after tabaccoIt is the time of year when many of us make resolutions to better ourselves. I always have a hard time making a New Year’s resolution because within a short time I have failed, and then, I need to think of yet another resolution! Eventually, I reach the point where it becomes ridiculous because I have made and broken so many resolutions that I run out of ideas!

It’s difficult to tackle resolutions at any time of year, even when there are sound reasons to do so. Change can be difficult. Start by after tobaccoeducating yourself about the risks and benefits of making these changes. You also have to be careful that you do not replace one bad habit with another one. For example, the dangers of smoking are well documented, but the risks associated with e-cigarettes are still unknown. Yet some people who are trying to quit smoking are turning to e-cigarettes. There are also a number of people that have never smoked that are now “vaping” (using an e-cigarette). E-cigarettes or electronic cigarettes are battery-operated devices that often look like regular tobacco cigarettes. The way they commonly work is that an atomizer or heating element heats a liquid often containing nicotine and various flavorings. Flavoring options include tobacco and menthol flavor, and flavorings that might appeal to younger users like bubblegum, cherry and apple. The heated liquid converts into a vapor or mist that the user inhales. The vapor cloud resembles smoke, but does not have an odor, so it is harder to know later if someone has been vaping.

Recent studies suggest that e-cigarettes do not help people reduce or quit smoking. E-cigarettes do not contain carbon monoxide or tar, which are two of the harmful chemicals in traditional cigarettes, but the Federal Drug Administration does not regulate e-cigarettes for recreational use, so what’s in them can vary. The FDA is currently looking into extending its authority to include alternatives to tobacco products, which would allow them to use regulatory rules to impose age restrictions and review claims made that e-cigarettes reduce tobacco-related disease and death.

I applaud you if one of your resolutions this year is to quit smoking. I encourage you to educate yourself on the many resources available to help you. I recommend that you read the American Heart Association’s policy statement on the use of e-cigarettes. You may still find that e-cigarettes are a viable option for you or you can find a quit-method that may work for you here. If you live or work in the Howard County there are free Smoking Cessation & Tobacco Treatment Programs. Visit the library for resources on smoking and health-related issues.

This is a great time of year to reflect on major issues you would like to change in your life. You do not have to tackle everything at once. In fact, if you successfully tackle the little things it may give you confidence to tackle more major issues.

For me, I may try going to bed earlier one night a week, drinking a glass of water in the morning, taking a walk before lunch or dinner, exchanging a piece of fruit for candy as an afternoon pick me up, or using the stairs at work instead of the elevator to my resolution list. These small changes are more doable, and even I might just succeed this year in keeping a New Year’s resolution. Wish me luck! If some of you still need inspiration here are some resolutions that are popular each year with information on how to successfully achieve these resolutions.

Happy New Year!

[author_image timthumb=’on’][/author_image] [author_info]Nancy Targett is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the Miller Branch. She lives in Columbia and is the proud mom of three boys and a girl and a Siamese cat.[/author_info]

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cervical cancer vaccine

Vaccination to protect females against the types of HPV that cause most cervical cancers is recommended for 11- and 12-year-old girls, and for females 13 through 26 years who did not get the shots when they were younger. [© Bvdc |]

January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month

What is cervical cancer?
The cervix is the lowest part of the uterus, which opens at the top of the vagina during childbirth. Johns Hopkins Medicine notes that if the cells in the cervix begin to grow and change, they can become malignant and the cancer can spread to the uterus and surrounding organs.

What causes cervical cancer?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the highest risk factor for developing cervical cancer is carrying HPV, a common virus that can be passed from one person to another during sex. Worldwide studies have shown that HPV virus exists in more than 99 percent of cervical cancers and viral proteins play a role in the transformation of HPV-infected cells into tumor cells. HPV is very common and often causes no symptoms, so it can go undetected and often goes away on its own. While not all women carrying this virus will develop cervical cancer, it is important for women who know they carry the virus to have an annual Pap smear to check for changes in cervical cells.

Other things that can increase the risk of developing cervical cancer are smoking, being HIV positive, using birth control pills for more than five years, giving birth to three or more children and having multiple sexual partners.

What are the symptoms of cervical cancer?
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, in its early stages, cervical cancer usually has no noticeable symptoms, which makes it critically important for women to have Pap smears, a test to collect cells from the cervix to check for abnormal cells or signs of malignancy. Some women do experience symptoms such as abnormal vaginal bleeding or unusual discharge, pelvic pain and pain during intercourse. These symptoms are not always signs of cancer, but it is always best to check with your gynecologist to be sure. Your doctor may recommend further screening, a pelvic exam or a biopsy.

How can you reduce your risk of getting cervical cancer?
CDC recommends the following ways to reduce your risk of getting cervical cancer:

  1. Have an annual Pap test (or Pap smear) starting at age 21.
  2. Have an (HPV) test to see if you have the virus that can cause cell changes.
  3. Get an HPV vaccination.
  4. Two HPV vaccines are available to protect females against the types of HPV that cause most cervical cancers. Both are recommended for 11- and 12-year-old girls, and for females 13 through 26 years of age who did not get any or all of the shots when they were younger. Females should get the same vaccine brand for all three doses if possible. Remember that women who are vaccinated against HPV still need to have regular Pap tests because these vaccines do not protect against HPV types found in approximately 30 percent of cervical cancers.
  5. Don’t smoke.
  6. Use condoms during sex and limit your number of sexual partners.

Cervical cancer is very curable when detected early through screening with a Pap smear. Because precancerous lesions found by Pap smears can be treated and cured before they develop into cancer, and because cervical cancer is often detected before it becomes advanced, the incidence and death rates for this disease are relatively low in developed countries like the U.S. In places where there is limited access to health care and health screenings, however, the death rates are much higher.




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Tuesday, Jan. 27, 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m. $35. Dietary Counseling with a registered dietitian one-on-one to discuss your dietary concerns and goals including weight loss, healthier bones, high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol in Howard County General Hospital’s Wellness Center.

Thursday, Jan. 29, 10:15 a.m. & 11:30 a.m. Healthy Kids at Miller. Explore simple health concepts inspired by children’s literature. Ages 3-5 with adult; 45 min. Multi-week series. Well & Wise event. Limited space; tickets available at Children’s Desk 15 minutes before class. Ticket Required.

Monday, Feb. 2, 3:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. Blood Pressure Screening at Glenwood Branch. Free, walk-in blood pressure screening and monitoring offered by Howard County General Hospital: a Member of Johns Hopkins Medicine. No registration required.

Monday, Feb. 2, 5:30-7 p.m. Free  Weight Loss through Bariatric Surgery presentation about surgical weight loss options available through the Johns Hopkins Center for Bariatric Surgery in Howard County General Hospital’s Wellness Center. Hear program requirements and how to navigate the insurance approval process. Call 410-550-KNOW.

Tuesday, Feb. 3, 7:00 p.m. Guided Meditation at Miller Branch.  Enjoy a guided mindfulness meditation designed to impart a feeling of peacefulness and connection. Please bring a cushion or meditation pillow. Presented by Star Ferguson, M.Ac., L.Ac. Registration is required. Register online or by calling 410.313.1950.

Tuesday, Feb. 3, 7:00 p.m. Conflict Resolution Techniques on the Sidelines at Miller Branch. Learn diplomatic and effective methods to handle conflicts at sporting events and everyday situations. Discover basic techniques to identify the conflict and how to use non-defensive language to diffuse the situation. Presented by Cecilia B. Paizs, Esq., of The Mediation Center in Ellicott City. Registration is required. Register online or by calling 410.313.1950.

Monday, Feb. 9, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Blood Pressure Screening at Savage Branch.  Free, walk-in blood pressure screening and monitoring offered by Howard County General Hospital: a Member of Johns Hopkins Medicine. 2nd Mondays. No registration required.

Monday, Feb. 9, 7:00 p.m. Calming Crafts at Miller Branch. Research shows that creative activities can boost serotonin levels. Join us as we use artistic expression to improve our moods. All levels of artistic ability welcome. Registration is required. Register online or by calling 410.313.1950.

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Ah, January. That magic time of year when you resolve to lose weight, eat healthy, and get more exercise. I think April would be a much better time to make those kinds of resolutions. But even in these short, cold days there are always opportunities to get up and get moving. Childrens’ classes at Howard County Library System are great places to shake your sillies out. Join us and find some great picture books to help the whole family get their groove on.

kitchen dance“Scrape! Splash! Clunk! Clang! … I hear kitchen sounds,” says the curly-headed narrator as she and her little brother wake up to the sounds of their parents’ kitchen dance. Creeping downstairs, they see mother and father as “side by side with stacked plates they glide,” turning the routine of washing-up into a tango. When Mama spots the two children, she and Papa sweep them up into an affectionate foursome, all singing, “Como te quiero!” Maurie J. Manning depicts this Afro-Latino family with bright colors providing movement and warmth as Papa and Mama strut their stuff. Their joyful inclusion of the kids makes this book read like one long hug—as the narrator says, after being tucked back into bed with a couple extra besitos, “Umm, hmm.”.

