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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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  • June 20, 2019

    By Helena Pasieka, MD

    Good skin health not only can increase the vibrance of our face, limit wrinkling, and reduce skin cancer risk, but it also can benefit our immune system. As our largest organ, the skin serves as the brick wall between your body and the outside world. When skin is dry or poorly nourished, it doesn’t do its job as well, which can cause skin conditions such as:

    • Bumps
    • Itchy skin
    • Rashes
    • Reactive skin

    Left untreated, these conditions can lead to skin infections. People can maintain healthy skin by following several different lifestyle modifications, ranging from the use of certain skin care products to following certain diets. Let’s discuss my favorite recommendations.

    #Healthyskin not only is good for our appearance, but it also helps us avoid skin conditions, such as #itchyskin and #rashes, that can lead to infections. Learn 5 tips for maintaining healthy skin. https://bit.ly/31GMwy9 via @MedStarWHC
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    1. Get a Good Night's Sleep

    A good night’s sleep benefits many aspects of our health, including the skin. If you’ve ever had to pull an all-nighter for school or work, you’ve probably noticed your skin appears dull the next day. This is because when we rest, our body rebalances fluids, which restores moisture and removes excess water from our body. This helps limit the effects of sleep deprivation on your appearance, such as under-eye circles and puffy bags under your eyes. For folks with autoimmune conditions that affect the skin, such as lupus, poor sleep can also trigger flares.

    Aim to get seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Beyond your skin, sleep deprivation and deficiency is associated with serious health implications, including:

    2. Keep Your Skin Hydrated

    As the skin is a barrier against infection, it’s important to keep your skin hydrated. If you allow your skin to become dry, it can become cracked—which could allow the bacteria that live on your skin to get inside and cause an infection. Furthermore, moisture affects the appearance of your skin. Without moisture, the skin’s natural processes, such as exfoliation, or the removal of dead cells on the skin’s surface, can’t occur naturally. As a result, skin typically will look less radiant and healthy.

    Make sure to use an emollient, such as a lotion or cream, on a regular basis. Speak to your dermatologist to discover which moisturizers are best for you.

    3. Use the Right Sunscreen

    Regularly using sunscreen is important for your health, even if you typically don’t experience sunburns without it. This is because sunscreen helps protect us from exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which can have implications such as:

    • Skin cancer: UV radiation is arguably the leading skin cancer-causing agent in our environment. We have strong evidence that the three main types of skin cancer—basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma—are caused, in part, by too much exposure to the UV rays in sunlight. Remember, there is no such thing as a “healthy tan”. A tan is the body’s way of trying to protect the DNA in skin cells from radiation and damage which might lead to skin cancer.
    • Aging skin: UV radiation speeds of the aging of skin, as it destroys collagen, the most abundant protein in the body, and connective tissue beneath the top layer of the skin. This can cause wrinkles, brown spots, and sagging and draping of the skin due to loss of skin elasticity.
    • Mottled or uneven pigmentation: Folks with deeper skin tones benefit from daily sunscreen and photoprotection. Certain pigmentary disorders are more common in brown or deeply pigmented skin types, such as melasma, or post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.

    I recommend using a sunscreen that has a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher every day. Even if you’re only spending 15 minutes outside to and from your walk to work every day, using sunscreen can go a long way in preserving your skin health.

    4. Use Mild, Gentle Cleansers

    It’s important to use mild, gentle cleansers, ideally one that is fragrance-free. These cleansers are less damaging to the skin compared to most standard soaps, which can strip skin of its natural moisture, causing irritation and dryness that can lead to infection, as well as more dull-looking skin.

    Appropriate cleansers come in bar, liquid, foaming, or fluid formulations which may be appropriate for your skin type, and don’t have to cost a lot of money to be effective.

    5. Consume a Healthy Diet

    Foods with a high glycemic index—a ranking of carbohydrates in foods according to how they affect blood sugar levels—can contribute to skin conditions such as acne and bullous pemphigoid, an autoimmune disease that causes skin blistering. Common foods with a high glycemic index include doughnuts, french fries, and white rice. Moreover, a diet in which you consume healthy amounts of vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids can help you avoid certain rashes, as some are specific to certain vitamin and mineral deficiencies or the over-consumption of them.

