Keep the Yummy, Healthy this Holiday Season

healthy holiday recipe modificationsWelcome to the season of festive gatherings and indulgent eating. Nutritionally speaking, this is a tough time of year. We don’t want to give up delicious holiday dishes; however, we would rather not wreck our health through weeks of unhealthy eating. Fortunately, with a few modifications and a little moderation, we don’t have to do either.

There are three magic ingredients most cooks rely on to make their dishes taste better: salt, fat and sugar. Unfortunately, these ingredients can damage our health when used too heavily and consumed too often. Here’s the good news: you can still get that delicious taste by using salt, fat and sugar in moderation. Let’s look at ways we can reduce them.

Cutting the salt

  • Before adding salt to a recipe, think about why – or even if – it is necessary. Maybe you don’t really need it, or perhaps you could use half the amount called for.
  • Instead of salt, try herbs and spices to enhance the flavor of your food. Other seasonings to try: pepper, citrus juice or zest, onion or garlic, vinegar, salt-free seasoning blends, nutritional yeast. Beware of spice mixes that may contain salt.
  • If using canned tomatoes, beans or broth in a recipe, choose a no-salt-added or low-sodium version of the product.
  • When baking, be careful about how much salt you remove from the recipe, as that can change the texture of the final product.

Lightening up with less saturated (bad) fat

  • In cooking, replace butter and coconut oil with olive oil or canola oil. This won’t work in baking, however, because you would get a completely different texture.
  • Pie crusts are full of butter or other highly saturated fat. Try a crust-less version of your dessert instead.
  • Buy lean cuts of meat: chicken and turkey breasts, beef “loin” or “round,” pork tenderloin. Consider serving fish in place of meat.
  • Try replacing some full-fat dairy products with low-fat or fat-free versions. For example, do you need both butter and cream in mashed potatoes, or could you do with butter and low-fat milk?
  • Roast, grill, broil or stew food instead of frying.

Scaling back on sugar

  • Bring out the natural sweetness in food by adding spices such as nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, mace, vanilla or almond extract.
  • When baking, try reducing the amount of sugar in the recipe by a quarter, or 25 percent. (For example, use 3/4 cup instead of 1 cup of sugar.) You may be able to reduce it further, but this may affect the browning and texture of your baked goods.

A few more things to remember

  • Choose good quality ingredients, so that their natural flavors make the dish delish!
  • To boost the nutritional value of your meals, add more fruits and vegetables. Try adding dried fruits or extra vegetables to traditional recipes such as stuffing, quick breads and salads. An simple, tasty addition to any meal is to cut up a variety of your favorite veggies into similar-sized pieces (about 1 ½-inch), coat them in olive oil and sprinkle with your favorite herbs. Spread them on a sheet pan and roast at 400 degrees until golden on the outside and slightly tender on the inside.
  • Indulge mindfully. If you have a generally healthy diet most of the time, you can allow yourself room for some holiday indulgences. The key is to enjoy them, with all your senses and without a shred of regret.

We wish you happy, healthy and tasty holidays!

Laurie Ledford is a registered dietitian from Atlanta, Georgia, the land of grits, collard greens and super-sweet iced tea. She now works as a registered dietitian  in the Tucson Medical Center Wellness Department. She enjoys helping people improve their health through sustainable dietary changes while still relishing occasional indulgences. In her off hours, Laurie engages in foodie pursuits such as sampling unusual flavor combinations (olive oil and basil ice cream was a good one) as well as hiking and cycling.

live well newsletter sign up

Enjoying the Season While Avoiding Stress – Tips from Mary Atkinson, Director of Wellness

Tips for keeping the stress at bay this holiday season
Do you have a love-hate relationship with this time of year? You love the vision of family and friends brought together to celebrate and the fantasy shown on Pinterest or in magazines, but you hate the pressure you feel to create some idyllic experience? Our director of Wellness, Mary Atkinson, has these suggestions to reduce the stress and up your enjoyment of the season:
  1. Review your calendar
    It’s easy to fill up your calendar with events and gatherings and feel rushed at every one. Sit down with your family and discuss which events are actually truly loved and which have just become routine. Perhaps the annual potato latke cook-off is a must do for the whole family, but the bike ride around Winterhaven lights is no longer top of everyone’s list. Remember those quiet moments with loved ones where you’re not doing anything but lighting candles together and savoring the moment can be the most precious.
  2. Celebrate the season
    Don’t focus on one day. We can get hung up on creating the ‘perfect day’ pinning too many hopes on one day. Refocus on the little moments of beauty, kindness and community that you experience throughout the month.
  3. Ask for help and delegate
    Whether it’s sharing the responsibilities of a fancy meal for a horde of family and friends, sending cards to the family or wrapping gifts for all ask for help. Perhaps make the feast more potluck and the cards can be written and addressed by other members of the household? Working together can be memory-building in itself.
  4. Indulge with balance
    Tis the season of festive gatherings and indulgent eating. Nutritionally speaking, this is a tough time of year. We don’t want to give up delicious holiday dishes; however, we would rather not wreck our health through weeks of unhealthy eating. Fortunately, with a few modifications and a little moderation, we don’t have to do either. Check out registered dietitian Laurie Ledford’s suggestions here. Remember to take time to breathe and to take a walk after dinner or a hike with the family.
  5. Recognize and remember
    During holidays loss and estrangement can feel particularly hard. Terri Waldman, former director of the TMC Geropsychiatric Center, shared these wise words, “Your heart has no obligation to be jolly. Take the time to celebrate cherished memories but be open to new rituals. If you find you are having a hard time coping and can’t shake the sadness, though, don’t try to tough it out. It may be time to see a primary care physician.”
  6. Learn to say no
    Saying yes when you should say no can leave you resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can’t participate in every project or activity.
No matter whether your house will be full to the gills or quiet this holiday season, we hope the season is healthy and full of hope.
From our family to yours best wishes,
Mary Atkinson
Mary Atkinson is a registered dietitian and TMC’s Director of Wellness. You can find out more about the programs that the Wellness Department offers the Tucson Community here.

A snack to hike with – Brenda’s Power Bites

Brenda's power bitesNeed a portable source of fuel for a long hike or bike ride? Want a trail snack that isn’t simply candy in disguise? Brenda’s Power Bites are your solution! Recipe courtesy of Brenda Andreasen, instructor for TMC Wellness.


3 c oats (regular or quick cooking)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 c unsweetened flaked or shredded coconut (optional)
1/4 c roasted, salted sunflower seeds
2/3 c dried dates, finely chopped
2/3 c dried apricots, finely chopped
2/3 c dried cherries
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 c almond butter (or any nut butter)
1/2 c agave nectar (or honey)

Note:  Feel free to use any combination of dried fruit and nuts or seeds of your preference.


  1. In a large bowl, combine oats and cinnamon.
  2. Use a food processor to chop the sunflower seeds and coconut. Add to the dry ingredients.
  3. Combine dried fruits and vanilla extract in the bowl of the food processor. Coarsely chop the fruit. (The extract will aid the blades in the chopping process.) Add fruit to dry ingredients.
  4. Add nut butter and agave nectar to the rest of the mixture. Combine well until mixture begins to stick together.
  5. Form mixture into 1 inch balls.
  6. Place balls in an air-tight container, separating layers with wax paper.
  7. Refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight to allow oats to absorb moisture.

Makes about 60  ½-ounce balls

Nutrition Information (per 2-bite serving)

Calories:  130
Total Fat:  6g
Saturated Fat:  1g
Protein:  3g
Potassium:  175mg
Sodium:  85mg
Carbohydrate:  16g
Fiber:  2.5g

Looking to maintain not gain this holiday season? Tips from one of our wellness experts


Thanksgiving wellness tipsAmy Ramsey, manager of TMC Employee Wellness & Engagement, mom, marathon runner, hiker and all around fitness guru shared these tips for all those looking to enjoy this holiday season while maintaining and not gaining.

Avoid large plates

Serve reasonably sized servings on smaller, appetizer plates instead of a massive dinner plate. If you’re hosting, do everyone a favor and keep your larger plates hidden away.

We eat with our eyes before we even take the first bite of food. I don’t know about you, but two tablespoons of hummus loos a lot less depressing if served on a smaller plate filled with veggies and seedy crackers than alone on a large plate.

We are all tempted to fill the plate when serving our selves, so think smaller plates for portion control.

Slow down

Clearing your plate is not a race, so there’s no need to preload your fork for each bite. Taking breaks will extend the time it takes to eat your meal and possibly reduce the amount of food you eat.

Did you know that it takes between 15 to 20 minutes for your brain to get the signal that your stomach is full? Give your stomach a chance to catch up with your brain!

Turn off the distractions

Televisions, phones and laptops should not be near your dining table. When electronics and other distractions have our attention, the amount of food that we’re putting into our mouths does not–it’s the perfect environment for mindless eating.

Thanksgiving can be a great day to have some football on in the background, so you may let this one slide for the special day, but losing the distractions is a good, all-around general tip for everyday meal times.

Freshen your mouth

When you’re done eating, keep your mouth busy with a piece of gum, or head to the bathroom to brush. Keeping a clean mouth may be motivating enough to keep us from mindlessly grazing on food.

I couple this tactic with shutting off the kitchen lights after dinner is done, and I’m definitely less likely to go looking around after the kitchen is “closed.”

Happy Thanksgiving. I hope you can find time to relax and enjoy whatever it is that makes YOU happy!

For more tips, recipes and wellness events sign up for our monthly Live Well newsletter.

live well newsletter sign up


Are you new to hiking? Here are tips and trails to get you started.

tips for new hikersFall has finally found its way to Tucson. As we welcome the cooler weather, Laurie Ledford, part of the TMC Wellness Department suggests that it is time to toss out the old “It’s too hot to exercise” excuse, lace up our shoes and get outside.

If running isn’t your style, or if you find walking too boring, you are in luck – Tucson is home to some of the most beautiful hiking trails imaginable. Here are Laurie’s suggestions for new hikers:

Before the hike

  • Dress properly. Layered clothing on the upper body is the way to go. This allows you to peel off outer layers as you warm up. If you want to wear shorts, be aware that you risk scrapes from cacti and rocks, so be careful! If you opt for long pants, choose something that allows you to move easily – in other words, not jeans.
  • Wear comfortable hiking boots or trail shoes with good tread. You want footwear that will keep your feet on the trail while keeping out little rocks and blisters.
  • Protect yourself from the sun. Cover any exposed skin with sunscreen, preferably a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Cover your head with a wide-brimmed hat to protect your face, ears and neck. Shield your eyes with UVA- and UVB-blocking sunglasses.
  • Bring water and a snack. The weather might have cooled down, but exercise can still be dehydrating. A high-carbohydrate snack will prevent hypoglycemia. Even if you think you won’t be gone long enough to get hungry, you never know when you could get lost or delayed.
The view from Blacketts Ridge, Arizona

The view from Blacketts Ridge, Arizona

During the hike

  • Stay on the trail. This is safer for you and the environment in which you are hiking; you are less likely to run into a cactus or twist an ankle, and you won’t contribute to erosion.
  • Yield the right of way to anyone bearing a burden. If you meet another hiker on a narrow trail, who has the right of way? If the other hiker is heading uphill (and needs to maintain momentum) appears to be struggling or is carrying a heavy pack, be courteous and step aside.
  • Be aware of any faster hikers behind you. Please pull over and let them pass.
  • Respect your own limitations. Be mindful of the distance or time you have hiked and how much is still ahead of you. You don’t want to reach complete exhaustion before the end of the hike.
  • Before you head up a hill, think about how you’ll make it back down (or vice versa). If your legs get too tired, you could fall. If your knees are not in great shape, they are going to scream at you all the way down the mountain. Hikers with bad joints may want to stick to flat trails or use trekking poles for additional stability and support.
  • Leave no trace. If you bring something in, take it out with you. But don’t take out more than you brought – i.e., leave bird nests, flowers and saguaro ribs where you find them

After the hike

  • It is better to enjoy happy memories of your hike the next day than to suffer aching muscles. If you are new to hiking, you will likely feel sore afterwards, no matter what. Remember to go easy on yourself during and after a hike, and your fitness level will improve over time.
  • Re-hydrate, rest and refuel as you plan your next hiking adventure.
Tucson Medical Center employees enjoy a winter hike on Douglas Spring Trail

Tucson Medical Center employees enjoy a winter hike on Douglas Spring Trail

Hikes for the new-to-town

You may hear seasoned hikers talking about some of their favorite trails: Blackett’s Ridge, Finger Rock and Agua Caliente Hill among them. However, for those who are new to hiking, it is a good idea to start with something a bit easier.

  • Nature Trail at Catalina State Park is a one-mile, relatively flat, loop trail. Once you’ve tackled that, you can take on some of the park’s more difficult trails, such as Canyon Loop Trail (2.2 miles) and Romero Canyon Trail (5.9 miles round-trip, if you go all the way to the pools).
  • Garwood Trail, on the east side of town, takes you 3.4 miles, out and back. There is a fun and interesting network of trails to explore here, including Wildhorse Trail (3.2 miles) and Douglas Spring Trail (17.2 miles, if you do the whole thing). Bring a compass, map and a good sense of direction with you, it can be easy to turn down the wrong trail.
  • Sabino Canyon Recreation Area is home to many trails of varying levels of difficulty. By walking the tram road, you can enjoy canyon views without ever leaving a paved road. As you start feeling more adventurous, branch off to try sections of Esperero Trail, Phoneline Trail, or take Bear Canyon Trail to Seven Falls (8.2 miles).

live well newsletter sign up


Laurie Ledford is a registered dietitian from Atlanta, Georgia, the land of grits, collard greens and super-sweet iced tea. She now works as a registered dietitian  in the Tucson Medical Center Wellness Department. She enjoys helping people improve their health through sustainable dietary changes while still relishing occasional indulgences. In her off hours, Laurie engages in foodie pursuits such as sampling unusual flavor combinations (olive oil and basil ice cream was a good one) as well as hiking and cycling.

Bust that sugar habit in four easy steps

Tucson Medical Center is part of the Mayo Clinic Care Network.

Is hidden sugar adding inches to your waistline? Laurie Ledford, Registered Dietitian, follows this video from the Mayo Clinic with four easy steps for reducing the sugar in your diet:

Step 1 – Know Where the Sugar Is

Major Sources:

  • sugar-sweetened soda, energy drinks, sports drinks, sweet iced tea
  • fruit drinks
  • grain-based desserts (e.g., cakes, cookies, doughnuts, pies and granola bars)
  • dairy desserts (e.g., ice cream custard)
  • candy
  • ready-to-eat cereals
  • breads

Sugar can also be found lurking in salsas and sauces, such as ketchup. You have to read the ingredients label to find it. You may see sugar called by many different names on food labels. Some of its aliases are dextrose, confectioner’s powdered sugar, corn syrup solids, fructose, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), invert sugar, lactose, malt syrup, maltose, molasses, nectars (e.g., peach nectar, pear nectar), syrups (corn, maple) or sucrose. If you add brown sugar, raw sugar, honey or agave syrup to your food or drink, you are still adding sugar.

But what about the sugar in fruit?

Yes, there are naturally occurring sugars in fruit (also in other minimally processed foods, such as milk), but these are accompanied by essential nutrients. Processed foods with added sugars are usually nutrient-poor. Said another way, they are just empty calories… until you see them sitting on the back of your thighs.

Step 2 – Know Your Limit

The American Heart Association recommends limiting the calories you consume from added sugars. For most women, the limit is 100 calories or 25 grams per day. For most men, the limit is 150 calories or 37 grams. You know your limit, now how to figure out how much you’re eating.

Step 3 – Know How Much You Are Eating

Read the Nutrition Facts panels on packaged foods, and remember to pay attention to the number of servings you are actually eating. If you have a smartphone try an online nutrition app like MyFitnessPal for tracking.

If you are adding sweeteners yourself be familiar with what the caloric intake is

  • 1 tsp sugar = 16 calories
  • 1 tsp maple syrup = 17 calories
  • 1 tsp molasses = 19 calories
  • 1 tsp honey = 21 calories
  • 1 tsp agave syrup = 21 calories

And if you add more than 1 teaspoon multiply the calories accordingly.

Step 4 – Cut Back Where You Can

Here are some suggestions from the Center for Science in the Public Interest, publisher of the Nutrition Action Health letter:

  • Cut back on soft drinks (which they call “liquid candy”) and sweet tea. Instead, try club soda, seltzer, unsweetened tea, low-fat or non-fat milk. Better yet, drink water.
  • Avoid fruit drinks, -ades and cocktails. These are essentially non-carbonated soda pop. Sunny Delight, Fruitopia, and others are only 5-10 percent juice. If you want juice, choose 100 percent juice and watch your portion size.
  • Limit candy, cookies, cakes, pies, doughnuts, granola bars, pastries and other sweet baked goods. Eat fruit, veggies or nuts instead.
  • Fat-free cakes, cookies and ice cream may have as much added sugar as their fatty counterparts, and they’re often high in calories. “Fat-free” on the package doesn’t mean fat-free on your waist or thighs.
  • Look for breakfast cereals that have no more than 8 grams of sugar per serving.

We all have some special sweets we don’t want to give up forever. You don’t have to. Instead, treat them as indulgences and eat them less often or in smaller portions. You can also prepare them yourself, so that you can control the amount of added sugar that goes into them. As a challenge, try gradually reducing the amount of sugar in your recipes to see how little you can get away with.

Another option you might want to try is using artificially sweetened beverages and desserts. Not everyone likes artificial sweeteners, but they can help some people satisfy their sweet tooth without the extra calories or rise in blood sugar.

Start today! Break your sugar addiction.

Challenge yourself to try one or more of these easy strategies for cutting back on wasted calories:

  • I will replace one sugar-sweetened beverage with an equivalent amount of water on at least three days during the next week.
  • I will try a breakfast cereal that contains less than 8 grams (2 teaspoons) of sugar per serving.
  • The next time I eat yogurt, I will replace half of the sweetened yogurt with plain yogurt. (Then I can save the other half of that sweetened yogurt for the next day.)
  • The next time I bake, I will reduce the amount of sugar in the recipe by 25 percent. (For example, use 3/4 cup instead of 1 cup of sugar.)
  • The next time I order dessert in a restaurant, I will share half (or more) of it with someone else.

Need support in making healthy changes to your diet?

Tucson Medical Center offers personalized nutritional assessments by registered dietitians to help you reach your goals.

Laurie Ledford MS RD aka The Nutritionista
Laurie is a Registered Dietitian from Atlanta, Georgia, the land of grits, collard greens and super-sweet iced tea. She works as a Registered Dietitian at Tucson Medical Center. She enjoys helping people improve their health through sustainable dietary changes while still relishing occasional indulgences. In her off hours, Laurie engages in foodie pursuits such as sampling unusual flavor combinations (olive oil and basil ice cream was a good one) and discovering delicious food and beverage pairings. She is still trying to find the perfect wine to serve with Brussel sprouts.



Bean spread – Packing a protein punch in an inexpensive and quick way

not hummus, cheap, quick bean dips for a protein punchHummus is available in almost any grocery store, and you can find it in a variety of flavors. However, not everyone is a fan of garbanzo beans or tahini or some of the other common hummus ingredients. Making your own bean spread allows you to customize it to your preferences, and it saves a little money.
You can spread it on pita triangles as a snack; use it in a sandwich for additional protein and flavor; or use it as a dip with raw veggies or tortilla chips.
If you don’t have a food processor, you can do this in a blender by adding more water to the recipe. The result will be a little runnier, which makes for a better dip than a spread.

Basic Ingredients

1 can of beans (such as pinto, kidney, cannellini, black or garbanzo)

1 Tbsp lemon juice

2 Tbsp good quality olive oil water, as needed


Choose one or more of the following ingredients to personalize your bean spread:

  • garlic
  • fresh basil, parsley or cilantro
  • spices, such as cumin, paprika or cayenne pepper
  • baby spinach
  • artichoke hearts
  • sundried tomatoes, soaked in warm water for about 20 minutes and drained
  • roasted red peppers
  • jalapeño  or other hot pepper


1. Rinse and drain beans thoroughly.

2. If using fresh garlic, peel it and process in the food processor until finely chopped.

3. Add beans and lemon juice to the food processor. Drizzle olive oil over the beans.

4. Process until beans are coarsely chopped; then add your special ingredients.

5. Continue processing until the mixture reaches your preferred consistency. You may need to add a few tablespoons of water to make it smoother.

6. Serve or chill immediately.

For more healthy recipes, wellness tips and events sign up for our monthly Live Well newsletter.

Halloween Safety Tips from Jessica Mitchell, Safe Kids Pima County

I love celebrating Halloween with my family, but I must admit I feel like I’m holding my breath all evening. Like many Tucson neighborhoods, ours has few street lights and on Oct. 31, kids are EVERYWHERE, often in dark costumes, often zigzagging across the roads to trick or treat. It’s a safety nightmare! Did you know that children are more than twice as likely to be hit by a car and killed on Halloween than on any other day of the year?

We try to watch where we are going, watch where our little ones are and watch for cars all at the same time. It can be really tough. I give my kids glow sticks to help them be seen by others, including drivers of cars. An added bonus, they think glow sticks are the coolest things ever!

What can you do to make Halloween safer this year for your children?

  1. When selecting a costume make sure it is the right size to prevent trips and falls.
  2. Decorate costumes and bags with reflective tape or stickers and, if possible, choose light colors.
  3. Since masks can sometimes obstruct a child’s vision, try nontoxic face paint and makeup whenever possible.
  4. Have kids use glow sticks or flashlights to help them see and be seen by drivers.
  5. Children under the age of 12 should not be alone at night without adult supervision. If kids are mature enough to be out without supervision, remind them to stick to familiar areas that are well lit and trick-or-treat in groups.
  6. Popular trick-or-treating hours are 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. so be especially alert for kids during those hours.

Plan ahead and keep your little ghouls and goblins safe and sound this Halloween,


Jessica Mitchell is the Safe Kids Pima County program coordinator. Safe Kids Pima County is a network of organizations whose mission is to prevent accidental childhood injury, a leading killer of children aged 19 and under. Spearheaded by Tucson Medical Center, the local coalition is part of Safe Kids Worldwide, a global network of more than 600 coalitions in 23 countries bringing together health and safety experts, educators, corporations, foundations, governments and volunteers to educate and protect families.

These halloween revelers need a few glow sticks and then theyll really be shining.

Optimize your fruit and vegetable choices with tips from our wellness experts

eating well doesn't have to break the bankIt should come as no surprise that eating plenty of fruits and vegetables is part of a healthy diet. The more vegetables and fruit you eat, the less likely you are to develop cardiovascular disease, age-related eye diseases, osteoporosis and some types of cancer. What does seem to be surprising to many is how easy it is to incorporate vegetables and fruit into our diets. We often hear one of these comments as the reason someone is not eating enough vegetables and fruit:

     “Fresh produce is so expensive.”

     “Fresh produce goes bad before I use it.”

     “I don’t know what I should buy, and I don’t know what to do with the stuff I do buy.”

These are legitimate questions and concerns. Here are some things to consider that will hopefully help to address how to incorporate produce more easily into your diet.

Add More Variety

We eat with our eyes. Lots of color and variety is key. We eat with our eyes – color and variety make a plate of food look more enticing. Keep this in mind when you are trying to persuade yourself or your family to eat more vegetables and fruit. Not only does variety prevent boredom, it also ensures that your body gets a full spectrum of nutrients. Different types and colors of foods provide different vitamins, minerals and other plant compounds that enable your body to perform its everyday functions and prevent disease. Add produce that is in season or locally grown is likely to be fresher and more flavorful, and generally it is more cost effective.

TIP: Purchase produce in season, cut it up into smaller pieces and freeze for use throughout the year.

Fresh vs. Frozen vs. Canned

While fresh is always best, it may not always be possible to have fresh produce. Frozen fruits and vegetables are convenient, nutritious, and often less expensive, so they are your next best option. Avoid items with added sugar, butter or sauces, as this adds extra calories and fat. In the case of beans and tomato products, canned versions are far more convenient and can still be relatively healthy. When buying canned vegetables, choose low-sodium or no-salt-added options; otherwise, drain and rinse thoroughly to reduce the sodium.

TIP: Keep some frozen vegetables on hand for a quick and easy addition to soups, pastas or rice dishes.

Think About Organic

Should you buy organic produce? That’s something you have to decide for yourself.

If you would like to eat organic foods to reduce the amount of synthetic chemicals you ingest, but you can’t buy organic every time, here are a few suggestions for prioritizing your purchases:

  • If you frequently eat a lot of certain types of fruits or vegetables, buy organic versions of them to reduce your intake of the particular pesticides commonly used on those crops.
  • Check out “The Dirty Dozen.” It is a list of conventional produce that, according the Environmental Working Group, carries a high pesticide load. Buying organic versions of these foods can reduce your consumption of toxic chemicals.
  • Most pesticide residue exists on the outer surface of produce, so you may want to buy organic if you are planning to eat the skin.

Organic foods are not necessarily more nutritious, and there is no good evidence to show that eating organic produce reduces your risk of cancer. The important thing is that you eat more fruits and veggies, however you manage to do it.

For more tips on making the most of your produce see this TMC for Women post.

Design your personalized nutrition plan or tour the grocery store with help from our registered dietitians

Take a hike Tucson – 5 of our favorite trails

Hiking in Tucson with TMC's employee FEAT groupAmy Ramsey, TMC’s employee wellness and engagement manager shares some favorite Tucson hikes.

Tucson is known for its outdoor activities, and hiking is one of the top things to do in and around our breathtaking city. Below is a list of our Top 5 places to hike in Tucson.

Sanctuary Cove: If you’re in search of some solitude, it’s worth finding! Our employee group used this location on Tucson’s west side to host outdoor yoga and labyrinth walking after our hike.

Santa Catalina Mountains: Visiting the sky island to the north is a must on your list of to-dos in Tucson. TMC has hosted a number of hikes beginning at Marshal Gulch, a beautifully wooded picnic area near Summerhaven and Mount Lemmon.

Pima Canyon: Gorgeous city and canyon views on this trail, with an easy-to-reach trailhead.

Sabino Canyon: Take the tram road up and choose which way you’ll go back. For a real challenge, try Blackette’s Ridge-one of the best views from the top!

Romero Pools: Located in Oro Valley’s Catalina State Park, it’s just one of the awesome trails available, and a favorite for TMC’s hiking group.

*Bonus! Tumamoc Hill: We just couldn’t leave this one off the list. A challenging yet doable paved hike on the west side of town, Tumamoc is one of our employees’ favorites. It offers great views of downtown at the top. While you’re there, make your way over to “A” Mountain, which is just next door!

Please visit hiking in Tucson for more detailed info on all the hiking adventures that your new city has to offer.

Walk this way – Walk to School

Safe Kids Pima County and FedEx volunteers will join students from Whitmore Elementary and around the county to celebrate International Walk to School Day on October 4. International Walk to School Day raises community awareness about walking safety and promoting healthy behavior.

Did you know unintentional pedestrian injuries are the fifth leading cause of injury-related death in the United States for children ages 5 to 19? Teenagers are now at greatest risk with a death rate twice that of younger children and account for half of all child pedestrian deaths.

Whether or not your child’s school is participating, Jessica Mitchell, Safe Kids Pima County program coordinator, provides these suggestions for parents:

Teaching kids how to walk safely:

  1. Teach kids at an early age to look left, right and left again before crossing the street. Then remind them to continue looking until safely across. Teach them to never run or dart out into the street or cross between parked cars.
  2. Teach kids to put phones, headphones and devices down when crossing the street. It is particularly important to reinforce this message with teenagers. Parents, let your actions speak as loudly as your words.
  3. Encourage your children to be aware of others who may be distracted and speak up when they see someone who is in danger.
  4. It’s always best to walk on sidewalks or paths and cross at street corners, using traffic signals and crosswalks. If there are no sidewalks, walk facing traffic as far to the left as possible.
  5. Children under 10 need to cross the street with an adult. Every child is different, but developmentally, most kids are unable to judge the speed and distance of oncoming cars until age 10.
  6. Remind kids to make eye contact with drivers before crossing in front of them and to watch out for cars that are turning or backing up.
  7. It’s always best to walk on sidewalks or paths. If there are no sidewalks, walk facing traffic as far to the left as possible.
  8. Cross streets at corners, using traffic signals and crosswalks. Most injuries happen mid-block or someplace other than intersections.

As kids get older, they’re anxious for a little more freedom when walking to school or playing outside. But this is also a time when parents need to stress the importance of the little things big kids should do to stay safe.

Remember you are your child’s first role model. Lead by example:

  1. Be a good role model. Set a good example by putting your phone, headphones and devices down when walking around cars.
  2. When driving, put cell phones and other distractions in the back seat or out of sight until your final destination.
  3. Be especially alert and slow down when driving in residential neighborhoods and school zones. Be on the lookout for bikers, walkers or runners who may be distracted or may step into the street unexpectedly.
  4. Give pedestrians the right of way and look both ways when making a turn to spot any bikers, walkers or runners who may not be immediately visible.

For more resources to help keep your family safe
visit our website.


Eat Well- We’re going to the dogs with dog treats

It’s National Dog Week! Did you know that according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, owning a pet is linked to a decrease in blood pressure, total cholesterol and triglycerides? What better way to thank your dog for all the companionship and health benefits they bring with some homemade snacks?

Puppy Pops

Pup pops

Perfect for beating the heat!

Set 1:
1 cup plain yogurt
1 1/2 tbsp. honey
1 apple
Mini dog biscuits

Set 2:
2 cups watermelon
mini dog biscuits

Set 3:
1 1/2 cup unsalted chicken broth
1/2 cup diced sweet potatoes
1/3 cup chopped carrots

Blend/mix ingredients together
Pour in ice cube tray
Add mini dog biscuit to each cube for a handle
Give to your pup to enjoy! Woof!

Chunky Peanut Butter Molasses Dog Biscuits


4 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups oatmeal
½ – ¾ cup chunky peanut butter
2 ½ cups hot water
2 Tbsp. molasses

Mix all together adding more water if too stiff, but not too sticky. Knead well. Roll out to  ¾ inch thickness and cut into shapes. Bake on greased cookie sheet for 40 min at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Turn off heat and leave in oven overnight. (you can place them close together on cookie sheet as they do not raise.) Makes about 6 dozen

For more information on the health benefits of sharing your life with a pet check out this post.
To receive our monthly email newsletter Live Well sign up today.

Lucky critters – how pets improve our health

Did you know there is a week dedicated to honoring our canine companions? National Dog Week is the last full week in September and we’re taking time out, in advance, to observe National Dog Week and look at the health benefits of pets.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, owning a pet is linked to a decrease in blood pressure, total cholesterol and triglycerides. Great, so all we need to do is adopt a pet to be healthy? While we do want to encourage everyone to consider helping our local Pima Animal Care Center by adopting or fostering one of the thousands of animals taken in each year, there is more to the connection between pets and improved health.

Important aspects of being healthy include staying active, managing stress, having a strong sense of purpose and having a good social support network. Owning, fostering or even volunteering to work with animals can help us more easily achieve these healthy behaviors.

1. Purpose and connection

Having a pet or participating in a program that cares for animals gives us purpose and helps connect us with others who have similar values and passions. Pets can serve as a social icebreaker for people who tend to be shy and more introverted, easing the creation of social bonds. Through these connections, we can develop a support network that goes beyond the commonality of pet ownership. 2. Improve mood and decrease tension or stress

2. Improve mood and decrease tension or stress

Hopefully, everyone has had the opportunity to experience the unconditional love that a pet greets you with when you return home or go to visit them. This greeting alone can improve mood and decrease tension or stress. Animals can keep us in the present moment, which helps to distract us from our worries and problems that we might tend to ruminate about.

3. Reduce heart rate and blood pressure

Many studies have demonstrated that petting an animal can reduce heart rate, blood pressure and perceived level of stress. Plus, how can you not feel joyful when animals look at you with such adoration as you pet them?

4. Maintain a routine and stay active

Pets, and dogs most specifically, help us to maintain a routine and stay active. While we may be willing to skip our own exercise, we are not likely to say no to our loving pets! Even if it is just a quick walk around the neighborhood, remember, any activity is better than nothing. If you are interested in a more rigorous workout, please take a look at our post on running with our four-legged friends.

Regardless of what type of activity you choose to do with your pet, getting into a routine can also have an impact on the other health choices we make throughout our day. Once you are consistently doing one thing to benefit your health, you are more likely to follow up with others, such as making healthy food choices or getting better quality sleep.


We want everyone to be ‘lucky dogs’ and enhance their lives and health. Gina Darling of Mrs Green’s World will be hosting a session on Environmental Responsible Pet Care at The Core at La Encantada on Sunday, September 24th.  And for more information on exercising safely with your pet, join us Wednesday, September 27th at 5:30pm with Gina Hansenn of PACC. Click here to learn more about the events.

Improving 1 percent every day: TMC employees find their momentum

Michele S Human Resources.jpgTucson Medical Center made a commitment to its employees’ health four years ago: With the opening of new surgical suites in the tower, the previous operating room space was converted into an employee gym.

TMC employees embrace healthy lifestyles in many ways, but nearly 900 employees and their family members are part of the gym, which is open 24/7 and offers weight training, group fitness and personal training.

To mark the fourth birthday of the Optimal Results Fitness and Wellness Center, TMC asked nine employees to help us celebrate the personal health achievement of employees. Their photos will be shared over the coming weeks on social media and will be displayed in the gym.

“Perfection isn’t the goal,” said Amy Ramsey, manager of employee wellness. “It’s about being realistic and being consistent. The key is taking small steps to get incrementally better every day.”

Employees were asked to be part of the campaign based on their visibility in Jeffrey H Food Services.jpgwellness activities, their ability to inspire others and their ability to serve as role models across TMC, Ramsey said.

Michele Stewart, who works in Human Resources, said exercise gives her balance. “Also, diabetes runs in my family, so I’m literally fighting for my life, every day. As long as I’m here, I want my quality of life to be the best possible.”

Jeffrey Hirschfield, from Food and Nutrition Services, remembers far too well the impacts of poor nutritional choices and a lack of exercise. “I felt sickly all the time, I had zero energy to do anything and I hated the way I looked.”

“I train now to look good, feel good and make sure I can continue to do fun and active things even when I reach old age.”


5 Reasons why you need a primary care provider

5 reasons why you need a primary care physiciaWhy do you need a primary care provider?

You feel fine. No major illnesses, the occasional sniffle, and that niggling headache of course, and your mom just got diagnosed with high cholesterol, but you? You feel fine. You haven’t seen a doctor since you had to rush into urgent care that weekend two years ago.

The time to go to your PCP is when you’re sick right? You don’t have time right now.


Establishing a relationship with your primary care provider has all kind of benefits:

  1. Try getting in to see a provider quickly if you don’t have a primary care provider.
    They’ll want you to have had a new patient appointment to get a history and baseline information first. Those long appointments are usually at set times and not as flexible as regular appointments. Having a PCP established means the office is more able to squeeze you in for a quick appointment or call you back to discuss an issue and get you back on your feet and maybe back to work quickly.
  2. Back on the road to recovery
    A primary care provider can follow up and make sure you’re on the way to recovery following a visit to urgent care or an emergency room.
  3. Keep you up to date
    Whether it’s a new flu strain or new wellness screening guidelines, your primary care provider can help you stay current on vaccinations and preventive screenings maintaining your good health.
  4. A medical professional who looks at the whole you
    Your cardiologist is worrying about your heart rate, your neurologist your seizures, but who is looking at the big picture? Your primary care provider can oversee management of your overall health – your PCP  is able to see results from all specialists and able to get the big picture. And because your PCP has a relationship with you, he or she can help come up with a plan if you have complex medical needs. Which leads us to:
  5. Someone you can talk frankly with about your health concerns
    With a relationship that develops over time, a primary care provider can better understand what matters to you with respect to your lifestyle choices, health goals, etc. Building trust and a connection is an important piece of the relationship between a patient and a primary care provider. If you have a good relationship, it is easier to share those pertinent factors that you might be shy about otherwise.

Don’t have a primary care provider? Let us help you find one today! Call (520) 324-4900

find a doctor in Tucson

TMC celebrates pets in three September events

Pets can be part of a healthy lifestyle, from lowering blood pressure to reducing stress and encouraging owners to move more.

With the last week of September National Dog Week, TMC is going to the dogs (and cats) in three separate pet-friendly events at The Core at La Encantada.

  • Think your pup has what it takes to be a therapy dog to help cheer up patients, visitors and staff in the hospital? Come find out how to join TMC’s Pet Therapy team and – with the help of Pet Partners of Southern Arizona – learn the ins and outs of getting certified on Saturday, Sept. 2 at 10 a.m. Click here to register.
  • If you have a pet, you’ve probably at some point contemplated whether pet food, pet toys and cleaning products are OK for the environment. Come learn about environmentally friendly pet care with Mrs. Green’s World on Sunday, Sept. 24 at 2 p.m. Click here to register.
  • Pima Animal Care Center has thousands of pets each year (like PACC alumni Chester shown here) looking for a new home – and new exercise buddies. Join Care Center staff in learning more about how to exercise safely with your pet on Wednesday, Sept. 27 at 5:30 p.m. Click here to register.

Pets are welcome at these three events. Find out more by visiting The Core at La Encantada.

Make summer snacks fun, tasty and healthy

Summer snack 3Summertime brings vacations, warm weather and great food. The TMC and TMCOne Clinical Dietician Kallie Siderewicz offers some tips to make summer food fun, tasty and healthy.

Healthy doesn’t mean boring

Try a peanut butter and low-fat Greek yogurt dip for fruit. Ranch seasoning also gives Greek yogurt the yum factor for dipping veggies.

Other fun dishes include fruit kabobs, apples slices topped with peanut butter, coconut, and chocolate chips. A summertime favorite is fruit coated with frozen yogurt.

Cool off by infusing water or tea with lemon, lime, berries, oranges, mint, or rosemary.

Summer snackFor an adult beverage, try light beer, a glass of red wine or liquor mixed with water or diet soda.

High-calorie pitfalls

Before hot summer days have you reaching for a frozen coffee drink – remember that a small serving can have over 500 calories. Sodas and most sports drinks offer hard-to-burn calories with no nutrition.

For adults, mixed drinks usually combine alcohol and sugar, piling calories on top of calories.

Fruit salads made with fruit canned in heavy syrup can have as many calories as pie and cake, especially if you add marshmallows and whipped cream.

Don’t forget water

Water is the absolute best thing you can give your body. It hydrates, helps cleanse and cool. Another good reason to drink water – it can aid in weight loss.

Kallie Siderewicz.jpg



Kallie Siderewicz is a clinical dietician at the TMCOne Rincon location. She also provides nutrition services at Tucson Medical Center.

Staying active in the Arizona heat

“At least it is a dry heat.”

Whether it is a dry heat or not, it is still getting hot out there! This is the time of year that most year-round Tucsonans try to hide from the heat by staying indoors as much as possible. This seems like a good practice, but it can hinder many of the activities we enjoy the other 9 months of the year. So what are we to do?!

We definitely don’t want you to have to give up what you enjoy doing, and we want you to stay active, but we also want you to be smart and safe during your time outdoors. Planning and preparation are the keys to safety. Here are some tips from the TMC Wellness Team to consider as we enter the hotter months.

active in arizona heat

Rise Early

Whether you are normally a morning person or not, you pretty much need to be one from June through August if you ever want to do anything outside! With the sun rising as early as 5:15, meaning that it is light outside by 5:00 (that is a.m.!), you have at least an hour before the thermometer moves over 85 degrees. So for those of you who don’t enjoy exercising indoors, try planning for some early morning activities. We are fortunate to have some beautiful sunrises here in Tucson. You just need to get up and out to enjoy them!

If you aren’t accustomed to waking up early, try going to bed earlier than you normally would, so you will feel well rested. You might also plan to meet a friend or a group that will help motivate you to move in the morning. Once you get into a routine, you will realize it isn’t quite as bad as you used to believe.

Cover Up

Summer often means fun in the sun, but we all need to be careful that we aren’t getting too much of a good thing. The CDC recommends the following to protect ourselves from harmful rays.


  • Use sunscreen with sun protection factor (SPF) 15 or higher, and with both UVA and UVB protection.
  • Be sure to use enough. Apply a thick layer to all exposed skin.
  • Reapply every 2 hours that you are out in the sun or any time you sweat, rinse or wipe it off.

Protective Clothing

  • Wear clothing to cover exposed skin.
  • Loose fitting clothing may be more comfortable. Dark colors and tightly woven fabrics may offer better protection, because they absorb or block more UV rays.


  • Wear a hat with a wide brim to shade the face, head, ears, and neck.
  • Loose fitting hats may be more comfortable in the heat.


  • Don’t forget that the sun can damage your eyes and can increase your risk of cataracts.
  • Sunglasses that wrap close to your face and block both UVA and UVB will provide the greatest protection.


swimming in the summer to keep coolYou have gotten up early, put on the appropriate sun protection, and you are now ready to get out and do something active….Good for you! The final thing to remember about being active during the summer is to hydrate.

When it is hot out, it is easier to remember to drink water. But if you head out early or are swimming, you could forget to replenish the fluids you lose. The standard recommendation is eight to ten 8-ounce glasses of water each day. During the summer, especially in Arizona, and particularly when adding in outdoor activity, the recommendation goes way up; some recommendations go as high as 30 cups per day. The best way to determine how much you need to drink is to take a look at your urine. Urine should be light in color, similar to lemonade; dark urine the color of apple juice is an indicator of dehydration. Drinking smaller amounts more frequently maintains hydration better than drinking a large amount all at one time. Don’t wait until you are thirsty to start replacing fluids; rather, drink throughout the day.


Just because it is hot outside (really hot!) is not a good enough reason to stop all activity. Too often we hear, “I’ll start exercising again once it cools down.”  What people are really saying is, “Now that it is hot outside, I have a great excuse not to be active.” WRONG! With a bit of planning, you can still be active.

Enjoy your summer activities!

For more information about our Wellness programs or to sign up for our monthly wellness newsletter Live Well visit our website.

Temps are rising and the pool is beckoning – do you know your water safety?

Pool Safety 3Is it hot enough yet? With Tucson temperatures exceeding 115 degrees for three straight days, many families will be heading for the pool this weekend.

It’s no surprise why swimming is a summer favorite. Parents get a chance to cool-off, kids max out on fun and families make memories.

With the summertime exuberance of visiting, splashing and playing, it can be easy for all to forget important safety rules. This is serious because Arizona has the second highest number of child drownings in the United States.

Child drowning is tragic but preventable. Safe Kids Pima County Coordinator Jessica Mitchell works with community partners to provide helpful tips and education to prevent childhood drowning. She provided us important water safety standards every
parent should know.

It’s as easy as ABC

A = Adult supervision B = Barriers around pools, spas and hot tubs C = Coast Guard approved life vest and life-saving CPR classes

My kids love playing in the pool – what are the things to watch out for?

  • Active supervision is a must. Provide active supervision without any distractions – even if other adults are present and many kids are in the pool. They call drowning the “silent killer” because a drowning child can’t call for help.
  • Infants and toddlers should stay within an arm’s reach of an adult.
  • Don’t rely on swimming aids such as water wings and pool noodles. They are fun, but may not prevent drowning.
  • When finished, remove all toys from the pool. This can tempt children to go for the toys later, increasing the risk of them falling in and drowning.
  • Barriers should be in place to keep children from entering the pool on their own. Alarms on doors and pool fences with self-closing gates also helps to keep kids safe.
  • Always keep a phone nearby so that you can call 911 in the case of an emergency.
  • Empty kiddie pools and turn them upside down when finished. Tragedies have happened in just a few inches of water.

Pool Safety 2
What swimming rules should I set for my children?

  • Only swim if an adult is a present.
  • Do not dive in shallow areas of the pool (or the entire pool if it is not deep enough for diving).
  • Don’t push or jump on others.
  • Don’t go swimming during thunder/lightning storms.

My kids have already taken swimming lessons, so I probably don’t need to watch them as much, right?

While we encourage swimming lessons, children should not be swimming alone even if they are good swimmers. It takes multiple lessons before a child learns how to swim effectively and even then, there should still be active supervision by an adult.

How do I rescue a child I think might be drowning?

  • Take the child out of the water
  • If you are alone, call 911 and begin CPR. Starting CPR immediately is the most important thing you can do to prevent a child from dying.
  • If you are not alone, begin CPR and ask someone to call 911.
  • Check for breathing and responsiveness. Place your ear near the child’s mouth and nose to see if you feel air on your cheek? Determine if the child’s chest is moving and call the child’s name to see if he or she responds.

Should I be CPR certified?

Anyone who routinely supervises children around water should get CPR certified. The certification courses are provided by many community organizations, including the American Red Cross.

It sounds like there is a lot to prepare for – can the water still be safe and fun for my family?

Absolutely! Swimming can be great family fun. Make sure you take the necessary precautions, always supervise swimming children and that someone in the family has taken CPR classes.

Visit our website for more safety tips and information.



Safe Kids Pima County – keeping kids safe through education and advocacy

Safe Kids Pima County LogoPlenty of us have practice patching up the skinned knees and elbows of active children in our lives.

Unfortunately, though, accidents are too often far more serious than bumps and scrapes. In fact, accidents are the leading cause of death for ages 0 to 19 – according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The good news about this chilling statistic is that we have the power to change it. “Childhood accidents can (often? always? Almost always) be prevented – a few easy steps for children and adults can help keep kids safe,” said Jessica Mitchell, Safe Kids Pima County coordinator.

Safe Kids Pima County is a network of organizations focused on preventing accidental, childhood injury by educating adults and children, creating safe environments, conducting research, and advocating for effective laws.

Mitchell is a part of TMC’s participation in the Safe Kids initiative, working with community partners to actively engage adults in taking action for stronger child safety. From providing free bike helmets and pool safety to education workshops and school presentations, Mitchell coordinates a full schedule of activities to facilitate child safety awareness.

Jessica MitchellRecently, Mitchell spent a week at Frances Owen Holaway Elementary School, educating each PE class on the merits of bike safety.

“We explain to the kids ‘the brain can’t fix itself’ and make sure every student has a helmet and how to put it on correctly,” Mitchell explained. “The kids also learn the proper hand signals, where it’s safe to ride and how to avoid taking dangerous risks.”

Many child accidents involve bike riding. Over the past three years, Safe Kids Pima County has provided more than 8,000 free bike helmets to children in our community.

Safe Kids Pima County provides information and resources to help keep kids safe. Going forward, look for Mitchell’s monthly blog posts on helping keep kids safe, happy and healthy.

For further information about Safe Kids Pima County, please email or call (520) 324-2783. If you are holding a community event and would like Safe Kids Pima County to attend or participate, click here.

Osteoporosis: “The most important factor is prevention”

May is Women’s Health Month, a great time to celebrate and promote stronger health and a perfect time to discuss the latest information about preventing and treating health challenges like osteoporosis.

More than 44 million American women experience the debilitating effects of the bone disease, and many women fear aching joints and brittle bones are an inevitable part of aging. It is important to know the risks, and engage opportunities to maintain optimum bone-health.

Dr. Lawrence R. Housman is an orthopaedic surgeon who specializes in musculoskeletal disease at Tucson Orthopaedic Institute. He sat down with us to discuss the best ways to prevent and treat osteoporosis.

OsteoporosisWhy are women at greater risk for osteoporosis?  

Women start with a lower bone density than men. They also lose bone mass more quickly as they age. Between ages 20-80, women will lose about 1/3 of her bone density compared to men who lose only 1/4 of their bone density in that time frame. Estrogen levels also affect bone density, and women lose bone mass more quickly in the years immediately following menopause than at any other time of their lives.

What can accentuate this risk?

Alcohol in moderation is not a risk factor, however more than four drinks per day results in a twice the risk of hip fracture. Steroids can also increase this risk. Long term use of steroids will double the risk of fracture in women.

It should be noted that proton pump inhibitors (e.g. Nexium/Protonix used for stomach disorders such as acid reflux) decrease the absorption of calcium from the stomach.

While increasing fiber, phylates (beans, wheat bran), oxalates (spinach, beet greens, rhubarb) and phosphorus (colas) can provide other health benefits they can also interfere with calcium metabolism.

What are the most effective means of preventing osteoporosis?

Regular exercise is one of the most effective means of preventing osteoporosis. Thirty minutes per day – walking is excellent, and Tai Chi reportedly decreases falls by 47 percent and hip fracture by 25 percent.

Nutrition is another import part of maintaining healthy bones. Fruits and vegetables are important. Women ages 19-50 should take in 1000 mg of calcium daily and women older than 50 should get 1200 mg per day.

Vitamin D is another vital nutrient the body needs to prevent osteoporosis. An individual can get their vitamin D through measured exposure to sunlight or through supplements. A diet with dairy, protein or calcium fortified foods (e.g. orange juice), fish (salmon/sardines) and yogurt (6 ounces has 300 mg of calcium) will go a long way in getting vitamin d to the bones.

What are the warning signs of the disease – and when is it time to see a doctor?

There are usually no warning signs before a fracture occurs; therefore, the most important factor is prevention.

A primary care provider (PCP) is the best person to monitor bone health. Most physicians recommend a DEXA (bone density test) after the age of 50.

The DEXA scan is the bone density test done most frequently and is predictive of fracture risk. The scan will also show whether you have normal bone density, osteopenia (bone is becoming weaker) or osteoporosis (bone is at high risk for fracture).

If a fracture occurs, then an orthopaedist would enter the picture to advise on treatment concerning the spine or extremity fracture.

If diagnosed with osteopenia or osteoporosis – what’s next?

With treatment patients can live normal, active and happy lives.

There are many types of medications that are now available – which work to reverse and then rebuild the bone loss. With treatment, the risk of a vertebral fracture drops from between 30-70 percent and the risk of a hip fracture drops by up to 40 percent.

Housman OsteoporosisDr. Housman is an orthopaedic surgeon who practices at the Tucson Orthopaedic Institute. He earned a medical degree from the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada and completed an orthopaedic surgery residency at the Montreal General Hospital and McGill University. Dr. Housman is fellowship trained in several orthopaedic pursuits and is a past chief of staff at Tucson Medical Center. He has also served as president of the Western Orthopaedic Association and Arizona Orthopaedic Society.



Cognitive benefits from running and other physical activities

DavidRaichlenMaking our community a healthier place is a goal shared by the Tucson Medical Center and the Southern Arizona Roadrunners. TMC is excited to partner with SAR to bring you regular features and wellness tips designed to make your running the best it can be.

In this feature, researcher David Raichlen shares how exercise benefits your brain.

Runners often strive for that “running zone,” when movements are rhythmic, effortless and almost unconscious.

But rest assured: Even when you’re in a zone, your brain is working hard to navigate what is really an incredibly complicated set of actions. And ultimately, that may be helping to protect your brain over time.

David Raichlen, an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Arizona and a runner himself, has been focused on the study of the evolution of physical activity – notably, why should you have to expend energy to ensure optimal functioning of the physiological system?

Think about it. Exercise builds bone density. It builds muscle. It helps protect elasticity in arteries. The reverse is also true: Lack of physical activity atrophies muscles and thins bones. And it looks like it may also change your brain in detrimental ways. “It turns out that our bones, our muscles, our cardiovascular systems – and even our brains – have evolved in a way that responds to stress,” he said.

Exercise in mature adults seems to be associated with larger amounts of gray matter, the cell bodies that make up the brain. That’s important in areas like the hippocampus, which serve as the nervous system and the command center for emotion and memory. People who engage in exercise also have more white matter – the connections within your brain that help with attention, planning and decision making.

Together with Gene Alexander, a professor of psychology at the University of Arizona, Raichlen has explored the effects of exercise on the brains of individuals across the lifespan.

Their results are somewhat surprising. “Let’s say you go for a run in Sabino Canyon. What are you doing? You have to navigate, remember where you’re going, plan footfalls on uneven terrain, pay attention to surroundings,” explained Raichlen, who joined Southern Arizona Roadrunners a year ago. “Running actually involves some fairly complex processing, and it’s possible that is the stress that creates these connectivity differences and perhaps that’s the stress that improves brain function across ages.”

The good news is that it’s not too late to switch to a more active lifestyle. Most of the studies that have shown protective changes have involved sedentary adults who began walking at moderate intensity for 150 hours a week.

Raichlen’s research also studies hunter-gatherer cultures in Africa to get a better model on what physical activity was like more universally in the past.  “They’re very physically active, but they also rest a lot. When they’re moving, they’re really moving. And when they’re not, they’re resting: There’s not a lot of time when they’re moving with low intensity,” he said.

The take home message?  Runners may typically be the types who like to get out there and exercise, but for other mortals, it can be hard to prod them into greater activity. “But could you get people to walk a little faster when they park their car at the grocery store or get them to walk a little faster at the mall?  It’s not always the 30 minute run: The other thing people can do is accumulate moderate physical intensity throughout the day by just trying to aerobically challenge themselves more often.”


Healthy feet means happier running: Tips from a podiatrist

Making our community a healthier place is a goal shared by the Tucson Medical Center and the Southern Arizona Roadrunners. TMC is excited to partner with SAR to bring you regular features and wellness tips designed to make your running the best it can be.

TVP_160623_7085Sometimes feet just don’t get the respect they deserve. But they’re surprisingly complex workhorses that make a huge difference in our quality of life, as well as our ability to lead active lifestyles.

Here are a few tips from Dr. Natalie Hua to keep those 26 bones and their associated muscles, tendons and ligaments in optimal condition:

It starts with the shoes. There are a lot of options in running shoes, from the thin layer of sole in minimalist options that make your foot muscles work extra hard, to options that provide the maximum support. Whichever version you like, the key is to invest in a good pair of running shoes. Quality running stores will have you run on a treadmill to look at your foot patterns and recommend some options for you. Go toward the end of the day when your feet are most swollen to get the right measurement. Make sure your shoes are wide enough and that there is a two-finger width from the longest toe to the toe box. Here’s an important tip: If you find some you love, stock up, because companies change styles and models with great frequency.

You’ll want to change your shoes about every 300 miles, because fatigue and pain are associated with insufficient cushion and support.

And if you need orthotics, Tucson Orthopaedic Institute has staff that will help you find the right ones, based on your arch. If they don’t work, an exchange or full refund is available. Custom orthotics are also offered at TOI.

Get the right socks.  Blisters are often triggered because of friction on wet skin, which can happen when your socks get too wet. Cotton socks are big culprits, so consider microfiber socks that better wick out moisture. Studies have shown compression socks do not appear to increase performance while you run, but have been shown to speed up the recovery process if you put them on afterward.

Blisters. Aside from getting the right socks, if you are prone to blisters, consider wearing antiperspirant on your feet before a run – and use Vaseline on problem spots you know are prone to blistering. And as for that age-old question – to pop or not to pop – the important thing is to leave the skin intact as a natural protective barrier. Clean a sewing needle with alcohol and just poke a small hole to allow the fluid to escape.

Black nails: These are common in runners because of micro-trauma as your foot jams into the toe box. There are two things to know:

1) It may look like fungus, but there is no way to tell from the naked eye so your physician will have to send a sample to the lab to know for sure.

2) Don’t rip it off if it lifts. Try to secure it down with tape, and as the new nail grows, it will push it out.

Pain: I am a surgeon, but I talk my patients out of surgery unless we have tried all non-operative treatments first. If your toes are spreading out and causing pain in the ball of the foot, tape your toe in place to take the stretch off the ligament until it can heal.

Heel pain is the most common complaint I hear and a lot of it has to do with degenerative changes of the plantar fascia, which are bands that run from heel to toe. The trick is to work on stretching both the calf muscle and the plantar fascia. Do a modified runner stretch to help. It also helps to get a golf ball and roll your foot over  it. It can be painful but it’s the best remedy I’ve found.

For Achilles pain, you can learn stretches that will help. But here’s an important caveat: If you have acute pain around your Achilles, and it’s inflamed and red, do not stretch because you can rupture it. We can put you in a boot and heel lifts to calm it down. Anytime you have an injury after a run, you’ll want to rest, put ice on it for 20 minutes at a time and elevate it above your heart. If you can’t put weight on it within a day, go see a doctor for a treatment plan to get you back on the road safely.

Natalie Hua, DPM, earned her medical degree from the California School of Podiatric Medicine in Oakland, California, graduating cum laude. She then completed her residency in podiatric medicine & surgery, and reconstructive rearfoot/ankle surgery at Tucson Medical Center.


Running with four-legged friends good for pets, owners

Making our community a healthier place is a goal shared by the Tucson Medical Center and the Southern Arizona Roadrunners. TMC is excited to partner with SAR to bring you regular features and wellness tips designed to make your running the best it can be.

In this feature, Amy Ramsey, TMC’s employee wellness and engagement manager, shares some tips about running with dogs as TMC gears up for its first-ever Paws on the Run 5k fun run to benefit Pima Animal Care Center and Girls on the Run on April 8 at Christopher Columbus Park. Kids can also come out and run a FREE one mile fun run presented by Southern Arizona Roadrunner’s FitKidz.

Shelter adoptions are free that day for participants and families.

To register:

running-partners-amy-and-gertie-enjoy-shared-activity-timeWhat kinds of dogs are appropriate for running?

I have two dogs at home, a Chihuahua and a large Shepherd mix we rescued from a local shelter seven years ago.

Don’t let little legs fool you: Our Chihuahua is a great running partner for our children, as he doesn’t have as much stamina as our larger breed. The kids enjoy running him around the block a few times, and he stops when he’s had enough.

Gertie, our larger breed, enjoys running longer distances to which we’ve built up over time. We’ve determined 2-3 miles is an optimal distance for her based on her energy level  during and after the run.

Each breed is different in regards to how far and long activity should be so checking with your vet and doing a little research on your specific dog breed will tell you a lot about their activity needs and tolerance.

 How can you get started in running with your dog?

Just like humans, dogs can be trained to increase activity based on consistent efforts. But remember, just as you listen to your body to be sensible and avoid injury by increasing slowly, you’ll need to watch for signs from your pup that could show exhaustion or discomfort as well.

running-with-shelter-pets-at-pima-animal-care-center.jpgWhat are the benefits you’ve experienced?

Asking the kids to run the dog is a great excuse to get them out of the house – and they all come back happier.

I am an early morning runner, and if I’m not meeting up with running partners, Gertie is the perfect companion to help keep me feeling safe. Yes, I still carry my pepper spray, but I’m a little more relaxed with her by my side.

She’s also just a better behaved dog when she gets regular exercise. Dogs are a lot like humans in this way. How many times have you missed a workout and find yourself feeling grumpy or irritable because of it? Dogs are the same.

Like humans, dogs can act out in other ways, such as destructive behavior, if they aren’t getting enough activity. They can crave routine and look forward to “burning off the crazy” just as much as we do.

Can you share a list of critical tips?

  • Keep the leash short. This is for your dog’s safety, as well as others who may be biking, running, driving by you. This also helps keep the dog closer to you, allowing for more training/learning moments for your pup.
  • Pick a side. Establish which side of you the dog will be running on and keep this consistent. Your dog likes to know what to expect. Rules and boundaries are healthy for them. This comes in particularly handy when training them NOT to lunge for that lizard that just darted across the path.
  • Praise liberally. Bringing treats in your pocket can help keep his focus on you, while reinforcing his good decisions, like not pulling towards the bicycle that just passed, or not barking at the spastic dog on the other side of the fence.
  • Remember hydration. Bring water if you’ll be out more than 30 minutes or if it is especially warm. If your dog isn’t great at drinking from a water bottle, small collapsible bowls are very portable. Some larger breeds actually ENJOY wearing a backpack that could be filled with treats, water, and a bowl. It gives them a sense of purpose.

How about a “please don’t” list?


  • Forget to bring bags for waste. It’s called being a responsible pet owner and a good neighbor.
  • Use a retractable leash. Exceptions can sometimes be made for smaller breeds, but if you happen to be using a multiuse path such as The Loop, DON’T do it. It’s just plain dangerous.
  • Take your dog out for a run if it’s too hot. Dogs are very susceptible to heat exhaustion, some breeds more than others. Also-the pavement heats up quickly and those paw pads are sensitive. Some dogs allow for booties, but a quick YouTube search for “Dogs With Shoes” shows you quickly that most won’t tolerate it. This has been a favorite search for my kids, with a lot of laughter. I recommend morning or evening outings here in the Southwest.
  • Take the same route every day. Your dog lives by his nose, so give him new areas to sniff and give yourself new things to see. It’s good for both of your brains!

ruff-runners-provides-opportunities-for-fitness-as-well-as-community-service.jpgAre there opportunities to have this experience, even if you don’t own a dog?

The dogs at Pima Animal Care Center not only need that daily exercise, but those walks or runs are of high importance to keep their spirits high, making them more desirable and adoptable for prospective pet owners.

There are many volunteer opportunities at PACC to help with this activity, but one that I specifically love is the Ruff Runners group. On Tuesday evenings and Friday mornings, people are encouraged to come out and help exercise these wonderful dogs.

When signing in, I was asked if I preferred a younger, higher energy dog to run, or if I’d like to help an older or possibly injured dog get some fresh air by walking them slowly, on a shorter route. It is really very rewarding to see all of those wonderful shelter dogs paired with their volunteers and enjoying the exercise and companionship – which goes both ways.

Mediterranean diet has much to offer


We know that healthy diets can definitely be beneficial in lowering LDL, the “bad” cholesterol, which is a major risk factor in causing heart attacks and strokes. In general, the main principle is to avoid saturated fats.

Cholesterol itself is only found in animal fats, so you would think that avoiding animal products would be sufficient to prevent elevated cholesterol. Certainly, it is important to avoid high-fat meats and cheeses. Lunch meats, bacon and similar products should be totally avoided. At the same time, avoiding animal products is insufficient because vegetable products with saturated fats will stimulate the liver to produce cholesterol. So, the amount of cholesterol that is eaten is only one factor in determining blood levels of cholesterol.

A Mediterranean diet appears to reduce the risk of cardiovascular events. These diets are typically high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, and include olive oil as an important source of fat. There are typically low to moderate amounts of fish, poultry, dairy products, and red meat is limited to no more than a few times a month. Herbs and spices are used instead of salt to flavor foods.


There is often red wine in addition to the diet*. Resveratrol is an anti-oxidant especially found in the skin of red grapes. It has not been proven to lower LDL cholesterol but does help prevent cardiovascular disease, probably by other mechanisms (the same is true for dark chocolate). However, even without the wine the Mediterranean diet, particularly including virgin olive oil, seems to be very effective in decreasing heart attacks and strokes.

William Abraham, M.D.


Dr. William Abraham is board-certified in internal medicine and has more than 30 years of experience. He is a TMC One provider who specializes in same-day/next-day appointments at the Wilmot location.

TMC One Med Group your health your team OL

*Please consult your doctor before changing your diet. Red wine should be enjoyed in moderation.

Exercise – more benefits than you think…


Exercise has numerous known health benefits, and as time passes more are being discovered.

One of the major things that can help cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes is regular, moderate to vigorous exercise. Studies have proven that exercise especially raises HDL (good cholesterol ) and can decrease LDL (bad cholesterol),  although less so.  In addition, one of the other benefits to exercise, namely weight loss, by itself will raise HDL.

How much exercise can be beneficial?  The more the better, and the more vigorous the better. Unfortunately, mild-intensity exercise has not been shown to affect cholesterol levels.

The most benefit can be achieved by eliminating sedentary habits and a poor diet.  Even without changing one’s diet, LDL can be decreased by 10 to 15 percent and HDL increased by 20 percent with moderate to vigorous exercise. Diabetes and high blood pressure can also be improved or even prevented with regular exercise.

Weight-bearing exercise, which includes walking, helps maintain bone density and therefore prevent osteoporosis which can lead to fractures, especially of the hips and spine.

Exercise is believed to help boost the immune system and prevent infections. Researchers also believe that it can lower the risk of developing cancers.

The latest studies also suggest that people who exercise regularly have a significantly decreased incidence of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s Disease.

If you are not already exercising, you need to start at a low level and slowly and progressively increase.  Check first with your primary care provider to evaluate your cardiovascular health.

An exercise regimen is a meaningful way of improving your health and preventing chronic diseases. Make the changes that will change your life.

William Abraham, M.D.


Dr. William Abraham is board-certified in internal medicine and has more than 30 years of experience. He is a TMC One provider who specializes in same-day/next-day appointments at the Wilmot location.

TMC One Med Group your health your team OL

What happens when your inner artist meets your inner philanthropist? The May 24 Creative You Art Party!

Creative ArtHelp lift the spirits of patients while enjoying a free evening of creativity, wine and fun.

As a hospital participating in the Bens’ Bells Kind Colleagues program, staff members at Tucson Medical Center know the power of random acts of kindness.

And as a hospital with a Healing Art Program, we also know the potential of art to encourage and cheer patients.

Join TMC Women & Children’s Services staff Tuesday,  May 24, from 5 to 7 p.m. in making a piece of art that will be donated to a patient in one of our programs, whether that’s a pregnant mom in one of our support groups, a new mother learning about breastfeeding or a mother who donates life-saving cord blood to save another child’s life.

Along with light snacks and wine, The Core will provide all of the items you’ll need to complete an art project that will make a difference in the lives of the patients we serve.

“This is one of those opportunities where everyone will feel better at the end: Not only will our guests have a great time, but they’ll have an opportunity to make someone’s day who might need a little cheering up,” said Tim Bentley, retail outreach manager at The Core at La Encantada.

Space is limited, so please register for this class at or visit for a full calendar of fitness classes, health lectures and wellness events.

Developing rituals can help build balance

Terri Waldman on developing rituals to balance lifeTerri Waldman, the Director of TMC’s Geropsychiatric Center, was one of the experts interviewed for the Arizona Daily Star’s series on dementia, Hope and Help. Among the stories was one on finding hope. Here is her monthly column on the importance of building ritual.

Every morning, I go for a walk with my dog.

If I miss that walk for some reason, my day just feels a little off.

It’s one of my rituals, along with meditation, that gives shape to my day.

Ritual, which is increasingly recognized as important to our health and wellbeing, is more than merely everyday habit. But to be clear, it also does not have to be reserved for just the sacred and complicated.

Whether we are talking about rituals of religion, families or individuals, those intentional steps we take on a regular basis help remind us about what’s important and help us build a sense of stability in our lives.

When I was a child, bedtime meant my parents would tell each other and their children that they were loved. For me, regardless of family squabbles or anything else that happened during the day, it gave me that sense of continuity. No matter what else I faced, love was not a negotiation.

When you hear “ritual,” there are all kinds of ideas in our head about what that looks like, often involving ceremonial trappings and historical foundations. But it can be as simple as having dinner as a family – a ritual that is growing in importance all the time as we lose some of that precious time to busy lives and technology.

It can be having a cup of coffee on your patio to start your morning. It could be a cup of tea in the evening. It could be a prayer before bed.  It’s any time you carve out that feels good and centering and maybe even healing to you.

In the work I do, I’ve noticed that some people’s lives become imbalanced because they lack structure. Rituals have a way of grounding you. Even if you’re traveling, you can still have that morning coffee or that bedtime tea and feel a sense of structure. Ritual does not have to be rigid. And it doesn’t have to be something handed down through generations – it can be something you create.

If ritual is something you want to more fully develop in your life, you might look at your life to see what you have in it already.  You probably have more of it in your life than you think. If it isn’t obvious to you, you might ask a friend: What do you see in my life that brings me comfort?

You might just start with something simple: Finding 5 minutes of quiet time with your thoughts. It’s easy to click on the TV or the radio for a distraction, but learning to be present with oneself can be a gift. And it might just start with one, simple ritual.

Terri Waldman has more than 20 years of experience in providing services, advocacy and leadership in the field of aging in Pima County. Currently the Director of the TMC Geropsychiatric Center at Handmaker, Waldman received her Masters in Social Work at Arizona State University. She follows her father’s philosophy that five minutes of laughter every day leads to quality in life.

Don’t let the triple digit heat send your brain on vacation

imagesCATD1WDHA predictable pattern emerges when the mercury climbs: We stay inside and scrap some of the normal activities we would otherwise do. Instead of going for our daily walk or chatting with neighbors over the fence or heading to lunch with a friend, we end up staying inside, watching too much television and eating too much for our increasingly sedentary activity level.

So what’s the problem with taking a little break?

Think about what happens when you stop going to the gym. The next time you get back on that treadmill or lift weights, it’s a little harder. You’ve lost some ground.

A bicep muscle and a brain are similar in that way: It’s really important as we age to maintain a certain regimen or structure in our life.

Particularly for those who already have cognitive, mental health or physical challenges, letting routines and networks lapse tends to lead to faster decline.

We know that brain health is directly tied to cognitive stimulation. If those brain connections aren’t engaging, people tend to develop new problems, including depression, which is particularly common among older people who live alone and may be facing sadness, isolation and loneliness.

Here are a few suggestions on how to maintain brain health despite the heat:

  • Tap a passion. What is it that  stimulates you cognitively? Do you gravitate to crossword puzzles, chess, checkers or bridge? Do you like to write? Then continue to do that in the summer, even if it means changing your schedule to take advantage of the cooler mornings or evenings.
  • Get wet. Take advantage of a friend’s pool or a community pool, or try a water aerobics class at a local gym. Get a noodle and get kicking.
  • Stay social. Instead of meeting a friend for lunch, go for breakfast. Take an early morning walk and chat with your neighbors. If you have Skype or FaceTime, use them! Eye contact is vital in relationship-building. If you like online games, they’re a good option when taking refuge from the midday heat, but just remember they’re no replacement for human connections.
  • Connect with your community. Neighborhood cleanup crews or park docents may not be the right fit for this particular season, but there are lots of air-conditioned opportunities to volunteer for a church or a nonprofit. Consider visiting the library or joining a book club or a conversation circle.

This is not to say you shouldn’t take time for high quality downtime. Science is showing the benefits of taking time away from constant mental challenges to allow the mind to daydream and wander. Power naps can also be restorative.

But summer vacation typically isn’t synonymous with vast amounts of downtime anyway.  Think about previous breaks from your everyday routine. You might have taken a book with you, visited a museum, tackled a new project or had new cultural experiences. That’s the recipe for healthy brain function, no matter the season.

Terri Waldman

Managing elder health risks in summer temperatures

Terri Waldman

Terri Waldman

The summer heat has arrived. For older adults, warmth might mean more joint comfort, but it can also place them at increased health risk.

Terri Waldman, the director of Tucson Medical Center’s Geropsychiatric Center at Handmaker, said there are a variety of reasons – including diminished blood circulation, age-related illness and lifestyle factors – that make older adults more susceptible to heat-related complications.

  • Dehydration: Older adults who don’t consume enough liquids are more readily overheated and can become easily confused and disoriented. Inadequate hydration can also lead to urinary tract infections, which can cause marked changes in mental status and behavior. “Urinary infections are more than a nuisance – they can have serious consequences,” Waldman said. “Consuming plenty of fluids is an important safeguard.”
  • Medication: Many drugs may lose potency in extreme heat, Waldman said. It’s best not to let medications sit too long in the mailbox during the heat of the day, or to keep them in a locked car. Store medications at room temperature, protected from heat and light to the degree possible. If an older adult is overheated, medications also tend to work less effectively.
  • Nutrition: When the temperatures climb, appetites diminish. Seniors need to make sure they continue to eat sufficient amounts of healthy food. Also, because people with heat exhaustion lose fluids and salts, those on salt-restricted or fluid-restricted diets have to be especially careful to guard against becoming overheated.

Everyone should know the signs of heat exhaustion, Waldman said. Those signs may include dizziness, confusion, fatigue, muscle cramps, muscle spasms, lack of coordination, nausea, headache and clammy skin. Seek medical assistance right away for these symptoms or for an elevated body temperature.

“During hot weather, it’s best to use caution in scheduling physical activities outdoors and you should continue drinking fluids throughout the day, before you feel thirsty,” Waldman said. “And for older adults, it’s always good to have a buddy system established anyway, so someone can check in, particularly if outdoor activities are planned throughout the day.”

If you or an elder loved one is showing signs of agitation, confusion, hallucinations, extreme depression or an inability to cope with stressful situations, please check with your health provider.

TMC employees lace up for Saturday’s ‘Meet Me Downtown’ Run/Walk

This Saturday, May 30, marks the 9th anniversary of the TMC Meet Me Downtown 5K Night Run/Walk, with community participants running along wide downtown boulevards as the sun prepares to set.

Tucson Medical Center’s proud sponsorship of the event includes a chance to open up registration to its employees at free or discounted rates. Part of the TMC Wellness Department’s mission is to get its employees out and active within the community that it serves, and this year’s event is looking stronger than ever for the TMC staff. Amy Mattox, TMC Employee Wellness Specialist, is excited about the growing participation.

“With 60+ employees registered for this race, it speaks volumes to the community that we truly see the value in getting out and staying active together, and we’re creating a stronger, healthier, happier staff because of it. Some of these people are avid runners and that’s really great. We also have many first timers registered, and some have even convinced their family members to join in, too! That’s what it’s all about!”

FEATTMC staff can participate in a number of activities on and off campus as part of the new FEAT (Fit Employee Ambassador Team) group, including weekly group runs on campus, monthly hiking gatherings, group rides, and community races like Meet Me Downtown.

Mary Atkinson, director of the TMC Wellness Department, says “It’s encouraging to see the awareness of overall wellness growing among our staff. It’s happening, and we’re proud to be a part of it.”

Look for the teal TMC team shirts out on the warm, evening course this weekend!



Live Well series opens up healthy new opportunities

Here’s your next chance to Live Well Tucson! …starting Tuesday, March 3, 5:45-7:45 p.m.

Combining health information sessions with various movement options, Live Well Tucson is a seven-week program presented by Tucson Medical Center to bring a better appreciation of wellness into the community.

The upcoming session begins March 3 at The Core, TMC’s wellness storefront at La Encantada retail center, Skyline and Campbell Ave. Early registration by Thursday, Feb. 26, qualifies the participant for half-off the normal (already economical) $80 fee for the series. Payment can be made at The Core front desk, or make arrangements with The Core at (520) 324-2673.core

Check for more information at The Core’s Online Registration page.

Live Well Tucson participants also have the option of joining individual information sessions for a $15 fee for each class. The courses are designed to help develop strategies for living a healthful life and creating sustainable good habits.  Upcoming topics in the March 3 series include:

  • Preventive Care – your PCP as your partner in health
  • Physical Activity – being active for the rest of your life
  • Nutrition – intelligent eating habits
  • Stress Reduction –helping you better recognize and respond to stress
  • Sleep – recommendations for developing a sound sleep routine
  • Happiness & Social Connectivity – living and sharing a joy-filled life
  • Maintaining Good Habits – how to carry on with what you have learned


The Core offers a variety of programs and services, as outlined on the web page



Former TMC patient battles brain cancer; racks up running goals

BDP32360_1500xOdd things started happening to Alfred Bracamonte in the middle of 2013.

He had barely finished the San Diego Rock ‘N Roll Marathon in June and struggled through some of his regular 8-mile training runs. He had episodes of slurring. His balance was a little off. And he started getting what he thought were little seizures, with the taste of metal in his mouth and what felt like jolts of electricity zinging up and down his spine.

Then one July morning, the 43-year-old construction worker became violently ill. His wife of 20 years, Laura, initially chalked his ailments up to working in the summer heat or the fact he wasn’t taking his blood pressure medication. But she couldn’t shake a strong feeling that he needed to get to the doctor immediately.

He got in to see the nurse practitioner, who told him he was exhibiting pre-stroke symptoms. Either he going to the hospital that minute, she said, or she was calling an ambulance to take him.

That was July 9.

And nothing has been the same since.

Alfred was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor, known as an anaplastic astrocytoma, affecting his left temporal lobe. His radiation oncologist was frank: Survival rates were slim with this type of aggressive cancer, with life expectancy spanning about three years.

But the couple has deep faith and felt reassured by their unshakeable confidence in neurosurgeon, Dr. Abhay Sanan, who removed as much of the tumor as he could at Tucson Medical Center a week after his diagnosis.

Since the tumor had woven itself into the brain in ways that made it difficult to remove surgically, Alfred was assigned a regimen of radiation, followed up by a year of oral chemotherapy.

That wasn’t going to stop him from completing his running goals. As a former Marine, Alfred thought he’d had his fill of running, but in 2011, his doctor got after him about getting in shape and losing weight. He started lacing up his running shoes again and participating in races.

In fact, before he was diagnosed, he had already signed up for a half marathon in Las Vegas. “I said, ‘Let’s make this our goal. Let’s keep it in our thoughts that we are going to complete this,’” Laura recounted.BDP32369_1500x

Alfred agreed. “I just want to help other cancer patients, to show them that they can get through it.” It’s not about competing with other racers, he said, but about setting a goal and finishing it. “I’m running for me. For life,” he said.

And, for Alfred, whose ever-present smile was even on display in the recovery room after surgery, and who loves races in large part because of the friendly chats with other racers, it’s also about friendship.

On Labor Day, despite the effects of chemotherapy and radiation, he ran a 5K, following up with another 5K in October. In November, he completed his goal of going to Las Vegas to earn a triple crown in the Rock n’ Roll Marathon Series.

In December, the couple received the best gift they could imagine. The tumor had responded so well to the treatment, that the MRI came back clear, with no evidence of an enhancing tumor. He’s tested every eight weeks to make sure it doesn’t reappear.

The anticipation of waiting for results is difficult. And Alfred is still working through some challenges. He sometimes substitutes words for the ones he is looking for. His memory can be a little fuzzy and his balance is still unsteady. “We keep each other going because we’re in this together,” Laura said. “Never once has he asked why this happened to him. Never once has he had a bad attitude. Even on his bad days, he still smiles.”

Through it all, Alfred’s kept right on making his running goals.Albert

Earlier this month, he earned his first medal for finishing the three races in the Gabe Zimmerman Triple Crown, after completing the May 31 TMC Meet Me Downtown 5k and the TMC Saguaro National Park Labor Day 5k in September – the same one he did last year in the middle of treatment. The final leg of that trilogy was Sunday, Oct. 19, at the TMC Get Moving Tucson event. He crossed the finish line at just under 40 minutes for his 5K bid.

The two are convinced that Alfred’s running, and his work with a nutritionist, helped strengthen his body for the arduous work of healing. And aside from feeling like God has carried them, they’ve had support of friends, family and even strangers. Said Laura: “We feel that we’ve been blessed through this.”

The Arizona Daily Star followed Alfred’s race journey this weekend. Read it here:

Girls on the Run alumni now cross country team captains

by Paula Nasiatka, GOTR coach, Tanque Verde Elementary

     Captain Carsen, Coach Ventola, and Captain Meg

Captain Carsen, Coach Ventola, and Captain Meg

Meg Healy and Carsen Mastrangelo participated in the first team of Girls on the Run (GOTR) at Tanque Verde Elementary School two years ago. Tanque Verde Elementary had just started the program in the fall of 2012 and this was the first opportunity for girls to sign up with volunteer coaches Paula Nasiatka, Sara Thomas and Elizabeth Medina. GOTR is a national non-profit school based program that encourages 3rd-5th grade girls to develop self-respect and healthy lifestyles through running.

Meg and Carsen had heard about GOTR and were excited to join the 10 week program. They were natural leaders to the younger girls in the program and mentored other girls during the workouts leading up to their final 5K (3.1 mile) run at the end of the season.

After Meg and Carsen completed 6th grade at Tanque Verde Elementary, they went on to Emily Gray Junior High. In 7th grade they joined the Emily Gray Junior High Bobcats cross country team. This year, in 8th grade, they were elected co-captains by their teammates.

Meg noted that “Girls on the Run was some of the best running training I got before I tried out for the team.”

Carsen reflected on her experience, “Girls on the Run helped to build my confidence. I went from ‘I wonder if I could be a runner’ to ‘I AM a runner!'” I don’t think I would have considered cross country if it hadn’t been for the experience of Girls on the Run.”

In addition to Meg and Carsen, 7th grader Ellie Nasiatka is also a GOTR alumni who is on the Emily Gray Junior High cross country team. Ellie developed a love for running when she participated in GOTR for three years at both Agua Caliente and Tanque Verde Elementary Schools. Ellie also mentored the younger girls when she was a 6th grader last year.

Carsen in full stride during a meet

Carsen in full stride during a meet

Emily Gray Junior High cross-country coach Lindsay Ventola is very familiar with Girls on the Run and feels it’s a wonderful program. She recently moved to Tucson from New Hampshire where she was a running buddy for two girls in a GOTR program in Portsmouth, NH.

Coach Ventola reflects, “Running is more than a sport; it is a lifelong practice, and an important hobby/routine to get kids involved with. GOTR creates an opportunity not only to “hook” girls onto running, but it also provides a place for veteran female runners to teach our young ladies the essential aspects for future success. Physically, running demands a great deal of us. Perhaps more challenging, and more importantly, running requires motivation, determination, self-reflection, and confidence – skills I think every young girl should gain and experience in her life. In college, I worked as a nanny after school. I felt so fortunate to be a running buddy with the two elementary school girls I babysat. On a daily basis, I was inspired by these girls. Throughout the program they challenged themselves, improved their time and stamina, built their confidence, made new friends, and walked away with a love of running. Every kid, especially our young girls, should have the opportunity to feel this sense of accomplishment.

This GOTR ¨effect” has clearly come through in both Meg and Carsen, my two 8th grade captains on the Emily Gray cross country team. From the day I met them, both Meg and Carsen stood out to me as the natural leaders. The program teaches these girls what it means to be a leader, it teaches them to be driven in reaching their goals, it teaches them to be kind and supportive of the younger runners, it teaches them to be the best athlete they can be, and a confident person overall. Whether running in snow and ice, or sand and rocks, the Girls on the Run are gaining a solid foundation for a healthy, successful, and most importantly, happy lifestyle.”

Meg approaching the finish line

Meg approaching the finish line

Girls on the Run was established in 1996 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The GOTR curricula, the heart of the program, provides pre-adolescent girls with the necessary tools to embrace their individual strengths and successfully navigate life experiences.   The earliest version of the 24­ lesson curriculum was piloted in 1996 with the help of thirteen brave girls.  Twenty-six girls came the next season, then seventy-five.  In 2000, Girls on the Run International, a 501c3 organization was born.

With the help of over 120,000 volunteers, the Girls on the Run program is now serving over 150,000 girls in 200+ cities across North America each year.  In 2013, Girls on the Run hosted 258 end-of-season 5k events across the United States and Canada. Tucson has a very active GOTR program with Tucson Medical Center as the sponsor. For more information:


Indoor sports facility a tremendous boon for youth sports

130717 Sporting Chance Center-p1Kathunk. Kathunk. Thwop thwop thwop. Bonk.


It’s mid-day through a typical weekday and the Sporting Chance Center is filled with the sound of basketballs bouncing off rims, sneakers pounding across wood floors, volleyballs ricocheting off outstretched forearms, teammates cheering each other on.

No one cared about the triple digits outside.

Sporting Chance, with 40,000 square feet of air-conditioned space for basketball, volleyball and some other team sports, opened a year ago in July as a result of a private-public partnership between Tucson Medical Center, Southern Arizona Community Sports and Pima County, as well as the Tucson Conquistadores.

The Center, a hub for tournaments, leagues, camps and clinics, is one of the few places where youngsters can engage in informal play to escape the heat and get some exercise. During the summer, the Center provides an average of 25 hours a week of open play basketball for youngsters ages 12 and older, as well as young adults.

Depending on how the courts are configured, the facility can accommodate five basketball courts or 8 volleyball courts simultaneously.

“In the first 12 months, we’ve more than surpassed our expectations in terms of how much the community is using the facility,” said Operations Manager Tom Carle, noting the facility is currently attracting an average of 20,000 visitors a month, including athletes and spectators. The vast majority of the users are young athletes from club teams, middle schools, high schools and Pima Community College.

With the nonprofit partners sharing in the cost of building the $6 million facility, Pima County donated the land and importantly, subsidizes utilities and handles the major maintenance of the facility. That ongoing assistance allows the facility to keep open play costs to a low $1 for minors and $2 for adults, and to keep court rentals to $25 to $60 an hour, Carle said.

“This was a great example of community partners working together to address a need, but what makes this building a success is the ongoing partnership with Pima County,” Carle said.

The facility is full September through April, and at about 70 percent occupancy in the summer months, Carle said. The site had 1,500 unique individuals participate in open play in less than a year.

“Seeing how much the community is using the facility just shows that there was a real need for this kind of facility for competitive indoor sports,” Carle said.

Pima County Supervisor Sharon Bronson said the usage the facility is seeing is impressive, particularly since a significant number of patrons are coming from underserved areas with fewer amenities. “Too many people in our community are struggling with chronic diseases, but with the right focus, it is a winnable battle to reverse some of these longstanding challenges.”

Julia Strange, the vice president of Community Benefit for Tucson Medical Center, said the facility fits with the hospital’s mission of enhancing the overall health of the community, particularly since the most recent Community Health Needs Assessment found rates of access to recreational facilities are far below national benchmarks.

“An active lifestyle is an important part of community health, but access can be difficult, particularly in the summer heat,” Strange said. “We were thrilled to be able to help provide an opportunity for young people and adults to get out there and play in a safe environment.”

For more information, please visit

Photo courtesy of Pima County.

Working to Live Well: TMC Community Outreach Specialist Finds Comfort in Exercise

IMG_3233“I don’t have time to work out today” or “I’ll do it later” are common responses for those trying to fit exercise into busy schedules. After making up excuses not to exercise for five years, Community Outreach specialist Jessica Mitchell realized it was time to put an end to her unhealthy lifestyle.

“About five years ago, I was a regular gym go-er. I came home from work every day, changed and went to LA fitness for an hour,” she says. “Then, I don’t know what happened.” Life is what happened—a marriage, a family, a job. So often, exercising takes the back seat.

Mitchell has been at TMC for six years now—originally as the assistant manager of the TMC Gift Shop and recently hired as the Community Outreach specialist, where she goes into the community to raise awareness about injury prevention among youth.

As she settled into her new position this past March, she also became inspired to start working out again. The mother of two young children had plenty of motivation for her newfound commitment: “I had no energy. I wanted to be able to play with my lively 2-year-old in a way she deserves. It was time to start feeling better about myself again.”

Mitchell now attends TMC’s Optimal Results Fitness and Wellness Center—the O.R.—daily. And, if she is unable to get there, she finds a way to exercise at home with her family.

She offers advice for those who are struggling to achieve an active lifestyle. “Actually getting to the gym is the challenge. I think the biggest thing is to say you want it and just do it. When you see results, it really is totally worth it,” she says.

Mitchell has her sights set on not necessarily losing weight—although a benefit—but to tone up and to simply feel healthy again. “As of now, I don’t really have any long-term goals, but once I establish a rhythm, I think I will,” she says.

Whether it is walking a mile, completing an hour-long spin class or crossing the finish line of a triathlon, the importance of daily exercise cannot be ignored. Not only is exercising a fun way to engage with friends and peers, daily exercise is proven to increase the quality of life—it controls your weight, it manages chronic health conditions, it improves your emotional health and it boosts your energy level.

TMC Wellness Director Mary Atkinson says, “People who exercise routinely have higher self- efficacy. They value their bodies, wellbeing, and their engagement in their own health.” She encourages everyone to view exercise as fun and enjoyable. She says, “Are you an inside person or outside? Would you rather work out alone or are you motivated by a group? Do you want to engage in something that is high energy or low energy? Whatever that is, the best exercise is the one that you will do.”

Atkinson notes that the O.R. gym has its perks. “The gym offers a variety of exercise options—strength training, cardio machines, group classes. And if you aren’t a gym-lover, TMC provides employee wellness programs outside the gym, such as the stair climb challenge and the health trip series.”

The O.R. gym makes Mitchell’s plan to lead a healthier lifestyle more feasible. Located where TMC’s operating rooms were formally positioned before moving into the new tower, the gym will be celebrating its one year anniversary since its opening this fall. “The gym is awesome and accessible,” Mitchell says. “The classes push me and the equipment is great,” perfect for both beginners and advanced fitness training.

Through the gym, its Wellness department and a myriad of programs, TMC demonstrates that wellness of its employees is a priority. “I wouldn’t be able to do this without the support of the people I work with,” Mitchell says, “and for that I am thankful.”

Related News:

A Promise made to TMC employees leads to an on-site investment in their health

Heart Association Names TMC a Top Level Fit Friendly Worksite

Six reasons why your family needs a primary care physician

Six reasons why your family  needs a primary care physician

Why do you need a primary care physician?

You feel fine. No major illnesses, the occasional sniffle, and that niggling headache of course, and your mom just got diagnosed with high cholesterol, but you? You feel fine. You haven’t seen a doctor since you had to rush into urgent care that weekend two years ago.

The time to go to the doctor is when you’re sick right? You don’t have time right now.


Establishing a relationship with your primary care physician has all kind of benefits:

  1. Saving time and money
  2. Try getting in to see a doctor quickly if you don’t have a primary care physician.
    They’ll want you to have had a new patient appointment to get a history and baseline information first. Those long appointments are usually at set times and not as flexible as regular appointments. Having a primary care physician established means the office is more able to squeeze you in for a quick appointment or call you back to discuss an issue and get you back on your feet and maybe back to work quickly.
  3. Back on the road to recovery
    A primary care physician can follow-up and make sure you’re on the way to recovery following a visit to an emergency room.
  4. Keep you up to date
    Whether it’s a new flu strain, or new screening wellness guides your primary care physician can help you stay current on vaccinations and preventative screenings maintaining your good health.
  5. A doctor who looks at the whole you
    Your cardiologist is worrying about your heart rate, your neurologist your seizures, but who is looking at the big picture? Your primary care physician can oversee management of your overall health – they’re able to see results from all specialists and able to get the big picture. And because they have a relationship with you they can help come up with a plan if you have complex medical needs. Which leads us to,
  6. Someone you can talk frankly with about your health concerns
    With a relationship that develops over time, a primary care physician can better understand what matters to the patient regarding lifestyle choices, health goals, etc. Building trust and a connection is an important piece of the relationship between a patient and a primary care physician. If you have a good relationship it is easier to share those pertinent factors that you  might be shy about otherwise.

Don’t have a primary care physician? Let us help you find one today! Call toll-free 1-844-TMC-CARE for assistance.

Gary Brauchla’s great race

Gary & Kathie Brauchla

Gary & Kathie Brauchla

Before he died, Gary Brauchla always had it in the back of his mind that he wanted to run a 5k.

It took his death to make it happen.

His remarkable journey from death to the completion of his first 3.1-mile run began sometime around 3 a.m in the early morning of Sept. 29, 2012, when the home builder went into cardiac arrest as he slept in his rural home about 90 miles from Tucson.

Earlier that evening, he had complained of pain in his right shoulder, but shrugged it off since he had had chili for dinner and thought he might be experiencing indigestion.

Later, his wife, Kathie, was awoken by a loud snort, which she assumed then was snoring. In retrospect, it was probably her husband’s last gasp. She nudged him. Nothing. Nudged him again. Nothing. Pushed harder a third time. No response. “Then it all clicked together what was going on,” she recalled. “I flipped the light on and he was not breathing.”

A former surgical technician for 15 years, Kathie immediately started CPR, called 911 and sustained the chest compressions until help arrived. The wait was excruciating. The sound of the diesel engines of emergency vehicles never sounded so good. A defibrillator restored his heart rhythm.

Brauchla was flown by helicopter to Tucson Medical Center, where doctors induced a coma, put in some coronary stents to reopen blocked arteries and cooled his body temperature through therapeutic hypothermia in order to reduce the brain’s oxygen requirements and reduce the chance of brain injury.

He would remain in a coma for 2.5 weeks, while loved ones wondered about the degree of brain damage he may have sustained.

He was already unspeakably fortunate. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 300,000 people in the U.S. experience a cardiac arrest outside of a hospital setting. More than 92 percent of them die. But he would be more fortunate still. He fully recovered.AP2A0615

“By doing everything TMC did, I am still here physically and mentally,” Brauchla said.

Once he was strong enough, his cardiologist wrote a prescription for him to attend the cardiac rehabilitation program at Tucson Medical Center to rebuild his strength and heart. Even though it is a 90-mile drive from his home in Pearce, Arizona, he attends three days a week.

He’s taking advantage of the program’s nutritional training, watching his diet and making conscious choices about the fuel he gives his body. And he appreciates that experienced staff is monitoring his heartbeat, making sure he is exercising safely but also challenging his heart, under proper supervision.

And on June 1, at 68 years old, he ran his 5k, at the TMC-sponsored Meet Me Downtown 5k Night Run/Walk.

He finished middle of the pack. But he figures that’s pretty good for a guy who faced down death.

“I was given a gift of life,” Brauchla said, adding he has become an advocate of making sure rural areas have access to automatic electronic defibrillators and promoting CPR. “My wife, God bless her, saved my life.”

Brauchla also volunteers at TMC’s cardiac ward four times a month, calming the fears of new patients about what the future holds. “I have a pretty good story I can tell,” he says. “Heart attacks are not necessarily a death knell. You can heal yourself, but you have to take steps to do it.”

Marcy Tigerman: Thankful to finally be pain free after getting both hips replaced at TMC

Marci_TigermannAll Marcy Tigerman wanted was to be able to ride her horse, Mex, once again.  Debilitating bone-on-bone arthritis in both hips prevented her from riding him, or doing much else for that matter.  She’d been active all her life, swimming, biking and weight lifting, until the pain became non-stop and forced her to a standstill.  After work, she’d lay on the couch because it hurt too much to do anything else.

“I remember seeing a commercial on television for TMC featuring a triathlete.  As she described the horrible pain she experienced with bone-on-bone arthritis, it brought me to tears.  I thought to myself, ‘If she can do this, I can do this.  If she can get back on her bike, swim, and run, then I can do this.’”

Finally, Tigerman had enough of the pain.  In March, she underwent her first hip replacement surgery at TMC.  “The physical therapist came to my house.  She taught me how to get out of bed, and walk around.  I remember her telling me, ‘You’re going to want to get that second hip done pretty soon.’  And I said, ‘No, I am not.  I can’t do this again.  It’s just too much.’”

Fast forward six weeks.

Tigerman was recovering well with her new joint… but the other side was causing big problems.  “I was uneven because on the side where I had my replacement, I had normal joint space.  On the other side, I was still bone-on-bone.  I had a leg length discrepancy, and I was limping as a result.”

Tigerman called her surgeon.  “I told him – let’s schedule the second one.  Let’s move this surgery up.  I need to feel better.”

Three months later, she was in the new TMC Orthopaedic & Surgical Tower for the other hip.

“The second one was almost easier because I knew what to expect.  The fear factor that was present for my first surgery was gone for my second.”  Tigerman’s recovery process moved right on schedule.

“I remember the day of my surgery.  After the operation, they got me up and out of bed.  I couldn’t believe I was standing up.  I put my foot down on that new hip, and thought, ‘wow – it doesn’t hurt.’”

At home, what started as a few steps turned into a short walk to get the mail, and eventually a walk down the street.

“My new hips make me feel like I’m 40 years old again.  I have no pain, and I now have two even legs.  It doesn’t hurt just to function anymore.  Getting out of bed doesn’t hurt.  Getting in my truck doesn’t hurt.  Sitting and working doesn’t hurt.  Walking my dog doesn’t hurt.  I can finally get back to my life.  When you’re in pain 24 hours a day, you can’t imagine what it’s like to be out of pain.  Now that I’ve had both hips replaced, and I’m pain free, I wonder why I wanted so long to get them done.  The great care I got at TMC helped me get back to what I love to do in life.”

And that includes riding her horse.

“Before my surgeries, I asked my doctor if I’d ever be able to ride Mex again.  He said yes, once I was up there I’d be fine, but getting on and off could be a challenge.  He was right.”

Tigerman started by grooming Mex.  Then she felt strong enough to lead him around.  “At the end of September, I put my food in a stirrup, and tried to get my leg over.  I couldn’t.  I continued my exercises at home, and received more physical therapy.  Three weeks later, I put my foot in the stirrup, and the other leg went over no problem.  I sat down in the saddle and put both feet in the stirrups and I immediately started crying.  I was so happy.  I haven’t been able to ride my horse in about a year.  Now I can, and nothing hurts.  It’s incredible.  I didn’t know if I would ever be able to ride again, and now I can finally say I feel like I have my life back.”

Unlucky genes: When “pretty healthy” isn’t good enough

Peter Riveri 5522Peter Riveri had always done everything right.

An avid runner and exercise fanatic, he appeared to be the picture of health.

Unfortunately, his genes were leading him on a deadly path.

About five years ago, he grew concerned that he wasn’t tolerating his workouts to the same degree. He felt sluggish.

After going to Tucson Medical Center for tests, he ended up needing a stent.

He admits to being depressed. Maybe even a bit angry afterward. “I lived what I thought was a healthy lifestyle,” he said.

Riveri initially resisted going to the cardiac rehabilitation program. He hadn’t gone through open heart surgery. He had his own home gym. He didn’t think he needed a structured program.

But after giving it a try, he found it helped him psychologically to see how others, with more significant physical issues, chose to respond to their own challenges. A competitive person, he finds motivation in the drive of others. He has also made good friends over the years, including Rick Randels. 

“The fact is, I don’t need to come here,” Riveri said. “I choose to come here, because I really enjoy working out here.”

In addition to his workouts, he also has switched to a vegan diet. His cholesterol is now below 100 mg, without medication.

“I don’t want to preach, but you make decisions in life that put you in a position for bad things to happen later on down the road,” he said.

He shares that message with cardiac patients at Tucson Medical Center, where he assists as a volunteer. “We talk to people in the hospital who have had surgery or have gotten a stent and we let them know there’s a path to keep them out of hospital if they choose to go down it.”

“In time, they can be back, healthy, and having an active lifestyle. Whether they choose to do it or not is up to them,” he said.

And when he runs into them later at the rehabilitation facility, Riveri added, “It kind of makes you feel good because you’ve had some impact on their health and a positive impact on their lives.”

24 Hours in the Old Pueblo registration is one hot ticket!

Press-Release-Sunset-RiderIn a world where it’s common for 24 hour mountain bike races to experience year-on-year decreases in participation, Epic Rides’ 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo presented by Tucson Medical Center (TMC) is doing the exact opposite.

Registration for America’s largest 24 hour mountain bike event, which is scheduled for February 14-16, 2014, opened on October 1st, and the Men’s Solo Category sold out in less than 12 hours (a new record).  During the previous six years the #24HOP reached maximum capacity two months before event weekend. Rolling strong into its 15th year, the highly anticipated event is close to selling out over four months in advance.

With tremendous cooperation from Willow Springs Ranch and the Arizona State Land Department,  24 Hour Town will welcome over 4,000 riders and support crew members anxious to enjoy a weekend of unparalleled camaraderie while raising funds for local and national non-profits including Tucson’s Bag It! (a cancer survivors resource organization). This year’s event will also mark Tucson Medical Center’s third year as the presenting sponsor.

“TMC is excited to continue the support of the mountain biking community in Tucson as part of a wider effort to promote healthy lifestyle choices across the region. Epic Ride’s 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo never fails to be one of the most challenging and fun events in Tucson for everyone involved,” said Tucson Medical Center’s Vice President of Community Benefit, Julia Strange.

Participants will be arriving from near and far with more than 37% of the field traveling from outside of Arizona to enjoy the government issued three-day holiday, President’s weekend, while riding pristine singletrack under the warm Sonoran Desert sun.

For those still in contemplation Epic Rides has a simple, yet concise message.

Procrastinators beware; at the current rate, registration will be completely full by early November.

Click here for complete event information and registration.

Rick Randels- In good company

cardiacrehabLast week, readers learned about Rick Randel’s incredible path to cardiac health. Despite multiple bypasses, surgeries and close calls, through hard work, and help from the folks at TMC’s Cardiac Rehab, he has been able to get and stay healthy.

These days, you can often find Randels over at El Dorado hospital or visiting cardiac patients at TMC.

And he’s in good company.

Randels is joined by a group of other volunteers participating in the cardiac rehabilitation program at Tucson Medical Center can often be found visiting new heart patients, sharing their stories, showing off old scars and letting them know that a full and active life awaits.

“I love going to the ward and talking to the people there,” said Gary Brauchla, a colleague of Randel’s who survived a cardiac arrest in late 2012, only to go on to run in his first 5k race in spring 2013. “It’s amazing to see their faces brighten up when they realize it’s not all gloom and doom,” he said.

Volunteers like Randels and Brauchla are just one piece of the quilt that is the TMC volunteer force.

In fact, on any given day, an average of 87 volunteers are playing important roles throughout the hospital.

In addition to 360 adult volunteers, some of whom are “empty nesters” looking for fulfilling ways to spend their time, the volunteer program also includes as many as 175 student volunteers. Those students are able to bring energy and new insight to their college careers, while building their resumes and professional skills.

Some of the volunteers even have fur and four legs, and can be found comforting patients in the hospital’s pet therapy program.Pet%20Therapy

Among some of the roles volunteers may serve:

  • Greeting guests at the entrances, to help steer them in the right direction and begin the check-in process;
  • Visiting overnight patients to ensure their immediate needs have been met;
  • Sewing pillows and blankets for patients to provide additional comfort;
  • Staffing TMC’s resale boutique (Teal Saguaro), infant/breastfeeding support store (Desert Cradle) or the main hospital Gift Shop, with 100 percent of the proceeds supporting hospital programs;
  • Assisting nursing staff in the newborn intensive care unit with the smallest, most vulnerable babies, as well as serving new moms and babies in the Mom/Baby unit;
  • Ensuring that even though the hospital is a big place, patients can easily get from one area to the next by hopping on volunteer-driven courtesy cars.

Hope Thomas, the director of volunteer services and community programs at Tucson Medical Center, credits the volunteers with making TMC the high-quality hospital that it is. Their efforts translate into more than 86,000 hours annually – or the equivalent of 42 staff positions every year.

IPU%20VolunteersAnd volunteers gain a great deal from the experience as well. Aside from knowing they’re helping others, since they frequently work in pairs, they also develop lasting friendships. That camaraderie is a social outlet that prevents isolation and encourages community engagement.

“If TMC staff is the heart of our hospital, then the volunteers are the soul,” Thomas said. “They’ve earned our trust. We value their efforts because they bring their experiences and their compassion to the patients who need it most.”

Tucson Medical Center tries to find placements for all qualified applicants, asking for a six-month commitment. One word of caution: It can be addicting. Volunteer Norma Fletcher has spent more than 44 years at TMC.

“I think if anyone is interested in volunteering, I’d encourage them to do it, because it helps the community,” she said. “And what they’ll find is they get more out of it than they put into it.”

Those interested in learning more about the volunteer program are encouraged to call 324-5355.

Rachel Tineo- Just a walk a day can keep the doctor away

rachel1This month readers learned about the incredible wellness journey of Rachel Tineo, a senior systems analyst at TMC. Over the last couple years Tineo has transformed from being overweight and and at risk for diabetes, high cholesterol and hypertension to an enthusiastic proponent and example of healthy living.

These days, it only takes one look at Tineo to see that she has made some very big changes to her lifestyle. As a matter of fact, she has changed practically everything about her lifestyle and that of her family as well.

Tineo now spends up to 6 days per week in the gym—and lifts loads well into the triple digits under the direction of her personal trainer. She has also made sweeping improvements to the foods she eats, controlling her portions and her calories.

At TMC, this is becoming a much more common story among employees, thanks to an expanding wellness program that incentivizes, encourages and provides opportunities for better, healthier choices. And while Tineo’s choice of workouts is charged with heavy weights in a gym setting, it is certainly not the only way to hit fitness targets.

Even something as simple as walking can do the trick.

DorothyAs a matter of fact, the U.S. Surgeon General recommends 30 minutes of walking (or other physical activity) each day. And as another TMC employee, Dorothy Larson, found out, regular exercise, including walking, decreases your risk of heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, some cancers, osteoporosis, depression, anxiety and obesity. It also improves overall health, helps osteoarthritis and diabetes, boosts HDL cholesterol (that’s the good kind) and can improve your mood.

Larson, a financial analyst, would have the Surgeon General’s stamp of approval since she has been walking the TMC campus for much of the 26 years she has worked for the hospital.

She had a scare about 20 years ago when doctors suspected she might have cancer in her leg. After surgery gave her a clean bill of health, the once-occasional walker became an avid fan.

Larson tries to walk every day, with her lunch periods providing some downtime from crunching numbers.

“I feel more energized when I come back, Larson said.

When it’s hot, she can walk the halls, which also gives her an opportunity to interact with folks in the hospital, since she works in an outlying building. And in pleasant weather, she can walk the trail system that largely encircles the hospital grounds and enjoy nature.

Larson said walking has helped her stave off weight gain, but said remaining active has also helped her maintain strength and agility.

She also likes the variety. She can walk briskly, to get her heart rate up. She can walk at a lower speed for relaxation. And she can walk with colleagues and reconnect with their lives.

“It’s fun and it’s enjoyable and you don’t need any equipment – just a good pair of walking shoes,” she said.

“What you do for exercise doesn’t have to be crazy. The main thing is, you need to find some way to move your body. It doesn’t matter how. Just find something that you can sustain and incorporate into your day. Even that one change can make a big difference,” said Tineo.

Mindfulness is an important factor in our health

It is well documented that mindfulness can positively affect our health….Why? How do we become more mindful?

If you were to Google the term ‘Mindfulness’ you would see many references to meditation. While meditation is a very effective way of becoming more mindful, it is just a tool. Mindfulness is a focusing of one’s attention, and how you achieve that may be very different from one person to the next.

Mindfulness as defined by modern psychology means to “bring one’s complete attention to the present experience on a moment-to-moment basis.” Why is that so important to our health? Nine out of 10 adults suffer from at least one chronic disease, and most chronic diseases can be improved with positive behavior changes. Now think about mindfulness as having an acute awareness of the present, and it is a bit easier to see how it can be used to treat stress, anxiety, and disordered eating. For example, if we all paid closer attention to what we were putting in our mouth as we sit in front of a computer typing (I promise I’m only drinking water while writing this!) think of the number of calories and thereby pounds we would save ourselves. Or, if rather than letting our mind race all night about the things we failed to accomplish, we performed a five-minute breathing activity to clear our heads, just think of the sleep you could have!

So how do we become more mindful? As I said before, there are many tools and techniques that can help you to start to become more mindful or aware. Everyone is different, so you may need to try different things to see what works for you.

Here are a few suggested activities you may want to try:

• Breathing
• Meditation
• Yoga or Stretching
• Time Outs before new activities
• Spend time in nature
• Listening to quiet instrumental music
• Journaling
• Don’t do other things while you are eating

Ultimately, being mindful comes back to being purposeful about everything you do. Don’t let your autopilot direct your actions. Be present in your life at every moment and notice the beauty, joy and extraordinary things that are all around you.

About the author:


Mary Atkinson, RD
Director of Wellness
Tucson Medical Center

A Lifestyle Change Success Story

Monica Martinez  before

Monica Martinez before

Eat well.  Exercise.

We hear it all the time. The reality is, most of us don’t do it.  Or, don’t do it consistently.

Although people may not always make the best diet and fitness choices, they still intrinsically want to be healthy and fit. In other words, people don’t feel like they’re consciously making poor decisions when indulging in fattening foods or not exercising regularly. An unhealthy lifestyle unknowingly becomes a habit that eventually manifests itself in a person being overweight or developing chronic health problems.

This is exactly what happened to Monica Martinez, patient services representative in Emergency Registration at Tucson Medical Center.

“All of a sudden I realized that I was gaining 3-5 pounds every time I visited the doctor, and eventually developed high blood pressure and a cholesterol problem, requiring that I take medication,” says Martinez

Monica admits that she was always the chunky one in the family, and although she tried on many occasions to lose weight, she struggled to stay consistent and would not follow through with her diet and fitness plans.

This happens far too often to people whose intentions are in the right place.

The struggle to stay on the fitness path become increasing difficult because for some people, even when making the “right” decisions and adopting healthy behaviors, the road to seeing results is long and may come to others quicker than it comes to them.

However, comparing yourself to others is not the mindset you want to get into because it can make you your own worst critic. Monica explains how she felt trying to fit in and comparing herself to some of her friends, hoping that no one would notice her weight.

“I recall not being able to look at myself in a full length mirror. Just going to the store to try on clothes pushed me to tears. I didn’t even recognize myself anymore,” said Martinez.

Managing the busy routine of life, Monica worked nights and began to notice her lack of motivation and not having the energy to play or do things with her children with the little free time she did have. But it was painfully apparent that she needed to make a healthy lifestyle change when one of her young sons suggested that she take a ‘pill that makes you skinny’ that he had seen on an infomercial.

“That was the breaking point.”

For some people, a drastic event or realization is necessary in order to employ consistent and meaningful change. Change for Monica was slow but always increasingly progressive, and she made a commitment to focusing on her health, one day at a time.

“I stopped eating processed high carb foods and adopted a cleaner and simpler diet. I cut out fast food and soda and began drinking protein shakes and eating vegetables and preparing my own healthier meals.”

Educating yourself is an important part in the process of doing the right things for your body and overall health. Monica found out what foods were actually packed with the nutrients she needed.

She also learned that the road to better health and losing weight is not reached solely through improved diet, but all through regular exercise.

Program such as Live Well, a Tucson Medical Center employee program that provides healthcare premium incentives for active employees, provided a way for Monica to begin exercising on a regular basis.

Monica Martinez today

Monica Martinez today

“Through Live Well, I joined an employee fitness team and began brisk walking on my lunch break. I started off only walking a half a mile, but have worked my way up to 4 miles a day.”

In addition, Monica joined a Zumba class and many other fitness activities.

“Finding fun exercises was key to my fitness success. I mix my workouts up and find ways to include my kids or friends.”

Monica went through a lifestyle change transformation, and in doing so, gained self confidence and the motivation needed to keep working towards her health and fitness goals.

Since she made a commitment to change, Monica has lost over 60 pounds and no longer needs to take medication to regulate her blood pressure or cholesterol!

“Throughout this journey it hasn’t been easy, but I’ve realized that what I’m doing is important. Along the way I take the time to celebrate my fitness successes. These are worth celebrating, because when it comes to my health, no success is too small to share or be proud of.”

Nutrition tips to get you ‘race ready’

imagesThe Epic Rides 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo Race is under a week away. TMC is the proud feature sponsor of the race and also has quite a few employees and brave cyclists participating in this exciting affair.

So the question is, are you ‘race ready’?

There are a number of things that can happen during an endurance activity such as a 24 hour race. Whether it is an environmental challenge, the mistake of a fellow participant or teammate, or an equipment malfunction, let’s face it, accidents happen.

However, there are things we can control like our physical and mental health when preparing for rigorous activity. In addition to one’s training regimen, making the appropriate nutritional choices leading up to recreational or competitive activity is one important way to be sharp and ready to take on unexpected challenges.

“Putting the right foods in your body is one of the many important nutritional choices you can make before a high performance activity,” says Mary Atkinson, Director of Wellness at Tucson Medical Center.

“The energy needs of people that participate in endurance activities are high. Every person’s nutritional needs will vary dependent upon age, gender, and daily activity. One should be sure they consume a sufficient amount of calories, and that these calories come from a variety of healthy sources.”

The following are tips to consider to get you ‘race ready’:

Carbohydrate Needs – Carbohydrates, the primary fuel during exercise, are easily digested and quickly used by the body. It is recommended to ingest 3 – 4 gram per pound of body weight daily for persons participating in heavy and high intensity endurance activities.

Fat – Moderate consumption from healthy fat sources such as fish, avocados, and nuts are a vital source of energy for lengthy exercise and sports training. However, avoid the intake of saturated and trans fats.

Protein – Protein is extremely important in the building and repair of muscles. Although it is not a primary source of energy during endurance exercise, it is recommended that athletes take .5 – 1 gram per pound of body weight daily for persons participating in heavy and high intensity endurance activities.

Atkinson suggests, “Maintain a balanced diet during the days before a race or competition, and make sure you’ve consumed adequate amounts of fluids, carbohydrates, healthy fats, and protein. This should ensure that your nutritional needs will be met for optimum performance on race day.”

The Epic Rides 14th annual 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo race is one of the largest 24-hour mountain bike events in the world. TMC partnered with Moots, the Official Bike Sponsor, to give away over $4000 in Moots titanium bike parts, raising awareness of the new Tucson Medical Center Orthopaedic and Surgical Tower scheduled to open in April.

To register for the giveaway and get more information about the Orthopaedic and Surgical Tower, click here. 

Positively Sexy: Healthy Aging and Sexuality event this Friday

TMC Senior Services will host its 6th annual Healthy Aging and Sexuality Event: Positively Sexy this Friday, Feb. 15, from 2 – 5 p.m. at TMC’s Marshall Conference Center.

The workshop will provide a comfortable setting for older adults to come together and learn about sexuality, sensuality and the clinical aspects of aging.  “This event will be an opportunity for people to learn about how our bodies change as we age, and how that may affect our sexual well-being,” explains L’Don Sawyer, TMC Senior Services Director.

“We will address the questions many people may not be comfortable discussing with their health care provider.  Is it okay to have sex after a heart attack?  What medications may affect my sex life?  What can I do about erectile dysfunction?  This is a chance for people to get their questions answered,” says Sawyer.

Dr. Pal Evans is a retired OB/GYN, the current chairman of the Pima Council on Aging, and works with TMC’s Senior Services programs.  In the video below, he tells us why he thinks seniors’ sexuality is such a taboo topic in our society, and why it’s such a difficult conversation for health care professionals to have with their patients.  Also, find out what he thinks is the biggest misconception people have about this topic!

For information about the event, including how to RSVP, please click here.

UnitedHealthcare patients in southern Arizona to benefit from improved care coordination and enhanced health services through AzCC

People enrolled in UnitedHealthcare employer-sponsored benefit plans now have access to Arizona Connected Care (AzCC), a physician-led, patient-centric accountable care organization (ACO) that manages all aspects of patient health care, ensuring that the proper course of treatment and preventive health measures are being followed. The AzCC ACO combines advanced analytics to measure and improve quality outcomes for patients with innovative, value-based performance incentives.

During the past year, AzCC has been providing its prevention- and wellness-focused health care to seniors enrolled in UnitedHealthcare’s Medicare Advantage plans. This new, expanded collaboration will give more than 180,000 people enrolled in UnitedHealthcare’s employer-sponsored health benefit plans throughout southern Arizona the opportunity to benefit from access to quality care from approximately 200 AzCC care providers and health professionals through this distinctive care model.

AzCC, composed of primary care physicians, specialists, Tucson Medical Center, and other health care providers, in 2012 became the first ACO qualified by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in southern Arizona. Since then AzCC has provided care to thousands of patients while practicing the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s (IHI’s) “Triple Aim” objective: increase patient satisfaction, improve the health of the population and reduce the cost of health care.

“We are delighted to expand our partnership with UnitedHealthcare so that thousands of additional UnitedHealthcare patients in Southern Arizona can receive the distinctive care that an ACO can provide,” said John Friend, executive director, Arizona Connected Care. “We believe this program will clearly demonstrate that proactive care focused on wellness and chronic disease management actually reduces health care costs.”

UnitedHealthcare plan participants who use an AzCC care provider do not have to do anything differently in order to receive the benefits of the ACO. Participating primary care physicians will receive monthly updates on their patients, enabling them to monitor all of the care each patient is receiving and access the patient’s care in one record.

For example, if a patient is being treated for heart disease, all the tests, screenings and medications the patient is receiving will be collected into one record to ensure that the appropriate course of care is occurring, the care is coordinated, and the patient is receiving any and all necessary services. This model will help manage services for patients with chronic conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease, while keeping the focus on health and well-being, increased patient safety and care delivery well supported by science.

“Arizona Connected Care is an important provider of health care services in southern Arizona, and we are pleased that more of our health plan customers now have access to AzCC’s innovative ACO care model that improves quality, streamlines care and reduces costs,” said Jeri Jones, CEO, UnitedHealthcare Employer & Individual of Arizona.

UnitedHealthcare is working with physician groups, hospitals and medical centers, and other health care delivery organizations across the country to achieve IHI’s “Triple Aim” objective. UnitedHealthcare’s value-based payment capabilities are designed to support this transformation of care delivery. Today, more than $20 billion of UnitedHealthcare’s annual physician and hospital reimbursements is tied to accountable care programs, centers of excellence and performance-based programs.

Participating AzCC physicians are already using advanced tools and software applications from UnitedHealth Group’s Optum business, a partnership announced in 2011. These capabilities provide health information on patients, enabling their care providers to more easily collaborate with each other on health care decisions. This information will also help AzCC care providers better understand and identify best practices for overall patient wellness and disease management, leading to meaningful health improvements over time.

To read more on this topic, check out the recent article in the Arizona Daily Star.

Milestone: Monday’s ‘Meet Me at Maynards’ will be MMM #200

Meet Me at Maynards, the weekly free social walk/run in downtown Tucson (with support from TMC!) , will celebrate its 200th consecutive Monday on Feb. 4, 2013. Here’s the full story from the MMM press release:

Meet Me at MaynardsMeet Me at Maynards (MMM) began on April 13, 2009, with a small group of volunteers. The event ‘stuck,’ growing each week and quickly becoming a fixture in downtown Tucson.  After outgrowing the patio space at Maynards Market and Kitchen, 400 to 600 “MMM Athletes” gather across the street at Hotel Congress each Monday (rain, shine and holidays) between 5:15 and 6:00 pm…They walk or run a route designed to show-off Tucson’s downtown and 4th Avenue. The MMM cheer of “GET OUT” expresses the goals to get out and exercise, get out and make friends and get out and support our community.  More than 18 local eateries welcome the participants with MMM discounts and provide gift certificates for the free raffle at the conclusion of each evening. Perhaps it is just a coincidence that downtown Tucson has come alive and vibrant in the past three years, but total attendance of 80,000 at MMM may have something to do with it.

MMM has partnered with six downtown fitness venues, including O2 Modern Fitness, Yoga Oasis and Armory Park Center and the Y, to offer discounted prices for alternative exercise opportunities, such as indoor cycling, yoga, Zumba, Pilates, gym workouts, etc. Classes correspond with the MMM schedule so that people can check in, do their chosen exercise and be back at Hotel Congress for the live band, awards and drawing.

MMM offers incentive prizes to those meeting milestone attendance – eight times earns a free MMM T-shirt, 15 a MMM running cap, 50 a MMM pin and 100 earns a much coveted royal purple Century Shirt. Several athletes and volunteers have attended more than 165 times:

  1. Doug Kluge                 191 visits
  2. Julie Kluge                   186
  3. James Passannanti       182
  4. Denise Leahy               179
  5. Marjorie Becklund       169
  6. Gary Carstensen          169
  7. Roma Krebs                 165

These athletes and volunteers proudly refer to MMM as “family,” creating a feeling of community and a sense of pride where they live and play. Although many may not have known much about downtown before, they now know where to see historic and beautiful sites, and where to park, eat and drink and be entertained. One example of their sense of pride is Trash Night on the third Monday of each month. Since its inception three years ago, at the suggestion of MMM Athlete Julie Kluge, more than 850 bags of unsightly trash have been collected. In fact, a frequent refrain is there is no longer enough trash to fill their bags

MMM is sponsored by:

  • Tucson Electric Power
  • Tucson Medical Center
  • The Running Shop
  • Arizona Daily Star
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona
  • Providence Service Corp.
  • Jim Click Automotive
  • BBVA Compass Bank
  • Tucson Orthopaedic Institute

Meet Me at Maynards was developed and is hosted by Meet Me Concepts, owned by Jannie Cox, her husband David Syverson and Randy and Tia Accetta.  Expanding the idea of healthy communities is a goal shared by the founders and volunteers.  Meet Me at Maynards will celebrate its fourth birthday on April 1, Meet Me at La Encantada will celebrate its first birthday on Wednesday, March 6th, and in Boise, Idaho Meet Me Monday is celebrating six months.



Did You Know? Zumba!

Correct technique is important in any workout for the prevention of injury and to maximize results.

Group exercise led by a certified instructor can be a great way to introduce new moves and equipment. Typically delivered in one-hour blocks that include a proper warm-up and cool down, group exercise offers social opportunities with others who share the same fitness goals, while providing psychological support and physical benefits.

Estella Van Cleve, a patient care technician in TMC’s emergency department, is the first to acknowledge she wasn’t big on gyms when a friend introduced her to Zumba, a fitness class with roots in Latin and international music and dance. She’d heard of Rumba, but Zumba was new to her.

But when she tried it, she found the hour flew by and she was disappointed that they had to stop.

A certified instructor since 2010, Van Cleve hails from Colombia and has been dancing since she was a toddler. “It’s part of my culture,” she said.

Still, she noted, participants shouldn’t steer clear of a class because they fear they don’t have rhythm.

“If you can walk, you can do Zumba,” said Van Cleve, who cautions that it can be addictive. Zumba music is always playing on her car stereo and her license plate says ZUMBAQN.

The group dynamic is also important, she said. “Everybody has a story to tell and in a group, it’s better because we can share things with other people and learn from their experiences.”

Classes are $5. Classes are currently held at HealthSouth, 2650 N. Wyatt Drive, on Tuesdays from 5 p.m. until 6 p.m. and on Thursdays from 6:45 p.m. until 7:45 p.m. Please confirm class times on the community calendar at

Tucson Medical Center | 5301 E. Grant Road | Tucson, Arizona 85712 | (520) 327-5461