Snack Attack!

Snack Attack!
by Mia Gibson, RDN, LD, CDE

Dietitian, Cardiac & Pulmonary Rehab with MCHS Center for Health & Wellness

Be prepared by making ahead or having items on hand for quick nutritious snacks to satisfy your busy family.

Fruit is always a great snack.  Small apples, grapes and mandarins are nice to have on hand, but don’t stop there. Try new fruits that are available in the produce section. And keep cut fruit in the refrigerator to combine with other food groups.

Add fruit to:

  • Vanilla yogurt. Layer in a tall glass for a pretty presentation or layer in a waffle cone.
  • Frozen yogurt with a sprinkle of crushed nuts or granola for texture.
  • Cubes of cheese to make fruit and cheese kabobs.
  • Cottage cheese.
  • Low fat milk. Blend frozen or fresh foods for a smoothie.
  • Peanut butter. Spread on apple slices.
  • Whole grain waffle with low-fat yogurt and top with favorite fruit.

Summer is peak season for fruit! So, enjoy being creative with snacks for your family!

Picking Produce … Does it matter if it’s fresh or frozen?

Picking Produce … Does it matter if it’s fresh or frozen?
Mia Gibson, RDN, LD, CDE – Dietitian, Cardiac & Pulmonary Rehab with MCHS Center for Health & Wellness

Finding fresh fruits and vegetables is easy at this time of year!  Freshly-picked, ripe fruits and vegetables are the most nourishing because the nutrient content is the highest.

Once picked, produce will quickly lose its color, flavor and nutrients. So frozen produce can be a better choice if you are not able to eat the freshly-picked produce in a timely manner. Frozen produce is picked ripe and “flash frozen”, saving the beneficial nutrients.

Are you meeting the dietary guidelines of 2 ½ cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit per day? You will benefit nutritionally when you do! So, when you shop for your produce, remember that your first choice would be to pick fresh, seasonal produce and eat it soon. The second choice would be to buy frozen produce. Look to see if “USDA fancy” is available.

Summer Colds

Summer Colds
by Charlotte A. Carr, BSN, RN, CIC – MCHS Director of Infection Prevention and Control

Colds can happen any time of the year. Although they are not as common in warmer months as they are in the colder months, this is not the result of the weather. Rather, colds are caused by viruses.

Here are a few simple things that we can all do to help prevent summer colds from occurring. After all, preventing a cold is definitely the preferred option to having to suffer through the unwelcome symptoms.


Tips for a Heart-Healthy Lifestyle

Tips for a Heart-Healthy Lifestyle
by Fernando Boccalandro

As seen in the Odessa American Medical Matters:

Taking care of your heart is so important. Here are tips that can help you live a more heart-healthy lifestyle.

  • Check your blood pressure at least once every six months to make sure it is within normal limits and that you do not have hypertension.
  • Know your cholesterol levels. If they are normal, then you should check them at least every three to five years. If not in normal range, check them yearly.
  • Exercise at least 30 minutes daily five days a week. Include moderate exercise such as walking, biking, aerobics, yoga, etc.
  • One can of regular soda has 126 calories of added sugars. Instead of soda, drink water, coffee, unsweetened tea or other calorie-free drinks. When you do drink beverages with sugar, go for milk or all-fruit juices that count toward the daily dairy or fruit intake.
  • It is important for your cardiovascular health to have a good quality of sleep for a minimum of seven to eight hours daily.
  • Be a hero for your heart and stop smoking today. MCH has a FREE Smoking Independence Class every Thursday at 6 p.m. in the MCH Cardiopulmonary Education Room.
  • One in three Americans has prediabetes … and only one in ten knows it. So know your risk for diabetes and get screened for it if you have not done so recently.
  • Eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly and losing weight can prevent diabetes. Diabetes largely is a preventable disease in the majority of patients.
  • Avoid salty processed food such as salty snacks, chips, packaged food and canned soup. Instead opt for fresh, frozen or canned foods without any added sodium, sauces or seasonings.
  • By you becoming your own chef and seasoning your own food at home, you can control how much sodium is used. Try out other herbs and spices to get the kick you want instead of shaking on more salt.
  • If you drink alcohol, do so with moderation. That means up to one drink a day for a woman and two drinks a day for men … as defined by the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
  • The majority of the patients that have experienced a heart attack, have had a stent placed in the heart or have had a prior bypass should be taking one low-dose aspirin and a cholesterol medication for the duration of their lifetime. Make sure you discuss this with your doctor.
  • Stress management is very important for a healthy heart. The best ingredients to help manage daily stress levels are following a good diet, having a healthy sleeping pattern and continuing a daily exercise program.
  • Avoid food products with trans fats, which is known to increase your risk of developing heart disease.
  • Good dental hygiene has been associated with a healthy heart as well. Maintain good dental hygiene by brushing your teeth, flossing and visiting your dentist regularly.


