Category Archives: Health and Wellness

Active Aging

Long View: Active Aging Week Encourages Health into Golden Years

As I get older, I have noticed the changes that come with it. I think the one I notice the most lately is inertia. You find yourself sitting down to open the mail and not getting up for the rest of the evening. OK, it happens to all of us once in a while. My concern is inertia may become my hobby unless I take action.

The International Council on Active Aging sponsors an annual event called Active Aging Week. Its website explains, “Led by the International Council on Active Aging® (ICAA), Active Aging Week is an annual health promotion event held each year during the last week of September. The weeklong observance celebrates adults ages 50 and older as fully participating members of society and promotes the benefits of leading an active, healthier lifestyle. It also highlights the ability of older adults to live well, regardless of age or health conditions.”

It got me thinking which of my family members had the best quality of life as they aged. The dividing line was very clear. The active (some would say hyperactive) ones who kept a healthy weight were the ones who made the most of their mature years. The sofa-sitters aged well into their 80s, but didn’t get the same enjoyment from their golden years. The prospect of that fate was enough to get me up and moving again.

And now the disclaimer: As with any type of exercise, it’s important to talk to your doctor to make sure you choose an activity safe for you. I started with a 15-minute walk in the morning and another 15-minute walk in the evening after work.  It’s no marathon, but it’s doable and even enjoyable in good weather. I miss my walks when our Central Illinois climate doesn’t cooperate. Plus, I am seeing results and notice I feel better overall.

Health Alliance Medicare is working with Clark-Lindsey (a continuing care retirement community in Urbana) to sponsor an Active Aging Week from September 21-27. As the hosts, we can craft a program of activities that suits our own community (and weather). Maybe you would consider doing something similar in your area.

If you have any questions, I would be happy to help. Or visit Clark-Lindsey’s website and click on “news and events” for more information. It’s time to get moving!

Barbeques

Oh, Sweet Summertime Barbecues!

Warm weather and barbecues go hand in hand. With so many tempting foods, it can be work to control your cravings. BBQ sauce, cheese, sweet drinks, and desserts can all be sugar-filled. So, as much as you want to enjoy everything, it’s important to do it in moderation.

Did you know that the average meal at barbecues has over 1,600 calories and 170 grams of carbohydrates?

Of course, meal plans are different from person to person, but the American Diabetes Association (ADA), recommends a normal meal have 45 to 60 grams of carbs. In just two tablespoons of BBQ sauce, you can rack up 15 grams of carbs and 10 grams of sugar. That’s before you even get to the s’mores!

But there are some easy ways to stay on track at summertime barbecues.

Tips for Cutting Calories at Barbecues

Fill your plate using the diabetes plate method. Load at least half your plate with non-starchy veggies, like grilled zucchini and peppers, leaving only a quarter of your plate for starchy veggies like corn and potato salad. Fill the last quarter with proteins like chicken or a turkey burger.

Serve or bring a tray of non-starchy veggies like carrots, celery, tomatoes, peppers and broccoli. Add a non-fat dip like salsa, fat-free dressing, or hummus.

Remember, non-starchy vegetables have about 5 grams of carbohydrate in 1 cup raw (½ cup cooked). These carbs are usually fiber, so unless you eat more than 2 cups raw, you probably don’t need to count the carbs.

Create a salad bar. Leafy greens, low-fat cheese, nuts (almond slices or walnuts), and a side of low-fat salad dressing go great with BBQ.

Pack flavored seltzer water or add fruit wedges to ice-cold water for a healthy and refreshing drink.

Make your own BBQ sauce. Combine:

  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 cup diet cola
  • 1 tablespoon onion flakes or diced onion
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 minced garlic clove
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for five minutes.

 

For dessert, try this tropical fruit salad with mango-flavored chutney from Diabetes Forecast:

Peeled and diced:

  • 2 small kiwis
  • 1 large banana
  • 1 medium orange
  • 1 medium mango

Sauce

  • 1/2 cup plain nonfat yogurt
  • 2 tablespoon mango chutney
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon cardamom

 

Happy grilling and check out our Pinterest for more recipes.

