Sunday, December 30, 2007

Hormone Replacement Therapy - Part 2
Estrogen Dominance and Natural Progesterone

While many troublesome menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, mood swings, vaginal dryness, insomnia and anxiety are caused by too little estrogen, other symptoms during perimenopause and menopause can be caused by estrogen dominance. This is most often due to either too much estrogen or a reduction in progesterone. Estrogen dominance can be a problem even for younger women who experience PMS, painful menstrual cramps or long, heavy periods.

In my post of October 7, 2007, Hormone Replacement Therapy – Part 1, I focused on Estrogen Replacement Therapy. Because of the known side effects of estrogen replacement, especially its known effects on the hyper-proliferation of both breast and uterine tissue, many women suffering from menopausal symptoms are looking for a natural alternative.

As I stated in my previous post: It has long been known that estrogen (both natural and synthetic) can increase the risk of certain cancers, yet these hormones continue to be prescribed by physicians. Estrogen has a direct effect on the uterine lining and is known to increase a woman’s risk of endometrial (uterine) cancer and some pre-cancerous conditions such as atypical hyperplasia. Estrogen can also increase the risk of breast cancer because of the effect of estrogen on breast tissue as well as the development of potentially deadly blood clots.

In my previous post, I recommended the use of black cohosh, red clover, and soy which contain natural phytoestrogens which can reduce and eliminate annoying menopausal symptoms without the dangerous side effects of estrogen. Since women during perimenopause and menopause experience a reduction in both estrogen and progesterone, it seems quite natural to add natural progesterone to balance the phytoestrogens in the formula. Natural progesterone is available in creams available in health stores and as Wild Yam Root which contains diosgenin from which progesterone can be synthesized. I will not recommend any specific products, but combinations of natural herbs with both estrogenic and progesterone effects can be found in pharmacies, health product catalogs, and on the internet.

And what about estrogen dominance? In this case, we will want to use progesterone to counteract the effects of too much estrogen secretion. This is a common occurrence in both menopause and perimenopause and is responsible for extremely heavy, anemia causing periods during perimenopause and the spotting that can occur during early menopause. While synthetic progesterone such as Provera and generic version medroxyprogesterone can have serious side effects such as proliferation of breast tissue, increase in blood glucose, anxiety, weight gain, blood clots, and even cancer, women can enjoy the benefits of progesterone therapy through the use of natural progesterone cream or Wild Yam Root cream or capsules without these side effects. These products can be easily found in pharmacies, health stores and catalogs, or online.

Although there is some controversy over the effectiveness of Wild Yam Root, probably brought on by the big pharmaceutical companies, in a future post, I will describe how Wild Yam Root cured my estrogen dominance.

For an affordable health plan that encourages consumer driven health care and alternative medicine visit: Health Plans Plus.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Gift Ideas for Mental and Physical Fitness

Whether you are shopping for holiday gifts or a gift for a special occasion like a birthday or graduation, why not choose a gift that has real educational value—a gift that promotes physical and mental fitness. These gifts will be appreciated by both young and old alike.

When my daughter was in elementary school, and even before that as a preschooler, I always chose gifts that had educational value and could help develop small motor skills. My daughter developed reading readiness through colorful rhyming and rebus books. Even before we had a computer with good graphics capabilities, we chose
board games with educational value. Candy Land has always been a kid’s favorite. It may seem like a simple game, but it teaches cooperation and following directions. Other games such as I Spy Preschool Game help develop the child’s matching, reading, and social skills. Preschool puzzles and Lego blocks help to promote small motor and spatial skills. Even a doll house or play kitchen can provide hours of imaginative fun. I enjoyed my second childhood as well while playing these games with my small daughter.

Once my daughter started elementary school and we bought a more up to date computer, we spent hours playing computer games. Every game that I purchased had an educational goal in mind whether science, thinking, reading or mathematical skills. These games were both challenging and a lot of fun to play. One of our favorite games was Math Rescue which combined drill on math facts with a challenging arcade style game. We also enjoyed The Learning Company’s Super Solver series with such titles as Treasure Mountain, Treasure Cove, Midnight Rescue, and Outnumbered. We spent many hours playing these games, and not only did my daughter and I have fun while she improved her math and reading skills, but we also spent quality time together and helped to build a strong relationship which we still have today.

As my daughter got older, we continued to play these computer games adding more sophisticated titles such as Where in the World is Carmen San Diego (also available as a board game) and more advanced math games. One of our favorites was Broderbund’s Math for the Real World which has the student solve real world math problems. We continued our use of both educational computer and board games during our six years of homeschooling 7th through 12th grades. An even greater variety of quality computer game titles is available.

Today many parents want to get away from video and computer games and encourage more physical activity. A large variety of
fun physical fitness products are available. Parents can choose from inexpensive volley ball and soccer goal sets to trampolines, pogo sticks and more adventurous z-lines and rope climbing sets. Bicycle riding can be fun for all members of the family and provide a great aerobic workout. Weather permitting families can engage in outdoor lawn games such as croquet, bocce, badminton, and miniature golf.

Classic board games such as monopoly, chess, and checkers offer many hours of fun while building strategic thinking skills. Multi-game tables are popular today, and provide children and adults with a variety of games to choose from at an affordable price—all promoting small motor coordination, skill building, and physical fitness. For the more serious sports people in your household, billiards tables and supplies, ping pong tables, and air hockey tables make beautiful and well appreciated gifts and are available in a variety of price ranges.

For more gift ideas visit The Family Gamer.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

The Tragedy of the Nebraska Mall Shooting - A Commentary

At a time that should be filled with the joy and warmth of holiday shopping for friends and loved ones, 8 Nebraska families are instead facing a terrible tragedy and have lost mothers, fathers, siblings, and close friends. Our hearts and prayers go out to these families in their time of need.

Could this incident have been prevented? It is hard to say, but I have no doubt that incidents such as the Westroads Mall shooting in a suburb of Omaha, Nebraska, the Virginia Tech massacre, and the tragic school shootings could have been prevented by a combination of better mental health services affordable for all and stricter gun control legislation.

