Health Articles

Protect Your Health with Preventative Screenings

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We’ve all heard the saying that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. While this idea is relevant to many parts of our lives, it is particularly meaningful to our health. There are many important ways we can prevent health-related problems, including eating right and exercising regularly. One of the most effective ways to protect our health is through regular health screenings.

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Dr. Michelle Seguin is a family medicine provider at the Hancock Family Health Center.

“Regular health screenings and checkups are vital to a healthy lifestyle,” said Michelle Seguin, MD, family medicine physician at Upper Great Lakes Hancock Family Health Center and Portage Health. “By taking a proactive approach to your health that includes yearly screenings, you and your doctor can identify future health risks, such as cancer, heart disease and other underlying issues before they escalate. Screenings also can encourage those who are healthy to continue or improve their habits for better health.”

Today, all health insurance plans cover a range of important preventative health screenings, and covered individuals can receive many regular screenings at little or no cost.

Common recommended screenings for men and women that are covered by all health insurance plans include:

  • Annual Wellness Visit: It is important to see your physician once a year. This visit allows your doctor to check your vitals, such as temperature, blood pressure, and red and white blood cell counts, and monitor your overall health
  • Cardiovascular Screening Blood Tests: Cardiovascular screening tests offer insight on your cholesterol levels, which can help your doctor determine your risk for a heart attack or other heart diseases.
  • Diabetes Screening Test: A diabetes screening test, or blood glucose test, is recommended for anyone over age 45 and should be completed every three years. Glucose levels can indicate if you’re at risk for diabetes.
  • Colorectal Cancer Screening: Beginning at age 50, or earlier if advocated by a physician, a yearly colorectal cancer screening is recommended. Screenings may consist of a colonoscopy, high-sensitivity fecal occult blood testing or a sigmoidoscopy. Each screening tests for precancerous polyps, so they can be removed before becoming cancerous.
  • Screening for Depression: Physicians often use a health questionnaire to help patients describe their emotional status, sleep patterns, appetite and concentration to identify depression. Depression screening is important because studies have shown that depression can negatively impact your overall health and is linked to a range of health concerns including chronic pain.

Additional screenings recommended for women include:

  • Pelvic Examination: Annual pelvic exams can identify a number of health problems in women, including ovarian cysts, sexually transmitted infections, uterine fibroids and early stages of cancer.
  • Pap Tests: Regular pap tests should be performed for women age 21-65. A pap test screens for cervical cancer. The frequency of pap tests should be discussed individually with your doctor.
  • Mammography Screening: Mammograms are x-ray screenings that will identify developing breast changes or cancer. It is recommended that women 40-74 should complete a screening every 1-2 years.
  • Bone Mass Measurements: Bone mass measurements can indicate your risk for osteoporosis by measuring your bone mineral density. It is recommended annually for all women over the age of 65.

An additional test recommended for men:

  • Prostate cancer screening. Prostate cancer screenings may consist of two tests: a digital rectum exam (DRE) and a prostate specific antigen (PSA) test. The DRE can indicate if the size of the prostate and abnormalities, and the PSA test will measure the amount of PSAs in the blood. Higher levels of PSA and large prostates can indicate prostate cancer. These options should be discussed on an individual basis with your doctor

For more information about these screenings and which of them are appropriate for you, please contact Dr. Michelle Seguin’s office at (906) 483-1060 or your primary care provider’s office. If you do not have a primary care provider, call one of the following clinics to make an appointment:

  • Hancock Family Health Center – (906) 483-1060
  • Hancock Family Health Center – Pediatrics – (906) 483-1700
  • Hancock Family Health Center – OB/GYN – (906) 483-1050
  • Houghton Family Health Center – (906) 483-1860
  • Lake Linden Family Health Center – (906) 483-1030
  • Calumet Family Health Center – (906) 483-1177
  • Ontonagon Community Health Center – (906) 884-4120 

Arm Yourself with Annual Immunizations

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Immunizations for all ages 

Back-to-school season is just around the corner, which means haircuts, textbooks, new shoes and clothing — and most importantly, a visit to the doctor for routine immunizations.

Immunizations, or vaccines, help protect your health by building immunity to disease. Some vaccines — such as those received in childhood — are needed only a few times for lifelong protection, and others must be repeated annually to protect against recurring illnesses, such as the flu.

August is National Immunization Awareness Month. Protect yourself and the ones you love by making sure you’re up to speed on the vaccines that you and your family need to stay healthy.

Routine vaccinations

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Dr. Anas Jaber is a pediatrician at the Hancock Family Health Center - Pediatrics Clinic.

Parents of young children can ask your pediatrician for guidance on the immunizations your child needs from birth to age 18. Your provider will administer the appropriate vaccinations or boosters needed for school and to maintain good health during your child’s annual well-child visit. These vaccinations are based on the guidelines of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) or the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) and protect against diseases ranging from chickenpox to measles and mumps.

From birth to age 12, your child will receive one or more of the following vaccines:

  • Hepatitis A and B
  • Rotavirus
  • Diphtheria, tetanus, & pertussis (whooping cough) (DTaP)
  • Bacterial meningitis (Hib)
  • Pneumococcal vaccine
  • Polio
  • Flu
  • Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR)
  • Chickenpox (varicella)
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Meningococcal vaccine (meningitis)

“Vaccines help to protect a child as they grow and develop by providing acquired immunity to diseases that could be quite serious and in some cases, deadly,” says Anas Jaber, MD, pediatrician at the Hancock Family Health Center – Pediatrics clinic at Portage Health. “Vaccines prevent a disease from occurring, rather than attempting to treat or cure it once the illness is contracted. I encourage parents to talk with your pediatrician about any questions or concerns and consult reliable resources, such as the AAP or CDC, for information to help make an informed decision.”

The importance of annual immunizations for adults

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Dr. Tim LaBonte is a family medicine provider at the Lake Linden Family Health Center.


Just because you’re not a kid anymore doesn’t mean you don’t need immunizations each year. Vaccines for adults are recommended based on age, prior vaccination history, health, lifestyle, occupation and travel patterns (i.e., outside the United States).

The CDC recommends that all persons aged 6 months or older be vaccinated against the flu annually. It is important to get a flu vaccine every year. Each year the flu virus contains different strains, and each year’s flu vaccine is formulated to protect against the three or four different flu viruses that are expected to be the most common strains circulating during a particular season.

While everyone should receive a flu vaccine, certain individuals should be particularly vigilant, due to increased risk of severe flu complications. This includes young children; pregnant women; healthcare workers; people who suffer from chronic health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, or heart and lung disease; and adults age 65 and older.

The CDC also recommends that all adults over age 60 receive the shingles vaccine.  Shingles — a burning, painful rash and fluid-filled blisters — happens when the chickenpox virus reactivaes, after lying dormant in the body for years after a person has had the chickenpox. The likelihood of developing shingles increases with age, and physical or emotional stress. If you have already had shingles, the vaccine can help prevent a recurrence.

The Pneumococcal vaccine helps prevent the most common cause of pneumonia. This vaccine is recommended every five years in patients under age 65 who are at high risk such those with lung disease (copd, asthma) and other chronic disease (heart disease, diabetes, etc.), and is recommended as a one-time immunization for everyone age 65 and older, regardless of prior vaccine.

“The Influenza and Pneumococcal vaccines are particularly important for older adults, especially those with chronic illness. The vaccines can help prevent potentially severe complications in this at-risk population,” says Tim LaBonte, MD, family medicine provider at the Lake Linden Family Health Center on Bootjack Road.

Should I Be Vaccinated?

Certain health conditions, lifestyle or risk factors can factor into the benefit and timing of vaccination. If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, moderately or severely ill, suffer from a chronic illness or immune system disorder, have severe allergies (including egg allergy), are undergoing cancer treatment, or have previously had a severe reaction to a vaccine, talk with your provider and follow his or her recommendation for immunizations.

For more information, visit, or call your primary care provider. If you do not have a primary care provider, Portage Health and Upper Great Lakes Family Health Centers can help you identify one. Simply call (906) 483-1060.

Beat the Heat - Preventing heat-related illnesses

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Summer is time for fun in the sun, but as the temperatures climb, don’t forget that the heat can be hazardous to your health if you don’t take the necessary precautions. Heat-related illnesses are common during the summer months – especially if you spend a significant amount of time outdoors – and, if not properly managed, can be fatal.

According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, heat-related illnesses cause an average of nearly 620 deaths per year – more deaths annually than tornadoes, floods, earthquakes and hurricanes, combined.  

What are Heat Illnesses?

Heat-related illnesses are caused by prolonged or excessive exposure to high temperatures and dehydration.  Typically, when the body becomes overheated, it cools itself through sweating, but certain conditions can affect our bodies’ capabilities to regulate proper temperature.  A few of these conditions include extreme temperatures, inadequate hydration, high humidity, high blood pressure, sunburn, prescription drug use and alcohol use.

When body fluids are lost through physical exertion and not replaced, it is difficult for the body to cool itself. Dehydration can affect circulation and brain function.  Heat stroke, the most serious form of heat illness, happens after prolonged, intense exposure to extreme heat. The part of the brain that regulates body temperature malfunctions and the body temperature rises rapidly, sometimes as high as 106 degrees or higher. Without prompt treatment, heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability.

Heat exhaustion, a milder heat illness, can develop after several days of exposure to hot weather or inadequate hydration, i.e., working or exercising outside and not drinking sufficient liquids.

Who’s at Risk

People at greatest risk for heat-related illnesses include infants and children up to four years of age, adults age 65 and older, people who are overweight, ill, or on certain medications. Outdoor workers, as well as people on low-sodium diets or those suffering from chronic heart, lung or kidney conditions, are also at increased risk.

If you’re going to be outside, keep cool by drinking plenty of fluids, aiming for 16-32 ounces of liquid per hour. If you aren’t accustomed to being in a hot environment regularly, start slowly and pace yourself – and take regular breaks from the heat indoors or in the shade. Try to avoid being outdoors during the peak hours of heat and sun exposure.

Wearing lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing that breathes, and plenty of sunscreen, also are good preventative measures to avoid heat-related illnesses.

Signs and symptoms:

  • Elevated body temperature
  • Red, hot, dry skin or profuse sweating
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Weakness
  • Confusion, lack of coordination
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Muscle cramps
  • Rapid pulse or heartbeat
  • Seizures


If you notice someone exhibiting signs and symptoms of possible heat stroke, call for medical assistance immediately, and take steps to cool the person experiencing the heat emergency by moving them to a cool, shaded area, and applying cool water to the body by immersing the victim in water, spraying or sponging the skin, or wrapping the person in a cool, wet sheet.  If possible, monitor body temperature and continue cooling efforts until the victim’s temperature dips to 102 or below.

Less severe forms of heat illness, such as heat exhaustion, can be relieved by resting quietly in a cool, shady place, drinking clear juice or a sports beverage.

Hot Tips …on the Go

For more resources about heart-related illnesses, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has released a free mobile app that displays heat index, risks, reminders and protective measures that should be taken at corresponding heat risk levels.  The app can be downloaded in English and Spanish at

Volunteers are at the heart of hospice

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With today's busy lifestyle, time is one of the most precious resources in our lives and hospice volunteers give their time freely. They may never realize the profound difference they make in a person's life. A listening ear, a kind touch, a gentle presence can mean so much to a hospice patient and their family. Hospice volunteers generously give their gift of time to make these connections, to make a difference in the lives of their patients and families; and what they often discover is what their patients give back to them. Hospice volunteering becomes one of the most rewarding experiences of their lives. Hospice volunteers discover how volunteering challenges them to grow and to live — not merely exist. Hospice volunteers learn not to take life for granted, to live each day to the fullest.

