Why Cord Blood Banking is Something Expecting Parents Should Consider

Infant child sleeping

If you’re an expecting parent, you probably have a long to-do list of things that need to get done before the big day. But if you haven’t added “donating cord blood” to that list yet, here’s why you should consider it:

What is Cord Blood?

Cord blood is the blood that’s found in a newborn baby’s umbilical cord and placenta. This blood is a primary source of stem cells, which are the cells that are necessary for producing blood. 

Here’s a quick video that explains what cord blood is and how the stem cells found in cord blood can benefit patients in the case of a transplant: 

What Normally Happens to Cord Blood?

Although the potential of cord blood and its stem cells is incredible, this is still an emerging element of modern medicine. For that reason, the umbilical cord and placenta are often discarded as medical waste today rather than used for potentially lifesaving transplants.

How Does Saved Cord Blood Get Used?

The Parent’s Guide to Cord Blood Foundation notes that about 70% of patients who need a stem cell transplant don’t have a matching donor in their own family. Fortunately, cord blood doesn’t have to be perfectly matched to help those dealing with ailments such as:

  • Leukemia
  • Lymphoma
  • Sickle Cell
  • Anemia
  • Autoimmune Disorders

Although these cancers and disorders can often be treated by bone marrow transplants, cord blood donations can contain as much as 10 times more stem cells than bone marrow donations. In addition, stem cells from cord blood are less likely to be rejected than those from bone marrow.

Public vs. Private Cord Blood Banking

While the general concept of cord blood banking involves the preservation of cord blood, there are a few different types of cord blood banking:

Public cord blood banking doesn’t cost anything for the parents and is designed to make the potentially lifesaving cells available to anyone who needs them. Public cord blood banks collect, test, and preserve the cord blood until it is needed by a patient or patients.

Private cord blood banks do exist, too. Sometimes called “family banks,” these are designed to save cord blood exclusively for members of your family so that it can be used if there are any specific medical needs within the family. Unfortunately, private cord blood banking means that the cells are not made available to those outside of your family, so those who are in need will not be able to make use of those cells if they need a transplant. Moreover, private cord blood banks are usually expensive and, even if the cord blood comes from a family member, there’s only about a 25 percent chance that another family member’s body will even be able to receive the cells.

Cord Blood Donations at University of Maryland Charles Regional Medical Center

Although we do not currently offer public cord banking here at the hospital, we encourage families to consider participating in one of many mail-in programs that you can learn more about here

Ultimately, your decision to take part in cord blood banking — public or private — is up to you and your family, and it’s not a decision to be taken lightly. If you’re considering cord blood banking, visit the Parent’s Guide to Cord Blood Foundation’s website and be sure to talk to your doctor and/or your midwife to find out more and to answer any questions you may have. 

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Celebrating 80 Years: The Third Decade (1959-1969)

Celebrating 80 Years: The Third Decade

The 1960s started off with some good news for Physicians Memorial Hospital. Demand for a new building was expressed in 1957, and by the beginning of the next decade, the hospital’s needs would finally be addressed.

Once the location and plans were finalized, it was announced that this new building would open in 1963 — with great support and appreciation from the residents of Charles County.

A New Hospital Design

This new building featured a cylindrical design with a circular nursing unit featured at the heart of the hospital. A relatively new design idea, this layout allowed for patients to be easily seen at the central nursing station, regardless of which room they occupied. While this is a relatively common feature of hospitals today, Physicians Memorial Hospital would be one of the first in the region to include it.

The new hospital was dedicated on October 13, 1963, and 1,500 residents of Charles County attended the dedication in a tremendous display of support for the hospital and its new structure.

More victories would come later in the decade as Physicians Memorial Hospital. One of the most important came when it became the very first hospital in Southern Maryland to be accredited by The Joint Commission for Hospital Accreditation on October 18, 1968.

Stay tuned to our blog for upcoming stories about our hospital over the decades. And be sure to follow us on Facebook — we’ll be sharing facts and photos from over the past eight decades throughout 2019.

