By Maria Jauhar, M.D.
There’s background music playing in the heart of most every parent. We want to provide our children with prosperous, healthy lives. If we can pass it on a little better than we knew it ourselves, so much the better. Our health habits are often overlooked when we consider what to give our children. Yet these may be the most important legacy of all.
Nowadays, it’s rare for a family to keep the same home from generation to generation. People are advised to expect more than one career in a lifetime. Wealth is notoriously vulnerable to outside influences. The things people handed down to their children throughout history are now mostly that – history.
But health and fitness is a distinct exception.
A Day of Celebration
September 24 marks the 20th year of Family Health & Fitness Day. “Our goals for Family Health & Fitness Day are to emphasize the importance and fun of regular physical activity and to encourage families of all ages to take advantage of the many health and fitness programs offered in their communities,” said Pat Henze, FHFD director. Organized by the Health Information Resource Center, it is observed annually on the last Saturday of September.
Most of today’s threats to longevity have a behavioral component. What we do regularly has a lot to do with how long we live. How much we enjoy living stems too from what we focus on, and the building blocks of what we call quality of life are found in what we do every day.
With that in mind, what are we showing our children?
The chance to do better is huge. The Surgeon General’s Report on Physical Activity and Health said children 12 to 21 are not exercising nearly enough.
Rates of childhood obesity and the threats that come with it, including diabetes and high blood pressure, are alarming. By 2012, fully one-third of children and teens were overweight or obese. Over the course of 30 years, obesity doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents. And it strikes at ever-earlier ages. Obesity in children 6 to 11 has gone from 7% to 18% since 1980.
There are many causes, including sedentary interests and fast food, and therefore many solutions including placing parental limits on “screen time,” packing lunches and demonstrating a healthy diet at home. Heredity plays a part, but DNA is not destiny. Most of the causes of childhood obesity can be changed.
The Prescription is Fun
Exercise is one solution with wider benefits than simply working down the checklist of problems. In fact, FUN is the best approach to childhood exercise. Demonstrating and encouraging the delights of games, community parks, walking trails – just getting up and getting outside – is a good place to begin, and begin together. Starting young is a tremendous advantage too, because it’s much more difficult when the age of “cool” sets in.
Your Ally: “Doctor’s Orders”
You can gain focus on your family health and fitness initiatives by beginning with a trip to your family physician. The findings of a physical exam could be just the thing for getting the idea across to children. For adolescents a doctor’s say-so could outweigh the cool factor and get your dialogue going. And if you don’t have a family physician, then we’d like to help. To schedule an appointment with us, call 912.897.6832 or use our online appointment request form.
By Maria Jauhar, M.D.
Cholesterol has been a topic for so long that we might say boredom is part of what makes high-LDL cholesterol such a threat to our health. People have heard warnings in the news, claims from food products and, in recent years, pharmaceutical advertising with vague claims and droning disclaimers for so long that cholesterol has blended into the background of our lives.
And that’s a problem. Because camouflaged in that background, cholesterol is connected to heart attack and stroke, the No. 1 and No. 4 causes of death in the U.S.
It’s a Better Story Than You Think
It doesn’t take much imagination to see that this static hum of cholesterol talk has all the makings of a detective thriller when you look into it. Except that the story ends with the killer still on the loose, and hiding in plain sight.
More than 60 years ago, doctors and public health officials began to remark on a rapid rise in heart attacks, particularly among men barely past middle age. Somehow tens of thousands of people who had survived the Great Depression and World War II were dying suddenly. At work. At play. At home.
In the greatest period of optimism and prosperity our nation had ever seen, many of the men and women who made it possible did not live long enough to enjoy it. Deaths from heart attack shot up 37% from 1950 to 1970 – nearly 200,000 more deaths per year – and continued to rise relentlessly through 1983.
Looking Beyond the Usual Suspects
The pervasive smoking of that day and age was suspected, but no one seemed to want to indict such an intimate friend. Looking for additional factors, researchers became interested in the waxy fat, cholesterol. The body needs it, in some forms and measures, but the tendency for it to build up on artery walls in a form called plaque became suspect.
Autopsies of soldiers who died in combat during the Korean War put cholesterol in the center of the investigation. It was found that American men as young as their early 20s already had substantial plaque buildup in the arteries. The presumption that this was just a natural part of aging began to evaporate.
Many Factors Deep and Stubborn
Heredity plays a part in high cholesterol, yes, but other risk factors are well within our grasp. It’s just that some of them may take effort to change.
Diet is more than nutrition. It is custom, heritage, regional and family identity. So only with respect can we overturn some of the ingredients that contribute significantly to high cholesterol. The good news is that we miss some of those foods and cooking styles a lot less than we think we will. And we can be sure that our relatives and loved ones would much rather have us with them than hear the same old answer to, “Grilled or fried?”
Denial shouldn’t be overlooked as a contributing factor. Many of us don’t like admitting we’ve reached the age of cholesterol awareness, not even to ourselves. But take heart. The CDC suggests beginning cholesterol screening in our 20s! Well, only every five years then, but the good news is we’re not admitting a thing by testing regularly.
Celebrate Life With Awareness
If cholesterol measurements and monitoring are not already part of your regular dialogue with your family physician, make this the month you begin. If you would like to schedule a cholesterol screening with us, then please schedule an appointment by calling 912.897.6832 or use our online appointment request form.
The National Lipid Association, a society of physicians and researchers, has a slogan, “Check yourself before you wreck yourself.” That’s a little harsh for our tastes, but it’s catchy. And let’s be frank. It isn’t any harsher than the truth.
By Maria Jauhar, M.D.
September’s observance of Prostate Cancer Awareness Month is aimed at addressing a terrible mismatch. On the one hand, prostate cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths among U.S. men. Yet the five-year survival rate from early diagnosis is almost 100%. After 10 years, 98% of men survive – if they were diagnosed early.
Clearly awareness is a lifesaver in prostate cancer. And awareness is what this month is all about.
Clearing Up Complexity
Terms like “near-100% survival” seem simple enough, yet controversy persists about whom to screen, how to screen, and when to screen for prostate cancer. Much of the controversy appears to stem from trying to foresee appropriate treatment, rather than focusing first on diagnosis.
It is true that there are many subtypes of prostate cancer. Some are aggressive and lethal. Others are slow-growing and pose little threat to a man’s lifespan, though this conclusion depends on a man’s age at diagnosis. Options range from intervention to active surveillance.
These assessments cannot be made however without discovering the disease, so debates about treatment methods and advisability seem best saved for after diagnosis.
Screening – When and How?
The subject starts to make a lot more sense in an established patient-doctor relationship. It is at the public health, statistical, broad population level that so much debate carries on about what age and what methods are correct for prostate cancer screening.
Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that there is no single answer, because one man in every seven gets prostate cancer. Multiply that by the subtypes of the disease, the age at diagnosis, and the other health characteristics of each patient, and it is no wonder that one-size-fits-all answers are suspect.
The best answer in each case comes from knowledge of the person as well as the disease. So screening and diagnosis might best begin in general practice, before the potential controversy of the specialists’ perspective.
Attention is Energy
With one man in seven getting prostate cancer, and nearly all surviving it if they catch it early, there are lots of prostate cancer “veterans” around. Prostate Cancer Awareness Month is a good time to get some dialog going with this huge resource of first-hand experience. If you haven’t discussed your prostate cancer risks with you physician now is a good time to do so. One-on-one, case-by-case is where the complexity and debate evaporate, and a clear path begins.
And if you don’t have a physician, we’re here to help. To schedule an appointment with us, call 912.897.6832 or use our online appointment request form.
By Maria Jauhar, M.D.
Until recent years we all thought we knew what getting older looked like. After all, we’d seen our older relatives move through stages that most of them had in common. Our overall perception was once encapsulated in the expression, “Getting old is not for sissies.”
Healthy Aging Month was founded to bring another point of view to the attention of a rapidly growing population. It’s not surprising that the influential “Baby Boom” generation now swells the ranks of America’s seniors, but with 82 million “Generation X-ers” joining them at age 50 and above, a huge proportion of society can live better by taking a different view of aging.
Let’s Get Physical – and Social and Financial and Mental
Healthy aging calls for attention to all the key aspects of well-being, from the body to the bank account. So Healthy Aging Month reminds people to pay attention to them all. September was chosen as the month to celebrate because, more than the calendar year, the school year sticks with us as the time to begin learning new skills and insights.
And “new” is a lot of what healthy aging is about. New knowledge, new goals, and new habits can be the foundation for a life we didn’t foresee when our mission was establishing a career, making a home, or rearing a family. One of the delights of this new view of aging is that in many cases the focus can shift in a good way to the self.
Seemingly “Soft Stuff” Counts
Catnaps can reduce the danger of heart disease. People with goals and a sense of drive to achieve them are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s. These findings are research-backed, and they’re just two of the lifestyle tips you can find on the Healthy Aging Magazine website.
Among the magazine’s 10 Tips to Celebrate Healthy Aging Month are some that sound strangely simple, yet contribute a lot to a person’s fresh approach to living.
One of the most unexpected of these tips might be this one. Remember your favorite age or chapter in your life. Picture yourself as that age and feel it. Some of the other tips might remind us of things our parents seemed to harp on. Stand up straight. Smile. Walk like a vibrant, healthy person.
They might have sounded tiresome when we were teenagers, but later in life they can shape for us an approach to living that helps make living worthwhile. Do we stand and walk this way, or carry this facial expression, because we have to? Or is it just a habit we developed as life progressed? With consciousness and desire, we can just as well develop a new and different habit that serves us much better.
Put Professional Coaching On Your Side, Too
Of course, regular medical attention plays a big role in preventing drastic medical attention at any stage of life. This is especially true as we grow older. A firm foundation for this preventative care is to develop a relationship with a family physician who can get to know you overall – at your best and not just when something goes wrong.
And the best time to develop that relationship is before you need it.
By Maria Jauhar, M.D.
So many of us these days see aging as a time of growing freedom. We’ve “tested out” of many of life’s most difficult courses. Our families depend less on us – or at best depend on us for different things. Now we have the time. Do we still have the ability?
This beautiful opportunity calls for a type of planning we might not have needed until now – a strategy for well-being that makes the most of our gifts and manages the aging factors that might restrain us.
Enlisting a physician in your anti-aging strategies makes sense for a host of reasons. A doctor’s knowledge can clear up the fuzzy boundaries between a lifetime of living and a pre-existing condition. Those are assessments best left to a professional.
Uniquely Qualified to Help
Understandably, specialists view you from the perspective of their unique vantage point. Orthopedists, rheumatologists, cardiologists may be just the persons you need when a certain issue reaches the horizon. But a family physician could be your best anti-aging consultant because she is not focused on one solution.
Family medicine can take a whole-body approach that includes preventive elements like diet, stress management, exercise, and other lifestyle-based strategies .
An Especially Efficient Approach
Hormones are part of the body’s own anti-aging process, and as they decline the effects of age show up. Deficiencies can undermine overall health too, impacting sleep, digestion, outlook and even mental processes.
Since hormones signal and regulate many of the body’s essential activities, and since they decline with age in both women and men, hormone replacement has been an effective approach to address the effects of deficiencies and imbalances.
In particular, bio-identical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) has become an important part of anti-aging programs that are unique to each patient. Supplementing and monitoring hormone levels can restore lost energy, impart renewed confidence and improved outlook, and ease the physical impact of growing older.
Hormones That the Body Can Believe
Synthetic hormones have molecular differences the body can sense, and it responds with some of the drawbacks of a foreign substance. That’s why the advance of bio-identical hormone replacement therapy is so important. Bio-identical hormones are derived from natural sources like yams and soy, and they have the same chemical structure as those produced naturally by our bodies.
They fit perfectly into the hormone receptors of your body, so you absorb them more easily, and your body responds without many of the drawbacks that earlier forms of hormone replacement could bring.
These bio-identical hormones can be compounded into forms your body can absorb more easily, too, like creams, gels, pellets and pills.
A talk with your family physician could be the beginning of an anti-aging strategy tailored especially for you. And if that family physician is also a qualified hormone therapist, that talk could put the most effective tools in your hands.
By Maria Jauhar, M.D.
