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Ice Hawks Fight Cancer

Cancer care at Aurora means more than just treating the disease – it means treating the whole person and the people who support the patient. A diagnosis of cancer can bring many emotions and questions. Aurora Health Care Cancer Care is a team of specialists working together to bring hope to the cancer patient and their family. Aurora Health Care has earned the Outstanding Achievement Award from the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer. Services and treatments available through Cancer Care at Aurora Health Care include: autologous stem cell transplant, chemotherapy, clinical trials, genetic counseling and testing, immunotherapy, radiation oncology, surgical oncology, cancer nurse navigators, art therapy, cancer buddy program, counseling, financial and legal counseling, integrative medicine, palliative care, cancer rehabilitation, and support groups.
Here are many other reasons why patients choose Aurora for their cancer needs:
  • Aurora Cancer Care has treatment sites from Northern Illinois to Wisconsin’s Upper Peninsula to provide treatment close to home.
  • Close to 33,000 people in Wisconsin will hear the words, “you have cancer” this year.
  • Aurora’s patients have access to more than 170 open cancer clinical trials – all close to home.
  • 14.5 million people will celebrate being a cancer survivor in the United States this year.
  • Aurora Cancer Care will help over 8,000 people facing cancer in our communities this year.
  • Aurora Cancer Care Spanish Clinic is the 1st only fully bilingual, Spanish-speaking cancer clinic in Wisconsin.
  • Over 150 cancer specialists partner with patients to fight their battle with cancer.
  • 1 in 4 newly diagnosed patients in Wisconsin choose Aurora Health Care for treatment.
  • Aurora Cancer Care has the first and only GYN Robotic Surgery Epicenter Training Program in Wisconsin.
  • Aurora started a weekly Precision Medicine Clinic, an initiative part of the Moonshot to Cancer.
  • Aurora Health Care has earned the Outstanding Achievement Award from the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer, with only 19% of centers earning this honor.
  • Aurora is the 1st in Wisconsin to perform new treatment for pancreas and liver cancer using the NanoKnife.
On Saturday, January 27, the Oshkosh Ice Hawks High School hockey team will host “Ice Hawks Fight Cancer Night” at the Oshkosh YMCA, 20th Ave. location. The varsity game will be played at 6 p.m. and the junior varsity game will be played at 8 p.m. All profits from this event are donated to the Vince Lombardi Cancer Clinic at Aurora Health Care in Oshkosh. The Oshkosh Ice Hawks Hockey team is a high school team compiled of five different schools from the area – Oshkosh North, Oshkosh West, Lourdes, Laconia, and Ripon. Advance tickets are available for purchase through the Aurora Health Care Foundation by emailing Molly Butz at molly.butz@aurora.org . Tickets can also be purchased at the door.  Advanced tickets will have the ability to be entered into a raffle drawing for 1 of 2 Zamboni rides during the varsity game.  There will also be basket raffles and silent auction items to win.  Ticket prices are Children (6+) $3.00, Seniors (65+) $4.00, and Adults $5.00. 

This year’s event will be in honor of Robin Werner and Mark Hermann. Robin Werner was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2006. Despite her aggressive treatments, had it not been for her beautiful scarfs you would not have known that Robin was a cancer patient. Throughout her painful treatments Robin always maintained a positive attitude, a phenomenal outlook on life and an endless devotion to her job, her coworkers, and most of all her family. Robin loved to share her fond winter memories of skating as a girl on the ponds of Oshkosh. Robin longed for her kids and grandkids to be able to experience the fun and exhilaration of skating and playing hockey in the outdoors. In a move that was typical of Robin’s determination, she purchased the materials needed to build a backyard ice rink and had her husband and sons put it up right outside her kitchen window.  Even though Robin didn’t have a famous hockey player in her family, or even a child that played organized hockey, Robin was in fact the biggest hockey fan in the world when she watched from her kitchen window as her kids and grandkids played shinny in the hay field. Robin Werner died on September 27, 2012 at the age of 56.
These are the words Mark left us with: “On July 26th a surgical procedure was performed to remove a large tumor on the right side of my brain. The tumor was 90% removed. This was good. Not so good was the pathology report. That news was not what I had expected at all. The brain cancer came back at level 4, very high, and a very aggressive form of brain cancer. The news at first was devastating for me and for my family and all those I love so very much. I can honestly tell you that from the bottom of my heart, your prayers and support are helping me live on in such a glorious way. I have no idea how much more time I have on this beautiful green earth, but it will be enjoyed every single day. The decision to not do chemo or radiation was a relatively easy one for me and my immediate family. They have been gracious and behind my decisions 100 percent. My purpose in life was not to always grab what I was due. My purpose was to reach out to someone, anyone, and make it a better day for that individual. I have always liked people and making a personal connection meant even more. I find in life, if you get people everything they want, you will be paid back in return 10-fold. I feel that I succeeded in that cause. Treat people well. Take care of them. Nurture them. When my time is up on this earth, yes, I would love to be remembered as someone that made a little difference in someone’s day. In closing, all of the support has gone way over the top. We do have some head winds that we must contend within the days and weeks that are ahead. With all of your support and my family’s support, we will thrive. One thing I ask myself on a daily basis is if I have loved today and in return accepted someone’s love. Mark Hermann died on November 20, 2017 at the age of 57.
The Oshkosh Ice Hawks are proud to remember them at this year’s event.

Do You Have Exercise Induced Asthma?

Exercise-induced asthma (also known as exercise-induced bronchoconstriction – EIB) is when asthma-type symptoms develop when you exercise. Exercise induced vocal cord dysfunction (EIV) is a condition that is often misdiagnosed as exercise-induced asthma. It occurs when the vocal cords in your throat close when they shouldn't, which limits your ability to take in air. A whining or high-pitched sound may release when you inhale if you have vocal cord dysfunction. Dr. Anita Gheller-Rigoni, Allergist and Immunologist with Aurora Health Care, Oshkosh, helps us better understand the two conditions.

Signs and symptoms of EIB are coughing, chest tightness, wheezing and difficulty breathing air out. In people who are physically fit, they may tire out of proportion to their level of fitness. Symptoms of EIB typically occur later in the activity and/or while resting. Signs and symptoms of EIV are wheezing from the upper airway, difficulty breathing air in, and a sensation of “not being able to get air in”.  EIV can be seen in people who are physically fit, but are restricted by limited air flow (short of breath “winded”). EIV signs and symptoms can occur in a person who have already been diagnosed with asthma, and is often hard to differentiate. Risk factors of exercise induced asthma are elevated for people who already have asthma and for people who have other allergies. Other risk factors include: having a blood relative with asthma, exposure to air pollution and pollen, smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke, exposure to chemical triggers, participating in winter sports, or participating in sports that you breathe harder or faster.  Dr. Gheller-Rigoni adds, “Type “A” personalities, being female, and having asthma that is not controlled, puts you at higher risk for developing exercise induced vocal cord dysfunction.”

“There is no clear cause of exercise induced asthma but it probably results from changes in the lungs triggered by the large volume of relatively cool, dry air we take in during vigorous activity,” states Dr. Gheller-Rigoni.  “Exercise induced vocal cord dysfunction can be caused by stress and anxiety due to muscle tension.” According to the Mayo Clinic, other factors that can trigger or worsen exercise-induced asthma are cold air, dry air, air pollution such as smoke or smog, high pollen counts, having a respiratory infection, and exposure to some chemicals. “People with these conditions do not need to avoid exercise, but more rigorous activities, that make you breathe harder, are more likely to trigger symptoms,” states Dr. Gheller-Rigoni.  “Also, exercising in cold weather can increase your symptoms because you are breathing in a lot of cold, dry air. However, with proper treatment, people can continue high-intensity exercise and cold-weather workouts without symptoms slowing them down.”

If you are experiencing coughing, wheezing or have chest pain or tightness during or after exercise, you need to see your doctor.  “People don’t know they have exercise-induced asthma because they think it’s normal for them to feel that way post-exercise,” states Dr. Gheller-Rigoni. “Many people who have this condition are in very good physical shape, but they feel like they are short on endurance, which is not the case.”  To receive proper diagnosis, your doctor will ask you for a detailed history of your signs and symptoms. Writing down when and where you are when you are experiencing these symptoms can be helpful to your physician.  If you already suffer from asthma and have an inhaler, your doctor may want you to bring it in to make sure you are using it correctly and to verify the inhaler has been primed.  Your doctor may do other tests to make sure your symptoms aren’t being caused by something else such as heart disease, lung disorders, or other allergies.  Lung function tests may also be performed to see how well your lungs are working.  The preferred test for assisting in the diagnosis of asthma is the lung function test (spirometry) in which the patient takes keep breaths and forcefully exhales into a tube connected to a machine called a spirometer. EIB can be diagnosed using an exercise challenge in which you perform a lung function test before and after you exercise.  The exercise is typically completed on a treadmill for about six to eight minutes. To determine other possible risk factors and contributing factors, your physician may also recommend an allergy skin test. During this test, your skin is pricked with purified allergy extracts to see if there is an allergic reaction. It is used to determine whether or not you have a reaction to other things besides exercise. 

