Category Archives: Health News

Making the Holidays Special for Loved Ones in the Hospital

Posted on: December 15, 2015

Making the Holidays Special for Loved Ones in the Hospital

Tips for caregivers, family and friends from The Ken Hamilton Caregivers Center

Here are some tips that you may find helpful while your loved one is in the hospital during the holidays.  Remember for safety reasons, it’s very important to check with hospital staff before you bring any items into the hospital room.

1)       Bring small gifts to your family member if they are well enough to un-wrap the item.
2)       Bring something pleasant and safe as a decoration for their hospital room.
3)       Bring in some comforts of home, such as your loved one’s favorite pajamas, blankets or pillow.
4)       Deliver their favorite snacks or holiday food that fits within any dietary restrictions.
5)       If you think it will raise their spirits, assemble a photo album of pictures from previous holidays.
6)       If religious, bring in a recording of a religious service, or watch one on television.
7)       Play some holiday music or watch a favorite holiday movie together.
8)       If family is unable to visit, reach out to the volunteer department for visitors.

Gift Suggestions for hospitalized family members
Entertainment:  Books, magazines, music, movies, crossword puzzles, and playing cards.

Enjoyment:  Get well cards, holiday cards, and small gifts.
Gift of Service:  Have someone offer to run an errand for your loved one – this can feel very supportive when in the hospital.  If your family member needs information about a community resource, you can offer to assist them in gathering information.

Editor’s Note: The Ken Hamilton Caregivers Center is dedicated to caring for the family caregiver. The Caregivers Center serves as a private sanctuary during the very demanding and stressful times of providing care for your loved one, regardless of  whether they are hospitalized at NWH, at another facility or at home.

The Key to Reversing Pre-Diabetes

Posted on: November 9, 2015

The Key to Reversing Pre-Diabetes

By Pat Talio

A diagnosis of pre-diabetes means that you are at high risk for developing diabetes, and without lifestyle changes are likely to be diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes within 10 years. Better nutrition and exercise may help you prevent or delay the diagnosis of Type 2 Diabetes.

The arrow image depicts the differences between the blood sugar level of someone without diabetes, someone considered pre-diabetic and diabetessomeone with diabetes. Pre-diabetes means your blood sugar is higher than normal but not yet high enough to be diagnosed with diabetes.  A diagnosis of pre-diabetes is a reason to slow down and examine what you are eating and how active you are. Research shows with an improvement in your diet and with an increase in activity, which results in weight loss and better nutrition, Type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed.

The Diabetes Care and Education practice group of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggest the following tips to reverse Pre-Diabetes:
1. Move more – take a walk after dinner, stand up while talking on the phone, walk to your coworkers desk rather than use e-mail, jog in place or stand and stretch during TV commercials. Move if you’ve been sitter for 30 minutes. Remember every step counts.
2. Water is the way to go – replace juice, soda and other sugary drinks with water.
3. Just say no – Politely refuse the extra serving at the family dinner and powdered donut from a co-worker. Friends and family often have good intentions, but practice saying “No thank you!” to stay on track.
4. Size matters – be mindful of your portion sizes. Keep your protein to 4-6 ounces; a serving of starchy food should be less than one cup, and vegetables should cover at least one-half of your plate.

Change is always difficult but it may be easier with the support of a partner so grab a family member or friend and work together to make healthy lifestyle choices a reality.

Editor’s Note: Pat Talio, MS, RDN, CDE, CDN is a registered dietitian at Northern Westchester hospital and is a diabetes educator.

When Should I Get a Mammogram?

Posted on: October 27, 2015

New guidelines for when women should start getting mammograms have raised questions.

Dr. Bonnie Litvack, Director, Women's Imaging Center, Northern Westchester HospitalDr. Bonnie Litvack, Medical Director of the Women’s Imaging Center at Northern Westchester Hospital, answers questions many women have about when to start getting mammograms in light of the new breast cancer screening guidelines issued by the American Cancer Society, which raised the suggested age that women start getting mammograms at age 45, up from 40 years of age.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) recently issued new guidelines for when women should begin getting mammograms. They previously recommended that women begin getting mammograms at the age of 40, and now they are recommending women begin getting mammograms at age 45. I understand that this can be confusing and frustrating for women, and I want to share information that I hope is both helpful and reassuring.

First and foremost, these new guidelines are meant for women with an average risk of getting breast cancer – women with no family history of breast cancer. These recommendations are not for women who have a family history of breast cancer or who carry the BRCA gene. And if there is any take-away from this message, every woman is different and every woman should speak with her doctor to determine the best plan and timing for beginning or continuing to get mammograms.

I recommend that women begin getting mammograms at the age of 40 and continue to get them annually as long as they are in good health. Why? Because research and science have shown that the maximum amount of lives are saved when we start screening annually at the age of 40, again for women with an average risk of getting breast cancer.

The ACS reasoned that certain “risks” are presented in younger women who get mammograms, such as false positives that lead to additional screenings, or in rare cases, a biopsy. However, I want to be clear, that the benefits of getting a mammogram are objective – it is proven to save lives. The risks are completely subjective. Some women might feel anxious getting a mammogram, or hearing that they need to get additional screening. We work tirelessly to reduce anxiety associated with getting a mammogram. But ask many women, and they would rather have a false positive only to hear that everything is fine after additional screening. We’re balancing anxiety with saving lives, and mammograms save lives.

