Help Us Help Our Community Support UM Charles Regional Medical Center During the COVID-19 Crisis

Thankful Thursdays

If you’ve been thinking about ways to support UM Charles Regional Medical Center’s efforts to fight the coronavirus (COVID-19) in Southern Maryland, the CRMC Foundation invites you to take part in “Thankful Thursdays.”

Every Thursday, the Foundation will be collecting supplies and donations that will directly support the hospital’s efforts against this pandemic. 

How You Can Help

The CRMC Foundation is currently accepting donations of:

  • Face shields and/or face shield supplies (see below)
  • Medical supplies such as N95 masks, surgical gloves, etc.
  • Hand-sewn surgical cloth masks
  • Baked goods and  gift cards to show appreciation for our healthcare professionals
  • Cash donations for UM Charles Regional’s COVID-19 Response Fund

How to Create a CDC-Compliant Face Shield

Face shields are an essential part of protecting healthcare workers working closely with patients, and you can help keep our team’s face shield supply stocked by either providing supplies needed to create a face shield or donating already-completed shields. 

See the video below for supplies we’re actively seeking and how to make a face shield at home:

Where to Donate

We’ve ensured that Thankful Thursdays activities will maintain our hospital’s current no-visitor policy. Beginning April 2, the CRMC Foundation will operate a safe, curbside donations collection site between the hours of 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. The office is located at the following address:

Irene Davis Pavilion
6 Garrett Avenue
La Plata, MD 20646
(Just up from the La Plata Library and across from the Medical Center)

The CRMC Foundation will collect donor information and provide a charitable receipt upon drop-off. 

If you would like to make a donation while maintaining self-quarantine regulations and the recent executive order from Gov. Hogan, please contact us; we’d be happy to make a pickup while maintaining social distancing protocols. And please be assured — staff operating our Thankful Thursdays will wear appropriate protective gear and maintain social distancing as well!

Monetary donations to the COVID-19 Response Fund can also be made online through the CRMC Foundation website. For more information, please call the CRMC Foundation office at (301) 609-4132 or email

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Why Men Need Wellness Exams

Happy father and son exercising together outdoors on big modern bridge

Men are three times as likely as women to have gone without a doctor’s visit in the previous five years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

“Men are reluctant to go to the doctor’s for ‘no reason,’” said Kelli Goldsborough, a nurse practitioner with University of Maryland Charles Regional Medical Group – Primary Care.

However, an annual wellness check is essential to good health. It’s an opportunity to check and get screened for risk factors to help prevent serious health problems. 

“As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” Goldsborough said.

Wellness exams include an assessment of weight and height along with screenings such as blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar. 

“I make sure that patients understand why I’m doing the labs I’m doing and do my best to include them in the decision-making,” Goldsborough noted. 

Patients are asked about tobacco and alcohol use, exercise habits, diet and risk for sexually transmitted infections. The doctor will review the patient’s medications and administer any needed immunizations. 

“Depending on age, there is also a discussion about prostate cancer screening, which includes a PSA or digital rectal exam, and we evaluate for inguinal hernia,” Goldsborough said. 

If you want to get the men in your life on a wellness track, experts suggest scheduling appointments together. Once there, they may find the benefits outweigh the fear and inconvenience. 

“I find that once men understand that their concerns are as important as my objectives, there is greater adherence to scheduling annual physicals,” Goldsborough said.

Where to Get a Wellness Exam in Charles County

Whether you feel like your doctor makes getting a regular wellness exam more difficult than it needs to be or you simply never thought about getting a wellness exam before, UM Charles Regional Medical Group – Primary Care is here to make it as easy and convenient as possible.

Located in La Plata, MD, our primary care team provides continuing and comprehensive health care for you. That includes preventive care appointments such as regular wellness exams.

Ready to schedule your next wellness exam with the experienced, compassionate team at UM Charles Regional Medical Group – Primary Care? Call (301) 609-5044 today.

