Keeping Bacteria at Bay This Summer

Family having a barbecue party

Summer is the time for outdoor eating and my family and I have made a habit of grilling when the weather’s nice. But the bacteria in your food love the heat as much as you do and a barbecue can turn bad if food is prepared wrong or left out for too long. Bacteria can lurk on many foods that look and smell fine, so it’s important that you know how to keep your food safe and know what to do if you or someone you know ends up with food poisoning.

Dangerous Meat

Meats may be contaminated when you buy them in the store or may become contaminated in the environment, if the person preparing it doesn’t wash their hands or uses a dirty cutting board, for example. Here are some tips from buying to eating that will help to keep you and your family safe:

  • Keep it clean. You should wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds (I sing two “Happy Birthdays”) before touching any meat. Always make sure you’re using a clean knife and cutting board.
  • Defrost it right. You should never leave meat out on the counter to defrost. Doing so makes it the perfect petri dish for bacteria to grow on. Instead, thaw meat in the fridge, cold water or the microwave.
  • Cook it all the way through. The CDC recommends cooking most meats so that the temperature inside reaches 165°F. That will kill off anything harmful that might make you sick. Pick up a good meat thermometer to know if it’s hot enough.

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Summer Swim Safety

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Nothing can make the summer heat melt away faster than a dip in the water. Whether in a pool, an ocean or a lake, my kids and I love taking a swim to cool off and get some exercise. But in the midst of the splashing and fun, it’s important to make sure that you’re keeping yourself and your family safe.

Believe it or not, about 10 people die from accidental drowning every day. One in 5 of these are children ages 14 and younger. And according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), for every child who dies of drowning, there are 5 more who are treated in emergency rooms for nonfatal water-related injuries that can result in brain damage and long-term disability. Make sure that you know the simple safety tips that could save your or a loved one’s life.

Major risk factors for drowning are inability to swim, unsupervised or poorly supervised water access, failure to wear life jackets or other flotation devices, alcohol use and seizure disorders. For adults and adolescents, alcohol is involved in 70% of water-related deaths. Eighty percent of drowning victims are male, and children between ages 1 and 4 have the highest drowning rates. Location matters too. Young children are most likely to die in home swimming pools, while the bathtub is a more common site for people with seizure disorders.

Here’s how to stay safe in the water: Read more  »

Kick Back and Relax This Summer – For Your Health!

Happy African American Family On Beach

Some of my best childhood memories come from summer break. Riding my bike with my friends, taking road trips with my family, building sandcastles on the beach – even just remembering those golden moments can make me feel instantly relaxed and at home. Taking advantage of the warm summer days and school break can do wonders for your family’s health. In fact, studies show taking a break with your loved ones can help you all feel closer than ever. Read more  »

How to Have Fun and Avoid the ER this 4th of July

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A barbeque, some beer and fireworks – sounds pretty good, right? With the 4th of July rapidly approaching, many of us will be dragging out our grills, gathering our friends and lighting up the sparklers. Make sure you know how to enjoy the best parts of this fun holiday while still keeping yourself and your loved ones safe. Read more  »

Bug Repellent Guide

Mosquito sitting on the skin

Nothing spoils a nice summer evening outside like a swarm of mosquitoes, some biting flies or a blood-sucking tick. The resulting red, itchy bites are uncomfortable enough to drive anyone crazy. But these bugs aren’t just annoying – they can also be dangerous. In fact, mosquitoes have been responsible for more human deaths than all the wars in history, combined. While most mosquitoes in the U.S. these days do not spread disease, some may spread serious illnesses like West Nile virus and various types of encephalitis. And, of course ticks can also spread diseases such as Lyme disease or babesiosis.

While bug repellents can go a long way towards fending off insects, some of them aren’t very effective or may not be doing your health any favors. Check out this guide of common bug repellents to help fend off annoying and potentially disease-causing bugs. Read more  »

How to Protect Your Health Information

Male doctor working on a futuristic touchscreen display

Over the past several decades, more and more health information is being entered and stored in computer systems and transmitted over the internet. While this has the potential to dramatically facilitate communication between health care professionals and improve the quality of care for patients, the increasing digitalization of our health records could pose a risk to our privacy. Make sure you know who has your health information and how to best protect it.

