Author Archives: Christina Corey

Alcohol Awareness Month in Beer City – how much is too much

By Jason T. Cook, MD

Living in the vacation hotspot we lovingly know as Asheville, we often find ourselves surrounded by various forms of alcohol. Whether it’s a new brewery, a hot new restaurant serving craft cocktails, or the Thirsty Thursday dollar beer night at the Asheville Tourists baseball club, sometimes it seems like all Asheville does is drink.

It’s one thing if you visit for a week of vacation once a year, but it’s another thing altogether if it is part of your everyday life. Alcohol occupies an interesting place in our collective psyche as Americans: it is often thought to be perfectly acceptable, sometimes encouraged as a social norm, sometimes even promoted to have health benefits. One thing we do know is that America likes alcohol. It is the most commonly-used addictive substance in the United States, with over $220 billion in annual US sales.

So, is alcohol good or bad? Most physicians think that alcohol in moderation is okay for many adults, but there are millions of Americans for whom a drink is not just a casual social lubricant. Over 17 million people in the US suffer from alcohol abuse of dependence, and millions more engage in binge drinking patterns that can lead to dependence. The disease of alcoholism affects all aspects of a person’s life, causing physical and mental illnesses, ruining families, careers, and finances. Alcohol overuse causes 88,000 deaths annually, and it is the 3rd leading preventable cause of death in the US.

How much is too much? The concept of moderate drinking is often misunderstood. The general medical recommendation for alcohol moderation is no more than 14 drinks a week for men or 7 drinks a week for women, on average. It also stipulates that on any single occasion, men should limit their intake to no more than 4 drinks, and women should have no more than 3 drinks. Also, people often have different ideas about what constitutes “one drink.” Technically, a drink is defined as 12 ounces of beer or malt beverage, 5 oz of wine, or 1.5 oz of liquor. So remember, that 32 oz beer on special at the Mexican restaurant is actually almost 3 drinks, and there are in fact 5 glasses of wine in a standard 750ml bottle.

Even with that recommendation, deciding if a person drinks too much can be more complicated. Alcoholism is not just defined by how much, for how long, or what type of alcohol a person drinks, but also why they drink. Alcoholics often use drinking to attempt to treat underlying stress or other mental health problems, to numb themselves from certain unpleasant feelings, or just to satisfy an intense, unexplainable craving. Several types of validated screening questionnaires have been developed to help physicians and patients determine if someone’s drinking behavior is problematic, and we regularly use these in our offices.

If you are concerned about how alcohol is affecting your life or that of a loved one, please don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with your primary care provider. You may also read more about alcoholism at www.ncadd.org .

Best of WNC 2018 – We appreciate your vote!

Did you know that The Family Health Centers was voted “#1 Family Medical Practice in Western North Carolina” by readers of the Mountain Xpress in 2016 and 2017?  We could not be more grateful – or humbled – by this honor. We hope to have earned your vote again this year. To cast your vote for 2018, visit https://mountainx.com/bestofwnc/

Thanks for being a patient of The Family Health Centers! 

March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month

By Alan Baumgarten, MD, MPH

March is colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and a great time to raise awareness about this preventable disease.
Colorectal Cancer is the third most common cancer in the United States and among cancers that affect both men and women, colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths. Colorectal Cancer affects people in all racial and ethnic groups and the risk of developing colorectal cancer increases with advancing age. More than 90 percent of cases are in people aged 50 and older.

So here is the good news, if everyone age 50 and older were screened regularly, 6 out of 10 deaths from colorectal cancer could be prevented. The providers and staff of The Family Health Centers can work with you and your family members to insure that you receive the right colorectal screening test at exactly the right time.

What is Colon Cancer Screening?
• If you’re aged 50 to 75, get screened for colorectal cancer regularly. If you’re between 76 and 85, ask your doctor if you should be screened.
• Some people are at a higher risk than others for developing colorectal cancer. If you think you may be at increased risk, talk to your doctor about when to begin screening, which test is right for you, and how often to get tested.
• There are several screening test options. Talk with your FHC provider about which is right for you.
• Colonoscopy (every 10 years).
• High-sensitivity guaiac fecal occult blood test (FOBT) or fecal immunochemical test (FIT) (every year).
• Sigmoidoscopy (every 10 years, with FOBT or FIT every three years).
• Sigmoidoscopy alone (every 5 years).
• Stool DNA test (FIT-DNA) every one or three years (Cologuard).
• CT colonography (or virtual colonoscopy) every five years.

Other Colorectal Facts
Precancerous polyps and colorectal cancer don’t always cause symptoms, especially at first. You could have polyps or colorectal cancer and not know it. That is why having a screening test is so important.
Symptoms that you should ask your FHC provider about include—
• Blood in or on the stool (bowel movement).
• Stomach pain, aches, or cramps that do not go away.
• Losing weight and you don’t know why.
These symptoms may be caused by something other than cancer. So if you have questions, see your FHC provider.

What You Can Do To Prevent Colorectal Cancer?
• Be physically active.
• Maintain a healthy weight.
• Don’t drink too much alcohol.
• Don’t smoke.
• Follow a diet that is high in fiber and low in saturated fats.

Remember
Colorectal cancer screening saves lives. It is one of only a few cancers that can be prevented through screening.

February is American Heart Month

By Lisa Choe Scott, MD, The Family Health Centers

The month of February reminds us of Cupid, love, chocolates and red hearts. But did you know there is another reason to go red?

February 2, 2018 is the 15th annual National Wear Red Day. Unfortunately, 1 in 3 women die from heart disease or stroke. Women show different symptoms with these events compared to men, so they sometimes don’t notice the symptoms or will write them off as something else.  For this reason, National Wear Red Day was started to raise awareness of heart disease.  More on heart attack symptoms in women here.

Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in men and women. On average someone dies of heart disease every 40 seconds, but this can be prevented by educating ourselves about and taking action.

How can we improve our heart health?

1. Schedule a visit with your doctor for a regular check up. We can work with you to establish goals to improve your heart health.

2. Add exercise to your routine. Start slow if this isn’t already in your routine. You can begin with walking 15 minutes 3 days a week, and work your way up to 30 minutes over the course of the next few weeks. Any activity is better than none!

3. Take steps to quit smoking. If you are currently smoking, cut back or quit to decrease your risk of heart disease and stroke significantly.

4. Increase healthy eating habits. Decrease the fast-food runs, and plan to cook at home at least 3 times a week. Decrease salt in your favorite recipes and replace it with fresh herbs and spices. You can also cook in advance over the weekend and eat leftovers during the week if time is a constraint during your work week. Weekly meal planning and on-the-go snacks can significantly reduce not only your fast food intake, but also your monthly food bills.

5. Take your medications as prescribed. Medications for high blood pressure and cholesterol are important to decreasing your risks for strokes or heart attacks. Talk to your doctor about the medications you are on, and never quit taking these meds on your own.

On Friday February 2nd, The Family Health Centers team will wear red  to raise this awareness, as we strive to work with you to improve heart health. So, are you ready to go red? We are!