Heart month: Simple tests that save lives

quick tip mercyMany of us think about hearts and flowers when February rolls around, but we ignore the most important hearts — the one beating inside us and the hearts beating inside the chests of the people we love.

Doctors and nurses often hear people say, “I don’t have heart disease and I’ve never had chest pain. Why do I need these tests?”

Here’s why: Many times the first symptom of heart disease is a heart attack or sudden death. (Let that sink in a for a minute.)

heart-864605_640There are often NO symptoms, or sometimes there are symptoms but they’re so mild that people write them off as being caused by other things (heartburn, fatigue, etc.)

If you truly love your heart (and your husband’s heart, your parents’ hearts, etc.), get it tested to make sure it’s healthy.

This month and throughout the year, Mercy offers two simple tests that help gauge where a patient (who has no symptoms) falls on the scale for having (or for developing) coronary artery disease, also referred to as CAD.

To know where you are on the scale, you need to have a baseline reading on these two heart tests:

1) Vascular Screen

2) Coronary Calcium Score

The Vascular Screen test includes a screening of the carotid artery and the aorta (using ultrasound). It also includes an “ankle-brachial index” which is done by taking your blood pressure in both legs.

The cost of this Vascular Screening is $100 and it’s done in the Mercy Cardiovascular Clinic in Rogers. (You can schedule it by calling Christine Friemoth at 479-338-3888.)

The Coronary Calcium Score (which is a hospital CT scan of your coronary arteries) costs $50 and can be scheduled through Mercy Central Scheduling at 479-338-2911.

We hope you’ll use heart month to set up these screening tests for yourself and the people you love. Happy February!

What is a “medical weight management” plan?

Since so many people spend January making steps to change their life, their bodies and/or their health, we knew this would be the perfect time to get answers about weight loss that’s designed and monitored by doctors. When you’re trying to make a huge physical change, it’s smart to have a doctor involved who can make sure the process is a safe, healthy one with the best chance of success.

Mark_Perna_1871790113Below is an interview with Dr. Mark Perna and Krisha Jech, RN BSN, who are part of a team with Mercy that provides different options for weight loss including healthy life style changes, a medically-managed weight loss program, and surgery with Mercy Bariatric Center NWA.

How is a weight loss plan administered by a physician different than any other diet?

A Physician-monitored weight loss plan offers opportunities that other plans like Weight Watchers do not. This includes monitoring of certain medical conditions currently present and also for ones which may arise while participating in the weight loss program. Medication adjustments or possibly the addition of medications might occur while participating.

What factors would make me a good candidate for this type of weight loss plan?

scale 200The Mercy Medical Weight Management would be appropriate for a patient who has a Body mass Index (BMI) of 30 or more. This patient might also have an obesity associated medical condition such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, Type 2 diabetes mellitus, etc. In some existing extenuating circumstances, the program might be appropriate for a slightly lower BMI due to the medical necessity to reduce weight.

Does a physician-assisted weight loss plan include prescriptions and/or surgery?

Yes, it could include either or both, depending on what you and your physician decide are the best options for your particular need. Surgery can be offered as an option to those with a body mass index (BMI) greater than 40, or a BMI between 35-39.9 with an obesity-related medical condition.

Does insurance cover it?

In case of medical necessity, insurance may cover the medical visits and services associated with the Mercy Medical Weight Management program, but the cost of meal replacements and group sessions is not submitted to insurance.

Bariatric surgery, on the other hand, is finding more and more insurance providers that are covering bariatric weight loss surgery. This coverage may include some very specific requirements on the part of the patient but with Mercy Bariatric Center NWA, we have built our program around the needs of the insurance companies as well as ensuring a strong preparation period before surgery.

optifast 200What is the OptiFast program and how long does it last?

Optifast is the patient-centered program that we at Mercy Medical Weight Management have chosen to facilitate. This is a proven weight loss method incorporating weight loss via low-calorie diet with comprehensive lifestyle education components along the way. Because we consider obesity to be a chronic disease, the length of the program is indefinite. There are three phases which include an active weight loss phase where the patient is on meal replacements only, a transition phase where the patient transitions to regular food, and a maintenance phase where the patient is on regular food only or regular food and just a few meal replacements. The typical time for the active phase is 12 weeks and 6 weeks for the adapting phase. These may be lengthened depending on the needs of the patient.

What kinds of results do you usually see when patients are on a weight loss plan that is administered and supervised by a doctor?

It really depends on the intensity of the plan and on the readiness of the individual to make long-term lifestyle changes. We at Mercy Medical Weight Management usually expect to initially see a 1-2% loss of body weight weekly. The very obese patient might expect to lose over 50 pounds in 18-24 weeks. This weight loss could be temporary and will depend upon the participant’s follow-through on behavioral change. We can support that endeavor in the maintenance phase of the program with ongoing support from professionals and peers.

If a doctor determines that a weight loss surgery is in the best interest of the patient, what are the most effective surgical options available today?

Bariatric surgery is no longer considered a last resort option for patients who struggle with morbid obesity. In fact, many patients and treating physicians are exploring and opting for bariatric surgery earlier in the treatment plan for weight loss. There are several reasons for this change.

First, the surgical options are safer than they have ever been. Nearly all procedures are done laparoscopically, which speeds recovery and lowers complications.

Secondly, the preoperative teaching and postoperative support has been vastly improved to optimize the long-term success of patients.

Finally, these procedures not only provide long-term meaningful weight loss but also improve or resolve chronic medical conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and sleep apnea. They can also boost quality of life and help people live longer. The most common procedures performed today are:

Laparoscopic Gastric Band (a purely restrictive procedure)

Pros: Relatively low risk, Adjustable, Reversible

Cons: Relatively less weight loss, not as good for Type 2 diabetes, Band can slip

Laparoscopic Sleeve Gastrectomy (A mostly restrictive procedure)

Pros: Relatively low risk, strong weight loss results, no bypassed small intestines

Cons: Not good procedure for severe reflux, not reversible

Laparoscopic Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass (A combined restrictive and malabsoprtive procedure)

Pros: Best weight loss results, most improvement in Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and sleep apnea

Cons: Some malabsorption

For more information on the Mercy Bariatric Center NWA, call Krisha, the Bariatric Program Coordinator, at 479-338-2266. You can also visit their website by clicking HERE.


New Year babies born at Mercy

We like starting our New Year with sweet photos of the newest blessings born at Mercy Hospital. Clockwise from top are Delmetrius, Eli and Aden, who all made their arrival just a few hours into the beginning of 2016. Welcome to the world, sweet babies!

new year babies600Logo-MercyKids

Holiday blues?

quick tip mercyDespite what that old Christmas song says, sometimes December is not “the most wonderful time of the year.” If you have a tough time avoiding the blues during this time of year, you’re definitely not alone. It’s pretty barbell free weights purple 200common to feel more stress, anxiety and/or sadness during the holidays.

One thing that could help is simple and backed up by medical facts. Exercise may produce a decline in depression similar to the effects seen in people who are on antidepressant medications. (That does not mean you shouldn’t get depression treated by a doctor. It just means that exercise might also help ease depression symptoms during a more stressful time of year.)

For more info on depression and treatment options, call the Mercy Behavioral Health clinic at 479-717-7626. The office is located at 515 Enterprise Drive, Suite 300 in Lowell.  Click here for more info.

New Mercy Pediatric Clinic Opens Today in Lowell

With so many young families living in Northwest Arkansas, great pediatricians and nurses are in high demand. To help accommodate the growth of the area, Mercy opened an additional Pediatric Clinic today in Lowell.

The new clinic will be housed in a building that is already home to a family practice clinic, but now two of Mercy’s pediatricians and a pediatric nurse practitioner will be there as well. Dr. Thomas Youngblood and Dr. Adegbenga Olayemi are now available for appointments in Lowell, and so is nurse practitioner Julie Thibodaux.

lowell clinic collageThe clinic has lab and radiology services on site, and the new Lowell location brings Mercy’s pediatric expertise further south from its large pediatric clinic located in Bentonville. Clinic Manager Saphirra Frasier said Mercy is striving to provide services where patients want them most.

The new pediatric clinic is offering same-day appointments for sick kids, which is good news for moms who need their child to see a doctor quickly. The best way to schedule an appointment is to either call the clinic directly at 479-636-9234 or set up a user ID with the My Mercy system. This online system lets parents not only schedule appointments but also review their child’s after-visit summary, check their immunization record and more.

Hours of operation for the new clinic are Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The Mercy clinic in Lowell is easy to access because it’s right off Interstate 49. (You can see the Mercy sign from the Interstate.) It’s located on a nearby access road at 325 S. 6th Place in Lowell. Click HERE for driving directions to the clinic.