Razing the Bar

Written by admin on . Posted in Health and Wellness


Story BY Elizabeth Heubeck      PHOTOGRAPHY BY Mary C. Gardella

November/December 2017

It’s dinner time and you find yourself in the kitchen, chopping and sautéing—and, perhaps, pouring a much anticipated glass of wine. Whether you’ve been corralling kids all day or sitting through a series of intense meetings at the office, the resultant pent-up stress seems to ease with that first sip. By the end of some evenings, the recently uncorked bottle gets tossed into the recycle bin.

Sound familiar?

For countless women, the answer is “yes,” though few will readily admit it. There’s nothing wrong with a couple of glasses of wine after a long day. But the serious health threats associated with regularly consuming alcohol are fairly alarming. For instance, just one drink a day—that’s 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer, or a shot of liquor— raises women’s likelihood of developing breast cancer, say experts.

In spite of long-term medical risks associated with alcohol consumption (not to mention the immediate negative impact of the morning after), changing or even confronting alcohol consumption behaviors doesn’t come easy. For women, consuming alcohol is not only culturally acceptable, but often expected.

Summer Cullen, who works for an arts nonprofit in Baltimore City, says that women face unique challenges when it comes to juggling. “Many of us are in care¬giver roles; are expected to excel at work; be a model parent and care for our own parents; look fantastic; eat nothing but organic bean sprouts; complete “The New York Times” Sunday crossword; never miss yoga; and do it all without breaking,” says the 30-something who has given up drinking. Cullen had her first beer at age 12 and immediately liked how alcohol made her feel. As she approached 30, however, she thought she might soon be dead because of it.

As Cullen suggests, even highly successful women may turn to alcohol as a de-stressor. When asked by a reporter for “New York” magazine how she coped after her loss in the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton responded: “Long walks in the woods. Organizing my closets. I won’t lie, chardonnay helped a little, too.”

As a baby boomer, Clinton falls into an age group whose alcohol use is on the rise. A recently released study by the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism found that, among women 60 and older, heavy drinking is increasing. Researchers tracked the drinking patterns of more than 65,000 respondents between 1997 and 2016 and found that, while men’s binge drinking habits remained the same over this period, women’s increased an average of nearly 4 percent every year. The study was published in the journal “Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.”

Older women aren’t the only ones ramping up their drinking. In a national survey of thousands of women ages 35 to 54, 71 percent of white women described them¬selves as drinkers, compared to 47 percent of black women, 41 percent of Hispanic women and 37 percent of Asian women. Furthermore, the rate of alcohol-related deaths among white women in 2015—which account for 8 percent of all fatalities among this demographic—represents a 130 percent increase since 1999, according to statistics from the National Health Interview Survey.

Even so, recent studies suggest that consuming one alcoholic beverage, specifically a glass of red wine, per day, may reduce the risk of a heart attack and increase levels of HDL or “good” cholesterol. It has also been linked to a lowered risk of type 2 diabetes.

Eric Rimm, a professor of epidemiology and nutrition who has been researching the effects of alcohol and chronic disease for decades at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health has found that ethanol increases HDL, improves insulin sensitivity and slows down the ability of blood to clot. It also helps to decrease inflammation inside of the arteries, according to Rimm.

Despite these seemingly conflicting health messages, most medical professionals agree that indulging in more than one alcoholic beverage per day is detrimental.

Wine tends to be the drink of choice among adult women. In fact, women drink nearly 60 percent of all wine consumed in the U.S., according to the Beverage Information Group. Almost half of wine drinkers are college graduates and are more likely to drink daily, according to a 2008 Gallup Poll. Further, almost 35 percent of female wine drinkers hold graduate degrees, reports Stonebridge Research, which tracks the wine industry.

Many of these educated female drinkers learn to drink in college.

Patti Sapp, a Howard County-based hypnotist, has a fair number of female clients who struggle with alcohol dependency issues. Some tell her they started drinking in college for fun. Years later, some of those women say alcohol helps them to calm down. Evelyn Frank, a 39-year-old Howard County resident, can relate.

“I so enjoyed that one fat glass of really yummy wine. It made me feel relaxed,” says Frank, who has cut back on her drink¬ing in her late 30s for health reasons. Along with limiting gluten in her diet, she sought to curtail the feeling of melancholy she says would descend on her after drinking several days in a row.

Frank says she drank heavily in college. But many women are starting at ever younger ages. David Jernigan, Ph.D., who has spent much of his career studying youth and alcohol, says that sometime around 2001, the drink of choice for 12th grade girls switched from beer to distilled spirits. “The group that is arguably the most vulnerable to the harmful effects of alcohol is drinking the strongest products,” says Jernigan, director of the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Jernigan says this shift is at least partly due to product lines and advertising that appeal expressly to young girls. One of these is “alcopops,” alcoholic beverages flavored with fruit juice and other sweet flavors. Jernigan refers to these as entry level alcoholic beverages intended expressly for inexperienced drinkers who don’t like the taste of beer or straight alcohol.

Then there are the ads intended to attract sophisticated female buyers by pushing products like natural beer and vodka, that might indicate physical or environmental health, explains Jernigan. Then there’s the “mom-specific” alcohol push, which includes products like Mad Housewife, a popular, easy-to-drink chardonnay, and an entire line of products called Mommy Juice Wines.

In addition to alcohol products themselves, plenty of ancillary items promote women’s desire to drink. A quick stroll through an airport gift shop and you’ll find items for sale that include wine tumblers in bright colors with the word Swig on them; kitchen towels with the message: Caffeine, carpool, cocktails; and greeting cards that read, “You look like I need a drink.”

To some, like now-sober Cullen, these messages are not funny or enticing. Years ago, she recalls, “I saw a young woman with a travel coffee mug that said, ‘This is probably wine.’ However, it made me desperately sad at the time, because my crappy, nondescript travel coffee mug happened to actually be holding 20 ounces of even crappier wine, as I walked my shaking self to work for the day at 7 a.m.,” she says. “What I was feeling was not a sentiment that anyone would actually want to write on a cutesy coffee mug. The irony was palpable.”

For women like Cullen, who are doing their best to stay sober, our alcohol-centric society poses a challenge. Whether the event is a baby shower, a bachelorette party or a book club meeting, alcohol will prob¬ably be part of the festivities.

“Given how ubiquitous alcohol is in our society, it takes a lot of motivation to try and stay sober, and a community of like-minded individuals to provide the support,” says 34-year-old Nadia Williams, a Baltimore resident and psychotherapist who has worked with addicts in recovery.

Williams, who considers herself a social drinker, has an active group of friends who get together about once a week. Alcohol is usually involved in these social outings, although she and her friends get together to work out, too, and, increasingly, to travel as a group. So while alcohol is often a part of her social fabric, it’s not central to it. Williams says she knows when it’s time to stop. It doesn’t much bother her when others don’t.

“Because it’s legal, people don’t see alcohol as such a problem. But it can be equally devastating when someone dies from alcohol [as from opioids],” says Sapp. The Howard County-based hypnotist points out that while opioid-related deaths have captured widespread attention recently, alcohol abuse and its potentially tragic consequences tend to fly under the radar.

Although men are more than three times as likely as women to die from alcohol-related causes, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), some experts believe that women’s dangerous drinking habits are catching up.
That’s certainly the case among younger drinkers.

“It’s clear in surveys of younger women that they’re pretty well tied with younger men in rates of drinking and binge drinking,” says Mary McCaul, Ph.D., a professor in the department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “And they’re creeping up in terms of the development of alcohol use disorder.”

But females, who metabolize alcohol differently than men, aren’t built to drink like their male counterparts. “Drink for drink, women get more exposure to alcohol (than men),” McCaul says.

It doesn’t take much alcohol exposure to be harmful. Anything beyond moderate drinking—defined by the NIAAA as more than one drink per day for women—places women at increased risk for liver damage, heart disease and breast cancer. In addition, overconsumption of alcohol increases the risk for accidents, unplanned pregnancies, legal trouble, damage to relationships and a host of other social ills.

For countless women, it all starts with what seems like an innocent pour of wine at the end of the day. But, as McCaul reminds us, “That goblet probably goes up to 10 ounces. You do that every night, and you’re entering into an unsafe level of drinking.”*


Written by admin on . Posted in Health and Wellness


STORY BY Molly Fellin Spence      PHOTOGRAPHY BY Robin Shotola

November/December 2017

Sana Waheed is all about the social aspect of exercising.

“For me, the best way to end a long workday is to meet up with my favorite running partners and chit-chat the miles away while we sweat,” said Waheed, 28, of Columbia.

While earning her master’s degree, Waheed also works full time and runs a photography business. So, fitting regular exercise into her schedule can be a challenge, as is finding the motivation to move instead of relax at the end of a long day.

“If I have plans to meet my running group or my trainer I am more likely and more motivated to get my workout in,” she says.

Another motivator for Waheed? Social media and workout apps. Waheed uses Instagram and apps like Run¬keeper and Sweat to gain inspiration and support, as well as to track her progress. She also frequently logs in to the PureBarre app to easily sign up for a barre fitness class when she’s on the run—literally or figuratively.

“I don’t have time at work to log on to a website to sign up for classes, so apps make it easy to get in a class, track my miles or get workout inspiration,” she says.

The apps also reinforce her efforts when she isn’t working out. “I love looking at how many miles I have run during the week and I am always encouraged when I see that I have set a new personal record.”

Waheed says that technology and social media have allowed her to connect with like-minded people to share her health and fitness journey. She tracks that progress on her blog, supersana.com, and via Instagram (@thesupersana). Scrolling through others’ posts on Instagram inspires Waheed, and she says it makes her feel like she can achieve her goals, too. “When you surround yourself with hard working, passionate and healthy individuals you are more likely to live that lifestyle,” she says.

Most fitness enthusiasts and per¬sonal trainers embrace the benefits of using apps and social support to achieve fitness and wellness goals. Low physical activity leads to chronic disease, weight gain and all sorts of health problems as we age. The U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion’s (ODPHP) Phys¬ical Activity Guidelines for Americans state that an active lifestyle can lower your risk of early death as well as heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, cancer and depression. And, being physically active can help you sleep better, too.

Though we know exercise and eating right can lead to weight loss and better health, getting started on the path to wellness can be daunting. Enter tech¬nology. According to the Pew Research Center, about 90 percent of Americans currently have access to the Internet, and nearly 75 percent of us own a smartphone. With these tools, it’s now easier than ever to get information, track progress and share results to help keep us accountable to our fitness and health goals. In short, if you want to get healthy and remain so, there’s an app for that.

In fact, there are about 100,000 apps for that. According to a recent study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, literally thousands of apps are available for free or low cost and are regularly downloaded to help smartphone users with health-related goals.

Stephanie Dignan, a personal trainer in Columbia, agrees that account¬ability and inspiration via apps and social media can lead to motivation for herself and her clients. Dignan teaches fitness classes in the Glen¬wood, Columbia and Clarksville areas through her business The Bootcamp Girl, which has existed for nine years.

A certified personal trainer, a group exercise instructor, a certified body flow instructor, a certified yoga instructor and a certified Tabata Boot Camp instructor, Dignan grew up in western Howard County where she was active as a child in gymnastics, cheerleading, swimming and diving at Glenelg High School. Dignan knows that an active lifestyle is important and encourages her clients to focus on sustainable changes to achieve their goals.

“We focus on the results, not just the workout,” Dignan said. “Helping people maintain the results for a lifetime is our goal.”
Technology, including smartphone apps, has helped many of Dignan’s clients track their progress and stay accountable. She encourages using the MyFitnessPal app to record daily food intake. Her clients can add her as a friend on the app so she can see what they are eating and offer feedback.

In poor weather or when traveling, fitness clients also use Skype on their phones or laptops to attend classes virtually and check in with trainers. “Any way that apps can lead to more accountability is where they help,” she said. Apps, she says, “have always been a positive for us.”

For some, though, apps may be less helpful. Kim Farrell, a personal trainer and group fitness instructor in Clarksville, says she has a different mindset when it comes to apps and tracking. Initially, she says she felt that using apps like MyFitnessPal, which help users track activities and food intake were helpful. However, she says, they may not create sustainable change. “For the long haul, I feel that it’s more about creating new habits and chang¬ing your mindset,” Farrell says. “There may be apps for that, but I haven’t found any that stand out.”

Instead of apps, Farrell focuses on teaching clients new habits through education and seminars to supplement their fitness classes. Through her own weight loss journey Farrell learned a lot about herself and how to change bad habits into good habits for life, which is the driving force behind her overall fitness philosophy.

There is limited evidence available to show whether apps can ultimately lead to positive, long-term fitness changes. A study published in the July 2015 edition of the “Journal of Medical Internet Research” stated that despite the ubiquitous number of apps avail¬able to track and facilitate physical activity, no systematic assessments have been performed to evaluate whether these apps are of high quality and produce results using sound fitness principles and scientific evidence.

The study reviewed a set of 30 popular mobile apps related to physical activ¬ity on an iPhone and compared content against the current guidelines and fitness principles established by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). A scoring method weighed the quality of content for aerobic, resistance and flexibility components of the fitness coaching apps.

Very few apps, the study found, use evidence-based methods or respect the guidelines for aerobic activity, strength/resistance training and flexibility set forth by the ACSM. And, ultimately, researchers advised caution when adopting a new app for physical activity purposes.

Even so, exercise and fitness apps are in their earliest stages. If they help give you a kick in the butt, they may prove worthwhile.*


Written by admin on . Posted in Health and Wellness


STORY BY Christianna McCausland      PHOTOGRAPHY BY Mary C. Gardella

November/December 2017

Like not taking vacation, working through lunch, and being oh so busy, Americans wear their lack of sleep like a badge of honor. Fatigue is a cross to bear in the pursuit of happiness—as if exhaustion is a requirement in the fulfillment of the American dream.

More likely it will put us in the hospital.

“People forget that sleep is a basic human need and if you don’t get it there will be consequences,” says Rachel Salas, M.D., FAAN, associate professor in neurology at the Johns Hopkins Center for Sleep, located at Howard County General Hospital. Sleeping, she says, is as fundamental to our health as eating and drinking. And while the brain can’t conjure food and drink where there is none, it can force us to sleep.

“It’s called micro sleep,” Salas says, and might only last a few seconds. “But if you’re driving on the road or conducting delicate surgery,” she points out, that involuntary nap could have critical consequences.

Data collected by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) underscores negative impacts of lack of sleep. One-third of Americans don’t get the recommended seven-plus hours of sleep a night, according to the CDC. Drowsy driving accounts for 83,000 crashes annually. Moreover, exhaustion contributes to poor mood, judgment and appearance, and is linked to chronic diseases including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity and depression.

“Restorative and anti-inflammatory processes happen at night,” explains Dushyant Viswanathan, M.D., medical director at The Columbia Center for Integrative Medicine. In sleep, “The brain goes into housekeeping mode … metabolic bi-products are a side effect of metabolism—of living—and sleep is an important time to clean that up.”

Arianna Huffington agrees. In her book “The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time,” Huffington describes collapsing in 2007 from exhaustion.

“Scientists are resoundingly confirming what our ancestors knew instinctively: that our sleep is not empty time,” Huffington states in her book. “Sleep is a time of intense neurological activity … in fact, getting the right amount of sleep enhances the quality of every minute we spend with our eyes open.”

As many as 80 million people suffer from poor sleep and 60 million of those meet the criteria for having a sleep disorder. Yet only 40 million are diagnosed. In cases like obstructive sleep apnea, where regular breathing is interrupted or obstructed, the lack of a proper diagnosis can be downright dangerous.

Symptoms of a sleep disorder can include heavy snoring, waking up gasping and excessive daytime sleepiness. Women take heed: The risk of sleep apnea goes up after menopause and women are more likely than men to suffer from sleep apnea.

