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.

Cholesterol Awareness Month: Unmasking a Killer

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.

Protect Yourself From Skin Cancer

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.

Preventive Medicine: The Keys to Keeping Healthy

By Maria Jauhar, M.D.

You’ll know you’ve found the right physician when you feel they are helping you become an authority on your own health. Your awareness is the beginning of a life without fear of losing your positive outlook, your independence and your ability to enjoy the things that mean most to you.

Preventive medicine is a partnership between you and a trusted physician, based on understanding your unique health characteristics and on sharing those understandings.

Knowing where you came from.

It’s important to share your family health history with your physician. Heredity isn’t a life sentence; people overcome what they’re born with all the time. But knowing your family health history can give you a lot better idea of what to keep your eye on. In fact, some of the biggest threats to our health – heart disease, cancer, diabetes – all have an hereditary component.

It’s what we do with our heredity that counts.

The choices we make in our own habits, environment and behavior can help change our family history for the better. Exercise, diet, rest, and stress management skills form the rest of our destiny, and they are the health factors we can influence.

Lightening up.

Overall quality of life improves for many people when they lose weight. Our energy, sleep patterns, mood, and stress levels all improve when we find and reach the weight that is right for us.

For as many as one-third of Americans, obesity is a threat to health that brings with it a host of other hazards, including high blood pressure, diabetes, sleep apnea, and cardiovascular disease.

Physician-supervised medical weight loss programs are designed individually for each patient. They take into consideration lifestyle factors and existing conditions to create the most productive path for healthy weight loss. Food has been called the most basic tool in preventive health care, and your physician can help you make a plan that works for you.

Knowing what not to do.

Some lifestyle improvements – like quitting smoking – are obvious. Often, though, they are surprisingly hard to change without help. Your physician could be the key that completes what you need, to make those changes that have been on your mind, but beyond your grasp.

Other health factors to avoid are more subtle and individual. Your physician’s training and perspective can help you discover those do’s and don’ts that apply particularly to you. Annual or semi-annual exams give both you and your physician a strong foundation for knowing what to watch for and how to stay headed in the right direction.

On top of your game.

Preventing disease calls for anticipating what we need to do, because disease is a dynamic process that begins before we are aware of it – unless we take steps to tune up our awareness.

So preventive medicine – teaming up with a physician you trust – can be the beginning of a life that is happier, more bountiful than you might have imagined until now.

Protect Yourself From the Summer Sun

By Maria Jauhar, M.D.

By now, you probably know that exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays can be harmful, resulting in an increased risk of skin cancer and cataracts. What many people don’t know is that the beach – which many of us enjoy – is an especially risky place.

The main source of ultraviolet (UV) rays is the sun, which is magnified when spending time at the ocean, lake, or pool. UV rays are easily reflected off the water and sand, making you particularly susceptible to burning.

But you don’t have to stay inside all summer; there are some steps you can take to limit your exposure to UV rays – and keep in mind that your exposure isn’t just limited to those times you are near or in the water. Sun exposure adds up day after day, and it happens every time you are in the sun.

To protect yourself from UV rays, remember this phrase every time you go outdoors: Slip, slop, slap, and wrap.

  • Slip on a shirt.
  • Slop on sunscreen.
  • Slap on a hat.
  • Wrap on sunglasses to protect the eyes and skin around them.

Here are five other tips that will help protect your skin and eyes.

1. Seek Shade

The best way to limit your exposure to UV light is to avoid being outdoors in direct sunlight too long. UV rays are strongest from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., so limit your time outdoors during this period. Also check the UV Index, which can be found on the Environmental Protection Agency’s website atwww.epa.gov/sunwise/uvindex.html

2. Protect Yourself with Clothing

 When you are out in the sun, wear clothing to cover as much skin as possible. Clothes provide different levels of UV protection. Long-sleeved shirts, long pants, or long skirts cover the most skin and are the most protective. Dark colors generally provide more protection than light colors. A tightly woven fabric protects better than loosely woven clothing. Dry fabric is generally more protective than wet fabric.

Be aware that covering up doesn’t block out all UV rays. If you can see light through a fabric, then UV rays can get through, too.

3. Use Sunscreen

Sunscreen protects your skin from UV rays. However, you should know that sunscreen doesn’t block all UV rays. Even when properly applying and using sunscreen, some UV rays get through, which is why you need to use a variety of sun protection tools.

