Monday, December 31, 2012

Ask Us Anything: Am I Pregnant?

"It has been two weeks since my last period, and I'm wondering if I might be pregnant. Is it too early to know?"

Dr. M Edmond Sayegh Responds:

If you have a 28-day cycle, your conception or fertility days are between day 12 and 16, counting the first day of bleeding as day one. A pregnancy test will turn positive as early as day 25-26. A sonogram will show a pregnancy as early as 5 weeks or day 35.

– Dr. Sayegh

Dr. Sayegh is board certified in Obstetrics & Gynecology and practices at Chouchani Sayegh and Bagnarello M.D. LLP. Click here to visit their website.

If you have a question about your health, click here to ask our experts.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think

A group of friends and I started a book club this month dedicated to self improvement.

Our first book, 168 Hours by Laura Vanderkam, revealed some harsh truths about how I was spending my time (and how much of it I was wasting).

Spend More Time on Things that Matter

To get the most out of life, the author argues that we should spend more time using our talents and less on lower priority tasks.

The premise makes sense. We can't reach our goals if we're spending all of our time on mindless work. But I did encounter some challenges in putting her plan into practice.

1. Keep a Time Log

First, you're asked to keep a log of you're spending your time for a week. I kept a time journal for about three days before I realized that my forgetfulness had rendered it virtually worthless.

I started over by limiting my time log to work hours, when I'm at a computer all day and could easily track my hours.

2. Make a List of 100 Dreams

Then, came the fun part: making a list of 100 dreams, things that you want to accomplish in your life. Dreams can be small, like reading a certain book, or they can reflect larger ambitions. With such a long list, I had a mix of both.

For larger projects, you're to create a list of actionable steps and how long each might take, in terms of hours. I didn't analyze my dreams in this way. The most I did was highlight them in a spreadsheet.

3. Identify Your Core Competencies

After you make your list of dreams and try a few that don't require much time or money, you're asked to decide what you're good at, your core competencies.

Ask yourself, "What do I do best, that other people cannot do nearly as well?

The question of what I do better than anyone else threw me, because the scope isn't defined. When I consider that question, I think of it in terms of the world. What do I do better than anyone else in the world? Nothing. How could I? I haven't devoted myself to any one thing to have attained that level of expertise.

If I were considering that question in terms of the people I know, I might have an answer. But are they the people I should be comparing myself to? If I want to pursue photography, for example, shouldn't I compare myself to other photographers? If I do, I'm always going to fall short because the professionals make the top of the list.

4. Ignore, Minimize, or Outsource the Rest

"People who get the most out of life spend as much of their time as possible on core competency activities, and as little as possible on other things," Vanderkam writes.

Her solution to getting rid of other things: ignore what doesn't matter, or minimize or outsource them. Ask yourself: what do I need to do to get those tasks off my plate?

Outsourcing came in the form of hired help: hiring someone to cook for you, for instance, or to clean your house. She admits that paying someone is out of reach for some, and I was a little put off that she spent more time on paid solutions than on ones that most of us could implement.

My Life Changes

After looking at the many administrative tasks I complete at work, tasks that virtually eliminated the time I could spend doing the things I love, I came up with a plan to minimize them. The plan isn't fully implemented yet, but that I'm making time to write this blog post says something about my shift in priorities.

At home, I'm watching less TV. I'm trying to get down to an hour a day, although I find it a challenge.

I've also cut down on housework. A lot. I'd been afraid that if every inch of the apartment wasn't clean, people would judge me for it. But cleaning the window sills or dusting the books isn't going to get me any closer to my dreams, so I've settled for spending fifteen minutes a day on clean-up.


The book is a dense read – I feel like I could read it twenty times and still not fully absorb it – but these are the things that have stayed with me:

Replace TV with Meaningful Leisure Pursuits: "Many people wile away the hours from 10 p.m. to midnight watching late-night TV. Television doesn’t really relax you. It doesn’t make us feel particularly happy or rejuvenated. Go to bed instead and shift that free time to the morning, when you’ll have more energy to tackle a workout or a novel-writing or painting session."

You're Not Working if You're Not Doing Something Meaningful: “If you’re not getting anything that matters done, then you’re not really working."