The main law protecting patients’ health information is called HIPAA, which stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. HIPAA protects the confidentiality of any individually identifiable health information. It applies to all health care providers and hospitals, health care clearinghouses that provide physician and hospital billing services and health insurance plans. Read more  »

Stepping It Up for Men’s Health

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I’ll admit it – going to the doctor’s office is no fun. Even though I know better, my wife Lisa has had to prompt me to go in and get myself checked out on more than one occasion. I know I’m not the only man who has my partner to thank for keeping me healthy – data shows that women in the U.S. are a whole lot better at looking out for health than men are. In fact, data from the Centers for Disease Control shows that men are only half as likely as women to visit their doctors for preventative care.

The consequences are dramatic. Compared to women, men die at higher rates from the top 10 causes of death and 92% of workplace deaths occur in men. In the U.S., men die earlier than women by an average of five full years. Men, we shouldn’t stand for this, and women, don’t let your partners, sons, brothers, fathers and other male loved ones get away with ignoring their health.

This June, which is Men’s Health Month, get your favorite men to step up to the plate and start taking care of their health (and if you’re a man, step on up yourself!). The first step is making a doctor’s appointment to get a full checkup – no excuses allowed. The hardest part is just making the call. Read more  »

Heat Stroke: Know the Signs

Beautiful Woman Wearing Sunglasses over Sea Background

Trust me, I get it – the sun is irresistible. Now that warm summer days are back, I love seeing people out in the sun spending time with their family and friends. It makes me happy from a medical standpoint, too, since more sun also means more vitamin D, which most of us desperately need after a long winter inside. But the summer sun and heat isn’t all fun and games. You’ve heard me talk countless times about using a broad spectrum sunscreen to protect you against cancer-causing UVA and UVB rays when you’re outside. But there are other things to be careful about aside from skin cancer – the heat can be just as dangerous as the sun. Read more  »

Don’t Overlook Your Mental Health

Portrait of a sad woman

As a surgeon, I spend a lot of my time thinking about how to keep people’s bodies well – their hearts pumping, their kidneys filtering, their stomachs digesting. We all know that keeping our bodies in good, working order is essential to good health. But it’s crucial to remember that how we think and how we feel can have just as much to do with living a long and healthy life, if not more.

Mental health is often overlooked in medicine and in our society as a whole, yet nearly one in four Americans is affected by a mental health issue in any given year, and nearly everyone has a loved one who has been touched by mental illness. Sadly, only 38% of adults with a diagnosable mental health problem get the treatment they need. Many people with mental health disorders suffer for years unable or unwilling to seek help, often because there is a stigma that makes people think that problems like depression, anxiety, addiction or schizophrenia aren’t “real” or that they should be able to overcome them on their own. But this just isn’t true. Mental health problems are just as real and deserving of fast, effective treatment as physical medical problems, and no one is “to blame” for their illness.

This month, which is Mental Health Month, pause to check in with yourself and think about what you can do to support your own emotional wellbeing. Pay attention to any signs that might suggest you could be at risk for common mental health issues like depression or anxiety. Some of these symptoms can be easy to brush off, but ignoring them could just do more harm. Common symptoms of depression, for example, include feeling sad or down, losing interest in things you normally enjoy, trouble concentrating, disrupted sleep, changes in your weight or appetite, moving or fidgeting more or less than usual, feeling fatigued or low-energy, feeling guilty or worthless and thinking of death or suicide. Read more  »

Act Fast to Save Yourself From a Stroke

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During a stroke, every second that goes by is another second that your brain is being deprived of the nutrients and oxygen it badly needs to keep you functioning and alive. Strokes are also incredibly common – in fact, every 40 seconds, someone in the U.S. has a stroke, and it is the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S. That’s why it’s crucial that everyone knows how to spot early signs of a stroke and what to do in the event of this potentially life-threatening situation.

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