UK scientists are encouraging Kentuckians to take precautions to prevent mosquito bites, which can cause irritation and spread disease.

Protect yourself against mosquito bites this summer

Recent warm weather and heavy rains have given mosquitoes a head start on summer, UK scientists say. Thanks to the weather, mosquitoes are appearing earlier than normal this year, and UK entomologists are encouraging Kentuckians to take precautions to prevent mosquito bites on themselves and their families.

Mosquito bites can cause skin irritation in the form of itchy, red bumps at the location of the bites, and the insects can also spread harmful diseases like Zika, West Nile virus and others.

Mosquitoes’ early arrival

This past week, UK entomologists captured Asian tiger mosquitoes in Central Kentucky. These mosquitoes normally appear in this area in mid-June, and populations begin to climb throughout the summer, peaking in late July and early August. The mosquitoes tend to arrive in Western Kentucky a little earlier and appear in Eastern Kentucky a little later than in Central Kentucky.

This Asian tiger mosquito is responsible for 85 percent of the bites Kentuckians receive.

“The Asian tiger mosquito is opportunistic; it feeds on several species of animals in addition to humans,” said Lee Townsend, UK extension entomologist. “It tends to bite humans around the ankles, an area that is often overlooked when applying repellents.”

Tips for protection

Take the following measures to protect yourself and loved ones this summer:

  • Use Environmental Protection Agency-registered insect repellents.
  • Drain any standing water, as it is a potential breeding site for mosquitoes. This includes bird baths, bottles and any other items with water-holding capacity like old tires or trash.
  • Fill in holes, depressions and puddles in yards.
  • Keep gutters in proper working order.
  • Make sure door and window screens are in good condition.
  • Stay indoors between 4 and 8 p.m. when mosquitoes are most active.
  • Wear pants and long-sleeve shirts when outdoors.

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Ask about your family's health history. Knowing it gives you and your doctor crucial information that will guide your healthcare plan.

Knowing your family’s health history can help you stay healthier

Written by Dr. Gretchen Wells, director of the Women’s Heart Health Program at the UK Gill Heart and Vascular Institute.

Dr. Gretchen Wells

Women tend to be the keepers of family history. Some of that information is fun, like your first words or your brother’s sports awards. But mothers can also have information that could help reduce your risk of heart disease. Many of us talked to our mothers this past Mother’s Day, but the next time you speak with your mom, make sure to talk about your family health history.

Ask her: Did your grandfather have a heart attack? Did your aunt have a stroke? Did any of your family members have diabetes? How old were they when this happened? The answers to these questions can help you understand your own disease risk.

Your family history gives you and your doctor crucial information that will guide your healthcare plan. While you can’t counteract your genetics, if you have a family history of heart disease, you can change your behavior to reduce your risk. By committing to healthier habits for yourself – such as improved diet, more exercise and quitting smoking – you also become a role model for family members who share your genetic traits.

Even if your family has a clean bill of health, there are other factors, such as race or ethnicity, that can increase your risk for heart disease. For example, African-Americans have higher risks for diabetes, high blood pressure and stroke. One in three Hispanics will suffer from high blood pressure, and nearly half will have high cholesterol levels.

A family history can be helpful for more than just heart disease, since genetics can play a role in many other diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, some cancers and osteoporosis.

If your mother can’t answer these questions, ask your father, an aunt or other family member what they know, and then share this information with your healthcare provider, who can tailor a plan to help you counteract the potential negative effects of your genetics.

Heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death in the U.S., and stroke is No. 5. Knowing your family’s health history is one important step to help you avoid these devastating diseases.


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We know that quitting smoking isn’t easy, so we’ve put together a list of resources that can help you or someone you know start on the path toward success.

Be a quitter! Tips for finally conquering your smoking addiction

If you’re a smoker, you probably already know it’s not a healthy habit. The benefits of not smoking are vast, but the bottom line is this: if you stop smoking now, you’ll have a better quality of life and very likely have more years to live it.

We know that quitting smoking isn’t easy, but we’re here to help. We’ve put together a list of tips and resources that can help you or someone you know start on the path toward success. Check them out and pass them along to family and friends.

  • Learn about smoking-cessation aids. Quitting cold turkey isn’t the best option for everyone, and aids like nicotine patches, nicotine gum and medicines for withdrawal symptoms can help make quitting easier. At UK HealthCare, low-cost nicotine replacement products are available in our pharmacies and gift shops.
  • Make it through the hardest part. It’s often said that if you can make it through your first week of not smoking, when withdrawal symptoms are at their worst, you’ll be on your way to success. From establishing new morning routines and daily habits to exercising more, little lifestyle changes can help you get through the toughest part of your journey.
  • Consider your triggers. Different triggers make different people reach for a cigarette. Plan ahead for the things that cause you to smoke and come up with an alternative plan. Do you smoke during work breaks? Try taking a walk instead. Find a replacement, keep your hands busy, chew gum or take yourself to locations where smoking isn’t allowed.
  • Avoid smoke at all costs. Ask people not to smoke around you, and avoid those who do.
  • Don’t ignore your emotions. Quitting is stressful, and you’ll need to find ways of dealing with your feelings that don’t include cigarettes. Find someone to talk to about your feelings. Take slow, deep breaths, exercise or listen to calming music.
  • Realize that a relapse isn’t the end of the world. Don’t beat yourself up if you have a cigarette after quitting. Relapse is a common occurrence and nothing to be ashamed of. Understanding why you chose to smoke is often the key to preventing it from happening again. Treat a relapse like an emergency: Figure out what caused it, and come up with strategies to keep it from happening again.
  • Remind yourself why you’re quitting. Consider writing all your reasons on a piece of paper and keeping it in your purse or wallet. “My kids. My husband. My health. Feeling more energetic. Looking younger. Keeping my breath fresh …” List as many reasons as you can think of, then pull the card out when you’re craving a cigarette to remind yourself of your motivation.

From a healthier heart and lungs to whiter teeth and fewer wrinkles, you’ll reap major health benefits when you stop smoking.


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LSVT LOUD

UK speech-language pathologists work to help patients with communication issues

Written by Elizabeth Campbell, MA, CCC-SLP, a speech pathologist at the UK Voice & Swallow Clinic.

Liz Campbell, MA, CCC-SLP

For most of us, communication is something we take for granted. But for people with communication disorders, it can require extra assistance and hard work.

Each year during the month of May, speech-language pathologists and audiologists celebrate Better Hearing and Speech Month by raising awareness about people with communication disorders and promoting ways to improve their quality of life. This includes people with a variety of communication challenges that affect speech, language, voice, hearing, problem solving and other communicative functions.

Parkinson’s and communication challenges

You may already be familiar with one condition that can result in a communication disorder: Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s disease is a disorder of the brain that causes damage to specific nerve cells. This results in tremors, muscle weakness, stiff muscles, balance problems and difficulty walking.

Throughout the course of the illness, Parkinson’s disease can also negatively affect a person’s speech. For these patients, this impact can include a low speaking volume (called hypophonia), hoarseness, monotone voice quality and unclear words. Patients can also have difficulty coordinating their breathing and speaking. These changes can interfere with effective communication.

Imagine if others asked you to repeat yourself in a conversation, could not hear you on the phone or described your voice as monotone. Furthermore, imagine you are unable to monitor your own loudness. You would probably feel very frustrated trying to communicate. These are common problems for patients with Parkinson’s disease, making it difficult for them to improve their speech without assistance.

Treatment options

Fortunately, there are treatments that can help. One option is called Lee Silverman Voice Therapy, or LSVT LOUD. This program uses loud speech tasks to strengthen motor systems used for speech, with the goal of improving a patient’s ability to communicate. It follows a series of exercises that emphasize “thinking loud” by using healthy vocal loudness, not shouting or yelling.

Research shows that it helps patients speak more loudly, with more natural intonation and with a clearer voice. This program helps patients improve their awareness of their speaking volume by stimulating the sensory and motor systems. With louder and clearer speech, patients often become more confident in their communication. This improves quality of life for the patient and the people they communicate with.

LSVT LOUD therapy is specially designed for use with patients with Parkinson’s disease and has been studied by researchers for more than 20 years. Treatment is intensive and involves four sessions per week for four weeks. This is required for the brain to develop a better process for louder speech.

Patients who are interested in addressing their Parkinson’s-related speech changes will need an evaluation with an otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat doctor) to assess the voice box (larynx), as well as an evaluation with a speech-language pathologist who specializes in voice disorders. If LSVT LOUD therapy is recommended, patients should look for speech-language pathologists with an LSVT LOUD certification, as there is specific training that clinicians must complete before utilizing this program.


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April is Women’s Eye Health and Safety Month, the perfect time for women to learn more about eye issues that affect them more regularly than men.

Women, here’s what you should know about your eyes

Dr. Shaista Vally

Dr. Shaista Vally

Written by Shaista Vally, OD, an optometrist at UK Advanced Eye Care.

Eye health and vision issues can affect everyone, but there are certain conditions that are more common in women than in men. April is Women’s Eye Health and Safety Month and a great time for women to learn more about the issues that uniquely affect them.

