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Remembering Our Heroes

Sep 06, 2011 - 15 comments

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Having watched the collapse of the World Trade Center, it became clear very quickly that the debris blowing through the streets and into the lungs, eyes, mouths and ears of the first responders was dangerous. MedHelp quickly joined efforts with National Jewish Health in Denver, CO, the #1 hospital in American for the treatment of respiratory disorders, to create a free Respiratory Disorders expert forum (http://www.medhelp.org/forums/Respiratory-Disorders/show/128) to give the rescuers at the World Trade Center to access to some of the top medical experts in their field.

The response to the forum was overwhelmingly positive. Realizing the need for such a service for the general public as well as for emergency responders, the forum was opened to the public a few months later. In the next few years, National Jewish Health expanded the topics covered to include COPD (http://www.medhelp.org/forums/Chronic-Obstructive-Pulmonary-Disease-COPD/show/1011) and Allergies and Asthma (http://www.medhelp.org/forums/Asthma-and-Allergy/show/99).

In the 10 years the Respiratory Disorders forum has been open, the doctors at National Jewish have answered more than 7,000 questions on topics spanning from emphysema to tuberculosis to nasal polyps, and together we have assisted tens of millions of people worldwide.

When we first opened this forum, we worked with David Prezant, MD, then deputy chief medical officer for the New York City Fire Department, to make this service available to those who answered the call in those first weeks and months. Today we received a message from Dr. Prezant, now chief medical officer for the NYFD, thanking us for “all we continue to do to help people in need."

As we reflect on the events of September 11, 2001, and the 10 years since, we at MedHelp extend our deepest thanks to David Tinkleman, MD, and his colleagues at National Jewish Health who have generously shared their expertise and hope with millions of people across the United States and throughout the world.

Institute of Medicine Recommends Free Birth Control, Other Preventive Services for Women

Jul 26, 2011 - 7 comments
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health insurance

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affordable care act

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medhelppulse blog

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Women's Health

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Birth Control

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Gestational diabetes

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Breastfeeding

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Pregnancy

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Relationships



Last week the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released a report that included a list of recommended preventive health services for women that should be covered by health insurance plans at zero additional cost to the patient.

The IOM is an independent, non-profit organization that serves as the health and medicine arm of the National Academies. The organization identified gaps in the existing government recommendations on women’s preventive care. It reviewed and added to these recommendations based on whether the condition to be prevented has a large impact on women’s health and well-being, affects a significant number of women, and the preventive service has been strongly demonstrated to be effective.

Here’s the list of recommended services, from the IOM press release (http://goo.gl/lCZ30):
Screening for gestational diabetes
Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) testing as part of cervical cancer screening for women over 30
Counseling on sexually transmitted infections
Counseling and screening for HIV
Contraceptive methods and counseling to prevent unintended pregnancies
Lactation counseling and equipment to promote breast-feeding
Screening and counseling to detect and prevent interpersonal and domestic violence
Yearly well-woman preventive care visits to obtain recommended preventive services

The guidelines, if they are approved, would be a significant step forward in women’s health, since eliminating co-pays would greatly enhance the accessibility of these important measures that help prevent chronic disease and enhance overall well-being.

A lot of media attention has been given to the possibility of full coverage for birth control. A lot of insurance plans currently cover birth control, but only partially, with co-pays sometimes reaching about $50 per month, which not all women can afford.

Statistics say that almost half of all the pregnancies (about 3 million) in the United States are unplanned - one of the highest rates in the developed world. According to the IOM report, “Women with unintended pregnancies are more likely to receive delayed or no prenatal care and to smoke, consume alcohol, be depressed, and experience domestic violence during pregnancy.  Unintended pregnancy also increases the risk of babies being born preterm or at a low birth weight, both of which raise their chances of health and developmental problems.” Letting women plan their pregnancies by improving access to birth control methods by eliminating co-pay and providing counseling on proper usage is definitely a step in the right direction.

The report was sponsored by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) which will be reviewing the recommendations to come up with the official list of essential preventive care services for women. These services will be covered with no co-pay by new insurance plans under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010. According to an article on the Ms. Magazine blog (http://goo.gl/QSR0E), if HHS secretary Kathleen Sebellius approves and posts these guidelines, “after a one year waiting period new insurance plans will be required to cover these preventative health measures for women... By 2018, the rules will be applied to all insurance plans.”

The HHS will review the IOM’s report and will most likely release the official guidelines on women’s preventive care by August 2.

What do you think of the report? Are there any preventive health services for women you think the IOM missed? Sound off in the comments!

Could Sitting Be Dangerous to Your Health?

Jun 30, 2011 - 8 comments
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Exercise

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Healthy living



After a night of sleeping, you drive to work and pull up your desk chair and plant yourself at your desk. At lunch you walk to a nearby restaurant and sit to eat. You drive home, then sit at the dinner table, and then settle down in front of the TV. Sounds normal enough, right? Well, here’s some some bad news: All this sitting could be killing you.

Think this sounds ridiculous? A new study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology may change your mind. Researchers analyzed survey responses from 123,216 people with no history of cancer, heart attack, stroke, or lung disease. They looked at the amount of time spent sitting and level of physical activity in relation to mortality over a period of 13 years. Results show that the more time people spent sitting, the higher their risk for death, especially in women. “Women who reported more than six hours per day of sitting were 37 percent more likely to die during the time period studied than those who sat fewer than 3 hours a day. Men who sat more than 6 hours a day were 18 percent more likely to die than those who sat fewer than 3 hours per day,” according to a press release from the American Cancer Society (http://goo.gl/nIOdO), which conducted the study.

Even worse news? The risk remained virtually the same, even when the scientists took into account the responders’ levels of physical activity. However, when they looked at individuals who sat for more than 6 hours a day and were physically inactive, the risk for death went up to 94% more for women and 48% more for men when compared to those who sat the least and were most active. In other words, sitting for long periods could be bad for you, even if you take time to exercise, but if you don’t, it could be even worse.

To be clear though, the study did not identify a causal link between sitting and a higher risk for death, but rather just an “association”. This means that a higher mortality risk was found in the people who sat more, but this was not necessarily caused by the sitting itself. Also, analysis of survey responses isn’t the most rigorous of study models, even with a sample size this big.

That being said, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to sit less, and move more. Get up and walk around the office every hour. Walk over to a colleague’s desk rather than calling or emailing them. At the very least, you burn more calories and keep your muscles, joints and mind more active.

If you do decide to go out and exercise, use our exercise tracker to record your progress! http://goo.gl/kZKBX

Are you active during the day or do you spend most of it sitting? How could you squeeze more movement into your day?

Why City Life Is Hurting Your Brain

Jun 27, 2011 - 2 comments
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Schizophrenia

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Anxiety

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stress

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city living

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Mental disorders

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medhelppulse blog



Bright lights, high-rise buildings, blaring car horns, fast-talking residents... Sound familiar? You must live in the city.  While most city dwellers love their exciting, no-brakes lifestyle, there’s no denying that life in the concrete jungle can wear you out, and sometimes leave you feeling just a little crazy. Maybe even literally.

Researchers have known for quite a while that people who live in the city have a higher risk for psychiatric disorders, mood disorders and anxiety (http://goo.gl/IMMmp), and nearly double the risk for schizophrenia (http://goo.gl/CDJWY), versus those who live in the country or the suburbs. They just didn’t really know why – until now.

The answer appears to lie in how our brains handle stress, according to a study recently published online in the highly-regarded journal Nature (http://goo.gl/vpfjm). A team led by Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg of the University of Heidelberg's Central Institute of Mental Health in Germany scanned the brains of 32 college student volunteers who were tasked to solve math problems of increasing difficulty. At the same time, the students were subjected to negative feedback like being told they were doing poorly, or being asked to hurry up. The brain scans showed that this “social stress” caused different reactions in students who grew up in the city and those who lived their early lives in more rural areas.

Activity in the amygdala, the part of the brain that processes emotion, was only seen in the city kids, while activity in the cingular cortex – which helps regulate the amygdala and processes negative emotions – was recorded at a higher level for them than their less urban fellows. In the simplest terms, the results show that living in the city makes your brain more sensitive to stress.

And living in the city usually is stressful – ask anyone who’s ever ridden a late-night New York subway train or attempted to cross the street in rush hour. As this Wired Magazine article (http://goo.gl/w1I3A) notes, “Too much stress may ultimately alter the brain, leaving it ill-equipped to handle further stress and prone to mental illness.”

Does this mean we all have to pack up and move to the country to preserve our sanity? Not likely. The scientists are looking to expand the study to the general population and also determine which aspects of city life – pollution, crowding, traffic, etc. – cause unfavorable changes in the brain. Hopefully the findings can then be used in urban planning or policy making to help make city life a little less taxing.

But what can city slickers do in the meantime? Try some quiet time! Put away your phone and your computer, and maybe put on some relaxing music and read. Or even just take some time to sit and meditate. It probably wouldn’t hurt to get out of the city every once in a while, too.

Also try Moody Me, MedHelp’s free mood tracker app to track your moods and manage stress. You can even take and store pictures of things that make you sad or happy! http://goo.gl/7zd8o

Do you find city life stressful? What do you do to manage? Let us know in the comments!