5-6-2016 10-51-36 AMThis is the title of a presentation coming to Athens State University on May 10, 2016 at 11:30am. In it, Dr. Monica Williams-Murphy will use her unique sense of humor to entertain you as you listen to her lecture on death and dying. I know you might think that sounds morbid, but humor is the key to many stressful situations in life, and the death and dying process is no different.

Dr. Murphy is the author of “It’s OK to Die,” and a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor. She currently practices at Huntsville Hospital, where I met her in October of 2014. She attended medical school at the University of South Alabama, and completed her ER residency at the University of Virginia’s Charlottesville campus. As we were talking about her upcoming presentation, I asked her why she went into emergency medicine, especially given how gifted she is in the area of death, dying, and grief. She told me she had always wanted to be a doctor, and that she had considered oncology, but found that she had no desire for the pace. It also didn’t fit her personality, which is always on the go. She doesn’t slow down, and I’ve seen that in action on more than one occasion. She told me she had read the works of Elizabeth Kubler- Ross (a famous Swiss-American psychiatrist and pioneer in the study of death and dying) prior to going to medical school, and it resonated with her.

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She knew there weren’t enough doctors out there talking about the hard things like death and dying, and since she’s never been one to shy away from difficult topics that others aren’t comfortable talking about. She figured if “someone has to do it, why not me?” Emergency medicine also fit because every person who comes into the ER that is truly sick is in a time of crisis and transition, and she knew that she was called to that. Also unique to Dr. Murphy is that she can take these difficult topics and talk about them in a non-threating manner, and still be emotionally present. She’s not the type of doctor who breaks the news that your loved one is dead or near death, and then walks away. She takes the time to sit with patients and families, answers all their questions, and connects with them on a deeper level. In the ER, there is a “joke” that if Dr. Murphy is working, you can pretty much bet that there will be at least one case where you can see her in action, working her own special magic.

One of the things that she will be discussing at the event, which will be a community luncheon held in the Athens State University Ballroom, is the importance of a plan for end of life care. One thing that she believes to be instrumental is talking about your wishes before the issue ever arises so that there is no question of what you want if they do. She is passionate about educating people regarding the different types of advanced care plans and end of life care options. We talked about how to create these documents and what they entail.

I asked her about the difference between palliative care and hospice care. She told me that they are basically two sides of the same coin in that hospice is holistic management of a disease in its final stages (typically the final 6 months), whereas palliative care is for any person anywhere on the continuum of chronic and/or terminal disease. It includes more than just medications, although they are a part of the process as well. Palliative care focuses on the emotional, family interactions, and spiritual care of all involved in the process, especially the patient.

I asked her why someone my age would want an advanced directive, why that would be important. Her passionate response was “Anything can happen to anyone at any time; 10% of Americans die unexpectedly. You don’t want to displace the decisions for your care to someone else without having informed them of what you would want. Make those decisions for yourself, so they don’t have to.” She also told me that it is important to have these documents on file with yourself, your surrogate decision maker(s), and in your electronic medical record at your physician’s office.

“What a different world we might have if doctors weren’t afraid to talk about death, if we had these conversations annually, right along with your routine physical,” she said. But we don’t have those conversations, partially because we aren’t trained to handle it well. And the media doesn’t help; instead TV shows like House, Grey’s Anatomy, and Code Black portray medicine as miraculous and glamorous. In reality, it’s anything but. “As nurses and doctors, it’s our job to lovingly lower the expectations at the end of life if the miracle doesn’t happen,” she told me.

I encourage you to register for the free event as soon as possible given that seating is limited to 200 people. You can register by calling 256-233-9122. Come and hear Dr. Murphy speak as only she can about how to prepare for peace at the end of life. You won’t be disappointed; you might even be delighted.
By: Rachel Clark, RN, BSN

4-15-2016 5-31-22 PMOver the last several years, Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome have been frontrunners in discussions regarding health and education in children. So much so that since the 1970s, April has been deemed National Autism Awareness Month according to the Autism Society. This month is recognized in the United States as a special time to educate the general public about both Autism and issues in the Autism community (www.autism-society.org).

Even as prevalent as this discussion has become, there are still many people who are not aware of Autism and Asperger’s, and all that they entail. Basically, Autism is more than a single, identifiable problem. According to www.autismspeaks.org, Autism is a general term for “a group of complex disorders of brain development . . . characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication, and repetitive behaviors.” In 2013, the DSM-V diagnostic manual merged all of these various disorders under one, more general diagnosis labeled “ASD” or “Autism Spectrum Disorder.” While the difference between Asperger’s and autism is both subtle and complicated, those with Asperger’s typically do not exhibit a delay in communication skills.

