08/31/18 Newsletter – Lots of Useful Information This Week

There’s a little something for everyone here… enjoy!

Ask and ye shall receive

According to a recent study by the University of South Carolina’s Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics, prescription co-pays are higher than the actual cost of the drug about 25% of the time.  As required by some insurers, pharmacists must often adhere to a “gag order” which prevents them from notifying patients when their prescription co-pays exceed the actual drug price, unless patients specifically request the information.  This policy enables insurers to skim a little bit extra off the top (at the expense of the consumer).  It may behoove you to ask your pharmacist about drug pricing options when you pick up your next prescription.  In addition, many pharmacy chains (like Walmart) offer significant generic drug discounts to their customers, so look into these as well.

Little monsters on the loose

A friend was kind enough to alert me to this, so I thought I would  pass it along…

You may run into a exotic-looking creature as you romp around in the great outdoors… but despite its fuzzy appeal, keep your distance!  The very cool-looking Saddleback Caterpillar, characterized by an unmistakable bright green patch surrounding a target-like spot on its back, is covered with spines that inject a venom which can cause painful stings, nausea and, rarely, more severe allergic reactions (like an allergic reaction to a bee sting).  They are present throughout the Eastern U.S. in late summer and early fall.  Click the link above (or here) to learn more about this interesting critter and how to treat a sting in the event of an unfortunate encounter.

STD’s on the rise

According to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), sexually transmitted disease diagnoses have increased yearly since 2013 and reached record levels in 2017.  Chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis topped the list, with chlamydia remaining the most common STD reported.  In addition, we have seen a rise in antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea, which is increasingly difficult to treat; research on a new treatment options is urgently underway, although decreases in public health funding have presented challenges in this forefront.  Communication and awareness are keys to prevention.  Sexually active individuals should speak frankly with their partners, use consistent safe sex practices, and stay in communication with their physicians about appropriate screening and prevention measures.

Hearts and minds

We’ve always believed that psychological distress (such as depression or anxiety) negatively impacts overall health, and some studies have born this out.  Now, a large study from Australia appears to reconfirm these suspicions.  Generally speaking, adults in this study with higher levels of psychological distress were found to be at increased risk for heart attack and stroke.  The take-home message: Live a balanced life, seek outlets to help mitigate stress, watch for signs or symptoms of severe stress, anxiety or depression in yourself or your loved ones, and if they arise, talk to someone.

And on the flip side, a French study recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), demonstrates once again that reduction of risk factors for heart disease (such as smoking cessation, physical activity, dietary improvement, weight reduction, and lowering of cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure also lead to a reduced incidents of dementia.  So once again, healthy lifestyle habits can go along way to maintaining the Health of our hearts as well as our minds.

You Make Me Dizzy, Miss Lizzy

Whenever I hear John Lennon belt this one out, I’m reminded that I should address vertigo in a newsletter, but then other topics get in the way.  This week, a patient brought it to mind once again.  Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV), the most common form of vertigo, is aptly named: it’s benign (meaning that it’s not reflective of a more worrisome problem), it’s paroxysmal (a temporary pattern of brief episodes), and it’s positional (triggered by changes in head position).  It arises when calcium particles get displaced and float in the semicircular canals of the inner ear (you may need to refer back to your middle school biology textbook to recall these, or click here).  Physicians have recommended various maneuvers to treat the problem, but the technique that I’ve found most effective (and easiest to perform) is Dr. Carol Foster’s “half-somersault” maneuverSymptoms of BPPV can be extremely unpleasant or distressing.  But before you panic and imagine the worst, if the pattern fits and there are no warning signs as described in the link above (or here), you might want to give this a try (check out this video demonstration or this PDF link for details).  Tuck this one away… it might come in handy some day.

Cows on drugs

According to recent data from the Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, a number of different drugs- including some that have been banned- are making their way into our meat supply.  The list includes hallucinogens, antibiotics and potentially dangerous anti-inflammatories.  It’s a big topic that addresses system breakdowns involving lapses in regulation and food safety standards, counterfeit drugs, and feed contamination.  The article linked above is interesting, and worth a read.  If you’re a meat-eater, I would recommend buying organic when possible.

That’s all for this week… I hope you have a great weekend!