Welcome to fifty: My first health scare as a middle-aged man

Three weeks ago today, I had a major health scare.

Because it was Monday, I was at the family box factory. I had just finished running payroll and had taken paychecks out to the shop. I exited the building and *bam* my chest just sort of seized up.

"Ouch," I thought. But, being a Roth, my thought process didn't go much farther than that. (We Roths don't like doctors and we tend to deal with injuries for weeks or months or years before having them looked at.)

On the way back to the office, I stopped to talk to my cousin Duane. He was digging in the dirt, prepping a spot for his summer garden. We chatted about blueberries, tomatoes, and greenhouses. We admired the warm spring day. After a few minutes, I realized that my chest still hurt.

"I don't want to alarm you," I said, "but I'm having chest pains. It's probably nothing. But just in case it is something, I thought you should know."

I walked back to the office and sat down at my computer. Instead of going back to work, however, I googled heart attacks. I read the list of symptoms. I wasn't experiencing anything except chest pain but still...Every site said the same thing: Don't mess around. If you're having chest pain, have somebody drive you to a doctor.

Duane came in. "Are you feeling okay?" he asked.

"I'm still having chest pains," I said.

"Do you want me to drive you to the doctor?" he asked.

I debated things in my mind. "It's probably nothing," I thought. "Or maybe it's a panic attack like twenty years ago." In 1998, I experienced two similar episodes that turned out to be panic attacks. I was under a lot of stress then. I'm not under a lot of stress now.

"Plus, if I go to the doctor, it could end up costing a fortune. My health insurance sucks," I thought. "But if it is a heart attack and I don't go in, I could end up dead."

"Well?" Duane said.

"Tell you what," I said. "I know I'm not supposed to but I'm going to drive myself to urgent care. If you don't hear from me in fifteen minutes, come find me." (There's only one logical route from the box factory to the nearest clinic.)

I gathered my stuff, hopped in my pickup, and drove slowly to the clinic.

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The big fat truth: J.D. Roth interviews JD Roth

I'm not the only semi-celebrity J.D. Roth. For more than fifteen years, I've been receiving email and tweets and Facebook messages intended for the other JD Roth, the former executive producer of The Biggest Loser -- and tons of other television shows.

Apparently the other JD Roth has a lot of fans. Actually, I'm one of them. I've been watching his shows since 2009, when season seven of The Biggest Loser inspired me to start my own weight-loss journey. When he published his book The Big Fat Truth in the spring of 2016, I read it the day it was released. I thought it was great, and wished that I could interview the author, but Kim and I were in the middle of our 15-month RV trip across the U.S. and I couldn't make the logistics work.

In 2017, when I learned that Roth had created a TV version of The Big Fat Truth, I knew the time had come at last: J.D. Roth was going to interview JD Roth. Last August, we made it happen.

Note: It can be tough to tell the two of us apart. We're both 5'8". We both have the same facial hair. We both have beautiful wives/girlfriends. And we both share similar underlying philosophies regarding success and personal development.

That said, there are some subtle differences between the two of us.

  • I spell my name J.D. Roth; he spells his name JD Roth.
  • I live in Oregon; he lives in California.
  • I have one producer credit on IMDB; he has 51 producer credits.
  • I have 22,030 followers on Twitter; he has 848 followers. (You should follow both of us, by the way!)
  • When I was younger, I looked so much like Star Trek's Commander Riker that some of my friends actually called me Riker! The other JD Roth was actually one of the final candidates for the role of Wesley Crusher.

For the purposes of this article, here's how to tell us apart: When I write about myself, I won't do it in the third person. I'll say "I" and "me". When I write about the fitness JD Roth, I'll use proper journalistic form and refer to him by his last name.

The Big Fat Truth

"I've been watching your new show [The Big Fat Truth], and I really like it," I told JD Roth at the start of our phone conversation. "I like that it's less of a game show and more about helping participants address not only their health, but the other things they're struggling with in their lives."

"Yeah, it's all interconnected."

"Plus, The Big Fat Truth feels less produced than The Biggest Loser. There aren't any weekly weigh-ins and there's not dramatic music. It's you sitting down and helping real people living their real lives facing real challenges -- but still achieving real results."

"Thank you."

"In one episode, for instance, you have a couple analyze how they allow words to hurt them -- how they use what others say as an excuse to make bad food choices. Or there's the mom episode where you go over to Nancy's house and it's a mess. Her basement is a disaster, so you ask her to clean it up. I think you say something like, 'Fix your mind and the body will follow.' I love that."

"All of these things in your life -- your basement, your bank account, your belly -- are a microcosm of what's going on in your mind. Being ready to assess your inner life is probably the hardest part of losing weight. But it's also the most important."

"Here's an exercise I've used in the past," Roth said. "I tell participants to go home and clean out their bedrooms. If you want to lose weight, empty out your bedroom. Let yourself wake up to peace, organization, and calm. Give yourself this one oasis to escape from the chaos of life. This small step is a great place to start."

From Desire to Transformation

"How do you help people move from desire to transformation?" I asked. "Many people want to lose weight, just like many people want to get out of debt. How do you move them from wanting to doing?" Before Roth could answer, I explained my own approach.

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Why gym memberships can be a smart investment

Photo illustration of a woman using a gym membership

I've just come from the gym. My arms are so spent I can barely type. My glutes are killing me as I sit on my wooden chair. I am guzzling ice water and still sweating a little. An hour of concentrated exercise with a trainer -- part of my gym memberships -- has left me feeling both exhausted and accomplished. I love my gym.

My gym membership costs us $158.46 per month. I can hear the gasps of horror from the frugal corner: that's 1,901.52 a year! Over the next 10 years, that's almost $20K I could be putting into my Roth IRA. That's $5,704.56 we could be putting into the 529 college account for our second child (you remember him, the one we call Hope He Gets A Soccer Scholarship)! I could use that to open a stock investment account and invest in electronic-traded funds. I could purchase corporate bonds!

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What’s the Cure for the High Cost of Prescriptions?

Photo Illustration: The dramatic rise in the cost of Epipens

The recent uproar over the cost of EpiPens, the life saving self-injection device that contains epinephrine, a chemical that narrows blood vessels and opens airways in the lungs to offset an allergic reaction, has garnered tremendous media attention and consumer outrage. Through massive marketing and outreach efforts by the manufacturer, Mylan, EpiPen has become to the go-to device for anyone facing a potentially serious or life-threatening allergic reaction. It is a brand that has “become” the device, like Kleenex has “become” tissues, and Jet Ski has become the catch-all for personal watercraft.

The EpiPen price has been raised 17 times in 11 years. When Mylan bought the device from Merck KgAA, a German company, in 2007, it cost $124 for a two-pack. Today, a two-pack costs more than $600. And there is no real competitor in the market, as Auvi-Q, a similar product launched in 2013 by Sanofi, was withdrawn in 2015 because of dosing issues. Mylan controls 94% of this market.

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How to spend FSA money

Doctor image to illustrate article on FSA funds

Do you have FSA funds left in your Flexible Spending Arrangement? If you overestimated your medical expenses for 2016, you might lose that money under the use-it-or-lose-it rule. That means you have to spend all your FSA money by Dec. 31 unless your plan allows you to carry over a small amount into the next year.

The maximum you could have put toward a flexible spending arrangement is $2,550 for 2016, the same amount as 2015. The FSA maximum amount for 2017 is expected to rise $50 to $2,600.

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Open Enrollment 2016 dates and how to shop for health insurance

Nurse checking on patient

Have you started shopping yet? No, I'm not talking about shopping for the holidays; I'm talking about something more important — your health insurance.

It's that time of year when many employers have their open-enrollment period and the federal and state health insurance marketplaces are open for business. Open enrollment is your annual opportunity to review and make changes to your health insurance plan so you end up with the best plan for your needs. Continue reading...

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Medical identity theft: The identity theft no one is talking about

When the oral surgeon recommended that our daughter have her wisdom teeth removed, we thought we knew what to expect both medically and financially. Morgan's two sisters underwent this procedure in the past, and we adopted a brave “Let's get this over with!” attitude as we scheduled her operation.

We expected the least painful part of the procedure to be the surgery bill because the girls are covered under both their parent's dental insurance. It was an unpleasant surprise to learn from the oral surgeon's billing manager, “After checking with your insurance, we estimate that your daughter's surgery will cost you about $1,200 out-of-pocket since she has exhausted nearly all of her benefits this year.”

Something was wrong!

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When to use intermittent FMLA

Disclosure: I am not an attorney or HR specialist. This is just my experience with, and understanding of, FMLA.

According to the United States Department of Labor (DOL) website, "The Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA") provides certain employees with up to 12 workweeks of unpaid, job-protected leave a year, and requires group health benefits to be maintained during the leave as if employees continued to work instead of taking leave." The whole point of FMLA is to promote work-life balance by taking a reasonable amount of leave to deal with personal or family issues.

Because many situations requiring use of FMLA are health-related, the law also requires that your health insurance be maintained as if you continued to work. The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) allows employees to stay on a former employer's health plan for a limited time after job separation, provided they pay the full premium (employer share and employee share). Unlike COBRA, if you are on FMLA, then your employer still pays their share of the premium for your health plan, even if you are not being paid a salary during your leave.

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How to save money on dental bills

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, around 108 million Americans go without dental insurance during any given year. And since paying the full weight of dental care is often out of the question for those living on low incomes, many people simply choose to go without or get by with as few cleanings and check-ups as they possibly can.

However, if you do have out-of-pocket funds with which to pay, you already know how quickly cleanings, fillings, and basic dental care can take a bite out of your budget. After all, a typical dental filling can cost anywhere from $100 to $200, a cleaning can cost upwards of $200, braces can cost $5,000 to $6,000, and so on.

Obviously, one of the easiest ways to save on dental care is to have a dental insurance policy for your family. The bad news is, many employers don't offer dental coverage to their employees, even at a cost, and the dental plans commonly sold on the open insurance market can be of questionable value.

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