All Posts in Category: New Mexico

Long-Term Acute Care Helps with Healing from Cardiovascular Complications

Heart disease can cause complications like heart failure, heart attacks, or strokes. When someone experiences an event like this, long-term acute care hospitals (LTACHs) can help.

LTACHs often have cardiovascular programs designed to help patients with chronic or exacerbated cardiac issues like:

  • Heart bypass surgery
  • Valve replacements
  • Abdominal aortic aneurysms
  • Complex wound healing … and more.

Patients are referred to LTACHs after initial treatment at “acute care” hospitals when complex medical conditions prevent them from being transferred to lower levels of care, and/or they have more than one serious condition going on.

For example, a patient with heart failure may also be experiencing respiratory failure and could be put on a ventilator to help with breathing.

Heart failure is serious in itself, but now the situation would be even more critical because there’s not enough oxygen passing from the patient’s lungs into the body’s bloodstream. And, the patient would need special medical assistance in healing and weaning from the ventilator.

This is where an LTACH hospital comes in.

LTACH hospitals have specially trained staff and equipment to care for patients with these medically complex needs. Staff members treat situations like this on a daily basis and know how to tailor and provide specialized care to each patient, allowing optimum results and the best chance at recovery.

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Heads up on Biking Safety

Bike riding is one of America’s favorite past times, especially for children. But every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 26,000 bicycle-related injuries to children and adolescents result in traumatic brain injuries.

A brain injury in a child can have more of a harmful impact because a child’s brain is continuously undergoing development. An injury can alter, or even halt, certain developments of the brain.

The good news is that there are several easy ways to help prevent brain injuries while your child is riding a bike:

  1. Properly Fitted Helmet – wearing a properly fitted helmet every time you and your child ride a bike is the main way to prevent brain injury.
  2. Follow the Rules of the Road – by teaching your child to go with the flow of traffic on the right-side of the road, what hand signals to use and when, and what the different traffic signs and signals mean can help your child stay safe.
  3. Reflectors – attach a front headlight and a rear red reflector to your child’s bike. If your child is riding beyond daylight hours, have him or her wear reflective clothing, as well.

Be a role-model to your child. Go biking as a family and practice biking skills and safety together. Wear your properly fitted helmet, follow the rules of the road, and attach reflectors to your own bike so that your child can witness biking safety first-hand. By using these safety precautions, you can help prevent brain injuries in not only your child, but yourself, as well.

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Blood Pressure – Understanding the Numbers

New guidelines released this past fall by the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association have changed the way you should be looking at your blood pressure numbers. High blood pressure is now defined as 130/80 and higher, which differs from the older definition of high blood pressure as 140/90 or higher.

But what exactly is blood pressure, and what do these numbers mean?

Blood pressure is the pressure your blood puts on the walls of blood vessels as it circulates through your body. High blood pressure is when the force of the circulating blood is consistently too high, putting individuals at risk for health issues such as strokes, heart attacks, and heart failure among other conditions.

When an individual has his or her blood pressure taken, two numbers are given – a top number and a bottom number (i.e. 120/80). The top number represents the systolic number, which indicates how much pressure the blood is exerting against the artery walls as the heart beats. The bottom number represents diastolic pressure, or how much pressure the blood is exerting on the artery walls in between the heart beats when the heart is at rest.

According to the American Heart Association, ideal blood pressure is less than 120/80.

High blood pressure doesn’t usually have any signs or symptoms, so having your blood pressure tested by a healthcare professional and knowing your numbers is the best way to protect yourself. While it can’t be cured, high blood pressure can be managed through lifestyle changes and even medication when necessary. Be sure to discuss your blood pressure with your physician.

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Exercise – Put Your Heart Into It!

According to Strava, a social network for athletes, most people by now have given up on their New Year’s resolutions (“Quitters’ Day” was officially Jan. 12). For those whose healthy resolutions may have fallen victim to that day, here is something to consider: According to the American Heart Association, moderate-intensity exercise is important in preventing heart disease and stroke, which are the nation’s No. 1 and No. 5 killers, respectively.

So, how do you gauge if your exercise is at the “moderate” level?

First, pay attention to how hard you think your body is working (this is called perceived exertion). Take note of how heavy you’re breathing, how much you’re sweating, and how tired your muscles feel. Studies have shown that an individual’s perceived exertion correlates to his or her heart rate. This means that if you feel like you’re working hard, your heart rate is probably higher.

You can estimate if you’re reaching the moderate-intensity level of an activity by using perceived exertion. In general, on a scale of 1-20, a moderate-intensity activity would feel like an 11-14.
Other clues of this level of exercise include:

  • Breaking a light sweat at about 10 minutes into the exercise
  • Quickened breathing, but you’re not out of breath
  • Being able to carry on a conversation while performing the activity

Moderate-intensity exercises can include brisk walking, biking, pushing a lawn mower, water aerobics, doubles tennis, gardening, and ballroom dancing, among other activities. So, take your pick!

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Cold Weather Tips for Those with COPD

Staying warm in cold, winter weather is important for most people. But for individuals with COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), staying warm is necessary for better lung function.

Cold weather can cause flare-ups in folks with COPD, worsening symptoms that can include coughing, shortness of breath and phlegm production.

So, how can you best manage COPD symptoms in colder weather? Below are a few tips:

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a scarf or mask when you go outside. Breathe through your nose to help warm the air entering your lungs.
  • Wear appropriate clothing. Keep your body warm and comfortable by wearing layers of clothes that allow you to adjust to the temperature.
  • If you use oxygen, keep your tubing under your coat or clothing to help keep the air as warm as possible.
  • If the weather is bad, consider changing your schedule to avoid going out in it if possible.
  • When inside, don’t use fireplaces. The wood can cause smoke build-up which can also aggravate COPD symptoms.
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Heads Up on Preventing Brain Injuries

With the Winter Olympics on the horizon, many of us will be privy to some amazing athletic feats. But, a downside of this popular event includes the head injuries that have been known to come with the territory.

In the past, American Jackie Hernandez slid unconscious against the snow after hitting her head during a snowboard cross event. British halfpipe skier Rowan Cheshire suffered a concussion during a training session. Czech snowboarder Sarka Pancochova cracked her helmet during a fall during the slopestyle final. And at 20 years old, American snowboarder Trevor Jacob had already suffered at least 25 concussions.

While the majority of us don’t live the dare-devil lives of many of these athletes, we’re all at risk for head injuries with everyday activities. Brain injuries don’t discriminate and can occur anytime, anywhere…with anyone.

With a little planning, however, brain injuries can be prevented. And, it doesn’t take epic – or Olympian – effort:

  • Wear your seatbelt every time you’re in a car.
  • Buckle your child in the right safety seat, booster or seat belt based upon your child’s age and weight.
  • Never drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Shut your cell phone off while in the car. Don’t talk. Don’t text.
  • Wear a helmet. And, make sure your children wear helmets with appropriate activities.
  • For older adults, remove tripping hazards like throw rugs or clutter in in the home. Use non-slip mats in the bathroom and grab bars near the shower or toilet. Install handrails on all stairs. Improve lighting throughout the house.
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Brighten the Holidays for a Hospitalized Loved One

If you have a friend or family member in the hospital during the holidays, there are numerous ways to help brighten his or her spirits and spread some holiday cheer (with pre-approval from the hospital staff, of course):

  1. Help relieve the patient’s stress. If your family member is concerned or worried about tasks that he or she usually performs around the holidays, offer to help. Purchase presents or address holiday cards for the individual (you may even be able to shop online or work on cards together at the hospital).
  2. Decorate the patient’s room with a small tree, menorah, festive blanket, New Year’s hats, or even some drawings from children in your family.
  3. Bring the holidays to the hospital. If your loved one is receiving cards and presents at home, bring them to share. If you’re giving a holiday present, consider something that may be of use in the hospital, like a book or warm socks.
  4. If allowed, bring your loved one special treats or meals that he or she associates with the holidays. In addition, hospital cafeterias often provide special holiday meals that are offered to patients and visitors.
  5. Bring holiday DVDs or music to watch and listen to together in the room.

Most importantly, remember that your loved one is in the hospital to heal, so don’t overwhelm him or her. Typically, you’ll want to keep your visiting time short to allow plenty of time for rest and sleep, which is critical to recovery.

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Tis the Season…for Colds & the Flu

It’s that time of year again. Cold and flu season.

A common cold and the flu are similar because they’re both respiratory illnesses. Even though they’re caused by different viruses, they share many of the same symptoms. This makes it hard to know for sure which you may have unless you visit your doctor.

Symptoms for both illnesses can include a cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, fever, muscle or body aches, headaches and fatigue. However, flu symptoms tend to be worse than cold symptoms, and people with colds are more likely to have runny or stuffy noses.

A cold usually doesn’t result in serious health problems, but the flu can. While most folks can recover from the flu in less than a couple weeks, it can lead to respiratory complications like bronchitis, pneumonia, and bacterial infections. In the worst cases, these complications can lead to hospitalization.

While anyone can get severely sick from the flu, groups at higher risk for complications include adults older than 65, young children, pregnant women, people with chronic medical conditions, or individuals with compromised immune systems.

So how can you prevent these illnesses? Some suggestions include:

  • Stay away from anyone who is sick, and stay away from others when you’re sick.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly and often throughout the day with hot water and soap. Use an alcohol-based sanitizer if hand-washing isn’t possible.
  • Don’t share utensils, cups, toothbrushes, towels or any other personal items.
  • Keep your hands away from your nose, eyes, and mouth.
  • Cough or sneeze into a tissue or the inside of your elbow.
  • Limit what you touch when in public, such as stairway rails. Wash your hands soon after touching.
  • Get plenty of sleep, eat right, and exercise regularly.
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10 Tips for Family Caregivers

Caring, giving, sharing.

For most people, the holidays bring out the best in us when it comes to going the extra mile. But for those who are family caregivers, this is a description of everyday life.

Whether you became a caregiver suddenly (grandma had a stroke), or gradually (aging parents), taking care of a loved one in addition to having a career, family, and children can be a challenge. So, how can a caregiver do it all?

Below are 10 tips for family caregivers provided by the Caregiver Action Network:

  1. Seek support from other caregivers. You are not alone.
  2. Take care of your own health so that you can be strong enough to take care of your loved one.
  3. Accept offers of help and suggest specific things people can do to help you.
  4. Learn how to communicate effectively with doctors.
  5. Take respite breaks often. Caregiving is hard work.
  6. Watch out for signs of depression. Don’t delay in getting professional help when you need it.
  7. Be open to new technologies that can help you care for your loved one.
  8. Organize medical information so it’s up-to-date and easy to find.
  9. Make sure legal documents are in order.
  10. Give yourself credit for doing the best you can in one of the toughest jobs there is!
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6 Tips for Talking to Your Loved One about COPD

COPD, or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, is a lung disease that makes it hard for a person to breathe. At first, COPD may cause no symptoms or very mild symptoms like coughing, so people may ignore them thinking it’s not serious. But, eventually, the disease can make daily activities – like climbing stairs, cleaning the house, and even getting dressed – difficult.

If you suspect a loved one may have COPD, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute suggest these 6 tips in broaching the subject:

  1. Know what to look for to recognize the signs of COPD in your loved one. Shortness of breath, wheezing, or a chronic cough.
  2. Talk with your loved one about things they may be missing out on because of these symptoms, such as taking walks and playing with grandchildren.
  3. Talk with your loved one about how hard daily tasks like climbing stairs or grocery shopping have become for him or her, and suggest that it may be related to COPD.
  4. Encourage your loved one to schedule a visit with the doctor or healthcare provider. COPD can be diagnosed with a quick and painless breathing test called spirometry.
  5. Remind your loved one that the earlier a person receives treatment, the better the chances are to improve quality of life. There are many ways that the symptoms of the disease can be managed.
  6. Offer resources to help your loved one. Visit to learn more about COPD and support groups in your loved one’s area.
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