Thursday, April 12, 2012
How the seasons affect our bodies

By Dr. Anthony Policastro

We sometimes forget the fact that we have developed different traits from evolution. These traits are sometimes disguised so that we do not recognize them. For example, we know that there are many animals that hibernate during the winter. What we do not realize is that we do a form of hibernation as well. We just do not call it that. I have written in the past about the fact that our ability to fall asleep is helped by the chemical melatonin that we all produce. What we sometimes fail to realize is that our bodies adjust the levels of melatonin that we produce. In the winter days are shorter and nights are longer. As a result, our bodies increase the level of melatonin that we produce in the winter. This allows us to sleep the longer hours of the winter nights. It is one of the ways we adapt. Another thing that happens in the winter is a change in our eating habits. We often to not even recognize this change. However, we tend to eat more of the foods that are associated with producing the kind of metabolism that goes along with those longer winter nights. Some individuals develop what is called seasonal affective disorder. As the days grow shorter they feel more depressed. This is also biochemically regulated. When spring arrives, the levels of melatonin start decreasing. Another hormone called serotonin increases. Serotonin creates a happier mood. We actually have a term for this mood. We call it spring fever. It is the feeling of energy and enthusiasm that develops when the weather starts to turn nice. This past year we had a mild winter. For that reason the effects of spring are not as obvious. We eased into spring. Therefore, we will see less of that extra energy. Summer time has the longest days. Therefore, the levels of serotonin remain high while the levels of melatonin remain low. That helps give us the energy that we need to spend the long days doing things. If you look at it from an evolutionary standpoint, it becomes logical. Our early ancestors would hunt food and gather crops when the weather was good. They would store that up for use when the weather turned poor. While we no longer follow that pattern, our hormonal system still does to some degree. This provides us an opportunity to look at how we plan for things. We can look at the kinds of activities that we are involved in. Spring fever has a lot of energy. It is a good time for spring fever. The long days of summer are good for taking that vacation when you get extra daylight hours. In the winter time, we need to recognize the effects of the short days on our moods. There are a lot of things that we take for granted. The changing of the seasons is one of those things. We do not always consciously realize it but our bodies do. By realizing some of these effects, it gives us an opportunity to better deal with some of these changes.

Stroke Support Group Nanticoke Memorial Hospital's next Stroke Support Group meeting is Tuesday, April 17 at 1:30 p.m. at the Seaford Library. The support group is designed for individuals who have survived a stroke as well as their families and caregivers. The two-hour support group meetings will consist of guest speakers and breakaway sessions, in which caregivers and stroke survivors will meet in two groups to discuss concerns, provide support, and allow for networking. Refreshments will be provided. Pre-registration is not required for this free support group. For more information, contact Nanticoke Memorial Hospital at 629-6611, ext. 8626.

Stewards of Children presentation Nanticoke Memorial Hospital is hosting a Stewards of Children Presentation on "How to Protect Your Children from Sexual Abuse." This training session will take place on Tuesday, April 24 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital. The cost of the session is $10 per person to cover the cost of course materials. Stewards of Children is a primary prevention, sexual abuse prevention training program that educates adults to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to child sexual abuse. Provided is a three hour training, the program is presented by an authorized facilitator. An interactive workbook and accompanying video are utilized to share the message that adults are accountable for the safety of children. To register or for more information, contact Kathy at 629-6611, ext. 3910.

Stroke and osteoporosis screenings Residents living in and around the Bridgeville community can be screened to reduce their risk of having a stroke or bone fracture. Union United Methodist Church will host Life Line Screening on Friday, May 4. The site is located at 2 N. Laws St., Bridgeville. Screenings identify potential cardiovascular conditions such as blocked arteries and irregular heart rhythm, abdominal aortic aneurysms, and hardening of the arteries in the legs, which is a strong predictor of heart disease. A bone density screening to assess osteoporosis risk is also offered and is appropriate for both men and women. Packages start at $149. All five screenings take 60 to 90 minutes to complete. For more information regarding the screenings or to schedule an appointment, call 1-877-237-1287 or visit Pre-registration is required.

Girl's Night Out benefit Don't miss Milford's first ever Girls Night Out, benefitting the DE Breast Cancer Coalition and the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Milford (CCGM). Enjoy a night of shopping complete with dancing, door prizes and fashion displays on Friday, May 4 from 4 to 8 p.m. at the Carlisle Fire Hall. Tickets can be purchased to win an all-inclusive Girls Weekend Getaway and Spa Package at the Atlantic Sands Hotel, on the boardwalk in Rehoboth. For your chance to win the getaway or to purchase admission tickets ($20 before May 3 or $25 at the door) contact the CCGM at 302-422-3344 or visit

Diabetes education program Nanticoke Memorial Hospital, Seaford, will hold a four-session diabetes educational program on April 18, 25, and May 2, 9 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the hospital. Registration is required. The cost of the program may be reimbursable by insurance. This four-session program includes weekly education sessions and individualized meal planning for diabetes self-management. Our goal is to give you the self-management skills to control your diabetes. Family members/significant others are welcome to attend the weekly sessions. To register and obtain more information regarding the course, contact Nanticoke Memorial Hospital's Diabetes Education department at 629-6611, ext. 2446.

Blood cancer conference The first blood cancer conference will be held on Thursday, April 19 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the University of Delaware in Newark. The conference will provide valuable information and insight about the three most common forms of blood cancer, the latest research advances, and new treatment options. The conference will also explore what it means to be a survivor and how to cope with and manage the day-to-day effects of a blood cancer. Breakfast and lunch will be provided to all attendees. Registration is free but attendees must register before April 13. To register or to learn more, contact Michelle Sobczyk, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, 100 W. 10th St., Ste. 209, Wilmington, DE 19801, or call 302-661-7300, ext. 25.