What I don't understand is that we have strict licensing laws for driving an automobile, yet licensing laws for guns are very casual. Everyone agrees that it is important to have strict motor vehicle laws. In order to get a license to drive in most states, one has to pass a written test and take a 6 hour class before being issued a learner’s permit. In order to have the right to drive, the driver must pass a vigorous road test proving that he or she can handle the motor vehicle safely. No such requirement exists for gun ownership.

Why can’t the same standards apply to gun ownership? Shouldn’t potential gun owners have to take a required safety course? Shouldn’t a license and a very strict background check be required for all firearms, not just hand guns? Shouldn’t we make it more difficult for mentally ill or former felons to purchase guns? Should dangerous assault firearms, such as the SKS assault weapon used by the mall shooter, even be sold to the public? Surely this is no hunting rifle.

Instead, the NRA (National Rifle Association) and their Republican cronies fight every piece of gun legislation that is brought before the Congress. Even the Democrats run scared and have to show that they are macho and be photographed with hunting gear. At least as a woman, Hillary Clinton won’t have to demonstrate her hunting prowess as did Senator Kerry, when he was running for President in 2004, so that he would not offend the powerful lobbying arm of the NRA.

Those of us who are for strict gun licensing are not trying to take away the guns of hunters although in my personal opinion one can certainly choose a more constructive sport than shooting innocent animals. We are only trying to regulate the ownership of guns so that mentally ill punks like the Nebraska mall or the Virginia Tech shooter can't get their hands on deadly assault rifles.

It is time to stand up and demand sensible gun legislation. Adequate mental health treatment must be made available to all who need it regardless of their ability to pay. This is an educational issue as well. People need to learn the signs of serious mental illness so that they can intervene before tragedy strikes. The shooters in the incidents above all displayed signs of serious mental illness.

Friday, November 30, 2007

The Shame of the American Health Care System

As is well publicized, over 47,000,000 Americans have no health insurance—more than 15 % of the population. Even more Americans do not have any dental insurance. With the exception of the United States, most developed countries have a National health system which benefits all of its citizens both rich and poor. Although the United States is a first world country, for the more than 47 million uninsured, medical care is third world.

I recently read an article, “Patients without Borders” by Sara Corbett, in the November 18, 2007 edition of The New York Times Magazine, which made me feel very ashamed of the state of the health care situation in the United States. This photo journal told of some very generous and humane physicians, dentists, optometrists, and nurses who belong to a group called Remote Area Medical (RAM). The original purpose of this group was to send health expeditions to such 3rd world countries as Guyana, India, Tanzania and Haiti. The only difference was that this time the expedition took place right in the United States.

On a rainy July weekend, at the Wise County Fairgrounds in Virginia, right after the finish of the Virginia-Kentucky Fair and Horse Show, volunteers from the Virginia Lions Clubs scrub down the facilities and ready the fairgrounds for the Remote Area Medical team. Working in animal stalls and makeshift tents, these volunteers provided free eyeglasses, dental work, radiology, and even minor surgery to over 2,500 patients without health insurance. These patients had to wait on long lines and were treated in less than comfortable surroundings. At the end of the weekend, several hundred patients were turned away because they simply arrived too late to be seen. This expedition is only held once a year. What happens to these patients if they become ill and have medical or dental needs before the RAM team returns?

Many of the RAM health expedition patients are hard working people who simply can’t afford the high cost of medical care or the medical insurance needed to pay for this costly care. Is good medical care only a privilege of the wealthy?

To the credit of the Democratic candidates running for President, each of them does have a health care plan which would ease the current health care crisis. Unfortunately a few of them only address the needs of children whose families don’t have any health insurance. While this might be a good place to start, don’t adults need medical care as well?

If you listen to the Republicans, the solution to the current health insurance debacle can be found in the private sector. Hasn’t the private sector failed? It is the private sector that has brought us managed care, overly priced pharmaceuticals, and out of control prices. Can we trust our health care to a private sector that cares more about corporate profit margins than the health of Americans? If you listen to the Republicans debate, you come away with the feeling that they have more interest in abortion, guns, gay marriage, persecuting undocumented immigrants, spying on American citizens, and what goes on in our bedroom than in providing decent health care to hard working Americans.

George Bush fooled the American people by stating that he would be a compassionate Conservative. Do these 2 words even go together? This so-called compassionate Conservative vetoed the SCHIP (State Children’s Health Insurance Plan) which would have extended more health benefits to children without insurance. There were not enough Republicans to join with the Democrats for the 2/3 majority needed to override the presidential veto.

Keep health care in mind when you vote in the upcoming primary elections and the November 2008 general election. In the meantime, if you are one of the 47 million Americans without health insurance or the 7 out of 10 without any dental benefits, visit for information on how to save money on your health care.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Ask your Healthcare Provider about Infection Control

A recent incident in Nassau County, Long Island, New York, in which a number of patients were infected with hepatitis C, prompted me to write this blog post. Hepatitis C is a debilitating virus infection of the liver which can lead to cirrhosis of the liver and even liver cancer over time.

In the Long Island case, an anesthesiologist who specialized in pain management was found to have used improper infection control techniques while giving epidural injections for the relief of severe lower back pain. The affected patients went in for the relief of their chronic and severe back pain and came back with a serious, life threatening illness. All patients who received these injections were instructed to get tested for hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV.

Unfortunately this has not been the first case of the transmission of hepatitis C, hepatitis B, and even HIV through the use of improper sterilization of instruments. In the case of the Long Island physician, he had reused syringes, only replacing the needle, with multi-dose vials of the anesthetic solution. As a result, the multi-dose vials became contaminated with hepatitis C. There have also been documented cases of contamination after endoscopic procedures such as colonoscopy or laparoscopy. How many cases of life-threatening hospital acquired infections and MRSA have resulted from intubation and catheterization.

As a patient, it is important to question your healthcare provider about his or her sterility procedures. Refuse any medication given from multi-dose vials. It might be a means of the doctor saving money, but it could put your health in danger. Also, before submitting to injections or any other invasive techniques, make sure that there are no alternative treatments available.

To take charge of your healthcare and help pay for alternative treatments visit: Health Plans Plus.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Family That Plays Together Stays Together

In today’s world of electronic devices, cable TV, VCRs, computers, video games, and busy work schedules, it is often difficult for families to get together. Yet, research has shown that a strong family life produces happier and more successful adults.

It is important for families to take some time out and schedule a definite time during the week for family fun and recreation. This can be in the form of a family fun night.

Here are a few tips from Shape Up America:

1) Schedule a regular time during the week for physical activity and recreation.
2) Family members can take turns selecting an activity for the family to do as a group each week.
3) Buy toys and equipment that encourage physical activity.
4) Select gifts that promote physical activity with the recipient’s skills and interests in mind.
5) Limit the time spent watching TV, surfing the web, or playing video games.
6) Emphasize the importance of having fun and learning rather than competing to win.

Both indoor and outdoor activities, when the weather permits, should be encouraged. Board games are always fun for the family to play and encourage thinking skills, strategy, and eye/hand coordination. Choose games that are appropriate for all skill levels involved.

In nice weather, encourage outdoor play. A variety of ball games can be played even on city playgrounds. Volley ball can be set up on the beach or in the backyard, and who can resist a game of badminton or croquet. Miniature golf can be set up both indoors and outdoors. Shop around to find good equipment at discount prices.

If space permits, set up an indoor recreation room that can be used for family fun. A game of table tennis will provide physical activity, fun, and eye-hand coordination. Try a game of billiards. You can even purchase an inexpensive multi-game table which will provide hours of family fun and recreation. Add an arcade game like a basketball shootout game. Your children will have fun while they enhance their skill level and self esteem. Young children will appreciate a trampoline, balls of various sizes, jumpropes or a golf putting game. Many companies manufacture junior size sports equipment scaled just for young toddlers and elementary school children.

For some ideas for family fun and recreation visit The Family Gamer.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Family Fun and Fitness

I am probably giving away my age here, but I can remember a time when we all ate our dinner at the same time, we didn’t have 300 + television programs to choose from every day, children did not spend hours after school playing video games, sitting in front of computer screens, or talking on cell phones. When I came home from school, if weather permitted, I was expected to go outside to play. We would go to the playground, play ball, jump rope, and play running games.

Kids today are frequently stressed out by many of hours of homework and the pressure to take college level courses for advanced placement before they are intellectually ready. I have heard of children getting by on only a few hours of sleep each night because of excessive homework and skipping lunch in order to take on such a demanding curriculum. Frequently both parents are at work outside of the home, and there is no parent to see that the child engages in healthy outdoors activities during these afternoon hours.

Today’s children are more likely to be found playing video games, surfing the web, watching television or the VCR than engaging in sports and healthy recreation. As a result, we have seen a rise in both children and adults in such lifestyle disorders as obesity, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes—disorders that are preventable and even treatable by attention to both diet and exercise. A recent survey showed an increase in prescriptions in young people for high blood pressure and hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol).

In a message from former Surgeon General, C. Everett Koop, M.D., for the Shape up America program, Dr. Koop states: “A survey conducted by Shape Up America has revealed that child care responsibilities are interfering with the efforts of many families to get more exercise and at the same time we know many children are now overweight or obese. The solution is a commitment on the part of the entire family to spend more time together. I encourage you to choose activities you can do together and support and reward each other’s efforts to be more active at home, at school, at work, and in your communities. I urge you to replace the use of food as a reward for good behavior and offer to take a walk with your child instead. The pleasure of your company is the best reward your child can receive and the best gift you can give.”

This is good advice indeed. In my next few postings, I will offer some suggestions for family fun, recreation, and fitness. Not only will your family be healthier and more fit, but these activities will help your children develop their self esteem and skill development. Since “the family that plays together stays together”, as an added bonus, these activities will also help foster good family relationships.

For some suggestions for family fun and fitness visit The Family Gamer.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Tell your Representative to support SCHIP

If you have been following the news or this blog, you know that President Bush vetoed bi-partisan legislation sent to him by Congress that would extend the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) to include more currently uninsured children. The President claims that extending this program would be an extension of socialized medicine, yet the private sector has clearly failed, with 47 million Americans lacking health insurance, to protect the health care of its citizens, including working Americans.

This bill already enjoys a veto proof 2/3 majority in the Senate. The problem is in the House of Representatives. Although 45 Republican Representatives joined with Democrats in the House, the bill is still 21 votes shy of the 2/3 majority needed in the House to override the President’s veto. It is sad that there are some Republicans that will place Conservative ideology ahead of what is good for America’s children.

On October 18th, Congress will vote to override President Bush’s veto. What you must do is call your Representative at 1-866-544-7573. Ask the switchboard operator for your Representative’s office. If you do not know who your representative is visit: Insert your zip code in the upper left hand corner. Urge him or her to override President Bush’s veto and provide health insurance for millions of American children.

If you are one of the 47 million uninsured Americans and earn too much for Medicaid, visit Health Plans Plus for information on how to find an affordable benefit program.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Al Gore - A Man of Vision

On Friday, October 13, 2007, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded jointly to former Vice President Al Gore and the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of international scientists dedicated to climate research, for their role in spreading awareness of the danger of man-made climate change and the need to come up with solutions to solve this problem which threatens our environment. The Nobel Peace panel stated that Mr. Gore is: “probably the single individual who has done most to create greater worldwide understanding of the measures that need to be adopted.”

We are already seeing the effects of global warming. There are NASA photographs showing the melting of the arctic ice cap, and glaciers have been receding in both the arctic and Antarctic regions of Earth as well as mountain ranges. We have already seen some of the results of the melting glaciers. Some indigenous populations have lost houses in the melting permafrost. It is reported that polar bears that must rely on arctic ice to hunt their favorite prey, seals, are growing thinner. Many Arctic and Antarctic species will be threatened with extinction as they lose their habitats.

