With the start of a new year comes New Year’s resolutions. Many will focus on physical wellness, some on organization.[…]Read more
(BPT) – Americans are living longer than ever, and while we should relish the achievement of extending the life span for residents of the United States, we now face a pressing challenge for the 21st century: How do we ensure we not only live longer but also live well?
To better understand the extent to which people, technology and healthcare systems are working together to leverage an increasingly connected world of health, Royal Philips released the findings of its inaugural Future Health Index (FHI), an independent study that surveyed the attitudes and preferences of both healthcare professionals and patients. Only by evaluating how both groups define and understand access, integration and application of digital technologies can leaders take meaningful action to optimize the patient-provider relationship.
Right now, Americans remain skeptical about their ability to achieve good health over the next decade. Patients (81 percent) and healthcare professionals (78 percent) agree each person is responsible for his own health, and most patients point to having the knowledge and tools they need to do so. However, only 37 percent of patients anticipate achieving very good or excellent health in that time frame, and 80 percent of patients older than 50 already deal with at least one chronic condition.
Providers aren’t overly optimistic, either. Fifty percent say patients are mistaken when they believe they know a lot about healthy living, 41 percent believe they lack the knowledge to maintain good health and 49 percent think they lack the tools.
Another weak point of integration in the healthcare system is the boundary between the care delivered in a clinical setting and in the home. Almost 40 percent (37 percent) of HCPs believe people don’t have the medical resources they need to take care of sick family members or themselves in their homes. In addition, 29 percent of HCPs think that more information about health, nutrition, and fitness would make their patients more effective in managing their own health, and another 39 percent believe that their patients need guidance on how to put such information into practice. Most of the tools and resources HCPs believe would improve their patients’ ability to manage their own health require minimal involvement from the clinical healthcare system.
Individuals also see the benefit of tracking health information. More than half (56 percent) of respondents report tracking their weight, and half (50 percent) track their diet frequently—yet at present few are relying on a connected device to do so. Of those surveyed, 54 percent keep track of the information in their head, and another 29 percent store the information on paper.
To further explore how that will impact the future of U.S. healthcare, Philips partnered with the Institute for the Future (IFTF) to examine the market perceptions that are impacting the FHI findings, as well as identify three key forces that will inform and influence patient and provider views on access, integration and technology adoption over the next decade.
– Flipped Care: Access to healthcare will change from provider-centered to person-centered where encounters between patients and the healthcare system will occur virtually and in new consumer-directed settings. That demonstrates the need for integration and connected care outlined in the FHI findings.
– Integrative Health Systems: A system of health that will include the external factors well beyond the walls of the clinic or hospital: housing, family support, food, wealth and education. The FHI report highlights that integration is still in its infancy in the U.S.
– Encoded Intuition: A shift in technology from assistive to empowering devices will rely heavily on the patients’ willingness to take a proactive role in managing their health. That reinforces the FHI finding that connected care devices could play an empowering role in improving self-management of health.
To move from reactive to preventative care, individuals will be expected to be true partners in managing their own health. The ultimate goal must be to design a healthcare system and engage patients in ways that help ensure their health span matches their life span. Expanding how we measure our healthcare system to include patient-centered access and cross-sector integration will improve the impact digital technologies can have on cultivating meaningful and sustaining relationships between people and their doctors. It will help chip away at the diagnose-and-treat model that exists today and will allow for clinical care to play as pivotal a role in improving quality of life as it has in increasing life expectancy.
(BPT) – It is almost time to ring in the New Year, which means it is an opportune time to focus on your health and wellness. If you or a loved one is living with cardiovascular disease (CVD), you may be dealing with many burdens, including access to medications — an increasingly common problem.
When prescribed a medication by a physician, most individuals expect to receive the medication without jumping through hurdles. However, for many people affected by cardiovascular disease across the country, this is increasingly not always the case. According to Symphony Health Solutions, commercial payers deny up to 90 percent of initial claims submissions for patients with CVD, with the final rejection rate for patients at 73 percent.
