Monday, October 21, 2019

5 Changes to Your Diet that Might Reduce Your Risk for Breast Cancer

beet carrots close up

There are more than three million Americans with a history of breast cancer. While there isn’t a single strategy to prevent the disease, there are dietary changes you can make to reduce your risk.

Stefani Pappas, MS, RDN, CDN, CPT, is a clinical dietitian at The Cancer Institute at St. Francis Hospital. In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, she has five simple steps you can take to make your body the healthiest it can be, while potentially reducing your risk for developing breast cancer.

Follow a Plant-Based Diet. Eat lots of fruits, vegetables, beans/legumes, nuts/seeds and whole grains. Aim for 8 to 10 colorful fruit and vegetable servings daily; this will also help you meet your daily fiber goals and keep your body in a peak nutritional state. A study of approximately 3,000 postmenopausal women found those who consumed 25 or more servings of vegetables weekly had a 37% lower risk of breast cancer compared with women who consumed fewer than 9 vegetable servings a week.

Avoid Processed and Refined Carbohydrates. High sugar foods tend to be very processed and low in nutritional value. These foods appear to increase serum insulin, an insulin-like growth factor that can stimulate cancer cell growth. Try to limit white bread, pasta and rice. Be careful with white sugar and items such as cakes and cookies. Opt for whole grains when possible, and indulge in moderation when it comes to sweets.

Focus on Healthy Fats. Research has revealed a protective relationship between omega-3 fatty acids and breast cancer. Some studies even show that omega-3 can inhibit breast cancer tumor growth and metastasis. Strive to include healthy fats such as salmon, chia seeds, flaxseeds, walnuts, olive oil and avocados in your diet.

Check Your Vitamin D. Some studies have found an inverse relationship between breast cancer risk and serum 25 (OH) vitamin D levels. Ask your doctor about having a vitamin D blood test. Maintain your level above 40 ng/mL through diet and, if needed, supplements.

Stay Hydrated. Water is essential for carrying nutrients throughout the body. Don’t neglect the simple task of meeting your hydration needs. Increased fluid intake is needed for the proper digestion of a high fiber diet.

Research on diet and breast cancer is ongoing. In the meantime, focus on maintaining healthy body weight and choosing a primarily plant-based diet. Stay as active as possible, and don’t neglect important strategies such as adequate hydration.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Top 5 Reasons Why Washing Your Hands Is Important

Keeping hands clean is one of the most important steps we can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. 80% of common infections are spread by hands. For the general public, washing your hands at a minimum of five times a day has been shown to significantly decrease the frequency of colds, influenza (the “flu”) and other infections.

Mercy Medical Center’s Director of Infection Prevention, Kelly Mulholland, BSN, RN-BC, CCRN-K, CIC, shares the top five reasons why washing your hands is important.

  1. Tis the season for sharing, but NOT germs (80% of infections are spread by hands.) The CDC notes that proper handwashing has been found to reduce the number of people who get sick with diarrhea by nearly a third, and reduces colds and related diseases by 16-21%.

  2. Flu germs are spread not only from droplets in the air but from touching items that may have the flu germs on them; like door handles, ATM machines, shopping cart handles, cell phones, etc.

  3. You can’t see the bacteria on your hands; avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth since the germs on your hands can spread into your body.

  4. During the holidays with much food preparation and gathering together with larger groups of family and friends, the spread of germs from your hands increases.

  5. Washing your hands can SAVE LIVES.

Ms. Mulholland also shared tips on how and when to properly wash your hands:

  • Using alcohol-based hand rub (gel, liquid or foam) apply a palm full and rub around your hand making sure to cover all surfaces of your wrists, back of your hands, nails and thumbs too.

  • Rub until the solution is dry about 15 – 20 seconds.

  • Soap and water is to be used if your hands are visibly soiled and after using the bathroom.