You can do this. Living a heart healthy lifestyle will make you feel better and you can enjoy the things that are important to you. Take care of yourself … it’s important!

Heat Stroke – Tips for Surviving the Summer

Heat Stroke – Tips for Surviving the Summer
by Amanda Everett, RN, Emergency Management Coordinator

Heat stroke is very prevalent in West Texas due to the fact that we, as West Texans, “think we can handle it”. As we all know, the summers in West Texas can be brutal. So here are a few things to keep in mind this summer:

  • Be aware of your body – if you are out in the heat, wear light colored and light weight clothing.
  • Have a wet bandana or a cloth to keep around your neck. Re-wet it often.
  • Hydration is a big part of this. If you are thirsty, then you have already started to dehydrate. Try to have a bottle of water prior to going out in the heat, have a drink every 20 to 30 minutes and have two to three bottles of water after being out in the heat.
  • You can alternate sports drinks and water to allow electrolyte levels to stay up. However, most sports drinks have a lot of sugar in them and that will dehydrate you even faster.
  • In the event of a heat exhaustion or heat stroke, get out of the heat immediately and try to lower the body temperature in any way possible. Ways to do this include a cold shower, cold drinks or ice packs.
  • If the person is having slurred speak or difficulty answering questions, dial 911 immediately.

A couple of other things to remember in the hot months include:

  • Make sure that no pets or children are left in cars. The temperate in a vehicle rises exponentially and can cause great harm to those inside the cars.
  • Surfaces may be extremely hot as well. So, make sure that surfaces are checked before children or animals are allowed to walk or play on them.

Be safe this summer. Take care of yourself and your loved ones!

Why Gynecological exams are necessary over the age of 50

Why Gynecological exams are necessary over the age of 50
by Dr. Avelino Garcia

As seen in the Odessa American “Medical Matters”:

Many women feel that there is no longer a need for a gynecologist after childbearing. For women over the age of 50, yearly exams are encouraged and very important. Even if a yearly pap smears are not needed, pelvic and breast exams can give your doctor information to keep you healthy.

Getting a yearly physical exam is so much more than just a pelvic exam and breast exam. A general physical exam begins with a detailed health history, including family history and any health changes that may have occurred. An examination of vital signs, including blood pressure, pulse and oxygen saturation, is also included with a yearly examination. Measurements of your height and weight combine to create your Body Mass Index, or BMI. These numbers can tell a doctor a lot of helpful information regarding your current health.

A pelvic exam can evaluate the condition of your vaginal tissues, cervix, uterus, ovaries and rectum. Even if you no longer have a uterus, a yearly pelvic exam is still encouraged to evaluate vaginal anatomy and pelvic health. If you have a cervix, a pap smear with screening for Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is collected. A positive HPV test could mean that you are a carrier of the HPV virus and therefore at increased risk of cervical cancer. If your pap smear shows abnormal cells in conjunction with the HPV virus, further testing and treatment may be required. If both pap smear and HPV screenings are negative, it is safe to have a pap smear collected every two to three years. Just as a reminder, even if a pap smear is not required, a yearly pelvic exam still needs to be performed.

Even though it is uncomfortable, a rectal exam is encouraged to check for masses or lesions. A check of your stool for blood can also be done at the same time. Baseline screening colonoscopies are encouraged after the age of 50. However, if there is blood in the stool, a visit to the gastroenterologist is imperative for evaluation of your colon health. Screening colonoscopies are recommended earlier than the age of 50 if there is a history of cancer or colon problems in the family.

A yearly breast examination is performed to evaluate breast health. This examination includes the doctor looking at your breasts and nipples for leakage, lesions, redness, dimpling or other signs that there could be a problem present. The provider then does a manual examination, feeling the breast tissues and the under arms for lumps or masses. A yearly mammogram is recommended after the age of 40, unless a close family history of breast cancer is present. This includes mother and/or sisters with breast cancer.  If there is a close family history, yearly screenings may begin earlier, based on the age of diagnosis.

Bone Density, or DEXA scans, help the provider evaluate your bone health. These tests are generally recommended for those aged 65 or over. These tests are encouraged every two years. It is important to keep bones healthy with Vitamin D and Calcium supplementation as well as regular weight bearing exercise.