Many of these patients who are rejected have high cholesterol and/or familial hypercholesterolemia (FH), which is an inherited form of significantly high cholesterol and one of the most common genetic diseases, affecting at least one in every 200 to 500 people. Thus, these patients are exploring new treatment regimens because they have not been able to get their low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), or “bad” cholesterol, under control despite treatment with a statin — the current standard of treatment. Additionally, many patients living with atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD), which is caused by a build-up of cholesterol-rich plaque in the arteries, are unable to get their LDL-C under control with current treatment options.
With CVD being a major public health concern in the U.S, it is imperative to lower bad cholesterol for patients who have already had a cardiovascular event, like a heart attack or stroke, as well as patients with FH who require additional treatment options to lower their LDL-C levels along with their statin. Yet, there is a growing concern that many patients with uncontrolled LDL-C levels continue to face challenges in accessing PCSK9 inhibitors their physicians have prescribed based on the approved indication. PCSK9 (or proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9) inhibitors are human monoclonal antibodies that block the protein PCKS9, which prevents the body’s natural system from eliminating “bad” cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein cholesterol or LDL-C) from the blood.
While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration carefully determined which patients would be appropriate for PCSK9 therapy given the clinical trial information, many payers have implemented restrictive prior authorization processes using stringent utilization management criteria, which is resulting in many patients being denied access. This is not unique to PCSK9s though; we have seen these restrictive authorization practices affecting patients seeking Hepatitis C and heart failure treatments as well.
Being denied access to the medicine you are prescribed is tremendously frustrating and can leave patients feeling hopeless. However, it is important to know that, as a patient, there are certain things you can do to take action if this happens to you:
* Talk to Your Doctor: If you are denied access to vital treatment, talk with your physician about what you can do to receive the therapy you need.
* Share Your Story: Patients and physicians should feel empowered to speak out and engage with their networks, sharing their stories to help drive attention and awareness to the issue.
* Engage Advocates: Seek out advocacy groups and patient networks that have resources.
Make your health a priority for 2017. If you (or a loved one) suffers from CVD, make sure to talk to your physician — or encourage your friends and family — to ensure you or a loved one are receiving the appropriate medical care. For more information, visit www.advancecardiohealth.org.
(BPT) – Sinus pressure and congestion can get in the way of your favorite activities and when they do, you want to find fast relief so you can get on with your day and get the rest you need at night.
To provide you with real advice on how to relieve your symptoms, Sinex joined forces with a group of lifestyle experts – and sinus sufferers – to arm you with five solutions for sinus stuffiness. Keep these tips in your back pocket and the next time you feel that familiar pressure coming on, you’ll be ready.
1. Hydration is key.
Drinking hot liquids may help ease sinus discomfort. You can mix up a glass of hot water, a spoonful of honey, and add a little lemon or indulge in chamomile tea, green tea, or chicken noodle soup.
2. Take a decongestant.
Over-the-counter nasal decongestants work because they reduce blood flow to the nasal membranes, decreasing swelling and congestion, which opens up your nasal passages and decreases pressure in your sinuses. For fast relief, try Sinex Daytime Liquicaps, a non-drowsy formula that contains a powerful pain reliever and phenylephrine, which is a safe and effective decongestant. If your sinus congestion is worse at night, try Sinex Nighttime Liquicaps. They both work in under 30 minutes.
3. Place a warm compress across the bridge of your nose and lie down with eyes closed.
This is a favorite tip from Jennifer Borget, of Baby Making Machine. She recommends it because it’s soothing and relieves congestion. Borget also says you can run a hand towel under warm water, wring it out and place it over your nose for some gentle first aid.
4. Try a nasal spray.
Joe Miragliotta of Joe’s Daily is a big fan of nasal sprays. He uses Vicks Sinex 12-Hour Decongestant Ultra Fine Mist Nasal Spray because it helps relieve the sinus and nasal congestion that often accompanies colds, hay fever or upper respiratory allergies. It’s 12 hour relief that starts working instantly.
5. Opening the airways is essential for a good night’s sleep.
When it’s hard to breathe through your nose, it’s nearly impossible to fall asleep, according to Stephanie Caruso of Elle Olive and Company. She also says that one of the best solutions can be the simplest. Slide an extra pillow or two behind your head when you lie down at night. It puts you in the right position to keep your airways clear of congestion.
(BPT) – Managing diabetes is as much a mental game as a physical one. People with diabetes live with the daily burden of taking medication or insulins, monitoring blood sugar, eating healthy, getting regular physical activity, and often experiencing physical symptoms of low and high blood glucose. In addition to this, they need to be vigilant for a serious condition that often is seen simultaneously with diabetes and frequently goes undiagnosed: depression.
Multiple studies show people with diabetes are at higher risk of depression. One study found 11 percent of people with diabetes experience major depression, and of those nearly a third are clinically depressed, according to research published in the Diabetes Atlas. Further, studies show about 45 percent of all diabetes patients have undiagnosed depression.
People coping with psychological issues and diabetes also don’t feel they’re getting the support they need; the DAWN2 study found that while 52 percent of health care professionals said they regularly asked patients with diabetes how their lives were affected, just 24 percent of people with diabetes reported they were being asked this by their health care providers.
“People with diabetes must manage their disease 24/7, 365 days a year, mostly on their own or with the help of a parent or caregiver. That constant need for attentiveness can lead to increased stress,” says Alicia McAuliffe-Fogarty, a clinical health psychologist and vice president of lifestyle management team at the American Diabetes Association (Association). “Medical providers are trained to help people manage the medical aspects of their disease, but they may not have as much knowledge about the impact psychosocial factors can have on the mental health of people living with diabetes.”
The Association recommends everyone living with diabetes have a mental health professional as part of their health care team. “Everyone is different, so it’s important people with diabetes get individualized, patient-focused care that includes a mental health component,” McAuliffe-Fogarty says.
In addition to care from a mental health provider, people with diabetes can take steps to manage their own mental health, including:
* Manage stress — Stress can affect your blood sugar. When you are upset or feeling stressed, your body makes stress hormones that can make your blood glucose go up and make diabetes harder to manage. Stress can also make it harder to think about taking care of yourself— you may eat too much or not enough, you might not exercise, or you may forget to take your medicines. Trying to figure out how to manage stress is important – from deep breathing, to listening to music, or enjoying a hobby. Figure out what works for you.
* Find a support network — Living well with diabetes requires support, so do your best to surround yourself with friends, family and trusted health providers. You can also find support through online or in-person support groups, where you will find others who understand the challenges and triumphs of daily diabetes management.
* Give yourself a break — Yes, managing your diabetes well can be the difference between life and death. But dwelling on that aspect of the disease, and putting undue stress on yourself every day, doesn’t do you any good. Instead, focus on the fact that diabetes management is just like anything else in life — there will be good days and bad days. Don’t add stress to your life by expecting perfection from yourself.
* Set reasonable goals — You need room to learn and grow in your diabetes management. Baby steps and small changes — such as adding physical activity and making healthier food choices — can set you on track for success, while not stressing you out with unrealistic expectations. McAuliffe-Fogarty advocates the S.M.A.R.T approach to goal-setting: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound.
* Have a stellar health care team — Diabetes management requires a team approach, and you should have health care professionals such as an endocrinologist, dietitian and primary care physician on your team. It’s important to also have a mental health professional on your team. He or she can provide initial and continuous mental health assessments, from diagnosis and throughout your diabetes journey.
To learn more about diabetes management, and the relation between diabetes and depression, visit diabetes.org.
(BPT) – Did you know more than half of the 4 billion prescriptions written in America this year will not work as intended (IMS, Trends Mol. Med. 2001)? It’s true, and the answer to why that’s the case lies in our DNA.
Individuals respond to medication differently, in large part because everyone’s DNA is unique. In fact, up to 95 percent of how you respond to a drug is based on your DNA (Pharmacogenetics 1998). A drug that’s effective for one person may have no therapeutic effect for another person, show a partial response in someone else, or cause undesirable side effects for another.
That’s a big problem.
Taking a medication without knowing how it may affect you can have potentially harmful consequences. You may waste time and money, you may not respond to the medication, or you may experience adverse drug reactions, which are now the fourth-leading cause of death in the United States (JAMA 1998).
How can you be more informed about which prescriptions may work best for your body? By getting familiar with your own DNA.
Pharmacogenomics is an emerging field that’s helping physicians make better prescription decisions. It combines the study of how drugs affect our bodies (pharmacology) with the study of our genes and their functions (genomics). By analyzing your DNA, you and your physician may better understand how your own body may respond to certain medications, even before taking your first dose.
One pharmacogenomics company, OneOme, is working to help more individuals benefit from this science through a simple cheek swab test available by physician order.
OneOme RightMed – a $249 pharmacogenomic test – may help save time and money by reducing the trial-and-error approach often used to identify the appropriate medication. It may also increase drug effectiveness, prevent unintended interactions with other medications and reduce undesired side effects.
Who can benefit from a test like this?
Tests like RightMed are especially meaningful for those who are taking cardiovascular medications, medications for psychiatric disorders such as anxiety and depression, multiple medications, or medications that cause unwanted side effects. However, for people not currently on any medications, knowing their pharmacogenomic profile in advance might make finding the right medication faster and more effective when and if the need arises.
What you can do now?
*Learn more about pharmacogenomic testing. Many physicians know and understand how pharmacogenomics can help their patients, but it’s important that patients take a proactive role in their health care, too. Download OneOme’s patient toolkit at oneome.com/info and bring it to your next appointment.
*Talk to your physician about pharmacogenomics and ask about the RightMed test. Present the materials you downloaded from the OneOme website as a resource to help guide your discussion. Your physician can order the test for you, and the results will be delivered in an easy-to-read report.
Remember, you and your physician are a team when it comes to your health. Together, you can discover how a pharmacogenomics test can help make your prescriptions more effective and keep you safe from adverse drug reactions. Talk to your physician to see if the RightMed test is right for you.
(BPT) – The type of cancer that used to be the leading cause of cancer death among American women is now virtually 100 percent preventable, thanks to advances in screening techniques. Each year, nearly 12,000 women receive a cervical cancer diagnosis and more than 4,200 will die from cervical cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Advanced screening methods, improved understanding of the causes and risk factors of cervical cancer, and the availability of vaccination have the potential to reduce those numbers dramatically,” says Dr. Hope Cottrill, a board-certified gynecologic oncologist at Baptist Health in Lexington, Kentucky, and a diplomate of the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology. “We now know that HPV (human papillomavirus) causes about 99 percent of all cervical cancer. Vaccination against HPV and screening tests that can detect the presence of the strains most commonly linked to cancer can help more women significantly reduce their risk of developing cervical cancer.”
HPV is the most common type of sexually transmitted infection and is so prevalent that virtually everyone who’s sexually active will get at least one type of it at some point, the CDC says. While most people who get HPV will recover from it without any long-term health effects, in other people the virus can cause some types of cancer — including cervical cancer in women.
In order to detect early signs of cervical cancer, your doctor probably administers a Pap test every one to three years. Pap tests can detect changes in the cervix that may develop into cancer. HPV testing can detect the presence of the types of HPV most commonly associated with cancer, especially HPV 16 and HPV 18, which are responsible for about 70 percent of all cervical cancers.
A study of 47,000 American women found that one in 10 women who tested positive for HPV 16 or HPV 18 with this test had evidence of cervical pre-cancer, even though their Pap test results were normal. In addition to giving you a negative or positive result for the presence of high-risk HPV, this test specifically tells you if you have HPV 16 or HPV 18, the two highest-risk types. The information can help you and your doctor make informed decisions about your next steps for cervical cancer prevention.
“Current medical guidelines recommend that all women 21 to 29 years old get a Pap test, and women 30 to 65 get a combination of a Pap test and HPV testing,” Cottrill says. “However, Pap tests alone fail to detect 50 percent of pre-cancers, and cervical cancer rates climb drastically for women in the 25-35 age range before leveling off in older age groups.”
What you can do
You may be able to do little, personally, to affect your risk of other types of cancer, such as breast cancer, but you can take action to significantly reduce your risk of developing cervical cancer one day.
One step you can take is to get vaccinated against HPV. The CDC recommends that girls age 11 through 26 and boys age 11 through 21 receive the vaccine. If you haven’t been vaccinated, and fall into that age range, talk to your doctor about the vaccine.
However, because most HPV vaccinations only protect against the two most common types, even if you’ve been vaccinated, you still need to get regular preventive screenings for cervical cancer. Talk to your doctor about getting tested for HPV. The cobas HPV Test from Roche is the first and only FDA-approved HPV test that can be used with or without a Pap test in women 25 and older.
Talk to your doctor to learn more about HPV testing or visit www.hpv16and18.com.
(BPT) – Everyone knows aerobic exercise gets the heart pumping and lifting weights keeps muscles strong. But when it comes to keeping the brain healthy, most people are unsure what to do.
As you age, brain health and maintaining memory functions becomes a top concern. Turns out, these issues may begin sooner than you think.
“We tend to think about memory decline as an older person’s issue, but that’s not the case at all,” says Dr. Aimee Gould Shunney, a licensed naturopathic doctor specializing in women’s health and family medicine. “There was a study published in 2012 in the British Medical Journal that examined cognitive function in people age 45 to 70. The researchers did not expect it, but they found evidence of cognitive decline in the 45-year-old participants as well as the older participants.”
She notes there are two basic pathological processes that cause degeneration of the brain: oxidative stress and inflammation. Basically, the standard American diet and lifestyle contribute to those processes. So who is this really an issue for? Men and women of all ages.
No matter your age, you can take charge of your brain health by following these five smart steps from Dr. Shunney:
“A Mediterranean-type diet that focuses on whole foods, good fats and foods high in antioxidants is a great place to start,” says Dr. Shunney.
She encourages her patients to focus on getting omega-3 fats from fish and monounsaturated fats from olives, olive oil, nuts and seeds. She also recommends increasing fruits (especially berries) and beans (they’re packed with antioxidants). What’s more, research shows a little cocoa, coffee and red wine can act as antioxidants and are beneficial in low to moderate amounts.
In addition to a quality multivitamin, Dr. Shunney recommends an omega-3 supplement. “Getting enough omega-3s is one of the most important measures we can take,” she says. “DHA is the dominant omega-3 in the brain. Just like we need to make sure babies have enough DHA to grow their brain, we need to make sure older people get enough DHA to keep their brains healthy.”
She suggests Omega Memory by Nordic Naturals. It’s a DHA-dominant omega-3 formula that also includes other brain healthy ingredients: curcumin, phosphatidylcholine and huperzine A. Learn more at www.nordicnaturals.com.
Poor sleep is a risk factor for cognitive decline. “Studies show both sleep deprivation and sleeping too much impact cognitive performance,” Dr. Shunney says. “A good goal is to go to bed around the same time each night, sleep for 7-8 hours, and get up around the same time every morning.”
“I recommend anything that keeps your mind working,” says Dr. Shunney. “Activities that require things to be arranged or puzzles that have to be put together. Crossword puzzles, word games and board games are all great.”
She also notes some activities to avoid: “It’s important to limit certain activities. The constant scanning of social media and newsfeeds eliminates creativity and keeps us on edge. Limit the time you spend doing that and instead do things that cause you to explore and think and put ideas together on your own.”
“Social isolation has been linked with cognitive decline,” says Dr. Shunney. “In one study, people who were lonely experienced cognitive decline at a 20 percent faster rate than people who were not lonely.”
Make time to take a foreign language class, join a Toastmaster’s Club, take a watercolor class — anything that connects you regularly to other people.
(BPT) – As a busy mother of two sons, Ivy Elkins shrugged off her sore neck and elbow pain for months. She thought it was probably from the extra hours spent planning a bar mitzvah for her oldest son. After all, a middle-aged woman who never smoked doesn’t fit the typical profile of a lung cancer patient.
“To say that I was shocked and in disbelief is an understatement,” Ivy recalls. “I didn’t have a cough. I didn’t have any trouble breathing. I didn’t have any of the symptoms that I would associate with lung cancer. I didn’t know that someone like me could get lung cancer.”
It’s a common misconception that lung cancer is a burden borne by smokers alone. While smoking remains the major risk factor for lung cancer, never-smokers may also develop the disease. In women, up to 53% of lung cancers may not be caused by direct smoking. In these patients, the underlying cause of lung cancer is often a genetic mutation, a permanent alteration in the DNA sequence that makes up a gene. To identify mutations, patients undergo “biomarker testing” at the time of diagnosis. Doctors and patients then use the test results to evaluate treatment options.
After Ivy was diagnosed with late stage non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), the most common form of lung cancer, she underwent biomarker testing. She learned that she has a specific type of mutation in the EGFR gene. EGFRs are structures that exist on cell surfaces. When mutated, these structures can cause cells to multiply at a rate that is out of control, driving tumor growth.
Ivy was more optimistic about her treatment when she learned about her mutation status. “I knew that it likely meant that I could be a candidate for treatment with a targeted therapy, as opposed to having traditional chemotherapy.” After her healthcare team learned more about her specific type of EGFR mutation and discussed treatment options, she started taking a targeted therapy.
Now, because she had the biomarker testing, Ivy urges fellow patients to take this advice: “It’s vitally important if you’re diagnosed with lung cancer to have biomarker testing done, to help determine the best treatment option for your cancer.”
(BPT) – Giving blood and participating in fundraiser walks are popular ways to help those in need, but there’s another way to directly support America’s medical research communities and advance important knowledge that could someday improve or save lives: participate in a clinical trial.
Research studies are one of the most effective ways for scientists to advance knowledge in virtually every facet of health care. From studying nutrition and exercise, to developing new treatments and more, clinical trials shape the future of health care for everyone.
Thousands of institutions across the country are looking for people just like you to participate in a research study. ClinicalTrials.gov — a service of the U.S. National Institutes of Health — currently lists over 95,000 studies in the U.S. with locations in all 50 states. You can search by a variety of criteria, including age, health condition and location, to find studies that are a match to your interests.
According to JoAnn Manson, MD, DrPH, Chief, Division of Preventive Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School, “Volunteers are critical to the research process. Without the dedication and altruism of study volunteers, researchers wouldn’t be able to get the answers needed to advance science and improve health.”
Dr. Manson is part of several large, groundbreaking clinical trials, including the nationwide VITamin D and OmegA-3 TriaL (VITAL) and the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI). VITAL is testing the role of vitamin D, with and without omega-3 fish oil, supplements in the prevention of cancer, heart disease and stroke. The WHI is a long-term national health study focused on preventing heart disease, breast and colorectal cancer, and osteoporotic fractures in postmenopausal women.
Today, Dr. Manson and her colleague, Dr. Howard Sesso (also at Brigham and Women’s Hospital) are lead investigators of the COcoa Supplement and Multivitamin Outcomes Study (COSMOS), a landmark clinical trial examining the role of cocoa flavanols, plant-derived bioactive compounds from the cacao bean, and a multivitamin supplement in helping people maintain cardiovascular health and reduce the risk of other chronic diseases such as cancer. COSMOS is the largest and longest dietary intervention trial to date that will investigate the impact of cocoa flavanols on risk of heart attack, stroke and death from cardiovascular disease.
Additionally, researchers will examine the potential cognitive benefits of cocoa flavanols. They will build off of two smaller studies from Columbia University Medical Center and the University of L’Aquila in Italy, indicating that cocoa flavanols slow the rate of age-related memory loss in healthy individuals.
Dr. Manson, Dr. Sesso, and their team are looking to enroll 18,000 women and men nationwide to take cocoa flavanol and multivitamin supplements for 4 years. If you are interested in volunteering for COSMOS, you can visit www.cosmostrial.org/join or call 800-633-6913 to learn more.
To participate in a study you must meet eligibility requirements. For example, the COSMOS trial requires that:
1. Men be 60 years and older and women be 65 years and older
2. Participants have never had a heart attack or stroke, a new diagnosis of cancer in the past two years, or a major illness that would prevent them from completing a 4-year study
3. Participants forego personal use of cocoa extract supplements and multivitamins (You can still eat chocolate!)
Compensation for every study is different, but typically, you can expect the study treatments and any interaction with the researchers to be free of charge. Some research studies provide opportunities for additional compensation.
Whether research is focused on diagnosis, treatment or prevention, you have an opportunity to make a difference by helping medical researchers make tomorrow’s big health care discoveries. Help others — and potentially yourself — live healthier in the future. Explore clinical trial opportunities that are right for you today.