“Depending on the person, you need seven to nine hours of sleep a night,” says Salas. “If you are getting adequate sleep but are still exhausted, see a doctor.”

Joanie Elder, a 56-year-old who owns a title and real estate settlement company with her husband, was one of those women who put off seeing a doctor. Not being able to sleep had dogged her throughout her life, she says. “‘I’m tired because I was up with the baby;’ ‘It’s because of menopause …’” Complaining about being tired, she says, “seemed indulgent. I only went to the doctor when I wasn’t able to function.”

In 2007 Elder developed significant insomnia; by 2010 she had to sit up or walk around the house to keep her legs from tingling and aching. By then she wasn’t sleeping at all. Her primary doctor diagnosed her with Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS), prescribed sleeping pills and referred her to a neurologist. Eventually Elder ended up in a clinical trial and met Hopkins’ Dr. Salas.

Elder ended up eliminating the sleeping pills, which didn’t work and left her “with a chemical feeling” and found a medication that helps her RLS. She has a sleep ritual that includes an evening “walking” meditation, soothing lavender oil and a hot water bottle. She does not watch television late in the evening but reads for a bit. Elder says she still has bad nights, which she embraces as part of living with RLS. But she routinely gets eight hours of sleep.

“It was like getting something back you didn’t know you’d lost,” she says of her sound sleep. “Everything—being a good wife, a good worker, a nice person—got easier.”


There are medications to treat RLS as well as a variety of treatments for sleep apnea, including continuous positive airway pressure therapy (CPAP) and dental appliances. But many sleep issues are more general, falling under the umbrella of insomnia. For that, there is no simple, singular solution.

The Center for Sleep tends to not use sleep medications, says Salas. Instead, “We’re usually taking people off them. Insomnia is so complex, there is no magic pill.”

The center employs a cognitive behavioral therapist who specializes in sleep and who helps identify such factors contributing to insomnia as anxiety or environmental issues.

Viswanathan will often have an insomniac patient go through a 24-hour test period to review cortisol levels. Elevated cortisol can be treated with melatonin, though Viswanathan notes that in the subtle science of sleep, he uses everything from essential oils to plant-based anti-inflammatories.

Gretchen Overdurff, 72, the retired CEO of a planned community who now lives in Columbia, began having sleep issues when she chose to wean herself off hormone replace therapy (HRT) she took following the start of menopause. Unlike the stress-related sleeplessness she had when working— when she couldn’t decompress to fall sleep— when she stopped the HRT she would wake at three or four in the morning unable to return to sleep.

“Working on three or four hours of sleep was hard,” she explains. “Because I’m retired I could take naps, but that made the problem worse because it disturbed my circadian rhythm.”

Overdurff knew she did not have a sleep disorder, so she sought a holistic solution with Viswanathan. Like Elder, Overdurff now has a sleep ritual. She eats dinner no later than 7 p.m., only watches light television programs and drinks little alcohol. If she’s had a stressful day she makes a cup of golden milk, a soothing drink of almond milk mixed with herbs including turmeric, nutmeg and ginger. At about 9 p.m. she does calming yoga, takes melatonin, vitamin D3 and capsules of L. Tryptophan. She sleeps in a dark room and keeps her cell phone elsewhere so tempting beeps don’t suck her into the online world.

She now sleeps 8-9 hours a night.

“Sleep impacts your performance, your health, your emotional well-being,” says Overdurff. “We as women need to under¬stand how our body works and be responsible for fostering our own well-being.”

For centuries, human sleep was naturally regulated by sunrise and sunset. For most of existence, the world was dark and quiet. We went to bed not really knowing (or caring) what our friends/boss/president were up to. Now we’re constantly bombarded by artificial light. We’re tempted to be online and responding at all hours, behaviors that stimulate our brains and often trigger anxiety.

We can get more and better sleep—but we have to commit to it.

Viswanathan says we need to stop thinking sleep is automatic and instead look at how we use the pre-sleep time, particularly the hours from about 9 to 11 p.m.

“Do you pass out on the sofa watching television? Are you on Facebook late into the night? Our emotional tone gets in the way of doing what needs to be done to get ourselves to that sleep state,” he explains. “We need to be kind to ourselves in that time before sleep.”

“We look at sleep as a luxury, not a human need,” adds Salas. “My message is that sleep matters and only you can prioritize it.”*


Written by admin on . Posted in Business, Family, Health and Wellness

November/December 2017






The word creates an emotional reaction.

Will I have enough money?
Will my children be okay?
Can I keep my home or have to move?
Aside from an attorney,who else do I need to help me?

The SIEGELLAW immersion approach to family law is unique. In addition to full service family law representation, we provide our clients with a road map to move forward with their lives.

WOMEN’S RESOURCE GUIDE | Advanced Treatment Brings Relief from Hemorrhoids

Written by admin on . Posted in Business, Health and Wellness

November/December 2017




Discomfort caused by hemorrhoids should not be a permanent part of your life. Thanks to a variety of new treatments, gastroenterologists are able to relieve or even eliminate hemorrhoid symptoms. In the U.S., 75% of people will have hemorrhoid symptoms in their lifetime. So if you’re having any of the signs, you have lots of company. The most common symptoms include things like:

• Anal itching or burning
• Rectal bleeding (other serious causes need to be ruled out)
• Feeling of fullness in the anal area
• Hemorrhoid prolapse (tissue that protrudes outside the anus)

As a gastroenterologist I begin by counseling patients about dietary changes such as increasing fiber and water intake, behavioral modifications, and topical treatments. But if those things don’t work, I offer hemorrhoid band ligation—a comfortable in-office procedure that can treat and even eradicate hemorrhoid symptoms. In fact, the reoccurrence rate of symptoms after hemorrhoid band ligation is only 5% at two years. No sedation or bowel preparation is required. Afterward patients can drive and return to their normal daily activities. If hemorrhoid symptoms are a problem for you, schedule a visit at Capital Digestive Care.

WOMEN’S RESOURCE GUIDE | Central Maryland Radiation Oncology

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November/December 2017

University-Based Radiation Oncology in Howard County

If radiation therapy has been recommended as part of your cancer treatment, did you know you can be treated in Howard County? At Central Maryland Radiation Oncology, experts from the University of Maryland Medical Center and Johns Hopkins Medicine collaborate to offer some
of the most advanced radiation cancer treatment options available.

Central Maryland Radiation Oncology treats patients with all stages and types of cancer providing the latest radiation treatments, such as stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT) and intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT). These technologies allow our doctors to target higher doses University-Based Radiation Oncology in Howard County of radiation to cancer cells while protecting healthy tissues.

For prostate cancer, Central Maryland Radiation Oncology also offers brachytherapy, where tiny radioactive seeds are placed internally to target cancer cells.

Patients of Central Maryland Radiation Oncology can also access national clinical trials offered by two National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centers without the need to travel to downtown Baltimore. Patient are seen quickly, often within two to three business days.

Learn more about Central Maryland Radiation Oncology at cmradonc.org or call 443-546-1300.


Written by admin on . Posted in Health and Wellness, news

November/December 2017

The Therapeutic and Recreational Riding Center Inc., is a Glenwood-based farm dedicated to helping children and young adults diagnosed with a wide range of physical, mental and emotional challenges including autism, Down syndrome, post-traumatic stress dis¬order and brain injury.

In September, the nonprofit organization opened a 4,100 square foot indoor sensory-sensitive therapy riding arena, increasing the number of riders it can serve by offering sessions in the winter and in inclement weather. The center, which currently has a waiting list, provides services to more than 200 people with various abilities.

The 55-acre working farm has two indoor and outdoor riding arenas, a ground therapy room, stabling for 50 horses and ponies, and riding trails.

In October 2016, the organization launched a successful $75,000 fund¬raising campaign. The Indianapolis-based Finish Line Youth Foundation gave a challenge grant of $75,000 in matching funds. Construction began in June for the $150,000 facility, which features a sprinkler system to minimize dust, heaters for year-round use and an outdoor mounting ramp for wheel¬chair access to the arena.

The Power of Pets

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Research has shown that interaction with a pet is beneficial on many levels

STORY BY Elizabeth Heubeck      PHOTOGRAPHY BY Mary C. Gardella

September/October 2017

When I was 4, I felt certain that my friend’s two dogs were horses. They were taller than I, with pointy ears and sharp teeth. They smelled of swampy muck and terrified me. Then there was a neighbor’s German shepherd, who raced back and forth on the front porch, barking when we walked past. Upon visiting my future in-laws for the first time, their son and I were greeted by two enormous Labrador retrievers whose barks convinced me they could rip me to shreds. They never bit me, but they did maul a brand-new pair of flats I naively placed by the door.

I never envisioned myself a dog owner.

That changed when my daughter, 12 at the time, begged us for a dog. An animal lover from the time she could play with stuffed toys, she promised to fill out the paperwork to adopt a rescue dog and train it. When our puppy dog Sadie came into our lives, every member of our family developed a special relationship with her. Our loving and sensitive mutt has changed the way I perceive pets.

My drastic change in attitude mirrors a shift over the past several decades in how Americans view their relationship with domesticated animals. In our grandparents’ generation, most people acquired dogs to serve primarily as guard dogs or, in rural areas, for hunting. Dogs lived in simple, outdoor houses or in a barn or garage. Now, most American dog owners wouldn’t think of leaving Fido outdoors all day. Instead, we buy expensive dog beds where they can lounge at will, even though upwards of 80 percent of dogs sleep on—or in—their owners’ beds at night.

In 2016 alone, Americans doled out more than $60 billion on pets, according to the American Pet Products Association (APPA). That number is likely to keep rising as pet ownership continues to trend upward. Currently, about 85 million American households, or 68 percent, own a pet, reports the APPA. This is up from 58 percent 30 years ago.

Life-long animal lover and veterinarian Estelle Ward, co-owner of West Friendship Animal Hospital, provides a simple explanation for the morphing relationship between humans and their four-legged friends: “Companionship is really the cornerstone” of the pet–person relationship, she says. A pet, she says, “can be a stead¬fast anchor in a complicated world.” says Ward.

From anecdotes to data-driven research, there’s plenty of evidence of the positive—some might say downright healing—effects animals on humans. Some researchers call this “the Lassie effect.”

A study in Australia recently found that regular dog walkers were more likely to meet the recommended 150 minutes of physical activity per week. Moreover, the study found, support systems like neighborhood dog parks increased the dog owners’ likelihood to walk.

With their profusion of bacteria, dogs, the “New York Times” recently reported, can add diversity to the indoor microbiome. Before you banish your pup to the bathtub, note the growing evidence that exposure to a range of bacteria can help prevent auto¬immune disorders and allergies. Jack Gilbert, director of the Microbiome Center at the University of Chicago and an advocate of pet ownership is quoted in the “Times” as saying, “If we can’t bring our kids to the farm, maybe we can bring the farm to kids.”
And of course, domesticated animals also provide a wealth of emotional benefits—even for non-pet owners.

Pets on Wheels, a Maryland-based organization utilizes volunteers and their therapy dogs (not to be confused with service dogs, which receive much lengthier and specific training) to provide uplifting visits to people in a variety of settings. The therapy dog may lie at the feet of a young reluctant reader at a local library as he or she reads out loud to the nonjudgmental listener. Or, the dog may receive a gentle petting from the resident of a nursing home. The power of touch has been shown to have therapeutic benefits for elderly patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

According to Gina Kazimir, executive director of Pets on Wheels, as many as 60 percent of seniors in nursing homes don’t receive regular visitors. “It’s an incredibly sad situation,” she says. “Simply by visiting, you’re providing an amazing service.” Kazimir has witnessed the profound effects that therapy dogs can have on the people they visit. She has seen older people with dementia regain their desire and make attempts to speak. She has heard from parents who say their children’s willingness to read independently increased after a few sessions spent reading to therapy dogs.

Shari Sternberger co-founded National Capital Therapy Dogs in Highland more than 20 years ago. From the way she talks about her experiences as a therapy dog handler, it’s hard to tell who benefited more from the experience: she or the people her dogs visited.

“Whatever we had on our shoulders that day kind of fell off,” Sternberger says of the precious time she and her husband, Wayne, spent with their therapy dogs and various patients, often at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center and Johns Hopkins Hospital.

She describes a young girl in the hospital with cancer. The girl’s mother hesitated to let the child pet the therapy dog waiting patiently in the doorway. Eventually, the young girl’s father allowed Sternberger and the dog to enter the room. Sternberger recalls the girl’s radiant joy as she caressed the dog. Sternberger says she is grateful the girl, who did not recover from the disease, had an opportunity to experience a tender moment with a pet.

If you own a dog, you have probably experienced its ability to sense and respond to people’s moods—especially their owners’. Pets on Wheels’ Kazimir recalls how her dogs behaved when her late father-in-law was ill. Normally, the high-energy hounds would roughhouse and run with her husband. But, Kazimir says, during that period they sensed her husband’s melancholy mood and, as she put it, “they suspended all of their needs.” Reflecting on what seems to be a dog’s sense of intuition, Kazimer says, “The reality is that dogs read body language in a way that humans simply can’t.”

And yet, these pets that we bring into our homes—our beds, even—to love unconditionally and treat as family members, are animals. And this is something, veterinarian Ward reminds us, that we too often forget.

“We need to monitor the level of anthropomorphism that we bring to the table,” says Ward. After all, pets often revert to instinct—witness such small “presents” as birds and rodents left bloodied on your stoop, or the aggression some dogs can display when encountering a foe. “These are dogs or cats in their own right,” Ward points out. Even though she adds, “We all just adore them.”

Care Giving

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“There are only four kinds of people in the world – those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers and those who will need caregivers.”
Rosalynn Carter, Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving, rosalynncarter.org

September/October 2017

Care giving is the hardest job we will ever have. In Howard County alone there are between 4,000-5,000 informal unpaid caregivers for individuals over 65 years of age. That number does not take into consideration close to 1,000 grandparents 60+ years of age, responsible for grandchildren under the age of 18 years of age.

These numbers are on the conservative side considering how difficult it is to identify caregivers in the first place.

Love, duty, honor, and reciprocity are all words used to describe why loved-one’s care for one another. Most caregivers do what they do because it is a natural and integral part of their day-to-day lives. They give rides to doctor appointments, cook meals, deliver care to parents, children, spouses, friends, and most still work outside the home. It often takes a village to care for someone but too often people are doing it alone.

The Howard County Caregiver Support Program (CSP) is dedicated to finding caregivers and helping them through outreach, education, and supportive services. Our program provides an abundance of resources, and help accessing tools to better navigate caregiving efforts. It is our goal to ensure all caregivers are informed and supported by quality targeted services. A goal is to ensure that our caregivers understand they are just as important a part of the caregiving equation as their care recipient. When one is busy providing physical and emotional care for someone one often forgets about her or his own well-being, and that is where the CSP can help.

Education is a key component of the support we deliver. We host an annual caregiver conference offering education on pertinent topics. An array of exhibitors supply materials on a wide range of services and subject matter vital to caregivers. Along with education, socialization with one’s peers was also important. Attendees enjoy a day together talking and learning a lot about caregiving, but more importantly they realize they are not alone in walking this journey. Our 2018 Annual Caregiver Conference is scheduled for Saturday, March 3rd.

We encourage caregivers to engage with others whenever possible. Participating in support groups helps to continue these conversations and begin new ones. Support groups offer a confidential and caring forum where caregivers can talk about their joys, their struggles and in turn help each other. There is no way we can do it alone, and we shouldn’t have to. If support groups are not an avenue you wish to pursue then you may find educational sessions and classes to be a good alternative.

Powerful Tools for Caregivers is a 6-week evidence-based course designed with the caregiver’s well-being in mind. It offers the individual with a toolkit of self-care strategies to improve communications, reduce stress, talk through making tough caregiver decisions, and much more. This class is presented several times throughout the year.

