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September is Suicide Awareness Month

Each year, about 36,000 people in the United States die by suicide. Most people who seriously consider suicide do not want to die. Rather, they see suicide as a solution to a problem and a way to end their pain. People who seriously consider suicide feel hopeless, helpless, and worthless. They may not seek help because they feel they cannot be helped. This usually is not the case. Many people with suicidal thoughts have medical conditions that can be successfully treated. People who have suicidal thoughts often have depression or substance abuse, and both of these conditions can be treated. It is important to seek help when suicidal thoughts occur because medical treatment usually is successful in diminishing these thoughts.

Most people who seriously consider or attempt suicide have one or more of the following risks:

  • A personal or family history of suicide attempts or completed suicide;
  • A personal or family history of severe anxiety, depression, or other mental health problem, such as bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness) or schizophrenia;
  • An alcohol or drug problem (substance abuse problem), such as alcoholism;

The warning signs of suicide change with age:

  • Children and teens – preoccupation with death or suicide or a recent breakup of a relationship.
  • Adults -alcohol or substance abuse, recent job loss, or divorce.
  • Older adults – the recent death of a partner or diagnosis of a life-limiting illness.

Anytime someone talks about suicide or about wanting to die or disappear, even in a joking manner, the conversation must be taken seriously.

A suicide attempt—even if the attempt did not harm the person—also must be taken seriously. Don’t be afraid to talk to someone you think may be considering suicide. There is no proof that talking about suicide leads to suicidal thinking or suicide. Once you know the person’s thoughts on the subject, you may be able to help prevent a suicide.

People who are considering suicide often are undecided about choosing life or death. With compassionate help, they may choose to live.

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In the United States, vaccines have greatly reduced infectious diseases that once routinely killed or harmed many infants, children, and adults. However, the viruses and bacteria that cause vaccine-preventable disease still exist and can be passed on to people who are not protected by vaccines. Every year, thousands of Americans still suffer serious health problems, are hospitalized, and even die from diseases that could be prevented by vaccines.

Measles in Minnesota

This year in Minnesota, 78 people came down with measles, but thousands were exposed, including hundreds who were not vaccinated or did not have natural immunity from a previous measles infection. The Health Department identified 8,880 people who were potentially exposed to known cases in day care centers, health care settings, schools and other community settings. Public health officials contacted many of them or checked their vaccination status using the state’s immunization registry. That work identified 596 at-risk people, and they were asked to voluntarily limit their activities to avoid exposing others.
Because measles no longer occurs naturally in the United States, officials believe this outbreak started with someone traveling from abroad. Measles is prevalent in many African countries, China and Europe, which has seen a resurgence in infections. However, the exact source has not been identified.

Here’s why you shouldn’t wait:

  • Many vaccine-preventable diseases are still common in the U.S.
  • Those that are not common here are still found in other parts of the world, and can still be a threat.
  • Some of these diseases are very contagious.
  • Any of these diseases could be serious – even for healthy people.
  • Certain people may be at higher risk for getting some diseases or having more serious illness if they were to get sick, like young children, older adults, and those with health conditions.

Every year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other medical experts update vaccine recommendations based on the latest research and evidence-based science on vaccine safety, effectiveness, and patterns of vaccine-preventable diseases.

You have the power to protect yourself and the ones you love. Talk to your healthcare professional about which vaccines are right for you and your family.
To learn more about vaccines and take a quick quiz to find out which vaccines you may need, visit:

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When to say ‘Whoa!’ to your doctor

Common tests and treatments you probably don’t need

DOCTORS OFTEN ORDER TESTS and recommend drugs or procedures when they shouldn’t–sometimes even when they know they shouldn’t. In fact, nearly half of primary- care physicians say their own patients get too much medical care, according to a survey published in 2011 by researchers at Dartmouth College.
All that unneeded care can be hazardous to your health–and your wallet. For example, X-rays and CT scans expose you to potentially cancer causing radiation, and can lead to follow-up tests and treatment with additional risks. And the cost can be substantial. A 2011 study found that the price tag for 12 commonly overused tests, such as annual electrocardiograms (EKGs) for heart disease and imaging tests for lower-back pain, was about $6.8 billion.

The problem has become so serious that such groups as the American College of Physicians, the National Physicians Alliance, and a coalition of medical societies have compiled lists of tests and treatment doctors themselves say are done too often. Below are examples culled from those lists.

EKGs and exercise stress tests for heart disease

The problem: For many people, an EKG-which records the heart’s electrical activity through electrodes attached to the chest is a standard part of a routine exam. Some also regularly get an exercise stress exercise test, which is an EKG done as they walk on a treadmill. Both are key if you have symptoms of heart disease or are at high risk of it. But for other people, the tests are not as accurate and can lead to unnecessary follow-up treatment.

The risks: Those follow-up tests can include CT angiograms, which expose you to a radiation dose equal to 600 to 800 chest X-rays and coronary angiography, which exposes you to further radiation. Inappropriate testing can also lead to overtreatment with drugs or even surgery.

The costs: An EKG typically costs about $50 and an exercise stress test about $200 to $300, according to the Subsequent interventions that are prompted by unneeded tests can add thousands to the tab.

When to consider the tests: An EKG and exercise stress test should often be ordered if you have chest pain, an irregular heartbeat, or other symptoms of heart disease. They can also make sense for people with diabetes or other coronary risk factors who are just starting to exercise.

Imaging tests for lower‐back pain

The problem: Getting an X-ray, CT scan, or MRI can seem like a good idea. But back pain usually subsides in about a month, with or without testing. Back pain sufferers in a 2010 study who had an MRI within the first month didn’t recover any faster than those who didn’t have the test-but were eight times as likely to have surgery, and had a five-fold increase in medical costs.

The risks: One study projected 1,200 new cancer cases based on the 2.2 million CT scans done for lower-back pain in the U.S. in 2007. CT scans and X-rays of the lower back are especially worrisome for men and women of childbearing age because they can expose testicles and ovaries to substantial radiation. Finally, the tests often reveal abnormalities that are unrelated to the pain but can prompt needless worry and lead to unnecessary follow-up tests and treatment, sometimes including even surgery.

The cost: An X-ray of the lower back typically ranges from about $200 to $285, an MRI from $875 to $1,225, and a CT scan from $1,080 to $1,520. Imaging accounts for a big chunk of the billions Americans spend for lower-back pain each year. When to consider the tests: They often make sense if you have nerve damage or signs of a serious underlying condition.

Red flags can include a history of cancer, unexplained weight loss, recent infection, loss of bowel control, urinary retention, or loss of leg strength.

Bone‐density scans for low‐risk women

The problem: Many women are routinely screened for weak bones with an imaging test called a DEXA scan. If it detects outright osteoporosis, the results can help you and your doctor decide how to treat the problem. But many people learn they have only mild bone loss, a condition known as osteopenia, and for them the risk of fracture is often quite low.

The risks:
A diagnosis of osteopenia often leads to treatment with such drugs as alendronate (Fosamax) and ibandronate (Boniva), which pose numerous risks. Those include thigh fractures, throat or chest pain, difficulty swallowing, heart-burn, and more rarely, bone, eye, joint and muscle pain, bone loss in the jaw, and possibly abnormal heart rhythm. But there is little evidence that people with osteopenia benefit from the drugs.

The costs:
A DXA scan costs about $132. The price for a month’s supply of generic alendronate is $38 to $70, and $125 to $148 for Fosamax, the brand-name version. People often take the drugs for years.
When to consider the tests: Women should have the scan at age 65 and men at age 70. Younger women and men ages 50 to 69 should consider the test if they have risk factors such as a fracture from minor trauma, rheumatoid arthritis, low body weight, a parent who had a hip fracture, or if they have used corticosteroid drugs for a long time, or they drink excessively or smoke. Whether follow-up tests are needed depends on the results of the initial scan.

Ask these Questions:

Do I really need this test or procedure? The answer should be direct and simple. Tests should help you and your doctor decide how to treat your problem, and procedures should help you live a longer, healthier life.

What are the downsides? Discuss the risks, the chance of inaccurate results or the need for further testing.Weight the potential complications against possible benefits and symptoms of the condition itself.

Are there simpler, safer options? Sometimes lifestyle changes will provide the relief you need.

What happens if I do nothing?
Ask if your condition may worsen- or improve if you don’t have the procedure now.

How much does it cost? Ask whether there are less expensive alternatives for procedures and medications.

The above article was reprinted from the Consumer Reports Choosing Wisely Campaign. Choosing Wisely aims to promote conversations between doctors and patients by helping patients choose care that is:

  • Supported by evidence
  • Not duplicative of other tests or procedures already received
  • Free from harm
  • Truly necessary

Information from Consumer Reports is for you to use when talking with your health care provider. It is not a substitute for medical advice and treatment.

The full library of Choosing Wisely reports and interesting patient stories is available at

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How to Free Your Family From Sugar Without Losing Your Mind

Tips from celebrity nutritionist and mom Keri Glassman on changing your family’s food culture.

Begin with these five tips and incorporate them into your family’s lifestyle over the next 10 days or so. Breaking it down little by little will help you all ease into the process.

Tip #1: Ditch the nonsweet sweets

It begins in your own home. Get rid of anything that’s “sweet” and has added sugar but isn’t “sweet” at all.
Not sure what I mean? Open up the fridge and check out the salad dressing. Now check the labels on your sandwich bread. Go on, take a look at the box of “healthy” crackers you serve peanut butter on. Oh, and check that peanut butter while you’re at it. Sugar, fructose, corn syrup, brown rice syrup — it’s all sugar. Ditch all of this. They’re not worth it and can be easily replaced. Here’s a place to start:

Tip #2: Set your food culture

Chances are you have a food culture, but you just haven’t looked at it or talked about it openly. Meatless Mondays, grocery delivery, organic and unprocessed as much as possible, pizza and movie night, are just some food culture traditions and practices. But when you don’t set out with a plan or value system for food in your home, things often go awry — and fast, especially once kids come into the picture.

I’m not going to tell you that you should never have dessert, or that organic foods are always best. That’s something for you and your partner to decide together. If your kids are old enough, ask them what they think are family food values. Bringing everyone into the conversation, maybe at your next dinner, is one of the best ways to stay on track.

Tip #3: Plan your weeknight dinners

You’ve heard this one before: Planning is key to dinner success. But, in reality, when we’re running to pick our kids up from school and dropping them off and running errands ourselves, that’s easier said than done. One of the moms I work with makes planning meals for the week almost a game. At the beginning of each week, she takes out the calendar and her three kids go in order picking dinner for each day. They have mentally committed to the menu and are genuinely enthusiastic about it.

Tip #4: Snack time is nutrient time, not dessert time

Yet, it’s far too easy to get caught up in the “I just want them to eat and get calories in” so as not to mind the cookies. But the truth is, snack time is the perfect time to get in nutrients. Not just calories, but real nourishing nutrients. The trick isn’t to redefine or get rid of snack time, but to adjust it. So if that whole sandwich wasn’t eaten at lunch, serve the other half at snack time. Or, if lunch was finished, take a different approach with sliced turkey rolled up around a carrot or a sliced pear with almond butter.

Tip #5: Hydrate right, and don’t fall for ‘all-natural’ juice

Sugar is sneaky. It doesn’t just hide in foods, but in most beverages too. Read the label carefully and remember that If you’re consciously consuming it for the fruit benefits, know that one piece of fruit has approximately 15 grams of sugar. So perhaps you’d be better off eating a banana instead. And just say no to soda and fruit-flavored juice. Go for plain water or even seltzer with a spritz of lemon or a splash of 100 percent juice instead. Another key thing to remember is all rules apply for your kids too. Kids don’t come out of the womb asking for apple juice. We get this habit started and we can break it for them too, because if you’re sipping on water, then they’ll likely follow suit and do the same.

Written by Keri Glassman, MS, RD | Excerpted from › Food & Nutrition › #BreakUpWithSugar , October 24, 2016

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Guide to Healthy Grilling

May is the month to break out the grill, marinate some fresh food and cook up something healthy. It’s also the month that the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is inundated with questions about potential cancer risks associated with grilling. Below is advice from the AICR when it comes to grilling.

The Research

AICR’s expert report and updates say there isn’t enough evidence to show that grilled meat specifically increases risk for cancers. But we do know that cooking meat at a high temperature – like grilling – creates cancer-causing substances, called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and heterocyclic amines (HCAs). These carcinogens can cause changes in the DNA that may lead to cancer.
Risk of these carcinogens forming is higher from red and processed meats – like hamburgers and hot dogs. Smoke or charring also contributes to the formation of PAHs. Evidence is clear that diets high in red and processed meats contribute to an increased risk of colorectal cancer. Based on the evidence, AICR recommends limiting red meat to 18 ounces of cooked meat per week and staying away from hot dogs or other processed meats.

Guide to Safe Grilling

While there does exist limited but suggestive evidence that compounds produced in meat through the grilling process (HCAs) factor in human cancer, AICR has determined that top priority should be what you choose to cook, not how you cook it. AICR offers these guidelines for healthy grilling:

  • Studies have suggested that marinating your meat before grilling can decrease the formation of HCAs. To avoid food poisoning, be sure to discard the marinade in which you soaked uncooked meat, poultry and fish after you remove the food for grilling. If you want some for basting, set aside a bit – about one-third of a cup – before you’ve put the meat in to marinate.
  • Cutting meat into smaller portions and mixing with veggies can help shorten cooking time.
  • If you are grilling larger cuts, you can reduce the time your meat is exposed to the flames by partially cooking it in a microwave, oven or stove first. Immediately place the partially cooked meat on the preheated grill. This helps keep your meat safe from bacteria and other food pathogens that can cause illness.
  • Trimming the fat off your meat can reduce flare-ups and charring. Cook your meat in the center of the grill and flip frequently.
  • Grilling vegetables and fruits produces no HCAs and plant-based foods are actually associated with lower cancer risk.
  • Flip meats with a spatula or tongs to avoid piercing that lets juices run out.
  • Use tinfoil between the meat and the flames.
  • Keep a water spray bottle on hand to keep flames in check.
  • Don’t squirt starter fluid into coals while meats are cooking.

For winning marinade recipes to flavor your food, click here!


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We are excited to introduce CareOptions, a new benefit that is available to City employees through the Minnesota Benefit Association (MBA). CareOptions is your go-to source for countless, valuable healthcare and wellness resources at no cost to you.

With CareOptions, you have immediate, unlimited access to an unbiased selection of health, wellness and care resources. With today’s changing insurance industry, it’s vital that you continue to be educated and informed about the changes that impact you and your loved ones. CareOptions is your go-to source for trustworthy, unbiased information at your fingertips and is accessible from any computer, smartphone or tablet.

After signing up for CareOptions, members will have access to:

  • Health, wellness and home safety assessments
  • Income and social security benefits calculator
  • Special services to assist with a short or long-term disability
  • Physicians, hospitals and other providers locally or nationwide, complete with background and quality of care information
  • Information about specific medical conditions and treatment options
  • Professional care managers and elder care attorneys in your area

Additionally, with CareOptions you can save hundreds of dollars on important document sets like Living Wills, Health Care Power of Attorney, and Caregiver Agreements. For more information and to sign up to begin receiving access to this valuable information, visit: and then click on the Member Benefits tab.

The MBA is looking forward to helping our members navigate their health and wellness.
Should you have any questions about this new tool please contact the Minnesota Benefit Association at 651.735.9874 or

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Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, affecting millions of people worldwide. It occurs when the protective cartilage on the ends of your bones wears down over time. Although osteoarthritis can damage any joint in your body, the disorder most commonly affects joints in your hands, knees, hips and spine.


Osteoarthritis symptoms often develop slowly and worsen over time. Signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis include:

  • Pain. Your joint may hurt during or after movement.
  • Tenderness. Your joint may feel tender when you apply light pressure to it.
  • Stiffness. Joint stiffness may be most noticeable when you wake up in the morning or after a period of inactivity.
  • Loss of flexibility. You may not be able to move your joint through its full range of motion.
  • Grating sensation. You may hear or feel a grating sensation when you use the joint.
  • Bone spurs. These extra bits of bone, which feel like hard lumps, may form around the affected joint.

Osteoarthritis symptoms can usually be effectively managed, although the underlying process cannot be reversed. Staying active, maintaining a healthy weight and other treatments may slow progression of the disease and help improve pain and joint function.

When to see a doctor

If you have joint pain or stiffness that doesn’t go away, make an appointment with your doctor.

For more information, visit:

By Mayo Clinic Staff

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Chronic disease now kills more people than infectious disease

That’s a big shift. And a big deal.

In fact, three out of four Americans will die prematurely from a condition that is mostly related to lifestyle, to habit, or to circumstance. These are conditions that a pill or procedure can’t easily fix.

The City of Saint Paul has recently partnered with Omada Health to offer City employees and their adult dependents a way to reduce their risk for chronic disease. In the Omada 16 week program, positive behaviors are introduced and reinforced from week to week, transforming healthy choices into lifelong habits. The program has been used nationwide and has been very successful in helping people reach their goals.

To get started, take a one-minute survey at to see if you qualify. Based on your results, if you or your adult dependent(s) are at risk for Type 2 diabetes or heart disease and enrolled in HealthPartners coverage through the City, you will be offered the opportunity to participate in the Omada program (approximately a $600 value) which will be covered at no cost to you.

Omada combines the science of behavior change with unwavering personal support, so you can make changes that actually stick.

You’ll get:

  • A professional health coach to keep you on track
  • A wireless scale to monitor your progress
  • An interactive program that adapts to you
  • Weekly online lessons to educate and inspire
  • A small group of participants for real-time support

Take some time today to visit

Below is what some participants have said about the Omada program:

“I loved Omada because I could do it in the time I had.”

My mom, dad, sister and brother all have type 2 diabetes, and my doctor told me I had prediabetes. I needed to slim down. But you know how it is when you’re overweight – you don’t want to hear it. When I got a call about Omada, I said “yes” because I figured there was no harm in trying something that my health insurance plan was recommending.
Chanda 40, Tennessee

“These days we are not lethargic anymore. We feel energized”.

I was a truck driver for 25 years, and a balanced meal was never easy to come by on the road. Omada helped me get out of that rut. My wife joined right in – we started shopping together, eating balanced meals together and walking together.
Phillip 65, Minnesota

“It gave me a sense of healthy control over my own well-being.”

Omada was a real source of strength for me, and not just when it came to rethinking my relationship with food and losing 20 lbs. It gave me a sense of healthy control over my own well-being.
Diana, 59, California

Find out if you qualify and can benefit from the Omada Program. Visit and take the survey today.

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Stay healthy. Get screened.

You change your oil and rotate your tires. All to make sure your car runs smoothly. Why treat your health differently?

Life is busy, but getting routine preventive care is worth the time. Even if you don’t have symptoms, regular health screenings are important. They find and stop health issues early, when treatment is most effective. Preventive care includes routine checkups, screenings and counseling.

And here’s some good news: most health plans cover preventive care at 100 percent.
That means you don’t pay out-of-pocket costs when you go to a clinic in your plan’s network. This includes:
• Vaccines
• Breast, cervical and colon cancer screenings
• Blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol tests
• Alcohol, tobacco and weight screenings
• Routine pre-and post-natal care
• Well-child visits

Wondering what care you need?

Talk to your doctor. Your family’s health history may affect what care you need. To see general recommendations for screenings and immunizations, visit and enter your age and gender. These recommendations are based on info from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and the Institute for Clinical Systems Improvement.

Schedule an appointment with your primary care doctor to get the care you need to stay healthy for years to come. If you don’t have a primary care doctor, log on to your myHealthPartners account at to search for one. You can also download the myHP mobile app to search for care on your smart phone.

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Shoo The Flu!


Flu prevention and treatment

The following information was provided by HealthPartners.

How can I prevent the spread of the flu?

  • Get a flu shot
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or sleeve when you cough or sneeze
  • Wash your hands with soap and water or use an alcohol hand sanitizer often
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
  • Stay home when you’re sick

What are the symptoms of the flu?

  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Muscle aches
  • Runny nose
  • Headache
  • Cough
  • Fatigue

If I get sick, how do I know when I’m contagious and when I can come back to work?

You’re contagious starting one day before your symptoms first appear. It’s recommened you stay home at least 24 hours after your fever is gone without using medicines, like Tylenol®, to help lower your temperature.

How can I take care of myself at home?

Get plenty of rest, drink lots of water and take medicines, like Tylenol®, to help lower your temperature.

Are antibiotics used for the flu?

No. Antibiotics are used for bacterial infections. The flu is caused by a virus. Doctors will sometimes treat the flu with antiviral medicine. But antibiotics can’t treat the flu.

Is there medicine available to treat the flu?

Yes, it’s called an antiviral medicine. Antivirals fight against the flu by keeping the flu viruses from spreading through your body. If you get sick, antivirals can make you feel better faster. They work best when started within 48 hours after your symptoms begin. Antivirals are usually given to people with severe illness or who are at risk for problems from the flu. Check with your doctor to see if an antiviral is right for you.

Should I be concerned about the flu?

Pregnant women and children, as well as adults who have asthma, diabetes or a suppressed immune system, are at high risk of developing problems from the flu.

Seasonal flu vaccines

Do I need more than one flu shot this year? No. The seasonal flu shot covers several strains this year. Everyone over age 9 only needs one shot.

If my child is under the age of 9, will they need two flu shots?

Everyone over 6 months old should get a flu shot each year. Children under age 9 may need two shots. Your doctor’s office can tell you if two doses are recommended this flu season.

Where do I get a flu shot?

  • HealthPartners clinics: Go to any HealthPartners clinic – no appointment necessary. You can also go to a HealthPartners urgent care clinic with no appointment and get a vaccine for ages 3 and up.
  • Other clinics: Contact your clinic to make an appointment or ask that the flu shot be added to your next visit.
  • Pharmacies, discount stores and grocery stores: Stop at a retail location like CVS/pharmacy®, Target®, Cub® and Walgreens.

Can I get the flu from a flu shot?

No. Some people may have some aches or a slight fever after a flu shot, but this is not the flu.

Can I have allergic reactions to a flu shot?

Serious allergic reactions to a flu shot are rare. But if you’ve ever had Guillain Barre Syndrome or a serious allergic reaction to eggs, thimerosal or a previous flu shot, check with your doctor to make sure a flu shot is safe for you.

When should I get a flu shot?

It’s a good idea to get your flu shot as soon as it’s available, so you can be protected right away. Remember, it takes about two weeks for your body to develop immunity from the flu shot.
Is the FluMist available this year?

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends the FluMist or nasal spray not be used this season because it was proven to be ineffective the last few years. HealthPartners will not be offering the FluMist this flu season.

Are flu shots covered by insurance?

Flu shots are considered preventive care, which is fully covered by most HealthPartners plans. Check your plan information or call Member Services at 952-883-5000 or 800-883-2177 to find out for sure.

What do I wear for a flu shot?

A shirt or blouse that has short sleeves or is loose enough to roll up works best so that the shot can be given in your upper arm.
For more information about the flu, visit