Substitute avocados for saturated fats

UT Southwestern Medical Center physicians say substituting avocado for unhealthy fats in your diet can help reduce cholesterol, which can cause fatty deposits called atherosclerotic plaque that clog the coronary arteries providing blood to the heart.

That’s because avocados are high in monounsaturated fats, fats that are typically liquid at room temperature, and which help lower levels of both LDL and non-LDL cholesterol in the blood stream, says Dr. Monika Sanghavi, a cardiologist at UT Southwestern.

But be aware: avocados are not low-calorie. A half a small avocado is about 140 to 150 calories, which contains about 7 grams of healthful monounsaturated fat. Avocados are also high in potassium and fiber.    

“Avocados are relatively filling, because their high-fat content,” Dr. Sanghavi says. “So substitute avocado for some other fat.”

Here are some suggestions:

  • Substitute cubes of avocado for cubes of cheese on a salad
  • Smear a slice of bread with avocado instead of butter
  • Float slices of avocado in tortilla soup and leave out the fried tortilla strips.

“The key is to replace saturated fat with monounsaturated fat,” Dr. Sanghavi says.


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Consider genetic counseling for ovarian cancer risk

Women who think they could be at risk for ovarian cancer due to their health or family history can turn to genetic counseling, say oncologists at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

“Angelina Jolie Pitt’s announcement of her decision to have surgery to prevent ovarian cancer helped raise awareness of the potential risk,”  gynecologic oncologist Dr. Siobhan Kehoe says. “We encourage women who think they may be at high risk for ovarian cancer to discuss their options with their healthcare providers to determine whether genetic counseling should be their next step.”

If a woman seeks counseling and testing is appropriate, a blood test for genetic mutations may be recommended. Depending on the genetic mutations, some women may have an up to 55 percent lifetime risk for ovarian cancer, while a woman’s normal risk is 1 to 2 percent, Dr. Kehoe said.

Preventative surgery – removing the ovaries and fallopian tubes – to reduce the risk of ovarian cancer is often recommended for women with a genetic mutation that increases their risk for these cancers. Other options also exist. For example, a five year course of oral contraceptives can also reduce risk, and may be considered by younger women who still want to have children, Dr. Kehoe says.


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How to help a friend with depression

Depression will affect 25 percent of women and 10 percent of men at some point in their lifetime, but friends and loved ones sometimes don’t know how to help or react.

“It does no good to say ‘Snap out of it,’” says Dr. Madhukar Trivedi, director of the depression center at UT Southwestern Medical Center. “That will merely cause frustration and guilt on everybody’s part, and may even lead to the depressed person feeling further alienated.”

Dr. Trivedi suggests a few simple, constructive ways to help people with depression:

  • Let them know that you are always there to listen if they want to talk.  
  • Try not to be judgmental. Realize depression is a disease and be supportive and sympathetic as you would with someone with a cold.
  • Offer to go to the doctor with your friend. Depressed patients often forget to tell the doctor about symptoms or aspects of what they experience, so the perspective of a friend can be valuable to physicians trying to help.
  • Exercise can sometimes be as effective as drugs, so offer to help someone with depression find time to exercise or offer to exercise with them.
  • People suffering from depression tend to want to withdraw from interaction, but when they feel a little better, positive social interaction can help. Invite and a company them to socials, club meetings, sporting events, and other activities.     


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Take precautions with pain relievers

With spring blooming and people heading out for gardening and warm-weather activities, aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen can be effective pain relievers and anti-inflammation drugs. But these non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, better known as NSAIDs, also can cause upset stomach and gastrointestinal bleeding if taken over a long period of time or in dosages beyond what is recommended, UT Southwestern Medical Center physicians warn.

“Part of the problem is that NSAID’s are so ubiquitous in our culture,” says Dr. Kim Barker, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation specialist at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

Just as with acetaminophen, another popular pain reliever, inadvertently combining too many NSAIDs can cause a serious overdose. Check the label of medications for NSAIDs or acetylsalicylic acid, the generic chemical term for aspirin.

In addition, NSAIDs serve as an anti-coagulant, or blood thinner, so patients who are already on blood thinners or who have kidney or heart problems should consult their physician before using NSAIDs, Dr. Barker says.

Dr. Barker recommends:

  • Never take NSAIDs in excess of the label use, and add up the amounts in various medications you are taking.
  • Talk to your doctor before taking NSAIDs for more than a week.
  • Consult with your physician about NSAID’s if you have kidney or heart conditions.
  • Don’t give NSAIDs to children without consulting a doctor first to avoid problems such as Reye’s syndrome, a serious condition that can affect liver, brain, and other organ function.


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