    I typically suggest that patients avoid highly processed foods and eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and all-natural foods that were available to our great-grandparents—before processed foods became so popular.

    Additionally, some popular weight loss trends have resulted in rashes. One such trend right now is the ketogenic (keto) diet, which emphasizes foods packed with protein and suggests avoiding the consumption of carbohydrates. Some individuals strictly adhering to this diet have developed a rash called prurigo pigmentosa, which resolves when some carbohydrates are reintroduced into the diet. If you’ve been following the keto diet and experience any abnormal rashes, make sure to speak to your doctor.

    How Genetics Impact Skin Health

    Like most other things in life, genetics can affect your skin’s health, such as your skin cancer risk from the overexposure of UV radiation from the sun and other skin diseases. Skin appearance, such as the size of your pores and developing acne, also can be due to genetics. However, just because you have a genetic predisposition to certain skin conditions doesn’t mean you’re certain to develop them—especially if you take good care of your skin.

    Maintaining healthy skin not only helps us avoid infection, but it also makes us look and feel better. Make sure to incorporate these tips into your life to keep your skin as healthy as possible.

    Experiencing dry skin, acne, or other skin issues? Request an appointment with a dermatologist.

    Call 202-877-3627

  • June 19, 2019

    By MedStar Health

    A colonoscopy, one of the most widely recognized screening procedures in the U.S., is used for screening, surveillance, and treatment in the fight against colon cancer, the third most diagnosed cancer in America.

    The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends that people who are at average risk of colorectal cancer begin screening colonoscopies starting at age 45. Unfortunately, fear of the procedure leads many individuals to get screened years later, delaying the process of spotting cancerous polyps and tissue and reducing the effectiveness of treatment. Through the years, we’ve heard a number of misconceptions regarding the process of having a colonoscopy. Let’s discuss the most common myths—and what you can really expect from the procedure.

    Most Common Colonoscopy Myths

    1. A Colonoscopy is Painful

    A colonoscopy is not a painful test, even when we remove polyps or obtain biopsies in the colon. The most common symptom patients experience following a colonoscopy is bloating. During the procedure, the colon is filled with air to better visualize the entire colon, which may cause some temporary bloating and flatulence. Fortunately, with advances in the last five years and changing to the use of carbon dioxide, patients experience much less bloating today than years ago.

    While some people experience bloating, there is no pain involved with a #colonoscopy—even when polyps are removed. Learn more via @MedStarHealth. #ColonCancerAwareness #LiveWellHealthy
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    2. There’s Serious Risk Involved With the Procedure

    A colonoscopy is a minimally invasive procedure, so it does carry some risk—mostly due to anesthesia. However, for most people, the risks are relatively low, and we perform colonoscopies in a closely monitored environment in which our gastroenterology and anesthesiology teams care for you before, during, and after your operation. Your medical history also is reviewed closely by your gastroenterologist and anesthesiologist prior to undergoing a colonoscopy to ensure any risks are minimized.

    As with any procedure, you should make sure the benefits of a colonoscopy outweigh the risks before having one.

    3. A Colonoscopy Isn’t Necessary If You Don’t Have Symptoms

    Colorectal cancer typically develops from polyps of the colon or rectum, which occur in about 20 to 30 percent of people. These polyps usually don’t cause symptoms until they develop into advanced stages of colorectal cancer. We know that by removing polyps and undergoing periodic surveillance via a colonoscopy, you can substantially diminish the risk of developing colorectal cancer.

    How Does a Colonoscopy Work?

    Preparing for a colonoscopy begins the day before the test when we ask you to cleanse the colon of stool and residue, so we can clearly see inside the colon. We recommend you consume a clear liquid diet for the entire day prior to a colonoscopy. This diet consists of food you can see through, such as:

    • Apple or cranberry juice
    • Beef, chicken, or vegetable broth
    • Clear gelatin
    • Coffee without cream
    • Jell-O™

    Your gastroenterologist also will recommend you take a laxative medication at some point during the day before your colonoscopy, which helps empty the colon by increasing bowel movements. Your gastroenterologist will provide you with exact details on this medication prior to your colonoscopy, as they may have a specific bowel regimen they prefer.

    On the day of your colonoscopy, you will be asked to arrive at the hospital 60 to 90 minutes before your appointment time to complete registration and pre-procedure nursing evaluations, as well as to discuss any concerns and review the risks of the procedure with your anesthesiologist and gastroenterologist.

    A colonoscopy takes about 15 to 20 minutes and begins with you receiving intravenous sedation, or monitored anesthesia that relaxes you through an intravenous (IV). We then insert a small flexible tube—which contains a video camera that transmits images to a video screen— into the rectum and advance it through the large intestine to examine your entire large intestine, obtain tissue samples through the scope, and remove polyps using a small wire.

    Following a colonoscopy, we require you to have a friend or family member accompany you home due to possible side effects of anesthesia, such as drowsiness, which make it dangerous to drive. Once you are home, we recommend taking the day off and resting before returning to your everyday activities. We also recommend you avoid the following situations until the day after your colonoscopy:

    • Giving professional advice
    • Making important business decisions
    • Operating machinery

    Closing Thoughts on Colonoscopy

    While having a colonoscopy may be perceived as an inconvenience (which does require preparation and planning), the test itself is not lengthy and involves minimal risk. When considering the benefits of a colonoscopy, notably how it can help prevent and even treat colorectal cancer, it becomes apparent why the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force recommends screening and surveillance colonoscopies.

    We often encounter patients who delay a colonoscopy only to later regret not getting their colonoscopy at a younger age. Too often we see a patient who finally decides to have their recommended screening colonoscopy because a significant other or loved one continuously pestered them to do so. And in many of these cases, we identify and remove multiple polyps, successfully preventing the progression of colorectal cancer in these patients.

    It is often recommended that you begin undergoing screening colonoscopies at age 45 if you are considered at average risk of colorectal cancer. However, your doctor may recommend you have a screening colonoscopy before age 45 if you’re considered at increased risk of colorectal cancer, due to factors such as your family or medical history. Make sure to speak to your doctor to estimate a screening colonoscopy timeline that works for you.

    If you are a candidate for a colonoscopy and are hesitant to have one, consider the benefits of the procedure and make sure to discuss your concerns with your doctor. A colonoscopy is an exceptional technique that can help prevent most people from developing colorectal cancer.

    Would you like to schedule a colonoscopy or meet with one of our gastroenterologists? Call 667-930-1979 or click below for more information.

    Learn More

  • June 18, 2019

    Head and neck cancers appear on visible parts of the body—so, naturally, people fear they might not look like themselves following cancer treatment. However, with the surgical techniques we use today, people often experience very little scarring after their cancer is removed.

    The most common type of head and neck cancer is called squamous cell carcinoma, which accounts for about 90 percent of all cases and can affect the:

    • Back of the throat
    • Inner surface of the cheeks
    • Jaw bones
    • Palate
    • Saliva glands
    • Tongue
    • Voice box

    Former Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly had a public fight against head and neck cancer, specifically cancer in his upper jaw bone, or maxilla. After his cancer recurred after receiving chemotherapy and radiation therapy, Kelly underwent surgery to remove his upper jaw bone. His upper jaw was reconstructed using a fibula free flap, which is when a piece of bone and tissue from the fibula supplied by an artery and vein is used to replace the missing upper jaw bone. The artery and vein from the flap are connected to an artery and vein in the neck, providing the tissue with its own blood supply. After receiving dental implants months later to replace teeth that were removed during surgery, Kelly now talks and eats normally, looks about the same as he did before surgery, and remains cancer-free.

    LISTEN: Dr. Giurintano discusses reconstructive surgery for head and neck cancer in the Medical Intel podcast.

    How Reconstructive Surgery for Head and Neck Cancer Works

    Many years ago, we could remove patients’ head and neck cancers, but we couldn’t reconstruct the areas where cancer was removed, which often led to noticeable deformities or scars. However, today’s techniques allow patients to experience much less cosmetic and functional deformity.

    Free-flap surgery—when we transfer tissue from one part of the body to another—is the most common technique we use. During a free-flap surgery, we remove the cancer and reconstruct the resulting defect at the same time, with one surgeon removing the cancer and the other harvesting and placing the flap. The free flap surgeon uses a microscope to sew an artery and vein from the flap to an artery and vein in the neck, which provides the transplanted tissue with its own blood supply. This is important because many people later receive radiation therapy as part of their treatment, and without a robust, healthy blood supply, non-vascularized tissue dies from radiation therapy. Surgery typically takes about six to 10 hours, a far cry from the 24 hours it took 20 to 30 years ago.

    Free-flap surgery for head and neck #cancer has come a long way over the years. In fact, surgery typically takes just six to 10 hours today, compared to 24 hours 20 to 30 years ago. https://bit.ly/2XVa53X via @MedStarWHC

    Click to Tweet

    Who Is a Candidate?

    To determine if an individual with head and neck cancer is an ideal candidate for a free flap, we perform tests such as angiography, which examines blood vessels through an X-ray to ensure that they are healthy enough to support a free flap. This is especially important when we do a fibula flap, as we have to ensure that a person has the standard three blood vessels that supply blood to the leg. In rare cases, patients do not have three vessels supplying the foot, so we have to consider alternative options, such as the rib or scapula (shoulder blade).

    Additionally, we consider a patient’s’ lifestyle. For example, if a patient is a pianist, we prefer to remove skin from their leg or hips rather than their forearms or wrists, as it could interfere with their ability to play.

    What to Expect During Recovery

    Following free-flap surgery, patients typically spend two days in the intensive care unit, as we closely monitor their blood vessels to ensure clots do not form. Then patients usually spend three to five days in a regular inpatient setting, where they can also receive physical therapy to help them maintain or restore their strength. Once patients return home, it normally takes them another couple of weeks for a full recovery, which includes rehabilitation of swallowing, speaking, and other normal activities.

    Depending on the severity of the case, some patients return home and require minimal follow-up care, while others occasionally need feeding tubes or tracheostomy tubes, which are inserted into the neck to provide an air passage to help people breathe when the usual route for breathing is obstructed or impaired due to too much swelling. Additionally, some patients can experience difficulty swallowing. Because we are concerned that they might accidentally aspirate their foods, we help facilitate nutrition while they’re recovering by placing a tube into the stomach for about six to eight weeks or until their neck has fully recovered.

    Expert Care at MedStar Washington Hospital Center

    We use a team approach at MedStar Washington Hospital Center to treat head and neck cancer, which includes surgeons who remove the cancer, reconstructive surgeons who repair the affected skin, and facial plastic surgeons who can perform additional cosmetic surgery. We also work with colleagues in the departments of radiation oncology and medical oncology, as many cases of head and neck cancer require radiation therapy or chemotherapy.

    We have regular meetings in which surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, speech pathologists, and radiologists meet to discuss new cancer patients and patients who recently had their cancers treated. During this meeting, we bring all of our expertise together to stage each patient’s cancer and determine the best treatment plan for them.

    Reconstructive surgery for head and neck cancers has come a long way over the years. Patients now can not only treat their cancer but also experience very few changes to their appearance and daily lives.

    Call 202-877-3627 or click below to make an appointment with a head and neck cancer doctor.

    Request an Appointment

  • June 14, 2019

    By MedStar Health

    After a lifetime of frequent relocations, Laura Boger, MD, has found a home in the nation’s capital as a dermatologist at MedStar Washington Hospital Center.

    Dr. Boger cites the Hospital Center’s diverse patient population, comprehensive and high quality of care, and the ability to collaborate with multiple other specialties helped make the decision to come to Washington easy. As an instructor at Georgetown University School of Medicine, “I have the opportunity to teach students and residents,” she adds.

    Although Dr. Boger counts a number of physicians in her family, it was only during her self-described “wandering” post-graduate years that she chose medicine as a career.

    She received her medical degree from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis, and stayed there for residency training in both internal medicine and dermatology. Dr. Boger is also board-certified in both disciplines.

