Monday, July 26, 2010


Getting the community involved in healthy behaviors

We’re halfway through the year and for many of us our New Year’s resolutions are distant memories.

And so is the lofty goal of strutting down the beach in our swimsuits or whatever it was we envisioned when we pledged to eat better and exercise more.

A free program on Monday (July 26) offered many of us hope.

A Backus Hospital exercise expert presented “Starting an Exercise Program: Getting Organized, Staying Motivated,” part of the ongoing Enjoy LIFE (Lifelong Investment in Fitness and Exercise) series, a partnership between Backus Hospital and the Plainfield Recreation Department. To learn more about the series and upcoming events, visit

Here are a few tips I can offer that might help keep you get on the right track. They include:

Set realistic goals. You can’t expect to become Arnold Schwarzenegger overnight, or expect to lose 10 pounds in a week. Those perfectly shaped people you see walking around with towels draped over their shoulders in local gyms are the exception, not the rule.

Have fun. Running on a treadmill while staring at a wall might not do it for you. For some, adding a television or music to the equation helps. For others, they are better off finding a friend to play tennis with or doing other activities. Find what’s right for you.

Make it easy. If you don’t like to exercise in the morning, do it at night. If you don’t like the cold, buy a treadmill. If you don’t like to run alone, find a partner. Removing barriers will increase your chances of success.

For some, time is the problem. If you simply can’t find the time to exercise, there are still some things you can do to increase your activity levels. Take the stairs instead of the elevator; park the car farther away from the grocery store; spend your lunch break walking instead of eating a cheeseburger.

Remember, when it comes to exercise, every bit counts. And we’re not just talking about adults. Childhood obesity is also an issue.

The next event in the Enjoy LIFE series will be geared towards children, teaching everything from exercise safety to backpack techniques and proper sports equipment for our youth.

“Backpack Safety and Keeping Exercise Fun and Safe,” led by Backus Rehabilitation Services physical therapist Kristin Hilliard, will be held Aug. 12 from 6:30-8 p.m. at the Plainfield Recreation Center. Hope to see you there.

Alice Facente is a registered nurse and clinical educator with the Backus Education Department. The information in this column should not replace the advice of your personal physician. To communicate with Ms. Thompson or any of the Healthy Living columnists, email

Monday, July 19, 2010


Used properly, public data can improve hospital safety

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services recently released the newest data on the Hospital Compare website. The site allows you to compare hospitals, view charts and graphs, get directions and follow a number of links to information about Medicare.

As you review the data you may realize that it is at least six months old. So, how does a bunch of numbers help keep you safe if you find yourself in a hospital in the near future? What if the hospital the ambulance takes you to doesn’t score as high as the one 10 miles away? Does this information help you receive safer care?

Like any information, the power comes in how it is used and your understanding of what it means.

Hospital Compare uses a few different types of data. One type is “Process of Care Measures.” These are the things that evidence has shown increase the chance that a patient will have good results.

Say you are going to have elective surgery on your knee. Research has shown that patients who get the right type of antibiotics within an hour prior to surgery have less chance of developing a surgical site infection. So, as you work with your doctor and hospital one question you might ask is “what medication will I receive prior to surgery?”

You also might notice that some hospitals do better at preventing blood clots than others. This is another conversation that you might want to consider having with your surgeon. “What is my risk of developing a blood clot as a result of this type of surgery? What can we do to lessen that risk?”

Using the “Process of Care Measures” discussed on the website can provide you with a list of items to discuss with your provider prior to or at the time of your hospitalization. This will help assure that you are receiving the best evidence-based care appropriate to your individual situation.

But remember, not all of these measures are appropriate for all patients, so talk with your healthcare provider about how to optimize your care.

No matter what hospital you end up in, you want to make sure you are one of the people counted as having received the best possible care appropriate for your situation.

Using the information on the Hospital Compare site is a wonderful starting place for ongoing conversations with your healthcare provider.

Receiving safe, effective healthcare requires continuous teamwork. You as a patient or family member are an integral part of that team.

Bonnie Thompson, an advanced practice nurse, is Administrative Director of Organizational Excellence at The William W. Backus Hospital. The information in this column should not replace the advice of your personal physician. To communicate with Ms. Thompson or any of the Healthy Living columnists, email

Monday, July 12, 2010


Obesity is a growing epidemic

No matter how you weigh the statistics, obesity levels are on the rise. Local, state and national statistics all lead to one conclusion – as a society we are getting heavier, which can lead to long term health problems.

According to a recent Backus health assessment to determine the health needs in the community, more than 40 percent of residents surveyed in Windham and New London Counties are overweight, higher than the national average of 36.3 percent. Recent state and national studies draw the same conclusions.

Why is this important? Because being overweight leads to serious and expensive health issues – from diabetes to heart disease. Much to the surprise of many, obesity is responsible for more deaths every year than breast cancer and colon cancer combined. It is a health epidemic that is grossly under-rated.

How did we get to where we are today? It’s a long story, but can be summed up this way: We have gone from a society of hunter-gatherers to farmers to consumers.

Food, and lots of it, is easier than ever to get, with thousands of new food products introduced each year – much of it unhealthy. And unlike thousands of years ago, we don’t have to work very hard to get it.

Portions are getting larger, food labels are difficult to decipher, and many of us do not have the time to be as active as we should be.

We all need to be proactive to reverse this trend. Many of our children are overweight, and studies how 75 percent of overweight children remain that way as adults.

Backus Hospital has had a long-standing commitment to improving the eating and exercising habits of the community. From websites dedicated to nutrition to our recent Enjoy LIFE (Lifelong Investment in Fitness and Exercise) community education program, we want to improve the health of the community.

Now we are offering another option – the Backus Weight Loss Center. It combines nutritional counseling, psychiatric screenings, support groups and weight loss surgery when appropriate. The surgery is only offered to patients who are considered severely obese and have tried other options to lose weight.

To learn more about the new weight loss center, the only one of its kind in eastern Connecticut, we are offering community education events beginning July 20 from 6-7 p.m. at the Backus Outpatient Care Center at 111 Salem Turnpike. Other sessions are scheduled for August and September, and registration is required by calling 860-425-8740.Or, visit

Whether you are a candidate for surgery or would be better off with a diet and exercise program, I urge you to take advantage of the free advice that will be offered. Our community’s health is at stake.

Mark Tousignant, MD, is a minimally invasive general surgeon with Backus Physician Services and Medical Director of the Backus Weight Loss Center. The information in this column should not replace the advice of your personal physician. To communicate with Dr. Tousignant or any of the Healthy Living columnists, email

Tuesday, July 06, 2010


Avoid the “silent killer” with a heart-healthy lifestyle

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is often referred to as the “silent killer” because it causes damage without creating symptoms. Many people may have high blood pressure for years without knowing it, and during this time damage to the organs, such as the blood vessels, the heart, and kidneys can occur, which could ultimately lead to heart attack, heart failure, stroke, and kidney failure.

Screening for hypertension is quick, easy, and painless, and is performed right in your doctor’s office. The American Heart Association recommends adults maintain a blood pressure of less than 120/80 mm Hg (millimeters of mercury). This means systolic readings of less than 120 mm Hg AND diastolic readings of less than 80 mm Hg.

Although there is no cure for hypertension (in most cases), it is a disease that is usually manageable.

If your resting blood pressure falls in the pre-hypertension range (systolic between 120 and 139 mm Hg OR diastolic between 80 and 89 mm Hg, your doctor will often recommend lifestyle modifications, such as:

1) Eating a healthy diet. The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute recommends the following Heart Healthy Diet Guidelines. You should eat:
• 8-10% of the day's total calories from saturated fat.
• 30 percent or less of the day’s total calories from fat.
• Less than 300 milligrams of dietary cholesterol a day.
• Limit sodium intake to 2400 milligrams a day.
• Just enough calories to achieve or maintain a healthy weight and reduce your blood cholesterol level (Ask your doctor or registered dietitian what is a reasonable calorie level for you).

2) Increasing physical activity. In general you should gradually work up to an aerobic session lasting 20 to 30 minutes, at least three to four times a week. Exercising every day or every other day will help you keep a regular aerobic exercise schedule.

3) Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese increases your risk of developing high blood pressure. In fact, your blood pressure rises as your body weight increases. Losing even 10 pounds can lower your blood pressure—and losing weight has the biggest effect on those who are overweight and already have hypertension.
If your doctor recommends that you lose weight, there are a variety of healthcare professionals who can help get you on the right track. People who are slowly gaining weight can either gradually increase physical activity to 300 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, or reduce caloric intake, or both, until their weight is stable.

4) Managing stress. After you've identified the cause of stress in your life, the next step is to learn techniques to help you cope. There are many techniques you can use to manage stress. Some of which you can learn yourself, while other techniques may require the guidance of a trained therapist.

5) Limiting alcohol intake. Numerous studies suggest that moderate alcohol consumption helps protect against heart disease by raising HDL (good) cholesterol and reducing plaque accumulations in your arteries. Alcohol also has a mild anti-coagulating effect, keeping platelets from clumping together to form clots. Both actions can reduce risk of heart attack but exactly how alcohol influences either one still remains unclear.
On the other hand, drinking more than three drinks a day has a direct toxic effect on the heart. Heavy drinking, particularly over time, can damage the heart and lead to high blood pressure, alcoholic cardiomyopathy (weakened heart), congestive heart failure, and stroke.

6) Avoiding tobacco smoke. The negative effects of smoking are well documented, and it can lead to a wide range of health problems from cancer to heart disease to death. One of the most important things you can do to reduce your risk of heart disease is to avoid tobacco smoke.

If your resting blood pressure falls in the hypertensive range (systolic over 140 mm Hg and diastolic over 90 mm Hg), then your doctor will likely prescribe antihypertensive medications in addition to lifestyle modifications.

Managing hypertension requires a lifelong commitment to working with your doctor to achieve adequate blood pressure control. Remember that doing so will help reduce your risk of developing heart disease, stroke, and serious kidney diseases, as well as reducing your risk of premature death.

Dr. Michael J. Fucci is a cardiologist on the Backus Medical Staff with an office at the Plainfield Backus Health Center and member of Cardiology Associates of Norwich. This column should not replace advice or instruction from your personal physician. If you want to comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Dr. Fucci or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

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