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8 Tips for Healthy Summer Grilling

By: BARBARA NELSON, CRNP

Grilling is a great way to enjoy the warm summer weather and spend quality time with family and friends. Before firing up the charcoal, review these easy tips to keep your grilling healthy and safe.

1. Start with a clean grill. Don’t let the charred buildup on your grill stick to your food. Use a wire brush to give your grill a good cleaning, then wipe it down to remove particles.

2. Practice safe food handling. Keep raw meat, poultry and seafood separate from vegetables and other foods. Place grilled foods on clean plates, not on the ones you used when they were raw.

3. Avoid smoke and fire. Exposing meat to high heat and open flames can create chemicals that have been linked to some cancers. Reduce your exposure to these chemicals by:

  • Lining the grill with aluminum foil
  • Cooking food at temperatures below 325 degrees
  • Using a spray bottle of water to put out any fat fires

4. Marinate for flavor and health. Marinating meat before cooking helps prevent the formation of potential carcinogens. Make your own healthy marinades or use bottled marinades that are low in salt.

5. Flip burgers often. Research suggests that flipping a burger every 30 seconds reduces E. coli and potential carcinogens from charring.

 6. Check internal temperatures. Use a meat thermometer to make sure your meat reaches minimum temperatures to kill harmful bacteria. See the USDA’s temperature guidelines.

7. Choose leaner meats:

  • When grilling red meat and pork, buy “choice” or “select” grades of beef, which have the lowest fat content.
  • For chicken, choose breast cuts and remove the skin before eating. Skinless chicken breasts are less fattening than dark meat legs and thighs.
  • Fish are typically lower in fat than other types of meat and contain healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Try grilling salmon, trout and herring.

8. Don’t forget the veggies and fruit. Grilling amps up the flavor of fruits and vegetables. You can mix things up by cooking kabobs that alternate meat, vegetables and fruit.

Tired of the same old burgers? Check out these grilling recipes for a healthy and tasty summer.

 

BARBARA NELSON, CRNPBarbara Nelson, Certified Registered Nurse Practitioner, received her Master of Science in Nursing degree from Walden University, completed a family medicine post-master certificate program at the University of Cincinnati, and is certified by the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. She cares for patients in MPCP’s Bowie office.

 

Are You Addicted to Social Media?

By: RAFEENA BACCHUS, M.D.

People are social by nature. We need the company of others, and the strength of our relationships affect our mental and physical health.

Today, many of us use social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, YouTube and Instagram to connect with each other. Kids, teens, and young adults are the heaviest social media users, but most adults are also active on at least one platform.

For most of us, social media is an enjoyable way to pass time and connect with family and friends. However, some people say social media has a negative impact on their lives, but they continue to use it anyway. Their behavior seems to be out of control, causing some health professionals to say they are addicted to social media.

How social media addiction works
The process of using social media – posting and reacting to content — causes your brain to release the pleasure chemical dopamine. The more you use social media and receive the rewarding dopamine, the more your brain will want it. Over time, your brain can become dependent/addicted to the good feeling social media gives you.

Social media platforms like Facebook, TikTok, Twitter and YouTube also track your activity and customize your feed to show you posts you want to view and comment on. This makes social media more addictive in nature.

One of the signs of addiction is continuing to use something even after it has clearly had a negative impact on you. If social media use is interfering with your relationships, self-esteem, work or school, but you can’t stop using it, that is a possible sign of addiction.

Signs you may have a social media addiction
If you have several of the behaviors below, it may be a sign that your social media use is getting out of hand.

  • You log in very often, wasting time with unproductive browsing. You check social media first thing in the morning and repeatedly through the day.
  • You constantly check your notifications and update your status.
  • You use social media to escape from the real world. If stress and discomfort in your life are getting to you, you seek refuge in the virtual community.
  • If you can’t get on social media, you get agitated. You become anxious over time spent away from your device or without an internet connection.
  • You plan your social media posts in advance. You go places just to take selfies there, and get distracted during daily activities by thinking about how you plan to describe them later on social media.
  • You get upset when your posts online aren’t appreciated.
  • Social media gets in the way of your real-life connections. You make choices that cut out friends and family and replace them with avatars and status updates.

Health risks of social media addiction
People who habitually and excessively use social media can suffer mental and physical effects.

  • You may unfavorably compare yourself to people online, causing you low self-esteem.
  • Seeing others have a good time may contribute to a greater sense of loneliness, isolation, and the fear of being left out.
  • Exposure to misinformation, especially false health news, can keep you from getting the medical care you need or persuade you to try unsafe products and treatments.
  • Dealing with negative people, trolls and bullies can make you anxious and depressed.
  • Checking your feed late at night/during the night can disrupt your sleep patterns, affecting your performance at work or school.
  • Hours of screen time means less physical activity, which may lower your overall health.
  • Being obsessed with online people can make you ignore the important relationships in your life.
  • Motivated by the desire for online approval, you may engage in risky behavior, such as playing dangerous pranks or posting embarrassing material. And if you glance at your news feed while driving, you are up to four times more likely to be involved in a crash.

How to cut back on social media
If you think social media is becoming a problem, you may need to cut back to reach a healthy level of use. Try the helpful tips below, but if you still struggle, consult with your healthcare provider for additional resources.

  1. Turn off notifications from social media apps. They are a major source of distraction and temptation.
  2. Change the desktop color settings of your phone to black and white to make them less attractive.
  3. Silence your phone during work, as well as during school, meals, and recreational activities.
  4. Delete social media apps from your phone to decrease the amount of time spent on them. (You can still use them on your computer at home.)
  5. Set aside a certain amount of time for social media each day. Don’t go beyond it.
  6. Turn on a timer to help keep you accountable for how much time you spend online.
  7. Leave your phone, tablet, and computer out of your bedroom.
  8. See your friends and family in person more often.
  9. Take up a new hobby that’s not technology-related like sports, art, or classes.

Rafeena Bacchus, M.D.Dr. Rafeena Bacchus sees patients at MPCP’s Columbia office. She received her medical degree from SUNY at the Buffalo School of Medicine and completed her residency program in Internal Medicine at the University of Maryland. She is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine.

 

The ‘Miracle Drug’ for Everyone

By: JOSE ZARZUELA, M.D.

Suppose there was a miracle drug that could boost your mood and energy, reduce your weight, prevent serious illness, and even help you sleep better. Would you take it?

Good news: The miracle drug is real. It’s called exercise.
Your body needs regular physical activity to work right and feel good. People who are active tend to have fewer health problems. But people who spend most of their time just sitting weaken their bodies. And if a sedentary lifestyle is compounded with overeating, smoking, and too much alcohol, you greatly increase your risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other serious issues.

More good news: You don’t have to spend hours at the gym. Something as simple as a brisk daily walk gives you physical and emotional benefits. When you head out for a walk, or any other type of moderate exercise:
• Your heart pumps more oxygen throughout your body. This helps lower your risk of heart diseases such as high cholesterol, coronary artery disease, and heart attack.
• Your body releases immune cells that find and destroy dangerous intruders (such as viruses) and defective cells (that can cause disease).
• Your brain produces more dopamine, a chemical that improves your mood and makes you feel more relaxed.

Regular exercise strengthens your heart, muscles, and bones, leading to overall better health. It also provides these other benefits:
• Increased ability to focus, as well as better memory and decision-making.
• Better moods: Increased levels of dopamine produce a greater sense of well-being, as well as reducing anxiety and worry.
• Improved sleep. Exercise can help you to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.

Sound good so far? It gets better
• Exercise helps you manage your weight or lose pounds. It causes your body to burn more calories, and the more you burn the easier it is to control your weight.
• Helps your body manage blood sugar and insulin levels. Exercise can lower your blood sugar level and make your insulin work better. This can cut down your risk for type 2 diabetes, or if you already have it, exercise can help you manage it.
• Reduces your risk of some cancers. Studies show that regular physical activity can lower the risk of colon cancer 17%-30% and breast cancer risk 20%-30%.

How to get started
It doesn’t take much exercise to start boosting your health. Even small changes can help. You can take the stairs instead of the elevator. Walk down the hall to a coworker’s office instead of sending an email. Wash the car yourself. Park further away from your destination.
For most people, your goal should be to work up to at least 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity exercise, like a brisk walk. You could split that into 30 minutes a day, five days a week.
The resources below can help you get started. And if you haven’t been active for a while, it’s a good idea to consult with your health provider first.
10-Minute Workout (video)
How to Start a Walking Program
Ways to Exercise If You Hate to Work Out

Jose Zarzuela, M.D.Dr. Zarzuela is a Maryland Primary Care Physicians partner and is certified by the National Board of Physicians and Surgeons for Internal Medicine and Sports Medicine. He sees patients in MPCP’s Pasadena office.

Will My Child Be Safe at School?

BY: ANDREA C. CUNIFF, M.D.

Maryland children are finally returning to the classroom. This is welcome news for most families, but some parents wonder whether their kids will be safe from COVID-19 at school.

Maryland schools are taking precautions to protect children and staff members, including social distancing, mask wearing, limited class size and stepped-up cleaning. So as reported in Maryland School Reopening Guidance from the Maryland Department of Education, schools are pretty safe when it comes to the coronavirus. Here are some highlights from the report:

    • Many fewer children have been infected with COVID-19 than adults.
    • Children are less likely to become infected than adults.
    • Children under 10 appear to not spread the virus as much as adults.
    • Children generally have milder cases of the disease and lower rates of hospitalization.
    • Spread of the virus in schools is uncommon when prevention strategies are used effectively.
    • When Covid-19 does spread in schools, it is much more likely to be between staff members than between staff and children.
    • From Aug. 10, 2020 to Jan. 10, 2021, only 4.3% of persons 19 years or younger who got COVID-19 said they had attended or visited in a pre-K-12 school. That means most were not infected at school.
    • Maryland has prioritized vaccination of educators and staff in all K-12 schools. This is underway now.

See public and non-public K-12 schools that have reported Covid-19 cases


While schools are taking precautions, you should remind your children to protect themselves with these safe practices:

  • Stay separated (at least three feet, according to the latest CDC guidance): This includes not bunching up while standing in line, leaving space between seats at lunch, and not getting too close to others at recess.
  • Wear face masks: This should be a priority, especially when it’s hard to maintain social distance, such as on the bus or entering the school building. Wear cloth masks or the disposable medical face masks that are now widely available at grocery and drug stores.
    • Give your child a clean mask and back-up mask each day and a clean, resealable bag for them to store the mask when they can’t wear it, such as at lunch.
  • Keep hands clean: Practice hand-washing at home with your child: soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Encourage them to wash before and after eating or after coughing/sneezing. If hand washing isn’t available, use hand sanitizer.
  • Stay home if sick: Children should stay home if they have tested positive or are showing any COVID-19 symptoms:
    • Fever or chills
    • Cough
    • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
    • Fatigue
    • Muscle or body aches
    • Headache
    • Loss of taste or smell
    • Sore throat
    • Congestion or runny nose
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Diarrhea

Dr. Andrea C. Cuniff earned her medical degree at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and is certified by the American Board of Family Medicine. She sees patients in the Annapolis office.