Michelle Gabrielle Centamore

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Helping Your Kids Achieve a Lifetime of Healthy Smiles

Your child’s smile should beam with happiness and confidence.

When it comes to dental health, it’s never too early to start instilling good dental hygiene to ensure that your child’s primary and adult teeth will be healthy, strong and free of decay or disease.

“Developing a good hygiene routine will follow you through to adulthood,” says Dr. Nazli Diba, pediatric dentist at Tooth Docs Dental in Roslyn. And the best way to help your child attain a healthy smile is to become educated, active participants in their dental health care.

Since February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, there’s no time like the present to make sure your little one is on the right track.

Start with your child’s first tooth

Teeth can appear at three months, six months or after their first birthday. Every child is different, says Dr. Diba, although typically by one year, babies can sport eight. But those need to be taken care of from the get-go.

With one or two teeth, rubbing gently with a soft cloth will suffice so breast milk, bottle milk or food does not sit throughout the night, which could lead to cavities or tooth decay, warns Dr. Diba. As more teeth arrive, use a toothbrush with a soft bristle and let the good brushing habits begin!

Bring your child to a pediatric dentist by age one

While you’re planning your child’s first birthday party, make that dental appointment, too!

That entails a comfy cuddle on their parent’s lap as the dentist performs a thorough checkup, cleaning and fluoride treatment, explains Dr. Diba. By five years old, your child’s dentist may want to start annual x-rays to check for hidden decay.

Follow up every six months

Baby teeth may be little, but they are super important, says Dr. Mindy Homer, pediatric dentist at Happy KiDDS Pediatric Dentistry in Manhasset.

“Most parents do not realize that the primary [baby] molars do not fall out until age 11 or 12,” she says. “However, those teeth erupt into the mouth around 15-24 months… A child’s mouth is constantly changing. Spaces are closing, which can increase their cavity risk. Teeth are falling out.”

Visiting the dentist every six months can detect cavities early. Placing sealants on permanent molars can prevent future cavities. If there is a cavity, because it is caught early, a less invasive treatment that doesn’t involve an anesthetic will most likely take care of it.

Watch for warning signs

White spots on the teeth may be a sign of “demineralization,” says Dr. Homer.

This happens when the “plaque and bacteria have begun to erode the enamel and remove the calcium.” The good news is, “A trained eye” can identify it before it becomes a big problem.

“If it is caught early, it can be reversed,” decreasing the need for antibiotics, extraction or nerve treatment, Dr. Homer says.

Practice good oral hygiene

Teeth must be brushed twice daily, once after breakfast and once at bedtime. Both manual and electric toothbrushes with soft bristles are effective, says Dr. Diba. Children should brush in a circular motion, being careful to cover each tooth. Don’t neglect the tongue!

“Eighty-five percent of bacteria sits on the back of the tongue and contributes to bad breath,” says Dr. Diba.

One to two minutes of good brushing should do the trick. To prevent interproximal cavities or cavities in between teeth, floss. No snacking after nighttime brushing, especially milk, Dr. Diba warns. Your child is safe with water.

Eat a healthy, teeth-friendly diet

Most people see only sugary foods as cavity culprits, but even healthy treats — raisins, fruit snacks, dried fruit — can be harmful, as they tend to get stuck in the teeth, Dr. Homer warns. Go for the chocolate or ice cream instead and try to avoid juice, another big cavity contributor, Dr. Homer suggests.

Water is best, she adds, as “it is very neutralizing. The pH of the mouth needs to be acidic in order for a cavity to develop. The more water you drink, the more you neutralize the acidity.”

Practice due diligence

“You don’t inherit cavities,” says Dr. Homer. “Vertical transmission of bacteria takes place as a child is acquiring teeth. The research shows that the caregiver who spends the most time with the child after birth tends to infect the child with his/her bacteria…Most people don’t know if they have received good or bad bacteria from their caregivers,” so the focus should be on preventative measures, she says.

Get rid of harmful bacteria with “good oral hygiene practices, a healthy diet and regular dental visits.”

The more you educate yourself, the better chance your child has to enjoy a lifetime of healthy teeth.

Is Your Heart Healthy?

When the first American Heart Month took place in February 1964, cardiovascular disease attributed for more than half of deaths nationwide, according to the American Heart Association.

Today, cardiovascular disease, which includes heart disease and stroke, is the leading cause of death, causing more than 17.3 million deaths annually. But there is some good news, says Dr. Asif M. Rehman, associate director of Interventional Cardiology at South Nassau Communities Hospital.

“You can reduce your chances or even prevent heart disease,” he says.

A lot of progress has occurred in cardiovascular treatment. Mortality has decreased, awareness has increased, and preventative measures education has improved. Early diagnosis and treatment at the right time is helping people to live longer.

“All these things have collectively improved our cardiovascular disease mortality and outcome,” Dr. Rehman says.

