How Women Can Age Gracefully: Foods For Healthy Nails, Hair, And Skin

Several factors can play a role in healthy and graceful aging. Some are not in your control, such as genetics. However, a healthy diet and exercise, among other factors, are in your control and can help. Women, in particular, can significantly benefit from eating the right diet. A consistently balanced diet can contribute to you retaining a healthy appearance and thicker hair density, both signs of aging well. Aside from looks, you will also be able to maintain your quality of life as you age and remain independent as long as possible.

Keep reading to learn more about the right kind of food for healthy nails, hair, and skin.

Research Proving Diet Is Linked to Your Skin, Health, and Age

Women can prevent several problems from developing by making smart food choices. Eating well is not about regulating weight. A balanced diet helps make nails and hair grow stronger and give your skin a supple glow – it can also improve your brain function and lower the risk of heart disease. Older adults who aged gracefully were conscious about what they ate to make sure they were getting the vitamins and nutrients they needed.

Healthy dietary recommendations are provided in the 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The diet suggests including lots of whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats.

The research mostly shows that the Mediterranean style of eating instead of the traditional American diet allows for better skin, hair, and nail health, especially in women. The Mediterranean diet involves more whole grains, fresh produce, and healthy fats. It has more fish and less dairy as compared to the American diet.

Essential Food Groups for Healthy Hair, Skin, and Nails

There is no magic food group that will make you look young forever. Keratin is the primary building block in your nails and hair. The skin begins looking tired when collagen breaks down is no longer produced at a high rate in old age. The right food groups in a balanced diet can increase the production of collagen, keratin, and elastin for providing silky strong hair, fast-growing nails, and soft, youthful-looking skin.

1.  Proteins

Hair, skin, and nails are mostly proteins in the form of keratin, elastin, and collagen. You need enough protein in your diet to ward off skin wrinkles while attaining elasticity and strength. Most women in the US don’t get enough lean proteins in their diet. You don’t want to be like Miranda Priestly’s assistant in the famous movie The Devil Wears Prada!

She is trying to lose weight and proudly describes her diet as starving herself until she felt like fainting. Chances are high that she was low on protein, which would eventually take a toll on her hair, skin, and nails as well – things that most women in the fashion industry want looking perfect.

While protein is important because of its numerous health benefits, you need to make sure you get it from lean sources. Having a steak each night will only add to your weight troubles and heart issues. Consider getting protein in the form of seafood, eggs, legumes, lean meats, and low-fat dairy products.

2.  Essential Fat

In an attempt at losing weight, the majority of women skimp on fats, which can pose health risks. We don’t mean the greasy pie or pastry type. Your body needs healthy fats in the form of omega-6 and omega-3. You are probably not getting enough of these if you have itchy or dry scalp. They are called essential fats since your body is incapable of producing them. You need to eat them.

Prostaglandins are compounds that work to keep inflammation down and immunity up. They are created when the body has enough supply of both omega-3 and omega-6. In particular, omega-6 is essential for your skin health. However, you need to balance the ratio by eating foods such as avocado, walnuts, tofu, sardines, tuna, and salmon once a week. Include flaxseeds into your diet as well.

Mega dosing on fish oil capsules is not just expensive, but not recommended. Instead, incorporate fresh vegetables, fish, and seeds into your diet. Don’t just restrict yourself to fish fillets. Experiment with sushi, ceviche, fish curry, and seafood chowders.

3.  Iron

Another important nutrient that a large number of women in the country lack is iron. You are probably running low on iron if you feel tired and fatigued all the time. Hair, skin, and nails are the first to suffer if your diet is not rich in iron. Your skin may become itchy and pale. There may be cracking on the corners of your mouth. Nails can develop vertical stripes and become brittle because of an iron deficiency. Your hair will start shedding more and will become noticeably dull, dry, and brittle.

You can get iron from dark, leafy greens, meat, dried fruit and from whole grains and legumes as well. You can enhance absorption by adding vitamin C from capsicum and fruits to your diet.

4. Vitamin C

Vitamin C is the structural cement of the body and essential for making collagen. Collagen is the fibrous tissue under the skin that plumps it up to lend shape and support. Your skin looks tired as it loses collagen with age. Harmful oxidative reactions by sun exposure, cigarette smoke, and pollution can deplete collagen and elastin levels in the body.

Healthy doses of vitamin C and beta-carotene can protect the skin and improve resilience. Unfortunately, supplements can create harmful oxidative activity. You can prevent this by eating lots of antioxidant-rich vegetables and fruits. We recommend eating plenty of bell peppers, cauliflower, lemons, oranges, grapefruit, strawberries and kiwi fruit. These are an excellent source of nutrition for supple and plump skin.

5. Vitamin A and Beta-Carotene

All orange and yellow vegetables and fruits are rich in beta-carotene and vitamin A. Beta-carotene converts to vitamin A in the body, which is essential for healthy hair, skin, and nails. Healthy eating means including as many colored fruits and vegetables as you can. You can also eat oil-rich fish, egg yolk, and liver as well.

Healthy doses of beta-carotene improve the skin and protects it from sunburn. This is especially true if you eat it with lycopene, which is found in watermelon and tomatoes. You can get a real vitamin A boost by trying scrambled egg with spinach or salmon.

6. Fluids and Flavonoids

Both flavonoids and carotenoids are essential for protecting the skin from UV damage. Your body is 70% fluid and you need hydration to maintain those levels. Drink plenty of water for hydrated hair, skin, and nails. Fluids aid blood circulation, which help nutrients travel to where they are needed in the body.

You can give yourself a nice flavonoid dose with a few cups of white, green, or black tea. A cup of hot cocoa, glass of red wine, or a few squares of dark chocolate can help as well. Nobody said aging gracefully couldn’t be tasty! However, you need to remember that moderation is key.

Superfoods for Helping Women Age Gracefully

Shiny hair, glowing skin, and smooth nails are signs of beauty and health. These outward features indicate what’s happening inside your body. Moreover, beauty that occurs from the inside out remains with us for a long time, and it involves both physical health and mental health. These power foods will ensure that your hair, skin, and nails remain at their best.

1. Raw Organic Almonds

Almonds contain a significant amount of vitamin E. This is a natural antioxidant that supports the production of both collagen and elastin as your body ages. It’s anti-inflammatory in nature that reduces oxidative stress on the body. Almonds are also rich in plant-based amino acids (proteins). They provide calcium which is the nutritional support for your teeth, bones, hair, skin, and nails.

Almonds when eaten raw are alkaline-forming. Peanuts and cashews are technically legumes and make the body acidic. Alkaline foods support healthy pH levels and detoxification. This prevents acidity, poor health, and inflammation. Almonds are also rich in biotin (vitamin) that makes the hair and nails strong.

2. All Greens

The body literally soaks up nutrients from all green-colored foods. Think of it as something like a magical nutritional sponge. You can get iron and most of your vitamins, including A, B, C, E, and K from green leafy vegetables. Don’t skimp on your broccoli, spinach, collards, watercress, and kale. These vegetables contain a healthy dose of potassium, magnesium, and calcium.

Minerals are vital for maintaining the health of your hair, skin, and nails. They are water-rich and won’t dehydrate your body. They also provide an alkaline environment for flushing out the toxins. Spirulina seaweed is also a fantastic source of protein, biotin, vitamin B12, and iron. It will support your hair, skin, and nail growth even further.

3. Orange Root Veggies

Vitamin A present in carrots, sweet potatoes, and winter squash helps towards the growth of nails and hair. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that lowers stress in the body. Oxidative stress can weaken elastin, keratin, and collagen, which are essential for healthy hair, skin, and nails.

Another property of vitamin C is that it combats free radical production that can cause premature aging. It’s best to steam, bake, or slow cook your carrots, winter squash and sweet potatoes instead of frying. This enhances the antioxidant value. In fact, try eating them raw whenever you can.

4. Raw Pumpkin Seeds

Every single part of the unassuming pumpkin is a superfood, especially the seeds. Pumpkin seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, biotin, potassium, magnesium, protein, and iron. They are alkaline in nature and help in building up the body, instead of breaking it down.

Pumpkin seeds are particularly helpful to women since it improves energy and mood. You will notice stronger hair and nails with clearer skin in no time if you eat 1/4 cup each day.

5. Oats

Oats are another inexpensive yet powerful food. Whole grains form a crucial part of a balanced diet. You shouldn’t ignore these. You can choose whole wheat products, wild quinoa, barley, rye, black rice, wild rice, or brown rice if you are not too fond of oats.

All of these have the essential nutrients for making your hair, skin, and nails better. In particular, oats contain protein, biotin, B-vitamins, potassium, and magnesium that specifically benefit the hair, skin, and nails. Oats help in lowering inflammation in the body and clearing the skin. They can reduce stress and provide your cells with the nutritional support required for being healthy.

6. Eggs

Crack open an egg if you want strong and healthy nails or hair. Eggs contain a powerful protein punch without the added fats. Your body will be able to use every bit of the egg. They also bring iron, vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin B12, and vitamin B7 to the table. The best part is that you don’t really need to have a separate meal to have eggs. You can simply add them to your breakfast or mid-morning snack.

7. Black Beans

Lysine found in black beans is an essential amino acid that helps in iron and zinc absorption. These key nutrients do wonders for the hair and nails. A 2002 study published in the Clinical and Experimental Dermatology journal showed that adding lysine to iron supplements helped women suffering from chronic hair loss and thinning hair. There is a lot of this essential amino acid in a half-cup serving of black beans.

8. Blueberries

Oxidative stress is linked to unhealthy scalp and hair loss. You need to load up on antioxidants for balancing out the oxidative stress if you want to keep your hair and scalp happy. Blueberries have an abundance of proanthocyanidins and vitamin B, which makes them particularly beneficial to hair. According to a study published in The Journal of Investigative Dermatology, proanthocyanidins plays an important role in stimulating hair growth.

