Heart-Healthy Goals: Small Changes for Big Impact

DFD Heart-Healthy GoalsFebruary is American Heart Month – a month to focus on cardiovascular health as an important part of your daily self-care routine. Embracing heart-healthy goals not only contributes to our overall well-being but sets the stage for a vibrant and fulfilling life. Instead of overwhelming ourselves with drastic changes, let’s explore the power of small adjustments that can lead to a big impact on our heart health.

1. Mindful Eating:
Small Change: Incorporate more colorful fruits and vegetables into your meals.

Instead of drastic diets, focus on adding vibrant, heart-healthy foods to your plate. The natural antioxidants and nutrients in fruits and vegetables contribute to cardiovascular health. Try adding a new fruit or vegetable to your grocery list each week and savor the rainbow of flavors.

2. Move More, Sit Less:
Small Change: Take short breaks to stretch or walk during your workday.

Physical activity doesn’t have to mean hours at the gym. Simple movements throughout the day can make a significant difference. Set a timer to remind yourself to stand up, stretch, or take a short stroll. These breaks not only benefit your heart but also boost energy and focus.

3. Hydration Habits:
Small Change: Replace sugary drinks with water or herbal teas.

Staying hydrated is vital for heart health. Make a small but impactful change by swapping sugary sodas or energy drinks for water or herbal teas. Not only does this contribute to better cardiovascular health, but it also supports overall hydration and helps control calorie intake.

4. Stress Management:
Small Change: Incorporate deep-breathing exercises into your daily routine.

Chronic stress can take a toll on your heart. Combat stress by integrating simple deep-breathing exercises into your routine. Practice mindfulness, meditation, or even a short breathing exercise before bedtime to promote relaxation and support heart health.

5. Prioritize Sleep:
Small Change: Establish a consistent sleep schedule.

Quality sleep is a cornerstone of heart health. Create a calming bedtime ritual, limit screen time before sleep, and aim for the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep each night.

6. Connect with Others:
Small Change: Schedule regular social activities.

Cultivating meaningful connections is beneficial for heart health. Whether it’s a virtual coffee chat, a walk with a friend, or a family game night, prioritize social interactions. These moments contribute not only to emotional well-being but also to a healthier heart.

In the journey to a heart-healthy lifestyle, small changes can lead to significant and lasting results. By incorporating these manageable adjustments into your daily routine, you set the foundation for a heart-healthy year ahead. Remember, it’s the consistency of these small changes that makes them powerful. Embrace the journey, celebrate progress, and your heart-healthy goals will have a lasting impact.

Colon Cancer Is on the Rise in Young Adults

You might believe that colon cancer is only a problem for older adults—but you’d be wrong. Colorectal cancer cases (which includes both colon and rectal cancers) in Americans under the age of 50 have increased by about 50% in the last thirty years, including new cases in people who are only in their 20s and 30s. Learn what you need to know to safe at any age from this serious disease. 

Why Are Younger People Getting Colon Cancer? 

Cases of younger people with colorectal cancer are on the rise. Researchers point to a variety of possible explanations. Most agree that our diet is one of the likely causes. People whose diets are high in sugary drinks, processed foods, and red meat—foods Americans are eating more and more of—have an increased likelihood of developing colon and rectal cancers. They’re also more likely to have a recurrence of cancer or to die from it, compared to people who eat lots of fresh and minimally processed foods. 

How Can I Protect Myself from Colorectal Cancer?

Know the symptoms. Early symptoms of colorectal cancer include blood in your stool, a change in bowel habits, weight loss for no known reason, feeling bloated or fullness, lower stomach cramping, and fatigue. Report any of these symptoms to your primary care provider. 

Early screening saves lives. While colorectal cancer is expected to be diagnosed 153,020 times and cause 52,550 deaths in 2023, when it’s detected early, it’s very treatable. This, coupled with the fact that many people with colon cancer experience no symptoms in the early stage of the disease, makes early, regular screening a lifesaver. According to the American Cancer Society, adults should begin screening at age 45. If you have a family history of colorectal cancer or polyps, let your health care provider know. 

Eat healthy foods and move your body. More than half of all colorectal cancers are linked to risk factors that you have control over. That’s good news! Eating a healthy diet, including plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains; not smoking or using tobacco products; being physically active; maintaining a healthy weight; and limiting or eliminating alcohol from your diet may protect you from colon and rectal cancers.

Do I Have to Have a Colonoscopy? 

There are multiple choices for preventative screenings for colon cancer, including a colonoscopy, a sigmoidoscopy, or stool-based tests, such as the fecal-immunochemical test (FIT) or stool DNA test, both of which can be done at home. If you’re age 45 and at average risk with no symptoms, you can typically pick whichever screening method is most convenient for you. If you’re at higher risk due to family history or other risk factors, a colonoscopy will likely be recommended, and you may be advised to begin screening earlier. Speak with your primary care provider about which screening is best for you and at what age you should begin. 

A New Year: New Ways to Achieve the Life You Want

Every year when the countdown to the new year begins, people around the world start the time-honored tradition of making New Year’s resolutions. Gym memberships rises, new hobbies abound, habits are upended. While we, of course, support making healthy goals a reality, a personal resolution might not be the best method to actually achieve a goal.

Less than 10% of people stick to their New Year’s resolutions. We strive to be healthier, better versions of ourselves—an admirable aim—but with that track record, we might be better off looking at options beyond resolutions, which can lead to longer-term success, increased happiness, and improved mental wellness. Better results … better lives.

What Works Better than a New Year’s Resolution?

Rather than plunk all your hopes into a New Year’s resolution, consider crafting a New Year’s goal instead. Resolutions are the big ideas—lose weight, get healthy, learn a new skill. Goals, on the other hand, are how you get to the improvement: the steps you take on your journey to a better life.

How Do I Stick with my Goal?

To increase the likelihood your New Year’s resolution will last past the first month of the year, make your resolution a goal, and make that goal SMART. SMART goals are:
• Specific
• Measurable
• Achievable
• Relevant
• Time-bound

Using these criteria to guide your goal-setting helps make your goal clear and reachable. For more on how to create a health goal, look here.

New Ways to Celebrate the New Year

If you’re searching for how to honor the new year with a new tradition and you’re not interested in a new goal, consider writing a Look-Forward List, developing a self-reflection practice, or composing a letter to yourself. These three rituals can help you on your path to a better life and they don’t come with the pressure and failure rate that New Year’s resolutions have.

Look-Forward List

To increase your happiness, spend time savoring the anticipation of an experience. You might very well find that you enjoy life more by looking forward to life! Positive psychology research reveals it’s healthy to contemplate good times ahead, and it actually makes living in the present considerably easier. (Likewise, those who suffer from depression often experience a loss of positive anticipation.)

To fully embrace anticipation, take time as the New Year’s ball drops to write a list of what you’re looking forward to in the new year. What’s happening in the coming twelve months that you’re excited about? Big or small, include it all.

Reflect Back on the Year

January 1st is symbolically a new start. For many people, the big, bold resolutions they set cause undue anxiety. Instead, why not slow life down a notch? Rather than look ahead, look back. Consider what the past year has meant to you, pick up a pen, and reflect on questions such as:

  • How do I feel about the past year?
  • What matters most to me?
  • How do I want to be remembered?
  • What habits do I have and what habits do I want?
  • What are my strengths?

A review of the previous year helps to develop meaning and purpose in our lives. Meaning, or serving something larger than yourself, is a strong motivating factor. Connect with your core values, and let your goals naturally flow from your larger purpose. This gives you lasting motivation to power through the struggles you may experience as you work toward your goal.

Write Yourself a Letter

To combine self-reflection and anticipating experiences, consider a new New Year’s tradition: write yourself a letter on December 31. Go over how the year has been and what you wish for the coming year. Then, next year on January 1, open the letter you wrote yourself a year ago. This ritual gives you a chance to look back and reflect on how your life is going so far. By putting what we want into words and seeing it in concrete form, addressed to ourselves, we connect with our larger purpose and develop meaning in our lives—major sources of happiness, mental well-being, and ultimately a successful life.

