Category Archives: Healthy Living

Free Screenings – Check Your Cholesterol and Blood Pressure

Know Your Numbers and Have a Clear Vision for 2020

Bruce Ricker, D.O. recommends taking preventative steps to improve your long-term health

There’s an old saying that “Hindsight is 2020!” In the year 2020, health care professionals can almost predict the future as well. “Understanding your blood pressure and cholesterol numbers can prevent serious conditions in the future like heart attacks and strokes. We do routine exams and encourage everyone to know their numbers,” says Mount Ayr Medical Clinic physician Bruce Ricker, D.O. “It’s just like changing the oil in your car. Preventative maintenance means it will last longer. The same goes for our health.”

Although most adults these days know the dangers of being overweight, or smoking, or drinking too much, not everyone sticks with the lifestyle modifications that are required to make a lasting change. “A great start is tracking your numbers,” says Dr. Ricker. “Even better is working with a health coach. It’s free for Mount Ayr Medical Clinic patients and can be invaluable. We used to tell people about their numbers, and they’d understand the importance of keeping track of their sugars, blood pressure, and cholesterol. But over time, they would migrate back to their old habits. With a health coach, they stay on track. If someone is checking up on you, you’re not as likely to cheat.” Dr. Ricker added that he’s convinced the biggest reason for the improvement in his diabetes patients is the health coaches. “I’ve been preaching the same thing for years. But these coaches are like personal trainers. They keep people accountable. They make sure you’ve filled your prescription or are keeping a food log. And they provide support groups and counseling. I’ve seen huge progress compared to what we’ve seen in the past.”

According to Dr. Ricker, an important number that every adult needs to know is “30”. Exercising for 30 minutes a day, every day, is just as critical as eating a healthy diet. “In rural communities, many of us grew up on farms where the work was all done by hand. Now farming requires less physical activity.” He’s glad to see many younger people placing more emphasis on staying fit to be healthy. “I see lots of people running in 5Ks, using the hiking trails, and even using the hospital hallways for walking. It doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated. It just has to become a part of your daily routine.” A balanced diet that is primarily plant based is another good predictor of long-term health. Dr. Ricker admits that it’s sometimes difficult to find a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables in rural areas, especially during the winter. “But in many ways, we’re blessed. People can raise vegetables in their own gardens and freeze to eat year-round!” Knowing your numbers, eating well, and exercising often aren’t new concepts in healthcare. But they’re great reminders of what to focus on in 2020. 

Call to make an appointment for your annual physical and better understand your numbers 641-464-4470 and check out these free wellness tools.

Mammograms Make Sense

It’s breast Cancer Awareness Month, and once again the health care professionals at Ringgold County Hospital are strongly encouraging all women over the age of 40 to have an annual mammogram. It’s a simple, non-invasive procedure. “It’s only 10 minutes,” said Shelly Shields, medical imaging manager. “But those 10 minutes can save your life.”

Kelsey Mullins, left, and Shelly Shields, right

Why get a mammogram? Breast cancers found during a mammogram are more likely to be smaller and still confined to the breast. Finding breast cancer early (called early detection) can improve the chances that breast cancer can be treated successfully and with more treatment options, less extensive surgery, and ultimately, better treatment outcomes.

Who should get screened? The American Cancer Society’s breast cancer screening guidelines vary based on a woman’s age and risk factors for breast cancer. It’s generally agreed that annual mammograms for women over the age of 40 are recommended. Talk to your doctor about the screening plan that is best for you. While most people are aware of breast cancer, many forget to take the steps to have a plan to detect the disease in its early stages. The American Cancer Society encourages women to make healthy lifestyle choices such as eating a healthy diet, getting regular physical activity, and reducing alcohol intake. These choices can help reduce their breast cancer risk. The American Cancer Society also encourages regular
screenings to find breast cancer early, when it is most likely to be curable.

The big news in breast cancer detection is the 3D Mammography machine. Ringgold County Hospital acquired one a couple of years ago. “We decided the benefits far outweighed the costs. We really wanted to get it for our community,” said Shelly. The 3D Mammography machine brings the most advanced imaging available today to the area. Patients don’t have to travel to get the best of the best. “The convenience of it being right here means we’re detecting more breast cancers, earlier,” said Shelly. “Early detection is what saves lives.” The machine’s sophistication also means fewer women need to come back for a second set of images. “It’s low-dose radiation, and it reduces call-backs by 40%.” At Ringgold County Hospital, the benefits of high-tech imaging come with outstanding patient care. Shelly and Kelsey have been doing mammograms and other imaging for 30 years. Our patients are our friends, neighbors and family. “We want to help them be comfortable. Their experience is so important to us.” To learn more or schedule an appointment, call 641-464-4400.

