Surgical Weight Loss — Is it Right for You?

For some people battling obesity, surgery can be the best solution.

Obesity is a growing medical concern in the United States. For some people who are severely obese, weight-loss surgery provides a way for them to lose weight.

Who Is a Candidate?

Also called bariatric surgery, weight-loss surgery is meant for people who:

  • Have a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or more or have a BMI of 35 or more and also have one or more health conditions related to their obesity, such as:
    • Type 2 diabetes
    • Heart disease
    • Sleep apnea

The U.S. government has also approved one form of bariatric surgery, a gastric bypass, for people with a BMI of 30 or more and a health condition associated with obesity.

Other Considerations

People who fit the guidelines above need to consider several other things before deciding to pursue bariatric surgery. They should:

  • Be committed to losing weight to improve their health
  • Believe they can’t lose and keep off weight using other methods
  • Be prepared for changes in their lifestyle, which can include:
    • No longer eating large meals
    • Having to chew all foods thoroughly
    • Giving up certain foods they once enjoyed
    • Committing to regular physical activity
    • Having regular medical checkups
    • Taking extra vitamins and minerals
  • Recognize the risks of surgery and that the surgery does not guarantee weight loss
  • Realize they may regain weight they do lose

Types of Bariatric Surgery

Depending on the patient, a surgeon might recommend one of several types of bariatric surgery:

  • Adjustable gastric band
  • Gastric bypass
  • Vertical sleeve gastrectomy
  • Duodenal switch

Laproscopic surgery, using small incisions to operate, is most often used today, but in some cases patients might need to undergo open surgery, which results in longer hospital stays and slower recovery times.

As Sparks Regional Medical Center, our surgical staff routinely helps people struggling with obesity and related health issues. Bariatric surgery at Sparks goes beyond the operating room, as we also offer nutrition and fitness education to give patients the tools they need to maintain long-term weight loss. Check with your doctor if this surgery is right for you. For help scheduling an appointment with one of our doctors, call (479) 709-DOCS (3627) or (877) 709-DOCS.

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5 Foods to Eat When You Have Diabetes

These foods can help you control your diabetes.

By now, most Americans know that the foods we eat play an important role in our overall health. Food is especially important for people with diabetes. Certain foods containing carbohydrates score high on the glycemic index (GI), which means they boost blood glucose (sugar) levels—something diabetics want to avoid. For American Diabetes Month, here’s a look at five foods that score low on the index and offer other health benefits.


Along with being a good source of protein and fiber, beans are fairly low on the GI. Some good choices include:

  • Black beans
  • Pinto beans
  • Navy beans
  • Kidney beans

When using canned beans, be sure to drain and rinse them first.


Many fruits are good for us, but berries are increasingly turning out to be “superfoods” that contain antioxidants and other powerful nutrients. Some berries to add to your diet include:

  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Cranberries
  • Strawberries

Dark Green, Leafy Vegetables

Low in both calories and carbohydrates, most greens can be used in many ways—eaten raw in salads, sautéed, or added to soups and stews. Good leafy greens include:

  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Collard greens

Nuts and Seeds

Although they can be high in fat, nuts and seeds have many proven health benefits. Walnuts and flaxseeds, for example, are great sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which are thought to protect against heart disease.

Whole Grains

Many Americans eat foods with processed grains. But whole grains contain more nutrients and have a lower score on the GI. Some options for whole grains include:

  • Whole-grain breads and pastas
  • Brown rice
  • Oatmeal
  • Pearled barley
  • Cereals made from barley or bran
  • Quinoa
  • Buckwheat

Common Foods to Avoid

Along with eating these and other low-GI superfoods, people with diabetes should avoid some foods, including:

  • Whole-fat dairy products
  • Processed foods high in added sugar
  • Sugary drinks, including:
    • Energy drinks
    • Soft drinks
    • Fruit drinks
    • Sweet tea
  • Meats high in fat
  • Coconut or palm oil
  • Lard

At Sparks Regional Medical Center, we know that diabetes can be controlled, and diet is just one part of the equation. Our outpatient Diabetes Self Management program can help people with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes. A doctor’s referral is needed. For help finding a doctor, call us at (479) 709-DOCS (3627) or (877) 709-DOCS.

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Fight the Flu

Make sure you and your loved ones get a flu shot this season.

It happens every year: Flu viruses spread across the country, putting people in bed for days and even threatening some lives. While seasonal influenza is a health hazard, new vaccines are produced annually to reduce its reach.

The Vaccination Station

The Centers for Disease Control recommend that everyone over the age of six months get an annual influenza vaccination. Here in Fort Smith, the Sparks Clinic’s Vaccination Station is now open to provide adult flu vaccines. Here are the details:

  • You must be 18 years or older.
  • No appointment is necessary—just walk in.
  • Medicare and insurance are accepted. The cost without insurance is $28 for the flu shot.
  • The Vaccination Station is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. and is located at the Sparks Medical Plaza, 1504 Dodson Avenue.

High-Risk Groups

Getting a vaccination is particularly important for people who are at greater risk of developing serious complications from the flu. This includes:

  • People 65 and older
  • Young children, especially under two years old
  • Pregnant women
  • People with certain health conditions such as:
    • Asthma
    • Cerebral palsy
    • Epilepsy
    • Muscular dystrophy
    • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
    • Cystic fibrosis
    • Heart disease
    • Blood, endocrine, kidney, or liver disorders
    • Weakened immune system due to disease or medication, such as HIV or AIDS, or cancer

When to Get Your Shot

Flu can begin to appear and spread as early as October, with activity usually peaking between December and February. It takes about two weeks after the flu shot for the body to be protected from infection, so the CDC suggests people get vaccinated early so they are protected before influenza begins spreading in the community.

At Sparks Regional Medical Center, we know the importance of vaccinations of all kinds to fight the spread of flu and other serious diseases. But when an illness does strike, we’re ready to help. Call us at (479) 709-DOCS (3627) or (877) 709-DOCS if you need help scheduling an appointment with one of our doctors.

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Summit Nurse Doesn’t Get “Bugged” by Fighting Illnesses

For more than three decades, Beth Puckett, Registered Nurse (RN) has walked the halls of Summit Medical Center with one goal: to help others.

In her 32 year career at the hospital, Puckett has worked on every nursing floor in almost every nursing job.  She now serves as the Infection Prevention and Employee Health nurse for the hospital.  Her job often puts her in the role of educator as much as nurse.  This time of year, she usually has a needle in her hand, vaccinating staff members against the flu. “I tell everyone to get vaccinated, and dispute the rumor that the flu shot will give you the flu.  That just isn’t true,” said Puckett.

Puckett’s job as Infection Prevention nurse also takes her to schools around the area to teach about how to stop the spread of illness due to infection.  “The biggest thing is hand hygiene, and no touching in the “T” zone,” added Puckett. The “T” zone Puckett refers to is the eyes, nose and mouth area on the face.  According to Puckett, one of the best ways to prevent illness is to keep your hands away from this area of your face.

Puckett takes her hand washing demonstrations to schools, recently teaching the health classes at Ramsey Junior High.  “A lot of people do not use enough soap or hand sanitizer or put soap on and then immediately dip their hands in the water,” said Puckett.

Puckett not only helps area schools, but has made an impact on quality around the state through her work on State Quality Awards which Summit Medical Center has received in recent years.  Her biggest accomplishment is the Innovator Awards the hospital won from the Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care. With the awards, protocols and procedures put in place at Summit to prevent infection have been shared with hospitals state-wide to help improve other hospitals’ infection rates.

Though Puckett doesn’t take risks when it comes to infection, she can be described as a daredevil on her time off.  She has been zip-lining, white water rafting, and deep sea snorkeling.  Despite her love of the outdoors, Puckett says she keeps coming back each day to Summit because it gives her purpose.  “A job with a purpose in helping others makes you feel fulfilled at the end of the day,” said Puckett.


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Should Your Child Get Vaccinations?

As school starts again, many families with children are faced with questions about vaccinations.

Does my child need those shots?

The simple answer is “yes.”  Not only do the vaccinations protect your children, they protect your community.  Many vaccinations are not 100 percent effective, so say they are 90 percent.  In order to avoid epidemics, we need most of the children to get them.  While the concept of “herd immunity” isn’t exactly flattering, watch a group of second graders returning from the playground and you’ll get the idea.

Do we need all the vaccines?  Well, what epidemic would you choose?  Even in diseases that are often not fatal, the vaccines prevent pain and suffering. Consider chicken pox.  Before the vaccine, about 11,000 people in the United States were hospitalized every year and 100 to 150 died from it.  Since the vaccine was introduced in 1995, the death rate has dropped by over 90%.

Do vaccines cause autism?

Well, there has been a lot of speculation.  The debate started when Andrew Wakefield published in THE LANCET in 1998 a study linking the MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) vaccine to autism.  That study has been retracted and Wakefield later lost his medical license when it was uncovered that a law firm paid Wakefield, and the data had been altered.

Numerous pediatric experts and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have supported vaccines and questioned such findings.  Perhaps, it is more likely that the autism already existed and that it was noticed at ages when children are getting vaccines and getting more socialized.  I wonder if more claims are made by single children families than by families with multiple children?

In any event, I thank God every day for the CDC, for the miracle of vaccines, and for the unraveling of DNA which will lead to better understanding and prevention of diseases.

Ponder this: Even in countries with Ebola, it is a relatively small bump on the side of other public health problems we don’t have.  But just in case, once you’re done reading this, wash your hands.