Supporting Maine Farms: Healthy for You, Healthy for Our Community

Fresh, unprocessed, whole foods are great sources of vitamins, minerals, and other beneficial nutrients your body needs—think vegetables straight from the garden, hand-picked fruit, and locally raised meat and dairy products. Fortunately in Maine, there are many ways you access fresh, local food to incorporate into your diet that’s not only healthy for you, but healthy for our local community.

Ways to Find Fresh, Local Food in Maine

Community-supported agriculture (CSA) is a system in which a farmer offers shares of their harvest in exchange for money at the beginning of the season, either paid in full or through partial payments. This model helps the farmer pay for early expenses while ensuring the CSA member has food at regular intervals (usually weekly). Many CSA farms offer vegetables and fruits, while some offer meat, dairy, eggs, grains, and more.

Find a CSA farm close to you.

Farmers markets are fun venues to socialize and find a ready supply of healthy, fresh food and Maine-made goods—especially in the spring and summer, when farm-fresh produce is in abundance.

In the early summer months of Maine, expect to find produce such as strawberries, salad greens, spring onions, zucchini, beets, cooking greens, broccoli, summer squash, sugar snap peas, snow peas, scallions, carrots, cucumbers, garlic scapes, fresh herbs, kohlrabi, radishes, salad turnips, microgreens, and fennel. Later in July, you can add blueberries and raspberries to that list, as well as corn, French beans, and new potatoes.

Find a farmers market near you.

Most farmers markets accept cash, local checks, credit cards, and SNAP/EBT funds, with the latter two options usually operating from a booth near the entrance. It’s simple and discreet to use SNAP/EBT funds at the farmers market, and many markets offer special bonuses to SNAP customers, such as Maine Harvest Bucks, that stretch SNAP dollars further. SNAP benefits and Maine Harvest Bucks can also be applied to a CSA share in many cases.

Low-income seniors may be eligible to participate in the Maine Senior FarmShare Program. Through this program, older adults receive fresh, local produce at no cost directly from local Maine farmers during the growing season.

Local Food: Healthy for You

You may have heard the advice to “eat the rainbow”—an easy-to-remember way to incorporate a wide variety of vegetables and fruit in your diet. By shopping at a farmers market or participating in a CSA share, you will naturally find a wide array of diverse offerings.

Have you ever tried eating kohlrabi? If garlic scapes come in your CSA box, what will you make with them? You may try something new—and like it! The many types of fruits and vegetables you’ll encounter will contribute to keeping you in good health by ensuring you are getting an assortment of vital nutrients and vitamins from local, fresh sources, and the newness keeps your diet interesting and your mind churning.

Choosing in-season produce from local farms assures you are getting the best nutrition for your dollar. Fruits and vegetables lose their nutritional value over time, so the sooner it’s eaten after it’s picked, the more nutrients can be gained. Local produce generally lasts longer in your fridge because it’s picked and sold promptly, compared to produce from away, which often travels more than a week before it reaches grocery store shelves—where it may sit even longer. Fresh fruits and vegetables also have a higher water content, making it a good source for hydration—which can particularly be an issue in hot summer weather.

Eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables is a substantial step forward for your health and wellbeing.

  • Fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants, compounds that help fight free radicals, which are unstable molecules that can cause damage to your body’s cells
  • Plant foods like vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, and legumes can reduce your risk for diseases like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes; reduce your triglyceride levels; reduce blood sugar levels in people who have or are at risk for diabetes; increase your energy level; and promote gut health

Fresh, local fruits and veggies taste better. You’ll find more flavor, more complex notes in each bite. If you’re used to prepackaged meals and processed foods, it may take a short while for your taste buds to adjust. But once they do, processed food simply cannot compare in taste to what’s on offer at the farmers market.

A balanced diet heavy in fruits and veggies is high in fiber, which provides many positive health effects, including boosting digestive function, metabolic health, and feeling satiated. It’s good for your skin and it’s low in sugar. (Yes, fruit contains sugar, but it’s also high in water and fiber—not to mention other nutrients—so it is healthier than soda, juice, and processed foods.)

Local Food: Healthy for Our Community

Selecting local produce not only contributes to your health, but our community’s health as well. By shopping at the farmers market or belonging to a CSA, you are supporting local farms and businesses and keeping more dollars in our local community. This mutual exchange provides for a more vibrant local economy and a lasting economic impact in Maine.

