What Your Skin Says About Your Health 

Your skin is more than an outer protective covering over your muscles and bones. It’s the body’s largest organ and can provide surprising insight into what’s happening below the surface. The key is learning what it can tell you and paying attention to signs of health problems. 

Skin Health and Diabetes

One in 10 Kentucky residents is among the 29 million nationwide who have diabetes, a disease marked by high blood glucose (sugar). Unfortunately, more than a quarter of those who have it haven’t been diagnosed. Your skin can offer some of the earliest clues about diabetes.

When your body removes excess blood glucose through urination, you lose fluid, causing your skin to become dry, cracked, and itchy. Scratching your skin to address itching can lead to infection, particularly because diabetes can damage nerves and reduce your ability to feel pain from injuries. Additionally, high blood glucose promotes the breeding of harmful bacteria and fungi.

Up to 33% of people with diabetes experience skin conditions, including:

  • Styes around the eyelids and boils around hair follicles caused by bacterial infections
  • Athlete’s foot, jock itch, and vaginal yeast infections
  • Itching in the lower legs
  • Darkened patches of skin on the sides of the neck, armpits, and groin called Acanthosis nigricans

However, other conditions can cause these symptoms, so you shouldn’t assume you have diabetes if you experience them. Your doctor can order a simple blood test to determine if you have the disease and then prescribe treatment for managing it. 

Other Skin Issues That May Indicate a Health Problem

Diabetes isn’t the only disease that can affect the skin. Other skin abnormalities that you should mention to your doctor include:

  • Dry, itchy skin. In addition to being a diabetes symptom, persistently dry skin can be a symptom of eczema (atopic dermatitis), thyroid disorders, and lymphoma. Certain medications, like opioids, can also cause dry, itchy skin. 
  • Red patches on the hands. The most common cause of hand irritation is frequent handwashing. And considering the many illnesses that handwashing can protect you from, it’s worth the price. But red spots on the backs of the hands can be a symptom of dermatomyositis, an autoimmune disorder similar to lupus
  • Changes in skin color. If your skin becomes noticeably gray, develops brown or tan spots, or changes in some other significant way, it can indicate a chronic illness like liver or kidney disease. 
  • Rashes. It’s common to experience contact dermatitis, a rash caused by something you touch. However, a persistent or unusually shaped rash can signify a medical problem. For example, Lyme disease causes target-shaped skin irritations, and people with lupus may develop a butterfly rash on their faces. The skin condition psoriasis also causes rashes, and it’s important to know that people with psoriasis have a higher risk of heart disease and other conditions. 
  • Small bumps near the eyes. People with high cholesterol may develop small bumps called xanthelasma around their eyes or nose. However, roughly half of those with them don’t have high cholesterol. 
  • Dandruff. Dandruff (seborrhea) is a minor skin condition you can treat with medicated shampoo. However, patients who’ve had a stroke or who have Parkinson’s disease are more likely to develop severe dandruff. 

These are just a few skin issues that may indicate a health problem. You should talk to your doctor if your skin looks or feels odd. 

Learn About Skin Conditions and Medical Problems from Baptist Health

Your skin can be a “window” into your overall health. Don’t hesitate to contact your primary care physician if you have questions or concerns.  If you don’t have a Baptist Health doctor, you can find one using our online provider directory.


What Your Hair Says About Your Health

We all lose hair regularly — 50 to 100 strands daily. That’s normal, as your body replaces them with new ones. Hair styling, high stress levels, and iron deficiency can increase that number. 

However, if your comb, hairbrush, or shower drain has been particularly full lately, a health condition may be to blame. So, it’s important to know when a change in the quantity or quality of your hair means you should contact your doctor. 

Hair Loss and Hypothyroidism

Excessive hair loss can be a sign of various health problems. One is hypothyroidism. It’s a condition in which the thyroid gland fails to make enough thyroid hormone. These hormones regulate your metabolism, which is the rate at which the body turns food into energy. 

An underactive thyroid causes bodily functions to slow down. That includes hair growth. People with hypothyroidism experience thinning hair, and they may also notice their hair feeling dry and brittle due to the body producing less sebum (oil) from sweat glands in the scalp.

Hypothyroidism, which is more common in women than men, typically develops slowly, making it challenging to notice hair changes, dry skin, increasing fatigue, and weight gain. Because hair follows a months-long cycle of growth and rest periods and doesn’t grow continuously, hair loss may not occur until several months after the onset of hypothyroidism.

Doctors diagnose hypothyroidism using blood tests. The good news is that you can control hypothyroidism with medication, and your hair should recover in time.

Hair Loss and Heart Disease in Men

It’s common for men to develop male pattern baldness as they age. However, you shouldn’t assume that it’s the cause of hair loss. 

Studies suggest that men who are bald on the top of the head are at a higher risk for coronary heart disease. Younger men, in particular, should be aware of other heart disease risk factors, such as being overweight and having high blood pressure or elevated cholesterol levels.

Hair Changes and Other Health Concerns

Excessive hair loss or changes in hair quality can signal other health concerns. For example, noticeably brittle hair can be a symptom of Cushing’s syndrome. It’s a rare condition caused by too much of a stress hormone called cortisol. 

Cushing’s syndrome has other symptoms, including back pain, fatigue, and high blood pressure, but a significant change in hair softness and flexibility is something you should discuss with your doctor. 

Hair loss can also indicate a protein deficiency. While most Americans get enough protein in their diet, problems in the digestive system or gastric bypass surgery can result in the body not digesting protein properly.

Talk with Your Baptist Health Doctor About Hair Changes

If you notice excessive hair loss or changes in the quality of your hair, you should talk with your primary care physician. They can determine the cause and prescribe the appropriate treatment. 

If you don’t have a Baptist Health doctor, you can find one near you using our online provider directory.


