Under Pressure

Get pumped about managing Hypertension!

Considering nearly half of adults in the United States have high blood pressure, it’s a term we hear frequently, but what is it exactly? High Blood Pressure or Hypertension is when the force of blood pushing against the walls of your arteries is consistently too high. When left untreated, hypertension puts you at risk for heart disease and stroke. It’s normal for our blood pressure to rise and fall throughout the day, but when it stays high for long periods of time your heart can be damaged leading to health problems or even death. The good news is, there several steps you can take to manage hypertension and live a healthy life!

Stop Smoking.

You should do this today. Smoking is harmful for many reasons and we encourage all patients who are smokers to quit immediately. It’s often easier said than done, so check with your provider for some strategies to ensure you quit smoking for good.

Exercise.

Physical activity strengthens your heart, and a stronger heart can pump more blood with less effort, thus decreasing the force on your arteries and lowering your blood pressure. For some patients, exercise lowered blood pressure enough to quit taking medication. Daily exercise can also prevent hypertension as you grow older. If you are implementing a new exercise routine, or starting to exercise for the first time, be sure to chat with your doctor before you begin.

Eat a Heart Healthy Diet.

In other words: put down the salt shaker! Incorporating the DASH Diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) into your daily life can have a big impact on not just hypertension, but your health overall.

DASH DIET:

  • Eat more vegetables and fruit
  • Eat less foods that are high in saturated fat, cholesterol and trans fats
  • Eat more whole grains, fish, poultry and nuts
  • East less sodium, sugar and red meats

The diet itself is pretty simple but following it can be a challenge. Try making small changes at first and ease your way into a new diet. Add a serving of vegetables at lunch and dinner, choose fruit, plain popcorn or low-fat yogurt as your afternoon snack, switch to low-fat dairy products, limit how much butter, salad dressing or other condiments you use, and if you don’t know already, learn to read food nutrition labels and choose low sodium foods.  

Take Your Medications.

You may not be able to manage you high blood pressure with diet and exercise alone, but there are medications that can help you reach your blood pressure goal. Talk with your doctor about the right approach for you. They will know when it’s time to work medications into your routine. Once you are prescribed a medication for high blood pressure, it’s important to take it exactly as directed. If you are not able to follow your physician’s instructions, be sure to discuss your options at your next appointment. Don’t make changes to your treatment without guidance from your doctor.

Monitor Your Blood Pressure at Home.

Once you implement changes into your lifestyle, it’s important to monitor your blood pressure on a regular basis to understand if you are going in the right direction. If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, it’s important to check it daily to ensure your numbers are stable and staying in a safe zone. Check with your provider for best practices for measuring your blood pressure at home. They can also help you find the right fit when it comes to purchasing a cuff. Once you’re ready to go, use this helpful log to keep track of your numbers for the month.

Good Dog!

Owning a dog may be good for your health.

If you’re a dog person, you are familiar with the warmth a pup can bring into a home. Dogs are always happy to see “their person” and provide endless affection and joy. It tuns out, they do all that and more – owning a dog may actually be good for your health. According to the CDC, some of the health benefits of pet ownership include: decreased blood pressure, decreased cholesterol and triglyceride levels, reduced depression, and improved physical health. Owning a dog is not the sole answer to reducing heart disease or high blood pressure, but it may be a practical part of your overall strategy. So, how do those puppy dog eyes positively impact a person’s health? Read on for four ways a four-legged friend may improve your overall wellbeing.

Get and stay active. There are few things to motivate someone to get off the couch and take a walk like a whining dog. Dog owners are more likely to meet fitness recommendations each week than a person that does not own a dog. Whether taking the pup for a walk, or stepping outside to toss a tennis ball, dogs motivate their owners to get active.

Reduce stress. Dog are trained to be therapy or service animals for a reason. They have been found to reduce anxiety and blood pressure and increase serotonin and dopamine (neurochemicals that boost your mood and overall wellbeing).  

Improve your mood. Dogs may even help keep depression at bay. In addition to increasing serotonin and dopamine, they provide structure and meaning to their owner’s life (as an owner, you must get up in the morning to walk or let your dog out), encourage socialization and prevent isolation and loneliness. For some, having the structure and companionship of a pooch can help protect against cognitive decline and depression.  

Benefits for kids. There is evidence that exposure to a pet at a young age may lower the risk of becoming allergic to animals later in life. Little ones may even develop a stronger immune system. Dogs also present an opportunity for children to learn about responsibility, empathy and independence.


