All posts by Angelo Antoline

How Immunizations Help

Contrary to popular belief, immunization is more than getting a shot from the doctor’s office. So, how does the process of immunization affect your immune system?

In your body, there are white blood cells. These cells have the job of protecting your body from viral infections. When necessary, these white blood cells become a giant army to ward off any unwanted viruses or diseases.

Once a virus has been defeated, some types of white blood cells “remember” the virus, and how to defeat it when it enters the body again.

To create vaccines to a certain disease, scientists use dead or weak strains of the disease. The vaccination gives a body’s white blood cells a “taste” of that specific virus, so they know how to fight it off if that virus ever enters the body.

The vaccine itself does not cause the virus, but it can strongly affect your immune system, because it helps the body fight off certain diseases.

Additionally, by getting vaccinations and living in a community where others get vaccinations, it causes “herd immunity.” This means that members of the community who are too young or too weak to receive that vaccine also receive protection from the disease because it’s unlikely to spread through a group of people who have immunity to the infection.

So immunization isn’t just important for you, but also for the people around you!

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Sleep After a Stroke

Recently, researchers have found that insomnia may be a long-term effect of a stroke. But what does that mean for those who have had a stroke in the past?

Well, simply put, it means that the road to recovery may take a bit longer than expected.

After a stroke, there are many physical, emotional, and cognitive changes in a person. It all depends on what part of the brain was damaged, but frequent physical changes may include dysphagia (difficulty swallowing) or hemiparesis (muscle weakness on one side of the body).

If a stroke survivor develops insomnia, the rebuilding and healing of muscles can’t occur, which can lead to a slower recovery. Additionally, without this needed sleep, individuals may notice more emotional changes (such as crankiness) and cognitive struggles (such as difficulty concentrating).

If you’ve had a stroke and now experience insomnia, there may be options out there for you to get better sleep. These options include meditation and breathing exercises, trying to follow a stricter bed-time schedule (going to bed and waking up at the same time each day), and making sure to keep your bedroom dark and comfortable. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your physician.

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Got Milk?

Not only is milk and other dairy delicious, but it’s been proven to increase bone growth and lead to an overall healthier lifestyle.

The recommended daily amount of dairy is 3 cups for both men and women above the age of 19, and it definitely has its benefits. For example, calcium you receive from eating dairy can improve bone mass, and the vitamin D from dairy can help regulate the calcium and phosphorus in your body, which leads to stronger bones.

Wondering how you can “get more milk” and other dairy in your diet? Try following these 5 easy steps:

  1. Start Your Day with A Bowl of Cereal
    A bowl of cereal with low-fat milk is a simple way to increase calcium and vitamin D to strengthen your bones and teeth.
  2. Try a Fruit and Yogurt Parfait
    Sometimes the simplest things are the most delicious. Cut up some fresh fruit, and mix with a bit of your favorite yogurt. The yogurt not only has calcium, it also has probiotics which can help the digestive system.
  3. Add a Slice of Cheese (or 2) to a Sandwich
    By adding a slice of cheese to your usual BLT, you will be improving your health by adding multiple vitamins, such as vitamin A and vitamin B12, to your diet, along with calcium.
  4. Pair Your Favorite Fruits or Veggies with Cottage Cheese
    Healthy and appetizing, cottage cheese with produce is a great mix. Not only do you get the calcium and protein of the cottage cheese, but you also get the benefits of the fresh fruit or veggies.
  5. Make it a Goal to Drink at Least One Glass of Milk a Day
    Maybe the easiest way to get more dairy in your diet is by making it a personal goal to drink one glass of milk per day. This will give you a helpful (and healthful) routine, while improving your bone and teeth health and maintaining bone mass.
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Understanding Sepsis

Understanding Sepsis – Risks, Signs, and Treatments

Many of us will have an infection of some sort during our lives, and our body’s immune system will help to defend against it. Sometimes this requires antibiotics or antivirals. But when an infection can’t be stopped, sepsis can occur.

Sepsis is a life-threatening disease where the body actually injures its own tissues and organs. No one knows exactly why it occurs…but it can cause bacteria and toxins to alter a person’s blood pressure, heart rate, and temperature, which can prevent the body’s organs from working properly.