Supporting local farms also means a smaller carbon footprint. The choice to eat local is a sustainable choice, because food is not trucked across the country or flown overseas before it reaches your plate. This reduction in energy needs helps our planet and our community all at once.

In addition to stopping by the farmers market or signing up for a CSA share, you may want to explore Maine farms and get to know your local farmer. Every summer, farmers from around the state participate in Maine’s Open Farm Day, welcoming visitors to learn more about their farms and to meet the farmers (and animals!). MOFGA’s Common Ground Country Fair is also a popular event full of local vendors, speakers and performances on all things agriculture.

Browntail Moths

Browntail moths are an invasive species in Maine that not only defoliate trees—they can cause a painful, poison-ivy like rash and respiratory issues in humans. If you’re unfortunate enough to come in airborne or direct contact with toxic hairs from the browntail moth caterpillar’s body, chances are you’re looking for relief.

Here’s what you need to know about browntail moths and two over-the-counter formulas that may help soothe the painful, itchy rash they cause.

What are Browntail Moths

Browntail moths are insects that are primarily found on Cape Cod and the coast of Maine, although they are moving more inland each year.

The caterpillar form of the moth begins emerging from overwintering nests in April to feed off budding foliage and will pupate to full grown moths by July. During this time the caterpillars shed their skin, dropping microscopic toxin-filled hairs into the environment. The hairs are barbed and get into the grass, leaves, trees, on outdoor equipment, in the air and even on your pet’s fur. While they don’t seem to cause any harm to pets, coming in contact with even a few of these toxic hairs can cause a severely painful, itchy, poison-ivy like rash and respiratory issues in humans. The rash can last from a few hours to several weeks.

Toxic hairs from the browntail moth can remain toxic for up to three years. Wind or other outdoor activities such as raking, mowing, or gardening can stir up the hairs and lead to a reaction.

How to Avoid Exposure to Browntail Moths

The rash and respiratory issues are a result of airborne or direct contact with toxic hairs from the browntail moth caterpillar. Humans have a chemical reaction to both the toxin in the hairs and physical irritation from the barbed hairs.

Here’s what you can do to reduce risk of a rash or respiratory issue:

  • Avoid infested areas
  • Cover up any exposed skin when outdoors
  • Do yard work on wet days to mitigate agitation of any hairs in foliage debrisDry laundry inside in June and July to avoid hairs getting on clothing
  • Take a cool shower and change (and wash) clothes after activities that may have put you in contact with the hairs
  • Use tape or a lint roller on your pet’s fur and your clothes to remove embedded hairs

How to Soothe Browntail Moth Rashes

Unfortunately, there is no antidote for exposure to the toxins, but there are several things you can do to relieve and soothe symptoms.

For a mild rash, take a cool bath with baking soda and apply calamine lotion, antihistamine cream or hydrocortisone cream topically to the irritated areas. For added relief, try putting the creams in the refrigerator before application.

Alternatively, the following over-the-counter formulas* can be easily made at home with ingredients from your local drugstore.

OTC Lotion

Combine equal parts of the following creams:

  • hydrocortisone 1% (Cortizone 10)
  • diphenhydramine hydrochloride 2% and zinc acetate 0.1% (e.g. Extra Strength Benadryl),
  • lidocaine 4% (Aspercreme)

OTC Spray

In a spray bottle, combine equal parts of the following cremes and fill the rest of the bottle with witch hazel.

  • hydrocortisone 1% (Cortizone 10)
  • diphenhydramine hydrochloride 2% and zinc acetate 0.1% (extra-strength Benadryl),
  • lidocaine 4% (Aspercreme)
  • witch hazel

If pain continues without relief, or you have trouble breathing, swallowing, or have swelling of the face or throat, contact your healthcare provider.

 

 

*provided by Coastal Pharmacy + Wellness

Keep Moving!

A Guide to Aging and Exercise


Think that exercise is only a young person’s game? It’s not! People of all ages should be participating in regular exercise. It’s essential for maintaining our physical, mental, and emotional health as well as preventing injury, illness and disease.