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The Important Role of Pulmonary Rehabilitation in Your Community

Doctor sitting at a desk analyzing X-ray results

Life doesn’t stop when you’re diagnosed with a disease that affects your lungs or ability to breathe normally, but these chronic conditions can make it feel impossible to live a normal life. Fortunately, pulmonary rehabilitation programs across the country are helping people overcome these hurdles to reach a better quality of life. And in honor of Pulmonary Rehabilitation Week (which takes place every March), we’re highlighting some key facts about this important line of rehabilitative care. 

Read on to learn more about who pulmonary rehabilitation helps, how it can improve someone’s life, and where you can find pulmonary rehab services in Southern Maryland.

Who is Pulmonary Rehabilitation for?

Pulmonary rehabilitation is most commonly recommended for people with the following conditions:

Additionally, pulmonary rehabilitation may be recommended for people who are planning to undergo or have already received a lung transplant, thoracic surgery, abdominal surgery, or lung volume reduction surgery. 

How Does Pulmonary Rehabilitation Help?

Because pulmonary rehabilitation is often meant for people with chronic, lifelong conditions, the primary purpose of such programs is to improve quality of life — helping to make life more fulfilling and enjoyable regardless of a person’s condition. 

Here are just a few of the areas these programs focus on:

  • Improving functional abilities
  • Reducing lifestyle-related risks
  • Increasing knowledge of the disease process and prevention strategies
  • Increasing the ability to perform daily tasks
  • Improving self-esteem and confidence

To accomplish this, pulmonary rehabilitation teams generally consist of board-certified pulmonologists, registered nurses with advanced cardiac life support certifications, and exercise physiologists who guide participants through exercises as well as educational and empowerment sessions. 

In addition to the dedicated medical staff, the best pulmonary rehabilitation programs often include dietitians, physical therapists, and even diabetes education specialists to provide additional advice and support for overall health and wellness.

Pulmonary Rehabilitation in Charles County

You don’t have to look far to find a top-rated pulmonary rehabilitation program if you live in Southern Maryland. University of Maryland (UM) Charles Regional Medical Center’s Pulmonary Rehabilitation program employs a three-phase approach that’s designed to help participants improve their quality of life through exercise and education. 

UM Charles Regional Medical Center also hosts the Better Breathers Club, a free support group meant for people with chronic lung disease and their loved ones. With its regular meetings, the Better Breathers Club is facilitated by a certified exercise physiologist and focuses on providing patient-focused, community-based education and support. 

Want more information about our Pulmonary Rehabilitation program or the Better Breathers Club? You can contact the program coordinator by calling (301) 609-4391. And if you’re ready to make an appointment, please call (301) 609-4413.

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What to Expect at Our Newly Renovated Birthing Center

Reception area at UM CRMC's Birthing Center

The nursery is ready. The hospital bags are packed. You’re getting ready to welcome a new baby into your life, and you want everything to be just perfect. We want everything to be perfect for you, too, and we’ve been working hard to upgrade our facilities to ensure everything for expecting parents is as joyous as possible. 

Here’s what you can expect from the newly upgraded Birthing Center at University of Maryland Charles Regional Medical Center.

Upgraded Labor-and-Delivery Rooms and C-Section Operating Room

Every update we made during our Birthing Center renovation has been made with you in mind so you can enjoy the life-changing experience of welcoming your new child. That’s why we expanded all of our labor-and-delivery rooms for added privacy and to ensure maximum comfort for you, your support person, and your newborn.

In addition to a bed that can be adjusted for various positions throughout and after labor, each room includes a television, wifi, a private bathroom with a shower, and easy-to-use controls that adjust room lighting to a variety of brightness levels and colors. And if you ever need the assistance of a nurse, they’re just a tap away with a connected bed remote.

As a part of these renovations, we’ve also made several enhancements and upgrades to our cesarean-section operating room. So no matter what kind of birth you’re expecting (or not expecting), our Birthing Center has you covered.

Enhanced Security for Peace of Mind

The safety of our patients is our top priority, and we make no exceptions for even our newest, littlest patients. While in our Birthing Center, you, your support person, and your baby will receive special matching ID wristbands. Your baby’s tag is specially designed to notify nurses if it loses contact with the baby’s skin or is taken outside of designated areas.

Additionally, our Birthing Center is constantly monitored by security cameras and is protected with locked entries to ensure the most secure environment for our growing families. 

