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Brandon Senior Community Inspires Wellness

At The Meridian, commitment to residents starts with healthy minds and bodies.

What does it mean to be truly well? What can we do to help residents live better lives? How can we help strengthen minds and bodies, decrease falls, improve moods and increase engagement in social activities?

These are questions the owners and operators of The Meridian at Brandon, a new supportive independent living, assisted living and memory care community, sought to answer as they envisioned the resident experience.

The Meridian’s façade and amenities are impressive, with exciting spaces and beautiful finishes and interior design. Team leaders have put into motion their vision and commitment to help residents be happier and healthier.

The community recently opened to residents of varied physical abilities, but all with potential to live better than they have during the past two years of COVID isolation. Even in Florida, where COVID restrictions have been less restrictive than other parts of the country, the Meridian reports many prospective residents feel anxiety and remain withdrawn.

“We have a responsibility to turn the tables and give seniors every opportunity to make up for lost time — to get healthier, to socialize, to celebrate and to make new friends,” says Stacy McCanless, the Meridian’s executive director. “We want to provide exceptional experiences for our residents and make their days full of meaningful interactions within their homes.”

To do this, the Meridian team knows wellness must be woven through day-to-day experiences, from activities to dining to care to the social scene.

“It has to be fun and interactive,” Stacy says. “We want to offer residents opportunities at the Meridian and outside in the greater community to stay involved and active.”

To integrate wellness, the team partnered with a physical therapy company that provides a full-time exercise physiologist. In addition, the community’s state-of-the-art gym features high-tech equipment, including a Tonal digital weight machine to build strength, a Mirror smart gym, a Biodex Balance System, a NuStep® recumbent cross trainer and more.

Studies show that increasing activity to 150 minutes per week can decrease the risk of falls and the onset of disease that may result in injury. From this, the #Roadto150 was born. Exclusive to Meridian Senior Living communities like The Meridian at Brandon, the #Roadto150 helps seniors set goals around reaching at least 150 minutes of exercise per week.

“We want 150 minutes to be a lamppost to guide our programming,” Stacy says. “We can incorporate it into everything, not just exercise classes. Maybe we have art class in the art studio one day, but the next day we walk outside and draw something alfresco. We are hoping it creates competition and we get to where the program goes up to 200 minutes or more.”

Meridian Senior Living has also partnered with nationally known chiropractor Edythe Heus, DC, and her Revolution in Motion training system to roll out a senior-specific health and fitness program called Vitality. Grounded in kinesiology, Vitality helps improve balance and mobility, decreases fall risk, focuses the mind, increases energy and can even improve sleep.

“Vitality by Revolution in Motion is unique because residents stay seated in a chair while on a balance pad,” says Sue Johnston, Meridian Senior Living’s vice president of programming. “The imbalance of this gives the resident a perception of risk, but it’s safe and helps focus movements on core strength, mental focus and light weightlifting. It has turned back the clock for many of our residents as they feel much younger with improved memory, coordination and balance.”

Vitality is offered twice a week, in addition to other offerings such as yoga, tai chi, a walking club and morning stretching. The exercise physiologist will also help with customized fitness plans, in-house physical and occupational therapies, as well as therapy specific to those with Parkinson’s disease and dementia.

Cognitive and Social Wellness

The Meridian team knows that while the community’s physical well-being options are robust, true wellness goes beyond the gym. Regardless if the resident is independent or calls the memory care neighborhood home, daily activities can stimulate the mind, bring purpose, and capture passions and interests.

The Meridian’s activities include arts and crafts, a speaker series, history courses, religious services and Bible studies, music programs, happy hours and movie nights in the community theater. There is also transportation to local shows, shopping, museums and more. Especially important for those with dementia will be music programs with guest performers and themed dining/music nights.

“We are so excited to exceed the expectations of seniors in the Tampa Bay area by delivering innovative wellness programs with opportunities for life-changing results,” states Kevin Carlin, principal and chief sales officer for Meridian Senior Living. “We diligently develop enhanced and exciting programs to encourage whole-body wellness that can substantially improve quality of life for residents.”

Residents can continue to lead and be involved in community life via the community’s Dining Council, Ambassador program and Philanthropy Club, a resident-led group that will focus on “paying it forward” to important causes of their choosing.

Montessori-Based Memory Care

For seniors with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, The Meridian at Brandon offers the Montessori Moments in Time™ program, which is designed to enhance the quality of life for those with memory impairment and is guided by the program’s “Five Directional Paths.”

“Beginning with each ‘Resident Life Story,’ we build our programming on their habits, personal preferences, past and current interests, and what brings them joy,” Stacy explains.

The Family Connections path helps strengthen the partnership with adult children or family members as they come to terms with their loved one’s diagnosis. Support groups, resources and education provide opportunities to learn more about the disease, ways to communicate and tools to cope.

The community also partners with Eldergrow™ to provide horticulture therapy to memory care residents. The program and its mobile sensory garden have resulted in benefits among seniors with dementia, including a feeling of independence, a sense of purpose and accomplishment, and important sensory engagement, consistent with a Montessori approach.