Howard County Office on Aging and Independence (OAI) also gives year-round educational sessions on topics including dementia and Alzheimer’s-related topics, consumer protection and scams, communication, “Prepare to Care” presented by our Maryland Access Point (MAP) Specialists, and several sessions led by area experts in different realms of caregiving such as NAMI, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s Association.

Two new exciting offerings coming in the Fall of 2017 are a Virtual Dementia Tour™ and Practical Skills for Caregivers.

The Virtual Dementia Tour™ will make its debut at this year’s 50+ Expo titled, “Preparedness, Information and Education.” The tour is an interactive tool and virtual learning session to experience and help understand dementia. Virtual Dementia Tour™ “Your Window into Their World,” guides participants through the mind of those with dementia using sensory tools and patented devices that will alter your senses. This program is designed to give the participant an interactive experience that will deepen one’s understanding of the physical and mental challenges faced by those living with dementia which will empower us to provide them with better care and support.

Practical Skills for Caregivers is a five-week series in partnership with Howard Community College and taught by educators at the School of Nursing. The course will provide learners with helpful information and useful strategies to take care of their loved ones at home. Topics will include: caring for people with dementia, how to prevent falls and injuries in the home, incontinence and the warning signs, medication management and safety, nutrition for the elderly, and taking care of the caregiver.

Even when we want to take care of our loved-ones at home, we cannot forget about the importance of respite. Every caregiver needs respite, and the Howard County Office on Aging and Independence has day programs to meet the needs of caregivers needing a break or assistance for their loved-ones. Connections Social Day Program is for adults needing guidance and supervision, while allowing them to stay active, have fun and still be connected to the community. A day might consist of exercise, memory enhancement and intergenerational programs, trips, music, games, art and much more. Programs are found at 3 convenient 50+ sites throughout the county; the Ellicott City 50+, North Laurel 50+ and Glenwood 50+ Centers.

Another very special program through the OAI is the Kindred Spirits Social Club offered at the Glen¬wood 50+ and N. Laurel locations. Kindred Spirits is a day program providing socialization, companionship, support, education, and a sense of purpose for those affected by those diagnosed with early stage memory loss. Daily activities may include music, yoga, art, pottery, educational program, trips, lunch and much more.

Sometimes we need someone to walk through our struggles with us, or a listening ear providing validation we are doing the right thing. At other times resources are the key to our caregiving success. Maryland Access Point (MAP) can help you navigate benefit programs, evaluate short and long-term needs, and give you referrals for or connect you to services and programs. You can contact them at 410-313-1234 (voice/relay).

The Caregiver Support Program services are not limited to the aging population. We aid persons caring for those with disabilities through our MAP Specialists or through a referral to our disability partner agency, Accessible Resources for Independence (410) 636-2274 (voice/relay). Both services offer resource navigation and, advocacy efforts. Howard County’s Office of ADA Coordination handles questions and concerns from the public regarding Howard County government’s compliance with the accessibility requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Fair Housing Act and other disability rights laws. The Office of ADA Coordination also serves as a resource to the public on other disability rights matters. The office can be reached at 410-313-6402 or 6431 (voice/relay).

Grandparents raising grandchildren are an underestimated source of caregiving in Howard County. As previously stated there are close to 1,000 grandparent caregivers, and we truly believe that number to be low as well. Through our caregiver grant program and work with the Office of Children and Families we hope to assist more and more grandparents each year who are taking on this very important job. Children and Families can be reached by calling 410-313-6060 or 2273 (voice/relay).

Never underestimate the power of support in whatever form it may take. The OAI is resource driven and here to help you plan for today and tomorrow. You don’t know where your caregiving journey will take you and the Caregiver Support Program is here to help and guide you while on the journey.

For information about the Caregiver Support Program, or about this article, please contact 410-313-5955 (voice/relay).

The Wheels on the Bike Go Round and Round

Written by admin on . Posted in Health and Wellness

STORY BY Gina Gallucci-White      PHOTOGRAPHY BY Mary C. Gardella

June/July 2017

Instead of driving a car to work, Jane Dembner takes her bike. It’s a six mile commute to her Columbia-based workplace each way. “It’s a really good way to stay fit,” she says. Commuting by bike may not be the most strenuous of workouts,she says, “But if you add it all up for the week, it’s not bad.”Dembner says she no longer feels the need to go to the gym: “I have gotten my exercise.”

Dembner tries to bike to work as often as she can even when the weather is bad—as long as it’s safe, she says. “You don’t avoid leaving the house when it’s raining,” she says. “You just have an umbrella.”  Of course, when she rides her bike in the rain, she uses extra caution, Dembner says.

Marcia Cohen, whose love for cycling was reignited by a noncompetitive riding group in Howard County, completed a 300 mile ride from Miami to Key West in January.

On days when she doesn’t bike to work, one of Dembner’s family members drives her. She doesn’t have to worry about car payments, upkeep or parking fees. Plus she enjoys seeing the world from her bicycle. “You see natural beauty as well as stuff around the community that you don’t see when you are going 50 miles an hour on the roadway,” she points out. And there’s an added bonus: “Who doesn’t like the air going through your hair?”

In April 2016, Howard County adopted its first bicycle master plan. Taking two years to put together using community feedback, the plan aims to identify and develop a countywide system to connect riding routes and bicycle amenities. The projects will be implemented in phases and are funded by the county or through state and federal grants. “Over the next 10 years, we have plenty to work on here,” says Chris Eatough, the county’s bicycle and pedestrian coordinator. Being bike friendly isn’t just to improve residents’ quality of life, says Eatough. It also makes economic sense. “People are interested in living and working in places that are bike and walk friendly,” he points out. The active lifestyle asso¬ciated with bike-friendly regions, he says, “makes the area more attractive for businesses and residents.”

Last year, residents saw the opening of the Downtown Columbia Trail—a 3.1 mile, 10-foot-wide pathway that starts at Howard County General Hospital and ends in Blandair Park. Eventually, that pathway will connect to other trails, so that more people can reach it by bike or on foot, says Eatough. “Connections off the downtown Columbia trail are a current focus.”

Officials are also looking at a bike project in the southeast portion of the county. North Laurel Connections will link Savage Park to the Laurel MARC train station. Eatough says some planning studies have been completed for the project. He projects that construc-tion and implementation will begin in the next year or so.

Just in time for summer, the county planned to launch a Columbia bike share program in late May. Stations at seven locations throughout the down¬town and Oakland Mills area will offer 70 bikes to residents for a small fee. Modeled after programs in Washington, D.C., and New York, the program allows users to pick up a bike at one location and drop it off at another.

Eatough says he hopes the bike share program will appeal to a range of people who might normally be intimidated by riding a bike. To entice those who might be physically challenged or need a boost, some of the shared bikes will offer an electrical assist. “It’s like having a tail wind or somebody giving you a little push up the hill,” Eatough says. “We’re hoping to reach a lot of people and give them an alternative way of getting around in downtown Columbia.”

Laurel resident Erica Roberts says she appreciates the county’s bike-friendliness. “It’s nice to know that cyclists are being considered,” she says. Attention to cyclists also makes her feel safer. The designated bike lanes, she says, make both cyclists and drivers more aware of the need to share the road. Cyclists, she points out, “are more visible.”

Roberts bikes twice a week—often with friends—on the Columbia Gateway Circle and the Iron Girl trail. She enjoys the camaraderie of cycling and has found friends who help to encourage, and often push, each other on the trails. In addition, the regular exercise routine has helped her with toning and endurance.

In January, Columbia resident Marcia Cohen completed a 300-mile bicycle trip from Miami to Key West and back. She attributes her success on the grueling ride to the Howard County program Cycle2Health.

Cohen joined the noncompetitive, peer-led bicycling club three years ago to get back into bicycling. “I once bicycled a lot and then it dropped off. I wanted to get back into the habit,” she says.

Cycle2Health offers group rides with three different levels: casual, moderate and advanced. The rides, offered during daylight hours during the week, are designed for retired residents, says Courtney Barkley, manager of the Health and Wellness division of the Howard County Office on Aging and Independence. “We’re always looking for creative and new programming ideas,” says Barkley. A few years ago, her office was “trying to think outside of the box to attract those who are either newly retired or those who are retired who are not accessing our office.”

Adults of all ages are welcome on the rides. Participants have ranged in age from 40 to 90, Barkley says. Launched in 2013, Cycle2Health is an alternative to cycling groups that offer evening and weekend rides. The program, says Jeannie DeCray, a Cycle2Health exercise specialist, provides a social outlet around a healthy activity. “Cycling can be a solo activity but riding in a club like this gives people a chance to be together,” she says. Furthermore, the program is part of an approach to overall wellness. “Our goal is to enrich people’s lives not just on a physical level, but in the social and emotional components of their lives,” DeCray points out.

Marcia Cohen usually rides with Cycle2Health’s moderate level riders. She didn’t know anyone in the group when she first registered, but has since expanded her circle of friends. “I enjoy seeing them on the regularly scheduled rides,” she says. Regular riding companions helps Cohen to get out for regular rides. “You know those mornings when you get up and say ‘Oh. I should but I don’t want to’?” she askes. With Cycle2Health, her inner monologue is more like, “’I should. Yeah. I’d like to’.”*

Sassy Cyclist jerseys are designed for comfort—and without loud logos.

Becky Redett and her friends always complained about cycling jerseys. The fit. The material. The logos printed all over them. “You don’t want to be looking like you are heading for the Tour de France in your neighborhood,” Redett says. “A lot of women just aren’t into that.”

So the Baltimore resident decided to design her own jerseys. She began research and product development for Sassy Cyclist, named for her cycling group, the Sassy Sisters, In 2014, and started selling her goods in October of the following year. Sassy Cyclist’s quick dry, performance fabric jerseys are longer in the back so riders stay covered while leaning forward on bikes. They feature low pockets so items are easy to reach and a reflective stripe down the back to enhance visibility. And instead of logos, the fabrics are floral, folkloric and geometric. Sassy Cyclist also sells headbands and socks, all manufactured at a Baltimore-based plant. Redett says she is pleased to support a local company. “I feel like I am giving a little bit back to the community by making the product here,” she says.

Reditt, who left her career as a nurse practitioner to start the company, says she is enjoying her new career. “It’s a huge learning curve but it’s fun,” she says. “And it’s been working.”

Sassy Cyclist products are available on the company’s website, sassycyclist.com, and are sold locally at such bicycle events as the Columbia Iron Girl Triathlon and Open Streets HoCo.