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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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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calendar_2014smSaturday, November 8, 2:00 p.m. I’m Going to be a Big Brother or Sister. Prepare for the arrival of a baby in this class at the Central Branch for new siblings. Enjoy stories, activities, and bring a favorite doll or stuffed animal to practice holding a baby. Resources for parents, too. Well & Wise event. Families; 30 – 45 min. Tickets available at Children’s Desk 15 minutes before class.

Saturday, November 8, 2:00-4:00 p.m. Time for a Spa-liday. Need to relax before the holidays? Paint your nails, learn relaxation techniques, listen to soothing music, and make spa treats such as coconut oil hand scrub, bath fizzies, and glycerin soap scrubbies at the Savage Branch. Recipes and ingredients provided. Ages 8-13. Register online or by calling 410.313.0760.

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

Monday, November 4, 10:15 & 11:15 a.m. Turkey Twist and Shout. Sing and shake your turkey tail to tasty tunes at the Elkridge Branch! Ages 2-5 with adult; 30 min. No registration required.

Thursday, November 13, 1:00 p.m. A World of Kindness. CCome to the East Columbia Branch and celebrate random acts of kindness. Share books, songs, and make a craft. Choose Civility event. Ages 3-5; 30 min. Tickets available at Children’s Desk 15 minutes before class.

Wednesday, Nov. 19, 7 to 9 p.m. Happiest Baby on the Block in Howard County General Hospital’s Wellness Center. Learn successful techniques that can quickly soothe your crying newborn and promote a more restful sleep for your infant. Parent kits are included in the $50 couple fee.

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.

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calendar_2014smMonday, November 3, 10:15 a.m. Just for Me. A class at the Savage Branch for children who are ready for an independent class that includes creative expression, listening comprehension, and early reading skills. Ages 3-5; 30 min. Tickets available at Children’s Desk 15 minutes before class. Also offered at 2 p.m. at the Miller Branch and 11/5 at 10:15 & 11:15 a.m. at the Elkridge Branch.

Monday, November 3, 2:00-6:00 p.m. HiTech Symposium. Join us at the Savage Branch for a dynamic event for students, parents, and educators, featuring STEM industry leaders and showcasing classes and various projects built by HCLS’ HiTech students (including a hovercraft, catapult, weather balloon, and music in our new sound booth). Learn how middle and high school students can participate in this STEM education initiative that teaches cutting-edge science, technology, engineering, and math via project-based classes. HiTech is funded in part through a federal grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.Sponsors include Friends of Howard County Library, Frank and Yolanda Bruno, and M&T Bank. Register online or by calling 410.313.0760.

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

Tuesday, November 4, 7:00p.m. Shell Shock: A Study in Medical History from Florence Nightingale to World War I.
Philip Mackowiak, M.D., comes to the Central Branch to discuss the impact of war trauma on Florence Nightingale and the combatants in World War I as he explores shell shock and post-traumatic stress disorder. He is a professor of medicine and the Carolyn Frenkil and Selvin Passen History of Medicine Scholar-in-Residence at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Register online or by calling 410.313.7800.

Tuesday, November 4, 7:00p.m. Guided Meditation. Enjoy a guided mindfulness meditation designed to impart a feeling of peacefulness and connection at the Miller Branch. Please bring a cushion or meditation pillow. Presented by Star Ferguson, M.Ac., L.Ac. Well & Wise event. Register online or by calling 410.313.1950.

Friday, November 7, 7:00 p.m. Scott Stossel and Brigid Schulte in Conversation. Do you make notes in a book’s margins? Imagine having a conversation with the author about your thoughts. Scott Stossel and Brigid Schulte indulge in the opportunity to discuss their most recent works and ask the pressing questions they’ve penned in the margins of each other’s books. Scott Stossel, editor of The Atlantic, is the author of the 2014 New York Times bestseller, My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind. An award-winning journalist for The Washington Post, Brigid Schulte wrote the New York Times bestselling Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time. Register online or by calling 410.313.1950.

Wednesday, Nov. 19, 7 to 9 p.m. Happiest Baby on the Block. Learn successful techniques that can quickly soothe your crying newborn and promote a more restful sleep for your infant in Howard County General Hospital’s Wellness Center. Parent kits are included in the $50 couple fee.

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