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Spring 2014

Alaska Healthy j o u r n a l o f w e l l n e s s & g o o d h e a lt h c a r e

Gynecologic cancer

It’s personal for women

Blood pressure

4 facts to know

Safe haven

Susan Bomalaski, executive director of Catholic Social Services, and Sam Thies, project manager for Cook Inlet Housing Authority, review plans for the new Clare House in Spenard.

The newly expanded Clare House provides transitional living for homeless mothers and their children.

New Clare House improves emergency shelter for homeless women and children

The phone rang in Susan Bomalaski’s office and Monica Anderson, chief mission integration officer for Providence Health & Services Alaska, said, “I hope you are sitting down.” So that’s what Bomalaski, executive director of Catholic Social Services, did. Just a few weeks earlier, CSS had requested a $25,000 grant for renovations to a newly purchased hotel that would soon be the new Clare House. She hoped the news would be good. Instead, it was great. Creating a new Clare House, which since 1982 has been a lifeline to women and mothers struggling with homelessness because of poverty, abuse or other unforeseen circumstances, is something the Sisters of Providence would be proud to support, Anderson told her. But $25,000 was not enough. They’d contribute $350,000. “I was floored,” Bomalaski says. “They do so much to support us, and this would allow us to double our capacity.” Support for the Clare House project was part of the $57.8 million in community benefit Providence provided across Alaska in 2012. The new 25-unit Clare House was completed in September after remodeling and updating the old Eagle Nest Motel in Spenard. The majority of the work included electrical upgrades, installation of energy-efficient heating, and a security system to keep women and children safe. The resulting 14,500-square-foot facility houses two kitchen-dining areas, a large playroom and common areas for meeting. There is an office and storage space and first- and second-level housing to accommodate both short- and longer-term residents.

The old Clare House, tucked into an industrial area off Arctic Boulevard, had served its patrons well, says Ellen Krsnak, CSS community relations director. But it was one-third of the size of the new facility and far from public transportation. Today, women seeking shelter can simply get on a bus and disembark just a few steps away from the new Clare House. Bomalaski says when considering the new site’s design she wanted to foster the idea of togetherness, of women helping women to empower themselves. So the new dining area is larger, allowing everyone to eat together – unlike the old location, in which residents had to eat in shifts. “We like the idea of keeping that community feel, of everyone gathering together to share a meal,” she says. Perhaps the best improvement to the new Clare House, though, is the privacy. In the past, sleeping quarters consisted of pods separated by half walls and lined with bunk beds, army-barracks style. Because of the limited privacy, older boys were not allowed to stay with their mothers and had to stay in alternative housing. “For families in crisis, it was so stressful to be separated,” says Krsnak. “And now, parents can have individual rooms.” With the larger site, Krsnak says, CSS has been able to increase its services, offering transitional housing to families that are trying to get on their feet and live independently. Residents pay rent based on a sliding scale and have up to two years to transition back into the community. Residents are not the only ones affected by the improvements. “This has been great for the staff too,” she says. “And when people who knew our old facility come here, their reaction is that they are just delighted.”

Get more information about Providence Health & Services Alaska’s community benefit at 2 

Healthy Alaska • Providence Alaska Medical Center

inside this issue join a Community education class Providence Health & Services Alaska offers a variety of programs that provide education and resources to support healthy lifestyles and management of chronic illness. Topics include: ✓ Childbirth and parenting; ✓ Heart Center support groups; ✓ Adult fitness; ✓ Pulmonary rehabilitation; ✓ Pre-diabetes; ✓ Health and wellness; and ✓ Smoking cessation. Most programs require a physician referral prior to participation. Providence can help by faxing a referral order to your provider. For more information, call the Providence Alaska Learning Institute at 907-212-3011. For class descriptions and online registration, visit

Healthy Alaska SPRING 2014

Information in HEALTHY ALASKA comes from a wide range of medical experts. Models may be used in photos and illustrations. If you have any concerns or questions about specific content that may affect your health, please contact your health care provider. Copyright © 2014 Coffey Communications, Inc. hsm29866

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Feature stories Gynecologic cancer. For women, it’s the most personal cancer of all.

Kids in motion. Help your child develop an active lifestyle.

Your heartbeat. What happens when your heart can’t keep the beat?

Healthy Alaska is published as a community service for the friends and patrons of: Providence Alaska Medical Center P.O. Box 196999 Anchorage, AK 99519-6999 907-562-2211 CEO, Providence Health & Services Alaska Bruce Lamoureux CEO, Providence Alaska Medical Center Richard Mandsager, MD Alaska Region Community Ministry Board Christopher Dyke, MD, chair Chris Swalling, vice chair

Coming to the Providence campus? Find your way around with our easy-to-navigate maps. Print them out before your appointments. At our website, you’ll find them on the right side under “Find Us.”

Go to

Keeping informed Kids and seat belts. Use the proper seats and belts. page 4

Aspirin use. Make sure that it’s safe for you. page 5

Rx for sleep. Talk with your doctor before taking any sleep medicine. page 6

Help your child trim down. Support your child’s health with good eating habits. page 7

Dog bites. Learn how to avoid being bitten. page 11

Home safety. Find ways to reduce your risk of injury. page 15 Providence Alaska Medical Center • Healthy Alaska  3

daily dose

Your child may not be buckled properly


o G od to

Restaurant portions can be two to three times more food than what you need. Put half in a take-home box before you start eating, or split the meal with a friend. Source:

See to it If you wear contacts and are in front of a computer a lot, give your eyes a break. Switch to wearing glasses from time to time to ease eyestrain. Source: American Academy of Ophthalmology


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Many parents may be putting their children at risk for serious injury during a car crash by improper use of seat belts, according to a study of national traffic safety data. Children should remain in a car seat with five-point harness as long as possible, usually until around age 3 or 4. For older children, nearly all states, including Alaska, require kids to ride in booster or car seats until age 8. Despite these regulations, research shows at least 37 percent of drivers admit they use seat belts for their 4-to-9-year-old passengers only some of the time. And, of those drivers, 78 percent described using seat belts that didn’t fit children properly. “Choosing a booster or car seat can be confusing for families,” says Michelle Laufer, MD, an Anchorage pediatrician. “Seats have differing weight and Michelle Laufer MD, age parampediatrician eters and older children often resist being secured in a booster seat.” In a crash, ill-fitting, adultsize seat belts could cause head, spine and abdominal injuries

in children. Booster seats are designed to adapt adult-size belts to fit a child-size body. Shoulder belts should fit across the middle of a child’s shoulder, not be falling off the shoulder or touching the neck. Lap belts should lie flat on top of the thighs, not higher on the abdomen. “Parents can rest assured that despite the common protest from school-age children that booster seats are for babies, appropriate use of seat belts with a booster seat is necessary to safely transport children,” Dr. Laufer says. Kids should stay in booster seats until they are 57 inches tall – the height of an average 11-year-old. Providence Alaska Medical Center is the lead agency in the state for Safe Kids Alaska. The mission of Safe Kids Alaska is “Preventing Childhood Injury in the Last Frontier” by addressing all unintentional, preventable injuries to Alaska’s children, including promoting the use of child car seats. The program offers free car-seat checkups to ensure seats are being used appropriately and are not outdated. To find a nearby car-seat checkup location, see Source: Academic Pediatrics, Vol. 11, No. 6

daily dose Your skin needs protection year-round You know to slather on sunscreen on a hot summer day, especially if you’re at the beach or a pool. But the sun delivers damaging rays 365 days a year, which means you need to protect your skin year-round. You want to reduce your lifetime exposure to the sun as much as possible. The American Academy of Dermatology advises using a water-resistant, broadspectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least 30. “People often wear moisturizers with sunscreen on a daily basis, but they are putting that cream on at 7 a.m. and really don’t have any protection left by 9 or 10,” Peter Ehrnstrom, MD, says Anchorage dermadermatologist tologist Peter Ehrnstrom, MD. “Sunscreen is a ‘use-it-when-youneed-it’ product. Regardless of what it says on the tube, don’t assume you have any protection left after two to three hours.”

Aspirin: Benefits vs. risks

Even though aspirin can help some people avoid a heart attack or stroke, it’s not for everyone. Taking aspirin regularly has been linked to serious side effects, such as kidney failure and bleeding in the stomach and brain, reports the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Also, several over-the-counter and prescription medicines have blood-thinning properties just like aspirin. Taking these medicines with aspirin can be risky. That’s also true of certain vitamins, herbal remedies and supplements. According to the FDA, regular aspirin use may not be a good idea for people who have: ✓ A bleeding disorder; ✓✓Uncontrolled high blood pressure; ✓✓Severe liver or kidney disease; ✓✓Asthma; and ✓✓An allergy to aspirin.

Before you begin routine aspirin use, tell your doctor about all the medicines and supplements you take. “Because of the risk of bleeding in the brain and stomach, physicians weigh many factors Bernard Farzin, MD, before prescribing medical director, Providence Senior low-dose aspirin in Care Center patients who do not have established cardiovascular disease,” says Bernard Farzin, MD, medical director, Providence Senior Care Center. “Be sure to consult with your primary care provider before starting an aspirin regimen.” Finally, if side effects occur once you start taking aspirin, tell your doctor.

Bottom line

Changing a wet diaper? You may not have to use a wipe. Urine rarely irritates a baby’s skin. Save wipes for the messier jobs. Source: American Academy of Pediatrics

Providence Alaska Medical Center • Healthy Alaska  5

Rx for sleep: What to know Are you strugglingfor sleep? A careful medical evaluation can help pinpoint the causes of insomnia. You and your doctor can decide which approach might be best. Lots of factors need to be considered, including your health, lifestyle and employment. Ellen Halverson, MD, a psychiatrist with Providence Ellen Halverson, Behavioral MD, psychiatrist, Providence Medicine Group Behavioral Medicine Mat-Su, says the Group Mat-Su best prescription for sleep is working on behaviors that affect our ability to feel sleepy and fall asleep naturally. Some tips to consider include:

✓✓Getting up at the same time every morning; ✓✓Restricting caffeine use to the morning or midafternoon; ✓✓Exercising for 30 minutes in the late afternoon; ✓✓Using the bedroom for sleep and sex only; ✓✓Avoiding too much time in bed; greater than about eight hours is too much for most people; ✓✓Avoiding naps; ✓✓Avoiding screen time before bed, including TV, computers and mobile devices; and ✓✓Reading or listening to music, preferably in bed, so that you can just turn off the lights when you get sleepy. Prescription sleep medicines may be suggested for chronic or ongoing

insomnia, but there is some risk, Dr. Halverson says. “Nearly all of the sleep aids can be helpful,” she says. “But if you take them more than a few times in a row, it will affect your ability to sleep naturally.” They include: Hypnotics. Each one has a different chemical structure, but common hypnotics work on the sleep-promoting parts of the brain. Those that wear off quickly may be best for people who need to be fully refreshed in the morning. In general, hypnotics are welltolerated and very effective, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Admin­ istration. However, they can cause odd side effects. Some people report eating, driving or making phone calls – all while not fully awake. Antidepressants. Some have sedating properties and may be prescribed in low doses to promote sleep. Antianxiety medicines. These are prescribed if insomnia is related to anxiety. If you decide to take a sleep medicine, experts recommend you begin with the lowest dose needed to be effective. You should discuss with your doctor how long to take the medicine and whether to take it every night.

Buddy up for screening tests Would you put off doing something that could possibly save your life? It isn’t exactly logical, but that’s just what many people do when they choose to put off screening tests that can help find diseases early, when they are often easier to treat. “Yearly screening mammograms deHeather Tauschek, crease death from breast cancer by up to MD, medical director, Providence 30 percent,” says Heather Tauschek, MD, Imaging Center medical director, Providence Imaging Center. “Screening mammograms reveal breast cancer at earlier stages, reducing the incidence of advanced disease. Yearly screening mammograms, starting at age 40, are an important part of healthy living.”


Healthy Alaska • Providence Alaska Medical Center

Still need a little extra motivation to get screened? You might want to grab a partner. After all, misery does love company! So buddy up with a female friend and go for your yearly mammograms together. Reward yourselves afterward by doing something special, like having a nice meal out, going shopping or seeing a movie. Sources: American Cancer Society; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Help your child trim down There are do’s and don’ts for everything, including helping overweight kids trim down. So take a few minutes and discover what to do – and not do – if your child’s health is at risk because of extra pounds.


“Healthy habits that last a lifetime form as early as age 3. Support your child’s healthy future by creating an environment of healthy choices and activities,” says Katie Butler, FNP, an Anchorage family nurse practitioner.

Katie Butler, FNP, family nurse practitioner

Take away temptation.

Be careful about bringing sugary sodas or calorie-packed foods into your home. Stock up on healthy foods – namely, fruits, veggies, whole grains and low-fat dairy products. Be a matchmaker. Kids need at least one hour of physical activity on most days. Your child is more likely to meet this goal – and burn calories – if you help find activities he or she enjoys. Sure, that might be team sports. But biking, walking the family dog or playing ball with you could also be good matches. Call in the experts. Ask your child’s doctor how to help your child drop pounds, especially if your support alone isn’t enough.


Single out your child.

Make eating well and moving more a family priority. Everybody – no matter what he or she weighs – benefits from regular exercise and nutritious food. Let your child skip breakfast. This morning meal is a must. Without it, your child may feel hungry and tired and may grab whatever is readily available to eat – including high-calorie foods – later in the day. Banish snacks. Just serve the right ones – say, air-popped popcorn or fresh fruit.

Teen bone health Fewer than half of adolescent boys and just one-fifth of adolescent girls eat the recommended

servings of bonebuilding dairy foods. Kids ages 9 to 18 need at least 1,300 milligrams of calcium each day. Source: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

Let your child be tethered to technology. Limit screen time to no more than two hours of surfing the web, watching TV or playing video games per day. Sources: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; American Academy of Pediatrics; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; National Institutes of Health

Providence Alaska Medical Center • Healthy Alaska  7

Gynecologic cancer

For women, it’s personal Cancer is always personal. But for women, a gynecologic cancer may be the most personal of all. It affects the very parts of the body that distinguish a woman from a man ­– the reproductive organs. While there are different kinds of gynecologic cancers, each is unique, but they do share a few things. For instance, some risk factors are nearly universal – such as smoking or having a family history of cancer. And treatment falls into the same general categories: ✓✓Surgery to remove as much of the cancer as possible; and ✓✓Radiation therapy or chemotherapy (or both) to kill cancer cells. What sets apart the three cancers discussed here is how often they occur – they are the most common gynecologic cancers. Learning more about them can help you and your doctor assess your risk and devise a plan to lower it.


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What it is. Most cancers of the uterus develop in the lining, called the endometrium. Signs and symptoms. Signs of uterine cancer include abnormal bleeding, spotting and vaginal discharge. It’s especially important to tell your doctor about these symptoms if you’re postmenopausal because uterine cancer occurs most often in older women. Risk factors. Most uterine cancer is linked to an imbalance in levels of the hormone estrogen. Risk factors include: ✓✓Being obese (excess body fat can raise estrogen levels); ✓✓Being unable to have a baby or opting not to have one (pregnancy temporarily shifts hormone levels more toward the hormone progesterone); ✓✓Having a history of early menstruation (before age 12) or of late menopause (after age 55); ✓✓Having a history of long-term use of high-dose birth control pills or estrogen-only hormone therapy to treat symptoms of menopause; ✓✓Having a history of diabetes; and ✓✓Having a history of taking

tamoxifen to treat or prevent breast cancer.

Detection and prevention.

There is no easy, reliable way to screen for uterine cancer in women without symptoms. However, your doctor may order one or more tests – such as an endometrial biopsy or a vaginal ultrasound – if you have symptoms. Eating a low-fat diet and getting regular exercise may lower your risk for uterine cancer. Controlling diabetes, if you have it, can also help.


What it is. The cervix – located at the lower end of the uterus – is covered by a thin layer of tissue. Cancer develops in that tissue. It starts with abnormal cell changes, a process called dysplasia. Fortunately, it often takes years for abnormal cervical cells to turn into cancer. That allows time to find the cells – and treat them – when they’re still in a precancerous state. Signs and symptoms. Early signs, if any, may include spotting, bleeding after sex, other abnormal bleeding or a watery vaginal discharge. As the disease progresses,

tumors may cause other symptoms, such as pelvic pain. Risk factors. The main cause is infection with any of the types of human papillomavirus that are linked to cancer. Left untreated, HPV can trigger dysplasia. Your risk for HPV infection rises with sexual activity. The earlier you started having sex and the more partners you or your partner have had, the more likely you are to get this common virus.

Detection and prevention.

Cervical cancer is the only gynecologic cancer that can be prevented. How? By having regular Pap tests to screen for cervical changes that can be treated before cancer develops. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests having your initial Pap test at age 21. Continue having the tests as often as your doctor recommends. Also consider: ✓✓Asking your doctor about getting the HPV vaccine if you’re 26 or younger; ✓✓Talking with your doctor about testing for HPV; and ✓✓Using condoms to lower your risk for infection.


What it is. Most women have

two ovaries. Each one is covered in a layer of epithelial cells. Most ovarian cancers start in those cells or in the end of the fallopian tube. Signs and symptoms. Ovarian cancer can be stealthy. Symptoms most likely to be associated with the disease include bloating; pelvic or abdominal pain; and difficulty eating or feeling full quickly. If any of these symptoms are unusual for you but suddenly occur almost daily for several weeks or appear and worsen over time, call your doctor. Risk factors. Most ovarian cancers occur in women 60 and older. Other risk factors include: ✓✓Having a family history of breast, ovarian, colon or uterine cancer; ✓✓Having an Eastern European (Ashkenazi) Jewish background; ✓✓Being infertile or never having had a baby; ✓✓Having a history of endometriosis, an abnormal growth of uterine tissue; and ✓✓Having a mutation of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes, which are also linked to breast cancer.

Detection and prevention. There is no easy way to screen for ovarian cancer, and it can be very difficult to identify in its early stages. Even a pelvic exam may not find it. The best way to protect yourself is to talk to your doctor about your risks. If your family has a history of breast or ovarian cancer, your doctor may suggest genetic counseling to test for the BRCA mutations. You may be able to lower your risk for ovarian cancer, but risks and benefits are associated with treatment options, so talk with your doctor. “Many gynecologic cancers can be prevented or diagnosed at early stages and cured,” says Melissa Hardesty, MD, MPH, an Anchorage gynecologic oncologist. “So remember, ‘be aware down Melissa Hardesty, MD, MPH, there,’ and talk gynecologic to your doctor oncologist about how you can prevent and detect these cancers.” Providence Alaska Medical Center • Healthy Alaska  9

Kids in motion

How to have active children A prescription for healthy kids c ould include something like this: Be active every day, play hard and have fun. This kind of regular exercise builds strong muscles and bones. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), it also strengthens kids’ hearts and lungs, which may help protect them from Scott Wellmann, heart problems as MD, pediatric they get older. And cardiologist active kids are more likely to sidestep obesity and the health problems that go with it. “Providing our children with opportunities to be active can make a lasting impact on their overall health,” says Scott Wellmann, MD, an Anchorage pediatric cardiologist. “Developing good fitness habits at an early age can be the key to helping them become healthy adults.”

Make it happen

The AAP recommends at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day for children. That can seem like a lot if your child isn’t used to exercise. That’s where the fun part comes in. When kids are enjoying themselves, that hour – or more – of exercise can fly by. These tips from the AAP and other experts can help get your kids moving:


Healthy Alaska • Providence Alaska Medical Center

✓✓Encourage them to join a team sport, such as community baseball or soccer. ✓✓Take them to places where other kids are playing, such as ice rinks, swimming pools or public parks. ✓✓Keep sports equipment handy. If you have a sled, a jump rope, some tennis rackets, or a softball and glove in the closet, your kids can easily grab them and go. ✓✓If it’s a safe route, encourage your child to walk or bike to school. Make sure your biker wears a helmet. ✓✓Have kids help around the house. Washing the car, gardening, vacuuming – they’re all good habits that double as exercise. ✓✓Offset screen time. Kids sitting in front of a TV or computer are, well, sitting. Challenge them to log at least as much active time as screen time. Enforce it by limiting screen time to two hours a day or less.

A family matter

You can give your child a head start on an active lifestyle if you make it part of your family’s routine. Add a family walk, ski trip or bike ride to your evenings and weekends. Challenge the kids to a game of hoops or play some catch. Go fly a kite together. Or play an old-fashioned game of tag or hide-and-seek. Helping your child be active can have a few important side effects. You might find yourself being healthier and more active—and having some fun.

Down, boy! Reduce the risk of dog bites

You’re walking out to your mailbox when the neighbor’s large dog bounds over to greet you – or bite you. What should you do? A. Turn and run away. B. Walk toward it with your hand out, palm down. C. Look it in the eye and yell, “Stop, dog.” D. None of the above. More than 4 million people are bitten by dogs each year in the U.S. and about 1 in 5 requires medical attention as a result, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Many of the dog bite injuries I see are inflicted by a family dog or a dog that lives next door,” says Christina Magill, MD, a facial plastic surgeon in Anchorage. “Children are especially vulnerable to dog bite injuries and are often in harm’s way when encountering an unfamiliar dog or expressing curiosity about the dog itself or the dog’s food and toys.” Making the right choice when approached by a dog can mean the difference between a safe encounter and a dog attack. Which brings us back to the question. The correct answer is: D. None of the above. If a threatening dog approaches you, the safest choice is to stand still and let it sniff you, according to CDC. When the dog sees that you’re not trying to hurt it, it will probably leave you alone. You should not: ✓✓Run away. It may actually provoke the dog to chase

you. If the dog knocks you over, curl into a ball, stay still and protect your face. ✓✓Approach it or try to pet it. Instead, stay motionless until the dog walks away (or back away slowly until the dog is out of sight). In general, don’t pet any dog without letting it see and sniff you first – especially if it’s behind a fence. ✓✓Make eye contact. Some dogs see this as a challenge. ✓✓Yell or scream. If you speak, keep your voice calm and firm.

What owners can do

If you own a dog, it’s important to take steps to help keep your pet from biting someone. Follow these tips from CDC Christina Magill, MD, and the American Veterinary Medical facial plastic surgeon Association: ✓✓Properly train, socialize and restrain your dog; ✓✓Spay or neuter your dog; ✓✓Don’t wrestle or play rough games with your dog; ✓✓Be on the lookout for illness or strange behavior in your dog, and keep your dog up-to-date on its vaccinations; ✓✓Never leave your dog alone with a baby or a child; and ✓✓Be a responsible pet owner. Obey local leash laws. If your yard is fenced, make sure the gates are secure. Spend time with your pet – dogs that are left alone are more prone to developing behavioral problems. Providence Alaska Medical Center • Healthy Alaska  11

A heart that can’t

keep the beat We offer comprehensive cardiology services that can help with a variety of heart problems. For more information about Providence Heart & Vascular Center, call 907-212-3065 or visit alaska. 12 

Here’s an interesting fact: Your What is AF? heartbeat is controlled by an electriA normal heartbeat starts with an cal system inside your body. Now, electrical signal, which sets your heart’s here’s an unsettling fact: Electrical pumping action into motion. Blood is systems can sometimes get out of pushed through the upper chambers whack. (atria) and into the lower chambers When that happens in your heart, (ventricles). The ventricles send the it can throw off the heart’s blood out to the rest of your body. rate and rhythm. An electrical With each beat, the atria and signal gone awry can make ventricles work together. your heart speed up or slow In AF, however, the electridown. It can turn a once-regcal signal misfires. The signal ular heartbeat irregular. spreads through the atria rap“Atrial fibrillation is the idly and chaotically, causing the most common heart rhythm chambers to quiver (fibrillate). abnormality and a cause of The ventricles respond in kind. Yiming Wu, MD, early death from stroke or And the heart’s upper and lower cardiologist heart failure,” says Anchorage sections fall out of sync, which cardiologist Yiming Wu, MD. often leads to sudden death. “Fortunately, we now have effective The result: Blood doesn’t move effitools to prevent stroke, restore health ciently through the heart and out to the and extend life in patients with AF.” rest of the body.

Healthy Alaska • Providence Alaska Medical Center

Why is AF dangerous?

The two most serious complications of AF are stroke and heart failure. Blood that isn’t properly pumped out of the atria can pool, stagnate and form clots. If part of a clot breaks off and travels to the brain, it can cause a stroke. Heart failure occurs when the heart works overtime to meet the body’s need for blood and oxygen. It can cause fluid to accumulate in the lungs and lower limbs. AF sometimes causes chest pain. Many people feel their heart fluttering rapidly. More common symptoms include: ✓✓Shortness of breath; ✓✓Weakness, fatigue and reduced stamina; ✓✓Dizziness or fainting; and ✓✓Confusion. In the absence of these symptoms, some patients first present with stroke.

I f your heart flutters, does flip-flops or beats rapidly – even if it happens only occasionally and then returns to normal – tell your doctor. It could be a condition called atrial fibrillation, which raises the risk of stroke. — American Heart Association

How is it treated?

