In this season we may want to snuggle up like bears in a warm cave and not crawl out until spring. But for humans the slower pace and extra time indoors invites an assessment of where we are now and what we hope to accomplish. At the New Year, these inchoate thought processes crystallize into a plan for action or, in common parlance, a New Year’s resolution.

But New Year’s resolutions are not so easy to put into practice. The problem is that they require us to change behaviors that are not good for us. After the gorging that tends to occur during the month of December, the most popular resolution is to eat more healthily — lower the carbs and step up the protein — and drop the creeping inner tube around the middle. Another related one is to get more exercise both for cardio health, increased strength and flexibility, and, oh yes, to lose weight. Another might be to have a more upbeat approach to life; start looking at a cup as half full rather than half empty.

Sometimes what gets left off the list of New Year’s resolutions is the importance of taking care of your health and finding the right doctors to do that. Whether aging has taken its bite from the precision of your vision, or your sleep cycle has deteriorated and you don’t know what to do about it, it’s important to recognize that help is out there. So consider adding a doctor’s appointment to your list of New Year to-dos.

Yet even carefully considered New Year’s resolutions often fall by the wayside after the first couple of weeks in January, and we might do well to recognize that changing for the better might require a little outside help.

Consider some new approaches to old problems.

Hypnosis can help you make the changes you want to make, whether these involve resisting an extra helping of food, staying calm in the face of overwhelming tasks, or quitting a bad habit like smoking. A temporary loss of will power can ruin our best intentions. Ira Weiner, a retired medical doctor, and his wife, Edwina Weiner, of Prism Hypnosis use hypnosis to replace unwanted urges, anxiety, and pain with positive thoughts.

The Weiners learn about your strengths and motivations and then help you change any automatic responses that are counter to your goals, for example, losing your motivation to go to the gym because life gets in the way. The Weiners can help people follow through on their best intentions through hypnotic suggestion. “We can’t make you do anything, but we can help you do whatever it is you want to do,” says Ira Weiner. For example, a hypnotic message will enable you to feel satiated at work, to know that you are not hungry and have no need or desire to sample the cookies in the coffee lounge.

Weiner integrated hypnosis into his medical practice 40 years ago after taking a course at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. After he retired from his medical practice and moved from Syracuse to Monroe Township, he decided to continue doing hypnosis for clients, along with his wife Edwina. Both are certified hypnotherapists through the National Guild of Hypnotists, which requires yearly continuing education.

So how does hypnosis work? While you are in a deep state of relaxation, yet fully in control and aware of your surroundings, the Weiners make suggestions to your subconscious mind. “We have to make your automatic responses be appropriate for the goals you seek,” he says. “The purpose of hypnosis is to help you achieve your goals for a satisfying and healthy life.”

To get further information or make an appointment, call 732-239-8333 or visit www.prismhypnosis.com.

Try Pilates to achieve strength and balance. The New Year can be a great time not just to reprogram your mind but also to reprogram your body, with Pilates. @$:Pilates is a series of controlled exercises, developed 100 years ago by Joseph Pilates to enhance flexibility, strengthen muscles, and improve posture while eliminating tension and strain from the joints.

Anthony Rabara has been teaching Pilates for 29 years. He helps train new teachers at his home studio in New York City, and his studio at 392 Wall Street in Research Park has been in operation since 1989. Anthony has the honor of being a Master Teacher and Teacher Trainer.

While Pilates can help everyone, Anthony Rabara says that about 60 percent of his clients come in due to muscular imbalances or back pain that are the result of an injury or poor postural habits.

Pilates also draws athletes, for example, members of the Princeton University swim team who are looking for a good muscular workout as well as balanced strength on both sides of their bodies.

Pilates is also gentle enough to help people with mechanical issues or other limitations to build strength when nothing else seems to work. This includes pregnant women as well as people bound to a wheelchair. “One of Joseph Pilates’ first pieces of equipment was attaching springs to a hospital bed so that those injured in World War I could make as many muscular connections as possible,” Rabara explains. He was also featured in the Pilates Style magazine for his work with a boy who has muscular dystrophy.