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Statistics from Autism Speaks claim that ASD affects over 2 million people in the U.S. and tens of millions around the world. Findings published on their website indicates that roughly 1 in 68 children in the U.S. have been identified as being on the autism spectrum. This is “a ten-fold increase” over the last 40 years. Studies have also shown that autism is more common in boys than in girls, 1 in 42 as opposed to 1 in 189.

Now that you know what autism and Asperger’s are, you’re probably wondering what causes them. Unfortunately, the jury is still out on this question. Just a few years ago, most people would say that scientists have no idea. However, there is now better research as to the links to this spectrum of disorders might be. There is no “one single cause,” just as there is no “one single type of autism.” A few possible causes might include genetics, environment, and nutrition. There has also been great controversy over a possible link to vaccine administration.

Autism is generally diagnosed when children are still very young. Many times parents are the first to notice that something just doesn’t seem right and they can’t figure out what it is. Some of the more common signs or symptoms that children exhibit include but are not limited to social challenges, communication difficulties, and repetitive behaviors.

Social Challenges:
By nature most babies are very social and interactive with parents and caregivers. In contrast, most who develop autism show signs early on that there is an issue. Signs might include not responding to their name, lack of interest in people and failure to engage in babbling and “baby talk.” It is also common for individuals on the autism spectrum to misinterpret what others think or feel and gestures such as smiling or waving often convey no meaning. It is also difficult to see things from the perspective of another.

Communication Difficulties:
By the time most children are 3 years old, they are able to form a few words and/or simple sentences. They can convey like or dislike, respond to their names, and indicate desire for something. Children who are autistic or have Asperger’s syndrome are often delayed in these communication skills. Sometimes, infants will develop autism later but have previously demonstrated the ability to communicate. Others will have significant delays in learning to speak and communicate from a very young age. Many learn to communicate with pictures, sign language, word processing software, and speech generating devices.

Repetitive Behaviors:
Often, children on the autism spectrum will exhibit use of a set of repetitive behaviors, which is “one of the core symptoms of autism”. These repetitive behaviors may include but are not limited to such activities as “hand-flapping, rocking, jumping and twirling, arrangement and rearrangement of objects, and repetition of sounds, words, or phrases”. If someone attempts to stop or discourage these behaviors, children will often become very upset. Those children and adults on the autism spectrum often benefit from order and consistency on daily routines, with even minor changes to that routine deeply affecting behavior.

“Children with autism also exhibit a higher than average occurrence of genetic changes, GI (gastrointestinal) issues, seizures, sleep dysfunction, and sensory processing disorders.”

Throughout my lifetime, I’ve had the profound honor and privilege to work with multiple children and adults who are on the autism spectrum, some more so than others. These amazing people have given me the great gift of their presence in my life and I am forever grateful for it.
By: Rachel Clark, RN, BSN

4-1-2016 12-28-27 PMBeing from down South, many of us grew up in churches. We have read the various portions of the Scriptures which tell us to fast, and about people who fasted. Some of the most familiar stories include such times as when Daniel ate no meat or sweets for 3 weeks (Daniel 10), when Moses was with the Lord on Mt. Saini and ate no food or drank no water for 40 days and nights, and when Christ was in the wilderness for 40 days and had fasted prior to his temptation by Satan. But many of us wonder, is fasting healthy, and should we still do it today?

One of the things I’m finding that I love the most about science is that it is beginning to catch up with Biblical truth, in more areas than one. Medical science is no exception, given recent studies on brain science. While doing research for this article, I found an interesting study published by Cell Metabolism, a peer-reviewed journal about molecular biology. In their findings, authors Longo and Mattson found that fasting helps “reduce obesity, hypertension [high blood pressure], asthma, and rheumatoid arthritis.” They also found that it has the potential to delay aging, and help treat and prevent diseases.

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What Is Fasting
Fasting is defined as a period of time in which one consumes no food or drink, with the exception of water. There are several variations on fasting which do allow for food, so long as it is less than 200 calories per day. Typical fasts range in time anywhere from 12 hours to 3 weeks. Some fasts, though not common, are done for longer. If you are new to fasting, start slowly, and work your way up to the desired goal.

Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting is a pattern of eating that cycles between a fasting state and periods of eating, typically giving a narrow window of time (usually 6 to 8 hours) in which you should eat, saying nothing about which foods in particular you should consume, versus which foods you should avoid. However, it should be noted that a healthy diet is one that is high in fruits, vegetables, berries, legumes, and lean protein sources. In order to maximize your results from intermittent fasting, changing dietary patterns would be helpful. Some popular recommendations include the 16/8 pattern (16 hours of the day that you don’t eat and a shorter window of time, such as 10am to 6pm, for consuming foods), the 5:2 diet in which you choose 2 non-consecutive days of the week to consume a restricted 500-600 calories per day, and eat normally the other 5 days. Additionally, there is the Eat-Stop-Eat pattern in which you eat dinner one day and consume no food until dinner the next day.

Many laboratory tests require that you fast beforehand. It is understood that fasting can help your body to do a “reset,” which gives accurate numbers on test such as cholesterol, hemoglobin A1C, and blood glucose. Hormone levels are also affected by fasting, which can alter your metabolism and patterns of gene expression.

Some possible benefits of intermittent fasting include but are not limited to:
• Fat loss
• Muscle gain
• Cellular repair
• Changes in genetic expression
• Reduced insulin resistance and lower blood glucose
• Decreased inflammation
• Reduced cholesterol and triglycerides
• Prevention of cancer
• Prevention of Alzheimer’s disease
• Rebuilding of nerve cells
• Longer lifespan

Though more studies are needed to look at these effects, early research in these areas is promising when combined with a healthy diet and exercise program. The important thing to remember is that it starts with one simple change, and this is one of the simplest changes you can make for your health.

For more information and ideas about making changes to your lifestyle, you can visit my website http://rachelclark.juiceplus.com/content/JuicePlus/en/one-simple-change/one-simple-change.html.
As always, check with your healthcare provider for recommendations before beginning any lifestyle changes. Any information provided above is the personal opinion of the writer, and is not intended to diagnose or treat any health issues you may have.
By: Rachel Clark, RN, BSN

3-18-2016 11-24-59 AMIt’s that time of year again: Spring! The trees are budding, the flowers blooming, and the warm sunshine beckons us out of our homes. Though we did have some bitterly cold days this winter, it was relatively mild, all things considered. Many people count that a blessing; however it does pose a potential problem. Usually, winter is a time when pests and bugs are killed off. With the warmer temperatures we enjoyed may come the unintended consequences of having to deal with more mosquitos, ticks and other such pests.

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According to Yale educated midwife-turned-doctor Aviva Romm, “Lyme disease is no longer a rare condition affecting people who live out in rural Conneticut (Lyme disease originated in Lyme, CT); it’s something we all need to think about if we spend any time outdoors, have pets, or even if you or your kids just play in your suburban front yard.”

The Center for Disease Control statistics indicate that reported and confirmed cases of Lyme’s are increasing rather than decreasing, to the tune of 320%, mostly in the Northeast. But, there are also increases in numbers in other geographic regions. In the last few years, at least two people that I care deeply about have been diagnosed with Lyme’s, one in Florida, and the other right here in Alabama.

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The best treatment for any disease is prevention, and Lyme’s is no different.

Tips For Prevention:
• Keep grass cut short around your home
• Treat pets for ticks
• Tuck pant legs into socks when hiking
• Wear long sleeves
• Do thorough tick checks on a daily basis if you are outside
• The use of essential oils like peppermint may help deter ticks

What To Do If You Find A Tick:
• If you find it crawling before it has bitten, flush it down the toilet or destroy it by some other means (as a child, my grandmother preferred burning them)
• If the tick has latched, remove it by grabbing with tweezers as close to the skin as possible and pulling straight up with firm but gentle pressure. Twisting can leave fragments under the skin, setting you up for infection. Likewise, squeezing, puncturing, or crushing the tick can allow potentially infected fluids into the skin or bloodstream. Afterward, disinfect the skin with either rubbing alcohol and/or soapy water.
• If you have to remove a tick, observe the area around the bite for at least 30 days for the classic bulls eye rash that most often accompanies Lyme’s.
• Removing the tick before the first 48 hours after a bite may be key in preventing the transmission of Lyme’s.

