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Great Lakes Bay Health

Writing about all of the info that affects your health and the health of our medical and professional workers at Great Lakes Bay Health Centers!

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Regardless of race or ethnicity, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with approximately one in eight women developing the disease over the course of her lifetime.

However, there is good news: Today, fewer women are dying from breast cancer.

“In the past 10 years, the death rates from breast cancer have dropped an average of 1.9% per year, while the rate of breast cancer diagnoses has been stable,” according to the Office on Women’s Health inside the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Federally funded research, increased screenings, and new and improved treatments have saved lives and improved women’s quality of life when they are confronted with a breast cancer diagnosis.”

Breast cancer death rates peaked more than 30 years ago in 1985 at 32.98 per 100,000 women. At that time, mastectomy was the most commonly accepted surgical treatment for breast cancer. Jumping ahead to 2019, new cancer treatments and screenings are finding the disease earlier, with the death rate continuing its decline to 21.98 per 100,000. Breast-conserving surgery and radiation treatment have replaced mastectomy as the most commonly accepted treatment for early breast cancer detection.

Those statistics highlight the importance of October serving as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and has played in raising the profile of screenings and early detection measures among the public. Not coincidentally, the rate of breast cancer deaths began its descent following the establishment of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month in 1985. Created as a partnership between the American Cancer Society and the pharmaceutical division of Imperial Chemical Industries, the goal of the awareness campaign has been to promote mammography as the most effective weapon in the battle against breast cancer. Using the pink ribbon as its symbol, a variety of events around the world are held between Oct. 1 and Oct. 31 to spread a message of the importance of preventative screening and early detection.

A mammogram is an X-ray image of the breasts used to screen for tumors or other abnormalities. Mammograms play a key role in early breast cancer detection and help decrease breast cancer deaths. A mammogram can be used either for screening or for diagnostic purposes. How often you should have a mammogram depends on your age and your risk of breast cancer. The Mayo Clinic offers these general guidelines for when to begin mammography screening:

  • Women with an average risk of breast cancer: Many women begin mammograms at age 40 and have them every one to two years; however, professional groups differ on recommendations. The American Cancer Society advises women with an average risk to begin screening mammograms yearly at age 45 until age 54 and then continue every two years. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends women start screening every two years starting at age 50 until age 74. Yet both of these groups agree that women can choose to be screened starting at age 40.
  • Women with a higher risk of breast cancer:Women at a higher risk of breast cancer may benefit by beginning screening mammograms before age 40. Talk to your doctor about evaluating your individual risk of breast cancer. Your risk factors, such as a family history of breast cancer or a history of precancerous breast lesions, may lead your doctor to recommend magnetic resonance imaging in combination with mammograms.

Patients unsure of whether they may be at a normal risk or high risk of breast cancer should consult their physician through the Great Lakes Bay Health Centers. For more information, visit

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How to Keep Your Brain Young

give your brain a workout to keep it well

Certain changes occur in us as we age. Our hair turns grey or thins out, we experience aches and pains that might not have been present in younger years, and we often find ourselves wondering what mission we were on when we went from the living room to the kitchen.

As a person gets older, changes occur in all parts of the body, including the brain. According to the National Institute on Aging, some of these modifications include:

  • Certain parts of the brain shrink, especially those important to learning and other complex mental activities.
  • In certain regions of the brain, communication between neurons (nerve cells) can be reduced.
  • Blood flow to the brain may also decrease.
  • Inflammation, which occurs when the body responds to an injury or disease, may increase.

While older brains might not be as efficient in terms of memory or learning something new, there is growing evidence that the brain remains “plastic” – able to adapt to new challenges and tasks – as people age.

Older people don’t have to accept the indications that their brain might be slowing down. There are plenty of exercises that can be done on a daily basis to keep your grey matter in shape, according to Everyday Health.

Test your memory: Write out a grocery list of items you need to pick up at the store and memorize it. Wait an hour and try to recall items on the list. Be sure to make the list challenging; milk, bread and eggs won’t do the trick.

Draw a map: Think the last town you visited and try to draw a map of that town’s streets. Even if you can only recall the main road you were on and a few side streets, it’s a start. Keep map-making in mind when you travel to a city you’re unfamiliar with and try to recreate it in map form when you get home.

Taste buds test: The next time you go to a restaurant, pay attention to the food you’re eating. Try to identify the different spices and ingredients by taste and listing them on a note pad.

Keep learning: Take guitar lessons. Enroll in a cooking class. Learn a new language. All of these complex activities will stimulate the brain and sharpen your memory at the same time.

Other activities to keep our minds sharp offered by the Mayo Clinic are:

  • Include physical activity in your daily routine. Physical activity increases blood flow to your whole body. Studies indicate that regular exercise results in better brain function, depression and reduces stress.
  • Eat a healthy diet. If your heart is healthy, your brain will be as well. Focus on fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Choose low-fat protein sources, such as fish, lean meat and skinless poultry.
  • Be social. Interaction with other people helps ward off depression and stress, which can contribute to memory loss. Try volunteering at an animal shelter or offer to spend time with children at a local school. Watch the paper and local magazines for opportunities to be with other people.

There are plenty of ways to keep your mind active and fully functioning. Find out what’s available in your area at:

  • Region 7 Agency on Aging for Bay, Clare, Gladwin, Gratiot, Huron, Isabella, Midland, Saginaw, Sanilac and Tuscola counties at

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Picking the Perfect Backpack

Ill-fitting pack can cause injury, muscle stress

invest in a good backpack and wear it properly

Students have to do a lot of heavy lifting in school when you consider all of the homework, writing or math assignments. And let’s not forget the act of trying to get good grades.

They shouldn’t have a heavy or ill-fitting backpack added to that load.

When choosing a backpack for your student, there are several things you and your child can do to ensure the backpack is the right one.

First, work with your child to choose a color or design of his or her choice. The backpack will be an extension of the child’s style, and kids should have a say in something they are going to use every school day.

So you’ve decided on the design. Now it’s time to consider the fit.

Make sure the backpack has two wide, padded straps, advised Dr.  Benjamin Hoffman in Parents magazine. A single-strap, across-the-body pack does not allow for equal distribution of weight and can cause muscle soreness and posture issues.

The bag also should be padded where it rests on your child’s back. One way to determine the quality of the padding is to do a rebound test. Squeeze the padding and let go so it can return to its original shape. It should not make popping sounds, and neither should it crumple like a piece of paper.

Make sure the pack also has a waist strap. This will help evenly distribute the weight of the pack and its contents, according to, a parenting website. Equally important is making certain all straps are tightened so the pack rides 2 inches above the student’s waist.

The fabric is also important. It should be durable but lightweight. While leather and other heavier fabrics look good, keep weight and water resistance in mind. Make sure the zippers open and close easily (they are more durable than Velcro) and think about the books and binders that will be carried – does the backpack have sufficient pouches with enough room for everything?

Another factor is the load. Doctors recommend kids carry no more than 10% to 15% of their body weight in their backpacks. According to, a heavy backpack placed improperly on the shoulders can pull a child backward, causing your student to bend forward at the hips to compensate. The result could be back, shoulder and neck pain.

Things your kids can do to help ease the load include:

  • Encourage them to keep the majority of their books in their locker or desk, carrying only what they need for that class.
  • Leave out the unnecessary extra weight caused by laptops, cellphones and video games.
  • Make sure they only bring home the books needed for completing homework or studying, leaving the rest at school.
  • Store the heaviest items, such as books, binders or laptop (if needed) closest to the child’s back for the best weight distribution.

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Talk with Your Doctor About Prostate Cancer Risk, Detection and Treatment Options

Prostate cancer is the second-most common cancer in men, second only to skin cancer.

The American Cancer Society estimates there will be 174,650 new cases of prostate cancer in the United States this year. The organization estimates about 31,600 men will die from prostate cancer in 2019. That amounts to 1 man in 41 succumbing to the disease.

The odds of contracting prostate cancer are even more sobering, with 1 in 9 men diagnosed with the disease during their lifetime, according to the American Cancer Society.

Prostate cancer develops mainly in African American and older men in general, according to the organization’s website. About 6 cases in 10 are diagnosed in men aged 65 or older, and it is rare before age 40. The average age at the time of diagnosis is about 66.

Because the risk is higher in older men, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services does not recommend screening for men under age 55. Men between ages 55 and 69 might want to be screened based on discussions with their doctors.

Screening is not recommended past age 70, the federal agency noted, because the risks outweigh the benefits for most men.

If you fall into the at-risk age group, you should have a discussion with your physician. Here are some of the questions the Department of Health and Human Services recommends you ask your doctor:

  • Am I at higher risk for prostate cancer? In addition to age and race, others in higher-risk categories include men whose father, brother or son have had prostate cancer.
  • Are there things I can do to lower my risk for prostate cancer? The Mayo Clinic recommends adopting a low-fat diet, increasing the amount of fruit and vegetables you eat and cutting down on dairy consumption. Maintaining a healthy weight and exercising on a regular basis also can reduce the risk.
  • What are the risks and benefits of prostate cancer screening and treatment for me? The main types of screening are a digital rectal exam and a prostate-specific antigen test that measures the amount of antigen in the blood.
  • Are there any warning signs or symptoms of prostate cancer I should look out for? Signs include urinary problems; blood in the urine or semen; pain in the hips, pelvis, spine or upper legs; pain or discomfort during ejaculation; and difficulty getting an erection.
  • If the results of the screening test show that I might have prostate cancer, what are my options for diagnosis and treatment? One option is watching and waiting, which involves a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test every six months. Other options include radiation, chemotherapy or surgery.

Just screening for prostate cancer presents risks, according to the National Cancer Institute. These include:

  • Finding prostate cancer may not improve health or help a man live longer.
  • Treatments for prostate cancer, such as radical prostatectomy and radiation therapy, may have long-term side effects in many men, including erectile dysfunction and urinary incontinence.
  • Some studies of patients after diagnosis show a higher risk of death from cardiovascular disease or suicide.
  • Complications from a biopsy of the prostate may include fever, pain, blood in the urine or semen, and urinary tract infection.
  • Tests are not always reliable, as some men may test negative when they actually have cancer, and others may get positive results where no cancer exists.

If time permits, the American Cancer Society recommends seeking a second opinion, which can give you more information and help you feel more confident about the treatment plan you choose.

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Preparing Easy School Lunches Should be a Family Affair

Think back to when you were in school. What kind of delightful food did mom or dad pack you for lunch?

It could have been the standby PBJ, or pre-packed Lunchables. If you liked it, you probably ate it. If you didn’t, you traded with a classmate for something more to your liking.

Now, think about the healthy lunches you are currently packing for your student. Is it something he or she will like, or will it go on the trading block?

There are a variety of ways to all but guarantee that the healthy and nourishing food will stay with your child. Since you have to make about 200 lunches during the school year, suggests you get some help from within.

Let your student help choose, prepare and pack a lunch to their liking.

Now that doesn’t mean a bento box or brown paper sack filled with candy, cookies and other obvious kid favorites. Depending on age, have your child get fruit out of the refrigerator and pack it, or let older ones cut up the vegetables or pinwheels they’ll have later in the day (or even the next day, depending on how organized you are).

Not only will this help them develop life skills they will need later in life, such as using kitchen tools and knowing where different foods are kept, you can also take the opportunity of packing a lunch together to teach them why some foods are healthy, and others are not so much. Your child will feel invested in the lunch and is more likely to eat it in the cafeteria.

And let your future cook choose some of the lunches to make, including some of his or her favorites.

Finally, be sure you have the right sealable containers. It can be a plastic container with separate compartments or a bento box, but be sure it seals tightly and stays sealed.

Here are some suggestions for creating healthy and tasty lunches:

Rotisserie Chicken Taco: Shred meat from a store-bought rotisserie chicken. Using a whole-wheat tortilla, place two pieces of sliced cheese on the tortilla, topping it with a leaf of romaine lettuce. Add the shredded chicken, six cherry tomatoes cut in half and a few tablespoons of prepared ranch dressing.  Pack it in a sealed container and pair it with vegetables and fruit.

DIY pizza bagels: Simple, tasty and a favorite for kids. Pack a bagel, turkey pepperoni, low-fat shredded mozzarella cheese and some pizza sauce — an easy DIY lunch for all ages.

Any wrap or pinwheels: Busy parents can do this ahead of time or provide the ingredients in the lunch box and let the student do the assembly. Ingredients are based on taste preferences. Include a whole-wheat tortilla, thinly sliced meat, ranch dressing, lettuce, sliced tomatoes and cream cheese (or low-fat Neufchatel cheese). Put the parts together at home as a sandwich or cut into bite-sized pieces for pinwheels.

PBJ on a stick: Make a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich and cut it into 12 bite-sized pieces. Alternate a piece of a sandwich with a grape threaded onto a wooden skewer or chopstick (be sure to cut off the skewer’s sharp end if you are using one). This gives the student three or four kabobs for lunch.

BLT salad: This one could be completely assembled the night before by your child. Lay down a bed of lettuce and top with bacon, sliced cherry tomatoes, chopped avocado, shredded cheese – use your imagination. Pair with fresh fruit and a hard boiled-egg and you have a nutritious lunch.

Turkey and cheese roll-ups: Skip the bread or tortilla entirely for this easy lunch. Wrap thin chunks of cheese in deli turkey and cut into bite-sized pieces. Include some ants on a log – celery sticks filled with peanut butter and topped with a few raisins – in one compartment and a dollop of vanilla yogurt in another and you’ll have a fun and easy lunch.

Bon appetit!

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