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December 16th, 2013 · Leave a Comment

Hearing Through the Holidays: Noisy Gifts

By Dana Sparks

Hearing loss is often associated with the aging population but it impacts the lives of younger generations too. The Hearing Health Foundation reports that nearly 50 million Americans suffer from hearing loss in at least one ear, including 20 percent of teenagers. red and white drum set with three drumsYoung children also inflict hearing damage by playing with noisy toys. This holiday season remember to purchase ear-healthy gifts for your loved ones! Katie Kendhammer, Au.D., is a Mayo Clinic Health System audiologist and offers these tips.

Loud toys

Many toys that young children play with can produce levels equal to 90 dB, which is as loud or louder than a lawn mower. These levels would require adults to utilize hearing protection. Additionally, young children often play with these toys at ear level. Putting them up near their face, ears and mouth exposes their ears to levels as loud or louder than an airplane taking off – 120 dB.


As a parent, it’s a good idea to test toys out in the store before buying them. Some things to keep in mind:

  • If a toy sounds too loud to you, they are too loud for your child.
  • Think like a child: hold the toy up by your ear and get down to the ground to mimic a child’s height.
  • Testing the volume level at arm’s length is not effective. Your child will play with the toy much closer to their face.
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December 12th, 2013 · Leave a Comment

Five Simple Steps for a Stress-Free Holiday

By Dana Sparks

White sparkling star ornaments on silver strings with dark green background

Stress is triggered by a variety of situations, and although the holidays are meant to be enjoyable, it can be a time of year that creates anxiety and high stress levels for many people. So, how can you keep your cool over the next few weeks? Stephanie Kivi, M.D., a family physician at Mayo Clinic Health System, offers five helpful strategies to send stress packing.

  1. Move. Physical activity can relieve stress. Movement releases feel-good endorphins directly into the blood stream, which can improve your mood. Whether it’s going for a light jog or taking the stairs a few times during the day, the key is to get moving.
  2. Breathe. Just three minutes of deep breathing can turn stress into a feeling of tranquility. Not to mention, deep breathing brings oxygen to energy-building muscles, making all of your cells happy.
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November 21st, 2013 · Leave a Comment

Making Healthy Holiday Eating Choices

By Dana Sparks

multi-generational Latino family at holiday dinner table with a turkey

Holiday gatherings and food-focused traditions can pose major challenges to those who are looking to make healthy choices this time of year. Allyn Mahowald, registered dietitian at Mayo Clinic Health System in New Prague, Minn., shares some advice for keeping the holiday season healthy – and enjoyable. She says, “You don’t have to sacrifice healthy eating habits just because of the holidays. With a few diet-conscious tactics, you can set yourself up for healthy holiday eating success.” She offers the following tips to keep your waistband in check during fall and winter festivities:

  • Eat a nutritious snack before you attend parties. Choose treats such as fruit, low-fat yogurt, string cheese or a small handful of nuts. This will help you curb your appetite and make rational decisions about what to eat and what not to eat.
  • Contribute a healthy dish to the gathering. This is the perfect way to ensure there is something healthful for you and others to eat. Raw vegetables with low-fat dip, whole-grain crackers with low-fat cheese and fresh fruit are great choices.  

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November 19th, 2013 · Leave a Comment

Epilepsy: Symptoms, Causes, Complications and What You Can Do

By Dana Sparks

National Epilepsy Awareness Month

Many people think having a seizure involves convulsions, shaking and essentially passing out for a period of time. Others might think if someone has a seizure, they must have epilepsy. Both assumptions are incorrect.epilepsy word cloud graphic with other words like spontaneously and seizures

Mayo Clinic Health System neurologist Andrew Reeves, M.D., helps explain epilepsy and seizures.

Symptoms and types of seizures.

Categorized as a spectrum disorder because of the wide range of causes and effects, epilepsy impacts people differently. Some common symptoms of a seizure include:

  • Uncontrolled jerking movements of the arms and legs
  • Short-term confusion
  • Psychological symptoms
  • Loss of awareness
  • Becoming unconscious

Though these are general symptoms, physicians typically separate seizures into two categories, focal or generalized. Both result from abnormal brain activity. Read more in the news release.


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November 19th, 2013 · Leave a Comment

Ready to Go Rural: Future Physicians Receive Hands-On Experience

By Dana Sparks

It's no secret that demand is high for quality health care providers in small towns and rural communities across the country. Yet, the supply often falls short. The Association of American Medical Colleges estimates the country will be short 90,000 doctors over all fields in the next 10 years.
National Rural Health Day graphic with drawn images of people standing in the outdoors

In light of National Rural Health Day Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013, Mayo Clinic Health System celebrates a unique approach that bridges medical teaching with potential recruitment for future physicians. The Rural Physician Associate Program (RPAP) at the University of Minnesota gives third-year medical students the opportunity to gain hands-on experience and develop relationships with patients and providers in a rural setting. Students seeking a career in family medicine are submersed in the culture of a rural clinic or hospital for nine months instead of a six-week rotation in a metro area.

Read news release.
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November 14th, 2013 · Leave a Comment

Planning Meals to Help Manage and Maybe Prevent Diabetes

By Dana Sparks

diabetesdayA healthy approach to eating is important for everyone but for people with diabetes and prediabetes – having a higher than normal blood sugar level – appropriate monitoring and management of diet is crucial. Mayo Clinic Health System registered dietitian Sue Seykora offers these meal-planning tips to help keep diabetes under control or maybe avoid it all together.

For more information, please click here. 

Carbohydrate counting

Carbohydrate counting is a meal-planning approach that focuses on the total number of Read the rest of this entry »

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October 28th, 2013 · Leave a Comment

Happy, Healthy Halloween

By Dana Sparks

Halloween treats - bananas with chocolate chips, clementines with celery sticks

Trick-or-treating and Halloween fun might seem like harmless childhood activities, but according to registered dietitian Diane Dressel with Mayo Clinic Health System, the holiday can have frightening consequences to those struggling with their weight. “Halloween can be the first challenge to people watching their weight as they approach the holiday feasting seasons of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s. You can move Halloween festivities beyond just candy.” Dressel is a program coordinator for Mayo Clinic Health System’s Weight Management Services, and offers the following advice:

  • Halloween candy packs a punch. Hard candies contain 110 calories per ounce; chocolate bars are 150 calories per ounce. Even the innocent looking fun-sized candy bars average 100 calories each, meaning 10 of them could easily exceed 1,000 calories. A child’s caloric intake for an entire day is typically 1,800.
  • Minimize trick-or-treat temptations. Hold off on buying Halloween candy too early to minimize snacking. Don’t purchase your favorite candy. Consider sugar-free gum, small bags of pretzels or fat-free candies. Forego sugary treats altogether by giving out stickers, temporary tattoos, bouncy balls, yo-yos, colorful pencils or pencil toppers.
  • Make your Halloween party a scream with healthy snacks. Veggie or fruit platters with fat-free dips, fat-free popcorn and sugar-free gelatin can be real crowd-pleasers.


#ff6600;">Witches Brew with Funny Face Ice Cubes

Diet or sugar-free blueberry juice (can combine with another sugar-free fruit juice)


Mandarin oranges or strips of strawberries

1.      Pour juice into punch bowl.

2.      Fill ice tray or muffin tin half full with water and freeze.

3.      After the water is frozen, add blueberries (for eyes) and orange or strawberry strip (for the mouth).

4.      Cover with water and freeze again.

5.      Add ice cubes to punch before serving.

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October 28th, 2013 · Leave a Comment

Tips for Trick-or-Treating

By Dana Sparks

Trick or treat pumpkin buckets with yellow and orange candy corn

Whether children are old enough to go out for Halloween trick-or-treating on their own or you're going with them, Joseph Behn, M.D., a family practice physician at Mayo Clinic Health System in Onalaska, Wis., recommends reviewing safety tips with them:

  • Food poisoning is always a concern when it comes to Halloween treats. Don’t leave perishable goodies out of the fridge for more than two hours (one hour in temperatures above 90°F). Cold temperatures help keep most harmful bacteria from multiplying. Food poisoning symptoms vary with the source of contamination.
  • Children with diabetes can eat candy, but the carbohydrates the treats contain should be factored into the child’s meal plan for that day and the child’s insulin level adjusted accordingly.

Dr. Behn also recommends parents inspect candy before allowing children to eat it. Have children wear reflective strips on clothing, stick to familiar neighborhoods, set rules about where they'll go and when they'll return, and carry a cell phone in case of emergency.

To interview Dr. Behn, contact:
Rick Thiesse 
Mayo Clinic Health System 
608-392-9435 or

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September 5th, 2013 · Leave a Comment

Enhanced Critical Care: “It’s like having an extra set of eyes on every patient.”

By Dana Sparks


Mayo Clinic medical staff reviewing critical care monitoring system

Critically ill patients are benefiting from a new program designed to improve care and shorten hospital stays. The Mayo Clinic Enhanced Critical Care program offers 24/7 remote monitoring of the sickest patients at six Mayo Clinic Health System hospitals.

Critical care specialist at Mayo Clinic in Rochester and program medical director Sean Caples, D.O., says, “This is a more proactive way to take care of patients. The way we’re delivering care is changing, but our end goal remains the same: providing the best care possible to patients. We’re taking advantage of new technology to help us do that.” Pulmonologist and director of the critical care unit in Eau Claire Dany Abou Abdallah, M.D., says, “It’s like having an extra set of eyes on every patient. With this program, operations center nurses and physicians continuously review patients’ vital signs and other data. The minute they notice a potential problem, they can alert the local care team.”

Click here for news release

Journalists: Sound bites with Dr. Caples and Dr. Abdallah are available in the downloads. B-roll of the monitoring equipment is also available in the downloads
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August 16th, 2013 · Leave a Comment

Back to School: Lunch line Options and After-School Snacks

By Dennis Douda

Boy is tempted by a plate of pastries. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently updated its recommendations for its “Smart Snacks in Schools” proposal, including limiting in-school snacks to 200 calories a day.

Mayo Clinic Health System registered dietitian Diane Dressel offers parents snack options that meet caloric standards, while also taking into account portability, perishability, food allergies and dietary restrictions. Dressel says, “What better time to get kids into healthy eating patterns than at a young age,” and encourages any snack idea to include fruits or vegetables.  Here are some suggestions:

  • Grapes and pretzels
  • Apples and string cheese or baked chips
  • Carrots and fat-free dip
  • Yogurt with strawberries or blueberries

Mayo Clinic dietitian Katherine Zeratsky, R.D.,L.D., offers more tips. Zeratsky says that while you can't go through the school lunch line with your child, you can offer some guidance ahead of time about making healthy choices.

Journalists: Sound bites from Katherine Zeratsky on student nutrition tips and healthy food b-roll video are available in the downloads.  Read the rest of this entry »

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