Expert Staff Always On-Hand

There’s nothing more important than knowing that you and your baby will be taken care of by expert medical staff. And at UM Charles Regional Medical Center, we have an OB-GYN and a pediatrician on-site 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, so you’ll be in good hands before, during, and after labor.

After delivery, our experienced lactation consultant is available to help new mothers with advice and strategies for breastfeeding.

Additional Resources for Expecting Parents

Ready to see the newly renovated Birthing Center for yourself? We offer regular maternity tours for you and a guest. During your tour, you’ll meet our highly trained staff, see the expanded labor-and-delivery rooms, and have opportunities to ask questions about the upcoming birth of your baby.

Our team also proudly provides a variety of classes designed for expecting parents. From our weekly breastfeeding support group meetings to two-night childbirth classes, you’ll find the answers to all your questions with the help of our team and other parents-to-be. Check out our Classes and Events calendar on our website or call (301) 609-4312 to learn more today.

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5 Dietary Changes That Will Reduce Your Cancer Risk

Spread of colorful fruits and vegetables on a gray surface

Research points to diet as a useful tool for reducing your cancer risk. Progya B. Aakash, RD, a clinical dietitian at UM Charles Regional Medical Center, offers her tips for creating a diet that’s optimized for cancer prevention:

Watch Your Plant-to-Meat Ratio

A balanced diet full of variety is just common sense for overall health at this point, but there’s also evidence to suggest that how you’re balancing your food groups is just as important in limiting your cancer risk. 

Research done by the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research says plant-based foods should ideally make up at least two-thirds of what you’re putting on your plate. As for meat? It should make up less than one-third of your meal.

Consume Meat Mindfully

Even if you balance your meat consumption with other food groups, the type of meat you choose to consume — and how you choose to cook it — can also have an impact on your cancer risk.

Limit your intake of red meat and consume fewer than three portions per week. You’ll also want to avoid processed meats whenever possible because they contain compounds that can be carcinogenic (i.e., potentially cancer-causing). And be considerate about how you’re cooking your meat because studies have shown a greater concentration of carcinogens in meats cooked at high temperatures.

Avoid Alcohol

There are already plenty of reasons to avoid overdoing it with alcohol, but one of the most commonly overlooked is its ability to inhibit your body’s natural cellular functions. Alcohol alters the creation and the repair of cells in your body which increases the number of carcinogens that enter your cells.

“The effects of alcohol on your body are especially harmful when combined with smoking or tobacco use,” Aakash said.

Get a Side of Exercise

Pairing a healthy diet with regular exercise is one of the best ways to reduce your cancer risk. From strengthening your immune system and regulating hormones to aiding in digestion and reducing inflammation, there are so many reasons to get moving. Oh, and of course, it helps moderate weight, too.

Maintain a Healthy Weight

A nutritious diet paired with regular exercise can help you stay at an ideal weight, which is an important element of reducing your cancer risk. Being overweight changes the body in ways that increase your risk for cancer, such as altering delicate hormone balances, changing metabolism, and creating chronic inflammation.

Want to put together a healthy diet plan that could help reduce your cancer risk? We’re proud to offer diet and nutrition services at UM Charles Regional Medical Group – Primary Care in La Plata and UM Charles Regional Medical Group – Diabetes & Endocrinology in Waldorf, led by Clinical Dietitian Jamilah Bugayong, RDN, LDN. To learn more or make an appointment, please call (301) 609-5044.

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Nutrition Knowledge We All Need

An array of vegetables in trays

Do you really know what’s going into your body? Each day every person across the world intakes hundreds if not thousands of calories. This caloric supply provides the energy that your body needs to function properly. But all calories are not created equal. There are dozens of vital nutrients that need to be accounted for in your daily consumption, and leaving some out of your diet could cause some serious repercussions for your body. Read on to learn more about what you should have in your diet. 

Macronutrients: Go Big or Go Home

Carbohydrates. Protein. Water. Fats. These are the big four of nutrition because you need relatively large quantities of each in your diet. A lot of people will be familiar with these categories, as they are featured callouts on any given nutrition label. Some of them — like water — might be obvious. We all know we need water to survive because an adult’s body is made of up to 60% water. Others are more controversial and have been subjected to criticism in the age of fad diets and restrictive eating. Reducing fats and/or carbohydrates has become a hallmark of diet culture, an overgeneralized recommendation for losing weight.

