“Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead”

dvd fat sick nearly deadSometimes drastic change is required

Last night I watched a truly inspiring documentary, a testament to the power of a healthy diet.

Fat Sick & Nearly Dead chronicles Australian filmmaker Joe Cross’s journey to health. Fat, fortyish, and suffering from an autoimmune disease, Joe spends 60 days traversing America. But no fast food stops for Joe—his mission is to drink only fresh fruit and vegetable juice (he travels with his own juicer) for the entire 60 days. Joe believes fasting on juice will allow his body to heal from the inside out.

We all know the typical American diet (and … Continue reading

First aid for cuts, scrapes and bruises

I suggested last week that taking a first aid class is a good idea. Buying a good first aid manual for reference is helpful, too.

But I thought I would supplement that advice by posting a few basic first aid tips for a variety of common injuries, and also provide a short—frugal—list of first aid items you might want in a first aid kit. Making your own first aid kit rather than buying one can save money because you only include the few items you really need.

Today’s post focuses on minor cuts, scrapes and bruises. Other than soap and … Continue reading

The high costs of medical mistakes

I mentioned in a previous post that three years ago my husband almost died from a series of medical, um, misjudgments, let’s say. I know sometimes things go wrong for no reason, but I also know his three-day ICU stay could have been prevented.

He never received a “mea culpa” from the doctors or hospital; all we got were the medical bills. Our insurance, a catastrophic/health savings account (HSA) plan, paid 100% of the costs after we met our deductible and out-of-pocket maximum ($10,000). At that point we stopped receiving bills, so I don’t know the exact total of … Continue reading

What’s in your toothpaste?

The other day I was in Target shopping for toothpaste, and I thought, “Wow, do Americans really need this many toothpastes?”

At first glance I couldn’t even find the toothpaste I normally use, no doubt because the packaging had changed. It’s probably “new and improved.” Aren’t they all?

Ignoring the hyperbole of “advanced”, “intense” and “extreme”, I started looking at the ingredient lists on the backs of the boxes. I know exactly which ingredients I want to see to get the most effective toothpaste at the lowest price.

For me, the most important ingredient in a toothpaste is fluoride. … Continue reading

Be prepared – Learn basic first aid

One of the advantages of being a nurse/mom is that I can tend to a wide variety of illnesses and injuries without seeking medical help. I have probably saved my family a lot of money over the years!

Anyone can learn the basics of providing first aid. I taught American Red Cross First Aid and CPR classes for years, and I highly recommend taking a class, whether you are a parent or not. Even kids as young as 13 or 14 can take the classes.

Spring is a good time to sign up for a class. Once schools are out … Continue reading

The kindness of strangers

Yesterday I posted about the bomb blasts in Boston and questioned how the enormous medical bills would be paid.

Later, I was surprised to read an article on NBC News online that seemed to answer my question, at least in part: “Bomb’s medical costs could be in the millions, experts say.” The reporter gave an initial—and probably low—estimate of about $9 million.

According to a health economist quoted in the article, “It’s probably on the magnitude of $40,000, $50,000 (per person for emergency-room care). But for the people who will be hospitalized for weeks, you could easily be looking at Continue reading

Tragedy’s heavy toll

Like many others, I’m still trying to understand Monday’s horrific bombings at the Boston Marathon. Who did this, and why?

What I do know is that our emergency response and medical teams are the best in the world; I used to work in the OR of a large, level-one trauma center and have seen these teams in action. The injured will receive swift and highly-skilled care without regard to pre-existing conditions or insurance status.

However, a different team, the patient accounts personnel, will work quickly to document victims’ names, addresses and insurance carriers (if any).

It seems a second tragedy … Continue reading

Lights out for better sleep

Light triggers chemicals in our brains that wake us up. That’s why it’s so much easier to rise and shine in the summer than in the winter.

But I used to dread the long summer days when light would sneak into my bedroom and wake me up before 5 am. I couldn’t find curtains or blinds for my bedroom window that adequately blocked the morning sun. Finally, I invested in some heavy, black-out drapes, the kind used in hotels. They aren’t very decorative, but they help me sleep longer in the morning.

Artificial light also disrupts our sleep. It mostly … Continue reading

Should smoking be considered a pre-existing condition?

That is the opinion of the health exchange boards in Washington, D.C., California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont (so far).

Each state (and D.C.) that creates a health insurance exchange under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has an exchange board that is responsible for establishing certain rules and guidelines. Some definitions in the federal reform law have proved to be ill-defined and open to interpretation, such as “pre-existing condition.”

Most insurers that sell individual health plans charge smokers higher premiums because smokers … Continue reading

Vitamin D – Yes, no or maybe?

The sunshine supplement

Last week I learned that my vitamin D level is slightly below normal. My physician recommended that I take a daily vitamin D supplement of 1000 to 2000 IU.

I didn’t want the test, but what’s done is done. Now I need to decide what the test result means to me, and if I should follow my doctor’s recommendation.

A few years ago, vitamin D was the new wonder supplement. Various studies associated a low vitamin D level with an increased incidence of all kinds of diseases, including multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, prostate cancer, breast cancer, … Continue reading

Check and check again

Medical errors happen

The other day I saw my doctor for an annual exam.

This year I was determined to ask my doctor NOT to order a vitamin D level.

I have had my vitamin D level tested for the last three years and it costs me approximately $100 out of pocket. (It is not considered preventive by the Affordable Care Act.)

Earlier this year, the health advocacy group Choosing Wisely recommended against routine screening for Vitamin D level in healthy adults. Well, I am a healthy adult, and my previous vitamin D levels have been normal—albeit at the lower … Continue reading

Look behind the front

The news media recently picked up a report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that stated: “…11 percent of school-age children…have received a medical diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.” Boys are diagnosed twice as often as girls.

Some experts in pediatric psychology and psychiatry are concerned that ADHD is being diagnosed too hastily and treated too recklessly with prescription medications, specifically Ritalin, Adderall and Concerta. Sales of these drugs reached $9 billion in 2012. Overall health care costs related to ADHD are in the tens of billions of dollars—and will increase right along with the diagnoses.

Are there … Continue reading

Welcome spring (and hay fever)!

I love that first warm touch of spring. But the red, itchy eyes and drippy nose I can do without.

In 2011, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that 16.9 million adults and 6.7 million children were diagnosed with hay fever. Every year, Americans spend billions of dollars on prescription and over-the-counter allergy medications in the quest for relief.

I suffer from hay fever, too, but I am not a fan of most of the available medications. Prescription drugs are expensive, and require a costly visit to the doctor. Over-the-counter drugs (and there are dozens of them!) are pretty … Continue reading

Obamacare: A double whammy for some

A few days ago, more bad news came out about the cost of individual health insurance in 2014. The Society of Actuaries (the financial risk experts that determine insurance costs) reported that next year insurance companies must anticipate paying out at least 32% more in medical claims.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) will require insurance plans to provide more comprehensive coverage (essential benefits) and cover millions more people with pre-existing conditions. There is considerable doubt about how many young, healthy people and how many small businesses will participate in the insurance exchanges. If they don’t, premiums will rise even … Continue reading

Pass the salt

Two reports last week reminded Americans—again—that we are eating too much salt (sodium), and the media gleefully passed on the news—again—that what we eat is killing us.

Possibly. But it’s not helpful to focus the blame on salt, when it alone is not the problem.

The American Heart Association (AHA) reported that, on average, adults consume 4,000 mg of sodium every day, or about twice what’s recommended. The United States Dietary Association (USDA) recommends no more than 2,300 mg/day (about 1 teaspoon); the AHA advises less than 1,500 mg/day.

In a coordinated analysis, researchers from Harvard Medical School concludedContinue reading