Health and Wellness

Senior nutrition: Certain foods can reduce risk of heart disease

By Martha Swats, Owner/Administrator, Comfort Keepers

As we age, the risk of heart disease can increase due to a condition known as atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis occurs when the arteries begin to narrow from plaque buildup in the arterial walls, disrupting blood flow throughout the body. If blood flow stops altogether, from a blood clot, the outcome could include a heart attack or stroke.

While unhealthy lifestyle choices, such as lack of physical activity and/or smoking, can trigger atherosclerosis, poor diet can also be a cause. Foods high in salt and fat can result in high blood pressure, high levels of cholesterol, and high blood sugar levels — all of which are factors that can increase the risk of atherosclerosis (and heart disease) significantly.

Seniors who configure their diets to include healthy foods can make a profound impact on the health of their hearts. In fact, it's been reported that 70 percent of heart disease can be prevented with correct nutrition. Here are some of the foods that seniors — under proper supervision from a physician and/or dietician — can incorporate into their diet to reduce the risk of heart disease.

Foods that can reduce the risk of heart disease

• Berries: Blueberries, strawberries, cranberries, and raspberries are all beneficial when it comes to your heart, due primarily to their plentiful supply of antioxidants — which reduce damage caused by free radicals in the body.

• Oranges: The potassium found in oranges helps to maintain blood pressure, while the pectin (a high source of water-soluble fiber found in the pith and pulp) collects the cholesterol from ingested food, reducing absorption. Additionally, recent research indicates that citrus pectin aids in neutralizing galectin-3, a protein that damages heart tissue.

• Apples: Comparing apples to oranges may not be such a bad idea after all, as the former also contains pectin. Its fiber content also aids in removing cholesterol. With all of its benefits together, daily apple consumption can reduce LDL cholesterol by 40 percent.

• Nuts: Although nuts have a high level of fat, it is primarily monounsaturated and helps lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and increase HDL (good) cholesterol. Nuts also contain essential vitamins and minerals, such as folic acid, niacin, vitamin B, and vitamin E — all of which aid in helping the heart.

• Avocados: Similar to nuts, avocados are full of monounsaturated fats that help to reduce LDL cholesterol. The one downside is that avocados contain a high number of calories, so it's best to consume in moderation.

• Fish: Omega-3 fatty acids — often found in salmon, trout, and other cold water fish — work to simultaneously reduce triglycerides and raise HDL. Sardines, in particular, are said to provide the greatest number of Omega-3 fatty acids, compared to other cold-water fish. Note that the American Heart Association recommends two servings of fish at least twice a week.

• Asparagus: Similar to berries and other fruits and vegetables, asparagus is full of free radical-neutralizing antioxidants. It's also a great source of vitamins A, C, E, and K, fiber, and beta-carotene. Just be sure not to overcook or boil it for too long, as this can compromise the nutritional content.

• Oatmeal: Unprocessed oatmeal — free of added sugar — can reduce cholesterol due to its beta-glucan content. Try adding fresh berries to your oatmeal for flavor and added benefits.

• Red wine: Resveratrol, an antioxidant-rich compound found in certain berries and grapes, is what makes red wine heart-healthy, but most health professionals advise drinking no more than one glass a day. Anything past that and one's risk of heart and liver damage can increase.

• Dark chocolate: The flavonols found in cocoa – chocolate's plant source – can reduce blood pressure, maintain blood flow, and relax the arteries. To get the most out of dark chocolate, choose a bar that is at least 70 percent cocoa. Be sure that cocoa is the first listed ingredient, as opposed to sugar.

Nutrition along with a healthy lifestyle
One of the added benefits of choosing heart-healthy foods is that they supply other organs in the body with essential nutrients, adding to physical well-being. However, one should not rely solely on a heart-healthy diet in order to prevent heart disease.

In addition to taking steps to establish a daily exercise routine (including at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity — with permission from a doctor or physician), seniors should also monitor their cardiovascular health regularly by visiting a doctor or physician. Regular consultation with a health professional can provide further insights into how to prevent heart disease, but it may also help in detecting other issues early on.

HEARING MATTERS — Is it my memory or my hearing loss?


Recent research from John Hopkins reveals that hearing loss is also linked to dementia, walking problems and falls.
In a study that tracked 639 adults for nearly 12 years, John Hopkins expert Frank Lin, M.D., Ph.D found that untreated mild hearing loss doubled dementia risk, moderate hearing loss tripled the risk and people with severe hearing impairment were five times more likely to develop dementia. According to Lin, “Brain scans show us that hearing loss may contribute to a faster rate of atrophy in the brain.”
The brain has to work harder for people with hearing impairment. When we walk, our ears pick up subtle cues that help with balance. Hearing loss can cause us to miss those cues. This can be associated with more falls.
The question arises: can hearing aids reduce these serious health risks? Most agree that there are no downsides to wearing hearing aids. They help most people who wear them. In addition to the above, they allow people to stay engaged and social – keeping them involved and active in a social structure.
For more information on these studies visit



A giving chain

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Laconia resident Suzanne Watson took part in an 18-person kidney exchange in Connecticut earlier this year with her sister-in-law Patricia Villers from Ansonia, Connecticut.  Watson donated her kidney to a stranger in need, while Villers received a kidney recipient from yet another donor within the group of 18. (Karen Bobotas/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

Laconia woman honored for participation in ‘kidney chain’ donation involving 18 people

LACONIA — Suzanne Watson of the Lake City is one of 18 patients who took part in the largest kidney chain exchange in the United States to take place at one center.
The series of connected surgical procedures at Yale New Haven Transplantation Center in New Haven, Connecticut, began May 9 and ended June 21, with all participants reported to be doing well. All 18 donors were gathered together last Thursday, July 27, to celebrate the successful exchange at Yale New Haven.
Watson, who is a consultant in implementing human resources systems, was among the first donors in the complex set of surgeries that began May 9 when Robin Gilmartin of West Hartford, Connecticut, donated a kidney to Watson’s sister-in-law, Patricia Villers of Ansonia, Connecticut. That same day, Watson donated a kidney to William Greenwood of Bethel, Connecticut. The following day, Greenwood’s wife, Devon, who was not a compatible match to donate to her husband, successfully donated her kidney to Elly Borth of New Milford, Connecticut.
Villers, according to Watson, is a caring, selfless person who is a breast cancer survivor. Like most of the others in the kidney chain, Villers kas PKD, or polycystic kidney disease
syndrome, in which abnormal cysts grow in the kidneys. Villers was facing the need for dialysis as her condition worsened.
“It took very little thought on my part, she is so deserving,” Watson said of her decision to contact the transplantation center about donating a kidney to her sister-in-law.
Testing determined that Watson was a suitable match, but with blood type O negative, she is a universal donor and they decided that Villers would wait for a more compatible donor while Watson would donate to a patient who really needed it.
Villers found a donor in Gilmartin, while Watson donated to Greenwood.
According to Watson, Greenwood works at a construction company and has a wife, daughter, and grandson. He also had been sick with PKD, his condition was worsening, and he would have to go onto dialysis within a couple of months, so the timing was perfect.
“I wasn’t worried at all, once I passed the physical test,” Watson said. “I was more ready to get it over with.”
She said the whole process happened very quickly. She went in for testing in December, learned the results in early February, and submitted the necessary blood samples through Quest Diagnostics, which allowed her to remain in Laconia while Quest sent the results to Yale.
“It’s so very easy to be part of the program,” she said, explaining that the only time she had to travel to Connecticut prior to the surgery was for the education day, when she met with the surgeons, nutritionists, and nurses. “Everything’s extremely convenient and very connected.”
After the operation, “I was actually back to work from home the following week,” Watson said. “I figured it was better working than sitting around feeling off, and I was back traveling the road the following week. By the end of 10 days I felt good, and by three weeks, great.”
Subsequent surgeries in the kidney chain had Jeff Kilson of Dover Plains, New York, donating to Nancy Crighton of Prospect, Connecticut; Richard Ewing of Tequesta, Florida, donating to Randy Smith of Old Lyme, Connecticut; Laura Miller of Old Lyme donating to Janet Labati of Sandy Hook, Connecticut; Labati’s husband, James, donating to Helena Bradly of New Haven; Bradly’s sister, Precious Chiles, donating to Cheryl Murphy of Bridgeport, Connecticut; and Murphy’s son, Cory, donating to Michael Murphy (no relation) of New York, New York.
Many of the exchanges were the result of incompatible donors within the family who were willing to donate a kidney to another in exchange for a kidney that would help their loved one.
The Center for Living Organ Donors facilitated the exchange among the previously unconnected people from different communities. Dr. Sanjay Kulkami said such networks help to improve the overall health of all communities.
During a webcast on July 27, doctors and donors involved in the exchange shared their appreciation for the successful series of transplants.
Dr. David Mulligan, director of the Yale New Haven Transplantation Center, said, “Many of these kidney transplants were quite complex and beyond the level of risk often taken by many transplant centers,” and he thanked the nurses who made sure the work went seamlessly.
“Not only has it truly been a miracle for YNHTC to bring all these amazing pairs together, but it is also an example of the fantastic multidisciplinary team of doctors, nurses, social workers, dietitians, tissue typing lab, and OR staff that made each donor and recipient come through with shining colors.”
During the webcast, Janet Labati related her personal story of being diagnosed with kidney disease as a child of 10 and going through two previous kidney transplants from deceased donors. The medical challenges she faced included a compromised heart and blood diseases that affected her ability to undergo a third surgery.
“Yale found my husband to be incompatible,” she said, “and the doctors determined that a living donor transplant was my best option, but the surgeon had to look at my blood vessels [to make sure there was] a suitable blood supply.”
James Labati said he donated his kidney so Janet would receive one. He then shared a humorous anecdote about their early relationship.
“She said she had something to tell me, and I thought it might be some strange ideological belief. I asked if she was married, and she said no. I asked her if she was pregnant, and she said no. I asked her if she had any children, and she said no. When she told me she needed a kidney, I said, ‘Thank God.’”
Watson said everything that the surgical team had told them before the surgeries turned out to be true. “The first week you’re not yourself, but then you improve from there.”
Unlike in the past, when a kidney transplant left a person bedridden for a long period of time due to the major incisions, doctors now use arthroscopic surgery, in which the surgeon makes a small incision to allow the use of thin instruments with a small lens and lighting system to magnify and illuminate the surgical site.
“I never realized the improvements and advances they’ve made in medicine, to microscopically remove the donor kidney and provide it to someone with a diseased one,” Watson said. “It’s less risky every time they perform one, and I learned how safe it was. You can still carry on a regular lifestyle.”
She said the nutritionist is there to provide information on healthy eating so, post-surgery, no one eats something that would adversely impact the kidneys; but she said it does not require a major dietary change, especially for someone following sensible eating habits to begin with.
The biggest lesson, she said, is the awareness that one does not have to have a recipient in mind when considering becoming a living donor.
“I had no idea it’s that easy,” she said. “It’s nice to spread the word for people who may be able to donate.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there are 600,000 American adults with chronic kidney disease, with 100,791 on the waiting list to receive a kidney transplant, but only 16,000 transplants take place each year. The median wait for a first kidney transplant is 3.6 years.

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Suzanne Watson of Laconia donated a kidney to William Greenwood of Bethel, Connecticut, as part of an 18-person kidney chain at Yale New Haven Hospital in Connecticut. She was celebrated along with the other 17 patients last Thursday. (Courtesy Photo)

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Yale New Haven kidney transplant surgeon Dr. Peter Yoo stands with kidney donor Suzanne Watson and recipient William Greenwood of Bethel, Connecticut, at a gathering July 27 celebrating the 18-person donation chain. (Courtesy Photo)


 07 27 Kidney Chart


Laconia, Plymouth pregnancy centers celebrate new ultrasound machines

Aspire Women’s Center in Laconia and Haven Pregnancy Services in Plymouth are celebrating the addition of two brand new, state of the art ultrasound machines.

“An ultrasound scan allows a woman to see her developing baby while confirming the presence of an intra-uterine pregnancy. Our new machine brings great clarity to the ultrasound images our medical director reads for us,” said Beth Bissonnette, executive director of Haven Pregnancy Services. “We are especially thankful to our supporting friends who completely funded the purchase of the machine with their very generous giving.”

Both Haven Pregnancy Services and Aspire Women’s Center offer free services to women and families including pregnancy testing, limited obstetrical ultrasound for pregnancy confirmation, pregnancy and parenting classes as well as materials items such as baby clothing and diapers. They receive no federal or state funding.

“All of our services are offered free of charge because of generous donations from supporters and through various fundraisers,” said Linda Trask, executive director of Aspire Women’s Center. “Fathers and fathers-to-be are also welcome at our centers,” she added, as their centers also offer fatherhood programs to help dads get off to a good start.

“We look forward to serving the women and families in Central NH,” said Dr. Joseph Ebner, OB-GYN at Plymouth Women’s Health and Chief Medical Officer at Speare Memorial Hospital in Plymouth. Ebner serves as medical director for both Aspire and Haven.

Aspire Women’s Center in Laconia, 603-528-3121 and Haven Pregnancy Services in Plymouth, 603-536-2111, are currently accepting new clients by appointment or walk-in.

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From left at the Aspire Women's Cente are Linda Trask, executive director; Ann Marie Chrobak, nurse manager; Dr. Joe Ebner, medical director of Haven Pregnancy Services; Molly O'Mara, nurse manager; and Beth Bissonnette, executive director. (Courtesy photo)

Local dental health program benefits from golf tournament fundraiser

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Hygienist Ruth Doane left and Dr. Kirschner, far right, joined by children from the community, are helping to bring a lifetime of smiles to central New Hampshire. (Courtesy photo)

PLYMOUTH — A nearly perfect day for golf was enjoyed by all at Owl’s Nest Resort and Golf Club in support of Speare Memorial Hospital’s community Dental Health Program.

“Each year, more than 1,500 local children and at-risk pregnant women have access to oral health care and education through the Dental Health Program,” said Michelle McEwen, hospital president and CEO. “The golf tournament is our signature fundraising event, and more than $27,000 was raised this year through the generosity of our tournament sponsors, golfers and donors.”
The Dental Health Program was established in 1998 in response to growing concerns of the local school nurses about the unmet dental health needs of area school children. Today, the Program provides free dental screenings, services and education to children enrolled at School Administrative Unit 48, and the Ashland, Lin-Wood and Warren School Districts.
“We provide dental screenings and fluoride varnish applications free of charge, and cleanings and sealants are offered on a sliding fee scale,” said Ruth Doane, the program’s dental hygienist. “No one is ever denied services because of their inability to pay. That’s just one reason why this program is so valuable.”
Dental services are also offered to infants and to at-risk pregnant women through monthly clinics at Plymouth Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, Plymouth OB/GYN, and the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program.
More than 20 area dental practices, including Golf Classic Sponsor Plymouth General Dentistry, currently partner with the Dental Health Program to provide care to those referred from the program with dental concerns. Support is also provided through the Dental Health Program to families who need financial help, referrals to Medicaid, and assistance with overcoming other dental care barriers.
Speare Memorial Hospital —a 24-hour, acute care, nonprofit community hospital and health care provider serving Plymouth and the communities of central New Hampshire—is nationally ranked as a HealthStrongTM: Top 100 Critical Access Hospital and a Becker’s Top 50 Critical Access Hospitals to know in 2016. Visit online at, and on Facebook and Twitter.