This condition can be diagnosed with: ✓✓An electrocardiogram, which records your heart’s electrical activity; ✓✓An exercise stress test, which checks your heartbeat as you walk on a treadmill; ✓✓An echocardiogram, which uses sound waves to look at your heart; and ✓✓A chest X-ray. Treatment can include: ✓✓Medications, such as blood thinners, to prevent clots and beta blockers to control your heart rate; ✓✓Lifestyle changes, such as following a heart-healthy diet and avoiding alcohol and tobacco; and ✓✓Medical interventions, such as treating sleep apnea or implanting a pacemaker. Catheter or surgical ablation can cure AF by restoring your heart to its normal rate and rhythm. Treatment can sometimes cure AF by restoring your heart to its normal rate and rhythm. When that isn’t possible, treatment focuses on controlling AF to improve your heart’s function and reduce your risk for complications.

Blood pressure


facts to know

Here’s a new twist on an old phrase: What you know can hurt you – especially if all you know about blood pressure are some common myths. Read about four of those myths and get the facts. You’ll either get high blood pressure or you won’t – there’s nothing you can do about it. Factors beyond your control can increase your risk for high blood pressure. For instance, your risk goes up as you age or if close relatives also have the condition. But good lifestyle choices – such as maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly and reducing sodium intake – can help lower your chances of getting high blood pressure, no matter your age or family history of the disease.

You don’t get high blood pressure until at least middle age. Anyone can have high blood pressure – even children. So it’s important to get your blood pressure checked regularly. If you feel good, you couldn’t possibly have high blood pressure. High blood pressure rarely causes symptoms. You can have it and feel fine, even as it’s damaging your body and raising your risk for problems such as heart attack and stroke. If you treat high blood pressure and your numbers improve, you’re cured. High blood pressure is often a lifelong disease. Even if readings return to a normal range, it’s im­portant that you continue following your doctor’s treatment advice. Sources: American Heart Association; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; National Institutes of Health

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community events ✓ Big Wild Life Runs

Aug. 16 and 17

Be a Healthy Alaskan this year

If you like to run, Big Wild Life Runs has an event for you. Presented by the Anchorage Running Club, this event includes Moose’s Tooth Marathon Walk or Marathon Relay, Skinny Raven Half Marathon, Snow City Cafe 5K, The Children’s Hospital at Providence Kids’ 2K and the inaugural 49K Ultra Marathon. The money raised supports the club’s mission to promote healthy lifestyles through exercise. For more information, visit

✓ Anchorage Heart Walk

Sept. 13

Run, walk and bike for a good cause and good health. Join Providence Alaska Medical Center in supporting these community events. ✓ Relay For Life, Anchorage

May 30 and 31

A benefit for the American Cancer Society, Relay For Life is an event that gives everyone in communities across the globe a chance to celebrate the lives of people who have battled cancer, remember loved ones lost and fight back against the disease. At the Anchorage event, teams of people camp out at the Cuddy Family Midtown Park and take turns walking or running around a path. Each team is asked to have a representative on the track at all times during the event. Because cancer never sleeps, relays are overnight events up to 24 hours in length. For more information, visit

✓ Alaska Run for Women

June 7

The Alaska Run for Women is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to raise money and awareness of breast cancer and women’s health and to showcase the talents of Alaska’s women athletes. Competitors include runners and walkers of all ages and abilities, who participate in this competitive or noncompetitive 5-mile foot race. Many


participate to honor a loved one or friend who has survived breast cancer or in memory of those who have not. For more information, visit

✓ Alaska Men’s Run

July 19

Open to women, men, kids and families, this downtown event raises funds to help fight prostate cancer. There is a 5-mile run for competitive and noncompetitive runners or a 2-mile route for walkers. All proceeds raised during this event stay in Alaska. For more information, visit

✓ Ride for Life

June 28 and 29

Ride for Life is a fun annual bicycling event held in Alaska. This two-day, 125-mile ride from Anchorage to Seward, with an overnight camping stop at Summit Lake, has become a staple event among the cycling community. It’s also a way to help Alaskans in need, as individual riders and teams raise funds to help cover the colorectal screening costs of our low-income and underinsured neighbors. For more information, visit

Healthy Alaska • Providence Alaska Medical Center

Get the whole family out for a walk! The Heart Walk is a great family-friendly event designed to promote physical activity and heart-healthy living. The Heart Walk is a three-mile walk that creates an environment that’s fun and rewarding for the whole family. This event raises money to fund lifesaving research and initiatives. When you join Heart Walk, you join more than a million people in more than 300 cities across America in taking a stand against heart disease. For more information, visit

✓ Bonny Sosa Tuesday Night

Races Series Fall 2014, specific dates and locations TBD

For many Anchorage families, the Tuesday Night Race Series is a fall family tradition. Come rain, snow, sleet, hail or wind, these races are not canceled. Whether you are a competitive runner, just want to get out and see a new trail, or want to meet new friends, this is the event for you. Three separate race courses are set each week at a different location around town. This event is supported by The Children’s Hospital at Providence. For more information, visit TuesdayNightRaces.aspx.

home safety

Take steps to injury-proof your home Walk tall and stand strong. We all want to do that, but a fall can change the path we take through life, especially as we get older. About 2 million Americans 65 and older are treated in emergency rooms every year because they take a tumble, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Falls are the No. 1 cause of injuryrelated deaths among seniors in the U.S. What are the best ways to avoid becoming one of those statistics? First, keep your body strong with exercises and activities that build muscle, flexibility and balance. Then take a good, hard look at your castle – many falls happen at home. Take the royal tour – maybe with an observant friend or relative – and look for ways to reduce your risk of injury.


✓✓Install bright lighting for walkways, steps and porches.

All rooms

✓✓Arrange (or get rid of) furniture so all walkways are clear.

✓✓De-clutter the floor, and keep it clutter-free. ✓✓Remove wires and cords that could be tripping hazards. ✓✓Replace dim lights or use brighter light bulbs. ✓✓Eliminate throw rugs or use noskid pads underneath them. ✓✓Keep emergency numbers on, or near, each phone.


✓✓Put most-used items in waisthigh cabinets, within easy reach. ✓✓Replace a rickety step stool with a sturdy one that has a grab bar.


✓✓Secure runners or remove them and put nonskid strips on each stair. ✓✓Install sturdy handrails on both sides of the stairs. ✓✓Have light switches at both the top and bottom of the stairs.


✓✓Install grab bars in the shower or tub and near the toilet. ✓✓Put a nonskid mat or strips in the tub or shower.


✓✓Place a light near the bed so it is easy to reach. ✓✓Use night-lights on the path from the bedroom to the bathroom. ✓✓Install smoke alarms in every bedroom and on every floor. ✓✓Install a carbon monoxide alarm outside every sleeping area. If you already have taken a fall, help is available so you can remain in your home safely. “Home health occupational therapists can help patients identify practical strategies for home modifications to Jody Clingenpeel, promote safety occupational and independent therapist, Providence living,” says Jody Home Health Clingenpeel, an occupational therapist with Providence Home Health. Learn more about all of Providence’s in-home services at

Providence Alaska Medical Center • Healthy Alaska  15



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Resources help in choosing a health care provider Many consumers today thoroughly research the safety, reliability and quality of the products they want long before ever stepping into a store or visiting the Internet to make a purchase. When considering which car, appliance or computer to buy, shoppers can check objective reviews and ratings from independent testing organizations such as Consumer Reports or Underwriters Laboratories to help them make good choices. Why shouldn’t consumers have access to similar information when thinking about choosing a health care provider? The simple answer is that they do. Over the past few years, hospital quality rankings have proliferated, providing consumers with tools to make smarter, more informed health care decisions. Quality metrics are provided annually by organizations such as U.S. News & World Report , The Leapfrog Group and Consumer Reports. As just one example, Thomson Reuters 100 Top Hospitals: Health System Benchmarks is an annual,

quantitative study from objective, independent research using public data sources about health systems. In 2012, Providence Health & Services was ranked among the top 20 percent of best-performing systems reviewed. The study recognized the 15 health systems setting the highest benchmarks as well as the bestperforming 64 health systems of the 321 researched. Systemwide, Providence was recognized for saving more lives, better long-term outcomes, better adherence to accepted care protocols and patient-safety standards, shorter hospital stays, higher patientsatisfaction scores and fewer patient complications. “We believe in setting high standards for patient care and then sharing how we’re meeting those standards,” says Richard Mandsager, MD, chief executive, Providence Alaska Medical Center. “That’s why we were the first hospital in the state to post our quality measures online to help Alaskans make informed health care choices.” As part of its commitment to the

Alaska community, Providence shares quality measures and results through its website. On this website, consumers can find information and resources regarding our quality performance and practices, information from patients about their experience, and links to resources to compare other health care providers. To find out more, visit alaska.

Healthy alaska spring 2014  
Healthy alaska spring 2014  

A journal of wellness and good health care