Although the development of EIB is not preventable, some ways to avoid flare-ups of the condition include: warm up for 10 minutes before doing high-intensity exercise, do your best to avoid colds and respiratory infections, avoid your specific allergy triggers and air when exercising, learn to breathe through your nose to warm the air before it passes through your lungs, and keep your mouth and nose covered during exercise in cold weather. Also, if an inhaler is prescribed, using it 20-30 minutes before the activity and with a spacer (device that helps guide the albuterol into the lungs) can help. “Don’t avoid exercise if you have EIB or EIV!” exclaims Dr. Gheller-Rigoni. “Some studies speculate that exercise may actually be helpful in preventing the onset of asthma.”

2018 Fitness Trends

Each year, the American College of Sports Medicine surveys health and fitness professionals from around the United States and creates at top 10 health and fitness trends list for the upcoming year.  The results are in and the top 10 health and fitness trends for 2018 are:
  1.  HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) – training that involves short bursts of activity followed by short periods of rest or recovery; these sessions are usually performed in 30 minutes or less.
  2. Group Training – intentionally led group exercise classes taught by a trained instructor to lead and motivate a group of people for all different fitness levels. Examples of these classes include spin classes, kickboxing, or TRX.
  3. Wearable Technology – fitness trackers, smart watches, heart rate monitors and GPS tracking devices help people identify, track and reach measurable goals while providing feedback and motivation.
  4. Body Weight Training – uses minimal equipment, making it very affordable and including exercises for strength, balance and flexibility.  The top five body weight exercises are: push ups, bodyweight squats, lunges, planks and pull ups.
  5. Strength Training – using force against a specific muscle or group of muscles is an essential part of a complete exercise program and should be done at least two non-consecutive days per week.
  6. Educated and Experienced Fitness Professionals – consumers should be aware of the credentials fitness professionals hold and which programs they are accredited by. 
  7. Yoga – based on ancient tradition, this type of exercise utilizes a series of specific bodily postures for fitness and relaxation.
  8. Personal  Training – more and more students are educating and preparing themselves with degrees in kinesiology for careers in a health and fitness field such as personal training. Fitness facilities look for trainers who have received the proper education, training and credentialing. The Oshkosh YMCA offers a multitude of personal training programs that fit everyone’s needs. Rich Roehrick, Health and Fitness Director states, “Whether you prefer land-based exercise or water workouts, our professionals can personalize a plan based on your lifestyle and goals. We offer programs and prescription to everyone.  At the Oshkosh YMCA, all program professionals are nationally certified at the highest level. Our approach is precise and scientific. Every person will receive their own personalized program/prescription based on their specific needs.
  9. Fitness Programs for Older Adults – age appropriate fitness programs to keep older adults active and healthy. As people age, it’s important to provide age appropriate fitness programs to maintain strength, flexibility and balance to help prevent injury and falls. The Oshkosh Community YMCA offers over 30 exercise classes a week for active older adults, including water and land based programs. From water exercise to aerobics, there is something for everyone. Pickleball is also a popular activity offered at both YMCA locations. A fun game that is played on a badminton court with a low net, Pickleball is easy for beginners and one of the fastest-growing sports for seniors. Siri Smits, Oshkosh YMCA’s Active Older Adult Director adds, “Active Older Adults at the YMCA experience a strong sense of belonging and create a network of friends who provide support for sustained health and well-being." 
  10. Functional Fitness – trend using strength training to improve balance and ease of daily living. Functional fitness programs and fitness programs for older adults are closely related as both train muscles to work together to perform daily tasks by simulating common movements you might do at home, work, or other activities

Physical Activity and Cancer

Exercise is defined as any movement that uses the muscles and requires more energy than resting.  Research continues to prove that higher levels of exercise are linked to lower risks of several cancers.  Research also shows that in addition to chemotherapy and radiation, an exercise program during and after cancer care can help lessen side effects and decrease the chance side effects will come back.  Exercise during cancer treatments has also been shown to lower anxiety, decrease depression, improve mood, improve blood counts and lower fatigue and pain. Kim Berndt, Occupational Therapist with Aurora Health Care in Oshkosh states, “Weight gain and fatigue are the most common side effects cancer patients will see when going through treatment. Exercise has proven to be the only thing that helps with these concerns.”

Cancer rehabilitation programs can help people who have or will have surgery, people who have or will have chemotherapy, people who have or will have radiation, and people receiving hormonal or biological therapy.  “We can help treat, reduce, eliminate, and prevent dysfunction,” adds Berndt. “An exercise program can help eliminate pain, reduce fatigue, restore join mobility, restore tissue flexibility, restore strength, and safely reintroduce the body to activities.” Exercise also helps the cancer patient by lowering hormone levels (insulin and estrogen) that have been linked to forms of breast and colon cancers, reduces obesity and its harmful effects, reduces inflammation, improves immune system, alters metabolism of bile acids, and reduces digestion time which lowers colon cancer risk. “Cancer survivors who exercise lose weight, improve quality of life and reduce their recurrence risk,” states Berndt.

A cancer rehabilitation program will include cardiovascular exercise, strength training, and stretching.  Walking programs have proven to be very successful for cancer rehabilitation. “A walking program has the potential to decrease a person’s risk of cancer coming back by 40 to 50 percent,” adds Berndt.  “It can also minimize fatigue, help maintain weight, bone and muscle mass, and maximize activity tolerance.”  Strength and stretching exercises also help reduce weakness, fight muscle loss, improve functional movement, restore range of motion, improve posture and reduce stress.

Erin Lamers, Physical Therapist at Aurora Health Care Oshkosh explains, “Our cancer rehabilitation program is all encompassing.  We not only perform physical exercise with the patient, but mental and cognitive exercises are incorporated as well.”  Lamers adds, “Therapy should be just as vital as chemotherapy and radiation treatments.  People leave therapy feeling better, more energized, and more in control of their lives.”

Both therapists recommend people always check with their doctor before starting any type of exercise program. “Our program is individualized to the patient’s specific needs and includes one-on-one care,” states Berndt.  “It’s never too late to begin an exercise for cancer rehabilitation program.  Patients should speak with their physician and request a referral for therapy services.”  For more information, contact the Aurora Physical Therapy department at 920.456.7100.

December Dangers: Toy Safety!

December is safe toys and safe gifts awareness month.  Choosing safe toys and gifts for the children and your life can be a difficult task, as there are so many to choose from. Toys are supposed to be fun, however every year thousands of children are treated in hospital emergency rooms for toy-related injuries. Choking is particularly a large risk for children under the age of three, as they tend to put objects in their mouth.

The United States Consumer and Product Safety Commission (CPSC) closely monitors and regulates toys.  Any toy that is made in – or imported to – the United States must comply with CPSC standards.  Manufacturers must also follow certain guidelines for toys within specific age groups; however still the most important thing parents can do is supervise play.

KidsHealth.org has some general guidelines to keep in mind while shopping for toys this holiday season:
  • Toys made of fabric should be labeled as flame resistant or flame retardant.
  • Stuffed toys should be washable.
  • Painted toys should be covered with lead-free paint.
  • Art materials should say nontoxic.
  • Crayons and paint should say ASTM D-4236 on the package, which means they’ve been evaluated by the American Society for Testing and Materials.
Be cautious of old toys and those handed down from friends and family members.  They may have sentimental value, but may not meet the current standards for health and safety. 

When buying toys for infants, toddlers and preschoolers, keep the following in mind: toys should be large enough so they can’t be swallowed or lodged in the windpipe; avoid marbles, coins, balls and games that are 1.75 inches or less; battery operated toys should have battery cases with secure screws; make sure toys are strong enough to withstand chewing; riding toys should include safety harnesses and straps and be secure enough to prevent tipping; and check stuffed animals for loose parts or sharp edges.

If you are purchasing gifts for a grade schooler, consider the following recommendations: encourage your children to wear helmets and other safety gear like hand, wrist and shin guards when using bicycles, scooters, skateboards and inline skates; nets should be well constructed so they don’t become strangulation hazards; toy darts or arrows should have suction cups at the ends, not hard points; toy guns should not look like real weapons; and electric toys should be labeled UL to signify they have met safety standards set by Underwriters Laboratories.

Dangerous objects such as fireworks, matches, sharp scissors and balloons should not be given to a child to use as a toy.

Keeping toys safe at home is also very important.  Parents should consider teaching children how to put toys away after they are finished using them, parents should examine the toys regularly for broken parts, throw away broken toys or repair them immediately, and store outdoor toys in a location where they are safe from rain or snow to avoid rust developing on the toy.

Consumers can check the CPSC website for up-to-date information about toy recalls or call the hotline to report a toy you believe is unsafe at 1-800-638-CPSC.  Keep your kids safe this holiday season by choosing toys that are healthy and safe.

Integrative Medicine: Mind, Body & Soul

Integrative medicine is a healing-based medical practice that takes into account all aspects of a person, putting the patient at the center of the equation and addressing all physical, emotional, mental, social, spiritual and environmental influences affecting health. Complimentary medicine has a substantial presence in the United States health care system. In 1991, Congress established the Office of Alternative Medicine within the National Institutes of Health to encourage scientific research in the field. In the United States, approximately 38 percent of adults and approximately 12 percent of children are using some form of complimentary or alternative medicine.

Functional or integrative medicine is one that asks the vital questions, “Why do you have this problem in the first place?” and “Why has function been lost?” and “What can we do to restore function?”  Traditional medicine typically asks, “What drug matches up with this disease.”  Integrative medicine seeks to find the root cause or mechanism involved with any loss of function, ultimately revealing why a set of symptoms occurs in the first place.  Integrative medicine believes each patient is unique and the treatment prescribed also reflects the individual patient.

Aurora Health Care has an Integrative Medicine Center for Wellbeing located at 700 Parkridge Lane, North Fond du Lac.  Dr. Tamara Lyday, provides services at the Center and provides treatments for the following conditions:
  • Bioidentical hormones
  • Acupuncture
  • Vitamins and supplements
  • Adrenal fatigue
  • Thyroid issues
  • Low energy
  • Menopause
  • Testosterone
  • Erectile Dysfunction
  • Female Fertility
  • Diet
  • Weight Loss
  • Mold Detox
  • Chronic Lyme Disease
  • Biotoxin Illness
  • Whole family health care
Dr. Lyday states, “I wish to help individuals consciously pursue the best life possible through achievement of balance in all areas of life including the physical, emotional, mental, social and spiritual aspects of the human experience.”

Dr. Lyday also provides well family visits, acute visits, dermatological procedures, joint injections, nail removal, and osteopathic manipulations.

For more information on Aurora’s Integrative Medicine Center for Wellbeing, call 920-926-7800.

What is Palliative Care?

Palliative care is a service provided to a patient at any stage of a serious illness and can be concurrent with curative treatments.  It is not the same thing as hospice or comfort care.  However, it is specialized, integrated medical care for people with serious or chronic illness that focuses on providing patients with relief from the symptoms, pain, and stress of the disease process and treatment options. “Palliative Care is not about the End of Life, but rather enhancing the life that you have left,” states Jennifer Davis, Nurse Practitioner with the Palliative Care program at Aurora Health Care Oshkosh.

The Aurora Health Care Oshkosh Palliative Care team is a group of doctors, a nurse practitioner, social worker, and chaplain who provide an additional layer of support with the goal of improving quality of life for both the patient and the family.  This team works closely with the health care team to relieve pain and other distressing symptoms, address and provide social and spiritual concerns, help educate patients for better understanding of the management and prognosis of the illness, improve communication between doctors and family members, and discuss goals of care to ensure care is in line with their wishes.

The Palliative Care team may also suggest a family conference to review the medical situation, discuss treatment options, and clarify the patient’s goals. Davis states, “Palliative Care brings opportunities for improving the quality of life, physically, emotionally and spiritually, for you and your loved ones.” A family conference can help the patient and the family understand the medical you, address family concerns, describe decisions that need to be made and outline a plan. This conference allows patients and families to talk about what to expect and how to prepare for the future.

