foot care

Feet First: Strategies for Women’s Foot Care

The human foot is truly remarkable by design. With 26 bones, 33 joints and a complex network of muscles and tendons, feet are among the most intricate and relied-upon parts of the body. Not only do they keep you mobile, they support your body and act as shock absorbers.

Foot care isn’t a topic that’s typically top of mind unless you’re struggling with a foot injury or condition. Yet, foot problems are surprisingly common, affecting many women at some point in their lives. From bunions and heel pain to arthritis and diabetic neuropathy, there are many sources of painful foot problems that can prevent you from living a full, active life.

Everyday Foot Care

Like with the rest of your body, it’s necessary to regularly care for your feet. Step into this routine for healthy feet:

  • Dry them off before putting on socks or shoes, and use a moisturizing cream to prevent dry skin and cracked heels
  • Foot creams containing an emollient or a humectant, like lactic acid, can be beneficial
  • Cut toenails straight across to prevent the development of hangnails and ingrown toenails
  • Don’t forget to wear sunscreen on the tops of your feet when you’re going barefoot or wearing sandals

Shoes, Fashion and Comfort

For women, shoes aren’t just about function, they’re also about fashion. Unfortunately, the latest in shoe design doesn’t always correspond with good fit or comfort. In a study published in the Journal of Foot and Ankle Surgery, injuries recorded by US emergency departments related to high-heeled shoes doubled between 2002 and 2012. Not only do high-heeled shoes account for acute injuries, they also frequently contribute to foot conditions such as bunions, hammertoes, toenail deformities and even nerve damage.

While wearing flat shoes is the best option, you don’t have to give up high heels altogether. The best options are those with low, padded heels that provide a wider fit at the front, rather than narrow and pointy. If you stand for long periods of time, consider wearing insoles which can make shoes more comfortable.

When to See a Doctor

Acute foot problems like sprains often heal on their own with time, rest, ice and anti-inflammatories. If they don’t, a doctor can provide an accurate diagnosis and a treatment plan to help you speed healing and avoid complications. If pain is chronic and not caused by an injury, it’s also important to seek professional foot care. Some symptoms to watch for include:

  • A flat foot that could be a sign of a tendon dysfunction or rupture
  • A bump or cyst that appears to be growing or hurts
  • A wound or sore that doesn’t heal
  • Foot discolorations where one foot is a different color than the other, which may be an indication of an infection, gout or decreased blood flow
  • Pain that increases with activity which may be a sign of a stress fracture

“While there are surgical options for many foot problems, not everyone needs surgery,” says Adam Bitterman, MD, Orthopaedic Surgeon, Foot and Ankle Specialist, at Northwell Health Orthopaedic Institute. “Conservative measures are often very effective at treating common conditions. If you have persistent pain that hasn’t improved for more than a week, it’s important to schedule an appointment with a foot specialist. A two-way dialog between you and your doctor can help determine the best treatment option for you.”

Find out more about women’s foot care. At Katz Institute for Women’s Health, we’re here to answer your questions. Call the Katz Institute for Women’s Health Resource Center at 855-850-5494 to speak to a women’s health specialist.

osteoporosis

What Every Woman Needs to Know about Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a silent disease that can lead to serious fractures, as well as back pain, loss of height and stooped posture. In fact, the disease is often not diagnosed until after a fracture has occurred.

While impacting both men and women, osteoporosis occurs more frequently in women because they tend to have smaller, thinner bones. As well, estrogen, that helps make and rebuild bone in women, drops significantly after menopause which can lead to bone loss. This is why osteoporosis and bone fractures are more common in older women.

Although osteoporosis can cause fractures in nearly any bone, they commonly happen in the wrist, spine and hip. In fact, 75 percent of all hip fractures occur in women (source: International Osteoporosis Foundation), largely due to osteoporosis. And, the consequences of osteoporosis-related fractures can be substantial, ranging from diminished quality of life and dependence on pain medication to increased depression and even permanent incapacitation.

Proactive Screening for Osteoporosis

Because osteoporosis typically has no symptoms until there is a fracture, it’s important for women to get proactively screened for the disease. Dual energy x-ray absorptiometry, commonly referred to as a DEXA scan, is the only test that can diagnose osteoporosis before a broken bone occurs. The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends DEXA scans for women who are:

  • Age 65 or older
  • Over 50 and have broken a bone
  • Menopausal or postmenopausal with certain risk factors

The results of bone density testing can enable a woman’s doctor to make recommendations on how to reduce the chance of breaking a bone. Osteoporosis treatment often involves medication along with lifestyle changes. Bisphosphonates are the most common medications prescribed for osteoporosis.

