The Year in Health

With new apps, exciting advancements and a strong focus on wellness, 2017 could be your healthiest year yet.

This year promises to be a big one when it comes to technological advancements in health, starting with a plethora of health apps designed to keep users on track with their health goals.

Smartphone Health

“The CalorieKing iOS Food Search is a free app and available on the web. This app allows you to search for the nutrition facts for foods, drinks and even chain restaurant meals. It even lets you change the serving size to update the information,” says Touro dietitian, Julie Fortenbarry, RD, LDN. “If you want to know how many calories, carbohydrates and fats are in a large order of fries from McDonald’s, this app will give you all of the nutritional information you need.

“Another app that is free and available on Android, iOS, Kindle or the web is Lose It! This app is designed to help you achieve your weight loss goals,” she adds. “You put in information like weight, height, rate of weight loss and total weight loss goal, and the app will recommend how many calories per day to eat. It allows you to log your daily intake by searching for foods or scanning the barcode. Lose It! also has the ability to automatically track the number of steps you take each day, and it lets you record exercise.”

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The app offers multiple interactive features. “You can also add friends, earn badges and participate in challenges,” she adds.

For those with limited time, resources and space to exercise, one option is the 7-Minute Workout app. “It is a high-intensity, interval training workout that takes a total of seven minutes and only utilizes a floor, chair and a wall,” Fortenbarry explains. “The app teaches exercises that will work different parts of your body at 30-second intervals with 10-second rests. It’s like having a personal trainer on your phone.”

Ingestible Sensors

On a larger, non-phone-related scale, researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed an ingestible electronic sensor (in capsule form) that can measure heart rate and other vital signs from inside a person’s body. This technology is in the FDA approval phase, and is just now being reviewed by local facilities for its viability.

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The capsule is basically a package with many sensors and a microphone and is about the size of a multivitamin. It can monitor respiratory rate and heart rate from within the body, with the goal of enabling physicians to make quick and long-term assessments easier on patients. It is anticipated that the sensor package will stay inside the body for about one or two days before being excreted by the natural method. More intensive monitoring would require the ingestion of multiple pills over a period of time.

Genetics Paint a Clearer Picture

Close to home, Tulane Medical Center President and CEO Dr. William Lunn says the future of healthcare definitely includes genetics. “We believe that wellness for the new year should focus on the big three: genetics, diet and exercise,” he says. “We address these big three through our Hayward Genetics Center, Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine and the Tulane Institute of Sports Medicine. Finding out about a person’s genetics is a big part of early identification and treatment,” he says, adding that an individual’s genetic code holds the key to how they respond to medication and what medication will and won’t work for them.

Currently being evaluated by the FDA, the Pillcam measures vital signs from within the body.
Photo courtesy of Given Imaging Ltd.

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“Genetic counseling is a communication process which involves providing information about the consequences of the disorder, the chance of developing or passing on the disorder for a given person, and ways to prevent or treat the disorder,” he says. “We are trying to be a leader locally as well as nationwide through our human genome project, as well as our various other projects designed to improve the quality of life in our community.”

The Hayward Genetics Center at Tulane Medical Center is the Gulf South’s only comprehensive clinical genetics center that offers genetic diagnosis, counseling and therapy for prenatal, pediatric and adult inherited conditions. The center is one of the only full-service biochemical, cytogenetic and molecular labs in the state and offers services and treatments for conditions such as: inherited diseases, birth defects, developmental delay, autism, inborn errors of metabolism, preconception and prenatal counseling/testing, adult cancer risk assessment, cancer genetic counseling and abnormal metabolic newborn screening.

Enhancing Quality of Life Locally

Looking toward the future of health in the United States, Greg Stock, CEO of Thibodaux Regional Medical Center, said that lifestyle diseases are a major concern.

“In the medical field, we have great concerns for the future of healthcare as far as the increase in the trend of childhood obesity, which is still growing, as well as the instances of diabetes and heart disease that are still on the rise,” he says. “We really want to be able to make a positive impact in the tri-parish area in people’s lives and enhance people’s standard of life.”

To that end, Thibodaux Regional Medical Center has developed a five-story, technologically advanced Wellness Center designed to improve the health and well-being of the region through prevention, fitness, education, rehabilitation, and focused sports and wellness services. In addition to high tech health and fitness amenities, the facility includes centers for imaging, sports medicine, neurosciences, pain management, spinal conditions, rehabilitation, weight management, wellness education, urgent care, women’s breast health and aquatics, which features a lap pool and warm-water therapy pools.

“We hope we can be a significant player in the health and success of this community,” Stock says. “We believe that encouraging wellness is the future of healthcare, and it is important to draw attention to it and the impact it has on lives. Someone has got to be the leader and set an example, and we are taking the lead with the Wellness Center.”

Marrying Advancements with Expanded Access

In 2017, East Jefferson General Hospital (EJGH) plans to continue its ongoing expansion of services, introduce freestanding emergency departments in both Metairie and Kenner. “The new departments come after introducing a renovated breast care center with even more 3-D mammography with our new tomographic imaging capabilities in radiology oncology,” says John Sartori, director of marketing and communications for EJGH. “This technology is the latest in providing doctors with even greater views of cancers in their earliest, most treatable stages.”

The hospital also welcomes 2017 with greater patient access than ever before. “With locations throughout the region, including Destrehan, Lakeview, Old Metairie, River Ridge and of course Metairie, we can now see patients in some clinics as late as 8 p.m. on weekdays and even during Saturday hours,” he says.

In addition to high tech health and fitness amenities, Thibodaux Regional Medical Center’s new Wellness Center includes centers for imaging, sports medicine, neurosciences, pain management, spinal conditions, rehabilitation, weight management, wellness education, urgent care, women’s breast health and aquatics.
Photo courtesy of Thibodaux Regional Medical Center & Illustration: Thinkstock

Sartori adds that EJGH is also the first hospital in the region performing radial cardiac procedures. “This procedure is so patient friendly, stents can be implanted for the heart through the veins in the patient’s arm,” he says. “Imagine heart surgery that can take place while the patient is alert and wearing street clothes.”

Workplace Health

Most people spend the majority of their day at their job, which makes it easy to focus on work and forget about healthy habits. What we do during work hours can have a profound impact on our overall health, and healthy people are typically more productive, more constructive and require fewer sick days.

“It’s important to remember to stay healthy while in the workplace,” says Tulane’s Lunn. “Get away from your desk, take deep breaths, clear your head, detach from the distractions a couple of times a day. I would suggest getting up from your desk at least once an hour. We are big proponents of the “stand-up or pop-up desk, so much so that the CEO at our Lakeview Regional Medical facility, Brett Kolman, has his stand-up desk attached to a treadmill and uses it throughout the day.”

Lunn also recommends staying away from caffeine and carbonated drinks after noon. “Just drink water all day for the best results,” he says. “The caffeine really interferes with sleep patterns if you consume it after noon. It is also a good idea to stay away from sweet treats and all of those empty calories in order to maintain weight goals and energy levels during the work day.”

Stock advises employees to take advantage of wellness screenings offered by employers. “Find out about the wellness benefits that your company offers and schedule the annual screenings to take preventative steps to preserving your health,” he says. “Also, learn more about yourself, your gene pool and what you have inherited so you know what health risks may be in your future.

Stock advises workers to pay attention to the small things. “Take as many breaks as allowed, and exercise or walk or at least stretch throughout the day,” he says. “Make sure you take a lunch break and eat sensibly; do not skip this meal. One of the most important things you can do to stay healthy this year, and everyone has heard this so many times, is to be sure to get plenty of sleep. That is really imperative to good health.”

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