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Advocates Unite to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes During National Diabetes Awareness Month

One in three. That’s the number of people in the United States who will have diabetes by 2050 if current trends continue. Twenty-six million Americans – seven million of which are undiagnosed – now live with diabetes and another 79 million have pre-diabetes. To raise awareness and spotlight effective prevention strategies, patient advocates are mobilizing to promote National Diabetes Awareness Month and American Diabetes Month® this November.

Paul DeMiglio

Paul DeMiglio

As a disease that constitutes one of the leading causes of death and disability in the United States, diabetes is a disease in which glucose blood levels are elevated above their normal range. Those living with diabetes are also at higher risk of heart disease and stroke. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the risk factors for type 2 diabetes include:

  • Being 45 years of age or older
  • Being overweight
  • Having a family history of Type 2 Diabetes
  • Engaging in physical activity fewer than three times per week
  • Giving birth to a baby that weighed more than 9 pounds
  • Having gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy)

Although type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented because people are born with it, individuals can lower their risk of developing type 2 diabetes through a variety of practical strategies. The CDC’s National Diabetes Prevention Program is an evidence-based program for preventing type 2 diabetes. A public-private partnership of community organizations, private insurers, employers, health care organizations and government agencies, it teaches participants how they can incorporate physical activity into daily life and eat more healthfully, helping them to:

  • Cut their risk of developing type 2 diabetes in half
  • Lose 5-7 percent of body weight through modest changes in behavior
  • Reduce the risk of diabetes in people with pre-diabetes by 5 percent

The program pairs people with a lifestyle coach, in a group setting, to receive 16 core sessions and six post-core sessions over the course of a year. These lifestyle coaches work with the participants to identify emotions and situations that can sabotage their success. The group process encourages participants to share approaches for dealing with challenging situations.

Along with their National Diabetes Prevention program, the CDC also provides a Registry of Recognized Programs that lists contact information for community resources offering type 2 diabetes prevention programs. The registry was created to help health care providers more effectively refer their patients to the services they need, while also empowering patients to find and choose the programs that are right for them. For more information about diabetes and other diseases from CDC, you can sign up for e-mail updates here.

The National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP) is also committed to raising awareness and providing resources around issues such as diabetes risk, family support, and community support. The goal of their campaign – Control Your Diabetes. For Life is to increase awareness about the benefits of diabetes control through education materials, fact sheets, sample articles and PSAs for radio, print and television. A major part of their focus is also placed upon bringing diabetes information to community settings such as schools, worksites, senior centers and places of worship.

“Although the prevalence of diabetes has continued to rise due to the obesity epidemic, the aging of the U.S. population, and increasing numbers of people at high risk for diabetes, there are strong, encouraging indicators of progress in preventing and treating diabetes,” said Joanne Gallivan, M.S., R.D., Director of NDEP. “Today, there is much greater awareness that diabetes is a serious disease, a critical first step in changing outcomes. In 1997, only 8 percent of Americans believed diabetes was serious. In 2011, 84 percent of Americans understood that it is a serious disease.”

The American Diabetes Association (ADA), which works to “raise awareness of this ever growing disease,” leverages American Diabetes Month® to illustrate how diabetes impacts Americans. By asking people to submit photos that show “A Day in the Life of Diabetes,” the ADA plans to create a large mosaic that demonstrates how diabetes affects patients, families and communities nationwide from personal perspectives.

“Participating in ‘A Day in the Life of Diabetes’ for individuals living with diabetes lets them know that the American Diabetes Association is the one leading organization that continues to do research to ‘STOP Diabetes,’ advocate and promote ‘Healthy Lifestyle Management’ to avoid many of the health issues that people with diabetes die from, such as heart disease or stroke, kidney failure, blindness, and amputations,” said Lurelean B. Gaines, RN, MSN, President of Health Care and Education of the Association. “The campaign has grown this year and will continue to grow because every 17 seconds someone is diagnosed with diabetes.”

To learn more visit ADA’s website at www.diabetes.org and click on Diabetes Basics, Living With Diabetes, Food Fitness, Advocate, In My Community, or News & Research.  Information is available in English and Spanish. You can also “like” ADA on Facebook, follow them on Twitter (@AMDiabetesAssn) or call them at 1-800-Diabetes.

How can your community more effectively collaborate with stakeholders like ADA, CDC and NDEP to prevent diabetes and help those living with the disease?

Help A Sick Child this Holiday Season

No family should ever have to wonder whether they can afford to save their child’s life, but that very question haunts families all over the country, every day. Through the HealthWell Pediatric Assistance Fund,® however, we are working to change that — because no adult or child should go without health care because they can’t afford it.

In just two months, the HealthWell Foundation awarded  grants of up to $5,000 to more than 20 families. These grants help children like Anna, who was born with a rare disorder affecting the brain known as Sturge-Weber Syndrome. A grant from Pediatric Assistance Fund eased the financial burden that Anna’s family faced after the radical surgery she underwent to help stop her seizures and stroke-like episodes. Now instead of having to choose between paying the bills and affording life-saving treatment, Anna’s family can focus on her recovery and watching her grow up.

Photo (left): Earlier this year, Anna had surgery for a rare brain disorder. Photo (right): Now she is back home, seizure free -- healing and growing.

Photo (left): Earlier this year, Anna had surgery for a rare brain disorder.
Photo (right): Now she is back home, seizure free — healing and growing.

We want to empower even more families just like Anna’s, so they can afford the treatments their children desperately need. That’s why, during this season of giving, we’re urging you to donate to the Pediatric Assistance Fund so we can help the next family, just in time for the holidays. 100 percent of your tax-deductible gift will go directly to patient grants and services to help children start or continue critical medical treatments.

In the following letter, Anna’s mom Mary from Delta, Pennsylvania, shares the challenges of affording care for their little girl and the big difference that HealthWell’s Pediatric Assistance Fund grant made in their lives:

Our daughter, Anna was born with a birthmark on her face and scalp. The doctors suspected there was more to the story. A CT scan of her head confirmed the diagnosis of Sturge-Weber Syndrome, a rare disorder affecting the brain. We spent the next few weeks as new parents trying to understand our beautiful little girl and the rare disease she had. When she was just 3 weeks old, she had her first set of seizures. It was terrifying to see her little body so out of control. She was admitted to the hospital and started on medication. The doctors were able to control the seizures, but never for too long.

Since that first seizure many years ago, we have celebrated many days without seizures and suffered through the days when they eventually returned. We changed medications, avoided activity that might over fatigue her, struggled through specialized diets and prayed for a cure. In January, Anna was scheduled to undergo a radical surgery to remove the diseased half of her brain. We knew this could offer her a future without seizures, but we also knew the incredible cost we faced.

With the help of the HealthWell Foundation, Anna had her surgery. She is back home, seizure free – healing and growing. Our family has been able to focus our attention on Anna’s recovery knowing the financial burden has been reduced.

We are so grateful for the financial support the HealthWell Foundation has offered to us. With their help, we are able to celebrate the wonderful little girl God has blessed us with and we look forward to her bright future.

Give to the Pediatric Assistance Fund today so we can make life a little easier for more families with children facing chronic or life-altering conditions.

Categories: Cost-Savings

World Heart Day Underscores Why Exercise and Diet Count

This year’s World Heart Day on Sunday, September 29 will focus on raising awareness around changes that individuals – especially women and children – can incorporate into their daily habits to reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD).

Paul DeMiglio

Paul DeMiglio

Created in 2000 by the World Heart Federation (WHF) to highlight heart disease and stroke as the world’s leading causes of death claiming 17.3 million lives each year, advocates will educate the public about prevention strategies through talks and screenings, walks and runs, concerts and sporting events.

It is expected that by 2030, 23 million people will die of CVD, more than the entire population of Australia. Together with its members, WHF reports that 80 percent of premature deaths from CVD could be reduced if individuals take the following actions:

  • Reduce or discontinue use of tobacco
  • Eat healthfully
  • Engage in physical activity

CVD can affect people of all ages and population groups, including women and children, as illustrated in WHF’s infographic that also shares practical tips on how to eat more healthfully and exercise more frequently. To teach children about healthy heart living, WHF also created a leaflet along with a character, “Superheart,” that encourages:

  • Playing outdoor games
  • Cycling
  • Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends increasing daily servings of mostly plant-based foods to help improve cardio health, acknowledging that “many studies have shown that vegetarians seem to have a lower risk of obesity, coronary heart disease (which causes heart attack), high blood pressure, diabetes mellitus and some forms of cancer.”

To support better coronary health outcomes, AHA created five goals for healthy eating that encourage individuals to:

  • Eat more fruits and vegetables.
  • Consume more whole grain foods.
  • Use liquid vegetable oils such olive, canola, corn or safflower as your main kitchen fat.
  • Eat more chicken, fish and beans than other meats.
  • Read food labels to help you choose the healthiest option.

AHA also published an info sheet about the warning signs of a heart attack, which often starts slowly and usually goes unnoticed. This is especially true among women, whose symptoms can often mimic those of the flu. Additionally, it is common among women to put others first, especially their children, and so they usually do not recognize symptoms until it is too late. To address this public health challenge, AHA initiated the Go Red for Women campaign to empower women to know their risk, live more healthfully and share their stories.