What many people fail to realize is how important these nutrients are and how unsustainable it is to remove them from the body long-term. Carbohydrates are essential in providing energy and fats can help absorb vitamins, reduce inflammation and preserve brain health. When looking to make major changes for any of these macronutrients, be sure to do so safely and consult a licensed professional.

Micronutrients: Small but Mighty 

There are way more nutrients than just the big four. But is it really worth it to sweat the small stuff? While way less of them are needed, micronutrients are still essential for the body and neglecting these key vitamins and minerals can cause a wide variety of serious negative implications.

So what exactly are these mysterious micros? Some of the most common ones include calcium, potassium, sodium, and vitamin C. But there are also lesser-known nutrients that are just as important, like selenium, manganese, and eight — yes, eight! — forms of vitamin B. It’s a lot to keep track of, but striking the right balance of micronutrients can be a key component of improving your healthy lifestyle. A professional can help identify which areas are lacking and provide tools to ensure your body is getting everything it needs, including options for FDA approved supplements and multivitamins. 

How to Find a Helping Hand 

That’s a lot to digest. If you need someone to guide you through the ins and outs of nutrition, you’re not alone. Many people seek help from an experienced professional when faced with questions or concerns about their eating habits. A registered dietitian nutritionist (RD or RDN) is an expert in the field who has attended an accredited university with an approved curriculum, completed a rigorous internship and gained their license. These certified providers are able to cater to your personal experiences with nutrition and answer questions regarding: 

  • Digestive problems 
  • Gaining or losing weight 
  • Diabetes, high blood pressure or other chronic diseases
  • Maintaining a healthy pregnancy
  • Practical lifestyle advice 
  • Cooking simple, healthful meals 
  • Specialized treatment for an aging parent or teenager
  • Care for eating disorders 
  • Support with gastric bypass surgery 
  • And more…

If you’re looking for compassionate guidance from a registered dietitian in Southern Maryland, UM Charles Regional is accepting patients as young as 5 years old at locations in La Plata and Waldorf. Learn more online or call 301-870-4100 to make an appointment. 

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How UM Charles Regional Medical Center’s Team Helped Colan Ratliff Walk Again

Colan Ratliff with UM Charles Regional Medical Center's doctors

There for You Every Step of the Way

A spinal cord injury nearly paralyzed Colan Ratliff, but thanks to grit, determination, and expert medical care at UM Charles Regional Medical Center, he’s walking again.

It was a frigid day in 2013 when Colan Ratliff, 72, stepped outside his house in La Plata, Maryland, before dawn to shovel snow off his driveway. A historian and conservator for the U.S. Navy, Ratliff had just finished sprinkling salt on the driveway when he slipped on a sheet of ice and fell backward, striking the back of his head and neck as he hit the pavement.

“I’m lying there and saying to myself, ‘That was kind of stupid,’” Ratliff says. “And I thought, ‘Well, I’ve got to get up,’ but I realized I couldn’t get up. I couldn’t move at all.” 

Ratliff didn’t panic, but he yelled as loud as he could. Several hours passed before a neighbor found him, alerted Ratliff’s wife, and called 911. Within minutes he was at University of Maryland Charles Regional Medical Center (UM CRMC), where Emergency Department (ED) doctors immediately stabilized and assessed him. Imaging studies revealed a disc problem, though the extent of the injury wasn’t clear. But doctors knew that his paralysis suggested something threatening.

Catering for a Life-Altering Injury

It was Ratliff’s first step on a treatment journey that would draw on numerous medical resources, none more significant than his community hospital, UM CRMC. 

“It’s important to have a hospital that you can count on,” says UM CRMC Chief Medical Officer Joseph Moser, MD. 

“As the frontline community hospital for our area, our providers and nurses are trained to recognize all disease processes and get people the specialized care they need even if it’s not at the community hospital itself,” adds Richard Ferraro, MD, UM CRMC’s chairman and chief of staff, and medical director of the ED. “Luckily, we are part of a system that can provide comprehensive care for just about any condition imaginable and is among the nation’s leaders in some of these fields.”