As many as 50% of people never develop the rash, and some don’t even realize that they’ve been bitten. Other symptoms of Lyme’s include fever, headaches, body aches, and increased aching in the joints. Traditional Western medicine prefers to treat tick bites of potentially infected persons with a course of Doxycycline, an antibiotic. Some people respond well, while others do not. Talk with your healthcare professional to determine what will work best for you.

A percentage of the population may also struggle with what’s known as Chronic Lyme’s, which occurs when it is not promptly diagnosed and treated. It is difficult to diagnose at this point because it manifests in so many different ways, effectively sending the clinician on a “wild goose chase” to expose the true problem. The spirochetes can “go into hiding” in various parts of the body, lingering for weeks, months, or even years. These patients may experience a wide range of symptoms including numbness in the fingers or toes, problems with digestion, circulation, the reproductive system, the central nervous system (brain, nerves, and spinal cord) and the skin.

A few alternatives to antibiotic therapy for Lyme’s Disease include herbal therapy, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, nutrition therapy, infrared sauna, and the “Rife machine” which uses frequencies matched to those of the microbe that vibrate it until it falls apart.

Enjoy your time outside, but remember to keep an eye out for ticks, preventing this potentially devastating disease.
By: Rachel Clark, RN, BSN

3-5-2016 10-21-19 AMImagine you (or a woman that you deeply care about) have recently moved to Alabama and discovered that you are pregnant. You’ve already decided that you want an experience that involves a care provider who promotes low interventions, a healthy pregnancy, and continuity of care throughout the entire process. Your last birth was at home with a Certified Professional Midwife (CPM), and you want to go that route again. You begin to do your research, only to find that CPMs are illegal in Alabama. Your only option is to go over the state line to Tennessee, Mississippi, Georgia, or Florida. So you begin to look for birth centers, only to find there aren’t any of those in Alabama either. Then you expand your research options, looking a Certified Nurse Midwife in the hospital setting. You find that there are only 3 full-scope midwifery practices in the state, and none of them are close to you. What do you do? Drive across the state line to birth with a CPM, or drive hours to Anniston, Montgomery, or Mobile to one of the full-scope CNMs?

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For well over a decade, organizations such as the Alabama Birth Coalition (ABC), Alabama Midwives’ Alliance (ALMA), and Safer Birth in ‘Bama have been working hard to educate consumers, healthcare providers, and legislators about the safety and necessity of the Midwifery Model of Care. The hope is to also repeal a law passed in 1975 that makes the practice of midwifery by a Certified Professional Midwife illegal and a class C misdemeanor.

Why is this so important, you ask? And what does it have to do with cornbread and shrimp? In 2014, a bill passed the Alabama House of Representatives to make cornbread the state bread. In 2015, legislation making the brown shrimp the “State Crustacean” of Alabama passed. And yet, issues like the decriminalization of Certified Professional Midwives (CPMs) were ignored. This year, legislators will have a midwifery bill on their desks again. Consumers like Hannah Ellis (who came up with the terms “choking on cornbread” and “strangled by shrimp”) have begged legislators to consider this bill, and stop wasting time and money voting on frivolous bills like the two mentioned above, and instead focus on bills that really make a difference to people in our state.

The word “midwife” means “with woman,” and there are different types of midwives. Currently, Certified Nurse Midwives (CNMs) are legal in all 50 states of the U.S., but in Alabama, there are only 3 state-wide who have the opportunity to practice to the full extent of their training, meaning that they can deliver babies in the hospital setting, as well as practice primary care for women. Among them is a new graduate from Frontier Nursing University, Sara Hellwege, who works with Dr. Joshua Johannson in Anniston, AL. The other two are located in Montgomery and Mobile.

Certified Nurse Midwives are nurses with an advanced practice degree from an accredited institution, who have completed degree requirements and passed certifying examinations by the American Midwifery Certification Board. Their expertise includes all aspects of women’s health, from puberty to menopause, and beyond.

Certified Professional Midwives (CPMs) are legal in 28 states, and are educated via accredited midwifery programs or an educational pathway that meets national certification standards. They are trained specifically in what is called “out of hospital birth,” and provide care specifically during the childbearing cycle. They must pass the certifying examination through the North American Registry of Midwives.

