Parish Nurse Articles


Heart disease is the number 1 killer in women. Yet, only 1 in 5 women believe that heart disease is their greatest health threat! Women are less likely to call 9-1-1 when they are experience signs of a heart attack because women’s symptoms vary and often not thought to be related to a heart attack.

Here are some more unsettling facts:

  • Heart disease causes 1 in 3 women’s deaths each year, killing approximately one woman every minute.
  • Ninety percent of women have one or more risk factors for developing heart disease.
  • Since 1984, more women than men have died each year from heart disease and the gap between men and women’s survival continues to widen.
  • The symptoms of heart disease can be different in women vs. men, and are often misunderstood.
  • While 1 in 31 American women dies from breast cancer each year, 1 in 3 dies of heart disease.

Here are a few lifestyle changes you should make:

  • Don’t smoke
  • Manage your blood sugar
  • Get your blood pressure under control
  • Lower your cholesterol
  • Know your family history
  • Stay active
  • Lose weight
  • Eat healthy



It’s still the flu season, and this year’s outbreak is especially widespread. Know the signs… and how to help avoid the flu in the first place.

  • The best preventive measure you can take is to get the flu vaccine. It’s not too late! Flu season is from October until May.
  • The vaccine is especially important for young children, people ages 65+, pregnant women and those with certain medical conditions. Check with your health provider.
  • Wash your hands often, for at least 20 seconds. Use hand sanitizer that’s at least 60% alcohol when you’re away from soap and water.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze. Block it with a tissue or the crook of your arm.
  • To help keep germs from spreading, keep your hands away from your nose, eyes and mouth.
  • Avoid close contact with others when possible.

If you do get the flu, (symptoms include body aches, fever, runny or stuff nose, cough, fatigue and sore throat), expect symptoms to last about a week. Stay home from school or work (if possible) until you are fever-free for 24 hours without taking any fever-reducing medicine. Protect yourself and others!

Your Parish Nurse,

Mary Ann Martin, RN, FCN


It may be hard to know the difference between age-related changes and the first signs of Alzheimer’s disease. Ask yourself: Is this something new? For example, if the person was never good at balancing a checkbook, struggling with this task is probably not a warning sign. But if their ability to balance a checkbook has changed a lot, it is something to share with a doctor.

Some people may recognize changes in themselves before any else notices. Other times, friends and family will be the first to observe changes in the person’s memory, behavior or abilities. To help, the Alzheimer’s Association has created this list of warning signs for Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. Individuals may experience one or more of these in different degrees. If you notice any of them, please see a doctor.

Your memory often changes as you grow older. But memory loss that disrupts daily life is not a typical part of aging. It may be a symptom of dementia. Dementia is a slow decline in memory, thinking and reasoning skills. The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, a fatal disorder that results in the loss of brain cells and function.

This list can help you recognize the warning signs of Alzheimer’s:
1. Memory changes that disrupt daily life
2. Challenges in planning or solving problems
3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks
4. Confusion with time or place
5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
6. New problems with words in speaking or writing
7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
8. Decreased or poor judgment
9. Withdrawal from work or social activities
10. Changes in mood and personality

Source: Alzheimer’s Association

We had a speaker in October about Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. She was very informative and thought-provoking. She helped us realize that there is no support group in St. Clair County south of Port Huron and that there is a real need for one. We have a few people in our congregation who are interested in remedying this situation. We will be meeting to formulate a plan to begin a community Alzheimer’s Support Group, to meet in our building, hopefully to begin in January. We will have times and dates to share in the near future. Please share this information with your friends and neighbors and we will be getting the word out to our local media resources. We are communicating with the Alzheimer’s Association regarding this project. If you are interested in being involved, please let me know.

Your Parish Nurse,

Mary Ann Martin, RN, FCN


Fall is here! Focusing on joint and bone health, here is some useful information regarding arthritis. Arthritis refers to more than 100 diseases and conditions affecting the joints. The most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis. Other forms of arthritis are gout, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.

