June 10, 2018

Overnight epidemic of High Blood Pressure

This may be hard to believe, but the number of American men under age 45 with high blood pressure has tripled--over the past six months! For women under 45, the number has doubled.

How can that be?

Well, in November of 2017, the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association adjusted their guidelines for the treatment of high blood pressure ("hypertension"). They started by lowering the threshold for "high blood pressure" from 140/90 to 130/80. Overnight, nearly half of all American adults were classified as having high blood pressure.

So, when was the last time you had your BP taken? You know that funny looking machine at your pharmacy? Have a seat and check it out. 
To make sure you get an accurate reading, follow these steps:  GETTING AN ACCURATE BLOOD PRESSURE READING

If your numbers are high (and the machine's chart may not have been updated with the new guidelines), make a doctor's appointment to see what's what.

Be mindful, be health literate, be well.

June 5, 2018

Good news for those with chronic medical conditions

There are 117 million Americans with two or more chronic medical conditions. Of those aged 65 and older, 75 percent are dealing with the multiple specialists, medications and lifestyle adjustments that come with chronic disease. 

A recent survey* showed that only half of physicians are aware that Medicare will reimburse their services as the care coordinator for qualifying patients with chronic diseases. And yet we know that when we monitor patients' compliance with medication and treatments, it pays off big time in improved health care outcomes. 

If you or a loved one has a chronic condition, such as high blood pressure, COPD, diabetes or depression, visit with your primary care provider about how you can make sure that patient and providers are all rowing in in the same direction!

* "Hidden Hazards", Quest Diagnostics, as conducted by Regina Corso Consulting, February 2018, www.QuestDiagnostics.com

May 11, 2018

How to get an accurate Blood Pressure reading

Here's my HEALTH LITERACY 101 nugget for the day:  The American Heart Association has this simple guide to getting an accurate blood pressure reading: STEPS TO GETTING AN ACCURATE B.P. READING.

Now that I think of it, the first thing the nurse and I do is start talking about how I've been, why I'm there, any changes in meds, etc. How about I try having quiet, relaxing time while I wait to be seen, then ask that my BP be taken as soon as the nurse or doctor comes in the room? We can start yakking about my health care once we have an accurate BP.

Blood pressure is a vital sign-type important reading. It will determine whether you start a new medication--or don't start one you should have. Let's give it the respect it deserves!

May 10, 2018

Older Americans' Month--proud originators of the Hula Hoop Phenomenon

To be honest, I'm not excited about being a member of a group that calls itself "Older Americans," but so be it. As they have always done, the Baby Boomers are causing a seismic shift in the economy, and this time it's the health care sector.

I call it the Hula Hoop Phenomenon. Isn't it incredible that in just a four-month period, someone was able to get 25 million people to each part with $1.98 ($15.84 in today's dollars) for a plastic tube?  Consider that at the end of the Baby Boom (1964), 40 percent of the U.S. population was 18 and younger (there did seem to be a lot of us around, but yikes.) The vendors of Barbie, the Pet Rock and Gerbers can be equally grateful.

Baby Boomers are a force to be reckoned with, and just wait until we reach full throttle high-maintenance. My dear Boomer friends:  Celebrate still being here and aim to be an engaged and empowered health care consumer going forward--it will be more important than ever before. Be well, be careful, be health literate.  

May 5, 2018

Choosing the right doctor for you

How did your family choose a doctor when we were growing up?  A friend, a referral from a friend, the doctor all your friends went to?  Life was so simple. Now it's about insurance coverage, hospital affiliation, specialty certifications, yada, yada, yada.

I'll also throw in the importance of having a primary care provider who is willing and able to act as your care coordinator if you have a serious diagnosis that requires the involvement of one or more other providers.

I'm proud to be a contributor to this great article in St. George's University Medical School blog on how to go about finding a provider whose skills, availability--and let's face it--style of practicing medicine is a good fit with you:  HOW TO CHOOSE A DOCTOR

April 17, 2018

National Health Care Decisions Week

It's National Health Care Decisions Week, so you'll hear a lot of noise about planning for the last days or weeks of your life. I'm straying from the pack and declaring that informed health care decision making is a lifelong pursuit, not something you bring out just on your way out.

Shared decision making is the key to being an informed and health literate patient, and that applies to preventive, routine, emergency, and--yes, of course--end-of-life care. My op-ed in the Des Moines Register says it all:  Iowa View on Health Care Decision Making.