Thursday, October 16, 2014

Genetic Testing for Cancer

What is genetic testing?

Genetic testing, also known as gene testing, is a simple blood test that looks for mutations in the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 genes, which help prevent cancer.

What is a BRCA mutation? Why is it important?

The BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 genes are known as tumor suppressors.  These particular genes help prevent cancer by producing specific proteins.  When there is a mutation with one, or both, of these genes, the likelihood of an individual developing cancer increases, according to cancer researchers.

Who should consider genetic testing?

Based on a checklist of questions about your family’s history of cancer, your doctor can help you determine if genetic counseling, and possibly genetic testing, is appropriate.

Risk factors include:

A relative diagnosed with cancer at or before the age of 50
A relative with two primary cancers, such as your mother being diagnosed with cancer in each breast
A relative with two different, but genetically related, cancers, i.e. your aunt being diagnosed with both breast and ovarian cancers
Two or more cases of the same cancer in close relatives
A number of related cancers on the same side of the family
A relative with a rare form of cancer, such as male breast cancer
A known cancer gene mutation on either side of the family

Does testing apply to all types of cancer?

Yes, although mutations in the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 genes are typically linked to breast and ovarian cancer, those who inherit these genes are at greater risk of developing other types of cancers, too.

How much does the test cost? Is it covered by insurance?

Genetic testing can cost several hundred to several thousands of dollars. Some insurance companies will cover the cost of the test; other companies do not. Be sure to check with your insurance company regarding coverage prior to being tested.

How is gene testing helping with a cure for cancer?

From proactive measures, such as more frequent screenings, to more extreme measures, such as a prophylactic double mastectomy, genetic testing is helping individuals find out about their possibility of developing cancer earlier. Being aware of genetic links regarding cancer allows individuals to research options and make informed choices.

What else should you know?

Only approximately 20 percent of individuals with gene mutations develop breast cancer.
Lifestyle choices continue to play a crucial role in developing the disease.
According to Otis Brawley, MD, Chief Medical Officer of the American Cancer Society, most people have one-two family members with cancer, but only 5-10 percent of cancers are caused by an inherited gene defect.

Where can you learn more?

Your doctor. Be sure to mention any family history or cancer and your concerns at your next visit.

The National Society of Genetic Counselors is an organization with trained professionals who specifically work with those at risk of developing cancer due to high genetic factors.  These professionals assist individuals with the decision to have genetic testing, consider options once they receive results and make appropriate choices about what to do next based on their personal needs.

Visit the American Cancer Society,, for information and updates regarding cancer diagnosis, testing and treatment options.

Be Wize & Be Healthy

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Recipes for a Raw Food Diet

Now that you have learned about the benefits of raw food dieting, and read how to get started with a raw food lifestyle let’s get down to business in the kitchen with some rousing raw food recipes to whet your appetite.   We’ll begin with the most basic of recipes, and then include some surprisingly creative raw food recipes that will amaze your taste buds and please the whole family.  But before we get started with the recipes, we should take a brief moment to look at…

Raw food risks and precautions

Some of the risks of going on a raw food diet include:
  • Food poisoning from either consuming foods raw or undercooked that should not be a part of a standard raw food diet, such as fish or meat or from not properly cleaning, preparing, or storing the raw food ingredients
  • Potential growth problems for for anyone, but particularly infants and children, on an improperly administered raw food diet
  • Consuming foods that are bad for you if eaten raw, such as beans and lentils. That said, an extremely healthy way to prepare lentils on a raw food diet is to sprout them.
While raw fruits and vegetables generally provide the highest level of nutrition, you should be aware that there are some foods whose ingredients, or a specific ingredient, are more bioavailable when cooked.  For example, while ripe raw tomatoes are loaded with nutritional value, the lycopene in tomatoes – effective in fighting certain types of cancer – is more easily absorbed into the body when the tomato has been processed into a tomato sauce with olive oil.  Likewise, raw kale is a powerhouse of vitamin and mineral goodness. But, as this article explains, you boost the effectiveness of kale’s fiber-related components when you steam it.

