Celebrate National French Fry Day

By: Lisa McDowell, MS, RD, CSSD

Enjoying delicious potatoes in honor of National French Fry Day does not have to harm your health. In place of traditional fast-food French fries, try one of these delicious substitutes. The typical take-out bag of fries averages over 500 calories, 25-30 grams of fat, with over 5 grams from saturated fat and over 500 mg of salt. Healthier, homemade fries are easier than you think with these techniques.


Baking your fries instead of deep-fat frying is an instant healthy makeover. But instead of coating with oil try using a whisked egg white or vegetable broth instead. This substitution will cut the calories in half.

Watch out for the ketchup! As tasty as ketchup may be, it contains lots of sugar and salt. Look for organic ketchup with no added sugar, high-fructose corn syrup or salt.

You can also substitute traditional potatoes for sweet potatoes, parsnips, rutabagas, turnips and carrots. They all have a similar texture and a better nutrition profile. Give this awesome recipe a try and enjoy the delicious caramelized flavor from roasting the sweet potatoes. They are also full of beta carotene, B vitamins, fiber, potassium, and phosphorus. You can use the white, orange or purple varieties.


2 large sweet potatoes, cut lengthwise in ½” wide by ¼” thick pieces

2 egg whites or ½ cup of vegetable broth

Celtic sea salt or other favorite seasoning to taste



Preheat oven to 425. Spread sweet potatoes on large baking sheet and drizzle with whisked egg white or vegetable broth. Shake seasonings across potatoes, and follow with a dusting of paprika. Toss by hand until they’re coated. Bake for 30-35 minutes, turning halfway through to ensure even cooking. They should be browning when done.

Senior’s Safety Checklist

MaryMargaret Brandt MD smIn the United States each year, trauma injuries account for 41 million emergency department visits and 2.3 million hospital admissions. Seniors are most vulnerable; every 13 seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall.

“Safe Steps for Seniors” is the 2016 theme of National Trauma Awareness Month, in May. This project focuses on senior safety, particularly fall prevention. Falls can hinder an older adult’s safety and independence, but they are not inevitable. Seniors can help prevent falls by doing the following:

  1. Participate in regular physical activity. Exercise makes you stronger, increases flexibility and improves balance and coordination.
  1. Remove hazards in your home. Make sure your path is clear and remove items that may cause you to trip such as rugs, cords and wires, books and shoes. Keep stairs clear of clutter and install handrails.
  1. Review your medications regularly. Have your physician or pharmacist look at all of the medications you take, including over-the-counter medicines. Make sure the side effects or interactions with other medications are not increasing your chance of falling. Many medicines can make you sleepy or dizzy.
  1. Have your vision and hearing checked once a year. Poor vision and not being able to hear can increase your chance of falling.
  1. Talk to your family members and enlist their help. Family support is important for a senior’s safety.


About Dr. Mary-Margaret Brandt

Mary-Margaret Brandt, MD, MHSA is a surgeon and the Trauma Medical Director at St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor. She is the vice-chair of the Michigan Committee on Trauma, and is an active member of  the ATLS subcommittee of the American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma. In 2013, Dr. Brandt retired from the United States Army Reserve as a Colonel.

OMG texting may leave u DOA

LilaLazarusI’m sitting in the passenger seat at an intersection. My friend is driving. I look left and right and remark that the drivers on both sides of us are on their cell phones. I make sure I’m buckled up. The light turns green but the driver in front of us doesn’t budge. She’s clearly busy texting and we’re annoyed. In the interest of full disclosure, my friend, we’ll call her Jodie, has her iPhone firmly in her right hand and it dings.

We’ve been told over and over again that it’s not just dangerous to make a call, send a text or check Facebook , it can be deadly. It takes your eyes off the road. In fact, the average text will take your eyes off the road for 4.6 seconds. If you drive with your cell phone, you’re four times more likely to get in a crash serious enough to cause injury and land you in the trauma center.   And if you text, you’re 23 times more likely to crash.

Plus it’s illegal. Under Michigan’s anti-texting law, a driver shall not “read, manually type or send a text message on a wireless two-way communication device that is located in the person’s hand or in a person’s lap while operating a motor vehicle…”   Michigan and 45 other states plus the District of Columbia have banned texting while driving.

But Jodie checks the phone.

It’s a work text and she immediately starts texting back just as traffic starts to move again. Jodie looks up, accelerates and then looks down for just a brief moment to check her spelling. And in that nano-second that she looked down – just that blink of an eye – the woman in front of us hits her brakes. I scream. And Jodie takes out the lady’s back bumper.

I look at her. She looks at me. We don’t say a word. Stunned silence. We’re all belted in. No injuries. She’s embarrassed and we both know it could have been far worse. Every year drivers using cell phones while driving cause 500,000 injuries and 6,000 deaths and that number is growing.

So you’d think we would both have learned our lessons. You’d think we would realize that it’s time to put our phones down. You’d think that would have been a loud enough wake-up call. Or the fact that a dozen teens die every day in accidents involving texting and driving.   But if I’m really honest, we’re still guilty of checking our phones and responding to texts. Not just Jodie. Not just me. According the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, at any given moment 660,000 drivers are using cellphones while driving. The National Safety Council says it’s worse than that: a third of all drivers admit to texting and driving. But what about those who haven’t admitted it?

Of those who have come clean: 18% say they just can’t resist the urge. It’s an addiction— an impulse they can’t ignore. We’re stressed, we’re busy, we’re eager to connect and we’re distracting ourselves to death. Texting is the worst possible distraction. It takes your eyes off the road, your hands off the wheel and your mind off driving. And still we do it.

This is the era of screen time.   And we prefer the screen to someone’s face.   And our phones are such security blankets, we’re reluctant to turn them off or put them in the back seat.

There are apps you can download to help change the habit, i.e. text-STAR or live2txt. I’m giving one a try. And I’m putting my cell phone down— and if I drive with Jodie, I’m holding her cell phone.

Next time it could be far worse than a fender bender.

I don’t want the last sentence of my obit to read: “Police say the driver was texting.”

Eat Well and Prosper

Amanda Sweetman Close.jpgEating healthy, nutritious food can often seem like a chore, but there are plenty of reasons why it’s well worth the time – maintaining a healthy weight, improving mental health, preventing or managing a chronic health condition, setting an example for your friends and family. Conversely, there are just as many reasons why many of us choose unhealthy meals – convenience, affordability and or simply not knowing how to eat well.

The food industry has convinced us that cooking food is hard and expensive. Often, it’s difficult to know what is healthy. For example, what does 100% natural mean? Is gluten-free better for you? Michael Pollan’s Food Rules simplifies this difficult concept: “Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much.” To learn more, I recommend watching “In Defense of Food” which is currently streaming on PBS. The documentary investigates how the Western diet is harming us and what we can do to save ourselves.

As the project manager of The Farm at St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor, I am a huge believer in eating a balanced, mainly plant-based diet. In addition, I encourage you to eat “local” as well. Buying local food, from a farmers market or directly from a farmer through a community supported agriculture (CSA) share, does three things:

  1. Give you, the consumer, fresher products that last longer than processed foods. And, you know where it came from and how it was grown.
  2. Helps the environment because the food didn’t have to travel across oceans or continents to arrive on your table.
  3. Puts money back into your local economy which, in turn, is good for you.

So, this may be sounding complicated and expensive, but stay with me! Below I share how I eat a seasonal, healthy diet and resources to get you started.

How I Eat: I eat a lot of vegetables (hey, gotta make sure I’m selling a good product), but I’m busy and on the go. I build my meals from the bottom up: start with a bed of greens, add protein (typically an egg or some type of meat), cheese, maybe some nuts and then a really delicious dressing. I also cook at least one big batch of food at the beginning of the week that I can eat for dinner or lunch throughout the week. I frequently use a crock pot to cook chicken or roast, and a huge pan of vegetables that can be added to salads or used as a side dish. Here’s my take on Bi Bim Bap, one of my all-time favorite dishes.

Eating is one of my favorite activities, which means I want my food to taste good. That’s the most important piece of all of this advice: find what tastes good to you that makes sense with your life.

Resources: To get started on eating healthy, local food, check out the “Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4 a Day” cookbook by Leanne Brown. You can purchase a copy which will mean that a copy is given to someone in need. You can also access it online and look at the free PDF. This is a great book! It talks about how to stock your pantry, tips for shopping and has great recipes that are straightforward and delicious. Other resources can be found on the In Defense of Food website resources tab. If you’re interested in hands-on learning, check out MSU extension’s Cooking Matters class. For young eaters, The Farm at St. Joe’s is offering two, week-long farm to table summer camps! Learn more at the Washtenaw Rec and Ed website.

To see more recipes and learn more about The Farm, visit our blog or follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Be sure to stop by our weekly farmers market every Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Main Lobby of the hospital.

The Life-Saving Benefits of Colonoscopy Screening

amanda_mcclure_2015_webNational Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month is a great time to talk about one of the most preventable and treatable forms of cancer, if diagnosed early. It may seem intimidating, but a colonoscopy is a very simple test and a big reason why there are more than one million colon cancer survivors in the United States.

A colonoscopy test is a visual examination of the large intestine (colon) using a lighted, flexible video colonoscope. The scope also has a camera to help the physician document findings and notable features.

A colonoscopy is more than just a test. If a polyp is found, it can usually be removed during the exam, thereby eliminating the need for a major operation and potentially preventing the development of cancer. If a bleeding site is identified, treatment can be administered to stop the bleeding. Other treatments can be given through the colonoscope when necessary and further studies or treatments may be recommended.

A colonoscopy can also be used in the diagnosis, treatment or prevention of other issues, such as:

  • Abdominal pain, discomfort or change in bowel habits
  • Chronic diarrhea or constipation
  • Colitis (Ulcerative or Crohn’s)
  • Diverticulosis and Diverticulitis

Alternative tests to a colonoscopy include a barium enema or other types of X-ray exams that outline the colon and allow a diagnosis to be made. In addition, study of the stool and blood can provide indirect information about a colon condition. These exams, however, do not allow direct viewing of the colon or removal of polyps or biopsies to be done.

If you’re at risk for colon cancer because of age, medical history or family history, talk to your doctor. They can help you determine which test is right for you.

About Dr. McClure

Amanda M. McClure, MD, is a board-certified general and colorectal surgeon with IHA Colon & Rectal Surgery. Dr. McClure specializes in robotic and laparoscopic surgery, as well as minimally invasive transanal procedures. She has clinical interests in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of colorectal cancer. To learn more, visit www.ihacares.com.

The Track to Wellness

As a young man, Mark Layton was an active individual who never struggled with his weight. But as the years passed and Mark spent more and more time at his desk, the weight accumulated. By his late 40s, Mark’s weight reached an all-time high and he was diagnosed with type two diabetes.

In 2011, Mark’s endocrinologist gave him a wake-up call. “He said I was on a collision course for something awful. I was only 54 years old, but with high cholesterol, high blood pressure and a need for 200 units of insulin a day, I would be lucky to live a long life.”

That’s when Mark’s endocrinologist recommended the Michigan Bariatric Institute. Mark attended an informational session and started researching bariatric surgery. Together, the Layton’s committed to Mark’s surgery and all it entailed – dieting, exercise and educational seminars before and after surgery.

In June 2012, Mark underwent laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy, the removal of approximately 75 percent of his stomach, leaving a two to three ounce stomach structured as a narrow tube. Recovery was relatively quick and painless, and Mark’s type two diabetes was gone in the matter of a week.

Mark and his wife committed to daily walking. Mark even bought a bike. The pounds started coming off and Mark was thinner, healthier and happier. He even began to run. In March of 2013, Mark ran his first 5K after a suggestion from his wife.

Over the next year, Mark kept running. He ran several 10K races and completed a 15K. Then, he started doing the math. “I was running a 15K, and I thought, what’s a few more miles? Why not do a half marathon?” Mark trained and completed his first half marathon early in 2014.

In October 2014, Mark ran the Detroit Free Press/Talmer Bank Marathon. This time, he had his daughter with him for the first half, the same daughter who followed in her father’s footsteps and had bariatric surgery from the Michigan Bariatric Institute last year.

“My daughter and I have both lost more than 100 pounds,” Mark said. “My golf game has improved, I have more energy and I am much healthier. My diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure are all gone.” None of this would have been possible without bariatric surgery.

For more information about the Michigan Bariatric Institute, visit www.stmarymercy.org/mbi-livonia or call 877-Why-Weight (877-949-9344).

A Wish List for Dad

My Dad was always bigger than life. As a little girl I loved to put my little feet in his big shoes and walk around the house.   I remember running to the door when he came home from work so I could dance on his feet. Or how he would lift me high onto his shoulders to watch the Thanksgiving parade. How his smile could light up a room— and his never ending repertoire of jokes. I was Daddy’s little girl. It seemed whatever I wished for— no matter how outrageous— he would make it happen.

Like the Pillsbury doughboy, I used to poke my finger in his big belly and tease him about his extra weight. His response was always the same: “There’s more of me to love!”

This year for me is “Father-less Day.” My Dad passed away last year after a long and difficult battle with heart disease, diabetes and a whole host of other health issues. His struggles left him with only one foot of the two I used to dance on. He could only move one arm of the two that used to hold me on his shoulders. He spent his last months in a nursing home— a shadow of who he used to be. And the worst part is… it didn’t have to end like that.

Like so many men, when it came to living a healthy life, my Dad buried his head in the sand. Despite the severity of the disease, he was never proactive about his health. He never exercised. He didn’t watch his diet or his weight. If I could go back in time and give my Dad a new list of wishes— it would be so different. Here’s a good list to share with your Dad that I wish my Dad had followed before it was too late:

  • Get Moving: Staying active is so important if you want to maintain your overall health. Just going for a walk will improve your mood, muscle strength and promote a healthy weight.
  • Avoid White Foods and Trans Fats: Eat for health. Foods with white flour and white sugar and processed foods don’t have the vitamins, minerals or natural fiber your body needs. They drive up your blood sugar and lead to health struggles. Avoid the trans fats that raise your risk of heart disease. Stick with the healthful fats that protect your heart like olive oil and omega-3 oils you find in salmon and other cold-water fish. Eat nuts and avocados. Eat more fruit and vegetables.
  • Flex your Biceps: Make sure Dad is getting into the weight room. Lifting weights, even just once a week, can improve muscle strength.
  • Watch your Weight: Maintaining a healthy weight helps you reduce your risk of hypertension, heart disease, diabetes etc. etc. Yes, it may mean there will be less of you to love— but you may be lovable a whole lot longer.
  • Relax: Get more sleep. Read a book. Try learning how to meditate.   Stress is linked to so many diseases from heart disease to cancer. Learn to breathe. Try yoga. I wish my Dad had tried yoga even once.

I miss my dad so much and if I had the opportunity to go back in time, I would give him the above advice.  We may have been able to celebrate another Father’s Day this year.



All You Need is Love

LilaLazarus_ColumnArtThe Beatles were on to something.  When it comes to protecting your heart, love may be your most potent protective covering.

If you want to reduce stress and anxiety, decrease your blood pressure and total cholesterol, you know the importance of good nutrition, exercise and not smoking.  But did you know the simple act of loving  along with some specific behaviors that go with it, can also empower your heart?  So if you really want to improve your next stress test… turn up your love meter.  Here’s how:

I Want to Hold Your Hand
Grab a hand.  If it’s peace and serenity you’re seeking, people think of yoga or meditation or maybe a hot bath.  Turns out, just holding hands can also have that calming effect.  A study published in the journal Psychological Science showed that a little pressure when holding hands, specifically  a squeeze between the thumb and forefinger, could calm pain and anxiety and promote a feeling of well-being.  The less stress you have, the less likely you are to have an increased heart rate and other factors that can lead to heart disease.

She Loves You
Fall in love!  Oh the wonders of a new relationship!  You know that magical feeling when your heart goes pitter patter.  Your brain is busy releasing a drug cocktail of hormones: Adrenaline, dopamine and norepinephrine. They all help to strengthen your heart beat and get your blood circulating more efficiently.   It’s a workout.  It’s similar to what happens when you jog around the block.   You even feel healthier.  But don’t get me wrong… you still need to exercise.

Love Me Do
Surround yourself with people you love and who love you. It’s a great way to keep your blood pressure down.  A study reported in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine suggested a loving relationships and healthy friendships may be the key to a healthy heart.

Hold Me Tight
Go give someone a squeeze!  I’m a real believer in hug therapy.    I don’t need a study to show it makes a person feel better though there are plenty of studies.  The act of hugging releases the “cuddle hormone” oxytocin.   We also immediately reduce the amount of cortisol, the stress hormone produced in our bodies.   In an experiment at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, people who didn’t have any contact with their partners developed a quickened heart rate of 10 beats per minute  compared to the five beats per minute among participants who were allowed to hug their partners

Bottom line: Love is all you need.  I’m off to hug and kiss and hold hands with my hubby.  It’s good for the heart.

A Matter of the Heart

Dorothea Ross 098

Dorothea was grateful to be celebrating another Thanksgiving with her family, but the day before the holiday she felt chest pain and pressure, which led her straight to the emergency room at St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor. She was relieved to hear that her diagnosis was angina, but it revealed an underlying issue.

This wasn’t the first time Dorothea experienced heart problems. She has survived four heart attacks and two open heart bypass surgeries in her lifetime. 

The heart team at St. Joe knew that Dorothea needed an aortic valve replacement but another open heart surgery was too risky for a woman her age who had previous heart surgeries. “I just figured that I didn’t have much time left,” said Dorothea, “but Dr. Arthur Szyniszewski and Dr. Andrew Pruitt gave me another chance at life when they told me about a new procedure they were doing called TAVR.”

Traditional treatment for severe aortic stenosis – a narrowing of the valve that delivers blood to the heart—has been to open the chest, remove the faulty valve and replace it with a new one. For many years there was little that could be done to treat severe aortic stenosis if the patient was unable to undergo open heart surgery due to age and/or the severity of their condition.

But, in 2012, the heart team at St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor began performing a new procedure – the transcatheter aortic valve replacement – or TAVR. Watch Video on how TAVR works.

Dorothea carefully weighed the risks and benefits and decided to go for it. “I’ve been blessed with a good life and if the doctors feel it will be successful, then I have no worries,” said Dorothea. “I come to St. Joe for all of my health care needs because of their good reputation and excellent care.”

Originally from Winnipeg, Canada, Dorothea has always been very active. She spends quality time with her good friends, is an avid euchre player and loves parties. She also enjoys spending time with her family and seeing her 14 grandchildren, 12 great grandchildren and five great-great grandchildren.

“Before TAVR I thought my days were numbered. Now, with each day that passes I’m not having any more angina attacks and I feel great. I enjoy my life and I’m happy for the opportunity to lengthen it.”