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PAMF Health Blog

Be Well, Be Well Informed

Good Carbs, Bad Carbs: How to Choose

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What are carbohydrates and how do they affect your health? Carbohydrates include starches like bread, pasta, rice, cereal and potatoes, as well as sugars such as milk, yogurt and cookies. During digestion, all carbohydrates are converted to sugar and released into the bloodstream, where they are either used for energy or stored as fat.

But not all carbs are created equal. Or more accurately, not all carbs have the same effect on blood sugar. The measure of the effect of carbs on blood sugar is called the glycemic index (GI).

High GI carbs like white bread, instant mashed potatoes and sugary beverages digest quickly, causing blood sugar levels to surge. “In the body, these blood sugar spikes cause the release of insulin, fat storage, mood swings and brain fog,” says Darcie Ellyne, M.S., R.D., CDE, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation (PAMF). “Then blood sugar plummets, causing the release of the stress hormone cortisol, food cravings, fatigue and more brain fog.”

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Tips for Sensible Snacks

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Is it healthy to snack or is this just a sure-fire way to pile on unwanted pounds?

“Snacks can be an important part of a nutritious and balanced diet,” says Valerie Spier, MPH, R.D., CDE, a registered dietitian and diabetes educator at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation. “But you do need to be thoughtful about the quality and quantity of snacks. It’s very easy to overdo it and too many snacks can easily derail efforts to maintain a healthy weight.” Read More

Understanding Risk Factors in Cancer

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Whether or not a person develops cancer during his or her lifetime is influenced by a number of factors, including genetics, the environment, lifestyle and aging. While some of these factors are easier to control than others, understanding your personal risk can help you take preventative action, whether that means talking to your doctor about genetic testing, or simply making healthful changes to your diet. In this blog post, Frank dela Rama, R.N., MSN, AOCNS, AGN-BC, a board-certified advanced genetic nurse in the Palo Alto Medical Foundation’s Cancer Genetics Program, explains how these factors can cause cancer, and what you can do to reduce your risk.  Read More

Perimenopause: What’s Normal & Not?

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You may have heard older female friends and relatives complain about hot flashes, mood swings, bloating and other strange symptoms, and chalk them up to menopause, the “change of life.”  But the real culprit isn’t menopause – it’s perimenopause.

“Perimenopause is the transition to menopause, Sashi Amara, M.D., an internal medicine specialist at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, says.  “It can start a few years before a woman’s periods end and continue for 12 months after that.”

Hallmark symptoms of perimenopause include hot flashes, night sweats and irregular periods. But other medical problems can also occur around the same age, the mid-40s, Dr. Amara says. So it’s important to know what’s normal, and what’s not. Read More

Get Vaccinated for Best Flu Protection

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A high fever, aches all over, a severe cough and sore throat – these are some of the uncomfortable symptoms of the flu that may last for days. The flu can make you feel miserable, but that’s not all. Highly contagious, the flu can lead to pneumonia, ear and sinus infections, dehydration, hospitalization and even death. It’s particularly dangerous to babies, young children, pregnant women and the elderly, as well as people with chronic health conditions such as asthma, diabetes or heart disease.

Nobody wants to get the flu – so how can you protect yourself and your family?

“The single best thing you can do to prevent getting the flu is to get vaccinated every year,” says Charles Weiss, M.D., MPH, chair of PAMF’s Infectious Diseases Committee. “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone 6 months and older get an annual flu vaccination.” Read More

A Healthy Start to School

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Whether your child is just starting kindergarten or simply moving up a grade, back to school is a great time to review your child’s medical needs and ensure he or she gets off to the best start for a healthy school year. Start by helping your child look forward to school by talking about it as an exciting opportunity to see old friends and meet new ones, and to learn new and interesting things. Karin Wertz, M.D., a pediatrician at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, offers these suggestions to help your child have healthy year at school.

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Is It Depression or Just the Blues?

 

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Feeling sad on occasion is a normal part of life, but how do you know when a blue mood has crossed into depression?

“Depression is a very common condition, especially in women,” Kimberly Jong, M.D., a Palo Alto Medical Foundation internal medicine physician, says. “One in five women will have depression at some point in their lives.”

Symptoms of depression include low mood, sleep deficit or excessive sleep, lethargy and fatigue, loss of interest in usual activities, inability to concentrate and feelings of worthlessness or guilt. The key to knowing the difference between the normal ups and downs of life and clinical depression is persistence of symptoms. The technical diagnosis for depression is when symptoms last longer than two weeks. Read More