Senator Edward Kennedy said these words about hospice, "The hospice movement is a great movement, not because it was legislated by Congress, or mandated by the Federal Government, but because it evolved out of the hearts of people who care." Hospice care was started by volunteers. Hospice Volunteers are vital members of the hospice team. A fundamental goal of the hospice philosophy is to preserve the tie between the patient and community so that patient and family are not further isolated during the last phases of an illness. Thus, hospice volunteers are not merely a desirable addition to the professional hospice staff; they are a crucial part of the hospice concept. Through the volunteer's visits, the patient and family remain in contact with the world beyond their own home and beyond hospice. Life can become normal again for a short time. It is the hospice volunteer that helps to maintain or reestablish the patient's sense of self-worth and gives family members increased freedom to live a more normal daily existence.

On average, hospice patients have usually been in and out of hospitals for tests, scans, or possible surgeries for years prior to their hospice admission. Both the patient and their loved ones have been through moments of fear, anxiety, and despair amidst glimmers of hope. They are tired and need support: emotional, social, psychological and spiritual support. They need someone to hold their hand, to share their pain, to listen to them, someone who can be there and in a sense, meet them where they are in life's final journey. Hospice volunteers provide this and give the patient and family someone they can count on for those small but important daily needs. It is the hospice volunteer's caring that brings life and breath to hospice.

Pastor David Weber of St. Peter & Paul Lutheran Church in Houghton will receive Portage Health Hospice's Volunteer of the Year Award Tuesday at their annual dinner honoring and celebrating hospice volunteers for their commitment of time and most importantly, the difference they make in the lives of hospice patients.

To learn more about hospice or to become a volunteer, contact (906) 483-1160.

Get your Plate in Shape during Nutrition Month

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It’s time to get your Plate in Shape! 

That’s the message from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, which is celebrating National Nutrition Month this March.

Here are six simple tips that everyone could learn from:
1) Make half your plate fruits and vegetables
Eat a variety of vegetables, especially those that are dark-green, red, and orange, plus beans and peas. Choose fresh, frozen, canned, or dried fruits and vegetables. For canned vegetables, look for those without added salt. For canned fruits, look for those in water or 100% juice.

2) Make at least half of your grains, whole grains
Choose 100% whole-grain breads, cereals, pasta and brown rice. Check the ingredients list on food packages to find whole-grain foods.

3) Opt for fat-free or low-fat milk
Fat-free and low-fat milk have the same amount of calcium and other essential nutrients as whole milk, but less fat and calories.

4) Vary your protein choices
Eat a variety of foods from the protein food group each week, such as seafood, nuts and beans, as well as lean meat, poultry and eggs. Twice per week, make seafood the protein on your plate.

5) Cut back on sodium and empty calories
Watch for salt (sodium) in foods you buy. Compare sodium in foods and choose those with lower numbers. Add spices or herbs to season food without adding salt. Drink water instead of sugary drinks. Select fruit for dessert. Eat sugary desserts less often. 
Make major sources of saturated fats, such as desserts, pizza, cheese, sausages and hot dogs occasional choices, not everyday foods. Select lean cuts of meat and fat-free or low-fat dairy. Switch from solid fats to oils when preparing food.

6) Enjoy your food, but eat less
Avoid oversized portions. Use a smaller plate, bowl and glass. Cook more often at home, where you are in control of what’s in your food. When eating out, choose lower calorie menu options and opt for dishes that include vegetables, fruits and whole grains.

For more information on healthy eating visit or

Spring is start of outdoor allergy season

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Sharon Stoll, MD is a family medicine practitioner providing a full spectrum of primary care to her friends and neighbors out of the new Calumet Family Health Center, which is located in the Mine Street Station in Calumet. Call 483-1777 to make an appointment.