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For Women, Taking Care of Those You Love Starts with Taking Care of Yourself

Female doctor smiling at female patient

People are counting on you.

From your family and friends to your co-workers and just about everyone else, we know that the demands on your time and energy are very real. That’s the reality of women everywhere.

Most women don’t hesitate to make sure the ones they love are healthy and happy, planning healthy meals and scheduling doctor’s appointments when needed. Taking care of other people comes naturally.

Taking care of yourself? Well, for many women, that’s a little more difficult.

The good news is that you have plenty of resources right here in Southern Maryland that make it easy and convenient to prioritize your health. Because if you’re going to be there for the ones you love, you have to be there.

University of Maryland Charles Regional Medical Group – Women’s Health, located in La Plata, offers a variety of services designed to keep you healthy and make regular checkups part of your routine.

Their experienced OB/GYNs offer obstetric, gynecological and well-woman care for all stages of life.

The comprehensive care at Women’s Health includes: 

  • Annual pelvic exams
  • Breast exams
  • Management of menopause symptoms
  • Urinary incontinence treatment
  • Minimally invasive surgery to treat uterine fibroids, endometriosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome

Part of your plan of care should also include annual mammograms once you reach age 40 –– or earlier if your family history suggests a higher risk of breast cancer. Advancements in technology mean that a quick visit to a place like UM Charles Regional Imaging can provide you with a crystal clear picture to confirm your health or identify any issues early on.

Available services include both screenings and diagnostic mammograms.

  • Screening mammograms help find unsuspected changes in your breast tissue
  • Diagnostic mammograms are performed if a change is identified in your breast tissue with a screening mammogram or if you have had a previous breast cancer diagnosis
  • 3-D mammography (breast tomosynthesis) produces three-dimensional images of the breast, leading to better cancer screening and detection.

Whether it’s a visit to Women’s Health or Imaging, an appointment is only a phone call away. It’s easier than ever to take care of yourself. 

So make the call. Make an appointment. And make your health a priority. Because the people you love are counting on you to be there to take care of them.

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Why Protecting Yourself from UV Rays May Be the Most Important Thing You Can Do This Summer

Woman Applying Sunscreen to Skin During the Summer

From vacations to yardwork, our summer activities have us outdoors enjoying all the benefits of warm weather and long days more than any other time of the year. It’s a great time to get some exercise outside or simply relax in all that nature has to offer, but summer is also a time when people expose themselves to dangerous ultraviolet (UV) radiation.

Read on to learn more about what UV rays are, how they can affect your body, and what you can do to protect yourself — a great way to participate in UV Safety Awareness Month this July.

What Is UV Radiation?

UV rays are a form of radiation that primarily comes from the sun but are also generated by things like tanning beds. These rays can damage a person’s skin by changing the way the DNA of skin cells operates.

These are the two most common types of UV rays:

UVA – These rays can damage skin cell DNA and lead to long-term skin damage.

UVB – These rays have more energy than UVA rays, which means they cause sunburns and damage skin cell DNA directly.

How UV Exposure Can Affect Your Body

It’s no secret that prolonged, unprotected exposure to UV rays can ultimately lead to skin cancer — it is, after all, the most common form of cancer in the United States. But what you might not know is that all that time in the sun can affect you in other ways if you don’t take the necessary steps to protect yourself.

Here are just a few other ways UV rays can affect your body if you’re not protected:

Overexposure to UV rays has also been linked to a weakened immune system, which makes it harder for your body to fight off illnesses or receive the full benefits of immunizations.

What About Vitamin D?

One of the most commonly referenced arguments against the frequent application of sunscreen or wearing shade-protective clothing such as hats or long-sleeved shirts is that exposure to the sun provides necessary vitamin D. While this is an essential nutrient for our bodies, its connection with sun rays is often misunderstood.

