Picture of a woman getting her blood pressure taken

Schedule Health Care Screenings You May Have Postponed

As medical practices open for patient visits, it’s time to reconnect with your doctor to discuss care or screenings you may have postponed. That includes screenings for breast, cervical, and prostate cancers. But those aren’t the only screenings to check on.

Colon Cancer

Colon cancer is the third leading cause of cancer death in New York state. There are about 9,000 new cases of colon cancer each year in our state and about 3,000 deaths.

Colonoscopy is the most thorough screening test and is proven to prevent the disease. Removing benign or pre-cancerous polyps found during colonoscopy can not only prevent colon cancer, but also can reduce deaths from the disease for years.

Learn about Lynn’s colon cancer story by watching the video below:


Prediabetes is serious, common, and reversible with lifestyle changes. One in three adults has prediabetes, but 90 percent don’t know it because there aren’t always symptoms. A simple blood sugar test can show if someone has prediabetes. African Americans, Hispanic and Latino Americans, American Indians and Native Alaskans are at higher risk for having elevated blood sugar levels.

Learn more about prediabetes by watching the video below:


Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The current estimate is that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime.  More than five sunburns in a lifetime can double a person’s risk for melanoma.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, Caucasians and men older than 50 have a higher risk of developing melanoma than the general population. However, skin cancer can affect anyone. Skin cancer in persons of color is often diagnosed in its later stages, when it’s more difficult to treat.

The American Academy of Dermatology encourages everyone to perform regular skin self-exams to check for signs of skin cancer, including new and changing moles. Individuals with a history of melanoma should have a full-body exam by a board-certified dermatologist at least annually.

Learn more about preventing skin cancer below:

Tips for protect your skin from the sun

Screening Saves Lives

The best option for medical care is to see you provider in person. With many practices now welcoming patients, it’s time to reconnect with your provider to discuss care or screenings you may have postponed. Screenings save lives!

For more information and resources to help you reconnect with your provider, visit ExcellusBCBS.com/reconnect.

Close up picture of salmon

Don’t Fear The Fat

We used to think that low-fat eating was where it was at for weight control and good health. But as a fat-phobic society, we went overboard eating low-fat foods and we piled on the pounds. Low-fat does not necessarily mean low-calorie, nor does it give us permission to eat excessively. Instead of reaching for a sleeve of low-fat cookies, we are better off having our favorite cookie, eaten slowly and enjoyed.

Whether eating high-fat or low-fat foods, it still comes down to moderation and portion control. While too much fat is related to heart disease, some cancers, diabetes and obesity, the right types and amounts of fat in the diet can help with preventing some of these chronic conditions.

The Benefits of Fat

Fat is an essential nutrient for our bodies. Fat helps add flavor to foods and keeps hunger at bay by helping us feel satisfied longer.   Even though fat is a concentrated source of calories and is considered fattening by some, adding fat to your meal makes it more flavorful and satisfying. If the meal tastes better and keeps you full longer, you will end up eating less overall.

Fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) are dissolved in fat and are carried in food and into your bloodstream. These fat-soluble vitamins require dietary fat to fully nourish your body.

Fat on your body has several purposes – cushioning your organs, protecting your body from injury and offering insulation.

Sources of Healthy Fat

When it comes to fat, it’s important to focus on eating more beneficial or “good” fats. Sources of healthy fat include fatty fish, nuts, and olive oil.

  • Salmon and other high-fat fish have the heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Nuts have a healthy fat in them and are a great portable, quick snack to satisfy you until the next meal. If you buy a container of almonds for example, divide it into several snack bags. Keep them in places where you have the snack attack: your glove compartment of your car, at your desk, in your briefcase, etc. Enjoy nuts in one of our favorite trail mix recipes.
  • Drizzle some olive oil sparingly on your vegetables and enjoy the taste and the heart health benefit of olive oil.

We need a certain amount of fat in our diet and on our body for health and wellness. So instead of fearing fat, enjoy some in moderation.

Mother sitting with her two children in front of a computer

Don’t Let Distance Get In The Way of Connecting

You’ve likely heard this before: staying connected is important for our health.  But have you really thought about why and how, especially during this time of physical distancing?

“We are wired for social connection,” said Amy Hernandez Gamboa, BSW, a medical services care management trainer with Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. “Our new way of living has tested our ability to go long periods of time without seeing friends, family, being able to hug, or enjoy physical gatherings,” Amy said.

That lack of social connection can have a negative impact on how we feel both physically and mentally. “Right now we are feeling the barriers that are getting in the way of the benefits,” Amy said.

The Benefits of Social Connection

Science backs up the importance of social connection. In fact, social ties might be the single most important predictor of wellbeing.

Some of the positive impacts of social connection on physical health:

  • Strengthens the immune system;
  • Quicker recovery from disease;
  • Increases longevity;
  • Sharper memory;
  • Can help reduce stress and blood pressure when pregnant

There are mental health benefits of social connection as well:

  • Lower rates of anxiety and depression;
  • Higher self-esteem;
  • Greater sense of empathy;
  • Improved mood;
  • Increased trust and cooperation;
  • Increased ability to support others

Quality, Not Quantity

Social connection looks different for everyone, but there are four key elements, according to Amy:

  1. Having meaningful relationships. It’s about quality of relationships, not quantity.
  2. Making regular connections. For some, that may be a daily connection and for others, it is less often.
  3. Feeling a sense of belonging. Have you heard the expression “find your tribe?”
  4. Having shared experiences. Sharing experiences with others can enhance that feeling of connection.

5 Ways to Encourage Connection

“If you’re like me, you may find yourself missing your connections and needing to find creative ways to stay connected,” Amy said. “Social connection can occur without physical connection.”

Amy recommends five themes and thought-provoking questions to consider in order to encourage connection:

  1. Grace – be forgiving of yourself and others. Find time and make it a priority to stay connected. Social connection is going to look different today than in the past. Ask yourself: how can I let go of prior expectations and create space for myself and others to connect today? What are my one to two priorities today?
  2. Technology – it allows us to go places we may not have been able to go before via virtual tours, such as museums and zoos. Use social apps to connect for a virtual book club or virtual walk with a friend. Ask yourself: where do I want to ‘go’ today? When can I set up a video chat with a friend or relative today? Technology helps us break through the barrier of physical distance.
  3. Intention – be intentional in your connections. Who do you want to connect with and how today? Determine how you’re going to spend your time.  This can help address any barriers you may have. Think about a one-word intention that can help you strengthen connections this week, maybe it is “gentle” or “try.”
  4. Creativity – think outside the box. What creative idea can you share with a friend or family member today?  What inspires you today?
  5. Generosity – socially connect by thinking about others. Ask yourself: who might need to hear from me today or how can I support others?

Choose Your Own adventure

Choose to make your social connections an adventure.  This is especially helpful if negative thoughts begin to take up too much thought.  You can:

  • Remember the past. Reminisce on fun, shared experiences with friends or go through mementos.
  • Embrace the present. This allows you to appreciate today. A fun idea shared by Amy is to meet up for ice cream with a friend and enjoy from the safe distance of your cars.
  • Plan for the future. Make a bucket list. Think of all the future holds for you!

What ways have you stayed in touch while staying apart?

Share your tips in the comments section below.



Picture of someone in a hospital bed with medical professionals around them

COVID-19 Crisis Reveals The Importance Of eMOLST

Most people who are near the end of life lack the ability to make their own decisions about the life-sustaining medical treatments they wish to receive or avoid. For patients with advanced illness and frailty, the most important means of ensuring their preferences are honored is to have a properly completed and accurate electronic version of Medical Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (eMOLST) available in their electronic medical records through connections with the New York state eMOLST Registry.

