UVA Health System Blog

Stories about the patients, staff and services of UVA


Recipe Review Thursday: Crispy Oven-Fried Chicken

On April 10, 2014 | At 8:31 am

We’re trying new heart-healthy recipes every month and will share the results with you. All recipes are from Club Red, UVA’s heart health club for women.

Crispy oven-fried chickenCrispy Oven-Fried Chicken

I’ve said it before: While I like to cook, I don’t have much time to spend in the kitchen these days. I need foods that are quick to prepare, and a recipe that gives me lots of leftovers is a plus. This is an easy, versatile recipe that takes very little prep work. The crushed red pepper flakes add a nice heat, and you don’t taste the corn flakes, which are really just a vehicle for the seasonings.

I only made a minor change to the recipe by mixing in minced garlic instead of garlic powder, but I think this recipe could be changed depending on your mood. For instance, to add a more Southwest flair to your chicken, try replacing the poultry seasoning with chili powder and add some cumin to the seasoning mix.

One note of caution if you do try this recipe: I ran out of breading mixture halfway through and had to make a new batch. Make sure you have some extra corn flakes and spices on hand just in case the same thing happens to you.

Stars: 5 out of 5

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Poetry Contest! Just What the Doctor Ordered

On April 2, 2014 | At 2:00 am

Celebrate National Poetry Month with us!

Writing a poem can help you stay healthy.You might be wondering… why would a hospital blog hold a poetry contest?

As we learned from a past interview with UVA’s own Daniel Becker, MD, doctor and editor of the journal “Hospital Drive,” research shows that creative writing is healthy for both patients and doctors alike.

Becker will judge the contest.

So: Ready, set, write!

 How to Enter

  1. Write a poem or poems that fit in one of the three categories listed below.
  2. Submit poems via email. uvahsblog@virginia.edu
  3. Make sure to tell us which category your poem is for.
  4. Deadline for submissions: April 15.
  5. Submit as many as you like! No previously published poems, please.
  6. Winners will be announced at the beginning of May.

Prizes: Get Published, Win a $50 Gift Card

The top three winners in each category will have their works published on this blog.

Two winners will be selected to receive a grand prize: A $50 Visa gift card. Use it to purchase writing materials, poetry books, medical guides, or anything else you would like.

All winning poems will be considered for publication in the journal “Hospital Drive.”

Poetry Submission Categories

Category I: Bedside Manners

Enter your praise for the best doctor, nurse, other healthcare provider experience you’ve had.

Category II: How Sick Did You Get?

What’s the worst illness you’ve ever suffered? Most painful accident? Worst scrape, rash, virus, tear?

Send us your worst in your best limerick or haiku form.

Category III: Grab (the Black) Bag: Miscellaneous Medical Moments

Submit any healthcare-themed poem of any form.

Contest Rules
No purchase necessary to enter or win. A purchase or payment of any kind will not increase your chances of winning. Void where prohibited. To enter, email your poems to uvahsblog@virginia.edu by Tuesday, April 15, 2014. Open to legal U.S. residents 18 years or older who live in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Odds of winning are dependent on the number of entries received. Winners will be notified via email. Winner is responsible for complying with any applicable federal or state laws pertaining to taxes, Medicaid and Medicare. Winner agrees to have his or her name shared via this website and other UVA Health System websites.
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Recipe Review Thursday: Healthier Cinnamon French Toast

On March 13, 2014 | At 9:13 am

We’re trying new heart-healthy recipes every month and will share the results with you. All recipes are from Club Red, UVA’s heart health club for women.

Cinnamon French Toast

healthy french toast

This healthier French toast still satisfies a sweet tooth.

Early one Wednesday morning, I stumbled out of bed and remembered I had agreed to provide breakfast for the entire office.

Fortunately, this cinnamon French toast recipe turned out to be a pretty easy — and tasty — dish to quadruple on the fly.

I didn’t develop a sweet tooth until I was an adult, which means I never really appreciated breakfast. Years before childhood obesity dominated headlines, my parents gave me my choice of sugar-coated cereals for breakfast. On weekends, we had pancakes, waffles or French toast, drowning in syrup.

As an adult, I understand I can’t eat like that every day. But I wish I had enjoyed the sugar more when I had the chance.

This recipe is a nice compromise. If you’re craving butter and powdered sugar, it’s not going to do the trick. But it’s a filling breakfast with a touch of sweetness. Fresh fruit is just as good as those sugar-soaked fruit toppings you’ll get at a restaurant, and you can slice it the night before. And while I was skeptical about using fat-free milk, this dish was plenty flavorful.

Best of all, it only took about 20 minutes to make breakfast for 20. Most of the ingredients are things I already keep around the house. I did use eggs rather than the suggested egg substitute.

Trying different breads would add some additional flavor and nutrition to the dish.

I still miss the sugar-coated cereals of my childhood. But this French toast makes a tasty breakfast that adults and kids will both enjoy.

Stars: 4 out of 5

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Get Heart Smart During Heart Month [PODCAST]

On February 14, 2014 | At 10:25 am

Heart disease kills more people than cancer, car accidents or anything else. And did you know? Structural defects, genetics and aging cause many of these deadly heart diseases.

February is Heart Month. Take this opportunity to try some of the following fun ways to educate yourself and get heart smart now.

Listen: RadioMD Podcasts on Heart Disease

It only takes a few minutes to listen to a podcast and get information that can help for a lifetime. Check out our RadioMD podcasts to hear from UVA doctors about:

  • A minimally-invasive procedure that treats atrial fibrillation, the most common type of abnormal heart rhythm
  • Congenital heart defects, which affect almost one percent of babies
  • Advances in heart failure treatments
  • How the two valves on the left side of your heart can cause problems as you get older

Listen to our heart-health podcasts now.

Watch: 10 Quick Things To Do Now for Your Heart Video

This short video will inspire you with some easy ways to help your heart!

Dance & Hula-Hoop: Celebrate Heart Month With Us

Join these community-focused, action-oriented events:

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Vim & Vigor: Angelina Jolie, Genetic Testing & Controlling Diabetes

On February 7, 2014 | At 8:39 am

In August 1982, Thomas P. Loughran Jr., MD, was working in Seattle when a woman with a mysterious blood illness was transferred to his hospital. That patient and her condition changed the path of Loughran’s research forever.

Sudden cardiac arrest patient Helen Trimm with dog

Read about patient Helen Trimm’s cardiac arrest scare in Vim & Vigor.

Loughran and his research are featured in the Spring 2014 issue of UVA’s family health magazine, Vim & Vigor. Check it out for stories about:

  • Angelina Jolie’s double mastectomy and BRCA1 and BRCA2 genetic testing
  • Controlling diabetes without drugs
  • How much to hover when your kids are playing
  • The jobs that are hardest on your heart

Read the online version now.

Live in Virginia? Sign up to get Vim & Vigor in the mail for free.


Recipe Review Thursday: Citrus-Beet Salad

On February 6, 2014 | At 10:30 am

We’re trying new heart-healthy recipes every month and will share the results with you. All recipes are from Club Red, UVA’s heart health club for women.

Citrus-Beet Salad
Beets are one of my favorite vegetables. I like them so much I don’t even mind the red hands I usually end up with after chopping them.

beet-citrus saladTip 1: Always make sure you’re wearing an apron when you’re dealing with these guys, as their beautiful shade of red will manage to find itself on your clothing without you even noticing!

Beets tend to be characterized as having a very earthy flavor that people often don’t enjoy. The citrus in this recipe cuts that earthiness out entirely and gives it a sweet and tangy taste. They also can take awhile to cook, and although I followed the boiling instructions in this recipe to make my salad, you can cut the cooking time down by buying canned beets or using your microwave to speed up the cooking.

