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Elevating Health

Elevating Health is a series of 1-minute informational segments about health topics that matter to you and your family. Tune in to Connecticut Public Radio weekday afternoons to learn about important medical advances, new procedures, and ground-breaking treatments to help you get well and stay well. Elevating Health is funded by Hartford HealthCare.

Hartford HealthCare offers a wide array of FREE, virtual classes, webinars and support groups that you can join from the convenience and privacy of your home. For more information: HartfordHealthCare.org/VirtualClasses

Aspirin & Heart Health: Dr. Stephanie Saucier

New federal recommendations say that those over 60 should not take daily aspirin for primary prevention against heart attack and stroke. Dr Stephanie saucier, director of the Women’s Heart Wellness program at the Hartford HealthCare Heart and Vascular Institute, says there are some patients who should still take that daily tablet.

The Women’s Heart Wellness Program represents Hartford HealthCare’s dedication to identifying, treating and, whenever possible, preventing cardiovascular disease in women.

“I have prescribed aspirin for primary prevention; however I do not prescribe it for all comers,” said Dr. Stephanie Saucier, director of Women’s Heart Wellness Program with the Hartford HealthCare Heart & Vascular Institute at Hartford Hospital. “The idea that aspirin should be given to all patients for primary prevention of cardiovascular disease is no longer the mainstay of therapy.”

Read more:

Why The Shift in Recommending Daily Aspirin For Heart Health?

FREE virtual webinar: Wednesday, December 8

Register HERE

Join board-certified cardiologist, Dr. Stephanie Saucier as she discusses the common tests for your heart. Learn what they are, what they help diagnose and what they mean. Dr. Saucier will talk about what you should expect before, during and after having a test. PLUS, a LIVE Q&A with the doctor will follow the presentation.

Prostate Exams: Dr. Joseph Wagner

Dr. Joseph Wagner, a surgeon with the Hartford HealthCare Tallwood Urology and Kidney Institute, says he still recommends in-office prostate exams during men’s regular physical exam with their primary care provider. Dr. Wagner also weighs in on the importance of PSA screening.

A study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute indicated that a U.S. Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommendation five years ago downplaying the need for annual prostate specific antigen (PSA) screening in all men triggered the increase. At the same time, the incidence of early disease decreased, leading study authors to assert that the screening decline caused more cases to advance before being discovered.

“When the PSA was first used to screen for prostate cancer in the 1990s, there was a huge increase in the number of cases being diagnosed, and the number of deaths started to decline because we were finding cancer and treating it early,” Dr. Wagner said. “At the same time, we were diagnosing a bunch of cases that never needed to be treated.

Read more:

Where Does PSA Test Fit in Prostate Cancer Diagnosis?

Related article:

The Care Gap Between Black and White Men With Prostate Cancer

Epilepsy with Dr. Gabriel Martz

Dr Gabriel Martz, the director of Hartford HealthCare’s Ayer Neuroscience Institute Epilepsy Center, describes epileptic seizures as a short circuit of sorts in the brain. “Any disturbance of the brain can cause a seizure.” He explains that epilepsy is a chronic state where those seizures keep happening.

Long-term monitoring of seizures has helped Dr. Martz and his colleagues better determine treatment option for their epileptic patients.

“We’ve had patients we have cured of epilepsy but they’re so anxious that they might have a seizure that they’re really limiting their own lives. As soon as a patient walks through our doors, we’re going to do everything we can to help them.”

Download the free Epilepsy Brochure

Read more: The ‘Complex Set of Tools’ Needed When Epilepsy Is More Than Repeated Seizures

Diabetic Eye Disease with Dr. Raji Mulukutla

Dr. Raji Mulukutla, an ophthalmologist with Hartford Hospital’s Eye Surgery Center, says most diabetic eye disease is preventable. Annual visits, with a dilated exam is key.

Symptoms of diabetic eye disease can include:

1. blurry or wavy vision

2. frequently changing vision

3. dark areas or vision loss

4. flashes or spots of light (also called floaters)

Dr. Mulukutla, who is on the staff at Hartford Hospital Eye Surgery Center, is board-certified and a member of numerous professional organizations, including the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery.

Find an ophthalmologist

Related article: What You Can Do About Eyesight as You Age

Pancreatic Cancer with Dr. Lindsay Bliss

Dr. Lindsay Bliss, a surgeon with the Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute and Digestive Health Center says tumor boards are one of the most important aspect that the Cancer Institute can offer patients. “It’s a true multidisciplinary look at their care,” she explains. “We work together on a daily basis and keep a dialog going about the quality and quantity of their care.”

Dr. Bliss also stresses that seeing someone trained Hepato-Pancreato-Biliary for pancreatic disease is key.

Join a free webinar on Nov. 16 with Dr. Lindsay Bliss

Webinar: Ask the Experts! What you need to know about pancreatic cancer

Related article: Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month: Pay Attention to Early Cues 

Dr. Diana James, Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute, Breast Screening

Dr. Diana James, a radiologist working with the Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute, reminds women 40 and over to schedule their annual mammogram, especially if they’ve been putting it off.

“Typically, they tell you to start screening 10 years before the youngest diagnosed female relative,” said James.

Dr. James explains why breast screening may be especially important this year.

“We track breast cancer detection rates, which are the number of cancers diagnosed per 1,000 women screened. That rate dropped from 4.8 to 2.6 in 2020 at Hartford Hospital, which is substantially lower than 2019,” she said. “Overall, the effect of the pandemic on screening for breast cancer is concerning to say the least.”

Experts with the National Cancer Institute predict there will be about 10,000 more deaths in the United States from breast and colorectal cancer alone in the next decade, directly stemming from pandemic-related delays in cancer screening and treatment.

Read the full article

Cancer Screenings Dip During COVID, Raising Fears of Spike in Serious Cases

Schedule your mammogram


Screening mammograms generally take about 15 minutes. 

Download this free informational resource to learn more about this crucial diagnostic tool, how important it is to your overall health and how experts with Connecticut’s largest breast care center and radiology groups can help.

Download the free guide

Dr. Heather King, Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute, Breast Surgery

The life changing diagnosis of a breast cancer brings with it surgical decisions for new patients. Dr. Heather King, a breast surgeon with the Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute, says there are several factors that determine that path.

The hidden scar surgical technique is allowing more women to undergo surgery with much less scarring and more preservation of the breast. Dr. King explains: “It is allowing women to undergo surgery where the surgeon can then place the scars either around the areola or in the fold of their breasts, or from the armpit location.”

How many of those requiring breast surgery can benefit from this technique? “I would say about 80 to 85 percent benefit from the hidden scar technique,” said Dr. King. “It ultimately depends on the size of the location of your cancer and the shape of your breast.”

Listen to the full interview

Medical Rounds with Dr. Heather King

Schedule your mammogram


Screening mammograms generally take about 15 minutes. 

Download this free informational resource to learn more about this crucial diagnostic tool, how important it is to your overall health and how experts with Connecticut’s largest breast care center and radiology groups can help.

Download the free guide

Dr. Thomas McDonald, MD
Chris Rakoczy
Dr. Thomas McDonald, MD

Dr. Tom McDonald: Bunions

For those suffering from bunions, it’s not always just a cosmetic deformity. Dr. Tom McDonald is foot and ankle surgeon at the Hartford HealthCare Bone and Joint Institute.

Bunions can not only be painful but can also interfere with our day-to-day lives. Dr. McDonald explains that there are minimally invasive surgical options can have very positive results when simple non-surgical solutions aren’t working.

Additional resources:

What is a bunion?

Bunion surgery overview

Dr. Geoffrey Emerick, MD
Chris Rakoczy
Dr. Geoffrey Emerick, MD

Dr. Geoffrey Emerick: Glaucoma 

While glaucoma includes several types of eye conditions, they all result damage to the optic nerve, possible blindness if untreated. Dr. Geoffrey Emerick is an ophthalmologist with the Hartford Hospital Eye Surgery center.

Emerick says those over 60, Black and Hispanic patients, and those with a family history are at a higher risk for glaucoma. If you do have that family history you should start getting eye exams in your 40s as opposed to your 60s.

Related article: Eight Signs You Might Need An Eye Exam

Dr. Tonya Ruggieri: Transcranial magnetic stimulation therapy or TMS

Millions of Americans struggle with depression, but many of them are finding magnetic pulses are helping to restore their mental equilibrium and happiness. Transcranial magnetic stimulation therapy, or TMS, uses an MRI strength magnetic pulse to stimulate the area of the brain thought to cause depression.

Dr. Tonya Ruggieri is a psychiatrist at Hartford HealthCare’s Institute of Living, one of the first medical facilities in the state to offer the therapy. She says TMS is for patients with major depressive orders that are not responding to medication trials. A typical course is six weeks long and up to two-thirds of patients respond very well to treatment and experience relief from their symptoms of depression.

Related article:
Her Life-Saving Relief From Major Depression: TMS’ 3,000 Magnetic Pulses

Type 2 Diabetes

Dr. Eglis Bogdanovics, a Hartford Healthcare Medical Group endocrinologist with the Diabetes Center at Charlotte Hungerford Hospital in Torrington, discusses the different paths taken with managing Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, as well as some of the alarming risks of not treating diabetes in the latest episode of Hartford HealthCare’s More Life podcast.

What’s the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes?

“I like to use the analogy of a lock and a key,” says Dr. Bogdanovics. “Both types of diabetes are pretty much an inability to use glucose or sugar as fuel, so they don’t have any of the keys for that lock.

”And while we typically see Type 2 diabetes later in life, these days, with our children being more overweight than in the past, we’re starting to see Type 2 diabetes in younger kids.”

Listen to the full episode

Esketamine Treatment

Sometimes medication and therapy cannot help with treatment-resistant depression. It might be time to try a different, more innovative approach.

Esketamine is a nasal spray approved in March 2019, by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use with an oral antidepressant for people with “treatment-resistant depression” or MDD that does not respond over time to different medications or treatment.

Read More:

Edoscopic Technology with Dr. Stefan Kachala

Dr. Stefan Kachala is the first person at Hartford HealthCare trained to use the Monarch Platform. The Monarch Platform allows a physician to use a device, similar to a gaming controller, to navigate the flexible, robotic endoscope with an attached camera all the way to the edge of the lung. It combines traditional endoscopic views into the lung with computer-generated navigation based on 3D models of the patient’s lung anatomy and provides continuous bronchoscope vision throughout the entire procedure.

“I have more precision in my movements,” said Dr. Kachala. “We are able to diagnose early lung cancers using a safer and highly precise and accurate method.”

For more information on the The Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute at The Hospital of Central Connecticut, click here.


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Related article:

Elevating Health_IOL Medical Track Program

Young adults often have trouble navigating the transition to adult roles, especially if they are also dealing with significant medical conditions which can be difficult to manage.

The Young Adult Services Medical Track at Hartford HealthCare’s Institute of Living is an intensive outpatient program that helps support patients, with a focus on the intrinsic connection between mental and physical health.

Dr. David Bendor is the program’s clinical coordinator. In this episode of Hartford HealthCare’s More Life podcast, he shares some compelling stories of the challenges faced by younger people with a dual diagnosis of behavioral and physical health conditions.

Listen to the full podcast

Related article:

Dr. Stephanie Alessi-LaRosa - Baseball Batters at Risk

With baseball pitchers at all levels hurling balls dangerously fast, more batters are being hit and injured than ever before.

Some coaches and fans might see that as peak performance, but it has led to more serious injuries for batters, catchers fielding scorching hurls and even fans in the stands when a pitch goes wild.

“I have seen patients from various levels of baseball participation who were hit by a pitch. These fast pitches most commonly affect catchers when they hit their mask or the batter tips one that hits the catcher. They often cause concussions based on the significant impact from this biomechanical force to the brain,” said Dr. Stephanie Alessi-LaRosa, associate director of the Hartford HealthCare Ayer Neuroscience Institute Sports Neurology Program and program director of its new sports neurology fellowship.

Read More:

Dr. Ryan Dorin, Tallwood Urology & Kidney Institute: Prostate Cancer-Virtual Visits

Hartford HealthCare’s Tallwood Urology & Kidney Institute and Cancer Institute have collaborated to offer virtual visits that bring your urologist, medical oncologist and radiation oncologist together for a single, two-hour session that you can join from the privacy and convenience of home. Learn more

The Tallwood Urology & Kidney Institute is part of an extensive preferred provider network offering the highest standard of care at every level of treatment – beginning in the hospital and extending to their continuing care at home. With excellent and comprehensive communication throughout the network, every healthcare provider involved in your care uses the very best practices to care for you post-surgically.

Hartford HealthCare and the Tallwood Urology & Kindney Institute offer a wide array of FREE online classes that you can take at your convenience.

Dr. Alan Solinsky, Hartford Hospital’s Eye Surgery Center

If you don’t have a cataract, chances are you know someone who does. Cataracts — a clouding of the eye’s lens that results in decreased vision — are fairly common, with most people developing them with age. Fortunately, surgery to remove the cataract can usually return vision to normal.

Dr. Alan Solinsky is an ophthalmologist with Hartford Hospital’s Eye Surgery Center. Founded in 1998, the Eye Surgery Center provides surgical care for cataracts, glaucoma, corneal disease and select retinal diseases. The Center performs more than 10,000 procedures a year, the vast majority of them cataracts.

Elevating Health: MMA Dr. Narapareddy

Dr. Bharat Narapareddy is a neuropsychiatrist at the Institute of Living, part of the Hartford HealthCare Behavioral Health Network. He’s also a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Dr. Narapareddy is part of a collaborative research team who recently published a study on brain changes in professional fighters based on weight class. He helps us better understand the effect repeated blows to the head have on brain structure and function over time.

Listen to Dr. Narapareddy on Hartford HealthCare’s More Life podcast

MMA Guidance from a Black Belt Physician

Elevating Health: Robotic Surgery Dr. Wagner

Dr. Joseph Wagner is Chief of Urology and Director of Robotic Surgery at Hartford Hospital. This month marks the 20th anniversary of FDA approval for robotic prostatectomy and Dr. Wagner was one of the first in the nation to perform this groundbreaking procedure. He’ll take us back to what that was like for him and for the patient – and he’ll also describe how this technology has changed over the past two decades.

Learn more about Robotic Surgery at Hartford HealthCare's Tallwood Urology & Kidney Institute.

Listen to Dr. Wagner on Hartford HealthCare’s More Life podcast

A Robotic Evolution

Atherosclerosis, better known as clogged arteries, is the thickening of the arteries caused by a buildup of cholesterol or other fatty substances

Dr. Heather Swales is a cardiologist with the Hartford HealthCare Heart & Vascular Institute. She is also Co-Medical Director of Hartford HealthCare’s Women’s Heart Wellness program.

Dr. Swales says the most common symptom is chest discomfort, but there can be more subtle symptoms such as fatigue, nausea, or indigestion.

Atherosclerosis can happen in all arteries. If you have atherosclerosis in one of your arteries, there is a good chance that you have atherosclerosis in other blood vessels throughout your body.

Learn more about the risks, diagnosis and treatment of atherosclerosis.

Increased COVID Risk for Parkinson’s Patients

A study by the Hartford HealthCare Chase Family Movement Disorder Center shows the possible long term effect of COVID-19 on patients with Parkinson’s disease. Dr. Toni de Marcaida is the Center’s Medical Director.

The results of the study indicate that patients with movement disorders, with or without dementia, are at increased risk of severe bouts of COVID-19, are more likely to require hospitalization and may have a higher risk of death. In fact, they suggested tailoring screening questions for this group to determine if symptoms of their movement disorder – diminished cognition, confusion and/or lethargy – had worsened.

Read more

Am I eligible to receive the COVID vaccine?

As of April 1, if you’re 16 and older, and live or work in Connecticut, YES! There are no other qualifications. Live here? Work here? Get your shot here!

Hartford HealthCare patients age 16 and older who have not been vaccinated will be notified by text or email when vaccine appointments are available. These patients WILL NOT NEED to schedule using MyChartPLUS, but will be able to click a special link that will take them right to the page showing available appointments.

Learn more at hartfordhealthcare.org/health-wellness/covid-vaccine.

COVID Recovery Center

Hartford HealthCare treated thousands of COVID patients. We know many continue to face lingering side effects, and we will help patients get the care they need to better recover from the illness.

Connecticut was one of the hardest-hit states early in the pandemic. And as the number of recovered COVID-19 patients continues to grow, we see many patients looking for guidance and help as they continue to have symptoms such as fatigue, cough, shortness of breath, confusion, depression and memory issues, among others. These symptoms can be debilitating, often preventing people from returning back to their pre-COVID work and physical activity routines. Hartford HealthCare is here to help you live your healthiest life.

Learn more about Hartford HealthCare’s COVID Recovery Center

Cancer and the COVID Vaccine

Are you eligible for the COVID vaccine?

If you’re 45 and older, and live or work in Connecticut, YES! There are no other qualifications.

If you are eligible for the vaccine - you can schedule and appointment, request a call or browse more resources and information at Hartford HealthCare’s VacciNation page.

Cancer screenings and COVID

Hartford HealthCare screened 25 percent fewer women for breast cancer in 2020, another likely consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Experts with the National Cancer Institute predict there will be about 10,000 more deaths in the United States from breast and colorectal cancer alone in the next decade, directly stemming from pandemic-related delays in cancer screening and treatment.

“Cancer screenings save lives by diagnosing the disease at its earliest stages when it is more easily and effectively treated,” said Dr. Pallvi Popli, a medical oncologist with the Cancer Institute. “Delay in diagnosis will likely lead to cancer presentations at more advanced stages, from curable to becoming non-curable, which will result in poorer clinical outcomes and decreased life expectancy.”

Learn more

Keith Grant, Senior System Director of Infection Prevention at Hartford HealthCare, talks about some positive trends we are seeing right now in the state of Connecticut, which include lower COVID and flu numbers overall and fewer cases of cluster spreading. He also provides some encouraging data about vaccine efficacy against new COVID variants, and vaccine brand options we should all consider.

Listen to the full Hartford HealthCare podcast episode: Which shot is the best shot?

More resources and links:

"Hartford HealthCare’s Vaccine News & Resources"

The arrival of the first COVID-19 vaccine in Connecticut is a historic scientific breakthrough. It promises to help control the pandemic, minimize loss of life and restore a sense of normalcy to our daily lives.

"Hartford HealthCare’s COVID Recovery Center Is Organized Around YOU"

Hartford HealthCare treated thousands of COVID patients. We know many continue to face lingering side effects, and we will help patients get the care they need to better recover from the illness. Hartford HealthCare’s COVID Recovery Center is organized around YOU. If you are experiencing side effects such as lung, heart and behavioral health complications, we can help.

If you or a loved one needs help after recovering from COVID-19, call 860.827.3200 to schedule a virtual or in-person appointment.

"Alternatives to Opioids for Pain"

No pain pills post-surgery? It's possible with a revolutionary pain management program which utilizes nerve blocking to mitigate pain and reduce the need for opioids and other pain medications. In this episode, you'll meet the surgeon, Dr. Girard Girasole, the anesthesiologist, Dr. Theresa Bowling, and the patient, Vince, who recently underwent spine surgery using nerve blocking and got his life back - pain free.

Learn more about Spine Care at Hartford HealthCare or listen to the full podcast episode Blocking Pain: A game-changer for spine surgery patients.

"Better Than Normal Healthcare After COVID-19"

Hartford HealthCare President and CEO Jeff Flaks discusses lessons learned over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. He’ll explain how new safety precautions and other initiatives are taking us beyond a new normal – to a “better than normal” future in healthcare. Listen to the full podcast episode here. This episode was recorded in June, 2020.

Hartford HealthCare has treated thousands of COVID-19 patients, many of whom are still struggling with lingering side effects. If you or a loved one needs help after recovering from COVID-19, Hartford HealthCare’s COVID Recovery Center can help. Call 860.827.3200 to schedule a virtual or in person appointment.