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Depressed? Drug-free treatments can make life enjoyable again

(BPT) – The cloud of depression darkens many lives, affecting 300 million people around the world, according to the World Health Organization.

While antidepressant medication works for some depression sufferers, research is increasingly revealing what those suffering from depression have said for years: Medication is not a one-size-fits-all treatment.

In fact, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association reveals that a startling 4.5 million people in the U.S. who suffer from depression don’t benefit from prescription antidepressants.

The good news is that research is uncovering new ways to treat depression without drugs and without invasive procedures, helping sufferers break free from the clutch of depression.

Magnetic pulses to the brain bring drug-free relief

One proven yet lesser-known treatment, called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), has become an effective tool in bringing relief to thousands of depression sufferers.

TMS is prescribed by a doctor to treat major depressive disorder, especially when sufferers do not experience relief from prescription medication. In fact, the American Psychiatric Association recommends TMS as a second line of treatment.

How TMS works: The patient has magnetic pulses delivered to specific areas of the brain that are underactive during depression. Brain activity is reduced in depression, but TMS can help wake up asleep neurons. This treatment is drug-free and completely noninvasive, unlike electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). During the treatment, the patient is awake and alert sitting in a spa-like chair, and can resume daily activities afterward.

The results: Clinical trials performed with NeuroStar(R) Advanced Therapy have shown that a full 58 percent of people have responded positively to the treatment, reporting significant improvement in their depression symptoms. What’s even more astounding is that 37 percent saw full remission after their TMS treatment with NeuroStar, according to a Brown University study by Dr. Linda Carpenter, published in the Depression and Anxiety Journal in 2012. It treats depression at the source because of the precision of these magnetic pulses, making it effective exactly where it needs to be.

What about side effects?: With TMS, people don’t suffer the side effects they experience with medication. In fact, the side effects from NeuroStar are associated with mild pain or discomfort at the treatment site, which typically goes away after the first week of treatment.

Back in 2008, the FDA cleared NeuroStar as the first TMS treatment for major depressive disorder in the U.S., and in recent years it has become more accessible to patients.

For one, NeuroStar is widely reimbursed by most commercial and government health plans, including Medicare and Tricare. In fact, more than 300 million patients have insurance policies that cover NeuroStar through their health plans.

In tandem with that, there are more TMS systems in doctors’ offices and clinics across the U.S. Nearly 800 physicians nationwide are delivering transformative therapy with NeuroStar every day.

Life changes can also help keep the brain in balance

Doing your part to work with the treatment and supplementing it with a healthy lifestyle will only help your progress. In addition to clinical solutions and treatments, research has also found that some lifestyle changes can be helpful for mood and mind balance.

Keep a positive outlook: Research shows that optimism can affect health and well-being. Don’t lose hope in your struggle with depression and practice positivity. Tried and true methods, such as acts of kindness or keeping a gratitude journal, can lift some of the clouds.

Try something new: The Mayo Clinic cites trying new things as one of the habits of highly healthy people. New perspectives and experiences can be good for you, as trying new things can lead to increased confidence and self-esteem. Not all change is bad and you may surprise yourself.

Surround yourself with a strong support network: Many studies show that social support is important to maintain physical and mental health. In building your support system, connect with people you trust and who have your best interests in mind.

Sit outside and experience nature: Exposure to sunlight has been found to improve moods and serves as a mental health benefit. Additionally, Stanford University reveals that spending time outdoors may reduce the risk of depression.

Eat a healthy diet: Research shows that a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins and magnesium are all linked to improving depression symptoms, either by keeping brain chemistry in balance or enhancing mood.

Practice yoga: Research indicates a regular yoga practice can do a lot for both depression and anxiety. It not only helps you manage your body’s stress response systems, it also enhances mood and promotes relaxation.

Get moving: For some people, regular exercise is highly effective in staving off depression. In fact, people who are physically fit are less likely to receive a diagnosis of depression.

Depression brings a sense of dread and inertia to many areas of life, hitting your mood and energy level especially hard. The good news is that there are effective treatments for depression. By trying some of the above lifestyle changes and working with your doctor, you could find one that brings your world back into alignment, lifting those dark clouds and making life enjoyable again.

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5 steps to prepare for open enrollment

(BPT) – Millions of Americans will select or switch their health benefits plan during open enrollment, so now is the time to prepare for that decision that usually happens once a year.

More than 70 percent of Americans say they are prepared for open enrollment, yet most people struggle to understand basic health insurance terms, according to a recent UnitedHealthcare survey. Only 9 percent of survey respondents could successfully define all four basic health insurance concepts: plan premium, deductible, co-insurance and out-of-pocket maximum.

To help people make the most out of their health benefits, Rebecca Madsen, chief consumer officer of UnitedHealthcare, offers the following five tips.

1. Know your open enrollment dates

Open enrollment isn’t the same for everyone, so there are key dates to keep in mind depending on your situation:

* For the more than 177 million Americans with employer-provided coverage, many companies set aside a two-week period between September and December when employees can select health benefits for the following year.

* For the more than 59 million seniors and other people enrolled in Medicare, their open enrollment runs from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7 each year.

* Health insurance marketplace or individual state exchange open enrollment runs from Nov. 1 to Dec. 15.

For most people, changes made to coverage during open enrollment take effect Jan. 1, 2018.

2. Take time to review your options

Every person or family has unique health and budget needs. Take the time to explore your options, and understand the benefits and costs of each health plan so you can find the coverage that works best for you and your family members.

* Check if your current coverage still meets your needs and if your benefits will change next year.

* Determine if the plan is a good fit for your budget, and pay attention to more than just the monthly premium. You should also understand the other out-of-pocket costs, including deductibles, copays and coinsurance.

* Make sure your medications are covered. Even if you don’t expect to change plans, it’s important to ensure your drugs will still be covered next year.

3. Make sure your doctor is in your plan’s care provider network

Even if you don’t make any changes, it’s a good idea to ensure that any doctor you see regularly — or plan to visit in the coming year — is in your benefit plan’s care provider network. If you plan to visit a doctor or hospital outside of the network, be sure to understand how your costs will differ from a network care provider because those costs will most likely be higher.

Also, check if your plan includes 24/7 telehealth services for consultations on minor health issues. Often, telehealth — online, or virtual, visits with a doctor over a computer, tablet or mobile phone — is available to people enrolled in employer-sponsored health plans and group Medicare Advantage plans, as well as select individual Medicare Advantage plans. Virtual visits may provide convenient and affordable access to care for minor medical issues, including allergies, bronchitis and seasonal flu.

4. Don’t forget about additional benefits

Additional benefits such as dental, vision, accident or critical-illness insurance are often affordable options that can protect you and your family. For people enrolled in Medicare, many are surprised to find that Original Medicare doesn’t cover prescription drugs and most dental, vision and hearing services. But many Medicare Advantage plans do, often at a $0 monthly premium beyond the premium for Original Medicare.

5. Take advantage of wellness programs.

Some health plans offer discounts on gym memberships and provide financial incentives for completing health assessments, signing up for health coaching programs, lowering your cholesterol, losing weight, meeting walking goals or stopping smoking. Programs are designed to reward people for making healthy choices and being more engaged in improving their health.

Visit UHCOpenEnrollment.com for articles and videos with information about health benefits and health insurance terms.

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5 tips for sharing your personal multiple sclerosis story

(BPT) – The tradition of storytelling — the social and cultural activity of sharing stories — extends as far back into human history as the ancient Greeks, and is valued across all cultures and communities. While the ancient Greeks wrote to express and alleviate the concerns of wars, plagues and famine, today, this cherished tradition can be used by many people, including those with chronic illnesses, to communicate their own struggles and moments of hope. My Story is an online platform offered through EMD Serono’s MS LifeLines that allows people impacted by multiple sclerosis (MS) to share strength through stories that speak to their experiences with the condition.

According to MS LifeLines Ambassador Carrie, “When I was first diagnosed with MS, there were so many emotions: denial, anger and depression. Once I reached acceptance with MS, I found that sharing my story with others who are going through similar experiences gives me comfort, as well as helps them.”

Storytelling can play a critical role in supporting the thousands of Americans affected by multiple sclerosis. MS can be a challenging disease to face and understand, and can leave the nearly 400,000 Americans diagnosed, as well as their friends and family, reeling with questions and frustrations about the impact that MS will have on their futures.

