• Wednesday, January 03, 2018
    Your friends don't want a flu shot?
    Your friends don

    By Jerry Rhodes

    There are a lot of people like that,

    despite the risks of the disease that harms so many every year. And despite the risks they’re creating for their own loved ones who can’t get the vaccine themselves: the very young, those who have allergies, and those who have immune systems weakened by other conditions.

    Here are a few things you can tell them why it’s good to get the flu shot, even through to the end of the flu season next spring:

    • You may have heard that the vaccine this year isn’t effective. That’s from a report from Australia regarding their experience with one of the four strains of influenza covered by the vaccine this year. Who knows? The person right next to you who is coughing might have one of the other strains.
    • Even partial protection is better than none. A study recently demonstrated that people who got the flu after having the vaccine were hospitalized at a lower rate than those who weren’t vaccinated. So even if you get the flu, it may be less severe.
    • It’s safe. First, foremost and finally, the vaccine does not cause the flu.
    • It’s the best preventive we’ve got. You can practice other preventive measures (avoid close contact, stay home when you’re sick, practice health hygiene and other good health habits), but the vaccine is still your best bet for staying well if the person you pass on the street has not been so careful.

    Stay healthy, friends!

    Category: CareOregon Blog
  • Friday, December 29, 2017
    Celebrating the New Year, safely and substance free
    Celebrating the New Year, safely and substance free

    By Jerry Rhodes

    The New Year is coming!

    For many, celebrating New Year’s Eve includes consumption of “adult” beverages, and here in Oregon and Washington, smokable substances. Often it means overconsumption.

    There are alternative modes of transportation to help get those who have overconsumed back home safely. We’ll include some links at the end of this post.

    But there are alternative forms of festivities that celebrate both the New Year and a different sort of new beginning. It’s the NARA New Year’s Eve Sobriety Powwow, which runs most of the day Dec. 31, and into the early morning hours of Jan. 1.

    This is the 32nd year of the alcohol- and substance-free powwow hosted by the @Native America Rehabilitation Association, and it’s grown from barely 100 people in a school gym to an important cultural highlight for the Native American community and one of the biggest New Year’s events in Portland, everyone invited. Thousands are expected to attend at the Oregon Convention Center, Hall A.

    The founder and master of ceremonies is Philip Archambault Sr., Hunkpapa Lakota elder and NARA’s traditional cultural director.

    “I began this event for the people newly in recovery to have a place to go,” says Mr. Archambault, who celebrates his own decades of sobriety. “A place to celebrate their new lives in a clean and sober environment.  To see others who have made it and successfully continue their sobriety.”

    The afternoon of Dec. 31 kicks off at noon with activities for children that include drumming and indigenous games. At 5 p.m., Aztec dancers from around Oregon and Southwest Washington start off the evening’s events, who in the past have had up to 80 dancers display their traditional dances and ceremony.

    In addition to traditional elements of a powwow—dancing, drumming, honoring of veterans and elders, arts and crafts—this event also includes a sobriety countdown to honor those who have embarked on the sobriety journey and are celebrating decades, years, months, even single days free of alcohol and substance use.

    “It’s a very empowering moment,” Mr. Archambault says, “especially for those who have been alcohol and substance-free for a year or less, to see those who have several years of sobriety being their living role models.”

    Everyone is invited. If you haven’t had the opportunity to visit a powwow, this is a great night to get your introduction.

    For information, see NARA’s website or this annual calendar of powwows across the country.

    Free and reduced fare transportation, New Years Eve

    Information on these discounts:

    • Taxis—Coupons for $20 discounts can be picked up in downtown Portland
    • Lyft, Uber—$10 discounts with discount code VISIONZERO
    • First-time Uber users—$25 credit with discount code PDXNYE

    TriMet offers free fare on buses, MAX and trolleys after 8 p.m.

    C-Tran offers free transportation on two Vancouver routes:

    • The Vine runs from downtown Vancouver to Vancouver Mall. The last bus leaves downtown at 12:31 a.m.
    • Route 60 runs between downtown Vancouver and Jantzen Beach and Delta Park. The last bus leaves Vancouver at 11:55 p.m. and arrives back in Vancouver by 12:21 a.m.

    Category: CareOregon Blog
  • Wednesday, December 20, 2017
    Holiday season: a special time for gathering around the table
    Holiday season: a special time for gathering around the table

    By Jerry Rhodes

    Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa. All special reasons for gathering with family and friends around the table. Socializing is the best part of the holidays.

    But if you’re just one person, or unable to do all the work that is a traditional holiday meal with turkey and all the trimmings, there are alternatives.

    Our Food RxTM Newsletter’s December issue shared information on a number of options. You’re welcome to read the newsletter at http://ow.ly/p9Zr30hcSpm. In addition to the meals locations we’ve also posted here, the newsletter has information about where it’s possible for people in need to pick up a free food box before the holidays.

    Holiday meals

    • HomePlate Youth Services
      First United Methodist Church
      12555 SW Fourth St., Beaverton
      Dec. 24, 6–8 p.m.
      Open only to ages 12–24 years
    • St. Vincent de Paul Community Café
      St. Anthony’s school cafeteria
      12645 SW Pacific Highway, Tigard
      Dec. 24, 5:30–7 p.m.
    • Lift Urban Portland
      Congregation Beth Israel
      1972 NW Flanders St., Portland
      Dec. 25, 11:30 a.m.–1:30 p.m.
    • Sonrise Church Hillsboro Campus
      6701 NE Campus Drive
      Dec. 25, noon
    • Faith Café
      Bethel Congregational United Church of Christ
      5150 SW Watson Ave., Beaverton
      Dec. 24, 4–5 p.m.
    • Union Gospel Mission
      3 NW Third Ave., Portland
      Dec. 25, 10 a.m.–1 p.m.
    • United States Mission
      4545 NE Garfield Ave., Portland
      Dec. 25, 1–2:30 p.m.
    • Potluck in the Park
      Portland Art Museum - Mark Building
      1119 SW Park Ave.
      Dec. 24, 1–4 p.m.

    Category: CareOregon Blog
  • Friday, December 15, 2017
    Making the best of the holidays despite depression
    Making the best of the holidays despite depression

    By Susan Fitzgerald

    Tis the season. You dread what’s coming, but you can’t stop it.

    One more well-wisher approaches. Happy Holidays!

    When you’re depressed or grieving, it’s hard to join in and feel festive at the flip of a holiday light switch. And the holidays are already loaded with expectations and pressure to be perfect. We’re short on sleep, overbooked and under-planned.

    Take a deep breath. Here’s a few time-tested ways to make it easier on yourself.

    • Get real about your expectations. It’s not going to be perfect, but it can be good. Decide what you can do without straining yourself and your resources. Make peace with that.
    • Get real about your family. They will be exactly who they are on every other day of the year - plus or minus alcohol. Plan your exit strategy ahead of time, as needed. You don’t have to hang around at the expense of your mental health.
    • Get real about your needs. Rest and exercise in good measure. Pace yourself on all the food, drink and socializing.

    Just one problem: It’s hard to do any of this if you are losing interest, losing sleep, losing hope. All are signs you may need a checkup to screen for depression.

    Some people try to brush it off because it’s the holidays. But you wouldn’t put off treatment for any other illness, would you? Screening and treatment for depression is a present you give yourself. You deserve to feel better.

    Category: CareOregon Blog
  • Reminders: Vaccinations are for children and adults
    Wednesday, December 06, 2017
    Reminders: Vaccinations are for children and adults
    Reminders: Vaccinations are for children and adults

    By Jerry Rhodes

    This is National Childhood Vaccination Week.

    I have a couple of physical reminders of vaccinations from my childhood.

    I recently found my polio vaccine card. Three dates, in 1959 and 1960, showing that I received the four doses of polio vaccine to prevent me getting the crippling disease.

    I think of that at my Rotary Club. Rotary International has been a primary funder, along with governments, the World Health Organization and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, of the international effort that has pushed polio to the brink of extinction. This year, there have been just a handful of cases in two countries: Afghanistan and Pakistan. Soon, polio may be extinct, just like smallpox.

    My other physical reminder is the small scar on my arm from my own smallpox vaccination. The last case of smallpox was 1977 in Somalia. Today, they don’t even give it routinely.

    I have memories of other vaccine-related events. Rather, memories of events that vaccine can prevent today. Personally experiencing measles, chickenpox (varicella) and mumps. Hearing about the aunt I never knew who’d died of whooping cough (pertussis) at age 3. Knowing an older relative with Parkinson’s who died of influenza quite recently. Seeing how my father suffered from shingles. Listening to stories from older people of the family members they'd lost to the Spanish Flu in 1918.

    Most people today don’t have those memories because of the amazing work that scientists have done developing vaccines, and that health providers have done getting them to those who need them.

    In some cases, living in a society where these diseases are rare, it’s made people complacent about the real dangers and too willing to skip vaccinations.

    The Oregon Health Plan provides members with vaccinations without cost. To keep up, it’s always best to talk with your child’s health care provider or your own. You can also look at the immunization schedules on our website.

    Category: CareOregon Blog
  • Tuesday, November 21, 2017
    This Black Friday, #OptOutside instead
    This Black Friday, #OptOutside instead

    Years ago, when all my family gathered for Thanksgiving, one of our traditions was to go for a long walk on the day after. Where we lived, the leaves had pretty much fallen, but it wasn’t typically very wet, so it usually was a nice stroll a couple of miles through the woods, kicking up the leaves and enjoying the occasional wildlife.

    Image of a woman in the snowNow days, the day after Thanksgiving is called Black Friday, the day when stores and shopping centers are filled with people desperate to max out their credit cards before anyone else does.

    There’s been a backlash against that too. REI is among the retailers that refuse to open, giving their employees the day off and encouraging them to #OptOutside: Go out and do something active.

    That’s the healthy thing to do. It’s always good to be active. And avoiding the crowds is an added benefit.

    The state and national parks departments have joined the movement. This Friday, national parks and state parks in both Oregon and Washington will be free.

    You can look online for parks in your area online. And we’ve included a few here, plus some additional options:

    Portland Metro Area

    • Go a little farther afield and you can go to Champoeg State Heritage Area, site of the historic vote in 1843 that made Oregon decidedly American, and Milo McIver State Park, site of the Oregon Vortex I music festival that made Oregon decidedly far out. Both have great opportunities for hiking, biking and disc golf. You can find these and other sites managed by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department at its website.
    • And there are lots of city parks, too, which are always free, including the vast trail system in Portland’s Forest Park.

    Tillamook, Columbia and Clatsop counties

    • Lewis & Clark National Historical Park encompasses a number of units under state and federal management, including Fort Clatsop, Fort Stevens, Ecola State Park and Sunset Beach State Recreation Site in Oregon, and Cape Disappointment and Fort Columbia State Parks in Washington. You can hike or storm watch, if the wind and waves are up, but be careful!
    • The 21-mile Banks-Vernonia State Trail is free every day. It’s an old train bed, so any slope at all will be very gentle. There are six trailheads, so you can access it easily.

    Jackson County

    The nearest national park is Crater Lake, which is not that close and might have snow issues at this time. There are local alternatives, including:

    •  North Mountain Park Nature Center in Ashland is open from sunrise to sunset. The nature center building isn’t open on Black Friday, but the park is. North Mountain Park is a great place for a family walk and nature exploration. The park includes demonstration gardens, a playground, wetlands, walking and bike trails, Native American displays and more.
    • The Table Rocks are two cliff-edged mesas that provide a beautiful view of the Rogue River Valley. The hike to Upper Table Rock is an easy 2.8-mile trip, gaining 720 feet. The hike up Lower Table Rock is a moderate 5.4-mile trip, gaining 780 feet.
    • If you don’t care for climbing, you have a great option in the Rogue River Greenway. It’s an ambitious project to link the cities in Jackson County to Grants Pass in Josephine County. Many sections are completed including a stretch that takes in Valley of the Rogue State Park. Check out the progress and find the parts you can hike or bike now.

