It’s Heart Health Month! Tips to maintain a healthy heart

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhat can you do to get a better heart?

1) Get screened!  You never know what conditions you may have if don’t find out. Many cardiovascular conditions are asymptomatic (you can’t really tell you have them).  Some screenings to consider: Blood Pressure, BMI, Cholesterol, and if you know you have a heart condition, an EKG or Stress EKG screening. Call us at (212) 256-9036 to schedule a screening appointment.

2) Get Trained!  You don’t want to be stuck figuring out what to do when an emergency strikes. Learn how to appropriately respond to heart attacks and other medical emergencies. You can truly save the life of a loved one one day. At a minimum, consider CPR/AED and First Aid trainings. AMPHS offers trainings in English, Spanish, and Chinese. Register today!

3) Know the Signs!  Know what the signs are for heart attacks so when it happens to you, you can take action. This includes pain in the center of the chest spreading up to the jaw, shoulders, down the arms, and even down to your abdomen; shortness of breath; dizziness; profuse sweating; and a feeling of doom.  If you ever have any of these feelings, don’t ignore them!  Take them seriously and call 9-1-1.  If you have an aspirin handy, take one and chew it while waiting for EMS.  If you are on nitroglycerin, take it according to your doctor’s recommendations. This is really serious, and can mean the difference between life and death!

If you follow these three steps, you are on your way to better heart health.

Air Pollution in Sunset Park & How to Live with It

(2) 4th Avenue

Air pollution in urban areas is almost always a health problem and Sunset Park is no exception. According to the EPA, the six most common air pollutants are: ozone, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and lead. [1] The summertime exacerbates the negative health effects of these pollutants; children, the elderly, and people with asthma and heart disease are shown to be more vulnerable. [3] What are these pollutants, their health effects, and ways to reduce our exposure to and personal emissions of them? Sunset Park is on the top five Brooklyn communities with the highest lung cancer rate, according to a 2010 cancer report by SUNY Downstate. [7] It also has a high respiratory and cardiovascular hospitalization rate due to particulate matter exposure compared to most of Brooklyn. Asthma emergency hospitalizations due to particulate matter in adults is also high compared to most of Brooklyn. [3] Although air pollution is not the only cause for these news, it definitely plays a large role in the health of community members.

(2) Gowanus Expressway

Gowanus Expressway, 3rd Avenue

Sunset Park is the site of a considerable amount of industrial activity, including construction, dry cleaners, electronics manufacturing, food manufacturing, and more. They contribute to sulfur dioxide, particulate matter (airborne particles), and other harmful emissions. Moreover, the vehicles on the Gowanus Expressway, which runs right down the middle of Sunset Park, and the busy avenues are heavy sources of pollutants such as particulate matter, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and benzene (a carcinogen also found in cigarettes). [1] All these pollutants irritate the lungs and some affect the heart too by changing heart rhythm and increasing blood pressure. In the summertime, ground level ozone can be a serious problem in Sunset Park because it is produced by the interaction of sunlight with nitrogen oxides (NOx), which are released by vehicles, industrial activity, and volatile organic compounds (e.g. paints, pesticides, and building materials). Ozone can irritate lungs, cause coughing and wheezing, worsen asthma and lower resistance to lung infections. [3]

(2) Side Street

Side Street on 49th Street

Contrary to what many people think, ozone levels may be higher in more low-traffic areas of Sunset Park because of ozone scavenging. [3] Ozone scavenging actually destroys ozone and happens when a large concentration of nitrogen oxides, mainly released from vehicles in this case, interacts with ozone and forms different compounds. [3] Therefore, areas in Sunset Park with less vehicles may actually have higher ozone level concentrations. Studies also show that parallel side streets (e.g. 53rd and 54th street) may have up to four times as much carbon monoxide than on main streets (e.g. 3rd Ave and 5th Ave) because there is not enough air flow on the side streets and pollutants tend gather up there. Pockets of air pollutants can collect on tight and sheltered streets, making them as unhealthy as being on busy streets. [5] Indoor air pollution is also a problem. Buildings in Sunset Park built before 1978 may still contain lead. Outdoor air pollution can easily get into and stay inside homes. Cooking with gas or electric appliances without a good venting hood can generate a lot of indoor air pollution, including particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, and volatile organic compounds [4]. Here are some tips to reduce attracting air pollution indoors and keep indoor air fresh:

