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Do you see the effects of electronic devices on your health?

Thanksgiving week may have been the first time I didn’t post a weekly contribution to my blog since its inception in 2012.  I was set to publish something about gratitude. However, I got caught up in a technology problem. My website was exhibiting something known as ‘the white screen of death.”

The problem didn’t get fixed for 2 weeks. It was great. There wasn’t anything I could do about it, so I enjoyed my Thanksgiving. Plus, I got a dose of perspective. I work with hospice patients, people who are facing the bigger screen of death, so this website issue didn’t seem like much. Given reality, perhaps ‘the white screen of death” is an extreme description?

The site is up and running again, but I am evaluating my relationship with technology. Here are some questions I have:

  • Am I tethered to my computer, phone, and other devices?
  • How important is it to be doing whatever I am doing on my electronic device?
  • Am I getting distracted by click bait and other dazzling attractions on the internet?
  • What does a healthy relationship with technology look like?
  • What else could I be doing if I wasn’t involved in an electronic-related activity?

I don’t have answers for these questions yet. I am just exploring. However, here is what I know:

  • I love my annual unplugged week.
  • I sleep significantly better when I stop watching screens at least an hour before bedtime.
  • My power of concentration is diminishing. Is it age or am I learning that from my device use?
  • Absolutely nothing is so important that I need to have my phone with me constantly.
  • Screen time is often sedentary, which is really, really unhealthy.
  • Technology provides some really wonderful health-enhancing opportunities.
  • There is an addictive quality to current electronic features, some of it designed into apps and games.

So, just for the health of it, I am restricting my screen time and seeing what happens. During this experiment, I’d love to hear from you. What are your thoughts regarding my questions? Do you see the effects of electronic devices on your health, either positive or negative?  How have you come to terms with this?

Perhaps you’ll join me on this journey of discovering the risks and benefits of computer and phone  technology. Hope to hear from you.


When it Comes to Your Health, Be a Squeaky Wheel

I just spoke to a friend who is waiting on test results for a very serious condition. She was supposed to know the results a week ago. She is not one to call the doctor; not one to make waves; not one to assert herself or ask for help. Although these are lovely attributes in a friend, they are not good ones for consumers. And in this case, she is a health care consumer.

Here are some tips for people who may find it hard to ask for medical information.

  • Be a NICE squeaky wheel. You will more likely get help and sympathy if you aren’t demanding. You will catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.
  • Remember that you are asking for something you paid for, that is about you, and that you have a right to. You aren’t asking for favors; you are asking for necessary information.
  • If the information isn’t available, ask when it is expected. If you are told that you will be called, ask when you can expect a call back. You can say something like, “As you can imagine, I am anxious to hear the results. If you were me, when would you call back?’
  • Be a patient patient. When waiting, try to focus on maintaining inner peace and outer health. However, don’t be so patient that you ignore the fact that you haven’t heard back from the doctor.
  • Enlist help. If you don’t hear back from a specialist, ask your primary care provider to call the specialist.

Above all, keep in mind that you are dealing with your health. This isn’t a luxury problem – it is about the fundamental need to be well and to expect your health care team to help you.


Health Insurance Enrollment Time

Health insurance

It’s that time of year.

It’s that time of year. Pumpkin spice appears everywhere (including shoes), and health insurance companies and prescription drug plans are clamoring for our business.  Welcome to open enrollment time.

Let me begin by saying that I now find the process so staggeringly overwhelming that I use an insurance broker to help me decide which plan to enroll in. Brokers are paid a commission by insurance companies and their services are free to consumers. Unlike selling cars, they are not rewarded by selling you a plan that is expensive. A good broker will find a plan that fits your needs. I asked my friends for recommendations and found an outstanding broker.

Here are some links to help you:

Pumpkin spice concoctions are easier to choose than health insurance plans are. However, some of us can live without pumpkin spice, whereas no one should be without health insurance.


Vote Health


Please vote. Democracy depends on it.

The next election day is Tuesday, November 6, 2018.  If you care about your health on a personal level, then it’s important to care about it on a political level. This election there are some critical issues at stake, and who you vote for may affect the future of core health-related programs.  These include:

  • Medicare funding and practices
  • Health insurance, particularly the continuation of the Affordable Care Act
  • Medicaid
  • Prescription drug prices

In addition to electing senators and representatives to Congress, there are many health-related issues on state ballots.  Four states are trying to advance marijuana legalization: Michigan (adult use), North Dakota (adult use), Missouri (medical use), and Utah (medical use). Utah has an initiative that will expand health coverage to certain low-income residents; Maine has a ballot initiative that will offer free long-term home care and social services to those 65 and older, as well as to younger disabled people. Massachusetts has an initiative that will establish patient assignment limits for registered nurses working in hospitals.

Do you know where your federal, state and local candidates stand on these issues? If you care about any particular issues, be sure the person you are voting for shares your concerns. Visit their web site and read their statements. If they are up for reelection, check their voting record to see how they voted on issues that are important to you.

Not sure what you can trust? Check out these nonpartisan resources:

Please vote. Democracy depends on it. So does health care.


Health Scares

Have you ever experienced any health scares? If so, you likely know what it is like to live with fear, worry and anxiety.

fear worry and health

Had any health scares lately?

There are two things I know quite a bit about: 1) hepatitis C and 2) worry. I used to have both. It took me nearly 25 years and treatment to overcome hepatitis C. Worry was much harder to conquer. However, it was the burden I needed to most unload.

I knew that if I was going to live with hepatitis C, it would be easier to endure if I didn’t also live with fear and worry. So early on, I set about to find ways to live life on life’s terms, and to leave anxiety by the wayside.

Some of you know that for many years I battled serious mental illness. You can read my story if you are interested in knowing more. What you may not know is how hard I worked at overcoming anxiety, worry and fear. And trust me on this, it didn’t happen overnight.

Let me clarify one thing. Fear is a normal human emotion and I still feel it. However, I usually can let fear pass through me. If I don’t, fear gets comfortable in my head, and then invites a few friends in; the next thing I know, worry and anxiety are having a party and consuming every part of me.

It took lots of work and practice and trial and error to learn that I didn’t have to live with worry. With my history of mental illness, it feels miraculous to me that my spirit is so free.

However, I am not here to boast; I am here to confess. Sometimes I forget how messed up I was. When I do that, I lose compassion. There are times when I make an off-handed remark that shows I have forgotten what it was like to carry the burden of hepatitis C and the fear that accompanies it.

I’m confessing this, because I want you to be empowered, even when you are afraid. I believe that others may act as carelessly as I have sometimes acted. I suspect that doctors and nurses can get busy and overworked, and perhaps wrapped up in their own fears, that they don’t take the time to address their patients’ fears.

If this happens to you, support groups are a good place to work this out. If this happens to you because of something I said, please let me know. I try not to discount peoples’ feelings, but humanness is fallible.

However, I won’t cosign on endless fear. At some point, we all make a choice—live life in fear, or live life on life’s terms. Personally, worry has never improved or solved anything. Worry never helped my hep C. I could not get rid of hep C on my own, but worry was a deficit that I didn’t have to keep. Now that worry is mostly gone from my life, I don’t miss it at all.

And here’s the thing – there is treatment for hepatitis C and many other medical conditions, but life is terminal. We all are going to die. I don’t want to waste a single moment of my precious like caught in a misery of my own making.

So what about you? Are you hanging on to worry, fear and anxiety? If so, why? And do you want to hang on to worry, or are you ready to let go of it? I promise you, you can. It takes patience and practice, but you can live without fear.

life expectancy

When it comes to being healthy, the U.S. is not a world leader

Do you think that the United States has the best health care in the world? Do you live in fear that someday the United States will have a government-based health care program like those found in Europe or Canada? If so, perhaps it is time for a reality check. The fact is that according to research published in BMJ, life expectancy in the U.S. is lower than 18 other developed countries.

In a paper published in The BMJ, authors Ho and Hendi compared life expectancy trends from 1990 to 2015 in 18 countries commonly used in cross national comparisons. The U.S. was at the bottom of the list. Japan was on top, followed by Switzerland. The average life expectancy in the U.S. was 78.9 years, whereas in Japan it was 84. That is a five-year difference.

Here is the part that really horrified me: In most of the countries that are experiencing declines in life expectancy, the declines occurred mostly in the older age range (≥65 years). Causes of death were related to respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, nervous system disease, and mental disorders. In the United States, the declines in life expectancy were more concentrated at younger ages (0-65 years). Drug overdose is one of the key reasons for this decline. Suicide was the next most significant contributor.

When it comes to being healthy, the United States is not a world leader. Tragically, its people are dying too quickly, too unnecessarily, and too young.