Category Archive:

How Will Obamacare Affect Me?

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Are you one of the 57 percent of Americans who don’t know enough about the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare,” to understand how it will affect them? Check out the infographic below to find out what Obamacare’s effect will be on businesses, the medically underserved, and people without insurance. (If you already have insurance, chances are you won’t be affected.)

How Obamacare Affects You


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What is the Mediterranean Diet?

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The Mediterranean diet, recently called the healthiest diet in the world, is a way of both enjoying the lifestyle of and eating based on the traditional foods (and drinks) of the countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. This includes Italy, Greece, Spain, and Morocco.

The health benefits of a Mediterranean diet have been studied extensively in the last 10 years, resulting in better science and more clinical evidence.

What Foods are Included in the Mediterranean Diet?

The Mediterranean diet includes extra virgin olive oil, chickpeas, nuts (i.e. hazlenuts and walnuts), vegetables, fruits, fish, and whole grains are all included. There is a moderate consumption of dairy products (mostly as cheese and yogurt). Additionally, there is an emphasis on a variety of minimally processed and, wherever possible, seasonally fresh and locally grown foods (which often maximizes the health-promoting micronutrient and antioxidant content of these foods).

Opposed to many diets which exclude alcohol, the Mediterranean diet allows for moderate consumption of wine, normally with meals; about one to two glasses per day for men and one glass per day for women. From a contemporary public health perspective, wine should be considered optional and avoided when consumption would put the individual or others at risk.

Does the Diet Include Exercise?

Regular physical activity at a level which promotes a healthy weight, fitness and well-being is generally included in the diet as well. The Mediterranean diet, according to many nutritionists and health specialists, is more of a lifestyle than a traditional diet.

What Diseases Does the Diet Prevent and/or Reduce?

The February 25 New England Journal of Medicine published the results of a large Spanish study that found persuasive evidence that the Mediterranean lowers the risk of strokes and heart disease. In the featured study, participants who enjoyed plentiful amounts of these foods had less cardiovascular disease than subjects who followed a more conventional low-fat diet that included red meat. The results were so overwhelmingly clear that researchers study ended the study early. The researches concluded that among persons at high cardiovascular risk, a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts reduced the incidence of major cardiovascular events.

A separate but also recent analysis of more than 1.5 million healthy adults demonstrated that following a Mediterranean diet was associated with a reduced risk of overall and cardiovascular mortality, a reduced incidence of cancer and cancer mortality, diabetes, and a reduced incidence of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.

Is This Diet New?

Although filed in with the myriad of fad diets, the Mediterranean diet is far from new. In 2010, UNESCO recognized this diet pattern as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Italy, Greece, Spain and Morocco.

For thousands of years, residents along the Mediterranean coast have enjoyed the delicious diet and engaging in regular physical activity. They don’t think of their eating habits as a diet plan; it’s simply a way of life that can lead to long, healthy lives with less chance of chronic disease.


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At What Age Should I Start Getting Checked for Cancer?

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Cancer screening testAccording to statistics from the American Cancer Society (ACS), approximately 1.6 million Americans will be diagnosed with cancer in 2013 – and more than 500,000 lives are expected to be lost to the deadly disease this year alone. Many of these deaths can be prevented by avoiding risk factors and by undergoing regular screening tests for certain types of cancers.

Following are some recommendations from the ACS for when to start getting screened for cancer:

Breast

  • Breast self-examination: This type of exam involves checking the breasts regularly to help detect problems or changes. It is recommended for women over the age of 20, but not required.
  • Clinical breast examination: It is recommended that this type of exam be performed by a healthcare provider at least once every three years for women in their 20s and 30s.
  • Mammography: Women over the age of 40 should have one done each year.

Cervix

Cervical cancer screenings for women should begin at the age of 21 and can be done every three years with a regular Pap test. Between 30 and 65, tests can be done every five years with both the HPV and Pap tests, or every three years with just the Pap. Depending on different factors, women may be able to stop screening for cervical cancer after 65.

Colorectal

There are different tests that can be performed to screen for colorectal cancer (from a fecal occult blood test to colonoscopy); however, it isn’t necessary for men or women to start getting tested until the age of 50. How often screenings occur, depends on the type of test and recommendations from your doctor.

Lung

Past and current smokers ages 55 to 74 with at least a 30 pack-year history can undergo a low dose helical CT test to screen for cancer after being informed by their physician of potential harms and limitations. The ACS recommends smoking cessation as the  foremost form of lung cancer prevention.

Prostate

Men over the age of 50 should talk to their healthcare provider about prostate cancer screenings such as rectal exams and PSA blood tests, including benefits and potential risks. African-American men and those with a strong family history of prostate cancer should have a discussion with their doctor at 45.

For specific questions or concerns about the different cancers and their related screening methods, talk to your doctor.


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What Is the Difference between a Patient Portal and a PHR?

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What is PHR? What is patient portal?There are a lot of buzzwords being thrown around in hospitals, physician practices and medical facilities across the United States, and it can be easy for patients to get confused about which terms matter and what they mean. With federal programs incentivizing healthcare providers for engaging patients in their health, two terms that caregivers are using a lot lately are “personal health record” and “patient portal” – both extremely relevant to patients and crucial for getting them involved in decisions about their health. But what does each one mean?

Personal Health Record (PHR)

A PHR is an electronic record of an individual’s health information that can draw information from various sources. This can include data obtained by the patient (weight, height, current medications, emergency contact information and family medical history), as well as data obtained from providers (diagnoses, immunizations and lab results).

In stark contrast to an electronic health record (EHR), which contains data entered and controlled by a healthcare provider, many PHRs are managed primarily by the patient. The patient can share the data with a physician if they choose to, but they are not required to. This type of PHR is referred to as “standalone.”

The other type of personal health record, which is slowly becoming more common, connects to a healthcare organization’s EHR system so that both the patient and their provider can access and update data contained within the record, resulting in a more accurate and comprehensive medical record.

Patient Portal

An online patient portal is a tool that connects to a healthcare organization’s electronic health record software. It allows patients to view certain portions of their medical record, similar to a PHR. However, unlike a PHR, patients cannot always make changes to their record. Instead, they can view data such as clinical summaries and test results and benefit from features such as:

  • Secure electronic messaging
  • Appointment scheduling
  • Prescription refill request
  • Online bill pay

Though patient portals appear to be more comprehensive resources than patient-maintained PHRs, a major downside is that they do not contain data from all of a patient’s physicians. In fact, each healthcare group will have their own portal with data pulled from that organization’s own EHR.

Do your providers use a patient portal or EHR-connected PHR? Do you maintain your own personal health record? Which method do you prefer?


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Does Cell Phone Use Increase the Chances of Developing Cancer?

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Since the introduction of the cell phone in the 1970’s there has been controversy and debate over the link between cell phone use and cancer development. Although numerous studies have been completed, there is no hard evidence to prove the link between cancer and cell phones is true.

There are three main reasons why concern has been raised over cell phone use and caner:

  • Cell phone technology is constantly changing at a very fast rate. The way people use their cell phones is not stationary. The number of calls made each day, the length of each call and the amount of other time people spend on phones is constantly increasing, especially as cell phones become more interactive. The type of technology used in cell phones is also constantly transforming.

 

  • Cell phones emit a form of radiation called radio-frequency energy (non-ionizing radiation). The tissues near to where the phone is held can absorb this energy. Ionizing radiation, such as that used for x-rays has been proven to increase a person’s cancer risk. Non-ionizing rays- also the type of rays used in microwaves-has only been proven to have a heating effect.

 

  • The number of cell phone users is constantly on the rise. The amount of users, according to the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association, has increased 3 fold since 2000.

The National Cancer Institute has summarized the most recent and relevant studies to ascertain what exactly is the current scientific consensus on cell phone use and cancer. Out of six studies, only one found a statistical association between brain cancer development and cell phone use.

The reasons for the inconsistent findings in this research are numerous:

Bias: There is an element of recall bias when individuals diagnosed with brain tumors recall how they used their cell phones. Completing questionnaires about habits once a person is diagnosed with a disease does not lead to a very subjective opinion.

Inaccurate recall: People may genuinely forget to what extent they used their cell phones when reporting their habits to researchers.

Morbidity and Mortality: Brain cancers can be difficult to study as they have a high death rate. People diagnosed with brain cancers often have a short survival period. Those who survive can often have impaired cognitive function caused by brain cancer. Family members of brain cancer victims often find it difficult to accurately report the cell phone use of their relatives. This all leads to inaccurate reporting of statistics.

Fast Changing Cell Phone Technology: The earliest phones operated on an analog system. However these days phones operate on digital technology. There is a big different between the analog and the digital systems, as the digital system uses a lower radio-frequency and power level than the early cell phone. Therefore studies completed on the early cell phones do not really apply to the cell phone of today. Also the ways cell phones are used is constantly changing. Texting, hands-free technology and internet use in cell phones mean that the cell phones proximity to the head is decreased.

Currently, studies are being completed to obtain a better understanding of cell phone use and cancer development. A large study was launched in Europe in 2010 and will follow a group of 250,000 cell phone users over the course of 20-30 years. Although this kind of study will face some of the challenges listed above, it has the advantage of being a prospective study, one that looks into the future and studies the participants as they currently use their cell phones. Perhaps this kind of study and others like it will be able to clarify, more conclusively, the link between cell phone use and cancer.


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