Tag Archives: natalie bracco

Why is it so Hard to Feel so Good?

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Perhaps it’s the stage of life I’m in, mid-life, where I’ve noticed the conversations with my friends has taken on a slightly different tone than when we were younger. Dr. Robi Ludwig, a psychotherapist, continues that during our 20’s discussions were often filled with lofty talk about our future. We’d talk about our goals, hopes and dreams, with an occasional “guy or girl story” sprinkled throughout our conversation. Now most of my contemporaries are in their 40’s or older. Many of us have met some, if not a lot of the important goals, we set out to achieve. Some of these achieved goals are even the ones we would dream and talk about, during our younger years. One might think this would create a sense of glee, or at the very least some sliver of self satisfaction to feel good, but I have found the opposite to often be true. The interesting thing about goals is there are always new ones waiting to be born. Only the goals of adulthood don’t always benefit from the veil of grandiosity or hopeful feelings, so typically felt during our youth. Adult goals, although still equally longed for and dreamt about, get internalized alongside a healthy dose of reality; a byproduct of living life and in some cases being humbled by it.

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After the Diagnosis: Life with Breast Cancer

breast cancer ribbonAnytime someone uses the world “cancer,” stomachs drop and brows furrow. When the word breast cancer is uttered, minds start racing with worries about the worst-case scenario. Leaving the doctor’s office after being diagnosed with breast cancer is one of the hardest parts, as you are literally taking your first steps toward treatment. Breathe — it’s going to be okay.

Get to Know What You’re Dealing With

If you need to break out a recording device to remember everything the doctor said, then do it. Take time out to research all the terms that he or she used. Research the different stages and start finding answers to common questions so you can be better informed. Once you know the basics, you can start asking your doctor the more advanced questions about the cancer and about your treatment.

Start Building Your Support System

Moving forward, you’re going to want a two-tier support system. The first tier should be a significant other or a parent who can hold your hand the entire time and stand next to you during doctor’s visits. The job of this person isn’t easy; they’ll know everything about breast cancer and all of your specific treatments, and they’ll be the second opinion you seek when you make the hard decisions. They’ll also need to be a hand to hold and shoulder to cry on.

The second tier is made up of your friends and family, who will drop by to brighten your day and ask about your well-being. They’ll bring books to read while you recover, gossip to keep you in the loop, and jokes to make you laugh. They’re like breaths of fresh air in a world of medical jargon and stuffy hospitals.

This is actually one of the hardest steps as you start telling those who are close to you about your breast cancer. It starts to feel real, and you have to say it out loud over and over again.

Find Your Voice and Start Asking Questions

Some doctors and hospitals make a patient feel rushed, especially if the cancer seems minor and easy to treat. This might be good news for you, as you’re not a case that the staff is highly worried about, but it can make a patient feel like their not valued or important.

Don’t let the doctor or nurse leave until you have every possible question and concern addressed. You’re already going through a difficult time in your life; you don’t want to be left in the dark in regard to your treatment plan. Ask what test results mean, look at your chart, and have the doctor give explanations of the treatment process.

Treat Yourself

One of the first things you should do after you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer is to treat yourself to cupcakes, that purse you’ve had an eye on, a manicure, or whatever else makes you feel good about yourself. The road ahead won’t be easy, so take a little time to make yourself feel good before you have to face it.

Fighting cancer isn’t easy, but that doesn’t mean you can’t beat it. Use it to build strength, not weakness.

photo by: TipsTimes

5 Nutrient-Packed Foods for Healthy Hair

de5de856512394ea_shutterstock_96575575.previewMany of us assume that buying the best shampoos and conditioners will be enough to keep our hair looking healthy. These products do help to repair existing hair damage but don’t do much to promote new hair growth and cannot replace essential vitamins that we may be missing from our diet. There are certain essential vitamins and minerals that our hair relies upon, and a lack of these is often the source of many hair growth problems. Some simple changes to our diet can really make a big difference to the look of our hair.

Modern lifestyles can also have an impact – a busy lifestyle, lack of sleep, or even pregnancy can seriously make a difference in our hair health. Vitamin supplements have  been proven to help, but if you are looking for the most natural sources of these vitamins then here is a list of 5 food types foods that can help to provide those essential vitamins your hair needs.

Fish

Many sources site that salmon is the number 1 super food for healthy hair. This is because it contains a great combination of essential substances that our hair simply loves. Omega 3 oils help maintain a well hydrated scalp, and many believe this is essential to maintaining healthy hair growth. Oily fish such as herring, mackerel and sardines are rich in omega-3, and salmon is also rich in Vitamin D which is great for your hair follicles.

If you are someone who doesn’t like eating fish then certain vegetable sources can be a great way to get the omega-3 you need. Rapeseed, flaxseed, soya beans, walnuts, almond and even tofu are all good sources of Omega-3.

Vegetables with Beta-carotene

Beta carotene is present in many vegetables and provides us with a great source of Vitamin A. For many people who suffer from dandruff a simple addition of vitamin A to their diet can help solve the problem. Vitamin A helps to promote sebum oil which is our body’s natural conditioner for our scalp. It can also help with hair growth problems as it is said to assist with oxygenating our scalp. Sweet potatoes are known to be one of the best sources, and other vegetables such as carrots, spinach, and broccoli are also recommended.

Oysters

Oysters are also recommended to help fight scalp problems such as dandruff. A lack of zinc in your diet may even be the cause of hair loss, and oysters have a particularly high zinc content. Zinc helps promote the level of androgens in our body, and for some people a low level of androgens has been directly linked to hair loss. Crab, liver and beef are also good sources of zinc.

Eggs and other biotin rich foods

Our hair is essentially built using protein, a nutrient that has been associated with speeding up hair growth. Protein can be found in many types of foods, but eggs are one of the best sources. Another important mineral in eggs is biotin, and those who have a biotin deficiency may suffer from brittle hair. To prevent this, biotin has been proven to be effective from both foods and supplements if needed. Kidney beans and nuts such as almonds and even peanuts are also good sources of biotin.

Fruit and vegetables with Vitamin C

Vitamin C is great for both our hair and skin. Vitamin C helps keep our blood vessels oxygenated, which in turn keeps our hair follicles healthy. Super fruits such as blueberries have a very high level of Vitamin C, and strawberries and citrus fruits are also good sources. Many vegetables such as green beans, spinach and broccoli are good sources, and the old-fashioned rule of eating colorful vegetables can give you a good indication of a high vitamin C content, as well.

You may have identified that one of these essential sources of vitamins is missing from your diet, and that may well be the cause of a particular problem. If you are concerned and believe you may have a nutrient deficiency then simple tests at your doctors can identify what vitamins and minerals you may be lacking. This Women’s Hair PDF can also help you to diagnose any hair health problems you may have!

7 Telltale Signs You’re A Hardcore Greenie

max-R Outdoor Recycling BinGoing green is a great way to show your love for the environment and to promote a sustainable lifestyle that really helps the planet. It’s also incredibly addictive, so after the first few steps you might find yourself engaged in an increasing number of green activities. You know you’ve become a seriously hardcore greenie if…

You Look for Recycling Bins Instead of Trashcans

Recycling is one of the easiest, most essential ways to go green. It only takes a little effort, it’s great for the environment, and it’s becoming much more widely accepted. If you’re becoming a hardcore green-friendly person, you likely start looking for recycling bins before you ever look for trashcans, because you realize that practically everything is recyclable. Whether you’re out shopping or visiting a friend, you’re loathe to throw away your paper cups, soda cans, or newspapers, and secretly you feel a little appalled when you discover that there aren’t any recycling bins available.

Your Have Reusable Bags Hidden in the Car

You can’t remember the last time someone at a store asked you if you wanted paper bags or plastic ones because your reusable bags are always at hand. You’ve been known to turn around without shopping if you arrive at the store and realize you forgot your fabric bags. To avoid that in the future, you started squirreling reusable bags away in your car.

People who carpool with you (of course you carpool—it’s better for the environment) are likely to find cloth bags in the side pockets of the door, the glove compartment, the trunk, under the seats, and in the hidden cubby console between the front seats. You now use them for everything, from carrying around your gym clothes to carrying your shopping. In fact, you have enough reusable bags that sometimes you lend them to people at the grocery store who insist on using plastic bags.

You Unplug Without Thinking

Many people don’t even realize that their appliances and gadgets still suck up energy even when they’re turned off—but you do. You’ve long suspected that your electricity bills are high and your appliances are wasting energy even if they’re turned off, because they’re still plugged into the wall sockets. Now that you have proof, unplugging is second nature to you.

When you’re a serious greenie, your routine changes. Where once it was enough to simply walk through your home turning off the lights in empty rooms, now you go around unplugging those big energy vampires. You make sure to unplug your computer and all of its components because you know your favorite tech-toy is one of the biggest culprits. You gleefully unplug kitchen appliances, especially the microwave, and you always pull the plug on the TV too.

Of course, if you’re really green, you likely have smart power-strips as well, to save energy even when you’re using your favorite devices.

You Take Marathon Showers

People waste so much water every day! Long baths and showers aren’t special treats saved for stressful days, they are daily occurrences. But you know better. Not only do you turn off the faucet as you brush your teeth so you’re not needlessly wasting water, you’ve turned showering into an Olympic event.

You’ve timed exactly how long it takes you to do everything you need to do in your shower. You don’t waste one single second—or a single drop of water. In addition to installing a low-flow head for your shower and a shower timer, you’ve equipped every faucet with an aerator to conserve energy, water, and heat. You know, as you get all clean and fresh, that you’re doing your part to save water.

You Wanted Solar Energy for Your Birthday

After long dreaming of using solar energy, you finally decided that was all you wanted. You saved up, looked around for the best deals and the most quality work, and decided that solar panel energy was the best choice for you. That’s because you know how efficient solar energy really is. You understand the joy of relying on the sun to give you heat, power, and even hot water. While your panels were your biggest birthday present, you still insisted that anyone who got you a present used recyclable paper, of course.

All Your Gadgets Are Solar-Powered

It wasn’t enough to install solar power on your roof, though. You want everything powered by solar energy because, again, you realize how powerful the sun is. So your kitchen is fully outfitted in appliances powered by solar energy. The fridge uses solar power and all of your other appliances are completely energy-efficient. You’ve got a solar-powered watch and the charger you use for your phone, tablet, and other mobile gadgets is also solar-powered. All your friends are jealous of you when the power goes out because you’re still connected. How cool are you?

You’ve Got the Best Compost Pile on the Block

If you’re a hardcore environmentalist, you’ve been composting since long before it was cool. You’ve discovered a way to compost almost everything. As a result, your grass is lush and all the drought-tolerant plants in your garden thrive. You can easily sustain yourself on the food you grow and you routinely share with your neighbors because you want them to eat healthy too.

Composting is part of your routine. Almost everything that comes out of your home either gets recycled or composted. You try to reuse everything for a good purpose and it works for you. Not only do you know you’re doing your part, but you help to erase your carbon footprint every single day. You even offer to start compost heaps for the neighbors who compliment your lifestyle, your commitment, and your gorgeous greenery.

If you’re a serious greenie who takes the eco-friendly life seriously, then you are unquestionably awesome. You’re kind to the Earth, to your family, and to your neighbors because you know that what you’re doing matters.

 

Image via Flickr by max-R

5 Ways to Monitor Your Health with a Smartphone

iPhone 4SWe’ve come to associate our smartphones with unhealthy habits, such as stress, questionable social habits, lack of sleep and not getting enough exercise. But app developers are changing this perception with an abundance of apps to help us eat better, move more and rest adequately. Here are the best ways to turn your smartphone into your greatest health advocate.

