This is the “Health” description

Survey: Cataracts impact lifestyle; surgery brings emotional benefits

(BPT) – You may know that cataracts can interfere with your ability to see clearly, but might be unaware of their impact on your emotions. Alcon, the global leader in eye care, conducted a survey of about 1,300 people age 60 and older who have undergone cataract surgery and found that almost 60 percent of respondents said cataracts made them feel annoyed, frustrated or old. Also, many respondents said that the condition makes some daily activities harder.

If cataracts are impacting your ability to perform your usual day-to-day activities, and clouding the richness and detail of life, there’s good news. Cataract surgery is common, effective and not only can improve your vision, but many patients report emotional benefits and some positive impact on their lifestyles. What’s more, 93 percent of those surveyed say they would recommend cataract surgery to someone considering the procedure.

“Cataracts impair more than just vision, they can interfere with a patient’s lifestyle and emotions,” says Dr. Lawrence Woodard, ophthalmologist and medical director of Omni Eye Services of Atlanta, Georgia. “Surgery can make a significant difference, allowing people to see more clearly and get back to doing the things they love. Many of my post-surgery patients report how happy they are to get back to their life.”

Cataract Facts

Cataracts, or clouding that occurs in the eye’s naturally clear lens, are one of the most common types of eye conditions associated with aging and one of the leading causes of age-related vision impairment in the U.S., according to the National Eye Institute (NEI). They can’t be prevented and occur naturally over time, causing the clear lens in your eye to become cloudy from the buildup of proteins. As the lens becomes cloudier, less light can pass through it into your eye and your vision becomes blurred. People with cataracts may also have trouble seeing at night, or experience sensitivity to light and glare. They may see “halos” around lights, have double vision, or feel that colors look faded.

Cataracts affect more than 24.4 million Americans age 40 and older, according to Prevent Blindness America. By 2050, that number will more than double to about 50 million, the NEI projects. While nearly everyone who lives long enough will eventually develop cataracts to some extent, certain groups are at greater risk. In fact, according to a study by the NEI, African Americans are twice as likely to develop early onset cataracts due to certain medical conditions, such as diabetes. Additionally, cataracts are the leading cause of visual impairment among Hispanics, according to a study by University of Arizona researchers.

Cataracts and Lifestyle

Beyond the common symptoms of cataracts, many people affected also have difficulty with some day-to-day activities. Nearly two-in-three respondents (64 percent) report that cataracts impacted their lives before surgery, such as making it difficult to work, see colors, drive and watch TV and movies. For many, undergoing surgery brought into focus the true impact cataracts had on their lives. Nearly 40 percent of respondents say they didn’t realize just how much they were missing, or didn’t truly realize the emotional impacts of cataracts until after they had surgery. For example, more than 65 percent of people surveyed reported being surprised by the brightness and vividness of colors following surgery.

“I can see things that I couldn’t see before,” says John Brown (name changed to protect patient privacy), who underwent cataract surgery. “I can appreciate things I couldn’t appreciate before. Now that I can see well, I can appreciate the beauty of the world. It’s a life-changing thing.”

Since cataracts are very common, many people who develop them may also have existing conditions that are already affecting their vision, such as astigmatism. This common condition is caused by a slight difference in the curvature of the eye’s surface, resulting in blurred vision. According to the NEI, it is most often treated with corrective glasses or contact lenses. What many people with cataracts don’t realize is that there are treatment options available that can correct both conditions in one procedure.

“Patients may not be aware that there are two-in-one treatment options that can fix both cataracts and astigmatism at the same time,” says Woodard. “By treating both conditions, they could potentially find themselves free of the glasses for distance they’ve worn their whole lives. If you’re considering cataract surgery, it’s important to talk to your eye doctor to decide what treatment option is best for you.”

Visit MyCataracts.com or call 1-844-MYCATARACT (1-844-692-2827) to learn more about cataracts and treatment options.

Dr. Woodard is a paid consultant for Alcon.

Patient “John Brown” received modest compensation from Alcon for talking about his actual experience.

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Calling all blood donors: Roll up a sleeve and give where you live

(BPT) – Every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs blood. In fact, approximately 36,000 blood donations are needed each day nationwide. However, during the summer months, it is typically more difficult for blood donations to keep pace with demand, and this can result in summer shortages. To help bridge the gap and encourage lifesaving donations, World Blood Donor Day serves as a reminder to give blood and platelets during this crucial time.

A will to give

Nexcare Brand is partnering with the American Red Cross to raise awareness regarding the importance of blood and platelet donation during the summer months through the ninth annual Nexcare Give program. This year’s theme is “Roll Up a Sleeve and Give Where You Live,” celebrating all those who give in their communities around the world. Limited-edition Nexcare Give bandages will be available for free to presenting donors at participating Red Cross donor sites and blood drives around the country, through June 14, World Blood Donor Day. Nexcare Give Bandages will also be available as a bonus in select Nexcare Waterproof Bandage packs at retailers nationwide, as well as by mail, while supplies last, at Nexcaregive.com.

The program comes at a time when new research from Nexcare Brand shows:

* More than one-third (36 percent) of U.S. adults have never given blood;

* More than one-quarter (28 percent) do not know their blood type;

* Despite the life-changing impact, awareness is low. More than one-quarter (28 percent) say the reason they have never given blood before is because they have never even thought about it.

To bring to light the power of blood donation, the Nexcare Give program is raising awareness worldwide about how you can get involved.

“Blood donation is a cause that’s not only important in our country and around the world, but also in the lives of people, everywhere,” says supermodel and Nexcare Give spokesperson Niki Taylor. “Every year, millions of Americans need blood, and people have the power to make a difference in about an hour that it takes to give. Now is a great opportunity to make a big impact, starting with your local community.”

One blood donation goes a long way

A single donation can help save the lives of more than one person. Patients can need blood for a number of reasons, including surgeries, treatment for various accidents, cancer and other illnesses.

Getting involved

Blood donations are an ongoing need year-round. If you’ve never given blood before, now is the perfect time to start. You can visit Nexcaregive.com to find your local blood center and visit their website to determine whether you can be a donor. Donors of all blood types are needed to give this summer. Type O negative donors are especially needed, because they have the universal blood type that can help anyone who needs blood. O negative is often used during emergencies when there is no time to determine a patient’s blood type.

Once you’ve determined whether you are eligible to donate, the next step is to contact your nearest blood center to book an appointment. You may also be able to donate at a convenient location such as your school, your workplace, a neighborhood community center or your place of worship, if a blood drive is hosted there — be on the lookout for drives in your community. If you aren’t eligible to donate blood, you can still participate by pledging your support on the Nexcaregive.com website.

You can even host a virtual blood drive through the American Red Cross SleevesUp program, which is an online tool that allows supporters to create a virtual blood drive and encourage colleagues, friends and family members to give blood or platelets in four easy steps. Visit redcrossblood.org/sleevesup to create your own campaign, or visit Niki Taylor’s page and pledge to give at rcblood.org/Niki.

To learn more about the Nexcare Give program, find blood donation centers in your area and pledge your support for blood donation to make a positive impact today, visit Nexcaregive.com.

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Island Coconut-Shrimp-Salad

5 reasons summer is salad season

(BPT) – Summer is the perfect time to turn over a new you. With the arrival of warm weather, a relaxed schedule and summer vacations, this is the moment to invest in a new wardrobe and, of course, a new, healthier menu. When you think of summer cuisine, light and flavorful is the order of the day, and nothing captures that order quite like a fresh, vibrant salad.

Salads can be so much more than just a healthy lunch or dinner choice, thanks to their minimal prep requirements and the boatload of benefits they can deliver, such as the five posted below. So, take a mindful turn toward salads this summer and enjoy their many perks.

* A great source of vegetables — and fruits, too. You’re constantly hearing you need to eat more fruits and vegetables, so make it easy by including them in whichever kind of salad you choose. Peppers, cucumbers, carrots and tomatoes are all popular salad staples, but no matter which vegetable you crave, feel good knowing that it’s a natural fit on your salad plate. And if you’re trying to up your fruit intake, you’ll find plenty of reasons to add strawberries, grapes and other delicious treats to your salad serving.

* A window of opportunity. If the idea of a salad seems same old same old, it’s time to get creative. And it’s so easy. There are virtually no rules when it comes to whipping up a salad, so don’t always settle for what you think “just has to go in there.” Seize the day and mix in what you truly want, instead. The inclusion of seafood is an easy way to add both a lean protein and the omega-3 fatty acids that are good for your body. Plus, seafood flat-out tastes great. Salmon, shrimp and crab are all excellent options.

* Easy, carefree meals. With so much to do during the summer, your life is constantly on the go. When you don’t have much time, a salad can be your best friend. Simply toss those ingredients together and grab a fork. It’s the perfect quick fix when you just want to relax after a fun-filled summer day.

* Loaded with health benefits. You already know salads are an easy, scrumptious way to satisfy your recommended vegetable intake, but did you know they can also be your path to numerous other nutritional benefits? Adding spinach to your salad, for instance, has been proven to support your need for vitamins A and K, which help your bones and your vision. Meanwhile, romaine lettuce has been shown to lower the risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease, and arugula can reduce the chance you’ll get diabetes.

* New tastes every single day. Even if you don’t consider yourself the creative type in the kitchen, you can still enjoy the limitless options that salads present. The web is loaded with unique salad recipes, allowing you to sample a tasty combination you may have never tried before. For example, you can start your summer salad stretch with this inventive Island Coconut Shrimp Salad.

Island Coconut Shrimp Salad

Ingredients

1/2 of 18-ounce package of SeaPak Family Size Jumbo Coconut Shrimp

2 packets orange marmalade sauce (included in coconut shrimp package)

2/3 cup bottled ranch salad dressing

1 package (10 ounces) bagged mixed salad greens (or 1 head of lettuce, chopped)

1 mango, peeled and sliced

1/2 red bell pepper, diced

4 tablespoons macadamia nuts or pecan halves (if desired), chopped

Directions

Prepare coconut shrimp according to package directions. In small bowl, whisk together the orange marmalade sauce and salad dressing.

Divide the salad greens, mango slices and diced peppers among 4 serving plates. Evenly top each plate with shrimp.

Pour the salad dressing mixture over each serving of the coconut shrimp salad.

Sprinkle chopped nuts over the salads and serve immediately.

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5 surprising facts about dairy you should know


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(BPT) – Have you ever stopped to think about what a delicious cheeseburger, the dressing on your salad or your morning extra-foam latte have in common? They’re all undeniably dairy! From cow care to nutrient-packed punches, here are five facts you may not know about dairy:

1. Dairy farming is a family affair.

Every day, nearly 42,000 dairy farmers across the U.S. work hard to care for the cows that produce the milk that becomes the many dairy products everyone loves. The majority of all dairy farms — 97 percent — are family owned. Many dairy farms have been in the same family for generations, and each new generation of dairy farmers brings something new and innovative to the family farm.

2. Milk is “green” and that’s good!

Sustainability and cow comfort are priorities for today’s dairy farmers. In fact, producing a gallon of milk today takes 90 percent less land and 65 percent less water than 60 years ago, according to a study by Capper et al in Journal of Dairy Science. Dairy farms reuse their water, recycling it an average of three to five times a day, and even cow manure doesn’t go to waste. Many farmers reuse manure to fertilize crops, and some farmers even capture the methane produced from manure to power their farms and the neighboring communities.

3. Dairy offers more nutritional benefits than just calcium.

Dairy’s reputation as a calcium powerhouse is well established, but did you know it offers additional nutritional and health benefits? For example, one cup of milk has the same amount of protein as 1 1/3 eggs. Milk also contains B vitamins – B12, riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3) and pantothenic acid (B5), which can help give you energy. From cheese, you can also get phosphorus, and yogurt provides zinc, too. Following a low-fat diet? Good news — lower fat versions of favorite dairy foods contain less fat but all the same nutrients of whole milk and dairy products.

4. It’s all about caring for the cows.

It makes good business sense to take the best possible care of the animals that produce your livelihood, and dairy farmers are constantly improving how they care for their cows. Cow nutritionists help determine the perfect balance of feed ingredients in cows’ diets to ensure the health of the animals. Dairy farmers also use technology to monitor the health of their cows with sophisticated collars, bracelets or ear tags that track key behaviors like activity levels, body temperature and milk production for each individual cow.

5. Dairy brings joy to summertime dishes.

Whether it’s topping your burger with a slice of cheddar or enjoying fresh berries with a dollop of Greek yogurt, dairy is the ingredient that makes a variety of summertime dishes so enjoyable. So next time you gather with friends and/or family, tap into a little nostalgia with this Blueberry Hand Pie recipe:

Blueberry Hand Pies

Ingredients:

2 9-inch, store-bought, ready-to-bake pie crusts

1 pint fresh blueberries

1 tablespoon all-purpose, unbleached flour

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon of water

1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar

1 tablespoon reduced-fat milk

Directions:

In a medium bowl, toss blueberries with flour. Add sugar and vanilla extract. Toss to combine. Set aside.

Allow store-bought crust to come to room temperature. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Flour a work surface and roll out the warmed pie crust to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut into eight rectangles about 3-by-4 inches in size. Scoop a scant 1/4 cup of the blueberries into the center of four dough rectangles. Place the remaining dough rectangles over the top of each blueberry filling. Use a fork to seal the edges of each pie and transfer pies to the prepared baking sheet.

Pierce the tops of the pies with a paring knife a few times and brush with egg wash. Bake for 30 minutes or until dough is golden brown. Allow pies to cool completely before icing. Use a fork to stir together the confectioner’s sugar and 1 tablespoon of milk. Drizzle over cooled hand pies. Serve with a glass of cold milk.

For more ways to enjoy dairy this summer, and to learn more about America’s farm families and importers, visit UndeniablyDairy.org.

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Tips for managing prostate cancer

(BPT) – Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men other than skin cancer. The American Cancer Society estimates that 1 in 7 men will have prostate cancer detected during their lifetime. The disease can strike any man at any time; men who are over the age of 60, have a family history of prostate cancer, are African-Americans, or were exposed to Agent Orange have an increased risk for diagnosis.

“Hearing the words ‘you have prostate cancer’ can be devastating and the treatment options overwhelming. Men need to learn about and fully evaluate their options with their treatment team,” says Jamie Bearse, CEO of ZERO – The End of Prostate Cancer. “Our organization provides an extensive number of tools men and their loved ones can use to help them understand what a diagnosis means and navigate the treatment journey, including website content covering screening to survivorship and our case management patient support and navigation program, ZERO360.”

Many people find it helpful to bring someone with them to their doctor appointments to take notes or record the session. It can be difficult to focus during conversations about the diagnosis, so having caring partners in the room can be advantageous when later trying to recall.

Tips to consider for managing prostate cancer:

P: Prepare a list of questions for your doctor. Anything and everything is okay to ask.

R: Reach out to others and learn from their experiences.

O: Outline a schedule to stay on top of your treatments.

S: Share your news with family and friends. Don’t go it alone.

T: Take time to process the news, then take action.

A: Act as your own advocate throughout your treatment process.

T: Tap into activities that will help you to maintain a positive outlook.

E: Explore treatment options and act now. Innovations in care have changed the way prostate cancer is managed.

In many respects, Scott Silver was like other retired men his age. He spent time fishing, golfing and teaching, and had an annual prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test. When his PSA level rose to 3.68 (low risk) and a biopsy revealed he had prostate cancer, Scott decided to explore his options.

Says Scott, “It was important to me to identify a treatment that I believed would eliminate my cancer and minimize my chance of developing complications such as impotence or incontinence. After conducting extensive research and speaking with family and friends, I had a conversation with my doctor. Together, we decided that treatment with CyberKnife(R) was the right option for me. It’s been 11 years since my treatment and I continue to do well. And while each person’s experience is different, I’ve had no complications or side effects from treatment.”

Prostate cancer treatment options include surgery, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, chemotherapy or active monitoring. Each man should consult his physician regarding his specific diagnosis and treatment options. Among the considerations that a doctor will factor into a treatment recommendation is the man’s prostate cancer classification, often referred to as his “risk” profile. One of the more innovative radiation treatments is stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT), which the American Society for Radiation Oncology supports as an option for low- to intermediate-risk prostate cancer.

SBRT is a radiation treatment that combines a high degree of targeting accuracy with very high doses of extremely precise, externally delivered radiation, thereby maximizing the cell-killing effect on the tumor while sparing healthy surrounding tissue. Prostate SBRT is generally five treatments delivered over one or two weeks.

The CyberKnife(R) System is a radiation therapy device designed to deliver SBRT. The system’s unique ability to continually track and automatically correct for movement of the prostate in real time throughout the entire treatment session provides distinct advantages when treating a tumor, which can move as much as 10 mm in as little as 30 seconds. Visit www.cyberknife.com for more information.

