Monday, May 25, 2015


More sleep can mean better health

It’s hard to think of any health issue more important to everyone than getting a good night’s sleep.  Almost everyone I talk to has some kind of sleep issues, whether the problem is waking up frequently during the night, insomnia, a snoring bed partner, sleep apnea or all of the above. 
According to Dr. Olimpia Radu, a member of the Backus Medical Staff and Director of the Norwich Sleep Center, 35 percent to 50 percent of the general population has complaints of insomnia. Many other people have leg movement disorders. Many children and some adults also suffer from parasomnias such as sleep walking, sleep talking, night terrors, and bed wetting. Sleep doctors are trained to help diagnose and treat all sorts of sleep problems besides the more common problems such as insomnia and sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is a serious but often undiagnosed condition. It is caused by reduced airflow to the lungs due to blockage of the throat during sleep. This causes snoring, low oxygen levels, high heart rate and blood pressure. The brain sleep waves are disrupted with each episode of apnea.
How do you know if you have sleep apnea?  Your bed partner may tell you that you snore, or you just feel that you have disrupted sleep and wake up suddenly, several times each night. Going to the bathroom frequently at night may also be linked with sleep apnea besides bladder or prostate issues. Feeling tired and sleepy during daytime, some mood irritability, and poor attention could all be seen patients with sleep apnea.
Patients with existing heart disease, high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation, diabetes, emphysema, and congestive heart failure have a very high chance of having sleep apnea. Treating sleep apnea may help better control these other disorders.
Not getting enough sleep is a major health problem in the United States. It is linked with obesity and a higher risk of diabetes and heart disease. Smartphones in the bedroom, binge watching of TV shows, social media notifications, and 24-hour news channels all lead to disrupted and shortened sleep time.
Sleep studies are tests that record what happens to your body during sleep, and are usually done in a sleep lab or at home in selected cases. The studies are done to find out what is causing your sleep problems, whether it is excessive snoring, sleep apnea, insomnia, or narcolepsy. 
Sleep apnea can be treated with weight loss, a machine with a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) mask, or with an oral appliance therapy made by a sleep dentist. There are other options available as well such as throat surgery and a new muscle stimulator. Talk to your sleep doctor about these options.
Dr. Setu Vora is a board-certified sleep and lung doctor at the Pulmonary Physicians of Norwich and he is the Medical Director of Critical Care at Backus Hospital. Dr. Carina Vora is a general dentist in Norwich with special interest and training in sleep dentistry. She is board certified by the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine. She treats many patients with sleep apnea with FDA-approved custom made oral appliances.
In summary, Dr. Setu and Carina Vora recommend that we all have at least seven hours of uninterrupted, snore-free sleep at night. They recommend good sleep hygiene — use your bed only for sleep and sex. Avoid coffee, tea and soda in the afternoon, and don’t drink alcohol before bedtime. Avoid food, TV, smartphones or laptops in the bedroom. And remember — better sleep can mean better health.
Alice Facente is a community health nurse for the Backus Health System. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal health care provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

Monday, May 18, 2015


We all need a healthy dose of kindess

"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.”  

Even though this quote, attributed to the Greek philosopher Plato, was written around the year 390 B.C., it still holds true today.  We can all attest to the significant number of people around us that are struggling with issues, whether health challenges, financial stresses, or personal sorrows.

Did you ever have the experience of meeting someone, and your first impression was the person was distant, reserved and detached?   Then later you discovered that just before that meeting the person was diagnosed with breast cancer?  Or the seemingly irritable co-worker is caring at home for her husband with advanced Alzheimer’s Disease?  Or that the impatient young woman who cuts in line at the pharmacy is so worried about her two sick toddlers at home?  We don’t really know what struggles someone else is experiencing.
Two of the most kind and positive people I know are Lauren Rapp and Amy Hendry, Senior Director and Program Director, respectively, of the Ledyard Senior Center.  I asked them how they deal with the multitude of problems presented by the senior population day after day, yet seem to remain optimistic, patient and kind.
This is what they said.  “We love our jobs, and more importantly, the seniors we work for and serve.  For us, there is no other option than to be positive, hopeful, forgiving and honest.  And to practice that with respect. We build community. We are a safe place. No judgment.  Just come and ‘be.’”
Lauren said, “I practice ‘forward ever, backward never,’ a principle from my Dad that I was raised on.”
Sounds like a prescription for practicing kindness that we can all emulate.
Alice Facente is a community health nurse for the Backus Health System. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal health care provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

