Archive for October, 2009

Have you received your open enrollment forms?

It’s open enrollment time for health care coverage through your employer.

open enrollment

Jeff Janowski/For the AJC

In 2010, more of the burden will fall on workers. A recent Towers Perrin survey found that employee premium contributions, on average, will rise by 10 percent, or just over $200 next year. In 2009, there was a 8 percent increase.

Have you received your open enrollment forms? Are the costs higher? What other changes have you noticed?

Or did your employer decided to stop offering insurance coverage?

We want to hear from you. A reporter may call you back or you can email AJC reporter Shelia M. Poole at:

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AGING & CARING: 10 ways to help your parents prevent a heart attack


heart1Heart disease is the number one killer of men and women in the United States. For people over 65 years of age, the risk is even greater: eight out of ten people who die of heart disease are 65 or older. Although these statistics sound dire, take heart: With these strategies, you can help your parents reduce their risk — and reduce your own at the same time.

Know the early warning signs and seek treatment right away

Some typical symptoms of a heart attack include:

  • Chest pain (angina)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Palpitations (skipped beats or a racing or pounding heart)
  • Leg swelling
  • Bluish skin color (cyanosis)
  • A prolonged, unexplained cough
  • Coughing up blood
  • Persistent fatigue or feeling unwell
  • Passing out

But sometimes the symptoms aren’t so obvious. The pain of a heart attack may feel like really bad heartburn or even the flu. And the symptoms of a second heart attack may not be the same as those for the first. If your parent has already had a …

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HEALTHY EATING: Sneak peek at nutrition trends


eatingoutHungry appetites looking for more gluten-free food products, wondering about the next wave in antioxidant super fruit or craving tasty snacks that just happen to be healthy are in for a bumper crop of satisfying solutions.

Scoping out what’s new at an annual confab some call “Fashion Week for Food and Nutrition” (The American Dietetic Association’s 2009 Food and Nutrition Conference held in Denver recently) I observed companies out in force to convince registered dietitians that their foods and beverages fit in with fitness.

The good news for foodies is that as competition heats up in the diet and wellness category, so do efforts to create better tasting options. Good health is appealing, but great taste seals the deal.

Taste Satisfaction: Greek-style yogurts made a bigger presence this year. Dietitians like them because they are higher in protein than other yogurts and tend to be thicker and richer tasting, adding staying power and satisfaction to …

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PEOPLE’S PHARMACY: Why ‘use before’ and ‘expiration’ dates differ

Q: When I picked up a prescription from the pharmacy, the pharmacy label had a “use before” date of 09/04/10. The manufacturer’s label, under the pharmacy label, had an “expiration” date of Dec 2012. Why is this?

A: It is more convenient for the pharmacist to put a one-year computer-generated “use by” date on the prescription label than to hunt for the manufacturer’s specific expiration date. In some states, the pharmacist is legally required to display a one-year use-by date.

As you discovered, this does not represent a true expiration date. If you request this information when you submit your prescription, the pharmacist could take a little extra time and provide it for you.

Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist and Teresa Graedon is an expert in medical anthropology and nutrition. They can be reached at

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ASK DR. H: Needle biopsy should be ‘gold standard’

Q: Three months ago, I had a breast biopsy that fortunately turned out to be benign (not cancer), but now I’m left with a scar that I’m not happy about. I was too scared at the time to ask questions, but now I’m wondering why the surgeon didn’t just do a needle biopsy. Can you tell me why? – S.R., Sarasota, Fla.

A: I cannot comment on your specific breast mass, but there are very few instances where an open surgical biopsy would be needed as the initial diagnostic procedure.

In fact, a panel of leading breast surgeons at the 2009 International Consensus Conference on Image Detected Breast Cancer III unanimously agreed that needle biopsy should be the “gold standard” for the initial diagnosis of breast abnormalities.

Dr. Melvin Silverstein, chairman of 2009 International Consensus Conference, commented that since only 15-20 percent of abnormalities found by mammography turn out to be cancer, a significant number of women with benign lesions are undergoing unneeded …

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DOCTOR IS IN: Domestic violence — stopping abuse and bringing awareness


Assistant Professor in the Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics at Emory University School of Medicine, Director of the Jane Fonda Center for Adolescent Reproductive Health, Practicing OBGYN at Emory University Hospital Midtown.

KottkeOne in four women will experience some kind of domestic violence during her lifetime. Each year, intimate partner violence results in an estimated 2 million injuries and 1,200 deaths among women. These statistics may be shocking, but sadly, they are very real.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. This is a month to focus on ending the violence that affects so many lives and to increase awareness that there is help for those suffering. It is a time to remember those who have lost their lives because of an abusive relationship. And it is also a time to work towards the prevention of intimate partner violence.

Intimate partner violence can affect anyone, regardless of age, race, sexual preference, economic background …

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AGING & CARING: Parkinson’s Disease — A guide to mind and mood


Some of the most profound consequences of Parkinson’s disease may result not from motor symptoms, but from psychiatric and behavioral difficulties. These problems often go unrecognized and untreated. Here’s what to watch for:

Parkinson’s disease can cause changes in mood, thinking, and behavior

PARKIN1Many family caregivers don’t realize that some of the most stressful challenges of Parkinson’s can come from changes in a patient’s mood, thinking, and behavior. For instance, depression, dementia, and drug-induced psychosis are potentially crippling conditions that often accompany Parkinson’s. Yet doctors and researchers haven’t paid much attention to such troubles.

“If the patients do mention it” — and, typically, they don’t — “it kind of gets shoved to the side by the issues that are more interesting to the doctor rather than to the patient,” says neurologist Joseph Friedman, director of the Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Center at …

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HEALTHY EATING: Spices boost health benefits, too


It turns out that a pinch of red pepper or dash of curry powder not only turns up the heat to boost flavors in dishes, but it also can add a helping of health benefits, too.

eatingout.1021Nutrition research supports new reasons to season dishes with herbs and spices including cinnamon, ginger, oregano, red pepper and yellow curry powder. Blueberries, pomegranates and other deeply colored fruits may be famous for their high antioxidant content; but it turns out that some spices rank really high, too.

One teaspoon of cinnamon has the disease fighting antioxidant power of a full cup of pomegranate juice or half cup of blueberries. The specific kind of antioxidant compounds found in cinnamon called polyphenols have been shown to help regulate blood sugar levels and fight inflammation which can increase risk for heart disease and diabetes.

Feel even better about the cinnamon sprinkled on your oatmeal? But don’t try to use this spicy news to help justify downing one of those …

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PEOPLE’S PHARMACY: Help for compulsive hair pulling

Q: I am desperate and hope you can help. I suffer from trichotillomania. I pull hairs constantly, and this leaves little bald spots. No matter how hard I try, I cannot stop. I seem to recall hearing on your radio program something about an amino acid that could calm the compulsion. Please tell me what that is.

A: Trichotillomania is a mysterious condition in which the victim feels an overwhelming urge to pull out hair. Stress often triggers people to pull hair from their heads, eyebrows, eyelashes or even pubic area. Physicians don’t understand what causes this problem, and there is no Food and Drug Administration-approved treatment.

Researchers reported in the Archives of General Psychiatry (July 2009) that the amino acid N-acetylcysteine could help ease trichotillomania symptoms. Subjects were randomly assigned to receive either 1,200 mg per day of the dietary supplement or placebo. If there was no improvement after six weeks, the dose was increased to 2,400 mg.

The …

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ASK DR. H: Cause of foot pain can be elusive

Q: Could you tell me why the bottom of my feet burn and throb at night? I’m 85 years old, and take Synthroid, Diovan, Zocor, Coreg CR, Actonel and a baby aspirin. — D.M., Mableton, Ga.

A: It’s difficult to say for certain why you’ve got nighttime foot pain (a form of peripheral neuropathy), but your list of medications does not point to poorly controlled diabetes as the cause. Sometimes the cause can be found (e.g., herniated disc, compression fractures in low back as a consequence of osteoporosis); other times it remains elusive.

It’s important to search for a possible cause among the 100 types of peripheral neuropathy — especially if it’s due to a form of neuropathy that’s reversible. I’d recommend a thorough work-up with a neurologist.

Through examination and testing, you’ll know whether your condition is treatable with pain medications, steroid epidural (spinal) injection or surgery.

Nerve pain like you have may not be curable, but it can be relieved by …

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