Symptoms of arthritis are pain, aching, stiffness and swelling in or around the joints. Rheumatoid arthritis and lupus can affect multiple organs and cause widespread symptoms.

People with arthritis can reduce their symptoms by:

· Joining a self-management education program that teaches the skills and confidence to live well with arthritis every day. Our Port Huron YMCA has programs to look into.

· Physical activity—such as walking, bicycling and swimming—decreases pain and improves function, mood and quality of life. Try to get at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week, for 30 minutes, 5 days a week, or for as little as 10 minutes at a time. There is chair yoga on Fridays at the Pine Shores Golf Course at 10:30 am which focuses on arthritis. The walk-in fee for over 55 years is only $5.00.

· Weight control and avoiding activity that is more likely to cause joint injuries.

· Talk with your health care professional. People with inflammatory arthritis have a better quality of life if they are diagnosed early, receive treatment and learn how to manage their condition.



Influenza is a serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and sometimes even death. Every flu season is different and influenza infections can affect people differently, but millions of people get the flu every year. Even healthy people can get very sick from the flu and spread it to others. The Center for Disease Control estimates that flu-related hospitalizations, since 2010, ranged from 140,000 to 710,000, while flu-related deaths are estimated to have ranged from 12,000 to 56,000. During flu season, flu viruses circulate at higher levels in the U.S. population. “Flu season” in the United States can begin as early as October and last as late as May. An annual seasonal flu vaccine is the best way to reduce your risk of getting sick with seasonal flu and spreading it to others. When more people get vaccinated against the flu, less flu can spread through that community.


There will be a Community Health Fair at River District Hospital on Saturday, October 7, 2017, from 8:00 am until 12 noon. Free flu shots will be available for residents of East China and St. Clair. Other health related services will be available but are not finalized at the time of this writing. You can also check with your health care provider for your flu shot or most of the pharmacies in the area. Be kind to yourself and others—get immunized!

Your parish nurse,

Mary Ann Martin, RN, FCN




Here’s a startling statistic: More than one-third of people ages 65 and older fall each year! Some of these falls cause serious injuries, such as broken bones or head trauma. Such injuries may make it difficult to get around, do daily activities or live independently. You could cross your fingers and hope this never happens to you. But to actually reduce your risk of taking a tumble, you need to do more.

Balance training involves doing exercise that improve your stability when standing and walking. Regular balance training helps keep you steadier on your feet. And that may decrease your risk of suffering fall-related injuries.

You hear a lot about cardio and strength exercises. Balance exercise doesn’t get nearly as much attention. Yet it’s vitally important, too. Just as walking briskly and riding a bike are great for your cardio health, some physical activities are particularly good for your balance. Tai chi is one example. This ancient Chinese martial art involves a series of slow, flowing movements. It’s sometimes called “moving meditation” because mental focus is stressed as well. River District Hospital is offering Tai Chi on Fridays 9-10 a.m. from September 8 – October 13. Six week classes are $42 or you can drop in for $10 a class. Registration can be called in at 1-888-751-5465.

You can also practice specific moves to improve your balance, just as you might lift a weight to build your strength. Below are three examples. If you want to try them, be sure to have something sturdy nearby for support, such as a chair or countertop, in case you feel wobbly.

Standing on 1 leg

1. Stand behind a sturdy chair, grasping it with both hands.

2. Lift one foot off the ground. Hold for 10 seconds.

3. Repeat 10-15 times.

4. Lift the other foot. Hold for 10 seconds.

5. Repeat 10-15 seconds.

6. Do steps 1 through 5 again.

TIP: As your balance improves, try grasping the chair with one hand or just a finger.

Walking heel to toe

1. Pick a spot in front of you to look at while walking.

2. Place one foot directly in front of the other. The heel of your front foot should almost touch the toes of your back foot.

3. Keep walking this way for about 20 steps.

TIP: If you’re unsteady, walk near a wall or countertop so you can use it for support.

Seated balance exercise

1. Sit with upright posture with your feet on the floor.

2. Extend one knee and kick your foot forward.

3. Repeat with the other leg.

If you have fallen in the past or lost your balance on occasion, please discuss this with your primary care provider. You may need to review your medications, start a Vitamin D supplement, examine other risk factors such as lower body weakness, poor vision or foot problems, or maybe you need to do some physical therapy! Be safe this summer (and always)!

Source: My Blue Medicare, American Physical Therapy Association, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health. 2017

Your parish nurse,

Mary Ann Martin, RN, FCN


Part of a healthy body is a healthy smile! Here are some facts and tips on keeping your teeth healthy. Cavities are formed when the bacteria in our mouths create acids that eat away at the enamel (the hard outer surface) on our teeth. These acids are produced when we consume sugary or starchy foods or beverages (such as soda, juice, cookies or bread). Minerals in saliva, such as calcium and phosphate, as well as fluoride from toothpaste, replace the minerals lost when the enamel is attacked by the acid. However, when teeth are frequently exposed to acid, the enamel weakens. A white spot on a tooth can be an early sign of decay. At this point, the decay can be stopped or reversed through good oral hygiene—brushing with a fluoride toothpaste, drinking fluoridated water, flossing, and regularly visiting the dentist. If left untreated, however, the decay continues and the tooth’s enamel is weakened to the point that a hole, or cavity, forms. Cavities are permanently damaged areas which must be filled by a dentist. If cavities aren’t repaired, they enlarge and affect deeper layers of the teeth, leading to severe toothache, infection, and tooth loss.

Good dental hygiene plays a major role in preventing cavities. Keeping teeth as clean as possible, and regularly visiting the dentist, can prevent a painful bout of tooth decay.

WHAT IS PLAQUE? Plaque is a sticky film that forms on teeth. It contains bacteria that can bring cavities or gum disease. Plaque not removed by brushing and flossing can harden into tartar. Tartar can’t be removed through brushing, but can be removed in a professional cleaning by a dentist or dental hygienist.

So, here are your tips for a great smile:

· Floss. Be sure to floss once a day to get rid of food particles in between your teeth. Up to 35 percent of the tooth’s surface doesn’t get clean if you don’t floss.

· Limit sugary beverages. Drinks such as soda, juice, and alcoholic beverages have high sugar content. The bacteria in your mouth grow on sugar and form plaque, which can create cavities.

· Visit your dentist. See your dentist every six months. A dental hygienist will clean your teeth and remove any plaque and tartar buildup. X-rays may be taken to allow the dentist to see your teeth down to the roots.

· Don’t smoke. Smoking can stain your teeth and make gum disease and tooth decay more likely.

So, keep on smiling and celebrate your healthy teeth this July as we keep on working on maintaining healthy bodies.

Here’s to summer,

Mary Ann Martin, RN, FCN


The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can damage your skin in as little as 15 minutes. Yet it can take up to 12 hours for skin to show the full effect of sun exposure. Cool and cloudy? You still need protection. UV rays, not the temperature, do the damage. Clouds do not block UV rays, they filter them—and sometimes only slightly.

Why protect yourself and your children from the sun? Skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States, yet most cases can be prevented. 5 million people are treated every year for skin cancer in the U.S. Rates of skin cancer have been increasing every year over the last several decades. 1 out of 3 young white women ages 16-25 indoor tan each year. About 37% of U.S. adults report having been sunburned in the past year. 3,200 people a year in the U.S. seek care in emergency rooms from indoor tanning. Nearly 9,000 people die from melanoma each year. $8.1 billion is the estimated annual cost of skin cancer treatment. I think these reasons point out the fact that this is serious business and should be addressed as such. Remember, prevention is key!