Monday, May 11, 2015


Take the pledge to stop distracted driving

They call it “DWI — Driving While Intexticated.”  Haven’t we all had the experience of seeing a car that seems to be drifting, and when you glance into the driver’s window, the driver is texting or gabbing on a hand-held cell phone?  It seems to be an increasing trend.  I saw it three times on my 13-mile commute to work the other day.  It was disturbing.
When I got to work, I talked about it with my friend Jill Schaff, RN, Backus Trauma Program Manager.  I asked if she saw many motor vehicle accidents that were attributed to distracted driving.  “Unfortunately, trauma cases come in to the ED all the time, and it’s readily apparent that the driver was distracted, either talking on a hand-held cell phone, or texting.”   She said it’s not hard to prove: the police can access your cell phone activity record if there is reasonable suspicion of an unlawful activity like texting and driving resulting in a motor vehicle accident.    
Many drivers assume they can handle texting while driving, but these statistics prove otherwise:
The National Safety Council reports that texting while driving causes 1.6 million accidents per year, which is nearly 25 percent of all car accidents. 
The Institute for Highway Safety Fatality reports that 11 teen deaths every day are attributed to texting while driving.
Texting while driving makes you 23 times more likely to crash and is the same as driving after drinking four beers, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.
May is Trauma Awareness Month, and also includes National Emergency Medical Services Week, appropriate times to raise awareness about the dangers of distracted driving.  Jill has purchased red rubber thumb rings that say “TXTG KLS.”   She plans to hand them out at Backus Safety Camp on Saturday, May 16, as a reminder that indeed, “Texting Kills” while driving. 
Hartford HealthCare has a campaign directed at people of all ages.  It’s called “Thumbs Up, Phones Down.”
Please take this pledge at Then, ask your friends to do the same. Here is the pledge:
While driving, I will never, ever:
•  Text.
•  Take selfies.
•  Talk on the phone. (Unless it's hands-free)
•  Check social media.
•  Email.
•  Or do anything else with my mobile phone that could potentially hurt or kill me, my passengers, other drivers or pedestrians.
Let’s spread the word, take the pledge, and help keep our roads safer for all.  
Alice Facente is a community health nurse for the Backus Health System. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal health care provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

Monday, May 04, 2015


Tips for a healthy food fiesta

If you’re hearing the faint echoes of mariachi melodies and feeling a sudden urge to go postal on a piñata, don’t worry.  You’re not going crazy, it’s just May 5!
Cinco de Mayo is an excellent opportunity to celebrate Mexican heritage and a wonderful reason to enjoy some fantastic south-of-the-border fare.  However, what most of us north of the border would consider “Mexican food” is actually an Americanized interpretation.  While I do love my country, when it comes to food we tend to think that if a little is good, then a lot has to be better.  And unfortunately, our version of Mexican food is no exception.
The good news is that you can have a perfectly healthy Cinco de Mayo fiesta with all the trimmings and still look great in that lithe little flamenco dress.  You just have to get back to the roots of good Mexican food!  As is the case with most ethnic fare, the closer you get to the origins of the cuisine the more you uncover a foundation of fresh, unprocessed foods.  That’s a tradition to which we should all strive to return.  Here are a few tips to help you do just that.
Choose whole grains.  Traditional Mexican food uses mostly whole grain corn tortillas and less that are made from white flour.  Grains were rarely refined many years ago, and corn was generally more plentiful than wheat.  Rice is actually not native to Mexico and was brought over by the Spanish in colonial times.  Whether this rice was traditionally refined or not, why not benefit from modern knowledge and choose brown rice for its extra fiber and nutrients?

Limit cheese and sour cream.  It may be surprising to learn that authentic Mexican food actually contains only small amounts of cheese and very little sour cream, especially since so many ethnic restaurants serve a majority of their menu items smothered in these dairy delights.  And who could blame them?  There aren’t too many foods out there that don’t taste better with cheese and sour cream.  But they are high in saturated fat, so you should consider using less as well as choosing the somewhat healthier reduced fat versions.  And above all, please:
No processed cheese!  You know what I’m talking about.  The stuff that melts into a liquid, drowning your poor unsuspecting nachos.  Velveeta.  Cheez Whiz.  American cheese slices (there’s that American thing again).  If you’ve ever read the label on these foods, you’ve probably wondered what all those ingredients are and pondered how much actual cheese is in that “cheese product.”  Those ingredients are mostly added preservatives, emulsifiers and stabilizers that give the “cheese” its liquid-like quality and extended shelf-life.  While these additives are approved for use and probably safe in moderation, we should really limit our exposure to these substances in favor of fresh foods which are definitely safe.  As for how much actual cheese is in them, I’m not sure anyone really knows…
Oh, and should you partake in this holiday’s traditional beverage (ahem), please do so responsibly.  ¡Olé mis amigos!
Jennifer Fetterley is a registered dietitian for the Backus Health System and Thames Valley Council for Community Action. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal healthcare provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Ms. Fetterley or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

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