Those at a higher risk for sepsis:

  • Adults 65+
  • People with chronic medical conditions (i.e. diabetes, lung disease, and cancer)
  • People with weakened immune systems
  • Children younger than one

Signs of Sepsis

Sepsis is often linked to infections in the lungs, abdomen, kidneys, or skin. If you have an infection, be mindful of any changes in your breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, or body temperature.

Symptoms can include:

  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Shortness of breath
  • High heart rate
  • Fever
  • Shivering or feeling very cold
  • Extreme pain or discomfort
  • Clammy or sweaty skin

Treatment of Sepsis

  • Antibiotics
  • Treating the source of the infection
  • Maintaining blood flow and oxygen to the organs
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Tips and Tricks to Help Your Memory

We’ve all had times when our memory has escaped us, and we know how frustrating that can be. Here are some easy tips and tricks to help improve your memory:

  • Tag, You’re It! – Attach new information with what you already know. It’s easier to remember something if you can tag it to something already stored in your memory. For example, you meet a man named Jesse. Attach the Jesse you met with the iconic “Jesse James” since Jesse James is already stored in your memory.
  • Picture Perfect – Picture in your mind what it is you want to remember AND BE DRAMATIC ABOUT IT! For example, your spouse asks you to pick up a loaf of bread after work. Visualize yourself at the grocery store with a gigantic loaf of bread 100 feet long.
  • Repeat, Repeat, Repeat – Go over again and again what it is you want to remember. And repeat it throughout the day.
  • Write it Down– Write things down. Start small by making a grocery list. Summarize important meetings. Keep a journal. Make it a habit.
  • Spend Time with Loved Ones – Being around those you love improves brain function, which can boost your memory, and your mood. It’s a win-win!
  • Make Life a Sing-a-Long – Just like High School Musical, start busting out into song randomly throughout the day. Studies show that singing your favorite songs can actually help improve your memory. Think of it like a “running-start” your brain needs to get going.
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Strokes – Women Take the Lead

In the battle of the sexes, here’s one that women – often unknowingly – take the lead in: About 55,000 more women than men have strokes every year. Strokes kill more women than men annually, making it the #3 leading cause of death in women.

Most people don’t realize that women suffer strokes more frequently than men. If you’re a woman, you share a lot of the same risk factors for strokes as a man, but a woman’s risk also is influenced by hormones, reproductive health, pregnancy, child-birth and other gender-related factors.

For example, birth control pills may double the risk of stroke, especially in women with high blood pressure or who smoke. And, according to the American Heart Association, hormone replacement therapy – once thought to reduce stroke risk – in fact, actually increases it.

A recent study shared through the National Stroke Association listed these factors that have been found to increase stroke risk in women:

  • Menstruation before the age of 10
  • Menopause before age 45
  • Low levels of the hormone dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEAS)
  • Taking oral estrogen or combined oral contraceptives

The study also showed a history of pregnancy complications can also indicate higher stroke risk.

These problems include gestational diabetes and high blood pressure during or immediately after pregnancy.

Add this to other general risk factors for stroke like family history, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, smoking, lack of exercise, and being overweight –and it becomes clearer as to why women can be more at risk for stroke than men.

Whatever stage of life a woman is in, it’s important that she be aware of all the risk factors of stroke. As it’s often said, “knowledge is power.” The more knowledgeable a woman is about her stroke risk factors, the more she’ll be able to understand how she can be affected and work with her physician or healthcare provider as appropriate to reduce them.

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Take Steps to Stop Stroke

According to the National Stroke Association, physically active individuals have a 25-30 percent chance of lower risk of stroke than less active individuals. An easy way to incorporate exercise into your day is to walk. You can do it anywhere, it’s free, and it’s low impact so it can help build strong bones and muscles with a low risk of getting hurt.

Here are some tips to take a step in the right direction and get moving:

  • Before starting any exercise program, check with your physician.
  • Start small. Warm up at a slower pace for the first five minutes of your walk; then walk at a brisk pace to get your heart rate up. You should be breathing heavier, but still able to talk. Go back to a slower pace for the last five minutes of your walk.
  • Determine your own length of time that’s comfortable for you to walk at the beginning. Add a couple minutes to your walk every week.

