Palpitations: What Your Heart Is Trying to Tell You

The human body is a remarkable and complex machine. This miraculous machine is composed of numerous canals, cavities and apparatus that we call organ systems.

Everyone receives this equipment free of charge, and it functions in a coordinated effort to move fluids, solids and electrical energy throughout our bodies for a very important purpose: to allow us to live our lives.

Most of the time, we prefer not to be too aware of all of these functions. We have a “don’t bother me, I won’t bother you” approach. However, every so often, we hear from our bodies. This message is what doctors call symptoms.

The heart is a perfect example. It fills and squeezes constantly, and hopefully we are never aware of it. Only when the beating is “irregular” or “hard” do we become aware, and this awareness of the heart beating is known as a palpitation.

Palpitations are the symptom of an abnormal rhythm — or misfires — of the heart’s electrical system. Although scary, often it is not a medical emergency.

Abnormal heart rhythms — arrhythmias — can be dangerous, but they are also commonly benign.

Palpitations can be acquired either at birth and/or with aging and the development of heart disease. Palpitations are not always associated with underlying heart disease; sometimes too much stress (emotional and/or physical) can cause them to occur in an otherwise healthy heart.

For a person with a skipped or rapid heartbeat, the urgency to assess this should be related to the circumstances and the accompanying symptoms. If those symptoms are associated with fainting, dizziness, chest pain or other worrisome feelings, you should seek immediate medical attention by calling 911.

If the palpitations come and go without other symptoms, the first step is a routine evaluation by a cardiologist. Rest assured that there are many simple and painless noninvasive methods used to make a proper diagnosis and therapy plan.

The best advice to keep your heart healthy and to avoid stressing it too much is:
> Exercise (all you really need to do is raise your pulse 10 to 15 beats for 20 minutes).
> Do not smoke.
> Eat a balanced diet and don’t over indulge.
> Avoid dehydration; electrolyte imbalances will cause misfires.
> Meditate or take part in a stress-relieving activity.

A patient who is diagnosed with an arrhythmia should see a heart-rhythm specialist, a cardiologist who specializes in the treatment of arrhythmias.

Heart-rhythm doctors diagnosis the condition and give it fancy names such as atrial fibrillation, ventricular tachycardia or supraventricular tachycardia.

Professionals in the field are dedicated to treating arrhythmias by offering simple, safe and effective curative catheter heart procedures known as
ablations and with implantable devices such as pacemakers.

Most importantly, the symptoms are removed, the equipment is silent again, and the machine can get back to its primary purpose: to serve you so you can live your life.

Dr. Jeffrey Banker is a heart-rhythm cardiologist at the Heart Center at Sinai Hospital.

Dancing With Chickens In 10 Easy Steps


(David Stuck)

What’s Shabbat without chicken? What’s any day without chicken?

With meat and fish prices soaring, chicken is still your best bet for nutritious and economical meals. But it’s easy to get stuck in a chicken rut. Here are some ways to shake up your routine and add new culinary steps to your chicken dance. If your regular Shabbat meal is roasted chicken, roast an extra — or buy another rotisserie chicken. You can never have too much,
because there are so many ways to use the leftovers. I prefer to either shred or chop cooked chicken on a diagonal for more tenderness. And never throw away the frame of any cooked chicken. Freeze it for a rainy/snowy day to make chicken soup. Store-bought rotisserie chickens make the best chicken soup, as the herbs season your soup beautifully. And cooking time is much shorter.

Here are 10 ways to dance with chickens — seven ways to incorporate leftover cooked chicken and three from-scratch recipes.

1. CHICKEN SLOPPY JOES: Sauté some finely chopped onion, bell pepper and garlic until translucent. Add finely chopped cooked chicken to warm. Stir in equal parts of marinara and barbecue sauce, and spoon onto soft buns to serve.

2. THAI PASTA WITH PEANUT SAUCE: Combine about 2 tablespoons peanut butter, 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce, one teaspoon sugar, 2 teaspoons chopped garlic and a dash of hot sauce in a saucepan. Add enough coconut milk to thin. Warm on the stove, then toss with cooked pasta noodles, shredded cooked chicken, chopped roasted peanuts and chopped fresh cilantro or parsley.

3. CHOPPED SALAD: Combine chopped cooked chicken, chopped apple, chopped red onion, raisins and almonds in a bowl. Toss with a pareve salad dressing. I like the Asian ones.

4. CHICKEN LETTUCE CUPS: Chop chicken and toss in a little cornstarch. (2 tablespoons for each whole chicken). Sauté chopped garlic and ginger over medium heat until golden brown and nutty aroma. Add chopped shiitake mushrooms and chopped water chestnuts. Drizzle with soy sauce, rice vinegar and a touch of sugar, scraping the bottom of pan. Add the chicken and cook until sauce thickens and chicken is done. Drizzle over a little more soy sauce, vinegar and sesame oil to taste. Serve in lettuce cups topped with chopped roasted peanuts and green onion.

5. CHICKEN COUSCOUS: To cooked couscous, add diced olives, diced red onion, sautéed garbanzo beans, chopped cooked chicken, raisins, diced dried apricots and diced dates. Flavor with fresh chopped cilantro or flat leaf parsley, ground cinnamon, cloves, coriander and squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

6. CHICKEN TACOS: Try the new stand-up-straight taco shells, one packet of low-salt taco seasoning and about 1 cup shredded cooked chicken. In a small saucepan, add about one half the packet of seasoning, some water and the chicken. Simmer for about five minutes, stirring until almost all liquid is dissolved and chicken gets all the flavors. Place lettuce on bottom of taco shell, then chopped tomato, chopped onion (optional), chicken and sliced avocado and end with some good salsa.

7. CHICKEN TAQUITOS: Roll shredded seasoned taco chicken in small tortillas and then deep fry. Serve with great salsa.




Ilene Spector is a local freelance writer.

Walkabout Abilities

091313_walkaboutOn Sunday, Sept. 22, Goucher College will be the site for a mile-and-a-half walk to raise money and awareness for the services provided to Maryland residents with disabilities by the Abilities Network.

“It’s a bring-your-friends, bring-your-neighbors event,” said Paul Trinkoff, a member of the Abilities Network board.

This will be the seventh annual Walkabout Abilities, an event that has grown into the centerpiece of the Network’s fundraising and outreach efforts.

“It’ not heavy-handed at all,” said Trinkoff, who has participated in the event both as a fundraiser and as an organizer.

The money raised goes to serve those in the community with disabilities and their families. The organization works with people with epilepsy and autism, among other disabilities, and helps them with medical and social adaptation.

“I had epilepsy and got introduced to the Network when I was young through my aunt,” said Leete Garten, who is now on the Abilities Network board.

Garten said that the great experience his family had with the Network led to his father becoming a longtime member of the board, and he is proud to continue that legacy. The Walkabout, he said, plays a key role in informing the community about the Network.

“It’s a testament to our employees,” he said. “It’s become our flagship event.”

The event takes most of the year to plan, but its success has made it worthwhile. The Network engages with schools to improve inclusiveness, and it runs programs to help people with disabilities get jobs. It is also working on a new program for elderly clients who can’t stay in their homes any longer.

“It’s all very hands-on,” Trinkoff said. “It’s very individualized, not a cookie-cutter process.”

Although the Abilities Network is not a Jewish group, the Jewish community in Baltimore plays an important role, as Trinkoff and Garten, both Jewish, can attest.

“It’s a very open organization,” Garten said.

“And there’s a lot of Jewish community involvement,” Trinkoff added.

As for the Walkabout, entertainment and a variety of food vendors help draw large crowds.

“We’ve even had famous local athletes attend,” Garten said.

For more information on the Network and the Walkabout, visit

“It can make a big impact,” Trinkoff said.

The Eyes Have It For E-readers

There’s nothing like getting lost in a good book, whether you prefer “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Steve Jobs” or “Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site.” We each have our own tastes when it comes to what we think is a good page-turner.

However, choosing books is now just one part of the process, because it’s a question not only of fiction or non-fiction and author or genre, but also of how we are going to enjoy our favorites.

There are dozens and dozens of electronic readers, such as the Amazon Kindle, Barnes and Noble’s Nook and the Apple iPad, and they have bec-ome popular alternatives for reading enthusiasts.

Many people think it’s a no-brainer to carry an e-reader rather than books, because books are bulkier and heavier. With more than two million e-books available to download at the click of a button, e-readers are also easy to update. In fact, one in 10 Americans says that he or she currently uses some kind of e-reader.

Of course, as with any change, there is uncertainty. One of the questions I get most often is, “Do e-readers cause eye strain?”

For the most part, they do not. Let’s put things into perspective. Even when you are reading the print edition of a book, your eyes may feel fatigued, so it’s nice to take a bit of a break: Get up, stretch, look around, refocus and then go back to your book.

The same thing holds true with an electronic reader. If you’re staring at an e-reader for a long time, you might feel that same sense of tired or strained eyes that you would with the printed word. Simply follow your instincts to stretch, look away and check out something in the distance to allow your focusing muscles to recalibrate; then start again.

Eye strain can cause your eyes to be sore and feel tired and make your vision blurry. However, the symptoms are not permanent, and once you rest your eyes, the symptoms will disappear. If they don’t, however, and are accompanied by headaches and double vision, you should check with your doctor; they could indicate something else is wrong.

As someone who uses e-readers, I think they’re terrific devices. If you are like me and are a bit nearsighted, they can be very helpful. I have to wear reading glasses for regular books, but I never have to wear them when I use my e-readers because I can enlarge the text as much as I want.

In addition, it’s not your imagination if you notice differences among e-readers. LCD screens can be more difficult to read in bright sunlight, and in those instances I use a Kindle, which uses electronic ink, as opposed to an LCD screen, to cut down on the glare.

For the vast majority of people, e-readers are a good thing because they make reading accessible, and I don’t think you need to worry about additional eye strain.

Whether you select paper or electronics, I hope that you enjoy this latest chapter in technology.

Dr. Donald Abrams is chief of the Department of Ophthalmology at the LifeBridge Health Krieger Eye Institute.

Novel Flavors

Each Jewish New Year, as we greet each other with a joyous shannah tovah, I add a happy birthday for myself. Being born on Rosh Hashanah, a holiday with a tradition of tasting new food, as well as being the owner of The Classic Catering People, I relish in the discovery of novel flavors.

Rosh Hashanah is associated with many food customs, such as eating apples and honey, that are meant to symbolize a sweet New Year. The holiday is a natural reflection of local and seasonal foods prepared by using what’s available wherever you are. So, just as Jewish people have settled in different parts of the world, meals served during this time should be adapted based on what’s accessible in that region.

This Rosh Hashanah, I am approaching meal planning in a way that pays homage to the old and introduces unexpected elements of the new.

First. Why not seek out one of the many varieties of heirloom apples that continue to delight shoppers at Baltimore’s farmers’ markets? The blend of old and new that these apples represent serves as a tangible reminder of Rosh Hashanah and its meaning: reflection of the past year and the celebration of the New Year to come. This year, slice several types of apples to dip into honey, or mix an heirloom variety of apples in a traditional cake or cobbler.

Second. Pomegranates are often an expression of the New Year because they are a fruit that arrives in early fall, and eating them is a ritual that encourages us to appreciate all the fruits of the earth. Furthermore, the pomegranate is said to have 613 seeds, equal to God’s 613 mitzvot. This Rosh Hashanah, try toasting the New Year with a nonalcoholic libation made with pomegranate juice as the base. Another way to enjoy pomegranates is to add its red-colored seeds to a salad or its sweet-tasting juice to a vinaigrette dressing.

Third. For the daring, seek out the fruit of the Pawpaw tree. Pawpaw trees are native to Maryland, and, until recently, the fruit could only be found by foraging. Today, it is available during select weeks in the fall at farmers’ markets or can be purchased frozen in pulp form. The Pawpaw tree is a part of American history; it was grown by Thomas Jefferson at Monticello, and the seeds traveled across the county with Lewis and Clark. It is often compared to a banana in taste, has tropical characteristics and is perishable. Its fleeting nature is a wonderful expression of celebrating the moment and a new ingredient that can enliven your Rosh Hashanah menu.

While Rosh Hashanah is a time of tradition, it is also a time of celebrating new and exciting things. This year, consider adding an unexpected twist to your holiday meal.


Apple Cider Vinaigrette

Harriet Dopkin is president of The Classic Catering People in Owings Mills.

Back to School 101

Your children are enjoying every second of summer vacation but you need to get ready to send them back to school. Don’t think your list stops with pencils, backpacks and new clothes. You also need to prepare a back to school health checklist. Children need to be healthy and alert in order to do well in school. That means you need to prepare for everything from physicals to home schooling on germ warfare. Where should you start?

1. Call your child’s school and ask about required immunizations. Different schools have different requirements. Many school websites have a page of health-related requirements.

2. Your child’s doctor should perform a school physical. This physical can identify health problems, including hearing and vision issues. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that about one in four school-age children have a vision problem.

3. Talk with your children about germs and how they spread. Teach the kids when and how to wash their hands properly. Use warm, soapy water after using the bathroom, before eating and when they come home from school. It may sound simple, but it is the best way to battle germs that hitch a ride home on the school bus. Also, make sure your children know what to do when they need to cough or sneeze. They should carry tissues or, if necessary, sneeze into the inside of their elbow instead of in their hands. While it may be nice to share some things, it’s not good to share germs, so talk with your children about not sharing food, drinks, clothes, hats and hairbrushes with their friends. Head lice are another classroom pest that may be slowed by these good health habits.

4. Children fall out of their school day routine during vacation. Don’t wait until the night before school begins to get back into that routine. Ease your children back into their sleep schedule by gradually imposing an earlier bedtime a few weeks before school begins.

5. Have a plan for sick days. Pediatricians stress that you should not send your child to school with a fever. A fever means the immune system is trying to fight off something, and your child may be contagious to other children and adults. Have a plan in place for last minute sick child care. You will probably need it before the school year ends.

6. Do your children use their backpacks correctly? It is uncertain whether heavy backpacks cause permanent damage in children, but overloaded and improperly work backpacks can cause temporary back pain. Pediatricians urge parents to look for backpacks with individual compartments for sharp objects pike pencils. Heavier items should be placed closer to the body. Your child’s backpack should also have two should straps for even weight distribution.


Off To College

College freshmen are essentially high school seniors without their parents there to guide them.

Many families are now in the midst of preparing their college-bound students to go away to school, and for a lot of families this will be the first time their children are leaving home for more than a night or two.

Preparation is important not only for the typical tools and personal items that college students require for studying and living, but also for the health-related planning that should be done. It is vital to prepare your high school student for life away from home, for while it can be a very positive, it can also be stressful for both students and their parents.

Some topics for parents to focus on with their children are the basics of how to make appropriate choices after they leave the supervision and comforts of home. Lifestyle issues should be front and center. For instance, reminding young adults about the importance of getting enough sleep, the dangers of substance abuse and even that they may be scared or depressed until they become used to their new routines are just some of the subjects that parents should discuss before their teens leave.

Other matters to kick around are how they can make the best choices about new friends and how to go about setting boundaries in these new relationships. Believe it or not, the more these topics are discussed, the easier the conversation will become over time.

This may also be the first time that teens will be able to make their own food choices over a long stretch. Since there probably will be an overwhelming number of options, it is worthwhile for parents to recommend plans to help their students navigate. Along with the desserts and snacks in their college cafeteria, a simple reminder to include fruits, vegetables and other healthy selections is crucial.

With some thought about each of the topics mentioned here, freshmen will have an easier time making decisions at college.

Additionally, parents should also keep a running dialogue going throughout the school year and talk about what is right and what could be improved upon.

The same issues should be addressed by the young person’s primary-care physician, along with a complete pre-college physical.

By the time they are ready for college, most teens will be up to date on vaccines and booster shots, but talk with your children’s doctor about the late adolescent vaccines, including a tetanus booster, three human papilloma vaccine shots and two meningococcal (meningitis) vaccines.

Finally, technology can be a great way for parents and their college kids to stay in touch. It can enable an open line of communication while it is also gives students a chance to spread their wings.

One of the best ways for parents to respect the new independence of their college children is to prepare them for what lies ahead and to be open to their questions during their time away from home. After all, no matter how grown up they are, they are still your children.

Dr. Oscar Taube is medical director for pediatric outpatient services and coordinator for adolescent medicine at the Herman & Walter Samuelson Children’s Hospital at Sinai.

Never Too Early …

It’s not too early to start planning for the High Holidays — or to think about Chanukah. Yes, I said Chanukah. This year, Chanukah is so early, it falls on Thanksgiving Day. This calendar event will not happen again in our lifetime. So, after a summer of warm weather, vacations and staycations, it’ s time to get ready for a very busy fall and early winter Jewish holiday season.

Rosh Hashanah is up first, as always. It’ s a new year, so I like to add new twists to my food. Traditional recipes help preserve our past, but putting a unique spin on a dish gives it a personal signature — and creates new traditions to honor in the future. I have included traditional recipes to get you started, along with some tips for the best ways to blend the new and the old. You may not have to start cooking yet, but you can begin by taking small steps, such as assembling your holiday guest list. Be realistic and be good to yourself.


Plum Tomatoes With Cumin-Cornbread Crumbs


Rice Pilaf With Fideo (Angel Hair) Nests


Traditional Chicken Soup With An Asian Twist

Tips & Tricks
• Try grated orange peel, orange juice in place of some water and chopped dates in your favorite challah recipe.

• Add some tiny red and green crab apples and/or old family photos on sticks (chopsticks) to your flower centerpiece.

• Manischewitz Recipe & Holiday Guide is a new app available for download on all Apple and Android devices and contains a large selection of recipes for any and every occasion and holiday.

Check it out!

071913_check_it_outThe prospect of getting a crowd of teenagers to pipe down and focus can be a challenging task.

However, when Jill Mull addresses dozens of 11th- and 12th-grade girls, she says it’s quiet enough to hear a pin drop.

Mull is one of several breast cancer survivors who volunteer to speakin front of female high school audiences as a part of Hadassah of Greater Baltimore’s Check It Out program. In its 19th year, the initiative combines the insights of breast cancer survivors and medical professionals to educate and empower girls to take a proactive approach toward breast cancer prevention.

The innovative program has reached more than 140,000 young women in public, private and parochial schools throughout the Greater Baltimore Metropolitan area. Since 1999, the program has also educated more than 30,000 boys about testicular cancer and self-examination.

On Sunday, July 28, Hadassah will host its annual Check It Out Challenge, a run/walk event that raises funds for the organization and its programs.

Organizers and volunteers alike stress that Check It Out is not intended as a scare tactic. Mull said she emphasizes during her talks that 18-year-olds have a one in 25,000 chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer. However, she does accentuate that the onus ison the girls to know their bodies and alert a doctor when something doesn’t feel right. She said that 85 percent of breast cancer patients have no genetic connection to the disease.

“I was taken out of the blue with my breast cancer diagnosis, but you have to be your own advocate,” said Mull, 40, and the immediate past chair of Check It Out.

Listening to real life experiences from a survivor is just the first piece of the puzzle. After the disease is“humanized,” Mull said, the audience is educated on how to conduct a breast exam from a medical professional.

Barbara Berg, a health educator for more than 35 years, said thatthe detailed instruction on how
to examine one’s body is a part of what makes Check It Out such an effective resource.

“My sense is that even though there are pink ribbons and walks for cancer and people talking about breast cancer, young women aren’t necessarily educated about what kinds of things in their own body they should be aware of, and, as they get older, the kinds of things they should [check for],” said Berg, a part-time staffer at Hadassah who also helps oversee the program.

Following the two elements of the program, each student is provided an index card to write down questions that they may feel uncomfortable asking in front of their peers. Additionally, speakers stick around following the presentation to answer questions one-on-one with teens. Each student is also provided with a Check It Out kit that includes a handbag with an evaluation sheet for the presentation and a self-examination checklist. Some years, the kit has also included model breasts for practicing a self-exam.

Perhaps the true sign of Check It Out’s effectiveness is that, aside from technological enhancements here and there, the program has essentially remained the same since its inception. It continues to rely on a committed group of staff and volunteers who are working to ensure that teens are aware that early detection can be the key to saving a life —  maybe their own.

Marsha Oakley has seen the imp-ortance of early detection from both sides. Oakley, the nursing coordinator at Mercy Hospital’s Hoffberger Breast Center, is a two-time breast cancer survivor herself. She’s spoken at Check It Out programs both as a survivor and as a medical professional.

“I have never doubted that I am alive because I found that thing. I use myself as an example that [early detection] works,” Oakley said. “[Through this program] we know people’s lives have been changed.”

Hadassah Check It Out Challenge
Benefiting breast and testicular cancer education programs for Greater Baltimore kids and other local initiatives
8K-5K-1Mile Run/Walk
Sunday, July 28; Goucher College
Cost: $35 before July 26; $40 on race day
Register online at
For more information, contact or call 410-484-9590.

David Snyder is a JT staff reporter

OMG … What’s a Webinar?

Who says doctors don’t make house calls anymore? While it’s definitely not the same as decades ago when physicians often treated patients at home, there are still a lot of opportunities to learn about diseases and treatments in the comfort and privacy of your own house, office or other location.

Here’s how. You may have heard of the word webinar, but you may not have a clue about what it means.

A webinar is a live online presentation that can be viewed by anyone anywhere as long as he or she has a computer and is registered. The length of each one varies, and the subjects are as numerous as the imagination allows. A webinar usually consists of one or more speakers who use visual aids, such as PowerPoint slides, along with their lectures. Only the presenter is seen, not those who sign up.

What is also unique about these web conferences is the capability for immediate interaction. Participants can ask questions or make comments during the webcast, and the host(s) can provide answers before it ends.

When it comes to learning about different health issues, the sky is the limit. For instance, among the many diverse themes that can be addressed are ankle arthritis, the causes of and treatments for epilepsy and help for children who break bones while they are playing sports.

Another example of a hot health-related webinar topic is diabetes. During an hour-long webinar, an
endocrinologist can talk about how the disease affects the body, who is at risk for developing it, how it can be treated and how it can be prevented.

To take part in any webinar, all you need is a desktop computer or laptop, Internet access and speakers and/or headphones.

Some things to consider if you are thinking about giving webinars a try:
• Make sure that the website offering the online conference is reputable.

• Find out if it is free and, if not, decide if you are willing to pay a fee.

• Check the presenter’s credentials.

• Expect to hear basic information but follow up with your own doctor for specifics about your own condition.

The benefits are many:
• You can hear information from an expert in the health-care field.

• You don’t have to be in the same state, or even in the same country, to be part of a webinar.

• You do not have to dress up to attend.

• You can learn additional facts by hearing the answers to other people’s questions.

• You can usually find a webinar to fit your schedule because starting times and days fluctuate.

If you miss a presentation, sometimes these web seminars are taped and posted on the presenter’s website so that they can be listened to at any time. As you do when you listen to any expert, remember that there are differing points of view on every issue so keep an open mind. Thanks to technology, webinars can be a great way for people to learn valuable information in a very accessible way.

Helene King is a communications coordinator at LifeBridge Health.