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HealthPerks Newsletter for April 2014

Out of Breath? It Could Be Asthma

More than 25 million people -- one out of every 12 people in the U.S. -- suffer from the recurrent attacks of breathlessness and wheezing asthma can cause. Asthma is the most common chronic disease, and the numbers are growing every year. In the last decade alone, the number of people with asthma increased by 15 percent.

What Causes Asthma?

The exact cause of asthma is not known. Asthma tends to run in families and may be inherited, but environmental factors may also play a key role. Scientists continue to explore what causes asthma, but we do know that these factors play an important role in the development of asthma:

  • Genetics. Asthma tends to runs in families. Genetics plays an important role in causing asthma. If your mom or dad have asthma, then you are more likely to have asthma too.

  • Allergies. Some people are more likely to develop allergies than others, especially if your mom or dad had allergies. Certain allergies are linked to people who get asthma.

  • Respiratory Infections. As the lungs develop in infancy and early childhood, certain respiratory infections have been shown to cause inflammation and damage the lung tissue. The damage that is caused in infancy or early childhood can impact lung function long-term.

  • Environment. Contact with allergens, certain irritants, or exposure to viral infections as an infant or in early childhood when the immune system is developing have been linked to developing asthma. Irritants and air pollution may also play a significant role in adult-onset asthma.

Asthma Symptoms

Asthma symptoms can differ for each person, but here are some of the most common:

  • Wheezing. You may notice a wheezing sound when you breathe. Sometimes this happens only when you exercise or have a cold.

  • Frequent Cough. This may be more common at night. You may or may not cough up mucus.

  • Shortness of Breath. This is the feeling when you can't seem to get enough air into your lungs. It may occur only once in a while, or often.

  • Chest Tightness. Your chest may feel tight, especially during cold weather or exercise. This can also be the first sign of a flare-up.

How is Asthma Diagnosed?

If you experience any of the symptoms above, it is important to see your healthcare provider to determine if you have asthma. You will be asked for some medical history, which should include family members with asthma, smoking, allergies, and exposure to pollutants in your workplace. You will also get a physical exam, which may include breathing tests. Once your healthcare provider makes a diagnosis of asthma, you will be prescribed medication to help control your asthma and an asthma treatment action plan.

A New Approach to Treating Severe Asthma

Bronchial thermoplasty (BT) is an FDA-approved bronchoscopic procedure for the treatment of severe persistent asthma in individuals 18 years and older whose asthma is not well controlled with inhaled corticosteroids and long-acting beta agonists.

BT uses thermal energy to reduce the excessive airway smooth muscle responsible for airway constriction in asthma patients, thereby providing long-lasting control in adults with severe asthma. El Camino Hospital is one of only two hospitals in California offering bronchial thermoplasty. In clinical trials, patients receiving this procedure have experienced:

  • a 32 percent reduction in asthma attacks

  • an 84 percent reduction in emergency room visits for respiratory symptoms

  • a 73 percent reduction in hospitalizations for respiratory symptoms

  • a 66 percent reduction in days lost from work/school or other daily activities due to asthma.

Watch this video of Dr. Ganesh Krishna, of Palo Alto Medical Foundation, as he discusses Bronchial Thermoplasty as a breakthrough asthma treatment.

Learn more about El Camino Hospital's Interventional Pulmonology Program.


Making Sense of Women's Health

Enjoying good health and long-term wellness is a top priority for everyone. But when it comes to improving or managing health, women have unique needs and requirements. That's why understanding specific health issues and concerns – and proactively addressing them is so important. From knowing the risks and getting the recommended screenings to recognizing symptoms and getting proper treatment, women's health care considerations should include:

  • Breast health. The National Cancer Institute recommends yearly or every other year screening mammograms for women over the age of 40. And women who are at high risk for breast cancer should take additional steps to protect and track their health. The Breast Health Center at El Camino Hospital has a screening tool that can help you determine your risk level, and our High-Risk Breast Program offers leading-edge identification, diagnosis and treatment options that can help save your life.

Are you at risk? Learn more about our High Risk Assessment tool.

  • Bone health. Strong bones are important for an active and healthy lifestyle. Osteoporosis robs women of the critical bone density – often before they even know it. One out of every two women past menopause has osteoporosis – yet it's both preventable and treatable. Engaging in regular, weight-bearing exercise, getting enough calcium and vitamin D, not smoking, and limiting alcohol consumption can all help keep your bones healthy. Our Bone Density center offers quick and painless bone density screenings that will help identify your risk for osteoporosis, so you can take steps now to help prevent it.

Learn more or schedule a bone density screening.

  • Pelvic health. Good pelvic health goes well beyond reproductive concerns. Endometriosis, incontinence, and excessive bleeding are pelvic health problems that can be painful and affect the quality of your life. But there's no need to suffer when there are so many effective treatments available. From exercise programs that strengthen pelvic muscles to cutting-edge robotic surgical options, comprehensive pelvic health care can help keep you active and enjoying life.

Take a free pelvic health self-assessment now.

  • Mental health. Mental health issues affect more than 20% of the population, and can greatly diminish the quality of life or even lead to disability. Mental illness affects both men and women, but women are at a higher risk for many disorders, and can have symptoms that are very different from men. Post-partum depression, stress, and anxiety are all common yet serious health issues for women. Left untreated, they can all lead to other conditions and even increase the risk of heart disease. If you have persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness, have difficulty concentrating, have lost interest in previously enjoyable activities, or experience fatigue or sleep issues, talk to your doctor. Medications, talk therapy, and stress-reduction programs are all effective, and can help you get back to a more vibrant and fulfilling life. El Camino Hospital has extensive behavioral health services, and specialized treatment programs including:

  • The Maternal Outreach Mood Services program, which offers a day treatment program to help new or expecting mothers that are dealing with anxiety or depression.Learn more.

  • The Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction program, which helps you develop techniques to cope with every day stress or intense situations. Learn more.
  • Get more tips for better women’s health. Download the PDF.

    Taking Care While Giving Care

    Nearly 30% of all U.S. adults provide care for an aging, disabled, or chronically ill family member or friend every year. And, according to a collaborative study conducted by the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, they are spending an average of 20 hours a week providing that care. While most caregivers are committed to providing the best quality care they can for those they love, most also have to juggle the demands of work, general family needs, and other obligations and priorities. As caregivers struggle to find more hours in the day, their own health and well-being is often the first thing to suffer. So what happens when the person giving the care isn't taking the time to take care of themselves? Sleep deprivation, stress, anxiety, depression, and an increased risk for a multitude of other health problems is often the result. If you or someone you know is neglecting your own health and happiness in order to provide much needed care for a loved one, there are important steps you should take starting today:

    • Make yourself a priority. There's a reason airlines constantly remind us to put our own oxygen mask on before assisting others: if you are incapacitated, you aren't going to be able to help anyone else. If you think taking care of yourself is selfish, ask yourself who will take care of your loved one if you get sick? Staying healthy is the best thing you can do not only for yourself – but also for those that depend on you. So for the sake of those you love, as well as for yourself, put these things at the very top of your list of priorities:

    • Get adequate sleep. Even a couple of nights of sleep deprivation can increase your risk of illness, injury, or making poor decisions because your judgment is impaired.

    • Eat regular and balanced meals. Skipping meals is never a good idea, and fast food solutions can quickly zap your energy and contribute to weight gain and other health problems. Focus on fruits and vegetables, good quality protein, and high fiber grains. Yogurt, raw nuts, fresh fruits, hard boiled eggs, whole grain toast with peanut butter, cheese sticks, baby carrots and tomatoes are all quick, convenient, easy to transport, and full of vitamins and nutrients.

    • Get a little exercise every day – even if it's just a 10 minute walk around the block. And make sure that at least three days a week you get a more intense 30 minute session in. If will help clear your mind and give you mental and physical energy.

    • Meditate. Just 5-10 minutes a day spent meditating and focusing on your breathing can help you relax and keep stress and anxiety in check.

    • Monitor your alcohol intake. Excessive alcohol consumption is a common problem among caregivers, and one that can develop quickly. An occasional drink is fine, but drinking to help deal with stress is a sure-fire recipe for disaster. Limit alcohol consumption to two-three drinks per week, and make an effort to stay hydrated with lots of water every day.

    • Schedule at least one fun, social event every single week. Go to a movie or concert, participate in a book club, take a cooking class, go shopping with a friend – just make sure it's something you'll enjoy!

    • Be realistic and forgiving. Being a caregiver can be a thankless job. You won't be able to meet everyone's expectations, and you're bound to be your own harshest critic. Remind yourself that the care you give will comfort, aid, and assist – but it can't eliminate the pain and frustration your loved one is dealing with. If you aren't a caregiver right now, chances are you will be at some point in your life. Pay it forward now by helping out a struggling caregiver. Deliver a meal, clean their house, take over for a few hours so they can get a break, or just lend a listening ear. Taking care of the caregiver – whether it's you or someone else – is a positive thing for everybody.

    Seniors: Who's Minding Your Wellness?

    The older we get, the more likely we are to have a health care specialist – or two or three – that we visit regularly. Cardiologists, orthopedic surgeons, oncologists, urologists, gynecologists… they all provide specific expertise and treatment you need as you age. But who takes care of you when you get the flu, monitors your immunizations, and provides the general checkups you need for optimal health? That's what a primary care physician (PCP) does. A PCP is a doctor who knows you and provides the general care you need to stay healthy and well. They can also refer you to other specialists when needed, and work with you to ensure that all of your health care needs are met. Just as a pediatrician manages the health and wellness of children, a PCP does the same for adults.

    If you don't have a PCP, you might be missing out on important screenings and preventative measures that could help you stay healthy. If you have a list of health care needs that are being met by other specialists, you still need a PCP for general health and management. And if you are healthy or don't have any special health needs that require a specialist, this is the perfect time to find a PCP that can work with you to help ensure your long-term health. The right PCP will serve as your your provider, your advocate, your consultant and your coordinator for comprehensive health and wellness. You're never too old – or too young – to find a PCP committed to providing the health care and access you need today, and into the future.

    Still not sure you need a PCP? Get a free tipsheet on how a PCP can help you manage and maintain your health. Download the PDF.

    The Senior Health Program and Silicon Valley Primary Care has PCPs that specialize in elder care. If you don’t have a PCP, schedule a 15 minute "meet and greet" with one of our PCPs to see how they can work with you to deliver personalized care that meets your needs. Call 800-216-5556 for a physician referral.

    Men: Are You Watching Your Waist?

    Carrying around excess weight is never good for your health. But did you know that men who have a body fat percentage that's too high have an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and even low testosterone and erectile dysfunction? Many men joke about having a "spare tire” or a "beer belly", but too much abdominal fat is no laughing matter.

    Belly fat is particularly dangerous because it generally indicates a high level of visceral fat. Unlike subcutaneous fat, which is found just below the skin, visceral fat lies deeper in the pelvic cavity and wraps around your organs. Visceral fat also produces inflammatory substances, and breaks down more easily into fatty acids that drain into the liver, which can increase cholesterol, triglycerides and insulin resistance. All of that is very bad news.

    The good news is that belly fat can be reduced with lifestyle changes. While losing weight – and reducing fat – is never easy, visceral fat is generally easier to reduce with diet and exercise than the more stubborn subcutaneous fat. So if you have a protruding belly or a waist that measures 40 inches or more, take these steps to improve your health as well as your appearance:

    • Increase the intensity of your exercise. Any exercise is beneficial, but visceral fat appears to respond best to high intensity activity. Interval training, which includes one minute “all out” intensity bursts into every three-five minutes of lower intensity activity, is particularly effective for reducing belly fat. Gradually increase to 75 minutes of high intensity exercise every week.

    • Don't skip meals. Eating at regular intervals, and consuming mostly nutritionally-packed foods such as fruits, vegetables, and low-fat protein, will help keep your metabolism revved and inflammation levels in check.

    • Avoid processed carbs and sweets. Consuming too much sugar causes blood sugar levels to fluctuate, which trigger cravings and decrease your energy level.

    • Get enough sleep. We can't say it enough: good quality sleep is critical for optimal health and wellness. Getting a good night's sleep – every night – is the easiest thing you can do to decrease your belly fat and improve your overall health.

    Healthy Tips

    Spring has sprung! We may have lost an hour when we "sprung forward" last month, but you still need to take time to care for yourself. Remember, just a few minutes a day spent on healthy habits can make a big difference. This month, try incorporating these into your daily routine, and see how much better you feel in just a few weeks:

    1 minute:
    Skip the sugar in your morning coffee or tea. Cutting back on the sugar will help you control your weight and lower your risk for diabetes, along with a myriad of other benefits.

    5 minutes:
    If you aren't a morning person, you might want to reconsider getting up so late. A small study reported by WebMD has found that people exposed to the morning sunlight lose more weight than their peers. Set your alarm a little earlier tomorrow and you could see benefits such as a slimmer waist, a faster metabolism, and better sleep at night.

    15 minutes:
    Clean out the garage - If you are tired of your regular exercise routine, switch it up and do something active that also gets another task done at the same time. Just make sure to use ladders and other safety devices to prevent injuries.

    30 minutes:
    Volunteering for a cause you believe in is a great way to reduce stress. By volunteering you focus on helping others which gives you a sense of connection and achievement.

Crustless Garden Quiche

Try this delicious AND healthy crustless garden quiche

Image of Crustless Garden Quicke - click to download recipe

Download Recipe

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