Monday, October 24, 2011

Health Care and Medicare Advantage Plans

When you turn 65, you are eligible for Medicare. There are Parts A, B, C, and D. Each part acts on its own merit, but interact with each other to help reduce the cost of health care for seniors. According to, Part A is hospital insurance that helps cover inpatient care in hospitals, skilled nursing facility, hospice, and home health care. Part B helps cover medically-necessary services like doctors' services, outpatient care, home health services, and other medical services. Part B also covers some preventive services. A Medicare Advantage Plan (like an HMO or PPO) is another Medicare health plan choice you may have as part of Medicare. Medicare Advantage Plans, sometimes called “Part C” or “MA Plans,” are offered by private companies approved by Medicare. Part D is for prescription drug coverage. For more details about Medicare in general, run by the CMS, visit this site:
What is a Medicare Advantage Plan (Part C)?

A Medicare Advantage Plan (like an HMO or PPO) is another Medicare health plan choice you may have as part of Medicare. Medicare Advantage Plans, sometimes called “Part C” or “MA Plans,” are offered by private companies approved by Medicare. If you join a Medicare Advantage Plan, the plan will provide all of your Part A (Hospital Insurance) and Part B (Medical Insurance) coverage. Medicare Advantage Plans may offer extra coverage, such as vision, hearing, dental, and/or health and wellness programs. Most include Medicare prescription drug coverage (Part D). Medicare pays a fixed amount for your care every month to the companies offering Medicare Advantage Plans. These companies must follow rules set by Medicare. However, each Medicare Advantage Plan can charge different out-of-pocket costs and have different rules for how you get services (like whether you need a referral to see a specialist or if you have to go to only doctors, facilities, or suppliers that belong to the plan for non‑emergency or non-urgent care). These rules can change each year. This site from has more details:

Medicare Advantage plans are privately run versions of the government's Medicare program. They are subsidized by the government and offer basic Medicare coverage topped with extras or premiums lower than standard Medicare rates, according to the Chicago Business Journal. The Kaiser Family Foundation has a good overview at this site: .

What Does a Medicare Advantage Plan Cost?

Each month, Medicare pays your advantage plan a fixed amount of money to provide your care, according to About Health Insurance. The advantage plan is then responsible for paying your doctor, hospital, and other providers of care. Although your advantage plan must follow Medicare’s rules, it can charge you a premium and additional out-of-pocket expenses, such as a copayment for a doctor visit, coinsurance for durable medical equipment (such as a wheelchair), and an annual deductible for prescription medications. You also are responsible for your Medicare Part B monthly premium, which is taken out of your social security check.

How Do You Join a Medicare Advantage Plan?

Generally, you can join a Medicare Advantage Plan if you have Medicare Part A and Part B and you live in an area where there is an advantage plan that accepts new members. Some plans only cover certain counties within a state and you must live in one of those counties where the plan is offered. Some Medicare Advantage Plans hold local seminars to introduce their plans and you can get and complete a paper application at that time. You also can enroll by calling the plan, visiting the plan’s website, or on The Medicare site also lets you compare plans in your area. You also can join by calling Medicare at 800-633-4227.

If you are switching to a different advantage plan, all you have to do is join the new plan and you will automatically be disenrolled from your old plan. You will not have any lapse in your coverage. Medicare limits when you can join, switch, or drop a Medicare Advantage Plan. You can join a plan when you first become eligible for Medicare. This is anytime beginning three months before the month you turn 65 and ends three months after the month you turned 65. For example, if you turn 65 on April 28th, your eligibility period starts on January 1st and ends on July 30th. If you are disabled and have Social Security Disability Insurance, you can join an advantage plan three months before to three months after your 25th month of disability. More details can be found at this site:

When you enroll in any Medicare Advantage plan, you will still get all Original Medicare covered services, but you may also obtain extra benefits and services not offered by Original Medicare, and/or you may be able to reduce your out-of-pocket costs. The extra benefits and services you receive and/or the amount of money you save will depend on which Medicare Advantage plan you choose, according to

Caution: Keep in mind, though, that because private insurance companies offer Medicare Advantage plans, they can change the extra benefits provided by the plan and decide (on an annual basis) whether they will continue participating in Medicare. Health care providers can also join or leave the plan at any time.

