Wearing a Scoliosis Brace: Anna’s Experience – Pediatric Orthopedic Surgery

Treated with scoliosis bracing, Anna has successfully completed brace treatment. She describes her experience while wearing the brace and gives helpful advice to other patients requiring treatment for spinal curvature. To request an appointment, visit: http://www.mayoclinic.org/departments-centers/childrens-center/overview/appointments?mc_id=us&utm_source=youtube&utm_medium=sm&utm_content=video&utm_campaign=mayoclinic&geo=national&placementsite=enterprise&cauid=100504

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How to Measure Your Blood Sugar – Mayo Clinic Patient Education

In this short video, a Mayo Clinic Certified Diabetes Educator introduces us to the equipment and walks us through the process of checking blood sugar levels for people with diabetes.

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Upper Limb Amputation Patient Education Video

Patients have many questions when facing an upper limb amputation. Hear directly from patients about their prosthetics and how they’ve adjusted to every day life.

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To find a healthcare professional, use HealthLynked. It is a first of its kind medical network built as a social ecosystem with a higher purpose – improving healthcare. Go to HealthLynked.com to learn more, sign up for free, connect with your doctor, find a new doctor, and securely store and share your health information. Download our HealthLynked app available on Apple and Android devices.

Study Shows Food Restriction Prevents and Reverses Polycystic Kidney Disease in Mice

Researchers at Mayo Clinic have found that a mild to moderate reduction in calories effectively prevents and reverses polycystic kidney disease (PKD) in mice. The results appear online today in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.

“Currently, there is no FDA-approved treatment, and the only thing that can be done is dialysis or renal transplantation,” explains Eduardo Chini, M.D., Ph.D., anesthesiologist and researcher for Mayo Clinic’s Robert and Arlene Kogod Center on Aging and lead author of the study. “We have found that a very simple measure, like decreasing the amount of calories that are taken in, even by only 10 percent, can very significantly decrease the burden of this disease.”

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To find a healthcare professional, use HealthLynked. It is a first of its kind medical network built as a social ecosystem with a higher purpose – improving healthcare. Go to HealthLynked.com to learn more, sign up for free, connect with your doctor, find a new doctor, and securely store and share your health information. Download our HealthLynked app available on Apple and Android devices.

Why is it Important to Know My Family Health History?

Family Health History: Why It’s Important and What You Should Know
Why is it important to know my family history?

by Kimberly Holland

Family members share more than similar appearance. You may recognize that you have your father’s curly hair or your mother’s button nose. Thank goodness my kids got my wife’s food looks. What is not so easy to see is that your great-grandmother passed along an increased risk for both breast and ovarian cancer.

That’s why discovering and knowing your family health history is vitally important. Your medical history includes all the traits your family shares you can’t see. These traits may increase your risk for many hereditary conditions and diseases, including:

• cancer
• diabetes
• asthma
• heart disease and blood clots
• Alzheimer’s disease and dementia
• arthritis
• depression
• high blood pressure and high cholesterol

Whose history do I need?

The general rule for family health history is that more is better. First, you’ll want to focus on immediate family members who are related to you through blood. Start with your parents, siblings, and children. If they’re still alive, grandparents are another great place to start. They may know partial histories of many members of your family.

You can also gather information from your aunts and uncles, and other blood relatives. Once you move beyond this core circle of family, genetic makeups change so greatly that you may not be able to learn much about your own risk. Still, keep information handy for any family members you learn about during your search for medical history. It may be helpful down the road.

How can I gather this information?

Talking about health may not come naturally to you or your family. You can start the conversation by letting your family members know why you want to gather health information. Also, let them know that you’re willing to share information with them, so that you can all have more complete health histories. It may be easier to start out by having one-on-one conversations.

Get the right information

When you’re ready to gather family health history information, keep these things in mind:

Major medical issues: Ask about every major medical issue anyone in close relation to you has been diagnosed with. In this fact-finding stage, nothing is too small, though issues are only significant if the cause was genetic. Lyme disease, injuries, and other things caused by external factors can’t be inherited.
Causes of death: Find out the cause of death for any family members who’ve passed away. That might provide a clue to your family medical history, too.
Age of onset: Ask when each family member was diagnosed with each condition. This may help your doctor recognize the early onset of certain diseases.
Ethnic background: Different ethnicities have varying levels of risk for certain conditions. As best you can, identify your ethnic background to help spot potential health risks.
Environment: Families share common genes, but they also share common environments, habits, and behaviors. A complete family history also includes understanding what factors in your environment could impact your health.

5 questions to ask

Here are some questions you can ask to start the conversation:

  1. How old was my relative when they died, and what was the cause of death?
  2. Are there health problems that run in the family?
  3. Is there a history of pregnancy loss or birth defects in my family?
  4. What allergies do people in my family have?
  5. What is my ethnicity? (Some conditions are common among certain ethnicities.)

What should I do with this information?

Knowing your own health history is important, and sharing it with your doctor may be more important. That’s because your doctor can help you interpret what it means for your current lifestyle, suggest prevention tips, and decide on screening or testing options for conditions you may be more at risk for developing.

The genes you’re born with can’t be changed or altered. If you know your family history, you’re one step ahead of the game. You can take the initiative to adopt healthier lifestyle habits. For example, you could decide to stop smoking or drinking alcohol, or to start exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy weight. These lifestyle changes may reduce your chances for developing hereditary conditions.

Is incomplete information still useful?

Even a family health history that’s incomplete is still useful to your doctor. Share any information you have with them.

For example, if you know that your sibling was diagnosed with colon cancer at age 35, your doctor may suspect a possible genetic issue. They may then decide it’s important that you have regular colon cancer screenings before the recommended age of 50. Your doctor may also suggest you undergo genetic counseling or testing to identify any genetic risks.

What if I was adopted

Environment plays an important part in your health history, and you can get the details for this from your adoptive family. Learning more about your birth family’s health history may require a large investment of time and energy.

Ask your adoptive parents if they have any information about your birth parents. It’s possible family health history information was shared during the adoption process. If not, ask the agency that arranged the adoption if they retained any personal health history information for your birth parents. Understand your state’s statutes before you begin requesting adoption history information.

If all of these avenues come up short, you may need to make a choice about seeking out your birth parents. You may not wish to pursue that route, or you may be unable to connect with them. In that case, alert your doctor to your personal history. The two of you can then work to identify ways to screen for and detect your risk of certain conditions.

What if I’m estranged from my family?

If you’re estranged from only part of your family, you can try a few things to collect your family health history:

Talk to the family members you’re connected with. You may not need to reconnect with your whole family to collect your family health history.
Reach out via your doctor. Some medical offices may be able to send out questionnaires to family members asking for information in an official capacity. This may prompt people to respond.

Do some research. You may be able to discover the cause of death of your relatives from death certificates. Search online to find state-specific death records or check ancestry sites for this information. Obituaries, often available online or archived by public libraries, might also provide health information.

What about genetic testing and genetic predisposition?

Certain ethnic backgrounds and races may be predisposed to conditions for which a genetic test is useful. For example, women of Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry have an increased risk for breast cancer. A specific gene mutation is more common in these women than in other women. Genetic screening may help your doctor detect this gene mutation and prepare you for treatment options early.

Although genetic tests can help identify potential risks you may have inherited for a specific disease, they don’t guarantee you’ll develop that disease. Results may show you have a predisposition to several conditions. While you may never actually develop any of these, you might feel the added anxiety isn’t worth the knowledge. Seriously consider the benefits and concerns you may have with knowing your genetic risk factors before you do any testing.

How do I record the details?

Make sure you write down or electronically document the health information your relatives provide. You can use HealthLynked for this. Just complete one profile per family member whose medical records you are responsible for and have other family members complete and share their own with you.

Outlook

Knowing your health history helps you to be more proactive about your health. Share this information with your doctor so they can screen early for conditions you’re predisposed to and suggest lifestyle choices that can help reduce your risk.



Also talk to your doctor if you need more help figuring out how to uncover your health history or what questions you should ask. If you don’t have one you depend on today, find a healthcare professional using HealthLynked. It is a first of its kind medical network built as a social ecosystem with a higher purpose – improving healthcare. Go to HealthLynked.com to learn more, sign up for free, connect with your doctor, find a new doctor, and securely store and share your health information. Download our HealthLynked app available on Apple and Android devices.

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Genes linked with sunburn, skin cancer risk

May 8, 2018

Certain genes can determine which people are more at risk of getting sunburn and possibly develop skin cancer as a result..

In a trawl of the genetics of nearly 180,000 people of European ancestry in Britain, Australia, the Netherlands and United States, researchers found 20 sunburn genes.

Eight of the genes had been associated with skin cancer in previous research, according to findings published in the journal Nature Communications.

And in at least one region of the genome, “we have found evidence to suggest that the gene involved in melanoma risk… acts through increasing susceptibility to sunburns,” co-author Mario Falchi of King’s College London told AFP.

Sun exposure is critical for the body’s production of vitamin D, which keeps bones, teeth, and muscles healthy, and which scientists say may help stave off chronic diseases, even cancer.

But too much can be painful in the short-term, and dangerous for your health.

The new study, which claims to be the largest to date into the genetics of sunburn, helps explain why people with the same skin tone can have such different reactions to exposure to sunlight—some burn red while others tan brown.

It may also begin to explain factors in skin cancer risk.
“It is necessary to explore these genes in more detail, to understand the mechanism by which they contribute to propensity to burn,” said Falchi.

In future, the research may help identify people at risk, through genetic testing.

“People tend to ‘forget’ that sunburns are quite dangerous,” said Falchi.

“Given the rise in incidence in skin cancer, we hope that knowing there is a genetic link between sunburn and skin cancer may help in encouraging people to lead a healthy lifestyle.”

More information: Genome-wide association study in 176,678 Europeans reveals genetic loci for tanning response to sun exposure, Nature Communications (2018). nature.com/articles/doi:10.1038/s41467-018-04086-y
Journal reference: Nature Communications

To find a healthcare professional, use HealthLynked. It is a first of its kind medical network built as a social ecosystem with a higher purpose – improving healthcare. Go to HealthLynked.com to learn more, sign up for free, connect with your doctor, find a new doctor, and securely store and share your health information. Download our HealthLynked app available on Apple and Android devices.

Millennials aren’t getting the message about sun safety and the dangers of tanning

Many millennials lack knowledge about the importance of sunscreen and continue to tan outdoors in part because of low self-esteem and high rates of narcissism that fuel addictive tanning behavior, a new study from Oregon State University-Cascades has found.

Lead author Amy Watson and her colleagues found that those with higher levels of self-esteem were less likely to tan, while those with lower self-esteem and higher levels of narcissism were more likely to present addictive tanning behavior. The motivation for the addictive tanning behavior was the perception of improved appearance.

“This study gives us a clearer understanding of actual consumer behavior,” said Watson, an assistant professor of marketing at OSU-Cascades. “The number of people still deliberately exposing their skin to the sun for tanning purposes is alarming. We need to find new ways to entice people to protect their skin, including challenging the ideal of tan skin as a standard of beauty.”

The findings were published recently in the Journal of Consumer Affairs. Co-authors are Gail Zank and Anna M. Turri of Texas State University.

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer worldwide, with more than 3.5 million cases diagnosed annually. Melanoma cases among women rose sharply between 1970 and 2009, with an 800 percent increase among women 18 to 39.

In an effort to improve consumer education about the role of sunscreen in the prevention of skin cancer, the Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration developed a new “Drug Facts” panel of information now required on all sunscreen bottles. The panel includes directions for sunscreen use and advice on other sun protection measures, among other information.

The researchers’ goal with the study was to gauge whether the information on this new label is effective at curbing tanning behavior and if new information is helping to increase consumer knowledge about how and when to use sunscreen and how much to use.

The study of 250 college students, most between 18 and 23 years old, measured their sun safety knowledge and included: questions about their beliefs regarding sunscreen effectiveness and ultraviolet light exposure danger; questions about tanning motivation and behavior; an assessment of tanning addiction; and personality questions relating to self-esteem, narcissism, appearance and addictive behavior.

The study participants, 47 percent male and 53 percent female, scored an average of 54 percent on an 11-question sun safety knowledge test, which included true/false statements such as: “On a daily basis I should use at least one ounce of sunscreen on exposed skin” (true); and “When applied correctly, SPF 100 is twice as effective as SPF 50” (false).

About 70 percent of the study participants reported purposefully exposing their skin to the sun to achieve a tan. About a third of the participants reported that having a tan is important to them, while about 37 percent said they feel better with a tan, and 41 percent indicated that having a tan makes them more confident in their appearance

The participants’ levels of tanning addiction were measured through questions such as “I get annoyed when people tell me not to tan,” and “I continue to tan knowing that it is bad for me,” and “I feel unattractive or anxious to tan if I do not maintain my tan.”

The researchers found that those with lower self-esteem and higher narcissism rates were also more likely to exhibit addictive tanning behavior. They found no evidence that increased knowledge about sun safety leads to lower levels of addictive tanning.

“What we found is that this knowledge doesn’t matter to the consumers,” Watson said. “That tactic to require sunscreen manufacturers to include this information is not effective.”

Sun safety and sunscreen messaging from the CDC is all statistics-based, emphasizing the likelihood of a skin cancer occurrence or diagnosis, Watson said. But that type of message isn’t resonating with millennials. The next step for Watson and her colleagues is to begin testing other types of messages to identify ways millennials would respond more positively to sun safety measures.

“People are starting to get the message about the dangers of using tanning beds, but a large number of people are still tanning outdoors, deliberately exposing their skin to the sun, because they think it’s attractive,” she said.

“We need to move away from the narrative where tan skin is associated with health and youth. That’s the opposite of reality. Because reality is tan skin is damaged skin.”

More information: Amy Watson et al, I Know, but I Would Rather Be Beautiful: The Impact of Self-Esteem, Narcissism, and Knowledge on Addictive Tanning Behavior in Millennials, Journal of Consumer Affairs (2018). DOI: 10.1111/joca.12179
Provided by: Oregon State University

To find a healthcare professional, use HealthLynked. It is a first of its kind medical network built as a social ecosystem with a higher purpose – improving healthcare. Go to HealthLynked.com to learn more, sign up for free, connect with your doctor, find a new doctor, and securely store and share your health information. Download our HealthLynked app available on Apple and Android devices.