Dream Jobs Aren't Found in the Classifieds: "You can change your job description and working conditions in a million ways that will get you closer to the right job."

Even though I haven't completed the book's exercises step-by-step, I'm more aware of how I'm spending my time and I'm better able to prioritize. This book gave me the push I needed to focus on doing what I enjoy without feeling guilty.


168 Hours is available from several Buffalo library branches: Central (downtown), Clarence, Clearfield, Julia Boyer Reinstein, and Orchard Park. Click here to search the catalog.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Ask Us Anything: Does Keeping the Thermostat at 75 Affect My Health?

"Since the weather has turned colder, I've been keeping the thermostat at 75 degrees. Are there any health risks caused by keeping the thermostat this high? I turn it down to 70 at night, and I'm wondering, if, when I'm sleeping, is it best to leave it at a high temperature or to turn it down even further? Are there any recommendations in terms of health?"

Registered Nurse and Corporate Nurse Educator Yvonne Askew Responds:

The most important health risk with your furnace is CO2 poisoning. Because we burn gas for heat, the byproduct is carbon monoxide or CO2. We cannot see or smell this gas, and by breathing in too much of this byproduct, it will attach itself to our red blood cells and not allow our organs (brain, heart, lungs, etc.) to receive enough oxygen. Without oxygen, our organs can be damaged and begin to die. Steps need to be taken prior to turning on the furnace for the cold season.

Each year, your furnace should be checked by a qualified technician. They can check your furnace, making sure it is working properly and all the ducts that would vent out CO2 gas are unobstructed. Also, it is a good idea to have a CO2 detector within your home; one close to the furnace and another one within the living area. These devices are sensitive to and will alarm when they detect dangerous levels of CO2 in the air. These detectors cost about $10/each; worth the money when compared to a human life.

Homes that are warmer can dry out the moist areas of our body, like the nose, mouth and even eyes. You may find yourself drinking more during cold weather to counter act this dryness.

If you must have your home warmer, place a pan of plain water by the heating ducts within the living space. This will add some moisture to the air and relieve the dryness you may feel. Also, you can ask the furnace technician about a humidifier that can be attached to the furnace, or you can buy a free standing one you can have within the living space. These can also assist in keeping moisture in the air of your home. If you do not need to have your home extra warm, turn down the thermostat to a level that is still comfortable.

The next risk in keeping your thermostat warmer is to your wallet! Increasing the temperature within your home will burn more gas, which will cost you more money. If you have a health condition where you are sensitive to cold weather or very young children, then money is no object when it comes to comfort. Other than that, keep the thermostat in a comfortable zone that feels right.

Programmable thermostats can take the guess work out of remembering to turn the thermostat down during the hours you sleep or are away from the home. While you are all snug in your bed, under blankets, you can save some money by turning down the thermostat. Also, when you are away from home, why keep the home fires burning, when no one will be there to enjoy the warmth? A programmable thermostat can be set to turn down the houses' internal temperature while you are away or snug in your bed, and return the temperature to warm and cozy prior to your return or rising.

Have a safe and happy winter season!

– Yvonne Askew, RN

Yvonne Askew is a Registered Nurse and a Corporate Educator for Catholic Health. She has a Master's Degree in Nursing Education. She is a Faith Community Nurse, the 2012-2013 President of the Parish Nurse Ministries of New York, Inc., and the Faith/Health coordinator for the Buffalo District A.M.E. Zion Churches.

If you have a question about your health, click here to ask our experts.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Free Things to Do With Your Out-of-Town Guests

A friend of mine is having a house guest for the holidays and asked for some tips on where to take her during her visit.

I've put together an itinerary, mostly concentrating on Buffalo and the Southtowns, since I've lived in both and know them the best.

Day 1: Downtown Buffalo and Allentown

Start your day at city hall, one of the largest in America. Free tours are offered on weekdays at noon and usually include the Council Chambers, Mayor's Office and the Observation Deck, where you can snap photos overlooking downtown (website).

Drive a short distance to the newly developed waterfront to see Canalside (website), where you'll see the naval park's WWII ships, fully restored facets of the Erie Canal Harbor and outdoor exhibits that tell the history of Canalside.

