Why Visiting the Dentist is Important with Dr. Stephens
Children’s Dental Services with Dr. Stephens
Learning About Colonoscopies with Dr. Mitchell
What to Expect During a Colonoscopy with Dr. Mitchell
Healthy Vision for Life with Dr. DiStefano
by Dr. Elizabeth DiStefano
You’ve probably heard the saying “the eyes are the window to the soul,” but what about the saying “your eyes are the window to your overall health?” During a comprehensive eye exam your eye doctor can evaluate the health of blood vessels in your retina, which are an excellent predictor of how the blood vessels throughout the rest of your body look. Many systemic diseases, including diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, can be detected by changes in your retinal blood vessels before other symptoms arise. Other vision-threatening conditions, such as glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration and cataracts, can only be detected during a comprehensive eye exam. Many of these conditions start slowly, with no symptoms, and can cause significant vision loss before you even realize there is a problem. Early detection is vitally important to keep your vision clear and your eyes healthy.
Although children don’t typically have as many health problems as adults, it is equally important for them to have routine eye exams. It is estimated that 80 percent of everything children learn in and out of the classroom is visual. A child who cannot see the board or focus on the small print of their homework can become easily frustrated and distracted, which can lead to bad grades and disciplinary problems at school. Similar to adults, some pediatric vision problems like amblyopia and strabismus, more commonly known as lazy eye, are best treated if they are corrected early, while the child’s vision system is still developing.
Even babies as young as six months can have routine eye exams. These exams are typically covered with Medicaid or other vision insurance plans. For those without insurance who may struggle to afford the cost of a doctor’s visit, ask your provider whether they offer a sliding fee discount program. Programs of this nature are available in the marketplace to support the goal of ensuring that eye care becomes part of an infant wellness regimen for all children.
While vision screenings at the doctor’s office and the Department of Motor Vehicles are great tools to catch some vision problems, they are no substitute for a comprehensive eye exam from your optometrist or ophthalmologist. The American Optometric Association recommends routine exams on the following schedule:
- Between six months and one-year-old
- At least once between three and five-years-old
- Before first grade, then annually until age 18
- At least every two years for ages 18 to 64
- At least annually over age 65
Please take the time to schedule yourself an appointment today.
Dr. Elizabeth DiStefano is an optometrist with Valley Health Systems, Inc. For more information, click here.
Get a Grip on Your Heart Health: Changing Your Habits
Changing your habits can make you healthier
A new report by the American Heart Association states that nearly half of U.S. adults are living with some form of heart or blood vessel disease. Heart disease continues to be the leading cause of death for both men and women.
High blood pressure and clogged arteries are common types of heart disease. These usually develop over time as a result of poor lifestyle choices and can result in the development of other serious conditions, leading to misery, sickness and death.
The good news is each of us has the power to improve our cardiovascular health. You just need to know your current health status, work with your doctor, and take steps toward living a healthier lifestyle.
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is one of the most treatable conditions, and when addressed early, can prevent other problems from developing, such as strokes, kidney failure and heart failure.
According to AHA, poor diets, lack of exercise, smoking and other bad lifestyle habits cause 90 percent of high blood pressure. By changing these factors, you can dramatically lower your risk of developing high blood pressure.
High blood pressure is called “the silent killer” because it has few if any symptoms. It is recommended that all adults check their blood pressure once or twice a year. The newest guidelines say that a reading of 120/80 or less is considered normal, and 130/80 or above is considered high.
You can have your blood pressure taken by your doctor, at free community health screenings, with tests available at different pharmacies and markets, or by purchasing your own digital blood pressure device to use at home.
Being diagnosed with high blood pressure doesn’t mean you need to take medication right away. You should first make changes for a healthier lifestyle, such as being active at least 30 minutes a day, stopping smoking and shedding excess weight. Even those who are prescribed blood pressure medication should aim for healthier daily habits. Some find they no longer need to take blood pressure medicine once they have implemented healthier habits.
