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Cooking essentials: A peek inside a professional chef’s kitchen

(BPT) – From spices and oils to gadgets and gizmos, it seems like there are always new, trendy items that you should add to your kitchen. Trying to separate the handy from the hype, however, can be a time-consuming and expensive process.

Professional chefs know not everything is worthy of space in their kitchens, but it’s not always easy for home cooks to figure out what they need and what they don’t.

That’s why Devin Alexander, New York Times Bestselling Author and professional chef, gives a peek inside her kitchen. Find out what’s really worth your while, as she shares the top items she uses, as well as recommends to her clients to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Chef Alexander’s top kitchen must-have’s include:

Reusable oil sprayer: An oil sprayer allows you to cook with fats in a healthful and efficient way. You can fill the sprayer with your choice of oil – from olive to canola to whatever suits your current taste preference and cooking needs.

Kitchen scale: You don’t have to weigh everything, but a countertop scale is a handy tool that can help you sustain your healthy eating goals. It’s great for measuring portions of lean meats, seafood and cheeses, so you can stay in check while whipping up recipes or prepping snacks.

Truvia Nectar:My favorite liquid sweetener is blended with stevia leaf extract and honey, and has 50 percent fewer calories than sugar,” says Alexander. “It’s twice as sweet so you only need half as much when you’re adding it to tea or drizzling it on yogurt. I also love to use Truvia Nectar in salad dressings, marinades and cocktails.” Learn more at www.truvia.com/nectar.

Oatmeal: Oatmeal isn’t just a morning food, but a healthy way to add texture to recipes. Use it in meatballs and baked goods for a tasty, whole-grain boost.

Cinnamon: Cinnamon is an extremely versatile pantry essential. Sprinkle the spice here and there to liven up your favorite beverages and recipes without too many added calories.

Cocoa powder: “I’m a huge chocolate lover! Using 100 percent cocoa powder, which has minimal calories and some fiber to boot, is a great way to get your chocolate fix while staying fit,” Alexander says “You can add it to oatmeal and sauces, but the possibilities are endless.”

Instant coffee: Did you know instant coffee can be used for more than just your morning jump-start? It’s a quick and easy way to give your protein shakes a java-flavored makeover.

Stocking your home kitchen with the right items is essential for achieving your healthy eating goals.

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Feel good about satisfying your sweet tooth

(BPT) – With growing concerns about diabetes, obesity and dental health issues, many Americans are trying to limit their sugar intake and are turning to other types of sweeteners. But with so many alternatives out there, how do you know the choices you make to replace sugar are actually healthier options?

Customers may be wary of one particular non-sugar sweetener because of its complicated, chemical-sounding name. But erythritol is actually a naturally-derived, zero-calorie sweetener made from plant-based sugars that is not only a great alternative for taste and caloric reasons—it’s also proven to deliver oral health benefits and is easy to digest. That is why erythritol is starting to appear in everything from toothpaste and mouth rinse to gum and lollipops.

Erythritol: What the dentist ordered

Erythritol is often selected for products where dental health is key, such as toothpaste and sugar-free candy. A three-year clinical study by Cargill found that children who used erythritol products have less dental plaque, oral bacteria and tooth decay than those using two other common non-sugar sweeteners, xylitol and sorbitol.

The difference is even more dramatic when comparing the non-sugar alternatives with sucrose, or common table sugar. Why? Sucrose ferments in oral bacteria, leading to tooth decay, while erythritol does not ferment in oral bacteria.

Both erythritol-based toothpastes and candies are appearing in medical, pediatric and dental offices as doctors set them out as samples and refer patients to sugar-free sweets.

“Parents bring kids to their dentist hoping to reduce or eliminate dental decay,” said Dr. John Bruinsma, DDS, founder of Dr. John’s Candies and creator of THRIVE(TM) nutritional lollipops, the first line of natural, sugar-free lollipops that incorporate erythritol. “While parents could just say ‘No more sugar, period,’ that is awfully hard for kids to do. Erythritol-based options let kids enjoy sweet treats, without the negative side effects.”

Dr. Bruinsma also has many patients, from children to adults, who complain of dry mouth. He finds erythritol can provide a solution.

“Many people turn to sugar candies when they have dry mouth—yet using sugar-based candies is like putting gasoline on fire, as both dry mouth and sugar are leading causes of tooth decay,” said Bruinsma. “Instead, erythritol-based candies stimulate salivary flow and help reduce dry mouth symptoms, without promoting dental decay.”

An option for cancer patients

Avoiding sugar is important for everyone, but especially for those battling cancer. Dr. Bruinsma and the MaxLove Project have joined together to provide erythritol-based lollipops to children in cancer treatment.

“We have found that THRIVE lollipops work within the dietary guidelines of most pediatric cancer patients,” says Bruinsma. “Perhaps just as important, the sweets bring a moment of joy and smiles to these kids as they experience one of the simple pleasures of childhood—a lollipop.”

When it comes to sugar alternatives, erythritol is a powerful option that proves pronounceability isn’t as important as performance. Whether you want to satisfy a sweet tooth, address tooth decay, reduce sugar consumption or calories, relieve dry mouth or just brighten someone’s day, you can feel better about reaching for a product sweetened with erythritol.

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7 reasons why millennials love gardening (and you should, too)

(BPT) – The stereotype: Millennials spend more time interacting with the digital world than the natural world around them. The reality: Five million of the 6 million people who took up gardening in 2015 were millennials, according to the 2016 National Gardening Survey.

More millennials (people between the ages of 21 and 34) than any other age group are falling in love with gardening. As a hobby, gardening is a great fit for the millennial mindset and lifestyle that emphasize individuality, independence and value. However, the advantages of gardening that attract millennials are also relevant to every age group, and anyone who wants to begin growing a nutritious, healthful food garden.

Here are seven reasons why more millennials than ever are taking up food gardening, and why you should, too:

1. Gardening fosters better nutrition.

Millennials care about good nutrition and knowing where their food comes from. Multiple studies show members of the generation are health conscious, and understand the relationship between the food they eat, good nutrition and good health. Millennials know fresh vegetables deliver great nutrition, and millennial gardeners know that growing their own veggies and herbs also means they can put more nutritious food on the table. With transplant purveyors like Bonnie Plants offering more than 250 varieties of popular, heirloom, hybrid, new and tried-and- true vegetables and herbs, it’s easy to grow a garden full of healthy, nutritious, economical veggies and herbs.

2. You can save money in the grocery store.

Millennials are into saving money. Eighty percent have a budget, 72 percent are saving for retirement and 51 percent have an emergency fund, according to a TD Ameritrade survey. Gardening can allow you to spend less in the grocery store produce aisle — and that kind of saving savvy appeals to millennials as well as any other age group!

3. Gardening is good for the environment.

Awareness of environmental issues and a desire for healthful products that contribute to ecological balance are hallmarks of the millennial generation. A Nielsen study found millennials care about environmental issues and find ways to personally support a healthy environment. When you grow your own vegetables and herbs, “food miles,” the distance a food item is transported from producer to consumer, shrinks substantially and includes only the distance from your kitchen to your own backyard. Choose plants in biodegradable containers, like those from Bonnie Plants, and gardening is even more environmentally friendly.

4. You can grow a garden anywhere.

While many millennials are city dwellers, others live in suburbs. The fact that they can garden anywhere — on a city balcony, urban patio or suburban backyard — makes gardening the perfect hobby for them. Using transplants from Bonnie Plants, all gardeners can create a backyard garden plot, a vertical garden in an alleyway between city buildings, or a container garden on a balcony or deck.

5. The garden is a great place to come together as a family.

It’s true that millennials make the most use of digital devices of any generation; they also value deep family relationships. Planting a garden with their children, significant others or friends allows everyone to spend enriching time together, working toward an enjoyable, shared goal.

6. Gardening can be a challenge anyone can achieve.

Working toward a goal, and having a vision, are very important qualities for millennials. Gardening takes time and effort but with the right resources and information, it’s something virtually anyone can succeed at. Millennials turn to online resources, like Bonnie Plants’ vegetable and herb growing guides, gardening how-to’s, videos and recipes to help them achieve and ensure success.

7. Gardening can be an adventure.

Sixty-four percent of millennials say they love to cook, and 75 percent enjoy eating cuisine from other cultures, according to a survey by Barkley. For a generation of adventurous eaters and cooks, gardening can be an opportunity to grow and try new things, from edible flowers and exotic herbs, to new types of vegetables, all the while saving money by growing their own.

With millennials now dominating the workforce, and many starting families and reaching their peak earning years, it’s likely their interest in gardening will continue to grow.

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Pittsburgh woman builds strong support network to help with challenges of multiple sclerosis

(BPT) – When Judy Metzler was first diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at age 54, she was in shock – she felt too young to have a chronic disease. Judy wanted to learn more about it, but didn’t know where to turn. That’s where her husband, Jeff, stepped in.

“Without Jeff, I wouldn’t have made it through those first few days and weeks,” says Judy. “He was there to keep me positive and help me research the disease.”

With her husband’s support, Judy was able to come to terms with her diagnosis, gaining confidence along the way.

MS affects about 400,000 people in the United States, often impacting people in the prime of their lives. Symptoms can range from numbness in the limbs to fatigue, pain and loss of vision.

The Importance of Support Partners

“For people living with MS, support partners play a key role in helping their loved ones build resilience, which helps them feel better about themselves,” says Tricia Pagnotta, a nurse practitioner and member of the International Organization of Multiple Sclerosis Nurses (IOMSN).

As Judy became more accepting of her new way of life, she began opening up to others for assistance. Her sister, Susie, has helped drive her to appointments and activities, like ballroom dancing classes for people with MS.

A few years after Judy learned she had MS, her cousin, Kim, was also diagnosed with the condition. Judy then made every effort to be a support partner to Kim.

“I understood how important it was to have someone there to help me overcome the initial shock of diagnosis, and I wanted her to feel that same level of support,” says Judy.

Today, Judy and her cousin share a deeper relationship than ever before – as support partners and women living with MS. It’s this unique bond that allows them to inspire each other through the ups and downs of living with a chronic disease.

Beyond building connections with others, Judy seeks out online resources to stay informed about MS. She recently discovered AboveMS.com, which provides tools, tips and inspiration from people living with MS and other expert contributors. The site features insights on topics ranging from diet and exercise, to work, travel and emotional health. Judy also volunteers with MSWorld, the largest all-patient-run MS organization worldwide, and participates in a monthly MS support group.

Throughout Judy’s experience, she has learned to find support from a number of places.

“I’m so grateful for family, friends and those I’ve met in the MS community for their constant patience, assistance and inspiration,” says Judy. “Having these people by my side – through the good and the bad – keeps me motivated, and I cannot thank them enough.”

While Judy has grown her support network, she continues to lean on her husband for his ongoing help and strength.

“It’s been thirteen years since my diagnosis, and he continues to be a true support partner to me,” says Judy. “Through the challenges of life with MS, he finds ways for us to continue to do the things we love.”

For insights from a range of people affected by MS, as well as additional educational resources, visit AboveMS.com.

Please talk to your doctor as a primary source for MS medical information.

This article is sponsored by Biogen.

2017 Biogen. All rights reserved.

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3 steps to reach 100 feeling youthful and healthy

(BPT) – What will your life be like when you turn 100? A century ago the question seemed almost flippant, a needless consideration for most people, but today it’s very real. The percentage of people living to 100 has grown almost 66 percent in the last 30 years, according to U.S. News and World Report.

The MDVIP Health and Longevity Survey reveals that more than half of Baby Boomers and Generation Xers want to live past the age of 90. More than a quarter want to live beyond 100. The majority from both generations also believe advances in science and technology are going to keep more people alive past the age of 100.

However, these findings come at a time when the life expectancy of Americans has declined for the first time in two decades and one in two adults is living with at least one chronic disease.

“To reach their longevity goals, Americans can no longer afford to put their health on the back burner,” says Dr. Andrea Klemes, chief medical officer at MDVIP. “Most people don’t wait until they’re 60 to start saving for retirement. The same should go for their health, where making small investments today can pay big dividends many years down the road.”

Many chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes, are preventable through simple lifestyle changes. Still, nearly two out of three Boomers and Gen Xers admit they could be doing a better job of exercising regularly, eating well and maintaining a healthy weight.

The key to greater longevity is prioritizing your health now — when you’re well — to prevent problems later on. Whether you’re age 38 or 68, arm yourself with the right knowledge and tools to set realistic health goals and help you stay on track to achieving them.

You can start today by asking three questions:

What’s your number?

When’s the last time you had your blood pressure or cholesterol levels checked? Maintain a current record of your vitals and lab results along with your family history. Make sure you discuss these details with your doctor, who can help identify your risk for certain conditions and suggest lifestyle changes based on the results.

For example, if you know you have pre-diabetes or are at a moderate risk for developing heart disease, you can work with your doctor on modifying your diet and increasing your physical activity. These data points serve as an important guide in managing your health and can be the difference between preventing an issue and treating it.

What’s up, doc?

Going to the doctor is an essential component of maintaining good health but choosing the right doctor directly affects the benefit of each visit. Surprisingly, the survey revealed that one out of three Gen Xers avoid going to the doctor out of fear of finding something wrong.

It’s important to find a primary care doctor you trust, who makes you feel at ease and takes the time to know you and your medical history.

“Having Dr. Gassner on my side has been the best medicine,” says Rose Demitrack, a 101-year-old patient of MDVIP-affiliated physician Dr. Lawrence Gassner in Phoenix, Arizona. “He spends time with me and makes sure I’m doing the right things. Plus he always makes me laugh, which is one secret to staying young. I may be older than most, but I still feel young on the inside.”

In the current healthcare environment, an appointment with a doctor is usually scheduled weeks in advance, and after a long wait in the waiting room, patients often feel rushed through the visit. Patients deserve better and you should shop around for a doctor whose goal is to build a relationship and keep you well.

What’s the plan?

Whether your goal is to lose 10 pounds or to lower your blood pressure, you need a plan to get you there. “I tell my patients to think of it as a business plan for their health,” says Dr. Steven Wilson, an MDVIP-affiliated family practitioner in Redlands, California. “First determine your health goals and make them the focus of your attention. Discuss your goals with your doctor who can help you formulate a health plan for the next year and beyond.”

Once you have your plan established, it’s up to you to execute it. Many people don’t stick with a plan because it’s hard to stay disciplined and easy to fall back into old habits. So don’t be afraid to consult your doctor along the way. Your doctor is your partner in your health journey, and working together could give you a better chance at seeing exactly what your life will be like when you reach 100.

To learn more about MDVIP’s national network of more than 900 primary care physicians who deliver personalized care with an emphasis on prevention and a close doctor-patient relationship, visit MDVIP.com.

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Is hidden salt hurting your health? Five tips for taking control

(BPT) – A typical soup and sandwich lunch can seem like a healthy meal. However, the bread, cold cuts and soup can be packed with something that can have a negative impact on your overall wellness: salt.

“Even meals that seem healthy, like a turkey sandwich with a side of cottage cheese, can have high levels of salt. It may not even taste salty,” says John Meigs, Jr., MD, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Meigs says one of the biggest mistakes people make is to assume if they aren’t adding salt with a salt shaker, their sodium levels are under control. The truth: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates Americans get 77 percent of their salt from processed foods and restaurant meals, compared to 6 percent from the salt shaker at the table and 5 percent added during home cooking.

According to the CDC, the top 10 foods that contribute to a significant amount of the salt Americans consume are:

1. Breads and rolls
2. Cold cuts and cured meat (e.g., deli or packaged ham or turkey)
3. Pizza
4. Fresh and processed poultry
5. Soups
6. Sandwiches such as cheeseburgers
7. Cheese
8. Pasta dishes (not including macaroni and cheese)
9. Meat-mixed dishes such as meatloaf and tomato sauce
10. Snacks such as chips, pretzels and popcorn

Some salt is necessary for the body to function properly, but too much can contribute to high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. The CDC says most people should limit total salt intake to 2,300 milligrams a day or less.

“There are 2,300 milligrams of sodium — the chemical name for salt — in a single teaspoon of table salt,” Meigs notes. “It’s a real challenge to reduce salt intake, even for people who are highly motivated to do so.”

Meigs offers some easy strategies to lower hidden salt intake and take control of your nutrition:

Know your numbers

Talk with a doctor about your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, family health history and ways to prevent health problems before they start. Visit familydoctor.org to learn more.

Read nutrition labels

It takes mere seconds to read nutrition labels to see which items are high in sodium. Sometimes this information is even printed on the front of the package.

Keep in mind, different brands of the same foods often contain varying levels of salt. For example, a slice of white bread can range anywhere from 80 to 230 milligrams of salt. Salt levels in a can of chicken noodle soup can range from 100 to 900 milligrams per serving.

Be a smart diner

Dining out can still be a healthy treat with a little proactive effort. If nutrition information isn’t included on the menu, do some homework in advance by visiting the restaurant’s website. You may be surprised to find that items billed as “light or healthy fare” are often high in salt.

Opt for whole foods

Whether eating out or dining in, filling your plate with whole foods — items in their natural state or close to it — will help you lower your sodium levels. Non-processed fresh foods that are high in fiber are ideal, for example, fresh fruits, vegetables, lean meat and whole grains.

Prepare food at home

It’s easier to regulate salt consumption by preparing meals at home. Not only can you select healthy ingredients and pack your plate with whole foods, you can control the salt you add to dishes by manipulating recipes and including flavor-enhancing alternatives like fresh herbs.

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Reorganize your kitchen to encourage healthy eating habits, nutritionist says

(BPT) – More than half of Americans say they can judge how healthy a family’s lifestyle is by the contents of their refrigerator, and more than a quarter admit that they would eat healthier if they were better organized, according to a new national survey. They’re right to associate the state of their refrigerators with the healthfulness of their eating habits, says celebrity nutritionist and healthy cooking expert Keri Glassman.

“Practicing ‘mindful eating’ can be hindered by a disorganized refrigerator and a cluttered kitchen,” says Glassman. “When you’re preparing and eating meals in an organized environment, you’re more likely to pay attention to what you’re eating and whether it really does nourish your body and mind.”

And while Glassman says refrigerator organization is a first step in leading a healthier life, it’s sometimes easier said than done. In fact, independent consumer research of 1,000 adults, commissioned by kitchen appliance manufacturer LG Electronics shows that more than one-third of American families say fruits and vegetables are the hardest things to keep organized in the fridge.

Glassman offers tips to get more organized in the kitchen for a healthier 2017:

Take control of your refrigerator

“Keeping healthy items in your refrigerator front and center can actually affect the nutrition value of what you’re preparing for your family,” Glassman says. “Today’s refrigerators are making this easier with advanced organization features, like fridges with the new LG InstaView feature that makes it simple to organize your food in a way that puts the most healthful choices in easy view and reach.”

This feature, now available in more than a dozen models in a variety of sizes, styles, finishes and prices, has a tinted glass panel on the right door that illuminates with two quick knocks to allow users to see what’s inside without opening the door. “And when you see healthy choices right in front of you, you’re more likely to choose those first,” notes Glassman.

Additionally, transferring packaged- or bulk-foods into clear glass containers can help keep the fridge looking fresh, and keep your foods fresher longer – which in turn, allows the enticing colors of fresh fruits and veggies to draw your attention.

“A clean fridge with colorful fruits and veggies is key to healthy eating,” Glassman says. “My favorite weekend mornings are spent on color quests at the farmer’s market gathering at least seven different colored fruits and veggies. Not only does the fridge look gorgeous, it inspires fresh cooking and will improve your eating habits!”

Declutter your kitchen

Kitchen counters often become the repository for lots of clutter, from kitchen electronics and small appliances, to car keys and the mail. The clutter takes away valuable cooking space and can affect how healthfully you eat.

“Keep a clear counter,” Glassman says. “Designate an area for keys and mail that is away from your cooking space. Don’t keep unhealthy snacks sitting out on the counter, where their high visibility will make them even more tempting.”

After a meal, and especially after dinner, clear plates and clean up in the kitchen right away. Leaving chores for later will only draw you back into the kitchen, where you might be tempted to snack even though you’ve already satisfied your body’s nutritional needs. In fact, Glassman says, consider adopting a closed-kitchen policy after dinnertime. Close the door to the room, if you have one, and if your home has an open floor plan, avoid making unnecessary trips to the kitchen.

“Organize your pantry and fridge with the motto, if you see it, you’ll use it,” Glassman says. “Rearrange so the healthiest choices are most visible, and the less healthy ones aren’t in easy sight.”

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How stories from the community help shed light on an incurable cancer

(BPT) – Imagine sitting in a doctor’s office and being told you have an incurable form of blood cancer that you’ve never even heard of. A disease that sometimes has no symptoms and no known cause. A type of cancer that leads patients to go through ongoing cycles of relapse and remission before succumbing to disease.

Imagine the shock. The feeling of helplessness. The fear.

This situation is not uncommon for people diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells in the bone marrow.

Multiple myeloma is becoming more prevalent in the U.S. due to an increase in diagnoses. However, a survey of 746 multiple myeloma patients showed that 83 percent had no prior knowledge of the disease at diagnosis.

This lack of awareness can contribute to delayed diagnoses, which are associated with a significant impact on the clinical course of the disease.

A new platform to raise awareness

In an effort to help address this lack of awareness, last year Amgen, one of the world’s leading biotechnology companies, announced the launch of Blood Counts(TM), a national effort to shed light on multiple myeloma through the sharing of stories.

As part of the campaign, Amgen is working with StoryCorps, a national non-profit that’s mission is to preserve and share humanity’s stories, to record first-hand accounts from the multiple myeloma community.

Kitty Smith, a 74-year-old multiple myeloma patient from the San Diego area, recently reconnected with her former oncologist, Dr. Paul Cheng, for the first time in two years as part of a Blood Counts interview.

“It’s great seeing you Kitty,” said Dr. Cheng during their conversation. “I haven’t seen you for probably almost two years now and you look great. You know, I miss a lot of my patients, but especially you.”

Dr. Cheng treated Smith following her multiple myeloma diagnosis and the pair quickly became close friends.

“When I met you, there was just something that absolutely clicked,” Smith said. “I love your sense of humor. I love that when I’m with you I can laugh about cancer and make fun of it.”

When Dr. Cheng left his practice, he found another oncologist to continue Smith’s care.

“Although I found you a great doctor to replace me,” Dr. Cheng told Smith, “I still felt like, whether it was justified or not, that somehow I’d let you down by leaving.”

“I didn’t feel that way,” Smith replied. “The other patients too. We still talk about you and we still all miss you!”

By sharing real-life emotional accounts, like Smith’s and Dr. Cheng’s, Blood Counts aims to shed light on what multiple myeloma patients, physicians and caregivers deal with on a day-to-day basis.

How you can help

There are several other ways the public can help raise awareness of multiple myeloma, including:

* Sharing an article or video about the disease with your followers on social media (consider using a popular multiple myeloma hashtag, like #MMaware).

* Participating in a local run/walk dedicated to multiple myeloma awareness.

* Visiting advocacy group websites, including the International Myeloma Foundation and the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation, to see how else to get involved.

For more information on Blood Counts and to sign-up to participate in an interview, visit www.BloodCounts.com. Select interviews, including Smith’s and Dr. Cheng’s, will be posted online in 2017.

USA-171-045351

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For Patient Safety Awareness Week, know if you’re at risk for respiratory compromise

(BPT) – For 15 years, the National Patient Safety Foundation (NPSF) has led Patient Safety Awareness Week. NPSF is a nonprofit organization whose vision is to create a world where patients and those who care for them are free from harm. Held annually in March, Patient Safety Awareness Week is a time dedicated to help raise awareness about patient safety among health care professionals and the public.

In recognition of Patient Safety Awareness Week, it is important that people understand the risks associated with the second leading avoidable patient safety issue — respiratory compromise. Respiratory compromise is a progressive condition impacting a patient’s ability to breathe. If left untreated while a patient recovers from surgery in a hospital or during an outpatient procedure using anesthesia, it can lead to respiratory failure, and even death.

“Patient Safety Awareness Week is an important opportunity for patients and their families to learn more about respiratory compromise, which is a serious patient safety issue,” said Phil Porte, Executive Director, Respiratory Compromise Institute. “If you are undergoing a medical or surgical procedure, speak with your health care provider about this preventable condition. Ask them about your risks for respiratory compromise and how it can be prevented.”

Risk factors for respiratory compromise include: obstructive sleep apnea, age, obesity and chronic pulmonary disease, among others. Respiratory compromise is often avoidable, despite being a serious health issue.

By using appropriate therapies and monitoring technologies to evaluate a patient’s respiratory status, health care professionals can detect respiratory compromise and treat patients earlier. One such technology, capnography, can help detect compromise in its earliest stages.

Visit www.respiratorycompromise.org to learn more about respiratory compromise.

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After years of ER visits and overlooked symptoms, a rare cancer diagnosis emerges

(BPT) – Giovanna was a successful composer and pianist playing alongside some of the biggest names in the music industry when she experienced bouts of abdominal pain so intense she made repeated visits to the emergency room (ER). Over the next several years, Giovanna found herself in the ER at least six times, always with the same pain. She wanted answers.

“The doctors thought it was stress, or irritable bowel syndrome, and when they couldn’t find a cause for the pain, they said, ‘you’re fine, it’s just one of those things’ – and I wanted to believe them, so I did,” says Giovanna.

But after six years of these inexplicable episodes, a physician finally ordered an abdominal scan, and it became clear that Giovanna wasn’t fine. Giovanna had cancer.

“It was a relief to finally have a diagnosis, and then it hit me that it’s cancer,” Giovanna recalls. “As I began to learn about my cancer — a neuroendocrine tumor (NET) — I realized that to survive, I had to let go of my preconceived notions of what I thought cancer was.”

Confusing and debilitating symptoms

Neuroendocrine tumors develop in cells that make hormones, which control a variety of functions, and can develop in the gastrointestinal tract, including the stomach, pancreas, intestines, colon and rectum. Approximately 12,000 people are diagnosed with NETs each year, according to the Neuroendocrine Tumor Research Foundation.

Although slow-growing, NETs are usually discovered after metastasizing, or spreading, to other organs like the liver and begin altering hormone production, which triggers a rare disease called carcinoid syndrome.

While carcinoid syndrome affects everyone differently, it redefines the meaning of “normal” for each person. Uncontrolled, disruptive symptoms such as urgency to go to the bathroom and extreme, painful, cramping affects patients’ ability to live their everyday lives. Social settings can also be difficult and restrictive for patients given the discomfort and embarrassment associated with symptoms of carcinoid syndrome.

Giovanna says the condition can be life-altering and she is one of the few who only experienced intermittent abdominal pain. “I’ve talked to many NET patients who say the symptoms of carcinoid syndrome are so unbearable they are treating the syndrome as much as the cancer,” she says.

But, many people with carcinoid syndrome have frequent and debilitating diarrhea, facial flushing, fatigue and, over time, heart valve damage.

Living with NETs and carcinoid syndrome

There is currently no cure for NETs, but therapies used to treat other types of cancers can help shrink or slow tumor growth, which can also help reduce carcinoid syndrome symptoms.

The number of NETs diagnosed has been increasing for many years, according to the American Cancer Society. However, there are only a handful of centers in the United States that specialize in treating NETs and carcinoid syndrome. Even when carcinoid syndrome has been diagnosed, living with the condition can still be difficult.

“Be an advocate for yourself. If you aren’t getting the information you need, ask for it, or find someone who can help you ask for it,” advises Giovanna.

To cope with her diagnosis, Giovanna started a Los Angeles-based support network called LACNETS, which is dedicated to helping others understand their diagnosis, review treatment options and provide a place where people can share their hopes and fears. LACNETS is EARS: Education, Awareness, Resources and Support. While the group is based in Los Angeles, LACNETS offers resources for NET patients across the United States.

Giovanna has also found comfort and inspiration by focusing her composing on healing music to help others.

“This type of cancer is a long haul. You have to settle in for a marathon,” she says. “For me, composing and performing music is healing, empowering and re-energizing, and I want to share that experience.”

NET and carcinoid syndrome treatment is complex, but new treatment options are available. Talk to your doctor to find out more. Visit www.aboutcarcinoid.com for more information about carcinoid syndrome and to view results from the Carcinoid Impact Survey. To learn more about LACNETS, visit www.lacnets.org. To hear Giovanna’s original music, visit https://soundcloud.com/giovanna-joyce-imbesi/sets/short-stories.

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