So, why seek out a midwife? Midwives can bridge a gap that currently exists. There are approximately 2.2 million women in our state, and only 470 OBGYNs. Of the 67 counties in Alabama, 37 don’t have obstetrical services in their local hospitals. For low-risk mothers, midwives are an option to improve the outcomes of birth in this state. Currently, we receive an “F” rating by the March of Dimes on prematurity. We are in the top 4 for infant mortality in the country, which only 3 other states have worse records than we do. Despite the fact that the March of Dimes recommends breastfeeding for the first year, only 60% of infants in Alabama are ever breastfed, and only 14% continue to be by 12 months of age. Midwives are able to spend more time with clients, educating them about lifestyle, breastfeeding and nutrition, health screenings, and other issues pertaining to women and babies.

Please contact your senators and representatives, and tell them you want midwives to be able to practice in this state again. Consider joining organizations such as ABC and Safer Birth in ‘Bama. Also get involved with events like “Miles for Midwives,” a walk in various towns across the state which demonstrates solidarity with the midwifery profession, educates communities, and raises money for grassroots campaigns.
By: Rachel Clark, RN, BSN

2-19-2016 12-21-12 PMFeeling tired all the time, yet have trouble falling asleep when you lay down at night? Are you more irritable, or get angry easier than you once did? Do you crave sugar, carbs, fat, salt, or all of those things? Do you find that you need that extra caffeine in the afternoon that you didn’t used to? Are you beginning to gain weight, particularly around your middle (a muffin top, or spare tire)? Are you getting sick more often than you once did, and staying sicker longer? Are you feeling anxious, or depressed, and aren’t really sure why? Having problems focusing, not getting your work done? Experiencing mood/hormone swings, or difficulty with fertility? Is your digestive system all messed up?

According to renowned midwife, herbalist, and functional medicine doctor Aviva Romm, M.D., the above listed symptoms are the top 10 indicators of adrenal fatigue.

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The adrenal glands sit at the top of the kidneys (about midway down the back) and control many of the automatic responses of our daily lives. Most people only relate them to to “fight or flight” response, which is one of their main functions, but they affect so much more, including blood pressure, stress response, immunity, weight, and blood sugar regulation. When the adrenals are activated by a situation, our normal response is to either get away from it or defend ourselves. In this response, we pump out cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone that sharpens our thinking, mobilizes blood sugar, and gives us energy. The rate of breathing increases, heart rate goes up, and senses are heightened. Once the threat is gone, the system normalizes and all is well again.

However, we now live in crisis-mode most of the time. There is no time for our bodies to process the first threat before another is upon us, and yet another after that. Our lives are in a constant state of stress, without the time to recover. Eventually, if we do not interrupt the cycle, our adrenals will be overloaded, and not function properly. We will continuously pump out too much sugar and insulin (which is a hormone excreted by the pancreas to get sugar out of the blood stream and into the cells where it can be used for fuel/energy), and can lead to insulin resistance and diabetes. This is followed up by cravings for salt and fat, which is necessary for the reaction to occur.

So, how do we prevent our bodies from getting overworked and protect our adrenal glands? One thing to realize is that perfectionism creates a stress response, similar to other types of chronic stress. It is also an addiction, because we are driven to more and more success. Perfectionism is a precursor for all kinds of mental and emotional disturbances, such as anxiety and depression. When we are no longer driven by the need to overachieve and say “yes” to every opportunity that comes our way, we can be truly present in our own bodies and begin to combat pressure.

If you are already experiencing adrenal fatigue, here are some practical tips to help you begin to bounce back:

• RELAX! Find an activity that you enjoy doing that doesn’t put any pressure on you, and then do it. Read, hike, go on a trip, get a massage. Whatever you choose, do something that will help you unwind.
• Sleep hygiene. Your body needs 7-8 hours of sleep to repair itself. Skip that 4pm cup of coffee. Take the TV out of your bedroom. Turn off your phone and other electronic devices after 9pm (or at least an hour before going to sleep). Keep your bedroom dark and quiet. Go to bed and get up at the same time each day to keep your circadian rhythm in balance. Take a hot bath. Drink some herbal tea (chamomile or lavender are great options).
• Keep blood sugar balanced. Don’t skip meals. Eat a high protein breakfast. Skip sugary foods and drinks during the day. Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and good quality fats.
• Reduce or eliminate caffeine intake. Caffeine is a drug, and it allows you to push past your body’s natural limits and perpetuates the vicious cycle of stress you are trying to break.
• Exercise. Move your body. It will give you more energy by releasing endorphins. But be careful not to over do it, as that can also contribute to further issues.
• Talk to an herbalist. They may be able to suggest options that will help you support your body as you try to make the necessary changes to take back your health.

Stress is a reality in life. However, you are in control of how much you allow it to control your mind, body, and spirit. Take back your life, and nourish your adrenal glands.
By: Rachel Clark, RN, BSN

2-5-2016 5-14-57 PMIt’s that time of year again: the time where you see red hearts everywhere you go. Everyone is talking about love, giving tokens of affection and giving out heart shaped candies and cards. But that’s not the only thing going on in February. Not only is it almost Valentine’s Day, it is also when the American Heart Association is in full swing to educate people about their heart health.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the number one cause of death in men and women nationwide. In looking at a map of the US, which shows geographical variance of the disease, Alabama and Mississippi were two of the states with the highest average of the population having some form of heart disease.

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One of the things that we are seeing in the healthcare world is that younger and younger people are coming to doctors to be seen for chest pain and ultimately heart attacks. Those people that we would have once thought too “young,” “fit,” or “healthy” to have heart problems are now the ones that we are seeing with poorer outcomes than their older counterparts. Not only are heart attacks occurring earlier in adulthood, the symptoms are sometimes silent. They are not the classic presentations that we in the healthcare field look for.

I recently read a story about a 37-year-old woman who was training for her second marathon and ate fairly well. Two things she noticed were that her workouts were getting harder rather than easier, and she was experiencing terrible back pain. She pushed herself to work out harder, and chalked up the back pain to spicy food. Then she began researching her symptoms online. Her research prompted her to go to the Emergency Room where multiple tests were run. Many of the tests were negative, including an EKG, CT scan and X-rays. It wasn’t until the doctors did a cardiac catheterization (a procedure in which a catheter is run through an artery into the heart to look for blockage of arteries) that they found a 100% blockage of one of the main arteries in her heart.

Doctors also realize that treatment should be more focused on education and prevention BEFORE a heart attack occurs, than waiting to treat the patient afterward. This education should start early, before habits and lifestyles become deeply rooted. Dr. Lori Mosca, a cardiologist at New York Presbyterian Hospital had this to say in regard to healthy habits in young adulthood:

“This is a time in life when habits are firmly established, because this is a time young adults become independent. They develop lifestyles and habits they’ll carry on [as they get older]. I’m going through this myself with my son who is 25. He just moved to Colorado, is building his own house, and he’s very interested in his long-term habits, like learning to cook healthy meals. [This age] is a good time to do a self-assessment.”

Some things that young adults can begin establishing in their lives to prevent this deadly disease include:

• Regular physical activity
• More fruits and vegetables your diet everyday
• Getting enough sleep
• Limiting fast and processed foods
• A good relationship with a primary care provider
• Knowing signs and symptoms of heart attack/stroke
• Keeping weight under control
• Understanding links between pregnancy complications such as gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, and pre-eclampsia as they relate to future risk of heart disease

So let’s change things up this February. Instead of opting for the processed candies and other treats, let’s show our anatomical heart some love. Give your body the fuel it needs to prevent heart disease.

A good friend of mine who is a doctor once said, “Your body never forgets how to prevent what it doesn’t yet have.”

For more information on heart disease, visit www.goredforwomen.org.
By: Rachel Clark, RN, BSN

1-22-2016 11-21-48 AM

What exactly does being healthy mean? We use this term all the time. “I went to the doctor and she said I was healthy.” Or “My grandmother is very healthy and rarely has to visit the doctor.” Or “I wish I could get rid of these aches and pains so I could be healthy.”

Have you ever really considered what you mean when you say or think these things? Healthy is one of those words that can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. In general, the idea of health between the medical model and the chiropractic model of care differs significantly.

Ask a medical doctor what health is and they will likely say “a state free from disease.” This definition does not state what health is but what it is not. So, according to their definition, if you do not have a specific disease you are healthy. But what if you have headaches, stomach disturbances, body pain or fatigue? Unless there is a specific disease attached to these complaints you are still considered healthy. In pain, yes. Healthy, yes. How can a person be healthy if they have health complaints?

On the other hand, sometimes a healthy body does have health complaints. It’s true! At least, if you think of a body that is acting correctly as one that is healthy. For instance, if you have eaten food and now have food poison, your body will respond by vomiting and getting diarrhea. This means that your body is functioning in a healthy manner. Yes, you have symptoms. Yes, you feel terrible. But your body has recognized the “poison” and is working efficiently to rid the body of it. Other signs that some say show a lack of health that can actually mean your body is reacting in a healthy manner include vomiting, sneezing, coughing, and fever.

