A day of gardening by Howard County General Hospital's Population Health staff to provide Maryland Food Bank shoppers with fresh healthy vegetables.

A day of gardening by Howard County General Hospital’s Population Health staff to provide Maryland Food Bank shoppers with fresh healthy vegetables.

The health benefits of gardening are numerous. There is a certain symbiosis that exists between you and the earth when you start digging in the dirt.

Recently, the Population Health department at Howard County General Hospital volunteered to plant vegetables in the Howard County Community Garden as a team building exercise and as a way to give back to our community. The vegetables we planted will be donated to the Maryland Food Bank, providing people in need with healthy, organic and fresh vegetables.

Most of our team members had never gardened before and were amazed at how much they enjoyed the experience. As we prepared the garden plot, planted different types of vegetable plants and then mulched the beds to promote its health and future growth, we all stood back and admired the hard work of producing healthy, fresh food.

As a home gardener, it was wonderful to share my passion with my colleagues and to be a part of a movement that is promoting healthy eating and providing fresh, nutritious food to our community. There are many benefits to starting your own garden that go beyond just the food you produce.

Gardening is:

  1. Cost effective. One vegetable plant can produce vegetables throughout the season, saving you trips to the market and money on fresh produce. Vegetable and fruit plants as well as seeds are relatively inexpensive and are truly the gift that keeps on giving, all season long.
  2. Convenient. Once your plants start producing vegetables, just go into your yard and pick your own food.
  3. Organic. You don’t have to worry about toxins and chemicals on your own food because it’s all grown organically.
  4. Relaxing. Gardening can be a very therapeutic activity. In fact, studies have shown gardening’s positive benefits on reducing anxiety and stress, increasing activity levels, and improving mental clarity in people, not to mention producing healthy food that benefits overall wellness.
  5. Educational. Being out in the garden provides an opportunity to learn about the environment in which we live and how gardening success is dependent on natural factors such as weather (think April showers) and insects like bees that are critical to the pollination that makes our plants grow.

Gardening Tips for Newbies

  • Start small. Try an herb garden which is easy to grow and can be started in pots, and even grown inside on a windowsill.
  • Consider container gardening. Container gardens are great for individuals with small yards or no yard, or for people who are new to gardening and not ready to commit too much time and energy. Almost all vegetables grow well in containers and will produce all season long. Drill small drainage holes in inexpensive, large plastic pots, plant your veggies and watch them grow. Add some plant food a couple of times throughout the season, provide water and sun and enjoy your fresh produce.
  • Discover a community garden. Many communities throughout Maryland, including Howard County, have community gardens where you can rent a plot of land and plant your own garden. Universities may also sponsor a community garden and many communities provide access to master gardeners who can answer questions and help you get started. Learn more about Howard County Community Gardens.

Even if you don’t have a green thumb, you’ll be amazed at what you can grow on your own. If gardening isn’t right for you, don’t despair! Throughout the spring, summer and fall growing seasons, local farms share their abundant produce at farmer’s markets throughout the county, so fresh and healthy foods are always ready for the picking.

Learn more about gardening from Gardening: It Does a Body Good and Beyond Veggies: Why Gardening is Good for You.

Laura Torres, LCSW-C, is a behavioral health program manager in Howard County General Hospital’s Population Health Department. Learn more about our Population Health programs at hcgh.org/populationhealth.

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May is stroke awareness month, which is a perfect time to remind people about the signs and symptoms of stroke and why it is imperative that a person exhibiting signs receives immediate medical attention.

You may have heard the phrase, “Time lost is brain lost.” When a stroke occurs, it’s often sudden. Understanding the symptoms will allow you to act quickly and decisively. Every minute a stroke victim remains untreated could mean the difference between a full recovery and loss of important functions such as speech or movement.

5 Stroke Symptoms Everyone Should Know

How would you know if a family member is having a stroke? Look for these classic signs and take immediate action to get medical attention:

If a loved one experiences a sudden onset of:

  • Abnormal speech or loss of speech or confusion
  • Weakness or numbness of the face, arms, or legs, especially on one side of the body
  • Severe imbalance, difficulty walking or dizziness
  • Loss of sight in one or both eyes
  • Severe headache

He or she may be having a stroke. Call 9-1-1 Immediately at the first sign of any or all of these classic stroke symptoms.

Family Members Play a Crucial Part in Saving a Loved One’s Life from Stroke

Now you know that time is brain and immediate action and medical attention can save a stroke victim’s life. But, did you also know that family members and those living with the patient play a key role in if and when lifesaving stroke treatments are delivered?

According to Eric Aldrich, M.D., medical director of the stroke center at Howard County General Hospital, one of the first questions emergency personnel, including EMS workers and Emergency Department physicians, will ask is at what time the first symptoms of stroke began.

“Believe it or not, stroke diagnosis comes down to and starts with good old fashioned history,” said Dr. Aldrich. HCGH’s emergency medicine physicians work closely with a team of neurologists and will ask family members about the patient’s first signs of stroke including:

  • When was the patient last seen normal?
  • Did the patient stop speaking? If so, when?
  • Is his or her right side of the body weak?

“This history and description provided by family members, coupled with the medical exam and CT imaging, helps our team make the quick decision on whether it’s appropriate to give tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) – the clot busting drug that dissolves the clot causing the stroke.” Dr. Aldrich added that being within the 4 to 4 ½ hour window from onset of stroke symptoms to when the tPA is given makes a big difference in how a stroke victim recovers function.

When it comes to stroke, be aware and act FAST.

Watch Dr. Aldrich explain how a stroke is diagnosed, the symptoms and prognosis, and how families can assist with care and a loved one’s road to recovery.


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When I was growing up we often visited my mom’s cousin, Audrey, who suffered from Multiple Sclerosis or MS. She was always kind and always in a hospital bed on the first floor of her home. As a child I did not think much about it; it was just the way it was and it never changed. Now my college-age daughter has been dating a young man whose mother suffers from MS, so I thought it was time that I learned more about this disease with no clear etiology and no known cure.

Multiple Sclerosis is a disease of the central nervous system, which comprises the brain and spinal cord. In MS the immune system attacks nerve fibers. The resulting nerve damage disrupts communication between the brain and the body. Its symptoms are variable and can fluctuate over time and its effects can range from relatively benign to disabling. Some of the symptoms of MS include blurred or double vision, difficulty walking, muscle weakness in the extremities, difficulty with coordination, loss of sensation, speech problems and fatigue. Doctors have to use a variety of tools and lab tests to rule out other possible disorders before confirming the diagnosis because these symptoms are common with other disorders. Unfortunately, there is no single test than can diagnose MS. Multiple Sclerosis is not contagious or inherited directly. However, Multiple Sclerosis occurs more frequently in women than in men, affects people between the ages of 20 – 40, and it predominantly affects people of European descent.

There is no cure yet for Multiple Sclerosis, so treatment varies depending on an individual’s symptoms. Researchers from around the world, including those at Johns Hopkins, are trying to identify what causes MS so they can develop better diagnostic tools and better treatments. The complications from MS can range from mild to severe, and treatments are only partially effective.  Doctors can treat flare-ups, help manage symptoms, and improve function and mobility in their MS patients.

There is still much to learn about this chronic disease and its many manifestations. The library has excellent resources if you have questions about MS or know someone who is diagnosed with MS. Living with Multiple Sclerosis is a great challenge and there remains many unanswered questions for patients of MS, doctors and researchers. Let’s hope that one day there will be answers and a cure.






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.

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Howard County General Hospital 1972 Construction

Howard County General Hospital 1972 Construction

Each year in May, hospitals across the nation celebrate National Hospital Week, a time to reflect on what makes a hospital truly great. There are so many examples we can point to when talking about what makes us great – our infrastructure, advanced technology, our many community programs and services as well as the dedication to and delivery of superior patient care day in and day out. HCGH is more than a place where people go when they are sick. It’s a center of healing and a place of hope for so many people in Howard County. It’s the history we have with generations of families who have turned to the hospital for care for decades, and it is the people who deliver the care that make a difference in the lives of so many in our community.

In honor of Hospital Week 2017, here are our top three reasons why HCGH is great. We hope that you’ll have a few reasons of your own as well and share them in the comments section.

  1. HCGH has a long history of delivering exceptional care. Did you know that HCGH is a 70s baby? The hospital was “born” in 1973 as a 59-bed hospital on the edge of farm land in a yet to be developed town called Columbia. We were known as The Columbia Hospital and Clinics Foundation. Since then, we’ve grown up a bit. Today, we are Howard County General Hospital: A Member of Johns Hopkins Medicine, a comprehensive, acute-care medical center with 264 licensed beds specializing in women’s and children’s services, surgery, cardiology, oncology, orthopedics, gerontology, psychiatry, emergency services and community health education.
  2. HCGH is always there when called upon. On our first day of operation in 1973, the hospital had 36 patients in the emergency room and four patients admitted. Today, our staff interacts with more than 730 patients a day and evaluates and treats more than 78,000 people in the ED each year.
  3. Our people are the true greatness within. We’d be nothing without the amazing people who make up HCGH. If not for the commitment and collective efforts of HCGH’s 1,900 full and part-time employees, there wouldn’t be as much to celebrate during this commemorative week. From the front line care providers to all those who work behind the scenes, HCGH’s team works like a well-oiled machine to provide the highest level of patient care and extraordinary commitment to the community.
Howard County General Hospital Today

Howard County General Hospital Today

Who makes HCGH great?
Everyone from: physicians, nurses and clinical staff, environmental services technicians, telecommunications, radiology and diagnostic imaging, central transporters, central sterile processors, information technologists, case managers and social workers, oncology support staff, dietary services, maintenance and plant management, biomedical engineers, pathology and lab professionals, surgical services and documentation specialists, general stores and purchasing, finance and compliance, front desk staff, administrators, volunteers, and donors. The list of people who make HCGH great goes on, and on, and on.

Hospital Week is a time to celebrate just how far we have come in our mission of serving all patients with the highest quality care to improve the health of our community. The HCGH team ensures that the hospital remains ready and reliable to focus on the well-being of our community, now and for the future. We’d say that’s pretty great. Happy Hospital Week!

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Type 1 vs Type 2 Diabetes

Type 1 vs. Type 2 Diabetes [Credit: Teabrew] / [Dreamstime]

Diabetes is known as a “silent disease” because many of the signs and symptoms are not noticeable, yet approximately 1.4 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes every year.

If you’re like many who think nothing can be done to change your diagnosis, think again. According to Mark Corriere, M.D., an endocrinologist on staff at HCGH, you are in charge and, through lifestyle changes and education, you can be in control of your diabetes.

Get educated.
Diabetes is a disease where self-management and self-awareness are key. Dr. Corriere tell his patients that “you will have this for the rest of your life, so the more you know about it, the better you can manage it.” Take classes and arm yourself with knowledge. Mike Taylor, RN, MHA, CDE, HCGH diabetes clinical program manager, recommends finding a source you trust and ask questions.

Understand the toll of pounds.
Patients underestimate the impact weight loss can have on diabetes. Just losing 10 percent of your body weight can have a dramatic effect, according to Dr. Corriere. Through diet and exercise, you can gain control of your diabetes.

  • Food – When it comes to food, people need to consider portion size. “Everyone wants to talk about cutting carbs, but in reality, the kind of food we eat is not completely to blame; it is also the portion sizes. Just because something is labeled as healthy does not mean it’s true. Products and branding labels can be misleading; instead, read the ingredient label or eat natural foods. For example, using fat-free ranch salad dressing is like putting fat-free ranch-flavored pancake syrup on your salad,” said Taylor.
  • Exercise – Taylor also cites exercise as being the most important thing you can do, outside of your diet, and is more important than any medication. He recommends moving a minimum of 30 minutes each day, four days a week. “You don’t have to start there, but you should get there,” said Taylor. Learn more about the effects of exercise on diabetes.

Have a positive attitude.
You may have a lot going on in your life, but diabetes does not have to stop you from living your life. You can do this. There is help available to guide you through the process.

Embrace change.
Treating diabetes is more than a diet. You have to maintain a level of dedication. It is a behavior change for life.

Begin now.
How you care for yourself during the first few years following your diagnosis can have a real impact. Taylor recommends being involved in defining your goal with your physician and discussing how you are going to achieve it. According to Dr. Corriere, controlling your diabetes from the beginning can make a difference—especially in reducing long-term complications over your lifetime.

Do you have other helpful tips and resources for our readers? Share them. They’ll be glad you did.

Learn more about the Diabetes Management Program at HCGH and the classes offered.

Mark Corriere, M.D. is an endocrinologist on staff at HCGH and at Maryland Endocrine. To schedule an appointment, call 301-953-2080.
Mike Taylor, RN, MHA, CDE, is HCGH diabetes clinical program manager. To schedule an appointment, call 410-740-7601.

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Woman Consoling Man [Credit: Monkeybusinessimages] / [Dreamstime]

April is Defeat Diabetes month and we thought we’d write about a subject that isn’t often written about, how friends and family can provide emotional support to loved ones who have diabetes.

A diabetes diagnosis can be overwhelming emotionally for loved ones as well as the person with the disease. Friends and family don’t always know the best way to help. Licensed psychologist Lisa Hoffmeyer, Ph.D., a diabetic herself, gives friends and family the following advice:

Offer to Help
Ask what kind of help the diabetic needs and wants, and take a collective approach, “What can we do together to make sure you are healthy in the future?” Newly diagnosed diabetics wrestle with the notion that their life will be terribly different moving forward. They often feel their body has failed them. They might be angry. They need support as they make the necessary lifestyle adjustments to manage the disease.

In addition, the patient should also ask their family, “What are you scared of? How can I help you understand my disease? How can you feel safe and know that I am going to be OK?”

Be Informed
If someone with diabetes is open to it, attend doctor visits and educational classes together, but respect their independence. If your loved one has hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), you should know what signs indicate a possible emergency and what to do if your loved one loses consciousness. Family and friends should learn everything the patient does, with one caveat, they should not be the experts—the patient should.

Plan for the Future
Seniors with diabetes may face many challenges and they are twice as likely to get dementia versus non-diabetics. It is important that caregivers be prepared should the diabetic not be capable of managing their care. Have conversations about managing diabetes before it becomes an issue.

Don’t Police
It is important for friends and family to realize the patient needs to own their disease and, unless impaired, they must be in charge of managing it. A lot of family members become the ‘diabetes police,’ and that’s not helpful. Instead of asking, “Are you sure you should be eating that?” a better way to help a loved one with diabetes is to ask, “What can I do to support you and help you succeed?”

Understand Insulin
Many patients with type 2 diabetes will become insulin-dependent or choose to go on insulin pumps. It isn’t a sign that they are doing anything wrong. Insulin may be the best treatment for some people and not necessarily a sign of worsening health. My recommendation is that the diabetic does what it takes to be healthy in the moment.

For more information about diabetes, view:

Do you have other support tips? Share them with us and our readers.

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