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Michigan Health Director To Stand Trial In Flint Deaths

Nick Lyon (right) listens as a judge orders that he face trial on involuntary manslaughter and other charges.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

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Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Nick Lyon (right) listens as a judge orders that he face trial on involuntary manslaughter and other charges.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

District Judge David Goggins on Monday decided the state has enough evidence to warrant bounding Nick Lyon, director of Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services, over for trial. The charges stem from the deaths of two men from Legionnaires’ disease in 2015.

“The victims’ deaths, that is Robert Skidmore and John Snyder, their deaths were caused by this neglect of the defendant,” Goggins read from his opinion, “in [Nick Lyon's] failure to act appropriately with regarding to disseminating notices to the public.”

Lyon and other state department officials were aware of a deadly Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in Genesee County in January 2015. But the department did not issue a public advisory about the outbreak until January 2016. The department did advise doctors and medical institutions in 2015. Between 2014 and 2015, at least a dozen people died from Legionnaires’ disease in Genesee County, and dozens more were sickened. Evidence connecting the Legionella bacteria outbreak to Flint’s ill-fated drinking water switch in 2014 is disputed.

In addition to two counts of involuntary manslaughter, Lyon is charged with misconduct in office and willful neglect of duty.

“What we’re looking at today is the first step and the next step for justice for the moms, the dads and kids of Flint,” said Andrea Bitely, a spokeswoman for the Michigan Attorney General’s Office.

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver praised the decision to send the case to trial.

“The people of Flint have been traumatized by the actions, or lack of actions, by State officials,” Weaver said in a written statement. “This is a good step on the road to recovery and healing for the people of Flint. I hope that the State continues to be held accountable for the State’s decisions.”

Lyon’s defense attorneys plan to challenge the decision.

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Google Fit is getting redesigned with new health-tracking rings

Today, Google is rolling out a complete redesign of the Google Fit app for Android and the Fit section of the Wear OS app on iPhone. The new design focus is on closing rings, much like Apple (and everybody else). Google says that its rings are informed by health recommendations from the American Heart Association (AHA) and the World Health Organization (WHO). Every day, users will be encouraged to complete two goals: one based on “move minutes” and another based on a new thing called “heart points.”

Those metrics are an attempt to “abstract away the complication” of fitness tracking, says Margaret Hollendoner, senior product manager for Google Fit. “Move minutes” is meant to be a better metric than simple steps because it can capture several different activities since walking “might not be a great option” for some people.

“Heart points” is a little more abstract, but it’s designed to encourage people to engage in activities that will still get their heart rate up but don’t necessarily require a trip to the gym. “It’s as simple as picking up the pace when you’re walking,” Hollendoner says.

With both metrics, Fit will attempt to use as many sensors as are available to it and estimate the rest. If you use a Wear OS watch, it can track your heart rate directly and also automatically detect when you start exercising. Fit won’t require a Wear OS watch, but it definitely works better with one. It can also work with health data from other devices that are compatible with Fit.

As with all tech companies, Google is careful not to cross the line into making actual health claims with Google Fit. Instead, it is saying that it worked with the AHA and WHO to set up Fit so that it can help users track their progress toward achieving the physical activity guidelines the groups recommend.

Those goals are roughly 150 minutes of “moderate” activity per week and 75 minutes of “vigorous” activity. So the move minutes track daily progress to moderate activity. Heart points track toward the vigorous activity goal, but the “points” abstraction means that Fit can award more points for heavy exercise while also still rewarding less strenuous activity. (Fit will still show users more traditional metrics like step counts and estimated calories burned.)

In any case, the Fit app will start every user with goals it thinks are appropriate and move them up as they achieve more. Hollendoner says the system will offer suggestions within the app. For example, it might suggest that you only need another 20 minutes of exercise to hit a weekly goal, even if you missed your rings earlier in the week. In other words: Fit will try to help you alter your behavior, but it might make you feel a little less bad when you take a rest day.

Patrick Wayte, SVP for the center for health tech at AHA, says his organization’s contribution to the new system was more of an “active collaboration” or an “alignment exercise” than a full-on partnership with Google. The AHA’s recommendations will appear directly inside Fit if users go looking to see exactly what these Heart Points are all about. “This gives us an opportunity to get people oriented around the science,” Wayte says. He hopes that Fit’s coaching for users will “increasingly align them to the guidelines” the AHA recommends for physical activity.

Beyond the new metrics, the Fit app has generally been cleaned up, modernized, and simplified. When either the Heart points or Move rings are completed in the app, they’ll turn into an octagon. (Hollendoner calls it a “jewel shape.”) The Wear OS app will be updated as well, including those new rings.

A journal tab can show maps of previous runs and bike rides, track heart rates over time, and more. Users will have a setup process, but Google will take on more of the work to help them set goals over time. A floating “plus” button allows users to set up custom exercise routines.

Google has a lot of work ahead of it now as it fights to gain relevancy in a health tech conversation completely dominated by the Apple Watch and Fitbit. On its own, the new version of Fit seems nice but certainly not enough to pull mindshare away. That will probably require new WearOS smartwatches, and we should be seeing some of those come out later this year.

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Amazon hires a star cardiologist to help its push into health

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Maulik Majumudar, who recently announced he is joining Amazon.

Amazon has hired well-known cardiologist Maulik Majmudar for a new role, as it looks to move into the $3 trillion health-care sector.

Majmudar announced his new role on his Twitter account on Monday. Before joining the technology company, he worked as a cardiologist and associate director of the health-care transformation lab at Massachusetts General Hospital and he lectured at MIT. At the lab, he looked at how to incorporate the latest medical technologies into the practice of medicine.

Majmudar did not disclose the specific team he would be joining at Amazon, only that he would be taking on an “exciting and challenging role.” He’s advised technology companies in the past, such as Quanttus, a company that tried to track blood pressure from the wrist but ultimately failed.

Amazon declined to comment. Majmudar did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Amazon currently has a number of different teams working on health care and has been on a health-care hiring spree, bringing on experts includingprimary care expert Martin Levine and Taha Kass-Hout, former FDA chief health information officer.

Among its many projects: Its business group is looking to sell medical supplies to hospitals and clinics. Its cloud team is selling AI and other advanced technologies to health-care companies. It has a wellness team within Alexa that is focusing on developing voice applications in health care. Its research and development group, dubbed Grand Challenges, is working on everything from medical records to telemedicine. And in June, the company acquired online pharmacy PillPack.

The company also has an interest in bringing down health costs for its employees through its partnership with J.P Morgan and Berkshire Hathaway. CNBC previously reported it has a team working on building out employee health clinics.

Majmudar, with his wide-ranging background in health care, could be working with any or all of these groups.

Cardiologists seem to be in high demand for tech companies moving into health care. Jessica Mega, chief medical officer of Alphabet’s life sciences arm Verily, is a trained cardiologist. And Freddy Abnousi, Facebook’s most senior health-care hire, also has a background in heart health.

“This is a fascinating move that signals how all the big tech players, like Amazon, Google and Apple, understand that the most prevalent disease in the world is heart disease,” said Vic Gundotra, CEO of AliveCor, a heart-health technology company and a former senior vice president at Google. “It’s one of the greatest places where technology can have an impact, in diagnosing and screening for these diseases.”

Amazon to be big in health care after PillPack deal


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When making the NBA isn’t a cure-all: Mental health and black athletes

8:16 AM ET

THEY LEARNED FROM an early age to keep their heads bowed and their voices low. Around the Erie Avenue row house where Marcus and Markieff Morris grew up in North Philadelphia, eye contact with the wrong person could be misconstrued as a sign of disrespect or, worse, a challenge. “Then, next thing you know, the guns are coming out,” Marcus says. “I’ve seen guys get shot just for sitting on the wrong front step. We were surrounded by violence, gangs. You wake up every day thinking, ‘How am I going to protect myself?’”

The Morris brothers were exceptional athletes, providing them with an occasional escape from an environment Marcus says felt like a tinderbox: Light a match, and the whole thing will blow. Like many boys their age, the Morris twins dreamed of playing in the NBA or the NFL. “But,” Marcus says, “we were living somewhere where you never saw anybody do that.”

When the twins were in high school, their house burned down with their family cat trapped inside. Their mother, Angel, moved them and their brother Blake into a small home in Hunting Park with their maternal grandparents, a tight squeeze for teenage boys who would grow to be nearly 6-foot-10. They lived in the basement and slept on a mattress, with no heat and a ceiling that was only 6½ feet high, which made it impossible for them to fully stand up. Yet they were grateful, because at least they had family who cared. Only one in 20 of their friends had a father around — the twins’ dad was nowhere to be seen, either — and their mother worked long hours so she could pay for their basketball shoes and something to eat at supper. The twins leaned on each other for companionship, solace and courage.

“We were just trying to survive every day,” Marcus says. “As a kid, it’s fun for a minute. You don’t see yourself in any danger. Once you become a teenager, you’re unprotected. Now you’re a target. If you’re wearing some Jordans, they’re coming for you. There were plenty of times I had to protect myself. You walk out the door every day looking around, watching your back, just trying to stay out of the line of fire.

“You see shootings, pistol whippings. One wrong decision, one wrong word, and it escalates so quickly into a full-blown war. It’s like that in Philly. You’re trapped in a box. Your opportunity is so small, so once a person gets ahold of something, they protect it with their life. It’s hard to explain if you haven’t lived it.

“You got respect in our neighborhood by killing someone. That’s how messed up it was.”

The brothers were so close that they finished each other’s sentences. They liked the same foods, ran with the same friends. They were, in many ways, one person — except Marcus was more outward, talkative, and Markieff more reserved, protective. Marcus played quarterback, and Markieff lined up at center to make sure nobody messed with his brother. They were rarely apart, which made it harder for someone to jump them or rob them.

“Markieff was my lifeline,” Marcus says. “We needed each other to make it out of there. Without him, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”

“Whatever my brother was feeling,” Markieff says, “I was feeling it, too.”

Perhaps, then, it’s not surprising that both Morris brothers revealed to ESPN in unison that they have been living with depression. Both initially agreed to be interviewed, but when it came time to share their story, only Marcus felt comfortable enough to be quoted about his mental health issues. Confidentiality remains a major concern of NBA players who are dealing with mental health issues, and each operates on his own timetable when, if ever, he decides to share.

Marcus says his and Markieff’s depression stems from demons of a fractured childhood that began with two strikes against them: poor and black.

“We grew up where there were no white people,” Marcus says. “None. You just didn’t see that in our neighborhood.

“At that time, I didn’t trust any white people because I didn’t know any white people. Honestly, I didn’t feel like I could trust anybody — not even the people in my neighborhood, who I knew my whole life.

“We just walked out stressed all the time. I said to my brother once, ‘You know, this is no way to live.’”

LAST SEASON, THE NBA was 74.2 percent African-American and 80.7 percent people of color. That demographic presents unique issues outlined in a 2001 study by the surgeon general, which found that historic social and economic inequality, racism, discrimination, violence and poverty make African-Americans more prone to encounter mental health challenges.

They can also be more likely to have an inherent mistrust of people who are trying to help them. When you consider that only 30 percent of coaches and 20 percent of general managers in the NBA are people of color, it’s not a stretch to conclude that conflicts will occasionally arise between an African-American player and a front-office member who looks nothing like him and, as far as the player is concerned, can’t possibly understand where he is coming from.

“There’s some truth to that,” Marcus says.

DeMar DeRozan, who has talked openly about his depression, says he developed a false persona of “invincibility” to protect himself from the volatility in urban Compton, California, where he grew up. That aura of invincibility paired nicely with his athletic endeavors, as coaches crave confident players.

“It’s a miracle any African-American player turns out OK based on where we come from.”

Hall of Famer Charles Barkley

“If you grow up in the inner city, you have to walk a certain way, and you have to talk a certain way,” DeRozan says. “If a guy walks past you, you gotta make sure you don’t show any type of weakness, so they won’t mess with you.

“That’s something that carries over to everything you do as you grow older. It’s constant. And it’s draining. For me, it just got to a point where I decided, ‘There’s nothing I need to hide behind no more. I’m not going to worry about someone calling me weak or soft. At the end of the day, I know what I’m made of.’”

Hall of Famer Charles Barkley says most young African-Americans understand that their path will be pocked with roadblocks, simply because racism and discrimination are still a daily fact of life. Barkley says he’s treated with respect most of the time, but “it’s the one a–h— that calls you some kind of slur that sticks with you the rest of the day.”

“One of the biggest problems in the African-American community is none of us have fathers, so we don’t have that strong male figure to guide us,” Barkley says. “When I was growing up, I thought it was normal not to have a mom and dad around. Nobody I knew had both parents. And everybody I knew was poor.

“I thought it was normal for every black girl to be pregnant in high school, because in my small hometown of [Leeds], Alabama, that’s how it was. It wasn’t until I got to the NBA that I realized, ‘Wait, that’s really f—ed up.’ It’s a miracle any African-American player turns out OK based on where we come from.”

FORMER SAN ANTONIO Spurs defensive stopper Bruce Bowen was a rousing success story, carving out a 13-season career in the NBA after going undrafted in 1993. He was held in such high esteem by Spurs coach Gregg Popovich that the team retired his No. 12 in 2012. (Bowen has since given his blessing to have his number reissued to LaMarcus Aldridge.) Bowen was easily identifiable by his thoughtful dissertations on the game and his trademark bowtie, leading many to draw erroneous conclusions.

“People thought I was raised in a middle-class family,” he says, laughing.

Bowen was actually born in Merced, California, and raised in a home in the Fresno area where he says his father pilfered his pocket money to buy booze and his mother sold off the family television to feed her crack cocaine habit. His family situation was so unstable that Bowen changed homes multiple times, often living with friends and relatives. His father was not a presence in his life — until Bowen displayed some athletic prowess.

“My mom was strung out on drugs, and my dad was an alcoholic and a womanizer,” Bowen tells ESPN. “That was my reality. Even as a child I could see through all their bulls—, but what was I going to do? I didn’t even know how to begin to ask for help.”

Bowen says that as he grew older, he learned to suppress the fear and the rage that churned inside him.

“In the African-American culture, there’s this tendency to believe if we hide our problems, we’ll be better off,” Bowen says. “We are brought up to believe if you talk to people about those things, that’s a sign of weakness. But it’s not a sign of weakness. It’s actually a sign of courage because you are taking the first step towards conquering your problems.

“But the other problem we have is this deep-seated mistrust of the actual people who can help you. We are raised not to trust anybody.”

A survey conducted for the Kaiser Family Foundation in 1999 found that 12 percent of African-Americans, in comparison to 1 percent of whites, felt that a doctor or health provider judged them unfairly or treated them with disrespect because of their race or ethnic background. A subsequent study by the Commonwealth Fund Minority Health Survey found that 43 percent of African-Americans, compared to 5 percent of whites, felt that a health care provider treated them poorly because of their race or ethnic background.

“We are raised not to trust anybody.”

Former NBA player Bruce Bowen

Bowen considers himself fortunate that he landed with the Spurs, an organization, he says, that focuses on growing not only the basketball player but also the person. He says he played with “countless” teammates, both black and white, who had mental health issues, and doesn’t expect numbers to dwindle.

“Most of these kids only went to college for a year, so what did they learn in that time? Not a lot,” Bowen says. “So now you come to the NBA where you are expected to be professional, responsible and develop character.

“If you have a great organization who is willing to stick with an individual and provide them with the guidance they need, that’s fantastic. But if you don’t have an organization that’s willing to exhibit that patience, that empathy, then that player is going to struggle. The fans might not see it, maybe not even his teammates, but he’s going to struggle.”

Bowen resisted talking to a mental health professional throughout his career, a decision he regrets. “I would have been a better player and a better man,” he says.

His struggles, he says, had to do with issues of control. He felt compelled to micromanage every facet of his life, both on and off the floor, which increasingly became a stressful, counterproductive exercise. He was estranged from his biological parents, yet remained under tremendous pressure from other relatives to offer them financial assistance. Bowen married and had two sons, determined to be a dutiful and doting father, but when the marriage ended in divorce seven years ago, Bowen says, he knew something had to change.

“I was in a dark place,” Bowen says. “I didn’t want to be like my biological parents. I wanted to be a better father to my boys, and I needed some help figuring out how I could do that.”

He asked a friend for a referral and began seeing a therapist, unearthing the pain of the past and learning how to reconcile and accept his future.

“So now I’m present, I’m invested, and when I feel some anxiety regarding something going on with my boys that I can’t control, I can identify that,” he says. “I’m more at peace. I’ve finally been able to realize, ‘I want to control that and I can’t, but you know what? That’s OK.’”

Bowen, DeRozan and Marcus Morris say that confronting the past and determining how it should fit into their lives going forward is one of the most difficult yet effective parts of their mental health treatment. But that doesn’t mean you can simply walk away from where you came. In fact, most players prefer not to do that.

“People don’t understand what these guys in the African-American community go through,” longtime agent Aaron Goodwin says. “It’s so hard to for them to separate themselves from the people they grew up with. It leads to withdrawal, anxiety. There’s guilt about turning their backs on people they care about but who aren’t good influences in their lives. There’s this pressure of, ‘I have to succeed because so many people are counting on me.’ And then there’s all the people with their hands out because everyone wants money.”

Barkley remembers those days well. As a rookie with the Sixers, he felt compelled to assist his family and his boys from Leeds financially. But as the years went on, accommodating everyone who had a hand out became a burden, a distraction — and a trigger for stress.

“Money ruins all your relationships,” Barkley says. “No matter what you do for your family, it’s never enough. All your friends think because you’re rich, you should bail them out of every situation.

“The only time I had any peace and quiet was on the basketball court.”

BASKETBALL WAS THE reason the Morris twins were able to go to college. They couldn’t afford it otherwise. They signed together with Kansas, a world away from the urban Philly streets that shaped them. Lawrence was an idyllic college town with stately buildings, green lawns and leafy trees bursting with color.

“I couldn’t wrap my head around how different it was,” Marcus says. “People genuinely cared how your day was going. For the first time, I didn’t have to look over my shoulder every five minutes. I could walk miles and miles without worrying.”

And yet, the Morris twins occasionally felt their past tugging at them unexpectedly. One night, when they were walking back from practice around 9 p.m., a car started slowly following them down the street. Instinctively, both Marcus and Markieff began looking around for a stick, a rock, anything that could be used as a weapon of self-defense.

“I’m thinking, ‘Do I run? Should I protect myself?’” Marcus recalls. “In Philadelphia, when it’s 9 o’clock, when it’s dark, and a car pulls up, you take off. I don’t care if it’s my mom in the car. You know something bad is gonna happen.”

The Morris twins picked up their pace, trying to ignore the oncoming vehicle. The man driving accelerated to catch up with them, then pulled down his window.

“You guys need a ride?” he asked pleasantly. “I’d be happy to drop you.”

“We told him, ‘No, we’re good,’” Marcus says. “I looked at my brother and said, ‘Damn, maybe this is different. Maybe we can relax a little bit.’”

Marcus says he and his brother spent three years basking in the kindness and the calmness of their Kansas bubble. When they went home to Philly during the summer, the contrast in environments made them more determined than ever to find a way out.

“You got respect in our neighborhood by killing someone. That’s how messed up it was.”

Celtics forward Marcus Morris

Their ticket was the NBA draft. On June 23, 2011, Markieff was selected with the 13th pick by the Phoenix Suns. Five minutes later, Marcus was taken with the 14th pick by Houston. While Markieff averaged 7.4 points and nearly 20 minutes a game in his rookie season, Marcus played only 17 games in the NBA and was shipped off to the Rockets’ D-League affiliate.

“I was heartbroken,” Marcus says. “I’m thinking, ‘Am I not good enough? Did I do something wrong?’ Then I got hurt. The way I dealt with stuff was to bottle it up, hold it in. It’s my first year in the NBA, and it’s all falling apart. I didn’t have any veterans telling me, ‘It’s OK, it will get better.’ I felt really alone.”

Morris dealt with the disappointment by shutting down. That summer, he refused to go to Houston for offseason workouts and wouldn’t answer calls from the Rockets’ staff. “[Rockets general manager] Daryl Morey is telling me, ‘You’re hurting your career,’ but I was thinking, ‘Well, you guys are hurting my career,’” Morris recalls. “I didn’t trust them. I didn’t trust anybody.”

Midway through his second season, in February 2013, Morris was traded to Phoenix and reunited with his brother. Almost immediately, his symptoms of anxiety and depression subsided. He played there for two and a half seasons, and the brothers negotiated an unusual joint contract paying Markieff $8 million a season and Marcus $5 million. The money didn’t matter to Marcus. He was where he wanted to be. “I put my own career on the back burner,” Marcus says. “I wanted to play with my brother. They wanted to keep him happy. It wasn’t about me. As far as my career, they didn’t really care about me.”

In July 2015, Marcus was shocked to learn he had been traded to Detroit. The brothers were hurt and angry, and they felt betrayed.

“That’s when I really went to a dark place,” he says. “It was so cold what they did. After that, I made up my mind. I wasn’t having no more relationships with any front-office people. I wasn’t getting close to any more guys on the team. I was done. The team was over there, and I was going to be over here.”

For most of his young life, basketball had been his sanctuary. But at that point, Morris says, it felt like the source of all his angst.

“I start asking myself, ‘Is this for me?’” Morris says. “Growing up, I loved the game so much — it was the only thing that made me happy. But now it’s stressing me out. It’s all negative. It’s all business, and I’m having trouble with that. So you start flipping back and forth. The money is great, but is it good for me as a human? Shouldn’t that matter more than anything?”

Morris couldn’t sleep because his mind was racing all the time. The Pistons tried to make him feel welcome, but he wasn’t very responsive. He was often up all night replaying a missed shot or a mistake on the floor, and his play was suffering. He seriously considered quitting, but what would he do? Go back to Philly? That notion led to more anxiety, more stress. He tried sleeping pills. He smoked marijuana. Nothing granted him peace.

NBA, players to address stigma of mental health

Recent revelations by Kevin Love and DeMar DeRozan about players’ mental health show the NBA is making some progress. But some formidable obstacles remain, including the tricky subject of confidentiality.

  • DeRozan on depression fight: ‘We’re all human’

    Toronto Raptors star DeMar DeRozan opens up about his bouts with depression, saying they can often become overwhelming.

  • He was traded again on July 7, 2017, this time to Boston. By then, both he and Markieff were facing an aggravated assault charge from a 2015 incident in Phoenix, and the trial would keep him away from the Celtics’ preseason workouts. It was a difficult way to join a new team, but the Celtics surprised him by assuring him his place on the team was safe. He was acquitted in October, joined his teammates in Boston, and discovered that both GM Danny Ainge and coach Brad Stevens were incredibly open about encouraging players to seek help with their mental health struggles. They introduced him to psychologist Dr. Stephanie Pinder-Amaker, whose husband, Tommy Amaker, coached the Harvard basketball team just up the street.

    “When I first got to Boston, I had all these negative vibes around me from the trial,” Morris says. “I spent too much time worrying about what people thought of me. I didn’t want to make any friends. I wanted to be coached and go home.”

    Instead, Morris sat in on a mandatory informational session on mental health, with Pinder-Amaker as the featured speaker. As she discussed the unique pressures facing NBA players, he found himself nodding along. She characterized depression and anxiety as common, manageable issues that exist in all walks of life. She left behind informational pamphlets and promised their sessions would be confidential — from Ainge, Stevens, even owner Wyc Grousbeck. Morris scribbled down her number but didn’t call. When she returned again for another group session, he decided to reach out.

    Pinder-Amaker, he says, coaxed him into identifying his triggers for anxiety. They talked about transforming his negative thinking into positive self-talk. Eventually, that led to discussions about his upbringing and depression in his family. Pinder-Amaker urged Morris to try meditation and other relaxation techniques to lower his stress level.

    “She has helped me so much,” Morris says. “It may sound silly, but just closing my eyes in a dark room and breathing for 10 minutes a day helps me. I know lots of guys who are dealing with some kind of anxiety and depression — not knowing if they have a job next season, not knowing if they’re going to get traded. It’s so stressful. Everyone is pulling at you. They want your time, your money, a piece of your fame.

    “If you have depression, you should be trying to get rid of it instead of bottling it up and letting it weigh on you and weigh on you and weigh on you. Talking to Stephanie released so much of that stress for me.”

    Identifying what triggers symptoms can become easier with input from a player’s immediate circle, whether it’s a partner, girlfriend or parent. Pinder-Amaker will ask the player to determine whether those relationships are healthy and whether those people might also be struggling. But looping in family members continues be a challenge because many do not want to acknowledge their shortcomings or their own mental health challenges.

    Marcus Morris no longer has such misgivings. He cannot speak for his brother Markieff, he says, but seeing a mental health therapist has made Marcus a calmer, happier, more productive member of the NBA family. He knows the gang members hanging on the stoop near Erie Avenue would scoff at him, deride him for being “soft,” but he no longer cares.

    “We need to forget about the criticism we might hear,” Marcus says. “We need to search and find out what makes us better. This isn’t even about basketball. It’s about my life.”

    Coming Wednesday: Part 3 in our five-part series on mental health in the NBA.

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    Mental health in the NBA

    Aug 20, 2018

    LOS ANGELES – I WAS JOSTLING for position with a gaggle of journalists and losing ground, sandwiched four-deep in a sea of bodies during media availability at the 2018 NBA All-Star Game in Los Angeles.

    It was hardly an ideal environment to broach such a sensitive, personal topic as mental health, but Cavaliers forward Kevin Love had hinted three weeks earlier in Cleveland that he might be ready to share. At that time, I was interviewing Channing Frye in the Cavs’ locker room regarding his depression following the deaths of his parents, while Love, sitting at the adjacent locker, listened intently to our conversation.

    “We all go through something,” Love said, cryptically, as I stood up to leave.

    Now Love was perched on a dais in a ballroom at Staples Center in front of a long, flowing black curtain, fielding innocuous questions regarding his workout regimen. I navigated my way to the front of the pack and lofted Love a couple of warm-up questions regarding Frye. Once Love acknowledged that Frye’s candor was “an important step” toward putting a face on mental health, I had my opening.

    “Have you ever,” I shouted above the din of the All-Star media day madness, “sought professional counseling?”

    Suddenly, silence. The incessant chatter at surrounding podiums persisted, but in the vacuum of Kevin Love’s space, everyone stopped, turned … and waited. Love fixed his eyes on me, hesitated ever so slightly, then straightened his broad shoulders and leaned into the microphone.

    “Yes,” he answered firmly.

    So began Love’s public journey as the NBA’s unofficial (and eloquent) spokesman on mental health. The willingness of Love and DeMar DeRozan to step out of the shadows and reveal their struggles has set the NBA on an important path of self-discovery. It has prompted the National Basketball Players Association to hire Dr. William Parham as its first director of mental health and wellness, and it has convinced commissioner Adam Silver and union head Michele Roberts that hammering out a comprehensive mental health policy needs to be a priority.

    Yet there remain many obstacles to confront, chief among them the stigma attached to mental health that prompts many players to suffer in silence. The union also insists that mental health treatment be confidential, but some NBA owners, who in some cases are paying their players hundreds of millions of dollars, want access to the files of their “investments.” That is not, however, the league’s position. “The NBA fully supports protecting the confidentiality of players’ mental health information and, accordingly, committed to the players association that any mental health program we undertake would do so,” NBA spokesman Mike Bass says.

    Confidentiality, says Love, has to be non-negotiable. Without it, he says, he never would have become comfortable enough to announce from that All-Star dais that he was seeking treatment.

    Within seconds of Love’s declaration that day, I frantically gestured to NBA senior vice president of communications Tim Frank and Cleveland Cavaliers communications director BJ Evans to arrange a private moment with the Cavs forward. That private moment turned into 25 minutes of earnest discussion behind the curtain (literally) of one of the most accomplished players in the game.

    While LeBron James, Kevin Durant and James Harden fielded queries on the most delectable wine, the coolest dunks and the best cities for sushi, Love and I sat in the players’ sanctum directly behind them, unpacking one of the most prevalent issues facing the NBA — and society as a whole. While Love explained that most of his social anxiety occurred off the basketball court, newly minted Hall of Famer Steve Nash, happily oblivious to the weighty topic we were addressing, playfully launched soccer kicks the length of the ballroom.

    “I have anxiety, but I also come from a family with a history of depression,” Love told me on that February afternoon. “It’s difficult to talk about. It’s difficult to confront. I finally had to say to myself, ‘Your whole life these things will affect you, so how are you going to manage it?’”

    Love’s struggles were one of the worst-kept secrets in sports. Three months earlier, he had experienced a panic attack during a game against the Atlanta Hawks and had to abruptly leave the court. He also left the team in January following a game against Oklahoma City, prompting then-teammates Dwyane Wade and Isaiah Thomas to confront him regarding his mysterious illness. Love, however, says he did not have a panic attack during the Thunder game.

    Both incidents provided excellent fodder for gossipy NBA wives — and their husbands — who eagerly dished on Love’s mental health during the endless stream of All-Star cocktail soirees. While the outpouring of support was heartening once Love publicly announced that he was suffering from anxiety and depression, behind the scenes, mild derision and skepticism lingered. A small number of Love’s teammates weren’t buying the mental health excuse for his bailing on the team in the middle of a game. The withering criticism was piercing — and proof that the stigma of mental health remains alive and well behind closed doors of NBA locker rooms.

    Love is acutely aware of that stigma. The topic of mental health was never discussed among his family members, despite a history of depression that he believes has been passed down from generation to generation. Love says anything but “just sucking it up and dealing with it” was perceived as weakness.

    And Love wasn’t quite ready to tell them, just as he balked when the two of us sat behind the curtain in Los Angeles.

    “I was really bothered why I couldn’t finish our conversation during All-Star,” Love told me after the The Players’ Tribune article. “I went back home and asked myself, ‘Why am I still hiding this? Why can’t I come clean?’”

    Kevin Love is hardly alone. Houston Rockets assistant coach John Lucas, a retired NBA player who has struggled with addiction and now runs a wellness aftercare program for athletes, estimates that more than 40 percent of NBA players have mental health issues, yet less than 5 percent of them are seeking help. (Asked if he thought Lucas was overstating the problem, Parham, the players association’s director of mental health and wellness, answered, “Not in the least.”)

    Those issues, Lucas says, can directly lead to alcohol and drug abuse.

    “It’s an epidemic in our league,” he says. “I’m talking about everything from ADHD to bipolar to anxiety and depression.”

    After canvassing dozens of coaches, owners and general managers, it’s clear that mental health issues have touched every NBA franchise. It is also clear that far too many players either choose to ignore their symptoms or fail to treat their mental health issues with the same diligence they would a broken wrist or a knee injury.

    “I’ve got three guys on my team — two on medication,” one Eastern Conference coach told me. “Some days they’re fine. Some days they aren’t. I’m trying to be as sensitive as I can, but I’m not a doctor or a psychiatrist, and sometimes I’m asked to be.”

    Perhaps the thorniest problem facing NBA teams is not identifying who needs help. It’s convincing those players they need help. “We can offer all the services in the world,” explains Boston Celtics GM Danny Ainge, “but if they won’t use them, we can’t help them. Too many of these guys don’t realize how badly they need help until it’s too late.”

    The public revelations of Love, Frye and DeRozan are a positive development, and so are the dozens of anonymous players who have chosen to get help without going public. Yet the multiple-time All-Star who intermittently abandons his bipolar medication because he hates the way it makes him feel still hasn’t come to grips with the severity of his current mental state. Nor has the veteran guard who insists that his “anger management” problems do not constitute a mental health issue.

    “People carry it differently,” Love explains. “Everyone has to come to their own conclusions when to address it. One of my favorite [TV shows] of all time is ‘The Sopranos.’ I’m sitting there watching it, and James Gandolfini is going to see a therapist. He’s telling her, ‘F— this, I don’t need this,’ and by the end, he’s like, ‘I can’t get enough of this.’

    “That’s a little bit how I feel right now.”

    KEVIN LOVE’S COURAGEOUS decision to share his story — “If you don’t think that takes courage, then you don’t know the NBA mentality,” points out Hall of Famer Charles Barkley — has spawned a new layer of awareness and acceptance. Yet the enormous encumbrance of managing a professional career remains. The pitfalls include teenagers suddenly coming into millions of dollars with friends, family and strangers angling for a cut. There’s unrelenting scrutiny and pressure to perform. Then there’s the expectation to exude an aura of toughness and invincibility.

    The curious case of the Sixers’ Markelle Fultz, the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NBA draft, left many scratching their heads. A prolific scorer at Washington, Fultz suffered a shoulder injury, developed a mysterious hitch in his shot and missed most of his rookie season. Was it physical? Mental? A combination of both? Fultz’s mindset became clearer after he posted this on Instagram in July: “Depression, anxiety and panic attacks are not a sign of weakness. They are signs of having tried to remain strong for so long. 1 in 3 of us go through depression, anxiety or panic attacks at least once in our lifetime. Would you share this on your wall for at least one day? Most people won’t. To those who do — thanks for sharing the support. Let those who struggle know they are not alone.”

    Parham, a psychologist and director of Loyola Marymount’s School of Education’s Counseling program, says mental health is “a human issue, not a basketball issue.”

    His goal is to not only destigmatize mental health issues but also to identify their origins. Too often, Parham says, patients are treated for their symptoms, either with medication or coping mechanisms, not the actual causes of their mental health struggles. Parham illustrates it this way: If the smoke detector goes off in your home, you don’t grab a stool, pull down the detector and take it to get fixed. You locate the source of the fire and address that.

    “That shrill noise doesn’t suggest that it’s not working,” Parham explains. “It actually suggests that it is. Anxiety, depression, panic attacks are all human smoke detectors indicating that something else is going on.”

    “Too many of these guys don’t realize how badly they need help until it’s too late.”

    Celtics GM Danny Ainge

    In 2001, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Kaiser Permanente studied more than 17,000 patients to determine the effects of adverse childhood experiences (ACE), including physical, emotional and sexual abuse, physical and emotional neglect, domestic violence, parental substance abuse, parental separation or divorce, household mental illness, suicide or death, and crime or an imprisoned family member.

    “An adverse childhood experience can be anything from seeing your parents bickering to witnessing a drive-by shooting,” Parham says. “The findings were that two-thirds of the American public had anywhere from one to four adverse experiences before the age of 10.”

    That baggage, if left unchecked, is lugged through the teenage years into adulthood, accumulating symptoms along the way. According to the pyramid established by the study, adverse childhood experiences can lead to disrupted neurodevelopment, which can lead to social, emotional and cognitive impairment, which can lead to adoption of health-risk behavior (such as drugs and alcohol), which can lead to disease, disability and social problems. The final layer of the pyramid for untreated mental health concerns is death.

    “I can tell you much of what I’m dealing with is deep-seated,” Love confirms. “It goes way back.”

    Love says shortly after The Players’ Tribune article came out, he visited his brother in Portland. “I didn’t know if he’d want to talk about it,” Love says. “He told me, ‘I remember when you were young, and you’d either have these rage fits, or we’d lose you for a couple of weeks and I’d just leave you alone.”‘ During those stretches, which Love calls his “dark times,” he’d stay locked in his room, shades drawn, and speak to no one.

    Through more than 20 interviews with current and former NBA players, a recurring theme that emerged was the false public perception that because professional athletes are famous and wealthy, their lives are idyllic.

    “You think when you come from a difficult environment that if you get out and you make it to the NBA, all that bad stuff is supposed to be wiped clean,” DeRozan says. “But then this whole new dynamic loaded with stress comes your way.

    “People say, ‘What are you depressed about? You can buy anything you want.’ I wish everyone in the world was rich so they would realize money isn’t everything.”

    Parham says those worries are punctuated by the fact that elite athletes, particularly men, are reared in society to “keep it tight, pack it in, don’t share emotions.”

    “When you add a layer of celebrity,” says Parham, “now you have a double whammy. If an elite player starts talking about ‘stuff,’ he feels in danger of being traded or not being re-signed or losing endorsements. So the conclusion becomes, ‘Better to stay quiet.’”

    ON SEPT. 25, 2000, Paul Pierce was stabbed multiple times at the Buzz Club in Boston. One of the knife wounds was seven inches deep, just inches from his heart. Pierce underwent emergency surgery for a collapsed lung and later contended that the thickness of his leather jacket saved his life.

    The face of the Celtics franchise stunned everyone by recovering in time to play all 82 games that season. As everyone marveled at his speedy physical recovery, Pierce privately grappled with the mental scars of the incident, which took years to heal.

    For the first time, Pierce discusses the debilitating bout of depression that left him so unglued that he ordered a 24-hour-a-day police detail outside his home in Lincoln, Massachusetts.

    “I was stabbed 11 times,” Pierce tells ESPN. “I felt like I was trapped in a box. I couldn’t go nowhere.

    “I battled depression for a year. The only thing that saved me was basketball.”

    Long after he was released from the hospital, Pierce remained nervous, jittery, anxious. He couldn’t sleep. The Celtics urged him to seek counseling, but he waved them off. “I thought, ‘I can do this myself,’” Pierce recalls. “I didn’t want anybody else in my business.”

    But as the weeks dragged on, moving around in public spaces became almost unbearable for Pierce. The trauma of the event had stripped him of his confidence. His anxiety spiked while dining at Morton’s restaurant in Boston just a few months after the stabbing, when the manager approached him with a house phone and said a friend was insistent on speaking with Pierce. He picked up the receiver, and a menacing voice sneered, “I’m going to kill you.”

    “So now I’m really paranoid,” Pierce says. “I don’t want to go anywhere. The police sat in the front of my house for months. I was a mess.

    “I think that’s the reason I got back on the court so fast. Me sitting at home thinking about [the stabbing] didn’t work. I went to every practice, sat on the sideline for hours, because that’s where I felt safe. I didn’t want those practices to end because then I had to go back out there in this world that really scared me.”

    “I would tell everyone to get the help they need. My depression was bad — really bad. I never want to feel that way again.”

    Former Celtics All-Star Paul Pierce

    Incredibly, Pierce managed to average 25.3 points and 6.4 rebounds during the 2000-01 season. It was a tumultuous season for the Celtics, who won only 36 games and whose coach, Rick Pitino, quit midseason. Pierce didn’t care. Basketball was his sanctuary.

    “I couldn’t be near crowds,” he says. “If I got in a crowded place, I’d start shaking inside. It took me years to get over that. If I was walking and someone bumped into me or rubbed against me, I’d freak out.”

    Before the 2000 season opener, the Celtics ran a promotion in which they stationed players at the entrances of the arena to greet fans as they filed through the turnstiles. Pierce agreed to be part of it, but when it came time to participate, his heart rate spiked, his palms began sweating, and he started to experience shortness of breath. He was having a full-blown panic attack.

    “I told the Celtics, ‘I can’t do this,”‘ Pierce says. “[The second year] I thought I was better, but I lasted about two minutes, and then that panicky feeling started up again. I was sure something bad was going to happen to me.”

    In retrospect, Pierce says, he wishes he had listened to the Celtics and talked with a mental health expert. His decision to deal with his post-traumatic stress on his own heightened his depression and isolated him from friends, family and teammates.

    “I should have opened up earlier than I did,” Pierce admits. “It was eating me alive. Once I finally started talking to a family member, it helped me.

    “I realized, ‘I should have done this sooner.’ I would tell everyone to get the help they need. My depression was bad — really bad. I never want to feel that way again.”

    KEVIN LOVE SPENT years trying to ignore, then reconcile, his behavior. When he was young, he says, he was prone to “rage fits” that he couldn’t understand.

    “I’m a type of guy who has a very long fuse,” Love says. “I try to be as nonconfrontational as I can, but when that fuse breaks, I explode. Those type of people can be really destructive, and I’m one of these people.

    “When I was a kid, I was like that. I was so competitive. As I got older, I started holding a lot of that stuff in. My girlfriend, Kate, saw me going down a little bit of a destructive path, and she told me, ‘I love you so much. I really think you need to talk to someone.’

    “But I kept telling myself, ‘I don’t need any help. I’m successful. I’ve gotten this far. I’ve got the best friends in the world.’ But the truth was, there was still a lot that made me unhappy.”

    Some of the best players in the league are the most vulnerable because of the inordinate amount of pressure heaped on them to not only perform but also raise their franchises’ level of play.

    Former 11-time All-Star Chris Bosh can relate. He recalls the euphoria he felt during the 2006-07 season, when the Toronto Raptors began flourishing with him as their star and won 47 games.

    “We finally got to the point where we’re successful, we’ve got an Atlantic Division title, we’re the No. 3 seed in the East, and we’re right where I always hoped we’d be,” Bosh tells ESPN. “But then, all of a sudden, I wake up in the morning, and I look at my hands, and they’re shaking. I’m just nervous all day, and I’m saying to myself, ‘What the hell is going on? What’s wrong with me?’”

    The Raptors brought in a sports psychologist, who implemented relaxation techniques, including meditation. But, Bosh says, all it did was cause him to nod off.

    “He didn’t really help me at all,” Bosh says.

    That spring, the Raptors were upset in the first round by a veteran New Jersey Nets team led by Jason Kidd, Richard Jefferson and Vince Carter.

    “It’s an epidemic in our league. I’m talking about everything from ADHD to bipolar to anxiety and depression.”

    Rockets assistant coach John Lucas

    Bosh’s anxiety heightened again, he says, when he signed a ballyhooed free-agent deal with the Miami Heat to join LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in 2010.

    “I was coming from Toronto, a benign situation,” Bosh says. “I figured, ‘All right, people are going to understand why I went, and they are going to like me.’ That’s all I cared about — that people liked me.

    “I go there, and I’m smiling, and everyone is scowling at me. The whole LeBron ‘Decision’ had everybody so mad. I don’t know why, but I caught so many stray bullets being around it. Then we lost [in the 2011 NBA Finals to Dallas], and people were dogging me. I started to get pretty bitter.”

    The enduring image of Game 6, the clinching win for the underdog Mavericks, was a distraught Bosh stumbling to the locker room in tears. Videos of him crying went viral, and he was summarily vilified for being “soft.”

    “All those people who made fun of me for breaking down, they didn’t understand,” Bosh says. “I put my life into this. I was getting it from all sides, and then we lose. I expressed my feelings, and then they made fun of me for that. I was too honest. I just couldn’t win.”

    Social media often serves as a searing spotlight on the shortcomings of players. They are dissected for everything from a botched basketball play to an evening of nightclub revelry. Nothing is sacred — and the vitriol spewed upon them often comes from anonymous trolls.

    “Social media is a major challenge for athletes,” Parham says. “It has really begun to take hold of what people say, when they say it, if they say it. You never know what motives people have or who they really are.

    “You can counsel players to tune it out, but for many of them, social media is a major way in which they communicate.”

    For some athletes, the criticism is so visceral and unrelenting that they have eliminated social media from their lives.

    “Poor Kevin Love,” Barkley notes. “Every time the Cavs lost, social media blamed him. You couldn’t watch TV without someone saying, ‘The Cavs suck, and it’s Kevin Love’s fault.’”

    Love says the public criticism only compounded questions he already had about himself. “I’m a perfectionist, so I’m hard on myself,” he says. “I don’t pass the mirror test.”

    For Love and DeRozan, the journey to mental wellness is evolving and ongoing. For NBA players who resist getting help, the journey remains difficult, lonely, uncertain. Parham insists that confronting their issues will unlock potential they don’t even realize they have.

    “With an investment in player wellness, these athletes can perform at an even higher level than they are now,” Parham says. “But they have to be willing. Otherwise, nobody can help them.”

    Coming Tuesday: Part 2 in our five-part series on mental health in the NBA.

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    Mastectomy and scoliosis not likely related

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    Your Good Health: Weakness on one side sounds like a stroke

    Dear Dr. Roach: I am an 84-year-old woman, and have always been a good walker. Three months ago, I fell down and could not get up from the floor. I was not in pain, but I could not move my right leg. I went by ambulance to the hospital, where X-rays and many other tests were done. It took me 32 days in rehab before I could walk again and was released.

    All the doctors and nurses said that I did not have a stroke, but they did say that I have weak muscles on the right side of my body. Could you please tell me what “weakened muscles” means? What can I do to prevent another fall?


    The sudden onset of weakness on one side of the body sounds very much like a stroke to me. There are very few other possibilities I can think of.

    There are many causes of weakened muscles. One of the most common in the elderly is a deficiency in vitamin D. Vitamin D supplementation is recommended for the elderly with a low level, because weakness is so frequent a symptom.

    However, the weakness should be symmetrical. Other systemic causes, such as neuropathies or degenerative neurological diseases, also are almost always symmetric. So I don’t understand why you have weakness on only one side if the hospital personnel are sure that you did not have a stroke. Sometimes, a stroke can be very subtle; however, a stroke that affects an entire side of the body should show up on an MRI scan.

    Regular exercise, preferably supervised by a physical therapist, can be helpful in preventing falls. A visit from a home nurse to evaluate the safety of your home can help prevent another episode. Finally, having a device that allows you to call for help even if you can’t reach the phone can be life-saving. I recommended one for any person who has had a fall from which they could not rise.

    Dear Dr. Roach: My precious 80-year-old husband recently died very suddenly. The doctor said he died of a type of heart failure called “broken heart syndrome.” What is this? Was there some care he did not receive? Was his heart fractured in some way? Could his death have been prevented? I am devastated.


    I am very sorry to hear about your husband. What usually is meant by “broken heart syndrome” is called Takotsubo cardiomyopathy. It looks very much like a heart attack, but it occurs in the setting of severe emotional or physical stress. It is much more common in women than in men. Is not due to blockages in the arteries of the heart, as a regular heart attack is, but rather is a form of sudden heart failure. Death

    is uncommon from Takotsubo cardiomyopathy (only about four per cent). The cause is unknown.

    It also is possible to have a rupture of the wall of the heart. This can happen as a result of a conventional heart attack, but it also can happen in people with very severe heart failure, in which the heart muscle is stretched and thinned. I doubt this was the cause in your husband, as he most likely would have been very ill for a long time prior.

    Dr. Roach regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but will incorporate them in the column whenever possible. Readers may email questions to

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    UPDATE: Man reported missing in Columbus located in good health

    A packed room of citizens filled every seat inside the Muscogee County School Board meeting room Monday evening.  

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    3 Tips to Stay Healthy on a Vegan Diet

    If you get sick on a vegan diet you’re doing it wrong.

    Vegans, like ex-smokers, can be annoying. I’m both. When I first quit my pack-a-day habit I’d cross the road to avoid inhaling secondhand smoke. While not quite as militant as a new vegan, my silence was every bit as self-righteous.

    Thankfully, I’ve stopped being so judgey. Along with being rude and unnecessary, it also smacks of double standards. (I was an extremely enthusiastic carnivore prior to becoming a plant-based advocate.)

    I Went Vegan, and Now I’m Sick.

    3 Tips to Stay Healthy on a Vegan Diet

    I’m very much live and let live nowadays. What you eat is none of my business. However, I do get annoyed when I hear people say a vegan diet will kill you or make you sick and unhappy. (As if you can’t be nutrient deficient when you eat animal products.)

    I’ve been living a plant-based lifestyle for six years and I’m fitter and stronger than ever. I’m lean, I have a ton of energy and I don’t suffer from any of the lifestyle diseases that plague so many people today.

    Did I win the genetic lottery? I’d argue no. Besides, genes only play a small part in determining longevity. Our lifestyle and environment are what really matter.

    Why then, do some people get sick after they transition to a plant-based diet? Isn’t upping your intake of fresh produce supposed to make you healthy? In theory, yes, but there’s more to a vegan diet than than eating your greens.

    People who hate vegetables but still want to be vegan for ethical reasons will have a tougher time staying healthy. With their staple fare of meat, dairy and eggs off the table (literally), what’s left when you can’t stomach Brussels sprouts?

    (Um, bread and pasta, that’s what.)

    How to Stay Healthy on a Vegan Diet

    You can’t just stop eating animals products. You need to nourish your body. Food activists like Michael Pollan suggest we stop worrying so much about the nutrients and simply focus on eating ‘real food.’

    That’s useful advice up to a point, but as The Vegan RD points out, “The idea that the nutrients will ‘sort themselves out’ doesn’t always hold up for vegans.”

    Initially, figuring out how to get the nutrients you need on a vegan diet can seem daunting. But like anything new, it doesn’t take long for the learning curve to level out.

    Planning out your daily menu ahead of time is a great way to ensure you tick all the nutrient boxes. This also eliminates the need to make decisions when you’re hungry, which, as we know, is not the time to be deciding stuff.

    1. Supplement when Necessary.

    3 Tips to Stay Healthy on a Vegan Diet

    With the exception of vitamin B12, a plant-based diet can provide all the nutrients you need to thrive. That said, you’ll may need to supplement your vegan diet with vitamin D, iodine, iron, calcium and possibly omega-3 fatty acids.

    Meeting your nutrient needs on a plant-based diet does take a bit more effort, but knowing your food choices aren’t causing suffering  makes it worthwhile. Plus, you’ll be healthier, too.

    If you’re concerned, you can always get a vegan nutritional test done. It’ll highlight any deficiencies you may have, enabling you to rectify matters before you get sick. (It’s also an excellent way to stop loved ones from nagging you to ‘just eat a little chicken.’)

    Don’t be put off by the need to supplement, either. Omnivores can benefit from certain supplements, too. And given the amount of pesticides on fresh produce and hormones in animal products, every diet has its pitfalls.

    2. Go Easy on Yourself.

    3 Tips to Stay Healthy on a Vegan Diet

    Oftentimes, the stress of trying to be perfect can negate the positive health benefits of a vegan lifestyle. Aim to do your best. Be mindful of what you eat —especially when you’re out— but don’t be hard on yourself.

    I still slip up occasionally and buy or order something without properly scrutinizing the ingredients. Sometimes, I’ll be specific, and the restaurant will make a mistake.

    Obviously, it depends on what the slip up entails. If it’s dairy or eggs for example, I’ll have to send it back as I’m now allergic and will get sick if I eat those things.

    However, if my oats arrive drizzled in honey, I’ll eat them. My thinking is that the food will otherwise go to waste and in a way, that’s worse. I’ve found it’s better to keep trying than to beat myself for my mistakes.

    (Sorry Yoda, sometimes trying is an option.)

    3. Make Friends with Your Kitchen.

    3 Tips to Stay Healthy on a Vegan Diet

    Eating plant-based is more mainstream than ever. More and more, we’re seeing vegan restaurants and even vegan grocery stores popping up. But that doesn’t mean it’s always easy to find nutritious food on the go.

    You don’t need to be the next Nigella or Jamie Oliver, but if you want to make a success of your new vegan lifestyle, you must at least know where the kitchen is. (Or be rich enough to hire a personal chef.)

    Other than getting sick, the main reason people give up is because they’re bored with their options. Having the necessary kitchen smarts to prepare your own food will help you stick with your new lifestyle.

    As much as I love vegetables, I often crave something ‘meaty’ to sink my teeth into. Something that’s healthy, but not salad, if you know what I mean.

    Because I know my way around the kitchen, this isn’t a problem for me. I can easily whip up a couple of sweet potato black bean burgers for dinner or a batch of banana pancakes for breakfast.

    I wasn’t always like this. I used to spend more time at McDonald’s than I did at home. But I soon realized I’d need to up my game if I wanted to be a happy, healthy vegan.

    Initially it was hard work, but the better I got at preparing food, the easier and more enjoyable it became.

    Vegan Nutrition Resources You Can Trust

    Information overwhelm is real, so probably the best thing you can do when you’re just starting out on your vegan journey is to find a handful of reputable resources and ignore the rest.

    For nutrition advice my go-to websites are The Vegan RD and Vegan Health. Between them, they offer a wealth of information on everything from daily nutrition needs and vegan meal plans to sports nutrition and tips for new vegans.

    They even cover how to avoid becoming an ex-vegan.

    For culinary inspiration, I swing between Minimalist Baker and The Blue Zones. They’re both focused on easy-to-prepare and tasty food, however the Blue Zones does have some recipes that aren’t 100 percent vegan.

    A Little Inspiration to Keep You on Track

    It’s easy for me to say being vegan is healthy, but don’t just take my word for it. Take a look at these vegan transformation stories to see for yourself why eating plants is good for you.

    Want more? These people changed their life on a vegan diet and this woman was overweight and chronically ill until she became vegan and all that changed.

    Finally, be sure to check out this plant-powered ultra-athlete’s transformation.

    Photo Credits: Thinkstock

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