Cholesterol…The Good, the bad and . . .

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found your body and has several useful functions, including helping to build your body’s cells. Your cholesterol levels are an important measure of good heart health. Too much LDL, or Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, can build up within the walls of your blood vessels and narrow the passageways. Sometimes a clot can form and get stuck in the narrowed space, causing a heart attack or stroke. That is why LDL is known as the “bad” cholesterol.

People who have naturally higher levels of high-density level lipoprotein cholesterol, or HDL, are at a lower risk for heart attack and stroke. HDL picks up excess bad cholesterol in your blood and takes it back to your liver where it’s broken down and removed from your body. That is why HDL is known as the “good” cholesterol. Ideally, you want higher levels of HDL, and lower levels of LDL.

High cholesterol can develop in early childhood and adolescence, and your risk increases as your weight increases. More than 102 million American adults have a total cholesterol level at or above 240 mg/dl, which puts them at risk for heart disease. A desirable, TOTAL cholesterol level would be less than 170mg/dl, with the LDL (bad) cholesterol level being less than 110 mg/dl, and the HDL (good) cholesterol being 35 mg/dl or higher.

Lifestyle changes known to increase HDL, such as moving more, quitting smoking or improving your diet, have been shown to lower the risk of heart attacks. Besides helping you lose weight, increased physical activity can lower your triglycerides, the most common type of fat in your body, while increasing your HDL levels. Benefits can be seen with as little as 60 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise a week. Adjusting your diet to avoid trans fats, which increase LDL levels is also important. Foods prepared with shortening, such as cakes and cookies, often contain trans fats, as do most fried foods and some margarines. Limit saturated fat, found in meats and full-fat dairy products, as well. Eat more fresh fruits, fresh vegetables and whole grains as these foods help control cholesterol levels. *See list below for cholesterol lowering foods.

The National Cholesterol Education Program recommends that adults aged 20 years or older have their cholesterol checked every 5 years. Your doctor can advise you if you need to have your cholesterol levels checked more often.

*Some foods that can lower cholesterol:

Legumes, avocados, nuts (especially almonds and walnuts), fatty fish (such as salmon and mackerel), whole grains (especially oats and barley), fruits and berries, dark chocolate and cocoa, garlic, vegetables, and extra virgin olive oil.

November is Alzheimer Awareness Month

Memory loss that disrupts daily life may be a symptom of Alzheimer’s or other dementia.  Alzheimer’s is a brain disease that causes a slow decline in memory, thinking, and reasoning skills  Here are 10 warning signs:

1.Memory loss that disrupts daily life

One of the most common signs of the disease, especially in the early stage, is forgetting recently learned information, or forgetting important dates or events.  Some people ask for the same information over and over again, or have to rely more and more on reminder notes.

What’s a typical age-related change?

Sometimes forgetting names or appointments but remembering them later.

  1. Challenges in planning or solving problems. 

Some people experience changes in their ability to follow a plan or work with numbers.  They may have trouble following a familiar recipe or keeping track of monthly bills. They find it difficult to concentrate and take much longer to do things than they did before.

What’s a typical age related problem?

Making occasional errors when balancing a checkbook.

  1. Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home or at work.

Sometimes, people have trouble driving to a familiar location, managing a budget or remembering the rules of a favorite game.

What’s a typical age-related problem?

Occasionally needing help to use the settings on a microwave or to record a television show.

  1. Confusion with time or place

People with Alzheimer’s can lose track of dates, seasons and the passage of time. Sometimes they forget where they are or how they got there.

What’s a typical age-related problem?

Forgetting what day of the week it is, but figuring it out later.

  1. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships

For some people, having vision problems is a sign of Alzheimer’s.  They may have difficulty judging distance and determining color or contrast, which may cause problems with driving.

What’s a typical age-relate problem?

Vision changes related to cataracts.

  1. New problems with words in speaking or writing

People with Alzheimer’s may have trouble following or joining a conversation. They may stop in the middle of a conversation and have no idea how to continue.  They may struggle with vocabulary or have trouble finding the right word.  (like calling a watch a “hand-clock)

What’s a typical age-related problem?

Sometimes having trouble finding the right word.

Eat Right for Your Sight

It wasn’t just your mother telling you to eat carrots for better vision. People have known for centuries that certain foods can be good for your eyesight, including 16th Century Spanish explorers who carried chili peppers on voyages to help with night vision. Your mom and the explorers were smart: those chili peppers contained beta-carotene, vitamins C, E and B6, and folic acid, and the carrots had carotenoids and antioxidants. A diet rich in these nutrients may reduce the risk of developing macular degeneration and slow the progression of the disease in those already diagnosed. The easy part of eating for eye health is learning which kinds of foods are best, foods like salmon, eggs, corn, blueberries, peppers, and leafy green vegetables. 