Take shelter indoors at the Market Arcade Building, which houses a visitor's center and the CEPA Art Gallery, a free photography gallery that offers free admission (website). You can also browse the Market Arcade's shops or catch a movie.

Recharge with lunch at Towne Restaurant (website) on the corner of Allen Street and Elmwood Avenue. Then walk across the street to Rustbelt Books (website) to check out their used book selection.

Don't leave Allentown without a trip to one of the Karpeles Manuscript Museums (website), which have two locations in Buffalo. Portal Hall is hosting an exhibit of Charles Dickens' manuscripts, contracts, illustrations and original printing plates for illustrations of his stories. The North Street location takes a look at the first long-distance telephone line, displaying documents relating to its creation and use.

Day 2: Elmwood Village

Try my walking tour of the Elmwood Village

The Elmwood Village is my favorite place to go with guests. It's walkable, has a diverse selection of shops and is always bustling, putting to rest those myths that  Buffalo is a ghost town.

If you're stopping for lunch, try The Globe Market's fresh sandwiches and soups (website).

End your evening with a driving tour of Christmas lights. Bring some hot chocolate to get into the Christmas spirit, and to see Buffalo's mansions decked out for the holidays, take a drive near the Albright-Knox Art Gallery and Buffalo History Museum.

Day 3: Niagara Falls

No visit to Buffalo is complete without seeing the falls, a sight that Western New Yorkers often take for granted. Niagara Falls State Park (website) is free to visit and parking can sometimes be found along city streets. While attractions like Cave of the Winds and Maid of the Mist are closed for the season, exploring the park is entertainment in itself.

If your visitor is interested in shopping, don't miss the Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls (website).

Day 4: Orchard Park and East Aurora

Get away from the city and venture into the southtowns for lunch at Two Sisters Cafe (website) in Orchard Park, NY. Then burn off those calories with a hike to the eternal flame (website) at Chestnut Ridge Park.

Or, skip the afternoon workout and visit the Orchard Park Antique Mall (website), which sells jewelry, antiques and collectibles.

Take a short drive to East Aurora to browse Vidlers 5 & 10 (website), a local landmark that opened in 1930 and offers everything from cookware to fabric and dollhouse furniture. Although it's closed for the season, stop by the Millard Fillmore House (website) to see where the 13th president of the United States lived when he began his political career. And don't forget to visit the Roycroft Campus (website), a National Historic Landmark District built in the late 19th century.

Are there any attractions that I've missed that you would recommend?

Monday, December 17, 2012

Ask Us Anything: How Can I Prevent Dry Hands?

“My hands are very dry, so dry that they crack in the winter. I use hand lotion at home once a day, and I have a bottle of lotion that I keep in my desk at work. I think that part of the dryness is caused by washing my hands every time that I go to the bathroom. What are some things that I can do to help my skin retain its moisture and not crack?”

Registered Nurse Rachel Schneiter Responds:

You are probably right that hand washing (among other things, like cool, dry weather; medication use; and genes) may be causing your dry, cracked hands.

Lotions help, but if you are continuing to have a problem despite lotion use, there are a few things you can do that may help more.

Apply vitamins A+D ointment to your hands and rub in well right before bed at night without washing it off. It sounds messy, but if your skin is really dry and cracked, you'll find it soaks in the ointment during the night, and you should awaken to the cracks mostly healed and less redness and soreness. Some people find they get even better results if they wear cotton gloves after applying the ointment.

You can find vitamins A+D ointment at most drug stores.

The real key is to treat your hands before bed for two reasons; you won't be washing off the cream or ointment for a long period of time of time, so it gets a chance to work. Second, our body temperature changes when we sleep so our pores absorb topical treatments better during rest.

You may also need a hand soap that is moisturizing and carry a small container with you when you need to wash your hands during the day.

You might try a different lotion or switch to a cream, such as Curel, or Eucerin which are thicker and tend to work better than the lighter lotions.

Wear winter gloves outside, even if it's not snowing, to protect your skin.

If conservative measures like these do not improve your dry hands in a few days, you may want to see your doctor or a skin specialist called a dermatologist for treatment.

Registered Nurse and Corporate Nurse Educator Yvonne Askew Adds:

Make sure that you use lotion after every hand washing. If you only use lotion once a day, this will be washed or worn away very quickly.

Do not stop washing your hands after each bathroom trip! The emissions we release during these trips are full of things that our body is finished with after we eat/drink. Our body also discards waste from germs and bacteria that can re-grow on our skin. They may not cause us any harm, but they can cause illness for those we shake hands with or if someone touches another item that we have touched. Remember Typhoid Mary?

Getting back to your dry hands, with the winter weather here and dry air everywhere, wear gloves. Even though it is cold, our skin is still allowing moisture to be released. Using gloves and lotion can slow down the process, keeping more moisture next to your skin.

Also, keep drinking water! Keeping your body hydrated can assist in replacing the moisture lost by your body, thus lubricating your skin. Drinking water assists your body in exchanging or flushing old, used fluids, with new fluid ready to keep the cells of the body working at releasing their waste products.

If your problem continues, speak to your primary physician. He or she can assist you in getting help. If you do not have a primary physician, call Health Connection for a referral at (716) 706-2112. They will be able to assist you in locating a specialist.

About Our Experts

Rachel Schneiter, RN

Rachel Schneiter is a Registered Nurse in OB/GYN services at the M. Steven Piver, M.D. Center for Women’s Health & Wellness in Buffalo. The Piver Center provides medical obstetrics, infertility treatment and other services for women.

Yvonne Askew, RN

Yvonne Askew is a Registered Nurse and a Corporate Educator for Catholic Health. She has a Master's Degree in Nursing Education. She is a Faith Community Nurse, the 2012-2013 President of the Parish Nurse Ministries of New York, Inc., and the Faith/Health coordinator for the Buffalo District A.M.E. Zion Churches.
If you have a question about your health, click here to ask our experts.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

DIY Christmas: 10 Christmas Gifts to Make

If you're still doing your Christmas shopping but can't face another trip to the store, try your hand at homemade instead. I've rounded up my favorite crafts that are floating around Pinterest.

Note: when you're gathering your supplies, don't go to JoAnn's or Michael's without the sales flyer. They usually have 50% off coupons.

1. Salt Dough Ornaments

2. Hand Print Ornaments

3. Monogrammed Glasses

This glass was made with dollar store supplies but looks so much more expensive!

4. Daily Journal

I would probably use a different container – maybe a binder that holds index cards.

5. Stenciled Mugs

6. Apron in an Hour

You need a sewing machine for this one! If you're new to sewing, this is an easy first project – just straight lines.

7. Fabric-covered Binders

You could use fabric covered binders as a journal, recipe holder, or a DVD organizer. I store my sewing patterns in binders, so that's another possibility.

8. Chalkboard Mugs

9. Winter Scene Mason Jars

This is a great way to make use of cute dollhouse furniture. I've also seen them in shadow boxes.

10. Dry Erase Board

Who knew that dry erase markers work on glass?

Monday, December 10, 2012

Look Forward to Holiday Parties Without Packing on Pounds

When you want to lose or maintain weight, December can feel like a sinking ship as we travel from one food-focused festive event to another. Here are a few tips from Kenmore Mercy Hospital's Highway to Health Committee to help get you through the holidays.

Focus on What You Want

Don't go to a party or holiday meal famished. Being too hungry will set you up for gorging. Focus on those foods that you love, eat slowly, and give yourself permission to savor them. Another strategy is to bring some of your own healthy food to share.

Treat Yourself Right

The best way to enjoy an occasional sweet without losing control is by sampling a selection or two, rather than having full servings. For example, have one bite of pie, half a cookie or one small square of fudge. Find a friend or family member who will stick to the sampling rule with you.

Break It Up

To reduce the amount of calorie-laden drinks you consume, drink a glass of water between each beverage. This will help fill your stomach, leaving less room to overindulge.

Map It Out

Avoid loading up on foods that are fried, buttered or have a lot of cheese and cream. Even though the portions may be small, these fat-laden bites can really pack a punch. Look for fruit, veggies and dip, whole-grain crackers, and baked or grilled items.

With these simple tips, we can all look forward to holiday parties and enjoy the season without packing on the pounds.

Ask Us Anything about Pregnancy: Birthing Tubs, Changing Doctors

Do you have a question for our staff? Click here to submit it.

