Healthy Living


Go Play Outside: It’s Good for Your Eyes!
Healthy Living - February 17, 2015
William Sturrock, MD


If you are really nearsighted, you probably didn’t need reading glasses to see the recent study this past month in the journal ‘Ophthalmology’ describing twice the rates of myopia (the correct scientific term for nearsightedness) among students in wealthier, urban areas of China compared with adjoining poorer and more rural areas. In fact in Shanghai, 86% of high school students now need corrective lenses for distance sight. Previous studies have shown the correlation of myopia and such factors as intelligence, school performance, income, and inheritance -- I guess like all stereotypes, there is a kernel of truth in the popular depiction of the nerdy bookworm having thick glasses. But researchers are now focusing on (pardon the pun!) finding the causal mechanisms behind these observed correlations.

A previous study from Australia in 2008 compared ethnic Chinese students living in Singapore with those in Sydney. What they found was a ten fold increase in myopia, from 3% of those living in Sydney going up to 30% of the same aged kids in Singapore, but it did not correlate with hours spent studying which had been the earlier hypothesis. Instead the real difference between the two groups were the hours spent outside, with the Sydney kids engaged in significantly more outdoor play than their Singapore counterparts. They speculated that the frequent change in the focal distances that outdoor activity requires was a good thing for the developing eye.

Now there is an even more exciting theory for these observed differences between children that get outdoors and those that live primarily indoors. Researchers have discovered that sunlight stimulates the release of dopamine from the retina, and speculate that this may have a protective effect on the eye, preventing the elongation of the lens-to-retina distance which characterizes the oval shaped myopic eyeball. In addition we already know that dopamine has positive effects on mood and enjoyment when released in the brain. Who knew that science could show that Mom was right when she said it was good for us to go outside and play in the sunshine!

Of course, we know that too much of a good thing can be a problem, and that sunlight on exposed skin can cause cancer. However, if we are careful with the use of sunblock and clothing such as hats and long sleeves when outside, then we have better odds of not developing severe myopia as well as avoiding seasonal depression! The American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Assn of Sports and Physical Education have incorporated some of this science into their guidelines for outdoor play, recommending at least an hour of unstructured physical playtime, ideally outdoors, if conditions permit, every day. Three states (Alaska, Delaware, and Massachusetts) require between 20 and 30 minutes of physical playtime for every 3 hours of childcare. In addition to encouraging fitness and preventing obesity, perhaps we can avoid the next generation all needing the same coke-bottle glasses that I wore in Junior High! 

Summary of current recommendations for outdoor play: 
  1.  All children will benefit from at least one hour of unstructured physical play every day 
  2. Weather conditions permitting, try to get this outdoors with appropriate usage of sunblock or protective clothing to prevent excess exposure to the skin, particularly between the hours of 10 AM and 4 PM in the summer. 
  3. Limit the use of screen-time (TV, computers, electronic games, etc) to no more than 60 minutes for children aged 2-5, and no more than two hours for school-aged kids. 
  4. Encourage schools and other child-care facilities to maintain supervised recess, preferably outdoors, for at least 30 minutes for every 3 hours of structured time. 
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    Every parent I know has this problem: how do we come up with healthy snacks for our children that are not too hard to put together, and that our children will actually eat? It is so tempting to throw in a bag of chips or cookies. 

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  • Is Your Child's Backpack Too Heavy? 08/22/2012

    We see it all the time: small children carrying backpacks that seem larger than they are. Teenagers carrying backpacks on one shoulder that are so heavy they are leaning to one side. Is this a problem? It turns out this is the major cause of back and neck pain in school children.

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  • Heat Related Illness and Sports 08/14/2012

    The summer Olympics are over, but for many children and adolescents the next big event is just beginning: preseason training for school sports. Maine is known for its hot, and sometimes sticky summers, and this one has been no exception. As some kids abruptly increase their exercise with onset of school sports practice it is important to be aware of the potential for climatic heat stress and how this risk can be minimized.

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  • Pertussis Awareness is Crucial 08/07/2012

    Pertussis is a bacteria that causes a respiratory illness. It is also known as “whooping cough," though people with pertussis do not always experience the characteristic “whoop." Pertussis is a vaccine-preventable disease.

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  • Attracting Danger 07/24/2012

    Infants and toddlers have been putting objects in their mouths since, well, forever. In fact, it’s part of normal development. Pediatricians are no strangers to scenarios in which items have been accidentally ingested, or swallowed, as a result.

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  • Mental Health in the Armed Forces 07/17/2012

    With the winding down of the military in Iraq and Afghanistan, this has been met with relief and joy with the prospect of lessening loss of American lives. Over the past ten years roughly, we as a nation have certainly witnessed the physical toll on our soldiers.

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  • Safety Concerns with Getting a Camp Fire Started 06/26/2012

    It is summer and now is the time that many people want to burn brush or have a camp fire. However, it can sometimes be fairly difficult getting a fire started when the wood is green or damp, it is windy, or you do not have any kindling.

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  • Self Injury in Children 06/19/2012

    Self injury is a phenomenon that occurs in many children. Such self injury will come in various types, including cutting or hitting oneself. In a recent article from the journal, Pediatrics, from the American Academy of Pediatrics, it was revealed that 8 percent of 665 survey youths had engaged in some form of self injurious behaviors.

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  • Problem Gambling and Pathological Gambling: When Do You Cross the Line? 06/05/2012

    Problem Gambling and Pathological Gambling: 
    It is estimated that about four out of five people gamble at some time in their life. Sometimes, what begins as a recreational pursuit becomes a significant life problem. 

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  • How to Deal With Traumatic Loss 05/22/2012

    One of the toughest experiences we have all faced or will face one day is the loss of a loved one like family or spouse or close friends and colleagues. Such losses may be sudden, as from an accident, victims of violence or sudden illness or such losses may be from chronic illness.

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  • New Cervical Cancer Screening Guidelines 05/15/2012

    Good news for women: gone are the days of recommending annual Pap exams.

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  • Debunking Immunization Myths 05/01/2012

    Childhood immunization is in the news. Childhood immunization is always in the news. Why? Because it is exceedingly important, likely the single most successful preventative health measure in the history of modern medicine.

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  • A New Investigational Drug for Brain Injured Patients 03/27/2012

    Brain injury is very difficult to treat because there are no effective medications. When someone suffers a serious brain injury the only options for the medical team is to support them through the healing process.

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  • Steering Your Way Through Hospitalization(2) 03/20/2012

    Being admitted to the hospital is often a scary and traumatic time for patients and their families.

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  • Dementia or Depression: How to Tell the Difference? 03/06/2012

    Defining Dementia and Depression: Two common health concerns for seniors are dementia and depression. The relationship between these two conditions is complex and usually requires a careful assessment by a health or mental health professional. However, knowing some of the common similarities and differences can help seniors and their family members know when to ask for help.

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  • Teens and Sleep 02/28/2012

    One of the most talked about topics in teen health has been the issue of sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, their recommended guideline for sleep for teens is nine hours and fifteen minutes per night in order to function at their highest level. 

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  • Early Recognition and Intervention: One Key to Good Mental Health 01/03/2012

    The Tragedy of Lost Time: It would be almost unimaginable to think about breaking your leg and then waiting two years before you went to get it fixed. 

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  • It's Time to Start Thinking About New Year's Resolutions 12/27/2011

    Most of us start thinking about our New Year's resolution about this time of year. Common reslutions are to lose weight, eat more healthfully, and get more organized. The problem with many of these resolutions is that they are too vague and the goals are too lofty

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  • Holiday Stress 12/06/2011

    Christmas holidays are upon us. It is filled with joy, celebration, anticipation of getting together with friends and families. For also many, it is a time of enormous stress, thinking about what to do for the holidays, who to buy gifts for, where do I go to get those gifts, online or waiting in long lines in bad weather as many did for Black Friday.

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  • Antidepressant Use 11/08/2011

    Antidepressant use has become increasingly prevalent and widespread. According to a recent report, it showed the rate of antidepressant use among Americans of all ages increased nearly 400 percent over the last two decades, and 11 percent of Americans aged 12 and older now take antidepressant drugs, according to a federal government report released Wednesday.

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  • Gardasil Vaccination (Human Papilloma Virus) for Males 11/01/2011

    Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the United States. Its presence is by no means a comment on the lifestyle of those infected, but rather an indication of the scope of this virus.

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  • Are Barefoot Running Shoes a Gimic? 10/03/2011

    You have probably seen these new shoes around town. They are the ones that are very thin and have toes. Why are people wearing them? If you stop and ask them, they will tell you that it is a more natural way to walk or run. The belief is that we were born as humans to run and we started out in pre-historic times without any shoes. So, let’s look at that statement.

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  • Avoiding Dangerous Toys 09/13/2011

    Kids love toys! And who doesn’t love seeing the excitement and joy of a child playing with a well loved one? Anyone with a child on their holiday list has likely noticed there is a seemingly endless array of toy choices these days. Not surprising when you consider there are an estimated 3 billion toys sold yearly in the United States.

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  • National Salt Reduction Initiative 09/06/2011

    Americans consume about twice the amount of salt that is recommended in our diets. This is approximately a doubling of the amount we consumed forty years ago. We cannot live without salt.  Salt contains sodium which is vital to many cellular functions.

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  • Teething 08/23/2011

    Teething continues to be offered as an explanation for fever or as a reason for a variety of symptoms in infants and young children. An important study published in the September 2011 issue ofPediatrics elegantly dispels this misunderstanding.

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  • Coping with Suicide 08/10/2011

    Progress Has Been Made on Suicide Awareness; Thanks to efforts of many groups such as the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and, more locally, the Maine Youth Suicide Prevention Program, public awareness about suicide and suicide risk factors has improved. 

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  • Noise and Mental Health 07/05/2011

    Why Worry About Noise? In much of Maine we are thankful for our ability to step outside of our homes and hear almost nothing. The peace and quiet of the majority of Maine communities is a benefit of living here.

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  • ​Swimmer's Ear 06/28/2011

    It is that time of year and the lakes are warming up. As the temperatures rise, we will be spending more time in the water. Because of this, a few of us will get Swimmer’s Ear. This is an infection of the external ear canal that causes pain, itching, a wet and full feeling in ear, pain with jaw movement, drainage from the ear canal, and sometimes neck soreness (from swollen nodes).

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  • Certified Child Life Specialists 06/21/2011

    Medical care is always changing, and not just scientifically. There is a growing appreciation for the “ripple effect” of illness and hospitalization as we understand more about mind and body connection, as well as the havoc being sick can wreak on one's life.

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  • Exercise is Medicine 06/14/2011

    What does that mean?  “Exercise is medicine”…?

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  • Binge Drinking and Alcohol Abuse 05/20/2011

    Over half of the adults in America report using alcohol during the past year. Of those, over 14 million people abuse alcohol at any given point in time. One of the most common questions faced by people whose alcohol and drug use is becoming a concern, is when has a person crossed the line from recreational use to problematic drinking?

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  • Which Sun Screen Is The Best? 05/17/2011

    Given Chris Ewing’s weather forecast tonight, it may be a bit hard to fathom needing sun screen anytime soon.  However, we are all hoping for a great, sunny summer.  Since summer is only a few weeks away, this would be a good time to review some facts about sunscreen.

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  • April is Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Month 04/26/2011

    The gift of life is a precious act of generosity as individuals who make provisions to donate their organs enable others to live. Across the nation, the month April, symbolizing the awakening of spring and renewal of life, is designated as Donate Life Month.

