Diabetes: Managing Your Quality of Life
If you have diabetes, you’ve heard over and over “diet, exercise, medication.” But you’re not alone! As most people age, eating well, staying active, and sticking to a medication plan become critical parts of daily life. So whether you have diabetes or not, diet, exercise, and medication remain the mantra for health living.
Diet: One of the best ways to make healthy eating choices is to eat foods with the least number of ingredients. While granola bars and protein bars can be great choices, eating a bowl of oatmeal is the best way to get the benefits of oatmeal without all the added sugar and fat. The best snacks come in their own packaging – oranges, bananas, nuts, and apples are easy to keep handy and provide you with the kinds of nutrients that pre-made snacks generally don’t have. If you have diabetes, talk to your doctor about the best kind of snacks you can keep on hand to ensure your blood sugar levels remain level.
Exercise: Some people love physical fitness but not everyone. Routine exercise, however, will keep you living longer and feeling better. You don’t have to run five miles or swim 1,000 meters when you take the leap and get your body moving; take a walk around the block, go for a bike ride, or shoot a few hoops at the local court. Find some comfortable gym clothes and get going! Keep in mind, you won’t really feel great about exercise until after you’re done. After a week, you will start to feel the difference in your mood and outlook. You will feel less irritable and you will have longer, deeper sleep. After about a month, you will start to see the difference in your weight, blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol.
Medication: For diabetics, medicine is key to your health. Take you medication at the same time everyday to be most effective. Hydration is also critical in ensuring your medications are effective; if your body is dehydrated, your medication won’t be as effective. If you have diabetes, you have the additional responsibility of monitoring blood sugar levels several times per day. Make a back- up plan for the occasional missed medication; you can avoid the subsequent health crisis if you keep extra medications with you.
Health Topic of the Month: Breast Cancer
Watch for these Twelve Symptoms
With breast cancer, age is a significant risk factor. The older you get, the more likely you are to get breast cancer. Ignoring symptoms and avoiding the topic with your doctor will only increase the likelihood that breast cancer will put your life at risk. If you know the symptoms of breast cancer, you’ll know when you need to talk to a doctor. The following 12 symptoms mean you should immediately (immediately!) schedule an appointment to see a doctor.
- Dimple: Lumps and bumps aren’t the only indicator. A sunken area means a change in the breast tissue.
- Sunken Nipple: Again, any inward shift of breast tissue can mean a serious problem.
- Crusty Nipple: Crusty skin around the nipple indicates that you should go see your doctor.
- Fluid: Fluid of any color or consistency can be a sign of a problem.
- Sores: Any kind of skin sore should be seen by a doctor.
- Heat: A warm area is another sign of a change in the breast tissue.
- Redness: Breast cancer can cause your skin to turn red or orange.
- Growing Vein: A new and growing vein can be an indicator of a serious problem.
- Thick Area: Sometimes lumps don’t have a specific feel to their shape. Thickness can be a sign of cancer.
- Bumps: Just one bump is a concern.
- Shape Shift: If your breast changes shape, go see your doctor.
- Hard Lump: This is the most well-known symptom, but all the factors listed above are just as likely to be a symptom of breast cancer.
If you notice any of these symptoms, do not delay in visiting a doctor or local women’s health clinic.
Open Enrollment is Back!
Every October, you start to receive lots of advertising about Medicare. Open enrollment starts on October 15 and lasts until December 7. But what does it all mean and who does it impact?
Medicare Advantage Plan
For those on Medicare Advantage plans, open enrollment is the time of year when you can switch plans. It’s worthwhile considering a switch to a different plan or a different company if you’ve had a serious shift in your health. If you have a new diagnosis (like heart disease or diabetes) or if you have new medications, changing your Medicare Advantage plan could mean saving money or gaining access to new (free) benefits like a gym membership, rides to the doctor, and dental coverage. If you’ve only used original Medicare or if you’ve had a supplement plan, open enrollment is the time of year when you can switch over to an Advantage plan.
Medicare Supplement Plans with Prescription Drug Coverage
If you have a Medicare supplement plan and prescription drug coverage, open enrollment is the time of year when you can change your prescription drug coverage. Drug plans change every year. Without exception, insurance carriers change their formularies (lists of drugs). Plus, insurance carriers frequently move drugs into different tiers—and the drug tier determines the price of each drug. Your current pharmacy could switch from being a preferred pharmacy to a standard pharmacy, and therefore change the price of your drugs.
Can you research every health and drug plan and make the right choice? Yes. But an insurance broker is never going to charge you a fee, and the prices they offer are the same prices you would find on your own. Sitting down with an insurance broker to review Medicare options could mean saving money but will definitely mean having higher confidence in how your health care is covered.
No Cooking Breakfasts
Eating a healthy breakfast is key in healthy living. Eating breakfast will kick start your metabolism, boost your mental acuity, and help you avoid binging later in the day. Here are five easy breakfasts to help you get your days started the right way:
The Mediterranean: Have a plate of cheese, nuts, and dried fruit. While you can stick to favorites, like cheddar cheese, peanuts, and raisins, you can also experiment with feta, almonds, and cranberries. Add a bit of honey and drink with a strong cup of tea.
The Continental: Go with the European tradition of meats, breads, and cheeses. While most of us think of a ham and cheese sandwich as a lunch item, it also makes a great breakfast.
The American: Cereal with milk is the all-American breakfast, and milk can give you a great protein boost. However, avoid cereals that are high in processed sugars and carbohydrates. Look for those that have high fiber content.