Nutrition Is Important

Coupled with staying mentally and physically active, healthy eating is important. The Meridian makes time to provide not only chef-prepared specialty menus and classic offerings, but also options for a well-balanced diet.

“When seniors live at home, we find they often don’t eat healthy because of physical limitations in being able to prepare food or in the logistics of getting to the grocery store,” Stacy informs. “We will make dining an experience that encourages people to be more well-rounded in food choices and make healthier decisions.”

The community features a private dining room, a grab-and-go bistro, a large restaurant-style dining room, a pre-dining lounge, and a bar and bistro on the second floor. The culinary staff prepares three meals per day, which are included in the monthly rent.

“Because nutrition is very important, the menu always reflects a commitment to our dining experience and delicious, healthy eating,” Stacy points out. “Even at the grab-and-go bistro, we make it easy with quick, healthy bites at our residents’ convenience.”

The Meridian at Brandon holds its mission statement to heart: “We enrich the lives of our residents, families and employees through extraordinary experiences… because everyone deserves a great life!” The words guide not only the design of the buildings and amenities, but also the selection of the people and programs that bring the vision to life.

© Article/photos courtesy of The Meridian at Brandon. js

Dry Eye In Detail

June 27th, 2022

Your eyes require a constant flow of tears to stay healthy and comfortable. If your eyes fail to make enough tears or if your eyes don’t make the right type of tears, you may have an irritating condition called dry eye.

July is National Dry Eye Awareness Month, so let’s take a look at the ailment in detail.

Every time you blink, a thin film of tears spreads across your eye to keep its surface smooth and clear. The tear film is made up of three layers: an oil layer for lubrication, a water layer for moisture and a mucus layer to make tears adhere to the surface of the eyes. While each layer serves an important purpose, oil and water are the most important components of the tear film.

You must have the right balance of oil and water to maintain a healthy tear film. Without oil, which is produced and released by the meibomian glands in the eyelids, the tear film becomes unstable and fails to spread evenly across the eye’s surface. As a result, the tears evaporate more quickly, resulting in dry eye. The meibomian glands can malfunction due to blockages of debris and hardened oil.

There are other potential causes for dry eye as well. Certain diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren’s syndrome, thyroid disease and lupus, can lead to dry eye. Being in smoky, windy or dry environments can contribute to the condition. Hormonal changes, such as those during menopause, are linked to dry eye, which may be why dry eye is nearly twice as common in women than in men.

Looking at computers and other digital devices for extended periods can cause dry eye because we tend to blink less when staring at screens. Wearing contact lenses for a long time or having had LASIK or cataract surgery can promote dry eye. Certain medications, including some antihistamines, diuretics, antidepressants and blood pressure medicines, can also dry your eyes.

Dry eye is a common condition. According to the National Eye Institute, nearly 16 million Americans have dry eye. Other sources suggest that as many as 48 percent of adult Americans regularly experience dry eye symptoms.

Symptoms include stinging and burning, fluctuating or blurred vision, a scratchy or gritty feeling like something is in your eye, redness or irritation, pain when wearing contact lenses, eye fatigue, light sensitivity, stringy mucus near your eyes, and an excess of tears.

Having lots of tears may seem odd when you have dry eye, but your eyes make more tears when they are irritated by dry eye.

Untreated, chronic dry eye can lead to serious complications, including eye infections, eye inflammation, abrasions of the corneal surface, corneal ulcers and vision loss. The cornea is the clear outer layer at the front of your eye.

To diagnose the condition, your doctor will first ask about your symptoms and general health, any medications you take and any environmental conditions you experience that may be contributing to your dry eye. The doctor will then perform a comprehensive exam to evaluate the surface of your eyes. The exam will likely include tests to measure the quantity and quality of your tears and an observation of tear flow and evaporation rate.

Treatment aims to keep the eyes well lubricated and prevent vision from being affected. The treatment approach taken depends on the severity of the condition. Mild cases can often be managed using over-the-counter artificial tears as needed to supplement natural tear production. Preservative-free preparations are recommended.

If your dry eye is more serious, your doctor may prescribe a medication such as cyclosporine (RESTASIS®, CEQUA™) or lifitegrast (XIIDRA®). These eyedrops are used twice a day to reduce inflammation and relieve the symptoms of dry eye.

To conserve the natural tears on the surface of your eyes, your doctor may recommend placing tiny silicone or gel-like plugs, called punctal plugs, to block the ducts that drain the tears. In extreme cases, surgery to permanently close the ducts may be performed.

Your doctor may recommend other treatments, such as intense-pulsed light (IPL) and the LipiFlow® Thermal Pulsation System.

Light energy from IPL warms the meibomian glands and any material clogging them. This allows the oil to flow normally from the glands into the tear film.

LipiFlow combines the controlled application of therapeutic heat with a gentle, pulsating massage. These functions work to liquify, then remove the clogging debris from the meibomian glands, enabling them to function efficiently.

A scleral lens is another way to keep the natural moisture on the eyes. This is a special contact lens that rests on the sclera, the white part of the eye. It creates a fluid-filled layer over the cornea, preventing it from drying out.

