American Heart Month to Raise Awareness

February is American Heart Month. With over 67 million Americans with high blood pressure, one’s awareness can save lives.  High blood pressure can present with no symptoms, making it important to check regularly and to set a goal with their doctor if they find their BP is too high. People with high blood pressure are four times more likely to die from a stroke and 3 times more likely to die from heart disease. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in Americans.

 

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In a previous blog post we discussed heart health in young men, but it is equally important for women. High blood pressure, smoking, and high LDL cholesterol are key factors of heart disease, but other conditions such as diabetes or obesity also put people at a higher risk. To decrease your risk, don’t smoke, make healthy food choices, limit alcohol intake, lower your stress level and find healthy ways to cope with stress. If prescribed, be sure to take blood pressure medicine as directed.

 

NeedyMeds’ Disease Information Page for Heart Disease has information on the assistance available for those in need, including Patient Assistance Programs (PAPs) that offer medications for low or no cost as well as Diagnosis-Based Assistance.  Assistance can also be found in our State Sponsored Programs, including the CDC’s WISEWOMAN program to provide low-income, under-insured/uninsured women with chronic risk blood pressure and cholesterol screenings. Use our website to find assistance or call our toll-free helpline at 1-800-503-6897.

Skipping Prescriptions Due to Costs

A new study from the National Center for Health Statistics has found that 8% of Americans don’t take their medicines as prescribed because they cannot afford them.  Nearly 20% of prescriptions never get filled. Approximately 15% of respondents reported asking their doctors for a lower-cost alternative, and 2% admitted to having bought prescription drugs from another country.  With 82% of Americans being prescribed at least one prescription medication, the numbers can become alarming for anyone.

 

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In previous blog posts we have discussed the lengths people will go to save money, such as spending less ongroceries or entertainment, relying more on credit cards, postponing paying other bills, or applying for government assistance.  Others took more dangerous measures, such as putting off a doctor’s visit, declining a test, delaying a procedure, or cutting dosages without first talking to a doctor or pharmacist.

 

No one should have to sacrifice their health due to a lack in finances. For those unable to afford their medications, NeedyMeds has an extensive database of Patient Assistance Programs (PAPs). NeedyMeds also has information on Coupons and Rebates that can help lower the cost of necessary medications. For those without any prescription coverage, the NeedyMeds Drug Discount Card saves 0-80% on any prescribed medication. A plastic card can be ordered online or requested by calling our toll-free helpline at 800-503-6897, or a printable version can be found on our website as well as a smartphone app on Apple and Android devices. If you would like to add your voice to those calling for affordable medicines for all, sign the Access Our Medicine declaration.

Getting Help from a Patient Advocate

Illness can strike anyone at any time. Even a well-prepared person can feel lost and confused when trying to navigate the US healthcare system. For those unable to find their way, there is assistance available from local community action agencies and patient advocates.  The resources available to each community can differ, however the Patient Advocate Foundation (PAF) is a national non-profit organization that offers patient services with a mission to “safeguard patients through effective mediation, assuring access to care, maintenance of employment and preservation of financial stability.”

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Founded in 1996, PAF’s primary purpose has been to provide direct services to patients, providers, family members and caregivers of those dealing with chronic, life-threatening, or debilitating conditions.  There is no charge for their services as they assist as “active liaisons” working on behalf of the patient. Primarily phone-based interactions are provided by professional case managers provide real-time support for today’s healthcare challenges.  Focusing on the areas of insurance barriers, employment preservation, financial stability and medical debt, PAF offers direct appeals assistance, reimbursement navigation, referrals to patient support programs—and many other services. PAF operates with more than 200 compassionate professionals offering secure, personalized, expert one-on-one assistance to patients around the country and has closed more than 780,000 cases since their inception.

 

PAF strives to ensure that a patient’s focus can be survivorship while their case managers assist with the potentially overwhelming hurdles encountered during their healthcare journey.  Case management services can be reached toll-free at 1-800-532-5274 or by visiting www.patientadvocate.org/gethelp.

Measles: Symptoms and Available Resources

Measles was declared eliminated from the United States in 2000. However, measles can still infect people when brought in from foreign visitors or unvaccinated Americans while traveling abroad. The recent outbreak at a popular vacation spot in southern California can have far-reaching effects, though these effects are easily countered with the proper medical precautions.

 

Measles is a virus that presents with high fever, cough, runny nose, and red/watery eyes. Two to three days after initial symptoms, tiny white spots may appear inside the mouth followed by a rash covering the face, neck, body, arms, legs, and feet appearing one to three days later.  When the rash develops, a person’s fever may spike to more than 104°F. The fever and rash subside after a few days.

On top of the typical presentations, there are a number of complications that can arise. Ear infections can occur in children with measles and can result in permanent hearing loss. Children are also susceptible to pneumonia and, in rare occasions, encephalitis—a swelling of the brain that can lead to convulsions or leave a child deaf or mentally disabled. For every 1000 children who contract measles, on average one or two die from it. Pregnant women with measles can give birth prematurely or have a baby with low-birth-weight. Measles is also highly infectious, spreading to up to 90% of people who are not immune close to an infected person. These kinds of health risks can make it easy for seemingly drastic measures to be taken, such as barring unvaccinated students from attending classes in schools where children have been diagnosed.

 

Measles Vaccine

In a previous blog post, we detailed the importance of vaccinations. With no treatment, the vaccine for measles is the main line of defense against the virus. For those in need of assistance, our database of free, low-cost, and sliding-scale clinics has information on over 2000 clinics that offer immunization services.  If you are in an area affected by the recent measles outbreak or are worried about your contact to those who may have been exposed to the virus, search your zip code to find medical clinics near you that may offer free or low-cost immunizations to combat the risks of measles. Merck also offers a Vaccine Patient Assistance Program for uninsured adults.

National Cervical Health Awareness Month

January is National Cervical Health Awareness Month. With all women being at risk for cervical cancer, it’s important to be mindful of the health risks, symptoms, and resources available to those in need. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year, and about 4000 women die from it annually.

 

National Cervical Health Awareness Month

The main cause of cervical cancer is human papillomavirus (HPV), a common virus that can be passed between people during sex. HPV is so common that most people will have it at some point during their lives without ever developing symptoms. About 90% of cases are cleared naturally by the immune system within two years; however, there is no way of knowing which individuals will go on to develop health problems. Some strains of HPV can cause warts around genitals or in one’s throat, while others can cause normal cells in the body to turn abnormal—possibly leading to cancer over time. Other factors that can increase your risk for cervical cancer are smoking, having HIV, using birth control pills for an extended time (five or more years), or giving birth to three or more children.

 

The most important thing one can do to prevent cervical cancer is to have regular screening tests starting at age 21. Regular Pap tests performed by a doctor are the main defense against cervical cancer. There are vaccines for HPV that can greatly decrease the chances of contracting the potentially malignant virus available to pre-teens and young adults.  Safe sex practices can also lower the risk of infection for both cervical cancer and HPV.

 

In a previous blog post, we featured the National Breast Cancer and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program, a national government initiative that provides free or low-cost screenings for those who qualify and gives access to treatment through Medicaid for women diagnosed with cancer through the program. We have information on more regional and local resources in our Diagnosis-Based Assistance database. One such resource is the Color of Teal, a non-profit organization that offers a program providing financial assistance to women in need in the Northeast United States in order to help cover the costs of cancer screenings, gynecology follow-ups, radiology services, chemotherapy, medication, and transportation expenses.

 

Cervical Health Awareness is a nationally important matter. Women should be encouraged to get their well-woman visit with their doctor this year and be told of the resources available if they need help. Parents should know the HPV vaccine can also greatly decrease their children’s risk of contracting cervical cancer.

 

For more information and a live Q&A session on cervical cancer and HPV, NeedyMeds and Color of Teal presented a special webinar Thursday, January 22, 2015:  “HPV & Cervical Cancer: Where One Is More Than Enough.” Watch the webinar here.

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