December 7 marks the deadline for Medicare beneficiaries to make changes to their Medicare Advantage (Part C) or prescription drug plans (Part D).
“There will not be an extension. People really do need to make that change by December 7,” said Roseanne Egan, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) acting regional administrator.
The open enrollment period, running from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7, is the period when existing Medicare recipients can make changes to their plans. Medicare beneficiaries who do not make any changes by the deadline will remain in their existing plans.
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid recently mailed Medicare & You handbooks and postcards to more than 42 million households, reminding them of this year’s earlier deadline. In previous years, the enrollment period was Nov. 15–Dec. 31.
“The reason we did that is to allow the Medicare Advantage plans and prescription drug plans the opportunity to process all the changes in the new enrollment so that the beneficiaries can get their new cards for the January 1 date, so there won’t be any delays in access to care,” Egan said.
“This year CMS is highlighting plans that have achieved an overall quality rating of 5 stars with a high performer or “gold star” icon — so people with Medicare can easily find high-quality plans.
CMS officials said all Pennsylvanians have the opportunity to access Medicare Advantage plans that have zero premiums. There are 36 available prescription drug plans available in Pennsylvania.
This year, Independence Blue Cross introduced a low-cost Medicare Advantage plan with premiums as low as $15 a month.
“Medicare is just one of the many areas in our business where we saw an opportunity to be more responsive to our customers’ needs and were able to develop an innovative solution to meet those needs,” said Daniel J. Hilferty, president and CEO of IBC.
“We share our members’ concern about access to affordable Medicare health plans, and we’re pleased to launch this new HMO that offers low monthly premiums with the same high-quality benefits and services our members expect from us.”
As beneficiaries look over their new plan options, they will see better value in the Medicare Advantage and prescription drug plan benefits.
Beneficiaries with Part D coverage who are in the coverage gap, or “donut hole,” will continue to receive 50 percent discounts on covered brand-name drugs thanks to the Affordable Care Act. Average premiums for Part D prescription drug plans will also decrease to $30 in 2012, about 76 cents less compared to the average 2011 premium.
CMS officials said that as of October, 149,988 people in Pennsylvania with Medicare have saved an average of $592 per person on their prescriptions, accounting for savings of $89 million statewide.
As a result of the Affordable Care Act, more than 898,000 people have received at least one of the new free Medicare preventative benefits.
For enrollment information visit www.medicare.gov/find-a-plan, call 1-800-MEDICARE or call the APPRISE network at 1 (800)-783-7067.
"Are starchy foods like corn bad for you if you’re losing weight? I like corn.”
Starchy foods are important for balanced nutrition. They supply you with needed fiber, minerals and vitamins. Starchy foods are also low in fat. The fat content increases when you add butter or other high calorie sauces that contain saturated fat.
Don’t stop eating corn. It’s an excellent source of Vitamins A and C. It’s also low in sodium and fat. Sweet corn can be either yellow or white. Ears should be full with firm, bright, milky kernels, but that give a little when pressed. Look for fresh green husks. The husk should be dry and the silk yellow.
There are several ways to cook corn. When boiling, use enough water to cover the corn. You should cover the pot and cook rapidly for 7 to 10 minutes. You can season your corn by adding oregano, parsley and Italian seasoning to the water.
You can also add cooked corn kernels to your pancakes, waffles and muffins. You shouldn’t eat corn with proteins because it’s a starchy food. Corn will digest best with other vegetables.
Kids and fitness
How can I get my kids involved in fitness?
If you walk or jog on a track or a similar flat surface, you can take your kids along for the workout. If their legs are too short to keep up with you while walking or jogging, let them ride a tricycle or bicycle around the track while you jog. If you have a daughter who still plays with dolls and has a baby carriage, she can walk her dolls while you get in your workout. Outdoor skates and roller blades are popular. Skating promotes agility, coordination, builds strong thighs and hips, burns fat and works the heart and lungs. Make sure you monitor your kids so they don’t overdo it. When they get tired tell them to rest. Remember: Start them out slowly so they don’t become discouraged. Teach your kids to get high on fitness and say no to drugs.
Cycling and kids
“How can I make my kids’ bike rides safe?”
After your child has mastered the art of riding a bicycle, they have an excellent source for conditioning. When you ride a bicycle for fun or exercise remember to start with short distances at a steady pace. Build on your distance, speed and the time. To get the most out of your cycling, you should adjust your seat so that, your legs are fully extended when the pedal is at the bottom of your bike. At the top, the toes should be tilted back and the heel slightly down. You should always pedal with the ball of the foot and not your toes.
Riding a bike is a great form of exercise for your kids. But, you should follow some safety tips. More than 2 million children receive bicycles for gifts each year. Each day one child dies from a bicycle injury. Most of these injuries can be avoided.
Follow all traffic rules.
Make sure you give signals when you make turns, stop for red lights and never ride against traffic.
Maintain your brakes and tires.
Be more cautious when riding in the rain.
Wear reflective clothes at night.
Make sure your child wears a helmet.
Wearing helmets could reduce the death rate resulting from bicycles by 50 percent.
These are just a few safety tips that will make your child’s ride safe.
