Fighting COPD

National COPD Month

November is National Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Month. We gave you info each day about the disease.

24 million Americans suffer from it and half remain undiagnosed. Learn more.

Are you at risk for? Find out now.

Do you think your loved one might be suffering from it? What should you say?

48% of patients don’t fully report their symptoms, and 35% their smoking history. Don’t risk your health, talk to your doctor.

So you think you or your loved one might be suffering from COPD. Now, it’s time to talk to your doctor.

For doctors, educating patients can be hard. Check out these tips for talking with patients about it.

So you know you have COPD. How can you treat and manage it? Check out these ways to breathe better.

30-Day Plank Challenge

My Healthy Journey: 30-Day Plank Challenge

This time, for the 30-Day Plank Challenge, I’m going to give you all the exercises and the schedule up front so you can follow along every day, and then I can just check in.

The plank strengthens your core, a complex series of muscles that includes your entire body, minus your legs, head, and arms. It doesn’t take equipment, machines, or special apparel. All you need is a little motivation.

Injury Prevention Tips

  • It’s recommended to start at level one and progress daily to ensure proper strength and form.
  • It’s essential that your spine stays level and that you activate your lower abs to protect your low back. If your back starts to arch, or your butt starts to dip, it’s time to call it a day.
  • Always make sure your wrists or elbows are directly under your shoulders to relieve any shoulder pressure.
  • You should not feel any joint, back, or shoulder pain during your planks. If you are, it’s probably related to your form. Have someone take a picture of you, or ask a friend to review your form. Make sure everything is in a straight line.
  • Remember to breath. Holding your breath makes the exercise harder and can cause an increase in your blood pressure. Focusing on your breath can actually improve your concentration and duration.

There are two different kinds of planks, in different levels, that you will use for this challenge: the front plank and the side plank.

Static Knee Forearm Plank

Beginner – Static Knee Forearm Plank – Start with your knees together and on the ground. Place your elbows directly under your shoulders and rest your weight on your forearms. Flatten your spine, and press through your elbows to keep your chest from falling forward. Suck your navel into your spine and tighten your abdominals. Look straight down, allowing your neck to stay aligned with your spine.

Static Forearm Plank

Intermediate – Static Forearm Plank – Start with your toes together and on the ground. Place your elbows directly under your shoulders and rest your weight on your forearms. Flatten your spine, and press through your elbows to keep your chest from falling forward. Suck your navel into your spine and tighten your abdominals. Look straight down, allowing your neck to stay aligned with your spine.

Static 1 Leg Forearm Plank

Advanced – One Leg Forearm Plank – Start with your toes together and on the ground. Place your elbows directly under your shoulders and rest your weight on your forearms. Flatten your spine, and press through your elbows to keep your chest from falling forward. Suck your navel into your spine and tighten your abdominals. Look straight down, allowing your neck to stay aligned with your spine. Lift one leg off the ground to challenge your stability. Be sure to alternate legs.

Static Knee Forearm Plank

Beginner – Static Knee Forearm Side Plank – Start with your knees together and on the ground. Place your right elbow on the ground directly under your shoulder. Straighten your spine, tighten your abdominals, and look straight ahead. Hold. Repeat on the left side. Once you reach one minute on each side with little struggle, then progress to the next level.

Static Low Side Forearm Plank

Intermediate/Advanced – Static Side Forearm Plank – Start with your feet together and on the ground, keep your knees lifted and the body in one straight line. Place your right elbow on the ground directly under your shoulder. Straighten your spine, tighten your abdominals, and look straight ahead. Hold. Repeat on the left side. Once you reach one minute on each side with little struggle, then progress to the next level.

Once you’ve chosen a level to follow, use this tracker for how long to hold your planks each day:

30-Day Plank Challenge Tracker

Use this month to build your core with other Health Alliance employees and me today!

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Quit Smoking for Your Lungs

My Healthy Journey: Take Charge to Quit for Life

My grandfather died before I was even 2 years old. I have one hazy memory of him. I was snacking on raisins sitting on a dark windowsill in his room while he lay in bed talking to my mom. He was already dying. I didn’t know that yet though. Eventually, my mom picked me up onto his bed to talk to him too. I think I offered to share my raisins.

My grandfather was in the insurance business. He’d been a janitor at the local grade school when the cancer took over.

I have many more memories of my grandmother, but still not enough. I remember we used to pick her up and take her shopping, and she always liked to buy me little presents. I always loved hearing her call my mother by her real name, sometimes in that same tone that my mother used on me. She died when I was just 4.

She worked in the cafeteria at my mom’s grade school once my mother and her 4 siblings were all in school. After that, she helped clean their priests’ homes and helped out at their church through various committees.

My grandfather died of colon cancer. He had gotten cancer once before, in 1988, and it spread from there. In 1990, the symptoms returned, and it spread to his spine. It was too late for radiation to save him. Once it was in his brain, they told him he had 6 months to live. He was dead within that time. My mother and her siblings watched him die that year, and my mother found him the day he died.

He was only 58 years old. That is just 3 years older than my father is right now.

My grandmother had a family history of heart problems, and had a heart attack the year my parents were married in 1987. She had open-heart surgery, a triple-bypass. They grafted veins from her leg into her heart. My mother describes her scars in the hospital as very scary.

In November 1993, she walked to church on an overly cold morning, much like this November. At Sunday mass that day, she had another heart attack. They stopped the service, did CPR, and waited for the paramedics.

It was a massive heart attack, and they never got her back. She was only 61 years old.

Both of them died from health issues related to tobacco. My grandfather smoked cigarettes and a pipe for more than 40 years. He didn’t stop smoking either time he found out he had cancer. It made him dizzy as the end neared. And when he asked for cigarettes on his deathbed, my mother hated to give them to him. My grandma lived in secondhand smoke their entire marriage, for 36 years.

Both colon cancer, among many other kinds of cancer, and heart problems have been directly tied to cigarette smoke.

My mother was raised in smoke. Everybody did it back then. She didn’t really dislike it until she moved out, and then her parents died.

“I just wish that there never was such a thing as smoking. That there was no vice like that, because so many people are addicted, and it took such a toll on their health. And I really resent the fact that I’ve grown up most of my life without my parents,” my mother said.

“I was 28 when my dad died and 31 when my mom died. I remember feeling like, even though I was an adult, like an orphan. I’m only in my 20’s, why would I lose both my parents within 2 and a half years?”

“I do think that smoking definitely had something to do with it. It had to have caused some of the illness for both of them,” she said.

Tobacco use is the #1 cause of preventable disease and death across the world. And according to the American Lung Association, its effects claim 393,000 American lives each year.

More than 20 million people have died from smoking and secondhand smoke in the past 50 years, and most of you probably have a story of loved ones lost, like my family’s.

2014 marked 50 years of progress. 50 years since the Surgeon General came out against smoking. And we’ve done a lot. According to new reports from the Surgeon General, half as many American adults smoke. And Yale University research estimates that 8 million people’s lives have been saved because of it.

But 42 million American adults and more than 3.5 million middle and high school students still smoke. Which is why it’s time for you to take a stand for yourself and your family.

My mom has always pushed that my brother and I never pick up smoking. We have been lucky, but not everyone learns the legacy tobacco has had on their family.

Talk to your kids. Make sure that they know not only the dangers, but also that this can affect them. It is not some far-off stat that could never happen to them. Share your stories and the stories of those who can’t.

Make a plan to quit. Get ready, and take action. Don’t put off your health and your future. Start a new family legacy of quitting tobacco.

Find resources to help you quit at the American Cancer Association.

Health Alliance members can use our Quit For Life stop smoking program, which had helped more than 2 million people over the past 30 years. For more information, visit QuitNow.net or call 1-866-QUIT-4-LIFE (1-866-784-8454).

Your healthy change starts taking effect right now. Don’t put it off.

How Long After Quitting Smoking Infographic

*All statistics are from the American Lung Association and the American Cancer Association. My mother’s name is Mary Kay Shields, and I thank her for giving me permission to share our family’s story. I cannot imagine having to go the rest of my life without her or my father.

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A Good Night's Sleep Before the Holidays

My Healthy Journey: Progress and Prep for the Holidays

It’s that time of year when food is unavoidable. We’re just a week away from Thanksgiving, and a month away from Christmas. And while I have plenty of resolutions I could line up for the new year, there are a lot of things I’m trying to focus on to stay on a healthy track for the holidays.

It’s starting with healthier recipes. I love to cook, and I love the Thanksgiving classics, so finding ways to lighten those is definitely key. Luckily for me (and for you), finding those recipes on Pinterest is part of my job description. Check out our Holidays board and stay tuned on social media and on this blog all this month and in December for holiday food ideas. They can help make both lighter meals and menu planning easier.

Outside of trying to make healthy holiday choices, stocking my fridge and cabinets with healthy staples has been big for me this fall. Spinach, carrots, apples, juices, frozen peas and corn, and greek yogurt are my big staples. When it’s hard to pick out an unhealthy snack, it’s harder for my always-grazing habits to lead me off-course.

Being social again has also been helping with my feelings towards health. With my last job, I worked really crazy hours, and with this job, playing catch-up in a busy season has really cut down my social life. Recently, one of my neighbors died. He’d lived next door to me my entire life. And while he lived a full life and was rather old, those moments really force you to think about the moments you will remember. I won’t remember specific times that I snacked on an apple probably ever, but I will remember the times I went out and had a good dinner with friends and laughed over a bottle of wine.

I guess what I’m really saying is that I’m coming to terms with balance in my adult life in a way I never had before. I strive to make lots of little healthy decisions, but every once in a while, I throw those out for an evening in the pursuit of my happiness. And I think that’s okay.

Responsibility is a word I kick around in my head a lot these days. It’s something that sounds daunting, yet I find is getting easier with time. The stretching, meditating, and reading missions have all been going well, (although I usually forget to check in,) and I will be starting a planking challenge that you can do along with me on here tomorrow. But the place I’ve found the most success is with the bedtime routine. There is something about reserving a half hour every night to put away some clothes, clean my face, and brush and floss my teeth that really makes me feel like I’m taking care of myself.

(Side note: If you don’t floss, once your gums don’t bleed when you do it, it really is so great. And weirdly satisfying. When you get food out and know it would just rot in there if you didn’t, it suddenly looks super worth it.)

I know not everyone has the luxury of spending this much time on themselves, (I’m looking at you selfless parents,) but even just a few minutes on you can make a difference. And, I’ve noticed that after that and a little puppy cuddling, (and no caffeine in the evenings,) I sleep a lot better than I used to. The routine has been really great for winding down so I’m ready to go to sleep when I turn out the lights.

Join me again tomorrow as we kick off the planking challenge, and start your own bedtime routine for better sleep and less stress! And follow us on our new Instagram, where you can see more of my life and more of my healthy choices.

Active with Medicare Advantage Extras

Everyone Loves Extras

We’ve been mentioning Health Alliance Medicare Advantage’s great extras for weeks, today we’re telling you all about them!

Healthways SilverSneakers® Fitness Program

SilverSneakers helps you get fit the way you want, at your convenience. Reach your fitness goals with access to more than 11,000 fitness locations, where you can:

  • Use all basic amenities, plus take SilverSneakers classes*
  • Get guidance and assistance from a Program AdvisorSM
  • Enjoy fun social activities

You can also choose 1 of 4 fitness kits. They help you maintain good health, and gain balance and muscle strength, without leaving your home.

SilverSneakers also gives members a secure online community with access to:

  • Easy-to-use nutrition, fitness, and health tracking tools
  • Fun exercise videos and demonstrations
  • Expert advice on exercise, nutrition, and life skills

Assist America

No matter where you are in the world, Assist America connects you to the help you need. They link you to quality emergency medical care while traveling. These are just a few of the great features our members get:

  • Medical referrals
  • Emergency medical evacuation
  • Medical repatriation
  • Prescription assistance
  • Compassionate visit
  • Return of mortal remains
  • Lost luggage assistance
  • Interpreter and legal referrals

$0 Tier 1 Drugs at Walmart and Sam’s Club

Sound too good to be true? It’s not. Members with prescription drug coverage get Tier 1 prescription drugs at Walmart and Sam’s Club for $0. Tier 1 drugs feature the most-used drugs on our formulary.

You pay low copayments when you go to other in-network pharmacies.

Be Well

We take care of you, when you’re healthy and when you’re sick.

When you’re healthy, we help connect you to:

  • Yearly physicals
  • Routine screenings, like mammograms or colonoscopies
  • Yearly dental cleanings
  • Timely immunizations
  • Member magazines that share health info and plan details
  • Quit For Life stop-smoking program

When you’re sick, we help connect you to:

  • Case Management to help explain your diagnosis and test results, assist with home care, and discuss treatment options
  • Disease Management Programs
  • Anytime Nurse Line

Call 1-888-382-9771 (TTY 711) from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays. Or visit HealthAllianceMedicare.org for more info.

Health Alliance Medicare is an HMO, PPO, and PDP plan with a Medicare contract. Enrollment depends on contract renewal. You must continue to pay your Part B premium. Low-cost prescriptions are available at other in-network pharmacies. The benefit information here is just a brief summary, not a complete description of benefits. Limitations, copayments, and restrictions may apply. Benefits, formulary, pharmacy network, premium, and/or copayments/coinsurance may change on January 1 of each year.

American Diabetes Month

American Diabetes Month

This month is American Diabetes Month, and this year is all about helping Americans get cooking to stop diabetes. We will give you more info each day this week.

Get Moving Mondays are all about getting you active and helping you keep a healthy lifestyle all week long.

And visit our health and wellness tool Rally or our Pinterest workout board to get active today!

Tasty Tip Tuesdays are about making sure that people can prevent diabetes with a healthy diet, and still eat delicious food.

And visit our Pinterest for healthy swap info and recipes.

What’s Cooking Wednesdays help you choose healthy recipes for your holiday meals to help prevent diabetes.

And visit our Pinterest Thanksgiving board for more healthy holiday recipes.

Get Together Thursdays are all about hosting events to cook to prevent diabetes with your friends and family, and make healthy choices together.

And find healthy recipes, cocktails and more on our Pinterest.

Fact Check Friday will challenge your knowledge about nutrition and diabetes with questions from the American Diabetes Association. Share them and spread the knowledge!

Weekend Challenge to Stop Diabetes is an opportunity to help raise funds to stop it. Visit the American Diabetes Association to find fun ways to help today.

Still feeling like you don’t know much about diabetes? Visit the American Diabetes Association (link below,) or find more resources on our Disease Management page.

Get more info on this weekly schedule!

Healthy Thanksgiving Appetizers for the Holidays

Healthy Thanksgiving Appetizers

This week in food on social media, we gave you easy, delicious recipes for Thanksgiving appetizers to help you start planning your holiday menus.

First up was Fig and Goat Cheese Bruschetta, which you can prepare in advance of the big meal.

Fig and Goat Cheese Bruschetta

 

Clams Casino with Pancetta is decadent and satisfying, but just 61 calories apiece.

Clams Casino with Pancetta

 

Ricotta, Gorgonzola, and Honey Spread is a perfect, easy appetizer for your holiday meal.

Ricotta, Gorgonzola, and Honey Spread

 

Guests can dip into luscious Warm Cranberry-Walnut Brie while you finish cooking.

Warm Cranberry-Walnut Brie

 

Make Loaded Sweet Potato Skins, a hearty holiday appetizer that could substitute for the classic side.

Loaded Sweet Potato Skins
Image and Recipe via Sally’s Baking Addiction

 

Keep a basket of Honey-Almond Focaccia on the table as a tasty pre-meal snack.

Honey-Almond Focaccia

 

Potato-Apple Latkes are a perfect recipe for an appetizer or to save for Christmas breakfast.

Potato-Apple Latkes

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