When buying sunscreen, read the label. Sunscreens with broad spectrum protection (against both UVA and UVB rays) and with sun protection factor (SPF) values of 30 or higher are recommended. And in case you didn’t know it, the SPF number is the level of protection the sunscreen provides against UVB rays, which are the main cause of sunburn. A higher SPF number means more UVB protection (although it says nothing about UVA protection). For example, when using sunscreen with SPF 30, you receive the equivalent of one minute of UVB rays for each 30 minutes you spend in the sun – or two minutes of UVB rays for every hour you spend in the sun. Unfortunately, many people often do not apply enough sunscreen, so their actual protection is less.

Sunscreens labeled with SPFs as high as 100+ are available. Higher numbers do mean more protection, but many people don’t understand the SPF scale. SPF 15 sunscreens filter out about 93% of UVB rays, while SPF 30 sunscreens filter out about 97%, SPF 50 sunscreens about 98%, and SPF 100 about 99%. The higher you go, the smaller the difference becomes. No sunscreen protects you completely.

Sunscreens with an SPF lower than 15 must now include a warning on the label stating that the product has been shown only to help prevent sunburn, not skin cancer or early skin aging.

4. Wear a Hat

 Your ears, eyes, forehead, nose, and scalp are often exposed to intense sun, and these areas require extra protection. A hat with at least a two-inch to three-inch brim all around is a good form of extra protection. A dark, non-reflective underside to the brim can also help lower the amount of UV rays reaching the face from reflective surfaces such as water.

Baseball caps are not recommended, because they only protect the front and top of the head, but not the neck or the ears, where skin cancers commonly develop.

5. Wear UV Sunglasses

 UV-blocking sunglasses are important for protecting the delicate skin around the eyes, as well as the eyes themselves. Research has shown that long hours in the sun without protecting your eyes increase your chances of developing certain eye diseases.

The ideal sunglasses should block 99% to 100% of UVA and UVB rays. Before you buy, check the label to make sure they do. Labels that say “UV absorption up to 400 nm” or “Meets ANSI UV Requirements” mean the glasses block at least 99% of UV rays. Those labeled “cosmetic” block about 70% of UV rays. If there is no label, don’t assume the sunglasses provide any UV protection.

When It Comes to Blood Pressure, Less is More

By Maria Jauhar, M.D.

It is often said that less is more, and when it comes to blood pressure, nothing could be more true. High blood pressure makes your heart work harder than it should have to, and when your heart is on overdrive, your risk of heart disease and stroke goes up, too.

Roughly 67 million U.S. adults – or one in three – have high blood pressure. Many of these people don’t even know they have it, which is why high blood pressure is called the silent killer. But it doesn’t have to be that way. A simple blood pressure check can identify if you are at risk. And because May is National High Blood Pressure Education Month, this is a great time to schedule an appointment with your physician. If family members or friends haven’t had their blood pressure checked recently, then invite them to join you for a checkup.

To schedule an appointment with our practice to have your blood pressure checked, just click this link.

Checking your blood pressure is painless and easy. An instrument called a sphygmomanometer – commonly referred to as a blood pressure cuff – is wrapped around your upper arm and inflated to stop the flow of blood in your artery. The sphygmomanometer provides readings for both systolic pressure and diastolic pressure, which are measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg). Systolic pressure (the top number) is the force on the blood vessel walls when the heart beats and pumps blood out of the heart. Diastolic pressure (the bottom number) is the force that occurs when the heart relaxes in between beats.

If your blood pressure is less than 120 systolic and less than 80 diastolic – or less than 120 over 80m – then your blood pressure is normal. If your systolic blood pressure is between 120 and 139 and your diastolic blood pressure is between 80 and 89, then you have prehypertension. Finally, if your systolic blood pressure is 140 or greater, or your diastolic blood pressure is 90 or greater, then you have is hypertension.

The Pressure Point

Blood pressure naturally falls and rises throughout the day, but when it is consistently too high, then the result is high blood pressure – or hypertension. If your arteries are under too much pressure for too long, then they can fail, which can lead to serious complications, including death. In fact, approximately 1,000 people die each day in the United States because of high blood pressure.

What Is Your Risk?

Over the course of their lifetimes, men and women are about equally likely to develop high blood pressure. Their risks, however, vary at different ages. Men are at higher risk than women before age 65, but women have higher risks at age 65 and older.

According to the 2014 AHA Statistical Update, the percent of U.S. adults with high blood pressure is:

  • Ages 20 to 34: 9.1% of men have high blood pressure; 6.7% of women
  • Ages 35 to 44: 24.4% of men have high blood pressure; 17.6% of women
  • Ages 45 to 54: 37.7% of men have high blood pressure; 37.7% of women
  • Ages 55 to 64: 52.0% of men have high blood pressure; 52.0% of women
  • Ages 65 to 74: 63.9% of men have high blood pressure; 70.8% of women
  • Ages 75+: 72.1% of men have high blood pressure; 80.1% of women

African-American men are disproportionately at risk for high blood pressure. The percent of African-American men aged 20 years and older with high blood pressure is 59.7% compared to 47.0% of white men.

How to Protect Yourself

If you have high blood pressure, here is what you can do to protect yourself:

  • Work with your physician to set a goal to lower your blood pressure and ask for specifics for meeting the goal.
  • If you have been prescribed blood pressure medication, take it as directed.If it is difficult to maintain your medication regimen, then ask your doctor for advice.
  • If you smoke, then quit. And if you don’t smoke, then don’t start.For resources to help you quit smoking, check out the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention’s Quit Smoking website.
  • Limit your sodium intake, as it raised blood pressure in most people.
  • Achieve and maintain a healthy body weight.
  • Participate in 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on most days of the week.
  • Eat a healthy diet that is high in fruits and vegetables and low in sodium, saturated fats, trans fat, and cholesterol.
  • Manage stress.
  • Limit the amount of alcohol you drink (no more than one drink each day for women and two for men).

Resources

Take 5 For Your Kidneys

By Maria Jauhar, M.D.

With March being National Kidney Month, it’s a good time take stock in the health of our kidneys. This vital organ is often overlooked because of the massive public education around heart disease, lung disease, and cancer, but the kidneys are just as important as the other organs. In fact, the kidneys are the body’s chemical factories, filtering waste and performing vital functions that control things like red blood cell production and blood pressure.

Unfortunately, your kidneys do very little to warn you that they are in trouble or failing, and they can be in serious jeopardy yet present little or no physical symptoms. So silent are the kidneys that it is estimated that most of the 26 million American adults who have kidney disease don’t even know they are at risk.

Those who have an increased risk of kidney disease are anyone with high blood pressure, diabetes, or body mass index of 30 or above, or a family history of kidney failure. In addition, if you are age 60 or older, or are African-American, Hispanic, Asian, Pacific Islander, or American Indian, your risk of kidney disease rises even more.

However, you don’t need to display symptoms to be proactive about kidney health. Preventive medicine is available, and it comes in the form of the National Kidney Foundation’s “Take 5 for Your Kidneys” campaign.

Take 5 for Your Kidneys

1. Get Tested. Ask your doctor for an ACR urine test or a GFR blood test annually if you have diabetes, high blood pressure, are over age 60, or have a family history of kidney failure. Any of our family medicine providers can provide this test for you. Just call us at 912-897-6832 or click here to submit an appointment request.

2. Reduce NSAIDs. NSAID stands for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug and represents a class of over-the-counter pain medicines. While NSAIDs may alleviate your aches and pains, too many of them can harm the kidneys – especially if you already have kidney disease. Reduce your regular use of NSAIDs and never go over the recommended dosage.

3. Cut the Processed Foods. Most processed foods are loaded with sodium, nitrates, and phosphates – all of which have been linked to kidney disease, as well as cancer and heart disease. As an alternative to processed foods, try the DASH diet, which has been ranked the best diet for improving health for six years in a row by US News & World Report.

4. Exercise Regularly. Exercise is not only good for your heart, but also your kidneys. Something as simple as a brisk walk 30 minutes a day can help you control blood pressure and lower blood sugar, both of which are vital to good kidney health.

5. Control Blood Pressure and Diabetes. The leading causes of kidney disease and kidney failure are high blood pressure and diabetes. Managing high blood pressure and strict control of blood sugar levels can slow the progression of kidney disease. If you are having trouble managing diabetes or high blood pressure, then speak to your doctor or call us to schedule an appointment. We can help you design a healthy lifestyle management program that will help your kidneys stay healthy for years to come.

Having the Best Defense Against Heart Disease

By Maria Jauhar, MD

With February being American Heart Month, it is a great time to reassess our diet and lifestyle habits – as these are often our best weapons to fight cardiovascular disease. While it is common perception that changing behaviors related to diet and exercise is extremely difficult, in reality, if you take simple steps, you can make permanent changes that will have a positive impact on your heart health.

Here’s where you can begin:

1. Expend 100% of your calories. At a minimum, use up all the calories you consume. This means that you need to know how many calories you should be consuming just to maintain your current weight. While food labels are typically based on a 2,000-calorie diet, your gender, sex, and physical activity may require more or fewer calories. To achieve weight loss, calories out need to exceed calories in.

2. Get physical. Physical activity is anything that makes you move your body and burn calories. This includes things like climbing stairs or playing sports, as well as aerobic exercises such as walking, jogging, swimming or biking. The American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity at least five days per week for a total of 150, or at least 25 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity at least three days per week for a total of 75 minutes, or a combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity. For lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, the AHA recommends an average of 40 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic activity three or four times per week.

3. Mix it up. You may be watching what you eat, but unless you are including all of the food groups in your diet, your body might not be getting the nutrients it needs to be healthy. Your diet should include a variety of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, skinless fish and poultry, nuts and legumes, low-fat dairy products, and non-tropical vegetable oils.

4. Know your limits. Stay away from – or at least limit your consumption of – red meat, beverages sweetened with sugar, trans fats, saturated fats, sodium, and sweets. If eliminating red meat from your diet is all but impossible for you, then make sure you select the leanest cuts available.

5. Drink in moderation. If you drink alcohol, then enjoy no more than two drinks per day if you are a man and one drink per day if you’re a woman.

6. Butt out. In other words, don’t smoke tobacco, don’t chew tobacco, stay away from e-cigarettes, and avoid second-hand smoke.

7. Remember, something is always better than nothing. You don’t have to tackle this entire list at once in order to improve your heart health. Pick one of the suggestions above and start there. Once you are comfortable with the change, add a second suggestion. Keep working through the list until you have incorporated all six of the suggestions into your daily routine. Remember, everyone has to start somewhere. Even if you’ve been sedentary for years, you can make a small change today that leads to big changes in the future.

If you need help getting started, then schedule an appointment with to discuss your needs. Call us at 912-897-6832 or click here for our online appointment request. Here are services we provide that can improve your heart health:

    Medical weight loss programs
    Preventive medicine programs, including various screenings
    Health lifestyle management programs, including smoking cessation, and food and nutrition counseling

5 Tips to Prevent Heart Disease and Stroke

By Maria Jauhar, M.D.

February is American Heart Month, when we work to change behaviors that put us at risk for heart disease – the No. 1 killer in the United States of both men and women. Each year, heart disease claims the lives of nearly 700,000 men and women – about one every 45 seconds.

To help keep you from being a statistic, here are five tips to prevent heart disease and stroke.

1. Know Your Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is called the “the silent killer” because it does not display any symptoms in most people. Also known as hypertension, high blood pressure wears down the inner lining of your blood vessels. The higher your blood pressure, the greater your risk of hypertension.

Healthy individuals have blood pressure lower than 115/70. The larger number is systolic and the smaller number is diastolic. For every increase of 10 mmHg in systolic and 5 mmHg in diastolic, the risk of heart disease doubles. In addition, heredity and increasing age raises your risk of developing hypertension.

2. Know Your Cholesterol

Abnormal or high cholesterol is a major contributor to heart disease. Your cholesterol includes both LDL, which is bad cholesterol (an easy way to remember this is to associate the “L” in LDL with “lousy”), HDL, which is good cholesterol (“H” can be associated with “healthy”), and triglycerides. The lower your “lousy” cholesterol (LDL) and the higher your “healthy” cholesterol (HDL), the lower your risk of cardiovascular disease.

Your cholesterol is determined by three factors. First, your genes play a role. If you come from a family of people with high LDL cholesterol, the greater the likelihood that you will have difficulty controlling your own LDL level. Second, what you eat can also impact your cholesterol. And finally, your cholesterol naturally increases with age.

The ideal ratio of total cholesterol divided by HDL cholesterol is 3.0. If your ratio is higher than 3.0, then you might to manage your diet – but keep in mind that diet alone can only decrease total blood cholesterol by about 10%. If your cholesterol poses a serios at risk, medication is almost always necessary to lower the LDL or to raise your HDL.

3. No Ifs, Ands, or Butts

If you smoke, stop. Cigarette smoking – and exposure to second-hand smoke – increases the risks of heart disease, lung disease, peripheral vascular disease and stroke. If you need help giving up tobacco, then please call us at 912-897-6832 to schedule an appointment to discuss a smoking cessation program that will work for you. Or click this link to schedule an appointment online.

4. Speaking of Butts, Get Off of Yours

Walking two miles a day – or roughly for 30 to 40 minutes – can have a huge impact on warding off cardiovascular disease. While two miles a day seems to be the magic distance, you don’t have to tackled all two miles at once. Studies have shown that two 15- to 20-minute walks a day have as much heart benefit as one 30- to 40-minute trek. Achieving heart health is not the only benefit of exercise; regular exercise is also one of the best treatments for depression and anxiety.

