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There are several boarding options for pets during the holidays.

By Matthew Kearns, DVM

No matter which holiday you celebrate this time of year there is one thing common to us all: travel. Whether we travel for a day or for over a week, this means figuring out what to do with the four-legged family members.

Bringing your pet with you

This can be as easy as loading Fluffy or Fido in the car or as complicated as figuring out how to travel by air. If traveling by air, make sure to contact the airline you plan to use first. Certain requirements include: cost of travel (do you have to pay for a full seat or just a small additional fee), health certificate (usually within two weeks of travel), vaccines and whether the airline allows you to sedate your pet for travel.

Getting a pet sitter

This can be a touchy subject as I’ve heard stories of dream pet sitters, stories of nightmare pet sitters and everything in between. Most times using a family member, friend or neighbor is the best choice. If you decide to look for a pet sitter online, make sure to set up an interview beforehand to check if the pet sitter is associated with any pet sitter associations or any state or local trade associations. An interview also gives you a chance to ask for references.

Boarding facilities

There are many boarding choices nowadays, and it can be difficult to choose which is best for you and your pet. One hopes that nothing bad will happen to our pets, but it is good to know how the facility will handle an emergency if it happens. It is best to visit the boarding facility ahead of time to check for cleanliness and orderliness, as well as find out what kind of relationship the boarding facility has with a veterinarian. 

Our boarding facility is literally attached to the animal hospital, so we have a veterinarian on premises every day (including Sundays). Other boarding facilities have a veterinarian that visits every day, and some only have a relationship with a veterinarian if your pet is injured or showing symptoms of illness. 

Additionally, when boarding at any facility, there are certain vaccines that are required by law including distemper, Bordatella (kennel cough) and rabies for dogs and distemper and rabies for cats. This may mean making an appointment with your veterinarian before dropping your pet off at the boarding facility.

Dr. Kearns and his son Matthew and his dog Jasmine.
Dr. Kearns and his son Matthew and his dog Jasmine.

I hope that this information is helpful and remember to start early in making arrangements for either a pet sitter or boarding.  The end of year holidays are the busiest time for pet boarding.

I want to wish all of the readers of this column both a safe and joyous holiday season and happy 2017. I also want to thank both Heidi Sutton and the staff of the Arts and Lifestyles section, as well as all the staff of the Times Beacon Record and affiliates for another great year.

Dr. Kearns practices veterinary medicine from his Port Jefferson office and is pictured with his son Matthew and his dog Jasmine.

Eddie K. Wright, right, with his sister Mimi and son Drew.

Reviewed by Rita J. Egan

Growing up in the primarily Caucasian town of Smithtown, Eddie K. Wright, the son of a white mother and black father, never felt like he fit in with the other children. By his teen years, he began to have run-ins with the law, and a few weeks shy of his 18th birthday, he became a father when his girlfriend gave birth to his son Drew.

eddies-book-coverDespite a troubled youth, Wright reveals in his first book, “Voice for the Silent Fathers,” that his toughest obstacle in life so far was accepting the fact that his son was gay. Now 12 years into a 45-year sentence for conspiracy to distribute drugs, the author has spent the last few years using his time in prison to work on his issues and relationship with his son by writing. Due to the experience, which he describes as emotionally therapeutic, many of his fellow inmates have dubbed him “Gangster Turned Guru.”

A few months ago, Wright released his book in the hopes that it will inspire fathers like him to strengthen their bond with their children and accept them for exactly who they are. The writer is raw and transparent as he discusses his former no-son-of-mine attitude, and the book invites readers into the mind of a father trying to understand his son’s homosexuality.

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Wright via email about his new book.

Tell us about your background, and how you earned the title, ‘Gangster Turned Guru.’ 

I’ve been in trouble with the law since my youth, doing months in county jail, graduating to a four-year prison bid and ultimately being sentenced by the Feds, where I got my “head knocked off” with all these mandatory minimums. But, it was my wake-up call. I changed my street gangster mentality because that was what was constantly bringing turmoil and stress to my life experience.

Once I began to live a spiritual way of life, I gained an internal peace within, and of course, being in prison everyone wants to know what it is that kept me so positive and optimistic with life. Through the years, I’ve always been spiritually mentoring everyone and with teaching yoga, what started jokingly as calling me the Guru, just stuck, because a Guru is one who guides you on your own spiritual path.

