5 Ways to Reduce Stress

Photo of person sitting on a beach at sunset

Fighting rush-hour traffic. Taking a test. Worrying about money. While never fun, stresses like these are a normal part of life. 

“It’s our body’s response to something that’s upsetting our balance,” Mary Hannah, RN, manager of population health at University of Maryland Charles Regional Medical Center, said. 

But too much stress can contribute to hypertension and other medical conditions. Stress also increases cortisol, a hormone that can trigger weight gain and fat storage. To avoid these consequences, try these strategies: 

Take a Deep Breath (or Several)

When acute stress strikes, take slow deep breaths and focus on a single object.

Understand Where the Stress is Coming From

Identify and acknowledge the stress. Prioritize and triage sources of stress, and eliminate or delay things that do not need immediate attention. For example, don’t stress about a presentation that’s happening next week while you’re worried about getting dinner on the table tonight.

Get Outside

If you’re cooped up inside all day, getting outside in nature is a great way to decompress. Pay attention to your surroundings and take some deep breaths of the fresh air.

Make Meditation an Option

While all of these strategies are great for short-term stress relief, meditation might be one of the best long-term solutions to stress. Meditation and yoga have both been shown to calm the mind.

Get Moving

Engaging in exercise is a fantastic way to reduce stress. More importantly, however, is finding an exercise that’s enjoyable. It could be dancing, basketball, bike riding, running, weightlifting, or something else. Whatever it is, if you enjoy it, it’s more likely the habit will stick.

Always remember, stress is a normal part of life, no matter who you are. If you’re finding it especially difficult to manage your stress levels, be sure to talk to your primary care doctor who can work with you to put together a personalized stress-relief strategy.

This story originally appeared in the Fall 2019 issue of Maryland’s Health Matters, the official magazine of University of Maryland Charles Regional Medical Center. Start reading the latest issue on our website.

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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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3 Facts and 3 Myths About Immunizations

National Immunization Awareness Month

There’s a lot that gets said about the safety, effectiveness, and necessity of vaccines in the news, on social media and across the internet. Fortunately, National Immunization Awareness Month, which occurs every August, is the perfect time to highlight the facts and debunk the popular myths surrounding vaccinations.

So what’s the real story? Here are three of the most important things to know about immunization as well as three myths that persist in the public mindset.

Fact: Vaccines Protect You from Harmful Diseases

If you’re serious about taking a proactive approach to your health and wellness, getting vaccinated is an ideal and affordable way to do just that.

By shielding you from many of the devastating illnesses you grew up hearing about, such as the mumps, measles, influenza, etc., vaccines keep you safe and help keep money in your pocket, too. In fact, an analysis conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2014 estimated that vaccines administered to children over a 20-year period saved nearly $295 billion in direct costs and $1.38 trillion in total societal costs.

Myth: Getting Vaccinated Means You’re Completely Safe from Getting Sick

Even if you’re vaccinated for a certain disease, there’s no guarantee that you won’t get sick; however, in many cases, it can make illnesses less severe. On top of that, the more people around you who get vaccinated, the less likely it is that you’ll get sick in the first place.

Fact: Vaccines Can Help Eliminate Dangerous Diseases

Vaccines play a pivotal role in ridding the world of dangerous, life-threatening diseases. Most notably, the World Health Organization announced in 1980 that the world was free of smallpox — two years after the last person had died from the disease. The elimination of the virus, which once affected millions of people, was made possible as a result of expansive vaccination programs.

Myth: You Don’t Need to Get Vaccinated Because Many Diseases Are Already Eliminated

Although we commonly associate diseases such as polio, diphtheria, the mumps, and the measles with a time period before modern medicine, the fact is that these illnesses still exist and pose a real threat to children and those with compromised immune systems.

While many of the major diseases of the past are seen far less frequently than before, the only way to completely wipe out a disease is with the widespread use of vaccinations — and there’s still work to be done.

Fact: The United States Has the Safest Vaccine Supply in History

One of the main functions of the CDC is to study and monitor vaccines to ensure the safety of the American population. As a result, the United States continues to lead the world in regards to vaccine effectiveness and safety.

The CDC works closely with the Food and Drug Administration to carry out clinical trials to make decisions about whether a vaccine is ready for general use. After a vaccine has been approved for public use, it is monitored for effectiveness as well as any negative effects for groups that may have been underrepresented in clinical trials.

Myth: Vaccines Cause Autism

In 1998, a study published in a medical journal made note of a potential link between the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism. The study was later deemed flawed and ultimately retracted by the journal that published it. Unfortunately, the study’s publication contributed to dropping immunization rates, which opened the door for the return of diseases such as the measles in the United States.

The World Health Organization states: “There is no evidence of a link between MMR vaccine and autism or autistic disorders.” Additionally, both the Institute of Medicine and the CDC have echoed these findings with their own studies.

Fact: Not Everyone Can Get Vaccinated

While the majority of people can receive vaccinations, age, specific health conditions, or allergies may be reasons why someone can’t get vaccinated.

The CDC includes a comprehensive list of vaccines and associated disqualifying factors on its website. If you have any questions about whether or not a vaccine is right for you, talk to your primary health care provider. He or she will be able to tell you if there are any risks you should be aware of.

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UM Charles Regional Medical Center Earns Top Marks in Stroke Treatment for Fourth Consecutive Year

2018 Get With The Guidelines Stroke Gold Plus Award

We’re proud to announce that our hospital has once again been recognized with a Gold Plus Quality Achievement Award and a Target: Stroke℠ Honor Roll Elite selection as part of the Get With The Guidelines – Stroke® program.

These prestigious designations are awarded on a yearly basis by the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association to hospitals that have demonstrated the ability to treat stroke patients effectively and efficiently.

Hospitals that receive these two awards have reached a high standard of treating stroke patients, specifically an 85 percent or higher compliance to core standard levels of care as outlined by the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association. To achieve the Gold Plus designation, a hospital must meet these research-based guidelines over the course of 24 consecutive months.

Certified as a Primary Stroke Center by the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services, UM Charles Regional Medical Center has prepared itself to identify and intervene rapidly in stroke situations. This prompt response is key to helping patients receive comprehensive treatments early, which increases the likelihood of a speedy recovery after a stroke.

As your hospital, we are honored to receive this recognition for what it means to our community. We remain committed to maintaining a heightened state of readiness for stroke patients so that we can deliver timely, expert care when it’s needed most, right here in Southern Maryland.

About Get With The Guidelines®

Get With The Guidelines® puts the unparalleled expertise of the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association to work for hospitals nationwide, helping hospital care teams ensure the care provided to patients is aligned with the latest research-based guidelines based on the latest scientific evidence.

Since 2001, Get With The Guidelines® programs have touched the lives of more than 6 million patients, all with the goal to save lives and hasten recovery. For more information, visit heart.org.

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