  • Use alcohol-based hand rub for all other instances; after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose, after touching animals, before eating or preparing food.
For more information, visit or call 1-855-CHS-4500.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Eat Right, Future Bright!

Conditions linked to a poor diet caused 11 million deaths (1 in 5 globally) in adults in 2017, according to a new studyEating right is not complicated but it does take some planning. If you are struggling with where to begin, CHS’s St.Charles Hospital’s Nutrition Manager Gwen Degnan, RD, CDN, CDE, offers you tips on what healthy foods and beverages you should incorporate into your diet.

1.   Eat More Vegetables
Vegetables are important sources of many nutrients, including potassium, dietary fiber, folate (folic acid), Vitamin A and Vitamin C. Most vegetables are naturally low in fat and calories. To start, add vegetables such as broccoli and spinach to soups, casseroles, omelets, sauces, etc. With summer months approaching, you can also grill colorful vegetable kabobs packed with red, green and yellow peppers, mushrooms and onions. For a heartier meal, shred 
carrots or zucchini into meatloaf, casseroles, quick breads and muffins. When you have the urge to snack, keep precut vegetables handy to add to side dishes or as lunch box additions. Ready-to-eat favorites to keep on hand include red, green or yellow peppers, broccoli and cauliflower florets, carrots, celery sticks or snap peas.

2.   Focus on Whole Fruits
Fruits are sources of many essential nutrients, including potassium, dietary fiber, Vitamin C and folate. As an added bonus, most fruits are naturally low in calories and fat. Make a fresh fruit salad by mixing apples, bananas or pears with acidic fruits like oranges, pineapple or lemon juice to keep them from turning brown. Fruit also tastes great with a dip or dressing. Try fat-free or low-fat yogurt as a dip for fruits like strawberries or melons. For fun, this spring and summer make fruit kabobs using pineapple chunks, bananas, grapes and berries. Also, fruit can double as a dessert option. Have a baked apple or pear with no sugar added for a sweet treat.

3.   Eat Whole Grains More Often
Whole grains pack nutrients such as zinc, magnesium, B vitamins and fiber. Choose whole grains like brown rice, whole grain pastas, breads and cereals. Look for foods that list whole-grain on the packaging including whole wheat, whole oats, whole-grain barley, brown rice and oatmeal. However, be aware of foods labeled with the words “multi-grain,” “100 percent wheat,” “seven-grain”, or are brown in color which are not whole-grain products.

4.   Go Lean with Protein
Protein functions as building blocks for bones, muscles, cartilage, skin and blood. They are also building blocks for enzymes, hormones and vitamins. The leanest beef cuts include round steak and roasts (eye of round, top round, bottom round, round tip), top loin, top sirloin and chuck shoulder and arm roasts. Choose lean ground beef. To be “lean”, the product has to be at least 92 percent lean and 8 percent fat. The leanest pork choices include pork loin, tenderloin and center loin.

5.   Choose Seafood at Least Twice a Week
Seafood contains omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). EPA supports the healthy regulation of cellular inflammation, while DHA is important for maintaining nerve cell structure and function. Seafood rich in omega-3 fatty acids include salmon, trout and herring. Consuming two, four-ounce servings of oily fish per a week can contribute to the prevention of heart disease. These fish can be cooked a variety of ways to keep it interesting. Try poaching fish in an orange juice and herb mixture, or bake fish with vegetables wrapped in foil.

6.   Reduce Sodium Intake
Many already prepared foods and meals you consume at restaurants and grab-and-go items at the grocery store have sodium because it’s an inexpensive way to add flavor and is an effective way to preserve foods. However, high sodium intake can result in high blood pressure and can lead to stroke, heart disease and heart failure. One trick is to remove the salt shaker from the dinner table and cooking. While cooking, substitute salt with herbs such as basil, bay leaf, dill, rosemary, parsley, sage, dry mustard, nutmeg, thyme and paprika for additional flavor. Pepper, red pepper flakes and cayenne pepper can also add spice to your meals without adding sodium.

