Blog Posts by EmpowHER

  • Promoting Flu Vaccines with Chris O'Donnell and Carlos E. Picone, MD

    By Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch

    We're into the flu season. If you have the flu, you may have symptoms such as fatigue, muscle aches, cough, sore throat and stuffy nose. You may be able to prevent the flu by getting the annual flu vaccination. But while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that everyone ages 6 months and older should get the vaccine, only a fraction do.

    Getting the word out about the importance of the flu vaccination and alternatives to the traditional vaccine, such as the Fluzone Intradermal vaccine, is why NCIS Los Angeles actor Chris O'Donnell has partnered with Sanofi Pasteur. He and Carlos E. Picone, M.D., F.C.C.P., Vice-Chair of the Department of Internal Medicine at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, D.C., talked to EmpowHER about the importance of getting the flu vaccination, the Fluzone Intradermal vaccine, as well as about Chris and his work with AmeriCares.

    Why is it so important for people to get the flu vaccine?


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  • 8 Preventive Health Care Services Women Can Get for Free

    By Lynette Summerill

    When a new provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), sometimes referred to as "Obamacare" kicked in Aug. 1, 2012, about 47 million American women became eligible to receive additional preventive health care services without a co-payment or any patient cost sharing.

    The eight free services are offered to privately insured women or Medicare recipients enrolling in new health insurance plans or renewing existing policies on or after Aug. 1, 2012. ACA states any new private health plans obtained in plan years starting on or after Aug. 1, must cover the law's guidelines on women's preventive services with no cost sharing.

    One big change is women can visit their OB/GYN physician without a referral. Insurance companies can no longer require a woman to obtain prior approval before seeking obstetrical and gynecological care.

    Here's a breakdown of the new services courtesy of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

    Well-woman Visits:

    An annual well-woman

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  • The Partner’s Role During Serious Illness

    By Andrew Schorr

    When you've got more than a cold or the flu or a brief elective surgery, you may well depend upon a spouse, best friend or family member to help you get back on your feet. If it's a serious condition, it may be a really tough job.

    Lisa Velasco of Jefferson, Ga. is sure that the love, understanding and support of her husband, Angel, and their children, Michael and Alex, helped her get to a place where, as she says, she looks forward to "growing to be an old lady."

    Velasco has chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML), a rare condition diagnosed in about 5,000 people a year in the United States. This blood cancer causes the bone marrow to produce too many white blood cells. Up until a few years ago there were few treatment options and most patients died. Today there are several new targeted therapies that enable most CML patients to live a normal lifespan.

    Velasco was fortunate to be diagnosed at a time when there is tremendous, lifesaving, progress. But, even so, the

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  • More Doctors Using Social Media to Communicate with Patients

    By Maria Smith

    Everyone is using social media to communicate better these days. Teachers have their own blogs. Celebrities announce their big news via Twitter. Even grandparents are getting in on the act and setting up Facebook pages and Internet dating sites. But now an unlikely group is starting to see the value of social media and use it for themselves.

    That group? Doctors!

    Some physicians across the country are ditching the old model of passing out outdated brochures and only communicating with patients with a quick phone call or a 15 minute in person visit.

    They are texting patients to see how a particular medicine is working. They have started blogs and make a point to read their patients' blogs too. They "friend" patients on Facebook and follow them on Twitter. There are some technologically advanced doctors who even use QR codes and post links to informational websites around their office. In short, they use social networking like most people do, to stay connected and

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  • Alternative Medicine for Rheumatoid Arthritis

    By MC Kelby

    "More than 46 million Americans have some form of arthritis or related condition," said the Arthritis Foundation. Rheumatoid arthritis, which is also known as RA, affects more than 1.3 million people annually between the ages of 25-50. RA strikes women at a 2.5 to 1 ration to men. Interestingly enough, women comprise more than 60 percent of all arthritis cases.

    A recent study by the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, which was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, stated that acupuncture helps some types of chronic pain. The study of more than 18,000 patients found that acupuncture was effective in relieving shoulder, neck and back pain, chronic headaches and osteoarthritis.

    According to the National Institute of Health's National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, more than 40 percent of American adults use some form of alternative medicine. Currently there are not enough medical studies to prove that alternative medicine benefits RA

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  • Role Reversals: Very Young Americans Caring for Family Members

    By Susan Cody

    As part of their Heroes section, the CNN website recently ran a story about young people "working" as unpaid caregivers for their siblings, parents or older relatives. The research showed that about 1.3 million children in America are child caregivers and that one in every five school dropouts have actually had to leave school to take care of siblings and adults.

    They are a generation of caregivers that's not well known, nor well cared for, and certainly not paid. These are the children with siblings or parents who are disabled. These kids have been forced to forgo their own childhood pleasures and freedoms and adopt the responsibilities of someone far older.

    At EmpowHER, we have heard from women caught in what's called the "sandwich generation" -- caring for their own children and their parents too. Found between the ages of 45 and 60, the sandwich generation is in a precarious position -- something that is not only physically exhausting, but financially draining too.

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  • Fuchs' Corneal Dystrophy: My Story

    By Vonnie Kennedy

    I was recently diagnosed with Fuchs' corneal dystrophy (Fuchs) in my right eye. I'd like to share my experience.

    According to the Mayo Clinic, "Fuchs' dystrophy (fooks DIS-truh-fee) is an uncommon, slowly progressive disorder that affects the cornea - the transparent front surface of your eye. Fuchs' dystrophy is a type of corneal dystrophy, a group of conditions that may cause a hazy deposit to build up over the cornea."

    My optometrist first recognized that I had Fuchs when I went to see him for cloudy eyes. To give you as description, it was as if my right eye was steamed over like a windshield. I thought it was eyestrain. I was wrong.

    From there, the optometrist referred me to a corneal specialist who confirmed the diagnosis as Fuchs. He prescribed me with over-the-counter eye drops called Muro 128, which is basically sodium chloride. This helps dry out the cornea to slow down the leak, which causes the cloudiness.

    After two weeks of using Muro 128 eye drops

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  • Jennifer Jaff: The World Has Lost a Champion

    By Jody Smith

    I felt a sense of personal loss when I heard the news that Jennifer Jaff had passed away. She had written articles for EmpowHER for a time and I had the pleasure of working with her briefly.

    As I learned more about Jaff's life, I saw that there was so much more to this remarkable woman than I had realized. A profoundly wounded warrior herself, she nevertheless threw her full force into battle over decades, for others who were also chronically ill.

    Jaff was diagnosed with Crohn's disease when she was 19 years old and attending college. Crohn's is an autoimmune condition. The body attacks itself, resulting in chronic inflammation and pain in the gastrointestinal tract.

    But Crohn's didn't stop Jaff from becoming a lawyer. She received a bachelor's degree from Queens College of the City University of New York.

    In 1984, she graduated with honors from Georgetown University Law Center after she had earned membership in phi beta kappa along with many awards. At Georgetown,

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  • Naming the Shame that Can Cripple

    By Marcia G. Yerman

    When Amy Ferris asked me to contribute an essay to Dancing at the Shame Prom: Sharing the Stories That Kept Us Small, I wasn't sure that I had any shame. Then, when I thought about it, I realized that I did. I just hadn't framed it that way. I agreed to participate.

    After I handed in my essay, I heard back from co-editor Hollye Dexter. "I think you are holding back," she said. "Can you go a little deeper?" So I did. Along with twenty-six other women, I wrote openly about issues that had impacted my life.

    Now that the book is out, I have taken off my memoirist hat and am writing as health journalist. Reading the stories that encompassed familial alcoholism, sexual abuse, parental suicide, distorted body images, hoarding, alienation, and racial identity anxiety - I wanted to get to the psychological root of how shame shapes who we are and how we live our lives.

    I interviewed four practitioners who shared insights that were both clinical and

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  • Stress and Sleep: Tips with Celebrity Nutritionist JJ Virgin

    By Joanne Sgro

    When celebrity nutritionist and fitness expert JJ Virgin consults with clients, one of the first questions she asks is "How are you sleeping?" Virgin said, "Sleep comes first and you need seven to nine hours of it, not only for energy but also for weight loss and reduced stress."

    She stated that the sign of a restful night's sleep is to wake up without an alarm clock. But hold on! Don't throw that alarm clock away.

    Virgin said to use your alarm clock instead to remind you to "power down" and get ready for bed. And by power down, she means all electronics as well, reminding us of what we already know. Starting on an email or project before bed will only hinder us from having a restful night, which is essential to reduce stress. She said, losing sleep causes a detrimental cycle to your health. "It creates a big, big stress on body, stress cuts your sleep back, zaps your nutrients and zaps your energy."

    If you do not think you are getting enough sleep on your own,

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