5. Limit Your Calories

There is an obesity epidemic in America, which is resulting to an alarming rise in the number of people with diabetes – which is a form of cardiovascular disease. If you have diabetes, your risk of heart disease is as great as someone who has already had a heart attack. Diet along with exercise can lower your weight, as well as your risk of developing diabetes and hypertension. Most important, stay away from fad diets – as they do not work. And don’t succumb to weight loss scams, which I wrote about in a recent blog, “How to Identify Weight Loss Scams.”

Bonus Tip

If you don’t know your blood pressure, cholesterol, or glucose levels, then maybe it’s time you schedule an appointment to be screened for cardiovascular disease. Just call us at 912-897-6832 to schedule an appointment or click this link to schedule an appointment online. During your appointment, we will discuss your risk factor, address diet and nutrition, and provide you with a smoking cessation plan, if needed.

Protect Yourself From Cervical Cancer

By Maria Jauhar, MD

January is Cervical Cancer Screening Month and Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, and with it comes the message that cervical cancer is preventable. Virtually all cases of cervical cancer are caused by human papillomaviruses (HPVs), and just two HPV types, 16 and 18, are responsible for about 70 percent of all cervical cancer cases. However, protecting yourself is as easy as 1-2-3: vaccinate early, Pap test regularly, and HPV test when recommended.

1. Vaccinate Early

For females between the ages of 9 and 26, the first line of defense against cervical cancer is to get vaccinated to prevent HPV infection. Three vaccines are available – Gardasil, Gardasil 9, and, Cervarix – and each prevents infections with HPV types 16 and 18. Gardasil and Gardasil 9 have secondary benefits in that they prevent infection with HPV types 6 and 11, which cause 90 percent of genital warts. All three vaccines require three injections into muscle tissue administered over a six-month period.

While Gardasil and Gardasil 9 are approved by the FDA for use in females ages 9 through 26, Cervarix is approved for use in females only through 25.

If you need another reason to get vaccinated, then consider this: Not only do these vaccines protect you against cervical cancer, but they also provide partial protection against a few additional HPV types that can cause other types of cancer, a phenomenon called cross-protection.

To schedule your vaccination, call us at 912-897-6832 or click here to submit an appointment request.

2. Pap Test Regularly

While HPV vaccines are your first line of defense, it is still important to undergo regular cervical cancer screening. Why? Because HPV vaccines are not guaranteed to protect against all HPV infections that cause cervical cancer.

The most common cervical cancer screening is the Pap test, which is also called the Pap smear. This test looks for cell changes on the cervix – pre-cancers – that might become cervical cancer if they are not treated appropriately.

The Pap test is recommended for all women between the ages of 21 and 65 years old and can be done in a doctor’s office or clinic. During the Pap test, the doctor will examine the vagina and the cervix, and collect a few cells and mucus from the cervix and the area around it. The cells are then placed on a slide or in a bottle of liquid and sent to a laboratory. The laboratory will check to be sure that the cells are normal.

The only cancer for which the Pap test screens is cervical cancer. It does not screen for ovarian, uterine, vaginal, or vulvar cancers. So even if you have a Pap test regularly, if you notice any signs or symptoms that are unusual for you, see a doctor. If your Pap test results are normal, your doctor may tell you that you can wait three years until your next Pap test.

If you have a low income or do not have health insurance, you may be able to get a free or low-cost Pap test through the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program. Find out if you qualify.

To schedule your Pap test, call us at 912-897-6832 or click here to submit an appointment request.

3. HPV Test When Recommended

The HPV test looks for the human papillomaviruses that can cause cell changes that can become cancerous. If you are at least 30 years old, then your doctor can perform an HPV test and a Pap test at the same time, and the cells collected during the Pap test will also be tested for HPV at the laboratory.

If your test results are normal, your chance of getting cervical cancer in the next few years is very low. Your doctor may then tell you that you can wait as long as five years for your next screening. But you should still go to the doctor regularly for a checkup.

If you are 21 to 65 years old, it is important for you to continue getting a Pap test as directed by your doctor – even if you think you are too old to have a child or are not having sex anymore. If you are older than 65 and have had normal Pap test results for several years, or if you have had your cervix removed as part of a total hysterectomy for non-cancerous conditions, like fibroids, your doctor may tell you that you do not need to have a Pap test anymore.

To learn more about our preventive medicine services, call us at 912-897-6832 or click here to submit an appointment request.