The Hippie: Act like it’s the 1970s again! Have some yogurt and fruit for breakfast. The yogurt is a fantastic source of protein and the fruit will provide the vitamins and fiber to fuel your day.
The Basic: Spread a bit of peanut butter on whole wheat bread (toasted if you are feeling ambitious) and enjoy. There’s nothing easier. Add some sliced banana or strawberry jam if you want to give it a little sweetness.
Cat Litter—Serious Business!
Ever thought about trying a new kind of cat litter? Here is a quick review of your options:
Clumping: Clumping litter is standard, reduces smell, and is generally easy to clean. However, you might find bits of litter around the house.
Sliding Litter: A new kind of clumping litter that tends not to stick to the litter pan. Costs a bit more and doesn’t seem to control odor as well as the standard litter.
Crystals: Unless raised with crystal litter, you cat may not adjust quickly to the new texture. Crystals control urine smells extremely well. A box with crystal litter will require regular attention to clean up the poop.
Pellets: Pellet litter is like a form of sawdust. Generally, the most environmentally friendly, pellet litter might surprise you in how effective it is in controlling odor. Because it can have a natural wood or hay smell, pellet litter is great if you keep your litter box in an open-air porch or back yard.
Health Topic of the Month: Healthy Living
Socialization is a key element in living a healthy life. Generally, you will want to find a way to get out of the house, talk with another person, and engage in an enjoyable activity. Socialization can be as simple as going for a coffee at the local café or buying a few groceries at the market. Being out of the house and around other people is a core need that helps you feel connected to the world around you. Most communities have low or no cost senior programs at community centers. These senior care centers will often provide transportation, planned activities, and health meals.
If you are homebound, don’t be shy about asking for visitors. Family, friends, and neighbors want to help you and unless you tell them that you’d like a visitor, they might be hesitant to intrude.
Medical care today is complex – networks, hospitals, clinics… Your health plan can be confusing. The concept of the local, family doctor is nearly gone. You have to take charge of your own medical needs and seek out the care you need.
Prior to going to the doctor, make a list of questions and concerns. Write them down and present the list to the nurse and the doctor. No one knows your body better than you do, so don’t ignore problems. Changes in weight, small skin growths, digestive problems, and ongoing aches and pains can be signs of larger problems. Your doctor wants to catch problems early, but if you don’t speak up, your doctor can’t make the right care decisions for you.
Visit your primary doctor on a regular basis. If you have trouble getting to the doctor, consider some alternatives. Free transportation is a common benefit in Medicare Advantage plans. If you have a Medicare Supplement (like Plan N, F, G, etc) then you might be able to find a doctor willing to make home visits.
Food is a key component to proper mental and physical health. Easy-to-eat foods, like cereal, pasta, and candy, are high in carbohydrates. These kinds of quick foods can make you feel great for a few minutes, but can come with a crash in mood. These foods will also add to your waist without adding many necessary nutrients. Opt for whole wheat bread and brown rice to add some needed fiber to your diet.
Increase the number of fruits and vegetables. Apples, bananas, and oranges are simple foods that add significantly to your intake of fiber and vitamins. Making a healthy salad can be as easy as having a bag of spinach on hand along with a tasty salad dressing.
Try to increase the amount of low fat protein in your diet. Canned chicken and tuna are easy meats to add to your diet. Eggs and toast is a great meal anytime of the day.
Physical activity is critically important in maintaining mental and physical health. You don’t have to run a marathon to call yourself active. A daily walk around the block can mean lower blood pressure, higher self-esteem, and better overall mobility. Ask about senior programs at the gym closest to your home. Most fitness centers have lots of group activities at low or no cost to seniors. These classes can include Zumba, yoga, and water aerobics. Don’t ignore mental activities like crossword puzzles, word searches, and sudoku. Sitting in front of the TV all day is a terrible way to spend your day. While one or two hours of television can be stimulating, more can lead to fatigue and depression. Keep your mind active with books, newspapers, and magazines.
How To Get Home Healthcare
If bathing, dressing, cooking, and leaving the house have become issues, you might qualify for home healthcare. While there are general guidelines to define who qualifies medically for home healthcare, every insurance plan interprets those guidelines in unique ways.
In order to qualify for home healthcare, start asking questions of your doctor early. (Your doctor may not introduce the topic, so don’t be shy about asking.) Qualifying for home healthcare starts with your doctor, so you need to have early conversations about what he or she sees as necessary to qualify for such care.
Are you homebound?
If you require assistance such as a walker, wheelchair, or human helper to leave the home, then you are considered homebound.
Do you require skilled care?
Skilled care has a broad meaning. Of course, skilled care includes medical procedures such as injections and feeding tubes; skilled care can also mean help bathing, using the toilet, and dressing. Physical therapy is also considered skilled care.
Have you discussed with your doctor?
You doctor will have to submit a form or letter specifying why you need home healthcare along with a plan (of a specific period of time) describing how the home healthcare will improve your health.
Home healthcare is not for those in need of constant, ongoing care. But if you need “intermittent care” (a key term in prescribing care), work with your doctor to get someone into your home to improve the quality of your life.
The Smoothie Mash-Up!
With a standard household blender, you can make a healthy and delicious meal in less than five minutes. While you can follow a smoothie recipe to the letter, making smoothies is really about being creative with the ingredients you already have on hand.
All good smoothies start with a liquid like water, milk, or soy milk. Start with about one cup of liquid. You can always add more if you want a smoother consistency.
Fruit is the core of a good smoothie. Frozen or fresh, fruit will give the smoothie a natural sweetness making it satisfying and delicious. Hint: If you see your bananas are turning brown, throw them in the freezer. De-thawing a banana is as easy as running warm water over the skin until the banana slips off into the blender.
Add something frozen – no one likes a lukewarm smoothie. Frozen fruit is fantastic. But if you don’t have any frozen fruit, then just add a few ice cubes.
Go wild with greens like avocado, kale, or spinach. Avocado will make the smoothie even smoother! And a handful of leafy greens might change the color, but they won’t change the flavor.
Finally, add some protein powder to the mix if you want to boost your protein intake. Generally, protein powder won’t alter the flavor, but it can make the smoothie thicker.
Health Topic of the Month: Immunizations
According to the US Health and Human Services website about vaccines, adults over the age of 65 years old should talk to their doctor about four categories of vaccines. Vaccines are at the core of preventative medicine. While these vaccines aren’t the only kind of preventative medicine necessary to stay well, these vaccines will help prevent some of the most dangerous health problems for seniors.
Get a flu shot every year. Generally, the flu shot will be free or cost very little. Tens of thousands of people die from the flu (or flu related illness) every year. About one-third of people die because of the flu virus’ deteriorating effects on the body. However, more than two-thirds of people develop secondary illness and infections (like pneumonia) that case their deaths. While a flu vaccine isn’t a guarantee that you won’t get sick, the vaccine is an important way for seniors to avoid a serious problem.
Tdap or Td: Tetanus, Diphtheria, and Pertussis
You only need one dose of TDAP in your lifetime. However, you will need to get a TD booster every ten years. The TD booster will help you avoid getting the bacterial infections of tetanus and diphtheria. Most people will develop a tetanus infection after a puncture wound. You can catch diphtheria through contact with an infected person coughing or sneezing near you. The booster is a highly effective way to avoid serious illnesses.
There are two types of shingles (zoster) vaccines. Talk to your doctor about which is right for you, even if you had shingles in the past. Shingles is a painful condition related to the chicken pox virus. Symptoms often appear as a skin rash but can also include fever, sensitivity to light, sensitivity to touch, and fatigue.
The pneumococcal vaccine will help prevent you from getting the bacterial infection that can cause pneumonia, meningitis, and sepsis. Many of the treatments used for pneumonia, meningitis, and sepsis have become less effective, making the vaccine critical in surviving an exposure to the disease.
Vaccines are a key component in preventative medicine. Always consult with you doctor about which vaccines are best for you and your loved ones.
Daily Actions to Prevent Problems
There are a few simple steps you can take every day that will help you stay healthy. Daily movement, socialization, and rest will help you prevent the accidents and illnesses that can impede your quality of life.
Physical activity is a key component in staying healthy. You don’t have to go for a three-mile run to stay active. A walk to the convenience store, yoga in the living room, or a stroll through the mall are all fantastic ways to keep your body moving. Ask about free gym membership for seniors at your nearby fitness center. Riding an exercise bike is an easy (and safe) way to keep your blood pumping and your legs moving. Many gyms offer exercise equipment with individual TVs – so you can still watch CNN or NCIS while getting some physical activity.
Remaining social is important for your mental and physical health. While phone calls are a great way to stay in touch with family, real socialization happens in person. Try to socialize every day. Socialization can be as simple as having a cup of coffee at Starbucks. Being around other people will help you feel connected. Having coffee with friends will also help you stay educated about issues relevant to someone your own age. If you feel lonely, start attending a local church or find a local group of folks who play cards on a weekly basis.
Peace of mind is a critical part of living a healthy life. Something as simple as five deep breaths can calm your mind. Stress and distraction are at the core of many accidents and illnesses. Finding a way to rest your body and mind will help you stay focused throughout the day. You won’t be likely to trip, catch a cold, or hurt yourself in the kitchen if you have peace of mind. Being mindful means taking a few moments each day to catch your breath, count to ten, and be grateful for the good things in your life.
Recovering from an accident or disease takes significantly longer for seniors. Preventing those accidents and illnesses means a higher quality of life for you and those who care about you. A few simple steps can mean the difference between feeling strained and feeling happy.
...and to Prevent Falls
While everyone is aware of the slip-and-fall dangers of cold and wet weather, the summer months often come with risks. Most falls in the summer are preventable with a few, simple, common-sense choices. Being wary of fall risks can help prevent time-consuming injuries that can last for several months.
We all love to wear flip-flops in the summer. Our feet get hot and we want to help keep cool by avoiding heavy sneakers. But summertime shoes don’t give seniors the support they need. Flip-flops can easily fly off while walking on an unsteady surface covered by grass, dirt, or stones. In addition, seniors need ankle support. Angle muscles atrophy with age. Sneaker provide the lateral support necessary to help keep the foot upright. Finally, summertime shoes don’t always have the right kind of tread, making wet surfaces dangerous.
Hot summer months can mean excessive sweating. And seniors can find themselves unsteady or dizzy because of dehydration. Caffeinated colas aren’t the best solution as caffeine can cause agitation. Water is always the best choice; but some seniors prefer flavoured drinks. In the summer, eight glasses of water per day is a minimum. And if you are outside enjoying the pool, park, or beach, you’ll need to drink twice that amount. (Here’s hint: If you are drinking lots of water and you don’t need to pee, keep drinking. You’re sweating out all your hydration!)
Summer fun often means trips with the family. But grandma and grandpa shouldn’t always keep pace with the rest of the family. While young parents and kids can walk around Disneyland for a full 12 hours, many seniors can’t maintain that level of activity. When traveling with multiple generations, find air-conditioned spots for the seniors to rest. Also, look for rental scooters; most theme parks will have rental scooters that can make a full day of activity less physically draining for the older adults.
Jazz Up Your Dog’s Dinner
No one likes to eat the same thing day after day. If you find that you dog isn’t willing to eat the same scoop of dog food, jazz up your pup’s dinner with some safe (human) food!
- Veggies: Carrots, green-beans, potatoes, and sweet potatoes are healthy ways to add vitamins and fiber to your dog’s meal.
- Carbs: Dogs love carbs too! Don’t shy away from adding oatmeal or rice to the dog dish.
- Proteins: You can use raw or cooked eggs in your dog’s dinner. And go ahead -- include the shell. Egg shells will provide calcium while promoting clean teeth. You can also give your dog yogurt. Yogurt is a great solution for dogs suffering from digestive problems like loose stool. And of course, chicken or fish. Cooked chicken and fish (with no seasonings) will give your dog the lean protein they need to stay active.
Many dogs suffer from food allergies that cause itching. Even store-bought food can cause problems for some dogs. If you add a human food to your dog’s plate, watch for changes in behaviour. You might try rotating several kinds of food to see what’s best for your dog.
These recommendations were sourced through the PuppyUp website.
Health Topic of the Month: World Hepatitis Day
July 28, 2018 is World Hepatitis Day (WHD). The intent of World Hepatitis Day is to bring awareness to this global health issue and to reduce the unnecessary sickness and death from this quiet killer. WHD is a program of the World Hepatitis Alliance, a non-profit group with offices in England and Switzerland.
What is Hepatitis?
Hepatitis means having an inflammation of the liver caused by a virus. Hepatitis comes in five forms and those are known as types A, B, C, D, and E.
- Hepatitis A is generally a short-term condition that can be resolved by the body naturally. You get can Hepatitis A through contaminated food and water. There is no known treatment for Hepatitis A, but good hygiene is highly effective in avoiding the disease.
- Hepatitis B is a chronic condition that result in liver damage, cancer, and premature death. You can get Hepatitis B through body fluids like blood. There is a highly effective vaccine for Hepatitis B, but no real cure. However, there are highly effective treatments for Hepatitis B.
- Hepatitis C is a lot like Hepatitis B, in its causes and effects on the body. Unlike Hepatitis B, there is no vaccine for Hepatitis C, but there is a cure.
- Hepatitis D is only a danger for those who already have Hepatitis B. To avoid it, get the vaccine for Hepatitis B. There are very few effective treatments for Hepatitis D.
- Hepatitis E is similar to Hepatitis A, and the body generally will clear the disease on its own. While there is a vaccine for Hepatitis E, it’s not widely available. Hepatitis E can be life threatening.
What’s the Danger?
Hepatitis B and C cause 2/3 of liver cancer deaths. And with prevention and treatment, many of those deaths are avoidable. Because more than 300 million worldwide are unaware that they have some form of hepatitis, the disease continues to spread. While many people think about hepatitis prior to traveling internationally, hepatitis is a threat here in the US. For those who work closely with the most vulnerable people (elderly, sick, homeless), hepatitis vaccines are an important way to stay healthy and prevent the spread of the disease.
What Do I Do?
Most importantly, you need to know if you have any form of hepatitis. Symptoms are not always obvious but simple tests can tell you if you’ve contracted the disease. Talk to your doctor and discuss the treatments and vaccines that are right for you.
Life Insurance and the Mixed Household
The multi-generational household is commonplace today. Grandparents often live in the spare bedroom or in the converted garage. Working parents may rely on a sister or cousin to help care for the kids after school. So how much would your life change if suddenly one of those people were gone? As an older retired adult, you’ve seen how life can throw curveballs. The parents to young children get sick and die. If your adult child suddenly died, your responsibilities might increase dramatically.
Would you become the primary caretaker for your grandchild?
If you suddenly became a primary or secondary caregiver to your grandchildren, you would feel the heavy burden of cooking, cleaning, and caring. And while you had the energy to do it when you were in your 30s, you probably don’t have the same level of energy in your 60s.
Are you sure that both parents of your grandchildren carry enough life insurance?
Imagine how much easier daily life would be if you had $500,000 or $1 million to help pay for cleaning services, day care, and transportation. Term life insurance policies are generally not expensive for adults under 50-years old. Your adult children may have avoided buying a life insurance policy because of budget constraints or simple procrastination. The monthly costs for term life insurance vary significantly, but generally fall between $25 and $75 per month per person.
It’s time to have a tough conversation.
Start with an offer. Let your adult children know that you’d like to pay for some additional life insurance on them. Tell them it’s for your own peace of mind. Buying a life insurance policy on an adult child can be tricky. You might have to prove an insurable interest. There will also be questions of policy ownership, and concerns about the effects on your child’s estate. Not all insurance companies will allow you to own the policy. And it’s likely that your adult children will have to undergo a medical exam to the lowest prices. But in the end, you will be able to sleep at night knowing that a tragedy won’t turn into lifelong financial distress.
Quick and Easy Quiche
Quiche is great meal to make on a Sunday! Why Sunday?
Because quiche is a perfect way to put your weekly leftovers to use. Scrounge through your fridge and look for leftovers like cooked vegetables, cold ham, or a few spinach leaves. These make for great add-ins to your quiche. Making a quiche is less about the precision of baking and more about the art of cooking. A good quiche comes through the creative use of the fresh vegetables in your kitchen and the cold leftovers in your fridge. Because the base is always the same (eggs, cheese, milk), you can have fun with various flavors and ingredients. If you are using fresh vegetables, consider sautéing them before you add them to the egg mixture; that will give the vegetables a soft consistency while baking.
Here’s what you’ll need to make a quick and easy quiche:
One frozen pie crust, 4-6 eggs, half a cup of milk or cream, one cup of (shredded, chopped, or cubed) cheese, tomatoes (optional), flavor-enhancers (like onions and garlic and spices) to taste, and your leftovers.
Here's how to bake the quiche:
Bake the quiche for 35-40 minutes in an oven at 375 degrees. Test the quiche with a fork or toothpick to ensure it’s done. Poke the quiche with the toothpick or fork and when it comes clean, the quiche is done.
Do some experimenting to see what kind of quiche you like best. Don’t be shy about adjusting the number of eggs or types of cheese. Whole cherry tomatoes make a great addition (with no extra prep work). Have fun and share you successes with friends and family.
Health Topic of the Month: Men’s Health
When it comes to the general topic of men’s health issues, many articles will focus on erectile dysfunction and prostate cancer. And while those are important topics, there are some issues that men tend to overlook as they get older.
For some men, depression is not about feeling sad. Frequently, men don’t recognize that their feelings of irritation and anger are a form of depression. Yelling at the kids on the street for being too loud, snapping at a grocery clerk for being to peppy, and honking the car horn at every red light… just a few examples of how irritability is a mask for depression. These feelings of irritation often lead to isolation. (Who wants to visit their cranky uncle on a Sunday afternoon.) Addressing these issues isn’t easy, but with someone who is irritable, the direct approach might be the best. “Hey, Uncle Lou, you seem irritated a lot. Your doctor might be able to help with that. When’s the next time you see your doctor?”
As men age, their bodies need fewer calories. Very few people move as much or as fast as they did when they were 35. But many folks tend not to reduce calorie intake. Plus, inexpensive and convenient foods become a mainstay of their diets. Instead of eggs for breakfast, men might choose cereal; instead of chicken, maybe just pasta. These foods tend to be high in sugar pushing up blood sugar to dangerous levels. And while diet and exercise are not the only two factors that can cause type two diabetes, eating too many foods that are high in sugar can certainly contribute to developing the disease. Eating mostly fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins (chicken, eggs, beans) can significantly reduce the chances of developing diabetes.
Lung cancer is a silent killer. There aren’t many symptoms with early stages lung cancer, and so detection is difficult. Ask yourself if you are at-risk. Did you smoke for more than ten years? Did you quit recently? For many men who quit smoking more than 20 years ago, they don’t fret about lung cancer. But second-hand smoke can be just as dangerous to your health as smoking. So even if you quit when you were 40 years old, if you spouse continued to smoke, you might still be at risk for lung cancer. Express your concerns to your doctor and ask what kinds of early detection mechanisms are available.
How to Start Exercising
It’s midway through the year, and you might be asking yourself, “What happened to my resolution to exercise more?” For those who aren’t in the habit of exercising several times per week, building a fitness program into your life can feel daunting. Here are a few suggestions to launch a successful exercise program:
You don’t have to run ten miles the first day! Pick an easy target, like a nearby market or park, and get yourself there two or three times per week. And to make the most of your time, talk to a friend on the phone during your walk. These small steps will help you build the routine and help you determine the kind of exercise you enjoy.
The next time you see a runner, look closely, and you’ll likely see the runner wearing a headset. Exercising can be very dull. (Very, very dull!) You need to distract yourself while you are walking, biking, or swimming. For some, music is key; find a way to listen to a radio station or collection of music you enjoy. If you need something more visual to remain distracted, find a gym that offers televisions. Many gyms today offer individual TVs for each treadmill, stationary bike, and elliptical machine. And yes, if you love swimming, but hate the monotony of the laps, you can buy tiny radio-headsets that are safe to use in the water.
Overcome the Stumbling Blocks
Exercising can be very inconvenient. Outside of the time it takes for the physical activity, you also have to concern yourself with keeping clean and washing all those sweaty clothes. In order to successfully exercise you will have to make some compromises to stay on track. For example, perhaps you will have to shower at the gym to reduce the inconvenience of going home after your workout to get clean. You might not love showering in a public place, but if it keeps you moving, it’s worth the trouble.
You will also have to invest in some extra workout clothes. You need to seek out the kinds of fitness wear that is most comfortable for you. Some folks hate the feel of synthetic fabric while sweating; others won’t wear cotton. You need at least three, good fitness outfits that you can wear. Ideally, these outfits will also be clothing you don’t mind wearing in the grocery store or coffee shop. Incorporating fitness into your daily routine might mean that you have wear your tracksuit before or after you work out.
Trick Yourself Daily
Don’t tell yourself, “Today I am going to walk three miles!” That’s a scary thought. Just tell yourself, “Today, I am going to put on my walking shoes.” Then later in the day, “I am just going to walk to the corner.” It’s very easy to talk yourself out of walking three miles. But if you reframe the goal to be smaller, bite-sized bits, you are much more likely to go the distance!
Dogs Best Friend
In order to help a 51-year old patient address his problems with obesity, a doctor prescribed the patient a dog. Yes, you read that correctly. The doctor prescribed that the patient buy a shelter dog. Why? Because our pets help make us healthier, happier, and more active.
By adopting a dog, the patient was suddenly out in the sunshine several times per day. Because the dog was seven years old, the patient didn’t have to run to keep up on their daily walks. The dog and his friend were perfectly matched. And if you fast forward a few years, the patient had dropped his excess weight and gained a spouse! The story is found in the book, Walking With Peety. You can also read about this story, by going to www.iheartdogs.com/doctor-prescribes-dog-to-obese-man-it-saves-his-life/
According to the Centers for Disease Control, having a pet:
- Decreases blood pressure
- Decreases cholesterol levels
- Decreases triglyceride levels
- Decreases feelings of loneliness
- Increases opportunities for exercise and outdoor activities
- Increases opportunities for socialization
Our pets become our friends and family as we grow older. When you spend more time at home, you are more likely to need an in-home companion. If you love dogs, visit the local shelter and ask about adopting an older dog. They are more likely to be housebroken and more likely to be grateful for the rescue. If you want a lap cat, try adopting an older, orange cat – they are scientifically more likely to cuddle. Don’t believe us, read about tabbies online in The Purrington Post! https://www.thepurringtonpost.com/orange-tabby-cats-fun-facts/
And if you can’t have a pet like a cat or dog, don’t underestimate the value of a mouse, hamster, or fish. They might be a bit more difficult to pet (especially the fish), but having another heartbeat in the house can make the difference between a house and a home.
Honey Balsamic Salad Dressing
This easy-to-make salad dressing is perfect for a summer salad with spinach, yellow pepper, and red onion. It’s also a nice addition to a plate of tomatoes or a bowl of sliced strawberries.
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 1 teaspoon water
- One-quarter cup balsamic vinegar
- One-quarter cup olive oil
Mix honey, water, salt and pepper together in a small cup until the ingredients dissolve. Add balsamic vinegar and olive oil and stir. Adjust and add ingredient to your taste. If you like it sweeter, add some more honey. If you want it to be more savory, add some basil, garlic, or minced onion.
Health Topic of the Month: Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention
Every hour, one American dies from melanoma. Melanoma, or skin cancer, is a very aggressive form of cancer. According to the Melanoma Research Foundation, 90% of skin cancer is caused simply by exposure to UV light and sunlight. (UV light also comes from the sun, but can be found in the light of a tanning bed.) It only takes one blistering sunburn to dramatically increase your chances of melanoma decades later in life.
Avoiding Skin Cancer
If you use a tanning bed, stop. The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) puts tanning beds into the highest cancer risk category. In other words, tanning beds are carcinogenic to humans.
Avoid the sun. Seek out shade whenever possible. Bring a hat with you to avoid getting too much sun on your face. While driving, cover up your left arm with a long-sleeved shirt. And if you are going to be out in the sun, use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30.
If you are prone to freckles and moles, get an annual skin review by a dermatologist. And insist on a full-body review. That means asking the doctor to look at all the parts of your body you can’t see. It might be a tough ask, but it’s worth avoiding a dangerous diagnosis later on.
Knowing Your ABCs of Melanomas
- Asymmetry: Skin cancer comes in all shapes and sizes. Typically, the visible part of the cancer growth will have an unusual shape.
- Borders: A non-cancerous mole will have a smooth, defined border. Skin cancer will not.
- Color: Skin cancer can often be mottled in its coloring. It won’t have a single color (like a mole), but will range in tones from black to red to tan to purple.
- Diameter: If it’s bigger than a pencil eraser (6mm), go see the doctor.
- Evolution: Skin cancer will rapidly change over time. And if a mole that you’ve had for years starts to shift and change suddenly, it’s a serious indicator that you might have skin cancer.
Early detection of skin cancer is critical in a successful treatment plan. Don’t be shy or embarrassed about asking your doctor to look at your moles and freckles. And once you’ve asked, tell your doctor you will be asking about this issue on a regular basis.
Healthy Eating: Yogurt as a Source of Protein
There’s nothing worse than feeling hungry at 10pm. You know you shouldn’t eat, but your stomach is rumbling. And that bag of chips is calling from the cupboard. This is a perfect time to try having some yogurt.
Most of us don’t have any problems eating enough carbohydrates. And some of us have had enough carbohydrates to last through a tough, Nordic winter. But many of us just don’t eat quite enough protein.
So, when those midnight munchies hit, try hitting back with a bit of yogurt. Yogurt is packed with proteins. Greek yogurt is extra thick yogurt with an extra dose of protein.
If you really want to eat like a champ, try some unflavored yogurt. It might be a little tart, but when mixed with fresh fruit or a sweetener like stevia (see below), you’ll get all the protein without all the extra sugars.
OK… so what’s stevia and why is it showing up everywhere?
First came Sweet ‘N Low. (That’s the one in the little pink packet.) Then Equal (the blue packet). Splenda emerged in the 1990s as most like sugar (the yellow packet). And now… stevia.
But stevia is a little different. Stevia comes from a plant and frequently falls into the “all-natural” category of foods. For those people who are sensitive to chemicals, stevia might be a reliable no calorie option.
Keep in mind, stevia is not perfect. (It still has an aftertaste.) But when mixed with a touch of real sugar, maple syrup, or honey, stevia can give you the taste you want in an all-natural form. Several companies are producing stevia sweeteners, and most of them are using green packets to distinguish them from the other no calorie options. You can now find stevia in most major grocery stores and at Starbucks.
Stevia is very potent. And the majority of stevia powder is just filler. If you shop at Trader Joe’s you might be surprised to find a $20 container of pure stevia. It comes with a tiny tiny tiny scoop, because one mini-scoop of pure stevia is enough to satisfy the sweetest of sweet-tooths.
LIS, Medi-Cal, and Extra Help (Oh my!)
For lower income adults, there are several federal and state programs that can help reduce healthcare costs. We compiled some of the most common questions below and supplied you with the most precise answers possible. Of course, we always recommend calling your health insurance agent to go over the specifics of your financial circumstances.
What is LIS?
LIS stands for Low Income Subsidy. It’s also known as Extra Help. LIS is a federal program that helps reduce the costs of your prescriptions. For those who have to pay for a Part D (drug plan), LIS can help reduce the cost of the monthly payment.
How Do I Sign Up for LIS?
You sign up for LIS through the Social Security Administration website. (https://secure.ssa.gov/i1020/start)
I already get Medi-Cal/Medicaid. Shouldn’t I already get LIS?
Medi-Cal and Medicaid are state programs, and LIS is a federal program. In theory, there would be an easy-breezy flow of communication between all state and federal programs. But, that’s not always the case. Ask your health insurance agent for some help verifying that you already get LIS. And have a good talk with your agent about your current income levels. There are several tiers of support inside LIS and those tiers of support are based on your income. Plus, those income levels change over time. So if you were on the cusp of qualifying in the past, you might have access to more federal help now.
What’s the difference between Medicare, Medicaid, and Medi-Cal?
Medicare is the federal plan that gives you the Part A and Part B coverage for doctors and hospital stays. Many people qualify for Medicare when they turn 65, but some people who are disabled qualify sooner. Medicaid is the term used to describe the health coverage provided through your state. The state of California thought it would be clever if they called their Medicaid plan, Medi-Cal. Get it? Medi-Cal… like the word, “medical” but with the “Cal” for “California”? Isn’t that fun? (Yeah, we don’t think it’s all that amusing either.)
Who runs Medi-Cal?
Generally speaking, the state allocates money to each county in California, and then each county uses those dollars to provide the Medi-Cal services in the county. So, every county is a little different. When you ask your agent for some help about Medi-Cal don’t be surprised if they need to look up some specific information about your county.
Is Medi-Cal just for seniors?
No. (And this is where it really gets fun.) The Medi-Cal benefits for seniors are very different than the benefits for people under the age of 65 who use Medi-Cal as health insurance. So, you might hear someone say, “That doctor doesn’t take Medi-Cal.” But that could just be for someone under the age of 65. So we recommend (again) that you chat with your health insurance agent to go over your options.
There is no simple way to describe how Medicare and Medi-Cal function. Frankly, every circumstance is a little different. Your health insurance agent goes through weeks and weeks (and weeks!) of training and testing every year to be an expert. Trust him or her with your questions and give yourself the freedom to enjoy your retirement!
Doctor Visits and Home Health Care
60 years ago, you woke up to a jug of milk and a newspaper on your front door step. And if you were feeling sick, the doctor came by for a visit. Over the years, we veered away from personalized home services. But thanks to technology, many of those same services are back. Today, you can order almost anything on-line and have it delivered to your doorstep – sometimes within the same day.
So, what about in-home care? Can I use my Medicare policy to have a doctor come to my home? In short, maybe. First, a clarification: a house-call by a doctor is different from home health care.
Some physicians that will go on house-calls will accept original Medicare and a supplement plan (like Plan F). In those cases, you will be charged the same way that you charged when you walk into the doctor’s office. Keep in mind, it’s up to each individual doctor or medical group to determine if they provide a visiting-doctor service.
There is a drawback when selecting a doctor simply because they will come to your home; you might have to manage the coordination of care. If you have more than one doctor, it’s unlikely that all your doctors will provide house-calls. And if you need your doctors to share information about your health, you’ll likely have to coordinate the transfer of records between the doctors every time you receive care.
If you have a Medicare Advantage plan, it’s less likely you will find a doctor to come visit your home. Medicare Advantage plans are typically HMO plans, and HMOs generally don’t include at-home doctor visits for routine care.
Home Health Care
Don’t rule out at-home care as an option if you are sick or in recovery. You’ll find that Medicare Supplement plans (like Plan F or Plan G) and Medicare Advantage plans will provide a home health care service. Typically, these services are provided for patients who are suffering from wound care, recovering from surgery, or facing serious illness. Generally, you will need to see a doctor face-to-face to get approval for home health care. Home health care aides can help patients change wound dressing, administer medications, supervise nutritional habits, and ensure a safe recovery.
For those who are comfortable with technology, many medical plans now include tele-doc services. Instead of going into a clinic or doctor’s office when you have a cold or feeling ill, you can speak to a doctor via video conference using your smartphone, tablet, or home computer. These doctors are generally board-certified physicians who can prescribe drugs such as antibiotics. If you have a co-pay, you might find that the co-pay for a tele-doc is less than an in-office visit.
New Medicare Cards
If you look closely, your old Medicare card uses your social security number as your Medicare ID number. And while your Medicare ID number also includes a letter at the end, that’s a poor disguise for an important piece of personal information.
Who’s Getting the New Card
Starting in April 2018, Medicare will begin sending out new cards to everyone. You won’t find your social security number on the new card. Because millions of Americans are already on Medicare, and millions enroll every year, it could take up to one year before you receive your new card in the mail.
Why the Change
Social security numbers are a key piece of personal information that can be used to steal identities and commit acts of fraud. In an effort to protect personal identity, the federal government is replacing everyone’s social security number with a personal identification number.
What to Do
You don’t have to do anything to get your new card in the mail. If you still haven’t received your new card by mid-2019, you can call Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and ask about your card. Until then, you can continue to use your old card. Once you get your new card, you can destroy your old card. 1-800-MEDICARE (800-633-4227).
Pasta: How to Make It Healthy
Pasta might be filled with carbs, but pasta is also a good source of protein. You can get about 15% of your daily protein (about 8 grams) from one serving of pasta. So, when combined with a lean protein like chicken, pasta is a great way to feel full and stay healthy. A few pasta companies are now offering pasta with added protein. These pastas have about 10 grams of protein per serving.
To make your pasta even healthier, look for whole wheat pasta. Whole wheat pasta gives you more fiber. Typical white pasta will only give you two or three grams of fiber per serving. But whole wheat pasta will give you up to seven grams of fiber per serving.
For an extra healthy pasta, consider using pasta made from black bean flour or chickpea flour. When carefully prepared (and not overcooked), these pastas can still provide the texture and satisfaction of traditional pasta. Bean-based pastas will have plenty of protein (25 grams) and lots of fiber (13 grams) without all the gluten and carbohydrates. The drawback with bean-based pastas is the cost. While traditional pasta can cost as little as $1 per box, chickpea and black bean pastas are more than $3 per box.
Health Topic of the Month: Autism
Generally, 1 in every 42 boys is on the autism spectrum, and 1 in every 189 girls is on the autism spectrum. So, if you are a grandparent, there’s a good chance that you, or someone you know, has a relative with autism.
Children typically develop autism between the ages of two and three. Autism is characterized by a range of behaviors that include reduced social skills and repetitive behaviors. The term “autism spectrum” is often used when diagnosing the condition. Not all children exhibit the same level of behaviors associated with autism – some may just seem withdrawn or shy while others may have extreme difficulty with everyday life.
A limited number of children with autism also have savant abilities in math, music, and spatial relations. Dustin Hoffman’s portrayal in the film Rainman is based on the savant, Kim Peek, who had an extraordinarily photographic memory.
Dr. Temple Grandin Ph.D., is a well-known author, speaker, and professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University. She is also autistic. Her website, www.templegrandin.com, can provide you with a wealth of knowledge about empowering a child with autism. HBO produced a film about her life in 2010.
(Sources: www.autismspeaks.org; www.mentalhelp.net; www.templegrandin.com)
What is the Special Enrollment for People Affected by Wildfires?
In 2017, several counties in California suffered wildfires. Those fires displaced residents and disrupted their lives. In an effort to ensure everyone has an equal chance to review and change their Medicare plan options, Medicare created a Special Enrollment period. Typically, Medicare Open Enrollment ends on December 7. This year, because of the wildfires, you might still be able to select a Supplemental Medicare Plan, Prescription Drug plan (PDP), or Medicare Advantage plan (MAPD/MA) if you lived in one of the following counties in California: Butte, Lake, Los Angeles, Mendocino, Napa, Nevada, Orange, Riverside, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Solano, Sonoma, Ventura, Yuba.
Do I Qualify?
If you qualified to buy a plan during Open Enrollment (October 15, 2017 to December 7, 2017) and you lived in one of the counties listed above, then you likely qualify, and you can buy or change your plan. The Special Enrollment ends on March 31, 2018.
But I Wasn't Affected by the Fires?
The Special Enrollment is Medicare's way of ensuring that anyone (directly or indirectly) affected by the fires has a chance to buy or change their health plans. There is no need to detail how or why you were affected by wildfires. As long as you tell your agent that you were living in the county during the time of the fires, you will qualify for the Special Enrollment.
I Changed my Plan During Open Enrollment. Can I Switch?
Generally, no. If you made a plan selection during Open Enrollment, then you are not eligible to switch your plan because of the wildfire Special Enrollment.
Does Switching Plans Cost Money?
There is no fee associated with switching your plan. And your Agent cannot charge you a fee for services. Of course, different plans have different pricing structures and you might see a change in costs if you change plans or change insurance companies.
Schedule a Plan Review BEFORE Open Enrollment
If you feel confused by what benefits you can get through your Medicare insurance plan, you're not alone. Most people stumble through Medicare decision-making one time and may never review their options again.
The decision you make at age 65, may not make sense five, ten, or twenty years later. Your finances will most like shift significantly when you retire in your 70s. You might move to a new home in a different city or state. You might lose or gain a spouse.
In addition, Medicare insurance plans will change over time. Costs almost always go up -- either in co-pays or monthly premiums.
If you haven't had a good, long conversation with your insurance agent in the last two or three years, it's likely time to review what options you have.
For example, in 2018, one major insurance carrier is adding a medical alert benefit to its Supplemental plan. And many Advantage plans come with low and no-cost benefits like rides to the doctor, preventative dental care, and vision benefits.
When you sit down with your insurance agent, he or she will review your current plan. Take the following steps to ensure a productive conversation.
- Know the name of all your doctors.
- Bring a list of your current medications and dosage for each drug.
- Write down an estimate of all current medical costs such as dental bills, doctor co-pays, drug co-pays, and drug store items.
Healthy Eating Made Easy
We all know that salad greens and vegetables, like zucchini and carrots, are important. But preparing those vegetables with a sharp knife can mean getting a nasty cut. And chewing all of those raw veggies can be tough if you’ve got some dental problems. So let’s make this easy!
- Start with a handful of greens like spinach or kale. (The greener, the better.)
- Throw those greens in a big bowl.
- Use a spiral slicer to shred hard veggies -- like carrots and zucchini.
- Use kitchen scissors to chop that salad! (It can be a little tiring on your hands.)
- Add your favorite salad dressing.
This is a great way to create a chopped salad without using a giant knife. You’ll get a bite-size salad that’s softer and easier to chew. Add parmesan cheese, cranberries, scallions, or walnuts to enhance the flavors.