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Gluten Free For the Holidays

  
  
  

“It’s a marshmallow world in the winter,” but if you have celiac disease I hope those are Gluten free! This week, starting December 14th, is gluten free baking awareness week! Don’t leave out your gluten intolerant friends and family this holiday season.

Gluten free is a popular diet buzz word these days, and the food industry is quickly catching on by providing more gluten free options to its consumers. The truth about gluten free is it is a necessary diet, particularly for those that are living with celiac disease or wheat sensitivity, although this currently only affects about 1% of the American population. However, there are no nutritional benefits to removing gluten from your diet if you do not genuinely have celiac or gluten sensitivity. 

It takes and incredibly conscious effort to pay attention to what you eat, which can be especially difficult during the holidays. Gluten is everywhere in the American diet; but just because your gluten free doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy those traditional dishes. This time of year, there are parties galore, and it’s important to be prepared, so check out these tips for surviving the holidays. In case you find yourself hosting, here are some holiday recipes made free:

 

describe the imageHeather Sumpter, MS
Community Health Educator, SNP

Heather is a Community Health Educator for Humana at Home, in which she provides education
and community resources to members based on requests and needs. Prior to her role with Humana at Home, she held numerous other qualified positions, including Clinical Health Coordinator at Coventry Health Center and Group Exercise Instructor and Personal Trainer at the Jewish Community Center. She received a Master of Science in Exercise Physiology and a Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science from the University of Pittsburgh, Her background and
education make her a vital member of the Editorial Board.

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Everything You Need to Know About Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA)

  
  
  

By: Erinne Lansing

Spinal Muscular Atrophy, or SMA, is  the medical term used to describe a condition in which muscles shrinking in size as a result of inactivity. SMA is a rare, progressive, genetic disease that affects the motor neurons, or muscle cells, of the spinal cord and brain stem.

There are four types of Spinal Muscular Atrophy, but here we will look at Type IV, known as Adult Progressive SMA, which generally occurs in adults 30 to 40 years of age or older. This type is the mildest form of all of the types of SMA.

Symptoms

Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type IV results in a very slow loss of voluntary muscle control,
occurs to varying degrees, and is treated on an individual basis as variants of this disease have different symptoms. The most common symptoms include:

  • Occurrence in the 3rd -4th decade of life
  • Progressive limb weakness, generally in the muscles closest to the center of the body, first
    affecting the thighs, then upper arms and legs
  • Slow-onset muscle wasting
  • Decreased or absent deep tendon reflexes
  • Affects walking and mobility of the lower limbs, with very slow progression rate
  • Stiffness and cramping
  • Weakness or twitching

Diagnosis and Treatment

The diagnosis of SMA Type IV is done through specialized genetic blood tests (for the SMN1 gene), a more common creatinine kinase blood test, muscle biopsy, or EMG (Electromyography-electrical testing of muscles).

Although there is no known cure for Spinal Muscular Atrophy, most people affected with this type are able to manage symptoms. Prevention of further complication is the key to staying healthy, and many of those with SMA Type IV lead normal lives. It’s also important to note that SMA Type IV is usually characterized by minor mobility impairment, and does not affect life expectancy.

What you can do if you or a loved one is diagnosed with SMA Type IV

It’s important to seek help from the right professional. Those living with SMA Type IV may benefit from an integrated approach to treatment, which includes: 

  • Neurologist for diagnosis and testing
  • Physiotherapist for muscle stretching exercises
  • Occupational Therapist for pain reliving exercises
  • Other great ways to manage the symptoms of SMA Type IV include swimming and water
    therapy

People with SMA Type IV may have a tendency toward weight gain, so staying as active as possible, following nutrition therapy guidelines, and working with a dietician is often beneficial. Splints or braces can be used also if needed to help with mobility.

There is much research ongoing for treatment and cure of this disease, and clinical trials show promising results for several pharmaceutical interventions and stem cell therapies.

The key to staying healthy with SMA Type IV is working on treatment of symptoms and preventing worsening of muscle loss. It’s important to stay active, work closely with your medical professionals, and maintain a good attitude.

 

Erinne Lansing 8.6.2014 formattedErinne Lansing, PHC
Personal Health Coordinator
 
Erinne is a Care Manager for Humana at Home; a Writer, Interventional Behaviorist, Veteran and Mother. She lives and works in the Tampa Bay, Florida area. Erinne advocates, writes and speaks on Preventative Medicine, Wellness, and Brain & Behavioral Health.

 

What do you know about Omega-3’s?

  
  
  

By: Christina Korman 

Christina Korman, Personal Health Coordinator at Humana At Home, knows a lot about Omega-3’s, their uses, and their benefits. We sat down to pick her mind, and got some useful and interesting information about the fatty acids in our everyday lives!

“I hear a lot about Omega-3 fatty acids and their health benefits for my heart, but what exactly are the health benefits and how can I get more of them into my diet?

Omega-3s are thought to reduce inflammation throughout the body, which is beneficial, because overtime inflammation can damage blood vessels and cause heart disease. These fatty acids do certainly have many important health benefits and not just for our hearts!

For many of us, we are bombarded with advertisements for supplements whether it’s on T.V., at the grocery store or pharmacy. I want to arm you with the right information about omega-3s so that you are able to make an informed decision about these healthy fats and how to incorporate them into your diet.

What are Omega-3s?

Omega-3s are a type of unsaturated fatty acid. They are necessary for our bodies to work properly, but we are not able to make them on our own. This means that in order to get their benefits, we must consume enough of them in our diets. As infants they help our nervous systems and vision to develop properly and, as adults, they allow our brains to work properly.

What About Omega-6?

Omega-6 fatty acids are similar in that they are necessary for human health and must be consumed in our diet. Unlike omega-3s, Omega-6 fatty acids are very easy to find and most Americans eat more than enough in their diets and do not need supplements. They help to maintain bone health, the reproductive system and digestive system, but too much can increase inflammation. Americans often have 14-25 times more omega-6s than omega-3s when the ratio should be closer to 2:1-4:1 omega-6 to omega-3. The Mediterranean Diet and Dr. Weil’s Anti-inflammatory diet can help you achieve a better balance.

How do they benefit us?

Omega-3s can help reduce your risk of many chronic diseases such as heart disease, certain cancers, such as breast, prostate, colon, and pancreatic cancers, macular degeneration (age related blindness), arthritis, depression, infant development and inflammatory disorders like Lupus. They are also helpful in lowering blood pressure and triglycerides, reducing blood clotting, boosting immunity, and they may even help children with learning disabilities such
as ADHD. Some research even shows that when taken regularly, fish oil reduces the pain from menstrual cramps.

Where are they found?

Omega-3 fatty acids are found most often in oily fish that live in cold water, such as salmon, mackerel and herring. Tuna has small amounts but is not the best choice. On the other hand, salmon may be the best choice for adding healthy fatty acids into your diet. Salmon is relatively free of environmental toxins and both fresh and canned salmon have similar benefits.

You should always talk with your doctor before you add new supplements or medications. Humana At Home’s Care Managers can help to manage your supplements and medications, find and schedule physician appointments, and allocate resources that you have not yet tapped into.
 

describe the imageChristina Korman, BS, CHES
Personal Health Coordinator

Christina Korman joins the Humana At Home Editorial Board with a vast background in health and education. She attended the University of North Florida, where she received her Bachelor of
Science, majoring in Health Science and minoring in Health Education. She currently works as a Personal Health Coordinator with Humana at Home in St. Petersburg Florida, but worked previously as a Community Health Educator for the Special Needs Program, and as a Health Educator.

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“Focus, Partner, Achieve: An AIDS-free Generation.”

  
  
  

By: Heather Sumpter

The theme of this year’s Worlds AIDS Day, which is held annually on December 1st, recognizes the continuous need of having this awareness. As the first ever global health day created, its purpose is to remember those who we have lost to this incurable illness, to improve the health of those that currently live HIV positive, to prevent future occurrences of HIV, and to eliminate the negative stigmas associated for those that live with HIV. This also gives many the opportunities to learn the facts about HIV and to “act aware” throughout the year. It is estimated that around 16% of those living HIV positive in the United States are living unaware that they are affected by the illness.

What is HIV?

Human Autoimmune Deficiency Virus (HIV) is spread through your body fluids, and attacks the T-Cells of your body. These cells are required to fight off infections that happen in the body, and if too many are destroyed, it leads to AIDS, or Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome.
HIV/AIDS is transmitted directly from an infected person’s bodily fluid.

There is currently no cure for this condition, but with proper treatments HIV can be controlled. New treatments, including antiretroviral therapy, if treated early, people living with HIV can have a near normal life expectancy. This is why yearly testing is important for those who may be at risk.

National HIV/AIDS Strategy

In July 2010, the Whitehouse released a statement laying out HIV/AIDS roadmap with measureable targets to hit in 2015. The main goals align with the purpose of the Worlds AIDS Day mission, with the goals broken down into three over-arching categories: reducing new HIV infections, increasing access to care and improving health outcomes for those living HIV positive, and reducing health disparities.

As stated on the website, the vision of strategy developed will all the US to ”become a place where new HIV infections are rare and when they do occur, every person regardless of age, gender, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or socio-economic circumstance, will have unfettered access to high quality, life-extending care, free from stigma and discrimination.”

What Can You Do?

The main way that you can help the cause is by raising awareness. Learn more about the disease, educational opportunities, and fund raising events near you here.


 
describe the imageHeather Sumpter, MS
Community Health Educator, SNP

Heather is a Community Health Educator for Humana at Home, in which she provides education and community resources to members based on requests and needs. Prior to her role with Humana at Home, she held numerous other qualified positions, including Clinical Health Coordinator at Coventry Health Center and Group Exercise Instructor and Personal Trainer at the Jewish Community Center. She received a Master of Science in Exercise Physiology and a Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science from the University of Pittsburgh, her background and education make her a vital member of the Editorial Board.

The Ins and Outs of Cholesterol

  
  
  

By: Heather Sumpter

According to the CDC, 71 million American adults have high cholesterol, and less than half seek treatment. While eating your Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow, keep your health in
mind!

What is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a substance created in the body to help us function; produced by the liver and ingested through foods. Foods high in fat cause the liver to produce more cholesterol and the excess forms plaque in the artery walls. This is where the problem occurs, and by knowing how to control high cholesterol it can prevent future issues with cardiovascular related diseases.

Cholesterol is broken down into two types: good and bad. It is important to create a balance between the two, for having too much or too little can increase your risk factor for heart disease.  Knowing the appropriate levels of each can help navigate better cholesterol control. Going to your doctor for a blood panel can provide you with your levels, and help to create a plan of action. Total cholesterol should be below 200.

The Good and Bad

Cholesterol is carried through your blood stream by lipoproteins, and the two types of lipoprotein are what make up your cholesterol levels. Low-density lipoprotein, LDL, is the “bad” cholesterol, because of its thick and hard structure. It contributes to the hardening of the artery walls which can lead to heart attack or stroke. Keeping these numbers under 100 will help prevent the risk.

High-density lipoprotein, HDL, is the “good” cholesterol and shovels out the LDL from the artery walls. High levels of HDL help guard the body against heart attack and stroke, but low levels increase your risk of coronary disease. Keeping HDL above 40 is beneficial in reducing risks and controlling high cholesterol.

Triglycerides are a common type of fat in the body, and are associated with high cholesterol. In addition, it is made and ingested by the body. Keeping these levels under 150 will help reduce ones risk of diabetes, heart illness, and high cholesterol.

Prevention

  • Eat a heart healthy diet: The American Heart Association recommends a diet focusing on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, poultry, fish, and nuts. Limiting sugary foods, red meat, and saturated fat is also a recommendation.
  • Get Active: Being physically active can help reduce and maintain weight while lowering cholesterol. It is recommended that adults exercise about 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity three to five days a week.
  • Cigarettes and Smoking: Cigarette smoke promotes the hardening
    of the arteries
    , and even if you don’t smoke avoid being around others that do.

Treatment

If you have cholesterol it is important to seek reatment from your doctor. Medication combined with lifestyle changes can greatly reduce your risk of developing heart disease or stroke. Humana At Home’s professional Care Managers can help you to identify resources and stick
to a plan for better cholesterol and a healthier life.

describe the imageHeather Sumpter, MS
Community Health Educator, SNP
 
Heather is a Community Health Educator for Humana at Home, in which she provides education and community resources to members based on requests and needs. Prior to her role with Humana at Home, she held numerous other qualified positions, including Clinical Health Coordinator at Coventry Health Center and Group Exercise Instructor and Personal Trainer at the Jewish Community Center. She received a Master of Science in Exercise Physiology and a Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science from the University of Pittsburgh, Her background and
education make her a vital member of the Editorial Board.

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Advances in Early Testing for Alzheimer’s Disease

  
  
  

By Kim Miller

Every 67 seconds, someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s disease, as stated by the Alzheimer’s Association’s website. There are currently more than 5 million America’s living with this life-altering form of dementia, a disease which “attacks the brain.” November, National Alzheimer’s Awareness month, is incredibly important for the development of treatments and diagnosis abilities. National Alzheimer’s Awareness month is accompanied by article and informative seminars to spread awareness of the irreversible disease, but is also accompanied by numerous fundraising opportunities, held around the nation in the hopes of overcoming one of the medical industries biggest question marks.

Many health care providers agree that medications developed to treat Alzheimer’s disease are
not effective at controlling symptoms of the disease. It is thought that by the time the disease is diagnosed, the cascade of symptoms is too far advanced for the treatments to be completely effective. Currently, PET scans and tests on lumbar fluid can be used to diagnosis Alzheimer’s disease, but PET scans are expensive and tests on lumbar fluid are invasive. Before we can eradicate the illness, developing a simple diagnostic test for Alzheimer’s disease is essential to finding a successful treatment to the disease.

In March of this year, steps were taken towards finding a blood test that could identify those at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. At Oxford University and Kings College in London, scientists looked at blood from 1,148 individuals. Four hundred and seventy six of these individuals had Alzheimer’s disease, 220 had mild cognitive impairment, and 452 had no signs of dementia. They found 16 proteins that were strongly linked to brain shrinkage. Another analysis discovered that lower levels of 10 blood proteins could predict progression of mild cognitive impairment to Alzheimer’s disease, with about 87% accuracy.  It is not understood why these proteins are lower in people who are predisposed to Alzheimer’s disease, and this can’t be directly linked to our current understanding of the illness.

These blood based biomarkers would be more accessible, less invasive, easier to gather, and less expensive than current testing.  However, more research is needed to improve accuracy and establish a simple test for Alzheimer’s disease. It is estimated that a blood test for Alzheimer’s disease could be available to the public in as little as two years. 

Two studies identified new, non-invasive and simple eye tests that have also been developed, which could be used as screening tools for Alzheimer’s disease. These studies look at a protein called beta-amyloid, found at increased levels in the brains of those with Alzheimer’s. Beta-amyloid is also found in the retina of the eye.

In one study a dye is used to measure the amount of beta-amyloid in the eye. A PET scan was done to measure beta-amyloid in the brain. Early results show that levels of beta-amyloid in the retina correlate to levels in the brain with very high accuracy. Although more research is needed, this test could be used as a screening test for Alzheimer’s and could be part of a routine eye exam. It could also be used as a measure of response to treatment. 

The second study uses a new type of scan that detects beta-amyloid in the lens of the eye. Again, it was found that the level of beta-amyloid in the lens correlates with levels in the brain with a high level of accuracy. This test costs about $300, which is 10 times less expensive than a PET scan, the current diagnostic test. The scan takes less than a minute, and results are available in less than 5 minutes.

Alzheimer’s disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States.  Current treatments are ineffective because there is no reliable and easily-accessible early diagnostic test. While it may be several years before these new tests are available to the public, they offer hope for a simple test that can be used to screen for Alzheimer’s disease long before symptoms start. This would allow for early treatment, and a better chance for delaying or preventing onset of symptoms.

 

Kim MillerKim Miller, ARNP, MSN
Consultant, Clinical Services

Kim is a Masters trained nurse who received her bachelor's degree from Pennsylvania State University. Her nursing career began with caring for cancer patients both in the hospital and as a home health nurse. Kim has worked for the last 15 years as a Nurse Practitioner. Her experience and clinical expertise includes rehabilitation medicine and geriatric care. Because of her extensive experience and skills, she is able to continue to pursue her passion to provide care and offer solutions for the special needs of the elderly population and their families.

Movember; What You Should Know About Prostate Cancer

  
  
  

By: Jason McBride

Imagine seven men you know all together eating in a room; according to the Prostate Cancer Foundation, at least one of them is likely to have prostate cancer during his lifetime. Aside from skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer among men today.

What is a prostate? How does it help? What causes prostate cancer? What can reduce the risk of developing it? To pay homage to Movember, which happens every November, I will candidly answer these questions and more. But ladies, take note; this information is not exculsively necessary for men – you should know about this too!

*Disclaimer – this information is not intended to replace the help of a doctor; it is informational only.

What is a prostate? What function does it have?

First things first, let’s discuss the prostate itself. The prostate is a walnut shaped gland located below the bladder , which, as part of a man’s reproductive system, produces  at least half of the semen. It, however, is not considered a vital organ, so a man can live without it. As men age, the prostate tends to get larger, yet having an enlarged prostate is not always due to prostate cancer. Women do not have a prostate gland like men do.

What causes prostate cancer? What is it like?

Though experts aren’t entirely sure of the cause, they believe that age, family history, and diet play a role. Cancer cells often grow slowly, though not all prostate cancers are equal. It has four stages; you can learn more about the specifics of each stage here.

What may reduce the risk of prostate cancer?

Diets low in fat, high in fiber and omega-3 fatty acids may help. Foods such as tomatoes and beets, which have lycopene, can also help. Being physically active and maintaining a healthy body weight may also reduce the risk.

Why might a man decide to get checked for it?

It is 100% treatable if detected early! In addition, the exam that the doctor does to check for prostate cancer is quick and painless. Men over 50 are at greatest risk of developing it. Those with a family history of prostate cancer and African American men are encouraged to talk with their doctors after they turn 45. Some Humana members may be eligible for a Medicare Rewards program, which rewards those with select preventive screenings and vaccines this year with five $10 gift cards. A prostate cancer screening may count towards this program. Women, you can help by using your convincing powers to encourage the men in your lives to complete this screening.

What symptoms should I look for? Can I do anything at home?

Men don’t typically develop symptoms until the cancer has progressed. A doctor, or your professional care manager, should be contacted if there are problems urinating or having/maintaining an erection. Men may also do a self-exam, which their doctor can provide more details about how to find abnormal lumps. This, however, should not replace a professional screening.

Is treatment necessary?

Men who do have prostate cancer may not be aware of it, may not need treatment, and often die from other causes. Though one man out of 36 will die from prostate cancer, as stated by the American Cancer Society's website, “if you or someone close to you has been diagnosed with prostate cancer - slow down! After getting past the shock, start asking some questions. Find out all that you can about the tumor, and determine whether the cancer fits into the low-risk category. Be sure to explore all treatment options, including active surveillance. In some cases of prostate cancer "no treatment" may turn out to be the best treatment”.

Men with prostate cancer may have varying degrees of erectile dysfunction after treatment. In fact, regular sex is recommended after prostate cancer treatment, even for men who may be having difficulties.

What resources are available to me or my loved one who has prostate cancer?

Some education and support organizations include U.S. Too International, Man to Man, and hisprostatecancer.com for women. Your professional care manager can also help to find resources, provide guidance, seek other professional help, and assist in recovery!

 

Jason McBride 8.7.2014 formattedJason McBride
Personal Health Coordinator

Before working at Humana, Jason spent three years working independently-contracted as a Spanish Medical Interpreter, while simultaneously completing his Master of Public Health degree. He has worked in and at several hospitals, doctor’s offices, clinics, home visits with occupational and physical therapists, in court, and has also done phone interpretation. These different experiences gave him a greater appreciation for different medical procedures and technologies, and allowed him to gain a greater appreciation for the work that medical professionals do, especially nurses. He currently works as a Personal Health Coordinator for Humana at Home.

Meditate Away the Sadness

  
  
  

By: Heather Sumpter

Yoga, a popular form of exercise, was developed more than five thousand years ago in India, to provide strength through a mind and body connection, and to increase relaxation through meditation. There are five main types of yoga, which include Ashtanga, Bikranm, Hatha, Iyengar, and Vinyasa. Yoga can be performed by virtually any person, regardless of age, gender, or level of physical fitness, and can be performed any place.

It is suggested that yoga can help reduce symptoms of chronic pain, treat multiple types of arthritis, strengthen muscles and improve range of motion, lower blood pressure, reduce insomnia through relaxation techniques, weight reduction, protection from injury, and maintenance of a balanced metabolism. In 2007, the National Health Interview named Yoga as the top 10 complementary medicine practices in The United States and according to the National Institute of health, Individuals who practiced yoga had less disability, pain, and depression than those with other conventional treatments.

Yoga, along with its numerous other physical health benefits, can also be mentally beneficial for a person. Though stretching, controlled breathing, and stress reduction, yoga can help to brighten up a saddened mind. In fact, yoga is more and more frequently being used as a treatment for depression, PTSD, and stress induced anxiety. This article highlights the best poses for someone using yoga to cope with mental problems.

Yoga is also a great stress management tool because stress can cause pain symptoms in the body. Through the incorporation of meditation and breathing a person is able to improve their mental health. By concentrating on the aspects of yoga, a person can improve mental clarity and relax the mind. Therefore it can improve one’s self-awareness and reduce the symptoms of stress.

Anyone can get started with yoga; it is generally safe when practiced with an experienced instructor. Side effects of yoga are low, but poses should be modified for those that are pregnant or have low blood pressure. It is important to note to speak with your doctor before beginning a yoga program, and it should not replace medical care that is already in place. With yoga, it is important to start off slow. Listen to your body and know your limits with poses. It is important to remember that hitting every pose is not the purpose of yoga and just by focusing on the mind body connection, this complementary form of treatment can produce lasting results. Interested in learning more about yoga in seniors? Check out this video by the National Institute of Health.

 

Heather Sumpter 8.18.2014 formattedHeather Sumpter, MS
Community Health Educator, SNP

Heather is a Community Health Educator for Humana at Home, in which she provides education and community resources to members based on requests and needs. Prior to her role with Humana at Home, she held numerous other qualified positions, including Clinical Health Coordinator at Coventry Health Center and Group Exercise Instructor and Personal Trainer at the Jewish Community Center. She received a Master of Science in Exercise Physiology and a Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science from the University of Pittsburgh, Her background and education make her a vital member of the Editorial Board.

The Benefits of Staying Positive

  
  
  

By: Jacob Edwards 

Recent research has been finding more and more evidence on the health benefits of optimism and positivity. Since positive thinkers generally cope better with stressful situations, the harmful effects of stress are diminished more quickly, in turn, lead healthier lives. People often disregard frequent headaches, insomnia, or increased fatigue as merely products of every day life, when all these things can be directly related to increased stress levels.

This is generally easier said than done, but there are a few tips and tricks that you can keep in mind when trying to over come negativity in your life.

  • Focus on the positive; rather than dwelling or accepting negative situations beyond control, optimists generally focus on what they can do to overcome the situation – even with the most drastic of life changes. Taking control of your life in small, yet meaningful, ways can produce a larger overall effect, and help you to control the negativity in your life. The key to taking care of stress is to believe that you can, in the very least, change your attitude towards the situation at hand.
  • Remember the correlation between attitude and life events; there have been numerous studies focused on the way in which a person explains bad events occurring around them. In one, a 35-year long study performed by Harvard, social scientists collected open-ended questionnaires from 99 of their 1944-1945 graduating classmen. The study tracked the graduates all the way until age 60 and found that those who answered the surveys in a pessimistic way faced poorer health later in life.
  • Understand the negative effects of pessimism; pessimism in early adulthood was found to be directly related to increased health problems in mid to late adulthood. Pessimism can be a result of stress, as those lacking in positivity generally have a harder time dealing with stressful situations. Stress, when left to fester, can cause great damage later in life; it produces the dangerous hormone cortisol, and the increased level of this hormone increases the risk of lower immune function and bone density, high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and even diabetes.
  • Know how positivity can change you; beyond relieving stress, positive thinking can make a person more resilient, both mentally and physically. Dr. Dennis Charney, Dean of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, studied 750 Vietnam War veterans who were tortured. Among those who did not develop post-traumatic stress disorder or suffer from depression, optimism was at the top of the list of ten things that set them apart from other veterans who had similar experiences, but suffered mentally. Optimism was followed by selflessness, humor, and a belief in the meaning of life—all aspects of a positive outlook.

In terms of positivity lending to physical resilience, my father is living proof. Frightened as a little boy, I saw my father take medicine intravenously nearly every day of my childhood. Not until much later in life did I find out what he was treating. My father had always been sick—never fully crippled by his illness, but always at a disadvantage. He was diagnosed with Hepatitis C at age 30, a disease doctors said was ultimately incurable.

He never complained or even really spoke about it to those who knew him well, and the only reason I knew was because I saw him take his medicine at our house. With a good spirit, he put me at ease by telling me how the medicine would someday cure him and sure enough, 40 years later, my father is alive, well, and hepatitis free.

A lot of people aren’t fortunate enough to be completely cured and if anyone asks him how he did it, he always says it was his ability to envision himself one-day healthy again. With so many benefits of staying positive, I’m sure you won’t mind me telling you to look on the bright side.

 

Jacob Edward is the manager of Prime Medical Alert and Senior Planning in Phoenix Arizona. Jacob founded both companies in 2007 and has helped many Arizona seniors and their families navigate the process of long term care planning. Senior Planning provides assistance to seniors and the disabled finding and arranging care services, assisted living, as well as applying for state and federal benefits. In his spare time, Jacob enjoys dining out and supporting his alma mater Arizona State's Sun Devil sports teams. Jacob lives in Tempe Arizona.

Depression: Building Our Mental Muscle

  
  
  

By: Nathaly Miniello

Care Manager and CoupleDepression, despite any and all stigmas surrounding the word, is medically known as an illness; one that affects millions of Americans every year, regardless of socioeconomic status, race or age.  October is National Depression Education and Awareness Month, and the more we know about depression, the easier it becomes to recognize the signs and symptoms, and to seek professional help when needed.

In an article in Psychology Today depression is defined as: “A mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest.” In other words, depression is more than just “the blues”; depression is not a weakness, and it is not  something that you can simply “snap out” of. Depression is a seriously mental illness, which can stem from any number of causes, and may require long-term treatment.

But don't get discouraged, most people who suffer from depression feel better with medication, psychological counseling or both.

As a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, I have treated people with depression of all ages, and the treatment practice that I have found most effective is a cognitive-behavioral approach. To simplify this term, think of it as the connection between our thoughts, feelings and behaviors; let’s focus on one - our thoughts.

Tracking our thought patterns can be a task; however, starting with small steps, such as focusing on negative thinking or cognitive distortions, can greatly impact our emotional well-being.. If our thought patterns are self-deprecating, rigid, and negative, is it much more likely that negative behaviors and emotions will follow. Negative thinking is an obstacle to self-change; remember that perceptions influence thoughts, emotions and behaviors. Let’s encourage and empower our positive thoughts to surface, and bury the negative patterns!

The Most Common Types of Negative Thinking are:

  • All-or-Nothing Thinking: "I have to do things perfectly, because anything less than perfect is a failure;" not recognizing a middle ground.
  • Overgeneralization: “My friend did not come to visit me - I will always be lonely;” coming to a general conclusion based on a single event; constantly using definitive words such as everything, always, and never.
  • Disqualifying the Positives: "The Doctor praised me for doing so well, but I gained 3 pounds;" exaggerating negatives and disqualifying positives.
  • Catastrophizing: "If something is going to happen, it'll probably be the worst case scenario."
  • Dwelling on Pain: “If I worry enough about my problem, maybe I will feel better.”

In order to solidify this concept, let’s discuss a therapeutic technique that is particularly helpful for depression – start by making a schedule for your happiness!

  • Chart out the next seven days on a piece of paper, starting with today (e.g., Thurs, Fri, Sat...).
  • For each day, schedule one pleasant activity (anything you enjoy which is not unhealthy) that you wouldn't normally do. It could be as simple as reading a chapter of a novel or eating lunch without any distractions, being mindful of every bite and flavor.
  • Alternatively, schedule an activity that gives you a sense of mastery, competence, or accomplishment. Choose something small (baby steps), and aim for something that will take you less than ten minutes.

Doing activities like this produces higher levels of positive emotions in our daily life will help make our thinking less negative, narrow and self-destructive. Building our mental muscle will help us to respond instead of react.

Let’s work on increasing our self-worth, self-acceptance, spirituality and hope, appreciation of life and caring for others.

 

Nathaly Miniello 8 1 2014 formattedNathaly Miniello, LMHC, CRC, Certified Hypnotherapist
Personal Health Coordinator

Nathaly joins Humana At Home’s Editorial Board with a range of experience in the health care field, currently working as a Personal Health Coordinator. Other major roles that have shaped her professional history include working as a Family Therapist at Directions for Living, and as a Sexual and Physical Abuse Treatment Program Therapist at LSF, Inc.. Nathaly received her Bachelor of Arts and Science in Psychology and Behavioral Healthcare, and her Masters degree in Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling from the University of South Florida.

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