News/Blog

How Diabetes Relates to Heart Disease & Stroke

Being diagnosed with diabetes usually means you have to watch your blood sugar, mainly through diet, exercise, and medication. However, diabetes can cause a variety of complications throughout the entire body—but how?

The answer is the circulatory system.

The circulatory system is responsible for the transportation of blood throughout the body, providing nutrients and oxygen to cells, as well as transporting waste and carbon dioxide away from them. When the body begins producing and retaining too much glucose (blood sugar), the substance is not isolated to one sector of the body. The circulatory system pushes and pulls the glucose throughout the entirety of the body via the blood. The excessive amounts of sugar cause damage to blood vessels and the organs that are associated with those vessels suffer the consequences.

Diabetes and Heart Disease

One of the organs that most severely feels the effects of diabetes is the heart. Simply being diagnosed with diabetes dramatically raises a patient’s chances of encountering heart disease. The chances of getting heart disease at a younger age than most, as well as the severity of the heart disease itself, are increased when diabetes enters a patient’s life.

As the vessels supplying blood to the heart become damaged, clogged, or hardened by the high presence of glucose, the heart’s ability to receive (and therefore send out) blood is negatively affected. Types of heart disease that are specific to diabetes are Coronary Heart Disease (a buildup of a substance called “plaque” in the arteries), Heart Failure (when the heart is unable to pump the necessary amount of blood), and Diabetic Cardiomyopathy (a disease that damages the actual function and structure of the heart).

Diabetes and Stroke

Another major organ that suffers damage from diabetes is the brain. The brain thrives on oxygen-rich blood in order to function, and when the blood vessels that provide the blood are affected by excessive glucose, very serious complications can occur. When a vessel responsible for providing blood to the brain closes off or bursts, that part of the brain will become oxygen-deprived, and the cells will die. This can result in speech impairments, vision problems, and mobility issues, including paralysis. Like heart disease, being diagnosed with diabetes can significantly raise your chances of stroke.

We know the struggles that patients encounter as they work to regain lost abilities, and our goal is to help those patients overcome them. We feel it is also our responsibility, however, to educate our community about the causes of these conditions, in the hopes of preventing them.

We will continue to explore the topic of diabetes and circulation in our next post, as we learn about lifestyle changes and management techniques that may help patients cope with (and even prevent) these complications.

Sources:

http://www.diabetes.co.uk/body/circulatory-system.html

http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/complications/heart-disease/

http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/stroke/

http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/dhd

 

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Diving Related Spinal-Cord Injuries

As the sun begins to beat heavily down during the summer, people start turning to the relief of cool swimming pools and refreshing lakes for recreation. During the summer months, carefree attitudes coupled with the increasing need to stay cool contribute to a major spike in diving-related SCIs. In a study highlighted by the NCBI, 88% of diving-related cervical spine injuries examined occurred in the summertime, and 97% were sustained by healthy young men (under the age of 27).

Cervical Spine Injuries

The cervical section of the spine is comprised of seven vertebrae that connect the base of the head to the trunk and shoulders… making the informal term for a cervical spine injury a “broken neck.” The results of these injuries can be devastating. Spinal cord damage can cause partial paralysis, complete paralysis, and death.

Diving Hazards

Shallow water: Water depth can be deceptive. Blindly diving into water that has not been previously examined can result in the diver striking the bottom head-first, causing great damage to the vertebrae. Above-ground, personal pools are notoriously shallow and known for causing many a diving accident.

Obstructions in lakes, rivers, and ponds: Natural bodies of water are rarely crystal clear, and are extremely susceptible to debris accumulation. Tree trunks, rocks, and man-made items such as tires are commonly found under the water, but seldom seen above it.

Natural landscape changes: While the ocean may seem like a wide, open opportunity for diving, the fact is that it can be just as hazardous as a murky pond. The ever-changing tide and forceful waves are capable of shifting the layout of ocean sands, causing sandbars to crop up where they previously weren’t. Diving head-first into solid sand can yield traumatic results similar to that of diving into solid concrete.

Staying Safe

Explore and examine: Never dive blindly into any body of water… be it pond, ocean, lake, or swimming pool. Hazards may be lurking beneath the surface, or the designated diving section might be smaller than you anticipated.

Avoid alcohol: Summer often brings with it carefree attitudes and rowdy get-togethers where alcohol is commonly involved. Diving hazards are to be taken seriously, and substances like alcohol often remove the ability to discern the difference between safety and recklessness.

Own responsibly: If you own a personal pool, you are responsible for the safety of the people using it. Ensure that depths are marked properly and that safety rules are clearly stated and posted.

Educate: Water-safety should be included in any child’s education, and diving is a topic that should not be neglected. Make it a point to teach children of possible diving hazards as well as the serious consequences of ignoring safety. Be repetitive and firm in your instruction.

Enjoy the Summer Responsibly

A commonality in diving-related injuries is that they are often suffered by young people who are otherwise strong and healthy. A vibrant future can be altered dramatically by one single dive. Equipping yourself with knowledge and awareness can ensure that you spend your summer enjoying yourself rather than spending it in recovery.

Sources:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2899837/

http://www.shepherd.org/resources/injuryprevention/diving

http://www.nature.com/sc/journal/v43/n2/full/3101695a.html

http://www.anationinmotion.org/ortho-pinion/think-twice-before-you-dive/

http://www.hughston.com/hha/a.cspine.htm

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Traveling with Diabetes

So many fun things happen during the summer, and traveling is one of them. Whether you’re going to a summer camp, a family reunion, or vacation someone is inevitably bound to forget a swimsuit or toothbrush, or a favorite stuffed animals are left by the door. These situations can be disappointing but rarely do they completely unravel someone’s plans.

This is not the case, however, when a travel hitch involves your diabetes. If you’re not properly prepared, a diabetic travel complication can range from, at the very least, a huge inconvenience, to, at worst, a life-threatening situation.

By developing a travel checklist that utilizes a few of these helpful tips, you’ll be able to minimize your risk of a diabetes-related travel disruption.

Before You Go:

Talk to your doctor. If you are planning a long trip, especially one by air, it’s crucial to have a discussion and schedule an appointment with your doctor. This will give you both a better picture of your current diabetic health, the chance to get any needed immunizations, and a critical travel letter describing your diabetes plan.

While this letter is not required by US Airport Security, it can be extremely helpful should questions or a need for documentation arise. The letter should include your diabetes treatment plan, a list of prescriptions, and a description of the supplies required for your diabetic care.

Research your destination. When traveling with diabetes, a little research can bring great peace of mind. If you’re heading to another country, finding a hospital or doctor who speaks a language you are fluent in can save you from a lot of headaches. Learning key phrases in the country’s language, such as “I have diabetes,” or “sugar or juice, please” can be very helpful in an emergency. For more information on an emergency abroad, please click here to visit the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers page containing useful phone numbers and resources.

What to Pack:

Don’t forget your documentation. Not only is it important to bring a detailed travel letter from your physician, you should also make sure to pack a prescription for insulin or diabetes pills, should you encounter an emergency.

In addition to these two pieces of paper, your medical ID is essential. By wearing one as a bracelet or necklace, you eliminate any possibility of leaving your information in a hotel room or briefcase. In an emergency, physicians can learn about your diabetes, allergies, and insulin needs so that they may properly treat your symptoms.

