I have been a student most of my life; from grade school, to high school, to undergrad, to graduate school. It is really hard to believe, but my husband says I am addicted to learning, which I guess isn’t a bad thing. Most of college (as an undergrad and grad) I had to work while in school for financial reasons. Making the choice to do that for myself, was the best thing I could have done. So it would be accurate to say I have plenty of experience and knowledge on how important it is to not only stay on track in college, but also to stay healthy in college. Those years are vulnerable as you leave home for the first time and venture out into a new experience. Nutrition, physical activity, stress management, sleep, and limiting risky behaviors are some of the tools essential to pack with you as you head off to college.
When I started college I was eating to survive; in other words I ate as needed. I didn’t have enough time nor enough patience, so I went with convenience. I chose all the wrong foods—fast food, because let’s face it, it’s fast, it’s affordable and it tastes good. Little did I know, those food options caused some very difficult habits and mood swings. It was not until later in life studying to become a nurse that I figured out what it meant to fuel your body. The moment I stopped snacking and eating junk was the moment I realized I could go eight hours without feeling tired, or walk up a flight of stairs without getting short of breath, or focus through a three hour lecture without feeling my blood sugar drop. When it comes to nutrition, I have a few simple tools:
- Eat a healthy breakfast every morning. Don’t skip this meal, it’s full of opportunity to fuel your fasting body with healthy protein, necessary fats, and whole grains.
- Eat every two to three hours.Consume three big meals and two to three high protein snacks throughout the day. Keep healthy snacks with you so that you aren’t tempted to buy that bag of chips or piece of pizza.
- Eat mostly fruits and vegetables. These are full of healthy antioxidants and fiber to keep you fuller, and for longer.
- Hydrate. Water is life. Keep this as your main beverage of choice. I did not realize how many calories I was getting from my Starbucks lattes (thank you James Madison University for supplying my Starbucks addiction). I never realized I was drinking two to three sugary coffees a day at 130-180 calories each. On an average 2,000 calorie diet, my liquid consumption was 1/3 of my calorie intake for the day. The thing about indulging in those drinks is that your glycemic index shoots up, and within an hour your sugar starts to drop and your body feels you need more sugar to sustain. This is how we get into trouble. So how did I make a change? I started counting my calories. Once I realized how many empty calories I was wasting, and how many days a week I was going over my average goal, I knew I had to make a change. It was not an overnight change, but calorie counting was eye opening, and it changed the way I felt about food.
- Find a helpful tool. In today’s world of technology, there are many applications that can be used to help you track your goals. Use of these applications also help you to maintain a level of accountability. For example, downloading an app such as MyFitnessPal will enable you to type in your goals, put in what you eat, see what remains, and track the amount of water you are drinking. These applications will show where changes can be made.
Physical Activity and Exercise
Does anyone truly love to run? There are so many other things I would much prefer doing than spending time in the gym or running. Much like nutrition, I did not realize until I was older how difficult it was to get active again. Sure, when I was younger I could eat anything I wanted and not gain weight. I would occasionally go to the gym or go for a run, but it was never habitual. It was not until I found myself drowning in stress and exams that I felt I needed help. Stress drove me to become more active because I needed a safe and effective outlet. I started by using study breaks to do about 15-20 minutes of walking outside. Walking turned into jogging, and occasionally I would go for a quick run. I liked the way my mind worked and how my body felt being active, so I found other activities that I enjoyed. I enjoyed dance, so a girlfriend and I decided to try line dancing one night – we loved it and turned it into a reoccurring activity for years to come. I also discovered I had a passion for yoga, and that has since been my favorite physical activity to date. The trick is to find something that you enjoy.
As a student, you will be sitting in lectures, seminars, libraries, and working at the computer until you notice this becomes routine. You’re frequently in closed spaces and unknowingly face issues such as violation of blood circulation in extremities and oxygen starvation of important body parts, including the brain. Physical activity forces blood to move in the body, delivering oxygen to all important body parts, especially to the brain. Sedentary behavior is linked to health problems including heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. According to the CDC you should aim to get at least two and a half hours a week of moderate-intensity exercise, and participate in muscle-strengthening activities at least twice a week.
Stress and Time Management
College is a stressful time. Workload increases and as a student, you are expected to manage your time between school, work, family obligations, and maintaining a social life. I decided I needed to find balance and it needed to start with time management. Time is a finite resource. No matter what, you’re always left with the same 24 hours in a day to check items off to-do lists, spend time with family and friends, and unwind. By planning ahead and using your time wisely, you’ll be able to accomplish more and enjoy added free time. By becoming aware of where my time was being spent, I found that my phone was consuming a good majority of it and was actually distracting me. I was constantly checking social media for irrelevant stories such as who was dating who and who liked my photos. To make matters worse, I would try my hardest not to work and would surf the internet or shop instead.
Ultimately, I had to use my distractions as rewards during study breaks. I would put my phone in the other room and set my alarm for 45 minutes. Once the alarm went off I could use the next 15 minutes to do whatever I wanted, like re-watching all of the Pitch Perfect movie finales. This schedule worked for me and I needed the breaks. By planning ahead, I studied better and was more efficient with my time.
Another rule of thumb is to find happiness. This has a direct effect on a person’s overall health and helps decrease the effects of stressful situations. People who surround themselves with situations or items that make them happier have up to 12 times lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Expressing feelings of stress and conversing with friends or family can also lead to a lowered levels of cortisol. The only way I was truly able to get through the grueling nursing program at Marymount University was a core group of friends that are still my closest friends today. Again, everyone has their own happiness; find yours.
Sleep is Crucial
Sleep is another area I did poorly in when first going to college. Mostly because I couldn’t tell my brain to turn off, and constantly worried about what assignments were coming up. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute says adults need at least seven to eight hours of continuous sleep per night. I was getting on average four to five. Given the lack of sleep, I would get sick more often, I would have mental breakdowns, and I was not very productive in the day. I had to discipline myself by establishing a bedtime routine. During the week days that I had class, I set my bedtime to 10 pm. I would usually try to start winding down as part of the routine at 9 pm – set my coffee, wash my face, brush my teeth, take multivitamins, pray, and read. As part of my routine, I would leave my phone in its place and shut off any other electronic devices. Sometimes, I would even make a to-do list for the next day to keep my mind from wandering.
Keep your bed a “sleep-only” zone. If you have a small living area, it’s inevitable that you’re going to study in the same room where you sleep. However, designate your bed for sleeping only. When you work in bed, you subconsciously associate that area with work instead of sleep. Working before bed and looking at a screen reduces melatonin, which helps create a sound night’s sleep. Having a mental association between work and a bed can increase anxiety or stress that prevents sleep.
A quiet, comfortable bed enables sound sleep. Considering how important sleep is to overall energy levels, investing in a mattress you love is a smart idea. The temperature of your room can also affect how you sleep. It’s better to turn it down a couple notches than to keep it toasty; the ideal room temperature for sleeping is between 60 and 67 degrees, that’s why a warm bath before bedtime is so effective – your body cools off after bathing.
Risky and Concerning Behaviors
Finally, the topic on the minds of all parents and students – sex, drugs and alcohol. According to the national survey, approximately one-third of teens are experimenting with risky behaviors – many for the first time – during their first semester at college. Roughly, one-third of current college students surveyed reported drinking alcohol (37%), engaging in intimate sexual behavior (37%), or having sexual intercourse (32%) during their first semester at college. Talk to your parents, and parents talk to your students. If I could give one piece of advice this would be it. I have a great relationship with my mom, she allowed me to feel safe talking to her about things that I was experiencing or things I saw other people experiencing around me. We would have conversations about the good and the bad in every situation, and she never made me feel bad about myself. She was always uplifting. You will be around it, more than you think. Be smart, be firm in your beliefs, be careful, set your intentions daily, and find a good support system. Build self-confidence by joining clubs or study groups where you can connect with like-minded peers. Participate in hobbies and social activities that let you have fun and meet new people. College can be an exciting time, but it can also be challenging. Take care of your mind and body to make college a more fulfilling experience.
About Fauquier Health
Fauquier Health is a community health system dedicated to high-quality, patient-centered care in a unique environment that considers the multiple facets of healing and respects the individuality of each and every patient. Located at 500 Hospital Drive in Warrenton, Virginia, Fauquier Health serves the residents of Fauquier and several surrounding counties. It comprises: Fauquier Hospital, a fully-accredited, 97-bed hospital; Fauquier Health Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, a 113-bed long-term care and rehabilitation facility; the Villa at Suffield Meadows, an assisted living facility; the Wound Health Center and a medically supervised Wellness Center offering health and wellness programs. Fauquier Health also operates nine physician’s offices, including primary care and specialties. More information on Fauquier Health is available online at FauquierHealth.org or by calling 540-316-5000.
Orthorexia during the pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on the mental health of many people. For some, the circumstances have prompted or aggravated eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, and the lesser-known but increasingly common condition called orthorexia. If you’ve been increasingly preoccupied with healthy eating, here’s what you should know.
What is orthorexia?
