FOR YOUR HEALTH: Struggling With Addiction? Tips On Finding Quality Treatment

(NAPSI)—It can be overwhelming and confusing to know where to start if you need to find treatment for an alcohol or drug addiction. Addiction touches nearly everyone in some way, yet there is no one-size-fits all approach to effective treatment. With many addiction treatment options, finding a program that will provide the quality care you or your loved one needs to address their specific addiction issues can be challenging. These steps will help you know what to look for to find a treatment program that is high quality and tailored to your needs.

How Do You Find A Treatment Provider?

If you have insurance, a good first step is to contact your insurer. Ask about your coverage and whether they have a network of preferred providers. If you don’t have insurance, you still have access to quality care. Each state has funding to provide treatment for people without insurance coverage. Find out where to call for information about payment for services at: https://www.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/ssa-directory.pdf.

What Should You Look For In A Program Or Provider?

Quality treatment programs offer a full range of services accepted as effective in treatment and recovery from addiction. Keep these points in mind when weighing your options.

  1. Accreditation: Make sure the treatment program is licensed or certified by the state. This ensures the provider meets basic quality and safety requirements. You should also check that the program is accredited, which means it meets standards of care set by a national, compliance organization. Be sure to ask the program to show you how people using their services have rated them.
  2. Evidence-Based Treatment: Check to determine if the program offers effective and proven substance use disorder treatments, such as medication management, cognitive behavioral therapy, drug and alcohol counseling, education about the risks of drug and alcohol use, and peer support. Quality treatment providers or programs offer more than one form of effective treatment. Effective programs will also be mindful of or address mental health and physical disorders that will affect substance use treatment.
  3. Medication: Confirm whether the program offers FDA approved medication for recovery from alcohol and opioid use disorders. However, keep in mind that currently, there are no FDA approved medications to help prevent relapse from other problem substances.
  4. Families: Family members have an important role in understanding the impact of addiction on families and providing support. Make sure the treatment program includes family members in the treatment process.
  5. Continuing Care: For many people addiction requires ongoing medication and supports. Quality programs provide treatment for the long term, which may include ongoing counseling or recovery coaching and support, and helps in meeting other basic needs like sober housing, employment supports, and continued family involvement.

Once you’ve identified a treatment program that meets the criteria above, call for an appointment. Many programs provide walk-in services. If they can’t see you or a family member within 48 hours, find another provider. (It is important that the provider or program connect you to care quickly).

You can find more information about finding addiction treatment by visiting: https://findtreatment.samhsa.gov/ or calling the National Helpline at (800) 662-HELP (4357).

FOR YOUR HEALTH: Ending the Tragedy of ‘Family Fire’

(NAPSI) — On the battlefield, one of the greatest tragedies is “friendly fire,” and the military does everything in its power to avoid these incidents through rigorous training, constant communication, and a deadly serious focus on the safe use of weapons. All Americans would be wise to look to our military professionals as an example of how to solve the tragedy of “family fire” in this country.

Nearly 3,000 kids are shot every year by guns that come from within our homes. While these tragedies are hard to think about, there is much we can do to keep our families safe.

“As a Marine Corps combat veteran and lifelong gun owner, I enjoy firearms and marksmanship,” says Joe Plenzler, a retired Marine Corps lieutenant colonel and combat veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. “Guns are a big part of military culture. Many of my civilian friends also enjoy shooting, and all of us are alarmed by the number of gun deaths each year in America. What is especially hard for me to understand are the preventable deaths caused by negligent gun owners who improperly store their firearms. Family fire rips apart families and shatters whole communities, and so much more can be done to stop it.”

Plenzler goes on to say we shouldn’t need legislation to know what’s sensible to keep our families and loved ones safe. Responsible gun owners realize that proper storage of weapons saves lives and it’s our duty to keep firearms out of the wrong hands. Can we agree it’s our job to do everything we can to keep kids safe?

Ending “Family Fire”

Eight kids are unintentionally shot by a gun every day. Since September 11, 2001, nearly 57,000 kids have been killed or injured by firearms. This is almost the same number as service members who have been killed and wounded in action in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past 17 years of war.

Gun owners who don’t properly secure their weapons cause those incidents. As someone who has undergone extensive weapons and safety training while in the military, I’m shocked and appalled that today there are 1.7 million American homes with kids living with unsecured, loaded guns. Each of these families is living a hair’s breadth away from tragedy.

What Every Gun Owner Can Do

Fortunately, unintentional shootings in the home are largely preventable through safe gun storage. Parents, veterans and all gun owners can do our part to keep families and communities safe. Here are some proven ways we can save lives:

  1. Just as in the military, our guns should be unloaded when not in use and locked up in a safe, gun vault or storage case that’s inaccessible to kids.
  2. Store ammunition in a secure location away from your firearms.
  3. Ensure you also secure the combination or keys to your safe(s), vault(s) or case(s).
  4. Teach kids firearm responsibility and safety. Guns are not toys. They are deadly weapons designed to stop beating hearts. If your kids see a gun lying around, teach them not to touch it and to tell an adult.
  5. Kids should never use a gun without adult supervision. (If your child has friends visiting, it’s always best to get their parents’ permission first.)
  6. If your child is visiting a friend’s home, ask the parent(s) if they have guns in the home and how they are stored.
  7. Never assume kids don’t know where guns are stored in the home. They always do.

In the Marine Corps, we had a saying that every time we lost a Marine to a preventable incident, we did the enemies’ job for them. Remember, there are no “accidents” with firearms—there is only negligence. Keep your families safe by keeping your guns secure.

Learn More

You can learn more about preventing gun accidents from the experts at www.EndFamilyFire.org.

Parents Hold The Key To Reducing Underage Drinking

(NAPSI)—Underage drinking is a significant concern and public health challenge nationwide contributing to a wide range of costly health and social problems. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the economic burden of alcohol misuse in the U.S. is estimated at $249 billion, with three-quarters of those costs coming from binge drinking. Almost $24.3 billion (about 10 percent) of the total $249 billion economic cost of excessive alcohol consumption is related to underage drinking, much of it due to premature mortality of underage youth.

Annually, alcohol is a factor in the deaths of approximately 4,300 youths in the United States, shortening their lives by an average of 60 years.

Last year, nearly 20 percent of people between the ages of 12 and 20 reported drinking alcohol. In fact, alcohol continues to be the most widely used substance among America’s youth, and a higher proportion use alcohol than use tobacco, marijuana, or other drugs according to Monitoring the Future.

While teens tend to drink less frequently than adults, 4.5 million young people drink larger quantities or binge drink, having five or more drinks males, and four or more drinks for females during a single occasion.

While underage drinking is a source of concern, parents can influence whether their child decides to drink or not.

Moms and dads may want to start by knowing the risks and signs of underage drinking. Teenage drinkers are more prone to have legal issues and participate in unsafe sexual behaviors. They are more likely to have memory problems and changes in brain development that cause life-long effects. There’s also an increased risk for using other drugs, hurting themselves or someone else and developing an Alcohol Use Disorder.

There are signs that parents should recognize as it might indicate their child is drinking. If parents notice several of these signs or if they occur suddenly and are extreme, it could mean there’s alcohol use involved, and parents should intervene with their children and seek professional help through the child’s school or contact the county health department. These signs are mood changes like a quick temper, irritability and defensiveness; school problems such as poor attendance, low grades and/or recent disciplinary action; switching friends and a reluctance to introduce the new friends; and finding alcohol in a child’s room or backpack or smelling alcohol on their breath.

The good news is there are a number of things parents can proactively do to help children stay alcohol-free.

  • Show you disapprove of underage drinking.
    More than 80 percent of young people ages 10-18 say their parents are the leading influence on their decision to drink or not drink. So they really are listening, and it’s important that you send a clear and strong message.
  • Show you care about your child’s happiness and well-being.
    Young people are more likely to listen when they know you’re on their side. Try to reinforce why you don’t want your child to drink—not just because you say so, but because you want your child to be happy and safe. The conversation will go a lot better if you’re working with, and not against, your child.
  • Show you’re a good source of information about alcohol.
    You want your child to be making informed decisions about drinking, with reliable information about its dangers. You don’t want your child to be learning about alcohol from friends, the internet, or the media—you want to establish yourself as a trustworthy source of information.
  • Show you’re paying attention and you’ll notice if your child drinks.
    You want to show you’re keeping an eye on your child, because young people are more likely to drink if they think no one will notice. There are many subtle ways to do this without prying.
  • Build your child’s skills and strategies for avoiding underage drinking.
    Even if your child doesn’t want to drink, peer pressure is a powerful thing. It could be tempting to drink just to avoid looking uncool. To prepare your child to resist peer pressure, you’ll need to build skills and practice them.

Keep it low-key. Don’t worry, you don’t have to get everything across in one talk. Many small talks are better.

There are free tools available to help parents have meaningful conversations with their kids and learn more about how to reduce the chances that children start drinking. “Talk. They Hear You.” is a resource from SAMHSA that can help parents get started. Parents, caregivers and educators can download materials by visiting https://www.samhsa.gov/underage-drinking. “Talk. They Hear You.” also has accessible videos that demonstrate the importance of discussing alcohol use with your children. These videos serve as examples how a parent can approach their child about alcohol use and can be found at http://bit.ly/2LuvT0F.

Moms and dads are the biggest influence when it comes to underage drinking, they hold the key to helping kids make good decisions and steer away from alcohol use.

FOR YOUR HEALTH: Five Senior Health Myths

(NAPSI)—Every day, it’s estimated, 10,000 Americans turn 65 years old. Some of these people, unfortunately, have misconceptions that can jeopardize their health. Major health myths and misconceptions regarding senior health include:

  1. If I feel fine, I am fine. Chronic infections can last so long that the way they feel becomes the “new normal,” when it shouldn’t be.
  2. Sleep isn’t important anymore. Older adults need the same seven to nine hours of sleep they did when younger.
  3. It’s too late to start exercising. Check with your doctor and start slowly, but there’s no reason why seniors can’t get in some exercise (even if they’ve never done it before).
  4. Drink water only when thirsty. You may need hydration before you even notice or before you feel like you need it.
  5. Dry mouth is just part of aging. Maintaining proper oral hygiene is important at any age, and especially for denture wearers who, even with no teeth, benefit from a regular oral hygiene routine specially formulated for them, rather than simply accepting poor health.

Fortunately, Cleanadent paste from Dr. B Dental Solutions is the only toothpaste available that is gentle enough to safely brush both the gums and oral appliances (such as dentures, implants, overdentures and full-arch implant bridges), helping prevent and treat dry mouth, sore spots and infections. Thanks to its special low-abrasive formula, it will not scratch, tarnish or negatively affect dentures in any way (and will actually help keep them fresh, clean, as well as stain- and odor-free). The paste is formulated with vitamins (A, D and E), aloe vera, coconut oil and tea tree oil to moisturize and revitalize the gums while removing microorganism-infested biofilm. There are no artificial flavors or colors.

Learn more at www.DrBDentalSolutions.com.

FOR YOUR HEALTH: Protect Your Health By Protecting Your Retirement Savings

(NAPSI)—Anyone who has ever seen a retirement account take a hit during a recession or stock market correction knows firsthand that it takes a mental and emotional toll. New research, however, has discovered that it also makes you sick.

An article published in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association, based on a study of how 8,714 adults fared over a 20-year period, concluded that a “negative wealth shock” can increase an individual’s risk of dying within the next two decades by more than 50 percent.

As The Wall Street Journal explained, “losing one’s life savings in the short term might curtail one’s life span in the long term.”

What Can Happen

It’s not entirely clear to researchers how the loss of retirement savings can damage your health—perhaps it’s related to increasing blood pressure or cardiovascular events—but the scientific findings are consistent with a growing body of knowledge:

  • The Population Reference Bureau studied the effects of the Great Recession of 2007 to 2009 on older Americans’ health and well-being and found that financial losses during that time translated into a higher risk of mental and physical health problems with potential long-term consequences.
  • The Federal Reserve released a briefing paper in 2013 that found “lower levels of life satisfaction” correspond to “greater levels of financial stress”—58 percent of older adults who said they were not very satisfied with life also reported having major financial stress.

What You Can Do

There is no magic bullet to prevent your retirement savings from being depleted by a major financial shock. Economic downturns are inevitable, stock market volatility is rising and unexpected expenses—such as a sudden hospital bill or home repairs—can wreak havoc on even the very best retirement funding plans. One option for coping with a negative financial shock is to unlock hidden value from everyday assets you may no longer need.

For example, many seniors are surprised to learn that one potential asset for generating immediate cash is a life insurance policy. A life insurance policy is considered your personal property, so you have the right to sell that policy anytime you like. When a consumer sells a policy—something called a “life settlement” transaction—the policy owner receives a cash payment and the purchaser of the policy assumes all future premium payments, then receives the death benefit upon the death of the insured. Candidates for life settlements are typically aged 70 years or older, with a life insurance policy that has a death benefit of at least $100,000.

If you own a life insurance policy you no longer need or can afford, you may be able to protect your retirement savings—and your personal health—by selling that policy for immediate cash.

Learn More

For more facts about life settlements, visit www.LISA.org or call the LISA office at (888) 793-3946.

FOR YOUR HEALTH: Is Your Sunscreen Harming The Reefs and Your Health?

What You Need to Know Before You Buy Sunscreen

(NAPSI)—With news heating up as Hawaii’s governor signs a bill into law banning chemical sunscreens, consumers are starting to question how safe their sunscreen really is. Their concern is warranted as research has shown that the same chemical sunscreen—some of the most popular brands—that is killing our oceans’ reefs, has been found to harm the human body.

“If it’s killing our oceans’ reefs, imagine what it’s doing to you?” said Lisa Palmer, co-founder of TropicSport, a reef-friendly, mineral sunscreen and skin care line. “Now we know from a recent study that when chemical sunscreen is mixed with chlorine and exposed to ultraviolet light it can potentially result in kidney and liver dysfunction and nervous system disorders. It took us four years to develop our product, paying attention to the tiniest detail for maximum protection and safety, while using natural ingredients. We knew back then that the toxins were an issue. It’s now becoming clear that these chemicals are harmful to humans and raising questions from the FDA.”

According to a study by Dr. Craig Downs, executive director, Haereticus Environmental Laboratory, published in the Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, “Oxybenzone is an emerging contaminant of concern in marine environments—produced by swimmers and municipal, residential, and boat/ship wastewater discharges.”

Most popular chemical sunscreens contain oxybenzone, octinoxate, avobenzone and octocrylene. These chemicals can cause coral bleaching and coral death, as well as reproductive diseases in fish. Their toxicity also prevents the natural restoration of a damaged reef, ultimately leaving the seascape barren and desolate.

Many mainstream sunscreen brands claiming to be a safe alternative have removed most of the chemicals but now use avobenzone, a derivative of oxybenzone, as a stabilizer, making the sunscreen just as harmful. Avobenzone degrades within 30 minutes when it’s exposed to the sun, which results in harmful free radicals being released into the system. These free radicals can actually accelerate the aging process and increase the risk of illness including cancer.

Palmer recommended checking sunscreen labels and using only pure mineral sunscreen like TropicSport with non-nano zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, ensuring that no particles are absorbed into the bloodstream. Instead, they sit on top of the skin acting as a physical blocker that deflects and scatters the UV rays away from the skin.

“It’s better for you, is kid friendly, and unlike other mineral sunscreens, is easier to apply, smells better, and is one of the few that have passed the U.S. FDA 80-minute and Australia 240-minute water resistant tests,” said Palmer.

TropicSport is available at TropicSport.com.

FOR YOUR HEALTH: How To Stop A ‘Silent Killer’

(NAPSI)—High blood pressure is often silent—showing no signs or symptoms—but it’s not invisible. Survivors are speaking out to show the real impact of high blood pressure, and a new campaign from the Ad Council, American Heart Association and American Medical Association provides resources to help you and your doctor create a treatment plan that works for you.

Survivors William, Jill, Francisco, Allyson and others show you what high blood pressure looks like while telling their stories at LowerYourHBP.org to encourage you to get your blood pressure under control before it’s too late.

Understanding High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is any level of blood pressure above 130/80. Its consequences include heart attack, stroke, heart failure, kidney disease, vision loss, sexual dysfunction and peripheral artery disease. According to the American Heart Association, 46 percent of Americans have high blood pressure, but only about half of them have it under control.

Committing To A Plan

Once you know you have high blood pressure, you can manage it very effectively through changes in eating habits, physical activity, and, when needed, medication. The best way to avoid the consequences of high blood pressure is to talk to your doctor and commit to a treatment plan that works for your life. Here are some questions to answer in preparation for your doctor visit:

  • How have you been feeling?
  • Is anything preventing you from sticking to your current plan?
  • Any changes in your blood pressure?
  • Any side effects from any medication or symptoms?
  • How do you treat your side effects and/or symptoms?
  • What questions or concerns do you have for your doctor?

Overcoming Everyday Hurdles

If your treatment plan feels overwhelming, your doctor can help you create a more achievable plan. The most effective plan is the one you actually follow. You can use the guide at LowerYourHBP.org to start the right conversation with your doctor.

If a hectic schedule, the cost of medication, or your habits are keeping you from sticking to your treatment, talk to your doctor about ways to overcome these barriers. Be clear about your concerns and get all the answers you need.

Learn More

You can find important facts, stats and tips and see the campaign’s videos online at www.LowerYourHBP.org. There, you can also find helpful tools as you work with your doctor to create or get a treatment plan to bring your blood pressure under control.

You can save yourself from the “silent killer.”

FOR YOUR HEALTH: New Transplants Are Changing Lives

(NAPSI)—Organ transplants have been saving lives for many years. You may even know someone who has received a kidney or a heart transplant, and what a difference that gift of life has made.

Another type of transplant has been changing lives in incredible new ways—the transplantation of hands and faces. More than 100 people worldwide have received these types of transplants: a veteran who lost his limbs in war, a woman whose face was devastated in an attack, a child who lost his hands to severe infection. All have had their lives transformed.

These procedures are called “Vascularized Composite Allograft” organ transplants, or VCA transplants. They are composed of multiple types of tissue. With a hand transplant, for example, bones, blood vessels, nerves and skin must all be attached to the remaining arm.

So many tissues, however, make VCA transplants extremely complex. The surgery requires the involvement of dozens of surgeons and other medical professionals and can take 16 hours or more. Recovery is also demanding for patients; rehabilitation can be a full-time job for one to two years.

Yet, the results are life changing. VCA transplants can restore abilities and independence in ways that artificial limbs and reconstructive surgery cannot. Just consider the difference a working hand with moving fingers and a sense of touch could make. It can mean the ability to take care of oneself, work, drive and play. Face transplants enable recipients to rejoin society, often ending isolation and depression.

VCA and traditional organ transplants are the same in some respects. Criteria for matching donors and recipients include the need for compatible blood and tissue types. However, VCA requires matching for additional features such as skin tone, body size and hair color. Gender may also be taken into consideration.

A commonly asked question about face transplants is whether the recipient will look like the donor. The answer is yes and no. Yes, skin characteristics such as moles, freckles and scars will transfer to the recipient. However, because the recipient’s underlying bone structure is apt to be different from the donor’s, resemblance will likely be minimal.

Like with kidneys, livers and other organs, there is a national waiting list for VCA transplants that matches donors with potential recipients. However, enrolling as an organ donor on a state or national registry does not mean you’re authorizing VCA donation. Your family would make the decision about VCA donation after your death.

You can learn more at www.organdonor.gov, a website of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration.

FOR YOUR HEALTH: Three Cool Ideas For A Better Night’s Rest

(NAPSI)—The next time you find yourself kicking your leg out of the side of your blankets to cool off or turning your pillow over because it’s too hot—you won’t be alone. Some 50 million Americans are affected by intermittent sleep problems, potentially created by bedding choices, according to the National Sleep Foundation—but you don’t have to be.

Not many people realize it, but surrounding yourself with breathable fabrics while you sleep is essential for a restful night. Airflow matters because it lets heat naturally dissipate away from your body and helps keep your temperature regulated. Overheating can lead to a night of tossing and turning, leaving you groggy the next day because you didn’t recover properly the night before.

What To Do

So what’s the solution? It’s possible to get more out of each day by enhancing your sleep environment. There are options that can cater to your individual sleep position, body frame and temperature to help you maximize recovery at night.

Consider these facts and tips for a better night’s sleep:

  1. There are 24 vertebrae in your back, eight of which are supported by a pillow and the rest by your mattress. Therefore, while you’re sleeping, 30 percent of your comfort comes from your pillow and 70 percent comes from your mattress. This is why it’s important to have the right fit of sleep equipment that supports your body’s needs.
  2. Get personalized. It’s true that one size doesn’t fit all—especially when it comes to your bedding. You might want to check out Bedgear, which offers a personalized Performance Sleep System and a Pillow ID fitting process, used by professional sports teams such as the Boston Celtics and Dallas Mavericks. The process is designed to fit people with individualized products for the best sleep every night.
  3. Spend the last hour before bed away from electronics. Taking some time to relax and unwind calms your body and helps your brain transition more easily into deep sleep. At the same time, you’re removing artificial sources of the blue light found in electronic devices that activates your brain to stay awake and can disrupt sleep.

Personalization, coupled with fabric technologies that are engineered to promote airflow and assist with temperature regulation, can ensure that your sleep environment is optimized for the best rest.

Learn More

For further information on how to upgrade your sleep, visit www.bedgear.com.

FOR YOUR HEALTH: Five Tips For Prescription Medication Success

(NAPSI) — For people who are on one or more daily prescription medicines, forgetting to take a pill can happen from time to time. Planning ahead for such schedule-disrupting events as vacations and special events can help you stay on track and minimize any health risks that might result from not “taking as directed.”

Doctor’s Advice

“It’s really important to take your medication exactly as prescribed, even if you don’t feel different after missing a day or two,” explained Dr. Victoria Losinski, director of pharmacy services at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota. “This is especially true for people with chronic conditions such as diabetes, because their risk of ending up in the hospital is 2.5 times greater when not following a doctor’s treatment plan.”

The mantra “you have to take the medicine for it to work” goes beyond diabetes control. People who don’t take their prescribed high blood pressure medication on a regular basis have a 42 percent higher chance of developing chronic heart failure. And people on high cholesterol medications are twice as likely to develop heart disease if their cholesterol is not under control.

What You Can Do

To help, here are five tried-and-true tips for strengthening your everyday prescription medication habits:

1. Talk to a pharmacist. Some drugs have very specific instructions on when to take them, whether to take them on an empty stomach, with certain foods or to avoid in conjunction with certain medications. Your pharmacist can help you understand your medications and map a plan to stay on track. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota members can also call the number on the back of their cards and speak with a nurse guide.

2. Write it down. If you’ve got several medications to manage, write down the details to keep them straight. Consider using a small one-page calendar, such as the kind found in a checkbook or available through a downloadable tracker, to mark off that you have taken your meds each day.

3. Get organized. Using a pillbox is a simple low-tech way to make sure you take exactly what you need when you need it. There are also pharmacies, including PillPack, that sort your prescriptions, vitamins and other over-the-counter medicines into dated packets to make taking your meds even easier. You can also ask your pharmacy if it offers a similar program.

4. Set an alarm. Use your smartphone to schedule reminders. If you’re looking for an app, try Rxremind, which can be downloaded for iPhone or for Android.

5. Refill on time. Accessing your pharmacy’s auto-refill program, requesting a 90-day supply and using a mail-order prescription service are all good ways to help make sure you don’t run out and miss your medication.

Learn More

For additional facts, tips and resources, visit Bluecrossmn.com/ManageMyMeds.