Our Passion, Your Health

Our Passion | Your Health features stories on the latest happenings at Penn State Health St. Joseph. Check out our blogs, recipes, patient stories, program highlights, and new services that represent our passion...your health.

Love Salt? You Just Might be a Supertaster

Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences food scientists discovered several years ago why some people have a harder time than others passing up the salt shaker or enjoying low-salt foods.

People who use lots of salt may be genetically influenced to do so, researchers learned. That’s because some people are naturally more sensitive to tastes such as bitterness or spiciness, and may use more salt to alter or cover those tastes.

For instance, salt is added to many cheeses to mask bitter flavors that occur naturally during the cheese’s ripening process. Someone who is particularly sensitive to the taste of those bitter flavors may not enjoy a low-salt cheese because there’s not enough salt to offset the bitterness of the cheese.

Scientists have known for many years that, just as individuals differ in hair color or eye color, there is a wide range in one’s ability to taste certain compounds. While some people are extremely sensitive to tastes such as sweetness, spiciness and saltiness, others barely detect them.

Those with extremely sensitive taste buds are known as supertasters, while those who do not easily perceive taste are known as non-tasters.

Supertasters tend to ingest more salt both because they enjoy the flavor of it, leading them to eat more salty foods, and because they use salt to mask other flavors that they find unpleasant.

The problem with that, of course, said Nicole Rhoads, a Penn State Health St. Joseph Registered Dietician, is that eating too much salt can raise blood pressure, increasing the possibility of stroke and heart attacks, and may cause other health problems. It’s recommended that adults and children 14 years and older consume no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day – about what’s found in one teaspoon of salt.

Those with hypertension should aim at consuming considerably less than that amount.

That can be difficult to do, Rhoads explained, because salt is prevalent in prepared foods, including condiments such as ketchup, soy sauce, pickles, olives and bottled salad dressing.

Convenience foods, snack foods and fast foods also tend to be very high in sodium.

One slice of pizza chain pepperoni pizza, for instance, might contain more than 800 milligrams of sodium, more than one-third of the recommended daily limit. The same goes for a bowl of canned soup.

So, regardless of whether you’re a supertaster or non-taster, how can you limit the amount of salt you consume? Here are some general tips Rhoads provided.

  • Avoid processed foods and convenience foods such as canned soup and frozen dinners
  • Eat more fresh and unprocessed foods, such as fruits and vegetables, plant-based proteins, unprocessed meats and low-fat dairy items
  • Omit salt from recipes when cooking
  • Use fresh herbs and spices to flavor foods, or an herb seasoning blend such as Mrs. Dash
  • Read food labels and choose low-sodium products over those containing a lot of salt
  • Prepare most of the food you consume at home
  • Find low-sodium recipes from reputable sources on line and try them out

Find out more from the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics’ tip sheet on “Eating Right with Less Salt”.

Nicole Rhoads, RD, LDN, Registered Dietitian If you are interested in individual outpatient nutrition counseling, contact Nicole at 610-378-2489 or NRhoads@pennstatehealth.psu.edu or schedule an appointment at 610-378-2100.

Penn State Health St. Joseph Offers Free Breast Screenings

What began at Penn State Health St. Joseph as an annual event is now held monthly to provide breast health care for women who do not have access to health insurance.

Free screenings are provided one day a month at St. Joseph’s Downtown Campus, according to Lisa Spencer, Breast Care Patient Navigator. Most women get routine screenings, but if a problem is detected, further diagnostic screening is available.

Education about breast health also is provided. “We’ve had a number of women who have had issues, and we were able to get them additional imaging,” Spencer said. “Several ladies have been diagnosed with cancer, and we’ve been able to get them into care so they receive the appropriate treatment.”

The program is administered by Penn State Health St. Joseph, and funded by a national grant from the Prevent Cancer Foundation®, based in Alexandria, Virginia. The program, which has been in place for about 10 years, formerly was funded by grants from Susan G. Komen – Philadelphia, Susan G. Komen- National and the American Cancer Society.

For many women without health insurance, a mammogram would not be an option without such a program. The screenings are advertised on the hospital’s website, Facebook page, Hispanic radio, and BCTV. Mostly, however, word gets out when one woman tells another that they are available. “A lot of news about our services spreads through word of mouth,” Spencer said.

