Healthy Habits, VA Style

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Southern Arizona VHA

SAVAHCS Quarterly Health and Nutrition Newsletter

June 2024

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Picture of a brain

June is Alzheimer's and Brain Awareness Month

The MIND Diet

The types of foods we eat throughout our lives can affect the health of many parts of our bodies. Diet can even play a role in our disease risk, such as heart disease or diabetes. It turns out, our brains are not immune to a poor diet either. This area of nutrition research is ongoing, but several studies have found that certain foods may be protective for the brain. Researchers have also observed a decreased risk of Alzheimer’s disease (a type of dementia) and slowed cognitive decline in adults who follow what is called the “MIND diet.”

Did you know?  

There are an estimated 55 million people living with dementia worldwide.

What is the MIND Diet?

The MIND diet stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. This eating pattern combines the blood pressure lowering power of the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) with the inflammation-fighting Mediterranean diet. It includes foods that are high in antioxidants and healthy fats, while being low in sodium and saturated fat. Keep in “MIND” that this diet is not meant to cure dementia, but it may have cognitive health benefits.

What Foods are Included?

Daily: Extra virgin olive oil (use as primary oil) and avocado oil, green leafy veggies (1 serving 6 times per week), other non-starchy veggies, whole grains (3 servings per day)

Weekly: nuts (5+ servings per week), beans and legumes (3+ servings per week), lean poultry (2+ servings per week), berries (2+ servings per week), Fish (1+ serving per week)

Limit: fast/fried foods (no more than once per week), sweets (less than 5 servings per week), whole fat cheese (no more than once per week), butter/margarine (less than 1 tablespoon per day), red meat (less than 4 servings per week)

Where to Start?

Although this diet can be simple to implement, don’t be discouraged if you aren’t able to follow it completely. One study found that those who partially followed the MIND diet still had up to a 35% reduction in Alzheimer’s risk.

If you’re ready to give the MIND diet a try, start by slowly increasing the number of servings of the daily and weekly foods listed above. For instance, if you only eat 1 serving of whole grains per day, try adding one more serving every other day and gradually increase it to meet the 3 servings per day. To track your progress and to get a more accurate picture of your daily and weekly food intake, you can try writing down what you eat in a food journal.

TIP: Set yourself up for success by creating a grocery list with the MIND diet foods and use it to plan your meals for the week. Check out the recipes below for some quick and easy meal inspiration:


Blueberry Overnight Oats

Est time: 10 minutes to prep


  • ½ dry rolled old fashioned oats
  • ½ cup blueberries
  • 1 small banana (2oz)
  • ½ oz walnuts (~1/8cup)
  • ½ cup plain non-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp chia seeds
  • ½ cup water – adjust as desired
  • Dash of cinnamon


  1. Add all ingredients to glass jar and stir.
  2. Cover glass jar and place in refrigerator overnight.

Yields: 1 serving



Salmon Sheet Pan Dinner

Est time: 40 minutes total


  • 3 salmon fillets 3-4 oz each
  • 2 large, sweet potatoes
  • 4 cups broccoli
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground rosemary
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • Juice of half a lime
  • Black pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 425°F. Cut the sweet potatoes into 1/2 in. sized cubes. Add to a large mixing bowl with the olive oil, smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder and ground rosemary. Toss until sweet potatoes are evenly coated and add to a parchment paper lined pan.

Add the sweet potatoes to the oven for 5 minutes.

While the sweet potatoes are in the oven, cut up your broccoli into florets. Remove the sheet pan with sweet potatoes out of the oven and toss with the sweet potatoes on the pan. Season both with black pepper. Cook for 10 minutes.

While the vegetables are in the oven, season the salmon fillets with the smoked paprika, red pepper flakes, garlic, and lime juice. After the 10 minutes is up, add the salmon in the middle of the sheet pan and cook for 18 minutes.

Yields: 3 servings


June is Men's Health Month!

Recent survey data showed that 92% of men consumed only half of the recommended amount of Vitamin D from food and beverage sources. What does this mean for overall health and wellness for men? Vitamin D deficiency develops when intake from food is inadequate, exposure to sunlight is limited, and dietary supplements are either absent or not being absorbed properly. Vitamin D deficiency can lead to weak bones, cancer, cardiovascular disease, depression, multiple sclerosis, type 2 diabetes, and weight loss. 

Recommended amount of Vitamin D for adult men less than 70 years old: 15 mcg or 600 IU. Men over 70 years old: 20 mcg or 800 IU.

What are some ways to get Vitamin D through food sources? Fatty fish such as trout, salmon, tuna, and mackerel are among the best sources for Vitamin D. Beef liver, eggs, cheese, and some types of mushrooms also contain Vitamin D. Fortified foods provide the most Vitamin D in American diets. Examples include milk, cheese, ice cream, orange juices, plant-based milk alternatives, and ready to eat breakfast cereals. 

Try this recipe that is packed with Vitamin D: Honey Mustard Glazed Salmon with Roasted Asparagus

Glazed salmon with asparagus


  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • ½ tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 4 salmon fillets (6 oz each)
  • Roasted parmesan asparagus


  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Combine the butter and brown sugar in a bowl and microwave for 30 seconds, until the butter and sugar have melted together.
  2. Stir in the mustard, honey, and soy sauce.
  3. Heat the oil in an ovenproof skillet over high heat.
  4. Season the salmon with salt and pepper and add to the pan flesh-side down.
  5. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes until fully browned and flip.
  6. Brush with half of the glaze and place the pan in the oven until the salmon is firm and flaky (but before the white fat begins to form on the surface), about 5 minutes.
  7. Remove, brush the salmon with more of the honey mustard, and serve with the asparagus.


June is National Fruit & Veggies Month!

Not Just Rabbit Food

Vegetables get a bad reputation for just being “rabbit food”. However, vegetables can be prepared in many ways helping to change the texture and flavor. If you are not a fan of raw carrots, try adding them to a stir fry with broccoli, peas, peppers, chicken, and soy sauce to prepare a delicious dinner. If dislike of flavor or taste is your concern, try adding vegetables into sauces and serve with your favorite meals. For example, add chopped or blended mushrooms, peppers, and onions into your pasta sauce. Blending up your vegetables with a little bit of vegetable broth can also make great soups throughout the week.

Pairing Fruit with Your Favorite Snacks

Tired of snacking of fruit? Try pairing your fruit with other snacks that complement each other. One popular pairing is apples and peanut butter. If you are going for a more mature pallet, try figs with goat cheese. A quick and easy option like trail mix is great if you like dried fruit. Pairing your favorite fruit with another snack can help to keep your blood sugar stable and help you stay full for longer.

Classic Fruits and Vegetables


For fruits and veggies month, let's celebrate one of the classic fruits that is known to "keep the doctor away". With over 7,500 types of apples, there are plenty of ways to incorporate apples into your diet. Not all apples are the same. Some are crunchier, others are sweeter, and they all look different. Red Delicious is your usual run-of-the-mill apple that has been known to be less flavorful with a mealy texture. If you are looking for a little more crunch and sweetness, try a Honeycrisp apple. An apple that is a little tarter and is perfect for baking is the Granny Smith variety.


Often steamed broccoli might not sound like an appetizing side for your meal. However, broccoli can be used to make incredible sides for a balanced meal. Try shredding up your broccoli and adding in some cabbage, mayo, raisins, and seasoning. You now have a refreshing broccoli slaw that can be brought to your next barbecue. If you enjoy an occasional sandwich for lunch try preparing some broccoli cheddar soup on the side to help you feel more satisfied.

Exotic Fruits and Vegetables

Cactus Leaves

In Spanish known as “nopales,” these leaves are usually prepared as a salad mixed with tomatoes, onions, and peppers. When prepared, cactus leaves have a similar texture as okra and taste like green beans. These are usually found in the produce section of international markets.



These crazy-looking fruits are known as rambutan. They taste and feel like grapes with a slight floral taste. These are from Southeast Asia and when in season can be found in your local grocery store or international markets.

Looking for ways to get in more veggies, but don't love plain, steamed broccoli? Try this delicious soup paired with some whole grain crackers or bread for a well-rounded meal.

Cheddar Soup

Broccoli Cheddar Soup


  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 3 cups chopped broccoli florets
  • 1 cup of shredded carrot
  • 2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese


  1. Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, salt, pepper and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes, or until softened. Stir in the garlic and cook for another minute, then sprinkle in the flour and whisk continuously for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the flour turns golden. Slowly pour in the milk, whisking continuously.
  2. Add the broth, broccoli, carrot and stir to combine. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the broccoli is tender.
  3. Gradually add the cheese, stirring after each addition, until all the cheese is melted, and the soup is creamy. Season to taste.


Nutrition Class Spotlight

One of the best ways to fight inflammation lies in your diet, not in the medicine cabinet! SAVAHCS is offering a virtual anti-inflammatory weekly class series (4 weeks total) about the anti-inflammatory dietary pattern highly effective for reducing the risk of disease associated with chronic inflammation. This class series includes the following classes:

  • Week 1: Introduction to the Anti-inflammatory Diet + Beverages & Herbs, Spices & Condiments
  • Week 2: Whole Grains & Fruits and Vegetables
  • Week 3: Protein & Legumes (Pulses), Nuts and Seeds
  • Week 4: Convenience Foods & Recipe Modifications

When? Starts the 1st Thursday of every month and continues for the next three Thursdays of that month from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. via VA Video Connect (VVC).

How? Call Angelica Romero at (520) 792-1450, extension 1-3485 or reach out to your PACT dietitian for more information.

Pharmacy prescription bottle

Pharmacy Patient Information

Pharmacy Hours:

Monday to Friday: 8:15 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Saturday: 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Sunday: Closed

Pharmacy Phone Center Telephone:

(520) 629-1895 (Automated Refill Requests)

(520) 792-1450 Option 1 (then Option 1)

1-800-470-8262 (Long Distance in AZ)


Allergy Symptom Management

With springtime comes seasonal allergies caused by pollen, trees, grasses, and weeds. For many people allergies can also be year-long and triggered by dust, mold, and animals. Allergies, also known as allergic rhinitis, are common and can get in the way of daily activities. Fortunately, there are many ways to manage allergy symptoms without having to see a doctor.


Common Signs and Symptoms

  • Symptoms can be different from person to person but may include the following:
    • Nose – sneezing, runny nose, stuffy nose, postnasal drip, and facial pressure
    • Eyes – itchy/red eyes
    • Throat – sore/itchy throat, hoarse voice
    • Ears- congestion or popping of the ears
    • Sleep – trouble sleeping or feeling tired

Avoiding the Trigger(s)

  • Identify the trigger – 4 major categories
    • Pollens - trees, grass
    • Insects – dust mites, cockroaches, ladybugs
    • Animals – skin, fur, feathers, spit
    • Molds
  • Recall when symptoms started:
    • Where did they start?
    • What were you doing?
    • What time of year did they start?
  • Reduce exposure
    • For home triggers: vacuum home, clean sheets, remove mold
    • For outdoor triggers: stay indoors, close windows, use masks, shower before bed

Over The Counter (OTC) Treatments

First Choice – Steroid nasal sprays

Steroid nasal sprays are more effective than pills/tablets for relief of stuffy, itchy, or runny nose, watery or itchy eyes, and sneezing. Nasal sprays from the doctor or OTC work equally well and should be used every day during allergy season for maximum effect.


 Brand name                       




Flonase Allergy Relief

 2 sprays once

 daily or 1

 spray twice daily   

How To Use

  • -Hold head straight
  • -Spray in the nostril
  • -Sniff gently to pull medicine into the upper nose
  • -Avoid sniffing too hard as medicine can drain into throat and not work

Side effects

  • Nasal irritation, crusting, and nosebleeds
    • Reduce dose
    • Apply moisturizing nasal gel or spray

Nasal antihistamine sprays

Can relieve postnasal drip, stuffiness, and sneezing. Works within minutes.




 Astelin, Astepro                                      

*Tilt head forward while spraying to avoid bad taste in mouth

Cromolyn (NasalCrom)

This nasal spray can prevent allergy symptoms and should be used 1-2 weeks before symptoms begin.

Oral antihistamines

Can relieve itching, sneezing, runny nose but not stuffy nose.

Less drowsy versus drowsy

Side effects

  • Dry mouth or dry eyes
  • Difficulty urinating, constipation
  • Confusion

Adults over 65 are at higher risk for side effects and should talk to their provider or pharmacist before using oral antihistamines.


  • Pseudoephedrine is a decongestant that can be found in combination with OTC allergy medications. Often, these are stored behind the pharmacy You will need to show your ID to purchase.
  • People with high blood pressure or heart problems should avoid decongestants as pseudoephedrine can raise blood pressure.
  • Decongestant nasal sprays are not If used, they should never be used for more than 3 days.
    • Oxymetazoline (Afrin)
    • Phenylephrine (Neo-synephrine)
  • If you have been using decongestants daily, talk to your doctor about how to stop them.

Eye drops

There are many available OTC eye drops. Artificial tears can relieve dry eyes and help remove allergens. Consider one the following for itchy, irritated eyes.




 -  Olopatadine

 -  Ketotifen

 -  Azelastine


 Not recommended long term; can cause red eyes  

 -  Naphazoline

 -  Naphazoline/pheniramine    

 Mast Cell Stabilizers:

 Used to prevent symptoms

 - Cromolyn

*If using artificial tears and one of the options above, space the drops a few minutes apart.

Sinus rinse kit

Sinus rinse kits and saline sprays

  • Rinsing the nose with saline sprays or distilled water with saline packet is a medication-free approach that can help treat postnasal drip, sneezing, nasal dryness, and stuffy nose.
  • A sinus rinse kit includes a squeeze bottle that can be used to flush out the nose and help clear out mucus and allergens to relieve symptoms.
  • For both saline spray and sinus rinse kits, never use tap water for nasal Use distilled water or water that has been boiled for at least 3-5 minutes.

Everybody is different and medications that work for others may not work for you. It is recommended to talk to a healthcare provider or pharmacist about the best allergy treatment options for you.

Pharmacy prescription bottle

How to Refill Medications

Medications are not automatically sent. You must order your refills.

The refills are sent through the US Postal service after you order them. Since the medications come by mail, please order your medications at least 8 days BEFORE you run out of medicine. You may order earlier, and the refill will be sent before you run out. Review all your medications at each provider visit to make sure the medications are renewed, since prescriptions may expire or run out of refills.

Unfortunately, we are unable to refill your prescriptions at the Outpatient Pharmacy window. Please check your medicine regularly and order early. Do not go to the Emergency Department (ED) for routine refill requests. ED will not refill your prescriptions.

There are multiple ways to order your refills or make renewal requests!

  • Order using MyHealtheVet (
    • Log in and select “Pharmacy”
    • Select “Refill Prescriptions”
  • Order using the new app - RxRefill by VA Health
    • Download the Rx Refill App (Apple Store or Google Play)
    • Log in or register
    • Select “Refill VA Prescriptions”


Thank you for choosing the Southern Arizona VA Health Care System for all your healthcare needs!