  1. Have a floor mat at the entrance.
  2. Take off shoes at the entrance.
  3. Mop floors and keep them clean.
  4. Open windows at night to let air circulate.
  5. Get your home checked for radon, a colorless and odorless gas that can significantly increase your risk of lung cancer.
  6. Keep a healthy humidity level to prevent mold and dust mite growth.
  7. Use more natural detergents, fragrance products, and cleaners.
  8. Get a good venting hood for cooking. [2], [4]

It is important to note that the health effects of air pollution are usually combined with other factors, including noise pollution from the honking cars, diet, and other preexisting health conditions. There is little sense in avoiding air pollution altogether, but here some ways to reduce your exposure and to live with it:

  1. Energy StarDo your exercise routine in the morning or at night, not in the sunny afternoons when ozone levels are highest.
  2. Don’t smoke or smoke less.
  3. Avoid streets that are surrounded by buildings, which can be “pockets” for air pollutants.
  4. Save electricity by unplugging unused appliances and buying Energy Smart appliances.
  5. Carpool or use public transportation; avoid traffic by planning ahead.
  6. Conserve water.
  7. Recycle.
  8. Have a garden or grow plants both indoors and outdoors. [1]

You can check your air quality forecasts and health risks at [6]

Written by Karen Ouyang.

Works Cited

1. What are the Six Common Air Pollutants?. Retrieved from

2. Davis, J. Breathe Easy: 5 Ways to Improve Indoor Air Quality. Retrieved from

3. Millay, S. Air Pollution and the Health of New Yorkers:The Impact of Fine Particles and Ozone. Retrieved from

4. Smith, P. The Kitchen as a Pollution Hazard. Retrieved from

5. Underwood, K. Want to Reduce Your Air Pollution Exposure? Cross the Street. Retrieved from

6. Today’s AQI Forecast. Retrieved from

7. LaRose, J. Brooklyn Community Health Report. Retrieved from

Photo Credits Business News

5 Summer Health Tips

Playing in Sprinklers

We all know that summer time brings glorious hot weather, and with it sunburns, heat stroke, and dehydration. And we all know how to prevent these problems.

But could there be some other summer health problems that we don’t hear about everyday? Here is a list of tips for summer ailments that are a little less obvious.

1. Summer Weight Gain

While having a beach body is important to many, summer weight gain is more common than one would suspect.

bbqThe food that we consume at the beach may be some of the most fattening foods we eat all year. Think about it. Chips, hot dogs and burgers, mayonnaise-based potato and pasta salads, ice cream, sugary iced drinks, beer and frozen cocktails make up the base of our summer diets.

But that’s not all. Alarmingly, according to the International Journal of Obesity, air conditioning may be a major factor in summer weight gain. When we are in a space with a comfortable temperature our bodies do not need to work as hard to stay cool, and since our bodies are not as hot, any decrease in appetite–usually seen in the summer–disappears. We eat more and burn fewer calories!

Another study at Ohio State University found that children’s BMI increased on average more than two times as much during summer break than during the school year. (Keep in mind that the school year is four times longer than summer vacation.)

Yet summertime is the best time of year to enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables, which naturally keep the body hydrated and energized. Try grilling vegetables, fish and shrimp and eat watermelon for dessert. Enjoy a day with family at a local farmers market trying out new types of produce or go berry picking at a local farm.

2. Air Pollution

Exercising in Sunset Park

Exercising outdoors is something many of us do in the summer. But there is one factor that we should all watch out for: air pollution. High temperatures mixed with air pollution can cause ground level ozone to form. Ground level ozone worsens asthma and breathing problems, and overexposure can lead to reduced lung function and lung disease.

Make sure to check the air quality forecast in your neighborhood before going out for a run or jog, or even before a long day at the beach.

You can check air quality forecasts and conditions at:

3. Stress

gardeningIf you are looking to reduce stress this summer, try gardening. New evidence suggests that a bacteria found in soil, Mycobacterium vaccae, may boost your spirits. Mice who ingested this bacteria experienced higher production of serotonin, a mood-boosting hormone. A second study on lung cancer treatment found that patients who received an injection of the same bacteria experienced better moods and fewer symptoms.

4. Brain Health

Summertime can be a great time to improve your brain health. According to Dr. Paul Nussbaum Ph.D., ABPP, there are two important factors to keeping your brain healthy: novelty and complexity.

Novelty can be achieved by learning a new skill, travelling to a new place, or even taking a different route to work each day. Rather than sticking with a routine, try to change up the order of your morning activities, which will improve brain awareness and engagement.

Complexity is related to learning new skills and improving those areas where you are weakest. For example, if math is not your strong suit, try doing a few problems each day. Improving what we are already good at does not do as much for the brain as stimulating areas that we may avoid.  Both of these techniques will improve brain function and help fight dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease, and other types of brain degeneration.

5. Sunscreen

lipsSunscreen should not be just for the skin. Lips can be just as important to protect to avoid melanoma, or skin cancer, on the lips. Avoid lip-gloss or shiny lipsticks, which function like tanning oil by attracting sunlight. In order to avoid this exposure it is important to block both UVA rays, which contribute to visible aging as well as skin cancers, and UVB rays, which cause skin reddening and sunburn and are the dominant causal factor in skin cancers. Both men and women should make a point of using chapstick that contains SPF with both UVA and UVB protection, especially during long periods of sun exposure.

Written by Georgina Muri, MA.


American Society for Microbiology. “Can Bacteria Make You Smarter?” Science Daily, 25 May 2010. Web. 19 July 2013.

Assershon, L., et al. “A Randomized Pilot Study of SRL172 (Mycobacterium Vaccae) in Patients with Small Cell Lung Cancer (SCLC) Treated with Chemotherapy.” Clinical Oncology 14.1 (2002): 23-27. Royal Marsden Hospital NHS Trust, 14 Feb. 2002. Web. 19 July 2013.

“Avoiding Harmful Ozone Pollution This Summer.” European Environment Agency, 9 Aug. 2012. Web. 19 July 2013.

Bedford, Julie. “Summer Weather Can Promote Poor Air Quality- NOAA’s Air Quality Forecast Guidance Helps Predict It.” NOAA News Online. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, 14 May 2007. Web. 19 July 2013.

Bo, al. “Contributors to the obesity and hyperglycemia epidemics. A prospective study in a population based cohort.” International Journal of Obesity 35, 1442-1449 (November 2011).  doi:10.1038/ijo.2011.5.

Gelok, Michelle. “The Cool Truth about Summer Weight Gain.” Abu Dhabi Media, 3 Aug. 2009. Web. 19 July 2013.

Nussbaum, Paul David. “Five Brain-Health Factors.” Aging Today XXVIII.5 (2007): 11. American Society on Aging, Sept. 2007. Web. 19 July 2013.

Nussbaum, Paul, PH. D., ABPP. “Brain Health across the Lifespan.” 5 Boroughs Concepts in Care. Marriott Marquis Hotel, New York, NY. 26 June 2013. Lecture.

Stebbins, William, MD and C, and William Hanke, MD, MPH. “Lip Cancer: Not Uncommon, Often Overlooked.” Skin Cancer Foundation, 2013. Web. 19 July 2013.

UAB Magazine. “Does My Air Conditioner Make Me Fat?” Does My Air Conditioner Make Me Fat? | UAB School of Public Health, Feb. 2007. Web. 19 July 2013.

“Understanding UVA and UVB.” Ed. John H. Epstein, MD and Stephen Q. Wang, MD. Skin Cancer Foundation, 2013. Web. 19 July 2013.

Von Hippel, Paul. “Summertime and Weight Gain.” National Summer Learning Association, Nov. 2009. Web. 19 July 2013.

