Friday, May 29, 2009

Health Care and Autism

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), autism (sometimes called “classical autism”) is the most common condition in a group of developmental disorders known as the autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). Autism is characterized by impaired social interaction, problems with verbal and nonverbal communication, and unusual, repetitive, or severely limited activities and interests. Other ASDs include Asperger syndrome, Rett syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (usually referred to as PDD-NOS). Experts estimate that three to six children out of every 1,000 will have autism. Males are four times more likely to have autism than females.

According to, autism is a brain disorder that often makes it hard to communicate with and relate to others. With autism, the different areas of the brain fail to work together. Most people with autism will always have some trouble relating to others. But early diagnosis and treatment have helped more and more people with autism to live independently as adults. Autism tends to run in families, so experts think it may be something that you inherit. Scientists are trying to find out exactly which genes may be responsible for passing down autism in families. Other studies are looking at whether autism can be caused by other medical problems or by something in your child’s surroundings. Some people think that childhood vaccines cause autism, especially the measles-mumps-rubella, or MMR, vaccine. But studies have not shown this to be true. It’s important to make sure that your child gets all childhood vaccines. They help keep your child from getting serious diseases that can cause harm or even death.

Symptoms almost always start before a child is 3 years old, according to But usually, parents first notice that their toddler has not started talking yet and is not acting like other children the same age. Symptoms of autism include:
--A delay in learning to talk, or not talking at all. A child may seem to be deaf, even though hearing tests are normal.
--Repeated and overused types of behavior, interests, and play. Examples include repeated body rocking, unusual attachments to objects, and getting very upset when routines change.

According to, there is no "typical" person with autism. People can have many different kinds of behaviors, from mild to severe. Parents often say that their child with autism prefers to play alone and does not make eye contact with other people. Autism may also include other problems:
--Many children have below-normal intelligence.
--Teenagers often become depressed and have a lot of anxiety, especially if they have average or above-average intelligence.
--Some children get a seizure disorder such as epilepsy by their teen years.

There are guidelines your doctor will use to see if your child has symptoms of autism, according to The guidelines put symptoms into three categories:
--Social interactions and relationships. For example, a child may have trouble making eye contact. People with autism may have a hard time understanding someone else’s feelings, such as pain or sadness.
--Verbal and nonverbal communication. For example, a child may never speak. Or he or she may often repeat a certain phrase over and over.
--Limited interests in activities or play. For example, younger children often focus on parts of toys rather than playing with the whole toy. Older children and adults may be fascinated by certain topics, like train schedules or license plates.
Also, your child may also have a hearing test and some other tests to make sure that problems are not caused by some other condition.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), children with autism might have problems talking with you, or they might not look you in the eye when you talk to them. They may have to line up their pencils before they can pay attention, or they may say the same sentence again and again to calm themselves down. They may flap their arms to tell you they are happy, or they might hurt themselves to tell you they are not. Some people with autism never learn how to talk. The cause of autism is not known. Autism lasts throughout a person's lifetime. There is no cure, but treatment can help. Treatments include behavior and communication therapies and medicines to control symptoms.

Treatment for autism involves special behavioral training, according to And, behavioral training rewards good behavior (positive reinforcement) to teach children social skills and to teach them how to communicate and how to help themselves as they grow older. With early treatment, most children with autism learn to relate better to others. They learn to communicate and to help themselves as they grow older. Depending on the child, treatment may also include such things as speech therapy or physical therapy. Medicine is sometimes used to treat problems such as depression or obsessive-compulsive behaviors. Exactly what type of treatment your child needs depends on the symptoms, which are different for each child and may change over time. Because people with autism are so different, something that helps one person may not help another. So it’s important to work with everyone involved in your child’s education and care to find the best way to manage symptoms.

According to, an important part of your child's treatment plan is making sure that other family members get training about autism and how to manage symptoms. Training can reduce family stress and help your child function better. Some families need more help than others. Take advantage of every kind of help you can find. Talk to your doctor about what help is available where you live. Family, friends, public agencies, and autism organizations are all possible resources. Remember these tips: Plan breaks. Daily demands of caring for a child with autism can take their toll. Planned breaks will help the whole family. Get extra help when your child gets older. The teen years can be a very hard time for children with autism. Get in touch with other families who have children with autism. You can talk about your problems and share advice with people who will understand. Raising a child with autism is hard work. But with support and training, your family can learn how to cope.

According to, as your child enters his adolescent years, expect him to find this time period challenging, if not downright difficult. After all, even kids who aren't on the spectrum are daunted by the formidable transition between childhood and adulthood, and it's even trickier for those who are autistic. Autistic teens are befuddled by physical and hormonal changes in their bodies, by developing social circles and by increasing contact with the world at large. They are also wrestling with complicated emotions. As a result, they may appear to regress, acting out and exhibiting behaviors, such as hitting or rocking, they may have conquered long ago. Your child may lean on you more as he navigates the years ahead so prepare for the rollercoaster of emotions on which he may soon embark. Let him know that you're there to guide him through any situation he may find uncomfortable. Ask the opinions of his teachers, who will help him master new skills so he'll be better equipped to interact with his peers and take on bigger responsibilities. With ample support and encouragement, your child stands a good chance of overcoming the initial pressures and in time, he'll learn how to adjust to his shifting landscape.

Once your child is an adult, his options will depend on how high functioning he is, according to When he, or she, has “aged out” of public school, a vocational training program may be the next best step. Depending on his capabilities, he may excel at jobs that require enormous amounts of concentration but limited intense interaction with others, such as computer programming or graphic design. Or, he may prefer to do something more repetitive, such as filing. If he's academically rigorous, college may be the answer. In short, he or she is only truly limited by his or her own abilities and interests, which holds true whether one is autistic or not. Your child will likely be able to live independently, earning a living and taking care of their needs. That said, social relationships may always be minefields, and as such, will continue to be a source of frustration and, for some, despair. With this in mind, it may be beneficial to have a therapist or counselor familiar with the condition be available to help your child as he ages and encounters increasingly complex relationships that give way to equally complex emotions and situations.

Autism is a challenging and complicated disease. It provides opportunity for difficulties to be overcome, and rewards for positive development with the person who suffers from it. Caregivers must learn as much as possible to assist the relative or individual afflicted with autism. Support is available through a variety of resources devoted to the education of and assistance for those caring for Americans who are autistic. If you know someone with autism, be more open minded to their needs. Learn how to deal with those who have it, and be sensitive to those who must care for people with autism.

Until next time. Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Health Care and Summer Safety

There is still about a month to go until the official first day of summer, but it is already time to start thinking about summer safety, as a lot of summer fun activities are about to unofficially get started already according to pediatrician Dr. Vincent Iannelli. How to combat sunburn, insect bites, swimming problems, and more should be considered by all parents and caregivers.

Keep your family safe this summer by following these tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
1.) FUN IN THE SUN Source:
--Babies under 6 months:
The two main recommendations from the AAP to prevent sunburn are to avoid sun exposure, and dress infants in lightweight long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and brimmed hats that shade the neck to prevent sunburn. However when adequate clothing and shade are not available, parents can apply a minimal amount of suncreen with at least 15 SPF (sun protection factor) to small areas, such as the infant's face and the back of the hands. If an infant gets sunburn, apply cold compresses to the affected area.
--For Young Children:
Apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes before going outside, and use sunscreen even on cloudy days. The SPF should be at least 15 and protect against UVA and UVB rays.
--For Older Children:
The first, and best, line of defense against the sun is covering up. Wear a hat with a three-inch brim or a bill facing forward, sunglasses (look for sunglasses that block 99-100% of ultraviolet rays), and cotton clothing with a tight weave.
--Stay in the shade whenever possible, and limit sun exposure during the peak intensity hours - between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
--Use a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or greater. Be sure to apply enough sunscreen - about one ounce per sitting for a young adult.
--Reapply sunscreen every two hours, or after swimming or sweating.
--Use extra caution near water, snow, and sand as they reflect UV rays and may result in sunburn more quickly.
Source: .
--The intensity of activities that last 15 minutes or more should be reduced whenever high heat and humidity reach critical levels. At the beginning of a strenuous exercise program or after traveling to a warmer climate, the intensity and duration of exercise should be limited initially and then gradually increased during a period of 10 to 14 days to accomplish acclimatization to the heat.
--Before prolonged physical activity, the child should be well-hydrated. During the activity, periodic drinking should be enforced, for example, each 20 minutes, 5 oz of cold tap water or a flavored sports drink for a child weighing 90 lbs, and 9 oz for an adolescent weighing 130 lbs, even if the child does not feel thirsty.
--Clothing should be light-colored and lightweight and limited to one layer of absorbent material to facilitate evaporation of sweat. Sweat-saturated shirts should be replaced by dry clothing.
--Practices and games played in the heat should be shortened and more frequent water/hydration breaks should be instituted.
3.) POOL SAFETY. Source: .
--Install a fence at least four-feet high around all four sides of the pool. The fence should not have openings or protrusions that a young child could use to get over, under, or through.
--Make sure pool gates open out from the pool, and self-close and self-latch at a height children can't reach.
--Never leave children alone in or near the pool, even for a moment.
--Keep rescue equipment (a shepherd's hook - a long pole with a hook on the end - and life preserver) and a portable telephone near the pool. Choose a shepherd’s hook and other rescue equipment made of fiberglass or other materials that do not conduct electricity.
--Avoid inflatable swimming aids such as "floaties." They are not a substitute for approved life vests and can give children a false sense of security.
--Children may not be developmentally ready for swim lessons until after their fourth birthday. --Swim programs for children under 4 should not be seen as a way to decrease the risk of drowning.
--Whenever infants or toddlers are in or around water, an adult should be within arm's length, providing "touch supervision."
--Don't use scented soaps, perfumes or hair sprays on your child.
--Avoid areas where insects nest or congregate, such as stagnant pools of water, uncovered foods and gardens where flowers are in bloom.
--Avoid dressing your child in clothing with bright colors or flowery prints.
--To remove a visible stinger from skin, gently scrape it off horizontally with a credit card or your fingernail.
--Combination sunscreen/insect repellent products should be avoided because sunscreen needs to be reapplied every two hours, but the insect repellent should not be reapplied.
--Insect repellents containing DEET are most effective against ticks, which can transmit Lyme Disease, and mosquitoes, which can transmit West Nile Virus and other viruses.
--The current CDC and AAP recommendation for children over 2 months of age is to use 30 percent DEET. DEET should not be used on children under 2 months of age.
--The concentration of DEET in products may range from less than 10 percent to over 30 percent. Ten percent DEET only protects for about 30 minutes – inadequate for most outings.
--The concentration of DEET varies significantly from product to product, so read the label of any product you purchase. Children should wash off repellents when back indoors.
--For more information on DEET: .
5.) PLAYGROUND SAFETY. Source: , and Source:
--The playground should have safety-tested mats or loose-fill materials (shredded rubber, sand, wood chips, or bark) maintained to a depth of at least 9 inches. The protective surface should be installed at least 6 feet (more for swings and slides) in all directions from the equipment.
--Equipment should be carefully maintained. Open “s” hooks or protruding bolt ends can be hazardous.
--Swing seats should be made of soft materials such as rubber, plastic or canvas.
--Make sure children cannot reach any moving parts that might pinch or trap any body part.
--Never attach—or allow children to attach—ropes, jump ropes, leashes, or similar items to play equipment; children can strangle on these.
--Make sure metal slides are cool to prevent children's legs from getting burned.
--Parents should never purchase a home trampoline or allow children to use home trampolines.
--Parents should supervise children on play equipment to make sure they are safe.
6.) BICYCLE SAFETY. Source:, and
Source: .
--Do not push your child to ride a 2-wheeled bike until he or she is ready, at about age 5 or 6.
--Consider the child's coordination and desire to learn to ride. Stick with coaster (foot) brakes until your child is older and more experienced for hand brakes.
--Take your child with you when you shop for the bike, so that he or she can try it out. The value of a properly fitting bike far outweighs the value of surprising your child with a new one.
--For more information on finding the proper fit, go to .
--Buy a bike that is the right size, not one your child has to "grow into." Oversized bikes are especially dangerous.
--Your child needs to wear a helmet on every bike ride, no matter how short or how close to home. Many accidents happen in driveways, on sidewalks, and on bike paths, not just on streets. Children learn best by observing you. Whenever you ride, put on your helmet.
--When purchasing a helmet, look for a label or sticker that says the helmet meets the CPSC safety standard.
--A helmet protects your child from serious injury, and should always be worn. And remember, wearing a helmet at all times helps children develop the helmet habit.
--A helmet should be worn so that it is level on the head, not tipped forwards or backwards. The strap should be securely fastened, and you should not be able to move the helmet in any direction. If needed, the helmet’s sizing pads can help improve the fit.
--Children should never ride skateboards or scooters in or near traffic.
--All skateboarders and scooter-riders should wear a helmet and other protective gear; wrist guards are particularly important.
--Communities should continue to develop skateboard parks, which are more likely to be monitored for safety than ramps and jumps constructed by children at home.
--While in-line skating or wearing Heelys, be sure to wear appropriate protective equipment and only skate on designated paths or rinks and not on the street.
8.) LAWN MOWER SAFETY. Source: .
--Try to use a mower with a control that stops the mower from moving forward if the handle is let go.
--Children younger than 16 years should not be allowed to use ride-on mowers. Children younger than 12 years should not use walk-behind mowers.
--Make sure that sturdy shoes (not sandals or sneakers) are worn while mowing.
--Prevent injuries from flying objects, such as stones or toys, by picking up objects from the lawn before mowing begins. Have anyone who uses a mower wear hearing and eye protection.
--Do not pull the mower backward or mow in reverse unless absolutely necessary, and carefully look for children behind you when you mow in reverse.
--Always turn off the mower and wait for the blades to stop completely before removing the grass catcher, unclogging the discharge chute, or crossing gravel paths, roads, or other areas.
--Do not allow children to ride as passengers on ride-on mowers.

From the local jungle gym to a vacation home at the beach, where there's fun for kids, there are safety concerns for parents according to Research tips and resources you need to inform your kids and put your mind at ease. Summer is a time for kids to reacquaint themselves with the neighborhood — the parks, the paths, even their own backyards. Be sure they know where potential danger lurks and how to avoid it. Read up on info about keeping your children safe while outside during the summer. Find tips on what makes a playground safe for your child, on how to teach your children how to be safe around pools, and on keeping your children safe while participating in summer activities. Before you hit the road this summer, get the information you need to ensure a safe, relaxing vacation. Get safety tips from other parents, and share your own!

Until next time. Let me know what you think.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Health Care and Memorial Day

This weekend traditionally marks the beginning of Summer in the minds of almost all Americans. Memorial Day happens on the last Monday of May every year as a celebration of our freedom and remembrance of fallen war veterans. Traditional observance of Memorial day has diminished over the years, according to Many Americans nowadays have forgotten the meaning and traditions of Memorial Day. At many cemeteries, the graves of the fallen are increasingly ignored, neglected. Most people no longer remember the proper flag etiquette for the day. While there are towns and cities that still hold Memorial Day parades, many have not held a parade in decades. And, some people think the day is for honoring any and all dead, and not just those fallen in service to our country.

According to, Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation's service. There are many stories as to its actual beginnings, with over two dozen cities and towns laying claim to being the birthplace of Memorial Day. There is also evidence that organized women's groups in the South were decorating graves before the end of the Civil War: a hymn published in 1867, "Kneel Where Our Loves are Sleeping" by Nella L. Sweet carried the dedication "To The Ladies of the South who are Decorating the Graves of the Confederate Dead" (Source: Duke University's Historic American Sheet Music, 1850-1920). While Waterloo N.Y. was officially declared the birthplace of Memorial Day by President Lyndon Johnson in May 1966, it's difficult to prove conclusively the origins of the day. It is more likely that it had many separate beginnings; each of those towns and every planned or spontaneous gathering of people to honor the war dead in the 1860's tapped into the general human need to honor our dead, each contributed honorably to the growing movement that culminated in Gen Logan giving his official proclamation in 1868. It is not important who was the very first, what is important is that Memorial Day was established. Memorial Day is not about division. It is about reconciliation; it is about coming together to honor those who gave their all.

Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, and was first observed on 30 May 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery, according to The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York in 1873. By 1890 it was recognized by all of the northern states. The South refused to acknowledge the day, honoring their dead on separate days until after World War I (when the holiday changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war). It is now celebrated in almost every State on the last Monday in May (passed by Congress with the National Holiday Act of 1971) to ensure a three day weekend for Federal holidays), though several southern states have an additional separate day for honoring the Confederate war dead: January 19 in Texas, April 26 in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi; May 10 in South Carolina; and June 3 (Jefferson Davis' birthday) in Louisiana and Tennessee.

What is needed is a full return to the original day of observance, as noted by Set aside one day out of the year for the nation to get together to remember, reflect and honor those who have given their all in service to their country. But what may be needed to return the solemn, and even sacred, spirit back to Memorial Day is for a return to its traditional day of observance. Many feel that when Congress made the day into a three-day weekend in with the National Holiday Act of 1971, it made it all the easier for people to be distracted from the spirit and meaning of the day.

The Memorial Day Holiday weekend is an occasion to honor all those who have served the nation and who continue to serve in harm's way. The weekend also is a time when everyone wants to celebrate with vacations and outdoor activities. Memorial Day weekend traditionally kicks off the summer vacation season, a time for swimming, cookouts, and fun according to UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, Texas. Vacations aren't just for fun. They're essential to good mental health. You need time off every so often to recharge, to empty your brain of its day-to-day cares so you have room to refill it. You don't have to spend a lot of money to get the beneficial effects of a vacation. Just taking some time off at home to change your routine and explore new things will leave you feeling rested and ready for new challenges.

In observance of the holiday, WWAY-TV offers suggestions to stay safe during this time. It is a holiday weekend. It is time to relax, spend time with your friends and family, and have some fun. But, sometimes that fun can be harmful to your health. A holiday weekend may mean fun in the sun for some people, but for hospital and emergency employees it means working overtime. More people are outside doing wheeled sports and in the water, so there's certainly an increase in injury. If you want to beat the odds and not end up at the emergency room, plan ahead and take precautions. Be careful of rip currents if you are going swimming in the ocean or at the beach; and, watch the lifeguards, they have flags out -- green, yellow and red. If it's red they typically don't want you in because of rip currents. If you plan on biking or skateboarding, wear a helmet, knee and elbow pads. Also, don't dive in shallow water, remember to re-apply your sunscreen; and if children are near water, medical professionals say they should always be wearing a life jacket.

Revolution Health offers some advice for a healthy Memorial Day weekend. Plan ahead to enjoy a safe, fun and healthy Memorial Day weekend with family and friends. Practicing smart grilling, staying safe in the sun and drinking plenty of fluids can help you make the most of your holiday weekend. While most everyone knows to lather up on sunscreen before going outdoors this weekend and the big "don't" of drinking and driving, there are some additional easy steps to take to make sure your holiday is healthy and pain-free:

1.) Get Spicy to Stay Cool. Eat spicy foods to help you stay cool. Believe it or not, spicy foods dilate your peripheral blood vessels, making you perspire which cools your body.
2.) A Coat in Summertime. Coat both meats and the grill with olive oil to ensure great flavor, but avoid potential carcinogens. Many of us like the flavor of meats with a bit of char (blackening), but research has shown this method can create cancer-causing substances called heterocyclic amines.
3.) The Secret is in the marinade. Choose leaner meats and marinate them for 24 hours to enjoy flavor without all the fat this Memorial Day. Fatty meats make for tasty barbequing, but you can use leaner, healthier meats and make them more tender and enjoy even more flavor by marinating them.
4.) Scream for Ice Cream. Substitute grilled fruit for fat-laden ice cream or cake this Memorial Day. The dry heat of grilling intensifies and caramelizes the natural sugars in fruits.
5.) Chill Out. If you're planning a picnic this weekend, keep food fresher and prevent bacteria by using large chunks rather than small cubes. Large chunks of ice last longer and keep foods colder. Just put some water into a sheet cake or baking pan, freeze it and poof!, you have bacteria-fighting ice!
6.) A Bug’s Life. Try natural alternatives to beat those pesty mosquitoes. You can spray on a diluted liquid garlic concentrate. Or apply vinegar or soybean oil on your skin to prevent the bugs from biting.
7.) Headache Relief in a Glass. In these hot summer months, drink a glass of water to relieve headaches. Often headaches are caused by dehydration and can be alleviated by taking aspirin, but it's usually the beverage consumed when taking the aspirin that helps to immediately relieve the symptoms.
8.) Get Red-dy to Ward off Sunburn. In addition to sunscreen, load up on red, yellow and orange fruits and vegetables. These have carotenoids that may help naturally reduce sunburn risk; and sunburn is a major risk factor for skin cancer, the most common form of cancer in the U.S.
9.) Pool's Open. Fill up empty water bottles and use them for resistance exercises in the pool. It's a fun and easy way to tone and strengthen muscles.
10.) Time for Lights Out. Pull out your alarm clock this long weekend. You may be tempted to stay up late, but keeping a regular schedule will actually help you sleep better and make your sleep more restful and restorative.

Memorial Day can be a festive time. And, it can also be a solemn time. According to, the "Memorial" in Memorial Day has been ignored by many who are beneficiaries of those who have given the ultimate sacrifice. Often, Americans do not observe the day as it should be, a day where the nation actively remembers our ancestors, our family members, our loved ones, our neighbors, and our friends who have sacrificed so much. There are many ways to honor those who died in defense of freedom:
--by visiting cemeteries and placing flags or flowers on the graves of our fallen heroes.
--by visiting memorials.
--by flying the U.S. Flag at half-staff until noon.
--by flying the 'POW/MIA Flag' as well (Section 1082 of the 1998 Defense Authorization Act).
--by participating in a "National Moment of Remembrance": at 3 p.m. to pause and think upon the true meaning of the day, and for Taps to be played.
--by renewing a pledge to aid the widows, widowers, and orphans of our falled dead, and to aid the disabled veterans.

So, regardless of your celebration habits on Memorial Day, take time to remember what the meaning of the Holiday is about. Take time out to honor those who sacrificed and those who continue to keep our country free. Say a prayer for the families of the fallen, for our veterans, and for those who now serve in our armed forces. Offer a prayer of thanks to God for allowing the United States to be the land of the free and the home of the brave. No matter what anyone else says, America is still a Christian nation. Our nation stays safe by the providence of God and receives His blessings in spite of our behavior. Sing out loud the national anthem with your hand over your heart if you go to a ballgame. Encourage your kids to do the same. Put out an American flag on the front porch or door post. Remember that freedom isn't free--there is a high cost. Those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice since 1776 thank you from beyond. Then, have fun, and be safe.

Until next time. Let me know what you think.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Health Care and Medical House Cleaning

House cleaning is a chore that no one likes, but it has to be done in order to keep a home in shape. In the same way, your health needs a regular medical house cleaning, at least once a year, to ensure that your body is in shape. According to, regular checkups are a valuable tool in maintaining good health, and taking proper care of your health at the right time can prevent a lot of problems in the future. It's good to find out that you have a problem, before it is too late to cure it. So appropriate tests should be done at the right time. The main aim of a check-up is to detect illness at an early stage, or better still prevent illness occurring in the first place. Some tests saves so many lives that it is definitely worth the money spend on it. In adults up to about 40 years, a check-up every two years is appropriate. Older adults should be seen every year or so.

Sutter Health Plan has some suggestions for keeping you and your family healthy:
1. Review screening tests and immunizations that are appropriate for you and make sure yours are up to date.
2. Exercise “aerobically,” enough to raise your heart rate to about (220 – your age) x 70%. Your goal is to do this at least 30 minutes every day, but every bit helps.
3. Achieve and maintain normal body weight.
4. Eat foods low in saturated fat and trans-fatty acids and high in calcium and fiber, with plenty
of fruits and vegetables. Take a calcium supplement, if necessary.
5. Practice safe sex, use condoms and a reliable method of contraception.
6. Do not smoke, and avoid inhaling others’ cigarette smoke. If you need help quitting, please ask your doctor.
7. “Safety-proof” your home to prevent poisoning and accidental use of firearms. Check your smoke detectors regularly.
8. Don’t drive or allow others to drive while under the influence of alcohol or other mind-altering
9. Use sport helmets appropriately, regardless of your age.
10. Children under 12 and adults shorter than 4’9” should not sit in automobile seats with airbags in front of them.
11. Seek help early for depression, mood changes, alcohol or drug abuse.
12. Perform regular skin self-examinations. Protect your skin from sun damage with sunblock and clothing.
13. Find balance in your life between work, home and play time. Include stress reduction activities (fun!) into every day.

According to, there are some basic factors of a routine physical check up:
--Medical History: Prior to your physical examination, you should tell your doctor about your diet, exercise, medication you are taking, alcohol and tobacco use, sexual behavior, family history of diseases, such as cancers like breast, bowel, prostate and melanoma; diabetes, asthma, glaucoma, gout, heart attack etc. and any symptoms you may be feeling. This information is vital because it affects your risk factors for various illnesses and, consequently, the tests your doctor may decide to give you.
--Physical Exam: The doctor will check your height, weight and blood pressure, and listen to your heart beats, lungs and carotid artery for abnormalities such as a heart murmur or lung obstruction. A doctor who is very thorough may also check your mouth, ears, lymph nodes, thyroid and rectum and feel your abdomen for abnormalities, and scan your skin for signs of cancer.
--Counseling: After the medical history and physical exam, your doctor should talk to you about any risk factors you may have and discuss what habits you should change to maintain good health. The physician will also tell you what lab tests you need and how often you should have them.
--Lab Tests: Some tests, such as mammography and pap smears, are usually based on guidelines set by respected research organizations. In addition, your doctor may want to run tests for diabetes, sexually transmitted diseases, tuberculosis or prostate cancer, and to screen your heart, liver, kidney, blood and urine. The extent of other tests your doctor recommends will be determined by any risk factors you may have based on your medical or family history.

Some tests to detect diseases, according to, should be scheduled with a primary care doctor if you are experiencing any health care problems associated with lab tests, diagnostic issues, or physical exams that indicated further testing was merited.
--Blood pressure: Both high and low pressure have effect our health badly. High blood pressure can lead to a heart attack or stroke. Having a yearly blood pressure test will provide your health care professional with a baseline level to compare during subsequent visits. Once you are detected of not having the normal blood pressure it is better to check up on a regular basis.
--Urine testing: Routine urine test is done to test for sugar, for any blood and protein that might suggest a bladder or kidney problem, for hepatitis, infections etc.
--Blood Tests: Tests may include blood count, blood glucose, thyroid function, electrolytes (sodium and potassium), cholesterol and others, depending on family history.
--Cholesterol level: Every adult should have the cholesterol level checked occasionally. A high blood cholesterol level is an important risk factor for coronary artery disease. If it is high more specific tests like HDL and LDL cholesterol levels can be done. With increasing age, the risk decreases and is usually not recommended for very elderly patients.
--Chest X-ray: X-rays can be done to detect lung abnormalities (tuberculosis, emphysema or lung cancer) early enough to initiate a successful treatment plan.
--EKG (Electrocardiogram)—Men and women over 50 should have a baseline EKG done and repeat the test every two to three years. The EKG shows an electrical map of the heart rhythm and can indicate any changes or potential problems including heart attack, high potassium and irregular heartbeat.
--Cancer Testing:
A.) For women : A Mammogram should be done annually after age 40, along with monthly BSE (breast self-examinations). For early detection of pelvic and cervical cancers, a PAP smear and pelvic exam should be conducted every one to three years and yearly for women with a higher risk of disease. A Bone mass density test should be done for women with high risk of osteoporosis.
B.) Tests for men : Prostate and PSA (prostate specific antigen) levels should be checked for early detection of prostate cancer. Prostate checks are suggested in men from about fifty years of age onwards every year or so.
C.) Fecal occult blood test: This test, which should be done annually, checks for blood in the stool as an indicator of possible colorectal cancer.
D.) Colonoscopy and flexible sigmoidoscopy : These tests are done to detect colon cancer. If you have a family history or other risk factors for colon cancer, Colonoscopy is recommended every 10 years. People over 50 should have a flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years.

According to, almost everyone is guilty, in one way or another, of neglecting their health even if they don't intend to. Stressed-out moms and dads usually spend long working hours in the office to finance their kid's education and pay for bills. On the other hand, there are model teens who forgo the 'luxury' of sleeping eight hours a night just to finish school papers and projects. All forms of compromise you make, such as insufficient sleep and fatty diet, have subsequent effects in your health. In your quest for achieving a good life, you often sacrifice your health and medical condition. The overwhelming pressure brought about by work, school, and personal concerns can very well make us oblivious of symptoms of serious illness or disease. Most of the time, people learn about their troublesome health and medical condition, like cancer and stroke, when it's already too late to be treated. No matter how busy you are, health and medical experts say you should always subject ourselves to regular check-ups. It is so normal for you to visit the doctor only when you feel there's something wrong. But the thing is, not all symptoms of deadly illnesses can easily be felt and seen. For instance, a woman who has breast cancer may never notice the small lump in her right breast until she takes some time to self-assess her breasts. You may think we're perfectly fine until you suddenly breakdown in a middle of the day and find out we're not in tip-top shape after all. Younger people need to undergo general medical checkups with special attention on blood pressure or blood sugar (to prevent on-set of heart diseases and diabetes). Those belonging to the senior citizen-bracket should go for check-ups that can detect certain kinds of cancer. Aside from general health and medical check-ups, women have to undergo pap smear annually to prevent cervical cancer or diseases related to reproductive system. It is also a must for women in their forties to subject themselves to mammogram. Breast self-checkup every month would suffice for younger women. Pregnant and lactating mothers also have to undergo pre and post natal checkups. Health and medical experts also advice parents to bring their children to the doctor for necessary immunization and proper health care. Since regular health checkups is indispensable, you should see to it that you have a family doctor. A family doctor is the one to hold all the medical records for future reference.

Doing regular cleaning in your home will keep the chores under control. Regular health check ups will help maintain do the same for your physical and mental well being. Make sure that your health is maintained properly and kept in order to avoid bigger problems later. Regardless of busy schedules, everyone should undergo regular medical check-ups to detect or prevent illnesses and diseases.

Until next time. Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Health Care and Folic Acid

Folic acid is a B vitamin, according to the National Institute for Health (NIH). It helps the body make healthy new cells. Everyone needs folic acid. For women who may get pregnant, it is really important. When a woman has enough folic acid in her body before and during pregnancy, it can prevent major birth defects of her baby's brain or spine. Foods with folic acid in them include leafy green vegetables, fruits, dried beans, peas and nuts. Enriched breads, cereals and other grain products also contain folic acid. If you don't get enough folic acid from the foods you eat, you can also take it as a dietary supplement.

According to the US Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), Folate (FOH-layt) is a vitamin found naturally in many foods. Folate helps your body make new cells. Folic (FOH-lik) acid is the man-made form of folate. It can be taken in vitamin pills. It is also added to many grain products. Folate helps keep your blood healthy. Not getting enough can cause a type of anemia (uh-NEE-mee-uh). Having anemia means you have fewer healthy red blood cells than normal. This makes it hard for your blood to carry enough oxygen throughout your body. Signs that you may have anemia:
--Feeling very tired
--Sore mouth and tongue
--Pale skin

Folate can also help prevent some birth defects (problems with the baby), according to the HHS. Getting enough folate before and during pregnancy can help prevent certain defects of the baby’s spine and brain:
--Spina bifida (SPEYE-nuh BIF-ih-duh) is a problem with the spine. The nerves that control leg movements and other functions do not work. Children with spina bifida often have lifelong disabilities. They may also need many surgeries.
--Anencephaly (an-en-SEF-uh-lee) is when most or all of the brain does not develop. Babies with this problem die before or shortly after birth. Experts think that folate might also help prevent:
--Some cancers
--Alzheimer’s (AWLTS-heye-merz) disease
--Hearing loss as you age

According to the March of Dimes, folic acid works, but it only works if taken before and during the first few weeks of pregnancy, when the neural tube is developing into the brain and spinal cord. When the neural tube does not close properly, a baby is born with a very serious birth defect called a neural tube defect (NTD). About 3,000 pregnancies are affected by NTDs each year in the United States. If all women took adequate folic acid before conception and during early pregnancy, up to 70 percent of NTDs could be prevented. Folic acid has no known toxic level. If you ate a bowl of fully fortified cereal (400 micrograms), took a folic acid supplement (400 micrograms), and ate fortified foods and foods rich in folate, you would not get too much folic acid. Still, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that women consume no more than 1,000 micrograms of synthetic folic acid a day.

According to, you can also eat foods that are high in folate, such as:
--Beans and lentils
--Peas (black-eyed peas, chickpeas, green peas)
--Juices (orange, tomato, grapefruit, pineapple)
--Fruits (oranges, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, avocado, papaya, raspberries)
--Vegetables (green leafy vegetables such as spinach, lettuce, turnip greens, mustard greens, collard greens, and Chinese cabbage; broccoli; Brussels sprouts; asparagus; artichokes; okra; corn; cauliflower; potato; beets; green onions; sweet red peppers)
--Sunflower seeds
--Peanuts and peanut butter
You can also eat foods that have had folic acid added to them, such as:
--Breakfast cereals (Some have 100% of the Daily Value of folic acid in each serving)
--White rice
Food Label: Check the label on the package to see if the food has folic acid. The label will tell you how much folic acid is in each serving. Sometimes, the label will say folate instead of folic acid.

It's so important for all women of childbearing age to get enough folic acid — not just those who are planning to become pregnant, according to Only 50% of pregnancies are planned, so any woman who could become pregnant should make sure she's getting enough folic acid. Doctors and scientists still aren't completely sure why folic acid has such a profound effect on the prevention of neural tube defects, but they do know that this vitamin is crucial in the development of DNA. As a result, folic acid plays a large role in cell growth and development, as well as tissue formation. During pregnancy, you require more of all of the essential nutrients than you did before you became pregnant. Although prenatal vitamins shouldn't replace a well-balanced diet, taking them can give your body — and, therefore, your baby — an added boost of vitamins and minerals. Some health care providers even recommend taking a folic acid supplement in addition to your regular prenatal vitamin. Talk to your doctor about your daily folic acid intake and ask whether he or she recommends a prescription supplement, an over-the-counter brand, or both. Also talk to your doctor if you've already had a pregnancy that was affected by a neural tube defect. He or she may recommend that you increase your daily intake of folic acid (even before getting pregnant) to lower your risk of having another occurrence.

According to, Folic acid should not be taken to treat undiagnosed anemia. Folic acid may hide the symptoms of pernicious anemia, leading to neurologic damage. Treatment of anemia during folic acid therapy may also require vitamin B12.This medication is in the FDA pregnancy category A. This means that it is safe to take folic acid during pregnancy. In fact, increased amounts of folic acid are recommended during pregnancy to reduce the risk that a folic acid deficiency will cause complications. Talk to your doctor about taking this medication during pregnancy. It is safe to use folic acid during breast-feeding. Talk to your doctor about taking this medication if you are breast-feeding a baby. Take this medication exactly as directed by your doctor. If you do not understand these instructions, ask your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist to explain them to you.Take each dose with a full glass of water. Folic acid is usually taken every day. Follow your doctor's instructions. Sometimes, it may be necessary to receive this medication by injection. Store this medication at room temperature away from moisture and heat.

Side effects from folic acid are not common, according to Stop taking this medication and seek emergency medical treatment if you experience an allergic reaction (difficulty breathing; closing of your throat; swelling of your lips, tongue, or face; or hives). Continue taking this medication and talk to your doctor if you experience any of the following less serious side effects, which have occurred with large doses of this medication:
--Decreased appetite,
--Abdominal distention,
--Bitter or bad taste,
--Insomnia, or
--Difficulty concentrating.
Side effects other than those listed here may also occur. Talk to your doctor about any side effect that seems unusual or that is especially bothersome.

Folic acid should be taken by everyone, but it is especially important for women who become pregnant to start taking it right away to prevent certain birth defects. Your primary care physician or OB-GYN specialist can help you understand more about the need for this supplement. For a healthy pregnancy and healthy babies, taking folic acid is a must. More information about the product can be found at your pharmacy if you do not have a doctor you are seeing now. Prevent any unnecessary risk by making wise decisions affecting your health regarding folic acid.

Until next time. Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Health Care and Consumers in Charge

Americans have a take charge mentality. This is especially true when health care is at stake. No one wants to be told that they must go to a certain doctor or be limited to a particular medical provider. That is one reason that HMOs have not been as popular as other types of health plans. People really love the power of choice for their health issues. According to HSA For America, more people than ever are signing up for HSA-qualified health insurance plans - because you have lower premiums, you get a pre-tax treatment on funds to pay your medical expenses, and you are able to set up an additional retirement account that grows tax-free.

Also, according to "Taking Charge of Your Health," a comprehensive new website that offers free advice, healthcare tips, and resources for consumers, is now live and helping people "take charge" of their health and well-being. Created by national integrated health leader the Center for Spirituality and Healing at the University of Minnesota in collaboration with the nonprofit Life Science Foundation, the site invites visitors to better manage - and expand - their healthcare options by providing information and tools for individuals to: (1) create a healthy lifestyle; (2) navigate the healthcare system; and (3) explore integrative therapies and healing practices.

1.) CREATE A HEALTHY LIFESTYLE: ( This section offers self-assessments and an interactive goal-setting process that focuses on eight aspects of health:
-- Diet-- Physical Activity-- Emotions & Attitudes-- Life Purpose-- Relationships-- Stress Mastery-- Self-Care-- The Environment.
2.) NAVIGATE THE HEALTHCARE SYSTEM: ( This section helps people plan how best to use the healthcare system, including how to:
-- Find A Provider-- Evaluate Information on the Web-- Prepare for an Appointment-- Make Treatment Decisions-- Evaluate Insurance Options-- Increase the Likelihood of a Healthy Hospitalization .
3.) EXPLORE ALTERNATIVE HEALING PRACTICES:( This section provides in-depth information about the most commonly used integrative therapies, including information on over 40 integrative therapies and healing practices such as:
-- Reiki -- Acupuncture -- Mind-Body Approaches-- Music Therapy -- Chiropractic-- Healing Touch -- Botanical Medicine.

Complaints about America’s health-care system are legion and familiar to employees and employers alike, according to After many rocky years, more and more people — employers, physicians, patients, politicians — are showing their frustration with the managed care system. Medical costs and insurance premiums keep rising. The doctor-patient relationship seems to have become as impersonal as an ATM transaction. And no one seems to have solutions. Despite its slow pace, change in the healthcare and insurance services system has been building for several years. The paradigm shift is especially evident in a Consumerism kind of health plan, which seeks to address rising costs and service quality shortcomings by giving consumers better information to make decisions and giving them greater control over how they spend their health-care dollars. The plan has different names, known variously as consumer-directed, self-directed, or consumer-driven but it’s a singular idea — power to the consumer — whose time has arrived.

According to Washington Policy Center, for too many years Americans have been divorced from the consequences of their health care decisions. Third-party payment has enabled us to see a doctor, purchase medications, and receive surgery, without a thought about cost. In some minds this is a wonderful thing - get all the health care services you need without agonizing over affordability. But being unconcerned about affordability carries a price. If consumers are not worried about cost, individuals spend more than they would otherwise. That puts pressure on the people who actually pay the bills. If some consumers are not worried about cost, others certainly are. There is ultimately no blank check, with unlimited access to services, one way or another. Regardless of the kind of third-party involved, whether an insurer, an employer, or the government, they will decide what is worth paying for and what is not. That is the cost consumers pay for "free" care provided by a third-party. Ultimately, there is only one way to put consumers back in the driver's seat. Give them control over the resources, so they can make their own value judgments and trade-offs about their own health care priorities.

Here are some of the ideas that are putting consumers in charge, according to the Washington Policy Center:
1.) Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) enable workers to place part of their salary into an employer-sponsored account to pay directly for health care expenses. A provision of FSAs requires unspent funds to be forfeited to the employer at the end of the year.
2.) Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) are actually owned by the employee in conjunction with a high deductible insurance plan. Any unused funds stay in the accounts and build interest over time, similar to a 401(k) account.
3.) Indemnity insurance, unlike a third-party payment system, is a "two-party" contract in which an insured person pays a premium for future protection, and the insurer pays money to the insured person when a loss occurs. The consumer is paid the benefit directly, and is then responsible for paying the health provider. There is no expectation that the insurer have anything to do with the provider of care.
4.) Defined Contribution is a system in which the employer provides a fixed payment dedicated to employee health insurance benefits, and workers then use that contribution as core funding for a variety of benefit plans or benefit structures, often supplemented with their own funds.
5.) Opt-Out Provisions allow workers to take their employer's regular health care contribution in cash and use it to supplement a spouse's coverage, or for both earners to pool their funds to purchase coverage for the whole family.
6.) Independent Physicians represent a growing movement in the physician community to opt-out of insurance plans and the Medicare program. Many doctors are switching to a cash-based system, either independently or as part of a network of similarly inclined physicians. These physicians are finding substantial savings in overhead costs, which enable them to charge their patients less for services.
7.) New Information Systems (health info technology-HIT) allow doctors and patients to benefit from the transactional power of the Internet. Services now available on-line include doctor quality and price information, making appointments and getting follow-up care, on-line billing, information on treatments and finding disease-specific support groups.

According to Regina Herzlinger, businesses spend billions on health insurance. And what do they get for their money? A lot of unhappy employees. Workers fret about the quality of the care they receive, the burden of their out-of-pocket expenses, and the gaps in their coverage. For businesses, health care has become a lose-lose proposition: They pay way too much, and they get way too little. The problem is that the health care industry has been shielded from consumer pressure--by employers, insurers, and the government. As a result, costs have exploded even as choices have narrowed. But if companies embrace a consumerism model of health coverage--one that places control over both costs and care directly into the hands of employees--the competitive forces that spur productivity and innovation in consumer markets can be loosed upon the inefficient, tradition-bound health care system. Moving to consumer-driven health care requires that companies revamp their health benefits in six ways: Give employees incentives to shop intelligently; offer a real choice of insurance plans; charge employees prices that accurately reflect the company's costs; let providers set their own prices; adjust payments for each enrollee based on need; and provide relevant information. Putting consumers in charge of health care may seem like a radical approach. But individuals are highly motivated to educate themselves about their health, their insurance, and their care, and they want to seek the most value for their money. Promoting that economic dynamic--the same that fuels consumer markets everywhere--is the best way to enhance the health care industry's productivity and quality.

Today, according to the Washington Policy Center, there is a burst of innovation and energy going into creating a new approach for health care financing. The Consumerism era will put patients back where they belong - in the driver's seat of the health care system. After all, health care is not primarily about doctors, hospitals, insurers, and it is certainly not about employers and the government. Health care is about people. The best way for people to express their needs, values, and desires is through a market-based system that gives them the power to spend resources in a way that reflects those values.

Until next time. Let me know what you think.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Health Care and Mothers

Americans celebrate lots of holidays, but high on the list of most important days of the year is the second Sunday in May every year, celebrated as Mother's Day. There are some amazing statistics that show how important this day is to be everyone, especially mothers, according to
--In the United States, there are about 82.5 million mothers. (source: US Census Bureau)
--About 96% of American consumers take part in some way in Mother's Day (source: Hallmark).
--Mother's Day is widely reported as the peak day of the year for long distance telephone calls
--There are more than 23,000 florists in the United States with a total of more than 125,000 employees. Colombia is the leading foreign supplier of cut flowers and fresh flower buds to the US. California produces two-thirds of domestic production of cut flowers. (source: US Census Bureau)
--Mother's Day is the busiest day of the year for many restaurants.
--Retailers report that Mother's Day is the second highest gift-giving holiday in the United States (Christmas is the highest).
--Most popular month for having babies in the US is August, and most popular weekday is Tuesday. (source: US Census Bureau)
--About twice as many young women were childfree in the year 2000 as in the 1950s (source: Ralph Fevre, The Guardian, Manchester, March 26, 2001).
--In the US, 82% of women ages 40-44 are mothers. This compares to 90% in 1976. (source: US Census Bureau)
--In Utah and Alaska, women on the average will have three children before the end of their childbearing years. Overall, the average in the United States is two. (source: US Census Bureau)

Most Americans tend to get all syrupy sentimental about this day. Mother's Day ranks as one of the all time most favorite excuses to celebrate your Mom and Motherhood in general. According to, the history of Mother's Day is centuries old and goes back to the times of ancient Greeks, who held festivities to honor Rhea, the mother of the gods. The early Christians celebrated the Mother's festival on the fourth Sunday of Lent to honor Mary, the mother of Christ. Interestingly, later on a religious order stretched the holiday to include all mothers, and named it as the Mothering Sunday. The English colonists settled in America discontinued the tradition of Mothering Sunday because of lack of time. In 1872 Julia Ward Howe organized a day for mothers dedicated to peace. It is a landmark in the history of Mother's Day. In 1907, Anna M. Jarvis (1864-1948), a Philadelphia schoolteacher, began a movement to set up a national Mother's Day in honor of her mother, Ann Maria Reeves Jarvis. She solicited the help of hundreds of legislators and prominent businessmen to create a special day to honor mothers.

The first Mother's Day observance was a church service honoring Anna's mother. Anna handed out her mother's favorite flowers, the white incarnations, on the occasion as they represent sweetness, purity, and patience. Anna's hard work finally paid off in the year 1914, when President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the second Sunday in May as a national holiday in honor of mothers. Slowly and gradually the Mother's day became very popular and gift giving activity increased. All this commercialization of the Mother's day infuriated Anna as she believed that the day's sentiment was being sacrificed at the expense of greed and profit. Regardless of Jarvis's worries, Mother's Day has flourished in the United States. Actually, the second Sunday of May has become the most popular day of the year. Although Anna may not be with us but the Mother's day lives on and has spread to various countries of the world. Many countries throughout the world celebrate Mother's Day at various times during the year, but some such as Denmark, Finland, Italy, Turkey, Australia, and Belgium also celebrate Mother's Day on the second Sunday of May, according to

The folks at provide some great advice from Mothers:
1.) Always change your underwear; you never know when you'll have an accident.
2.) Don't make that face or it'll freeze in that position.
3.) Be careful or you'll put your eye out.
4.) What if everyone jumped off a cliff? Would you do it, too?
5.) You have enough dirt behind those ears to grow potatoes!
6.) Close that door! Were you born in a barn?
7.) If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all.
8.) Don't put that in your mouth; you don't know where it's been!

Mother's Day also has a spiritual element. According to, Mothers nurture and love their children from infancy, providing them with wisdom and guidance toward happiness. Whether you're a mother or an expectant mother, celebrate motherhood with prayers and blessings. Find comfort in words that will encourage a mother through birth, difficult pregnancies, nursing, welcoming children into the world, and the struggles of day-to-day child rearing. Although this day, along with Father’s Day, was established to create more business for our merchants as noted by But there’s a spiritual side to this holiday—God commands that we honor our fathers and mothers. And God gives us a promise when this commandment is obeyed--that you will live long in the land. Aside from our religious duty to honor our parents is the awesome responsibility that parenthood plays in our society. When I was in grammar school, we were taught that the education of a daughter in the family begins with the education of the mother—when she was a child. We need to be very careful how we train our young daughters, and we want them to grow in the knowledge of God laws, and have respect for others. The spiritual health of mothers is equally as important as their physical health.

According to, here is what the Bible says about Mothers...
--Genesis 3:20 Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living.
--Exodus 20:12 "Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.
--Leviticus 19:3 "'Each of you must respect his mother and father, and you must observe my Sabbaths. I am the LORD your God.
--Deuteronomy 5:16 "Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the LORD your God is giving you.
--2 Kings 4:30 But the child's mother said, "As surely as the LORD lives and as you live, I will not leave you." So he got up and followed her.
--Proverbs 10:1 The proverbs of Solomon: A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish son grief to his mother.
--Isaiah 66:13 As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem."
--Ezekial 16:44 "'Everyone who quotes proverbs will quote this proverb about you: "Like mother, like daughter."
--Luke 1:43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
--Luke 2:51 Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart.
--John 19:26-27 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Dear woman, here is your son," and to the disciple, "Here is your mother." From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

Sharing time with your mother may be the best gift of all. If you are apart from your mother due to circumstances that do not allow a time of personal face-to-face interaction, send a card or call her on Mother's Day. Let her know she is loved and thought about all the time, and how important she has been in your life. If your relationship is strained with her, make amends. Life is too short to not have a close personal loving relationship with your mother. If your mother has passed on, honor her and remember her with a memorial that pays just tribute. Make Mother's Day an important event in your life and the life of your Mother.

Until next time. Let me know what you think.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Health Care and Spiritual Strength

Today is the National Day of Prayer. Americans all over the nation stopped and made special preparations to petition the Almighty for spiritual healing, wisdom, protection, and strength. According to the Republican Party of Texas, May 7, 2009, marks the 58th Annual National Day of Prayer. Once again Americans have a unique opportunity to unite in heart and mind as we stand against the forces that endanger the well-being of our country and all we hold dear. We are urged to please take time to join millions of individuals who will kneel before God’s throne to intercede for this great land and its citizens not only on May 7, but as a daily discipline throughout the year. A wonderful sample prayer is available for direct access to the Father: “Lord, God, we acknowledge You as our strength, our shield, and our hope. We trust in You alone. Hear our cries and have mercy on Your people! We ask for your divine intervention in the affairs and lives of all our leaders and especially the centers of power in America: our government, media, education, church, military, economy, and families.”