About those false positives…

At Northern Westchester Hospital, all of our technology is digital. We do not use film mammography, which is what was used in the studies that the ACS based their latest recommendations on. Radiologists have made significant improvements in mammography using digital technology, and we have been using tomosynthesis radiation (3D mammography) which provides quick, clear, and more definitive results. Scientific studies have shown that 3D mammography has reduced false positives by up to 1/3, meaning many fewer of our patients are called back for additional screening.

Finally, the ACS also recommended that all women can skip the clinical breast exam, which is conducted manually by your doctor. I disagree. For our patients, we want to find anything unusual as early as possible. This exam is part of our patients’ regular annual exams, and it does not cost anything. I recommend that women continue to get regular clinical breast exams.

Editor’s Note:
Under the leadership of Dr. Bonnie Litvack, the Women’s Imaging Center at Northern Westchester Hospital has been acclaimed as a Breast Imaging Center of Excellence by the American College of Radiology. She is fellowship trained in MRI and has extensive experience in all aspects of women’s imaging, including mammography.

Read more about Northern Westchester Hospital’s 3-D mammography.

Activate Your Defenses Against the Flu

Posted on: October 12, 2015

Activate Your Defenses Against the Flu

This year, government analysis indicates the vaccine will be a good match for this year’s flu strains. Read on…

By Dr. Debra Spicehandler

Believe it or not, it’s already flu shot time. If you haven’t already scheduled one, now is the time. Gaining full immunity can take about two weeks, and you want to make sure you’re protected before the flu begins circulating in your community.

You may have heard that last year’s vaccine didn’t offer as much protection as usual, but that’s no reason to skip the shot this year. Developing the yearly flu vaccine is a complex process: Several months in advance of flu season, public health officials have to predict which strain of flu virus will be most prevalent come winter in order to give vaccine makers time to produce the nearly 180 million doses America requires. Occasionally, the predictions miss the target—or the target moves. In 2014, the flu virus mutated after the vaccine had shipped. As a result, the shots were only about 13% effective, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This year, a recent government analysis indicates the vaccine will be a good match for this year’s flu strains. The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older should get the vaccine, which now comes as a needle injection, a jet (air) injection, and a nasal spray. You can get vaccinated at your doctor’s office, your workplace, or at local pharmacies, health departments, and schools.

Flu shots are available right now, and the sooner you get your dose the better. It takes about two weeks for immunity to kick in, and you want to be sure you have immunity before the virus starts circulating in your area. People who should be first in line are those at higher risk for complications from the flu, such as the elderly, young children, and anyone with a compromised immune system. You can rest assured that the vaccine is safe; the only reason to avoid it is if you have a history of an allergic reaction to the shot. (By the way, you do need to get a shot every year—immunity doesn’t carry over.)

In order to protect against catching the flu, get the vaccine and be careful to always wash your hands. If symptoms do develop, see your doctor. If you test positive for the flu, you can get a prescription for antiviral drugs, which can reduce your symptoms and help you heal faster.

Find a flu vaccine location near you…

Editor’s Note:
Debra Spicehandler, MD is Co-Chief, Division of Infectious Diseases at Northern Westchester Hospital

Dr. Peris Discusses Relief from Back Pain

Posted on: September 16, 2015

How to Treat Your Aching Back

By Dr. Marshal Peris

You’ll be happy to hear that most people recover from back pain within a few days just by taking it easy, continuing gentle activity, and using over-the-counter pain medicine such as naproxen (Aleve) or ibuprofen to ease their pain. If the pain doesn’t resolve itself within a week or so, your doctor may suggest physical therapy where you can learn stretches and ways of moving that will ease the strain on your back.

If you are still experiencing pain, prescription pain medications and possibly steroid injections to reduce swelling in your back are likely next steps. Your physician may recommend imaging to determine if abnormalities in your spine are causing your pain. If your back pain doesn’t get better using these more conservative methods, your doctor may refer you to an orthopedic surgeon to determine if surgery can help. Sometimes abnormalities in the vertebrae or the soft discs that cushion your spine can press on spinal nerves and cause pain or numbness in your legs and make it difficult to walk or stand. In such cases, surgery can help immensely.

Your orthopedic surgeon will explore your options with you, and the two of you can decide on the best approach. The good news is that the surgical solutions for back pain are improving all the time. One exciting development used at Northern Westchester Hospital is direct lateral fusion, which can address back abnormalities that cause chronic pain. As “lateral” implies, the surgeon works from the side of the patient. This advanced technique is much less invasive and allows us to achieve amazing results. The incision is much smaller and we don’t have to fuse as many vertebrae to get great results. It’s often a simpler, more effective treatment, and patients are usually up and moving after one day (instead of three to four) and typically leave the hospital after three to four days versus six to seven. The vast majority of patients are much happier and back to their normal activities much sooner.

Editor’s Note: Marshal D. Peris, MD FAAOS is the Director of Spine Surgery at the Orthopedic & Spine Institute and President of the Medical Staff at Northern Westchester Hospital.