But Pilates also brings in the regular Joes or Janes who are sedentary and have been hearing that the kind of attention that Rabara’s studio employs in each session will make them look and feel better. Or maybe they just want to look their best when they get into a bathing suit.

What distinguishes Pilates from the body building and strength training offered at a standard gym is exactly how Pilates builds muscles, using exercises “that help you control your muscles from the inside out.” Because Pilates focuses on the core muscles and not superficial ones, Rabara says his students are ultimately stronger than pure exercise wonks.

Pilates is particularly attentive to the muscles that lift a person’s spine. “Our muscles are capable of lifting our bodies,” says Rabara. “When you are not walking stooped over, you look better.”

An official Pilates training studio like Rabara’s uses only the apparatus designed by Joseph Pilates, including in particular the spring-based Reformer, which keeps the body symmetrical. Classes are either on mats or on the spring-based Pilates apparatus. Rabara offers no hybrid classes using balls or elastic bands, which he emphasizes are Pilates-based but not Pilates.

Although Pilates seems to be taught everywhere, Rabara recommends that people take the time to research and find the right place. “Today everyone seems to be aware of core muscles, and trainers love to talk about core strength,” he says. “But the muscles that make up that core have always been a focus of traditional Pilates.”

Putting in a plug for his own studio with its highly trained, accredited teachers, he says, “What if you get a ‘core’ workout, attention to posture and the muscles that support the spine, and a workout that builds strength and stretches your muscles? You get this at my studio in every lesson!”

Rabara invites anyone interested in Pilates to visit his studio and watch a 55-minute session, but asks them to call first to set the first no-charge appointment. Check out his website at www.rabarapilates.com or call 609-921-7990.

Learn about new medical possibilities. Today medical practices that treat the entire family, from babies through geriatric patients, are more prevalent. “Family medicine is overall comprehensive care,” says Rose McGeever, who practices family medicine at the St. Francis Medical Center. “There is no age restriction.”

For her pediatric patients, she does immunizations, sick visits, and physicals. She also does gynecological exams and dermatology. She observes, “When patients come to you and see it is as a one-stop shop, they like to bring their families back.” When her patients need more specialized care, she refers them to appropriate specialists, usually within the hospital community.

Dr. McGeever graduated from the School of Osteopathic Medicine at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in 2006 and completed her residency there in 2009. She practiced in Cherry Hill before moving in October to New Jersey. Her practice accepts all insurances, including Medicaid and Women’s Health.

Dr. McGeever was drawn to family medicine in part because as a family practitioner, she gets to know the entire family. “Once you know the family dynamics, it makes your job easier,” she says. “There are a lot of biopsychosocial components of disease. When someone comes in sick, it’s important to know what kind of life they lead outside and who are their support networks.” Contact Dr. McGeever at 609-882-0777.

Sometimes we don’t even think to get help from a physician for certain problems, either because we don’t know about new medical procedures that can help or because we don’t know we have a problem.

Dr. Samuel Becker of The Becker Nose and Sinus Center is an otolaryngologist who treats nose and sinus-related problems, including allergies and sleep apnea. For ear, nose, and throat doctors like Becker, one of the biggest changes in recent years is an improved ability to diagnose the source of a problem. “We used to peek in the nose and look at the x-ray and try antibiotics or other medicines,” he says. “Now we can perform an endoscopy in the clinic, using 4 mm telescopes to see where sinuses drain. It takes 30 seconds, doesn’t hurt, and can be done comfortably even on children.”

Otolaryngologists can also avail themselves of advances in radiology to help patients with sinus problems. With the help of low-radiation-dose dedicated sinus CAT scans, in combination with endoscopy, physicians can now pinpoint the source of a sinus problem and thereby treat it more precisely and effectively. “It cuts through the trial and error of trying all these antibiotics,” he says.

Recently Becker, who holds clinical faculty appointments at the University of Pennsylvania and Vanderbilt University, opened a new division of his practice — the New Jersey Center for Snoring and Sleep Apnea. “So many patients with nose and sinus problems also complain of snoring and sleep apnea, that we realized the importance of addressing this problem directly. Sleep apnea has significant health implications. It impacts cardiac and endoscrine function (heart attacks, diabetes), and is also associated with increased motor vehicle accidents as well as quality of life issues.

“What obstructive sleep apnea means,” Becker explains, “is that patients stop breathing at night. When that happens, the body gets less oxygen, and the heart has to work harder. It can throw the entire body out of whack; it not only affects quality of life but affects longevity as well.”

What are its symptoms? “People will complain that they wake up and still feel tired; have headaches, and are moody” says Becker. “Think about not having had a good night’s sleep and then extrapolate that to every day of your life.”

While a variety of effective, simple and minimally invasive treatments exist for sleep apnea, the first step is to pinpoint the anatomic site of the obstruction: the nose and nasal airways, the oral airways, or the back of the throat. “When you can identify this and treat people, it turns their life around. They are like new people.”

Reach Dr. Becker’s office by phone at 609-430-9200 or visit him online at www.NoseAndSinus.com.

Sometimes it’s important to check your appointment book and make sure that you’ve taken care of all the routine exams that are essential to good health. One of these is the yearly eye exam. Optometrist Jim Ciccarello of Eyecare Associates emphasizes that yearly checkups can identify or rule out diseases like glaucoma or retinal problems that have serious consequences if left untreated.

Ciccarello also checks for cataracts, dry eye, allergies, eye infections, and any foreign bodies or scratches; and he assesses macular pigments that are somewhat associated with macular degeneration to catch changes early and treat the eyes appropriately. If he cannot resolve an issue, he will make a referral to the appropriate specialist.

Eyecare Associates is open seven days a week and prides itself on finding a spot for someone quickly. “If we can’t do a same-day appointment, we make sure a patient can be seen within a very few days,” he says.

The practice can also supply contact lenses of all types and fit glasses to clients ranging from pre-teens to seniors. When prescribing contact lenses, Dr. Ciccarello weighs many factors. “We are very good at providing appropriate lenses for patients’ lifestyles and needs,” he says. The practice also offers emergency services.

Dr. Ciccarello, who has owned EyeCare Associates since January 2000, has been practicing for 14 years. He graduated in 1995 from the Nova Southeastern University College of Optometry in Fort Lauderdale and has bachelor degrees in chemistry and biology from the University of South Florida in Tampa. He can be reached at 609-520-1008 or at www.icareassociates.com.

Sinusitis, a bacterial infection of the sinus cavities, usually goes away after intensive antibiotic therapy. But for chronic sufferers, David Goldfarb, chair of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery at the University Medical Center, has good news: a new procedure called balloon sinuplasty.

This new approach is a vast improvement over early 20th century treatments that required surgeons to reach the sinuses through the cheekbones, often causing scarring and possible disfigurement. Today, with balloon sinuplasty, surgeons can treat certain cases of chronic sinusitis without any incisions.

So how does balloon sinuplasty work?

Just as balloon angioplasty clears clogged arteries, balloon sinuplasty clears stopped up sinuses. Specially trained surgeons insert a small, flexible catheter outfitted with a minuscule balloon at the tip through the nose into the infected sinus cavities. The balloon is inflated and gently restructures and widens the sinus walls, while maintaining the integrity of the sinus lining. The balloon is then deflated and removed.

Because doctors are not removing bone or tissue as they would in traditional endoscopic sinus surgery, recovery time is reduced. The procedure requires general anesthesia and is performed on an outpatient basis. Most patients return to normal activities much sooner than with traditional sinus surgery.

Dr. Goldfarb is an ear, nose, and throat specialist who can provide proper diagnosis and treatment at the University Medical Center at Princeton.

A CT scan of the sinuses is performed to identify an infection and determine the best course of treatment. Most often treatment involves antibiotics and balloon sinuplasty, but to remove polyps or other nasal obstructions that may be contributing to sinusitis requires more traditional endoscopic surgery.

To avoid developing sinusitis during a cold or allergy attack, the American Academy of Otolaryngology recommends

* Using an oral decongestant or short course of nasal spray decongestant.

* Gently blowing your nose, blocking one nostril while blowing through the other.

* Drinking plenty of fluids to keep nasal discharge thin.

* Avoiding things that trigger allergy attacks, and treat allergies with antihistamines or a prescription nasal spray.

