Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Creativity Leads to Health & Happiness

Break out your paints, camera, knitting needles, or whatever else you need to tap into your creativity. Because being creative isn't just for kids – it's actually good for your health.

Not only are you happier when you follow creative pursuits, but you're better able to deal with stress and have less anxiety. Plus, they give you a sense of purpose. (Source: CNN)

As adults, we can sometimes lose sight of our creativity. We get caught up in checking chores off of a to-do list or are wrapped up in our favorite TV programs.

When we've been going through the motions, it can be a challenge to know where to start.

First, give yourself permission to be creative. You might feel as though taking time out for creative endeavors isn't productive, but breaking away from your daily routine will benefit you in the way you think and feel. Turn off the voice that's telling you that you're wasting time, and reward yourself for your efforts.

Embrace change. "Although you might believe certainty and control over your circumstances brings you pleasure, it is often uncertainty and challenge that bring the longest-lasting benefits," says psychologist Todd Kashdan (Source: The Guardian).

Ways to change your routine:
  • Rearrange your furniture at home or at work.
  • Listen to new music.
  • Talk to new people. Join a MeetUp group to meet people in the area.
  • Learn something new. Take a book or read a class.
  • Listen to a new podcast or different radio station.
  • Take a new route to work.
  • Try new foods.

Spend time outdoors. A new study found that when you're in nature, without the distraction of a phone or computer, your mind can relax and is able to devote more energy to problem-solving and imagining. Go for a walk, take a hike or spend a weekend camping (without technology).

Take up a creative hobby. Hobbies take your mind off of whatever is bothering you at work or in your personal life. They also make you a more interesting person. Hobbies that you might consider are:
  • Photography
  • Interior decorating / refinishing old furniture
  • Pottery
  • Sewing, knitting or embroidering
  • Scrapbooking
  • Playing a musical instrument
  • Learning a foreign language
  • Gardening
  • Journaling / Blogging (I like Penzu for journaling)
  • Cooking
  • Baking
  • Soap Making
  • Programming / Web Development
  • Painting
  • Exercising

Write down your goals. Make a list of how you plan to add newness to your life – start small, maybe with one new thing each day – and of the hobbies you plan to pursue. Writing down your goals will increase the probability that you'll follow through.

"Write your goals down, or type them into your computer or phone. Look at them daily or even better, rewrite them every day. I have found that when I do this I naturally make my goals my priorities, and don’t get so easily distracted," says musician and blogger Mike Monday.

I like the web-based list program Remember the Milk, which I can have open in my browser window and also on my phone.

What are your strategies for being creative? Have you noticed any benefits?

Monday, May 28, 2012

Ask Us Anything: How Much Sleep Does My Child Need?

"My ten year old sleeps at least ten hours each day, whereas my friend's son, who is the same age, sleeps only eight. Do children need a certain number of hours of sleep? How will it affect them if they sleep too much or too little?"

Dr. Anthony Vetrano Responds:

By ten years of age, children have "lost" their naps (they don't need them).

Most children from 6 years of age to 12 years of age will get between 8-12 hours of sleep at night, so 10 would be a good average and 8 would be a minimum.

If a child wakes up with energy and does well in the mornings at school, then they are likely getting enough sleep. If a child snores quite a bit or has sleep apnea, they may sleep longer (11-14 hours) and still be tired during the day.

So, ten hours is an average number of hours for overnight sleep for a ten year-old.

 – Dr. Anthony Vetrano

Anthony Vetrano, M.D. is chairman of Mercy Hospital’s Pediatrics Department and was named a Top Doctor in Western New York (2008-2010) in Buffalo Spree Magazine.

If you have a question about your health, click here to ask our experts.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

What Will You Pass on to Your Children?

As a parent, you pass on a lot of things to your children – the color of your hair or eyes, the way that you  smile or laugh, the way that you talk.

Unfortunately, you can also pass on some not-so-good traits, a risk for diabetes or high blood pressure for example, or the likelihood of a teen pregnancy.

For African Americans, the risk is especially high. African Americans have the highest rate of adult obesity in the United States and the highest prevalence of diabetes.

Compared to other racial groups, they also have higher rates of infant deaths, AIDS, cancer and cardiovascular disease.  

If you're expecting, your health is especially important. African Americans have a higher rate of preventable infant deaths, and many cases are linked to the mother's health before pregnancy.

Experts say that the current generation of children may be the first to not live as long as their parents (Source). But it's not too late to make a change.

Live It, Change It

The Live It, Change It movement in Arizona is asking African Americans to take charge of their personal health and consider what may be passed down to future generations.

It's a message that transcends state lines and is something that everyone should consider – the choices that you make about your health influence your children, your siblings, your nieces and nephews. Change starts with you.

Health Insurance

If a lack of health insurance prevents you from going to the doctor, look into your options. You might quality for Medicaid, Child Health Plus (for children under 19) or Family Health Plus (for adults between ages 19 and 64 who do not qualify for Medicaid).

You can also buy private insurance or receive healthcare services from organizations that provide care at a reduced cost. Our Healthcare Assistance Program allows eligible individuals to receive healthcare at a Catholic Health facility at no charge or at a reduced cost.

Click here to learn about your options.

Free Screenings

According to the New York State Department of Health, African Americans are less likely to be screened for cancer and other health issues.

Attend one of our free health screenings to find out if you're at risk for high cholesterol, high blood pressure or diabetes. You'll have the opportunity to speak to a registered nurse about ways to live healthier and any health issues or concerns.

Healthy Eating

While eating a bag of chips in front of the TV or stopping at the McDonalds drive thru may be a quick fix for your hunger, your health and appearance will suffer from those decisions down the road. Shop for fresh produce and vegetables at your local grocery store or farmer's market.Make a weekly menu before you shop to make sure that you stay on track.

Not sure where to start? Click here to learn how to eat healthy on a budget.

Staying Active

Everyone should exercise at least thirty minutes a day. Go for a walk with your kids or spend time at the park.You'll enjoy quality time with your children and burn calories at the same time.

Click here for a list of Buffalo parks and recreation centers.

Don't forget to wear sunscreen!


If you're expecting a baby, sign up for Text4Baby to receive free text messages about pregnancy and child care, up through your baby's first year. Visit to sign up.

By taking care of yourself, you're setting a positive example for your children, siblings and the people around you. Your actions can help to create a healthier, happier community.

What are some ways that you can live a healthier lifestyle?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Ask Us Anything: Is It Postpartum Depression?

"How do I know if I have postpartum depression? Who would provide the diagnosis? My OB/GYN?

How is postpartum commonly treated? Are there any support groups or other resources in this area?"

Dr. Lynn-Marie Aronica Responds:

First, congratulations on having a new baby! This is a wonderful but stressful time in your life. Often feelings of being overwhelmed and anxious can be normal for a new mother. But how do you know if you actually have postpartum depression?

Postpartum depression typically begins 1 to 3 months after the delivery of your baby. However, many women are not diagnosed until later than this.

Feelings of sadness, excessive guilt, increased worrying, and fearfulness are common in postpartum depression. Decreased sleep, changes in your appetite and thoughts of suicide and harming your baby are more severe signs of depression. If you have any of these signs, seek out a healthcare provider for help.

Who should you call?  Screening can be done by your OB/GYN or your baby's pediatrician. In fact, a specific screen tool called the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale can be used to assess a mother at risk.  If this was not done at a post-delivery visit or you feel your symptoms are worsening, it can be given at any time.

Treatments of postpartum depression vary based on the mother's breastfeeding status and comfort with medications. Typically, a combination of talking therapies and medications are successful in treating it. This can be started by your OB/GYN or a referral may be made to a provider who specializes in treating postpartum depression.

Locally there are several support systems for you.

Horizon Health Services are located in the Piver Center at Sisters of Charity Hospital. This center is specially designed for all women's health needs, including mental health.

The Mental Health Association of Erie County is a good start to find a mental health provider closest to home for you.

Finally, the Prenatal-Perinatal Network can provide group information as well as referrals to help you take excellent care of your newborn.

Remember: you are not alone in caring for your child. If you feel you have depression, please seek out help.

– Dr. Lynn-Marie Aronica

Dr. Lynn-Marie Aronica is board certified in OB/GYN. She sees patients at her office at the Mercy OB/GYN Center in Buffalo. Her interests include family-centered obstetrics and high-risk obstetrics.

If you have a question about your health, click here to ask our experts.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

In the News: Own Sketchers' Shape-ups? You May Be Entitled to a Refund

Ads for Sketchers' Shape-ups shoes, which retail for about $100, claim that the footwear can help you to lose weight and strengthen your butt, leg and stomach muscles. But, the Federal Trade Commission says that's not true.

The company will pay a $40 million settlement, and consumers who purchased the fitness shoes will be eligible for a refund, although it's not yet clear how much they will receive.

The settlement also applies to Sketchers' Resistance Runner, Toners and Tone-ups shoes.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Ask Us Anything: How Can I Manage My Cramps?

"When I have my period, I experience intense cramping. What are some ways to manage the pain?

Aside from over-the-counter medication, would there be any foods that I should eat or avoid? Or exercises that I could do? What about using a heating pad?"

Dr. Ali Ghomi Responds:

Painful menstrual cramps or dysmenorrhea is a common condition affecting 40-80% of all women.

Dysmenorrhea can be mild or severe depending on the degree of pain and cramping produced. The etiology is thought to be secondary to a biochemical process involving the uterus around the time of menstrual cycles.  In brief, a combination of over sensitivity of the nerve fibers within the uterus and muscle spasm results in the symptoms.

The mainstay of medical treatment of dysmenorrhea includes non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents, such as ibuprofen, and hormonal suppression, such as oral contraceptives.

It is recommended to start non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents a few days prior to the onset of the menstrual cycles in order to prevent (as opposed to treat) the symptoms.

Heating pads have been shown to be helpful, so has exercise. With exercise, the blood circulation to the uterus increases, which may alleviate the pain and discomfort.

It is unclear as to the effectiveness of certain foods or ingredients on this condition.

Acupuncture may be considered, as it has been shown to be effective in to management of dysmenorrhea.

If you have never had dysmenorrhea before and this is a new condition, it may be worthwhile to investigate the possible reversible causes of dysmenorrhea.

— Dr. Ali Ghomi

Dr. Ghomi is the Director of Minimally Invasive Gynecologic Surgery and Chair of The Robotic Surgical Committee at Sisters of Charity Hospital. He is the only physician in Western New York who performs Sacrocolpopexy Prolapse surgery using the da Vinci® robot. Sacrocolpopexy is a proven “gold standard” procedure worldwide to repair severe pelvic prolapse. Click here to learn more about Catholic Health's OBGYN services.

Dr. Ghomi sees patients at the M. Steven Piver, M.D. Center for Women’s Health & Wellness in Buffalo.

If you have a question about your health, click here to ask our experts.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Overcoming the Fear of Public Speaking

Being able to speak well, whether it’s to five people or to five hundred, is crucial in most positions. Whether you’re a social worker or writer, chances are you’ll find yourself speaking to a group of people during the course of your career – maybe giving a presentation to co-workers or voicing your opinion during meetings.

According to the Book of Lists, Americans are more afraid of public speaking than anything else.

Kevin McCue
I'm one of many who dread public speaking, so I enrolled in Catholic Health’s three-and-a-half-hour public speaking class, taught by Corporate Educator Kevin McCue.

Kevin is known throughout Catholic Health as being an excellent speaker, and in 2010, competed for the title of World Champion of Public Speaking.

Given his profession, you may be surprised to learn that Kevin had once feared public speaking, so much so that he paid his college roommate to speak on his behalf during presentations. But when a new job opportunity forced him to regularly speak in front of groups, Kevin realized that he needed to make a change.

He began attending Toastmasters meetings, where members gather to practice public speaking and receive feedback to develop their skills.

“If you don’t face your fears, fear will always control you,” he explained.

While the anxiety that you feel before a presentation will never go away, you can use it to your benefit. When you’re anxious, your natural instinct is to flee, but Kevin suggests channeling that energy into your presentation.

“Pre-speaking anxiety means that you care. It will always be with you,” he said. “You can let that fear make you feel anxious, or you can use it to feel energized and ready.”

During class, we gave three minute-long presentations. For the first – a description of what we did for Easter – my nerves were working overtime, but by the third, I was at ease with the group.

“The more you speak, the easier it becomes,” Kevin said.

Here’s what you can do to give your public speaking skills a boost.


  • Know the material inside and out.
  • Identify 3 to 5 focus points – don’t try to cover everything or the audience will be overwhelmed.
  • Organize your presentation. In the introduction, tell the audience what you’ll be talking about. Use your most interesting fact or story to open the presentation. In the body of your presentation, talk about your main points and supporting materials. When you conclude, summarize your main points or takeaways.
  • Plan to take questions before the conclusion. Many people end their presentations with Q&As, but when there aren’t any questions, your presentation ends with a whimper. Instead, ask for questions before the conclusion. Wait 3-5 seconds, and if you don’t get any questions, say, “Some typical questions I get…” and cover the questions that you’ve prepared. Then move into the conclusion and go over your main points.
  • Gather stories. Presenting is predominantly storytelling. Think of personal stories that you can use in your presentation. Stories will help people to remember your main points and are more engaging than facts. Plus, as you get lost in your story, it’s easier to relax. Begin keeping a file of stories that you can reference in the future.
  • Watch yourself. If you need to improve your public speaking skills quickly, video tape yourself as you practice speaking.
  • Visit the room where you’ll be speaking in advance of your presentation. Understand the layout, and make sure that your equipment will set up properly.
  • Have back-ups in case technology fails. If you’re relying on PowerPoint, always have handouts available in the event that you can’t access your presentation electronically.
If you get a last-minute assignment and are unable to prepare, don’t apologize to the audience. Apologizing tells them that they’re in for something awful. Just do the best that you can.


  • Never memorize your speech. Memorize ideas, not the words. If you try to recite your presentation word-for-word, you’ll become lost if you forget a word.
  • Visualize your audience when you rehearse.


  • Manage your nerves. Avoid coffee. Take deep breaths. Use affirmations (i.e. “I can’t wait to do this. I’m going to give the best presentation.”) Affirmations will put you in a positive mindset.
  • Project your voice as if you’re auditioning for a play. It makes you feel more confident.
  • Make eye contact with everyone.
  • Smile. Even if you don’t feel happy, fake it. Be an actor.
  • Avoid monotone.
  • Move towards people. Don’t hide behind a desk or table.
  • Use pauses. Pause after key facts, figures and key moments to create interest. Substitute pauses for filler words such as “ah,” “um,” or “you know.”
  • Ask the audience questions to engage them. No one wants to get caught not paying attention.
  • Have passion. If you’re not interested in what you’re talking about, your audience won’t be either.
  • When speaking off-the-cuff, repeat the question to give yourself more time to come up with a response.

Public Speaking Resources

Like any skill, public speaking takes time to develop. To continue learning and building your talent, Kevin recommends:
If you’re a Catholic Health employee, you can also attend Catholic Health University’s Public Speaking course. Register at Net Learning using course number CH351. I highly recommend it!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Ask Us Anything: I Have a Grade One Retocele. Can You Help?

"Since my rectocele repair, I have not been able to have a normal bowel movement. I have to take 3 to 4 laxatives a day and 3 to 4 stool softeners as well. A test showed that I still have a grade one retocele and cystocele. Can you help me?"

Note: A rectocele occurs when the wall of tissue separating the rectum and vagina weakens, and the front wall of the rectum bulges into the vagina. It can occur after childbirth or pelvic surgery. It is sometimes present at birth, but this is rare. After surgical repair, normal bowel function should return within 2 to 4 weeks.

Dr. Ali Ghomi Responds:

One of the potential adverse effects after rectocele repair includes defecatory dysfunction (difficulty with moving the bowels). If this condition was not present prior to the surgery, one could assume that it is secondary to the the repair performed.

It is conceivable that there is a recurrence of a small rectocele, as you alluded to, which might be trapped between surrounding repaired/reinforced segments of the posterior vaginal wall. This, in turn, would interfere with the mechanism that is responsible for a successful defecation.

Physical examination would provide more information as to the etiology of this condition. In addition, defecography (a test by which contrast dye is injected into the rectum and an x-ray is taken during defecation in order to assess the movement of the rectum and any possible entrapment of the stool in the rectocele) may be considered. This test is seldom needed, however it may be helpful if deemed necessary.

Dr. Samuel Saleeb adds:

I do not know what kind of rectocele repair you had. But, generally speaking, it might end up with some scar tissue, or you might need pelvic floor physical therapy, which I do in my office. Or you might have chronic constipation.

By all means, you need careful history-taking and evaluation and then can take it from there.

About Our Physicians

Dr. Ghomi

Dr. Ghomi is the Director of Minimally Invasive Gynecologic Surgery and Chair of The Robotic Surgical Committee at Sisters of Charity Hospital.

Dr. Ghomi sees patients at the M. Steven Piver, M.D. Center for Women’s Health & Wellness in Buffalo.