Vitamin D is important for a person’s bone health and has many other health benefits, but doctors are still learning about just how much a person needs in a day. And although your body does produce vitamin D when it’s exposed to UV rays, the potential danger of overexposure vastly outweigh the benefits in this case.

Here’s what the American Cancer Society says about UV rays and vitamin D:

Whenever possible, it’s better to get vitamin D from your diet or vitamin supplements rather than from exposure to UV rays because dietary sources and vitamin supplements do not increase skin cancer risk and are typically more reliable ways to get the amount you need.”

How to Protect Yourself

Fortunately, protecting yourself from UV rays is easy and inexpensive. Here’s how you can keep yourself and your family safe this summer:

Seek the Shade and Stay Covered

The hours between 10am and 4pm are typically the most dangerous in regard to UV exposure. With this in mind, ensuring that you have a place to get some shade is absolutely essential. This is especially important if you’re spending your day on the beach or anywhere else where the reflection of the sun can increase UV exposure, such as in the snow or sand.

Stay Covered

Wearing long-sleeved shirts, pants, long skirts, and hats may not always feel like the most appealing option in the hot summer months, but these protective clothing items can keep you safe. Just remember, dark clothing is usually more protective than light clothing.

Apply (and Reapply Sunscreen) Every Two Hours

Picking the right kind of sunscreen — and then applying it properly — is an important step in protecting yourself. A sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 is necessary to block UVA and UVB rays, but a higher SPF is recommended. As the American Cancer Society highlights, however, no sunscreen can protect you completely, so it should be treated as a supplement to your protection.

Choose the Right Sunglasses

Beyond their look and style, sunglasses are a summer essential for a reason. In terms of protecting your eyes from UVA and UVB exposure, there’s nothing better — as long as you pick the right ones. 

When picking out a new set of shades, always look for UVA and UVB protection ratings. Any worthwhile pair will tell you how protective it is against these types of radiation, and you shouldn’t accept anything less than 100%. 

Want to learn more about skin cancer and how to protect yourself from harmful UV rays? Visit Cancer.org for more articles and tips from the American Cancer Society.

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Looking Back at the 2019 CRMC Foundation Golf Events

2019 CRMC Foundation Golf Events - Golf Carts

Another spring season is in the books, which means that the Charles Regional Medical Center Foundation had the pleasure of putting together two more great golf events for our community. Take a look back at our 2019 Golf Classic and Southern Maryland Women’s Golf Invitational.

2019 Golf Classic

Golfers on golf cart at CRMC's 2019 Golf Classic event

On Thursday, May 16, over 100 golfers came out to Swan Point Yacht and Country Club in Issue, MD, to take part in our Golf Classic. 

Presented by Washington Gas, this golf outing is one of Southern Maryland’s favorite annual events, and beautiful weather marked the occasion this time around. Be sure to check out the Foundation’s website to see a full list of sponsors and additional event photos.

2019 Southern Maryland Women’s Golf Invitational

Women golfers on the green at CRMC Foundation's 2019 Southern Maryland Women's Golf Invitational

Also benefiting the Charles Regional Medical Center Foundation, the 2019 Southern Maryland Women’s Golf Invitational took place Wednesday, June 19, at Swan Point Yacht and Country Club.

More than 52 incredible women hit the links with us in what has become one of the region’s most popular women’s golf tournaments. And thanks to the support G.S. Proctor + Associates, Inc., other local sponsors, and everyone who attended, over $40,000 was raised in support of the Charles Regional Medical Center Foundation from both tournaments.

Visit our website to see who else sponsored the event and a full album of event photos.

What These Events Support

Just like our annual Celebration Gala and Autumn Wine Tasting events, our annual golf outings directly support the mission of the Charles Regional Medical Center Foundation. 

Since 1986, this nonprofit organization has worked to enhance the financial resources of UM Charles Regional Medical Center to aid its mission of making Southern Maryland a better, healthier place to live — a mission that’s achievable only with the support of generous local businesses and community members.

To learn more about Charles Regional Medical Center Foundation’s mission and upcoming fundraising events, visit CRMCfoundation.org or call (301) 609-4132.