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  • Taking Care of Both Mom and the Baby: Recognizing and Treating Post-Partum Depression 04/05/2011

    One in Six New Mothers have at least Mild Depression: Increasingly, post-partum depression, (depression which occurs within 3-4 months after birth) is recognized as a relatively frequent occurrence that benefits from early recognition and treatment.

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  • Autism Spectrum Disorders: Increase in Diagnosis, Improvements in Treatment 04/05/2011

    Number of Children Diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders Continues to Rise:
    A few decades ago, autism spectrum disorders (also termed Pervasive Developmental Disorders) were viewed as relatively rare disorders that impacted around one in 1500 children.

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  • Seat Belts Save Lives 03/22/2011

    In 2007, I went to Augusta along with many others to support a bill to make failure to wear a seatbelt a primary offence.  Why did I do this?  Because, seatbelts save lives.  It’s that simple. See, I am in the life-saving business.  I am a trauma surgeon.  If everyone wore seatbelts, didn’t drink and drive, and paid attention while driving, I wouldn’t have much work to do!

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  • Does Your Surgeon’s Lack of Sleep Affect Your Surgical Risk? 03/15/2011

    Since we are all just a bit sleep deprived because of the time change, I thought it would be appropriate to cover the topic of sleep deprivation for this segment.  I have covered this topic before but not as it concern the surgeon and the patient

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  • CT Scans in Children 03/10/2011

    CT scan usage has increased dramatically in the last 20 years.  CT scans are a great diagnostic tool, but what is the risk associated with increased usage?  Is there a significant increased risk of cancer in people receiving all these CT scans?  Experts are working on the answer to this difficult question and the answer is not as conclusive as we would hope.

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  • Phobias - Recognition and Treatment 03/08/2011

    Phobias are intense, excessive fears about certain objects or situations. The number of people who suffer from phobias is surprisingly high. Phobias affect around 10 million Americans. Only depression and alcoholism rank higher than phobias in terms of common mental health problems.

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  • Diabetes: Are You At Risk? 03/01/2011

    Diabetes means your blood sugar (glucose) is too high. How would you know? Are you often thirsty, hungry, or tired? Do you urinate often? Do you have sores that heal slowly, tingling in your feet, or blurry eyesight? Even without these signs, you could still have diabetes. 

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  • Hand Hygiene 02/22/2011

    Respiratory illness season (including influenza) is in full swing AND there’s a nasty stomach flu “going around”. I spent most of last night at the hospital attending to such patients while sincerely hoping not to acquire or spread these infections further.

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  • Corrections regarding statements about high fructose corn syrup (HFCS): The controversy and common s 02/15/2011

    Last month I discussed HFCS in this segment.  I have been doing this segment since 2000 and have never received any mail commenting on my segment.  However, this segment generated two well-written letters from experts in Massachusetts and New Jersey. 

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  • Winter Storm Preparedness 02/01/2011

    We are on the threshold of a major winter storm, one accompanied by frigid temperatures. Many people will be hunkering down and riding the storm out at home. Essential workers and others will have to venture out.

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  • Improved Communication Equals Improved Care 01/25/2011

    Being admitted to the hospital can be scary and traumatic for patients and their families.

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  • Nonpowder Gunshot Injuries 01/18/2011

    When you hear someone’s been shot, you probably think first of violent crime, such as that which occurred in Arizona recently, or maybe a hunting accident. What you probably don't think about is an injury from a “nonpowder” gun, such as a pellet or BB gun.

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  • What is High Fructose Corn Syrup and why is it bad for you? 01/11/2011

    Healthy Living on WABI has in the past covered the dangers of drinking soft drinks because of the hidden sugars and extra calories. However, is it as simple as just extra calories from sugar or is the high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) used as the sweetener that is particularly harmful?

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  • Complications of Body Piercing 12/07/2010

    Body piercing that includes areas other than ear lobes is gaining acceptance.  One of the reasons that this is interesting to me as a surgeon is that I am now seeing more patients with complications from these piercings.

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  • Reuseable Grocery Bags: Shades of Green? 11/16/2010

    Environmental awareness has increased dramatically in recent years - globally, nationally, politically and in about any other way one can think of. Some years ago, reusable shopping bags made their appearance. They are now a common sight – ready for purchase along side the tabloids and candy bars – at checkout counters of many grocery stores. As these bags have become more popular, they have become more fashionable and can be found in a variety of colors and designs. Attention has recently been directing toward an unwitting consequence of these bags; that some may contain significant amounts of lead.

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  • Health Benefits from Sitting Down to Family Dinners 11/09/2010

    For some, the term “family dinner”conjures up a picture of Beaver Cleaver and his parents, Ward (in his necktie) and June (with her pearls). That picture is probably pretty dated, but family dinners are thankfully not a thing of the past. 

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  • Vitamin D: The New Wonder Vitamin 11/02/2010

    Most of us learned in school that Vitamin D is important for our bone health and that we get it from being in the sun.  This is true.  The sun on our exposed skin, along with our liver and kidneys, acts to convert the inactive molecule to the active vitamin.

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  • Sugar-sweetened Drinks 09/28/2010

    Childhood obesity has been recognized as a very important topic in recent years. An estimated 17 percent of teenagers and children have a body mass index (BMI) for their age that is greater than or equal to the 95 percentile. Many public health efforts have been made to understand and try to address the epidemic of obesity in our nation’s youth, such as Maine’s “Keep ME healthy 5-2-1-0” campaign.

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  • Vaccines: Great Benefit with Minimal Risk 09/21/2010

    The Good News:        We have an increasing number of vaccines (shots!) that prevent severe diseases.  These diseases once hospitalized or killed hundreds of thousands of children in the US. 

