How strong is the biological element in gender? Is it psychologically possible, in infancy, to engineer one’s sexuality? At what point in utero are we wired to be male or female?

In 1966 rural Winnipeg, none of these facts mattered to a teenaged couple whose baby boy had recently suffered a botched circumcision and now faced a life they could not imagine. They would journey all the way to Baltimore to the Johns Hopkins Psychohormonal Research Unit under the auspices of psychologist, John Money. Their son, they were promised, would be successfully reassigned as a girl. What Janet and Ron Reimer may not have been told was that “sexual reassignment had never been done on a normal child with normal genitals and nervous system.”

Journalist John Colapinto delivers a precise and compelling examination of a world-famous case that proved “pre-birth factors set limits on how far culture, learning, and environment can direct gender identity in humans” in As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl.

Only more compelling is getting to know David Reimer himself. A girl from the age of two until eighteen, his battle with depression and self-loathing is heartbreaking—shocking at times—but you will come away believing he is one of the bravest people you have ever met.

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.

hocoblogs@@@


read more

appsIncreasingly technology can be used for supporting health, even at the personal health management level. I’m not a technology early adapter, but even I am using it to help track and manage aspects of my health.

Here’s a simple example. When I came home from knee replacement surgery and orthopedic rehab last year I had a complex regimen of medications, physical therapy, and other appointments. To keep it all straight, I drafted a daily schedule using a spreadsheet to track my medications and appointments. I’d update it every week as my schedule shifted and I was taken off medications during my recovery.

Sounds kind of basic—but this tool was so helpful for making sure I kept up with my therapy and didn’t miss any of my medications. After I returned back to work and ‘normal’ life, I didn’t need such a detailed tool anymore, but I did install some reminders in my calendar for certain health tasks (like taking weekly or month medications) so that I’d have a backup system in place.

I’ve barely delved into the tech world for health management and already I’m impressed by the usefulness of the tools. For a number of months I’ve been tracking my nutrition and exercise with “My Fitness Pal,” an app on my phone (or accessible through the web). This has helped me to look at another aspect of my health and reach some goals.

There are apps for monitoring health conditions, checking symptoms, and more. The only downside of having so many options is that we need to choose carefully what tools we can trust and use beneficially. My decisions have been influenced by word of mouth and researching reviews about apps. It’s also a good idea to consider with whom you want to share your personal information.

Another handy trend is the increasing frequency of health providers creating online portals for patient access to records, messaging with doctors, and other health tools. This can make it easier for sending a question or note to your doctor on a non-urgent matter. I like being able to see my test results and looking at them over time for any changes.

Patients can use technology to track and manage health conditions, interact with providers, and even basic research for background on questions or concerns. Now is a time ripe with opportunities to harness technology for the benefit of health.

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


read more

Please tell me you’ve seen the videos of people dumping buckets of ice water on themselves (or others) on TV or all over social media. If you haven’t, I’m talking about the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. These viral videos saturated the web and local and national television for most of August 2014. The videos encouraged participants to dump buckets of ice water on themselves and challenge others do to the same in an effort to raise awareness and funds for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).

In fact, Well & Wise participated too!
Howard County General Hospital: A Member of Johns Hopkins Medicine challenged Howard County Library System just this week! Here’s the proof!

So, what is ALS again? Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), more commonly called “Lou Gehrig’s Disease,” “is a terminal neurological disorder characterized by progressive degeneration of nerve cells in the spinal cord and brain…it is one of the most devastating of the disorders that affects the function of nerves and muscles. ALS does not affect mental functioning or the senses (such as seeing or hearing), and it is not contagious. Currently, there is no cure for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. There are three variations of ALS: sporadic, familial, and Guamanian.” (hopkinsmedicine.org)

While the excitement over the challenge may have waned as the campaign ended and the ALS Association’s (ALSA) bid to trademark the challenge (recently rescinded), the videos are still coming in from around the world. People are still taking and making challenges today.

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was an ingenious idea that came out at just the right time and with the right approach. Fun, accessible, and packed with great storytelling. A personal story and a direct call to action makes all the difference when it comes to bringing about change. I’m sure other organizations and causes will be hoping for some of that ice bucket luck as they craft their newest fundraising campaigns. ALSA’s brilliant August campaign raised over $111,000,000.

But where is all this change (money) going? Well, toward the ALSA mission. Research, trials, operating budgets, outreach, and patient navigation are important aspects of their mission that require funding. According to their site, ALSA is the only national non-profit fighting ASL on every front. That’s a pretty big claim and I’m certain $111 million can do a lot of good.

If you’re curious about ALS research and the importance of collaboration check out what the CDC has compiled concerning the National ALS Registry. And if you’d like to get involved with ALSA (ice bucket or not) visit ALSA.org.

Also, if you are so inclined, you can see my personal #ALSIceBucketChallenge video here (taken on Aug. 21, 2014). Remember, if you participate use #ALSIceBucketChallenge!

JP is the HCLS Editor & Blog Coordinator for Well & Wise. She is also a Children’s Instructor & Research Specialist at the Savage Branch. She is a storyteller, wannabe triathlete, KPOP-addict, baker of cupcakes, cancer survivor, and liver transplant recipient.

 


read more
creative salad mix

© Dmitriy Shironosov | Dreamstime.com

“Food is a powerful arsenal against disease,” says Lynda McIntyre, R.D., L.D., an oncology nutrition specialist with Johns Hopkins Medicine. “Consuming plant-based foods, which are rich in antioxidants, helps to protect the body’s cells from damage and decrease your risk of cancer.”

HCGH Oncologist Nicholas Koutrelakos, M.D., agrees, also noting that “eating fruits, vegetables and grains that contain beta carotene and vitamin C can help prevent cancer-causing carcinogens from forming and help to reduce obesity and heart disease.”

“I encourage patients to ‘eat the rainbow;’ in other words, eat brightly colored fruits and vegetables that are high in antioxidants,” says McIntyre. “Try to consume seven to eight servings of fruits and vegetables each day (three servings of fruit/four servings of vegetables). A serving size is a half cup, and you should try to eat at least one cup at every meal.”

 

Add Color and Spice To Your Diet
  • Foods that are orange and dark green (high in beta carotene): spinach, mangoes, carrots.
  • Oranges! One orange contains every anti-cancer phytochemical that has been discovered. Part of the power of the orange is in the zest – adding it to salads increases the nutrition density of that food.
  • Cruciferous vegetables: broccoli and kale (four to five times per week).
  • Vitamin C-rich foods daily: strawberries, citrus, mango, bell peppers, kiwi.
  • A variety of fruits and vegetables – not just one color – but three to four colors.
  • Plenty of fiber: 30 grams per day from whole grains, whole wheat, beans (kidney, red, lentils, garbanzo, legumes) and peas.
  • A combination of foods. Certain foods can maximize nutritional impact when combined. Foods containing beta-carotene, combined with certain fats, bolster nutrition. For example, carrots dipped in hummus and sautéing spinach in olive oil increases the absorption of the beta-carotene. When we combine foods that contain iron with those containing vitamin C, the absorption of iron is increased. For example, a spinach and strawberry salad.
  • Foods containing Omega 3 fatty acids. “Our bodies do not make these,” says Dr. Koutrelakos. “They have great nutritional benefit and are only found in foods that we eat, such as fish and beans.
  • Herbs and spices (dried is acceptable and has more concentrated antioxidant benefit):
    • Turmeric and curry are healthy additions.
    • Cinnamon: Just a half teaspoon has as much antioxidant properties as a half cup of raspberries. Add cinnamon to everything you can think of – cereal, apples, coffee – and it will increase the nutrition density of your food.
    • Thyme and oregano are powerful antioxidants – just a half teaspoon provides a lot of health benefits.

     

    Beyond Fruits and Vegetables
    • Eat lean protein: turkey breast and chicken breast. You can include lean red meat once a week.
    • Your cooking method is important. Keep it “slow and low” temperature whenever possible. Be careful when grilling not to char.
    • Marinades with lemon and rosemary or wine and beer help to decrease cancer-causing agents in grilling.
    • Limit alcohol intake to three to four times per week.
    • Exercise/activity is as important as diet. Studies have shown that people who are sedentary and obese are at a higher risk of getting colorectal cancer. Obesity also can increase your risk of developing breast cancer.
    • “Maintain a normal body weight. Seventy percent of my patients are overweight,” says Dr. Koutrelakos. “That is directly related to cancer. I am seeing cancer in younger patients, too, who are eating the wrong foods and foods that are too high in fructose (sugar) resulting in an increased body mass index (BMI).”
    • Keep fat intake low. High fat intake can increase your risk of developing some types of cancers.

read more

You know how hamsters spend countless hours on that little wheel in their cage? Ever feel like this on the treadmill or elliptical, getting nowhere, minute after boring minute?  If you find yourself stuck focusing on training in that “fat burn” zone, seeing very little progress, welcome to the club. To top it off, you spend all this time and see little progress.

Let’s examine the animal kingdom for a minute or so. Think about the body of an elephant vs. the body of a cheetah. Pretty sure the body fat of an elephant far outweighs the body fat of a cheetah. Why and how do these two animals move differently? Well, elephants walk and wander, cheetah’s sprint and pant. That walk and wander resembles those hours on the cardio machine while the sprint and pant resembles interval training at its best.

For years, we conditioned women to believe doing cardio for endless minutes in that enjoyable fat burn heart rate zone resulted in success. Instilling the fear of “getting big and bulky like a man” if we lifted weights. How about a show of hands on who enjoys those countless, boring minutes? Well, consider this your permission to get off the treadmill for hours on end and shorten your workouts with interval training. Keep in mind, this does not mean using the “fat burn” or “cardio” workout options on that same treadmill or elliptical. This may require a little pushing of buttons and paying attention on your part! It’s okay, keep reading, I provided you with some guidelines.

First, let’s define interval training a little better. Interval training uses specific periods of higher intensity exercise mixed with lower intensity recovery time. You can use the very same machines or you can take it outside. Start with a defined time for each interval, even though it may feel easy in the beginning. Set your higher intensity interval at a level you can only maintain for a short period of time (to be defined later!). Your lower intensity allows you to recover your breathing and heart rate. You may need to play around with the exact level to find your right intensity. On a scale of 1 – 10, you want to feel like your intensity falls around 7-8 on the higher intervals and a 4 – 5 on the recovery.

Now, on to the nitty-gritty details. An interval workout last about 30 – 40 minutes… Yes, that’s all you need on the interval training days! Use your first 5 minutes to warm up at a level around 2 – 3 on the 1 – 10 scale. For the next 20 – 25 minutes, start with a 1 minute work and 90 second recovery. Maintain this for the entire 20 – 25 minute workout. Your increased intensity could be faster speed or higher incline/level depending on the type of exercise.

Editor’s Note: This post is for informational purposes only.  Please consult your primary care physician before undertaking any exercise regime or diet program.

Lisa Martin founded the Girls on the Run program in Howard County in 2009. Lisa is AFAA & NSCA certified, has more than 15 years of personal training experience, and practices a multidimensional wellness approach at her studio, Salvere Health & Fitness. Lisa says that one of the best things about being in the health and fitness industry is watching people accomplish things they never thought possible.

read more

calendar_2014smMonday, Sept. 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. No registration required.

Monday, Sept. 8, 10:30 a.m. & 11:15 a.m. Tae Kwon Do: Mommy & Me at Miller Branch. Mommy and child participate in a fun-filled activity, led by instructors from Sykesville Tae Kwon Do, while developing movement awareness, motor skills, balance, coordination, flexibility, and agility. Wear athletic shoes, and loose fitting pants or shorts. Ages 2-3 with adult; 30 min. Registration and a signed release form is required.

Sept. 8 10:30 a.m. Registration|Release  Sept. 8 11:15 a.m. Registration|Release

Tuesday, Sept. 9, 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. Blood Pressure Screening at Elkridge Branch. Free, walk-in blood pressure screening and monitoring offered by Howard County General Hospital: a Member of Johns Hopkins Medicine. No registration required.

Tuesday, Sept. 9, 6:30 p.m. I’m Going to Be a Big Brother or Sister at Miller 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 a baby. Resources for parents, too. Families; 30 – 45 min. Ticket required. Well & Wise event – 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, Sept. 13, 2:00 p.m. Declutter Your Life at Glenwood Branch. Ellen Newman, owner of ClutterRx, shows how to make your life easier by clearing the clutter. Register online or by calling 410.313.5577.

Monday, Sept. 15, 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.

Tuesday, Sept. 16, 7:00 p.m. Hands Only CPR & AED at Elkridge Branch. Learn how to start CPR right away and continue doing chest compressions until help arrives. 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). Training in Hands-Only CPR gives you the ability to help save a life without using mouth-to-mouth ventilation or obtaining a certification card. Ages 11-17. Register online or by calling 410.313.5088.

Starts Tuesday, Sept. 16, 6:30 – 8 p.m. Healthy Weight Connection. Kick-start lifestyle changes, including diet and exercise, to help you reach a healthier weight. Receive personalized guidance from a certified dietitian. Classes run in Howard County General Hospital’s Wellness Center. Tuesday/Thursday through Nov. 6. Cost is $195.


read more