In fact, ED doctors determined that Ratliff needed to be airlifted to the University of Maryland’s R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore. 

“Just like many emergency conditions, including stroke and heart attack, when it comes to spinal cord injury and compression, time is really of the essence,” says Dr. Ferraro. 

There, surgeons established that Ratliff had suffered an injury to the C4 nerve, which typically causes paralysis in the arms, hands, trunk and legs. They prepared him for surgery to decompress a herniated disc pressing on his spinal cord and fuse his spine to protect it from further harm.

Ratliff had served as a Marine in Vietnam and had suffered a serious and more painful injury to his head and face while there. But this injury was far scarier. 

“My worst fear was that I would be a burden to my family,” he says.

Surgeons told Ratliff’s wife, Grace, that he likely wouldn’t walk again, but, she says, she never doubted that he would. 

“He’s stubborn,” she says. “If he puts his mind to something, he’s going to do it. I just knew he would.”

The Ratliff family

(From left to right) Ethan, Grace, and Colan Ratliff

Recovering with a Will and a Way

A two-month period of rehabilitation at a nearby Virginia facility lay ahead of him, however. 

“Rehabilitation is very important because during the time that the spinal cord is injured and nerve signals are not getting down to the muscles in the hips and legs, muscles tend to shrink when they are not used,” says Dr. Moser. “By keeping the muscles and tendons strengthened and flexible, if the nerve signals can come back, the function of lower limbs is much easier to recover.”

Ratliff made the most of the opportunity. 

“I realized that I had to take advantage of everything they were offering me,” he says. In the beginning, nurses dressed him for his therapy sessions. “But then after I got some more movement back, I wanted to be ready when they came and got me. And oftentimes, I was waiting on them. I was ready to get started on all the activities and exercises that they had for me.”

There were days that Ratliff felt like staying in bed. 

“But I couldn’t do that,” he says. “Being in the Marines helped in that regard because when that drill instructor flipped the light on, you were on your feet ready to go. And they didn’t want to hear that you were tired. I told my wife, ‘I’m going to walk out of this hospital.’”

At the same time, his family did everything they could to boost his recovery.

“We knew my father had nerve damage, we just didn’t know to what extent,” says Ratliff’s son, Ethan. “But I knew that if he could move something, that he could improve. And because he could not move anything on his own, I had to help him. So I would massage his arms and legs to get blood flowing to the nerves. Every time I went there and helped him out, he gained more movement.”

Ethan Ratliff assisting his father, Colan Ratliff, with rehabilitation exercise

Colan Ratliff and his son, Ethan Ratliff

“One of the things that I drew on a lot was the fact that my family was by my side,” Ratliff says. “I had someone there nearly every day.”

Physical therapists also kept challenging Ratliff and motivating him to do more. He spent many hours on a stationary recumbent bicycle and was strapped into an anti-gravity treadmill, a machine that uses air pressure to reduce gravitational forces on patients, allowing them to experience the motion of walking without being encumbered by their body weight.

Slowly, Ratliff began to regain his function until the remarkable moment when he took his first steps with a walker. He made so much progress that his rehabilitation was extended by two weeks to capitalize on these gains.

“When you leave the hospital, they wheel you out in a wheelchair and they usually wheel you over to the car,” says Ratliff. “I stopped the lady and said, ‘That’s as far as you’re taking me.’” 

He stood up and walked to the car, fulfilling his promise to his wife.

Comprehensive Outpatient Therapy

But Ratliff’s recovery still wasn’t complete. His legs were very stiff, and outpatient physical therapy offered a way to improve further. 

“When I got up after I sat any length of time, the back of my legs were very tight,” he says. “It made me shuffle a little bit.”

UM CRMC coordinated with its healthcare partners to transfer Ratliff’s care back to the hospital. Back on home turf, he again threw himself into the activities that his therapists prescribed. The hospital works with patients to create an individualized treatment plan tailored to their needs. In addition to physical therapy, UM CRMC’s rehabilitation department — part of the UM Rehabilitation Network — offers other forms of therapy. 

