Bunions are not fun ones

Bunions are a common cause of foot pain. Bunions develop a the base of the big toe, and can cause pain and swelling.

The Latin name of bunions is “hallux valgus”. Hallux means big toe, and valgus means turning away.

When a bunion starts, the pressure can cause the toe joint to swell and become inflamed, causing pain and stiffness.

Bunions run in families because foot shape is hereditary. Wearing shoes that are too narrow or high heels can worsen bunions. People who on their feet a lot are also at increased risk of bunions. Bunions also often become worse with pregnancy.

Bunions are ten times more common in women then men!

What should you do if you have a bunion?

-Be sure to wear well-fitting shoes with flexible soles

-Avoid heels that are taller than one inch

-Pads or inserts in the shoes can help bunion pain

-Splints worn at night can help with discomfort

-Warm soaks, ice packs, and over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen can be helpful for some patients

-Steroid injections can be helpful in some cases

If none of these standard measures help, then a bunion surgery may be necessary.   The surgery is performed by podiatrists (DPM) or orthopedic surgeons, and re-aligns the joint.

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What percentage of medical bills have errors, and what can you do about it?

Hospital and doctor bills often have incorrect charges.  Studies have found that 10% of medical bills contain errors!  Medical bills may be completely incorrect but still result in the bill getting sent to a collection agency.

Almost everyone has received an inaccurate bill or a bill incorrectly denied by insurance. Sometimes the bills are sent months later, which can cause confusion and make it difficult to track what was paid.  Many people have paid bills they really aren’t sure they owed!

Bizarrely enough, the billing system also hurts doctors and hospital systems. The administrative expenses for billing is twice as high in the United States as in many other countries, and is the cause of approximately 20% of the entire healthcare expenditure.

Why so many medical billing errors? The main reason is that our healthcare system is a patchwork of different systems and multiple doctors or groups billing for the same treatment. For example, when a patient has a surgery, they will get separate bills from the hospital, surgeon, anesthesiologist, radiology, etc.

The second reason is that each procedure performed requires a “code”. If the code is entered incorrectly, it can result in denial of insurance coverage. The current system has over 150,000 medical codes. Despite all of the regulations and coding details, it is also frustrating that the cost of each procedure can vary by 300% or more.

So what can you do to protect yourself?

 

  1. Whenever possible, check before you receive healthcare that the doctor or hospital are covered by your insurance.
  2. Keep a file with all of your medical bills. Save them for at least two years in case a very late “revised” bill arrives. And those pesky “Explanation of Benefits” statements that you get? Save those too, they can help later in some cases.
  3. Remember that booklet (Member Handbook) they send out when you join a new insurance plan? Always keep those, as they can have information included about what is covered and how you can dispute a claim.
  4. Read every bill to be sure it appears correct, but also request an “itemized statement” from every visit or procedure. This will help if there is a dispute later, and also is required if there is a submission for Health Savings Account (HSA).
  5. If you find an error on your bill, call as early as possible to discuss with the provider’s office. You may have to set aside a chunk of time for these calls as they can be very time consuming.  When you call, be sure you have the bill in front of you and the itemized statement if possible. If the first person is not helpful, ask for their supervisor.
  6. If you get a denial of coverage from your insurer, you have a right to ask for an appeal.
  7. If you still cannot get help, it may require escalation to an insurance commissioner or to Medicare administrator.

 

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Can watching the news make you sick?

Can watching the news make you sick? 

The average American spends 70 minutes a day getting the news!  Thirty four percent of people go online to read the news every day.  Thirty nine percent of people watch news on TV every day.  Forty four percent say they get news through their mobile phone.   

 But what is the effect of all of that news on our brains?

News can trigger our brain’s limbic system, which then releases cortisol. Cortisol is released when we are in a state of stress.  Cortisol can dysregulate the immune system, and inhibit the release of growth hormone.  Chronic stress with high cortisol levels can impair digestion, make us susceptible to infection, and impair hair growth. 

Researchers in Canada found that our comprehension declines based on the number of news stories we are exposed to!  The researchers believe that the constant barrage of interruptions from short news stories are distracting to our brains, and can impair concentration and memory.

 Researchers in California found that when Americans watched more than four hours a day of news were more likely to report post-traumatic stress symptoms (PTSD).

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Are Americans fat from not eating enough fat?

Americans have viewed fat in the diet as the root cause of obesity for years.  Starting in the 1950s, Americans were advised to stick to a low fat diet.  But is the fat in our diet really the cause of obesity?

In fact, since the advice to decrease dietary fat, the obesity epidemic has doubled!  New research now points to the increased consumption of carbs and sugar as the cause, not the fat in the diet.

There are actually many health benefits to having a moderate amount of fat in the diet.  Vitamins A, D, E, and K require fat go get absorbed by the body.  These vitamins are crucial for brain health and many of our organs.  In fact, Vitamin D is now thought to be important in decreasing the risk of Alzheimers, Parkinson’s, and depression.

The fats in butter and coconut oil supply fatty acids in white blood cells, which help our bodies fight infection.

Fat provides twice the energy as carbs, providing 9 calories per gram versus 4 calories per gram.  This provides energy for a longer time and helps the body feel more satisfied and less hungry.

So have a handful of nuts, a piece of salmon, and spread some butter on that bread!

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What is the French Paradox?

The French Paradox is based on a study by a scientist named Serge Renaud from Bordeaux University, France.   He found that that although the French eat a diet very high in saturated fats, such as butter, cream, eggs, sausages and cheese, they have a very low rate of heart disease.  In fact the French have a lower rate of heart disease than Americans!

The average French person eats about the same number of calories as the average American.  However, the average French person consumes 108 grams of animal fat per day, while the average American consumes 72 grams.  The French eat four times more butter, 60 percent more cheese, and three times more pork.

Despite that, the rate of deaths for heart disease for the French is only 83 per 100,000 people, compared to 115 per 10,000 people in the United States.

One theory is that the high rate of calcium in the cheese binds with the fat and prevents its absorption into the blood stream, allowing it to be excreted before it causes heart disease.

Another theory is wine.  The average Frenchman drinks ten times more wine than the average American.  Wine contains anti-oxidants, and contains an ingredient called resveratrol that appears to prevent damage to blood vessels and prevent clots.

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Are you a good fat or a bad fat?

We have all heard that some fats are good and some are bad, but what is the difference, and what are we supposed to eat, anyway?

Saturated fats:  These are from red meat, poultry, and dairy products.  A moderate amount of saturated fat in the diet is healthy for you.   This is what is known as the “French Paradox”:  The French eat lots of meat, cream, and eggs but have a low risk of heart disease!

Monounsaturated fats:  These are fats are found naturally, and can actually decrease your risk of heart disease and diabetes! These fats are found in  nuts, fish, avocado, and whole grain breads.

Trans fat:  These are the bad boys!  Most trans fats are man-made from oils through a processing method called partial hydrogenation.  Trans fats can increase bad cholesterol (LDL) and decrease good cholesterol (HDL).  Trans fats can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. The best way to remember where trans fats are? In “junk” food: Frozen pizza, pre-prepared breakfast sandwiches, doughnuts, and those frosted cookies/pastries that come in the plastic containers at the store.

Healthy fats:

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Do you have the guts?

In a human’s lifetime, they spend 5 years total time eating!  In a lifetime, a human eats 7,000 times their weight in food.

There is a 20 minutes delay from when you start eating to feeling full.

Feeling “full” is a function of the brain, and not the stomach. It is the result of the brain reacting to chemicals released when food or drink is placed in the stomach.

The small intestine is 15 feet long, but the large intestine is only 5 feet long!  They are named for their width, not their length.

On average, the food we eat stays in our intestines from 18 hours to 2 days.

During a lifetime, the average human’s intestine will handle 50 tons of food and liquid.

Gas is produced by bacteria in the intestine.  We have 500 types of bacteria that live in our intestines.   As the bacteria break down the food, the bacteria release gas. The sulphur-containing gas they release is what causes the smell of farts.

Farts are flammable because of the gases released!

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