Risks of Taking Ozempic for Weight Loss 

Clinically reviewed by Kathleen Stanley, CDCES, RDN, LD, MSEd, BC-ADM, MLDE

Ozempic is the brand name for semaglutide — a prescription drug that helps people with diabetes control their blood sugar. The medication may also promote weight loss. 

However, mainly fueled by social media posts, there has been a recent surge in people without diabetes using Ozempic solely for weight loss. That spike has caused a shortage impacting those who need the medication for blood sugar management.

Shana Nicholson, Manager at the Baptist Health Diabetes Management Programs is worried, “As a Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist, I am concerned about the health of our patients living with diabetes who are unable to receive their prescribed medications, such as Ozempic, due to shortages,”

Why You Should NOT Take Ozempic To Lose Weight

In 2017, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Ozempic for use by people with type 2 diabetes. It’s a liquid solution given as an under-the-skin injection. 

In addition to helping control blood sugar levels, Ozempic lowers glucagon, a hormone that raises sugar levels. As a result, Ozempic may promote weight loss, but it has not been approved for that purpose. 

Still, doctors around the U.S. are reporting frequent requests for the drug from people who don’t need it for diabetes management. 

That’s the primary reason for not taking Ozempic for weight loss: Increased demand for the drug is creating shortages that adversely affect patients who need it to ensure their bodies can release enough insulin to control their diabetes. 

Other issues that this “off-label” use is causing include: 

  • Taking care providers away from other essential tasks as they struggle to find Ozempic for their patients
  • Risk of drug interactions for those taking Ozempic without medical supervision
  • Serious side effects, including allergic reactions, hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), diabetic retinopathy (damage to blood vessels in the eye), kidney failure and other kidney problems, increased thyroid cancer risk, gallstones, and swelling of the pancreas
  • Regaining weight when no longer taking the medication if lifestyle changes haven’t been made 

Ozempic may also cause minor side effects like nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. In addition, doctors caution that the drug hasn’t been studied in broader populations, so there may be other possible side effects that have not yet been documented. 

Talk With Your Doctor About Ozempic

Ozempic is only intended and approved for people with type 2 diabetes. You should not take it solely for weight loss. Doing so may prevent patients who require the medication for blood sugar management from getting it. Interrupting their treatment with Ozempic creates serious health risks. 

You can do your part to prevent those risks by not taking Ozempic for weight loss and sharing this advice with your friends and family.

If you have type 2 diabetes, your doctor can help you decide if Ozempic is right for you. If you’re experiencing type 2 diabetes symptoms, such as increased thirst, frequent urination, fatigue, blurred vision, unintended weight loss, frequent infections, and slow-healing wounds and sores, contact your doctor. They can order a simple blood test to determine if you have type 2 diabetes. 

There are medications approved for weight loss and weight management. Talk with your doctor if you find it hard to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. They can assess your health and recommend lifestyle changes, medication, and other treatments as appropriate. 

“Ozempic is used to manage blood sugar from diabetes,” says Shana, “I urge those with prescriptions for Ozempic for weight loss and not for diabetes management to contact their healthcare provider to be switched to a comparable FDA approved medication for weight loss.”

If you or a loved one has diabetes and looking for additional help, look no further than the Baptist Health team of experts. They can provide education, training, and support with lifestyle changes for pre-diabetes and diabetes self-management.

8 Tips for Sleeping Better

Getting enough sleep isn’t a luxury — it’s essential for good health. Unfortunately, many people struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep through the night. 

The good news is that there are actions you can take today to improve the quantity and quality of your sleep. The first is to consider the things that might be keeping you awake.

Bad Habits That are Ruining Your Sleep

Are you a tosser and a turner? A stare-at-the-ceiling fretter? If you’re having trouble getting quality sleep, one of the following might be the culprit.

You lie in bed looking at your phone.

Sleep experts say, “Thou shalt not scroll through Facebook in bed.” But it’s so tempting to see what’s happening at that moment. 

Keeping electronics in the bedroom is bad for three reasons. One, they emit light that tells our brains it’s time to stay awake. Two, staring at our devices keeps us from interacting with our bed partners, whether that means conversation, cuddles, or intimacy. Three, notifications from our phones, whether they’re news alerts or rants from a friend, can stress us out. 

You like to pour a nightcap or light up a cigarette.

Yes, alcohol might help you fall asleep faster, but studies show that consuming it before bed leads to less REM sleep (the stage in which we consolidate learning and memories) and more overnight awakenings. 

The nicotine that makes cigarettes so deadly in the long run also robs you of sleep. It’s a stimulant that keeps you awake. 

You can only find time to work out at night.

Working out is good for you. However, it can increase your alertness. If you exercise at night, it may affect your sleep. 

You eat heavy dinners.

Yes, a pulled pork sandwich with a side of homemade mac and cheese is delicious, but it might also give you indigestion and heartburn. That’s because rich, fatty foods can trigger acid reflux. It’s miserable, especially in the middle of the night when you want to be snoozing. 

Your weekend and weekday sleep schedules are different.

Part of the fun of the weekend is staying up a little later and sleeping in a little more. But having a regular sleep schedule, when you go to bed and wake up at about the same time, is best for your body’s internal clock. 

If your body knows when to wake up and when to sleep, you will feel more alert during the day and sleepy when it’s time for bed.

You’re a clock watcher.

We’ve all been there. You wake up in the middle of the night and look at the alarm clock. It’s 3:45 a.m., and your mind starts racing. 

“The alarm will go off in two hours. I have to get more sleep, or I’ll be a wreck at work.” Then you’re too stressed to sleep. 

Your bedroom isn’t optimized for sleep.

The condition of your bedroom directly affects your sleep. If yours is noisy, too hot or cold, or not dark enough, you may struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep. 

If any of the characteristics above describe you, it’s vital to address them. 

Take These 8 Actions Today to Sleep Better Tonight

To promote a good night’s sleep, do the following: 

  1. Avoid screens at least one hour before going to bed. Using devices isn’t just distracting you from winding down. It can actually affect your body chemistry — see below. Turning off your devices helps get your body into sleep mode.
  2. Avoid alcohol and smoking a few hours before bedtime. The more time you give your body to process these substances, the less negative impact they’ll have on your sleep. It’s also a good idea to drink less water in the evening to reduce the need for overnight trips to the bathroom. 
  3. Exercise during the day. Completing workouts in the morning or afternoon is ideal since it allows you to relax and unwind before hitting the sack.
  4. Eat lighter dinners. Consuming smaller, less-rich meals helps prevent overnight digestive issues. 
  5. Use the same sleep/wake schedule all week. Sleeping in on the weekends may feel good, but it adversely affects your sleep rhythm. Sticking to the same routine Monday through Sunday is best.
  6. Avoid checking your clock at night. Set the alarm for the morning and turn your clock away from your bed. Not seeing it helps lower your stress about how long you have until morning. 
  7. Optimize your bedroom for sleep. Creating the right conditions for a restful night is crucial. Ensure your sleeping space is dark, quiet, and comfortably cool (around 65 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal). You should also have a comfortable bed and bedding that doesn’t make you too warm. 
  8. Create a wind-down ritual. Activities like praying, meditating, or journaling can help you release stress. And doing the same thing every night helps train your body that it’s time to sleep.

Nighttime Technology Use Is Especially Bad for Sleep

Using electronic devices (phones, tablets, computers, etc.) at night is one of the most significant causes of sleep problems today. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 95% of Americans regularly use a computer or other electronic device in the hour before bed. 

Exposure to the light from these devices can significantly lower levels of the hormone melatonin, which regulates your internal clock and plays a role in your sleep cycle. Avoiding screens for an hour or more before bedtime is an easy way to improve sleep. 

Get Help with Sleep Issues from Baptist Health

If consistently practicing good sleep hygiene doesn’t help you get the rest you need, you should talk with your doctor or one of our experts at the Sleep Center. They can assess your physical condition to determine if a health issue is affecting your sleep.

Better sleep is achievable, and we can help.


What Is Osteopenia?

Most people associate low bone mass with osteoporosis. It’s a disease characterized by a drastic loss in bone density that causes bones to become brittle and fragile. 

A lesser-known but related condition is called osteopenia. It affects nearly half of adults over 50. Osteopenia involves bone densities that are at less than peak levels but haven’t reached the point of osteoporosis.

This condition, and consequently osteoporosis, is more common in women than men, as females start with peak bone density levels that are much lower.

Osteopenia vs. Osteoporosis: Progression and Risk Factors

Osteopenia doesn’t always lead to osteoporosis. However, it can be a precursor to the disease. Consequently, learning about common risk factors associated with low bone mass is helpful. 

If you or your doctor identify them, you can make appropriate diet and lifestyle modifications. These changes can help prevent or slow the loss of bone mass and the onset of osteoporosis.

Common low bone mass risk factors/causes include:

  • Calcium or vitamin D deficiencies
  • Lack of weight-bearing exercise
  • Poor nutrition
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Smoking
  • Drinking excessive amounts of soda
  • Eating disorders
  • Medical conditions including hyperthyroidism, Cushing’s syndrome, hyperparathyroidism, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and Crohn’s disease
  • Radiation exposure
  • Hormonal changes during menopause
  • Chemotherapy
  • Family history of low bone mineral density (BMD)
  • Being older than 35
  • Gastrointestinal surgery, which can affect nutrient and mineral absorption
  • Taking prednisone or phenytoin

Osteopenia Symptoms and Diagnosis

Bone density naturally declines with age, but osteopenia typically has no symptoms. Many people only become aware of their low bone mass when they suffer unexpected fractures.  

Fortunately, BMD testing (performed using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry or DEXA) can help diagnose these conditions, enabling patients to take action to address them. 

Experts recommend testing if you meet any of these criteria:

  • You’re a woman who is 65 or older.
  • You’re under 65, postmenopausal, and have any osteopenia risk factor.
  • You’re postmenopausal and have broken a bone while performing normal daily activities.

Osteopenia Prevention and Treatment

It’s best to keep osteopenia from developing. You can reduce your risk by taking these actions:

  • Following a nutritionally balanced diet that includes proper daily values of calcium and vitamin D
  • Exercising regularly with weight-bearing activities
  • Limiting consumption of alcohol and soda
  • Eliminating tobacco use

If osteopenia or osteoporosis runs in your family, or you have one or more of the common risk factors, discuss your bone health with your primary care physician. If your doctor determines that you have osteopenia, they may recommend the following:

  • Starting an osteopenia diet that increases your intake of vitamin D and calcium (including orange juice, vitamin-fortified breads and cereals, dried beans, spinach, broccoli, and wild-caught salmon)
  • Safe sun exposure to help your body produce vitamin D
  • Taking vitamin D and calcium supplements if necessary (intake from food is preferred)
  • Increasing the amount of weight-bearing exercise you get daily

With proper diet and exercise, patients can stabilize their osteopenia and possibly even improve it. The key is to identify the condition early and address it.

If you have osteopenia or osteoporosis, you should also take action to minimize your risk of falls at home. This includes having adequate lighting to see tripping/slipping hazards, putting railings in showers and other areas, using non-skid rugs, etc.

Learn More About Osteopenia from Baptist Health

Osteopenia is a condition that puts you at risk of injury and may increase your likelihood of developing osteoporosis. Learn more about osteopenia on the Baptist Health website or talk with your Baptist Health doctor.

If you don’t have a primary care physician, locate one near you using our online provider directory.


Common Types of Headaches

It’s normal to have an occasional headache. Typically, it’s easy to see the cause: sinus infection, fever, allergies, caffeine withdrawal, hunger, hangover, etc. These are temporary conditions you can alleviate with over-over-the-counter pain relievers, rest, and hydration. 

However, if you have more persistent headaches, that can be more problematic, especially if they put you “out of commission” for a significant time. And recurring headaches can indicate an underlying or chronic condition that should be addressed.

Headache Types

There are several types of headaches. Some of the most common are:

  • Migraine headaches
  • Tension headaches
  • Hormone headaches
  • Exertion headaches
  • Cluster headaches
  • Allergy/sinus headaches
  • Caffeine headaches
  • Rebound headaches
  • Hemicrania continua headaches
  • Hypertension headaches
  • Post-traumatic headaches
  • Spinal headaches
  • Thunderclap headaches
  • Ice pick headaches
  • Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) headaches

Doctors use various characteristics to categorize and diagnose headaches, including pain location, pain type (dull, sharp, etc.), cause, and others. However, beyond addressing any underlying condition, the treatment is similar for each and includes pain relievers and rest.

Common types of headaches.

Migraine headaches

Migraine headaches produce intense, throbbing pain experienced deep in your head and often on one side. They can resolve relatively quickly or last for days. Migraine headaches may be preceded by visual disturbances (an aura) and cause nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to sound and light. 

Triggers include hormonal changes, dehydration, sleep disruption, certain foods, and chemical exposure. 

Tension headaches

People typically experience tension headaches as a dull, aching pain distributed all over their head. They may also have tenderness in their shoulder muscles, neck, scalp, and forehead. 

The most common trigger is stress. 

Hormone headaches

Hormone headaches are more common in women and are associated with hormone fluctuations due to menstruation, pregnancy, and using birth control pills — all of which can affect estrogen levels. 

When hormone headaches occur in sync with a woman’s menstrual cycle, they’re called menstrual migraines. 

Exertion headaches

These headaches, which people typically experience as throbbing on the sides of their head, follow periods of exertion, such as intense exercise, sex, and other physical activities. Experts believe that the effort increases blood flow to the skull and triggers a headache.

Tension headaches typically persist for a few minutes to several hours. 

Cluster headaches

Cluster headaches cause intense, piercing pain and a burning sensation behind one eye or on one side of the face. The word “cluster” is used in the name because these headaches typically happen multiple times in a day, often around the same time. They may also cause drooping eyelids, nasal congestion or drainage, sound and light sensitivity, pale, sweaty skin, redness of the eyes or face, and restlessness.

Cluster headaches are three times more common in men and are more likely to occur in the spring and fall. 

Allergy/sinus headaches

These headaches are caused by an allergic reaction, with the pain developing in an X shape centered on the bridge of the nose and extending above and below the eyes. If you have seasonal allergies or chronic sinusitis, you’re more likely to develop this type of headache. 

Migraine headaches are commonly misdiagnosed as sinus headaches. 

Caffeine headaches

Having too much caffeine at one time or stopping your caffeine intake abruptly if you consume it regularly can cause headaches. That’s because caffeine affects blood flow to the brain and brain chemistry, and sudden changes can cause disruptions that trigger a headache. 

Rebound headaches

Rebound headaches typically result from the overuse of medication. They can produce a dull ache or sharp pain. Taking over-the-counter pain relievers (ibuprofen, acetaminophen, etc.) more than 15 days a month may increase your risk of rebound headaches. Medications containing caffeine can also cause these headaches. 

Hemicrania continua headaches

This uncommon headache persists on one side of the head for three months or more. It typically causes pain of moderate intensity with periodic spikes. Women are twice as likely to get hemicrania continua headaches, which may also cause eyelid drooping, nasal congestion, runny nose, eye tearing or redness, pupil constriction, and restlessness. 

Hypertension headaches

This type of headache occurs in people with high blood pressure, requiring urgent medical care. These headaches are caused by blood pressure that gets dangerously high. The pain pulsates, typically on both sides of the head, and worsens with activity. 

If you or someone with you develops a hypertension headache, go immediately to an emergency room, or call 911.

Post-traumatic headaches

Post-traumatic headaches develop after head injuries. The pain is like tension or migraine headaches and can last a year after the injury. In some instances, these headaches become chronic.

Spinal headaches

Low cerebrospinal fluid pressure following a lumbar puncture causes spinal headaches. Also called postdural puncture headaches, they can produce pain in the temples, forehead, back of the head, and upper neck.

Typical onset is within two or three days after the procedure and may include other symptoms like nausea, visual changes, dizziness, ringing in the ears, hearing loss, neck pain, and pain that radiates into the arms.

Thunderclap headaches

These excruciating headaches come on quickly, reaching peak intensity in less than a minute. They may be harmless or associated with a serious underlying condition like a stroke, brain injury, blood vessel problem, reversible vasoconstriction syndrome (RCVS), vasculitis, or pituitary apoplexy (bleeding from or into an organ). 

If you experience a thunderclap headache and have not had one before, you should seek immediate medical attention.

Ice pick headaches

As the name suggests, these headaches produce stabbing pain. It comes in short, intense flares individually or in a series. The headaches may occur multiple times daily. It’s common for the pain to develop in different spots on the head. Pain consistently in one location may indicate an underlying condition.  

TMJ headaches

TMJ headaches result from stress, jaw clenching, or a poor bite. Sometimes people with these headaches also experience a painful clicking when they open their jaw. In most instances, TMJ headaches can be treated with relaxation techniques like meditation or yoga and a bite plate. In severe cases, surgery may be needed to correct the bite.

Talk with Your Baptist Health Physician to Understand and Manage Headaches

Minor and infrequent headaches generally aren’t cause for concern. But if you have frequent or intense headaches, you should talk with your doctor.

They can gather information from you, perform an exam, and order tests if needed to diagnose your condition. Then they can prescribe treatment to minimize or eliminate your headache pain. Your doctor may also refer you to a neurologist for specialized treatment.


Why You Need Probiotics

Probiotics are “good” bacteria or yeast that live in your body. They’re found in several places, including your gut, skin, lungs, mouth, urinary tract, and vagina. Unlike the harmful versions we associate with germs and infections, probiotics are safe for consumption and provide several health benefits. 

You can get probiotics from various foods and supplements.  

What Do Probiotics Do?

Definitive research on the positive health effects of probiotics is still needed. However, many studies have indicated a strong potential for these benefits:

  • Relieving or eliminating the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Treating diarrhea, especially when associated with antibiotics
  • Aiding in the digestion of lactose and generally supporting good digestive function
  • Increasing immune system effectiveness
  • Helping keep good and bad gut bacteria in balance
  • Preventing colds and allergies
  • Improving bone health
  • Improving vaginal and urinary tract health
  • Supporting heart health
  • Improving certain mental health conditions
  • Aiding in weight loss and belly fat reduction

Studies have also shown a minimal risk of side effects from consuming foods containing probiotics, and most adults can safely consume them. Of course, you should always talk with your primary care physician before making any significant changes to your diet.

How to Get Probiotics from Food

Listed below are five excellent sources of probiotics and their benefits.

  1. Yogurt. When buying yogurt, be sure to read the labels. Look for live cultured and handmade yogurt, as it’s the best probiotic source. Otherwise, you may be consuming lots of artificial sweeteners and high fructose corn syrup. Yogurt can improve bone health and lessen irritable bowel syndrome symptoms.
  2. Sauerkraut. Unpasteurized fermented cabbage is rich in live cultures. It also minimizes the effects of allergies and is high in vitamins B, A, E, and C. Vitamin B converts food into fuel, allowing our bodies to stay energized. Vitamin A aids in bone growth and immune system function. Vitamin E is rich in antioxidants that reduce cell-damaging particles, while vitamin C protects against immune system deficiencies and cardiovascular disease.
  3. Pickles. Like their cousin fermented cabbage, pickles are a great source of probiotics. Most contain healthy microbes, but the less commercialized pickles are, the more probiotics they have. Some of their benefits include improved intestinal tract health, cancer risk reduction, and improved mental health.
  4. Cheese. Cottage cheese, gouda, cheddar, and mozzarella cheese contain probiotics.  While not many good bacteria survive the aging process, these specific cheeses are a great source of probiotics. When purchasing cheese, check the labels for active cultures or the words “made from raw milk” and “organic.” The probiotics found in these cheeses have been linked to a reduction in immunosenescence — the process of losing our natural immunity as we age. 
  5. Miso. This Japanese seasoning is made by fermenting soybeans with salt and the fungus koji. This paste is often used in miso soup. Miso isn’t just full of good bacteria. It also contains various vitamins and is linked to a reduced risk of stroke.

When to Take Probiotics

Sometimes it’s necessary to use an antibiotic to kill harmful bacteria in the body. However, probiotics — from supplements to fortified foods — can also play an essential role in helping us feel our best.

“Probiotics take what our body considers good bacteria and put it into the stomach, small intestine, and large intestine,” says Reggie Lyell, MD, a family medicine specialist with Baptist Health Medical Group Family Medicine in Corydon.

When digestive enzymes are out of whack from stress, lack of sleep, or other factors, probiotics “throw it back into a more positive balance,” he says. The result can be less bloating, nausea, cramping, and diarrhea.

Patients often ask Dr. Lyell whether to use a probiotic or an antibiotic. “When you have a correctly diagnosed bacterial infection, probiotics are not a substitute for an antibiotic,” he cautions. Probiotics are for staying well, whereas antibiotics are for fighting confirmed bacterial infections to get well.

Learn More About Nutrition from Baptist Health

Eating a healthy diet is essential for being healthy and feeling your best. Our nutrition experts can provide valuable information on nutrition, diets, and more. Contact us today. 


What Is Postnasal Drip?

The body produces mucus for many reasons, including that it helps moisten inhaled air and the surface of airways, traps and helps expel particles, and fights infection. 

Postnasal drip is a condition where glands in the lining of your nose make excess mucus and drips down the back of your throat. Most people find postnasal drip to be an unpleasant sensation that causes other bothersome symptoms. 

Postnasal Drip Symptoms

The draining of excess mucus into the throat can produce several symptoms, including: 

  • Persistent urge to clear your throat or swallow
  • Hoarseness or gurgling sound when you speak
  • Cough that worsens at night
  • Halitosis (bad breath)
  • Nausea and vomiting

In addition, if mucus plugs the Eustachian tubes that connect your middle ear to your nose and throat, the blockage increases your risk of developing an ear infection

What Causes Postnasal Drip?

Several issues and conditions can cause you to develop postnasal drip. One of the most common is allergies. Others include: 

  • Cold temperatures
  • Dry air
  • Bacterial infections
  • Specific prescription medications, including blood pressure drugs and birth control pills
  • Sinusitis (sinus infections)
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Deviated septum (misalignment of the cartilage divider between the nostrils) 
  • Pregnancy
  • Eating spicy foods
  • Getting older

Postnasal drip can even be caused by exposure to bright lights. 

How Is Postnasal Drip Diagnosed?

If you experience frequent or bothersome postnasal drip, you should talk with your doctor. They can do a general examination of your nose, throat, and ears to determine if that’s what’s causing your symptoms. 

Your doctor can also do a more detailed assessment of your nose and throat using an endoscope. If appropriate, they may order X-rays to help diagnose your condition. 

How Is Postnasal Drip Treated?

Doctors reduce or eliminate postnasal drip by addressing the root cause. For example, if allergies are causing your condition, your doctor can prescribe medications like antihistamines and decongestants to manage them. Similarly, they can prescribe antibiotics if a bacterial infection is causing your condition.

Reducing postnasal drip from GERD may require changing your diet, losing weight, and reducing your consumption of caffeine and alcohol. For a deviated septum, surgery to reposition the cartilage can be effective.

In addition to those treatments, you can reduce your postnasal drip by drinking warm fluids like tea or soup. This helps thin your mucus and minimize its negative impact on your comfort. It’s also helpful to keep your home and work environment clean and dust-free and to shower before going to bed to remove allergens and other irritants from your skin and hair that you may have picked up if you’ve spent time outdoors. 

And for occasional temporary postnasal drip, you can use over-the-counter decongestants and other medications as directed to reduce your symptoms. 

Talk with Your Baptist Health Physician About Postnasal Drip

If you experience postnasal drip frequently or continually, your Baptist Health physician can determine what’s causing it and prescribe treatment. If you don’t have a doctor, you can find one near you using our online provider directory.


How to Know if You Have a Concussion

A concussion is a traumatic brain injury that occurs when the brain is shaken within the skull. This can be caused by a blow to the head, a fall, a car accident, or any forceful impact. A person who suffers a severe concussion may lose consciousness, but that isn’t always the case.

Concussions are common in contact sports like football, soccer, and boxing, and while most cause only temporary effects, they make the brain more susceptible to future injuries. Consequently, it’s critical that concussions are correctly diagnosed and treated. It’s also important that the person has fully healed before returning to normal activities, particularly those where a head injury may occur.

Concussion Symptoms

If you or someone you’re with suffers a head injury, you should be alert for concussion symptoms. They include:

  • Temporary loss of consciousness
  • Headache or feeling of pressure in the head
  • Amnesia
  • Coordination or balance problems
  • Blurred vision
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Slurred speech
  • Sensitivity to light and sound
  • Memory and concentration issues
  • Confusion
  • Dazed appearance
  • Slowed response to questions
  • Mood/behavioral changes, including depression
  • Pupils that are dilated or of unequal size
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability or agitation
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Sleep problems

In rare instances, a concussion may cause seizures.

Keep in mind that there may be differences from person to person or incident to incident in how long after hitting your head concussion symptoms start. If any of the symptoms above are present after a head trauma, it’s essential to get prompt medical attention.

Your doctor will assess your condition based on information like where you hit your head, whether you lost consciousness, and how you felt after the incident, as well as your results on neurologic tests. Information from people who witnessed the injury may also help with the diagnosis. 

In cases of severe head trauma, tests like a computer tomography (CT) scan, X-ray, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be performed to check for issues such as a skull fracture or spinal injury.

Concussion Treatment

There was a time when people with head injuries, particularly athletes, were told to “shake it off” and get back to what they were doing. That approach is very dangerous and can lead to further injury and brain damage.

Today, following a concussion, patients are advised to:

  • Avoid physically demanding activities, tasks that require a high degree of concentration, and any activity that increases the risk of head trauma.
  • Get plenty of rest, including adequate sleep at night and rest breaks or naps during the day.
  • Talk with employers or teachers about temporarily reducing their workload during recovery.
  • Limit the amount of time spent using electronic devices like computers, mobile phones, TVs, and video games.

Concussions typically resolve on their own, though some patients may experience dizziness and balance problems that linger after other symptoms have gone away. You should contact your doctor if you experience ongoing issues.

Concussions in Children

Concussions can occur at any age. Those in children can be more difficult to identify, primarily because kids may not be able to express how they feel and the symptoms they’re experiencing after a head trauma. 

While there’s overlap in child and adult concussion symptoms, some, like crying, are typically exclusive to children. Kids may demonstrate these symptoms following a concussion:

  • Excessive crying
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea or dizziness
  • Headache
  • Irritability or mood changes
  • Change in sleep habits
  • Sensitivity to noise or light
  • Blurred vision
  • Confusion or trouble concentrating

If your child experiences these symptoms, you should contact their doctor immediately. And regardless of whether the injury rises to the level of a concussion, you should ensure the child gets ample rest to allow their brain to recover from the trauma. 

Preventing Concussions

There are many actions you can take to reduce the risk of concussions. 

To prevent falls at home that can lead to concussions:

  • Ensure your child’s play surfaces are soft and free of rocks, holes, and debris.
  • Use handrails when walking up and down stairs.
  • Have safety gates on stairs and safety guards on windows.
  • Use grab bars in the bathroom.
  • Place non-slip mats in the bathroom.
  • Keep walkways clear to prevent tripping.
  • Ensure rooms and hallways are well lit.

To prevent car accidents and associated head injuries:

  • Don’t drink alcohol and drive.
  • Don’t take medicines that may make you sleepy, especially when driving or using heavy equipment.
  • Obey speed limits and other driving laws.
  • Use seatbelts and child safety seats.

To prevent concussions in sports and recreational activities:

  • Wear appropriate protective gear and ensure that your child does, too. Confirm that the equipment fits properly, is well maintained, and is worn correctly.
  • Wear a helmet when riding a bike, skateboard, or motorcycle or when playing contact sports.
  • Wear mouthguards, face shields, pads, and other safety gear while playing contact sports.

If you suspect that you or someone else has a concussion, see a doctor. Call 911 if the symptoms are severe. It’s especially important to be aware of concussion symptoms in high-risk sports. Football has the highest concussion risk for males (75% chance for concussion), while soccer poses the highest concussion risk for females (50% chance).

Get Checked for a Concussion at Baptist Health

Knowing the concussion symptoms to look for following a head trauma is helpful. But if you suspect a concussion in yourself or your child, you should seek medical attention. A doctor can diagnose your condition and tell you what to do if you have a concussion. 

The doctor you see initially may also refer you to a specialist called a neurologist if your case calls for further testing and assessment. 


What Does the Thyroid Do?

The thyroid is a gland in the front of your neck that’s part of the body’s endocrine system. About two inches long and butterfly-shaped, it plays a vital role in managing your metabolism. 

How the Thyroid Works

The thyroid produces two hormones that affect things like how deeply you breathe, how fast your heart beats, and your body weight. Referred to as T-3 and T-4, these hormones also help control cholesterol levels, body temperature, and women’s menstrual cycles

Another gland — the pituitary gland — communicates with the thyroid, telling it how much T-3 and T-4 your body needs.  

General Symptoms of Thyroid Problems

Improper thyroid function can affect many areas in the body. Symptoms include:

  • Exhaustion. Your thyroid may be underactive if you’re still tired in the morning or all day after a full night’s sleep. With hyperthyroidism, you may experience insomnia that leaves you exhausted during the day.
  • Anxiety or depression. Mood issues can be symptoms of thyroid disease.
  • Swollen neck. Thyroid disease can produce swelling in the neck that causes a hoarse voice and difficulty swallowing. 
  • Muscle or joint pain. Improper thyroid functioning can cause pain in your muscles and joints.
  • Dry skin or hair loss. Thyroid disease often affects the skin and hair. Your skin may become dry and scaly. Your hair may thin and start to fall out.
  • Bowel problems. People with hypothyroidism often experience constipation. An overactive thyroid gland can cause diarrhea or more frequent bowel movements.
  • Menstrual issues. Heavier and more frequent periods are linked to hypothyroidism. Women with hyperthyroidism often experience shorter, lighter, or infrequent periods.
  • Weight gain or loss. Unexplained weight gain is one of the top reasons women see their doctor. It’s also one of the leading indicators of an underactive thyroid. Unexplained weight loss can also indicate a thyroid problem.
  • High cholesterol. High cholesterol levels unresponsive to diet, exercise, or cholesterol-lowering medications can be signs of undiagnosed hypothyroidism.

Common Thyroid Conditions

Some of the most common thyroid problems include:

Hypothyroidism 

When your thyroid doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormones, you may experience weight gain, tiredness, feeling cold, poor concentration, and depression.

Hyperthyroidism   

If your thyroid is producing too much thyroid hormone, symptoms include weight loss, feeling uncomfortably warm, anxiety, and, in some cases, sore eyes or the feeling that they are gritty.

Goiter  

A goiter is when a problem with your thyroid causes it to swell, causing a hoarse voice, coughing, and trouble swallowing. Goiters can also result from lack of iodine, which the thyroid gland needs to function properly. However, most people in the U.S. get enough iodine because it’s an additive in table salt. 

Nodules and thyroid cancer

Nodules are growths that develop on the thyroid gland. In some cases, they can be cancerous.

Thyroid eye disease

Thyroid eye disease (TED) is caused by an overactive thyroid resulting from Graves’ disease. Symptoms include intolerance of bright light, bulging eyes, watery eyes or dryness and grittiness, eyelid redness and swelling, and bags under the eyes.

Postpartum thyroiditis

This is a temporary condition that can happen following childbirth. Symptoms include muscle weakness, anxiety, nervousness, weight loss, rapid heartbeat, inability to focus, and feeling uncomfortably warm.  

Diagnosing and Treating Thyroid Problems

If you experience symptoms of thyroid disease, your doctor will ask you about them, talk with you about any family history of thyroid problems, and examine your neck. They’ll order a blood test if they feel you may have hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism. 

This test measures hormone levels to determine if your thyroid is producing too little or too much T-3 and T-4. It also assesses pituitary gland activity by measuring thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). One blood test is typically sufficient to diagnose thyroid problems, but additional tests may sometimes be required.

The good news about thyroid problems is that they are treatable. Often, treatment involves daily medication, but other interventions like surgery may be used if appropriate.

Talk With Your Baptist Health Physician About Thyroid Problems

Thyroid disease is common and treatable. If you’re experiencing symptoms, contact your Baptist Health physician. They’ll diagnose your problem and provide a treatment plan, often in collaboration with a specialist called an endocrinologist.

If you don’t have a primary care physician, locate a doctor near you using our online provider directory.


Headache Causes

If you get headaches occasionally, they might be a minor issue you endure or treat with an over-the-counter pain reliever. But if they’re frequent or intense, your doctor can determine the cause, recommend steps to prevent them, and prescribe appropriate treatments.

Why Do I Have a Headache?

If your headaches are troublesome, you may wonder what causes them. Primary headaches are caused by temporary problems with chemical activity in the brain, nerves or blood vessels in the skull or neck, or a combination of these factors.

Lifestyle factors can increase the likelihood of experiencing headaches. They include things like:

  • Alcohol consumption
  • Exertion (like from especially vigorous exercise) 
  • Skipped meals
  • Lack of sleep
  • Persistent coughing or sneezing
  • Dehydration
  • Nicotine consumption

Other somewhat surprising headache causes include:

  • Warm temperatures that dilate blood vessels in the brain
  • Returning to a stressful job after a relaxing weekend or vacation
  • Foods containing preservatives or additives (lunch meats, bacon, and ham, for example)
  • Neck strain from tilting your head to read text messages, cradle your phone against your shoulder, etc.
  • “Rebound headaches” from treating an initial headache with over-the-counter pain relievers

Another category called secondary headaches are symptoms of conditions that trigger pain-related nerves in the head. They can be caused by minor medical issues such as nasal and sinus infections, ear infections, or flu. They may also be symptoms of more serious medical problems, including high blood pressure, brain tumors, concussions, strokes, and meningitis. 

How to Reduce Your Headache Risk

Preventing secondary headaches requires working with your doctor to diagnose and address the underlying conditions. 

You can reduce your risk of primary headaches by doing the following in your home:

  • Reduce light intensity. People who suffer from intense headaches are often sensitive to bright light, and the glare from bulbs or even sunlight can cause a headache. The flickering of fluorescent lights can also be a trigger. Dim incandescent bulbs (the lower the wattage, the better) are preferable to halogens and fluorescents because they emit a steadier, more muted light.
  • Avoid allergens. If you suffer from allergies, your triggers can lead to headaches, too. Irritants such as dust mites, pet dander, and mold inflame your nasal passages, which can cause a headache. Also, allergy-related congestion can cause a painful buildup of pressure in your nasal passages and sinuses. Consider investing in a high-quality vacuum and an air purifier with HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filters. HEPA filters remove up to 99% of airborne allergens.
  • Eliminate strong smells. The air quality inside most homes can be worse than it is outside. Levels of common pollutants such as formaldehyde are two to five times higher indoors, primarily because of inadequate ventilation. Masking odors with scented candles and air fresheners often makes matters worse. Intense aromas of any kind irritate the trigeminal nerve. It runs from your nose to your brain and is responsible for most headaches. Use an air purifier with a carbon filter to reduce headache-causing odors.
  • Decrease the light output from screens. Like lightbulbs, glowing screens (phones, laptops, tablets, etc.) can overstimulate your brain. Adjust the brightness setting on your devices and get a glare-reducing filter for your monitor. 
  • Maintain good posture. When using a computer or watching TV, use a seat with good back support. Also, take a break approximately every 20 minutes to loosen your back, shoulder, neck, and head muscles.
  • Stay hydrated. Drinking water consistently throughout the day can help prevent dehydration headaches. 
  • Avoid food triggers. Keep a journal to determine which foods (if any) increase your headache risk and eliminate those items from your diet.

Talk with Your Baptist Health Physician About Headache Causes and Treatments

If you experience frequent or particularly painful headaches, it’s a good idea to talk with your doctor. You can find a primary care physician using our online provider directory.

They can do a physical exam and run tests if appropriate to determine what’s causing them. Then, they can provide recommendations for preventing your headaches, if possible, and treatments to provide headache relief as needed. They may also refer you to a specialist called a neurologist

If you experience a sudden, excruciatingly painful headache or one accompanied by confusion, memory loss, high fever, slurred speech, vision changes, loss of balance, numbness, or weakness (particularly on one side of your body), or other concerning symptoms, you should seek immediate medical care. 


What Causes Breast Cancer and How Can I Lower My Risk?

Breast cancer develops when cells in one or both breasts start growing out of control. It can also metastasize, meaning it spreads to other parts of the body. The disease occurs primarily in women, but it can occur in men. 

Why does one person develop breast cancer when another doesn’t? Several factors affect your breast cancer risk. Some you can’t change, but others you can.  

Breast Cancer Risk Factors You Can’t Change

Your chance of developing breast cancer is higher if you have any of these risk factors:

  • You’re over 50.
  • You have specific gene mutations, such as inherited differences in BRCA1 and BRCA2.
  • You’ve had breast cancer before or certain non-cancerous breast issues like lobular carcinoma in situ or atypical hyperplasia.
  • You’ve had more prolonged exposure to reproductive hormones due to having menstrual periods before age 12, starting menopause after 55, or both.
  • You have had a miscarriage. 
  • You have dense breast tissue. 
  • You were exposed to the drug diethylstilbestrol (DES) used up to 1971 to reduce the risk of miscarriage. 
  • You had radiation therapy to the breasts or chest before age 30. 

Family history is also important. Many women wonder about their risk of breast cancer if their mother had breast cancer. Having close relatives who’ve had the disease does increase your risk. That’s why it’s a good idea to learn about your family history of breast and other cancers so you can discuss it with your doctor.

Does soy increase breast cancer risk?

One risk factor about which there’s confusion is consuming soy. Studies on rodents have found that high doses of compounds in soy called isoflavones increased breast cancer risk in the animals. However, rodents process soy differently than humans. Consequently, soy foods are generally considered safe and healthy. But if you’re thinking about taking a soy supplement, you should discuss the benefits and risks with your doctor. 

Breast Cancer Risk Factors You Can Change

The good news about breast cancer risk is several factors are within your control, including: 

  • You aren’t physically active. 
  • You’re overweight or obese after menopause.  
  • You take certain hormones for more than five years, like hormone replacement therapies.
  • You use certain birth control pills. 
  • You drink alcohol.
  • You’ve been a smoker for 10 years or more.
  • You get pregnant for the first time after age 30.
  • You don’t breastfeed your baby.   

Knowing there are factors you can address to lower your breast cancer risk can provide powerful peace of mind if you’re concerned about your chances of developing the disease.

How to Lower Your Breast Cancer Risk

Take action to lower your breast cancer risk using these strategies:

  • Maintain a healthy weight. Being active and eating a healthy diet can help you control your weight. 
  • Breastfeed your babies. Breastfeeding lowers your breast cancer risk, regardless of your age when you give birth.
  • Drink less alcohol. Cutting back to one drink per day or abstaining lowers your risk. 
  • Quit smoking. It’s not easy, but quitting lowers your risk of breast cancer and provides other health benefits.
  • Get proper nutrition. Making vegetables and fruits the foundation of your daily diet can help you maintain a healthy weight and get the nutrients your body needs. Some women get more fruit into their diet by making fruit smoothies. 
  • Choose the right dietary fats. There are unhealthy fats (those with omega-6 fatty acids) and healthy fats (containing omega-3s). Consuming less sunflower, safflower, corn, and cottonseed oils and more fish and nuts reduces your risk. 
  • Take up an engaging after-dinner hobby. Nighttime snacking is a habit that makes it hard to maintain a healthy weight. Having an activity you enjoy, like a gentle yoga stretching routine, can help minimize snacking.  
  • Perform breast self-exams (BSE) frequently. While this won’t technically reduce your risk of developing cancer, it reduces your risk of cancer going undetected and becoming harder to treat. 
  • Get regular mammograms. Here again, this practice can help your doctor detect cancer when it’s most treatable. 

When to Contact Your Doctor About Breast Cancer and the Risks

If you have questions about breast cancer or your risk, your Baptist Health physician is happy to answer them. If you don’t have a doctor, you can find one using our online provider directory.

Contact your doctor right away if you notice any of the following symptoms in your breasts: 

  • A lump, hard knot, or thickening tissue
  • Swelling, warmth, redness, or darkening
  • Dimpling, puckering of the skin
  • An itchy, scaly, sore, or rash on the nipple
  • A pulling in of your nipple or other area of the breast
  • Sudden nipple discharge
  • New pain in one spot that doesn’t go away