Raw food recipes

Let’s not forget that the basics of raw food dieting are ridiculously easy – simply add daily uncooked fruits or vegetables to your meals.  There are many fun and tasty raw food recipes, available in books or online. But don’t let food preparation knowhow and effort overwhelm you from adding raw food to your diet. For example:
  • Eat a banana, an apple, and a handful or two of raw nuts for breakfast.  The fruit starts up your digestive juices and fortifies your immune system with antioxidants. The apple gives you some valuable roughage.  And the nuts provide protein, which will help you feel full.
  • Make sure your lunch includes a salad with fresh, organic greens.
  • For dinner, use raw veggies for the side dish instead of cooked.  Good and easy choices include celery sticks, carrot sticks, or sweet peppers. 
  • While alcohol is generally considered taboo on a raw food diet, if you cannot bear the thought of going without alcoholic beverages, then at least choose wine.  Unlike beer or or any hard liquors that go through the heat of distillation, wine is not heated in the processing.

If you can achieve even just a 50 percent raw diet, you will begin to experience the many health benefits it offers. When you want to add variety, a selection of raw food recipe websites and raw food recipe books can add zest to your diet, keeping it interesting and balancing out your vitamin and mineral intake.  Here's just a tiny sample of delicious recipes for a raw food diet:
Do these not look like an appetizing start to your raw food diet?  You'll find thousands of delicious raw food recipes online, with some particularly good ones at Raw Food Home Recipes, We Like It Raw recipes, Gone Raw Recipes and, if you want raw juicing recipes, join the Let's Get Juiced!! Facebook group.  Between those four sites alone, you will have several hundred recipes worth trying and sharing.

If you have a favorite raw food recipe, share!  Please submit it, or the link to it, using the comments below.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Vestibular System

According to the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), approximately 69 million Americans have experienced a form of vestibular dysfunction, also known as a balance disorder.  While these numbers may be alarming, by learning more about the delicate vestibular system, you can help to ensure the health of your family members.

What is the vestibular system and how does it work?

The vestibular system consists of parts of the inner ear and parts of the brain that process information related to balance and eye movements. Balance is maintained in the body by input from three systems: vision; touch sensors in the feet, trunk, and spine; and the inner ear. When the vestibular system malfunctions, balance issues such as dizziness, vertigo, and equilibrium difficulties can occur.

What causes vestibular disorders?

Genetic influences
Environmental conditions
Unknown factors

What are common signs of a balance disorder?

Vertigo and/or dizziness
Imbalance or disorientation
Visual disturbances
Hearing changes
Psychological and/or cognitive changes

Experts warn that dizziness alone may be a symptom of another condition or disorder. Vestibular disorders often present as more than one symptom. As always, consult with your healthcare provider if you or a family member experiences any of these symptoms.

What are the most common vestibular disorders?

Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) – a condition resulting from loose debris in the inner ear. BBPV can be caused by a head injury, or it can be part of the natural aging process.
Meniere’s disease – Also called primary endolymphatic hydrops, this condition involves abnormalities in one of the fluids of the inner ear. It is a disorder that progressively gets worse.
Labyrinthitis/vestibular neuritis – conditions that are caused by a viral infection, which can result in damage to hearing and the functioning of the vestibular system.
Secondary endolymphatic hydrops – a condition that involves abnormalities in one of the fluids of the inner ear.
Perilymph fistula – a tear or defect in the small, thin membranes that separate the middle ear from the fluid-filled inner ear. This condition is usually caused by injury.

Other vestibular conditions:

Vestibular migraine (MAV): characterized by headache and may include dizziness, vertigo, and/or imbalance, sensitivity to light and sound.
Complications from autoimmune disorders.
Complications from allergies.

Is there a difference between dizziness, vertigo, and equilibrium difficulties?

There is.

Dizziness is lightheadedness, faintness, and unsteadiness.
Vertigo differs from dizziness because it is characterized by a spinning or sensation with the perception of movement, either of an individual or surrounding objects.
Equilibrium difficulty, often called disequilibrium, consists of unsteadiness, imbalance, and/or loss of equilibrium.

Who can be affected by vestibular disorders?

Balance disorders can occur at any age.

Are there special concerns for children regarding balance disorders?

Yes. Specifically, the proper development and function of the vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR) is a concern in children. If impaired, the result may be difficulty in school as well as typical activities such as bike riding and swimming.

What are treatment options?

In some cases, a physician may prescribe medication to help alleviate the symptoms of a vestibular disorder. Remember to use your Familywize Discount Prescription Drug Card when purchasing medication at your pharmacy to receive applicable discounts.  Another treatment option called vestibular therapy, which is a type of physical therapy, may also be used for vestibular rehabilitation.

Want to learn more about balance disorders?

Visit,, or

Be Wize & Be Healthy

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

How to Get Started on a Raw Food Diet

How to get started with a raw food diet

After reading our raw food diet primer What’s the Big Deal About Eating Raw Foods, you may be interested in “going raw” (as it’s called when you completely convert to a raw food-only diet), or at least making an effort to add raw food to your daily diet for better health.  If so, here's how to get started with the raw food diet and lifestyle.

Follow the leaders

Some of the biggest mistakes made by those who attempt to initiate a raw food diet is doing it alone. For most people, the raw food diet will be a significant change from the way they have always done food preparation. It's a radical enough departure from the standard American diet that "going raw" is often referred to as a lifestyle change, not simply a dietary change.

For this reason, it's highly advisable to partner up with someone who has successfully gone raw so that you can learn from their mistakes and get valuable cost-saving and time-saving advice.

If you don't have access to a knowledgeable, successful, practicing raw foodist among your friends or relatives, don't worry; there is a wealth of resources available to help you expand your knowledge, your food preparation skills, and your ability to do a raw food diet safely and successfully. For example:
  • There is a growing number of fact-filled, entertaining, and instructional raw food blogs (online weblogs) and vlogs (video weblogs) in which practitioners freely share a wealth of useful info, such as the Facebook group Let’s Get Juiced or the YouTube channel FullyRawKristina. The videos are particularly helpful, as you can learn by watching. To find some, go to YouTube or Vimeo and search for "raw food dieting" or "raw food lifestyle" to get started.
  • There are also dozens of reliable books on raw food dieting in the raw food lifestyle. To find the most reliable book resources, take advantage of the online bookstores' customer ratings and reviews.
  • Also look locally. Through libraries, health food stores, raw food restaurants, produce co-ops, and raw food producers, you can often find local seminars or raw food special interest groups meeting regularly to teach and learn about raw food techniques.

Preparing your kitchen for a raw food diet

Chances are that your kitchen isn't already ideally set up and prepared for raw food preparation. Sure: in many communities, you can simply buy prepared raw foods or dine at raw food restaurants – if you are one of the lucky communities to have them – rather than prepare them yourself.  However, you will no doubt find this a pricey proposition. For example, the local coffee house in my town sells an amazing chocolate  fudge food bar – delicious! – made entirely from raw, organic ingredients… for a whopping six dollars! The same coffee house also sells a traditionally prepared fudge bar – equally delicious – for just three bucks. 

Why the difference? Raw food recipes often take considerably more time to prepare, need to be prepared in smaller batches, have a shorter shelf life, and have more costly raw ingredients. Consequently, you may find going raw with your diet more realistic if you prepare the food at home.

Just be aware of the fact that there are getting-started costs that, while they will pay off in the long run, can make it a significant upfront investment to get the ball rolling. For example, commonly employed appliances in a raw food kitchen include:
  • A high powered blender – $200-$600 – necessary to sufficiently process fruit and green smoothies or raw soups. A cheap blender will burn out quickly under daily use and not produce a palatable texture.
  • A quality juicer – $150-$500. Cheaper juicers are often hard to clean, less able to handle the rigors of frequent juicing, and will heat up the produce during the juicing process, which can kill off nutritional value.
  • A food dehydrator – $150-$400. With the good dehydrator, you can significantly expand your raw food diet variety, such as making mock pizza crust from soaked seeds or a tasty raw fruit leather for raw food snacking on the go.
  • A high-end food processor – $100-$700. You want to look for one that can easily handle grading, slicing, and shredding processes for many kinds of foods. You'll be doing enough of this that a food processor, rather than hand-processing, will cut down significantly on your food prep time.

Beyond appliance purchases, the organic ingredients of the standard raw food diet usually cost more than conventional produce, which will be a continuing cost consideration.  Also, you will likely spend a good bit upfront with your raw food diet, stocking up on raw food ingredients that have long shelf lives, such as maca root powder, goji berries, raw organic nuts, organic dates, flax seed, hemp seed, etc. – any ingredients recommended in the first recipes you decide to try that you likely don't have already if you are presently eating a standard American diet.

The good news is that some of your food costs are likely to go down. For example, one of the largest expenses in the average American shopping cart is meat – something you won't need if you are on a completely raw food diet. Likewise, you'll find that your dining out budget will likely get a break. Chances are you won't be making a habit of fast food restaurants anymore, as few have accommodating ingredients for raw food dieter.

Now that you are prepared to go raw, start using Google search or YouTube's search engine to get a few simple recipes to help you start eating raw. And stay tuned – we've got one more raw foods article coming, featuring some amazing raw food recipes that sound too good to be true!

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Nursing Homes: Are Your Parents in Danger?

When we put our aging relatives in the care of a nursing home, we assume they will be treated with dignity and compassion. But is that a safe assumption? Apparently not.

Whether in nursing homes or in situations of in-home care, there is always the possibility that a caregiver will intentionally act in a way that causes harm or creates a significant risk of harm to the highly vulnerable elder individual. This is known as elder mistreatment (or elder abuse/elder neglect), as is the failure by a caregiver to satisfy the elder’s basic needs or to protect them from harm. Elder mistreatment can take many forms, including verbal abuse, physical abuse, or even financial abuse.

It is sad but true that the risk of elder maltreatment is high enough in the US  that the situation justified the creation of a federal institution, the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), dedicated to tracking statistics on, and preventing, the abuse of the elderly. NCEA reports that the problem of elder abuse is growing, that collective data from state Adult Protective Services (APS) agencies show an increasing trend in the reporting of elder abuse.

Elder mistreatment Statistics

What is particularly hard to handle emotionally is the discovery that elder abuse is often committed by someone that you trusted as a loving caregiver or someone you trusted professionally to care for your relative.  But it can happen, as these alarming statistics show:
  • According to NCEA, as many as two million elders are abused in the United States.
  • In one year alone, the U.S. Administration on Aging announced a cumulative total in state-reported incidences of more than 20,000 complaints of senior abuse, gross neglect, and exploitation of seniors who were in nursing homes or were board and care residents.
  • A National Research Council Panel to Review Risk and Prevalence of Elder Abuse and Neglect reported in 2003 that 1-2 million elder Americans were injured, exploited, or mistreated by someone on whom they depended for care or protection.
  • While elder abuse happens in professional institutions, the NCEA cautions you to be aware that 90 percent of reported elder abuse is committed by family members.
Many organizations suspect that the problem of elder abuse may actually be five times higher than complaint statistics show; a study by the National Center on Elder Abuse estimated that only one in five cases of elder mistreatment are ever reported.

Common Signs of Elder Abuse

As a caring relative, it is important that you personally watch for indications of elder care abuse, especially if you're loved one suffers from Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, as they may not be able to communicate to you about it, or or might not even be aware of the abuse being perpetrated against them.
Signs of Elder Physical Abuse
Here are some of the common signs that your elderly relative may be a victim of physical abuse or neglect:
  • Sudden changes in behavior
  • Bedsores – an extremely dangerous condition, as it can lead to sepsis infection – blood poisoning – a whole-body state of inflammation, which is potentially deadly. 
  • Strange or unexplained cuts, sprains, bruises, burns, or broken bones, which may be in various stages of healing (suggesting a long-term abuse situation)
  • Frozen/immobile joints
  • Refusal of nursing home staff to allow visitors to be alone with your elder relative
  • Unexplained venereal disease or genital trauma
  • The appearance that your elder relative is being kept in an over-medicated condition
Signs of Financial Elder abuse
Elder financial abuse is statistically a more frequent problem when the person is being cared for at home, and can come from a relative or professional in-home caregiver providing services.

Signs of elder care financial abuse to be on the lookout for:
  • Someone else's name has been added to your relative's signature card.
  • Cash or other items of value are missing from your relative's wallet, purse, or room.
  • You've noticed uncharacteristically large withdrawals from your loved one's financial accounts.
  • Your elder relative unexpectedly wants to change their will, their power of attorney status, their real estate title, or their life insurance policy.
  • You see unpaid bills, and yet you know your relative has the funds to pay the bills.
  • You notice ATM withdrawals from your relative's accounts in spite of the fact that he or she has no access to a machine.
These are all symptoms that your elder loved one might be being coerced, forced, or tricked out of their finances or valuables.

What to do if you suspect your elder relative is being abused

If the suspected abuse is taking place at a nursing home, your first step should be to report your suspicions to the nursing home's administrator.  If possible, present evidence of the abuse to support your assertion (photographs, copies of financial statements, etc.). If this action does not get results, you may also want to seek legal advice from an experienced elder abuse lawyer.  If you feel your elder relative's life may be in imminent danger, contact your local police.

It is not safe to assume that those hired to care for the elderly will notice the problem. Signs of elder abuse can easily be missed by professionals  because of lack of training on detecting abuse or because the elderly individual is often reluctant to report abuse to their institution for fear of retaliation, a physical or cognitive inability to speak up, or because, if the abuser is a family friend or relative, they don’t want to get the perpetrator in trouble.

And so, it’s up you. Become the watchful eyes; pay attention and ask questions. Be ready to take legal action against perpetrators if necessary.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Five No-Gimmick Tips to Slow Hair Loss

Losing your hair may be an alarming thought, or even a present reality for you.  Can you stop the balding?  Many hair loss product ads make that claim, but are they trustworthy or just snake oil salesman? While many claims are dubious, there are steps you can take to slow down hair loss.

First, the bad news:
  • Hair loss for everyone is inevitable. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) tells us that it’s normal to lose about 50-100 hairs every day.
  • AAD stats suggests that 66 percent of all men develop balding in some form during their lifetimes.
  • Balding may be inevitable for you when the cause is hereditary.

Now, the good news: Scientists understand what causes balding and can offer up legitimate ways to slow your hair loss or, in some cases, help you reverse balding.

What causes hair loss

Many factors play into hair loss, and may differ from one person to another. The more common causes include:
  • Hereditary baldness, also referred to as male-baldness and female-pattern baldness.  AAD estimates that 80 million in the U.S. suffer from hereditary hair loss.
  • Dietary irregularities, such as too much vitamin A, not enough protein or iron, or eating disorders, can cause hair loss and can prevent hair regrowth.
  • Certain medicines can cause baldness.
  • Stress is a common source of short-term hair loss, whether a physical stress (menopause, giving birth, significant weight loss, etc.) or emotional stress, such as a major traumatic event.
Other less-common hair loss causes include certain autoimmune diseases, falling estrogen levels from giving birth, some cancer treatments, ringworm of the scalp, certain autoimmune diseases, and other hair disorders.

Five tips: How to slow hair loss

To slow down or potentially reverse hair loss, here are five tips that may work for you.
Tip #1: Reduce stress
While many types of stress cannot be avoided, you can reduce your stress level by knowing that many stress-induced hair loss problems are temporary. You may also be able to reduce your stress by engaging in physical activities of an aerobic nature, which can generate stress-reducing endorphins. Read more on exercising for stress reduction from the Mayo Clinic.
Tip #2: Check your prescriptions
Some medications (including some psychiatric drugs or blood thinners) will increase hair loss. But if you think this could be causing your hair loss, see your doctor before stopping your medication to avoid other withdrawal side effects.  Your doctor can confirm if a medication he or she prescribed could be causing your hair loss and potentially prescribe an alternative.
Tip #3: Make dietary improvements to prevent hair loss
Increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids by eating such foods as walnuts, salmon, or sardines. Foods that are high in vitamin B can also help reduce hair loss, as can consuming foods that are naturally high in iron.
Tip #4: Adjust your hair care methods.
Sometimes, something as simple as the way you wash or dry your hair or the way you style it can accelerate hair loss.  The AAD offers recommendations on how to stop damaging your hair – suggestions that vary, depending on your hair type.
Tip #5: See a dermatologist.
If you baldness condition is worsening and nothing seems to help, consider getting professional help. A dermatologist can help determine the cause of your hair loss and recommend a course of treatment. Depending on the cause, the dermatologist may prescribe finasteride, corticosteroid, or minoxidil to help treat your hair loss.
To learn more about hair loss and hair loss prevention, investigate these hair loss articles from AAD: Hair loss: Who gets and causes, Diagnosis, treatment, and outcomes for hair loss, and Tips for managing hair loss.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Friday, September 26, 2014

Staying Safe in a Storm

Regardless of the type of storm, any severe weather can threaten the safety of you and your family. Storms have the ability to cause extensive damage and destruction in minutes.  From preparation safety to storm kits, read on for storm safety tips to keep your loved ones cozy and safe when the next storm hits.

In any type of storm, there are a few typical concerns, which include:

The safety of you and your family.
Effective communication system(s).
A back-up power supply, for your home as well as your data.
Minimizing destruction to your home and property.

Experts recommend families have a storm kit on hand at all times, modifying the contents based on the type of storm and time of year.

What should a storm kit include?

Non-perishable food items. Keep in mind the needs of those with food allergies or other special dietary needs.
Water — enough for 72 hours. The rule is one gallon per person per day for drinking and sanitation. Commercially bottled water is recommended for storage purposes.
Medications for any family members or pets who require them. Don't forget to use your Familywize Prescription Discount Card!
Personal hygiene items.
Flashlights and extra batteries.
A battery-operated radio.
Cell phones and solar chargers.
A first aid kit.
Any battery-operated lighting.
Pet food and supplies.
Personal documents. Also, write down important phone numbers that are stored digitally in case computers and cells phones are not functioning properly.

What do you need to know about storm preparation?

According to,

1. Make sure your storm kit is stocked and ready.
2. Establish a communication plan for your family, including those who can’t get home. Always have a key contact person outside the immediate family to check in with.
3. Clean your yard of loose branches that could fall or cause injury. Secure objects that could fall or blow away during heavy winds.
4. Go indoors and bring pets with you.
5. Back-up digital data and records with a reliable system.
6. Unplug electrical equipment.

What additional items should be considered for winter storm safety?

Keep family members and pets warm. Have extra clothing, blankets and sleeping bags on hand. Don’t forget hats, mittens and earmuffs! Consider an alternative source of heat in case your main heat is lost for an extended period of time. Remember: Even 50 degrees can seem unbearable overnight.
High winds combined with freezing temperatures could be destructive to power lines.
Because precipitation could be a concern, make sure snow removal equipment is serviced and in good condition. Also, have a pet-friendly ice melter, salt or kitty litter on hand.

What are special concerns for thunder and lightning storms?

Hail can be dangerous to family members, pets and property.
Storms move quickly. Move indoors, if possible, before lightning starts.
Lightning is one of the top three storm-related killers. Take the threat of lightning seriously and teach your children to do the same.

Where can you obtain additional information on storm safety?

Additional information is available at or

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