Tag Archives: Blood Pressure

Aging with Your Pets

Long View: Aging With Our Pets

My grandparents had a Chihuahua that lived to be 20 years old. Suzy had her own knitted sweaters to wear when she went outside. Every night, Grandma cooked and cut up liver in tiny, bite-sized pieces for Suzy’s dinner.

I’m not sure what the life expectancy and living arrangements for most dogs were in the 1950s and 1960s, but I would wager that Suzy’s life was particularly plush for that era. When I came along in 1968, my parents gave me the middle name of Sue. I often wondered if this was a happy coincidence or a tribute to that beloved Chihuahua.

Today, I have a yellow Labrador retriever puppy named Harvey. Grandpa’s name was Harvey. Touché.

Americans love their pets. Take a stroll through your local big-box pet supplies chain, and the number of things a person can buy for their animals will amaze you. Strollers, raincoats, probiotics, gluten-free and vegan dog food, and even memory foam mattresses. Within just a few miles of my house, Harvey can go to a doggy day camp, swim at an indoor pool just for pooches, and later have his hair and nails done at the pet spa.

Your pet pampers you in different ways. Owning a pet lowers stress, reduces blood pressure, and raises mental sharpness. A study from the University of Missouri-Columbia showed that petting a dog for 15 minutes releases the feel-good hormones serotonin, prolactin, and oxytocin, while also lowering the stress hormone cortisol.

Pets can open up a lonely world and get you out of bed in the morning. Walking a dog (or a cat, if you are particularly brave and the cat is extremely cooperative) is good exercise. Those of us with an empty nest find a new sense of purpose. And nurturing a beloved animal gives us unconditional love in return.

An older person with a pet companion can be a heartwarming love match. I reached out to Stacey Teager, from the Quad City Animal Welfare Center, for some advice for those who are looking to add a pet to their home in later years.

  • Make sure your pet gets regular checkups and immunizations. Have your animal spayed or neutered.
  • Never give your pet “people” medications. Always consult a veterinarian before medicating your pet.
  • Have a plan in place with your family or close friends for caring for your pet should you become sick and need to be hospitalized or stay in a nursing facility.
  • Match your pet with your physical capabilities. My 50-pound Labrador retriever puppy can drag my mother down the sidewalk. This is dangerous for both her and the dog. A quieter, smaller animal is a better choice for her to walk around the neighborhood.
  • Despite my grandmother’s loving intentions, don’t feed your pet table scraps or human food. Animals can get overweight and unhealthy with just a few added ounces. If you like to bake, there are lots of recipes for animal treats that use ingredients found in your pantry.

Lora Felger is a community and broker liaison at Health Alliance. She is the mother of 2 terrific boys, a world traveler, and a major Iowa State Cyclones fan.

Fun Ahead

Social Wellness Month

July is Social Wellness Month, which calls for you to nurture yourself and your relationships through social support.

People with a strong social network tend to live longer, and their heart and blood pressure respond to stress better.

Come Together

 

Strong social networks are associated with better heart and immune system function.

Your Health and Social Support

 

Be aware of commitments and following through to make sure you make commitments you can stand by.

Follow Through for Friends

 

Break the cycle of blame and criticism to own your role in your relationships.

Own Your Role

 

Focus on resolving conflict and fixing your personal flaws instead of trying to fix others.

Focus on Change for You

 

Show your appreciation through words and actions to build healthy relationships.

Sharing Your Appreciation

 

Grow your social network by volunteering or by joining a gym, club or group for a hobby.

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Shop Smart by Reading Labels

Breaking Down Food Labels

While you’re shopping, understanding the nutrition labels on food can help you make smart choices for your family. We can help you make the most of them.

New Food Label for a New Era

In May, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a new Nutrition Facts label with some important improvements:

What's Different?
Image via the FDA

When you see them side by side, you can see that the new label calls out the actual serving size and calories per serving much bigger. At the store, this can quickly help you see how good for you something is in terms of calories, and how much bang for your buck you’re getting in what you buy.

New vs Old Label
Image via the FDA

It also calls out added sugars, which are sugars (like sugar, honey, or corn syrup) that are added to packaged food. Fresh fruit has natural sugars, so juices don’t list the sugar that’s naturally occurring from the fruit as added sugar.

And now it calls out the exact amount of nutrients, like vitamin D, calcium, iron, and potassium.

The FDA’s new labels have also changed serving sizes to better show how much people actually eat of certain foods:

New Serving Sizes
Image via the FDA

While a half a cup of ice cream used to be the recommended serving size, most people are scooping out closer to a cup, so the FDA wanted to make sure you know how many calories you’re actually eating in that bowl of ice cream.

Making the Most of Food Labels

1. Serving Size

Serving SizeWhen you pick something up at the store, start with the serving size on the Nutrition Facts label.

It will tell you the total number of servings in the package, and the new serving size, which better shows how much of it you actually eat.

These serving sizes are standard, so it’s easier for you to compare the calories and nutrients in similar foods to find the healthiest brand for you. Serving sizes also come in measurements you know, like cups, followed by grams.

2. Calories

CaloriesNext, look at the number of calories per serving. Calories are a measure of how much energy you’ll get from food.

Many people eat more calories than they need to, so keeping track of how many you eat can help you with your weight. Most people should eat around 2,000 calories per day.

When you’re looking at the calories, if you’re eating around 2,000 calories a day, then 40 calories is low for a serving, 100 calories is in the middle, and 400 or more calories is high. In fact, you should shoot for whole meals to be around 400 calories.

3. Nutrients to Limit

The nutrients listed first are Nutrients to Limitones that most Americans get plenty or too much of.

Eating too much fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, or sugar can raise your risk of certain diseases, like heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

The bold headlines are most helpful for you when you’re shopping, so you can quickly see how much of these is in something, while the subheads, like saturated and trans fat, can help you focus on a nutrient you’re interested in.

The percentages along the side tell you how much of your 2,000 calorie diet this food takes up. So in this image, the total fat in this food takes up 10% of all the fat you should eat in a whole day.

Dietary fiber and protein that are mixed into this list are good for you and important to keep an eye on. Fiber can help you better process food and reduce the risk of heart disease, and protein can help you stay full longer and is important if you’re trying to build muscle.

4. Nutrients You Need

Important NutrientsThe bottom section of nutrients are ones that many don’t get enough of, so they’ve been highlighted to help you buy foods rich in them.

These are nutrients that can help you improve your health and help lower the risk of some diseases. For example, calcium and vitamin D can help you build strong bones and lower your risk of getting osteoporosis later in life, and potassium can help lower your blood pressure.

5. Footnote

Label FootnoteThe footnote is more simple in the new design, too. It just reminds you that the percentages are based on a 2,000 calorie per day diet.

Now that you know what the different sections of the Nutrition Facts label are telling you, it will be easy to look for food with good calorie counts, limited salt, fat, and sugar, and plenty of healthy nutrients, like calcium.

Up Next:

Why shop organic? Our Organic 101 guide makes it easy!

Make sense of expiration dates while you’re shopping to make the most of your groceries.

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Protect Your Health for Dairy Month

Dairy Month

June is Dairy Month. Do you know why you should be getting dairy in your diet?

Calcium in dairy helps build your bones and teeth and prevent breaks.

The Benefits of Dairy

 

Dairy is especially important for kids. It helps build bone mass while they’re young.

Dairy and Your Kids

 

A diet with dairy in it helps reduce your risk of osteoporosis later in life.

Dairy In Your Diet

 

Dairy, especially yogurt and milk, is rich in potassium, which helps with your blood pressure.

A diet with dairy in it helps reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and high cholesterol.

Yogurt and Milk's Benefits

 

The vitamin D in dairy helps your body maintain calcium and protect your bones.

Building Stronger Bones

 

A diet with dairy in it also helps lower your risk of type 2 diabetes.

Preventing Disease with Dairy

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National High Blood Pressure Education Month

National High Blood Pressure Education Month

It’s National High Blood Pressure Education Month. High blood pressure increases your stroke risk, and every 40 seconds, an American has a stroke. Learn more.

High Blood Pressure's Risk

 

The Dangers of Strokes for Women

Do you understand your blood pressure? Learn more now.

Understanding Blood Pressure

 

High Blood Pressure's Risk

Break down your risk of high blood pressure to understand it better.

Breaking Down Why Your Blood Pressure’s High

 

Your Age and Strokes

Learn to eat right and exercise to fight high blood pressure.

Learn to Eat Right and Exercise for Your Heart

 

 High Blood Pressure's Risk

Tobacco takes a toll on your blood pressure. Learn more and get help quitting.

Tobacco and Your Heart

 

Learn About High Blood Pressure

This handy guide helps break down the info around your blood pressure meds.

Your Meds and Your Heart

 

High Blood Pressure's Risk

We’ve got quick tips to help you cut back on salt for your blood pressure without losing flavor:

Cutting Back on Salt for Your Heart

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Healthy Hearts for American Heart Month

American Heart Month 2015

February is American Heart Month, so we gave you info to protect your heart each day.

Get your blood pressure checked so you know your risk.

Taking Your Blood Pressure

 

Visit your doctor regularly and know your cholesterol to protect your heart.

Learning About Cholesterol

 

Eating a healthy diet helps protect you from all kinds of health problems, including your heart health. Find recipes.

Heart Healthy Dieting

 

Smoking affects not just your lungs, but also your heart. Quit before it’s too late.

Cancer and Smoking

 

Heart disease is the #1 killer of women. Find info and help tailored to you and Go Red.

Women and Their Hearts

 

Getting healthy through diet, exercise, quitting, and managing your stress is the best way to protect your heart. The American Heart Association can help.

Who do you know that’s been touched by heart disease? Does it run in your family? Help fight the disease.

Give to Protect Hearts

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Healthy Life Choices

Being the Healthiest Version of Yourself

As you make your New Year’s Resolutions this year, we want to help! Not only do we help you get the medical care and preventive care that keep you healthy, we also want to help you make healthy life choices. 

Eating Healthy

A healthy diet and good nutrition can both help you be the best that you can be, a key part of making healthy life choices.

  • Eating a diet rich in vegetables and fruits can reduce the risk of heart disease, including heart attack and stroke
  • Eating a diet rich in certain vegetables and fruits may protect against certain types of cancer
  • Diets rich in healthy fiber can reduce the risk of heart disease, obesity, and Type 2 diabetes
  • Eating vegetables rich in potassium can lower blood pressure, decrease bone loss, and the risk of kidney stones

We know that knowing what to eat or finding healthy recipes can be hard. But making small changes in diet can affect your health in a big way, and we have people to help.

Members can call our Quality & Medical Management Department at 1-800-851-3379, ext. 8112 for more information. You can also check this blog regularly, follow our Twitter and Facebook for weekly recipes, or look at our Pinterest for hundreds of recipes and resources.

Getting In Shape

Exercise is also an important part of being the healthiest you can be. Regular physical activity provides a variety of benefits, like:

  • Controlling your weight
  • Reducing your risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Reducing your risk of Type 2 diabetes
  • Reducing your risk of some cancers
  • Strengthening your bones and muscles
  • Improving your mental health and mood
  • Improving your ability to do daily activities or prevent falls as an older adult
  • Increasing your chance of living longer

Clearly fitness can improve your health, but we know that gym memberships and workout equipment can be expensive.

That’s why we have teamed up with a number of gyms and fitness locations to give our members discounted memberships and rates. Look at that list and find a location that fits into your budget.

Learn more about health and wellness with Health Alliance.