Monday, October 29, 2012

Victor Acquista MD Article: Stress and Your Health in Westfield Evening News 10/30/12

The following article ran in The Westfield Evening News on 10/30/12 and is currently on their website (although one must subscribe to see it).

Health Wise

A health & wellness column by Victor Acquista, MD, Director Pathways
Integral Health & Wellness, LLC; Author Pathways to Health: An
Integral Guidebook

Stress and Your Health

“I am feeling pretty stressed.”

“I am totally stressed out!”

Sound familiar? What does it mean to be feeling stressed? Actually, it
means that our mechanisms for coping with stress are not successfully
handling what life presents us with. Life presents us with certain
challenges and/or demands. When we are handling these successfully,
there is no particular impact on health. When we are not handling
these challenges and/or demands successfully we feel “stressed”.
Therefore, the ability to handle the stressors in our lives really
determines whether or not we experience “stress”.

Is stress bad or good?

 Actually, the way the body responds to stressors is adaptive in the
short run. When faced with a particular challenge, the body releases
certain hormones such as cortisol and certain substances such as
adrenaline so that we can respond at peak performance. If you are
being chased by a predator, fighting against a serious infection,
being mugged, or up in the bottom of the ninth inning with the bases
loaded, you want your body to respond to this acute demand. You want
your body to perform at peak. In this sense, responding to stress is
adaptive and beneficial. This is the classic “fight or flight’
response that revs us up and enables us to do our best. These are the
kind of short term stressors that we have underlying evolutionary
adaptive mechanisms which help to ensure our survival and enable us to
perform at our best.

But, when the stressors that precipitate this kind of stress response
are protracted, when these stressors are chronic, the end result can
be very detrimental. The sustained release of these “stress hormones”
can elevate blood pressure, interfere with sleep, and generally run us
down. So, while responding to short term stressors can be a good
thing, dealing with chronic stressors can be bad and have serious
negative outcomes with respect to health. Chronic stress which is not
well managed leads to adverse health outcomes.

What are the common chronic stressors?

 In today’s fast paced world, there are a few common sources of
stress. These include financial, relationship, work, and time
management pressures. Everyone’s stressors are different, but most of
us experience some stress related to the above. Those individuals
dealing with chronic illness have an additional set of stressors
related to that illness. Think about your own life circumstances. If
you are worried about financial matters, if you are experiencing
conflict or have worries about certain aspects of your
relationships—with family, children, spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend,
etc., or if you have pressures at work related to your
responsibilities, your boss, or your co-workers, or if you are trying
to figure out how to manage your time in order to get done all the
things you feel you need to do, then you have stressors in your life.
If you have some chronic illness on top of the above stressors, then
you have another stressor on your plate that needs to be dealt with.

Sometimes it’s helpful to list out your stressors and catalogue them.
There is even a life stressor scale which details particular events
such as divorce, moving, or dealing with death of a loved one which
can help you get a better handle on the things which are causing
stress in your life.

The key to maintaining health in spite of stress

Far and away, the strategy you need to develop in dealing with
stressors is successful stress management. Imagine a container with
all your stressors pouring into it. Unless there is a way to drain or
empty the container, it won’t be long until the container is filled
and overflows. When the container overflows we experience adverse
health outcomes. These might present as headaches, fatigue, abdominal
pain, depression, insomnia, anxiety, panic attacks, or a variety of
mental and/or somatic disorders. There are many ways that poorly
managed stress can present in our lives.

The key is stress management. Think of your stress management
strategies as ways to drain the container and prevent it from
overflowing. In general, these strategies are some combination of
physical, mental, social, and/or spirituals methods. Regular exercise,
good eating and sleep habits are examples of physical ways to help
reduce stress. Getting involved in hobbies or creative pursuits are
ways for you to engage and put aside the things that are stressing
you. Engaging in some form of counseling is a great way of addressing
mental and emotional stressors. Repairing broken relationships,
confronting and resolving conflict, getting involved in community and
organizations are potential social avenues to help deal with stress.
Connecting spiritually, whether through prayer, meditation, or formal
religious outlets is a way to use spiritual methods to help deal with

When you feel stressed, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed as though there
is nothing you can do to help reduce the stress. But there is a lot
you can do to assert a sense of control. After you catalogue your
stressors, plan out the physical, mental, social, and spiritual
strategies that make the most sense to you and then commit to doing
them. That’s how you can keep that container from overflowing and
that’s how you empower yourself to stay healthy. Schedule some
downtime, start an exercise program, get a little more rest, unburden
yourself by talking and confiding in trusted friends and loved ones.
Take a walk, set aside some time to work on a hobby, go for a massage,
watch a funny movie, pray, laugh, and enjoy time with others.

Stress is really a matter of how well we are able to manage the
stressors in our lives. Instead of feeling overwhelmed and powerless
in dealing with the challenges and/or demands that life presents,
understand there is quite bit you can do to manage these stressors and
maintain your health.

Be healthy!

Victor Acquista MD is author of "Pathways To Health: An Integral

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Fabulous Vermont Journal Feature on Kurn Hattin

I'm so thrilled to share this Vermont Journal feature on our client, Kurn Hattin. This tells the Kurn Hattin story so beautifully.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

More Press for Kurn Hattin's Development Conference

Kurn Hattin's Professional Development Conference on blended families with Dr. Patricia Papernow takes place on Friday, October 26. Dr. Papernow hails from Hudson, MA.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

My October Blog: Pro-Bono Work

In my October article for Succeeding in Small Business, I touch on pro-bono work. Thanks to David Pakman, Gerry LeBlanc, and Chris Landry for their help.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Nice Tribute to Kurn Hattin Director on his Retirement

The Brattleboro Reformer offered a great tribute to Kurn Hattin's Executive Director, who retired in September after a distinguished career at the Vermont school. He laid the groundwork for some of the work we're doing to Kurn Hattin with Rapt Creative in Brattleboro.

When I visited the school for the first time last week, many students and teachers mentioned his tenure, how much he and his work were appreciated, and how great Kurn Hattin is because of his work.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Kurn Hattin Concerts Featured in iBrattleboro

Victor Acquista MD's Article on Dementia for The Westfield News 10/06/12

This article ran in the Westfield News on 10/06/12. 

Health Wise

A health & wellness column by Victor Acquista, MD, Director Pathways
Integral Health & Wellness, LLC; Author Pathways to Health: An
Integral Guidebook

Dementia Differences

I receive a lot of questions about dementia. Often people use the
diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease as though it describes all types of
dementias but this is not the case. Alzheimer’s disease is only one of
many conditions which are all variations of dementing illnesses. In
this column I’ll describe some of the more common subtypes of
dementias and some of their distinguishing characteristics.

Let’s start with a definition: Dementia is a syndrome of progressive
cognitive decline, often accompanied by additional symptoms in
behavior and movements. The specific areas or domains of cognitive
functioning that are most often affected are: memory, learning, and
executive functioning (this includes things such as organization and
planning, staying on task, and problem solving). Other cognitive
domains which are frequently affected include language, visuospacial
processing, and mood/emotion.

More technically, the DSM IV (this is the guidebook for diagnosing
mental disorders) requires the following elements to establish a
diagnosis of dementia:

Impairment of recent memory and at least one other cognitive domain
Represents a decline from previous level of function and be severe
enough to interfere with daily function and independence
Occur in the absence of other psychiatric, neurologic, or systemic disease
Does not occur only with delirium (delirium is caused by other processes)

Alzheimer’s disease

This is the most common form of dementia and accounts for anywhere
between 60--80%. Typically this presents as a progressive decline in
many areas of intellectual functioning. Recent memory is often
severely affected; personality less so. As the disease progresses it
usually follows a path of retrogenesis, which literally means back to
the beginning. Skills and memories regress almost like reverse aging.
In the final stages, adults with Alzheimer’s type dementia require
total care, much like an infant.

Vascular dementia

Vascular refers to blood vessels. When blood vessels are diseased, the
tissues supplied by these blood vessels may suffer from reduced blood
flow and be damaged as a result. When the blood vessels are those in
the brain or supplying the brain, the result may be a stroke if the
territory of brain is large, or they be relatively small portions of
brain tissue. These small areas of damage may not be large enough to
cause a stroke, but when there are many small areas, the cumulative
affect may be vascular dementia. This typically occurs in individuals
with risk factors for vascular disease: diabetes, hypertension,
smoking, and/or high cholesterol. Vascular dementia is the second most
common type of dementia and may coexist with other dementing processes
such as Alzheimer’s disease (mixed dementia).
Dementia with Lewy bodies

Lewy bodies describe a characteristic pathologic finding seen by
pathologists examining brain tissue. There is almost always a motor
component to Lewy body dementia, i.e. muscles and therefore movement
is affected. Most often the motor symptoms are increased rigidity and
stiffness as is also seen with Parkinson’s disease (described below).
The cardinal features of Lewy body dementia are fluctuating cognitive
impairment, hallucinations, along with the motor symptoms. A
particular sleep disorder called REM sleep behavior disorder, in which
people physically act out their dreams is sometimes present. Men are
more often affected than women. Some of the medications use to treat
hallucinations and/or Parkinsonian features may actually worsen
symptoms. Although relatively common (over a million affected
individuals in the United States), Lewy body dementia is often under

Parkinson’s disease with dementia

Many experts consider Parkinson’s disease with dementia and Lewy body
dementia to be clinical variations of the same disease process. As a
result of a specific neurodegenerative process in the motor cortex
area of the brain which depletes the production of a neurotransmitter,
Parkinsonism manifests with a variety of motor symptoms. These include
rigidity, reduced facial expression described as masked facies,
slowing of movement, tremor, and difficulty initiating movement. As
the disease progresses, swallowing difficulties frequently occur which
significantly increase the chance for aspiration pneumonia. Depression
often accompanies Parkinson’s disease.  While the motor symptoms
predominate, over time, this degenerative process involves other areas
of the brain and causes cognitive decline.

Frontotemporal dementia

There are several disorders with a variety of symptoms which may
result in Frontotemporal dementia. As suggested by the name, the areas
of brain involved are in the frontal and temporal cortex. Because some
of these parts of the brain are involved in regulating emotional
response, the most common manifestations include changes in
personality and behavior.  This type of dementia can be especially
challenging as the behaviors might be very inappropriate. Poor
personal hygiene, sexually inappropriate behaviors, compulsions, or
apathy might occur. Typically, the individual affected is unaware of
the behaviors or unable to recognize them as inappropriate. Sometimes
language, speech, or movement may be affected.

Other dementias

I have tried to cover some of the more common forms of dementia, but
briefly want to include a few others. Certain neurotoxic substances
can damage the brain and cause dementia. Alcohol is the most common of
these toxic substances. There are different infectious agents which
can damage the brain and lead to dementia. Some of the more common of
these include syphilis, HIV, and Creutzfeld-Jacob disease (similar to
mad cow disease). Two metabolic disorders which may lead to dementia
include hypothyroidism (low thyroid hormone) and vitamin B12
deficiency. Fortunately, both of these types of dementia are
reversible with proper treatment. Finally, severe depression can
sometime mimic the signs and symptoms of dementia. Doctors sometimes
refer to this as pseudo dementia.

As you can see, there are many differences which characterize many
types of dementias. Any of these types can be difficult to deal with
both for individuals affected and their families. It is especially
difficult to witness the cognitive changes, behavioral disturbances,
and functional decline which accompany dementia. The Alzheimer’s
Association, your health care provider, and local community resources
are good places to turn for help.

Be Healthy…

Victor Acquista MD is author of "Pathways To Health: An Integral

Monday, October 8, 2012

Victor Acquista MD's Recent Article in The Westfield News

This article ran in The Westfield News on 10/02/12

Health Wise
A health & wellness column by Victor Acquista, MD: 
Director Pathways Integral Health & Wellness, LLC; Author Pathways to Health: An Integral Guidebook

Flu Facts

What causes the flu?
Influenza is the virus that causes the “flu”. Actually, Influenza is not a single virus so much as a family of slightly different strains which we refer to as Influenza. But it’s the subtle differences among these slightly different viruses that make it necessary to get a flu shot every year. Because in any given year, different strains of the Influenza virus circulate throughout the world, we need to get vaccinated every year and develop immunity to help prevent ourselves from getting the flu. In the United States, the typical flu season is from October to March. It takes up to two weeks after receiving your flu shot for the body to develop antibodies, so vaccination time is right around the corner.

Why get vaccinated?
Influenza can be a serious illness, even fatal. Vaccination is especially important for individuals more likely to develop serious illness. This includes young children, people with certain chronic diseases such as heart, lung and kidney disease, and individuals with a weakened immune system, people 65 and older, and pregnant women. The CDC recommends flu vaccination for all people age 6 months and older.

Flu vaccine myths
The flu shot can cause the flu. False. Every year I hear this as an excuse not to get immunized. There are many germs which cause symptoms of runny nose, cough, sore throat, fever, and headache. Many of these germs are viruses. If you contract an illness from any of these other germs shortly after receiving a flu shot it’s easy to believe that the shot caused you to get sick. Some people do develop a reaction to the shot. The most common reaction is soreness at the injection site. Other common side effects are body aches and fever. These usually subside in 1-2 days.

Some people feel that because they have never had the flu, they don’t need a shot. Every year about 20% of the population catches the flu. Not having contracted influenza in the past does not mean you are protected.

Getting a flu shot guarantees you will not get the flu. False. Because the strains in the flu vaccine do not always match the circulating strains, and because individuals do not always develop a strong immune response to being vaccinated, it is possible to get influenza even though you have received a flu shot. However, being vaccinated is one of the best ways to protect yourself. Good hand washing, practicing cough etiquette, not smoking, and taking good care of yourself are other ways to help prevent influenza.

Good reasons to get vaccinated

You can help prevent influenza in yourself, your family, and your o-workers by getting vaccinated. Influenza can be more serious than you think. Not getting sick in the past does not protect you. The flu vaccine is generally safe and effective. Flu shots are widely available throughout the community at your health provider’s office, many senior centers, pharmacies, and health clinics. The shot is generally safe and effective.
For more information visit the CDC’s website at

Victor Acquista MD is author of "Pathways To Health: An Integral

Friday, October 5, 2012

Media Release: The Capitol Steps in Cambridge, November 24, 2012

DATELINE: 10/05/12
Mike Thornton
Mike Thornton Agency
Mark G. Auerbach
Mark G. Auerbach Public Relations
413-733-7095 or 413-427-7352


Cambridge, MA--The Capitol Steps perform their new “2012 Winners and Losers Edition” for two performances on Saturday, November 24, 2102 at 5PM and 8PM at Sanders Theatre, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA. 

The Capitol Steps “2012 Winners and Losers Edition” recaps the Presidential election and other breaking news items in music, comedy, and satire. It’s an opportunity to remember winners, losers, and wanna-bes; health care, bailouts, the environment, the budget, partisan politics, unfaithful politicians, and the Tea Party. 

Famous for putting the "mock" in democracy, the Capitol Steps, now in their 31st season, have become an annual area Thanksgiving weekend tradition.  The irreverent group charms audiences on both sides of the aisle with its unique brand of political humor set to popular music.

For program information on The Capitol Steps, clips from recent performances, audio downloads, and a link to their YouTube channel, visit The Capitol Steps can also be found on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter (@capsteps).

Tickets, priced $39.00, $36.00, and $31.00 (with $5.00 OFF student tickets with a limit of two per person, ID required) are on sale at the Harvard Box-Office. For tickets, call 617-496-2222 or order them online at

Sanders Theatre is located in Memorial Hall, Harvard University, 45 Quincy Street, Cambridge, MA.

The Capitol Steps performances in Cambridge, MA are produced by The Mike Thornton Agency.



For general information on The Capitol Steps: (includes news,
downloads, etc for the general public):
For the Capitol Steps Media Kit:
For The Capitol Steps photos and graphics:
For a Capitol Steps CD, to interview one of the Capitol Steps, or
additional information: Mark G. Auerbach Public Relations.
413-733-7095 or

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Kurn Hattin Profiled in The Media

The Commons, a not-for-profit newspaper serving Brattleboro, VT and Southern VT profiled Kurn Hattin and its cider-making program..

Keene State College students to help out at Kurn Hattin.

Kurn Hattin's Director Retires After Long Career

The Brattleboro Reformer followed the story of Kurn Hattin's director's retirement after a long and distinguished tenure at the vermont school.

Media Release: Kurn Hattin Musicians Tour New England This Fall

DATELINE: October 3, 2012 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contacts: Jaimie Scanlon Rapt Creative (W) 802-490-2164 (C) 802-579-8545 Mark G. Auerbach Mark G. Auerbach Public Relations (W) 413-733-7095 (C) 413-427-7352 KURN HATTIN HOMES FOR CHILDREN MUSIC ENSEMBLES TOUR NEW ENGLAND THIS FALL WESTMINSTER, VT—The young musicians at Kurn Hattin Homes are busy rehearsing for several upcoming musical performances this fall. The residential school for children in need from around the northeast is recognized for its exceptional music program and accomplished traveling choir, jazz band and marching band. In the coming months, the children will perform the following concerts. The choir performs a varied repertoire of multi-part harmonies, ballads, and hymnals. SUN: October 21, 10:00 am: First Congregational Church, Manchester, VT. -, (802) 362-2709 THU: November 8, 10:30 am: Newbury Court, Concord, MA. -, 978-369-5155 THU: November 8, 2:30 pm: Brooksby Village, Peabody, MA. -, 978-536-7810 SUN: December 2, 10:00 am: Congregational Church, Walpole, NH - 603-756-4075 THU: December 6, 12:15 pm: (Choir and Jazz Band) Rotary Club Mtg, VFW Hall, Brattleboro, VT - 802-257-9509 All performances are free and open to the public. Since Kurn Hattin’s inception in 1894, the music program has been an integral part the school’s curriculum. Well-known for their inspiring performances, the choir and jazz band host annual invitationals, and the children perform over thirty musical engagements per year. A veteran at Kurn Hattin Homes, music program director Lisa Patno Bianconi has taught at Kurn Hattin Homes since 1985. She is responsible for teaching all general music classes, directing the marching, jazz and concert bands, as well as the beginning, select and advanced student choirs. Bianconi is a member of the Vermont Music Educators and has held leadership positions in numerous community organizations. Established in 1894, Kurn Hattin Homes in Westminster, VT. is a charitable home and school for children, ages 6-15, who are affected by tragedy, social or economic hardship, or other disruption in family life. Its mission: Kurn Hattin transforms the lives of children and their families forever. For further information: -30-