    Evidence-Based Approach to Treatment

    In her practice, Dr. Boger applies evidence-based treatments for dermatological diseases, with a special interest in complex medical dermatology, psoriasis, autoimmune blistering diseases, general autoimmune disease, rheumatology dermatology, and inpatient hospital dermatology consultations.

    "Dermatology spans a variety of conditions that can have a major effect on people’s lives, either by themselves or as a symptom of something else,” Dr. Boger says. “The field’s diagnostic and procedural aspects enable me to work with patients of all ages, to pinpoint the cause of their condition, and create a management plan that works for them.”

    Another advantage of joining MedStar, Dr. Boger adds, is the opportunity to explore Washington’s parks, museums and attractions with her husband and young daughter, and to reconnect with family members in the area. Summer will be a great time to get out some more, she adds, but hopes everyone takes care to safeguard themselves from the sun.

    Sunscreen Misconception

    “There’s a misperception among many patients with skin of color that they don’t need sunscreen,” Dr. Boger says. “In fact, everyone needs some degree of protection to reduce the risk of skin cancer. And if something unusual appears on the skin, don’t put off getting it checked out.”

  • June 14, 2019

    By MedStar Health

    Updated March 15, 2020

    We all know being physically active is one of the best steps we can take for our health. Did you know being physically active from an early age promotes better health and activity through adulthood?

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides physical activity recommendations for children and adolescents:

    Pre-school aged children (Three to five years)
    • Aim for at least three hours a day of activity of all intensities: light, moderate, and vigorous.
    • To strengthen bones, young children should do activities that involve jumping, skipping, hopping, and tumbling.
    • Young children should be encouraged to move and engage in play and structured activities throughout the day.
    Children and adolescents (Six to 17 years)
    • Aim for at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity each day.
    • It is important for adolescents to perform aerobic, muscle-strengthening, and bone-strengthening activities several times a week.
    • Adolescents should be encouraged to participate in physical activities that are appropriate for their age, enjoyable, and offer variety.

    Ideally, physical activity begins in early childhood and continues as children grow and develop into adulthood, but it’s never too late to start becoming more active!

    Why it’s important for kids to be physically active.

    Healthy and active kids tend to be healthy, active adults. The health benefits of being physically active in childhood and adolescence include lower risk of obesity and chronic diseases, as well as better sleep habits and success in school.

    • Success in school and work: Physical activity promotes normal growth and development and improves sleep, which translates to better attention in school, better test scores, and a higher likelihood a child will attend college. In adulthood, these patterns translate to improved productivity at work with the likelihood of increased earnings when compared to sedentary counterparts.
    • Maintaining a healthy weight: Active kids are more likely to maintain a healthy weight from childhood to adulthood, reducing the risk of obesity as compared to inactive children.
    • Chronic disease prevention: Regular physical activity can positively impact seven of 10 of the most common chronic diseases, including heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes. Healthy habits lead to lower health costs and an overall decrease in morbidity.
    • More responsible adolescents: Kids who are active have been shown to participate less often in risk behaviors including smoking, drinking, and drug use.

    How to encourage your kids to be physically active.

    Children of active parents are twice as likely to be active themselves. Since not all kids are innately active creatures, some need more encouragement to get up and get moving.

    A good way to increase children’s physical activity is to find creative ways to get moving that work for your family and lifestyle. Physical activity does not have to be complicated or costly to be effective. Try one of these ideas:

    • Take a family walk or bike ride
    • Turn household chores into a movement game
    • Have a dance party at home
    • Go on a family hike
    • Play a game of Simon Says with movement-based actions

    If you notice your child is avoiding physical activities, it could be a sign that your child lacks the skills, self-assurance, or motivation to keep up with their peers.

    Children build motor patterns by combining agility, coordination, balance, and body awareness. The more they practice, the more mature these motor skills become. However, without the foundational building blocks of balance, coordination, strength, endurance, and body awareness, kids are unable to create motor patterns for the more advanced skills. This commonly causes frustration and a lack of enjoyment during sports and physical activities. When physical activities stop being fun, it can be difficult to encourage participation, eventually leading children to drop out of sports altogether.