Try to walk at least 5 days a week. Ultimately, you should aim for a minimum of 30 minutes per walk. But, if you can walk longer, go for it. This is one case where more can be better!

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How Sleep Helps Healing

Most of us know that getting a good night’s sleep can help us feel rested, give us more energy, and allow us to be more alert the next day – among many other benefits. But for individuals recovering from serious injuries or illnesses, sleep is integral to the recovery process.

When a person sleeps, the body is hard at work recovering from the damage or illness that has occurred. Restful sleep cycles are imperative to a patient’s healing and recovery.  Consistent, quality sleep provides restorative, protective, and energy-conserving functions to patients. The quality and quantity of an individual’s sleep influences the body’s ability to repair and grow tissue, bone, and muscle. It also helps to strengthen an individual’s immune system.

Without proper sleep management, individuals can experience sleep disturbances and fatigue that may affect the recovery process. Disturbed sleep can cause diminished physical and cognitive functioning, mood instability, emotional distress, and amplification of symptoms.

To help ensure a person receives the quality and quantity of sleep needed to aid in his or her recovery, quality sleep/wake cycles are needed. The sleep/wake cycle refers to daily 24-hour sleep patterns that are controlled by the body’s circadian rhythms. Circadian rhythms are mental and physical characteristics that change throughout the day.

A person transitions through five stages of sleep every 90 to 110 minutes as long as sleep isn’t interrupted. Health benefits typically occur during the 3rd and 4th stages of sleep, which are called deep sleep. The average adult needs 7-8 hours of sleep, which means he or she is in the deep sleep cycle about four times a night.

To create a quality sleep cycle for someone who is healing from an illness or injury (or just for anyone to sleep better), lower noise levels and lighting at a designated time every night and maintain that environment until a specified time every morning. This consistency allows for restful sleep patterns.

Additional benefits of a restful sleep cycle for someone who is sick also can include:

  • Improved patient participation in recovery
  • Reduced fatigue
  • Less anxiety and stress
  • Stronger cognitive abilities
  • Formation of better long-term sleep habits
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Occupational Therapy

Many of us perform daily activities like eating, grooming, bathing, and housework without giving it a second thought. But for individuals who have suffered a serious illness or injury, those types of activities may seem difficult – and at times – even unattainable to perform.

That’s when an occupational therapist can help. Occupational therapists are specially trained to help individuals who are in these types of situations to relearn how to perform every day activities. Occupational therapists prepare patients to complete tasks to be performed at home in a variety of ways, including:

  • Modifying a task
  • Teaching new ways of doing a task
  • Adapting environments to make tasks easier and safer for the patient
  • Educating patients, family members and caregivers

By providing assistance and modifications as needed, occupational therapists can help patients become as independent as possible.

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Long-Term Acute Care Helps with Healing from Cardiovascular Complications

Heart disease can cause complications like heart failure, heart attacks, or strokes. When someone experiences an event like this, long-term acute care hospitals (LTACHs) can help.

LTACHs often have cardiovascular programs designed to help patients with chronic or exacerbated cardiac issues like:

  • Heart bypass surgery
  • Valve replacements
  • Abdominal aortic aneurysms
  • Complex wound healing … and more.

Patients are referred to LTACHs after initial treatment at “acute care” hospitals when complex medical conditions prevent them from being transferred to lower levels of care, and/or they have more than one serious condition going on.

For example, a patient with heart failure may also be experiencing respiratory failure and could be put on a ventilator to help with breathing.

Heart failure is serious in itself, but now the situation would be even more critical because there’s not enough oxygen passing from the patient’s lungs into the body’s bloodstream. And, the patient would need special medical assistance in healing and weaning from the ventilator.

This is where an LTACH hospital comes in.

LTACH hospitals have specially trained staff and equipment to care for patients with these medically complex needs. Staff members treat situations like this on a daily basis and know how to tailor and provide specialized care to each patient, allowing optimum results and the best chance at recovery.

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