Age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, is a common eye condition and a leading cause of vision loss among people age 50 or older.  It causes damage to the macula, a small spot near the center of the retina and the part of the eye needed for sharp, central vision, which lets us see objects that are straight ahead.  In some cases, the disease advances slowly and vision loss does not occur for a long time.  In others, the disease progresses faster and may lead to loss of vision in one or both eyes. Age is a major risk factor for AMD.  Other risk factors include:

  • Smoking-smoking more than doubles the risk
  • Race-AMD is more common among Caucasians than African-
  • Americans or Hispanics
  • Family history and genetics-People with family history are at a higher risk

Lifestyle does make a difference.  Avoid smoking, exercise regularly, maintain normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and eat a healthy diet rich in green, leafy vegetables and fish.


Researchers at the National Eye Institute tested whether taking nutritional supplements could protect against AMD.  They found that daily intake of certain high-dose vitamins and mineral can slow progression of the disease in people who have intermediate AMD, and those who have late AMD in one eye.  Studies showed that a combination of vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, zinc, and copper can reduce the risk of late AMD by 25%. Other supplements help as well. The list published by the National Institute of Health includes:

500 milligrams of vitamin C

400 international units of vitamin E

80 milligrams of zinc as zinc oxide

2 milligrams of copper as cupric oxide

10 mg lutein and 2 mg zeaxanthin


March is National Colon Cancer Awareness Month

  • It is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death.
  • Colorectal cancer affects men and women equally, and people of all races and nationalities.
  • Anyone can get colorectal cancer.
  • The lifetime risk of being diagnosed with colorectal cancer is about one in 20.
  • The 5-year relative survival rate for Stage 1 and Stage II colon cancer was 90%; the 5-year survival rate for patients diagnosed at Stage III was 70% and Stage IV was 12%.
  • Colorectal cancer usually develops slowly over a period of 10 to 15 years.
  • Colorectal cancer rates in the US vary widely by geographic area. Contributing factors include regional variations in risk factors and access to screening and treatment.
  • Compared to whites, all other racial/ethnic groups are less likely to have colorectal cancer found in the early stages.
  • Colorectal cancer incidence rates have been declining in the US since the mid-1980s, due to increased awareness and screening.
  • Often, those who are diagnosed with colon cancer have experienced no signs or symptoms associated with the disease.
  • Currently, only about two-thirds of people aged 50 or older, for whom screening is recommended, report having received colorectal cancer testing consistent with current guidelines.
  • While most people diagnosed with colon cancer have no family history of the disease, those with a family history of the disease should begin screening at an earlier age.
  • People with a parent, sibling, or offspring with colorectal cancer have 2 or 3 times the risk of developing colon cancer compared to those with no family history of the disease.

When a relative is diagnosed at a young age or if there is more than one affected relative, the risk of developing colorectal cancer increases to three to six times that of the general population.

  • The risk of colorectal cancer increases with age; 91% of cases are diagnosed in individuals 50 years of age and older.
  • While rates of colon cancer have been declining among adults 50 years and older, incidence of colorectal cancer is increasing among adults under age 50.
  • Between 1998 and 2007 colorectal cancer cases have dropped steadily in adults over 50, but they increased by more than 2% each year in younger adults – as much as 4% for rectal cancers, and 3% for colon cancer.
  • Younger adults were more likely than older adults to be diagnosed with late-stage cancers.
  • People in their 30s were about 30% more likely than other age groups to be diagnosed with cancers in stage III or IV.

About 72% of cases of colorectal cancer in young people arise in the colon and about 28% in the rectum.
According to the American Cancer Society, men and women should begin screening for colon cancer at age 50.

For more information follow this link:


New Medicare Cards Coming in 2018

58 million Medicare beneficiaries will receive new Medicare cards beginning April 2018.  CMS hopes to have all of the cards mailed by April 2019.  You do not need to do anything to have the card mailed to you.  As long as Medicare and Social Security have your current address, the card will automatically be mailed to you.   Don’t be concerned if you don’t receive your card the same time as your spouse or your neighbor receives their card.   The new cards will have a new Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI) and will consist of 11 letters and numbers, which are “non-intelligent, “ meaning they have no connection to any personal information about you, such as date of birth or where you were born, etc.   It is hoped that assigning beneficiaries a new random number will help alleviate identity theft and Medicare fraud.

It is important to note that your coverage or benefits will not change and that your Medigap (supplemental) insurance will not be affected.

As is expected, scams relating to the new card are already surfacing.  According to the Justice Department, the number of identity theft cases for people over 65 was 2.6 million in 2014.  Each year, the numbers go up.  Here are three common tactics scammers are  using:

Rip-off artists call beneficiaries and tell them they can speed up the process of receiving a new card so the Medicare recipient won’t have any trouble when they go to a doctor’s office or hospital.  Scammers then ask the beneficiary for their personal information, such as bank account number, social security numbers, etc.  (Your old Medicare number will be good until December 31st, 2019, and you won’t be denied services because you don’t have your new card.)