Caution: Depending on the Medicare Advantage plan you choose, you may decide to cancel an existing Medigap policy because you will no longer be able to use the additional coverage the policy provides. However, you should be aware that if you do so, you may be unable to get it back except in certain situations. If you've just become eligible for Medicare or if it is the first time you've enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, you may have special Medigap protections during your first year of coverage.

There are different types of Medicare Advantage plan, according to
•Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) Plans

•Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) Plans
•Private Fee-for-Service (PFFS) Plans
•Special Needs Plans (SNP)

Other, less common types of Medicare Advantage Plans include:
•HMO Point-of-Service (POS) Plans -- An HMO plan that may allow you to get some services out-of-network for a higher cost.
•Medical Savings Account (MSA) Plans -- An MSA plan combines a high deductible health plan with a bank account.

Tip: If you enroll in a Medicare Advantage private fee-for-service plan, you don't need a Medigap policy, and it generally isn't legal for any company to sell you one. However, you can keep an existing Medigap policy if you so choose, but your Medigap policy cannot reimburse you for any out-of-pocket costs you have under your Medicare Advantage plan.

Your out-of-pocket costs depend on:

•Whether the plan charges a monthly premium in addition to your Part B premium
•Whether the plan pays any of the monthly Part B premium (some plans offer this option, usually for an additional cost)
•Whether the plan has a yearly deductible or any additional deductibles
•How much you pay for each visit or service (copayments)
•The type of health care services you need and how often you get them
•Whether you follow the plan's rules, like using network providers
•Whether you need the additional benefits and if the plan charges for it
•The plan's yearly limit on your out-of-pocket costs for all medical services

There's a lot to consider when deciding which Medicare option is right for you, according to this site: Here are some questions to ask during the decision-making process:

•How much is the premium?
•Will you need to satisfy a deductible or pay copayment or coinsurance costs?
•Does the plan cover the additional benefits or services you need (such as coverage for vision, hearing, dental, or health and wellness programs)?
•Does the plan offer prescription drug coverage (most Medicare Advantage plans do)?
•Are you satisfied with your care? Medicare now ranks Medicare health plans from one to five stars.
•Do the healthcare providers you normally see participate in the plan?
•If your doctor leaves the plan, are you okay with changing doctors?
•Do you travel out of your service area a lot? If so, keep in mind that Medicare Advantage plans are only required to cover you for emergency care and urgently needed care outside your plan's service area.
•Are you okay with the fact that the plan's benefits and costs generally change each year?

According to, Medicare has a number of enrollment periods, including the initial enrollment period, general enrollment period, special enrollment period, and an Annual Election Period. The Medicare Annual Election Period is from October 15 until December 7, 2011, which is a month earlier than in previous years. During this enrollment period you can enroll in Medicare, add, drop, or change coverage. You need to consider all the aspects of your plan and compare it to other plans during this period. There might be a plan that works better for your medical needs. If you have Original Medicare and Medicare Part D Drug Plan there might be a Medicare Advantage Plan that would work better for you. Likewise if you have a Medicare Advantage Plan you might find that changing to Original Medicare works best.

Another thing you should be aware of with regard to a Medicare Advantage Plan is that no one should call or come to your home to sell you a Medicare plan. If someone does, do not give them any personal information. You should only give such information to doctors, health care providers, and plans approved by Medicare. Medicare plans are not allowed to ask you for financial information like credit card numbers or bank information over the phone or via email unless you are already a plan member. You cannot be enrolled in a plan over the phone unless you contact the company to enroll. If they call you, you should be suspicious. To fight fraud be sure to ask questions, educate yourself about Medicare, and beware of providers who discuss items that are not covered, but suggest they can get coverage for those items. Much more indepth material can be found at this site:

Medicare Advantage plans are critical for you to save money on medical expenses not covered by Parts A and B. When you consider the plethora of plans in the market place, make sure you do a lot of homework as the choices are multiple in price, scope, and included benefits. And, look for a plan with a high STAR rating from CMS. That way, even though you may pay more for the coverage, you are assured of getting a very good plan. Don't play games with Medicare Advantage plans, as a small mistake may cost you quite a bit later on if you have health care issues that require extra attention.

Until next time.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Health Care and Snoring

Millions of Americans suffer from lack of sleep due to a spouse or partner who snores while sleeping. Snoring is a problem that is the cause of many couples having relationship issues especially if the guilty party does nothing to correct it. Snoring leads to other health care issues as well and can be a medical problem in extreme cases.

According to the Mayo Clinic, snoring is the hoarse or harsh sound that occurs when your breathing is obstructed in some way while you're sleeping. Sometimes snoring may indicate a serious health condition. As many as half of adults snore at least occasionally. Snoring occurs when air flows past relaxed tissues in your throat, causing the tissues to vibrate as you breathe, which creates those irritating sounds. Lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, avoiding alcohol close to bedtime or sleeping on your side, can help stop snoring. In addition, medical devices and surgery are available that may reduce disruptive snoring. However, these aren't suitable or necessary for everyone who snores. 

If snoring happens frequently it can affect the quantity and quality of your sleep and that of other family members, according to Poor sleep can lead to daytime fatigue, irritability, and increased health problems. If your snoring keeps your partner awake, it can also create major relationship problems; but thankfully, sleeping in separate bedrooms doesn’t have to be the remedy for your snoring. In fact, there are many effective solutions available. Once you find cure that works best to stop your snoring, you’ll vastly improve your health, your relationships, and, of course, your sleep.

According to Help Guide, not all snoring is the same. Everyone snores for different reasons. When you get to the bottom of why you snore, then you can find the right solutions to a quieter, deeper sleep. People who snore often have too much throat and nasal tissue, or “floppy” tissue that is more prone to vibrate. The position of your tongue can also get in the way of smooth breathing. Evaluating how and when you snore will help you pinpoint whether the cause of your snoring is within your control or not. The good news is that no matter how and when you snore, there are solutions to making your snoring better. Snoring happens when you can't move air freely through your nose and mouth during sleep. It’s caused by a narrowing of your airway, either from poor sleep posture or abnormalities of the soft tissues in your throat. A narrow airway gets in the way of smooth breathing and creates the sound of snoring.

According to the Mayo Clinic, risk factors that may contribute to snoring include:

--Being a man. Men are more likely to snore or have sleep apnea than are women.
--Being overweight. People who are overweight or obese are more likely to snore or have obstructive sleep apnea.
--Having a narrow airway. Some people have large tonsils or adenoids, while others may have a long soft palate, which can narrow the airway and cause snoring.
--Drinking alcohol. Alcohol relaxes your throat muscles, increasing the risk of snoring.
--Having nasal problems. If you have a structural defect in your airway, such as a deviated septum, or your nose is chronically stuffed, your risk of snoring is greater.

According to Help Guide, snoring also could indicate sleep apnea, a potentially life-threatening condition that requires medical attention. Sleep apnea is a breathing obstruction, causing the sleeper to keep waking up to begin breathing again. Normal snoring doesn’t interfere with the quality of your sleep as much as sleep apnea, so if you’re suffering from extreme fatigue and sleepiness during the day, your problem may be more than just snoring. Significant detailed information about snoring can be found at this site:

According to WebMD, snoring has a tendency to worsen with age. Forty-five percent of adults snore occasionally, while 25% are considered habitual snorers. Occasional snoring is usually not very serious and is mostly a nuisance for the bed partner of the person who snores. However, the habitual snorer not only disrupts the sleep patterns of those close to him, he also disturbs his own. Habitual snorers snore whenever they sleep and are often tired after a night of what seems like quality rest. Medical assistance is usually needed for habitual snorers to get a good night's sleep.

What Are the Health Risks of Snoring?

According to WebMD, habitual snorers can be at risk for serious health problems. Obstructive sleep apnea is an illness that is often associated with chronic snoring. This condition creates several problems, including:

1.) Long interruptions of breathing (more than 10 seconds) during sleep caused by partial or total obstruction or blockage of the airway. Serious cases can have total blockage episodes hundreds of times per night.

2.) Frequent waking from sleep, even though he or she may not realize it.

3.) Snorers with obstructive sleep apnea sleep lightly to try to keep their throat muscles tense enough to maintain airflow.

4.) Blood oxygen levels are often lowered, which causes the heart to pump harder and blood pressure to rise. The result is a poor night's sleep, which leads to drowsiness during the day and can interfere with the persons quality of life. Prolonged suffering from obstructed sleep apnea will result in higher blood pressure and may cause enlargement of the heart, with higher risks of heart attack and stroke.

5.) The stress of not getting enough oxygen causes the body to produce adrenalin, a chemical that helps our bodies fight and cope with stressful situations. Adrenalin also causes blood sugar to rise, which may eventually lead to diabetes.

According to WebMD, if you occasionally snore, you can try the following behavior changes to help treat the problem:

--Lose weight and improve your eating habits.
--Avoid tranquilizers, sleeping pills, and antihistamines before you go to bed.
--Avoid alcohol, heavy meals, or snacks at least four hours before you sleep.
--Establish regular sleeping patterns. For example, try to go to bed at the same time every night.
--Sleep on your side rather than on your back.
--Prop the head of your bed -- not just your pillows -- up four inches.

If none of the above mentioned behavioral changes help snoring, talk to your doctor. Otolaryngologists (ear, nose, and throat doctors) offer a variety of treatment options that may reduce or eliminate snoring or sleep apnea. There are more than 300 devices on the market to help prevent snoring; however, none of these devices address all of the underlying anatomical problems that cause snoring (such as nasal obstruction and being overweight). Surgery may be needed to correct physical problems.

If you or your spouse are dealing with a serious snoring problem, visit your primary care physician or a specialist who can provide professional medical advice about this health care issue. Prolonging lack of treatment may result in more serious health problems, especially when you get older. Plus, getting a great night of uninterrupted sleep is worth the money. Your partner will love you more for it.
Until next time.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Health Care and Oxygen

Oxygen is essential to life. It is a fundamental part of what keeps you living. This gas, when absent, extinguishes the ability for you to breath; and, according to the Jefferson Lab, the root meaning comes from the greek words oxys and genes, which together mean "acid forming."  The gas Oxygen had been produced by several chemists prior to its discovery in 1774, but they failed to recognize it as a distinct  or separate element. One very detailed site about oxygen can be found at

Oxygen is the third most abundant element in the universe and makes up nearly 21% of the earth's atmosphere. Oxygen accounts for nearly half of the mass of the earth's crust, two thirds of the mass of the human body and nine tenths of the mass of water. Large amounts of oxygen can be extracted from liquefied air through a process known as fractional distillation. Oxygen can also be produced through the electrolysis of water or by heating potassium chlorate (KClO3). Oxygen is a highly reactive element and is capable of combining with most other elements. It is required by most living organisms and for most forms of combustion. Impurities in molten pig iron are burned away with streams of high pressure oxygen to produce steel. Oxygen can also be combined with acetylene (C2H2) to produce an extremely hot flame used for welding. Liquid oxygen, when combined with liquid hydrogen, makes an excellent rocket fuel. Ozone (O3) forms a thin, protective layer around the earth that shields the surface from the sun's ultraviolet radiation. Oxygen is also a component of hundreds of thousands of organic compounds, according to the Jefferson Lab.

But more importantly, oxygen sustains life. Without a doubt, oxygen is the most essential element for all existence, according to the Global Healing Center. Through normal oxidation (the chemical union of an element with oxygen, such as what occurs during digestion, burning, or rusting), the universe regenerates by breaking down and reconstructing itself over and over infinitely. The life-enhancing element O2 (two atoms of oxygen joined as one molecule) is a critical component of the air you breathe. It is the element that sustains you. It is what you use to digest food and to break down toxins in your bodies so that they can be removed. Sometimes these things don't work so well.

•Pollutants in the air that you breathe, especially from your internal environments, reduce the level of oxygen available to you.
•Infirmities in our bodies can make it difficult to breathe at all, and can make it difficult to fully use the oxygen that you breathe in.

Oxygen bars have become increasingly popular among urban hipsters, and new bars keep popping up all over major cities, according to Claiming to energize, relax and invigorate, these bars have fiercely loyal customers and are pulling in a fortune. But is paying for oxygen a breath of fresh air or just a load of hot air? Customers have the option of breathing unscented oxygen or choosing from a variety of fragrances. A session usually lasts from five to 20 minutes, and costs about $1 per minute. A regular user may come to a bar up to three times a week. Some oxygen bars offer other services, such as massages, health food and energy drinks. Most oxygen bars use a concentrator machine that filters out nitrogen and other atmospheric gases to produce oxygen that is about 95% pure.
Oxygen bar proponents claim that purified oxygen produces a blitz of health benefits, including:

--Reduced stress
--Increased energy
--Increased alertness
--Alleviation of the symptoms of hangovers, headaches and sinus problems.

While some people claim to feel long-term effects, others report feeling no difference. Some say it helps them sleep better and wake up with more drive. Bar owners also say their usual clientele includes marathon runners, students (before big tests) and older couples (before having sex). However, scientific data says that purified oxygen does very little, as our blood is already saturated with 99% oxygen. Any effect that may occur would dissipate within a few minutes, as the blood re-circulates. Although oxygen bars offer a respite from the many air pollutants found in large cities, many believe that it's the same as stepping into any building or car with an air filtration system.

Dr. Ron Balkissoon, a pulmonologist at the National Jewish Medical and Research Center in Denver, says that excess oxygen can increase the production of free radicals, those pesky overactive molecules that can greatly damage tissue over time. If you know your nutrition, you should eat lots of antioxidants to prevent free radicals. Balkissoon also says that too much oxygen can cause pulmonary edema, or fluid in the lungs.

Scented oxygen can also be dangerous, especially if the fragrance is oil-based. Dr. Norman Edelman, consultant for scientific affairs with the American Lung Association, says that tiny droplets of oil can accumulate in the lungs, and result in a kind of pneumonia called lipoid pneumonia. If that's not enough, excessive oxygen can be harmful for people with respiratory problems like emphysema. Those with medical conditions requiring oxygen should have it dispensed by a doctor.

According to Discovery Fit & Health, the average adult at rest inhales and exhales something like 7 or 8 liters (about one-fourth of a cubic foot) of air per minute. That totals something like 11,000 liters of air (388 cubic feet) in a day. The air that is inhaled is about 20-percent oxygen, and the air that is exhaled is about 15-percent oxygen, so about 5-percent of the volume of air is consumed in each breath and converted to carbon dioxide. Therefore, a human being uses about 550 liters of pure oxygen (19 cubic feet) per day. A person who is exercising obviously uses a lot more oxygen than that.

Some patients under certain types of heath care regimens use oxygen therapy, which can be self administered at home, according to Health Day News. If you're using at-home oxygen therapy, remember that you'll need to be very cautious around anything that has a flame or can ignite. The ADAM Encyclopedia offers these safety suggestions:
--Make sure there are working smoke detectors throughout your home, and keep a fire extinguisher handy.
--Never smoke or allow smoking around the oxygen; stay a minimum of 6 feet from any smoker.
--Keep the oxygen at least 6 feet from any fireplace, stove or electric appliance such as a hairdryer, electric toothbrush or razor, electric blanket, electric toy, space heater or electric baseboard heater.
--Keep the oxygen as far away as possible from an oven or stove while cooking, and be very wary of grease splatters.
--Keep the oxygen away from any flammable liquid.

Oxygen is critical to sustain life. Without it, cells in the human body begin to atrophy and die. You can only survive a few minutes without oxygen, but too much of it is also dangerous. Your body was made to consume just the right amount, but sometimes that perfect level changes due to illness or other stressors in your body. If you have health care challenges that are causing difficulty in breathing or other medical problems, see your doctor to find out what is causing the problem. Oxygen is one luxury you cannot afford to lose.
Until next time.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Health Care and Sitting Too Long

Men and women who work in offices have long felt the effects of sitting too long at their desks. Back and neck pain are common, and stiff muscles and joints creak when you get up and walk just for even a short distance away from your desk. Chronic health issues can also result from sitting too long in one position without moving. Health care professionals warn against the lack of movement when you are sitting in one position for long stretches of time.

Do you have a pain in the rear that isn't caused by your boss? This literal pain in the buttocks could signal an inflamed piriformis muscle, which helps stabilize the hip, leg and pelvic area. The piriformis, often overlooked as a cause of sciatica, can become inflamed, usually from sitting too long or rotating the leg outward (as when driving). When inflamed, the muscle can harden and press on the sciatic nerve, causing sciatica pain in the buttocks that radiates down the leg to the ankle or middle of the foot. It may be felt in the lower back, too. Sitting usually makes it worse, while standing or walking often makes it feel better. The good news from the Arthritis Foundation is that the sciatica caused by an inflamed piriformis usually does not require surgery. It can be relieved by ice or heat; nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin or ibuprofen; physical therapy, including deep massage and range-of-motion exercises; and corticosteroid injections, according to Health Scout.

According to WebMD Health News, too much sitting isn’t ideal. Now a new study suggests it’s not just the length of time you spend sitting down, but the number of times you get up during that time that can influence your health. The study, published online in the European Heart Journal, examined the total length of time people spent sitting down and breaks taken in that time, together with various indicators of risk for heart disease, metabolic diseases such as diabetes, and inflammatory processes that can play a role in the blocking of arteries. It suggests that plenty of breaks, even if they are as short as one minute, seem to be beneficial.

Scientists are increasingly warning that sitting for prolonged periods — even if you also exercise regularly — could be bad for your health, according to a report in USA Today online. And it doesn't matter where the sitting takes place — at the office, at school, in the car or before a computer or TV — just the overall number of hours it occurs. Research is preliminary, but several studies suggest people who spend most of their days sitting are more likely to be fat, have a heart attack or even die. In an editorial published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, the Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences suggested that authorities rethink how they define physical activity to highlight the dangers of sitting. While health officials have issued guidelines recommending minimum amounts of physical activity, they haven't suggested people try to limit how much time they spend in a seated position.

After four hours of sitting, the body starts to send harmful signals, and genes regulating the amount of glucose and fat in the body start to shut down. Even for people who exercise, spending long stretches of time sitting at a desk is still harmful. Also, according to the World Health Organization, people who exercise every day — but still spend a lot of time sitting — might get more benefit if that exercise were spread across the day, rather than in a single bout.

Australian research found that long periods of sitting down, even in people who did a lot of exercise otherwise, were associated with worse indicators of cardio-metabolic function and inflammation, such as larger waist circumferences, lower levels of HDL ("good") cholesterol, and higher levels of C-reactive protein (an important marker of inflammation) and triglycerides (blood fats). However, the study also found that even in people who spent a long time sitting down, the more breaks they took during this time, the smaller their waists and the lower the levels of C-reactive protein, according to WebMD Health News. The dangers of being too big around the middle are well-documented.

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, high-risk waist circumferences are:
--Over 40 inches for men.
--Over 35 inches for women.

The potential adverse health impact of prolonged sitting (which is something that people do on average for more than half of their day), is only just being realized; and research highlights the importance of considering prolonged sedentary time as a distinct health risk behavior that warrants explicit advice in future public health guidelines. The study suggests even small changes could help, like standing up to take phone calls, walking to see a colleague rather than phoning or emailing, and centralizing trash cans and printers so you have to walk to them. If you’re sitting for long periods, it’s really important you take regular breaks by getting up on your feet. Regular physical activity is essential to protect cardiovascular health.

According to ABC News online, another study published by the American Journal of Epidemiology showed that sitting for long stretches, more than six hours a day, can make someone at least 18 percent more likely to die from diabetes, heart disease and obesity than those sitting less than three hours a day. Doctors say the evolution of technology has impacted the way individuals use their bodies. Humans have moved from the active life of being hunter-gatherers to becoming agriculturalists. The Industrial Revolution moved people to factories and the technological revolution landed workers behind desks and into the culture of sitting too much. Sitting has become a new form of smoking. Smoking was once so common that people were reluctant to see the health hazard it posed.

The American Cancer Society is concerned that public health guidelines do not say enough about time spent sitting down. Sitting for a prolonged period of time, independent of physical activity, has been shown to have important metabolic consequences, and may influence things like triglycerides, high density lipoprotein, cholesterol, fasting plasma glucose, resting blood pressure, and leptin. Government exercise recommendations suggest at least 30 minutes on five days per week of ‘moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity’. They also say 20 minutes of ‘vigorous-intensity’ activity for at least 20 minutes on three days per week would produce similar benefits. Also, diabetes experts point out that sitting is not bad for you in moderation but can be addictive and harmful in the long-run.

A sedentary lifestyle is not just a lifestyle lacking in exercise, according to Dr. Michael Cutler, founder and editor of Easy Health Options™ newsletter—a leading health advisory service on natural healing therapies and nutrients. Rather, it is a set of behaviors that are devoid of whole-body muscle movement and promote bad health. So if you sit for hours watching TV… take long plane or car rides… work long hours sitting at your desk or a computer… or keep your legs and ankles crossed whenever you sit, you could be endangering your health. When you sit for a long period of time, your blood flow can become sluggish and pool in your larger veins. This creates a higher risk of your developing blood clots within your thigh or calf known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT)—a condition in which there is a blood clot in a deep vein (a vein that accompanies an artery).

Close to 2 million people in the United States (U.S.) develop DVT each year, most of whom are 40 years old or older. There is the danger that a leg clot can break free and travel through the blood vessels to the lung, which can be extremely serious and even fatal. At least 200,000 people die each year from blood clots in their lungs—a condition known as a pulmonary embolism (PE). But there are natural ways you can avoid becoming a statistic…

■ Stand, stretch and bend your toes.
■ Walk around every hour or so, if possible.
■ If walking is not an option, then stretch or bounce your legs, wiggle and flex your toes and roll your ankles backward and forward.
■ Keep your weight under control.
■ Drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration that causes blood vessels to become narrow and blood to thicken.
■ Take all-natural blood thinners such as Nattokinase.

The evidence certainly is stacked against all those couch potatoes and office junkies who sit and sit and sit, and never move. They are a walking health time bomb waiting to explode into an early catastrophic medical event. Don't be one of those. Get up and get out. Too much time sitting is proven to be bad for you. Take time to move, to exercise, to get a life.
Until next time.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Health Care and Autumn

Ahhhh, the fall! What a gorgeous time of year. The season is changing, leaves turn colors and start to drop off floating gently to the ground, and the air is a little cooler and crisper than those late summer days of August and September. During Autumn, school is back in session, business starts to rev up for the Holiday Season, and employers start promoting new health care choices and insurance options for their workers. During the fall, more people start to focus on making decisions on what they will do for their primary care coverage for the coming year. Since most Americans now typically are covered by their company where they work for health insurance, Autumn is when most open enrollments take place.

Also, Autumn is when many seasonal health issues appear. According to HubPages, when Autumn is here and the days of a normal and progressive transition between the seasons have long passed, these days there can be drastic weather fluctuations. Here is a list of the most common five afflictions caused by the heavy fluctuations in temperature, humidity and atmospheric pressure that are ever so present in the fall:

1.) The common cold: Rain, strong wind and humidity variations are all factors that contribute to lowering your immune system, making it easier for you to catch a cold. The good thing is these autumn colds usually aren't as sever as those in the winter season, however it is still important to see a doctor and treat them to prevent the risk of a viral infection.

2.) Asthma and other allergic diseases: Autumn just like spring is a season that favors allergies, but out of all the allergies the one that manifests itself most often is asthma, specifically allergic asthma or dry asthma. Allergic asthma doesn't manifest along with bronchitis and thankfully has a seasonal character, the most common symptom being difficulty in breathing.

3.) Gastroduodenal ulcer: Another common disease during this time of year is ulcer, which can have many underlying causes like smoking, alcohol, stress, poor eating habits, chronic diseases, genetical factors or bacterial infections with Helicobacter Pylori. The most common symptoms are variations in appetite, pain and vomiting. Gastric ulcer pains are more common immediately after a meal while duodenal ulcer pains are more common a few hours after a meal. Either way if you experience pain or vomiting after meals you should see your doctor.

4.) Heart failure: Heart failure or cardiac insufficiency can be a real dangerous threat to people with heart problems during the autumn months. The body struggles to adapt to the changes in climate and that can overload the cardiorespiratory system, causing serious consequences. Caution is advised especially during this time of year, as well as strictly following any treatment prescribed.

5.) Rheumatic diseases: Rheumatic diseases such as arthritis are very common as well causing increased sensibility and joint pains due to exposure to low temperatures. Hot baths, acupuncture, anti-inflammatory and analgesic ointments and simply avoiding to go on walks in cold or rainy weather are all measures one can take to avoid suffering the symptoms of this disease.

According to Holistic Health Tools online, this Autumn season follow these tips to help you and yours stay in top health and be your best during the seasonal and all year long:

1.) Flu Shots - Check with your doctor or your local public health department to find out when the annual flu shot is available. If your doctor can give you the shot in the office combine it with a check-up. If your doctor does not give the shot check on local events for flu shot administration. You may also want to get a pneumonia shot also. Remember that the flu shot is recommended for all adults, especially those with a health condition such as diabetes or heart disease that makes them more at risk for the serious complications of the flu.

2.) Exercise - Exercise is important all through the year, but can help you get in shape for the winter months. If you exercise by walking outdoors, it may be time to locate other places you can walk that are protected from harsh winter weather. Indoor shopping malls are great places to walk and often have walkers clubs that offer discounts. With the days getting colder, take a few extra minutes to warm up your body and stretch your muscles before you exercise. Also wear a handkerchief around your nose and mouth if it's really cold to warm up the air before it enters your lungs.

3.) Diet - Add all the fall vegetables to your diet. Many of the root vegetables are in season now and are an inexpensive and nutritious way to add variety to your diet.

4.) Drink More Water – You can experience dehydration even during the winter. Dry central heat robs your body and skin of vital moisture. If you keep hydrated your mucous membranes also stay hydrated, working much more effectively to filter our disease causing organisms. It's also a great way to help prevent nose bleeds which can be common in the Fall.

5.) Sunscreen – Yes, even in the fall and winter months you should be thinking about sunscreen. If you're a skier, don't forget your sunscreen. The snow reflects the sun's rays and can quickly burn your skin. Don't let the cold temperatures fool you.

6.) Second-Hand Smoke - Watch out for the effects of second-hand smoke. During cold weather, you may find yourself behind closed doors and windows with a smoker. Avoid inhaling smoke and check your home for proper ventilation.

7.) Cold and Flu - Cover your face when you sneeze or cough, and wash your hands often to help stop the spread of the season's cold and flu germs. Get a flu shot if you are 65 or older; or if you have a chronic disease of the heart, lungs or kidneys.

8.) Hats and Gloves - Wear a hat and gloves when you go outside. The hat keeps warmth from escaping through the top of your head—a major source of body heat loss. And the gloves help prevent painful frostbite.

Also, be aware of allergies that develop in Autumn. Late Summer and early Autumn bring on another season that triggers allergic reactions. Outdoor molds become plentiful in the fall in gutters, soil, vegetation, rotting wood and fallen leaves. You can reduce your exposure to Fall allergens. For example, avoid being outdoors in the morning hours between 5:00 and 10:00 a.m. when pollen dispersal is peaking; avoid lots and fields where ragweed grows; shower and wash hair immediately after coming in from outside activities, and especially before going to bed; keep the windows and doors of your home and car closed.

Here are a few more suggestions, according to Holistic Health Tools, to take into consideration so that you can enjoy what this time of year has to offer.

--Enjoy the year's most beautiful season. In many parts of the United States, Autumn is a near-sacred season, with its warm, sunny days, cool evenings and postcard perfect colors. Get outside and enjoy the season by bicycling, walking, hiking, jogging, and playing golf and tennis. In many parts of the country, Autumn is synonymous with the apple harvest. Rich in antioxidants and flavonoids, both of which reduce the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, inhibiting the growth of dangerous plaques along blood vessel walls, and dietary fiber, apples are a delicious and nutritious snack that can be enjoyed any time of day. Remember, it is important to do what you can to stay healthy all year long and now is the time to focus on how to stay healthy and well during the approaching Fall and Winter months.

As far as your next year's health coverage is concerned, work with your employer to choose the best plan for you and your family. Be careful not to overlook the bottom line financially of how your health insurance plan affects you for the coming year, and choose wisely when it comes to maximizing all your benefits. Remember, it's your health, and your paycheck. Often, cheaper is not always better. Make good use of the materials provided by your employer and the insurance company in order to pick the plan best suited for you. If you are buying personal health coverage, find an agent you know and can trust to guide you in the right direction. Do your homework, and don't leave the choice up to someone else.

Now, go enjoy the Autumn. Jump into the leaves, take a long drive through the country and look at God's creation. Stop at a local market and sample the Autumn produce, and maybe drink some good apple cider with a cinnamon stick. Visit a pumpkin patch with the kids, or run through a haybale maze. (Just make sure you take your allergy meds before you go). You'll thank yourself that you took time to see, smell, and taste all the good things about Autumn.

Until next time.