Take the opportunity to bust out your favorite moves with your littles and create a family moment.

you are a lionThe popularity of yoga has even babies practicing asanas, and this picture book is a fun way to get toddlers started. Paired spreads introduce a pose in simple non-rhyming verse, accompanied by an image of a child on a small circle of grass in the middle of white pages; the spread that follows reveals the pose in a nature setting along with the creature the pose imitates. The instructions for the poses are extremely basic and the illustrations encourage participation. The sweet, colorful illustrations include an ethnically diverse group of children demonstrating such poses as a lion, a cobra, and downward-facing dog. The soft hues and natural settings convey the spirit of a yoga class. The text reads almost like haiku. There is no discussion of yoga and the activities could be used to corral the energy of a rowdy group or an individual child.

Yoga is one of the few forms of exercise I practice consistently. It can be as vigorous or as gentle as the season and mood demand. HCLS has a great collection of books and DVDs to start a home practice.

i got rhythmRhythm is everywhere in this celebratory jaunt through an urban neighborhood, from the drummer in the park to playground games to the subtle beat of butterfly wings. The straightforward narrative captures the engaging ways the narrator finds her own rhythm exploring the world around her. Schofield-Morrison’s text pulses with a beat of its own and practically demands audiences to clap along. Each double-page spread offers interactive elements presenting each way the narrator catches the rhythm (hands, knees, feet, and more) to the fun readers can have joining in and keeping the rhythm with their own bodies. Morrison’s oil-on-canvas illustrations complement the story with expansive spreads crackling with movement, the saturated color palette helps the action jump off the page. The urban setting and varied cast depict diversity as an integral part of everyday life.

From board books like Sandra Boynton’s Philadelphia Chickens (cow chorus lines!) to Steve Jenkins’ Move! (a fascinating pictorial study of animal movement)- picture books will help everyone “Get Active.”

Shirley ONeill works for Howard County Library System as the Children’s and Teen Materials Specialist. She cannot believe she actually gets paid to do this job.

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sneezing father and daughter

© Jedimaster |

The flu season started earlier than usual this year, and most states are reporting continued and widespread outbreaks. Here are some commonly asked questions answered by a Johns Hopkins infectious disease specialist.

Q. Is it true that the flu season is turning out to be more severe than expected this year?
A. The flu season started off earlier and stronger than in several previous years, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says state-by-state reports of flu cases, hospitalizations and deaths are elevated. But it is still too early to tell if there will be more flu cases than is typical in the United States this flu season, which runs from October until May. That said, influenza is widespread in most states, so everyone should take precautions to avoid getting the flu.

Q. If people become sick with flu symptoms, should they go to an emergency room?
A. The flu can make you feel pretty lousy, but the best thing to do is first consult your personal doctor or health care provider. If you don’t have one, visit a community health clinic. Your personal health care provider is best able to determine, based on your symptoms, age and medical history, whether you need specialized care in an emergency department or hospital setting. Emergency departments are primarily set up to address urgent and critical medical issues.

Q. The flu vaccine available this year isn’t very effective. Why?
Flu vaccines are developed in advance to protect against several strains of flu virus that epidemiologists who track worldwide flu virus outbreaks do their best to predict. Unfortunately, the strain infecting most people this season — known as H3N2 — mutated, something viruses often do. As a result, the vaccine available this season isn’t as effective as hoped in protecting against the H3N2 strain.

Q. Does that mean the vaccine is useless? Should people still get it?
A. The vaccine still has significant value. Definitely ask your doctor or health care provider for a flu shot, because even this late in the season, it may still offer some protection or moderate the flu if you get it. The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months or older get a flu shot every year because it is an effective way of boosting the immune system to fight circulating strains of flu virus. In addition, by protecting yourself, you may also help protect others who could be exposed if you don’t get a flu shot and come down with the flu.

Q. Other than a flu shot, what other steps can we take to keep from getting the flu?
A.Yes. Wash hands often or use alcohol-based hand gel, especially after shaking others’ hands or being around someone who has cold or flulike symptoms, such as high fever, cough and fatigue.

Q. Should people who have the flu take Tamiflu?
Antiviral drugs like Tamiflu are best and typically prescribed for those most at risk for serious flu complications, including the young, elderly, or those with other serious health conditions or compromised immune systems. Antivirals are only available by prescription and can’t be purchased over the counter. No one should take an antiviral unless a doctor specifically prescribes it. Most otherwise-healthy people can beat the flu by staying home and resting in bed, taking medicines to reduce fever and drinking plenty of water or other clear liquids to stay hydrated.

Q. What can health care workers do to keep themselves and patients healthy in flu season?
A. First and foremost, health care workers who have direct patient contact should get the flu vaccination. They also should practice good hand hygiene with frequent hand-washing or the application of sanitizing hand gel. Health care workers who feel sick with cold and flu symptoms should stay home and rest to avoid exposing patients to a flu or cold virus.