Knowing the risk factors — hypertension or high blood pressure, diabetes, increased cholesterol levels, obesity, genetics, poor habits such as smoking — and making lifestyle changes to combat them, can alter a prognosis and prevent further progression of heart disease, he says.

Know the warning signs

Pain radiating from the chest into the neck and left shoulder and shortness of breath are typical warning signs associated with men and heart attacks.

Women may experience those symptoms and pain in their back, neck or jaw and stomach, nausea or lightheadedness, sweating and fatigue. Traditionally, men have heart attacks or are diagnosed with heart disease at an earlier age than women, who are initially protected by hormones, but after age 55, both are at near-equal risk, says Dr. Rehman.

Don’t miss your annual checkup

Your trusted primary care doctor will order routine bloodwork, test for diabetes and check cholesterol, blood pressure, weight, etc., says Dr. Rehman.

“If you are diagnosed with cardiovascular disease, you should have an established relationship with a cardiologist and follow their recommendation regarding treatment and follow-up,” he says.

Don’t smoke

Smoking is one of the main risk factors for heart disease and cancer. Secondhand smoke is just as dangerous, Dr. Rehman notes. Stop smoking to significantly improve your health and decrease your chances of having a heart attack or developing heart disease.

Watch what you eat

Enjoy a healthy, balanced diet — one that is rich in fruits and vegetables, protein, has low carbohydrates, and includes healthy fats such as avocados, suggests Dr. Rehman.

Avoid fad diets, which are often unhealthy and cannot be sustained. Limit
excessive alcohol consumption.

Exercise

Dr. Rehman recommends aerobic exercise three to four times per week for 30-45 minutes to prevent or stabilize cardiovascular disease.

People who are out of shape or overweight should gradually increase activity, walking on a treadmill, for example, to increase their heart rate at a comfortable, safe pace.

Reduce stress

To some extent, physical and emotional stress can contribute to cardiovascular disease, says Dr. Rehman.

Although stress cannot single-handedly create heart disease, “if you have an underlying cardiovascular disease that is asymptomatic or stable, when your body goes through emotional and physical stress that could become symptomatic,” says Dr. Rehman.

Get some sleep

A good night’s sleep, approximately eight hours, grants you more energy to increase your activity, and clarity to make smart, healthy choices.

Watch for sleep apnea, a disorder marked by inconsistent breathing, loud snoring and a feeling of exhaustion after a full night’s sleep.

This could contribute to a heart attack or stroke, Dr. Rehman warns.

Know your family history

Because of their genes, people sometimes develop a heart condition with little or no other known risk factors. While you can’t change your family history, you can be vigilant in monitoring your health care and adopting a healthy lifestyle, Dr. Rehman says.

“When you lose weight, your cholesterol will improve, your diabetes and blood pressure will get better,” says Dr. Rehman. “Life modification” can indeed change your life and your prognosis despite risk factors.

For those requiring medical assistance, technology has drastically improved quality of life and mortality rates, notes Dr. Rehman.

“If you have heart disease and address it at the right time, and if you are treated properly — which may include getting surgery, having a stent procedure or taking prescription medication to lower your blood pressure, for example — your quality of life can be good.”

Age-appropriate Tips for a Healthier You in 2018

The New Year is the perfect time to reflect, make amends with your past and put your best foot forward toward making better choices. Now that it’s 2018, the time is right to create a better you — a healthier you — with New Year’s resolutions that stick.

The first step is to set goals that are age-appropriate and realistic. Establish a plan and mindset to break negative habits. Embark on a health journey filled with positive actions and thoughts to help you to be more successful.

Education is key to understanding your body and learning how to make it healthier, according to Dr. Amir Herman, medical director of primary care practice, East Northport Medical Care and Natural Pain Solutions.

“We encourage our patients to meet with our dietician, have their metabolism checked, and we work to educate our patients on healthy lifestyles,” Dr. Amir says. He adds that aiming for optimal health in the new year is a “worthwhile resolution that although initially can be difficult to implement, will become a healthy habit and will improve one’s quality of life.”

When it comes to boosting your health, it’s crucial to address your body, mind, and spirit. Health expectations can differ depending on your age so incorporating age-appropriate resolutions can also contribute to success.

ADULTS IN THEIR 30s
Let’s face it, 30-somethings are the new 20-somethings.

They often feel they are invincible. They tend to neglect critical health protocols — such as scheduling annual physical exams — that may help them to be healthier and prevent early detection of a potential health challenge.

“Their mindset is focused on other aspects of their being — family life, professional advancement, etc.,” Dr. Herman warns. “They may indeed lead active lifestyles, and eat well, but unfortunately, as they often feel invincible, medical screening is not at the forefront of their consciousness.”

So what’s an indestructible 30-something to do?

“Good health for someone in their 30s should rely on equally distributing the mind-body spirit concept,” says Dr. Herman. “Active and healthy lifestyle generally is a good way to ensure a good quality of life now, as well as into the future.”

Stop smoking; exercise; take some time out to meditate or read. Spend quality time with a loved one.

“Additionally, an annual exam at their primary care physician’s office is always recommended and encouraged,” says Dr. Herman.

ADULTS IN THEIR 40s

Adults in their 40s go through some interesting physical and mental changes, says Dr. Herman.

While initially optimistic and excited because, “This is 40,” that positive energy can spiral with the arrival of new aches and pains that may make them feel less like a kid and much more reminiscent of the woes of their parents. If you’re not active at 40, says Dr. Herman, it’s time to kick it into gear, get your annual checkup and take your medical care more seriously.

“Good health in this decade would be defined as having a good quality of life and a good balance of one’s personal and professional life,” he says. “A good sleep schedule is important, and one should ensure that dietary needs are being met.”

Again, no smoking!

“Women at risk for breast cancer should start annual screenings; annual gynecologic exams are very important, as well,” he adds.

ADULTS IN THEIR 50s

Adults in their 50s often look on the bright side, though not without hesitation.

They are cognizant of potential opportunities for success, but disappointments, too. While mentally they may feel 40, the reality that their body has caught up to their physical age has set in.

“Retirement is entering into their radar and one is often grappling a bit more with their health,” says Dr. Herman, noting a possible need for increased doctor visits. “This can be a great challenge for a patient in this age group as it is difficult to take time off from a busy work schedule, and the increasing cost of medical care can be stressful.”

“Lifestyle optimization” is a priority to achieve better health, Dr. Herman asserts. “Smoking cessation, alcohol moderation, diet and exercise must be a mainstay of their approach. At 50, one should have a screening colonoscopy, and breast cancer screening and prostate cancer screening should be performed,” as well as a check on your heart, Dr. Herman advises.

“It is possible to have a wonderful quality of life in this decade, and balancing mind, body and spirit is as always very important,” he notes.

ADULTS IN THEIR 60s

The “Golden Years” may be blindingly fantastic for some and sadly dismal for others.

Those with a clean mental and physical bill of health look forward to retirement but “those who are not as fortunate are often anxious and depressed and seeking a way to improve upon their own quality of life,” says Dr. Herman. If you’re in your 60s,
 improving your health remains on the table, he says.

“It’s not too late,” he assures. Be an active participant in your health care, whether it’s seeing a mental health care professional or a sleep specialist.

“As always, a strong resolve and will to lead a healthy lifestyle is a cornerstone of achieving a good quality of life,” he says. “Annual ophthalmologic exams are important to screen for diseases like glaucoma and it is very important that an annual skin cancer screening is performed. Regular dentist visits can improve oral, as well as general health, and those with a smoking history should have lung cancer screening performed.”

Regardless of your age, improving health doesn’t happen overnight. Take baby steps for big changes.

“Long-term success comes from perseverance,” says Dr. Herman.

Stay focused. Keep a journal. Record your goals and the steps you plan to take to achieve them. Seek support. Acknowledge your successes and forgive the “missteps,” says Dr. Herman.

Great achievements start by believing in yourself and embracing the journey. And remember, it’s never too late to improve yourself!

Keeping The Holiday Blues Under Wraps

“’Tis the season to be jolly” — for most. But for some, the holidays that are supposed to be heartwarming can spur heart-wrenching experiences or memories.

Financial stress, lack of company and support, loss of a loved one, or another traumatic event can turn a season of bliss into one of loneliness and despair, according to Dr. Ronald Brenner, chief of behavioral health for Catholic Health Services and director of psychiatry at Mercy Medical Center in Rockville Centre.

“Holiday-induced depression or holiday blues can affect people of all ages,” says Brenner. “The holidays can act as a catalyst for depression.”

Shopping on a strict budget, pressure to be a perfect holiday host, and holding a game face when struggling with grief all produce anxiety, he says. This can lead to sleep deprivation, excessive drinking, overeating and ultimately, depression.

The good news? Holiday blues are usually short-lived, says Brenner, with a few practical strategies.

Know that this too shall pass. “The hallmark of holiday depression is that it goes away a day or two after the holidays are over,” says Brenner. “Major depressive disorder or clinical depression usually lasts much longer.”  See the light at the end of the tunnel.

Seek support. Realizing that others experience similar despondence can give perspective and ease sad feelings. As the holidays can be a painful reminder of a lost loved one, seeking comfort with trusted friends and family is important, says Brenner. Local bereavement support groups may also help, offering strength and unexpected joy.

Reminisce. Nostalgia is normal this time of year. Remembering and missing loved ones who have passed, realizing how fast time has gone by… but it doesn’t have to be all gloom and doom. Sharing treasured memories with others may improve one’s mood. Old photos or videos might bring on a tear or two, but also maybe a smile.

Create new memories. Starting new holiday traditions may give you something to look forward to. It can be reading a special book to your children each year, a night on the town with a friend or partner, or hitting the slopes at a ski resort you’ve never visited.

Plan ahead. Practice healthy habits to reduce stress, keep a to-do list and try not to overbook. Eliminate unnecessary work. Set realistic expectations. Make time to exercise and get enough sleep. Limit alcohol consumption and avoid unhealthy snacks and meals. Be kind to yourself.

Take it day by day. Sometimes, not following a rigid holiday routine can extinguish pressure to “have the perfect Christmas,” says East Northport resident Denise Schwartz. She lost her husband three years ago when their children were 6 months, 6 and 9. She makes each holiday “about the kids,” setting little to no expectations, with less pressure on herself.

“I make things very laid back and try to do different things so I don’t feel caught in a rut,” she says. “We make cookies on Christmas Eve but I don’t do a lot of cooking. I put all my energy into making the kids happy.”

Pay attention to the good. Because it’s there. Yes, the holiday season can be stressful. It can remind us of who and what we don’t have and that can indeed be painful. But if you open your eyes and your heart enough to see past that — people caring more and being overly generous and kind; beautiful white snow showers and snowmen; festive lights and music — you might beat the holiday blues and discover and enjoy the magic of the holiday season.

Depression and Bereavement Support

Mercy Medical Center
1000 North Village Ave., Rockville Centre. mercymedicalcenter.chsli.org 
Crisis Service: 516-705-2248. Outpatient Clinic: 516-705-3400.

Nassau County Psychological Association
60 Hollywood Ave., Massapequa. nassaupsych.org 516-377-1010

Suffolk County Psychological Association
P.O. Box 397, Commack. suffolkpsych.org 631-423-2409

COPE Foundation
P.O. Box 1251, Melville. copefoundation.org 516-832-2673.

Early to Rise: Creating a Brighter You

Wake up before sunrise? That’s right. Just when we thought our days couldn’t get any longer, research is encouraging us to hop out of bed before the first sign of daylight and reap the benefits.

Your reaction to a 5 a.m. wake-up call might be to roll over, cover your alarm clock with a pillow and simply scoff at the notion of starting your day hours before the school bus arrives or your daily commute begins.

But what if those couple of hours could give you more time — more energy, more productivity and more peace so that you could accomplish your day with a better attitude and outlook on life … all because you started your day in the dark?

So just what can you accomplish by not hitting the snooze button?

Get fit and stay fit. Early risers are on the move! Busy parents, especially, often find exercise to be the most challenging “activity” to fit into their day. Working mother of three, Carrie Yuli from Bay Shore has discovered that exercising at 5 a.m. has freed her from unwanted weight, lack of energy and diminishing self-esteem.

“I didn’t feel like myself and I wanted to put some time into me before my kids woke up and to fill my own cup before I could take care of everybody else,” says the first grade teacher at West Islip Elementary School who is also a Beachbody Coach. “I actually gained so much more energy because I was fueling my body every way by doing it.”

Work towards a goal. Elizabeth Aiken, AN East Northport mother of three who also works as a school librarian, is training for her seventh New York City Marathon. As her time improves, so does her approach toward life.

“Getting up so early has been a rough adjustment but it has made a huge impact on the success of my day. I get more done; I’m not rushing to the last minute getting us all out the door.”

It has given her more patience with her little ones, too, she says.

Be social. Who knew that you could catch an ice-hockey game so early in the morning? Long Island salesman, and married father of two, Timothy Devine, meets up with 20 of his friends two days per week before the crack of dawn to play ice hockey. No guilt, he says.

“I like getting up at that time and squeezing in an activity that doesn’t interfere with my family life.”

Gain inner peace and wellness. For nearly 50 years, Dr. Alan Sherr, founder and director of the Northport Wellness Center, has woken up before sunrise to accomplish readiness, meditate, heal and give thanks.

“The morning is the best time of day when the body is most at peace and in a more optimal place to support growth and development,” he says.

Get your “me time.” Married, mother of two and pediatric occupational therapist Lori Flynn of Montauk treasures her time alone in the morning. She rarely misses a sunrise.

“I drink coffee and just sit and journal or read. Everyone else but my dog is sleeping,” she says.

Witness Mother Nature’s Magic firsthand. Perhaps catching that first glimpse of sunshine is what inspires us to plow through whatever it is we aim to achieve in the day.

“It’s uplifting and a little magical in a way,” says Aiken. “There really is something about seeing the light first hit the sky or highlight the clouds that gives me something to look forward to.” It has a “renewing effect.”

Tomorrow is a new day. Set your alarm clock just a couple of hours earlier and meet a better you!