How do a patient and their family know if they need Palliative Care?  Many people living with illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, lung disease, Alzheimer’s disease, kidney failure, among others have emotional distress and physical symptoms related to their diseases, possibly from the medical treatments they are receiving.  Palliative Care may be appropriate if the patient is experiencing the following:
  • Suffering from pain or other symptoms such as nausea, shortness of breath, anxiety, or depression due to their serious illness.
  • Experiencing physical or emotional pain that is not under control.
  • Needing help understanding the situation, options and determining the next steps and coordinating care.
  • Requiring frequent trips to the hospital or emergency room for the same condition.
Davis adds, “I am very proud to be working for an organization that understands that Palliative Care is a necessity in the realm of caring for the whole person.  We have a medical system that is excellent in keeping people alive decades longer with many chronic and serious illness diagnoses.  It is the responsibility of the Palliative Care team to ensure that the additional time given aligns with the goals and desires of each patient, while also improving their quality of life.”

Other considerations for Palliative Care include those with two of more admissions for the same problem over the last months, poorly defined or unachievable goals, complex family dynamics, severe spiritual or psychosocial distress, or challenging care decisions.

For more information on the Aurora’s Palliative Care program, call 920-456-6000.

10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease

In 1983, President Ronald Reagan designated November as National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. At the time, fewer than 2 million Americans had Alzheimer’s; today, the number of people with the disease has increased to nearly 5.4 million, including over 200,000 under the age of 65. It is estimated that by the year 2050, 16 million people will have the disease. The Alzheimer’s Association reports that someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s every 67 seconds. The Association also reports that the reported cost of the disease in 2015 is $226 billion and that nearly one in every five Medicare dollars is spent on people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

Scientists have characterized risk factors that increase the onset of Alzheimer’s.  They are age, family history, and heredity – none of these things can be changed, however, there is emerging evidence that other factors may be the cause as well, that we can change. Research is starting to show that general lifestyle and wellness choices, and effective management of other health conditions, also have influence on developing the disease. The greatest risk factor for Alzheimer’s is age, as nearly one in three people age 85 or older has the disease.  Someone who has a parent, brother, sister or child with Alzheimer’s is more likely to develop the disease as well.  According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there are two types of genes (heredity) that play a role in affecting a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s – risk genes and deterministic genes.  Risk genes increase likelihood of developing a disease, but do not guarantee it will happen. Scientists state that 20 to 25 percent of Alzheimer’s cases are due to this gene.  Deterministic genes directly cause the disease, guaranteeing that if you have the gene, you will develop the disease. Scientists claim that less than 5 percent of cases are caused by this gene.

There is a strong link between head injuries and future risk of Alzheimer’s as well, particularly when head trauma occurs repeatedly or involves a loss of consciousness. Research also supports the link between brain health and heart health in proving the brain is nourished by the heart. Science tells us that every heartbeat pumps 20-25 percent of your blood to your head, and brain cells use at least 20 percent of the food and oxygen the blood carries.  Risk of Alzheimer’s and Dementia increase when a person develops conditions that damage the heart and blood vessels such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and high cholesterol.

The Alzheimer’s Association encourages everyone to know the 10 warning signs of Alzheimer’s, as early detection is important.  The 10 warning signs are:
  1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life.
  2. Challenges in planning or solving problems.
  3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work, or at leisure.
  4. Confusion with time or place.
  5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships.
  6. New problems with words in speaking or writing.
  7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps.
  8. Decreased or poor judgement.
  9. Withdrawal from work or social activities.
  10. Changes in mood and personality.
Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging.  Currently, there is no cure, but treatments are available. Current treatment does not stop Alzheimer’s from progressing, but it can temporarily slow down the symptoms and improve the quality of life for those suffering and their caregivers. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, consider using the 24/7 Alzheimer’s hotline at 1-800-272-3900 or for additional resources, visiting their website at www.alz.org.

Smoking and Your Health: Quit Today!

Every year, on the third Thursday of November, smokers across the nation take part in the American Cancer Society Great American Smokeout event. Encourage someone you know to use the date to make a plan to quit, or plan in advance and then quit smoking that day. By quitting – even for 1 day – smokers will be taking an important step toward a healthier life and reducing their cancer risk. “Quitting smoking has immediate and long-term benefits at any age,” says Christie Smiskey, Nurse Practitioner with Aurora Health Care Oshkosh. “Quitting is hard, but you can increase your chances of success with help such as counseling or medications. Receiving professional help can double or triple the chances of quitting successfully long-term.”

Smoking harms nearly every organ of your body and some of those effects are immediate.  Your brain becomes addicted; nicotine from cigarettes is as addictive as heroin and is hard to outdo because it changes your brain. When your brain stops getting the nicotine it has become addicted to, you develop withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, anxiousness, and strong cravings.  Hearing loss may also occur when you smoke. Smoking reduces the oxygen supply to the inner ear which can result in permanent damage and mild to moderate hearing loss. Smoking causes changes to the eyes that can harm your eyesight, particularly for night vision.  It also increases your risk of developing cataracts and macular degeneration. Smokers develop many oral health problems like mouth sores, ulcers and gum disease. Smokers also have an increased risk of cancers of the mouth and throat. Smoking causes your skin to be dry and lose elasticity, a smoker’s skin tone may also become dull and grayish. Smoking raises your blood pressure, puts additional stress on your heart, and increases the risk of heart disease.  Smoking makes your blood become thick and sticky which causes damage to the lining of the blood vessels that increases risk for strokes and heart attacks.  Smoking can have many negative effects on a person’s lungs including inflammation in the small airways and tissues, chronic cough with mucus, emphysema, and increased risk of colds and respiratory infections.

The first couple of days without cigarettes can be difficult. Be sure to tell your friends and family that you have decided to quit and ask them for support. Get the support your need by finding a quit program to help you such as the Wisconsin Tobacco Quit Line (1-800-QUIT-NOW) which offers free, confidential coaching and information about how to quit. Avoid smoking triggers such as people, places and things that trigger your urge to smoke. Throw away cigarettes, lighters and ash trays, drink water, hang out with non-smokers, go to places where smoking is not allowed, get plenty of sleep, and eat healthy. Reward yourself for every hour you are smoke-free!

Within 20 minutes of quitting, your heart rate and blood pressure drop.  In 12 hours, the carbon monoxide level in your blood stream drops to normal. Within three months, your circulation and lung function improves, and after nine months, you will cough less and breather easier.  After one year, your risk of coronary artery disease is cut in half. In five years, your risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, and bladder are cut in half.  After 15 years, your risk of coronary heart disease is the same as a non-smoker’s.

Not only will you have more time to spend with your family, catch up on work and find a hobby, you won’t have to worry about when and where you can smoke, food will taste better, and you will have more money to spend! The average cost of a pack of cigarettes in Wisconsin is $8.11. Tobacco use costs the United States approximately $193 billion annually. This figure includes about $97 billion from loss of productivity due to premature death and $96 billion in smoking related health care costs.

It takes determination and commitment to stay smoke-free.  Quitting is a process and happens one day at a time, sometimes one hour at a time. 

Embracing Change and New Beginnings

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “Change is the only constant in life.”  Sometimes change brings sadness and happiness all mixed together, as what is happening with my emotions right now as I leave the Y and begin a new career with Aurora Health Care as their Foundation Development Coordinator in Oshkosh and Green Bay.

In 2012, I began my role as Community Health and Wellness Director at the Oshkosh YMCA. It was my job to inform the Oshkosh community on all the many ways we can live a happy and healthy life in our community.  I called it “Bringing the YMCA to you”.  I hope every week you felt inspired by my column and felt that I brought the pillars of healthy learning to your home and family.  Many topics were discussed in the last five years such as exercise, nutrition, active aging, children and exercise, and employee wellness to name a few.  I hope I offered you information that was new and exciting and I always loved to hear how these topics made a difference in people’s lives.

The wonderful thing about working in a community like Oshkosh is being able to collaborate with other organizations.  I am going to be able to keep brining Healthy Oshkosh to our community through a continuing partnership with Aurora Health Care and Oshkosh YMCA.  The definition of collaboration is “the action of working with someone to produce or create something.” The Oshkosh YMCA and Aurora Health Care work hard to continuously collaborate with other businesses and agencies in the community to constantly create and produce unique and helpful programs.  Both organizations are true leaders in the community when it comes to sharing their resources to promote healthy living.

So, I am happy to say that Healthy Oshkosh will continue to be in your Sunday morning newspaper! It just may have a slightly different look though.  I plan to continue to promote all the wonderful things happening at the Y, and around the community which improve health and well-being, but will also be able to connect with health care professionals at Aurora to add some depth and local research that directly apply to our medical community.  I hope this will add to the excitement of services that are offered through the work of Aurora Health Care in Oshkosh.

So, for now, I sign off as Molly from the Y, and sign on as Molly from Aurora. I ask that you take this journey with me and I encourage you to not be afraid of change, as we might lose something good, but find something better.  I hope you continue to find Healthy Oshkosh a valuable part of your week.
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