Von Hippel, P. T., Powell, B., Downey, D.B., & Rowland, N.(2007). “The effect of school on overweight in childhood: Gains in children’s body mass index during the school year and during summer vacation.” American Journal of Public Health, 97(4), 796-802.

Photo Credits

Pink Sherbet Photography via Compfight cc
wEnDaLicious via Compfight cc
arte_molto_brutta_2 via Compfight cc
See-Ming Lee via Flickr
Yasa via Flickr

New Volunteers Join AMPHS

September 29, 2012

Academy of Medical and Public Health Services is happy to announce that the following volunteers have recently joined the team:

Shashank Agarwal has joined AMPHS as a Clinical Volunteer. Shashank is a doctor from India and is currently working as a Research Associate Intern in the Emergency Department at Bellevue Hospital. During medical school, he organized blood donations and polio immunizations. He planned to continue the same work when he decided to migrate to the U.S.. He discovered the work that AMPHS was doing, and wanted to contribute his clinical skills to improve health care for the underprivileged. Apart from work, he is passionate about sports. He plays volleyball and enjoys kayaking on the weekends.

Dewakie Guptar has joined AMPHS as Medical and Public Health Services Associate. She recently completed a term of service with Americorps where she was part of the second graduating class of the NYC Civic Corps. She completed her term of service at the Community Service Society’s Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) where she worked on program development. Prior to her work with RSVP, Dewakie was a recruiter for the 2010 Census, focusing her work in West Brooklyn. Given her background in science, passion for public health and community work, she believes AMPHS offers the perfect junction between her interests and aspirations of becoming a public health professional. She is currently pursuing a Master’s of Public Health at the CUNY School of Public Health.

Leah Ratner has joined AMPHS as a Clinical Volunteer. She joined AMPHS to make access to health services and preventive health easier for the underprivileged community. Leah is currently a third year medical student rotating at Lutheran Medical Center.

AMPHS Heads Uptown for National Action Network Health Fair

September 10, 2012

National Action Network’s (NAN) Headquarters in Harlem, New York City.

Volunteers of Academy of Medical and Public Health Services (AMPHS) made their way to National Action Network’s (NAN) headquarters in Harlem, New York to participate as a vendor at their 2nd annual community health fair on Saturday, September 8th.  The event marks the second time this year AMPHS has been involved in NAN’s health-related activities. The event was scheduled to take place outdoors but moved indoors due to heavy rains.  It was also open to the public.

The heavy rain didn’t stop the health fair or AMPHS volunteers from traveling from Brooklyn to provide the much needed healthcare services for the community, primarily comprised of African Americans. AMPHS had a total of six volunteers, two of which were members of the clinical team who provided community members with blood pressure, memory and cognition, heart rate and respiration screenings, and nutrition and lifestyle choices consultations.

Twenty community members were provided with Community Health Resource session and healthcare overview, and many members received free Big Apple Rx cards that provide discounts for brand name and generic drug prescriptions. AMPHS screened a total of 26 people.

NAN’s 2nd annual community health fair was organized by Ms. Queenie Huling, Chairperson of the Health & Wellness Committee of NAN.

“Free music, Dancing Popcorn, ice cold juices, water and over 150 community members. If this sounds like a good time it was,” said Sandra George, Chief Operating Officer and Senior Vice President of Operations. “Now add blood pressure screenings, nutritional counseling, health care resource information and a team of healthcare clinical and administrative staff. AMPHS was pleased to partner with NAN and offer health Screenings and provide healthcare resource information and counseling to the community.  Participating and having the opportunity to provide these important and needed services to the Harlem community was inspirational and fulfilling. More important was being able to provide these services in an atmosphere that was cheerful, comfortable and inviting to the community. AMPHS looks forward to a long relationship with the NAN Health and Wellness Committee.”

Latesha Richards, Director of Marketing, concurred. “We were so happy to have had the opportunity to bring our services to Harlem, work with the Health and Wellness Committee at NAN, and the Harlem community,” she said. “Based on the number of people who attended, and came to us to get screenings, we could tell that the need for healthcare services is great, and people are very interested in learning their healthcare status. All in all, we felt right at home there and had a wonderful time at the event.”