Good health may be the biggest boost we can give our children to help them get the most from the coming school year. No laptop, book, or set of school supplies can do so much to promote a good learning experience as wellness. An excellent attendance record, undistracted attention in class, and the open mind that comes with a positive outlook can all be advantages of scheduling your child’s back-to-school checkup now.
Back to school serves as a great marker for when to give a child all the advantages of a medical once-over. Yes, youth gives certain advantages for health, but think how eventful and demanding a child’s life can be. A lot can change in a short time, so it’s good to have this appraisal built into the family calendar.
The Invisible, Protective Shield
With the advantage of a family physician on your side, the records of your child’s immunizations are handy and accurate. Making sure your child is up to date is not just a good idea; certain immunizations are required by school systems, and your doctor’s office should be familiar with the local standards.
In addition to what may be required, influenza vaccination is recommended for certain age groups and for children with risks for complication from the flu, such as asthma. Vaccination and five-year boosters for diphtheria and tetanus are important to your child’s safety, and again these are examples of the benefits of establishing a relationship with a family physician – who else knows exactly when your last tetanus shot was given?
Homework Already? For the Parents?
There are things you can do before your child’s back-to-school physical that will make the time you spend there more efficient and effective. A checklist of what to bring to that appointment gives a whole new meaning to the idea, “prepared for class.”
Permission and contact forms are required by many schools to be signed by the parent, and in certain instances by the child’s physician. These clear the way for school health personnel to administer medication if a mishap or illness should arise, and they make it clear whom they should contact at home or at work if such a situation occurs.
Some schools require a physician’s endorsement of the permission slip that parents sign to enable their child to take part in athletics, band, or other activities. Make sure you know these school rules and bring the forms to your appointment if they are called for.
If You Are New to The Doctor
If back-to-school is the first appointment with a new physician for your child, make sure you are equipped with the information they’ll need to make a good start. Information on known allergies, records of immunization, prescriptions, and health history will form the foundation for a worthwhile relationship.
It’s important to look at our children’s back-to-school “physical” as an opportunity. With a little preparation it can be one of the most effective “school supplies” we provide for them!
If you would like to schedule a back-to-school checkup for your child, then please schedule an appointment with us by calling 912.897.6832 or use our online appointment request form.
By Maria Jauhar, M.D.
Talk about flying under the radar! Our skin is all over us; it’s the first thing people see. It performs incredible functions that enable us to live, like cooling the body. It is our last line of protection from infection and the environment. Some describe the skin as the largest organ of our body, and it accounts for about 12% to 15% of our body weight.
And, yet, most of our attention to the skin is cosmetic, and focused only on a small portion of the skin’s surface.
Is it any wonder doctors recommend giving it a little more respect – and attention.
What are We Dealing with Here?
The skin has at least two layers. The outer layer or epidermis does most of the protecting, yet it also absorbs nutrients and exchanges heat with the air outside. Even the outer layer is surprisingly complex.
The dermis below is made up of connective tissue that gives skin its flexibility. Having two layers itself, the dermis also contains blood vessels, nerves and glands.
Deeper even than that, the hypodermis – not officially part of the skin, but connected in every way – is a layer of fat that enables the skin to move easily over the parts of the body it contains. It also acts as an energy reserve, putting the fats stored in the body back into circulation when they are needed.
Skin is Smart
The smart thing about the skin is how it balances all these functions, responding to our needs and the environment – even forms new cells to repair injuries – without any conscious instructions from us.
The balance and teamwork of our bodies’ systems, called homeostasis, is enabled in large part by our skin.
What can we do to help?
Paying attention to more than just the skin north of our collars is one thing we can do to take a more active part in the well being that depends on our skin.
For most of us, our skin calls for attention first as we approach puberty. The stress and diet that come with becoming social beings can be managed to some extent. The hormones and heredity, not so much. Gentle cleanliness helps, but maybe the best gift to a teen suffering acne is to understand that it’s not their fault. Getting a doctor’s help is a step worth taking, more often than many of us realize.
As we grow older, consistent watchfulness for signs of skin cancer is a health habit to cultivate, watching for new moles, growths or changes in the appearance of accustomed marks anywhere on the body. This vigilance is a small price to pay for the enjoyment we get from outdoor recreation. Regular skin cancer screenings from a medical professional should become part of our routine, especially after age 35.
For “routine skin care maintenance,” cleaning and moisturizing, most research leads back to the simplest answers. Mild soaps or skin cleansers, and lotions that hold the body’s natural oils where they can do their job, seem to come out at the top of the list, no matter how extensive the exploration or sampling.
Making it part of the conversation.
Perhaps the most important self-care you can give your skin is to bring the topic up at your regular medical checkups. Your family doctor will be an excellent source of support.
If you have skin care issues and need to see a physician, just schedule an appointment with us by calling 912.897.6832 or use our online appointment request form.
By Maria Jauhar, M.D.
As we celebrate kids on their day this week, let’s take a moment to think about our hopes for them, and what that calls us to provide.
The holiday dates back just over 20 years. It is celebrated traditionally on the first Sunday in August, and its theme is about spending more time and paying real attention to kids. Yet it was started by a charitable institution called KidsPeace that goes all the way back to 1882. The founding organization is dedicated to the emotional and physical health of children.
We Want Something Better for the Next Generation
No matter how privileged our own upbringing might have been – or how challenged – it’s a natural goal to want to pass life on a little better than we had it ourselves. The feeling that we are making progress in that direction can be one of life’s greatest satisfactions.
In the U.S., our progress as a society in making life better for kids can be viewed in the bluntest terms by how far we came in infants surviving birth and early childhood. The statistics, such as they are, from pioneer times are shocking, and the upward curve is so steep that we now take that progress for granted.
Much of the improvement has to do with insights into prenatal care and the health of the mother. Victory over many deadly childhood diseases paints the rest of that picture. Yet even today not all expectant mothers, infants, and children have access to this state-of-the-art care.
Taking Care of Our Own
Finding a primary care physician who is interested in the whole family is one way to make sure we are on the right track with our own kids’ health. It’s their job to stay abreast of the advancements in prevention and healing that present themselves, thankfully, at an ever-increasing rate.
Their planning and record keeping are an often-overlooked advantage of not “hopping around” to various doctors for various concerns. A family physician can be the greatest ally of your own awareness in caring for the well being of your kids.
Sharing These Blessings
Many people find it is good practice also to contribute in some way to giving access to healthcare for kids who are less fortunate than their own. It’s a way of giving life to our gratitude. When our own kids are cared for and thriving, that feeling is hard to beat. Yet one step more can be a new insight into satisfying that natural desire to pass things on a little bit better.
It’s not just in schools that our kids share circumstances and influences with those who may be less fortunate. It’s in our whole community, nation and society. That’s an external reason to give. The internal reasons are naturally more personal. Many folks say that expressing their gratitude by giving opens their lives up to an even higher level of happiness.
There are many children’s charities to choose from. The one that founded this holiday can be found at http://www.kidspeace.org.
By Maria Jauhar, M.D.
Our bodies are still designed for strenuous physical work, not sitting behind a steering wheel, a keyboard or a screen. And the food choices we grew up with were inherited from a different era, when outdoor exertion was the norm. So it’s not surprising that millions of people struggle with their weight, and that obesity has been called epidemic.
Diet and exercise are basic solutions, but even together they are not a big enough answer for many of us. Each one of us has a challenge all our own that may well be a little different.
Part Expertise, Part Inspiration
Medical supervision is becoming an important solution for weight loss, partly because of the individual nature of the struggle. Our challenges may be unique, but they can also be isolating if we try to overcome them by ourselves. With a professional on your side you know this is a serious commitment and that you are not in it alone.
Your physician can personalize your plan by knowing your particular health profile, your metabolism and its cycles. And medical professionals measure progress by body composition, not just weight alone. So together you can see your path much more clearly.
Better Tools to the Table
And medical weight loss has more ways to move down that path. Better knowledge of nutrition and how that relates to your own characteristics, knowing the impact of any medications you might be taking, and considering whether medication might safely play a role in reaching you goals – all of these are assets only a professional can provide. Having them on you side could make all the difference in bringing you to a happier, healthier life.
Another Thing Diets Can’t Do
Professionals take a different view of weight loss than commercial programs, because they are focused on your life rather than on a particular product or service. One way this shows up is in the phases of weight loss that many medical professionals observe.
At the beginning of a medical weight loss program the results can show up fairly quickly. The techniques and initiatives that medical professionals implement show up on the bathroom scales in matter of several days.
Over the course of weeks in many cases, a transition phase takes shape. As we approach our healthy weight goals some of the foods we avoided at first can find their way back into our lives – often with better portion control and awareness of how often a dish can be served without derailing the plan.
Finally, a key difference in medical weight loss is the attention professionals pay to making sure these healthy changes are sustained. The maintenance phase of medical weight loss is one of the most valuable differences between this and do-it-yourself or commercial weight loss.
Breaking Away From the Boomerang
Establishing a sustainable weight loss is perhaps one of the greatest advantages of medical supervision. Statistics of returning obesity among people who fight the battle by themselves are not encouraging. In fact, DIY weight losses bounce back more often than not.
If you’ve decided you want the lifelong benefits of maintaining the weight that’s healthy for you, then the advantages of medical weight loss are beyond compare.
If you would like to schedule a medical weight loss consult, then please schedule an appointment with us by calling 912.897.6832 or use our online appointment request form.
By Maria Jauhar, M.D.
One price we pay for the leisure time and activities we enjoy outdoors is to be on the watch for skin cancer. Safer sun habits, knowing what to look for ourselves, and regular skin cancer screenings from a professional – these are practices that might save our lives, and are well worth adding to our self-care routine.
Fashion Sense and Common Sense
Hats have made a comeback among men, and they remain a go-to accessory for women. But with what we know now about the effects of lifetime sun exposure they’re a style worth considering for practical reasons, too. Choosing a great-looking hat and wearing it is a small price to pay for healthier skin and greater skin cancer protection.
Makeup with UV protection is today as good as any cosmetic-only style, and so it too is a fashion finding its way into the daily routine of smart women everywhere.
Saving Our Own Skins
Keeping a watchful eye on our own skins plays a vital role in skin cancer protection. Each type of common skin cancer has some characteristics we can learn to look for.
A visual once-over as part of our daily dressing routine is a big step in the right direction. Serious consequences of skin cancer come most often from not catching it in time.
The Most Important Step: A Regular Professional Screening
Good as it is, there’s a limit to how much protection you can get from self-inspection. Skin cancers don’t always appear with the same characteristics, so it’s hard to know everything to look out for. And some of the most vulnerable parts of our skin are in places we can’t see our selves.
That’s why periodic skin cancer screenings by a physician or medical professional are the key to knowing you have the best protection and preventive care.
In a physician’s screening you can catch early signs of the most common – and the most dangerous – forms of skin cancer. Here’s just a sample of what your doctor is looking for.
1. Basal Cell Cancer: One of the most common skin cancers is basal cell cancer. It affects about three million people annually in the U.S., and the cumulative effects of sun exposure are reflected in the ages of patients, with most cases occurring after age 40. Our basal cells are useful throughout life because they produce new skin cells as old ones die. When they become cancerous, it can appear as a scaly patch or a white, waxy lump, sometimes with a rolled border.
2. Squamous Cell Carcinoma: Squamous cell carcinomas are persistent scaly patches with irregular borders. They sometimes crust and bleed when scraped or bumped. Just as common as basal cell cancer, squamous cell carcinoma is also influenced by too much sun or tanning-lamp exposure, and light-skinned people are at greater risk because skin pigment has a protective effect.
3. Melanoma: A change in an existing mole, or an unusual new growth anywhere on the body, can signal melanoma, considered the most serious form of skin cancer. Spotting melanoma early is so important that professionals have developed “the ABCDE’s” of detecting it: Asymmetry, Border, Color, Diameter, Evolving. Learn more at skincancer.org.
The Importance of a Professional Eye
Though these descriptions of how cancers commonly appear are intended to help encourage self-examination, it’s important to know that skin cancer often doesn’t “follow the rules.” Regular screenings from a medical professional are our best assurance of coming out ahead, and early detection is the key. If you have concerns, please schedule an appointment with us by calling 912.897.6832 or use our online appointment request form.