Tag Archives: medications

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.

Avoiding Kidney Disease

National Kidney Disease Awareness Month

March is National Kidney Disease Awareness Month, and it’s time to get the facts.

You could be at risk for kidney disease if you have diabetes, high blood pressure, or a family history of it.

Diabetes Management

 

Early stages of the disease have no signs or symptoms, so talk to your doctor about testing if you’re at risk.

A healthy diet and lifestyle is important to protect your kidneys, especially if you have diabetes or high blood pressure.

Conditions that Affect Kidney Disease

 

You might be asking, how can I keep my kidneys healthy? Your lifestyle choices and doctor can help.

Lifestyle Choices to Fight Kidney Disease

 

Who can you turn to if you’re diagnosed with kidney disease? Make sense of the types of providers who can help.

Providers Who Can Help

 

If you have this disease, it’s important to know which medicines you can take without hurting your kidneys.

Medications and Your Kidneys

 

This disease can also lead to kidney failure, which is extremely serious. Protect yourself before then.

Fight Kidney Failure

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Smart Caffeine Consumption

National Caffeine Month

It’s National Caffeine Month, and you should know how much is safe. How much is too much?

Up to 400 mg a day is safe for most healthy adults, which is roughly 4 cups of coffee, 10 cans of cola, or 2 energy shot drinks. But remember, there is more than just caffeine in those drinks.

Caffeine Overload

 

Caffeine’s not a good idea for kids. You should try to limit them to no more than 100 mg per day.

Kids and Energy Drinks

 

Drinking too much has side effects, like making you jittery, nervous, and irritable and upsetting your stomach.

Too much can also give you muscle tremors, including a fast heartbeat. Cutting back can also help with heart arrhythmia.

Your Heart and Caffeine

 

It might also be to blame if you always have problems falling asleep, and getting enough sleep is important.

Sleep Deprivation from Caffeine

 

Some medications and supplements may interact with caffeine, including some antibiotics, theophylline, and Echinacea.

Echinacea Supplements

 

Find ways to cut back, and you’ll also probably be cutting back on sugar.

Cutting Caffeine

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In Case of Medical Emergency

Long View: What Is a Medical Emergency?

According to Medicare.gov, a medical emergency is a situation where “[Y]ou believe you have an injury or illness that requires immediate medical attention to prevent a disability or death.”

It seems pretty straightforward, so why are there so many questions around the decision to get treatment at your local emergency room?

An emergency room (ER) provides some of the most sophisticated diagnostic options in a hospital and the most immediate care to patients in crisis.

The list of possible emergencies is endless, so it’s important for you to recognize how serious your injury or illness is and to know the best way to get treatment for it.

Many of us have heard about folks with medical emergencies driving themselves to get treatment or catching a ride with a family member. Please don’t. Driving yourself puts you and others in jeopardy and delays the start of your treatment. Dialing 911 brings you the treatment quickly and gets you to an emergency room faster than a white-knuckle trip across town, dodging traffic lights.

Dr. Frank Friedman, one of our medical directors who specializes in emergency care, said, “A true emergency is one that can’t wait. It is something causing such severe pain or such a risk to life or limb, for oneself or a loved one, that it can’t wait hours, or a day or two, to be seen by one’s own doctor or healthcare provider.”

If it’s not an emergency but you need medical care to keep an illness or injury from getting worse, call your doctor. If your doctor can’t see you right away or the office is closed, urgent care (or convenient care) can help you get treatment quickly.

Over the years, I have heard some interesting and alarming questions from our members. This FAQ can help answer those questions.

Q. I just got one of your policies, and I’m having severe chest pain. Will you cover me for an ER visit?

A. This is one of the most unsettling questions we receive. If you’re experiencing severe chest pain, don’t call your plan, call 911. It’s as simple as that.

Q. Do I have to pay a copay when I get there?

A. No, they should be able to bill you, so there’s no reason to wave your credit card around as they wheel you through the front door. In fact, under federal law, an ER has to evaluate and stabilize you in an emergency medical situation, without regard for your ability to pay.