    As a parent, the most important step is to create a positive environment that focuses on fun and building basic movement skills before concentrating on sport-specific skills. It’s a lot more fun to be physically active when kids have the skills, self-assurance, and motivation to keep up with their peers. Providing encouragement and praise rather than criticism can go a long way to instill a love for physical activity in children and adolescents.

    How you can help your child develop and mature their motor skills.

    There are many things that can be done to help children who need extra support developing and maturing their motor skills. Active Kids is a physical therapy program at MedStar Health that promotes physical literacy for long-term health and wellness by helping children move better and more often and encouraging them to participate in health activities.

    During the individualized sessions, children will work on basic exercises and movement patterns to improve coordination, balance, strength, and endurance. This translates to improved running, jumping, balance, and body awareness. The result is better motor skills, a higher likelihood of enjoying physical activity, and increased confidence and skills to better keep up with their peers.

    We believe that inside every human body, lives a human being. It's how we treat people.

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  • June 13, 2019

    By Hayder Hashim, MD

    There are a number of symptoms that might be warning signs of a heart attack—from radiating chest pain to something as subtle as dizziness or lightheadedness. The symptoms can even vary from men to women, too.

    Women often have heart attack symptoms that are different from men’s symptoms, and women often overlook these symptoms because they don’t want to overreact. A patient can be experiencing alarming upper belly pain, but they don’t want to call an ambulance, go to the emergency room, and then find out their pain was only indigestion.

    Don’t ignore your body. Know what signs of a heart attack women should watch for and whether you’re at risk for a heart attack so you can get help fast if you need it.

    Related reading: Why do more women than men die after heart attacks?

    What Signs Should I Watch for?

    Women are more likely to have a silent heart attack, or one that doesn’t show any apparent symptoms. They’re also more likely to die after their first heart attack because they don’t want to overreact to symptoms. Women rarely feel the classic crushing pain in the chest that appears for men who have heart attacks. Instead, women’s symptoms often are more subtle and may include:

    • Chest discomfort or fullness
    • Blackouts or fainting
    • Breathlessness during activities or waking up breathless at night
    • Chronic fatigue after routine activities
    • Dizziness that can indicate irregular heartbeats, or arrhythmias
    • Swelling, particularly of the lower legs and ankles
    • Palpitations, rapid heartbeats that may cause pain or difficulty breathing
    • Nausea or vomiting, unrelated to diet, indigestion, or abdominal pain
    • Sweating

    Some patients say they feel an impending sense of doom. They feel as if they will die if they don’t seek help.

    In women with diabetes, the symptoms are a bit different. They can experience chest pain when they’re going down the stairs to laundry or going up the stairs to put their kids to bed. If the pain creeps up on you and then gradually dissipates, this usually is an indication of coronary artery disease. You most likely have a blockage in a blood vessel that supplies blood to the heart that needs to be taken care of.

    Patients also can feel pain in the middle of their chest that travels to their back. Some people even have chest pain on their right side, away from the heart. If your symptoms aren’t going away and they’re alarming you, don’t take the chance. Call 9-1-1 and take that ambulance ride.

    Heart Attack Risk Factors for Women

    It’s even more important to seek medical help for possible symptoms of a heart attack if you have risk factors for heart disease, such as:

    Diabetes can lead to serious cardiovascular issues, particularly in women. A woman’s risk for heart disease increases after menopause because estrogen levels decline. Before menopause, estrogen can protect against some of the problems related to high cholesterol, a common factor in heart disease.

    Lifestyle choices such as smoking, an unhealthy diet, and not exercising can lead to heart disease. Women should have their blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose, and body mass index checked by their doctor. Monitoring those numbers can help you stay healthy. They should also learn about their family history and discuss all these issues with a doctor.

    We know that coronary artery disease can manifest suddenly and become a heart attack. Women should take these symptoms seriously and not take the chance. They should seek medical help. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

    Need your cholesterol checked? Call 202-877-3627 or click below to make an appointment with a cardiologist.

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