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January 12, 2018

Not Too Late to Get Flu Vaccine

Influenza, the flu, is now widespread across the United States including New York State. Nonetheless, it is still not too late to get your flu shot. While flu activity has increased sharply over the last few weeks, the CDC says the season will most likely last until April and flu vaccination is still beneficial. Flu vaccines can keep you from getting sick and reduce the risk of flu-associated hospitalization especially among children and older adults. Flu vaccination is also critical for people with chronic health conditions. While the effectiveness of the flu vaccine varies from year to year, health experts still recommend a flu shot. Flu vaccines cover a number of flu strains but vary in effectiveness year to year because: 1) The match between the flu vaccine and the flu viruses that are spreading that season may not be optimal; and 2) A person may respond differently to the vaccine due to age or overall health. For example, older people with weaker immune systems may respond less well to vaccination. In general, current flu vaccines tend to work better against influenza B and influenza A (H1N1) viruses and offer lower protection against influenza A (H3N2) viruses. So far this year, about 85% of influenza-positive tests reported to the CDC were influenza A viruses and about 15% were influenza B. 92% of the A types were H3N2 viruses and 8% were H1N1. Because the flu vaccine is not as effective for H3N2, some people ask, why bother? The CDC states, flu vaccination is still beneficial for the following reasons: The vaccine may still prevent you from getting the flu. The flu vaccine covers several strains. Exposure and susceptibility vary from person to person. Your best insurance, therefore, is to be vaccinated. Flu vaccination can reduce the risk of flu-associated hospitalization, including among children and older adults. A 2016 study showed that people 50 years and older who got a flu vaccine reduced their risk for hospitalization from the flu by 57%. Flu vaccination is an important preventive tool for people with chronic health conditions such as heart disease, lung disease, and diabetes. According to the CDC, flu vaccination is associated with reduced hospitalization among people with diabetes (79%) and chronic lung disease (52%). Vaccination helps protect women during and after pregnancy. Getting vaccinated also protects the baby several months after birth. Data suggests that flu vaccination may reduce flu severity; so while someone who is vaccinated may still get infected, his or her illness may be milder. Being vaccinated also protects people around you, including those who are more vulnerable to serious flu illnesses, like babies and young children, older people, and people with certain chronic health conditions. Sometimes, the flu season comes in waves with different flu strains. It is not unusual for the flu season to start and peak with one strain and then reemerge with another strain. For instance, in 2014, the flu season peaked with H1N1 in January and then revved up again in the spring but this time with influenza B. If you get sick: Take Antivirals Drugs, if prescribed by a doctor. Studies show that flu antiviral drugs work best for treatments when they are started within 2 days of getting sick. However, starting them later can still be helpful, especially if the sick person has a high-risk health condition or is very sick from the flu. There are three FDA-approved influenza antiviral drugs recommended by CDC this season to treat influenza: oseltamivir (available as a generic version or under the trade name Tamiflu®), zanamivir (trade name Relenza®), and peramivir (trade name Rapivab®). 2. Take everyday precautions to protect others while sick While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them. Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it. Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub. Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu. 3. Stay home until you are better If you are sick with flu-like illness, CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. Your fever should be gone without the use of fever-reducing medicine. 4. Remember hospital visitor restrictions. UR Medicine Noyes Health and other local hospitals have issued flu restrictions. The restrictions are intended to help limit the spread of flu and protect patients and staff. Individual patients will be limited to no more than two visitors at a time and no one younger than 14 years of age will be allowed to visit except for healthy siblings of healthy newborns. Restrictions also ask people with flu-like symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat, and body aches not to visit hospitalized patients until they are symptom-free for 24 hours. Lorraine Wichtowski is a community health educator at UR Medicine Noyes Health in Dansville, NY. For article suggestions or questions, contact Lorraine at (585)335-4327 or ... Read More

