Know Your Family History,
Know Your Risk

Knowing your breast is important
but knowing your family history
is important, too...

read more

Be Sweet to Your Feet

They get us where we're going, day in
and day out, but how often do you stop
and take care of your amazing feet?...

read more

Help Your Skin Age
Gracefully

As women age, lots of things
change - our body, our
energy levels, our moods...

read more

How to Spot Early Signs
of Parkinson's Disease

Parkinson's disease is the second
most common neurodegenerative
disorder in the United States...

read more

Spring Eats

With winter's cold melting away
comes a wealth of springtime
produce that will refresh your health...

read more


Know Your Family History, Know Your Risk

By Kathryn Amirikia, MD


Knowing your breast is important but knowing your family history is important, too. Having relatives with cancer can dramatically affect your risk for developing it yourself. It is critical that you and your doctor both know and understand your family history.

A family history of breast cancer means having a relative who has had cancer that starts in the breast. Other types of cancer in the family can affect your risk for breast cancer, too. How much that history affects your risk varies according to the number of affected relatives, their age when they were diagnosed and how closely related they are to you.

According to the American Cancer Society, your risk of developing breast cancer is increased if:

  • You have two or more relatives with breast or ovarian cancer.

  • Breast cancer occurs before age 50 in a relative (mother, sister, grandmother or aunt) on either side of the family. The risk is higher if your mother or sister has a history of breast cancer.

  • You have relatives with both breast and ovarian cancer.

  • You have one or more relatives with two cancers (breast and ovarian, or two different breast cancers).

  • You have a male relative (or relatives) with breast cancer.

  • You have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer and Ashkenazi Jewish heritage.

  • Your family history includes a history of diseases associated with hereditary breast cancer such as Li-Fraumeni or Cowden Syndrome.

Having one first-degree relative (mother, sister or daughter) with breast cancer approximately doubles a woman's risk. Having two first-degree relatives increases her risk five-fold. Altogether, about 20% to 30% of women with breast cancer have a family member with this disease.

If your family fits any of the above descriptions, talk to your doctor about your increased risk for breast cancer and additional strategies to monitor your breast health, such as mammograms at an earlier age, breast ultrasound, more frequent examinations or even gene testing with a breast specialist.

Family history does play an important role in your risk for breast cancer, but the good news is that with this awareness you can be proactive in your own healthcare. It is important to remember that breast cancer strikes most women out of the blue - women who are otherwise healthy, with no known risk factors, not even a strong family history that may have alerted them to the possibility. Simply being female and advancing in age are the greatest risks we all share, so all of us need to be proactive about our breast health.

When it comes to women's health, a one-size-fits-all approach won't do. You deserve personalized care that fits your needs, lifestyle and goals. At Dignity Health, we go the extra mile to get to know you and recognize that emotional support can be just as important. Attend one of our upcoming events for women and learn more about health care tailored for you.

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Be Sweet to Your Feet

By Dianne Mitchell, DPM

They get us where we're going, day in and day out, but how often do you stop and take care of your amazing feet? Our feet have 26 bones and 33 joints in them, which provides a lot of opportunity for injury and damage. Fortunately, a little attention and TLC can go a long way toward keeping your feet healthy.

First, it is important to note that if you are experiencing foot pain, you should see your doctor. Foot pain left untreated can cause many problems. And often foot pain can be a sign of an underlying problem. Report your symptoms to your physician and let him or her examine your feet to help determine the problem.

One of the most common foot problems experienced by women as we age are bunions. These can be identified by the bony prominence on the side of the foot at the base of the big toe. This is a progressive problem and can be made worse by certain shoes, but is often caused by heredity and poor foot function. If caught early, bunions may respond to conservative treatments like changing shoes, wearing shoe inserts or padding or taping your feet. There are also a variety of surgical options for the treatment of bunions.

Another problem common among women and men is hammer toe, which is a contracted or bent toe which causes pain and swelling at the joint. Hammer toe can have many causes, including genetics, arthritis, injury or snug shoes. Mild hammer toe can be treated with manipulation and splinting and a change in footwear. More advanced hammer toe can be corrected surgically.

If you are experiencing sharp, shooting pain in your foot, you may be suffering from a neuroma, specifically Morton's neuroma. This is a benign nerve growth that causes swelling at the ball of the foot. This leads to tenderness, pain and possibly a clicking feeling. Neuroma can be caused by poor foot mechanics, too-narrow shoes, or injury or trauma. Arch supports may relieve the pressure, but surgery may be necessary. There are also minimally invasive procedures that relieve the pain for some patients.

If you experience shooting pain in your foot when you step out of bed in the morning, you may be suffering from plantar fasciitis. This is one of the most common problems seen by podiatrists. Plantar fasciitis is recognizable by the sudden sharp pain in the morning which dulls with time but can return after prolonged periods on your feet. While overuse can cause this problem, it can also be caused by your choice in footwear - specifically, flip flops!


If your feet are sending you signals that something is wrong, heed the warning and see your physician. In the meantime, be sweet to your feet by wearing good footwear with appropriate support, resting them when they hurt, and not increasing your physical activity too suddenly or severely.

For help finding a Dignity Health-affiliated podiatrist, use our online physician directory, or call our physician referral hotline at 1.888.800.7688.

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Help Your Skin Age Gracefully

By Rosalee Shorter, PA-C


As women age, lots of things change - our body, our energy levels, our moods... Aging, unfortunately, can also have a dramatic effect on our skin. But good news - if you are young, you can take some simple steps to help preserve your skin, and if you are already seeing the effects of aging, there are steps you can take to slow down the process.

First, it is important to know that if you are seeing changes in your skin - it is not your imagination. In fact, the condition of your skin is more likely to be determined by your years since menopause than by your chronological age. In the first five years after menopause, the collagen in our skin declines by 30%. It continues to decline by 2% every year for the next 20 years. Collagen is responsible for the firmness, integrity and elasticity in our skin, so it's no wonder that losing it leaves our skin sagging and loose.

But while menopause plays an important role in the condition of your skin, the single greatest cause of age-related skin changes is due to sun damage. Years of unprotected sun exposure will likely leave you with sun spots and discoloration, wrinkles, uneven skin tone, and dark and leathery skin. Of course, sun exposure also puts you at much greater risk for skin cancer.

But while menopause plays an important role in the condition of your skin, the single greatest cause of age-related skin changes is due to sun damage. Years of unprotected sun exposure will likely leave you with sun spots and discoloration, wrinkles, uneven skin tone, and dark and leathery skin. Of course, sun exposure also puts you at much greater risk for skin cancer.

So what can you do if you are seeing changes in your skin? Well first, see a physician to rule out a serious skin condition such a melanoma or other skin cancers. Second, always use sun protection. Your sunscreen should have an SPF of at least 30 with the main ingredients of titanium or zinc oxide. Third, moisturize! Aging skin loses its ability to retain water, which results in dry skin and worsen skin deterioration. Finally, invest in skin products that contain anti-oxidant protection which can provide exceptional skin protection.

For more information about what you can do to help stall the signs of aging on your skin, contact the Mercy Medical Group Plastic Surgery Center to learn about the cosmetic services available.

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How to Spot Early Signs of Parkinson's Disease

By Ehsan Hadi, MD


Parkinson's disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disorder in the United States. At least 500,000 people are believed to suffer from Parkinson's disease and about 50,000 new cases are diagnosed every year. As our population ages, these figures are expected to continue to increase.

Identifying the early signs of Parkinson's disease can help you and your physician create an effective management plan to maintain a good quality of life. The good news is that, through research we have expanded our treatment tools to not only include newer medications but also lifestyle modification strategies that can help effectively manage the symptoms of Parkinson's disease.

Spotting the symptoms early is key. Here are ten early signs of Parkinson's Disease. (It is important to note that one symptom by itself doesn't mean you should be concerned; however, if you or a loved one are experiencing more than one symptom, contact your physician and schedule an appointment.)

  1. Tremors or Shaking: This can start as a slight shaking or tremor in the finger, thumb, hand, chin or lip. Another indication can be a leg shaking when you sit down or relax. Twitching can also be an early symptom.

  2. Trouble moving or walking: While we all experience stiffness and aches as we age, stiffness that does not go away with movement can be a Parkinson's symptom. You may also notice that your arms don't swing when you walk or that you look stiff.

  3. Low or soft voice: Often, other people will notice a low, soft or hoarse tone in the voice of a person with Parkinson's.

  4. Small handwriting: If you or someone close to you has noticed that your handwriting has suddenly gotten much smaller than it was in the past that can be a warning sign.

  5. Masked face: It is not unusual for people in the early stages of Parkinson's to have a serious, depressed or mad look on their face, even when it is not reflective of their mood. Loved ones also report a blank stare or a lack of eye blinking.

  6. Dizziness or fainting: A feeling of dizziness when rising out of a chair can be caused by low blood pressure, which can be linked to Parkinson's.

  7. Stooping or hunching: Stooping, leaning or slouching when you previously had good posture can be warning signs of Parkinson's.

  8. Loss of smell: You may notice that you no longer smell certain foods very well, like bananas, dill pickles or licorice. This symptom can precede Parkinson's Disease by a few years.

  9. Constipation: While most people's digestive system varies a little every day, constipation that is present every day and straining with every bowel movement can be an early sign of Parkinson's. Constipation has been known to precede Parkinson's disease by years.

  10. Trouble sleeping: Sleeping problems are often normal and can occur for a variety of reasons; however if you thrash around in bed or kick and punch while you are deeply asleep, that could be a warning sign. Those affected by Parkinson's may also fall out of bed on occasion.

Early diagnosis of Parkinson's gives you or your loved one the best chance at a healthy, productive life. If you have concerns, contact your physician.

For information about the Mercy Neurological Institute and our team of world-class physicians, please email us at mercyneuro@dignityhealth.org.

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Spring Eats

Dr. Liz Applegate, is the director of sports nutrition at the University of California at Davis, where she consults with student athletes and teaches the largest general nutrition class in the UC system. She is also the nutrition columnist for Runner's World magazine.


With winter's cold melting away comes a wealth of springtime produce that will refresh your health. Here are a few nutritional power houses that you should add to your family's table this month.

Artichokes:

One medium-sized artichoke (which is actually a flower bud from the thistle family) has only 60 calories, but supplies more than 25% of the recommended daily value for fiber and vitamin C. A study in children with asthma showed they breathed easier when eating a diet rich in vitamin C.

Asparagus:

A cup of steamed asparagus spears supplies a staggering 65% of folate needs (and low intake of this B vitamin is linked to heart disease.) Add to stir-fry, steam lightly or add to salads or roast or grill quickly as a side dish steamed.

Beets and beet greens:

Beets owe their bright red color to betacyanin, which also acts as a potent cancer fighter. And beet greens are loaded with carotenes known to protect eyesight. Serve in salads or roasted alongside lean roast or fish.

Dandelion greens:

These peppery tasting salad greens are packed with folate, a B vitamin needed for heart health and protection from cancer. One cup has only 15 calories, but supplies 70 % of vitamin A needs as carotenes, also known for their eyesight protection qualities.

Strawberries:

One cup of strawberries has only 45 calories, but supplies 130% of the recommended daily value for vitamin C, a potent antioxidant, and the phytonutrient, ellagic acid, known for its cancer-fighting power. Top your cereal or yogurt with strawberries or blend them with kefir for a quick recovery meal after a morning run.

Thanks to Nugget Markets for providing this information. For recipes using some of these nutrient-packed foods, head to the recipes section where our friends at Nugget Markets shared some of their favorite ways to use these spring eats!

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