Health & Fitness
Studies Show ‘Screen Time’ Disrupts Melatonin Surge | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 14 August 2014 11:59

081414h1By Joanna Cooper, M.D. • Special to the Times

There’s a lot of talk about our “addiction” to technology. Aside from the impact of technology on our social lives, what if our cherished devices are bad for our health? When it comes to getting enough restful sleep, it turns out they may be.

The timing of sleep and wakefulness is controlled by two areas in the brain. One is highly sensitive to light and drives wakefulness, while the other (the pineal gland) secretes melatonin when the light dims in the evening. Thus we humans are programmed to fall asleep after dark.

We gradually tamed the dark, first by the use of fire, and later by electric lights. Now we have added another source of light stimulation, in the form of the various screens we stare into — often just before bedtime.

The National Sleep Foundation reports that 90 percent of Americans regularly use a computer, TV, cell phone or other electronic device in the hour before they go to bed.

The particular type of light produced by our technology screens is in the blue part of the light spectrum, the most active in controlling the timing of sleep and therefore suppressing the production of melatonin.

The light from our screens can delay our transition to sleep, even if we are engaged in some soothing activity online. But it’s more likely that our evening texting, TV shows or video games are stimulating in themselves, keeping the brain busy and wound up, and even causing adrenalin rushes instead of lullabies.

So, what to do about evening technology?

• Studies have indicated that an hour of “screen time” at night may be okay, but two or more hours can seriously disrupt the melatonin surge needed for sleep. If you do work into the evening, or use your computer for entertainment, consider switching to another activity in the last hour before sleep, at a minimum.

• If you must use a gadget with a screen at night, reduce your exposure to the bright light of the computer or cell phone by turning down the brightness in the late evening. There are downloadable programs that can help you adjust screen brightness based on the time of day.

• Keep technology out of children’s bedrooms (as well as your own.)

The American Academy of Pediatrics has taken a stance regarding technology for kids, advising that all electronic devices be removed from children’s and teen’s bedrooms, to ensure no late-night viewing or middle-of-the-night gaming or texting.

Their recommendations are concerned not only with sleep, but with rising obesity rates and childhood behavioral issues that may be tracked to too much screen time.

Dr. Joanna Cooper is a neurologist with Sutter East Bay Medical Foundation. On Tuesday, Aug. 26, Dr. Cooper will discuss the most current findings regarding the effect of electronic devices on our sleep. The free presentation will take place from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Claremont Hotel, Monterey Room, located at 41 Tunnel Road in Berkeley.


 
Pack a Safe School Lunch | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 14 August 2014 11:57

September is National Food Safety Education Month

081414h2With a little care and planning, it’s possible for parents to pack school lunches that are both tasty and safe.

For starters, parents are reminded to follow the basic practices of clean, separate, cook and chill to help reduce their family’s risk of foodborne illness.

When packing lunches to take to school or the office, keep the following food safety tips in mind:

• Wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before you prepare food or after playing outside, touching pets and using the bathroom.

• Work on a clean surface. To prevent cross-contamination, always use a clean cutting board. Use one cutting board for fresh produce or bread and a separate one for meat, poultry and seafood.

• Rinse fruits and vegetables under running tap water, including those with skins and rinds that are not eaten. Dry with a paper towel.

• If lunches are made at home the night before, keep them in the refrigerator until it’s time to go. Make sure the refrigerator is set to 40°F or below at all times and use an appliance thermometer to check the temperature.

• Use an insulated lunch box, with an insulated bottle for hot foods or a frozen gel pack or a frozen juice box to keep perishable foods cold.

• Wash insulated lunch totes or boxes with hot soapy water after each use.

• Students and parents should never leave perishable foods out at room temperature for more than two hours. Toss any perishable food not eaten at lunchtime.

Since September is National Food Safety Education Month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the nonprofit Partnership for Food Safety Education are providing tips to help parents keep their children and themselves healthy.

For free stuff for kids, teachers and parents — such as worksheets and curriculum materials — visit www.fightbac.org.

For more information on packing safe lunches, visit www.fsis.usda.gov or call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at (888) 674-6854 or ask a food safety question at AskKaren.gov.

— North American Precis Synd., Inc.


 
Make the Most of Your New Health Coverage | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 14 August 2014 11:54

By David Sayen • Special to the Times

If you’re one of the millions of Americans who recently obtained health coverage through the new Health Insurance Marketplace, Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance (CHIP), here are some steps you can take to make the most of your new coverage.

Put Your Health First

• Get your recommended health screenings and manage chronic conditions.

• Keep all of your health information in one place.

Understand Your Coverage

• Check with your insurance plan or state Medicaid or CHIP program to see what services are covered. Be familiar with your costs.

• Know the difference between in-network and out-of-network services, and the out-of-pocket costs to you of each.

Know Where to go for Care

• Use emergency department for a life-threatening situation.

• Primary care is preferred when it’s not an emergency.

• Know the difference between primary care and emergency care.

Find a Doctor or Other Healthcare Provider

• Ask people you trust and/or do research on the internet.

• Check plan’s list of providers.

• If you’re assigned a provider, contact your plan if you want to change.

• If you’re enrolled in Medicaid or CHIP, contact your state program for help.

Make an Appointment

• Contact your provider’s office and mention if you’re a new patient or have been there before.

• Give the name of your insurance plan and ask if they accept your insurance.

• Tell them the name of the provider you want to see and why you want an appointment.

Be Prepared for Your Visit

• Have your insurance card with you.

• Know your family health history and make a list of any medicines you take.

• Bring a list of questions and things to discuss, and take notes during your visit.

• Bring someone with you to help if you need it.

Decide If the Provider Is Right for You

• Did you feel comfortable with the provider you saw?

• Were you able to communicate with your provider?

• Did you feel like you and your provider could make good decisions together?

• Remember: It’s okay to change to a different provider!

Next Steps after Your Appointment

• Follow your provider’s instructions.

• Fill any prescriptions you were given; take them as directed.

• Schedule a follow-up visit if you need one.

• Review your explanation of benefits and pay your medical bills.

• Contact your provider, health plan or the state Medicaid or CHIP agency with any questions.

We have a number of tools available to help answer questions you might have about your new health care coverage.

You can find these tools at our Coverage to Care website, marketplace.cms.gov/c2c. They include educational brochures and videos. Many are available in both English and Spanish, and more resources will be developed over the next few months.

Still have questions? Contact your insurance company directly or contact us at 1-800-318-2596 (TTY: 1-855-889-4325). Our trained representatives are available at the Marketplace Call Center 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

David Sayen is Medicare’s regional administrator for California. You can always get answers to your Medicare questions by calling 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).


 
Lyme Disease Remains Difficult to Diagnose | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 23 July 2014 14:10

Spread through the bite of an infected tick, Lyme disease is very prevalent on the West Coast

072414hWhile the Centers for Disease Control recently announced that Lyme disease is about 10 times more common than previously reported, there are ways you can protect yourself.

The new figures showed that as many as 300,000 Americans are diagnosed each year. Because Lyme disease is prevalent and serious, health officials are reminding people about prevention and detection.

Spread through the bite of an infected tick, Lyme disease can cause rashes and flu-like symptoms, and it’s more common than you may think.

Lyme disease is most prevalent here on the West Coast as well as in New England and the upper Midwest, but it’s a nationwide problem since infected ticks are in all 50 states.

Despite its prevalence, Lyme remains difficult to diagnose because its symptoms mimic other diseases, namely the flu and chronic fatigue syndrome.

To reduce your chances of exposure:

072414h1• During the warmer months, avoid wooded areas. After coming inside, bathe and check your entire body for ticks.

• If bitten, tweeze. If you find a tick on your skin, use tweezers to remove it as quickly as possible. Grab as close to the skin as possible, then gently pull upward without twisting. Removing ticks within 36 hours of attachment reduces the risk of infection.

• Know the symptoms. Early symptoms may include fever, chills, sweats, muscle aches, fatigue, nausea, headache and joint pain. Sometimes, a bull’s-eye rash appears.

• When in doubt, get tested. Receiving a tick bite is rarely noticed. If you have symptoms, it’s risky to take a “wait and see” approach. The earlier you test, the earlier you can be treated.

For more information, visit www.lymemd.org/learn-about-lyme.

CAPTION 1: Doctors now have faster and more accurate ways to test for Lyme disease, so people can get treated sooner and more effectively.

CAPTION 2: Lyme disease is spread by deer ticks like this one.


 
Typing No Longer Linked to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 23 July 2014 14:09

072414h2By Eric Stuffmann, M.D. • Special to the Times

Despite heavy media coverage of the alleged link between repetitive motions like typing and carpal tunnel syndrome, several well-conducted studies investigating the causes of the condition have not shown any significant link between the two.

The actual cause of carpal tunnel syndrome can only be identified in the minority of cases. Diabetes, alcoholism, renal failure, rheumatoid arthritis, a tumor in the carpal tunnel and even pregnancy have been linked to the condition. In the majority of cases, though, no clear cause can be identified.

Although typing is an unlikely cause, there are other movements and behaviors that have been linked to the condition.

Frequent use of tools that cause strong vibrations in the hands such as a jackhammer and frequently performed activities with the hand, either flexed down or up as when turning a wrench at an awkward angle are both potential causes. There is also evidence that heredity may play a role.

No matter the cause, the condition can be treated and resolved by a simple 15- to 30-minute surgical procedure at a surgery center.

The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway in the wrist bordered by three bones and a ligament. The passageway is shared by nine tendons and the median nerve, which gives strength to the thumb and is responsible for sensation in part of the hand.

Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when excessive pressure builds up in the carpal tunnel, squeezing the median nerve. Numbness and tingling in the hand are the primary symptoms, but pain can also occur, and the symptoms can radiate up the arm.

By carefully cutting the transverse carpal ligament, a surgeon can relieve the pressure and resolve the condition. The ligament will heal, but the carpal tunnel will remain slightly larger.

For patients with mild to moderate cases, the symptoms will generally subside within two weeks of the surgery. Patients with more severe cases can take two months or more to find relief. If the condition is ignored long enough to cause muscle atrophy, though, some symptoms may persist.

Both traditional and minimally invasive procedures are available. Each has its own pros and cons, so discuss them with your surgeon and make sure you understand the differences between the two before making your decision.

Orthopedic Surgeon Eric Stuffmann, M.D., is a hand and upper extremity specialist affiliated with Eden Medical Center.


 
A Jump in Sexually Transmitted Diseases Reported in California | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 23 July 2014 14:07

The number of reportable sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in California — particularly gonorrhea and syphilis — increased substantially in 2013 over the previous year, according to Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the California Department of Public Health.

“Sexually transmitted diseases can cause major health problems for people over time,” said Dr. Chapman. “This increase is concerning, particularly because STDs are preventable.”

In 2013, the gonorrhea rate increased 13 percent, while the syphilis rate increased 18 percent. Only the rate of chlamydia cases decreased slightly for the first time in almost two decades. Still, chlamydia is the most commonly reported disease in California.

STD rates continue to be highest in young people 15 to 24 years of age, especially for females, with over 66 percent of female chlamydia cases and over 54 percent of female gonorrhea cases being in this narrow age group. Young women are the most vulnerable to infertility and other long-term reproductive health problems caused by STDs.

“Any sexually active person can get an STD through unprotected sex,” said Chapman. “They should talk with their healthcare provider and ask if testing for STDs is appropriate.” An online directory of test sites is available at findstdtest.org. Many clinics offer free tests.

Chapman pointed out that in addition to getting tested regularly, individuals can reduce their risk by using condoms, reducing their number of partners, being in a monogamous relationship or practicing abstinence.

 

 
Now’s a Great Time to Shed Some Weight | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 23 July 2014 14:05

072414h3If you’re a man who is carrying a few extra pounds, there’s good news. Any time can be the right time to start and strengthen healthier habits and lose the weight.

Some find that the warmer weather of summer and early fall can be a great time to get in shape. That’s because the longer days can make it easier to find workout partners or teams to join. It can also be a great time to enjoy seasonal fruits and vegetables such as blueberries, peaches and sweet corn.

With extra pounds linked to health problems such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers, getting to a healthy weight can be a step in the right direction.

To help you “get in the game,” here are some tips from the National Institutes of Health:

Get Fitter, Stronger, Faster

• Start with a level of activity that feels doable. For example, 10 minutes each day. Increase frequency, time and intensity as you become able to do more.

• Mix it up. To get and stay on track, try different kinds of activities. Make sure your routine includes aerobic exercise (walking, jogging, biking), strength training (free weights, crunches, push-ups), and flexibility exercises like stretching or yoga.

Power Up With Nutrient-Dense Foods and Drinks

• Eat and drink smart. Choose foods and drinks that pack plenty of vitamins, minerals and fiber into fewer calories. Fruit, vegetables, lean meats and seafood, and water or fat-free milk are all good options.

• Outsmart your inner picky eater. Sneak in fruits and vegetables. Add berries to your cereal or crunchy vegetables to your sandwich.

Stick With It for the Long Run

• Form your own team. Find a workout partner or group to help you stay on track.

• Reward yourself when you reach your goals. Plan a basketball or soccer game, bike ride or healthy cookout with friends or family.

Learn more from WIN’s “Getting on Track: Physical Activity and Healthy Eating for Men.” The brochure features more tips and ideas for men, tools for figuring out if your weight is healthy, ways to assess portion sizes based on everyday items, and ideas for overcoming barriers to better health.

Contact WIN to get a single copy free, or go to www.win.niddk.nih.gov/publications/.

North American Precis Synd., Inc.


 
Whooping Cough Epidemic Looms in the Golden State | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 10 July 2014 14:31

The number of pertussis (whooping cough) cases in the state has reached epidemic proportions, according to Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the California Department of Public Health.

By the end of last month, the number of cases had risen to 4,558 — almost double the number reported for all of 2013.

Pertussis is cyclical and peaks every 3 to 5 years. The last peak in California occurred in 2010; so it is likely another peak is underway, and July is traditionally the peak month for the illness.

“Preventing severe disease and death in infants is our highest priority,” says Dr. Chapman. “We urge all pregnant women to get vaccinated. We also urge parents to vaccinate infants as soon as possible.”

Infants too young to be fully immunized remain most vulnerable to severe and fatal cases of pertussis. Two-thirds of pertussis hospitalizations have been in children four months or younger. Three infant deaths have been reported.

The Tdap vaccination for pregnant women is the best way to protect infants who are too young to be vaccinated. All pregnant women should be vaccinated with Tdap in the third trimester of each pregnancy, regardless of previous Tdap vaccination. In addition, infants should be vaccinated as soon as possible. The first dose of pertussis vaccine can be given as early as 6 weeks of age.

Older children, pre-adolescents, and adults should also be vaccinated against pertussis according to current recommendations. It is particularly important that persons who will be around newborns also be vaccinated.

“Unlike some other vaccine-preventable diseases, like measles, neither vaccination nor illness from pertussis offers lifetime immunity,” says Dr. Ron Chapman. “However, vaccination is still the best defense against this potentially fatal disease.”

The symptoms of pertussis vary by age. For children, a typical case of pertussis starts with a cough and runny nose for one to two weeks. The cough then worsens and children may have rapid coughing spells that end with a “whooping” sound.

Young infants may not have typical pertussis symptoms and may have no apparent cough. Parents may describe episodes in which the infant’s face turns red or purple. For adults, pertussis may simply be a cough that persists for several weeks.

 

 
Defy Aging; Build Muscle | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 10 July 2014 14:29

071014h1If you want good health, a long life and to feel your best well into old age, the No. 1 most important thing you can do is strength-training, says Dr. Brett Osborn, author of “Get Serious, A Neurosurgeon’s Guide to Optimal Health and Fitness.”

“Our ability to fight off disease resides in our muscles,” Dr. Osborn says. “The greatest thing you can do for your body is to build muscle.”

He cites a large, long-term study in the British Medical Journal of nearly 9,000 men ages 20 to 80. After nearly 19 years, the men still living were those with the most muscular strength.

Muscle is all protein. Fat, however, is an endocrine organ, meaning it releases hormones and other chemicals. When a person has excess fat, he or she also has a disrupted flow of excess biochemicals, which can increase insulin resistance and boost risk factors for stroke and high blood pressure, among other problems.

Strength-training has health benefits for everyone, he adds, no matter their size.

“Some fat is visceral fat — it’s stored around the organs and it’s even more dangerous than the fat you can see,” he says. “People who look thin may actually be carrying around a lot of visceral fat.”

So, what’s the workout Dr. Osborn recommends?

“Back to basics,” he says. “These five exercises are the pillars of a solid training regime.”

One caution: You should never begin a new, rigorous exercise routine without first checking with your doctor.

• The squat is a full-body exercise; it’s the basic movement around which all training should be centered. Heavy squats generate a robust hormonal response as numerous muscular structures are traumatized during the movement (even your biceps). Standing erect with a heavy load on your back and then repeatedly squatting down will stress your body inordinately — in a good way — forcing it to grow more muscle.

• The overhead press primarily activates the shoulders, arm extenders and chest. Lower-body musculature is also activated as it counters the downward force of the dumbbell supported by the trainee. From the planted feet into the hands, force is transmitted through the skeletal system, stabilized by numerous muscular structures, most importantly the lower back.

• The deadlift centers on the hamstrings, buttocks, lumbar extensors and quadriceps, essentially the large muscles of your backside and the front of your thighs. As power is transferred from the lower body into the bar through the upper body conduit, upper back muscles are also stressed, contrasting with the squat, which is supported by the hands. Deadlifts are considered by some to be the most complete training exercise.

• The bench press mostly targets the chest, shoulders and triceps; it’s the most popular among weightlifters, and it’s very simple — trainees push the barbell off the lower chest until the arms are straight. This motion stresses not only the entire upper body, but also the lower body, which serves a stabilizing function. This provides a big hormonal response and plenty of bang for your buck.

• The pull-up / chin-up stress upper body musculature into the body. A pull-up is done when hands gripping over the bar; a chin-up is where hands are gripping under the bar. Nine out of 10 people cannot do this exercise because, most simply, they haven’t put in the effort. It’s also been called a “man’s exercise,” which is nonsense,” he says. There are no gender-specific exercises.

“There are no secrets to a strong and healthier body; hard work is required for the body that will remain vital and strong at any age,” Osborn says. “Always practice proper form and safety. Otherwise, the result will be the opposite of your goal — an injury.”

 

 
Address Post-race Problems | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 10 July 2014 14:27

071014h2By Carolyn E. McAloon, DPM • Special to the Times

It is time once again for that great Castro Valley tradition, benefiting Eden Medical Center’s Trauma Center, the Run to the Lake.

This event provides the opportunity for every one of us to lace up our running shoes and enjoy a morning walk, run or dash.

Whether you prefer an out and back paved 5K run/walk, a beautiful 10K course that winds along the rolling west trail of Lake Chabot, the free outdoor Health Expo, or the Kids Dash for ages 3 to 8, there is healthy fun for the entire family.

However, it is critical that you prepare yourself from the ground up for a good time. The best advice I can give you to prevent a Monday morning visit to the podiatrist is to select a pair of well-fitting running shoes, even if you are only walking the course.

The most common post-race problems come from choosing the wrong shoe. Shoes that are too short can cause black toenails. Shoes that are too narrow in the toebox can cause pinched nerve pain, ingrown toenails or calluses. Shoes that are too wide allow the foot to slide around which can cause blisters. Shoes that are too flexible can cause a stress fracture. In addition, make sure your shoes are not worn out. The average lifespan of most running shoes is 350 to 500 miles, so be sure to replace them in time for the race.

If you do have post-race foot trouble, try these tips:

• Use a moisturizer to care for dry, cracking, callused feet.

• While some of us suffer from dry feet, others suffer from sweaty, wet feet. Consider using antiperspirants on your feet after a brief soak to keep them dry.

• If your feet swell or get overheated when you run, consider applying ice briefly or soaking your feet in cool water. You can also decrease swelling by wearing compression socks when you run and elevating your feet afterwards. Most importantly, you need to rehydrate immediately after the race.

• To prevent blisters or chafing, dab friction-reducing petroleum jelly or a personal lubricant on your hotspots. If you do get a blister, seek professional care to avoid an infection or an open sore.

• Remember, foot pain is not normal. Be sure to take immediate care of injuries. Something minor can turn into a big problem if not taken care of quickly and we want to keep you on your feet so that you can enjoy a healthy, active lifestyle.

Carolyn McAloon, DPM, is a podiatrist affiliated with Eden Medical Center. Come meet Dr. McAloon, and many other care providers at the free Health Expo at this year’s Run to the Lake on Sunday, July 13, from 7:30 to 10:30 a.m. in front of Eden Medical Center, 20103 Lake Chabot Road, in Castro Valley.


 
Melanoma Kills Someone Every Hour | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 10 July 2014 14:26

While this is a time of year when many Californians look ahead to lazy summer days at the beach or pool, it is essential to remember to protect yourself.

Skin cancers are rapidly on the rise, and an estimated 1 in 5 Americans can expect to be diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetime. In the past three decades, more people have had skin cancer than all other cancers combined and the incidence of skin cancers jumped 77 percent between 1992 and 2006 alone.

Every hour, someone dies from melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, according to Tim Turnham, executive director of the Melanoma Research Foundation.

The good news is that — with proper sun protection and routine self-examinations — the risk of skin cancers can be reduced.

Most importantly, your whole family needs to adopt healthy sun habits and use them consistently. Wear a “Broad Spectrum” waterproof sunscreen with an SPF of 30 every day, even when it is cloudy. Reapply sunscreen frequently, and don’t miss places like your ears, lips, feet and top of your head.

Seek out shade between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun’s rays are strongest. Wear a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses with 100 percent UV protection, and lightweight, loose-fitting clothing like long-sleeved shirts and pants to protect large areas of skin.

Skin cancer, when caught early, is highly treatable. New technologies exist that can treat cancers, often with minimal pain or scarring and without surgery. That’s why self-examinations are important.

Get in the habit of checking your skin regularly. Learn the pattern of your moles and freckles so you can identify changes. Look for new growths, spots or bumps that do not heal. Ask a friend or spouse to check the spots you can’t see.

When examining your skin, remember the ABCDs of Moles.

A — Is it Asymmetrical (oddly shaped)?

B — Does it have an irregular or vaguely defined Border?

C — Is it uneven in Color?

D — Look at its Diameter. Is it growing in size or larger than a pencil eraser?

If you find any changing moles, growths, spots or bumps that fit these criteria, see your doctor without delay. You should also see a physician annually for a professional skin exam.

 

 
Learn ‘Keys to Living Well with Diabetes’ | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 10 July 2014 14:25

The Centers for Disease Control estimates that 23.6 million people in the U.S. developed diabetes in 2007 and an additional 1.6 million new cases were diagnosed during that same time frame. At least 57 million adults were at risk of developing this chronic disease.

Managing diabetes requires making lifestyle modifications, including monitoring blood sugar levels and modifying one’s diet. It is important for people who have diabetes or who have loved ones with diabetes to understand the disease and learn how to control the condition to prevent serious health complications.

“Keys to Living Well with Diabetes” is a free two-part diabetes management program being offered tonight, July 10, and next Thursday, July 17, at 7 p.m. at Eden Medical Center, 20103 Lake Chabot Road, in Castro Valley.

Presented by diabetic educator Lisa Quan and registered dietician Kathy Gamez, this program provides information about blood glucose monitoring, nutritional guidelines, exercises, and how to avoid complications.

In addition to this program, a special presentation, “Diabetes & Your Feet: Staying a Step Ahead,” will be presented on Thursday, July 24, at 7 p.m. by podiatrist Ronald Hull, DPM, who will discuss diabetic foot conditions and the importance of lowering your risk of developing these problems which can quickly become serious.

For more information and to register, call 1-888-445-8433.


 

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