Keep Track of Calories

Who has time to count calories? Quit bending your brain and let your smartphone take over. There are tons of apps for this, but the top rated apps are

  • My Fitness Pal
  • Calorie Count by Fat Secret
  • Calorie Tracker
  • Lose It!
  • 40:30:30

These apps include the calorie count of foods you eat, help you track the calories you eat each day, count the calories you burn through exercise and allow you to keep a journal of your progress. The one that’s different is 40:30:30. This unique app helps you keep your nutrition in balance while you’re cutting calories so you don’t neglect important sources of iron, calcium, fiber, antioxidants and other critical nutrients for health.

Compare the Nutritional Value of Foods

Being healthy goes beyond weight. Good, healthy habits include getting all the vitamins and minerals you need. Apps like Restaurant Nutrition allows you to compare the choices offered by restaurants so you can pick something healthy before you sit down to eat. Fooducate is a great app that scans the barcodes of food you’re contemplating and tells you exactly what you’re getting, including calories, fiber, vitamins, etc.

Monitor Diabetes, High Blood Pressure and Gluten

Sticking to a special diet is hard in our world of fast, highly processed foods. Fortunately, there is no shortage of apps for the BlackBerry 10 smartphones and others to help us stay on track. For example, dLife Diabetes Companion allows you to look up diabetic-friendly foods, watch helpful videos, get your questions answered, find diabetic recipes and manage your blood sugar all from your smartphone.

For those managing high blood pressure, there’s Heartwise Blood Pressure Tracker and Heart Pal. The advantage of Heart Pal is that not only does it help you make healthy decisions about your blood pressure, it also keeps your doctor informed of your progress.

Those with gluten intolerance will enjoy the Gluten-Free Scanner, which examines the barcode of foods to determine if it’s safe for you to eat. Find Me Gluten Free helps you find businesses catering to your gluten-free dietary needs.

Get Some Exercise

Staying active is a challenge when work, family and social obligations are so demanding. Apps like Endomondo help you stay social and active by allowing you to connect with your friends from Facebook, Gmail, Yahoo! and other social sites and track each other’s activities by GPS. Fitbit is an app about all things fitness, including calorie counting, how much exercise you get, your weight, heart rate, glucose levels, blood pressure and even sleep. The app is free, but you’ll need to invest in the monitors and other gadgets to take full advantage of Fitbit’s capabilities.

Build Better Sleep Habits

Sleep deprivation affects our mental and physical health. As mentioned, Fitbit One offers some helpful sleep tracking aids. Jawbone Up is an updated release of Jawbone and shows marked improvement over the original. This app can keep track of your sleep habits, such as when you’re sleeping peacefully versus tossing and turning. It also helps with your activity levels and eating habits.

Who knew your smartphone was the ticket to better health?

How to Help Someone Struggling With Alcoholism

Anonymous DrinkerToday, it seems like alcohol is the drug of choice for many who suffer from addiction. And why not? It’s legal, socially acceptable, and fairly inexpensive. However, as anyone who knows an alcoholic will tell you, it can easily be abused. While alcohol does have reputation for loosening people up, it can cause some people to completely lose control. The results of alcoholism can include broken relationships, broken lives, and even death. So what do you do if someone important to you is an alcoholic?

Stop Blaming Them

This is one of the hardest things for a family member to do. Many people still see alcoholism as a choice. By this logic, the excuses, broken promises, and bad behavior are also choices. However, this is not the story. While the decision to pick up the first drink was a choice, what ensued after was not. Some people have a genetic predisposition toward addiction. Once alcohol is introduced to these types of genetics, the result is unavoidable. Blaming them, especially to their face, will just cause them to drink more.

Stop Enabling Them

The flip side to the blame game is the enabling game. While you should try to be understanding, it’s possible to be too understanding. Even if person is drunk, you should never excuse irresponsible behavior, violence, or property damage. Instead, getting them into program with competent health care professionals (like 12 Palms Recovery Center, Alcoholics Anonymous, etc) is a better way to show true understanding and compassion.