To find out more, go to: http://www.princetonent.com/ or call 609-921-8800. Dr. Goldfarb graduated from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey- school of osteopathic medicine and did his residency in Otolaryngology-Head and Neck surgery at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in 1992. He can be reached at 609-921-8800 or www.PrincetonENT.com.

Don’t Forget the Mental Part of Health.

As critical as it is to take care of one’s body, it is equally important to find and maintain piece of mind. One medical condition that few people talk about — clinical depression — afflicts 17 million Americans each year, and only one-third seek help, says Carol Kivler of Kivler Communications, who has suffered from four major clinical depressive episodes in her life. Kivler does one-on-one executive coaching all over the word; training and development, in areas like leadership, written and oral communication skills, and customer service; and keynote speaking on topics like how to motivate without money and balancing work and life.

Kivler’s business also has a division called Courageous Recovery, through which she speaks about depression from a consumer perspective. She speaks to health professionals and to families, and is passionate about getting the word out to those who suffer from depression. “A mental health disorder is very different from a physical health disorder,” she explains. “When you have cancer, you get cards, casseroles, and cakes; when you have depression, you don’t get anything. So how do I normalize depression and break down some of the stigma and open the public eye to a disease that hits one in five Americans in his or her life?”

Because her own depression has been resistant to medication, Kivler has been treated with electroshock therapy, as have one million Americans. Unfortunately, she says, people are still stuck in the 1930s when electroshock therapy was first given. “It was inhumane then but has advanced over the last 70 years and become a very humane, viable, workable treatment option.” Yet people remain unaware and fearful of this treatment that has kept Kivler in recovery for 11 years and had previously been holding her for four year stints.

To prepare for the therapy, the consumer (as Kivler refers to a depression sufferer) is put under anesthesia, with muscles relaxed, and the brain is given a threshold test to see how much shock it can withstand. Then the doctor administers the shock, which induces a grand mal seizure. “It is like rebooting your computer,” says Kivler. “Electroconvulsive therapy is the defibrillator of the brain. When the neurons of the brain stop working, you shock them with electricity.”

Kivler urges anyone who has experienced several of the following characteristics of depression to make an appointment with a doctor to discuss treatment options: deep sadness for over two weeks; loss of interest in things you used to enjoy; disruption in sleep patterns; difficulty finding energy to do even the smallest things; change in appetite; inability to focus or concentrate; difficulty making even the simplest of decisions; irritability and frustration with everybody and everything; no desire to socialize or talk to people; constant anxiety and fear; worrying about things that rarely bothered you before; having aches and physical pains that don’t seem to go away; and thinking about death and wishing you could end the sadness.

“Depression is a treatable illness,” says Kivler. “If it goes untreated, it can be life threatening. That’s why we have as many suicides as we have. But people do not have to suffer alone.”

Kivler is trying to widen awareness of these symptoms. Families have an important role to play. They may need to make the affected person aware of what is happening to them. Families also need to avoid judgments and assumptions that prevent a person from getting help. “Families sometimes think that they are lazy and are checking out,” she says. Instead, the families need to accept that their loved one has an illness and maintain a strong relationship.

“You need to let your loved one know you are there for them; it is no different than if they had cancer or diabetes,” says Kivler. “You are there to support them in any way you can.” Family can also help the consumer make lifestyle changes, including exercising, which releases endorphins and can elevate a person’s mood. If they are eating too much, families can make sure there are healthy snacks around. If they are not eating at all, they can make their favorite meal to entice them to eat a little.

Kivler has a master’s degree in human resource education from Fordham University. She is also a certified speaking professional, which required her to make $50,000 a year in speaking alone over five consecutive years. She has just written a book, “Will I Ever Be the Same Again? Transforming the Face of ECT (Shock Therapy),” and some nursing schools are already using it as required reading.

“The most important part is to act as the “hope holder” — to hold out hope for the person,” says Kivler. “Depression is a hopeless disease; if someone holds out hope and the person knows it, it is the flashlight in the darkness.”

Kivler can be reached by phone at 609-882-8988. Her website is www.courageousrecovery.com.

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