The Osteoporosis Treatment Gap

Long-term bisphosphonate therapy has been linked to a very rare side effect, in which the upper thighbone cracks and may break. This problem was widely publicized and led many, who were prescribed these medications, to stop taking them. Out of patient fear, use of the most commonly prescribed osteoporosis drugs fell by 50 percent from 2008 to 2012 (source: Journal of Bone and Mineral Research), and the trend is continuing.

“Fears about these medications has resulted in patients not being able to take advantage of the many benefits they offer,” says Stuart Weinerman, MD, Assistant Professor at the Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell and Associate Chief, Division of Endocrinology, Department of Medicine at Northwell Health. “Diet, exercise and supplements are not enough to protect someone with low bone density.”

Medication, along with healthy lifestyle practices, remain the best bet in reducing the chance of a fracture in those identified as having low bone density. These practices include:

Exercise – Weight-bearing physical activity can strengthen bones and lower the chance of a fracture.

Balanced nutrition – A healthy diet with enough calcium and vitamin D can help maintain bone.

Quit smoking – Cigarettes can increase bone loss.

Limit alcohol – Drink in moderation. This means no more than one drink per day for women.

Find out more about osteoporosis prevention and treatment. At Katz Institute for Women’s Health, we’re here to answer your questions. Call the Katz Institute for Women’s Health Resource Center at 855-850-5494 to speak to a women’s health specialist.

ovarian cancer

Facts about Ovarian Cancer Symptoms, Prevention and Treatment

Every 23 minutes, a woman is diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and one in 75 will develop the disease in their lifetime (source: National Cancer Institute). While most women are aware of their breast cancer risk, fewer are aware of their risk of ovarian cancer or the subtle early symptoms of the disease which often can be overlooked. The result is that women don’t seek help until the disease has begun to spread, making treatment more complex.

The most common ovarian cancer symptoms include:

  • Bloating
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Back pain
  • Fatigue
  • Urinary urgency
  • Nausea or indigestion
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weight gain

Testing and Screening for Ovarian Cancer

Unlike Pap tests for cervical cancer and mammograms for breast cancer, there is no routine screening test for ovarian cancer. Researchers have discovered new information about how BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations can increase ovarian cancer risk. These are the same genes that are tested to determine the chance of developing breast cancer. Approximately 20 percent of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer have a hereditary tendency to develop the disease. Most of the time, these patients have a genetic mutation of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene.

All women with ovarian cancer are recommended to undergo genetic testing to identify these gene mutations. The information can help determine a woman’s risk of developing other cancers, as well as provide insight into whether other family members can benefit from testing, too. In some cases, siblings and others within the family that also have tested positive for the gene mutation can undergo preventive treatment or additional screenings and surveillance.

Innovations in Ovarian Cancer Treatment

For women who have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, identified gene mutations may also play a part in determining the best treatment therapies. New research is providing guidance on how genes affect the biology of cancer growth, and targeted therapies are being developed to inhibit specific enzymes that contribute to cancers caused by mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2.

“Use of these inhibitors can slow progression of the disease and result in tremendous improvements in survival,” says Dr. Jill Suzanne Whyte, MD, Gynecologic Oncology, Obstetrics and Gynecology at North Shore University Hospital.

Another new approach to ovarian cancer treatment that is showing promise is the development of tumor vaccines that help the immune system recognize cancer cells and attack them as they grow. The man-made antibodies used in the vaccines are similar to those that fight infection.

The Importance of Ongoing Ovarian Cancer Research

“Because ovarian cancer remains the leading cause of gynecological cancer deaths in the United States, the need for ongoing research to discover better ways to identify, treat and prevent the disease is essential,” notes Dr. Whyte. Due to decreased public funding of ovarian cancer research, there has been a substantial reduction in clinical trials over the last several years. Support for research funding is necessary for advancements to continue to be made. For women who are diagnosed, it’s also important to ask about specific clinical trials.

Find out more about ovarian cancer prevention and treatment. At Katz Institute for Women’s Health, we’re here to answer your questions. Call the Katz Institute for Women’s Health Resource Center at 855-850-5494 to speak to a women’s health specialist.

cervical cancer screening

The Latest in Cervical Cancer Screening and Prevention

In previous generations of women, cervical cancer was one of the most common causes of cancer death, but advancements in cervical cancer screening have dramatically changed this statistic. Over the last 40 years, the cervical cancer death rate has decreased by more than 50 percent (source: American Cancer Society). The primary reason for the change? The increased use of the Pap test which can find cervical cancer in its most curable stages and even identify changes in the cervix prior to cancer developing.

Understanding Cervical Cancer Screening Guidelines

While cervical cancer screening was once routine as part of an annual well-woman exam, guidelines have changed through the years. Your age and health status now determine how often you need screening and which tests are recommended. Current guidelines are:

  • Age 21-29: Women have a Pap smear every three years
  • Age 30-65: Women have a Pap smear and HPV test (co-testing) every five years

For women with certain risk factors or symptoms, more frequent screening for cervical cancer may be suggested. It’s important to talk to your primary care doctor about the optimal cancer screening schedule for you, based on your health and family history.

“Healthcare is a partnership,” says Dr. Andrew Menzin, Chief, Division of Gynecologic Oncology, Central Region Department of OB/GYN, Northwell Health. “In today’s healthcare setting, women need to be proactive about their health through dialog with their doctor and maintaining important records, such as Pap test results.”
It’s also essential to contact your doctor right away if you are experiencing any unusual symptoms, such as:

  • Bleeding
  • Discharge
  • Pelvic pain

Gynecologist or General Practitioner?

Many young women rely on their gynecologist as their facilitator of primary care. Those who do should mention this during their well-woman exams to ensure they receive other necessary screenings, such as for blood pressure, bone density, weight, cholesterol and emotional health.

As women get older, their gynecological needs evolve. Cervical cancer screening may be discontinued in some women at 65 years, and the gynecologist can help navigate the medical issues that occur as part of the transition into the menopausal years. Regular visits remain an important part of women’s health maintenance.

Strides in Cervical Cancer Prevention

It is a unique moment in medical history when a vaccine can help prevent the development of cancer. This is currently the case with the available vaccines to prevent infection by certain types of the human papilloma virus (HPV). HPV causes most cases of cervical cancer, as well as many vaginal, vulvar, anal, penile and oropharyngeal cancers (cancers of the throat and mouth).

The American Cancer Society recommends routine HPV vaccination for girls and boys, starting at age 11 or 12. HPV vaccination is also recommended for females 13 to 26 and males 13 to 21 who have not already started the vaccines. Talk to your doctor for specific HPV vaccination recommendations for yourself or your child.

Find out more about cervical cancer prevention and treatment. At Katz Institute for Women’s Health, we’re here to answer your questions. Call the Katz Institute for Women’s Health Resource Center at 855-850-5494 to speak to a women’s health specialist.

skin cancer

Reduce Your Risk of Developing Skin Cancer

Achieving that once enviable, sun-kissed glow of summer not only speeds up the development of skin discolorations and wrinkles, it also dramatically increases your chance of skin cancer. Today, we know that there is a clear link between sun exposure and skin cancer. Yet, many are surprised to learn their risk. More than 4 million cases of basal cell carcinoma and 1 million cases of squamous cell carcinoma are diagnosed in the United States each year. One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. (source: Skin Cancer Foundation)

Most of us are exposed to substantial amounts of the sun’s rays throughout our lifetime. They are present during daylight hours, even when it’s cloudy. UVA and UVB rays play a key role in skin aging, wrinkling and skin cancer. Exposure to them causes cumulative damage over time. Having had one or more blistering sunburns as a child or teenager can even increase your risk of developing skin cancer as an adult.

Make Sunscreen a Daily Habit

The good news is that you can greatly reduce your risk of developing skin cancer, as well as slow down skin aging, by using a few proven preventive strategies. This starts with applying a sunscreen daily with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 with a broad spectrum to protect against both UVA and UVB rays. Anything above SPF 30 has little incremental benefit, and below 30 is not effective enough. If applied correctly, this will block up to 97 percent of damaging rays. Reapplication is important, particularly if you are in the water or sweating.

There are two different sunscreen types on the market – chemical and physical blockers. Chemical blockers work by absorbing the sun’s rays, and physical blockers deflect the rays. Chemical sunscreens typically offer more coverage but take about 20 minutes after application to be effective. Some individuals can experience irritation from the active ingredients in sunscreens with chemical blockers. Physical sunscreens contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. They work immediately after application. Products containing zinc oxide are typically better for those with sensitive skin and offer protection against the entire spectrum of UVA and UVB rays. There are sunscreens on the market that contain both chemical and physical blockers.

Many women use makeup that contains sunscreen. While this can offer some level of protection, it typically is not sufficient. The safest bet is to apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen under makeup. Don’t forget to use a lip balm or lipstick that also has SPF.

Other Skin Protection Strategies

While making sunscreen application a regular part of your daily routine is an important part of reducing your chance of developing skin cancer, it’s not the only way to protect your skin.