Peace of Mind For Those With Advanced Illness

eMOLST is for patients with serious health conditions who want to receive or avoid any or all life-sustaining treatment, who reside in a long-term care facility or require long-term care services, and/or who might die within the coming year. In New York state, eMOLST, and its predecessor, the hard copy MOLST, are the only authorized ways to legally document both nonhospital Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) and Do Not Intubate (DNI) orders that Emergency Medical Services can follow. eMOLST also documents additional specific medical orders that are recognized and honored in all health care settings, including preferences regarding hospitalization. In hospitals, hospice, nursing homes, and the community, eMOLST is used to issue orders concerning preferences for resuscitation and life-sustaining treatment.

COVID-19’s impact on the frail elderly illustrates the important role eMOLST has in the way preferences for care, recorded as medical orders, are communicated. The importance will be intensified if predictions for a second and third wave of the virus are realized. eMOLST allows frail older adults to write their own final chapter and relieve loved ones of any anxiety that comes with making end-of-life health care decisions on their behalf.

eMOLST is not intended for healthy people, or for people who have a chronic condition or multiple chronic conditions but have a long life expectancy. Those individuals should complete a health care proxy and discuss their wishes for care with family and loved ones.

How to Complete eMOLST

Patients should ask their providers if eMOLST is right for them, and if so, complete the electronic form. If a hard copy MOLST already exists, the COVID-19 crisis would dictate that it be reviewed and updated and converted to eMOLST so that it is in the registry. If a patient lacks the ability to make end-of-life decisions, the health care agent or surrogate should speak with the provider. The tools and features in the eMOLST system ensure that a standardized process is used for conversations, and the completed eMOLST is 100 percent accurate.

Licensed physicians and nurse practitioners have the authority and accountability for accurate completion of MOLST and eMOLST under the Public Health Law. As of June 17, 2020, physician assistants also will have that authority and accountability. Only licensed physicians can complete MOLST and eMOLST orders for patients with intellectual or developmental disabilities who lack capacity to make medical decisions and cannot complete a health care proxy.

When an authorized health care practitioner signs the eMOLST, a copy of the medical orders and the discussion automatically become part of the statewide eMOLST Registry that is available as a public health service in all settings, as patients move from one care setting to another across New York. The physician, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant also will print a copy of the eMOLST on prominent, bright pink paper that will physically travel with the patient.

Additional Resources and Education

Excellus BlueCross BlueShield led the development of two free community websites.  CompassionAndSupport.org has information on advance care planning, free downloadable health care proxy forms and instructional videos. MOLST.org has COVID-19 guidance on MOLST, how to have thoughtful MOLST discussions, and instructions for obtaining urgent access to eMOLST.

Picture of an unmade bed

When Counting Sheep Doesn’t Work: Tips for Calming a Busy Mind and Getting Sleep

It was while I was lying awake at 3:00 a.m. again that I realized something was not right.  I am usually an early riser, but 3:00 a.m. is really early, even for me! The pandemic had brought about a lot of changes to my life, including a significant reduction in sleep!

A Vicious Cycle

I work as a Workplace Wellness Coordinator at Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. My job is to educate others on the importance of sleep, but I am not immune to having issues myself.  I know how detrimental inadequate sleep can be, with problems ranging from impaired memory, to obesity, to greater likelihood of car accidents. That knowledge only raised my stress levels! And like a vicious cycle, the more I stressed about not sleeping, the less I slept.

I decided to get help

One night, stuck in another vicious cycle of not sleeping, I decided to get help. I was already registered with MDLIVE, the telemedicine service affiliated with my health insurance. I decided to schedule an appointment with a Licensed Social Worker, who was available within a couple of days.

During my appointment, she explained that I was feeling so stressed that my brain was too “busy” to shut down and sleep properly.  She gave me some activities to try such as meditation and breathing techniques.  She told me to work to make small improvements, even an extra 20 minutes at night is a start.

6 Habits for Better Sleep

Sleep problems are common, according to Greg Carnevale, M.D., chief medical officer and sleep specialist with Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. “There are 50-70 million people in the U.S. that suffer from one or several sleep disorders that result likely in not getting enough sleep. The cause and solution can vary for each person,” Carnevale said. Health experts recommend getting at least seven hours of sleep each night.