11 Ways Laughter IS the Best Medicine, and It IS Contagious !

Do you remember that last time you had a good, hearty, deep from your very soul laugh? For my family, it was last night while we enjoyed fireworks with friends over the lake in anticipation of the 4th of July celebration. Josh Billings said, “Laughter is the fireworks of the soul”; and great wisdom can be found in Proverb (17:22): “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.”

There are tremendous health benefits found in laughing – it strengthens your immune system, triggers the release of endorphins that lift your mood, helps protect your heart, diminishes pain and protects you by reducing effects of stress.

One of the best feelings in the world is that deep belly laugh – to have one and even to hear it in others. While the ability to laugh is a powerful health resource, mentally, emotionally and physically. it can also bring people together and establish amazing connections. Everything from a slight giggle to a side-splitting guffaw can change the atmosphere of a room from chilly unfamiliarity to warm and family-like. Studies have shown a strong, positive bond is created when we laugh with one another.

So, when was the last time you found yourself laughing out loud? Hopefully, you are one of the fortunate ones that has enjoyed the delights of laughing recently – and the powerful preventive benefits its joy offers. There is so much to love about laughter and many ways it promotes wellness and wellbeing in everyday life, at home, work and at play.

What is laughter?

While the brain mechanisms behind laughing (and smiling) remain a mystery, it is often a spontaneous response to humor or other visual, auditory, or emotional stimuli. And, too, it can occur on command—as either voluntary or contrived.

When we laugh, air is forced through the vocal cords as a result of chest wall contractions, in particular from the diaphragm. It is often followed by a deep inspiration of air. Thus, laughter recruits a number of muscles—respiratory, laryngeal, and facial. And when “exuberant,” it can also involve the arms and legs.

When do humans begin laughing?

Our first laugh typically occurs between 3 to 4 months of age—even before we learn to speak! It is believed that a baby’s laugh serves as a way to communicate, bond, and, too, explore sound and vocalization.
There is already so much to love for laughter that it seems greedy to look for more, but that’s exactly what researchers Dr. Lee Berk and Dr. Stanley Tan at the Loma Linda University in California have done. These two doctors have researched the benefits of laughter and found amazing results.

1. Lowers blood pressure
People who lower their blood pressure, even those who start at normal levels, will reduce their risk of stroke and heart attack. So, grab the Sunday paper, flip to the funny pages, and enjoy your laughter medicine, or pull up the latest memes in social media. Of even better, watch your favorite funny movie.

2. Reduces stress hormone levels
By reducing the level of stress hormones, you’re simultaneously cutting the anxiety and stress that impacts your body. Additionally, the reduction of stress hormones may result in higher immune system performance. Just think: Laughing along as a co-worker tells a funny joke can relieve some of the day’s stress and help you reap the health benefits of laughter.

Psychologically, having a good sense of humor—and applying it by laughing—may permit us to have a better perspective on things by seeing situations in a “more realistic and less threatening light.” Physically, laughter can put a damper on the production of stress hormones—cortisol and epinephrine—as well as trigger the release of endorphins. Endorphins are our body’s natural painkillers and can boost our mood. And, too, it has been shown that a good LOL or ROTFL — texting slang for “laugh out loud” or “rolling on the floor laughing” — can relax our muscles for up to 45 minutes after.

3. Works your abs
One of the benefits of laughter is that it can help you tone your abs. When you are laughing, the muscles in your stomach expand and contract, similar to when you intentionally exercise your abs. Meanwhile, the muscles you are not using to laugh are getting an opportunity to relax. Add laughter to your ab routine and make getting a toned tummy more enjoyable.

4. Improves cardiac health
Laughter is a great cardio workout, especially for those who are incapable of doing other physical activity due to injury or illness. It gets your heart pumping and burns a similar number of calories per hour as walking at a slow to moderate pace. So, laugh your heart into health.

The American Heart Association states that laughter can help our hearts. Research shows that by decreasing stress hormones, we can see a decrease in blood pressure as well as artery inflammation and bad cholesterol levels. Elevated blood pressure forces our heart to work harder in order to generate the force needed to pump against the increased resistance. And inflammation and high cholesterol contribute to the development of fatty plaques that decrease blood flow to the heart, or, even, complete blockage that can cause a heart attack.

5. Boosts T-cells
T-cells are specialized immune system cells just waiting in your body for activation. When you laugh, you activate T-cells that immediately begin to help you fight off sickness. Next time you feel a cold coming on, add chuckling to your illness prevention plan.

6. Triggers the release of endorphins
Endorphins are the body’s natural painkillers. By laughing, you can release endorphins, which can help ease chronic pain and make you feel good all over.

7. Produces a general sense of well-being
Laughter can increase your overall sense of well-being. Doctors have found that people who have a positive outlook on life tend to fight diseases better than people who tend to be more negative. Smile, laugh, and live longer!

8. Improves bonding
There has been much written that laughter is not primarily about humor, but, instead, social relationships. When we laugh, we create a positive emotional climate and a sense of connection between two people. In fact, with romantic partners, shared laughter—when you laugh together—is an indicator of relationship well-being, in that it enhances closeness and perceptions of partner supportiveness.

9. Can shed pounds
In a study published in the International Journal of Obesity, researchers found that 15 minutes of genuine laughter burns up to 40 calories, depending on the individual’s body weight and laughter intensity. While this cannot replace aerobic physical activity, 15 minutes of daily LOL, over the course of a year, could result in up to 4 fewer pounds.

10. Enhances our ability to fight off germs
Laughter increases the production of antibodies—proteins that surveillance for foreign invaders—as well as a number of other immune system cells. And, in doing so, we are strengthening our body’s defenses against germs. Additionally, it is a well-known fact that stress weakens our immune system. And because laughing alleviates our body’s stress response, it can help dampen its ill-effects.

11. A natural pain-killer
The iconic Charlie Chaplin stated: “Laughter is the tonic, the relief, the surcease for pain.” Although Mr. Chaplin probably meant this figuratively, laughter can literally relieve pain by stimulating our bodies to produce endorphins — natural painkillers. Laughter may also break the pain-spasm cycle common to some muscle disorders. The best part: You do not need a prescription and there are no known side-effects.

Is it contagious?

Yes. The saying “laugh and the whole world laughs with you” is not just figurative, it is literal. When we hear laughter, it triggers an area in our brain that is involved in moving the muscles in our face, almost like a reflex. This is one of the reasons television sitcoms have laugh tracks—a separate soundtrack that contains the sound of audience laughter. We are more likely to find the joke or situation funny and chuckle, giggle, or guffaw.

How to use laughter to heal and uplift.

Laughter is a physical expression of pleasant emotions among human beings. It is preceded by what one sees, hears or feels. When shared, it serves to connect people and increases intimacy and is a good anti-stress medicine.

