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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.

 

COVID-19 Update: How It Affects You

By: MEDICAL DIRECTORS FALANA CARTER, MD and JERRY I. LEVINE, MD, PA

COVID-19 continues to spread in Maryland. Individuals who remain unvaccinated are at the greatest risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19 including highly contagious variants resulting in hospitalization and death. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest guidance recommends booster vaccines for adults over 65, those with high-risk medical conditions, and individuals at risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission due their occupation or institutional settings. The Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine has been approved for a booster after two months. The Pfizer vaccine is available for children 12 and older, and soon will be approved for children 5 years and older. Here’s how the latest COVID-19 news affects you.

The Delta variant

Like many other viruses, the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) continually changes, producing new strains with features different from the original virus. The Delta variant is the most common form of the virus in the U.S. today and is very dangerous, causing most new COVID-19 infections. Here’s what you should know:

  • The Delta variant is significantly more contagious than previous variants, infecting many more people.
  • The Delta variant appears to cause more severe illness in unvaccinated people than previous variants, leading to more hospitalizations and deaths.
  • COVID-19 vaccines are very effective in preventing Delta infections, and the vast majority of new hospitalizations and deaths are in unvaccinated people.
  • Fully vaccinated people can get “breakthrough” Delta infections, but they are rare and are generally less severe than in unvaccinated people.
  • Fully vaccinated people with Delta breakthrough infections can spread the virus to others, but vaccinated people appear to be contagious for a shorter period of time.

Booster shots

COVID-19 vaccines remain highly effective against the virus months after vaccination, but their effectiveness will decrease over time.  The effectiveness of the vaccine is enhanced by getting a booster shot. Based on CDC recommendations, these groups are eligible for booster vaccines:

  • Adults 65 or older who received two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine at least six months ago
  • Adults 18-64 with underlying high-risk medical conditions
  • Adults 18-64 who are at increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission due to their work or institutional settings
  • All adults 18 or older who received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine at least two months ago

Also, individuals with compromised immune systems are eligible for a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine at least 28 days after the first two doses.

Boosters may be “mixed and matched,” heterologous dosing. While preference remains to obtain the same booster as the primary vaccine, either Moderna or Pfizer can be received as a booster for the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine. This can be discussed with your primary care provider.

MPCP administers the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccines in our offices, and many of our offices will also offer the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine starting November 1.

Call your MPCP office to schedule an appointment to receive a booster dose. Vaccines are also available at your local pharmacy or health department clinic.

COVID vaccines for children

The CDC is recommending COVID-19 vaccination for children 12+. Here’s the latest:

  • Fewer children have been infected with COVID-19 than adults, but they can still get sick from the virus and spread it to others.
  • CDC recommends everyone 12 years and older should get a vaccination to protect them and help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
  • The two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been shown to be safe and effective for children 12+. As with adults, serious side effects from the vaccine are rare in children, and the benefits of vaccination greatly outweigh the potential risks.

If you have questions about COVID-19 or the vaccine, contact your MPCP doctor or visit Maryland’s covidLINK website.

Dr. Levine is an MPCP partner and is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine. He serves as MPCP’s Medical Director and Vice President, and sees patients in the Columbia office.

Dr. Carter is an MPCP partner and is certified by the American Board of Family Physicians. She serves as Assistant Medical Director and sees patients in the Arundel Mills office.

Do These Four Things to Keep Your Eyes Healthy

By: ERIN YATES, CRNP

Many people are fortunate enough to take good vision for granted, however, there are more than 4.2 million Americans 40 years and older who have low vision or are legally blind.

The leading causes of blindness and low vision are these age-related conditions:

  • Macular degeneration: Disease of the retina – the light-sensitive membrane lining the inner eyeball ‒ resulting in the loss of central vision.
  • Cataracts: Clouding of the eye lens, the transparent section in the front of the eye.
  • Diabetic retinopathy: Disease of the retina caused by uncontrolled diabetes.
  • Glaucoma: Damage to the optic nerve ‒ which connects the eye to the brain ‒ caused by a build-up of fluid in the eye.

Four Ways to Protect Your Vision

  1. Find out if you are at risk for eye disease

Your risk for eye disease is higher if you:

  • Are overweight or obese
  • Have high blood pressure or diabetes
  • Have a family history of eye disease
  • Are African American, Hispanic or Native American

Talk to your primary care provider about ways to lower your risk.

  1. Take care of your health

Healthy habits like eating well and being active can lower your risk for conditions that can lead to eye or vision problems, like diabetes or high blood pressure. Follow these tips to support your vision health:

  • Eat healthy foods. Be sure to have plenty of dark, leafy greens like spinach, kale, and collard greens. Eating fish that are high in omega-3 fatty acids ‒ like salmon, tuna and halibut ‒ is good for your eyes, too.
  • Get active. Being physically active helps you stay healthy. It can also lower your risk of health conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, all of which can cause vision problems.
  • Quit smoking. Smoking increases your risk of diseases like macular degeneration and cataracts, and it can harm the optic nerve. If you are ready to quit, talk to your primary care provider about methods and support.
  1. Protect your eyes

There are ways to protect your eyes from things that may harm them.

  • Wear sunglasses. Protect your eyes from the sun by wearing sunglasses, even on cloudy days. Be sure to look for sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB radiation.
  • Wear protective eyewear. Safety glasses and goggles are designed to protect your eyes during certain activities, like playing sports, doing construction work, or doing home repairs.
  • Give your eyes a rest. Looking at a computer for a long time can tire out your eyes. Rest your eyes by taking a short break from looking at the screen every 20 minutes.
  • If you wear contacts, take steps to prevent eye infections. Always wash your hands before you put your contact lenses in or take them out. Be sure to disinfect your contact lenses and replace them regularly.
  1. Get an eye exam

Even if your eyes feel healthy, you could have a problem and not know it. That is because many eye diseases do not have any symptoms or warning signs. A complete, dilated eye exam is the only way to detect certain eye diseases early and early diagnosis can often make these diseases easier to treat.

If you are generally healthy, you should have a complete eye exam at age 40. This is the age when some vision changes and eye diseases are likely to start. If you are 60 or older, have your eyes checked every 1 to 2 years.

If you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, you are at higher risk for diabetic retinopathy, which can lead to vision loss. Everyone with diabetes should have yearly eye exams as a part of their diabetes management. MPCP offers screening for diabetic retinopathy in our offices, so ask your provider about setting up an exam.

Erin Yates, Certified Registered Nurse Practitioner, received her Master of Science in Nursing degree from George Washington University in 2018. She cares for patients in the Columbia office.

How to Exercise in Cold Weather

By: Dawn Roelofs, CRNP

There’s no reason to stop exercising outdoors when the temperature drops. In fact, exercise in cold weather has some advantages over warmer weather:

  • There’s no heat and humidity to deal with.
  • You may be able to work out longer.
  • Winter sunlight can improve your mood and help your body make vitamin D.
  • Exercise boosts your immunity during cold and flu season.

Just follow these tips for cold-weather workouts to maintain your fitness regimen this winter.

 1. Acclimate. Understand that it will take time for you to get used to working out in the cold. When you first start exercising, your body will probably need more time to warm up to perform well. Make your workouts a little lighter at first to help your body adjust.

2. Hydrate. You still sweat in cold weather, so stay hydrated. Drink water frequently even if you don’t feel very thirsty

3. Go for layers. Dressing in layers helps you manage the combination of cold air, body heat and sweat. For your first layer, choose a moisture-wicking fabric that pulls sweat away from your skin and keeps you dry. Next, add a layer of fleece, and on top put a thin waterproof garment. If you start to perspire, you can remove a layer. Avoid cotton garments. Once cotton becomes wet with sweat or snow, the moisture is trapped and will make you feel colder. Protect your hands with a thin pair of glove liners made of a wicking material under a pair of heavier gloves. Consider wearing thermal socks to keep your feet warm, and a hat or headband to protect your head and ears, or even a scarf to protect your face.

4. Know the risks. Being cold can lead to hypothermia and frostbite. Hypothermia means your body temperature has fallen below safe levels, and it can kill you. Symptoms include lack of coordination, mental confusion, slowed reactions, slurred speech, cold feet and hands, shivering and sleepiness.

Frostbite happens when cold freezes your skin. Frostbite is most common on exposed skin, such as your cheeks, nose and ears. Early warning signs include numbness, loss of feeling or a stinging sensation.

If you experience any symptoms of hypothermia or frostbite, get out of the cold immediately and get medical help.

Don’t forget the sunscreen as the winter sun can burn you, especially when it reflects off ice or snow.

5. Be realistic, stay safe. There’s a point when uncomfortable weather becomes unsafe. Check the weather before your workout. If the wind chill is extreme, the temperature is well below zero or there’s ice on the ground, it may be safer to work out indoors.

 

Dawn Roelofs, Certified Registered Nurse Practitioner, received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from the University of Maryland, Baltimore, and her Master of Science in Nursing degree from Drexel University. She cares for patients in MPCP’s Columbia office.