Healthy Living

  1. Speak up if you have questions or concerns.
    • Choose a doctor you feel able to talk to about your health and your medical care.
    • Take a relative or close friend to your doctor visit if this will help you ask questions and understand the answers better.
    • Ask questions and insist on answers that you can understand.
  2. Keep a list of all the medicines you take.
    • Tell your doctor and pharmacist all the medicines you take. This includes over-the-counter medicines such as aspirin, Ibuprofen, vitamins, herbs, and other supplements.
    • Tell the doctor about any allergies or reactions you’ve had when taking a medicine.
    • Ask if you should avoid any food, alcohol, activities, sunlight, or exercise when taking a medicine.
    • Read the label, including warnings, when you get your medicine.
    • When you pick up your medicine, ask the pharmacist if it’s the medicine your doctor ordered.
    • Before you leave the pharmacist, make sure you know how to take the medicine.
  3. Make sure you get the results of any test or procedure. 
    • Ask your doctor or nurse when and how you will get the results of tests or procedures. 
    • If you do not get the results when expected, don’t just think that the results are fine. Call your doctor to ask for the results. Ask what the results mean for your care. 
  4. Talk with your doctor and health care team about your options if you need hospital care.
    • If you can choose from several hospitals, ask your doctor which one has the best care and gets the best results for your condition. Many hospitals are good at treating a wide range of problems.
    • For certain tests, procedures, and surgeries (for example, heart surgery), studies show that results are often better at hospitals that do them in greater numbers.
    • Before you leave the hospital, ask about your follow-up care. Be sure you understand the instructions.
  5. Make sure you understand what will happen if you need surgery.
    • Make sure you, your doctor, and your surgeon agree on exactly what will be done during the operation.
    • Tell your surgeon, anesthesiologist (ANes-THEE-zee-AH-lo-jist), and nurses if you have allergies. Tell them if you’ve ever had a bad reaction to anesthesia (AN-es-THEE-zee-uh).
    • Questions to ask are:
      • Who will have charge of my care while I’m in the hospital?
      • How long will the surgery last?
      • What will happen after surgery?
      • How can I expect to feel during recovery?
      • How long will I be in the hospital?
      • Will I need a ride home from the hospital?
      • Will I need any prescriptions or supplies from the pharmacy?
      • Will I need home care nurses or any type of therapy at home?
      • What will my physical limits be and for how long?
      • When should I make a follow-up appointment?

Your medical record is confidential, so we need your signed written request to release it. If you would like a copy sent to your doctor, a record release form that states the name and address to which the records should be mailed needs signed. This form must be completed accurately in order to release your records to a doctor or hospital. If you would like a personal copy of your medical record, you will pay a copying charge of $1.39 per page for the first 20 pages, then the fee decreases.

Please allow at least 7 to 10 working days to fulfill your record request. Records will be released only through mail.

Download Medical Records Release Forms

Questions That Involve Being in the Hospital

  • What is wrong with me?
  • What is it called?
  • What is being done to treat my illness?
  • What tests am I having done?
  • What are the results of my tests?

To Prepare You for Going Home

  • How long do you think I may be in the hospital?
  • What time of day will I be discharged on my discharge day?
  • Is there any information you can give me to learn more about my illness?
  • Will I need to make changes in the way I live because of my illness?

When you take medicine, there are important safety issues to consider. Here are the guidelines to help you:

  1. Keep a record of all of the medicines that you are currently taking.

    List ALL prescribed and over-the-counter (non-prescribed) medicines, vitamins, herbs, and other supplements.

    For each medicine on the list, include the information below:

    • Name of the medicine (brand name and generic name)
    • Date when the medicine was prescribed or started
    • Reason for taking the medicine
    • Possible side effects of the medicine
    • How the medicine should be taken:
    • How much to take with each dose
    • How many doses to take each day
    • What time you take the medicine each day
    • Whether to take the medicine with food or on an empty stomach
    • Any foods or liquids you cannot have while on this medicine
  2. Keep a list of all of your allergies and reactions to any medicines or vaccines.
  3. Take your medicine record and your allergy/reaction list with you to every doctor’s appointment.
  4. Update your medicine records when a new medicine is added, or when a medicine is no longer needed.
  5. Know other important information about your medicines:
    • How long to keep taking the medicine
    • What to do if a dose is missed
    • If the medicine needs to be stored in a special way
  6. Try a 7-day pill organizer, if you take a lot of different medicines.
    This can help you keep track of the correct time and day to take each of your medicines. It will help you notice if you miss any doses. You can buy an organizer at your drugstore. 

Smoking harms your health and the health of those around you. Make a plan to quite smoking. Here are the key points to include in our plan:

Reasons: Write down your reasons for quitting. Add more reasons to the list as you think of them. 

Attitude: Work to keep your attitude positive. Focus on how you will benefit from not smoking.

Triggers: Know what triggers your urge to smoke. Avoid these things or change your behavior. For example, if the sight of cigarettes, lighters, and ashtrays is a trigger, get rid of them. If coffee is a trigger, change the brand or flavor, where your drink it, and your mug.

Cravings: “Think and do” when you get a strong urge to smoke. Mentally go over your list of reasons to quit, and repeat key words such as “stop.” Start deep breathing, squeeze a soft ball, chew gum, exercise, or begin another activity.

Date: Set a definite date on which you will stop smoking. 

Pace: Remember to take it one day at a time.

Help: Get support. Tell your doctor you want to quit. 

Take these general tips to stay healthy if you have diabetes:

  • Follow your meal plan.
  • Follow your exercise and activity routine.
  • Take your medicine as directed.
  • Test your blood glucose regularly.
  • Keep your blood glucose as close to normal as possible.
  • Do not smoke.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol.
  • Check your feet and skin daily.
  • Have regular foot checks by your health care provider.
  • Have a retinal exam annually.

Eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise can reduce health risks like heart disease and help maintain an ideal weight.  Follow these guidelines:

  • Eat a variety of foods from all food groups every day.
  • Choose a diet moderate in total fat but low in cholesterol, saturated fat, and trans fat.
  • Choose fiber-rich fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
  • Limit sugar, salt, and alcohol.

Maintaining a healthy weight helps keep your body and heart functioning optimally.  Sudden unexpected changes in weight should be reported to your primary care physician.  With conditions, such as congestive heart failure(CHF), you should weigh yourself daily and report weight gains to your health care provider.

For more information on nutrition, contact your primary care physician.

The most important step to prevent and control the spread of infections is hand hygiene.  Clean your hands often. You can use soap and warm water or a waterless hand sanitizer.  Whatever method you choose, you should clean your hands:

  • Before you touch or eat food
  • After you use the bathroom
  • Before you touch or care for healing wounds
  • After you sneeze, cough, or blow your nose

All health care workers that come into contact with you should wash their hands.  Please insist that they wash their hands before they give you care.

To stay healthy when you have heart failure or cardiovascular disease:

  • Weigh yourself daily. Report to your doctor weight gains of more than 2 or 3 pounds overnight or 1 pound each day for 3 days.
  • Take your medicines as directed.
  • Keep your blood pressure normal.
  • Do not smoke.
  • Check for ankle swelling or abdominal bloating every day. Call your doctor about any new swelling.
  • Follow your exercise and activity routine.
  • Report any shortness of breath to your doctor.

If you are at home, call 911 or your local ambulance service if you experience:

  • Severe shortness of breath
  • Chest pain

Heart failure diet tips

  • Follow a heart-healthy diet.
  • Avoid salt, processed foods, and alcohol
  • Follow your fluid restriction.
  • Lose excessive weight.

Cardiovascular disease diet tips

  • Follow a heart-healthy diet.
  • Avoid salt and processed foods.
  • Follow your doctor’s recommendation about alcohol.
  • Lose excessive weight.

You should have at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity 5 to 7 days a week.  You may need to work up to this goal – any amount of activity is good for you.  Always consult your doctor before starting an exercised program.  Potential benefits of regular exercise are to:

  • Maintain or reduce weight
  • Reduce stress
  • Control blood pressure
  • Positively influence diabetes control
  • Gain muscular strength, endurance, and flexibility
  • Positively affect osteoporosis and bone strength
  • Control cholesterol levels

Stroke is an emergency! Early recognition of symptoms and seeking medical treatment is important. Recognize the signs of a stroke:

  • Numbness, weakness, or inability to move your face, arm, or leg on one side of your body.
  • Difficulty in speaking or understanding.
  • Sudden, blurred, or decreased vision in on or both eyes.
  • Sudden, severe, unexplained headache
  • Dizziness or loss of balance, especially with one of the above symptoms

If you are at home, call 911 or your local ambulance service. Stroke is treatable if you seek help right away!

To prevent stroke a healthy lifestyle is recommended.  This includes a healthy diet and regular exercise.

Tobacco Use

Each year, 3 million people die as a result of smoking. There is no safe way to smoke. Some people try to make their smoking habit safer by smoking fewer cigarettes or switching to brands with low tar and nicotine.  Even when used in small amounts, all cigarettes can cause damage to your body.

Smoking caused diseases

If you smoke, you are more likely to die at a younger age. Smoking can cause cancer, osteoporosis, heart disease, stroke, and lung diseases.  Smoking is not just harmful to you – it is harmful to those around you too.

Smoking is addictive

Some people find smoking enjoyable. The short-term pleasure does not outweigh the harmful effects. The nicotine in cigarettes is addictive.

Bad news about smoking

  • Cigarettes and cigarette smoke contain more than 4,000 harmful ingredients. May cause cancers.
  • Cigarette smoking and second-hand smoke cause shortness of breath, decreased energy, bone loss, damaged blood vessels, lung cancer, and other cancers, high blood pressure, digestive disorders, diabetes complications, chronic lung diseases, heart disease, and impaired circulation.
  • Parental smoking causes low birth weight, premature deaths, increased risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), and increased risk for learning disabilities.  Asthma, bronchitis, and respiratory and ear infections in children of smokers.
  • Cigarette smoking is a major cause of death from fires.

Where to go for help

  • It’s hard to fight any addiction, and smoking is no different. It’s never too late to quit. If you want to stop smoking, there are medications, therapies, and smoking cessation classes available.
  • Contact your primary care provider
  • American Cancer Society at
  • Contact your health insurance company. Most health plans offer smoking cessation programs
  • Pennsylvania Free Quitline, 24 hours a day at 1-800-QUITNOW

Shingles Vaccine: What you need to know

Many Vaccine Information Statements are available in Spanish and other languages. See Hojas de Informacián Sobre Vacunas están disponibles en Español y en muchos otros idiomas. Visite

  1. What is shingles?

    Shingles is a painful skin rash, often with blisters. It is also called Herpes Zoster, or just Zoster.

    A shingles rash usually appears on one side of the face or body and lasts from 2 to 4 weeks. Its main symptom is pain, which can be quite severe. Other symptoms of shingles can include fever, headache, chills and upset stomach. Very rarely, a shingles infection can lead to pneumonia, hearing problems, blindness, brain inflammation (encephalitis) or death.

    For about 1 person in 5, severe pain can continue even long after the rash clears up. This is called post-herpetic neuralgia.

    Shingles is caused by the Varicella Zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox.

    Only someone who has had chickenpox—or, rarely, has gotten chickenpox vaccine—can get shingles. The virus stays in your body, and can cause shingles many years later.

    You can’t catch shingles from another person with shingles. However, a person who has never had chickenpox (or chickenpox vaccine) could get chickenpox from someone with shingles. This is not very common.

    Shingles is far more common in people 50 years of age and older than in younger people. It is also more common in people whose immune systems are weakened because of a disease such as cancer, or drugs such as steroids or chemotherapy.

    At least 1 million people a year in the United States get shingles.

  2. Shingles vaccine

    A vaccine for shingles was licensed in 2006. In clinical trials, the vaccine reduced the risk of shingles by 50%. It can also reduce pain in people who still get shingles after being vaccinated.

    A single dose of shingles vaccine is recommended for adults 60 years of age and older.

  3. Some people should not get shingles vaccine or should wait.

    A person should not get shingles vaccine who:

    • has ever had a life-threatening allergic reaction to gelatin, the antibiotic neomycin, or any other component of shingles vaccine. Tell your doctor if you have any severe allergies.
    • has a weakened immune system because of current:
      • AIDS or another disease that affects the immune system,
      • treatment with drugs that affect the immune system, such as prolonged use of high-dose steroids,
      • cancer treatment such as radiation or chemotherapy,
      • cancer affecting the bone marrow or lymphatic system, such as leukemia or lymphoma.
    • is pregnant, or might be pregnant. Women should not become pregnant until at least 4 weeks after getting shingles vaccine.

    Someone with a minor acute illness, such as a cold, may be vaccinated. But anyone with a moderate or severe acute illness should usually wait until they recover before get­ ting the vaccine. This includes anyone with a temperature of 101.3° F or higher.

  4. What are the risks from shingles vaccine?

    A vaccine, like any medicine, could possibly cause serious problems, such as severe allergic reactions. However, the risk of a vaccine causing serious harm, or death, is extremely small.

    No serious problems have been identified with shingles vaccine.

    Mild problems

    • Redness, soreness, swelling, or itching at the site of the injection (about 1 person in 3).
    • Headache (about 1 person in 70).

    Like all vaccines, shingles vaccine is being closely monitored for unusual or severe problems.

  5. What if there is a serious reaction?

    What should I look for?

    • Look for anything that concerns you, such as signs of a severe allergic reaction, very high fever, or behavior changes.
    • Signs of a severe allergic reaction can include hives, swelling of the face and throat, difficulty breathing, a fast heartbeat, dizziness, and weakness. These would start a few minutes to a few hours after the vaccination.

    What should I do?

    • If you think it is a severe allergic reaction or other emergency that can’t wait, call 9-1-1 or get the person to the nearest hospital. Otherwise, call your doctor.
    • Afterward, the reaction should be reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). Your doctor might file this report, or you can do it yourself through the VAERS web site at, or by calling 1-800-822-7967.

    VAERS is only for reporting reactions. They do not give medical advice.

  6. How can I learn more?

    • Ask your doctor.
    • Call your local or state health department.
    • Contact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

Vaccine Information Statement
Shingles Vaccine

Department of Health and Human Services
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention