Pumpkin – More than just decoration!

by Christina Salina, MS, TTU Dietetic Intern


Few people think of pumpkins besides Halloween decorations and carvings or the traditional Thanksgiving pumpkin pie. However, it might be time to rethink this nutritious and delicious orange plant.

Pumpkin is considered a fruit that is rich in nutrients and has a wide range of fantastic health benefits. Beta-carotene is powerful antioxidant that is found in abundance with pumpkins and is also responsible for giving fruits their vibrant orange color. This antioxidant is converted into Vitamin A within the body. Consuming foods rich in beta carotene may prevent the development of certain types of cancer and protect against heart disease.

Another wonderful nutrient found in pumpkins is fiber! On average, an American diet includes about 15 grams of fiber while the daily recommendation is between 25 – 30 grams. Fiber can slow down the rate of sugar being absorbed in the blood and regulate bowel movements.

Here is the complete nutritional breakdown of one cup of cooked pumpkin:

  • 2 g of protein
  • 3 g of fiber
  • 49 calories
  • 200% of vitamin A
  • 19% vitamin C
  • 10% or more of vitamin E, riboflavin, potassium, copper and manganese


Preparing your own pumpkin will deliver most of these health benefits. However, canned pumpkin does retain nutrition well. Steer away from pumpkin pie mix as it contains added sugars and syrups.

REMEMBER: Canned pumpkin should contain only one ingredient: PUMPKIN.


Here are a few creative ways to include pumpkin in your diet:

  • Dice pumpkin into cubes and roast it with other veggies such as Brussel sprouts, red onion, winter squashes etc.
  • Mash boiled pumpkin into puree instead of mashed potatoes
  • Mix pureed pumpkin into oatmeal or smoothies
  • Roast pumpkin seeds for snacking
  • Add cubed pumpkin to chili or soups
  • Stuff mini pumpkins with a veggie rice mix



TRY this easy recipe for a yummy

Pumpkin Breakfast Bowl

that was created by Christina Salina, MS, TTU Dietetic Intern.

Blueberries and Bone Health

Adding blueberries to breakfast cereal or snacks may help your children ward off osteoporosis later in life.

That’s the hypothesis of U.S. Department of Agriculture researchers who fed young, growing rodents a diet with 10 percent freeze dried blueberry powder. The berry eating animals ended up with significantly more bone mass than a comparable group that didn’t eat berries. Blueberries contain polyphenols, compounds that give the fruit its distinctive color and which may also have bone-building benefits.

Studies are still needed to determine whether the berries have the same effect on young human bones. But with their high vitamin C and dietary fiber content, blueberries are already a delicious way to eat healthy.

Chores can help your brain stay young!

Even if you don’t engage in vigorous exercise as you grow older, don’t discount the benefit of everyday activities for physical and cognitive health. Making the bed, taking out the garbage and
sweeping the floor all add up, say University of Florida researchers.

And the more energy you expend on those daily chores other, the less likely you are to become cognitively impaired as you age, compared with older people who exert less energy, according to the study results published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Even if you can no longer pursue your favorite sport, you can move more throughout the day, which may stimulate parts of the brain involved in memory formation. So grab a vacuum cleaner—or just take a 5-minute dance break when your favorite song comes on the radio.

Tachycardia: Don’t let the beat go on!

by Dr. Fernando Boccalandro


As seen in the Odessa American Medical Matters:


Frequently patients complain of a rapid heartbeat. The medical term for a rapid heartbeat is tachycardia, which is a heart rate above 100 beats per minute.

The term tachycardia comes from the Greek words Takhus meaning swift, and Kardia meaning heart. When the heart beats too fast, it may not pump blood adequately and can result in a rapid pulse, shortness of breath, a feeling of racing heart (or palpitations), fainting, chest pain or lightheadedness.

We have a complex and reliable electrical system that activates the heart in a synchronous way, approximately 100,000 a day since our birth. However, occasionally this electrical system can start to have problems resulting in episodes of tachycardia. A tachycardia can be related to a primary abnormality in the electrical system within the heart, but also can be secondary to other medical problems that accelerate the normal heartbeat making the heart pump faster. Exercise, stress, anemia, fever, alcohol, caffeine, medications, tobacco, recreational drugs and thyroid problems are some of the causes that can result in tachycardia.

Conditions that can damage the underlying structure of the heart like a heart attack, hypertension or congenital abnormalities can increase the risk of developing a tachycardia. The majority of the patients with a tachycardia have a favorable outcome. Nonetheless, some tachycardias can be serious, including the risk to form blood clots within the heart, causing a stroke or a heart attack, weakening the heart muscle resulting in heart failure, causing loss of consciousness and rarely resulting in sudden death. Because of this, it is important to evaluate patients with tachycardia with the goal to identify the cause and to recommend appropriate therapy when indicated.

If you feel that you heart races, please discuss your concerns with your physician to assure that your heart is not beating out of rhythm. Tachycardia can be serious if not treated. Don’t let that rapid beat go on!





Sports Physicals – One of the most important visits to your doctor

by Dr. Bonnie Carter


As seen in the Odessa American Medical Matters:



It’s that time of year again …time for sweaty teenage boys and girls to flock to clinics and gyms for sports physicals. While parents and kids just want to get in and out as quick as possible, there’s a method to our madness and why we do these physicals. And, no, it’s not an initiation or torture ritual to embarrass you!

One of the most important things to evaluate during a sports physical is your heart. Sudden cardiac death can occur in an athlete due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy that is undiagnosed. Names like Hank Gathers and Reggie Lewis echo in our minds when we put that stethoscope to your chest. These, and others like them, were young athletes in the prime of their life and peak physical condition that dropped dead during their sport from a silent heart condition. There are signs and an astute clinician can pick up on them. This is one of the reasons that I hate mass physicals in gyms … you just can’t hear as well when you’re listening for an arrhythmia or heart murmur. Truly the best place to have your physical done is with your primary care physician because we know you and are more likely to pick up on a minute difference from your baseline.

The other major thing we are evaluating is your neurologic status and history of concussions. Recent studies have brought the long-term effect of concussions to the forefront, and both physicians and coaches are more aware of their consequences. The management and our approach to concussions has changed drastically just in my time in medicine. When I was a resident in 2003, we would only pull someone from the game if they had a complete loss of consciousness or their symptoms lasted more than 15 minutes. Now, we pull anyone who has symptoms of a concussion and they can’t return to activity for at least a week. (There is a protocol established by the U.I.L.) This is safer for the athlete because cumulative injury is a risk and can lead to much worse damage and even death. A lot of questions on the sports physical forms are centered around concussions, and this is why.

While working as the university physician at West Texas A&M, I saw a lot of concussions in our athletes. Additionally, I saw some sequelae (a condition that is the consequence of a previous disease or injury) of multiple prior concussions including memory issues, personality changes, attention deficit and depression, to name a few. Can you guess which sport had the most history of concussions when I would do the physicals at W.T.? It wasn’t football … it was actually cheerleading!

Now that we’ve covered your head and your heart, that leaves the rest of your body. Yes, we are looking at all your joints to make sure your body can handle the stress of the sport, but we are also looking at your vision, your blood pressure, your skin, your thyroid, your abdomen, if your periods are regular, your gait and several other things. Every question on that form is a clue to the mystery that is you. We clinicians are really just detectives, trying to follow the clues and make the diagnosis. And yes, the dreaded hernia check is important because if you have a defect and you work out, you can make it worse. An incarcerated hernia is no laughing matter and is a medical emergency.

So next time you drag your child to their sports physical, remember it is not just a rubber-stamp visit. In fact, it is probably one of the most important visits they may make to the doctor’s office.


Some Like It Hot

by Dr. Bonnie Carter

As seen in the Odessa American Medical Matters:



Well, it’s that time of year again … time for two-a-days, marching practice and heat illness. Heat illness is a very real threat, even in cooler climates than the Permian Basin. There are several risk factors for heat illness which I will discuss below. Heat illness actually occurs on a spectrum that ranges from heat cramps to heat exhaustion, and then to heat stroke. The physiology behind heat illness and heat regulation are very complex, and I won’t go into a lot of details here.


Risk factors for heat illness can be broken down into three main categories: medical conditions, environmental and drugs.

  • Medical conditions that can put you at risk of heat injury are obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, hyperthyroidism, gastroenteritis or a febrile illness to name a few.
  • Environmental factors include exercise in a hot environment, inappropriate clothing, decreased fluid intake, lack of acclimatization, enclosed hot environments such as a hot car or sauna and lack of air conditioning or proper ventilation.
  • Some common medications or drugs that make you more susceptible to heat injury include: beta blockers (Atenolol, Metoprolol), diuretics, antihistamines (Benadryl, Claritin, Zyrtec), alcohol, cocaine, amphetamines (including Adderall) and aspirin. Basically, what these risk factors boil down to is impaired heat regulation.

So, what is the body’s normal response to heat stress? The first thing the body does is dilate the blood vessels and increase blood flow to the skin, which increases heat transfer to the environment. When this happens, the heart has to increase the heart rate to increase cardiac output. There is also release of catecholamines that causes you to sweat to dissipate heat by evaporation. The body also decreases heat-producing processes. Where you get into trouble and things start breaking down is when the body reaches its cardiac output limits in the face of water and electrolyte loss. This leads to the inability to regulate heat which causes damage to the cells and organs. If not stopped, this leads to multisystem organ failure and ultimately death.

The first stage of heat injury is heat cramps. This actually occurs with adequate hydration with water. When you are sweating, you lose electrolytes as well as water. If you are only replacing those losses with water, you actually will dilute your electrolytes, leading to involuntary muscle cramps. These cramps are usually treated with an oral salt solution or, sometimes in worse cases, with IV normal saline.


The next stage of heat illness is heat syncope. This is caused by a drop in blood pressure from a loss of fluids, dilation of the blood vessels and decreased vagal tone that leads to a lower heart rate. This most commonly occurs in elderly and people not acclimated to an environment. Symptoms include lightheadedness, nausea, yawning and restlessness. After the patient is flat on the ground, consciousness returns because blood flow has been restored. People who suffer heat syncope are generally not very dehydrated or hyperthermic. Treatment for this stage of heat illness includes moving the patient to a cool area out of direct sunlight, lying flat and elevating the feet.


Heat exhaustion is the next stage in the progression of heat injury. For heat exhaustion to occur, there is a significant heat stress, loss of fluid and salt depletion. Symptoms of heat exhaustion are weakness, fatigue, lightheadedness, headache, nausea and thirst. Signs of heat exhaustion include a rapid heart rate, rapid breathing rate, profuse sweating, low blood pressure and elevated body temperature. Treatment of heat exhaustion entails immediate cessation of activities, removal to a cool area out of direct sunlight, removal of restrictive clothing, aggressive fluid and electrolyte resuscitation and active cooling measures if the body temperature is above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit. The best method to cool the body is to use room temperature water to soak the patient, and then fan him or her to cool by evaporation. You do not want to use ice and cold water because this causes shivering which actually raises body temperature.


Heat stroke is a life-threatening medical emergency. It is differentiated from heat exhaustion by the presence of central nervous system dysfunction such as ataxia, irritability, confusion, hallucinations, seizures and ultimately coma. The core body temperature is greater than 104 degrees Fahrenheit for heat stroke. A late sign of heat stroke is the lack of sweating (anhidrosis). In addition to the treatment measures listed for heat exhaustion, rapid cooling measures should be employed. The most effective way is ice packs to the areas where large blood vessels are located such as arm pits, groin, neck and scalp. A patient with heat stroke needs emergency medical care and evacuation to a medical facility. They need constant vital sign monitoring and support. The important thing to remember is that heat injury is not independent disease processes, but one continuum (i.e., a patient can progress).


Preventing heat stroke:

Preventing heat stroke involves adequate hydration, acclimation and heat dissipation. You should drink enough fluid to have clear urine. This is a better goal than an amount of fluid to take in. If you are exercising in heat for more than two to three hours and are only drinking water, you should add salt to the fluid (¼ to ½ teaspoon per liter) or eat salt-containing foods. You can drink sports drinks such as Gatorade if you dilute it 50/50 with water. Otherwise there is too much sugar. Wear loose-fitting, light clothing to allow air circulation. Frequently spray or douse your skin with tepid water to allow evaporation. To acclimate to an environment, you should slowly increase activity levels over seven to 10 days. Children and elderly may need 10 to 14 days to acclimate.

Heat stroke can carry a mortality rate approaching 75 percent. Every year, about 200 people die of heat stroke. Often, they are young, healthy athletes with no prior issues. So, if someone is lagging behind, don’t tell them to “just suck it up” and keep going. The main thing is to be smart and be aware.

