All posts by Chad Beyler

Old MacDonald Had a Farm

One of my favorite childhood nursey rhyme songs is “Old MacDonald Had a Farm.” It was super-duper fun to sing ee-i-ee-i-o! Not to mention singing the sounds of some animals he had on his farm. The cows said moo-moo! The chicks said cluck-cluck! And the pigs said oink-oink!

As an adult I wonder, “What other animals did Mr. MacDonald have on his farm?” And did he grow any vegetables? When I attend farmers markets today, I mostly see fresh produce, fruits and vegetables. I also see some value-added products made with the produce, such as canned jams, canned salsa and zucchini breads. I’ve seen one or two farmer vendors that sold frozen beef, chicken and pork. They were no longer saying moo-moo, cluck-cluck, or oink-oink!

The first week of August is National Farmers Market Week. This year, it will be August 2 – 8. Some communities celebrate National Farmers Market Week with fun events, food, music, craft vendors, resource vendors, specials, contests and activities.

Celebrating National Farmers Market Week is a great opportunity to show the nation how much value markets bring to their communities. Farmers markets make positive impacts on their communities’ health and wealth.

Farmers markets help do several things, including the following:

  • Preserve farmland.
  • Stimulate local economies.
  • Increase access to nutritious foods.
  • Support healthy communities.
  • Promote sustainability.

Health Alliance™ supports the purposes of local farmers markets. A partial list of farmers markets in areas we serve includes:

  • Peoria Riverfront Market – Peoria, IL
  • Galesburg Farmers Market – Galesburg, IL
  • Kankakee Farmers Market – Kankakee, IL
  • Edgebrook Farmers Market – Rockford, IL
  • Macomb Farmers Market – Macomb, IL
  • Champaign Farmers Market – Champaign, IL
  • Old Capitol Farmers Market – Springfield, IL
  • Freight House Farmers Market – Davenport, IA

As you visit your local farmers markets, remember Mr. Old MacDonald and his farm. You may even see a friendly face of a local Health Alliance community liaison.

To find nearby farmers markets, you can search on the National Farmers Market Directory website, NFMD.org.

Sherry Gordon-Harris is a Community Liaison at Health Alliance. She’s a wife and mother of two boys. She enjoys traveling, collecting dolls, and hosting princess parties and pageants. Like this article? Feel free to respond to Longview@HealthAlliance.org. Thanks for reading!

Find Shot Schedules

Not Just for Kids: 5 Vaccinations Adults Need

Most adults have at least a faint recollection of childhood immunizations. However, vaccines aren’t just for kids. Read on to discover five important vaccinations for adults, and listen to our related podcast to learn even more.

Dr. Steven D. O’Marro, an expert on infectious diseases at Springfield Clinic in Springfield, Illinois, explains the importance of vaccines. “All of these vaccines represent preventable illnesses,” he notes. “The major advances in medicine that have occurred, that have resulted in improved life expectancy, all relate to many of these vaccines that have been developed. If you look at the Social Security Act that was passed in the 1930s under Franklin Roosevelt, the average life expectancy was somewhere around 50 to 60 years. With the introduction of vaccines and antibiotics, we have seen life expectancy into the 70s and 80s.”

Here are five vaccines adults should be getting—and when they should get them.

Influenza

The annual flu vaccine is developed by researching which influenza strains are likely to affect the population that year. Dr. O’Marro points out that this seasonal vaccine reduces the risk of dying substantially, relative to people who have not had the shot. If a patient does develop the flu and has been vaccinated, they’re less likely to have severe complications.

Dr. O’Marro explains how this vaccine significantly protects older adults. “Influenza behaves kind of like an ice storm in Springfield. It can knock down weak branches, especially with our older adults who have something called age-related immune deficiency and can’t really protect themselves against influenza.”

Tetanus, Diphtheria and Pertussis

This combination vaccine covers three different diseases. Dr. O’Marro explains each, along with their unpleasant symptoms.

“Tetanus is caused by a bacterium found in the soil and once it enters the body, it releases a toxin. The toxin has extreme toxicity at very low concentrations. It can cause muscle spasms and eventually death if untreated, as a consequence of respiratory insufficiency.”

“Diphtheria is a disease that we don’t see very often anymore, but it is still present in the third world. It is a respiratory disease that causes breathing problems and can cause paralysis, heart failure, and death by its ability to link up and interfere with certain types of cellular metabolism. It’s highly contagious, spread by coughing and sneezing.”

“Pertussis is a vaccine to prevent something called whooping cough, which produces significant coughing spasms and significant illness—even coughing significant enough to break ribs in some people who get this illness.”

Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)

HPV is transferred by sexual contact and is linked to genital cancers. The vaccine is important for young women and men who are in their teens to mid-20s. “It is one of the initial vaccines intended to reduce the risk of cancer,” adds Dr. O’Marro.

Pneumonia

Unlike the other vaccines listed, Dr. O’Marro points out that pneumonia vaccines are administered as a consequence of either immune responses or of coincident illnesses such as congestive heart failure or obstructive lung disease. This vaccine reduces risk of sinus infections and pneumonia-related complications.

Shingles

Not only does herpes zoster, commonly known as chicken pox, leave physical scarring in its wake, but it can also make its mark in the genetic code. When shingles develops, it can damage the nerves, eyes or face. “We now have a vaccine [for shingles] that is much like the current influenza vaccine,” Dr. O’Marro shares. “It causes a reaction to the virus that results in an improved immune response and significantly reduces risk of getting shingles.”

Speak to your physician about these vaccines to determine which you may need.

“If you refuse to take advantage of the advances in infectious disease and a prolonged life expectancy,” Dr. O’Marro cautions, “then you really put yourself into the life expectancy tables of the 1930s, and that’s unfortunate.”

Interested in learning more about immunizations? To listen to the full interview with Dr. O’Marro on our podcast, click here.

Want even more information? Check out these additional resources:

  • Listen to this podcast by our partners at Riverside Healthcare to learn more about the importance of the HPV vaccine.
  • Why is the pneumonia vaccine such a lifesaver? Read this short article on OSF HealthCare’s blog.
  • Learn more about shingles on the Sarah Bush Lincoln Health System blog.
  • Read why it’s important to get the flu vaccine in this blog piece from Memorial Health System.
Dr. Steven D. O’Marro, infectious disease expert at Springfield Clinic

Healthy Summer Melon Recipes

Summertime Boredom

I can’t tell you how nice it is to wake up every morning with rays of sunshine peeking through my window and the sound of birds singing. When I look out the window I see a family of quails living in my bushes. I get such a kick at watching the momma quail run back into the bushes with at least 10 mini quails right behind. I can’t say I envy her; she must really enjoy nap time. As I was researching on what to write about this month, I found out its anti-boredom month, which took me by surprise. When I think of summer, I think of fun and a lot of outdoor fun. Although, after the Fourth of July, it seems things tend to slow down. Since it’s right in the middle of summer, the temperature outside can reach triple digits at some points. If we’re bored, it might not be safe for us to go out in the heat unless it’s early in the morning or later when the sun starts to set.

What are some things we can do to battle boredom halfway through the summer? As a mom of young children, right after breakfast, which is early but children don’t seem to sleep inn, we head outside to let them play and let out all of their energy. The morning is perfect because it’s not as hot and it’s when they have the most energy. While the children get to play, I get to increase my steps by chasing them around. By the time we go back inside, they’re ready for a snack and a nap. We also play board games. These types of games are always fun because everyone in the family can participate. My family recently played Jenga with my four year old and he left me very surprised on how gracious he was to not knock down our tower. We also played Connect Four. Needless to say, my four year old was also good at playing it, but I have a feeling it was all luck. Board games make our brains work while we have a good time, and why not add a little prize for an extra excitement.

It’s always easy to run out of ideas and think we have nothing new to do, but we have so much around us to have a good time. Thanks to today’s technology, it’s so easy to connect with our relatives and friends that aren’t near us. When we are feeling like we have ran out of things to do reach out to them catch up and they might give us new ideas and activities to try.

I tend to stick to my routines, so it can be challenging to think outside the box to keep my children and myself busy. This is a great time to think outside the box. This summer, try out new things, think of ideas where you can have a good time and sneak in some physical activity. In the meantime, you can learn what your family members’ secret talents might be. Some bucket list items for this summer are to hike with both of our kids (wish me luck) and try out rock climbing. What activates will you plan for the summer to avoid boredom?

Jessica Arroyo – Wenatchee WA – Jessica Arroyo is a community liaison for Health Alliance Northwestä, serving Chelan, Douglas, Grant and Okanogan counties in Washington. She was born and raised in the Wenatchee Valley. During her time off, she enjoys spending time with her husband and her two very busy kids. Like this article? Feel free to respond to VantagePoint@HealthAlliance.org. Thanks for reading!

National Parent’s Day

How many of you knew there was a National Parent’s Day each year? Yep, me neither. Insert small feeling of embarrassment when I can remember National Cupcake Day each year. That’s December 15 if you needed a reminder.

Ok, back to my main point. Former President Bill Clinton established National Parent’s Day back in 1994 (36 U.S.C. § 135). It recognizes “uplifting and supporting the role of parents in the rearing of children.”

The thing about Parent’s Day is that it looks so different for each person. I know for myself, my stepdad was one of the biggest impacts of my life. He was my dad, not my stepdad. He raised me and my siblings from the age of 1 ½. He taught me what unconditional love is. He loved three children who were not his own by blood. He taught us that respect is earned and that hard work is one of the few things we can control. He also taught me the most valuable lesson of all – that each person struggles with their own problems and the ability to wake up each day, and to be better than the day before is our own choice. I also learned that people will create an opinion about you without ever actually knowing you and it’s not your job to convince them differently.

Do you see the pattern of what he taught me? Responsibility of our actions. I had the ability to own my own actions and despite my upbringing being far from perfect, I had the ability to change my outcome despite my circumstances.

My dad wasn’t perfect and unfortunately we lost him at the young age of 52, but his impact will last me and his grandkids for generations to come. His birthday is in a few days and I have the amazing blessing that my second daughter was born on his birthday. We celebrate both each year.

Sometimes parents also come in the form of an aunt, uncle, grandparent, family friend or a friend’s parent. The ability to be a constant in the upbringing in someone’s life is what sets defining characteristics and moments. To make a personal investment to impact someone far beyond words is what creates bonds that last a lifetime.

On July 26 this year, be sure to celebrate Parent’s Day. However you choose to spend it, just take some extra time with your kids or parents or call, video chat or send a card in the mail. Whatever that looks like for you, it’s worth celebrating! Not just on a holiday or birthday.

Morgan Gunder is a community and broker liaison for Reid Health Allianceä. Born in the South and raised in the Midwest, she’s a wife and mother with a passion for traveling, learning and technology. Like this article? Feel free to respond to Morgan.Gunder@healthalliance.org. Thanks for reading!

Beyond Fitness Fads – Practical and Realistic Exercise Tips

Attention men: how many of you have fallen for the latest fitness fad? Perhaps you’ve spent money on trending workout regimens or pricey exercise equipment shown on popular infomercials. You push yourself hard – perhaps too hard – for a week or two, and then quit your workouts as life intervenes.

Exercise is one of the most important ways to stay healthy. But we must be practical and realistic when it comes to our physical activity. Age might prevent us from working out as vigorously as we once did. Illnesses, injuries and chronic conditions might limit the exercises we can do. For example, instead of a few reps with heavy weights, do more reps with lighter weights.

How can we stay active, but also be safe, practical and realistic in our approach? Read on for some helpful tips.

The Basics

  • The more hours you sit each day, the higher your risk of metabolic problems.

  • Even moderate exercise has health benefits. You don’t need that high-intensity workout celebrities and professional athletes have on their blogs. Instead aim for 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity five days a week – and stick to it.

  • Do strength training exercises for all major muscle groups at least two times a week. Aim to do a single set of each exercise, using a weight or resistance level heavy enough to tire your muscles after about 12 to 15 repetitions.

  • Short on long chunks of time? Even brief bouts of activity offer benefits. For instance, if you can’t fit in one 30-minute walk during the day, try a few five-minute walks instead. Any activity is better than none at all. What’s most important is making regular physical activity part of your lifestyle.