So what is health if it isn’t about symptoms?

The World Health Organization (WHO) defined health as “a state of optimal physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Chiropractors understand the intimate relationship of a healthy body to the nervous system, which of course includes the vertebral column (or spine). The nervous system controls everything in your body. All your cells, tissues, organs, and body systems get information from the nervous system and learn what they are to do and not do based on that communication.

Since this is true, real health is about how well your nervous system can communicate with the rest of your body. This is why subluxations cause such big problems. Vertebral subluxation is defined as “an interference of the nervous system due to a misalignment and/or abnormal motion of spinal vertebrae which causes improper communication with associated organs, muscles, and tissues.” This communication block causes a variety of disease and illness.

It is amazing how many people come to the chiropractor with a spinal complaint, only to realize that chiropractic care has resolved not only their back pain, but other issues as well. Reducing subluxations creates positive results throughout the entire body.

Essentially, the medical model of health sees the body as a machine- a series of parts that need attention. That is why there are specialists: specialists deal with parts.
• Cardiologist: heart
• Gastroenterologist: digestive system
• Urologist: urinary tract
• Podiatrist: feet
• Orthopedist: bones
• Gynecologist: female reproduction
• Neurologist: nervous system

In order to “fix” the machine or “get rid of” disease, these specialists look to drugs to alter blood chemistry. In many instances, this approach does not address the root of the problem.

Those that see the body as a whole are known as vitalists. A vitalist doesn’t see the body as just a sum of parts, but realizes that the body has an “innate intelligence,” an ability to heal and desire to be whole and well. Chiropractors are vitalists, along with acupuncturists, homeopaths, and naturopaths, among others. The purpose of vitalist care is to restore your body to balance so that it can perform at the optimal levels. We do not merely mask symptoms and declare health when the symptoms are gone. Instead, we look for the root cause of the problem and work to eliminate that. Generally speaking, chiropractors are both mechanists and vitalists: they pay attention to the mechanics of the spine and look at a blocked nervous system and how it affects the entire body, understanding that correcting the subluxation can allow the body to heal itself.

What Healthy Feels Like

Most people have no idea what it feels like to be truly healthy. We may understand what it feels like to be free of illness or disease because most of us have experienced one or the other. The difference between having the flu and not having the flu is significant. We can definitely define what it feels like to not have the flu!

But what about true health? How does that feel? Did you know that it is not natural to get sick and take medications? Did you know that having any kind of pains, aches, or other complaints is not normal? Did you know that all the symptoms associated with aging do not have to exist? It’s true!

A healthy person has no sleep issues, skin rashes, dandruff, depression, colds/flu, heartburn, aches/pains, or immense stress. Instead a healthy person is full of energy, motivation, and vitality.

Chiropractic care allows true health to occur.
By: Dr John Boyle

1-8-2016 11-08-11 AMIt’s that time of year again: New Year’s. For many people, it is a time to set goals for the year ahead, an opportunity to start over. A new year signals something inside us to change, and we are more aware of our own shortcomings. There are all kinds of promises we make to ourselves, such as learning something new (my classes started on January 4th), paying off debt, or getting organized. Also, most people have at least one health-related goal on their list of “resolutions.” Incidentally, it is often the one that was also present last New Year’s, but that somehow never became a priority. Instead of needing to lose that 20 pounds, we now need to lose 30 or maybe even more.

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Why is it that we don’t meet these goals we set for ourselves? Part of the problem is that we don’t know how to set goals. If we set goals that are unrealistic, then we set ourselves up for failure from the very beginning. For more information on goal-setting, especially as it relates to exercise, see Janet Hunt’s article on page …

Rather than making a generalized goal like “eating healthy,” losing weight, or “getting in shape,” it is important to clearly and specifically define your terms. Make the most of your New Year’s resolutions by making a plan that you can actually stick to and accomplish that goal you’ve been setting for yourself year after year. Also, make sure that you are truly ready to change your habits before promising yourself you will. If you aren’t committed to the change, it is much less likely to occur, thus setting you up for lower self-esteem and more procrastination.

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Many people set goals for themselves with the wrong motivation. They think that if they lose that weight, get that new job, or pay off that debt, then it will make them happy, improve their relationships, or somehow make life easier. When these things don’t happen, the “bad behaviors” that people are attempting to change revert back to the comfortable lack of action.

In order to make your resolutions stick, you must rewire the pathways in your brain. Dr. Caroline Leaf, a neuroscientist, says “It all begins in your mind: your thinking, your emotions, and your choices. If your mind isn’t right, then you will not stick with anything, no matter how great.”

Below you will find some tips to improve your outcomes when making resolutions.

1. Focus on one goal as opposed to several. Changing just one little thing at a time is much more manageable than trying to totally reinvent yourself.
2. Make resolutions SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.
3. Don’t wait until the new year to make your resolutions. Instead, try making one new resolution every 3 months (or more often if you like).
4. Fully integrating a change takes at least 21 days, so make a goal that you are willing to spend some time on.
5. Find a buddy. Having someone to hold you accountable will increase your likelihood of accomplishing your goals, and will help your friend accomplish theirs in return.
6. Focus on what you can do today. Worrying about tomorrow, next week, or next year only sets you back.
By: Rachel Clark, RN, BSN

Do you get up more than three times at night to empty your bladder? Do you leak unexpectedly when you get the sudden urge to urinate and can’t make it to the bathroom? Do you get the sudden urge to urinate when you hear water running, wash the dishes, or are exposed to changes in your environment? Do you have to urinate more than eight times during the day? If so, you most likely have a condition called Overactive Bladder (OAB).

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OAB and urinary incontinence (uncontrolled loss of urine) affects 1 in 3 women over age 45 and 1 in 2 women over age 65. It significantly impacts your quality of life by preventing a good night’s sleep, requiring you to wear protection (pads or adult diapers), and causes anxiety in social situations due to concerns about odor and embarrassment.

Your bladder has receptors that send messages to your brain indicating the bladder needs to empty, and your brain likewise sends messages back to the bladder, causing the bladder walls to contract, the bladder outlet to relax, and the bladder to empty. This feedback loop is what controls your bladder.

Normally your bladder fills without difficulty, sends the message to the brain, and the brain tells your bladder to empty, but then you can hold off emptying voluntarily until you make it to the bathroom. With OAB, the bladder will send the messages to the brain when the bladder is not completely full, and the brain sends messages to the bladder to empty that you cannot control.

You do not have to live with this condition, and many options are available. Changes in your diet, like avoiding caffeine, nicotine and acidic foods, and performing pelvic floor exercises (Kegels) can improve your symptoms. There are many medications on the market that can reduce or control your symptoms.

If you are having this problem, talk to a doctor trained to deal with this condition, and get a full workup to clarify the diagnosis. Once the diagnosis is confirmed, treatment options will be discussed, but unfortunately this is not an easy problem to fix. Often medications do not work or are not tolerated, and then other treatments must be discussed.

An exciting option that many are not aware of is called InterStim or neuromodulation therapy. InterStim involves placing a small electrode near the nerves going to the bladder, and then by a series of small electrical pulses, blocking the feedback loop to and from the bladder. This allows the bladder to fill more easily to a normal volume and then prevents uncontrolled bladder contractions, giving you back control of your bladder.

An outpatient test is done first, and after 5 to 7 days of the temporary test, you will know if it works. You should see a greater than 50% improvement in all symptoms, and if you do, then you are a candidate for a full implant. The full implant is like a bladder pacemaker. The permanent electrode is placed and then a small battery is placed under the skin of the upper buttock. The battery then needs to be replaced every 5 years, but the electrode stays in place.

InterStim not only treats OAB and urinary incontinence, it also treats urinary retention (inability to empty completely) and fecal incontinence (uncontrolled loss of stool). Patients who have to self catheterize to empty their bladder could benefit from InterStim. The same nerves that go to the bladder also go to the muscles that control bowel movements. By stimulating these nerves, the muscles have a stronger tone and allow better bowel control.

Studies have shown that InterStim is superior to medications (due to monthly medication costs, side effects and having to remember your medication) and provide a better quality of life compared to medications. Approximately 80% of OAB patients achieved success (>50% improvement) and 45% were completely dry after one year, 70% and 35% respectively after five years. Urinary Retention patients had a 77% success rate with 61% of patients completely eliminating the need for catheters, and this benefit persisted at the same rate after 5 years.

If you would like more information, check out Medtronic.com, or call to schedule a consultation with a specialist in your area. Not all offer InterStim as an option, so do your research. Medtronic provides a physician locator on their website.

Take back control of your life today! God bless!
By: Thomas C. Pitman, M.D., FPMRS, FACOG