Q. I am having a repeat c-section. Will my 2 year old daughter be able to visit me and the new baby in the hospital?

A. Mary Ann Murphy, Director of Maternal Child Services at Mercy Hospital:

Absolutely! We want your daughter to be able to welcome your new baby! We do want to be certain that she is well and free from communicable illness, of course. Cold and flu season is upon us and we want to be certain that all visitors are free from illness to protect the newborns.

Q. How many people are allowed in the Labor and Delivery room? What if a C-section is needed? How many people are allowed in the surgical area?

A. Mary Ann Murphy, Director of Maternal Child Services at Mercy Hospital:

We generally allow 2 coaches. One in the OR for a C-section.

A. Mary D'Angelo, Director of Maternal Child Services at Sisters of Charity Hospital:

We generally try to keep it to 2-3 people in the birthing room at a time and only two for the actual delivery. In the OR for a C-section, only one support person is permitted.

Q. Do you have birthing tubs?

A. Mary Ann Murphy, Director of Maternal Child Services at Mercy Hospital:

We have 4 jacuzzi tubs. It is however physician preference to not deliver in the tub. We do not have any physicians who will deliver in the tub, at present.

A. Mary D'Angelo, Director of Maternal Child Services at Sisters of Charity Hospital:

We do not have birthing tubs at this point.

Q. I am coming in next week to be induced. What is involved in the procedure?

A. Mary D'Angelo, Director of Maternal Child Services at Sisters of Charity Hospital:

For the induction, the patient is placed on a fetal monitor and will have an IV started and blood drawn at the same time. The next step is dependent on the readiness of the cervix for labor. There is sometimes a "ripening agent" such as Cervidil or a balloon or foley bulb used prior to Oxytocin.

Q. Can I switch hospitals at the last minute? I am 39 weeks pregnant.

A. Mary Ann Murphy, Director of Maternal Child Services at Mercy Hospital:

Yes, you can switch to a different provider who has privileges at the hospital of your choice. For a physician referral, please call HealthConnection at (716) 706-2112.

A. Mary D'Angelo, Director of Maternal Child Services at Sisters of Charity Hospital:

We usually advise patients that at this stage of pregnancy it is best and safest to stay with the provider(s) that know her best, but if you really want to change, it is advisable to have your records immediately available to the new provider or hospital. You will want a copy of your prenatal records to bring with you.

You can learn more about childbirth at Mercy Hospital and Sisters of Charity Hospital by visiting our website.

If you have a question about your health, click here to ask our experts.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Holiday Activities to Share with Family and Friends

I've made no secret that gift-giving and receiving is my least favorite part of the holidays (see: Shopping for Christmas Gifts: What's Your Strategy?).

After many Christmases absent of the warm and fuzzy feeling that Christmas movies have trained me to expect, I think I've hit on a solution. Instead of giving gifts, I'm giving of my time. I'm making plans with family and friends to do things that we normally wouldn't, like going to the theatre or spending a day caroling. This means that we can skip the gifts that clutter our homes and put our money towards experiences (memories last a lifetime, you know).

I've made a list of holiday-themed activities that are happening in Western New York this December, none of which involve shopping for presents.

If you're thinking of going this route but must have something to give on Christmas morning, create an album of the day you spent together – it could even become a Christmas tradition, where you add to the album each year.

Victorian Christmas at the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site (Buffalo)

Date: December 5-8
Time: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Cost: $5 (discount admission)
More Information: Website

The Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site transforms the Wilcox home on Delaware Avenue into a Victorian Christmas experience.

Christmas with Wayne Newton (Niagara Falls)

Date: December 5-9
Time: 1:30 p.m., 7 p.m.
Cost: $20-$40
More Information: Website

Celebrate the holidays with “Mr. Entertainment” himself at the Seneca Niagara Casino Hotel.

It WAS a Wonderful Life! (Buffalo)

Date: December 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30
Time: 11 a.m., 2 p.m.
Cost: $25
More Information: Website

In the Forest Lawn Cemetery chapel, narrator John Lay (the first person to take up permanent residence in Forest Lawn, in 1850), will introduce several of the new friends he’s made over the last 160+ years at Forest Lawn. They, in turn, will create musical, comical and poignant glimpses of Christmases past, when they enjoyed life on this side of the Lawn. Seating is limited; reservations are required. Call (716) 885-1600 for reservations.

Poinsettia Show (Buffalo)

Date: December 5-30
Time: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Cost: $9 adults, $8 students and seniors
More Information: Website

Thousands of Poinsettias fill the Gardens. Come out to enjoy the beautiful and rich colors of nature!

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever (Lancaster)

Date: December 7, 8, 9, 14, 15, 16
Time: 7:30 p.m. on Dec 7 and 14; 2:30 p.m. all other days
Cost: $20 adult, $18 student/senior, $13 children (12 and under)
More Information: Website

The Lancaster Opera House presents a hilarious Christmas tale adapted from the best-selling book. A couple struggling to put on a church Christmas pageant is faced with casting the Herdman kids, probably the most inventively awful kids in history.

Fairgrounds Festival of Lights (Hamburg)

Date: December 7, 8, 9, 14, 23 December 26-30
5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Cost: $20 per carload
More Information: Website

See over one million lights in a drive through that spans nearly 2 miles. You'll see a nightly Holiday Magic Show featuring Kandy Kane and the Fabulous Darnells, reindeer carriage rides on the weekends, and of course, Santa.

White Christmas (Buffalo)

Date: December 5-9
Time: Shows at 7 p.m. on Dec. 9; 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 4, 5, 6; 8 p.m. on Dec. 7, 8; and 2 p.m. on Dec. 8, 9
Cost: $30-$65
More Information: Website

The classic holiday movie White Christmas comes to the Shea's Theatre stage! This brand new musical shines with classic Berlin hits like "Blue Skies," "How Deep is the Ocean?" and, of course, the unforgettable title song. Irving Berlin's White Christmas tells the story of two buddies putting on a show in a magical Vermont inn and finding their perfect mates in the process.

A Christmas Carol (Buffalo)

Date: December 6-16
Time: 1 p.m., 7 p.m.
Cost: $17 - $30
More Information: Website

At the Alleyway Theatre, Beloved British actor John Smeathers who has played Ebenezer Scrooge for the past 15 years returns to Buffalo for one last time to give his final performance as the old miser before retiring from the role.

Holiday Wreath Workshop (Buffalo)

Date: Saturday, December 8
Time: 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Cost: $44 Members, $54 Non-Members
More Information: Website

Join Martin House Horticulturist Nellie Gardner for a fun, informative Saturday morning as she guides you through a wreath building workshop. You will design and craft your own unique holiday wreath using simple methods and all natural materials gathered from Nellie’s “Flower Fields” and from the wild. All materials are provided. Bring your favorite clippers.

Cocktails and Caroling for a Cause (Williamsville)

Date: Saturday, December 8
Time: 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Cost: $5 donation to benefit The Food Bank of Western New York
More Information: Website

Sing Christmas Carols up and down Main Street. You can join in at any time.

  • Pizza Plant: 11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
  • The Irishman: 5601 Main Street 1:30 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.
  • The Creekview: 2:45 p.m. - 3:45 p.m.
  • Parings: 4 p.m. - 5 p.m.
  • Milo’s: 5:15 p.m. - 6:15 p.m.
  • Cabernet CafĂ©: 6:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.
  • Sorrentino’s: 7:45 p.m. - 8:45 p.m.
  • Eagle House: 9 p.m. - 10 p.m.
  • The Glen Park Tavern: 10 p.m.

The Nutcracker (Buffalo)

Date: Saturday, December 8; Sunday, December 9
Time: 1 p.m., 7 p.m.
Cost: $19.50 - $27.50
More Information: Website

This magical performance at UB's Center for the Arts returns with special guest artist Misa Kuranaga (Boston Ballet) dancing the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy. The show also features Isaac Akiba from Boston Ballet.

