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Anchor lead: Can legislation compel insurers to cover some cancer treatments? Elizabeth Tracey reports

People with advanced cancers should be able to try medications and treatments without having to attempt older and less expensive regimens first. That’s the substance of a bill making its way through the Ohio legislature, and it’s one of several similar ones nationally. William Nelson, director of the Kimmel Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins, says insurers may already be expanding options in a very thoughtful way.

Nelson: What I’m not sure of is where this whole dynamo is going to end up. It seems as if the insurers are moving towards a more pay for value kind of paradigm, in which the best treatment given to the right person is the more effective play, even if it’s expensive if it’s appropriately given to this group of people because of a precision medicine test, not given to someone else where it won’t be effective then its use is better. I am very much in support of this value based care evolution.  :33

At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.

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Anchor lead: Housing figures large in frequent hospitalization, Elizabeth Tracey reports

Can helping people with chronic health conditions find stable housing reduce how often they need to be hospitalized? Studies show that housing is a huge factor among social determinants of health, and Redonda Miller, president of the Johns Hopkins Hospital, says that’s why a group of hospital presidents decided to work together on this issue.

Miller: Imagine if you have a health condition like diabetes and you don’t have a home. How in the world are you supposed to manage your sugar if you have no place to store your medications, you don’t know where your next meal is coming from or what it is, and where you’re even going to wake up the next morning. It makes managing chronic conditions almost impossible. So we decided to convene the ten city hospital presidents to ask what can we do to help? We have the opportunity to work together to provide 200 homes for patients who are experiencing homelessness.  :32

Miller says early results are so good another 200 homes are planned. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.

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"Feeling a little gaseous now and then? You’re not alone. Digestive issues like gas, constipation and diarrhea affect about 15 percent of people in Western countries.

What you eat can make a difference, according to Johns Hopkins doctor Linda Lee.

Fiber, she explains, is essential to digestive health, and at least 25 grams a day can help reduce digestive woes.

Leafy green veggies like spinach and kale are great sources of fiber. They also provide a treasure trove of vitamins and nutrients your body needs.

And, research shows that they contain a specific kind of sugar that benefits the microbiome [micro-BYE-ome]—that assortment of trillions of good bacteria living in the gut.

For more details, check out 5 Foods to Improve Your Digestion.

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Anchor lead: Social determinants of health are impacting overall lifespan, Elizabeth Tracey reports

Life expectancy continues to drop for Americans, a very large study finds. Redonda Miller, president of the Johns Hopkins Hospital, examines the data.

Miller: It showed that we’re seeing an increased risk of death in adults aged 29 to 59, often from overdose, and gun violence and that’s such a large problem now that it’s impacting overall mortality. It is a wake up call for us.  :16

Miller says the big factors fall under what are known collectively as social determinants of health.

Miller: When you look at the social determinants we often think about jobs, we think about housing, we think about food access, and we’re continuing that work with great enthusiasm. I think another place we can turn to now is thinking about these other social determinants.  :15

Miller acknowledges that these are very complex issues that will require a multipronged, cooperative approach to solve, while also affirming that there are many choices that lie within an individual’s power to overcome, so all hands are needed. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.

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When you’re pregnant, any time feels like snack time. Well, good news — not only is that OK, it’s recommended. The green light comes from Johns Hopkins nutritionist Diane Vizthum.

She says good nutrition while eating for two includes healthy pregnancy snacks. Emphasis on healthy, though.

You’ll probably need an additional 340 calories per day in your second trimester and 450 in your third. (That’s about one to two extra snacks per day.)

The right foods give you energy and help your baby develop. Plus, healthy snacking can reduce nausea and keep you filled up so you don’t reach for junk food. The trick is to find wholesome snacks that satisfy your pregnancy cravings.

For more details, check out 5 Snack Foods to Eat While Pregnant.

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Have you heard about melatonin, a supplement that’s used to help you sleep? Johns Hopkins sleep specialist Luis Buenaver says melatonin is a natural substance that the body produces on its own.
Most people make enough melatonin. But, he says, for occasional insomnia that lasts more than a night or two, using a supplement for a limited time can help.

Research shows that melatonin supplements can help people with insomnia fall asleep a bit faster, and may be even more effective for those who fall asleep and wake up later than they would prefer.
Melatonin can also ease the impact of jet lag, or shifts in sleep patterns due to work or school schedules.

Talk to your doctor if you have diabetes or high blood pressure, and avoid melatonin altogether if you are pregnant, breast-feeding or living with an autoimmune disorder, depression or seizures.

For more details, check out Melatonin for Sleep: Does It Work?

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As you’re flowing through your sun salutations, do you ever wonder if practicing yoga is doing your heart health any good? The answer is yes.

According to Johns Hopkins cardiologist Hugh Calkins, a large number of studies show that yoga benefits many aspects of cardiovascular health.
One study showed that slow-paced yoga classes twice a week reduced the frequency of episodes of atrial fibrillation, which is an irregular heartbeat, in patients with that condition.

So roll out your mat and enjoy your class. Yoga relaxes the mind and body, and it improves flexibility, muscle strength and balance. But remember, it’s not aerobic exercise, so you shouldn’t count it as part of your recommended weekly total for moderate to vigorous physical activity.
For more details, check out “The Yoga-Heart Connection”
Namaste!