Humans will be affected as well. If the ice continues to melt, sea levels will raise and eventually coastal cities will flood. There are already portions of Africa experiencing widespread drought. Much of the Earth’s fresh water is contained in this ice. More and more areas on Earth will experience drought. Both flooding and drought will cause mass migration of people and will as a result lead to a refugee crises and even warfare as more and more people compete for fewer resources. In the more immediate future, we can expect to experience unusually warm weather and more Katrina like storms with their devastating effects.

Al Gore is truly a man of vision. He has been passionate about the subject of global warming for many years. His passion in bringing the effects of climate change to the attention of the world will help future generations and other countries for many years to come.

Al Gore has always been my hero. I first experienced his passion when I watched him on the campaign trail as he campaigned for the 2000 Presidential election. When he said that he would fight for working America, I knew how devoted he was to helping everyday Americans. I felt this passion.

Mr. Gore is truly a man of vision and insight. He has not only called it right on global warming and the threat to the environment, but he has been right on so many issues including the disastrous war in Iraq, the torture of prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, and on the erosion of our civil liberties by the Bush administration. As an American citizen, I can only lament what would have been had Al Gore, the winner of the popular vote in the 2007 American presidential election become President. Unfortunately that was not to be when the U.S. Supreme Court selected George Bush as President in the closely contested election. But the United States’ loss is the world’s gain, as Al Gore fights for all of Earth’s peoples.

Environmental toxins and pollution can cause ill health. Visit my website at:

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Hormone Replacement Therapy - First Do No Harm
Part 1 - Estrogen Replacement Therapy (EST)

Menopause is the time in a woman’s life when her ovaries stop releasing egg cells and menstruation ceases. At the same time, a woman’s body produces less estrogen and progesterone, the two main female hormones. This reduction in hormone levels may lead some women to experience bothersome symptoms such as hot flashes, vaginal dryness, insomnia, anxiety, and mood swings.
While these symptoms are the result of natural processes and can be relieved by natural remedies, along came the big pharmaceutical companies to make a disease out of menopause and as a result increase profits.

The first hormone replacement medication was the drug Premarin. This medication consists of horse estrogens taken from pregnant mares—hence the name PREgnant MARes urINe. The pregnant mares were usually kept in cramped conditions so they could be on a urine production line. The majority of the resulting foals were destined for people’s tables and sold for slaughter. Horse meat is a delicacy in some overseas market.

It has long been known that estrogen (both natural and synthetic) can increase the risk of certain cancers, yet these hormones continue to be prescribed by physicians. Estrogen has a direct effect on the uterine lining and is known to increase a woman’s risk of endometrial (uterine) cancer and some pre-cancerous conditions such as atypical hyperplasia. Estrogen can also increase the risk of breast cancer because of the effect of estrogen on breast tissue as well as development of potentially deadly blood clots.

Although the best course is to treat menopause as the natural body process that it is, if menopausal symptoms are intolerable, there are several natural therapies that can bring relief with minimal or no side effects. These therapies include black cohosh, red clover, and soy.

Black cohosh (also spelled cohash) has been used for many years as an effective alternative herbal treatment for menopausal symptoms. This herbal remedy has even gone mainstream. In 2001, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists stated that based on consensus and expert opinion, black cohosh could be helpful for the symptoms of menopause. The pharmaceutical company, GlaxoSmithKline, now markets black cohosh, sold under the name Remifemin, as a treatment for the vasomotor symptoms of menopause (hot flashes, night sweats, irritability, etc.). Remifemin has been the subject of double blind, placebo controlled tests proving its effectiveness without causing the effect on breast tissue that estrogen can have.

Red clover and soy are two other supplements that can be beneficial for menopausal symptoms. Red clover is a source of both phytoestrogens and isoflavones which are plant estrogens which mimic human estrogen. This product is also marketed under the name Promensil and has been the subject of research studies proving its effectiveness. Soy products, available in both food and supplement form, also contain phytoestrogens and may provide some relief of menopausal symptoms.

For information on health benefits that are friendly to alternative medicine, visit my website at health plans plus.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Support the Children's Health Care Program

President Bush fooled many people into voting for him in both 2000 and 2004 by promising to be a compassionate conservative. He has gone back on his promise many times by vetoing stem cell research which could save lives, not properly funding the No Child Left Behind Act, and now by threatening to veto an extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) which could bring in an additional 4 million children who are currently uninsured.

Suddenly Mr. Bush is concerned about excess government spending for the children’s health care program. This program would cost an additional $35 billion over a 5 year period. This additional expenditure would be funded by an increase in the cigarette tax which just might help curb smoking a bit.

You have to wonder about Mr. Bush’s priorities. He certainly hasn’t worried about the huge cost in both lives and treasury to fund the war in Iraq—an immoral war that was declared under false pretenses. This war has now cost our country over $1 trillion. Think of what this money could have done for our country. It has been said that just one day in Iraq could provide health insurance coverage for one year to 380,900 uninsured children in America, yet the president worries about the cost of extending the CHIP program.

Mr. Bush has stated that not vetoing this bill would be giving health insurance to middle income children. Well, has he had to purchase health insurance on a $20,000 to $40,000 annual income? The cost of health insurance has been increasing by far more than the increase in salaries for many years. It now costs more than $1,000 per month to insure the health of a family of 4. Only the wealthiest families can afford to pay an extra $1,000 per month on top of other living expenses. It is virtually impossible to pay for private insurance if you are just getting by. Republicasn like to look to the private sector for financing, but because of the high expense, fewer businesses are providing benefits for their employees.

Both the Senate and the House have passed versions of a new Children’s Health Insurance Program bill which will extend coverage to many children currently uninsured. A number of Republicans voted along with all of the Democrats to support passage of this bill. The plan will also strengthen the CHIP benefit package by guaranteeing dental and mental health benefits.

What can you do?

It is important to get veto proof support within the Senate and House. E-mail or phone your Senators and Representatives, particularly if they are Republicans. Tell them to support families and vote for the CHIP reauthorization bill. Let them know that you expect them not to side with the President who has been wrong on so many issues.

If you are uninsured or underinsured, visit Health Plans Plus to save money on your health care.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Animal Abuse and Mental Health

September 27, 2007 was chosen as a day for all bloggers to unite and write posts against abuse. Being an animal lover, I chose to write about animal abuse.