Lisa Maragakis, M.D., is an infectious disease expert and director of the Department of Hospital Epidemiology and Infection Control at The Johns Hopkins Hospital.

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diet soda canRecent studies have shown that intake of artificial sweeteners may contribute to glucose intolerance. Those of us who enjoy diet drinks and cut calories by selecting foods with sugar substitutes may decide that the trade-off is not the healthy choice. We may want to think twice before satisfying cravings for Diet Coke and go for an unsweetened iced tea instead.

Glucose intolerance is a serious health risk because it can lead to diabetes as well as metabolic syndrome. Diabetes is characterized by the body’s inability to produce insulin to process sugar intake. Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas that is needed by the body to regulate glucose levels. Metabolic syndrome is a set of biochemical changes that increases one’s risk for heart disease and diabetes. The physiologic changes in metabolic syndrome include glucose intolerance, abnormal lipid levels, insulin resistance and obesity.

The human intestines are filled with microscopic living organisms, the so-called “gut flora.” A normal intestinal environment is home to these organisms, most of which are bacteria. A study published in the 9/18/2014 issue of Nature described findings that intake of artificial sweeteners changes the composition and function of this flora. The researchers fed mice three of the most commonly-used sugar alternatives: aspartame (Equal), saccharin (Sweet’N Low) and sucralose (Splenda). The mice drinking the artificially-sweetened water had altered intestinal bacteria and marked glucose intolerance. Antibiotics administered to kill this bacteria resulted in resolution of the glucose intolerance.

Additional research was carried out on a limited number of human subjects. Nondiabetic subjects who reported artificial sweetener use were more likely to develop glucose intolerance over time than were those who stated they did not use artificial sweeteners. These participants also were more likely to show changes in gut flora. The researchers gave seven human subjects high levels of saccharin over six days, and four of thee subjects then had abnormal sugar levels. The scientists theorize that the altered combination of bacteria causes a change in glucose metabolism, blocking the sugar levels from declining as quickly as they should.

Although the study’s authors point out that the percentages supporting their findings are statistically significant, they note that more studies are needed. Over the past several years, evidence has accumulated that intake of artificial sweeteners increases sugar cravings. Some studies have even shown that those who use artificial sweeteners are more likely to be overweight. Now with the possibility that these additives can have serious health effects such as diabetes, the support for decreased ingestion of artificial sweeteners grows. The research findings indicate that it might be time to cut back on total intake, perhaps drinking one fewer can of diet soda per day and selecting a snack of nuts or blueberries rather than sugar-free cookies. Limited consumption of products with artificial sweeteners could be important to limiting the associated health risks. Similar to other medical recommendations regarding nutrition and fitness, the guidance at this point is moderation.

Cherise Tasker is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the Central Branch and has a background in health information. Most evenings, Cherise can be found reading a book, attending a book club meeting, or coordinating a book group.

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Saturday, Jan. 17, 2:00 p.m. I’m Going to Be a Big Brother or Sister at Central Branch. Prepare for the arrival of a baby in this class for new siblings. Enjoy stories, activities, and bring a favorite doll or stuffed animal to practice holding your baby. Resources for parents, too. Families; 30 – 45 min. Ticket required.In partnership with Howard County General Hospital: A Member of Johns Hopkins Medicine. Limited space; tickets available at Children’s Desk 15 minutes before class.

Saturday, Jan. 17, 3:00 p.m. Hands Only CPR & AED at Savage Branch. You could save a life! Learn about cardiac arrest, how to recognize it’s happening, and the three simple steps of hands-only CPR for victims over 8 years old. Receive a basic overview of an automated external defibrillator (AED). Ages 9-18; 60 min. Registration is required. Register online or by calling 410.313.0760.

Tuesday, Jan. 20, 5:30-7 p.m. Free  Weight Loss through Bariatric Surgery presentation about surgical weight loss options available through the Johns Hopkins Center for Bariatric Surgery in Howard County General Hospital’s Wellness Center. Hear program requirements and how to navigate the insurance approval process. Call 410-550-KNOW.

Thursday, Jan. 22, 10:15 a.m. & 11:30 a.m. Healthy Kids at Miller Branch.  Explore simple health concepts inspired by children’s literature. Ages 3-5 with adult; 45 min. Multi-week series. Well & Wise event. Limited space; tickets available at Children’s Desk 15 minutes before class. Ticket Required.

Thursday, Jan. 29, 10:15 a.m. & 11:30 a.m. Healthy Kids at Miller. Explore simple health concepts inspired by children’s literature. Ages 3-5 with adult; 45 min. Multi-week series. Well & Wise event. Limited space; tickets available at Children’s Desk 15 minutes before class. Ticket Required.


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