9. Tomatoes

Tomatoes are fantastic for your skin because they are a powerful antioxidant. They are loaded with beta-carotene, lycopene, and carotenoids, along with vitamin C. The properties that make a tomato red can prevent you from going all red. Your skin gets an extra layer of sun protection when you eat foods rich in carotenoids. A nice way of having tomatoes is with vitamin E which adds to its skin benefits. You can get dual benefits in a caprese salad by mixing tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, and olive oil.

10. Salmon

You can boost the health of your hair, skin, and nails by eating fatty fish, such as halibut or salmon. This will give you good amounts of protein, iron, essential omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, and vitamin B12. Omega-3 fatty acids are helpful in protecting the skin from sun damage. It supports scalp health too. You can ward off hair loss by getting plenty of protein. Vitamin B12 and iron can make your hair color more vibrant for the ultimate one-two punch.

11. Tangerines

Tangerines may seem like tiny fruits, but they pack a whopping punch in the vitamin C department. This means your mane will remain long and strong. Vitamin C cannot be produced by the body organically, which means you need to eat foods rich in this nutrient. Tangerines are a great way of fixing and strengthening your hair.

They are supportive for your skin health too. Vitamin C is particularly helpful for women suffering from acne. You can mix tangerines in a salad with some spinach. Dietary iron from spinach will be better absorbed with the vitamin C in tangerines. This will help your hair, nails and skin even further. Tangerines contain vitamin B12 as well that has been shown to slow down the aging process.

Other Foods Your Hair, Skin, and Nails Will Love

The key to aging gracefully while maintaining your supple skin, long mane, and beautiful nails is to have a balanced diet and manage your stress in a healthy way. These are a few other types of food that should form part of your everyday diet:

  • walnuts
  • chia seeds
  • chickpeas
  • edamame (young green soybeans)
  • berries
  • avocados
  • hemp seeds
  • tahini (sesame seed butter)
  • lentils

Healthy habits, healthy diet, and regular exercise not only help improve your external appearance and allow you to rediscover your healthy self, they more importantly help fight chronic diseases (such as high blood pressure and Alzheimer’s disease), boost bone health, build muscle mass, and enhance overall quality of life.

Get a Free or Low-Cost Well Woman Exam from VNA Health Care

You need to be healthy on the inside if you want your hair, skin, and nails to reflect it. A reliable way to know whether you are healthy or not is to get a wellness exam. VNA Health Care is a committed provider of affordable and high-quality healthcare services, including well woman exams. We serve all communities in suburban Chicago. We are committed to delivering compassionate care. Schedule an appointment today by calling (630) 892-4355. You can also use this online form to reach us with your questions or concerns.

Summer Means Fun in the Sun, But Also Protecting Your Skin (and Preventing Skin Cancer)

The summer months are here and the sunshine can feel so good. It’s the time to hit the beach, go swimming, take walks, have picnics, and throw Sunday barbecues. But before you start exposing your skin to the sun, you need to know that every sunburn you get means an increased risk of skin cancer. Sun damage can also cause wrinkles, dark spots, and leathery skin.

It’s not just on the days that you have a ballgame or go to the beach, either. You are essentially unprotected whenever you walk the dog, commute to work, or step outside to get the mail.

Keep reading to learn a few tips to protect yourself from the sun and prevent skin cancer.

Why Should You Protect Your Skin From the Sun?

The leading cause of skin cancers according to experts is exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. UV radiation is of two types:

Ultraviolet A (UVA)

These radiations can pass through glass and likely:

  • Cause premature wrinkling and aging of the skin.
  • Play a role in squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma, and melanoma (skin cancer)

Ultraviolet B (UVB)

UVB radiations cannot pass through glass and car windows. These radiations:

  • Can cause sunburn.
  • Are linked to the development of melanoma and skin cancer.

You should take steps to protect your skin from both UVA and UVB radiation.

Tips for Protecting Your Skin from Sun Exposure and Preventing Skin Cancer

1. Wear Sun Protective Clothing

Clothing can provide ample barrier against the UV rays of the sun. It provides consistent protection and doesn’t wear off like sunscreen. High tech protection is offered by many new fabrics. These clothes offer breathability on hot days too. You should consider covering more skin by wearing pants, long sleeves, and high necks. In addition, using a hat with a wide brim can provide shade to your face, neck, eyes, and ears.

Don’t forget to wear UV-blocking sunglasses for protecting your eyes and the surrounding skin. While purchasing clothes, fabrics, and hats, look for the ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) tag. This number indicates the fraction of sun’s rays that can penetrate the fabric. For instance, UPF 50 will allow only 1/50th of the radiation to reach your skin.

2. Use Shade as a Refuge

Think of shade as your refuge from the sun whenever you are outside. This is particularly important between 10 am and 4 pm since the sun is at its strongest during this time. Sit under an umbrella or awning and try walking on the shady side of the street. Duck under a covered porch or a tree at outdoor parties.

However, you cannot count on shade only to protect you against the risk factors for developing skin cancer. Some UV rays may still find a way to reach your skin by reflecting off water or passing through branches and leaves.

3. Use the Right Sunscreen

Sunscreens are available in many delivery methods and formulations (more on this later). It may take some trial and error for finding a brand you like. The best sunscreen is one you are comfortable using every day. It doesn’t matter if you choose a rich moisturizer with anti-aging properties, sport spray, or an easy-to-use stick. It is best to work with a broad-spectrum sunscreen that effectively protects against both UVA and UVB rays.

Don’t fail to wear sunscreen even when it is cloudy outside. Up to 80% of the sun’s UV radiation can reach Earth on cloudy days. You may leave your skin open to damage by going unprotected even on overcast days.

Look for a sunscreen that says water-resistant. You should be able to use these while swimming. Reapplying is important since you can get burned while in the water as well.

Sunscreen products can be harsh. People with sensitive skin may prefer using products with titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. You should apply sunscreen exactly as directed. Don’t forget to cover missed spots, reapply regularly, or apply liberally.

4. Protect the Little Ones

You should try and keep your infants out of the sun for the first 6 months to protect their sensitive skin. Whenever taken out, the baby should be covered by clothing. Use sunglasses, hats, and stroller sun shades. Sunscreen can be used on toddlers after the age of 6 months, but you shouldn’t stop using protective clothing and hats.

5. Keep Away from the Windows

UVB rays can be blocked by glass pretty well. However, UVA rays pass right through glass, meaning sun rays are passing through the windows of your home and car. Windshields can be tinted or treated for shielding drivers from most UVA rays. However, the sunroof and back windows are generally not treated.

You should wear protective clothing, sunscreen, and sunglasses even when you are in the car. You can also have UV-protective film applied to all windows in your car and your home. This will help in blocking out the sun’s harmful rays. In addition, there are still the windows in buses, trains, airplanes, and your workplace that will let UVA rays pass through.

6. Don’t Use Tanning Beds

You should say no to tanning beds if you want to avoid getting skin cancer. Even a one-time use of an indoor tanning bed can raise the risk of melanoma and other types of skin cancer. In fact, people that use a tanning bed before the age of 35 are 75% more likely to develop melanoma. Many states have already placed a ban on tanning beds till the age of 18.

How to Choose the Right Sunscreen?

Broad spectrum sunscreen is your best protection against UVA and UVB rays. You should wear sunscreen every day and all day. This is even if you are not stepping out. The best practice is to apply sunscreen 30 minutes before you go outside. This will give the product enough time to bind with your skin. You should reapply the sunscreen every 2 hours and immediately after excessive sweating or swimming.

Active Ingredients in Sunscreen

There are certain active ingredients in sunscreens that prevent sun exposure. These are the two basic types of sunscreens available:

  • Physical (mineral) sunscreen: These sunscreens include zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. They work by scattering the rays before the UV radiation can penetrate the skin.
  • Chemical sunscreen: These sunscreens may include avobenzone and octisalate that work to absorb the UV rays before it has a chance to damage the skin.

Sun Protection Factor (SPF)

SPF number indicates the time taken for the UVB rays to redden your skin after applying the sunscreen exactly as indicated as compared to the time taken without the sunscreen. In relation to this, if your sunscreen says SPF 30, it would likely take 30 times longer for your skin to burn than if you did not have any sunscreen at all.

Factors to Consider

There are three important factors to consider while choosing a sunscreen:

  • Broad spectrum
  • SPF
  • Level of water resistance

Broad spectrum sunscreens offer protection from both UVA and UVB rays.

SPF 15 is well-suited for occasional exposure, like driving to work and walking the dog. However, you should look for SPF 30 and higher if you are planning on being outside for a longer length of time.

Sunscreens can be water resistant or very water resistant. You should understand that no sunscreen is waterproof. Water-resistant sunscreens can last for 40 minutes in water while very water-resistant sunscreens protect your skin for approximately 80 minutes.

Choose VNA Health Care for Dependable Health Services

VNA Health Care is a trusted organization helping individuals and families in the Chicago suburbs with high-quality and affordable healthcare services. Our services are available at 12 healthcare centers with same day appointments and home-based care is available. Schedule an appointment today if you want to speak with a knowledgeable and dedicated healthcare provider. Call (630) 892-4355 or fill out this online form.

Keep Yourself And Others Safe While Grilling: Top Grill Safety Tips

Grilling outdoors is a highly anticipated activity during the summer months. It brings the whole community together. Unfortunately, on average, over 10,600 home fires are caused by barbecues, hibachis, and grills as per the National Fire Protection Association. About 19,700 patients need to visit the emergency room for grilling-related incidents, including burns.

In order to keep your family and home safe, here are a few useful grill safety tips to keep in mind before you get that outdoor barbecue all set up.