Screening blood work can be completed by your primary care provider or your gynecologist. Yearly testing to check iron levels in the blood, cholesterol levels, thyroid levels, and blood sugar levels are some recommended testing. Further blood work can be completed to check for hormone imbalances. The provider may also check your Vitamin D and Calcium levels to help evaluate bone health.

Last, but certainly not least, it is important to discuss required immunizations with your provider. A yearly flu shot is encouraged, especially over the age of 50, unless there is a contraindication. A TDaP (Tetanus/Diptheria/Pertussis) vaccine is required every 10 years. After the age of 65, a one-time pneumonia vaccine is recommended. The CDC recommends that anyone over the age of 60 receive the Shingles vaccine.

It is time to put your health first and get your yearly examination.

Colonoscopy Screening also Serves as Prevention

Colonoscopy Screening also Serves as Prevention
by Ramalinga Kedika

As seen in Odessa American Medical Matters:

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” – Benjamin Franklin.

This is true across the medical field, but especially pertinent when it comes to colon cancer screening. It is a lot easier to prevent colon cancer than to treat it once it occurs.

Colonoscopy is a very powerful screening technique because you can not only diagnose polyps that are precursors to colon cancer, but also remove them during the procedure. It is this removal of polyps which can eliminate colon cancer risk. Approximately 25 to 30 percent of 50 year old patients will have polyps.

The major hesitation people have about colonoscopies is fear of pain during the procedure. Many gastroenterologists are performing this procedure using anesthesia (deep sedation) that allows the patient to not have any awareness during the procedure. Often patients wake up from sedation and are surprised that the procedure is already completed!

Another hesitation I often hear is “Ugh, I have to drink all that stuff.” It’s true that drinking the prep is the hardest part of the procedure, but the laxative preps have improved over the years. A common laxative used in the past was about four liters of a liquid. While this prep is still used, there are newer preps which are half the volume (or even smaller) and easier to consume. The preps are often split-dosed, which means the patient drinks half the prep the night before the procedure and the other half early morning of the procedure. This fact can be reassuring to patients worried about having to drink a lot of liquid in one session.

The procedure is also very safe. The most common complication is bleeding which occurs in up to 0.6 percent of procedures. Most of the time the bleeding will stop on its own. Perforation, which is the creation of a hole or tear in the colon accidentally, is a serious complication but occurs very rarely in about 0.1% of procedures.

Medical testing can be expensive and this can also deter people from having colonoscopies. However, many insurance carriers cover screening colonoscopies because these are considered preventive tests. Colonoscopies may be a part of your insurance plan, so take advantage of this!



Supplement Tips

Supplement Tips
by Rachel Weiland, PharmD, BC-ADM

The most important rule when taking supplements is to tell all of your doctors and your pharmacy about what you take. Supplements might be called “natural”, “herbal” or have some other marketing tactic to get you to buy them, but they can interact with other medications you take, or even with a disease state you have. The first example that comes to my mind as a pharmacist is St. John’s Wort, which is used for depression. It interacts with hundreds of medications, as well as affects blood pressure and blood sugar. Your healthcare team can ensure that any supplements you take are safe for you.

There are, however, a few supplements I think are worth mentioning. The American Heart Association recommends 1000 milligrams per day of a combination of EPA/DHA, which is found in fish oil, for general cardiovascular health. The recommended dose for lowering triglycerides is 2000-4000 milligrams per day. It is very important to check the label of a fish oil supplement to see how much EPA/DHA is actually in there, as they try to trick you! Many advertise 1000 mg per softgel, but only have around 300 mg of EPA/DHA. The remaining 700 mg of ingredients are not proven to have as many benefits as EPA/DHA.

Many people are deficient in vitamin D, which helps you absorb calcium. This can be easily discovered through a simple lab test. Your doctor may recommend that you take a large dose of vitamin D once a week. Vitamin D is held in the fat in your body, so it does not need to be replenished every day.

To go with the vitamin D, scans can be done to determine bone density and determine if you need to supplement with calcium. If you do, there is an important distinction between the two different common over the counter calcium supplements. Calcium carbonate, which is less expensive, needs to be taken with food. This is because when you eat, your stomach releases acid, which helps the calcium carbonate get absorbed. This also means that if you are taking a medication to lessen acid, such as omeprazole, it will not be absorbed well. If you do take any medications like this, I would recommend you switch to calcium citrate. Calcium citrate is more expensive, but does not rely on acid. That also means it does not need to be taken with food. Another thing to consider is your absorption of calcium is not as good when you exceed 500 mg at one time. If you need more, take your tablets at two separate times throughout the day. All calcium supplements can interact with some medications – for example, some antibiotics, thyroid, and osteoporosis medications. Therefore, they need to be taken several hours apart. Ask your pharmacist if the medications you are taking interact with any over the counter medications you are taking, or are considering taking.