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Introducing Dr. Joseph R. Murphy at UM Community Medical Group – Gastroenterology

Photo of Dr. Joseph R. Murphy, Gastroenterologist

Gastroenterologists are doctors who specialize in diagnosing, treating, and preventing disorders of the digestive system. While many of these doctors can be found in Washington, D.C., University of Maryland (UM) Community Medical Group is proud to provide exceptional gastrointestinal care right here in Charles County.

Joining in this mission to ensure Southern Maryland always has access to high-quality health care services is Joseph R. Murphy, MD, who’s now serving our community at UM Community Medical Group – Gastroenterology in La Plata and Waldorf.

Treatments and Specialties

Dr. Murphy provides a wide variety of medical, surgical, and diagnostic services for all disorders and diseases of the gastrointestinal tract. His specialties include:

  • Colon, pancreatic, and stomach cancers
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Barrett’s Esophagus
  • Inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis

Scheduling an Appointment

New patients are currently being accepted in both Waldorf and La Plata at the following locations:

Waldorf
11340 Pembrooke Square, Suite 203
Mondays and Fridays | 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

La Plata
100 North Oak Avenue
Tuesdays | 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

If you want to learn more or schedule an appointment, please call (301) 609-4276 or visit UMCMG.org today. 

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Fighting the Opioid Epidemic

Opioid Epidemic Prescription Graphic

For many people, addiction begins in the doctor’s office. University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) Opioid Stewardship Task Force was established in 2017 with this in mind. One of the task force’s top priorities is to educate physicians on how to responsibly prescribe opiates.

“We produce a monthly report that shows providers what medications they’re prescribing,” Christopher J. Welsh, MD, associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UM SOM) and medical director of Outpatient Addiction Treatment Services said. ”If someone utilizes opiates more than their colleagues, we address their prescribing practices and work to cut down on their opiate prescribing.”

The task force has also created processes within the emergency department (ED) at both campuses to address opioid abuse.

“We screen all ED patients for their risk of opioid abuse disorder,” Janine L. Good, MD, associate professor of neurology at the UM SOM and chief medical officer at UMMC Midtown Campus, who established the task force, said. “If they come into the ED with an opioid overdose, we engage a trained ‘peer recovery coach’ to intervene and guide them to treatment. These are people in recovery themselves who engage with patients in the ED and, based on the patient’s risk, encourage them to enter a treatment program.”

The peer recovery program has seen great success. By December, UMMC’s campuses had referred 4,480 patients to treatment.

The pipeline from the ED to treatment engages patients when they need help the most. Unlike many other U.S. hospitals, UMMC’s doctors can prescribe buprenorphine in the ED. The task force also makes an effort to influence state policy.

“We are at the table advocating on behalf of the complex pain patients we treat at our hospitals and on behalf of our doctors caring for patients,” Dr. Good said.

Additionally, the task force collaborated with the Baltimore City Health Department’s formation of a ranking system to measure each hospital’s capability and resources to combat the opioid epidemic.  UMMC’s campuses are the only two hospitals in the city that were awarded top ranking.

“We are leaders in the state for dealing with opioids,” Dr. Welsh said.

A Medical Approach to Addiction

Maryland has one of the five highest opioid-related death rates in the United States. Despite this, the stigma surrounding addiction continues to be an obstacle to treatment.

“People are ashamed,” Eric Weintraub, MD, associate professor of psychiatry and director of the division of addiction research and treatment at the UM SOM, said. “Sometimes they refuse evidence-based treatments because they are pressured by people in their lives to avoid taking medications that can help.”

Dr. Weintraub and Dr. Welsh PhotoPhoto: Dr. Weintraub and Dr. Welsh

To combat this stigma, UMMC offers addiction treatment centers that take a medical approach. A combination of counseling, detoxing or taking medications that curb opioid cravings helps patients recover.

“The medical model that we follow affords more respect for our patients’ medical issues and diminishes the stigma,” Marian Currens, CRNP, director of UM CAM, said.