When Your Pump Fails

by Dr. Fernando Boccalandro


As seen in the Odessa American Medical Matters:  http://www.oaoa.com/people/health/medical_matters/article_81202e92-8516-11e7-8a91-57b71afd1822.html

Heart failure, also known as congestive heart failure (CHF) is a very common problem. It occurs when the heart muscle cannot pump blood to provide the rest of the organs with adequate blood supply. This happens when the heart is too weak to pump, when it becomes to stiff to fill properly with blood between heartbeats or both.

Many conditions such as coronary artery disease, hypertension, atrial fibrillation, obstructive sleep apnea, thyroid disorders, recreational drugs, alcohol use, medications, viral diseases and valvular heart problems can lead to heart failure. Patients with heart failure can have complaints of shortness of breath with activity or while laying down, fatigue, cough with white or pink-tinged phlegm, weight gain due to fluid retention, lack of appetite and an increased need to urinate during the night.

The term congestive heart failure comes from the inability of the heart to pump blood, resulting in blood backing up into (or congesting) the abdomen, lower extremities and lungs. Half of the patients with heart failure may present with only fatigue, shortness of breath or weakness and no fluid congestion.

Not all conditions that lead to heart failure can be reversed, but appropriate therapy can improve the longevity and quality of life of patients with heart failure. Lifestyle changes such as exercising, reducing salt, controlling the patient fluid intake, managing stress and losing weight can make a great difference.

To be able to manage heart failure successfully, it is recommended to follow-up with a cardiologist who will select the best mode of therapy and coach the patient regarding the disease process. The management of heart failure also requires a very active and collaborative participation of the patient and family members to comply with the physician recommendations. The goal to prevent disease progression, reduce mortality and achieve a favorable outcome.

If you or someone you care about is experiencing symptoms, please be proactive about visiting your physician. Early diagnosis provides an opportunity for disease management.


Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

by Dr. Gerald L. Farber – Fellowship Trained in Hand Surgery


As seen in the Odessa American Medical Matters:


Many patients who are experiencing hand or wrist pain are given a diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome and then referred to a physician who specializes in treating orthopedic conditions affecting the upper extremities.

True carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is primarily associated with numbness and tingling in the fingers. There may be associated pain, but pain alone is not the primary symptom. The etiology, or study of cause, of these symptoms is compression of the median nerve in the carpal tunnel, located at the base of the hand.

Typical symptoms of CTS include numbness and tingling in the fingers, typically the thumb, index, and middle fingers. Symptoms are often worse at night and can cause awakening due to numbness and pain. Many people describe shaking their hands to relieve their symptoms. The symptoms may also be aggravated during driving, or prolonged grasping with the hand (writing, holding a book, etc.). In many cases where the nerve compression has been present for a prolonged period of time, there may be atrophy, or wasting of the thumb muscle in the palm. Some medical conditions such as diabetes may predispose someone to CTS.

Initial treatment for CTS can be as simple as wrist braces at night to prevent curling of the wrist while sleeping. If this is not effective, or becomes less effective over time, then it is time to be evaluated. The evaluation typically includes an examination to elicit signs of CTS. It may also include obtaining electrodiagnostic studies to confirm the diagnosis and severity … and also to exclude other causes of the symptoms such as a pinched nerve in the neck.

More advanced treatment may include cortisone type injections in the carpal tunnel and possibly carpal tunnel surgery. Carpal tunnel surgery is a relatively straight forward procedure and is typically performed as an outpatient surgery. The success rate is quite high, at approximately 95%. Recovery from the surgery is relatively short. They patient may experience some residual tenderness in the palm that typically resolves over six to twelve weeks after the CTS surgery.

If you or someone you care about is having symptoms that indicate Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, please visit your primary care physician or contact ProCare Orthopedics & Rehabilitation Center at 432-640-2790 to make an appointment.


Insulated Society – Benefits of Vaccines Still Outweigh the Risks

by Dr. Kevin Benson

As seen in the Odessa American Medical Matters:


Heard from a caller to a local radio call in show “vaccinations ruin kids immunity and there hasn’t been anyone who died from mumps in a really long time.”

Our insulated, vaccinated society.

Recently there has been a mumps “outbreak” in Texas. As of April 21, CNN reports Texas has 221 cases this year, (which) constitutes the highest incidence of mumps in the state in 22 years. (http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/14/health/mumps-texas/)

Maybe that doesn’t sound so bad. After all, in a state with upwards of 27 million people, the chance of your child being the one to get mumps is pretty low. And since other people vaccinate their kids, your kid will probably be protected. Probably. And even if they did get mumps, well, they wouldn’t die from it. Probably. And even if they did catch such a rare illness, modern medicine has other ways to cure people of those things, right?

Vaccinations have gotten a bad rap in the past few years with people claiming that they are the root cause of everything from autism to food allergies. For many, the fear of potential side effects of vaccinations has eclipsed the fear of being infected with these serious illnesses. Here in the first world, it is much easier to find someone who claims that their child’s condition was caused by a vaccination than to find someone whose child was affected by the illness the vaccine was designed to prevent. This has led many to doubt theses illnesses even exist anymore.

We are beyond fortunate to be living in our modern world. But our world of jet planes and cellphones has insulated us from diseases that had devastated humans in the last century, turning these severe illnesses into what many believe are mere fairy tales that doctors and vaccine companies tell us in order to make a buck. But it wasn’t so long ago that things were very different.

As a practitioner, I have never seen a child stricken with polio. But my eyes were opened to the realities of this disease when I visited the Smithsonian Institute Museum in Washington, D.C. a number of years ago. Between the dinosaur skeletons and the space capsules was an exhibit about polio. Surely not a big draw. Even though I had learned about polio during my training, I thought I might increase my knowledge a bit and walk through. There I saw pictures of countless children affected by this viral illness. Most striking were the pictures of warehouses where rows and rows of iron lungs had been set up to assist children as polio ravaged their nervous system and muscles, robbing them of the ability to breath on their own. If children were fortunate enough to survive, they would often have to use crutches and leg braces for mobility. People were understandably terrified of this illness, as it could strike anyone’s healthy child. And there was no cure. And there still is not.

When the vaccine came out in 1952, it was a godsend. Finally there was some protection from the up to 58,000 cases a year that the U.S. had previously experienced. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polio_vaccine). But the vaccine was not without side effects. Rarely, taking the oral vaccine could actually cause polio. (One in 2.7 million doses) (http://www.who.int/immunization/diseases/poliomyelitis/endgame_objective2/oral_polio_vaccine/VAPPandcVDPVFactSheet-Feb2015.pdf) However this risk did not sway many people from having the vaccine administered to their children. The benefits simply outweighed the risks.

There are many more vaccines available to us today. Most of us have been brought up in a society where the illnesses they prevent are something to read about in books. This is because countless people have researched the safest way to prevent these illnesses and countless parents have decided the benefits outweigh the risks. It is well known that vaccinations have well known, common side effects. They also have rare side effects or reactions. Many people claim that there are other side effects or we just don’t know what side effects these vaccines might have long term.

In science, it is always right to “question with boldness”, to quote Thomas Jefferson. It is right to ask questions about vaccines and discuss them with your child’s doctor. At this time, all credible evidence points to the fact that vaccines are extremely safe and prevent illness that without these vaccines, would creep right back into our lives with a short time. I believe the benefits still outweigh the risks, but I keep an open mind to parents asking legitimate questions affecting their child’s health.



Concussion – Serious Injury and Serious Talk: “Tips for Observation at Home”

by Tim “Trapper” OConnell MS  LAT
MCHS Divisional Director/Pro Care Orthopedics/CHW Family Med/Occupational Med

First and most important, my thoughts and prayers to all family members associated with a loss or affliction as a result of CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy).

We have looked at signs and symptoms observed immediately following a suspected concussion. If injured person is transported to an advanced medical facility, then follow discharge orders. If the injured person is deemed well enough to go home, here are some tips to consider in the hours following a suspected concussion:

  • Increasing headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Difficulty or slurred speech
  • Balance or coordination difficulty
  • Unusual or out of character behavior
  • Changes in level of consciousness
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Disorientation
  • Delayed verbal or motor response
  • Amnesia
  • Stiffness in the neck or weakness in arms or legs
  • Blood or clear fluid from nose or ears
  • Abnormal drowsiness or sleepiness
  • Rest and observation are important. If he/she is able to sleep, continue to observe. If any changes in symptoms or signs are alarming, seek advanced medical care immediately.


Following are some additional tips: 

  • DO NOT take any medication other than what a medical doctor has prescribed.
  • NO physical activity until directed by health care professional.
  • Limit television and cell phone time as well as computer use.