Blog Posts by EmpowHER

  • Truvada: First FDA-Approved Drug for HIV Prevention

    By Danielle Serrano

    Monday, July 16th, 2012 marked a monumental milestone in the HIV/AIDS fight. The FDA approved Truvada, the first medication intended to aid in preventing HIV infection.

    This is an exciting breakthrough, as it is the first time that studies have concluded that taking a drug before HIV exposure can actually prevent infection.

    Truvada is now approved for pre-exposure prevention for individuals who test negative for HIV. In the past, the drug was used as an antiretroviral for patients that already had HIV. Now, more than ever, there is an increased hope to slow down this epidemic.

    Truvada is a combination of two anti-HIV medications. It is recommended for use in conjunction with safe sex practices. It should not, however, be used as the sole method of HIV prevention.

    According to USA Today, "A three-year study found that daily doses cut the risk of infection in healthy gay and bisexual men by 42%, when accompanied by condoms and counseling."

    Another study

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  • Need Some Mental Health Support? There's an App for That

    By Rheyanne Weaver

    Applications for smart phones and other technology are popular and can make life easier in many ways, ranging from apps that can find the cheapest gas station to apps that can track your menstrual cycle.

    Experts have even been developing numerous applications to help treat mental illnesses.

    Here are examples of free apps that some people with mental health issues are using to improve their situation.

    PPD Gone! (http://ppdgone.com/):

    Shoshana Bennett, a clinical psychologist and author of several books like "Postpartum Depression for Dummies," has survived "two life-threatening postpartum depressions" and recommends her app PPD Gone! for new mothers who are at risk or already suffering from PPD.

    "Apps can be extremely useful as a tool for dispensing information and resources," Bennett said.

    "PPD Gone! is one of the apps that my colleagues and I regularly give to new mothers who are suffering since they can literally receive help (including audio, videos,

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  • Staying Heart Healthy in Extreme Heat

    By Mary Kyle

    While the summer of 2012 may not quite break the record heat waves set in 2011, it still promises to be a H-O-T summer with much of the United States currently experiencing extreme heat.

    Not only does the heat make you physically uncomfortable, it can be harmful to your health.

    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more people died in the United States from heat exposure between 1979-2003 than from natural disasters such as earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, or lightening. (CDC 1)

    Many people succumb each year to heat-related illness such as heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

    Those with heart conditions must take extra care since extreme heat places excess stress on the heart and may leave those with heart conditions more susceptible to heat-related illnesses.

    Staying heart healthy in extreme heat doesn't have to be problematic if you just follow a few simple tips.

    Know your medications.

    Some medications may cause you to be

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  • Spend 5 Minutes with These Stress-Reduction Techniques

    By Vonnie Kennedy

    Do you get stressed about the simplest things and wonder how other people handle it when you can't? It doesn't matter how they handle it, it matters the way you handle it.

    Try these simple 5-minute techniques and let the stress go.

    1. Meditate by Square Breathing
    Sometimes people avoid meditation because they think it should be done on a mat for at least an hour. Try square breathing for 5 minutes -- in the car, at work, in bed -- anywhere.

    Focus on your breathing. Inhale through your nose and slowly count to 4 (to yourself). Hold your breath for 4 counts. Exhale through mouth for 4 counts. Rest for 4 and repeat. When your attention starts to wander, bring your mind back to your breathing.

    2. Reframe your Thoughts
    Do you often let your mind wander to negative thoughts? For instance, you see an ad on TV about Alzheimer's disease and it reminds you that your mother had Alzheimer's and why couldn't have you done more for her?

    Replace that thought with a positive

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  • Meditation: Sarah McLean’s Perfect Antidote to Stress

    By Marcia G. Yerman

    In today's world of information overload and unrelenting messages about everything from the economy to terrorism, it's pretty difficult to feel calm. Fortunately, Sarah McLean has put together a meditation plan that is extremely accessible to the average person.

    I interviewed McLean when she was in New York to introduce her new book, Soul-Centered: Transform Your Life in 8 Weeks with Meditation. She has described her program as "decidedly mainstream." Before meeting, I had read several chapters, visited her website, and listened to the first track on her guided meditations CD, "Why Meditate?"

    In the opening pages, studies were referenced showing the effects of meditation: decreased anxiety and depression, enhanced immunity, normalized blood sugar, reduction of chronic pain, and lowered cholesterol. A January 2011 article published in the journal Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging related that researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital had found that after two

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  • In Landmark Decision U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Affordable Care Act

    By Lynette Summerill

    In a 5 to 4 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court today upheld the so-called "individual mandate," the key funding provision and centerpiece in the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act saying it was constitutional.

    The individual mandate survives as a tax.

    Writing for the majority opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts said, "We do not consider whether the Act embodies sound policies. That judgment is entrusted to the Nation's elected leaders. We ask only whether Congress has the power under the Constitution to enact the challenged provisions."

    "Our precedent demonstrates that Congress had the power to impose the exaction in Section 5000A under the taxing power, and that Section 5000A need not be read to do more than impose a tax. This is sufficient to sustain it," the Chief Justice wrote.

    The Court however rejected the Government's main argument that the Commerce Clause, which allows Congress to use its power to regulate commerce between the states, in this

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  • Moms, Having a Great Summer? 3 Ways You Can Document It

    By Maria Smith

    Summer has officially started. Moms everywhere are already thinking about how their children will answer the question, "What did you do during summer break?" when they go back to school.

    Perhaps big family trips are planned, or maybe a few weeks of summer camp. Maybe it will be a summer full of playdates, time spent with grandparents or long days at the pool or beach.

    Whatever moms have planned for their kids this summer, it will not matter if they do not remember it. So with that in mind, here are three simple, inexpensive ways to document this summer and preserve these special moments for the kids (and moms too)!

    1. Journal
    With all that goes on in the daily life of a mom, it is no wonder moms forget many of the cute, funny, or otherwise memorable things their kids do or say each day.

    Having a journal around where moms spend most of their time, maybe in the kitchen or stuffed in the diaper bag, it will have a better chance of being used. For most Moms, long gone

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  • FDA Postpones Sunscreen Re-Labeling: Protect Yourself

    By Danielle Serrano

    This summer, sunscreen consumers will be stuck wading through menacing sunscreen labels. The summer of 2012 was supposed to mark a time when sunscreen labeling became easier to understand, making it easier to stay healthy and protected.

    However, with few companies willing or able to comply with FDA proposed labeling changes on time, the FDA was forced to postpone until December of 2012.

    Let's face it, sunscreen labeling isn't the easiest to sift through. Most of us are forced to dive into murky labeling, unprepared.

    Water-proof, sweat-proof, or water-resistant? Mineral or non-mineral? How water-proof is water proof?

    According to the re-labeling guidelines set forth by the FDA:

    - Only sunscreens that protect against both UVA and UVB rays will be able to label using the term "broad spectrum."

    - Sunscreens with an SPF lower than 15 would have to come with a warning label stating that it will not protect against skin cancer or premature aging.

    - Arbitrary terms

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  • Choosing Organic: The 2012 Dirty Dozen List

    By Dr. Carrie Jones

    Going to the grocery store these days can be overwhelming. Between trying to decipher the numbers on labels, understanding if locally grown is the same as organic and just trying to choose healthy -- it's no wonder there is so much confusion and frustration!

    Every year the Environmental Working Group (EWG) does research based on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on fruits and vegetables to determine which ones are the cleanest.

    For 2012, the EWG compiled their "Dirty Dozen" list to include in order of worst to less (yes, that's "less," not "least"): apples, celery, sweet bell peppers, peaches, strawberries, nectarines (imported), grapes, spinach, lettuce, cucumbers, blueberries (domestic) and potatoes.

    Their "Clean Fifteen" list includes: onions, sweet corn, pineapple, avocado, cabbage, sweet peas, asparagus, mangoes, eggplant, kiwi, cantaloupe (domestic), sweet potatoes, grapefruit, watermelon, and mushrooms.

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  • Body Dysmorphic Disorder and Suicide

    By Susan Cody

    I was reading an article recently about a father who walked over 500 miles in memory of his son, Nathaniel Asselin. His son had committed suicide at the age of 24, due to a battle with body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) that lasted more than half his young life.

    His dad, Denis Asselin, is stopping by his son's favorite places as well as giving talks in the hospitals and other centers where his son sought help for his mental condition.

    He wants to bring awareness to this little known medical condition that is linked to obsessive compulsive disorder. His journey is called Walking With Nathaniel.

    EmpowHER via womenshealth.gov describes BDD as "... a serious illness in which a person is preoccupied with minor or imaginary physical flaws, usually of the skin, hair, and nose. A person with BDD tends to have cosmetic surgery, and even if the surgery is successful, does not think it was and is unhappy with the outcome."

    "Being preoccupied with minor or imaginary physical

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