Q. What if I have special conditions they need to know about?

A. Keep a list of your medications with you. MedicAlert’s medical IDs or the Yellow Dot program can also help you share this information. And many smart phones have features that let you add emergency contacts and medical information. Plan ahead.

Q. What are some examples of when I should go to the ER and when I should go to my doctor or urgent care?

A. Visit the ER for emergencies like chest pain, broken bones, poisoning, shortness of breath, fainting, and seizures. For things like a constant fever, strep throat, sprains, the cold or flu, earaches, or minor infections like pink eye, call your doctor or visit urgent care.

Will you recognize a medical emergency? Probably yes, so trust your judgment, act quickly, and please be careful out there.

Patrick Harness is a community liaison with a long history of experience in health insurance. If you ask him to pick a color, he always chooses orange, and he is known for his inability to parallel park.

Make a Difference for Cleft and Craniofacial Awareness

Cleft and Craniofacial Awareness and Prevention Month

July is National Cleft and Craniofacial Awareness and Prevention Month. We had more info each day on these issues and how you can help!

Each year, about 4,400 infants in the U.S. are born with a cleft lip or palate. Donate now.

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Clefts are a hole or notch in the lip, palate, or ridge, and they can happen together. They vary in seriousness and treatments. Learn more from the CDC.

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The National Birth Defects Prevention Study (NBDPS) helps learn about prevention for cleft lips and palates. They have found that diabetes, smoking, thyroid disease, and certain medications during pregnancy can increase chances.

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Books like Wonder can help teach your kids about facial differences, which helps with awareness and acceptance of cleft lips and palates.

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Some who adopt get kids dealing with cleft lips or palates, but this Q&A can help you learn more about the issues.

A young baby with a cleft palate looking over the shoulder of her mother

 

Learn how you can make a difference and do cleft lip and palate community outreach with Pathfinder.

Join a family-to-family connection from cleftAdvocate to get help with questions anytime.

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Healthy Vision Month

Healthy Vision Month

May is Healthy Vision Month, so we had more info about protecting your eyes each day.

Taking care of your eyes is important at every age. Routine eye exams are especially important with kids who might not know or be able to tell you if something’s wrong with their vision. Learn more.

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Your medical history isn’t just important to your primary doctor. Things like your family’s history, diabetes, high blood pressure, and certain medications can affect your eyes too.

Eye exams check for lots of things, like making sure your pupil reacts correctly to light and your side vision, which the loss of can point to glaucoma.

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Eye exams can also check for more rare problems, like colorblindness with simple tests like this one:

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The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends an eye disease screening for adults by age 40, when signs of the disease and changes in vision from age start to occur. Talk to your doctor and protect your vision!

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Your eye doctor uses regular eye exams to both prescribe glasses and to make sure that prescription stays up-to-date so you can always see your best.

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Keeping up with your glasses or contacts’ prescription and having clean habits with your contacts are important to protecting your vision.

Close-up of two contact lenses with drops on light background.

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Women's Health and Taking Control

National Women’s Health Week

Next week is National Women’s Health Week, so had more info on the subject each day this week.

Are you wondering what steps you should be taking for better health? It’s different for every age. Find out what you should be doing.

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Did you know your annual well-woman visit is covered by your insurance? Don’t let anything stand in the way for getting screened. Things to know about your visit:

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Get active! You can reduce your risk of many diseases by exercising for just 30 minutes a day. So skip that Friends rerun and get busy:

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Your mental health and stress can hurt your physical health, and women are more likely to have anxiety and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)sm. Tips to take care of your brain too:

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Risky actions are unhealthy for you, and your family. Protect them by making smart choices:

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What you put in your body matters, and you have to make those decisions 200 times a day! Make smart ones for better health:

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Take the National Women’s Health Week pledge to join women across the nation who are coming together to take a step towards better health.

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