It is spring, the time of year when April showers bring May flowers, and children hunt for Easter eggs on manicured green lawns; or at least I've read about these things in books. For those of us living above the 40th parallel, it is the season sump pumps become overwhelmed by run-off, gravely snow piles keep their strong hold on north facing slopes, and you look around your yard wondering how one dog made all that mess. I would like to add, to the list of springs' rites of passage — the start of the outdoor allergy season. It begins every year in late April. The add-on slots in clinic quickly fill with stuffed up patients exclaiming "Sinus infection!" Or worse, those with red, watery eyes who have been ostracized by coworkers for fear of the dreaded "pink eye," (though actual bacterial conjunctivitis is exceedingly rare). Often a quick review of these patients' charts show they have the same set of symptoms every April, helping to identify the real culprit: environmental allergies.

Environmental allergies occur at somewhat predictable times every year: molds in April and May, followed quickly by grass and then tree pollens. There's some brief reprieve in midsummer before ragweed appears around late August. The severity varies from year to year, depending on moisture, south winds and so forth, but the symptoms are predictable: itchy, red, watery eyes, stuffy or runny noses, and for some, a worsening of asthma and cough. If this sounds like you or a loved one, read on for some cost-saving solutions and advanced treatment options.

Log your allergy symptoms and seasons. This will help guide targeted therapy, and also help identify possible cross-reactive foods, which may cause oral allergy symptoms (think really itchy mouth). For example, ragweed peaks in August, so if you find yourself with gooey eyes every August, ragweed is the likely culprit. And ragweed can be cross-reactive with foods like parsley, beans, celery and several others.

Use single-ingredient over the counter remedies geared at allergies. For itchy red eyes, over the counter antihistamine drops like Zaditor, Alaway, Zyrtec Itchy Eye Drops, Claritin Eye or generic ketotifen work wonders, at a fraction of the cost of prescription antihistamine eye drops. For stuffy or runny noses and itchy mouths, consider a non-sedating oral antihistamine like generic fexofenadine or loratadine. For nasal or sinus congestion, consider a decongestant like generic pseudoephedrine. Avoid multi-ingredient cough and cold formulas, which may have ingredients you don't need.

Consider immunotherapy. Allergy shots are the best-known form of immunotherapy in this country, but for those not interested in the high costs, time commitment or needles involved with allergy shots, sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) may be a better option. Instead of injecting allergens into the skin to promote tolerance, allergen drops or tablets are held under the tongue to reprogram the over reactive immune system. This method has been around since the early 1900s, and was recognized by the World Health Organization as a viable alternative to shots in 2006. It is a mainstay of treatment throughout the European Union, and available in Canada. In the US, it has been used as an off-label treatment with good success. The general idea is this: when you place antigens (protein particles that cause allergic reactions) under the tongue, immune cells take them up, and train the immune system to stop generating an allergic reaction when exposed. It makes good intellectual sense: holding something under the tongue for a minute is an intentional act, and the immune system wouldn't want to react to things your higher-ranking brain has chosen as acceptable for ingestion. This is probably how raw local honey also helps combat environmental allergies, as the unprocessed pollens in the honey serve as a sort of immunotherapy.

Not sure what to make of all this? Come see your friendly local doctor. We'll help you sort it out. And however you deal with spring allergies, just remember you were shoveling in minus 20° winds a few weeks ago, so maybe some red eyes and runny noses are a small price to pay for spring. Consider this your prescription to celebrate by manning the barbeque grill in shorts when it's nary 40 degrees out.

Immunization Schedules from Birth to Adulthood

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Knowing which vaccines to take when is a good step toward living a healthy life. Below are some schedules for childhood, adolescence, and adulthood.

Other resources

These websites have a wealth of trustworthy information. 


500 Campus Drive
Hancock, MI 49930
(906) 483-1000


921 W. Sharon Avenue
Houghton, MI 49931
(906) 483-1777

Express Care 


945 Ninth Street
Lake Linden, MI 49945
(906) 483-1030


751 S. Seventh Street
Ontonagon, MI 49953
(906) 884-4120


600 MacInnes Drive
Houghton, MI 49931
(906) 483-1860

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