Keep your supplies close. You should pack a diabetes kit containing all of the supplies you need on a regular basis, and pack it in a carry-on. Never check your diabetes supplies with the rest of your luggage. The cargo hold is not equipped to keep a proper temperature, and you run the risk of being separated from your baggage, which could be devastating. Packing at least twice the amount of needed medications and supplies is also a good idea.

Tips:

  1. Contact the airline a few days prior to your flight. This is a great time to clarify insulin/supply rules, and to request a meal that is friendly to your needs.
  2. Remember: Eastward travel means you will “lose” time, so less insulin may be needed. Westward travel “gains” time, often requiring more insulin.
  3. Allow yourself a period of rest after you arrive at your destination; this will allow you time to recover after the flight and settle yourself with your medication needs and changing routine.
  4. Check your glucose often; new routines, foods, and environments can throw off your insulin levels, and it’s important to stay on top of them.
  5. Pack airline-approved snacks. This way, you can help control your levels without too much fuss or inconvenience.

Diabetes isn’t something that should keep you from traveling. Even with this disease, you can enjoy a much-needed vacation or expertly handle an important business trip—as long as you employ some thoughtful planning and deliberate preparation.

Sources:

http://www.diabetes.co.uk/travel/air-travel-and-insulin.html

http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/treatment-and-care/when-you-travel.html?referrer=https://www.google.com/

https://www.bd.com/us/diabetes/page.aspx?cat=7001&id=7355

 

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Preventing Overexhaustion

With kids going to camps, grandkids coming to visit, taking road trips, and vacations. Summer can often place stress on people even those who are in the best of health. But, when you or a loved one is recovering from an injury or surgery, this time of year can be even more overwhelming.

When the body is recovering from a recent trauma, it needs as much nurturing as it can get. While “nurturing” does mean rest, it can also mean that you need to keep up with your exercise routine or stay on top of your diet. All of these essential factors in recovery can be easily tossed out the window during road trips. Risky travel is often chosen over missing family, sugar and fat-filled meals abound, and changes in schedule can derail the motivation to keep up with your exercises.

Since a proper and nurturing recovery is something we strive for here, we’re taking this opportunity to share a few tips for patients and caregivers to keep summertime both happy and healthy.

For Caregivers

An upcoming vacation is an especially stressful time for caregivers, who are focusing on both their loved one’s and their own summer enjoyment.

One of the best things a caregiver can do during a stressful summer season is to ask for help. It could mean hiring someone to help take care of dinner or a loved one’s needs, or it could simply mean asking a family member to help during meal preparation or other busy times. If you’re a caregiver, allowing yourself a few breaks will help keep you sharp enough to tend to your loved one and enjoy the season.

If no help is available, then it’s a good idea to scale back your summer plans. Be sure to listen to your body and mind, and take on only as much as both you and your loved one can handle.

For Patients

As a patient, it’s imperative to remember that you need time to heal. Right now, your body is putting many of its resources toward healing, and the decisions you make during summer can greatly affect your recovery time.

If your doctor has prescribed any exercises for a home exercise program to aid in your healing, be sure that you and your caregiver have scheduled some time in which you can do them. Your healing body is not aware of what time it is; it’s only aware of what it needs to repair itself.

Similarly, your body also needs to receive nutrient-rich, healthy food. Recovering patients often have restricted diets… and for good reason. Different foods affect your body in different ways, some of which can negatively impact your recovery. If your doctor has prescribed a special diet for you, it’s important to stick to it, even during vacations.

Work Together

If both the caregiver and patient can communicate and work together, it will make summertime all the more relaxing and enjoyable. A good thing to focus on is limits and boundaries. What are the patient’s telltale signs of fatigue? Which family members or situations cause undue stress, and can they be avoided?

With some planning, diligence, and communication, summertime can be experienced positively, and can ultimately strengthen the bonds between caregiver and patient.

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Summer Safety

As the sun begins to stay out later and we shift our gears to summer, there are going to be more opportunities to get outside and enjoy the weather. The increase in outdoor activities, however, does bring with it an increase in sun exposure. The risk of sunburn, dehydration, and heat stroke become real dangers as we move our lives out of our homes and into the heat, and it’s important to be prepared for and aware of the warning signs. 

We would like to remind our readers of some of the symptoms to watch out for, as well as talk about dehydration.

Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion:

  • Heavy Sweating
  • Paleness
  • Muscle Cramps
  • Tiredness
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fainting
  • Cool, moist skin
  • Fast and weak pulse rate
  • Fast and shallow breathing

Heat exhaustion can happen after extended exposure to high heat, and, if untreated, can lead to heat stroke, which can have very serious complications. Heat stroke occurs when the body loses its ability to cool itself and requires emergency attention.

Symptoms of Heat Stroke:

  • An extremely high body temperature (above 103 Fahrenheit)
  • Red, hot, and dry skin (no sweating)
  • Rapid, strong pulse
  • Throbbing Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea

Another condition that goes hand-in-hand with heat exhaustion is dehydration. Like both heat stroke and heat exhaustion, this is a condition that can be particularly dangerous for small children and the elderly. Some of the symptoms are the same, as well as methods of prevention. By keeping yourself hydrated when out and about in the heat, you’ll be one step closer to avoiding dehydration. It’s a good idea, however, to know what to look for, even if you feel prepared.

Symptoms of Dehydration:

  • Dry, sticky mouth
  • Sleepiness or tiredness
  • Thirst
  • Decreased urine output
  • Few or no tears when crying
  • Dry skin
  • Headache
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness

While all of these heat-related conditions are dangerous, there are many ways to protect yourself and still have fun. To avoid a potentially fatal situation, make sure you follow these tips:

Tips to Avoiding Heat-related Illnesses:

  • Stay hydrated (be sure to pack water and limit alcohol and caffeine)
  • Limit physical activity
  • Take a cool shower or bath
  • Take breaks at locations with air conditioning
  • Limit exposure to the sun
  • Wear hats and bring an umbrella to create some personal shade

Remember:

If you or someone you are with is displaying symptoms of heat exhaustion or dehydration, it’s time to get indoors to cool off and drink some fluids. If symptoms of heat stroke are apparent, it’s time for the emergency room.

With a little preparation and some heightened awareness, you’ll be able to enjoyably and safely experience all the outdoor fun this summer.

Sources: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dehydration/basics/symptoms/con-20030056

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Learn About Burn Prevention

There are many things to love about summer, from  activities like camping and cooking out, to hanging out with family in the great outdoors. But it also exposes us to a wide variety of potential burns that we can take lightly if we’re not careful.

Here are some of summer’s burn hazards, and preventative measures that can keep your risk of injury low.

Summer Sun

Enjoying the sunshine is just part of any typical summer day. Over-exposure to sun is a serious issue, however, especially when you consider its potential short- and long-term effects.

Sunburn

When the amount of exposure to the sun exceeds the ability of the body’s pigment (melanin) to protect the skin, sunburn occurs. The sun’s ultraviolet rays can cause serious damage to the skin. You can even get sunburned on a cloudy day, because the majority of ultraviolet rays can pass through light clouds and haze. To avoid sunburn, select shaded areas – whenever possible – for outdoor activities, and wear protective clothing such as wide-brimmed hats and long-sleeved shirts. 

When it comes to sunscreen, use products that have a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 15, and have both UVA and UVB protection.

Eyecare

It’s equally important to protect your eyes from the harmful effects of over-exposure to UV rays. Sun damage can lead to serious eye problems later in life. Protect your eyes with UV-blocking sunglasses and wear hats with wide brims. Wraparound sunglasses provide further protection by keeping light from entering the corners of your eyes.

Infants and the sun

Infants and young children are at a greater risk of suffering sunburn because their skin is thinner than adults. Babies less than one year old should be kept out of direct sunlight, and should always be dressed in protective clothing such as long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and wide-brim hats. 

Camping Safety

For many of us, summer means camping out with family and friends. But it can place you at a greater risk for burns if you’re not careful. Keep the following camping safety tips in mind:

  • Choose a tent made of flame-retardant fabric.
  • Build your campfire downwind and at a good distance from your tent.
  • Always have an extinguisher tool, such as a shovel, bucket of water, or fire extinguisher, on hand.
  • Never use heat-producing appliances (such as cooking appliances or heater) inside your tent.
  • Never add a flammable liquid to a fire or hot coals.
  • Always have adult supervision of children around the fire.
  • Never leave a fire unattended.

Fireworks

Enjoying brightly-colored fireworks is part of summer’s fun. They can also be dangerous – approximately 10,000 people suffer fireworks injuries every year, with nearly half of those injuries suffered by adolescent and children under 14-years old. Burns are often the result of improper use of fireworks and sparklers. Here are precautions you can take to prevent injuries:

  • Only adults should handle fireworks. While sparklers and other backyard fireworks might seem harmless, small children should never be allowed to handle them.
  • Never try to re-light fireworks that don’t work. Soak them with water instead. Always have a bucket of water or fire extinguisher handy.
  • Be sure to light fireworks out of range of spectators.
  • Light fireworks on smooth, flat surfaces away from houses and flammable material.
  • Never place your body or face over fireworks.

Barbecue Grills

Whether you’re using a gas or charcoal grill, cooking out increases your risk of fire and potential burns. Gas grills have been linked to over 7,000 fires per year, but charcoal grills have potential fire risks, as well.

Propane grills

The ease of cooking with a propane grill makes it a very popular form of barbecuing. Propane is a flammable gas and should be handled accordingly, however. Propane grilling accidents tend to happen when the grill is left unattended, or just after the gas cylinder has been refilled and reattached. Be sure to check all of grill’s connections for leaks by spraying soapy water on them. If bubbles arise, then there’s a leak and you should turn off the tank valve and tighten connections. Also, never start a gas grill with the lid closed, as gas can accumulate inside when not in use.

Charcoal Grills

When using a charcoal grill, never use gasoline as a starter fluid. When using regular starter fluid, let the fluid set for a minute before lighting the coals as this allows the heavy concentration of vapors to disperse. And always place the container of fluid far away from the coals before starting before starting the fire.

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What Aphasia Looks Like, and What to do About it

Last week we learned about a patient who had Aphasia, and what it was like for him and his family. Each patient is different when it comes to rehabilitation, but every patient can benefit from a family member that is aware of their condition. Aphasia Awareness Month is the perfect time to learn more about this condition. When a patient experiences damage to the parts of the brain where language occurs, we call this “aphasia.” Aphasia can cause a person to lose their abilities to process language, be it in expression or comprehension.  Most often, the left side of the brain is the one responsible for aphasia and causes the affected person to encounter difficulties with speech and comprehension.

Many of our aphasia patients are stroke survivors. Although things like brain tumors and traumatic brain injury can also be responsible, stroke is most-often the culprit for the language struggles that we help our patients work through.

Common symptoms of aphasia:

Patients with aphasia often display issues with both comprehension and expression.

When most of the problems lie in the comprehension or reception of language, this is often classified as “Wernicke’s Aphasia.” While a sufferer can sometimes pick up on the melody or cadence of a sentence (determining if it’s a command or question, for example), they might have problems understanding the specific words that are being said. Since a person’s vocabulary is housed in the left side of the brain, understanding of words can sometimes be affected, as well as the concept of stringing words together to form a full thought.

When the issues mostly lie in the survivor’s ability to express themselves, it usually falls under the category of “Broca’s Aphasia.” In this case, the symptoms are more outwardly visible, as the patient struggles greatly with speech and the construction of sentences. Aphasia, in this case, can present itself in a variety of ways. Sometimes a patient will create something that sounds like a sentence, but is comprised of gibberish-like words. Other times, they might be able to get out enough words to get an idea across, but leave out small connecting words like “the” or “and.” When all areas of language are hindered, it is referred to as “global aphasia.”

Support

The range of symptoms that can occur during aphasia is wide and varied, but the factor that stays constant is a need of support. Through the support of family members, friends, and rehabilitative therapists, a person suffering from aphasia has a better chance of getting back on the road to understanding and function.

What can you do?

The word “aphasia” can be intimidating. While it is definitely a serious condition, it is one that can be worked with and, to some degrees, overcome.

Recognize… that aphasia has not affected the patient’s intelligence. It has altered their ability to communicate and understand language, but their personality, memories, and knowledge remains. Remembering that the same person you’ve always known resides behind this communication disorder can be grounding and encouraging.

Take the time… to learn your suffering family member’s struggles and specific communicative needs. After a period of routine, you’ll be able to discern how to understand and communicate with your loved one, bringing a sense of comfort and progress to the both of you.

Create… an environment that is conducive to focus and treatment. When a person has difficulty understanding the simplest of words, even the simplest of distractions can be a deterrent to progress. Eliminate extra sounds and excessive visual stimulations, so that your loved one can focus on the task at hand. Simplifying your questions to yes/no and slowing down your rate of speech can encourage success.

Explore… different methods of therapy. Sometimes drawing, writing, and even the encouragement of socialization can stimulate progress in a stroke survivor’s language. It is important to keep communication with your loved one’s therapist open so that you can learn about techniques that may be specifically helpful to your situation.

We understand that recovery is a process that can take its toll on not only the patient but their support systems as well. To alleviate some of the pressure, we encourage you to seek help from rehabilitative professionals, Speech-language pathologists being an ideal option, to make this process as successful as possible.

 

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Aphasia Awareness Month

June is National Aphasia Awareness Month, and, because aphasia is something the team here at Corpus Christi Rehabilitation Hospital encounters frequently, we feel very strongly about spreading awareness of this condition.

Aphasia is a neurological condition that is acquired. This means that something, often a stroke, inflicts damage to the brain and causes normal functions to be interrupted or altered. In the case of aphasia, the damage occurs in the parts of the brain that are responsible for language. A patient suffering from aphasia will often have a difficult time reading and writing. Understanding and communicating with others can also be affected, and presents some very frustrating circumstances for both the patient and the caregiver. One thing to note is that while communication is affected, the intelligence and coherence of the patient is not necessarily altered. The American Psychological Association phrases it well:

“However, it is important to make a distinction between language and intelligence. Aphasia does not affect the intelligence of the person with the disorder, but they cannot use language to communicate what they know.”

This is a fundamental piece of information that we understand and want the rest of the world to understand as well. We’ve had the opportunity to speak with Lisa Driver, the wife of a former Ernest Health patient, about their experience with aphasia rehabilitation at our facility, and it’s clear that she was well aware of this fact, too:

“He was still my Glen; he was still in there.  I knew he wasn’t gone, but he couldn’t get across the things he wanted to say.  I can’t imagine not being able to get people to understand what you’re trying (to say).”

Lisa was fully aware of the disconnect between Glen’s thoughts and his ability to communicate them. When discussing his frustration in therapy, she explained,

“He hated using the communication board, spelling things out, or using pictures. He wanted just to talk. The pictures were not what he wanted. He could not find the performed sentence or picture that matched what he had in his head.”

We use our interdisciplinary approach to care to provide a comprehensive experience that is efficient and complete. By assigning a team of specialists in different rehabilitation disciplines, we can ensure that a patient’s stay is quick and efficient, but also thoroughly attended to, so that no stones are left unturned.

Because of the frustrating disconnect between intention and actual communication, we know how important it is to be compassionate. The team here recognizes its responsibility to both the emotional and physical care of our patients.

When asked about their experiences over the four-month stay that the Drivers had with us, Lisa replied,

“The environment from day one… the administrative staff, nurses, therapists, cafeteria people, dieticians, housekeeping. They would not just come in and take out trash and mop.  They would visit with us, ask how he was doing, share about things in his life. We were there four months.  We would get excited when we would have a nurse rotate back to us.”

Aphasia is a frustrating and devastating condition that we see on a regular basis, and we feel that it deserves as much awareness as it can get. For more information, resources, and support for aphasia patients and their families, please visit the National Aphasia Association’s website.

If you or someone you know is struggling with aphasia, or if you’re simply exploring your options, please contact us. We can promise expertise, empathy, and compassion that can be heard in the testimonials of those who have worked with us previously.

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Diabetes in Men

There’s no better time than Men’s Health Month to discuss an issue that is unfortunately on the rise for men – diabetes. In fact, one of the biggest jumps in type 2 diabetes was among men, and the risk for diabetes usually increases with age. But a lack of understanding and education about the disease is a significant barrier when it comes to good health.

What is diabetes?

When you have diabetes, your body can’t properly control blood glucose. Food is normally broken down into glucose, a form of sugar, which is then released into the blood. Insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, stimulates cells to use glucose for energy. In type 1 diabetes, the immune system mistakenly attacks cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. Type 2 diabetes occurs when tissues in the body become resistant to the effects of insulin. Eventually, blood sugar levels begin to climb.

The Dangers of Diabetes

High glucose levels in the blood cause nerve damage, as well as damage to blood vessels. In turn, this damage can lead to heart and kidney disease, stroke, gum infections, blindness, as well as issues like erectile dysfunction and sleep apnea. Moreover, the death rate from heart disease is much higher for men who have diabetes, while amputation rates due to diabetes-related issues are higher for men than women.

Who is at risk?

As mentioned, the risk factor for type 2 diabetes usually increases with age, and it’s advised that testing for this disease should begin at age 45 – even in the absence of risk factors. Those risk factors include:

  • Leading a sedentary lifestyle with little activity. Studies show that overweight people improve their blood sugar control when they become active.
  • Being overweight or obese.
  • Having a diet that is high in refined carbohydrates and sugar and low in fiber and whole grains.
  • Having a history of type 2 diabetes in your immediate family, such as a mother, father, sister or brother.
  • Those with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes also includes African-Americans, Hispanics, American Indians, Native Alaskans, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
  • Aging – because the body becomes less tolerant of sugars as you get older.
  • People who have metabolic syndrome, which is a group of problems related to cholesterol.

What’s scary is that an estimated 7 million people in the United States don’t know that they have diabetes. Meanwhile, millions of people have elevated blood sugars that aren’t yet high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes, but are considered to have prediabetes and are at greater risk for diabetes in the future. However, doctors can easily check for diabetes through blood tests that measure blood sugar levels.

Symptoms of Diabetes

  • Any of the following are symptoms of diabetes, and you should get tested for the disease if you’re experiencing them:
  • An increased thirst
  • Fatigue
  • Increased hunger
  • Frequent urination, particularly at night
  • Blurred vision
  • Sores that won’t heal
  • Unexplained weight loss

Preventing Diabetes

Diabetes clearly is a disease with serious health implications, but the good news is that the vast majority of cases of type 2 diabetes could be prevented or significantly delayed through a combination of exercise and healthy eating. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, losing a modest amount of weight (10 to 15 pounds) can help prevent or delay type 2 diabetes if you have prediabetes. Cells in the muscles, liver, and fat tissue become resistant to insulin when you’re carrying excess weight. It’s recommended that you build up to 30 minutes of activity a day, five days a week.

Experts also say that a healthy diet that emphasizes whole grains, fruits, and vegetables – with small amounts of sugar and carbohydrates – can prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes.

Treating Diabetes

In many cases, lifestyle changes like the ones listed above can keep diabetes under control. Many people, however, need to take oral medications that lower blood sugar levels. When those aren’t effective, insulin injections (or insulin that’s inhaled) may be necessary, sometimes in conjunction with oral medication. Diabetes treatment has improved over the years, but controlling it still remains a challenge.

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How Men Handle Stress

Everyone deals with some stress, and we can sometimes shrug it off as just being part of day-to-day living. But dealing with too much stress has become a serious issue for a lot of men, who can experience several serious health issues as a result. Here’s a look at the dangers of stress, but also healthy ways to deal with it.

Stress and its Dangers

Stress is hardly a modern phenomenon; our ancient ancestors found it helpful for prompting fight-or-flight responses that came in handy when dealing with the physical dangers of their day. While that sort of response isn’t usually necessary in today’s world, it’s still an instinctual part of us, releasing hormones that trigger an increased heart rate and breathing, constricted blood vessels, and the tightening of muscles. And that’s what stress is all about, which in turn is linked to:

  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Migraines
  • A weakened immune system
  • And a variety of other issues, such as insomnia, depression, and fatigue. 

How to Deal With Stress

The good news is that there are plenty of ways to deal with the natural responses of stress. Your mental outlook is part of it, but so are things you can do physically that will help relieve stress and prevent it from becoming a hazard to your health.

1. Exercise

There’s not much that exercise won’t cure, and that certainly applies to stress. Exercise releases endorphins into the body that can give you a sense of ease and contentment, plus it removes you from the place/situation of stress and worry. Moreover, studies have shown that people who exercise regularly are less likely to develop an anxiety disorder within the next five years. And that’s not to mention the positive effects exercise has on your physical health.

2. Accept What You Can’t Change

Some things, like bad weather, can cause stress, but they’re things that you have no control over. Accept the things you can’t change but look for ways to make the best of your circumstances. Spend a rainy day reading, or go outside and play in the snow like you did as a kid.

3. First Things First

Determine your most important tasks of the day and tackle those first. Those are usually the things that cause the most stress, and saving them for later, when you may not be as physically or mentally sharp as you were earlier in the day, can create undue stress. 

4. Laugh

When you continually treat stress with the over-serious attitude, chances are you’re only going to make it worse. It’s OK to laugh it off instead of getting defensive. You’ll ease anxiety and potentially defuse the situation.

5. Avoid Stressful Situations

Recent studies show that men’s stress levels rise significantly in situations such as traffic jams. If possible, figure out different routes, or time your driving to avoid rush hour. Similarly, shop at times when stores are less crowded and spend less time with people who aggravate you.

6. Schedule Wisely

Stress is usually a consequence when you over-schedule yourself or have a hard time saying no. Only take on what you can handle, and always give yourself time to finish the things you’ve promised to get done.

7. Deal With Stress Directly

A sure way to build stress is to do nothing about it. Deal directly, and quickly, with the cause of your tension. If you’re having problems at work, talk to your boss about possible solutions. If you have a noisy neighbor, talk to them rather than simmering in your stress.

8. Meditate

Meditation is beneficial in so many ways, not the least of which is the positive affect it has on dealing with stress. Try to spend 15 to 20 minutes a day in contemplation to help clear your mind. Yoga, tai chi, and contemplative prayer are other great ways to cut the tension.

9. Savor Victories

Do something nice for yourself if you finish a major project or meet a personal goal. No matter what you choose, it’s important to celebrate before moving on to the next big task.

10. Be Positive

Having a negative outlook can turn minor annoyances into major ones. Try to always look at the sunny side of things instead.

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Advantages of Adding Walking to Your Routine

With the temperatures beginning to rise slowly, and the sun showing its face for longer each day, there couldn’t be a better time to start a new exercise plan.

This doesn’t mean that you have to begin a rigorous weight-lifting regimen or start training for a marathon; it simply means that you’ve got more opportunities to get your body moving and breathe in some revitalizing fresh air.

One of the best ways to get active without causing too much stress or taking a large chunk of time out of your day is to go for a walk. The benefits of walking extend far beyond weight loss, and can contribute to significantly raising your quality of life.

Lift your mood.

Going for a walk, especially outside, is a great way to boost your spirits. Once you step out your front door, you’re improving your quality of life… even before you start your walk. The energizing effects of clean, fresh air coupled with the Vitamin D boost that comes from being out in the sunlight have been known to have revitalizing results.

Endorphins, the pain-blocking hormones that can sometimes produce a euphoric effect, are also released during exercise, making walking a low-impact way to experience those “feel good” chemicals.

Burn calories.

If weight loss is your goal, walking (in addition to healthy diet changes) is a fantastic way to burn calories and work toward the recommended 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. The amount of calories you burn will depend on your weight and speed, but the general rule of thumb states that a 160-pound adult is likely to burn 100 calories per mile.

Improve your overall health.

When it comes to exercise, there are, of course, more strenuous options than others. Fitness classes, jogging, and weightlifting, while different, all have at least one important thing in common: the benefit of movement.

When you get your body moving on a regular basis, you get to enjoy the benefits of better circulation, strengthened bones, and improved balance and coordination. This movement also supports the prevention and management of certain diseases like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure.

Socialize while you exercise.

Because walking is an exercise that can be done at your own pace, it has the potential to be a fun social activity as well as a way to improve your health. Try getting a group of friends together a few times a week for walking; you’ll be able to catch up with each other and get your body moving, all at the same time. An additional benefit to walking with other people is the accountability factor: there’s a better chance that you’ll stick to your exercise plan if you have others depending on you. Boosting your energy levels, mood, and social life? That’s definitely an exercise win/win.

As always…

Walking is typically a very low-impact exercise option for those who are just beginning in the world of exercise or who have physical restrictions that keep them from other activities. This doesn’t mean, however, that a walking regimen is right for everyone. If you have concerns or questions about the way a walking plan can benefit or affect your life, please talk to your doctor. Together, you’ll be able to come up with a plan that gets you moving and directs you toward better health.

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Which Workout Routine Works for You?

We all understand the importance of exercise for our health: physically, mentally, and emotionally. But, it can be easy to put off an exercise routine or to get into a rut. The changing of the seasons is a great time to incorporate new activities into your exercise regimen and try some exercises that you might not have considered.

With any start or change into an exercise regimen, it’s important to consult with your physician to make sure the changes you make will help and not hurt you. Below, we share some activities to help change up your workout routine, as well as some things to keep in mind to stay safe!

YARD WORK/GARDENING:

The growing grass and weeds of the season can be an excellent opportunity to get some extra exercise. The action of mowing not only provides an excellent cardio workout, but it also helps to build up muscles in the arms that might not normally get as much attention. Taking time to take the weeds out of your yard can be satisfying, relaxing, and be a great source of exercise to your core and arms.

Things to keep in mind: Make sure you’re mowing safely. Take breaks often, and make sure you stay hydrated. Mowing or weeding your yard can strain your back, making it a priority to listen to your body while doing this our back safe and allow you to still get a good workout. Make sure that you keep your body square as you reach for the weeds, and never reach behind to pull weeds. This will also help to protect your back and spine from injury.

WALKING/RUNNING:

If you have not tried walking or running, you’re in for a treat. It’s a great opportunity to burn some calories and enjoy being outside in the fresh air. Walking and running are also great ways to keep your back and spine healthy and strong, especially for those that have a job that requires you to sit throughout the day. To help give your calorie burn an extra boost, try running or walking in intervals: start at a comfortable speed for a minute or two, and then go faster for 30 seconds to a minute.

Things to keep in mind: Proper shoes will help protect your feet and spine, so choose to invest in a good pair. Practice proper running form to keep your body healthy as you exercise: keep your back and head straight, and keep your arms loose at a 90-degree angle. Don’t “pound” the pavement, but let your feet hit in the middle and then roll to the toes. You can also protect your knees by sticking to a pace that is within your range and gradually working up to faster speeds.

YOGA:

Yoga is one of our favorite exercise routines to help rehabilitate the body after a week of strengthening and cardio workouts. Yoga not only promotes stretching, strengthening, and flexibility, it also improves balance and coordination and helps to release any stress or tension. You will be surprised to see the results you gain from just one class/session a week.

Things to keep in mind: While yoga tends to be rehabilitative in nature, be careful not to overdo it. If you can’t complete a position correctly, consider using a yoga block to help you until you’re ready.

CYCLING:

Indoor and outdoor cycling has gained momentum as a fun way to get a heart-pumping workout. It also helps to take some pressure off the knees, which can be a downside to running. After one spin class, you’ll be surprised to see how many calories you have burned.

Things to keep in mind: As with walking and running, it’s important not to overdo it too soon. Part of what makes cycling such a great workout is that it boosts your heart rate very quickly. Work int a more rapid pace gradually, giving your body time to adjust. You also want to practice proper form: avoid “hunching” your shoulders as you hold the handlebars. It can put unwanted pressure on the neck and back.

KETTLEBELLS:

Kettlebells are another workout that has begun to gain popularity. One reason so many people like working with kettlebells is their diversity of use and exercises, and that they provide both a cardio and strength workout.

Things to keep in mind: As with any strength routine, it’s important to practice proper form. Make sure your feet are square, shoulder-width apart. Keep your head, neck, and back in line to avoid any problems. Stay within your weight limit and gradually work up to the heavier kettlebells.

The value of changing up your workouts is that it not only gets you out of rut but also helps your body exercise and stretch different muscles that you haven’t been working. As you try new and different classes and exercises, you’re likely to find something new that you love and enjoy.

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Making a Fitness Plan for You

Whether you’re beginning a therapy routine or revamping your New Year’s Resolution, the truth is the same across the board: exercise is beneficial. Exercise is good for your heart, your lungs, your muscles, and your mind. It contributes to better lifelong health and self-esteem. It’s simply a good idea all around, as long as you approach it the right way.

Exercise covers a broad landscape of options. From jogging or weight lifting to swimming or walking, there are many opportunities to find both what you love and what you should avoid.

FOCUS ON YOU.

The world of exercise and fitness can be full of expectations and deceptive successes. An exercise plan or nutritional change may have worked wonders for a celebrity or family member, but that doesn’t mean it’ll do the same for you. It’s important to isolate your needs and preferences and create an exercise plan that will complement your lifestyle.

TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR.

Talking to your doctor before you start a new exercise plan is always a good idea. This can help prevent negative outcomes and help you achieve more satisfying results. Not only can a doctor tell you what to avoid to prevent injury, but they can also offer exercise suggestions based on your height and weight. This expertise will assist you in being as successful as possible in your endeavors.

WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO?

Exercise doesn’t have to be drudgery. The exercise options available nowadays are practically endless. If you enjoy working out in solitude, walking or jogging can provide some much-needed alone time. If dancing is a favorite activity, try a dance-based workout like Zumba or Jazzercise. Many gyms offer a variety of weight-lifting options, and water-based activities like swimming or water aerobics provide a low-impact workout for people with weak knees or other limiting conditions.

If you can’t afford the gym, or simply aren’t interested in going to one, purchasing a workout DVD or streaming exercise videos online can provide you instruction within the comfort of your home.

SET REALISTIC GOALS.

Be kind to yourself. Remember the fact that any exercise is usually better than no exercise, and that you’re probably not going to be able to run 10 miles right off the bat. Setting impossible goals or unrealistic expectations often leads to failure. Finding a fitness partner or family member who can help motivate you can be extremely helpful, especially in times of discouragement.

Talking to your doctor is a good way to get a realistic view of what you can accomplish based on your current physical ability.

NOURISH YOUR BODY.

If a healthy lifestyle is your goal, then an exercise plan must be paired with a healthy diet. Filling your body full of sugar and saturated fats will counteract the progress you’re making and can produce discouraging results. This, however, does not mean that you need to deprive yourself. Simply eating more fruits and vegetables while cutting down on rich and sugary foods will not only help you to feel better but will also provide your body with the necessary nutrients that it needs to carry out your exercise plan.

Proper nutrition during exercise is another great reason to talk with your doctor before you begin, as he or she will be able to counsel you on a diet that is right for you.

If you’ve come to the decision to adjust to a more healthy lifestyle, you’re already on the right path. Remember to drink plenty of water, be aware of your abilities and limits, and ask for help if you’re unsure of the right course of action.

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The Best Way to Make Goals

We would be hard pressed to find one person who can honestly say that he or she has kept every New Year’s resolution they have made. That’s because resolutions tend to be broad, general wishes rather than planned, attainable targets. 

The month before the summer season is a great time to recommit to your resolutions and make them into thoughtfully planned goals. Preparing for your goals is the best way to equip yourself to achieve them. We’ve listed a few tips that will help your goals be more attainable and realistic. 

FOUR AREAS FOR GOAL SETTING

  • Nutrition. Many people use the turning of the New Year to try a new diet; however, most of these diets don’t make it past January. That’s because they are often based on gimmicks and promises of quick results. If you truly want to make lasting changes in your health levels, first speak with your doctor(s) about what is safe for your current health status. Then, look for a wellness program that emphasizes a well-balanced nutrition plan appropriate for you. Starting a food journal, or using a food logging app can help you stay on track. Summer is a great time to find fresh fruits and vegetables and learn creative ways to prepare them.
  • Fitness. After nutrition goals, the second most common goal for the New Year are fitness goals. In January, it’s easy to believe that you can dive into a high intensity workout time that requires a hefty time commitment. Although it’s good to challenge yourself, statistically you’re more likely to keep up with your commitment if you choose to set your goal as something that’s only a step above what you’re already doing. For example, if you don’t usually do any physical activity it may be realistic to make your goal to take a 15-minute walk every day instead of signing up for your local HIIT Training Class 5 times a week. As the weather is warming up, try something that you would enjoy outdoors.
  • Emotional. Most of us can make a point to try to be less stressed, however, without a plan this goal can actually make us more stressed. Whether you decide to start a journal or take up walking, make sure that the solution is something that can realistically fit into your schedule regardless of your season of life. Emotional goals can give you the opportunity to “bundle” your other goals. If cooking or walking serve as a tool for your relaxation, you’re not only fulfilling your emotional goals but also your fitness and nutrition goals. 

Your goals might not fall into any of the categories listed above, but that doesn’t mean that the same methods don’t apply. The strategy is the same for whatever goal you set – make a detailed plan with specific steps, set a realistic timeframe (for realistic goals), and stick to a deadline. And perhaps the most important of all is to get others involved. Have close friends, family, and or colleagues help keep you accountable. 

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Taking Steps to a Calming Routine

Patients from all walks of life come through the doors of CCRH, and we get the extreme privilege of experiencing their varying personalities, hopes, fears, and knowledge. While the differences are always distinct, we have noticed that there is at least one factor that is common among the lot: stress.

Whether the stress is minor or extreme, it’s a feeling we see written on the faces of team members and patients alike. Last week we talked about Healthy Ways to Handle Your Stress, and one of our tips was creating a calming routine. The following tips can be incorporated into anyone’s routine, and may help relieve a stressful schedule.

Nourish Your Body

“Stress-eating” is a term that gets heard more and more these days, and is a sneaky pitfall when it comes to taking care of yourself. A recent study by food scientists at Cornell University has shown that, when experiencing a period of negative emotion, pleasurable foods become even more appealing than usual, and unappealing foods become exponentially more distasteful.

This information makes it even more important to adopt a healthy diet. By planning ahead and making nourishing foods easily accessible, you’ll be better prepared for those times when you’ve had a rough morning, and a box of doughnuts shows up in the hospitality room. The simple act of eating a satisfying, nutrient-packed breakfast can set the atmosphere of your whole day, removing the need to reach for an unhealthy snack.

Making an impulse-eating decision can often cause guilt or physical discomfort later on—which will only further contribute to your stress levels.

Go for a Walk

One of the best ways to ease your mind is to get moving. Exercise triggers the production of endorphins, which are the neurotransmitters in your brain associated with “feeling good.” By focusing your mind on the movement of your body, you’ll be able to give yourself a break from your worries, creating a small, meditative escape from stress. Walking, specifically, is an ideal form of stress relief, as it is more accessible to people of differing athletic abilities. In addition to endorphin production, regular exercise promotes better health and self-esteem, which can drastically decrease stress levels.

Any exercise is an effective way to cope with stress, but it seems to be especially so when it is taken outdoors. Being able to remove yourself from your typical environment and take a few moments to connect with the outside world can be a good way to hit the reset button.

Talk to Someone

Stress can be very overwhelming when faced alone. Finding a close friend, support group, or therapist to share your feelings and fears with can help put your stress in perspective. Whether it’s the very basic act of hearing your feelings out loud or the relief of discovering that you’re not alone, finding a person or group to talk to is a powerful way to bring about some emotional relief.

Find a Healthy Distraction

While analyzing your stress is important and helpful, it’s equally important to give your mind a break. When feelings of anxiety and burden become too overwhelming, a brief, pleasurable escape can allow your body and mind to relax.

In addition to exercise, there are many ways to do this. Finding a new book to read or carving out some time to listen to your favorite music can help release some more of those endorphins and better prepare you to tackle your stress later on.

Be careful, however, to avoid distractions that are harmful, such as drugs, alcohol, or stress-eating. These are deceptive escapes that ultimately result in more stress for you.

Just Breathe

A tried-and-true method of stress relief and relaxation is the practice of deep breathing. While causing extreme emotional strain, stress can also affect a person physically. Practicing deep breathing exercises can help reverse some of the effects that stress has on the body by relaxing your heartbeat, increasing oxygen to your brain, and even lowering your blood pressure. We encourage you to visit this link for a fantastic resource on deep breathing information and exercises.

Cross Things off Your List

While all of the above activities can help reduce your stress, sometimes the only way to find relief is to remove your stressors. Make a list of factors that you can change, control, or accomplish, such as necessary duties and overwhelming tasks that need to be finished. You’ll find your relief grow dramatically as you remove these stressful items from your list, allowing more room for the things that bring you happiness.

Those on the team here at CCRH are no strangers to stress. We want to provide a source of comfort and knowledge so that our patients and their families receive the best possible care. Adding just one of these tips to your everyday routine may seem like too small a task to make a difference, but being more aware of being stressed helps you make a step in the right direction.

Sources:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/07/150709093313.htm

http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/exercise-and-stress/art-20044469

http://www.healthywomen.org/content/article/reduce-stress-journaling

 

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Healthy Ways to Handle Your Stress

It’s important to give yourself the permission to relax every once in awhile, whether that quiet moment is spent with a steaming cup of tea or an indulgent massage. Stress and exhaustion can cause long-term health issues if allowed to remain severe for too long. We’d like to share a few tips for relaxation to help you take care of yourself.

PUT ON THE KETTLE.

We’ll start with a cup of hot tea. Some studies suggest that an amino acid found in tea, L-theanine, causes the brain to relax. While this statement is still mildly debated, the fact remains that tea is the second-most-consumed liquid in the world, next to water. Many people attribute the simple ritual of sipping a cup of tea to a calming, familiar feeling that is brought on simply by the action of drinking it.

Other herbal teas, such as chamomile and lavender, are said to have calming properties as well. When dealing with herbs, it’s important to check with your doctor if you have any conditions or take medicines that react badly with the herb blends… but if you’re in the clear, what’s to lose? Put on the kettle and see if those shoulders loosen up.

CREATE A COMFORTING ROUTINE.

If you find yourself regularly feeling stressed out, you might benefit from a calming routine. It can be something small-scale to help you calm down in a pinch, or a longer ritual to help you wind down before bed. Either way, it’s important to examine your needs and feelings to establish a routine that will be right for you. Do breathing exercises help? Do you enjoy reading? Is a long, hot bath a surefire way to ease your worries and turn down the thoughts in your head?

Routine provides something to look forward to and creates a consistent set of actions that you can depend on. You can always add a nice cup of tea to that ritual, of course!

EXERCISE

For some people, the act of movement allows the body to burn off energy and the mind to find focus. While more strenuous activities like running and weight-lifting provide a release for some, it’s often the case that a more gentle form of exercise allows a stressed-out individual to calm both their mind and body. Long walks, yoga class, and low-impact swimming are all ideal examples of using exercise to release stress.

JOURNALING

Stress often results from a buildup of responsibilities and negative emotions. Keeping a journal can provide a much-needed space into which you can release some of those fears and concerns. According to a 1986 study on expressive writing, students who wrote about traumatic and stressful events reported an almost immediate decrease in distress. Those who continued the practice over time reported an increase in the quality of their physical health as well.

Bottling up your feelings can lead to stress. Releasing those feelings can relieve that stress. A journal is a wonderful way to disclose your emotions and thoughts in a safe, controlled environment.

MAKE IT ABOUT YOU.

Whether you love tea or hate it… whether you’d rather run a mile than get a massage, the point of this post is to encourage relaxation that works for you. A mind that carries stress and tension for a prolonged period is also a body carrying that stress and tension. Finding techniques that help ease both physical and mental stress will allow you to focus on the things that you love.

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Top 10 Reasons Why Being in the Top 10% Matters

Our staff did it again! We’ve been ranked in the Top 10% nationwide for our patient care at Corpus Christi Rehabilitation Hospital. That makes us pretty happy, and here’s why:

Top 10 Reasons we like being in the Top 10

  1. We like the Number 2. This is the 2nd year we’ve been ranked as a nationwide leader in rehabilitative care.
  1. It makes us feel good. We’re passionate about patient care, and it’s nice when our efforts are recognized (especially by an unbiased, third-party).
  1. It makes our patients feel good. Who doesn’t want the best care when you’re in a hospital? Our patients know they’ll leave the hospital as active and independent as possible.
  1. Patients and families can save their frequent flier miles. We keep people here in Corpus Christi. Our patients and their families don’t have to travel the U.S. to receive the best care available. We bring it right here. To you. Locally.  
  1. We like being a leader. OK, so yeah, we enjoy standing out from the crowd and being different from others around us who provide rehabilitative care. Let’s face it, not all rehabilitative care is the same – inpatient care is better. And we’re not just saying it, research proves it.
  1. We might get more “likes” on Facebook. We know we’re not Justin Bieber or Bob Marley, but we love our fans. And we want them to love us. We like sharing good news and like when others share it too.
  1. It’s not every day you get to work on a Dream Team. The men’s Olympic basketball team has nothing on us. We work with talented, dedicated colleagues every day, and we look for health professionals of the same ilk to join us….which can only lead to better results for our patients.
  1. Ben & Jerry’s is naming an ice cream after us. Well, not really. But that would be cool.
  1. We’re throwing a party. We’re going to celebrate with music, friends and yummy food like cake and barbecue. And if we’re lucky, might get to see our CEO’s “happy” dance.

And the Number 1 reason we like being in the Top 10?
1. It Matters! Can you say Olympic gold medal? Fun aside, we’re serious about our commitment to our patients to provide them with the highest level of care available. It matters. To us. To our patients. To our community.

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How to Combat Your Anxiety

In our last post, we detailed how important it is for people to get help with anxiety disorders, especially because they can negatively impact overall physical and mental health. However, it’s often difficult to know where to start. In our second post on anxiety, we will focus on how to combat anxiety and what to expect when seeking treatment.

How do I ask for help?

If you think you may be suffering from anxiety, you should share your concerns with your primary care physician. A physician can help determine if the symptoms are due to an anxiety disorder, a medical condition, or both. If your physician diagnoses an anxiety disorder, the next step is to see a mental health care professional. You and your doctor will then work as a team to develop the best treatment plan.

What are my treatment options?

Treatment for anxiety can involve medication, therapy, stress reduction, coping skills, family involvement, or a combination of these. A mental health care provider can determine what type of disorder or combination of disorders you have, and if any other conditions, such as grief, depression, substance abuse, or dementia are present.

If you have been treated before for an anxiety disorder, you should tell your provider about the previous treatment. Be sure to detail what medication was used, dosage, side effects, and whether the treatment was helpful. If you attended therapy sessions, you should describe the type, how many sessions, and whether it helped. Sometimes individuals need to try several different treatments or combinations of treatments before they find the one that works best for them. It is important to be patient and committed to treatment efforts until you find what is best for you.

Medication

Medication will not cure anxiety disorders, but it can keep them under control while you receive therapy. Medication must be prescribed by physicians, often psychiatrists or geriatric psychiatrists, who can also offer therapy or work as a team with psychologists, social workers, or counselors who provide therapy. The main medications used for anxiety disorders are antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, and beta-blockers, which control some of the physical symptoms. Below are several points to remember when beginning these types of medications.

  • Learn about the effects and side effects. For example, ask when the medication should begin to help and in what way. Also ask about what negative effects you should look out for.
  • Tell your doctor about any other drugs (both prescription and over-the-counter), herbal supplements, or alternative therapies you are taking.
  • Find out when and how the medication should be stopped. Some cannot be stopped abruptly and must be tapered down under a doctor’s supervision.
  • Some medications are only effective if taken regularly. Be sure to ask what you should do if you accidentally miss a dose.

Therapy

Therapy involves talking with a trained mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, or counselor, to discover what caused the anxiety disorder and how to deal with its symptoms. Therapists can help people change the thinking patterns that contribute to their fears and the ways they react to anxiety-provoking situations. A therapist can also teach new coping and relaxation skills and help resolve problems that cause anxiety.

What else can I do to help relieve my anxiety?

  1. Acknowledge worries and address any fears that can be handled. For example, if an individual is worried about finances, a visit to a financial planner may be helpful.
  2. Talk with family, a friend, or spiritual leader about your worries. Sometimes voicing them can be a big relief.
  3. Adopt stress management techniques, meditation, prayer, and deep breathing. Because anxiety is so tied to a physical response, relaxation techniques can be very helpful.
  4. Exercise regularly and when stress builds up. Even a short walk can help alleviate tension and anxiety symptoms.
  5. Avoid things that can aggravate the symptoms of anxiety disorders:
    • Caffeine (coffee, tea, soda, chocolate)
    • Nicotine (smoking)
    • Over-the-counter cold medications
    • Illegal drugs
    • Certain herbal supplements
    • Alcohol
  6. Limit news of current events. It is important to stay current, but too much negative news can contribute to anxiety.
  7. Allow time for treatment to work. Treatment is not a quick fix. It takes time, patience, and perseverance.
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Caregiver’s Guide to Brain Injury Rehabilitation

The goal of rehabilitation is to help your loved one live and function as independently as possible. Rehabilitation helps the body heal and assists the brain in relearning processes so that an individual recovers as quickly and efficiently as possible. Rehabilitation will also help the person with Brain Injuries learn new ways to do things if any previous abilities have been lost.

After your loved one’s initial life-saving treatment at the time of the injury, he or she will most likely start a rehabilitation program and will work with a team of specialists. The person with an injury and his or her family are the most important members of the rehabilitation team. Family members should be included in the rehabilitation and treatment as much as possible. Some of the other professionals who may be part of this team include:

  • Neurologists – doctors who are trained in the diagnosis and treatment of nervous system disorders, including diseases of the brain, spinal cord, nerves, and muscles.
  • Occupational, physical, speech and language therapists – therapists that help the person regain thinking skills, communication skills, physical abilities and behavioral skills.
  • Neuropsychologists – specialized psychologists who focus on thinking skills and behavior problems.
  • Vocational rehabilitation experts – employment coaches who help with regaining job skills.

Some of the different types of rehabilitation facilities include:

  • Acute rehabilitation – an intensive rehabilitation program.
  • Coma treatment centers – provide coma-specific medical care.
  • Transitional living programs – nonmedical residential programs that teach skills for community living.
  • Long-term care and supervised living programs – residential facilities that provide care and
  • rehabilitation to people with brain injuries who are not able to live independently.
  • Behavior management programs – typically community-based (i.e., not residential) programs that teach self-control and appropriate social behaviors.
  • Day treatment programs – provide rehabilitation during the day so the person can return home at night.

Recovering from a brain injury is a process and is individual to each person and family. One of the major impacts that stroke has on quality of life is the way that it affects a person’s emotions and relationships. There are hardships that immediately come to mind – communication problems, mobility limitations, cognitive impairment – but there are also complex social and emotional stressors that impact well-being. Stroke affects emotions, and in turn, relationships and social functioning among stroke victims and family, friends, and/or caregivers. It is important to remember that rehabilitation may last weeks or even years and that your loved one will benefit from the ability to receive rehabilitation services throughout this time. Appropriate programs and treatments will also change as your family member’s needs change. Choosing Ernest Health is a huge step forward on the road to recovery!

References:

www.biausa.org

www.caregiver.org

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What to Expect from Rehabilitation

Last week we covered identifying and understanding brain injuries. If you or a loved one you know has had a brain injury or are at risk for a brain injury, knowing what rehabilitation will consist of can be comforting during a stressful time. There are many physical and emotional challenges that can discourage both the patient and the caregiver.

Brain injury is a broad category that refers to any injury to the brain which impairs functioning. The injury may be mild, severe, traumatic, or caused by associated medical problems; however, the goal of rehabilitation is the same – help patients gain the most independent level of functioning possible. Whether the brain was injured during a stroke, a fall, or even an electric shock, the goal of Ernest Health is to get our patients back to a place where they can manage and hopefully flourish in daily life. Rehabilitation therapists form a team, together with the patient and family/caregiver(s), to achieve the best possible outcome.

REHABILITATION AFTER BRAIN INJURY:

Rehabilitation after a brain injury is more likely to involve several types of therapists and practitioners on our staff because of the effect that a brain injury can have on multiple parts of the body. A physical therapist would help the individual regain range of movement and strength, like in the case of a patient who has had a stroke and subsequent paralysis. An occupational therapist caring for the same patient might work with him or her on dressing, eating, and completing household chores. A speech pathologist might work with the patient on swallowing and communication. Still other practitioners such as psychologists and social workers would aid in psychological, emotional, and social assessment and care.

Just as with any type of rehabilitation, a patient’s treatment plan is highly individualized. A patient who has experienced a stroke may need different types and degrees of therapy than a person who was in a car accident. It all depends on the extent and impact of the injury. Likewise, one’s treatment may vary according to life stage, age, and daily needs. This individualization greatly benefits our patients and their families.

However, Brain Injuries are so much more than a series of physical consequences. One of the major impacts that brain injuries have on the quality of life is the way that they affect a person’s emotions and relationships. There are hardships that immediately come to mind – communication problems, mobility limitations, cognitive impairment – but there are also complex social and emotional stressors that impact well-being.

 

Knowing what to expect from brain injuries can be especially useful for the caregiver. Being a caregiver requires constant encouraging and optimism, but that can be wearying. Next week we cover brain injury rehabilitation for the caregiver.

For more information on brain injury, go to www.biausa.gov.

 

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