There are some steps you can take to improve dry eye. Humidify your bedroom to keep moisture in the air. Take frequent breaks when using a computer or other digital device. Wear wrap-around sunglasses when outside to protect your eyes from the wind and sun. Avoid dehydration by drinking eight to 10 glasses of water each day. Keep air from being blown directly into your eyes. Direct fans and car heaters away from your face.

And finally, use your artificial tears and/or prescription eyedrops as recommended by your doctor.

Patti DiPanfilo

Wrapping Your Head Around Migraines

June 22nd, 2022

This is National Migraine and Headache Awareness Month. Let’s observe it by taking a closer look at migraine, which is more than a headache. Migraine is a disabling neurological condition that has different symptoms and treatment approaches compared to other types of headaches, such as tension and cluster headaches.

Migraine causes pulsing pain that often starts on one side of your head. It typically gets worse with physical activity and makes you extremely sensitive to light, sound or smell. A migraine can last for hours or even days. Research shows it’s the sixth most disabling disorder in the world.

There are many different types of migraine. The most common are migraine with aura, or complicated migraine, and migraine without aura, or common migraine.

About 25 to 30 percent of people with migraine experience auras just before the headache pain begins. An aura is a group of sensory disturbances that may include flashes of light, zigzag lines or other vision changes. They may also include ringing in the ears, tingling on one side of the body and an inability to speak clearly. Auras serve as a warning sign that a migraine is imminent.

However, most migraine sufferers experience common migraine, without aura. Common migraines typically start slower that complicated migraines, last longer and interfere more with everyday activities. The pain is often only on one side of the head.

Migraine typically occurs in four stages: prodrome, aura, headache and postdrome. Each stage has its own symptoms.

The prodrome, or warning stage, is the calm before the storm. You may notice changes in your body and mood anywhere from a few hours to a few days before the migraine actually begins. Prodrome symptoms include difficulty concentrating, irritability and/or depression, nausea, vomiting, constipation, sensitivity to light or sound, food cravings, increased urination and muscle stiffness.

Aura symptoms were discussed above.

Symptoms of the headache stage include neck pain and stiffness; depression, giddiness and/or anxiety; sensitivity to light, sound or smell; nasal congestion; insomnia; nausea and vomiting; loss of appetite; feeling very warm or cold; diarrhea; dizziness; and blurred vision.

During this stage, you may feel a dull ache that develops into a pulsing pain that has been described as feeling like an icepick being jabbed into your head. The pain may shift from one side of your head to the other, or it can affect the front of your head, the back of your head or your entire head. The headache stage lasts anywhere from four to 72 hours.

The postdrome, also known as the migraine hangover, can last from a few hours to a day after the migraine is over. There are lingering symptoms that may include an inability to concentrate, depressed mood, fatigue, lack of comprehension and euphoric mood. About 80 percent of people with migraine experience this stage.

Researchers don’t know the cause of migraine, but they have identified certain risk factors. These include genetics. Up to 80 percent of people who have migraine have a parent, sibling or child with the disorder. Gender is another risk factor. Women are two to three times more likely to develop migraine than men. You are also at a higher risk if you live a high-stress lifestyle. Smoking also increases your risk.

Stress is a trigger for migraine. Other factors that may trigger migraine include hormonal changes; pickled, processed or canned foods; alcoholic or caffeinated beverages; certain medications; infections such as a cold or the flu; loud sounds, bright lights and strong smells such as paint fumes or heavy perfumes.

Your doctor can generally diagnose migraine based on the symptoms you report. The physician may order blood tests or an imaging exam, such as a CT or MRI, to rule out other disorders.

There is no cure for migraine. However, it can usually be managed with medication, and in some cases it can be improved. There are two main approaches that include medications: abortive and preventive.

Abortive treatment is designed to stop your migraine and ease your pain. Medications used in this approach includes over-the-counter pain relievers and prescription medications such as triptans, which reverse the changes in your brain that contribute to migraine.

Other abortive medications include ergot alkaloids, which narrow the blood vessels in the brain; and calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) antagonists, which bind to CGRP and keep it from working. An influx of CGRP is believed to contribute to the development of migraine. CGRP antagonists can also be used to prevent migraine.

Preventive treatments are designed to reduce the frequency, severity and duration of migraine. They include medications such as beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, certain antidepressants and anti-seizure medications, and BOTOX injections. Wearable devices that stimulate your vagus and trigeminal nerves can also prevent migraine or give relief if the headache has started.

If you suffer from chronic migraine, don’t give up. See your doctor about abortive and preventive treatment approaches. Maybe you will find some relief from your misery.

Patti DiPanfilo

Venous Disease More Prominent In Women

Hormonal changes give women a higher risk of varicose veins.

Varicose veins are bluish, bulging veins visible in the legs. Both men and women can develop them, but women have a greater risk for venous disease, of which varicose veins are the most prominent sign.

“Of those affected by varicose vein issues, about 60 to 65 percent are women, compared to 35 to 40 percent men,” observes Charles I. Stein, MD, RPh, FACOG, a vein specialist at Vascular Vein Centers.

The main reason women are at a higher risk is the hormonal changes they experience due to menstrual cycles.

