Saturday, May 16, 2:00 p.m. I’m Going to Be A Big Brother or Sister at Elkridge. 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 your baby. Resources for parents, too. Families; 30 – 45 min. In partnership with Howard County General Hospital: A Member of Johns Hopkins Medicine. Well & Wise event. Limited space; tickets available at Children’s Desk 15 minutes before class.

Monday, May 18, 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. 1st & 3rd Mondays; 3:30 – 5:30 pm. Well & Wise event. No registration required.


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Did you know that exercise videos are just a click away? We want to get in shape and have fun doing it. Variety keeps us motivated as well as taking on all aspects of fitness, including aerobic capacity, endurance, strength, toning, balance, and flexibility. If you have a computer and a Howard County Library System card (special 75th anniversary edition available right now), you can stream health and fitness videos. While you’re at it, download energizing music to keep you moving on your walk or select an inspirational audiobook about nutrition.

Go to, look at the bottom right corner of the home page, and click on streaming. You will then find links to Freegal and Hoopla. Explore the choices, pick your movie, music or book and you’re on your way. Freegal has an entire category of movies devoted to health and fitness. Hoopla has the option to explore movies by genre and also has health and fitness selections. The websites walk you through how to register and download materials.

Freegal’s fitness videos include a collection of pilates instructional movies. In addition to general pilates, choices include pilates for men as well as pilates for pregnant women. You can also stream videos of exercise routines addressing joint pain, core strength and emotional stress. HCLS customers may stream up to 3 videos per week and each may be borrowed for 2 days. Freegal allows you to build your music library because you can download and keep 3 songs per week. HCLS customers can also stream up to 3 hours of music per week.

freegal pilateshoopla yoga


Hoopla offers an even more extensive selection of fitness videos. Hoopla is a great site to explore for yoga instruction. The selection includes several yoga for kids videos. There are videos with yoga techniques targeted to patients with hypertension, diabetes, joint pain, digestive problems, and sleep disorders. There are movies to assist with weight loss, learning Tai Chi, and improving flexibility. There are even videos for fans of Forks over Knives and The 5 Love Languages. Hoopla movies can be streamed or temporarily downloaded through the app for a viewing period of 3 days.

hoopla audiobookshoopla music





Hoopla has a large selection of audiobooks as well. By genre, take a look at personal development and health and nutrition. Topics include running, pilates and reversing the aging process. You can learn about meditation, how to lose belly fat, strength training, and breaking unhealthy habits. Explore the music collection too. Albums can be borrowed for 7 days and audiobooks for 21 days.

Computers don’t have to cause us to be more sedentary; they can connect us to activity and healthy lifestyles. The Freegal and Hoopla collections are always expanding. These applications do not have wait lists as the content is available to stream to multiple users at once. You can explore new ways to improve your body and mind today.

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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girl in field with allergies

 [© Frolovaelena |]

To help you survive this allergy season, HCGH allergist and immunologist Dr. Michael Goldman answers your allergy questions:

Q: What are some tips to survive allergy season?
Most people should expect to be able to manage their allergies through environmental control and medications. Trees in this area typically begin pollinating in March and continue through early June while grasses pollinate in May and continue through early July. Weeds, such as ragweed, start in mid-August and continue through October. To control pollen allergies: keep the pollen out by closing your windows during allergy season. Keeping the windows closed is better than installing an air filter. Also, take a shower before going to bed to remove allergens that have accumulated during the day on your hair and body.

Q: What medicines can help my allergies?
Medications called antihistamines block histamine that is produced by the body in response to allergens or irritants, and relieve a runny nose, sneezing, itchy nose and/or eyes. There are several long-acting, over-the-counter antihistamines available. Decongestants can help with nasal congestion, but should not be used in young children or in adults with hypertension, enlarged prostate or narrow angle glaucoma. Antihistamine eye drops can soothe itchy eyes. Nasal steroids are very good at treating nasal symptoms of allergies, but must be used every day and can take more than a week to reach maximum effect. I recommend avoiding nasal and eye decongestants, which can become addictive.