January 12, 2018

Noyes Health Again Earns Joint Commission Gold Seal Accreditation

UR Medicine | Noyes Health today announced it once again has earned The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval® for Hospital Accreditation by demonstrating continuous compliance with its performance standards. The Gold Seal of Approval® is a symbol of quality that reflects an organization’s commitment to providing safe and effective patient care. UR Medicine | Noyes Health underwent a rigorous, unannounced onsite survey in the fall of 2017. During the review, a team of Joint Commission expert surveyors evaluated compliance with hospital standards related to several areas, including emergency management, environment of care, infection prevention and control, leadership, and medication management. Surveyors also conducted onsite observations and interviews. The Joint Commission has accredited hospitals for more than 60 years. More than 4,000 general, children’s, long-term acute, psychiatric, rehabilitation and specialty hospitals currently maintain accreditation from The Joint Commission, awarded for a three-year period. In addition, approximately 360 critical access hospitals maintain accreditation through a separate program. “Joint Commission accreditation provides hospitals with the processes needed to improve in a variety of areas from the enhancement of staff education to the improvement of daily business operations,” said Mark G. Pelletier, RN, MS, chief operating officer, Division of Accreditation and Certification Operations, The Joint Commission. “In addition, our accreditation helps hospitals enhance their risk management and risk reduction strategies. We commend UR Medicine | Noyes Health for its efforts to become a quality improvement organization.” “Noyes Health is pleased to receive re-accreditation from The Joint Commission, the premier health care quality improvement and accrediting body in the nation,” added Tammy West, Vice President of Patient Services. “Staff from across the organization continue to work together to develop and implement approaches that have the potential to improve care for the patients in our community.” The Joint Commission’s hospital standards are developed in consultation with health care experts and providers, measurement experts and patients. The standards are informed by scientific literature and expert consensus to help hospitals measure, assess and improve performance. ... Read More

January 7, 2018

Food and Mood

Hippocrates is often credited with saying, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” While there is some controversy as to whether or not, he actually said this, no one disputes its significance. Hippocrates was one of the first to understand the interplay of diet, environment, habits, and health. He grasped that illnesses were not “punishment” from the gods but rather a bi-directional consequence of our physical bodies and the world around us. Fast forward to 2018 and medical professionals are still studying the complex interaction between food, mood, and disease. In 2014, a University of Iowa researcher wrote an overview of the complicated nature of biological factors linking food intake, mood, brain signaling, and obesity. The head scientist connected the dots between our food intake, our brain’s reaction to the food, obesity, and the resulting moods of those relations. This research is particularly important given the levels of obesity, disease, and mood disorders in the U.S. Since 1999, there has been a significant increase in obesity. Almost twenty years ago, 30.5 % of the adult population and 13.9% of youth were obese. Now, 37.7% of adults and 17.2% of youth are obese. For certain demographics, the numbers are even higher; for example, 38.3% of women and 40% of middle-aged persons are obese. Being overweight puts one at greater risk for type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, joint problems, gallstones, and other conditions. In addition, research now reveals that obesity and mood are bi-directional. Mood affects what we eat and what we eat affects our mood. While not solely responsible, the food we ingest plays a powerful role in our physical and mental health. How does this happen? Here is the basic breakdown. We eat. We eat food for a variety of reasons – hunger, genes, habit, cost, taste, culture/ethnicity, social, stress and emotions (think comfort foods or alcohol). Some people find it hard to stop eating even though they are not hungry. Such behavior activates the brain reward center and alters the brain structure. Overtime, food starts to act like a drug creating an “addiction.” We may crave comfort foods. The repetitive eating of comfort foods, rich in carbohydrates, high-fats, and sugar (think any kind of junk food like soda, chips, ice cream,TV dinners) leads to obesity. Obesity produces visceral fat, which is excess abdominal fat. Otherwise known as “deep” fat, visceral fat is stored further underneath the skin than “subcutaneous” belly fat. This gel-like fat wraps around major organs including the liver, pancreas and kidneys. Large visceral fat accumulations in the abdomen act like a separate organ. The fat tissue spews out nasty chemicals that inflame our systems. This creates metabolic disorder, a condition that effects our physical health and mental health. In simple terms, it throws off the hormones that balance our system. Everything from insulin levels to feel good brain chemicals are out of whack when we don’t provide our bodies with the proper nutrition. We need the right fuel to run the engine. Fruits, vegetables, fish, chicken, beans, and whole grains all contain favorable chemicals or provide the building blocks for beneficial hormones. Cheese puffs and potato chips do not. Numerous studies suggest that chronic ingestion of junk and processed foods promotes negative emotions such as depression and anxiety. According the 2014 report, depressed individuals show preference for and consume palatable “comfort foods” as way to alleviate negative feelings. On a short-term basis, these foods may provide some relief; however, chronic consumption of calorically rich, low nutrient foods ultimately leads to obesity, which in turn promotes vulnerability to depression and anxiety. This all sets the scene for a continuous vicious cycle of overeating, weight gain, and depressed mood. Our bodies are complex organisms. Understanding the underlying mechanisms of nutrition, physical, and mental health will take years of research. In the meantime, more than enough studies confirm that part of the healthy body and mind prescription is good nutrition. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains is crucial for optimal health. If your organization is interested in learning more about eating right for life, contact Lorraine Wichtowski. Lorraine is a community health educator at UR Medicine Noyes Health in Dansville, NY. She can be contacted at (585) 335-4327 or ... Read More

January 1, 2018

How to Form New Healthy Habits Successfully This Year

One thing I learned over the years is this – one size does not fit all. One of the most common occurrences in the wellness and weight loss industries is the “This worked for me. It will work for you, too!” phenomenon. Some guy loses 40 pounds in 40 days by eating twigs and berries, writes a book, and proclaims you will have the same result. Some gal with rock hard abs in a sports bra and little bitty shorts jumps and down on a strange looking apparatus, crows you too can look like her in only 10 minutes a day. With the start of the New Year, these self-improvement marketers will be in full swing promising everything from weight loss to better organizational skills. All you have to do is buy their program or product. Unfortunately, we all know this is not true. New habits take commitment, time, and a bit of trial and error. A sense of humor and a willingness to start over when you “fall off the wagon” doesn’t hurt either. While there is no magic formula for attaining your New Year’s resolutions, there are a few simple guidelines for forming healthy habits. Start Small and Be Specific Some goals are too lofty, too vague, or too hard. For example, if the goal is lose weight and get fit – what does that mean? Lose 10 pounds or 100? Walk around the block or run a marathon? To form a new habit successfully, start small and be specific. For example, instead of “eat better” try “replace one unhealthy snack with veggies”or “one soda with water.” Instead of “get fit”, try “walk 15 minutes per day.” Small steps allow you to feel in control. When something is do-able, we are more apt to do it! Use Triggers A trigger is something that leads you to do something else automatically. For example, the end of mealtime often triggers the desire for a cigarette for smokers. Use triggers in a positive way. If you commit to doing five jumping jacks every time a commercial comes on. After a few weeks, you will automatically get up off the couch when a commercial is running. Visual cues help too. Laying your workout clothes on the bed in the morning will encourage you to work out when you get home from work. Plan Ahead and Do It Early Know what kind of person you are – early bird or night owl. If you are a morning person, get up and exercise first thing while you have energy. If eating healthy is the goal, consider using a Crockpot or Instantpot to get the meal going while you are busy during the day. Also, make sure you have everything you need for success. If you want to walk during your lunch break, take an extra set of sneakers to work and leave them there. Make it Fun and Convenient A couple years back, I joined a gym and only went about five times the whole year. Why? It wasn’t convenient. It was about 15 miles from my house and about 50 from my workplace! Needless to say, I did not renew that membership. Instead, I found a local workout class about three miles from my house and have stuck with it for over a year and a half now. Most of all make it fun. Being healthy should not be a drudgery. Find ways to make new habits and lifestyle change enjoyable. Walk and talk with a friend, watch healthy cooking videos, reward yourself with a new shirt after losing 5 pounds… Don’t Break the Chain Wellness blogger, Deane Alban, recalled this story about Jerry Seinfeld. When Seinfeld was an unknown, he created the habit of writing new material daily using a wall calendar and a red marker. Every day that he managed to write, he would put a big red "X" on the calendar. He didn't want to see any blank days that "broke the chain." Alban believes that if you use this technique for one month, you'll find your new habit will largely be formed. Along the same vein, some people choose to post their progress on social media as a form of “don’t break the chain.” Lorraine Wichtowski is a community health educator at UR Medicine Noyes Health. If you have questions or an idea for a future article, contact Lorraine at (585) 335-4327 or ... Read More

December 25, 2017

Give the Gift of Life

During this season of giving and as the calendar turns to 2018, it is a good time to reflect on what we can do to help our family, friends, and neighbors here and throughout the country. In a day and age, when the daily news cycle can be less than inspiring, there are still miracles. One of those is the gift of life through organ donation. One organ donor can save up to eight lives. The same donor can also save or improve the lives of up to 50 people by donating tissues and eyes. Organs and tissues that can be donated and transplanted from a deceased individual include kidneys, heart, lungs, liver, pancreas, intestines, hands, face, corneas, skin, heart valves, bone, veins, cartilage, tendons, and ligaments. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 116,000 men, women, and children were on the national transplant waiting list as of August 2017. In 2016, 33,611 transplants were performed. Sadly, 20 people die each day waiting for a transplant. In New York State, someone dies every 18 hours waiting for an organ transplant. Each year, more than one million people need lifesaving and life-improving tissues, and eyes. The first step to helping these patients is to sign up for organ donation. Thirty percent of New Yorkers age 18 and over have enrolled in the New York State Donate Life Registry as organ, tissue, and eye donors. Nationwide, the average is 52%. As many people are needed as possible because only 3 in 1,000 people die in a way that allows for organ donation. Some possible reasons for organ donor rejection are testing HIV positive, active cancer in a certain organ or throughout the body, an injury that damaged the organs, or the organs not being viable due to a significant time lapse since death. Experts urge everyone, however, to sign up and not disqualify him or herself. Don’t assume you are too young, too old, too out of shape, too sick, or too anything. If you are on the registry, a team of experts will determine what may or may not be used when you pass. Organ donation enrollment is lagging often times due to misconceptions regarding organ donation. Here are few facts from the website: Anytime you are in a hospital, doctors will do all they can to save your life. Donation only occurs after the death of a patient is declared by physicians who are legally not affiliated with donation. The factors that determine who receives an organ include severity of illness, time spent on the waiting list, and blood type. Financial or celebrity status has no bearing on determining who receives a transplant. Donation takes place under the same sterile conditions as any medical procedure. A donor’s body is never disfigured and donation does not interfere with funeral arrangements. Open casket services are possible. If you’re a donor, your family does not pay any bills related to donation. All major religions support donation. It is illegal to buy and sell organs in the U.S. The system for matching donor organs and potential recipients is regulated by the Federal Government. There are many ways to document your wish to be an organ, tissue and eye donor in New York State. Any state resident, 16 years of age or older, may join the New York State Donate Life Registry. 1. At the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles: Check off the donor box on your driver’s license application or renewal form, or when applying for or renewing a non-driver identification card. 2. Online at New York State recently launched a new, fully electronic registry that allows residents to enroll online and create an account so the user can make updates or changes to their registration status in the future. 3. By Mail: Download a Donor Registry enrollment form at Complete and mail the form to Donate Life New York State at the address found at the bottom of the form. 4. Other State Forms: In New York, you may also register as an organ, eye and tissue donor on the voter registration form as well as on the New York State of Health Benefit Exchange form. For more information, please visit: No matter which method you choose to enroll, you will receive confirmation by mail from the New York State Department of Health that you are a designated donor. At that time, you can specify which organs and tissues you may wish to exclude as a donor. As 2017 ends, consider giving one last gift, the gift of life through organ donation. Lorraine Wichtowski is a community health educator at UR Medicine Noyes Health in Dansville, NY. If you have questions or ideas for future articles, contact Lorraine at (585)335-4327 or ... Read More

December 18, 2017

Hoops for Hope

Dansville High School's Future Business Leaders of America kids organized the fundraiser to benefit the Ann and Carl Myers Cancer Center, a partnership of UR Medicine's Wilmot Cancer Institute and Noyes Health in Dansville, in honor of the mother of one of their fellow students,who passed away from cancer just 3 weeks ago. Lisa Rosica was a counselor at Hornell High School; her son Nick is a senior and 3-season athlete at Dansville High School. Administration, staff and students from both high schools collaborated to make the event a success, raising $15,100 for the Cancer Center. UR Medicine | Noyes Health's CEO Amy Pollard and Noyes Health Foundation chair Jon Shay were at the game to accept the check. "It was an extraordinary night," says Pollard, "and a wonderful tribute to Lisa. We are so grateful to all the kids and staff and all the members of the Dansville and Hornell communities who gave so much in her honor."... Read More

December 18, 2017

Get Up, Stretch, Repeat

As I am writing this article, the snow is coming down and the wind is whipping. When the temperatures dip and the sun goes down early, it is easy to hibernate. Curling up on the sofa with a warm blanket and watching a Hallmark movie is all you want to do. Unfortunately, all that sitting can make us stiff and uncomfortable. The less we move, the more we suffer with stiff joints and muscles. Stretching on a regular basis may improve flexibility, mobility, and balance. According to a 2016 Harvard Health article, flexibility gained from stretching is important for overall health as we age. Flexibility is the secret sauce that enables us to move safely and easily. "People don't always realize how important stretching is to avoiding injury and disability," says Elissa Huber-Anderson, a physical therapist at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital. Flexibility declines as the years go by because the muscles get stiffer. And if you don't stretch them, the muscles will shorten. "A shortened muscle does not contract as well as a muscle at its designed length," explains Huber-Anderson. Calling on a shortened muscle for activity puts you at risk for muscle damage, strains, and joint pain. Shortened muscles also increase your risk for falling and make it harder to do activities that require flexibility, such as climbing stairs or reaching for a cup in a kitchen cabinet. "Warning signs that it's becoming a problem would be having difficulty putting on your shoes and socks or tucking in the back of your shirt," says Huber-Anderson. Experts ranging from Harvard to the Mayo clinic, agree that the more often you stretch your muscles, the longer and more flexible they will become. The results are increased range of motion, reduced risk for muscle and joint injury, reduced joint and back pain, improved balance, lowered risk for falling, and improved posture. Before starting a stretching program, it is good idea to chat with your doctor. This is especially important if you have arthritis or another condition such as Parkinson’s disease that affects muscles and joints. Your doctor may refer you to a physical therapist who can evaluate your muscle health and develop a program tailored to your specific needs. If your doctor gives you the greenlight to stretch, the Mayo Clinic offers these tips for safely moving those muscles. It is very important to use the proper technique as stretching incorrectly, can cause more harm than good. Use these tips to keep stretching safe: Don't consider stretching a warmup. You may hurt yourself if you stretch cold muscles. Before stretching, warm up with light walking, jogging or biking at low intensity for five to 10 minutes. Even better, stretch after your workout when your muscles are warm. Consider skipping stretching before an intense activity, such as sprinting or track and field activities. Some research suggests that pre-event stretching may actually decrease performance. Research has also shown that stretching immediately before an event weakens hamstring strength. Instead of static stretching, try performing a "dynamic warmup." A dynamic warm-up involves performing movements similar to those in your sport or physical activity at a low level, then gradually increasing the speed and intensity as you warm up. Strive for symmetry. Everyone's genetics for flexibility are a bit different. Rather than striving for the flexibility of a dancer or gymnast, focus on having equal flexibility side to side (especially if you have a history of a previous injury). Flexibility that is not equal on both sides may be a risk factor for injury. Focus on major muscle groups. Concentrate your stretches on major muscle groups such as your calves, thighs, hips, lower back, neck and shoulders. Make sure that you stretch both sides. Stretch muscles and joints that you routinely use. Don't bounce. Stretch in a smooth movement, without bouncing. Bouncing as you stretch can injure your muscle and actually contribute to muscle tightness. Hold your stretch. Breathe normally and hold each stretch for about 30 seconds; in problem areas, you may need to hold for around 60 seconds. Don't aim for pain. Expect to feel tension while you're stretching, not pain. If it hurts, you've pushed too far. Back off to the point where you don't feel any pain, then hold the stretch. Make stretches sport specific. Some evidence suggests that it's helpful to do stretches involving the muscles used most in your sport or activity. If you play soccer, for instance, stretch your hamstrings, as you're more vulnerable to hamstring strains. So opt for stretches that help your hamstrings. A physical therapist can recommend stretches for your situation. Keep up with your stretching. Stretching can be time-consuming. You can achieve the most benefits by stretching regularly, at least two to three times a week. Skipping regular stretching means you risk losing the potential benefits. For instance, if stretching helped you increase your range of motion, your range of motion may decrease again if you stop stretching. Bring movement into your stretching. Gentle movements, such as those in tai chi or yoga, can help you be more flexible in specific movements. These types of exercises can also help reduce falls in seniors. Lorraine Wichtowski is a community health educator at UR Medicine Noyes Health. If you have questions or ideas for future articles, contact her at (585)335-4327 or ... Read More

