Monday, October 1, 2018

Can Aspirin Prevent First-Time Heart Attacks?

Aspirin is often used as a pain reliever for minor aches and to reduce fever. As an anti-inflammatory, it can serve as a blood thinner and is often given to patients immediately after a heart attack to prevent further clot formation and cardiac tissue death.

Many take a low-dose aspirin daily to reduce the chances of another heart attack, stroke or other heart problem, but new studies (U.S./Australia and Europe) indicate that taking daily low-dose aspirin may not prevent a first heart attack.

Kimon Bekelis, MD,
system chairman, neurointerventional services; director, stroke & brain aneurysm center, Good Samaritan Hospital explained. “New studies shed more light on the use of aspirin in the primary prevention of stroke. We still have very strong evidence that aspirin is a great drug to prevent strokes or heart attacks in patients who have already suffered from one. The two studies demonstrate that the jury is still out on using aspirin in patients at moderate risk of stroke or heart attack who haven’t suffered from one already.

In similar patients with diabetes, there appears to be a benefit but the risk of bleeding is significant. More studies are needed to identify the role of aspirin in the primary prevention of stroke or heart attack.”

The jury’s verdict may be pending but there are actions you can take to help lower your risk of first time stroke or heart attack, such as: lowering your blood pressure, losing unhealthy weight, exercising consistently, treating diabetes or quitting smoking. Speak with your primary care physician to discuss your options.

For more information and/or to connect with a CHS doctor call 1-855-CHS-4500 or visit

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

How Do You Know if it’s Allergies, the Cold or the Flu?

As kids and parents settle into their back-to-school routines, fall weather brings allergy, cold and flu season. It can be difficult to tell the difference between the three which often result in people seeking antibiotics, fueling the threat of antibiotic resistance.

Louis Guida, MD, pediatric and pulmonology expert at CHS’s Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center and St. Charles Hospital, explains the difference between allergies, a cold and the flu and why it’s important understand antibiotic resistance.

 “Allergies, the cold and flu will share the following symptoms: sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, cough and fatigue. For allergies, that’s usually where symptoms end,” said Dr. Guida. “It’s important to note, a typically unique symptom to allergies is itchy or watery eyes. Anyone with a cold may also experience minor headaches, mild body aches, and possibly a low fever. In addition to these symptoms, most people with the flu will exhibit a high fever (100-102, sometimes higher especially in young children) for a few days, have a headache, general body aches and sometimes the chills.”

According to the CDC, antibiotics are a type of drug that can kill or stop the growth of bacteria. However, cold and flu are caused by viruses, not bacteria, and allergies are your body’s immune system reacting to an outside trigger such as pollen.

Dr. Guida confirms antibiotics are not meant to treat allergies, the cold or flu. “Antibiotic use contributes to antibiotic resistance. Antibiotics are designed to kill bacteria but sometimes a few bacteria survive, building an immunity to the antibiotic. In this case, the bacteria keeps growing, multiplying and spreading to other people or animals. When it spreads to others, the original antibiotic won’t be able to kill the bacteria.”

Unfortunately, some patients are still being prescribed antibiotics to treat allergy, cold and flu symptoms. According to Dr. Guida, “There’s no one answer as to why this is happening. In some cases, a clinical provider may feel pressure from patients to walk out with a treatment plan that includes a prescription. Or perhaps at the time of the visit the doctor suspects the illness is of bacterial etiology, like bacterial sore throats.”

The next time you or someone in your family is faced with allergy, cold or flu symptoms, Dr. Guida offers the following, “For allergies, avoiding allergens like pollen, house dust, mold and pet dander will help. For colds, make sure to wash your hands often and avoid close contact with people who have a cold. For the flu, be sure to get the flu vaccine each year, wash your hands and avoid close contact with anyone who has the flu.

As for treatment, over-the-counter medications are available to help combat allergy, cold and flu symptoms. If you have allergies look for antihistamines, nasal steroids or decongestants. If you have a cold or the flu it’s important to drink plenty of fluids, get lots of rest and look for aspirin, decongestants, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen.”

If prolonged symptoms occur, consider making an appointment with your primary care doctor to discuss your options.

For more information and/or to connect with a CHS doctor call 1-855-CHS-4500 or visit

Monday, August 27, 2018

Not All Oils Are Created Equal

Last week, a Harvard professor went viral in a video calling coconut oil, “pure poison”. But before you decide to give it up completely, clinical dietitian at The Cancer Institute at CHS’s St. Francis Hospital, Stefani Pappas provides further insight.

Pappas says, “Not all oils are created equal. When we break down the composition of each oil, we get a ratio of fatty acids that include polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, and saturated fats. Over 90 percent of coconut oil is composed of saturated fat! A diet rich in saturated fat has been shown to increase cholesterol levels, especially our LDL or “bad” cholesterol.  Just to put things into perspective, olive oil contains less than 15 percent saturated fat, with over 70 percent of its composition containing healthy monounsaturated fats.

If you enjoy the taste of coconut oil, then using a small amount on occasion will likely not be harmful.

There currently is not enough evidence to support the proposed health benefits of using large amount of coconut oil on a daily basis. Stick to primarily unsaturated oils such as olive oil and avocado oil, and don’t neglect other heart-healthy habits such as following a plant-based diet and physical activity.”

A high cholesterol can lead to an increased risk of heart disease and as Pappas pointed out, there are healthier alternatives. If you choose to continue using coconut oil speak with your physician/dietitian to see what works best for your diet.

*The original video was delivered in German and can be found here.

For more information about CHS 1-855-CHS-4500 or visit

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

In Honor of Breastfeeding Week, CHS Lactation Specialists Offer Tips

Lactation Specialists at Good Samaritan Hospital in West Islip, NY

August 1 kicks off World Breastfeeding week, highlighting the benefits that breastfeeding can bring to the health and welfare of babies and mothers. For babies, this includes improved digestion, a boost in immunity and enhanced mental development. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, babies who are breastfed are less likely to develop infections, diarrhea, allergies, sudden infant death syndrome and diabetes later in life. Mothers benefit too. Breastfeeding stimulates the uterus to contract back to its normal size quicker and there’s reduced bleeding. In addition, more evidence-based research suggests other long-term benefits such as a lower risk of breast/ovarian cancers and Type 2 diabetes.

Four Catholic Health Services hospitals — St. Catherine of Sienna Medical Center, Good Samaritan Hospital, St. Charles Hospital and Mercy Medical Center — continue to raise awareness about the benefits of breastfeeding and provide the resources. At each location, new mothers who choose to breastfeed receive guidance ranging from breastfeeding support groups to meetings with a lactation consultant to educational materials, all helping to promote successful breastfeeding beyond discharge. 

St. Catherine of Siena is a designated Baby-Friendly hospital, meaning it has policies and care practices that meet the gold standard for mother/baby care related to breastfeeding. Newborns, mothers and fathers stay together day and night (also known as rooming in) to promote family bonding, ensuring they have the best chance to bond and encourage breastfeeding as soon as they are ready.

St. Catherine’s Lactation/Perinatal Education Clinical Nurse Specialist Kristin Thayer, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant® (IBCLC), is one of the pioneers of the Baby-Friendly initiative and breastfeeding support. She helps new mothers who intend to breastfeed and addresses a common concern mothers have when exclusively breastfeeding, “is my baby is getting enough to eat?”

She says “A full-term healthy newborn is born with enough reserves, so they do not need to eat very much in the first few days of life. We know they are getting enough to eat if they are urinating and stooling, and they are not losing too much weight. All babies lose some weight in the first few days as their output is greater than their input. More than a 10 percent weight loss is a warning sign, but if the newborn is breastfeeding well and the mother’s milk is coming in, the baby should be fine.Click here for well-fed baby checklist, found on page 8. 

Event: Celebrate World Breastfeeding Week with St. Catherine of Siena; August 7, 11:30 am – 12:30 pm

Good Samaritan Hospital, an International Lactation Consultant Association Award recipient, provides a lactation program five-to-seven days a week for breastfeeding mothers. This includes its free support group called the Breastfeeding CafĂ©, as well as a breastfeeding helpline (631-376-3901) that’s available 24/7.  

Lactation Consultant Rita Ferretti, BS, RN, C-NIC, CBC, IBCLC, recognizes that breastfeeding can be very challenging, especially after moms have been discharged.  She says, “You may be asking yourself, ‘How do I know I am making enough milk?’; ‘How often does my baby need to nurse?’; ‘When do I sleep?’ The questions are endless and can cause you to lose confidence.” But she adds, “Successful breastfeeding is a combination of 10 percent making milk and 90 percent confidence.

The first weeks at home with the baby are crucial as it’s a time to get acquainted with one another and recover from delivery. Rita explains, “After delivery, milk production depends upon stimulation of the breasts from the baby’s suckling and hand expression of the breast milk, but moms should also remember to take care of themselves. It’s important to accept help from friends and relatives when they visit, so new moms can rest their body and mind and reduce stress.”

To support the needs of the mother and infant, all Good Samaritan nurses are trained in breastfeeding. Most hold the credential of Certified Breastfeeding Counselor. Additionally, the Maternal Child Services staff provide lactation support. They offer training in education in perinatal, labor and delivery, maternity and more.

To help parents to prepare for childbirth, St. Charles Hospital offers "Steps to Parenthood" classes that can help ease any fears or anxiety parents might have. Because knowledge of what to expect leads to a positive childbirth experience, these classes give the entire family the opportunity to be involved in the parent-child bonding process. Classes include The Art of Breastfeeding, the free-based, Breastfeeding Mother's Support Group and Newborn Partnering 101, to name a few.

Internationally Board-Certified Lactation Consultant Eileen Lamanna, RN, based at St. Charles, acknowledges that opting to breastfeed is a big decision and assures women who are considering breastfeeding that they will have education and support on every level. At St. Charles, this includes internationally board certified lactation consultants, the more than 40 nurses who are certified breastfeeding counselors and support from other moms in the hospital’s Breastfeeding Support Group.  Eileen says, “These support groups have proven to be successful for moms at St. Charles as they come together to share personal experiences and encourage one another.”

Lamanna also reinforces the benefits of breastfeeding and says, “Breastmilk is natural and provides infants with antibodies that protect them from illness. One drop of colostrum provides your infant with approximately one million antibodies.”

Mercy Medical Center; Rockville Centre, NY
Lactation Consultant Christine Foley at Mercy Medical Center reminds new mothers that breastfeeding doesn’t look the same for all. Newborns, especially Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) babies, might not be able to directly breast feed right after birth, but mothers are still encouraged to provide breastmilk to their babies. Mercy strongly supports mothers who wish to breastfeed by assisting with feeding and/or pumping and providing up to date breastfeeding information.  

Christine says, “Sometimes breastfeeding means that a new mother is pumping and then using a bottle or a syringe to feed her baby, particularly babies in the NICU. The end goal is really for the baby to receive the antibody-rich colostrum – often referred to as “liquid gold” -- in the first days of life, helping protect the baby from bacteria and infections. We are committed to helping new mothers successfully breastfeed while in the hospital and to continue breastfeeding well after discharge from the hospital”.

Christine reminds all new mothers that in most cases a personal use breast pump is available at no cost through one’s medical benefits and many times can be delivered to expectant mothers before the baby arrives.  While in the hospital mothers are able to use the hospital grade breast pumps on the maternity unit.

Mercy Medical Center is home to a Level III NICU, the only such facility on the south shore of Nassau County. This New York state designation signifies that the unit provides specialized complex care to all premature and sick newborn infants. Mercy offers 17 maternity beds, a NICU parent room and a pumping room. Mercy Medical Center also offers a weekly breastfeeding support group free of charge to nursing mothers.

For more information about the breastfeeding services offered at CHS call 1-855-CHS-4500 or visit,

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Tips For Navigating An Easter Buffet

By Stefani Pappas, MS, RDN, CDN, CPT

Easter is a wonderful time to celebrate with friends and family. However, the abundance of food can encourage overeating and overindulging. Learn how to enjoy to keep your health in check and navigate any Easter buffet:

Survey Your Options
When it comes to buffets or family-style eating, it can be tempting to fill your plate with everything offered. Instead, take a minute to scan the buffet or table before placing anything on your plate. Reviewing the options can help you decide which foods to select. Think about those food aren’t available often and add those to your plate instead of wasting calories on items you have access to year-round.  