You get a phone call saying that you will receive your new card as soon as you pay.  Hang up!  The new card is free.

Scammers pretending to be from CMS call you and say they don’t have the correct information on you and need it to mail you the new card.  You’re told you will lose benefits if you don’t give the information.


For questions about Medicare-related subjects, call the local SHIBA agent, Kim Hulme at 208.847.0949.


Bear Lake Memorial’s Weight Loss Program

Many struggle with carrying excess weight. It can affect everything in one’s life. . .  from sleeping, to mobility, preventing quality time with family and more. The daily stresses one faces can take you down a path of bad habits, hopelessness, and giving up on ourselves. Bear Lake Memorial Hospital recently added a weight loss program to assist community members with reaching their weight loss goals.

According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention over 2/3 of Americans are considered overweight or obese. Obesity can contribute to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease and/or Stroke, gallbladder disease, joint issues, sleep apnea and breathing problems, and even mental illness (clinical depression, anxiety, etc.)


The weight loss program is designed to support individuals in the creating a lifestyle of health through consults with physical therapy, counseling services, and dietician support. There are also surgical options that greatly increase the chance of long-term weight loss. With a 70% success rate the Gastric Sleeve surgery, performed by Board Certified Surgeon Joseph Podany, is available through most insurances but can be paid privately if needed.  The national cost for Gastric Sleeve surgery is around $12,600. The Sleeve is a permanent alteration to the stomach, which means part of it is removed completely. With that removal the hormones that produce the feeling of hunger are reduced as well.

To get started on the process, attending a free FREE Weight Loss Seminar to introduce you to the process and answer any preliminary question. The next seminar will be held on January 15th.but additional seminars are held bi-monthly. Register by calling 208-847-1110. Then there is a FREE follow up consult appointment where the patient’s health history will be reviewed and assess their eligibility for surgery. A membership to Absolute Fitness Center will be available for six months during the program. They will also go through a goal-setting session with the program coordinator. Every surgeon and facility has a slightly different approach to the weight loss surgery process but the end result speaks volumes to the impact and increased quality of the patient’s health and life.


The lifestyle consults and program coordinator is with the patient every step of the way. Success is possible and Bear Lake Memorial Hospital hopes to be there for you and your weight loss needs.

Caregiver Stress

Caregiver Stress

Caring for an older person can be rewarding, but also demanding, difficult, and very stressful.  The caregiver may need to be available around the clock to fix meals, provide nursing care, take care of laundry and cleaning, drive to doctor’s appointments, and pay bills.  Oftentimes, caregivers must give up their own employment to take care of these responsibilities or squeeze them in between employment and other family obligations.

It can be difficult to keep a positive outlook when there’s little hope of the older person’s physical and mental condition improving.  Over time, the demands and stress of caregiving can take their toll.  Anger, resentment, and spiraling emotions can be the result of caregiver stress.

If you are a caregiver, make sure you have time to rest and take care of your needs.  You can ask a family member or friend to help out for a weekend, or even for a few hours, so that you can take some time for yourself.  Some community service organizations provide caregivers a break, called respite care.  In other communities, such as our own, the assisted living center will do daycare for the elderly.

Steps can be taken to help relieve caregiver stress such as: getting outdoors, getting enough sleep, taking time or yourself, reading, meditating, and asking for help.

Resources for caregivers:      (Alzheimer’s Association)  (the government site for caregivers)  (provides support for spousal caregivers)

Visit your local SHIP (SHIBA in Idaho) counselor for one-on-one insurance counseling and Medicare information:  Kim Hulme 208.847.0949



Skin Health– What can I do?

When it comes to our skin, many of us are more concerned with wrinkles, sun spots (also called liver spots), and other signs of aging than skin cancer. But skin cancer is a serious concern. It is the most common form of cancer in the United States. Research indicates that 40 to 50 percent of Americans who live to age 65 will have skin

cancer at least once. Luckily, it’s easy to manage concerns about signs of aging and skin cancer at the same time. The best way to prevent signs of  aging is also the best way to prevent skin cancer:
Protect yourself from the sun.

But what about promises of instant youth in a jar? Experts say that over-the-counter creams and lotions can help ease dry skin — which is more common as you age — but they can’t turn back time. Prescription creams, chemical peels, laser treatments, Botox, and other cosmetic procedures are being used to treat sun spots, wrinkles, and other signs of aging. But results vary and some treatments remain unproven. These treatments also don’t prevent further damage.

So for now, to ward off future signs of aging and lower your risk of skin cancer:

  • Avoid the sun when its rays are strongest between 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
  • Use a sunscreen that has a high SPF number (15 or higher).


Sunscreen should also protect your skin from both UVA and UVB rays. Experts recommend using sunscreen daily, year-round — especially on your face.

If you’re out in the sun for a long time, protect your ears and scalp with a hat. For extra body protection, wear lightweight long-sleeved shirts and pants.

Checking your skin regularly is a good idea. Tell your doctor right away about skin changes, such as new growths, sores that don’t heal, or changes in the size, shape, color, or feel of an existing mole. Skin changes are not always cancer. But you should have a doctor check out a skin change to be sure. Many types of skin cancer can be cured if found and treated early.


Are Supplements for You?

More than half of all Americans take one or more dietary supplements daily or on occasion. Supplements are available without a prescription and can come in a pill, powder or liquid form.   People take these supplements to make sure they get enough essential nutrients and to improve their health.  But not everyone needs to take supplements.  “It’s possible to get all of the nutrients you need by eating a variety of healthy foods,” says Carol Haggans, a registered dietician. “But supplements can be useful for filling in the gaps in your diet.”

Some supplements may have side effects, especially if taken before surgery or with other medicines.  Supplements can also cause problems if you have certain health conditions.  You should discuss the supplements you are taking with your doctor.

While manufacturers cannot claim that supplements can cure, treat or prevent disease, there is evidence to suggest that taking certain supplements can enhance health in different ways.  The most popular nutrient supplements are multivitamins, calcium and vitamins B, C, and D.  Calcium support bone health, and vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium.  Vitamins C and E are antioxidants—molecules that prevent cell damage and help to maintain health.

Vitamin B12 keeps nerve and blood cells healthy.  Vitamin B12 mostly comes from meat, fish, and dairy foods, so vegans may consider taking a supplement to be sure to get enough of it.  Research suggests that fish oil can promote heart health.  The National Institute of Health reports that of the supplements not derived from vitamins and minerals, fish oil probably has the most scientific evidence to support its use.

Many supplements have mild effects with little to no risks.  But…..use caution with some supplements.  Vitamin K, for example, will reduce the ability of blood thinners to work. Ginkgo can increase blood thinning, and St. John’s Wart can speed the breakdown of many drugs, such as antidepressants and birth control pills, making them less effective.

Just because a supplement is promoted as “natural” doesn’t mean it is safe.  It’s important to know the chemical makeup, how it’s prepared, and how it works in the body, especially if you are dealing with herbs.

Scientists still have much to learn, even about common vitamins.  The scientific community once thought that taking Vitamin E would reduce a man’s risk of prostate cancer, but a recent large study of more than 29,000 men found that taking vitamin E actually raised, not reduced, the risk for prostate cancer.

It’s always wise to talk to your doctor about the supplements you should or should not be taking.  The National Institute of health has fact sheets on dietary supplements at  http://ods.od.nihgov/factsheets/list-all/


Importance of Brain Health

The only constant about your brain is that it’s always changing.  Even after we have reached maturity, our brain continues to change.  These changes are sometimes referred to as “brain plasticity.”    Our experiences, habits, and the information we receive all have a part in the changes taking place in our brain.  New experiences and knowledge greatly contribute to keeping our brains working, developing, and learning.

Sometimes we become concerned by changes in our brain.  We lose our keys and forget people’s names.  While some of this is attributed to changes in our brain, lapses in memory can also be caused by certain medications, lack of sleep, and other factors such as excessive alcohol.

The brain is like a muscle and when we use it, we feel better. There are lifestyle habits that are not only good for our body but also our brain.  Here are some suggested activities that are good for the aging brain:

  •  Get Moving—A daily walk is one of the easiest ways to keep moving.  However, any activity that gets your heart pumping for 30 minutes most days is good for your body and your brain. Being active is associated with lower risk of brain issues.
  • Know your blood pressure—High blood pressure can have serious side-effects on your brain health.  If your blood pressure is high, make necessary lifestyle changes, including medication if recommended, to get it under control
  • Get adequate sleep—Inadequate sleep affects the memory center of the brain.  A good 7 or 8 hours of sleep is recommended for good health.
  • Discover a new talent—-When you learn new things, you engage your brain.  Picking up a new hobby, learning a new language, reading, word puzzles, and a plethora of other activities keep the brain in good shape.
  • Pick up the phone—-Stay connected with your family and friends.  Science has shown that engaging in social activities is good for the brain.  Cook dinner and invite someone over.  Volunteer or join a group.  Find ways to associate with other people.
  • Eat up-—Eating a healthy diet is extremely beneficial not only to our bodies but also our brains.  Some foods, like strawberries, blueberries, and broccoli are considered power foods for the brain. 

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