A Vegetarian Diet: Is it Right for You?

THURSDAY copyMost Americans can’t imagine giving up bacon, steak, or chicken. However, 5% of people living in the United States eat a vegetarian diet. Some choose this diet because of moral reasons, but many individuals eat this way because of the health benefits. 

Vegetarian diets are typically low in fat and cholesterol, and also pack a heavy punch of fiber. Together, studies show that these factors put vegetarians at a lower risk of developing obesity, high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, diabetes, and breast, ovarian, and colorectal cancers.

Here are some of the most popular questions regarding the vegetarian diet in order to help you decide if it’s right for you: 

1. Do vegetarians have to follow a strict and boring diet?

This is a common misconception about vegetarianism, but don’t worry—there are thousands of different types of fruits and vegetables in the world. In addition, vegetarians eat a wide variety of beans, grains, nuts, and seeds. Becoming a vegetarian could really broaden your tastes and appreciation for food beyond the typical diet of “meat and potatoes.” You’ll have plenty of good food to eat—we promise!

2. Do vegetarians miss out on important nutrients?

While the vegetarian diet contains an overabundance of nutrients like fiber and antioxidants, some people worry about getting adequate amounts of other important nutrients:
  • MONDAY2Protein: Meat is extremely rich in protein, but this macronutrient is also found in a variety of grains, vegetables, and nuts. For example, one cup of quinoa accounts for 17% of a woman’s daily protein needs and a serving of almonds takes care of another 13% of the daily protein requirements.  
  • Iron: Most people obtain this mineral from red meat and eggs. Vegetarians can get plenty of iron from eating sweet potatoes, beans, green vegetables, and tofu.
  • Vitamin B12: This is a real concern for vegetarians because the natural form of vitamin B12 only exists in animal products. However, many breakfast cereals and nutritional yeast products are fortified with B12. Many vegetarians also take a multivitamin that contains adequate amounts of B12.

3. How do vegetarians afford expensive produce?

The types of foods included in the vegetarian diet can be expensive. However, many types of animal products are quite expensive, as well. In reality, a vegetarian diet can work for any budget. Consider these economical vegetarian tips:
  • Beans come in many varieties and they’re all healthy. You can buy cooked beans by the can, but consider

    buying dried beans in bulk instead. They’re cheaper and, often times, they taste better.
  • Look for frozen fruits and vegetables. The frozen varieties contain just as many nutrients as the fresh foods.
  • Don’t try to substitute for non-vegetarian foods. This includes meat substitutes, cheese substitutes, and the like. These foods are really expensive and most likely you’ll be disappointed in the taste.
  • Join a local food co-op. You’ll be exposed to new foods every week and you’ll be helping local farmers at the same time. Make sure you check prices—some items are cheaper from a co-op, but others may be more expensive.

Improving your diet is a wonderful way to improve your overall health. If the vegetarian diet sounds like it would work for you, we encourage you to give it a try. You may even want to keep a food journal to see how your vegetarian diet corresponds with your energy levels or health markers. 

Even if you’re not ready to give up animal products altogether, you can still experience health benefits by eating like a vegetarian once or twice each day. Try adding more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to your diet and cutting back on meat portion sizes.
WTH_webcard_081716_printedIf you are on a medication and you need help affording the prescription, download a free Watertree Health Prescription Discount Card or request a card be mailed to you. It provides significant discounts on almost all recommended medications (brand and generic). Most experts agree, taking your medicines as prescribed improves overall health and wellbeing and lowers cost of health care for everyone. 
By WHBlogger 
09/30/2014 
edited: 8/31/16

Instructions and Disclaimer: The content on this website is designed for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses. Always consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your health. 

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3 New Ways to Fight Cholesterol

In cases of high cholesterol, your first line of treatment is usually a healthy diet and increased physical activity. But, these changes aren’t always enough to substantially lower your cholesterol levels. For many of you, the next step is getting cholesterol-lowering medications. Even then, those stubborn cholesterol levels may remain high. In fact, only 1/3 of individuals with high LDL (bad) cholesterol levels have the condition under control.

The medical community is always looking for new ways to treat high cholesterol and, lately, there have been several new recommendations. Could one of these work for you?

1. Supplement sunshine

As we spend more and more time indoors, many of us have decreasing levels of vitamin D. This can harm your health in a variety of ways—including creating problems with your cholesterol levels.

A recent three-year study looked at the cholesterol-lowering attributes of vitamin D. Scientists reported that the participants who had taken this vitamin showed a notable drop (4.5%) in LDL (bad) cholesterol. The researchers weren’t confident enough to say that vitamin D supplementation is a cure-all for high cholesterol, but they did refer to it as a definite step “in the right direction.”

 If you’d like to start supplementing with vitamin D, be sure to speak with your doctor about the proper dose. Recommendations start with a daily dose of 300 units of vitamin D, but your doctor may suggest a higher amount.

2. Use less expensive medications

One study from the Annals of Internal Medicine found that patients using less expensive generic drugs were much more likely to take their medication than patients prescribed costly brand name drugs. And, the people taking generic drugs were less likely to have a major cardiac event like a heart attack or a stroke.

Are you taking an expensive brand name prescription for your cholesterol? Ask your doctor if you could try a generic version of your medication. We also encourage you to take advantage of the savings you can get with our card. It even makes generics more affordable.

methylglyoxal

Source: Wikimedia Commons

3.  Cut back on sugar

Sugar comes in many forms, but a particular derivative of sugar could be hijacking your HDL (good) cholesterol levels. The compound called methylglyoxal (MG) is formed from glucose, commonly known as blood sugar.

Researchers recently found that MG damages HDL cholesterol and prevents it from removing the bad cholesterol from the body. Two critical factors that cause high levels of MG are short-term and chronic sugar overload.

The study suggests that cutting back on dietary sugar may help protect the HDL cholesterol in your system. This is incredibly important because, to date, there are no prescription medications that can raise HDL levels.

We encourage you to take an active role in your cholesterol treatment. This blog is just the beginning—do your own research, too! If you land on something you’d like to try, be sure to clear it with your doctor first. 

If you are on a cholesterol-lowering medication and you need help affording the prescription, download a free Watertree Health Prescription Discount Card or request a card be mailed to you. It provides significant discounts on almost all recommended medications (brand and generic). Most experts agree, taking your medicines as prescribed improves overall health and wellbeing and lowers cost of health care for everyone. 

By WHBlogger 
09/28/2014 

Instructions and Disclaimer: The content on this website is designed for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses. Always consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your health. 

Tell us if this was helpful and let us know what other topics you might like to see us cover in our blog.

Healthy Choices to Overcome Childhood Obesity

Most researchers estimate approximately one in every five school aged child in the U.S. to be overweight or obese, playing into an epidemic that is a driver of healthcare costs that burden Watertree Health cardholders as much as everyone in America. September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, so let’s talk about the dangers of obesity and the best ways to keep our kids healthy.

What is causing this surge in childhood obesity?A young girl eating apple

Several factors are driving the numbers upward, and while no single one is totally responsible, they commonly include some combination of:
  • Lack of physical activity: excessive time spent doing sedentary activities (watching TV,
    using tablet computers, using cell phones, playing video games)
  • Inadequate access to safe spaces to play and exercise
  • Inadequate access to healthy foods
  • Excessive intake of high-calorie drinks and foods

What are the health risks of childhood obesity?

Boy playing basketballObese children are at increased risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heartburn, gallstones, type 2 diabetes, asthma, and joint problems, but the biggest issue is that, if obese while young, they are highly likely to be as adults. As parents, we also worry as much about the emotional impacts, the self-esteem issues, bullying and, in some cases, depression, which can cause children to begin to withdraw.

What are the best ways to prevent childhood obesity?

We don’t need a vaccine, a special cure, or any fancy medical equipment to tackle this problem.  Here are some simple ways you can help your children:
  • Limit your children’s total screen time to less than two hours per day – Encourage physical activity!family-on-bikes
  • Encourage your kids to drink water instead of high-calorie sodas and juice-drinks.
  • Your children don’t necessarily need to eat less food overall, but to eat more nutrient-dense options like fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy (less junk food).
  • Help your kids to reframe their diet. Take them to the grocery store and let them pick out vegetables they’d like to try! In the spring and summer, start a garden or visit local farmers’ markets. Check out children’s cookbooks and let your kids help prepare meals. Try to make eating healthy a fun thing to do.
  • Look outward as well. Many communities need more actively involved citizens to lobby their governments to build or improve access to healthy food and safe play spaces.  Also, make your vote count—help enact laws that require clear nutrition labeling on fast foods, limit junk food advertising and other ways to help the fight against childhood obesity.
Let’s use National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month as a launching pad for healthy activities in our households and in the greater community. Together we can turn around the epidemic and ensure that our children stay on track for a healthy life!
WTH_webcard_081716_printedIf your child is on a medication and you need help affording the prescription, download a free Watertree Health Prescription Discount Card or request a card be mailed to you. It provides significant discounts on almost all recommended medications (brand and generic). Most experts agree, taking your medicines as prescribed improves overall health and wellbeing and lowers cost of health care for everyone. 
By WHBlogger 
original: 09/18/2014 
edited: 7/26/18

Instructions and Disclaimer: The content on this website is designed for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses. Always consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your health. 

Tell us if this was helpful and let us know what other topics you might like to see us cover in our blog.

 

Pain Management without a Prescription

When used in the wrong situations, prescription pain medications can be dangerous. They carry quite a few unpleasant sideaccupuncture effects, and can be extremely addictive. Plus, for some individuals, painkillers aren’t very effective. For these reasons, doctors often suggest non-pharmaceutical pain relief treatments that can be used alongside painkillers, or on their own to treat chronic or short-term pain.

Remember, there is no “magic bullet” for pain management. Often times, individuals will need a combination of therapies in order to reach optimal quality of life. Below, you’ll find information on three drug-free ways to treat pain. This list isn’t exhaustive, but it does provide an introduction to some of the most popular non-medical options for pain relief. 

Acupuncture

This ancient form of Chinese medicine, which involves placing thin needles at specific points throughout the body, has been around since 6000 BC. Although acupuncture isn’t considered mainstream medicine in the United States, it is becoming increasingly popular. The most recent statistics show that 3.1 million adults use acupuncture every year. Back, neck and joint pain are the most common reasons for individuals seeking help from acupuncture.

If you don’t like to base your pain management choices solely on popular opinion, consider this: science supports acupuncture.  The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) reports that the treatment has been proven effective for several conditions including pain in the lower back, neck  and knee, and even headaches. In addition, side effects and complications are extremely rare when individuals seek care from a professional who is educated and trained in acupuncture.

TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation)

TENS is a pain management therapy that uses low-voltage electrical currents to eliminate the feeling of pain. Individuals using TENS place two electrodes at the site of the pain and wear a battery-operated device that sends electrical currents into the body.

How does an electrical current stop pain? Research shows a few possible answers to this question. Some scientists TENSbelieve that electrical currents stimulate the nerves, which blocks other pain signals traveling along the nerves. Other scientists think that the nerve stimulation prompts the body to make natural pain-killing substances like endorphins.

Research regarding the effectiveness of TENS is mixed. Medscape reports that nearly 80% of people using the treatment have initial pain relief, but that number goes down to 30% after individuals have been using TENS for a few months. Other scientific studies say that TENS is not effective at all.

TENS has been used to treat a wide range of painful conditions—pain originating from the nervous system, musculoskeletal pain, post-surgery pain, diabetic neuropathy, and pain from broken bones. If you’re interested in trying the therapy, be sure to speak with your doctor. They can write a prescription for this therapy and many insurance companies will pay for the rental or purchase of a TENS unit. 

Exercise

Physical activity is surely one of the most natural and safest ways to treat pain. In particular, the low-impact exercises involved in Tai Chi and yoga have been touted as excellent pain-relieving therapies.

  • Tai Chi:  Like acupuncture, Tai Chi has its roots in ancient Chinese culture. The exercise is extremely slow and gentle. Its movements are concentrated on deep breathing, strength, flexibility, and meditation. Research shows that Tai Chi is especially effective for joint pain (conditions like arthritis and low-back pain) because it improves circulation, relieves tension, and repairs tissue.
  • Yoga Another gentle and relaxing exercise therapy. It also focuses on breathing and flexibility. Individuals practicing gentle yoga report feeling less stressed, more relaxed, and less stiff. Much like Tai Chi, this exercise has been shown to be effective for joint problems like osteoarthritis, as well as carpal tunnel syndrome and fibromyalgia.

Remember, prescription painkillers are not the only option when it comes to dealing with acute or chronic pain. The next time you speak with your doctor, be sure to ask about adding these three non-medical therapies and other natural pain management treatments to your regime.

WTH_webcard_081716_printedIf you are on a prescribed medication and you need help affording the prescription, download a free Watertree Health Prescription Discount Card or request a card be mailed to you. It provides significant discounts on almost all recommended medications (brand and generic). Most experts agree, taking your medicines as prescribed improves overall health and wellbeing and lowers cost of health care for everyone. 

References: The American Chronic Pain Association, Acupuncture Today, Prevention, WebMD
By WHBlogger 
09/10/2014 
Edited: 10/5/16

Instructions and Disclaimer: The content on this website is designed for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses. Always consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your health. 

Tell us if this was helpful and let us know what other topics you might like to see us cover in our blog.

 

Behind the Ice Bucket Challenge–What is ALS?

Lou Gerig ALS

Source: Wikipedia

A few short months ago, pouring a bucket of ice water on your head would have been considered just plain stupid. But, thanks to a viral social media campaign, that seemingly crazy act has raised more than $100 million in donations for the ALS Association.

You have undoubtedly seen several Ice Bucket Challenge videos in your social media feeds, but they may leave you wondering about a simple question: “What is ALS?”

What happens to a person with ALS?

ALS actually stands for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. It’s also widely known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Even though ALS was first recognized by a French doctor in 1869, it was the famous baseball player Lou Gehrig who made the disease known to the masses. Nicknamed “The Iron Horse,” Gehrig was diagnosed with ALS at age 35 and he passed away just two years later.

For Gehrig and other ALS sufferers, the disease is a progressive condition that attacks cells of the nervous system. When these cells (motor neurons) are healthy, they allow for communication between the brain, spinal cord, and muscles. Essentially, they tell the body how to move. However, with ALS, the motor neurons slowly break down and the brain loses the ability to communicate with the muscles. 

The degeneration of motor neurons happens slowly, but eventually, the disease leaves people unable to move or speak.  In a cruel twist, ALS only affects motor neurons. The nerve cells that control involuntary movements, like digestion, heart rhythm, nervous systemand thinking, are unaffected. Most individuals with ALS remain fully aware and “with it” throughout the duration of their illness.

What are the early symptoms of ALS?

Since the motor neurons die gradually, people with ALS may have mild symptoms at first. They may experience:

  • Muscle twitching
  • Muscle weakness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Frequently tripping or stumbling
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Difficulty chewing or swallowing

There is no timetable for individuals suffering from ALS—the disease progresses differently for each person. However, nearly every person with this disease will eventually suffer from total paralysis. In the final stages of ALS, the breathing muscles are affected and individuals will require a ventilator in order to stay alive.

Who is at risk for ALS?

Despite many years of research, medical scientists are still unclear regarding the cause and the cure for ALS. Here is what they do know about who might get it:

  • Individuals are most commonly diagnosed between the ages of 40 and 70
  • Up to 10% of people with ALS have inherited the condition
  • The remaining 90% of cases are called “sporadic” ALS–this type can affect anyone at any time

What is the outlook for ALS patients?

Sadly, there is no cure for ALS and most individuals with the disease die within five years of diagnosis. A small percentage of people live longer and, in a very small percentage of individuals, ALS stops altogether.

Most ALS treatments are aimed at managing the symptoms and improving the quality of life for people with the disease. These could include physical therapy and low-impact exercise. People with ALS may also benefit from the guidance of a nutritionist and speech therapist.

Often times, doctors will also prescribe medications to help relieve the symptoms of ALS like pain, muscle cramps, and difficulty sleeping. They may also recommend a drug called Riluzole. This is the only drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat ALS. It slows the progression of the disease and extends a person’s life expectancy by several months.  Several other drugs are in clinical trials and are considered very promising.

If you are on a prescribed medication for ALS and you need help affording the prescription, download a free Watertree Health Prescription Discount Card or request a card be mailed to you. It provides significant discounts on almost all recommended medications (brand and generic). Most experts agree, taking your medicines as prescribed improves overall health and wellbeing and lowers cost of health care for everyone. 

References: The ALS AssociationNational Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

By WHBlogger 
09/05/2014 

Instructions and Disclaimer: The content on this website is designed for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses. Always consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your health. 

Tell us if this was helpful and let us know what other topics you might like to see us cover in our blog.

 

A Look Inside ADHD

Contrary to the common misconception that a child with ADHD “just can’t sit still”, they have a true learning disorder. Even so, with proper diagnosis and a multifaceted treatment approach, kids with ADHD can be extremely successful in school and at home.

schoolkidWhat are the 3 types of ADHD and the symptoms?

With all three, the symptoms usually set in before the age of 12 and build up gradually. To get a true diagnosis of ADHD, the child will have had a pattern of symptoms that lasted for at least six months. In addition, the traits will have been seen both at home and at school.

Hyperactive-Impulsive

  • Extremely restless behavior
  • Fidgeting and squirming
  • Inability to remain seated
  • Talking excessively
  • Blurting out responses before thinking

Inattentive

  • Inability to pay attention for an extended period of time
  • Easily distracted
  • Not a good listener
  • Poor attention to detail
  • Disorganized and messy

Combined

  • Symptoms of both hyperactive-impulsive and inattentive types of ADHD at the same time

How is ADHD treated?

Although doctors aren’t certain what causes ADHD, they do know how to successfully treat the condition. The best course of action is a combination of behavioral therapies supervised by a mental health professional.

Strategies for school

  • child in classroomCommunicate frequently with your child’s teacher and do your best to form a partnership with the school.
  • Ask the teacher to send home a predictable amount of homework every night.  
  • Request that your child have a desk far away from potential distractions.
  • Ask the teacher to fill out a daily progress card for your child. What went well today? What did they struggle with today?
  • Make sure your child is getting enough sleep at night.

Strategies for home

  • child doing homeworkCreate a list of rules and stick to them. It’s even better if you can utilize some rules from school.
  • Have a consistent homework routine. Every weeknight, have your child sit down in a quiet place and set a timer for an age-appropriate amount of time. Don’t leave your child alone, but don’t hover either. You may want to sit down at the table, but be doing a different activity—reading a book, paying bills, etc.
  • Across all activities, praise positive behavior and consider using a rewards system. You can create a simple chart and specify which behaviors earn which rewards. For example, sitting at the family dinner table might earn the child 30 minutes of television or a morning without any screaming will earn the child a trip to the park in the afternoon.

Overall, do your best to be calm and patient with these behavior changes. It’s a learning process for both you and your child!

WTH_webcard_081716_printedYour doctor may recommend prescription medicine as a second-line of treatment, if your child needs help beyond behavioral therapy. Keep in mind, these medications should only be used in addition to behavioral therapy—never simply on their own. They’ve been shown to have positive short-term benefits, but the medications are not enough to promote long-term success in a child with ADHD.

If your child is on a prescribed medication for ADHD and you need help affording the prescription, download a free Watertree Health Prescription Discount Card or request a card be mailed to you. It provides significant discounts on almost all recommended medications (brand and generic). Most experts agree, taking your medicines as prescribed improves overall health and wellbeing and lowers cost of health care for everyone. 

References: U.S. Department of Education, Psych Central

By WHBlogger 
09/03/2014 
Edited: 9/13/16

Instructions and Disclaimer: The content on this website is designed for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses. Always consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your health. 

Tell us if this was helpful and let us know what other topics you might like to see us cover in our blog.