Thursday, September 17, 2015

Five Facts About Cholesterol

Approximately 73.5 million adults in the U.S. have high cholesterol, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). High cholesterol levels have been medically linked to heart disease, peripheral artery disease, atherosclerosis and other heart-related issues, causing patients with high cholesterol to be at a higher risk for strokes and heart attacks. Understand more about cholesterol, its effects on the human body and more in these five facts about cholesterol.

Cholesterol Defined
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like material that is both created naturally by the body and taken in through food sources. It is a general word that pertains to two different types of cholesterol,  low-density lipoproteins (LDL), also known as “bad” cholesterol, and high-density lipoproteins (HDL), also known as “good” cholesterol. The term “high cholesterol” refers to heightened levels of LDL.

Cholesterol in the Body
The liver creates all of the cholesterol the human body needs. Cholesterol is circulated through the blood, aiding in production of hormones and vitamins and eventually, it gets broken down into bile salts to help the body absorb nutrients from ingested foods. Cholesterol is found naturally in foods from animal sources, including poultry, meat and high-fat dairy products.

Good vs. Bad Cholesterol
The “good” HDL cholesterol absorbs excess “bad” LDL cholesterol and carries it to the liver to be cleansed from the body. HDL protects against blood clots, helps keep the blood vessels healthy and can lower a person’s risk for heart disease and stroke. LDL comprises the majority of the body’s cholesterol levels, contributing to plaque buildup in the arties, damaging the insides of blood vessels and ultimately creating a higher risk of heart-related health complications. Though the body needs some LDL for normal body functions, heightened LDL levels are harmful and potentially fatal.

Genetics, Lifestyle and Cholesterol
While studies have shown that cholesterol levels may have some genetic component, lifestyle also plays a large role in the HDL and LDL levels in your body. Certain cholesterol-specific genetic conditions, including familial hypercholesterolemia – a predisposition to extremely heightened or difficult-to-control high LDL levels – put certain individuals at greater risk than others for cholesterol-centric heart conditions. More often, though, high LDL levels result from an LDL-rich diet, low levels of physical exercise, smoking and other unhealthy habits. Lifestyle changes typically aid in lowering LDL levels and raising HDL levels, keeping people healthy for years to come.

Lowering LDL Cholesterol Levels
While LDL may seem scary, it is possible to reverse current LDL levels and increase HDL levels through lifestyle changes, diet changes and more:

  • Make changes to your daily diet. Avoid saturated fats and oils, trans fats, partially hydrogenated oils, fatty meats, dairy products with 1% or more milk fat and fast foods. Instead, eat oats, salmon, nuts, tea, beans and other nutrient-dense, high-fiber foods to help reduce the LDL in your body. Drink plenty of water to help detoxify as well.
  • Exercise regularly. Losing excess weight helps to reduce the payload of your heart and blood vessels. This can either reduce your risk of or prevent diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, gout, cancer, heart attacks and stroke.
  • Stop smoking. The chemicals is smoking products make it tough for your body to get rid of the bad cholesterol in your bloodstream. Smoking cessation leads to a heightened ability to detoxify LDL from your body and improve HDL levels.
  • Consult a physician about cholesterol monitoring and possible prescription medications. Your primary care physician will be able to decide if a cholesterol-lowering medication is right for your health plan. Treatments for high cholesterol include statins, a medication that helps lower your risk of heart attack or stroke by preventing the liver from producing cholesterol internally. Talk to your primary care physician to see if this is right for you.

Having your cholesterol checked regularly is important because there are no symptoms of high cholesterol.  Contact your primary care physician to schedule testing. If you do not have a primary care physician, visit or call 443-849-GBMC.

Meet Kevin Murphy

Every one of us has a story we can share. Think of a past event in your life related to GBMC. Whether it’s care you received, an opportunity you have, or a loved one you remember, this event should have very personal meaning to you. What’s happened in your life since your experience at GBMC? Read Kevin Murphy's story below, and share yours at

Kevin Murphy's Story: "I've Revamped My Life Thanks to GBMC"

My journey to bariatric surgery began early in life in grade school being teased as “pudgy.” When I entered high school, I still considered myself overweight but upon graduating I enlisted in the military in 1971. Basic training was a bit challenging physically, but I got through. When I finished my active duty service, I joined the Maryland Air National Guard. I served in different positions over the years, thoroughly enjoyed myself and took pride in serving my country. 

I was on the weight control program often throughout my career. I had been diagnosed with Type II Diabetes and was no longer able to be deployed worldwide. The writing was on the wall. I retired in December of 2004 and did not complete the 42 years I had promised myself I would do for my country. Since I was out of the military, there was no reason to work on my weight – at least that’s what I thought. My diabetes got worse and my blood pressure and cholesterol were all quite high. My primary care physician said I was “a walking heart attack” and was “lucky nothing had happened yet.” I was aware of the different gastric surgeries but was afraid to commit, due to the fact that I lost a friend to it in the early 1990s when this surgery was in its infancy. But, after being told that I was not at all healthy, I contacted the GBMC Bariatric department and started the process. 

I did not care for the doctor I was assigned at all. He was two hours late for the first appointment. Thankfully he left, and along came Dr. Elizabeth Dovec. After chatting with her, I was 100 percent confident that I was in good hands. She thought I would not go through with it, but I had every intention to – I was just waiting for my military TriCare health insurance to kick in. We discussed the three possible procedures and together agreed on the gastric bypass surgery…the full Monte. 

Dr. Dovec greeted me prior to entering the OR which really meant a lot to me. She also took the time to reassure my family, especially my son, who was holding back tears, that all would be well. My surgery went very well and I was released the next day. No pain for me whatsoever. I followed the plan prescribed and have never looked back. I have lost nearly 90 pounds, have more energy than I can ever remember and am really enjoying the gym with my very special gym partner (you know who you are).

Currently, for the most part, my diabetes is under control and my last blood pressure reading was 110/64. I am currently still shopping at Goodwill, the best place to find clothing while I am still losing. I have dropped ten inches from my waist and three inches from my neck. I’ve gotten rid of almost all of my medications, which included two types of insulin that I was injecting five times a day. I go to the gym regularly and look forward to long walks. 

My surgery was May 1, 2014. I am still not used to my new body because I wake every morning and wonder where it all went. I have completely revamped my diet along with some very bad eating habits. I ran the first 5K of my life six weeks after surgery. I have regular visits with the bariatric department, and those people will stay with me for life. 

Dr. Dovec is constantly fine-tuning the bariatric surgery process to make it a very efficient, well-oiled engine for all of her patients. I feel myself very fortunate to have her as my surgeon for life. She reflects great credit upon herself and the GBMC System, which is blessed to have her on staff.

Had it not been for Dr. Dovec, her able staff and the entire GBMC facility, I may not be here today. GBMC will always be my hospital of choice. I’m looking forward to being around for quite some time – after all, my dad is 92 and going strong. Thank you, GBMC.

Peanut Butter Hummus


For dip: 
2 cups low-sodium garbanzo beans, rinsed
¼ cup low-sodium chicken broth
¼ cup lemon juice
2-3 tablespoons garlic, diced
¼ cup creamy peanut butter or other nut or seed butter
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper or paprika
1 tablespoon olive oil

For pita chips: 
4 (6½-inch) whole-wheat pitas, each cut into 10 triangles
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic, minced or ½ tsp garlic powder
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper


Preheat oven to 400F. To prepare the hummus, combine all ingredients for the dip and mix them in a food processor or blender. Puree until smooth. To prepare the chips, toss the pita triangles with the olive oil, garlic and pepper. Bake the chips on a baking sheet for 10 minutes or until crispy. Arrange pita chips on a platter, and serve with the hummus.


Serving: 1/8 cup hummus and 5 pita chips
Calories: 235
Total fat: 9 g
Sodium: 225 mg
Fiber: 5 g
Protein: 9 g
Carbohydrates: 32 g

Recipe Source: Reprinted with permission from Keep the Beat™ Recipes: Deliciously Healthy Family Meals. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. NIH Publication No. 10-7531. Page 66. December 2010.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Meet Ackneil Muldrow

Every one of us has a story we can share. Think of a past event in your life related to GBMC. Whether it’s care you received, an opportunity you have, or a loved one you remember, this event should have very personal meaning to you. What’s happened in your life since your experience at GBMC? Read Ackneil Muldrow’s story below, and share yours at

Ackneil Muldrow's Story: "My Physician Saved My Life"

Dr. Eugene Obah has been coordinating my care since 2004, from managing my diabetes to recognizing a life-threatening situation and ultimately saving my life. Dr. Obah has gone above and beyond when it comes to my personal health and is a caring and passionate physician. He spends time with his patients, communicates exceptionally well about health conditions, and takes the time to explain how it will impact your overall being.