Fill Half Of Your Plate With Vegetables
Vegetables are packed with heart-healthy fiber and water that fills us up more than processed carbohydrates. Load half of your plate with fresh salad and steamed or roasted vegetables.  They are a fantastic low-calorie, nutrient-rich option that will keep you satisfied throughout the day. When choosing a dish to bring to your Easter feast, volunteer to toss a large salad or vibrant vegetable cruditĂ© to ensure there is a veggie-packed option for all to enjoy.

Remember Your Serving Sizes
You don’t need fancy measuring cups or food scales to determine the appropriate portion size. Instead, just look at your hand! An open palm is equivalent to a serving of about three to four ounces of lean protein such as poultry, fish, shellfish, or beef. A tight fist equals approximately one cup, which should be the limit of cooked pasta, rice, or a medium-sized baked potato. An ounce of cheese is approximately the size of your thumb, and one teaspoon of a high-fat food such as mayonnaise or butter is similar in size to the tip of your thumb. Keep in mind that larger plates may make you midjudge portion sizes and lead to overeating. If you can, try placing your food on a smaller dish such as a salad plate.

Stay Hydrated
Between preparing food for an Easter feast or getting involved in an Easter egg hunt, it is easy to forget about drinking water. Hydration is crucial for regulating body temperature, boosting immunity, aiding metabolism, and assisting in weight management. Be sure to drink lots of fluids before, during, and after any festivities. Drink two glasses of water first thing in the morning, and try to take a few sips of water with your dinner meal. Since you’re want to stay hydrated, be careful with caffeinated and alcoholic beverages which can dehydrate the body. Opt for a water with lemon or naturally-flavored seltzer with your meal.

If you are enjoying an Easter buffet this weekend, now is the perfect time to implement some of these strategies. However, these tips are great for any function.

Stefani Pappas, MS, RDN, CDN, CPT, is a clinical dietitian nutritionist at St. Francis Hospital, The Heart Hospital®.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

February is American Heart Month

Did you know the number one killer in New York is cardiovascular disease?

Physical activity is important to prevent heart disease and stroke. Doing at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise can help improve your health.  For those who would benefit from lowering their blood pressure or cholesterol, the American Heart Association recommends 40 minutes of aerobic exercise of moderate to vigorous intensity 3 to 4 times a week to lower the risks.

The American Heart Association urges all Americans to know the warning signs of a heart attack and stroke and call 9-1-1 immediately if symptoms occur you can also become trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), and support the placement of automated external defibrillators (AEDs) in their communities.

Knowing the warning signs for heart attack, stroke and cardiac arrest can help prevent serious illness. To learn about these signs visit

Watch CHS's Executive Vice President & Chief Clinical Officer Patrick O'Shaughnessy, DO discuss heart disease:

If you need a physician, please visit or call 1-855-CHS-4500.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Tips to Help You Stay Healthy This Flu Season

Flu season is at its peak. According to the New York State Department of Health, flu activity levels are high across New York, and this was the seventh week that widespread activity has been reported.  This past week, we suffered from the highest levels of laboratory-confirmed influenza cases and hospitalizations related to the flu in more than 10 years. In fact, Governor Cuomo has declared a state-wide public health emergency due to the flu. 

Influenza is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses, and people of any age can contract it. Some individuals, including the elderly, young children and those with certain health conditions, are at greater risk for serious flu complications. As many as 49,000 deaths and almost 300,000 hospitalizations in the U.S. are attributed to the flu annually.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends getting vaccinated each year, as soon as the vaccine is available. Flu activity begins in November and can occur as late as May. For information about the 2017-2018 flu season visit:

Here are some additional tips to stop the spread of influenza and other illnesses:
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing
  • If a tissue is not available, cough or sneeze into your arm
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water (or an alcohol-based sanitizer) for at least 20 seconds
  • Stay home from work or school and otherwise avoid contact with others when sick
If you have not yet had the flu vaccine, it is not too late. The CDC recommends vaccinating throughout the flu season, as long as influenza viruses are circulating. “The flu vaccine allows antibodies to develop in the body approximately two weeks after patients receive it,” said Jason Golbin, DO, MBA, MS, system chief quality officer for CHS. “These antibodies help provide protection against infection with the viruses in the vaccine.”

In addition, if you are feeling symptomatic, do not hesitate to see your health care provider promptly. “And don’t forget to wash your hands regularly,” reminds Dr. Golbin. 

Speak to your physician if you are having health issues. Visit to find a doctor near you.