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Amanda Royer described her old life as being a “no mom,” or a “tomorrow girl.” When her children would ask her to play outside with them, she would say “no.” When there was a task to be done, she would say she’d do it “tomorrow.” At that time more than two years ago, she weighed 260 pounds. It took mental health counselling and discipline instilled by the Go For Bold initiative to get her on track to losing weight and believing in herself. Royer, a licensed practical nurse with the Washington County Commission on Aging, is embarking on a career as a personal trainer and community health educator. And all of this is despite a near amputation of her left hand that left her with permanent nerve damage and nearly sidelined her efforts. “I wanted to be a yes mom,” she said. “I wanted to be a good example to my kids. “Getting to that place is the hardest part. It takes the readiness to change.” Royer’s primary care provider at Meritus Primary Care on Crayton Boulevard started her on her journey. Nurse practitioner Kate Smith helped connect Royer with therapists at Brook Lane. “They helped me to realize I needed to start putting myself first,” Royer said. From there, she connected with a gym in Hagerstown, starting with short classes during her lunch breaks. She began to increase the intensity of her workouts, eventually moving into high-impact classes. Royer said she was fortunate in that she had some things keeping her accountable. One was her niece, Sierra. The other was Go For Bold, an initiative sponsored in part by Meritus Health to lose 1 million pounds as a community by 2030. The Go for Bold initiative was started by Healthy Washington County, a coalition of public and private organizations with a mission to strengthen the health and wellness of our community and residents. The initiative was sparked after a Community Health Needs Assessment found Washington County residents had high rates of chronic illness, such as diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure, among others. To achieve the million-pound weight-loss goal, the initiative: Focuses on increasing physical activity personally and through fun and engaging community-wide events Incorporates mindfulness and stress reduction techniques into daily activities Offers nutrition tips and healthy recipes that focus on fresh fruits and vegetables Royer not only uses the nutrition lessons offered by Go For Bold for herself, she also teaches them as part of multiple health classes offered through Washington County Commission on Aging. Proper nutrition is a key part of her journey she said. “It’s like premium fuel,” she said, noting a vehicle will run better with high-octane gasoline. “Your body needs it. Your brain needs it.” Admittedly, it can be tough to stay motivated. She noted that when she injured her hand, her gains began to flag. After surgery and learning how to live with the nerve damage, she got back to her routine. “It takes being careful so you don’t fall back,” she said. “I remind myself that I’m still here, how I got here and why I got here, and how I lost the weight. “And I’m not going back.” Ready to join Amanda and Go For Bold? Visit healthywashingtoncounty.com to learn more and sign up.
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Christopher Vaccari, M.D., an experienced cardiologist, says he regularly encounters three main issues with his patients’ heart health: coronary artery disease, irregular heart rhythms and congestive heart failure. And all can be improved with lifestyle choices. The cardiologist has some tips to help. “The keys are three-fold,” he said. “Diet, exercise and avoiding behaviors we know are bad for the heart.” What should you avoid for a heart-healthy diet? Eating healthy includes limiting sugar, salt and high-calorie foods. To get a handle on these, Dr. Vaccari suggests checking the labels on foods. There are also apps that help track the numbers. One of the biggest culprits when it comes to sugar is drinks. With salt, it’s not so much what you add at the table, but the sodium you get in eating processed food — deli meat, breads, fast food, among others. Sugary drinks and processed food also tend to be high in calories and don’t offer much in return. Related to this the actual amount of food you consume. “You do all this work to lose weight, but then you overestimate portion sizes,” he said. “That’s why we sometimes feel we’re not losing weight.” What exercise regimen is good for heart health? When it comes to exercise, Dr. Vaccari said he’s seen dramatic improvements when people go from a sedentary lifestyle to an active one. “You need to do it easy,” he said, noting you can start with walking 30 minutes a day and working up to more aerobic activity over time. Those above a certain age should talk to their doctor before starting an exercise regimen, since there’s more concern with bone and joint health, he said. What are some ways to eliminate unhealthy behaviors? Unhealthy behaviors to eliminate include smoking and drinking alcohol. Dr. Vaccari said he knows it can be difficult to get certain behaviors under control. “Sometimes it’s useful to have an idea of your numbers,” he said, referring to things such as blood pressure, cholesterol and blood-sugar. “That can give you the motivation to break certain habits.” Dr. Vaccari suggests talking to your healthcare provider if your blood pressure in the morning is persistently over 140/90; if, generally, your LDL cholesterol is more than 130; and if your fasting blood sugar is over 126. Sometimes, seeing a family member or friend going through the effects of heart disease is a motivator. Sometimes simply celebrating a birthday can do it. “Unfortunately, for a lot of people, it’s after they have their own first heart event that it’s a wakeup call,” he said. To get help with keeping your heart healthy, visit Meritus Hagerstown Heart online at meritushealth.com/locations/meritus-hagerstown-heart or call 301-797-2525. And if you live near Hancock, Dr. Vaccari will start seeing patients weekly beginning in March at the recently opened Meritus Primary Care office, 351 N. Pennsylvania Ave.
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HAGERSTOWN, Md. — Last week, Meritus Health hosted its first annual Case Competition for master’s in health administration/public health students from across the country. Maulik Joshi, Dr.P.H., president and CEO of the Meritus Health notes that “these students will be the leaders of tomorrow. Giving them the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge using real-world data and interacting with senior leaders just makes them stronger and the future brighter.” On an annual basis, Meritus hosts almost 1,000 students through rotations. How was the competition set up? In total, six teams from universities across the country (from Alabama to West Virginia) attended the two-day event, hosted on the Meritus campus. This year’s winning team was from the University of Kentucky. Each team was provided the same assignment: To respond to a case from Meritus Health senior leadership by giving two or three innovative strategies and actions to improve rural health outcomes in Washington County, Md., and counties in neighboring Pennsylvania and West Virginia. The solutions they suggested ranged from improving mental health to increasing healthcare access for historically disadvantaged populations. The teams were given 20 minutes each for their presentation and 15 minutes for questions and answers with the senior leaders, who judged the competition. The criteria ranged from content to team dynamics. During their time in Hagerstown, the students also learned more about Meritus Health by rounding in the hospital and spending time with senior leaders. How does Meritus support graduate student education? The competition is another way Meritus continues to focus on supporting graduate student education. The health system has an administrative fellowship program for those with master’s degrees in business administration, healthcare administration, public health, nursing administration or an equivalent degree program. The fellowship provides significant engagement with the Meritus Health senior leadership team and is an immersive, hands-on fellowship with tremendous opportunity for learning and professional development in addition to leadership of and participation in systemwide initiatives and projects. To learn more about the administrative fellowship program, visit www.meritushealth.com/careers/non-medical-team-members/administrative-fellowship-program.
HAGERSTOWN, Md. — Meritus Health will be offering interventional cardiology consultations in Frederick starting this month. Interventional cardiologists specialize in heart and blood vessel procedures using a catheter. There are a variety of reasons a cardiology patient may be referred to an interventional cardiologist, that include heart attack, heart valve disease, coronary artery disease and more. Mansoor Ahmad, M.D., FACC, FSCAI, will be seeing patients weekly beginning Feb. 19 at 310 W. Ninth St., Unit 10. Dr. Ahmad is board certified in interventional cardiology, cardiovascular disease, echocardiography, nuclear cardiology, physicians' vascular interpretation and internal medicine. He completed his residency at the esteemed Cleveland Clinic. Additionally, he further honed his skills through a fellowship at Christiana Care Health System in Delaware. As time goes on, Dr. Ahmad will be joined by fellow Meritus interventional cardiologist Stephen Williams, M.D., MPH. Dr. Williams, a distinguished graduate of Harvard Medical School, is board certified in both general cardiology and interventional cardiology. He routinely treats patients with heart attacks and coronary artery disease and specializes in peripheral artery disease and vascular intervention. “We have a good group of cardiologists and interventional cardiologists who are providing world-class care,” Dr. Ahmad said. “We’re already seeing patients from Frederick here in Hagerstown, so it’s important to expand our care there.” By having office hours in Frederick, patients will be able to meet and speak with the doctor performing an outpatient procedure closer to home. This also prevents them from having to shuttle between doctors. “Our goal is to provide good care,” Dr. Ahmad said. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 240-458-3490 or visit MeritusHealth.com/Cardiology.