The primary warning signs of a heart attack remain the same regardless of gender, however:

  • Chest discomfort
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body
  • Shortness of breath
  • Breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or light headedness

Now tell us your story. Do you know anyone who experienced a heart attack or other heart condition? Are you aware of your own risk level? What could you, your friends or loved ones do differently to live more healthfully?

August Health Awareness Days Provide Opportunities to Take Action

As young people across the country go back to school, patient advocates and government stakeholders are leveraging awareness days to help communities learn about health issues impacting children, prevention strategies and efforts to improve care. Here are some examples:

Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month
Each August organizations including the Envision Foundation underscore the need for screenings and examinations to promote early detection, intervention and prevention of vision problems in children.

Paul DeMiglio

Paul DeMiglio

Vision disorders in children cost Americans more than $5.7 billion in direct and indirect expenses each year, while the overall cost of vision problems nationwide soars to an estimated $139 billion (includes long-term care, productivity loss and medical bills), according to Prevent Blindness America. Treating eye disorders and vision loss early in life helps protect children from developing chronic, lifelong conditions that become more expensive to treat because of long-term, indirect costs that increase as populations age.

“The beginning of a new school year is an exciting time in a child’s life,” Hugh R. Parry, President and CEO of Prevent Blindness America, said in a statement.  “By working together with parents and educators, we hope to give all our kids a bright and healthy start!”

National Immunization Awareness Month
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Public Health Information Coalition (NPHIC) highlights the need to improve national immunization coverage levels throughout August. To communicate the importance of immunizations now and throughout the year, NPHIC also developed a toolkit tailored to various populations including babies and pregnant women, pre-teens and teens, young adults, and adults. The toolkit seeks to:

  • Encourage parents of young children to get recommended immunizations by age 2.
  • Help parents ensure older children, preteens and teens have received all recommended vaccines by the time they return to school.
  • Remind college students to catch up on immunizations before they move into dormitories.
  • Educate adults, including health care workers, about vaccines and boosters they may need.
  • Urge pregnant women to get vaccinated to protect newborns from diseases like whooping cough.
  • Raise awareness that the next flu season is only a few months away.

The CDC also makes a wide array of resources available for those who want to learn more about the importance of immunizations or spread the word.

Neurosurgery Outreach Awareness Month
The American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) is among the organizations that underscores why the beginning of the school year is a great time to educate communities about strategies to prevent sports-related head and neck injuries like concussions. AANS provides tools to help others more effectively identify symptoms of potentially serious head/neck injuries and take preventive steps to ensure safety, also offering the following tips:

  • Buy and use helmets or protective headgear approved by the American Society for Testing Materials for sports 100 percent of the time.
  • Remain abreast of the latest guidelines and rules governing sports with a high prevalence of head injuries including cheerleading, volleyball, and soccer.

“Concussion awareness, understanding the symptoms of a potential concussion or other traumatic brain injury, is critically important in all sports,” AANS Public Relations Committee chair Kevin Lillehei, MD, FAANS, said in a statement. “Educating the public is one of the best weapons we have when it comes to combating these types of injuries. That is why it’s so important to raise awareness in the community and explain just what some of the effects are that these injuries have.”

Psoriasis Awareness Month
Sponsored by The National Psoriasis Foundation each year, Psoriasis Awareness Month is dedicated to “raise awareness, encourage research and advocate for better care for people with psoriasis.”

The most common autoimmune disease in the US affecting 7.5 million Americans, Psoriasis occurs when the immune system sends out faulty signals that speed up the growth of skin cells and produce red, scaly patches that itch and bleed. About 20,000 children under 10 are also diagnosed, often experiencing symptoms that include pitting and discoloration of the nails, severe scalp scaling, diaper dermatitis or plaques.

As part of Psoriasis Awareness Month, NPF is creating a community of “Pscientists” to “answer real‑world questions about psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.”

Spinal Muscular Atrophy Awareness Month
Although it’s considered a “rare disorder” with approximately 1 in 6000 babies born affected by it, Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) is a motor neuron disease that causes voluntary muscles to weaken and in some cases can lead to death, according to the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). Types I, II and III belong to a group of hereditary diseases that weaken the voluntary muscles in the arms and legs of infants and children, contributing to breathing issues, difficulty eating and drinking, impaired mobility and orthopedic complications.

Families of SMA, which has coordinated activities around SMA Awareness Month since 1996, and the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA), are two national organizations that support those living with SMA. Click here to learn about events this month, community networks and research projects for treatment and therapies.

What activities are taking place in your community to support one or more of these awareness days? What could the institutions in your neighborhood, workplace or at your school be doing year-round to more effectively engage populations about critical health issues?

Categories: Access to Care

More Patients DASH to New Solution to Reduce High Blood Pressure: Part I

Shawn_J_Green

Shawn J. Green

What’s the solution to reversing the tide of hypertension, the most commonly diagnosed condition in the United States?  More evidence indicates that the answer begins with the food choices we make every day.

An underlying cause of heart attacks, strokes and kidney disease, one in three American adults now experiences high blood pressure – the single-largest contributor to death worldwide. It is also becoming more resistant to the pharmaceutical drugs used to lower it. In fact, blood pressure remains elevated in nearly one-third of all treated hypertensive patients on pharmaceutical drugs.

Instead of relying on prescriptions, more patients are turning to a healthier eating approach: Keeping sodium intake low and making consumption of nitric oxide-rich vegetables and leafy greens high. This cardio-protective daily diet, known as the DASH (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension) Eating Plan, is emerging as an effective way to delay or prevent high blood pressure altogether.

The value of nitric oxide was spotlighted when the Nobel Prize was awarded in 1998 for discovery of this naturally produced cardio-protective factor. A string of clinical studies underscored that vegetables (like red beet roots) and leafy greens (such as spinach and arugula) are replete with nitric oxide.

Diets known for promoting heart health and lowering rates of diabetes and obesity – like Japanese diets, Mediterranean diets and plant-based diets, such as DASH, among others including TLC, Ornish, and Pritikin – incorporate these natural whole foods. The need to consume more nitric oxide-potent vegetables and leafy greens becomes even more critical as we age because our bodies are less able to synthesize this natural hypertensive-fighting factor.

Reducing hypertension would not only improve health outcomes for individual patients, but would also benefit the health system as a whole. Although the percentage of resistance to antihypertensive drugs is relatively lower in the U.S., elevated blood pressure among a rapidly growing number of baby boomers will mean more challenges for health care in the long run unless we identify tools that work and make them as accessible and user-friendly to the public as possible.

DASH holds great promise to fuel compliance – a critical driver to prevent elevated blood pressure – among those living with hypertension. But a healthful eating strategy alone will not mean better outcomes for patients without a model to help them break bad habits and support dietary changes on a personal level, one day at a time.

So how do we get there?

Join us here next Thursday for the second post in our two-part series. Discover what innovative tools can empower patients to make the DASH Diet a part of their arsenal in the fight against hypertension.

Meditation Found to Cut Risk in Half of Death, Heart Attack, or Stroke in African Americans

Here’s an idea that every person alive can do, costs nothing, and takes as little as 20 minutes a day: Meditate.

A recent peer reviewed, published study shows why:

“Meditation is usually thought of as a practice of healthy, well-off white people and Asians. But newly published research suggests it can produce hugely significant health benefits in a very different demographic group: African Americans with heart disease.

“A study that followed 201 African Americans for an average of five years found those who meditated regularly were far more likely to avoid three extremely unwelcome outcomes. Compared to peers participating in a health-education program, meditators were, in that period, 48 percent less likely to die, have a heart attack, or suffer a stroke.

Read more about the research here, and to access information regarding the technique of Transcendental Meditation as well as evidence-based benefits, you can visit this website.

What are ways we can encourage more people to meditate? We’d love to hear more about what works, what doesn’t when it comes to meditation to improve health outcomes.  Please share links to any evidence-based findings!

Why Aren’t Patients Taking Their Medication?

It’s a question with which many in the health care community grapple. In some cases, it’s a matter of affordability, as the high cost of certain therapies makes it difficult to pay for needed drugs AND to pay for essentials like rent or the mortgage, utilities and food. Even with medical insurance, the copays for these expensive therapies put them well out of reach for many Americans.

In other cases, it’s a matter of easy access to refills – a problem being solved, in part, by mail-order pharmacies. This was especially the case among 44,000 hypertension patients recently studied by Kaiser Permanente. Research found that making prescription refills more affordable and easier to access might reduce disparities in medicine-taking behaviors among racial and ethnic groups.

The study authors noted that as early as the first refill, some patients are forgoing their hypertension medication. The result? According to the CDC, hypertension can lead to heart attacks, strokes and deaths related to cardiovascular disease. The impact is devastating to communities of color, particularly among African Americans, where males have the highest hypertension death rates of any other racial, ethnic or gender group.

The research found that both mail-order pharmacy enrollment and lower copayments were associated with a significantly lower likelihood of being non-adherent.

Said the study authors, “Our findings suggest that while racial and ethnic differences in medication adherence persist – even in settings with high-quality care – interventions such as targeted copay reductions and mail order pharmacy incentives have the potential to reduce disparities in blood pressure.”

If you’re in the health care field, what ideas have you seen put in action that work to improve treatment compliance? As a patient, have you ever stopped taking your medication due to high cost or hassles getting refills? And have you turned to mail-order pharmacies or copay assistance programs for help?

Categories: Cost-Savings