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Enriching your life; informing your health.


Foods You Can Feel in Your Heart
Foods You Can Feel in Your Heart
February is certain to make you think of cartoon hearts- but how about your own heart? February is Heart Health Month, so it’s a great opportunity to check in with your heart habits. According to the Center for Disease Control, heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States . 84 percent of people age 65 years and older die from heart disease, so it’s especially important for seniors to consider their heart health.  We’ve broken down the best foods for your heart- and what to avoid:

Fatty Acids

Fatty acids are broken down during digestion, and then absorbed into the blood.  According to the American Heart Association (AHA), Omega-3 Fatty acids decrease the risk of abnormal heartbeats, slow growth of plaque, and work to lower blood pressure.

Examples of Omega-3 fatty acids:

Fish (salmon, mackerel, mackerel, herring, whitefish) flaxseed oil, basil, broccoli, walnuts, spinach, grape leaves.

Fiber

AHA spokeswoman Alice H. Lichtenstein, DSc, states “studies have shown that foods that have a lot of fiber are clearly associated with lower risk of heart disease.” The Institute of Medicine Dietary Reference Intakes recommends 21 grams of fiber per day for women 50 and older, and 30 for men 50 and older.

Examples of fiber:

Fruits (apples, bananas, oranges, strawberries, raspberries), oatmeal, whole grain rice, lentils, chickpeas, almonds, avocados, peanuts, couscous

Trans-fat (Steer Clear!)

Unlike fatty acids, trans fat can be very harmful to your heart because of their tendency to raise bad cholesterol. The AHA recommends that trans fats make up less than 1 percent of your daily calories. Avoid foods labeled “hydrogenated oil” or “partially hydrogenated oil.”

Examples of trans-fat:

Packages snacks, baked goods, stick margarine, milk, cheese, high-fat animal products (beef, pork, lamb)


Are Your Gums Hurting Your Heart?
Are Your Gums Hurting Your Heart?

Are your gums hurting your heart?

Did you know that your oral health and overall health could be connected? The American Heart Association has studied the relationship between gum disease and heart disease. While there’s no conclusive evidence of a correlation, experts agree that the mouth can offer warning signs of something serious. People with gum disease often have health issues that not only put their mouth at risk, but their heart and blood vessels, too.

According to the Mayo Clinic, our mouths are full of bacteria — most of them harmless. Daily brushing and flossing keep these bacteria under control. However, without proper oral hygiene, bacteria can reach levels that might aggravate certain diseases. 

Endocarditis (an infection of the heart’s inner lining) typically occurs when bacteria or germs from another part of the body (like the mouth) spread through the bloodstream and attach to damaged areas of the heart. Some research also suggests that inflammation and infections caused by oral bacteria may be linked to heart disease, clogged arteries, and stroke.

What are best practices for oral hygiene? The American Dental Association recommends the following:

  • Brush your teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste

  • Clean between your teeth once a day with floss or another interdental cleaner (like picks or pre-threaded flossers)

  • Replace your toothbrush every three to four months

  • Eat a balanced diet and limit snacks

  • Schedule regular dental check-ups – at least once or twice a year

So, it’s wise to keep up your oral care routine to maintain optimal health. Your heart may thank you for it!






Live Longer, Live Better
Live Longer, Live Better

Live Longer, Live Better

While sky-diving or swimming the English Channel may be on your bucket list, a less-exciting (but equally important) dream for most people is longevity- living a long, healthy life. As far as we can tell, there is no viable Fountain of Youth, but it turns out there’s another way to improve your chances of living longer.

 

Don’t worry, be happy. And have a purpose.

A study performed by researchers at University College London analyzed the well-being and life outlook of participants over age 65, and how it related to their mortality. The study found during the 8 and a half year follow up period, those who felt the most fulfilled were 30 percent less likely to die than their less fulfilled counterparts. Well-being was determined from a questionnaire that measured the participants’ sense of control, purpose, and sense of worth. The moral of the story is that a sense of purpose leads to survival.

But the real question is- what brings someone purpose? The answer varies from person to person. Purpose can come from a relationship, child, hobby, spiritual affiliation, or career.

It’s never too late to find- or change- your life’s purpose. If you are struggling with knowing your life’s purpose, try answering these questions in a journal.

  1. What makes you come alive?

    Take some time to consider what makes you forget to look at the clock. Whether these activities are careers or hobbies, invest in the things that make you happiest.