According to, through the efforts of the National Day of Prayer Task Force, more than 35,000 prayer gatherings will be conducted by about 40,000 volunteers across the United States. Several million people are expected to participate in this call to prayer. Some celebrities will join millions of Americans in praying for the nation. Other events in various communities across the United States may include: choirs and bands performing songs relating to prayer; community prayer breakfasts or luncheons; daytime prayer walks; and evening worship and prayer services or gatherings. National Day of Prayer is a time for people of all faiths to pray together in their own way. The National Day of Prayer is not a public holiday, and schools, post offices, stores and other businesses and organizations are open as usual. Public transport services run to their usual schedules and no extra congestion on highways is to be expected.

In 1775 the Continental Congress allocated a time for prayer in forming a new nation, according to Over the years, there have been calls for a day of prayer, including from President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. On April 17, 1952, President Harry Truman signed a bill proclaiming the National Day of Prayer into law in the United States. President Reagan amended the law in 1988, designating the first Thursday of May each year as the National Day of Prayer. The National Prayer Committee was formed in the United States in 1972. It went on to create the National Day of Prayer Task Force, with the intended purpose of coordinating events for the National Day of Prayer. According to the Legal Information Institute, the President shall issue each year a proclamation designating the first Thursday in May as a National Day of Prayer on which the people of the United States may turn to God in prayer and meditation at churches, in groups, and as individuals.

According to the National Day of Prayer Task Force (, As American troops stormed the beaches of Normandy, President Franklin Roosevelt called for our nation to unite in prayer. He also offered a prayer to prepare each citizen for the road ahead. "Let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons wheresoever they may be. And, O Lord, give us faith. Give us faith in Thee." The victory that followed on June 6, 1944-also known as D-Day-began the march to Berlin. Eighteen months later, WWII was over and one of the world's greatest evils had been defeated. The prayers of a nation had been a powerful force.Prayer has always been used in this country for guidance, protection and strength-even before we were a nation or a handful of colonies. The Pilgrims at Plymouth relied on prayer during their first and darkest winter. Our founding fathers also called for prayer during the Constitutional Congress. In their eyes, our recently created nation and freedoms were a direct gift from God. And being a gift from God, there was only one way to insure protection-through prayer. President Abraham Lincoln knew this well. It was his belief that, "it is the duty of nations as well as men, to owe their dependence upon the overruling power of God." When it came to the fate of the nation, he practiced what he preached. Before the battle of Gettysburg, he turned to God in prayer. "I went to my room one day and I locked the door and got down on my knees before Almighty God and prayed to him mightily for victory at Gettysburg." Won by the Union, Gettysburg was one of the turning points in the war that ended slavery and kept the states united.

Today the need for prayer is as great as ever per the NDPTF. Our nation again faces battlefields, along with an epidemic of broken homes, violence, sexual immorality and social strife. As the heroes of our nation did in the past, we must again bow our heads in prayer. We must ask the Lord to bless our leaders with wisdom and protection, and that we will have the fortitude to overcome the challenges at hand. If Roosevelt, the Pilgrims and Lincoln never underestimated the power of prayer, neither should we.It is our goal that you, your family and friends would participate in the National Day of Prayer. We pray that the event impacts your life, and that praying for our nation moves from a one-day event to a lifetime endeavor. Pray with conviction that God would continue to shed His grace on thee.

The White House issued a proclamation to observe the National Day of Prayer, although there was no official observance as in previous years with former presidential administrations. The document declared after speaking to the efforts by Americans throughout our history. "It is in that spirit of unity and reflection that we once again designate the first Thursday in May as the National Day of Prayer. Let us remember those who came before us, and let us each give thanks for the courage and compassion shown by so many in this country and around the world. On this day of unity and prayer, let us also honor the service and sacrifice of the men and women of the United States Armed Forces. We celebrate their commitment to uphold our highest ideals, and we recognize that it is because of them that we continue to live in a Nation where people of all faiths can worship or not worship according to the dictates of their conscience. Let us also use this day to come together in a moment of peace and goodwill. Our world grows smaller by the day, and our varied beliefs can bring us together to feed the hungry and comfort the afflicted; to make peace where there is strife; and to lift up those who have fallen on hard times. As we observe this day of prayer, we remember the one law that binds all great religions together: the Golden Rule, and its call to love one another; to understand one another; and to treat with dignity and respect those with whom we share a brief moment on this Earth."

The spiritual health of America is only as strong as its people continue to pray to an Almighty God for His blessings. Althougth the country is less religious now than at its founding, Americans overwhelmingly have a strong desire to be spiritual. Most Americans still consider themselves Christians, and that we are a Christian nation founded on Biblical principles. That is still true no matter how much politicians would deny or disregard those facts. One has only to read the documents of the Founding Fathers and our early history from Jamestown and Plymouth Rock up through the 18th and 19th centuries to see how much America was dependent on God for its founding and survival as a nation. Alexis De Tocqueville wrote in the early 1800's that America was great because America was good. And that goodness was based upon Judeo-Christian ethics that permeated every aspect of our society. When that concept is abandoned, our country is doomed for failure.

Pray for forgiveness. Pray for healing. Pray for wisdom. Pray that your relationship with God is real and personal. Let the attitude of the National Day of Prayer continue daily with you.

Until next time. Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Health Care and Paralysis

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) as reported by, roughly one in 50 Americans has some degree of paralysis, and five times more people than doctors thought are living with a spinal-cord injury -- nearly 1.3 million -- says a startling new study. It's a largely hidden population that neither the government nor medical organizations had ever attempted to fully count, and the findings promise to help health authorities understand the scope of need. The report found that overall, almost 5.6 million people have some degree of paralysis due to a variety of neurologic problems. Stroke and spinal-cord injury are the leading causes, but they also include multiple sclerosis, brain injuries, birth defects, surgical complications and a list of other ailments. That's about 30% higher than previous estimates. But for spinal-cord injury alone, previous estimates were woeful -- suggesting just a quarter million people were living with the trauma, a count that mostly included people like the late actor Christopher Reeve, who wound up at specialty treatment centers.

According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), paralysis is the loss of muscle function in part of your body. It happens when something goes wrong with the way messages pass between your brain and muscles. Paralysis can be complete or partial. It can occur on one or both sides of your body. It can also occur in just one area, or it can be widespread. Paralysis of the lower half of your body, including both legs, is called paraplegia. Paralysis of the arms and legs is quadriplegia. Most paralysis is due to strokes or injuries such as spinal cord injury or a broken neck. Other causes of paralysis include:
--Nerve diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
--Autoimmune diseases such as Guillain-Barre syndrome.
--Bell's palsy, which affects muscles in the face.

Sudden loss of muscle function is a medical emergency, according to the NIH. Seek immediate medical help. After you have received medical treatment, your doctor may recommend some of the following measures:
--Follow your prescribed therapy.
--If the nerves to your face or head are damaged, you may have difficulty chewing and swallowing or closing your eyes. In these cases, a soft diet may be recommended. You will also need some form of eye protection, such as a patch over the eye while you are asleep.
--Long-term immobility can cause serious complications. Change positions often and take care of your skin. Range-of-motion exercises may help to maintain some muscle tone.
--Splints may help prevent muscle contractures, a condition in which a muscle becomes permanently shortened.

The chain of nerve cells that runs from the brain through the spinal cord out to the muscle is called the motor pathway, according to Normal muscle function requires intact connections all along this motor pathway. Damage at any point reduces the brain's ability to control the muscle's movements. This reduced efficiency causes weakness, also called paresis. Complete loss of communication prevents any willed movement at all. This lack of control is called paralysis. Certain inherited abnormalities in muscle cause periodic paralysis, in which the weakness comes and goes. The line between weakness and paralysis is not absolute. A condition causing weakness may progress to paralysis. On the other hand, strength may be restored to a paralyzed limb. Nerve regeneration or regrowth is one way in which strength can return to a paralyzed muscle. Paralysis almost always causes a change in muscle tone. Paralyzed muscle may be flaccid, flabby, and without appreciable tone, or it may be spastic, tight, and with abnormally high tone that increases when the muscle is moved. Paralysis may affect an individual muscle, but it usually affects an entire body region. The distribution of weakness is an important clue to the location of the nerve damage that is causing the paralysis. Words describing the distribution of paralysis use the suffix "-plegia," from the Greek word for "stroke."

Until recently spinal cord injuries were thought to be incurable, according to the Bryon Reisch Paralysis Foundation. Now the question is no longer is a cure probable, but when is it possible. Scientists and researchers alike have made great strides in the past years. However, for the hundreds of thousands of people suffering from paralysis a cure cannot come soon enough. While costs of taking care of these individuals continue to spiral upwards, research continues to be hard to establish. The current annual cost of injuries are close to $10 billion while the current research investment is less than $100 million from all sources - federal industry, foundations and private donations. Today, advances are happening faster than ever from therapeutic vaccines to axonal regeneration, stem cell transplantation to exercise and treadmill studies. All of these move the scientific community closer to finding a cure for paralysis.

According to, researchers found in the recent survey, sponsored by the CDC and the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, that 29% of affected Americans became paralyzed or partly paralyzed after a stroke, and 23% as a result of spinal cord injuries. About 50% of the respondents who were subsequently included in the paralysis group reported having a lot of difficulty moving or were completely paralyzed. While the leading cause of spinal cord injuries appeared to be due to motor vehicle accidents, about 7% of respondents who reported that they became paralyzed from an accident or injury said it happened while they were serving in the armed forces. Another surprising result was the estimate of people living with multiple sclerosis is estimated to be around 939,000 Americans. The annual household income of most of the respondents in the paralysis group was less than 30,000 dollars, while for a quarter of them it was under 10,000 dollars, a figure which compares with only 7% of the US population as a whole. Paralysis often leads to job loss; and because often the spouses become the main caregiver, they may also lose their job and any associated health insurance, while treatment that might improve movement and independence is costly. It is also estimated that the average number of years people have been living with their paralysis is about 16, a figure that believe is rising as patients are living longer.

How much of the body is affected depends on the site of the neurological damage, according to Strokes, brain tumors, etc. classically cause such extensive loss of function. In instances of inflammation of nervous tissue such as occurs in polio, specific nerve cells are damaged leading to paralysis and muscle wasting. Various diseases that affect muscle tissue are encountered much less often that those that affect nervous tissue. These are often hereditary, and due to a disturbance of muscle metabolism. Most cases of paralysis of muscular origin, therefore, usually begin early in life. However, other diseases can occur at any time of life, such as myasthenia gravis. Toxins such as alcohol can also affect muscle tissue, as well as abnormalities of hormonal production. The diagnosis of the cause of neuromuscular paralysis is made by careful evaluation of the nervous system, and the use of ancillary tests.

The evaluation of muscle loss given by a primary care doctor may prove to be invaluable if you can get a diagnosis quickly after experiencing symptoms causing paralysis. If the medical trauma happens suddenly, getting to a critical care facility or a hospital emergency room is imperative after dialing 911 to seek immediate treatment. Paralysis may be caused by a variety of reasons, but it is up to you to get help right away if you have any problems caused by a sudden loss of muscle control. Getting to a medical provider should be a priority if you experience any signs of paralysis, regardless of the severity.

Until next time. Let me know what you think.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Health Care and Phlebotomy

Millions of Americans each year have blood drawn for lab tests. Blood work, or phlebotomy, is one key indicator of what could be going on inside your body at any given time. A well trained Phlebotomist is worth their weight in gold. How many times have you been in a doctor's office or medical clinic and the attendant given the responsibility to draw blood cannot find a vein or has difficulty in getting the needle in just the right spot? Have you ever been stuck by a needle for blood to be drawn for during the same medical visit more than once, and they have to bring in someone else to do the job the right way?

According to, there are a number of allied health personnel, licensed and unlicensed health care professionals who withdraw blood by venipuncture or skin puncture pursuant to their scope of practice at work. These professionals include:
--Disease Intervention Specialists
--Medical researchers
--Nurses (RN, LPN, LVN)
--Physician assistants
--Medical technologists
--Radiologic technologist
--EMT personnel
--Military medics
--Medical assistants
--Phlebotomists (many are Certified Phlebotomy Technicians (CPT). Current training requirements for phlebotomists may vary widely from state to state and certification is not always required. However, more and more employers are requesting that their phlebotomy staff is certified, including those who have received vocational training which included venipuncture, have graduated from a phlebotomy course, or those who are currently employed in the phlebotomy field and have been certified.

Certification is optional, but highly recommended, because most employers require it according to The American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP), American Medical Technologists (AMT) and the American Society for Phlebotomy Technicians (ASPT) are organizations that offer national certification and testing, which awards phlebotomists the title Certified Phlebotomy Technician (CPT) or Registered Phlebotomy Technician (RPT). Plus, phlebotomists must recertify each year to maintain their certification. It's important to remember that every time a phlebotomist draws blood or sends out lab samples, they are creating that patient's blood history. That essential part of the patient's health profile will be in their record for a lifetime.

Phlebotomists are health care professionals who have been trained to collect patient's blood specimens by venipuncture and by microcollection techniques, according to The practice of phlebotomy, or the technique of venipuncture, generally refers to the collection of blood from a vein. Phlebotomists usually work under the supervision of nurses, medical technologists, or laboratory managers. Phlebotomists play an important role on the clinical laboratory team by collecting clinical laboratory specimens prior to the actual laboratory testing. Phlebotomists typically work in hospitals, commercial laboratories, physician's offices, blood banks, pharmaceutical firms, home health agencies, research institutions, hospices, pubic health clinics, prisons, and visit patient's homes. They deal with doctors and nurses, laboratory technicians, and support workers in various locations. Needless to say, on their rounds they will deal with both healthy and sick patients, from infants to the elderly. Since this is a hands-on profession, skills that were taught in the classroom are refined on the job. As the number of blood draws increases, the more confidence is gained, and the better the blood drawing techniques become.

It may look like just the simple act of drawing a sample of blood, but it involves so much more than that. A phlebotomist’s job includes responsibilities that go far beyond poking a needle in the patient’s hand and drawing blood for a test. While not much importance is placed on a formal education, what matters here is experience and dexterity. The longer a phlebotomist is at his job, the more skilled he becomes according to Kat Sanders via The Health Zone Blog at or . Their site offers tips on how a properly trained phlebotomist should conduct procedures:
--Make your patient feel comfortable and put them at ease by explaining what you’re going to do.
--Try and minimize their pain by inserting the needle as smoothly as possible.
--Feel, rather than look, for the vein.
--Don’t give your patients a glare or a pitiful look when they complain of the pain. You may be used to this procedure day in and day out, but they’re not used to being poked by needles.
--If your patient is a child, get an adult who is close to the young one to stay nearby so that he or she is reassured.
--Double check the name and other information of the patient before and after your draw the sample and label the test tube or bottle.
--Keep meticulous records so that there are no untoward mix ups.
--Take the necessary safety precautions like wearing gloves and closed lab coats.
--Never ever reuse needles even if you think it is ok to do so.
--Protect yourself and other patients from becoming infected when you’re drawing blood from patients who are HIV positive or have AIDS.
--At the same time, don’t discriminate against them because of their condition.
--Ensure safety in your lab so that unauthorized personnel are not allowed entry.
--Never draw blood from a foot if the patient is diabetic.
--If your patient feels faint or dizzy when you’re drawing blood, stop the process immediately and have them lie down. If necessary, call in a doctor.
--The best way to put your patient at ease is to distract them while you skillfully insert the needle as fast and accurately as you can.
--Ask patients if they’re taking blood thinners or anti-coagulants before you draw blood.
--Keep an eye on the patient’s pulse while applying a tourniquet.
--Above all, show that you’re confident and capable and that you know perfectly well what needs to be done. This will help reassure your patient and put them at ease.

Phlebotomists can also prepare and process blood tests, according to, and Phlebotomists are also responsible for:
--Explaining the procedure to patients
--Updating patient records
--Preparing stains and reagents
--Cleaning and sterilizing equipment
--Taking a patient’s blood pressure, pulse and respiration rate
--Sending urine and fecal samples for lab testing

A phlebotomist cannot be squeamish at the sight of blood, according to the Poughkeepsie Journal. The job involves sticking a needle in someone's arm and drawing a sample, labeling it and performing preliminary processing in some cases. They often double as receptionists. One must have good people skills and the flexibility to deal with a wide variety of reactions. Data from the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota said 62 percent of medical errors relating to blood work stem from the collection end. That makes a fastidious, precise attitude useful in this work. Training for phlebotomy can take as short a time as eight weeks. However, many students go for more study, including two-year and four-year degrees that can lead to jobs as technicians and technologists performing work inside the lab analyzing blood and tissue samples. Phlebotomists work in labs, hospitals, and sometimes on the road at nursing homes. They staff the labs where you go when the doctor sends you. They take your blood when you donate it. It's a very hands-on, people-oriented job.

When you get blood drawn, remember to ask questions about the integrity of the person doing the procedure, and don't be afraid to ask about their certification. Since it's your blood, you have the right to know.

Until next time. Let me know what you think.