Can I exercise as I get older?

Yes! You can absolutely exercise as you get older and we encourage it. If you’ve been sedentary for a while and are looking to restart an exercise routine, it’s important to start small and start where you are. Exercise goals are just that, goals, and they take time, patience and commitment.

What exercise activities should I be doing?

Generally, people of all ages need a combination of strength training, moderate-intensity aerobic movement and regular stretching.

Strength training is described as movement that makes your muscles work harder than usual such as bodyweight training and weightlifting. Moderate-intensity aerobic movement is exercise that gets your heart beating faster such as brisk walking, jogging or swimming. And don’t forget to stretch! They can be simple stretches or even yoga and pilates programs.

How often should I exercise?

Great question! How often you exercise will be dependent on your current physical fitness and personal medical situation. It’s always recommended to discuss your fitness goals with your healthcare provider before you start a new exercise program or activity.

If you’re currently moderately active, the general guideline is to aim for strength training at least twice per week in addition to 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise. Stretching should be done every single day, but especially before and after physical activity.

What are the benefits of exercising as I get older?

There are so many benefits to exercising while you age! Benefits will depend on your individual physical and medical situation, but these are some common benefits to look forward to:

Physical Benefits

  • Increases muscle strength and bone density
  • Improves balance, mobility and dexterity
  • Maintains a healthy weight
  • Reduces hypertension
  • Lowers risk for diabetes, heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis and more

Mental Benefits

  • Independence, less reliance on others
  • Improves cognitive function and memory
  • Promotes quality sleep

Emotional Benefits

  • Improves social engagement
  • Boosts your mood, energy and outlook on life
  • Decreases stress, anxiety and depression


For ideas on strength training, stretching and aerobic exercise, we recommend speaking with your provider. Because each person is different and has different healthcare needs, ask your provider which exercises are safe and effective for you.

To Our Patients

As you know, the past eighteen months have brought unprecedented challenges – for all of us.

We recognize your frustration. We are frustrated too. But now more than ever we need to work together, to be kind to one another, and to remember that we are all in this together.

Like so many healthcare organizations throughout our state, we are experiencing extreme staffing shortages. It’s then coupled with an ongoing, and still raging, pandemic that requires additional time for patient screening, immense provider resources, and staff isolation after exposures. As you can imagine, COVID-19 makes a staffing shortage worse at a time when patient volume is increasing exponentially.

It’s why you may be placed on hold when you call or wait a day for us to get back to you. It’s why we recommend calling a few days earlier for a prescription refill or suggest that you call in the mid-afternoon when our phone lines are less busy. It’s why you may have to wait a little longer for certain preventative services or to schedule a routine follow up with your provider. It’s why your appointment might be cancelled if your provider becomes ill or has to quarantine due to COVID exposure.

It’s why we’re writing to you today – to ask for your patience and understanding.

On top of all this, our phone system is a problem. We’ve heard you, and we are working on it. Engineers from our phone carrier and IT department are working on improvements to system performance and our call-tree structure to help reduce delays in calls getting through.

We know how frustrating this is but ultimately, it is not our staff’s fault. They are working tirelessly, and we would like to humbly ask that you keep this in mind and approach our people with kindness and understanding. A friendly smile or a kind word would go a long way.

Most importantly, we want you to know that we are working very hard every day to take care of all of your medical needs. It is not only our mission but our greatest honor and privilege to serve each one of you.

Thank you for your patience and understanding as we continue to navigate this unprecedentedly difficult time.

– DFD Russell Medical Center Leadership Team

Managing Diabetes During the Holidays

November is Diabetes Awareness month and an important time to talk about healthier food choices. During this holiday season, you can manage your diabetes while enjoying your family, friends and festivities.

What is Diabetes?

At its very basic, diabetes is a chronic disease where your body’s blood glucose is too high. When blood sugar increases, your pancreas releases insulin to manage the excess sugar. For those living with diabetes, their body either doesn’t produce enough insulin or can’t use the insulin as well as it should. For more information on the types of diabetes, check out our blog here.

How can I manage my diabetes during the holidays?