Q: At what point should I see an allergist?
If controlling your environment and medications are not enough to help your allergies, it is probably time to see the allergist. A board-certified allergist can accurately diagnose what you are allergic to and interpret tests in the context of your symptoms. Based on the testing, other environmental measures to control allergen exposure might be suggested or different medications might be prescribed. If symptoms persist, allergen immunotherapy, or desensitization, may be recommended. Immunotherapy now comes in two forms: allergy injections (allergy shots) and sublingual immunotherapy (drops or tablets under the tongue).

Q: Can my allergies lead to sinus infections?
Allergies can increase the risk of upper respiratory tract infections including recurrent sinus and ear infections. You may wish to consider testing to see if allergies are contributing to these conditions in you or your child.

Q: What are the pros/cons of steroid nasal spray?
Nasal steroids are very effective at controlling nasal symptoms of allergies. There is a small risk of growth effects in children and this should be monitored. A small percentage of patients are intolerant of nasal steroids due to nosebleeds. If you experience bleeding, you should stop the nose spray.

Q: What is the effectiveness of a saline nose rinse?
The saline nose rinse has not been well studied. Some people find rinses helpful, and others find it not to be worth the trouble. If you do find it helpful, you want to be sure to use distilled water to prevent introducing infection into the nasal cavity.

Q: How can I calm my itchy eyes?
Resist the urge to itch. Itching will introduce pollen into your eye from your finger tips and the skin around your eyes and make it worse. There are over-the-counter and prescription antihistamine eye drops that can help, and cool compresses (wet, clean washcloths) may feel soothing.

Q: What are some common misconceptions about allergies?
The term “hay fever” is a misnomer. Allergies do not actually cause an increase in body temperature, but people can feel feverish, sick and uncomfortable due to their allergies. Allergies can affect quality of life as much as many other chronic diseases. Allergic secretions are clear when you have a runny nose or watery eyes. If secretions are thick, yellow or green, they could be a sign of an infection.

Michael Goldman, M.D., is an allergist and immunologist with Allergy & Asthma Center of Central Maryland in Columbia.

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I’ll be the first to admit that I’m just not an exerciser. I’ve always disliked going to the gym, or finding time to exercise outside of one. I have plenty of excuses for not doing even those exercises I enjoy, like walking, running, or biking: “It’s too hot/cold/raining,” “There’s nobody to go with me,” or “I don’t have anywhere specific to go.” But, there is one type of exercise that I can always fit into my schedule, and that’s simple bodyweight exercises. Stuff like push-ups, crunches, and dips. Plus, I can do them in the comfort of my own home in just a few minutes.

you are your own gymAs the title of this book describes, You Are Your Own Gym, Mark Lauren and Joshua Clark’s self-named Bible of Bodyweight Exercises, contains 141 bodyweight exercises that can be performed pretty much anywhere. Some of them are the obvious favorites that everyone knows like push-ups, sit-ups, squats, and lunges, plus numerous variations on each. Others are more unusual like the whimsically named “the roof is on fire,” “shrugs and kisses,” “good mornings,” and “little piggies.”

The authors also provide some program ideas for various levels of experience and fitness, from beginner to “elite.” These programs call for different types of workouts each day, with recommended exercises meant to improve varying aspects of fitness (endurance, strength, and power). They call for performing 3-4 exercises a day for a total of 20-30 minutes of exercise – an easy amount of time to fit into any busy person’s schedule. One thing I particularly appreciate about this book is that it isn’t meant for one gender or age, and half the pictures depicting the exercises are of a female. It’s written in a very friendly manner that makes it easy to understand and makes exercise a simple and easily personalized task. It’s objective is to teach readers how to build their own basic exercise routines around the exercises that will work best for them – and why that’s what they should be doing.

7 weeks to 50 pull upsIf you want to get more specific, there’s also 7 Weeks to 50 Pull-Ups by Brett Stewart. This program promises to “help you build a stronger body and sculpt your physique in just 20 minutes a day, 3 days a week.” I speak from experience when I say, “You don’t even have to be able to do a single pull-up to begin a program like this.” I started out having to hop up to perform one chin-up on the pull-up bar I have at home (bad form, I know), and now, I can consecutively knock out 5 chin ups (or 3 pull ups). It may not sound like much, but it’s better than none! In fact, there’s a prep level program included for those of us who aren’t at the “7 pull-up minimum” recommended for starting the real program.

Why bother? Well, one day when I fall off a mountain and can pull myself back up without assistance, I’ll know my simple exercise routine was a success!

Jessica Seipel is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the Savage Branch. She has worked for the Howard County Library System, in various positions, since 2003. When not at work, she spends her time reading science fiction and comics, visiting local breweries, watching horror movies, and playing video games.

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Monday, May 11, 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. Well & Wise event. 2nd Mondays; 10 am – 12 pm. No registration required.

Monday, May 11, 7:00 p.m. Calming Crafts at Miller Branch. Improve your mood through arts and crafts. 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. Well & Wise event. Register online or by calling 410.313.1950.

Tuesday, May 12, 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. Blood Pressure Screening at Elkridge BranchFree, walk-in blood pressure screening and monitoring offered by Howard County General Hospital: a Member of Johns Hopkins Medicine. Well & Wise event. 2nd Tuesdays; 1 – 3 pm. No registration required.

Saturday, May 16, 2:00 p.m. I’m Going to Be A Big Brother or Sister at Elkridge. 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 your baby. Resources for parents, too. Families; 30 – 45 min. In partnership with Howard County General Hospital: A Member of Johns Hopkins Medicine. Well & Wise event. Limited space; tickets available at Children’s Desk 15 minutes before class.

Monday, May 18, 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. 1st & 3rd Mondays; 3:30 – 5:30 pm. Well & Wise event. No registration required.

Tuesday, May 19 or Thursday, May 21, 5-7 p.m. Free. Skin Cancer Screening Worried about a funny looking mole? Our HCGH dermatologists will examine your area of concern in Howard County General Hospital’s Wellness Center.

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How do you hope to live the rest of your life when your time becomes short?

This is a weighty question. A question that everyone should ponder and discuss, with friends and peers, but especially with spouses (partners) and other family members. It is often a difficult thing to do and particularly difficult with your older, often ailing parents who are reluctant to talk of such matters. However, the time to have the “hard conversation” may be now before its too late.

being mortalPlease read Being Mortal: Medicine That Matters at the End by Atul Gawande (2014). He has written an insightful book, from a doctors viewpoint (he is a surgeon) and also from a son’s (his father was diagnosed with an incurable cancer), about how people cope with their mortality. He also looks at how the medical community deals with the very sick and/or aged in terms of how they often spend the last few days/weeks of their life, and it’s not the way they might have wished.

Here’s the big question: If you, as a patient, are told the truth about your condition and prognosis by a caring doctor who takes the time to really have a conversation with you, and tells you that your condition is terminal, would you immediately try every medicine/medical procedure in the hopes of gaining a little more time, no matter the costs/pain/side effects, or should you consider your other option of allowing the disease to progress but with some pain management, and try to live the best life you can with the time you have left?

These are decisions and questions that are happening to families all the time as there are more aged people than ever before. But what is also happening is that there are more people dying in hospitals hooked up to tubes in ICU’s when that wasn’t what the patient had wanted. Or maybe they are strapped to a wheelchair and heavily medicated in a nursing home with absolutely no control over any aspect of their day. This is certainly a book that campaigns hard for informed and courageous doctors and patients concerning end-of-life issues and conversations, as well as the importance of advance directives and living wills.

being mortal dvdThe author wants you to ask questions — such as, “What brings you joy each day?”, “What fears do you have about medical care?”, “What is important to you now?” Frontline (PBS) did a show with Dr. Gawande about why it is hard for doctors to talk to their patients about death called “Hope is not a Plan.” It gave his story a human touch as it explored the themes of his book dealing with how families and how the medical community deals with end of life issues and mortality. So often, he found, doctors nor family members had any idea what the patient wanted at the end.