Tip 2: Wait for the beets to cool all the way before dicing them. Your hands will thank you later.

This salad is a great, refreshing pairing with any main dish and makes great leftovers for lunch the next day! Usually green salads with dressing don’t hold up very well but this is a salad that will hold out for a few days.

Stars: 3.5 out of 5

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Watch These 10 Quick & Easy Healthy Heart Habits [VIDEO]

On February 3, 2014 | At 8:52 am

Worried About Your Heart Health?

These 10 Quick Heart Tips will help you get started on the road to heart health. Watch now!


Sports Concussions and Traumatic Brain Injury: Making the Invisible Visible

On January 30, 2014 | At 9:00 am

In the last few years, American culture has become more conversant in the language of concussion and traumatic brain injury (TBI). Press coverage of both military veterans and football players experiencing extremes such as suicide has forced these tough-minded institutions to investigate and treat these unseen and often ignored injuries.

Concussions, TBI from football, military action, falls, accidents all proper care.UVA, the NFL and TBI

UVA’s brain injury team, in fact, has played a leading role in performing the research and services to help treat and prevent brain injuries that occur on the field or in the line of duty. Both neurologist Michael Jaffee, MD, who has facilitated information-sharing on concussions between the Department of Defense and the NFL, and neuropsychologist Jeff Barth, PhD, member of the NFL Players Association’s Mackey-White Traumatic Brain Injury Committee, came to national attention for their work in a recent book and PBS documentary, “League of Denial.”

Donna Broshek, PhD, credits the NFL publicity around brain injury for raising awareness that has helped all athletes take concussions seriously.

“Now that the NFL is publicizing concussion safety and supporting concussion legislation for youth, it has had a big impact. We used to talk for years about safety and concussions and people would think we were making a big deal out of a minor injury. Because of so many publicized, very sad stories of former NFL players, it’s raised awareness of concussion safety.”

Broshek, and her colleagues Howard Goodkin, MD and Jason Freeman, PhD, are members of the concussion advisory committees for Charlottesville and Albemarle school systems. Broshek and Goodkin are also actively involved in the concussion management programs at St. Anne’s-Belfield School. Broshek points to another change with a major impact on the safety of young athletes: “Virginia passed a state law in 2011 mandating public school education and concussion safety protocols. It’s made a huge difference. Schools have to worry about sports concussion now; they have to manage it and follow a protocol for managing it, so the awareness has really increased. People realize you have to take it seriously, you can’t ignore it.”

The Double Whammy: Why Concussions Get Worse

So what makes a concussion so harmful? According to Broshek, it’s all about 1) the invisible nature of brain injury, and 2) the risk that increases when more than one concussion occurs.

Broshek explains, “People tend not to realize the seriousness of concussions because they can’t see them. An ankle break, knee brace – it’s so obvious that there’s an injury. A brain injury? It’s often invisible.”

Failing to recognize when a concussion has occurred and not getting appropriate rest to allow the brain to heal leaves people vulnerable to more concussions. For people under age of 24, “if they get a second impact within a very short period of time, it can cause exponential problems. So it’s really getting people out of activity after a concussion, giving them some time to rest, and beginning a gradual return to activity.”

The severe problems experienced by former NFL players seem to occur after years of “concussions and multiple subconcussive blows, just hit after hit after hit after hit with no rest periods.”  Rest is an important part of concussion management.

TBI and Concussion: It’s a Chemical Thing

What makes an injury a TBI, not just a concussion? “It’s an indication of severity. Concussions fall within the realm of mild brain injury. People often think TBI means that the injury is permanent,” Broshek says. “Most concussions cause temporary symptoms.”

“The interesting thing about a sports concussion is basically it’s a transmission of forces to the brain, so it doesn’t necessarily have to be a hit to the head – even a hit to the body can cause forces to be transmitted to the brain.”

For example, “when you’re watching a sporting event, and you see two players collide, and one player might get hit hard in the chest and the head snaps back and forward and what that actually causes is an acceleration-deceleration injury. The brain is moving back and forth in the skull, and that causes a metabolic disruption in the brain,” says Broshek.

This explains why concussions have been so invisible and ignored: Because this kind of injury typically doesn’t affect the structures of the brain, CTs and MRIs (brain scans) typically don’t show damage. “So you won’t see anything on an image, but it causes a neurochemical change so the chemicals that keep the brain functioning smoothly tend to get disrupted,” she says.

How the Brain Reacts After a Concussion

Perhaps surprisingly, the neurochemical reactions following a physical blow are responsible for the symptoms of a concussion. Because the brain operates on glucose, when the concussion happens, “The brain needs more glucose to get back to its starting point, but at that point the body can’t deliver the glucose to the brain, so there is an energy crisis in the brain. And that’s why people feel dazed, some people pass out, have a loss of consciousness, feel confused, or nauseous … anything that the brain does could be disrupted – all the thinking abilities, the brain’s ability to maintain your balance, and vision problems such as double or blurred vision.” Symptoms start to disappear as the chemicals in the brain return back to normal.

Concussions don’t just happen to athletes, of course. Little kids might fall out of trees or off bikes; seniors come in having experienced falls and car accidents. Broshek explains that both the very young and the very old tend to have more severe accidents and their injuries can be more complicated and harder to recover from, 30 days or longer.

How to Recover from a Concussion

The first thing a concussion requires for healing: Rest. Not only does the brain need to reset, but people should avoid physical activity that could risk another injury while recovering from the first.

Broshek’s advice is simple: Get good rest, eat well and avoid alcohol. Recovery time depends on gender and age, but is usually 5-10 days for a healthy adult.

Broshek emphasizes, though, that going too far in the direction of rest can actually be unhealthy for a healing brain. “Exercise is good for the body; you sleep better, think better, it improves your mood. You might not return to competitive sports just yet, but you need to get moving again after an initial period of rest. Exercise helps with cognitive function: Memory and learning. We recommend a gradual return to physical activity under the supervision of an athletic trainer so that exercise is started gradually while symptoms are monitored.”

Complicating Factors of TBI

Despite all the pioneering research the UVA team has done and continues to perform, Broshek underscores that “there are a lot of people who have played football, but not everybody has had those kind of devastating neurologic injuries we hear about in the media, so we don’t really know why some athletes are at greater risk for a poor outcome than others.”

For her, concussion injury often depends on factors unique to the individual. Broshek and other sports team health care providers recommend a baseline cognitive and physical assessment of players before an injury takes place, which then makes it easier to detect a concussion when and if it should happen.

“We do see concussions with prolonged symptoms and slower recovery” Broshek says. That’s when she looks for complicating factors like anxiety, history of multiple concussions, learning disabilities, ADHD, or other medical conditions —  all of which can affect concussion recovery.

Understanding the brain remains Broshek’s life work.

“There is so much we’ve learned about the brain — how it works, what different parts do, how the way you choose to think can affect your brain physiology — but there’s still so much we don’t know.  We do know that the brain is the source of who you are – your intellect and your personality – and protecting it is our goal.”

Visit the new Brain Injury and Sports Concussion Clinic


Sleep, Belly Fat, and Making Weight-Loss Last: Q&A Part 5 Fad Diets

On January 25, 2014 | At 9:16 am

In this final installment of our Fad Diets Q&A series, UVA nutritionists Carole Havrila and Katherine Basbaum explain how sleep and belly fat relate and give us their best advice for sticking to a diet plan.

Healthy foods & a balanced diet still rank the as the best way to lose weight and stay fit.

Healthy foods and a balanced diet still rank as the best way to lose weight and stay fit.

Q: Tell me about how sleep and belly fat relate to weight-loss.

Havrila: There is science that validates that elevated cortisol levels (a stress hormone) happen when we lack enough sleep or are consistently stressed out. While these states are correlated with higher cortisol levels and more belly fat, the only way to get that off is to care for the whole body. You must reduce calories and exercise to lose total body weight.

Basbaum: The stomach or abdominal area is indeed one of the more dangerous places on the body to carry excess weight: As fat accumulates and “pads” the spaces between the abdominal organs (“visceral fat”), you have increased risk of metabolic disturbances, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

Regarding lack of sleep, that can indeed lead to weight gain; there are specific hunger and satiety hormones (ghrelin and leptin) that can get thrown off if you’re consistently not getting a good night’s sleep. This means that not only will you be likely to consume more calories throughout the day, you will also have more trouble burning them off.

Q. Best tips for sticking to a diet or weight-loss plan?

Havrila: Accountability is a very powerful thing, so if you are really worried you will gain weight then keep a daily log of what you are eating/drinking (you can do this online with apps like MyFitnessPal or Sparkpeople). These keep a tally of your calories and can be helpful to keep you on track when you are considering that extra cookie.

Fad Diets: Final Thoughts

Fad diet advertisements often distort key facts about the body in order to sell their products.

Here are 5 things from this series to remember the next time you’re tempted to believe otherwise:

  1. Detox-diets, cleanses and any plan that removes a food group entirely could put you at risk of missing nutrients you need. If you have health issues, fasts and cleanses can even hurt you.
  2. Diets that focus on eating large amounts of saturated fat found in many meats, butter, full-fat dairy, etc., can be bad for your heart, and that hurts your overall health.
  3. Extreme diets are often so hard they backfire.
  4. You don’t need to cleanse; your body detoxifies itself.
  5. Every weight-loss plan requires diet and exercise to be successful.

What do YOU think?

Was this series helpful? What surprised you? What diet will you try — or try to avoid — next? Tell us below.

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Detox, Gluten-Free, Vegan: Best & Worst Diets, Q&A Part 4 Fad Diets

On January 24, 2014 | At 9:08 am

Which are worth trying, which will prove a wash?

Gluten-free foods are gaining popularity.

Gluten-free foods are gaining popularity. But are they really healthy for everyone?

In this fourth installment of our Fad Diet Q&A series, UVA nutritionists Carole Havrila and Katherine Basbaum make their picks for best and worst diets on the popular market.

Q. What about the diets that got top ratings in a recent US News & World Report article: DASH, TLC diet, Mayo Clinic, Weight Watchers, Flexitarian, Volumetrics, Biggest Loser, Ornish, Engine 2, Flat Belly diet, Abs diet?

Havrila: I believe that these diets mentioned do work and can work if followed, and the calories are not severely limited (below 1200 calories for women and 1500 for men). The DASH diet, Mayo Clinic, Weight Watchers, Flexitarian, Volumetrics and vegan/vegetarian diets are all reasonable diets that work successfully when followed. Vegan diets require planning to make sure that important nutrients are included but are healthy diets in general.

Basbaum: For the fourth year in a row — when taking into consideration ease of use, nutrition, safety, effectiveness for weight loss and protection against diabetes and heart disease — US News & World Report has named the DASH diet as the best overall diet for 2014. Why? Because it’s smart, balanced, realistic, tried and true.

 Q. What fad diet makes you cringe the most?

Havrila: Detox diets that advocate large amounts of dietary supplements in addition to restrictive diets and enemas or other detoxification methods. These could potentially be dangerous to those on prescription medications and/or having cancer treatment.

Basbaum: Definitely the gluten-free craze that has been happening for the past couple of years. If you have a genuine, medically diagnosed intolerance to gluten, or if you have celiac disease, then a gluten-free diet is warranted. But as a weight-loss tool, it’s potentially dangerous and may even cause weight gain if you don’t do it right.

Next Up: Sleep, Belly Fat, and Making Weight-Loss Last, Fad Diets Q&A Part 5