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Senior Scope: How to prevent broken bones

Senior Scope: How to prevent broken bones

They’re one of the most feared events for an older adult: falls that cause fractures. A broken bone can mean surgery, hospitalization, and certainly pain, but there are ways to lessen the odds of them ever happening.

At the top of the list for three area health professionals is exercise. “Of all the treatments for osteoporosis, the one thing that has been shown to help is weight training, 20 minutes a day,” says Dr. Gregory McComis at North Point Orthopaedics in Dyer and Munster, Ind. Dr. Nancy Trimboli at Trimboli Chiropractic in Munster, Ind., says weight lifting and muscle strengthening exercises can be done several ways. “You can do a class where you’re on the floor and it’s set to music. Tai chi and yoga are excellent for muscle strength and weight bearing exercises.” Dr. Kristine Teodori, gerontologist and staff physician at Franciscan St. Anthony Health-Crown Point, says walking is great exercise. “Ideally if you are capable you can walk in your own neighborhood, with wrist band weights.” If walking is limited, “You can perform exercises in a chair with leg lifts and hand weights.”

Trimboli says diet plays a big role in bone strength. She suggests doubling the amount of fruits and green, leafy vegetables you consume, by adding greens to pastas and spinach in smoothies, for example. Avoid too much sugar and carbonated drinks like pop, Trimboli cautions: The phosphoric acid in soda pop weakens bones by removing mineral from them. And, according to nutritional research, “Acid-blocking drugs like Nexium, Prilosec, and the like inhibit the stomach from absorbing calcium from your food.”

Super supplements

“The most important part in the treatment of osteoporosis is never getting it,” says Teodori. “Prevention is huge.”

Do vitamins help? “Calcium and vitamin D are very important in preventing fractures and osteoporosis,” says Teodori. McComis says, “For women over 60 and men over 50, it should be 600 milligrams of calcium twice a day and 5,000 milligrams of Vitamin D per week for every woman. If a bone density test indicates a woman has osteoporosis, she should have 50,000 milligrams per week.”

While health professionals’ recommended amounts of a vitamin or mineral may vary somewhat, Trimboli says tricalcium phosphate is the best calcium supplement because it’s absorbed better, though calcium citrate is a good second best. She advises purchasing it at a health food store or from a health professional. And “Vitamin D3 is the most digestible; the only way to know how much you personally need each day is through a blood test.” Teodori recommends vitamin D3 to maintain a Vitamin D level greater than 40.

McComis recommends a bone density test for all women at age 50. Teodori screens all her geriatric patients every two years.

McComis cautions, “Other vitamins don’t help (bone strength) at all, and the stuff advertised for cartilage and such, doesn’t do anything.” But green tea—just green tea in a tea bag—is good for bones, says Trimboli.

All agree that while hormone replacement therapy can help strengthen bones, “Most women have stopped taking estrogen replacement hormones because the risk for breast and ovarian cancers outweighs any benefit,” says McComis. Trimboli says an alternative can be bio-identical hormones.

One thing to keep out of the body is cigarette smoke. “Smoking tends to cause more rapid bone loss and lower bone mass,” says Trimboli..

Preventing falls

The three most common fractures for the elderly are spine, hip. and wrist, says McComis. Balance exercises can help keep seniors steady on their feet. Trimboli says it can be as simple as standing on one foot, then progressing to standing on two feet with eyes closed. Next, an exercise ball or mini trampoline.

Simple preventative measures are crucial, says McComis:

--Get rid of anything that might cause a slip or trip, like throw rugs and extension cords.

--Put rubber mats in the bathroom and non-slip grids in the bathtub.

--Have handicap rail bars at the toilet area and the bathtub.

--For patients with diabetic neuropathy, daily examination of the bottoms of feet for ulcers is essential “Those can contribute to a fall or the loss of a foot or leg. Proper shoe wear is also important for those patients.”

--A lot of seniors get spine fractures because they don’t lift properly. Women especially need to be careful of heavy lifting.

April 16, 2014 1:20 pm Photos


Losing weight naturally

Losing weight naturally

For anyone deciding it’s time to grab onto a diet plan and hang on for dear life, there are plenty of diets out there. But which to choose?

Anything that fits in the “fad” category is probably not a good fit for you. “People think you can do a fad diet (successfully), but that’s not the case,” says Kristina Greene, registered dietitian and diabetic educator at Methodist Hospital in Crown Point, Ind. “I have some patients who have juiced and lost fifty to sixty pounds -- but they gained it all back. A diet of 500 to 600 calories per day cuts out whole food groups, and that’s not sustainable long term.”

And Lori Granich, registered dietitian (RD) with Franciscan St. Margaret Health in Dyer, Ind., cautions, “Eliminating food groups … puts you at risk for nutritional deficiencies.” Besides, “Eating a wide variety of healthy foods will keep you from being bored.”

So drop the fad notion and go natural. “Losing weight naturally is all about lifestyle changes and sticking to it for the rest of your life,” says Greene. That means, says Granich, “a balanced diet that promotes slow, steady weight loss” -- the kind that stays lost.

How dietitians help

Where to start? Granich explains for a diet tailored to individual needs, a registered dietitian can:

 Make you aware of your eating patterns and suggest changes to aid in weight loss;

 Identify “calorie creep”: areas of your diet that may be providing more calories than you realize;

 Create realistic, attainable goals;

 Help you change eating and lifestyle habits.

