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Identifying pain medication addiction in your friends; yourself

Mon, 01/26/2015 - 12:00am

(BPT) - If you’ve ever taken them, you know prescription opioids can provide a clinically safe and effective solution to pain management. They can also be very addictive, however, and protecting against addiction requires vigilance on the part of the patient as well as his or her doctors, nurses, caregivers, pharmacists and benefits providers.

A Nation in Pain, Express Script’s comprehensive report on pain-medication usage in the United States, shows that while the number of Americans using prescription drugs like codeine, hydrocodone or OxyContin has declined, the use of potentially dangerous high doses and medication combinations, and other risky usage patterns are all on the rise.

If you believe someone you love is abusing pain medication, it’s important that you act immediately. Addiction to prescription opioids can be fatal. In fact, death from prescription drug overdoses is more common than cases of cocaine or heroin-related deaths combined.

If you or a loved one uses prescription pain medications, be aware of these signs that could indicate a dependence on or an addiction to the medication.

Suspicious behavior

This can include a wide array of options, such as:

* Seeking or obtaining prescriptions from multiple prescribers and filling at multiple pharmacies, especially ones that are not in close physical proximity.

* Using pain medications to “feel good” rather than to treat discomfort

* Frequent claims that the pharmacy didn’t provide enough medication or that medications have been lost

* Avoiding doctor appointments because the office counts pills or performs urine drug screens

Mood changes

A prescription drug addiction can drastically alter the user’s mood. Look for the following warning signs in yourself or your loved one:

* Bouts of anger or depression

* Increased alcohol use or abuse

* Feelings of anxiety

* Displays of aggressive behavior toward the doctor, pharmacy or caregivers related to opioid medications

Increased medication use

One of the most conclusive ways to determine if you or someone you love is addicted to opioids is to look for abnormalities in the medication’s use. These abnormalities could include:

* Taking more pills or taking medicine more frequently than prescribed

* Seeking early refills of opioid medication

* Using opioids with other high-risk medications, like muscle relaxants and anti-anxiety medications that increase euphoria

* Use of additional medication to treat severe side effects (such as stimulants to combat drowsiness, sedatives to regulate sleep patterns, etc.).

* Experiencing withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, diarrhea, muscle pain, sweating and agitation. These are all signs of a body’s dependence on prescription opioids.

Where can you get help?

If you identify with any of these signs or symptoms or you recognize them in a loved one, notify the prescribing physician immediately. The doctor can alter the pain therapy to a less addictive option or begin to safely withdraw the patient from the medication. Patients should not try to abruptly discontinue any medication without a physician’s supervision.

There are many resources for parents and caregivers concerned with opiate dependence/addiction. The patient’s physician can refer counseling services and addiction treatment as needed. Support groups, such as Narcotics Anonymous, offer counseling and other services for patients dealing with addiction to pain medications. In addition, many employers offer free, confidential assistance programs to help employees, or their dependents, who are trying to overcome an addiction or other personal concerns.

The one thing you can’t afford to do is wait. Addiction to pain medication is an illness, not a crime, and your immediate intervention could save a life.

Categories: Lifestyle

Fascinating felines: The surprising truths about 5 common cat myths

Wed, 01/21/2015 - 12:00am

(BPT) - Americans’ love affair with pets continues to grow with approximately 69 million households owning a pet, according to American Veterinary Medical Association. In fact, pet ownership has tripled since the 1970s, and today there are 74.1 million owned cats alone. Felines are great companion animals, but there is still a surprising amount of widely accepted misinformation about cats – and it’s causing a multitude of issues.

“Cats are fantastic pets for both young and old, but misconceptions can cause a host of problems for cats, from their individual health to overpopulation,” says Esther Mechler, president of Marian’s Dream: Philanthropy for Animal Advocates. “Understanding the facts isn’t just interesting, as it can literally help you save lives.”

Check out these top five cat myths and the surprising truths behind each:

Myth: There are plenty of shelters and foster homes to help pets in need until they find their forever home.

Fact: Approximately 7.6 million companion animals enter animal shelters nationwide every year, including 3.4 million cats, according to “More than 70 percent of cats in shelters do not find homes,” says Mechler. “Fostering is limited and unfortunately many shelters refuse to admit cats if no empty cages are available. This begs the question of where these unwanted cats can go. Millions of cats are euthanized annually or abandoned into the wild – where they often face injury, sickness and death.”

Myth: Cats don’t need to be spayed or neutered until they are 6 months old.

Fact: Most shelter cats are fixed at two months of age prior to adoption, but many households cats are not fixed until much later, which dramatically increases the odds of unexpected litters. By six months, most cats have gone through at least one heat cycle and many have already produced a litter. “‘Fix felines by five’ is our recommendation,” Mechler says. “This reduces the chance of unwanted litters and benefits the cat’s health and the community as a whole. Don’t delay longer than five months!” Learn more at

Myth: Cats won’t mate with their siblings or parents.

Fact: Cats do not limit which cats they mate with – this includes littermates and parents. This is another valid reason to proactively spay and neuter cats by five months of age. “A surprising number of people do not realize that siblings can and will reproduce,” says Mechler. “But it happens all the time, so expect it.”

Myth: Limiting unwanted litters is the only reason for spaying.

Fact: “Cats spayed before their first heat cycle have a 91 percent lower risk for developing mammary cancer,” says Mechler. “This is a wonderful benefit, because mammary gland cancer kills an estimated 75,000 cats every year. In fact, cats have a greater risk – by 1,500 times – of dying from mammary gland cancer than from contracting rabies.”

Additional benefits of spaying and neutering include many positive behavioral changes, such as:
* Reduced roaming behaviors
* Reduced aggression
* Reduced marking
* Reduced howling and other heat-related behaviors

Myth: Cats mate most often in the summer.

Fact: Cats may seem to mate all year long, but peak mating times correlate with the seasons (equinox). When the days start to get longer in January and February, additional sunlight signals a female cat’s pituitary gland to start ovulation and she will go into heat. “This is why spring is considered kitten season,” says Mechler. “After about 62 days of gestation, litters are born and there is always a flood of kittens going into shelters each spring. But cats can get pregnant at almost any time late winter or throughout the summer in most regions, even just  few weeks after giving birth to a litter.”

In conclusion, pet owners are often unaware of how early cats can go into heat – to prevent mammary cancer, unwanted litters and ‘bad behaviors’ like howling, spraying and roaming it is best to have them fixed by five months of age, as recommended by Dr. Richard Speck in The Case for Neutering at Five Months of Age published in Today's Veterinary Practice.

Marian’s Dream continues to work hard to inform people and their vets about the importance of earlier spaying and neutering through the “Fix by Five” campaign. Learn more and find a qualified vet near you at

Categories: Lifestyle

Why women need to reassess retirement planning

Tue, 01/20/2015 - 12:00am

(BPT) - Men and women are not the same when it comes to retirement planning. Consider this: A husband and a wife of the same age, earning the same salary and looking to retire during the same year need to account for different factors in retirement planning. This is true even if they share a household, hold joint responsibility for their finances and equally contribute to the amount of incoming funds.

Despite a remarkable career trajectory and rapidly changing roles in the workplace, women need to account for longer life spans as well as unique career patterns. Many women are feeling the impact of these differing retirement realties.

“According to a recent Merrill Edge Report, nearly six in 10 women fear not having enough money throughout retirement, and their amounts are notably higher than their male counterparts,” says Sharon Miller, head of National Sales for Preferred Banking and Merrill Edge at Bank of America. “It’s important that both women and men recognize the retirement landscape is changing, and proactively address the factors and situations that are personally unique to them to help ensure a financially secure retirement.”

So what can women do to better prepare? How can they plan to address these factors and live comfortably in retirement? Here are a few important tips to help you pursue your investment goals:

* Start now to maximize contributions: Save and invest as soon as you can through your employer-sponsored retirement plan, such as a 401(k) or 403(b) account, or set up an automatic transfer from your bank or brokerage account into your personal IRA, Simplified Employee Pension (SEP-IRA) or SIMPLE IRA. Whatever options you choose, aim to increase and diversify your contributions as frequently as possible. But, remember that diversification does not ensure a profit or protect against loss in declining markets.

* Take advantage of unexpected money: If you receive a significant influx in funds, such as a lump-sum bonus, insurance payout, tax refund, divorce settlement or inheritance, avoid the lure of spending frivolously and think about the long-term. If you are willing to assume the risk, consider investing some, or even all of the funds.

* Try not to sacrifice growth for safety: Guard against being too passive in your approach to retirement investing. Be strategic by increasing your level of involvement and make investment decisions based on your retirement liquidity needs and risk tolerance, which is essential to building a robust portfolio.

* Take care of your health now: Practicing preventive healthcare can make an impact on your bottom line by lowering healthcare costs and allowing you to contribute more to your long-term future. It can also help cut costs during retirement and will hopefully lead to a longer and healthier life, too.

* Consider waiting to collect Social Security: While everyone’s situation is different, if you can delay retirement, you may be able to reap significant rewards. By working longer or using income from other sources first, your Social Security benefit grows 8 percent each year until you reach age 70 in the current market.

The bottom line is that while both men and women should invest as much as they can, as early as they can, women face some different realities when it comes to planning for retirement. For additional resources on how to better prepare for the changing retirement landscape, visit

Categories: Lifestyle

3 ways to become more environmentally friendly in 2015

Tue, 01/20/2015 - 12:00am

(BPT) - Whether you’re motivated by a workplace initiative, a personal goal or the opportunity to teach your children lifelong positive habits, now is a great time to become more environmentally friendly. Earth Day is April 22, but there’s still plenty of time to develop eco-friendly habits before the big day arrives.

Here are three ways your family can create positive environmental change starting today.


Research shows that less than 2 percent of waste in the United States is recycled, yet almost half of all trash can be recycled. School lunches are one source of waste that most families don’t consider. These are packed each morning and tossed away each afternoon once lunchtime is finished.

To increase awareness of recycling options during lunch, Entenmann’s Little Bites Snacks has partnered with the recycling and upcycling experts at TerraCycle for the “Turn Trash to Cash” program, giving students the chance to recycle their Little Bites snack pouches and earn money for their school. TerraCycle can recycle the pouches to create products like tote bags, pencil cases and even picnic benches.

You can learn more about the campaign by visiting TerraCycle on Facebook.

Protect water resources

Water is one of the most important resources people have, yet every year billions of gallons are needlessly wasted. You can conserve water in your home by teaching your children to take shorter showers or baths, turning off dripping faucets and avoiding letting the water run while they are brushing their teeth.

You can also reduce water waste in your home by investing in water-saving appliances and by reducing or eliminating the practice of watering your lawn, relying on rain to do so instead.

Help plant a tree

Few things are as beautiful as a tall, healthy tree. But trees are more than just a beautiful backdrop, as they are also essential to the environment. Here are four reasons why from the Arbor Day Foundation:

1. Trees help clean the air. They improve the quality of the air you breathe by capturing dust and pollution particles that can affect your health.

2. Trees help fight climate change. As trees grow, they remove greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide from the air, store carbon, and release pure oxygen into the atmosphere.

3. Trees planted along waterways can help filter out chemicals that might otherwise wash to water sources. They also can create stable soil and help prevent soil erosion, flooding and even landslides.

4. Trees properly planted around a home can help lower air conditioning and heating costs by up to 25 percent.

This year Entenmann’s is partnering with the Arbor Day Foundation for the Little Bites’ Earth Day Sweepstakes. For every entry, fan or not, received through the Little Bites Facebook page, Entenmann’s will donate $1 to the Arbor Day Foundation to plant a tree – up to 25,000 trees in total. The sweepstakes starts March 1. You can learn more at

Environmentally friendly habits are easy to pick up and they can be a great way to bond with your children on a shared project while developing lifelong habits. So don’t wait another minute! Start your family down the eco-friendly path today.

Categories: Lifestyle

Teenagers want parents to be involved in their lives

Mon, 01/12/2015 - 12:00am

(BPT) - Today’s changing social environment and confusing messages about drugs and alcohol may be making it even more difficult for teenagers to get their bearings as they move toward adulthood. That is why it is more important than ever for parents to know what is going on in their kids’ lives and have the skills to respond to their teens appropriately.

Specifically, as drugs and alcohol are becoming more accessible and more states are legalizing marijuana, many teens may believe that the use of marijuana or other substances is now okay. Parents should know that legalization of marijuana does not mean it is harmless, and increased availability of other substances does not make them less harmful, either. Marijuana and other substances can cause permanent damage to the teenage brain, and teens can become addicted more quickly than adults.

This is a time when parents need to become involved in their teens’ lives and help them navigate these complex issues. While many parents may think of their teens as grown-ups and able to fully take care of themselves, teenagers have said that this is a time when they need their parents the most. Asking questions and being involved shows teenagers that their parents care.

“Even though teens may sometimes indicate otherwise, through my experience as a psychiatrist to teenagers, I have found that most of them want their parents involved in their lives to provide guidance and support,” says Dr. Thomas Wright, chief medical officer at Rosecrance, one of the country’s leading teen substance abuse treatment centers. “Teens want their parents to actively parent them and provide them guidance they need, including direction around substances.”

Studies have shown that parents who play an active role in the lives of their teens can positively impact their children’s behavior and influence them to cease or abstain from ever using substances. In contrast, research shows that teens whose parents expect them to engage in risky behaviors such as drinking and using drugs are more likely to do so.

“It is critical that parents understand their role and take conscious measures to support their teens in living a healthy and happy life,” Wright says. “Parents should ask what their teens are doing, address the pressures they are facing, act immediately when they suspect their teen is in trouble, and advocate for help if their teen needs it to help them live a healthy life.”

Starting a conversation with a teen about substances can be daunting. It can be even more overwhelming for a parent when their teenage child approaches them with questions before they have had a chance to prepare. For a helpful guide to talking with a teenager about marijuana visit

Categories: Lifestyle

Live and let live: Americans favor a kinder approach for managing cat populations

Thu, 01/08/2015 - 12:00am

(BPT) - Shocking statistics show that nearly three-quarters of the cats who enter our nation’s animal shelters each year, most of whom are free-roaming and un-owned, are killed. Fortunately, Americans’ love of animals doesn’t end with the pets that live in their homes; their care extends to the millions of cats who do not have owners and simply live throughout towns and cities. Across the country a growing number of communities are adopting humane ways to manage these populations and reduce the number killed in shelters.

People favor the idea of trapping, neutering and returning (TNR) cats over lethal injection by a ratio of nearly three to one, a survey by national animal welfare organization Best Friends Animal Society reveals. Furthermore, the health and welfare of the cats (38 percent) and public health (31 percent) were the most important factors in their choice, the survey found. Through TNR, cats are humanely trapped and taken to a veterinarian who spays/neuters them, tips one ear as a visual signal that this cat has been sterilized, and then returns the animals to their outdoor home to live out their lives.  

“Uncontrolled population growth among homeless cats isn’t good for anyone – the animals or the community,” says Gregory Castle, CEO of Best Friends. “Yet adoption isn’t always feasible for cats that are used to living outdoors.”

Many TNR advocates use the term “community cats” to describe populations of homeless felines because many of the cats don’t fit the typical image of “feral.” They live in close proximity to, and interact with, humans, accepting food and affection from people in the community. They may be strays who have become lost or were abandoned, or they may be the offspring of strays, having never lived in a human home. Rather than belonging to no one, these cats become companions to people throughout the community. No one is sure exactly how many community cats live in the U.S., but 30 million to 40 million is a widely accepted estimate.

“As communities are recognizing that killing the animals is neither humane nor effective – and is quite costly to taxpayers – TNR programs have emerged as a kinder means to reduce populations while also ensuring that free-roaming cats stay as healthy as possible,” Castle says.

TNR programs address concerns for public health and the health of the animals. Cats are not only neutered when trapped, but also can be vaccinated against diseases, which helps protect community health. Neutered animals tend to be less territorial and are less stressed over finding mates and rearing young.

Volunteers in communities across the country, and many municipalities, operate TNR programs. Un-owned cats are humanely trapped, neutered and vaccinated, then released into the community to live out their natural lives. The programs have proven very effective; a University of Florida study found a decrease of 66 percent in cats brought to a shelter from a ZIP code where a focused TNR program was in place. Programs in Randolph County, North Carolina, and on the campus of the University of Central Florida also significantly reduced the size of cat colonies.

The Albuquerque, New Mexico, and San Antonio, Texas, Community Cats Projects, partnerships of Best Friends Animal Society and PetSmart Charities, Inc., have been particularly successful. In Albuquerque, for example, shelter deaths of cats and kittens are down 88 percent, from more than 2,800 during the first nine months of 2011 to 337 for the same period this year. And in San Antonio, where intake numbers were rising dramatically before the program’s launch in April 2012, intake of cats and kittens is now declining sharply, and shelter deaths are 84 percent lower than in 2011.

Neutering community cats ensures they won’t produce more un-owned cats, and humanely returning them back into the community allows them to live out their lives. Information to help communities and volunteers launch TNR programs can be found at

“The results of our public opinion survey confirm what we see firsthand in communities around the country – there is widespread support for TNR and community programs,” Castle says. “It’s hardly surprising, really. These programs are not only better for cats, they’re better for communities, too.”

Categories: Lifestyle

You can prevent cervical cancer

Tue, 01/06/2015 - 12:00am

(BPT) - If it weren’t for a woman named Sandy, Brenda T. might have a very different story to tell.

Two years ago, when Brenda was 50 years old, she didn’t have health insurance, and was going to a free clinic in Schenectady, New York. That’s where she met Sandy, a women’s health advocate. “Whenever I saw Sandy, she asked whether I'd had my Pap test,” Brenda says. “She kept nagging me. So I finally did go.”

Brenda, the mother of three and grandmother of two, learned she had cervical cancer. She needed surgery. “I was terrified. I was told that if I had been screened earlier, the cancer wouldn’t be so bad that I needed a partial hysterectomy.”

Even though cervical cancer can be prevented and treated successfully, every year about 12,000 women in the U.S. are diagnosed with it and 4,000 women die from it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

But there is good news: you can prevent cervical cancer, with regular screening tests and follow-up. Two screening tests help prevent it or find it early. The Pap test (or Pap smear) looks for precancers – cell changes on the cervix that might become cancer if they are not treated. The HPV test looks for the virus (human papillomavirus) that causes most cervical cancers.

The Pap test is recommended for women between the ages of 21 and 65. If test results are normal, another Pap test may not be needed for three years. If you are 30 years old or older, you may choose to also have an HPV test along with the Pap test, every five years. You and your doctor can decide what is right for you.

“If I could say anything to other women, it is to get checked for cervical cancer regularly,” says Brenda. “If I hadn’t gone when I did, who knows what condition I would be in? There are screening services out there, whether you have insurance or not!”

If you have a low income or do not have insurance, you may be eligible for free or low-cost cervical cancer screening through CDC’s National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program.

“I’m happy and healthy now. I get checked regularly and make sure my daughter does, too,” Brenda says. “When my grandkids are old enough, I want them to get the HPV vaccine – it can prevent cervical cancer. I’m proud to say I’m cancer-free and in great health. And I’m very thankful to Sandy for being so persistent. She may have saved my life!”

To learn more, call 1-800-CDC-INFO or visit for information on cervical cancer. For information on the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program, visit To learn about HPV vaccine, visit And check out CDC’s Inside Knowledge: Get the Facts About Gynecologic Cancer Campaign at

Categories: Lifestyle

Providing children with a balanced diet of vitamins and nutrients

Mon, 01/05/2015 - 12:00am
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(BPT) - Children grow healthy and strong thanks to good, nutritious meals and exercise. However, there are millions of children who aren’t getting the full nutrition they need for development. They’re missing essential vitamins and minerals from their daily diets.

1. Wanted: Healthy children who grow up strong

Parents all over the world have the same dream, for their children to grow up healthy and happy.

2. Sometimes diets aren’t enough

When children receive the proper nutrients during their formative years, they have increased energy and better health as they grow. In fact, a child’s future health, mental capacity, and earning potential are determined by the time he or she turns 5 years old.

3. Supplemental vitamins and minerals not always available

Some families aren’t able to afford, or grow, the variety of nutritious foods necessary to give their children the essential nutrients required to thrive.

4. Vitamin Angels fills the need

Walgreens is teaming up with Vitamin Angels to provide life-changing vitamins to millions of children in the U.S. and across the globe who are at risk of vitamin deficiencies.

5. You can get involved

With every vitamin purchase, Walgreens will donate 1 percent of sales to Vitamin Angels.

6. Children around the world receiving needed vitamins

To date, Walgreens has raised funds to aid 28 million children around the world with life-changing vitamins and nutrients.

7. Reaching the goal

Walgreens is dedicated to providing 100 million children in the U.S. and around the world with life-changing vitamins by the end of 2017.

8. Lack of nutrition a global concern

Children across the globe, like this little girl from Kenya, will benefit from the essential nutrients found in vitamins that they may not get in their daily diet.

9. Helping others while helping yourself

All vitamins available at Walgreens are eligible. So while you’re keeping healthy, you are supporting the goal to reach 100 million children in the U.S. and abroad with life-changing vitamins.

Categories: Lifestyle
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