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  • January 14, 2022

    By Allison Larson, MD

    Whether you’re a winter sports enthusiast or spend the season curled up by the fireplace, the low humidity, bitter winds, and dry indoor heat that accompany cold weather can deplete your skin’s natural moisture. Dry skin is not only painful, uncomfortable, and irritating; it also can lead to skin conditions such as eczema, which results in itchy, red, bumpy skin patches. 


    Follow these six tips to prevent and treat skin damage caused by winter dryness.


    1. Do: Wear sunscreen all year long.

    UV rays can easily penetrate cloudy skies to dry out exposed skin. And when the sun is shining, snow and ice reflect its rays, increasing UV exposure. 


    Getting a sunburn can cause severe dryness, premature aging of the skin, and skin cancer. Snow or shine, apply sunscreen before participating in any outdoor activity during the winter—especially if you take a tropical vacation to escape the cold; your skin is less accustomed to sunlight and more likely to burn quickly.


    The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends sunscreen that offers protection against both UVA and UVB rays, and offers a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30.


    That being said, if you are considering laser skin treatments to reduce wrinkles, hair, blemishes, or acne scars, winter is a better time to receive these procedures. Sun exposure shortly after a treatment increases the risk of hyperpigmentation (darkening of the skin), and people are less likely to spend time outside during the winter.


    Related reading: 7 Simple Ways to Protect Your Skin in the Sun

    2. Do: Skip products with drying ingredients.

    Soaps or facial products you use in warm weather with no issues may irritate your skin during colder seasons. This is because they contain ingredients that can cause dryness, but the effects aren’t noticeable until they’re worsened by the dry winter climate.

    You may need to take a break from:

    • Anti-acne medications containing benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid
    • Antibacterial and detergent-based soap
    • Anything containing fragrance, from soap to hand sanitizer

    Hand washing and the use of hand sanitizer, which contains a high level of skin-drying alcohol, cannot be avoided; we need to maintain good hand hygiene to stop the spread of germs. If your job or lifestyle requires frequent hand washing or sanitizing, routinely apply hand cream throughout the day as well.


    During the COVID-19 pandemic, I have seen a lot of people develop hand dermatitis—a condition with itchy, burning skin that can swell and blister—due to constant hand washing. Sometimes the fix is as simple as changing the soap they're using. Sensitive-skin soap is the best product for dry skin; it typically foams up less but still cleans the skin efficiently.


    3. Do: Pay closer attention to thick skin.

    Areas of thin skin, such as the face and backs of your hands, are usually exposed to the wind and sun the most. It’s easy to tell when they start drying out. But the thick skin on your palms and bottoms of your feet is also prone to dryness—and tends to receive less attention.


    When thick skin gets dry, fissures form. You’ll see the surface turn white and scaly; then deep, linear cracks will appear. It isn’t as pliable as thin skin. When you’re constantly on your feet or using your hands to work, cook, and everything in between, dry thick skin cracks instead of flexing with your movements. 


    To soften cracked skin, gently massage a heavy-duty moisturizer—such as Vaseline—into the affected area once or twice a day. You can also talk with your doctor about using a skin-safe adhesive to close the fissures and help them heal faster.


    Related reading:  Follow these 5 Tips for Healthy Skin

    4. Don’t believe the myth that drinking more water will fix dry skin.

    Contrary to popular belief, the amount of water or fluids you drink does not play a major role in skin hydration—unless you’re severely dehydrated. In the winter, especially, dry skin is caused by external elements; it should be treated from the outside as well. 


    The best way to keep skin hydrated and healthy is to apply fragrance-free cream or ointment—not lotion—to damp skin after a shower or bath.
    Some people need additional moisturizers for their hands, legs, or other areas prone to dryness.

    While some lotions are made better than others, most are a combination of water and powder that evaporates quickly. Creams and ointments work better because they contain ingredients that can help rebuild your skin barrier. 

    Look for products with ceramide, a fatty acid that helps rebuild the fat and protein barrier that holds your skin cells together. The AAD also recommends moisturizing ingredients such as:

    • Dimethicone
    • Glycerin
    • Jojoba oil
    • Lanolin
    • Mineral oil
    • Petrolatum
    • Shea butter

    For severely dry skin, you can try a “wet wrap” technique:

    1. Rinse a pair of tight-fitting pajamas in warm water and wring them out so they’re damp, not wet.
    2. Apply cream or ointment to your skin.
    3. Put on the damp pajamas, followed by a pair of dry pajamas, and wear the ensemble for several hours.

    Dampness makes your skin more permeable and better able to absorb hydrating products. If the wet wrap or over-the-counter products aren’t working for you, talk with a dermatologist about prescription skin hydration options. 

    Drinking more water isn’t the answer to dry winter skin. The best solution is to apply fragrance-free cream or ointment directly to damp skin. Get more cold weather #SkinCareTips from a dermatologist in this blog: https://bit.ly/3KbVUA1.
    Click to Tweet

     

    5. Don’t confuse skin conditions with dryness.

    Skin conditions are often mistaken for dry skin because peeling or flaking are common symptoms. Redness of the skin or itching in addition to dryness and flaking indicates a skin condition that may need more than an over-the-counter moisturizer.


    Skin cells are anchored together by a lipid and protein layer (like a brick and mortar wall). With very dry skin, the seal on this wall or barrier is not fully intact and water evaporates out of the skin’s surface. The skin will become itchy and red in addition to scaly or flaky. If you experience these symptoms, visit with a dermatologist.

    6. Don’t wait for symptoms to take care of dry skin.

    Be proactive—the best way to maintain moisture is to apply hydrating creams and ointments directly to your skin on a regular basis. Start by applying them as part of your morning routine. Once you get used to that, add a nighttime application. And carry a container of it when you’re on the go or keep it in an easily accessible location at work.

     

    You can’t avoid dry air, but you can take precautions to reduce its harsh effects on your skin. If over-the-counter products don’t seem to help, our dermatologists can provide an individualized treatment plan. Hydrated skin is healthy skin!


    Does your skin get drier as the air gets colder?

    Our dermatologists can help.

    Call 202-877-DOCS (3627) or Request an Appointment

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  • March 17, 2020

    By MedStar Health

    In an effort to prevent the spread of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), many spectator and participation sports have been postponed.

    While this may be especially disappointing if you were looking forward to college basketball’s March Madness, it’s an important step in minimizing the impact of COVID-19 in our communities.

    The good news is there are plenty of ways we can maintain our sports connections, even within social distancing guidelines. And, staying active during the COVID-19 pandemic is important for both our physical and mental well-being.

    Did you know 30-60 minutes of daily exercise can help you stay healthy? Our sports medicine specialists share 8 tips for staying active during the #COVID-19 pandemic on the #LiveWellHealthy blog.
    Click to Tweet

    The coronavirus is spread through respiratory droplets, such as a cough or sneeze, and can travel several feet. However, as long as you don’t have a fever and are feeling well, there’s no need to stay on the couch while you practice social distancing. As always, be sure to wash your hands with soap for 15 to 20 seconds before and after any activity with others.

    Staying active during the COVID-19 pandemic

    If you are healthy, try these eight tips for safely exercising while maintaining social distance during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    1. Exercise outdoors.

    Most public gym facilities are likely closed but if yours is still open, we recommend avoiding it until public health officials say otherwise. Instead, take your fitness into the fresh air outside. Consider hiking a new path or trying a water-based activity like kayaking, if the weather permits.

    Younger athletes can also benefit from outdoor play by themselves or in small groups. Be sure to supervise kids playing in small groups or alone, and discourage the use of sporting equipment or jungle gyms to minimize direct contact with each other and surfaces.

    2. Exercise by yourself, with a friend, or in small groups of less than 10.

    If you’re heading outside, consider bringing your family or a friend to keep you company, but keep the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines in mind. Choose activities that allow you to maintain an appropriate distance between each other, such as hiking or biking. Do your best to minimize direct contact and save your high-fives and fist bumps for another day.

    If you are going to exercise with a small group of friends, plan to meet up at the destination to avoid close quarters like carpools, and consider outdoor activities rather than fitness studios.

    3. Engage in non-contact activities that allow spacing of 6 feet between participants.

    Limiting physical contact is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of coronavirus—and any other virus. Social distancing guidelines recommend maintaining six feet of space between people, and there’s plenty of activities that allow for this, such as biking or tennis.

    Other group activities, such as running, bodyweight workout routines, and fitness videos allow for additional spacing. If you’re using any equipment, be sure to thoroughly clean and disinfect it before and after use, even if you’re the only one using it.

    4. Rethink recess.

    With children home from school and focusing on distance learning, don’t forget recess. Physical activity is an important part of the school day and helps children not only with fitness, but with mental focus and concentration as well.  Be sure to include a combination of structured and unstructured physical activity into every day your child is home.

    5. Work on improving your general fitness.

    Having a strong core and aerobic fitness level is necessary for good fitness. You can work on strengthening your core and cardiovascular condition without compromising the safety of those around you by using:

    • Home gyms
    • Home-based video workouts
    • Web-based exercise programs

    In fact, many fitness related instructors and organizations are currently offering free online workout classes and routines for new users as a way to encourage activity and improve morale throughout the country.

    6. Clean and disinfect any equipment you use alone or with others.

    The virus may remain active on untreated surfaces for an extended period, so be sure to follow the CDC guidelines for cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and any equipment you use by yourself or with others. Using a cleaning solution that contains at least 70% alcohol is important, even if you and your family are using your own in-home facilities.

    7. Exercise using your body weight.

    Using your own body weight with a circuit-type program can be an effective way to maintain strength and aerobic health in a short period of time. Bodyweight workouts can incorporate a variety of movements that don’t require equipment, including:

    • Burpees
    • Squats
    • Lunges
    • Pushups
    • Yoga

    Remember that with any exercise program, you should gradually increase frequency, intensity, and duration to avoid overuse injuries. If it hurts, stop doing it.

    8. Stay in touch with your fitness community online.

    Whether you’re a competitive athlete or a weekend warrior, stay in touch with your friends and teammates through appropriate social media channels. Consider sharing your thoughts about this situation and hopes for returning to normal activity as soon as safely possible. Consider on-line challenges for steps, or stationary bike rides, or even run a “virtual race” together and compare times.

    For more information, watch our video below with Dr. Richard Hinton.

    What to do if you’re sick

    If you or a family member has a fever, cough, or shortness of breath, stay home and avoid interacting with others. Consult with your primary care physician regarding when to resume activity and follow the CDC’s recommendations to minimize the spread of COVID-19 when you do get moving.

    As you resume activity, you should:

    • Practice social distancing
    • Avoid handshakes, high-fives, and hugs
    • Maintain a distance of six feet from strangers and anyone with cold and flu symptoms
    • Avoid using public surfaces and shared equipment
    • Adhere to appropriate hand and personal hygiene

    Stay active, but be safe. Stay hopeful, but be helpful. You’ll be back in action soon!

    To stay updated on new COVID-19 developments, visit MedStarHealth.org/COVID-19.

    We want to hear from you! How are you staying active while practicing social distancing? Share your comments with us on social media.

    Tell Us on Facebook!

  • March 12, 2020

    By Stanley J. Pietrak, MD

    Over the past decade, we’ve made incredible strides in the fight against many types of cancer. But pancreatic cancer is one type that continues to elude a cure. This year, cases are predicted to increase worldwide. And within the U.S., this lethal cancer is now the third leading cause of cancer death, just behind colorectal and lung cancers.

    What is happening here? Pancreatic cancer has not yet experienced the caliber of breakthrough treatments that are driving down other cancer deaths. And as certain high-profile cases—such as TV host Alex Trebek and Congressman John Lewis—illustrate, it is still notoriously difficult to detect in its early stages, when available treatments can be most successful.

    On a positive note, the attention that celebrity patients like these have brought to the disease is spurring hope that more people will understand the risk factors, take steps to prevent or catch it early, and get to their doctors sooner when unusual symptoms arise.

    What Is Pancreatic Cancer?

    The pancreas is a narrow gland, about six inches long, that sits deep within your abdomen. It produces enzymes that help with digestion and insulin that regulates your blood sugar. The location of the pancreas, sandwiched between your stomach and spine, makes it tough to discover small growths that might be felt elsewhere. So cancerous tumors that grow in or around the pancreas tend to be larger, and even invasive, before they’re discovered.

    Thankfully, this type of cancer is not that common, accounting for only about 3% of all cancers. But because it’s typically diagnosed in late stages, currently fewer than 10% of patients survive longer than five years.

    Pancreatic cancer is uncommon, accounting for about 3% of all cancers. But because it’s typically diagnosed in late stages, currently fewer than 10% of patients survive longer than 5 years. https://bit.ly/335KIzW via @MedStarWHC

    Click to Tweet

    What Can You Do To Help Prevent It?

    So far, screening tools that help us early-detect and successfully treat other kinds of cancer haven’t worked for pancreatic cancer. But some preventive steps may help. Avoiding smoking is a big one, since researchers estimate that it accounts for about 25% of cases. Limiting alcohol and consumption of red meat, processed foods, and added sugars should also offer some protection. These habits contribute to other important risk factors for this cancer, including chronic pancreatitis (a painful inflammation of the pancreas) as well as obesity and type 2 diabetes. You’ve heard it before, but it’s worth repeating: eating a healthy diet, staying active, and skipping alcohol and smoking are smart moves toward preventing all kinds of cancer.

    Some risk factors, however, are unavoidable, such as advancing age and race (African-American and Ashkenazi Jewish people are at higher risk). But some can make you eligible for special monitoring. For instance, about 10% of cases are associated with a family history of the disease. If you have two or more first-degree relatives (a parent, sibling, or child) who have had this cancer, or one who was diagnosed before age 50, you should strongly consider meeting with a genetic counselor to determine your own risk and to see if you qualify for a close surveillance program. That typically includes regular MRIs or endoscopic ultrasound tests of your pancreas that are not routinely available to everyone.

    I also recommend these close surveillance measures for people with chronic pancreatitis or pancreatic cysts. These are conditions that are typically benign when they cause symptoms you’ll notice. But they may evolve into cancer over time. By monitoring them closely with these imaging tests, we can detect pre-cancerous or cancerous changes early, when they’re most treatable and even curable.

    What Symptoms Should You Act On?

    The important message is that it’s critically important not to wait when you notice any changes in your body that could be signs of pancreatic cancer.

    The two most noticeable symptoms may be pain in your upper middle abdomen, just below the rib cage, that may even radiate through to your back, and yellowing of your skin or the whites of your eyes.

    Others symptoms include:

    • Light, clay-colored stools and/or dark urine
    • Itchy skin
    • A sudden diagnosis of diabetes over age 50
    • Digestion trouble or bloating
    • Unexplained weight loss

    The biggest mistake people make is noticing these odd changes in their body or health and ignoring them. If something unusual like that persists for more than two days, call your doctor. Don’t wait and see, especially if you have other risk factors. In addition, stay on track with all your recommended screenings for other cancers.

    What’s on the Horizon?

    Research toward new diagnosis and treatment options is underway in medical centers around the world.

    For instance, scientists are learning more about genetic changes, either inherited or acquired during a person’s lifetime, that could fuel this cancer. These insights could be used to develop new genetic tests or targeted treatments for patients with these mutations. Other studies are focusing on the ability of blood tests to identify certain proteins that could indicate the cancer in its very early stages. At MedStar Health, we’re involved in research on high-risk patients to help us identify specific factors that might eventually allow us to more accurately predict who is most likely to develop this cancer, so we can act earlier.

    As for treatment, research is focused on improving surgery and radiation therapies and on finding new types of treatment. Some medical centers, including MedStar Health, are now using minimally invasive techniques, such as robotics, that help make pancreatic surgery more tolerable, reduce recovery time, and still achieve good outcomes for our patients.

    Many clinical trials are also underway to test new combinations of chemotherapy drugs, new approaches to radiation therapy, and novel treatments like targeted therapies that could attack specific targets on pancreatic cells, as well as immunotherapies that boost the body’s own ability to destroy cancerous cells in the pancreas.

    While the fight for better pancreatic cancer outcomes continues, the future holds tremendous promise that we will get there.

    Let’s assess your risk.

    Schedule time with a specialist.

    Call 202-644-9526 or  Request an Appointment

  • March 09, 2020

    By Ezequiel J. Molina, MD

    Patients often ask what a Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD) can do for them.

    Medically, the answer is that this implantable mechanical pump can help circulate blood through the body of patients with advanced heart failure. But from a lifestyle perspective—although every patient is different—it can offer most patients the chance to live longer and enjoy a better quality of life.

    MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute was among the first four hospitals in the world to perform this surgery in 1988. Since then, we’ve implanted the device in about 700 patients. Currently, we perform 80 to 90 LVAD surgeries a year—and our outcomes are excellent.

    A Look at the Device

    A cable through the skin of your abdomen connects the pump on the inside of the body with a small computer and batteries that you carry.

    As new technology revolutionizes this field, we’re seeing pumps that last longer than ever before. It’s not uncommon now to see patients who’ve been supported by their pumps for six, seven, or eight years after implantation.

    Three Possible Pathways to Care

    • The first pathway through which a patient might have this device implanted is as a temporary bridge to transplant. This means that—for patients who qualify for a heart transplant, have waited a very long time for a donor heart, and are getting progressively more ill—we may go ahead and implant an LVAD to rescue them from that difficult situation. These patients can then have a transplant procedure when a donor heart becomes available
    • Another pathway, destination therapy, means that patients receive an implantable LVAD that will be with them forever. This pathway is typically employed for patients who are not good candidates for a heart transplant
    • A third pathway we commonly employ is known as bridge to decision. Although some patients are not candidates for heart transplantation when they receive their LVAD, it’s expected that they may be well enough for the transplant in the near future. The device gives them time to decide how they’d like to proceed

    Patient Selection

    There are strict standards for what type of patients qualify to receive an LVAD implant. Guidelines established by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) set three main criteria for patient selection:

    • The patient’s heart must be unsuccessful at ejecting enough blood
    • The patient must have heart failure symptoms
    • Medical therapy must have proven unsuccessful for at least 15 days

    Of course, there are many other things to consider from within the patient’s individual medical profile.

    In addition, certain other constraints may make a patient ineligible for an LVAD. For example, we strive to allow the patient to gain at least one year of life; so, for patients whose life expectancy is less than a year—for example, when an advanced cancer is involved—an implant is usually not recommended.

    Other disqualifying conditions include a severe neurologic disease like advanced dementia, failure of certain organs (like the liver), or inability to receive blood thinners.

    Dr. Ezequiel Molina discusses how Left Ventricular Assist Devices (LVADs) bring hope to heart failure patients. https://bit.ly/38gtwZw via @MedStarWHC

    Click to Tweet

    What Patients Can Expect After Surgery

    There are two main benefits for patients who do qualify to receive a left ventricular device. One is quantity of life, meaning the procedure can prolong life. Without an LVAD, you have a 10–25% chance of being alive in a year. With an LVAD, it’s 85–90%, a huge difference.

    The other benefit is quality. About 80% of patients who receive an LVAD feel significantly better. Their heart symptoms go away, and they are likely able to do things they were unable to do before. Many can return to work. They can drive and play sports.

    The only thing you can’t do with an LVAD is be submerged in water. For example, you cannot swim in the sea because the external components of the device are not immersible.

    Aside from that limitation, you can have a normal life. There are few limitations if you're doing well post-surgery.

    Recovery is not instantaneous, however. All the processes triggered by a patient’s heart failure take time to reverse. On top of that, the patient is healing from a relatively invasive operation. While everybody’s different, it takes at least three months for the patient to recover and be fully active again. In some cases, we can perform minimally invasive surgery, which can cause less trauma when implanting the device.

    LVADs vs. Pacemakers

    As much as we'd like to liken them to pacemakers, LVADs are not there yet. But if you compare the functions of the two, you’ll understand why.

    A pacemaker is implanted completely under the skin, and its battery can last as long as 15 years. A pacemaker monitors your heart rhythm—a function that does not consume much energy—and occasionally, as needed, it will shock the heart into a regular rhythm. Pacemakers can only provide a modest improvement of your heart’s ability to pump blood.

    On the other hand, an LVAD must continuously pump an average of five liters of blood per minute, a function that consumes a lot of energy. They can completely replace the function of the left side of your heart and that’s why they can help you live longer and without heart failure symptoms.

    And what is the future of the LVAD?  A main goal is to design a device that can be fully implantable. This means that, first, its battery will need to reside completely inside the patient’s body. Second, we must solve the challenge of charging the battery through the skin.

    Giving Back What Heart Failure Takes Away

    For many of our patients, life is completely different after their implant. When they first come to us, they can only walk a few steps, their kidneys are failing, and their liver is starting to fail, maybe they're depressed or have lost a lot of weight. They just want to give up.

    After the LVAD procedure, the improvement is dramatic. They look healthy again. They're happy. They’re enjoying regular family dynamics. They’re back to work. They don’t look like heart failure patients.

    Obviously, it’s frightening to live with heart failure. For patients in the Mid-Atlantic region, MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute has effective tools and a team that dedicates their lives to helping patients. I’d urge them to have hope—and know that we do our absolute best to treat them like family.

    Is an LVAD right for you?

    Connect with a specialist.

    Call 202-644-9526 or  Request an Appointment

  • March 06, 2020

    By MedStar Health

    Lung cancer is the deadliest form of cancer, killing more men and women than breast, colon, and prostate cancers combined. In fact, lung cancer makes up nearly 25% of all cancer deaths according to the American Cancer Society.

    It’s as scary as it sounds, but there is good news. The number of people who are diagnosed with lung cancer is declining and the survival rate of those diagnosed is increasing. That’s because more people are quitting smoking—and advances in lung cancer screening make it easier than ever to detect lung cancer early.

    And, when lung cancer is spotted in early stages, it is more likely to be curable.

    3D pictures of your lungs can reveal small abnormalities before symptoms appear.

    Today, doctors can find signs of lung cancer before you experience symptoms using modern x-ray technology called a low-dose computed tomography scan, or LDCT scan. During a LDCT scan, a radiologist takes x-rays of the lungs from multiple angles, creating a 2D image of your lungs and the surrounding areas.

    These images are so detailed that doctors can see tiny spots, called nodules. Most nodules are smaller than half an inch and aren’t cancerous, but annual lung cancer screening can track them over time. A growing nodule may be a sign of cancer, so a change in size may prompt your doctor to further evaluate a suspicious nodule.

    Since lung cancer symptoms typically don’t appear until cancer has progressed to an advanced stage, it’s important to get screened early if you are at risk. Early screening increases your chances of catching lung cancer early when there are more treatment options and survival rates are higher.

    See if you're eligible for a screening.

    Screening can reduce your risk of dying from lung cancer by as much as 20%.

    LDCT scans can save more lives compared to traditional chest x-rays, based on a study from the National Cancer Institute. Those considered at risk for lung cancer are actually as much as 20% less likely to die from lung cancer if it’s caught via LDCT scans, compared to chest x-rays.

    #LungCancer can be life-threatening, but a screening could reduce your risk of dying by as much as 20%, according to @theNCI. Nurse Navigator Clara Yoder, BSN, CCRN, shares how annual screening can save your life via @MedStarHealth’s #LiveWellHealthy blog: bit.ly/2v43lb0

    Click to Tweet

     

    The amount of radiation in LDCT scans is 75% lower than traditional CT scans.

    LDCT scans increase survival rates for those diagnosed with lung cancer, and they also offer 75% less radiation compared to traditional CT scans. By significantly reducing the amount of radiation your body is exposed to, LDCT scans offer the benefit of early detection without the risk that comes with a standard chest scan.

    Lung cancer screening is painless, short, and can add years to your life.

    During an LDCT scan, you’ll lie down on a table for about 10 minutes while a table passes slowly through an x-ray machine—or an x-ray machine will move around you. You may be asked to hold your breath periodically, which will ensure quality pictures. The scan won’t hurt at all, and since most machines don’t enclose your whole body, it’s unlikely that you’ll feel claustrophobic.

    Most importantly, lung cancer screening can save your life, giving you more time with your friends and family.

    Are you at risk for lung cancer? Click below or call 410-591-6969 to request a lung cancer screening*.

    Request a Lung Screening

     

    *Lung screenings are often covered by insurance for individuals who meet the risk criteria. Please talk to your doctor if you are unsure if you meet the criteria.

    Still, the best way to prevent lung cancer is to stop smoking.

    Lung cancer screening is a great way to catch lung cancer early, but the best way to prevent it is to stop smoking altogether. And, it’s never too late to quit.

    While lung cancer screening can reduce your chances of dying by as much as 20%, a 50-year-old who stops smoking can reduce their chances of dying by 50%.

    If you’re ready to quit smoking for good and minimize your chances of lung cancer, we can help. We offer a free smoking cessation program in Baltimore at MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center.

    During our six-week program, you’ll receive practical counseling from a registered nurse and certified tobacco treatment specialist in a group setting full of support and encouragement from others taking the same brave step towards being smoke-free.

    Should you be screened for lung cancer?

    The American Cancer Society recommends people who are at a higher risk for developing lung cancer get screened every year. Are you at risk? Take our quiz below to find out!

    Here’s what to remember…

    If you’re at risk for lung cancer, annual screenings just might save your life.

    Consider taking the following steps to minimize your risk of lung cancer and improve your chances of survival, if diagnosed.

    • Talk to your doctor to see if you meet the lung cancer screening criteria
    • Get help to quit smoking in a way that works for you

    Have more questions? Click below or call us today at 410-591-6969 to learn about how we use fast efficient technology to diagnose lung cancer.

    Learn More a>

  • March 05, 2020

    By Allen J. Taylor, MD

    Doctors often suggest taking daily medication in the morning, as part of your start-the-day routine. A recent study, however, suggests that taking your blood pressure medicines at night may offer important cardiovascular protective benefits. Dr. Allen J. Taylor, chairman of cardiology at MedStar Heart and Vascular Institute, gives us his thoughts on the study and what patients should know. 

    This large study, recently published in the European Heart Journal, certainly caught my attention. The eye-opener: study patients who took their prescribed blood pressure medicines at bedtime had a dramatically lower risk for serious cardiovascular conditions and death than people taking their medicines in the morning. Besides better controlling their blood pressure overall, patients who dosed at night experienced:

    • 56% lower risk of death due to heart or blood vessel conditions
    • 49% lower risk of stroke
    • 42% lower risk of heart failure
    • 34% lower risk of heart attack
    • 40% lower risk of needing surgery to open or widen a vessel supplying blood to the heart

    These impressive results seem almost too good to be true and, like all studies, the benefits should be validated and confirmed with more studies. Still, its large size and long duration give this current study considerable credibility.

    The research included more than 19,000 adults with hypertension in a randomized study, including approximately 8,500 women and 10,500 men living in northern Spain. The patients’ average age was 60, and they were monitored for a median of 6.3 years, with half assigned to taking all their blood pressure medications upon waking and half assigned to the bedtime regimen. Researchers also helped to ensure other factors weren’t responsible for the study results by controlling for known heart-health risks, such as age, gender, cholesterol levels, smoking status, and type 2 diabetes.

    Interestingly, an earlier study by this research team, including about 2,100 patients, found that shifting even one blood pressure medicine to bedtime also lowered their heart health risks to some degree.

    @TaylorMHVICard says that taking some or all of your blood pressure medicines at bedtime can improve your heart health. https://bit.ly/3awVxgL via @MedStarWHC

    Click to Tweet

    The potential benefit of taking blood pressure medicines at bedtime does make sense based on how a healthy body works. Blood pressure naturally rises and falls throughout the day. It surges when you wake in the morning, along with hormones and other substances. At night, when you’re sleeping, it typically drops to its lowest level. People with hypertension, however, often have little or no nighttime dip, which can be a risk factor for heart trouble. Taking your blood pressure medicine before bedtime could help ensure that a healthy nighttime dip does occur. That, in turn, may trigger or provide some restorative or protective effects to the heart that are not yet clearly identified.

    This study did have some limitations worth noting. For instance, the types of prescribed medicines were not assessed or controlled in this study; in other words, each patient—hailing from one of 40 medical centers in Northern Spain—took what their own doctor had prescribed. In addition, it’s possible that the dramatic results seen in this study might not extend to people of other ethnicities.

    However, there appears to be no risk or downside to taking your blood pressure medicines at night. In fact, it may be a smart move, as long as you remember to take them regularly. We do know that staying on track with taking your medicines is of utmost importance for getting the best possible results from them.

    Takeaway 

    Ask your doctor whether taking your blood pressure medications—or at least some of them—at bedtime might be a good idea for you, to help better control your blood pressure and lower your risk for serious heart-related problems.

    Blood pressure questions?

    Reach out to our heart care team.

    Call 202-644-9526 or Request an Appointment

  • March 02, 2020

    By Nicholas Paivanas,MD

    Most of the time, when we talk to patients about dealing with their risk for heart disease, we’re speaking to people in their 50s or older. These patients unfortunately often present after they are feeling bad and need to make changes immediately.

    However, when it comes to younger adults—those in their 20s or 30s—it’s often a different story. These patients usually have a family history of heart disease, and either genetic predispositions or lifestyles may have them sitting on risk that could build up for decades, eventually leading to serious heart problems. It can be challenging to take action against heart disease when you might not even notice any problems for 10 or 20 years, but our goal for younger patients is to prevent problems before they ever start.

    Warning Signs of Heart Disease in Young Adults

    We most often see young adults after they’ve been referred to us by their primary care doctors. They might have gone to the doctor for a regular checkup or some other problem. During that visit, warning signs such as inappropriately high blood pressure or cholesterol can identify an increased risk for developing cardiovascular disease. Sometimes, even when there are no other risk factors, a strong family history of heart disease can identify when someone is at an increased risk for developing heart disease.

    Related reading: High Blood Pressure in Young Adults: What Causes It, and How Do We Treat It?

    Sometimes, however, the process is driven by the younger patients themselves rather than their doctors. They tell us that their mom or dad had a heart attack in their 30s or 40s, and they want to know what they should be doing so that doesn’t happen to them. In both cases, it’s great when younger adults are proactive about their risk factors for heart disease, as it’s much better to prevent heart issues before they start than it is to treat them after damage has started to occur.

    Making Treatment Easier

    It's often easier to address heart disease for older people compared to their younger counterparts. Unfortunately, older patients often have developed symptoms of heart disease or have seen a friend or loved one with heart disease, which has led them to the doctor’s office.

    In a younger patient with no symptoms, however, they’re much less likely to take a medication that causes unwelcome side effects, such as drowsiness, headaches, increased urination, or nausea (common effects of some medicines). From the young adult’s perspective, this makes sense. They feel fine, they’re not sick, so why take medicine that makes them feel bad?

    We have to be more strategic with our treatment plans for young adults. They have to have therapies that are simpler to incorporate into their lives. It’s much easier to make time for a pill taken just once a day versus one that they have to take two, three, or more times in a day. Also, we have to consider medications with minimal side effects so the patients continue to take their medications as directed, rather than skipping doses or stopping treatment.

    When it comes to #heartdisease risk, young adults are more likely to stick with treatments that fit into their busy lives. Ask your #cardiologist about medications that are easier to take and have fewer #sideeffects, https://bit.ly/2wjYQJx via @MedStarWHC @NickPaivanas

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    How We Measure the Effects of Prevention

    With older patients, as well as those with active heart disease, it’s obvious when we’re making progress in our treatment regimens. They may experience less pain or shortness of breath, increased energy, and other benefits that are clear to see. However, with a younger adult who may not yet have experienced heart disease symptoms, it’s often harder to see progress. That can make it harder to keep them motivated to continue with their treatment. So we frequently have to take a deeper dive with how we measure our efforts.

    Monitoring Bloodwork

    Many times, we’ll follow younger patients’ bloodwork more closely to demonstrate the benefits of their treatment, which might not be so obvious otherwise. For example, if a patient has high cholesterol, and we get them on lifestyle changes and cholesterol-lowering medications, I’ll follow their blood cholesterol over several office visits to demonstrate how well they’re doing and how much progress they’ve made over a period of time. That data can provide the gratification and sense of accomplishment a younger adult needs to stay on track with their treatment.

    Smartwatches and Fitness Trackers

    Seeing data is another great way to help track progress. That’s why I’ve enjoyed seeing smartwatches and fitness trackers become more prevalent in recent years. These devices are a great way to let young adults set and measure goals related to their heart health, such as:

    • Heart rate
    • Quality of sleep, especially for patients with or at risk of sleep apnea
    • Steps taken
    • Time active per day

    With busy schedules in both work and home lives, many young patients find it difficult to set aside 30, 60, or 90 minutes each day to hit the gym or go for a jog. But if their regular activities allow them to get in about 10,000 steps per day—which has been shown as a reasonable amount for most healthy adults—and if they can track that with their fitness trackers, they can see that they’re still getting their heart rate up and getting the cardiovascular exercise they need each day. Also, the ability to track often can motivate younger adults to have fun healthy competitions with family members, friends, or coworkers on who can get the most steps in, which can only help them with their heart disease risk in the long run.

    Prevention of heart disease can have massive positive effects in the life of a young adult—far more than simply reacting to heart disease that has already developed. By living a healthy lifestyle, increasing activity levels, eating right, and not smoking, these patients are avoiding the kind of damage that can build for decades and develop into heart disease. By the time someone develops heart disease, our options are much more limited.

    If you have a family history of heart disease, or if you are concerned about your risk, talk to your primary care doctor or a cardiologist and get a complete evaluation. It’s much easier to take action today to prevent heart disease than it is to try to treat it after damage has been done.

    Your heart deserves expert care.

    Our specialists are here to help.

    Call 202-644-9526 or  Request an Appointment