Calcium and Your Bones

Build Stronger Bones with Calcium and Vitamin D

You might think only people with osteoporosis or weak bones need to worry about getting enough calcium and Vitamin D. If you don’t have osteoporosis, or bone loss, and you eat a well-balanced diet, you’re probably getting the recommended daily amount of both.

But let’s be honest, a lot of us have a diet that is anything but well-balanced. (And no, alternating between frozen pizza and frozen fish sticks does not count as balanced.)

The good news is you don’t have to overhaul your entire diet to keep your bones in great shape. Making a few small changes can help you reach the recommended daily amounts.

Got Milk?

vitamin blog1

Milk is one of the easiest ways to make sure you’re getting enough calcium and Vitamin D.

An 8 oz. glass of fat-free or low-fat milk has around 30% of the daily recommended amount of calcium and 25% of the recommended Vitamin D. The same goes for calcium-fortified soy milk. Other dairy products like cheese and yogurt, are also rich in both.

The Non-Milky Way

If you are lactose intolerant or just don’t eat dairy, you can still get enough calcium and Vitamin D from your diet.

Try these non-dairy foods for calcium:

  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Soybeans
  • White beans
  • Okra
  • Collards
  • Some fish, like sardines, salmon, perch, and rainbow trout
  • Calcium-fortified foods, like soy milk, oatmeal, cereal, and some orange juice

And these non-dairy foods for Vitamin D:

  • Fatty fish, like tuna, mackerel, and salmon
  • Egg yolks
  • Vitamin D-fortified foods, like orange juice, soy milk, and cereal

If you don’t think you’re getting enough of both from your diet, a supplement could help fill in the gaps.

But more is not always better, and getting too much of either can be harmful to your health. Talk to your doctor to make sure you get the right amount.

For recipes packed with calcium and Vitamin D, check out our Pinterest.

Always Protected from Fire

Protect Yourself by Practicing Home Fire Safety

The U.S. Fire Administration says more than 360,000 fires destroyed homes in the United States in 2010. These fires caused 2,555 deaths and more than 13,000 injuries. Clearly, we should take house fires seriously. Taking small steps can help you stay safe.

One of the most important things you can do is make sure you have working smoke alarms in all major rooms of your home. Most of all, be sure you have one near your bedroom. Change the batteries twice a year, or ask someone to help you change them.

You should also check for possible fire starters. Make sure extension cords are not frayed, and don’t plug too many things into one outlet. In the kitchen, unplug small appliances, like your toaster, when you are not using them. Make sure the hood of your stove is clean and doesn’t have grease buildup. If you have a fireplace, put a screen up to block stray ashes and clean the chimney once a year.

Accidents can still happen. Make sure you know a couple ways to get out of your home if it catches fire. Make sure your house number is visible from the street. This helps firefighters get to you quickly.

Many fire stations will do a safety check at your home for free. Call your local fire department or senior center for details. And check out the sample fire safety checklist from the Urbana Fire Department.

Fires can happen quickly and be deadly. Keep your home secure, and have a safety plan. Some simple steps can go a long way toward keeping you safe.

Home Fire Safety Checklist

GENERAL

____ Are your address numbers visible from the street to permit ease of identification?
____ Are your smoke detectors in working order, batteries changed twice a year?
____  Do you have an escape plan, meeting place, and do you practice it?

 

 ALL HOUSEHOLD AREAS

____  Do you keep your passageway doors shut to reduce fire spread in the event of fire?
____ Are you using extension cords? Limit their use.
____  Check all electrical cords to make sure they are in good condition.
____  Check to make sure outlets are not overloaded.
____  Check all windows to make sure they operate smoothly.
____  Do not allow waste paper and combustibles to collect and become a fire hazard.
____  Ashtrays should be provided for all smokers. They should be disposed of properly.
____  Are your household chemicals stored away from children?
____  Are matches and lighters stored out of reach of children?
____  No combustibles should be stored in the attic.

 

LIVING AREA

____  Does your fireplace have a screen and hearth to protect from flying embers?
____  Has your chimney been cleaned? Is it operating properly?

 

KITCHEN AREA

____  Are all combustibles kept away from the cooking area?
____  Is your range hood clean and vented properly?
____  Are all unused small appliances unplugged when not in use?

 

UTILITY AREA

____  Are your heating ducts properly maintained?
____  Are combustibles stored away from the furnace and water heater?
____  Is your furnace filter clean?
____  Are there any oversized fuses in the fuse box?
____  Are your washer and dryer properly grounded?
____  Do you keep your basement door closed to reduce fire spread in the vent of fire?

 

GARAGE/STORAGE AREA

____  Is there a solid core door separating your garage from the house?
____  Are all flammable liquids stored in the proper containers?
____  Is the gasoline mower properly stored away from ignition sources?

 

OUTSIDE AREA

____  Are there any combustible materials close to the house?
Cleaning Meds Out of the Cabinet

Long View: Leave Prescribing to the Pros – Don’t Mix Your Meds!

I used to visit my aunt and uncle in Missouri whenever I got the chance. They were older but still lived on their own. My uncle Bill took a lot of medicine, as is often the case with a 90-year-old. The problem was my aunt, his caregiver, felt she knew better than his doctor.

She would cut his pills in half because she thought they were making him “groggy.” She also would “prescribe” outdated meds. I found my aunt’s secret stash in a shoe box in the closet.

Both of them also took over-the-counter meds … to keep their joints limber, eyesight sharp and other things she was sure would enhance their golden years. Her approach was dangerous, but I could only help while I was there.

So, what can a caregiver do?

Brad Berberet, acting director of the Health Alliance Pharmacy Department, shared this advice.

“Many people know different drugs can interact with each other, causing unexpected side effects,” he said. “However, most people forget that interactions can occur between prescribed medications and over-the-counter (OTC) medications and herbal supplements.  Patients should let their doctor and their pharmacist know about all OTC and herbal supplements they are taking, especially when they start a new medicine.”

Our chief medical officer, Dr. Robert Parker, shared similar advice.

“When you take medication exactly as prescribed, your doctor can better monitor you for side effects,” he said. “It’s important to be honest with your doctor to assure you have the best chance of a positive, not harmful, impact to yourself or those you love.”

You can help your loved ones get rid of old medicine. Don’t just flush them. Check for places that dispose of drugs safely, like your pharmacy or hospital. Your local senior center may have suggestions.

My PCP does a medicine review every time I have an appointment. Just keeping a list of how much medicine you take and when helps your doctor. You can ask your doctor to make changes to your list so it stays current.

While I’m sure my aunt had the best intentions, her approach to medicine was dangerous. Be sure to talk with your doctor or pharmacist before taking any new medicine, prescription or over-the-counter. Not only will you avoid harmful interactions, but you will probably feel better, too.

Balancing Daily Tasks with Dementia

Vantage Point: Summer Activity Opens Eyes, Prompts Compassion

I love all the fun activities that come with summer—festivals, parades, vacations, theme parks, and backyard barbecues. One of my recent summer activities, however, was unlike any I’ve ever done before, and the profound experience will resonate with me for the rest of my life.

I had the opportunity to watch a video of the Virtual Dementia Tour®, compliments of Assured Home Health and Hospice in Moses Lake. The tour gives family members and professional caregivers the chance to experience (as closely as possible) the physical, mental, and emotional challenges people with dementia face every day.

Before the tour, the group takes a short pretest. One of the questions is, “Do you think people with dementia are justified in their actions?” The answer choices are “yes,” “no” and “somewhat.” Most people answer “somewhat.”

After the pretest, the activity alters the participants’ mental and physical abilities when they put on these items.

  • Goggles that restrict their vision, as if they have macular degeneration
  • Headphones with garbled or random background noises, like people with mental disorders experience
  • Gloves with the fingers taped together and with popcorn kernels in the fingertips, and shoes with popcorn kernels in the toes, to represent neuropathy and arthritis

The group then goes to another room. Organizers give participants five everyday tasks, like sorting laundry and setting the table, to complete without help in a certain time frame.

Watching the people go through the experience made me think of being in a carnival maze, where you have a warped sense of bearings, balance, and judgment.

Most participants find the experience eye-opening. Even if they thought they knew what to expect, many didn’t anticipate bursting into tears of frustration or falling on the ground in confusion. Many change their pretest answer about behavior being justified from “somewhat” to “yes” in the post-test.

If you have a loved one with dementia or are a caregiver, I suggest you take the Virtual Dementia Tour. If you live in Grant County and want to sign up for a tour through Assured Home Health and Hospice, please call Julie Johnson at 509-766-2580 or Terri Riley-Brown at 509-765-1856.

ABC’s Nightline featured a powerful story about the Virtual Dementia Tour.  If you don’t take the tour, you can still see what the experience is like by watching this clip.

I hope you make fun memories with family and friends this summer. I also hope you take time to either watch the Nightline clip or sign up for the Virtual Dementia Tour so we can all increase our understanding and compassion for people with dementia.

Wedding Day

Kick Wedding Stress to the Curb

Wedding Stress

Stress (including wedding stress) can cause headaches, high blood pressure, and much more.

Planning a wedding is a happy, fun time, but it’s also very stressful. I’m getting married this August, and wedding planning has been one of the most stressful things I’ve ever done. I’ve been lucky, though, because my fiancé, Shane, has made planning a wedding a partnership, not a solo gig for me. If you feel like your fiancé isn’t helping enough, or might wrongly assume you want to call all the shots yourself, speak up right away to get everyone on the same page.

I hope these tips help you keep your sanity while planning your wedding.  They’ve definitely helped me keep mine!

Plan according to a timeline.

When I began my planning, I went to a chain bookstore and bought a planning book. It was nothing terribly fancy, just something that offered a timeline and helpful hints.

The planner helped reassure me that I wasn’t forgetting something or waiting too long to do it. You don’t need to spend money on a book or planner to stay organized, but I think it’s important to find or create some kind of timeline to keep you on track.

Knock out the big things first.

Once you tell people you’re engaged, the next words out of everyone’s mouth (after congratulating you) are, “When’s the big day?”

First things first, pick a date and create a guest list, even if it’s a rough one. You’ll need this info when you seek out ceremony and reception sites. The sooner you can find (and hopefully book) a ceremony site, reception site (if different from the ceremony site), photographer, bakery, and band or DJ, the better. The rest, like wedding colors and flowers, will begin to fall into place after that.

Shane and Kristy
(Photo Credit: Seth Carpenter) Shane and Kristy pose for an engagement photo at Lake of the Woods in Mahomet, Ill.

Another big thing to keep in mind is the honeymoon (if you’re taking one). If you’re traveling somewhere out of the country, you’ll want to make sure to give yourself plenty of time to get your passport if you don’t already have it and to shop for deals. Booking our honeymoon is where Shane excelled. He kept his eye on deals for the flight and hotel to make sure we got the most out of our money. He also laid out options he found as to when and where we would fly out and when we would return. I recommend shopping around a bit to get the best bang for your buck.

I’m also glad to have Assist America on my side to lessen the stress of being out of the country. Assist America can help me get medical referrals, replacement prescriptions, hospital admission,s and much more, no matter where I’m at in the world. Visit HealthAlliance.org to learn more about Assist America.

Take a break.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the details involved in wedding planning. Even if you have a small bridal party and guest list, there are still a lot of details. I don’t think I realized the scope of it until I started planning.

In my moments of immense wedding stress, when the planning ride was getting bumpy and I wanted to scream, I took a break. I told myself I wasn’t going to think about it for the next couple of days. After that time off, I jumped right back on the wedding planning horse for a calmer ride.

Ask for help.

Although this is true for most stress, it especially rings true in wedding planning. If you’re struggling with any part of the planning, for example, finding a band/DJ, let someone know. You shouldn’t suffer in silence! Your significant other, bridal party or parents are usually happy to help. That’s what they’re there for!

Delegate.

This tip goes along with asking for help. As hard as it can be to let go, you don’t need to do everything yourself. Surely you can find a few things to hand off to someone else, no matter how large or small the detail. Again, your bridal party, fiancé, parents, and future in-laws are usually more than happy to help out.

Follow these tips, and you’ll be less stressed about your wedding. Best wishes to all the soon-to-be brides and grooms out there!