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January is Cervical Health Awareness Month

Asian Women Chatting over Coffee

Written by Dr. Allan Ho, MD, MPH, FACOG

Let’s take a moment to talk about cervical cancer and steps you can take to prevent it.

Cervical cancer is the third most common gynecological cancer in the U.S. The cervix is part of a woman’s uterus. It is located at the end of the vagina. Changes on the cervix can lead to cancer. When your doctor is able to identify these changes early, they can treat these areas before they turn into cancer. This screening is a simple pap test, and has led to a dramatic decrease in cervical cancer rate.

We also know that cervical cancer is associated with certain High Risk Human Papillomavirus (HPV) infections through sexual contact. You can lower your risk of having cervical cancer by avoiding exposure to HPV, getting the HPV vaccines and getting screened regularly.

This month, be up-to-date on these three ways to protect you from cervical cancer:

Get vaccinated. HPV can be detected in 99.7% of the cervical cancer cases. Vaccines are now available to prevent the infection of some high risk strains of HPV. Learn more about HPV here.

Get screened. Women are recommended to get pap tests starting at age 21. How often you should have a Pap depends on your history, so make sure to talk to your doctor. We recommend that you see your gynecology care provider at least once a year for a check-up. If you have never gotten a Pap test before, you can learn more about it here.

Protect Yourself. The HPV infection is transmitted through sexual contact, so using a condom can help lower your chances of getting the infection. The only way to 100% protect yourself from HPV is to avoid sexual contact altogether.

Talk to your provider for more information on the pap test and HPV vaccines. The Charles B. Wang Community Health Center may be able to provide low-cost or free Pap tests for those who qualify. Call us at (212) 966-0228.

 

Written by Dr. Allan Ho, MD, MPH, FACOG. Dr. Ho is the Chief of Obstetrics/Gynecology at the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center. He received his medical degree from New York Medical College, and completed his residency training from Maimonides Medical Center. Dr. Ho is certified through the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology.


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Choose Healthy Snacks for a Healthier Weight

healthy snacks

Written by Bonnie Tse

Feeling hungry in the afternoon? Don’t fight the craving! You don’t have to feel guilty about eating afternoon snacks. Snacking in between meals not only prevents you from overeating, but is also a great way to get an extra serving of fruits and vegetables or whole grains. As part of National Healthy Weight Week, here are helpful tips to remember when you snack:

  • Eat in moderation. Snacks can be eaten to satisfy your midday hunger, but remember to save room for your regular meals—where most of your nutrition come from. Control your portions by putting a small amount of your snack in a small plate instead of eating it directly from the package.
  • Fill your pantry with healthier foods. When hunger strikes, we tend to eat foods that are within reach—snacks from the vending machine, the fridge or on the counter-top. Shop and stock up on healthy snacks, like fruit and veggies, yogurt, nuts, or whole wheat crackers, to have on hand.
  • Choose healthier beverages between meals. Thirst is often confused with hunger. Before you snack, drink something instead. Water is your best choice. Avoid sugary beverages such as soda, iced tea, bubble tea and sports drinks that have empty calories and too much added sugar. Try plain tea or coffee, or with low-fat milk and sugar substitute.
  • Read food labels when buying snacks or beverages. Compare nutrition labels and choose foods with less fat, sugar and sodium. Buying snacks that are less than 100 calories per package can be a good choice if you are concerned about weight. For beverages, choose drinks with little-to-no sugar.
  • Be aware of your snacking. Snacking while watching TV or a computer screen distracts your mind from the food you’re eating. Take the moment to enjoy and savor your food. That way, you are less likely to overeat.

For healthy snack ideas, check out our website. Happy snacking!

Written by Bonnie Tse. Bonnie Tse is part of the Health Education Department at the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center. She has a bachelor’s degree in Nutrition and Food Science from Hunter College.


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New BMI Cut Points to Identify At-Risk Asian Americans for Type 2 Diabetes Screening. What Does That Mean For Us?

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Written by Rena Mei

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recently announced their recommendation to screen Asian Americans for type 2 diabetes starting at a lower weight. We talked to our section chief of internal medicine, Dr. Ady Oster, to see what this means for our providers. It turns out to have little effect on our services.

While this change is new at the national level, it is not news to health institutions around the world. “The World Health Organization has had this recommendation for over 10 years,” says Dr. Oster. “The Health Center’s BMI charts in the rooms all have 23 as the healthy cutoff for Asians. But it’s good that the United States is catching up with what is known and done globally.”

People who are overweight have a higher risk of developing diabetes. For Asian Americans, the cutoff for being “overweight”—and therefore being at risk for diabetes—may be lower. Body Mass Index (BMI) measures a person’s weight class based on their height. The ADA’s new guideline states that Asian Americans with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 23 or higher should get screened for diabetes. The former recommended cutoff was a BMI of 25, which is the current recommendation for the general population. This change indicates that Asian Americans, compared to the general population, are at greater risk for diabetes without having to put on as much weight.

Asian Americans are nearly twice as likely to develop diabetes as the general U.S. population. To address this need, the Health Center has a dedicated Diabetes Care Team in available for diabetes patients to manage their condition. The physician-led team tracks all diabetes patients and provides extra support and follow-up for those who need it. For example, care managers provide individual counseling over the phone, and health educators run regular diabetes workshops and support groups. Our staff is available to teach patients to eat healthy, exercise regularly, and check their blood glucose levels to prevent or manage their diabetes.

“The care here is not going to change, but the new ADA cutoff is going to improve the elsewhere where Asian patients may be a minority,” says Dr. Oster. Asians tend not to be as heavy as non-Asians and can be easily overlooked as not being at risk for diabetes. The new ADA guideline may therefore lead to more appropriate screenings of Asian American patients for diabetes.

On a broader level, this change marks an important step towards gaining recognition about Asian American health in the context of the larger U.S. population.

Rena Mei is a health educator at the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center. She has a bachelor’s degree in Human Evolutionary Biology and Chemistry from Harvard University.

 


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CDC Reports a Dangerous Flu Season. Protect Yourself.

 flu

Written by Dr. Perry Pong

Communities across the country have been hit with a strong and dangerous flu season. The CDC and NY State Department of Health are reporting that many more people have been to the doctor, ER or hospital this season for flu than last year. Those at high risk for serious disease include those over the age of 50, children, pregnant women and people with certain chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes, asthma, lung disease, and heart disease. Many more people are susceptible to this year’s predominant flu virus. While this year’s flu vaccine may not protect you as well as prior years—it is still a good idea to get the vaccine to try to have some protection. It is not too late to get the vaccine now. Also, if you believe that you have the flu (fever more than 100 degrees, body aches, headache, runny or stuffy nose and feeling weak and ill) and are moderately or very sick, see your doctor immediately. This is especially the case for people at high risk of complications. You can be prescribed antiviral flu medicine within the first two days of illness. The Health Center and CDC recommends these actions to protect your family from the flu or from spreading the flu:

  • Get the vaccine. Even if you get the flu after the vaccine, symptoms may be less.
  • Avoid being near people who are sick.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water as much as possible
  • Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze, using a tissue or the inside of your elbow.
  • Try not to touch your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces that may have with germs like the flu, like doorknobs.
  • If you are sick with flu-like symptoms, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone (without a fever reducer) except to get medical care. Limit being around others to not spread the flu.
  • If you have the flu, talk to your doctor to see if you need medication.

You can learn more here about ways to protect yourself and loved ones from the flu. If you believe you may have the flu, call the Health Center for an appointment at (212) 379-6998.

Dr. Pong is the chief medical officer at the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center. He received his medical degree from the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, and completed his residency training at Veterans Affairs Medical Center New York. Dr. Pong is board-certified in internal medicine.