• Do you wake up feeling like a zombie? Do you have trouble keeping your eyes open at work or school, or even while driving? You might be one of the 12 million-plus Americans feeling the effects of a disorder known as sleep apnea. Even though you may be getting to bed at a reasonable hour and assuming you’re getting a normal night’s sleep, sleep apnea can subtly interrupt the quality of your sleep, making you feel tired and lethargic in the morning. Sleep apnea has many other affects on the body, but this is certainly one of the most recognizable symptoms of a disorder you may not even be aware you have.

    Serious Consequences of Sleep Apnea

    Most people don’t know they have obstructive sleep apnea, usually caused when the soft tissue in the back of the throat collapses when sleeping, says Patrick J. Strollo, Jr., MD, medical director of the UPMC Sleep Medicine Center. That leads to a drop in oxygen levels, prompting the brain to send a surge of adrenalin signaling the person to wake and take a deep breath. That kick-start also leads to a spike in blood pressure.

    According to the National Institutes of Health, this common disorder causes breathing pauses while you sleep. These pauses can last a few seconds, or even minutes — as often as 30 times, or more, an hour.

    “It’s a burden on the cardiovascular system and affects the quality of your rest,” says Dr. Strollo. Left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to serious health problems and even cause deadly accidents.

    10 Signs You Might Have Sleep Apnea

    Not everyone who snores has sleep apnea, but it is a major clue. Since sleep apnea only occurs during sleep, a family member or bed partner might be the first to notice.

    Common signs and symptoms include:

    • Loud and chronic snoring — sometimes with pauses.
    • Choking or gasping following pauses
    • Feeling tired or sleepy, even after sleeping all night
    • Waking up with a very sore or dry throat
    • Daytime sleepiness, or lack of energy
    • Morning headaches
    • Restless sleep, waking up during the night, or insomnia
    • Trouble concentrating or problems with learning and memory
    • Depression and irritability
    • Sexual dysfunction

    Consult your primary care physician or family doctor if you’ve experienced any of these symptoms. If left untreated, sleep apnea can have serious consequences on your waking life and your health. For more information, visit the UPMC Sleep Medicine Center online or call 412-692-2880.

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  • What You Need to Know About

    Ebola

    Recent news of the first Ebola death in the United States is alarming. But is there any reason for Americans to fear the spread of the disease here?

    Amesh Adalja, MD, an infectious disease specialist at UPMC and a senior associate at the UPMC Center for Health Security, says the risk of it spreading in the U.S. is very low because it can only be transmitted under specific conditions.

    Ebola is a deadly disease, it’s a scary disease, but it’s not very contagious. It doesn’t spread through the air; it only spreads through intimate contact with blood or body fluids,” says Dr. Adalja.

    “It is far less contagious than the flu — a respiratory virus easily spread by sneezing and coughing. Also, Ebola is only contagious when a person has symptoms. With the flu, a person is contagious the day before symptoms appear.”

    Although the risk of Ebola spreading is low, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other agencies have taken steps to prevent that from happening in this country. That includes increased airport screenings before and after entering the United States from Ebola-affected countries. In addition, the CDC has issued Level 3 travel warnings urging U.S. residents to avoid nonessential travel to Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone in West Africa.

    Protocols also have been established to ensure health care facilities are prepared to properly detect and handle the disease. UPMC facilities are ready, says Dr. Adalja. Each hospital in our system has comprehensive and detailed action plans in place.

    “We know how to stop the spread of Ebola. But it’s crucial for hospitals to prepare in advance,” he says. “UPMC has easily accessible protocols from the moment a patient arrives in the Emergency Department through their hospital stay — how we screen that person, how we isolate that person, how we test for it, who we communicate with — it’s all laid out.”

    About the 2014 Epidemic

    According to the CDC, the 2014 outbreak is the largest in history and the first documented appearance in West Africa. About half the people who contracted the virus have died. In the U.S., the Texas patient who had recently traveled from Liberia died on Oct. 8.

    Ebola Facts

    • A person infected with Ebola is not contagious until symptoms appear.
    • Symptoms of Ebola may appear anywhere from two to 21 days after exposure, but the average is eight to 10 days.
    • Early symptoms include:

    o Fever (higher than 101.5° F)

    o Headache

    o Diarrhea

    o Vomiting

    o Stomach pain

    o Muscle pain

    o Unexplained bleeding or bruising

    How Ebola Spreads

    Ebola is spread through direct contact with:

    • Blood and body fluids (urine, feces, saliva, vomit, sweat, and semen) from a person sick with the disease; and
    • Items contaminated by blood or body fluids from an infected patient, like needles, medical equipment, clothing, or bedding.

    Are You at Risk?

    If you’ve traveled to an area with an outbreak, or had close contact with someone sick with the disease, you may be at risk. The CDC recommends that you:

    • Check for signs and symptoms for 21 days.
    • Take your temperature every morning and evening.
    • Call your doctor — even if you do not have symptoms — to evaluate your exposure level and consult with public health authorities to determine if any actions are needed.
    • Continue normal activities, including going to work, while you are symptom-free.

    If You Get Sick after Travel to an At-Risk Area

    • Get medical care immediately if you develop a fever (higher than 101.5° F).
    • Alert your doctor about your recent travel to West Africa, or contact with a person sick with Ebola, and symptoms before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency department. Calling ahead will help the doctor or emergency department care for you — and protect others.

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  • Recipe: Homemade

    Pumpkin Spice Latte

    Fall is finally here and we are officially excited about EVERYTHING pumpkin! Instead of buying the famous coffeehouse drink, skip out on the saturated fat, carbohydrates, and sugars by crafting your own version of the pumpkin spice latte in the kitchen. You may be used to waiting in a long line for this tasty treat, so you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find you can whip up this recipe in half the time. Better yet, this version uses real pumpkin, not syrup! Pumpkin is low in fat and calories, and also packs a healthy dose of antioxidants, vitamin A and vitamin C, as well as iron. Pumpkin is also a great dietary source of fiber.

    So, save yourself some calories, money, and time spent in line by adopting this version of a fall favorite!

    Pumpkin Spiced Latte

    Ingredients

    2 cups skim milk

    2 tablespoons canned pumpkin

    2 tablespoons Stevia

    2 tablespoons vanilla extract

    1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

    1/2 cup hot brewed coffee

    Whipped cream, pumpkin pie spice and ground nutmeg, optional

    Directions

    Combine milk, sugar, and pumpkin in a small pan over medium heat until steaming.

    Remove heat, stir in pumpkin pie spice and vanilla

    Transfer the mixture to a blender. Process for 15 seconds or until foamy

    Pour into two mugs, add ¼ cup coffee

    Top with whipped cream and a pinch of pumpkin spice

    Nutritional Facts

    1-1/4 cups (calculated without whipped cream) equals 307 calories, 0 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 33 mg cholesterol, 346 mg sodium, 39 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 22 g protein

    Do you have any favorite healthy fall recipes you enjoy with seasonal fruits and vegetables? Share them with us in the comments!

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  • Infographic:

    Colors of the Eye

    From the famous lines of beloved songs to the stories of ancient legends, eye color has captivated audiences throughout time. The origins and genetic makeup associated with eye color makes the color of one’s eye more complex than a simple collection of aesthetic traits, however. Genes and pigment concentrations are two important factors in determining eye color. Some eye colors are more rare than others and can be linked to genetics or family origins and heritage.

    Hannah Scanga, MS, a genetic counselor at the UPMC Eye Center, explains, “The two primary genes that influence the color of the eye, primarily brown and blue eyes, are OCA2 and HERC2. Additional genes influence other eye colors and specific variations, including green or hazel eyes and gold rings.” The scale of eye color from most to least common is brown, blue, hazel, green, and silver.

    According to Ellen Mitchell, MD, “Concentrations of the pigment melanin in the iris of the eye is the primary determinant of eye color. Higher amounts of melanin lead to darker colors while lower amounts result in lighter eye colors.” Dr. Mitchell continues, “The pigment lipochrome also plays a role in determining eye color, specifically green eyes.”

    Eye color can also change due to factors like pupil size, emotions, and age. However, if these changes are drastic or only occur in one eye this may indicate a medical condition and you should discuss symptoms with a doctor.Eye Color Infographic

    Are you still curious about some of the fascinating facts behind blue (green, or brown) eyes? Visit the UPMC Eye Center website to learn more about the latest breakthroughs in the field of optometry and the different eye conditions we treat. Call 1-800-446-3797 to schedule an appointment today.

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  • 5 Ramen Noodle

    “Health Hacks”

    It’s that time of year again. The time when college students flock back to campus, ready to ace their tests, reunite with friends, and feast on the infamously unhealthy Ramen Noodles. Unfortunately, the beloved college-food was the subject of a recent health study, which linked it to series health issues. Even more disheartening? These issues were gender specific. Women who ate the noodles at least twice per week saw a 68 percent increase in their risk of cardiometabolic syndrome, while men saw no notable difference in their risk. But with all-nighters and deadlines looming, it’s not easy to toss the prepackaged delicacy into the trash for good. So what’s a busy college kid to do?

    Leslie Bonci, director of sports nutrition at UPMC Center for Sports Medicine, commented on the story and assured students that it doesn’t take much effort to make Ramen healthier. So next time late-night hunger strikes, try these simple steps to save your wallet and your health:

    Ramen Graphic

    1. Ditch the Seasoning

    The sky-high sodium content is the biggest health issue, so try adding flavor another way! Use water or broth and flavor it with garlic, ginger, herbs, chili, or sesame oil.

    2. Add Veggies

    If you live on campus, grab some vegetables from the salad bar to use in your Ramen. Otherwise, break out the frozen veggies to give your noodles an extra kick of nutrients!

    3. Pack in the Protein

    Chicken, shrimp, tuna, tofu, grilled salmon, eggs…the list goes on! Any protein you choose will make your Ramen healthier and keep you feeling full longer than Ramen alone.

    4. Use your Leftovers

    Have extra food from last night’s dinner? Combine it with ramen noodles (sans seasoning) for a delicious reworking that makes you forget you’re eating leftovers.

    5. Go Dry

    Cook the noodles, drain, and lightly toss in your favorite dressing or sauce! Think low-sodium soy sauce, Italian dressing, vinaigrette, or teriyaki sauce.

    6. Get Creative

    There are dozens (if not hundreds) of Ramen recipes for you to try. There are even Ramen Noodle cookbooks! So don’t settle for boring noodles, spice it up with a creative recipe.

    Eating habits tend to change when entering college mode, as campus life warrants an active and hectic lifestyle. Quick, convenient and unhealthy meals often take center stage, landing healthy eating and cooking in the bleachers. When you’re looking to get creative with regular old Ramen, check out some of our health hacks. Think of it as teaching an old dog new tricks, but this time you’re the dog and the tricks are disguised as noodles. Bring your dorm room dining to a new level while also becoming more conscious of the ingredients your putting in your body!

    How do you make your Ramen healthier? Share your ideas below!

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Safety in Youth Sports Act – Part 2

by Sports Medicine

The Safety in Youth Sports Act, which provides new guidelines and standards for managing concussions and traumatic brain injuries in student athletes, was introduced to coaches and team across Pennsylvania in 2012.  Erin Reynolds, PsyD, a clinical neuropsychologist at the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program, previously discussed the specifics of the Act. Dr. Reynolds and the faculty and staff at the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program believe that a well-managed concussion is the best form of prevention and a part of that is educating parents.

What are the major provisions of the Safety in Youth Sports Act?

The major provisions of the Safety in Youth Sports Act include new guidelines and standards for managing concussions and traumatic brain injuries in student-athletes. The Act states that:

  • Coaches must immediately remove any student-athlete suspected of a concussion from play, with stiff penalties to those not in compliance
  • Student-athletes cannot return to play until cleared, in writing, by an appropriate medical professional as defined in the Act
  • Information regarding concussions provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the Department of Education must be properly distributed to all student-athletes and their parents

How would you know if your school is complying with the Act?

It is critical that parents understand the major provisions of the Act and that they are proactive in ensuring their school is in compliance. All parents should receive information at the beginning of the season that must be signed and returned prior to the student-athlete’s participation. Schools are also encouraged to hold informational meetings prior to the start of each athletic season to discuss:

  • Concussions
  • Proper evaluation and management
  •  Information regarding preseason baseline testing.

If this is not being offered, parents may request this through the school’s athletic department or by speaking with the Athletic Trainer.

If any parent suspects that the school is not in compliance with the Act, they are encouraged to address the issue directly, or to report the school to the Pennsylvania Department of Health and/or the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

 What kind of doctor should my child see if they have a concussion?

Seeking proper medical attention is an important step in your child’s recovery from concussion. While many pediatricians and primary care physicians do offer concussion management, this is a complex injury with many treatment considerations. The UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program includes a multidisciplinary team of providers expertly trained in the evaluation and management of concussion. Our experts include:

  • Neuropsychologists
  • Primary care sports medicine physicians
  • Physical medicine and rehabilitation physicians
  • Neurovestibular rehabilitation therapists
  • Exertion physical therapists
  • Athletic trainers working in the local school systems

In choosing a provider, it is important to understand the extent of their training in concussion management, along with the ancillary resources they have available to provide comprehensive treatment of this complex injury.

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About Sports Medicine

UPMC Sports Medicine is the region’s largest and most experienced center dedicated to caring for athletes of all levels. For more than 25 years of world-class care, we’re proud to offer more services, have more physicians, and treat more student athletes than any other sports medicine provider in the region.