Coffee probably can’t save your brain alone

A quick internet search reveals a lot of articles and studies that contradict each other about the effects of coffee on memory and brain function. Some studies link coffee drinking with better memory and some say there’s no impact at all.

While those studies are good for generating headlines that draw people’s attention, they don’t show anything more than a loose correlation between coffee and memory, according to Theresa Regan, Ph.D., a neuropsychologist for OSF HealthCare. They don’t prove that drinking coffee actually causes either better memory or memory loss, or that it prevents you from developing a cognitive disorder, like dementia, later in life.

Basically, drinking coffee probably isn’t that one simple trick to prevent dementia that you’re looking for.

“If coffee does impact cognition, it seems like there’s a small enough impact that it’s hard to consistently capture,” Dr. Regan said. “Engaging in a healthy lifestyle is more likely to help your brain than coffee alone.

“I think the bottom line is there’s just this small inconsistent effect, and in the end, it’s probably not going to make a meaningful difference to someone as they age, like helping them live independently rather than needing assistance.”

A healthy body is the first step

The first priority if you want to maintain a healthy brain is maintaining a healthy body.

“It’s important to keep in mind that because the brain is part of the body, it benefits from a healthy lifestyle,” Dr. Regan said. “The brain is an organ that is fed by blood vessels, so anything that impacts the health of blood vessels, like diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, makes it harder to maintain a healthy brain.”

“So if you do grab a coffee, perhaps you could take it along while you take a hike through the woods, put veggies in your grocery cart, stay involved with people in your community, and learn a new and interesting skill. These are the things that over time are much more likely to be connected with a healthy body and brain than coffee drinking alone.”

Once you’ve done everything to support the physical health of your brain, you want to make sure nothing is draining the brain’s ability to work at its highest level, like a lack of sleep, untreated depression or too much stress.

While Dr. Regan is skeptical about any meaningful relationship between coffee and memory, she has more confidence in the evidence that leading a healthy lifestyle, staying socially active and learning new skills helps keeps the brain healthy over time.

As for coffee, it may not be the great brain savior you’ve been hoping for, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its worthwhile charms.

“There’s no evidence that it helps, but also no evidence that it hurts, so I’m going to keep on having my coffee in the morning because I enjoy it.”

Quick thinking, surgery save Galesburg man’s life

For Daniel Roberts, of Galesburg, December 5, 2013 was like any other work day. Dan was a rough carpenter with the physically demanding job of using a large saw to make assembly line cuts in timbers.

“I was cutting timbers in the shop with a heavy, portable circular saw that has a 16 ½ inch diameter blade.” Dan said. “I had made about 30 consecutive cuts, and I decided to take a break. That’s when I turned to lay the saw on a cart that’s specifically designed to hold the saw.”

But the cart had moved and wasn’t where Dan thought it was. The saw blade, still spinning, cut a 15-inch gash from his groin to his left knee. The 3-inch deep cut nicked the bone and severed his femoral artery.

“I knew I was in trouble,” Dan said. “I started yelling at people to call 911.”

A nearby French co-worker who spoke little English came over to help. Although he could not understand a lot of what Dan was saying, he did understand the French word “tourniquet.”

“He took his belt off and wrapped it around my upper thigh, groin region,” Dan said. “After that, everything happened fast. The next thing I knew I was being scooted off by ambulance to OSF St. Mary [Medical Center]. The last things I remember are the doors flying open and seeing all of the staff surrounding me. That’s when I knew I had done everything I could do to survive, and I was in the hands of the professionals.

“Everything from that point on is just me telling you what I was told. It was very bad.”

‘They not only saved my leg, they saved my life’

Dan was in a lot of trouble. Depending on how the femoral artery is severed, a person can slip into unconsciousness and even die within a few minutes. The tourniquet had bought him the time he needed for the paramedics to get him to the Emergency Department at OSF HealthCare St. Mary Medical Center. It was all a question of just how much time Dan had.

The emergency staff at OSF St. Mary would have preferred to take Dan by OSF Life Flight to OSF HealthCare Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria for such a delicate surgery. However, the attending surgeon, Dr. Thomas Whittle, knew that Dan would not survive the flight and required surgery immediately. The Emergency Department staff and surgical team shifted into top gear.

“They got me in the operating room and removed an artery from my right leg and repaired the one in my left leg,” Dan said. “And there was a lot of swelling, so they had to make a large incision and take a chunk out of both sides of my calf to relieve the pressure. They basically sutured my thigh back together.”

Dan had lost nine units of blood, but the surgery was a success.

“I have full capacity in my leg, as far as everyday use goes. There has been some pain here and there but as far as a limp – no. I was able to return to work with no restrictions three months after the accident,” Dan said. “As far as nerve damage and all that, I can’t lift my big toe on my left leg, but the doctor said that may come back over time.

“Usually you bleed out in a matter of minutes when you sever a main artery like I did. They got me in the operating room and went to work on me and not only saved my leg but my life as well,” Dan said. “I never did have to go to Peoria. I stayed at OSF St. Mary for everything.”

NICU Gives Parents Confidence to Care for Premature Baby

Joel and Rachel Bejster of Mendota were expecting their second baby – a daughter. From the start, Rachel’s pregnancy was nothing less than difficult – from undergoing fertility treatments to having a health scare early on in her pregnancy when Rachel suffered a blood clot. The Bejster’s daughter was a fighter – no doubt. A much different pregnancy compared to the one with her son, Bentley.

But in January 2015 at Rachel’s 28-week checkup, things took another turn for the worse. What she thought would be another standard prenatal checkup, turned out to be the most frightening appointment of her life.

When the unthinkable happens

Rachel’s blood pressure was through the roof. After several tests, Rachel’s care team at a local hospital in Peru, Illinois, concluded that she was suffering from preeclampsia – a condition that affects pregnant women whose blood pressure had been previously normal. Preeclampsia usually occurs after 20 weeks of gestation.

Rachel was immediately airlifted to OSF HealthCare Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria by an OSF Life Flight helicopter. “It was the scariest moment I’ve ever had, not knowing what was going to happen to our baby girl,” Rachel said.

Upon arrival to OSF Saint Francis, an ultrasound was performed to check on the baby’s condition. Thankfully she looked stable and healthy.

“At that point I was on bed rest and wouldn’t be able to go home until I delivered her,” Rachel said.

The doctors wanted to stall the delivery as long as possible, so the baby’s lungs could continue to develop. But by 31 weeks, it was no longer safe for Rachel to be pregnant.

A precious gift

On February 4, 2015, Brooklyn Sue Bejster was delivered by caesarian section, weighing 3 pounds, 3 ounces.

“The moment we heard her cry was incredible because we weren’t sure if she was going to be able to do that due to her lungs being underdeveloped,” Rachel said. “It was a relief to hear that sound.”

Brooklyn was immediately wheeled to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at OSF HealthCare Children’s Hospital of Illinois, conveniently connected to OSF Saint Francis.

Like many preterm babies, Brooklyn needed help breathing with a C-PAP machine, and also needed time to grow before she would be released from the NICU a little over 30 days later.

Support through the unknown

Photo Credit: Melissa Mata

Rachel said the NICU staff would always update her and Joel on Brooklyn’s progress and explain things in detail, so the couple could easily understand.

“It’s scary to even change a preemie’s diaper, so they taught us how to do that and always provided encouraging words,” Rachel said. “They also helped with other basics, like feeding her.”

When asked what Rachel’s most memorable moment was with having a baby in the NICU, she said it was when she and Joel spent the night with Brooklyn shortly before she was discharged. The NICU staff encourages parents to stay the night and care for their baby on their own before going home to make sure the parents feel comfortable providing care to their child.

“That was the first time I was able to care for my daughter on my own, and it’s a memory that has stuck with me,” Rachel said. “The NICU staff were always there to provide support, and wanted to make sure we were confident caring for her.”

Today, little Brooklyn is a happy 2-year-old and “is doing wonderful. You would never know she was born early,” Rachel said.

Proactive approach to breast mass eases anxiety

When a mass was found in her right breast during an annual mammogram in December 2016, Joanna Ihde decided to go to surgeon Sara Glassgow at OSF HealthCare Saint Luke Medical Center in Kewanee.

A Mission Partner who has worked in patient access at the hospital since 2013, Joanna had heard excellent things about Dr. Glassgow. And, getting her care in Kewanee was a quicker option for her than going to a provider in the Quad Cities, she said.

“Dr. Glassgow did an initial exam and decided we were going to do a biopsy, which we did,” Joanna said.

Once biopsy results were back, Dr. Glassgow decided to remove the mass. While it didn’t show cancer, the mass was “complex” as it was a mix of solid and liquid.

“She was very proactive because I have a family history of breast cancer,” Joanna said. “She didn’t want to take a chance with me. She was very adamant about getting the ball rolling as quickly as possible.”

‘I felt like I was being cared for by family’

Joanna’s surgery took place February 3, 2017.

“The care I received was excellent. She was very, very kind and caring. Very proactive – she wasn’t willing to take chances with my health,” Joanna said of Dr. Glassgow. “She said some physicians might have said ‘Let’s just watch it.’ But she didn’t feel OK doing that. I was glad about that. I would not have been very comfortable with waiting.”

Beyond the surgical care, Dr. Glassgow also took time to understand the anxiety Joanna was experiencing leading up to and on the day of the surgery.

“I had a lot of anxiety due to a previous experience somewhere else. Dr. Glassgow and all the staff made sure when I came in for the procedure that they took extra precautions to get me to relax. The whole team was fantastic,” Joanna said. “I felt like I was being cared for by family. I have recommended (Dr. Glassgow) and continue to do so. I’ve actually recommended friends of mine from out of town that if they need any kind of general surgery, to go to Dr. Glassgow.”

Embrace the bubbles: Is seltzer water good for you?

seltzer waterSeltzer water, or sparkling water, or carbonated water … whatever you want to call it, it seems to be all the craze these days. But following closely on the heels of seltzer’s rise to popularity is a rise in concern about its health risks.

According to Ashley Simper, clinical dietitian for OSF HealthCare, seltzer lovers don’t need to worry. She said people should be getting at least 64 ounces of no-calorie fluid every day, and seltzer is a healthy way to achieve that.

So if you’re bonkers for bubbles, you can rest easy. There are no known health risks.

“If people like seltzer better than plain water, they can use it as an alternative,” Simper said. “It hydrates you just the same.”

Seltzer water doesn’t erode your tooth enamel, increasing your risk of cavities or decay. It doesn’t cause calcium to leach from your bones, making them more brittle. And like plain water, seltzer water often contains no calories or sugar.

A healthy alternative

“Bottom line, it can be a healthy alternative to beverages with added sugars or calories, like soda, fruit juice and fruit punch,” Simper said.

Beverage Sugar Calories
12-ounce can of popular cola brand 39 grams 140
12-ounce can of popular peach tea 34 grams 150
8 ounces of popular all-natural apple juice 28 grams 120

There are seltzer waters with sugar added for flavoring, so check the label for sugar content and calorie count before you buy. Diet sodas often have no calories or sugar, and in moderation can be a better choice than regular soda. However, sodas of any kind – diet or regular – do not hydrate your body as well as plain or seltzer water.

Also, people with digestive issues should probably avoid seltzer water because it can cause an increase in gas and bloating.

Hard seltzer, like all alcoholic beverages, should be consumed in moderation. But hard seltzer, or mixed drinks made with seltzer, tend to be lower in carbs when compared to other alcoholic beverages.