Friday, August 31, 2012

Health Care and a Healthy Smile

Having good teeth and healthy gums provides overall good health, and studies have shown that oral hygiene is critical to maintaining a healthy body. Reports by all dental sources and surveys indicate very strongly that poor dental maintenance leads to poor health and potential fatal results due to infection if not addressed in a timely basis.

According to Consumer Guide for Dentistry, dental hygiene, also known as oral hygiene, is the process by which preventative dental care is provided to avoid dental emergencies. At the core of dental hygiene is the in-home dental care regimen you perform. Your at-home regimen should be supplemented with professional preventative dental care provided by dentists and licensed dental hygienists. While you are responsible for day-to-day dental maintenance, dental hygienists, along with general dentists, family dentists and cosmetic dentists, play an integral role in preventative oral care.

Tooth brushing is fundamentally important, though it alone will not remove the calculus (also called tartar or dental plaque) that builds up over time. Calculus must be removed to lower your risk of toothaches, cavities, periodontal disease or even the loss of all your teeth. By removing calculus, you can reduce your chances of needing root canals, tooth extractions, dental bridges, crowns, and more. Having good teeth leads to good health. You can see more details at this site: .

"Persistent and systemic" barriers continue to block many Americans' access to dental care, according to a new report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and the National Research Council (NRC) has found. And poor oral health can have dire consequences. According to the report:

• 33.3 million people reside in areas where there aren't enough dental health professionals to meet the population's needs;
• In 2008, 4.6 million children went without needed dental care because their families lacked the financial means to pay for it;
• In 2006, almost two-thirds (62 percent) of U.S. retirees did not have dental health care coverage (Medicare does not cover dental health).

As the experts noted, deteriorating dental health can have broader consequences for overall well-being. For example, poor oral health has been linked to heightened odds for respiratory illness, heart disease and diabetes. Rates of inappropriate use of emergency services also rise for those with poorer dental health. More material about this subject is available at this website: .

Modern dental technology has reached a point where saving a tooth is very possible, no matter the condition of that tooth according to Healthy.Net. There are dentists available virtually on every corner with full-page advertisements in the newspapers, yellow pages and even bus benches beckoning the consumer to pay them a visit. There are dental insurances, payment plans at dental offices and dental schools offering low cost dentistry, and discount plans. Yet statistics indicate many people are still not making the routine six month visits to their dentist.

Whether it's due to lack of insurance, fear or other reasons, many individuals wait until there is pain, before making a dental appointment. Prevention is not a hard concept to understand and carry out, once you know the consequences of disease. Preventing disease in the mouth follows the same path as preventing disease in any other organ in the body. With the mouth it’s even simpler since you can see inside the mouth. It is much simpler to detect and treat illness at the early stages than waiting until it has advanced. More info can be found at this site: .

Discount plans with Aetna, Careington, or other companies allow you to visit a dentist and receive significant savings at the time of service with participating dentists including specialists for oral surgery, periodontal work, orthodontia, and more. Payments as low as $7-$14 a month for a family can be found that provide huge savings between 20% and 60% for most all procedures. A family can save as much as $1200 a year or more using a discount dental plan. You can see more about discount dental plans at .

There are several advantages for consumers:

1.) Nationwide access to providers with no penalty for changing dentists.

2.) No waiting. You can use your plan immediately with any participating provider.

3.) No limit on the amount of work to be done. You can use your plan as often as you need, and the membership rates will typically never increase for your plan.

4.) The entire household is automatically included in your membership.

5.) There are no contracts, and no forms to fill out at the dentist when you use your plan.

6.) You receive immediate savings at the time of service.

7.) Low monthly membership fees.

8.) Discount plans can be used in conjunction with some insurance plans.

9.) You can use your pre-tax flex dollars (FSA/HRA/HSA) to pay for procedures.

10.) You can cancel your plan at any time with no penalties.

Here are some other tips with your dental coverage, according to :

• If you already have a dentist you like, make sure he or she accepts whatever plan you are considering.
• If you don’t have a dentist, be a saavy consumer and ask prospective dental offices to provide a summary of fees for exams, bitewing x-rays, cleanings and other procedures you may need.
• Also, ask about the discount they offer to discount plan holders, as discounts can make prices for the same service vary greatly from dentist to dentist.
• As always, do your homework on the Web. It’s an obvious source of plan information and an online dental quote is a great way to predict costs and choose a plan accordingly. You can find and compare multiple dental insurance plans from top-quality carriers at
• If you do talk to an agent, be sure to ask plenty of questions to ensure that you get the best dental plan for your needs and budget.

Your smile is incredibly important. Make sure you take good care of it with proper dental hygiene and regular visits to your dentist regardless of the plan you have. Remember, your teeth and gums can keep you smiling for a very long time. And when you can save money in the process, you’ll have something to smile about. Visit a dentist on a regular basis, and practice good oral hygiene consistently to maintain your health. Brushing your teeth is the best way to keep your smile and your health.

Until next time.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Health Care and West Nile Virus

This summer has been one of the worst on record for reported deaths due to the West Nile Virus, a mosquito born disease that has become an increasingly deadly health care issue. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), West Nile virus (WNV) is a potentially serious illness. Experts believe WNV is established as a seasonal epidemic in North America that flares up in the summer and continues into the fall.

According to eDocAmerica, over the past decade, the incidence of West Nile virus disease (WNV) was highest in 2006 when 4,269 cases were reported with 177 deaths attributed to this illness. This year, a total of 693 cases of WNV have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), resulting in 26 deaths. While these numbers are lower than in 2006, it's important to know that the number of cases of WNV reported so far this year is the highest reported through the second week of August, 2012. Almost certainly, the country can expect to see more infections and deaths from this potentially preventable disease.

According to the National Institutes for Health (NLH), West Nile virus was first identified in 1937 in Uganda in eastern Africa. It was first discovered in the United States in the summer of 1999 in New York. Since then, the virus has spread throughout the United States. The West Nile virus is a type of virus known as a flavivirus. Researchers believe West Nile virus is spread when a mosquito bites an infected bird and then bites a person.

Mosquitoes carry the highest amounts of virus in the early fall, which is why the rate of the disease increases in late August to early September. The risk of disease decreases as the weather becomes colder and mosquitoes die off. Although many people are bitten by mosquitoes that carry West Nile virus, most do not know they've been exposed. Few people develop severe disease or even notice any symptoms at all. Risk factors for developing a more severe form of West Nile virus include:

• Conditions that weaken the immune system, such as HIV, organ transplants, and recent chemotherapy

• Older or very young age

• Pregnancy

West Nile virus may also be spread through blood transfusions and organ transplants. It is possible for an infected mother to spread the virus to her child through breast milk.

According to the CDC, prevention measures consist of community-based mosquito control programs that are able to reduce vector populations, personal protection measures to reduce the likelihood of being bitten by infected mosquitoes, and the underlying surveillance programs that characterize spatial/temporal patterns in risk that allow health and vector control agencies to target their interventions and resources. The easiest and best way to avoid WNV is to prevent mosquito bites.

• When you are outdoors, use insect repellent containing an EPA-registered active ingredient. Follow the directions on the package.

• Many mosquitoes are most active at dusk and dawn. Be sure to use insect repellent and wear long sleeves and pants at these times or consider staying indoors during these hours.

• Make sure you have good screens on your windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out.

• Get rid of mosquito breeding sites by emptying standing water from flower pots, buckets and barrels. Change the water in pet dishes and replace the water in bird baths weekly. Drill holes in tire swings so water drains out. Keep children's wading pools empty and on their sides when they aren't being used.

How do humans contract this illness? According to eDocAmerica, most often, WNV is spread by the bite of a mosquito that has fed on an infected bird. Over 300 species of birds have been found to be infected with the West Nile virus including common songbirds, crows, blackbirds, bluejays, doves, and pigeons. Once a bird becomes infected, a mosquito can then transfer the virus from the bird's blood stream to humans, setting the stage for the infection. In a very small number of cases, WNV also has been spread through blood transfusions, organ transplants, breastfeeding and even during pregnancy from mother to baby.