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  • Social Phobia: Fear, the Brain, and Social Avoidance 09/14/2010

    Social Phobia is a type of Anxiety Disorder: Phobias are intense, excessive fears about certain objects or situations. While most people experience heightened anxiety in some situations, people with phobias find their fears to be debilitating. 

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  • Beer Bellies 101 09/07/2010

    There is nothing particularly special about beer that makes it cause a beer belly. A “beer belly” is nothing more than just being overweight. Any type of extra calories will lead to a beer belly although it does seem that alcohol has a tendency to cause fat to accumulate around the midsection.

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  • Making a Psychologically Healthy Adjustment to School 08/31/2010

    Times of transition are often both rewarding and stressful. The transition to the new school year, while much anticipated, may bring particular challenges for some children and their families. 

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  • SPF Sunscreens 08/10/2010

    If you’ve gone sunscreen shopping this summer (and I hope you have!) the options available are mind-boggling. A few years ago, it was rare to find a sunscreen SPF (sun protection factor) rating of more than 45; now there are many products with ratings of 70, 80, 90 and even 100! But what, exactly, do these ratings mean?

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  • Heat Stress from Enclosed Vehicles 08/03/2010

    In 2010 there have already been at least 28 deaths of children associated with being stuck inside a hot vehicle.  Last year there were at least 33 such fatalities in the United States due to hyperthermia after they were left in hot cars, trucks, vans and SUV's. 

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  • Eating Disorders - How to talk about these problems 07/27/2010

    Eating disorders continue to be a major concern in America, as people struggle to find a balance between increasing rates of obesity, developing a positive body image, and healthy lifestyles. Friends and family often are the first people to develop concern that a loved one has an eating disorder.

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  • Are you taking Plavix and an “acid blocker”? 07/20/2010

    Many patients with heart disease and particularly those with a heart stent are on a drug called Plavix (clopidogrel). This is a drug that inhibits platelets and reduces the risk of a blood clot which can cause a heart attack. 

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  • Safe Food in the Summer 06/29/2010

    Summer is here! And with the warm weather comes all the fun - beach, pool, volleyball, little league. barbecues, hiking, picnics, and all the rest. 

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  • Swimming Pool Safety 06/22/2010

    The glorious warm weather has sent many people heading to the pool, making this a good time to review swimming pool safety, especially for children. Drowning is a leading cause of accidental death in children in the US.

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  • Keeping Your Cool: Understanding Heat Related Illness 06/15/2010

    Tourists flock to Maine for the glorious summers; natives wait all year to enjoy it. However, when the temperature cranks up as in recent weeks, we all need to be careful not to get “too much of a good thing."

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  • Postpartum Depression Impacts Both Moms and Dads 05/25/2010

    Postpartum Depression In Women Becoming Better Recognized: The onset of symptoms of depression following the birth of a child has been acknowledged with popular terms such as “the baby blues.” 

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  • National Drinking Water Safety Week 05/04/2010

    Every year the Federal Government, along with organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the American Water Works Association, kicks off a week-long awareness campaign about our drinking water supply. 

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  • Spanking: What are the Potential Effects? 04/20/2010

    The Controversy Around Spanking: Arguments about the potential benefits and drawbacks of spanking as a means of child discipline have been ongoing for decades. Research shows that a majority of Americans do not oppose spanking as an occasional way of stopping undesirable behavior. 

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  • Keeping your Facts – and Fats – Straight 04/13/2010

    Most of us know that a healthy diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fiber – and low in fat. In fact, it is recommended that fats make up no more than 25-35% of our daily calories.

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  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome 04/06/2010

    Irritable bowel syndrome, commonly referred to as IBS, is a condition of the colon. We do not know what causes it and therefore it is very difficult to know how to cure it. The current most common medical theory is that IBS is a disorder of the nerves that control the function of the colon. 

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  • Chocolate: Does a daily dose lower your risk of heart disease and stroke? 03/30/2010

    Why do the Kuna, indigenous peoples from islands off the Panamanian coast, have virtually no hypertension (high blood pressure) and no increase in blood pressure with age? And why do these findings disappear with migration to urban centers like Panama City? 

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  • Mind and Body: Paying Attention to Both is Key to Good Health 03/23/2010

    More and more, healthcare providers are paying attention to the relationship between medical disorders and mental health problems. On the one hand, having a medical event like a heart attack or stroke leads to a greater chance of experiencing a mental health problem.

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  • Facts and Fiction of Alcohol Use 03/16/2010

    St. Patrick’s Day is tomorrow - a lighthearted holiday of green clothes, shamrocks, and (for some) alcohol indulgence. If drinking is a planned part of tomorrow’s celebration, be prepared to distinguish the truths about alcohol consumption from the many leprechaun myths.

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  • Sleep Apnea 03/09/2010

    March 7-13 marks National Sleep Awareness Week, and it is a great opportunity to take the time to highlight the importance of getting a good night’s sleep.

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  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder 02/16/2010

    What Are Obsessions and Compulsions? Symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder have been the target of more than a few jokes, such as in the movie “What About Bob?” While many of us roll our eyes at our own silly rituals or irrational thoughts, obsessive-compulsive disorder can significantly interfere with even the simplest of activities, like preparing a meal or leaving the house for school.

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  • Should You be Taking an Aspirin a Day? 02/09/2010

    Originally used as a pain reliever, Aspirin has been around for more than 100 years. It works by reducing platelets’ ability to clump and cause clots. Platelets tend to want to clot when the arteries are damaged by trauma (an injury that causes bleeding) or by atherosclerosis (hardening of the artery that is caused by plaque deposits). 

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  • Making Lifestyle Changes That Last 01/26/2010

    Making Changes with a Long Term Impact: Take a moment and check in with how your New Year’s resolution, if you made one, is coming along. If you are like many Americans, things have not gone exactly according to plan.

