Tag Archives: action

Go Red for Heart Health

Long View: You Can’t Beat a Healthy Heart or 6 More Weeks of Winter

Just when you think the holidays are over and the thrill of the new year has finally tapered down, here comes February — Groundhog Day, Super Bowl Sunday, Mardis Gras, Valentine’s Day, and Presidents Day. February is a multi-themed, food-filled month of celebration.

We anticipate the shadow reveal of Punxsutawney Phil, we break out the football-shaped cheese ball to root for our team, we plan our menu of anything and everything on Fat Tuesday, and if that isn’t enough, we love to eat chocolates on the day of love. Then when it’s all over (and after a slight weight gain), we hit the mall for some comfy stretch wear with Presidents Day sale bargains!

But wait, how about doing something this month to celebrate our health and focus on our heart? If we can take advice from a small woodchuck about the weather, we surely can take advice from the American Heart Association about our health!

February is American Heart Month, and part of that is National Wear Red Day. For those of you who know me, my wardrobe pretty much consists of drab colors and neutrals, but this year, I broke out my red floral scarf for a splash of color as a symbol of support!

The American Heart Association and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute encourage all of us to take action against this killer disease. Studies show that 80% of cardiac and stroke events may be preventable with education and action.

Find time to talk to your family and get everyone on board with heart health. Encourage healthy eating habits by making healthier versions of your favorite food. Choose foods and recipes low in sodium and with no added sugar or trans fats. When you shop, buy colorful fruits and vegetables, which are all powerhouses when it comes to nutrition, and stay away from dairy and meat products that are high in fat.

Fiber is important in your diet, and you can find fiber not only in fruits and vegetables, but also in beans, nuts, and whole grain. Take the time to read the nutrition labels on items, and check out the sodium content. (A general rule is, if anything has more than 250 mg of sodium, you may want to search for something with less.)

Physical activity can also help you stay heart healthy. It’s not only what you put into your body, it’s also what you put out. Exercise helps to improve heart health, and it can even help reverse certain heart disease risk factors. Our heart becomes stronger from exercise, which helps it pump more blood through the body and work at maximum level without strain.

Aerobic activities at least 3 to 4 times a week are the best. Choose walking, swimming, or biking, and allow for a good 5 minutes of stretching beforehand to warm up your muscles and a cool down period after you’re through. And of course, always check with your doctor before starting any new physical routine.

So this February, maybe forego indulging in lavish holiday food choices (remember that New Year’s resolution?) and celebrate in a new way. Go out and buy something red to wear to celebrate heart health AND 6 more weeks of winter, or will it be an early spring? Better check with Punxsutawney Phil before you go!

Mervet Adams is a community liaison with Health Alliance. She loves her grandson, family, nature, and fashion.

You're Not Alone

Vantage Point: Choosing Hope

The surrounding orchards could not have been more green and vibrant as they readied to grow fruit. The river ran brilliant blue, reflecting a sky filled with puffy, white clouds. The sun shone brightly, arousing hope as only a perfect NCW spring day can. But it took a tragic turn for the worse as I received the call. A dear family member, known for his gentle heart, had tragically committed suicide.      

Suicide is one of the leading causes of death that could be prevented in the United States across groups, including seniors. Locally, rates have steadily risen in Chelan and Douglas counties since 2012, and Okanogan County has one of the highest rates in the state.

Washington state has recently declared that suicide prevention is a statewide public safety issue and is requiring MDs, DOs, APCs, nurses, and rehab staff to complete 6 hours of suicide prevention training as part of their licensure. This will help them gain the tools and knowledge to recognize at-risk patients, communicate with them, and take the appropriate steps for follow-through.

Reaching out to Carolina Venn-Padilla, MSW, LASW, of the Catholic Family and Child Service’s Suicide Prevention Coalition of North Central Washington, I shared my lack of knowledge and understanding.

Carolina was truly sorry to hear of my loss. She said it’s important to promote hope, connection, social support, treatment, and recovery to help with suicide prevention.

The public seems to think that suicide is a response to stressful situations and that suicidal thoughts may lead to death. It is important to combat this view with positive messaging that shows actions people can take to prevent suicide and stories that show prevention works, that recovery is possible, and that programs, services, and help exist.

This does not mean we should minimize the very real stories of struggle. For my family, that beautiful spring day changed our lives and saddened us to depths we may never recover from. I’m not close to having the answers to what we could have done differently, but I have chosen not to dwell on the negative. Instead, I will honor our loved one by calling attention to suicide and encouraging other families struggling to choose hope.

Help is never far away:

Shannon Sims is a Medicare community liaison for Health Alliance, serving Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan counties in Washington. During her time off she enjoys spending time with her family and riding horses.        

In Case of Emergency: FAST

Vantage Point: Act FAST

Due to its beauty, 4 distinct seasons, diverse recreation opportunities, and 300-plus days a year of sunshine, North Central Washington is a paradise to many. Living here helps to promote a healthy lifestyle and positive attitude.

For several years, North Central Washington has also been known for the inevitability of summer wildfires. And last year, with the towns of Carlton and Pateros burning, and this year, with the town of Wenatchee on fire, it’s put a whole new meaning on how devastating, scarring, and unpredictable wildfires can be and how important it is to act fast when one occurs. The same can be said for a stroke.

A stroke is an often unrecognized, true emergency, cutting off vital blood flow and oxygen to the brain. Strokes are the second-leading cause of death for people 60 years or older worldwide, the fifth-leading cause of death in the United States, and a leading cause of serious long-term adult disability.

Strokes can happen to anyone, at any time, regardless of race, sex, or age. Risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, atrial fibrillation, smoking, diabetes, poor circulation, inactivity, obesity, and family history. You can learn more by visiting the National Stroke Association’s Stroke Awareness website, but the best action you can take is to get regular checkups with your primary care doctor, so together you can formulate your own prevention plan.

There are two types of strokes, ischemic and hemorrhagic, and during a stroke, 2 million brain cells die every minute, increasing risk of permanent brain damage and disability. Therefore, recognizing symptoms and acting fast to get medical attention can save a life and limit disabilities. The sooner you call 911, the better chance there is of recovery. So remember, “FAST” stands for:

  • Face, look for an uneven smile.
  • Arms, check to see if one arm is weak or unable to move.
  • Speech, listen for slurred speech or inability to speak.
  • Time, call 911 at the first sign.

Like natural disasters, many times, health concerns such as strokes come with no warning or time to prepare, so it’s important to have adequate health insurance coverage. Our expert and local customer service representatives are always here to help our members understand all their health insurance benefits, especially in the case of an emergency, so they can worry less and focus on what is most important, enjoying the North Central Washington good life.

Shannon Sims is a Medicare community liaison for Health Alliance, serving Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan counties in Washington. She has four adult sons and two grandsons. During her time off, she performs as part of a rodeo drill team on her horse, Skeeter.

Planning for a Happy Retirement

Long View: How Much Money Do You Need for Retirement?

Benjamin Franklin’s saying, “a penny saved is a penny earned,” is still true today, especially when thinking about retirement. I think about the possibilities once in a while, but it seems too far in the future to worry about it right now.

I know in my grandparents’ day, retirement didn’t require much planning. Most folks didn’t live long enough for it to be a problem. These days with modern medicine, longevity is a much more attainable goal. It’s the actions we take to prepare for it that have the most impact on our quality of life.

The United States Census Bureau says people age 90 and older make up 4.7 percent of the population 65 and older. That’s expected to be as high as 10 percent by 2050.

I used an online retirement calculator to find out how much I should have saved at this point in my career. The results indicated I was well under my goal. The predictions were based on a life expectancy of 92 years, a daunting prospect at this stage of the game.

I have been meaning to increase the amount I put aside for retirement, but it seems I just don’t get around to it. Benjamin would advise me to “never leave that till tomorrow which you can do today.” Having looked into the future, I will definitely take some action. Even a slight increase now will make a difference in the long run.

“Obviously the earlier you start to save for retirement the better,” says Bob Ballsrud, executive vice president of Busey Wealth Management. “Our younger clients often invest in more growth assets because they have the time to recover from any temporary downturn. More mature clients often are encouraged to lower their risk because they will need to access the funds sooner. Either way, it’s the consistency of action and the appropriate planning that help you meet your goals.”

I know there are a number of factors to consider before retirement. It seems advance planning is the best course, or as Ben tells us, “Employ thy time well if thou meanest to gain leisure.”

Plan Ahead with Health Insurance

Part of planning for your future is making sure you can cover medical and hospital costs when you need to. Learn more about Medicare, wellness, and health insurance in general at HealthAlliance.org.

Senior Centers Visiting

Vantage Point: Senior Centers Offer More Than You Think

In my role at Health Alliance Medicare, I’ve had the pleasure to work with senior centers in Chelan, Grant, Douglas, and Okanogan counties.

The word “center” means a source of influence, action or force. The first senior center started in New York in 1943 to provide education and recreation. Today’s senior center is an oasis, providing familiarity in an ever-changing world for long-time members, while carefully evolving to attract the new energy and ideas of those aging in.

The senior centers I visit are very different. Some are limited on space. Others boast grand dining and dance halls. Some are open select days. Others host a full calendar of events.

Still, they all have people who go above and beyond to make life better—either working as staff or volunteering. It is remarkable how in even the smallest towns, senior center members share meals, dance or play cards. Gathering fills the centers’ walls with a camaraderie that is authentic and intoxicating.

Through senior centers visits, I have met those with cool confidence that only comes from experience. I have felt privileged to shake the hands of veterans from every branch of the military. I met a farmer turned cowboy poet. I enjoyed wonderful lunches with even more flavorful stories. I even met “Elvis” during one event—but was more inspired by the women who helped their friend dance without the use of her walker.

Before my visits, it is fair to say I had an old-fashioned idea of senior centers.

I realize now they are as diverse as the people who frequent them. Senior centers provide a space where everyday moments bring a sense of purpose, fulfillment and harmony. All share a common goal of helping people age gracefully and independently.

I believe they hold our communities’ richest treasures.

The challenge is getting people to overcome perceptions and walk through the door. If you take those first steps, you might find a room full of friends you just hadn’t met yet.

ADHD - Like Changing Channels

Can Adults Have ADHD?

Remember that boy in second grade? The one who couldn’t sit still? Who the teacher was always disciplining for not listening and distracting others? Chances are, he had Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

If so, chances are also good that ADHD is still a part of his everyday life.

Most people don’t outgrow ADHD. The good news? Once the disorder’s been recognized and treated, adults can learn to adapt. When managed with the appropriate combo of meds, therapy, education, and support, adults lead productive and successful lives.

Doctors once thought that ADHD only affected children, and boys, twice as much as girls. Now, we know that its symptoms continue into adulthood for about 60% of those kids. That’s about 4% of the U.S. adult population, or 8 million adults. Because ADHD is likely a genetic, inherited disorder, adults are often diagnosed when their son or daughter is.

You may have been un-diagnosed as a kid if:

  • School report cards showed comments about behavior problems, poor focus, lack of effort, or underachievement.
  • Teachers brought up behavioral issues with your parents.
  • You had problems with peers, bed wetting, school failure, or suspensions.

ADHD affects the prefrontal cortex of the brain, the part of the brain which lets us control thoughts and actions. Its symptoms include being:

    • Easily distracted
    • Forgetful
    • Disorganized
    • Restless
    • Reckless
    • Careless

And these symptoms can cause further struggles, like:

  • Lateness
  • Anxiety
  • Mood swings
  • Anger problems
  • Depression
  • Low self-esteem
  • Impulsiveness
  • Substance abuse or addiction
  • Procrastination
  • Frustration
  • Boredom
  • Trouble concentrating with reading and listening

Adults with untreated ADHD have trouble following directions, planning ahead, and finishing work on deadline. When not managed, this can lead to job loss and unhealthy relationships.

Talk to your doctor today if you think you or your child have ADHD.