Surgical Success

Ed Wehling, DO and Melissa Friedrich, CRNA

It’s been five and a half years since Dr. Ed Wehling arrived at Ringgold County Hospital. In that time, he and his team have performed countless surgeries and sent many patients home with a new lease on life. “We’re doing more and more procedures here because of word of mouth,” said Dr. Wehling. “Patients share their experiences, especially when the outcomes are life-changing.”

One of the more common procedures cures gastric reflux disease and hiatal hernias. “Many patients suffer from continual heartburn and chest pain that isn’t due to cardiac issues,” he explained. “Most are on several medications to manage symptoms like coughing and asthma because of continuous aspiration into the trachea. After the laparoscopic surgery, their symptoms are completely gone.” He added that patients typically go home after the surgery and after suffering for years, they no longer need to take any medication.

Dr. Wehling is also seeing excellent outcomes from performing endovascular surgeries. “We can treat problems affecting the blood vessels with a needle stick, and not an incision. Many patients think they’re just getting old and that’s why their legs hurt. But all leg pain is not because of aging or arthritis.” To encourage more people to pursue various options, he spends time on education and doing presentations in the community. “A lot of people still think that these options are only available in larger, city-based hospitals. We’ve got the technology and expertise right here. I think it’s important to let people know what we can do.” In addition to surgeries for existing conditions, Dr. Wehling and his team perform screenings like endoscopies and colonoscopies. “It used to be tough to sell someone on having a colonoscopy,” he admitted. “Scopes were bigger. Patients were given narcotics as anesthesia. The prep was bad. But now, there’s no excuse not to have a colonoscopy. It’s not uncomfortable. There’s no hangover feeling, and we may discover a polyp we can take out to save someone from full-on colon cancer.” Using the latest technologies combined with compassionate care, the surgical team at Ringgold County Hospital is changing lives and saving lives. “We just want to keep letting people know what we can do.” 

To set up a consultation with Dr. Wehling, call 641-464-4433.

Katie Smith: Coaching is her passion

Katie Smith, RN is excited about being a health coach

Would you want to learn football from a coach who never played? Of course not! We all want to be coached by people who understand the game, its challenges, and our own abilities. Which is why Katie Smith, the soon-to-be health coach at the Mount Ayr Medical Clinic believes she’s found her ideal role. “I’ve struggled with my weight, anemia, thyroid issues,” she explained. “I’m just like everyone else! I’m not this super-healthy person who’s naturally thin. I have to work on all of it.” Being able to relate to her patients makes Katie a great fit for the Health Coach role. “I like the preventative care aspect of nursing,” she said. “My focus is on wellness and how the mind, body, and spirit all work together. I say, let’s catch your high blood pressure now, before it gets really bad and you end up in the hospital. I enjoy keeping people healthy.”

A registered nurse, Katie is from Des Moines, and went to school and worked there in the Mercy Hospital System. After her mother moved to the Mount Ayr area, Katie started spending time here. “I was a single mom when my mom moved here. She was traveling to Des Moines on weekends to watch my daughter while I worked as a nurse. After a while, I moved here, and I commuted back to Des Moines to work.” She started going to school events, like football games, and just fell in love with the community. “I like that it’s laid back, there are no traffic lights, everyone knows your name, and everyone helps you out,” she said. “I wanted my daughter to grow up here.” So even though there were no job openings at Ringgold County Hospital, she put in an application and waited. In 2014, she got a call and was offered a job at RCH. A year later, she moved from the acute nursing team to the Mount Ayr Medical Clinic where she’s been for about four years. When Katie started college, she had three areas of interest: nursing, helping juvenile offenders, and psychology. “I decided to become a nurse so I could combine my interests.” She worked as a psych nurse, a cardiac nurse, and as an RN in acute care, so she’s seen and learned a lot. In her new role, she’ll have plenty of patient interaction as she works to keep people healthy and try to keep them out of the hospital. “When I was working on the [acute] floor at RCH I started training to run a 5K,” she said. “Then I did a half marathon. And then I ran a whole marathon! That’s when I fell in love with nutrition, wellness, and exercise. It all ties together! When I saw that the Health Coach position was open, I jumped on it. I have all kinds of ideas. I’m so excited!” Katie finished her Health Coach training in late March. (It was postponed due to inclement weather.) She anxious to dive in and get going. “It’s the perfect next step in my career!”

To make an appointment with Katie Smith, RN call 641-464-4533.