Never Use Gas or Charcoal Grills Indoors

Gas and charcoal grills are not meant for indoor use. Both a gas grill and a charcoal grill give off a lot of carbon monoxide and smoke when in use and need open air. You are risking your and your family’s lives by bringing an outdoor grill indoors.

You should instead use a grill meant for indoors if you are worried about a sudden summer shower or heatwave. For instance, there are several electric grills that can be used indoors as well as on patios. The bottom line is that you should never grill indoors without the appropriate equipment.

Set Up the Grill Away from Your Home

Homes and decks are not fire-proof. They can quickly catch fire if a spark lands on something. To avoid this, you should keep your grill far away from your home. You don’t want the grill’s flare-up to turn into a house fire.

Never place your grill near trees or overhanging branches. Branches that are too close may catch fire in the dry summer season. You should make sure to remove any potted plants and decorations from the place where you are setting up the grilling station as well. And never leave a grill unattended. In the summer months, everything has the potential to catch on fire.

Minimize Grill Flare-Ups

One of the most important grilling safety tips is to learn how to minimize flare-ups. Showing off your skills as an expert griller is one thing, but putting your friends and family at risk of gas grill fires is something you don’t want to do. There are many safety tips that can reduce flare-ups in a grill. In fact, these bursts of flame are not good for the food at all.

Leaving charred remains on the grill grates will cause the food from the next grilling session to lack flavor. A major reason for flare-ups is food chunks falling down the grill grates onto hot coals or flames. Enough buildup can cause really big flare-ups so be sure to scrape the grates clean after each use.

Many rookie grillers make the classic mistake of using too much lighter fluid. This makes the food taste horrible, and again adds to the risk of flare-ups and fire hazards. Your end goal should be to avoid large mushroom clouds of smoke.

Keep Pets and Children Away

A gas or charcoal grill should never be operated by children. In fact, you should keep your pets and children far away from the grilling area. There is a high likelihood that the pets or children may do something unknowingly that causes a disaster. It is best to give your kids and pets something else for entertainment while you take care of the grilling. This will help in avoiding burns and fire risks.

Keep a Close Eye on the Grill

You should never leave a lit grill unattended, even just to grab another drink or use the restroom. You can ask some other adult to keep an eye on it. Problems can occur in the blink of an eye and you want to be around to take care of it immediately.

Check for Leaks Before Firing Up the Grill

This is vital in the case of gas grills. You should check for line leaks before using the grill. In fact, you should always check for leaks after replacing the natural gas hose or propane tank. You don’t want to lose gas or propane since it is dangerous and wasteful. You can test for leaks by rubbing soapy water on the connections. You know you have a problem if it starts to bubble.

Don’t Attempt DIY Repairs

There are several items in the house that you can probably fix on your own – grills are not one of them. You should never attempt repairing the grill on your own unless you are qualified to do so and have the right tools for it. You need to remember that this is a device that produces fire and has the capacity to cause a lot of damage. Get in touch with a grill repair professional if you are not experienced in repairing grills. Don’t risk your life unnecessarily if you are not sure about what you are doing.

Call the Fire Department in Case of a Leak

You must shut down the grill and connection to the gas or propane if you smell a leak. However, if that doesn’t take care of the problem, you should immediately call the fire department. Never use a grill if you smell gas. It can be potentially dangerous as it can explode. You should seek the help of a professional if the problem persists.

Keep the Lid Open Before Turning On the Grill

Propane or gas can quickly build up inside the grill. Keeping the grill closed may cause a giant ball of fire. There is a high potential of a big flare-up when you finally get around to opening the grill. Keep the grill lid open – don’t lose your eyebrows, facial hair or life due to a careless mistake.

Place the Grill on Stable Ground

You want your grill to always be in an upright position when in use. You need to place it on stable ground to prevent it from falling over. This can cause a fire and also ruin your food and probably the evening. Use patio blocks to keep the grill stable if using it on grass.

Be Fire Ready

You should be prepared to tackle a fire if it breaks out, whether you are using indoor or outdoor grills or portable grills. Always have a fire extinguisher nearby. You should also know how to use it so that there is no time lost fumbling when there is a fire. Baking soda is helpful in case of small fires as well.

Read the Owner’s Manual

Want easy tips to BBQ safely? Read the manual that comes with the grill. Every grill type and brand are different. Don’t be over-confident. You should know how to use the grill properly by reading the owner’s manual. The manual will have precautions and a safety checklist.

Shut It Down Correctly

Don’t forget to shut down the grill correctly once you are finished. You should shut off the power source whether gas or propane. You should also shut down the grill burners. Many people don’t shut down the propane or gas line thinking it wastes fuel. However, you could end up creating a fire hazard if you are not careful.

Tips to Keep Your Kids Safe

These are a few tips to prevent any accidents from happening when you have young children around:

  • Place the grill away from deck railings, sidings, overhanging branches, eaves, play areas, foot traffic, and lawn games.
  • Declare a 3-foot “kid-free zone” to keep your children and pets away from the hot grill area.
  • Keep removing fat and grease buildup in the tray below the grill to avoid having a grease fire.
  • Use lighter fluid carefully. Never add fluid if the grill is already lit. Flames can quickly flash back into the grill and explode. Keep lighter fluid out of the hot sun.
  • Always keep an eye out for running children and young adults that may come too close to the grill.
  • Keep an eye on any kids while grilling to ensure there are no burn injuries.

Have Any Questions? Talk to Us at VNA Health Care

Grilling is a fun way to bring family, friends, and neighbors together. Our grilling safety tips can help protect you and your family from injury and fire. However, accidents can happen at any time so be vigilant.

VNA Health Care is a dedicated organization providing affordable and efficient healthcare services in the Chicago suburbs and nearby areas. In case of any health or safety concerns or to schedule a regular appointment, you can call us at (630) 892-4355. Happy grilling!

The Main Signs That Somebody Is Struggling With Substance Use Disorder And Needs Treatment

Substance use disorders or drug addictions affect a person’s behavior and brain. It leads to the person becoming incapable of controlling their use of illegal or prescription drugs. Nicotine, marijuana, and alcohol are all considered drugs that can be abused. People with use disorders continue using the substance even when they know it harms them.

Substance abuse is a leading health concern in the United States with over 107,622 people dying from it in 2021. The majority of these deaths were the result of opioid overdose. In 2020, over 28.3 million adults reported suffering from alcohol use disorder. 50% of the adult population in the country has reported using illicit drugs at some time or the other.

Drug addiction might begin with experimental or recreational use of drugs and medications. It can begin in social situations but sometimes leads to more frequent usage. Patients addicted to opioids usually begin with prescribed medications. In some cases, they may receive the medication from relatives or friends that were prescribed it.

The risk of addiction and how quickly you become addicted depends on the drug. Opioid painkillers and other similar drugs have a higher risk of causing addiction than others. Here are a few signs that a friend or family member is struggling with substance use disorder, and needs drug addiction treatment.

Lack of Interest in Once Enjoyable Activities

Alcohol and substance use work by activating the reward center of the brain. They mimic the effects of the “feel good” hormone dopamine usually released during an activity that you enjoy. Dopamine is generally blamed for alcohol and drug addiction because the brain begins craving the idea of feeling good.

Some of the first signs of a problem are when things you used to enjoy stop having the same pleasurable effect. You may lose interest in your hobbies and activities. This can eventually become a core symptom of major depressive disorders. The feeling can arise from mental health struggles as well.

The important thing to remember is that it is never the fault of the person experiencing addiction. There are many people that start to crave the dopamine kick and get stuck in the cycle of substance abuse. However, there are treatments and support groups available to help substance users address their addiction and get back to feeling like themselves again.

Unexplained Decline in Mental and Physical Health

Drugs tend to take a toll on the body by creating oxidative stress. You would notice signs on your loved one’s face if they are consuming drugs regularly. Different substances have different physical effects. For instance, alcohol causes sallow skin due to damage to the liver, heart, nerves, and muscles. Many types of drugs result in malnourishment and severe weight loss.

Cocaine abuse may cause chest pain that feels similar to a heart attack. It may increase the risk of seizures as well. It is important to seek treatment if you know someone with consistent substance drug abuse issues complaining of deteriorating health. Substance abuse can cause mental health issues as well.

In general, people that struggle with mental disorders may turn to substances as a coping mechanism. Unfortunately, restricted or banned drugs and substances often have a damaging effect on the brain. This type of substance use can cause a lot of problems if used during the mid-20s or earlier when the brain is still developing.

For instance, college students or young professionals that use substances for coping with depression and anxiety may eventually experience a downward spiral. Drugs deplete the ability of the body to release dopamine without them. There are specialized drug rehab programs as well as treatments from qualified mental health professionals for tackling mental illness and substance-related disorders.

Sudden and Conspicuous Mood Changes

A mood swing refers to an extreme and sudden change in an individual’s mood. It can be caused by a number of factors. In some cases, there may be no outward trigger for a mood swing. It is normal to experience the occasional mood swing. However, there is usually an underlying reason for mood swings to become a common occurrence. This can be substance use and/or a mental health condition.

Substance use creates chemical changes in the brain’s reward center that can cause mood swings. Someone with an addiction constantly wants to seek that emotional high. Certain drugs can cause major alterations in a loved one’s mood. Coming down from the drug use may trigger mood swings as well.

Seeking the Substance to Stop Withdrawal Symptoms

Many people remain addicted because their withdrawal symptoms makes them want to use again. Cocaine, alcohol, and opioids are highly addictive in nature. Over a period of time, the body gets used to the chemical. The brain begins craving the substance which can result in powerful physical symptoms when trying to quit.

These withdrawal symptoms can range from intense pain and vomiting to headaches and fatigue. Something as unassuming as coffee can cause major headaches when trying to quit. Nicotine withdrawal symptoms range from heart palpitations to sweaty palms and heavy breathing. It is natural for patients of substance use disorder to continue using the drug for fear of unpleasant symptoms.

However, withdrawal symptoms are a clear sign that it is time to get support and help. Some of these symptoms, especially if the drugs of choice were heroin or prescription painkiller, can be physically and mentally excruciating. This makes it very important to get proper emotional support and medical care to help get sober.

Academic or Professional Performance Is on the Decline

You should step in and help your loved one if you notice them prioritizing drug use over job responsibilities or homework. Many people begin shrugging off the things they are supposed to do to get high. They may stop doing hobbies or playing sports they once loved.

There is no time to waste when it takes over a person’s life and prevents them from doing anything else. Addiction can be particularly difficult to deal with all alone so it’s important to help substance use abusers as much as possible. There are several support networks and programs that can help in making lasting changes.

Negative Impact on Important Relationships

Addicts begin neglecting the relationships that were once important to them because their social life begins revolving around people who use and deal drugs. Some people become increasingly isolated following continued substance abuse.

Long-term friends and family find it difficult to support an addicted person during this phase. It is common for old friends and family members to pull back after getting hurt by an addicted person’s actions. Quality addiction programs can help someone struggling with addiction build meaningful relationships again. This accelerates the road to recovery. It is important for relatives to try and strengthen the family connection to be present in a more connected and supportive way in the future.

Remaining in a Denial Mode About Substance Use

If you notice your loved one lying to you about excessive drinking, smoking, or taking drugs, they may be feeling a deep sense of shame about their actions. In fact, many people who are addicted lie to themselves or make excuses for their behavior. The bottom line is if a person begins hiding their drug use, they are probably slipping into addiction. It is better for them to seek professional treatment soon.

Taking full responsibility for actions is the first step on the road to recovery. Being honest about substance use is a great way of dissolving shame. It leads to better mental health and prevents slipping into subsequent addictions.

Get Help for Substance Use Disorders at VNA Health Care

VNA Health Care is a leading healthcare organization that is equipped to help people deal with addiction right away. If your friend, family member, or any other loved one has the signs of substance use, we recommend you intervene and help them start on the road to recovery. Drug use is best tackled quickly before the brain and the body starts depending on the substance and timely care helps reduce the risk of relationships breaking down.

We serve the Chicago suburbs with 12 health center locations for accessible and affordable care. You can learn more about our Medication Assisted Treatment program by visiting Schedule an appointment by calling us at (630) 892-4355.

If You’re Looking For Help With Anxiety, Stress, or Depression, Don’t Overlook a Family Practice Provider

Anxiety and depression are the two most common forms of mental health issues affecting people today. An estimated 18.1% of the adult population or 43.6 million people in the United States suffer from mental illnesses. In any given year, 21 million adults have at least one depressive episode while about 14.8 million adults in the country suffer from depression with severe impairment.

Often, physicians or nurse practitioners at a family practice are the first to diagnose, identify and begin treatment for depression, stress, anxiety, and other mental health conditions. The most common type of referral in case of anxiety and depression is mental health counseling. Unfortunately, less than 50% of people suffering from mental illnesses in 2021 received any mental health care.

This post will highlight the mental and physical health benefits of visiting a family practice provider if you are suffering from an anxiety disorder, chronic stress, high blood pressure, or wish to learn how to deal with stress and anxiety of everyday life.

Do You Need a Doctor to Deal with Stress, Anxiety, or Depression?

The majority of people don’t realize that help is available when they are feeling constantly low or stressed out. In many cases, a younger person that experiences stress or depression may be more willing to get help, while people in the older age groups are sometimes reluctant to address their concerns because of the stigma and misunderstanding associated with depression.

Having bad days or weeks and struggling in response to a setback is perfectly normal. However, you should seek help if feelings of depression last for more than a week. This is even more important if you have repetitive thoughts of suicide or self-harm. You should immediately speak with a doctor and seek help.

There are unique symptoms with every mental illness. Moreover, there are certain common symptoms that indicate something might be wrong. These may include:

  • Having negative thoughts about yourself.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Moodiness or irritability.
  • Feeling anxiety or worry frequently.
  • Having trouble concentrating.
  • Finding everyday activities difficult, such as going to work or getting out of bed.
  • Not enjoying life or activities that you used to like.
  • Sleeping too much or having trouble sleeping.
  • Hearing or seeing things that aren’t there.

You should consider making an appointment with your family doctor or nurse practitioner if you noticed any of these symptoms or other changes over the last few weeks.

What Can a Family Doctor or Nurse Practitioner Do for You?

You may feel more comfortable speaking with your healthcare provider than a complete stranger about any emotional or mental problems. A family practitioner can help you with symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression. They can be beneficial in the following ways:

  • Your family doctor or primary care physician or nurse practitioner may ask questions about your feelings and thoughts that can shed light on what you are going through.
  • They will be able to reassure you that you are not just unhappy, but have a medical issue that they can help you address.
  • They will be able to help you with counseling options and other available resources and support.
  • They may offer you prescription drugs if they think it is appropriate.
  • They may guide you about muscle tension relaxation techniques, stress management, deep breathing techniques, and how to deal with stress responses.
  • They will be able to recommend lifestyle changes like a healthy diet or more social interaction for improving your mental health.
  • Family practice providers can refer patients to specialists if they think it would be more helpful.
  • They will see you at follow-ups to monitor how you are responding to treatment.

Getting help is as easy as seeing your primary care provider. You don’t need to suffer the symptoms or struggle with mental or physical health problems. There are simple and healthy ways available to manage stress, build a positive attitude, and even achieve disease control over a serious illness in some cases.

Reasons to Consult at a Family Practice Provider Before Visiting a Therapist

Most mental and emotional issues have an underlying cause. It is important to be able to speak with someone you can trust when you feel stressed. You should not overlook a family practice when dealing with anxiety, stress, depression or any other mental health concern for the following reasons:

1. General physicians have experience dealing with mental disorders

Family practice providers are accustomed to being the first line of defense against certain mental health conditions, such as depression, stress, and anxiety. In fact, all primary care physicians and nurse practitioners have training for dealing with the symptoms of depression. The provider will refer you to a therapist or psychiatrist if your symptoms are severe.

2. Your family doctor knows your history

You may be able to express your emotions easier with a family doctor or nurse practitioner you know than with a new mental health provider. The fact that you have probably visited your healthcare provider at least a few times will give you a certain level of comfort to discuss your problems more openly. You would not have to waste a few sessions in finding the right mental health provider if you are already comfortable speaking with your regular healthcare provider.

Family doctors and nurse practitioners also have the added benefit of already knowing your medical history. They would know whether there is any heart condition or diabetes coexisting with depression. They would also be aware of other things that could affect your condition, such as a history of substance abuse.

3. They are familiar with your drug interactions and medications

Your family practice provider is most likely aware of the medications you are taking. They would know which drugs contribute to your anxiety and depression. Certain medications, both over-the-counter and prescription, can cause depression. Illicit drugs, alcohol, and ill-timed caffeine can cause chemical changes in the body that contribute to despair, depression, anxiety, and stress.

A family practice provider will be able to help you make the necessary lifestyle changes and provide useful techniques since they would have a more in-depth perspective.

4. They are aware of your family dynamics

Family practice doctors and nurse practitioners have a better understanding of your family dynamic compared to a new physician you just met. In most cases, patients are not aware of the problem and how the family contributes to it. Speaking to your healthcare provider will be able to help you attain fresh perspectives on your issues.

Depression usually affects everyone within a family, especially if it is following a major loss or setback. There are multiple players involved and a complex mix of emotions. A family practice doctor or nurse practitioner may be better equipped for intervening in such situations.

5. Family doctors have multiple tools to address problems

If your family practice provider is unable to help you with your problem, they would be able to suggest other options. They may link you with support groups or refer you to another provider. They may also suggest lifestyle changes and encourage you to follow a balanced diet, exercise regularly, get enough sleep, and maintain healthy physical activity as part of your treatment and recovery process.

Steps to Take Before Seeking Help

Having problems with mental health can affect you in multiple ways. It may make everything seem more difficult. You may have trouble speaking to your family or doctor to seek help. Mental conditions can also affect concentration and memory. This can make it difficult to remember what your healthcare provider told you.

You may find yourself slipping at your school or job responsibilities. This is why you should always write things down before you go to a doctor. This will ensure that you don’t forget to discuss anything during your appointment. You can also consider bringing a friend or family to the consultation.

It’s vital to remember that you may need to take certain steps. You would have to be open to seeking help. Your primary care provider can help you choose medications if applicable and other techniques for managing and improving your mental health for a safe recovery.

Visit VNA Health Care for a Confidential Consultation

Family practice doctors are experienced in treating anxiety, depression, stress, and other types of emotional distress. The qualified team at VNA Health Care understands what you or your loved one is going through. Schedule an appointment with one of our experienced physicians or nurse practitioners today. Give us a call at (630) 892-4355 or (847) 717-6455 or fill out this online appointment form.

Is a School Physical Really Necessary?

The start of a new school year is a hectic time for most parents. New clothes, backpacks, textbooks, pencils, stationery – the shopping list often seems never-ending. But there is one annual routine that you cannot afford to ignore – the school physical.

In this post, we will discuss some of the essential things you need to know about school physicals.

  • Are school physicals necessary?
  • Can you skip them?
  • Why do they matter?
  • What should you expect during a school physical?
  • How do you prepare your child for a school physical?
  • Are school physicals free/covered by insurance?

These are just a few of the questions we will answer through this short, but information-packed guide. So, let’s get started with the basics.

What Is a School Physical?

A school physical is an annual medical check-up for your child. They are also called wellness checkups, well-child visits, and athletic or sports physicals. In most schools, these annual visits are mandatory – in other words, you cannot avoid them.

If you don’t take your child for the annual school physical, they may not be allowed to play school sports that year. On top of that, many can block your child’s school year if you ignore annual health checkups and vaccines.

Why Are School Physicals So Important?

Why do schools attach so much importance to these annual checkups as part of a child’s primary care? Well, there are several reasons:

Find Hidden/Unknown Health Conditions

Sports can be dangerous for children with certain illnesses and health concerns. If your child has regular sports physicals, doctors have a better chance of finding any hidden health problems. It will help prevent any health emergencies or urgent care issues at the child’s school.

Naturally, schools want to make sure that your children stay as healthy as possible. For example, asthma is common among kids and a doctor can easily find out if your child has it during a sports physical. A prescription inhaler could help your child avoid breathing trouble while playing sports.

Long-Term Health of Children

Kids grow up faster than you imagine. By the time they hit their teenage years, hormones take over their bodies. It is a time of rapid change. It is also a time when many diseases first make an appearance.

If your child has had regular school and sports physicals, the doctor will have a pretty good idea about her/his general health. With this knowledge, the doctor will also be able to quickly identify any new health problems that appear during the teenage years and recommend the appropriate patient care. Since girls have a more complicated reproductive system, wellness exams are especially vital for them but both boys and girls should complete an annual physical. These visits also help the doctors ensure that your child has been properly vaccinated.

What to Expect During a School Physical

A sports physical is handled by a pediatrician – a doctor or nurse practitioner specializing in the treatment of kids or family practice provider. The process has the following main stages:

A Basic Physical Exam

The doctor (or nurse practitioner) will first do some basic tests and measurements of your child’s body, including:

  • Height and weight measurements
  • Blood pressure and pulse check
  • Heart and lungs check
  • Eyes, ears, nose, skin, teeth, and lymph nodes check

Questions About Medical History

The next phase involves you, the parent. The doctor will now ask questions about your child. You should be prepared to answer questions about the following topics:

  • Any past illnesses or conditions of your child
  • Any long-term illnesses in your family
  • Past hospital visits or surgeries for the child, if any
  • Any ongoing medications
  • Any recent symptoms of dizziness, chest pain, or breathing trouble experienced by the child

Additional Tests

If the doctor finds anything unusual that deserves another look, they may order further laboratory tests. They will probably take blood samples to check for any issues related to important organs like the child’s heart, kidneys, liver, and immune system.

Other common issues among children include thyroid trouble and early diabetes. The doctor may ask for screening tests for both. You should expect tests like these during a school physical if your child is already known to have long-term health issues.


Most schools these days have strict rules related to vaccinations. A sports physical is an ideal time to get your child all the necessary shots or jabs. Vaccinations are extremely important as they help prevent many serious diseases like rubella, measles, and mumps.

Discussions & Counseling

Finally, you will also get a chance to have a discussion with the doctor about your child’s health. They may recommend topics like a safe diet for your kid (if they have a medical history of allergies), the need for any further treatment, things to look out for, and other common health topics.

Mental health problems are also a concern among children, particularly teenagers. A school physical is often one place where concerns are discovered. In that case, the doctor may suggest counseling, other treatment options, or refer you to an expert.

Things to Bring to a Sports Physical

Preparing for a physical is easy. You don’t have to do anything special with the child. Just try to bring the following things:

  • Forms: The school will usually provide some forms for the doctor to fill out and sign. Always ensure that you have these medical forms ready when you go for your child’s physical or check when you schedule the appointment that your provider already has these forms.
  • Old Scan Results: If the child has undergone any major medical tests or scans in the past, bring any available copies along with you if you have them for the doctor to check.
  • Any Medical Devices: If your child uses any glasses, contact lenses, hearing aids, or something else, bring them along as well.
  • Recent Prescriptions: If your child is on any long-term medication for any specific illness, it is important that you bring the prescriptions to the physical.
  • Child’s Immunization Record: If you have any record of the child’s age-appropriate vaccines, bring them along as proof.

Sports Physicals in Different Grades

The child’s age will play a huge role in determining the complexity of a school physical.

Preschool/Elementary: In the early grades of preschool and elementary school, the doctor will focus more on vaccinations and development. They will look at the child’s height, weight, and general health. They will check if he/she is having proper physical and mental growth for that age.

Middle/High School: As the child gets older, the focus is more on their changing body. They will look at the impact hormones are having on teenagers. The doctor will also always check for any issues that may affect your child’s safety during sports and physical education (PE).

Your responsibility as a parent will change during these phases. You will only be required to accompany your kid for the physical in the early years. By the time they become a teenager, they should be old enough to begin transitioning to making these visits by themselves.

School Physical Exams and Insurance

Annual sports physicals or well-child visits belong in a category called “preventive care.” Anything that falls into this category is usually covered by most insurance plans. Do remember that most plans only cover one annual physical visit per year.

If a school asks for any additional sports physicals for special occasions like a camp, your insurance will probably not cover it. With that said, you may be able to get free school physicals even if you are not insured.

School Physical Rules in Illinois

Each state has its own requirements and rules on school and sports physicals. In Illinois, a physical examination is necessary for a child’s entry into the following grades:

  • Preschool
  • Kindergarten
  • Sixth Grade
  • Ninth Grade

The physical exam must be conducted by a licensed physician or nurse practitioner who is an advanced practice nurse and should include eye exams, hearing tests, vaccinations, and dental exams.

Choose VNA Health Care for a School and Sports Physical

VNA Health Care has twelve health centers that offer school and sports physicals. There are also two school-based/school-linked health centers for students of East Aurora High School and Romeoville High School in the Chicago suburbs. We offer a complete range of routine vaccines, immunizations, and school and sports physicals including an eye exam, hearing test, dental exam, illnesses screening, and mental health support.

VNA Health Care accepts Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance plans. Even if you don’t have any insurance, VNA Health Care will not refuse service to students due to a lack of payments. VNA Health Care is a not-for-profit healthcare organization with a mission to improve access to quality care among underserved communities in the suburban Chicago area.

Schedule an appointment for your child’s annual and/or sports physical with us today.

How To Make Sure Your Teen Is Healthy

As a parent, raising a teenager is not an easy task. They can be unpredictable, with frequent mood swings, restless behavior, and a general attitude of rebellion towards adults. However, the teenage years are also a critical phase for your children’s health and development.

Attitudes and habits that emerge during this age often stay with a person throughout their life. With so much change happening in their bodies, it is vital that teenagers maintain a healthy lifestyle and adopt good habits. Poor teenage health practices can make dealing with them even more difficult than normal.

In this post, we will highlight some important things you can do as a parent to ensure that your teen stays safe and healthy. If you’d like further information, you can always speak with your family doctor or a health professional with experience in family pediatrics and adolescent care. A pediatrician from VNA Health Care would be happy to address any concerns you might have.

Here are some suggestions to address child and teenage health issues:

Ensure Timely Vaccinations

Having your teenager vaccinated is probably the most straightforward thing you can do for the long-term health of your teen. There are several types of vaccinations available to children between the ages 13–19.

Flu shots should be taken annually to prevent a severe outbreak of the disease during flu season. Meningococcal disease is an infection of the lining around the brain. Teens can take two vaccines at ages 11 and 16 to protect against this deadly disease.

Another notable vaccine with lifetime benefits is the HPV vaccine. Nearly 85% of all Americans will catch HPV during their lifetime. If left unvaccinated, your teen could carry the risk of developing certain cancers in the future that are caused by strains of the HPV virus. For example, the CDC reports that 9 out of 10 cases of cervical cancer are caused by the HPV virus. The HPV vaccine is considered effective in lowering the risk.

If your teen has missed any of the early childhood vaccinations, there is still time. You can catch them up on shots of tetanus, diphtheria, polio, hepatitis, chickenpox, and MMR vaccines. These will protect your teen against a wide range of severe diseases. You may visit one of the qualified pediatric care providers or family physicians if you are uncertain about vaccinations for your teen.

Annual Physical Exams

Teens, both boys and girls, can benefit immensely from annual visits to their primary care doctor. Schools usually require sports/school physicals in the sixth and ninth grade. But as a parent, you must encourage teens to take their annual doctor visits seriously. You can do this by making them an appointment and also by making appointments for yourself so that they can see that it is important.

Keeping up with preventive care helps ensure that your medical history includes this too and also helps your family doctor ensure that health issues are detected early and any necessary treatment is started right away. With the rising cancer rates, particularly among younger people, visits to family doctors or pediatricians and screening tests are becoming more important than ever.

Encourage an Active Lifestyle

Most doctors would recommend that teens (and other family members too) get a minimum of one hour of physical activity each day. Helping your child meet this quota may not be an easy task, but there are several ways to do it without too much argument.

If they have any interest in sports, having your teen join a school team is an easy solution. You may also want to consider capping the amount of time they can spend in front of TV, mobile, and computer screens. Excessive use of digital screens is a common cause of less activity among teens and may adversely affect their health.

Encouraging them to do yard work and other chores, or picking up a physically demanding hobby like swimming or bike riding could also prove beneficial. For the child’s well-being, you can also plan activities for the whole family that gets them outdoors more often.

Discourage Smoking or Vaping

Tobacco smoking is one of the worst habits someone can pick up at a young age. Smoking is incredibly addictive – after a few years, it can be very hard to quit. It is also responsible for millions of deaths around the world, through cancer, heart disease, and other conditions.

While the popularity of cigarette smoking is steadily going downhill, vaping has taken its place, especially among teens. While vaping is less dangerous than cigarettes in some ways, it is not at all safe. Nicotine is still a poison and vaping brings numerous other chemicals into the body.

E-cigarettes have been linked to severe lung diseases. Additionally, the human brain continues to grow until the age of 25. Nicotine can slow down or stunt brain development if a person starts smoking or vaping it at an early age. These are all reasons enough to discourage teens from smoking/vaping.

Support a Healthy Diet and Routine

This is often easier said than done in modern family life, but teen bodies require a lot of nutrition. Apart from having regular home-cooked meals, try to make sure that they have access to healthy snacks. Limit the consumption of junk food, carbonated sodas, and sweet beverages.

Unhealthy diets can lead to heart disease and diabetes. Teens who become obese are at higher risk retaining the excess weight well into their adult years. Encourage your kids to eat more vegetables, fresh fruits, and fat-free/dairy-free foods.

Sleep is another vital element of lasting good health. While most adults can get away with 7 hours of sleep per day, teens need a lot more – along the lines of 9–10 hours. Lack of sleep can lead to poor diet, obesity, depression, and other conditions

Watch Out for Signs of Drug Habit

The teenage years are when many people experiment with recreational drugs. It can lead to a fatal downward spiral into substances like heroin, cocaine, meth, ecstasy, and LSD.

Drug addiction can destroy a person’s life if left unchecked. Be on the lookout for tell-tale signs of drug abuse. It can include excessive drowsiness, sleeping more often, lack of interest in activities/hobbies they enjoyed in the past, new friend groups, and other physical symptoms like red eyes, tremors, etc.

Decisive and early intervention is essential whenever drug abuse is involved. Consider approaching a family pediatrics health professional if your teen is showing the common signs of substance abuse. VNA Health Care offers Medication-Assisted Treatment for substance use disorders.

Dealing with Sexual Activity

It is natural and inevitable for teens to have a curiosity towards sex. One approach would be to encourage your teen to choose abstinence and avoid sex until they are old enough.

However, if that doesn’t seem plausible, try to speak openly with your teen. Sharing your values about family, sex, and marriage can often prove to be very effective as long as it involves honest and open conversation. The same also goes for your stance on birth control methods.  Try to educate your teenager about the potential physical and emotional risks of early, unprotected sex.

Pay Attention to Your Teen’s Physical and Mental Health

Addressing your child’s physical, emotional, and social health needs is vital for their overall development during their teenage years. If you have trouble connecting and communicating with your teenager, don’t hesitate to reach out for professional help.

Anxiety and depression are a significant concern for youngsters of this age. If you see any potential warning signs of mental stress or depression, make sure to seek the guidance of a mental health specialist.

VNA Health Care is here for you and your teenage children. You can find help through our mental and behavioral health services for kids and teenagers.

We also offer annual physicals, vaccinations, health screenings, counseling, and other high-quality, low-cost health services to families in the Chicago suburban community. We are a not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing comprehensive and compassionate services to our patients, both parents and children.

We accept all insurance plans and offer low-cost or free services to eligible patients who are uninsured. If you have any concerns about your teenager’s health or well-being, book an appointment with us today. One of our family pediatrics or family practice providers can answer any urgent or non-urgent questions and help your family stay healthy.

Be Aware Of Hidden Sugars In Food And Drinks And How It Affects Your Teeth

Did you know that more than 90% of processed and packaged foods contain high-fructose corn syrup? Corn syrup is similar to regular sugar, but it’s cheaper, which makes it a favorite among food manufacturers.

Foods like breakfast cereals, breads, frozen junk foods, salad dressing, sauces, sweetened yogurt, canned foods, soft drinks, and your favorite fast food sandwich or burger all have significantly high amounts of hidden sugar in them, in the form of corn syrup.

These are just a few examples of foods with corn syrup. Almost every packaged, ready-to-eat food item you buy is likely to have corn syrup or similar sugar in it. Here’s a fact that might surprise many people: each tablespoon of corn syrup has about 16 grams of sugar in it. And we haven’t started talking about other types of hidden sugars in foods yet.

How Much Sugar Are You Consuming?

According to research, Americans today are consuming 30% more sugar than we did 30 years ago. To say that sugar has become a problem would be an understatement and one of the reasons that has made diabetes such an issue.

Part of the problem is that sometimes, you don’t even realize you’re consuming that much sugar. People tend to think that since a particular food doesn’t taste sweet, it doesn’t have any sugar in it. That’s completely false.

A seemingly healthy Mediterranean Chicken Salad at an average fast food joint has 18 grams of sugar per serving. The suggested added sugar limit, according to the American Health Association is 36 grams for men and 24 grams for women.

We all know that too much added sugar is bad for our health. In addition to cavities, it can also leads to obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, cognitive issues, and even cancer. Even if you want to reduce your sugar consumption, there are about 60 compounds used in beverages and foods that are a form of sugar but aren’t identified as such.

These artificial compounds have all the adverse health effects of sugar, however, because of their names, you may end up consuming them in far greater quantities since you don’t know they are just added sugar. If you want to become more aware, take a look at the following list of compounds that are essentially sugar:

  • Agave nectar
  • Barley malt
  • Barbados sugar
  • Buttered syrup
  • Beet sugar
  • Brown rice syrup
  • Blackstrap molasses
  • Brown sugar
  • Cane sugar
  • Cane juice crystals
  • Caramel
  • Castor sugar
  • Carob syrup
  • Confectioner’s sugar
  • Corn syrup solids
  • Corn syrup
  • Crystalline fructose
  • Date sugar
  • Dextran
  • Demerara sugar
  • Dextrose
  • Diastatic malt
  • Evaporated cane juice
  • Ethyl maltol
  • Florida crystals
  • Fruit juice
  • Fructose
  • Glucose
  • Galactose
  • Glucose solids
  • Golden syrup
  • Golden sugar
  • Grape sugar
  • Honey
  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Invert sugar
  • Icing sugar
  • Lactose
  • Maltose
  • Malt syrup
  • Maple syrup
  • Muscovado sugar
  • Molasses
  • Organic raw sugar
  • Panocha
  • Refiner’s syrup
  • Raw sugar
  • Rice syrup
  • Sucrose
  • Sorghum syrup
  • Turbinado sugar
  • Treacle
  • Yellow sugar

Watch out for these sugar compounds on food labels when buying products and do your best to avoid them. You’ll expect to find added sugars in pies and chocolates, but don’t be surprised to find your favorite “healthy pasta sauce” or barbecue sauce that also contains 12 or more grams of sugar per tablespoon.

How Sugar Affects Your Teeth

Your mouth is home to both good and bad bacteria. When the harmful bacteria in your mouth get exposed to sugar content, they produce acid that gradually starts damaging your teeth. When you consume limited amounts of sugar, your saliva will fight back and neutralize the acidic damage.

However, the saliva will fail to protect your teeth if you are regularly eating sugar in large quantities. Continued acid generation from the bacteria will result in the loss of minerals that are a part of your tooth enamel (which is the outer layer protecting your teeth). Cavity formation will occur as the acid eventually damages the enamel.

Harmful Bacteria in the Mouth Thrive on Sugar

Bad bacteria in your mouth feed on sugar. Excessive sugar consumption will cause the formation of a sticky and hard material called plaque on your teeth. During your routine teeth cleanings, dentists typically remove the plaque from the teeth. When the plaque deposits harden, they won’t be removed simply by brushing. The dental plaque will eventually prove destructive for your tooth enamel.

It should be noted that sugar not only promotes enamel-destroying acids, but also attracts and invites harmful bacteria to make their home in your gum tissue. This eventually causes gum disease called gingivitis, which may gradually deteriorate into periodontal disease if left untreated. Gingivitis and periodontal disease cause gum recession, which happens when the gum shrinks away from the tooth which contributes to tooth loss over time.

Solid and Liquid Sugary Foods Can Damage Your Teeth

Solid foods with a high content of processed sugar will usually leave a stubborn residue that sticks to your teeth. Your saliva is unable to combat this residue. Proper oral hygiene and periodic dental cleanings are vital to eliminate this residue so that it does not cause lasting damage to your teeth. In many cases, excess consumption of solid sugary foods constantly exposes the mouth to the acidic effects that may eventually lead to tooth decay.

You may be surprised to know that sugary beverages are often more damaging to your tooth enamel than solid foods with processed sugars. One of the key ingredients in sugary drinks is corn syrup with high fructose, which creates an invisible film of sticky toxins around your teeth and gum tissue. Bad bacteria thrive on this film, leading to the generation of dissolving acids that ultimately cause tooth decay, cavities, and gum disease. Have you ever noticed how sweet your soda may taste once it goes flat and loses it’s fizz – that is because it is usually full of sugar or sugar substitutes.

Is All Sugar Bad?

Whenever our doctors start talking about the negative impact of sugar on teeth and overall health, there is always at least one person who asks the much-expected question – “if sugar is so bad, how come you want us to eat fruits?”

Here’s why: the health risks come from free sugars and not fruits. And there is a big difference between natural and added sugars.

Sugar in food and drinks comes from sugar molecules that are classified as disaccharides (complex structures like lactose and sucrose) and monosaccharides (single molecules like fructose and glucose).

Fruits contain naturally-occurring sugars, which are a mix of glucose, fructose, and sucrose. Fructose is only harmful when you consume it in excess amounts, i.e., if you are eating 5–10 full-size plates of fresh fruits every day. In other words, it is almost impossible to consume too much fructose (natural sugars) by eating a piece of fresh fruit or two.

On the other hand, you can – and you probably do – consume too much sugar content (free sugars) from processed foods.

“Free sugars” refers to any disaccharides and monosaccharides that have been added to foods by the manufacturer. It also includes natural sugar that are already present in dried fruit, fresh fruits, honey, fruit juices, etc.

Multiple studies have established that the health risks from sugars, like unhealthy weight gain and tooth decay, are related to consuming too much free sugar in the diet – not from eating naturally occurring sugar present in healthy food options like fruits, vegetables, or milk.

This is why it’s recommended that no more than 10% of your daily calorie intake come from free sugars, especially if your goal is to lose weight. This translates to about 50 grams of sugar or one can of a soft drink.

Also, keep in mind that beverages that contain high amounts of free sugars, such as sports drinks, energy drinks, and other sugary drinks are usually high in calories with little to no nutritional value. If you don’t like eating fresh fruits, you may be tempted to drink a glass of fruit juice every day, but remember, it’s not the same.

Plus, drinking sugary drinks is way more harmful for your health than eating sugary foods. One Learn about the dangers of hidden sugars in food and how it can affect your oral health. Get tips on how to protect your teeth from the damage sugar can reported that drinking one or two sugar-filled beverages every day was linked to a 31% higher risk of cavities in the teeth. Most sodas and sweet beverages contain high fructose corn syrup which coats the mouth in a sticky film that becomes the breeding ground for bad bacteria.

Schedule a Dental Visit Today

At VNA Health Care, we provide family dentistry services to help keep your loved ones’ smiles as healthy and beautiful as possible. We firmly believe in preventive care and offer everything from routine cleanings and x-rays to cavity fillings and oral cancer screenings. In order to stay on top of your oral health, eat foods that are whole and unprocessed, and get a dental checkup every 6 months.

We provide care for everyone – Medicaid, Medicare, insured, and uninsured. We never turn away a patient in need. We are the largest community healthcare provider in suburban Chicago based on the number of people we serve and we have a focus on primary and specialty care for all.

To schedule an appointment at any of our 12 centers in the Chicago suburban area, please call us at (630) 892-4355 or contact us online.

Healthy Relationships Can Be Fostered From Healthy Behavior

Humans are highly social. People who have healthy relationships and friendships have a better chance of leading happy and healthy lives. Research has shown that good social connections can improve both your body and mind.

Individuals in a healthy and strong relationship typically have lower levels of depression and anxiety. Such relationships also boost self-esteem and confidence. Physical benefits can include a stronger immune system, better healing, and even a longer life.

A romantic relationship can spark in an instant – people seem to fall in love all the time. However, staying in love is much more difficult – it takes work to keep romantic partnerships stable and beneficial. To understand how to nurture a healthy relationship, we first need to understand what it is:

Hallmarks of a Healthy Relationship

There is no single definition of what a healthy relationship looks like – it can vary widely depending on your personality, age, life situation, and many other factors. But in general, all healthy relationships have the following hallmarks:

Good Communication

Couples who feel comfortable expressing their opinions about many issues – both personal, general, and political – have a better chance of staying together. Open communication about critical matters like money, mental health, stress, and the things a person values is essential.

In most stable relationships, partners talk frankly and frequently about things that happen in their daily lives. Ideally, you want the conversation to include the good and bad things. For instance, if there is any stress at work, you should be able to talk about it to your partner. Just speaking with your partner may help you manage stress and while bringing you and your partner closer.


Being in a relationship means you have to rely on the other person in many matters. It should not, however, be at the cost of anyone’s independence. In healthy relationships, there is a balance between leaning on your partner and having the freedom to be yourself, making your own decisions.

Things turn toxic when one person is trying to manipulate or force their will on their partner. This is the opposite of a healthy relationship. Good relationships are built on mutual respect – not fear or deceit.


Lack of trust is a common cause of the disintegration of relationships between couples. Trust means that you don’t worry about your partner cheating on you when you are not around. It also means you can rely on them to give you support and a space to be yourself. Trust makes you feel safe, knowing that your partner will not hurt you, either emotionally or physically.

When we fall in love, we often tend to blindly trust the person we love. While it is easy to gain someone’s trust in this way, it is fragile – all it takes is one mistake to lose it. And regaining it can often take years of hard work and perseverance.

Personal Space

Couples in a healthy romantic relationship don’t have to spend every hour of the day together. Partners should spend time together on hobbies and shared interests, but people also need some alone time to do their own thing.

It is not an easy balance to maintain, especially when you have many other commitments that take up your time. As long as people make an effort to spend some quality time together (and alone for themselves), it can work out fine.

Physical Intimacy

Physically connecting with your partner is an important part of a romantic relationship. But individuals often have different levels of interest in sex. Couples who are honest with each other about their demands and desires have a better chance at a satisfactory sex life.

The importance of consent is critical. No one should feel forced to perform any acts they are not comfortable with at any time. If only one person is gaining pleasure out of sexual activity, there is something fundamentally wrong. Talk to your physician or nurse practitioner if you are experiencing pain from intimacy.

Conflict Resolution

All couples have arguments and fights. In fact, if a couple does not have any arguments or differences of opinion, it is often not a good sign. Couples who avoid conflict and not sharing their own opinions can be setting themselves up for a future problem – sooner or later, things will come to boiling point.

In a good relationship, couples manage to resolve things amicably through words, without letting things get physical or violent. They also don’t leave any lingering feelings of anger or resentment. This is the best sign of a healthy relationship.

Warning Signs of Unhealthy Relationships

A good relationship should help you stay strong and capable of facing any life challenges that come your way. It should not be an arrangement that benefits one partner more than the other. The following are some key characteristics of a toxic or abusive relationship:

  • One partner is always trying to control the other or forcing changes on them.
  • One partner does not show any respect for the other person’s boundaries.
  • Couples don’t spend any quality time together doing things they both enjoy.
  • One person says hurtful or insensitive things about their partner to others.
  • One partner is afraid to communicate openly about their feelings.
  • The relationship feels unequal or unfair.

7 Tips to Promote a Safe & Healthy Relationship

Keep Realistic Expectations

People often have a perfect image of what they expect their partner to be. While you should have standards of how you are treated, you should also recognize that no one is perfect. Keep your expectations grounded and let your partner know what you need from them in the early stages of your relationship.

Avoid Jumping to Conclusions

If something unusual or bad happens, don’t jump to conclusions and start assigning blame. Ask your partner to explain their side of the story and listen with an open mind. Expecting the worst can backfire spectacularly if you are wrong. It shows that you have very little trust in your partner.

Honor Promises and Commitments

Breaking your word is the fastest way to lose trust and respect. If you make a promise, make every effort to honor it. Complete your responsibilities and follow through on all plans to show your partner that you are dependable. And you should expect the same from the other person as well.

Consider Family Planning

Having kids together is a huge step – emotionally, physically, and financially. Ensure that both of you are on the same page about having children. An unplanned pregnancy can often unravel a relationship and derail financial stability. You can use family planning services to help you have more control over when and how you grow your family.

Avoid Infidelity/Promiscuity

If you are not satisfied with your sex life, try talking to your partner about it honestly. Sleeping with others in secret will not solve problems. Promiscuity will not keep a monogamous relationship healthy. If you cannot commit to a relationship sexually, it is better to be open about it with your partner. Setting healthy boundaries is essential for keeping any relationship steady.

Seek Outside Advice

Romantic relationships can sometimes cloud our judgment. When you are uncertain about a new or prospective romantic partner, you may need some outside help in figuring things out. This could be a family member or close friend – anyone who you can trust to give good advice. If you feel overwhelmed and don’t have anyone to talk to, you can also consider going to a mental health professional.

Quit Abusive Relationships

There is no excuse for domestic violence or other kinds of abusive behavior in any relationship. If you experience any such traumatic events, get help as soon as possible. It is important to realize that an unhealthy relationship is sometimes beyond repair. In such situations, focus entirely on your safety and make objective choices.

Seek Professional Help from VNA Health Care

A trusted name in high-quality, affordable health care, VNA Health Care serves underserved communities in the Chicago suburban area. We have several couple-oriented services, including mental behavioral health specialists, family planning, counseling for birth control, and prevention of STI through tests/treatment. You can also talk in confidence to your provider about any issues that you are experiencing. Book an appointment with our specialists online or call (630) 892-4355.

The Ultimate Guide to Mammograms

According to the National Cancer Institute, breast cancer is the second most common type of cancer affecting women after skin cancer. With around 290,000 new cases of breast cancer diagnosed each year, it accounts for about 30% of all cancers diagnosed in women. About 43,000 women die from breast cancer every year.

While these figures may sound grim, there is still plenty of hope. Around 90% of all women diagnosed with breast cancer are likely to survive longer than 5 years. But it is important to note that the chances of survival largely depend on the early detection of cancer.

A proven and reliable way to identify the presence of breast cancer is by taking a mammogram. In this blog post, you will learn everything you need to know about mammograms, including:

  • What are mammograms?
  • Why are mammograms important?
  • Who should take a mammogram?
  • How to prepare for a mammogram?

What Is a Mammogram?

A mammogram is an x-ray image of your breast. It is taken using an x-ray machine designed to focus on the breast tissue. Since these images are only limited to a small part of your body, the diagnostic machines use lower dose x-rays than regular equipment. The technique of using x-rays on breasts is called mammography.

The main purpose of a mammogram is to check for breast cancers. Mammography is quite reliable at finding early signs of cancer in your breast. Mammograms are much more effective at this than a breast self-exam where you use your hands to check for lumps in the breast. With that said, it does not undermine the importance of women being familiar with their breasts, which often leads women to seek a mammogram on the suspicion of an abnormality in the external breast tissue.

There are generally two types of mammograms:

  • Screening mammograms
  • Diagnostic mammograms

What Are Screening Mammograms?

Screening mammograms are short procedures that only take around 10–15 minutes. A screening mammogram is done on a woman who has no signs or symptoms of breast cancer. The purpose of a screening mammogram is to look for hidden signs of cancer deep inside the breast tissue.

Doctors usually recommend screening mammograms for women of certain age groups. They are also recommended to young women if they have a family history, genetic conditions, or any other reason for higher cancer risk. Such mammograms are taken annually, or at regular intervals like 1–2 years to diagnose breast disease.

In a screening mammogram, a specially trained doctor (a radiologist) will check the breast imaging after it is taken. They will then submit a report with their findings to your doctor. Screening mammograms are covered by private insurance plans and Medicaid for women above the age of 40.  The Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program offers free mammograms, breast exams, pelvic exams, and Pap tests to eligible women. Even if a woman has already been diagnosed with cancer, she may receive free treatment if she qualifies. The program has been providing breast and cervical cancer screenings to the women of Illinois since 1995. VNA’s Women’s Health team will assist with registration for this program if eligible.

What Are Diagnostic Mammograms?

If a woman’s screening mammogram shows any signs of cancer, the doctor will order a diagnostic mammogram as a follow-up procedure. Diagnostic mammograms are also prescribed for women who are showing other symptoms like lumps, pain in the breast, changes in shape, etc.

Diagnostic mammograms are usually taken in the presence of a radiologist. They will check the results immediately and decide if further tests are needed. If there are clear abnormalities in the breast, the radiologist will order additional scans and ultrasounds of the affected breast.

What Happens During a Mammogram?

what happens during a mammogram?

Many women want to know how is mammogram done. At first, the healthcare provider at the mammography facility will ask about your family history. They will also ask if you have had a mammogram in the past. After this, you will be taken to a waiting room. A mammogram is taken in a special room used exclusively for women undergoing this process.

Once you enter the mammogram room, you will have to undress from the waist upwards for this procedure. You will be given a gown for privacy.  The nurse or x-ray technologist may place some stickers on some parts of your breast. If you have any skin marks or birthmarks on your breast, they may show up on a mammogram. The stickers help prevent any confusion when the technologist or radiologist is looking at the image. Sometimes, the nurse may also place stickers on your nipples to mark their position on the mammogram. This helps the medical imaging specialists during the mammogram.

Finally, the technician will ask you to stand in front of the x-ray machine. The x-ray machine will have a special plate-like surface – the nurse/technician will place your breast on this surface. Only one breast is placed at a time on the machine.

To hold your breast still for the scan, another plate will press down on your breast from above. You may feel some pressure and discomfort at this point as the two plastic plates flatten your breast. This is important for more accurate detection of any abnormal tissues inside the breast.

The machine will take x-ray images of your breast from several angles to get a complete picture. Typically, each mammogram is made up of two x-rays, one taken from the sides and another from the top/front.

The process is repeated for both your breasts. The x-rays are taken relatively quickly and the whole process should not take more than 10–15 minutes maximum. The technician will check the images to ensure that they have been taken properly.

The results are then sent to a radiologist, a doctor who specializes in medical imaging and scans. The radiologist will evaluate your mammogram and send the results to your doctor. You can expect to receive your mammogram results a few weeks after the procedure.

Are Mammograms Painful or Uncomfortable?

In general, some women may find mammograms somewhat uncomfortable. The plates pressing down on the breast can feel awkward and a bit unpleasant, even if it is only for a few minutes. A skilled and compassionate nurse/technician can help reduce the general feeling of uneasiness.

In exceptional cases, a woman may experience pain during a mammogram. This is often due to one of the following factors:

  • The size and shape of the breasts.
  • How firmly they need to be pressed.
  • Menstruation – breasts are often more sensitive during periods.
  • If mammography is done after breast surgery or breast biopsy.

It is entirely normal to experience at least some discomfort from a mammogram. The level of discomfort/pain will vary widely though. Some women feel nothing at all. Some feel slight pain and have minor bruising on the breast – which might happen more in patients who are taking any blood-thinning medication.

Unlike other medical procedures, like biopsies, a mammogram is generally painless. You don’t experience any continued pain or discomfort once the procedure is completed.

How to Prepare for a Mammogram?

There are several things that you can do to reduce the level of discomfort and improve the chances of a quick and successful mammogram procedure. They include the following:

  • Avoid scheduling your visit when you are close to your period to reduce the chance of breast tenderness and pain.
  • Wear separate clothing pieces – this way, you don’t have to remove your entire outfit for the mammogram.
  • Avoid using deodorants, perfumes, or powder on the day of the mammogram as they can show up as white spots on the x-ray image.
  • Inform the staff if you have any breast implants – they may need more x-rays for a better picture.
  • Taking an over-the-counter medication like aspirin or acetaminophen can reduce the risk of pain (consult your health care provider before doing this).

Why Are Mammograms So Important?

why are mammograms so important ?

Doctors have been using mammograms to diagnose breast cancer in women for several decades now. They have yet to discover a better, simpler, or safer way to find signs of breast cancer sooner than mammograms.

Early detection of breast cancer is very important to improve your chances of survival. Other techniques like checking your breast for lumps with your fingers will only find cancer once it has developed to a larger stage.

With a mammogram, you can often detect cancer three years before it reaches the stage where lumps form. The longer you allow cancer to spread undetected can lower your chances of survival by a huge factor.

After some time, cancer will spread from its original starting point to other organs and parts of the body. Once this happens, the disease becomes harder to cure. Here is a quick look at the 5-year survival rate for breast cancers at different stages:

  • Localized – cancer has not spread outside the breast – 99% survival rate.
  • Regional – cancer has spread to nearby areas or lymph nodes – 86% survival rate.
  • Distant – cancer has spread to lungs, liver, and other organs – 29% survival rate.

It is quite clear that with an early-stage breast cancer diagnosis, you have a much better chance of surviving for 5 years or more. This is why mammograms are so important – if healthcare providers can find breast cancer early, they can help save lives.

Who Should Get Regular (Annual) Mammograms?

According to the guidelines issued by the American Cancer Society:

  • Women in the age group of 40–44 may choose to undergo an annual mammogram if they want periodic breast cancer screening.
  • Women in the age group of 45–54 are recommended to have their mammograms done every year.
  • Women in the age group of 55 and above may either continue annual screening or undergo mammograms once every two years.
  • All women should be aware of the recognized benefits and limitations of breast cancer screening.

Annual mammograms are particularly recommended for women who are at a higher risk of getting breast cancer or have a known family history of this disease. The majority of breast cancers are detected in women who are above the age of 50. Relatively few women under the age of 45 get breast cancer. This is why doctors usually keep 40 as the minimum age when you need to start getting regular screening mammograms.

However, this is not a fixed guideline. Your risk of getting cancer can depend on many other factors as well. Your healthcare provider will evaluate all these factors and decide on the importance of annual mammograms.

Here are some common factors other than old age that put women at an increased risk of breast cancer:

  • Genetics – Some women inherit specific genes from their parents, called BRCA1 and BRCA2, and are at higher risk of breast tissue and ovarian cancer.
  • Family History – If other women in your immediate family have a history of breast cancer, you may be at a higher risk.
  • Menstruation – If you had your first period before the age of 12 or started menopause after 55, your body is at a higher risk of breast cancer due to longer exposure to hormones.
  • Ethnicity/Race – Black women are more at risk of developing breast cancer than women of other ethnicities. They are also at higher risk of developing breast cancer before the age of 45.
  • Medical History – Exposure to certain drugs or radiation for the treatment of other cancers early in life can put you at higher risk of breast cancer.

Doctors may also consider other factors like obesity, hormone therapy, getting pregnant after 30, and alcohol/tobacco/drug use before deciding your level of risk for breast cancer. If you are at higher risk, the doctors may prescribe early annual screening mammograms.

Are There Any Side Effects or Risks From Mammograms?

One primary risk that many people worry about with any type of x-ray is exposure to radiation. But the radiation risk from mammograms is fairly insignificant when compared to other types of x-rays.

One of the challenges for women is the anxiety that undergoing a mammogram may create. Some women may want to avoid going through this experience of anxiety and decide not to go for annual mammograms. This is putting yourself at unnecessary risk – the minor extra anxiety is well worth the chance of saving your life. Furthermore, once you have had a mammogram, you will know how safe, quick, and painless the experience is, and it will give you the confidence to have regular screenings in the future.

Mammogram Costs and Insurance Coverage

Mammogram Costs And Insurance Coverage

According to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), screening mammograms have insurance coverage under Medicare, Medicaid, and private health insurance plans. For eligible women, the insurance provider will pay for 100% of the cost of a screening mammogram and you will not have to pay anything. But the eligibility age and the number of free screenings can vary depending on the program and healthcare provider. Here are some examples:


Women between 20 and 39 will get one paid mammogram screening test if they are in a high-risk category for breast tissue cancer. For other women, it is one mammogram between the ages 35–39 and free yearly mammograms after the age of 40.

Private/Market Plans

For private plans, most insurance companies offer free annual mammograms for women over the age of 40. Many companies may also offer free annual screenings for women above 30 if they are in high-risk groups.

Diagnostic mammograms are not covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and virtually all private insurance plans. Without insurance, a diagnostic mammogram can cost above $280. In contrast, screening mammograms are less expensive, costing between $100 to $250.

Mammograms Without Insurance Coverage

There are several government programs that provide free or low-cost screening mammograms to women who are uninsured or lack full coverage. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) runs a program for free mammograms under National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP).

Many local programs receive funding from the NBCCEDP. In Illinois, the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program (IBCCP) provides free mammograms to women with the following qualifications:

  • Illinois residents
  • Have no insurance coverage
  • Between the ages 35 and 64

Other national cancer organizations like the American Breast Cancer Foundation and National Breast Cancer Foundation all have special programs for mammogram financial assistance for women from low-income groups.

You might also be eligible for free or low-cost mammograms from state Medicaid even if you are not already enrolled.  VNA’s Women’s Health team will help determine your eligibility and will assist with registration if applicable.

Contact VNA Health Care to Schedule a Free/Low-Cost Mammogram

VNA Health Care is a not-for-profit organization providing high-quality, affordable health care services to communities in suburban Chicagoland and other outlying areas in Illinois. We are the leading agency for free mammograms under the IBCCP in DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Kankakee, and Will counties. If you are above the age of 40 or in the high-risk category for breast cancer, make an appointment for a screening mammogram at VNA Health Care today.

To learn more about mammograms, visit our website.

Funding provided in whole or in part by the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program