Video: Staying Active Improves Health for Seniors

Not only does regular exercise help seniors maintain healthy bones, muscles, and joints and reduce their risk of falling, but it also can help ease the aches and pains that come with aging. Moderately intense activities like walking, swimming and water aerobics are all great choices for seniors—as is rowing, as seen in the video below. (Make sure to check with your doctor before beginning any exercise regime.)

Staying Active Improves Health for Seniors

Courageous Young Patients Inspire Healthcare Providers

Beating Liver Disease

Every superhero has a vulnerability, like Kryptonite for Superman. Yet character and courage allow him or her to overcome that weakness (and triumph over evil and injustice).

You might say that’s also true for 5-year old Ryan Ackerman,* one of the extraordinary superheroes at General Hospital for Children. Born with a severe liver malfunction, Ryan has been through major surgery, seven outpatient procedures and countless visits to physicians and surgeons. Yet Ryan has demonstrated heroic strength in fighting both illness and discouragement.

What’s his secret weapon? “I’m brave,” he says.

Each year, nearly 25,000 young superheroes make their way through General Hospital for Children. For some, it’s a straightforward visit, such as a checkup or an immunization update. Other children face daunting challenges, such as a cleft palate, a damaged heart or a liver in need of transplant. Designed to make children—and their parents—feel safe and welcome, the hospital has a specialized emergency department and the region’s only Level III neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), which offers comprehensive care across all specialties and subspecialties for critically ill newborns.

“You can sense the difference the minute you walk off the elevator at General Hospital for Children,” says Henry Leavitt, medical director of pediatrics.

“Immediately, you are greeted by friendly nurses who put you right at ease. You’re in a caring environment with colorful artwork on the walls, and the comfortable rooms accommodate family members who want to spend the night with their child. And we have a playroom staffed by child-life specialists. But what really stands out is the quality care we give our patients. The depth and breadth of care we provide to babies, children and adolescents is second to none.”

Ryan agrees. “They take care of you and make you feel safe,” he says.

Ryan’s medical obstacles began just weeks after birth, when his mother, Lisa Ackerman, grew concerned about her newborn’s fussy behavior. Though friends assured her it was probably colic, Lisa sensed something more serious was wrong. She took Ryan to pediatrician Heather Bailey, MD, and asked her to take another look.

“I discovered that Ryan had an enlarged liver due to an abnormality in the bile ducts,” Dr. Bailey recalls. “He needed immediate surgery in order to survive.”

A cyst in the bile ducts had caused bile to back up and poison Ryan’s liver.

Pediatric surgeon Lester D’Arcy, MD, performed emergency surgery to unblock the bile ducts, but Ryan was left with permanent cirrhosis of the liver. Dr. D’Arcy thought a liver transplant might be needed, but Ryan made such a strong recovery that he has been able to put off that surgery for the time being. Today, Ryan lives a mostly normal life, attending kindergarten, playing with his favorite toys and entertaining his new baby brother. Yet his damaged liver occasionally brings him back to General Hospital for Children for further treatment.

“Ryan’s condition creates veins in the esophagus and spleen that become enlarged and bleed. These occasionally need to be banded to stop the bleeding,” Dr. D’Arcy explains. “Additionally, the enlarged spleen creates problems with immunity and can put Ryan at risk of infection. So we carefully monitor his liver function to make sure he is not at risk for serious complications.”

Lisa says the frequent trips to the hospital can be trying. But the compassionate physicians and nurses know when to let Ryan have some control over his care. In one case, Ryan told the nurses that he was afraid of the tape used to secure the IV to his hand because it hurt when they removed it. He promised he would not bother the IV if they would skip using the tape. The nurses offered a compromise: They would use less tape and then bandage his arm in stretchy blue athletic wrap. Ryan agreed, and the procedure moved forward tearlessly.

“The energy our patients put into getting better and the trust they place in us are inspiring,” Dr. D’Arcy says. “That’s why these kids are true superheroes.”

“Everyone has always been so kind and caring,” Lisa says.

Although patients and family members often express their appreciation to the men and women who care for them, the physicians and nurses say it’s the children themselves who are truly extraordinary.


*Based on a true story. Names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of certain individuals.

Make Your Own Chicken Masala Wrap

Follow this simple recipe to prepare a healthy yet delicious Indian dish. These low-fat, high-protein wraps are bursting with flavor from fresh veggies and spices. Pair with fresh mango and a cucumber yogurt condiment known as raita.

• 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
• 1 sweet potato, peeled
• 2 red, yellow, green or orange bell peppers, seeded and sliced
• 1 medium tomato, chopped
• 1 sweet onion, sliced
• 1/2 teaspoon ginger paste (or 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger)
• 1/3 tablespoon garlic paste (or 1 clove garlic, minced)
• 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper (or paprika)
• 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
• 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• 1/4 cup water
• 4 medium grilled or cooked boneless, skinless chicken breasts, thinly sliced
• 1 cup plain nonfat yogurt
• 1/3 medium cucumber, peeled and grated
• 1 cup chopped lettuce
• 4 whole-wheat tortillas (or flatbread, warmed)
• Fresh mint leaves for garnish (optional)
• 1 cup fresh mango slices (optional)

In a medium saute pan over moderate heat, warm the oil. Add the sweet potato, bell peppers, tomato, onion, ginger, garlic, crushed red pepper, cumin, cinnamon, turmeric, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper, and cook until slightly tender, about 10 minutes.

Add 3 tablespoons water and chicken, and continue to cook for several more minutes.

In a medium bowl, make the raita by stirring together the yogurt, cucumber and the remaining 1 tablespoon water. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper, and garnish with fresh mint leaves.
Place lettuce and a scoop of chicken masala mixture in the center of each tortilla or roll. Add a spoonful of the raita to each wrap, or serve it on the side, along with fresh mango slices.

Number of servings: 4
Each serving provides:
Calories: 330
Total fat: 8 g
Saturated fat: 1 g
Cholesterol: 73 mg
Sodium: 415 mg
Total carbohydrates: 42 g
Fiber: 6 g
Sugar: 12 g
Protein: 21 g
Calcium: 180 mg

Generous Support for Expanded Breast Cancer Services

On March 14, the General Hospital Breast Health Center opened its doors to provide patients with a new, centralized location for all breast health services, including imaging, treatment, genetic counseling, surgery and follow-up.

This new facility was supported by funds raised at last November’s second annual Celebrate General Hospital Gala to benefit General Hospital’s nationally recognized comprehensive cancer services. The record $1.4 million raised has also helped fund the purchase of advanced, lifesaving technology with the addition of three new 3-D mammography screening units and two new surgical robots.

“Donor support truly makes a significant difference in the lives of our cancer patients,” says Carly Benson, executive director of cancer services. “We have already treated patients whose breast cancer would not have been detected without the breakthrough 3-D mammography technology. And the surgical robots enable our physicians to operate on patients more precisely and efficiently than ever before, so we’re seeing even more positive outcomes, faster recovery and better quality of life.”

“It’s really exciting to have the most advanced imaging technology available,” says Renate Dell, supervisor of outpatient imaging. “And now the added convenience of having all of our breast health services in one location makes it even easier for our patients to get highly accurate mammograms, along with other additional services they might need.”

The Truth About Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the country. About 6 million Americans get diagnosed every year. It’s also one of the easiest to prevent. To help you and your family stay safe, here’s the facts behind the most common skin myths.

Myth: All sunscreen is pretty much the same, and using high SPF (over 30) makes no difference.

Truth: SPF 30 blocks about 97 percent of UVB rays, while SPF 50 blocks about 98 percent. So anything with SPF 30 or higher is fine. What’s more important is using it properly by applying a liberal amount to all exposed areas of skin and reapplying at least every couple of hours.

Myth: People don’t need to worry about sun protection on overcast days or while driving.

Truth: It’s especially important to wear sun protection on cloudy days because you may get burned without noticing it. The same is true in the car because the side windows don’t block UVA rays (the front windshield does). While driving, wear sunscreen on your arms and face so you don’t get skin damage over time without realizing it.

Myth: Tanning beds offer a safe alternative to sunbathing.

Truth: Tanning beds are not safe. If you’re getting tan, you’re doing damage regardless of the light source. Artificial tanning products like sprays and lotions do provide safe tanning alternatives, but they don’t offer any protection from sun exposure.

Myth: Skin cancer affects only older people, so kids and teenagers don’t have to worry about sun protection.

Truth: Skin cancer results—in part—from cumulative sun exposure throughout your life. On average, people get 80 percent of their lifetime sun exposure during their youth, so it’s especially important for young people to use sun protection to reduce their risk later in life.

Myth: Skin cancer is easily removed and not a big deal.

Truth: The most common skin cancers are basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas, which spread only locally. These can be removed without lasting risk, but removal may cause disfigurement depending on the size and location of the cancer. Melanoma, on the other hand, is aggressive, deadly and very hard to remove or treat once it metastasizes.

From the desk of Harry Dorset, MD, General Hospital chief medical officer.

Game-Changing Cardiovascular Care

Susan Bass* felt tired. She frequently found herself out of breath, even while taking a leisurely walk around her neighborhood. “I thought I was just getting old,” she says, “but Dr. Shang assured me it was something else.”

Noninvasive cardiologist Paul Shang, MD, informed Susan that the mitral valve in her heart was leaking— reducing the ability of her heart to pump blood efficiently. Traditionally, her valve would be repaired through open-heart surgery, but for 80-year-old Susan, the surgery itself could have been life-threatening.

Fortunately, Dr. Shang and a team of cardiovascular physicians at General Hospital had just started performing a new, minimally invasive procedure called MitraClip, in which a thin tube, or catheter, holding a tiny clip is fed from a small incision in the leg or groin up through a blood vessel and into the heart, then positioned to seal off the leaky valve. After the procedure, patients often feel reinvigorated and re-energized.


Susan has certainly been putting her newfound energy to good use. She recently rode in a blimp, zip-lined in Colorado and parasailed in Lake Tahoe. She even achieved an item on her bucket list: taking part in a ride-along with the police department. In addition to cruising in a police car, Susan was schooled on firing an assault rifle and subduing an attacker (with a mannequin as a stand-in); she even caught a speeding motorist using a radar gun.

Since having the MitraClip procedure, Susan has made occasional gifts to support General Hospital in honor of her cardiologist. “I just give what I can, when I can,” she says. “General Hospital has always been my hospital, and I wouldn’t be here now without Dr. Shang. I can’t thank everyone enough!”


*Based on a true story. Names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of certain individuals.


Nutrition Myths vs. Reality

Nutrition Myths vs. Reality
Nutrition Myths vs. Reality
Nutrition Myths vs. Reality
Nutrition Myths vs. Reality

There are a lot of false stories about nutrition. Eat right by learning the truth of the matter.

Myth: Eggs are bad for your heart.
Reality: The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee dropped its caution on eating eggs and other foods high in cholesterol in 2015; it also rescinded its previous recommendation of limiting cholesterol intake to 300 mg daily. A 2015 study in the American Heart Journal found that even people with coronary artery disease showed no cardiac effect from daily egg consumption.

Myth: Eating carbohydrates leads to weight gain.
Reality: Calories, not carbs, lead to excess pounds, but some carbohydrates are better for you than others. Skip foods with refined flour and added sugar, and focus on fiber-rich fruits and vegetables and whole grains.

Myth: Fresh food is always better than frozen.
Reality: While fresh is great if you can buy from local sources, frozen fruits and vegetables are a good alternative to standards found in the grocery store produce aisle since they are flash-frozen at their peak freshness after harvesting. They retain more nutrients than produce that has been picked before it is ripe.

Myth: Everyone should go gluten-free.
Reality: Dropping gluten (a protein in wheat, barley and rye) has become a popular dietary trend in recent years. But unless you suffer from celiac disease or have gluten sensitivity, eliminating food such as whole-grain breads and cereals can reduce needed nutrients and dietary fiber. Additionally, commercially produced gluten-free products often have extra sugar, sodium or fats to make up for the often inferior quality of taste.

Myth: Eating late at night will lead to extra pounds.
Reality: What you eat is more important than when you eat it. Late-night snackers tend to go for comfort items such as sweets or chips. Instead, nibble on fruits, vegetables or even Greek yogurt. A recent study in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise found that eating protein a half-hour before going to bed helps protein synthesis, rebuilding muscle tissue and promoting muscle growth.

An Extraordinary Young Girl Helps Pediatric Patients in Need

When Katie Aris*, nine years old, decided she wanted to help sick children, she started a collection. She asked family and friends to donate spare change, which she saved all year before giving the money to General Hospital. “I wanted to help kids because helping others is the right thing to do,” Katie says.

“She selflessly saved her money and came to the hospital to personally deliver her heartfelt donation,” says Pam Lang, director of development with General Hospital’s Department of Philanthropy. “It was inspiring to see this quality at such a young age.”

Katie’s mother, Kelsey Aris, says her daughter has always been deeply compassionate. “I was sick with Hodgkin’s lymphoma and lost all my hair,” Kelsey says. “I would sleep on the bathroom floor and she would pat my back and sleep on the floor next to me.”

In addition to collecting money, Katie has never had a haircut. She’s growing it out to donate to Locks of Love and help children who have lost their own hair to cancer. “I want to be a doctor when I grow up and thought it would be good to start helping now,” Katie says. “If we all helped each other, this world would be better.”

*Based on a true story. Names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of certain individuals.

How to Manage Your Diabetes: A Check List

Diabetes is growing at an epidemic rate in the U.S.A. According to the CDC, 30.3 million Americans are living with diabetes, while another 84.1 million have prediabetes, which usually leads to diabetes within five years.

There are many steps diabetics can take to manage the disease. For instance, coming up with a yearly checklist of tests and questions to go over with a doctor helps ensure any problems are found and treated early. If you have diabetes, you should ask your doctor about the following steps:

✓ A cholesterol test. With diabetes, you have a greater chance of getting heart
disease. Knowing and controlling your levels of “bad” cholesterol can help prevent heart disease.

✓ A complete foot exam. Annual foot exams help doctors check for neuropathy
(nerve damage), something about half of all diabetics have.

✓ A dental exam. Those with diabetes have greater risk of developing gum disease, tooth decay and other problems related to oral health. Tell dental professionals that you have diabetes, so they know what to look for.

✓ A dilated eye exam. An eye care specialist will temporarily enlarge your pupils to see more easily inside your eye. Because diabetes is the leading cause of preventable new-onset blindness in adults, getting this exam yearly is important.

✓ Urine and blood tests. Diabetes is the most common cause of kidney failure; make sure to get annual blood and urine tests to confirm your kidneys are in a good state of health.

Consult with your doctor about any other tests or exams he or she believes you should undergo, and keep track of what you have done each year.

To find out more about diabetes and diabetes management, click here.

An Inspiring Young Advocate for Organ Donation

General Hospital’s Multi-Organ Transplant Institute is one of the nation’s leading transplant centers. Since its inception, the General Hospital Multi-Organ Transplant Institute has performed more than 6,000 lifesaving transplants.

Robbie Jacobs* Knows This

“It takes lives to save lives,” said 14-year-old Robbie Jacobs* during a segment on Good Morning America. “That means if people go out and donate anything like blood, organ, kidneys or liver, then they can save somebody else’s life.”

The topic of organ donation is all too familiar to Jacobs. Diagnosed at an early age with biliary atresia, a rare chronic liver disease in which one or more bile ducts are abnormally narrow, blocked or missing, he had a liver transplant when he was 1 year old and is currently on the waiting list for another.

Despite everything, Jacobs hasn’t allowed his illness to hold him back. When Passena Panthers players visited General Hospital for Children a year ago, Jacobs impressed them with his constructive criticism and great attitude; he began attending their practices, where he soon became known as the team’s “hype man”.

Jacobs was even invited on Good Morning America, where Panthers coach Paul Sante presented him with a contract making him an honorary Panther. Sante also invited Jacobs and his family to join the team for that weekend’s game and act as their guest social media correspondent.

“We love having Robbie out here. He’s such an inspirational young man,” says quarterback Brent Darren. “His strength, his attitude—he’s welcome out here anytime. We love him.”

Jacobs is taking advantage of his football fame to promote organ donation.

With more than 120,000 people on the waiting list for a new organ nationwide, organ donation is a pressing need. Children are especially at a disadvantage, due to the shortage of pediatric donors. Just one donor can save up to nine people’s lives.

Register today to become an organ donor here.


*Based on a true story. Names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of certain individuals.