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Published: Tuesday, October 10, 2017 @ 9:54 AM
Updated: Tuesday, October 10, 2017 @ 9:54 AM
— A common perception of someone suffering from depression is a person who's sad and/or crying. Although you certainly may feel this way if you're depressed, the illness may also present itself in more subtle ways that you might not expect.
Depression is a very common illness, with about 16 million adults in the U.S. having at least one major episode of depression in the past year. Despite there being many different types of treatment available, about two-thirds of people with major depression never seek treatment.
Sometimes they think they'll "snap out of it" on their own or they may be too embarrassed to address the condition. But delaying treatment could have devastating effects in every area of your life, and at its worst, could result in suicide.
The following five signs are solid indicators that it could be time to talk to your doctor about depression.
Your mind seems foggy.
If you have trouble concentrating or making decisions on an almost-daily basis, Health's website says, this could be a sign of depression. It can cause fuzzy, unfocused thinking that can affect your memory and ability to make good decisions. This could make you forget work deadlines as well as tasks you need to complete at home. At its most extreme, it could even lead you to engage in unhealthy, risky behavior.
You tend to get angry.
Although most people probably associate depression with sadness, it can also cause you to feel irritated or angry over things that you would normally shrug off. If you find yourself raging at little things at work and home, you may actually be depressed. This can be especially true of men, Reader's Digest says, who may find it more socially acceptable to express anger rather than sadness when they go through something such as divorce.
You have unexplained pain.
The Mayo Clinic says that unexplained pain such as back pain or headaches can sometimes be the first or only sign of depression. In fact, pain and depression can create a vicious cycle. If your depression is causing pain, this can make you further depressed, which increases your pain. In addition, depression-related pain that continues over time can create additional problems such as stress, low self-esteem and difficulty sleeping. Some forms of treatment can help with both pain and depression, while others treat only one condition, so you and your doctor can talk about what's best in your particular case.
Your eating habits have changed.
Depression can affect many aspects of your life, including your eating habits. Health says you may experience a loss of appetite as well as a decreased interest in food and cooking. It can also have the opposite effect, making you more likely to try to soothe yourself by binge eating on unhealthy food. In addition, if you normally eat a healthy diet but find yourself suddenly turning to junk food, you may want to talk to your doctor about depression.
You sleep too much – or too little.
Crawling into bed and escaping into sleep is behavior that may be associated with depression, according to Health. You may find yourself wanting to stay in bed and also escaping into naps when you can during the day. Depression can also cause you to stay awake late at night as you toss, turn and worry. And like many symptoms of depression, sleeping too much or too little can create a vicious cycle. You can feel tired and sluggish from too much sleep, so you may feel even worse, which can make you likely to sleep more or have more trouble getting to sleep at night.
Published: Sunday, February 25, 2018 @ 12:22 PM
— After Elizabeth Moreno had back surgery in late 2015, her surgeon prescribed an opioid painkiller and a follow-up drug test that seemed routine — until the lab slapped her with a bill for thousands of dollars.
A Houston lab tested her urine sample for a constellation of legal and illicit drugs, many of which, Moreno said, she had never heard of, let alone taken.
“I was totally confused. I didn’t know how I was going to pay this,” said Moreno, 30, who is finishing a degree in education at Texas State University in San Marcos and is pregnant with twins.
Her bill shows that Sunset Labs charged $4,675 to check her urine for different types of opioids; $2,975 for benzodiazepines, a class of drugs for treating anxiety; and $1,700 more for amphetamines. Tests to detect cocaine, marijuana and phencyclidine, an illegal hallucinogenic drug also known as PCP or angel dust, added $1,275 more.
The lab also billed $850 to test for buprenorphine, a drug used to treat opioid addiction, and tacked on an $850 fee for two tests to verify that nobody had tampered with her urine specimen.
