Steve Snelgrove, Howard County General Hospital’s new president, gets ready to “bike the lights.”

Steve Snelgrove, Howard County General Hospital’s new president, gets ready to “bike the lights.”

The Howard County General Hospital Symphony of Lights, a spectacular display of 70 larger-than-life, animated and stationary light creations, has been a favorite community holiday tradition for 21 years and the largest annual fundraising event to benefit the hospital.

People have been running, walking, driving, pushing tots in strollers, walking pets on leashes and celebrating New Year’s Eve at the Symphony of Lights for many years, and now there is a new, healthier way to enjoy the holiday magic. You can “Bike the Lights” on Tuesday, Dec. 2. It’s a great family outing and a wonderful way to kick off the holiday season for bikers of all ages and abilities. If you’re not keen on biking, you can walk…the course is 1.4 miles and mostly flat! It will help you be festive and fit.

In addition to having fun and helping your community hospital, biking is good for your heart and your health. Here are some great reasons to ride your bike through the holiday lights and to make biking a part of your regular exercise routines.

The American Heart Association (AHA) notes that physical activity—anything that makes you move your body to burn calories—is very important to prevent heart disease and stroke and recommends at least 30 minutes a day of aerobic exercise, five times a week. Biking is an excellent aerobic activity.

According to the AHA, regular exercise:

  • Improves blood circulation throughout your body
  • Keeps weight under control
  • Improves blood cholesterol levels
  • Prevents and manages high blood pressure
  • Prevents bone loss
  • Boosts your energy level
  • Releases tension
  • Improves your ability to fall asleep quickly and sleep well
  • Improves self-image
  • Helps manage stress
  • Counters anxiety and depression
  • Increases your enthusiasm and optimism
  • Increases your muscle strength

A daily exercise program can provide a way for you to share an activity with your family and friends, while helping you establish good heart-healthy habits. Daily exercise can help your child deter conditions such as obesity, high blood pressure, poor cholesterol levels, and poor lifestyle habits that lead to heart attack and stroke later in life. If you are an older adult, daily physical activity can help delay or prevent chronic illnesses and diseases associated with aging, and help you maintain your quality of life and independence longer.

Do your hospital and your body a big favor: Come out and Bike the Lights!


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One of the ironic things about becoming sick and living with a chronic illness is that you increasingly appreciate good health and feeling well. Although I have lived with rheumatoid arthritis since I was a small child, I still admire wellness in others.

For example, I have difficulty walking and yet enjoy watching others—how easy it looks in comparison to the gait I practice with great effort and thoughtful concentration. It amazes me just not only how people can walk without thinking about it, but that they can run. To me, running is akin to flying—an amazing feat.

Maybe my favorite healthy person to watch is a toddler. They have such beautifully healthy and flexible joints! I love how they can tumble and play—moving without an ounce of effort and filled with energy. Living with a joint disease has led me to appreciate bones that are not painful, that are flexible and healthy.

When I had my knee removed, all I wanted was a good, functioning knee. When I had my new knee replacement, I wanted strength and to be able to lift my leg on my own power. Gradually I got there, but it was keeping that goal of better health in my mind that helped me to achieve it. Sometimes seeing good health and knowing what it is to you can be an inspiration for a goal. Other times it is something you can appreciate and admire.

I know that I will not be cured of my rheumatoid arthritis and return to perfect health. I live with an ongoing condition that can also cause other issues. However, I appreciate the relative health I do have. No matter how bad we’re feeling, I think it’s possible to find a bright side—like a steady heartbeat, breath of fresh air, or the feeling of sun on our skin.

Appreciating good health, means being glad of it for others and counting our blessings even during an illness.

Kelly Mack lives in Washington, DC, and works for a marketing communications firm.

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Symphony of Lights, a 20-minute drive through of more than 70 larger-than-life holiday light displays, benefiting Howard County General Hospital, is now open nightly from 6 to 10 p.m. through Jan. 4, 2015 (closed for walk-through events on Tuesdays and Dec. 31). The display, presented by Macy’s, is in Columbia’s Symphony Woods. Admission is $20 per car or van up to eight. $5 off coupon. You can also participate in a Group Walk-Through. They’re perfect for scouts, school groups and more (Tuesdays through Dec. 30, pre-registration required, pets prohibited).

Monday, Dec. 1, 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, Dec. 1, 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.