A Christmas Story with a Celebrity Appearance (North Tonawanda)

Date: Sunday, December 9
Time: 2 p.m.
Cost: Pre-Sale Adult: $10, Child: $5; Day of Show: Adult $15, Child: $10
More Information: Website

Come see Ian Petrella, who played Randy Parker (Ralphie's little brother) in the movie "A Christmas Story," at the Riviera Theatre. Ian will speak at 2 p.m. about filming the movie, followed by a movie showing at 3 p.m. Afterwards, meet Ian, see the fire truck that rescued Flick from the flagpole (rides available for a small donation) and try to win one of 2 limited edition Red Ryder BB guns donated by Ian Petrella.

A Jolly Holiday with the BPO (Buffalo)

Date: Sunday, December 9
Time: 2:30 p.m.
Cost: $12
More Information: Website

Get into the holiday spirit with your favorite music of the season. A very special guest will make an appearance. Create a work of holiday art with the Albright-Knox Art Gallery before the concert.

Christmas at Hidden Valley (Varysburg)

Date: Saturday, December 15
Time: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Cost: $12
More Information: Website

Celebrate Christmas at Hidden Valley Animal Adventure in Varysburg! Breakfast with Santa and Mrs. Claus will be served from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. in the lodge (Adults: $12, Children: $6). A lunch buffet will also be served from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. Take a horse-drawn sleigh ride around the pond from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. ($7 per person, first-come first-served, no reservation required). You can also visit with reindeer, attend a craft show, decorate cookies, and make ornaments throughout the day.

The Castle by Candlelight (Youngstown)

Date: Saturday, December 15, Saturday, December 22
Time: 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Cost: $8
More Information: Website

Old Fort Niagara will greet the holiday season with a bang as the historic site presents its annual Castle by Candlelight program on Saturdays, December 15 and 22. The highlight of the evening will be the firing of a grand feu de joie (firing of joy) by the assembled Fort garrison. The feu de joie is a traditional military ceremony involving running fire by muskets and artillery to mark a special occasion or victory.

Inside the Castle, lit entirely by candles, historic characters will regale visitors with tales of Christmas past from the 18th and 19th centuries. Demonstrations of 18th and early 19th century trades and period music will be performed. In the Castle’s Boulangerie (bakery) cooks will demonstrate the preparation of a traditional holiday feast, including wild game.

Guests can arrive at the Fort Niagara Visitor Center at any time between 7:00 pm and 8:30 pm and are asked to dress for the weather, wear walking footwear, and bring a flashlight.

Free Film Series: The Polar Express (Buffalo)

Date: Sunday, December 16
Time: 2 p.m.
Cost: Free
More Information: Website

See the Christmas film The Polar Express in the historic Shea's Performing Arts Center. Doors open one hour prior to showtime.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Ask Us Anything: Could a Lack of Protein Influence My Stress Test?

"I did the Cardiolite stress test. I lost about 80 pounds on a vegan diet along with juicing. My heart ejection fraction went from 69% to 62%. I'm on a low dose of Carvidilol. 6.25 mg twice a day. I'm a 5 feet 4 inches 160 pound male. I used to weigh 250 pounds. Could a lack of protein be the problem? All other parts are good. No valve problems, nothing unusual."

Note: Ejection fraction is a test that determines how well your heart pumps with each beat. 55-70% is normal. 40-55% is below normal.

Nurse Practitioner Gina Lafountain Responds:

Excellent job with your weight loss! A suggestion would be to start trying to eat a balanced diet that includes lean proteins like fish and chicken and healthy grains, fruits/vegetables.

In regards to your ejection fraction dropping from 69 to 62%, this is not concerning at all. The ejection fraction % is a subjective estimation of your pumping fuction; you are still in the normal range.

My recommendation is to start walking 30 minutes a day if you are not currently getting any activity, but first get approval from your medical provider. Keep your bood pressure under good control at around 12-130/60-70.

If you're diabetic, maintain steady control over your blood sugars and keep your cholesterol levels within normal rang (total cholesterol less than 200 and LDl's (bad cholesterol) less than 100 without diabetes and less than 70 for a diabetic).

Overall it sounds like you are doing great!

– Gina Lafountain, Nurse Practitioner and Clinical Program Director of HeartStrong

Gina Lafountain, NP, MSN has over 20 years of healthcare experience and is currently the Director of the HeartStrong program for continuing care. HeartStrong allows heart failure patients to rebuild their strength and endurance and learn how to better manage their cardiac diseases before they return home.

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