May is National Stroke Awareness Month and according to the NSA (National Stroke Association) strokes kill more than 137,000 Americans annually. A stroke (or brain attack) occurs when the blood flow to an area of the brain is disrupted. Some of the general symptoms of a stroke include a weakness or numbness of the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body, as well as sudden vision changes, trouble speaking, or walking. You can read more about the many varied symptoms of a stroke here and stroke risk here. Your primary care physician is the best resource to talk about your risk factors for a stroke and what you can do to decrease those risks. Strokes can cause several types of disabilities and stroke patients may need to relearn skills and new ways to perform tasks. Any rehabilitation program will need to be individualized for the patient, but you can read about the general treatment components here.

Strokes can happen at any time to anyone. The stress of an emergency situation like this makes even the simplest tasks more difficult, so I encourage you to take a moment to plan for and practice what you would do in case of a possible stroke using NSA’s campaign Act FAST:

F- Face drooping. Ask the person to smile and check to see if their smile is uneven.
A – Arm weakness. Ask the person to lift both arms at the same time and check to see if one arm drifts downward.
S – Speech difficulty. Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence and check to see if they can do it correctly.
T – Time to call 9-1-1. Even if the symptoms go away it’s important to call 9-1-1.

Knowing how to Act FAST can truly save lives.

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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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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One morning, I completely fell apart. I told my husband I wanted to die and he rushed me to the emergency room. I was prescribed an antidepressant and things immediately started improving.

I was suffering from major postpartum depression, which in my experience was like living in a completely different world from everyone I loved. I could see them laughing and smiling, but I couldn’t participate despite how hard I tried. I felt cut off, cut out, and on the verge of being discarded. I was completely convinced that I would keel over at any moment.

Still, I was very much a part of my son’s life. I played with him, breastfed, cleaned house, walked my dog, exercised, ate healthy, and generally attempted to enjoy life.

My moods oscillated between nervous trepidation and complete despair. My friends noticed that I was very sensitive and didn’t laugh the way I used to, but just assumed it came with the territory of new motherhood. My family noticed that I had lost my confidence, but couldn’t decipher any real problem.

It started almost immediately after giving birth. I was wholly unprepared to be a mom; totally unprepared for the overwhelming feeling of love and joy my son would bring me. Unfortunately, he suffered from colic, which despite everything I tried continued until he was four months old. Then, at four months, he stopped sleeping. My husband and I would manage two hours of sporadic sleep throughout the day. It was sheer torture. After a month of this I had lost myself. My husband said I would wander around the house mumbling under my breath.

We finally decided to hire a pediatric sleep specialist. She was a godsend. At six months, he would take two solid naps and sleep 10-12 hours a night. I finally had the opportunity to sleep. We thought things would improve for me too.

I slept better, certainly, but not well. My son still cried occasionally, like any normal baby, but to me it was agonizing. His occasional fits would cause me to breakdown. I would sob and shake until he stopped crying. We went on like this for two more months.

After eight months of this I’d become a different person. My son was healthy, happy, and sleeping well, but I couldn’t see it. I had somehow convinced myself that he wasn’t doing well, and that it was my fault. I had convinced myself that he had suffered from colic and sleep issues because of me, and that if he’d had a better mother he would have been happy and healthy from the very beginning.

And so, that one morning (described above), my husband took me to the ER and I got help.

Things have continued to improve. I’ve read hopeful and helpful stories on coming back from postpartum depression. My therapist cleared me a few months ago, and I see a psychiatrist every two months. I admit I was afraid taking antidepressants would make things worse, but it has truly helped. I never expected treatment to be this rewarding. Life is completely wonderful and I have the tools and support to enjoy it with my family. Getting help was the best thing I could have done.

My hope in writing this is that it encourages you, or someone you know, to get the help they need. No one should have to be afraid of treatment. Always consult your family physician when seeking any kind of medical care. The most important thing to remember with postpartum depression is that your well being is essential to the health of your child. Your baby needs you, everything else is secondary.

Howard County Library System has loads of books on parenting and mental health. I personally loved Pamela Druckerman’s Bringing up Bebe : One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting.

Brenna Godsey is a Customer Service Specialist at Central Branch. She lives in Columbia and is a proud mother of one boy and a golden-doodle. She enjoys reading, napping, and playing with her growing family.

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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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August 20, 2016 is a date that will forever be in my memory. I received a very serious concussion, due to a cycling accident, that changed my life. My fiancé and I were participating in a charity cycling event, on a closed course, in Howard County. We’re not sure what happened, but I crashed – hard. I could not have been luckier because I crashed in front of a police officer who was able to get me help quickly. I was unconscious for three minutes. First responders rushed me to a shock trauma facility.

I haven’t been able to remember the two weeks that I spent in the shock trauma hospital. My family accounts for that time though, reminding me of the exceptional care I received. The trauma team performed a wide range of assessments and determined that I had broken my clavicle, my temporal bone (in multiple places), had two brain contusions, and a large laceration on the outside of my head that required staples to close. The doctors were very clear with my family – the helmet I had been wearing saved my life. The team treated me with various medications, trying to get the swelling in my brain down. For several days, it was touch-and-go as to whether or not I would need surgery to reduce the swelling. Thankfully, I didn’t need it.

When I was moved to a rehabilitation and orthopedic hospital I saw physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech therapists, in addition to a neurologist. The specialists called my progress “astounding,” and released me after a week. I continued for outpatient OT (occupational therapy) for my broken clavicle and only needed two sessions with the speech therapist. My progress took everyone by surprise, given the severity of my injuries.

I returned to work at the end of October 2016 and my progress continues to astound my family (and me) on a daily basis. I’m slightly more than six months passed my accident and I am so grateful for the ongoing progress. The lessons I’ve learned from this experience have been life-changing! My concussion has been tough on me and my family, but it’s taught me to ask for, and accept, help (which is something I’ve always struggled with).

My doctors tell me that I’ll encounter some challenges this year – a weaker immune system, getting fatigued more easily, etc., but I am learning to listen to my body. Recovery isn’t perfect, but it’s better than the alternative. My long-term prognosis is excellent and my doctors expect a full recovery in a year. They’ve also told me that I will be back doing triathlons before I know it!

I choose gratitude everyday for all the progress I’ve made.

Sara Berlin is a Special Educator, with a specialty in teaching students with Autism, teaching for Baltimore County Public Schools. Currently, she is a Consulting Teacher, working with new and low-performing Special Educators. She spends her summers at Camp Louise, where she serves as the Division Head for the middle school program, as well as the Inclusion Coordinator.  In her free time, Sara can be found on the bike paths of Howard County, as she loves the outdoors and is a triathlete!

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woman eating a high blood pressure friendly meal

Woman Eating a High Blood Pressure Friendly Meal

Everyone loves a delicious dish, including yourself, right? Though when you suffer from high blood pressure (hypertension) you’re likely to think you’ve got two choices when it comes to eating: eating incredibly tasteless bland food for the rest of your life or continue eating the way you typically do and see where it takes you, after all, there’s medication.

The problem with the latter is it can contribute to taking more medication or worse yet, lead to heart disease and stroke.

But, there’s good news, you can take care of your blood pressure and be a foodie at the same time, you just have to be a smart foodie. Start being a smart foodie with these six simple tips.

  1. Understand how to read food labels
    The nutrition facts label is a key tool when making healthier food choices. The most important number on food labels … serving sizes. According to Johns Hopkins Exercise Physiologist, Kerry J. Stewart, Ed.D., “a lot of people don’t pay attention to serving size when they read nutrition labels, so they wind up getting double, triple or even quadruple the amount of calories, carbs, fats and so on.” Once you know the serving size, you can better measure calories and choose your nutrients wisely – taking in more fiber, potassium and vitamins A and C and reducing cholesterol, sodium, sugars, saturated fats and trans fats, which can also be found in hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils.
  2. Stay hydrated
    It is important for the body to have adequate fluids, especially water. Water helps prevent dehydration, flushes out excess sodium, assists with weight loss, and helps with the digestion and absorption of key nutrients. Your water intake doesn’t always have to be straight out of the tap, try spring water or add a twist of lemon or lime for some added flavor. Unless you’re advised otherwise by your physician, you can still have your favorite beverages, though you’ll want to limit your intake of them because of their added sugars or salt. Make these an indulgence rather than an everyday occurrence.
  3. Reduce your sodium intake
    Too much salt or sodium can cause your body to retain fluid, which can increase blood pressure. To reduce your sodium intake eat fresh produce, use herbs and spices for flavor and choose low- sodium or no-added-salt “convenience” foods.
  4. Include a variety of colorful vegetables
    Vegetables add important heart-healthy nutrients and fiber that help you feel satisfied and full. If you’re a vegetable lover, try eating more vegetarian meals. Vegetarian diets tend to be higher in potassium, magnesium and calcium. You can find loads of vegetarian recipes online. Experiment, try new dishes and see what you like.
  5. Eat fresh, in-season fruit
    It’s healthier, more refreshing, and best of all, requires very little prep work from you. Though, if you like creating in the kitchen, try various fruit salad combinations and add it to other foods for extra pizazz. Either way, fruit is a good multi-purpose food; you can start or end your day with it or snack on it in the middle of the day and on the go. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the following fruits are available during the following seasons:fruit by season
  6. Choose nuts and seeds for fun snacks
    Nuts and seeds make for great snack foods. They’re rich in sources of energy, magnesium, protein and fiber. But, if you’re going to snack on these, remember to choose salt-free. The National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute recommends eating almonds, hazelnuts, mixed nuts, peanuts and sunflower seeds.

With these six tips, you now have a starting point for eating delicious dishes with a healthy twist.

For more help on managing high blood pressure, enroll in our Living Health with Hypertension class.

What are your favorite high blood pressure friendly foods? Share with us and our readers.

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We’ve all heard of someone getting a concussion. Typically, it’s just an unfortunate event that doesn’t take terribly long to recover from. However, this isn’t always the case. I didn’t know how life changing a concussion could be until I experienced it myself at the end of August 2016.

I randomly fainted one day. Knocked unconscious for about 10-15 seconds; it felt like several minutes when I came to. I had no idea what had happened. I went to urgent care where I was told that I had experienced a traumatic brain injury (TBI) or a concussion. I returned a couple days later to check up on the injury. When I realized I couldn’t really read the forms I had to sign, I knew this wasn’t going to be a quick recovery.

After being essentially bed ridden for 3 weeks, I slowly started to introduce myself to the world again. I would go on very short walks at night, in order to be kind to my light sensitivity. I could walk about halfway around the smaller loop of the neighborhood before feeling dizzy and completely drained. Now, I can do several laps around the larger loop with ease and confidence.

Time alone can’t heal a concussion. Your brain and body has to heal and sometimes, re-learn how to act like it used to. For instance, I had never experienced with car sickness while riding in the car. After my concussion, I couldn’t open my eyes while riding in a car without feeling sick and like my head was going to explode. And focusing on anything, much less performing research online or browsing the Internet, was practically impossible. So, I started physical therapy as soon as I was able. Physical therapy has helped me with my balance and relieving that lingering sensation of constant pressure in my head.

Starting in December 2106, I was able to drive to and from work (20mins) a couple of days a week. Half-way through January 2017, I was worked my way up to driving to work daily and running short errands like shopping at the grocery store around the corner. Now, I can even drive at night and run errands to places a little further away (and even more than one errand in a day if I’m feeling adventurous). I can focus enough to read picture books and graphic novels (looking forward to being able to read a novel soon), as well as research online and browse the Internet comfortably. I can sit through and enjoy watching movies and binge watch some of my favorite TV shows. Physical therapy and rest have been essential to my healing.

My experience has shown me some things that I didn’t expect about having a concussion (aside form the ambiguous healing time frame), like feeling alienated or anti-social. I have had trouble connecting to people in the same way, including friends and family. Some days I wonder if I will ever feel “normal” again. I still have a bit of a way to go in my healing process, but I become more and more confident as each month passes. I think of that first month and how I convinced myself that I would never heal and see how far I’ve come- and it feels great!

Concussions are a serious matter regardless of the severity. Whether you find yourself in a clumsy moment, a freak accident, faint for unknown reasons, or attain a major sports injury– always go to a medical facility. Concussions can happen at any age and require proper care and attention.

I am lucky to have met an amazing concussion specialist and physical therapist who genuinely care about my well being. In addition, I’m lucky to have the support of my loved ones as this journey has been one of the most difficult things I have ever experienced. This was a very random and unexpected occurrence. I am thankful every single day that this injury wasn’t any worse. I am thankful to be here to share my experience with all of you.

Laci Radford is a Children’s Instructor & Research Specialist at Miller Branch. She is a music lover, writer, and an avid reader. She enjoys attending concerts, plays, and other forms of live entertainment. Her favorite activities include scoping out unique items at thrift stores, bonfires with friends, and having tie-dye parties. She is studying Psychology and plans to become a music and art therapist sooner rather than later.

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