In addition to the screenings, St. Joseph staff members can work with women who are uninsured to help them locate other services. Staff might help a patient apply for Medicaid, or identify another source of care.

Bilingual social workers and a “promotora” community health worker are available to help those who do not speak English.

“We are committed to helping these women and their families access the healthcare that they need,” Spencer said.

Hundreds of clinical breast exams, screening mammograms, diagnostic mammograms, and breast ultrasounds have been provided, as well as biopsies, genetic testing and treatment. Under the Prevent Cancer Foundation® grant, Penn State Health St. Joseph will work to reduce cultural, linguistic and socioeconomic barriers and improve breast health for Latinas.

In addition to the monthly breast screenings, Penn State Health sponsors annual prostate and oral cancer screenings. Penn State Health St. Joseph offers free breast screenings at the Downtown Campus on monthly basis for women without health insurance. This is an invaluable service to detect issues and get them into care. Bilingual social workers are also on hand to assist with locating other services. Call 610-378-2959 for more information! #PSHSJ

Penn State Health St. Joseph – A Key Supporter of Women2Women

Healthcare providers and staff at Penn State Health St. Joseph understand the strength that can be found in a community of women. That understanding, along with an ongoing, overall commitment to women’s health, were driving factors when St. Joseph stepped up to become a founding presenting sponsor of Women2Women (W2W), an organization managed by the Greater Reading Chamber Alliance that works to help empower women to become leaders in our community.

“We believe in the power of women connecting with each other and supporting each other,” said Julia Nickey, Director of Patient and Organizational Engagement at Penn State Health St. Joseph and a member of the W2W Advisory Board. “With that support and camaraderie, women can lead more satisfying and healthy lives.”

In addition to providing key financial support, St. Joseph is active in W2W programming and has provided presenters for events since the organization’s founding eight years ago.

Dr. Jessika Kissling, an Obstetrics & Gynecology Physician presented “Hey Ladies . . . Here are the Top Five Reasons You Need a Primary Care Physician and a Gynecologist,” and Dr. Krista Schenkel, Family Medicine Physician, Penn State Health St. Joseph Strausstown, spoke on “Women & Anxiety, What Your Body is Telling You.”

Karen Marsdale, President of the Greater Reading Chamber of Commerce & Industry, praised St. Joseph’s commitment to the Women2Women organization.

“Penn State Health Saint Joseph was one of the very first W2W investors,” Marsdale said. “Not only do they believe in our goals to grow more women leaders, they have provided so many resources to help our organization grow and thrive, including experts to provide education for our members. We are truly grateful to this institution.”

Fear of Missing Out Can Negatively Impact Your Life.

If you’re constantly checking Facebook, desperate to see where your friends are and what they’re doing, and then becoming upset when you discover they’re having dinner without you, you may be suffering from a condition known as FOMO, or “fear of missing out.”

Dr. Krista Schenkel, a family practitioner who serves as medical director of Penn State Health St. Joseph’s Strausstown facility, spoke about FOMO recently during a program offered by Women2Women.

St. Joseph is a founding, presenting sponsor of Women2Women, an organization managed by the Greater Reading Chamber of Commerce & Industry that works to help empower women to become leaders in our community.

FOMO, Schenkel explained, is a form of social anxiety disorder that is becoming increasingly prevalent as use of social media increases. By some accounts, nearly three-quarters of young adults in the United States report experiencing the phenomenon of FOMO.

It is particularly common among those between the ages of 13 and 33.

FOMO can result from the perception that other people are having more fun, or are happier than you are, Schenkel said. In their social media posts, friends may appear to be engaging in exciting activities, seemingly without a care in the world.

However, Schenkel related, social media posts often portray an idealized version of the truth.

“Let’s face it. Most social media posts are not giving the entire truth,” she said. “Anyone can put anything on social media and make their life sound amazing.”
Schenkel referred to her own experience in Disney World, showing a photo of herself with her husband and daughter that she’d posted on Facebook. The photo, she explained, was taken after a very long day. They all were exhausted, with their 3-year-old nearing a meltdown.

In the photo, however, the family appeared to be having a great time.

“We looked so happy, but really we were miserable!” she said.

A danger of the FOMO syndrome is that it tends to cause people to spend more time on social media, taking them away from the really important aspects of their lives.

According to Schenkel, the life of a typical woman contains five priorities: career, sleep, daily obligations, family and social activities.

Once the obligatory parts of a woman’s day are done, such as working, errands, commuting and sleeping, there are not many hours left. That means that it’s really important to carefully consider how those hours are spent.

Using that time for social media can minimize time you spend with your family and friends, and limit activities that you enjoy and make your life ultimately valuable
“Sometimes we get so caught up with what we’re seeing on line that we’re not being involved in the real world,” Schenkel said.

While she is not opposed to Facebook and other forms of social media, Schenkel said it’s important that users are in control of how they use it.

Employing Facebook to organize a hike with friends, and then attending and enjoying the hike is a positive use of social media. However, skipping the hike to stay home and engage in social media is not.

“I’m not saying that Facebook is an evil thing,” Schenkel said. “I’m just saying that you need to be careful about how you utilize it.”

While FOMO seems to be affecting an increasing number of people, there is an opposing movement – JOMO – that also seems to be gaining traction.

JOMO, Schenkel explained, stands for “joy of missing out,” and embraces disconnecting from technology and living in the moment in an attempt to find a balance between the two things.

JOMO allows you to move at your own pace, Schenkel said, and to pay attention to what is happening right now, such as the feel of warm sunshine, the sound of your children’s laughter or the smell of your first cup of morning coffee.

“Those are the things that we should fear missing out on,” she said.

Schenkel reminded the women at her talk that when they are 80 years old and looking back on their lives, they will not regret that they didn’t receive more “likes” on Facebook.

“But, what you may regret is not living out your personal truth or spending more time with the people you love,” she said. “We need to be aware of our priorities so we can all make sure that doesn’t happen.”

Want to find your FOMO score? Take this quiz!

Krista Schenkel, DO Looking for a new family physician that gets what you’re going through? Dr. Schenkel practices at Penn State Health St. Joseph Strausstown and is currently accepting new patients. Schedule an appointment at 610-488-7080.

Penn State Health St. Joseph Launches SelfCare for Healthcare for Nursing Employees

As the pace and complexity of nursing has intensified, it’s more important than ever for nurses to practice selfcare by tending to their physical, mental and spiritual health.

That was the message last week from LeAnn Thieman, a nationally acclaimed author, speaker and nurse who kicked off Penn State Health St. Joseph’s Nurses Week activities with a talk in the Franciscan Room.

“Nurses are heroes, and I applaud you,” Thieman told a group of nurses and other St. Joseph employees. “But, as you know, it’s stressful work. Sometimes it’s so stressful that we get into distress.”

During her talk, which emphasized the vital need for nurses to nurture their physical, mental and spiritual health, Thieman applauded Penn State Health St. Joseph for its decision to become a SelfCare for Health Care hospital.

Under that designation, St. Joseph has enacted a yearlong program for nurses that employs Thieman’s guidebook, SelfCare for Health Care: Your Guide to Physical, Mental and Spiritual Health, to promote their health and well-being.

Program participants each will have a copy of the book and concentrate on one chapter a month over the course of one year. Each chapter emphasizes certain aspects of selfcare, including the need for laughter, reducing and coping with stress, forgiveness, the value of exercise, getting enough sleep, relaxation breathing and determining priorities.

The SelfCare for HealthCare program also includes live presentations, monthly inspirational videos, nursing unit activities and weekly motivational emails for nurses.

The interactive guidebook is based on lessons that Thieman learned from a 1975 trip to South Vietnam, where she participated in Operation Babylift, a mission to remove 100 babies from the country before its capital, Saigon, fell to North Vietnamese forces.

The mission was successful, and Thieman and her husband adopted one of the Vietnamese children who had been taken out of the country.

Sharon Strohecker, Vice President of Clinical Operations and CNO at St. Joseph, said the hospital is grateful to its nurses and committed to helping them stay energized and healthy.
“Our nurses are really our foundation here,” Strohecker said. “And, we want them to know how important to us they are.”