“As a society, we need to recognize the dangers of trying to get by with fewer hours of sleep and wake up to the health benefits of a good night’s rest,” Carnevale said. He offers the following tips for improved sleep:

  • Keep bedroom quiet, dark and cool.
  • Avoid large meals, caffeine, nicotine and alcohol before bed.
  • Stick to a consistent sleep schedule, including on weekends.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Establish a relaxing bedtime routine.
  • Turn off electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bed.

Seek Help When You Need It

I’ve been listening to the advice of the social worker and thankfully, it is helping. I really wish I had called sooner. But, it is never too late to seek help.

“There are sometimes very easy and simple steps to improve on your sleep, and sometimes you need a professional, such as your doctor, to help,” Carnevale said. “Trying to navigate the misinformation out there alone can have deleterious effects to you and your health.  Don’t wait to seek help,” he added.

View and download an Excellus BlueCross BlueShield infographic on ways to improve sleep at ExcellusBCBS.com. For more help with sleep, talk with your doctor or sleep specialist.

Picture of a variety of fruits and vegetables

Helping Our Community – One Meal At A Time

Food banks across New York state are helping families put healthy meals on the table, obtain personal care items, baby food, diapers and household cleaning supplies, and take-home fresh items like meat, cheese, eggs and produce. Now more than ever, with school closures, job losses, and health risks, millions of people have turned to food banks for much-needed support.

A food bank is a non-profit organization that collects and distributes food to hunger-relief charities like the dozens of food pantries in our communities. Food banks act as food storage and distribution depots for smaller frontline agencies.

“Feeding people facing hunger is about more than simply providing food. It’s about providing wellness, stability, and nourishment,” said Jessica Renner, regional president of Excellus BlueCross BlueShield in the Southern Tier.

Partnering for Better Health

Food insecurity is known to impact health status, including putting individuals at greater risk for chronic diseases, such as diabetes, obesity, hypertension, and kidney disease.

Furthermore, studies have shown that individuals struggling with food insecurity experience more difficulties managing their health, leading to more health complications, frequent emergency room visits, and hospital stays.

Now more than ever, food banks are helping to increase access to food and other social needs in our communities.

Rochester: Foodlink

In the Rochester region,  Foodlink serves more than 200,000 people each year across a 10-county service area. Foodlink provides services to a wide network of 190 emergency agencies (pantries, soup kitchens, shelters) and provides food resources to more than 300 area partners. These partners include community centers, clinics and affordable housing developments.

Excellus BCBS is proud to support the following services that Foodlink provides to the community:

  • A mobile food pantry truck that makes emergency food deliveries to undeserved areas in and around Monroe County.
  • Cooking Matters education program that empowers families with skills, knowledge and confidence to make health and affordable meals.
  • A curbside market truck that links low-income areas in the Rochester community with nutritious, fresh, and affordable produce.
  • The Lexington Avenue Community farm, which serves more than 60 local refugee families.
Foodbank mobile food pantry truck

Foodbank mobile food pantry truck

Volunteers are also a necessity at Foodlink. Hundreds of Rochester-based Excellus BCBS employees have consistently volunteered their efforts at the Foodlink’s food distribution center. Volunteers help by packing food products, sorting food items and distributing food to area partner agencies.

To learn more about Foodlink, visit  https://foodlinkny.org/

Southern Tier: Food Bank of the Southern Tier

In the Southern Tier region, the Food Bank of the Southern Tier is increasing access to healthy food and helping to build a strong, healthy, vibrant community. The Food Bank of the Southern Tier serves Broome, Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Tioga and Tompkins counties. The organization is at the forefront of community collaboration around the  social determinants of health, like  food access and transportation.

“There’s really been a movement to focus on the social determinants of health. And, access to healthy food is right there at the top of the list,” said Jessica.

Excellus BCBS is proud to support the following services that Food Bank of the Southern Tier provides to the community:

  • A mobile food truck upgrade
  • A kids’ farmers market
  • The Selfless Elf 5K, currently scheduled to be held in mid-December

In addition, Southern Tier-based Excellus BCBS employees have also helped pack boxes of food or deliver food boxes to remote areas.

To learn more about Food Bank of the Southern Tier, visit: https://www.foodbankst.org/

CNY and Utica: Food Bank of Central New York

In the Central New York region, the Food Bank of Central New York serves as the main food distribution center for the counties of Cayuga, Chenango, Cortland, Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Madison, Oneida, Onondaga, Oswego, and St. Lawrence. The organization partners with local agencies, including food pantries, soup kitchens, and emergency shelters that distribute the food to families in need.

Food Bank of Central New York’s Mobile Food Pantry

Food Bank of Central New York’s Mobile Food Pantry

Excellus BCBS is proud to support efforts to nourish the community through Food Bank of Central New York’s Mobile Food Pantry (MFP). MFP is an effort to reach communities and individuals in areas of unmet need. It is a practical distribution method to work around food access obstacles and food deserts. While the MFP program initially only operated in Oneida County, the program has recently expanded into several other areas including Onondaga and Oswego counties.

To learn more about Food Bank of Central New York, visit: https://www.foodbankcny.org/

COVID-19 Impacting Food Relief

Even before the COVID-19 outbreak, 37 million people in the U.S. struggled with hunger, according to Feeding America.

Now, people who have not previously relied on food relief are also struggling and in need. That has caused a strain on food supplies.

Today, some food banks are reporting that they are running low on staples. Therefore, some food banks have had to supplement or ration some of the more popular food items.

Food banks have also had to change their procedures in order to provide food in the age of social distancing. Many food banks and pantries have moved to low-contact, drive-thru food distribution. They’re also now providing food at temporary community “hub” locations, such as schools and community centers, to help reach vulnerable populations.

Food banks don’t just need donations. They also need volunteers to sort and pack food boxes or to help make phone calls for donations. Now during the pandemic, many pantries are holding mobile no-contact distribution, but they still need help setting up the food and raising awareness.

If you are looking for a way to help, check in with your local food bank:

Picture of two adults sitting at a table talking.

Advance care planning is more important than ever

The COVID-19 pandemic is shedding new light on the often-abstract concept of advance care planning. Advance care planning is where individuals document what matters most to them, and then select the right health care agent to make decisions on their behalf if they are unable to speak for themselves. During this pandemic, many people have had the heartbreaking experience of making medical decisions for loved ones who were unable to communicate.

Advance care planning gives patients peace of mind in knowing that health care decisions will be made on their behalf by a person they trust. For the person selected to be someone’s health care agent, advance care planning gives them the confidence to make decisions based on their loved one’s stated values and beliefs.

Advance Care Planning: For all Adults Ages 18 and Older

All adults ages 18 and older should start advance care planning conversations with their health care providers, family members and trusted friends. Then, they should complete a health care proxy to formally name a health care agent.

Completing or updating a health care proxy can be done at an office visit to the individual’s physician, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant. The practice of social distancing may require this to be done with a telehealth visit via telephone or by using video conferencing technology such as Skype.

The health care proxy form requires two witnesses to the signature. This can be accomplished in person, or by using video conferencing technology. A photo of the signed health care proxy can be mailed to the health care provider or uploaded to the medical practice’s secure patient portal. Individuals also should email a copy to family members.

If video conferencing is unavailable, speak with your health care provider about the process for verbal consent.

Read special considerations on how to complete a health care proxy during the pandemic by visiting CompassionandSupport.org.

MOLST: For those with an advanced illness

Individuals with an advanced illness or advanced frailty are advised to reach out to their physician or nurse practitioner to discuss the Medical Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (MOLST). MOLST reflects a patient’s preferences for treatment, including resuscitation, respiratory support on a ventilator, and hospitalization. It is based on a thoughtful discussion  about the patient’s current health status, prognosis and goals for care.

MOLST is not an advance directive and is not for healthy people. It is a set of medical orders signed by a physician or nurse practitioner that must be followed.

Learn More and Start The Conversation

Excellus BlueCross BlueShield led the development of a free community website, CompassionAndSupport.org, that includes information on advance care planning, free downloadable forms and instructional videos. MOLST.org has COVID-19 guidance on MOLST, eMOLST, and how to have thoughtful MOLST discussions.

An educational poster “Who Will Speak For You If You Can’t Make Your Own Health Care Decisions?” is available to download at ExcellusBCBS.com.

Sudden signs of stroke

Recognizing Signs of Stroke Can Speed Treatment and Limit Damage

Only one-third of adults in New York state say they can recognize the signs of a stroke, according to a review of self-reported data by Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. And that’s bad news since every 40 seconds someone in the United States has a stroke, according to the American Heart Association. Knowing when someone is exhibiting the symptoms of a stroke can lead to quicker treatment and a lower risk of disability or death.

Acting F.A.S.T. If You Suspect a Stroke

A stroke occurs when a blood vessel supplying oxygen and nutrients to the brain becomes blocked with a blood clot (ischemic stroke) or when a blood vessel bursts, causing bleeding within or around the brain (hemorrhagic stroke). The brain is deprived of oxygen, and brain cells die within minutes. The body cannot replace damaged brain cells, so the effects of a stroke are often permanent.

“A stroke is a brain attack, and damage can increase with every minute that treatment is delayed,” said Nicholas Massa, M.D., C.P.C., Medical Director at Excellus BCBS. “The acronym F-A-S-T is an easy way to remember what to look for and what to do if you suspect someone has had a stroke.”

  • F = Face.  Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
  • A = Arm.  Ask the person to raise both arms. Is one arm drifting down or appearing weak?
  • S = Speech.  Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is speech slurred or confused?
  • T= Time.  Time lost is brain lost, so call 9-1-1 right away if you detect any signs of stroke.

Know Your Risk

Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States. Six thousand New Yorkers die each year from a stroke. Risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, tobacco use and obesity. Among adults in upstate New York, more African Americans and Hispanic Americans self-report experiencing a stroke compared with those who self-identify as White.

“Anyone with any of the risk factors for stroke should speak with their doctor about medical interventions or lifestyle changes to reduce their risk,” said Dr. Massa. “And everyone should know the acronym F-A-S-T, so they can recognize when someone is showing signs of a stroke and can summon medical help immediately.”

Excellus BCBS created a free and downloadable educational poster, “The Sudden Signs of Stroke,” available at ExcellusBCBS.com .

Learn more at CDC.gov/Stroke.

Picture of a woman holding her head in her hands

Domestic violence and abuse can happen to anyone; it does not discriminate

News outlets across the country have reported a rise in domestic violence during the COVID-19 pandemic –when families are essentially confined to homes, where a victim can’t easily escape an abuser. Abusers have more tactics at their disposal when victims can’t easily get away from home.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men in the United States have experienced violence from a partner in their lifetime — and the risks to victims can be severe.

Seeking Help

Victims of domestic violence face more social isolation in general, even when there isn’t a widespread pandemic.  With the multitude of entities closed to the public, it is important for those in high risk situations to know that courts and many domestic violence organizations, phone hotlines, and shelters are available to help.

Domestic violence organizations are also working to develop new strategies to support victims during the pandemic, such as offering hotline services through online chats or texting, in case victims cannot call with an abuser at home.

Resources Available

Below are links to local organizations that can provide you with information on how to stay safe from domestic abuse or get help if needed:


Crisis Services: http://crisisservices.org/

Western NY 211: http://www.211wny.org/

Family Justice Center: https://www.fjcsafe.org/

Erie County Department of Social Services: https://www2.erie.gov/socialservices/domestic-violence


Willow Domestic Violence Center: https://willowcenterny.org/

YWCA of Rochester & Monroe County: https://www.ywcarochester.org/

YWCA Emergency Housing page:  https://www.ywcarochester.org/what-we-do/housing/emergency-housing/

Catholic Family Center: https://www.cfcrochester.org/our-services/empowering-the-vulnerable/shelters/

Sojourner Home: https://www.sojournerhome.org/

Domestic Abuse Support Services – 2-1-1 Life Line: https://211lifeline.org/categories.php?cat=DomAbuse

Domestic Shelters search site (by zip code or city): https://www.domesticshelters.org/

Southern Tier:

Crime Victims Association Center: http://www.cvac.us/

Family Violence Prevention: http://www.gobroomecounty.com/fvpc

Catholic Charities of Chemung and Schuyler: https://cs-cc.org/


Vera House: https://www.verahouse.org/

Salvation Army Women’s Shelter: https://syracuseny.salvationarmy.org/

211 CNY: https://www.211cny.com/catsearch.php?cat=dovh


Mohawk Valley YWCA: https://www.ywcamv.org/what-we-do/domestic-violence-services/

Help Restore Hope Center: http://www.helprestorehopecenter.org/

Opportunities for Otsego: http://www.ofoinc.org/find-program/violence-intervention-program/


photo of a woman checking her blood sugar

Taking Charge of Your Diabetes – Now More Important Than Ever

Bob Russell was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 25. Today, he is the Upstate New York Area Executive Director of the American Diabetes Association (ADA). He’s aware of the importance of managing the risks associated with diabetes.

Pictures of Bob Russell speaking at ADA events

Bob Russell, Upstate New York Area Executive Director of the American Diabetes Association

“Diabetes can affect anyone at any time,” Russell said. “Being aware, paying attention to your body and taking time to take care of yourself is even more important in our current environment.”

There are an estimated 1.6 million adults in New York living with diabetes, according to the New York State Department of Health. This chronic health condition, where the body doesn’t produce or properly use insulin to digest sugar (glucose), can cause serious illness and damage many parts of the body if it’s not managed properly.

People with diabetes can jeopardize their health by failing to take necessary steps to keep their chronic illness in check. Many risk factors for diabetes can be reduced by maintaining a healthy weight and diet, staying physically active and avoiding tobacco.

Managing Diabetes is Now More Important Than Ever

As diabetes affects the immune system, diabetics have an increased risk for infections, including respiratory viruses, that includes the family of coronaviruses and COVID-19.

“Managing our diabetes now is critically important,” he said. “This virus poses a challenge to those of us who are living with diabetes.”

Photo of Bob Russell standing at a podium holding a microphone

Bob Russell, Upstate New York Area Executive Director of the American Diabetes Association

Take Time to Take Care of Yourself

While many of us are currently working from home and sheltering in place, our routines have changed. People living with diabetes need to continue to watch what they eat and monitor blood sugar levels.

“We’re home and not as active,“ said Russell. “We need to continue to keep our numbers in check. Making small changes can help you be more in control of what you’re dealing with and can help you in the long run. You don’t have to give up the things you love. You just have to do things differently.”

One of the things Russell is doing differently is substituting a big breakfast of bacon, eggs and toast each morning with a protein shake that has less than 10 grams of carbs. “It’s a nice, simple way to take care of yourself,” he says.

Picture of a man mixing a shake

Bob mixing his daily shake (photo courtesy of Bob Russell)

“And we need to continue to stay active,” he adds. “The outdoors is still open to us, so go outside and take a walk around the block!”

Russell says everyone, and especially those with chronic disease, must be aware of their environment. “Social distancing is crucial. I limit where I put myself. I carry wipes and use hand sanitizer all the time.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommends wearing cloth face coverings when going into public settings where social distancing may be difficult to maintain.

A Focus on the Spirit and the Psyche

He also says that social interaction is as important as social distancing, especially for those with a chronic condition. “With what’s going on, it’s easy for us to get stressed or even panicked,” he said. “Turn off the news and connect with friends or loved ones. We have to focus on our spirit and our psyche. It’s good for our mental health.”

He encourages those with diabetes or any chronic condition to reach out to support organizations for help.

“The American Diabetes Association is available anytime to help our community,” Russell says. “We’re in this together.”

Additional resources: