10 Ways to (Really) Help a Friend with Breast Cancer

When a friend or family member is diagnosed with breast cancer, it’s easy to feel helpless and uncertain about what to do to make her life a little bit easier. In the spirit of Breast Cancer Awareness month, we thought we’d honor women being treated for breast cancer by learning more about how best to support them through this disease. We asked women who have had breast cancer—plus one husband—what they craved and most appreciated (as well as a few things they did not appreciate) as they went through the breast cancer journey.

“Offer to do the little 
things, the tasks or gestures that are often overlooked, such as offering to 
drive the patient to an appointment or help out with chores at home.” –Susan Reif, author of For Family and Friends: 39 Things to Make a Cancer Patient Smile

“Tell your friend how beautiful she is. Losing your hair, gaining weight from steroids, losing a part or all of your breasts, and being too exhausted to put on makeup or wear anything but comfy clothes can wear on your self-esteem. Letting your loved one know that she remains beautiful despite outer changes can lift her spirits.” –Angil Tarach-Ritchey RN, GCM, author of Behind the Old Face: Aging in America and the Coming Elder Boom



“Items that kept me warm during chemo infusions such as blankets, warm socks and scarves.” –Crystal Brown Tatum, seven-year survivor of stage IIIA triple negative breast cancer

“After my double mastectomy a friend gave me gift certificates to have my hair washed and styled since I did not have the strength to do this and was in chest bandages for two weeks.” –Melanie Young, author of Getting Things Off My Chest: A Survivor’s Guide to Staying Fearless & Fabulous in the Face of Breast Cancer

“Buy her a journal, or a CD of calming music to listen to in hospital.” –Diana Raab, Ph.D., psychologist and author of Healing with Words: A Writer’s Cancer Journey

“Following my wife’s mastectomy she received many wonderful expressions of care, but none that made a greater impression than a small basket of fruit sent by her co-workers. It wasn’t the fruit itself, however, so much as the staff photo that everyone had signed with well wishes and appreciation. This personal touch attached to a healthy gift certainly lifted my wife’s spirits but also made me realize that I wasn’t the only caregiver.” –Todd Outcalt, author of Husband’s Guide to Breast Cancer

“Dinners easily put together are nice. I really enjoyed from friends a lasagna or mac & cheese casserole that the family could enjoy.” –Haralee Weintraub, founder of Haralee, Cool Garments for Hot Women

“People that could sit with me during chemo or visit briefly. Being on the chemo ward for 6 hours was depressing by myself.” –Crystal Brown Tatum

“Be your family member/friend’s journey partner, meaning you take her to all of her appointments, tests, surgeries and treatments to take notes, ask questions she may not have thought of, to advocate for, be companionship through long days of chemo or waiting in waiting rooms for appointments. Patients don’t remember everything said by physicians, nurses and others on the medical team. You will become her memory and advocate, the strength when she is exhausted and/or emotional. If one person can’t do this, gather a few people who can get together and plan out the calendar so someone can be the partner for each appointment and share a calendar on smartphones or through email so everyone is on track and the patient knows who is helping when.” –Angil Tarach-Ritchey

BONUS: A Few Don’ts

“A few things that people should know about giving gifts to breast cancer patients: Avoid giving anything with fragrance (creams, perfumes, etc.) because she will be sensitive to the smell and touch, and no massages, mani pedis, or other spa treatments without oncologist approval because we need to avoid anything that could cause infection or impact the system.”
 –Melanie Young

“Don’t stare at women’s breasts after they’ve had a mastectomy and reconstruction.” –Diana Raab

“I didn’t appreciate calls from family and friends who wanted to talk about their problems, which in the light of cancer seemed trivial.” –Haralee Weintraub

“Don’t research and tell her about any ‘cures’ for cancer. Everyone wants to help find what will cure or help someone with cancer because they feel helpless. When you have 10 different people telling you what you should do to feel better or be cured it’s more annoying than helpful.” –Angil Tarach-Ritchey

If you’ve had breast cancer or other type of illness, what did you find truly helpful? Let us know on the Mango Health Facebook page.

Level 8 User: Pat from Kenmore, NY

Reaching Level 8 in the Mango Health app requires earning 5,000 points. It’s no easy feat! As our way of thanking these dedicated Level 8 users, we are pleased to feature their stories.

This week’s featured level 8 user is Pat from Kenmore, NY, a suburb just outside of Buffalo, NY. Pat writes: “In January 2012, I retired after 33 years as an RN. I bought an iPhone just before retiring and in my newfound free time, I discovered the Mango app and loved it. I never had problems remembering to take my meds when I was on a regular work schedule, but retirement was a whole new world. The Mango app helped me remember my meds every morning and evening.”

She continues: “One of the best features of the app is that I am able to readily check for any potential interactions when I am prescribed a new medication. This is important to me as a nurse. In addition to the reminders the app provides, I also received several financial rewards. By taking my medications on schedule every day, I became eligible to win first $25.00, then $50.00 and then $75.00, gifts in the weekly raffles. This was a great incentive to keep on schedule! Mango has just become a part of my daily life.”

Thanks for sharing with us, Pat!

Go With Your Gut

Over the past decade or so, scientific evidence has been mounting about the importance of the bacteria living in our intestines. Though most bacteria are invisible to the naked eye, the wrong mix in our bellies can lead to gastrointestinal disorders, obesity, depression, and more. Your gastrointestinal tract contains trillions of bacteria, and they’re estimated to outnumber your human cells 10 to one. It seems only natural that you’d want to host the good guys!

As these studies have been released, sales of probiotic supplements have skyrocketed. Probiotics are so-called “good” bacteria thought to have a beneficial effect on our health. The idea is that eating probiotics—through pills or certain foods like yogurt and sauerkraut—will help build the colonies of good bacteria in our tummies, crowd out the bad bacteria, and improve our health.

The thing is, evidence supporting the health benefits of taking probiotics is still somewhat scanty. Even those who agree that taking probiotics is a good idea often don’t agree on what type you should take or how much. To help you decide if these supplements are right for you, we rounded up recent research on some of the potential health benefits of probiotics:

1. Lowers blood pressure. Research published by the American Heart Association last summer found that regularly consuming probiotics—whether in food or supplements—modestly but significantly lowered blood pressure in people with hypertension. However, probiotics needed to be taken at for at least eight weeks and contain a minimum of 109 colony-forming units (CFUs) to have a significant effect. They also found that probiotics containing multiple bacteria had more impact than those containing a single type of bacteria.

2. Improves cognitive function. A study from CalTech gave the probiotic B. fragilis to mice that exhibited autistic behaviors and gastrointestinal problems. After probiotic therapy, researchers found that the mice were less anxious, more communicative with other mice, and less likely to engage in repetitive behaviors, a feature of autism spectrum disorders. The mice’s gastrointestinal problems also improved.

3. Supports weight loss. Another study found that women who took a certain probiotic supplement while dieting lost more weight than a control group. Note though that the study was funded by Nestle, which makes the particular probiotic strain used in the research.

4. Relieves IBS. Studies show that the probiotic strain Bifidobacterium infantis—patented and sold as a supplement called Align—relieves symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.

So if you want to try a probiotic supplement, where should you start? First, check with your doctor. Although probiotics are generally considered safe, they may pose dangers for people with certain illnesses, or for the very young or old.

Next, make sure that you choose a quality product. In tests conducted by ConsumerLab, an independent evaluator of vitamins and supplements, five out of 19 probiotic supplements did not contain the amounts of probiotics listed on their labels, and/or were contaminated with mold or bad bacteria. Check out ConsumerLab’s reviews of widely available probiotics to learn more about the different probiotic strains and find a good choice for you.

Do you take probiotics—why or why not? Let us know on the Mango Health Facebook page!

Level 8 User: Renee from Baden, PA

Reaching Level 8 in the Mango Health app requires earning 5,000 points. It’s no easy feat! As our way of thanking these dedicated Level 8 users, we are pleased to start featuring their stories.

Our first is Renee from Baden, PA, who has been using Mango Health since April 2013. Renee writes: “I heard about the app a few years ago on the Today Show. I work out, eat well, but used to forget if I took my meds. This app makes life easy and I never forget now.”

Thanks for sharing, Renee. We admire the commitment you’ve made to improving your health!

What Makes You Laugh

To promote the health benefits of laughter, we asked you to share what makes you laugh on the Mango Health Facebook page. We loved reading about all the people, things, and moments that make you laugh. 

Here are some of our favorite responses:

“I laugh when watching my pets play together. They love to hop into paper bags and boxes. It’s adorable”
Sarah Nota

“I laugh when I listen to my 3 year old tell stories (her version of events), the way she rationalizes situations & her giggles when she’s watching something funny on TV. She’s the best medicine I could ask for such a joy to watch & listen to.”
Beth Mauser Franzmeier

“When my kids laugh and play. That truly is best medicine!”
Garen Krause Sinden

“I laugh when I look back at how much fashion has changed drastically through the years. I still can’t believe I survived the era of the Jheri Curl and disco fever LOL!”
C.j. Jennings

“I say ‘hello’ to random strangers and smile. Watching the reaction in turn makes me laugh because I know that I have made someone’s day a little bit better and mine too. Attitude is contagious whether it’s good or bad.”
Karen Nutter

“I laugh whenever I can! Especially at myself …after all laughter is contagious and anytime I can flash my pearly whites and make others smile, there’s no other way to feel than happy”
Melissa H. Maikos

“I laugh all through the day at work as a pre-school teacher. Teaching young children is indeed a noble profession, but it’s also a great excuse to get on your hands and knees, sing spontaneously silly songs (and teach about alliteration!), and of course, listen to the incredible tales of life through their eyes.”
Andrea Lee

“I laugh when there is no good reason to. Laughter is contagious; why not spread the love?”
Erin Sadler

“I laugh when I hear a good pun. Sometimes being silly is just what I need.”
Luci Schaeffer

These are just a few of the anecdotes our community shared—to see the rest, check out the post on the Mango Health Facebook page. We’ll be doing more Facebook promotions in the coming months so stay tuned for those, along with more tips that help you take care of you.

Laughter is the Best Medicine

Whether you want to escape from a bad day or a broken heart, laughter has been reported to have a number of health benefits. More and more studies show that laughter has both positive short-term and long-term effects on your well-being. A few short-term benefits include relieving stress, soothing tension, and improving your mood, whereas long-term effects include lowering blood pressure, mitigating depression, and boosting your immune system.

Certain effects of laughter also resemble exercise. A Vanderbilt University study found that laughing raises your energy expenditure and heart rate by 10 to 20 percent. Furthermore, one researcher reported that it took 10 minutes on a rowing machine to reach the same heart rate as just one minute of hearty laughter.

In other words, 10 to 15 minutes of daily laughter could burn the calorie-equivalent of roughly four pounds a year! But don’t give up your exercise routine just yet. Instead, try laughing while you’re working out for even better results. “Combining laughter and movement, like waving your arms, is a great way to boost your heart rate,” psychologist and laugh therapist Steve Wilson told WebMD.

If none of these reasons is enough for you to start chuckling yet, consider the impact that laughter has on your memory. Earlier this year, researchers at California’s Loma Linda University looked at the link between humor and mental agility, comparing groups of older adults that watched funny videos versus control groups that didn’t. They found that those who laughed - even for just 20 minutes - performed significantly better at learning and memory recall tests later on - in fact, about twice as well!

Health benefits aside, we could all use more laughter in our lives. What makes you laugh? Tell us for the chance to win a $100 gift card! Visit the Mango Health Facebook page and complete the following sentence: ”I laugh when….”

We look forward to reading your responses!

Mango Health on iOS 8

Have you upgraded your device to iOS 8? Make sure your Mango Health app stays up to date!

The latest Apple update requires your active permission to receive notifications. We know that for many of you, med reminders are one of the most important features of the Mango Health app. If you’d like us to keep sending you reminders to take your medicine, make sure you enable notifications from Mango Health.

If you’re upgrading to iOS 8 and you have scheduled meds, you may have already seen this pop-up window from Apple requesting approval:

Hit “OK”, and you’ll be able to continue receiving reminders as before. If you’ve accidentally hit “No,” but would like to enable notifications, not to worry! You should receive the following message in the app as a shortcut to turn notifications back on:

Tap the blue “Go to Device Settings” button to enter the Device Notification Center. Tap “Notifications” and then make sure “Allow Notifications” is on. This flow will look like this:

  

If you’re having any trouble with your notifications, please let us know! To get in touch, you can either email us at support@mangohealth.com, or write to us inside the Mango Health app by tapping More, then Contact Us.

6 Health Resolutions for Fall

The start of fall can feel like the beginning of a “new year”—even if you haven’t been in school for decades! Take advantage of this feeling to make some mini resolutions to improve your health. These six simple steps will help you take care of you this season and beyond:

1. Spend time in the sun. Vitamin D is known as the “sunshine vitamin” because your body needs UVA light to create it. Research links low vitamin D levels to everything from colds to cancer, but between 40% and 70% of American adults are deficient in this essential vitamin. It can be hard to get sun exposure with shorter days and busier schedules in the fall, so remember to get outside when you can. Take walks on your lunch break, meet a friend for a hike, or eat weekend brunch outside when weather permits.

2. Catch up on check ups. Are there appointments that you’re due for this year that you haven’t scheduled yet? Pick up the phone (or head to ZocDoc), and schedule them now! Not sure which specialist appointments or screening tests you need? Contact your general practitioner to find out. Also, it might make financial sense to have those appointments before the end of the year—if you haven’t already hit your health plan’s annual deductible, then squeeze in some more appointments before 2015 rolls around.

3. Get your shots. While you’re at it, find out if you’re due for a vaccination. Yes, adults need them too—check out the CDC’s vaccine recommendations. Many vaccines do not require appointments and are available at major pharmacies like CVS, Walgreens, and Target, though you should call ahead to confirm.

4. Pamper your pearly whites. Taking care of your teeth regularly prevents pricey dental bills. Furthermore, tooth decay and gum disease has been linked to bigger health problems like atherosclerosis. So be sure to floss, brush twice a day with a soft-bristled brush, and replace your toothpaste every 2-3 months—sooner if the bristles look frayed.

5. Sit less, move more. Sitting for long periods has been linked to health problems from like heart disease and insulin resistance. But you can counteract these chair-related risks by taking getting up and getting small bursts of activity throughout the day. Our recent blog post 'Move More, Sit Less, Feel Better, Live Longer' offers easy ideas on boosting daily activity.

6. Pay it forward. If you’re eligible to donate blood, visit a blood center or blood drive this fall. How else can you be a life-saving hero while staring at your iPhone for an hour? While you’re in heroic mode, consider joining a bone marrow registry—some day you could save the life of one of the fifteen people diagnosed with a blood cancer each hour. Visit Be the Match to check your eligibility and order a free registration kit.

Wishing you a happy, healthy fall!

Image credit: 'Gourds' by Flickr user @a2gemma under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license.

Join Mango Health at events this fall

Are you interested in mHealth, medication management, and patient engagement? Mango Health Co-founder and CEO Jason Oberfest has been invited to speak at a number of events this fall. Below is a full schedule - we hope you can join us!


1. Health 2.0 and the AARP’s Health Interactive @50+
San Diego Convention Center, San Diego, CA
Thursday, September 4, 2014

A partnership between Health 2.0 and the AARP, Health Interactive@50+ will feature a mix of engaging conversations with industry innovators, live product demonstrations, and educational workshops on emerging technology. Join Mango Health’s CEO Jason Oberfest for a demo on the Chronic Condition Management panel, alongside Bettrlife, iHealth, and Independa. For more information on the national three-day Ideas@50+ event, visit the AARP’s full event schedule.



2. The Stanford Medicine X Conference 2014
Stanford Medicine X, Stanford, CA
September 4-7, 2014

At the forefront of health and technology research, Stanford University’s Medicine X is a catalyst for advancing the practice of medicine, improving health, and empowering patients to be active participants in their own care. Along with Dr. Bonnie 360, Syapse, and Practice Fusion, Mango Health’s CEO Jason Oberfest will be speaking on the panel, "Closed versus open health data - where are the business models?"



3. The American Heart Association Health Tech Forum
Driskill Hotel, Austin, TX
September 29-30, 2014

The American Heart Association Health Tech Forum is designed to inspire collaboration between clinical and technology leaders, with the ultimate goal of measurably improving health outcomes. Join our CEO Jason Oberfest as he discusses health technology with other leaders from a variety of industry organizations.



4. Point of Care and Mobile Health Diagnostics Summit
Sheraton Boston Hotel, Boston, MA
November 5-7, 2014

On Thursday, November 6, Mango’s CEO Jason Oberfest will be speaking on the interactive panel, Managing the Last Mile of Healthcare Implementation through Technology, with the organizations Partners Healthcare Center for Connected Health, Careticker, and Pixie Scientific. The discussion will focus on new ways of providing more clinically effective and cost-efficient care for patients.



One last thing - we’ve submitted to speak at SXSW Interactive 2015 with ThriveOn, Rock Health, and Wellframe on the panel, Radical Healthcare. Please take a moment to vote here if you like what you see.

Hope to see you this fall!

Move More, Sit Less, Feel Better, Live Longer

Recent research has turned traditional fitness advice on its head. For years we’ve been told that the body needs three or four workouts each week to maintain good health, but new studies suggest that those scheduled workouts have less impact on your health than how much you move—and sit—throughout the day.

Sitting down seems like a safe and harmless activity, but studies keep piling up indicating that too much sitting is downright dangerous. This Washington Post infographic details the many health risks of parking it in a chair for too long. Long periods of sitting have been linked to hypertension, high cholesterol, insulin resistance, muscle degeneration, and even cancer.

But enough bad news—the positive message emerging from this research is that getting up and moving around throughout the day can combat the negative impact of sitting. Better yet, you don’t even need a gym membership or special clothes. A few do-able ways to sit less:

Stand or walk around whenever you talk on the phone. And when you have an in-person meeting that doesn’t require computer work, ask if the other person is up for a “working walk” instead.

Walk to buy lunch instead of ordering in. Sure it requires more time away from your desk, but research done at the University of Illinois found that people who take breaks from work are able to focus better when they return—so both your body and your job will benefit.

Perform simple exercises on the hour. Whenever you notice that the clock has turned a new hour, do a few heel lifts, lunges, or squats. Okay, this could feel embarrassing if you work in a big open office, but try it—you might inspire some of your coworkers to move more too.

Take the long way. Whether you’re walking to the printer, to a meeting, or outside to grab a coffee, skip the short cuts and take a route that allows you to get an extra minute or two of movement in.

Move in front of the tube. We would never tell you not to binge watch your favorite Netflix series. But instead of parking it on the sofa for hours, get up every one in a while and stretch, walk in place, do some jumping jacks.

How do you and your friends move more? Let us know on Facebook!