Monday, Dec. 8, 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, Dec. 8, 7:00 p.m. Cutting Edge Discoveries in Neuroscience to Boost Your Brain (Part 2) at Miller Branch. As this three-part series continues, Majid Fotuhi, M.D., Ph.D., teaches how to boost brain capacity at any age. The founder and chief medical officer of NeurExpand, Fotuhi has written three books about brain health: Boost Your Brain: The New Art and Science Behind Enhanced Brain Performance; The Memory Cure; and The New York Times Crosswords to Keep Your Brain Young: The 6-Step Age-Defying Program. Fotuhi received his M.D. from Harvard Medical School and his Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. His research findings have been published in The Journal of Neuroscience, The Lancet, Nature, Neurology, Neuron, and The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Fotuhi has been featured on PBS, The Dr. Oz Show, CNN, Discovery Channel, NBC’s TODAY show, and numerous other national media. Registration Required.

 


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fotor_(48)Now that I am surrounded by folks with fall colds, and woke up this morning congested, it’s time to address a critical question. Is blowing my nose advisable or not? Will blowing my nose relieve the stuffy feeling? Will it shorten the length of my symptoms?

A 1999 study at the University of Virginia used four healthy human subjects to measure the pressures generated by nose blowing. Nose blowing generated over ten times as much intranasal pressure as coughing and sneezing did. CT scanning was then used to see if nose blowing, coughing or sneezing caused contrast medium to be pushed into the paranasal sinuses. Only nose blowing resulted in contrast movement. In two of the subjects, some contrast had moved into the maxillary and frontal sinuses after the subjects had blown their noses.

Does this mean that nose blowing increases the risk for a cold progressing to a sinus infection? Are the viruses or bacteria in the nose being propelled into the paranasal sinuses? Given the small scale of this research, there would need to be more studies to answer the question definitively. The preliminary conclusion that the pressure generated by nose blowing can increase the risk of furthering an infection makes logical sense, however.

Health care providers recommend that nose blowing only be done gently. If you feel your ears popping, you are definitely using too much force. Holding one nostril closed while blowing out the other nostril helps to control the pressure. Blowing through one nostril at a time also assists in assuring that both sides are somewhat cleared. Another good way to lower the pressure is to keep your mouth open while blowing your nose.

Wiping your nose or using saline nasal rinses may be less traumatic to your nasal passages than blowing your nose. These more gentle measures could possibly decrease the risk of pushing the infection into the sinuses. Inhaling steam or taking decongestant medication can help thin the secretions and ease the drainage of the congestion. Of note, much of the feeling of congestion is due to swollen membranes and dilated blood vessels rather than actual mucus. For this reason, blowing your nose may not even relieve the stuffy feeling.

Finally, if you’ve decided to blow your nose, wash your hands when you’re done. Try to avoid touching your face throughout the day. It is easy to spread the cold to others if you then touch something like a shared keyboard or door handle.

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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1970s family portrait

1970s family portrait

Commit to give up smoking for at least one day: the Great American Smokeout is Thursday, Nov. 20, 2014

This year, for the Great American Smokeout, I share a childhood story that may hit home for smokers who are also parents.

I grew up in Howard County in the early 70s and 80s, with two wonderful parents who did everything for me. I don’t know where I would be without them. More people smoked back then, and both of my parents did, too.

The county public schools in the 70s were showing scary pictures of black lungs to young school children in an effort to convince us that smoking was not a good habit to start. It did make me think twice about smoking, but it also made me worry about my parents’ health. So I came home from school and proposed a deal with them that I would quit sucking my thumb (yes, I still did that through the second or third grade and they’d been trying to get me to quit) if they would quit smoking. Around that same time, my Uncle Joe died of cancer. He was a smoker, too. After his funeral, they both decided it was time to quit smoking.

No surprise, I ended up working in health care as an adult, writing about healthy behaviors, prevention and risk factors. It’s fascinating to me how many illnesses can be prevented with the advice your parents always gave you: eat right, exercise, get good rest—and of course don’t smoke. We all know what we should and shouldn’t do, but actually doing it is sometimes difficult.

Tragically, my father died at age 63, the year after he retired. I still miss him every day. He had a heart defect and I truly believe that he lived as long as he did because he quit smoking in his early 40s, as smoking would have put more stress on his heart. My mother is in her early eighties now, and in overall good health despite a strong family history of heart disease and stroke (plus help from some great doctors and the caring team at our hospital’s Cardiac Rehabilitation Program!).

I can’t take credit for having great parents or for making them quit smoking—they did it all on their own. But sometimes we forget that daily behaviors can make a big difference in ensuring a long and healthy life. I think most people would agree that they’d like to be there for their children as they become adults. I may be a grown up, but I still need my mom, and it goes without saying that I’m glad she’s still here.

Incidentally, before my mother retired, she helped run the smoking cessation program at her workplace. Today, there are many good programs and methods out there for quitting if you really want to do it. Maybe your kids can be your motivation, or maybe it will come from somewhere else.

On Thursday, Nov. 20, at least consider quitting for one day and try to keep it going. Visit the Howard County General Hospital lobby during the Great American Smokeout for information and literature to help you quit.

The hospital also offers a Smoke Free Lungs class, and you can find information on free smoke free programs for Howard County residents here.

Susan Case is the director of Marketing and Communications at Howard County General Hospital.

 


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animal madnessShe called him “beast.”

He was a noble Bernese Mountain Dog, and next to her new husband, the love of Laurel Braitman’s life.

But after only a few months, the big dog she named Oliver, began to exhibit a series of profound behaviors: snapping at invisible flies, licking his paws into sodden masses, and eventually jumping out a third-story window – his unknown demons chasing close behind.

Serious medication and intense intervention were stepped up, but in the end Oliver succumbed to both emotional and physical trauma. Braitman, unlike her husband, was inconsolable, and soon his curious lack of empathy signaled a tipping point in the marriage.

Alone, Braitman now sought serious closure and catharsis: What exactly did Oliver feel or perceive that impaired his ability to function normally? And why the heck was it so eerily close to what humans feel? Braitman, a doctor of medical history, began to buttonhole the experts – animal psychologists, ethologists — even an animal trainer or two. Do we share an underlying brain structure that not only “exists across animal species,” but can similarly malfunction when an emotional state is compromised? More importantly, can understanding animal behavior benefit our own – even if we don’t speak the same language? The answers, Braitman found, were in the nine phyla of the animal kingdom.

From the adrenaline-charged cervidae for example. When pursued by predators, deer experience a blood-pressure spike not dissimilar to the white-coat hypertension I know I feel in a doctor’s office.

To the laws of attraction: Who knew bees were as picky about the flowers they pollinate as humans browsing online dating profiles? And then there are the giggling rats, the embarrassed octopus, and the bullied bonobo with PTSD. What, you might ask, was 17th century philosopher, Rene Descartes thinking when he arrogantly pronounced all beasts as “nothing more than automatons”?

Generous and engaging, Animal Madness: How Anxious Dogs, Compulsive Parrots, and Elephants in Recovery Help Us Understand Ourselves will have readers looking in the mirror more than once.

Curious George would give this one two opposable thumbs up.

Aimee Zuccarini is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the East Columbia Branch. She facilitates several book discussions and writes the book reviews for The Maryland Women’s Journal.


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Symphony of Lights, a 20-minute drive through more than 70 larger-than-life holiday light displays, benefiting Howard County General Hospital, opens nightly from 6 to 10 p.m. Nov. 17 through Jan. 4, 2015 (closed on Tuesdays and Dec. 31). The display, presented by Macy’s, is in Columbia’s Symphony Woods. Admission is $20 per car or van up to eight.  $5 off couponDazzle Dash kicks off Symphony of Lights with a run/walk through the lights as well as activities, food, music, entertainment and giveaways this weekend: Nov. 15.

Monday, Nov. 17, 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.

Thursday, Nov. 20, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Great American Smokeout  in the Howard County General Hospital lobby: includes information and literature to help you stop smoking. Free event.

Monday, Dec. 1, 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, Dec. 1, 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

Monday, Dec. 8, 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, Dec. 8, 7:00 p.m. Cutting Edge Discoveries in Neuroscience to Boost Your Brain (Part 2) at Miller Branch. As this three-part series continues, Majid Fotuhi, M.D., Ph.D., teaches how to boost brain capacity at any age. The founder and chief medical officer of NeurExpand, Fotuhi has written three books about brain health: Boost Your Brain: The New Art and Science Behind Enhanced Brain Performance; The Memory Cure; and The New York Times Crosswords to Keep Your Brain Young: The 6-Step Age-Defying Program. Fotuhi received his M.D. from Harvard Medical School and his Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. His research findings have been published in The Journal of Neuroscience, The Lancet, Nature, Neurology, Neuron, and The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Fotuhi has been featured on PBS, The Dr. Oz Show, CNN, Discovery Channel, NBC’s TODAY show, and numerous other national media. Registration Required.


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