Author Archives: UNC REX Healthcare

How to Stay Young (At Heart)

12092Ashley Lewis, MD, FACC, RPVI, is a cardiologist at UNC REX Healthcare. She is board certified in general cardiology and is registered in vascular imaging. She is a general cardiologist with interventional training and has specific interests in coronary artery disease, valvular heart disease, congestive heart failure, peripheral artery disease and heart disease in women. She is a fellow of the American College of Cardiology.

Have you seen the recent news about heart age? Do you know your heart’s age? Learning about your heart age will give you a general indication of your current heart health and of what lifestyle-related factors may affect your heart health.

According to a study conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, if your predicted heart age is older than your actual age, you may be at a higher risk for a heart attack or stroke.


How can you prevent your heart from aging too fast? UNC REX Cardiologist Dr. Ashley Lewis names the most common risk factors to look for when it comes to protecting yourself from heart disease.

Your age and gender: “Though women are at a lower risk for heart disease than men, their chances increase after the age of 55,” says Dr. Lewis. “Once men reach the age of 45, they are at risk for heart disease.”

Your family history: You are at a greater risk of developing heart disease if you have a first-degree relative (i.e. mother, father, brother or sister) who’s suffered from heart disease before the age of 55 for males or before the age of 65 for females.

“Family history is a significant risk factor, so we always take that into account when it comes to our patients’ heart health,” Dr. Lewis says.

High Blood Pressure: According to the American Heart Association, about 80 million U.S. adults have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, also called hypertension.

“For adults, a healthy blood pressure is a systolic blood pressure less than 140 and a diastolic blood pressure less than 90. There are some populations, like people with diabetes or kidney disease, where the goal blood pressure is even lower,” says Dr. Lewis.

High Cholesterol: Cholesterol is found in your blood and the food that you eat. Elevated levels of cholesterol in your blood leads to build-up of a soft, waxy substance along the walls of your heart arteries called plaque and this can form a blockage, making it difficult for your heart to circulate blood appropriately. This can cause a heart attack.

Smoking: Tobacco abuse is one of the top two leading risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

“Second-hand smoke exposure does not come without risk as well, and is often overlooked,” says Dr. Lewis.

Weight: A normal body mass index is anywhere between 18 and 24. Controlling your weight decreases your risk of developing high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol.

“Obesity contributes to a domino effect; once you develop high blood pressure, diabetes or high cholesterol you’re at risk for developing heart disease, kidney disease, and/or stroke,” Dr. Lewis says.

Diabetes: Diabetes is a disorder that disrupts the way your body uses glucose (sugar). Type 1 diabetes develops in children or young adults and is a condition that occurs when the pancreas makes little or no insulin. Whereas, Type 2 diabetes more often occurs in adults and is a disorder where the cells of the body do not respond to insulin; this is called insulin resistance. Type 2 diabetes is often associated with obesity and abnormalities in cholesterol levels.

The only benefit in having Type 2 diabetes is that if patients choose to make drastic changes in their lifestyle including exercise, weight loss and good blood sugar management, they are actually able to resolve their condition,” says Dr. Lewis.

Are you young or old at heart? Determine your heart age with this simple quiz.
Take a free, confidential online heart risk assessment with Heart Aware and you may be eligible for a free follow-up screening by a physician from UNC REX Healthcare.

Learn more about UNC REX heart and vascular care

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4 Everyday Things to Keep Your Heart Healthy

12092Ashley Lewis, MD, FACC, RPVI, is a cardiologist at UNC REX Healthcare. She is board certified in general cardiology and is registered in vascular imaging. She is a general cardiologist with interventional training and has specific interests in coronary artery disease, valvular heart disease, congestive heart failure, peripheral artery disease and heart disease in women. She is a fellow of the American College of Cardiology.

For many of us, we start our days off with a casual morning routine that is usually shaped by the habits we adapt over time. When it comes to improving your health, Dr. Ashley Lewis says the first step is to make healthy lifestyle choices every day. In honor of Heart Health Awareness Month, Dr. Lewis explains four important habits we should focus on to maintain our heart heath.


  1. Get up and move! – Studies show that sitting for long periods of time increases your risk for heart disease. The Statistic Brain Research Institute reveals that 49 percent of Americans watch up to five hours of television a day. However, by getting the right amount of physical activity, you can reduce your risk of coronary heart disease by about 30 percent. Dr. Lewis recommends that you exercise 30 minutes a day for five days a week (a total of 150 minutes per week) with a moderate-intensity aerobic workout. Some examples of moderate-intensity activities include, brisk walking, jogging, biking or swimming.

    “Five days per week of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise in addition to light weight lifting or resistance training two times per week leads to weight loss, lower blood pressure, decreased blood sugars, decreased cholesterol levels, and stress,” Dr. Lewis says.
  1. Eat a healthy diet – Along with exercising, limiting the amount of salt in your everyday meals has proven to decrease your blood pressure by 5 to 10 points. Pay close attention to eating good fats in your everyday diet. Saturated fats and trans fat are the types of fats you should try to avoid and monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats are good fats to add to your diet. The most well-known heart healthy nutrition plan is often referred as the Mediterranean diet. Many of the foods included in this diet provide various benefits to your heart and consist of items such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds as well as monounsaturated fats like olive oil and canola oil and polyunsaturated fats such as fish.
  1. Try a stress relieving activity – When you’re under stress, your body releases adrenaline into your blood stream, making your heart rate speed up and blood pressure rise temporarily. Living a stressful life can cause your body to change the way it behaves by increasing your resting blood pressure and heart rate, potentially contributing to blockages and reduced blood flow within the heart. Some ways to reduce stress include daily exercise and 7 to 8 hours each night.

    “If you exercise daily and get enough rest at night, you are contributing to a lower stress level and therefore having less of an impact on your blood pressure, reducing your risk of developing heart disease,” Dr. Lewis says.
  1. Quit smoking and avoid secondhand smoke – Cigarette smoking is the leading preventable cause of mortality. Nicotine which is found in tobacco damages the structure and function of your heart’s blood vessels. The effects of smoking can cause plaque to develop within the arteries which can form blockages leading to heart attack. Non-smokers are also at risk for heart disease. Second-hand smoke exposure has been shown to increase the risk for heart disease by 25-30 percent.

To learn more about UNC REX heart and vascular care, visit

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Know Your Heart Trivia Contest

Heart-Month-Trivia-Promo-ImageHow well do you know your heart? The leading cause of death for men and women in the United States is heart disease and many symptoms for heart attacks as well as strokes go unnoticed.

Throughout this February, we’re teaming up with the Carolina Hurricanes to raise awareness for heart health with a trivia contest! We’ll be asking questions related to the various fun facts about your heart and the new NC Heart Hospital. Simply follow the UNC REX Facebook page to answer each trivia question posted every game day.

All participants will earn a chance to win the Ultimate VIP Fan Experience Package, including four tickets to the Hurricanes game and a special meet & greet with the players.

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5 Things You Need to Know About the Zika Virus


The Zika virus (pronounced zee-ka) has been in the national news a lot lately due, in part, to a travel alert related to its spread. In Brazil, it was recently linked to a rise in cases of microcephaly — a birth defect characterized by an undersized skull and brain. Scientists are still trying to better understand the possible connection between the increase in Zika virus infections and the increase in microcephaly cases. But concern is strong enough that in January 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a Zika virus travel alert recommending pregnant women not travel to areas of virus transmission.

While experts currently think the virus poses a small risk to people in the United States, it’s important to learn more about this mosquito-borne virus:

  1. What is Zika?
    Zika is a virus originally discovered in Africa. People infected with the virus may have no symptoms at all, or may experience a rash, fever, joint pain and redness in the eyes. The illness is usually mild, with symptoms lasting a few days to a week.
  1. How is Zika transmitted?
    The virus is primarily spread through bites from a mosquito species commonly found in the countries where Zika is present.
  1. Where has Zika been found?
    Active transmission of Zika has been found in more than 25 countries, mostly in Central and South America.
  1. Who is at risk?
    Anyone who hasn’t previously had the virus can be infected. While there’s no evidence pregnant women are more susceptible to the virus than others, their infections are of greatest concern because the virus can be transferred to babies still in the womb.
  1. How can I avoid being infected?shutterstock_339870569
    A Zika vaccine isn’t currently available, but scientists are working to develop one. For now, the CDC recommends that pregnant women avoid travel to countries where active Zika virus transmission is present. Women who may become pregnant should talk with their health care provider before traveling to these areas. Precautions recommended for anyone who travels to an area where Zika virus is spreading include using EPA-approved insect repellents; wearing clothing treated with permethrin that covers your arms and legs; and spending time in air-conditioned spaces or those with window and door screens that keep out mosquitoes.
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Low Sodium Zucchini Stir-Fry

shutterstock_231721423In observance of Cervical Cancer Awareness month, we’re sharing valuable information about women’s health relating to cervical cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, diets with rich amounts of antioxidants, carotenoids, flavonoids, and folate found in fruits and vegetables can help the body fight and lower the risk of HPV infection. Learn to make this tasty and low sodium stir-fry recipe with a touch of basil, oregano and black pepper to add flavor!

Number of servings: 4

Nutritional information per 1 cup serving: 68 calories; 4 g total fat; 2 g protein; 8 g carbohydrates; 2 g dietary fiber; 0 g saturated fat; 0 mg cholesterol; 7 mg sodium.


  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 onion (medium)
  • 1 yellow squash
  • 1 zucchini (medium)
  • 1 red pepper
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon basil
  • ¼ teaspoon oregano


  1. Peel the onion. Cut it into thin slices.
  2. Slice the yellow squash into thin round pieces.
  3. Slice the zucchini into thin round pieces.
  4. Chop the red pepper into small pieces.
  5. Heat the oil in a frying pan or stir-fry pan. Add the onion slices.
  6. Cook over medium heat, stirring quickly for 1 minute.
  7. Add the spices and stir a few times.
  8. Add remaining vegetables and cook for 3 to 5 minutes until vegetables are just tender.

Recipe courtesy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture,

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6 Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Cervical Cancer

12100Susan Moore, MD, MPH, of UNC REX Cancer Center and REX Hematology Oncology Associates is board-certified in oncology, hematology and internal medicine. Dr. Moore graduated from The UNC School of Medicine in Chapel Hill, NC. She completed her Internal Medicine internship and residency at the University of California San Francisco in San Francisco, CA. She then attended Emory University in Atlanta, GA,  for her  fellowship in Hematology and Oncology.


shutterstock_2911274391. Why do women develop cervical cancer?
The primary risk factor for cervical cancer is infection with human papilloma virus (HPV), an infection which causes papillomas (more commonly known as warts). HPV is a common virus that is spread by skin-to-skin contact, usually through sexual activity. Certain types of HPV strains (HPV 16 and 18) are considered high-risk and are linked to developing cancer of the cervix, vulva and vagina.

Although HPV infection is common and the body can often clear the infection by itself, sometimes the infection becomes chronic which is what can increase risk of developing cancer.

2. Can cervical cancer be prevented?
The best way to prevent cervical cancer is to have testing to find pre-cancerous lesions. This is commonly done with a Pap smear and HPV testing. If the pre-cancerous lesions are treated, then cervical cancer can be stopped before it really starts. Talk to your gynecologist about how frequently this testing should be done. Since there is a vaccine to prevent HPV infection, being vaccinated in childhood is an important way to prevent HPV infection and risk of cervical cancer.

3. How is cervical cancer detected?
Most women with early cervical cancer or pre-cancerous lesions do not have symptoms, but these abnormalities can be detected on routine exam. Please visit your gynecologist regularly for early detection. When cervical cancer begins to grow, the most common signs and symptoms include abnormal vaginal bleeding, unusual vaginal discharge or pain during intercourse. If any of these symptoms occur, please see your gynecologist immediately.

4. How is cervical cancer treated?
Treatment of cervical cancer varies depending on the stage of disease (how much the cancer has spread). For the earliest stages of cervical cancer, surgery or radiation combined with chemotherapy can be used. For later stages, radiation combined with chemotherapy is the main treatment. Treating cervical cancer frequently involves several specialists, including gynecologic oncologists, radiation oncologists, and medical oncologists.

5. Are clinical trials available for cervical cancer patients?
Clinical trials are carefully designed and controlled studies done with patients who are interested in exploring new treatment options. Involvement in a clinical trial is strictly voluntary. Clinical trials are available at UNC REX and at UNC Medical Center. If you are interested in learning more, please discuss options with your doctor.

6. Is cervical cancer curable?
The ability to cure cervical cancer depends greatly on the stage of the cancer when it is detected. Rates of cure are greater than 90% when detected at the earliest stage but decline with advancing stage. The best option is to prevent cervical cancer from developing in the first place! In addition to early detection and vaccination, it is important not to smoke, maintain a healthy weight, and eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. If cervical cancer is detected, maintaining these healthy habits will help you to recover from treatment.




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Chicken, Farro and Kale Tacos with Butternut Squash Pico De Gallo

Last month, Rex On Call featured Ryan Conklin, an executive chef at UNC REX and
Shelly Wegman, a registered dietitian of Rex Nutrition Services to discuss healthy eating habits. In addition to the Q&A session, Chef Ryan Conklin demonstrated a healthy taco and salsa recipe.CWNF30SXAAAVP-n








Chicken, Farro and Kale Tacos with Butternut Squash Pico De Gallo

  • Taco Filling
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 T Diced Onion
  • 1 Clove of garlic
  • ¾ Cup of Shredded Kale
  • ¾ Cup Cooked Farro
  • ¾ Cup of Cooked Chicken Breast (Supermarket rotisserie chicken works great!)
  • 1/2 tsp Ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp Ground coriander

Heat up the oil in a skillet on medium heat. Add onions and garlic and cook about 2-3 minutes, or until they turn translucent in color. Add the shredded kale & sauté. When the kale starts to wilt, add cooked farro, and pulled chicken. Season with Cumin, Coriander, and salt & pepper, and cook on low heat for an additional 2-3 minutes.

Butternut Squash Pico De Gallo

  • ¾ Cup Small diced Butternut Squash-
  • 1 T Olive Oil
  • ½ Cup of Diced Fresh Tomatoes
  • 2 T Cilantro
  • 1T Minced Red Onion
  • 1 Fresh Lime (Juiced)
  • 2 T Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Salt-small pinch
  • Black Pepper- to taste
Toss squash with olive oil, and spread on small sheet tray. Place squash into a preheated oven at 375°, cooking them for about 7 minutes (or until cooked through depending on the cut size.) Remove from the oven, and cool. In a small bowl, mix the squash with the remaining ingredients, and let marinate for at least one hour before serving.

Catch up on the latest Rex On Call segment on healthy eating.

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Winter-Proof Your Workout

Working out in the winter can give you more energy and improve your overall mood. Some research even suggests that moderate exercise could give your immune system a boost and keep you from catching every cold virus you encounter.

shutterstock_161970656Here are five tips to get started:

  1. Recruit a workout buddy. Finding a friend to regularly exercise with can help you get those running shoes back on even when you don’t want to.
  1. Get the right winter gear. Dress in layers that you can remove as you start to sweat, and avoid cotton, which stays wet next to your skin. A layer of fleece or wool topped by a waterproof layer helps to insulate. When it’s cold, you should be sure to protect your head, hands, feet and ears from frostbite with a hat, gloves and extra socks.
  1. Find a fun winter activity. Get excited for winter weather by taking up an exercise hobby that you can only do in the winter. Try ice-skating, curling, broomball, snowshoeing and skiing (if there’s snow!).
  1. Set a goal. Want to fit into a great new swimsuit next summer? Set a new personal record in your upcoming half marathon? Use the winter months to get you there.
  1. Consider moving your workout indoors. Try a new activity that you can do indoors, such as fencing, dancing, yoga or swimming.
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Tres Leches Carrot Cake Recipe

112315_carrottcake2Congratulations to Chef Ryan Conklin and his teammates Steve Pexton and Collin Jennings for winning the Got To Be NC Competition Dining Triangle Series.

Try out this award-winning recipe from the Battle of Champions cooking contest.


Tres Leches Carrot Cake
by Steve Pexton


112315_carrottcakeDry Ingredients: sift together and set aside

  • 13 oz Flour
  • 1 tablespoon of baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons of table salt
  • 1.5 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 TB Cinnamon
  • 1.5 teaspoon of ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon of nutmeg

Wet Ingredients: Mix together in an electric mixer or mixing bowl

  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 ¾ cups vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoons of vanilla extract
  • 6 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons of spiced dark rum


  • 5 oz Diced dried Apricots, re-hydrate in 2C boiling water for 30 minutes, drain and discard the water.
  • 1.5 lbs  Shredded Carrots, peel and shred the carrots on a box grater

3 Milks: mix together and set aside. You will have extra.

  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 can evaporated milk
  • ½ cup half and half

Cream cheese frosting

  • 12 oz cream cheese
  • 6 TB of unsalted butter
  • 3 cups 10 X sugar


  • In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat cream cheese on medium-low speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Add butter, and cream until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add confectioners’ sugar on low speed, and mix until completely combined.
  • Beat frosting on medium speed until smooth and fluffy, about 1 minute.
  • Proceed in a mixing bowl or an electric mixer, mix the wet ingredients together until well blended, add the sifted dry ingredients and mix until smooth. Stir in the garnish.
  • Butter and flour 2 9” cake pans
  • Divide the batter between the two pans and bake in a preheated 350 degrees for 27-35 minutes (depending on your oven) or until an internal temp of 202 degrees is reached, or insert a toothpick and if it comes out clean it’s done, if not, bake 5 more minutes and test again.
  • When the cakes are done, transfer them to a cooling rack and cool to room temp. Remove the cake from the pans and place them individually onto display plates.
  • If you have a squeeze bottle, place the milk mix in the bottle and soak the cake with the milks. Allow the first pass to soak in and repeat one more time to make the cake nice and moist but not to the point where the milk is pooling at the base of the plate. If you don’t have a bottle, use a ladle or a large spoon and moisten the cakes.
  • Place the frosting in a pastry bag fitted with a star tip and pipe 12 strawberry sized rosettes on the cake, one each per slice.
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Reaching the Finish Line: Beach2Battleship Half-Iron Distance Triathlon

051613_TheresaPost by Theresa Pearce, a member of Rex Wellness Center of Garner. Theresa completed her first triathlon sprint in 2013 with Rodney Jenkins, a group exercise instructor at the Rex Wellness Center of Garner. This year, Theresa shares her experience on the challenges and successes she faced while participating in two half-iron distance triathlons. 

After completing several sprints in 2013 and 2014, I decided 2015 would be the year I would tackle two two half-iron distance triathlons, the Raleigh Ironman 70.3 in May and the Beach2Battleship at Wrightsville Beach in October. Knowing that I had to prepare for two triathlons with several weeks of training, as well as having plans to travel overseas,I was looking forward to a busy yet exciting year for me.

Training for the Raleigh race began at the end of January, and went really well. The day of the race approached very quickly. During the swim course, I spent too much time, barely making the cut off time. I got through 50 miles on the bike before getting pulled off the course by race officials, at that point,  time was not on my side. After 22 weeks of training, I was left with heartbreak and disappointment. However, I had no choice other than get over it and move on.

The third week of training for B2B was starting the following week which would give me a new goal to focus on. In this race, I was part of the 70.3 training group at Rex led by Rodney Jenkins. After a couple of days off, I was right back at it for a few weeks before my trip to Europe. While traveling abroad, my friend, Angie Jenkins, and I managed to get in a few outside runs along with some indoor cycling. Once we got back to the U.S., we returned to our regular training schedule.

Publication1All of a sudden, race day for the Beach2Battleship arrived and the weather conditions were nearly perfect. With a little help from the ocean current, my swim was faster in this race. This allowed me to get on the bike sooner. As I transitioned into the cycling course, I looked at my Garmin and realized the bike ride would be faster too. This meant that I would make it to the run and have a chance to finish. I didn’t expect to break any speed records on my run, my main goal was to just keep moving forward to get to the finish line.

Throughout the run I saw everyone from our training group at various stages of their runs as well as spectating friends from Rex who were there cheering us on. About mile 8 or 9 it started to hit me that I was going to make it. From that point on, tears would come and go all the way to the finish line. I was so happy to finish and get that medal because it really had been a long year of training and it finally paid off.

At the end, it was a exiting day for all, as everyone on our Garner Rex team finished. After a few hugs and some food, the group waited for fellow Rex members Liz and Jason to finish the full distance race before leaving for the night.

The next morning I awoke with tears in my eyes just thinking about what happened the night before. Though I didn’t get much sleep because I was too excited, I was on cloud nine. Some of us met for breakfast to talk about the race before leaving town. When we arrived home, Rodney and Angie presented me with a 70.3 magnet for my vehicle. I can’t thank them enough for the love and support they have showed me throughout this journey and beyond.

Publication2Our entire B2B training team is much appreciative of the support the Rex Wellness family has showed us throughout this adventure. In 2013 the plan was for Rodney to coach me to finish what was to be my first sprint and only triathlon. Coach and his wife have long since become close personal friends of mine for life and now I’m a 70.3 finisher for life!! You could say there was a slight change of plans.

I am proof that if you commit to your training and don’t give up, it is not required that you be tall, lean, or super fast to accomplish something as great as finishing a 70.3 half-iron triathlon.

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