While dogs provide several health benefits, there are also risks associated with having a dog in your home. Dogs and other pets cause a number of falls each year, especially for older adults or people with mobility issues. If you’re considering adopting a dog, chat with your doctor first.

Cold Versus Flu

You know when it’s coming – that foggy feeling, muscle aches, sneezing. You’re getting sick. You start to consider your plan of attack, but first you need to know what you’re dealing with. Is this a cold or something more severe? Read on to learn difference between cold and flu symptoms.

What is the difference between a cold and flu?

Flu and the common cold are both respiratory illnesses but they are caused by different viruses. Because these two types of illnesses have similar symptoms, it can be difficult to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone. In general, flu is worse than the common cold, and symptoms are more intense. Colds are usually milder than flu. People with colds are more likely to have a runny or stuffy nose. Colds generally do not result in serious health problems, such as pneumonia, bacterial infections, or hospitalizations. Flu can have very serious associated complications.

How can you tell the difference between a cold and the flu?

Because colds and flu share many symptoms, it can be difficult (or even impossible) to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone. Special tests that usually must be done within the first few days of illness can tell if a person has the flu.

What are the symptoms of the flu versus the symptoms of a cold?

The symptoms of flu can include fever or feeling feverish/chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches and fatigue (tiredness). Cold symptoms are usually milder than the symptoms of flu. People with colds are more likely to have a runny or stuffy nose. Colds generally do not result in serious health problems.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Are you suffering from flu or cold symptoms? Still need to get the flu shot this season? Save your spot in line at an IHA Urgent Care near you.  

Forming a Healthy Habit

The key to making and keeping new healthy habits

With the new year comes a fresh start and for many people an opportunity to make some positive changes in their lives. With great intentions, they head off into the new year determined to make a go of this year’s resolutions. Too often, busy lives take over and resolutions are abandoned after just a few weeks.  Forming new, positive daily habits is a challenge, but it’s not impossible. Read on for some advice on how to incorporate a new habit into your daily routine and make your 2020 resolutions stick!

Pick one goal.

Don’t spread your willpower too thin. Focusing on one goal at a time will increase your chances of actually achieving it.

Look at the small picture.

Rather than setting a resolution for the whole year, start with one month or even one week. Your goal should feel attainable with as little pressure as possible.

Make a sub-habit.

There are things you do every single day without even thinking about it: brushing your teeth, feeding the dog, walking into the house after work, you get the idea. Try setting your goal as a sub-habit of one of your already established daily habits. For example, “after I feed the dog, I will take him for a ten-minute walk” or “when I walk in the door after work, I will put my workout clothes on and run one mile”.

Take it one (baby) step at a time.

When forming a new habit, a low-level commitment is much easier to work into your day. Start with simple tasks that make it almost impossible to fail. Once you get started, you may find yourself doing more. Here are some suggestions for daily micro-commitments:

  • Take a 5-minute walk
  • Write one paragraph in your journal
  • Eat one serving of vegetables

Plan for obstacles.

Weather, time, cost or illness will no doubt present a challenge in achieving your goal of forming a new healthy habit. Plan ahead for challenges and be ready to work through them. Come up with “if-then” statements to help make it over predictable stumbling blocks;

  • If I am not able to sustain the cost of a gym membership, I will walk in my neighborhood or local mall
  • If I am not able to walk outside due to weather, I will do floor exercises in the basement for 20 minutes
  • If I’m not feeling well enough to walk or do a full work out, I will lift weights for 10 minutes

Hold yourself accountable.

We all have the friend that checks in at the gym every day on social media. Well, maybe they have the right idea. When your progress is monitored or witnessed by others, you are more likely to follow-through with your commitment. Consider creating or joining a group with similar goals, and post or text each other when you complete your daily goal. You may also want to tell your primary care physician about your goals and expect to follow-up next year or at your next exam.

Reward yourself!

Take time to celebrate your success! Having something to look forward to will motivate you along the way. Choose rewards that support your new healthy habit – avoid rewarding yourself with sugary treats or days off from your new habit. Instead, download new music for your workout routine, see a movie, or grab lunch with a friend.


Have you scheduled your 2020 wellness exam? Make an appointment with your primary care physician to discuss some health goals that may benefit your physical and psychological well-being.

Healthy Holidays

6 Tips for a healthy holiday season

There’s nothing like the holidays. For many people, the holidays mean reuniting with family and friends, lots of hugs, handshakes and – So. Many. Germs. (Of course, the holidays are in the heart of flu season!) We’ve pulled together some tips for staying healthy during the holiday season, so your New Year is merry too.