December 10, 2017

The Science behind Hand Washing

“Dinner time – go wash your hands.” I can still hear my mother’s voice yelling out those words as she rounded up the troops for the evening meal. Turns out Mom’s command was also good advice. Hand washing is the single best thing you can do at the front lines of daily life to keep healthy. Studies show that handwashing can prevent 1 in 3 diarrhea-related sicknesses and 1 in 5 respiratory infections such as cold or the flu. How do germs spread? Many times, small amounts of fecal matter (poop) are to blame. According to the CDC, human and animal feces is an important source of germs like Salmonella, E. coli O157, and norovirus that cause diarrhea, and it can spread some respiratory infections like adenovirus and hand-foot-mouth disease. These kinds of germs can get onto hands after people use the toilet or change a diaper, but also in less obvious ways, like after handling raw meats that have invisible amounts of animal poop on them. A single gram of human feces — about the weight of a paper clip—can contain one trillion germs. Germs can also get onto hands if people touch any object that has germs on it because someone coughed or sneezed on it. When these germs get onto hands and are not washed off, they can be passed from person to person. Moreover, people frequently touch their eyes, nose, and mouth without even realizing it and this action allows germs to enter the body, which can then make a person ill. While the average healthy person has a robust immune system capable of dealing with a bit of dirt, it is still imperative to wash hands often. In addition, the most susceptible, the very young, the elderly, and individuals with weakened immune systems, should make a distinct effort to include excellent hand hygiene as part of their daily routine. Medical professionals recommend washing hands: Before, during, and after preparing food Before eating food Before and after caring for someone who is sick Before and after treating a cut or wound After using the toilet After changing diapers or cleaning up after another person who has used the toilet. After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste After handling pet food or pet treats After touching garbage Per the above list, our hands encounter a treasure trove of microbes and pathogens every day. Microbes are all tiny living organisms that may or may not cause disease. Germs, or pathogens, are types of microbes that can cause disease. Hand washing washes the bad guys down the drain. How to Wash Your Hands How should Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap. Studies show that cold water works as effectively as warm water. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice. Evidence suggests that washing hands for about 15-30 seconds removes more germs from hands than washing for shorter periods. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water. Watering needs to be running – don’t rinse in a sink of standing water as hands may be recontaminated with the dirty rinse water. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air-dry them. Washing hands with soap and water is the best way to reduce the number of germs on them in most situations. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Alcohol sanitizers do not eliminate all types of germs and might not remove harmful chemicals. Keep in mind; hand sanitizers are not as effective when hands are visibly dirty or greasy. Handwashing is a highly effective way to prevent illness. Studies show that handwashing alone: Reduces the number of people who get sick with diarrhea by 31%. Reduces diarrheal illness in people with weakened immune systems by 58%. Reduces respiratory illnesses, like colds, in the general population by 16-21%. For more information on handwashing, visit: Lorraine Wichtowski is a community health educator at UR Medicine Noyes Health. If you have questions or suggestions for future articles, contact Lorraine at or (585) 335-4327. ... Read More