Colan Ratliff holding a medicine ball with Physical Therapist Beth Ann Galligan

Colan Ratliff and UM CRMC physical therapist Beth Ann Galligan

“Our facility is one of the few in Charles County that has physical, occupational and speech therapy in-house,” says Beth Ann Galligan, DPT, a physical therapist at UM CRMC. “That’s a plus for patients with complicated injuries like a spinal cord injury. You can see all of us in one day and not have to go to different facilities. We’re all working together to help you get better.”

Because Ratliff had no speech issues and the use of his hands had improved greatly, therapists focused on strengthening and stretching exercises and other types of physical therapy. They also aimed to improve his walking and limit his need for assistive devices, like his walker.

When he first began walking, Ratliff could only manage 100 feet, but the team worked with him to go farther and farther distances. When the weather allowed, Galligan took Ratliff outside to practice taking steps on different inclines and surfaces.

“He never complained of pain,” Galligan says. “He was always determined and positive. When you’re in that mindset, you’re so motivated, it makes therapy go well because everybody’s on board with getting you better.”

On his last day, Ratliff walked more than 1,200 feet without an assistive device. “I’d say I’m back 95 percent,” he says. “I can’t run. But I get on my bicycle and go 13 miles or so, and I try to get a little faster each time to get my heart rate up.”

A Continuing Connection

Ratliff’s experiences at UM CRMC bookended his treatment for his spinal cord injury. But he has ongoing ties to the hospital. Four of his grandchildren were born there, and his family has received care there for other medical needs.

Last fall, Ratliff saw a diabetes educator and took group classes to stay on top of his blood sugar — another key health objective. He was diagnosed with diabetes eight years ago.

“I was surprised to learn that I was already eating pretty healthy — the right amount of sugar and salt,” Ratliff says. “But there are other things you can do.” He found out he also needed healthy snacks to keep his blood sugar levels steady.

After sitting down with a diabetes educator, patients typically sign up for four two-hour group classes covering a range of topics on diabetes management. Since he started the process, Ratliff’s weight has dropped, and his blood sugar is starting to go down.

Colan Ratliff and Cindy Adams in front of a mock plate of food

Diabetes Educator Cindy Adams, CDE, with Colan Ratliff

“We’re affirming what they are doing right and then guiding them in baby steps to make more and more helpful changes,” says diabetes educator Cindy Adams, CDE. 

Ratliff is grateful that UM CRMC has had his back in large and small ways, though he confesses that he doesn’t like hospitals very much.

“Nevertheless,” he says, “Charles Regional was there for me. They sent me on my journey to recovery, and they were there when I went to rehab and continued my recovery. It’s nice knowing they’re here.”

“We are the community’s first stop for injuries, and if we can’t help, we have exceptional health care partners who can,” says Dr. Moser. “From Emergency Department services to patient education, our goal is to serve.”

This story originally appeared in the Winter 2020 issue of Maryland’s Health Matters, the official magazine of UM Charles Regional Medical Center. Click here to read more by downloading this issue now.

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6 Steps That Could Help You Prevent Cancer

National Cancer Prevention Month awareness ribbon

Over 1.7 million new cases of cancer and more than 600,000 cancer deaths per year — those are the latest estimates from the National Cancer Institute (NCI), and that’s just for America.

Simply put, cancer continues to play a major role in our society’s well-being. Today, the five most common cancers in America are (according to the NCI):

  • Breast cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Colon and rectum cancer
  • Melanoma of the skin

With so many different types of cancer and countless variables to consider, it can be hard to know exactly what you should do to limit your cancer risk. Fortunately, there are a few different recommendations you can follow that will not only help prevent cancer but also help you live a healthier life overall.

So in honor of National Cancer Prevention month, here are six steps we recommend you take to help lower your risk for cancer:

Choose a Diet That’s Rich in the Right Nutrients

Diets that favor fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help reduce your cancer risk significantly. This is because diets made up of these different types of foods are often lower in calories and higher in nutrients compared to those that are made up of animal-based and/or highly processed foods.

Here’s a simple rule of thumb: At least two-thirds of your meal should be made up of non-starchy vegetables, fruits, whole grains, or beans.

Limit Red Meat and Processed Meat Consumption

Speaking of diets, if you’re a fan of steak, burgers or pork chops, you’ll want to be extra careful about how much you’re consuming.

