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If you’re interested in learning how to improve your heart health, this free workshop is for you. Whether you’ve been diagnosed with congestive heart failure (CHF), struggled with heart disease or other cardiac events, register today.

This workshop will benefit anyone interested in improving their heart health, including those affected by CHF and their friends or family. It will be held from 1:00 - 3:30 pm on Tuesday, March 10.

Area medical professionals including MHP Pharmacist Amy Reich, Registered Dietitian Lea Rice and Cardiac Rehab Nurse Renee Edgar will discuss current treatments for CHF, tips for living a full life with heart disease and how to embrace a low sodium diet.

“A diagnosis of CHF means the heart is not able to pump sufficient blood to other organs,” Edgar said. “This can result from many conditions including coronary artery disease, heart attack or high blood pressure, among others.”

Heart failure does not mean the heart has stopped beating, but instead, the heart is not able to pump as forcefully to supply ample amounts of blood and oxygen to the rest of the body.

According to the American Heart Association, approximately five million Americans are living with CHF today, and the most common reason people age 65 and older go to the hospital. Symptoms of CHF may include shortness of breath, feeling tired, swelling in the feet, ankles and legs, weight gain due to fluid build-up and confusion or an inability to think clearly.

“Since many heart-related diseases can lead to CHF, this workshop is a great tool for people who have already been diagnosed with related conditions. A healthier heart can help delay the onset of CHF,” explained Edgar.

The free Heart Health Workshop will be held in Education Room A (entrance #2), on the MHP Campus. Please bring a list of all prescription and over-the-counter medication you are currently taking. Pre-registration is required. For more information about this free workshop or to register, call 641.672.3100.

March is recognized as National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and Mahaska Health Partnership is offering free colorectal cancer screening kits throughout the month.

According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer starts in the colon or rectum. Most colorectal cancers grow slowly over several years and usually develop in the form of a polyp on the inner lining of the colon or rectum.

“Starting at age 50, men and women should be screened for colorectal cancer at least once a year,” said MHP General Surgeon Tim Breon, MD, FACS. “If you have a family history of colorectal cancer or other risk factors, you should be screened more frequently, depending on your primary care provider’s recommendation. The free kits being offered by MHP in March are a great first step to protecting yourself.”

The free fecal occult screening kits being offered by MHP can be completed in the privacy of your own home and mailed back to the MHP Laboratory for testing. Screening kits can be requested online at mahaskahealth.org, over the phone by calling 641.672.3116 or picked up at one of the following locations: Entrances #1 or #4, on the Oskaloosa campus; New Sharon Medical Center and MHP Hospice Services-Sigourney location. Kits must be returned to the MHP campus no later than April 15.

Dr. Breon explained that the fecal occult screening kit tests for blood in the stool which can be an indicator of the presence of polyps. However, there are a number of reasons blood can be found in the stool and it does not mean that pre-cancer or cancer will be found.

“Requesting a free colorectal cancer screening kit is the first step in detection and prevention of colorectal cancer,” Dr. Breon said. “If a polyp is detected early, it can be removed with a routine colonoscopy before it has the chance to become cancerous.”

Dr. Breon went on to recommend scheduling a colonoscopy at age 50, or earlier for those with increased risk factors for getting colorectal cancer. Screening colonoscopies can then be repeated every 10 years unless otherwise specified by your healthcare provider. For more information about colonoscopies, contact your primary care provider or call MHP General Surgery at 641.672.2455.

To request your free kit, click here.

February is American Heart Month, a time when people are encouraged to be aware of their cardiovascular health. Mahaska Health Partnership shares some benefits of exercise that can help improve your cardiovascular health and reduce your risk of heart disease.

“Your heart is a muscle, and it gets stronger the more active you are,” MHP Cardiac Rehab Nurse Renee Edgar explained. “Even something as simple as a brisk walk can greatly improve your cardiovascular health.”

Edgar explained that those who do not exercise regularly are at a much higher risk for heart disease than those who are active. The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes per week of moderate aerobic exercise. “Just 30 minutes a day five times a week can meet this recommendation,” Edgar encouraged.

According to the American Heart Association, regular aerobic exercise can help burn calories, lower blood pressure, reduce LDL or “bad” cholesterol, and increase HDL or “good” cholesterol.

“The simplest exercise you can do to improve your heart health is walking,” Edgar shared. “It’s easy, free and can be done anywhere. Grab a friend and schedule walks so you are less likely to cancel. Start slow and work your way to a goal of 30 minutes a day for long-term success.”

Other aerobic exercises include running, jogging, skating and biking. “You want to move fast enough to raise your heart rate and breathing, but you should still be able to carry on a conversation while exercising,” Edgar explained. “If you can’t, you’re working too hard, which could be harmful. If you have joint issues, try low-impact activities like swimming or hiking.”

The most important thing to remember about exercise is that it shouldn’t be extremely painful. “Make sure to warm up before jumping into a workout,” Edgar advised. “You will benefit from exercise no matter what pace you go. You should never experience chest pain, extreme breathlessness or dizziness from overexertion. If you experience any of these symptoms, stop exercising and contact your primary care provider.”

Along with aerobic exercises, Edgar encourages stretching a couple of times per week and strength training. “You can use weights, machines at a gym or your own body weight to build muscle strength. Two or three times per week with a recovery day in between each workout is best.”

According to Edgar, starting slow and working towards goals is the key to success. “Setting unrealistic goals is often what leads people to be unsuccessful,” Edgar said. “If you’re new to regular exercise, start with small bursts, like a 10 minute walk, and work your way up from there. It’s not a race, and whatever exercise you can fit into your day is better than nothing!”

As a Cardiac Rehab nurse at MHP, Edgar assists many people during their recovery from cardiac illnesses and heart attacks. “I work closely with patients to teach them about a healthy lifestyle and help them gradually work towards their quality of life goals. I also partner with MHP’s Registered Dietitian and our Diabetes Educator to help patients stay the course to long-term health,” Edgar explained.

DrObrien2012

Whether it’s teething, a hard fall on the playground or a fever that won’t break, kids may occasionally need over-the-counter pain reliever. With so many options available, it’s important for parents to know the proper way to administer these medications. 

“It can be unnerving for a parent when your child is experiencing pain,” Mahaska Health Partnership Pediatrician Dr. John O’Brien said. “Often, it comes unexpectedly and at a time when your primary care provider may not be available to answer questions. Should you choose to give non-prescription pain medications, it’s important to know how much to give your child in order to avoid further complications.”

There are two over-the-counter pain medications that are most commonly used for children; Ibuprofen and acetaminophen. Each medication comes in a variety of forms, including liquid, chewables and tablets. Age and weight are key factors in determining which medication should be administered to a child. Aspirin, which has been linked to Reye’s Syndrome, should never be given to children or teenagers unless instructed by a physician.

“There are a few key guidelines I encourage all parents to follow when it comes to treating their child’s pain,” Dr. O’Brien explained. “Compare any medications your child is already taking with ingredients in the pain reliever to avoid overdosing. Most importantly, do not administer medications intended for an adult to children; only use medications that are approved for children.”

Once you have determined that the medication is safe, check the concentration and recommended dosage on the product. “Weight is the best indication for determining the appropriate dose for a child. Use the measuring tool provided with the medication instead of a regular spoon, to ensure precision.

“I also recommend sticking to either ibuprofen or acetaminophen products when treating the same illness and not alternating them. It’s easier to keep track of when you can give your child another dose of medication and lessens the risk of consuming too much pain medication.

” Over-the-counter medications can be beneficial, as long as they are taken correctly and only when necessary,” Dr. O’Brien stressed.

As a Pediatrician, Dr. John O’Brien specializes in the treatment of children from newborns up to 21 years of age. He practices fulltime at Mahaska Health Partnership in Oskaloosa and is currently accepting new patients. To schedule an appointment with Dr. O’Brien, call 641.672.3360. 

StairArt-MHP

During their daily walk breaks, Courtney Ferree and Allison Shipley of Patient Accounts enjoy the artwork from Oskaloosa Elementary School students placed throughout the stairwells at Mahaska Health Partnership. MHP is participating in an “Art for Steps” project, sponsored by Blue Zones Project Oskaloosa and the MHP Wellness Team. 

To encourage employees to take the stairs, Mahaska Health Partnership is participating in an “Art for Steps” project, sponsored by Blue Zones Project Oskaloosa and the MHP Wellness Team.

According to MHP Wellness Co-facilitator Stephanie Faulkes, Oskaloosa Elementary students created beautiful artwork designed to be placed in stairwells. “Our goal is to encourage employees to take the stairs and see the beautiful art creations.”

Faulkes said research shows there are many health benefits to taking the stairs, which burns more calories per minute than jogging. “As a Blue Zones Worksite, MHP continues our efforts to make the healthy choice the easy choice.

“We remain committed to creating a healthier work environment by supporting the well-being of our employees, and we see this project as a way to incentivize taking the stairs for our employees’ benefit.”

According to Hanna de Geest, Organization Lead for the Blue Zones Project Oskaloosa, the benefits of taking the stairs are remarkable. “Not only will employees burn calories and increase their cardiovascular health, but they will also improve safety by becoming more familiar with alternate exit routes through the building,” de Geest explained.

“According to a 2013 Journal of Medicine study, of 14 New York City office buildings, people in buildings with stair prompts were over three times more likely to take the stairs than buildings without. Mahaska Health Partnership’s innovative program using these prompts is a testament to how they stay true to their commitment of well-being.”

For businesses interested in having stair prompts, de Geest said the Blue Zones Project Oskaloosa worksite committee would be happy to assist in getting them started. This committee seeks to improve the environment of worksites to foster greater well-being which therefore increases the bottom line of the business. For more information please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

2015CholesterolScreen

Mary Kelly of Oskaloosa had her blood drawn by Occupational Health Registered Nurse Brittney Adams at Mahaska Health Partnership’s annual Community Cholesterol Screening on Feb. 10. According to the American Heart Association, all adults age 20 and older should have their cholesterol checked at least once every five years to help detect indicators for heart disease, heart attack and stroke. MHP offered reduced-rate cholesterol screenings at its Oskaloosa campus and at New Sharon Medical Center in recognition of National Heart Month. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the United States is currently experiencing a large outbreak of measles, linked to an amusement park in California, that has spread across multiple states.

While there have not been any reported cases of measles in Iowa since 2009, the disease is highly contagious. Mahaska Health Partnership wants you to know the signs and symptoms of measles and how to protect your family from the virus.

“Measles is one of the most contagious diseases in existence,” explained Gloria Reed, MHP Nursing Director over Infection Control. “The droplets can be transmitted when someone breathes, coughs or sneezes. The virus can live on surfaces and in the air for up to two hours, so it’s possible to be exposed without ever being around an infected individual.”

According to the CDC, measles is a virus characterized by a high fever, cough, runny nose, red, watery eyes and a red, bumpy skin rash. It is spread through droplets from infected peoples’ coughs and sneezes and usually occurs in individuals who have not had the disease or received a vaccine to prevent measles. Symptoms generally appear within seven to 14 days after exposure.

The virus can be serious for any age group, but children under five, adults over 20, and those with compromised immune systems, including pregnant women, are more likely to suffer complications. “Severe complications such as pneumonia and swelling of the brain can occur as a result of measles,” Reed explained. “This disease is not something to take lightly; people develop serious complications and deaths have occurred as a result of measles.”

Since January 1, 2015, 102 cases have been reported in 14 different states, including Nebraska, South Dakota, Minnesota and Illinois. “Due to the highly contagious nature of this disease, it’s important to make sure you and your family are properly vaccinated against measles,” Reed urged.

“Two doses of the vaccine given at least 28 days apart are necessary to develop lifetime protection,” Reed continued. “Children in public schools or anyone in a high risk transmission setting, such as college students, healthcare employees and international travelers, should be vaccinated.”

According to MHP Pediatrician Dr. John O’Brien, you need to consider your loved ones when deciding to get vaccinations. “If you are a young and healthy person, your chances of developing complications from measles are low. However, you need to consider your loved ones too. An elderly grandparent, someone with cancer or a young niece or nephew could easily catch the disease. The consequences for them could be devastating, so make sure to consider all factors when deciding whether to vaccinate. “

As with any vaccine, there are risks for complications. “It is possible for someone to develop a fever, mild rash or swollen glands as a result of the measles vaccine,” Dr. O’Brien explained. “However, the chances of severe complications from the vaccine are so rare, it is well worth the risk.”

If you are unsure whether you have received your measles vaccine, contact your primary care provider. If they are unable to provide written documentation of your vaccines, there is no harm in getting a dose of the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine.

“Vaccines have been developed that allow us to live longer, healthier lives,” Dr. O’Brien explained. “Not only do they provide protection for you and your loved ones, but you can help protect those around you who are unable to receive the vaccine.”

If you have specific questions regarding measles, Dr. O’Brien suggested visiting the CDC website at www.cdc.gov or the Iowa Department of Public Health’s website at www.idph.state.ia.us

PtRecDay2015

To celebrate National Patient Recognition Day on Feb. 3, patients at Mahaska Health Partnership were given a purple carnation and a thank-you card. Shown with her carnation is Barb Knox of Oskaloosa and Registered Nurse Lavita Morris. 

Mahaska Health Partnership celebrated National Patient Recognition Day on Tuesday, Feb. 3. Inpatients received a flower and card of thanks on their meal tray while outpatients and visitors were gifted MHP purple pens.

“We know our patients have a choice when it comes to their healthcare,” MHP Chief Nursing Officer Darlene Keuning said. “We are honored when they choose the quality care we offer at MHP.”

MHP celebrates National Patient Recognition Day because it is a special time for providers and staff to renew their commitment to making healthcare personal for patients. “Everything we do is centered on providing exceptional customer service for our patients,” Keuning said. “We continue utilizing best practices in healthcare to ensure the safety of our patients through quality initiatives and open communication between providers, staff and patients.

“As an organization, we continue exceeding many of the nationally-set quality standards for patient care,” Keuning said. “We have made a commitment to make healthcare personal for our patients and visitors and we strive to act on that promise during every interaction.

“Our patients are always number one,” Keuning stressed. “We continually strive to provide the highest quality of care possible to them. Keeping healthcare options local for our community is a vital necessity. We are so thankful that our patients continue to choose MHP for their healthcare needs.”

Mahaska Health Partnership, located in Oskaloosa, is a non-profit health system ccredited by the Joint Commission. It is guided by its mission to provide exceptional customer service and health improvement, linking the science of medicine with the humanity of compassionate care. For more information about how Mahaska Health Partnership is making healthcare personal, look us up on the web: mahaskahealth.org.