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Slash Your Healthcare Costs with Expert Financial Tips

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Every year, the United States invests an astronomical sum of around 4.5 trillion dollars in healthcare. This making it one of the most costly nations when it comes to medical care. The American Medical Association (AMA) testifies that this translates to the average American expending more than $13,000 annually on healthcare. Hospital care takes up about 30 percent of this cost, while physician services and prescription drugs account for 15 and nearly 10 percent respectively. Other costs include health insurance, clinical services, nursing care facilities, home health care, along with miscellaneous healthcare expenses.

However, financial and medical experts suggest that with a strategic approach to spending, there are numerous ways to cut down on healthcare costs.

Invest in preventative care

“Preventative care is one of the best investments not only to manage health-related finances but also for your health itself,” suggests Armen Gazaryan, chairman and medical expert at CalltheCare. Regular physicals and immunizations can keep diseases at bay, potentially saving you from hefty hospitalizations and emergency room visits. Gazaryan points out another plus: if you are at risk for avoidable chronic conditions, the savings from preventative care could run into several hundreds or even thousands of dollars annually.

Use your health savings account (HSA) or flexible spending account (FSA)

Another way to budget your healthcare spending is through health savings accounts (HSAs) or flexible spending accounts (FSAs) that your employer might offer.

“FSAs are tax-advantaged accounts you can use to cover out-of-pocket medical expenses on a pre-tax basis, thus reducing your taxable income and saving you money on taxes,” Gazaryan explains.

Sean Fox from Achieve suggests carefully planning your spending and checking your balances ahead of time. He also mentions that FSA funds can be utilized for a wide range of products and services.

Use pharmacy discount cards and websites

To save on prescription drugs, Joe Tammaro of DrFirst suggests considering pharmacy discount cards or websites like GoodRx, WellRx, and SingleCare. However, he warns that the amount saved may differ greatly depending on the specific drug.

Request generic medications

Fox also recommends asking about costs upfront to avoid unexpected medical bills and to compare options. Additionally, Fox suggests opting for generic versions of brand-name drugs where applicable and safe to do so, which might result in significant savings.

Telehealth services that tend to be less pricey than in-person visits might also cut healthcare costs.

However, Fox warns, “Often, you need to see a healthcare provider in person. But in some cases—whether for a consultation, follow-up, or certain symptoms—you may be able to do a telehealth appointment, which can slash costs in half, depending on the provider.”

Always stay in-network

Making sure to choose medical providers within your insurance network can also lower expenses. The recent “No Surprises Act” limits ‘surprise’ bills from some out-of-network providers, but it’s still crucial to verify that providers are in-network.

Avoid the ER when safe alternatives are available

Planning ahead for emergency care can control your financial burden. Knowing which hospitals are in-network before an emergency is crucial to avoid skyrocketing out-of-pocket costs. Fox suggests utilizing urgent care facilities as they offer lower-cost treatments and to inquire about financial resources when visiting an ER.

Check bills for errors

Fox advises patients to carefully review medical bills for errors and to question the billing department in case of confusion or concerns. He also recommends asking about cash payment discounts from medical offices when insurance coverage for a procedure is suspected to be minimal.

Avoid putting medical expenses on a credit card

Lastly, Fox underscores the importance of diligently managing medical expenses and not piling them on credit cards, which could result in high-interest debts. He insists on exploring financial help from local organizations, charities, churches and government agencies, and even availing discounts from various organizations.

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Understanding Abdominal Pain: Causes, Relief, and When to Seek Help

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Experiencing abdominal pain can be due to a myriad of reasons, ranging from something as mundane as gas to more significant health conditions like appendicitis or Crohn’s disease. Recognizing the intensity of the pain and location within the abdomen can significantly aid in diagnosis.

The abdomen, situated between the chest and pelvis, is often where this discomfort occurs. Manifestations of such discomfort range from crampy, achy, and dull feelings to intermittent or sharp pains. It’s a remarkably common issue within the United States, with up to 1 in 4 people affected by this gastrointestinal symptom.

While the discomfort is typically transient, resolving with dietary changes and lifestyle modifications, it can also be chronic or indicative of a potentially drastic, life-threatening condition requiring immediate medical care.

“Determining the correct treatment for abdominal pain will ultimately depend on the root cause. This can involve a combination of natural remedies, medications, and, in more serious cases, surgical intervention,” says an expert on the topic. For instance, the fleeting pain caused by bloating might not necessitate medical treatment.

There are instances where over-the-counter (OTC) medications can alleviate abdominal discomfort, such as cramps, bloating, and nausea. However, appendicitis that results in severe pain might need a more robust treatment plan involving antibiotics and potentially an appendectomy, a surgical procedure to remove the appendix.

A healthcare professional is instrumental in creating the most effective treatment plan. While there are plenty of home remedies available to help soothe abdominal pain, it’s critical to consult a medical professional before trying anything new, as what works for one person may not necessarily work for another. Always remember health is an individual journey, and taking into account personal medical history is crucial for effective treatment.

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Unlocking the Parkinson’s Puzzle: Vital Vitamin Links Revealed

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Parkinson’s disease, a neurodegenerative disorder whose precise origins continue to elude the scientific community, may have a new suspect in its etiology: vitamin deficiencies. While physicians and scientists have long hypothesized that an interplay between genetic and environmental factors contributes to the disease’s onset, new findings suggest a possible role for the absence of certain vitamins.

A recent study undertaken in May 2024, published in the Parkinson’s Disease journal, endeavored to uncover “gut microbial features” prevalent in individuals diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. The research involved a meta-analysis of fecal matter from a group of 94 diagnosed Parkinson’s patients, juxtaposed with 73 healthy individuals hailing from Japan. The data from this study was compared with earlier studies carried out in the U.S., Germany, China, and Taiwan.

The study’s findings were illuminating. It appears that those suffering from Parkinson’s disease were lacking in bacterial genes, which may cause a deficiency in two B vitamins, namely riboflavin (B2) and biotin (B7). The researchers stated: “Pathway analysis showed that genes in the biosyntheses of riboflavin and biotin were markedly decreased in Parkinson’s disease after adjusting for confounding factors.”

Riboflavin, known as B2 vitamin, is a component of the B-complex vitamins and is commonly found in a variety of food items including meats, fortified grains, and nuts, as confirmed by the Cleveland Clinic. “Riboflavin is an essential micronutrient that helps cells develop and work well,” says registered dietitian Kayla Kopp, RD. “Healthy bacteria in your gut microbiome make small amounts of riboflavin. But your body needs more to function. That’s why it’s important to get enough of this B vitamin in your diet every day.”

Significantly, the study also highlighted how riboflavin has been shown to improve conditions such as “oxidative stress, mitochondrial dysfunction, neuroinflammation, and glutamate excitotoxicity,” all of which are associated with Parkinson’s disease onset.

Biotin, or B7, is another B-complex vitamin that supports vital bodily functions. It is found in foods like meat, eggs, fish, seeds, nuts, and certain vegetables. The study notes that biotin produces anti-inflammatory substances and has the ability to decrease inflammation, providing relief from symptomatic allergies, immunological symptoms, and inflammatory bowel disease.

Given the implications of these vitamin deficiencies on health, the researchers suggest that introducing vitamin B supplements might be beneficial to Parkinson’s patients. In their words, “Supplementation of riboflavin and/or biotin is likely to be beneficial in a subset of Parkinson’s disease patients, in which gut dysbiosis plays pivotal roles.”

Nonetheless, it is critical to exercise caution before hastily adopting the study’s conclusions. “I think these data are much too premature to warrant therapeutic interventions,” warns Tim Sampson, PhD, assistant professor in the department of Cell Biology at Emory University School of Medicine. He emphasizes that these findings just widen the understanding of how the gut microbiome might be contributing to Parkinson’s disease.

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Endocrinologist Reveals Top Gut Health No-Nos to Live By

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Our gut health is more important than many of us realize. With more than 100 trillion microbes, including bacteria, fungi, yeast, and viruses, the gut microbiome plays a crucial role in how our bodies function and respond to stress, certain foods, and even some medications. Registered dietitian Kristian Kirkpatrick, RD, calls it the ‘second brain,’ thanks to its vast influence on our overall health.

1. Limit Red Meat Intake

Endocrinologist and researcher, Max Nieuwdorp, PhD, highlights the vital role gut microbes play in the production and release of various hormones, affecting our daily processes like mood and metabolism. One of the items Nieuwdorp suggests we limit for optimal gut health is red meat. He told Business Insider, “I try to not eat meat every day.”

While red meat can alter the composition of the gut microbiome, producing “dangerous” metabolites during the digestion process, Scripps Health also warns that a diet centered around red meat may increase risk for diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and colorectal cancer due to its high cholesterol, saturated fats, and sodium content.

2. Avoid Ultra-Processed Foods

Nieuwdorp also advocates for reducing the intake of ultra-processed foods, including sweetened breakfast cereals, processed meat, soda, and some frozen ready-to-eat meals. Instead, he recommends prioritizing fresh, additive-free foods.

Gastroenterologist Preeya Goyal, MD, explained in an interview with PIH Health that “ultra-processed foods contain large quantities of saturated fat and trans-fat, added sugar, salt, and food additives that seriously affect the gut and physical health.” Additionally, the consumption of ultra-processed foods can disrupt brain functions.

3. Use Antibiotics Only When Necessary

Lastly, Nieuwdorp suggests using antibiotics only when absolutely necessary. “They drive dysbiosis in the gut,” he said.

Cleveland Clinic explains that dysbiosis means a lack of diversity in the gut’s microorganisms, which can make us vulnerable to infections. An imbalanced gut microbiome can also negatively affect our hormones and other essential microbiome services.

Harnessing the power of hormones for optimal health means nourishing our ‘second brain’ — the gut microbiome. By reducing red meat intake, avoiding ultra-processed foods, and using antibiotics only when necessary, we can better care for our gut health, positively impacting our overall wellbeing. Just like every part of our body, our gut requires thoughtfulness and care. With these tips from Dr. Nieuwdorp, we can take actionable steps to improve our gut health and consequently, our general health.

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