“Each month, women’s bodies produce high levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone,” Dr. Stein informs. “Progesterone is a muscle relaxant that relaxes the smooth muscle lining vein walls, including the walls of the leg veins.

“Pregnant women produce even higher concentrations of these hormones, along with additional hormones, including relaxin, to help relax the uterus, which is made up of smooth muscle.”

The hormones produced during pregnancy and menstrual cycles not only relax vein walls, but they also make them weaker, allowing veins to bulge and become unsightly.

“The pressure increases from the inside out, pushing the dilated veins to the surface to create varicose veins,” Dr. Stein explains. “Lifestyle factors, such as wearing high heels regularly and prolonged sitting and standing play a significant role in this process.”

Signs and Symptoms

Other signs and symptoms of venous disease include tired, heavy legs, and drying and darkening of the skin of the lower legs. The disease also brings a risk of leg ulcers and blood clots (deep vein thromboses or DVTs). Heredity is a significant cause of varicose vein disease in both men and women.

“Since varicose veins are truly a medical condition called superficial venous insufficiency, the treatment is usually covered by health insurance and consists of minimally invasive office procedures, including laser ablation and sclerosing injections,” Dr. Stein reports. “These procedures are relatively painless and allow rapid return to normal activity as well as providing excellent, enduring results.”

Primary care physicians may not focus on leg vein issues because symptoms and signs are often subtle and overlooked. Since women are more affected and most see an OB-GYN for primary care through menopause, many referrals to Vascular Vein Centers come from physicians who specialize in women’s health.

“Since joining Vascular Vein Centers recently, I have been very impressed with the physicians’ and staff’s level of caring and commitment to patients,” Dr. Stein enthuses. “I bring to my patients 22 years of experience treating varicose vein disease.”

Dr. Stein sees patients in the Lake Mary office of Vascular Vein Centers.

Article courtesy of Vascular Vein Centers. mkb

Men’s Health Matters

June 16th, 2022

In the US, women outlive men by five years. Researchers believe certain biological and hormonal factors contribute to this phenomenon. Men tend to make matters worse, however, by neglecting their health and ignoring symptoms when they appear. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, women are 33 percent more likely to visit the doctor than men. Women are also 100 percent better at maintaining screening schedules and preventive care.

June is Men’s Health Month. In this blog post, we aim to heighten awareness of a few common health threats facing American men. We also seek to encourage early detection and treatment, as well as screening and prevention for these common disorders.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men in the US. Heart disease includes a number of conditions that affect the structure or function of the heart. Among them are coronary artery disease, arrhythmia, heart valve disease, cardiomyopathy, congenital heart defects and heart failure. All types of heart disease can lead to serious, sometimes fatal, complications if undetected and untreated.

Men are more likely to develop heart disease at a younger age than women, about 10 years earlier on average. Besides being male, other risk factors for heart disease include smoking, poor diet, family history, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, being overweight or obese, sedentary lifestyle, excessive stress and diabetes.

You can reduce your risk by controlling your blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes; stopping smoking, eating a heart-healthy diet; getting regular exercise; moderating your alcohol intake; maintaining a healthy weight; managing stress; and visiting your doctor for routine checkups.

Cancer is the second leading cause of death for men in the US. Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men, followed by lung cancer and colorectal cancer. However, lung cancer is responsible for more deaths than prostate and colorectal cancers combined. Fortunately, better treatments and early detection are improving the survival rates for all of these cancers.

Early detection is the key. If you are between ages 50 and 80, have a long history of smoking, currently smoke or quit in the last 15 years, annual screening for lung cancer using CT scanning may be recommended for you. Screening this way has been found to lower the risk of death from lung cancer by 20 percent.

The US Preventive Services Task Force recommends colon cancer screening with colonoscopy beginning at age 45 for people at average risk for the cancer. If you have a family history or another colon-related medical condition, your health care provider may recommend beginning the screening process at a younger age.

Discuss the options for prostate cancer screening, such as the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test, with your health care provider. Together, you can determine if the PSA test is right for you based on your risk factors and symptoms.

It’s important to be aware of your cancer risk factors and the screening recommendations because some cancers don’t produce symptoms until they are advanced. At that point, the cancers are often more difficult to treat, and you are less likely to have a positive outcome.

Men are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, or adult-onset diabetes, at a lower weight than women in part because they store more fat in the bellies, which is a major risk factor. Type 2 is the most common type of diabetes, affecting 90 to 95 percent of the 13 million men with diabetes. With type 2 diabetes, your body has a problem with the way it breaks down and uses glucose (sugar) for fuel. As a result, there is too much glucose circulating in the bloodstream.

High glucose levels damage the body’s blood vessels, including the tiny blood vessels in the eyes, causing a condition called diabetic retinopathy. It also increases the risk for kidney and heart disease. Damaged blood vessels lead to poor circulation, which can cause erectile dysfunction (ED), the inability to produce and maintain an erection suitable for sex.

To avoid these complications of diabetes, including ED, exercise regularly, eat healthy food, manage your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, check your blood sugar throughout the day and visit your health care provider for routine blood tests. Your provider may prescribe medication and/or insulin injections to help control your blood glucose and reduce the risk for complications of diabetes.