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  • Improving Our Surgical Care 01/12/2010

    Most of us know that if we need surgery, we need to choose a qualified surgeon. We then assume that the surgeon and their hospital will do everything they can to prevent any post-operative complications.

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  • Snowmobile Safety 01/05/2010

    Wintertime in Maine means playing in the snow, and after our very respectable storm this holiday, many Mainers and visitors did just that. Snowmobiling is a popular way to enjoy the snow in our state, though it is not an activity to be engaged in lightly as recent tragedies remind us.

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  • New Year's Resolutions - Tips to Enhance Your Success 12/29/2009

    Do Resolutions Help Us Change? Does setting any type of personal goal make a difference in whether or not we really stick to a change? Research on the impact of resolutions suggests that it does help!

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  • Holiday Road Trips 12/22/2009

    This is one of the times of year when many of you will be planning a road trip.  Unfortunately, this is also a time of year of treacherous driving.  Before you begin your trip, please take a moment to assess a few safety issues:

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  • Noisy Toys 12/01/2009

    Noise induced hearing loss, or NIHL, is hearing loss that occurs from being exposed to overly loud noise. It is often the insidious result of exposure to excess noise over time. Unfortunately, this type of hearing loss is permanent

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  • Indoor Allergies and Their Prevention 11/24/2009

    Allergy symptoms are often associated with blooming trees and shrubs and the increase of pollen this brings. Pollen is a very important source of allergies but there are others, some of them indoors

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  • The 34th Great American Smokeout 11/17/2009

    This Thursday, November 19, 2009, is the 34th Annual Great American Smokeout. Join the American Cancer Society to encourage smokers to quit smoking or to outline a long-term plan for quitting. 
     

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  • How Much Caffeine is Too Much Caffeine? 11/10/2009

    First, I should declare a conflict of interest since I am an avid coffee drinker. None the less, I’ve had patients and friends tell me that they are going to try to cut down how much caffeine they consume. When I ask why they are concerned, I hear about the fear of heart disease, cancer, and breast disease. It turns out that these are not valid concerns.

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  • Not Sure if You Have the Flu - Think Twice Before Seeing Your Physician 10/27/2009

    If you think you have the flu, this year we want you to think a little differently before you go to see your doctor or the emergency department. We would like to have you think about … not coming? That’s right – consider not coming in. There are a few reasons to consider that approach:

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  • National Depression Screening Day 10/08/2009

    Depression – Progress But Still Undertreated: Great improvements have been made over the past two decades in terms of identifying and treating clinical depression. As with most health problems, early detection and treatment of depression offers the best chance for addressing the problem successfully. 

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  • Hunter Safety 10/03/2009

    It is that time of year again when we need to talk about hunter safety. Admittedly, accidents from hunting are down compared with a few decades ago. However, the recent events in the news serves to remind us that this enjoyable activity has some dangers that can mostly be avoided.

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  • Eastern Equine Encephalitis 09/29/2009

    Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) is a very rare, but serious, viral disease that has killed several horses in Maine this fall. “Triple E”, as it is sometimes called, can be very dangerous and even deadly in humans as well.

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  • Concussions 09/22/2009

    Although anyone at any age can get a concussion, this time of year is particularly important because of the start of the sports season in the schools. A concussion happens when there is a blow to the head that causes either a loss of consciousness, a brief lapse of memory, or a feeling of dizziness or being dazed.

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  • Hospitalization: Improved Communication Equals Improved Care 09/15/2009

    Being admitted to the hospital is can be scary and traumatic… for the patient and for the patient’s family.

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  • Reducing the Stigma of Mental Illness 09/08/2009

    Why Is Reducing the Stigma of Mental Illness Important? There are probably dozens of reasons that challenging the stigma of mental illness and addiction is important. But none seem more compelling than the fact that nearly two-thirds of people who experience a mental illness never receive any type of professional help for their problems.

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  • Walk This Way 09/01/2009

    School is back in session and for households with children, this necessitates a shift of routine that includes getting kids to and from school as well as school related activities. 

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  • Don't Guess, Call EMS 08/25/2009

    This is to quote Thomas Judge, director of Lifeflight of Maine. For years, we have known that Mainers are hesitant to call the ambulance when they are having chest pain.  There are many reasons for this. Most people think that their pain is “really no big deal.” 

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  • Aspirin for heart disease - Maybe not so fast 08/11/2009

    According to a recent CNN study, about one-third of the adult U.S. population -- more than 50 million people -- take aspirin to prevent heart disease.
    But doctors are quick to point out that the century-old drug is a double-edged sword.

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  • Antidepressant Medication Use Increases, but Depression Still Undertreated 08/04/2009

    Study Shows Use of Antidepressant Medication has Increased in Past Decade: 
    In a recently release study, it appears that the percentage of Americans who receive antidepressant medication climbed from just under 6% (5.4%) in the mid-1990’s, to just over 10% in this decade.

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  • Sodas Should Be Reserved for Special Occasions 07/28/2009

    We've all heard that sodas are bad for you.  Most of us just don't believe that a few sodas a day or a week are going to cause a problem.  It is true that it is hard to make the connection between a few sodas and tooth decay and bone loss.

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  • Bye-Bye Necktie??? 07/21/2009

    The necktie, despite having no practical use, has been a symbol of male professionalism and power for centuries. Male physicians who wear ties, along with the ubiquitous white coats, instill increased confidence in their patients, especially those of an older generation. Another common thread between white coats and neckties is that they are rarely - maybe never for ties - laundered.

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  • Eating Disorders - More Common Than You Think 07/14/2009

    Eating Disorders are More Common than You Think: Eating Disorders, which include anorexia nervosa, bulimia, and binge eating disorder, are estimated to impact about 10 million people in the United States.