With so much information about nutrition readily available, people who want to adopt a healthier diet may feel guilty about eating food with too much salt and sugar or not enough nutrients. However, for people with orthorexia, healthy eating is an obsession. Among other things, it can cause them to develop behaviors like:
• Banning specific foods or ingredients, such as gluten, without medical justification
• Planning meals in great detail
• Thinking about food for several hours a day
• Feeling guilty about eating unhealthy food, even on occasion
• Eating purely for the sake of nutritional intake rather than enjoyment
• Spending a lot of time analyzing and comparing product labels at the grocery store
For many people with orthorexia, the pandemic worsened their obsession with healthy eating, either by preventing them from going to the gym, giving them more free time to research the topic or simply making concerns about their health a higher priority.
In a society that highly values healthy eating, this disorder can be particularly insidious. People often take pride in being able to control what they eat, and they’re frequently praised for their discipline.
If you think you may be struggling with an eating disorder, or you want to improve your relationship with food, take advantage of the free resources available online and consult a psychologist or doctor.
Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) and Wound Healing
Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) is a condition that develops when the arteries that supply blood to the internal organs, arms and legs become completely or partially blocked. This blockage is caused by fatty plaque deposits that harden arteries, called atherosclerosis, and greatly reduces blood flow.
PAD affects nearly 10 million people in the United States, especially those over 65 years of age. PAD increases the risks of hard-to-heal wounds and associated lower-limb amputations by negatively impacting circulation and reducing blood flow to and from the legs.
The Fauquier Health Wound Healing Center, located right in the town of Warrenton, identifies these risk factors for developing PAD:
- Age above 65 years
- Excessive weight
- Family history of artery disease
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Heart disease
The Fauquier Health Wound Healing Center can also perform non-invasive tests to diagnose and accurately treat PAD. An ankle-brachial index (ABI) test is painless and easy, and compares the blood pressure reading in the ankles with the blood pressure reading in the arms. An ABI can help diagnose PAD, but it cannot identify which arteries are narrowed or blocked. A Doppler ultrasound test may be done to see which artery or arteries are blocked. Up to twenty-five percent of those with advanced PAD will experience an amputation within one year due to a non-healing wound. Although the long-term effects of PAD are serious, an astonishing 40 percent of people with PAD do not experience any symptoms.
If you are at risk for PAD, do not dismiss leg pain as part of growing old and seek care if you have these symptoms:
- Pain or cramps in the back of your leg while walking or exercising. These pains or cramps go away when the walking or exercising stops.
- Pain in the feet or legs while resting or that wakes you from sleep.
- Decreased or no hair growth on the feet or legs.
- Lower legs and feet that are cool to touch or that have shiny skin.
- Legs and feet that appear pale when raised and bluish/purplish when hanging down.
- Weak or absent pulses in the feet
- Numbness or tingling in the feet and legs.
- A sore or wound on your toes, legs or feet that does not heal.
People who are at risk for PAD should call The Fauquier Health Wound Healing Center if they develop a wound. Specialized care provided by the center that can help to reduce healing times, increase healing rates and significantly lower amputation risks.
For more information on identifying PAD and treating chronic or infected wounds, contact Wound Care Center located at 493 Blackwell Rd., Suite 101A, Warrenton, VA 20186 or call 540.316.HEAL (4325).
September 2021 monthly health article – Prostate Cancer Awareness
How Much Do You Know About Prostate Cancer?
Prostate cancer is a condition often heard about, but perhaps seldom fully understood. In recognition of Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, we asked Dr. Brian DeCastro, Urologist at Fauquier Health, to answer some of the most frequently asked questions concerning this common form of cancer.
What is the prostate?
The prostate is a gland that is only found in men. It is located just below the bladder and just behind the pubic bone of the pelvis. It is an important reproductive tool because it produces some of the fluid during ejaculation which helps transport the sperm. It surrounds the urethra – the tube that carries urine and semen out of the body. It’s about the size of a walnut but tends to increase in size as men age.
What is prostate cancer?
With the exception of skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer found in American men. According to the Prostate Cancer Foundation, one out of every nine men in the U.S. will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in his lifetime. Prostate cancer is a very treatable cancer if caught early but it is still the second leading cause of cancer death among U.S. men (only behind lung cancer). That is why screening is so important.
Am I at risk for prostate cancer?
If you are a man and you have a prostate you are at risk for prostate cancer. It more commonly occurs the older you get. Those who are most at risk are patients with a family history of prostate cancer and African American men. It is important that screening start at a younger age in these high-risk groups.
What are the symptoms of prostate cancer?
Unfortunately there are not a lot of symptoms of prostate cancer. The majority of symptoms that get attributed to prostate cancer are typically secondary to an enlarged prostate (BPH). Part of the evaluation for any of the following symptoms would prompt prostate cancer screening:
- Difficulty with urination, including trouble starting or holding back urination, a weak or interrupted uninterrupted urine flow, pain or burning during urination, difficulty emptying your bladder fully, and frequent urination, especially at night
- Blood in the urine or semen
- Painful ejaculation
- Pain in the back, hips or pelvis that does not go away
It’s important to note that these symptoms are not exclusive to prostate cancer and are often secondary to benign (non-cancerous) conditions.