Bruce Cross, M.D.

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Prostate Cancer: What You Need to Know

Men and their loved ones need to know about this potentially deadly disease.

Among men, prostate cancer is second only to skin cancer as the most commonly diagnosed form of the disease. The prostate is part of the male reproductive system and cancer there frequently occurs in older men. September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, so let's look at this common but highly curable disease.

Risk Factors

The risk factors for prostate cancer include:

  • Age – more than half of all cases are diagnosed in men over 65, and the risk rises once men reach 50
  • Family history – men who had a brother or father diagnosed with prostate cancer are at a greater risk
  • Race and nationality – incidences of prostate cancer are higher for:

    • African Americans
    • Caribbean men with African roots
    • Men living in North America


At its earliest stages, prostate cancer might not trigger any symptoms. Later on, common symptoms include:

  • Trouble urinating, such as having a slow or weak stream
  • More frequent urination, especially at night
  • Trouble getting an erection
  • Pain in the hips, spine, or ribs
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control

The first two symptoms can appear with a much less threatening condition called benigh prostatic hyperplasia (BHP). Inform a doctor if you experience those symptoms.

Diagnosing Prostate Cancer

Doctors have used both digital exams and a blood test called prostate-specific antigen (PSA) as routine methods for detecting prostate cancer. Recent studies, however, show that a positive PSA result leads to some men receiving unnecessary treatment for a cancer that might not have spread and caused future health problems. Men at high risk should have routine PSA screening, but many men over 50 probably don’t need it. If you have questions, check with your doctor.

At Sparks Regional Medical Center, we think it’s important to keep the community informed about prostate cancer. On Tuesday, September 16, Dr. Matei Andreoui will be the speaker at a Lunch & Learn program about prostate cancer screening and diagnosis.The talk is free and lunch will be provided for those who register. For more information about the program go here, or call  (479) 709-DOCS to reserve your spot. 

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Tips on How to Keep Your Kids Active

Physical activity has many health benefits for children.

Playing and staying active may seem like a normal part of childhood. But in the United States, childhood obesity is on the rise, in part because too many kids don’t get the physical activity they need. Staying active helps children maintain a healthy weight, develop strong bones, boost their emotional well-being, and stay focused in school. Here are some ways to help the kids in your life get the benefits of physical activity.

Basic Tips

Before signing a child up for a team sport or other regimented activity, keep these tips in mind:

  • Choose the right activity for a child’s age. Preschoolers should do activities that are part of normal play, since they lack the motor skills for more complex sports. Encourage them to do such things as:

    • Ride a tricycle
    • Toss or kick a ball
    • Play tag
  • Have children two years and older participate in 60 minutes of varied, moderate physical activity every day, with the activities appropriate for their age.
  • Choose activities that are fun.
  • When possible, do the activities as a family.
  • Set a good example by staying physically active yourself.

Understand Your Child

For some older kids who are athletically inclined, playing a school or recreational team sport will come naturally. They will seek out the activities they excel at and that excite them. But other children are not interested in team sports. Encourage them to take part in individual pursuits, such as:

  • Dance
  • Martial arts
  • Tennis
  • Skateboarding
  • Hiking
  • Inline skating
  • Gymnastics
  • Running

Try a Range of Activities

Staying active doesn’t necessarily mean playing a sport or doing exercise. Some easy ways to build activity into a child’s life include:

  • Walking or cycling to local stores or friends’ houses
  • Doing chores around the house
  • Visiting attractions that encourage walking, such as zoos and national parks
  • Going to local playgrounds
  • Playing miniature golf

Encouraging children to become active when they’re young sets a healty pattern that can last a lifetime. But even with plenty of exercise and a good diet, kids can need medical care—and the Pediatrics Department at Sparks Regional Medical Center is ready to help. If you need a pediatrician, call us at (479) 709-3627.

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How to Protect Your Skin in the Summer

Take the proper precautions to prevent skin problems.

By now most people know that too much exposure to sunlight is the leading cause of skin cancer. Sunlight can also trigger problems in people who are taking certain prescription medications. Enjoy the summer sun, but make sure you take steps to protect your skin.

Put on Sunscreen

Applying sunscreen to exposed parts of your body reduces your exposure to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) A and B rays. Follow these guidelines for buying the right sunscreen and using it properly:

  • Choose a product with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 and one designed to protect against both UVA and UVB rays.
  • Apply it generously to all exposed parts of the body.
  • Put on the first application of sunscreen about 15 to 30 minutes before going outdoors, then reapply every two hours.
  • If you’re going to be in the water or sweating, use products with longer-lasting formulas designed for those conditions. Put on more sunscreen after you get out of the water.

Avoid the Sun

If possible, limit your time in the sun by:

  • Staying inside between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the rays are strongest
  • Seeking shade from a tree or building
  • Creating your own shade with an umbrella or canopy

Choose the Right Clothes

For outdoor apparel, choose:

  • A wide-brimmed hat
  • Lightweight, long-sleeved shirts and pants
  • Sunglasses that screen out both UVA and B rays

Also, consider buying clothes with special ultraviolet protection. These items are rated on an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) scale that goes from 15 to 50. This clothing is especially helpful for:

  • Children
  • People with extremely light or extra-sensitive skin
  • People spending time outdoors where sun exposure is strongest, such as at high altitudes or near water

At Sparks Regional Medical Center, we know summertime means having fun in the sun. But make sure you protect you and your family’s skin. And if outdoor activities lead to accidents, our Boreham Emergency Center is ready to help 24/7. If you have other medical needs and want help setting up an appointment with one of our doctors, call 479- 709-3627 or 877-709-3627.

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5 Reasons Why You Should Donate Blood

Think about how your blood can help others live.

For people who suffer a severe accident, undergo surgery, or have certain medical conditions, having access to a safe supply of blood is critical. But that blood only comes from people who choose to donate some of their own. People who regularly give blood have many reasons why they make the time and effort to do so. Here are five reasons to consider why you should give blood.

Blood is Often in Short Supply

The American Red Cross estimates that in the United States, someone needs a blood transfusion every two seconds. Adding to the constant demand, shortages sometimes occur because of harsh weather, such as the ice storms Arkansas experienced in the winter of 2013-14. The demand could be better met if more adults eligible to donate actually did. And the blood from a single donation can help up to three people.

Donating Blood is Safe and Easy

Donors go through a four-step process that takes about 45 minutes, and the actual blood donation takes only about 10 minutes. The four steps are:

  • Registration
  • Medical history
  • The actual donation (done using a sterile, single-use needle)
  • Rest and refreshments

You Get a Free Mini-Physical

As part of the screening process, donors have these body conditions checked:

  • Temperature
  • Blood pressure
  • Pulse
  • Hemoglobin level (a component of blood; abnormal levels can indicate a health problem)

You May Be a Universal Donor

If you’re among the roughly 7 percent of Americans with type O-negative blood, your donation can be given to someone with any blood type.

Giving Blood Is Good For You

When you give blood, you not only have that nice feeling of helping others. Studies show that you’re also lowering your risk of having a heart attack or developing a cardiovascular disease.

At Sparks Regional Medical Center, we know the need for blood is great. We sponsor blood drives every six to eight weeks. To find out when the next one is taking place, call our Pastoral Care Office at 479-441-5452.

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5 Ways to Keep Your Family Safe

Taking these steps can prevent harmful accidents.

Accidents happen—it’s a fact of life. But that doesn’t mean we should avoid doing what we can to reduce the risk of them. June is National Safety Month, so we’re offering five tips that can keep your family safe.

Prevent and Prepare for Fires

Accidental fires are a leading cause of death. Ways to prevent fires include:

  • Keeping candles in sturdy holders in places where they can’t be easily knocked over
  • Putting out candles before going to bed
  • Keeping flammable items away from stoves and ovens
  • Turning off stove burners when leaving a room

To prepare for a fire, every family should have:

  • Smoke detectors, with the batteries replaced every year
  • A fire extinguisher
  • A planned escape route

Prevent Falls

Tripping and falling can lead to serious accidents, especially for the elderly. Here are some ways to prevent accidental trips:

  • Remove tripping hazards from stairs and walkways.
  • Keep electrical cords out of walkways.
  • Use non-skid mats under small throw rugs, or remove them all together.
  • Immediately clean up spilled liquids.
  • Keep outdoor walkways and steps in good repair.

Prevent of Electrical Shocks and Fires

Some tips for preventing electrocution and electrical fires include:

  • Not exceeding the recommended light bulb wattage on lamps
  • Installing ground fault circuit interrupters in any areas where water is present
  • Using safety covers on wall sockets if you have young children
  • Checking for damage on appliance cords

Reduce the Risk of Poisoning

Accidental poisoning, especially from prescription medicines, is a serious health hazard. Some ways to lower the risk of poisoning include:

  • Thowing out prescription drugs that are no longer needed or have expired
  • Reading the label before using products that may be poisonous
  • Storing chemical products only in their original containers
  • Not mixing together different chemical products
  • Using a carbon monoxide detector

Drive Safely

Car accidents kill 36,000 people every year. Safety precautions in the car include:

  • Wearing seat belts
  • Not using cell phones while driving
  • Not driving when tired or under the influence of drugs or alcohol

Even with these precautions, you or a loved one could suffer an accident. In an emergency call 911. At Sparks Regional Medical Center, our Boreham Emergency Center can handle any accident you encounter. We’re here for follow-up care too. Call (479) 709-3627 for help scheduling an appointment.

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