Category Archive

2024 February

Volunteering as Self-Care


According to a study published in the Gerontologist, Middle-aged volunteers are less likely to have abdominal fat and high blood glucose than non-volunteers. They also had healthier levels of “good” HDL cholesterol. Older volunteers are less likely to have high blood pressure than their non-volunteer counterparts.

In a world that constantly prioritizes personal achievement, it’s easy to overlook the profound benefits of volunteering for one’s health. Beyond the warm feeling of making a difference, the act of giving back has far-reaching effects on both mental and physical well-being. Here are some of the surprising health benefits and why incorporating volunteering into your life can lead to a happier and healthier you.

Social Connection

Social connection is a key factor in maintaining good mental health, reducing feelings of isolation and loneliness, and volunteering provides ample opportunities for social interaction, fostering a sense of community and belonging. As you collaborate with others toward a shared goal, you build a support system that can be crucial during challenging times.

Stress Reduction

Volunteering acts as a natural stress reliever by shifting the focus from personal worries to the needs of others. The act of giving back releases endorphins, the body’s natural mood enhancers, which can create a sense of joy and fulfillment. This positive emotional state can counteract the effects of stress and contribute to an overall sense of well-being.

Physical Health Benefits

Believe it or not, volunteering can have tangible effects on your physical health. Studies have shown that individuals who engage in volunteer work experience lower blood pressure and a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. The increased physical activity associated with many volunteer opportunities contributes to improved fitness levels, helping to maintain a healthy heart and body.

Sense of Purpose

One of the key determinants of well-being is having a sense of purpose in life. Volunteering provides a meaningful way to contribute to the greater good, instilling a sense of purpose and fulfillment. When individuals feel that their actions make a positive impact on the lives of others, it can lead to increased life satisfaction and a more positive outlook.

Cognitive Benefits

Engaging in volunteer activities often requires the development of new skills and the ability to adapt to different situations. This cognitive stimulation can lead to improved brain function and a reduced risk of cognitive decline as you age. Whether you’re learning new tasks, problem-solving, or collaborating with others, the mental agility required in volunteering contributes to the maintenance of cognitive health.

From fostering social connections to reducing stress and contributing to a sense of purpose, volunteering is a holistic approach to health that not only benefits the community but also enhances the quality of your own life. So, the next time you consider how to invest in your well-being, remember that volunteering might just be the prescription for a happier and healthier you.

Ready to volunteer? Sites like and can help upcoming opportunities in your area and abroad.

Cognitive Crossroads

In 2019, dementia cost economies globally 1.3 trillion US dollars, approximately 50% of these costs are attributable to care provided by informal carers (e.g., family members and close friends), who provide on average 5 hours of care and supervision per day.

Degenerative memory disorders pose a considerable challenge for millions globally. These conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease and various forms of dementia, present significant hurdles for both the patient and their families and/or caretakers.

Degenerative memory disorders constitute a group of conditions characterized by the gradual deterioration of cognitive function, particularly memory loss. Symptoms typically encompass forgetfulness, confusion, and difficulties in performing daily tasks. However, changes in mood and behavior sometimes happen even before memory problems occur. These symptoms progressively erode an individual’s capacity to live independently.

Risk Factors

While genetic predispositions play a role, lifestyle factors such as diet, exercise, and social engagement also influence the risk of developing these conditions. Ongoing investigations into inflammation, oxidative stress, and other biological mechanisms further our understanding of disease progression.

Impact on Individuals and Families

The repercussions of degenerative memory disorders extend well beyond the affected individual though. Caregivers, often family members, navigate emotional strain, physical demands, and financial burdens as they witness their loved ones undergo profound changes in personality and capabilities. The toll on relationships and overall quality of life for both the patient and their caregivers is immeasurable.

Patients and caregivers alike can benefit from support groups, counseling, and education about the disorder. Establishing routines, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and utilizing memory aids help in coping with daily challenges. Caregivers, in particular, should prioritize self-care and seek assistance from community resources to alleviate the caregiving burden.

Hope on the Horizon?

Despite the challenges, neurology researchers are making strides in understanding and treating degenerative memory diseases. Advances in brain imaging, biomarker research, and genetic studies provide valuable insights. Experimental drugs targeting beta-amyloid plaques and tau tangles, common hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease, are in various stages of clinical trials. Lifestyle interventions, including cognitive stimulation and physical exercise, are also gaining attention for their potential to slow cognitive decline.

In-Network vs. Out-of-Network

In-Network vs Out-of-Network

The distinction between in-network and out-of-network for medical plans lies in the coverage of healthcare services. In-network refers to healthcare providers and facilities that have established agreements with the insurance company, offering services at discounted rates. Choosing in-network options typically results in lower out-of-pocket costs for the insured individual. On the other hand, out-of-network providers have no agreements, potentially leading to higher costs for the insured, as the insurance plan may cover a smaller percentage of the expenses. Understanding and selecting the right network is crucial for optimizing healthcare coverage and managing financial responsibilities.

Equity in Every Birth

Young Mothers

According to the CDC, over 80% of pregnancy-related deaths in the U.S. between 2017 and 2019 were determined to be preventable.

The disparities in maternal healthcare outcomes between Black and white women in the United States are staggering. Black women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women, according to the CDC. With alarming statistics like this, Black maternal healthcare in the United States is a critical area of concern for Black women and healthcare providers alike.

One of the primary healthcare challenges facing Black women during pregnancy is access to quality healthcare. Many factors contribute to disparities in access:

  • Geographic Disparities: Black women are more likely to live in areas with limited healthcare infrastructure, which makes it difficult to access obstetric care services and prenatal care.
  • Socioeconomic Factors: Socioeconomic disparities often restrict access to healthcare. Lower-income Black women may lack health insurance, transportation, and childcare support, making it difficult to attend appointments and receive timely care.
  • Lack of Providers: The shortage of healthcare providers, particularly in rural and underserved communities, can lead to long wait times and insufficient follow-up care for pregnant Black women. Since January 2010, more than 100 rural hospitals have closed, with a disproportionate share occurring in the South. Between 2004 and 2014, 179 rural counties lost or closed their hospital obstetric services.

Another challenge is ensuring Black women receive unbiased high-quality care during pregnancy and childbirth. Healthcare providers undergo implicit bias training to address the unconscious stereotypes and attitudes that may impact their clinical decision-making. Cultural competency and providing patient-centered care that allows a Black woman to have a say in their healthcare decisions are also essential to providing high-quality care.

How do we address disparities in Black maternal healthcare?

There are several evidence-based solutions, many of which are covered by most insurance plans or supplemental services offered by employers (think Maven and Pomelo):

  • Prenatal Care Programs: Expanding access to comprehensive prenatal care programs that offer education, support, and medical care throughout the pregnancy, helping to identify and address potential issues early. Maternity care is considered “essential health benefits,” so all qualified health plans must cover the care.
  • Telehealth Services: Telehealth can improve access to care, particularly in rural and underserved areas. Offering virtual prenatal and postpartum care can help bridge geographical gaps. More and more insurance carriers are offering telehealth visits for your typical office visit fee, and some have specialty maternity services.
  • Doula and Midwifery Support: Doulas and midwives can provide additional support during pregnancy and childbirth. They often offer emotional, physical, and informational assistance, which can lead to better outcomes.
  • Mental Health Services: Providing mental health support, such as counseling and therapy, can help prevent and manage stress, anxiety, and depression.
  • Targeted Education: Education campaigns aimed at improving the health literacy of Black women can empower them to advocate for their health and make informed decisions.

Collaboration among healthcare providers, public health agencies, and community organizations is essential to decrease the disparities in maternal healthcare. Ultimately, the focus should be on providing equitable, high-quality care to all pregnant women, regardless of their race or background.