Wednesday, March 01, 2017
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.
Friday, January 13, 2017
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.
Dr. 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.
Friday, January 06, 2017
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.
You 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 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 it lacks the 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 be expected by using 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/.
Wednesday, December 21, 2016
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:
Thursday, December 15, 2016
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.”
Well, 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.
Tuesday, December 13, 2016
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.
But 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
- 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.
Thursday, December 08, 2016
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.
After 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:
Thursday, December 01, 2016
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.
Monday, November 21, 2016
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.
Wednesday, November 09, 2016
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.
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
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.
Monday, October 10, 2016
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.
Here 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.
Friday, October 07, 2016
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.
A 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.
Wednesday, October 05, 2016
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.
I 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.
Thursday, September 29, 2016
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.
Friday, September 09, 2016
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!”
That 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.
Tuesday, September 06, 2016
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.
Now, 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.
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/.
Wednesday, August 17, 2016
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.
One 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.
Monday, August 15, 2016
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.
Your 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.
Thursday, August 11, 2016
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)
It’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.
Monday, August 08, 2016
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?
How 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.)
Monday, August 01, 2016
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:
Parents 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
Wednesday, July 27, 2016
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.)
- 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
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
Thursday, July 21, 2016
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.
Monday, July 11, 2016
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.
But 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.
Thursday, July 07, 2016
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.)
Not 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
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.
As 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
Thursday, June 23, 2016
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.
Wednesday, June 22, 2016
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.
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.
Wednesday, June 08, 2016
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.
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.
Friday, June 03, 2016
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/.
Thursday, June 02, 2016
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.
It’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!
Tuesday, May 31, 2016
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:
- Stop 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:
Friday, May 27, 2016
My Enemy, My Friend: Reconciliation and recovery
By Jerry Rhodes
I heard an amazing story last weekend. It’s the kind of story that really should be made into a movie.
It’s appropriate to share this story this week. Last weekend was Armed Forces Day, Monday is Memorial Day, and this story is about two encounters in the skies over Southeast Asia in 1972, and the aftermath today.
The storyteller was Dan Cherry, retired Air Force brigadier general. In April of 1972 he was a fighter pilot, one of a flight of four flying over North Vietnam. On that bright day, a missile from Cherry’s F-4D Phantom tore the wing off a MiG-21. As the downed pilot’s chute blossomed, Cherry wondered about him: who he was, whether he had a family, whether he was injured.
Many years later, Cherry decided to follow up on that question. With the help of a Vietnamese television producer, Cherry traveled to Vietnam and on live television met Nguyen Hong My, the decorated pilot he’d shot down. They traveled together to Hong My’s home, developed a strong bond, and made plans for Hong My to visit Cherry at his home in Kentucky.
But Hong My wanted something else from his trip to the U.S. In January of 1972, he had shot down an American F-4. He wanted to find that crew, if they survived, or to express condolences if they had not.
Both members of the crew had survived the war. Sadly, the pilot lost his life in an automobile accident just a few months before Hong My’s visit, but the navigator, John Stiles, was found.
Stiles ejection from his destroyed jet and jungle rescue had been harrowing. This and other wartime experiences had left him scarred inside. PTSD. He locked up his war experiences inside, just as he hid away his service photos in the attic.
But he agreed to meet with Hong My. And the war went away for Stiles. Meeting the pilot whose duty to country collided violently with his own so many years ago made a huge difference in his life.
Now Dan Cherry and John Stiles travel to speaking engagements together, sometimes with Robert Noble, the helicopter pilot who pulled Stiles from the jungle. Sometimes they are with Hong My when he’s visiting in this country.
Together, they tell the story of reconciliation. They tell about dealing with the aftermath of trauma. They tell about moving toward a healthier place.
This is not just for people who have had the harrowing experience of war, Dan Cherry says. Perhaps there is a family member you haven’t spoken to in 30 years.
“Take that step,” he says. “Make that call. It will be the best thing you’ve ever done for yourself.”
My Enemy, My Friend is the name of Dan Cherry’s book about the dogfight and the relationship that’s developed among himself, Nguyen Hong My, John Stiles and Robert Noble.
Tuesday, May 24, 2016
Expecting? You’ll hear lots of stories, and check in with doctor too.
By Susan Fitzgerald
Pregnant women learn one thing quickly. Other women love to share their pregnancy stories. This can be comforting--or not. Regular visits with your doctor or provider help you keep tabs on your growing baby, and get a reality check on the stories and advice from friends and relatives.
You’ll want to see your provider by the 10th week of your pregnancy. At that first appointment, the two of you will have a lot to talk about:
It’s normal to have lots of questions. Monthly visits for the first six months of your pregnancy give plenty of opportunity to get answers. Some providers are happy to answer emailed questions between visits.
Around 28 to 36 weeks, providers may want to see you every two to three weeks. With the baby changing every day, it is important to be sure everything is on track.
Babies have a growth surge in that last month. A bigger brain and lungs give your baby an advantage for life. That’s why you want to go at least 39 weeks. It’s a long time, but every day of it is important. By the last month of pregnancy, your doctor might want to see you every week.
Do your friends and family talk about C-sections? Some families or doctors want to schedule the birth for a specific day. But each baby has its own schedule. Due dates can be off by as much as two weeks. That alone is a good reason to give your baby plenty of time to be ready. Plus, you’ll bounce back a lot faster from birth the old-fashioned way than from a C-section. You’ll want that energy for taking care of the new member of your family.
Sharing stories about pregnancy and babies can be a wonderful way for women to bond. And ideally, you’ll have plenty of bonding time with your provider, as well.
Monday, May 23, 2016
Want your teens to put down the cell phone? You go first.
By Susan Fitzgerald
It’s funny. We’ve heard for years our attention spans are getting shorter. Yet we binge-watch a whole season of shows, and we have plenty of attention for checking our cell phones, tablets, laptops or whatever device we’re using at the moment.
A new survey measures our attachment to mobile devices. Most anyone raising a teenager wouldn’t be surprised at these findings.
- More than half of parents surveyed think their teens are “addicted” to their mobile devices or laptops.
- Half of teens think they’re addicted.
- More than one in four parents say they too are addicted to their digital devices.
Teens spend an average of nine hours daily online, according to a survey last fall by Common Sense Media, the group that did the latest poll. And that doesn’t count homework.
As you might expect, this causes some tension. Three of four parents say their kids get distracted and don’t hear them, at least a few times a week. (That sounds low to me. I’d say that happens a few times a day. )
But nearly half of teens say the same thing—about their mom and dad. They can’t get the attention of parents who are checking their cell phones.
“Internet addiction” is not listed as an actual disorder. Yet they clearly draw us in. Our mobile devices are portals to stories about family, friends and celebrities. They give us the constant drama of conflict, headlines, Instagram, YouTube and Facebook. Who can compete with that excitement?
If we want kids to put down their device, we have to take the lead. Some ideas:
- Set tech-free times. Share an activity – a game, a puzzle, a walk or bike ride. Go to the library together – besides free books, there are events and classes. Ask your online role-playing teens to tell you why they like it, or to invent a new character for it. The real trick? You have to listen.
- Lead by example. No checking the phone under the dinner table. No phones when driving, not even hands-free.
- Chill out. That multitasking from Facebook to Instagram to texts and games that’s so tempting? Turns out it’s a real brain-drain. Multitasking makes us less effective. We need time to focus on one task. This is another good reason for device-free family time. It’s an opportunity to do just one thing -- play a sport, share news about our day, make some food or music together -- and calm our overexcited brains.
Minding our own and our teens’ online activity can bring families closer in healthy ways. The first step to getting their attention is to pay attention to them.
Friday, May 20, 2016
Farewell to the CareOregon family
By Patrick Curran
“What I want to know is – are you kind?”
- Uncle John’s Band, The Grateful Dead
For those of you who are new to CareOregon, I am the former CEO, the one who had a habit of sending out a monthly company update from late 2012 through 2015 that really wasn’t a company update. But I did it anyway, reflecting on various events or experiences and trying to connect them to the work we all do here. As I end my time here at CareOregon, I am pleased that I get to send out one last note.
First, I want to thank you for the many kind words and notes I have received over the past few months, and to Beatrice Yanazzo for her administrative and moral support. I also want to thank the management team here at CareOregon, especially Scott Clement for his leadership as interim CEO. Due to Scott and many others, CareOregon continues to forge new and innovative trails along the path of health care transformation at our accustomed rapid pace.
I join each of you in greeting Eric Hunter as the new CEO starting June 1, and I am thrilled with the decision the board has made. Many of you may not know our board members, but they bring keen intellect, diverse perspectives, innovative thinking, and an incredibly strong commitment to CareOregon’s mission. They chose someone in Eric who shares those qualities, and I can’t wait to see the amazing things you all do together.
Back in 2003, I walked into the CareOregon lobby for an interview and knew no one. I was greeted by the wonderful smile and encouraging words of Nita Freeman. I imagine many of you had the same experience. It set the tone for my entire time here at CareOregon. Over the years I performed different tasks in different roles with different people, but I can’t think of a single day that didn’t include laughter and support, even (and especially) during times of frantic deadlines and stressful work. I believe that supportive environment is the reason CareOregon has accomplished so much.
When anyone left CareOregon over the years, I would tell them that once here they are always part of the CareOregon family. Now that I am one of the people moving on, it makes the transition a little easier knowing you will always be part of my family. Since I always began each monthly update with a quote, I specifically chose this quote for my last update. One of the many lessons I have learned at CareOregon is that no matter what work we do, what skills we bring, what opinions we espouse, what job title we have, or what causes we support, the most important thing is how we treat each other. Thank you for your kindness. I will try to pass it on to others in this next chapter.
All my best,
Thursday, May 19, 2016
Women’s health: An important question at your annual checkup
By Susan Fitzgerald
Whether to have a baby—and when—is one of the most important decisions women face. Not all of us are big planners. And even when we are, things can happen. Birth control can fail, or our choices don’t quite mesh with our goals. About half of all babies are unplanned, and some of us aren’t prepared.
If you’re a woman of childbearing age, that’s why your primary care provider may ask at your annual exam: “Would you like to become pregnant in the next year?”
If the answer is “Yes,” or “I’m OK either way,” your provider can help you prepare for a healthy baby. This starts even before you become pregnant, like taking prenatal vitamins that include enough folic acid. This B vitamin helps prevent major birth defects of the brain and spine. Check the vitamin bottle label to make sure your brand includes at least 400 mcg of folic acid.
When you stop birth control to become pregnant, it’s a good time to stop using alcohol and nicotine. That way, the baby isn’t exposed to them before you know you’re pregnant.
Ask yourself, “Would you like to become pregnant in the next year?” If you answer “no” or “I’m not sure,” that leads to a whole different talk. Your provider can coach you on options that fit your goals and values.
For those using birth control, there are a lot of choices. Some choices take more daily management, and not all of them work well. Others are long-term and can be reversed. These are more reliable, like implants or an intrauterine device.
Primary care providers can handle most of your birth control needs and pre-pregnancy health issues. Raising this question at a well visit is a reality check. It’s a chance to think about how to meet your health and life goals. That’s important for each woman, and each baby.
Pre-pregnancy health and contraception are just some of the women’s health services available to Oregon Health Plan clients. These services are covered 100 percent for CareOregon members, wherever you receive them. Whatever your health plan, just call the number on your Member ID card to learn about your coverage.
Friday, May 13, 2016
When days of celebration become days to dread
By Jerry Rhodes
It’s my wife’s birthday today.
I don’t know about you, but I like birthdays. Mine, Sue’s, yours, total strangers’. I enjoy them all.
Some people don’t like to acknowledge the passing of time. Or, to be blunter, that they are getting older.
(Fortunately, that applies to no one in my family. But you and I both probably know someone for whom birthdays are depressing.)
We could point out to those who wish to cling to passing youth at all costs that the alternative is not so attractive, but perhaps empathy should be in order.
Perhaps, in our discretion, we should take it on ourselves to do some of the things with them that we’d do with friends and family who get depressed over the holidays or during the dark, cold, wet days of winter.
- Do some fun things together. Make them somewhat physical, like taking a walk or hike amidst some of the incredible natural beauty we’re so lucky to have. Sun, exercise and nature are all proven to help with non-clinical depression (and they can’t hurt the diagnosed kind either).
- Go out to lunch together. But be careful. Binge eating is one way that people cope with depression, so be sure to find a healthy place to eat, or fix the two of you a healthy lunch. In this weather, picnics are great.
- Relieve them of stress. How about suggesting a day trip to the coast, the Gorge or the mountains. Of, if they have kids, offer to babysit so they can get away on their own.
We should also be aware that a friend who dislikes birthdays may also have the depression that is a serious mental health issue. And that, most definitely, should not be taken lightly.
While depression is not always easy to spot for someone who is not a professional, there are more resources today that can help you understand your friend, and help. Here are a couple that are valuable:
The Mayo Clinic’s advice on helping a friend with depression .
Dos and don’ts when your friend is depressed, from Psychology Today.
Thursday, May 12, 2016
Addiction is a health issue, not a flaw. Help is here
By Susan Fitzgerald
My friend said Valium made depression a thing of the past. And one relative said anti-anxiety medication helped make sense of the world for the first time.
Millions of us take drugs that make our lives better. But even prescription drugs have a dark side.
Many of us know folks who took oxycodone for pain. Some ended up with a bigger problem. It is highly addictive. So are common tranquilizers like Xanax and Klonopin. Problems happen when people adjust their own doses. Or mix with alcohol. Or use when they do not have a prescription.
About 40 million Americans are addicted to drugs, alcohol or tobacco. That is one in seven of us.
More people than have cancer or diabetes. We all have family or friends with a drug abuse or dependence health issue. Here is what we need to understand about addiction.
Addiction is not a choice. Everyone’s body is different. Some can take a drug or alcohol and not get addicted. Others are addicted before they know it.
Addiction changes your brain. Doctors who specialize in this say addiction is a “chronic brain disease.” This makes it very hard to manage on your own.
There’s no one right way. Managing an addiction takes a lot of help. Relapses are common. It can take many tries to get it right, and a lot of support.
Oregon Health Plan members can get help. Here is a list of resources to spot and fight addiction. Many CareOregon providers treat chemical dependency.
If you have other health insurance, call the number on your member ID card. The Oregon alcohol and drug services directory has resources. Also, the caring folks at 211info can connect you to help in your community.
Wednesday, May 11, 2016
A time to bloom: body, mind and soul
By Jerry Rhodes
On our social media pages—Facebook and Twitter—this month we’re following the theme, “Time to bloom.”
It’s a good month for such a theme. Out in our gardens, the rhododendrons are continuing the parade of spectacular spring blooms that began weeks ago with the delicate crocus. Our rose-tending friends are sharing pictures of their gardens’ beauties widely. We can expect the parade to continue for weeks ahead. Such is the glory of spring in the Pacific Northwest.
There is a good reason to look for blossoming this month other than the most literal. For May is the month when graduations start happening from preschools to universities.
As observers, we watch as all the possibilities of bright futures blossom to life. We speculate about the pathways that extend from the graduation aisle out into the world.
Is the cure for cancer hidden in the latent talents of that five-year-old boy in the crepe paper gown? Does the cure for opioid addiction lie in the mind of that young woman wearing the striped gown and velvet cap of the PhD recipient?
Maybe May should also be the month to take advice from the grads and the gladiolus, to seek out ways to bloom and explore our own potential.
Who knows what lies within each of us.
And thinking, planning and growing are always among the best tools to promote a healthy outlook.
Tuesday, May 10, 2016
Saxton: Health transformation successes, and challenges to be met
By Jerry Rhodes
Oregon has had a pretty good run with health care reform. The uninsured population is down to 5 percent. The multi-billion Medicaid savings bet the state made with the federal government is, so far, proving to be a winner. Cost trends are following the promised downward track.
Lynne Saxton, director of the Oregon Health Authority, spoke recently in Portland about how things are in the continuing effort to tame the health care dragon.
Hospital inpatient services, for example, have seen a drop of 14.8 percent in dollars spent per insured member each month since 2011. At that rate, Oregon will spend $8.6 billion less for inpatient care from 2013–2022 than it would spend had transformation not occurred.
The success of Oregon, especially in comparison to other states, is based on three factors, she said.
- “First, our system is a local system,” Saxton said. “It was developed locally, it is delivered locally and it has strong structures for local involvement.”
(CareOregon and its affiliate Coordinated Care Organizations can certainly attest to the value of local input from the CCOs’ Clinical Advisory Panels, Community Advisory Panels and our own Clinical Work Group and Community Health Engagement Advocates.)
- Second, Saxton said, the success is built on the coordinated care model, which continues to move forward integrating physical, mental and oral health.
- Third, the state has long experience with addressing these tough challenges, dating back to the launch of the Oregon Health Plan in the early 1990s.
“Covering people is possible because of Medicaid expansion and because we have, as a state, fully accepted health care transformation on all fronts,” she said. And we have focused our attention on better care, better management of chronic conditions, and on community health.
To progress on this path, Oregon must continue:
- Bending the cost curve by persisting and increasing efforts to integrate physical, mental and oral health.
- Improving preventive practices and investing in access to primary care.
Expanding focus on social determinants and health equity of all low income and vulnerable Oregonians.
And, Saxton said, we must do it while being careful to not just spend money on “things,” but rather spend wisely on the outcomes: healthier Oregonians and better health care.
All three of those areas are central to a renewed waiver of rigid federal rules governing Medicaid, that the state is now seeking.
Monday, May 09, 2016
Managing rheumatoid arthritis through lifestyle
By Susan Fitzgerald
A friend of mine moved back to Portland not long ago. We got together for the first time in years. I was surprised to see her looking frail. And she moved carefully, using a cane. Turns out, she has rheumatoid arthritis. I felt shy about noticing or asking her anything. But she wanted to talk about it.
She first noticed that her joints were sore in the morning. She also felt more tired than usual. She thought maybe it was just her new job. She had always been healthy. She couldn’t believe it was anything serious.
The pain and fatigue didn’t go away, though. She mentioned it at her annual doctor visit. The doctor asked some questions that helped find out the cause.
Rheumatoid arthritis doesn’t have a cure. But my friend can do lot of things to manage the pain. She watches what she eats. Some foods make it feel worse; others are actually helpful. She has to rest a lot. And it sounds strange, but walking and other exercises every day help her feel less tired. Staying on top of her symptoms means she has a better quality of life during the years she will be living with this condition.
Fatigue and pain, soreness and redness of the joints, could be a lot of things. Talking to your doctor at your annual visit can help discover if it might be arthritis or not.
My friend enjoys getting out, but she tires easily these days. After we hung out, she went home to take a nap.
Friday, May 06, 2016
Got that falling feeling? Plan ahead to keep on your feet
By Susan Fitzgerald
Ever watch children fall down? It’s amazing how often they bounce right up again, as if nothing ever happened. Those days are sure gone.
Think about the last time you fell. I don’t know about you, but I stayed down for a few moments. Luckily, nothing got broken. But that might not be true the next time I slip down those three measly steps in my home.
Preventing falls takes a bit of planning. Look around where you live for anything that might trip you up.
- Keep clutter away from where you walk. Fix anything you could trip over, like door thresholds, cords or rugs. Install railings or handholds where a fall could happen, like the bathroom.
- Do simple exercises to improve balance. Just a bit of time every day can do it.
- Take care of yourself. At your annual visit, let your doctor know if you have dizziness. This is also a good time to get your vision and hearing checked.
Bone health is another key factor. Brittle or weakened bones are a big reason to avoid falls. If you fell recently, be sure to tell your doctor. If the doctor says you need a bone density test, go for it. And, it is covered on your health plan. If the test shows signs of osteoporosis, your doctor will have tips to help you strengthen your bones.
None of us are kids anymore, and that’s a good thing. We fall down a lot less. But even three little steps need a railing to prevent falls.
Preventing falls - http://careoregonadvantage.org/healthwise.html?DOCHWID=abo1729
Getting up after a fall: http://careoregon.org/healthwise.html?DOCHWID=abl3081#abl3082
Thursday, May 05, 2016
Praise for the “other mothers”
By Jerry Rhodes
On this Mother’s Day, I’d like to also acknowledge the “other mothers” in our lives.
You know the ones, especially if you live in or grew up in a small town or a close-knit neighborhood, where the whole village does indeed raise the child. These are the mothers right across the street, who contributed their share and more to mothering all the kids, their own and otherwise.
There were only two mothers on my block when we moved in. And two only households, but with 10 children (13-17 if you throw in the oft-visiting cousins) spanning 20-some years in age.
Recently I attended the memorial service for our “other mother.” I learned a few things I hadn’t known, which tell the story of how a special person can contribute so much to the growing up years, and help set the courses of many lives.
I knew that Dorothy and her husband John gave my brother Larry his first job at the grocery store they owned. But I learned for the first time that from them, he received his only college loan, one that helped him eventually achieve a place on the University of Oregon faculty.
From Stephen, Dorothy’s oldest grandson, I learned more of Dorothy’s spirit of giving, powerful in memory.
Stephen related that when he was very little, helping his grandfather stock shelves, Dorothy came over and quietly told John that she’d spotted a man slip something into his ragged clothes, then head out the back door. She also handed John something else.
Together, John and Stephen pursued the man, cutting through the pine trees and catching up to him right in front of our house.
“Sir,” John said. “We saw you’ve taken a packet of bologna. You’ll need this, too.” And then gave him a loaf of bread.
That’s a life lesson Stephen will never forget, and now neither will I.
It’s a lesson we all would do well to remember. How kindness can help create more well-being and change more lives that you know.
How mothers count, no matter whose mothers they are.
Friday, April 29, 2016
Talk to your kids about drugs and alcohol
By Susan Fitzgerald
If you have children, one day they will ask you: “Mom, did you ever do drugs?” “Dad, how old were you when you started drinking?”
Sometimes we don’t like what our answers are. We want to skip it or pretend we were better than we were. I decided it was my job as a parent to share my story, and the stories in our family. Kids need to know we know what’s up, and we know what we are talking about.
I was clear what I expected of my daughter. No drinking, no drugs, no tobacco. She asked me hard questions. I didn’t tell her everything I did as a teen, but what I did share with her was real. It helped me to practice what I wanted to say. And believe me, we went around this topic more than once.
You drink. Why can’t I drink?
You are under 21. It is against the law. Alcohol can get you in trouble by all itself – with me, with boys, with school. You do not want trouble with the police, too.
Other kids drink / do drugs.
I know some kids do drugs or alcohol. I’m so afraid you might get into a car with someone who’s under the influence. I don’t want anything bad to happen to you.
Why do you always think the worst will happen?
Nobody ever thinks it will happen to them, but sometimes it does. I can tell you that adding alcohol or drugs is not going to help you or your friends make good decisions.
But you drank / did drugs.
Yes, and that was a bad choice. I did things I wish I hadn’t done. That’s how I know it’s not a good idea.
You can’t make me.
You’re right. When you leave this house, I have to trust you. If I can’t trust you, then I have to take steps. Because I love you and I care what happens to you.
I won’t lie, these talks can be scary and messy. But the only thing scarier is if they don’t talk, they just do.
If you think your teen is already drinking or using - or you want help for yourself - talk to your doctor. Your health plan ID card has a number you can call to learn more. Oregon Health Plan offers screening and referral for alcohol and drug use. Check out CareOregon for more ideas on talking to your kids about alcohol.
Wednesday, April 20, 2016
Vape or smoke, nicotine is still not good for you.
By Susan Fitzgerald
If you are a former smoker, like me, you probably still think about tobacco. There are new products now, like electronic cigarettes. Or vaping, as it is called. That would be okay, right?
Turns out, vaping is still bad for you.
Some people switch to vaping to help them quit cigarettes. But a lot of them just end up using both.
Young people who start with electronic cigarettes often move to real cigarettes. That does not bode well. One in four high schoolers used an e-cigarette in the past month. And vaping is the most popular way to use tobacco among teens.
E-cigarettes are kind of scary. Nobody knows all the chemicals in them. Besides nicotine, that is. They are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Even some labels that say “no nicotine” actually do have some.
And what we know about nicotine is not good.
- Nicotine harms young people especially, because it affects their still-growing brain. It lowers the ability to learn and remember.
- Pregnant women who use nicotine can harm their baby’s lungs and heart or cause them be born early.
- Nicotine attacks our very cells. It contributes to cell damage that can pave the way for cancer. It is the leading cause of preventable deaths.
I have to face it. There is no safe way to use tobacco, because nicotine is still bad stuff. If you use tobacco of any kind, and would like to stop, call the number on your health plan ID card. CareOregon members can learn more about why and how to quit tobacco.
Friday, April 15, 2016
Quitting tobacco is hard, but there’s help
By Susan Fitzgerald
Tobacco is bad for you. Everybody knows that. And still, people start using it every day.
I smoked cigarettes for about nine years. My daughter got old enough to read the warning on the pack, and she pleaded with me to quit. I tried several times, but it’s hard.
Then one day, I just did it. Didn’t tell anybody. I had done that too often. And that is when I found out -- my daughter had followed my bad example. There was an empty soda can with a butt in it. “Must be yours,” she said. “Nope,” I said. “I haven’t smoked in three days.” Busted! She was just 14.
The next four years were a tug-of-war. Every time I found smoking materials, she was grounded. “When are you going to stop grounding me?” she asked when she was about 17.
“When are you going to stop smoking?”
In the years since then, my parents died of lung cancer. They each smoked for 40 years. My daughter still smokes.
Quitting is hard, but starting is easier than ever with flavored vaping and fruity chews. They are trying to hook you when you’re young. Flavored or smokeless, tobacco is still bad for your lungs, your heart, your life.
The reasons to quit tobacco add up pretty fast. When you decide it’s time, call the number on your health plan ID card. Your plan can tell you what is covered to help you be tobacco-free. If you’re our member, learn how CareOregon can help you. Insured or not, Oregon residents will find more resources at SmokeFreeOregon.
Friday, April 08, 2016
Round rock makes a firm foundation
By Jerry Rhodes
I would like to borrow a message a friend shared recently.
You may know her. She’s April Henry, the author of 20
thriller novels for teens and adults. She recently shared a memory that when
you think about it, has powerful meaning for most people, especially when times
"Do you need a round rock
today? I found this one while I was running.
"When I was a toddler, my
folks were having hard times. My dad was working at an all-news radio station
that was going down the tubes (and would soon fire all the reporters and become
an all-rock-and-roll station). He had chased jobs across four states, and my
parents were so broke they couldn't even afford a stroller.
“My grandmother came to visit and later
went for a walk. She bounded back into the
house, calling, ‘Nora, guess what?’ She was so excited that my mom thought she
must have figured out some way to solve their problems. Instead, she handed my
mom a rock, exclaiming in amazement over how round it was.
“After she left, my mom laughed
until she cried (or maybe it was cried until she laughed). She carried that
rock in her purse for years, and there were times there was no money in the
purse, just the rock. But she always said, if all else failed, she had a round
“In my family, it’s an honor to go
through hard times and earn your round rock. So if you’re in need of a round
rock today, think of this one as yours.”
That message does not mean to be
naive or to be blissfully ignorant and unprepared for challenges to your health
or your income or the scores of possible pitfalls that may be in your way. But
it does mean that one’s outlook in life can be a powerful force for healing—or
the opposite. And that’s a pretty good health message.
By the way, if you’re in Jackson
County, you may know of April as a graduate of Medford High School, and her
parents were Nora and Hank Henry. You may recall Hank from his years at the
anchor desk of KMED/KTVL
and his terms on the Jackson County Board of Commissioners.
Friday, April 01, 2016
An invitation to kids: Enjoy the outdoors
By Jerry Rhodes
The weather outside is delightful.
But the screens inside are still frighteningly tempting to kids of all ages.
It’s good to see so much effort these days being put into the idea that young people should be encouraged and given greater opportunities to get outside for the educational, physical and mental health benefits of the great outdoors.
Friday, March 25, 2016
Fight against polio nears triumphant conclusion
By Jerry Rhodes
I was going through a file of old photos and documents the other day, and found a personal connection to one of the biggest health stories in the world right now.
It’s a small card that gives proof that I received the required polio vaccinations.
one of the biggest health stories in the world right now.
Most people don’t remember much about polio right now. You might see a few people in their 40s and older, who walk with a pronounced limp. At one time, polio was a dreaded an common predator of childhood and older.
We’d even had a president, Franklin Roosevelt, who’d become paralyzed from the polio he’d contracted as an adult.
For thousands, staying alive meant months, even years living inside an iron lung.
Then along came the polio vaccine. Within a generation, polio was wiped out in the United States.
The big story right now is that after decades of concerted efforts by governments, health organizations and individuals—billionaires and regular citizens like you and me—polio is almost gone from the world.
Last year, only 74 cases of polio were reported worldwide. So far in 2016, there have been only six cases, all of them in Pakistan or Afghanistan. And it is projected that in 2017 there will be NO cases of wild poliovirus worldwide.
It’s a proof that we can, as a species, work together for the common good. In addition to the official agencies and organizations attacking the problem, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Rotary International contributed hundreds of millions of dollars, as well as volunteers.
It’s also a testament to the power of vaccines to eliminate a pestilence.
Now many of those organizations are making plans to move on to the challenge of the world’s most deadly scourge: malaria.
If you have made a contribution, thank you. If you know someone who has, thank them.
And talk with your health care provider about keeping up to date with your own immunizations.
Sunday, March 20, 2016
8 ways to tame your kids’ taste for sugar
By Janet Filips
If the Easter Bunny brings a basket of foil-wrapped eggs and marshmallow treats to your kids, you may be thinking about sugar about now.
Sugar – the kind that’s added into food, not the kind that nature puts into Oregon berries—is getting lots of attention lately. Scientists have said it acts like an addictive drug in the brain, meaning it’s easy to want more, more, more. And experts are seeing connections between going overboard on sugar, and direct or indirect effects on a number of health problems, from obesity to heart disease to mood.
Keeping a little sweet in your life
Generally, a little bit of sugar or syrup is just fine. But most Americans drink and eat way more than the amounts that the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends. There’s more on that in our blog post, “How sweet it isn’t: Steer away from the sour side of sugar."
We don’t need to outlaw sugar for kids. Our job is to retrain their taste buds, and ours, too. The idea is for a bit of added sweetness to go a long way.
The Washington Post laid out “How to get kids to kick their sugar habit” earlier this month. Here are strategies from that article and from Family Education’s “Are We Too Sweet? Our Kids’ Addiction to Sugar."
The AHA makes a good point. Adding a small amount of sugars to make nutritious foods more appealing to kids is a smart use of sugar. That whole-grain cereal, chocolate milk or fruit yogurt may offer fiber, protein, minerals and vitamins that a cupcake does not. You can stretch the sweet taste. When my older son was little, I let him sprinkle a spoonful or two of “sugar cereal” on top of his plain Cheerios.
8 tips for un-addicting kids from sugar
Here’s how you can give your kids a healthy attitude toward sugar, and change their taste for it, too.
1. Decide on “sometimes foods.” What foods with added sugar are family favorites? Create a list with your kids. Decide how often it’s fine for them to have something from the list, and how big a portion. Then let children choose which sometimes foods they want, and when to have it. No judging. But when their daily or weekly allotment is up, let them know it will reset the next day or week.
2. Let your kids make some non-sweet food decisions. Put them in charge of the dinner menu once a week, their healthy, non-sweet snacks, and what’s packed in their lunch.
3. Do away with temptation. If your cupboards and freezer are filled with hands-off cookies, ice cream bars and soft drinks, you might be asking for squabbles.
4. Pour short glasses of juice. 100 percent fruit juice is great, but quantities have gotten out of hand. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting juice to 4 to 6 ounces for children under 7, and 8 to 12 ounces for older children and teens.
When kids are thirsty, water is a great choice.
4. Use kitchen tricks. When you bake a fruit pie, cut the recipe’s sugar by a third or a half. When you make a fruit smoothie, use plain yogurt. Make your own lightly sweetened granola. Freeze grapes for a frosty pop-in-your mouth treat for older children. Invite kids to bake lower-sugar cookies with you.
5. Set dessert night. Pick one night a week to include dessert with dinner. Let your children take turns choosing what you’ll serve. After you serve them an appropriate amount, let them have more if they’re still hungry. And again, no judging or comments.
6. Read labels. You can’t avoid danger if you don’t know where danger lurks.
7. Applaud your kids. When they make good choices, praise them. Also, talk with them about how they’ll handle sweets when they’re away from home.
8. Set a good example. Eat healthy amounts of nutritious foods. Don’t talk about feeling guilty after eating. Turn off the screens and get outside to walk, kick a ball or play with your kids. Fewer empty calories and more physical movement are good for everybody.
A little quiz
True or false: The sweeteners in soda, energy drinks and sport drinks add up to almost one third of an average child’s sugar calories.
True or false: You should never reward a child with dessert for eating a healthy dinner.
True or false: 1 teaspoon of sugar equals 4 grams.
They’re all true.
Friday, March 18, 2016
Proofing your house against curious cats and kids
By Jerry Rhodes
I installed a childproof latch on a kitchen cabinet recently.
You see, my wife keeps cat treats in that cabinet, and one of our cats figured out how to open the door, retrieve the package and tear a hole into it so she could enjoy them at leisure. Tiring of hearing the noise and not wanting an unhealthy cat, I got the latch.
Besides, I figured I’d have to do that anyway for when our grandson Hudson, then age 4 months, would be of curiosity stage. I thought I had a little time before I needed to do the other doors—the cat is oddly uninterested in using the cleaning supplies or the trash can in the other cabinets.
But I was wrong. We got a video last week of Hudson, in a walker, determinately attempting to open a cabinet in our daughter’s kitchen. So I guess I need to complete the job.
There are far too many accidents when curious toddlers get into places they are not supposed to be. Eating the cat treats is one thing; getting into the unhealthy garbage and toxic cleaning supplies is another.
And that’s not even getting into the hazards of pulling hot pans off the kitchen stove or climbing to dangerous heights.
There are probably more things to think about than most of us ever consider before we become new parents, grandparents or caregivers to a curious child. Fortunately, we live in an age when just about every thought on any subject is at the tip of our fingers.
I’ll install those other cabinet locks, and I’ll also look at these resources for making our home safe for our grandson:
Wednesday, March 16, 2016
Let’s talk—about colonoscopy
By Jerry Rhodes
Can we talk?
That question might not get quite the same answer today as it did when first posed by the late, great Joan Rivers.
While Joan was quite willing to talk, today it seems everyone is willing to talk about anything. And that can be a good thing.
Recently a friend of mine posted for all the world to see on Facebook a photo of the large bottle of laxative he was taking to prepare for his colonoscopy.
Yes, it was very humorous, and yes, it got a lot of empathetic responses. But it raised a good subject that should be discussed openly. Colonoscopies save lives and aren’t nearly as bad as you may have feared.
March has been Colon Cancer Awareness Month since 2000. One of the most positive messages you can find on the website of the Colon Cancer Alliance (http://www.ccalliance.org/awareness-month/) is this:
“There are a lot of unexpected surprises that can happen in life, but colon cancer doesn’t have to be one of them.”
Because colon cancer can be discovered and treated before it ever becomes cancer.
Think about it. Colonoscopy and the other tests can detect the disease before it becomes cancer.
So if you’re over 50, if your family has a history of colon cancer or if you’re having symptoms, talk to your doctor about colonoscopy.
Do it so your Facebook posts show a healthy, happy you for years to come.
Monday, March 14, 2016
How sweet it isn’t: Steer away from the sour side of sugar
By Janet Filips
A few minutes ago, I was rummaging around my desk drawer, desperate for a piece of chocolate. The mid-afternoon craving strikes again!
Maybe you know the feeling. Sugar has a powerful, pleasurable effect on the brain’s reward circuit, similar to other addictive substances.
Now, sugar is not all bad. Glucose, a form of sugar, is important fuel for the brain. The problem today is quantity. Americans keep eating more and more sugar. Partly that’s because so many processed foods have sugar.
“Added sugar” includes sweetened items like soft drinks (soda, lemonade, sport drinks, energy drinks), candy, cookies, cake, ice cream, flavored yogurt, granola bars, cereal. . .and on and on through the grocery store aisles, from ketchup to cornbread mix.
We’re not talking the produce department, though. Mother Nature gave us sweet fruits and veggies, and packed them with nutrition. Munch away on those berries and orange slices.
Cut back to a healthy amount
The American Heart Association’s star-studded Nutrition Committee found that our national sweet tooth is packing on unhealthy pounds and crowding out healthy foods. Going overboard on sugar is linked with health problems including obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, unhappy livers and decayed teeth.
Sugar has indirect effects, too, such as potentially increasing the risk of some cancers. Check out this slideshow about the sour side of sugar.
The AHA says you can indulge in some sugar. Just hold it to a modest amount. The idea is to keep your sugar calories at 10 percent or less of your overall calories.
For average Americans, the AHA recommends a max of:
- 6 teaspoons (25 grams) daily for women.
- 9 teaspoons (37 grams) for men.
- 3 teaspoons (12 grams) for children ages 4-8.
- 5 to 8 teaspoons (20 to 33 grams) for pre-teens through age 19.
We’re far from that ideal, according to national estimates from the National Cancer Institute and the AHA.
- By the time children are ages 4-8 years, they’re drinking and eating an average of 21 teaspoons of sugar each day. (Yes, seven times the recommended amount.)
- Teens drink and eat about 34 teaspoons of sugar daily.
- The average American drinks and eats about 22 teaspoons daily.
Added sugar sneaks into many foods
You’ll spend your sugar allowance more wisely if you check food labels. It will help to know that one teaspoon of granulated sugar is a little over four grams of sugar.
Sugar can be sneaky. The raspberry yogurt in my lunch bag has 18 grams of sugars. Yikes, that’s 4-1/2 teaspoons, darn close to the six teaspoons the AHA recommends as a daily max for women.
Plain yogurt with a drizzle of honey and some sliced banana would be a better choice tomorrow.
And be aware of what you drink. Depending on the flavor, a 12-ounce can of regular soda packs eight to 13 teaspoons of sugar (34 to 47 grams) and 120 to 180 calories. Here’s a chart of various beverages.
Instead of a full glass of lemonade, pour a quarter or third of a glass, then add water or seltzer. You’ll have a refreshing ‘ade that avoids a bunch of sugar calories.
Mary Poppins had the quantity right: A spoonful of sugar is the way to go. Make it a teaspoon. And hold the line on six or nine.
In a future blog, we’ll share parenting tips on weaning kids from sugar.
Monday, March 07, 2016
Here’s help keeping track of multiple prescriptions
By Jerry Rhodes
“Know your numbers.”
We’ve said that a lot this month. We’ve been encouraging people to learn about their blood pressure, their lipids, including cholesterol, and even their blood sugar if their provider recommends it or if they already have diabetes.
What to do once you know it?
That’s a good discussion to have with your doctor.
We’re going to pass on a tip about a very helpful tool if you are being treated with medication for diabetes or high blood pressure or cholesterol.
It can be difficult to keep up with all those medications, especially if you have been seen by a hospital or specialist in addition to your primary care provider. Can you hear yourself asking, “Is it one in the morning and one at night? Do I take it with a meal or without? Do I avoid grapefruit? I wonder if one of these will counteract one of the others?”
All good questions to ask. And our pharmacists have worked with doctors, patients and caregivers to create a tool to make it easier to ask the questions, get the answers and keep track of the medications.
It’s called the MEDS™ Chart. It’s a form you fill out and use to start a conversation with your doctor. It’s easy to use, and it’s free to download. You can find all about it here: http://www.careoregon.org/MEDS.
Even if you don’t use the MEDS Chart, we encourage you to know your numbers and talk with your health care provider about your prescriptions. You’ll be healthier for it.
Wednesday, March 02, 2016
Our challenge: Making your health plan easier to understand
By Jerry Rhodes
As every organization should, CareOregon asks people—our members, our staff, the providers in our networks and our community partners—what they would like to see in us as a health plan and as a health- and community-focused organization.
These are very important questions to ask. If we’re not asking and not listening, how can we know what’s working, what could be improved, and what we could do to be great?
One response that came to the top of the list recently as this: People want a health plan that is simple and easy to understand.
While there some things we can’t change, dictated as they are by law and regulation, we can work toward making them easier.
We can continue to do things like take our GoMobile team out into the community where the people we serve already gather, to help them understand the services of the health plan and other resources they may need.
We can continue to work with providers to find ways to make their jobs easier serving our members and improving the care we all deliver.
As a small part of that, this month we’ll share tips in our social media platforms—www.facebook.com/CareOregon and www.twitter.com/CareOregon—about how to understand your health plan.
And we’ll continue to listen.
Sunday, February 28, 2016
What are your Top Nine Medical Movies?
By Jerry Rhodes
The Academy Awards are this evening. In the spirit of the awards, we thought we’d make a list of our Top Ten Medical Movies.
It wasn’t easy. There are lengthy lists of films that purport to be about doctors or medicine, but we were looking for ones that were more about the medicine than a mere title on a main character’s name. So Dr. Zhivago (1965) didn’t make the list.
We also didn’t want anything that was widely unbelievable, so we lost Marlon Brando on The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996).
Finally, we settled on films based on true stories, or at the very least on real experiences. So we had to get rid of Outbreak (1995), which is too bad, because that cut our list down to nine only.
Anyway, in alphabetical order, here they are
- And the Band Played On (1993, HBO). Physicians Don Francis (Matthew Modine) and Robert Gallo (Alan Alda) search for the cause and treatment for AIDS in the early 1980s. From the book written by University of Oregon alumnus Randy Shilts.
- Awakenings (1990). Dr. Malcolm Sayer (Robin Williams), uses the drug L-Dopa to revive catatonic patients, including Leonard Lowe (Robert De Niro). Based on the true story of British neurologist Oliver Sacks.
- Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story (2009). Story of Ben Carson (Cuba Gooding Jr.), young African American becomes a renowned surgeon, separating twins conjoined at the head.
- Girl, Interrupted (1999). Based on Susanna Kaysen's memoir of her 18-month stay at a mental hospital in the 1960s. Stars Winona Ryder and Angelina Jolie.
- Lorenzo’s Oil (1992). Augusto Odone (Nick Nolte) and Michaela Odone (Susan Sarandon) try to find a cure for their son’s rare disease.
- One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1976). Seeking to avoid prison labor, minor criminal Randall Patrick McMurphy (Jack Nicholson) has himself committed to the Oregon State Hospital presided over by tyrannical Nurse Mildred Ratched (Louise Fletcher). From Oregon author Ken Kesey’s fictional novel based on his work experience in a mental hospital.
- Patch Adams (1998). Hunter "Patch" Adams (Robin Williams) uses humor and compassion to treat patients.
- Something the Lord Made (2004, HBO). The relationship and decades-long collaboration between African American cardiac pioneer Vivien Thomas (Mos Def) and white surgeon Alfred Blalock (Alan Rickman).
- The Doctor (1991). Dr. Jack MacKee (William Hurt) treats his patients more like numbers, until he becomes a throat cancer patient himself. Loosely based on Dr. Edward Rosenbaum's memoir.
So there it is. Only one of these won Best Picture, although one of the HBO films, Something the Lord Made, did win an Emmy as Outstanding Made for Television Movie.
Wednesday, February 17, 2016
Drop in unemployment affects SNAP (food stamp) benefits
By Jerry Rhodes
The acronym for what used to be called food stamps is SNAP, for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. But SNAP does not stand for easy. It’s not easy to survive solely on SNAP benefits, which range from a high of less than $7 a day to as little as 50 cents a day.
And it has just gotten a little harder in Multnomah and Washington counties.
To get SNAP benefits, Able-Bodied Adults without Dependents (ABAWD—there is an acronym for everything) between the ages of 18 and 50 must fulfill certain work requirements: 20 hours a week for pay, barter or as a volunteer. If you don’t, you may only have SNAP benefits for three months in a three-year period.
“We used to have a waiver of these rules because of high unemployment,” says Tom Wunderbro, manager of CareOregon’s Food Rx program. “But unemployment has dropped in Washington and Multnomah counties, and residents here no longer qualify for the waiver.”
So it’s a bit of good news, bad news. It’s good that unemployment has declined, but bad news for those whose incomes are so low they depend on SNAP. Unless they complete this work requirement, their benefits will run out at the end of March and they won’t be eligible again until 2019.
Resident of these two counties receiving SNAP benefits may get a letter notifying them of the changes. If they have, they can call the Department of Human Services: in Multnomah County call 971-673-2422 or 971-673-2333, in Washington County call (503) 693-4769. The DHS worker should help talk through their options for exemptions and work requirements.
“There are a ton of exceptions,” Tom says. “If you’re worried, call. Tell them if you’re working 20 hours for trade or barter, or you are volunteering, if you are a student or are completing a diversion program. Just pick up the phone and call so you can retain the benefits and not lose them. If you are unhappy with a decision or determination made by DHS during this process, you can call the Public Benefits Hotline at 800-520-5292 for advice and possible representation.”
Monday, February 15, 2016
Everyone’s coming down with a bug? Try walking—or jogging or biking—away.
By Jerry Rhodes
Every workplace has it, and yours probably does, too. A time during the rainy season when someone comes down with something: a bug, a cold, the flu, the sniffles or whatever else you may call it. And then everyone else gets it, too.
Now it’s nice to be a part of a sharing work team, but this is not what you should be sharing.
So how do you avoid it?
Some folks are just lucky by nature and never seem to come down with anything. For the others, well, that’s the question everyone tries to answer.
Here are some common and sensible ideas:
- Wash your hands often and get enough rest.
- Try remedies your grandmother prescribed: chicken soup (garlic is a prime, health-happy ingredient). My mother used to rub Ben-Gay or Vicks VapoRub on our chests and wrapped us in a blanket. I don’t know if that helped, but it couldn’t hurt, and I’m still nostalgic about the aroma.
We saw an article the other day that had some different suggestions.
- Bruce Barrett, professor of family medicine and community health at the University of Wisconsin, says he’s done research that shows mindfulness meditation can combat colds by lowering stress. (You can find out more about this technique right here on this blog.
- David C. Nieman, director of the Appalachian State University Human Performance Lab at the North Carolina Research Campus, says you can people you can cut in half the number of days you get sick if you exercise 30 to 45 minutes a day.
I know that doesn’t help this winter, but I’m planning to start working on next year’s immune system boost now. See you out on the hiking trails.
Wednesday, February 10, 2016
Heart health is on Leslie Morgan’s mind
By Sue Cody
When Leslie Morgan was walking on the beach, her chest felt funny and she had shortness of breath, but she didn’t think much of it. After all, she’s healthy, vegetarian, gets lots of exercise. She had some indigestion, but didn’t want to inconvenience her husband. But when the shortness of breath got worse over the course of a few days, she decided to see her doctor.
“The doctor did a stress echo test, and I failed,” Morgan says. She was immediately scheduled for four-way coronary bypass surgery. She had never been in the hospital and she was scared, she says. That was two years ago.
“My story is not odd,” Morgan says. “Like a lot of women, I didn’t pay attention.”
Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women. In the United States, 1 in 3 women get heart disease and the ratio in men is 1 in 4, Morgan says.
“Women are in denial more than men,” she says. There is a special need to educate women in the 26- to 50-year-old age range. “After age 50, more women think of a heart attack.”
Women rarely suffer the dramatic, sudden “Hollywood Heart Attack,” that men do, Morgan said. Women’s symptoms are often more subtle.
Symptoms for women might include:
• Chest discomfort
• Upper body discomfort in one or both arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach
• Shortness of breath
• Dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting
• Nausea, vomiting or cold sweats
• Feelings of anxiety, fatigue or weakness – unexplained or on exertion
Getting the word out
Morgan looks the picture of health as she hands out pamphlets for WomenHeart at wellness fairs, staff meetings or chambers of commerce. WomenHeart is a national organization for women living with or at risk for heart disease. A chapter is sponsored by the Cardiology Clinic at Columbia Memorial Hospital (CMH) in Astoria.
“I have heart disease,” Morgan says. “You have to pay attention to it for the rest of your life.”
After her heart surgery, Morgan found it very helpful to participate in cardio rehabilitation. She was surprised that only about 20 percent of women go to rehab, while about 80 percent of men do. It was helpful to have someone monitoring her heart rate while she worked on a fitness routine.
“I could go a little faster on the treadmill with someone watching. That eliminated the fear factor. It was so reassuring to have someone there saying you’re going to be fine,” she says.
When it comes to heart disease, Morgan says, women are under-researched and under-diagnosed. “Eighty percent of women’s heart attacks could be prevented with a healthy lifestyle.”
Morgan says women should talk to their doctor or care provider and get a baseline for risk of heart disease. Everyone should check their blood pressure, cholesterol, weight and other risk factors. Many resources are available through health plans, wellness fairs or by calling 211.
“It basically comes down to a healthy lifestyle,” Morgan says. “It is important to get this information out to the community. People might recognize symptoms in themselves or in others.”
If you think you are having a heart attack, call 911 within five minutes of the start of symptoms.
“Pay attention!” Morgan says. “Your body will tell you something is wrong before your brain kicks in.”
February is American Heart Month.
For more information, visit www.womenheart.org
Wednesday, February 03, 2016
Show your colors: Wear red on Feb. 5 – and love your heart
By Janet Filips
I’ll be rocking a red sweater on Friday for a group photo here at CareOregon – and thinking about the joys of having a heart that pumps well.
Friday is National Wear Red Day, part of American Heart Health Month and the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women awareness and fundraising campaign.
Lots of us may know that pink ribbons are for breast cancer, light blue ribbons for prostate cancer and red ribbons for HIV/AIDS awareness. Well, the heart association goes beyond ribbons, encouraging red outfits to help drive home the point that heart disease is as serious a concern for women as for men.
In fact, heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the U.S., says the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Yet barely half of us realize that more women die of heart disease in the U.S. than from any other cause.
I grew up with an acute awareness of heart disease; it just wasn’t an awareness of women being at risk for it. My dad was an active man, but he had high cholesterol and blood pressure, coronary artery disease, and, in his 50s, a heart attack and triple coronary bypass that prompted him to quit smoking, kaboom.
At our house, we cooked with herbs and very little salt, read labels so we could avoid saturated fats, substituted vegetable oil for butter when we baked, used paper towels to blot the grease off pizza, and filled our plates with more vegetables and salad than meat. My dad limited his morning coffee, his evening beer and how often he yielded to his affection for chocolate shakes.
And while we adopted those eating habits on behalf of my dad, it’s nice to know they were also good moves for the female half of the family.
What puts us at higher risk of heart disease?
Here’s a list of risk factors from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
- High blood pressure
- High LDL (bad) cholesterol
- Overweight and obesity
- Poor diet
- Physical inactivity
- Excessive alcohol use.
There’s a lot you can do about those. The CDC has plenty of strategies for loving that faithful heart of yours. You’ll see that they revolve around identifying and reducing your risk factors:
Know your blood pressure. Uncontrolled blood pressure can result in heart disease. High blood pressure has no symptoms, so check it regularly.
Should you be tested for diabetes? Uncontrolled diabetes raises your chances of heart disease. Talk with your primary care provider about your risk factors for diabetes.
Quit smoking. Help with quitting tobacco is a benefit for Oregon Health Plan members, so check with your health plan. Plus, all Oregonians may get free help through Smokefree Oregon. See more at https://www.quitnow.net/oregon/.
Ask your primary care provider to check your cholesterol and triglycerides.
Choose healthy foods and portions. Being overweight and obese raises your risk of heart disease.
Limit alcohol to one drink a day.
Lower your stress level and find healthy ways to cope with stress.
We’ll add one more: Talk with your provider about safely increasing your physical activity. The heart is a muscle, and it likes to work for you. Build your heart, and it will reward you with a steady supply of oxygen-rich blood, energizing your body and brain. And that feels good!
Don’t you love it?
Tuesday, February 02, 2016
February: the month for having a heart…and caring for yours
By Jerry Rhodes
February is the month of St. Valentine’s Day, when every person in a relationship is seeking out the best gifts to express happiness to his or her significant partner. That is, they’ll be searching for Valentine’s gifts and cards if they don't want that relationship to end quickly.
So Valentines will be everywhere, from the hearts made of paper and crayon in primary school to the heart-shaped boxes of candy and flowers delivered in the workplace.
Here is another thought: Why not use them as a reminder of that other significant February commemoration, American Heart Month.
There have been improvements in the rates of heart and cardiovascular diseases, including strokes, over the last few decades. That may be because research has shown so many ways to reduce risk of heart disease.
This month, the American Heart Association invites you to “know your numbers.” People who talk with their health care providers and learn their cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar numbers can take the healthy lifestyle steps to improve these indicators of atherosclerosis, hypertension and diabetes.
On our social media this month (www.facebook.org/careoregon), we will be talking more about these numbers, and ways to improve them.
We won’t be ignoring the other aspects of heart month, either. We’ll share our belief that it’s good for your health to “have a heart” and care for others, whether it’s your own loved ones or a stranger who’s run out of luck. And we ask you to have a heart for yourself, too.
Please come along for the ride, or rather for the walk. Walking is better for your heart.
Monday, January 25, 2016
Program helps those with mental health, medical challenges
By Jerry Rhodes
We’ve been focusing on “making healthy choices” this month, a good topic for the month of New Year’s resolutions.
Sometimes that means acknowledging that we haven’t always made good ones. Sometimes it means acknowledging that we have to live with conditions about which we’ve had no choice at all. Making the healthy choice in both cases is figuring out where we are, right now, and setting out a course to overcome in the best way possible.
It’s good to hear about a program our friends at Central City Concern have set up to help people overcome mental illness and other complex medical needs. It was good to read the story of IHART, which stands for Integrated Health and Recovery Treatment. It’s worth your time, at http://www.ccconcern.org/_blog/recent-news/post/ihart-outcomes-illustrate-impact/.
Friday, January 22, 2016
Can six choices determine your longevity?
By Jerry Rhodes
There was an interesting study out of Australia this week. From it, the researchers concluded that—setting aside all other things like genetics and accidents—there may be a solid connection between a person’s lifespan and six factors.
The factors were these: smoking, alcohol use, diet, physical inactivity, sedentary behavior and sleep.
A bit of explanation is in order to differentiate the last three.
Physical inactivity is as you might guess: whether or not you get out and about, put in your 30 minutes or more of moderate activity, or your 10,000 steps a day or whatever you’ve chosen.
Sedentary behavior refers to the rest of the time, whether you spend most of it seated. For example, those of us who use a computer most of the time at work, then go home to sit on the couch all evening, switching attention back and forth from television remote to the Internet on the tablet.
Interestingly, sedentary behavior has an even more profound effect on those who are physically inactive.
And then there is sleep. Shorter sleep hours is a risk factor, but longer could be, too. Sleeping long hours sometimes can indicate an underlying health issue from which your body wants to recover.
This study is but one in a never-ending exploration of what makes us tick, what makes us live healthy lives. But it does offer some reasonable direction for the kind of choices we make. Will we continue to sit at the computer all day, or will we regularly get up to walk around? Will we make our meal choices based on what we know is best for us, or what smells good at the food cart at the moment?
Time magazine has a good introduction to the study at http://ow.ly/XmJKx, as well as a link to the full study.
Wednesday, January 20, 2016
Your choice: Tobacco, or a better chance of a long life
By Jerry Rhodes
Today would have been my father’s 103rd birthday.
I thought of him this week when I read about a study about Medicaid and smoking cessation published in the January 2016 issue of Health Affair, by researchers at Milken Institute School of Public Health (Milken Institute SPH) at the George Washington University.
I thought of it because my dad started smoking when he was still in elementary school. That’s just what you did in those days, graduating from corn silk stuffed into an old pipe to real tobacco and roll-your-owns, five-cent cigars and pipes.
After smoking for nearly 40 years, Dad quit in the late 1950s. In those days there were no cessation programs, no patches and no real effort to encourage people to quit. In fact, those were the days when cigarettes were still advertised with doctors’ endorsements.
Perhaps it was because my mother never smoked. Perhaps it was because Dad could observe his own father, crippled by strokes, dying before his 70th year was out. Whatever his reasons, one day he stubbed out his cigarette and never picked up another. Cold turkey.
It’s different today. Smoking is no longer fashionable. Proof of the health damage is voluminous and broadcast widely. Advertising in our most popular media is banned. Smoking rates are way down. Doctors and nurses, even those who continue to smoke themselves, know and share the risks with their patients.
And there is help.
The study referenced by Health Affair listed Oregon among the top five states providing Medicaid members with anti-smoking medication.
We have written about this before, and we will continue to do so until tobacco and its many health risks are no longer public health problems.
Here are the resources available to Oregonians:
- For members of the Oregon Health Plan, your benefits are on your plan’s website. Ours are listed on our website under "Resources and Covered Benefits to Help You Quit."
- Every Oregonian can have free counseling via the Oregon Tobacco Quit Line: Toll free, 1-877-270-7867, or for Spanish, 1-877-266-3863.
Dad lived until the week of his 93rd birthday. Maybe there are other Oregonians who can live to a ripe old age as well by taking take first step.
Friday, January 15, 2016
For blood pressure and more, research helps inform our food choices
By Jerry Rhodes
Have you made any dietary choices today? Did you make the healthy choice?
You may have seen recently, that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced its dietary recommendations. They do it once every five years, and the changes generally make headlines; some years bigger headlines than other years, some years smaller.
This year is kind of a medium-size headline year. Among the items that have caught reporters’ eyes:
- We should eat less added sugar; no more than 10 percent of calories, or about the amount in a 16-ounce sugary drink for an average diet. And right now, sugary drinks account for about 47 percent of all the added sugars we consume.
- You don’t need to worry so much about eggs and other foods containing cholesterol. Turns out there’s not much of a link between dietary cholesterol and the blood cholesterol that leads to heart and stroke risks. But don’t get carried away, the USDA says. Replicating Cool Hand Luke’s 50-egg performance is still not wise, link or no.
- Teen boys and adult men should eat less red meat and more vegetables. Women, on average, are doing OK.
You can read more about it at http://www.msn.com/en-us/health/nutrition/new-dietary-guidelines-lean-meat-ok-cut-the-added-sugars/ar-AAgunhL?li=BBnb7Kz&ocid=iehp. And you may have wondered, just what does into these recommendations, and why they seem to change every time.
A lot of work by researchers across the country, and a lot of help from volunteers just like you…or me.
A number of years ago, I was a volunteer for a study coordinated by Kaiser Permanente’s Center for Health Research (CHR) in Portland. The Premiere study wanted to study the impact of specific diet changes—the DASH diet—on blood pressure.
I was lucky to be in the group that participated in classes and got full instructions to help us reach the dietary, weight loss and exercise objective. (You can read about it here: https://www.kpchr.org/research/public/premier/intervention.htm. I was in the Premiere C group.)
The results were so promising—including blood pressure reduction equivalent to a prescription drug and other health aspects—that the DASH diet has become the basis for a great deal of the USDA dietary recommendations.
Here in the Portland Metro area, with Oregon Health and Science University, CHR and probably other institutions conducting research tests, you may be in the position of helping millions of people by volunteering.
And it might do you some good, too. And, whether I make the right choice every time or not, I know those choices are based on a great deal more knowledge and experience than I could hope to have gained any other way.
And if you have a condition such as high blood pressure, be sure and talk with your doctor about it. And, while you’re at it, look into the DASH diet as well: dashdiet.org.
Wednesday, January 13, 2016
Playing in the dirt: good for children
By Jerry Rhodes
Recently we read an article about the legacy of a friend of ours north of the Columbia. Laurie Cornelius retired as director of Clark College’s Child and Family Studies program after 35 years affiliated with the program.
You may not live in Washington state, and might not have any children there, but Laurie’s legacy is one all parents everywhere can learn and benefit from because it addresses one of the fundamental learning tools for children: playing in the dirt.
What researchers have learned is that children get a great deal of benefit physically and intellectually from unregimented interaction with nature.
That means that although soccer practice and groomed lawns are good, kids still need to stomp around in the mud puddles, look under rocks for bugs, and watch the annual cycle of plants in, shall we say, scruffier environments.
They need to have the opportunity to learn how to interact with other children all by themselves, without whistle-blowing coaches or hovering parents.
Their immune systems need exposure to less-than pristine environments.
In Southwest Washington and the Portland Metro area, Laurie was at the center of a world-wide movement to make sure playgrounds incorporated that kind of opportunity.
When planning the playground for children in her own program, Laurie says, “We want logs and we want dirt, and we want kids to be able to play in the mud, make mud pies, drive trucks through the mud. We’ll clean ‘em up afterward. We want our kids to get muddy here.”
You know, all the things you loved to do as a kid, and were more reluctant to endorse as a parent.
When you’re making choices for your children, it’s worth thinking about
Wednesday, January 06, 2016
Stuck at home with the flu? What’s there to do?
By Jerry Rhodes
Everyone likes a day off, but not if it’s a day of sick leave because you have a cold or the flu.
Of course, your first duty is to do what the doctor says if you’re under doctor’s care. And the standard advice for what to do for cold and flu is way up there. You can read about that at http://careoregon.org/healthwise.html?DOCHWID=center1046.
You know you’re supposed to take it slow and get well, but unless you’re really REALLY sick, bundled up in bed, a day of confinement can be a challenge.
But the other day we spotted an article that addressed the very issue: what to do when you’re home with the flu. It’s a good start, combining the healthy precautions with advice on activities for your mind while your body is taking it easy.
Here are a few we like:
- Take a steam but running a hot shower. Breathe in the steam to moisten your nasal passages and throat, and to help you relax.”
- Stir up some homemade hot chocolate. The homemade portion is the key, because you can control the amount of sugar you use, and cut the fat calories by using low-fat milk. And chocolate is most definitely food for the soul.
- Watch a comedy. We wouldn’t skip a prescription in favor of a funny movie, but laughter is a good mood booster.
We’ll let you check out the rest at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/14/flu-what-to-do-home-sick_n_2458770.html.
Saturday, January 02, 2016
Finding a personal ‘wellville:’ Bug and diabetes diagnosis spark motivation to quit smoking
By Janet Filips
Our friends with Way to Wellville in Clatsop County shared a local stop-smoking success story with us. We thought it was perfect to retell here in honor of anyone trying to quit tobacco in the New Year!
Jeff Hazen, a member of Way to Wellville’s Advisory Council and executive director of the Sunset Empire Transportation District in Astoria, realized recently he was ready to quit smoking. A few motivating forces came together, prompting him to take this super-big step for his health:
- He had caught a bug, and while under the weather, he had smoked less. That took him a step in the right direction.
- As part of Way to Wellville’s advisory council, Jeff wanted to set a good example.
- His mother had died of lung cancer, and Jeff was well aware that smoking was a “stupid and expensive” habit. (We’ll add “dangerous” to that description!)
- After a new diabetes diagnosis, Jeff knew that quitting smoking would be good for his disease.
Jeff was right on about smoking’s connection with diabetes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “if you have diabetes and you smoke, you are more likely to have serious health problems from diabetes. Smokers with diabetes have higher risks for serious complications.” Check out “Smoking and Diabetes.” for some nice, clear info on that subject.
Jeff gets serious about quitting smoking
So, after 30-plus years of smoking and previous quit attempts, Jeff got serious. Here’s what worked for him:
- He had clear, specific motivations and knew he was ready to quit.
- He visited his doctor, who prescribed him nicotine patches.
- He paid attention to the pleasures of an emerging, healthier self. He stopped coughing. He felt better overall.
- He told his coworkers.
- He went all in. There was no hidden stash of cigarettes, “just in case.”
Help with quitting for CareOregon members
We want our CareOregon members who are smokers to know that the Oregon Health Plan covers many benefits related to tobacco. We’ll help you get ready to quit smoking, and then stay away from tobacco, one hour at a time. Check www.careoregon.org/Health-Wellness/StayingHealthy/QuittingTobacco.aspx, and scroll down to “Resources and Covered Benefits to Help You Quit.”
Plus, everyone who lives here-- whether on the Oregon Health Plan or not--is eligible for free counseling by phone, through the Oregon Tobacco Quit Line. Call any time, day or night.
Oregon Tobacco Quit Line
- English: Call toll free, 1-877-270-7867.
- Spanish/Español: Call toll free, 1-877-266-3863.
As Jeff Hazen told Sue Cody of the Way to Wellville, “Cigarettes are not your friend. They are the bully in the room.”
*Photo by Sue Cody
Jeff Hazen, executive director of the Sunset Empire Transportation District, stands next to a No Smoking sign at the transit center in Astoria. He’s not smoking there—or anywhere else.
Wednesday, December 30, 2015
4 ways to keep your New Year’s resolution going
By Janet Filips
Some people turn up their noses at New Year’s resolutions, but count me in as a fan. In recent years, I’ve resolved to get back into yoga, invite friends over more often, read novels, try new recipes, go running, study French, eat oatmeal for breakfast, and clean out one drawer or cupboard every week.
Now, to be clear, my success rate is about 50 percent, but I don’t mind the attempts that fizzled in February. Settling on a resolution gives me a chance to consider my life and priorities. And I’m fine with recycling a worthy resolution that didn’t get legs. The failure told me I need a different plan to make it stick.
The classic New Year’s resolution
There’s a world of possible resolutions, but quitting smoking is a classic one. Yahoo if you are ready to go for that! We want our CareOregon members who are smokers to know that the Oregon Health Plan (OHP) covers many benefits related to tobacco. (See more below about that.)
Experts in the science of quitting know that planning is a big key to success. Before you crumple your last cigarette pack, check these pointers from the Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/quit-smoking/in-depth/quit-smoking/art-20045452.
4 ways to make a New Year’s resolution stick
Really, you can apply the Mayo Clinic tobacco strategies to just about any change you want to make. We tweaked them for “4 ways to make a New Year’s resolution stick.”
1. Visualize the new you. Write down reasons for your resolution. Carry the list with you so it can remind and re-inspire you throughout the day. This is super helpful for resolutions that take nonstop resolve, like avoiding sweets, quitting tobacco or practicing patience.
2. Line up some supporters. Let other people in your life know what you’re trying to do and why. You may need help with making time for taking a daily walk, adding more vegetables to meals, or steering clear of places that trigger an urge for a cigarette.
Maybe the buddy system would help your resolution—like finding a neighbor, coworker or family member who will join you for that walk, or who wants to study a new language, too.
3. Focus on each day, and only that day. Tomorrow and next month will come. Make it to the finish line every evening, and the successful days will pile up. Did you miss the mark one day? That’s OK. Learn, adjust, and start anew tomorrow.
4. Reward yourself! If you’re saving money on cigarettes, you could use put some of your savings toward a healthy treat, or into a piggy bank for a larger goal.
If you don’t have extra money, think about what brings you joy—then, at regular intervals, schedule time for that. Read a novel, make a card for a friend, watch a football game, volunteer for a nonprofit or school, play a card game with your family, borrow new music or a movie from the library. Those will offer double rewards.
OHP and quitting tobacco
We want our CareOregon members who are smokers to know that the Oregon Health Plan covers many benefits related to tobacco. We’ll help you get ready to quit tobacco, and then to stay away from it, one hour at a time. Check http://www.careoregon.org/Health-Wellness/StayingHealthy/QuittingTobacco.aspx, and scroll down to “Resources and Covered Benefits to Help You Quit.”
There’s more help. Everybody who lives in Oregon-- whether on the Oregon Health Plan or not--is eligible for free counseling by phone, through the Oregon Tobacco Quit Line [link: http://smokefreeoregon.com/resources/quit/i-want-to-quit/]. Call any time, day or night.
Oregon Tobacco Quit Line
- English: Call toll free, 1-877-270-7867.
- Spanish/Español: Call toll free, 1-877-266-3863
The flip of the calendar is a powerful symbol. Enjoy giving a thoughtful nudge to your life’s direction!
Monday, December 28, 2015
“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.”
By Jerry Rhodes
That’s a provocative statement, yet one that fits a new start, a New Year.
The author, Neil Gaiman, “is an English author of short fiction, novels, comic books, graphic novels, audio theatre and films.” Someone creative. Someone who knows of what he speaks.
Because in any form, whether writing novels or renewing a pledge to live a healthier life, the process of creativity is fertile ground for errors. If we haven’t made any mistakes, we haven’t really been trying.
Here is his full quote:
"I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.
"Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You're doing things you've never done before, and more importantly, you're Doing Something.
"So that's my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody's ever made before. Don't freeze, don't stop, don't worry that it isn't good enough, or it isn't perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.
"Whatever it is you're scared of doing, Do it.
"Make your mistakes, next year and forever.”
Simple, but profound advice.
This next year, let’s vow to take a risk, fall down a few times, pick ourselves back up and move on.
Let’s enjoy the journey, moguls, potholes and all.
Wednesday, December 23, 2015
Giving because it’s good for you
By Jerry Rhodes
“It’s better to give than to receive.”
It is the tradition at this time of year in many different cultures to give gifts.
It’s also a tradition in American tax culture to get that tax-deductible giving in before the end of the year.
But have you heard that altruistic giving is good for your health?
Here are some points from a Living Well article about giving and being kind:
“Several studies suggest that acts of giving and kindness—small and large—are associated with positive mental well-being.
“For example, a 2004 study in 373 older adults found that some aspects of well-being were higher in those who did volunteering projects, compared with those who did not.
“Brain science has shown that giving to others and co-operating with them can stimulate the reward areas in the brain, helping to create positive feelings.
“Helping and working with others can also give us a sense of purpose and feelings of self-worth.
“Giving our time to others in a constructive way helps us strengthen our relationships and build new ones. Relationships with others also influence mental well-being.”
You could come to the conclusion—and probably find medical studies that back it up—that the mass marketing consumerism today is, shall we say, overdone.
But the basic idea is a good one. And it’s good to know it’s good for you, too.
Thursday, December 17, 2015
A few tips for de-stressing the holidays
By Jerry Rhodes
It’s the final week before Christmas. You’re the horse who has made the final pole, the racecar driver who’s on the bell lap. You have only this weekend, and the few days of next week before everything must be done.
Got family coming for the holidays? Is the house ready for guests? Have you cleaned up the bathroom they’ll be using? Do you have enough firewood for the fire? Have you finished your grocery shopping?
And don’t even mention the crowds and the traffic.
The list seems to go on and on. Small wonder that this month of the year can be the most stressful.
We encourage you to pace yourself. Take it easy and don’t try to do everything at once. Follow the example and make a list, check it twice, and be realistic what you can accomplish.
There are a lot of good tips for beating holiday stress. Our website has some good information at http://careoregon.org/Health-Wellness/StayingHealthy/De-stress-the-holidays.aspx. We also found some good ones in an article called “10 ways to beat holiday stress with fitness and nutrition,” including these favorites:
Make smart choices and be picky with indulgences. We’re talking about those lush, delicious and decidedly nonhealthy tables of food treats. Make a plan and stick to it.
Be realistic about expectations. We need to follow this tip ourselves, especially when preparing holiday dinners. You probably can’t get everything done by yourself, so ease back on what you’re planning—or enlist help.
Take a deep breath. The article speaks of yoga and meditation techniques. We’ll just add that it’s also great to have a good pause to collect one’s thoughts and get back on the realistic plan.
We’ll be realistic, too, and stop here. The article and our website have a lot more tips you can read there.
Just one more thing. Please take time to enjoy the season.
Tuesday, December 15, 2015
Now it the time to donate and to patronize thrift shops
By Jerry Rhodes
Two forces are converging over the next few weeks.
The first is winter. We’ve had record rainfall in the northwest part of the state, communities trapped on the wrong side of sinkholes, and people evacuated from threatened neighborhoods. In the southern and central parts of the state, we’ve had heavy snows closing down streets and highways, and sending vehicles careening into harm’s way.
The second force is the end of the year, the last opportunity to donate to the organizations that provide services and resources for those in need due to the weather or just because the economic game of chance has not been favorable to them.
The convergence means this: If you’re warm in your home, all set with food and winter clothing, consider going through your closets, garages and storage units to find things to donate. You’ll get a tax deduction you can use, and these organizations will get the goods that allow them to continue to care for our neighbors who need help. It’s an especially good time to donate winter clothing.
If you are in need, there are resources. There are shelters and organizations that provide free assistance, as well as thrift stores with clothing that’s priced low. If you’re economically in good shape, consider shopping there, too, for great bargains. The money you spend will do a great deal of good in the community.
We hope you’ll all stay dry and warm this season.
Monday, December 14, 2015
50 healthiest foods…if you can find them