Total bill: $17,850 for lab tests that her insurer, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas, refused to cover, apparently because the lab was not in her insurance network. The insurer sent Moreno an “explanation of benefits” that says it would have valued the work at just $100.92.
Moreno’s father, in a complaint to the Texas attorney general’s office about the bill, identified the Houston surgeon who ordered the costly test as Dr. Stephen Esses. His office said the surgeon would have no comment.
Sunset Labs is part of a network of pain clinics and other medical businesses founded by Houston anesthesiologist Phillip C. Phan, according to Texas secretary of state filings and court records. Court records say Phan’s companies also own the facility where Moreno had her surgery.
Three experts interviewed by KHN said the lab grossly overcharged and doubted the need for the test.
“This just blows my mind,” said Jennifer Bolen, a former federal prosecutor and lab and pain management consultant. “It’s very high and incredibly out of the norm.”
Dan Bowerman, a medical fraud expert, called the lab bill “outrageous” and “unconscionable,” and said it should have prompted an investigation.
“Sounds real fishy,” said Charles Root, a veteran industry adviser. He wondered if the lab had “misplaced the decimal point,” because such a test should cost a few hundred dollars, tops.
The lab disagrees.
Sunset’s billings “are in line with the charges of competing out-of-network labs in the geographical area,” lab attorney Justo Mendez said in an emailed statement.
Mendez said pain doctors agree that extensive urine testing is “the best course of action” and that a lab “is not in the position” to question tests ordered by a doctor.
Urine testing for patients with chronic pain has grown explosively over the past decade as deaths from opioid abuse rose sharply. Pain doctors say drug testing helps them make sure patients are taking the drugs as prescribed and not mixing them with illegal substances.
Yet the testing boom costs billions of dollars annually and has raised concerns that some labs and doctors run urine tests needlessly — or charge exorbitant rates — to boost profits.
Some insurers have refused to pay, which can leave patients like Moreno threatened with ruinously high bills they had no idea they had incurred.
“Surprise bills larded with unexpected expenses and little explanation inflict sticker shock on vulnerable patients,” said James Quiggle, communications director of the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud, whose members include insurers, consumer groups and government agencies. Quiggle said many “puffed-up bills straddle a fine line between abuse and outright fraud.”
Moreno said her insurance covered the disc removal surgery in December 2015. She said the operation went well and she weaned off the hydrocodone pain pills. To her surprise, on a second return about a month later, the surgeon’s office asked her to leave a urine sample.
“I didn’t think anything of it,” Moreno said of the test. “I said fine, whatever.”
More than a year later, she said, the lab phoned while she was driving and asked her to pay the $17,850 bill. The lab then sent her an invoice, dated March 10, 2017, which says: “(B)ased upon information from your health plan, you owe the amount shown.”
Luckily, her father, Paul Davis, was visiting her in Texas at the time. Davis, 66, is a retired family practice doctor from Findlay, Ohio.
Davis doubted the need for the test, not to mention what he thought was a sky-high price. He said the University of Findlay, where he helped train physician assistants, gave applicants a basic drug test for $174, while the local juvenile courts in Ohio paid $10 for a simple drug screen.
Fearing it would ruin his daughter’s credit scores, Davis said, he called Sunset and settled the bill in April 2017 by paying $5,000, which he said he now regrets. The lab sent Moreno a receipt that said it discounted her bill because of “financial need/hardship.”
Asked for comment, Blue Cross spokesman James Campbell said he couldn’t discuss a specific case but noted:
“We are disappointed as well as concerned about transparency whenever (any) member is surprised by an excessive charge for a seemingly routine service or received services that may not have been medically necessary.”
Campbell also said the lab was out-of-network and “we do not control how much they charge for services rendered.” The insurer encourages patients to confirm that all medical care they seek comes from medical providers in the Blue Cross network, he said.
Prices for urine tests can vary widely depending upon complexity and the technology used. Some doctors’ offices use a simple cup test, which can detect several classes of drugs on the spot. These tests rarely cost more than $200, and typically much less.