Research has shown that eating over 18 ounces of red meat per week can increase your risk of developing colorectal cancer, which is a type of cancer that’s becoming more common among Americans. Beef, lamb, and even pork are all considered red meat.

Additionally, excess consumption of processed meats, such as bacon, deli meats, hot dogs, ham, etc., has also been linked to an increased cancer risk due to the preservatives used in preparation.

Bear in mind that no one is telling you that you have to cut these foods out of your diet entirely. As with anything, moderation is key, and simply being aware of what you’re eating — and how much — will go a long way to helping you live a healthier life.

Make Exercise a Priority

Too often, we think of exercise as an activity designed solely for losing weight. And while exercise can certainly help you manage your weight, it has so many other health benefits, too.

AICR recommends you get at least 150 minutes of moderate (or 75 minutes of intense) exercise every week. Here’s how exercise helps limit your cancer risk:

  • Abnormal hormone levels are associated with higher cancer risks, and physical activity helps keep your hormones in balance
  • Frequent activity can help strengthen your immune system
  • Exercise can help your digestive system’s processes which may help get harmful substances through your digestive tract faster
  • Consistent physical activity can help you manage your weight and/or body fat levels — both of which have been shown to increase your cancer risk if at unhealthy levels

Not sure if your lifestyle is active enough to help you live healthier? AICR has put together a simple quiz to help you get the answer.

Quit Smoking, Chewing, or Vaping

If you never started smoking, chewing tobacco, or vaping in your life, great job! You’ve already eliminated one of the biggest risk factors for cancer in your life.

If you’re a smoker or use chewing tobacco now, however, we recommend you make quitting a priority above all other items listed in this article. According to NCI, there are 250 known harmful chemicals found in tobacco smoke and 69 of them can cause cancer. As for smokeless (chewing) tobacco? There are at least 28 chemicals that have been linked to cancer.

And although vapes and e-cigarettes may be a less harmful alternative for current smokers, studies are still ongoing to determine exactly how they affect the body. Early tests have shown that the vapor inhaled while vaping is far from harmless, however, and it can sometimes include cancer-causing chemicals as well as traces of heavy metals such as nickel, tin, and lead.

Breastfeed Your Baby if You Can

According to the AICR, there’s strong evidence to suggest that breastfeeding has benefits for both mother and child.

Because it has been shown to help eliminate damaged cells and lower levels of some cancer-related hormones in a woman’s body, breastfeeding can help moms reduce their risk of breast cancer. And babies who breastfeed have been shown to be less likely to become obese — one of the primary health factors in a person’s cancer risk level later in life.

Be Consistent with Medical Checkups

Your primary care provider can help guide you in the right direction in terms of diet and lifestyle choices. And even if you’re the healthiest person alive, you’ll never totally eliminate your cancer risk. Regular checkups and physicals mean your doctor will be more likely to detect any signs of cancer while more treatment options are available.

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5 Things You Need to Do to Keep Your Resolutions on Track

Apple and tape measure sitting on a bathroom scale representing weight-loss

You did it! You made it through the first month of the new year, and it’s time to take stock of your progress for your resolutions.

There are 11 months left to accomplish your year-long goals, so there’s no better time to figure out if you’re still on the right path or if adjustments need to be made. With that in mind, here are five things you should do right now to keep your resolutions on track:

Reflect on Progress You’ve Made Thus Far

First and foremost, making it through an entire month with new habits or an altered perspective is no small feat. Congratulate yourself for making it this far and take pride in what you’ve already accomplished.

If you’re not quite as far along as you expected to be by this time, that’s OK. Take note of what went right, what went wrong, and how you can bounce back in the months to come. You can also consider resetting your resolutions to something that seems a little bit less daunting, but no matter what, don’t give up entirely. 

Make It About Your Health, Not Anything Superficial

If you’re embarking on a weight-loss journey or starting a workout regimen, it might be tempting to make milestones more about the way you look rather than the way you feel.

Of course, losing weight or building strength often comes with improvements to your outward appearance, but these should never be your primary measurements of success. Everyone loses weight or gets in shape differently, with some people showing signs of improvement far more quickly than others. And because of that, it can be easy to get discouraged if you don’t see noticeable results right away, even if you’ve been working your tail off at the gym or eating better.

