence

Another thing diabetes has in common with any other serious disease is that awareness is the key to avoiding or overcoming it. Ask your physician when it’s right for you and your family to include blood glucose testing in your regular physical exams. To schedule an appointment with us, call 912.897.6832 or use our online appointment request form.