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Being Your Personal Best

September 20th, 2018

13 Healthy Aging Ideas to Keep You In Tip Top Condition  

If you look at popular culture today, it’s easy to be down about the aging process. Everyone wants to look young, stay young, feel young. Aging is a fact of life – but there are many things you can do to take control of your health and feel your best, no matter your age! 

We hope this list provides inspiration and practical ideas that you can use to improve your physical, mental and social wellbeing – in your 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and beyond! 

1. Think positively. It you catch yourself complaining or feeling irritable, make a switch in your mind to something uplifting. When you dwell on the negative, those thoughts tend to grow. The same is true with good thoughts. The right mindset can make or break your day.

2. Don’t act your age. Have you ever met someone who just seems young at heart? That attitude is a choice, not just a personality trait. Think back to a time in your life that you felt great – that could be 20, 35 or even 50 – and try to recreate those feelings of energy and confidence. 

3. Eat fresh. Fresh foods, that is. Our metabolism changes as we age, and that means choosing healthier foods is critical to keeping your weight in check. Fruits, veggies, leafy greens, nuts, oats and beans are all good sources of vitamins and minerals that nourish your body and keep you feeling strong. Eating beans and other high-fiber foods is also good for your digestive and heart health.

4. Reignite an old passion. Life gets busy with work and family obligations. But as you retire, you may find more time to dig back into that hobby that brought you joy – like sewing, woodworking, playing a musical instrument, dancing, playing cards, taking longer walks or spending time in nature.  

5. Drink more water. Dehydration, or excessive loss of water that disrupts the body’s normal function, can make you feel lousy. It can leave you feeling lethargic and put you at increased risk for confusion and mood changes, not to mention urinary tract infections and other kidney issues. Getting enough water keeps your metabolism working at its best and your digestive system functioning well. Your best bet is to choose water over sugary or flavored drinks, and drink even when you don’t feel thirsty.

6. Take a cat nap. Naps aren’t just for babies and little kids. In many cultures, napping is an important part of the daily routine. While laying down for a bit during the day can’t make up for poor or inadequate sleep at night, 20-30 minutes in the early afternoon can help improve your mood, alertness and performance – without interfering with nighttime sleep.

7. Cut back on sugar. Statistics show that the average American consumes 150 to 170 pounds of sugar every year! Eating excess sugar has been shown to increase the likelihood of chronic disease – like heart disease, diabetes, arthritics and even certain cancers. It’s not all about avoiding candy and cookies. Sugar pops up in many places you might not expect – like in sauces, ketchup, packaged meat, and even yogurt. Need ideas about reducing your sugar intake? Taking your morning coffee with no extras, choosing water over sodas, skipping condiments, and occasionally saying ‘no thanks’ to dessert are good places to start. 

8. Phone a friend. If you’re feeling lonely, do something about it right now! Reach out to someone – a family member, friend or even a neighbor that you don’t know well. You can take the next step of inviting them to brunch, lunch or dinner – either at home or at your favorite restaurant. Making that connection will instantly lift your mood and likely brighten someone else’s day too! 

9. Volunteer. Nothing will keep you feeling young and energized more than helping someone in need. There are as many charities and worthy organizations as there are interests. Hospitals, homeless shelters, animal rescues, and local schools always need willing people with can-do attitudes. 

10. Stop smoking. Smoking is linked to every major chronic condition. If you want to live a long and healthy life, it’s time to cut out cigarettes, cigars, e-cigarettes or any other type of smokeless tobacco product. Within 48 hours of quitting smoking, damaged nerve endings have started to regrow, and your sense of taste and smell will begin to return. The benefits keep growing over time, and in just one year, your excess risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and heart attack have dropped to less than HALF of a smoker! 

11. Stay balanced. Inflexibility is often the cause of many daily aches and pains, not to mention chronic back issues, muscle train and even falls. When we don’t use our muscles in activity, they begin to atrophy. Practicing yoga or tai chi has been proven to increase flexibility, improve agility and keep you steadier on your feet. If a yoga class isn’t your style, try stretching in front of the tv while watching your favorite TV show. Just a few minutes a day results in muscle gains and increased mobility. 

12. Grab a healthy snack. If you’re feeling a slump in the afternoon, a little pick-me-up might be in order. Instead of reaching for convenient packaged foods like chips or cookies, opt for nuts, dried fruit or trail mix.  Hummus and carrot sticks or apple and peanut butter are also great satisfying combinations that will fill you up without the unwanted sugar crash. 

13. Hit the hay. Although it’s sometimes harder to get the sleep you need as you age, sleeping the recommended 7 to 8 hours a night is still critical to feeling rested and refreshed. As elusive as sleep can sometimes be, it’s one of the most important healthy behaviors for protecting against mental health issues like depression and chronic disease. Going to bed the same time each night, turning off screens at least an hour before bed, or taking a hot bath or shower can help ease you into dreamland. And if sleep continues to be a challenge, it’s worth seeing a sleep specialist who can help you sleep soundly through the night. 

Growing older is a process and so is taking care of your health! Pick one or two of these simple ideas and incorporate them into your daily routine.  While you can’t turn back the clock, you can make healthy choices every day to keep you feeling great and at your personal best!  

You’ve seen the commercials and heard the negative news about surgical mesh – and you’re probably wondering if it’s safe. You’re not alone. Many people who need hernia repair have this concern. Dr. Robert Jean, general surgeon at University Surgical Associates, shares how he talks with patients about this often-misunderstood approach to hernia repair. 

“Due in part to the pervasiveness of TV commercials that have warned of the dangers associated with surgical mesh, nearly every patient I see is hesitant to use this approach,” says Dr. Jean. “But using surgical mesh in hernia repair is the highest standard of care. It’s used as a reinforcement to provide strength to the repair and has been shown to produce better long-term results and decrease the risk of the hernia returning.” 

Understanding the Risks 

There have been a number of law suits about the misuse of surgical mesh and the complications that can occur when it’s used improperly. The major complications include severe pain, serious infections around the mesh, mesh adherence to internal organs (called erosion), and bowel obstruction. But thanks to improved surgical techniques and product design, these risks are steadily decreasing.  

“Any product that’s placed inside the body has associated risks, but the benefits greatly outweigh those risks in most situations. In recent years, surgical mesh manufacturers have taken flawed products off the market and developed different materials or coatings designed to prevent erosion,” explains Dr. Jean. “Surgeons are also implementing different surgical approaches and keeping mesh away from a patient’s intestines and bladder, further reducing the risk of complications.” 

For patients who have a predisposition to infection, there are a few types of mesh that offer a higher degree of infection resistance. Your surgeon should talk with you about whether these products are necessary for your individual medical condition. Although increasingly rare, effectively treating most infections can be as simple as using antibiotics or drains. Only in the most severe cases is corrective surgery required.  

USA General Surgery Staff 

University Surgical Associates provides general surgical care in the Chattanooga region for patients with hernias and breast disease, as well as a wide range of surgical services relating to the abdomen, including surgery of the gallbladder, stomach and colon.   

Coleman Arnold, MD, FACS
Donald Barker, MD, FACS
R. Phillip Burns, MD, FACS
W. Todd Cockerham, MD, FACS 
Benjamin Dart IV, MD, FACS
Jacob Dowden, MD, FACS
W. Heath Giles, MD, FACS
John Huggins, MD, FACS
Darren Hunt, MD, FACS
Robert Jean, MD, FACS 
Benjamin Kellogg, MD, FACS
Robert Maxwell, MD, FACS
Vicente Mejia, MD, FACS
S. Michael Roe, MD, FACS
Philip Smith, MD, FACS
Craig Swafford, MD, FACS 

Safe and Effective Treatment 

If you’re living with the discomfort, pain and heaviness in your abdomen that often goes along with a hernia, safe and effective treatment is available.  The board certified and highly trained surgeons at USA use minimally invasive techniques – including robotic surgery – to treat hernias of all sizes. For people with a large hernia, surgical mesh offers the best long-term outcome and the lowest risk of recurrence. Dr. Jean recommends against surgery for patients who are uncomfortable using surgical mesh to repair their hernia because of the substantially lower chance for success without it. 

He also emphasizes that even if you aren’t sure you need surgery to repair a hernia, a consultation with a surgeon can be beneficial. “I don’t want to convince anyone they should have surgery if they don’t want it, but I do want people to know when surgery might be required,” says Dr. Jean. “If you have a severe onset of pain, nausea and vomiting or if the hernia’s size increases quickly, these could be reasons for an emergent hernia repair and you should go to the ER immediately.” 

Learn more about the services available at University Surgical Associates by visiting To schedule an appointment with one of USA’s general surgeons, call (423) 267-0466. 

Posted by University Surgical  | Category: General Surgery

Did you know that one in 50 Americans will develop melanoma in their lifetime? It’s the fastest growing cancer in the world, and it spreads earlier and more quickly than other types of skin cancer. For young people ages 15 to 29, it’s the second most common type of cancer diagnosis. Most people don’t think about their risk of cancer at a younger age – but the average age for a melanoma diagnosis is just 50 years old! 

“It’s absolutely critical that people of all ages have their skin routinely checked by a dermatologist to watch out for unusual skin changes,” says Alvaro Valle, MD, surgical oncologist with University Surgical Associates. “This is so important because when skin cancer – including melanoma – is found earlier, it’s much easier to treat effectively.” 

Melanoma often begins with something that looks like a mole and can be removed quickly – if it’s caught early. Moles can sometimes be mistaken for beauty marks, so they fly under the radar and don’t get the attention they should. This underscores the importance of having a dermatologist take a closer look at anything abnormal on your skin. 

When It’s Advanced 

Melanoma is considered to be the deadliest type of skin cancer. More aggressive treatments are generally indicated as opposed to non-melanoma skin cancers like basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with melanoma, the stage of the cancer will determine what treatment is needed. 

Dr. Valle points out that pre-melanomas and early stage melanoma lesions can many times be effectively treated in a dermatologist’s office. For people who have a more advanced stage melanoma, a wide excision in combination with a lymph node biopsy may be necessary to remove all traces of cancer. When sample lymph nodes are removed and tested, the results help your doctors determine further treatment decisions. The procedure is called sentinel node biopsy. 

“If a patient has advanced or invasive melanoma, we use the standard approach recommended by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network clinical guidelines which require a larger amount of tissue to be removed around the perimeter of the lesion,” says Dr. Valle. “It’s in these instances we can be most helpful to patients – by performing procedures that require anesthetic support in a hospital-based outpatient facility.” 

One example is when just a few melanoma cells are found in the lymph nodes, the cancer is generally moved to a stage 3. This bump in stage drastically increases the chance of recurrence, but it also opens the door for many effective immune-system based treatments. Consider asking your doctor if a sentinel node biopsy is appropriate. USA’s surgical oncology team is well positioned to coordinate other treatment needs, including drug therapy or immunotherapy, as well as providing resources for living well with cancer and into survivorship. 

Critical Follow Up 

No matter if you have multiple skin lesions or have been diagnosed with pre-melanoma lesions or other pre-skin cancers, early detection and prevention is key. 

“The type of melanoma, the stage and the risk of recurrence are considered strongly in patient follow up appointments. If the cancer does recur, it’s much easier to treat in the earliest stages,” says Dr. Valle. “For all patients, a dermatologist’s evaluation is crucial on an ongoing basis. If you spot something unusual on your skin, don’t wait. Talk to you doctor right away. It could save your life.” 

Alvaro Valle, MD, FACS is a surgical oncologist with University Surgical Associates. He is board certified and a fellow of the American College of Surgeons. Dr. Valle specializes in oncologic and breast surgery. 

To schedule an appointment for a second opinion, more information on melanoma, or to be treated here, call (423) 267-0466 or visit