What fruits and vegetables are best for your heart?

What fruits and vegetables are best for your heart?
As seen in the Odessa American “Medical Matters”: What fruits and vegetables are best for your heart? by Dr. Fernando Boccalandro


A heart healthy diet is fundamental in preventing heart disease, even with the use of current prescribed cholesterol-lowering drugs. Thus, it is important to understand the value of a good diet in heart disease prevention.

Diets that are cholesterol-free, such as plant-based diets or low in cholesterol, processed and refined foods, can markedly reduce serum cholesterol levels and help to prevent heart diseases as part of a healthy lifestyle.

My patients frequently ask me what fruits and vegetables are best as part of a heart-healthy diet?

  • A handful a day of nuts such as almonds and walnuts. It’s filling and will help your heart.
  • Berries including strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and cranberries are very nutritious with phytonutrients and fiber.
  • Dark beans including black beans and kidney beans are high in fiber, vitamins and minerals.
  • Colorful vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes, red peppers and acorn squash have carotenoids, fibers and multiple vitamins which complement a heart-healthy diet.
  • Spinach is a great leafy vegetable packed with great nutrients and can be used instead of lettuce.
  • Steamed or boiled asparagus is low calorie and has beta-carotene and fiber.
  • Broccoli is also a great snack with multiple vitamins, folate, calcium and nutrients.
  • Tomatoes are excellent either fresh or sun-dried. Sun-dried is a convenient way to enjoy them.
  • In general, fruits are rich in beta-carotene, vitamins, potassium, magnesium and fiber. However, fruits could have a high sugar content requiring attention in diabetics.
  • A small amount daily of dark chocolate with at least 70% of cocoa can also be heart healthy.


It is always preferable to eat these food products unprocessed and in their natural form … just as they come out of your backyard garden… rather than canned or already processed. If you do not want to grow your own, take advantage of the local Farmers Markets this summer. Your heart will glad that you did!



May is Stroke Month. Let’s learn a bit more about what a stroke is and available treatments.

May is Stroke Month. Let’s learn a bit more about what a stroke is and available treatments.  

by Karry Morris MSN, RN-BC
Cardiovascular Nurse – Medical Center Hospital Cardiovascular Services


Most strokes are caused by blood clots. It happens much like a heart attack does. A blood clot travels to a small blood vessel and becomes lodged, causing a blockage that results in a loss of blood flow and a lack of oxygen to the vital organ. When a blockage occurs in the heart, it is called a heart attack. When the blockage happens in the brain, it is called a stroke.

If brain tissue loses circulation and oxygen, the parts of the brain dependent on the blood supply of the blocked vessel may die. The death of tissue in the brain, and the resulting stroke, can lead to a lifetime of challenges for the stroke survivor.

Depending on where the stroke occurs, the damage can result in the loss of the ability to walk, talk, eat, think, move or even breathe. Fortunately, there is a medication that can “melt” the clot that is causing the stroke. But you have to call 911 and get to the hospital FAST!

The medication is called “Alteplase” or “Activase” and is a potent medication that essentially “melts” the clot causing the blockage, restoring oxygen-rich blood to the brain. The medication can literally prevent the lifelong effects of stroke … but only if you receive it within the first four and a half hours of stroke symptoms.

Alteplase is in a category of drugs known as “thrombolytics”. Many people know about drugs that they call “blood thinners” (such as Aspirin) that prevent clots from forming in the first place. Alteplase is much more powerful and is able to actually dissolve the clot that has already formed. They are often called “clot-busters” by the medical community.

As parts of the brain begin to die during a stroke, the effected brain tissue becomes more and more fragile over time. About four hours after stroke onset, the dying and dead brain tissue is becoming so fragile, it becomes too late to give the medication. The soft brain tissue, coupled with a strong thrombolytic, put the brain at a greater risk for bleeding at this point. The medication is considered safe and effective, and some tout it as a miracle … but it can only be used in the first four and a half hours. If you don’t arrive to the hospital in time, it may be too late to receive the treatment.

This is why it is so important to be able to recognize stroke and call 911 right away. Waiting any amount of time can make the difference in whether you are able to receive the medication or not. Receiving the medication can result is the reversal of the stroke, avoiding paralysis and even death. If you arrive too late, medical professionals are unable to provide the medication, and can only hope for the best for the stroke survivor.

For many years, there was no cure for stroke. Alteplase, however, can reverse the effects of stroke, allowing you to live your life without the often devastating results of stroke … but only if you get medical attention immediately.

Never ignore the signs of stroke. Time is brain!