    Yamhill County

    •  Erratic Rock State Natural Site is just seven miles from McMinnville. It can give you a geological history lesson, as well as provide a place to hike. This is the site of a 90-tom rock from the Canadian Rockies left here after one of the massive floods of the late Ice Age.
    •  Willamette Missionis not that far from Yamhill County. It’s the site of the Methodist Mission founded in 1834, and includes opportunities for hikers, cyclists and canoeing.
    • If you just want to get outside for a little fun, how about the tree lighting in McMinnville? The McMinnville Downtown Association presents Santa’s Parade and Tree Lighting beginning at 4:30 p.m. Friday, on Third Street. Caroling, hot chocolate and the tree lighting ceremony will follow the parade.

    Category: CareOregon Blog
  • Tuesday, September 12, 2017
    School’s back in session: Time to practice driving precautions
    School’s back in session: Time to practice driving precautions

    By Jerry Rhodes

    When I was a teen, growing up in country that occasionally had snow storms (think an unusual amount of snow for the Portland area, and several storms a year), it was great fun to go out to a nearby empty parking lot and deliberately slide the vehicle in the snow, going too fast, turning the wheels too much for the conditions and slamming on the brakes or some combination of all three.

    Turns out, that was actually a good thing to do. We couldn’t run into anything, and we were gaining valuable experience in how cars and truck handle in adverse weather conditions. Having learned what could make us lose control, we learned what not to do when driving on actual roads.

    (Some people tried that on mud, too, but I wasn’t all that fond of washing the car afterwards — and I certainly didn’t want my parents to see it muddy.)

    Years later, when learning how to drive emergency vehicles and school buses, I practiced again.

    Don’t take my word for it on the value of practice in poor conditions. This is from Marie Dodds, of AAA Oregon.

    “Instead of just having your kid drive to and from school, or to and from the grocery store, or to and from a friend's house, take them out on country back roads, take them out in inclement weather,” she urges. “Make sure that they have experience in a wide variety of driving scenarios.”

    That message was directed to the parents of teens who drive to school, and part of an overall message about extra precautions that all drivers should take, now that schools are back in session, as reported by Oregon News Service.

    Here are other precautions:

    • Slow to 20 miles per hour in school zines. It’s the law, you’ll get hefty fines if you don’t, and most importantly, the odds of surviving a vehicle-pedestrian collision are much greater at speeds less than 20 mph.
    • Come to a full stop at stop signs and cross walks. Don’t roll on through as you may be tempted to do.
    • Keep a good watch outside of crosswalks, too. Children have been known to dart into the street unexpectedly.
    • Remember what the bus lights mean:
      • Yellow flashing lights mean the bus is preparing to stop.
      • Red flashing means children are leaving the bus and may be crossing the streets.
      • The only vehicles that legally may continue past a bus with flashing red lights are those going in the opposite direction and there is a physical barrier, such as a concrete, fence or landscape barrier between you and the bus.

    Also, remember the new, very tough distracted-driving laws. Research shows that it takes about half a minute after you’ve stopped using technology, such as a phone, for your brain to become fully re-engaged in driving. Save yourself grief and just don’t do it.

    Category: CareOregon Blog
  • Monday, August 07, 2017
    Back pain is a national problem; Oregon Medicaid offers alternatives
    Back pain is a national problem; Oregon Medicaid offers alternatives

    By Jerry Rhodes

    People—present company included—have been known to do dumb things now and then. And many have paid for it with a lifetime of pain.

    I once helped a friend carry a heavy sofa bed out to a moving van. We had to negotiate a gate that was too small, so we decided to lift the sofa over the fence. About halfway up, I kinda collapsed. The next day, I couldn’t get out of bed.

    Then we did what we should have done first—ask for help—but ever since I’ve had occasional back pain. Fortunately, episodes are years apart. But when it happens, it lasts for days and is so excruciating that it takes me 15 minutes or more to get out of bed.

    People with chronic pain can get pretty desperate for relief. Too often, that has included an over reliance on opioid medication, which has the risk of addiction. Some even turn to heroin as a cheaper, readily available alternative.

    It’s a big problem nationwide. Here in Oregon, many of Oregon’s Medicaid Coordinated Care Organizations have been aggressively fighting the opioid epidemic and offering alternatives.

    Recently, Vox Media published a deep look at the science of treating lower back pain, the most common of pain complaints. It quoted our Chief Medical Officer Dr. Amit Shah about how Oregon Coordinated Care Organizations are helping people manage their pain:

    “…the Oregon Health Plan (the state’s version of Medicaid, federally funded health insurance for the poor) has ensured that alternatives like acupuncture and physical therapy are covered. It’s also expanded access to treatment for the behavioral health factors that are associated with back pain (such as depression and anxiety) by paying primary care clinics extra to be able to hire behavioral health specialists and meet patients who may not have had access to those services. Finally, it’s opened non-medication pain clinics, where people with low back pain can get a range of treatments as well as help to taper off their opioid prescriptions.”

    If you have back pain, this article talks about what studies say works best. Some of these solutions are worth exploring with your own health care provider. 

    Category: Health Tips
  • Monday, July 31, 2017
    Summer heat puts extra stress on people with certain conditions
    Summer heat puts extra stress on people with certain conditions

    As Oregon enters a week of possible record heat, let’s look at some tips to stay cool, especially for people with certain medical issues.

    “Heat poses special problems for people with heart conditions, diabetes and other diseases,” said Dr. George Waldman, associate medical director at CareOregon. “Be sure to ask your doctor how to manage your condition when temperatures get above 80.”

    Some diseases and medicines raise the risk of heat stroke. Here’s what to look for.

    Medical conditions

    The heart is the center of our cooling system. Heat stresses the hearts even of healthy people. People with certain conditions need to be extra careful in the heat.

    • Beta blockers can slow down the body’s cooling system for heart patients.  
    • Diabetes causes poor circulation, which also makes it hard for the body’s cooling system.
    • Kidney disease might mean you can’t drink more water to keep cool.


    Your medicines also may affect your body’s natural cooling.

    • Diuretics remove fluid and sodium. If you are sweating and taking diuretics, add a little salt to your diet.
    • Some antidepressants and antihistamines can block sweating, so drink extra water to keep cool.

    Check the labels on your medications and testing supplies. Some say to store items below 80 degrees.  Keep them in a cool place and out of your car.


    Be sure to drink water throughout the day. By the time you feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.

    “Tap water is the ideal and cheapest fluid to get hydrated,” said Dr. Waldmann. “Bottled water and so-called ‘sports drinks’ and ‘energy drinks’ are no better than water straight out of the tap and not worth the extra cost.”

    Avoid sweetened or alcoholic beverages, which are dehydrating.

    Warning signs

    Headaches, dizziness, light-headedness, weakness or nausea can mean heat exhaustion. Drink water, take a cool shower, to get a ride to some air conditioning.

    If you find you aren’t sweating anymore, this could mean heat stroke. Call 9 - 1 - 1. Other signs include fever above 103 degrees, rapid shallow breathing, weak and rapid pulse and confusion.

    Stay safe

    Water in and on your body helps you fight the heat. Try a cowboy-style wet kerchief around your neck. Cool showers and cloths help too.

    Check on family, friends and neighbors, or ask them for help when it’s just too hot. Get yourself or others to a mall, library or other community space with air conditioning to stay cool.  


    Dial 211 or go to 211.org for cooling centers near you.

    Category: Health Tips
  • Monday, July 17, 2017
    Annual checkup is a good time to review medications
    Annual checkup is a good time to review medications

    My dad took many medications, for his heart condition, blood pressure and diabetes. Sometimes if the doctor put him on a new pill, and he felt bad shortly after starting it, he’d just stop taking it. But he didn’t like to talk to the doctor about it. That made him uncomfortable.

    That’s pretty common among people who take many medications. In fact, more than half of the people who take prescription medicine every day have some reason for missing a dose. But it’s risky. Dad could have been letting a condition get worse instead of getting better.

    Top reasons people skip medication

    Here are some common reasons people give for missing their medication:

    • They forget.
    • They may not be convinced the medication really works for them.
    • They fear side effects, or are having side effects.
    • They have difficulty, especially with injections or inhalers.
    • Their medication instructions are not clear enough, which creates confusion.

    Cost can be a factor too, but people on the Oregon Health Plan have very few copayments.

    Maybe you can’t tell when you miss a dose, with some medications. Take blood pressure, for instance. You might not feel differently if you skip a pill. But your body knows. Those missing doses can put you at risk of a stroke or heart attack.

    Annual visit a time to chat

    At your annual checkup, your body tells the doctor how you are doing on your meds for conditions like blood pressure and blood sugar. This is a great time to be open with your doctor if you’re having trouble.

    Medication can get complicated – pills in the morning, pills at night, with food or away from food. So many people get mixed up on their meds that clinics and health plans may reach out to them.

    “The most common reason we call members is because they have trouble taking their medication as prescribed,” said Laureen Susi of the CareOregon Pharmacy Help Desk. “We can help them figure out what’s tripping them up, and get them on track.”

    Your neighborhood pharmacist is also a great resource when you have questions or concerns about medication.

    CareOregon MEDS ChartMEDS tracking tool

    To keep track of all your meds – and why you take them – try My Easy Drug System (MEDS). CareOregon developed this chart and anyone can use it.

    If you are worried about side effects or interactions with your medicine, the MEDS chart has a place for you write that. This helps you remember to talk to your doctor about your concerns.  

    People taking a lot of pills often need a system to keep track. Maybe it’s a pill box you fill every day or every week. However you do it, staying on top of your prescription medications pays off in keeping you as healthy as possible and doing what you like to do.


    Category: Health Tips
  • Monday, July 10, 2017
    The sun is fun…if you’re protected
    The sun is fun…if you’re protected

    By Jerry Rhodes

    It’s so tempting to just let that sun, so recently a rare sight, have its way with your skin. It feels nice and warm, and a nice tan would be a great…

    What a minute! Perhaps that suntan is not such a great thing.

    I’ve got family history that tells me otherwise. My parents and a brother have had skin cancers removed. A cousin has had melanoma removed, the deadliest form of skin cancer, and he’s thankfully free of cancer now. An uncle died of it. So after half a lifetime of working out in the elements and longer than that playing outdoors, I tend to cover up for the most part and always wear a hat.

    Remember the sunscreenNow that the sun is finally here most of the time, it might be a good idea for me to review how best to protect myself from the sun.

    There is a pretty good video here.

    A lot of people need reminders now and then, and don’t even know it. Recently the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology published some research that was conducted by watching people at the Minnesota State Fair. Here is what they found:

    Only one-third of the people observed put sunscreen on all exposed skin, and just a few more than that wore sun-protective clothing, hats, or sunglasses. On cloudy days, when the risks can be just as high, even fewer people used sunscreen.

    Men were the worst offenders, even though men over 50 have a higher risk of developing melanoma and UV exposure is the most preventable skin cancer risk factor.

    You may have heard that SPF 30 and higher is the kind of sunscreen to use. That link above will tell you that. Here is another tip: Find one you like, because as more than one person has observed, the best sunscreen is the one you use.

    One other thing. Knowing my family history, I always ask my doctor to check me out when I go in for a visit. Knowledge is another great preventive medicine.

    Category: Health Tips
  • Wednesday, June 28, 2017
    DASHING to lower blood pressure
    DASHING to lower blood pressure

    By Janet Filips

    My dad had high blood pressure. My mom had high blood pressure. I sure did not want high blood pressure, too.

    So starting in my 20s, I exercised nearly every day, trained my taste buds to dislike salt, and gobbled brown rice and the rainbow of fruits and veggies.

    But nearly 10 years ago, I got a bad surprise at a workplace health screening. My once-lovely blood pressure had taken a giant leap, up into the danger zone.

    Was this just a one-time change fueled by a stressful deadline or too much coffee? Or was it genetics calling my name? The workplace nurse advised me to talk with my primary care provider.

    Heart-healthy cookingMy doctor and I decided I’d keep all my lifestyle changes, including eating foods known to lower blood pressure. Those are foods high in magnesium, potassium, calcium and fiber, and low in salt. You can learn lots more about this style of eating, called the DASH Diet, here: http://health.usnews.com/best-diet/dash-diet. In addition, he suggested I take a magnesium supplement.

    I’d track my blood pressure numbers for about six months to see if there was a change. Then, based on the results, we’d come up with a plan.

    What high blood pressure is and why we should care

    Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries as the heart pumps, says the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. When the force is too high, it crosses into high blood pressure, or hypertension.

    Your blood pressure reading comes out as two numbers. The top number, or systolic, reflects the pressure as your heart beats. The bottom number, or diastolic, measures the pressure of your heart at rest between beats.

    Your primary care provider can guide you on what good numbers are for you and your age.

    Why should we care? Because, happily, we can do many things to keep our blood pressure in a healthy range.

    Here’s a snapshot of health problems we can help avoid by controlling our blood pressure:

    • High blood pressure contributes to hardening, or narrowing, of the arteries. This buildup of plaque in the arteries increases the risk of heart disease and stroke, which account for a lot of death and disability in Americans. No thank you.
    • High blood pressure can lead to other serious health problems, including heart failure, kidney disease and blindness.

    What happened with me

    It turned out I needed to combine my lifestyle efforts with a very low dose of a medicine that helps my body get rid of salt (sodium) and water.

    I also paid even more attention to sodium. At home, I was already cooking with very little salt. But when I started reading labels for the sodium levels of packaged foods like spaghetti sauce and refried beans, I found shockingly high numbers--big differences among flavors and brands. Not everyone is sensitive to salt. But for me, cutting salt was a great way to lower my blood pressure.

    The National Institutes of Health says most Americans should keep eat no more than 2,400 milligrams of sodium (salt) each day—from the salt shaker and prepared foods. This equals about 1 teaspoon of table salt. Your doctor may advise less if you have high blood pressure, so ask about that—and all the other ways you can help keep your heart healthy.

    Ready to start in the kitchen? Here is a video and good info about following the DASH Diet. Think of it as an “eating plan” rather than a diet. And maybe you’ll get a nice surprise next time the nurse puts on a blood pressure cuff.

    More about the DASH Diet

    Video: http://careoregon.org/healthwise.html?DOCHWID=abn3463

    Summary: www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/dash-diet/art-20048456

    Detailed info: www.nhlbi.nih.gov/files/docs/public/heart/dash_brief.pdf

    #DASHdiet #highbloodpressure #sodium

    Category: Health Tips
  • Thursday, June 15, 2017
    Who knows rheumatoid arthritis the best? A rheumatologist!
    Who knows rheumatoid arthritis the best? A rheumatologist!

    By Janet Filips

    True or false: You have rheumatoid arthritis.

    If you answered “True,” we have a question: How do you know?

    It’s not enough to suffer from sore joints, stiffness, swollen knuckles and a lot of pain.

    That feels miserable. But it may not be rheumatoid arthritis.

    It’s tricky to correctly diagnose rheumatoid arthritis. If your primary care provider (PCP) says you have rheumatoid arthritis, ask if it would be helpful to have a referral to a rheumatologist to confirm the diagnosis or oversee treatment.   

    Rheumatologists are doctors who specialize in diagnosing and treating arthritis. Your primary care provider may have a rheumatologist to suggest. Our Customer Service staff can also help you find one who’s in our network. Customer Service hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday. Call 503-416-4100 or 1-800-224-4840, send a text message to 503-488-2887, or email by filling out this form.

    5 reasons you may need to see a rheumatologist

    1. Primary care providers look at the big picture. They know about everything from rashes to sore throats to high blood pressure. They aren’t trained to know everything about any one disease, like a rheumatologist is with the many types of arthritis.

    2. Rheumatoid arthritis is complicated. No single test lights up and says, “Yes! It’s rheumatoid arthritis!” And it’s easy to mistake other, unrelated conditions for rheumatoid arthritis. A good diagnosis typically involves blood tests, an exam of your joints and organs, and imaging tests like X-rays and ultrasound.

    Pain is part of the picture, but pain is definitely not the deciding factor in deciding if you have rheumatoid arthritis. Do you take opioids for your joint pain? That does not mean you have rheumatoid arthritis.

    3. Rheumatoid arthritis is serious. It’s an autoimmune disease. That means your body’s germ-fighting army is confused. It starts fighting your own healthy tissue, thinking it’s the enemy. Your body’s normal weapons against germs include inflammation, or swelling. Usually, inflammation goes away when the healing is done.

    But in rheumatoid arthritis, the inflammation sticks around and makes your joints hurt. Over time, it damages joints. Damaged joints cannot recover, so you do not want to let your rheumatoid arthritis get that far. That’s why:

    4. It’s important to start the right treatment as soon as possible. Treatments for rheumatoid arthritis have grown and improved in recent years. Rheumatologists stay up-to-date on the choices. Certain medicines will slow down or even stop the disease’s steady damage to your joints. They can greatly relieve your pain and improve your ability to move.

    The flip side: Some useful treatments carry the risk of dangerous side effects. You want to be sure you are taking a medicine you need, and that your rheumatologist is paying attention to how it’s affecting you.

    5. Your rheumatologist will team up with your regular provider. Depending on how bad your rheumatoid arthritis is, your symptoms, and what kind of medicine you’re on, you’ll need to see your rheumatologist every few months, twice a year, or once a year. After your condition settles down, your primary care provider will keep an eye on you in between your rheumatology appointments.

    Why get treated?

    The right treatment, at the right time, can really improve your life. The goals are to:

    • Help you keep moving and functioning
    • Lower your pain
    • Prevent future damage to your joints.

    Medicines and doctors can help you reach those goals. And luckily, you can make lifestyle changes that help you reduce pain and stay active. They include:

    • Exercising. The Arthritis Foundation offers these ideas for helpful exercises. A physical therapist can help you make an appropriate exercise plan. And here’s an Oregon report about how exercise helps relieve pain without the risks of opioids.
    • If you’re overweight, getting to a healthy weight. Excess weight stresses your joints.
    • Limiting alcohol. If you drink, keep it to one or two drinks daily at the most. Talk with your doctor about alcohol’s effects on any medicines.
    • Quitting smoking. Quitting smoking will reduce your symptoms and may help you reduce your medications. CareOregon can help! Members are eligible for the Quit For Life® Program, one time in each 12-month period. Call 1-866-QUIT-4-LIFE (1-866-784-8454), or log on to www.quitnow.net for details or to enroll.

    Other resources










    Category: Health Tips
  • Wednesday, June 14, 2017
    A word to the wise can make a world of difference
    A word to the wise can make a world of difference

    By Jerry Rhodes

    Some day your health care provider may ask you a few questions related to use of alcohol or other chemical substances. You may wonder why, because you came in for something totally unrelated.

    But think about how a few words, at the right time, can have enormous consequences.

    Here are some you may have heard:

    “This nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before the decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.”

    “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”

    A few words at the right time can make such a great difference in your life and health, too.

    Your doctor’s questions may be such a time. It’s called SBIRT, which stands for Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment. It’s a proven way to help people with dependence problems with alcohol and other drugs.

    That’s because this quick screening of most patients, not just those who have substance abuse symptoms, has been proven to help identify potential problem areas, and get treatment.

    It’s even a good idea to bring the subject up yourself. Just ask your provider about SBIRT.

    It can’t hurt, and it can sure be a help if it’s needed.

    If you want to check into this on your own, here are a few resources: http://www.careoregon.org/Health-Wellness/StayingHealthy/AlcoholDrugs.aspx.

    Category: Health Tips
  • Thursday, May 18, 2017
    National Women’s Health Week hits close to home
    National Women’s Health Week hits close to home

    By Susan Fitzgerald

    Recently a friend texted me a photo of the patient’s-eye view of an ambulance and said she’d be offline for a while. She had chest pain and was afraid it was a heart attack. Last thing in the world I expected to hear from her.

    In the middle of a work day, I didn’t know if anybody would be with her, so I just showed up. We talked about what had been going on in her life. She was in new job with loads of stress. She’d been feeling tired and draggy.

    “I feel so silly,” she said. “I must be overreacting, but it was scary.” Her father died of a heart attack, though she seemed too young for that.

    When the doctor came in with the test results, she took my hand.  “It was the real thing,” the doctor said. “You had a heart attack.”

    Women's Heart HealthAs scary as that is for her, it’s a wake-up call for me, too. This woman is a dozen years younger than I am, and I probably have more risk factors than she does.

    I can’t change my family history of heart disease, but everyday choices about diet and exercise can improve or worsen my odds. Those choices show up in my numbers: blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar. They’re not bad, but they could be better.

    My friend said she hadn’t paid any attention to her numbers. She was thinking heart disease was more of a male thing, at least in her family. Recovering at home with a shiny new stent, she studied up on women’s heart health and learned some facts she wants to share:

    • Heart attacks kill six times more women than breast cancer.
    • While the average age for women heart attacks is 70, some 35,000 women under 50 have heart attacks each year.
    • Heart attacks at a younger age are more likely to kill women than men.
    • To offset that unfairness, women’s hearts respond better to lifestyle changes than men’s.


    What happened to my friend made me think it might be time for an electrocardiogram (EKG) test.  That involves getting wired up to a monitor and walking on a treadmill, faster and steeper over several minutes. It measures heart rate, heart waves, breathing and blood pressure.

    I’ll ask my doctor if this is a good time to get that benchmark information. I’d sure like to avoid any scary surprises.  And, of course, get to work on those numbers.

    During National Women’s Health Week, here’s a to-do list for women of all ages.

    Category: Health Tips
  • Monday, May 15, 2017
    A visit to the emergency room
    A visit to the emergency room

    By Jerry Rhodes

    Ever have to go to the emergency room?

    I have, several times over the past half-dozen years or so.

    In these cases, a doctor or nurse had directed the patient to go to the emergency room. Sometimes it was because it was after hours or because an evaluation or treatment was necessary that the regular primary care office wasn’t equipped for.

    But if a doctor or nurse hasn’t told you how do you know when to use the ER, and when to go somewhere else, like an urgent care clinic or your primary care provider?

    A visit to the emergency roomIt does make a difference. If you go to the emergency room, but you don’t have a medical emergency, you’ll be sitting around, perhaps for hours, while the staff is treating people who are in greater need than you. And when they get to you, sometimes they’ll refer you back to your primary care provider or an urgent care clinic for the care you need. At an urgent care center, you’re likely to be treated more quickly.

    Here are some basics about when to visit an ER, urgent care or a primary care clinic. We pulled these from the Member Handbook for Health Share of Oregon. (You can see the whole section in the Handbook on page 18.) But these are a good rule of thumb no matter for almost any health plan.

    Primary Care—Call your primary care provider office to make an appointment for:

    • Regular check-ups
    • Immunizations (shots)
    • Prescriptions
    • Normal aches and pains
    • On-going treatment/care (i.e. diabetes or asthma)
    • Referrals to specialty care

    Urgent Care—If you are a Health Share/CareOregon member, call your PCP with your urgent care questions. They can help even after normal office hours. It you are not a Health Share or CareOregon member, follow the instructions for your own health plan, which may include going to a designated urgent care clinic for:

    • Severe flu, fevers
    • Minor cuts and injuries
    • Other health issues that can’t wait for a primary care appointment

    Emergency Care—Call 911 or go to the nearest hospital for medical emergencies, such as:

    • Chest pain/heart attack
    • Broken bones
    • Major bleeding that won’t stop
    • Mental health crisis that could harm you or someone else

    You can read more about the different types of care on our website.