  1. Wash your hands every chance you get. This is great advice for adults and children alike. Be sure to wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Especially after greeting family or friends. You may want to bring along a couple travel size bottles of hand lotion. All that washing can dry your skin.
  2. Bundle up! Depending on where you are celebrating, wear weather appropriate clothing and outerwear. Doing your best to stay dry and warm will help keep you well.
  3. Don’t stress. Well, manage your stress. The most wonderful time of the year is often the busiest. Take time out for yourself and your family if you are feeling overwhelmed. Seek support from family and friends and get your sleep.
  4. Keep your eyes on children. When you’re hosting or part of a large gathering, it’s easy to lose track of kids. Keep potentially dangerous decorations, candles, drinks and food away from children. Work with the other adults in attendance to ensure someone always has an eye on the children in the group.
  5. Prepare and consume food safely. Remember these simple steps: Wash hands and surfaces often, avoid cross-contamination, cook foods to proper temperatures and refrigerate foods promptly. If you aren’t sure about the hygiene of the kitchen or the length of time the food has been sitting out, don’t eat anything that can potentially get you sick.
  6. Take care of yourself. Get your annual exams checked off for the year or catch up on your vaccines over the holidays.

In spite of your best efforts, if you catch something other than the holiday spirit this season, don’t stress. IHA Urgent Care locations have holiday hours. Don’t spend your holiday waiting in a waiting room. Save your spot in line at an Urgent Care location near you, and wait at home.

Ho-ho-home Safety

12 Safety Tips for a Merry & Bright Holiday Season

The holiday season is downright magical. The lights! The cherished family ornaments! The candles, plants and tree! After the first holiday season with an active child, we quickly realize all decorations aren’t made to be kid-friendly. It takes some effort from the grown-ups to ensure little ones are safe while celebrating the magic of the season. Luckily, The American Academy of Pediatrics created a list of tips to keep everyone in your home safe, and the holidays merry.

  1. When purchasing a live tree, check for freshness. The needles should be hard to pull off, and should not easily break when you bend them. When you tap the tree on the ground, only a few needles should fall off. Cut a few inches off the bottom of the trunk before putting it in the stand, and be sure to keep the stand filled with water.
  2. If you have an artificial tree, make sure it’s labeled “Fire Resistant.”
  3. When setting up a tree at home, place it away from fireplaces, radiators or portable heaters. Place the tree out of the way of traffic and do not block doorways.
  4. Use only non-combustible or flame-resistant materials to trim a tree.
  5. Check all lights before hanging them on a tree or in your home, even if you have just purchased them. Make sure all the bulbs work and that there are no frayed wires, broken sockets or loose connections.
  6. Be cautious about trimmings that may contain lead. Choose tinsel or artificial icicles of plastic or nonleaded materials. Light strands may contain lead in the bulb sockets and wire coating, sometimes in high amounts. Make sure your lights are out of reach of young children who might try to put lights in their mouths, and wash your hands after handling them. 
  7. Before using lights outdoors, check labels to be sure they have been certified for outdoor use. To hold lights in place, string them through hooks or insulated staples, not nails or tacks. Never pull or tug lights to remove them. Plug all outdoor electric decorations into circuits with ground fault circuit interrupters to avoid potential shocks. And, watch your step if using a ladder to deck your halls.
  8. When lighting candles, remove flammable materials from the area, and place the candles where they will not be knocked over. Never leave a burning candle unattended. Do not use lighted candles on a tree or near other evergreens.
  9. In homes with small children, take special care to avoid decorations that are sharp or breakable. Keep trimmings with small removable parts out of the reach of children to prevent them from swallowing or inhaling small pieces. Avoid trimmings that resemble candy or food that may tempt a young child to eat them.
  10. Wear gloves to avoid eye and skin irritation while decorating with spun glass “angel hair.” Follow container directions carefully to avoid lung irritation while decorating with artificial snow sprays.
  11. Remove all wrapping papers, bags, paper, ribbons and bows from tree and fireplace areas after gifts are opened. These items can pose suffocation and choking hazards to a small child, or can cause a fire if near flame.
  12. Keep potentially poisonous holiday plant decorations, including mistletoe berries, Jerusalem cherry, and holly berry, away from children, and pets too.

Don’t forget: When you leave your home or head to bed for the night, take a look around to be sure all decorations are turned off, candles are blown out and nothing is stirring (not even a mouse).


IHA Urgent Care is open on holidays! If your little sugarplumb experiences an injury or illness this holiday season, we’re here to help, and are open on holidays. Save your spot in line at an IHA Urgent Care location near you.

Toy Buying Tips

Pediatrician-approved gifts for every child

The official kickoff to holiday shopping is just days away. Before you check-off your child’s wish list, check-out some pediatrician-approved gifts that every kid will love!

Pretend.

When a child is given the freedom to play without rules or guidelines, their imagination will take over. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) said it best: “Pretending through toy characters (such as dolls, animals, and action figures) and toy objects (like food, utensils, cars, planes, and buildings) help children learn to use words and stories to imitate, describe, and cope with real life events and feelings. Imagination is the key here! Imaginary play is a large part of a child’s social and emotional development.”

Pretend Shopping List:

  • Play kitchen with accessories (food, utensils, plates, etc.)
  • Vehicles (diggers, cars, emergency vehicles, planes, etc.)
  • Dress-up clothing and accessories
  • Microphone
  • Chalk board

Assembly required.

A simple puzzle holds so many benefits for a young mind – problem-solving, fine motor, language and cognitive skills. Looks for age and developmentally appropriate building blocks, puzzles, train tracks.

Assembly Required Shopping List

  • Building Blocks
  • Puzzles
  • Train tracks
  • Magnet tiles

Art

It’s amazing to see what kids are capable of without restrictions. Consider give an art basket to build their creativity and fine motor skills.

Art Shopping List:

  • Crayons/Markers/Color Pencils
  • Age appropriate paints
  • For older children, encourage them to try new media like oil pastels, chalk pastels, ink, etc.
  • Blank sketch books (try different sizes, large and small)
  • Glue
  • Kid-friendly scissors
  • Clay
  • Art accessories: pipe cleaners, pom poms, tissue paper, stickers and anything else you can think of!

Skip the video games.

There are educational apps and video games that work to teach the ABCs, but what they are missing – creative thinking, emotional development and impulse control – are much more important factors in the healthy development of your child. According to the AMA, Research suggests tablet-based toys may actually delay social development for infants and young children, because they don’t include real life facial expressions, gestures, and vocalizations.

Skip the Video Games Shopping List:

  • Match games
  • Card games
  • Board games
  • Age and interest appropriate Books
  • Magazine subscription
  • Busy board with a variety of locks and latches

Play!

Especially in the winter months, getting physical activity is so important – for kids and grown-ups alike! Not only does it help to develop good habits for later in life, but being physically active also holds benefits for emotional health.

Play! Shopping List:

  • Hula hoop
  • Sports gear (football, baseball, basketball – choose based on what interests your child)
  • Twister
  • Indoor bowling set
  • Yoga mat paired with child appropriate exercise classes or DVDs
  • Roller blades (don’t forget the helmet and pads)
  • Gym shoes
  • Push and riding toys for little ones just walking

IHA Urgent Care locations are open on holidays! Don’t spend your holiday waiting in a waiting room. Save your spot in line at an Urgent Care location near you, and wait at home.

Give Thanks

Create grateful hearts with a Family Thankful Jar

When we are consumed by the everyday hustle, it’s hard to stop and express gratitude to and for those around us. Thanksgiving presents the perfect opportunity to do just that. As the holiday approaches, consider making a family thankful jar to give everyone a chance to express what they are thankful for every day.

Here’s how you can make your own Family Thankful Jar:  

  1. Grab a jar, plastic container or old Easter basket. If they are up for it, have the kids decorate the jar.
  2. Cut up strips of paper & place near the jar with a pen
  3. Encourage the family to jot down a daily gratitude. If you have guests coming to dinner, have them add a note to the jar too!

Once Thanksgiving dinner is done, sit down together, open the jar and read through the notes of gratitude. Taking the time to appreciate each other can have an amazing impact on family dynamics. Thanksgiving is a reason to get started but continue to model and encourage gratitude all year long. Make opening your gratitude jar a monthly event, or have everyone express one gratitude at the end of each day.


IHA Urgent Care locations are open on Thanksgiving! Don’t spend your holiday waiting in a waiting room. Save your spot in line at an Urgent Care location near you, and wait at home.

Take 2: Type 2 Diabetes

Take a proactive approach to preventing Type 2 Diabetes.

Author: Tendai Thomas, MD, FACP

Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects one in ten Americans today. Diabetes occurs when your blood sugar levels are too high. In normal circumstances, your pancreas is able to produce a hormone called insulin which regulates and maintains normal blood sugar levels. However, with diabetes, this process breaks down, causing blood sugar levels to rise to concerning levels. Diabetics have problems with high blood sugars due to a lack of insulin, or because their body does not know how to use insulin well.  It is important to either avoid developing diabetes or keep your diabetes well controlled because diabetes increases your risk for several other conditions including heart attacks, stroke, kidney disease, vision loss, nerve damage, and circulation problems.

There are two main types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes often occurs in young individuals when the immune system attacks and destroys cells in the pancreas that make insulin. Subsequently, Type 1 diabetics need to take insulin every day to stay alive. Type 2 diabetes, which is much more common, tends to occur at an older age. Ninety percent of people with Type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese. These individuals produce insulin from the pancreas, but it is not used effectively to regulate blood sugar levels.

The top 7 risk factors for Type 2 diabetes include:

  1. Obesity
  2. Sedentary lifestyle (lack of physical activity or exercise)
  3. Unhealthy eating habits
  4. A family history of diabetes
  5. Increased age
  6. Hypertension and high cholesterol
  7. Diabetes during pregnancy

If you are at risk for developing Type 2 Diabetes, there are some steps you can take to delay or even prevent the diagnosis.

Start by knowing your risk level. Take this quiz from the American Diabetes Association to find out where you stand: https://www.diabetes.org/risk-test

Lose weight and keep it off. Maintaining a healthy weight is an important factor preventing diabetes. Losing 5% – 10% of your body weight can make a big difference in reducing your risk of getting the disease. Once you achieve your weight loss goals, work to keep the weight off. 

Stick to a healthy eating plan. Reducing your daily calorie, carbohydrate and sugar intake is key to weight loss. Consume smaller portions at every meal, eat less processed and simple sugar filled foods, and avoid drinks high in sugar. Remember your food groups when meal planning for the week. A healthy diet includes a variety of foods from every group!

Exercise 5 days a week. Exercise provides many benefits to your health. Make a goal to get 30 minutes of exercise 5 days a week. You can also consider obtaining an exercise partner to help keep you focused and on target. If exercise hasn’t been a part of your routine, talk to your physician for ideas to start slowly and work towards your goal.  

Don’t smoke. Smoking can contribute to insulin resistance and many other health conditions related to diabetes. If you do smoke, please talk with your doctor about different approaches you can take that will help you quit.

Go at your own pace. When we make major changes to our diet or activity level, it’s easy to get frustrated along the way. Go slowly and create goals that are realistic for you and your body. Start with small steps and small changes and work your way up! 

Keep your physician in the loop. Make an appointment to discuss your concerns with your primary care physician. They will help determine what else you can do to reduce your risk for Diabetes, and if you have already been diagnosed, they can help prescribe and manage any medications necessary to keep you feeling your best!

If you have already been diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, there are several treatments for managing your diabetes. For all individuals, nutrition is the key element for managing diabetes. In addition, since most people diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes are overweight, lifestyle changes that include regular exercise and weight loss are extremely important. Other therapies include the use of oral medications, injectables, and insulin administration. Talk to your primary care physician to find the best treatment for you.

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Winterize Your Skin

Cracking down on dry hands.

Winter is just around the corner, and with it come fun winter sports, cozy sweaters, and a great excuse to stay inside and watch a movie. The not-so-fun side of winter includes dry and cracked skin on your hands.  The skin on your hands is thinner and has few oil glands than the rest of your body, so we’ve got some tips to help you be extra kind to your hands during the winter months.

  1. Dust off the humidifier. When the heat comes on, the skin dries out. To help replace some of the moisture in the air, pull the humidifier out of the closet and fill ‘er up!
  2. A lot of moisturizer. We wash our hands more in the winter months to avoid illnesses, and that coupled with the cold weather is hard on your skin. To avoid cracked skin on your hands, keep bottle of moisturizer on your sink, and apply lotion every time you wash your hands. Keep another tube of moisturizer in your car or with you in a work bag or purse and apply several times a day.
  3. Bundle up! Whether you prefer gloves or mittens, get a pair that you will wear, and protect the  skin on your hands from harsh temperatures and cold surfaces.
  4. Avoid super hot water. There are few things more comforting than a hot shower after being out in the cold, but super hot water actually dehydrates your skin. Keep your shower temperature on the warm side and buy a fancy pair of rubber gloves for doing the dishes.
  5. Know when to seek help. If you are diligent about skincare, but you can’t seem to stop the peeling or cracking, it may be time to see a professional. Persistent dryness could be a sign of a health condition like eczema, psoriasis or even an allergic reaction. Sometimes store-bought moisturizers won’t do the trick, so you may need to take a different approach to treating your dry skin.

It’s easy to schedule an appointment with your provider – simply visit our online appointment tool, scroll to find your provider, and click to schedule an appointment at a time that works for your family!

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