7.   Keep Bones Strong
Calcium is important as it builds bone and teeth strength. The best way to include calcium in your diet is to consume three cups of dairy products, per day. If you’re a milk drinker, drink fat-free (skim) or low-fat (1%) milk. If you currently drink whole milk, gradually switch to lower fat versions as the change will reduce the saturated fat and calories consumed but does not reduce the amount of calcium. For cheese lovers, choose a cheese with low in fat. Look for “reduced fat” or “low fat” on the label; however, consume cheese in moderation. When recipes such as dips call for sour cream, substitute it with plain yogurt. You can also use fat-free evaporated milk instead of cream, and low-fat or fat-free ricotta cheese as a substitute for cream cheese.

8.   Add Fiber to Your Meal Plan
Soluble (viscous) fiber helps lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol — or the “bad” cholesterol” that, if high, can lead to a buildup of cholesterol in your arteries. Insoluble fiber aids in laxation and prevents constipation. Try to eat 2-30 grams of total fiber each day, and 5 -10 grams of soluble fiber each day for optimal health. Add fiber to the foods you already eat by adding almonds to your salad or oat bran on cereal. You can find soluble fiber in brussels sprouts, acorn squash, broccoli, cabbage and carrots.

9.   Stay Hydrated
Drinking water maintains the function of every system in your body. Therefore, it’s very important to stay hydrated and to drink approximately 64 ounces of water, per a day (8, 8 ounce cups). If water is too boring, y
ou can add a little bit of excitement and flavor by steeping fresh fruit (grapefruit, strawberries, lemon), veggie slices (cucumber, ginger, celery), and herbs (basil, mint, lavender) in your carafe. The longer you let it steep, the tastier each cup will be. A trick to staying on track is that every time your glass or bottle is empty fill it back up. You're more likely to keep drinking if the glass is full.

10. Preplan Meals
Planning ahead will most definitely help you stay on track. To prepare, sit down once a week and plan a menu for the coming days. This will help you avoid stress by knowing what’s for dinner each night. It will also help you stick to a grocery list and avoid purchasing unhealthy food products. Plus, as an added bonus, you can start to build a recipe book of healthy meal options that can be shared with friends and family too.

For more information about CHS, call 1-855-CHS-4500/1-855-247-4500.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Heart-Health Tips

Although February is American Heart Month, your heart needs TLC every day of the year. Catholic Health Services (CHS) offers free seminars, health screenings and other services to communities across Long Island. For a current list, go to Below are some tips to keep your heart healthy and strong.

Eating Right
  • According to the American Heart Association (AHA), including fruits and vegetables at every meal helps you to get the balanced nutrition that supports good cardiac health.  
  • Look for the AHA Heart-Check Certification symbol when you shop for groceries. This signifies that the product meets the criteria for heart-healthy foods, relating to fat, sodium and other ingredients. 
  • AHA, the National Heart, Lung & Blood Institute (NHLBI) and CHS all offer heart-healthy recipes online for easy reference.

Physical Activity
  • NHLBI recommends at least 2 1/2 hours of exercise each week to get your heart pumping. This regimen can be broken into small amounts each day. Speak to your doctor about what kind of exercise is right for you.  
  • Join CHS and fellow Long Islanders at the annual AHA Heart Walk at Jones Beach each fall. This year’s event is September 15, 2019.

A Healthy Lifestyle
  • NHLBI advises you to “know your numbers” to manage your heart disease risk. Rest for 5 minutes—and avoid caffeine for 30 minutes—before your blood pressure is taken. Your doctor can explain what your results indicate.  
  • As stress can take its toll on your heart, it’s important to periodically do deep breathing.

Did You Know?
  • Chest discomfort, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, nausea and a cold sweat, plus pain or discomfort of the arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach are all possible heart attack symptoms.
  • According to AHA, CPR can double or triple the chance of survival for those experiencing out-of-hospital cardiac arrest.
  • The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention lists an unhealthy diet, inactivity, obesity, excessive alcohol use and tobacco use among the risk factors for heart disease.

All six CHS hospitals perform diagnostics to identify cardiac abnormalities as early as possible. Procedures include coronary computed tomography angiography (CTA), electrocardiagram (EKG), echocardiography (ECHO) and stress tests. As a leading provider of quality services, CHS has expert cardiologists and other specialists on staff, with a world-class cardiothoracic surgical program and minimally invasive Heart Valve Center at St. Francis Hospital serving Nassau County residents and at Good Samaritan Hospital for Suffolk.

For more information call 1-855-CHS-4500.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Valvular Disease and Why You Should Consider TAVR Therapy

Catholic Health Services (CHS) strives to provide its clinicians and patients with the latest in technological advancements, such as trans-catheter techniques such as TAVR. Until recently, the TAVR lifesaving technology was only approved for patients who were too elderly or too ill to undergo open heart surgery. Currently, TAVR is being reviewed for people who are at low risk for surgical complications.

CHS's Executive V.P. and Chief Clinical Officer Patrick M. O’Shaughnessy, DO, MBA, FACEP, CHCQM sat down with CHS’s George Petrossian, MD, director of interventional cardiovascular procedures and co-director of the Heart Valve Center at St. Francis Hospital, The Heart Center®, last spring to discuss the latest advances in managing valvular disease and TAVR.

Dr. O’Shaughnessy: What is aortic stenosis and why is treatment important?

Dr. Petrossian: “Aortic stenosis is a disease affecting one of the main four valves of the heart. The aorta valve separates the left ventricle from the aorta. When the heart pumps, it forces blood out of the aortic valve with no pressure gradient across that valve. As people age, calcification can form on that valve causing restriction of valve opening. This can force a pressure gradient anywhere from 40, 50 or 100 mm of pressure difference between the left ventricle and aorta, causing the heart to struggle to pump blood. Because of natural history studies published in the 1950s, we know a combination of this scenario along with symptoms like shortness of breath, chest pain or fainting can leave patients with up to a 50 percent mortality risk in 2 years. Therefore, surgical therapy has not only been shown to improve symptoms but also to save lives.”

Dr. O’Shaughnessy: Can you explain how a TAVR procedure is conducted?

Dr. Petrossian: “St. Francis began offering TAVR in 2011. As part of that effort, the FDA approved the device for TAVR therapy. When we first started, many of our patients were given general anesthesia. Now, patients are treated with an anesthetic, like valium, so patients are breathing on their own without tubes and are alert at the end of the procedure. Most of the time, if the arteries are large enough, a catheter is placed in the groin, and a new valve is placed inside of the old valve. When that valve expands, it pushes the old valve away. It used to be that in surgery when a surgeon operated they took out the old valve and used sutures under their direct vision to hold the valve in place. With TAVR, there are no sutures. What holds the valve in place is an outward force of the metal. We are taking the calcium that has caused the disease and using it as an anchor.

In short, there is no open incision in the chest. We are now accessing the diseased valve through the groin, then feeding the catheter up and positioning the new valve within the diseased valve to repair the defect.”

Dr. O’Shaughnessy: How many TAVR procedures has St. Francis Performed?

Dr. Petrossian: “Since we began in 2011, we have treated over 1,600 patients. In 2018 alone we performed 485 TAVR procedures. We anticipate that TAVR volumes in the United States will double in the next five years.”

For more information on TAVR, visit or watch “CHS Presents: Health Connect – The Latest Advances in Managing Valvular Disease and TAVR” at

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

The Benefits of Exercise

We all know that good health depends on a certain level of physical activity. The American College of Sports Medicine points out that exercise offers many benefits, including the following:

Exercise improves your mood: It makes you feel happy and relaxed by stimulating chemicals in your brain, reducing feelings of depression and anxiety.
Exercise helps manage weight: Exercising makes it easier to keep your weight under control. To burn 100 calories, most people need to walk or run about one mile.
Exercise promotes better sleep: Who wouldn’t want to fall asleep faster and sleep deeper?
Exercise can be fun: Activities such as dancing or even pushing your child on the swing make exercise enjoyable.

“One of the most important things you can do for your health is to incorporate physical activity and exercise into your daily routine,” commented Laura Beck, MSP, director of Outpatient Rehabilitation at St. Charles Hospital. “The physical, social and psychological benefits are so widespread.  There is no need to make up for years of inactivity overnight. Start slowly and build up gradually. Be creative and try to find activities that you enjoy as you will be more likely to stick with it.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), children should be doing age-appropriate exercise for an hour or more every day, including aerobics, muscle strengthening and bone strengthening. Aerobics—for example brisk walking or running—should account for most of your child’s daily exercise. Gymnastics, push-ups and other muscle-strengthening activities, as well as bone-strengthening exercises such as jumping rope, should be included at least three days a week. For adults, the CDC recommends at least 150 minutes per week of both aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities for good health. It can be broken up into as little as 10 minutes of moderate or vigorous exercise at a time.

To find information on a walking club near you, click here

Please visit or call 1-855-CHS-4500.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Tips to Stay on Your Feet

If you have diabetes or other health issues that could put your feet at risk for injury or wounds, it’s important to pay attention to details. If you notice any difference in their appearance or in the feeling in them from day to day, you should contact your medical doctor or podiatrist. Any issues should be noted and taken seriously.

“You should look for changes in color, swelling of the feet or any type of break or irritation of the skin,” said Mercy Medical Center’s Medical Director of the Center for Hyperbaric Medicine & Wound Healing and Co-Director of St. Joseph Hospital’s Center for Hyperbaric Medicine & Wound Healing John Jackalone, DPM. “You shouldn’t disregard something only to later discover you should've paid closer attention to it.”

Also, shoe fit and type are crucial for anyone with diabetes or other risk factors. Be careful to evaluate your shoes carefully. Use a new pair for a short trial period at home before wearing them for an entire day. Take your shoes off after an hour to examine your feet. If you have no irritation or red spots, it should be safe to wear them for a longer period of time.

Don’t be afraid to take a break from dancing at your nephew’s wedding to sneak off and check your feet. Bring an extra pair of comfortable shoes, just in case you see any areas of concern.

To help you take better care of your feet, CHS offers the following tips:
  • Check your feet daily. Look for blisters, cuts or scratches. Use a long-handled mirror or place a mirror on the floor to see the bottom of your feet. Always check between your toes.
  • Keep your feet clean. Wash daily, dry carefully—especially between your toes.
  • Moisturize your feet. Apply a moisturizer as recommended by your physician, but never apply it between your toes, as that can lead to a fungal infection.
  • Do not walk barefoot. This includes on sandy beaches and in pool/patio areas.
  • Wear properly fitted shoes. Shoes should be comfortable when purchased. Do not wear narrow, pointed toe or high-heeled shoes.
  • Inspect the inside of your shoes daily. Check for foreign objects, tears or rough areas on the inside of the shoe.
  • Do not wear shoes without socks or stockings. Wear clean, properly fitted socks. Cotton or cotton blend socks are recommended.
  • Avoid temperature extremes. Test water temperature with your hand or elbow prior to bathing. Do not soak your feet in hot water or apply a hot water bottle. If your feet feel cold at night, wear socks.
  • Trim your toenails regularly.  Always cut your nails straight across.
  • Do not use over-the-counter remedies for corns. See a podiatrist to have these evaluated.
  • Avoid crossing your legs. This can cause pressure on the nerves and blood vessels, resulting in less blood flow to your feet.

To find a physician, visit

Reference: Restorix Health