Choose Your Cover. Shade and clothing can reduce your risk of skin damage. Seek shade under an umbrella, tree, or other shelter. When possible, long-sleeved shirts and long pants and skirts can provide protection from UV rays. Clothes made from a tightly woven fabric offer the best protection. If wearing this type of clothing isn’t practical, try to at least wear a T-shirt (darker colors are better) or a beach cover-up. Wear a hat with a brim all the way around that shades your face, ears, and the back of your neck. Darker canvas works best. Avoid straw hats with holes that let sunlight through. Baseball caps do not cover the ears or neck. Sunglasses protect your eyes from UV rays and reduce the risk of cataracts. Sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays offer the best protection. Most sunglasses sold in the U.S., regardless of cost, meet this standard. Wrap-around sunglasses work best because they block UV rays from sneaking in from the side.

Sunscreen Scoop. Put on broad spectrum sunscreen with at least sun protection factor (SPF) 15 before you go outside, even on slightly cloudy or cool days. All products do not have the same ingredients; if your skin reacts badly to one product, try another one or check with your doctor. Sunscreen should be reapplied if you stay out in the sun for more than two hours and after swimming, sweating, or toweling off. Check the sunscreen’s expiration date. Shelf life is no more than three years, but is shorter if it has been exposed to high temperatures.

Yes, summertime is fun time! We want you to enjoy the warm weather and outside recreation. The Centers for Disease Control’s motto this year is “Choose Your Cover” and includes all the methods outlined above. For more information, call the National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER or the CDC’s Division of Cancer Prevention and Control at 1-888-842-6355. The web site is When you play it safe, you’re playing it smart!

Your Parish Nurse,

Mary Ann Martin, RN, FCN


Because time TOGETHER is precious,
Take time to learn TO END STROKE

May is American Stroke Month. From families to healthcare professionals, and corporations to communities, everyone has a critical role to play in creating stroke-aware communities. While stroke is the No. 5 cause of death and a leading cause of long-term disability among adults in the U.S., many Americans do not think of stroke as a major health concern. Multiple efforts are focused on increasing awareness and driving action among Americans across the entire stroke continuum of care: prevention, acute treatment, and post-stroke rehabilitation. We have make a lot of progress, but we still have a ways to go to end stroke and your help is needed!

After a stroke, survivors often are presented different options for rehabilitation, but getting the right timely care, in the right setting, is key in the recovery journey. In the U.S., 800,000 people have a stroke each year, one every 40 seconds. Yet, 80% of strokes are preventable, many Americans cannot identify the warning signs, and most stroke survivors and family caregivers do not know where to go for stroke recovery information. With your help, we can close the gap in stroke awareness and help save lives.


· Know your blood pressure
· Find out if you have atrial fibrillation (an abnormal heartbeat)
· Stop smoking
· Find out if you have high cholesterol
· If you are diabetic, follow instructions to keep it in control
· Include exercise in your daily routine
· Eat a lower salt, lower fat diet
· Ask your doctor if you have circulation problems
· Act FAST


F = Face Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?

A = Arms Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

S = Speech Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Does the speech sound slurred or strange?

T = Time If you observe any of these signs, call 9-1-1 immediately! Remember, time lost is brain cells lost! Stroke is a brain attack!

We will be checking blood pressures on Sunday, May 14th after service. Please stop by to check your numbers. I welcome questions and would be happy to discuss your concerns with you.

Your parish nurse,

Mary Ann Martin, RN

United Way Assistance

Did you know we have a service called 2-1-1? It is funded by United Way and serves northeast Michigan and only recently, includes St. Clair County! 2-1-1 should be your first call for help—free, confidential information and referral--which is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week!

Let me list some of the services with which 2-1-1 can assist you:

Ø Clothing, Personal & Household Needs
Ø Disaster Services
Ø Education
Ø Employment
Ø Food & Meals
Ø Health Care
Ø Housing & Utilities
Ø Income Support & Assistance
Ø Individual, Family & Community Support
Ø Information Services for Non-Profits
Ø Legal, Consumer & Public Safety
Ø Mental Health & Addictions
Ø Government & Economic Services
Ø Tax Assistance
Ø Transportation Services
Ø Volunteer Opportunities

I have never accessed this service, nor do I know of anyone who has, but I certainly know United Way to be a reputable organization. My advice would be to try it if you find yourself or a friend or family member needing this assistance. You can always call me or Pastor if you need help obtaining information. If you are interested in learning more about volunteer opportunities, you can go to or call (810)985-8169.