Animals play an important part in a healthy lifestyle and environment. We have all seen the beautiful photos of the earth from space. What is so unique and beautiful about the planet that we live on—the plants and animals that inhabit it—life itself. As humans, we are just one of the species that form a part of our environment. All species—both animals and plants—live in a delicate balance. As custodians of the environment, the human species must do all that it can to protect this delicate balance. If we do not protect the environment, the health of future generations will be adversely affected through global warming and all of its ramifications. A rise in sea levels will flood major coastal cities, reduce habitable land mass, force the extinction of many species of animals, bring on drought and desertification, and many species will have difficulty finding enough food to eat, including humans. Al Gore pointed out the dangers of global warming in his An Inconvenient Truth.

The recent dog fighting case brought against NFL football star Michael Vick, that has been in the news recently, points out the need for educating our children to respect the environment and the animals that live in it. Teach your children about the wonder of nature early on and they will grow up learning to respect the environment. Children showing signs of aggressive behavior towards animals should be referred for mental health counseling. This can be an early sign of conduct disorder or even later sociopathic behavior. Many serial killers started out as animal abusers.

Learning to respect animals is important to mental health. Pet ownership can reduce depression, be companionship for an elderly empty nest senior, and reduce tension and anxiety. It has also been shown that playing with a pet not only improves mental health but can reduce blood pressure, so there are physical benefits as well.

As I play with my chocolate lab mix, Julia, I never stop being amazed by how intelligent she is. I enjoy interacting with her. She is a companion that follows me every place that I go. She is always eager to greet me, and puts a smile on my face. She cannot talk, but she can communicate with me. It is amazing how she is able to read body language. If I go through a series of motions, she knows what is coming next. Without my saying anything, she knows that I am about to leave the house, or that she should go into the bedroom because I am expecting guests and they don’t like being barked at. She also knows how to signal her wants and needs through her own body language. Julia is also capable of expressing a wide range of emotions. Surely, such an amazing creature should be treated with respect.

For information on how to save money on mental health services, visit my website at:

Saturday, September 22, 2007

What are Discount Health Plans? Part 3

In previous posts, I discussed how discount health plans could be used to provide benefits for individuals and families who could not afford dental or medical insurance. I also discussed how these plans could be used as supplemental benefits to fill in gaps in present coverage such as discounts for eyeglasses, diabetic supplies, chiropractic, or prescription drug benefits. Discount programs also provide for services not covered by traditional insurance such as cosmetic surgery, cosmetic dentistry, orthodontia, Lasik eye surgery, or alternative medicine. These plans could also be combined with high deductible major medical plans saving businesses money on their total benefit package while still providing the company’s employees with adequate coverage.

Once a decision has been made to purchase a discount health or dental plan, what are some things to consider when purchasing a plan? The Consumer Health Alliance and National Association of Dental Plans are organizations which maintain strict standards for their member dental and medical plan companies, so look for a discount program that is a member of these organizations to insure the integrity and honesty of the company that you decide to choose. Since not all plans are identical, it is a good idea to compare prices and services available for each company. It is essential to look for a plan that offers a good choice of doctors, dentists, and other health care providers in your area. The company should also provide an 800 customer service number, an easy to navigate informational website with details on services and providers, access to fee schedules for various specialties and services, and informational booklets.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Call for submissions at Take Charge of Your Health Care Carnival

This is a call for submissions to my new "Take Charge of Your Health Care Blog Carnival." This blog carnival will publish monthly and will feature articles pertaining to saving money on heath care, current issues in health care, medical and dental benefits, and alternative medicine. Please visit and look for "Take Charge of Your Health Care" for more details.

Access to good health care, especially in the United States, has become quite costly in the last 10 to 20 years. With big pharmaceutical companies and health maintenance organizations in charge of our health system, things are not likely to get any better until some changes are made. The purpose of Take Charge of Your Health Care is to blog about the high cost of health and dental care, suggest ways to save money using the present system, focus on consumer directed health care where patients can make choices for their best interest, expose attempts by the big pharmaceutical companies to lower acceptable blood pressure and cholesterol values so they can sell more expensive medications or drug our children for made up mental disorders, and seek alternative medicine solutions to health problems.

The carnival will publish each month so we are looking for article submissions on various healthcare issues such as the high cost of medical and dental care, ways to save money on health care, alternative medicine, consumer directed health care, and current issues in health care. Our first edition will be published on September 20, 2007, and we will publish around the 20th of each month. If you would like your blog article to be published in the next edition, please submit no later than September 19th.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

What Are Discount Health Plans? Part 2

Discount health plans offer businesses, families, and individuals a way to save money on their health care costs. For individuals and families who lack basic medical and dental insurance, discount plans can be used as stand alone programs to help save money on expensive medical costs. Often substantial discounts are given on dental procedures, physician visits, lab tests, imaging studies, vision care, prescriptions, and chiropractic treatment. Discounts on ancillary services such as hearing aids, physical therapy, mental health services, and diabetic supplies are also included. At AmeriPlan® we even include a hospital advocacy plan on our health plans which can help families and individuals avoid bankruptcy. This is how our hospital advocacy program works. As soon as the hospitalized patient reaches $2,500 or more in hospital expenses, a professional advocate is assigned to that patient. The hospital advocate negotiates the patient's fee with the hospital often achieving a substantial reduction for the patient. An affordable and convenient payment plan is then worked out for the patient.

For patients with health insurance, discount health plans can also be used as supplemental benefits. These benefits can include prescription, vision, chiropractic, and other benefits not included in the patient’s insurance plan. In addition, traditional health insurance plans usually don’t include coverage for cosmetic surgery, cosmetic dentistry, alternative medicine, or Lasik eye surgery while most discount health plans do include savings on these services.

