• 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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  • 7 Health Benefits of

    Lemon Juice

    There’s more to lemons than meets the eye. This fruit may pair well with some of your favorite dishes, but it also offers incredible health benefits. Lemons are packed with nutrients, promote weight loss, and have even been linked to kidney stone prevention and cancer treatment! This tangy fruit has also been known to possibly help halt bad breath and get rid of dandruff when applied to the scalp. In addition to its properties as a beauty treatment and health aid, there are a number of uses for lemons. Whether you enjoy the fruit alone or with your morning tea, here are just a few reasons to embrace lemons and their juice:

    1. Relieves a sore throat: Warm water mixed with honey and lemon can soothe a sore throat during cold season.
    2. Cancer-fighting benefits: Studies have shown lemons may have anticancer benefits.
    3. Prevents kidney stones: Lemon juice is shown to help prevent kidney stones by raising the urine’s citrate levels.
    4. Aid in digestion: Lemon promotes the production of digestive enzymes in the liver, which help eliminate waste from your body.
    5. High in essential nutrients: Lemons are high in many vitamins like Vitamin C (promotes immunity and battles infection), calcium (important for muscle function, intracellular signaling, and hormonal secretion), potassium (helps muscles and nerves work properly), and folate (Fights against spinal birth defects and helps red blood cell formation).
    6. Promotes weight loss: The pectin in lemons and their juice helps you feel fuller for longer, which will make your weight loss much more manageable.
    7. Helps clear skin: Lemons have natural antibacterial qualities and alpha hydroxyl acids, like many over-the-counter acne medications. It brightens, exfoliates, and helps remove blackheads!

    So how will you incorporate lemons and lemon juice into your life? Have you already seen the benefits of lemon in your daily diet or personal care regimen? Tell us in the comments below!

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  • Understanding

    Depression

    When you think of depression, you might think of being sad, or just down in the dumps. But in fact, it’s much more than that. It’s a clinical condition that can take control of your life and cause serious complications. According to the National Institute of Mental Health about 16 million people had at least one episode in the past year. To put that into perspective, that’s one out of every 10 people.

    depression graphic

    Symptoms of Depression and Treatment Options

    Depression symptoms may be different for everyone. One person may experience symptoms that seem to last for years, while others will only have moderate bouts and return to their normal life relatively quickly. However, depression can be treated, often with medication, psychological counseling or both. Other non-conventional treatments also may help. But before any type of treatment is initiated, the symptoms must be recognized. When people experience episodes of depression, they may suffer through:

    • Sadness, unhappiness, or an emptiness feeling
    • Sleep disturbances
    • Severe lack of energy where even the smallest tasks require extra effort
    • Loss of interest in hobbies or normal daily activities
    • Changes in appetite (some people may eat less and lose weight while some may overeat and gain weight)
    • Anxiety or restlessness
    • Fogginess, confusion, and slowed speaking or body movements
    • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, frequent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts, or suicide

    Causes of Depression

    Because depression is such a complex disease, the causes of it can greatly vary. One theory suggests that it may be caused from having too much or too little of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. These chemicals communicate information throughout our brain and body. When the nerves that release these chemicals malfunction, too little or too much of these neurotransmitters may be released, which has been linked as a known cause of depression. Certain antidepressant medications work to control the release of these neurotransmitters.

    Yet, this information is not conclusive. Many researchers don’t agree that a simple increase or decrease of brain chemicals is the lone factor when determining that causes of depression. Rather, it’s a combination of factors, which may include:

    • Genetic vulnerability (depression may be more common in people whose relatives also suffer, or have suffered from depression)
    • Faulty mood regulation by the brain
    • Stressful life events (loss of a loved one, high stress, childhood trauma or recent trauma)
    • Medications or medical problems

    Depression Is Not Mental Weakness

    Often, people associate being depressed as a sign of weakness. In a recent study conducted by the National Mental Health Association, out of 1,022 adults interviewed by telephone, 43 percent said they believed depression is a personal weakness. However, this is far from the truth. Depression does not discriminate. It can affect anyone of any ethnicity. Whether, you’re rich or poor, or old or young, depression can affect you.

    If you or someone you know is suffering from depression, seek help. It’s never too late talk to someone about getting better. There are an array of hot lines and helpful information where you can seek the help of professionals 24 hours a day. There is also helpful information on suicide awareness and prevention.

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Stem Cell Transplant Helps Patient Beat Cancer

by CancerCenter

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In the latest issue of Cancer Discovery & Care, UPMC CancerCenter and UPCI featured Don Trent, an acute lymphocytic leukemia survivor. Read about his cancer journey and stem cell transplant:

In the fall of 2004, Don Trent, a mechanical engineer for a commercial airline and a pilot since he was 16, learned the true meaning of “life takes a detour.” He was living a hectic but happy life — working in a career that he loved, taking graduate courses, and spending time with his wife and two daughters. He maintained a healthy, active lifestyle, running and walking every day for exercise.

In October, Don noticed a small lump on his scalp, which increased in numbers over time. He eventually went to a surgeon to have them removed, who in turn sent tissue samples to the lab for evaluation. Don was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL), a cancer of the blood and bone marrow that progresses rapidly and creates too many lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell.

Don spent most of 2005 receiving chemotherapy at Hillman Cancer Center under the care of Dennis J. Meisner, MD, FACP, medical oncologist, UPMC CancerCenter. After physically and mentally demanding treatments, Don returned to work in late November, and began to regain his stamina and strength.

In November 2007, Don relapsed. His next option was to undergo a stem cell transplant. Don prepared for the transplant under the care of Mounzer A. Agha, MD, clinical director, Stem Cell Transplantation Program and director, Mario Lemieux Center for Blood Cancers at UPMC CancerCenter. Although it was admittedly a scary decision, Don was grateful for his physician’s guidance and support.

“Dr. Agha discussed the risks and benefits of the process and procedures. He straightforwardly explained what I was facing, and I decided to go for it,” said Don.

The search for a donor began, starting with Don’s siblings. They underwent HLA testing, in which their blood was tested to determine if they were compatible. Fortunately, his brother, Larry Trent, was a match.

In February 2008, Don received high doses of chemotherapy at UPMC Shadyside in preparation for his allogeneic stem cell transplant. On February 19, he received his transplant from Larry.

“My brother and I have always had a good relationship, but it is even more special now post-transplant. I am forever grateful and honored that God chose my brother to give me a second chance at life,” said Don.

After the transplant, the stem cell staff continued to care for Don, testing his blood to track progress and make sure his immune system recovered. Although recovery was long, little by little he made progress.

He tried to remain positive with the help of his family, friends, faith, and cancer care team. In 2009, Don returned to work, restoring a sense of normalcy in his life.

“I have a first-hand understanding of the trials and struggles one goes through during a critical illness, and profound respect for all the caregivers who provide that much-needed lifeline of support,” said Don. “I know that life will never be the same again, but I embrace the ‘new life’ with which I have been blessed and the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.”

More than five years after his transplant, Don is doing well. He is exercising regularly, and took up skiing with his daughters, a new hobby. In 2011, Don returned to flying — his passion — with family and friends.

“I would like to encourage anyone facing a critical illness to surround themselves with family, friends, and the new friends you meet as you go through your treatments. Even when you don’t want to, make yourself get up every morning, put your feet on the floor, and determine that you will not surrender to self-defeat. Do not lose hope, and hold tight to the promises of your faith.”

Read more about the Stem Cell Transplantation Program of UPMC CancerCenter, and other stories, in the latest edition of Cancer Discovery & Care Magazine.

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About CancerCenter

At UPMC CancerCenter, we are your doctors, caregivers, teachers, and support system. You are not alone in your fight against cancer, and we are committed to providing you the knowledge, inspiration, and specialty cancer care you need so you can face your diagnosis with confidence. We’re here for you – as part of the community – and that’s something cancer can never take away.

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