March was National Nutrition Month and I will be setting up a resource table with materials made available from the American Heart Association. Please take whatever you want/need and share it with your friends and family. A healthy congregation is a happy congregation! Happy April everyone!

Your Parish Nurse,

Mary Ann Martin, RN, FCN

May is Stroke Awareness Month

In the United States, stroke is a leading cause of death and a leading cause of long-term adult disability.
A stroke is a brain attack, cutting off vital blood flow and oxygen to the brain.


Know your blood pressure

Find out if you have atrial fibrillation (an abnormal heartbeat)

Stop smoking

Find out if you have high cholesterol

If you are diabetic, follow instructions to keep it in control

Include exercise in your daily routine

Eat a lower salt, lower fat diet

Ask your doctor if you have circulation problems



F = Face Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?

A = Arms Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

S = Speech Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Does the speech sound slurred or strange?

T = Time If you observe any of these signs, call 9-1-1 immediately!

Please let me know if you need your blood pressure taken. I am happy to do that whenever I am in church. If you would like to make an appointment, I will meet you at the church at a mutually convenient time. Please do all you can to reduce your risk for stroke and also know what to do if you suspect someone is having a stroke!

Your parish nurse,

Mary Ann Martin, RN

What is a TIA?

I have been asked to write an article about transient ischemic attack (TIA) and I am happy to do so. Sometimes called a “mini-stoke”, a more correct term would be “warning stroke”, according to the Stroke Association, and it should be taken very seriously. TIA is caused by a clot to the brain blood flow, but, unlike a full stroke, the blockage is “transient” or temporary and no permanent brain damage is done. The symptoms occur rapidly and usually last a relatively short time, most less than 5 minutes. The term “warning stroke” is used because about 1/3 of TIA patients go on to have a full stroke within a year. That is why prompt treatment for TIA needs to occur so that a stroke can be avoided.

Symptoms of a TIA include numbness or weakness in the face, arm or leg--especially on one side of the body; trouble seeing in one or both eyes; and difficulty with walking, dizziness, or loss of balance and coordination. Other reportable symptoms include change in alertness, confusion, memory loss, difficulty swallowing, difficulty reading or writing, facial droop, inability to recognize people or objects, lack of bladder or bowel control, personality, mood, or emotional changes or trouble saying or understanding words. The most treatable factors of TIA per the National Institute of Health are high blood pressure, cigarette smoking, heart disease, atrial fibrillation, high cholesterol, carotid artery disease, diabetes, and heavy alcohol use. Lifestyle changes such as eating a balanced diet, maintaining healthy weight, exercising, and enrolling in smoking and alcohol cessation programs can reduce these factors. Medical help is available to treat the other risk factors. A TIA is a medical emergency. Call 911 right away—do not ignore symptoms just because they go away. A prompt evaluation (within 60 minutes) is necessary to identify the cause of the TIA and determine appropriate therapy. The acronym for a stroke is FAST—Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty, Time to call 911. This acronym works for TIA also, along with the other signs and symptoms!

I hope this information is useful. I am always eager to provide information when requested. Let me know if there is something you would like to learn. Knowledge is power and we continue to seek ways to protect God’s gift of life to us.

Your parish nurse,

Mary Ann Martin, R.N.

Picnics without Food Poisoning

No matter what kind of get-together you’re planning, remember that food-borne bacteria thrive in warm weather. Make sure you prepare, cook and store food correctly to keep everyone healthy and safe. The best way to protect yourself and your guests, says former caterer Jeff Nelken, a food safety consultant based in California, is to follow these simple rules and tips:

1. Wash your hands. This cannot be stressed enough. Wash with warm water and soap before and after handling food and, of course, after using the bathroom.
2. Keep raw foods and their juices away from cooked foods. Never put cooked food on an unwashed plate that previously held raw food. Use separate cutting boards for meats and vegetables, and wash the boards thoroughly after each use. This goes for the tongs you use with your food also
3. Never thaw food at room temperature, such as on the counter top. There are three safe ways to defrost food: in the refrigerator, in cold water and in the microwave. Food thawed in cold water or in the microwave should be cooked immediately, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
4. Think small bowls, not big ones. Serve large portions of foods in smaller bowls and keep ones not in use in the refrigerator until needed. Then replace it—don’t refill it!—with a chilled one.
5. Ice down food transported by car. Cars can get up to 120 degrees in 10 to 15 minutes on hot days. According to the USDA, cold foods such as those containing mayonnaise should be kept at 40 degrees F with ice or frozen gel packs until serving tie. Hot foods should be kept at 140 degrees F or above.
6. Use multiple coolers. Use one cooler for raw meat, poultry and seafood and one for prepared food or raw produce. Reserve one cooler just for beverages and snacks because it will be opened frequently
7. Two hours in the sun, maximum! If it’s 90 degrees F or hotter, cut that to one hour.
8. Use pasteurized eggs. This reduces the risk of salmonella if your crowd includes a lot of people over 65 or those with compromised immune systems.
9. Cool cooked foods quickly. Hot foods needs to be kept hot. Bacteria doubles every 15 to 20 minutes. If you’re cooking ahead of time, refrigerate then reheat your food when guests arrive. Once hot food is served, it needs to be kept hot at 135 degrees F or above.

Enjoy your summer foods and stay safe. More information is available at or through the USDA.

Your parish nurse, Mary Ann Martin, RN, FCN


Every May I write an article about stroke because I know how important it is that we recognize the signs this year with the added emphasis on St. Clair County statistics and why we need to be more vigilant than ever.

Stroke kills about 130,000 of the 800,000 Americans who die of cardiovascular disease each year—that’s and symptoms of stroke and that we do all we can to prevent experiencing one. I am doing the same 1 in every 19 deaths from all causes. A stroke, sometimes called a brain attack, occurs when a clot blocks the blood supply to the brain or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts. You can greatly reduce your risk for stroke through lifestyle changes and, in some cases, medication.

Several factors that are beyond your control can increase your risk for stroke, including age, sex, and ethnicity. Some unhealthy habits you can change to reduce your risk include smoking, drinking too much alcohol, and not getting enough exercise. Having high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or diabetes can also increase your risk for stroke.

The most common signs and symptoms of stroke are sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg; sudden confusion or trouble speaking or understanding others; sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes; sudden dizziness, trouble walking, or loss of balance or coordination; sudden severe headache with no known cause. If you think that you or someone you know is having a stroke, call 9-1-1 immediately. Time lost is brain cells lost!

Reviewing St. Clair County’s CHAProfile, I learned that over 1/3 of SCC residents have high blood pressure. This is higher than the Michigan and national rate! Over 27% of SCC adults are current smokers, which has not decreased since the 2005 figures. This was significantly higher than the state rate of 19.6% and national rate of 17.9%. When it comes to alcohol consumption, we are higher in the “heavy drinker” category and lower in the “abstainer” category, both nationally and statewide. Again, bad news! I hate to sound redundant, but our numbers for regular physical activity (at least 30 minutes moderate physical activity 5 at least 5 times a week) are, again, significantly lower than state and national levels by more than 10%! Do you eat 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily? Only 18.4% of SCC residents do, compared to 22.6% statewide and 23.4% nationally. I think the most astounding statistic for me was the fact that nearly 2/3 of SCC adult residents are above the “normal” healthy body weight. Again, we sadly topped the charts compared to state and national levels.

If you are seeing yourself poorly in any of these categories, think about the consequences it can mean. I know it is a real eye-opener to me personally! If you have any ideas for a wellness plan for our church, let me know. Maybe we can have a creative and fun way to take on these challenges and do our part to be healthy. Happy May!

Your Parish Nurse,

Mary Ann Martin, RN, FCN