When you’re establishing a new relationship with a medical practice, you might find it thoughtful for the staff to ask whether you prefer a doctor of one gender over another. It may be no surprise that in some cases, that’s a welcome question: Peer-reviewed research in 2021 found in reference to obstetrics and gynecology practices that “a significant proportion of women feel a higher comfort level with female doctors and find it easier to discuss their medical issues and develop rapport.”

That might seem natural for reproductive and sexual health…but today a new study at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) suggests that even for more general health concerns, the gender of your physician could affect the likelihood of a future hospital stay as well as earlier mortality.

The study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Annals of Internal Medicine and led by Dr. Yusuke Tsugawa, MD, MPH, PhD, associate professor of Medicine and Health Policy and Management at UCLA, found a significant difference in patient outcomes when they saw a female physician. (Study co-authors were Dr. Atsushi Miyawaki of the University of Tokyo, Dr. Anupam Jena of Harvard University, and Dr. Lisa Rotenstein of UC San Francisco.)

The researchers used data from Medicare claims between 2016 and 2019 that represented 458,100 female and 319,800 male patients. About 31% of both groups were treated by female physicians, while all patients were over age 65 and were hospitalized for an urgent medical condition. The researchers then tracked the patients for hospital readmission and mortality rates following care.

The researchers found that patients who interacted with female physicians experienced lower rates of mortality and hospital readmissions than those who saw male physicians. This affected women seeing female doctors more than men seeing female doctors, but it was true for both sexes. When females saw female doctors the mortality rate was 8.15% versus 8.38% with a male physician, which a representative at UCLA says is “a clinically significant difference.”

Men benefited from seeing a female physician, as well, but the gap in mortality rate was smaller, 10.15% with female doctors, versus 10.23% with male doctors.

The trend was similar to hospital readmission rates. Females treated by females returned for treatment 15.51% of the time versus 16.01% when treated by male physicians. For men, the numbers were much closer, 15.65% with a female physician versus 15.87% with a male. While the difference between these percentages is small, they may hold weight considering there are greater than 4,000,000 Medicare hospitalizations per year.

For the study’s senior author, this suggests a concerning difference in the way that the two genders provide care. “What our findings indicate is that female and male physicians practice medicine differently, and these differences have a meaningful impact on patients’ health outcomes,” Dr. Tsugawa said. “Further research on the underlying mechanisms linking physician gender with patient outcomes, and why the benefit of receiving the treatment from female physicians is larger for female patients, has the potential to improve patient outcomes across the board,” he added.

While no one can say conclusively what caused the individuals to experience different care, a representative for Dr. Tsugawa and the study’s fellow authors have three theories: One is that females may be more comfortable speaking about sensitive issues or being able to communicate more effectively with female physicians. A UCLA representative for the study noted that “female doctors may communicate better with their female patients, making it likelier that these patients provide important information leading to better diagnoses and treatment.”

Also, a trend in healthcare that’s gaining greater awareness is that some male physicians don’t take female patients’ reports of pain as seriously as their female counterparts might, which has led to a delay in care or even an inaccurate mental illness diagnosis.

Further, studies have shown that certain conditions present differently in women than in men, but that many standards are based on research that was conducted on men. For instance, nausea and vomiting are more likely to present as female heart attack symptoms versus the classically referenced “crushing chest” sensation.

For Dr. Tsugawa, this study and those that have come before it highlight the need to address this discrepancy and see where changes can be made. “A better understanding of this topic could lead to the development of interventions that effectively improve patient care,” he said.

The researchers also call for gender gaps in physician pay to be eliminated, stating, “It is important to note that female physicians provide high-quality care, and therefore, having more female physicians benefits patients from a societal point-of-view.”

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When fifth-graders are shopping for retinol products, you know you’re living in a society that puts a significant emphasis on youth and appearance. Historically many women have perceived a shift that happens over time in both our personal and professional lives when we may start to feel overlooked. Unheard. Unseen. That can hurt psychologically, but it can also be a health hazard.

Actress Jane Seymour knows how this feels firsthand. “Unseenism,” Seymour explains, is something that some older women, as well as many patients with chronic conditions, can experience. This can make an individual feel hesitant to raise their issues and questions with a healthcare provider, for fear that they’ll be ignored or dismissed. Seymour wants to change that.

From her role as a Bond girl in 1973’s Live and Let Die to her beloved starring role in Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman to now co-starring with Lindsay Lohan in the new Netflix movie, Irish Wish—with awards and a Hollywood star along the way—Seymour has seen how aging can change how people view, speak and listen to you. That’s why, in a new partnership with global biopharmaceutical company Insmed, Seymour is raising awareness about unseenism.

In a conversation with The Healthy by Reader’s Digest, she shared her clever strategy to make sure she’s being heard at the doctor’s office, how she practices gratitude, and the simple wardrobe trick she uses to feel energetic when she needs a lift. 

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The Healthy by Reader’s Digest: Jane, please talk to us about your own experiences with “unseenism.” The idea that this can be tied to health is a really important point.

Jane Seymour: I’ve noticed that when I went to the doctor, I was not treated probably in the same way as if I were a man. I also realized that I’m willing to—and not afraid to—stand up for myself and say, “Hey, pay attention to me. Please pay attention to what I’m doing.” I think a lot of women, especially people who have diseases and things: They’re not listened to, they’re not paid attention to in the proper way. I have actually spoken to doctors recently about it who have said, “You know what? In medical school now they are really [teaching] about listening to women, especially women over 50.” Insmed surveyed 2,000 people, and 62% of those women felt overlooked when they age. 

I think women in general … do have to stand up for themselves. As you age, maybe you don’t always remember exactly what the doctor told you, or you don’t remember what it is you want to ask the doctor. You have to self-advocate or have someone come with you. Or what I do is ask for permission to record it. That way I can’t get their, “Oh, you’re menopausal,” or, “Oh, you are older,” or “your memory” or “We told you that already.” 

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The Healthy: Are age or gender bias experiences you’ve had personally?

Jane Seymour: Well, inside of me, and I think inside of all of us, is a young woman. She’s a teenager, maybe one that was never allowed to get up and do whatever, or we have our spirits that are young and our bodies that sometimes tell us otherwise. But on the other hand, there’s a lot of people who, women especially, who just go, “OK, well I’m 50, I’m done,” and hide under a rock and just accept that they are unseen.

I really feel that I’m in this privileged position of being able, maybe through my Instagram or through public speaking or even the roles that I play, to say, “Hey, you’re not done yet. You’re not done being young. Take care of your body. Take the vitamins, do the exercise, keep your brain going, but get out there and communicate with other people.”

I had a very resilient mother who passed at the age of 92, having survived World War II for three and a half years in a camp in Indonesia. She always said to me that everyone has challenges in life. The natural instinct is you close off and don’t let anyone know you need help. But if you accept whatever your challenge is … and find a community to talk to one another about it, get your head around it, and then say, “OK, this is what I can do, and this is what I need to do and be positive about it.” 

And I think when you have a purpose in life, it’s about having a positive attitude. I personally will take care of my skin first thing in the morning. I will exercise, at least walk around. I will take a look at nature and just have a moment of gratitude whether I meditate or I just look out at the ocean or look at a bird flying by, whatever it is, I come from a place of gratitude to be here at all. And then I ask myself, “What can I do today to make a difference for myself and others?”  I find that if I have managed to move the dial even slightly just by listening to someone who’s having a tough time, creating, painting, designing—whatever it is that I know fills my spirit—I feel I’ve had a good day and I am inviting people, especially women over 50, to give themselves the opportunity to feel good about themselves in every possible way. 

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The Healthy: A great example of embracing that confidence and vibrance as you age is when you became the oldest woman to pose for Playboy at 67 years old in 2018. So many women need the reminder that you can still feel beautiful or sensual as you get older. What do you do to embrace that internal feeling of beauty? 

Jane Seymour: Well, I just don’t wear gray all the time. I will throw a splash of color into my life, it’s like a joke around here. My fans know it too, that when I feel I need to perk myself up, I will have something red on somewhere. Maybe it’s the sole of my shoe or a scarf or whatever it is. If I’m feeling down, a pop of any kind of color just livens my life up. That’s one thing that I do. I look at myself in the mirror and I just say, “OK, you’re here. You matter. What are you going to do to help other people? And how are you going to feel good about yourself?” Maybe you’ll take an extra minute to comb your hair or put some lipstick on or go outside and exercise, or like I said, a way to have some fun, find some people that you really have something in common with. 

When people read I was in Playboy it’s, “Oh my God, this is going to be something very salacious.” But I had more clothes on than anyone who just went to the swimming pool. I think the concept was that you can feel sensual. You can feel like a whole woman for your whole life. There is no reason to stop being a complete woman for as long as you want to be. And I think that’s really important. There’s no cutoff date. When I was growing up, I would look at my mother at 50 and just go, “She’s old.” I’m 73, and I don’t think of myself as old.

Take on some new venture, try something new. Learn an instrument. I mean, it’s never too late to do the things that a lot of people say, “Oh, well, I should have. I could have. I didn’t. I couldn’t because of the kids, I couldn’t because of whatever.” There are a lot of ways of moving the dial and just going, “You know what? I’m trying this. This is actually fun.” I mean, I started out with dancing. You put some music on in the morning, put it on your headphones when you’re walking, and rock out to the sixties or whatever it was that got you excited in the first place about life. I think that’s important. 

I do notice that I’ve lost a lot of friends to illness, and I do see a lot of my friends having to have this replacement, that replacement, this treatment, going into hospitals and visiting people. But you can lift people’s spirits wherever they are. I think that’s really what this is about, too. It’s about owning the right to be heard, to be seen, to be listened to, be attended to, and you’ve got to do it for yourself as well. 

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The Healthy: We love that! How about self-care? Is there a self-care routine or practice that you can’t skip? 

Jane Seymour: Absolutely. I know most people don’t wash their hair every day, but I do. So I wash and condition my hair. I exfoliate the skin all over my body, especially my face. I make sure to protect myself from the sun. I wear a hat so I don’t get too many UV rays and wear sunscreen. I want to take time to make myself look as good as I can—look good for me, not for anybody else. Obviously, I have to do it for my work as well, but it’s just minimal. It doesn’t take too much time. I definitely stretch and exercise. I will just even do some calisthenics and some isometrics. I’ve been known to work out in a tiny room in a hotel during COVID. If I could do it there, I can do it anywhere, wherever I am. 

I think listening to music and either going for a fast walk in nature if I can, or even just dancing, all of that boosts and empowers me, body, mind, and spirit. The other thing is that I eat really healthy food, and I grow it. I love to eat something I’ve grown. So I have chickens in the back and a garden. I have all kinds of vegetables and things. A lot of them are grown in pots. My kids are all doing the same thing now. There’s nothing like showing children and grandchildren that what you eat is who you are. And if you can grow it yourself, I think you value it even more. Health is everything. 

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This interview was edited for length and clarity.

While COVID-19 infections have dropped significantly after a wave that had been accurately projected following the holiday season, the virus is still circulating.

National data state that the week of April 6, 2024—the latest for which data is available—resulted in more than 7,000 hospitalizations and 266 COVID-related deaths in the U.S.

While these figures contrast significantly with the greater-than 35,000 hospitalizations and 2,469 deaths reported the week of January 6, 2024, keeping up-to-date with vaccines has been demonstrated to prevent serious illness, especially in individuals with compromised immune systems and people 65 and older. Now authorities have said that if the last time you had a shot was in the fall, it could be time for you to get another one to be fully protected.

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The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued its latest recommendations on February 28, 2024, informing people 65 and older that they were eligible for another dose of the updated 2023-2024 COVID-19 vaccine. “Today’s recommendation allows older adults to receive an additional dose of this season’s COVID-19 vaccine to provide added protection,” said Mandy Cohen, MD, MPH, the director of the CDC in the release.

Staying on top of the vaccine schedule is important for everyone, but those who fall into the high-risk category are more likely to be hospitalized if they contract COVID. While the dominant variant, JN.1, which accounts for over 83% of current cases, isn’t considered to be severe, it is extremely transmissible and can still cause serious illness and death among the most vulnerable. “Most COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations last year were among people 65 years and older. An additional vaccine dose can provide added protection that may have decreased over time for those at highest risk,” said Dr. Cohen. 

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If you are 65 or older and received an updated vaccine in the fall or early winter months, you are eligible for another dose four months after your latest. Lisa Dunkle, MD, the vice president and global medical lead at Novavax, a biotech company that develops vaccines believes that a spring dose of the COVID vaccine “remains the best means of protection against death and serious illness.” She too highlights that age is one of the biggest factors in how severely the virus affects people: “I have seen firsthand how COVID takes a disproportionate toll on older Americans. Most COVID deaths and hospitalizations last year were among the 65+ population.” 

CDC vaccine schedule guidelines note that anyone over 65 who has received two doses of the 2023-2024 updated COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, or Novavax, spaced four months apart, is considered up-to-date. If you have recently been diagnosed with COVID you can wait three months before getting a vaccine, but be sure to talk with your licensed healthcare provider for specific guidance.   

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You know exercise is good for you—and maybe you love to do it—but if you don’t spring out of bed eager to get breathless before breakfast, new research suggests there may actually be some heart-healthy benefit to getting your movement later in the day. 

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The study, published in the American Diabetes Association’s Diabetes Care journal on April 10, 2024, was led by researchers studying respiratory medicine, exercise and metabolism at The University of Sydney. Their aim was to pinpoint the best time to exercise for overweight people and those with type 2 diabetes, analyzing whether the timing of exercise affected the rates of heart disease, vascular disease, and overall chances of dying.

The team referred to data from the UK Biobank to identify 29,836 adults with an average age of 62 years who were overweight (with body mass index of 30 or greater) or who had a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. All participants wore fitness tracking devices and were followed for an average of eight years for their longitudinal incidence of heart disease, blood vessel disorders, and death. The researchers also contrasted these same statistics between adults who exercised, and a set who didn’t.

Further, the “exercise” group had shared at which point in the day they tended to exercise: Before noon, between noon and 6 p.m., or between 6 p.m. and midnight. The study focused on moderate to vigorous exercise performed for more than three minutes at a time, like brisk walking, running, or other “high-energy” activities such as playing with children.

Overall, participants who exercised had a lower rate of heart and vascular disease and lower death rates than those who didn’t. But, among exercisers, those who tended to move in the evening experienced benefits that the morning and afternoon exercisers didn’t.

For one, moderate and vigorous exercise in the evening hours led to a lower mortality rate. Rates of cardiovascular disease were also lower among those who chose to move the most in the evening. Surprisingly, researchers revealed, “5-year all-cause mortality risk was 25–32% lower for participants in the evening aerobic moderate-to-vigorous physical activity group” than the afternoon or morning exercisers.

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This is an interesting finding, considering several past studies that showed the morning is a better time to exercise. For instance, a 2023 study in the journal Obesity concluded that those who were looking to lose weight should exercise in the morning between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. Other studies have shown that morning is a sweet spot for exercise because of its brain-boosting power.

However, the Australian study specifically examined longevity and cardiovascular disease. Maybe evening exercise is a relief to the heart because it’s a window to blow off steam from the day. The researchers note: “Although further research is needed to uncover the precise mechanism behind this association, our findings align with previous studies indicating that moderate- or vigorous-intensity exercise performed in the evening may be linked to lower mean arterial blood pressure, whereas among morning exercisers, it was increased.” They add that because the trend for type 2 diabetics is for blood sugar to be highest in the morning, this effect might be mitigated by evening exercise (though more research is warranted).

If you enjoy morning or afternoon exercise, you shouldn’t switch your routine unless you think it could help manage morning blood sugar issues or unless you speak with your doctor. It’s also safe to say that overall, exercise is generally good for both the heart and longevity no matter when you can fit it into your day.

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On April 17, 2024, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an alert stating that it had identified the source of 12 cases of salmonella infection it had been tracking across several states. The source was pinpointed as a popular herb sold at Trader Joe’s locations in 29 states and Washington D.C.

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The FDA informed consumers about a traceback initiated in coordination with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on April 10. The illnesses in New Jersey, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Missouri, Georgia, Florida, and Rhode Island were determined to be caused by a similar strain of salmonella. After interviewing the patients, the FDA found that seven out of eight patients had consumed the same brand of basil, all purchased at Trader Joe’s locations. Trader Joe’s has issued an immediate voluntary recall in response to the investigation of Infinite Herb Organic Basil across all of its stores. 

The basil was sold between February 1, 2024, and April 6, 2024, in 2.5-ounce clear plastic clamshell packaging with UPC 8 18042 02147 7. The product was sold at 29 Trader Joe’s locations, including those in Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, and Virginia.

Trader Joe’s has already removed all packages of the Infinite Organic brand organic basil from its shelves. Although the potentially affected product is past its shelf life, the FDA is concerned that some consumers might have frozen the basil for later use. It is also possible that people could have cooked with the basil and then frozen those meals. While cooking a product will kill salmonella, it needs to be reheated to 165 degrees to be safe, according to the CDC.  

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To date, 12 people have reported symptoms, with one requiring hospitalization. The last illness was reported on April 2, 2024. No deaths have been reported in connection with this strain of salmonella. The FDA notes that the investigation is ongoing with the potential for other products to become implicated in the illnesses.

If you purchased Infinite Organic basil during the recall timeframe, you can return it to any Trader Joe’s for a full refund. Anyone with questions can contact Trader Joe’s Customer Relations at (626) 599-3817 or email the company via its online form. Anyone who experiences symptoms should contact a healthcare provider and report their symptoms to the FDA.

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Signs of salmonella infection

Salmonella is a bacteria that lives inside the intestinal tracts of animals and spreads through feces. The bacteria typically gets on plants through direct contact with animal feces or via contaminated water. 

Symptoms generally do not require hospitalization and can include headache, diarrhea, blood in your stool, stomach cramps and fever, according to the CDC. Symptoms can begin as early as a few hours and up to six hours after exposure and can last as long as a week, making it difficult to identify the source. Symptoms are typically mild but can sometimes be serious. 

Be sure to contact a healthcare provider for a fever over 102 degrees or any signs of dehydration. A salmonella infection can become serious quickly, requiring hospitalization. Contact a healthcare provider if symptoms worsen or do not improve.

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Celiac disease affects around 3 million Americans, but fewer than one in three have been diagnosed, according to the Celiac Disease Foundation. The foundation defines celiac disease as a “genetic autoimmune disease” that causes “the body to attack its own small intestine” and that “can lead to many other devastating health conditions, including cancer.”

The main trigger for celiac disease is gluten. Gluten is a protein in wheat, barley, and rye that “helps foods maintain their shape, acting as a glue that holds food together,” the Celiac Disease Foundation explains. When someone with celiac disease consumes gluten, it triggers their immune system to attack the small intestine, which plays an essential role in nutrient absorption. This autoimmune attack causes inflammation and damage to parts of the digestive system.

In recent years, gluten-free diets have soared in popularity, not just for those with celiac disease but also for others who find appeal in the potential health perks like weight management and alleviation of symptoms like bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and fatigue, which overlap with signs of celiac disease. However, for those diagnosed with celiac, cutting out gluten is not just a choice—it’s a medical necessity.

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If left untreated, celiac disease can lead to severe health complications, including, but not limited to:

  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Anemia
  • Osteoporosis
  • Infertility
  • Heart disease
  • Certain intestinal cancers

As the foundation mentioned, celiac disease often runs in families and can present at any age. Alberto Rubio Tapia, MD, a Cleveland Clinic gastroenterologist, says that if you or someone you know is diagnosed, it’s wise for immediate family members to get tested, too.

Diagnosing celiac disease starts with blood tests for certain antibodies and genetic testing for specific human leukocyte antigens (HLA-DQ2 and HLA-DQ8). If these tests point to a celiac diagnosis, the doctor may order an endoscopy to take a closer look at the small intestine and confirm the diagnosis. It’s key to remember that some people might not show any symptoms at all, or they might develop the disease later in life in response to events like pregnancy, surgery, or severe stress.

The treatment for celiac disease is a strict, lifelong avoidance of gluten. However, before jumping into a gluten-free diet, get tested. Going gluten-free too soon can skew blood test results and inadvertently hide the disease. Even though individuals diagnosed with celiac disease have to eliminate many foods from their diet, they can typically still enjoy naturally gluten-free options like fruits, vegetables, meats, fish, poultry, beans, legumes, and grains like quinoa, rice, and amaranth.

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Dr. Tapia says celiac symptoms usually improve within weeks of eliminating gluten, and antibody levels often normalize within six months to a year to help bring the immune system back into balance. Healing the small intestine takes longer, particularly in adults, with about 40% recovering within two years.

Ahead, we share the journey of Chelsea H., a 33-year-old from Lakeland, FL, who was diagnosed with celiac disease after experiencing years of unexplained symptoms. Here’s what happened when Chelsea listened to her gut—literally—and embraced a gluten-free lifestyle.

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How I knew I had celiac disease: A patient’s story

By Chelsea H., as told to Dr. Patricia Varacallo, DO

Back in February 2019, I was officially diagnosed with celiac disease. As I look back, I think the signs were there even during my high school years.

I remember feeling bloated and uncomfortable after chowing down on common foods, like pizza and pasta, which I chalked up to indulging in too much junk food. It was easy to ignore at first, with the symptoms popping up here and there and not sticking around too long.

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It wasn’t until I was settled into life after college and started my career in marketing that my health began to go downhill. The bloating wasn’t just an occasional annoyance anymore; it was frequent and painful and at times so severe that I feared I could’ve passed for being pregnant. I found myself opting for looser clothing to hide it.

Plus, I was constantly exhausted, barely scraping together the energy I needed for work and struggling to stay sharp and focused. At first, I thought: OK, maybe it’s just the stress of adulting and getting used to balancing a career. Meanwhile, pasta had become a budget-friendly, simple dinner and I continued to eat it often.

I’m not the type to rush to the doctor because I really dislike medical appointments. I remember once developing this weird rash on my right arm, a condition I would later learn is called dermatitis herpetiformis, a classic sign of celiac disease. I popped into an urgent care clinic, where they prescribed me a cream that did absolutely nothing. When the rash lingered, it was clear I couldn’t ignore it anymore.

Feeling increasingly worried about these persistent issues, I finally made an appointment with a primary care doctor. She listened as I explained my symptoms: The constant bloating, the sharp pains in my upper abdomen, and how drained I felt all the time. She thought it might be irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which is basically when your gut becomes a rebel without a cause, leading to symptoms like mine without any obvious underlying disease.

She decided to run a comprehensive panel of blood tests, including one for celiac disease. I had heard of it, but I didn’t know much at all about it. She mentioned it could be genetic, and because I’d been adopted as a child, there was no easy way to check my family history. She was also suspicious about the rash, thinking it could be linked.

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Being diagnosed with celiac disease

When I left my appointment, something about the idea of celiac disease felt really on-point. I started searching for more information online, and the more I read, the more everything clicked—well, almost everything. I stumbled upon something about “celiac eyes,” which apparently can look super tired and swollen, and descriptions of what your poop might look like—typically loose and pale due to malabsorption issues. I hadn’t experienced those particular symptoms.

A few days later, my doctor called with my test results and asked me to return to her office. Sitting there, as she explained that I tested positive for the tTG IgA antibody—an indicator that my immune system was mistakenly attacking my intestine whenever I ate gluten—I felt this weird mix of relief and dread. Relief because, finally, I wasn’t just imagining all these symptoms, but also dread because, seriously? Giving up my absolute favorite foods? That part hit hard.

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Treatment after I knew I had celiac disease

My doctor sent me to a gastroenterologist for a more thorough check-up and an endoscopy. After the procedure, the gastroenterologist told me they didn’t see any obvious damage in my small intestine, but they took some biopsies. About a week later, the call came in confirming I had celiac disease and the only way to manage it: A strict, lifelong gluten-free diet. As I suspected, that meant cutting out all the usual suspects, but not only bread, pizza, and pasta. I learned that gluten appears in a bunch of sauces and seasonings (like soy sauce and salad dressings) that you wouldn’t even think had gluten in them. The thought of overhauling my diet to be so vigilant felt overwhelming.

My doctor referred me to a dietitian, who was a huge help and right away made sure I was taking a daily, gluten-free multivitamin. Taking a vitamin is important when you have celiac disease because damage to the intestine can make it difficult or impossible for the body to absorb important nutrients from food.

I quickly realized this would be more than just learning which foods to avoid.

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Life after being diagnosed with celiac disease

At first, the thought of navigating social gatherings or dining out filled me with anxiety. How was I supposed to manage this new lifestyle? But then I thought: If others can do it, why can’t I?

Gradually, I got the hang of living with celiac disease. I learned to read labels, tested gluten-free recipes (which is a big deal for someone who barely cooked before!), and became pretty good at speaking up for my dietary needs in restaurants and social settings. It’s been empowering, even though I still daydream about a slice of gooey pizza every now and then. I follow up with my doctor yearly for blood work, and so far, so good.

My partner has been an incredible support through all of this. At first, it was a challenge for him, too, but now he’s on a gluten-free diet alongside me. The key has been finding new dishes and treats that we both genuinely enjoy, making sticking to this new lifestyle much easier. And honestly? I’ll take how I feel now over how I felt any day when I was eating gluten.

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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced a Class I recall for thousands of devices that assist the heart in pumping, citing reports of several deaths and multiple injuries. The recall affects 13,883 HeartMate II and HeartMate 3 Left Ventricular Assist System devices distributed by Abbott/Thoratec Corp. 

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Either of these two lifesaving devices may be used when there is a malfunction in the left ventricle, the heart’s pumping chamber. Both models are designed to redirect blood flow to the aorta, facilitating circulation throughout the body, aiding in the heart’s recovery or providing long-term support. While HeartMate II is exclusively for adult patients, HeartMate 3 can also be used in pediatric cases.

The recall was issued because the HeartMate devices, distributed since April 21, 2008, may accumulate biological material that obstructs their function, resulting in decreased efficiency in blood circulation. Over time, this accumulation can worsen, potentially causing devices to malfunction leading to severe injuries or fatalities.

This issue, known as Extrinsic Outflow Graft Obstruction (EOGO), may not manifest for several years, with the damaging buildup taking two years or more to cause noticeable issues. The buildup can trigger low-blood flow alarms in the device. To date, 14 deaths and 273 injuries have been reported in connection with these devices.

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Patients and healthcare providers using these devices should have received an “Urgent Medical Device Correction Letter” from Thoratec Corporation sent on February 19, 2024. The FDA’s announcement states that all recipients should return the acknowledgment form enclosed with the letter and be on alert for additional communications until corrective measures are implemented. It’s said the letter also encouraged patients and caregivers to “pay attention to low flow alarms as this is the first symptom of significant outflow obstruction.” It included additional guidance for healthcare providers on diagnosing low-flow issues. 

For inquiries about the recall, individuals should contact Abbott/Thoratec Corporation at (844) 692-6367.

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The full list of affected devices:

  • HeartMate II Sealed Outflow Graft with Bend Relief  
    • UDI-ID: 00813024010807
    • Firm Reference Number: 103393
  • HeartMate II LVAS Implant Kit
    • UDI-ID: 00813024011224
    • Firm Reference Number: 106015
  • HeartMate II LVAS Implant Kit (Unsealed Outflow Graft with Bend Relief)
    • UDI-ID: 00813024010005
    • Firm Reference Number: 1355
  • HeartMate II LVAS Implant Kit (with RSOC Controller)
    • UDI-ID: 00813024010616
    • Firm Reference Number: 103695
  • HeartMate II LVAS Implant Kit (with Sealed Graft)
    • UDI-ID: 00813024011170
    • Firm Reference Number: 104911
  • HeartMate II LVAS Implant Kit (Used for pump exchange, No Graft)
    • UDI-ID: 00813024011996
    • 107801
  • HeartMate 3 Sealed Outflow Graft with Bend Relief
    • UDI-ID: 00813024013266
    • 105581US
  • HeartMate 3 LVAS Implant Kit
    • UDI-ID: 00813024013297
    • 106524US

The FDA emphasizes that this recall serves to alert users to a crucial correction rather than remove the product from the market.

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That occasional dose of BOTOX can do wonders for your confidence—but sadly, the government has issued a reminder that this procedure, which is meant to innocently prolong a youthful appearance, can have quite another effect if you don’t follow a few sound measures.

On April 15, 2024, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published an advisory sharing that 19 patients in nine US states—Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Tennessee, and Washington—had reported adverse reactions to a product that had been sold to them as BOTOX.

The CDC reports that the substance that was actually administered may have been “counterfeit” or “mishandled” BOTOX. The April 15 report states that nine hospitalizations have occurred as a result of this alleged mishandling.

The CDC says the patients had experienced the following symptoms:

  • Blurry vision and double vision
  • Drooping eyelids
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Dry mouth
  • Slurred speech
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Constipation
  • Incontinence
  • Generalized weakness

The CDC says one issue healthcare professionals have identified is that the botulinum toxin, or the botulism strain that is the active ingredient in BOTOX, “could have spread beyond the injection site.” The CDC also reports the following:

All reports came from people identifying as females, ranging in age from 25 to 59 years, with a median age of 39 years. Eighteen (95%) people reported receiving botulinum toxin injections for cosmetic purposes. All people reported receiving these injections from unlicensed or untrained individuals or in non-healthcare settings, including homes and spas.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says anyone who thinks they may experience complications following this purported treatment should take the following steps:

  • If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, following an injection of botulinum toxin products, contact a health care professional or go to the emergency room.
  • Confirm with your health care professional that you are receiving a product from an authorized source.
  • Ask your health care professional if they are licensed and trained to administer the product.

Separately, the CDC listed tips for consumers who are seeking BOTOX treatment for medical or cosmetic purposes:

  • Ask your provider and setting (such as clinic or spa) if they are licensed and trained to give the injection.
  • Your state might have a license look-up tool where you can check if a provider or setting has the appropriate license.
  • Ask if the product is approved by FDA and obtained from a reliable source.
  • If in doubt, don’t get the injection.

Government authorities are also advising that injectables administered in a spa or “medi-spa” setting may not be safe, and that healthcare providers treating patients for this issue should call their respective health department immediately for consultation and antitoxin release.

The FDA reported: The counterfeit product includes counterfeiting of the outer carton and vial. The counterfeit product may be identified by one or more of the following:

  • the outer carton and vial contain lot number C3709C3
  • the outer carton displays the active ingredient as “Botulinum Toxin Type A” instead of “OnabotulinumtoxinA”
  • the outer carton and vial indicates 150-unit doses, which is not a unit made by AbbVie or Allergan
  • the outer carton contains language that is not English

While the report mentioned AbbVie’s BOTOX brand specifically, fake or mishandled versions of BOTOX’s competitors, such as Xeomin or Dysport, may also exist. At press time, AbbVie stated that “there is no indication that the reported events were linked to AbbVie’s FDA-approved Botox, and the genuine product should be considered safe and effective for its intended and approved uses.”

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With nearly half of Americans falling short of their daily magnesium needs, it’s no surprise that magnesium supplements have been trending. In fact, the global magnesium supplements market was projected to value at $107 million in 2024, and anticipated to climb to $130 million by 2031. That’s a greater-than 20% jump over just a few years.

So, what’s the cause of this widespread magnesium shortfall? According to experts like Mark Hyman, MD, a leader in functional medicine, there are multiple reasons we’re not getting the recommended amounts of magnesium:

  • Our meals are more processed and less nutrient-dense than ever before.
  • The soil where our food grows is increasingly stripped of magnesium.
  • Our consumption of coffee, alcohol, and sugar—all of which can diminish magnesium levels—is on the rise.

So by the time you see your doctor for muscle cramps or spasms, poor sleep, unexplained weight problems, urinary issues or another symptom of low magnesium, it’s likely you’ll discuss much magnesium should you take per day, and the best ways to get more magnesium.

Keep reading for clinical recommendations on magnesium intake.

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Chemical element symbol for Magnesium from the periodic table of the elements

What is magnesium?

Magnesium is a mineral involved in at least 300 enzyme reactions within the human body—and according to some studies, up to 600. This means magnesium is fundamental for muscle and nerve function, regulating blood sugar and blood pressure, and producing protein, bone, and DNA.

Given its central role in so many physiological functions, it’s clear why a magnesium deficiency can lead to symptoms such as fatigue, muscle cramps, mental issues, irregular heart rhythms, and increased stress.

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Here’s how much magnesium you should take per day

The recommended dietary allowances for magnesium are specific to age, gender, and physiological conditions, says the National Institutes of Health:

  • Men between 19 and 30 years old should consume 400 milligrams of magnesium
  • Men 31 years and older should consume 420 milligrams of magnesium
  • Women between 19 and 30 years old should consume 310 milligrams of magnesium
  • Women 31 years and older should consume 320 milligrams of magnesium
  • For pregnant individuals over age 18, an increased daily requirement of 350-360 milligrams is recommended.

The National Institutes of Health has set the upper limit of magnesium that you should take in supplement form at 350 milligrams. (Dr. Hyman suggests a daily supplemental magnesium intake of 300 milligrams.) However, consult your healthcare provider to determine the optimal amount for your unique needs, as some individuals may benefit from higher doses.

When selecting magnesium supplements, magnesium glycinate is often recommended for its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier, which can be beneficial for reducing anxiety and improving sleep quality.

If constipation is a concern, magnesium citrate may offer relief, though be cautious because excessive amounts could lead to diarrhea.

Magnesium L-threonate has also been shown to benefit brain health in a 2022 study.

Magnesium carbonate, oxide, or gluconate, are forms that research suggests are less efficiently absorbed by the body.

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How to get more magnesium

Magnesium supplements can work, but experts suggest adding magnesium-rich foods to your diet is the best way to increase magnesium intake:

  • Dark leafy greens (spinach, kale)
  • Nuts and seeds (pumpkin seeds, almonds, chia seeds)
  • Whole grains (brown rice, quinoa)
  • Legumes (black beans, chickpeas)
  • Avocado
  • Dark chocolate

Additionally, an Epsom salt bath is a relaxing way to absorb magnesium through the skin.

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Is it OK to take magnesium every day?

It is generally safe to take magnesium every day, provided you stick within the dosage guidelines recommended by your healthcare provider. Consistent, moderate intake supports your body without leading to adverse side effects.

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Is it better to take magnesium in the morning or at night?

Taking magnesium at night may benefit those looking to improve their sleep quality, as it supports muscle relaxation and has been linked to a calming effect on the nervous system. However, if you are taking magnesium to support energy production or exercise recovery, the morning may be a more suitable time—just make sure you are taking it at the same time every day.

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Who shouldn’t take magnesium?

People suffering from kidney disease, heart disease, intestinal disorders, diabetes, or those on specific medications such as bisphosphonates, antibiotics, diuretics, and proton pump inhibitors—which can impact magnesium levels—should seek medical advice before beginning any magnesium supplementation.

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Magnesium risks

While magnesium is beneficial, excessive intake can lead to several risks, including:

  • Diarrhea and abdominal cramping
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Interference with certain medications, such as antibiotics and blood pressure medications
  • In severe cases, irregular heartbeat and cardiac arrest.

To minimize risks, always follow the recommended dietary allowance and guidelines set by your healthcare provider if you have concerns about your magnesium intake.

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Your choice of mattress will impact your life for up to a decade. According to the National Sleep Foundation, a mattress will need to be replaced every seven to ten years. Signs it’s time to get a new mattress include excessive sagging or waking up with aches and pains. The search for a new mattress typically starts online as you pore over stats about thickness, materials, varieties, and price. One thing you probably overlook is flammability because all mattresses must meet specific requirements and will be pulled from the market if they don’t. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reported on April 11, 2024, that a popular mattress brand is being recalled for failing these standards, typically involving a lit cigarette and a powerful open flame.

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If you purchased a new mattress in the past two years, you should check to see what brand and model you have under your sheets. Innovative Bedding Solutions is recalling about 1,250 units of its GhostBed Natural Mattresses that violate the smoldering ignition requirements of the federal mattress flammability regulation. GhostBed mattresses are sold at GhostBed.com, GhostBedNatural.com, Costco, Sam’s Club, Amazon, and other retailers.   

The recall affects GhostBed Natural mattresses with a model number that begins with 13GBNAT or “Natural.” These 12-inch mattresses have an ivory quilted top and a knit quilted side panel with horizontal lines. They were sold in several sizes including Twin, Twin XL, Full, Queen, King, Split King, and California King. They all have the signature black and green GhostBed Natural logo on the cover. You can find the model number and manufacture date on the label. All the recalled mattresses were made between June 2021 and March 2023 and cost between $1,200 and $2,500.

If you have one of the recalled mattresses, you should stop using it immediately. Thankfully, the fix is simple and requires a call or email to GhostBed. The company states:

Customers may register with GhostBed to receive a complimentary, custom-made mattress cover to place on top of the existing cover, which will ensure the mattress meets flammability standards. There are no charges for shipping and/or handling of the cover.

To request a mattress cover or for more information, visit the GhostBed recall page, email [email protected], or call the company at 877-557-5335 from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. ET Monday through Friday. No injuries have been reported from the recall to date. No other GhostBed mattress types have been mentioned in the recall notice.

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If you eat gluten-free by choice or out of necessity, heads up on a recall that broke late Friday afternoon on two varieties of grocery bagels.

On April 12, 2024, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published an announcement that Feel Good Foods had issued a recall on gluten-free Plain and Everything flavored mini cream cheese-stuffed bagels. The announcement noted that the bagels “may contain undeclared gluten that may be present due to cross-contamination,” adding: “People who have an allergy or severe sensitivity to gluten run the risk of serious allergic reaction if they consume these products.”

It’s said both varieties of Gluten-Free Cream Cheese Stuffed Mini Bagels were distributed nationwide through national retailers, and that the recalled products are displayed in the frozen section.

Feel Good Foods bagel recall details, as published by the FDA:

The recalled Cream Cheese Stuffed Plain Mini Bagels with UPC 89903900283 and Cream Cheese Stuffed Everything Mini Bagels with UPC 89903900286 are packaged in cardboard cartons labeled with ‘Feel Good Foods’ on the front panel and the bagel flavor listed below. The recall includes all Best By dates, ranging from 5/29/24 to 9/17/25 which is on the bottom of carton. Please see photos of carton labeling as product may contain two styles of labeling due to package re-design.

It’s reported the recall was issued voluntarily after the company received word that one consumer had experienced an adverse reaction. The FDA quoted Vanessa Phillips, founder of Feel Good Foods: “Once we were made aware of trace amounts of gluten cross-contamination to Feel Good Foods’ Gluten-Free Plain and Everything flavored Cream Cheese Stuffed Mini Bagels, we contacted the FDA and took swift action to voluntarily recall the impacted product.” Phillips continued, “As a founder who is personally affected by celiac disease, ensuring the integrity and safety of our gluten-free products is of the utmost importance. We take the health and safety of our consumers extremely seriously.”

Steps to take, per the FDA and Feel Good Foods brand, if you purchased these products:

Impacted consumers should stop consuming the product and may visit their retailer for a full refund or dispose of the products. For those who have additional questions, please contact Feel Good Foods’ Customer Care Center via email at [email protected] or via phone at 1-800-638-8949. Feel Good Foods’ hours of operation are from 9:00AM to 5:00PM EST every day.

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Kathrine Switzer may not have set out to become a champion for women’s athletics and equality, but she didn’t shy away from it, either. When Switzer talked her coach into training her for the Boston Marathon in 1967, another five years would pass before women were formally allowed to participate in the race.

It was, of course, an important era for the advancement of American woman in general. In her 2017 memoir Marathon Woman, Switzer tells the story behind the famous photograph of the race commissioner trying to pull her out of the race—an image some female runners, as well as many female professionals, often refer to as a symbol of strength and perseverance. In an exclusive interview with The Healthy by Reader’s Digest ahead of the 2024 Boston Marathon on April 15, Switzer revealed that the bib she wore that day donning the number 261 “is on its way to the Smithsonian, which is really wonderful.”

Today at age 77, Switzer leads 261 Fearless, a global nonprofit she founded. “The concept is to get a woman in a community really well trained as a coach—or two or three women—and they start a club or a group with the proper background and tools. Then the group coalesces, and they run with all ages, all abilities, no judgment.” 261 Fearless is a beneficiary partner of the November Every Woman’s Marathon, which is described as “the only marathon in the U.S. for women, by women, designed to unite runners of all levels, abilities, and backgrounds in an inspiring, community-driven wellness weekend.”

Of Every Woman’s Marathon, Switzer says, “We are really, really excited that we’re one of the designated charities. We’re going to give this race body and soul.”

Prepare to be inspired by this living legend—who, may we add, is every bit as feisty and energetic as we’d hoped. We snagged time with her between hiking trips to New Zealand, where she spends part of the year.

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black and white photograph of Trainer Jock Semple -- in street clothes -- enters the field of runners (left) to try to pull Kathy Switzer (261) out of the race

The Healthy by Reader’s Digest: It’s exciting to have this conversation with you the same week the championship between Iowa and South Carolina became ESPN’s most-viewed college basketball game, men’s or women’s. Was gender equity one of your motivations to get into the race? Did you know you were making a daring choice that day?

Kathrine Switzer: Look, when I first ran the Boston Marathon, it was more of a gift from my coach [Arnie Briggs] to me because he and I had argued for many, many months about whether a woman could run a marathon or not. This was when I was a student at Syracuse University. He was a volunteer coach ex-marathoner. He was the University mailman, and he was a really, really humble, modest guy. He had run Boston 15 times, and the day in his life when he ran the Boston Marathon was the day he was somebody. So it was just wonderful to hear his stories.

But after a while I got tired of him [laughs], and I said, “Well, let’s quit talking about running it, and let’s do it.”

And he said, “A woman can’t possibly do a marathon.”

And I said, “Oh, come on, we have been running 10 miles a night in a blizzard. We can do this.”

“A woman can’t do it,” he said. “If any woman could, I believe you could—but even you would have to prove it to me.”

I went on and on about it. I said, “Listen: Women throughout history have actually run marathons.” I mean, not many, six. And at Boston, a woman ran the year before I did. She jumped out of the bushes and ran the race. He didn’t believe it—many people didn’t believe it—but I saw it was in the newspapers. I knew a couple of guys who had had seen her in the race.

So we ran in practice, and the day we went to run 26.2 miles, when we were finishing up, he said, “You look really great.”

I said, “I don’t think we went far enough. Let’s do another five-mile loop.”

He said, “Can you do another five?”

I said, “Sure, come on. Can’t you?”

So we finished up, now it’s 31 miles, and by that time he was weaving all over the road—he was gone. When we finished, I clapped him on the back and said, “We did it! We’re going to Boston!”

And he fainted. When he came to, he said, “Women have hidden potential in endurance and stamina.”

It was a gift when Arnie helped me sign up for the race. He insisted I register for it. I said to him, “You know, I’m going to be noticed in Boston if I wear a bib.”

He said, “You have to wear a bib. It’s against the rules not to. You have to pay your registration. This is a serious race.”

So I said, “OK, I guess I’m gonna be noticed.”

And he said, “I’m proud of you.” It was really amazing. So I knew I was going to be noticed, but I went low-key. It was raining and snowing and sleeting, and so I was in my baggy warm-up suit, but underneath I had on a really cute-looking shorts and top. I was kind of proud of myself, but we were all wearing everything we owned. It was so miserable.

All the guys knew I was a woman. They were excited about it, and welcoming, saying, “I wish my wife would run, I wish my girlfriend would run!”

So you know, basically I was just there to run the race. That’s all I wanted to do: Put my head down and run. So I had no idea was making history. I thought I was following the rules. I thought it was no big deal.

Kathy Switzer of Syracuse (261) and Rocky Chamberlain directly behind during the Boston Marathon

The Healthy: So many of us have seen that iconic photo of you in the race—actually, a series of images a photographer caught. What was going through your mind as a 20-year-old woman, with grown men who were coming at you pretty aggressively?

Kathrine Switzer: What happened is that [at the] mile-and-a-half [point] is when the press truck came by. The race director saw me and absolutely lost his temper and attacked me—and he did it in front of the press truck! I mean, we wouldn’t even be having this interview if he hadn’t done that. He was out of control and my boyfriend, who was one of the guys who was running with me, decked the official … [and] screamed, “Run like hell!” And down the street we went again.

Also the press truck was haranguing me. All the guys on the bus—men, all men—were shouting at me: “What are you trying to prove? Are you a suffragette?”

Finally, I shouted back: “I’m not going to quit. You might as well go to the front of the race where you belong.”

When they left, I turned to Arnie, and I said, “I’m finishing this race in my hands and my knees if I have to.”

Arnie said, “OK, we’re going to slow down. We’re just gonna make sure we finish the race. That’s going to be our objective.”

So the series of pictures were literally flashed around the world before I even finished the race. As a journalism student, the aftermath of this was fascinating. Does the event make the history, or just capturing the moment on film make history?

Katie Couric and Kathrine Switzer attend The 2020 MAKERS Conference at the InterContinental Los Angeles
Switzer and another friend of The Healthy, Katie Couric, at The 2020 MAKERS Conference

The Healthy: Incredible. How had you gotten into running?

Kathrine Switzer: My dad. I went to a little country day school, there were only like 60 kids in the entire school. I was going into high school, which was eighth grade in those days, and there were 1,500 kids in this high school. I mean, they were grown up kids, you know, they were cool. And I wasn’t cool. I wanted to be a cheerleader because they were kind of pretty and popular. That’s really all there was for women.

And my dad said, “Oh honey. You don’t want to be a cheerleader. They cheer for other people. You want people to cheer for you.”

And I said, “What?”

He said, “I went to the PTA meeting. Your school has something new: It’s called field hockey. I only know that there they run, and you can run,” he said. “Why don’t you try for that field hockey team?”

I said, “Well, I don’t even know anything about it.”

He said, “If you ran a mile a day, you’d be the best player on the team.” My father was a very motivating guy.

I said, “I cannot run a mile!”

He said, “Sure, you can. Come on, let me show you. Just finish. It’s about finishing.”

So we measured the mile, I did it, and I said, “Oh, Dad, I did it!”

He said, “Yay! Guess what?”

I said, “What?”

He said, “Now you do it every day.”

Gold medalist Gotytom Gebreslase of Team Ethiopia receives her medal from Kathrine Switzer after competing in the Women's Marathon on day four of the World Athletics Championships Oregon22

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The Healthy: So that’s how it started for you. Women’s fitness and athleticism arguably have come a pretty long way, and it’s exciting to see the Every Woman’s Marathon making a marathon more accessible. What’s your perspective on this?

Kathrine Switzer: You said “arguably,” but it is not arguable. It’s absolutely unbelievable. I mean, just look at it in my own lifetime, OK? Let’s say it’s been 55 years since women were allowed to run in a marathon. It’s only been 40 years since we’ve had an Olympic marathon. But now? Fifty-eight percent of all participating runners in the United States are women. They account for 85% of the retail sales—you know, clothing and shoes. I just talked to the guys at the New York City Marathon. Over half the field is now women. Do you know what that accounts for? Millions of dollars. It’s a huge economic impact.

But OK, let’s put that over here. The point is, it is not unusual anymore for a woman to run and to be accepted or to take part in sports, or to move her body, or to be out in public moving. I mean, there’s still some some slideback. Safety is still an issue for women when we go outside, particularly alone and in the dark. But men have had an Olympic Games for 3,000 years. If women have only had running events in the Olympic Games, let’s say for the last 50 or 60 years, you’ve got to understand: You’ve overcome eons and eons of backward thinking. The sense of freedom and the equality of women in the sport, and the equality of women in general in society. And I definitely think sports has led this charge.

The Healthy: You’ve seemed to stay healthy and active over the years. What’s your favorite way to exercise today?

Kathrine Switzer: Well absolutely it’s running. I mean, it’s easy, cheap, convenient and totally accessible. You go out the door, boom, you’re running and every second counts. I don’t have to drive to gym. I don’t have to drive to a pool. Why waste the 15 minutes to get to a gym and park the car when I could use every moment? I’ve even taken now to putting on a backpack and making it very heavy by putting all my groceries and stuff in it, and using that for really good kind of quad work just from carrying it around.

I also make sure I have a very big living room. I push all the furniture back and do all my stretching, my Pilates and my weight work on my living room floor, saving time, combined with watching Turner Classics or something. Just me and movement is my favorite form of exercise.

The Healthy: How far do you try to run each day?

Kathrine Switzer: I would say every day I do at least at least 50 minutes to an hour [and] five [minutes], around that range. Basically I run how I feel. Some days when I’m really tired, I just take it easy, but then I find myself moving into it and picking it up. Then one day a week, a long run, perhaps an hour and a half.

The Healthy: What’s another form of self-care you refuse to skip?

Kathrine Switzer: Good food. Milk has been an enormous, enormous part of my life. My dad was grew up on a dairy farm, and … I remember my brother and I drinking at least a quart of milk each day. I still have a glass of milk, at least one every night before I go to bed, because it helps you sleep and rebuilds the tissue. You look at the calcium, potassium and magnesium content of of milk, it’s overwhelming. I look at myself and say, You know, you’re 77, you’re still out there running sometimes three and four hours. Or I do a 10K hike in 57 minutes, and people tell me, “And you’ve never had a stress fracture!”

I eat actually extremely healthy food, so almost everything is fresh. That’s why I went berserk on this [most recent New Zealand] trek. We went four days, and the dehydrated food came—you know, all these bars and processed stuff. But I had packed four huge, thick almond butter and honey sandwiches and bananas, and my powdered milk.

Everybody laughed at me, but I gotta tell you that at the end of that walk, I was the best-fueled person there.

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This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, rightly earns the nickname “the silent killer” as it often arrives without any noticeable symptoms. The World Health Organization reported in 2023 that an estimated 1.28 billion adults between the ages of 30 and 79 worldwide are affected by it. Over time, high blood pressure can quietly cause damage, raising the risk of serious conditions like heart attacks, diabetes, and strokes. Certain meaningful lifestyle changes, such as healthy diet choices or regular exercise, can help manage the condition. The good news is that you don’t need to engage in extremely intense workouts to see remarkable results, though; something as simple as a consistent walking routine can yield excellent results in lowering blood pressure.

Ahead, experts weigh in on how walking can lower blood pressure, with tips to make your walking routine even more beneficial for your heart health.

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How walking impacts blood pressure

Walking is such a routine part of our day that you may overlook its potential as a powerful form of exercise. “Walking helps make your heart more efficient,” Cleveland Clinic cardiologist Tamanna Singh, MD, explains on the institution’s blog. “As you’re improving your fitness, your heart actually becomes more effective with each heart pump that it provides for that type of exercise.” This improvement in heart efficiency leads to a stronger heart, which can pump more blood with less effort. The outcome? A reduction in the pressure against your blood vessels, ultimately leading to lower blood pressure.

Supporting this, a comprehensive review in 2021 involving 5,763 individuals revealed that engaging in a regular walking routine could significantly reduce systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading) by 4.11 millimeters of mercury (mmHg), diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) by 1.79 mmHg, and resting heart rate by 2.76 beats per minute. The regimen involved walking three to five times per week at moderate intensity for 20 to 40 minutes, accumulating to at least 150 minutes of activity weekly.

To help put these findings into context, the American Heart Association (AHA) offers these benchmarks for understanding blood pressure levels:

  • Normal blood pressure: Less than 120/80 mmHg
  • Elevated blood pressure: 120-129/less than 80 mmHg
  • Hypertension: 130/80 mmHg or higher
  • Hypotension (low blood pressure): Below 90/60 mmHg

The AHA also advises at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity weekly, or a mix of both spread throughout the week.

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How long does it take for walking to lower blood pressure?

The time frame for reducing blood pressure from walking can vary based on individual health factors, the intensity of the exercise, and consistency. Typically, it can take one to three months of regular exercise such as walking to observe a noticeable decrease in blood pressure, with the benefits enduring only as long as the exercise is continued. Research has also shown that splitting exercise into shorter sessions throughout the day, such as three 10-minute walks, may better manage high blood pressure than a single 30-minute session.

Before beginning a walking routine or any exercise regimen, it’s wise to measure your blood pressure with a blood pressure cuff to monitor your progress and adjust as needed. Exercise caution with smartwatch blood pressure monitors, as they may not always provide accurate readings.

For optimal results, adding specific strategies to your walking can help. Natural arm swinging increases the intensity, and keeping a brisk pace (no less than 2.5 miles per hour) can maximize health perks without overexerting.

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What is the best exercise to lower blood pressure?

Walking is a reliable method of lowering blood pressure, but it’s just one option among many aerobic exercises that are good for heart health. This group also includes activities like cycling, hiking, swimming, jogging, and even dancing, with the addition of strength training two to three times a week.

The key is to pick an exercise that suits your lifestyle, preferences, and physical abilities so you stay consistent and enjoy your workouts. Walking is often the go-to choice for its ease and low injury risk.

Ready to start walking to lower blood pressure? Harvard Health suggests these tips for refining your technique:

  • Stand tall to improve breathing and reduce backaches.
  • Keep your gaze ahead, about 10 to 20 feet in front of you, to avoid stress on your neck and upper back.
  • Position shoulders back, down, and relaxed, allowing for a freer arm swing.
  • Swing your arms freely from your shoulders in a forward and back motion without crossing your body or going above your chest.
  • Maintain a neutral pelvis, keeping abs tight without overarching or tucking.
  • Step lightly, rolling from heel to toe to minimize joint impact and promote a smooth stride.

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If you spend time around the Internet, social media, the news or true crime podcasts, this may come as a surprise—but some statistics show that violent crime has dropped over recent decades in the U.S. For example, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has reported that homicides have largely trended downward from 1991, when they peaked around 1.1 million nationally, to around 450,000 cases in 2014. The FBI also shared data suggesting that violent crimes in general followed a similar pattern.

Interestingly, a team of medical and criminal justice researchers is highlighting another phenomenon that has coincided with these rates. The effect that they found may have something to do with the American diet.

To start, in 2024 it’s more widely understood than it’s been in the past that food affects overall wellness, including psychological aspects of mood like happiness, depression and agitation. In fact, some foods are so essential for brain and nervous system function that they’re recommended even before birth.

Folate is a big one. Many obstetrics doctors instruct their pregnant patients to eat or supplement with plenty of folate, also known as vitamin B6. Past research has demonstrated that folate supplementation can have profound effects on fetal development and can help prevent severe neural tube birth defects, like spina bifida.

Now a study led by U.S. and Australian medical and criminal justice researchers has picked up on a potential connection between violent crime rates and levels of folate consumption among the population. A study published in the journal Nutrients on April 6, 2024, notes how the 30% decrease in violent crime between 1991 and 2001 happened along a similar timeline that the U.S. government mandated that U.S. diet staples like rice, bread, pasta, and cereal should be fortified with folic acid. (In the 1940s, B vitamins thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin were added to grain products to combat deficiencies.)

Analyzing national data, the team also noted a “significant” increase in blood levels of folic acid during the same period. They conclude that this sudden and substantial rise in tissue folate levels might have contributed to reducing violent crime in the United States, due to folate’s role in synthesizing serotonin—one of the main “happiness” hormones that’s demonstrated to stabilize the mood.

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It’s a positive takeaway, but the researchers caution that this association does not necessarily imply that folate was solely responsible for the decline in crime. Factors like economic conditions, changes in law enforcement practices and drug legislation could have contributed to the improvements, especially in the 1990s. “It is understood that violent/non-violent suicide and homicide are complex subjects, and rates of both can be influenced by many environmental and socioeconomic factors, regardless of optimal folic acid intakes,” the researchers add.

While folate cannot definitively be linked to crime rates, it does exhibit a documented association with depression in other studies. In one from the journal Nutrients published in 2023, researchers suggest folate can be a powerful adjunct treatment to medication for people with depression. “Low folate levels are common among individuals with depression, influenced by various factors such as lifestyle, medications, and genetic predisposition. But even individuals with normal folate levels may still experience benefits from folic acid or L-methylfolate supplementation,” conclude researchers from that paper. 

If you find yourself feeling down or experiencing mental health issues, know that the national crisis hotline is available when you dial 988. It’s also advisable to discuss your dietary habits with your healthcare provider to determine if supplementation is appropriate for you. Individuals who are not pregnant require 400 micrograms (mcg) of folate per day, obtainable through fortified foods or naturally rich sources such as beans, dark leafy greens, and orange juice.

If you are pregnant or planning to conceive, it is essential to consult your licensed healthcare provider regarding your nutritional requirements.

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The connection between relative high meat consumption and certain types of cancer has been well established. The World Health Organization classifies processed meat—like bacon, sausage, and other cured meats—alongside smoking and asbestos as a “Group 1” carcinogen (but notes that processed meat consumption should be limited, unlike smoking and asbestos exposure, which both should be avoided completely).

Most organizations concerned with cancer prevention agree that people should limit processed meat, as it is linked with cancers of the colon, stomach, and other sites of the body. Now new research reveals how even some fresher animal protein can lead to a heightened risk for yet another type of cancer.

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A new study was conducted by chemistry and cancer researchers at the Medical University of Silesia in Katowice, the largest medical school in Poland, and subsequently published in the journal Nutrients on April 7, 2024. 

The research team reported: “Oral cancer is one of the world’s research priorities due to the ever-increasing incidence rate,” highlighting this trend among younger adults. They theorized that this rise could be connected with an increase in red meat consumption. Past research has shown that when red meat is heated (which, of course, is done to destroy pathogens and make it safer and more palatable), chemical compounds form that can lead to cancerous changes in the digestive tract. High heat and longer cooking times can increase these compounds. 

The study involved two groups of Polish citizens who completed food questionnaires about their eating habits. The first group had been diagnosed with oral cancer between 2022 and 2023 with an average age of 67. Meanwhile, the control group consisted of people with no diagnosis of cancer or other chronic disease with an average age of 53.

When the two were compared, researchers found that while smoking, drinking alcohol, and infection with human papillomavirus (HPV) correlated with the highest risk of oral cancer, red meat consumption also increased risk. The higher the total intake of meat, the more the risk for oral cancer increased.

Higher levels of red meat, in particular, increased risk—but the risk increased even further when it was processed. Smoked meat most of all was associated with the highest risk of developing oral cancer versus fried, roasted, and boiled meat. 

Surprisingly, grilled meat didn’t show as high of a connection, but researchers theorized that it’s likely because Polish culture generally only grills meat on certain occasions. More studies would have to be done outside of the tested population to see if that correlated with other areas of the world where grilling is more popular, as it’s known to develop carcinogenic compounds. For instance, in Brazil, consuming grilled meat four or more times per week was connected with increased oral cancer rates, they noted.

The study did have some good news: consuming vegetables seemed to have a protective effect against oral cancer.

Overall, the researchers concluded that “limiting the consumption of meat products and modifying the methods of preparing meat dishes may … reduce the risk of developing oral cancer.”

This aligns with the overall message of the American Institute for Cancer Research, which advises people to consume as little processed meat as possible and to limit fresh, cooked meat to a maximum of 18 ounces per week. 

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It’s better to get your mammogram a little late than to miss it altogether, right? Absolutely—but this story will illustrate that in some cases, time truly is of the essence.

Breast cancer remains the leading type of cancer among women in the United States. In 2024, the American Cancer Society estimates that more than 310,720 women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer, plus 56,500 cases of ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), a relatively less aggressive form of breast cancer. Unfortunately, in 2024 breast cancer is expected to claim the lives of approximately 42,250 women.

You are probably familiar with the hallmark signs of breast cancer, which include but are not limited to feeling a lump in the breast, changes in the skin or nipple area, experiencing nipple discharge, or seeing an indentation in the skin. However, Wassim Mchayleh, MD, MBA, FACP, who’s a medical oncologist at AdventHealth and Clinical Program Director for the Breast Cancer Program at the Central Florida Division, makes an important point about breast cancer symptom awareness and early detection: “It’s important to say that we don’t want to wait for the symptoms,” Dr. Mchayleh says. “Breast cancer is better diagnosed with a mammogram before having any symptoms.”

This breast oncologist emphasizes the value of self-examinations and clinical breast exams by a healthcare professional, but he highlights that the recommended test to diagnose breast cancer is a mammogram with or without ultrasound for an earlier and more accurate breast cancer diagnosis, with standard screening starting at the age of 40. (Note: The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that women at average breast cancer risk begin mammogram screenings at age 40 and continue every two years until age 74. Women with a mother or birth sister who had breast cancer should start screenings 10 years earlier than the age at which their relative was diagnosed.)

Dr. Mchayleh also addresses a misconception to clarify that most breast cancer cases are not genetic, despite widespread belief. Genetic forms of breast cancer constitute only about 5% of cases. He notes that while the general risk of breast cancer is about 11% to 12% for women, this risk doubles with a first-degree relative diagnosed, and triples or quadruples with more than two first-degree relatives. In some instances, such as for women with dense breasts or a high-risk profile (over 20% risk), adding an ultrasound or breast MRI to the screening process is advised.

Dr. Mchayleh warns that while most cancers develop over a period of six to 12 months, the more aggressive types can emerge between regular mammogram screenings. Because of this, it is essential to seek further evaluation if you detect any changes in your breasts, even after a negative mammogram, given the diversity of breast cancer types: Estrogen receptor-positive (the most common that grows in response to estrogen), HER2-positive and triple-negative (which are more aggressive).

The story of breast cancer survivor Simona Lazinsk highlights the importance of early detection. Now 46, Lazinsk was diagnosed at age 41 with a HER2-amplified tumor after seeking a second opinion with Dr. Mchayleh and the AdventHealth team. Their practice uses a care model they call the Breast Cancer Multidisciplinary Clinic, which in one appointment gathers the patient and several specialists—in Simona’s case, a surgical oncologist, medical oncologist, and radiation oncologist—all at the same time to evaluate newly diagnosed breast cancer patients and develop a personalized care plan together. This innovative approach ensures timely patient evaluation, encourages specialist collaboration, standardizes care, and expedites treatment initiation, leading to overall improved patient outcomes and survival rates. Dr. Mchayleh says his team has seen improved outcomes exceeding the national average using this particular model.

In Simona’s case, this collaboration and thought-sharing between doctors was especially beneficial because starting chemotherapy before surgery can optimize a breast cancer prognosis. This contrasts with scenarios at other hospitals, where patients might first undergo surgery before seeing an oncologist.

Continue reading Simona’s breast cancer survival story to understand why making sure that mammogram is finally scheduled can be lifesaving.

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Here’s how I knew I had breast cancer

By Simona Lazinsk, as told to Dr. Patricia Varacallo, DO

My journey to America began when I was just a young girl. Originally from Guyana in South America, my family harbored dreams of a better life in the United States. Upon our arrival, my mother dedicated herself to our home, while my father, despite holding a PhD and a career as a professor, found his qualifications unrecognized. Consequently, he worked tirelessly in a restaurant to support us.

Over time, even though our living situation began to improve, things didn’t get easier. My mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and after a two-year fight, she passed away at age 53. Devastated, my father succumbed to alcohol, and my sister passed away as well.

In an attempt to escape the memories that South Florida held of my mother, I relocated to Central Florida, leaving everything behind and immersing myself in my real estate career. It was also in this field that I met my future husband, though our romantic relationship did not begin until years later—on Valentine’s Day 2019, he proposed center court of an Orlando Magic game to mark what we expected would be a joyous new chapter in our lives.

It so happened that my life was so busy around this time that I postponed scheduling my first mammogram in 2019 at age 40. It didn’t help months later when the Covid pandemic struck and many healthcare organizations put all elective procedures on hold. As I’d find out, getting a mammogram that year would have been insightful.

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Finding a lump on my breast

In March of that same year, I found myself on a business trip to Chicago. Realizing I had forgotten my personal shower gel and loofah, I resigned myself to using the hotel’s soap. It was then, while washing, that I discovered a small lump on my right breast. Initially, I brushed it off as a possible pimple, though of course concern lingered in the back of my mind.

In my hotel room I turned to the internet to search for symptoms of breast cancer, finding that only the lump itself seemed to fit the profile. I didn’t have the other symptoms—like nipple discharge, nipple inversion, breast irritation—but I promised myself I’d schedule an appointment with my primary care doctor when I got home. That was one of several checkups I’d let slip when the pandemic started.

When I called her practice, they couldn’t get me in for another month. I didn’t want to alarm my fiancé but mentioned it to him. He was glad I was getting it checked out.

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My breast cancer diagnosis

During my appointment with my primary care doctor, she reassured me the bump was likely nothing serious but advised me to go for a mammogram just to be sure.

Scheduling the mammogram was easy. Most hospital systems have a designated line to call, and often they can get you in within a couple days or a few weeks at most.

After my mammogram, I learned some concerns had been discovered. The radiologist who read my imaging suggested that I undergo an ultrasound for a closer look.

The ultrasound results raised more alarms, leading to a biopsy next. The biopsy procedure—particularly the unexpectedly large needle involved—was a bit intimidating, and the doctors’ questions heightened my own questions and fears. I also underwent a breast MRI for further clarification.

After the biopsy results came back, I received the call from my doctor: I had breast cancer, she said. I was genuinely shocked. My doctor instructed me not to wait: My cancer was classified as stage one but grade three, meaning the cancer was highly aggressive.

I remember hanging up the phone feeling stunned…then tears started to flow. I remember thinking: Would I make it to my next birthday?

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Seeking a second opinion

My primary care doctor had recommended an oncologist in Orlando. My first impression of this doctor was striking. He entered the room with a certain briskness, which was especially jarring after having just gotten such serious news about my health. As I sat there in my hospital gown, looking down, he began outlining my diagnosis and treatment plan in a rather matter-of-fact manner without offering explanations or pausing for my input. He quickly mentioned chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery as my treatment pathway.

When I asked for clarification, especially about the necessity of chemotherapy before surgery, he responded, “Because that’s what we do.” This answer surprised me. I listened to my gut and hurried to seek opinions from other breast cancer specialists, searching for someone who could explain the treatment in a way that resonated with me.

This search brought me to the team at AdventHealth Altamonte Springs, led by Dr. Devina McCray, a breast surgical oncologist, and Dr. Mchayleh. These two physicians took the time to thoroughly explain the treatment process and the advantage to me as a patient of having all necessary doctors in one location through their multi-disciplinary model to treat breast cancer.

Being able to consult with my oncologist, surgeon, and radiation oncologist under one roof in just one afternoon was incredibly beneficial. Facing cancer treatment is overwhelming enough without the added stress of commuting between multiple offices and not feeling confident that your doctor will be sensitive to your questions.

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Treatment after I knew I had breast cancer

Given the aggressive nature of my cancer, my doctors recommended starting with chemotherapy to ensure the cancer hadn’t spread to other areas of my body. My chemotherapy regimen consisted of the medications Perjeta, Herceptin (trastuzumab), and docetaxel. This is the first-line treatment for HER2+ breast cancer that has metastasized. Even though my cancer hadn’t yet metastasized, which means “spread,” my doctors told me it was highly aggressive which meant that it was likely to spread soon. It was a tough journey, undergoing eight rounds of chemo before surgery.

Following chemotherapy, in August of 2019—so much had happened in the six months after my fiancé had proposed!—I underwent a double mastectomy with Dr. McCray. I decided against radiation, having witnessed the profound impact it had on my mother during her fight with pancreatic cancer. It was a personal choice that I felt was right for me in my healing journey.

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Life after breast cancer

Today, I am doing great! This year marks a significant milestone—five years cancer-free. My visits to the doctor and blood work have become a regular part of my life every six months, and I just had an appointment with Dr. Mchayleh recently. I’ve come to view these doctors as family.

It’s a blessing, truly, to have reached this side of my journey. I’m happily married, have published my autobiography and was crowned Mrs. Central Florida and Ms. Florida International. Life blooms, even after cancer—something hard to imagine in the thick of the battle, but profoundly true.

Remember that if you’re ever uncertain or uncomfortable with your care, seeking a second opinion is always an option.

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