Businesses can benefit from including discount health plans as part of their total benefits package. Businesses can purchase less costly catastrophic, high deductible, and health savings accounts. These high deductible medical insurance programs save the company considerable money. A discount health plan is purchased along with the high deductible plan to provide supplemental benefits. These supplemental benefits provide savings on routine health expenditures and dental care while the catastrophic coverage provides a safety net for lengthy hospitalizations and complex care. Companies can save money on their health insurance while providing their valued employees with the security that they need.

For more information on discount health plans, visit

Monday, September 3, 2007

Ritalin - The Truth about ADD

Now that it is back to school time, parents must become advocates for their children and be vigilant against the labeling of their children as ADD or ADHD. Even autism is not just autism these days but a whole spectrum of disorders, many of which may just be personality variants.

Unfortunately, education today takes a negative approach to teaching children. Rather than build upon a child’s strengths, talents, and multiple intelligences, all students must fit the exact same mold. Today’s approach states that a child who does not pass certain standards must be diagnosed and classified. It is not that he has a different learning style, but that he is diseased or flawed in some way. There is money to be made with this approach both in terms of State aid given to school districts for special education programs and profits for the medical and pharmaceutical establishment.

Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) may not be a real disease at all; however, the pharmaceutical companies as well as the medical establishment benefit financially from this classification. There are no lab tests that can diagnose ADD. A child may be labeled as ADD solely on observation by a classroom teacher or on the basis of a questionnaire rather than verifiable medical tests. Symptoms of ADD might include impulsivity, fidgeting of hands and feet, inability to pay attention, having difficulty remaining seated, excessive talking, not listening or following directions, often shifting from one uncompleted task to another, and being easily distracted. What child do you know who would want to sit still and listen to a boring lesson when he or she would rather be playing outdoors? It is quite natural for children to want to run about and play. I remember fidgeting and squirming in my seat while listening to a college history lesson at 8:00 a.m. in a large lecture hall, and I have never considered myself ADD. In fact some of the so-called “symptoms” of ADD may be signs of a creative mind. People with extra energy, and who have the ability to go from task to task are very valued in the real business world.

Thomas Armstrong, Ph.D., states the following in his book The Myth of the ADD Child: It seems improbable, for example, that A.D.D. would have received such widespread support as a learning disease had not the powerful American Psychiatric Association officially named it as a disorder in 1980. Yet it should be remembered that psychiatric illnesses tend to go in and out of fashion with the social and political climate of the times.

Instead of treating this so-called disease with smaller classes and more effective teaching techniques or even homeschooling, school children are dosed with dangerous class 2 controlled substance psychotropic drugs like Ritalin, Adderall, or Concerta. The same parents that willingly go along with dosing their children with powerful stimulant medications would never permit their children to drink coffee or soft drinks with caffeine which are lesser stimulants. Some of the medications used for ADD are similar in effect to Cocaine, yet parents would be horrified to find out that their kids were taking Cocaine or Meth. It is amazing how these so called behavior problems disappear when a child is taken out of the school situation and homeschooled. It is also not unusual to find the same inattentive and distractible child who is causing so many problems at school attentive while watching television of playing a video game.

I believe that psychotropic medications should only be used as a last resort in children and only for serious psychiatric disturbance. Not paying attention to a lesson hardly qualifies for dosing a child with powerful stimulant medications with their serious and sometimes dangerous side effects. Some of the short term side effects include: nervousness and insomnia, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, dizziness, palpitations, headaches, changes in heart rate and blood pressure, skin rashes and itching, abdominal pain, weight loss, and digestive problems. Sometime another medication such as Clonidine, a blood pressure medication, is given off label to control these symptoms. Before long the child is being given a whole potpourri of medications leading to an even more dangerous situation.

It is important for consumers to take control of their health care. This is what consumer driven health care is all about. It is always important to question diagnoses and treatment choices. Seek out alternative and natural treatments. Unfortunately some health insurance plans do not provide for equal coverage of mental illness and there are limits on the number of treatments. Alternative treatments are rarely covered which is why drug treatment has become so popular (the quick cure).

For more information on discounts on alternative medical treatments, mental health services, and consumer driven health care visit: To read our homeschooling story visit:

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Save Money on Prescriptions

I recently wrote several blog posts describing how patients with more than $90 in prescription medication expenses who were without prescription drug coverage and met certain income eligibility requirements (generally 2 times the Federal poverty level) could qualify for patient assistance programs sponsored by the large pharmaceutical companies. I also described how AmeriPlan®, a discount dental and medical benefits company, had created the Ameriplan® Prescription Advocacy Program to help patients navigate the complicated paperwork required to access these patient assistance programs.

What if you do not qualify for a patient assistance program? How can you save money on your medications?

One thing that you can do is ask your healthcare provider to prescribe the generic version of the more expensive brand name medication. Most generic drugs are cheaper than their brand name equivalents. Both generic and brand name medications must meet the FDA’s rigorous standards, so consumers can be confident that there is no discernable difference between generic and brand name drugs. According to Gary J. Buehler, Director of the Office of Generic Drugs for the FDA: “The American public can be confident that when a generic drug product is approved, it has met the rigorous standards established by the FDA with respect to identity, strength, quality, purity, and potency.

Avoid taking a new and more expensive brand name medication when an older drug is available and is equally effective. In some cases, generic drugs may prove to be safer than brand name medications. Most generic drugs have been on the market for several years, so potential side effects and problems are better known that with newer drugs. The site reports that there have been many more incidences of health problems associated with brand-name drugs than with the older generic drugs. recommends that consumers stay away from newly launched drugs for several years until both safety and efficacy are well established. For example there have been many reported serious side effects for the type 2 diabetes drug Avandia. The older drug, Glucotrol, provides equally effective blood glucose control without the serious and possibly deadly side effects of Avandia.

Do some comparison shopping. Consumers can cut their prescription drug costs by doing some comparison shopping both locally and online. Compare prices at local pharmacies, supermarkets and department stores. Also, compare different online sources as well. A study by the National Center for Policy Analysis reveals that price comparison shopping can reduce prescription costs for some common drugs up to 90%

Consider enrolling in a discount health plan with a prescription discount card. Even if you have medical insurance, you may not have adequate prescription drug coverage. AmeriPlan® offers several excellent health programs which include an Rx benefit. With AmeriPlan® you can save up to 50% on your prescriptions with even larger discounts available on mail order maintenance medications. These savings are available on all prescriptions at over 50,000 participating pharmacies throughout the Nation. For more information call 1-800-635-3394 or visit:

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Prescription Advocacy - Frequently Asked Questions about Patient Assistance Programs

Patient assistance programs run by large pharmaceutical companies have been in existence for more than 15 years. A major problem is that few people know about the existence of these programs or understand the complicated application and approval process required to participate in a Prescription Assistance Program.

AmeriPlan USA, a discount health plans company, recently added a new program called AmeriPlan Prescription Advocacy Program (APAP). This program is available to all AmeriPlan dental and medical plan members who meet certain income eligibility requirements and have $90 or more in monthly prescription expenses. In many cases, members may have hundreds and even thousands of dollars in prescription expenses each month. The AmeriPlan Prescription Advocacy Plan can help patients navigate through the complicated application process so that they can receive their medications for free.

Here are some frequently asked questions about Patient Assistance Programs taken from the AmeriPlan website:

What is a Patient Assistance Program?

These programs are offered by the pharmaceutical industry to assist low income people who don’t have prescription drug coverage. These programs have been in existence for the past 15-20 years. So far PAPs have only reached a fraction of those who need them. APAP provides a real value to those who need expert advice, assistance and processing of needed prescriptions through PAPs.

Why do drug companies offer these programs?

PAPs are the philanthropic effort of the drug companies to reach out to those people who have low incomes and no drug coverage.

Where do these medications come from?

Medications are generally mailed directly from the pharmaceutical companies to the client’s home or in some cases, to the doctor’s office. APAP will notify the client in such cases.

Are PAPs a type of Rx discount plan?

No. Discount plans only provide patients a discount on their medication either at the pharmacy or through mail-order. PAPs provide access to free drug programs offered through the pharmaceutical industry. APAP provides a service to these consumers – taking the time and effort to apply and re-apply for these programs on their behalf.

How does AmeriPlan have access to these free prescriptions through PAPs?

APAP applies on behalf of the client to Patient Assistance Programs (PAPs), which are offered by various pharmaceutical companies. For the average consumer, the application process of applying to multiple PAPs can be very challenging due to each pharmaceutical company’s individual eligibility requirements.

What are the elibility requirements to qualify for these programs?

A qualifying applicant needs to be within 2 times the federal poverty line and have no current coverage for specified medications.

For more information on the AmeriPlan Prescription Advocacy Program visit: and read my blog post: A Little Known Secret - Patient Assistance Programs.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Affordable Dental Plans

Now that it is back to school time and your child will be required to bring in completed dental and medical examination forms, it might be time to give some thought to your family’s dental plan. What if you or your children need some serious dental work? What if your child needs orthodontic treatment? If there are any senior citizens living in your household, they may have medical coverage through Medicare, but do they have an affordable dental plan?

It is a known fact that 7 out of 10 Americans do not have a dental plan. Even among those who do have dental insurance, many dental plans prove to be very inadequate. In my work as an AmeriPlan® Independent Business Owner, I speak to many individuals each day who lack affordable dental coverage. Even if they have the good fortune to have dental insurance provided by their employer, often these plans do not provide any coverage for orthodontic treatment for their children, have waiting periods for ongoing conditions, and most have serious limits on coverage. With the high cost of dentistry, a $1,000 per year limit for dental treatment won’t take a family very far.

Discount dental plans provide the consumer with an excellent choice for saving money on dental care. These affordable dental plans are reasonably priced alternatives to expensive dental insurance plans. Savings can range from 25% for specialist treatment to 80% for exams. Most major dental services, such as root canals, fillings, crowns and bridges, and orthodontic treatment, offer savings from 50% to 60%, literally cutting a family’s dental bill more than half.

Some added features that a good discount dental plan provides are:

· No limit on visit or services
· Ongoing dental problems are accepted
· Instant savings
· No paperwork
· No age limit
· No waiting period
· Orthodontia and cosmetic dentistry are included

When looking for an affordable dental plan, look for a plan that offers a good choice of dentists in your area, is a member of the National Association of Dental Plans, and has an 800 customer service number. In addition, many dental plans offer value added services such as discounts on vision care, prescriptions, and chiropractic. For more information on affordable dental plans, visit my website at:

Thursday, August 16, 2007

A Little Known Secret - Patient Assistance Programs

With so many uninsured and underinsured people in the United States and the high cost of prescription drugs, you hear stories about people who have to make a decision about whether to pay for their groceries or their prescription medications. You also hear of people who cut their pills in half because they cannot afford their medications. Unfortunately, patients taking multiple medications or receiving treatment for conditions like Cancer, HIV-AIDS, Multiple Sclerosis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and other serious illnesses may face hundreds and even thousands of dollars in prescription costs each month.

For over 15 years, more than 200 pharmaceutical companies representing 1,100 brand-name drugs have been providing prescription medications to eligible individuals through Patient Assistance Programs. These programs assist eligible individuals who cannot afford their prescription medications due to limited income or other financial hardships.

A major problem is that few people know about the existence of these programs or understand the complicated application and approval process required to participate in a Prescription Assistance Program.

AmeriPlan®, a discount benefits company, has partnered with EZ Meds USA to help patients take advantage of these Patient Assistance Programs. The AmeriPlan® Prescription Advocacy Program (APAP) provides an easy, affordable way to obtain costly prescription medications.

Traditionally, participation in a Patient Assistance Program required a lengthy qualification, application and approval process for the patient for each medication. Now, with the AmeriPlan® Prescription Advocacy Program, all the legwork is done for you, allowing you to receive your medications at substantial savings ~ worry-free!

For a small monthly fee, AmeriPlan® does all of the legwork on the Member’s behalf, allowing the Member to enjoy a worry-free way to receive their medications at substantial savings.

These services include the following:

· Determine initial eligibility for the client
· Gather all the necessary documentation
· Complete the required application on the client’s behalf
· Send properly competed forms to the prescribing physicians for completion
· Send completed physician forms to the appropriate Patient Assistance Programs
· Monitoring every step of the process from initial application to medication delivery
· Medications come in 90 day supplies and all refills and renewals are handled automatically

For more information on this excellent program visit:

Monday, August 13, 2007

U.S. Lags Behind 41 Nations in Life Span - Commentary

The following AP article caught my attention the other day when it posted on AOL news: “U.S. Lags Behind 41 Nations in Life Span.” Although the U.S. spends more per capita on health care than any other nation, the article states that Japan and most of Europe surpass the United States in life expectancy.

Dr. Christopher Murray, of the University of Washington, was interviewed for the AP article. He stated that: “Something’s wrong here when one of the richest countries in the world, the one that spends the most on health care, is not able to keep up with other countries.” In fact, U.S. life expectancy moved down from 11th place to 42nd on the list.

Although several factors have contributed to the United States falling behind other industrialized countries, researchers state that a major reason is the fact that over 47 million Americans lack health insurance while our counterparts in Canada and most European countries have universal health care.

In addition to the uninsured, many Americans are underinsured and may lack prescription drug coverage, adequate mental health coverage, or dental insurance. People without adequate health insurance will wait longer before seeking treatment allowing illnesses to become more serious and difficult to treat. The uninsured and underinsured may also skip necessary preventative examinations and treatment. Every day there are people in the U.S. who have to make the difficult choice between skimping on food and paying for their medications. This should not be the case in a wealthy country like the United States.

It is not by choice that many people do not have health insurance. Smaller companies can no longer afford the high cost of health benefits for their employees. This leaves employees to find their own insurance. For those with pre-existing conditions, it may be impossible to find coverage, even for those that can afford the high premiums. For many, the high cost of health care is beyond their means to pay.

Consumer Directed Health Care companies can make paying for health care more affordable. Discount health plans can be combined with high deductible health savings plans to keep costs more affordable for businesses. Discount health plans can also help individuals and families who do not have insurance pay for needed health care by reducing the costs of doctor and dental fees; ancillary services such as lab tests, imaging studies, hearing aids, diabetic supplies; prescriptions; vision; and chiropractic care. For more information on affordable health care plans visit:

Thursday, August 9, 2007

What Are Discount Health Plans? Part 1

If you follow the news regularly, you hear the shocking statistic that over 48,000,000 Americans do not have any health insurance. In addition 7 out of 10 Americans do not have a dental plan. The cost of medical insurance has quite literally “gone through the roof.” The cost of insuring a family is well over $900 a month—well beyond the means of the average family to pay.

Unless you work full time for a large employer, you may find yourself among the 48,000,000 plus Americans with no health insurance. If you are self employed, lose your job, work part time, or work for a small company, you will find yourself among the uninsured. Even for those that can afford the high cost of carrying their own health insurance, insurance companies are looking for reasons not to cover an individual. If you find yourself looking for your own policy and have a chronic condition such as asthma, high blood pressure, diabetes, mental illness, or high cholesterol, you will find it difficult or even impossible to purchase health insurance. Even conditions like overweight or prescription drug use will disqualify you from a traditional policy.

Discount health and dental plans were created to help individuals, families and businesses who either could not afford or were turned down by traditional health insurance. Discount health plans enable consumers to purchase healthcare products and services at discounted rates.
Members of discount health plans typically enjoy discounts of up to 80% on all major healthcare services. Patients enjoy instant savings without the paperwork, waiting periods, or preauthorization needed for required treatment. Unlike traditional insurance, all ongoing conditions are accepted. In addition there are no limits on mental health treatment or dental visits. Deep discounts are also provided on services not normally covered by traditional insurance such as cosmetic surgery, alternative medicine, cosmetic dentistry, orthodontia, and even Lasik eye surgery.

For more on discount health plans subscribe to this blog and visit my website at:

Sunday, August 5, 2007

The Importance of Prevention

The tragedy of the I-35 West Bridge in Minneapolis was probably caused by a combination of infrequent bridge inspections, the failure to heed warning signs, and lack of adequate care and maintenance. Our hearts and prayers go out to those people who were killed or severely injured in this tragedy. By some miracle the death toll was not as high as it could have been, but this tragedy could have been averted with a proper schedule of maintenance.

The same is true of our bodies. We should not neglect regular examinations or signs that something is not right. It is important to know your body. Do a skin examination to look for any unusual moles or lesions. Women should do monthly breast self examinations. Make a note of any unusual symptoms that you may have. If they persist, see your health care provider for further evaluation. Don’t neglect periodic medical or dental exams.

Even better, practicing preventive medicine can avoid many of these problems in the first place. Many chronic illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease could be prevented by proper diet, nutrition, and a regular exercise program. Avoidance of additives and junk foods also play a role in preventing illness and poor health. The use of vitamins and supplements can also limit the ravages of the aging process.

Often people forgo preventive care because they lack money. As was said very often this past week, a bridge shouldn’t fall into a river in the United States. It should also be said that all Americans should have access to proper healthcare no matter what their level of income. For some ideas on how to reduce the cost of healthcare, visit my website at:

Friday, August 3, 2007

Welcome to

Welcome to This will be a serious blog where we can discuss healthcare issues such as the high cost of medical care, alternative medicine, consumer directed healthcare, vitamins and supplements, current topics in healthcare, and other issues related to healthcare. I hope to share some lighter moments also.

Here are some of the topics that I will be writing about in this blog:
  • The medication of our school children
  • Natural cures for diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and other chronic illnesses
  • The high number of uninsured and underinsured in the United States
  • Ways to cut medical care costs
  • Consumer driven healthcare
  • Why cash paying patients are charged more in hospitals
  • The role that HMOs and big pharmaceutical companies play in the high cost of medical care
  • Current health issues
  • Alternative and preventive medicine
  • Dental and medical discount benefit plans
  • How invented diseases keep drug company profits healthy
  • A little known secret that will save you hundreds of dollars on your prescriptions
Look for posts on these topics and more in the next few weeks and months. Your commentary on these important issues is welcome. To subscribe to my monthly health issues newsletter visit my website at: