General Health

Affinity announces price cut for all self-pay patients

In our continuing effort to provide you with the highest quality health care at the most affordable prices, Affinity Immediate Care has lowered its per-visit price for self-pay (non-insurance) patients to $95.

Affinity is focused on ensuring each and every member of our local community has access to affordable health care services delivered in a caring and professional manner. Our mission is to make this a reality and that’s the reason we’ve lowered our prices from $115 to $95 for those paying for our services out of their own pockets.

For more information on this pricing change, please don’t hesitate to call Affinity at 866-905-2029.


Affinity launches new online appointment system

To better serve our patients and make it easier to fit coming to our clinics into your busy schedule, Affinity Immediate Care has launched a new online appointment system that allows you to skip the wait by registering for your visit online.

Simply visit our website at http://www.AffinityDrs.com and look for the Skip The Wait box on the right-side of each page. Click on the button titled “Reserve Your Place In Line” to be taken to another page where you can actually check on wait times at each clinic before you make your reservation.

Click on the blue “Get In Line Now” button underneath the clinic you plan to visit and fill out the form on the subsequent page. That’s all there is to it. You can even receive a text before your visit to confirm your appointment.

Affinity’s online appointment system is powered by ClockwiseMD, a leading a provider of healthcare information technology that is pioneering the use of tech tools for doctor offices and clinics.

Click here to go directly to the online appointment page.


Affinity blood drive set for Tuesday, Dec. 30

Affinity Immediate Care locations in Galveston and La Marque will sponsor blood drives outside their respective clinics on Tuesday, December 30, 2014, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The blood drive at the Galveston location – 2808 61st Street, Suite 200 – is being conducted by UTMB Health’s Blood Center. Donors who successfully give blood at that location will receive a sweatshirt hoodie while supplies last. Potential donors can make an appointment online for the Galveston blood drive by clicking here.

The drive at the La Marque location – 2600 FM 1764, Suite 190 – is being conducted by the Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center.

Giving blood is vital to the health of our communities. In fact, your one blood donation can help extend or save the lives of three patients. Please join us on Tuesday for this special event at Affinity Immediate Care.


Reminder: Health Insurance Enrollment Ends March 31

Since October 1 last year, millions have signed up for new health insurance coverage under the health care law. They’ve signed up either for private insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace or for the Medicaid program. There’s still time for you to enroll and have coverage as soon as May 1. All you have to do is sign up with the Health Insurance Marketplace by March 31.

The Health Insurance Marketplace helps people who need health coverage to find it. When you fill out the Marketplace application, you’ll find out if you qualify for a private health insurance plan and whether you qualify for lower costs based on your household size and income. Some people may qualify for the Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Programs in their state. Even if you don’t qualify for lower costs, you can still use the Marketplace to buy insurance.

There are three ways for you to get covered. You can enroll online (HealthCare.gov), over the phone (800-318-2596), or with in-person assistance (localhelp.healthcare.gov). You’ll have the opportunity to compare private plans side-by-side and choose the one that fits your family and budget. There are 4 steps you can take to be sure you’re ready for your coverage to begin:

  1. Pay your premium to your health insurance plan by the due date.
  2. Carefully review your member card and other materials your plan sends you.
  3. Review your plan’s provider directory so you’ll know where you can go for care.
  4. Contact your plan with any questions or if you don’t get a member card and enrollment materials.

All of the Marketplace plans cover a comprehensive set of Essential Health Benefits. These benefits include:

  • office visits;
  • emergency, hospital and maternity and newborn care;
  • mental health and substance abuse services;
  • medications;
  • rehabilitative services;
  • laboratory services;
  • free preventive services; and
  • pediatric services.

Insurance plans will no longer be able to charge you more or refuse to provide coverage for you or your family if you have a pre-existing condition.

HealthCare.gov and CuidadoDeSalud.gov are ready right now with information on the Marketplace. Or you can call 1-800-318-2596, any time day or night. Hearing impaired callers using TTY/TDD technology can call 1-855-889-4325 for assistance.

Only plans offered in the Marketplace offer lower costs based on income. When you apply for coverage in the Marketplace, one streamlined application will cover everything including eligibility for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). With that same application, you’ll find out if you are eligible for lower costs on your premiums or out-of-pocket costs based on income.

Sign up for coverage online or by phone. Go to HealthCare.gov or CuidadoDeSalud.gov, or call the 24/7 Call Center at 1-800-318-2596 (1-855-889-4325 TTY/TDD).

SOURCE: www.cdc.gov/features/marketplace/


Reduce Sodium for World Salt Awareness Week

Check the label! This year’s World Salt Awareness Week (March 10-16) focuses on the need for clear and consistent nutrition labelling so consumers know how much sodium they are consuming each day and can choose foods with lower sodium.

Too much sodium increases your blood pressure, a leading risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Previous themes for World Salt Awareness Week have encouraged chefs, caterers, and the prepared food industry to decrease the amount of sodium they add to foods and to purchase lower sodium ingredients and products.

Why Is Reducing Sodium Important?

Consuming less sodium can help prevent or control high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, which is a leading contributor to death, disability, and costs from cardiovascular disease (CVD). CVD is the leading cause of death in the United States and a major factor in health disparities across different population groups. US spending on CVD in 2010 totaled an estimated $315 billion.

Most of the sodium we eat—more than 75%—comes from packaged, processed, store-bought, and restaurant foods. That means the sodium is in our food before we even buy it, and the salt you add to food during cooking or at the table is only a small amount of what you consume each day. CDC’s Sodium and Food Sources Web page shows which food categories are the biggest contributors of sodium to your daily diet.

Many people are surprised to learn that foods that seem healthy, such as low-fat deli turkey or light salad dressings, can be high in sodium. In fact, the top sources of sodium in the American diet are bread and rolls, cold cuts and cured meats, and pizza. Learn more about the most common sources of sodium in our diets from CDC Vital Signs.

What would the nation gain if everyone could reduce daily sodium intake to 2,300 mg? Such a reduction has been estimated to

  • Reduce cases of high blood pressure by 11 million.
  • Save $18 billion health care dollars each year.

What You Can Do

During World Salt Awareness Week and every week of the year, you can reduce your sodium intake by following the tips below. Check out CDC’s Salt Web site to get more recommendations about reducing sodium in your diet and improving your heart health.

At the Grocery Store

  • Check Nutrition Facts labels while shopping to find the lowest sodium options of your favorite foods.
  • Limit purchases of processed foods high in sodium.
  • Talk with your grocer about stocking lower sodium food choices.

Eating Out

  • Ask your server for nutritional information, or check online before you go to find lower sodium options. menustat.org
  • Ask the chef for no added salt in your meal. You can add some yourself if you find it is needed.
  • Talk with the manager of your favorite restaurant about offering lower sodium food choices.

At Home

  • Eat a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables. You can opt for frozen or canned fruits and vegetables, but select no-salt-added varieties and packages without sauce.
  • Prepare more meals from fresh ingredients at home, where you can control added salt.
  • Get enough potassium each day.1 Potassium can help reduce the effect of sodium on blood pressure and is found in many foods, such as bananas, potatoes, beans, and dairy products.
  • Support initiatives that reduce sodium in foods sold in cafeterias and vending machines.

Sodium Reduction in Communities

CDC is working to lower sodium intake at the community level through the Sodium Reduction in Communities Program. This current 3-year effort encourages communities to reduce sodium in school meals, at senior centers, in restaurants, at convenience stores, and at government facilities, and among other food establishments.

You can help by spreading the word to similar organizations in your community to ask for “less salt, please.”

SOURCE: www.cdc.gov/features/sodium/


Common Colds: Protect Yourself and Your Family

Common colds are the main reason that children miss school and adults miss work. Each year in the United States, there are millions of cases of the common cold. Adults have an average of 2-3 colds per year, and children have even more.

Most people get colds in the winter and spring, but it is possible to get a cold at any time of the year. Symptoms usually include sore throat, runny nose, coughing, sneezing, watery eyes, headaches and body aches. Most people recover within about 7-10 days. However, people with weakened immune systems, asthma, or respiratory conditions may develop serious illness, such as pneumonia.

Many different viruses can cause the common cold, but rhinoviruses are the most common. Viruses that cause colds can spread from infected people to others through the air and close personal contact. You can also get infected through contact with stool or respiratory secretions from an infected person. This can happen when you shake hands with someone who has a cold, or touch a doorknob that has viruses on it, then touch your eyes, mouth, or nose.

How to Protect Yourself and Others

You can help reduce your risk of getting a cold:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. Scrub them for 20 seconds, and help young children do the same. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Viruses live on your hands, and regular handwashing can help protect you from getting sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. Viruses can enter your body this way and make you sick.
  • Stay away from people who are sick. Sick people can spread viruses that cause the common cold through close contact with others.

If you have a cold, you should follow these tips to prevent viruses from spreading to other people:

  • Stay at home while you are sick
  • Avoid close contact with others, such as hugging, kissing, or shaking hands
  • Move away from people before coughing or sneezing
  • Cough and sneeze into a tissue then throw it away, or cough and sneeze into your upper shirt sleeve, completely covering your mouth and nose
  • Wash your hands after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose
  • Disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and objects such as toys and doorknobs

There is no vaccine to protect you against the common cold.

How to Feel Better

There is no cure for a cold. To feel better, you should get lots of rest and drink plenty of fluids. Over-the-counter medicines may help ease symptoms but will not make your cold go away any faster. Always read the label and use medications as directed. Talk to your doctor before giving your child nonprescription cold medicines, since some medicines contain ingredients that are not recommended for children. Learn more about symptom relief.

Antibiotics will not help you recover from a cold. They do not work against viruses, and they may make it harder for your body to fight future bacterial infections if you take them unnecessarily. Learn more about when antibiotics work.

When to See a Doctor

You should call your doctor if you or your child has one or more of these conditions:

  • a temperature higher than 100.4° F
  • symptoms that last more than 10 days
  • symptoms that are severe or unusual

If your child is younger than 3 months old and has a fever, you should always call your doctor right away. Your doctor can determine if you or your child has a cold and can recommend therapy to help with symptoms.

SOURCE: www.cdc.gov/features/rhinoviruses/


Heart Health Awareness for Women

Although heart disease is sometimes thought of as a “man’s disease,” around the same number of women and men die each year of heart disease in the United States. Despite increases in awareness over the past decade, only 56 percent of women recognize that heart disease is their No. 1 killer. That’s why it’s important to know the signs and symptoms and how to lower your risk for heart disease.

Heart disease symptoms in women

While some women have no symptoms of heart disease, others get dull, heavy to sharp chest pain or discomfort, pain in the neck/jaw/throat, or pain in the upper abdomen or back. These symptoms may occur during rest or physical activity, or be triggered by mental stress.

Women are more likely to describe chest pain that is sharp and burning and more often have pain in the neck, jaw, throat, abdomen, or back.

Sometimes heart disease may be silent and not diagnosed until a woman has signs or symptoms of a heart attack, heart failure, an arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm), or stroke.

Know your risk for heart disease and heart attack

  • Diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure are risk factors for heart disease.
  • Smoking, poor diet, obesity, excess alcohol, and being physically inactive are also risk factors for heart disease.
  • Heredity can also be a risk factor because heart disease can run in families.

Take steps to learn more

  • Know your risk factors, make healthy choices, and lower your chances for having a heart attack or stroke.
  • See your health care provider for a checkup, especially if you have any risk factors or symptoms.
  • Talk to your health care provider and ask questions to better understand your health.
  • Know your family history. There may be factors that could increase your risk for heart disease and stroke.

Make healthy choices every day

You can lower your risk of heart disease and heart attack by taking simple steps every day.

  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Be active. Exercise regularly.
  • Be tobacco-free. Get help if needed. Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).
  • Limit alcohol use.
  • Manage any medical condition you might have. Learn the ABCS of health. Keep them in mind every day and especially when you talk to your health provider:
    • Appropriate aspirin therapy for those who need it
    • Blood pressure control
    • Cholesterol management
    • Smoking cessation

SOURCE: www.cdc.gov/features/wearred/


Are You at High Risk for Serious Illness from the Flu?

Influenza, commonly called the “flu,” is a contagious viral infection that affects the respiratory system — your nose, throat and lungs. Symptoms of the flu can include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people may also have vomiting and diarrhea.

The flu can be an unpredictable and serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and sometimes even death.

CDC estimates that from the 1976-1977 season to the 2006-2007 flu season, flu-associated deaths ranged from a low of about 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people.

While the flu can make anyone sick, certain people are at greater risk for serious flu-related complications, like pneumonia and bronchitis. These groups include:

  • Children younger than 5, but especially children younger than 2 years old
  • Adults 65 years of age and older
  • Pregnant women
  • American Indians and Alaskan Natives

And people who have medical conditions including:

  • Asthma
  • Neurological and neurodevelopmental conditions [including disorders of the brain, spinal cord, peripheral nerve, and muscle such as cerebral palsy, epilepsy (seizure disorders), stroke, intellectual disability (mental retardation), moderate to severe developmental delay, muscular dystrophy, or spinal cord injury].
  • Chronic lung disease (such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease [COPD] and cystic fibrosis)

  • Heart disease (such as congenital heart disease, congestive heart failure and coronary artery disease)
  • Blood disorders (such as sickle cell disease)
  • Endocrine disorders (such as diabetes mellitus)
  • Kidney disorders
  • Liver disorders
  • Metabolic disorders (such as inherited metabolic disorders and mitochondrial disorders)
  • Weakened immune system due to disease or medication (such as people with HIV or AIDS, or cancer, or those on chronic steroids)
  • People younger than 19 years of age who are receiving long-term aspirin therapy
  • People who are morbidly obese (Body Mass Index, or BMI, of 40 or greater)

Your best defense against influenza – and its possible complications – is to get vaccinated. In fact, CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older get an annual flu vaccination. The flu vaccine is safe and can’t cause the flu. The flu shot—not the nasal spray—is recommended for people with chronic medical conditions.

Flu-Related Complications Can Affect You

Millions of Americans are impacted by long-term health conditions, but many people aren’t aware that they have one of these conditions. For example, diabetes affects about 26 million Americans, but it is estimated that 1 in 4 people with the disease don’t even know they have it. It’s important to ask your doctor whether you have a health condition that makes you more vulnerable to complications from the flu. In addition to those with chronic health conditions, many others are a high risk for flu complications because of their age or other factors.

Consider these facts:

  • During the 2012-2013 flu season, 45% of adults hospitalized with laboratory-confirmed influenza had heart disease.
  • Among Americans 20 years and older, 6.3% are morbidly obese (with a body mass index, or BMI, of 40 or greater).
  • In pregnant women, changes in the immune system, heart and lungs make them prone to more severe illness from flu. In addition, a flu-infected pregnant woman also has an increased chance for miscarriage or preterm birth.
  • In the United States, each year an average of 20,000 children younger than 5 years old are hospitalized because of flu complications.
  • During the 2012-2013 influenza season, 169 flu-related pediatric deaths were reported.
  • Among children 6 months and older, about 80-90% of flu-related pediatric deaths occur in children who have not received a flu vaccine.
  • 9 out of 10 flu-related deaths in the United States occur in people 65 and older.

If you are currently living with a chronic health condition like heart disease, diabetes or asthma, certain behaviors are probably part of your daily routine, like watching your diet or glucose levels, taking your prescribed medications or keeping your inhaler on-hand. Make getting an annual flu vaccine another part of your health management routine—it’s your best defense against the flu and related complications. Since the flu is contagious, it’s also important that all of your close contacts are vaccinated.

If you are at high risk for flu complications, be sure to ask your doctor about getting a pneumococcal vaccination, too. Pneumococcal vaccine can be given at any time during the year and may be given at the same time as influenza vaccine.

SOURCE: www.cdc.gov/features/fluhighrisk/


Healthy Resolutions: Focus on Your Health in 2014

Family, fun… and FOOD! Does that sum up the holiday season for you? Don’t worry, all is not lost. You can let go of the past and resolve to start the New Year on the right foot. That will mean eating fewer calories and engaging in more physical activity to lose weight. Here is some information to help you eat healthier and move more this year.

Focus on Your Health in the New Year

Getting healthy after over-indulging during the holiday season may not be easy at first, but it can be done. Here are some suggestions for cutting your calories.

Enjoy your favorite comfort foods, but try a lower-calorie version. Use lower-calorie ingredients or prepare meals differently. For example, if your macaroni and cheese recipe uses whole milk, butter, and full-fat cheese, try remaking it with non-fat milk, less butter, light cream cheese, fresh spinach and tomatoes.

Fruits and veggies: keep it simple! Most fruits and veggies are low-calorie and will fill you up, but the way you prepare them can change that. Breading and frying, and using high-fat creams or butter with vegetables and fruit will add extra calories. Try steaming vegetables and using spices and low-fat sauces for flavor. And enjoy the natural sweetness of raw fruit.

Eat smaller portions. When eating out, save some of your meal and take it home to make another meal, or split one meal between two people. At home, try putting only the amount you want to eat in a small bowl and don’t go back for more. People eat more when confronted with larger portion sizes.

Drink water. Drink water instead of sugar-sweetened beverages. Give your water a little pizzazz by adding a wedge of lime or lemon. This may improve the taste, and you just might drink more water than you usually do. This tip can help with weight management. Substituting water for one 20-ounce, sugar-sweetened soda will save you about 240 calories.

Eat breakfast every day. When you don’t eat breakfast, you may be likely to make up for the calories you saved by eating more later on in the day. Many people who maintain long-term weight loss eat breakfast daily.

Get Active, Healthy, and Happy

Are you already physically active? That’s great…keep it up, or take it to the next level! If you aren’t physically active, this could be your year to get started. Regular physical activity is an important part of losing weight and being healthy. Make a goal with a friend to achieve the amount of activity recommended by the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans!

Get Moving. Physical activity helps control weight, but it has other benefits. Physical activity such as walking can help improve health even without weight loss. People who are physically active live longer and have a lower risk for heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, depression, and some cancers.

Walk & Talk. Stay connected and get active with family and friends. Do yourself (and them) a favor by initiating a Walk & Talk weekly visit as part of your physical activity routine.

Have Fun. Check out community resources like nearby trails and parks. Sign up for a 5K walk or run to keep your mind focused on physical activity goals.

SOURCE: www.cdc.gov/features/healthyresolutions/


12 Holiday Health Tips to Brighten the Season

Brighten the holidays by making your health and safety a priority. Follow 12 recommended tips for self-care this season. Keep yourself and your loved ones safe and healthy — and ready to enjoy the holidays.

  1. Wash hands often to help prevent the possibility of spreading germs and getting sick. Wash your hands with soap and clean running water for at least 20 seconds.
  2. Bundle up to stay dry and warm. Wear appropriate outdoor clothing: light, warm layers, mittens, hats, scarves, and waterproof boots.
  3. Manage stress. Give yourself a break if you feel stressed out. Find support, connect socially, and get plenty of sleep.
  4. Don’t drink and drive or let others drink and drive. Whenever anyone drives drunk, they put everyone on the road in danger.
  5. Be smoke-free. Avoid smoking and secondhand smoke. It’s common knowledge that smokers have greater health risks because of their tobacco use, but nonsmokers also are at risk when exposed to tobacco smoke, also referred to as secondhand smoke.
  6. Fasten seat belts while driving or riding in a motor vehicle. Always buckle your children in the car using a child safety seat, booster seat, or seat belt according to their height, weight, and age. Use seat belts on every trip, no matter how short the trip.
  7. Get exams and screenings. Ask your health care provider what exams you need and when to get them. Update your personal and family history.
  8. Get your vaccinations, which help prevent various diseases and save lives. Everyone 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine each year. Vaccination is especially important for people who are at high risk for complications from flu, and for people who live with or care for someone who is at high risk.
  9. Monitor the children. Keep potentially dangerous toys, food, drinks, household items, and other objects out of children’s reach. Dress your children warmly for outdoor activities. Develop family rules on safe behavior—on using electronic media, for instance.
  10. Practice fire safety. Most residential fires occur during the winter months, so don’t leave fireplaces, space heaters, stoves, or candles unattended. Have an emergency plan and practice it regularly.
  11. Prepare food safely. Remember these simple steps: Wash hands and surfaces often, avoid cross-contamination, and cook foods to proper temperatures and refrigerate them promptly.
  12. Eat healthy, stay active. Eat fruits and vegetables, which pack plenty of nutrients and help lower the risk for certain diseases. Limit your portion sizes and foods high in fat, salt, and sugar. Also, be active for at least 2½ hours a week and help kids and teens be active for at least 1 hour a day.

Be inspired to stay in the spirit of good health!

SOURCE: www.cdc.gov/features/healthytips/