We all celebrate the holiday season in different ways, but it is likely that we all celebrate with food! To enjoy this time without overextending yourself, try to follow some of these tips:

  • Avoid or limit alcohol. If you have a drink, enjoy it with food to help balance blood sugar levels.
  • Consider carbs. If you want to have dessert, be careful with how many carbs you eat before the sweets such as bread, stuffing, and potatoes.
  • Don’t skip meals. Also, try to eat at the same times every day.
  • And don’t skip your favorites! ’Tis the season for family recipes and seasonal favorites. Have a slice of pumpkin pie or glass of eggnog and savor it! As long as you are mindful about the other food choices you’ve made throughout the day.
  • Keep exercising.Walks, stretching, and simple workouts approved by your doctor can help manage stress as well as your mood.
  • Prioritize sleep. The holidays can be both enjoyable and exhausting. When the body doesn’t rest properly, it has a harder time managing blood sugar.

Simple Swaps to Manage Blood Sugar

Just because you’re living with diabetes, doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy delicious, rich foods! However, you do need to be deliberate with your food choices. For those moments where you may want a healthier option, try one of the healthier swaps below.

Swap:

Chips and Dip for Veggies and Hummus

You’ll get at least one serving of vegetables and some protein from the hummus. Protein aids in regulating your blood sugar.

Mashed Potatoes for Mashed Cauliflower

You’ll get another serving of low-carb vegetables—just be sure to watch added butter or cream.

Marshmallow Sweet Potatoes for Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are loaded with vitamins and beta-carotene and are sweet enough without added sugar.

Green Bean Casserole for Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Rich in fiber, Brussels sprouts are a better option than the creamy, salty, deep-fried onion casserole.

Fried Turkey for Roasted Turkey

Deep-fried turkeys are trending, but they’re very heavy in fat. Keep your proteins as lean and clean as possible and opt for lean poultry or healthy fat filled fish such as salmon.

Pecan Pie for Pumpkin Pie

Still sweet and filled with festive spices, pumpkin pie has less sugar, less fat and more vitamins from the pumpkin puree.

One in three Americans do not know that they have diabetes.

Diabetes is a chronic disease that may have been present at birth, developed during adulthood or during pregnancy. It should be carefully monitored and managed as it could lead to injury or further illness if mismanaged.
If you think you may have diabetes or need help in managing your diabetes diagnosis, DFD is here to help. Reach out to your primary healthcare provider to discuss your options.

Take Control of Your Breast Health

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and a prime time to take your health into your own hands! No matter what your age is, you can take steps to lower your breast cancer risk and improve your overall health.

Healthy Habits at Every Age

The following recommendations should be considered no matter your age or gender.

  • Limit alcohol to one drink per day.
  • Prioritize proper rest and stress management.
  • Quit smoking for good.
  • Aim for 160 minutes per week of moderate-high intensity exercise. Consult your physician before starting a new workout program or routine.
  • Move and stretch your body daily. This includes walking, stretching and yoga.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet with plenty of vegetables and fruits.

A woman’s risk of breast cancer doubles if she has a mother, sister or daughter who has been diagnosed.

What Are the Risk Factors for Breast Cancer?

Preventative measures, such as following a healthy lifestyle and getting regular screenings, can dramatically decrease your odds of breast cancer and other illnesses. Awareness and education are essential. Consider the following risk factors:

  • Smoking or using drugs
  • Drinking alcohol to excess
  • Taking birth control pills
  • Family history of breast cancer
  • Women who don’t have children or have them after age 30
  • Women who have their first period before age 12
  • Women who start menopause later in life or who take hormonal drugs during menopause for longer than five years.


If you need help managing any of the risk factors above, contact your primary care provider to discuss your options.

Nearly 85% of breast cancer cases occur in women with no family history of breast cancer.

How often should I get screenings?

Screenings and other diagnostic tests will vary depending on your age, health condition and family history. However, you should absolutely visit your doctor annually for a physical exam and ask them what actions you can do for your breast health.

Additionally, it’s recommended that every woman perform a self-breast exam each month. Your breasts go through numerous changes throughout the month depending on hormones, stress, lifestyle and pregnancy. Get familiar with your breasts by performing a self exam the same time each month.

Check for texture and size changes on both breasts by:

  • Standing in front of a mirror, arms down and then arms raised.
  • Standing with arms raised, applying pressure with three fingers to breast and armpit area, side to side, top to bottom, and in a circular motion. Be sure to repeat on the other side.
  • Lying down on your back, one arm raised. Repeat the same motions mentioned above, feeling for any changes. Repeat on the other side.

If you notice any changes in contour, swelling, dimpling, puckering, or changes in nipples, contact your healthcare provider right away.


Takeaway:

Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women in the United States and globally. Thankfully, actions such as preventative care, screenings, and lifestyle changes help to lower risk and detect any changes early on.

If you have not had a mammogram and are over age 40, contact your healthcare provider to schedule an exam. Your provider can also help you decide what changes you can make to your lifestyle that may decrease your risk of illness, including breast cancer.

How to Prevent and Identify Head Lice

Hooray, it’s back to school season! Your children may have attended in-person classes the past year or this may be their first time returning to the classroom at all. Either way, back together in school unfortunately means one unwelcome nuisance has the potential to show up too—head lice. Know the causes, signs, and how to treat an infestation so your child won’t miss out on any more in-person learning.

What are lice?

Lice are small parasites spread by close human to human contact. They are brown in color and are the approximate size of a sesame seed. Lice are highly contagious nuisance and can cause severe discomfort among children and adults.

The most reported symptoms are:

  • Relentless itching
  • A tickling or crawling feeling on your head, hair or body
  • Red bumps and/or sores that develop from scratching
  • Irritability and/or difficulty sleeping

 

Where can I contract lice?

Lice can be found in your hair or on your body. All lice are spread from being in close contact with another person who is infected. Be cautious in these situations:

  • At schools, daycares, playdates
  • During sports practices/games, other activities with close contact
  • Sharing clothing such as hats and jackets
  • Sharing hairbrushes, hair clips/ties, headbands, etc.

How do I know if I (or my children) have lice?

If you’re suffering from uncomfortable itchiness, it could be caused by skin conditions such as dandruff, eczema, allergies, or reactions to certain skin products. However, it may be best to check for lice as they are highly contagious especially if you have school-aged children.

Follow these steps to check for lice:

  1. Wet your hair/your child’s hair. This slows down lice so they’re easier to spot.
  2. Using a fine-tooth comb, part the hair. Lice combs can be found online and in pharmacies but are not necessary.
  3. Shine a bright light onto scalp. If you see tiny, brown insects moving or nits (eggs) fixed onto individual hair strands, you should seek a lice treatment immediately.
  4. If unsure, see a healthcare professional as soon as possible.

 

How do I treat a lice infestation?

If you’re certain that you or your child has lice, it’s best to act right away. There are over the counter (OTC) shampoos and treatment kits to help with eradicating lice. There are also medicated lotions and shampoos that are prescribed by a doctor.

In addition to treating lice at the source, it’s also important to do the following:

  • Launder bedding and clothes worn in the two days before treatment
    • Wash with hot water and use a high-heat dry cycle
  • Wash backpacks, hats, jackets—anything that may have had contact with lice
  • Place sofa cushions or car seats into a plastic bag. Don’t touch for two weeks.
    • Lice will die within 1-2 days without human contact
  • Sanitize brushes and combs
    • submerge in a pot of hot water for up to ten minutes
  • Vacuum the floors in your home
    • Lice cannot survive without human contact or in a cooler temperature

 

Facts about lice:

It’s no surprise that there is a stigma associated with lice. However, it’s important to be armed with the facts.

  • Lice are not a sign of poor hygiene
  • Head lice do not carry viral or bacterial diseases
  • Lice do not go away on their own
  • Lice cannot “jump” from one person to another (they only crawl)
  • Treatments such as smearing mayonnaise, butter, olive oil or margarine into hair and scalp will NOT eradicate head lice
  • You do not need to fumigate or use harmful chemicals to clean your home.

To prevent a possible lice infestation, tell your children not to share clothing or personal items, be aware of any symptoms, and have a plan to quickly act if someone in your household accidentally contracts lice. Although it may be a headache to treat and clean, contracting lice is quite common and highly treatable.