Being Mortal talks about the natural breakdown of a person’s body as old age advances, and the author shows how much people fear dying and even more so talking about it. Together with doubt about what the future will be and desperation for a miracle cure, they cling to the belief that medical science can always fix what is wrong. Medicine does exist to fight death and disease, but eventually, in the end, death will always win.

Dr. Gawande also asks how we can build a better health system that will help older and ailing people feel a sense of continued purpose in their lives and to be able to achieve what’s most important to them at the end of their lives. He visits some very interesting and very innovative nursing homes, assisted living communities, and hospice programs. Also, considering our graying population, he feels more geriatricians should be in training (when in fact the number is declining).

talk about something more pleasantJust as in the Washington Post article in the Health section on Jan 27, 2015 entitled Growing Numbers Turn to Hospice, he explains that hospice care does not hasten death or mean surrender, but can in fact make the time left for the patient more livable and satisfying, and for the family as well. Rather than spending their last days/weeks in a hospital bed hooked up to tubes and monitors, hospice care can help everyone to prepare and have some quality time to spend with the patient and time to say goodbye.

Another recent book, Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? (2014), by Roz Chast is a memoir that follows the author as she deals with the steady decline and deaths of her parents. As a cartoonist for the New Yorker, there are some lighter moments and humor, but it is an emotional story of an only child overwhelmed with the time and energy and unknowns of watching as her parents decline and have to be moved out of their New York City apartment and into a continuing care community near where she lives. The author gets frustrated because she doesn’t know what is the right thing to do, and she grieves and she cries. It is also a worthwhile read.

short guide to long lifeA book that you might prefer instead is A Short Guide to a Long Life (2014) by Dr. David Agus. He feels that most people could delay or even prevent the majority of particularly chronic diseases we see today if they would adopt healthy habits early in life and avoid those that are known to lead to illnesses. He presents a “cheat sheet” of 65 concise rules for healthy living and living wisely. He hopes his guidelines will make each person more responsible for making healthy decisions for themselves. This book should be required reading for everyone.

You may have heard of Compassion and Choices, a non-profit organization (that publishes a magazine) that is “committed to helping everyone have the best death possible . . .” They advocate patient control in end-of-life care options and reducing unwanted medical interventions at the end of life. This organization is also involved in the aid-in-dying legislation initiatives across the country, but that is a whole other issue. If you read How My Father’s Dementia Has Destroyed Us Both in the Washington Post on February 1, 2015, you would have been moved by the story of the author’s father who is strong physically, but has lost most of his cognitive abilities and needs to be kept in the psych ward of a hospital because there is no where else for him to go.

the conversationAnother new book to recommend to you is The Conversation: A Revolutionary Plan for End-of-Life Care by Angelo Volandes (2015). Also a doctor, Volandes has written a small and excellent book where he tells the stories of several patients at the end of their lives and having the hard conversation with them. He took some patients to the ICU unit in the hospital to show them what that care might look like there. Then, he made a video that he showed other patients on an iPad of what their options would look like- specifically, what CPR, intubation, feeding tubes, and breathing machines were. He explains health care directives, proxies, and living wills and insists that you talk to your family and doctor about your health care options, even knowing that your desires may change over time. There are specific questions to help you start a conversation with your doctor or with someone in your family and especially a parent. I made a copy of the questions. The author highlights some web resources, particularly an online video program called Prepare.

Our mortality is a fearful thing to contemplate, but maybe more so if it is never talked about. I hope these books and articles, and other resources will be very helpful to you, and inspire you start thinking about how a good life can also have a good death. For yourself and for your loved ones, please take the time to consider what end-of-life care may mean, start discussions and have the courage to have a hard conversation.

Susan Cooke has worked in Howard County Library System for 20 years. She loves golden retrievers, fresh veggies, and (of course) reading good books. She is proud to have her daughter, Sarah Cooke, working for HCLS alongside her!

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Allergies are one of several important triggers for asthma in the majority of asthmatics – especially those who developed asthma younger in life. Understanding your asthma triggers is important.
[© Photographerlondon |]

Asthma Answered: How You Can Live Life to the Fullest

HCGH allergist and immunologist Michael Goldman answers your asthma questions:

Q: What does an asthma attack feel like?
The classic symptoms are a cough, wheezing, chest tightness and shortness of breath. However, everyone can experience asthma differently. For some, the only symptom is a cough. Typically asthma symptoms worsen with triggers such as colds, respiratory infections, allergen exposures (e.g. pollens, dust, pets), cold air and exercise.

Q: How do you diagnose asthma?
For most people, asthma is diagnosed by reviewing symptoms and responses to asthma medications. A special breathing test, before and after an asthma inhaler, can help determine the severity.

Q: How are allergies involved in asthma?
Allergies are one of several important triggers for asthma in the majority of asthmatics – especially those who developed asthma younger in life. More than 80 percent of 10 year olds with asthma have allergies contributing to inflammation of the bronchial tubes. Common allergy triggers for asthma include year-round allergens such as dust mites, cats, dogs, and even cockroaches and mice. Seasonal triggers include spring or fall pollens such as trees, grass and ragweed. Molds can also contribute to allergic asthma. Food allergies can trigger an asthma attack in those patients with food allergies, but are not a cause of ongoing asthma. The best way to tell if allergies are contributing to your asthma is to have allergy testing.

Q:  How can I prevent asthma attacks?
Understanding asthma triggers is important. Avoiding pets, if you are allergic to them, may be necessary. For those with frequent asthma symptoms, daily medications are used to prevent symptoms. Inhaled steroids, in the lowest dose effective to control symptoms, are the gold standard to treat persistent asthma. All asthmatic patients should have a short-acting rescue inhaler to use if symptoms develop. If you need the rescue inhaler more than every four hours you should contact your physician.

Q:  What are some common misconceptions about asthma?
While asthma symptoms may come and go, asthma should be considered a chronic disease just like hypertension or high cholesterol. Treating asthma when you are well is important to prevent symptoms over time and help you when you get sick. This often entails taking daily medications or controlling allergens and other triggers even when you feel perfectly fine. This is important to know. It is not a good idea to stop daily asthma medications unless you are in contact with your physician. These medicines prevent ongoing symptoms and lessen the severity of flares.

Asthma can vary in severity from mild to severe. For some people the only symptoms are mild chest tightness and cough during and following an upper respiratory infection. It may worsen with exertion or cold air at that time, but not when otherwise healthy. For others, asthma can be a daily and nightly struggle, with symptoms interfering with daily quality of life. If you are having asthma symptoms more than two times per week, you should see your provider to see if a daily, preventative medicine is appropriate, such as an inhaled steroid.

All patients with asthma should have a short acting bronchodilator, a “rescue” inhaler. These medications should be used as needed, when symptoms develop, or for some people, prior to exercise. If you need to use them more frequently than every four hours, you should seek medical attention. Your asthma may not be in control.

Q: When is asthma an emergency?
If you are suffering from severe shortness of breath, making it difficult to talk, very rapid breathing, your lips turn blue, or you need to use chest or neck muscles to aid in breathing your should seek medical attention immediately. Oral steroids may be necessary with asthma episodes, but long-term use of oral steroids is restricted for only the most severe asthmatics.

With appropriate attention and medical care, asthma can be controlled and you or your asthmatic child should be able to lead a perfectly normal life, able to do almost everything non-asthmatics can do. Some of the world’s best athletes have asthma. It should not be a barrier to all you want to do.

Michael Goldman, M.D., is an allergist and immunologist with Allergy & Asthma Center of Central Maryland in Columbia.


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