Each clinic works to treat the entire patient, not just the addiction. Aside from counseling services, some clinics offer additional health services. One clinic partners with the Institute of Human Virology to treat infectious diseases such as hepatitis C and HIV, which are more common among people with an addiction disorder. They have recently expanded the practice to offer primary care services. They also established a drop-in center that provides a safe place for clients to relax with snacks and games.

Another UMMC clinic focuses on female patients and pregnant women with opioid use disorders.

“The clinic has a play center where women can leave their children while they’re in counseling. It removes a barrier to treatment,” Dr. Welsh said.

Fostering Awareness

Public awareness is essential for fighting the opioid epidemic. UMMC’s Community Health Improvement Team fulfills this need by circulating information about opioids at community events throughout West Baltimore.

“We have a handout that helps the general community understand the types of drugs that are out there, how they can identify if their loved one has an addiction problem and where they can go for help,” Anne D. Williams, DNP, director of community health improvement, said. “One of the main things people can do to get drugs off the street is to remove old medications from their homes and dispose of them appropriately.”

To facilitate this, the team provides information about drug take-back locations across Maryland. UMMC pharmacies have their own drug take-back bins.

“This problem has so many facets, and the community should take this seriously,” Williams said. “They should try to get themselves or their loved ones help. Dispose of your medications properly, and if you’re actively using pain medications, make sure they are locked up.”

“This is a deadly epidemic. It cuts across all segments of society,” Dr. Weintraub said.
We all need to pull together to combat this disease.”

UM Charles Regional Medical Center’s Response

Ever since Gov. Larry Hogan signed the Heroin and Opioid Prevention Effort (HOPE) and Treatment Act into law in 2017, University of Maryland Charles Regional Medical Center (UM CRMC) and the Charles County Department of Health have been partnering to reduce the opioid epidemic.

When patients experiencing an opioid overdose go to the emergency room, they have the opportunity to talk with a peer recovery specialist — someone who has been in their shoes but conquered their addiction.

“It’s very useful to have somebody that understands the issue of opiate addiction spend time with these patients after they go through an overdose. It’s a critical time to intervene,” Richard Ferraro, MD, chief of medical sta at UM CRMC and chairman and medical director of the Department of Emergency Medicine, said.

Patients also receive a prescription for the opiate-reversing drug naloxone and instructions for using it. In addition, UM CRMC has focused on improving its approach to pain management and reducing prescriptions for opiates.

“Our providers follow strict opiate prescribing guidelines and explore alternatives to opiates when appropriate,” Debbie Shuck-Reynolds, MSN, nurse manager of the Department of Emergency Medicine at UM CRMC said. “Pain is real and we want to manage it, but we want to do it safely.”

These efforts are paying off. Opiate-related deaths in Charles County dropped from 36 in 2016 to 13 in 2018.

“There’s been a tremendous effort in combating this, and we’ve seen a drop in the number of overdoses,” Sara Haina, director of substance abuse services for Charles County, said.

If you or a family member is struggling with addiction, reach out, Shuck-Reynolds advised.

“We can get you the help you need,” she said.

Contact Us

If you or a loved one has an opioid addiction, please call:

  • UM Center for Addiction Medicine: 410-225-8240
  • UMMC’s Outpatient Addiction Treatment Services: 410-328-6600
  • UMMC’s Women’s Mental Health Program: 410-328-6091.

This story first appeared in the spring issue of Maryland’s Health Matters, the quarterly magazine of the University of Maryland Medical System and University of Maryland Charles Regional Medical Center. To read the full story — and explore other regional editions — by visiting our website.

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What You Need to Know About COPD

COPD: What You Need to Know

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is something that affects millions of Americans — whether they know it or not. It’s one of the leading causes of death in our country, and it’s a serious condition that, without treatment, only gets worse over time.

Beyond the long-term health effects of COPD, this chronic condition can make it difficult for those who have it to live normal lives. That’s why it’s so important to get informed and learn more about this common yet preventable disease.