  2. What did you want to be when you grew up?

    Your strengths have been part of your identity your entire life. Look through some old photo albums or journals to find your favorite activities as a child. This can serve as a guide to your innate strengths, and help you develop them moving forward.

  3. What would you do if you knew you could not fail?

    Fear can be a great motivator. Instead of imagining the scenarios in which you could be unsuccessful or embarrassed, imagine a life where failure does not exist. This will not only improve your outlook on life, but help you discover some secret passions that can lead to a more purposeful life.

  4. What is stopping you?

    What are the barriers in your life? Who is telling you “no”? Are you telling yourself no? Think about the things you bring into your life that stop you from reaching a goal, and plan ways to remove them.

  5. What breaks your heart?

    By asking yourself this question, you will find what matters to you. Try writing out all the different issues that you find meaningful, and then a come up with a solution. If homelessness tugs at your heart strings, start volunteering at a homeless shelter. If you want to improve education, seek opportunities to read to or tutor children.

     

The important thing to remember about your purpose is that it is developed through passion and daily action. Your purpose may change and evolve, but discovering new ways to be fulfilled is part of the journey to a healthier (and longer!) life.


How Lemon Water Can Change Your Life
How Lemon Water Can Change Your Life

It’s easy, cheap, and pretty darn tasty! Experts say that starting off each day with a glass of warm lemon water can lead to a host of benefits, both short and long term. So pucker up, because here are some of the top reasons why lemon water is just great.

Boost your Immune System

Vitamin C isn’t just for oranges- there’s a lot in lemons, and according to The World’s Healthiest Foods, consuming the vitamin daily can help keep infections at bay. This is especially crucial during the winter months when nasty colds and the flu lurk around every corner.

Brain training

Keeping the mind sharp is a crucial part of aging. The potassium in lemons is known to help with both brain and nerve function. So, pour a tall glass of lemon water and whip out the Sudoku. Hydration According to WebMD, staying hydrated can help with constipation, weight loss, and avoiding kidney stones. For those who get bored with the taste of plain water, adding lemon can give your H20 the little kick you need to chug on.

Glowing skin

Experts believe that vitamin C can help maintain a youthful glow, as it helps with iron absorption and delays signs of aging due to free radical damage, says Women’s Health Magazine.

Liver support

Love on your liver with lemons- liversupport.com notes the detoxifying powers of Vitamin C through its manufacturing of glutathione, which is used to neutralize toxins in the liver.

Not too hot, not too cold

Make sure to keep your lemon water lukewarm, as cold lemon water can hinder some of the lemons’ digestive powers, and boiling lemon water can erode at your teeth’s enamel. Drink on!


Don’t Get SAD- Recognizing and Treating Seasonal Affective Disorder
Don’t Get SAD- Recognizing and Treating Seasonal Affective Disorder

The string of holidays that occur in winter are usually associated with joy: hall-decking, gift-giving, family-gathering, and lots of food. However, the cold weather and lack of sunshine can have serious effects on a persons’ mood, potentially leading to a condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). For most affected, SAD occurs in the winter months and can lead to lethargy, depression, and general moodiness. According to Mental Health America, some two million seniors suffer from some form of depression. Therefore, it is especially important for seniors to know the signs of SAD so that with the help of their physician, they can identify and treat symptoms.

What makes people SAD?

Sunlight provides benefits that can have a direct effect on mood. According to WebMD, the lack of sun can upset your biological clock, leading to variations in sleep schedules- a common symptom of depression. Additionally, serotonin (a brain chemical that affects mood) levels may be disrupted. Symptoms According to the Mayo Clinic’s description of SAD, symptoms may include the following:

  • Irritability
  • Tiredness or low energy
  • Problems getting along with other people
  • Hypersensitivity to rejection
  • Heavy, "leaden" feeling in the arms or legs
  • Oversleeping
  • Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
  • Weight gain
How to tackle the blues Agingcare.com notes several different treatments for SAD. Traditional antidepressant medications prescribed by a doctor may help regulate some symptoms, especially if a routine is established before symptoms occur each year. Light therapy is also widely used to combat symptoms. The treatment involves using a “light box”- a fluorescent light that mimics natural sunlight. Sitting in front of the light box each day can help decrease the amount of melatonin (a hormone that causes drowsiness) and regulate serotonin and epinephrine.   If you think you may be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder, do not hesitate to schedule an appointment with your primary care physician today. With the proper combination of medication and therapy, your winter months can start looking a little happier- and brighter.

International Fraud Awareness Week
International Fraud Awareness Week
While we would all like to believe that people are inherently good and honest (especially around the holidays!), the ugly truth is that some individuals make their living through scams and frauds. Unfortunately, a substantial group targeted by con-artists is senior citizens. According to the Federal Trade Commission, Americans lost in excess of $73 million in scams in 2013. Fraudulent schemes take a variety of forms, and in the past four years, impostor scams - where individuals or groups pretend to be something that they aren't, such as a government official or charitable group - have doubled. Fortunately, the government is taking action to stop fraud. In July, the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging held a hearing that focused on the rising trend of scams affecting the senior citizen population. Representatives from the Federal Bureau of Investigation spoke, as well as officials from the FT and the United States Telecom Association. The National Council on Aging (NCOA) has a list of some of the most common scams that target seniors. Here are a few:
  1. Health care fraud. Seniors understand that they become eligible for Medicare once they turn 65 years of age. Scammers are quite aware of this as well, and as a result will often call beneficiaries, posing as government representatives or insurance agents that offer the program. If seniors are tricked into supplying these fakes with their personal information, they'll frequently bill Medicare for fraudulent services that were never performed. Tips: Make sure you buy from a licensed agent with credentials. Never give out personal information such as your Social Security, bank account or credit-card numbers over the phone, unless you have initiated contact. Be wary of a sales person who claims to be from Medicare, as Medicare typically does not send sales people to solicit your business.
  2. Bogus prescription drugs. One of the reasons why health care is so important to seniors is that it usually provides for the cost of a variety of pharmaceuticals. But in an effort to lower costs further, seniors will occasionally try to shop for prescriptions online. The problem is that some of these "providers" turn out to be counterfeit. Tips: Don’t buy from sellers who don’t require prescriptions, as this is illegal and most likely indicates a scam. Do not substitute an online questionnaire for an in-person physical, as only your physician will be able to understand you medical history and what medicines you should take/avoid. Steer clear of anything that advertises a “miracle drug” or cure.
  3. End-of-life services. Life insurance is a great resource to have because it provides for any expenses someone who recently passed away may have had, such as back payments or debt. NCOA noted that there have been many instances in which widows and widowers are fooled into believing their loved one didn't pay a debt, and are scammed out of their out of their money at a time in which they're vulnerable. Tips: Consult with your bank for questions regarding debt or financial issues after the death of a loved one.
  4. Grandchild in Distress. Scammers will call senior citizens, posing as a Grandchild. They claim they are in a dire situation and need money immediately for a car payment, rent, or even bail money. They may ask for money to be paid via Western Union or Moneygram, which do not always require identification. Tips: Confirm the situation with at least one other family member. Scammers will try to avoid being caught in a lie by claiming “Please don’t tell my mother/father, I don’t want to get in trouble!” This is a tell-tale sign you may be victim of a scam.
What can seniors do? AARP has a Fraud Watch Network, allowing consumers who want to report a scam an outlet to do so. There are also several tips for how to avoid being victimized.

Caring for Caregivers
Caring for Caregivers

When a parent, spouse, or family member becomes sick, many lovingly and willingly step up and assume the role of caregiver. We want to provide for our loved ones; however, caregiving is an all-consuming, physical, mental and emotional commitment. The enormous strain can cause caregivers to become stressed, depressed, or burnt out. According to a recent survey conducted by PNC Financial Services group, approximately 60 percent of soon-to-be-retirees are concerned about becoming a caregiver for an aging parent or family member. The survey also found that roughly 30 percent of respondents said that they expect to stay in the workforce for longer than they had previously planned so they can afford their loved ones' health costs.

There's also the added strain on time and scheduling that comes with being a caregiver. For example, when not at work, nearly all of caregivers' time may be devoted to ensuring the comfort and well-being of those they're providing for. While it's possible to be this accommodating in the short-term, over time, failure to look after yourself can take its toll on your own health and well-being. A key aspect of caregiving is balance. It requires giving a parent or loved one the time and attention they need, but also taking time out for yourself.

If you're in this situation, the following tips may help you reach this balance.

1. Give yourself a break. Caregiving is an all-consuming task that requires the energy and time to dress, feed and bathe another human being every single day. Even if it seems there's rarely enough time in the day already, it’s crucial that you carve out time for you. This means doing more than just resting for lunch or a snack - it means truly getting away for a while. Alone time is key to maintaining a healthy balance. Whenever possible, try to get out of the house and do something on your own, whether for pure entertainment purposes - like going to a movie - or to satisfy a hobby, such as gardening, reading or writing.

2. Talk it out. While the loved one you're caring for may feel like the only person in your life, it's important to maintain other meaningful relationships. Caregiving.com recommended never letting a day go by without talking to a friend, relative or spouse. Even a quick chat can help keep you connected and remind you that you're not alone.

3. Establish a routine. By nature, people tend to be creatures of habit, and there's good reason for that: healthy habits not only provide stability but also comfort. One of the best places to start forming healthy habits is around your sleep schedule. Set a plan for when you'll get into bed and stick to it, and when your alarm goes off in the morning, don't hit the snooze button. With a little discipline, you can get into a regular routine that will help you cope with any struggles that may arise throughout the day.


Taking the Mystery out of Medicare
Taking the Mystery out of Medicare
There are a lot of perks that go along with senior citizenship: discounted meals, senior prices at the movies, and, of course, Medicare eligibility. In the United States, if you are over the age of 65 you are automatically eligible to receive Medicare Part A benefits without having to pay any premiums (according to the Social Security Administration). However, traditional Medicare doesn’t cover all healthcare expenses, so it’s wise to invest in either a Medicare Supplement or Medicare Advantage plan in order to avoid spending more out-of-pocket. The following will help to clarify some of the main differences between the two plans:
Medicare Supplement (Medigap) Medicare Advantage
Certain plans designed to minimize out of pocket expenses & deductibles Designed to cost share out- pockets expenses, and deductibles
Used to supplement traditional Medicare Part A & B Comprised of health plans such as HMO’s and PPO’s
Certain plans cover emergency hospital visits, skilled nurses, doctor fees, travel, etc. Most plans include cost of prescription drugs
Certain plans fill in most gaps left by traditional Medicare Large financial gaps if medical issues arise
10 options of standardized Medigap plans Plans are not standardized
In most cases patients are able to receive care anywhere, anytime without a referral. In most cases plans will not provide comprehensive care when traveling out of network or out of state.

http://www.ehealthmedicare.com/about-medicare/compare-medicare-advantage-and-supplement/

Typically, Medicare Supplement plans are more expensive than Medicare Advantage, but also offer significant additional coverage. The Medicare Supplement plan can potentially save you thousands if serious illness or injury occurs. As CBS News states, “You might be able to realize substantial savings in premiums with a Medicare Advantage plan, but you also need to be aware of the tradeoffs with such a plan.” In a recent interview with Bankers Fidelity’s Medicare Strategy Specialist, Christian Novacek urged seniors to ask the following questions when comparing plans:

  1. If I get sick, which plans will provide me the best coverage with the least amount of deductibles?
  2. Can I afford a high deductible situation on my fixed income?
  3. Is it easier to set aside premium at an earlier age for a comprehensive plan today, or take my chances with out of pocket expenses?

Novacek goes on to state: “[With Medicare Advantage] you initially save on premiums, but the tradeoff is having a high deductible maximum of $3500- 6,700 annually per person depending on your provider. If you would like to minimize your risk, and prefer to err on the side of caution when it comes to your health, finances and the longevity of your retirement plan, then a Medigap plan is the way to go. “

Undoubtedly, the choice between Medicare Supplement and Medicare Advantage will vary from person to person. Just keep in mind that you can't purchase both; it has to be one or the other, as insurers are forbidden from selling Medigap to someone who has Medicare Advantage. Your insurance representative can help provide you with additional tips to make the best decision.                

Not affiliated with or endorsed by the United States government or the Federal Medicare program. This is a solicitation of insurance and an independent agent/producer may contact you. Medicare Supplement policy form series B 21092 underwritten by Bankers Fidelity Life Insurance Company, Atlanta, GA; Medicare Supplement policy form series B 21492 underwritten by Bankers Fidelity Assurance Company, Atlanta, GA. Limitations and exclusions apply; actual policy provisions control. Rates subject to change on a class basis. Individually underwritten; application to determine eligibility required. Products not sold in AK, CA, CT, FL, MA, ME, MN, NH, NJ, NY, OR, RI, VT, WA or WI. Plan availability varies by state.


Become A Doctor's Visit Pro
Become A Doctor's Visit Pro

“An apple a day keeps the doctor away” might be true, but we’re still going to suggest at least one physical per year. Annual visits let your physician know how you're doing and also where you stand in comparison to people of a similar age. You’ve got a busy schedule,  and with an average 18 day wait time for family practice physicians, you want to make sure you get your doctor’s visit right on the first try. There’s nothing worse than walking out of the doctor’s office and suddenly remembering the foot pain you’ve been having for weeks- the foot pain you forgot to mention to your doctor. The following tips will help you avoid post-visit regrets, and make sure you’re getting the most out of your visit.

 

  1. Be prepared and be early. Showing up at 1:59 for a 2 p.m. isn’t the best game plan- especially when you get handed a stack of forms to fill out. Plan on getting to the office 15-20 minutes before you scheduled appointment,  and make sure you bring all the documents your doctor’s office requires- proof of insurance, driver’s license, etc. If you’ve recently changed insurance providers, plan on arriving 30 minutes early.This way, you aren’t cutting into any of your physical time.
  1. Make a list. As soon as you schedule your physical, start a running list of your physical concerns. Start a health journal where you can record the symptom, when it started, how often it occurs, what makes it better or worse, and how long it lasts. The more specific and detailed you are with your symptoms, the more likely it is that your doctor will be able to diagnose and treat the condition. Bring the journal to the appointment, and express each concern with your doctor.
  1. Mention medications. You're likely taking at least one prescription medicine and your doctor will need to know the type and dosage details, especially if you’ve recently switched physicians. You should also be sure to tell your doctor about over-the-counter pills you may be taking, as well as any supplements, herbal remedies or vitamins.
  1. Follow through with your follow-up. Don’t leave your doctor’s office without scheduling your next appointment! This way, even if you’re unable to make the scheduled appointment, you’ll be reminded the following year that it’s time for your check-up. If your doctor has referred you to a specialist, be sure to make your appointment with them immediately.
Being your own healthcare advocate requires a little effort and some time, but the feeling of walking away from your doctor’s appointment feeling secure, valued, and confident is worth it.

What No One Wants To Hear
What No One Wants To Hear

It’s a day I will never forget. Although it was 24 years ago, it’s as clear as what happened this morning. My husband, who was working from home that day, was the one who got the call from my doctor. He immediately called me at work: his voice trembled as he told me the news. I had breast cancer. This was unfathomable to me. I was a registered nurse after all…surely I would’ve had some sort of inkling, some tell-tale sign. But I had no symptoms, no pain, no discomfort, nothing. I was 56 years old at the time, and had put off a mammogram that my doctor had recommended the year prior. It was just a routine check, and well, life is busy, right? So I waited. Finally, on my doctor’s strong urging, I gave in. The mammogram showed a small tumor on the left breast. A general surgeon preformed a biopsy on January 19, 1990 and found it to be cancerous. The next days and weeks were a whirlwind of emotion — a lot of fear, anxiety and uncertainty, mixed with a flood of support, care and love from my friends, family and co-workers. I had a big decision to make. Of the four options the oncologist offered me, I chose the left mastectomy. The hospital stay lasted three days, followed by in-home physical therapy.I was fortunate to have an excellent team surrounding me, which allowed me to return to nursing six weeks later. As an ongoing treatment, I was put onTamoxifen twice a day, a medication I took faithfully for eight years. Two years after my initial diagnosis, my husband and I moved to another city.

A few years passed with no sign of cancer. Then, in 1998, I developed incontinence pain. I was referred to an urologist and again received the news no one ever wants to hear. I had cancer. Again! This time it was uterine cancer. I had a hysterectomy on January 18, 1999, and had preventative radiation of the cervix. I received twenty-eight doses. It seemed like I was destined to be a victim of cancer, in whatever form it decided to take. But my story has a happy ending. I have been cancer free since 1999. And while I’m not immune to the typical ailments that come with aging, I am proud to tell you that at the wise age of 81, I still travel, take care of my own home, work in the yard and live life to the fullest. Cancer isn’t something I would’ve ever asked for, but it has definitely given me a deep appreciation for life. Through the power of faith, family and friends, I know I can overcome any adversity – whatever life wants to bring my way, I’m ready to take it on.