All posts by Chad Beyler

Hard Work Pays Off

Jim Davis, no relation to the Garfield cartoonist, was born in Sacramento, CA in January of 1940. Jim lived in Sacramento until he was 18 years old. During that time, Jim quit high school when he was 16. I asked him why he chose this and he stated that, “I thought I knew everything and I did.” When Jim turned 18, he decided to join the Navy. He thought it would  be interesting, so he did.

Jim spent four years in the Navy as an Engineman, Second Class. During this time, Jim remarked that he learned quite a bit and that his time in the Navy was spent with all kinds of people, visiting all kinds of places. Jim also got to visit a few foreign countries. He’s been to Japan, the Philippines and Hong Kong. Out of all the places he’s been, he’s the fondest of the Philippines. He likes this country because it was so different from what he knew. They had a lot of different foods and his most favorite came from a small store on the side of the road. It wasn’t much, but it cooked up the tastiest dish of noodles, rice, veggies and shrimp.

Jim got out of the Navy in 1962 and decided to work in Panama for a couple of years as a mechanic foreman. Jim then moved to work for various different companies in California. Lots of our conversation was around where he had worked and where work had taken him. Jim seemed to be no stranger to hard work that required a strong work ethic.

After a while, Jim decided to go back in and become a Seabee in the Construction Battalion. This consisted of going to foreign countries and helping them rebuild/repair things like roads, schools and villages. This venture took Jim to Vietnam for two different deployments for a total of two years. Unfortunately, he found out years later he’d come in contact with Agent Orange there. This led to various health issues for him later in life.

After his enlistment was eventually up after those two years in Vietnam, Jim decided to go back to California. With all his accumulated experience and knowledge, he went to work for the city of Alameda as the equipment supervisor of all road equipment. He held this position for two years before going to Bridge Port, CA as the equipment supervisor of the county. Jim had this position for an additional two years before finally moving to Des Moines, WA, where he found a position teaching diesel mechanics at Seattle Community College for 23 years. During this time at SSCC, he took classes in order to improve his wage. So when Jim retired, he was the highest-paid senior professor there. Well done Jim!

Breck Obermeyer is a community liaison with Health Alliance Northwestä, serving Yakima County. She’s a small town girl from Naches, has a great husband who can fix anything and has two kids who are her world.

Like this article? Feel free to respond to VantagePoint@HealthAlliance.org. Thanks for reading!

Avoiding Eye Strain

Who Do I See for What?

Vision services are important to your overall health and well-being, but it’s hard to remember who does what when it comes to eye care. As I thought more on this, I suspected some of our Reid Health Allianceä members might struggle with this, too.

It can be confusing to know which type of vision professional to go to for what. Let’s clear things up.  

Opticians are specially-trained technicians who can fill your eye doctor’s prescription for glasses or contact lenses. They don’t diagnose eye problems. Their skill is in fixing your vision with glasses or contacts. They can also suggest which frame and lens look the best on you. They’ve seen thousands of patients try on glasses. I always listen to their advice. There are also many options available with contact lenses, and the optician can help order those.

Optometrists aren’t medical doctors but must have a degree as a doctor of optometry before they can treat patients. They can test your vision, screen you for some diseases and write prescriptions. They will, in some instances, fit you with your glasses or corrective lenses. (I find their waiting rooms often have the most up-to-date magazines, so I don’t usually mind the wait.)

Ophthalmologists treat a broad range of eye problems with exams and sometimes surgery. They have a medical degree and a lot of training. They often have a special focus (a natural pun), like treating patients with glaucoma or retina problems. In some cases, they also prescribe corrective lenses. (They must have very steady hands, and I’ve often wondered if that’s how they select their specialty. Just a theory, of course.)

Our members get a free vision exam each year as part of their benefits with one of our in-network providers. As always, your regular doctor’s office is a good place to start if you’re unsure where to go. He or she will know just the right type of eye professional for your needs.

Morgan Gunder is a community and broker liaison for Reid Health Alliance. 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 CoveredBridge@HealthAlliance.org. Thanks for reading!

Raise Alzheimer’s Awareness

Did you know that June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month? According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA), more than 5.5 million older Americans likely have this disease. You are probably aware that Alzheimer’s impairs a person’s memory and thinking skills, but did you also know that it’s the sixth leading cause of death in the United States? This and other facts are available on the NIA’s website, including important details describing the signs and symptoms to watch for, information about treatment and much more. Also be sure to visit the website of the Alzheimer’s Association®, where you can learn more about the disease, discover how to take action and even share your own stories.

Read on for more information about Alzheimer’s and what you can do to raise awareness.

Many people think dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are one-and-the-same. Not exactly.

  • Dementia is the general term for any progressive (and serious) decline in mental ability. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, but other conditions can cause dementia too. Learn more from our friends at OSF HealthCare.

Catching Alzheimer’s early can improve a person’s quality of life.

  • This article from Carle describes why annual screenings for dementia are important for older adults.

  • Want to learn more about the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s, and the steps to take if you start noticing them? Check out this video from Riverside Healthcare.

Research suggests that certain lifestyle choices – such as eating healthy and keeping active – can provide certain benefits to brain health.

  • Learn about strategies that might help defend your brain and central nervous system against dementia in this blog piece by Springfield Clinic.

Being a caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s can be both physically and emotionally tiring.

  • The Alzheimer’s Association provides advice, help and resources for caregivers.

  • Our friends at Memorial Health System answer common questions family members have.

  • Caregivers need to learn the best ways of communicating with their loved ones who have dementia. This article from Sarah Bush Lincoln Health System offers guidance.

  • Just because your loved one has Alzheimer’s doesn’t mean he or she can’t live a physically and mentally rewarding life. Check out these tips from our friends at Reid Health about helping your loved one live a full life.

This month – and beyond – learn what you can about Alzheimer’s and become a resource for those around you. Together our communities can fight against this challenging disease.

5 Key Health Priorities for Women

From youth to adulthood and beyond, there are certain health priorities every woman should focus on. Dr. Carla Rafferty, an expert in women’s health and family medicine at Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana, shares her thoughts on five key areas of women’s health.

1) Important Screenings and Procedures

One of the first screenings women need to consider is a Pap test, which screens for cervical cancer—or even signs of early progression towards cervical cancer. Most women should have had their first Pap test by age 21.

Mammograms are another essential screening. “The guidelines have changed a bit,” notes Dr. Rafferty, “but for the most part, starting around age 40 is when a woman should be thinking about getting her first mammogram. Breast cancer is an important thing to detect early, as it is very treatable.”

The third recommended screening is a colonoscopy, or some other type of less-invasive screening like a stool assessment. Dr. Rafferty states that women should think about this screening around age 50, unless they have risk factors that necessitate screening earlier.

2) Pregnancy

Women who want to get pregnant, or are already pregnant, may not know everything they need to know to maintain a healthy pregnancy. Dr. Rafferty recommends asking your primary care provider for guidance and advice, or turning to trusted resources either online or within the community. Overall, women can ensure that both they and their unborn babies stay healthy by taking prenatal vitamins, quitting smoking and abstaining from alcohol and drugs.

3) Mental Health

Often tasked with being the “caregivers” of their families, many women may not realize how much the stresses of daily life can impact their mental health. It’s important to reach out for help when feeling overburdened. “Every one of our primary care offices has embedded social workers, and even the nurses you might talk with on the phone are a good place to start,” notes Dr. Rafferty. Keeping your mind healthy is just as important as a healthy body.

4) Menopause

The milestone often referred to as “the change of life” is not an easy time for many. Women may experience fatigue, hot flashes, decreased libido, difficulty losing weight, mental fog, mood swings and vaginal dryness. “All of these changes can weigh heavily—not only on a woman’s body, but also on her mental state,” cautions Dr. Rafferty.

Dr. Rafferty advises women try to maintain a regular exercise regimen, eat a healthy diet, quit smoking and get adequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D. “Menopause also increases a woman’s risk of heart disease,” she adds, “so eating healthy and exercising are also ways to help prevent that risk.”

5) Age-Related Conditions

As women age, they become more at risk for certain conditions. Osteoporosis is one that tends to impact women more severely than men. Dr. Rafferty notes that this bone-weakening disease leads to further difficulties as well, but there are ways to combat it. Proper nutrition and physical activity, particularly doing weight-bearing exercises, will help strengthen bones. Women are often advised to get bone density screenings as they get older, and medications are available to address the disease.

Two additional age-related conditions are heart disease and dementia. Women can monitor the risk of both by maintaining regular visits with their primary care provider.

For women of all ages, Dr. Rafferty has one final piece of advice: don’t put off caring for your health. “If you think something isn’t right, it’s always better to get checked out than to delay.”

To listen to the full interview with Dr. Carla Rafferty on our new Allied and Well podcast, click here.

Dr. Carla Rafferty, Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana

OMG I’m Turning into My Father

In the 10 years we’ve been married, my wife says more and more frequently, “You’re just like your father.”  The truth is I think my father’s the greatest man I know. Here are a few examples of the things I’ve picked up from him.

I’ve started waking up early on the weekends. While I was growing up, my dad would get up every morning around 5 a.m. to start his day whether it be a weekday or weekend. I would always wonder why he was up that early and now that I’m in my 40’s, I understand. Getting up early on the weekend and starting my day, I have noticed that I can get most of my chores, errands and other stuff done before noon. We work all week to make it to the weekend, but being adults, we still have responsibilities even on the weekend. The great thing about getting everything done before noon is that I have the rest of the day to do what I want. My wife, on the other hand, will sleep in until noon or 1 p.m. on the weekends and lose most of her day. When I was in my 20’s, I would want to sleep in as long as I could on the weekends too, but my body is happier now rising and shining early to start my day.

My father and I had season tickets to the University of Illinois basketball games when I was still in my 20’s. We lived about an hour and a half away from Champaign. My younger self could not comprehend why we needed to leave at 9 a.m. for a 1 p.m. tip-off. Insanity! We’ll be four hours early! Now in my 40’s, I completely understand. One reason was that we never knew what kind of weather we’d be driving in. Illinois can experience all four seasons in one day. Fog between Springfield to Champaign was always possible. Secondly, the early bird avoids the long food lines. Neither my father nor I like standing in lines, especially when hungry.  Truth be told, I love being the one driving my wife nuts now with my very early departure times.

This last one I enjoy the most because it frustrates my wife the most. I do the majority of the shopping for the house. As I mentioned in the first paragraph, this happens very early before she even wakes up. I like to pre-map out an efficient circle that I follow when running errands. By circle, I mean that before I even leave the house, I lay out a route where I start at my house and end at my house with no unnecessary deviations. It drives my wife crazy because I’m talking out loud to myself mentally laying out my route before leaving the house. She would rather just fly by the seat of her pants and see what happens. To me, she sounds like the crazy one. I try to explain that careful routing and planning means less meaningless wandering and more efficient use of our time. Thanks again dad.

Many of us declare in our youth that, “I will not be like my father.” But as time goes by, many of my dad’s little quirks start coming out in me drip by drip. I say don’t be mad or sad, embrace them! These quirks have probably been passed down for generations in your family. I have two kids and am trying to teach them the wise and wonderful traditions I’ve learned from my dad. They’lll appreciate this someday, but it might take a few decades. Happy Father’s Day to all of you quirky and wonderful fathers out there.

Derek Brawner is a community and broker liaison at Health Alliance. He’s a small town guy living in the big city of Springfield, married with two kids, huge Star Wars fan and griller extraordinaire. 

Like this article? Feel free to respond to Longview@HealthAlliance.org. Thanks for reading!

Women’s Health – Wellness Tips at Every Age

Taking care of your health should be at the top of your to-do list as a woman of any age. Whether you’re a young college student, a busy mother or a long-time retiree, there is nothing more important than keeping yourself healthy.

Wellness looks different in every stage of your life. The actions you take, tests you get and resources you use change during your lifetime. Read on to discover health tips for women of every age.*

Women in their 20s

  • Get screened for cervical cancer. All women age 21 to 65 should get a Pap smear every three years. This test catches cervical cancer early, when it’s highly treatable.

  • If you are sexually active, get a chlamydia screening once a year. Chlamydia can cause cancer, infertility and complications during future pregnancies.

  • Pregnant? Or thinking about having children? Make use of our Care Coordination program. Our experts and specialists will help keep you and your baby healthy before, during and after birth. Call (800) 851-3379 ext 28947 or email Care.Coordination@healthalliance.org to find out more.

30s

  • Get your flu vaccine. If you’re a woman in your 30s, your life might revolve around your children. Parties, school visits, sporting events – you are often near young kids. Protect yourself and them by getting your flu vaccine every year.

  • Protect yourself from the sun. You spend a lot of time outdoors in your 30s – family vacations at the beach, hikes with friends and watching your child’s ballgames. Remember that skin cancer is a risk for all women, not just those who tan.

40s

  • Get tested for diabetes. Once you turn 45, your chances of developing Type 2 diabetes increase substantially. The American Diabetes Association recommends everyone 45 and older get screened for diabetes every three years.

  • Keep active. Many women in their 40s stop exercising as frequently. No matter how busy work and family make you, try to get at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day.

50s

  • Get regular mammograms. Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women. Get a mammogram every 1 to 2 years starting at age 50.

  • Talk to your doctor about menopause. Don’t be scared about this new stage in your life. Talk to your doctor about menopause and how it affects different aspects of your health.

60s

  • Get screened for osteoporosis. Your bone health is important. Once you’re 65, get a bone density test every other year.

  • Consider a shingles vaccine. For unknown reasons, women develop this painful infection more often than men. Ask your doctor if getting vaccinated is right for you.

70s and beyond

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

  • Also exercise your brain. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, nearly two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s are women. Keep your mind active. Learn a new skill or hobby.

Additional Resources and Information

Read this blog article for more health tips for women of all ages.

Click here for pregnancy resources, tools and tips.

View this one-minute video about women and heart disease, from our friends at Confluence Health.

Read five tips for lifelong breast health from our partners at Virginia Mason Health System.

To learn more about women’s health services available through our partner Riverside Healthcare, check out this episode of their podcast.

* Have questions about which tests and services your insurance plan covers? View your coverage details at YourHealthAlliance.org or with our Hally™ app. If you have any questions, call the number on the back of your ID card.

Sleep and Emotional Wellness

Better Sleep Month: Busting 5 Common Sleep Myths

May is Better Sleep Month, so there’s no better time to bust some common sleep health myths. Dr. Charles R. Davies, expert in sleep medicine and the cognitive effects of sleep disorders at Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana, sets the record straight.

Myth #1: Snoring is harmless…

While you may think snoring is simply an annoyance to your sleeping partner, it can also be a sign of a more dangerous underlying condition: sleep apnea.

“If you’re snoring and your bed partner is telling you they noticed you’re pausing or having stoppages of breathing during sleep, or you yourself are waking up gasping and choking, short of breath, or you’re feeling tired during the day,” states Dr. Davies, “then snoring could be a sign of obstructive sleep apnea, which is a very serious condition that should be addressed.”

Obstructive sleep apnea is associated with high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes. The first step in addressing potential sleep apnea is to inform your primary care provider (PCP) of your symptoms. Your PCP may refer you to a sleep specialist, who’ll assess your condition and perhaps prescribe that you undergo a sleep study. “If that’s positive [for sleep apnea], then certainly you would go on to have it treated,” adds Dr. Davies.

Myth #2: You can get by on little sleep…

Staying up too late or tossing and turning is likely to make you sleepy the next day, but does it really have long-term consequences on your health? The truth is, people do need at least seven to nine hours of sleep each night. If you’re not getting that much sleep, it can throw the hormones that control hunger off balance.

“By not getting enough sleep each night, at least seven hours, your hormones are imbalanced, causing you to be hungrier. That, of course, can lead to increased caloric intake, which then increases the chance for obesity, and thus diabetes. And, an increase in weight and obesity also puts you at higher risk for developing obstructive sleep apnea,” explains Dr. Davies.

Myth #3: As you get older, you really don’t need as much sleep…

One reason this myth may have persisted is that as people age, those age-related aches and pains can keep them up at night. But, no matter your age, you do need those seven to nine hours each night.

“It is true that people, as they get older, may not be able to stay asleep as well as they did when they were younger, but it does not mean they don’t need as much sleep,” cautions Dr. Davies. “Unfortunately, in the case of somebody with chronic pain, they may not be able to get as much sleep because of that pain. The recommendation would be to address the chronic pain with your doctor and work together to try and minimize the pain issues so you can get at least seven hours of sleep each night.”

Myth #4: As long as you get the recommended amount, it doesn’t matter when you sleep…

Shifting your sleep schedule to fit your needs may seem acceptable if you get the recommended seven to nine hours. But, continually shifting your sleep schedule can throw off your ability to sleep. As Dr. Davies puts it, your natural circadian rhythm may become “confused,” and you risk losing the ability to fall asleep when you want.

For example, if you’re going to bed at 10:00 p.m. some nights and 3:00 a.m. other nights, you may find it’s more difficult to fall asleep the next time you wish to go to bed at 10:00.

“Another danger is that when your circadian rhythm is shifting, it’s actually reducing a very important hormone that’s made in our brains called melatonin, which helps promote good quality sleep,” notes Dr. Davies.

Myth #5: It’s possible to “make up” for lost sleep…

How many times have you yearned for the weekend to sleep in and “catch up” on lost sleep from the week prior? While it’s not permanently harmful to miss some sleep occasionally, chronic sleep deprivation can’t be made up.

“With very short-term sleep deprivation, you can make up the sleep. But what you don’t want is to be trying to survive, for example, on less than seven hours of sleep on weeknights and then assume you can catch up on your sleep on the weekends. That’s just not a good idea.”

To listen to the full interview with Dr. Charles R. Davies on our new Allied and Well podcast, click here.

  • Need tips for better sleep habits? This article from the Memorial Health System offers advice.
  • Wonder what your sleep position might say about your health? Listen to this podcast from our friends at Riverside Healthcare.
  • Read these “bed-er” sleep rules from our partners at Springfield Clinic.
  • Adults aren’t the only ones who need sleep – read why young children need quality sleep in this article from the Sarah Bush Lincoln Health System. And discover how to help your baby slumber better in this blog piece from OSF HealthCare.

Dr. Charles R. Davies, expert in sleep health at Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana.