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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.
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    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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  • October 02, 2018

    By MedStar Health

    Most people know that exercise provides many mental and physical health benefits. It helps prevent heart disease and other chronic illnesses, improves mood, reduces stress, improves sleep, and more. But did you know that simply going outside to exercise could increase those benefits? Turns out, it can.

    “Outdoor exercise combines two health-enhancing activities: moving your body and getting outdoors,” says Karen Kansler, RN, nurse wellness coordinator in the Good Health Center at MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital. “Plus, there are numerous ways to get your exercise outdoors. It can be as simple as a brisk walk around the block or a bike ride in the park. Even light gardening or other yard work is considered moderate physical activity.”

    Kansler notes that exercising outdoors offers some other appealing benefits:

    A BETTER WORKOUT

    When you’re active outdoors your body is encountering a constantly changing environment. To keep up the activity at a consistent pace, you need to adapt to changes in your surroundings such as slight hills or obstacles you may need to dodge. So your body works harder than if you were running on a treadmill or using a stair machine.

    EASE OF ACCESS

    Lack of time, along with cost, are often cited as barriers to exercise. Navigating traffic, parking garages, and crowded locker rooms adds additional time needed to be active. Exercising outdoors can reduce these time constraints and it’s free. And, many outdoor areas include benches, trees, inclined roads, and even designated exercise equipment, allowing for a variety of resistance-training exercises.

    AN IMPROVED STATE OF MIND

    Moving outdoors has been shown to reduce anger and depression. Exposure to sunlight enhances vitamin D production, which may be partially responsible for this mood-enhancing effect. You don’t have to run a marathon to reap the benefit. Even low-intensity activities will do.

    THE CHANCE TO CONNECT

    Two of the greatest benefits of outdoor exercise are the opportunity to connect with others in your community and connect with nature … vitamin “N.” Finish your bike ride at a local coffee shop, take an outdoor class, or set up a weekly walking group with friends. Moving, socializing, and just being outdoors is a great way to deepen your appreciation of the world around you, feel energized, and get your daily dose of vitamin “N.”

    Don’t let the prospect of outdoor activity scare you. If you’re new to exercise or just getting back into it, start with short exercise sessions and lighter intensity. If you have any health issues, talk to your doctor before starting. “I tell people to have a goal in mind, start slowly, and work up to their potential,” Kansler says. “Outdoor exercise can be adapted to anyone’s level of fitness.”

    For a free pair of gardening gloves and a daily workout card, complete this form.

    This article appeared in the fall 2018 issue of Destination: Good HealthRead more articles from this issue.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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    For a free pair of gardening gloves and a daily workout card, complete this form.

  • October 02, 2018

    By Ami A. Chitalia, MD

    A mammogram is an imaging test used to screen the breast tissue for breast cancer, which affects about one in eight U.S. women, and potentially catch it early when it’s easier to treat. Unfortunately, it’s common for women to be confused about mammogram screening guidelines, as organizations tend to change them every few years.

    To keep women up-to-date, it’s important that doctors reiterate the guidelines and personalize them to patients based on their family histories and breast cancer risk factors.

    The 2018 mammography guidelines issued by the American Cancer Society (ACS) suggest that women at average risk for breast cancer have yearly mammograms starting at age 45, then switch to every other year at age 55. Additionally, the ACS notes that women should have a choice to start screening as early as age 40, and that screening should continue as long as women are in good health and are expected to live 10 more years or longer.

    However, these guidelines are not set in stone. Let’s discuss how a woman and her doctor can use these guidelines to personalize a plan for optimal breast health, including when to start and how to prepare for the exam.

    LISTEN: Dr. Chitalia discusses mammograms in the Medical Intel podcast.

    1. When should I get my first mammogram?

    Shared decision-making is key to determining when a woman should get her first mammogram. This is when a doctor and patient discuss all the options and risk factors to come to an informed and individualized decision, and this model is recommended by most cancer organizations’ guidelines—especially between ages 40 and 45, or when women at average risk are encouraged to start their screenings.

    For example, it’s important to consider women’s family history when determining mammography options. If a woman has a family history of breast cancer or ovarian cancer, we might recommend earlier or more frequent mammograms because their risk of the disease is greater. For the majority of these women, we recommend starting breast cancer screening with mammography at age 30. Similarly, we might also recommend more frequent screenings if a woman has had abnormal mammograms or any breast biopsies in the past.

    A woman’s family history is important to consider when deciding mammogram options, says Dr. Ami Chitalia. Discover why it might mean more frequent screenings are necessary. bit.ly/2IzbdUb via @MedStarWHC

    Click to Tweet


    2. How do I prepare for a mammogram?

    For optimal screening, women should schedule their mammogram when their breasts are the least tender, which usually is the week after their period. If they’ve had mammograms at another imaging center, it’s a good idea to bring those images and reports to their next mammogram, so a radiologist can compare them with current imaging. Furthermore, women should let the technician know if they have breast implants or have had previous breast biopsies, as these factors affect the shape and look of breast tissue under imaging.

    Women should not use deodorants, perfumes, or lotions under the arms or around the breast area on the day of their mammogram. While most women say the breast-flattening technique used in standard mammography is just uncomfortable, some women find the process somewhat painful. Women can take a mild, over-the-counter pain medication before they come to the office to reduce discomfort or pain, as long as a doctor approves.

    Once finished with their screening mammogram, women can expect to see results in about a week.

    3. What happens if my mammogram is abnormal?

    To address abnormalities, radiologists use what’s called a Breast Imaging-Reporting and Data System, otherwise known as the BI-RADS grading system. This system grades the abnormality from zero to six, with zero requiring additional imaging to look at an area of concern, 1 and 2 being normal with no further imaging required and six being a known malignancy, or cancer, in the breast. We will then make a recommendation based on the BI-RADS score—for example, depending on the score, it may be recommended to undergo another mammogram in six months, rather than the usual 12, or getting additional imaging over the next few weeks.

    Additionally, a targeted ultrasound typically is done near a visualized abnormality. If an ultrasound shows a benign abnormality such as a cyst, it usually will be monitored annually or twice a year for the first few years to demonstrate stability. Some women also can have an excision to remove something benign that is found, such as a fibroadenoma, which is one of the most common breast lumps seen in women under 30. Women can then usually resume their regular mammography schedule if the lump is non-cancerous.

    Expert mammogram care

    We care for women at MedStar Washington Hospital Center with state-of-the-art equipment and imaging techniques, such as MRI-guided biopsies, which are only offered at select imaging centers. Moreover, we provide comprehensive care, so if patients have an abnormality, they can see a large team of experts all in the same building, including nurses, radiologists (who have expertise specifically in reading mammograms), surgeons, and medical oncologists.

    Knowing when to get a mammogram can be difficult with all the information online and guidelines that seem to change every few years. To stay ahead of your breast cancer risk, talk to your doctor about personalizing a mammography schedule that considers your health history and unique needs.

    Call 202-877-3627 or click below to schedule your mammogram today.

    Request an Appointment

  • October 02, 2018

    By MedStar Health

    It’s normal to snore every now and then. But what if you, like millions of Americans, snore regularly night after night? Are you harmlessly sawing logs or could you be suffering from a potentially debilitating sleep disorder?

    “Forty-five percent of normal adults snore at least occasionally. It is more common among men and individuals who are overweight and usually worsens with age,” says Jacques Conaway, MD, FAASM, medical director of the Sleep Centers at MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital and MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center.

    “Snoring may also be a sign of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which has been linked to health issues, including obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. So, it should not be taken lightly,” he says.

    Dr. Conaway notes that, all too often, snoring and sleep apnea are thought of as interchangeable. But not all people who snore have sleep apnea, while most people with sleep apnea snore.

    Snoring can be caused by a number of different factors, including:

    • Sinus infections or colds
    • Allergies
    • Alcohol
    • A deviated septum
    • Poor muscle tone
    • Throat and airway blockages

    “Snoring is a symptom of OSA resulting from a partial or full obstruction of the airway. These obstructions severely restrict or interrupt a person’s breathing, starving the body of oxygen and much-needed sleep,” Dr. Conaway adds. “This can cause other health issues, such as extreme daytime drowsiness, difficulty concentrating, depression, and anxiety.”

    The most accurate way to diagnose and treat a snoring problem is to meet with doctor. “Depending on the extent of your problem, a sleep study may be recommended. This analyzes how you sleep and how your body responds to issues related to sleep,” says Dr. Conaway. “Taking this first step prior to beginning any treatment prevents inaccurate self-diagnosis, inadequate treatment, and/or premature dismissal of the problem.”

    Treatment for snoring and OSA depends on what is causing it and ranges from lifestyle alterations, such as weight loss, a decrease in alcohol consumption, and changing sleeping positions, to nasal strips, oral devices, technologies that help keep the airway open, and even surgery.

    “It is vital to understand that even if you are not diagnosed with sleep apnea, snoring could still be adversely affecting your partner, the restfulness of your sleep, and your overall health,” says Dr. Conaway. “Talk to your doctor. There are treatments that can get your restful nights back.”

    For a free sleep mask or a sleep center referral, complete this form.

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    For a free sleep mask or a sleep center referral, complete this form.

  • October 02, 2018

    By MedStar Team

    Interdisciplinary Approach Benefits Patients, Families

    An innovative new program at MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital is improving outcomes for older individuals in need of surgery who have multiple medical problems. A partnership between the Center for Successful Aging and the Department of Surgery, this interdisciplinary effort is designed to proactively identify patients who may be at risk for poor outcomes after surgery because of these conditions and engage with them and their families to reduce their risk.

    “Some believe that older individuals will not benefit from surgery or have too many risks for certain procedures,” says Jim Parshall, MD, a geriatrician in the Center for Successful Aging. “We follow a patient-centered approach that focuses on helping patients and their families understand the risks and benefits of surgery. The final decision regarding surgery is a shared one that is made by the patient and surgical team. If we decide to proceed with the procedure, we then take the time to fine-tune the patient’s medical conditions prior to scheduling it.”

    The Center for Successful Aging has long been dedicated to addressing the unique needs of people experiencing complex medical and social age-related conditions, providing patient-centered care that is comprehensive and coordinated among doctors, nurses, therapists, and other caregivers—all in one location.

    Jim Parshall, MD

    “Partnering with surgery is a natural extension of the services we offer,” says Dr. Parshall. “We work with patients and their families as a team to ensure they are as stable as possible prior to a procedure in order to minimize post-surgical complications.”

    David Nasrallah, MD, a general surgeon at MedStar Good Samaritan, agrees. “Patients needing surgery tend to be older and many have a number of health issues. Involving the geriatric team in their care from the start helps prevent problems later. Often, post-op complications are not noticed by the care team unless they know the patient well.”

    The program targets individuals with characteristics that may include:

    • Sensory impairment, low vision, or hearing loss
    • Functional challenges, such as a history of falls and the inability to perform activities of daily living
    • Frailty, muscle wasting, nutritional deficits, and poor endurance
    • Chronic co-morbid conditions, particularly those under poor control
    • Dementia or other cognitive issues
    • Taking multiple complex medications
    • Over 65 years of age
    David Nasrallah, MD

    “Individuals meeting these criteria are at higher risk for poor outcomes while in the hospital, which often prolongs the length of their stay,” adds Dr. Nasrallah. “That can exacerbate their problems.”

    Yvonne Anderson, 71, is one of the patients who has benefitted from this new partnership. She was referred to the Center for Successful Aging by her primary care physician with multiple health issues, including dementia, a heart condition, diabetes, and bleeding problems.

    According to her daughter and primary caregiver, Karen Brooks, she was also in pain.

    “She was not able to articulate where the pain was, but it was clear she was very uncomfortable,” Brooks says. “In addition, she was constantly nauseated.” After a series of tests, she was diagnosed with gallbladder disease. Surgical removal was recommended as the best course of action.

    That set in motion a comprehensive process to ensure Anderson was as prepared as she could be for surgery. This initially involved a team from the Center for Successful Aging that included Dr. Parshall as well as Dr. Nasrallah and numerous other specialists. A key member of the team was

    Scottie Berk, PAC

    Scottie Berk, PAC, a certified physician assistant, who serves as a navigator for patients and their families. She sees that they understand what is going on and receive the support they need before, during, and after surgery.

    Anderson was evaluated physically and mentally, underwent a cardiac work-up and blood tests, and had her medications adjusted. Three weeks later, it was agreed that she was as medically stable as possible for the minimally invasive surgical procedure.

    Though she did experience some complications after the surgery, her team had anticipated them and worked together to get her stable enough to go home.

    “She had a great team of physicians, nurses, and other specialists coordinating her treatment around the clock,” Brooks says. “I was very pleased with the care she received. Her pain is now managed, and her appetite is good.” She notes that even after her mom returned home, members of the care team checked on her status regularly offering much-needed support.

    “The population has aged dramatically during the past two decades and with that has come an increase in the number of older patients needing surgery. Unfortunately, many of these individuals have multiple health challenges,” Dr. Nasrallah says. “Being able to accurately assess those who may be at higher risk for poor outcomes after surgery and doing whatever is possible to minimize that risk is essential.”

    For more information about the Center for Successful Aging call 410-248-8322.

    This article appeared in the fall 2018 issue of Destination: Good HealthRead more articles from this issue.

    Learn More

    For more information about the Center for Successful Aging call 410-248-8322.

    FAST FACT:

    Studies have estimated that approximately 53 percent of all surgical procedures are performed on patients over the age of 65.

  • September 28, 2018

    By Anjali Majumdar, MD

    Antibiotics are among the most effective treatments for bacterial infections, and our go-to option often is penicillin. But up to 10 percent of people report an allergy to penicillin, making it the most commonly reported drug allergy.

    However, only 10 to 20 percent of people who think they are allergic to penicillin allergy actually are. In response to this vast misdiagnosis situation, we’ve launched a pilot program through the MedStar Washington Hospital Center’s Antibiotic Stewardship Committee in July 2018.

    Research shows programs like ours can help prevent antimicrobial resistance, as penicillin and its derivatives are among the most effective antibiotics available to treat infections. We have two main goals: To help more patients discover whether they are truly allergic to penicillin and to offer more patients the potentially life-saving drug when infections arise.

    Why are so many people misdiagnosed with a penicillin allergy?

    It is common for patients to experience symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, or an upset stomach when they are given penicillin. However, these symptoms can be side effects of the drug, just as any medication can have, rather than allergic reactions.

    Patients also report that parents, relatives, or healthcare providers have told them they had a bad reaction to penicillin in the past and were automatically diagnosed with a penicillin allergy. However, it is important to note that it is common for people to grow out of a penicillin allergy over time, often within 10 years of pediatric diagnosis.

    True allergic reactions to penicillin often include at least one of the following symptoms, which generally occur within one hour of taking the medication:

    • Anaphylaxis, a life-threatening reaction that includes trouble breathing because of a narrowed airway
    • Hives
    • Itching
    • Skin rash
    Many people who think they have a #penicillin #allergy might only have experienced side effects from the drug. True allergy symptoms usually include #anaphylaxis, #hives, itching, or skin #rash. https://bit.ly/2In3c4B via @MedStarWHC
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    Three pitfalls of carrying a penicillin allergy and misdiagnosis

    1. The allergy covers more than just straight penicillin

    Penicillin is the basic foundation of a family of antibiotics called beta-lactams. Several antibiotics closely related to penicillin, known as penicillin derivatives, are part of this family, and are thereby unsafe for someone with a penicillin allergy. That eliminates many of the tools doctors can use to treat bacterial infections.

    2. Other antibiotics might not work as well

    We still can use a number of other antibiotics to treat bacterial infections in patients who are diagnosed with a penicillin allergy, but these other medications might not be as effective against a specific type of bacteria we are trying to treat. Other types of antibiotics can also affect broader ranges of bacteria and can cause more side effects.

    When patients can take penicillin and its derivatives, we can provide more antibiotic options and maybe even target the bacteria specifically, potentially saving these broader-spectrum antibiotics so they are more effective in case they are needed in the future. We call this using the right drug for the right bug. Overuse of alternative antibiotics can contribute to bacteria developing antibiotic resistance, sometimes referred to as “superbugs.” These bacteria can be hard to treat with antibiotics, and they can contribute to higher healthcare costs and longer hospital stays as patients take more time to recover from infections.

    3. Recovery might be delayed with complications

    Some infections are life-threatening, and we want to contain and destroy them as quickly as possible. Patients who are labeled as penicillin allergic have been shown to spend more time in the hospital and potentially develop complications associated with this, including resistant bacterial infections and Clostridium difficile diarrhea.

    What if I truly am allergic to penicillin?

    As mentioned, there are many antibiotic options available to treat infections. It is important to monitor for potential side effects with any antibiotic prescribed.

    Should the situation arise that you develop a serious bacterial infection that requires penicillin or its derivatives, the safest approach is performing desensitization. This process is completed in a monitored setting by introducing small doses of penicillin and increasing these doses every 15 to 20 minutes. It is recommended that you speak with your doctor or follow up with an allergist or immunologist if this is needed.

    How our inpatient penicillin allergy testing program works

    We offer testing to patients staying in the hospital who need antibiotic therapy to treat an infection. The test involves only a few skin pricks and intradermal injections with a medication called benzylpenicilloyl polylysine (Pre-Pen), and it shows us within 40 to 60 minutes whether a patient is likely to have an allergic reaction to penicillin.

    As with any allergy skin testing, patients who receive this test can’t be on any antihistamines or other medications that would react with the test. We also wouldn’t test someone who has had a confirmed anaphylactic reaction to penicillin in the recent past.

    Currently, this testing program is only available from our doctors in the Infectious Diseases department. Through this pilot program, it is our hope to offer this testing to a larger patient population and to provide patients and providers alike more education about the topic.

    Knowledge is power in medicine. By knowing for sure whether a patient can take penicillin, we can use this effective treatment against dangerous bacterial infections that threaten their health.

  • September 27, 2018

    By MedStar Health

    The teen years are difficult physically and emotionally. Adding type 2 diabetes can make those years even tougher. It’s important for teens to learn how to manage their disease, and they need support from parents and friends. Teens with type 2 diabetes are at greater risk for many serious health conditions, such as heart disease and stroke. The earlier we can reduce those risks, the better.

    But the key is to remember that teens are kids first, not diabetes patients. They shouldn’t be defined by their disease. You can help diabetes management fit the life of your teen, rather than the other way around, by focusing on three key areas.

    1. Make healthy food portions and choices

    Teens with type 2 diabetes often are surrounded by huge food portions. More teens than ever before are becoming overweight or obese, and these conditions are directly linked to the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Eating too much can cause dangerous spikes in blood sugar and, over time, can contribute to poor circulation and organ damage in the long term.

    Commit as a family to control portion sizes when you cook at home. When you eat out, if the portions are too big, ask for a to-go box, and take some of your food home rather than eat a mega-meal in one sitting.

    Related reading: 3 Tactics to Battle Food ‘Portion Distortion’

    Unfortunately, healthy options aren’t often available at restaurants or social events. It’s unrealistic to expect teens to avoid fries, burgers, and sweets all the time. That said, encourage your child to eat healthy foods most of the time, such as:

    • Fresh vegetables and fruits
    • Lean meats and proteins, such as beans, chicken, eggs, fish, nuts, and seafood
    • Low-fat milk, cheese, and other dairy products
    • Whole grains, such as brown rice and oatmeal

    You can set a good example by making healthier choices for your family. For example, order thin crust vegetable pizza instead of thick crust sausage pizza, and choose water instead of soda.

    2. Stay sugar safe at school

    Teens need to be able to measure their blood sugar independently at school. Ask the school administration where your child can check their sugar safely without drawing attention to themselves. Also let them know your teen might need to carry snacks to raise their blood sugar if it gets too low.

    Your teen should be able to recognize key symptoms of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) and high blood sugar (hyperglycemia). It’s equally important that school staff members can recognize these symptoms as well. Common symptoms include:

    • Anxiety or nervousness
    • Dizziness
    • Fatigue or weakness
    • Shakiness
    • Sweating
    • Trouble concentrating

    Some teens with type 2 diabetes need insulin to control their disease. I recommend they carry an insulin pen, which is a prefilled alternative to an insulin syringe. It’s more discreet, and there’s less risk of getting the wrong dose. Check out these additional resources to help your teen with type 2 diabetes stay safe at school:

    3. Find support and a diabetes educator

    In the tumultuous years of finding their way, making friends, and fitting in, it’s important for teens to realize they’re not alone in their journey with diabetes. But to really get through to your teen, they need to learn about diabetes from someone besides just you.

    Ask your child’s doctor to help you find a support group in your area or online that is designed specifically for teens. Your teen’s doctor can also recommend a diabetes educator to help answer your child’s questions as a neutral third party. One of my colleagues told me his son’s nurse practitioner helped their family through diabetes education. Even though she told the teen the same things his parents did, the diabetes educator helped the teen realize his parent's intentions were not to nag him but to help him.

    The teen years are hard. Young people with type 2 diabetes need support in order to learn the lifelong skills necessary to manage their disease. When we all do our part, we put kids in the best position to be healthy and safe as they mature into adulthood.

    Want to learn more about how we can help you live a healthy life? Click the button below to learn more about our nutrition services.

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