What is COPD?

COPD is a chronic condition where the lungs are damaged and unable to function properly, which makes it difficult to breathe. There are actually two separate conditions that make up the disease known as COPD: emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

Who Gets COPD?

It’s estimated that there are over 15 million people in the United States who have been diagnosed with COPD — but there are millions more who are living with undiagnosed COPD. And while anyone can develop this disease, the following statistics from the Chest Foundation highlight who is at higher risk to develop COPD:

  • Women are 37% more likely to develop COPD than men
  • Non-Hispanic white adults are at greatest risk
  • Chronic bronchitis and emphysema affects the 45-64 age group more than any other age group

What Are the Causes of COPD?

COPD occurs when a person’s lungs and/or airways become damaged, which makes it more difficult to breathe. The following are the most common causes of COPD:

Smoking – According to the American Lung Association, 85 to 90 percent of all COPD cases are caused by cigarette smoking. This is because the chemicals and toxins in cigarettes weaken your lungs, narrow air passages, and cause air tubes to swell — all of which can lead to the development of COPD.

Environment – A person’s home, work, or everyday environment can be a major factor in whether or not they develop COPD. Air pollution, second-hand smoke, dust, etc., can all contribute to this.

Alpha-1 Deficiencies – Alpha-1 is a protein that is normally produced by a person’s body, but those with specific genetic conditions may be deficient in it. This protein plays an essential role in protecting the lungs, so these people are at a higher risk of developing a rare form of COPD.

If you’re worried that you may be on track to developing COPD, visit Lung.org to learn more about how you can reduce your risk.

How is COPD Diagnosed and Treated?

Shortness of breath, frequent cough, frequent colds, fatigue, blue lips, and blue fingernails are all common COPD symptoms, and this disease is diagnosed with what is called a spirometry test. This involves blowing into a machine known as a spirometer, which calculates the amount of air you are able to blow out, to determine how well your lungs are working. You can learn more about spirometry tests at COPDfoundation.org.

Once diagnosed, there are a variety of treatment options available, depending on a person’s circumstances and the recommendations of their doctor. While there is no cure for COPD, treatment does exist to help those with COPD live more complete, fulfilling lives. Treatment options include:

If you’ve been diagnosed with COPD, you probably have a lot of questions about your next steps. Watch this video from the team at University of Maryland Charles Regional Medical Center (UM CRMC), then talk with your doctor to determine the best treatment options for you.

Where Can You Get COPD Support and Treatment?

UM CRMC is proud to serve patients in Southern Maryland with its robust Cardiopulmonary Department. This specialized department is dedicated to actively treating and caring for patients with breathing disorders, including those with COPD.

In addition, we regularly host meetings of the Better Breathers Club — a patient-focused, community-based support group for members of the community who are dealing with COPD and other breathing disorders. Visit our Facebook page or call (301) 609-4391 today to learn more about the Better Breathers Club at UM CRMC.

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Get to Know Endocrinologist Juan Joanna Yu, MD

Dr. Yu Photo

Growing up in mainland China, Juan Joanna Yu, MD, an endocrinologist at the University of Maryland Community Medical Group (UM CMG) – Diabetes and Endocrinology, always knew she would be a doctor. After attending medical school there, she came to the U.S. to study neuroscience.

But Dr. Yu’s plans took a turn when she was introduced to the field of endocrinology, which includes treating diabetes and other metabolic disorders.

“I felt like there was much more I could do for diabetes patients in terms of prevention and treatment,” Dr. Yu said. “Now, endocrinology is my passion.”

Before joining UM CMG (a partner of UM Charles Regional Medical Center), Dr. Yu received endocrinology training at the National Institutes of Health. She has also been recognized by the Consumers’ Research Council of America as one of America’s Top Physicians.

Dr. Yu is just as dedicated to interests outside of her practice, reserving evenings and weekends for other passions and activities, including photography classes and a book club. She also manages to squeeze in quality time with her husband, an allergist, and her daughter, an emergency room nurse.

“It all keeps me busy,” she said. “But it allows me to come back to work energized.”

Q&A with Dr. Yu

Her First Job:

“I spent three years working as a neurologist and helped stroke patients with rehab.”

What Inspired Her to Become a Doctor:

“My uncle was a physician, and it just seemed natural for me to become one, too.”

To Unwind After a Long Day:

“I try to practice what I preach. I play and teach tennis, take tai chi classes, and I run regularly. I also organize activities for the Centennial Park Slow Runners Club, a group of women cancer survivors who exercise together. These are women who didn’t exercise before cancer treatment, but they do now because it changed their lives.”

What She’s Reading:

“Right now, my book club is focusing on Chinese history books.”

If She Could Add an Eighth Day of the Week:

“I would spend more time on photography. I take a class every other week from a professional photographer, but I don’t have a lot of time to take pictures for the assignments.”

Best Health Tip for Patients:

“I don’t just tell patients to eat well and exercise — I tell them why it’s important. I will ask my patients to test their blood sugar before and after exercising to see how much lower it is. Seeing an immediate change in the number makes a big impression on them.”

Favorite Part of Her Job:

“Helping patients understand how medications and lifestyle changes can improve their diabetes. Patients will tell me, ‘I’ve seen so many doctors, but no one has talked to me about why I need this medication or why I need to exercise.’ It’s very rewarding when they come back and they feel better, they’ve lost weight, their blood sugar is better — they’re just happier.”

Want to schedule an appointment with Dr. Yu? Call UM Community Medical Group – Diabetes and Endocrinology in Waldorf, MD, at (301) 870-4100 today.

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Should You See a Gastroenterologist? If You See These Signs, Yes.

Digestive System Graphic

Digestion is one of the most important bodily functions in every animal on the planet. Without your stomach, colon, pancreas, or liver in tip-top shape, it’s hard to eat, drink, and live how you like. That’s why maintaining a healthy digestive tract is of the utmost importance. But how do you know when to ask for expert help? Keep a lookout for these signs, and you’ll know when to make your appointment.

Bloating

While our weight fluctuates from time to time, there may be a more sinister reason for why your pants aren’t zipping than a few too many slices of cheesecake. “If you experience sudden bloating that occurs for no obvious reason and is accompanied by symptoms like pain or blood in the stool, there may be something more complicated at play,” said Dr. Joseph R. Murphy, a gastroenterologist with University of Maryland – Community Medical Group. “It could be anything from a dairy digestion problem to gastroesophageal reflux disease or irritable bowel syndrome, which require a different treatment.”

Sudden Weight Loss

Conversely, if your clothes are starting to fit more loosely than normal, it could also be a sign of a serious GI problem. While shedding a few pounds with no effort may sound like a dream come true, leaving it unchecked could mean opening yourself up to the painful symptoms of a condition like Crohn’s disease or celiac disease further down the line.

Difficulty Swallowing

“If drinking water is painful,” Dr. Murphy said. “That can be a sign of a GI problem.” It’s a good idea to get examined, especially if it means earlier detection of potentially serious problems like esophageal cancer. Make sure to note if you’re also experiencing coughing, hoarseness, hiccupping, or feeling full after only a few bites of food, as these are all signs that something potentially harmful at work in your GI tract.

Blood in Your Stool

Bright red or black stool can be a clear indication that there is a problem somewhere in your GI tract. While there are other potential causes for bloody stool, if it’s persistent or recurring, or you are experiencing other, aforementioned symptoms, you should be evaluated by a GI professional.

Excessive Gas

Everyone experiences gas, but it can be a warning sign when combined with other symptoms or if it’s especially foul-smelling.

Your 50th Birthday

Even if you have always had excellent GI health, the CDC recommends that regular screenings for colorectal cancer begin at age 50. Staying on top of these screenings can mean earlier detection, which means that, if needed, you can start treatment when programs work best.

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