 Design a diet specific to any medical issues.

Be aware the terms “registered dietitian” and “nutritionist” are not interchangeable, says Granich.

“Registered dietitians have met specific academic and professional practice requirements … In some states anyone can refer to themselves as a nutritionist,” with little or no nutrition education or training. You can call your local hospital for a registered dietitian or visit If you’ve decided to go it alone or with a structured plan, Jill Kilhefner, RD and certified diabetes educator at Porter Regional Hospital, notes that a recent US News And World Report named the DASH diet, Mediterranean diet and Weight Watchers as the highest recommended..

Setting goals

Kilhefner quashes a fond hope: “There are no magic foods. The proper formula for weight loss is simple: calories in, calories out.” From there, she says, educate yourself. If you’re not seeing an RD, utilize the Internet, free hospital support groups, RD’s cooking classes -- any good sources for information on the best food choices and portion sizes. “Don’t put yourself at risk physically nor nutritionally by trying to recreate the wheel.”

As for setting a goal, “I like to have them choose one activity goal and one dietary goal, and be specific and realistic: how many minutes of activity per week; drinking how much more water,” says Greene, who soon will also be a diet counselor at the Valparaiso YWCA. Keep in mind It takes about a month for a new behavior to become a habit. “Then choose a reward for when the goal is reached, one that will motivate you. Not candy,” she laughs. “Maybe some jewelry, or a trip.”

Ready, set, action

Before starting an exercise regimen, “Absolutely check in with your family physician,” says Kilhefner. Then, says Granich, “Start slowly and gradually increase your intensity and duration,” to avoid injury. Healthy adults can aim for 150 minutes of moderate exercise and two or more days of strength training per week. She suggests changing the routine to stay motivated, and find fun classes like Zumba.

Once you reach your goal weight, keep moving: “It will help you maintain your goal weight.”

And that’s exactly the point of losing weight naturally.

February 19, 2014 9:00 am Related

Looking younger, more toned after weight loss surgery

Looking younger, more toned after weight loss surgery

While weight loss surgery produces a new lease on life, one of the negative after-effects tends to be excessive loose neck and facial skin that gives the person an older, more tired look, says Sreek Cherukuri, M.D., a top board-certified facial plastic surgeon and Northwest Indiana’s leader in minimally-invasive cosmetic procedures of the face and neck.

That occurs because the skin and connective tissues in the face and neck stretch over time to accommodate layers of fat as they accumulate, he explains.

“Weight loss surgery makes people feel better and healthier, but they tend to look older. Losing the fat that was underneath the skin leaves the person with jowls as well as loose neck and facial skin,” he says. “Laugh lines and frown lines are more pronounced.”

The Weekend Lift provides a solution that returns the client’s face and neck to a more youthful, naturally-toned look and feel without more major surgery.

Introduced to the area in 2003 by Dr. Cherukuri, the Weekend Lift is mini-facelift that is an excellent alternative to a full facelift. It provides an overall lift to the neck and lower third of the face, whether clients have had weight loss surgery or would like to “freshen” their looks, he says.

“It focuses primarily on trouble spots such as the neck, jowls, mid-face and the lines around the nose and mouth. It is called the Weekend Lift because that is the approximate duration for post-operative recovery,” says Dr. Cherukuri, who performs this and other minimally-invasive cosmetic procedures at Carepointe Facial Plastic Surgery, 801 MacArthur Blvd., Suite 302 in Munster.

There are major advantages to the Weekend Lift compared with traditional full facelift surgery, he says.

• The procedure is performed with local anesthetic rather than under general anesthetic.

• It takes about one hour instead of the usual two to six hours for a traditional facelift.

• There are no major risks and minimal incisions. Incisions start at the hairline and go around the ears. There are no drains or big face bandages and no risk of nerve damage.

• Unlike a full facelift, the Weekend Lift has minimal bruising or swelling.

• Downtime from work or other activities is one to three days, instead of a month or more with traditional facelifts.

• The cost is about one-third of a full facelift.

The natural results of the Weekend Lift also make it a popular alternative to the “wind tunnel” look many celebrities such as Joan Rivers, Bruce Jenner and Kenny Rogers have from major facelifts, he says.

“One of my goals in facial plastic surgery is to produce results that appear as if the person were born with it”, explains Dr. Cherukuri. “In other words, people should not be able to tell if any cosmetic surgery has been performed because the results look so natural.”

For more information, call (219) 836-2201 or visit

February 19, 2014 9:00 am Photos


The thyroid and weight management

The thyroid and weight management

It’s tiny gland, but when our thyroids get out of whack, it’s big trouble. According to the American Thyroid Association, more than 12 percent of the U.S. population will develop a thyroid condition during their lifetime and an estimated 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease. Of those, up to 60 percent of those with thyroid disease are unaware of their condition.

“Thyroid diseases are generally more common in females than in males,” says Akbar Rahmani, M.D., board certified in internal medicine with a subspecialty in endocrinology with an office in Tinley Park who is on staff at Ingalls Health System. “People can have an overactive or underactive thyroid but underactive is more common.”

People with an underactive thyroids, also called hypothyroidism, tend to experience abnormal weight gain and difficulty losing weight until hormone levels stabilize, says Kristal Markovich, a registered dietitian at Methodist Hospitals.

Symptoms can also include, changes in the menstrual cycle for women, constipation, depression, dry hair and hair loss, dry skin, fatigue, greater sensitivity to cold, slow heart rat and swelling of the thyroid gland.

“That’s why a healthy diet and exercise plan for long term weight loss and maintenance are essential,” she says noting that going on a severe calorie restriction may only leave a person more tired. “Choose lean protein, whole grains, fruits/vegetables and low fat dairy products and follow a healthy diet plan.”

Fortunately treating underactive thyroids is relatively straightforward says Rahmani.

“Underactive thyroids have many causes,” he says. “Someone can be born without a thyroid gland, and so it’s underactive from the get go. Sometimes patients have their thyroids surgically removed because of cancer or part of their thyroids were removed because of other types of surgery or use of radiation. The most common reason is people lose their thyroid function as they grow older or you could have been treated. We treat underactive thyroids with medicine--very simple and natural. You just take one pill a day and have your blood levels monitored regularly.”

Overactive thyroid symptoms include an inability to maintain proper weight and are less easy to treat. On the surface, that sounds like the way to go. After all, doesn’t it mean you can eat whatever you want? But in reality hyperthyroidism is a serious disease.

“Medical management is a must with hyperthyroidism,” says Woodruff who refers to the Mayo Clinic Website in suggesting that in cases of patients experiencing severe weight loss or muscle wasting, it may help to add extra protein at least until hyperthyroidism is under control.

Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include feeling nervous, moody, weak, or tired, fast heartbeat, shaky hands, difficulty concentrating and frequent bowel movements

Treatment is complex and requires consultation with an endocrinologist, a physician specializing in diagnosing and treating conditions that are related to the endocrine system.

“There are basically three treatments,” says Rahmani, “each with pros and cons since it’s a chronic disease. There are only a few types of medicine to treat overactive thyroids and they are not simple pills, they can damage the bone marrow and the liver, plus those pills controls rather than treat overactive thyroid, temporarily bring patient down to the right range.”

Other options are to mechanically destroy the thyroid by removing it through surgery or radiation says Rahmani.

“There’s medicine to take for a few years to control, a percentage of the thyroid can be surgically removed or there are pills containing radiation iodine that shrink the thyroid,” he says.

There are times, says Rahmani, when patients will insist they have an underactive thyroid which is the cause of their weight gain.

“If you’re obese from an underactive thyroid your obesity will decrease to a certain degree,” he says. “But if part of the obesity is due to underactivity and overeating, if you are 40 pounds overweight and ten pounds of that because of your thyroid, then ten pounds is what you’ll lose. One thing patients don’t always like is that after treatment, when their thyroid is back to normal, they still have the old habit of eating too much. So if the patient doesn’t watch the diet, they will gain weight.”

February 19, 2014 6:30 am

Managing diabetes the healthy way

“Whether a person can be managed with or without medication depends on the type of diabetes the individual has,” says Irene Woodruff, MA, RD, CD, a renal dietitian at DSI Duneland – LaPorte and Knox. “Type I DM or diabetes mellitus is the insulin-dependent form and typically affects young people. Type I Diabetes develops as a result of a gradual loss of pancreatic function and insulin production. The person with this type of diabetes is typically dependent on insulin injections to maintain blood sugar control. They will need to balance their carbohydrate intake to the insulin they are taking.”

Type II DM, which results mainly from the loss of cell sensitivity to circulating insulin, commonly affects adults and has hereditary and lifestyle causes such as being overweight. And sadly, Type II, previously seen only in adults, is now seen more frequently in children and has been termed MODY--maturity onset diabetes in the young. It is the type of diabetes that may be managed with healthy lifestyle changes as well. That’s because food and nutrition has a profound impact diabetics because the body digests and absorbs different types of foods at different rates.

“Simple, processed carbohydrate foods eaten on their own are broken down rapidly and contribute to rapid rises in blood sugar,” says Woodruff. “The same simple carbohydrate food eaten as part of a meal containing protein, fat, and fiber, is processed less rapidly and contributes to a less dramatic rise in blood sugar.”

According to Lori Granich, Registered Dietitian at the Midwest Bariatric Institute at Franciscan St. Margaret Health in Dyer, carbohydrates have the largest impact on our blood sugars.

“People with diabetes should not avoid carbohydrates, but they should pick high-fiber carbohydrates and always practice moderation,” she says. “For an overall healthy diet, we should be limiting refined carbohydrates such as candy, soda and high processed snack foods. Instead, we should choose carbohydrates that are higher in fiber because they digest slower, which will prevent a spike in blood sugars. High fiber foods also keep you full and can aid in weight loss. Keeping a food log is a great way for patients to see how certain foods affect their glucose levels. It also gives patients more insight into their eating habits.”

When teaching people how to manage their diabetes, Terri Sakelaris, M.S., a registered dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator at the Community Hospital Diabetes Center in Munster, talks about how to use carbohydrate counting to help keep blood glucose levels within a patient’s target range.

“Carb counting helps you to keep track of how much carbohydrate you are eating, she says, noting that the American Diabetes Association recommends setting a limit for the maximum amount of carbs to eat combined with the right balance of physical activity and medicine.

Sakelaris also gives her class a meal plan calculated on their weight and height which lets them know how many grams of carbs they get a day.

“Grams are like money,” she says. “It’s a way for people to see what it costs them in terms of what they eat so they can decide what to spend them on.”

Reducing blood sugar levels can be simpler than many diabetics realize.

“Ten minutes of walking can reduce sugar quite a bit,” says Sakelaris. “Drinking water versus beverages with a lot of carbs is also beneficial. Keeping hydrated is very important because if someone is dehydrated, their blood sugar goes up. And if you’re under a lot of stress, you release adrenaline which tells the body to release sugar.”

Julie Mantis, a nurse practitioner and diabetes educator who works with Sakelaris, says that even little things like standing up when a commercial comes on TV and stretching or lifting small weights can help.

“If it gets the heart rate going, that’s good,” she says.

According to Woodruff, the body digests and absorbs different types of foods at different rates. Simple, processed carbohydrate foods eaten on their own break down rapidly, contributing to rapid rises in blood sugar while the same simple carbohydrate food eaten as part of a meal containing protein, fat, and fiber, is processed less rapidly and contributes to a less dramatic rise in blood sugar.

Fiber intake is also important.

“Carbohydrates have the largest impact on our blood sugars,” says Granich. “People with diabetes should not avoid carbohydrates, but they should pick high-fiber carbohydrates and always practice moderation. For an overall healthy diet, we should be limiting refined carbohydrates such as candy, soda and high processed snack foods. Instead, we should choose carbohydrates that are higher in fiber because they digest slower, which will prevent a spike in blood sugars. High fiber foods also keep you full and can aid in weight loss. Keeping a food log is a great way for patients to see how certain foods affect their glucose levels. It also gives patients more insight into their eating habits.”

Fiber is very filling says Sakelaris as it slows down the digestive system and the release of blood sugar.

“Orange juice will spike the release of blood sugar,” she says by way of illustration. “An apple, because of its fiber, slows it down.”

Recent studies indicate that cinnamon may improves glucose and lipids of people with type 2 diabetes.

“Some research has shown that cinnamon reduces blood sugar levels, triglycerides and cholesterol,” says Granich. “Researchers believe that it is decreasing insulin resistance. It is not suggested that people use cinnamon instead of their diabetes medications. Research is still ongoing.”

What works best is simple.

“If you want to prevent diabetes, it is very important to consume a healthy diet and exercise regularly,” says Granich. “Exercise is important for weight loss and can improve insulin sensitivity. Healthy habits are even more important for those people who have a history of diabetes in their family.”

February 19, 2014 6:30 am

Go Red For Women celebrates 10 years

Go Red For Women celebrates 10 years

At a time when only one in five women know heart disease is their greatest health threat, the American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women campaign message is as important now as it was when the campaign first started ten years ago.

“So many women still consider heart disease a man‘s disease,” said Diane Kemp, the executive director of the American Heart Association’s Midwest Affiliate. “We have a long way to go, and so much more information we have to get out.”

February Go Red For Women events include launching a Porter County “Go Red” campaign Feb. 5 from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. at the Harre Hall on the Valparaiso University campus. The event will include a heart-healthy breakfast, an awareness presentation and a keynote speaker.

February 7 is national Go Red for Women Day, Kemp said, and businesses and community organizations will be supporting the campaign.

“You’ll see various signs and posters throughout Lake and Porter county municipalities and businesses, and a portion of Lincoln Way in Porter County will have our banners,” she said. “We’re also reaching out to media outlets around the country.”

On Feb. 12, LaPorte County will launch their own initiative at the Pottawattomie Country Club, and the organization is also working with The Methodist Hospitals throughout Northwest Indiana to provide heart screenings, Kemp said.

Congenital heart defects are the number one birth defect for children, and on May 17, there will be the “Our Heart of Gold” fundraising event, which is a gala to celebrate funding for cardiovascular research for children. May 29th, there will be a Go Red For Women educational symposium. 

In September, there will be a Heart Walk Sept. 13 in Lake County and Sept. 29 in Porter County, Kemp said.

The Go Red For Women campaign is designed to empower women to learn what the risks for heart disease and visit their doctors. They can go to the website, or visit , Kemp said, to help them learn the facts and take assessments. 

Kemp said it is important to note that the symptoms for heart disease in women can be very different from symptoms in men. For example, symptoms for women include jaw line pain and neck and back pain, and aren’t just pressure in the chest and a pain or numbness in the arm. 

“The symptoms are often misunderstood,” Kemp said. “They can be confused with stress-related symptoms, when stress is not the case.”

Since 1984, Kemp said, more women than man have died of heart disease. Heart disease kills one woman every 60 seconds, and that doesn’t have to happen, Kemp said.

“80 percent of heart disease is preventable by healthy lifestyle choices,” she said. “Make sure your numbers are where they need to be. The three main risk factors are cholesterol, blood pressure and BMI (Body Mass Index).”

It is also important to not smoke and to know your hereditary risks, she said. 

Heart attacks are much harder on women’s bodies than men’s, Kemp said, because women’s bodies are smaller, their hormones work and react differently and have a smaller heart and overall cardiovascular system. 

“We have to take action quickly, and reduce our risk, because often, for women the first incident is fatal,” she said. 

In talking with hundreds of volunteers for the American Heart Association across the region, Kemp said one theme is heard repeatedly from survivors.

“They said, they just knew something wasn’t right. But they acted, and that’s what saved their lives,” she said. “If we are more aware of our bodies and understand when we’re feeling something we shouldn’t be feeling, we can respond quickly. The fact they responded quickly is what allowed them to have an incident on Wednesday and be back in the office by Monday.”

Since 1929, the American Heart Association has been the leader in funding for cardiovascular research, second only to funding from the federal government. The organization has funded research that has helped make critical advances, including with bypass surgeries, valve replacement and stents. 

“Where we are today, in 2014, we have made amazing advancements for cardiovascular patients,” she said. “But we are at the tip for where we will be in the next decade. It’s important to continue the quest for research and education for this cause. We’re too close to being steps closer to a potential cure.”

February 02, 2014 2:40 pm Photos


Stroke: The Warning Signs

Stroke: The Warning Signs

Stroke is the fourth-leading cause of death in the United States, and if you’ve had heart issues in the past, you may be at greater risk.

A stroke occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is either blocked or bursts. This cuts off vital blood and oxygen to the brain and causes cells to die.

People who have had heart attacks may be at increased risk for stroke, which is also linked to hereditary factors and lifestyle choices. It is important to act quickly if you feel that you or someone else is experiencing a stroke.

“Time lost is brain lost,” says the slogan of the American Heart Association.

Be sure to make note of what time the symptoms start, as this information could be crucial to medical professionals.

The American Stroke Association wants people to remember the acronym FAST for situations involving a potential stroke. Read what each letter stands for below, and remember to always call 911 immediately if you see these signs and symptoms.


Face Drooping: If either side of the face is drooping or numb, it’s time to call 911. The American Stroke Association advises that if it is hard to display a straight smile, then face drooping is probably occurring.


Arm Weakness: Strokes can cause weakness or numbness in the arms, making it difficult to raise them. Don’t brush this issue off as common aches and pains, like so many stroke victims in the past have done.


Speech Difficulty: Slurred and hard-to-understand speech are definite warning signs of a stroke. If repeating a simple phrase like “How are you today?” is difficult, a stroke could be taking place. Don’t spend very much time assessing the situation, call 911 immediately.


Time to call 911: Even if any of the above symptoms go away, call 911 immediately if you think either you or someone else may be having a stroke.

Other Symptoms

Remembering the FAST acronym is a great place to start, but you should also be aware of other symptoms of strokes.

They include sudden numbness or weakness of the leg, sudden confusion, sudden difficulty seeing in one or both eyes, dizziness, loss of balance and severe headache with no known cause.

Do not wait for these symptoms to dispel; seek immediate medical attention.

February 02, 2014 12:00 am

Preparing for Heart Surgery

Preparing for Heart Surgery

The thought of undergoing any type of heart surgery can be overwhelming. Although you may be nervous, it is important to remember that doctors perform successful heart surgeries every day all over the world.

Doing your part to be prepared for the operation can go a long way in calming your nerves. Talk early and often to your physician about the procedure and focus your thoughts on the end goal: to have a healthier, stronger heart.

Before the Surgery

You will most likely arrive to the hospital the day before your surgery, depending on whether you are undergoing an emergency or planned procedure.

Be ready for potential X-rays, blood tests and continuous monitoring as your surgical team gathers all pertinent patient information.

Be sure to ask any questions you may have regarding the operation, hospital facilities or potential effects after surgery.

During the Surgery

You will be given anesthesia to cause deep sleep and freedom from pain, which generally means you will remember nothing of the operation.

Depending on the scope, heart surgeries usually take three to five hours, according to American Heart Association. Family members and friends are usually allowed to stay in the waiting room, and can be notified shorty after your surgery.

After the operation, you will be transported to the intensive care or recovery unit to begin your rehabilitation from surgery.

After the Surgery

Depending on what type of surgery you have, the road to recovery can be filled with certain challenges, especially if you’re used to exerting yourself physically.

You will most likely be under strict doctor’s orders to rest and avoid even moderate exercise while your heart and body heal from surgery.

Again, remember your end goal. You have made it through all of the preparation, as well as the actual surgery, and must be cautious not to take on extra physical or mental stress. Doing so can set back your recovery time and even cause complications.

February 02, 2014 12:00 am

Heart Health Screenings

Heart Health Screenings

You know the risk factors associated with heart disease: high blood pressure, high cholesterol and high blood glucose.

But how do you know which risk factors you have? Enter heart health screenings. All regular cardiovascular screening tests should begin at age 20, according to American Heart Association.

The frequency of follow-up will depend on you risk levels and the strategy your physician recommends.

Regular screening can help you detect risk factors in their earliest stages, allowing plenty of time for lifestyle changes or medication that can reduce the chance for heart disease. Check the list below to see what screenings you should be taking.

Blood Pressure

High blood pressure generally has no symptoms and cannot be found without measurement. That’s why it is labeled the silent killer.

Sixty-eight million Americans (one in three) have high blood pressure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and it is important to monitor because of its link to an increased risk for heart disease and stroke.


The American Heart Association recommends that you undergo fasting lipoprotein testing every five years starting at age 20. This blood test measures total cholesterol – both bad and good – and triglycerides.

Men over 45 and women over 50 may need to be tested more frequently, as could people with other cardiovascular risk factors. Things like high blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides can be improved through changes to diet, exercise and medication.

Blood Glucose

High blood glucose levels put people at a greater risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, which can increase the chance of heart disease and stroke.

Check with your doctor about undergoing a blood glucose test, especially if you are 45 or older. The American Heart Association urges people to have their level checked at least every three years.

February 02, 2014 12:00 am

Heart Disease Factors

Heart Disease Factors

For the first time, the American Heart Association has defined what it means to have ideal cardiovascular health.

Its goal comes from the heart. The organization is focused on improving heart health of all Americans by 20 percent while reducing deaths from cardiovascular disease – all by the year 2020.

The Seven Factors

Don’t Smoke: Cigarette smoking greatly increases your risk for heart disease. Talk to your doctor about quitting or encourage someone who smokes to stop as soon as possible.

Maintain Healthy Weight: Doctors often calculate body mass index (BMI) to determine if a person’s weight is within a healthy range. It is a good number to know because being overweight or obese can increase your risk for heart disease.

Exercise: And not just for a few minutes each day. The Surgeon General recommends that adults engage in moderate-intensity exercise for at least 30 minutes of most days of the week. This regular activity can help you maintain a healthy weight and lower your cholesterol and blood pressure.

Healthy Diet: Mixing in plenty of vegetables and fruits in into your diet can help you avoid heart disease. Opt for foods low in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol for optimum health.

Manage Blood Pressure: Keep an eye on your blood pressure regularly. You can check it at a pharmacy, a doctor’s office or even at home. Doing so can help you stay heart-healthy.

Cholesterol: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urges adults to have their cholesterol checked at least every five years. It is a simple blood test that can help alert your doctor of any increased risk factors for heart disease.

Glucose Levels: Especially for people with diabetes, it is crucial that blood sugar levels are kept in check. Talk with your doctor about how to best monitor your levels and reduce your risk for heart disease.

February 02, 2014 12:00 am

American Heart Month

American Heart Month

February doesn’t devote only one day to the heart anymore. Yes, you can still spoil your sweetie on Valentine’s Day, but medical professionals are hoping that a month-long campaign of awareness will convince you to help your own heart, too.

American Heart Month is sponsored by the American Heart Association, which devotes February to community outreach, marketing initiatives and educational programs – all aimed at bringing attention to American heart health.

National Wear Red Day

American Heart Month kicks off on Feb. 1 with National Wear Red Day, an initiative designed to pay tribute to men and women affected by heart disease.

Wearing red is also a symbol of recognizing dedicated health care professionals and honoring researchers working toward uncovering medical innovations.

The color also symbolizes you and your personal effort toward ensuring your optimum health, and the health of those around you.

Simple Steps

The American Heart Association and its partners spend a lot of energy in February explaining the simple steps that Americans can take to improve their heart health.

Their message is clear: Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. but is highly preventable.

Healthy choices and proper management of health conditions can go a long way to reducing heart disease, as can an informed public dedicated to helping their fellow Americans reach peak heart health.

Spread the Word

You can do your part to help American Heart Association in its efforts. Do a little research on heart health and spread the message with your friends and family members.

You can also take your voice to social media by tweeting, posting and broadcasting heart-healthy tips and tricks.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ website,, features an American Heart Month toolkit full of sample tweets and informational resources that can help you share the message.

February 02, 2014 12:00 am

Controlling Your Blood Pressure

Controlling Your Blood Pressure

Maintaining a healthy blood pressure is a constant battle for some people, but it is a fight that they shouldn’t have to face on their own.

There are a network of professionals, family members and friends all ready to help you reach and sustain your health goals.

Team Up

Two minds are often better than one when trying to tackle any major issue. The same is true for anyone seeking expert medical advice related to keeping their blood pressure at a safe level.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends a team-based care approach for blood pressure control, meaning a physician supported by a pharmacist, dietician, nurse and/or a community health worker.

This multi-faceted approach, the task force suggests, improves the management of major cardiovascular risk factors in outpatients, as opposed to a single physician alone.

Talk to Your Physician

Your physician is a wealth of information when it comes to finding ways to beat high blood pressure. He or she can provide diet and exercise tips that are customized to your body and medical history.

If you have issues keeping your numbers down through healthy diet and physical activity, your physician can prescribe specific medicines targeted at mitigating high rates.

It is important to be transparent with your doctor about your eating, smoking and drinking habits if you want effective results. The more they know, the more they can help you stay healthy.

Keep a Journal

We all need help remembering things sometimes. Medication schedules, blood pressure measurements and doctor’s appointments, for example, can be hard to keep track of when you’re busy with daily life.

A journal can help you keep notes on all of these important items and more.

It can also be a valuable tool in sharing your medical history and concerns with your doctor, providing a solid source of crucial, up-to-date information.

February 02, 2014 12:00 am

Heart-Healthy Diet

Heart-Healthy Diet

Eat nutritious foods. It’s a simple statement, indeed, but not always easy to live by.

As the obesity rate in America continues to bulge, doctors and researchers plug along at educating the masses about the link between bad diet and heart disease – the No. 1 killer in the United States.

Quantity Matters

A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that the quantity of fruit and vegetables in diets was more important than the variety.

Researchers followed 120,000 people for more than 20 years, during which about 6,000 developed heart disease. The people who ate the most fruits and vegetables had a 17 percent lower risk, particularly the people who added more citrus fruit and green leafy vegetables.

The chart below with recommendations from the American Heart Association offers a global glance into what you should – and shouldn’t – be eating to help your chances of avoiding heart disease.

Fruits and Vegetables: At least four-and-a-half cups per day

Fish (preferably oily fish): At least two three-and-a-half-ounce servings a week

Fiber-rich Whole Grains: At least three one-ounce-equivalent servings a day

Sodium: Less than 1,500 mg a day

Sugar-sweetened Beverages: No more than 450 calories (36 ounces) a week

Nuts, Legumes and Seeds: At least four servings a week

Processed Meats: No more than two servings a week

Saturated Fat: Less than seven percent of total energy intake

February 02, 2014 12:00 am

Franciscan Alliance Bariatric: The Cahill Connection

Franciscan Alliance Bariatric: The Cahill Connection

Dr. Gerald Cahill’s bariatric patients are making strides to best health.

“It’s life-changing.”

“The transformation is amazing.”

“I can do things now that I never before thought possible.”

These are the voices of patients who have had bariatric surgery for weight loss at Franciscan Midwest Bariatric Institute. Danny Gronendyke knows first-hand how life-changing significant weight loss can be. He had a gastric bypass June 27, 2012. “I call it my new birthday.”

His weight was at 314; now, it’s 185. “Every day is amazing; I can do things now that I never before thought possible. A group of us do 10K runs!”

Millie Sasaki, RN, and Lori Granich, RD, are the support group facilitators for this group.

Lori Granich is the programs lead registered dietitian. “I have been moved to tears watching this group’s determination. Watching them cross the finish in in their first 5K represented just one of many achievements in their journey to better health.”

“Our program’s support group is an excellent resource and support network for our patients. We are so pleased to see our patients forming such positive, active lifestyle changes, such as this running group.” says Sasaki, who is a certified support group instructor.

“I’m excited to be part of a program that supports its patients before, during and after their weight loss surgery.” says Kathy O’Donnell, RN. “Our post-operative support group is truly unique. I think it’s rare to find a bariatric program that is not only willing to partner with you throughout your weight loss journey, but for the rest of your life as well.”

This team, led by Dr. Gerald Cahill, takes patients challenged by weight through the entire process of losing weight through surgery, including evaluation, preparation, the surgical procedure, and post-operative support.

Weight loss can have a significant, positive impact on an individual’s health -- including a decreased risk for cardiovascular disease, sleep apnea, diabetes, and even infertility. When there is a lot of weight to lose, the challenge can be great. The caring, professional team at Franciscan Alliance understands this, and can help you choose the bariatric service best suited to your need, along with medically supervised programs proven to help people live better, healthier and longer lives.

Franciscan Midwest Bariatric Institute, designated a Bariatric Surgery Center of Excellence by the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, has a proven record of success. Says Dr. Cahill, who is the program’s medical director and surgeon, “"My goal is to provide excellent, personalized, safe care for patients desiring weight-loss surgery. I strive to assist patients in achieving a positive attitude about their health and an overall improved lifestyle.”

Please visit for more information about this outstanding program

December 29, 2013 4:26 pm Photos


Lifestyle changes can have positive impact on arthritis

An estimated 50 million adults in the United States suffer from some form of arthritis. In fact, there are more than 100 different types of arthritis, which causes painful inflammation of the joints.

Experts say, however, there are steps sufferers can take to help minimize and manage arthritis pain. These steps can range from something as simple as a diet change to in extreme circumstances, surgery.


Before learning what steps someone with arthritis should take to manage pain, it is important to diagnose the type of arthritis and determine a treatment plan, says Dr. Tania Ghosh, a member of Porter Physician Group and a Geriatrician and internal medicine specialist with Glendale Primary Care in Valparaiso.

"The diagnosis is made starting with history," Ghosh says. "Most of the time, the way in which the arthritis started, the duration of the problem, the course of its progression, and other associated symptoms and physical findings noted upon examination guide the physician toward the probably diagnosis."

That diagnosis is often then confirmed with the help of radiological testing like X-rays and MRIs, as well as blood work.

"The underlying cause for the arthritis determines the modality of treatment," Ghosh says.

Lifestyle changes

Overall health can have a direct impact on the amount of pain associated with arthritis, Ghosh says.

"If it is related to weight, the most important lifestyle change is diet, exercise and weight loss," she says.

Arthritis related to Gout - a complex form of arthritis that can be extremely painful - could benefit from dietary modifications as well, Ghosh says.

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine recommends avoiding dairy products, citrus fruits, sugar, fats, caffeine and nightshade plants - tomatoes and eggplant, for example.

Studies have shown other changes, like adding polyunsaturated oils and omega-3 supplements to a diet, can have mild, beneficial effects.

Vegan diets - because of their low-fat and high in antioxidant qualities - have shown to be beneficial to managing the inflammation associated with arthritis as well, according to the organization.

Other management

If lifestyle changes don't minimize the pain, Ghosh says mediation is a possible course of action physicians may prescribe.

Ultimately, she says, treatment is determined by the cause of the arthritis.

"That could vary from different types and strengths of pain pills, oral medications that help in reducing the inflammation in the joint, injections into the affected joints, and medications that are used to treat any systemic problems that might be causing the arthritis," she says.

If there is significant damage to the joint, which is not benefiting from medical management, surgery is sometimes required, she says.

Examples include finger and hand surgeries to correct joint problems in the hand, arthroscopy that removes debris or inflamed tissue in a joint through a small lighted instrument, and arthroplasty to replace part or all of a joint in the hip or knee.

December 18, 2013 11:40 am

Under Pressure: Migraines and seasonal headaches

More than a headache gone bad, migraines, those excruciating headings whose symptoms include throbbing pain, pulsing sensations, nausea, vomiting and an extreme sensitivity to lights and sounds, are a neurological disease.

Migraines are caused by the activation of the trigeminovascular system, which then stimulates pain stimulating neurons causing the severe headaches associated with migraines says Sanjeev Maniar, MD, a board certified Clinical Neurophysiologist and Neurologist at Methodist Hospitals.

According to Maniar, there are two types of migraines—aura migraines whch come with such warning signs as photophobia or sensitivity to light, numbness and sleep difficulties and migraines without auras that start without any warning signs.

Ranked in the top 20 of the world's most disabling medical illnesses, according to the Migraine Research Council, more than 10% of the population including children suffers from migraine and nearly 1 in 4 U.S. households includes someone with migraine. For some, the pain is so intense, that they retreat to a dark and quiet room while waiting for the pain to subside.

But despite their prevalence, migraines aren’t easy to diagnose since some of their symptoms are similar to headaches including those caused by sinus infections.

Dr. Sreekant Cherukuri an otolaryngologist at Community Hospital in Munster, says that it isn’t unusual for people to confuse sinus headaches with migraines.

“Their symptoms, such as pain and pressure in the sinuses, nasal congestion, watery eyes, are similar,” he says, “because both occur with migraines and sinus infections.”.

Diagnosis can also be difficult because the symptoms can change from episode to episode.

“Migraines can be devastating in terms of how they impact people,” says Dr. Crystal Tuncay, an internal medicine physician with the Porter Physician Group. “Some of the more severe symptoms mimic strokes and can include temporary blindness and weakness on one side or the other of the body.”

The first step to treatment is an accurate diagnosis.

“When people come to my office, I ask if they, in addition to their sinus symptoms also have a moderate-to-severe headache, nausea and sensitivity to light,” says Cherukur noting that true sinus headaches are, usually occurring because of a sinus infection. Symptoms of sinus infections include fevers as well as thick nasal secretions which are yellow, green, or blood-tinged. Treating a sinus infection should make the sinus headache go away.

There are different theories of what causes migraine headaches says Tuncay.

“Sinus or tension headaches can overlap with migraines and with women hormonal cycles can impact migraines,” she says.

Studies show, reports the Migraine Research Council that more than 27 million adult women suffer from migraine in the United States which is three times more than adult men. Interesting, in childhood, boys are affected more than girls, but after adolescence the headaches increase more rapidly in girls than in boys.

“Foods with gluten or MSG, coffee and chocolate can be associated with migraine says Maniar who also recommends that those prone to migraines get eight hours of sleep and avoid skipping any meals.

Family history plays a big part as a large percentage of people experiencing migraines come from a family who have experience migraines. If one or both parents suffer from migraines that increases the odds you will too.

“People who have migraines usually start at a young age,” says Tuncay noting that is another way to determine whether a headache is a migraine. “If someone reports migraine like symptoms for the first time after age 55 we look for other causes and maybe do imagining and a normal neurological exam. Many headaches are usually caused by tension, poor posture and sinus.”

“Taking a history also is important in determining whether a person has migraines,” says Cherukuri.

There are more than 100 prescription medications available for treating migraines. According to Maniar, there are several kinds of medications for migraines. For those who have four or more a month, preventative medications like Depakote and Topamax can be effective. Abortive medications, like Imitrex, work well for those with less frequent headaches and can be taken with the onset of symptoms. For those with chronic migraines—15 or so a month—Maniar says that Botox has show to be a preventative.

Cherukuri says that many people start with over the counter medication. Prescription medications providing acute treatment can be taken at the onset of a migraine and for those with frequent attacks, preventive treatment includes drugs taken daily.

“Some people say acupuncture helps and there is some evidence that magnesium supplements might help,” says Tuncay. “Also exercise and good sleep hygiene are important. For those who take over the counter medications, one of the big problems is overuse.”

Tuncay also suggests that migraine patients keep a journal listing what you ate, what stresses you were under, activities you participated in, environmental changes and anything else that might help you pinpoint what causes your migraines.

Journaling can also help you beginning learning triggers—sensory warnings like flashes of light, blind spots or a tingling in arms or legs that precede a migraine.

Finding the right medication can help reduce the frequency and severity of migraine headaches though it may take some trial and error to find the right one. Meds are more effective with lifestyle changes such as good eating habits.

“Importantly, if you’re over 55 and the worse headache you ever had just came on, proceed to the Emergency Room,” says Tuncay. “Don’t put it off.”

December 18, 2013 10:57 am

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