Remember, routine checkups and screening tests can spot disease in its early stages, when its most treatable. These exams may save your life. Take control of your health; make an appointment with your health care provider for a checkup today.

– Patti DiPanfilo

Scoliosis Facts: Get Ahead Of The Curve

June 2nd, 2022

A healthy spine has three natural curves: an inward curve at the neck (cervical curve), an outward curve at the middle of the back (thoracic curve) and an inward curve at the lower back (lumbar curve). An abnormal sideways curve of the spine is a condition called scoliosis.

June is National Scoliosis Awareness Month. Let’s use this time to learn more about this common spinal disorder.

Scoliosis affects approximately 2 to 3 percent of Americans, or an estimated 6 to 9 million people. Nearly 3 million new cases of scoliosis are diagnosed in the US each year. Anyone can get scoliosis, but the most common type, adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS), affects children between the ages of 10 and 18. AIS is found in as many as four in 100 adolescents. However, scoliosis can affect adults as well.

Idiopathic means there is no identifiable cause. However, there appears to be hereditary factors involved because the disorder sometimes runs in families. Less common types of scoliosis may be caused by certain neuromuscular conditions, such as cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy; birth defects; injuries or infections of the spine; and spinal abnormalities.

Most cases of scoliosis begin when children are between 10 and 15 years old, during the adolescent growth spurt. At this point, the condition occurs equally between males and females. However, the curves in females are eight times more likely to progress to a degree large enough to require treatment.

There are several signs that may suggest a person has scoliosis:

• Shoulders are uneven. One shoulder blade may appear more prominent than the other.
• The head is not centered directly above the pelvis.
• The waist is uneven.
• One hip is higher than the other.
• One side of the ribcage juts forward.
• A prominence is present on one side of the back when bending forward.
• The entire body leans to one side.

If your child exhibits any of these signs, visit your pediatrician for an evaluation. The doctor will carefully review your child’s medical history and will ask about his or her growth. As part of the physical exam, the doctor may perform an Adam’s forward bend test. The doctor will have your child stand with his or her feet together and bend 90 degrees at the waist. In this position, a protruding ribcage and any abnormal spinal curves are easily detected.

The doctor will use imaging scans such as x-ray, CT and MRI to assess the shape, direction, location and angle of the spinal curve.

A diagnosis of scoliosis is made when the Cobb angle, a measurement of the sideways curvature of the spine, is at least 10 degrees. A curve is considered significant if it is greater than 25 to 30 degrees.

Most cases of AIS are mild, and treatment involves monitoring your child regularly for progression of the curve. Bracing may be recommended if your child’s spinal curve measures 25 to 40 degrees. If the curve is greater than this, the doctor may recommend surgery.

Braces are most effective when worn before your child’s bones stop growing. Large studies have shown that braces, when used properly, successfully halt curve progression in about 80 percent of children with scoliosis. For best results, braces must be worn 16 to 23 hours every day until bone growth stops. Today’s modern braces fit neatly around the body and are not visible under clothing.

The standard surgery for severe scoliosis is spinal fusion. During this procedure, the surgeon fuses two or more bones in the spine (vertebrae) together so they no longer move independently. The doctor places pieces of bone or a bone-like material between the vertebrae to help them fuse. The surgeon inserts metal rods and screws to hold the spine straight while fusion takes place. The rods can be adjusted in children as they grow.

The outlook for people with scoliosis depends on the severity of the curvature. In cases where the curve is mild to moderate, the condition is unlikely to interfere with functioning and everyday activities. People with severe curves, however, may experience some physical limitations.

If you or your child have difficulty living with scoliosis, consider joining a support group. The National Scoliosis Foundation (, is a good place to look for helpful resources.

Patti DiPanfilo

Let’s Learn About Cataracts

May 28th, 2022

Prevent Blindness America, the nation’s leading volunteer eye health and safety organization, has declared June as Cataract Awareness Month. Cataracts, which are the clouding of the lens, are the leading cause of vision loss in the US and the leading cause of blindness in the world. Want to know more about these sight-stealers? Read on.

The lens is positioned behind the iris, the colored portion of your eye. It focuses light entering the eye onto the retina, the light-sensitive layer of nerve tissue lining the back of the eye. The retina turns light into electrical signals, which then travel from the retina to the brain through the optic nerve. The brain interprets the electrical signals as the images you see.

The lens is made up of mostly proteins and water. As the proteins break down over time, they clump together and make the lens cloudy, so it’s difficult for light to pass through to the retina. As a result, vision is distorted. This is a natural part of the aging process.

Because most cataracts develop slowly over years, you may not notice any signs or symptoms until the cataracts become large and begin to block the light entering your eye. Common signs and symptoms of cataracts include:

• Clouded, blurred, hazy or foggy vision.
• Sensitivity to light and glare, particularly that from oncoming headlights while driving at night.
• Difficulty seeing at night or needing additional light to read and perform close-up tasks.
• Seeing halos around lights.
• Faded or yellowing of colors.
• Double vision out of the affected eye.
• Requiring frequent upgrades to glasses or contact lens prescriptions.

Most cataracts are age-related. More than half of all Americans have had a cataract or cataract surgery by age 80. But there are other factors that can increase your risk for developing cataracts at a younger age. These include: a family history of cataracts, diabetes, excessive exposure to sunlight, smoking, obesity, high blood pressure, previous eye injury or eye surgery, prolonged use of steroid medications and drinking excessive amounts of alcohol.

To diagnose cataracts, your eye doctor will ask you about your symptoms. The doctor will also look closely at your eye and may use certain tests. These tests may include a visual acuity test, which is the “eye chart exam”; a slit-lamp test, which uses a special microscope with a bright light that permits the doctor to view different parts of your eye; and a retinal exam, in which the doctor dilates your pupils and determine how much light is reaching your retina.

The only way to treat cataracts is surgery. However, you may not need surgery right away. If your cataracts are caught early and your symptoms are mild, you may be successfully treated with a new prescription for your glasses or contact lenses. But when your symptoms get in the way of your daily tasks, particularly if they make driving dangerous, it’s time to consider cataract surgery.

Cataract surgery is typically performed on one eye at a time, with a break of a week or two in between. Each procedure takes just minutes and starts with the breakup and removal of the clouded lens. Then, a clear replacement lens is implanted, permanently correcting the vision.

The new lens, called an intraocular lens (IOL), is positioned in the same place as your natural lens and remains a permanent part of your eye. IOLs are typically made of a flexible plastic such as acrylic or silicone. IOLs come in different focusing powers to correct a variety of vision issues. They are clear, shaped to fit your eyes and personalized to your vision needs.

No studies have shown how to prevent cataracts or slow their progression. But there are a few things you can do to help safeguard your eye health. These include:

• Get regular eye exams.
• Quit smoking.
• Manage your diabetes, high blood pressure and other chronic health conditions.
• Eat a healthy diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables.
• Wear sunglasses when outdoors.
• Drink alcohol in moderation.

— Patti DiPanfilo

Homing In On Hepatitis

May 22nd, 2022

May is Hepatitis Awareness Month. Although awareness may already be high due to a current mysterious pediatric outbreak that has affected more than 500 children in 20 countries and more than 180 kids in the US over the past six months.

Hepatitis is an inflammatory condition of the liver, and when your liver is inflamed, its ability to function can be compromised. Hepatitis is most commonly caused by a viral infection, although there are other causes as well. We’re concentrating on viral hepatitis in this blog.

There are five known types of viral hepatitis classified as hepatitis A, B, C, D and E. In the US, the most frequently diagnosed, affecting an estimated 4.4 million Americans, are hepatitis A, B and C.

Hepatitis is most commonly caused by a viral infection, although there are other causes as well. / CDC

Each of these conditions is caused by a different virus: the hepatitis A virus (HAV), hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV). Hepatitis A. B and C have similar symptoms but are spread in different ways and can affect the liver differently.

Regarding the current outbreak: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating cases with unknown causes in 36 states and territories. Though most children have recovered, at least five have died and 16 needed a liver transplant. As of May 20, the illness of one Florida child under 10 was under investigation, but state officials said there are no confirmed cases.

The most common symptoms of hepatitis include: dark urine, yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes (jaundice), clay-colored stool, low-grade fever, loss of appetite, fatigue and aching joints. You may also feel sick to your stomach or have stomach pain. If you experience any or a combination of these symptoms, contact your doctor right away.

To diagnose hepatitis, your doctor will perform a physical exam and review of your symptoms. The doctor will use blood tests to check for the presence of the virus and may also use liver function tests to see how your liver is working, an abdominal ultrasound to look for liver damage or enlargement, or a liver biopsy to sample any abnormal areas of your liver and study them under a microscope.

Hepatitis A is usually a short-term illness that doesn’t lead to a chronic, or long-lasting, infection. The hepatitis A virus is found in the stool and blood of people who are infected. Hepatitis A, which is highly contagious, is commonly spread by eating contaminated food or drink. It can also be spread through close personal contact with someone who is infected, such as during oral or anal sex.

There is no cure for hepatitis A. Treatment typically consists of rest, adequate nutrition and fluids. In rare cases, people with hepatitis A require hospitalization. This type of hepatitis normally resolves within two months without having any long-term effects, and you will have lifelong immunity afterward.

Hepatitis B is spread through contact with body fluids such as blood, vaginal secretions and semen containing the hepatitis B virus (HBV). Your risk for getting hepatitis B increases if you inject drugs or if you have sex or share razors with someone who has it.

Some people with hepatitis B, particularly those who get infected as adults, are able to clear the virus from their bodies without treatment. For others, short-term hepatitis B progresses into a chronic, lifelong infection that over time can result in serious health problems such as liver damage, cirrhosis, liver cancer and even death.

When treatment for hepatitis B is needed, there are several medications available and others in development. However, people who start hepatitis B treatment may need to take medication indefinitely because these medications do not lead to a cure.

Hepatitis C is one of the most common causes of liver disease in the US and used to be the primary reason for liver transplants. The infection is chronic in 75 to 85 percent of people who have it, and 1 to 5 percent experience life-threatening complications, such as liver failure.

Hepatitis C is spread by coming into contact with the blood of a person who is infected with the hepatitis C virus (HCV). This can happen if you share drug injection equipment; have sex with someone who is infected; or share personal items such as razors, nail clippers or toothbrushes with an infected person. In addition, about 6 percent of infants born to infected mothers will get hepatitis C.

Treatment is recommended for all people including children 3 and older and pregnant women with hepatitis C. Treatment involves taking medication for a course of eight to 12 weeks. The cure rate with this therapy is more than 90 percent with few side effects.

To help prevent hepatitis, there are vaccines against hepatitis A and B, but there is no vaccine available for hepatitis C.

By Patti DiPanfilo

A Noninvasive Treatment For A Leaky Bladder

Device does work of 12,000 Kegels to strengthen pelvic muscles.

Andrea White-McNeil

To see Jamaica as Christopher Columbus did when he found the island in 1494, you have to travel east of Kingston, away from the glut of all-inclusive resorts in the west and north, to the coastal region where Andrea White-McNeil grew up.

You’ll still see plenty of tourists there, but you’ll also see beaches, waterfalls and mountain ranges that have been left mostly undisturbed by the explosion of expansion that has turned Montego Bay, Ocho Rios and Negril into resort towns.

“My side of Jamaica is what Negril used to be before it became the Negril that it is today,” Andrea explains. “It’s more of an eco-tourism area, where everything is very natural and low-key. It’s very quaint there.”

Despite her hometown’s quaint approach, Andrea could not avoid being bitten by the tourism bug herself. A former high school teacher, she was recruited into the industry several years ago and now teaches hospitality at Bethune-Cookman University (B-CU).

“I mostly teach lodging and tourism,” says Andrea, who came to the US to attend college in 2000. After earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees, Andrea took on the professorship at B-CU, where she also does student advising.

Not long ago, Andrea sought advice on how to better deal with an annoying condition called urinary incontinence, an involuntary loss of urine that can be sparked by something as simple as a laugh, cough or sneeze.

Caused by a weakening of the bladder or sphincter muscles, an overactive bladder or nerve damage, urinary incontinence typically results in the loss of a few drops of urine, but it can also present itself as a strong urge to urinate.

“I first noticed it a few years ago, when I began to experience some leakage after I coughed or sneezed,” Andrea reports. “Ever since then, I’ve taken steps to make sure I’m prepared for those moments.”

As it is with many with the disorder, Andrea prepared by wearing protective pads. Pads don’t resolve the problem, though, so Andrea eventually sought medical advice from Delicia M. Haynes, MD, founder of Family First Health Center.

Join the Club

Based on the Direct Primary Care (DPC) model, Family First Health Center is an integrative, membership-based primary care clinic where Dr. Haynes empowers patients to look and feel their best from the inside out through a lifestyle medicine approach.

Unlike many traditional primary care offices, Family First offers members prompt appointments, expanded one-on-one time with the doctor, virtual visits and more through a monthly membership. There are never copays, deductibles or insurance hassles.

“It’s like having a gym-style membership to your doctor,” Dr. Haynes relates. “But the membership is secondary because care is our primary focus. And what I promote is personalized health care. I’m like an old-time family doctor with modern technology.”

The model followed by Family First Health Center is one of the fastest-growing movements in primary care, and Dr. Haynes is among those who have helped other physicians make the transition to it.

“Most doctors really love practicing medicine, but they hate the way it’s being practiced,” she says. “This model is all about getting third parties out of the exam room and going back to emphasizing the doctor-patient relationship.”

It’s that deeper, more personal relationship that attracted Andrea to Family First Health Center, where Dr. Haynes recommended treating Andrea’s urinary incontinence with a nonsurgical, drug-free device that is designed specifically to correct the disorder.

Take a Seat

That device is called the BTL Emsella®. It’s a chair that patients simply sit on. While the patient sits, the chair stimulates the body’s pelvic floor muscles and restores neuromuscular control by delivering high-intensity electromagnetic energy to the muscles.

“You sit on the chair for 28 minutes,” Dr. Haynes informs, “and during that time, the chair does the work of what amounts to more than 12,000 Kegel exercises, which are the exercises women are encouraged to do to strengthen their pelvic floor muscles.

“No one can do the number of Kegel exercises that this chair simulates, and the chair doesn’t cause any side effects. Oral medications can sometimes cause vaginal dryness, dryness of the mouth and dizziness. Best of all, it works.”

According to Dr. Haynes, more than 95 percent of the urinary incontinence patients who have used the BTL Emsella have reduced or eliminated their use of light, protective pads.

Dr. Haynes further notes that treatment using the BTL Emsella can also help patients more easily achieve orgasm and experience stronger orgasms, which can positively affect their sexual wellness and relationships.

“The BTL Emsella is great for anyone who is looking for a more natural approach to erasing their concerns about urinary incontinence,” Dr. Haynes concludes. “That’s exactly what Andrea was looking for when she first came to me about this.”

Andrea started treatments last year, shortly after Dr. Haynes obtained the device for her practice. Andrea followed the typical protocol, which calls for two sessions a week for three weeks. She is overjoyed with the results.

“I first started to notice a change about two months after I completed the treatment,” Andrea reports. “I noticed I wasn’t having leakage problems when I sneezed or coughed, and I thought, Hey, this really works.

“Since then, I’ve had no problems. My incontinence issues are gone. I don’t even think about it anymore. I still wear the pads just to be prepared if anything happens, but I haven’t needed them.”

Andrea is thrilled with the change the BTL Emsella chair has made in her life. She appreciates Dr. Haynes personal approach to health care as well.

“Dr. Haynes is very easy to talk to, and she listens,” Andrea offers. “She’s very relatable. We can sit and talk and have a conversation about what’s going on in my life, and she does a great job of finding solutions for me. I recommend her highly to anyone.”

© FHCN article by Roy Cummings. Photo by Jordan Pysz. mkb


Let’s Learn About Lyme Disease

May 18th, 2022

Lyme disease is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and, in rare instances, Borrelia mayonii. These bacteria are transmitted to humans through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks, also known as deer ticks. These ticks become infected after feeding on infected animals such as deer, birds and mice.

One of the first signs of Lyme disease is a “bull’s-eye” rash at the site of the bite. / CDC

Once a deer tick bites you, it must stay attached for 36 to 48 hours to transmit the bacteria. If you discover and remove the tick within 48 hours, you probably won’t get infected and develop Lyme disease. If you do get infected, the bacteria travel through your bloodstream and affect various organs and tissues in your body, causing a wide range of signs and symptoms.

Lyme disease signs and symptoms can appear anywhere from three to 30 days following the tick bite and vary depending on the stage of your infection. Some people don’t notice any signs or symptoms until months after they’ve been bitten. Early symptoms of Lyme disease resemble the flu and include:

• Fever
• Chills
• Headache
• Fatigue
• Sore throat
• Muscle and joint pain
• Swollen lymph nodes

One of the first signs of Lyme disease is a “bull’s-eye” rash at the site of the bite. The rash, formally called erythema migrans, typically appears as a red ring that surrounds a clear center area. It can range in size from that of a dime to the entire width of your back. The rash may be warm to the touch but is usually not painful or itchy. Erythema migrans occurs in approximately 70 to 80 percent of infected people.

If your Lyme disease isn’t treated early on, it can turn into an inflammatory condition that affects multiple systems, including your joints and nervous system and eventually many organs and tissues. Signs and symptoms of late-stage Lyme disease include:

• Severe headaches and neck stiffness
• Additional rashes on other areas of your body
• Arthritis with joint pain and swelling, particularly in your knees
• Sudden drooping on one or both sides of your face (Bell’s palsy)
• Heart palpitations or an irregular heartbeat (Lyme carditis)
• Inflammation of the membranes surrounding your brain and spinal cord (meningitis)
• Shooting pain, numbness or tingling in your hands and feet (neuropathy)
• Difficulty concentrating or short-term memory loss (encephalopathy)

See your doctor if you think you’ve been bitten by a deer tick, or if you have any of the signs and symptoms of Lyme disease. The doctor will examine you, review your medical history and symptoms, and likely order lab tests to look for antibodies against the Borrelia burgdorferi bacterium.

These lab tests can help confirm or rule out the diagnosis of Lyme disease. The tests are most reliable when performed a few weeks after infection, once your body’s immune system has had a chance to develop the antibodies.

Nearly all people with Lyme disease can be successfully treated with a course of oral or intravenous (IV) antibiotics. The type and duration of antibiotic treatment depends on the stage of the infection and the extent of your symptoms.

Unfortunately, about 10 percent of people treated for Lyme disease don’t shake it and go on to develop post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome. The main symptoms of this syndrome are lingering joint or muscle pain, fatigue, and short-term memory loss or confusion. This condition does not signify ongoing infection and will not respond to additional antibiotics. However, most people with this syndrome will experience symptom relief within six months of diagnosis.

You can decrease your risk of getting Lyme disease by taking some simple precautions:

• Avoid areas where ticks live, especially wooded, bushy areas with long grass.
• When in those areas, wear shoes, long pants tucked into your socks, a long-sleeved shirt, a hat and gloves. Stick to trails and avoid walking through low bushes and long grass. Keep your dog on a leash.
• Make your yard unfriendly to ticks. Clear wooded areas, keep underbrush to a minimum and put woodpiles in areas that get a lot of sun, which repels ticks.
• Apply insect repellant with a 20 percent or higher concentration of DEET to your skin. Apply the repellant to your children’s skin as well, but be sure to avoid their hands, eyes and mouth.
• After you’ve spent time outdoors, check yourself, your children and your pets for ticks. Deer ticks are about the size of the head of a pin, so you must search carefully to find them.
• If you discover a tick, remove it with tweezers. Gently grasp the tick near its head or mouth. Don’t squeeze or crush it but pull it carefully and steadily. After you’ve removed the tick, apply antiseptic to the bite area. Put the tick in alcohol or flush it down the toilet.

Patti DiPanfilo

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