Nursing is an honorable, but difficult profession, Strohecker noted, and nurses must be mindful not only of caring for others, but for themselves.

“Sometimes we need to stop and really think about taking care of ourselves,” she said.

Chelsea Robbins, a registered nurse at Penn State Health St. Joseph, said following the program that Thieman’s talk was exactly what she needed to hear.

“She said everything that nurses need to hear,” said Robbins. “We love to care for others, but sometimes we really need to be reminded to just stop and care for ourselves. I’m very glad I was able to be here today.”

Thieman encouraged those at her talk to embrace the SelfCare for HealthCare program, promising that it can help them to find balance in their busy and often stressful lives.

“And when you find that balance, you bring that balance to the workplace, and you have that balance in your life,” she said. “When that happens, it’s good for you, it’s good for those you love, and it’s good for the patients you care for every day.”

In addition to SelfCare for HealthCare, Thieman has written and co-authored 15 previous books, including 12 volumes of the best-selling Chicken Soup for the Soul series.

Activity on Social Media can Help Older Adults Feel Less Isolated and More Empowered

In a study of Facebook use, older adults who posted a lot of personal stories on the social networking site felt a higher sense of community, and the more they customized their profiles, the more in control they felt, said S. Shyam Sundar, Penn State distinguished professor of communications and co-director of the Media Effects Research Laboratory. He added that the study suggests that using social media is not a uniform experience that is either all bad, or all good, but offers multiple functions for diverse users.

“People tend to think of Facebook as a black box that either has an overall positive effect or a negative effect, but what distinguishes this study is that it makes an effort to go in and see what people do in Facebook — and that’s what matters,” said Sundar. “So, in other words, social media, by itself, is neither good, nor bad, but it’s how you use it.”

For older adults, who may be less mobile, Facebook and similar social networking sites could play a critical role in easing isolation and making them feel like they are part of a large community, according to the researchers, who report their findings in the journal New Media & Society.

“This is important, especially for older adults who might be aging in place, because they have mobility constraints that limit their ability to socialize,” said Sundar. “And, for the last ten years or so, we’ve been looking into how social networking sites can enhance the social life of older adults and reduce the social isolation that they might feel. These are more fine-grained findings that say certain things you do on Facebook can give you gratifications, like fulfilling the needs for activity, having interactions with others, having a greater sense of agency, and building community.”

The researchers also suggested that commenting on and responding to posts gave older users a feeling of social interaction.

Eun Hwa Jung, formerly a doctoral student at Penn State and currently assistant professor of communications and new media, National University of Singapore, who worked with Sundar, said older adults are increasingly adopting social media, in general, and are a growing number of Facebook’s total membership. According to Pew research, 34 percent of Americans aged 65 years and older use social networks in 2017, an increase of 7 percent from 2016. Facebook is considered the most popular social network among older adults, the researchers add.

Given the widespread diffusion of Facebook in this group, understanding what gratifications older adults derive from particular technological features helps designers develop better user interfaces suited for them, Jung said.

“It can improve online interactions between individuals from different generations,” she added.

According to Sundar, developers of social media networks should consider the needs of this growing group of users. For example, they should create features that enhance the identity of older adults while simultaneously protecting their privacy. More features that encourage older adults to exchange and visualize messages with others could also make sites more interactive for this group.

To collect the data, the researchers recruited 202 participants — 79.7 percent female and 20.3 percent male — who were 60 years and older and used Facebook for at least a year. The participants were recruited from 27 retirement centers throughout the United States.

The researchers “friended” the participants on Facebook so they could count the number of times they used the various tools in the site during the past year. The participants were also asked to respond to a questionnaire that captured the gratifications they obtained from Facebook.

Future research may look at whether these positive interactions on Facebook could lead to the enhancement of well-being for seniors, Sundar said. The researchers also suggested that the effects of other social media outlets, such as Twitter and Pinterest, as well as other mobile and wearable devices, on older adults should be investigated.

Test the study for yourself by connecting with Penn State Health St. Joseph on social media! Meet us on Facebook, Linkedin, or Twitter.

150 Minutes to a Healthier Life

Who is ready to hang up the winter coats, put away the snow boots and get off the couch? It’s hard to believe that spring is here, but it is. This is the perfect time to get outside and restart our New Year’s resolution to exercise.

Penn State Health St. Joseph is here to help! We created a program, FIT150, that encourages everyone to “fit” in 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (or

75 minutes of vigorous exercise) every week as recommended by the top heart and cancer research centers. 150 minutes is only 2 hours and 30 minutes – less than the time it takes to binge 3 episodes of This Is Us!

This formula has the following benefits:

  • Reduces the risk of some cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes
  • Reduces high blood pressure
  • Reduces cholesterol
  • Helps with weight loss
  • Elevates your mood
  • Increases your energy levels
  • Strengthen bones and muscles.

How does this break down?

  • At least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity at least 5 days per week for a total of 150. If your time is limited, split the 30 minutes into a 15 m
    inute morning and an evening session.
  • At least 25 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity at least 3 days per week for a total of 75 minutes; or a combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity
  • Moderate- to high-intensity muscle-strengthening activity at least 2 days per week for additional health benefits.

What is Moderate Aerobic Exercise?

Moderate aerobic exercise includes activities such as brisk walking, tennis doubles, spring cleaning, swimming, and mowing the lawn.

What is Vigorous Aerobic Exercise?

Vigorous aerobic exercise includes activities such as running, cycling, tennis singles, and playing soccer and basketball.

There is an exercise routine for everyone. Find something you like to do, and it suddenly doesn’t feel like a dreaded activity. You will see results and feel good about those 150 or 75 minutes a week.

Hard to get started? Engage a friend, family member or a co-worker to take the FIT150 pledge with you. Together, you will be on the road to fitness and improved health.

We are proud to be partners with some local fitness centers YMCA, BLDG. 7 Yoga and Corps Fitness. If you take our FIT150 pledge, we’ll email you free gym passes.  Put your sneakers on, take the pledge and get moving! http://www.thefutureofhealthcare.org/fit150/

Support Groups Provide Hope, Encouragement for Patients and Their Families

A brain tumor can be an especially difficult diagnosis to face – both for the patient and family members and friends.

Nearly 80,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with primary malignant and non-malignant brain and spinal cord tumors each year, according to the Central Brain Tumor Registry of the United States.

Brain tumor symptoms and treatment often are difficult to cope with, but patients and family members can find encouragement at a Brain Tumor Support Group offered by Penn State Health St. Joseph’s Department of Neurosurgery.

According to Christine Hess, CRNP, Neurosurgery, the support group, which was started in 2017, features speakers and programs meant to educate patients and caregivers about brain tumors and how to best cope with the condition.

“We know that a diagnosis of a brain tumor can be very frightful and distressing,” Hess said. “We try to gear patients and families toward optimizing wellness while living with that diagnosis.”

Discussion topics have included: nutrition while in treatment for a brain tumor; the pathology of a tumor; the power of prayerful, healing touch; caring for the caregiver; and others.

Some of the sessions are led by Dr. Kenneth Hill, a neurosurgeon at Penn State Health St. Joseph, while others feature outside speakers.

“The more education a person can get, the less fearful the situation can seem,” Hess said. “Education is extremely empowering.”

The recently formed Brain Tumor Support Group is one of numerous groups the hospital offers. Others include:

  • Breastfeeding Support: The Baby Bistro
  • Stroke Support Group: Learn | Share | Connect | Inspire
  • Bereavement Support
  • Strength for the Journey (Cancer Support)
  • Managing Diabetes Course
  • Diabetes Wellness Group
  • Alzheimer’s Association’s Caregiver Support Group
  • Preparation for Childbirth

For more information about support groups at Penn State Health St. Joseph call 610-378-2000 or go to http://www.thefutureofhealthcare.org/support-groups.

Working to Overcome Antibiotic Resistance Program Aims to Trump Overuse of Antibiotics

With its new Antimicrobial Stewardship Program, the Penn State Health St. Joseph pharmacy has created a multi-disciplinary team focused on curtailing the routine-and oftentimes uncalled for-use of antimicrobial agents – known to most people as antibiotics. It is one way St. Joe’s is working to address the concern for a growing number of patients who are resistant to these bacteria fighting medications.

The stewardship group was founded in August and is led by Evan Slagle, PharmD, BCPS, St. Joe’s Antimicrobial Stewardship Pharmacist. Physician oversight of the program is being provided by Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Deb Powell.

Slagle says the group’s objective is to develop strategies to work on the optimal selection, dosage and duration of antimicrobials within St. Joseph.

He says antibiotic resistance is growing faster than the new drugs becoming available. And, as resistance grows, meaning antibiotics are not the effective treatment for some people they used to be, it can lead to severe consequences including higher mortality rates, increased lengths of stay and growing costs of care.

Slagle noted the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug administration, as well as Congress and the White House also are advising and monitoring how the healthcare system is addressing the issue.

Slagle is working with the stewardship group and caregivers on a number of pharmacy driven initiatives which are in place, and others will be coming, he added.

“Most of the immediate focus of our group has been to make sure we are meeting the stewardship standards of our accreditation/regulatory agencies,” says Slagle. “Our infection rates have been very good. Many of the strategies we have been enforcing are supporting this positive trend.”

Berks Medical Equipment Offers New Service, Diabetic Shoe Fitting

For most people, an ingrown toenail or small cut on the foot is nothing to be alarmed about. For a diabetic patient, however, a cut or ingrown nail can be the beginning of a much greater problem.

Proper foot care is extremely important to diabetic patients, who are more prone than non-diabetics to develop calluses, dry skin and foot ulcers due to damaged nerves or poor circulation.

Diabetic patients also have a much greater risk than non-diabetics of requiring a foot or leg amputation.

Penn State Health St. Joseph’s Berks Medical Equipment now offers the services of a licensed fitter to assist diabetic patients with getting a specially fitted shoe that will protect their feet while providing comfort and stability.

Stefanie Orender received training and was licensed in May to fit diabetic patients with shoes that feature insoles that are specially molded to their feet. The shoes are deeper and wider than regular shoes, she explained, and the specially fitted insole assures that no part of the shoe will rub against the foot, which could cause skin to become irritated or opened.

“Diabetic patients have to be extra careful with their feet, and be sure to find shoes that fit them correctly,” Orender explained. “If a shoe causes a sore to develop on the foot, it can take a really long time to heal and can cause a lot of other problems.”

The insoles are customized by heating them until they are pliable, and then molding them around a patient’s foot. That assures the most comfortable and stable fit, Orender said.

In addition to fitting shoes, Orender is qualified to check patients’ feet for problems and advise them regarding the care of their feet.
“It’s really nice to be able to help people learn how to care for their feet, and to try to help ease any pain they might have,” she said.
In addition to fitting shoes for customers at Berks Medical Equipment’s Tuckerton store, Orender also works two days a month with Dr. Jeffrey Stringer, a podiatrist, at St. Joseph’s Community Campus in Reading.

“There are a lot of people who could benefit from this service,” she said. “It’s just so important for diabetic patients to have shoes that fit them properly and that can protect their feet.”

Shoes that are prescribed by a doctor often are covered by Medicare or other insurances.

Non-diabetics who have trouble with their feet, such as bunions or hammertoes, also may benefit from the special shoes because they are roomier inside, noted Orender.

In addition to special shoes for people who have problems with their feet, Berks Medical Equipment carries neck, back, knee and ankle braces; foot care products such as toe spaces, toe and heel pads; walkers and accessories; compression stockings; wheelchairs; oxygen; power chairs, nebulizers, hospital beds and many other medical items.

Berks Medical Equipment has been serving Berks and surrounding counties for more than 20 years, according to Mim Lambros, Director of Materials Management for Penn State Health St. Joseph.

The shoe fitting service is offered to customers throughout the business’ service area.

“We know that there’s a need for this service locally, and hopefully we’re going to get this message out in the Hershey and Lancaster area, as well,” Lambros said.

Stefanie Orender, Fitting Specialist
Are you interested in a specially fitted footwear? Contact Stefanie and let her help you find the perfect fit. 610-916-1871 | sorender@pennstatehealth.psu.edu