Want to lose 30 pounds
“I want to lose 30 pounds, but I just can’t seem to get motivated. What can I do to get motivated?”
Upper Darby, Pa.
Well, Sonja, what you need to do is ask yourself these questions: Do you feel as good as you want to physically? Do you have to be out of shape? Can working out make a difference? If you’ve answered yes to these questions set aside one hour a day, four days a week to workout. Don’t wait until next week, start today. Just 4 hours a week. Knowing what you’re going to accomplish can be your motivation until it becomes a healthy habit. Try something fun, like a dance class or roller-skating twice a week. How about biking with your friends or walking with your mate? So, turn off the TV, tune in your favorite radio station and do some stretching — or just get up and jam.
I’m totally against low calorie fad diets. Instead, lose weight on a diet you live with forever. Your weight loss will be slower, but lasting. Here’s a sample menu you might be able to live with. In the morning you should have fruit. Try a banana and some grapes. Later have an apple or some melon. You should try to get in about 500 calories before lunch. At lunch, have a low fat protein like fish or chicken and a non-starchy vegetable or a salad. You should wait an hour and then have a starchy carbohydrate like pasta, rice or whole gain bread. For dinner try some beans and a salad. Wait an hour, and have a starchy food like rice or bread with a salad or a vegetable. This will add up to 5 to 6 small meals. Drink water 1/2 hour before eating. If you’re not ready to change every meal, start with one or two.
“All my friends give beef a bad rap. Can I eat beef without feeling guilty?”
If you eat beef sensibly there is no reason you cannot include it in your diet. Three ounces of cooked, lean beef contains one quarter of your daily requirements for iron and is a good source for zinc and B vitamins. That same three ounces contains 24 grams of protein, which is half your daily protein requirement for most people. When you buy beef, choose lean cuts of meat, such as flank steak, top round and ground sirloin. Select is the best grade of meat, next comes “choice” and then
“prime.” By choosing “select” you reduce the fat by 15 percent. Meats with less fat tend to dry out fast during cooking, so you should boil them before cooking or marinate in your favorite sauce. Eat meat alone or with a salad. You should skip the potatoes, bread and the pasta because these foods will slow down the digestion of meat. You can eat starchy foods later with a non-protein meal. Beef is a good food source if you know how to include it in your diet.
Eating before bed
“I don’t get home from work until late. I’m usually hungry when I get home. Everybody tells me you’ll get fat if you eat before you go to bed. Is this true?”
Food eaten before bedtime will not put on weight, unless you exceed your daily nutritional needs. Your body needs food for repair, growth and energy both during the day and night. After those needs are met, your body will either store the unused food as fat or pass it out as waste. Day or night you need between 12 to 15 calories per pound of body weight to fulfill your nutritional needs. People who are very active may need more calories. Very few adults need less than 1200 calories daily. If your lifestyle forces you to eat before going to bed, eat. Make sure you avoid sugary foods they could keep you from going to sleep.
Before starting your fitness program, consult your physician.
For help with drug, alcohol and mental health problems call Sobriety Through
Outpatient the area’s most unique drug, alcohol and mental health treatment center at 215-227-STOP (7867) or 1-800-660-STOP (7867). Watch or listen to our recovery media stations everyday at www.stop-recoveryradio.com.
Listen to “Tips to be Fit” with Vince daily at www.stop-recoveryradio.com.
Almost one year after undergoing a life-saving heart transplant at Hahnemann University Hospital, Tryphosa Pressley returned to the facility for another reason — to become an employee.
The Southwest Philadelphia resident first came to Hahnemann in 2005 as a patient undergoing treatment for congestive heart failure.
During the 1990s, Pressley realized something was wrong when she began to experience shortness of breath while walking. She couldn’t walk up and down the hallway at her job without feeling short of breath. Her primary care physician thought she had bronchitis and started treating her with antibiotics. However, her symptoms did not improve.
After consulting another physician, she was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, a condition in which the heart can no longer pump enough blood to the rest of the body.
When she was referred to Dr. Howard J. Eisen at Temple University Hospital, he told her she needed a heart transplant, however, she wasn’t ready to undergo the surgery.
“At that time I was very naïve, and I didn’t know anything about heart transplants,” says Pressley.
Eisen said her congestive heart failure was possibly due to a combination of a virus that attacked her heart and hypertension. Pressley was placed on various medications to treat the heart failure.
When Eisen moved to Hahnemann in 2005, Pressley made the move with him. Eisen specializes in heart failure and heart transplant care.
Pressley went through periods of hospitalization because her body kept retaining water. Less blood was being pumped to her kidneys, resulting in fluid retention.
In 2006, Pressley had a defibrillator implanted near her heart. The device gave Pressley a necessary jolt several times over the next few years. She recalled an occasion when the device gave her such a powerful jolt that she was knocked down a flight of stairs.
“The doctors told me at that time that the defibrillator really saved my life,” Pressley recollected.
By 2009, her heart was worsening. In January of 2010, Pressley and her family discussed transplant options and she was placed on the waiting list for a new heart. She was told that she couldn’t continue to live without receiving a heart.
Due to the heart failure, Pressley’s kidneys started to fail. While awaiting a new organ, Pressley was hospitalized for months and given intravenous medications to help stabilize her condition.
“The vast majority of patients with heart failure do very well for years with medication. Unfortunately some people’s heart failure progresses despite the medicine that we have and that happened with her,” says Eisen, Chief, Division of Cardiology, Drexel University College of Medicine.
“When that happened, that’s when we had to do something that would prolong her life and improve her quality of life, and that was heart transplantation.”
One of the biggest issues facing people who have heart failure is the lengthy wait for a new heart.
“The problem is there is a tremendous shortage of organs so that’s why people have to wait such a long time. The shorter the wait, the more likely people are to survive after transplant,” said Eisen.
Pressley wouldn’t receive a new heart until December 17, 2010, almost 11 months after she was placed on the waiting list. For Pressley, the heart was like a Christmas present.
When she learned that she would finally receive a new heart, Pressley couldn’t contain her enthusiasm. At the time, she faced end-stage heart failure.
“I just started hollering and screaming and thanking the good Lord for the miracle,” says the native of Florence, S.C.
Prior to receiving her heart, she was placed on dialysis.
In November 2011 — almost a year after she underwent heart surgery — Pressley returned to Hahnemann to work as a lab assistant.
“I had God’s favor. He is a miracle-working God,” says Pressley.
Pressley is reaping the benefits of living with a new heart.
“She’s done great. The pressure in her lungs has come down. She’s done extremely well,” says Eisen.
“I’m living a lot better. I can get around better. I just feel 100 percent better than I would have felt 10 years ago,” she said.
“I can do what I want to do. I don’t have any limitations.”
In addition to working at Hahnemann, Pressley is active in various ministries at Prayer Chapel Church of God in Christ in Upper Darby, Pa.
Now Pressley is gearing up to write a book about coping with congestive heart failure.
“I believe that if I had known what I know now, my case wouldn’t have gotten so severe,” she said.
My shoulders seem to be sagging. Is there anything I can do reshape my shoulders?
Sandy, Vineland, N.J.
You can use shoulder pads to give them a straight lifted appearance, but what about when you have to look at the real you? Instead, develop the muscles that help hold up the shoulders girdle, neck muscles and the scapula area. Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and your knees slightly bent. Grab two dumbbells and hold them at your sides along the middle of your thigh. Raise your shoulders upward then roll them backward and down. You can also roll them forward. Do 3 sets backward for 8–10 repetitions. This is a good exercise to loosen up the shoulders and upper back muscles during the day.
Tennis Grip Strength
I want to play a better game of tennis this year and I want to improve my grip strength. What exercises will help me improve my grip?
The muscles in the forearm control your grip strength. The forearm contains 19 muscles. They perform a variety of functions. If you find you're having problems with your grip, try these two exercises. Grasp a barbell or a pair of dumbbells with your palms facing up. Sit down with your feet flat on the floor. Place your forearms on top of your thighs with your wrist extended over your knees. Curl the weight with your hand without lifting your forearms off your thighs. The second exercise has you sitting in the same position but with your palms facing down. Start with one set of 10 repetitions for each exercise twice a week and increase the number of set each week until you're doing at least three sets. Do these exercises after your tennis game.
Osteoporosis and Gender
I always hear about older women and osteoporosis. Do men get osteoporosis? Is there anyway to prevent it?
Osteoporosis is a condition that affects men and women. Though it usually affects the elderly it begins at around age 30 for women and age 50 for men. Osteoporosis is associated with loss of bone mineral, which results in less density and strength in bones. Normally, women have about 30 percent less bone than men and after menopause lose bone mass twice as fast as men. Lower levels of estrogen after menopause, chronic alcohol abuse, coffee, tea, candy, low calcium intake, lack of exercise, high levels phosphorus, which is found in soda all contribute to bone mineral loss.
Taking preventive measures for bone loss should start early. By your mid twenties you should be taking between 800–1500 milligrams of calcium daily. Calcium-rich foods include dairy products, green leafy vegetables, dried beans, sardines and salmon. Calcium alone will not prevent or treat osteoporosis. Exercise stimulates bone strength. Bones weaken when you don’t exercise. This applies to both men and women.
I’ve been reading the labels of most of the foods I buy. But, I don’t recognize the names of some ingredients. What is hydrogenation?
Linda J., Bristol, Pa.
Hydrogenation is the process that makes oil solid at room temperature. This is the process that gives us margarine and gives processed foods a longer shelf life. Hydrogenation fats act the same way saturated fats act in your system. Saturated fat raises your cholesterol level. Hydrogenated oils, sometimes called trans fats, are found in cakes, pies, cheese spreads, cookies, some ice creams and most bread.
Most foods contain saturated, unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Saturated fats should only be 10 percent of your total caloric intake. Remember, hydrogenation increases the amount of bad fat. So read the label and limit your trans fats and saturated fat combined to less than 14 grams daily.
What can I take to boost my energy level?
Dan, Washington, D.C.
There are a lot of herbs that have become popular for energy such as ginseng, guarana and bee pollen. All of these products are called natural, which may have you believe they are safe. These products have to be broken down into a chemical that the body can use. All three of these products are powerful chemicals that can have bad side affects. It has been said that ginseng can cure almost everything, increase your endurance and improve your sex life. Ginseng is largely based on superstitions and anecdotal data instead of scientific fact. Side effects of ginseng can include insomnia, diarrhea and skin eruptions. Ginseng can also affect blood sugar, which may complicate diabetics.
Guarana is a caffeine-based product. Guarana is an herb that is used to boost energy. The bad effects of caffeine can include sleeplessness, irritability, anxiety and depression. A person can suffer the bad effects from one or two cups of coffee a day.
Bee pollen is mixture of bee saliva, plant nectar and pollen. There have been no good large studies done that can show that bee pollen can increase your endurance. This product can be dangerous to anyone that has allergic reactions to bees or pollen.
The best way to increase energy level is to eat right, exercise and get enough rest.
How do I get in the Vitamin C that I need?
Kevin, Orlando, Fla.
Vegetables and fruits provide us with the vitamin C we need, but we loose much of it when we handle our food. Vitamin C, which is also known as ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin that is found in fruits and vegetables. Vitamin C plays a major role in healing wounds, burns, red blood production, formation of connective tissue, fighting infections and preventing hemorrhaging. This vitamin is destroyed easily when foods containing the vitamin are stored or cooked. Vitamin C is sensitive to light, heat and air. Smoking, excessive drinking, antibiotics, cortisone aspirin pain killers, excessive amounts of water, cooking in cooper utensils and sulfa drugs can reduce the body’s ability to absorb vitamin C. You should store vitamin C as little as possible. When you do store foods containing vitamin C you should keep them refrigerated. When cooking foods containing vitamin C, you should cook them as little as possible. Steaming and micro waving them in a small amount of water for short cooking time help to insure you will get the most of the vitamin C found in the food.
Before starting your fitness program, consult your physician.
For help with drug, alcohol and mental health problems call Sobriety Through Outpatient, the area drug, alcohol and mental health treatment center at (215) 227-7867. Watch or listen to our recovery media stations every day at www.stop-recoveryradio.com.
Listen to “Tips to be Fit” with Vince daily at www.stop-recoveryradio.com.
When Sheila Green participates in the annual Greater Philadelphia Step Out to End Diabetes Walk, she’ll be thinking about members of her family.
For Green, diabetes hits close to home. Her husband, Clarence, was diagnosed with diabetes two years ago and her parents and mother-in-law also have the disease.
The impact of diabetes on her family motivated her to form a team of Independence Blue Cross employees who are members of the Blue Moonlighters Crochet Hookers Club.
“Since I don’t have it, I’ll be walking for them. I really got involved when it hit home,” Green said in regard to participating in the walk.
Green’s team has surpassed its goal of raising $1,000. The “Hooked on a Cure” team has brought in more than $1,500.
The 5K walk, which is scheduled for October 1, is the American Diabetes Association’s signature event that raises funds for diabetes research, advocacy and education. Last year, more than 3,500 people participated in the walk, raising more than $545,000.
After her husband was diagnosed with diabetes, Green was spurred to change the way she prepares food for her family. She’s cut back on cooking fried chicken. These days, her family eats more baked or grilled foods and salad.
“When it does hit home you tend to act on it. When you get it your whole life just changes all together,” Green says of diabetes.
Last year marked Green’s first time joining a Step Out walk team.
This year’s walk comes at a time when nearly 26 million children and adults in the United States have diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association, African Americans have a more than 15 percent higher incidence of diabetes than other populations.
“It’s time to reverse this trend,” said sports legend and 2011 Step Out Walk co-chair, Billie Jean King.
“Philadelphia is a very special city to me, and I have always found this city committed to good causes like the Greater Philadelphia Step Out Walk. Diabetes is a serious disease and if we work together, we can make a difference by educating people about diabetes and committing to help those living with diabetes.”
IBC serves as the walk’s presenting sponsor.
“Our mission at IBC is to enhance the health and wellness of the people and the communities we serve,” said Daniel J. Hilferty, IBC president and CEO.
“We are steadfast in our commitment to support the Philadelphia region’s Step Out walk as the presenting sponsor for our fourth consecutive year. Our partnership with ADA and the Step Out Walk not only helps raise the community’s awareness about America’s fastest growing disease, but also demonstrates the importance of nutrition and physical activity as the cornerstones of a healthy lifestyle.”
The walk begins at 9 a.m. at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. This year’s 5K route will take walkers down West River Drive and back to the Art Museum.
The upcoming event is one of more than 140 walks held across the United States. Together, more than 100,000 participants nationwide raised more than $18.4 million in 2010 to support the ADA’s mission: to prevent and cure diabetes and to improve the lives of nearly 26 million children and adults in the United States who are affected by this disease.
For information call (610) 828-5003 ext. 4645 or visit www.diabetes.org/stepout.
What should you do when you get a muscle cramp?
Muscle cramps usually occur at night and are commonly caused by not drinking enough water, doing too much exercise and loss of potassium and sodium through perspiration. They affect the elderly, the young and persons with arteriosclerosis more often.