Should I be screened for prostate cancer?
Screening for prostate cancer is a simple blood test. All men over 50 should be screened for prostate cancer. Those with a family history of prostate cancer and African American men should consider PSA testing at age 40. A discussion with your primary provider or urologist about the risks and benefits of testing is important.
Can I help prevent prostate cancer?
In general a healthy lifestyle is good for minimizing the risk of most cancers:
- A healthy diet
- Regular physical activity
- Eating more fish
- Avoiding trans fatty acids in foods
- Avoiding smoking
- Drinking alcoholic beverages in moderation
- Reducing stress
If you have any concerns regarding prostate cancer and its risks, symptoms and screening, have a discussion with your primary care provider or make an appointment with a urologist.
If you would like to be connected with a primary care provider, call 540.316.DOCS or visit the Find a Doctor tab at FauquierHealth.org. For more information about prostate cancer, visit www.cdc.gov/cancer/prostate/ and www.pcf.org.
Nicotine withdrawal: what to expect
The decision to quit smoking is a courageous one, as it requires you to change your habits and temporarily live with the symptoms of withdrawal. Here’s what you can expect if you give up this vice.
If you’re addicted to nicotine, you’ll experience a variety of physical and mental effects when your body is deprived of it. This is one reason why cravings are so strong, and those first few puffs offer such relief. For the first couple of weeks after you stop using nicotine, you may experience:
• Difficulty concentrating
• Increased appetite
As you go through the stages of nicotine withdrawal, it’s important to remember your symptoms are temporary and the benefits of not smoking far outweigh the discomforts of quitting. To help you stay motivated, keep in mind that by giving up smoking, you’ll:
• Save money
• Lower your risk of heart disease
• Be less likely to get cancer
• Have more energy and stamina
• Sound less hoarse when you speak
• Be able to smell and taste better
• Have healthier-looking skin
• Be less vulnerable to infections and viruses
• Spend less on insurance premiums
There are numerous tools and resources available to help you through the process of quitting your smoking habit. To maximize your chances of success, don’t hesitate to use them.
The benefits of a pedicure
Think pedicures are only for people wearing strappy little shoes and taking social media photos of their feet on a tropical beach? Think again.
When done properly, pedicures promote good foot health. If you have diabetes, however, talk to your doctor about a safe alternative.
During the pedicure, you’ll start with a foot soak in a tub of warm water. Your toenails will be clipped — make sure they’re clipped straight across rather than on a curve, to prevent ingrown toenails. The technician will exfoliate dead skin off of areas like your heel, bottoms, and sides of your feet and elsewhere. You may receive a foot and calf massage, and you’ll likely have some gel or lotion rubbed onto your feet and ankles.
There’s a lot here that’s good for the health of your feet, including:
* Properly trimmed nails and the removal of dead skin, particularly in places that can harbor fungi, like the area between the toes.
* Improved circulation. The warm water and the massage stimulate circulation, which not only feels great but is good for your joints also.
* Removal of calluses.
* A close-up of your feet, which is an opportunity to catch any problems early.
A few last notes on safety: Make sure the salon is properly licensed, that it sterilizes its instruments, and that it drains and sanitizes foot baths between customers. You want to also be sure they don’t use non-metal tools (which are porous and can carry bacteria), or that if they do, they are only used for one customer and then tossed. And as much as you might be tempted, experts say not to shave before a pedicure, as bacteria is more likely to get in via small nicks and cuts.
Start with the ideal sleep environment
If you’re having difficulty falling and staying asleep, don’t reach for the sleep aids or call the doctor just yet — a few tweaks to your sleeping environment might provide the boost you need to get a restful night’s sleep.
* Consider your caffeine intake. According to Harvard Medical School, you should avoid caffeine for at least four to six hours before bedtime.
* Think about your routine. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), you can improve your sleep health by establishing a routine and sticking with it.
* Check your sleep environment. Your bedroom should be cool, dark and quiet. Use blackout curtains or an eye. A cool room — even a bit chilly — is also helpful, so keep the temperature between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
* Eliminate distractions. Keep screens out of your room
* Go pet-free in your bedroom.
* Move your body. Work out at least three hours before bedtime.
* Eat lighter in the evenings. According to the CDC, heavier meals might make it harder for you to get comfortable and fall asleep. Instead of tacos at 10 in the evening, if you need a snack, try some cheese and crackers.