Heather Boerner

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Freelance health writer Heather Boerner writes about heart health, women’s health, men’s health, weight, and violence and health, among others. Find what you’re looking for faster searching the site.

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“In Control: Teens manage their bleeding disorders—and you can, too”
HemAware Magazine, 04.09
Kody Schrimshaw’s morning routine is usually the same. The 15-year-old high school freshman, who has severe hemophilia A, wakes up to his alarm clock, brushes his teeth, crams his schoolbooks in his backpacks and heads to school.
There’s just one variation, and it’s a big one. Every other day, before rushing out the door, Schrimshaw, of Black Creek, Wisconsin, grabs his factor from the fridge, drops into a chair by the door and infuses himself. He’s been on prophylaxis since he was 13 months old and self-infusing since age 10. “I like to do it quickly—in and out,” he says.
Scrimshaw doesn’t see his morning infusions as a chore. He sees them as a passport to freedom. “Whatever you want to do more of, infusing yourself will let you do it,” he says. “Doing it myself gives me more freedom to do whatever else I want. I can go over to my friend’s for the night. I can go wherever I need to. I don’t need my parents there to infuse me.”
Freedom is appealing, but to get it, you have to handle your bleeding disorder. That means remembering to infuse and recognizing a bleed while juggling class assignments, work, dating and social pressure.
Download a PDF of this article here.

“Keeping Secret Codes: How a law designed to prevent genetic discrimination may not protect the patients who need it most”
Registered Nurse Magazine, 02.09
When blood samples sent from the University of Chicago Medical Center arrive at a clinical genetic testing laboratory, geneticists spend weeks carefully extracting the blood’s most elemental components: wispy strings of DNA, isolated using heat and an alkaline and processed through a machine designed to identify just the right section of DNA. The results come out as little pink, red, green and blue spikes on a slip of paper. This red peak may mean a mutation of the gene that governs blood clotting. That green one may mean a genetic predisposition to breast cancer. Whatever the case, the geneticist analyzes them all against a standard for that part of the DNA helix, creates a report on the results and sends it back to the University of Chicago, where it might land in the hands of Melody White-Perpich.
White-Perpich, a genetic counselor at the Cancer Risk Clinic at the University of Chicago Medical Center, will review the findings and then, instead of filing them down in the basement where patients’ regular medical records are kept, she will head toward a special cabinet in her office. There, she’ll slip the document into a separate, very thick folder.
For 10 years, that file has housed her patients’ genetic profiles and, by keeping that data outside of their regular charts, protected the hundreds who pass through her doors every year from genetic discrimination by insurers and employers. It is, she says, a very important file—and a very important part of her job to defend the information within it.
“We call it the shadow file,” said White-Perpich.
Download a PDF of this article here.

“Plan for Your Best Life: What’s ahead for you and your MS?”
Momentum Magazine, 01.09
Six stories that guide people with MS towards the simplest ways to plan for your financial, emotional, work and emotional life, regardless of what your MS does.
Download a PDF of this package of articles here.

“Act of Protection: What the Genetic Discrimination Nondiscrimination Act for people with bleeding disorders.”
HemAware Magazine, 12.08
Ray Stanhope may be the one in his family with hemophilia, but he’s not the only one who deals with its ramifications. His sisters and niece, for instance, fret about Stanhope’s health, but they also have their own medical concerns borne of the disease.
“They aren’t concerned for their own health,” he says. “The biggest thing for them has been the fear that they might be carriers and pass hemophilia on to their children. They worry they’ll be denied health insurance because of it.”
Stanhope’s family members aren’t alone. Others in the bleeding disorders community wonder if a loved one’s hemophilia or von Willebrand disease puts their children at risk of developing those disorders. The good news is that with the help of newly developed genetic tests, and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), they have a chance to find out and protect their health insurance.
Download a PDF of this article here.

“50 Tips to Boost Your Noodle: Brain-boosting exercises from the nation’s top experts.”
One of the best ways to stay sharp is to exercise that muscle between your ears, research indicates. And discussions with some of the top scientists studying the brain reveal that you can work your noggin in many different ways, every day.
Here are 50 of them.
Read the full article here.
Download a PDF of this article here.

“Unhealthy Gamble: Just who’s really banking on health savings accounts?”
Registered Nurse Magazine, 09.08
Jonathan Stein takes his health seriously. But he takes is responsibilities as a father even more seriously.
And so it is that Stein, a self-employed 34-year-old lawyer living in Sacramento, Calif., decided to risk his future health so that his wife and three boys would have health coverage for their chronic conditions.
Stein admits the decision is a huge gamble, one his family cannot afford to lose. He is the sole breadwinner at the moment, and his wife acts as his office manager.
“I guess I’m more willing to take the risk that I’m not going to have a huge medical bill—knock on wood—every year because I try to do everything right throughout the year,” he said.
So far, the plan has worked great. Well, that is, except when he got kicked in the ribs during his martial arts class. Or when he twisted his ankle after that. Then he caught that cold he couldn’t shake. He waited and waited to seek medical treatment for his injuries, resting and icing his ribs and visiting his mother-in-law, a registered nurse, for advice. Finally, armed with a small laundry list of ailments, he broke down and saw the family doctor for the first time in tw yhears. “I went in and told her, ‘In addition to my cold, can you look at my rib, my knee and my right ankle?’” He recalled. Total bill: $350.
“That’s just ridiculous,” he remembered thinking of the expense.
Download a PDF of this article here.

“Go with Your Gut: From GI distress to allergies, probiotics may help ease your health problems”
Yoga Journal, 09.08
Through her childhood and adolescence Jamie Koonce suffered from allergies and migraine attacks. By the time she was in her early 20s, the migraines had gone, but her maladies now included insomnia, stomach pain and depression.
Then, four years ago, Koonce made some changes in her life. She started doing vinyasa yoga daily and taking Chinese herbs for general health. But she found that the most profound improvements in her well-being came from the few nights of kimchi she began eating before meals and the fermented kombucha tea she drank daily. To her surprise, not only did her stomach cramps disappear but she almost immediately had more energy and felt her mood lighten. She began sleeping through the night and awoke feeling refreshed.
The secret behind Koonce’s miracle recovery? The probiotics, or beneficial bacteria, that are prevalent in foods such as kimchi, yogurt, kefir and aged cheese. Koonce had stumbled upon what medical systems such as traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and Ayurveda have found, and what Western medicine through science is now beginning to accept: A shortage of “good” bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract can affect nearly every system in the body, from your respiratory system to your digestion. And some scientists are discovering that replenishing the levels of certain beneficial strains of these bacteria may alleviate long-standing conditions whose roots have evaded diagnosis.
Read the full article here.
Download a PDF of this article here.

“Tips to Trip By: The art and science of traveling with diabetes”
Diabetes Forecast, 05.08
Twice a month for 16 years, Paul Friedrich, 80, has commuted from Chicago to Virginia to visit family. In 2008, 26-year-old Leighton Rockafellow Jr. will have backpacked through more than two dozen countries. Both bring an extra companion on every trip: their diabetes.
For Friedrich, a semi-retired University of Chicago anthropology professor, it’s type 2, managed with pills and careful meal planning; for Rockafellow, it’s type 1, managed with insulin. But whether you’re backpacking through the Andes or hopping a single time zone, hitting the road with diabetes is kind of like traveling with a small child: in both cases, forethought pays off.
The week-by-week plan that follows will give you an idea of how the pros do it. Feel free to tailor it to your own situation—and let it inspire you to pursue your own adventures, too.
Read the full article here.
Download a PDF of this article here.

“On the Issues: Presidential hopefuls propose healthcare reform with varying degrees”
BlackEnterprise.com, 05.08
The healthcare issues of the 2008 presidential election are as notable for what they highlight as for what they neglect. Abortion may not be the hot-button topic of past elections, but it is still an issue that is on the table. Of the three top candidates, Republican candidate Sen. John McCain is the only pro-life candidate in the bunch--but quietly so.
Instead, when it comes to medical matters, the primary focus for this year's vote is reforming the entire medical system. And for good reason. Nearly 47 million Americans were uninsured in 2006, the last date for which statistics are available. Almost one in five are African American. How McCain, Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton propose to fix the nation's healthcare situation varies widely.
Will these proposed plans improve your health and bottom line? To find out, we sifted through election-year rhetoric. Here's how the candidate's proposed healthcare plans affect you as a patient and as a businessperson.
Read the full article here.
Download a PDF of this article here.

“Many Ways: Adapted exercise boosts body and spirit”
Momentum: Magazine of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Spring.08
Lori Holder-Webb thought her active life was over when her first MS attacks in 2006 left her unable to walk on her own. With panic, she imagined never doing the snowshoeing, Nordic skiing, or 20-mile bike rides she’d always enjoyed in her hometown of Madison, Wisconsin.
Then she found a three-wheel bike with a low-slung seat that restores the balance she lost to MS. It also restores something else: Her self-image.
These women share how they’ve made adapted exercise a regular part of their lives—gaining balance, strength, energy and joy in the process.
Download a PDF of this article here.

“America’s Surprisingly Unhealthy Jobs”
Yahoo! Hot Jobs, 03.08
Forget stuntmen. Some of the country's least healthy jobs are in cubicles, hospitals, and restaurants. Are you at risk?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), it's not just farm laborers or police officers who have high rates of workplace injuries and illnesses. In fact, some common -- and seemingly benign -- professions have high rates of injury and illnesses that were severe enough to cause workers to miss at least one day of work in 2006.
Read the full article here.
Download a PDF of this article here.

“Homophobic Bullying”
teenwire.com, 07.24.07
Homophobic bullying can be anything from teasing people for being gay or for being perceived as gay to calling them anti-gay names, even in jest, to spreading rumors about people's sexual orientation for the purpose of making fun of them to hitting, throwing rocks at, and isolating people who are believed to be gay.
According to a study in the Journal of Early Adolescence, such behavior is more than just a joke — it can have some serious, negative health effects for the people who go through it. Like Kayla, people who experience homophobic bullying are more likely to become depressed, anxious, feel like they don't belong, and to withdraw from their social circles.
Read the full story here.
Download a PDF of this article here.

“Sleeping Separately”
NewsMax Magazine, 07.07
A growing number of Americans are choosing to sleep in bedrooms seprate from their spouses, according to a recent survey by the National Association of Home Builders. Poor sleep is a major health problem. Research links poor sleep to everything from poor concentration and depression to diabetes, obesity and alcoholic relapse.
Article available upon request.

“Dealing With Dating Violence”
teenwire.com, 10.03.06
The violence started when Allison (not her real name) was 13. First, the boy she'd been dating for a year pressured her to have sex with him. Then it got physical: He pinched her, grabbed her wrists, and threatened to push her off a concrete wall and into a basement. Allison now thinks the abuse - and the fact that no one believed her - led to suicidal depression when she was in high school.
Allison is far from alone. A May 2006 study released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that nearly 1.5 million high school students - girls and boys - have experienced physical violence in a dating relationship in the past year. The study also found that teens, like Allison, who experience violence in their relationships are more likely to consider suicide. Teens who experience physical violence while dating are also likely to engage in dangerous dieting behaviors, and use alcohol or other drugs.
Read the full article here.
Download a PDF of this article here.

“Q&A: Men, Heart Disease and Hypertension”
Ikana Media, 03.06
With Dr. Frank Smart, director of heart failure and cardiac transplants at the Texas Heart Institute at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital in Houston, Texas.
Article available upon request

“After the Abuse”
Choice! Magazine Online, 02.13.06
Based on interviews with 24,000 women in 10 countries, the WHO found that women who have been abused are twice as likely as other women to suffer ill health — and the effects seem to persist long after the violence has stopped.
Download a PDF of this article here.

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Writing with a human face