Brain injury awareness competition The Brain Injury Association of Delaware (BIAD) is hosting a competition for Delaware's high school seniors. The organization will be accepting short video submissions spreading awareness about brain injury with a deadline of April 30. After submission to BIAD, videos will be posted to BIAD's YouTube channel - and the senior who receives the most "Likes" by May 31, will win a $150 college book voucher, donated by members of BIAD's Board of Directors. Any Delaware high school senior may enter the competition, and BIAD encourages competitors to get creative with the video - students may document their own awareness activities or tell a story with their video. BIAD reserves the right to reject inappropriate submissions. Competition guidelines are available on BIAD's website at

NMH offers CPR classes Nanticoke Memorial Hospital will offer community CPR classes to anyone interested in learning CPR at the Nanticoke Training Center located on Water Street in Seaford. Participants will learn how to perform the basic skills of CPR on adults, children, and infants and how to help an adult, child, or infant who is choking and use of the AED. This classroom-based, video, and instructor-led CPR course offers families, friends, and community members the opportunity to learn CPR and need a course completion card. Classes are open to participants ages 12 and up. This program is specifically designed for those who prefer to learn in a group environment with feedback from an instructor. The target audience is those who have a duty to respond to a cardiac emergency because of job responsibilities or regulatory requirements. Cost is $40. Payment and registration is required by no later than five business days prior to the class. Late registrations may be accepted if seating is available. To register and to obtain a listing of class dates/times, contact the Nanticoke Memorial Hospital's Training Center office at 629-6611, ext. 8919. Pre-registration is required.

First aid classes at NMH Nanticoke Memorial Hospital will offer community First Aid classes to anyone interested in learning first aid on Tuesday, April 17 from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m., at the Nanticoke Training Center on Water Street in Seaford. Participants will learn basic first aid that will enable them to administer help during the first few moments until emergency responders arrive. Classes are open to participants ages 13 and up. The course covers cognitive learning, role-playing, and skill practice. Cost is $30. Payment and registration is required by no later than five business days before the class. Late registrations (if seating is available) will be an additional $5 fee. To register, or for more information, contact Nanticoke Memorial Hospital's Training Center office at 629-6611, ext. 8919. Pre-registration is required.

New Parkinson's Support Group A new Parkinson's Support Group will be starting in Western Sussex County. The first meeting will be held at the Nanticoke Senior Center in Seaford on Monday, April 16 from 10 to 11:30 a.m. The meeting will be led by Dennis Leebel, leader of the 150-member Rehoboth Beach/Lewes Parkinson Education and Support Group. If you or anyone you know has Parkinson's, a support group can be a great help. You will learn more about the disease, treatments, and all the resources available to help you. Free literature about Parkinson's will also be available for you to take home. Caregivers are strongly encouraged to attend. There is no fee to register for the meeting, but you must sign up by calling the Nanticoke Senior Center at 629-4939.

Alzheimer's Support Group Nanticoke Memorial Hospital's next Alzheimer's Support Group meeting is at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 10, at LifeCare at Lofland Park's first floor Resident Lounge, 715 E. King St., Seaford. This group provides support and information about Alzheimer's and dementia to families, caregivers and anyone who is affected by this disease. Refreshments will be provided. Pre-registration is not required for this free support group. For more information, contact LifeCare at Lofland Park at 628-3000, ext. 8302.

'Understanding Hoarding' lecture Delaware Hospice's Family Support Center will hold a Lunch Bunch Lecture on "Understanding Hoarding," with Dr. Angela D'Antonio, on Friday, April 13, at the Delaware Hospice Center, 100 Patriots Way, Milford, from noon to 1:30 p.m. Those who hoard have limited insight into the seriousness of their living situation, experience extreme anxiety when asked to part with their possessions, and are strongly resistant to getting help. Judging those with this crippling disease is never helpful. Understanding what drives this behavior is the first step in being able to address it. This workshop will explore the causes of this compulsive behavior, ways families can intervene, the resources available and therapeutic approaches generally used to treat hoarding. Lunch Bunch Lectures are organized by Delaware Hospice's Family Support Center and are open to the public. Registration is required as seating capacity is limited, and the cost of lunch is $5 per person. Register by Wednesday, April 11, by contacting Vicki Costa, associate director of the Family Support Center, at 856-7717, ext. 1129, or

Breast cancer support group Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition, Inc. (DBCC) has expanded its Beginning Your Pink Ribbon Journey, a program for women newly-diagnosed with breast cancer, by partnering with Nanticoke Memorial Hospital Cancer Center in Seaford. The free, monthly program is offered at the Cancer Center located at 801 Middleford Road, Seaford, the third Thursday of each month from 3 to 4 p.m. To learn more, call Lois Wilkinson at 672-6435. Registration is required and light refreshments and small gifts are provided.

Bereavement luncheons Delaware Hospice's "New Beginnings" bereavement luncheons are an informal way to meet and talk with others, who have had similar loss experiences. Lunch begins at noon and is followed by a brief program. The location rotates each week of the month throughout Sussex County. "New Beginnings" luncheons are open to the public. Registration is not required. There is no fee except the cost of your lunch. For more information, call Midge Dinatale or Paul Ganster at 856-7717.

NAR-ANON support group "Take Heart, Be Strong" is a support group available to those family members and friends who are concerned about the drug/alcohol addiction of a loved one. We find people in NAR-ANON who understand what we are going through and are ready to share their experience, strength and hope to help us. This group meets at 7 p.m. every Thursday in the Youth Room at Crossroad Community Church, 20684 State Forest Rd., Georgetown. If you are interested or know someone who might be, call Beth at 302-745-0466. This is an anonymous program and there are no obligations. Attendance is welcome with no prior arrangements. For more information and other meeting locations, visit