Loss of body fluids is a common cause of muscle cramps. Without the right amount of water in your body, your body becomes dehydrated causing your muscles to cramp. This condition can be alleviated by just drinking water before, during and after your workout.
When you do get muscle cramps, which are involuntary muscle contractions, stop your workout or what ever you’re doing, apply pressure to the cramped area, try to relax by taking slow deep breaths and stretch slowly. If the cramp continues to cause problems, try gently massaging the area while you stretch and relax.
Detecting breast cancer
What are some of the warning signs for breast cancer?
New York, N.Y.
When detected and treated early, breast cancer has a significantly greater chance of being cured. Women themselves discover most breast lumps. Others are discovered by physicians and still others through mammography testing. Though most lumps are benign, it’s important to have testing done to rule out cancer as early as possible.
Every woman, no matter what her age, should do a breast examination every month. A good time to examine your breast would be about one week after your menstrual cycle. Examine both breasts for changes in color, texture, dimpling, shape, lumps, knots, any discharge from the nipple, bleeding, scaliness, or veins that weren’t visible before.
If you detect any of these changes in your breast see your doctor immediately.
Food after workout
I work out every morning, but I don’t feel hungry until after I get to work. What can I eat at my desk instead of coffee cake and junk food?
Yvonne, if exercising in the morning delays your appetite until after you get to work keep foods like fresh fruit, juice, cereal, homemade muffins and herbal teas handy. If you plan your mid-morning meals you’ll be less likely to find yourself at the snack machine when you get hungry. You can spread breakfast out throughout the morning by having a piece of fruit and juice first then having the muffin or cereal an hour or two later. Eating this way will get in a couple of small meals before lunch, which you can break up the same way. Eating small meals like this will allow you to eat sensibly all day long, not feel stuffed and increase your rate of burning calories.
Muscle sprains and strains
What should you do if you sprain or strain a muscle?
If you suffer a sprain or strain, your immediate aim is to minimize internal bleeding and reduce swelling. R. I. C. E. D. is the acronym you should remember when you’ve suffered a sprain or strain. Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation and Doctor.
Here’s what they mean:
Rest: Don’t use the injured joint. Using an injured body part will only aggravate the injury.
Ice: Apply ice to the injured area as soon as possible. The cold constricts blood vessels, helps limit internal bleeding and prevents some swelling.
Compression: Rapping or gently compressing the area with massage will help to reduce swelling and discoloration.
Elevation: Elevating an injured area also helps to reduce swelling, reduce pain and discoloration.
Doctor: See a doctor to insure that you only have a sprain or strain.
Bike safety accessories
I just bought bikes for my kids; we have helmets. What other safety accessories do I need to make bike riding safe for my family?
Being seen is important while riding. During the day a bike flag will help drivers notice you. A whistle will help to warn drivers if you need to get their attention. At night, you’ll need reflectors, white or yellow for the front and red for the back. You can also put them on you pedals. Most state laws call for lights on the front and back if you’re riding during the night. Halogen lights and rechargeable batteries are best.
You should wear bright-colored clothes that are different from the landscape. Yellow is good because it never blends in. Red is great, and Day-Glo-Orange will definitely be seen.
Biking is great for exercise and fun if your ride is safe.
Buying home exercise equipment
I want to buy home gym equipment. Can you give me some advice on how to buy my future home gym?
If you’re investing in a home gym be sure to include equipment for a strength-training program (for the muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones) and an aerobic training program (works the heart, lungs, circulatory system and burns that dreaded body fat).
According to the National Sporting Goods Association, the sales of home exercise equipment increased by 48 percent last year. The biggest reason for a home gym purchase is convenience. The newer machines are more biomechanically designed.
When you go shopping for exercise equipment, go when you have time to do some serious shopping. You might want to wear something that you can work out in. You should spend at least 20 minutes on a machine, so it may take more than one shopping date.
Before you decide to buy home exercise equipment you should make sure it’s safe and it works properly. The American College of Sports Medicine suggests you follow these guidelines.
- Your equipment should be easy to get on and off
- It should be sturdy, not wobbly, while in use and work smoothly
- Make sure you can change the intensity or resistance safely and easily
- Make sure it can be adjusted to fit your body securely and comfortably
- When appropriate choose equipment with gauges, such as a timer, speedometer, odometer, caloric expenditure and make sure they are easy to read.
- Make sure the instructions are easy to understand.
- If you’re investing in free weights buy adjustable dumbbells and barbells
- Also make sure it comes with a warranty, and can it be serviced locally.
- Make sure you know exactly what you’re getting into or onto before you make your purchase.
- We suggest you shop in a store that specializes in home gym equipment instead of a multipurpose sporting good store. You’ll also want to buy from a store that will set up the equipment and provide some free, in-house personal training. You also want to get the best equipment for your money.
Before starting your fitness program, consult your physician.
For help with drug, alcohol and mental health problems call Sobriety Through Outpatient drug, alcohol and mental health treatment center at (215) 227-7867). Watch or listen to our recovery media stations every day at www.stop-recoveryradio.com.
Listen to “Tips to be Fit” with Vince daily at www.stop-recoveryradio.com.
Over the Christmas break, condom dispensers were installed in nurses’ offices in select Philadelphia public high schools.