When your blood pressure stays within healthy ranges, you reduce the strain on your heart, arteries, and kidneys, which keeps you healthier longer.
Coronary Heart Disease
Coronary heart disease, or clogged or hardened arteries, causes 43 percent of cardiovascular deaths in the U.S., according to the AHA report. Damaged and blocked arteries prevent blood from flowing properly to the heart. In the worst cases, blood flow is so weak that it causes a heart attack.
High blood cholesterol contributes to the development of plaque, which can clog arteries and lead to heart disease and stroke. Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that can form plaques that stick to the inner walls of the arteries. When you control your cholesterol, you are giving your arteries their best chance of remaining clear of blockages.
Hereditary traits can make some people more vulnerable to developing clogged arteries. For the rest of the population, lifestyle greatly affects risk for arterial disease.
The quality of the food you eat impacts your health and energy. It may take a bit more time and money to purchase fresh, healthy foods and to cook healthy, nutritious meals, but it is a lifetime investment that pays off with feeling better and having a well-functioning body.
The American Heart Association suggests choosing foods low in artery clogging saturated and trans fats. But you shouldn’t avoid all fats – good fats can actually help lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease. Good fats are the unsaturated kind, found in certain cooking oils, fatty fish, seeds, nuts and certain vegetables like avocados.
As part of a healthy diet, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, fiber-rich whole grains, nuts, beans and seeds, and try eating some meals during the week without meat. You should limit sugar-sweetened beverages, sodium and red meat. Avoid processed and fried foods, which tend to contain high levels of bad fats, salt and additives. Limiting alcohol use has also shown to be a factor in heart health.
Cholesterol levels can be measured with a simple blood test called a lipid panel. Several things are included in the test: overall cholesterol level, triglycerides, LDL cholesterol and HDL cholesterol. Each of these factors plays a role in your risk for heart disease. Younger adults should have the test every five years and men ages 45 to 65 and women ages 55 to 65 should have it every one to two years.
There are several cholesterol-lowering drugs available, and these should be combined with lifestyle changes.
You Can Do It
It may seem a daunting challenge to change how you eat, your activity levels, your weight and to quit using tobacco. However, no matter what your age or current health status, making healthy changes can help you feel better and live longer.
For more information about your heart health, and making lifestyle changes, talk with your primary care provider at Valley Health.
Reviewed by Brett Wellman, FNP-C, Chief Quality Officer and practicing Family Medicine provider for Valley Health Systems, Inc.
Smoking/Tobacco Cessation with Dr. Mitchell
Smoking is a major risk factor associated with hypertension and consequence diseases. We’re here to help you walk away from this unhealthy habit.
Blood Pressure and Hypertension with Dr. Whitmore
Learn more about high blood pressure, common risk factors and prevention practices with Valley Health family medicine provider Dr. David Whitmore, DO, FAAFP.
About Nurse Practitioners with Terry Roberts
Valley Health provider Terry Roberts, FNP-BC, discusses how nurse practitioners are helping to fulfill and enhance the overall patient care model.
Healthy Dieting with Jessica Perdue
Conquering weight loss resolutions should be centered around positive lifestyle changes and healthier habits, not fad dieting. Valley Health primary care provider Jessica Perdue, FNP, shares why.
Cervical Cancer Awareness: Providing the Facts
What do I need to know?
By the Numbers
Cervical cancer affects nearly 12,000 women each year and causes 4,200 deaths. The good news is that with vaccination and early detection screening, cervical cancer is a preventable disease.
There are several things that increase the risk of developing cervical cancer: smoking, multiple sexual partners throughout one’s lifetime, a previous history of sexually transmitted diseases (STD), illnesses that weaken one’s immune system, such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and infection with human papilloma virus (HPV).
Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
In most cases, cervical cancer is caused by human papillomavirus (HPV). This virus is very common in the United States, currently affecting approximately 79 million Americans, and is spread through sexual contact. Most of the time, people do not know they carry the virus. HPV can cause external genital warts, abnormal pap smear tests and cancer. Not all HPV causes cancer and most HPV infections go away; however, some HPV infections linger and can become cancer.
HPV is less likely to resolve in women over age 30; therefore, the rates of cervical cancer rise in women age 30 and above. Cervical cancer can take 10-20 years to develop but can be detected early through abnormal changes on pap smear testing before it becomes cancer.
How can you protect yourself and your loved ones from HPV and, ultimately, cervical cancer?
Vaccination against HPV is available for young women up to age 26 and men up to age 21; it can be given as early as age 9. This vaccine helps protect against a few common strains of HPV that cause genital warts and cervical, vaginal and vulvar cancers. Additionally, screening for cervical cancer with a pap smear and/or HPV testing can help detect abnormal cells and HPV before they develop into cancer. Women should begin cervical cancer screening at age 21. Additional ways to protect yourself against HPV are to quit smoking, use condoms and limit the number of sexual partners in your lifetime.
Cervical cancer is highly preventable with vaccination, screening & early detection. Most insurances cover vaccination and testing to prevent cervical cancer – often at little or no cost to the patient. If you do not have insurance, many programs are available to assist with cervical cancer screening and vaccination.
January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month. Take a small but important step to protect your health, and call your provider or one of our Valley Health offices today to schedule a well-woman exam to make sure your vaccination and cervical cancer screening is up to date!
Reviewed by Andrea Marcum Vallejos, M.D., FACOG, a board certified OB/GYN at Valley Health Systems in Huntington.
Myths and Misconceptions about the Flu Vaccine
As we approach another flu season it is important to consider possible beliefs regarding flu vaccination that our patients may have but won’t state as the reason for their refusal to be vaccinated. The CDC estimated approximately 80,000 deaths were associated with influenza infection during the 2017-2018 flu-season, which is the highest mortality rate in recent history.
“I got the flu shot, and it gave me the flu.”
To address this common misconception patients should be informed about the Inactivated Influenza vaccine not containing live virus. They should also be told that vaccination does not confer full immunity for nearly 2 weeks, and they may have contracted the flu during this time. This highlights the importance of being vaccinated before peak flu activity.
“I got the flu shot, and I still got the flu.”
The CDC reports that the 2017-2018 vaccine effectiveness was estimated to be 40%, which is to say that patients who were vaccinated were 40% less likely to require medical attention for flu illness. Beyond this, evidence suggests that vaccinated patients requiring hospitalization for flu were 37% less likely to require ICU admission. Of all child flu-related deaths during the 2017-2018 season, 80% were in unvaccinated children.
“I’m allergic to eggs, and I can’t get the flu shot.”
If a patient can consume cake that contains eggs and the “allergic reaction” does not involve anaphylactoid symptoms, they are able to receive the standard Inactivated Influenza Vaccine. In patients with anaphylactoid reactions to eggs the Recombinant Influenza Vaccine (Flublok) contains no egg protein.
Products the pharmacy is currently stocking include: Flulaval (+/-preservative) (IIV4) for patients 6 months of age and older and is the same dose for all age groups; Flumist (LAIV4) (nasal) for non-pregnant patients ages 2-49 years; Flublok (egg-free) (RIV4) for patients 18 years and older with egg allergy; and Fluzone high-dose for our patients 65 years and older.
Given all the facts and the wide range of products available to suit our patients, we are prepared to meet your healthcare needs this influenza season.
1. What You Should Know for the 2017-2018 Influenza Season. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/season/flu-season-2017-2018.htm. Published 2018. Accessed November 2, 2018.
2. Arriola C, Garg S, Anderson EJ, et al. Influenza Vaccination Modifies Disease Severity Among Community-dwelling Adults Hospitalized With Influenza. Clin Infect Dis. 2017;65(8):1289-1297.