Dry eyes, migraines

With women’s hormonal changes being so frequent throughout their lifetime, including changes associated with birth control, it’s no wonder that women experience eye and vision issues linked with hormonal changes. Two such issues include dry eyes and migraines.

Dry eyes can be annoying and debilitating, but the good news is that they are easy to treat. Artificial tears, emulsions, gels and ointments can offer relief for dry eyes. If heavy lubrication with artificial tear eye drops is not working to manage your symptoms of burning, redness and irritation, speak with your eye doctor about alternative treatment options.

Migraines are severe, painful headaches sometimes accompanied by symptoms of nausea, numbness, light and noise sensitivity, and vomiting. But they can also cause visual disturbances known as scintillating scotomas. These moving lights and patterns, sometimes called a visual aura, can mimic the signs of a retinal detachment or tear. If you see flashes of light or spots in your view, be sure to have a dilated eye exam within 24 hours of these symptoms.

Eye issues linked to obesity

With diabetes and cardiovascular disease on the rise, Americans – both men and women – are struggling with obesity. However, overweight young women of child-bearing ages are at an increased risk for a condition known as idiopathic increased intracranial pressure, or pseudotumor cerebri. This condition causes an increase in brain pressure, damaging the optic nerves and potentially leading to blindness.

Women with pseudotumor cerebri often complain of headaches, ringing sounds in their ears and mild visual blurriness, though sometimes visual symptoms are not present at all. If you think you may be at risk for this condition and are experiencing any of these symptoms, contact your eye doctor to schedule a comprehensive eye exam.


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Distracted driving

Texting, other distractions could cost you your life

The majority of car crashes involve drivers who were distracted in the seconds leading up to the accident. In Kentucky alone, distracted driving caused 58,000 collisions in 2015. Not surprisingly, younger drivers under the age of 20 are most likely to be responsible for accidents stemming from distracted driving.

There are three main types of driving distractions:

  • Visual distractions, which occur when you take your eyes off the road.
  • Manual distractions, which occur when you your hands off the wheel
  • Cognitive distractions, which occur when you take your mind off what you’re doing.

Although all distractions can endanger a driver’s safety, texting is the most alarming because it involves all three types of distractions.

Since 2015, Kentucky has banned drivers under 18 from using cellphones – including hands-free devices – while the vehicle is in motion. Drivers of all ages are prohibited from texting while on the road.

If you are 18 or older, use good judgment if talking on a cellphone while driving. Tell the caller you may have to end the conversation. Follow these guidelines:

  • Position your phone within easy reach.
  • Dial numbers while you are not moving.
  • Do not engage in stressful or emotional conversations while driving.

Be aware that cellphones are not the only culprits in distracted driving. Other causes include:

  • Reaching for an object.
  • Using music controls.
  • Talking or listening to passengers.
  • Reading and/or writing.
  • Eating, drinking or smoking.
  • Grooming.
  • Children and pets.

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Chefs in Action

Chefs In Action teaches healthy cooking techniques

When UK HealthCare opened its state-of-the-art dining facility, Chandler Dining, last year, it embraced the concept that food service should be as involved in teaching healthy habits as medical and nursing staff.

The long lines of institutional steamers and shelving to slide plastic trays along were gone, replaced instead with cooking hubs where diners can choose nutritious, freshly prepared food ingredients and have their dish prepared to order before their eyes.

The new facility, which is open to patients, families, staff and the public, offers restaurant-quality food selections that you wouldn’t expect to see in a hospital cafeteria.

Perhaps less expected was a teaching kitchen where chefs can demonstrate healthy meal preparations. UK HealthCare Executive Chef Pete Combs was tasked with creating a platform for sharing with hospital patients, visitors and staff the tips and techniques that make food more nutritious. The result? A monthly series called Chefs in Action.

“Chefs in Action is designed to help people see that it’s not difficult to cook healthy dishes with high-quality ingredients,” said Combs, a food service industry veteran of more than 30 years. “The power of food [in improving health] is huge.”

At 4 p.m. on the third Thursday of every month, Combs and sous chefs Justin Clark and Sarah Null prepare a themed menu with an extra dash of theater and humor. At the February event, the Heart Month-themed menu included:

  • Flaxseed hummus with almond crackers, jicama, rainbow peppers and carrot.
  • Three-bean salsa with avocado, tomato and cucumber chips.
  • Roasted butternut squash boat with asparagus, ginger, almond and wild mushrooms.
  • Rainbow trout stuffed with Fuji apples, walnuts, spinach and raisins with orange saffron sauce.
  • Raspberry banana and dark chocolate bites.

As they demonstrated each recipe and distributed free samples to the audience, dietitians Andrea Francis, Jill Haeberlin and Katie Lewis listed the ingredients in each dish and explained how they boosted heart health.

“Sharing nutrition information is as important as showing people how to make the recipe,” Combs said. “People may not want to make the apple-walnut stuffing, but they might add walnuts to one of their favorite dishes once they learn that walnuts can reduce cardiovascular problems and Type 2 diabetes.”

Housley says the long-term goal for Chefs in Action is to make the demos available to patients via the Get Well Network, an in-room patient engagement system that helps improve the transition of care from hospital to home.

“UK HealthCare is not just about medicine,” said J.J. Housley, UK HealthCare’s director of enterprise operations. “This enterprise strives to provide Kentuckians with the tools for healthy living, and why wouldn’t our food service be a significant player in that effort?”

The next Chefs in Action will be at 4 p.m., this Thursday, April 20.  The menu will center on healthy twists to Kentucky’s classic dishes. No reservations are necessary and the event is free. Check out the video below to learn more about Chefs in Action.


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World Voice Day

On World Voice Day, take time to celebrate your voice

JoAnna E. Sloggy, MA, CCC-SLP

Written by JoAnna Sloggy, a speech-language pathologist and singing-voice specialist at the UK Voice & Swallow Clinic.

In the U.S., 7.5 million people have trouble using their voices. We often forget the important role voice plays in our daily lives. On Sunday, April 16, World Voice Day is a time to stop and consider the importance of the human voice in every part of our daily lives. World Voice Day aims to celebrate the human voice and raise awareness for voice disorders, vocal health, vocal training and voice research.

What causes voice disorders?

Voice is created by vibration of the vocal folds, and a voice disorder occurs when the vocal folds are unable to vibrate well enough to create a clear vocal sound. A voice disorder may be caused by voice overuse or misuse, neck and throat injuries or growths, and diseases such as cancer or Parkinson’s disease. Voice adds intent, mood and meaning to the words we speak – imagine the interpersonal loss of not being able to express yourself vocally through speech or song.

Most people have experienced temporary vocal problems such as hoarseness or loss of voice due to allergies, colds or cheering too enthusiastically for your favorite team. Usually, voice returns to normal within several days. However, if a voice change lasts for longer than two weeks, the problem should be checked by your doctor.

Be sure to practice vocal hygiene

To keep your voice healthy, follow these vocal hygiene recommendations.

  1. Listen to how your voice sounds. Hoarseness or other voice changes lasting longer than two weeks should be evaluated by a voice care team, such as an otolaryngologist and a speech-language pathologist who specializes in voice disorders.
  2. Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water to keep your vocal folds and voice box well lubricated.
  3. Quit smoking. Tobacco, nicotine, chemicals, inhaled heat and other substances can cause inflammation and swelling of the voice box and cause cancer in the mouth, nose, throat and lungs.
  4. Avoid screaming, cheering loudly or talking over loud noise. These behaviors cause damage to the vocal fold tissue and strain to the voice muscles.
  5. Limit alcohol and caffeine. These substances have a drying effect on the vocal folds.
  6. Avoid repeated throat clearing and/or coughing. These behaviors can cause vocal damage. Try sipping water and swallowing hard when you have the urge to cough or throat clear.
  7. Manage acid reflux. Stomach acid can damage the tissue of your throat and cause hoarseness and other vocal problems.
  8. Give your voice a rest when recovering from hoarseness. When your vocal folds are swollen and inflamed, there is increased risk of vocal damage. Until your voice returns to normal, avoid straining or forcing your voice.
  9. Give your voice a break. Vocal “naps” are good when your voice is tired from overuse or from talking too loudly.

You are never too young or too old to stop and check your vocal health. Making changes to improve or maintain your good voice habits will benefit your health for years to come. This World Voice Day, take time today to celebrate your voice!

This column is scheduled to run in the Lexington Herald-Leader this weekend.


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What you need to know about mumps

What you need to know about mumps

Last week, UK’s University Health Service saw a couple of isolated cases of mumps, a contagious virus whose tell-tale symptom is swelling near the neck and jaw.

Although the overwhelming majority of people who get mumps recover completely, it’s important to know the signs of the virus and what to do if you think you have it.

What is mumps?

Mumps is an illness caused by the mumps virus. It’s easily spread by airborne droplets from the upper respiratory tract.

Mumps typically starts with a few days of fever, headache, fatigue and loss of appetite, followed by swollen salivary glands, or swelling near the neck and jaw. Since the introduction of the mumps vaccine, cases of mumps in the U.S. are uncommon.

What are the symptoms of mumps?

Many children have no symptoms or very mild symptoms. The following are the most common symptoms of mumps that may be seen in both adults and children:

  • Discomfort in the salivary glands (in front of the ears), which may become swollen and tender.
  • Difficulty chewing.
  • Pain and tenderness of the testicles.
  • Fever.
  • Headache.
  • Muscle aches.
  • Tiredness.
  • Loss of appetite.

The symptoms of mumps may look like other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis.

What should you do if you think you have mumps?

  • UK students: Students who have swollen parotid salivary glands should make an appointment with UHS to be evaluated or see their family physician. Students can go online and make a clinician appointment via the Student Health Link on the LinkBlue/My UK portal or by calling 859-323-APPT (2778) Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • UK faculty and staff: If you have symptoms, see your local clinician, or if you can’t get an appointment with your regular clinician and have UK HMO, PPO, or EM, you can call for an appointment at the UK Health Plans Urgent Care Clinic at 859-323-SICK (7425).
  • Non-UK employees: If you’re not a UK employee, but are experiencing symptoms, contact your primary care physician and make an appointment.

If you have any of the symptoms of mumps, avoid prolonged close contact with other people for five days after your salivary glands began to swell. You should not go to work or classes during this period.

In addition to staying away from others, you can help prevent the virus from spreading by covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, washing hands frequently, and wearing a mask if you have to be around others.

What complications are associated with mumps?

Complications of mumps occur more frequently among adults than children, and may include:

  • Meningitis or encephalitis. Inflammation of the membrane that covers the brain and spinal cord or inflammation of the brain.
  • Orchitis. Inflammation of one or both testicles.
  • Mastitis. Inflammation of breast tissue.
  • Oophoritis. Inflammation of one or both ovaries.
  • Pancreatitis. Inflammation of the pancreas.
  • Deafness

How is mumps diagnosed?

In addition to a complete medical history and medical exam, your healthcare provider may also take a swab of the side of your mouth to confirm the diagnosis.

What is the treatment for mumps?

Treatment is usually limited to medications for pain and plenty of fluids. Sometimes bedrest is necessary the first few days. According to the CDC, adults should stay home from work for five days after glands begin to swell. Children should stay out of school until symptoms have subsided. Both adults and children with mumps symptoms should minimize contact with other people who live in their homes. Good basic hygiene practices, such as thorough hand-washing, covering the mouth when sneezing or coughing, and regularly cleaning frequently-touched surfaces, are also important in disease control.

How can mumps be prevented?

The measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) is a childhood combination vaccination against mumps, measles and rubella. The MMR provides immunity for most people. People who have had the mumps are immune for life.

If you have not previously been vaccinated or if you are unsure if you have received two doses of the MMR vaccine, we are recommending that you get vaccinated.

Usually, the first dose of the MMR vaccine is given when a child is 12 to 15 months old, and a second dose is given at 4 to 6 years of age. However, if 28 days have passed since the first dose was given, a second dose may be given before the age of 4.


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A research study from UK and University of Indiana-Purdue University Indianapolis shows the benefits of massage therapy for lower back pain.

Got lower back pain? Massage therapy may help, says UK researcher

William G. Elder Jr., PhD

Clinical massage therapy can alleviate lower back pain according to new research published in part by William Elder, PhD, a researcher at UK Family & Community Medicine.

The results from the Kentucky Pain Research and Outcomes Study appeared in the March edition of the journal Pain Medicine. The researchers tested the effectiveness of massage therapy intervention to reduce pain and disability and improve quality of life in patients with chronic lower back pain.

Elder said the results fill in a gap of medical literature showing the real-world effects of massage therapy as an alternative to pharmacologic therapies for lower back pain.

“Our study generated convincing evidence that massage may be used as a beneficial therapy for sufferers of lower back pain,” Elder said. “With a high prevalence of lower back pain across the nation, our study responds to the need for effective complementary therapies that can be disseminated through a primary care setting.”

In the study, Kentucky primary care physicians referred patients with chronic lower back pain to a licensed community massage therapist, and study participants were evaluated after 12 weeks and after 10 massage-therapy sessions, as well as at a 24-month follow-up appointment. At 12 weeks through the intervention, 75 percent of participants experienced improvement in physical and cognitive measures. The study also showed participants experienced meaningful improvement at the 24-week mark.

In addition, the study showed that adults 49 and older benefited from massage therapy more than younger adults.

Elder collaborated with co-author Niki Munk, a licensed massage therapist and health sciences researcher at the University of Indiana-Purdue University Indianapolis. The study was recently featured on Time.com.


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