‘Recent News’ Category

Osteoporosis: 6 Things to Know

September 12th, 2014

Image - Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a bone disease that literally translates “porous bone.” If you look at the healthy bone under a microscope, it looks similar to a honeycomb. With osteoporosis, there are larger holes and spaces in between the bone, meaning you’ve lost bone density or mass.  As your bones become less dense, they become weaker and are more likely to break. In seniors, this poses the threat of kyphosis (curving of the spine) and a potentially fatal hip fracture.

1. PREVALENCE:  The National Osteoporosis Foundation estimates about 53 million Americans have osteoporosis. Discovery Health reports that approximately 71% of women with osteoporosis don’t even know they have it, and 86% who have osteoporosis are not being treated.

2. CALCIUM: Young adults should be consuming between 1,000 to 1,200 mg of calcium daily through food, and if needed, supplements to help keep your bones strong. Women 50+ should be getting 1,200 to 1,300 mg of calcium a day. Good sources of calcium include low fat milk, yogurt, and cheese.  Your doctor may prescribe a calcium + vitamin D supplement based on your specific needs.

3. MENOPAUSE Your risk for developing osteoporosis increases after menopause because your body’s natural production of the hormone estrogen declines. Estrogen helps keep bones strong. Because post-menopausal hormone therapy increases the risk for breast cancer, heart attack, stroke, and blood clots, your doctor will discuss if hormone therapy is right for you. Women taking estrogen products are urged to have yearly breast exams, perform monthly breast self-exams and receive periodic mammograms.

4. BONE MASS: Without treatment, women lose as much as 25-30%  in the first five to seven years following menopause.  Bone-loss rates can be slowed by regular weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercises. Activities such as walking, gardening, jogging, and playing tennis help to strengthen bones and connective tissue.

5. BONE DENSITY TEST: A bone density test (dual energy x-ray absorptiometry or DEXA) measures the mineral density in your hip bones and spine to determine your risk of developing osteoporosis. This test takes about 20 minutes and is not usually performed until after menopause, unless you have an unusually high risk for osteoporosis. It is quick, painless and a non-invasive procedure (no needles).

6. PREVENTION & TREATMENT: While there is no cure for osteoporosis, it is treatable. Medications are available to help either slow bone loss or increase the rate of bone formation.  Your doctor can discuss medication options with you, but you can help prevent bone loss and fractures from osteoporosis with proper nutrition, exercise, and by not using tobacco products.

Fast Food Quiz

September 12th, 2014

You’ve heard over and over that you should stay away from fast food, but let’s face it, in today’s busy world, sometimes your choice is skipping a meal or choosing fast food. So that you can learn more about better choices while you’re on the go, we’ve explored menu options at popular fast food restaurants and compared calories, sodium, fat, fiber and breakfast options using the Nutritional Guides on each chain’s website. See if you can guess the right answers.

1.  How many CALORIES do you save if you skip supersizing your meal and drink water instead?

  • 150
  • 350
  • 550


2.  Which item has the most SODIUM content?

  • Bojangles Roasted Chicken Bites
  • Burger King 5-piece Buffalo Chicken Strips with Ranch Sauce
  • Arby’s Chopped Farmhouse Salad with Roast Turkey and Balsamic Vinaigrette


3.  Which Kids’ Meal has the most grams of FAT per serving?

  • Bojangles’ Chicken Leg Kid’s Meal (chicken leg, buttermilk biscuit, individual seasoned fries, kid’s drink)
  • Burger King’s Kid’s Meal (Cheeseburger, value fries, apple juice, cookie)
  • Arby’s Kid’s Meal (Jr. Turkey & Cheese sandwich, kids’ curly fries, Capri Sun)


4.  Which Wendy’s fast food menu item has the highest FIBER content on their menu?

  • Broccoli & Cheese Baked Potato
  • Rich & Meaty Chili (large)
  • Apple Pecan Chicken Salad (before dressing)


5.  Which is the BETTER breakfast option at McDonald’s?

  • Egg McMuffin
  • Fruit & Maple Oatmeal (no brown sugar)
  • Fruit & Yogurt Parfait


If you’d like to know more about healthier options at your favorite restaurants, visit www.HealthDiningFinder.com. You can learn more about healthy dining options including items for those watching their sodium as well as kid-friendly options approved by KidsLiveWell.


FOR ANSWERS, click HERE:   Fast Food Quiz answers

Cholesterol affects more than your heart

August 11th, 2014

Cholesterol affects more than your Heart


It may surprise you to know that cholesterol itself isn’t bad. Cholesterol is just one of the many substances created and used by our bodies to keep us healthy.

About 75% of the cholesterol we need is produced naturally by our liver and other cells in our bodies while the rest comes from the food we eat – more specifically, animal products.

A cholesterol screening measures your level of High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) and Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL).  HDL is a “good” cholesterol which helps keep the LDL cholesterol from getting lodged into your artery walls.  A healthy level of HDL may also protect against heart attack and stroke, while low levels of HDL have been shown to increase the risk of heart disease.  

When too much LDL circulates in the blood, it can clog arteries, increasing your risk of heart attack, stroke and peripheral vascular disease.

LDL cholesterol is produced naturally by the body, but many people inherit the genes that cause the body to make too much LDL from their parents and grandparents. Eating saturated fat, trans fats and dietary cholesterol also increases your LDL levels.

If high blood cholesterol runs in your family, lifestyle modifications may not be enough to help lower your LDL blood cholesterol. Everyone is different, so it’s important to work with your doctor to find a treatment plan that’s best for you.



Atherosclerosis is a disease in which plaque builds up inside your arteries and this usually starts in early adulthood. Arteries are the blood vessels that carry oxygen-rich blood to your heart and other parts of your body.

Plaque is made up of fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances found in the blood. Dr. Vakani says that over time, plaque hardens and narrows your arteries. This limits the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the various organs in your body, including your heart and brain.

Atherosclerosis can lead to serious problems, including heart attack, stroke, or even death; and it can affect any artery in the body, including arteries in the heart, brain, arms, legs, pelvis, and kidneys. As a result, different diseases may develop based on which arteries are affected:


HEART > Coronary Heart Disease
Coronary heart disease (CHD), also called coronary artery disease, is the #1 killer of both men and women in the United States. CHD occurs when plaque builds up in the coronary arteries. These arteries supply oxygen-rich blood to your heart.

Plaque narrows the coronary arteries and reduces blood flow to your heart muscle. Plaque buildup also makes it more likely that blood clots will form in your arteries. Blood clots can partially or completely block blood flow. If blood flow to your heart muscle is reduced or blocked, you may have angina (chest pain or discomfort) or a heart attack.

Plaque also can form in the heart’s smallest arteries. This disease is called coronary microvascular disease (MVD). In coronary MVD, plaque doesn’t cause blockages in the arteries as it does in CHD.

NECK > Carotid Artery Disease
Carotid (ka-ROT-id) artery disease occurs if plaque builds up in the arteries on each side of your neck (the carotid arteries). These arteries supply oxygen-rich blood to your brain. If blood flow to your brain is reduced or blocked, you may have a stroke.

LEGS, ARMS, PELVIS >Peripheral Artery Disease

Peripheral arterial disease (P.A.D.) occurs if plaque builds up in the major arteries that supply oxygen-rich blood to your legs, arms, and pelvis.

If blood flow to these parts of your body is reduced or blocked, you may have numbness, pain, and, sometimes, dangerous infections.

KIDNEY > Chronic Kidney Disease
Chronic kidney disease can occur if plaque builds up in the renal arteries. These arteries supply oxygen-rich blood to your kidneys.

Over time, chronic kidney disease causes a slow loss of kidney function. The main function of the kidneys is to remove waste and extra water from the body.

Are You at Increased Risk?

High levels of bad cholesterol are not the only risk factor that can contribute to plaque buildup. Other risk factors, such as diabetes, family history of early heart disease, high blood pressure, age, obesity, and smoking can also play a role. If you have high cholesterol plus any of these additional risk factors, talk to your doctor about how to keep your cholesterol under control.

Need a cardiologist? Visit our online Find a Physician tool at HarnettHealth.org.

Stroke – a Matter of Minutes

August 11th, 2014


Tick…tick…tick…every second counts if you or a loved one is having a stroke. A few hours can make a big difference between recovery or death. If you think you or someone near you is having a stroke, don’t hesitate to call 911.

“Typically you have about three hours from the time of your first stroke symptom to get treatment to minimize damage to your brain that can cause serious, long-term disabilities,” says Dr. Rajesh Vakani, MD, board certified cardiologist on staff with Harnett Health. “It is best to seek immediate medical help if you think you are having a stroke.”

The National Stroke Association suggests that you remember the word “FAST” to help determine if you or a loved one is having a stroke.

F – Face: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
A – Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
S – Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is their speech slurred or strange?
T – Time: If you observe any of these signs, immediately call 911.

“If you notice one or more of the warning signs of a stroke, make a note of when the symptom(s) begin to tell your healthcare provider,” continues Dr. Vakani. “Knowing when symptoms being will help determine the best course of treatment.”

What is it and what causes it?
A stroke happens when the blood supply to part of your brain is stopped or significantly reduced. This deprives the brain of oxygen and food and within minutes brain cells begin to die.

“There are three main types of stroke: a blocked artery (ischemic stroke), a leaking or burst blood vessel (hemorrhagic stroke), or a temporary disruption of blood flow to the brain (transient ischemic attack),” explains Dr. Vakani.

Ischemic Stroke – 85% of strokes are ischemic strokes. These strokes occur when either a blood clot forms in one of the arteries that supplies blood to your brain or when a blood clot or other debris forms in another part of the body and moves through your bloodstream and becomes lodged in a brain artery.

Hemorrhagic Stroke – This type of stroke happens when a blood vessel in your brain leaks or ruptures.

Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) – This condition if often called a “ministroke” and is usually caused by a temporary decrease in blood supply to part of your brain. TIA mostly last less than five minutes and don’t leave lasting symptoms because the blockage is temporary.



“But even if your symptoms are temporary, you should get emergency care,” cautions Dr. Vakani. “If you experience a TIA, then you likely have a partially blocked artery leading to your brain that puts you at a higher risk for a stroke that can cause permanent damage.”

Risk Factors
Some of the more common risk factors for stroke include:
• High blood pressure
• Cigarette smoking
• Diabetes
• Being overweight or obese
• Obstructive sleep apnea
• Use of some birth control pills or hormone therapies that include estrogen

“If you have any of these risk factors, work with your physician to get them under control or, if possible, eliminate them,” suggests Dr. Vakani. “Other risk factors that are out of your control include family history, being 55 or older, race, gender, or history of preeclampsia.”

Diagnosis and Treatment
To determine your treatment for stroke, your doctor may use a variety of methods to determine the type of stroke and to rule out other possible causes of your symptoms. Most likely, a physical exam will be conducted along with blood tests. Your doctor will then decide if other tests are needed like an MRI, CT scan, carotid ultrasound, cerebral angiogram, or echocardiogram.

“The findings of the tests will give your physician the information needed to plan your course of treatment,” says Dr. Vakani. “It is crucial that you follow your doctor’s orders so that you recover as fully as possible and help prevent any other occurrences.”

Dr. Vakani continues, “There are several emergency treatment methods dependant on the type of stroke you experience. For instance, if you have an ischemic stroke, quick treatment within 4.5 hours with clot-busting drugs (thrombolytics) improves the chances of survival and may reduce any complications from the stroke.”

After emergency treatment, the next step is to help you recover as much function possible. Most stroke patients will need intensive therapy in a rehabilitation program. Your healthcare providers will prescribe a regimen of therapy that takes into consideration your lifestyle, age, overall health and degree of disability. Depending on your needs, you may stay in the hospital for therapy, be transferred to a skilled nursing or rehabilitation facility, or have therapy in your home.

“According to The National Stroke Association, stroke touches approximately 795,000 people a year in the U.S. and only four percent of patients are appropriately treated,” says Dr. Vakani. “Always play it safe and get immediate medical attention if you think a stroke is in progress. It could save your life.”

Need a cardiologist? Visit our online Find a Physician tool at HarnettHealth.org.