Thursday, February 15, 2007
Time spent with children, is time well spent
By Dr. Anthony Policastro

I am a big believer in time with your children. Children learn to be appreciated when their parents spend time with them. Children pick up good (and bad) habits when they spend time with their parents. Children learn how much you care about them when they spend time with you. Some ways of spending time with children are better than others. I have long felt that the best way for families to spend time together is at meals. This offers an opportunity for discussion about a variety of things. It avoids the instances in which the only communication is when the parent has to take time to correct the child. What this means is that the meal should include every one of the family members. It means that extraneous distractions such as the TV should not be available. It means that each individual should have a chance to participate in the conversation. This is a lot easier to do when the family goes out to dinner together. The time everyone sits at the table is longer than it is at home. That leads to more things to discuss. It ensures that every one is there at the same time. A second activity that I have long believed in is playing board games. When I have an adolescent with problem behavior, one of my recommendations is board games. I ask the family to spend one hour a night playing board games. This results in the family being together for that hour. It results in conversations about things that do not tend to be focused on the child's problem. It is a cheap solution to spending time together. There are some ways of spending time together that are not as productive. One of those is watching television. A family that watches television rarely communicates during the programs. There may be some communication during commercials. However, frequently that is the time for every one to take a break. There should be a limit on television time. Two hours a day maximum is the current recommendation. Many parents have their children involved in a variety of activities. They transport them to the activity. They watch them participate in the activity. They consider it to be family time. In a way it is. However, the opportunities for good communication in those circumstances are limited to the car ride there and back. In our area those car rides tend to be relatively short. Perhaps these activities can be combined with a dinner together before or after the activity. The real goal in any of these situations is to take time to have conversations. The conversations should be things that are general in nature. Talking about the weather is good. Talking about your favorite sports team is good. Talking about an upcoming vacation is good. Conversations about things like whether the homework is done should be saved for other times. Conversations about cleaning the bedroom should be saved for another time. Thus there are two parts to this endeavor. The first is to find the right opportunity to have good family conversations. The second is to find the right topic. Neither one of these is easy. But then again being a parent is rarely easy. It is like anything else. You have to work at it to be good at it.

Dr. Anthony Policastro is medical director at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital.

Women can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease
Over 500,000 American women die of cardiovascular diseases, primarily heart attack and stroke, every year. More than one in five women have some form of cardiovascular disease. Every year since 1984, more women than men have died of cardiovascular disease - which pretty much dispels the myth that heart disease only affects men. To combat this trend, women must educate themselves on ways they can control or reduce their chances of developing cardiovascular disease. Some ways women can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease are moderate-intensity exercise, controlling weight, not smoking, controlling high cholesterol and controlling diabetes. Women also need to know that they often present with symptoms of a heart attack different from their male counterparts. Some common signs and symptoms are:

  • Pain, pressure, fullness, discomfort or squeezing in the center of the chest
  • Radiating pain to shoulder(s), neck, back, arm(s) or jaw
  • Stabbing chest pain
  • Pounding heartbeats (palpitations) or feeling extra heartbeats
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Nausea, vomiting or severe indigestion
  • Breaking out in sweat for no other apparent reason
  • Dizziness or weakness
  • Sensation of panic with feeling of impending doom
Milder Symptoms (experienced by about 1/3 of all women - often with no chest pain at all:
  • Flu-like symptoms with sudden onset of severe weakness
  • Stomach upset or nausea with transient dizziness
  • Mild burning sensation in the middle of the chest that extends outward
  • Vague chest "discomfort"
You may have one or all of the above symptoms. Milder symptoms can easily be mistaken for less serious health problems but only by having testing beyond the standard electrocardiogram can a correct diagnosis be made.

If you suspect a heart attack, call 9-1-1 or the number for emergency medical assistance in your area:
  • Say "I am having a heart attack."
  • Chew an uncoated aspirin right away as this can reduce damage to the heart muscle.
  • Go to the nearest medical facility with 24-hour emergency cardiac care.
  • Don't drive yourself. Get treatment quickly. Clot buster medicine can save your heart muscle from permanent damage, but it works best if given within the first hour of when the distress began.
  • Don't wait. Go to the nearest Emergency Room without delay. Every minute counts!

In the Hospital Emergency Room...
The doctor will order an electrocardiogram (EKG) and blood work to see if you have had a heart attack. Even if your EKG is normal, more testing is necessary. A number of new tests make it possible to diagnose a heart attack more quickly and accurately than ever before. Emergency room doctors have been trained to diagnose heart attacks quickly and to start treatments rapidly to prevent damage to your heart muscle.

When in Doubt, Get Heart Checked Out

  • If you're not sure that the pain you are experiencing is serious, it is best to go to the emergency room to find out. Don't delay. Getting treatment early - just after the first sign of distress - could save your life.
  • The emergency room doctor may feel that you are not in danger and that you may go home, but, if you are uncomfortable with this decision, ask for a second opinion from a cardiologist before being released. Be clear, objective and persistent and insist on the best care for your heart.
Provided as part of a Community Education Program of Peninsula Home Care

Cholesterol screening
Nanticoke Memorial Hospital will be offering cholesterol screenings on February 17 and 21, from 7:30 to 10 a.m. at the Nanticoke Stein Highway building, located in the former PK complex, next to County Bank. The Lipid Profile test requires a 12-hour fasting and reads the HDL and LDL blood levels. Cost for the Lipid Profile is $15. No pre-registration is required. In addition to the cholesterol screening free blood pressure checks will be offered. Results from the cholesterol screening will be mailed approximately two weeks after the test is performed. For additional information, call 629-6611 extension 2404.

Order Daffodils today
The American Cancer Society's Western Sussex Unit is sponsoring its annual Daffodil Days through February 22. The daffodil is the flower of hope and by supporting the American Cancer Society you give hope to those touched by cancer. The money raised through Daffodil Days funds programs and research grants that make an incredible difference in many lives. Daffodils are offered for a donation of $10 a bunch of 10 cut flowers or $10 for a single pot of bulbs. For the second year, the American Cancer Society is offering a "Bear and a Bunch," which is an adorable Boyd's Bear plus one bunch (10 stems) of cut daffodils for $25 (limited number available). Daffodils will be delivered and/or available for pickup at Cedar Avenue Medical Associates, 1 Cedar Ave., Seaford, between Tuesday, March 13, and Friday, March 16. Call Mary Catherine Hopkins at 875-7308 or the American Cancer Society at 1-800-937-9696 for more information.

Plunge raises $484,000
Frigid air but somewhat warm water made the Sunday, Feb. 4, Lewes Polar Bear Plunge to benefit Special Olympics Delaware - held in Rehoboth Beach - the most successful in the event's 16-year history. A record 2,672 participants raised a record $484,000 for the state's largest organization devoted to providing quality year-round athletic training and sports competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. Previous event highs were 2,390 obtained at last year's Plunge. Air temperature for the Plunge was 29 degrees, the third-coldest recorded for the event, and water temperature was 42 degrees, tied for the second-warmest temperature in the Plunge's 16 years. Since its inception in 1992, the Lewes Polar Bear Plunge, which has evolved into one of Special Olympics Delaware's most significant fundraisers, has raised more than $3.4 million for the organization.

Update first aid skills
Parents, grandparents, teachers, scout leaders, and day care providers can increase their caregiving and safety skills with courses in pediatric first aid at Delaware Tech, Owens Campus. Pediatric First Aid covers managing pediatric emergencies including, but not limited to, convulsions, burns, insect bites, poisoning, drowning, fractures, and sprains. The two-session course is approved by the Office of Child Care Licensing and meets continuing education requirements for day care licensing. Participants must attend both sessions to receive a three-year course completion certificate. For complete information on course dates, times, and fees, or to register, call 854-6966.

Alternative heat dangers
The Delaware State Fire Marshal's Office is urging citizens to exercise caution when using alternative heating sources during this year's winter season. The increase cost of electric, home heating oil and natural gas are likely to cause an increase in the use of portable or alternative heating devices this winter. With the increase in use comes the increase in fires involving these appliances. Fire marshals are asking everyone to review their fire prevention plan to insure that everyone has a safe winter season. All homes should be equipped with working smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and have a fire escape plan. Having these three items drastically increases the ability to survive a fire.

Buy a Brick Campaign
Help "pave the way to independence" for people with disabilities by participating in Easter Seals' Buy a Brick Campaign. All bricks will help construct a patio at the Easter Seals Tunnell Center, located at 22317 DuPont Blvd. in Georgetown. This wheelchair-accessible patio, featuring the Easter Seals' lily design, will help people with disabilities enjoy the outdoors. Bricks can be personalized to honor a family member, Easter Seals staff member or participant, or local business, and are tax-deductible. For more information, contact Clour at 800-677-3800 or