    #HealthierAsAWhole #EmergencyCare

    Category: Health Tips
  • Tuesday, April 25, 2017
    Look past latest headlines to see what healthy eating means for you
    Look past latest headlines to see what healthy eating means for you

    By Susan Fitzgerald

    Everybody wants to tell us how to eat. There’s a diet for diabetes, one for heart disease and high blood pressure. I’ve even seen one for brain function.

    How are we supposed to balance all these?

    Here’s the good news: These diets look a lot alike. They emphasize low-fat dairy, vegetables and fruit, lean protein, whole grains and legumes. Eat healthy oils like avocado and nuts. Pick whole foods rather than packaged foods.

    Eat healthyJust preferring whole foods will lower your diet in sugar, starch, salt and overall calories. That’s all good for heart health, blood pressure and diabetes — and preventing those diseases in the first place.

    What does this look like in real life? Picture one of those old-time diner plates, divided into three sections: one half and two quarters. The biggest section is for non-starchy fruit and/or vegetables. Think green beans or broccoli. One of the smaller parts is for healthy carbohydrates like beans, brown rice or yams. The last bit should be for lean protein, like chicken, fish or eggs. The more colorful your plate looks, the better.

    Vegetables are magic. Sneak them into everything — eggs, sandwiches, pasta, casseroles. The more you add, the fuller you feel. At our house, we’ve learned the more salads we eat, the better our numbers -- on the scale and at the doctor’s office. Pile on the leaves, veggies and protein. A few nuts, even some fruit, a little cheese, will make it a treat. This can be the place to get those healthy fats, with olive oil-based dressing, but no drowning the salad!

    Once we leave the house, the world is waiting to ambush us with calories. Thankfully, chain restaurants must tell us the calories in each meal. That has steered me away from disaster more than once. We have a few simple rules: salad instead of fries; one starch per meal (potatoes or toast or pancakes, pick one). At places with huge servings, we are learning to share one plate.

    Even if your household has people with different diet needs, healthy eating looks much the same for almost everyone.


    Category: Health Tips
  • Wednesday, March 01, 2017
    Calm your concerns about the Big C: Colonoscopy
    Calm your concerns about the Big C: Colonoscopy

    Almost all Americans know they should be screened for colon cancer after age 50. But most of us don’t do it.

    This is such an easy cancer to catch early and treat. Yet, it is the second-deadliest cancer in the U.S. That prompted the American Cancer Society to do a survey and find out why 60 percent of people skip their colonoscopy. Here’s what they learned.

    • People hear the colonoscopy is difficult or painful, and embarrassing. The liquid fast 24 hours before the procedure is not popular. Neither is the colon-clearing fluid you have to drink. The good news is, you can get screened anyway. There are several at-home methods that may work for you.
    • People worry about taking time off from work for the 24-hour preparation time. When you’re drinking that colon-clearing fluid, you really want to be close to a bathroom. With at-home screening methods, you don’t worry about that, or missing work.
    • If there’s no family history, people think there’s no need to be screened. Certainly a family history or other conditions put you at higher risk. But medical experts agree testing is important for everyone.
    • People think only those with symptoms need to be screened. This can be a deadly mistake. By the time you get symptoms, it could be too late. That’s why colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S.
    • People worry about the cost. Fortunately, many health insurers – including the Oregon Health Plan (Medicaid) – cover this screening at no cost to you.

    If you’ve been putting off a colonoscopy, you don’t have to skip your screening. Just pick a different method. The at-home tests require you to collect a stool sample, which you send to a lab. It gets tested for different types of disease markers, depending on which test you pick. Your doctor can tell you more about your choices.

    Mayo Clinic: Weigh your colorectal cancer screening options
    CareOregon: See your risk factors for colon cancer and how to reduce them.

    Category: Health Tips
  • Friday, January 13, 2017
    Flu or not, you can still get the shot
    Flu or not, you can still get the shot

    By Susan Fitzgerald

    Maybe you’ve dodged the flu that’s hitting Portland pretty hard this year. Or maybe you think you’ve already had it.

    Either way, it’s not too late to get vaccinated against influenza.

    “Always check with your own doctor first, but there are good reasons to get your flu shot even now,” said George Waldmann, M.D., assistant medical director at CareOregon.

    Get The Flu ShotDr. Waldmann lists these reasons for getting the vaccine even if you already had flu:

    • There’s more than one type of influenza virus. The vaccine typically offers coverage for three or four types of flu. You can be protected from getting sick again.
    • It’s often hard to be sure you actually had influenza. Other illnesses have similar symptoms. Most of the people around our office who had “the flu” did not have influenza. Unless your doctor had tested you for flu, you could have been sick from a different bug. Getting a flu shot now can protect you against the real thing.
    • The flu shot won’t hurt you (unless you’re allergic to one of the components). And there’s still about three months of flu season to go. Many health insurers, including CareOregon, cover the flu vaccine at no charge. Call your provider's office or go to a pharmacy in your plan's network.

    Cold or flu? Both cold and flu can share symptoms, like coughing and sore throat. Here’s how to tell them apart.

    • Cold: Cough, stuffy nose, sneezing and sore throat are common; achiness and fatigue less common.
    • Flu: Headache, muscle ache, fever/chills and fatigue are common; stuffiness and sneezing less common.

    Also, colds are usually short and don’t have complications. But influenza can last several weeks and cause sinus infections or pneumonia.

    Category: Health Tips
  • Friday, January 06, 2017
    This New Years, try a home-grown “eating plan,” not a diet
    This New Years, try a home-grown “eating plan,” not a diet

    By Jerry Rhodes

    Is following a healthier diet at the top of your list of New Years’ resolutions?

    Not sure just what a “healthier diet” really means, in practical terms?

    I can tell you which diet is considered the best, and it has scads of research to back it up. For the seventh consecutive year, the US News & World Report has named the DASH Diet the best overall.

    DASH DietYou should be proud of that, because we here in Portland had a hand in creating it. “DASH” stands for “dietary approaches to stopping hypertension.” It grew from research conducted by the Center for Health Research in Northeast Portland. And I was one of the test subjects in that research.

    The research was designed to figure out a dietary puzzle. Researchers knew that people whose diets contained a particular mix of nutrients tended to have lower risk for high blood pressure. But when they added those nutrients as dietary supplements, they didn’t see lower blood pressure as a result.

    So they decided to see what would happen if they added the nutrients using a whole diet approach.

    We test subjects were asked to restrict our calories to 2,400 per day, and only 25 percent or less of those calories from fat. We were asked to eat at least nine servings of fruits and vegetables a day (we could only count one serving of juice as fruit, as juice lacks important fiber), three servings of low-fat or non-fat dairy, plus some whole grains and lean meat or fish. And we were asked to add a modest amount of exercise a day. (You can read more detail about it here  and here.)

    And it worked. We all lost weight, and our blood pressure dropped as much as can you can expect from a basic anti-hypertension medication. The DASH Diet did other good things, too: It “is proven to improve health, has a balance of healthy food groups, and it actually works. It has been proven to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and is associated with lower risk of several types of cancer, heart disease, stroke, heart failure, kidney stones, reduced risk of developing diabetes and can slow the progression of kidney disease.”

    Best of all, it doesn’t rule out anything. You can have your cake and eat it too, if you plan for it. DASH is an eating plan for life, not just a short-term fix.

    So this year, my resolution should be to get back on the DASH Diet. It worked when I was a test subject; it undoubtedly will work again, if I let it. For your research, here are some articles that talk about the U.S. News’ findings:


    Here are the other categories of “best” diets rated by the U.S. News & World Report’s panel of health experts:

    • Best Weight-Loss Diet—Weight Watchers
    • Best Fast Weight-Loss Diet—HMR Program
    • Easiest Diet to Follow—Fertility Diet
    • Best Diet for Healthy Eating—DASH Diet
    • Best Plant-Based Diet—Mediterranean Diet
    • Best Diet Marketed to Consumers—Mayo Clinic Diet
    • Best Diet for Diabetes and Heart Disease—DASH Diet

    BTW, you can find everything you need to know about the DASH Diet at http://www.dashdietoregon.org/.

    Category: Health Tips
  • Wednesday, December 21, 2016
    Why not get a flu shot?
    Why not get a flu shot?

    By Susan Fitzgerald

    A poll conducted last flu season showed who got a flu shot and who didn’t. It also asked why.

    Almost half of all people age 50 and 64 got a flu shot. Why? Anybody who’s been around awhile knows they want to avoid flu.

    Only one third of those between ages 18 and 49 got a shot. The most common reason given for not getting it is not needing it. But flu doesn’t care whether or not you think you need the shot. It just shows up.

    More excuses, real and phony:

    • Side effects: Some people have soreness at the site of the shot, and minor fever. That just means the body is building flu antibodies.
    • Shot gives you flu: No, you can’t get flu from a flu shot. You might get a minor reaction, but it’s not flu.
    • Ineffective / inconvenient: You know what’s really inconvenient? Getting sick and missing work or fun because of influenza.

    The Oregon Health Plan and other insurers cover flu shots. Here’s why: Influenza is serious. It causes about 200,000 hospitalizations each year, and 25,000 people die. And the flu vaccine is shown to reduce illness and death from flu.

    Your flu shot also reduces transmission. That means if you do get it, you are less likely to spread it to someone who could get a lot sicker than you.

    The holidays are almost here. Think of all the people you’re going to be around. Give them a present: Get your flu shot. It’s covered – just call the number of your health plan card if you have a question.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends practically everyone over six months old get a flu shot. This means you. No more excuses.

    Find a flu shot:

    Category: Health Tips
  • Thursday, December 15, 2016
    Walking in a winter wonderland? Really?
    Walking in a winter wonderland? Really?

    By Jerry Rhodes

    We’ve all heard that old song about walking in a winter wonderland, building snowman and dreaming next to a cozy fire afterwards.

    And then winter does come. We feel the cold, watch the rain pour off the roof and think, “Really? Really? Maybe I’ll just skip straight to the cozy fire.”

    Ready for winterWell, unless you’re lugging every log up three or four flights of stairs, you’d be a lot healthier to keep up that outdoors exercise (doctor allowing), even if it is a bit nippy and drippy outside.

    We looked up a few tips on how to do it. Here’s what we found:

    • If you’re running, dress like it’s 20 degrees warmer. You’ll warm up. If you’re walking or other less heat-producing activities, dress as you would if you were going into the weather for any other reason. If it’s windy, show as little skin as possible.
      (Back in my running days—a lot of years ago—I ran in a snowstorm in Fairbanks, Alaska. Mostly I did it just to say that I had, but after a while, I was plenty warm, and only had to worry about breaking the ice off my ski mask every so often.)
    • If there’s been a freezing rain, better to stay inside, unless you want to try some of those traction devices for your boots. Then again, it may be better to use the shoe chains for when you have to be out in it, and stay inside if it isn’t mandatory.
    • Don’t neglect your warmups. They’re more important now than in warmer months.
    • Remember your visibility. Drivers can’t see as well in the dimmer light and during storms, and vehicles certainly can’t stop as fast. Better for you to act cautiously, as if every vehicle cannot see you or stop in time.

    If you’d like to know more, check out these Healthwise tips.

    Category: Health Tips
  • Tuesday, December 13, 2016
    Winterize yourself against celebration stress
    Winterize yourself against celebration stress

    By Jerry Rhodes

    The theme for our Facebook page this month is “Celebrating family and community!”

    December is certainly the month to do that. By one count, there are more than two dozen holidays celebrated in different traditions during the winter months.

    Winterize yourselfBut it is possible to celebrate too much. This is especially true if you make it your responsibility to get things perfect for your parents, siblings, children, friends, church, school.

    The list grows longer and longer until…well, until you’ve not only damaged your own celebration, but your stress levels have gone through the roof and your health has gone another direction.

    It pays to take a bit of time to take care of yourself .