With this in mind, EMD Serono created My Story, an online platform for people with MS, as well as patients’ friends and family, to read and share stories and experiences.

In her experience counseling people with chronic conditions like MS, Dr. Vered Hankin, a clinical health psychologist and internationally acclaimed storyteller, finds that “storytelling can be empowering for both the storyteller and the person hearing the story.” She shares her five tips for anyone starting to share their own story.

Dr. Hankin’s 5 tips for storytelling

* Write freely about your journey with MS. Don’t worry about it coming out perfectly — you can change it later.

* Decide what stands out and comes to the forefront from your journey with MS.

* Add the senses by incorporating the sights, feelings, smells, tastes and sounds associated with the moment you identified.

* Refine the story by putting the moment into context by defining the events that led up to it, the people involved and what makes it interesting.

* Reflect on your story once it is developed and what it means to you, as well as how it can touch others facing similar situations. Remember to keep your story simple, honest and open.

Incorporating the above tips into a personal story about your MS journey may be helpful for you as well as the person reading your story. You can share yours and read others’ stories through My Story and learn more about MS at MS LifeLines.

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How Bluetooth hearing aids are transforming the way we live

(BPT) – Bluetooth technology is steadily expanding the role of modern hearing aids from tiny marvels that make use of artificial intelligence to process sound into true, state-of-the-art multimedia hubs now capable of two-way communication.

The primary goal of hearing aids has always been to improve speech understanding. While this hasn’t changed, manufacturers are now building Bluetooth technology directly into the most advanced hearing aid microchips. This lets consumers directly connect to virtually any wireless electronic device, eliminating the need to wear a body-worn accessory.

Let’s take a brief look at how the latest Bluetooth hearing aids are transforming the way we live.

They can now directly connect to any Bluetooth-enabled phone

According to Dr. Elizabeth Thompson, director of business development and veterans affairs at Phonak, previous generations of hearing aids could only directly connect to an iPhone, which greatly limited people’s options.

Pew Research Center found only 33 percent of American smartphone owners used an iPhone while a whopping 66 percent used the Android operating system,” said Thompson. “Furthermore, another study showed 38 percent of all Americans over age 65 still use a classic flip phone. Until now, there has never been a Bluetooth hearing aid that was truly made for all devices and allowed universal connectivity — including the ability to directly connect to an iPhone, an Android device (e.g., Samsung, LG), or even a classic flip phone that is Bluetooth-ready.”

Bluetooth hearing aids enable truly hands-free calls

The latest Bluetooth hearing aids allow you to answer a phone call with a simple press of a button on the hearing aid. Built-in microphones on the hearing aids themselves feature automatic voice pickup, allowing people to have two-way conversations through their hearing aids. Thompson stated this is the first time this has ever been done with hearing aids.

“This is indeed the first time a hearing aid wearer can have a true hands-free conversation without having to touch the phone at all,” she said. “This is especially convenient in the car, where your phone may be in a pocket or purse, or if you need to have a conversation while leaving your phone on the table or countertop, for example if you’re cooking.”

They stream wireless stereo sound directly from your TV

According to research firm Statista, Americans spend an average of 4.5 hours per day watching TV. And if you are or live with someone who has hearing loss, you probably know that sometimes the volume of the TV can become an issue.

“With a card-sized TV Connector, hearing aid wearers simply plug the device into the back of the TV,” added Thompson. “The ‘plug and play’ TV Connector instantly pairs with Bluetooth hearing aids, allowing viewers to stream high-fidelity TV sound in-stereo at their preferred volume level, independent of other viewers. Wearers have reported a markedly better experience in understanding dialogue, especially when the person on TV is talking fast.”

Bluetooth hearing aids are available right now

While all of these new advances may sound like the future, hearing aids with built-in Bluetooth technology are available today. For more information, visit tryphonak.com or find a licensed hearing care professional who has been specially trained in fitting the latest hearing aid technology.

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A breath of relief for migraine sufferers

(BPT) – People who suffer from migraine know that they’re more than just bad headaches.

Migraine is a neurological disorder in which the nerves release inflammatory substances that cause signals to be sent to your brain, resulting in painful throbbing that can be accompanied by nausea, vomiting or sensitivity to light and sound. Migraine is the third most prevalent illness in the world[1], and more than 36 million Americans suffer from migraine headaches.[2]

Melissa H. has suffered migraine attacks for more than 15 years. Frequent migraines have greatly impacted the life of the 35-year-old teacher and mother of a toddler.

“My migraines were affecting every aspect of my life,” Melissa says. “There were times that I wanted to continue my workday or I wanted to spend time with my family, but instead, I had to go lie down in a dark, quiet room to deal with my migraine.”

For migraine sufferers like Melissa, pain relief cannot come fast enough, which often leads many to try a variety of medications.

In January 2017, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved ONZETRA® Xsail® (sumatriptan nasal powder), which uses the most prescribed migraine medication — sumatriptan — but takes a different route. ONZETRA Xsail is the first Breath Powered® nasal medication delivery system for the acute treatment of migraine. The device is activated by a user’s breath to propel medication to the back of the nose, an area that is rich with blood vessels, and provides targeted delivery with the potential for fast absorption.

“When it comes to migraine medication, patients often think of pills, but nasal delivery can offer fast pain relief — and that’s something my patients really appreciate,” says Dr. Anne Calhoun, headache specialist in Durham, NC. “The nose is well-suited to the delivery of migraine medication because of an extensive network of blood vessels that can absorb the medication very quickly.”

In clinical trials of ONZETRA, almost half of migraine sufferers experienced pain relief in as early as 30 minutes (42 percent vs 27 percent on placebo) and 68 percent experienced pain relief in 2 hours vs 45 percent on placebo. In addition, more than 90 percent of patients found ONZETRA Xsail easy to use. For more information about ONZETRA Xsail, talk to your doctor or visit www.ONZETRA.com.

Important Safety Information

What is ONZETRATM XsailTM (sumatriptan nasal powder) used for?

ONZETRA Xsail is a prescription medication approved for the acute treatment of migraine, with or without aura in adults. ONZETRA Xsail is used for people who have been told by a healthcare provider that they have migraine headaches. ONZETRA Xsail is not for the prevention of migraines or for other types of headaches, including cluster headache.

What important information should I know about ONZETRA Xsail?

ONZETRA Xsail may cause serious side effects, including:

  • Heart attack and other heart problems, which may lead to death. Stop using ONZETRA Xsail and get emergency medical help right away if you have any symptoms of a heart attack like shortness of breath or tightness, pain, pressure, or heaviness in your chest, throat, neck, or jaw that is severe or does not go away
  • Changes in color or sensation in your fingers and toes (Raynaud’s syndrome)
  • Stomach and intestinal problems (gastrointestinal and colonic ischemic events)
  • Problems with blood circulation to your legs and feet (peripheral vascular ischemia)
  • Serious allergic reactions (symptoms include hives; tongue, mouth, lip, or throat swelling; problems breathing)
  • Medication overuse headaches. Some people who use ONZETRA Xsail too many times may have worse headaches. If your headaches get worse your doctor may decide to stop your treatment with ONZETRA Xsail
  • Serotonin syndrome, a rare but serious problem that can happen in people using ONZETRA Xsail, especially if ONZETRA Xsail is used with antidepressant medicines called SSRIs, SNRIs, or TCAs. Call your doctor right away if you have any of the following symptoms of serotonin syndrome: mental changes such as seeing things that are not there (hallucinations), agitation, or coma; fast heartbeat; changes in blood pressure; high body temperature; tight muscles; trouble walking; or nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Seizures. Seizures have happened in people taking sumatriptan who have never had seizures before

The most common side effects of ONZETRA Xsail are abnormal taste, discomfort of your nose or throat, runny nose, and stuffy nose. This is not a complete list of side effects. Tell your doctor about any side effect that bothers you or does not go away.

Who should not take ONZETRA Xsail?

Do not take ONZETRA Xsail or stop using ONZETRA Xsail if you:

  • Have heart problems or a history of heart problems
  • Have had a stroke, transient ischemic attacks (TIAs), or problems with your blood circulation
  • Have uncontrolled high blood pressure
  • Have hemiplegic migraines or basilar migraines. If you are not sure if you have these, ask your doctor
  • Have peripheral vascular disease (narrowing of blood vessels to the legs, arms, stomach, intestines, or kidneys)
  • Have taken other migraine medications in the last 24 hours, including other triptans, ergots, or ergot-type medications. Ask your doctor for a list of these medicines if you are not sure
  • Are taking a medicine called a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI). MAOIs cannot be taken within 14 days before or after taking ONZETRA Xsail
  • Have severe liver problems
  • Have an allergy to sumatriptan, the medicine in ONZETRA Xsail, or any of the components in ONZETRA Xsail

What should I tell my healthcare provider before taking ONZETRA Xsail?

Before you take ONZETRA Xsail, tell your doctor about all your medical conditions and all the medicines you take, including prescription medicines, especially antidepressants, and all over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.

What should I avoid while taking ONZETRA Xsail?

ONZETRA Xsail can cause dizziness, weakness, or drowsiness. If you have these symptoms, do not drive a car, use machinery, or do anything where you need to be alert.

You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit www.fda.gov/medwatch or call 800-FDA-1088.

For additional Important Safety Information about ONZETRA Xsail, please see the full Prescribing Information, including Patient Information, and Instructions for Use.


[1] Migraine Research Foundation. Migraine Facts. https://migraineresearchfoundation.org/about-migraine/migraine-facts/. Accessed August 18, 2016.

[2] Migraine.com. Migraine Statistics. https://migraine.com/migraine-statistics/. Accessed August 18, 2016.

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5 nutritionist-approved tips for better holiday baking

(BPT) – ‘Tis the season for sweet and savory treats. The holidays bring loads of goodies, but the problem is these temptations can put a big strain on your nutrition goals.

If you’re whipping up some tasty holiday dishes this season, you don’t have to choose between your health and favorite indulgences. Transform any recipe into a healthier version simply by following these smart tricks from registered dietitian Dawn Jackson Blatner, RDN CSSD.

Flour: Swap 25 percent of the white flour for specialty flours such as almond or oat flour. Since specialty flours do not act the same in baking as white flour, you can’t do a full 100 percent swap, but even just a little will provide more nutrition.

Butter: Try swapping 25 percent of the butter in a recipe with something else creamy such as pureed white beans, mashed banana, pumpkin puree, Greek yogurt, mashed avocado or nut butter. It shouldn’t affect the recipe results and cuts down on fat and calories.

Eggs: Not all eggs are created equal. Eggland’s Best eggs have double the omega-3s than ordinary eggs, an “essential” fatty acid that’s important for maintaining good health. Since the body cannot make them on its own, you must eat them. Omega-3s also lead to a better baking recipe, as they improve emulsifying qualities. Blatner says Eggland’s Best eggs are the only eggs she recommends to her clients and family for that added nutrition.

Sugar: Decrease the sugar in recipes by 25 percent and add nothing in its place. Recipes will turn out just fine if you pull back some of the sugar, even if you aren’t swapping in something else.

Half-batch: You want Grandma’s famous cookies, but you don’t need four dozen tempting you for weeks on end. Instead, make a half batch by halving all ingredients in the recipe. Then you can enjoy the food memories without having too much lingering around.

Want some holiday baking inspiration that uses these smart baking tips? Whip up some cute and scrumptious Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars and make your entire crew happy.

Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars
Prep time: 20 min
Cook time: 20 min
Yield: 25 cookies

Ingredients:

Cookie Bars
2 Eggland’s Best Eggs (large)
1 (14 ounces) bag sweetened coconut flakes, plus more for topping
2 cups dark chocolate chips
2 cups almond milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon Himalayan pink salt
1 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed

Glaze
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
6 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

Cookie Bars

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a 13-by-9 baking sheet with aluminum foil.

In a large mixing bowl with a hand mixer or in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, stir together the coconut flakes and chocolate chips.

Add in the almond milk, vanilla extract, flour, salt, melted butter, brown sugar and eggs and beat until combined.

Pour batter into the prepared baking sheet and bake for 30-35 minutes or until the bars begin turning golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Allow to cool for 5 minutes.

Glaze

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar, heavy cream and vanilla until smooth.

Gently spread over the cooling bars.

Top with toasted coconut and allow to cool completely before eating.

Tip: Try cutting the bars up and placing them in the refrigerator, they taste even better cold!

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