Can you summarize the book? 

Being the father of a gay son is a taboo topic that’s never discussed. Most fathers won’t even admit they have a gay son, much less show loving support. I describe how I overcame my no-son-of-mine mentality to come to totally accepting who my son is, because my responsibilities as a father didn’t change just because my son is gay.

What made you decide to write about the struggle you had when you were younger with accepting your son’s homosexuality?

This book was needed for my son to read to understand what I was going through; why I made so many of the mistakes that I did as a young father. I was lost and confused because you never really heard of or seen fathers accepting their gay sons, most of the time they abandon them. It’s not because they don’t love them, it’s that their fears and anger are overshadowing that love. I wrote my story to be able to help others, fathers, in particular, to know what it means to love unconditionally.

Your relationship with your son is a strong one today. What do you think are the key ingredients to maintaining a great relationship with your child, even when your lives didn’t play out as you had planned?

The key ingredient is loving unconditionally and repeating the Serenity prayer whenever I needed, which was often. Being open and honest with my son has meant a lot for us both. It was OK for me to tell him, “I don’t understand your lifestyle but I don’t have to because I still love you.”

When you told family members and friends about the subject of the book, did anyone object? 

None of my family objected, but it was more of a shock from a few friends, because again, for a father to even admit to having a gay son is a surprise. Writing a book and telling the world, there weren’t objections, just praise for my courage for doing it.

Your sister Mimi Wright helped you self-publish the book. Can you give new writers any insight on how to get their book published?

I’ll have to go into my Guru mode on this question because we all have limitless potential, and as long as you keep your mind focused, the Universe will draw everything needed to make it happen. Just keep writing; building your social media platform and posting samples of what you write. Live as if you’re already signed to a major publisher.

I write like I have a deadline to meet that I’m under contract for. Act as if and it will become your reality. It didn’t happen overnight, but it happened at exactly the right moment as all things do. So just stick with it.  Once you’re ready, check out my sister’s company at www.mwrightgroup.com. She’s amazing.

What advice would you give to parents when they learn that their child is gay or a lesbian?

When a parent learns or even suspects their child is gay or lesbian, just make sure the child knows that your love for them won’t change and allow them to discuss it with you. Support is super important because homosexual teens have the highest rate of suicide.

What is the biggest thing you learned about yourself while writing the book?

That I was causing all of my pain and frustration by trying to change who my son was, without ever thinking about changing myself. For so many years, that was the key, changing my way of thinking and stop being so judgmental.

What does Drew think of the book? 

Drew loved the book. It’s helped us heal our relationship and so that alone makes it a success for me. He told me that he now understands why I acted some of the ways I had. We were able to heal our wounds.

You are in the process of working on your next book. What is it about?

“The Evolution of a Gangster Turned Guru” is just what the title describes. It’s my personal spiritual transformation by learning about the Universal laws, God’s love, and most importantly, how to truly love myself. I discuss how we are each responsible for what we experience, the power of our thoughts and how by changing the way we think, we change our life situation.

Where can people go to learn more about ‘Voice for the Silent Fathers’ and you?

Like I mentioned, as an author your internet presence is everything. I’m on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram @EddieKWright.  My author blog can be found at www.eddiekwright.com and each of my books has a website at www.voiceforthesilentfathers.com and www.gangstertoguru.com.

Pat and Dennis Statuch of Port Jefferson hold "Turning Tides," by oil panter Jim Molloy, which they won at the Setauket Artists' Exhibition raffle.
Barbara and Les Wuerfl of Stony Brook hold their new painting "Welcome to the Party" by Irene Ruddock, which they won at the Setauket Artists' Exhibition raffle.
Barbara and Les Wuerfl of Stony Brook hold their new painting “Welcome to the Party” by Irene Ruddock, which they won at the Setauket Artists’ Exhibition raffle.

The Setauket Exhibition raffle winners are Barbara and Les Wuerfl of Stony Brook, who won the painting “Welcome to the Party” by exhibit coordinator, Irene Ruddock; and Pat and Dennis Statuch of Port Jefferson, now proud owners of “Turning Tides” by oil painter Jim Molloy. Congratulations!

Visitors wait to enter one of the homes on the tour. Photo by Heidi Sutton

By Patty Yantz and Patty Cain

The Three Village Historical Society hosted its 38th annual Candlelight House Tour last weekend. Titled Visions of Historic Setauket: A Look Back in Time, the event attracted over 1,000 visitors to our little hamlet.

This year’s tour was dedicated to four members who passed away this year, Blanche Tyler Davis, Chuck Glaser, Bruce McCauley and Elaine Stow, each of whom played a vital role within the society.

A living room is decorated for the holidays. Photo by Heidi Sutton
A living room is decorated for the holidays. Photo by Heidi Sutton

Four of the five homes featured in this year’s tour were originally owned by members of the Wells family. The tour served as a history lesson of life as it was around the pond. The ticket contains much history of the area and is a keepsake in itself. We are honored to have the kindness of the wonderful homeowners who opened up their beautiful homes decked out in holiday decor.

Gallery North and the Three Village Historical Society history center added more historical interest to the tour. We are so thankful for our generous sponsors and restaurants, and the numerous volunteers who served as decorators, house chairs, committee chairs, traffic people and docents and our staff who worked hard to make this event come to life. Without their support and generosity the tour would not be possible.

Visitors wait to enter one of the homes on the tour. Photo by Heidi Sutton
Visitors wait to enter one of the homes on the tour. Photo by Heidi Sutton

The Candlelight House Tour is the biggest fundraising event held by the society. The proceeds enable the society to continue to preserve local photographs with proceeds benefiting the society’s educational programs.

This year the Friday night tour with a reception at the Old Field Club was in such high demand that for the first time we opened a few tickets to the Friday night tour without the reception. This too proved to be successful. On Saturday people could start the tour with breakfast at the Old Field Club. The food and the views at the site set the tone for a wonderful day. The weather was perfect, the homes were perfect, the location was perfect and everyone who supported this event was perfect!

On behalf of the society, a deep heartfelt THANK YOU for all who helped make this year’s tour the success that it was. It is events like this that makes the Three Village area a wonderful place to live!

Patty Yantz and Patty Cain are the tour co-chairs of this year’s Candlelight Tour.

Eric Hughes and Sari Feldman star in 'Barnaby Saves Christmas'. Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

By Heidi Sutton

In 2003 Douglas Quattrock and Jeffrey Sanzel sat down and wrote an adorable holiday story for children about a little elf and a tiny reindeer who show us that “Christmas lies within our hearts.” Celebrating its 13th anniversary this year, Theatre Three’s production of “Barnaby Saves Christmas” has become a beloved tradition in Port Jefferson and one that is looked forward to each December.

The cast of ‘Barnaby Saves Christmas’. Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc.
The cast of ‘Barnaby Saves Christmas’. Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

Under the direction of Sanzel, nine adult actors whisk the audience away to the North Pole and into the home of Santa and Mrs. Claus. It’s the night before Christmas and Santa, his elves and reindeer are on their way to deliver presents to all the children. When the littlest elf Barnaby realizes that Santa has left behind a little stuffed bear, he convinces the tiniest reindeer Franklynne to find Santa and “save Christmas.” Along the way they bump into an evil villain named S. B. Dombulbury who, with his partner in crime Irmagarde, is trying to ruin Christmas for everyone, and meet a Jewish family and learn all about the Festival of Lights.

Newcomer Eric Hughes tackles the role of Barnaby with boundless energy and a couple of back flips too! Accompanied on piano by Quattrock, who also wrote all of the music and lyrics, Hughes’ solo, “Still With a Ribbon on Top” is terrific as is his performance in “My Big Shot” in the second act. Sari Feldman, who also choreographs the numbers, returns as Franklynne, the little reindeer who is afraid of flying, specifically the landing part. The scene where Barnaby helps Franklynne perfect her landing skills, “I’m Gonna Fly Now,” is the highlight of the show.

Jason Furnari, who originated the role of Barnaby 13 years ago, and Phyllis March play the roles of Santa and Mrs. Claus this year and also double as the Jewish aunt Sarah and nephew Andrew, who seems to have very selective hearing. Furnari’s solo ”Within Our Hearts” is heartfelt and March’s rendition of “Miracles” is beautiful.

From left,  Dylan Robert Poulos, Dana Bush, Steven Uihlein and Jessica Contino in a scene from ‘Barnaby Saves Christmas’. Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions, Inc.
From left, Dylan Robert Poulos, Dana Bush, Steven Uihlein and Jessica Contino in a scene from ‘Barnaby Saves Christmas’. Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions, Inc.

Emily Gates plays Sam the head elf who is trying to stay on schedule and keep track of elves Crystal (Jessica Contino) and Blizzard (Dylan Robert Poulos). Their interactions are the funniest moments in the show.

Steven Uihlein plays S.B. (Spoiled Brat) Dombulbury, the antagonist in the show. “I’m just misunderstood,” he laments as he and Irmagarde (Dana Bush) stuff the chimneys with coal so he can steal all the presents. When his plan is uncovered, the cast chases him through the audience, much to the delight of the children. Will Barnaby and Franklynne stop S.B. Dombulbury from “stealing Christmas”? Will they learn the true meaning of Christmas?

If you haven’t already done so, make “Barnaby Saves Christmas” a holiday tradition with your family. You’ll be glad you did. Souvenir elves and reindeer will be available for purchase during intermission. Stay after the show for a photo with Santa Claus on stage if you wish — the $5 fee goes to support the theater’s scholarship fund — and meet the rest of the cast in the lobby.

Theatre Three, located at 412 Main Street in Port Jefferson, will present “Barnaby Saves Christmas” on Dec. 10, 17, 28, 29 and 30 with a special Christmas Eve performance on Dec. 24. All performances begin at 11 a.m. Running time is 1½ hours. Recommended for ages 3 and up. Up next is a production of “The Three Little Pigs” from Jan. 21 to Feb. 25 and “Raggedy Ann & Andy” from March 4 to 25. All seats are $10. To order, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

Parade will begin on Main Street in Setauket near the Emma S. Clark Library and elementary school

An electric float in 2014 carries parade participants. Photo from Cheryl Davie

After a one-year hiatus, a long-running holiday tradition is returning to Setauket.

It was ‘lights out’ for the Electric Holiday Parade last December, when a couple of glitches prevented the popular event from taking place. Cheryl Davie, longtime organizer of the event, which has been around for two decades, said there were budgetary cutbacks at the town level and a permit deadline was missed.

Billy Williams, a civic-minded local businessman and a member of the Setauket Fire Department, Three Village Kiwanis and the Three Village Chamber of Commerce, said he heard of the issues last November — just not soon enough.

“I remember moving to the area in the late ’90s and bringing my kids to the parade,” he said in an email. “I thought it was a great hometown experience. I was saddened when I heard it wasn’t happening last year.” But by the time he found out, he said, it was too late to make it happen. So he decided to pick up the pieces and planned to resurrect the parade this year.

Davie immediately offered her assistance and expertise and the two became a team. Williams joked he is the producer and Davie is the director. She’s in charge of “the script” and running the show. He’s responsible for making sure the funding comes through.

“I have put together a team of small businesses and individuals who wanted to produce a great parade,” Williams said. “We have about 20 sponsors that have generously donated to offset the cost of producing the parade. State Farm [Williams’ business], Shea & Sanders Real Estate, Four D Landscaping and Shine Dance Studios are the major sponsors — with many others contributing as well. Each has made donations of money, time and/or other needed goods and services for the event.”

Lights will blaze again when the parade kicks off Sunday, Dec. 11 at 5 p.m. There will be floats and marchers, lights and music, decorated conveyances of all kinds, entertainment, hot chocolate and cookies — not to mention the arrival of Santa Claus on the Setauket Fire Department float — according to Davie.

“We have a lot of floats signed up,” Williams said. “Thirty-five have registered so far. We are also hiring a professional marching band to perform as well as providing many other great attractions for the kids. We have Wolfie from Stony Brook University attending, as well as the SBU pep squad.”

Williams said the Three Village school district will also be well represented. Many of the elementary schools are building floats — at all grade levels — which is a change from previous years when only sixth-graders were invited to create floats. The Ward Melville Jazz Band will also perform.

Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Brownies, dance academies, preschools and local businesses have registered online to participate in the parade of lights. Registration will remain open until Dec. 10.

“The more, the merrier,” said Davie, referring to participants and spectators alike.

No article about the Electric Holiday Parade would be complete without a shout out to one of the original founders and supporters. Michael Ardolino was a member of the small group that established the parade 21 years ago. Today he is very happy and proud.

“I’m so excited the parade is back,” Ardolino said in a telephone interview. “I’m so proud it’s going to continue. So pleased with the new group that has stepped up to create this year’s parade. I’m looking forward to coming and enjoying it with my granddaughter. The tradition continues.”

For more information about the parade — or if you’d like to sign up — visit www.3vholidayparade.com. Staging for the parade will begin at 3:30 p.m. along Main Street in Setauket near the Emma S. Clark Library and the Setauket Elementary School. Kick-off is at 5 p.m. sharp.

Above, Shyamalika Gopalan. The image on the screen shows methylation levels with age. Photo by Casey Youngflesh

By Daniel Dunaief

The Museum of Natural History in New York City features a slice of a 1,400-year-old sequoia tree that was cut down in California in 1891. The cross section of the tree offers a testament to history on its inside. That’s where the tree rings that grow every year mark the passing of another year. As it turns out, humans have something in common with trees. While people may not have rings in bones that an observer can see, they do have age-related changes in their genetic material, or DNA.

Human genes go through a process called methylation in which a methyl group comprised of a carbon and three hydrogens attaches to DNA. Methylation upstream of a gene generally reduces transcription, or the copying of that gene into messenger RNA that can then begin the process of building proteins.

gopalanlab2
Shyamalika Gopalan demonstrates how she prepares to extract DNA. Photo by Casey Youngflesh

Using broad time-based methylation changes, Shyamalika Gopalan, who is earning her doctorate at Stony Brook University in the Department of Ecology and Evolution, recently received a three-year grant from the Department of Justice to refine an understanding of methylation and aging. The DOJ would like to use this kind of analysis to gather more information from a scene at which the remaining clues include DNA that isn’t in one of its databases.

Gopalan isn’t the first scientist to study genetic methylation and aging. Other scientists have used blood, saliva and other tissues. She is starting with one type of tissue in the bone. “I’m trying to make” the analysis “more specific to bones,” she said. She doesn’t know how much variation she will find in the age-related methylation patterns depending on ethnicity and lifestyle. “It does appear that some sites are remarkably ‘clock-like,’” she said. “It is these types of sites I’m hoping to find and use in my research.”

Gopalan explained that millions of sites can be methylated. She’s hoping to hone in on those that act more like a clock and that change in a linear manner with time. She’s not sure how many sites she’ll use and said some changes in methylation involve removing methyl groups. “Some methylation increases and some decreases,” she said. “If you know the pattern with age at any site, you can start to build an estimate from those.”

Methylation occurs with age for several possible reasons. “A major theory for these changes in methylation level with age is that the epigenetic patterns are drifting from the optimum,” she said. “This may explain some, or even most, of the changes we observe, but I don’t think it is universally true for all sites in the genome.” Still, there probably is a biologically relevant reason why some of these sites are changing, she suggested.

Gopalan said we know that these methylation patterns are crucial in early development, from conception to birth and she suggested it probably doesn’t completely stop changing there. Some sites are probably regulated throughout life.

Gopalan is hoping to have the bone data prepared by this summer and then believes she’ll be able to get methylation types and start working on a computer algorithm to build a predictor for the next year. After her initial work, she will also shift to saliva and blood.

Like a scene from “Law & Order” or other crime shows, the DNA methylation test may be another clue for police officers or prosecutors to use to rule in or out potential suspects from a crime scene where DNA, but not a driver’s license, is left behind. If the genetic material is not in a database, “you could build a profile and it could be useful for narrowing down suspects,” Gopalan said. At this point, she is taking data for people of age classes but with different ethnicities and lifestyles and comparing them to people of a different age with a similar range of backgrounds and lifestyles.

Gopalan is using samples from medical schools around the New York area, borrowing from anatomy departments where people have donated their bodies to research or teaching. More broadly, she is interested in studying diverse populations, especially in Africa. She has worked with her thesis advisor Brenna Henn, exploring methylation from two different populations. These are the ‡Khomani San of South Africa and the Baka of Cameroon.

Gopalan was interested in working with methylation as a biomarker for aging when she came across this funding opportunity from the DOJ. “It was a good fit for what I had already been studying,” she said, adding that she hopes this method will be used in the future in forensics to assist in criminal investigations.

Krishna Veeramah, an assistant professor of primate genomics at Stony Brook and the chair of her thesis committee, described Gopalan as an “intellectually engaged student who is always eager to absorb information.” Veeramah explained in an email that he thinks “there is scope for this work to transition from basic research” to an application “in criminal forensics and related areas. It will certainly require more work and testing.”

Gopalan has been at SBU for over three years. She lives in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, and commutes about 90 minutes each way most days. She enjoys the beaches, farms, apple picking and the natural beauty of the area. Gopalan would like to continue to perform research after she earns her doctorate, whether that’s with a company, a research institution or with a university. She is excited about extracting and working with DNA, particularly from archeological sites. These samples “come from a field and, once you dust them off, it makes it personal. This is a part of a story.”

Consuming white fleshy fruits such as pears may decrease ischemic stroke risk by as much as 52 percent.

By David Dunaief, M.D.

Stroke remains one of the top five causes of mortality and morbidity in the United States (1). As a result, we have a wealth of studies that inform us on issues ranging from identifying chronic diseases that increase stroke risk to examining the roles of medications and lifestyle in managing risk.

Impact of chronic diseases

There are several studies that show chronic diseases — such as age-related macular degeneration, rheumatoid arthritis and migraine with aura — increase the risk for stroke. Therefore, patients with these diseases must be monitored.

In the ARIC study, stroke risk was approximately 50 percent greater in patients who had AMD compared to those who did not — 7.6 percent versus 4.9 percent, respectively (2). This increase was seen in both types of stroke: ischemic (complete blockage of blood flow in the brain) and hemorrhagic (bleeding in the brain). The risk was greater for hemorrhagic stroke than for ischemic, 2.64 vs. 1.42 times increased risk.

However, there was a smaller overall number of hemorrhagic strokes, which may have skewed the results. This was a 13-year observational study involving 591 patients, ages 45 to 64, who were diagnosed with AMD. Most patients had early AMD. If you have AMD, you should be followed closely by both an ophthalmologist and a primary care physician.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)

In an observational study, patients with RA had a 30 percent increased risk of stroke, and those under 50 years old with RA had a threefold elevated risk (3). This study involved 18,247 patients followed for a 13-year period. There was also a 40 percent increased risk of atrial fibrillation (AF), a type of arrhythmia or irregular heartbeat. Generally, AF causes increased stroke risk; however, the authors were not sure if AF contributed to the increased risk of stroke seen here. They suggested checking regularly for AF in RA patients, and they surmised that inflammation may be an underlying cause for the higher number of stroke events.

Migraine with aura

In the Women’s Health Study, an observational study, the risk of stroke increased twofold in women who had migraine with aura (4). Only about 20 percent of migraines include an aura, and the incidence of stroke in this population is still rather rare, so put this in context (5).

Medications with beneficial effects

Two medications have shown positive impacts on reducing stroke risk: statins and valsartan. Statins are used to lower cholesterol and inflammation, and valsartan is used to treat high blood pressure. Statins do have side effects, such as increased risks of diabetes, cognitive impairment and myopathy (muscle pain). However, used in the right setting, statins are very effective. In one study, there was reduced mortality from stroke in patients who were on statins at the time of the event (6). Patients who were on a statin to treat high cholesterol had an almost sixfold reduction in mortality, compared to those with high cholesterol who were not on therapy.

There was also significant mortality reduction in those on a statin without high cholesterol, but with diabetes or heart disease. The authors surmise that this result might be from an anti-inflammatory effect of the statins. Of course, if you have side effects, you should contact your physician immediately.

Valsartan is an angiotensin II receptor blocker that works on the kidney to reduce blood pressure. However, in the post-hoc analysis (looking back at a completed trial) of the Kyoto Heart Study data, valsartan used as an add-on to other blood pressure medications showed a significant reduction, 41 percent, in the risk of stroke and other cardiovascular events for patients who have coronary artery disease (7).

It is important to recognize that chronic disease increases stroke risk. High blood pressure and high cholesterol are two of the most significant risk factors. Fortunately, statins can reduce cholesterol, and valsartan may be a valuable add-on to prevent stroke in those patients with coronary artery disease.

Medication combination: negative impact

There are two anti-platelet medications that are sometimes given together in the hopes of reducing stroke recurrence — aspirin and Plavix (clopidogrel). The assumption is that these medications together will work better than either alone. However, in a randomized controlled trial, the gold standard of studies, this combination not only didn’t demonstrate efficacy improvement but significantly increased the risk of major bleed and death (8, 9).

Major bleeding risk was 2.1 percent with the combination versus 1.1 percent with aspirin alone, an almost twofold increase. In addition, there was a 50 percent increased risk of all-cause death with the combination, compared to aspirin alone. Patients were given 325 mg of aspirin and either a placebo or 75 mg of Plavix. The study was halted due to these deleterious effects. The American Heart Association recommends monotherapy for the prevention of recurrent stroke. If you are on this combination of drugs, please consult your physician.

Aspirin: low dose vs. high dose

Greater hemorrhagic (bleed) risk is also a concern with daily aspirin regimens greater than 81 mg, which is the equivalent of a single baby aspirin. Aspirin’s effects are cumulative; therefore, a lower dose is better over the long term. Even 100 mg taken every other day was shown to be effective in trials. There are about 50 million patients who take aspirin chronically in the United States. If these patients all took 325 mg of aspirin per day — an adult dose — it would result in 900,000 major bleeding events per year (10).

Lifestyle modifications

A prospective study of 20,000 participants showed that consuming white fleshy fruits — apples, pears, bananas, etc. — and vegetables — cauliflower, mushrooms, etc. — decreased ischemic stroke risk by 52 percent (11). Additionally, the Nurses’ Health Study showed that foods with flavanones, found mainly in citrus fruits, decreased the risk of ischemic stroke by 19 percent (12). The authors suggest that the reasons for the reduction may have to do with the ability of flavanones to reduce inflammation and/or improve blood vessel function. I mention both of these trials together because of the importance of fruits in prevention of ischemic (clot-based) stroke.

Fiber’s important role

Fiber also plays a key role in reducing the risk of a hemorrhagic stroke. In a study involving over 78,000 women, those who consumed the most fiber had a total stroke risk reduction of 34 percent and a 49 percent risk reduction in hemorrhagic stroke. The type of fiber used in this study was cereal fiber, or fiber from whole grains.

Refined grains, however, increased the risk of hemorrhagic stroke twofold (13). When eating grains, it is important to have whole grains. Read labels carefully, since some products that claim to have whole grains contain unbleached or bleached wheat flour, which is refined.

Fortunately, there are many options to help reduce the risk or the recurrence of a stroke. Ideally, the best option would involve lifestyle modifications. Some patients may need to take statins, even with lifestyle modifications. However, statins’ side effect profile is dose related. Therefore, if you need to take a statin, lifestyle changes may help lower your dose and avoid harsh side effects. Once you have had a stroke, it is likely that you will remain on at least one medication — low-dose aspirin — since the risk of a second stroke is high.

References: (1) cdc.gov. (2) Stroke online April 2012. (3) BMJ 2012; Mar 8;344:e1257. (4) Neurology 2008 Aug 12; 71:505. (5) Neurology. 2009;73(8):576. (6) AAN conference: April 2012. (7) Am J Cardiol 2012; 109(9):1308-1314. (8) ISC 2012; Abstract LB 9-4504; (9) www.clinicaltrials.gov NCT00059306. (10) JAMA 2007;297:2018-2024. (11) Stroke. 2011; 42: 3190-3195. (12) J. Nutr. 2011;141(8):1552-1558. (13) Am J Epidemiol. 2005 Jan 15;161(2):161-169.

Dr. Dunaief is a speaker, author and local lifestyle medicine physician focusing on the integration of medicine, nutrition, fitness and stress management. For further information, visit www.medicalcompassmd.com or consult your personal physician.

handler-levesque-sit-and-standOn Sunday, Dec. 11 at 2 p.m., Le Petit Salon de Musique, 380 Nicolls Road, Stony Brook will welcome the exotic classical guitar and mandolin duo of Judy Handler and Mark Levesque in concert.

The husband and wife team are known worldwide for their sophisticated sound that blends classical, Brazilian, Latin, jazz, gypsy and folk music in unique, expressive arrangements. Included in the program will be music from the U.S., Latin America, Europe, Eastern Europe and the Middle East as well as a few holiday favorites.

Tickets at the door are $20 adults ($15 online), $15 seniors ($10 online) and $5 students. For more information, visit www.lepetitsalon.org.

A Vought F-8K Crusader at the Intrepid Museum in New York City awaits your visit.

By Melissa Arnold

If you haven’t been to a library in a while, you probably still envision it as little more than rows of books and people reading. But times have changed, and these days, libraries are about so much more than checking out an old book. Just ask thousands of families across Long Island who have benefitted from their library’s Museum Pass Program.

The premise is a simple one: When you become a patron of your local library, which is free, you’ll get access to everything it has to offer. Collections run the gamut from traditional books and magazines to video games and digital content.

The majority of Suffolk County’s libraries also allow their patrons the chance to borrow a family pass for a number of area museums, both on Long Island and in New York City. While the participating museums vary for each library, popular destinations such as the Long Island Children’s Museum in Garden City and the Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan are almost universally available.

Each library’s Museum Pass Program is funded through its own budget or with assistance from their local support organization. While it’s not clear which library on Long Island first offered museum passes, similar programs have existed for decades across the country.

According to Samantha Alberts of Suffolk County Library Services, libraries in Ohio were providing passes as early as the 1980s. In 2008, Sachem Public Library became one of the first local libraries to offer passes. “We try to be a source of inspiration and education for people, whether that’s on-site or out in the community, so it seemed like a natural fit to introduce people to new experiences,” said Lauren Gilbert, head of community services for the Sachem Public Library. They began approaching local museums to purchase family memberships — the same annual passes anyone can buy. Each museum has slightly different rules, but multiple adults and children can be admitted with just one pass. Gilbert said that in 2015 alone, passes to 17 museums were borrowed more than 2,000 times at Sachem. Other participating libraries have seen similarly impressive numbers, and the program’s popularity grows every year.

For the Emma S. Clark Memorial Library in Setauket, the Museum Pass Program is a more recent addition to their offerings. “Earlier in 2013, we did a survey of our patrons asking about the kinds of services they’d want to see at the library,” explained Lisa DeVerna, head of the library’s Department of Community Outreach and Public Relations. “When we looked at the responses, people asked over and over again for museum passes.”

They launched their program modestly, with 10 museums in the first year. Now, they have passes for 21 museums, including seven in New York City. More than 1,000 passes were checked out at Emma Clark in 2015, and they’re on track to meet or surpass that number this year. “It’s so easy to use. I’m a patron here [at Emma Clark], and I’ve done it myself with my kids,” DeVerna said. “You just pick up the pass the day before your visit and bring it back before noon the day after. [At our library], you can even renew the pass for use the next day as long as there’s not a reservation on it already.”

Each library has its own policies for the program, but most will allow patrons to borrow passes several times a month, and sometimes more than one museum at a time. And with the option to reserve the pass online or by phone, it couldn’t be more convenient. Therese Nielsen, department head of Adult and Reference Services at the Huntington Central Library, said that each museum’s popularity varies over time, and that they occasionally add new museums based on patrons’ requests.

“Certain places tend to spike in popularity on a seasonal basis,” Nielsen explained. “The Old Westbury Gardens are popular in the fall and spring when everything is in bloom, people like to visit the Intrepid [Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York City] when it’s not terribly hot outside. At the holidays, a lot of people like to visit Old Bethpage Village. The MoMA and Guggenheim [Museum, both in New York City] are popular throughout the year, as are the Long Island Children’s Museum and the Cradle of Aviation [both in Garden City].”

The museums Nielsen mentioned are only a slice of what’s available. The librarians were quick to say there’s something for everyone, and the program saves families the money they’d normally spend on a museum trip, where a family of four could pay $50 or more for admission. “I think that part of the benefit of living in this area is all the great access to cultural institutions. There’s so much to offer here and people have been so excited to take advantage of that,” DeVerna said. “And you no longer have to worry about it being too expensive because it’s right here for free.”

Contact your local library for details about the Museum Pass Program in your area.

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