Routine Checkups Help Maintain Your Good Health

You’re feeling OK, so why get your routine checkup? Often when you are not feeling sick, it’s easy to push back a doctor’s appointment or skip it altogether. But continuing to get annual, and sometimes more frequent, screenings are important for maintaining good health.

As we age, our health needs change. As do our recommended health screenings. Checkups can detect problems early on, allowing more time for prevention and treatments.

The average person should see their doctor for a routine checkup at least once a year. However, if you have family history that includes health issues like cancer, or if you have a chronic disease like diabetes or hypertension, its likely you need to visit the doctor more frequently.

Preparing for your routine checkup can help you get the most out of your time with the doctor. This is the time to ask your doctor questions, notify them of any medical changes you have noticed and to address any concerns you may have.

To prepare for your annual checkup, follow these simple steps:

– Arrive early

– Know the names and doses of your medications you are currently taking, including any over-the-counter drugs. Most doctors prefer that you bring the bottles with you to assure their records are correct.

– Know your vaccine history and bring any hard copies of vaccine records you have

– Bring the dates of any recent procedures, screenings or tests you have had done since your last check-up

– Lastly, be open and honest with your doctor. Ask necessary questions but be open and honest with your responses.

Investing in a doctor’s visit can catch an issue early and could save your life. To quote George William Curtis, “Happiness lies first of all, in health.”

Check-in with your doctor about your health, goals and concerns today. To schedule a routine checkup, call the Shenandoah Community Health Clinic, 540-459-1700.

Colon Screening: A Life-Saving Tool to Find a Common and Treatable Type of Cancer

The colon is a vital part of the human body, but talking about colon screening can be uncomfortable. It’s a little awkward discussing bowel movements, and more awkward to provide a sample of one!

But much like middle school gym class, colon screenings are a necessary, albeit intimidating, part of life. The colon reflects how the rest of the body is functioning, and colon screenings in high risk populations can save lives.

Here are five reasons you should schedule a colon cancer screening.

1. Colon cancer is common in the United States. Colorectal cancer is the third most common form of cancer in men and women, and the third leading cause of cancer related deaths. About 150,000 people are expected to be diagnosed with colon cancer in the United States this year. The good news is that early identification of cancer through a colon screening will increase the chances of survival by a lot. Early intervention has a five-year survival rate of 90%. Once the cancer has spread and grown to be more malignant, the five-year survival rate is about 10-20%.

2. Age is not just a number. Colon cancer is most common in older adults; about 90% of new cases are found in people 50 years of age and older. As adults reach ages 45-50, it’s important for them to discuss this with their doctor and schedule an initial colon screening.

3. Relevant Risks. Although most cases are in older adults, the rate is rising in young adults. Since 1994, colon cancer diagnoses have doubled in adults under age 50. This may correlate with the national rise in obesity, as diets low in nutrition and a lack of exercise increases risk of colon cancer. Alcohol consumption and tobacco use also increase the

risk of developing colon cancer. If you have a history of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), Crohn’s disease, or a family history of colon cancer, you should be screened before you reach age 50.

4. Digestive troubles. Symptoms of colon cancer may include blood in your stool, unintended weight loss, consistent stomach pain or changes in your bowel movements. Although these symptoms are not always related to cancer, you should discuss them with your doctor to determine the best course of action.

5. To thank your colon. Colons are hardworking organs. Colons help the digestive system function and help the body maintain homeostasis. They absorb water and minerals from digested food and then create waste from the stuff we don’t need. This 5-6 foot long tube helps to balance the bodies PH, and is always on the clock.

There are several options when it comes to colon screening. The test you get depends on your risk factors and comfort level. If you think you fall under any of the above high risk groups, schedule an appointment with your doctor or our Clinic to discuss your options. Remember that while it may be an awkward subject, colon screening can also be a life-saving one.

What Does Depression Look Like?

Depression is a mood disorder that millions of Americans suffer from each year. It is also the leading cause of disability in ages 15-44. Depression often presents as deep sadness, depleted energy, and suicidal thoughts. Sometimes it can be hard to identify depression, even in ourselves. Here are five lesser known symptoms that may indicate depression in you or a loved one.


● Sleep Disturbance. Changes or difficulty in sleeping patterns is a common symptom of depression. This could look like insomnia, difficulty falling and/or staying asleep. It can also look like oversleeping, or even both of these at different times.

● Apathy. Although depression can cause intense sadness, it can also cause feeling nothing at all. Many of those diagnosed with depression report feeling “blank” or numb. It may be hard to connect with displays of emotion, or hard to care about things you once found important or exciting. Loss of interest in hobbies and/or diminished sex drive are both strong indicators of this symptom.

● Difficulty in Concentrating. Some refer to this phenomenon as “depression brain”, and it feels like brain fog and struggles with memory recall. Depression may make it difficult to pay attention to forces outside of the body and brain, and can also impact short term memory.

● Anger. Increased irritability and displays of anger can also be symptoms of depression. This is especially more common in men, who may feel more comfortable displaying anger than sadness. This may look like frequent outbursts, even over seemingly small things.

● Change in Weight. Depression may cause an increase or decrease in weight, depending on the person. Some suffering from depression might find it difficult to eat, causing weight loss and further depleted energy levels. Some may find themselves eating more than usual, as a coping mechanism. Overeating and immobility from fatigue can cause weight gain.

This is not an exhaustive list of all symptoms of depression, but it can help determine a need for professional intervention. If you or a loved one is struggling with depression please call our office to set up an appointment.

Why It’s Important to Use Sunscreen in the Spring 

Springtime means gardening, afternoon walks and sunshine – but you better use sunscreenNinety percent of the sun’s ray can penetrate through clouds- meaning even on a cloudy or cool day, you can get sunburned. Here are some helpful tips to protect your skin this spring. 

Use sunscreen that is SPF 30 or greater and water-resistant with broad spectrum coverage. The number indicates that if you are using it correctly, including reapplying it every two hours, it will take 30 times longer for you to turn red. 

Re-apply sunscreen every 1.5 to 2 hours. If you’re sweating or in water, reapply more often. Yes, you can burn even if covered in water, like when swimming or snorkeling. 

Always make sure to check that your sunscreen hasn’t expired. Toss it if it’s over a year old, as your SPF starts to become less effective at blocking damaging UV rays. If your sunscreen doesn’t have a date, be sure to write the date of purchase on the bottle.  

Always apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside. It takes time to absorb into your skin. To achieve proper protection, you should use approximately two milligrams of sunscreen per square centimeter of skin. This is about two tablespoons on all of your exposed areas or a nickle-sized dollop on your face. 

Don’t forget to use sunscreen on the tops of your feet, ears, scalp and lips. We often forget these area’s and therefore they are prone to a higher risk of skin cancer.  

Always use a sunscreen that is designed for your face. Increase your sun protection by wearing sunglasses, a hat and protective clothing. 

Limit sun exposure between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.- as this is when the sun is strongest.  

Spring is an enjoyable time to be outdoors. Use sunscreen and you can enjoy it for more hours and more safely.  

Food for Your Mood: How Your Diet Can Affect Depression

Most people are aware of the link between physical health and nutrition, but your diet can affect depression and your mental health as well. Habits like skipping meals and over consuming sweets can worsen depression and brain function. Conversely, eating healthy foods can improve your mood and sharpen your thinking.

For instance, serotonin, the hormone that stabilizes mood and cognition, can be triggered by eating carbohydrates. At least 90% of the body’s serotonin is produced in the digestive system. Therefore, a low carbohydrate diet can affect depression. For better moods and thinking, choose healthy carbohydrates such as fruits, vegetables, or whole grains. These carbohydrates provide an enduring and stable effect on the brain — versus sugary foods or highly processed carbohydrates like many white breads and pastas.