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  • Media and Kids 07/07/2009

    On average, children and adolescents spend more than six hours a day with media, a staggering statistics since it is more time than is spent in formal classroom instruction. In addition, parental monitoring of media use is extremely difficult and youth across the United States have unprecedented access to it.

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  • Overcoming Panic Disorder 06/09/2009

    People who experience a panic attack for the first time often think they are going to die. It is not uncommon for someone having a panic attack to call their doctor or go to an emergency room, worried that they are having a heart attack.

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  • Stress in a Struggling Economy 05/12/2009

    Stress During the Economic Downturn: The annual Stress in America Survey, conducted by Harris Interactive for the American Psychological Association, showed that the economic downturn corresponded with a sharp rise in stress and stress related symptoms well over one year ago. 

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  • Turn Off That Screen! 04/21/2009

    You may not know it, but we are in the second day of national “Turnoff” week! The challenge is to not use any screens for recreational purposes for one week. Television, computers, video games, iPods and cell phones are all included. It is sponsored by the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, among other organizations.

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  • Preventing Suicide in Teens and Young Adults 04/07/2009

    Teen suicide may be on the rise. Teenagers and young adults are one group of people at the highest statistical risk for suicide. While suicide itself is, statistically speaking, a relatively rare event, even one suicide that could have been prevented is worth the attention of communities and mental health professionals.

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  • Living with Celiac Disease 03/31/2009

    Celiac sprue, or celiac disease, is an inherited disorder of the digestive system. As an autoimmune condition, meaning the body's own immune system causes the damage, celiac sprue reacts to certain proteins in wheat, barley, rye, and oats.

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  • ​The Organ Donation Process 03/23/2009

    There is extensive information available about how to become an organ and tissue donor. Most of us by now know that there are 100,000 people in the US waiting for a life-saving organ transplant. We even make it easy in the state of Maine by allowing you to designate yourself as a donor when you get or renew your driver’s license.  However, there is almost no information out there about what this might mean for your loved ones if the time comes for them to be notified that you are a potential organ donor.

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  • The Period of Crying 03/17/2009

    All new parents at EMMC will soon be leaving the hospital more equipped than ever to care for their baby, thanks to a program known as the Period of PURPLE Crying (POPC).

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  • Coping with a Psychological Crisis 03/10/2009

    Crisis Calls a Sign of the Times: A recent report from Virginia noted a 20 percent increase in calls to state crisis and suicide hot lines compared to last year. One theory is that the economic stress of the past several months has led to an increase in such calls.

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  • Vaccines Do Not Cause Autism 03/10/2009

    The vast majority of the medical community has never believed there was any link between being vaccinated and developing autism. In fact, most parents also have not believed this since over 95 percent vaccinate their children.

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  • Portable Electronics and Injury Prevention 02/24/2009

    Portable electronic devices have inundated our culture. They range from cell phones, to blackberries, to iPods. While unquestionably useful, this technology has also brought unforeseen hazards that are becoming more recognized.

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  • Being a Bone Marrow Donor 02/17/2009

    Most of us have heard of someone’s family or friends holding a bone marrow drive.What we may not know is why they are doing this and what it entails of the potential donor. In order to be in the donor registry, we must first give a sample of our cells through a blood draw or a swipe of cheek cells to the donor program.

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  • Cholesterol-The Good, The Bad and The Ugly 02/10/2009

    Cholesterol is a waxy substance made by the liver and also supplied in the diet through animal products such as meats, poultry, fish and dairy products. Cholesterol is needed (in the body) to insulate nerves, make cell membranes and produce certain hormones.

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  • Sledding Can be Fun and Safe 02/03/2009

    The speedy, bumpy, sometimes scary slide downhill is one of the outdoor winter activities that youths and adults have always enjoyed. It can be fun, but every year thousands of youths and adults are injured sledding down hills in city parks, streets and resort areas. 

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  • Early Identification Key in Treating Schizophrenia 01/28/2009

    Why is Early Identification of Schizophrenia so Important? For many health and mental health problems, early detection and intervention is a key factor in limiting the impact of the disorder. For example, early identification of diabetes allows people to work on changing their diet so that they may not have to take insulin.

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  • FROSTBITE 01/20/2009

    Frostbite is something everyone is Maine should know a thing or two about. Frostbite is when body tissues literally freeze, and ice crystals form inside cells. If the skin is the only tissue frozen it is “superficial” frostbite. Deep frostbite occurs when all tissue layers are involved. Ironically, frostbite is classified by degrees, similar to burns.

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  • ​Stem Cells 01/13/2009

    The use of stem cells in research has created a bit of controversy over the last few years.  Most of the controversy arises from either a philosophical difference of opinion or from lack of knowledge about stem cells.  This article is going to explain what stem cells are and where they come from.  Not all stem cell research is controversial.

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  • Integrative Medicine 01/06/2009

    With the country’s health care system in disarray and the cost of medicine skyrocketing, government institutions and academic centers across the nation are turning to practices that much of the populace has already embraced.  In a process hailed by some as critical to the salvaging of our medical system, the name “Integrative Medicine” has emerged.

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  • NEW YEAR RESOLUTIONS: Do They Really Make a Difference? 12/30/2008

    Do Resolutions Help Us Change? New Year’s Day is traditionally a time to take stock of our lives and consider ways to improve or change. But, does making a New Year resolution really help us change in a positive way?

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  • Holiday Safety 12/17/2008

    The holidays are an exciting time for everyone. Here are a few tips to help keep you and your family safe while enjoying this special season.

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  • Homelessness, Mental Illness, and Addiction: Strengthening the Safety Net 10/07/2008

    Why Homelessness? Many of our Health Watch segments are designed to help people recognize mental health and addiction problems in themselves, their family, and their friends.

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  • National Fire Prevention Week - October 5-12, 2008 10/07/2008

    On October 8-9 1871, the Great Chicago Fire of sent a shock around the country.  The fire destroyed over 17,000 structures, killed more than 250 people and left 100,000 homeless. 

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  • CHILDHOOD OBESITY 09/30/2008

    Obesity is a national health crisis. Childhood obesity is increasing at an alarming rate. In the 1960’s, about 5% of children were obese. Currently, close to 20% of children are obese and it is projected that by 2010, 50% of all children in the US will be obese!

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  • Core Muscles Exercises Should be the Core of your Exercise Routine 09/23/2008

    Just about everyone knows that exercise is part of a healthy living routine.  When people think of exercise, they think of walking, running, swimming, or some other type of activity that involves strength and speed.

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  • ACL injuries to female athletes 08/26/2008

    The recent Olympics in China illustrate the growing involvement of millions of girls and young women in organized sports. Unfortunately, as the number of female athletes has grown, so has the number of injuries to female athletes. One common and serious injury is tearing of an important knee ligament called the anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL.

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  • The Pros and Cons of Pacifiers 08/12/2008

    Pacifier use is seen worldwide. The rate of pacifier use varies between and within different countries. Pacifiers are usually used for soothing infants with “non-nutritive” sucking. Many people have strong opinions about whether or not infants should use pacifiers at all. It turns out there are both risks and benefits to their use.

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  • Teen Driving 08/03/2008

    Only about 6% of all drivers are teenagers, but they are involved in 14% of all fatal car accidents. In fact, motor vehicle accidents (MVAs) are the leading cause of death among 16 to 20 year olds; about 5,500/yr. In addition, close to a half a million teenagers are injured in MVAs.

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  • Agoraphobia – Coping with Overwhelming Fear in Public Places 07/29/2008

    Summer time offers lots of activities that involve crowds. For many of us the chance to attend the state fair, soak up some sun on a busy beach, or attend an outdoor concert is another great reason to live in Maine. But for others, the thought of being in such situations brings on overwhelming fear, panic, and embarrassment.

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  • WATER SAFETY - HOW TO STAY SAFE AND STILL HAVE FUN IN THE WATER THIS SUMMER 07/22/2008

    Every year in the United States well over 3,000 people die in accidental drownings. More than 800 of those are children between the ages of 1 and 14. We can do something about that.

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  • Safely Keeping the Bugs Away 07/15/2008

    It is summer and the mosquitos are out in force!  Insect repellents are both safe and effective, but must be used with proper precautions and knowledge.  Most contain DEET (N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide, also known as N,N-diethyl-3-methylbenzamide) and are completely safe when used properly.

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  • Cholesterol screening of children 07/08/2008

    We know that that obesity is an ever-increasing epidemic.  We also can now see that children are not being spared from this epidemic.  We know that high cholesterol, particularly high LDL (the “bad” cholesterol), is dangerous to heart health.

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  • Bisphenol A – a.k.a plastic #7 07/01/2008

    There has been lot of attention given lately to bisphenol A, though perhaps not by that name. Bisphenol A, or BPA, is the component of plastic found in many water bottles and other products that is being scrutinized for adverse health effects.

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  • Sudden Cardiac Death (SCD) 06/24/2008

    Are you or a family member at risk to die the way NBC Meet the Press host Tim Russert did?

    Russert died recently at the age of 58 from what medical experts call Sudden Cardiac Death (SCD). That means he suddenly developed an abnormal heart rhythm that stopped the heart’s pumping function – a cardiac arrest in medical terminology.

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  • Being Safe in the Sun 06/17/2008

    Four years ago, my first piece forr WABI’s “Healthy Living” was on staying “sun safe” during the summer season.  The message is no less important today than it was in 2004, hence a repeat reminder…!

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  • Managing Your Stress in Tough Economic Times 06/10/2008

    In terms of maintaining good mental health, the way you manage stress is a key factor. Obviously, stress is unavoidable. With daily reports about falling home prices, job losses, and rising fuel prices, money and our economic future is a leading source of stress today.

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  • Personal Flotation Devices (PFD's) 06/03/2008

    I am sure that anyone reading this knows that it is a good idea to wear a personal floatation device (PFD) when you are on a boat in the water.  However, I also know that many of us do not routinely follow this device.

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  • Binge Drinking – Short and Long Term Consequences 05/20/2008

    Binge Drinking and Alcoholism: Most of us are well aware of the risks associated with excessive alcohol use. Over 14 million people abuse alcohol at any given point in time. More than 20,000 people die each year directly from alcohol related health problems, while many more are killed or injured in accidents where alcohol use is a contributing factor.

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  • When to Bring Your Child to the Emergency Room 05/13/2008

    What is an emergency? Aside from the obvious major accident, it can be harder than you’d think to decide, especially for a child who may not be able to clearly communicate how they are feeling. And let’s face it, emergency room visits aren’t fun.

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  • Treatment Options for Heavy Menstrual Bleeding 05/06/2008

    Many women experience heavy menstrual bleeding (otherwise known as dysfunction uterine bleeding DUB).  DUB can become more common in our 40’s and 50’s.

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  • Eating Disorders 04/29/2008

    STRIKING A BALANCE
    Distinguishing Healthy Eating from Eating Disorders
    Summer Months and Body Image: The approach of summer often brings a heightened awareness of our bodies, cultural pressures to adopt a certain look or shape, and our eating habits. 

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  • Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) 04/15/2008

    Shaken babies are a small but significant portion of the estimated 900,000 victims of child abuse and neglect every year. Of the estimated 1,500 children killed annually by abuse, one in four is a victim of shaken baby syndrome (SBS).

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  • Cancer Screening 04/01/2008

    Happy April Fool’s Day.  This is a good time not to let yourself be fooled.  One good way to do this is to reassess where you stand in terms of cancer screening.  If you are over 20, you should start with an annual or every other year health exam that would look for cancers of the thyroid, lymph nodes, testes and ovaries, and skin.  The following recommendations are for people of average risk and are listed by body site.

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  • WHAT TO DO WHEN BABIES CRY 03/25/2008

    Having a baby is a wonderful experience, unlike any other. It is also hard! Sleep deprivation and an infant’s complete dependence make parenting a baby an emotionally and physically exhausting experience, as well as an exhilarating one.

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  • Coping with Workplace Stress 03/18/2008

    Work Stress Is Increasing: In a 2007 Survey conducted by the American Psychological Association, 74% of Americans reported that work is their top stressor. This represented an increase compared to 2006, where 59% of people identified work as their number one source of stress. 

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  • Disposal of Unwanted Medications at Home 03/11/2008

    Never flush expired or unwanted prescription and over-the-counter medications down the toilet or drain. Although flushing prevents accidental ingestion or misuse it causes contamination of Maine’s aquatic environment. 

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  • Snowmobile Safety 2008 03/04/2008

    Once again, winter fun has been sadly mixed with tragedy.  Maine has seen record snowfall this winter with another big “dump” over the weekend.

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  • Back Pain 02/26/2008

    Back pain is one of the most frequent health problems encountered in a medical office or emergency room. In fact most people will have at least one episode of back pain in their lifetime

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  • Social Phobia: When Social Interaction Causes Overwhelming Fear 02/19/2008

    Social Phobia is a type of Anxiety Disorder: Phobias are intense, excessive fears about certain objects or situations. While most people experience heightened anxiety in some situations, people with phobias find their fears to be debilitating.

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  • Therapeutic hypothermia 02/08/2008

    Therapeutic hypothermia is the cooling of a patient for medical treatment of a disease.  Usually, providers in a hospital spend quite a bit of energy trying to prevent hypothermia particularly after surgery or in trauma patients.

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  • SMOKE EXPOSURE IN CARS 02/05/2008

    By now, most Mainers are aware of the Bangor law prohibiting smoking in cars when children are present. A proposal to extend this ban statewide is currently before the Maine Legislature and may be enacted into law soon.

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  • Steering Your Way Through Hospitalization 01/29/2008

    Being admitted to the hospital is often scary and traumatic… for the patient and for the patient’s family as well.
    Being critically ill, needing invasive procedures or having a hospitalized child all accentuate this feeling.

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  • CHICKEN POX: ILLNESS AND VACCINATION 01/15/2008

    A school in Lincoln recently had 6 students come down with chickenpox. As a result of this outbreak, students who had not been previously infected or immunized against this infection were banned from attending school for 16 days. Chickenpox has been around forever, so what was the big deal??

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  • Weight Loss: Portion Control and Hidden Calories 01/08/2008

    It is the start of a new year and one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions is to eat healthier or to lose weight.  Most people know by now that there is no diet out there that is going to be successful for many people. 

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  • Vytorin 01/22/2007

    The recent news that the cholesterol-lowering medication Vytorin may lower your cholesterol but not prevent blockages in the arteries around your heart (the kind that can lead to angina and heart attacks) has a lot of patients and physicians scratching their heads.

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  • Vaccines and Side Effects

    There has been a lot of attention in the press lately regarding a certain vaccine. Unfortunately, what should be a cut and dried health issue can be politicized and otherwise distorted; bluntly stated, politicians and newscasters are probably not the best dispensers of medical advice (sorry WABI!).

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  • Amy Movius, MD

    A self proclaimed “Country Mouse,” Amy Movius, MD, was attracted to Bangor and Eastern Maine Medical Center because of the highly skilled care offered in an area bursting with recreational opportunities. Dr. Movius, a pediatric intensivist in EMMC’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU), continues to be impressed at how well we Mainers take care of our own, “This is an environment I am happy to be working in,” she says.

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  • David Prescott, PhD

    Dr. David Prescott is Director of Psychology and Clinical Research at Acadia Hospital in Bangor. A graduate of Bowdoin College, the University of Nebraska, and internship at Indiana University School of Medicine, Dr. Prescott has worked for nearly 15 years providing assessment and treatment for adults and adolescents.

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  • Erik Steele, DO

    in medical crisis. Because of his strong belief in the value of an educated health consumer, Dr. Steele also is a regular columnist in the Bangor Daily News, and appears as an on-air medical consultant on the Channel 5 News "Healthy Living" feature. His readers and viewers get regular doses of his practical, no-nonsense approach to summing up the world as he sees it.

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  • Joan Pellegrini, MD

    Joan Pellegrini, MD is one of Eastern Maine Medical Center's trauma surgeons, having joined the staff at EMMC in October 2000.

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  • Jonathan Wood, MD

    Jonathan Wood, MD is specialist in Pediatric Critical Care and currently is the medical director of Eastern Maine Medical Center’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU).

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  • William Sturrock, MD

    Dr. Sturrock  has joined the urology team as a Men's Health consultant and is developing a Men's Health Clinic.

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  • The Five Most Common Mental Health Problems in Children

    Parents and caregivers are usually eager to get their children appropriate evaluation and treatment, but may struggle to decide whether their child has a problem that requires professional help.  Knowing the most common mental health disorders in children can help parents and caregivers better identify when their child may need help. 

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  • New Guidelines for Cervical Cancer Screening

    Many women (and some providers) have not been introduced to the 2012 guidelines as recommended by the American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology (ASCCP),  the United States Preventative Services Task Force (USPTF) and adopted by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).
     

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  • Skin Cancer – Beyond the Basics

    Most people have heard about melanoma, which arises from the normal pigment cells of the skin and can be potentially life-threatening if not removed early.

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