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Me & My Doctor

primary care provider

Working in tandem for better health

Whether you’re healthy or sick, male or female,  15 years old or 100 years young, you’re in charge. Ask yourself this: are you healthy? Maybe you are today, but what about tomorrow?

Finding a physician who you like and trust, and building a partnership with him or her over time, is one of the best things you can do for your health.

“PCP” is a commonly used acronym to describe your primary health care provider. This is usually a physician, but can also be a nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant who works under the direction of a physician.

Why do I need a primary care physician?

People who have an ongoing relationship with a primary care physician (PCP) have better overall health and lower health-related expenses than those without a PCP.

Find and visit a primary care doctor you trust. They become your go-to provider in non-emergency situations, and are specifically trained and skilled in continuing care for persons with any undiagnosed sign, symptom or health concern, not limited by problem origin (biological, behavioral or social), organ system or diagnosis.

On a daily basis, a PCP provides health promotion, disease prevention, health maintenance, counseling, education, diagnosis and treatment of acute and chronic illness.

When you have questions about your health, who do you ask?

The role of a PCP is to:

  1. Provide comprehensive exams and preventive care
  2. Identify and treat common, sudden and chronic medical conditions
  3. Teach healthy lifestyle choices
  4. Assess the urgency of your medical problems and direct you to the best place for that care
  5. Make referrals to medical specialists when necessary

How does having a PCP benefit you?

  • Research shows that people who have an ongoing relationship with a PCP have better overall health outcomes and lower death rates than those people without a PCP.
  • Research also shows that those with a PCP save money in the long run. One reason for that savings is the primary care doctor’s focus on prevention.
  • When you have a primary care doctor, you’re never on your own with your health care.

What if something more serious happens to me?

Primary care is usually provided in an outpatient setting; however, if you are admitted to the hospital, your PCP may assist in or direct your care, depending on the circumstances.


Internist: treats adults ages 18 and over and are the broadest category of primary care providers

Family Practitioner: sees patients of all ages, and tends to see more than one member of a family

Pediatrician: specializes in caring for newborns, children and adolescents

Advanced Practice Nurse Practitioner (APNP): treats patients of all ages depending on their specialty (family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, etc.)

What’s the difference?

MD (medical doctor): practice allopathic medicine, the classical form of medicine, focused on the diagnosis and treatment of human diseases.

DO (doctor of osteopathy): practice osteopathic medicine, which is centered on a more holistic view of medicine in which the focus is on seeing the patient as a “whole person” to reach a diagnosis, rather than treating the symptoms alone.

Primary care physician vs. medical specialist

Primary care physician: helps keep you healthy, provides a home base for all your medical needs, and is your go-to when you’re sick.

A specialist: has a deeper but narrower skill set and may serve only a short-term purpose, such as diagnosing a problem or designing a treatment regimen. Some females choose to see their OB/GYN provider for their annual check-up. Providers, such as OB/GYNs, generally focus on women’s care and don’t directly focus on disease management and screening out of the OB/GYN arena. Women can have both.

How do I find a primary care physician for myself or a family member?

Option #1: Call NurseDirect at 800-362-9900. A referral associate will assist you in selecting a PCP. If they help you arrive at a decision, they can connect you to the clinic during office hours so an appointment can be made.

What’s important to you?

  • Are the office hours or location convenient? You can choose one closer to work or home.
  • Do you tend to require frequent labs? You can find a clinic with lab and general radiology services on location.
  • Are there any language barriers? You can find a PCP who speaks your language.
  • What do you want in a doctor? You can find what you want.
  • Do you want a PCP who has similar interests as you? Every PCP lists their outside interests in their bio so you can find one you connect with.

Option #2: Find a doctor at Affinity or Ministry. Select “primary care” in the specialty drop-down menu. You can narrow down search results by location, language and gender.

Option #3: Word-of-mouth. Ask your family, friends or co-workers.


why you need a primary care provider infographic

How to read and understand food labels


understanding food labels

I’m often asked, “What should I look for when reading food labels?”

Great question! First, let’s look at why we even have food labels.

History of Food Regulations

In the early 13th century, the king of England proclaimed the first food regulatory law, the Assize of Bread, which prohibited bakers from mixing ground peas and beans into bread dough.

Ever since, it has been a cat and mouse game between the food industry and the public. In the U.S., food regulation dates back to early colonial times.

In 1862, President Lincoln launched the Department of Agriculture and the Bureau of Chemistry, the predecessor of the Food and Drug Administration.

Fast forward to 2011 – the Grocery Manufacturers Association announces Nutrition Keys, a new front-of-pack labeling system.

First Casualty: Common Sense

The problem is that with so much information, first causality is common sense.

Increasingly, the food with technological manipulation becomes more complicated, and to decipher what is in it is getting more difficult to comprehend. This causes decision paralysis, and we end up with either a wrong choice or familiar default.

Let’s train ourselves to be better label detectives.

What is in a name?

Sugar is labeled under different names: high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup solids, sucrose, dextrose, evaporated sugar cane, cane sugar, and evaporated cane juice (which is refined sugar and not actual nutritious cane juice) are all the same thing – a fast-acting sugar devoid of nutrients, but these sugars can be present in the same product and listed as separate ingredients under all of those names and more.

Ingredients have to be listed with the highest concentrations first according to FDA regulations, so spacing them out in this way lets them be shifted further down the list and thus appear to be present in lower quantities.

Solution: Avoid processed food as much as possible.

Having our cake and eating it, too?

Another problem arises when food manufacturers understate the serving size.

Breyer’s ice-cream serving size is half a cup (calories: 130). Who eats half a cup of ice-cream?

Solution: Look at the serving size carefully.

Find me if you can!

FDA regulations allow labels to say 0% trans fat as long as trans fat is less than 0.5 gm. Eating different processed foods can add up trans fat quickly.

Imposters everywhere

Fiber imposters like chicory root in fiber bars do not have the same beneficial effects as whole grain and soluble fibers.

Instead, food makers are adding something called “isolated fibers” made from chicory root or purified powders of polydextrose and other substances that haven’t been shown to lower blood sugar or cholesterol.

Solution: Smart label reading; opt for fruits, vegetables, and whole grains as your fiber source.

Looks can be deceptive

Whole wheat and whole grain – many whole wheat breads are brown due to the addition of ammonium sulphate, which nourishes yeast and makes bread look more brown.

Many products make a whole grain claim even though they often contain refined flour as the first ingredient and the amount of whole grains are minimal.

Solution: Unless you see grains on the bread, it is low-fiber bread.

“Strengthens your immune system”

Through clever wordsmithing, food companies can skirt FDA rules about health claims and give consumers the impression that a product will ward off disease.

“Made with real fruit”

Often the “real fruit” is found in small quantities and isn’t even the same kind of fruit pictured on the package. You may see lots of pictures of fresh oranges and pineapple. But the main ingredients are corn syrup, sugar, and white grape juice concentrate.

Solution: Buy a juicer, it will pay its cost in a few weeks.

Fall is in the Air

Fall is in the Air

The leaves on the trees are now golden yellow, orange and bright red, which means fall has definitely made its presence known. Neighborhoods are decorated with haystacks, spooky Halloween decorations and although the sun is shining, the air is crisp. This change in season also brings football season and a good opportunity to cheer on your favorite team in the company of friends and family.

Many of these parties are fraught with calorie dense foods, from gooey cheesy appetizers to gooey sugary desserts. Below are some great ideas for healthy celebrations.

If you are grilling at your next football party:

  • Try grilling chicken and vegetable kabobs. Marinade the chicken ahead of time, put them on skewers, place them in a sealed container or bag and refrigerate until you are ready to grill them.
  • Make ground turkey burgers instead of ground beef burgers or try veggie burgers which offer many different varieties of flavors from harvest garden burgers to spicy black bean burgers.
  • Try grilling fish. Salmon and tuna are great grilling favorites.
  • Vegetables. Grilled vegetables are delicious and healthy.
  • Fruit. Yes, you can grill fruit too.
  • Try making different types of meatballs and offer these as well.

For appetizers, sure you can place a platter of summer sausage, cheese and crackers on the table but why not kick it up a notch and offer one of these instead:

  • Greek platter: Greek black olives, fresh mozzarella mini balls, hummus and toasted whole wheat pita bread pieces.
  • Try slicing up some fresh tomatoes and put them on a plate. Place a fresh basil leaf on top and a thin slice of fresh mozzarella cheese on top. Drizzle lightly with olive oil.
  • A platted showcasing a variety of nuts and dried fruit.
  • Warm black bean dip with corn tortilla chips.
  • Popcorn is a popular snack for kids and grown-ups! Try seasoning the popcorn with a variety of spices!
  • Strawberries and yogurt dip.
  • Guacamole and tortilla chips.

For dessert try something other than cakes, pies and cookies. Instead consider:

  • A fresh fruit platter or a fruit salad.
  • Pumpkin mousse (try this recipe)
  • Carmelized apple tostadas make use of the abundance of apples this time of the year (try this recipe)
  • Roasted pears are a delicious and wonderful dessert that is easy to make (try this recipe)

Remember that these parties are really about celebrating with friends and family, cheering your team and having a good time; it’s not all about the food. If you splurge, just be conscious of other calorie-dense foods offered the rest of the day. If you slip up, do not get down on yourself, don’t focus just on what you did in one meal, but consider how you approach food throughout an entire day.

You Can Decrease Your Risk of Heart Disease

heart healthy

Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. This includes heart attack, stroke, and peripheral artery disease. Not all risk factors for heart disease are controllable (like age, family history, and race and ethnicity), but many others are.

Preventable risk factors include:

  • Diet
  • Physical inactivity
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Dyslipidemia (high triglycerides and low HDL or “good” cholesterol)
  • Diabetes
  • Heavy alcohol use

Change your lifestyle to decrease your risk

People with multiple risk factors are at higher risk for developing heart disease. A healthy lifestyle, which includes regular physical activity, not using tobacco, managing stress, and eating healthfully, can certainly lower the risk for heart disease. Here are some steps you can take to decrease your risks:

Physical activity

Studies show increased physical activity lowers the chances that a person will develop or die from heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 total minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, or 75 minutes per week of vigorous activity. In addition, muscle-strengthening activity should be performed at least two days per week. If you are currently inactive, it is important to slowly work up to this level of activity.

Tobacco cessation

Cigarette smoking is the leading avoidable cause of premature death. Tobacco damages blood vessels, temporarily raises blood pressure, and reduces exercise tolerance. When a person quits smoking, benefits begin to appear after only a few months and reach that of the nonsmoker in several years. Approaches to smoking cessation include behavioral therapy, nicotine replacement therapy, and other drug therapies.

Managing stress

Stress is an inevitable part of life; however, chronic unmanaged stress is linked to increased risk of heart disease. Stress itself can raise blood pressure. Additionally, stress can lead to engaging in other unhealthy habits such as overeating, under-exercising, or using tobacco. If you cannot find ways to manage stress on your own, seek out stress management classes or resources.

Healthy diet

A diet that is considered “heart-healthy” is truly a diet that everyone can follow, regardless of existing heart disease. Basic tenants of a heart-healthy diet are rooted in common sense:

  • Follow your hunger and satiety cues and avoid oversized portions of less healthy foods. Since excess weight contributes to heart disease risk, it’s important to make sure that portion sizes and total calories per day are not excessive for your daily activity level.
  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. They’re full of fiber as well as vitamins and minerals, including antioxidants. Fruits and vegetables are also good sources of potassium. Potassium can lessen the negative effects of sodium on blood pressure.
  • Replace refined grains with whole grains. In the processing of refined grains, parts of the grain kernel are stripped away, thus removing most of the fiber, B-vitamins, and iron. The term “whole grain” means that the entire grain kernel is intact, as are the nutrients. The fiber in whole grains can help lower blood cholesterol levels.
  • Reduce sodium intake. Most Americans consume much more than the recommended 1,500 mg of sodium per day. Most of the sodium in our diet comes from processed foods and restaurant foods. Check nutrition facts labels and choose food items with less than 20 percent of the daily value for sodium. Reduce the amount of salt used in cooking and at the table.
  • Be choosy about protein sources. Research shows that poultry, fish, legumes, nuts and seeds are optimal protein sources. Higher-fat meats, such as dark meat poultry and red meat, can be included, but in reasonable portions. Avoid processed meats like hot dogs, luncheon meats, bacon, and sausage.
  • Include heart-healthy fat sources. Fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, trout, sardines), walnuts and walnut oil, canola oil, and flaxseed all provide omega-3 fatty acids, which are cardio-protective. Nuts, nut butters, olive oil, and avocado are also healthy sources of fat. Avoid trans fat, which is found in processed food items.
  • Limit consumption of soft drinks and other sweetened beverages (like fruit drinks).

Weight loss

Obesity increases several major and modifiable risk factors for heart disease including hypertension, dyslipidemia, and diabetes. Weight loss decreases these risks.

Dyslipidemia control

Better cholesterol levels can be achieved through exercise, diet and drug therapy as appropriate.

Diabetes control

Diabetes is also regarded as a heart disease equivalent. Controlling your blood sugar involves weight management, blood pressure and lipid control to prevent some of the complications that lead to heart disease.

Alcohol control

Studies show that consuming small amounts of alcohol lowers the risks of developing or dying from heart disease. The benefit of small daily alcohol intake must be weighed against the increased risks that are apparent when a person consumes more than one drink daily.


Aspirin therapy can be effective only when recommended by your doctor. Be sure to talk with your care team about whether or not a daily aspirin can benefit you.

Get heart healthy and improve your quality of life!

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet and exercise not only prevents heart disease, but also wards off other illnesses. So get heart-healthy. It will make a big impact on your quality of life!

Anemia: Is Your Blood Tired?

Anemia: Is Your Blood Tired?

Hardly a novice runner, Allison was working hard to improve her distance and run a half marathon…without success. After only a few miles, she felt extremely tired and had to stop and walk for a few minutes. As her frustration mounted, a running friend suggested that she see a doctor. “Sounds like anemia to me,” the friend said. And it was. With some iron supplements, her training is back on track.

Anemia has been called tired blood, and fatigue is the most common symptom. The cells of the body need oxygen, and this is delivered to them by the iron-rich hemoglobin which attaches itself to oxygen in the lungs and travels through the body in red blood cells. When there is a shortage of red blood cells, there is a shortage of oxygen in working cells, and the result is anemia. There are about 400 types of anemia, but there are three main causes: 1) loss of blood, 2) lack of red blood cell production and 3) destruction of large numbers of red blood cells.

BLOOD LOSS: The loss of red blood cells through bleeding is common, and women of child-bearing age are vulnerable, particularly if they have heavy periods.

Heavy use of aspirin, ibuprofen or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)–common among endurance athletes–can cause gastrointestinal bleeding, including ulcers.

Rapid blood loss can occur following surgery, childbirth or a ruptured blood vessel. Gradual, chronic loss because of ulcers or heavy menstrual bleeding is more common and can be equally dangerous because the symptoms are more subtle and may go unnoticed.

When blood loss exceeds production of red blood cells, the result is often iron-deficient anemia–by far the most common type.

LACK OF RED BLOOD CELL PRODUCTION: Iron deficiency anemia can also occur because of diet. Without enough foods rich in iron, folate and vitamin B12, the body is hampered in its effort to create sufficient healthy red blood cells.

A substantial portion of the iron in most of our diets comes from meat; as a result, vegetarians and vegans are at risk. There are, however, plenty of non-meat sources of iron: dark green, leafy vegetables; beans; lentils; dried fruits; nuts; and iron-fortified cereals.

Folate is found in these foods plus citrus fruits and juices and fortified breads and cereals. Vitamin B12 is found naturally in dairy products and is often added to cereals and soy products.

Iron-deficiency anemia can occur because of the extra demands placed on the body by pregnancy, breast feeding or high-level endurance training. Chronic diseases that affect the body’s ability to produce red blood cells include cancer, HIV/AIDS, rheumatoid arthritis and kidney disease.

DESTRUCTION OF RED BLOOD CELLS: Hemolytic anemia occurs when red blood cells are prematurely destroyed and removed from the system. Cells die at a pace faster than the bone marrow can replace them.

Hemolytic anemia is often associated with an autoimmune disorder in which the spleen mistakenly traps and destroys healthy blood cells.

One of the most severe forms of hemolytic anemia occurs when a person receives a transfusion of blood of the wrong blood type. Existing red blood cells produce antibodies to fight the transfused blood, causing extremely rapid destruction. A newborn can develop this type of hemolytic anemia when the mother and child have incompatible blood types.

Sickle cell anemia is an inherited disorder in which red blood cells form an abnormal crescent shape that causes them to get stuck in tiny blood vessels and break down prematurely. This disorder affects mainly African American and Hispanic Americans.

WHAT TO DO: Whether because of diet, destruction or blood loss, the bottom line is blood that does not contain enough red blood cells and hemoglobin to nourish the tissues of the body. In addition to fatigue, symptoms can include weakness, pale skin, cold hands and feet, shortness of breath, dizziness and a fast or irregular heartbeat.

All of these are symptoms of other common ailments, so a visit to your doctor and a complete blood count is needed to confirm a diagnosis. In some cases, the patient may have symptoms too mild to be noticed, especially at first.

In many cases, treatment is simple: a change of diet plus iron and other supplements. If a medical condition or illness is responsible for the deficiency, then the underlying cause must be identified and treated.  Visit your doctor to get more information.  Don’t have a doctor?  Visit http://www.affinityhealth.org/Affinity/Find-a-Doctor.htm to find one closest to you.


Disclaimer: The information found on Affinity's blog is a general educational aid. Do not rely on this information or treat it as a substitute for personal medical or health care advice, or for diagnosis or treatment. Always consult your physician or other qualified health care provider as soon as possible about any medical or health-related question and do not wait for a response from our experts before such consultation. If you have a medical emergency, seek medical attention immediately.

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