  • Try brisk walks, light aerobics or even yard work. Do something you enjoy. Perhaps even take your significant other dancing – it’s not only fun, but exercise too.

  • Always check with your doctor before starting any new physical routine. Read here about how your doctor can create an exercise plan catered to your specific interests and lifestyle.

As You Age

  • Exercise might become more difficult as you age. Talk to your doctor or one of our health coaches for tips on less-strenuous physical activity.

  • Some exercises might lead to injury. Avoid heavy lifting and running on treadmills.

  • Stay fit with walks, age-appropriate exercise classes and household and outdoor chores. Play with grandkids. Check out the videos on our Facebook page for fun exercise and fitness demos.

Consider Your Conditions

  • If you have diabetes, make sure to check your blood sugar before exercising. You might need an extra snack if it’s too low. Make sure to take a break right away if you start feeling dizzy.

  • Arthritis? Don’t do exercises that place too much stress on your joints. Consider swimming and water aerobics.

  • Osteoporosis? Don’t risk broken bones. Exercises should be low impact. Consider long walks with friends or family.

Save Money

  • If you’re thinking about joining a gym or fitness center as they re-open, we offer our members cost-saving discounts:

    • For our members on commercial plans, the Active&Fit Direct™ program additionally offers membership at 10,000+ fitness centers nationwide for only $25 a month (plus a $25 enrollment fee and applicable taxes).

    • Medicare Advantage member? Go to any gym or fitness center of your choice and get paid back up to $360 a year with our fitness benefit, Be Fit.

  • Check out Memorial Health System’s blog piece about exercising on a budget.

Motivation

  • Need the motivation to exercise? Read why it helps to have a workout partner.

  • Looking for inspiration? Read these success stories from Memorial Weight Loss and Wellness Center about men – and women – who used exercise and diet to become healthier.

It’s never too late to begin exercising. Read how one retiree began to focus on fitness, in this article from Virginia Mason Health System. You too can start your commitment to better health right now.

Easter Eggs Year Round

The English author and cleric Robert Aris Willmott said, “Joy and grief are never far apart.” I’ve found that in my own personal grief situations, I do have to work at the joy part. Looking for joy is like flexing a muscle, and every day I seek to strengthen my awareness of joy all around me.

I recently lost a friend, co-worker and mentor to cancer. To say she fought her battle in the most beautiful, joyful way sounds strange, but that was Merv. She was a beauty both inside and out. I was angry that she didn’t get what she was joyfully certain she would achieve, which was victory over her disease. She simply saw no other alternative and because of her, we didn’t either. Merv died on a Sunday, the day after another dear friend, co-worker and mentor would have celebrated her 78th birthday. Her name was Margo and she appears in my sub-conscience every now and then with one of her little words of wisdom, or to whisper calm down Lora Sue, or to simply give me the inspiration to sparkle something up in my life. I know this makes no sense to anyone but me, but I’m certain Margo and Merv are sharing a bottle of wine in the afterlife. They’ll hit it off. They both had a deep certainty that there was good everywhere. This to me is joy in the face of grief.

Are you familiar with the movie and television industry’s little trick called Easter eggs? It’s something that certain writers like to do. They hide a secret little image or message in the background of their programs and call them Easter eggs. Alfred Hitchcock and Stan Lee were both famous for doing this. Both would insert themselves somewhere in the background of a scene. It’s really kind of genius if you think about it. Hunting for an Easter egg makes you pay more attention to the movie. Some other fun Easter eggs in movies includes hidden hieroglyphs of C-3PO and R2-D2 in Raiders of the Lost Ark or Sid’s reappearance in Toy Story 3. 

While I’m writing this, people have to stay at home for Easter egg hunts thanks to a rotten egg called COVID 19. The grief caused by this virus is all around us – the loss of friends or loved ones, the loss of important family events like weddings and graduations, and the loss of businesses and jobs. Loss, loneliness and anxiety cause us to grieve. It’s OK, even healthy, to grieve and we need to recognize that when it happens to us. But try and look for some joy too. Have an Easter egg hunt and look for joy. Doing so won’t minimize or eliminate the grief, but it might add more dimension and meaning as we heal.

Because we write these articles months in advance sometimes, we may be a long way from Easter when this goes to print. This seems OK to me though, because I think we’re all going to need some time to recover from the grief handed out in the spring of 2020. So I say to you, keep your Easter baskets out and collect those eggs year round. Joy isn’t going anywhere.

Dedicated in loving memory of Mervet Adams, long time Health Alliance Community Liaison and great friend.

Lora Felger is a community and broker liaison at Health Allianceä.  She’s the mother of two terrific boys, a world traveler and a major Iowa State Cyclones fan. Like this article? Feel free to respond to Longview@HealthAlliance.org. Thanks for reading!

Testicular Cancer and Young Men

Attention Men: Take Action to Promote Your Health

Taking control of your health means getting educated and taking proactive steps to live your best life. In the latest episode of our podcast, Dr. Charles C. Liang of Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana discusses five big topics relating to men’s health.

1) Cancer

Prostate Cancer

Thousands of American men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year. If you catch the cancer early, there’s a better chance of successful treatment. Dr. Liang suggests men talk with their doctor about prostate cancer screening. If you have average risk, your doctor may recommend screening beginning at age 50. But if you have higher risk, screening might be recommended at age 40. A family history of prostate cancer is often a sign of higher risk.

Colon Cancer

“Colon cancer is one of the few cancers we can actually prevent by screening,” notes Dr. Liang. What exactly does he mean? Specifically that screening can not only find colon cancer if it’s there, but it can also discover early warning signs before cancer even has the chance to develop. “Colon cancer usually begins as a polyp inside the colon and we can see those on the colonoscopy,” Dr. Liang explains. “If you snip that polyp off and take it away, it prevents it from becoming cancer.”

Screenings typically begin at age 50, but – as with prostate cancer tests – they should begin earlier for those at higher risk.

2) Heart Health

Blood Pressure

“Blood pressure screening is also important, and that’s because hypertension leads to so many problems like heart disease, stroke and kidney problems,” Dr. Liang warns. He recommends starting annual blood pressure screenings in your 20s. While you may not have symptoms, knowing your numbers makes it easier to implement preventive measures before suffering a cardiac event.

Cholesterol

Outside of knowing your blood pressure and working to keep it in order, you should also have a cholesterol screening. If you don’t know your cardiac health, consider getting a low dose CT scan of the coronary arteries to check for plaque or calcium buildup. You don’t necessarily need a stress test unless you have chest pain or problems with shortness of breath.

3) Sleep Apnea

“Sleep apnea is more common in men and it becomes more significant as we get older,” informs Dr. Liang. “Sleep apnea is where you actually stop breathing for a few moments. It sets you up for heart disease. It can set you up for atrial fibrillation.” If your partner notices you snoring loudly or gasping for breath overnight, ask your doctor for a recommendation for a sleep study.

4) Fitness

For many men, fitness is a big deal. Dr. Liang stresses the importance of listening to your body. For most people, there are many exercises you can do without requiring clearance from your doctor. These include walking 30 to 45 minutes a day at least five days a week, or even light jogging. If you want to take up something that really elevates your heart rate, you should first talk with your doctor about whether you’re healthy enough for that type of physical activity.

5) Mental Health

If you’re dealing with mental health issues, Dr. Liang suggests talking with your primary care provider. You may benefit from counseling services in lieu of visits to a psychologist. Your doctor can help you determine what is right for your needs. Most importantly, know that mental health issues are common and that they’re never something to feel embarrassed about.

Interested in learning more about men’s health, including additional tips and guidance? To listen to the full interview with Dr. Liang on our new Allied and Well podcast, click here.

  • Check out these health tips for men, from our partners at Virginia Mason Health System.
  • Read this article from our friends at OSF HealthCare to learn why it’s “macho” to take care of your health.
  • Many men only seek healthcare services in “crises” – find out why this can be harmful in this blog piece from Sarah Bush Lincoln Health System.
  • Listen to Riverside Healthcare’s podcast to learn more about the signs and symptoms of heart attacks.
  • Dealing with lasting feelings of depression, pessimism or gloominess? Find advice and tips in this article by Memorial Health System.

Dr. Charles C. Liang, Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana.