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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Shop Online for Health Insurance

New to Shopping for Health Insurance?

If you’ve never shopped for health insurance before, it can be a little scary. We are going to make the journey easier this Open Enrollment Period. Check back each week for another post that helps you shop for a Health Alliance plan.

We’ll start small – with the Open Enrollment Period.

The Open Enrollment Period (OEP) is from November 15 to February 15 this year. Each fall, the government picks a time that you can buy insurance for the next year.

What happens if you don’t enroll by February 15?

You will have to wait until the next Open Enrollment Period (fall of 2016), or have a life-changing event, like getting married or having a baby, that qualifies you for a Special Enrollment Period.

After February 15, most people will have to pay a penalty for not having a plan, and worse yet, they’ll still have to pay for 100%of their medical costs. Talk about adding insult to injury!

Can you change your plan after the OEP?

No, you would have to wait until the 2016 OEP to change plans. If you’re unhappy with your current plan, now is the time to take action!

How does the government know if you have insurance?

They’ll ask you on your taxes. Health insurance companies like Health Alliance will also turn in information to the IRS telling them who has a qualified health plan (QHP) through us.

What’s a Qualified Health Plan?

A Qualified Health Plan (QHP) is a plan that is certified by the federal Health Insurance Marketplace. That means it will include all the benefits the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires and meets all of the spending limits and rules of the ACA.

Why should you buy health insurance instead of paying the fine?

Sometimes, especially when you’re young and healthy, it seems like paying a one-time fine could be a better deal than paying a monthly insurance premium.

But in that case, you need to weigh the risk with the money. The average hospital stay for people 18 to 44 years old is $7,400.

The average cost of a broken arm for a simple break is $2,500-$3,500. If it was bad break, it can be several times more than that.

Can you afford to pay $2,000 out-of-pocket? What about $10,000? What if you were in an accident or needed surgery, would the cost of taking care of yourself ruin you financially? When you think about it that way, the cost of health insurance is a good investment. Learn more about insurance on our website.

When you’re ready to start shopping, Health Alliance can help you. Visit HealthAlliance.org or call us at 1-877-686-1168 to learn more.

Alzheimer’s Disease Brain

National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month

November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and National Caregiver Month, so on social media, we gave you more info on the disease each day.

In the U.S., there are more than 15 million Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers. Give these people a big thank you! And learn how to join in the raising awareness this month.

More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s Disease, and every 67 seconds someone in the U.S. develops it.

There are approximately 500,000 people dying each year from Alzheimer’s, and it’s the 6th leading cause of death in the U.S.

1 in 3 seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another dementia. These numbers could triple with the baby boomers unless we make breakthroughs to prevent or treat it.

Alzheimer’s is the most expensive condition in the nation. The cost to America in 2014 will be $214 billion. Nearly 1 in 5 Medicare dollars is spent on those with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Almost 2/3 of Americans with Alzheimer’s are women. In her 60s, a woman is more like to develop it than breast cancer.

15.5 million caregivers provide 17.7 billion hours of unpaid care for Alzheimer’s victims. More than 60% of them are women.

Find a walk, other ways to help, or more info.

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