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It’s not vein to want great legs

It’s not vein to want great legs

We’re not talking about the actual shape of your knees, thighs or calves. We’re talking about avoiding spider veins, varicose veins and venous insufficiency, which can cause pain and make it hard to walk.

Six out of ten people will experience a vein condition at some point in their lifetime. Are you one of them?

There are three risk factors that you cannot change. But with treatment and awareness, you may be able to minimize their influence.

#1 Your age. After age 35, the valves in your legs may not work as well as they did. As they become weak, blood pools in the veins leading to varicose veins or venous insufficiency.

#2 Your gender. If you’re a woman, you may be at a greater risk. Progesterone, a hormone associated with pregnancy and monthly hormonal changes, may be to blame. Progesterone may cause your veins to stretch, which can lead to varicose veins and other problems.

#3 Your family history. If your parents, grandparents or siblings suffer from vein problems, you may have inherited the same gene.

You can minimize your risk and the severity of vein problems.
Even if you have these three unavoidable risk factors, there are nearly three times as many healthy choices you can make to keep your legs healthy.

  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Exercise to increase circulation.
  • Change positions every 20 minutes if possible.
  • Don’t cross your legs when sitting.
  • Put your feet up when you are resting.
  • If you smoke, quit.
  • Don’t drink alcohol to excess.
  • When traveling, walk every hour.
  • Be aware of soft tissue injuries. Deep bruises may damage your veins.
  • Wear compression stockings if you have vein problems.

Do you have one of these common vein conditions? Vein problems range from minor to potentially life-threatening. Below are a few of the more common conditions we see in our clinics.

Varicose veins appear as large, cord-like veins running down the leg. They occur when the one-way valves in the veins no longer work correctly allowing the blood to pool. Varicose veins can be mild and painless or severe and painful, limiting movement.

Spider veins may cause itching or burning sensations in the legs. Occasionally, they may signal a problem with veins deep inside the calves or thighs.

Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot deep within the leg. It may develop due to weak veins or when you sit for extended periods of time. Half the people who have DVT don’t even know it. Others may feel pain when standing or walking. The skin in the area of the clot may feel warm, swell or be discolored. If you experience these symptoms, you should contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible.

Left untreated, the blood clot can break free and travel to the lungs, creating a pulmonary embolism. This life-threatening condition causes shortness of breath, severe pain when breathing deep, and a bloody cough. If you have these symptoms, dial 911.

Chronic Venous Insufficiency (CVI) may cause a dull, achy or heavy feeling in your legs. Weakened vein walls and damaged valves are to blame. Other symptoms of chronic venous insufficiency include cramping, itching, tingling, leg pain, swelling, redness, thickening skin on the legs or ankles, wounds that are slow to heal, and color changes on the skin near the ankles. Left untreated, CVI will become more painful.

If you have visible varicose or spider veins or your legs feel heavy and achy, make an appointment your primary care clinician. He or she will be able to make a diagnosis and create a treatment plan for you. If you don’t have a primary care clinician you can find one at Ministry Health Care or Affinity Health System.

Six things you should know about sunscreen

Six things you should know about sunscreen

After months of being cooped up inside because of cold temperatures, the sun’s warmth feels good. The sun brings renewal for plants and people, but also raises questions about exposure to UV rays. Here are a few common questions we hear at Ministry Health Care.

  1. Should I put sunscreen on my baby?
    We do not recommend putting sunscreen on babies younger than six months old. Instead, dress them in tightly woven, breathable fabrics that minimize their exposure to the sun’s harmful rays. Whenever possible, keep your baby shaded from the sun.
  1. Are sunscreens safe?
    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved eight sunscreens: oxybenzone, avobenzone, octinoxate, octisalate, homosalate, octocrylene, titanium dioxide and zinc oxide.

    Topical sunscreens such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide may be safest for small children.
    They are not absorbed, but create a film on the skin to block the sun’s ultraviolet rays.

    Chemical-based sunscreens must be applied at least 30 minutes before sun exposure to be effective.
    Avoid using sunscreens containing oxybenzone on young children. This chemical has been shown to have some estrogen-like effects when it is absorbed by the body.
  1. What SPF should I use?
    The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using a waterproof, broad spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 that blocks both UVA and UVB rays.
  1. How much sunscreen should I apply?
    The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that adults use one ounce(about the size of a shot glass) of sunscreen to cover their exposed skin. Toddlers and small children need less, but a liberal amount should be applied to provide proper protection.
  1. How often should I apply sunscreen?
    Sunscreen should be applied every 2 hours or as needed after sweating or swimming.
  1. Do sunscreens expire?
    Yes. Sunscreen formulations are approved to last 3 years. You should check the expiration dates before purchase or use. Sunscreen expiration should not be a problem.


Protect your child’s skin from the sun’s cancer causing rays.
If you are going outside with your child, here are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Take sunscreen with you everywhere.
  • Apply a sunscreen every day your child goes outside – even in winter.
  • Apply SPF 30 sunscreen liberally 30 minutes before going outside. Reapply every two hours.
  • Avoid sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
  • Pack an umbrella in sunny weather to make your own shade.
  • Bring a tightly woven, light-weight, breathable cover-up for more skin protection.
  • Use a hat with a wide brim to protect your child’s face and neck.
  • Have your child wear sunglasses that block UVA and UVB rays for eye protection.
  • Be aware the sun’s rays can bounce off water and snow.

Remember any sun damage, even a tan, puts you at risk for skin cancer.

What if my child gets sunburn?
Even though you may apply the best sunscreen and practice proven sun-prevention methods, your child still may get sunburned. Use the tips below to relieve his or her symptoms.

  • Take the child out of the sun and avoid sun exposure until the sunburn heals.
  • Apply cool, wet compresses to the burn or give your child a cool bath.
  • Encourage your child to drink water to stay hydrated.
  • Apply a moisturizer to counteract the burn’s dryness.
  • Give your child an over-the-counter pain reliever.
  • Apply hydrocortisone cream or aloe to the burn.
  • Do not use benzocaine or other “caine” products on the burn.

If the sunburn blisters or your child has chills, fever or a headache call your primary care provider or go to the emergency room for care.

Author: Heidi Heise, APNP
Heidi is a board certified nurse practitioner with
Ministry Medical Group Clinic in Rib Mountain

If you do not have a primary care provider, click to find one for Ministry Health Care or Affinity Health Care.

Eating less meat, try vegetarian

Eating less meat, try vegetarian

More individuals are choosing to eat less meat and the number of people choosing to become vegetarian is growing. Even if you are not a vegetarian, incorporating more plant-based foods in your diet has been shown to have healthful benefits.

Eating a variety of foods that meets your caloric and nutrient needs is crucial to a healthy vegetarian life. Many folks, upon thinking about vegetarian diets, almost instinctively express concern about their intake of protein. There are a variety of sources of protein aside from meat, including beans and other legumes, eggs, nuts, seeds and soy products. These foods are not solely recommended for vegetarians; everyone benefits from their high nutrient content. A vegetarian chili, three bean salads, bean soups or a hummus-filled sandwich are protein rich foods. Get protein from nuts by eating unsalted nuts as a snack, using them in main dishes or adding them to a salad or your morning yogurt or cereal. Edamame or soy beans make an excellent and convenient snack for example.

Many popular dishes can be made vegetarian with a few simple changes. Lasagna can easily become vegetarian by using eggplant, zucchini and carrots instead of meat. Soups made with pearl barley, vegetables and legumes can be healthy and protein-rich. Chilies, pasta dishes, pizza, vegetable stir-fry and burritos can easily be made without meat.

Restaurants can often make vegetarian modifications to their menu items by substituting meatless sauces or non-meat items. A side of grilled or raw vegetables is almost always an option.

Burgers have come a long way too! The varieties of veggie, bean and soy burgers have expanded in the last few years and they taste great! Try them at your next cookout. You may also shop for soy hot dogs! Meatless nuggets are also available. These vegetarian options are usually lower in saturated fat and contain no cholesterol compared to their meat-based versions. You could also grill marinated tofu, veggie kabobs and many other vegetables on the grill. You can grill fruit too!

There are some nutrients that vegetarians need to focus on such as vitamin B12 and iron. However, a well-planned, meatless eating plan can incorporate these nutrients with little difficulty.

Author: Julia Salamon

Julia is a nutrition education and corporate dietitian with Affinity Health System.


Mild Hearing Loss–What To Do

Mild Hearing Loss–What To Do

About three quarters of Americans age 75 and over have some degree of hearing loss. But, according to the National Institutes of Health, only 20 percent of those who need a hearing aid are wearing one.

One reason has to do with image: many seniors worry that a hearing aid will make them look and feel “old.” There is also the issue of cost: hearing aids cost from several hundred to several thousand dollars and are generally not covered by Medicare.

Poor hearing usually develops slowly over a number of years, and gradually worsens.

Regardless of severity, the first step is to talk to your doctor. The problem may be simply a buildup of ear wax, which can be removed. A family physician can also check for an ear infection, ruptured ear drum, tumor or abnormal bone growth that may be interfering with hearing.

Most cases of hearing loss in later life are a result of wear and tear on the tiny hair-like cells (cilia) in the inner ear that transmit sound.

Damage can be caused by prolonged exposure to loud noises, illnesses (such as meningitis) or medications (such as gentamicin). Some individuals, because of genetics, are more vulnerable than others to this kind of hearing loss.

Although a physician can confirm a hearing deficit and rule out abnormalities, a referral to an audiologist is usually needed to determine the nature of the hearing loss and make recommendations for dealing with it.