December 7, 2017

Holiday Stress Management

My husband and I have been married 27 years and we still laugh about our first Christmas tree. We were so excited. We had just bought our first home, a real fixer-upper in Schenectady, NY and wanted to make that first holiday season something special. Off we went to the local tree farm, picked out the perfect conifer and stuffed it into the trunk of our Ford tempo. (Why we did not tie it to the top of the car is still a mystery.) Needless to say, an entire tree does not fit in the trunk of a compact sedan, so my hubby took some rope and did his best to tie the hood down over the bulging tree. Loaded up with Christmas merriment, we eagerly headed for the two-lane expressway to take the fast way home. About five miles down the road, cars started to beep at us and then pull alongside us pointing to the rear of our car. Puzzled, I stuck my head out the window and looked behind the car. The next thing out of my mouth was, “PULL OVER! We are dragging the tree!” Somehow, the rope had loosened and the tightly secured tree was, well, not tight or secure anymore. Miraculously, the rope had looped itself around the tree and stayed connected to the latch of the trunk. The resulting picture was something like a 20 foot fishing line hanging out the back of our car with a whale of tree at the end of the line. Well, here is the deal. If you drag a tree behind your Tempo at 60 miles per hour for several miles, it does not exactly look fresh anymore. In fact, it does not look like a tree anymore. In our case, one whole side of tree had sheared off. This tree made the Charlie Brown Christmas tree look good! At first we were heartbroken but then we started to laugh and said, “This baby is going up in our living room anyways!” It was the best first Christmas ever. I relay this silly tale to point out the holidays don’t have to be perfect to be memorable. In fact, sometimes it is the greatest mishaps that cause us to laugh and remember. The holiday season can be stressful with parties, shopping, baking, wrapping, cleaning, and entertaining; not to mention finances and families. Taking some time for relaxation and keeping it all in perspective is the key to not only surviving the holidays but perhaps really enjoying them as well. The American Psychological Association and the Mayo Clinic have the following tips for coping with holiday stress: Be Realistic. The holidays don’t have to be perfect. Families grow and change over time. Being flexible with traditions and creating new traditions together makes for a happier holiday for everyone. Stick to your budget. Decide on your food and gift budget ahead of time and stick to it. If you don’t, not only will December be stressful but January will as well when the credit card bill lands in your mailbox. Take a bit of time to relax. Make some time for yourself. Fitting in a 15-20 minute catnap, taking a quiet walk by yourself, or listening to some great music may be just enough to clear your mind before you tackle the next project. Don’t stuff your feelings but reach out. If someone close to you has recently died, you can’t be with loved ones, or the holidays are the anniversary of something traumatic, acknowledge those feelings. It is OK and perfectly normal to feel sadness and grief. You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it is the holidays. That being said, often the best antidote is reaching out. If you feel lonely and isolated, seek out community, religious, or social events. Consider volunteering. Helping others is frequently a great way to lift your spirits. NOTE: If you feel persistently sad or anxious for an extended period of time, speak with your physician. If you feel that you may harm yourself or others, call 911. Learn to say no. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can’t participate in every project or activity. Plan ahead and keep a calendar so you don’t overschedule. To learn more about stress management and the holidays, try these websites: American Psychological Association at or the Mayo Clinic at Lorraine Wichtowski is a community health educator at UR MedicineNoyes Health in Dansville. If you have questions or suggestions for future articles she can be reached at or 585-335-4327. ... Read More

November 27, 2017

Healthy Diabetic Holidays

Here come the holidays, a challenge to all and more so for those who have diabetes. No other time of year is there such a concentration of holiday parties, planned gatherings, travel, activities, special recipes and schedules that only get more hectic. With this in mind, is it possible to enjoy the holidays and all they bring, keep your diabetes under control and still be satisfied? Yes, with your willingness take a few extra steps. Here are some holiday tips to consider. As a gift to yourself, continue to exercise. Can’t do it at the usual time? Break it up into smaller blocks during the day. Prevent overeating. Don’t skip meals and have a healthy snack before you go. Enjoy special, one time a year foods. Have a small serving, enjoy it, and don’t go back for seconds. Going to a party? Offer to bring a healthy dish with ingredients you know. Alcohol? Talk to your health care team about alcohol and your medications. Be ready with medications. Make sure to take your glucometers and medications with you! Carbohydrate counting? There are apps which can be downloaded to phones for assistance. If you slip, get right back on track. The next meal is a new beginning! Plan ahead. Have a plan - what you will have, the amount, one serving only, etc. Success is more likely when you have a plan. Get your sleep. With all of the extra activities, it is difficult to get the proper amount of sleep. Keep in mind that exhaustion and little sleep tends to make you more likely to overeat! Consider signing a contract. Post a signed contract in a central location to remind yourself of your commitment to health and wellness. More information about healthy holidays and an example contract can be found at: Maintain your perspective. Enjoy the holidays with family and friends. If you would like some recipes with the carbohydrates already figured out and/or a contract for yourself, contact the UR Medicine Noyes Health Diabetes Self-Management program at 585-335-4355. Nancy Johnsen RN, CDE, is Coordinator of the Noyes Diabetes Education Program. For additional information, call 585-335-4355. ... Read More