What Are the Symptoms of WNV? Four out of five individuals who are infected with WNV will have no symptoms at all. Twenty percent of those infected will develop West Nile Fever which is characterized by mild fever, headache, and body aches, nausea, vomiting, swollen lymph glands and/or a skin rash on the chest, stomach and back. Less than 1% of those infected will develop a serious form of the disease associated with inflammation of the brain and spinal cord. This is known as West Nile Encephalitis or West Nile Meningitis. Symptoms of these include severe headache, high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, and paralysis.

How is WNV Infection Treated? As with most viral illnesses, there is no specific treatment available for WNV infection. Fortunately, most people recover from the illness in a few days to weeks without complications. In the more serious cases, hospitalization is usually required for supportive treatment such as intravenous fluids and assistance with breathing. In these individuals long-term problems may develop such as seizures, memory loss, personality changes, paralysis, tremors, and walking or balance problems. As previously noted, in a small percentage of cases, the infection can be fatal.

Much more information about WNV and its overall health care problems can also be found at this site: .

Signs of West Nile Virus infection are similar to those of other viral infections. There may be no specific findings on a physical examination, according to the NLH. However, up to half of patients with West Nile virus infection may have a rash. Tests to diagnose West Nile Virus include:

• Complete blood count (CBC)

• Head CT scan

• Head MRI scan

• Lumbar puncture and cerebrospinal fluid test (CSF)

The most accurate way to diagnose this infection is with a serology test, which checks a blood or CSF sample for antibodies against the virus. More rapid techniques using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) may be used. Because this illness is not caused by bacteria, antibiotics do not help treat West Nile virus infection. Standard hospital care may help decrease the risk of complications in severe illness. More details can be found at this website: .

According to the Mayo Clinic, to reduce your own exposure to mosquitoes:

• Avoid unnecessary outdoor activity when mosquitoes are most prevalent, such as at dawn, dusk and early evening.

• Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants when you go into mosquito-infested areas.

• Apply mosquito repellent with DEET to your skin and clothing. Choose the concentration based on the hours of protection you need — the higher the percentage (concentration) of the active ingredient, the longer the repellent will work. Avoid using DEET on the hands of young children, in case they put their hands in their mouths, or on infants under 2 months of age. When outside, cover your infant's stroller or playpen with mosquito netting.

A vaccine is available to protect horses from West Nile virus. No vaccine is available for humans, but work to develop a human vaccine is under way. More details can be found at this site: .

West Nile Virus can be deadly. During the summer and early fall, protect yourself from this disease. If you feel that you may be exhibiting symptoms, visit your doctor right away. If you have friends or family with immune disorders that may put them at risk, do everything possible to keep them safe from harm. Mosquitoes normally are a minor irritation, but with WNV, you cannot afford to take the risk. Use common sense when you are outside, and keep your indoors protected as well. After all, you don’t want to be the next WNV story on the evening news.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Health Care and Back to School 2012

It’s time to get ready for the annual “Back to School” readiness schedule. Do you have your school supplies? Have you had your children vaccinated for the required immunizations that schools nationwide demand that you have prior to walking on campus on Day One? Have you been to the dentist for that checkup? What about all the new clothes that stores are touting as that “have to have” look so your kids won’t be ostracized as losers? Getting ready to go back to school can be a daunting task.

Pediatrician Dr. Vincent Ianelli says that “while it is often a welcome time for many parents after a long summer of having the kids in the house all day, other parents become a little sad at the thought of their kids going to school, especially if it is for the first time, or anxious when they consider what challenges their children will be facing. In addition to the usual social and educational stresses of going to school, kids are faced with many other issues, including drug use, violence, suicide and bullies. Talking with your children about these issues at age appropriate times may help decrease their chances of becoming a victim to them.”

Additionally, Dr. Ianelli suggests “It is also a good idea to regularly talk with your child about how school is going. Regular communication will help you to recognize problems early, before they get out of control and when it is easier to intervene. Does your child like going to school? Is he making friends? How are his grades? Is there anything he doesn't like about school? What happens during breaks, such as recess, lunch and in between classes? Break-time is when children are most likely to be unsupervised and when problems are likely to occur, so asking open ended questions about what happens during these times may help you to recognize problem behaviors.“

Additional suggestions from another physician make sense to follow. “As the school year begins, it’s vital for parents and caregivers to establish healthy habits to make a child’s transition back to the classroom a smooth one”, according to Dr. Ehab Molokhia, a primary care doctor with the University of South Alabama Physician’s Group, as reported on Here’s a list of the doctor’s top tips for keeping school-age children healthy:

1). Eat breakfast. It sustains a child’s energy and has been shown to improve performance at school. Fruits and unsweetened cereal with milk are good choices for the morning meal.

2.) Choose water or low-fat milk over sugary drinks. Parents should offer children older than 2 low-fat milk, which still has the calcium they need without the fat of whole milk. Those 2 and younger still need whole milk for healthy brain development.

3.) Schedule a well-child visit annually with a primary physician or pediatrician. The wellness exams should include a vision and hearing test, which is critical to detect early problems with vision or hearing. “I see kids who have not performed well cognitively,” Dr. Molokhia said. “It ended up they couldn’t hear well or couldn’t see the blackboard.”

4.) Make time for team sports and regular exercise. Group activities, such as soccer, tend to be a pretty healthy habit. They also help motivate a child to exercise more to keep up with other team members.

5.) Stay up-to-date on childhood vaccines. Get a flu shot, too. School-aged children are the ones to worry about because they are in enclosed areas with lots of folks. They are highly encouraged to receive the annual flu vaccination as they constitute an especially high risk population.

6.) Keep copies of medical records on hand. The records should include a description of any allergies children have to medications as well as immunization records, according to Dr. Molokhia. “A list of any illnesses they are receiving treatment for is extremely important to ensure their safety.”

Also, Forbes Magazine has some great advice online about health tips for going back to school, located at this website: . As well, the website for has a great checklist on getting prepared for the new school year: . And, the Alliance for Consumer Education has a very good overview on this site: .

You can get all the books, pencils, lunch kits, backpacks, and notebooks you can carry, but if your child is not healthy, that is a major game changer in getting ready for school. Make sure you find ways to accommodate the health care needs for your kids before school starts. A healthy child can learn more and accomplish more than one who is struggling due to a lack of proper preparedness. Be a good parent, and get your children ready before school starts, for their sake, and yours.

Until next time.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Health Care and Pelvic Organ Prolapse

Many women suffer from a health issue known as pelvic organ prolapse--a medical condition that affects millions of women typically over the age of fifty. Counselling for the surgical treatment of pelvic organ prolapse should consider all benefits, harms, and costs of the surgical procedure, with particular emphasis on the use of mesh, according to the National Institutes for Health (NIH).

According to information submitted for this article by Jasmine McCarthy with the Public Outreach Department at, transvaginal mesh has been used to treat symptoms of Pelvic Organ Prolapse (POP) for the past decade. At first, it seemed like the perfect solution to a condition that plagues approximately 50 percent of women between the ages of 50 and 79. Unfortunately, increasing numbers of women have reported complications. For some women, these complications result in severe health problems. To date, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued two major warnings regarding the risks posed by the use of transvaginal mesh to treat POP.

What is Pelvic Organ Prolapse?

Pelvic Organ Prolapse occurs when the pelvic floor tissues and muscles begin to weaken over time. Minor weakening may not cause any problems at all. However, in moderate to severe cases, the weakened tissues allow pelvic organs to shift and drop. The organs and tissues that are usually affected by POP are the bladder, uterus and bowels. In some cases, these organs can prolapse into the vaginal canal. POP is most common in women who have experienced pregnancy and childbirth. However, menopause is also a common cause, since decreasing estrogen levels cause tissues to become thinner and weaker. Other factors that contribute to POP are smoking, obesity and a history of injury, or trauma, to the pelvis.

What is Transvaginal Mesh?

Transvaginal mesh products appeared on the market a decade ago as a solution to POP. It is used like a hammock to provide support for the pelvic floor muscles and organs, and prevents organs from collapsing into the vagina. The FDA approved most vaginal mesh products without the usual safety protocols required for new medical devices. Unfortunately, there have been thousands of cases of complications associated with vaginal mesh implants.

The FDA has issued multiple warnings to health care providers and the general population, educating people about the health risks related to the use of transvaginal mesh. Major medical companies, such as Johnson & Johnson and Bard, have pulled their mesh products from the market. In the meantime, the number of legal cases related to the damage caused by transvaginal mesh continues to rise. Women who have suffered permanent damage from surgical procedures using vaginal mesh have filed vaginal mesh lawsuits against the manufacturers.

Complications Related to Transvaginal Mesh

Vaginal mesh has a tendency to erode and/or protrude into vaginal tissues and other organs. Women can be plagued by pain, infections and discomfort during sexual intercourse. In worst-case scenarios, the mesh can puncture nearby organs, which can result in permanent incontinence. The complications are difficult to reverse, if they can be reversed at all. Most women with severe complications have to undergo multiple revision surgeries to receive any relief.

It is important that women who have had transvaginal mesh inserted to correct POP maintain regular examinations and alert health care professionals at the first signs of complications. Women who have to undergo surgery should discuss less risky alternatives with their doctor. Much more detailed information about this medical issue can be found at their website:

According to the Chicago Tribune, mesh products first came on the market in the 1950s for use in hernia repairs. Though the FDA didn't approve the material for use in prolapse surgeries until 2002, physicians began using it "off label" for abdominal procedures in the 1970s and for vaginal procedures in the mid-'90s. The FDA considers surgical mesh to be a "Class II" medical device, posing an intermediate risk of harm to patients. With mesh products already in widespread use, the agency granted approval for their use in prolapse procedures without requiring new studies demonstrating their safety or effectiveness. Under the agency's controversial 510(k) approval process, that's permitted if devices are believed to be "substantially equivalent" to those already on the market. Here is a link to this July, 2011 article: .

According to the NIH, two Federal and Drug Administration warnings and an ever-increasing amount of data in medical journals reveal a paucity of support regarding routine transvaginal mesh kits for the treatment of pelvic organ prolapse. There have been no studies showing improved quality of life when compared to nonmesh repairs. There have been no studies showing superiority of mesh kits over traditional procedures for posterior or apical prolapses, and minimal data suggesting anatomic benefit of synthetic mesh for anterior compartment repairs. In contrast, transvaginal mesh use significantly increases the complication rate over nonmesh repairs. Some of these complications cause lifelong, irreversible pelvic pain, vaginal shortening, vaginal narrowing, severe vaginal pain, and dyspareunia.

Transvaginal synthetic mesh kits have minimal to no improved clinical success over nonmesh repairs, according to the NIH. Compounding this, mesh kits are clearly associated with multiple relatively common and unique complications without any significant proven benefit for symptomatic relief of pelvic organ prolapse and improvement of quality of life. Continued routine use will needlessly and potentially harm patients permanently without providing any significant benefit.

Surgery of any type involves a certain degree of risk, and this type of procedure has potentially dangerous side effects. One of the most litigous types of medical malpractice suits brought against health care professionals is attributed to issues regarding complications from POP and transvaginal mesh. Be sure to explore all options to correct problems associated with Pelvic Organ Prolapse, and if you are currently suffering from post-surgery issues, consult your doctor. If you need to seek financial relief from complications, make sure you hire reputable counsel to represent you with your case.

Until next time.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Health Care and Fitness Clubs

Looking to become the next Mr. Olympia or Ms. World? Want to bulk up the physique and get those abs rock hard and defined as a "six pack"? Are you the skinny kid that gets bullied around and need to get buff to protect yourself? Then consider a gym membership--not just the "get a few pounds off after the Holidays" type plan but a real, solid way to get and stay in shape. You can join a local club like Gold's or Bally's and pay fees to belong, or you can go to the local YWCA or YMCA for not a lot of money. Either way, a gym membership can help get your tired, flabby tummy into a lean, mean muscle machine. And, people will definitely take notice. And, here are some interesting stats about gym memberships can be found at this site: .

Finding an affordable solution, though, may be your first challenge to a leaner body. According to Smart Money Magazine online, half of consumers who don’t belong to a gym say the costs are the primary deterrent, according to a 2009 survey from market researcher Mintel. Factoring in initiation fees, the median annual cost for a new gym member is $775, according to the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association, a trade group. (Ongoing members pay slightly less than $43 per month for an average $511 annually.) But, many new members can cut their costs by as much as 50%. The magazine lists six ways to cut your costs in half: .

Before you write your first check and commit to a contract, you may want to check out various options when choosing a gym membership. There’s much to consider, including location, cost, staff, equipment, and more. Before you sign on the dotted line, take a moment to consider these 10 factors, as noted by .

And, be careful after you are involved in a fitness regimen. Many workout and fitness plans get derailed by some common mistakes and bad habits. Avoiding problems can lead to better results, according to at this site: .

If you are looking for a gym or fitness club near you, there are many from which to choose. Fitness Magazine has a website that shows the best gyms in America, and the advantages of each club: . This site is a great resource when searching for what you want in a health club or fitness membership.

According to Lance Armstrong’s Foundation partner,, you can exercise almost anywhere. However, a gym membership enables you to obtain the exercise you need to stay or become healthy, and it provides other benefits. Some people prefer to exercise on their own, but they miss what gym memberships can offer. Read more at this site: .

One side benefit of a gym membership is building stronger bones, according to Men’s Health Magazine online: . Want to build stronger bones? Hit the gym. The healthier your muscle mass, the better off your bones will be, according to a new study they reported that was published in the Journal of Bone & Mineral Research.

According to, most people struggle to make it to the gym. Realistically speaking, the majority of individuals lack motivation, reasons, and passion to jump on the gym bandwagon. More than often, people try to pile up a list of excuses to stay away from gym. Despite one’s deep desire to maintain good physique, one is seen wrestling with his/her thoughts to find convincing reasons to join a gym. Here, located on their website, are some very good reasons to join a fitness club: .

You also may wish to check on health plans or discount plans that include gym memberships as part of the membership including other wellness products and services. Careington International offers a retail discount plan for only $14.95 per month for member and family, labeled MyWellCare, that includes nationwide access to over 14,000 fitness clubs and gyms at "best price." The Careington plan provides you immediate access to a network of nationwide clubs that offer discounted rates to members who join the plan, and the entire household can take advantage of using the membership. Plus, you can cancel the membership at any time with Careington. This plan is not insurance. However, you would also want to make sure that your membership with the gym or fitness center has a cancellation clause that has no penalty if you wish to cancel that contract. Their website is . Additional services are also included in the Careington MyWellCare discount plan membership:

• 24 hour nurse line with access to RNs via toll free phone access, and a health library with over 1,100 pre-recorded topics.

• Savings of 25% with over 14,000 chiropractors and over 20,000 complementary alternative medicine providers including message therapy, tai chi, acupuncture, dieticians, and more.

• Weight loss management with 20% discounts through Weight Watchers.

• Prescription discounts at over 58,000 pharmacies—15%-60% off generics; 15%-25% off brand name medications; mail order through phone or online ordering.

• LASIK vision correction with 15% discount.

• Imaging discounts at over 3,200 radiology facilities in the US—40%-75% off MRIs, CT scans, and PET scans.

• Weight loss surgery with gastric banding--$1,000 discount.

• Financial counseling with toll free access to financial counselors.

• Term Life Insurance quoting.

• Finance options for medical loans through approved credit by lender.

Improving your health through fitness is a great way to maintain a healthy lifestyle and be proactive with your overall physical well being. If you have a family, it’s even more fun to have everyone involved if possible—kids, Mom, and Dad. You may even find a gym that is pet-friendly, so you can bring your dog or cat to be watched by the staff while you work out. Saving money is also good, and so is quality of service and facilities. There are many options available to consumers to find solid, affordable memberships for access to health and fitness. Do your homework to find out what works best for you, and make sure you communicate with your primary care doctor that you want to embark on a fitness regimen which may involve a gym or fitness club. You’ll want to have a positive experience, and following the guidelines in getting information and going to a health club are good steps toward improved physical fitness.

Until next time.