“No sunscreen is going to block 100 percent of the sun’s rays,” says Dr. Victoria Sharon, Director of Dermatologic Surgery and Dermato-Oncology at Northwell Health. “You need a multi-faceted approach that also includes wearing protective clothing and sunglasses and avoiding sun exposure during peak sunlight hours between 10am and 3pm.”

There are also new options when it comes to UV-protective products. A growing number of retailers are selling shirts, hats, pants, swimsuits and other clothing items that are made from fabric infused with chemicals that absorb UV rays. You can also create your own protective clothes by using one of the laundry detergents or laundry additives now available that distribute UV protection chemicals onto fabrics during the wash cycle.

Watch for Skin Cancer Symptoms

Most skin cancers are highly treatable when caught at an early stage. This is why it’s also important to watch for common signs of skin cancer. This means remembering the ABCDEs:

  • “A” for asymmetrical. Is a mole or spot irregular with two parts that look different?
  • “B” for border. Is the border irregular or uneven?
  • “C” for color. Is the color inconsistent?
  • “D” for diameter. Is the mole or spot larger than the size of a small pencil eraser?
  • “E” for evolving. Has the mole or sot changed over a period of weeks or months?

If you have noticed a change, such as a new mole, a sore that doesn’t heal or any of the ABCDEs, get it checked out by your doctor. Learn more about the ABDEs of melanoma.

Want to learn more about preventing skin cancer? At Katz Institute for Women’s Health, we’re here to answer your questions. Call the Katz Institute for Women’s Health Resource Center at 855-850-5494 to speak to a women’s health specialist.

sleep better

Strategies to Avoid the Summer Sleep Problems

Struggling with summer sleep problems? You have plenty of company! Most of us have heard of the “summer slide,” when students tend to lose math and reading skills over the summer vacation. However, academic learning isn’t the only thing that tends to slide during the warm weather months. There is also often a summer sleep slide that not only impacts children, but also plenty of adults.

Maintain a Consistent Bedtime Routine

Summer vacations and the freedom from the weekday school routine can lead to later bedtimes and disrupted sleep schedules for everyone in the family. This can be a very real problem that over time results in sleep deprivation. It’s important to balance the freedom of summer break with a family’s sleep needs.

Preschoolers need 11 to 13 hours of sleep each night, and school age kids require 10.5 to 12 hours. Most adults need seven to nine hours. Ideally, keep bedtimes consistent over the summer to keep internal clocks in check.

“It’s important to maintain the same going-to-bed and wake-up times,” says Dr. Preethi Rajan of Northwell Health’s Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine. “Going to bed late and sleeping in can affect the natural rhythm of our sleep. Chilldren get hyperactive and lose their ability to pay attention when their regular schedule is disrupted. Adults can feel groggy and tired through the day.”

Darken Your Bedroom

After a long, dark winter, summertime sunshine is a welcome change, but it’s not so great when it impacts sleep. Living in a region where it’s still light outside during the evening hours can make it more difficult to fall asleep. To avoid a sleep problem, keep your bedroom dark at night with light-blocking curtains or blinds, as well as maintain consistency in your sleep routine. If you find it difficult to fall asleep, don’t be tempted to grab for an electronic device to lull yourself into dreamland. Digital technology impacts cognitive stimulation and can rev up the brain, which is the opposite of what should be happening before sleep. The bedroom should be an electronic-free zone, and ideally, there should be 15 to 30 minutes of technology-free time before heading to bed.

Keep It Cool

With summer sun comes higher temperatures. A bedroom that is too warm can keep you awake at night. Falling asleep and staying asleep requires the body to lower its internal temperature. This can be more difficult if your bedroom’s temperature is not optimal. A few suggestions to keep it cool include:

  • Keep windows tightly closed if the temperature outside is hotter than indoors
  • Use a fan to circulate cool air
  • Wear light bed clothing
  • Take a cool shower or bath before getting into bed
  • Don’t exercise within several hours of your regular bedtime

Could It Be a Sleep Disorder?

Although there are temporary sleep problems that are more likely to occur during the summer, they may also indicate a larger sleep disorder. If you frequently experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to discuss them with your physician.

  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Daytime fatigue
  • Strong urge to take naps during the day
  • Irritability
  • Lack of concentration
  • Depression

Want to learn more about overcoming sleep problems? At Katz Institute for Women’s Health, we’re here to answer your questions. Call the Katz Institute for Women’s Health Resource Center at 855-850-5494 to speak to a women’s health specialist.

Summer Safety Tips to Keep You and Your Family Safe

With warmer temperatures and children out of school, summer is the time to enjoy some rest and relaxation. It’s also when certain types of injuries and illnesses are more likely to occur. This is why it’s important to put into play some basic summer safety tips. From barbecues and swim parties to trampolines and fireworks, summer is loaded with fun, as well as opportunities to step up your safety game.

“Safety definitely begins at home,” says Ro Ennis, Assistant Vice President, Community Health and Education at the Katz Institute for Women’s Health. “By being aware of the potential risks and using some common-sense strategies, you can avoid many of the most common summertime injuries and illnesses.”

Water Safety

Swimming is a favorite summer activity for both children and adults. On average, nearly 5,000 individuals each year in the United States receive emergency care for injuries suffered in swimming pools (source: U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission). Water safety should be a top priority. This includes never leaving young children unattended near water, always swimming with a buddy and ensuring that everyone in the family learns to swim well.

Barbecue Safety

With outdoor living spaces becoming increasingly popular, more of us are investing in grills and even full outdoor kitchens. Gas and charcoal grills are ideal for creating delicious summertime meals at home, but they also increase the risk of thermal burns and home fires. For safe grilling, the grill should never be left unattended and should be placed well away from structures, including railings, fences and eaves. Children and pets should be kept at least three feet away from the grill area. Gas grill lids should always be open before lighting.

Heat and Sun Safety

Summer is all about enjoying the warm temperatures. However, on hot sunny days, it’s easy to get too much of a good thing. Overexposure to the sun can cause sunburns, as well as heat-related illness. To minimize any risk, practice proper sun protection. This includes using a sunscreen with SPF of 30 or higher, wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses, staying in the shade during midday hours and avoiding small spaces, such as inside of a car, where hot temperatures can build up quickly and cause hyperthermia.

Food Safety

Food poisoning is more common during the summer months because food-borne bacteria grow quicker in hot weather. Extra care should be taken with food prepared and eaten outdoors. Use an insulated cooler filled with ice or frozen gel packs to keep foods, such as meat, summer salads and dairy products, at a safe temperature. Use separate cutting boards and utensils for raw meat and ready-to-eat items like bread, condiments and vegetables. Don’t let perishable food sit out for more than one hour in hot weather (above 90 degrees).

Insect Safety

Warm temperatures are also appealing to insects which can transmit illnesses, including West Nile virus, Lyme Disease, and encephalitis. To prevent insect bites and protect against illness, stay away from stagnant water and heavily wooded areas that can be breeding grounds for mosquitoes and ticks. Avoid perfumes and scented soaps that can attract some insects and use an insect repellent containing DEET which can help keep insects away.

Want to learn more about summer safety? At Katz Institute for Women’s Health, we’re here to answer your questions. Call the Katz Institute for Women’s Health Resource Center at 855-850-5494 to speak to a women’s health specialist.

Debunking Medical Myths

Debunking Medical Myths

Nearly every day, there are news stories about “breakthroughs,” “scientific findings” and “promising research.” There are also countless online medical resources, including many that publish unproven medical myths. With so much information out there of varying degrees of quality and accuracy, it can be very difficult to decipher the facts from fiction when it comes to women’s health and wellness. So, what’s the best way to determine the truth in medical headlines and online medical information? Here are a few tips to help guide you to the truth.

Don’t Jump to Conclusions

With increasing health-related headlines and news, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. What was once reported to be healthy can quickly be debunked and deemed downright risky. Before you make medical decisions based on a specific study or website, it’s important to consider that not all online medical information is significant or even valid.

Learn What Makes a Study Trustworthy

Not sure how to determine the validity or importance of a study? You will want to look at two key factors that can determine its reliability. First, it should be a randomized controlled trial. And, the study results should be published in an established journal such as the New England Journal of Medicine, the Journal of the American Medical Association or Lancet.

Rely on Reliable Health Information Websites

The Northwell Health site is a valuable source of accurate healthcare information. As well, the National Institutes of Health website is a trustworthy source for health information. Be leery of websites that are primarily testimonials or personal stories. Not everyone experiences health-related issues the same way. In other words, one person’s experience is not as compelling as clinical research.

Talk to Your Doctor

Most importantly, discuss any health or wellness issues with your healthcare provider. Don’t stop medication or treatment just because you saw a compelling report on a news channel. It’s important to talk to your doctor to determine if the study does apply to you and if it is reliable.

Do you have medical or healthcare questions? At Katz Institute for Women’s Health, we’re here with the latest information and facts. Call the Katz Institute for Women’s Health Resource Center at 855-850-5494 to speak to a women’s health specialist.