Focus on the real benefits of your resolutions in terms of your overall health, not your physical appearance. If you’ve been going to the gym since the beginning of the new year, think about how much more you’re already able to do in terms of exercise compared to your first day. Similarly, if you’ve dedicated yourself to eating better, focus on how much better you feel when you eat a well-balanced diet. Just remember, the physical changes are sure to come in time, but it takes long-term dedication to make a real difference. 

Consider How You’re Framing Your Resolutions

One of the best psychological “hacks” for your resolutions is simply changing the way you’re thinking about them. This is especially true for any goal that involves health or wellness.

Rather than focusing on all the things you’re unhappy with as being the driving force behind your goals, start thinking about all the positive reasons to stick with your resolutions. 

For example, if your goals involve living a more active lifestyle, don’t think about it in terms of how you’re unhappy with your lifestyle now — think about how much happier and healthier you’ll feel by striving for your goals. The power of positive thinking is real!

Create an Action Plan for the Rest of the Way

If you began the new year with just an idea of what you wanted to accomplish, you’re less likely to hold yourself accountable for the rest of the way. Having a goal in writing and a realistic action plan that outlines all the steps you need to take are key to accomplishing your goal even as distractions or hurdles appear throughout the year.

Think About Why You’re on This Journey

Whether you’re off to a great start or not, this is a tip that you should keep in mind for the rest of the year.

Personal goals are just that — personal. Resolutions set for the wrong reasons are rarely completed and even more rarely fulfilling, so keep asking yourself why you’re striving for something. If the answer stops being about making yourself — not someone else — happier, consider changing your goals up entirely. 

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A Smart Approach to Dealing with Seasonal Allergies This Spring

Photo of a butterfly collecting pollen on a flower

Warmer weather. Green grass. Leaves on the trees and flowers in bloom. 

Spring is a beautiful thing — except when you’re dealing with seasonal allergies. The grass, trees, and flowers also signal the return of pollen and a season of sneezing, coughing, and stuffy noses. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that more than 50 million Americans suffer from allergies each year.

Pollen is nearly impossible to avoid altogether. If you suffer from seasonal allergies, it’s important to come up with a plan to stay as healthy as possible, so you can enjoy this beautiful time of year. 

Start with Over-the-Counter Medicines

With so many Americans suffering from seasonal allergies, it’s no surprise that there are countless options for over-the-counter medications that can help prevent and treat your allergic reactions.

  • Oral Antihistamines — These help relieve sneezing, itchy eyes, and runny noses. Antihistamines are typically available in pills, liquids or nasal sprays.
  • Decongestants — These help relieve congestion by treating the linings of the nasal passages. Decongestants may come in the form of pills, liquids and nasal sprays or drops.
  • Nasal Spray — A cromolyn sodium nasal spray is most effective when used as a preventative measure before the onset of symptoms.

Your Primary Care Physician Can Help

When your seasonal allergy symptoms are severe and the usual medicines aren’t providing the relief you need, your next step should be scheduling an appointment with a primary care physician.

Your doctor can prescribe allergy medication that isn’t available over the counter. They can also recommend tests to help diagnose your specific type of allergy, so you know that you’re taking the right steps to stay as healthy as possible.

  • Skin Prick Test — A small drop of an allergen will be placed on your skin and then you’ll receive a light prick or scratch on the spot to expose you to the allergen. If you’re allergic, a small reaction may occur within minutes to help them diagnose the allergy and devise a treatment plan.
  • Specific IgE Blood Test — As an alternative to the skin prick test, you can provide a blood sample. The laboratory will add an allergen to the sample and then study the antibodies that the blood produces in response.

Be Smart and Enjoy the Season

Armed with knowledge, medication and the support of your physician — like the team at UM Charles Regional Primary Care — you don’t have to miss out on all the best parts of spring.

You may never be able to completely avoid pollen and its effects, but when you’re prepared in advance, you can enjoy more days of clear eyes and sinuses and actually be excited about the warm weather, the sunshine and, yes, even the beautiful flowers.

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