LOL or lol, has become a very popular element of internet communications and texting in expressing great amusement in a chat. As well, according to research, the smiling and “tears of joy” laughing emoji faces are tops in digital communications. Their usage is so widespread and so common, that we now actually have data that demonstrates that the use and placement of emojis carries an emotional weight which impacts our perception of the messages that frame these icons (understanding the mental states of others is crucial to communication). And yes, in today’s busy world we may be utilizing =D and LOL’s at every turn, but let’s lean in to the hilarious and enjoy the good, hearty health benefits of laughter.

And remember, know when not to laugh. Laughter at the expense of others or in hurtful situations is inappropriate.

Now, make a commitment to laugh more.

In his book, The Travelers Gift, Andy Andrews challenges the traveler to start each day with laughter within moments of waking. It changes your whole being, even if you only laugh for seven seconds. I have tried it. I have faked it, and even as I start with the fake laugh, I can’t stop after seven seconds.

Practice laughing by beginning with a smile and then enact a laugh. Although it may feel contrived at first, with practice, it will likely become spontaneous. At Laughter University (yes, there is one) they encourage at least 30 seconds. There is so much going on around us that is laughable!

We can also move towards laughter by being with those who laugh and return the favor by making them laugh. And, too, surround ourselves with children and pets. On average, children laugh 300 times a day! And we know that laughter is contagious. Studies have shown people are immensely happier just seeing a picture of a dog!

Even make an effort to find the humor in an unpleasant situation, especially with situations that are beyond our control.

For all this, you will be made glad. Laughter wipes away stress, decreases blood pressure, burns calories, alleviates pain, connects us to others, reinvigorates us with hope, helps ward off germs … (the list goes on) – and feels soooo good. LOL for better health, connection and joy!

Want to find a physician who tickles your funny bone or at least knows where it is? To find a healthcare professional, use HealthLynked. It is a first of its kind medical network built as a social ecosystem with a higher purpose – improving healthcare. Go to HealthLynked.com to learn more, sign up for free, connect with your doctor, find a new doctor, and securely store and share your health information. Download our HealthLynked app available on Apple and Android devices.

Sources:
Gaiam.com
laughteronlineuniveristy,com
Dr. Nina Radcliff, Laugh, giggle, be joyful — for lol; ‘The fireworks of the soul’. Washington Post

Make the Difference: Preventing Medical Trainee Suicide

Pressure in the high-stakes environment of medical training can be overwhelming. This video from Mayo Clinic and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention explains how everyone can help prevent suicide by being alert for the signs of depression and escaping stress and how to be most helpful.

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To find like minded healthcare professionals, use HealthLynked. It is a first of its kind medical network built as a social ecosystem with a higher purpose – improving healthcare. Go to HealthLynked.com to learn more, sign up to be an in-network provider, connect with your fellow consituents, and securely share health records with your patients. Download our HealthLynked app available on Apple and Android devices.

The Often Misunderstood Diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

PTSD stands for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and is a condition that many veterans and non-veterans alike suffer; PTSD can occur when someone experiences or witnesses a traumatic event. This condition wasn’t always understood properly by the medical or military community, and Department of Defense press releases often point to earlier attempts to identify PTSD symptoms in the wake of service in World War 2, Vietnam, and other conflicts.

PTSD Awareness Day is observed today, Wednesday, June 27, 2018.

The History of PTSD Awareness Day

In 2010, Senator Kent Conrad pushed to get official recognition of PTSD via a “day of awareness” in tribute to a North Dakota National Guard member who took his life following two tours in Iraq.

Staff Sergeant Joe Biel died in 2007 after suffering from PTSD; Biel committed suicide after his return from duty to his home state. SSgt. Biel’s birthday, June 27, was selected as the official PTSD Awareness Day, now observed every year.

How Do People Observe Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Day?

Much of what is done to observe PTSD Awareness Day involves encouraging open talk about PTSD, its’ causes, symptoms, and most important of all, getting help for the condition. When today, PTSD is often misunderstood by those lacking firsthand experience with the condition or those who suffer from it. PTSD Awareness Day is designed to help change that.

The Department of Defense publishes circulars, articles, and other materials to help educate and inform military members and their families about the condition. The Department of Veterans Affairs official site has several pages dedicated to PTSD, and when military members retiring or separating from the service fill out VA claim forms for service-connected injuries, illnesses, or disabilities, there is an option to be evaluated for PTSD as a part of the VA claims process.

What Is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

The current American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, DSM-IV, says PTSD can develop through a range of exposures to death or injury: direct personal involvement, witnessing it or, if it concerns someone close, just learning about it.  Post-traumatic stress disorder is a form of anxiety that can happen after experiencing or witnessing actual or near death, serious injury, war-related violence, terrorism or sexual violence.  While most people typically connect this disorder to military veterans or refugees, it can happen to anyone.

Almost no other psychiatric diagnosis has generated as much controversy.  The diagnosis is almost four decades old.  PTSD is not a sign of weakness, and people can be affected by PTSD even when they were not directly part of the traumatic event.

The specific nature of the trauma can and does vary greatly. Experts are quick to point out, while combat and combat-related military service can be incredibly challenging, and while witnessing or being a victim of an event that rips the fabric of daily life can be traumatic, not everyone responds the same way. Some may develop symptoms of PTSD, while others may be unaffected.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: How Widespread Is It?

Some sources estimate that as many as 70% of all Americans have experienced a traumatic event sufficient to cause PTSD or PTSD-like symptoms. That does not mean that all 70% of Americans WILL suffer from PTSD. Using these statistics, some 224 million Americans have experienced a traumatic event. Of that number, some 20% will develop PTSD symptoms, roughly 44 million people.

Of that 44 million, an estimated eight percent experience active PTSD symptoms at any one time. An estimated 50% of all mental health patients are also diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

PTSD: Often Misunderstood and Misidentified

“Shell shock” and “combat shock” were earlier attempts to define and understand the symptoms of PTSD. Post-traumatic stress disorder was often stigmatized in popular culture after the Vietnam conflict, and many films and television shows featured antagonists or unsympathetic characters suffering from “Vietnam flashbacks” or other issues.

The misunderstanding of PTSD slowly began to change in 1980 when it was recognized as a specific condition with identifiable symptoms. It was then the disorder was listed in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

This manual is a diagnostic tool for mental health professionals and paraprofessional workers in the healthcare field and is considered a definitive reference. The addition of PTSD to the DSM was a highly significant development.

Today, the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder are better understood, treatable, and recognized by the Department of Veterans Affairs as a service-connected condition. PTSD is not exclusive to veterans or currently serving members of the United States military, but a portion of those who serve are definitely at risk for PTSD.

What Are the Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome?

Some PTSD symptoms may seem vague and non-specific, others are more readily identified specifically as evidence of PTSD. In this context “non-specific” means that the symptoms may be related to other mental health issues and not specifically limited to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

In the same way, more “specific” symptoms may be manifest outside PTSD, but when looking for specific signifiers, these issues are common “red flags” that indicate PTSD may be the cause of the suffering rather than a different condition. This is often circumstantial, and there is no one-size-fits-all diagnosis for the condition.

Suicidal thoughts or self-destructive acts are often a result of PTSD or related symptoms. Anyone experiencing thoughts or urges to self-harm should seek immediate care to prevent the condition from getting worse in the short-term. (See below)

That said, more non-specific symptoms include varying degrees of irritability, depression, and suicidal feelings. More specific problems-especially where veterans and currently serving military members are concerned-include something known as “hypervigilance” or “hyperarousal”.

Other symptoms include repeatedly experiencing the traumatic event(s) in the form of flashbacks, nightmares, persistent memories of the event(s), and intrusive thoughts about the traumatic event(s).

These symptoms vary in intensity depending on the individual and are not ‘standardized”. They may come and go, or they may be persistent over a span of time. Sometimes PTSD sufferers can be high-functioning, other times they may be more debilitated by the condition.

Get Treatment For PTSD

Those who experience symptoms of PTSD or PTSD-like issues should seek help immediately. Department of Veterans Affairs medical facilities, private care providers, counselors, and therapists can all be helpful in establishing an initial care regimen or refer those suffering from PTSD to a qualified care provider.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has more information on help for PTSD on its’ official site including help finding a therapist.

Those experiencing suicidal feelings or self-destructive urges should get help immediately. The Suicide Crisis Hotline (1-800-273-8255) has a specific resource for veterans and the Department of Veterans Affairs offers a Veterans’ Crisis Hotline confidential chat resource.

To find a healthcare professional, use HealthLynked. It is a first of its kind medical network built as a social ecosystem with a higher purpose – improving healthcare. Go to HealthLynked.com to learn more, sign up for free, connect with your doctor, find a new doctor, and securely store and share your health information. Download our HealthLynked app available on Apple and Android devices.

Adapted from https://militarybenefits.info/ptsd-awareness-day/

“Doing It My Way, Testing for HIV” | HIV Testing Day 2018

National HIV Testing Day (NHTD) is an annual observance encouraging people of all ages to get tested for HIV and to know their status.  Too many people are unaware they have HIV. At the end of 2014, an estimated 1.1 million persons aged 13 and older were living with HIV infection in the United States, including an estimated 166,000 (15%, or 1 in 7) persons whose infections had not been diagnosed.

Getting tested is the first step to finding out if you have HIV. If you have HIV, getting medical care, taking medicines regularly and changes in behavior help you live a longer, healthier life and will lower the chances of passing HIV on to others.

Testing is the only way for the Americans living with undiagnosed HIV to know their HIV status and get into care. CDC estimates that more than 90% of all new infections could be prevented by proper testing and linking HIV positive persons to care. HIV testing saves lives! It is one of the most powerful tools in the fight against HIV

How do I know if I am at risk to get HIV? 

Knowing your risk can help you make important decisions to prevent exposure to HIV.  Overall, an American has a 1 in 99 chance of being diagnosed with HIV at some point in his or her lifetime. However, the lifetime risk is much greater among some populations. If current diagnosis rates continue the lifetime risk of getting HIV is:

  • 1 in 6 for gay and bisexual men overall
  • 1 in 2 for African American gay and bisexual men
  • 1 in 4 for Hispanic gay and bisexual men
  • 1 in 11 for white gay and bisexual men
  • 1 in 20 for African American men overall
  • 1 in 48 for African American women overall
  • 1 in 23 for women who inject drugs
  • 1 in 36 for men who inject drugs

Your health behaviors also affect your risk. You can get or transmit HIV only through specific activities. HIV is commonly transmitted through anal or vaginal sex without a condom or sharing injection and other drug injection equipment with a person infected with HIV. Substance use can increase the risk of exposure to HIV because alcohol and other drugs can affect your decision to use condoms during sex. To learn more about your HIV risk and ways to reduce these risks, visit: https://wwwn.cdc.gov/hivrisk/

How do HIV, Viral Hepatitis, and STDs relate to each other? 

Persons who have an STD are at least two to five times more likely than uninfected persons to acquire HIV infection if they are exposed to the virus through sexual contact. In addition, if a person who is HIV positive also has an STD, that person is more likely to transmit HIV through sexual contact than other HIV-infected persons.

Hepatitis B virus (HBV) and HIV are bloodborne viruses transmitted primarily through sexual contact and injection drug use. Because of these shared modes of transmission, a high proportion of adults at risk for HIV infection are also at risk for HBV infection. HIV-positive persons who become infected with HBV are at increased risk for developing chronic HBV infection and should be tested. In addition, persons who are co-infected with HIV and HBV can have serious medical complications, including an increased risk for liver-related morbidity and mortality.

Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) is one of the most common causes of chronic liver disease in the United States. For persons who are HIV infected, co-infection with HCV can result in a more rapid occurrence of liver damage and may also impact the course and management of HIV infection.

How do I protect myself and others from HIV, Viral Hepatitis, and STDs? 

HIV Prevention

Your life matters and staying healthy is important. It’s important for you, the people who care about you, and your community that you know your HIV status.  Knowing give you powerful information to help take steps to keep you and others healthy. You should get tested for HIV, and encourage others to get tested too.

For people who are sexually active, there are more tools available today to prevent HIV than ever before. The list below provides a number of ways you can lower your chances of getting HIV. The more of these actions you take, the safer you can be.

  • Get tested and treated for other STDs and encourage your partners to do the same.All adults and adolescents from ages 13-64 should be tested at least once for HIV, and high-risk groups get tested more often.  STDs can have long-term health consequences.  They can also increase your chance of getting HIV or transmitting it to others. It is important to have an honest and open talk with your healthcare provider and ask whether you should be tested for STDs.  Your healthcare provider can offer you the best care if you discuss your sexual history openly.
  • Choose less risky sexual behaviors. Oral sex is much less risky than anal or vaginal sex for HIV transmission. Anal sex is the highest-risk sexual activity for HIV transmission. Sexual activities that do not involve the potential exchange of bodily fluids carry no risk for getting HIV (e.g., touching).
  • Use condoms consistently and correctly.
  • Reduce the number of people you have sex with.  The number of sex partners you have affects your HIV risk. The more partners you have, the more likely you are to have a partner with HIV whose viral load is not suppressed or to have a sex partner with a sexually transmitted disease. Both of these factors can increase the risk of HIV transmission.
  • Talk to your doctor about pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). CDC recommends that PrEP be considered for people who are HIIV-negative and at substantial risk for being exposed to HIV.For sexual transmission, this includes HIIV-negative persons who are in an ongoing relationship with an HIV-positive partner. It also includes anyone who 1) is not in a mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who recently tested HIV-negative, and 2) is a gay or bisexual man who has had sex without a condom or been diagnosed with an STD in the past 6 months; or heterosexual man or woman who does not regularly use condoms during sex with partners of unknown HIV status who are at substantial risk of HIV infection (e.g., people who inject drugs or have bisexual male partners). For people who inject drugs, this includes those who have injected drugs in the past 6 months and who have shared injection equipment or been in drug treatment for injection drug use in the past 6 months.
  • Talk to your doctor right away (within 3 days) about post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) if you have a possible exposure to HIV. An example of a possible exposure is if you have anal or vaginal sex without a condom with someone who is or may be HIV-positive, and you are HIV-negative and not taking PrEP. Your chance of exposure to HIV is lower if your HIV-positive partner is taking antiretroviral therapy (ART) consistently and correctly, especially if his/her viral load is undetectable. Starting medicine immediately (known as post-exposure prophylaxis, or PEP) and taking it daily for 4 weeks reduces your chance of getting HIV.
  • If your partner is HIV-positive, encourage your partner to get and stay on treatment.  ART reduces the amount of HIV virus (viral load) in blood and body fluids. ART can keep people with HIV healthy for many years, and greatly reduce the chance of transmitting HIV to sex partners if taken consistently and correctly.

Hepatitis Prevention

The best way to prevent both Hepatitis A and B is by getting vaccinated.   There is no vaccine available to prevent Hepatitis C.  The best way to prevent Hepatitis C is by avoiding behaviors that can spread the disease, such as sharing needles or other equipment to inject drugs.

STD Prevention

The only way to avoid STDs is to not have vaginal, anal, or oral sex. If you are sexually active, you can do several things to lower your chances of getting an STD, including:

  • Get tested for STDs and encourage your partner(s) to do the same. It is important to have an honest and open talk with your healthcare provider and ask whether you should be tested for STDs.  Your healthcare provider can offer you the best care if you discuss your sexual history openly.
  • Get vaccinated. Vaccines are safe, effective, and recommended ways to prevent hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and HPV.
  • Be in a sexually active relationship with only one person, who has agreed to be sexually active only with you.
  • Reduce your number of sex partners.  By doing so, you decrease your risk for STDs. It is still important that you and your partner get tested, and that you share your test results with one another.
  • Use a condom every time you have vaginal, anal, or oral sex. Correct and consistent use of the male latex condomis highly effective in reducing STD transmission.

What puts me at risk for HIV, Viral Hepatitis, and STDs? 

Risks for HIV

The most common ways HIV is transmitted in the United States is through anal or vaginal sex or sharing drug injection equipment with a person infected with HIV. Although the risk factors for HIV are the same for everyone, some racial/ethnic, gender, and age groups are far more affected than others.

What puts me at risk for Hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A is usually spread when a person ingests fecal matter — even in microscopic amounts — from contact with objects, food, or drinks contaminated by the feces or stool of an infected person. Due to routine vaccination of children, Hepatitis A has decreased dramatically in the United States. Although anyone can get Hepatitis A, certain groups of people are at higher risk, including men who have sex with men, people who use illegal drugs, people who travel to certain international countries, and people who have sexual contact with someone who has Hepatitis A.

What puts me at risk for Hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B is usually spread when blood, semen, or another body fluid from a person infected with the Hepatitis B virus enters the body of someone who is not infected. This can happen through sexual contact with an infected person or sharing needles, syringes, or other drug-injection equipment. Hepatitis B can also be passed from an infected mother to her baby at birth.

Among adults in the United States, Hepatitis B is most commonly spread through sexual contact and accounts for nearly two-thirds of acute Hepatitis B cases. Hepatitis B is 50–100 times more infectious than HIV.

What puts me at risk for Hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C is usually spread when blood from a person infected with the Hepatitis C virus enters the body of someone who is not infected. Today, most people become infected with the Hepatitis C virus by sharing needles or other equipment to inject drugs. Hepatitis C was also commonly spread through blood transfusions and organ transplants prior to the early 1990’s. At that time, widespread screening of the blood supply began in the United States, which has helped ensure a safe blood supply.

STDs

Risks for  Genital Herpes

Genital herpes is a common STD, and most people with genital herpes infection do not know they have it.   You can get genital herpes from an infected partner, even if your partner has no herpes symptoms.  There is no cure for herpes, but medication is available to reduce symptoms and make it less likely that you will spread herpes to a sex partner.

Risks for Genital Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

HPV is so common that most sexually active people get it at some point in their lives. Anyone who is sexually active can get HPV, even if you have had sex with only one person. In most cases, HPV goes away on its own and does not cause any health problems. But when HPV does not go away, it can cause health problems like genital warts and cancer. HPV is passed on through genital contact (such as vaginal and anal sex). You can pass HPV to others without knowing it.

Risks for Chlamydia

Most people who have chlamydia don’t know it since the disease often has no symptoms.  Chlamydia is the most commonly reported STD in the United States.  Sexually active females 25 years old and younger need testing every year. Although it is easy to cure, chlamydia can make it difficult for a woman to get pregnant if left untreated.

Risks for Gonorrhea

Anyone who is sexually active can get gonorrhea, an STD that can cause infections in the genitals, rectum, and throat. It is a very common infection, especially among young people ages 15-24 years. But it can be easily cured.  You can get gonorrhea by having anal, vaginal, or oral sex with someone who has gonorrhea. A pregnant woman with gonorrhea can give the infection to her baby during childbirth.

Risks for Syphilis

Any sexually active person can get syphilis. It is more common among men who have sex with men. Syphilis is passed through direct contact with a syphilis sore. Sores occur mainly on the external genitals, anus, or in the rectum. Sores also can occur on the lips and in the mouth. A pregnant women with syphilis can give the infection to her unborn baby.

Risks for Bacterial Vaginosis

BV is common among women of childbearing age. Any woman can get BV, but women are at a higher risk for BV if they have a new sex partner, multiple sex partners, use an intrauterine device (IUD), and/or douche.

Managing Your Appointments

HIV is a treatable condition. If you are diagnosed early, get on antiretroviral therapy (ART), and adhere to your medication, you can stay healthy, live a normal life span, and reduce the chances of transmitting HIV to others. Part of staying healthy is seeing your HIV care provider regularly so that he or she can track your progress and make sure your HIV treatment is working for you.

Your HIV care provider might be a doctor, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant. Some people living with HIV go to an HIV clinic; others see an HIV specialist at a community health center, Veterans Affairs clinic, or other health clinic; and some people see their provider in a private practice. Current guidelines recommend that most people living with HIV see their provider for lab tests every 3 to 4 months. Some people may see their provider more frequently, especially during the first two years of treatment or if their HIV viral load is not suppressed (i.e. very low or undetectable). Current guidelines say that people who take their medication every day and have had a suppressed viral load at every test for more than 2 years only need to have their lab tests done two times a year.

In addition to seeing your HIV care provider, you may need to see other health care practitioners, including dentists, nurses, case managers, social workers, psychiatrists/psychologists, pharmacists and medical specialists. This may mean juggling multiple appointments, but it is all part of staying healthy. You can help make this easier by preparing a plan for yourself.

Before Your Visit

For many people living with HIV, appointments with their HIV care provider become a routine part of their life. These tips may help you better prepare for your visits to your HIV care provider and get more out of them:

  • Start with a list or a notebook. Write down any questions you have before you go. (The Department of Veterans Affairs offers a useful list of sample questions you can bring with you.)
  • Make a list of your health and life goals so that you can talk about them with your HIV provider and how she/he can help you reach them.
  • Make a list of any symptoms or problems you are experiencing that you want to talk to your provider about.
  • Bring a list of all the HIV and non-HIV medications that you are taking (or the medications themselves), including over-the-counter medications, vitamins, or supplements. Include a list of any HIV medications you may have taken in the past and any problems you had when taking them.
  • Bring along a copy of your medical records if you are seeing a new provider who does not already have them. You have the right to access your medical records and having copies of your records can help you keep track of your lab results, prescriptions, and other health information. It can also help your new provider have a better understanding of your health history. The best way to do this is by using a global, portable personal health record like the one you will maintain here at HealthLynked.
  • Be prepared to talk about any changes in your living situation, relationships, insurance, or employment that may affect your ability to keep up with your HIV appointments and treatment or to take care of yourself. Your provider may be able to connect you with resources or services that may assist you.
  • Be on time. Most healthcare providers have full appointment schedules—if you are late, you throw the schedule off for everyone who comes after you. If you are late, there is a chance your provider will not be able to see you the same day.

During Your Visit

  • If your provider wants to run some lab tests during your visit, make sure you understand what the lab tests are for and what your provider will do with the results. If you don’t understand, ask your provider to explain it in everyday terms. Typically, you will be asked to give a sample (blood, urine) during your visit and your provider’s office will call you with your results in a few days. Keep track of your results and call your provider back if you have any questions.
  • Be honest. Your provider isn’t there to judge you, but to make decisions with you based on your particular circumstances. Talk about any HIV medication doses you have missed. Tell your provider about your sexual or alcohol/drug use history. These behaviors can put you at risk of developing drug resistance and getting other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) as well as hepatitis. Your provider will work with you to develop strategies to keep you as healthy as possible.
  • Describe any side effects you may be having from your HIV medications. Your provider will want to know how the HIV medications are affecting your body in order to work with you to solve any problems and find the right combination of medications for you.
  • Ask your provider about your next visit and what you should bring to that appointment.
  • Ask for a list of your upcoming appointments when you check out. Work with your case manager, if you have one, to develop a system to help you remember your appointments, such as a calendar, app, or text/e-mail reminders.

Asking Questions and Solving Problems

It’s important for you to be an active participant in your own health care and it’s your right to ask questions. You may need to direct your questions to different people, depending on what you need/want to know:

HIV care providers (doctors, nurse practitioners, physician assistants) can answer specific questions about a wide range of issues that affect your health. They can also help you find resources and solutions to problems you may have that affect your health, including:

  • Your prognosis (how your HIV disease is affecting your body)
  • How to manage any symptoms you may be experiencing
  • Medication issues, including medication changes, new medications, and how the HIV medications may interact with other medications you take.
  • Sexual health issues, including questions about any sexual symptoms you may be having, and how you can prevent or treat STIs, and how you can prevent transmitting HIV to your partner(s).
  • Family planning considerations, including your goals; birth control options for you and/or your partner, if relevant; your options for having children should you wish to do so; and, if you are an HIV-positive woman who is pregnant or considering getting pregnant, how you can reduce the risk of transmitting HIV to your baby
  • Substance use issues, including how alcohol/drug use can affect your HIV treatment and overall health, and whether you should be referred for substance abuse treatment
  • Mental health issues, including questions about any mental health symptoms you may be having, and whether you should be referred for mental health treatment
  • Referrals for other medical issues you may be experiencing
  • The meaning of lab test results
  • The need for surgical procedures, if relevant
  • Medication adherence strategies (tips for keeping up with your medication and ensuring you take it as scheduled and exactly as prescribed)
  • Any clinical trials or research studies that may be relevant for you
  • Information about resources and services that can help you with issues or challenges you may be having that affect your health.

Nurses and case managers often have more time to answer questions about what you discuss with your provider and to help identify solutions to problems that are affecting your health, particularly around:

  • Understanding your HIV treatment plan, including how many pills of each medicine you should take; when to take each medicine; how to take each medicine (for example, with or without food); and how to store each medicine
  • Understanding possible side effects from your HIV medication and what you should do if you experience them
  • Challenges you may have in taking your medications and/or keeping your medical appointments, and strategies for overcoming these challenges
  • Resources to help you better understand lab reports, tests, and procedures
  • Mental health and/or substance abuse treatment, housing assistance, food assistance, and other resources that exist in your community
  • Insurance and pharmacy benefits, and other aspects of paying for care
  • Understanding other medical conditions you may have
  • How to quit smoking and resources that are available to assist you
  • Information about resources and services that can help you with issues or challenges you may be having that affect your health.

If you are HIV positive, attending your medical appointments is one of the most important things you can do to ensure your HIV is optimally managed. Make sure you are ready for your appointments with HealthLynked.  Using our novel healthcare ecosystem, you can collate your medical information in one place and Connect there with the physicians who care for you.

Ready to get Lynked?  Go to HealthLynked.com today to sign up for Free!

Adapted from:

HIV.org

CDC.foc

Aidsinfo.NIH.gov

Forgiveness Fills Life with Research Proven Health Benefits

Maybe you are considering forgiveness for yourself or others, but you’re not sure it’s worth the emotional effort. You might prefer to ignore the painful memories, stuff it down and keep going about your daily affairs. You will just deal with it later, right?

To forgive, whether yourself or others, and to be forgiven, brings relief beyond just the emotional or even spiritual, if you at a person of faith.  Today is Forgiveness Day – one of many observed throughout the year.  The original was established as International Forgiveness Day in response to a call to set aside old differences made by Desmond Tutu.  There is also Global Forgiveness Day next Saturday, and National Forgiveness Day in October.  All have one purpose – to encourage us to set things right; and there are great health benefits to doing so!

Whether it’s a bout with your boss, a feud with a family member or friend, or a spat with your spouse, unresolved conflict can go deeper than you may realize—it may be affecting your physical health. Not forgiving has its costs. When we harbor grudges and grievances, we retain everything that goes with them: anxiety, irritability, anger, and depression.  We may suffer insomnia, experience weight gain or loss, endure depletion of trust in ourselves and others, get caught up in numbing addictions and get stuck in a nerve fraying fight-or-flight mode.

The list is long and disabling.  The good news: Studies have found the act of forgiveness can pay huge dividends for your health, And research points to an increase in the forgiveness-health connection as you age.

What are the health benefits of forgiveness?

In a study at Virginia Commonwealth University, researchers sought to prove what many might already feel is common sense. They wrote, “Chronic unforgiveness causes stress. Every time people think of their transgressor, their body responds. Decreasing your unforgiveness cuts down your health risk. Now, if you can forgive, that can actually strengthen your immune system.” [1]

Dr. Bernie Siegel, author, surgeon and retired medical professor at Yale University, said, “I have collected 57 extremely well-documented so-called cancer miracles. At a certain particular moment in time, they decided that the anger and the depression were probably not the best way to go, since they had such little time left.

And so, they went from that to being loving, caring, no longer angry, no longer depressed, and able to talk to the people they loved. These 57 people had the same pattern. They gave up—totally—their anger, and they gave up—totally—their depression, by specifically a decision to do so. And at that point, the tumors started to shrink.” [2]

Medical researchers have become increasingly interested in studying the effects of forgiveness as a healing process. Evidence is mounting:  holding onto painful memories and bitterness results in long-term health problems. Forgiveness, on the other hand, offers numerous benefits, including:

  1. Lower blood pressure

When we no longer feel anxiety or anger because of past grievances, our heart rate evens out and our blood pressure drops. This normalizes many processes in the body and brings us our heart and circulatory system into stability.

  1. Stress reduction

Forgiveness eases stress because we no longer recycle thoughts (both consciously and subconsciously) that cause psychic stress to arise. By offering our burdens for healing, we learn how to leave irritation and stress behind.

  1.  Less hostility

By its very nature, forgiveness asks us to let go of hostility toward ourselves and others.  Spontaneous hostile behavior, like road rage and picking a fight for no reason, diminishes as our commitment to forgiveness goes up.

  1. Better anger-management skills

With fewer and fewer burdens from the past weighing us down, we have more self-control when we do get angry. We’ll be better able to take some breaths, count to ten, take a time-out or get some exercise—rather than strike out or lash out in anger.

  1. Lower heart rate

Forgiveness relaxes our hearts –  pain will ease out of our system. Our hearts calm down, and our heart rate decreases as a result.

  1. Lower risk of alcohol or substance abuse

This is a big one – possibly the biggest and best reason to jump into a forgiveness practice without delay. Substance abuse is a mask for underlying pain. Forgiveness helps release that pain and find the gifts in our situation instead.

  1. Fewer depression symptoms

Similar to lowering substance abuse, this is a crucial issue with retained anguish. Depression is debilitating and can lead to suicide. On the other hand, forgiveness gives us healing and can leave room to replace depression with a sense of purpose and compassion.

  1. Fewer anxiety symptoms

Almost everyone needs to forgive him or herself as well as others. Anxiety often arises when we fear we’ve done something wrong. Our guilty conscience causes tension at a deep level. Forgiveness helps us to love ourselves deeply, relieving inner pain.

  1. Reduction in chronic pain

Physical pain often has psychological underpinnings. When we allow a profound shift to happen with forgiveness, we heal ourselves on both psychological and physical levels. Thus, chronic pain can be reversed, and we can be restored to best health.

  1. More friendships

When we’re no longer holding grudges, we can get a lot closer to friends and family. Old relationships have a chance to change and grow, and new relationships can enter—all because we made room for them with forgiveness.

  1. Healthier relationships

When we make forgiveness a regular part of our emotional practice, we start to notice all of our relationships begin to blossom. There’s far less drama to deal with, and that’s a huge bonus.

  1. Improved psychological well-being

A good life, full of quality relationships, service to others and fun, is something that most of us hope for without ever knowing how to create it.  By releasing our grievances, we become more harmonious on all levels. Nightmares recede, and exciting new life visions become commonplace. We feel calmer, happier and ready to give compassion and love to the world.

  1. Enhanced immune function

Forgiveness lowers cortisol – a steroid hormone produced in response to stress that causes weight gain – and boosts immune function. You’ll feel more relaxed and centered, and you won’t get sick as easily once you’ve let go for good through forgiveness.

Looking at the list, it’s easy to see that if you had lower stress, hostility, blood pressure and chronic pain, you’d be far healthier for it. Also, if you had better relationships, improved psychological well-being and greater emotional connection, you could be living a life of joy and purpose.

Can You Learn to Be More Forgiving?

Now, look at this list below to see if you would enjoy improvements in any of these areas of your life:

  • Your Physical Health
  • Relationships with Loved Ones (Lovers, Spouse, Exes, and Friends)
  • Family Issues with Parents, Siblings and Children
  • Trauma from Childhood
  • Impacts of Racism, Sexism and Other “Isms”
  • Money Worries
  • Sexual Issues
  • Blocked Creativity

Forgiveness is not just about saying the words. It is an active process in which you make a conscious decision to let go of negative feelings whether deserved or not. As you release anger, resentment and hostility, you make room for empathy, compassion and sometimes even affection for the person who wronged you.

Studies have found some people are just naturally more forgiving. Consequently, they tend to be more satisfied with their lives and to have less depression, anxiety, stress, anger and hostility. People who hang on to grudges, however, are more likely to experience severe depression and even post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as other health issues described earlier. But that doesn’t mean they can’t train themselves to act in healthier ways. 62 percent of American adults say they need more forgiveness in their personal lives, according to a survey by the nonprofit Fetzer Institute.

Making Forgiveness Part of Your Life

Forgiveness is a choice.  You are choosing to offer compassion and empathy to the person who wronged you.  The following steps can help you develop a more forgiving attitude—and benefit from better emotional and physical health.

Reflect and remember.

That includes the events themselves, and also how you reacted, how you felt, and how the anger and hurt have affected you since.

Empathize with the other person.

For instance, if your spouse grew up in an alcoholic family, then anger when you have too much to drink might be understandable.

Forgive deeply.

Simply forgiving someone because you think you have no other alternative or because you think your faith requires it may be enough to bring some healing, but one study found people whose forgiveness came in part from understanding no one is perfect were able to resume a normal relationship with the other person.  This was true even if that person never apologized. Those who only forgave in an effort to salvage the relationship typically wound up with a worse relationship.

Let go of expectations.

An apology may not change your relationship with the other person or elicit an apology from them. If you don’t expect either, you won’t be disappointed.

Decide to forgive.

Once you make that choice, seal it with an action. If you don’t feel you can talk to the person who wronged you, write about your forgiveness in a journal or even talk about it with someone else in your life whom you trust and can be supportive.

Forgive yourself.

The act of forgiving includes forgiving yourself. Failings of the past are not a reflection of your worth.

If you are suffering any of the debilitating effects of unforgiveness, it is a great day to relieve yourself and others of the tremendous burden of holding on to hurt.  And if you need a professional to speak with about any of the physical effects you are feeling, find them in HealthLynked.

In our novel HealthCare ecosystem, we are connecting physicians and patients in unique ways.  Lower the stress and confusion of seeing a provider and sharing relevant health information through HealthLynked.

Ready to get Lynked?  Go to HealthLynked.com to register for free!


Definitions

Immune response: How your immune system recognizes and defends itself against bacteria, viruses, toxins and other harmful substances. A response can include anything from coughing and sneezing to an increase in white blood cells, which attack foreign substances.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): A disorder in which your “fight or flight,” or stress, response stays switched on, even when you have nothing to flee or battle. The disorder usually develops after an emotional or physical trauma, such as a mugging, physical abuse or a natural disaster. Symptoms include nightmares, insomnia, angry outbursts, emotional numbness, and physical and emotional tension.

Sources:

[1] Worthington, Everett & Witvliet, Charlotte & Pietrini, Pietro & J Miller, Andrea. (2007). Forgiveness, Health, and Well-Being: A Review of Evidence for Emotional Versus Decisional Forgiveness, Dispositional Forgivingness, and Reduced Unforgiveness. Journal of behavioral medicine. 30. 291-302. 10.1007/s10865-007-9105-8.

[2]Meisner-Morton, Carole J.  Entering Your Own Heart: A Guide to Developing Self Love, Inner Peace and Happiness.  Balboa Press. 2015.

[3] HopkinsMedicine.org

[4] WisdomTimes.com