What information should I always share with my doctor?

Doctors and other healthcare providers are smart people. However, they aren’t perfect. Add on the insane workload many Southeast Missouri doctors handle day after day, and you’ll meet many patients who feel neglected and underserved.

To receive the best care available, it’s important for you as a patient to help your healthcare provider serve you. In a perfect world, your healthcare provider would know all the medications you’re taking and all the chronic diseases and symptoms you have, or at least ask all the right questions to find out. Unfortunately, with back-to-back patients and complex illnesses and diseases, it can be impossible to keep all the information straight.

Every time you meet with your healthcare provider, make sure you tell him or her about medications you’re taking, allergic or unusual reactions you’ve had to medications, current medical conditions and past medications you’re no longer taking. It may help to bring a checklist or note to hand over.

Various medications have funny ways of working with each other, and it’s important your healthcare provider know as much as he or she can before prescribing something new.

When you’re prescribed a new medication, keep track of all your symptoms in a journal app on your phone or with pen and paper. Make sure to note if symptoms are worse than before, better or seem to change when the medicine wears off. By noting this information and sharing it with your healthcare professional, you’ll make his or her job easier, and you’ll receive more precise care – which is best for everyone.

For more in-depth guidelines on speaking with your doctor about chronic disease and other medical conditions, we invite you to attend a six-week self-management program at no cost to you, provided by your local health department.

In this course, you’ll learn how to correctly read prescription bottles, techniques for coping with difficult symptoms, the best questions to ask your healthcare provider and more.

5 Healthy Eating Habits for Busy People

If only eating healthy according to your healthcare provider’s standards was as easy as she made it sound. Unfortunately, many will say there is just not enough time in the day to eat well. Fast food tastes great, can be addictive and is easy when other priorities keep us from making time for better meals.

Sundays make great days for meal prepping. For example, you could make 14 breakfast burritos all at once and freeze them. One person could have a filling and quick breakfast out of the microwave for two weeks, or a couple could have a quick breakfast every day for a week.

However, many spend weekends away from home, attending events or relaxing and dread the idea of spending hours in the kitchen with a hot oven, cooking the same meal over and over. While it makes the following far more convenient, there’s no arguing the process is time consuming and can quickly get overwhelming without help.

We strongly urge you to give meal prepping ahead of the week a try, but if you’re not ready to take the dive just yet, that’s OK. We have some great tips to help you tackle every meal in the meantime.

1. Choose natural foods.

“Natural” has become a bit of an ambiguous term, but when we say natural, we mean as it appears in nature. For example, go for an apple over applesauce, grilled chicken breast over chicken nuggets or a baked potato with skin instead of French fries.

2. Eat regularly.

Our bodies like routines, and through repetition, healthy habits can be easy to develop and sustain. Starting healthy habits and following through is the hard part. They say it takes 21 days for a healthy habit to stick, so if you’re someone who tends to put eating on the back burner in favor of work or other activities, consider setting a schedule and planning healthy food and snacks around that schedule. If you know you’ll be on the road when you’ll be hungry, pack a quick snack like an apple, or eat something with a lot of fiber or protein before you head out. This will help satisfy your appetite and keep you from feeling the need to stop by the drive-thru.

3. Chew gum.

Research shows chewing gum can reduce your desire for food. Often, when we’re bored, food becomes an easy way to activate endorphins and accumulate pleasure. Chewing gum can help activate the same sensations without adding calories.

4. Drink more water.

Are you hydrating yourself? Many Southeast Missourians struggle to make sure they’re drinking. Any nonalcoholic liquid will do, but you’ll find your body and skin are much more satisfied with regular water. There are zero calories, and you can usually find an affordable source. Aim to drink a full glass every couple hours. Sometimes when we believe we’re hungry, our bodies are severely thirsty instead. If you’re still hungry fifteen minutes after drinking a full glass, feel free to eat your meal.

5. Go small and eat slowly.

With so much going on, it’s tempting to rush through food and get back to our regularly scheduled events. However, eating quickly can lead to overindulging and stomach pain. Instead of packing your plate full, keep it small. Space bites out with plenty of drinks. Wait fifteen minutes after eating your small plate before going back for more

If you’d like more in-depth education on satisfying your hunger, check out this interactive guide from the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

4 Communication Tips for People Living With Chronic Conditions

Have you ever tried explaining your condition or symptoms to a friend or family member only to meet blank stares or rolling eyes? There isn’t much we can do about those who refuse to try to understand your circumstances; however, there are a few techniques you can use to bridge the gap between you and those who want to understand and seemingly cannot.

1. Speak plainly.

It can be overwhelming to start talking about your symptoms, but try to avoid being vague. You may think some of your symptoms are embarrassing or gross, but you must be honest, especially with your healthcare provider, or the severity of your condition could get brushed off. If a friend asks you how or in what ways you can be helped, be specific with your answer: “Could you take out the garbage?”

2. Be patient but assertive.

Comprehending the causes and pains associated with your symptoms near the level you feel them can take some time and dedication. It is critical to remain respectful as you describe your symptoms. At the same time, avoid using “you” sentences where your speech may indicate the other person is to blame. Focus on using “I” statements even when the other person has made you angry: “I feel frustrated by my lack of willpower when I smell food I shouldn’t eat. I also feel disrespected when you bring good-smelling food around me that I cannot eat.”

3. Try the spoon theory.

Plain language won’t work for some. For example, if you’re trying to describe your limitations to children, it may be easier to use a basic metaphor with which they can relate, like the spoon theory. Draw comparisons to the other person’s life so he or she can more easily form connections.

4. Understand the other party.

There are many individuals who have not had a lot of life experience and simply do not have the empathetic capacity to see the world from complex viewpoints. Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do in these situations to help them understand the details of your condition.

Finally, ask yourself if the person you’re trying to talk with seems to care. This is no doubt one of the hardest truths to face when examining friendships. But having people in your life who do not seem interested in helping you cope with your chronic condition can be toxic to your mental well-being.

Does your friend

  • – change the subject when you bring up your condition, symptoms or goals?
    • – seem to give you false or empty encouragement?
    • – tell you not to worry?
  • – give you “solutions” without knowing the intricacies of your illness
  • If you answered “yes” to these questions, you may be relying on the wrong person to help you cope with your chronic condition. That’s not to say you cannot have a relationship with this person, but you need to realize that he or she may not have the ability to give the support you want and need
  • For more techniques to communicate about chronic conditions, sign up for a free Chronic Disease Self-Management Course – no insurance required. Many health departments and health centers across Southeast Missouri are starting courses throughout the summer.

How to Conquer Weight-Loss Difficulties

So you pinned all those smoothies to your weight-loss board, and you still don’t have a flat stomach. Or maybe you tried a weight-loss supplement, and as soon as you stopped taking it, the weight came back. Maybe you’ve tried dieting the traditional way and something is not clicking.

Do not be ashamed. Fad diets, those that claim benefits like “this smoothie will slay fat” and supplements marketed to target key fat-burning areas are often misleading about how little they will actually do for weight loss in addition to how terrible they are for long-term health. For someone struggling with weight issues, easy hacks for losing weight can seem like a breath of fresh air. Unfortunately, the best way to lose weight and keep it off is the easy to say, hard to do mantra: “Burn more than you consume.”

But where do you start with that? Will adding a walk at lunch help you lose weight? Realistically, adding a walk or exercise without evaluating the proportions you’re putting in your body, along with your other behaviors, will not change your body’s makeup. You must count all the calories you eat or drink and aim to eat less than you burn. For example, a 140-pound woman might burn around 1,750 calories a day. If she wants to lose weight, a good target number for her to consume a day would be 1,450 calories. If she adds in a walk she might see the weight come off slightly faster, but it would still take several weeks for weight loss to be obvious in the mirror and on the scale.

Again, it sounds easy but time consuming. Unfortunately, the best way to lose weight and keep it off is to lose weight slowly. If you lose it too quickly, your body will think something terrible is happening externally and work to replace lost fat stores immediately. You also risk not developing healthier, habits which also help in keeping weight off after you have lost it.

Have you tried to consume fewer calories than you burn and still haven’t lost weight? Check out these reasons your previous attempts may have not worked.

Not measuring accurately

If you were eyeing portion sizes instead of using measuring cups or kitchen scales, you could be setting yourself up for failure before you even pick up a fork. If you do not have time to measure your portions or you’re not sure where to start, the plate method is a good technique for approaching meals.

Eating too little (and then giving up)

Counting your calories to make sure you’re staying within your target goals is important, but counting your calories to make sure you’re eating enough is also important. Many inexperienced dieters dive into a new meal plan either thinking 1,000 calories is enough or simply not doing the calorie math daily to make sure they are hitting their targets. If you eat too little, you will have a hard time sticking to your diet.

Imagine eating a tasty and filling breakfast – maybe eggs on a piece of whole-grain toast with a bit of low-fat shredded cheese on top. You arrive at work feeling satisfied, but a co-worker brings in doughnuts for everyone. You’re not hungry thanks to your breakfast, so you’re fine with passing. If you had skipped breakfast or settled for only a cup of coffee only, those doughnuts may have been irresistible.

Practicing all or nothing

Let’s go back to the doughnut scenario in the last paragraph. So you ate breakfast and you’re not hungry, but those doughnuts your co-worker brought look really good. Everyone else seems to be enjoying them and you’re the only one who decided to pass. In order to get through these tough situations, some people have a designated cheat meal once a week where they indulge and eat one item they’ve been craving. Keep in mind this is a cheat meal, not a cheat day.

Others opt for moderation throughout the week. If you really want that doughnut, maybe someone would be willing to split one with you. You could exercise an extra twenty minutes and cut out about two hundred calories from one of your other meals to make up for the doughnut. The key is to do this infrequently, doing your best to stick with your diet plan; however, giving yourself some room to go off course occasionally will help you stay on track for your long-term goals.

If dieting were easy, there wouldn’t be hundreds of supplements claiming to do it for you. If you’re struggling to lose weight, you’re not alone. Ask your friends and family to support your efforts by either joining you on your weight-loss journey, helping you find tasty and healthy meal options or checking in with you and your goals as time goes on.

Finally, constantly remind yourself that all great changes take time. It may take a year or two, but at the end of the road, you’ll feel better and have the habits you need to keep the weight off. Follow M Power on Facebook for motivation and weight-loss tips.

How to Deter Chronic Illness

As we grow older, there are certain health issues we simply cannot avoid, depending on our environment during various stages of aging.

However, there are actions you can take now to make your future more positive and bright.

1. Drop the junk food.

It’s no secret that food high in sodium, sugar and saturated fats can wreak havoc on our bodies. Try limiting your junk food portions to one or two meals a week. Instead of a sugary cereal or baked pastry, try a hard-boiled egg or baked sweet potato. Instead of fried food for dinner, try grilled or marinated instead. You can still have flavorful food without the harmful effects of junk foods.

2. Find active hobbies.

Be it gardening, disc golf, hiking, biking or walking around the neighborhood, try different activities to get you moving around. Exercise doesn’t have to be something you do on a treadmill in front of a TV; however, if you enjoy catching up on your favorite shows while using an exercise machine, go for it! The point is to be active and find ways to make it fun for you.

3. Seek emotional wellness.

This can be easier said than done. If you have a stressful career or living situation, improving your mental well-being can mean completely reprioritizing certain sections of your life. You may need to speak with your superiors at work or learn how to say no when you cannot take on any more projects.

Remaining active and eating healthy can also help reduce symptoms related to stress. Hobbies that keep you active will help you sleep better, which will have a domino effect on your emotional wellness. No one expects you to be perfect, but work to remember these three factors as you live your life. Your future self will thank you for it.

How Chronic Illness Affects Mental Health

If you or someone you love is diagnosed with a chronic illness, you will probably be met with a barrage of emotions. Unfortunately, learning to cope with a chronic illness is a long and arduous journey that never gets easy. It’s unfair, and often able-bodied or mostly healthy individuals do not have the necessary depth of understanding to comprehend what you’re going through. Sometimes, this can create a communication barrier and those with chronic illness may develop feelings of resentment and frustration toward well-meaning individuals.

From just about every angle, life with an invisible or chronic illness is never easy. Daily tasks require far more patience than they would for the average person. For example, where getting dressed or doing the dishes may be a simple task for your co-workers and family, depending on the chronic illness and the severity of pain, an individual with a chronic disease may struggle buttoning a blouse.

Where tasks were once afterthoughts, they may now require planning. At the same time, debilitating symptoms are often unpredictable. Schedules are hard to keep, and this leads to frustration and anger. Without proper coping techniques, those living with chronic illness and those caring for someone with a chronic illness may struggle to remain in a good mind-set. In fact, studies have shown those with chronic illnesses are at a higher risk for developing depression.

If you believe you could be struggling with clinical depression, use the symptoms we’ve listed below as a starting point for the conversation you should have with your healthcare provider. Please know that although someone may have all these symptoms we have listed, he or she may not be depressed. At the same time, if someone only has one symptom and no others, he or she could still be depressed. Lining your symptoms up with those we have listed should not replace the opinion of your professional healthcare provider.

Symptoms of depression:

  •   Insomnia
  •   Restless sleep or excess sleepiness
  •   Lack of appetite or excessive hunger
  •   Irritability
  •   Lack of interest in social activities that were once interesting
  •   Weight changes
  •  Inability to concentrate
  •  General apathy or lack of interest in activities you used to enjoy
  •  We want you to know it’s okay to have bad days, but at the same time, we want to help you find ways to conquer days where outside or internal forces are just too much. If you are caring for someone with a chronic disease or you have a chronic disease, please consider attending one of our free programs in your area. You do not have to work through this alone. M Power offers multiple levels of support.

Steps for Great Health: Overcoming Bad Thoughts

How many times has someone told you to stay positive? How many times has this made you frustrated? If you’re living with a chronic disease or an invisible illness, well-meaning individuals can make life even more challenging when they tell you to stay positive.

The advice comes from a good place. Research shows that positive thinking helps with managing stress and can improve overall health. Mayo Clinic notes that positive thinking can help provide an increased life span, lower rates of depression, better coping skills and improved psychological and physical well-being.

However, learning how to stay positive when struggling with or suffering from chronic conditions can be tricky. Frustration can lead to anger, and anger can lead to even more frustrating, pessimistic thoughts.

No one is perfect, so no matter how strong your willpower, even if you’re determined to think positive, negative thoughts can creep in. Whether you’re an expert on overcoming negative thoughts or you’re learning for the first time, use these steps to find your way to better health and positive transformations.

1. Admit you’re upset, frustrated or angry, and write about it.

The first step is one of the most difficult steps you’ll encounter. It may seem easy when you feel at ease, but when you’re upset or feeling down, having the strength to sit down and make yourself write is tough. You may have feelings of self-doubt or think writing will not work, but we urge you to try. Write a lot at first, and then see if you can sum your feelings or thoughts into one simple sentence. Do not worry about spelling or coherence if you can understand. This is for you, only unless you believe your thoughts might help you communicate better with your healthcare provider at your next appointment.


I am the worst at planning meals.

2. Reword and rewrite.

Once you summarize your feelings, reword them to add a positive element.


I can get better at planning meals with practice and dedication.


3. Rehearse your new thought.

Rewrite and say the replacement thought over and over. If the old thought returns, keep writing the new thought to overlap the negativity. It can be hard to find the motivation to follow through, but remember that every day is a work in progress. No one expects you to be perfect. You’re allowed to make mistakes and overcome them.

Ultimately, success does take time and, in some cases, a lot of effort. If you need more help overcoming negative thoughts, find a free chronic disease self-management course in your area. During the course, you will learn several techniques for overcoming self-defeating thoughts.

Let’s Get Physical: How Those With Arthritis Can Work Out

No excuses

Believe it or not, even those with arthritis or other rheumatic conditions benefit from regular physical activity. Research shows that those who participate in moderate-intensity, low-impact exercises have less pain, better movement control and a happier, healthier life.

Get your heart pumping

Cardio or aerobic activities that make your heart beat faster and increase your breathing do wonders for your lungs and heart. Consistent aerobic exercise will help you move better, could improve joint discomfort and boost bone density, all without worsening your symptoms or disease severity.

Low-impact cardio activities to try

  • Swimming
  • Brisk walks
  • Cardio machines

To reach a safe and moderate-intensity workout, use the talking test. If you are moving so much talking takes too much work, you should lower your effort level. Remember, even ten minutes of moderate-intensity exercise is better than nothing.

Strength and balancing activities

If you are prone to falling, you should consider adding activities that improve balance to your exercise regiment. At least three days per week, warm up for cardio by stretching and practicing balancing techniques.

Balancing exercises

  • Balancing on one foot
  • Tai chi
  • Heel-to-toe walking

Health departments/centers across Southeast Missouri are hosting workshops designed to help those with arthritis or limited mobility enjoy a more active lifestyle. You will learn even more endurance activities, balancing exercises, stretches and relaxation techniques.

Find your location and register for a class today.


The Number One Trick for Losing Weight and Keeping it Off

You have probably heard the adage: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. This saying can be applied to almost every weight-loss trick floating around on the internet and on the front covers of popular magazines. These diet plans are often unhealthy, impractical and profoundly difficult to stick with. Those who participate may lose weight, but they will also experience headaches, hair loss and extreme discomfort. Not to mention any weight loss on these diet plans usually comes crawling back.

The hard truth first: Depending on your starting weight, safe weight loss starts around one-half to two pounds a week. Anything promising you will drop 10 pounds in 10 days could set you up for failure. In fact, you may lose 10 pounds, but because you did not develop healthy eating habits in those 10 days, you will most likely gain all the weight back.

Weight-loss facts:

  •      Whole grain products are fine to eat in moderation.
  •      You must burn more calories than you consume.
  •      Low-fat and fat-free foods are not guilt free. They often contain added flour, sugar and salt – packing on extra calories.
  •      Skipping meals can make you feel hungrier and lead to binge eating.
  •      Frozen vegetables are usually more affordable than fresh and contain the same vitamins and nutrients.
  •      Healthy weight loss takes time, but the results will last if you stick with healthy habits.

Losing weight starts with changing your diet. Did you know that on average, you must walk the length of a football field to burn off one M&M? This goes to show just how much diet comes before exercise. By decreasing your total calorie intake, you should see a decrease in the number on your scale over the course of a few weeks.

You do not have to go on a crazy diet to reach a healthy weight.

For results that will not vanish, follow these weight-loss guidelines:

  1. Track all the food you eat in a notebook or in an app on your smartphone.
  2. Use a food scale or measuring device instead of estimating your serving sizes.
  3. Plan your meals out a few days ahead of time.
  4. Use smaller plates and make half your plate fruits and vegetables for every meal.
  5. Focus on finding exercises you enjoy instead of working out to lose weight.

There are a lot of myths and diet plans out there claiming to help individuals get results. Unfortunately, there are no magical products or supplements that will help you attain long-term results.

Emergency Stress Stoppers

It would be nice if stress called ahead to let you know it is coming. If it did, you could properly prepare – maybe set a place at dinner. Unfortunately, stress often springs up when we least expect it or from sources we did not anticipate, like when your car will not start.

Even if we do think an event, activity or person might be stressful, it can be difficult to estimate just how much stress our futures hold – which can cause more stress.

Chronic stress, whether you are suffering from a chronic condition or not, will have detrimental effects on your health. On the other hand, dealing with stress successfully is a learned habit that takes a while to develop. If you are someone who struggles with managing stress, please understand you are not alone.

When you feel overwhelmed, follow this guide:

1. Count down from 10 slowly.

Once you reach zero, start counting again. Try to count slower each time you start over.

2. Take deep and focused breaths.

Match your breathing with your counting to develop a rhythm.

3. Leave the situation.

Even if you cannot physically leave the room, tell yourself it’s OK not to dwell on the stressor. Give yourself permission to move on, especially if the stressor is out of your control.

While simple in nature, these three techniques can help you overcome many uncontrollable situations.

Combatting both interior and exterior stressors means patiently practicing often, even when you do not want to. For a full scope of stress stoppers, register for a Chronic Disease Self-Management Workshop in your area. Find more information here