Some fats are good! Omega-3 fatty acids are helpful for brain function and preventing depression as the brain contains large amounts of lipids (fats), made of fatty acids. You can consume omega-3 fatty acids through fish, flax seeds, chia seeds, and walnuts, or through oral supplements. Consuming a diet with sufficient B vitamins may also improve your mood. They are found in salmon, eggs and beef, among others.

Another consideration for people with depression is that you may have a low level of folic acid and zinc. Supplementing both folic acid and zinc may increase the effectiveness of antidepressants. Zinc is in many foods such as shellfish, meat, dairy, eggs, nuts and seeds, and whole grains. Sources of folic acid include broccoli, kidney beans, brussel sprouts, and folate fortified cereals.

More common in women, especially in girls/women of child bearing age, depressive symptoms could be caused by insufficient iron. Increasing iron in the diet can affect depression. Red meat, leafy greens, dried fruits, and iron-fortified cereals are some of the ways you can increase your iron.

Eating a nutritious and diverse diet is key to improving your health. If you struggle with depression, seek out a diet rich in these healthy foods in addition to visiting with your doctor. As always, check with your doctor before taking new supplements. Make an appointment with our office if you would like to learn more about how your diet can affect depression.


Sources: Understanding nutrition, depression and mental illnesses (

Has COVID Negatively Impacting Your Relationship?

Has COVID Negatively Impacting Your Relationship?

You’re not alone. While COVID, on its own, has no actual effect on your personal relationships, everything about our lives has been changed in a matter of months – which does have a huge effect on your relationships, as well as your mental health.

It Has Amplified Prior Stressors

The most common relationship stressors have been amplified by the secondary consequences of the COVID pandemic. Financial concerns, division of labor, medical concerns are amplified and increased by a reduction in resources normally accessed to assist us. Many couples are experiencing a sudden loss of privacy, increased isolation from previously utilized outlets, and loss of outside socialization and support systems

Also Increased and Shifted Household Duties

Working from home is hard. And even basic tasks like washing the dishes or going grocery shopping are becoming a struggle. According to Mental Health America, more people than ever before are wondering if they have anxiety or depression. This isn’t a coincidence; it’s a natural reaction to an ongoing traumatic event, such as a global pandemic.

If you are parenting school age children, you have been assigned an even greater task of playing role of teacher as well. If your children are in a hybrid school model there is the challenge of juggling schedules to ensure all family members are keeping up with their responsibilities

So What Can You Do?

View this time together as an opportunity to develop new, even perhaps healthier habits, activities and interests that you can do together such as: going for a walk, a run, a hike or a bike ride.

Spring is an exciting and beautiful time in the Valley. Get in the car and explore a country road; take a picnic lunch.

Stay connected with family and friends through technology; get together virtually with other couples, friends and family – plan a virtual dinner or a game night.

Create activities to look forward to even if they are small; tackle a household project that has been on your “to do” list

Don’t panic. Our lead counselor, Clare, recommends having an open and honest conversation with your partner where you each can identify strengths and weaknesses, and decide a plan of action that best suits your family. It’s so important to be mindful of yourself and your partner, and help support one another through these challenging times.

There’s no easy way to fix mental health or relationship problems during a pandemic, but if you want some additional help, we are here for you.

Want to make an appointment? Get in touch!

Helping Kids to Eat Healthy

Helping kids to eat healthy foods can be tough. Between picky eaters and busy schedules, there may not always be time for well-rounded meals. Take it slow, read through our tips, and make healthy eating a fun family goal.

Children’s nutrition is not much different from adults. We all need protein, whole grains, and fruits and vegetables to eat a healthy diet. It’s important to make healthy swaps when you can, like swapping full fat dairy for low- or non-fat dairy. Eliminate soda and drink water and small amounts of juice instead.

Try to limit added sugar, sodium, and trans fats. Artificial trans fats are made from “partially hydrogenated oil”, which increases cholesterol, risk of heart disease, and risk of type 2 diabetes. These ingredients are often found in processed foods and snacks, like chips and cookies. Check the nutritional labels on your food to ensure you’re not overdoing it on artificial fats. These offer lots of calories, but little nutritional value.

Treats are good in moderation, but the bulk of your child’s food should be nutritious. Trade the chips for veggies and dip, and the cookies for pieces of fruit or yogurt and granola. Including your child when you buy, cook, and prepare foods can help them learn to eat healthy and have fun working with you too. Explain to your children why you choose certain foods and the good things they do for your body.

MyPlate, the national source for nutritional guidelines, provides online games, e-books, and activities to help your children better understand nutrition. Kids | MyPlate

Here’s a printable worksheet called Grocery Store Bingo, to help your child identify healthy foods while at the store. MyPlate Bingo (

Here is a list provided by the USDA of several kid focused nutrition lessons with games, quizzes, and many more resources. Kids’ Corner |

There’s also kid friendly recipes online, to help incorporate healthier choices. This is a tater tot recipe that uses sweet potatoes and chickpeas to boost vegetable intake in a tasty and recognizable way. TastyTotsCACFPhomerecipe_0.pdf (

These “porcupine sliders” use lean protein and whole grains, while still looking appetizing. PorcupineSlidersCACFPhomerecipe.pdf ( More of these recipes can be found here: Recipe Search | and here: Recipes for Healthy Kids: Cookbook for Homes | USDA-FNS.

You can also visit our healthy eating guide on our website, to make budget friendly choices that support a nutritious diet. Every attempt to eat healthier and include more fruits and vegetables is a good one.

A well-rounded diet helps kids in many ways – by enhancing sleep, increasing their ability to do well in school and improving their mood and energy levels. Learning healthy habits now increases children’s chances of becoming healthy adults. Contact our Clinic at (540) 459-1700 if you’d like to make a medical appointment to get more information about helping kids to eat healthy and live a wellness lifestyle.

What You Can and Can’t Do After Getting the COVID Vaccine

If you’ve received the COVID-19 vaccine, you may be making plans to visit friends and family. But there are some important things to keep in mind.

Remember: the vaccine only protects you. Friends and family members who are not vaccinated are still at risk for COVID-19.

Even after you receive the vaccine, it is important to continue using all the tools available to help stop the spread of the virus.

How to continue to Protect Yourself and Others from COVID-19:

  • Wear a face mask over your nose and mouth
  • Stay at least 6 feet away from others
  • Avoid crowds
  • Avoid poorly ventilated spaces
  • Wash your hands often

Here are answers to come COVID-19 vaccine questions.

When will I be protected after I receive the COVID vaccine?

It takes time for your body to build protection after any vaccination. COVID-19 vaccines that require 2 shots may not protect you until about 2 weeks after your second shot. For COVID-19 vaccines that require 1 shot, it takes about 2 weeks after vaccination for your body to build protection.

I’m vaccinated. Is it safe for me to be around people who haven’t been vaccinated?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released guidelines Monday, March 8 designed to ease restrictions for Americans who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

The agency’s guidance state those who have received a full course of COVID-19 vaccine may get together with other fully vaccinated individuals in small groups inside their homes without masks or physical distancing. They can also visit with unvaccinated people from one other household who are at low risk for severe disease.

The guidelines also say fully vaccinated people don’t need to quarantine or take a COVID-19 test if they’ve been exposed, unless they’re symptomatic. However, they should still monitor for symptoms for 14 days even if they’re not in quarantine.

When can I be around people from a different household?

To put an end to the pandemic, we need to achieve herd immunity. This happens when enough people build up immunity that the virus struggles to spread.

Herd immunity makes it hard for the disease to spread from person to person, and it even protects those who cannot be vaccinated, like newborns or people who are allergic to the vaccine. The percentage of people who need to have protection to achieve herd immunity varies by disease.

Getting the Most from Your Medical Appointment

Being an active participant in your healthcare is essential for getting the most from your medical appointment. The suggestions below may help. Be assured that our office is committed to helping you to be as healthy as you can be!

1. Ask questions. Your appointment is all about you! Ask any questions that will clarify your treatment, educate you on your health conditions, or help you feel at ease. It’s a good idea to write down your list of questions and concerns before you visit the doctor, to ensure you are getting the most from your medical appointment.

Some examples of questions include: What symptoms should I watch for? Is there anything I should avoid during treatment? Are there other treatments available besides what you recommend?

2. Be honest. Your medical practitioner is there to help, not judge. Be honest about your habits and prepare to disclose anything that could be affecting your health. If you are forgetting to take your medication or don’t like the side effects, be honest! Your doctor will do as much as they can to work with you.

3. Discuss all health factors. Getting the most from your medical appointment requires you to be clear and specific about any symptoms or health concerns you have. Even if you may believe it’s irrelevant or insignificant, it’s important to review it with your doctor. Volunteer information even if you’re not specifically asked about it — it could still be useful. Disclose your family medical history to develop a proactive healthcare plan.

4. Ask for a recap of each appointment. A lot can be covered in one doctor’s visit. It may be difficult to keep track of all the relevant information. For getting the most from your

medical appointment, ask your doctor for a final summary of what you’ve discussed. It’s helpful to take notes in your own words. Reviewing those notes later can help you remember the important details.

5. Don’t forget to follow up. It’s important to regularly check in with your healthcare team, especially after your visit. You may have follow up labs, x-rays, tests, therapy, or medicine. This is also a good time to notify them of progress in your treatment, or if necessary, get another appointment so that they can reevaluate and fine tune the treatment plan for even better results.

Call our office if we can help. As a healthcare provider, we are committed to help you toward being your healthiest self, including getting the most from your medical appointment.

Can I get the COVID-19 Vaccine?

The first step to get the Covid-19 vaccine is to preregister so that you can be informed when it is your turn: Local health departments are scheduling large vaccination events and will notify you when you qualify according to the information you submit to them.

As of March 1st, 2020 Virginia is in vaccination phases 1A and 1B. This limits eligibility to get the Covid vaccine to specific categories of people: healthcare workers, long-term care residents, adults age 65+, people age 16-64 with underlying medical conditions, those living in correctional facilities, migrant labor camps, homeless shelters, and frontline essential workers.

To accommodate the limited supply of vaccines, frontline essential workers are prioritized to get the Covid-19 vaccine in a specific order. To check the priority order you may visit the Virginia Department of Health website (COVID-19 Vaccine – Virginia COVID-19 Vaccine). Most frontline essential workers will participate in employee-sponsored vaccination clinics, but pharmacies, local health departments, and health care providers are also working to vaccinate essential workers. You should contact your employer if you are a frontline worker to confirm your vaccine schedule and availability.

If you believe that you have an underlying medical condition that may qualify you to get the COVID-19 vaccine, check the CDCs list of high-risk medical conditions (Certain Medical Conditions and Risk for Severe COVID-19 Illness | CDC).

Those who are 65+ or high risk due to health conditions will get the Covid-19 vaccine through healthcare providers and local health departments. A local link to check is CVS is also offering vaccinations for seniors 65+, also by appointment only. Appointments fill quickly but they are updating their availability regularly. Check this website often as appointments go quickly (COVID Vaccine (COVID-19 Immunization Updates) | CVS Pharmacy).

Shenandoah Community Health Clinic does not currently have vaccines, but once we have them, eligible patients and community members will be offered a vaccination. It’s important to frequently check with your local healthcare systems and health department to secure a vaccination slot at the earliest opportunity. The faster Americans are vaccinated, the faster we can all return to a more normal lifestyle. The process may take time, but eventually, everyone who wants it will be able to get the Covid-19 vaccine.