Monday, June 27, 2011


Study outlines foods that lead to weight gain — and loss

Potato chips come in many shapes and sizes. And for most people, the slogan “you can’t eat just one” is true.

And that’s the problem.

Eating things like potato chips and french fries on a regular basis inevitably leads to weight gain. We’ve always known that, and now a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine quantifies this.

For example, if you eat one more serving per day of french fries than you currently do, that alone would lead to a 3.4-pound gain over four years. One additional serving of potato chips would lead to a 1.69-pound gain. Sugary drinks and processed meats were also high on the list.

The Harvard researchers who conducted the study say that while the results might seem obvious, what it points out is that simply cutting down calories is not enough — it’s the kind of calories that count. Some people are surprised that, according to the study, potato chips and french fries leads to more weight gain than doughnuts or desserts.

It’s no wonder that people in this day and age tend to gain a pound per year as they age. Junk food is more prevalent than ever before, and if your activity declines as you age, you will likely pile on the pounds.

But here is the good news. If you add a serving of some foods, you can actually lose weight. According to the study, they include:

• Yogurt
• Nuts
• Fruits
• Whole grains
• Vegetables.

The reason for this is probably that the more of these foods you eat, the less room you have for the junk food alternatives.

At the Backus Weight Loss Center, we encourage our patients to make lifestyle changes that they can maintain over many years, whether that means exercising or eating the right foods. That advice is good for everyone, because even if you aren’t overweight now, the pounds tend to creep on later in life, and it gets harder to lose them.

Mark Tousignant, MD, is Medical Director of the Backus Weight Loss Center and specializes in minimally invasive weight loss surgery. The information in this column should not replace the advice of your personal physician. If you want to comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Dr. Tousignant or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

Monday, June 20, 2011


Take the bite out of mosquitoes

We all know that April showers bring May flowers. But when those showers continue in May, and linger through June, what does that bring?

Well, in addition to the frustration of not being able to enjoy the Great Outdoors, it brings mosquitoes. Lots of them.

Early reports from the state suggest that this is going to be a whopper year for mosquitoes. So far, they are finding up to five times more mosquitoes than they normally would at this time of the year. And as the weather heats up, it can only get worse.

For the most part, mosquito bites are mostly nuisances, unsightly, uncomfortable and itchy.

But these pests can transmit more serious diseases such as West Nile virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis, which for vulnerable populations such as the very young and elderly can result in hospitalization and even death. Symptoms can include fever, headaches and body aches.

The odds of this happening in our neck of the woods are very low, but we should be mindful of these pesky critters. Here are some tips to avoid them:

They are most active at dawn and dusk, so limiting your time outside at these times help.

• If you are going to be outside at this time, remember this phrase: “Sun down, sleeves down.” Long sleeves and pants are the way to go.

Use mosquito repellant with DEET.

Check for standing water on your property. Tarps, birdbaths, pool covers, clogged rain gutters and buckets are idea places for mosquitoes to breed.

If you have a tire swing, poke holes in it so the water doesn’t collect.

Bat houses. Bats may not be pretty, but they are an excellent method of mosquito control – they can eat up to 600 mosquitoes per hour!

It was a long, cold, snowy winter. Then came the endless rains this spring. We all deserve to enjoy some sunny weather this summer, so take precautions so that bugs don’t put a damper on the fun. To learn more, watch our video at

Robin Heard is a registered nurse and Coordinator of Infectious Disease at The William W. Backus Hospital. 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 Ms. Heard or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


Beware of food-borne illnesses this summer

The E.Coli strain sweeping through Europe, which has killed at least 22 people and sickened more than 1,800, has brought newfound attention to food-borne illnesses.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a travel advisory, asking people who visit Germany to avoid raw tomatoes, fresh cucumbers and leafy salads.

The CDC also is encouraging those who visited Germany and now showing symptoms, such as bloody diarrhea and stomach cramps, to see a physician immediately.

However, the Food and Drug Administration is reassuring residents that the U.S. food supply remains safe.

That being said, this is a good time of year to think about food-borne illnesses and how to prevent them. Each year, eating contaminated food causes 1 in 6 people in the U.S. to get sick, with 128,000 going to the hospital and 3,000 people dying.

There are two types of food-borne illnesses. One is a virus, which usually occurs by an employee with a virus (such as Hepatitis A or the Norovirus) handling food and transmitting it through food. The second type of food-borne illness is from bacteria, such as listeria or salmonella.

Preventing food-borne illnesses is key to staying safe, and here are some tips you can follow:

Always throw out products that are past their expiration date. Those products that are consumed beyond that time have supported the growth of bacteria, likely past safe to eat levels.

Always cook your food to the appropriate internal temperatures. Beef should be cooked to 155 degrees for at least 15 seconds, while chicken or any stuffed meats or fish needs to be cooked to 165 degrees for 15 seconds. Fish that is not stuffed must be cooked to 145 degrees. This ensures that bacteria can be killed during the cooking process.

Prevent cross-contamination. When grilling your burgers this summer, don’t put your cooked burgers on the same plate that you carried your raw burgers out to the grill with. If you’ve done this, you have just reintroduced your burgers to the same bacteria you thought you killed during the cooking process.

Wash your hands before preparing any food, even handling vegetables for kabobs or making salads.

Reheat your leftovers properly, and only reheat once. Food should be reheated to the same recommended original cooking temperature.

Don’t leave your potato salad out in the sun very long during your summer picnic. Increasing the temperature of foods that should be kept cold makes for a cozy environment for bacteria to grow.

Don’t use damaged cans. Canned goods that have dents or are bulging may already be contaminated with bacteria.

The impact of food-borne illnesses is wide ranging — from diarrhea to organ failure. The best scenario is to take the appropriate precautions so you can enjoy your summer.

Whitney Bundy is a registered dietitian and Director of Food and Nutrition at The William W. Backus Hospital. 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 Ms. Bundy or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

Monday, June 06, 2011


Sleep disorders can cause strokes

Obesity and its impact on health is a hot topic lately. Study after study, whether it is nationwide or a recent health needs assessment by Backus Hospital, show that it is a growing epidemic that can lead to many other health problems.

But one of the associated problems that isn’t talked about as much is sleep apnea, a disorder that involves shallow or interrupted breathing that can interrupt your sleep.

While on the surface this may not seem as important as diabetes or other health issues related to being overweight, there is more to consider. Sleep apnea increases the risk for stroke, high blood pressure and heart disease. Patients with obstructive sleep apnea are also at higher risk for postoperative complications.

Studies show that sleep apnea is present in 50-70% of stroke patients. A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine placed the figure at 68%.

Another study of 5,422 people with untreated sleep apnea showed that 193 of them had strokes within nine years.

This makes it even more important that we treat sleep apnea as the major health issue that it is.

But detecting it can be a problem. Many times it cannot be detected in your physician’s office, and the person suffering from sleep apnea may not know it until a family member notices it when they are sleeping.

Symptoms include:

• Loud snoring
• Daytime sleepiness
• Insomnia
• Breathing pauses during sleep
• Shortness of breath that wake you up
• Waking up with a headache, dry mouth or sore throat.

If you experience these symptoms, or observe them in others, see your doctor.

Unfortunately, sleep apnea is a chronic condition, but it can be managed with a variety of treatments, including weight loss programs, CPAP breathing machines, dental oral appliances, and surgery.

It’s important to have this sleeping disorder diagnosed and treated before it is too late.

Dr. Setu Vora is Medical Director of Critical Care and Quality at The William W. Backus Hospital in Norwich, and in private practice. 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. Vora or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

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