Bills climb higher when labs check for levels of multiple drugs and bill for each one, a practice that insurers argue is seldom medically justified. But even labs sued by insurers alleging wildly excessive testing typically have billed $9,000 or less, court records show. One insurer sued a lab for charging $1,845 for a drug test, for example.
Davis said Sunset Labs ignored his requests for a full explanation of the charges. In May, he filed a written complaint about the bill with the Texas attorney general’s office that included a copy of the bill and accused the lab of “price gouging of staggering proportions.”
“Young people just starting out, such as my daughter, may not have the ability to pay and this could result in damaged credit ratings or even bankruptcy,” he wrote.
Davis got a letter back from Attorney General Ken Paxton, who said the office would “review the information.” A spokesperson for Paxton said: KHN: “We have received complaints about that business, but we can’t comment on anything else.” Sunset attorney Mendez said the lab is “not aware” of any such complaints.
Published: Wednesday, December 20, 2017 @ 10:53 AM
— If you just can't resist eating the last bits of raw cookie dough from the bowl while baking, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has a message for you: don't.
As holiday bakers took to kitchens nationwide last week, the FDA reminded people to refrain from eating raw cookie dough or face the possibility of getting sick.
The warning comes after the FDA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and local and state officials investigated an E. coli outbreak linked to raw flour that in 2016 sickened 63 people in 24 states.
The outbreak started in December 2015. The CDC determined at least half of those who fell ill made something at home with flour. Subsequent tests linked the outbreak with General Mills flour produced in Missouri, and the company issued a voluntary recall of 10 million pounds of flour.
Although many people know about the danger of getting salmonella poisoning from raw dough, fewer people may be aware that eating raw flour carries its own risks.
"Flour is derived from a grain that comes directly from the field and typically is not treated to kill bacteria," Leslie Smoot, a senior advisor in the FDA's Office of Food Safety, said last year.
The bacteria is killed during cooking or processing through boiling, baking, roasting, microwaving or frying. However, raw dough does not go through any of those "kill steps," according to the FDA.
For anyone who still hopes to use raw cookie dough in something like homemade cookie dough ice cream, authorities suggest using commercially made dough.
"Manufacturers should use ingredients that include treated flour and pasteurized eggs," FDA officials said.
Published: Tuesday, February 06, 2018 @ 3:30 PM
— At the start of the new year, you probably promised yourself that you were going to eat healthy and exercise more. Your Pinterest board was filled with Buddha bowl recipes, and that pair of gym shoes was getting more action than it used to. But as January marches toward its end, you find yourself taking fewer Mason jar salads to work, and you can’t even remember the last time you went to the gym.
It’s those times that you have to lean on healthy habits you’ve developed when your willpower was stronger. In a sea of seemingly unhealthy fast-food options, there are still ways to approach a menu and fill up on nutritious items. To help with that, we asked two dietitians to give us some tips and tricks for choosing healthy options and then made them prove the tips would work by taking them to popular fast food and fast casual restaurants.
We accompanied Bethany Doerfler, a registered dietitian at the Digestive Health Center at Northwestern Medicine, and Lori Welstead, a registered dietitian and nutritionist at the University of Chicago, to some of Chicago’s favorite lunch spots to show us how to hack the menu for the healthiest options and give us tips on how to stay on track.
Their suggestions are geared toward people who want to maintain their weight or lose weight. For women, this means a 1,200- to 1,600-calorie daily diet, and for men, 1,600- to 2,000-calories a day. To accomplish those numbers, Doerfler recommends sticking to 400 calories for breakfast and lunch and 500 calories for dinner, which leaves some room for “two thoughtful snacks.”
Don’t despair. There’s still hope for your New Year’s resolutions.
It’s easy to go into a restaurant, look at the menu and pick something on the spot, but Doerfler recommends studying ahead. See if you can check out the menu online, or pick one up when you’re there — some restaurants even have a calorie calculator to help you make better choices.
“Go in with a game plan,” Doerfler said. “Don’t show up and ask what looks good because everything looks good. You’re less likely to make an impulsive decision.”
Examine the calories, fat, sodium and sugars if there is a menu available with that information, Welstead said.
Once you get into the habit of checking nutrition information, it will be easier to modify your meal to make it lower in calories and healthier, Doerfler said.
FIND THE IN-BETWEEN
It’s all about finding a combination of foods that are not only healthy but will also satisfy whatever you’re craving, whether it’s something spicy, savory or sweet. You don’t want to fall into the trap of eating something nutritious but unsatisfying and then later grabbing a candy bar, Welstead said.
At Panda Express, Welstead chose the kung pao chicken bowl with steamed vegetables, garnished with peanuts and chile peppers, to bring the total calorie count to just under 400. She chose the kung pao chicken because it’s a savory and spicy option that is packed with protein.
“When it comes to making these healthy choices, and I think with regard to making a healthy lifestyle, it’s all about balance,” Welstead said. “If you know you want to eat something that is higher in calories, higher in fat, higher in sugar, enjoy it, have that meal, and the next time you have something to eat, make better decisions.”
GO FOR PROTEIN
Choosing options high in protein helps keep you satiated, Welstead said. And while skipping the rice, bread or noodles is preferred — since carbohydrates cause your blood sugar to spike and then drop down — getting a half or partial portion is better than getting the entire serving. Also, skip the lunchmeat.
“Unfortunately when you get things like lunchmeat, there’s not going to be as much bang for your buck when it comes to protein, and it’s going to have more salt,” Welstead said.
When you eat something with as many carbohydrates as a sandwich, your blood sugar will go up and then inevitably crash only a few hours later. If you’re going to have a sandwich at a place like Potbelly’s, choose the skinny bread or the flat instead of the normal bread, Welstead said.
At Potbelly Sandwich Shop, Welstead opted for half a tuna salad, to cut down on red meat and avoid lunchmeat, on whole grain bread, which has fiber to help you stay full and satisfied.
“A pretzel bun or baguette might sound good, but they have no whole grains and so many more carbohydrates because of the dense nature of it,” Welstead said.
Because Corner Bakery Cafe offers the option of getting half a sandwich and a salad, Welstead ordered the Asian wonton salad with the wontons on the side.
GO EASY ON THE DRESSING AND CRUNCHY BITS
Crunchy toppings, like croutons and wontons, can add empty calories to a meal, so opt to have them on the side and have only one or two pieces to appease that hankering, Welstead said.
Dressings can add a lot of calories and sugar to your meal, so the best option is to get it on the side and use only a little bit, Welstead said. Avoid nonfat dressings because they typically have more sugar than normal ones, and opt for avocado, which has healthy fats to help you stay full longer.
Welstead chose the Powerhouse salad at Potbelly’s, made with grilled chicken breast, avocado, hummus, hard-boiled egg, cucumber and grape tomatoes on a bed of spinach. She ordered the Potbelly’s vinaigrette on the side.
“When you get salads with avocado, you won’t have to use as much dressing because it gives that creamy consistency when you start to toss your salad,” Welstead said.
If you’re craving more punch, hot sauces, rather than creamy or garlic oils, are a way to amp up flavor and avoid adding calories, Doerfler said. Another way is to choose chimichurri or salsas, which helps bump up your vegetable intake while making your meal more interesting.
START LOW AND WORK THE SIDES
Building a bowl with salad as your base already gives you a good start toward clocking in fewer than 500 calories for a meal, Doerfler said. This way, you can layer in other healthy things without worrying about overdoing it.
When entrees are too high in calories, check out the sides or a la carte options to build a satisfying meal. At Portillo’s, Doerfler ordered an a la carte meatball, minestrone soup and a grilled chicken sandwich without mayo or cheese.
Sides like soups and salads can help keep calories down while giving you a variety of options that are filling. Studies have shown that starting a meal with a broth-based soup can help people cut back on calories by 30 percent, Doerfler said.
At Noodles & Company, Doerfler ordered a tomato basil bisque with her small penne rosa.
“Save some of the good carbs that you’re craving for times like this when you can do a small or half order. That way you’re getting portion control right out of the gates,” Doerfler said.
DRINK WATER, EAT COLORFULLY
Instead of reaching for a fountain drink or sweet iced teas, drink water. Other drinks can add unwanted sugar and don’t help keep you full. Instead of picking a sweet drink, save those calories for a healthy afternoon snack, Doerfler advised.
“Try to skip all the sodas and milkshakes that can add easily 1,000 calories when you otherwise weren’t planning on it,” Doerfler said.
A regular soda can be the caloric equivalent of four or five pieces of bread, Welstead said, so cutting those out saves you hours of exercising to burn off those extra sugars.
A quick rule that Doerfler and Welstead give their clients is to eat something green, something red or purple, and something yellow or orange every day to ensure they get the antioxidants they need.
“Get all the colors of the rainbow,” Welstead said.
SHARE WITH FRIENDS
People often fall into the trap of finishing their entire plate even if they’re already full. Instead, try to take home leftovers or share with friends, Doerfler said. And if that item wasn’t what you thought it would be or you just aren’t enjoying the taste anymore, don’t be afraid to get rid of it.
“When you feel like you are no longer enjoying the taste and you’re eating just to finish, it’s a great time to try to stop and pause,” Doerfler said. “Take the leftovers home with you, or give them to a friend, or throw them away. Save your heart and health in the long run.”
Here are the restaurants and businesses that Welstead and Doerfler visited, what they ordered and their explanations for their picks.
Case study: Panda Express
Order: Kung pao chicken with steamed vegetables
Reasoning: The chicken is for protein, and the vegetables are for nutrition and as a substitute for rice or noodles.
Case study: Chipotle Mexican Grill
Order: Salad bowl with black beans, fajita vegetables, sofrito and pico de gallo, with the dressing on the side. Skip the sour cream and cheese, and if you’re trying to be conscientious of carbs, skip the rice and corn salsa.
Reasoning: Plant-based, protein packed and loaded with nutrients.
Case study: Potbelly’s
Order: Powerhouse Salad with Potbelly’s vinaigrette on the side
Reasoning: The whole chicken breast provides more protein than lunchmeat, avocado helps make the salad creamier and is a healthy fat, and vinaigrette on the side allows you to use less of it.
Case study: 7-Eleven
Order: Yogurt and hard-cooked eggs.
Reasoning: It’s hard to choose something that is healthy at 7-Eleven, so choose something with protein. Plain nuts are also a good choice. Avoid yogurt-covered nuts because they are just covered in sugar and aren’t made with real yogurt.
Case study: Corner Bakery
Order: Half a tuna sandwich with half an Asian Wonton Salad
Reasoning: Sometimes you want a little bit of each, so choose something with whole wheat for fiber. The tuna is better than lunchmeat. Getting the wontons on the side means you can still have a couple but not eat all of them. Choose carrots over chips as a side.
Case study: Naf Naf Grill
Order: Salad bowl with chicken, tahini and cucumber salad, with hot sauces on the side.
Reasoning: Choose something low-calorie as a base, then add vegetable options. Use hot sauces for more flavor. Avoid the falafel, which is deep-fried and can have as many calories as steak. That pita bread that comes with the meal? Share it with friends.
Case study: Whole Foods
Order: From the salad bar, a kale salad base topped with shrimp, chicken or hard-cooked eggs. Or a packaged salad.
Reasoning: The kale provides a good amount of fiber, and the shrimp provides protein. Add nuts, chia seeds or sunflower seeds for crunch, rather than croutons or wontons.
Case study: Noodles & Company
Order: Small penne rosa with a side of tomato bisque.
Reasoning: Sometimes you don’t want a salad, and this pasta is actually one of the lower-calorie options on the menu. Tomato bisque gives you antioxidants.
Case study: Portillo’s
Order: Grilled chicken sandwich with no mayo and no cheese, small side salad and ministrone soup.
Published: Tuesday, February 06, 2018 @ 10:54 AM
— Death −it's an inevitable reality. Humans have been coming to terms with that fact for centuries.
There are various theories on living longer, religious beliefs and theories on the afterlife. However, no matter the belief system we ascribe to, we are still certain that death− whether it be an end or a transition − is coming for all of us.
In spite of that, there are thousands of people finding unique ways to potentially beat death − or at least beat aging.
Some wealthy investors and renowned scientists are working very hard on trying to do just that.
Several startups and tech companies are actively working to help you beath death.
"I have the idea that aging is plastic, that it's encoded. If something is encoded, you can crack the code," said Joon Yun, a doctor who runs a health-care hedge fund and has given $2 million to fight aging and death, according to The New Yorker.
"If you can crack the code, you can hack the code!"
Blood transfusions from teenagers
Harvesting the blood of teens in the hopes of achieving eternal youth may seem like something from “Twilight” or the plot of a horror film. But there's actually a startup doing this.
Ambrosia, based in Monterey, California, offers young blood transfusions to individuals 35 or older for $8,000 a pop, The Guardian reported in August 2017. Although the project is still dubbed "a study," Dr. Jesse Karmazin, who runs the project, suggests that it could combat aging.
The new research comes after a 2014 Harvard study showed that older mice injected with blood from younger mice had improved memory and ability to learn. Whether or not similar results will be shown in humans remains to be seen. But as of last year, about 100 older adults had signed on to pay the hefty price and receive the 1.5 liter injections of teenagers' blood, according to CNBC.
Head transplants to new bodies
In late 2017, Dr. Sergio Canavero, Director of the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group, drew international outcry when he claimed that he would perform the first live human head transplant very soon.
Essentially, Canavero aims to take a living patient whose body is physically disabled and transplant their head on a fully-functioning body. While the doctor and his team have been experimenting with the procedure using cadavers, many in the medical community have warned that the technique just isn't advanced enough to make this feasible.
"Attempting such a thing given the current state of the art would be nothing short of criminal, and as a neuroscientist, I would really quite like the general public to be reassured that neither I nor any of my colleagues think that beheading people for extremely long-shot experiments is acceptable," Dr. Jan Schnupp, professor of neuroscience at City University of Hong Kong, told The Independent.
But Canavero dismisses concerns, telling USA Today: "Bioethicists need to stop patronizing the world."
Uploading consciousness to the cloud
What if you could make a digital back-up of your consciousness and memories? Could you live forever in a digital world or perhaps one day be downloaded into a younger, healthier body?
Tristan Quinn, a Russian internet millionaire has bet a hefty portion of his fortune on doing just that.
"The ultimate goal of my plan is to transfer someone's personality into a completely new body," Quinn said, explaining that he is attempting to unlock the secrets of the human brain and then upload an individual's mind to a computer, according to the BBC.
"Within the next 30 years, I am going to make sure that we can all live forever," he promised in 2016.
And Ray Kurzwell, director of engineering at Google, is on the same page as Quinn.
"We're going to become increasingly non-biological to the point where the non-biological part dominates and the biological part is not important any more," Kurzwell said, according to Express. He went on to suggest humans would have machine bodies by 2100.
Freezing corpses in hopes of future reanimation
In late 2016, news of a 14-year-old girl's decision to be cryogenically frozen after her death from cancer made headlines. The technology suggests that frozen individuals will one day be able to be reanimated when technology and science have developed further.
Scientifically, it's unclear whether this will actually work, but it hasn't stopped many individuals from deciding to take the gamble.