Dr. Saleeb

Dr. Saleeb is a urogynecologist, which is a gynecologist who specializes in the care of women with pelvic floor dysfunction. He practices at the Saleeb Uro-Gynecology Center in Williamsville. He also practices twice monthly at the Ken-Ton FamilyCare Center in Tonawanda (a full evaluation of the pelvic floor is not available at this location).

He provides evaluation and management of pelvic floor disorders and offers clinical exams, urodynamic testing, cystoscopy, pelvic floor physical therapy, and behavioral therapy. He also manages a program for the prevention of pelvic floor disorders in women. At his research center, Dr. Saleeb is currently involved in three different studies.

If you have a question about your health, click here to ask our experts.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

May is National Stroke Month

Stroke impacts all of us.

You may be at risk for stroke or know someone who is. Or maybe someone close to you has had a stroke – a parent or other relative.

During National Stroke Month, take the time to learn about stroke prevention and life after stroke, and encourage family members to do the same.

How to Prevent a Stroke

Most people don’t like to think about the possibility of stroke. It’s easier to take an “ignorance is bliss” approach, to assume that you’re healthy until it's obvious that you’re not.

While this wait-and-see attitude may save you from having to make some challenging life changes now – eating a healthier diet or starting an exercise program – in the long run, it’s hurting more than it’s helping.

Consider this: up to 80% of all strokes can be prevented. Stroke is the leading cause of adult disability. It can cause paralysis, memory loss, and speech problems, all of which can impact your ability to work, travel and do the things you love.

Who Should Be Thinking About Stroke Prevention

You can experience a stroke at any age. However, those most at risk are:
  • Over the age of 55
  • Women
  • African American
Persons with a family history of stroke are also at risk, so talk to a family member to find out if anyone in your family has had a stroke.

You’re also at risk if you:
  • Have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, Atrial Fibrillation (AF), diabetes, or Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)
  • Smoke or are exposed to secondhand smoke
  • Use alcohol
  • Use illegal drugs
  • Are overweight
  • Are physically inactive
  • Have had a TIA (mini-stroke)

Take Action During National Stroke Month

Chances are, either you fit into the criteria above or you know someone who does.

Round up your parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts – anyone at risk of stroke – and tell them about our free screenings coming up this month. 

Saturday, May 5, 2012 – 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Our free vascular screening is open to anyone over 50, who smokes or has one or more of the following medical conditions:
  • high blood pressure,
  • diabetes,
  • heart or leg ailments,
  • family history of heart disease, and
  • prior stroke.
Screenings take just minutes and will tell you if you’re at risk for:
  • Carotid Artery Disease*
  • Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm*
  • Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD)*
  • Diabetes
  • High Cholesterol
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Macular Degeneration
  • Injury from Falling
Participants also have an opportunity to speak to our clinical staff, so if you know someone who hasn’t been to a doctor in awhile, he or she may benefit from speaking to our registered nurses about any health questions or concerns.

Reservations are required. Click here for details.

Friday, May 25, 2012 – 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.

The Catholic Health stroke fair, held at Sisters of Charity Hospital in Buffalo in the Marillac Room, is another opportunity to check your risk for stroke.

In addition to information about nutrition, exercise, and medication, participants can receive screenings for:
  • Diabetes
  • High Cholesterol
  • High Blood Pressure
No reservations are required.

What to Do If You’ve Had a Stroke

Having a stroke can have long-lasting consequences. Recovery is a life-long process, as survivors learn to improve their ability to function: physically and mentally. They may have to relearn how to eat, dress, and walk.

Recovery is a challenge both for stroke victims and for their caregivers.

Learn about the latest advances in stroke care, plus how to approach stroke recovery at our free dinner event, Living with Stroke.

Presenters include representatives from Catholic Health’s full spectrum of stroke care. Hear the perspectives of staff from the neurology and rehabilitation departments, as well as Home Care and Spiritual Care. You'll also hear first-hand experiences from a first responder, stroke survivor and caregiver.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012 – 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Stroke care panelists at our free event Living with Stroke will examine the impact of stroke, plus emerging approaches in stroke research, stroke care and lifestyle management after a stroke.

Dinner will be provided.

Reservations are required. Click here for details.

Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States, but it doesn’t have to be. Attend our free events during National Stroke Month, and take action to prevent stroke and learn about the resources available to stroke survivors.
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