Depression is more than just feeling sad. It’s a serious condition that needs a good recovery plan and a good dose of understanding. With early detection, and a treatment plan consisting of medication, therapy and lifestyle choices, many people can start feeling better.

Symptoms of depression may include:

  • persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness
  • loss of interest in most normal activities
  • changes in sleep patterns
  • tiredness and lower energy level
  • anxiety, apathy, restlessness

Managing depression often requires treatment with counseling and possibly medication. If you think you are suffering from depression, it’s always a good idea to discuss with your primary care physician (PCP). You can also self-refer to see a mental health specialist.

Medication treatment and Follow-up Care:

There are many antidepressant medications available. Screening and evaluation by your PCP or a behavioral health professional is essential prior to prescribing an antidepressant. Taking antidepressant medications as prescribed is a key to successful treatment.

If antidepressants are prescribed, keep these points in mind:

  • Most antidepressants take 4 to 6 weeks before they have an effect, and for their side effects to ease up.
  • When beginning a new medication or changing dosing, it’s important to be followed by your doctor for any unwanted behavior changes the medications may cause.
  • It’s important to continue the medication(s) and keep follow-up visits with your physician. People sometimes want to stop the medication due to feeling side effects, or due to lack of improvement in the short term. These issues should be discussed with your physician so that alternate treatment options can be discussed.

Click here for more information on depression from the National Institute of Mental Health

inside-picture-2The flu is a serious disease that causes thousands of people to be hospitalized and even die from complications each year. Know the facts about the flu vaccine.

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone over 6 months old get the flu shot.
  • Getting an annual flu vaccine is the best way to protect yourself and your family from flu illnesses, doctor or hospital visits, and missed work or school due to the flu.
  • The flu virus is smart and continually mutates, so a new shot is released every year.
  • Winter is flu season. Since it takes a few weeks for the flu shot to build your immunity, it’s best to get the vaccine in the fall.
  • Getting a flu shot protects you and those who are the most vulnerable to getting complications from the flu: older people, very young children, pregnant women and people with certain health conditions.

Q: What flu vaccines are recommended this season?
A: This flu season (2016-2017), the CDC recommends only injectable flu shots. The nasal flu vaccine (FluMist) is not recommended because the CDC is concerned it may not be as effective.

Q: What if I’m pregnant?
If you are pregnant, you should ask your primary care physician or OB-GYN for their professional recommendation. You and your doctor can decide together if the flu vaccine is right for you.

Q: When and how often should I get vaccinated?
 The CDC recommends getting a flu vaccine every year by the end of October, if possible, but later is okay too. Significant seasonal flu virus activity can continue into May, so vaccination later in the season can still provide a benefit during most seasons.


This October, Western Health Advantage is proud to participate in National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Breast cancer is the second most common kind of cancer in women. About 1 in 8 women born today in the United States will get breast cancer at some point.

The good news is that many women can survive breast cancer if it’s found and treated early. A screening mammogram is an X-ray of the breast used to detect breast changes in women who have no signs or symptoms of breast cancer. Mammograms are covered for women over age 40 under all WHA health plans.

  • If you are a woman under age 40 who is at higher-than-average risk of breast cancer – for example, if a close family member of yours had breast or ovarian cancer – ask your doctor if a mammogram is recommended and how often.
  • If you are a woman age 40 to 49, talk with your doctor about when to start getting mammograms and how often to get them
  • If are a woman age 50 to 74, be sure to get a mammogram every 2 years. You may also choose to get them more often.

Join WHA at Making Strides of Sacramento
WHA supports efforts to prevent and treat breast cancer in part by being a Silver Sponsor of the American Cancer Society’s “Making Strides of Sacramento” 5K walk on Sunday, October 16, 2016. The non-competitive walk starts at 8:00 a.m. at the State Capitol. Join us for this celebration of survivorship! You can sign up here.

Attention WHA members: To show our appreciation for completing your mammogram, your name can be entered for a drawing to win a $100 gift card when proof of your exam is provided.

For more information about breast cancer and the drawing, visit mywha.org/womenswellness.

Care Begins With Me


It’s Your Turn for Some TLC

Join us for Care Begins with Me, Sacramento’s premier annual health and lifestyle event just for women. The inspiring event is held on Tuesday, October 4, 2016 from 5 to 9 p.m. at the Sheraton Grand Hotel. Learn more about health and kindness and connect with other women.

You’ll hear from keynote speaker Kimberly Williams-Paisley (@kimwilliamspais), the former “Father of the Bride” star and author of “Where the Light Gets In,” in which she writes about the struggle to face her mother’s dementia, her own fears about it happening to her one day, and her family’s adjustment as her mother entered an assisted-living home.

You’ll also attend Care Talks with Dignity Health doctors. There will be a lifestyle, fashion, and beauty galleria, along with gourmet food and drinks, as well.

Bring your friends – because of course you care about them, too. Register today at CareBeginsWithMe2016.org


One in three children in the United States are overweight or obese. Childhood obesity puts kids at risk for health problems that were once seen only in adults, like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

The good news is that childhood obesity can be prevented. In honor of National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, Western Health Advantage encourages your family to make healthy changes together.

  • Get active outside: Walk around the neighborhood, go on a bike ride, or play basketball at the park.
  • Limit screen time: Keep screen time (time spent on the computer, watching TV, or playing video games) to 2 hours or less a day.
  • Make healthy meals: Buy and serve more vegetables, fruits, and whole-grain foods.

Taking small steps as a family can help your child stay at a healthy weight.

For more information, visit American College of Sports Medicine.

Western Health Advantage also has information on adolescent health at mywha.org/teen.


September is National Cholesterol Education Month so this is a good time to focus on that aspect of your health. High blood cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, the first and fifth leading causes of death in the United States. High cholesterol is asymptomatic; therefore, blood cholesterol screening is the only way to know one’s risk.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends regular cholesterol screening for men aged ≥35 years, women aged ≥45 years, and men aged 20–35 years and women aged 20–45 years who are at an increased risk for coronary heart disease.

Lowering high cholesterol or maintaining a healthy cholesterol level can reduce the risk for heart attack or stroke. Health behaviors such as engaging in physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight, following a heart-healthy diet, and using medication can all contribute to the maintenance of a healthy cholesterol level and decreased risk for heart attack or stroke.

Educational materials and additional information are available at CDC.gov.

Western Health Advantage also has tips for living more healthfully at mywha.org/healthyliving.


September is recognized as National Preparedness Month and is sponsored by FEMA.  National Preparedness Month is a time to prepare yourself and those in your care for emergencies and disasters, both large scale and smaller local events.

The most important step you can take in helping your local responders is being able to take care of yourself and those in your care for at least a short period of time following an incident.

What you can do:

  1. Bookmark National Weather Service to stay informed on severe weather.
  2. Learn about Wireless Emergency Alerts, messages that will be sent to your phone during an emergency.
  3. Get practical tips on preparing for disaster at Ready.

Take Action
Make sure that you and your family are prepared for an emergency. Ensure that you can go for at least three days without electricity, water service, access to a supermarket, or other local services.

What you can do:

  1. Prepare a disaster supply kit with at least three days of food and water.
  2. Create a Family Emergency Plan so that your family knows how to communicate during an emergency.
  3. Obtain a NOAA Weather Radio.

FEMA’s Ready.gov website provides detailed information on what may be most important to you and your family. You can find specific information tailored to specific needs such as people with disabilities, seniors, assisting children, business readiness, and even information for your pets. For more information, see Ready.gov

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