Stop Trying To Cure It

Many people feel that’s it’s up to them to help their loved one through this situation. This is particularly true if the friend was always in a more care-giving role than the other. This role of caregiver can extend to parents, children, lovers, siblings, or even best friends. However, there’s nothing you can do to cure it. The alcoholic themselves has to want to cure it, or no cure will ever work. A recovery center can help them get the help and strength they need to cure themselves.

Stop Pretending It Will Go Away

Far too many people feel that if they ignore the problem long enough it will go away. However, alcoholism does not get better on its own. It’s a progressive disease. Eventually, an alcoholic left to their own devices, will drink themselves to death 100% of the time. That’s where you come in.

Get Rid Of All The Alcohol In The House

This rule includes all alcohol, even the cooking wine. While this does not stop an alcoholic from drinking, it does make it more difficult. Additionally, it removes the temptation from a recovering alcoholic. A recovering alcoholic can fall off the wagon at any time, so removing temptation plays a major part in recovery.

Alcoholism is a frightening disease. Since many people are able to drink alcohol with no ill effects, it’s not unreasonable that someone who is now an alcoholic once thought that too. When a person becomes an alcoholic, they’re relying on you to step in and get them help they need

5 Ways Vitamins Can Help Improve Your Metabolism

I'm really trying here.Metabolism is the set of life-sustaining chemical transformations within the cells of living organisms in the body. As humans age and fluctuate between weights, the metabolism tends to slow down. Adding vitamin supplements to any wellness regime can give a sluggish metabolism a boost. Weight loss goals are met easier with a fully functioning metabolism.

Here are five metabolism boosting vitamins to consider.

Choline: Burns Fat

Choline can reduce overall body fat by assisting in lipid metabolism. By increasing how fast the body is able to burn fat, you can become more efficient at losing pounds and keeping them off. Choline may even prevent memory loss in old age.

Many adults receive the recommended dosage of 425 mg through their diet or multivitamin, but it’s available as a supplement too. Choline can be found in fish (specifically salmon and Atlantic cod), eggs, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and wheat germ.

Vitamin B-12: Fights Fatigue

A Vitamin B-12 deficiency can make someone feel exhausted, weak, and even depressed. Avoid these symptoms and achieve a sudden boost in energy by adding vitamin B-12 to your diet. Vitamin B-12 complements other B vitamins, such as B-5, B-6, and biotin. The increased energy level from adding B-12 to your diet makes it easier to lose weight. Red blood cell formation can even be improved with this vitamin.

The recommended dose is 50 mg, and it can be found as a supplement and in meat, fish, and eggs.

Vitamin C: Metabolizes Fats

Vitamin C is commonly known to improve immune systems, but it plays a role in burning fats too. It can also help fight oxidative stress which causes weight gain. If you’re looking for medications and vitamins in the United States or Canada drugs, this over-the-counter vitamin is easily accessible.

Vitamin C is available as tablets, capsules, and drink powders, so it’s simple to add in the recommended 1000 mg to your diet. It can also be found in oranges, strawberries, cabbage, and broccoli.

Magnesium: Digests Enzymes

The National Institute of Health claims that Americans aren’t getting enough magnesium in their diet, so it’s important to consider adding this vitamin for the overall health benefits. This powerful vitamin helps the heart function properly, strengthens bones, and supports a healthy immune system. Magnesium can also help the body digest enzymes which naturally boosts metabolism.

The recommended dose is 500 mg per day, and it can also be found in whole grains, peas, and nuts.

CLA: Targets Abdominal Fat

CLA, also known as Conjugated Linoleic Acid, aids in metabolizing fat which boosts metabolism. Scientific studies have shown that this vitamin specifically targets abdominal fat. Other health benefits include muscle growth and decreased cholesterol. If you’re looking to drop pounds, talk to your physician about adding CLA into your weight loss plan. Combined with diet and exercise, CLA is a powerful tool to jump start your metabolism.

Take CLA with a meal; the recommended dose for optimal results is 1000 mg.

A balance of the right vitamins can increase metabolism and provide other long-lasting health benefits. While you can receive some of these key nutrients through your diet, it’s important to add in the correct supplements to have your metabolism work with and not against you.

