Wednesday, January 30, 2013

11 Valentine's Day Dates & Activities


This Valentine’s Day, take a break from routine and skip the crowded restaurants and movie theaters. Here are 11 ideas to help you celebrate with your partner, family or friends.

1. Ice Skate at Rotary Rink (Buffalo)

Get your ice skates out of the closet or try skating for the first time at the downtown rotary rink. Use of the rink is free, but if you need skates, rentals are $3 for adults and $2 for children. The rink is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

2. See the Night Lights at the Botanical Gardens (Buffalo)

See the gardens transformed with lights, sounds, art and music. Night Lights is from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. and is $10 for adults, $8 for garden members, seniors and students, and $5 for children ages 3-12.

3. Watch an Open Mic Comedy Show at the Second Cup (Buffalo)

Have a light-hearted Valentine’s Day at the open mic comedy show at the Second Cup. The show is from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Donations are accepted.

4. Paint Your Own Pottery (East Aurora)

Create a souvenir of your Valentine’s Day at Designing Dish in East Aurora. The store is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Cost is $7 for adults and $5 for children, plus the cost of your ceramic.

5. Go Sledding

If weather permits, head to the hills and go sledding. Click here for a list of sledding hills and tubing spots.

6. View Local Art (Buffalo)

The Burchfield Penney Art Center has extended hours on Thursday, making it an ideal Valentine’s Day destination for art lovers. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and $5 for students.

7. Take a Yoga Class (Buffalo)

Follow through on your New Year’s resolution to exercise or try something new with your partner. Hand to Heart Yoga offers a class for all levels from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Cost is $15 each.

8. Play Laser Tag (Amherst)

Join in on a game of laser tag at Lasertron. Reservations are recommended. Lasertron is open from 12 p.m. to 12 a.m.

9. Play Indoor Mini Golf (Tonawanda)

The Paddock Golf Dome’s miniature golf course is open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. and has par two, three and four holes. Cost is $5 per person.

10. Get Lost in a Book

Have a book-lover in your household? Take your valentine to Talking Leaves or Barnes & Noble and purchase a book of their choosing. If you’re on your own this Valentine’s Day, spend an hour or two reading in the cafĂ©.

11. Try a New Recipe

Choose a recipe to make with your valentine(s), or have a Valentine’s Day cook-off, where you each make an appetizer of your choosing and share the results.


What are your ideas for a memorable Valentine's Day?

Monday, January 28, 2013

Ask Us Anything: I'm in Menopause and Have Cardiovascular Symptoms. What Should I Do?

"I'm in menopause and have been having steady weight gain, with nearly the same lifestyle. I'm developing cardiovascular symptoms as well. What is your advice?"

Beth Nicastro, Corporate Nurse Educator, Responds:

Thank you for your question.

If you experience cardiac symptoms such as shortness of breath, or uncomfortable squeezing or pain in the chest, back or arms, you should seek emergency medical care immediately. If you have any of these symptoms, call 911. Between the ages of 45 to 64, one in nine women develop symptoms of some form of cardiovascular disease. After menopause, a woman’s risk increases (especially after age 65), leading some to suggest that estrogen provides cardioprotective benefits. The extent to which lowered estrogen levels may lead to an increase in CVD risk is not clear, but research continues. Discuss with your physician the best treatment plan for you.

According to the American Heart Association, every minute in the US someone's mother or daughter dies from heart disease or a stroke. Women's cardiac health is equally as important as men's health. It is key to know your cardiac risk factors such as family history, diabetes, hypertension, smoking and high cholesterol. 80% of cardiac events can be prevented by making the right choices with a heart healthy diet and regular exercise.

Another way to lower your risk is to monitor your cholesterol, glucose and blood pressure levels. Visit the American Heart Association website for more information.

Your second question refers to the changes a woman experiences during menopause. In their 40s and 50s, women often gain weight, and they sometimes attribute this gain to menopause. Midlife weight gain appears to be mostly related to aging and lifestyle, but menopause also contributes to the problem. In general, fewer calories are needed after midlife because less energy is expended.

– Beth Nicastro

Beth Nicastro, PNP-BC, is a women's health community coordinator/educator. She also sees patients as a nurse practitioner at East Aurora Pediatrics.

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

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A Simple Solution to Winter Blues: Stand Up


When I have a difficult day, I tell myself that sitting on the couch, scrolling through the DVR will make me feel better, relaxed. Except it never does.

Take last Monday, for example. I was in a bad mood, without having any particular reason why. I made dinner, then proceeded to sit on the couch for the rest of the night, watching Revenge and working on the newsletter for an organization that I volunteer for. Then I used my iPhone to read an ebook, nothing of substance of course.

By the end of the night, I felt sluggish and depressed. I wondered if I had seasonal affective disorder. After all, I only see daylight during my morning commute. My office doesn't have a window, and by the time I leave at 5 p.m., the sun has already set.

But it didn't add up. I did have a loss of interest in activities, but it wasn't constant. And I definitely wasn't sleeping more often or feeling anti-social.

I thought about something that a therapist once told me – exercise can help to fight through depression. I knew the truth of his statement, since walking every day in the summer had caused a turnaround in my moods. But now that winter is here, my motivation to enjoy the outdoors is non-existent.

Last Tuesday, I tried an experiment. After work, I didn't let myself sit down for four hours. I ate dinner standing up. I worked on the computer standing up. I even cleaned the apartment. And I didn't feel sluggish at all. In fact, my energy increased as time went on. I tackled things on my to-do list that I'd been putting off for days. Thanks to my success, I now have a no-sitting policy after work; if I'm home, I'm standing.

According to US News, sitting all day can result in depression, obesity and even cancer. Standing can help to get the body moving again. "If you can perform a behavior while sitting or standing, I would choose standing," said Marc Hamilton, Ph.D. to Science Daily.

DIY Alternatives to Expensive Standing Desks

Since most of my leisure time is spent on the computer, elevating my workspace has become instrumental in getting me to stand up. I work at an IKEA table with adjustable legs that are set to their tallest height, and I set my laptop on a stack of books to bring it to eye level.

Other people have used Rubbermaid containers, stools or endtables to raise up their computers. Check out the Huffington Post's slideshow to see their set-ups.


Would you consider elevating your workspace? If you've already done so, what have you used?

Monday, January 21, 2013

Ask Us Anything: Can I Become Pregnant After Bariatric Surgery?

"Can I become pregnant after bariatric surgery? Will it inhibit the growth of the baby?"

Dr. Bruce Rodgers Adds:

Bariatric surgery most often refers to gastric bypass or laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding. It is definitely safe to become pregnant after bariatric surgery. In fact, bariatric surgery actually improves pregnancy outcome when compared to women of similar weight who do not undergo the procedure.

There is a reduced incidence of gestational diabetes, preterm delivery, and preeclampsia, and no increase in the risk of intrauterine growth restriction (small or low birth weight babies). Fertility is also improved.

Complications of the bypass surgery, such as internal hernia, can occur during pregnancy, though these issues are rare.

Iron and vitamin B12 supplementation are usually required during pregnancy.

It is advisable that pregnancy be delayed at least one year following bariatric surgery, since this is generally the time of greatest weight loss.

– Dr. Bruce Rodgers

Dr. Rodgers is the Director of Maternal-Fetal Medicine at Catholic Health and Director of the Fetal Testing Unit at Sisters of Charity Hospital in Buffalo.

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

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Don't Get Caught With the Flu

Did you know that someone can spread the flu before they even know that they have it?

Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick. Children may pass the virus for longer than 7 days.

Avoid Catching the Flu

  • Get a flu shot.
  • Avoid the spread of germs. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. Wash your hands often with soap and water. Avoid touching your nose, eyes and mouth. Clean and disinfect surfaces that may have germs.
  • Keep your distance from those who are sick. In waiting rooms, sit at least three feet away from people who are coughing.
  • Practice healthy habits. Get plenty of sleep. Exercise. Eat nutritious foods.

Avoid Spreading the Flu

To prevent the transmission of all respiratory infections, including influenza, take the following infection control measures:
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.
  • Dispose of your Kleenex. Use the nearest waste receptacle to dispose of the tissue after use.
  • Wash your hands. Wash your hands with non-antimicrobial soap and water, an alcohol-based hand rub, or an antiseptic hand wash after having contact with respiratory secretions and contaminated objects/materials.
  • Stay at home. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people with influenza-like illness remain at home until at least 24 hours after they are free of fever (100 degrees F or 37.8 degrees C) or signs of a fever without the use of fever-reducing medications.
See your doctor for mild-to moderate flu symptoms rather than visiting the ER.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Ask Us Anything: Is It Okay to Walk on My Husband's Back When He Has Back Pain?

"When my husband has back pain, he asks me to walk on his back. He insists that it's safe and makes him feel better, but I don't feel comfortable doing so. Who is right?"

Beth Nicastro, Corporate Nurse Educator, Responds:

Walking on a person’s back is not a safe decision for the person with the back pain or yourself. You are correct in trusting your instincts.

Back pain is one of the most common medical problems and can be experienced as a dull, constant ache or a sudden, sharp pain. Acute back pain comes on suddenly and usually lasts from a few days to weeks. Back pain is termed chronic if it lasts for more than three months.

The American Association of Neurological Surgeons states that possible causes of back pain include:
  • prolapsed or ruptured disk 
  • muscle strain
  • aging
  • poor posture
  • excess weight
Back pain can also develop as a result of a number of diseases such as osteoporosis, or kidney stones, according to (NIAMS).

Taking over-the-counter pain relievers or non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen) can ease the symptoms.

Ice or cold packs can reduce the pain and swelling of a muscle strain or spasm (tighteningof the muscle). Use ice or cold packs for 20 minutes three or four times a day during the first few days.

A hot bath or heating pad after 72 hours of the onset of the injury may further reduce pain.

Learning to effectively manage everyday stress can help your recovery. Staying in bed for more than two days may increase the pain and stiffness. Moderate activity that does not significantly worsen the pain is more helpful.

If your back pain is severe or doesn't improve after three days, you should contact your physician or primary care provider. You should also seek medical attention if you have back pain following an injury, numbness or tingling, or severe pain that does not improve with rest.

The best things you can do to prevent back pain are:
  • Exercise often and keep your back muscles strong. 
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight increases stress on the lower back. 
  • Avoid smoking or learn how to quit. 
  • Get enough calcium and vitamin D every day  to build strong bones.
  • Try to stand up straight and avoid heavy lifting when you can. Good posture keeps the body’s weight aligned (straight) and reduces stress on the back muscles. When sitting, use a chair with enough lower back support or place a pillow behind your back. Change positions frequently.

– Beth Nicastro

Beth Nicastro, PNP-BC, is a women's health community coordinator/educator. She also sees patients as a nurse practitioner at East Aurora Pediatrics.

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

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Best Eats: Globe Market



The Globe Market, a deli and specialty food shop with three Buffalo locations, is known for its fresh sandwiches, salads and soups. But not all are created equal. Ann Marie Smokowski, a Registered Dietitian at Mercy Hospital, shares her picks to keep calories to a minimum.

Half Portions 

To practice portion control, try a combo meal:
  • ½ soup & sandwich 
  • ½ sandwich & garden salad 
  • ½ soup & garden salad 

Healthiest Sandwiches 

Roast Turkey, Roast Beef, or Chipotle Turkey 

Bread Choice: Select whole grain breads to increase dietary fiber. Try rye or, if available, whole wheat or pumpernickel.

Cheese: Keep your cheese portion to a minimum to reduce the fat content of your sandwich. Ask for less cheese or skip it altogether.

Condiments: Order condiments such as mayo or oil on the side to control calories and fat.

How to Order

What’s on the Menu: Roast Turkey on country white with lettuce, sage derby cheese & cranberry chutney mayo
Order Instead: Roast Turkey on rye with cranberry chutney mayo on the side; no cheese

What’s on the Menu: Roast Beef on a baguette with brie, green apple, arugula & horseradish mayo
Order Instead: Roast beef on rye with horseradish mayo on the side; no arugula

What’s on the Menu: Chipotle Turkey on a baguette with roasted turkey, provolone, tomato, chipotle bacon mayo, and mesclun greens
Order Instead: Chipotle Turkey on rye with bacon mayo on the side; no provolone

Healthiest Salads 

Garden, Greek, House 

Cheese: Keep your cheese portion to a minimum.
Dressings: Try lite dressings (Balsamic vinegar, Greek or Spicy honey mustard) on the side.

Healthiest Soups 

Any broth-based soup 

Broth-based soups are lower in calories when compared to cream soups made with whole milk or cream.

What Not to Order

  • Club or grilled sandwiches, which have more calories and fat than those recommended above.
  • Chicken salad, salami or capicola deli meats 

The Globe Market’s downtown location caters to the business crowd, while its Elmwood Avenue and Hertel Avenue shops are your best bets for dining after work or on the weekend.

Click here to view the Globe Market’s menu online.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Ask Us Anything: My Mammograms Have Been Painful. Is This Normal?

"I have been getting mammograms for years, but the last few I have had have been extremely painful. They left me bruised and sore. Is this normal? I am past due for my yearly exam, but cannot schedule because I can't go through the agony."

Dr. Ali Ghomi Responds:

Some women report experiencing discomfort during mammography. However, receiving bruises and such degree of pain is not acceptable. I would entertain going to another facility and expressing your concern prior to the examination. You may also present to the same facility, only after you receive reassurance that the breast tissue would not be painfully compressed.

In either case, don't let this discourage you from having annual mammograms for the detection of early breast cancer. 

— 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 OB/GYN 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, January 2, 2013

10 Ways to "Go Green" in the New Year

New Year’s resolutions are easy to break. But if one of your resolutions is to live a greener life, here are 10 simple ways to make a real change:

1. Go Cold

Wash and rinse your laundry in cold water. Your clothes will get just as clean, and you’ll save energy.

2. Pitch the Paper

Switch from paper towels to cloth towels. You’ll not only divert lots of waste from landfills, but you’ll save money, too.

3. Pay Bills Online

Switch to e-bills for credit cards and other monthly bills. You’ll save paper and reduce the carbon footprint of the Postal Service.

4. Catch the Rain

Buy or build a rain barrel to collect free water for your lawn and plants.

5. Go Meatless

Once a week, eat like a vegetarian, and help cut down on the greenhouse gases emitted by the livestock industry.

6. Park Your Car

Bike or walk where you can get to in less than 30 minutes. You’ll help the environment and get more exercise. Also, use public transportation when possible.

7. Shop Used First

Before buying new clothes or furniture, shop first at thrift stores, Craigslist, or similar places for recycled or gently used goods.

8. Start Composting

Save your organic kitchen scraps to cut down on waste and get free fertilizer for your lawn and plants.

9. Adjust Your Thermostat

Set your thermostat a few degrees lower in the winter and higher in the summer to save energy and cut your heating and cooling costs.

10. Get Unplugged

Unplug appliances when you’re not using them, or use a “smart” power strip that senses when appliances aren’t being used and turns the power off.
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