An audiologist will examine your ears, ask you questions and perform a variety of tests. Sound is measured in both frequency (pitch) and intensity. The human ear can hear frequencies between 16 and 20,000 hertz (Hz) or vibrations per second. Normal conversation in a quiet place is in a mid-range of 500 to 2,000 Hz. Loudness is measured in decibels (dB). A whisper is 20 dB and normal conversation about 50 to 60 dB.

One result of a hearing test is an audiogram–a graph indicating the softest sounds you can hear at various frequencies–from very low to very high–in each ear.

Treatment recommendations are based on the severity and nature of the deficits measured against individual lifestyle and needs. If you spend most of your time in one-on-one conversations in a quiet environment, some deficits might not be very significant. If you have been prompted by others to have a hearing test, however, your problems are undoubtedly affecting your quality of life and your social interaction.

If it’s simply a matter of needing higher sound volume, assistive listening systems can help. Telephones can be amplified or captions can be provided. Door bells, smoke alarms and alarm clocks can be altered so that they vibrate or flash as well as ring.

Pocketalker Pro and Pocketalker Ultra are battery-powered pocket devices that can be used to amplify sounds in a variety of hearing scenarios. Costing a little over $100, they can be used on their own or to give a boost to hearing aids.

Simply amplifying sound is not always the answer as you might notice if you turn up the sound on the TV. Sounds at some frequencies will be too loud while others might not be loud enough. The result is a muddled sound.

A hearing aid is designed to amplify sound at the frequencies where there is a deficit. More complex needs may require a more expensive hearing aid, but technology has improved, and most devices sold today can be digitally programmed. There are also many types and styles, including some that are small enough to be barely noticeable.

There is no need to be left out of social situations or guess what others are saying. Whether hearing loss is mild, moderate or severe, help is available.

Authors: Dr. Heidi Grosskopf and Dr. Karen Teter

Heidi and Karen are Audiologists with Ministry Medical Group

To learn more, visit www.ministryhealth.org/hearing or www.affinityhealth.org/hearing.


Save time and money with HealtheVisits

Save time and money with HealtheVisits

When you feel sick, the last thing that you want to do is leave your house and drive to an urgent care center or the emergency room. You sit. You wait. You breathe in every else’s germs.

When you’ve had the condition before, you know the symptoms. You even have a good idea of what the clinician will prescribe. But instead of resting, you get into your car and drive to a medical facility.

Now, thanks to HealtheVisits you have another option. You can make an online visit to a Ministry Health Care or Affinity Health System clinician.


How do I make a HealtheVisit?

The process is simple. If you are located in Wisconsin, logon using your favorite browser and visit Ministry Health Care’s HealtheVisit site. Create an account and complete the online interview questions. After your form is complete, simply submit your encrypted information.  HealtheVisits are like modern day house calls. They can help you feel better – faster.

HealtheVisits are:

  • You can consult with a healthcare clinician without leaving your home. Based on your answers to the screening questionnaire, HealtheVisits can provide diagnosis and treatment for more than 20 common illnesses.
  • You can contact HealtheVisits any time day or night. When you contact HealtheVisits between the hours of 7 a.m. and 9 p.m., you will receive a diagnosis and treatment plan within an hour. Contacts made after 9 p.m. will receive a treatment plan the next day.

If you need a lab test for strep throat, we will even send a ZipTicket to your mobile device. This ticket will put you at the front of the line at the nearest lab for testing.

  • Get prescriptions sent to your pharmacy. If you need a prescription, your healthcare clinician can send your prescription to the pharmacy of your choice.
  • Save money: you pay just $35 per HealtheVisit. HealtheVisits accepts debit, credit and flex-spending cards. The charges are not submitted to insurance, but can be submitted to your health-savings account for reimbursement.

When you need healthcare for a minor health issue, HealtheVisits may be the perfect solution for anyone living, working and vacationing in Wisconsin. You only need access to the Internet. You do not have to be a patient of Ministry Health Care or Affinity Health System to use HealtheVisits. You just need to be in the state.

If you are suffering from:

  • Acid Reflux or Heart Burn (GERD)
  • Athlete’s Foot
  • A Cold
  • Diarrhea or Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
  • Eczema or Dermatitis
  • Female Bladder Infection (UTI)
  • Pink Eye (Conjunctivitis)
  • Sinus Infection
  • Styes
  • Vaginal Yeast Infection
  • Allergies or Hay Fever
  • Canker or Cold Sores
  • Constipation
  • Diaper Rash
  • Influenza (Flu)
  • Jock Itch
  • Minor Burns
  • Ringworm
  • Shingles
  • Tick Bites
  • Tinea

You can also use HealtheVisits consultations for medication refills for mild or exercise-induced asthma, influenza prevention, motion sickness prevention and EpiPen® refills.

If you have any questions, call the toll-free support line at 844.4EVISIT or 844.438.4748. Click to start your HealtheVisit today.

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.

The Affinity Health System blog contains opinions and views created by community members. Affinity does endorse the contributions of community members. You should not assume the information posted by community members is accurate and you should never disregard or delay seeking professional medical advice because of something you have read on this site.