5 Stress-Reducing Foods to Add to Your Diet

oatmealThere are several ways to attack stress, and the symptoms of stress in our bodies using food. The trick is getting all the nutrients we need to fight stress, without eating excessive calories. This is easy to do, by substituting unhealthy foods with these options, and watching your portions. So instead of eating a super-sized burger and fries, then gobbling carbs and nuts, and stressing over weight gain, simply replace meals and snacks during the day with healthier, stress-reducing alternatives.

1. Boost Serotonin Levels With Whole Grains

Serotonin is the chemical in our brains that tells us we’re happy and content. Lots of foods boost our serotonin levels, including comfort foods like complex carbohydrates and milk. You can get healthy complex carbs from whole grain cereals, breads, pastas, and oatmeal. Whole grains are also filling, so these foods help prevent over-eating.

Usually, people enjoy breads with butter, and pasta with a rich sauce. Up the nutritional value, and lower the calories by enjoying bread with sugar-free jam, and pasta with a tomato based sauce flavored with oregano, and other herbs and spices.

2. Cut Stress Hormones With Citrus and Black Tea

Cortisol and adrenaline are stress hormones. They make us feel horrible, and over time eat away at our good health. Black tea is a great way to lower these hormones, and unlike coffee and some other peppy drinks, it don’t raise our heart rate or blood pressure. Foods containing high levels of vitamin C also cut cortisol and adrenaline, such as citrus fruits.

Fortunately, black tea has no calories, and citrus fruits are very low in calories. Read about other foods that reduce cortisol and adrenaline at the Best Drug Rehabilitation Manistee blog.

3. Lower Blood Pressure With Nuts and Seeds

One of the most serious effects of stress on our system is high blood pressure. Even if you don’t ordinarily have high blood pressure, the effects of constant spikes in blood pressure through the day, in response to stressful situations takes its toll. You can lower blood pressure by avoiding too much salt, and adding foods like nuts and seeds to your diet. Pistachios are another good choice. Keep portions to a single handful, because nuts pack serious calories.

4. Stock Up on Magnesium in Spinach and Salmon

Low magnesium is linked to frequent headaches and fatigue, both of which add to stress levels. Spinach is packed with magnesium, as are soybeans, and salmon. These foods also have many other nutrients, some of which are healthy for the heart, such as Omega 3 acids in salmon.

5. Boost Your Immune System With Omega-3 Rich Foods

The vitamins in spinach also help boost the immune system, which takes a brutal hit in times of stress. You can also give your immune system a boost with the vitamins A and E found in almonds. Substitute two, or three servings of red meat per week with Omega 3 rich fatty fish, such as salmon, or tuna. These have the added benefits of lowering stress hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline, and improving heart health.

When you can’t eat your way through a stressful situation, consider other ways to calm your nerves. A brisk walk, cuddling with a pet, enjoying the outdoors, and engaging in a calming activity like painting all help relieve stress. When it’s time to eat, grab one of these healthy alternatives to candy bars and potato chips.

5 Ways Your Smartphone Can Improve Your Mood

You pick up a cell phone several times a day, but can you imagine a cell phone picking you up? Well, they do it all the time. We all know your cell phone makes your life easier. You can order pizza, get directions, chat with friends and even send photos when you feel like doing so, but this little device can also make you feel better when you feel blue. There’s truly no limit to what technology can do these days. Next time you feel down, pick up your cell phone. It will return the favor.

Hunt for Feel Good Music

Music - an art for itself - Headphones and music notes / musical notation system

If you are feeling low, the easiest way to pick yourself up is to play a song. With Music Hunt, an app for smartphones, you can find the right song to pick you up. Search for an old favorite, such as a hit from the 80s, or surf through a variety of recent hip-hop hits. Satisfy your craving for some feel good rock ‘n roll, sure to blow your blues away in a heartbeat.

This app is perfect for rainy day blues. Add this to all of your work phones and give your crew something to smile about on those long flights. You can do this in a few clicks (or taps) with using just your tablet or smartphone.

Stream a Video, Enjoy a River of Laughter

Streaming videos on your phone is a great way to improve your mood. With today’s phones, you have hundreds of video apps to choose from. Open the YouTube app and search for funny, short videos for a quick laugh to lighten your mood. It’s also free, which will make you smile.

Hulu Plus is also available on select smartphones. You can immediately brighten your mood by watching your favorite sitcom on your phone. You can also download and watch comedies on your phone for a minimal price of around $7.99.

Crack a Joke a Day

laughter

Many apps feature jokes to force you to look at life from a different perspective. Try YoMama Jokes or go for quantity with the app 5000 Jokes, or Best Bar Jokes. All of these apps will make your mood improve immediately.

Chat With a Friend

Another mood-booster is to have a chat with a friend. Open up your favorite messaging app and send a quick note to a friend, or repair a damaged relationship with a nice text. It’s a little easier to start a conversation using texts.

Relive Feel Good Moments

Grand Cayman Vacation

Load your phone with your favorite pictures of friends, family, and great moments. Put them in a folder called “fun photos” or something similar and browse photos when a blue mood strikes. You’ll start thinking about all the fun times in your life.

You always have your phone with you. When you feel blue, use these suggestions and add a little creativity to turn your smartphone into your personal mood-booster.

 

Image Via Flickr by photosteve101

Image Via Flickr by gagilas

Image Via Flickr by c&rdunn

Is Your Personal Health Information Secure?

The U.S. Government set some strict rules for doctors and medical facilities on how patient records are kept. All medical providers and facilities must start an electronic medical record (EMR) or electronic health record (EHR) for all patients by 2015 or suffer penalties. With security breaches abundant, how do you know your personal health information is safe?

Changes at Medical Offices & Facilities

After a recent visit to your family care physician, specialist or hospital, you may have noticed that everyone’s running around with laptops and even receptionists are informing you—there’s a new system. This new system is designed to help keep personal health information (PHI) safe in an electronic format.

Called EHR or EMR systems, if not installed by 2015, the medical field will suffer by losing one percent of their Medicare reimbursements, and will continue to lose a percentage each year that it’s not implemented. With our medical histories moving to an electronic format, can we be sure it’s safe and complies with HIPAA laws?

Should You Be Worried?

The Happy EMR Doctor offers insights on real and possible medical record breaches. Some of them include:

  • Records being faxed to the wrong person/pharmacy due to input errors.
  • The wrong prescription medications, doses and strengths sent to pharmacies.
  • Cyber-attacks or hacking of systems.
  • Only a mere 10 percent of hospitals “lock down their data” and New York, Illinois, California, Texas, Georgia, Massachusetts and Missouri have suffered “dozens” of breaches.
  • To date, 281 cases of electronic health data breaches have been reported.
  • Filling out-patient online forms is unsafe if completed on a public or non-protected computer.

All of these insights should make us worry. Is there something we can do to protect ourselves?

Securing the Medical Field

Along with the new EHR and EMR requirements, the Government also demands the medical world to set up secure systems that keep data encrypted and are HIPAA compliant. Many doctor offices, clinics and hospitals are using HIPAA hosting service companies to keep records safe via a secure IT infrastructure.

Patients should ask all of their medical care providers if they use such systems to ensure their personal data is safe.

It’s not just health records that are of concern here, but also names, addresses, birth dates and social security numbers. If these aren’t kept safe and accessed, they become a hacker’s dream—it’s all they need to steal your identity.

People should also ask their providers if they can give them a full copy of their medical records in a paper or electronic format. With EHR and EMR on the rise, it’s even more essential for people to constantly keep an eye on their healthcare records and update inaccurate information. Medical offices that use secure HIPAA, EHR or EMR systems should be able to quickly give you a copy of your records.

On paper, these new HIPAA electronic record-keeping requirements do seem like a step forward. They will enable doctors and hospitals to communicate better, especially if a patient is out-of-network. To make sure your PHI is safe, ask your providers if they are using a safe and encrypted system.

 

Image via Flickr by clevercupcakes

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