    Here are a few tips for dealing with stress this season:

    • Learn to say no
    • Don’t try to do too much
    • Don’t expect things to be perfect
    • Exercise
    • Stick to a healthy diet
    • Save time to just put your feet up and not do anything at all

    For other facts about stress and how to handle it, take a look at our website.

    Category: Health Tips
  • Thursday, December 08, 2016
    Got time for flu? Check your schedule.
    Got time for flu? Check your schedule.

    By Susan Fitzgerald

    How are you feeling today? Pretty good? Did you share an elevator or car with someone who was coughing? Have a meeting with a co-worker who has kids? In a few days, you might not feel so hot.

    If you were exposed to flu, it takes one to four days to show up. But you’re contagious already.

    Its flu seasonAfter your symptoms start, you could have three to seven days to feel rotten. That’s missed work or a lost weekend.

    Even after the bug moves through you, the aches and fatigue can linger another two weeks. More down time, maybe during holidays when you least want it.

    If you’re feeling pretty good today, you’re feeling good enough to get your flu shot. It takes about two weeks to become effective.

    Oregon Health Plan members can get flu shots at their doctor’s office, pharmacies or grocery stores. Most insurance covers the flu shot. Call the number on your health plan card to check your coverage.

    Peak flu season is December to February. There’s still time to avoid it.

    Find a flu shot:

    Category: Health Tips
  • Thursday, December 01, 2016
    Hidden risks for kidney disease call for monitoring
    Hidden risks for kidney disease call for monitoring

    By Susan Fitzgerald

    The first time I bought a bottle of 100 ibuprofen tablets, I thought, “Well, that’ll last me awhile.” Many bottles later, I got a rude shock. I knew I wasn’t supposed to combine it with alcohol. But lately I found out that long-term use of over-the-counter pain medication (OTC) is a risk for kidney disease. The warning label says: Do not take more than 10 days for pain. Heck, I’ve been taking it for 10 years! Not daily, but for weeks at a time when chronic pain flared.

    Any medication you take a lot, even OTC pain meds, check the warning label. Aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) all warn against long-term use. That baby aspirin a day is okay, though.

    When I looked up kidney disease, I found the No. 1 cause is diabetes. But there are other risk factors:

    • High blood pressure plus diabetes
    • OTC medications for chronic pain
    • Being 60 years and older
    • Heavy alcohol use

    Put them together and a lot of people are at risk.

    Kidney disease doesn’t have real definite symptoms. A lot of vague signs could point to it: low energy, trouble sleeping, night muscle cramps, frequent urination, dry skin. So, if you have diabetes, or any of these other risk factors, ask your doctor whether you should be screened for kidney function.

    If you find out you already have some kidney damage, it can’t be reversed, but it can be slowed down. That makes early detection pretty important. The alternative is dire: dialysis or an organ transplant.

    Prevention and treatment look a lot alike: keep blood sugar and blood pressure in check. Stay a healthy weight. Drink that water. Avoid heavy alcohol use. Track progress with annual monitoring.

    Check with your doctor about non-medication choices for pain management. Experts say using a range of methods is the best way to deal with this. These videos will tell you more.

    Category: Health Tips
  • Monday, November 21, 2016
    Watch your mouth – it could improve your health
    Watch your mouth – it could improve your health

    By Susan Fitzgerald

    “My teeth are falling out!”

    My friend was beside herself. She’s a very cheerful person, always smiling and laughing. But now she had to cover her mouth. She felt embarrassed by the gaps.

    Only a few years earlier, she learned she had diabetes. She hadn’t had much health insurance over the years, and no dental insurance. She found out the hard way that people with diabetes – especially smokers – are more likely to have severely inflamed gums. The condition is called periodontal disease, and when it’s not treated, teeth start falling out.

    The health of our mouth is connected to the rest of our body. Researchers are studying links between periodontal disease and kidney function, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and even Alzheimer’s disease. Pregnant women also should see their dentist. Pregnancy can trigger gum inflammation, linked to pre-term or low birth-weight babies.

    Here’s what happens. Our mouth is the gateway that admits zillions of bacteria daily. Usually, saliva can fight off the bad ones. But if we’ve neglected our oral health and get gum disease, our defenses are weak. Bacteria can get into our blood through inflamed gums.

    Periodontal disease affects half of all adults in the country. Look for signs like bleeding gums when you brush your teeth, or pain. By the time you notice these, things are well along. That’s why getting regular dental care is so important.

    Health aside, a smile is one way we connect with the world. My friend smiled less, and noticed the reactions when she did. Her self-esteem took a big hit, and she suspects jobs were lost before she got dentures.

    To see if you have dental insurance, just call the number on the back of your health plan card. Oregon Health Plan members can get regular dental care.

    Those dentist appointments can help you keep your teeth, your health and your smile.

    Learn more:

  • Wednesday, November 09, 2016
    Manage blood sugar to slow diabetes effects
    Manage blood sugar to slow diabetes effects

    By Susan Fitzgerald

    As a child, I was shocked to see my grandmother give herself an injection.

    “How can you stick a needle in yourself, Grandma?”

    “Because I’ll die if I don’t.”

    She sort of laughed, but somehow I knew she meant it.

    two women I knew she had Type 2 diabetes because when Grandma came over, meals had to be served at precise times. Injecting insulin was also part of managing her blood sugar. Today, people can take a pill, injections or both. And like my straight-talking grandma said, managing diabetes is not really optional.

    Diabetes is progressive and damages blood circulation. That affects health throughout the body.

    People with uncontrolled blood sugar are likely to have:

    • Loss of vision
    • Loss of teeth to gum disease
    • Nerve pain
    • Sexual dysfunction
    • Kidney damage
    • Amputation


    Controlling blood sugar is the main way to hold off  these long-term effects.

    Maybe you can keep your blood sugar at the right level with just diet and exercise, and that’s fantastic. If you also need medication, taking it regularly is key to staying healthy and functional for many decades.

    Grandma was careful about what she ate and drank and took her medication on time. She was with us long enough to crochet baby blankets for many great-grandchildren.

    A diabetes diagnosis will change your life. But taking good care of yourself and minding your medication means you have lots of life to live.

    Category: CareOregon Blog
  • Monday, October 10, 2016
    Take a healthy eating lesson from your children
    Take a healthy eating lesson from your children

    By Jerry Rhodes

    If they’ve told us once, they’ve told us a thousand times: Your children will learn their behavior watching you.

    True enough, but you can learn from your children, too. So says the Washington Post in a recent wellness column titled, “Believe it or not, your kids can teach you something about good eating habits.”

    Of course, you have to be judicious about it. Don’t model your behavior on how they’re going to act in the days following Halloween. Or think you can get away with varying your breakfast between Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs and any cereal that turns the milk purple.

    Eat healthyHere are some of the lessons they found:

    • Pack your lunch. I’ve been there. It’s much easier to eat a healthy lunch if you’ve made it yourself than if you just grab whatever seems tasty at the nearest food cart, convenience story or fast food restaurant.
    • Have snacks. This goes with packing a lunch, too. If you eat a snack between regularly scheduled meals, you’re less likely to overdo it when mealtime comes around. I know I am. If I go to a salad bar—healthy, right?—when I’m hungry enough to be shaking, I’ll walk out with an 1,800-calorie “salad” that merely hints at vegetables.
    • Drink up. Water, that is. Like kids do, have a water bottle.
    • Eat the good stuff. I know I’ve wiped out the remains of last night’s popcorn, or, back in the day, would polish off whatever was left in the pizza box on the kitchen counter. Maybe, like a kid, I should refuse to eat that yucky stuff. It would be healthier for me.
    • Stop eating when you’re full. Older people stop listening to their instincts and plunge ahead, packing it away. Or maybe you’re like me, raised by parents who lived through the Great Depression and learned to clean your plate. Hint: Get smaller plates.

    While you’re at it, take a lesson from kids and schedule some recess for yourself. Don’t worry. If you’re going for a walk or climbing the steps at your workplace, no one will pick you last.

    Category: Health Tips
  • Friday, October 07, 2016
    Protect your child’s smile with dental sealant
    Protect your child’s smile with dental sealant

    By Susan Fitzgerald

    When your child smiles, all is right with the world.

    And when they hurt, you hurt.

    You can’t save them from everything, but you can protect them against the pain that comes from tooth decay. Regular brushing is the first defense. But teeth get a big boost in preventing decay from a protective coating applied right on the teeth. It’s called a dental sealant.

    Dental SealantA good time to schedule sealants with your dentist is when your child’s permanent teeth start coming in, around age 6. The dentist or dental assistant brushed a gel-like substance onto the teeth, especially the molars in the back.

    Molars have many tiny areas on the surface that can trap food and create cavities. Brushing won’t clean them all. Dental sealants close off those areas and keep out food particles and germs. It’s a short, easy process that happens at the end of a regular cleaning. No scary, noisy tools are involved. The sealant provides anywhere from five to 10 years of protection. Your dentist can keep an eye on it during checkups and advise when it should be reapplied.

    Best of all, sealants can cut dental disease in half.Oregon Health Plan covers sealants for children age 15 and under. Ask your dentist about this benefit.

    Your child may feel the sealant, because it makes the top surfaces of teeth very smooth. But it’s so thin that all anyone else might notice is some extra shine.

    The sealant is no substitute for regular brushing with fluoride toothpaste and flossing. But together, they go a long way toward your child having a healthy mouth and a beaming smile.

    Category: CareOregon Blog
  • Wednesday, October 05, 2016
    On the way to school, kick up a few leaves
    On the way to school, kick up a few leaves

    By Jerry Rhodes

    When I was a kid, I walked to school. Not because I had to. The bus stop was only a block from the house. I did it because I wanted to.

    And that was especially true around this time of year, when leaves and needles began falling and you could kick through dry, rustling piles that got bigger every day.

    Walk To SchoolI did it because it was fun. But it turns out it was good for me, too. I got a little bit of exercise, even though the walk was less than a mile. I got to breathe the fresh air, and occasionally splash in puddles. I got to learn a little more about nature each day. And I could let my imagination run wild. Amazing the places you can go during a 15 minute walk to school!

    A lot of children don’t get that opportunity today. And they’re missing out on those definitely healthy benefits.

    That’s why Partnership for a Walkable America has been promoting Walk to School Day in the United States since 1997. It is a one-day event, on October 5 this year, to build awareness for the need for walkable communities.

    When you think about it, walkable communities pretty much defines healthy communities. They’re safer, cleaner, with less traffic congestion and promote valuable social connections.

    If you’re interested in making your community more walkable for the students in your life, check out the Walk to School website.

    If you want to look further into walking for fitness, visit the Healthwise section of our website.

    Category: CareOregon Blog
  • Thursday, September 29, 2016
    Mammograms: Get screened, or celebrate not having to this year.
    Mammograms: Get screened, or celebrate not having to this year.

    By Susan Fitzgerald

    Nothing like shared experience to bring complete strangers together.

    For women, one of those experiences is the mammogram screening for breast cancer. Not that we have them in groups, but we all know what it’s like.

    We compare notes on the best and the worst. We know the sigh of relief at the “all clear” letter – and the panic at a call-back. Pink ribbons adorn everything from handbags to hand lotion. They remind us breast cancer is the second most common cancer among women (skin cancer is #1). Though heart disease kills more of us, it doesn’t strike the same fear as losing part of ourselves.

    Oct. 16 is National Mammogram Day, though we don’t all need one every year. Best evidence says women over 50 should be screened every other year. That’s because breast cancer is most often found among women after this age.

    But that’s not a guarantee, as many women can testify. If you have a genetic risk or other factors of concern, you and your doctor can discuss them and decide your personal screening schedule.

    Screening is just one step. All the things you do to stay healthy also help reduce your risk of breast cancer and many other diseases:

    • Keep a healthy weight
    • Exercise at least four hours a week
    • Get a good night’s sleep
    • Avoid chemicals that cause cancer such as tobacco smoke
    • Limit alcohol to about one drink a day

    If you wonder whether it’s time for a screening, ask your doctor at your annual wellness visit. If this isn’t your year for screening, celebrate that. Have a nice brisk walk under the autumn leaves, maybe with a friend; a scrumptiously healthy meal and a good night’s sleep. Sounds like a plan.

    Category: Health Tips
  • Friday, September 09, 2016
    Depression is more than a feeling, it’s a health issue.
    Depression is more than a feeling, it’s a health issue.

    By Susan Fitzgerald

    It was like a body-snatcher took my friend. She was sleepwalking through life. She didn’t want to do the things we used to do together. Just picking out a loaf of bread was overwhelming.

    She said she felt “fine,” but her face didn’t look it.

    One day she stumbled across a self-help book about depression. That was the first time in a while she seemed happy. “Hey, I know what my problem is,” she told me. “I’m depressed!”

    Get screened for depressionThat pointed her in the right direction to get some medical help. But we shouldn’t all have to diagnose ourselves. That’s why the Affordable Care Act included mental health screenings as part of covered preventive care.

    Regular screening is important because one in five of us can have a mental health issue like depression in any year. We might brush off our feelings of fatigue or anxiety or lack of focus. We might think feeling hopeless or worthless is normal. It’s not – these are signs of depression. It can happen at any age, even childhood.

    Like any diagnosis, your provider works with you to make a treatment plan. You may be referred to someone with special training. Medication also might help you.

    Mistaken attitudes can keep people from getting the help they need. People would tell my friend, “Get over it.” But that’s like telling someone to get over a broken leg with no treatment.

    Life happens. We get into a bad situation, lose a job or loved one, even go through a natural disaster like Hurricane Sandy. These can trigger depression. This is a serious illness and can lead to thoughts of hopelessness and even suicide. If you are wondering whether you or a loved one could be depressed, get screened. Depression is treatable and curable.

    Treatment helped my friend learn some new ways of thinking and of looking at the world. She said going to a counselor was like having a life mentor. It took some changes and a lot of work, but getting her joy and energy back was a big payoff.

    Learn more:

    Category: Health Tips
  • Tuesday, September 06, 2016
    Everyone play! Vaccines for all protect baby and family
    Everyone play! Vaccines for all protect baby and family

    By Susan Fitzgerald

    We all want our children to be safe. We “child-proof” our cabinets so they don’t get into the cleaning solution and other harmful yet tempting things. We put them in car seats. We’re careful about what they eat and drink, and who minds them.

    Vaccine CocooningNow, imagine you can wrap your children in a cocoon to protect them from serious diseases and all it costs you is a little time. Who wouldn’t take that deal?

    Cocooning” is a vaccination strategy to protect babies against diseases like whooping cough and flu.

    Here’s how it works:

    Kids come into the world with some of mom’s immunities, but they need extra help. Many vaccines – like polio, hepatitis and whooping cough – take time and more than one shot to become fully effective. So it’s important that people around the baby be inoculated, too. That goes for brothers, sisters, grandparents and visitors.

    Cocooning also shields other family members who might have a weakened immune system. That includes elders and those with an auto-immune condition like lupus.

    Vaccines protect children against 14 diseases by age two. Some of these can be a serious health risk, like measles, diphtheria, influenza and whooping cough.

    If your child cannot be vaccinated for a medical reason, you’re depending on other parents to protect their children so yours won’t catch it from them. The more people who are vaccinated, the safer are those who cannot be.

    Vaccines are a safe and effective way to protect your family. If you don’t remember whether your family’s shots are up-to-date, your doctor can help. You can also see "vaccine schedules for infants, children and adults (in English and Spanish) on our website.

    Cocooning is good for butterflies, and makes your baby a little safer.

  • Monday, August 22, 2016
    To be (inoculated) or not to be. That is the question.
    To be (inoculated) or not to be. That is the question.

    By Jerry Rhodes

    Apologies to Bill Shakespeare, but that is a real good question to ask this month about yourself.

    We’ve talked a lot about immunizations this month, for good reason. That same question is a great one to ask yourself and your childrens’ doctor about your children as you’re trying to get them ready to go back to school.


    I tried it and here’s what it said I should talk to my doctor about.

    • Flu shot (for influenza) every year. I knew that, and have been getting them for more than 20 years.
    • Tdap, or tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis vaccine. I need one if I haven’t had one before, and a booster for tetanus and diphtheria every 10 years.
    • Zoster, or shingles. My dad had this painful, lingering condition, and I don’t want to get it. I know I’m at risk because I had chicken pox (varicella) as a child, which is caused by the same virus. I need one shot for this, and I’ve already had it.

    There are a variety of details you can add about yourself to the quiz. For example, if I were going to be traveling abroad, I’d also want to make sure to be caught up with hepatitis A, hepatitis B and meningococcal vaccines. If I were a college freshman living in a dorm, I’d want to have had shots for MMR (measles-mumps rubella) and HPV (human papillomavirus).

    Here’s another tool to help if you have younger children. You can start with our website or the CDC’s page for childhood and infant immunization.

    The CDC also has a web-based tool for printing out a customized schedule for your child. You can find it at http://www2a.cdc.gov/nip/kidstuff/newscheduler_le/.

    Category: Health Tips
  • Wednesday, August 17, 2016
    Teens’ annual wellness visit a golden opportunity for parents
    Teens’ annual wellness visit a golden opportunity for parents

    By Susan Fitzgerald

    Did you go to the doctor as a teenager? I didn’t. Money was probably one reason. And the belief that you don’t go to the doctor unless you are really sick.

    Both of those things have changed since I was a kid. Today, everyone is encouraged to have an annual wellness visit, including teenagers. And almost everyone has health insurance that covers it.

    Annual wellness visitsOne thing has stayed the same, though: Kids rely on mom or dad to get them to the doctor. It can be hard to take time away from work for a non-emergency. But as the mom of a former teen, I think this could be a golden opportunity to get some outside support.

    If you are raising a teenager, you know you can tell them the earth is round and they won’t believe you. They may brush off our fears for them as just wanting to spoil their fun. But if they hear the same cautions from a doctor, it might get their attention. What the doctor views as health risks – alcohol, nicotine, drugs and sex – are the same things we worry about as parents. Giving teens a chance to hear from the doctor can help them understand these are serious issues. Choices they make today can affect them the rest of their life.

    An annual well visit is a time for kids to build a trusting relationship with their doctor or provider. They can also get answers to questions they might not want to ask mom or dad.

    And what happens in the doctor’s office stays in the doctor’s office. Teens have medical privacy, just as adults do. Adolescence – age 10 to 24 – is the most dynamic period in our life, outside of infancy. The changes and challenges are huge. Young people benefit from having a trusted adult in their life. That’s often a teacher, a coach or a favorite relative. And once a year, it could be their doctor.

    Learn more:

    Category: Health Tips
  • Monday, August 15, 2016
    A wellness check-up for kids scores better than a sports physical
    A wellness check-up for kids scores better than a sports physical

    By Susan Fitzgerald

    If you have school-age children, you’re probably checking off back-to-school chores. For those with a sports physical on their list, consider this. Settling for one of those “in and out” exams could mean your child misses out.

    Sure, you can get a sports physical almost anywhere, even at a drug store. But a sports physical is no substitute for your child’s annual wellness visit. Plus a wellness visit is covered at no cost to you, while there might be a charge for a sports physical.

    Sports physicalsYour child will benefit from a full exam with a primary care provider, especially one they know. This goes for your college-age kids too.

    Here’s a quick look at some key differences.

    A sports physical is generally a checklist of a few key issues.

    • Medical history.
    • Weight and weight.
    • Blood pressure, and heartbeat while standing up and lying down.
    • Check of muscles, bones and joints for potential problems.

    But you can get the sports form filled out at a well-child exam, plus a lot more:

    • Medical history update with your child’s provider.
    • Blood pressure, height and weight compared to last year to see growth.
    • Developmental screening.
    • Screenings and tests for issues that may affect school and sports performance, such as: hearing, vision, anemia; cholesterol; depression and mental health.
    • Age-appropriate wellness education including diet, sleep, school, behavior and safety.
    • Immunizations if needed.
    • Review of chronic conditions and current treatment.

    There’s another reason to have your child’s primary care physician perform the exam. All your child’s medical records are together and the doctor can review them for previous concerns that might otherwise not get checked. And any new conditions can be identified and treated on the spot.

    If your child has already had a wellness visit this year, you get a gold star. If not, this is a great chance to help your child be ready for school – in and out of class.

    Category: Health Tips
  • Thursday, August 11, 2016
    Let’s keep childhood disease a thing of the past
    Let’s keep childhood disease a thing of the past

    By Susan Fitzgerald

    Progress—you gotta love it. I got mumps as a child, but my daughter didn’t because there was a shot for it by then. She got chicken pox, but now kids can get a shot for that too.

    Today children get vaccinated against 14 different diseases by the time they are 2. When I look at the immunization schedule, I don’t know what that alphabet soup of letters stands for, so I looked up some of them:

    IPV = polio
    RV = rotavirus
    PCV = pneumonia
    HiB = influenza
    Varicella = chicken pox
    DTaP = diphtheria / tetanus / pertussis (whooping cough)
    MMR = measles / mumps / rubella (German measles)

    Immunize kidsIt’s great that kids will not have to get these illnesses—as long as they get vaccinated.

    Remember the wave of whooping cough last year that started in Disneyland? Outbreaks of whooping cough and measles are growing around the country. Turns out these often center on a single person who didn’t get a vaccine.

    Whooping cough, by the way, can be fatal for infants and young children, and used to be dreaded by families.

    Many vaccines need more than one shot to become effective. If your child got just one MMR shot, that’s not enough. And your child and your family are far safer with the MMR vaccine than without it.

    With so many vaccines, it’s easy to lose track of whether your child is on schedule. I had a booklet with my daughter’s shot record in it when she was little. But we moved, then we moved again, then we moved to another state. Somewhere along the line, I lost track of it. I had to go by memory when we got a regular doctor again. Thank goodness for those shot clinics before school starts. If life pushed you off schedule, your child’s annual wellness visit is a good time to get caught up on vaccines. CareOregon members have full coverage for them at their primary care provider office or clinic. Whatever your health plan, call the number on your member card to learn about your vaccine coverage.

    Immunization schedules

    Category: Health Tips
  • Monday, August 08, 2016
    Get ready to keep yourself safe from scams
    Get ready to keep yourself safe from scams

    By Jerry Rhodes

    Everyone is paying with plastic these days. I’ve even been to some places where they did not accept coins or folding currency at all, only cards with the new RFID chip.

    That’s made all of us increasingly at risk of scams.

    Just today, I got a text message saying that a credit card of mine had been locked, and would I please follow this link to fix the problem.

    How many of you have received emails or phone calls warning you of dreadful consequences if you don’t take these steps to fix a problem with your financial records?

    Be aware of credit card scamsHow many of you have received an email promise of a gazillion dollars if you’ll help smuggle them out of Nigeria by paying the “small” transfer fees?

    I get them at the rate of about once every two weeks, from banks—some that I actually do business with and some I’ve never heard of—from businesses, from credit cards. My health plan has formidable security, but I expect to hear from someone pretending to be them any day.

    In addition to just ignoring and deleting these messages, I usually take the time and look for scam and fraud prevention information on the website of the institution that’s being spoofed so I can report it to them. (I’m guessing those mailboxes get quite full on a daily basis.)

    Having your finances at risk is a very scary proposition. The stress of going through it can have a real and adverse impact on your health and well-being.

    How to be ready for it? In addition to my tips above to delete the emails and texts and report to the business), here are links to tips from the Oregon Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection Division:

    You can also join the “Oregon Scam Alert Network” to receive information from about newly emerging threats.

    (By the way, if you do have one of those RFID cards, they’ve reduced fraud by as much as 60 percent, according to one report this week. And it isn’t as easy to hack them wirelessly as once feared.)

    Category: CareOregon Blog
  • Monday, August 01, 2016
    Take one for the team: Your flu shot protects those around you
    Take one for the team: Your flu shot protects those around you

    By Susan Fitzgerald

    You eat right, exercise, meditate – that’s great. Being healthy and lowering stress helps you fight the flu. Even if you get it, you’ll bounce back faster. But you’ll still want to get a flu shot this fall. Here’s why:


    Boy on tire swingParents live with this fact of life. If influenza shows up at the school or daycare, kids are carriers. Covering their face when they sneeze or cough is not a priority for them. Frequent hand-washing is not their strong point.

    You may think you’re kid-free, but you’re not. If you don’t have kids, you know and work with people who do.

    Lots of healthy young people feel they don’t need a flu shot. You might be fine, but your family and friends need you to get one. Not everyone is blessed with a cast-iron immune system. The flu bug might bite you just a little, but you could carry it to someone who would suffer severe consequences.

    Who could catch the flu from you? Let’s see: A child at home. An elder. Maybe that special someone who makes your life better around the house. Or a co-worker. Any one of these people getting sick is bad news for you.

    Protect yourself and them. Flu season kicks off in October, and the vaccine takes a few weeks to be effective. When you start seeing those “Flu Shot Here” signs, head to your doctor’s office. Flu shots are covered for Oregon Health Plan members and by most health insurers. Call the number on your member card to check.

    You know the rest: Keep the hand sanitizer handy. Don’t touch your face. Wash down countertops and door handles. And don’t forget the phone and tablet. Strategically locate tissue boxes on your desk, in your car, around the house.

    In a bad year, up to one in every five people will get the flu. It’s not like a cold—people get hospitalized and die from influenza every year. You and everyone in your home over six months of age needs a flu shot. Help make it a good year, for yourself and those around you.

    For more information: http://careoregon.org/Health-Wellness/StayingHealthy/Flu.aspx

    Category: Health Tips
  • Wednesday, July 27, 2016
    Traditional cuisine: Healthy or not?
    Traditional cuisine: Healthy or not?

    By Jerry Rhodes

    I had occasion recently to learn what a traditional Irish breakfast consists of

    • Bacon (closer to the Canadian version rather than the American.)
    • Sausages
    • Egg
    • Potatoes
    • Vegetables (tomato, mushrooms) fried in butter
    • Pork and beans
    • Irish soda bread
    • White pudding (look it up: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_pudding)
    • Black pudding (savor this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_pudding)
    • Orange juice
    • Tea

    • Kinda makes the Denny’s Grand Slam look like diet food, doesn’t it?

      As traditionally consumed, that’s the kind of calorie-dense meal you’d need for a long day of hard farm work on a damp Irish day.

      It started me thinking, though, about how diets traditional to where our immigrant forebears came from play a role in the obesity epidemic in 21st century America. Many traditional cuisines, from all parts of the world, are perfectly fine when coupled with the traditional manual labor and occasional food scarcity. If you’re burning everything off by hard work, and walking everywhere; if you sometimes don’t have quite enough, then a diet rich in fats and sometimes a great deal of calories may not be of harm.

      But when there is plenty to eat, and when your activity level is reduced, then those traditional diets can create problems.

      People from many different cultures experience greater incidence of obesity and obesity-related diseases when they immigrate to America. In a generation or two, a population will see more rates of diabetes and heart disease than their immigrant parents and grandparents.

      Those traditional cuisines are to be admired. They contribute to the wonderful mosaic of life and culture of this country and we’re better off having them.

      But in order to stay healthy, we have to keep working on how to moderate those diets to match the lifestyles we now live.

      Here is a bit more on healthy diets

    Category: CareOregon Blog
  • Thursday, July 21, 2016
    New research may blow up the “healthy smoker” myth
    New research may blow up the “healthy smoker” myth

    By Susan Fitzgerald

    Smokers and ex-smokers, maybe you’ve done this test at the doctor’s office. You inhale as deeply as you can, then blow quickly into a gadget. This measures your lung capacity. It’s called spirometry.

    If you do well on this test, you might feel pretty smug. I did. My doctor was kind of frustrated that he couldn’t tell me how bad my lungs were.


    Still, I may not be in the clear. New research says the spirometry test fails to detect damage that causes problems years later. Scientists are talking about “progressive lung disease.” That means once the lungs are damaged even a little, the damage can keep getting worse. That’s a chilling thought, especially for those of us who inhaled decades of first- or second-hand smoke.

    Doctors are still finding out what they don’t know about smoking. It causes even more lung problems than they thought. They have been thinking that shortness of breath and wheezing is just part of getting older. Now they think it’s most likely the result of smoke.

    The big risk is chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder.

    Breathing is something we take for granted. Until we can’t. If you still have pretty good wind, exercise can help your lungs and muscles use oxygen better. If you already have shortness of breath, the American Lung Association has some tips on breathing exercises. Taking these steps can help preserve your lung function and your energy level.

    As always, quitting tobacco is the first line of defense, for yourself and your family. Oregon Health Plan members get medical assistance and counseling to stop using tobacco. Your health insurer will be happy to tell you what’s covered when you call the number on your member card.

    Category: Health Tips
  • Monday, July 11, 2016
    A profile of courage, a too-short life
    A profile of courage, a too-short life

    By Jerry Rhodes

    I heard recently that a good friend of mine had died.

    We were separated by hundreds of miles and too many years, but Gary was one of a handful of people whose friendship I’ve treasured for almost half a century.

    At one time, we were co-editors of our high school yearbook; me the long-haired kid who wrote poetry and carried a camera everywhere, and him the quarterback and star pitcher who also was a pretty fair hand as a writer. We mangled Spanish together to our bilingual classmate’s amusement, marched in the band and sang in the choir.

    Gary DavisBut the week after we graduated, Gary was in the hospital, learning how to live with Type 1 diabetes.

    We were friends before, but I grew to admire him enormously later on.

    Diabetes can cause blindness. And Gary, then a young father and chiropractic college student, lost his sight to diabetic retinopathy.

    After the denial, the grieving and the eventual acceptance of his new circumstances, Gary went back to chiropractic college and actually graduated cum laude, listening to someone read the texts, learning by touch.

    And then he set up practice in Elk Grove, California. Old Towne Chiropractic operated for many years.

    A remarkable accomplishment of courage and drive.

    And there was a happy conclusion to that episode several years (and a couple of children) later. There is a procedure, a risky one, to help people with Gary’s eye condition. Doctors can perform a vitrectomy: drain the cloudy vitreous that’s blocking vision and replace it with a clear medium. If it worked, he’d be able to see again. If it didn’t, he’d lose the little bit of dark-light vision he’d retained.

    It worked, though Gary wore very thick glasses the rest of his life.

    Can you imagine the joy he had at seeing some of his children for the very first time, or seeing how much the older ones had grown!

    Diabetes is a hard disease, one which eventually took his life at a relatively young age. (I think. I’ve only just heard that he passed and am assuming the cause.)

    So this story has two or three lessons. One is that it’s a good idea to know your numbers. To work with your health care provider to do all you can to prevent this disease—and others. To be faithful about getting the exercise and good diet you need to lower risk of obesity and Type 2 diabetes. If you have it already, to keep even more diligent watch on all the warning signs of serious complications.

    The second, a key lesson for all of us no matter what our state of health or wellness: To maintain, nurture and build those inner traits of emotional strength and sunny optimism that can help overcome even obstacles so big you can’t even see them.

    The third, and most important of all: To let those special people in your life know just what they mean to you. Do it now.

    Category: CareOregon Blog
  • Thursday, July 07, 2016
    Eating contests: not on a healthy menu
    Eating contests: not on a healthy menu

    By Jerry Rhodes

    I know it’s an odd thing to come up at a health plan, but it did today at a staff meeting.

    Did you know that ESPN covers the annual July Fourth Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest in Coney Island, New York?

    It is true, and I’m sure fans everywhere are happy that Joey “Jaws” Chestnut regained the Mustard Yellow International Belt, one year after Matt “The Megatoad” Stonie broke Chestnut’s eight-year stranglehold of the coveted title, by sword-swallowing 70 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes.

    (If you want the “nutritional” data, that’s 27,200 calories, 2.25 pounds of fat and 8.9 pounds of carbohydrates.)


    Try a kale eating contestNot to be a Pollyanna, but… OK, to be a Pollyanna. Isn’t there a more noble way to celebrate our national Independence Day than consuming enough fat and white flour to give congestive heart failure to entire neighborhoods, enough preservatives to render a steer carcass immune from decay for a decade?

    Or at the very least, aren’t there healthier alternatives?

    Well, it turns out there are.

    Next Saturday, in Buffalo, NY, competitors will take on the inaugural Kale Eating Contest presented by the Independent Health Foundation's Healthy Options program.

    (For comparison, you’d have to consume 5.5 cubic feet of kale to get 27,200 calories.)

    To be fair, the competitors at Coney Island, and I assume in Buffalo are real athletes—at least they train that hard— and don’t look any heavier than the average person who may actually be fit. But most of us have not trained, and pounding back a couple of dogs or a plate of wings is not the best thing we can do. Restraint and balance are our guidelines. We have some here, if you need a reminder: http://www.careoregon.org/Health-Wellness/StayingHealthy/NutritionActivity.aspx.

    Heck, even the kale-touting Independent Health has a nutrition benefit: a rebate for buying fresh produce.

    You’d have to ask them how much the rebate would be for 5.5 cubic feet of leafy greens.

  • Tuesday, July 05, 2016
    Bye-bye peek-a-boo: Babies move on as brain grows
    Bye-bye peek-a-boo: Babies move on as brain grows

    By Susan Fitzgerald

    Like countless parents before me, I delighted in playing peek-a-boo with my baby daughter. Her irresistible laugh lured me over and over again. Each time, she greeted me ecstatically. One day, our game fell flat. She knew I was still there, behind my hands.

    I didn’t know it then, but this is a milestone in the growth of a baby’s brain. It goes by the daunting name, “object permanence.” This is when babies figure out a thing exists even when they can’t see it.

    Peek a booAs parents, we’re most familiar with milestones like crawling, walking and talking. But being human is very complicated. A toddler’s brain grows quickly to grasp the many skills needed. Even so-called “child’s play” provides clues to their progress, from hugging other kids to make-believe.

    That’s why your primary care provider is a great ally during this time. Yearly visits from ages one to five let your provider check on your child’s growth and skills.

    Depth perception, for instance, is a skill children grow into. It drove me crazy watching my two-year-old try to set a cup of water on the table and miss completely. Countless sippy cups splashed to the floor. Once I learned she really couldn’t see the gap, life got easier for both of us.

    An annual “developmental screening” helps you know whether your child is on track. If special help is needed, action can be taken sooner rather than later.

    When you know what to expect, you can help your child reach key milestones. Your provider may have some information on activities you can do with your child, like reading, drawing or sorting shapes.

    The joy of peek-a-boo vanishes like a morning mist. But children delight in the world they discover at each stage, and we get to go along.

    Learn more: Facts about childhood development

    Category: Health Tips
  • Thursday, June 23, 2016
    It’s summer, and the peak of farmers market season begins
    It’s summer, and the peak of farmers market season begins

    By Jerry Rhodes

    Yes, in many parts of Oregon you can find a farmers market just about year round. But now is the time when all the glorious produce is coming into season.

    If that isn’t enough, there are other great reasons to visit your local farmers market. Music, lunch and cookbooks, to name a few. I stopped by on Monday when the market was open at Pioneer Square. Enjoyed some great blues by guitarist James Clem. Had a Szechuan “bowl” lunch, which was quite interesting. (I don’t mean that in a facetious way; I’d have it again. But I’d never had anything like it before.)

    For your information, here are some resources you might like.

    Here is a link to the Oregon Farmers Market Association brochure for 2016, including a listing of all the locations and hours for the association’s member markets: http://www.oregonfarmersmarkets.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/OFMA-Guide-2016_brochure.pdf

    If you’re in downtown Portland on market day, you might look around for a copy of the Portland Farmers Market Cookbook. What’s really cool about it is that it focuses on produce that’s in season, right here. Willamette Week has a nice piece about it: http://www.wweek.com/restaurants/reviews/2016/06/15/recipes-from-the-new-portland-farmers-market-cookbook/.

    Or, if you’d just as soon get it immediately, here is a link: http://www.powells.com/book/portland-farmers-market-cookbook-9781632170156.

    OK, now I’ve made myself hungry. I better check out that directory and find a farmers market real quick, or I’ll end up at the food carts across the street again.

    Category: CareOregon Blog
  • Wednesday, June 22, 2016
    Pills and more pills: MEDS helps keep you on track
    Pills and more pills: MEDS helps keep you on track

    By Susan Fitzgerald

    A lot of us are taking prescription drugs daily for common conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. Morning or night, with food or away from food, taking pills gets complicated fast. People are always looking for ways to make it easier.

    Confused by medications?One thing some people do is form a mental picture of what their pills look like. There’s the bright blue pill, the big white pill, the yellow capsule, the small pink pill. That’s helpful--until the next refill, when what used to be the pink pill becomes a different color.

    CareOregon has a great tool that everyone is welcome to use. It’s called My Easy Drug System , or MEDS. MEDS is a paper chart to help track what you are taking, why and when. It helps to also include your natural supplements because they can interact with prescriptions.

    MEDS is a handy tool to share with all your providers, so they know what you are taking and how you are feeling. Sharing your MEDS chart with family and caregivers is a good idea, too.

    About half of all medication for chronic conditions is not taken as prescribed. It’s easy to forget when life throws you a curve. Do you take a late dose or skip it? Ask your provider the right thing to do. It might be different for each medication.

    With “invisible” conditions like high blood pressure, cholesterol or blood sugar, it’s important to take every dose, even though you might not feel bad if you miss one.

    The main thing is knowing what trips you up, and figuring out what works for you. Life can get in the way of taking your meds. But look at it the other way around. Taking your meds keeps you living a healthy, longer life.

    Learn more:

    Category: Health Tips
  • Wednesday, June 08, 2016
    Keep on top of the numbers at your annual wellness visit
    Keep on top of the numbers at your annual wellness visit

    By Susan Fitzgerald

    A lot of us put off that yearly doctor visit. We don’t feel sick, we don’t really have anything to talk about. And who wants to get on that darned scale, anyway?

    We didn’t used to do a yearly wellness visit. But there’s a big push today to “know your numbers” – especially blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar. These are major signs of whether a heart attack, stroke or diabetes might be in your future. The annual wellness visit helps you and your doctor track these risk factors.

    Annual wellness visits One reason I keep an eye on the numbers is because heart disease and diabetes run in my family. I have a better chance to avoid them with a healthy diet and exercise. Checking my blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar at the doctor’s office shows me if I’m succeeding. It’s even more important to know your numbers if you are already managing conditions every day, like diabetes and blood pressure. Your annual visit is a chance to see if your treatment plan is working, or needs some changes.

    Oregon Health Plan members pay nothing out of their own pocket care, including a wellness visit. The state knows that helping you stay healthy is smarter than waiting till a health problem turns serious. If you have other health insurance, just call the number on your member card to see what’s covered.

    If you’re over 51 years old, a colorectal cancer screening may be in your future. This is a slow-growing cancer, so you don’t need to screen for it every year. And it’s highly curable if caught early.

    The best type of screening test is a colonoscopy. You hear a lot of jokes about this procedure, but trust me, you won’t feel a thing. The medical team makes sure of that.

    Screenings are recommended every 10 years. Your doctor might ask you to screen more often, depending on your results, or other risk factors.

    Learn more:

    Preventive screenings

    Category: Health Tips
  • Friday, June 03, 2016
    Extreme heat conditions this weekend prompt Oregon Public Health warning
    Extreme heat conditions this weekend prompt Oregon Public Health warning

    By Oregon Health Authority

    Oregonians should stay hydrated, limit sun exposure and stay safe in the water

    As the state’s temperatures break into the upper 90s and possibly triple digits by this weekend, health officials are recommending Oregonians take steps to prevent heat-related illnesses that can lead to heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

    “Summer-like weather in Oregon is great and people want to be outdoors, but temperatures at or above 100 degrees can be dangerous,” says Katrina Hedberg, M.D., state epidemiologist and state health officer at the Public Health Division. “Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are real problems that can lead to death, so people need to take precautions to protect their health. As people seek to beat the heat they often head to the rivers and lakes where drowning and hypothermia are concerns.”

    According to the National Weather Service, the hottest weather of the year so far is expected to arrive throughout Oregon Saturday and Sunday. The forecast for most of the state calls for temperatures in the high 90s to just over 100 degrees in lower elevations and above 90 in higher-elevation areas.  

    The Oregon Public Health Division offers the following tips for staying safe and healthy during extreme heat conditions:

    1. Stay cool

    • Stay in air-conditioned places when temperatures are high, if possible.
    • Limit exposure to the sun from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. when ultraviolet (UV) rays are strongest. Try to schedule activities in the morning and evening.
    • Open windows to allow fresh air to circulate, especially during morning and evening hours, and close shades on west-facing windows during the afternoon hours.
    • Use portable electric fans to exhaust hot air from rooms or draw in cooler air.
    • Wear loose-fitting clothing to keep cool and protect your skin from the sun.
    • Use cool compresses, misting, and cool showers and baths.
    • Avoid hot foods and heavy meals; they add heat to the body. 
    • Never leave infants or children in a parked car. Nor should pets be left in parked cars –  they, too, can suffer heat-related illness.
    • Dress infants and children in loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing.
    • Use sunscreen with at least SPF 15 when going outside.

    2. Stay hydrated

    • Regardless of your level of activity, drink plenty of fluids, even if you are not thirsty and especially when working outside.

    3. Stay safe in and near the water

    • Be aware that rivers are running fast with spring run-off and may be a challenge for even the most experienced simmers.
    • Keep an eye on the water temperature. Even though it is hot, if water temperatures are 60 degrees or lower you could develop hypothermia if you stay in too long. This can cause disorientation, fatigue, and even drowning.
    • Young children and non-swimmers should wear properly fitted life jackets in and near the water. Air-filled and foam toys such as water wings, water noodles, and inner tubes are not designed to keep swimmer safe and should not be counted on.
    • Make sure children do not have unsupervised access to pools by fencing pools in and ensuring gates are closed. Kiddy pools are also a concern and should be fenced in or drained when they are not being supervised.
    • When supervising children or non-swimmers, stay focused and avoid distractions like reading, texting, talking on the phone, or doing chores.
    • Don’t consume alcohol before or during boating, swimming, tubing or other water activities.

    People with a chronic medical condition such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, or kidney disease may be less likely to sense and respond to changes in temperature. Also, they may be taking medications that can worsen the impact of extreme heat. People in this category should be closely monitored to make sure they’re drinking enough water, have access to air conditioning and know how to keep cool.

    Those who exercise or work outdoors in extreme heat are more likely to become dehydrated and get heat-related illness and should pay particular attention to staying as cool and hydrated as possible.

    Children and those with seizures are particularly vulnerable to drowning, so special attention should be given to their water safety.

    For more information, visit the Oregon Public Health Division Extreme Heat page at http://public.health.oregon.gov/Preparedness/Prepare/Pages/PrepareForExtremeHeat.aspx or the CDC Heat Stress page at http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/heatstress. Information on Extreme Heat for vulnerable groups is available in English and Spanish and can be found at https://emergency.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/specificgroups.asp.

    The CDC has information on staying safe in and around swimming pools at http://www.cdc.gov/Features/dsSafeSwimmingPool/ and in natural water settings at http://www.cdc.gov/Features/dsDrowningRisks/.

    Category: Health Tips
  • Thursday, June 02, 2016
    Men’s health: Grow up and get to it!
    Men’s health: Grow up and get to it!

    By Jerry Rhodes

    OK, guys, listen up.

    It’s Men’s Health Month.

    Perfect, right? We only have to think about our own health once a year. I know we’d prefer it were February—fewer days—but it is June, so let’s get to it.

    First, to get started, let’s toss away that notion of thinking about it only once a year. Let me tell you something: Think about it a lot more often or you’ll spend the latter days of your life thinking of nothing else, 24/7.

    A friend of mine fronts a band called “Man Up.” And that’s a good message: Start acting like a big boy and take better care of yourself.

    Man Up for Men's HealthIt’s not a good idea to order a pitcher and four burgers, then ask the other guys what they are having. Grow up! Split the pitcher and burgers with them, and knock it off with the half-pounders already.

    It’s much more fun to tightrope walk on the guard rail down at Waterfront Park than it is to visit the doctor when you’re not sick, but grow up! Doctor visits when you’re well can help keep you that way.

    It’s cool to climb mountains or play golf (traditional or disc) on weekends, but grow up! Join the legions out getting exercise every day. You’re in the Northwest, for heavens’ sake! Heck, even the old, gray-haired folks (present company included) who just walk regularly are getting more of what they need than you pseudo-macho weekend warriors.

    Prefer going through Marine Corps boot camp again rather than getting a colonoscopy? As the drill instructor said, you don’t have to like it; you just have to do it! And preparing for it is the worst part of the whole experience. Besides, during “the event” anything that happens that is, shall we say, untoward will be somebody else’s problem because you’ll be under anesthesia. And I guarantee the staff will look a lot better than R. Lee Ermey, too.

    While you’re at it, if you have kids, spend more time with your kids. They are the ones, not your job, who're going to be the calling the shots for you when you aren’t able. Better right now to give them good reasons to like you a whole lot .

    That’s a pretty good start. You have the whole rest of the month to think up more things you can do better for your health.

    Strike that. No more thinking healthy thoughts only during Men’s Health Month. Keep thinking year round.

    And thanks, Jonathan, for the rock solid advice.

    Man up indeed!

    Category: Health Tips
  • Tuesday, May 31, 2016
    Making anti-cancer choices
    Making anti-cancer choices

    By Susan Fitzgerald

    Cancer deaths cut in half or delayed! 

    40-70 percent fewer cancer diagnoses!

    Did scientists discover a miracle cure for cancer?

    No, researchers say these startling results are strictly DIY, or Do It Yourself.

    All we have to do is:

    • A family preparing a meal togetherStop smoking. Most health insurers, including CareOregon, cover several ways to help members stop.
    • Cut back to about one drink a day. What’s one drink? It’s a 12-ounce can of beer; a five-ounce glass of wine; or one and one-half ounces (a jigger) of hard liquor. Four or more drinks at a sitting is a problem.
    • Maintain healthful weight. Nothing new here. Focus on lean protein, fruits and vegetables. Beans, whole grains, nuts and seeds are great too. Go easy on the deep-fried food. Take a hard look at packaged items with long ingredient lists. Save the sweets for the rare special occasion.
    • Get at least 150 minutes of exercise a week. That’s only 21 minutes a day. My quick 10-minute walk to the bus stop twice a day goes toward that.

    What’s striking to me is that these are the same four things doctors advise to manage blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar. Tackling all these conditions with the same four steps is very efficient. But not so easy.

    If you’ve ever tried to change a habit, you know it’s tough. There’s a reason for that. Our brains are wired for what feels good now. It takes a lot of work and help to overcome nature, even when it can help us avoid cancer.  Too bad for me, there’s no Betty Ford clinic for my snack habit.

    Still, most of us can at least make progress in these areas. We know a lot about how to make changes successfully. Set goals; write down what we eat, drink and do; pair up with a buddy; find a support group or a health coach. Talk to your primary care provider.

    These four actions won’t stop all cancers or cancer deaths. But the evidence is strong that cancer isn’t all bad luck. So, I have to ask myself: What could I do today to not get cancer someday?

    CareOregon can help members to:

    Stop smoking

    Drink less