In the mid-2000s, I suffered from a series of mini-strokes. Dr. Obah recognized my condition right away and did an excellent job caring for me. As a result of the mini-strokes, I also suffered from a partially collapsed vessel in my brain and had to get blood drawn monthly to manage and monitor this condition. Then, in 2010, I saw Dr. Obah for a regular checkup when he suspected I had internal bleeding. I felt fine so I was surprised, but he saw that my blood counts were not quite right.

He immediately made me an appointment with Dr. David Saltzberg for a colonoscopy, and it was confirmed that I indeed had internal bleeding. During the colonoscopy, some of the colon polyps were removed, but Dr. Saltzberg found an additional growth that required a general surgeon. Dr. Obah then arranged for me to see surgeon Dr. Francis “Frank” Rotolo. Within days, I was in surgery to remove an enlarged polyp and repair a hernia, when Dr. Rotolo also found cancerous tissue in two areas of my body. Fortunately, the cancers were discovered in time and successfully removed. To date, there have been no signs of cancer.

After this ordeal, I wrote Dr. Obah a letter, thanking him for his great observation of my condition and immediately taking a series of actions to bring me back to a state of wellness. A portion of this heartfelt letter reads:

‘My family – especially my wife Ruth – is greatly appreciative of your keen analysis of my health condition and your response with great dispatch in moving me along the healthcare continuum. With you and Dr. Saltzberg collaborating on my charts, the two of you felt that I needed immediate attention. And, thus, Dr. Francis Rotolo became the third participant in this GBMC partnership. I’m grateful for each and all of you.’

I give great credit to Dr. Obah, who saw the impending dangers and set in motion actions to keep me healthy.

Dr. Obah is a wonderful doctor who really cares about his patients. He’s not just my doctor, but is also my friend.  In fact, it’s gotten to the point where his staff schedules my appointments at the end of the day because we talk so much! He’s a wonderful person to talk with about life. We have a wonderful relationship beyond just healthcare.

GBMC certainly means a lot to me on a couple of levels. First, as a member of the GBMC Board of Directors from 1996-2004, the hospital has provided great governance experience. The Board is a diverse body of knowledgeable individuals in healthcare, patient care, fundraising and community service. The administration is exceptional in its approaches to growth and quality of care. Second, GBMC’s doctors and staff mean the world to me when it comes to patient services and customer satisfaction. The keen diagnosis by Dr. Eugene Obah and the actions of Drs. Saltzberg and Rotolo have prolonged my quality of life and has given me perspective on what quality of healthcare and service to a patient really means.  For all of this, I will be eternally thankful to GBMC.

Wake Up! Sleep Problems Increase Risk for Chronic Illness

About 117 million Americans have some form of chronic illness or disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The National Sleep Foundation also reports that 37 million American adults suffer from sleep apnea, which occurs when a person’s breathing is disrupted during sleep. These statistics are noteworthy because sleep deprivation and sleep disorders such as sleep apnea can increase the risk for some chronic illnesses. Additionally, sleep disorders can worsen the outcome of a chronic illness.

Raya Wehbeh, MD, a physician with GBMC’s Sleep Medicine practice and Sleep Center, specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of patients who suffer from sleep disorders. “Research has linked insufficient sleep to an increased risk for developing chronic illnesses like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and obesity,” says Dr. Wehbeh, who is board-certified in neurology and sleep medicine. “People who frequently have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or who are excessively tired throughout the day should speak with a primary care physician about those symptoms instead of ignoring them. Controlling a sleep disorder like sleep apnea may help to prevent a person from developing a more serious chronic illness later in life,” she explains. Patients who have already been diagnosed with a chronic illness and are also experiencing symptoms of poor sleep should speak with their primary care physicians as well. “Improving a patient’s quality of sleep often has a positive impact on his or her chronic illness,” notes Dr. Wehbeh.

Fortunately, primary care physicians can refer patients with sleep problems to specialists like Dr. Wehbeh, who perform sleep studies to monitor a patient’s brain waves, breathing patterns, limb movements and snoring. Sleep studies are painless tests that require an overnight stay at GBMC. A technician attaches wires with electrodes to the patient and monitors the resulting activity as the patient sleeps. After interpreting the results, the physician will make a diagnosis and recommend a course of treatment.

“In addition to speaking with a primary care physician about their symptoms, there are several things that patients can do at home if they’re having difficulty sleeping,” says Dr. Wehbeh. “Try to maintain a regular sleep schedule with a standard bedtime routine, avoid looking at television, computer or phone screens about a half hour before going to bed and allow yourself enough time to get seven or eight hours of sleep each night, which is the recommended amount for most adults.”

Speak with a primary care physician about whether a sleep study or consultation could be beneficial for you or a loved one. If you do not have a primary care physician, visit or call 443-849-GBMC (4262) to find one who is right for you.

Recognizing Hidden Sugar in Your Diet

In a world with ever-growing diet and health trends, knowing which foods are good and bad can be tricky. One thing most experts agree on is that too much sugar can cause short- and long-term health issues such as obesity, tooth decay, metabolic syndrome, liver issues, diabetes and more. Tracking the amount of sugar in your daily diet may seem like an easy task – everyone knows there is sugar in items like regular soda, candy, cookies and baked sweets – but it can be found in some unexpected foods, too. If you are interested in eliminating extra sugar from your diet, get to know the obvious and “hidden” sources.

Candy, cookies, ice cream, frozen yogurt, baked sweets (pies, cobblers, custards, turnovers, brownies, etc.) – Most people realize that baked goods, candies and desserts contain sugar, but they may not know how much. This category of items contains the most common sources of sugar in the daily diet. Examples include:
  • Cookies – 8-23g per serving (not necessarily per cookie)
  • Ice cream – 14-24g per ½ cup serving
  • Pie – 18-20g per slice
Soda, fruit juice, alcohol, enhanced waters, sports drinks, coffee drinks, milk, soy or almond milk, salsa – Many people forget about the sugar used to sweeten regular soda, fruit juices, flavor-enhanced waters, sports drinks, coffee drinks like frappuccinos and mochas, iced teas and other drinks with any type of sweetness involved. Even certain types of milk are sweetened, so pay attention to nutrition labels. These sources of sugar add up quickly, often packing upward of 15g of sugar per serving (and often including more than one serving per container). Examples include:
  • Soda – 44g per can
  • Soy milk (chocolate) – 19g per cup
  • Caramel frappuccino – 45g per serving (12 oz) 
  • Gatorade – 14g per 8oz serving
Condiments, sauces, syrups – Any time you add ketchup, mustard, relish, barbecue sauce, salad dressings, gravies, butter sauces, glazes, maple syrup, fruit syrups, honey, chocolate and caramel syrups and other types of condiments to your food or drinks, you are adding sugar to your diet. Though in smaller increments, each gram of sugar adds up quickly. Examples include:
  • Ketchup – 3.7g in 1 tbsp
  • Barbecue sauce – 6g per 1 tbsp
  • Maple syrup – 14g per 1 tbsp
According to the American Heart Association, the average woman should only consume about 24 total grams of sugar each day. Men should consume about 36 grams total, teenagers about 20 to 32 grams, children ages four to eight about 12 grams and preschoolers about 16 grams per day. One teaspoon of granulated white sugar equals about four grams. Whenever possible, limit your intake of processed sugars found in items like sweets, condiments and soda. Instead, consume small amounts of fruit or vegetables when you would like something sweet, or stick to one serving of 70 to 80 percent cacao (or darker) dark chocolate, which only has about 6.7g of sugar in a one-ounce bar.

Limiting the abundance of sugar in your diet can have an amazing effect! You might notice improved energy levels, better sleep, less emotional turmoil or mood swings, improved body mass index (BMI) and more. For more information about your diet or blood sugar levels, contact your primary care provider. To find the primary care provider that is right for you, call 443-849-GBMC or visit

Pasta Primavera


8 oz dry whole-wheat spaghetti
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp garlic, minced
4 cups assorted cooked vegetables (such as red pepper strips, broccoli florets, carrot sticks or green beans)
1 15.5-oz can no-salt-added diced tomatoes
1 15.5-oz can low-sodium tomato juice
¼ tsp ground black pepper
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese


In a 4-quart saucepan, bring three quarts of water to a boil over high heat. Add the whole-wheat spaghetti, and cook according to package directions. Drain the spaghetti.

Meanwhile, combine olive oil and garlic in a large saute pan. Cook until garlic is soft but not browned, about 30 seconds. Add the mixed vegetables and cook until the vegetables are soft but not browned, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add diced tomatoes, tomato juice and black pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Add spaghetti and Parmesan cheese. Toss until the pasta is hot and well mixed, then serve.

Nutrition Information

Servings: 4
Calories: 319
Fat: 6 g
Sodium: 167 mg
Fiber: 12 g
Protein: 13 g
Carbohydrates: 59 g

Recipe Source: Reprinted with permission from Keep the Beat™ Recipes: Deliciously Healthy Family Meals. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. NIH Publication No. 10-7531. Page 29. December 2010.