Two CyberKnife System prostate SBRT studies have recently reported on long-term (five-year) outcomes. These are the largest prospective multi-institution studies conducted to date and provide robust clinical data supporting the safety and efficacy of the system for men like Scott with low- or intermediate-risk prostate cancer.

For Important Safety Information, please visit http://www.accuray.com/safety-statement.

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Taking the Mystery Out of Cancer Clinical Trials

(BPT) – In 2012, Donna Fernandez was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer—a disease that claims the lives of more than 150,000 men and women in the United States each year. She went through multiple rounds of various medicines, but her disease progressed. Her doctor offered her a choice: start a new chemotherapy regimen or enroll in a clinical trial for a new type of treatment called immunotherapy.

At the time, Donna was not familiar with clinical trials or immunotherapy, but now, five years later, she is a passionate advocate for clinical trial participation and the power of immunotherapy and serves as an “ImmunoAdvocate” for the Cancer Research Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to funding lifesaving immunotherapy research and discovery.

The basics of cancer immunotherapy clinical trials

Cancer immunotherapy treatments harness and enhance the innate powers of the immune system to fight cancer. Immunotherapy is widely considered to be the most promising new cancer treatment approach since the development of the first chemotherapies in the 1940s. Currently, only six immunotherapies have been approved to treat cancer, but there are hundreds of new and promising cancer immunotherapy treatments in development—only available to clinical trial patients.

Clinical trials are research studies that enable scientists and physicians to assess new treatments. For people living with cancer, clinical trial participation may have the potential to extend and improve quality of life.

“Many patients don’t know where to start when it comes to clinical trials and don’t know if or when to discuss them with their physicians,” said Donna. “I was surprised to learn that only 3 percent to 6 percent of cancer patients who are eligible for clinical trials participate, which means that more than 90 percent of cancer patients may be missing out on potentially lifesaving new treatments.”

Navigating clinical trials to find the right one

“We aim to help patients kick-start the clinical trial process. With hundreds of immunotherapy clinical trials under way at any given time, understanding eligibility criteria is an important first step for patients when searching for an appropriate clinical trial for their unique set of circumstances,” said Dr. Jill O’Donnell-Tormey, chief executive officer and director of scientific affairs at the Cancer Research Institute. “Cancer immunotherapy clinical trials are critical to bring new treatments based on cutting-edge science to more patients with more types of cancer, and may represent the greatest hope for patients currently facing the disease.”

Matching patients with the right clinical trial can be a complicated process, which is why the Cancer Research Institute works to provide the Cancer Immunotherapy Clinical Trial Finder as a free resource to help patients and their caregivers quickly search for clinical trials that match a specific cancer diagnosis, stage, and treatment history. The Clinical Trial Finder has a brief questionnaire to help narrow the list of potential trials and patients are also able to speak confidentially with a Clinical Trial Navigator about the clinical trial process and even opt-in to receive updates as new trials are added.

Key questions to ask before enrolling in a clinical trial

Donna encourages all cancer patients to ask their physician about their eligibility for open cancer immunotherapy clinical trials for their type of cancer. It is important to ask about the short-term and long-term risks and benefits compared to standard treatment, as well as the clinical trial treatment protocol and site location, any potential impact on daily life, and ask about associated costs related to the trial, tests or treatments. In addition to providing this valuable information right at the start, physicians are also able to help patients identify resources that might be able to assist with certain barriers to participating in clinical trials—like costs and travel expenses.

“Today, cancer immunotherapy clinical trials have the potential to provide new hope to many patients facing the same situation that I was—a diagnosis that was previously considered incurable,” said Donna. “By participating in an immunotherapy clinical trial, I had the opportunity not only to access a lifesaving treatment, but also to help advance research to bring new immunotherapies to more patients in the future. I hope that more patients participate, gain access to revolutionary research and help uncover cures for all cancers through immunotherapy research.”

For more information on cancer immunotherapy and how to match with an open clinical trial, visit the Cancer Research Institute Cancer Immunotherapy Clinical Trial Finder at https://www.cancerresearch.org/patients/clinical-trials.

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Tips to help families cope with Alzheimer’s, mitigate tensions and relieve stress

(BPT) – Receiving an Alzheimer’s diagnosis is never easy — it’s life changing, not only for the person receiving the diagnosis but for their family members as well. The disease can exact a devastating toll on family relationships unless everyone pitches in to support caregivers and take steps to secure the financial future of the person with Alzheimer’s. These are a few important takeaways from a new survey by the Alzheimer’s Association.

The survey of more than 1,500 American adults, including current and former caregivers for someone with Alzheimer’s, found that while 91 percent agreed caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia should be a team effort, too many caregivers feel they’re not getting the support they need. Eight-four percent of caregivers said they would like more support, particularly from family, and 64 percent felt isolated and alone.

Family stresses

“Caring for someone living with Alzheimer’s can be overwhelming and too much for one person to shoulder alone,” says Beth Kallmyer, vice president of constituent services for the Alzheimer’s Association. “Without help, caregivers can end up feeling isolated, undervalued and lacking support from the people they want to be able to turn to for help.”

The survey found relationships between siblings to be the most strained, stemming from not having enough support in providing care (61 percent) as well as the overall burden of caregiving (53 percent). Among all caregivers who experienced strain in their relationships, many felt like their efforts were undervalued by their family (43 percent) or the person with the disease (41 percent). Contributing to the stress were a lack of communication and planning; 20 percent of survey respondents said they had not discussed their wishes with a spouse or other family member, and only 24 percent had made financial plans to support themselves post-diagnosis.

Tips to help families navigate Alzheimer’s

Despite its seriousness, some families grew closer following an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, according to the survey. More than a third of those surveyed said caregiving actually strengthened their family relationships, and two out of three said they felt the experience gave them a better perspective on life. Relationships between spouses/partners benefited the most.

The Alzheimer’s Association online Caregiver Center offers wide-ranging resources to help families navigate the many challenges associated with the disease. During June — Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month — the Association is offering tips to help mitigate family tensions and relieve caregiver stress, including:

* Communicate openly — Establishing and maintaining good communication not only helps families better care for their loved one with Alzheimer’s, it can relieve stress and simplify life for caregivers, too. Families should discuss how they will care for the person with Alzheimer’s, whether the current care plan is meeting the person’s needs, and any modifications that may be warranted.

* Plan ahead — In addition to having a care plan for how to cope as the disease progresses, it’s important to have a financial plan as well. The survey found 70 percent of people fear being unable to care for themselves or support themselves financially, but only 24 percent have made financial plans for their future caregiving needs. Nearly three-quarters said they would prefer a paid caregiver, but just 15 percent had planned for one, even though Alzheimer’s is one of the costliest diseases affecting seniors. Enlisting the the help of qualified financial and legal advisers can help families better understand their options.

* Listen to each other — Dealing with a progressive disease such as Alzheimer’s can be stressful and not everyone reacts the same way. Give each family member an opportunity to share their opinion. Avoid blaming or attacking each other, which can only cause more stress and emotional harm.

* Cooperate and conquer — Make a list of responsibilities and estimate how much time, money and effort each will require. Talk through how best to divide these tasks among family members, based on each person’s preferences and abilities. If you need help coordinating the division of work, the Alzheimer Association’s online Care Team Calendar can help.

* Seek outside support — Families can benefit from an outside perspective. Connect with others who are dealing with similar situations. Find an Alzheimer’s Association support group in your area or join the ALZConnected online community. You can also get around-the-clock help from the Alzheimer’s Association Helpline at (800) 272-3900.

“Having the support of family is everything when you’re dealt a devastating diagnosis such as Alzheimer’s,” says Jeff Borghoff, 53, a Forked River, New Jersey, resident who has lived with younger-onset Alzheimer’s for two years. “My wife, Kim, has been my rock as we navigate the challenges of Alzheimer’s. It’s easy to want to shut down following a diagnosis, but that’s the time when communication within families is needed most.”

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Hey guys. Is your good health a perception or reality?

(BPT) – When it comes to health, perception is not always reality. This is especially true when considering how men care for themselves when faced with a health condition. In fact, while most men would say they are more focused on their health than they have been in the past, physicians report a different truth. This difference is especially concerning when it comes to treating chronic conditions, because failure to follow treatment regimens may lead to bigger health problems in the future.

Missed appointments and opportunities

According to research from the American Academy of Family Physicians, which surveyed its member physicians, one in five doctors said up to half of their male patients failed to fill a prescription. In addition, one in three doctors said that up to half of their male patients did not take a prescription as directed. Four in ten reported that up to half of their male patients failed to follow up with a regular routine test when ordered for their condition.

In addition, nearly a quarter of surveyed doctors said up to half of their male patients failed to show up for planned follow-up visits.

These missed opportunities come at a time when chronic conditions among men continue to rise. According to the National Ambulatory Medical Survey, diagnoses of three common, yet potentially severe, conditions all have increased year over year. The data shows that cases of high blood pressure (4 percent increase), high cholesterol (5 percent) and diabetes (2 percent) have all seen notable increases.

“People may not take these conditions seriously because they don’t have any noticeable symptoms, and that’s a big mistake,” says John Meigs, Jr., MD, president of the AAFP. “High blood pressure and high cholesterol have been called ‘silent killers’ for a reason. If they aren’t controlled, they can lead to heart attack, stroke or kidney disease. In addition to these complications, uncontrolled diabetes also can cause blindness, nerve damage and loss of limbs.

“So it’s vital that men see their doctors, get preventive care and follow instructions for any chronic diseases they may have.”

Finding solutions for ongoing care

Fortunately, taking a more proactive approach to health care is easier than most men think. A visit to your family physician is the first step toward taking charge of your health and identifying any health issues. Your family physician will help you learn about any chronic conditions you might have and how to treat them. For health information that is easy to understand, visit familydoctor.org. You’ll find a men’s guide to preventive health care, and information about healthy diets and weight control. Follow the advice provided here, as well as your doctor’s recommendations, and you’ll turn your goal for good health from simple perception into reality.

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Tips to help save money on prescription drug costs

(BPT) – Modern medications can work wonders, improving quality of life, curing illness and even saving lives. However, those miracles can come at a high cost, as anyone who’s had to pay for branded prescription medication knows. In fact, spending on prescription drugs has increased 73 percent in the past seven years, according to a new report from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA).

What’s driving the increase

The Health of America Report found prescription drug spending by Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS) members increased 10 percent annually since 2010. High costs of patent-protected drugs account for the lion’s share of the total increase.

Generic drugs account for 82 percent of total prescriptions filled, but account for just 37 percent of total drug spending. By contrast, patent-protected prescription drugs comprise less than 10 percent of all prescriptions filled but account for 63 percent of total drug spending, the report found.

“Experience and past price trends suggest drug costs will continue to rise in the future,” says Maureen Sullivan, chief strategy and innovation officer for BCBS. “The need for more affordable generic alternatives to costly patent-protected brand-name pharmaceuticals is urgent. As prices continue to rise, more consumers will be looking for ways to curb the cost of their medications.”

What you can do

It is possible to lower your drug costs while still taking the medications your doctor has prescribed to help your health. BCBSA offers some guidance:

* If your doctor prescribes a costly name-brand medication, ask your physician or pharmacist if a generic version is available. Generic drugs are identical to their brand-name equivalents in dosage form, safety, strength and quality, how you take them, performance and intended use, according to the Food and Drug Administration. Generics typically cost less than name-brand medications. The BCBSA report shows how costs for medicines like Lipitor (atorvastatin) and Avapro (irbesartan) plummet when generic alternatives become available.

* It may be possible for your doctor to prescribe a higher strength than you need of a particular medication and allow you to split the tablet or pill to get the lower dose you need at a lower cost. In fact, many pills that can be safely split come pre-scored with an indentation that makes it easier to cut them in half. However, not all prescription medications can be safely split, so be sure to talk to your doctor or pharmacist about whether it’s safe to split your medications.

* Ordering prescription medications through the mail could lower drug costs, but it’s important to ensure you’re buying from your pharmacy benefit manager, typically listed on the back of an insurance card. The FDA recommends you only purchase drugs from organizations located in the U.S. and licensed by the state board of pharmacy where the company operates (find a list of state boards of pharmacy at www.nabp.info). The mail order pharmacy should have a licensed pharmacist available to answer your questions, require a prescription from your doctor in order to sell you medication, and have someone you can talk to directly if you have questions or problems.

* Another way to reduce drug costs is to ask your doctor to write your prescription for a 90-day supply so that you will get a three-month supply of the medication for the price of one co-pay.

* Finally, review your prescriptions with your doctor at least every six months to ensure you’re not taking any more medicines than you absolutely need. However, never skip doses of medicine, avoid refilling a prescription or stop taking medicine altogether without first consulting your doctor.

For more information about prescription drug costs, and to read the full Health of America report, visit www.bcbs.com/healthofamerica.

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