The move to increase condom access to teens was prompted by high rates of sexually transmitted disease among adolescents.
Despite the hype surrounding the issue, dispensing condoms in the school setting is not a new concept for Philadelphia. Since 1991, condoms have been available in about 12 health resource centers in high schools.
“We’ve had a long history in having condoms in high schools. We’re doing it now because we’re worried that the rates of sexually transmitted infections are up. I think we need to do more than we’ve done,” said Philadelphia Health Commissioner and Deputy Mayor for Health and Opportunity Dr. Donald Schwarz.
Schwarz said less than 60 percent of kids who are sexually active reported having used condoms the last time they had sex. With that in mind, Schwarz says they seek to reach the 40 percent who haven’t been using condoms.
Schwarz says making condoms available is a part of a larger initiative, which should involve parental engagement.
“I keep saying that it has to be part of a larger initiative — and I think that parents are central to that,” he said.
Teens can access the free condoms by visiting the office of their school nurse. However, there is an opt-out option for parents. Parents who don’t want their kids to participate can send a letter or call their school’s principal.
“There is a list that will be maintained, and the school nurse will have the names of those whose parents don’t want them to have access to condoms in schools,” Schwarz said.
The move to widen teen access to condoms comes at a time when the health department has reported rising rates of HIV, chlamydia and gonorrhea in adolescents. For instance, the department notes that one in eight Philadelphia girls ages 15 to 19 had chlamydia in 2010.
Last year, the Health Department launched a comprehensive campaign to increase condom usage among teens. As a part of the campaign, the department promoted a custom-labeled Philadelphia condom – the Freedom Condom — and launched takecontrolphilly.org, a website that provides sexual health information for teens and their parents.
About 100,000 condoms have been mailed to teens who requested them through the website, according to Schwarz. Since April 2011, the health department has distributed more than four million condoms through community centers, health centers, barber shops, retail clinics and by mail.
“For the first time in a while we’ve seen a decline by about six percent in the rates of gonorrhea in adolescents, so it’s working,” said Schwarz.
According to health department statistics, gonorrhea, which had shown a 52 percent increase in adolescent case counts from 2009 to 2011, declined by six percent among teens in 2012.
Gary Bell, executive director of Bebashi, an HIV/AIDS case management organization,
views condoms in the schools as a good idea, but only a start.
“I think condoms are a good next step. I think what we really need is comprehensive sex education in the schools. It’s not just about condoms. It’s about them understanding their bodies. It’s about them understanding what risk is,” said Bell.
“The reality is that kids are having sex. They are having sex younger. Young women are moving into puberty even earlier and we have to face that. We have to ask ourselves do we give them the information and the tools to make responsible decisions or not because they are going to be making decisions. It’s a question as to whether it’s responsible or not responsible.”
Some parents may be concerned that having access to condoms could possibly increase the likelihood that their children will engage in sexual activity.
“Studies do not demonstrate that having access to knowledge or access to condoms increases sexual activity, so I get that it’s a fear, but it’s not supported,” Bell added.
A visit to the barbershop can evolve into a moment that changes health outcomes.
Men across the country are receiving health screenings in tandem with their haircuts through the Black Barbershop Health Outreach program.
Founded in 2007 by Dr. Bill J. Releford, a Los Angeles-based podiatric surgeon, the initiative seeks to reduce health care disparities among African-American men through screening and education particularly around the areas of diabetes, high blood pressure and prostate cancer.
After encountering many Black men who needed to have limbs amputated due to uncontrolled diabetes, Releford was spurred to take action by launching the BBHOP.
The program has visited more than 20 cities including Philadelphia, enabling about 50,000 men to receive health screenings in about 750 barbershops. By arming men with pertinent health information, the hope is that they follow up with a medical provider. Program organizers have set a goal of reaching 500,000 men by 2014.
The initiative started off by screening men for high blood pressure and diabetes at participating barbershops. Educating men about prostate cancer has been added to the mix.
“The addition of prostate cancer came not just from my interest, but because Black men in the barbershop often raised a question about it,” says Dr. Stanley K. Frencher, a Los Angeles-based urologist who teamed up with the BBHOP.
Frencher notes that Black men are diagnosed with prostate cancer at 1.6 times the rate more than any other ethnic group, and they die disproportionately at two times the rate of other groups from the disease.
When men visit barbershops participating in outreach efforts, they are shown a culturally appropriate educational video about prostate cancer.
“If you look at the American Cancer Society guidelines and look at what the American Urological Association says about prostate cancer screenings — none of those organizations endorse screening per se, but what they do endorse is informing men of their choices,” Frencher noted.
“What we do is we ensure that Black men can have information that they can understand and digest, in a place that they trust,” he says.
“We inform them about the fact that prostate cancer screening is not foolproof but that they should have a discussion with their physician about their choices.”
During prostate cancer screenings, men undergo a baseline PSA (prostate specific-antigen) test, which measures proteins in the blood and a rectal exam.
The American Cancer Society noted that research has not yet proven that the benefits of testing outweigh the harms of testing and treatment. The ACS recommends that starting at age 50, men should talk to their doctors about the pros and cons of testing. For African-American men who have a father or a brother who had prostate cancer before age 65, these discussions should start at age 45.
The BBHOP is analyzing the impact of its prostate cancer outreach on men’s decisions to be screened for the disease.
“Some of our preliminary results show that men who didn’t understand the disease at all, now understand prostate cancer very well and changed their mind in terms of whether or not they wanted screening tests as a result of being educated about the disease,” Frencher pointed out.
Frencher recently partnered with Janssen Biotech, Inc., to raise awareness of the resources available for advanced prostate cancer patients on the website www.MyProstateCancerRoadmap.com
The BBHOP is also participating in a National Institutes of Health funded two-year project that measures the impact of the initiative on men’s health, particularly around the areas of diabetes and high blood pressure.
The initiative partners with local medical schools, civic and fraternal organizations administer the screenings and dissimilate health information at participating barbershops.
“We really believe that the way health care is going to be delivered is it’s not going to be in hospitals and clinics in the future, but rather by reaching out to people in the community where they are and getting them to embrace their health,” Frencher added.
The liver is the largest gland of the body.
In some countries, the liver is deemed so important to health that instead of a groom promising his heart in case of unfortunate circumstances, he promises his liver! It could just about be called your fountain of youth or your lifeline. You will look as old or as young as your liver is clean.
The liver can do 500 functions. It performs these unique and important metabolic tasks as it processes carbohydrates, proteins, fats and minerals to be used in maintaining normal body functions. Some important functions of the liver are:
- to convert the food we eat into stored energy and chemicals necessary for life and growth;
- to act as a filter to remove alcohol and toxic substances from the blood and convert them to substances that can be excreted from the body;
- to process drugs and medications absorbed from the digestive system, enabling the body to use them effectively and ultimately dispose of them;
- to manufacture and export important body chemicals used by the body. One of these is bile, a greenish-yellow substance essential for the digestion of fats in the small intestine.
The liver is the major fat-burning organ in the body and regulates fat metabolism by a complicated set of biochemical pathways. The liver can also pump excessive fat out of the body through the bile into the small intestines. If the diet is high in fiber this unwanted fat will be carried out of the body via the bowel actions. Thus the liver is a remarkable machine for keeping weight under control, being both a fat-burning organ and a fat-pumping organ. If the diet is low in fiber, some of the fats (especially cholesterol) and toxins that have been pumped by the liver into the gut through the bile will recirculate back to the liver. The liver recirculates these bile acids back into the small intestines and the entire bile pool recycles six to eight times a day. If this recirculated fluid is high in fat and/or toxins, this will contribute to excessive weight. A high -fiber diet will reduce the recirculation of fat and toxins from the gut back to the liver. This is vitally important for those with excessive weight, toxicity problems and high cholesterol.
The inclusion of plenty of raw fruits and vegetables as well as ground-up raw seeds will increase both soluble and insoluble fiber in the gut, and reduce recirculation of unwanted fat and toxins.
If the liver filter is damaged by toxins or clogged up (blocked) with excessive waste material it will be less able to remove small fat globules circulating in the blood stream. This will cause excessive fat to build up in the blood vessel walls. This fat may then gradually build up in many other parts of the body, including other organs, and in fatty deposits under the skin. Thus you may develop cellulite in the buttocks, thighs, arms and abdomen.
Carbohydrates, or sugars, are stored in the liver and are released as energy. In this way, the liver helps to regulate the blood sugar level, and to prevent low blood sugar. Without this balance, we would need to eat constantly to keep up our energy.
Proteins reach the liver in their simpler form called amino acids. Once in the liver, they are either released to the muscles as energy, stored for later use, or converted to urea for excretion in the urine. Certain proteins are converted into ammonia, a toxic metabolic product, by bacteria in the intestine or during the breakdown of body protein. The ammonia must be broken down by the liver and made into urea, which is then excreted by the kidneys. The liver also has the unique ability to convert certain amino acids into sugar for quick energy.
Fats cannot be digested without bile, which is made in the liver, stored in the gallbladder, and released as needed into the small intestine. Bile acts somewhat like a detergent, breaking apart the fat into tiny droplets so it can be acted upon by intestinal enzymes and absorbed. Bile is also essential for the absorption of vitamins A, D, E and K, the fat- soluble vitamins.
A healthy liver filter is essential to properly regulate blood cholesterol levels. Poor liver function may increase your chances of cardiovascular diseases such as atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes.
If the liver does not regulate fat metabolism efficiently, weight gain tends to occur around the abdominal area and a “potbelly” will develop. This is not good for the waistline! It can be almost impossible to lose this abdominal fat until the liver function is improved. Once this is done the liver will start burning fat efficiently again and the weight comes off gradually and without too much effort from you. Many middle-aged people with excess fat in the abdominal area have a "fatty liver." In this condition the liver has stopped burning fat and has turned into a fat-storing organ. It becomes enlarged and swollen with greasy deposits of fatty tissue. Those with a fatty liver will not be able to lose weight unless they first improve liver function, with a liver cleansing diet and a good liver tonic.
Unfortunately, it is not uncommon to find a fatty liver in adolescents who consume a diet high in processed and fast foods.
Remember, I’m not a doctor. I just sound like one. Take good care of yourself and live the best life possible!
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended, nor implied, to be a substitute for professional medical advice.
Glenn Ellis, author of “Which Doctor?” is a health columnist and radio commentator who lectures, and is an active media contributor nationally and internationally on health-related topics. His second book, “Information is the Best Medicine,” was released in January.
For more good health information, visit: www.glennellis.com.
“What do you do if you’re running and a thunderstorm comes up?”
Alice, Houston, Texas
June is “lightning awareness month.” Lightning strikes somewhere on the surface of the Earth about 100 times every second. In the United States alone, lightning sets 10,000 forest fires and causes $100 million in property damage every year. Between 1940 and 1991, lightning killed 8,316 people in the U.S. Lightning is the #2 storm killer in the U.S. It kills more people than hurricanes or tornadoes on average. Lightning strikes central Florida more than any other region in the country, and has caused about $5 billion of economic loss annually in the U.S. Your house has a 1 out of 200 chance of being struck per year. You have a 1: 280,000 chance of being struck by lightning.
Today the average number of lightning-related deaths in the U.S. is 80 per year. Fortunately, not everyone dies who is struck by lightning. Eighty percent of lightning-strike victims survive. However, 25 percent of survivors suffer major aftereffects. Many of the aftereffects of lightning are difficult for inexperienced medical professionals to characterize.
A lightning flash can happen in about a half a second. In that half second, the lightning flash superheats the surrounding air to a temperature five times hotter than the surface of the Sun. Nearby air expands and vibrates, forming sound that we hear as thunder. Sound travels slower than light, so it seems that thunder occurs later.
If you get caught in a thunderstorm while exercising outside, here are some tips that can help you get out of a potentially dangerous situation.
When a thunderstorm threatens, the National Weather Service advises us to:
Avoid high or open places.
Go inside a large building or home.
Go inside a car and roll up the windows.
Stop swimming or boating as soon as you see lightning or hear thunder.
Stay away from telephone poles and tall trees if you’re caught outside.
Stay away from the telephone, except in an emergency.
Stay off hilltops and crouch down if you’re in a ravine or a valley.
Stay away from farm equipment and small metal vehicles, such as motorcycles, bicycles and golf carts.
Avoid wire fences, clotheslines, rails and any other electrical conductors.
Stay several yards apart if you are in a group.
To tell if lightning is too close, count the number of seconds between the flash of the lightning and the sound of the thunder and divide by 5. This is the number of miles that the storm is away from you. If the number you get is less than 7, the storm is too close and you should try to find safe shelter.
If you are inside:
Don’t stand near windows, doors and electrical appliances.
Don’t attempt to unplug TVs, stereos, computers or any electrical appliances during a storm.
Avoid any contact with piping including sinks, baths and faucets.
Don’t use your telephone except for emergencies.
No lightning safety guidelines can give you a 100 percent guarantee of total safety, but they can help you avoid a lightning casualty.
First Aid for Lightning Victims:
Most lightning victims can survive with timely medical treatment.
Lightning victims do not carry a charge, so it’s safe to touch them to give first aid.
Call 911 to provide directions and information about the likely number of victims.
First make sure you are not in a high-risk area (“make no more casualties”). If the victim is in a high-risk area such as a mountaintop, under an isolated tree or in an open field with a continuing thunderstorm, giving first aid may cause others to become lightning victims.
Most lightning victims will have major fractures that can cause paralysis or major bleeding. During an active thunderstorm, a rescuer needs to decide whether or not to move the victim from a high-risk area to an area of lesser risk. Don’t be afraid to move the victim if necessary because lightning can strike the same place twice.
If your victim is not breathing, you should start mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. If you decided to move your victim, give them a few quick breaths before you start moving them. Check the victim for a pulse at the carotid artery at the side of the neck or femoral artery (groin) for at least 20–30 seconds. If you don’t detect a pulse, start cardiac compressions. If you are in a cold and wet environment, you should put a protective layer between the victim and the ground. This may decrease the chance of getting hypothermia which can complicate the resuscitation. If you are in a wilderness area, or any area far from medical care, you should conduct prolonged, basic CPR. Please give chest compressions in a very forceful manner. But, remember the victim is unlikely to recover if they don’t respond within the first few minutes. If the pulse returns, you should continue ventilation with breathing if needed for as long as practical in a wilderness situation. But, if the victim’s pulse does not return after 20 to 30 minutes of good effort, you shouldn’t feel guilty about stopping resuscitation.
Remember lightning can travel at speeds up to 300 miles per second and can carry 50 million volts of electricity. No place outside is safe during a thunderstorm. So, when you see a thunderstorm approaching you should use common sense and act quickly to avoid danger.
Before starting your fitness program, consult your physician.
For help with drug, alcohol and mental health problems call Sobriety Through Outpatient, the area’s most unique drug, alcohol and mental health treatment center at 215-227-STOP (7867) or 1-800-660-STOP (7867). Watch or listen to our recovery media stations everyday at www.stop-recoveryradio.com.
Listen to “Tips to be Fit” with Vince daily at www.stop-recoveryradio.com.