Health

Simple Tips That Will Change Dieting Forever

Not Sure Where To Begin?

We have all been there. It is time to make a change. You feel like you need to make a major shift in the way you eat. A friend had great success with this or that extreme diet, while someone else you know had terrible results.

There is so much information, and honestly so much BAD information out there with regards to dieting and proper nutrition that sometimes it can be overwhelming. Making drastic changes, cutting, slashing, restricting, etc can lead to a very short-lived diet change for most of us. Try taking it one step at a time and incorporating these basic ideas!

1. Eat Intuitively!

Intuitive Eating is associated with lower body fat and better relationships with food. Eat intuitively by rating your hunger on a scale from 1 (weakness/dizziness has set in) to 10 (you may have to roll me out the door/filled to the point of feeling sick).

Really listening to your body before eating, to determine if you are truly hungry, and while eating slowing down to let your body detect fullness levels, will keep you on the right track with intuitive eating. Try it at your next meal!

2. Think Abundance Instead of Restriction!

Start by adding an additional serving of vegetables to your day. Once that becomes habit, add two servings. When eating intuitively, the vegetables will start to take the place of more calorie dense food choices like starches or junk food!

3. Check Your Portions!

Our friends at Precision Nutrition suggests a palm of protein, a cupped hand of carbohydrates, a fist of vegetables, and a thumb of fat for most. If you are still hungry, add another fist of vegetables. Click the image for a great article on portion control!

Still hungry after intuitively eating? Add a small amount of protein. It will take a number of weeks (maybe even months) to work through and find the amounts and timing that works best for you body, lifestyle, and schedule. There is no one-size fits all in nutrition, but start from a baseline and build from there.

4. Don’t Give Up All Your Favorites!

The IDEA Fitness Journal suggests “Flipping” your ingredients. Instead of that traditional burrito, ask for a burrito bowl which puts all the ingredients of a burrito into a bowl instead of a wrap.

Instead of eating ice cream with fruit on top, try a spoonful of ice cream on top of a bowl of fruit!

Instead of a steak dinner with a side of potato and vegetable, try a salad with sliced steak and cubed potatoes on the side.

(Source: Padgett, Cassandra MS . “Nutrition Hacks Based on Hard Science” IDEA Fitness Journal, January 2019: 46-49. Print)

5. Beware of False “Health Food”!

Be cautious of “Food Halos” – foods high in sugar or artificial ingredients that are packaged to appear healthy and may even be lurking in the “health food” section of the grocery store!

Tuna and chicken salads for instance are often laden with heavy amounts of mayo. Making your own? Try swapping out the mayo for plain Greek yogurt.

Think instant oatmeal is a healthy go-to breakfast? Be watchful of high sugar levels! Consider using one pack and adding plain rolled oats, walnuts, and berries to balance out the load…even better, start with plain oats and build your own oatmeal so you are aware of what is going into it!

6. Build Healthy Habits!

The most important thing to remember is that building healthy habits and determining the right path for YOUR body will take time. Determine your priority in nutrition. Where can you make an easy change that will have significant results for your health and wellness?

Is it more water every day? Maybe you drink several sodas per day and just swapping them out with water will yield you incredible benefits!

Need to eat more vegetables? To trim out the excess snacking or late-night eating? Work on ONE habit first and do not move on until it’s mastered. For many, this will take at least a week or two. In some cases, much longer.

It may take more time than you’d like – scratch that, it WILL take longer than you’d like – but in the long run when it’s just part of what you do and you are well on your way to your goal, it will seem like a blink in time.

Take it one step at a time…

Pets and Health: Bigger Than You Thought!

According to the 2017-2018 National Pet Owners Survey (yes that is a real thing!), 68% of US households – about 85 million families – own a pet.

Studies have shown that dog owners particularly decrease their risk of death in general by 33 percent compared with those without a pet!!

This week we’ll talk about how pets can have a positive impact on your health from stress to fitness! Don’t have a pet? Go check out the local humane society and/or pet sanctuaries!

Pets and Stress Response:

Now this may depend on the person – and on the pet – but numerous studies have shown that pets can help lower blood pressure and regulate the heart rate during stressful conditions. Even when they are not with you at the time! Pretty amazing. Outside of casual health benefits, therapy animals can be used for more extensive needs, such as equine therapy for conditions from depression, to anxiety and post-traumatic stress!
Check out this link for info on therapy dogs!

Pets and Staying Active:

Pets can help you stay active, particularly if you have a pet that requires outside time. Walking the dog for instance is an activity that will force you to get outside in even the harsh winter conditions instead of loafing around when the weather is poor! Going for a short walk can have tremendous health benefits when compared with hours of sitting uninterrupted.

Pets and Mental Health:

On the same idea as licensed therapy pets, pets love you for who you are without judgement, which can lead to feelings of acceptance that one may not always get from family or society! Dog parks can be a great way to get active with your pet as well as have a social outlet with others that share a common interest.

Find local parks, and establishments, where you can bring your dog along at www.bringfido.com. Check out the activities area for local dog parks and outdoor options.

Pets and Allergies:

The National Institute of Health has suggested “children exposed to high indoor levels of pet or pest allergens during infancy have a lower risk of developing asthma by 7 years old.” (Source) A similar earlier study found homes with cats had a protective effect, having made allergy-related antibodies, against asthma symptoms in young children. Some scientists believe pets carry microbes that stimulate the immune system so that children don’t become allergic. (Source)

A Pet a Day Keeps the Doctor Away:

Two studies involving the same participants 5 years apart showed that people who had a pet both at the first and second touchpoint had the fewest doctors visits of the group, followed by the group who had no pet the first round and had then acquired one within the 5 years preceding the next.

Take a moment to think about that!

Dog, Cat, Horse, Fish, Bird – any pet counts!

More Resources:
http://www.center4research.org/benefits-pets-human-health/
https://www.webmd.com/hypertension-high-blood-pressure/features/6-ways-pets-improve-your-health#2

Dry Needling for Joint and Muscle Pain Relief

What is Dry Needling?

The name “dry needling” comes from studies that were done to determine the effectiveness of injections. The studies showed that just putting a needle into a trigger point (a small, tight, tender area in a muscle) was just as effective as injecting a pain relieving or anti-inflammatory medication into the trigger point. Since nothing is injected with dry needling, we refer to it as “dry.”

Is Dry Needling the Same as Acupuncture?

While the two are often confused, they are actually different treatments. Dry needling is performed in the dysfunctional area, whereas acupuncture may be performed in the hand to address a headache, for example. Dry needling also focuses mainly on the treatment of musculoskeletal conditions.

How is Dry Needling Done?

First, the area of pain or tension will be assessed in order to locate trigger points. Then a needle will be placed into the muscle, and then the needle will be moved around in small movements that cause the muscle to activate – seen or felt as a twitch in the muscle. Once the twitching ceases, the needle is removed from the muscle.

What is the Purpose of Dry Needling?

Dry needling helps to relieve pain, help muscles relax, and improve function. Usually dry needling is used on tense muscles that are causing pain and affecting a person’s function. It is a very effective method and the results can be seen quicker than other treatments such as massage. The effects of dry needling can be felt after just one session but may take more than one to fully resolve the issue. It is used in conjunction with other treatments such as manual therapy and exercise.

Is Dry Needling Safe?

The risks associated with dry needling are minimal which makes it a safe procedure when performed by a trained practitioner. Physical therapists are regulated by each state in the training they must receive for dry needling before they can use the treatment on patients. Physical therapists also use clean technique, meaning they wear gloves and make sure that they use hand sanitizer and alcohol to sanitize the area being needled. Also, needles are kept in sealed packaging until use so that they are sanitary and safe for use. After a single use they are disposed of in a sharps container and are never reused.

Does Dry Needling Hurt?

Every person is different, and each muscle responds differently to dry needling. The process can be uncomfortable, but is usually not painful. The needle used for dry needling is a very thin needle similar to those used for acupuncture, so there is usually no pain associated with the needle being inserted into the skin. The muscle twitches associated with dry needling can be uncomfortable but typically are not painful. There may be some lingering soreness afterwards but this usually lasts less than 24 hours. Drinking plenty of water after having dry needling done can help to lessen this soreness.

Is Everyone Appropriate for Dry Needling?

While dry needling is a very effective and safe procedure for most people, not everyone is a candidate for it. There are certain precautions that can affect someone’s ability to have dry needling done (for example, over the area of a pacemaker). There is also a timeline of when dry needling is appropriate after surgery so that there is no increased risk for infection. Talk to your physical therapist to see if you’re appropriate for dry needling.

This blog was specially written by our friend and guest writer Rachel Zimmerman, DPT.

Rachel is clinic director at ATI Physical Therapy right here in Green Bay, WI. You can find out more about her clinic or find a location near you at ATIpt.com!

Plant-Based Eating Tips and Recipes!

It’s no longer a secret that shifting towards plant-based/whole foods eating, which minimizes processed foods, is best for your overall health.

Plant-based eating limits, or eliminates, animal products and focuses on fruits, vegetables, legumes, seeds/nuts, and whole grains which provides higher amounts of many vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Many think of vegetarian’s when they think of plant-based eating, but there are numerous varieties of eating plant-based. This week we’ll look at the differences among them and maybe find a plant-based style that works for you!

But FIRST: To kick off your New Year, today’s mission for you is to go through your cupboards and toss, donate, or give away all those foods that do not fit your health and fitness goals – and start anew! Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with some healthy recipes too!

Which Plant-Based Diet is Right For You?

No matter who you are, we believe the majority of your diet should be plant-based. Now, that doesn’t mean you can’t be healthy eating animal products, just that we should strive to allow plants to make up the majority of our calories and nutrition. Let’s discuss some varieties of primarily plant-based diets:

Vegetarian

Even within this meat-less category there are numerous forms:

Lacto-Vegetarian – Including dairy products such as milk, yogurt, cheese, etc.

Ovo-Vegetarian – Including eggs only

Lacto-Ovo-Vegetarian – As you may have guessed, lacto-ovo-vegetarians exclude meat but allows for dairy and eggs.

Pescatarian

Essentially, vegetarians that exclude dairy and eggs but do include fish. Fatty-fish, like salmon area great way to get your omega-3’s in. For the most benefit, look for wild caught salmon vs farmed.

Not a big fish fan? Try Sea Cuisine which offers sustainably caught seafood with a variety of tasty flares like Mediterranean crusted salmon, tortilla crusted tilapia, and summer herb crusted cod. They also offer non-crusted fish like blacked Cajun salmon. Available in most grocery stores in the frozen fish area.

Flexitarian

Flexitarians are “casual” vegetarians that occasionally eat meat, fish, dairy and/or eggs. For many it is hard to make the switch altogether away from animal products and still adequately meet nutritional needs – at least until they figure out strategies and recipes that allow them to do so. Not everything has to be a clean break!

Vegan

While veganism and vegetarianism crossover much of the same territory – veganism tends to take things to another level by even excluding products from insects – like honey for instance – and in some cases branching beyond what goes in your mouth and abstaining from using non-dietary animal products like wool.

To cover all ends of the spectrum, on this extreme we have Raw Veganism, which also do not cook their foods above 104-118 degrees F, instead relying primarily on preparation methods of blending, dehydrating, soaking, and sprouting.

Recipes

Plant-based eating doesn’t mean you have to eat exotic flavors and try crazy new dishes if you don’t wish!

Try this “Burger” In A Bowl from our friends at Precision Nutrition! Squeeze a dollop of ketchup and mustard over a cup of warm, cooked, lentils and top with a chopped pickle and dash of hemp seeds. This 300 calorie dish serves up 25 grams of protein!

Chopped Salad with Creamy Avocado Dressing:
This lacto-vegetarian dish includes some chickpeas with a healthy dose of cabbage, tomatoes, and cucumber along with some healthy fat to keep you full and satisfied!

The dressing blends an avocado with a small amount of plain Greek yogurt, and is a great dressing to keep on hand for any kind of salad!

Get the full recipe here!

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos:

Interested in becoming plant-based but don’t know where to start? Try increasing the number of meatless meals you serve. Find ways to include more greens daily. Try substituting a more vegetarian take on already favorite dish like chili or Mexican dishes (sweet potato and black beans versus ground beef in this recipe).

Thai Peanut Quinoa Salad:

This vegan and vegetarian friendly dish includes a major dose of veggies – cabbage, carrots, green onion, snow or snap peas, and cilantro – plus quinoa for a protein boost! (Use maple syrup instead of honey to complete as a vegan dish).

Get it here!

Plant-based diets can tend to be deficient in specific micronutrients like vitamin B-12, calcium, omega-3’s, and vitamin D. You may want to consider getting tested for these nutrients and/or supplement for them if you become a plant-based eater or vegetarian/vegan. Good luck!

Leftover Holiday Ham? Recipes to Make the Best of it!

Ham at Christmas was originally known as the Yule Ham. Initially termed “hamm”, the word was defined as meat from a hog’s hind legs. It was said to have started with the German pagan tradition, presented to appease the god, Freyr – the god of fertility, harvest, and boars! (Another pagan tradition included the Christmas Tree!).

China was actually the first to start curing ham in 4900 BC, but enough with the history lesson. This week we have numerous ways to use up that leftover holiday ham!

Leftover Holiday Ham Recipes!

Ham and Veggie Casserole

Without cauliflower on hand, this recipe was tested with Costco Stir Fry Vegetables and it turned out fantastic! It’s a forgiving (meaning you can add as many veggies as you like!) recipe that combines ham, veggies, and a lighter cheese sauce topped with toasted bread crumbs. Get it here!

Cheesy Egg Stuffed Peppers

Microwave some bell pepper halves for 3 minutes to soften. Fill with chopped ham, sautéed onions and chopped peppers, beaten eggs, and top with a sprinkling of cheese. Bake at 375 for 35 minutes.

FYI – This recipe makes extra fill so consider using 3 pepper halves. This recipe was enjoyed by kids and adults alike!

Ham and Brussel Sprouts

Simply toss 1 pound of brussel sprouts halved with 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 cup of cubed ham, a drizzle of olive oil, sprinkle of salt, and a clove of minced garlic in a baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Top with 1 tablespoon of toasted bread crumbs and 1 tablespoon fresh parmesan cheese.

Check out the recipe here!

Veggie Fried Rice Crispy Ham

This recipe includes protein and fiber rich edamame with ham in this unique recipe! Talk about mixing things up from the blend, heavy flavors of the holiday time.

Full recipe

Crockpot Cheesy Vegetable Soup

Remember that so many recipes are flexible! Though this one doesn’t call for protein, tossing in some ham or turkey can make it a more complete and filling meal…plus it is delicious and kid friendly! This wintery, healthier comfort food recipe was tested with 1 potato, extra broccoli and carrots, and ham and chicken tossed in.

Get it here from “Super Healthy Kids”!

***Just like chicken, ham is a good source of protein, vitamins, and minerals. However, ham’s high sodium content may increase your risk for certain health problems. Thus, using ham as a flavoring or add-in versus a main course may be a healthier way to use it.

Why is the sodium a concern in ham? Sodium nitrate specifically (found in many cured or processed meats) can be converted into nitrosamines during the processing, storage, or cooking process, and nitrosamines are linked to higher rates of cancer. Therefore, ham is best eaten as a special treat.***

8 Glasses of Water a Day? THINK AGAIN!

This time of year is often about trying to maintain some semblance of health while being bombarded with treats, rich foods and drinks.

One way to combat this is simply to drink enough, and/or MORE, water! Simple huh?

The science of water has changed some over the past decade, so let’s see if you have the latest facts!

How do I tell how much water is the right amount for me?

Taboo or not, check the color of your urine! If you are properly hydrated your urine will be colorless or light yellow in color. Drinking too much water is rare for healthy Americans who eat a typical American diet.

How much water should I drink each day?

It’s simple to give a solid number, but the reality is every person is different. Water needs are based on your health, your activity level, and where you live. Outside of being sick or pregnant, women’s general recommendations are around 90 ounces per day (74 ounces at a minimum) and 125 ounces for men; BUT this includes water from food consumption as well.

Foods high in water, like fruits and vegetables, will contribute more to your daily intake, typically about 20%. Even coffee, tea, etc is still counted toward your water intake, caffeine or not. Still not your gig? Try drinking broth!

Wait…Coffee counts??

You’ll be happy to know, despite popular the myth, science shows that coffee does NOT dehydrate you. If tap water just doesn’t do it for you, grab that cup of Joe…just skip, or go light, on the add ins because excessive dairy and sugar will certainly not help you feel hydrated.

What about carbonated water?

The latest science shows that carbonated water is just as good for you than still/tap water. Science has shown that carbonated water is NOT bad for your tooth enamel or bones and has been shown to help with digestion!

Is carbonated water too acidic? Well, it’s been shown that your body properly balances the slightly acidic carbonated water via the kidneys, with no additional stress. Not feeling the tap water? Crack open a non-sweetened sparkling water! Check your label just to be sure. Have you tried HINT sparkling infused water? NO sweeteners!

BEWARE! Tonic Water and Club Soda are not the same as carbonated water or Seltzer Water

What about exercise?

In addition to needing water to lubricate and cushion your joints, you need to replenish the water you lose during exercise. It’s important to note, the amount consumed to replace it would not count toward your daily consumption needs. For most, this ranges between 12-24 ounces when working out for less than an hour. When it’s hot/humid, your hydration needs will increase.

What You Need to Know: Plantar Fasciitis

Today’s blog post is courtesy of a special guest writer and expert on the topic of Plantar Fasciitis: Rachel Zimmerman DPT.

If you’ve ever experienced pain in the bottom of your foot, or in your heel, chances are it’s Plantar Fasciitis.

There is a common misconception that this is something you have to live with, but you don’t! The following advice will help alleviate your pain and get you back on your feet.

What is Plantar Fasciitis?

To understand what this condition is, we need to break it down into parts: plantar fascia and -itis. The plantar fascia is a structure in the bottom of the foot. It is a thin, white tissue similar to a ligament that sits between the skin and the muscle and extends from the heel to the toes. It provides stability to the foot. The suffix “-itis” is a Greek term meaning inflammation. So plantar fasciitis is inflammation of this tissue in the bottom of the foot.

What are the Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis?

Plantar fasciitis typically presents as pain in the heel, usually on the inside part of the foot. The pain can also spread along the arch and along the bottom of the foot. The pain is usually worst during the first few steps after getting out of bed in the morning but can also occur after standing or walking for long periods of time.

What Causes Plantar Fasciitis?

Plantar fasciitis has multiple causes, but one of the most common is increasing your activity level too quickly! Also, having tight calf muscles, weak foot muscles, and/or wearing improper footwear.

What do I do if I believe I have plantar fasciitis?

Avoid aggravating activities: The most important thing you can do when you have an inflammatory condition is to avoid activities that increase your pain. Figure out which activities are aggravating it and modify them as you can. This does not mean to avoid activity altogether – just find activities you can do that don’t increase your pain level. This does not have to be long term, just while you are experiencing pain.

Stretch your calves: Tight calf muscles (the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles) can contribute to inflammation in the plantar fascia. Stretch your calves by sitting with your feet out in front of you with your knees straight, and place a towel around the ball of your foot. Pull back on the towel towards you until you feel a stretch in the calf. Hold for 30 seconds and then repeat a few times. You should feel a stretch, but not pain.

Strengthen your foot muscles: There are specific muscles in your foot that help to support your arch and take stress off the plantar fascia.

   • Great toe extension: Lift big toe, leaving other 4 on the ground. Repeat for 3 sets of 10.

   • Small toe extension: Lift 4 smaller toes, leaving big toe down. Repeat for 3 sets of 10.

   • Doming: Raise the arch of your foot, keeping toes down. Repeat for 3 sets of 10.

Change your footwear: Avoid shoes that are flat as these do not support your arch and can contribute to stress on the plantar fascia. Look for shoes that have a buildup on the inside of the shoe where your arch would be. Most shoe stores will be able to help find footwear that is appropriate for your feet, whether you need a stability shoe (which has more arch support than normal) or a neutral shoe (which has arch support but not as much as a stability shoe).

Ice: You can freeze a plastic water bottle, and then roll your bare foot over the frozen water bottle. It provides massage and ice, which will decrease the inflammation and will numb the pain temporarily. Do this for a few minutes at a time at most.

Consider orthotics: There are orthotics, or inserts for your shoe, that provide more stability for your arch. You can try basic orthotics from a drugstore or consider custom orthotics. A physical therapist, podiatrist, or orthotist can help you with custom orthotics.

**If your pain does not get better, consult a physical therapist! There are many other factors that contribute to plantar fasciitis that your physical therapist may be able to assess and treat.

This blog was specially written by our friend and guest writer Rachel Zimmerman, DPT.

Rachel is clinic director at ATI Physical Therapy right here in Green Bay, WI. You can find out more about her clinic or find a location near you at ATIpt.com!

Treat Yourself with Healthy No-Bake Goodies to Die For!

First it was Thanksgiving, now it’s holiday parties and prep! Offer to bring a healthy(er) option that you know is a safer go-to when you don’t know what you are stepping into. That is a strategy of winners!

This week we have some healthier no-bake holiday treats to share that you can whip up in no time!

Prepare Your Tastebuds!

Chocolate No-Bake Cookies

Delicious! Combine nut butter with some oats, almonds, and chocolate chips. All ingredients are prepped in a pot and plopped on some parchment paper to chill in the fridge until they set. Although they are high in fat, nuts and nut butters are a great source of protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals!

No-Bake 3 Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies

Did you know 80% of the world’s supply of maple syrup comes from Quebec, Canada? Now of course syrup is sugar (a good natural substitute), but it is also high in antioxidants and nutrients like zinc, potassium, and magnesium. These cookies are a quick healthier treat that can be tossed together for that last-minute party invite or cookie exchange.

Avo-Keto Chocolate Truffles

Avocados are amazing! With the fruit’s smooth texture and flavor, it easily lends itself to many styles of dishes. They’re also loaded with fiber, healthy fat, and 20 different vitamins and minerals! Simply combine melted chocolate with avocado, vanilla, and salt. Chill and then roll into balls and coat with cocoa powder!

Don't Need Something Sweet?

Although no-bake desserts are always a hit, you could also bring an appetizer or dip to your next party!

Broccoli Pesto Dip

Think flavorful pesto with the vitamin boost of broccoli and a protein boost of ricotta! This dip is as simple as lightly boiling the broccoli and then tossing all ingredients into a food processor. Serve with vegetables or pita chips.

Deviled Egg Salad

Do you like the idea of no-bake recipes but want a touch of classic? Check out this Deviled Egg Salad recipe. It’s much more dignified than trying to stuff a half an egg into your mouth! Consider replacing mayo with plain Greek yogurt or a mixture of the two. Time Saver: Did you know you can purchase hard boiled eggs at Costco?

Let’s Talk Turkey Folk! (Recipes for Leftovers Inside!)

Are You Hosting Thanksgiving Dinner?

Consider buying TWO turkey while they are specially priced and save one in the freezer for later or make 2 right away and freeze leftovers for future easy meal prep! Below we’ve got a bunch of recipes to make use of all that leftover lean, healthy protein!

Tips for Surviving a Holiday Built Around Overeating!

• It’s easy to indulge on Thanksgiving, without even trying, especially if you’re attending more than one meal! It’s a long day off and most of you have the day off, start on the right foot by working out, going for a walk/hike, or just being active first thing in the morning! You will “feed” your mindset to help make better choices throughout the day.

• After getting your fit on, make sure to eat a NORMAL breakfast. Don’t skip breakfast in an effort “save calories” for your Thanksgiving lunch or dinner. You will end up going into the meal starving and almost certainly overeat!

• Bring a dish to pass that you consider a “safe zone” in regard to a healthy option. Create a game plan and stick to it, but still enjoy the day and be kind to yourself. Love pie? Have a piece of pie for goodness sake! Perhaps skip the dinner roll or sugar-laden sweet potato casserole to make room for it.

Last But Not Least…Give Thanks!

Give thanks for those around you, the life you’ve been given, and the community that surrounds you. Life can sometimes throw us lemons, it’s up to us to keep an eye on the blessings and using the gifts we’ve been given. Let today be the first day in a season, in a YEAR of giving! Giving thanks, building up those around us, and becoming the change you want to see in the world!

Bust Out the Recipe Books!

Turkey sandwiches get old real fast after a couple of days. Try out these fresh takes on turkey leftovers to switch things up and use the rest of that bird!

Turkey Enchiladas

The recipe calls for low-fat/low-carb ingredients, but feel free to adjust for your own nutritional needs!

Turkey Tortilla Soup

Crispy tortilla strips and flavorful low calorie soup combine for the perfect come-down from Thanksgiving feasting!

You MUST Be Your Own Healthcare Advocate: Here’s Why…

These days the medical system can seem like a confusing, complicated system to navigate. High volumes of patients, long hours for practitioners and the need to communicate across numerous different types of healthcare providers can make things difficult for not only you as a patient, but also for medical professionals.

According to a 2016 analysis published by the BMJ (formerly British Medical Journal), if “medical error” was classified as a disease, it would rank as the third leading cause of death in the US!! (Source)

What does this mean? It means our medical professionals are human and sometimes make mistakes. OF COURSE listen to your doctor, but you also need to be your own informed health advocate. On top of that, those who code medical bills can and sometimes do make mistakes that can be the difference between having a procedure covered or not and obtaining government reimbursement for some services.

Let’s talk about steps you can take to protect yourself from potential medical error…

1. Ask Questions

Be prepared when meeting with your doctor. What are the benefits of a suggested procedure or course of treatment? What are the side effects of drugs your being prescribed? Are there other options available? Why are we deciding to take this course over others? Bring a list of questions!

Ask “What does that mean?” Doctors are often forced, by the system and patient-load, to be efficient…be prepared with your questions to get them all answered in order of priority because you likely only have a short time with your doctor face-to-face.

2. Do your research

Although you must carefully navigate to reputable websites, the internet can be a wealth of information. If you find something that might be helpful, or a concern, print it off and bring it to your doctor.

3. Maintain your own records

Navigating through the health system and referrals can bring along with it a level of complication in having your records transferred. Maintain a copy of your own records just in case! Many hospital systems now have apps that hold your medical information, billing, and more. Apple products now even have a health app to assist.

4. Review your medical bills for errors

In the end, bills are based off of coding which are entered by humans. Humans can make mistakes. Double-check all of your bills especially if you are a self-pay claim. Insurance companies often have staff that review all bills but mistakes can still happen there too.

Be your own advocate and take your health, and billing, into your own hands or get professional assistance in complicated cases if necessary.

5. Advocacy services

Insurance can be confusing, to say the least. Insurance companies offer health advocates to help navigate their services but their responsibility is still to the bottom line of the insurance company.

For serious events and concerns, consider seeking out a private healthcare advocate which has responsibility to YOUR bottom line and will help manage your health needs. There is a cost to a private advocate, of course, but they can assist with things from scheduling and attending doctor’s appointments with you, to researching medical treatments and handling insurance claims.

6. Get a second opinion

“C’s get degrees”…Like any profession, not all professionals are created equal. When in doubt with your doctor’s prognosis, seek out a second opinion. We put our faith in our doctors, but just like anybody, sometimes even they get it wrong.