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By Craig Hamilton, Executive Chef, Mount Nittany Medical Center

The holidays are around the corner and Mount Nittany Health Culinary Services wants to wish everyone happy and healthy holidays! If you are still looking for that one dish to tie together your holiday feast, consider these two squash-based recipes that will have the whole family coming back for guilt-free seconds.

Stuffed Acorn Squash:

Yield 6 Servings

- 3ea Acorn Squash, Halved, Seeded
- 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
- 2 Tsp Salt
- 7 Tbsp Butter
- ¼ Cup Honey
- 2 Tbsp, Fresh Oregano, Finely Chopped
- 1 Cup Quinoa
- 1 Shallot, Diced
- ½ Cup Fresh Parsley, Finely Chopped
- ½ Cup Fresh Chives, Finely Chopped 
- ½ Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
- ½ Cup Pecans, Roasted and Crushed

1. Preheat oven to 400’. Rub squash with oil and ½ tsp salt and roast cut side down for 45 minutes or until soft
2. Melt 3Tbsp ( Hold remainder) butter with honey, oregano over low heat and set aside
3. Turn squash over and rub with melted butter and honey. Return to over and lightly caramelize for another 5 to 10 minutes
4. Cook quinoa according to package and hold.
5. Melt remainder butter, and add shallots and lightly caramelize. Add fresh herbs and toss together. Add mixture to quinoa and toss with parmesan, salt. 

6. Stuff into squash halves and top with crushed roasted pecans

Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Baby Spinach:

Yield 8 Servings

- 1ea Spaghetti Squash
- 4 Tbsp Olive Oil
- 2 Tbsp Salt
- 1 Tbsp Pepper
- 1 Tbsp Garlic Salt
- 2 Bunches of Baby Spinach
- 2 Tbsp Butter
- ½ Red Onion, Sliced
- ½ Red Bell Pepper, Sliced
- 1 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
- ¼ Cup Sunflower Seeds, Toasted

1. Preheat oven to 375’F. Cut squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out seeds and pulp. Place on baking sheet and rub with oil, salt, pepper and garlic salt. Roast in oven for 1 hour to until fork tender.
2. While squash is cooking. Melt butter over medium-high heat and add onions, pepper and start to caramelize.
3. Add spinach and toss till spinach is starting to wilt.
4. Scoop out squash and combine with spinach mixture and toss together. 
5. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and top with sunflower seeds

To learn more about Mount Nittany Health's Culinary Services at Mount Nittany Medical Center, click here

If you have arthritis, you know that when cold weather approaches, your joint pain increases. Winter weather is often to blame for arthritis pain. While cold weather does not cause arthritis, it can exacerbate it. This pain occurs because your body is more sensitive to pain when it gets cold. The cold slows blood circulation and can cause muscle spasms, according to the Arthritis Foundation.

Some say they can detect an oncoming storm when their joints start aching. This aching is due to changes in barometric pressure and temperature causing muscles and tendons to expand while thickening the fluid that lubricates your joints.  The result is increased pain and many people feeling like meteorologists!

There are a few things you can do to reduce arthritis pain this winter.

  • Keep warm. Staying warm is more than just layering up or adding an extra blanket at night. Think of it as a therapy to reduce tension in your muscles and tendons and thin out the fluid that lubricates your joints.
  • Exercise is always good, but it's essential to reduce arthritis pain. When your body is moving, it becomes more flexible and less stiff. Exercise can also give you more energy and release hormones that help reduce arthritis pain.
  • Stretch to loosen your joints, warm them up, and prevent injury. Simple activities like rolling your wrists and ankles, stretching your fingers, and knee bends are great beginning exercises.
  • Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids like fish, nuts, and seeds, and limit sugar and carbohydrates. The goal of your diet is to reduce inflammation. Omega-3 fatty acids are not a cure for arthritis but can help reduce inflammation.
  • Check your Vitamin D level. Vitamin D needs sunlight to activate it and it is especially critical to get sunlight in the winter when we spend more time indoors. Low Vitamin D contributes to bone loss that can also worsen arthritis pain. Talk to your provider about checking your Vitamin D level.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight can also reduce pain and stiffness since it reduces pain in weight-bearing joints like the knees, hips, and spine.

Winter can be a painful time of year for people with arthritis but consider it a diagnostic test for your body. When you experience pain in one joint or another, that's like a ‘check engine light’ in your car. When that light goes on, take a step back, examine what's causing the pain, and then take proactive measures to fix it.

Mount Nittany Health can be your partner in dealing with arthritis pain and other rheumatologic conditions. We recently opened the Mount Nittany Health Rheumatology practice on Green Tech Drive in State College to work closely with primary care providers. A healthcare provider within Mount Nittany Health can evaluate your healthcare needs and if necessary, make a referral to rheumatology.

For more information, visit mountnittany.org/Rheumatology.

A lot has changed since the first COVID-19 vaccines, and you might be confused or have vaccine fatigue. Mount Nittany Health recommends that patients strongly consider getting the updated booster shot as soon as they are eligible. The vaccine will provide the best protection from Omicron and previous variants. Here's why.

The COVID-19 virus has changed since we first learned about it. It will continue to evolve, so it's important to have the latest protection against it. Because the Omicron variant and its subvariants are so different from the original strain, we are seeing patients who get COVID-19 despite prior vaccinations or prior COVID-19 infection. The difference between the vaccines released this fall and previous vaccines is that they now offer protection from two virus strains – the original virus and Omicron. The technology used is the same as the original vaccine, but it will boost your protection from the original variant and protect you from the Omicron variant as well as subvariants of Omicron that are circulating in the country. This is the same strategy that goes into your annual flu vaccinations that offer protection against four influenza viruses expected to be in circulation this flu season. 

Medical experts believe the bivalent booster will better prevent Omicron and protect against severe disease from all strains. Since the Omicron variant is expected to evolve, teaching your immune system how to fight it is vitally important. Studies have shown that those who have received the bivalent booster had a better immune response than those who only had the original booster.

The new bivalent vaccine is made in the same way the original booster was made, so there's good reason to believe they are safe. Those who have received the bivalent booster have experienced similar side effects as the original vaccine and nothing different from it. The FDA continues to monitor safety data to be sure they can still stand behind COVID-19 vaccine effectiveness.

To get the new vaccine, you need to have received one or more booster shots, but the bivalent shot cannot be the first COVID-19 vaccination you receive. There needs to be a two-month gap since your last booster and a 90-day gap if you recently tested positive for COVID-19. The Pfizer-BioNTech bivalent booster is authorized for people as young as five and the Moderna version is authorized for people six and older.

Mount Nittany Health also recommends that older people, those with compromised immune systems, and cancer patients receive the new bivalent vaccine to protect against severe illness and hospitalization. The vaccine is also safe for those who are pregnant, expect to become pregnant, or are breastfeeding. 

Finally, remember to get your flu vaccine this year as well. Receiving your flu vaccine simultaneously as the bivalent booster is safe. Mixing and matching is also safe if your pharmacy has a different vaccine brand than you had last time.

Mount Nittany Health is committed to caring for our community. You can help – get the COVID-19 vaccine and help stop the spread. Patients of Mount Nittany Physician Group can schedule an appointment with their primary care provider for the first vaccination or booster doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. Please call 814.278.4600 to schedule an appointment.

About half of military veterans see healthcare providers outside the Veteran's Administration (VA) healthcare system. While the VA treats the unique healthcare needs of veterans, healthcare providers outside of the VA may not have that level of experience. Still, they should know about your service to our country.

Veterans may have different healthcare situations than those who have not served in the military. Over the last decade, different medical professions have begun to ask patients if they have served in the military, and this is a step in the right direction. When healthcare providers know they are taking care of a veteran, it can provide clues to what that patient's care may look like.

If you are a veteran and your primary care provider does not ask about your military service, you should offer that information to them. For example, a cough or back pain may be perceived as minor when presented by a patient who has not served in the military, but a military veteran may be experiencing Gulf War Syndrome, which has its own established care protocols.

Just being a veteran is not an indication of a medical condition. Many veterans return from service without any medical problems. However, medical issues are not always visible and are not only limited to the veteran. Military veterans are more likely to have experienced traumatic situations, which can have a lasting impact. Also, prolonged, and repeated deployments may affect both the veteran and their loved ones.

Mount Nittany Health encourages veterans to schedule annual check-ups with their healthcare providers. During your visit, be prepared to disclose your veteran status. Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions of your provider and tell them what you want to get done at that visit. For example, you may be experiencing back pain, headaches or are not tolerating medicine well. Let them know this at the beginning of your visit before you forget.

If you have any concerns about your health, even if you are not experiencing symptoms, it's good to let your healthcare provider know about them. Your healthcare provider is your advocate, and they are there to help. If you are drinking too much, having sexual problems, or having trouble controlling your bladder, it is ok to tell them. They have seen it and can work with you to find a solution.

While most healthcare providers are good at explaining things in layperson terms, you might not always understand what they say. When this happens, ask for a more straightforward explanation. They may even draw a picture or have additional materials to share with you to help you understand. You can also ask them to write down things they want you to remember.

Mount Nittany Health thanks all of the veterans in our community for their service. We want you to know that you have a caring home at Mount Nittany Health for your unique healthcare needs. 

Mount Nittany Health recommends regular health exams with your medical provider and screening tests to find issues before they start when your chances for treatment and cure are better. By getting the right health services, screenings and treatments, you are taking steps that help your chances of living a longer, healthier life.

Call Mount Nittany Health at 844.278.4600 to schedule an appointment with a primary care provider.

With over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids becoming available, it is important to consider the positives and negatives of purchasing OTC hearing aids compared to an audiologist-fit prescription hearing aid.

OTC hearing aids are similar to cheater glasses; while they offer some benefits, they are not the same quality as those fit by an optometrist. OTC hearing aids are often less expensive than professionally fitted hearing aids. However, they are only approved for adults with mild to moderate hearing loss. They would not be appropriate for those with moderate-severe to profound hearing loss and are not a solution for all types of hearing loss. OTC hearing aids are only approved for adults and not authorized for individuals under 18 years of age.

While these devices may offer some features available in prescription hearing aids, including rechargeable batteries and app-based controls, the self-fitting function, sound quality, and noise reduction are relatively unknown.

Mount Nittany Health Audiologists specialize in managing hearing loss in patients through individual counseling to determine what options are available to protect and preserve a patient’s hearing. Audiologists use several different diagnostic tests to diagnose the type of hearing loss. Each patient has unique needs, so it is crucial to pinpoint which hearing aid solution would be the most beneficial.

Without a hearing evaluation, you will not know if your hearing loss fits into the mild to moderate range. Some products offer online tests or app-based testing; however, this often does not match the hearing test completed by a professional. Another reason to see an audiologist is to determine if the hearing loss may require medical intervention, such as an ear infection or ear wax removal. Additionally, those with a sudden change in hearing, tinnitus, or fluctuating hearing loss should always seek medical evaluation before purchasing OTC hearing aids.

Mount Nittany Health offers a variety of solutions, from professionally fitted prescription hearing aids to assistive listening devices which can connect to televisions, phones, and other Bluetooth-capable devices. An Audiologist can help you get the most out of your prescription hearing aids and ensure your hearing needs continue to be met as your hearing needs change.

If you purchase an OTC hearing aid without seeing an Audiologist, it is recommended that you look for a product labeled “self-fitting.” Other hearing devices that do not have the “self-fitting” label are considered PSAP (Personal Sound Amplifying Products) and are not subject to the same federal regulation as OTC hearing aids. Additionally, be sure to select an OTC product with a minimum of a 30-day trial period that includes an assessment of your hearing to ensure you can adjust the hearing aid to meet your needs. Other features that patients typically find helpful are Bluetooth connection to their phone and the ability to adjust the hearing aids via an app.

OTC vs. Prescription hearing aids

 OTC hearing aidPrescription hearing aid
WarrantyTypically 1 year, repair only3 years, repair and loss/damage
Rechargeable batteriesLimited selectionAvailable in most hearing aids
Adjustment on appAvailable in most hearing aidsAvailable in most hearing aids
Bluetooth streamingLimited to no connectivityAvailable in most hearing aids
 Support Online/phone technical supportIn-person, hands on
 Cost $199 to $2,500 $2,000 to $7,000

For example: the specific manufacturer could offer four preset settings to select from

Prescription is calculated from your audiogram and is then verified in your ears

Physical therapy

The holidays are known for indulgent treats, time spent indoors with family and friends, and hectic schedules.

While it can certainly be challenging to find time to keep fit on top of all the other responsibilities of the holidays, here are a few tips to stay on top of your health this season:

  1. Indulge thoughtfully – It is nearly impossible to avoid treats for the entire holiday season. If you do decide to grab a second plate, don't beat yourself up; just don't let it become a habit.
  2. Keep healthy habits - it is hard to find time to exercise during the winter. The sun goes down earlier, and many people feel lethargic. Spending the same amount of time being active in the winter as in the summer is crucial. Sign up for a gym membership, visit the local YMCA, and spend a day walking around the mall. 
  3. Spend time in the sunshine - sunlight creates vitamin D and halts the creation of melatonin. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) causes fatigue and depression in more than 3 million Americans. Part of keeping yourself fit is feeling well enough to eat well and exercise.
  4. Stay hydrated - drinking water makes you feel full earlier in a meal, improves blood circulation, and improves joint pain. Drink as much water during the holiday season as you do in the summer. It is also important to always have a glass of water between alcoholic beverages.
  5. Rest - getting a few extra hours of sleep during winter can help your body fight disease, improve your mood and focus, and can reduce your appetite. Experts agree that adults need more sleep during the winter, so don't feel guilty about sleeping in from time to time.

And, if you can get outdoors during the day, consider a walk or hike in enjoy one of our many state parks or natural areas. Mount Nittany Health’s Centred Outdoors program provides self-guided winter walks and hikes https://www.centredoutdoors.org/

Stay healthy and enjoy the season!

Living with diabetes can present challenges; Mount Nittany Health is here to help. Diabetes is a disease in which the body has trouble regulating blood sugar levels.

Type 1 diabetes is when insulin produced by the body is mistakenly destroyed by the immune system. This genetic disease can be diagnosed early in life and treated with insulin.

Type 2 diabetes is often diagnosed later in life and can be genetic or a result of lifestyle. In Type 2 diabetes, the body can produce its own insulin but cannot use it effectively. Diet and exercise are the preferred treatments, but medication and insulin can be used for more serious cases.

Symptoms of Type 1 diabetes include:

  • Frequent urination
  • Increased thirst
  • Dry mouth
  • Itchy or dry skin
  • Increased appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Yeast infections

Diabetes can be managed with diet, exercise, and medication. However, some new complications can emerge as one ages but with some planning, those risks can be minimized.

Low blood sugar can trigger a loss of balance and lead to a fall, so check blood glucose regularly.  

A recent study found that hearing loss is twice as common in people with diabetes. If you have diabetes and are experiencing hearing loss discuss it with your healthcare provider and, if necessary, see an audiologist.

Mount Nittany Health's diabetes team offers a full range of clinical, nutritional, and educational services to provide the highest level of care to patients. Call 814.689.3156 to schedule an appointment with one of our Mount Nittany Physician Group Endocrinology specialists or visit mountnittany.org/diabetes-care for more information.


To our team, you're more than just a number. We see you. And we're committed to you. Our experienced providers are here and ready to get you the care you need.