Tag Archives: Blood Pressure

Taking Time to Relax

Vantage Point: It’s Time to Relax

Relaxation is the state of being free from tension and anxiety. When I think of relaxation, I imagine myself having no to-do list, sitting back, and watching my son play. Now that I’m raising a family, I understand the importance of taking time to just relax.

On the weekends, I tend to clean my house top to bottom. I get so focused on these tasks that by the time I’m done with my chores, I realize it’s already 5 o’clock on Saturday evening. I get so upset with myself because I spent a whole day cleaning instead of taking a stroll in the park, going on a hike with my family, or just sitting in the backyard and enjoying the nice summer weather.

Then, I rush to get myself together to go do something “fun” before night falls. This defeats the whole purpose of relaxing because I’m so tired by the end of the day, I don’t even get to enjoy the activities with my family.

I now more than ever see why it’s so important to take time to relax. Time and time again, I hear about all of the benefits of relaxation, like lowering blood pressure, increasing blood flow to major muscles, improving sleep quality, and much more. I need to be the best version of me so I can be around and have a good time with my family.

This summer, I am trying something new. I’m giving myself small tasks to do at home every day after work, so when the weekend comes around, my workload isn’t so big. I’m also giving myself a set time frame to clean each Saturday morning. When I’m all done, it’s usually time for my son to take a midday nap, which gives me some dedicated “me time.” When he wakes up, I’m relaxed and ready to have some family fun.

So far, I’m really enjoying my new approach to handling my time. Sometimes, relaxing is much harder than setting up a new plan. There are a lot of reasons you might need a new plan too, like a diagnosis that requires you to try a different approach.

When that happens, our case managers are here to help you make your new plan work in lots of way. They can provide motivation, tools, and lifestyle skills to help minimize your risk of complications and share resources that are available in your community.

So get started finding a plan that works for you, and don’t forget to take some time to relax this summer.

Jessica Arroyo, born and raised in Wenatchee Valley, 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 husband and infant son.
Your Preventive Care

Your Yearly Preventive Care and Physical

Getting your yearly physical, where you can get covered preventive care and screenings, helps you be your healthiest. It’s important that you not only know what’s recommended for your age and what you need to stay up to date, but also that you get to the doctor for this each year!

What Happens at Your Physical

Each year, you should schedule a physical with your doctor to focus on your health and wellness. At the appointment, you can:

  • Keep track of your health habits and history
  • Get a physical exam
  • Stay up-to-date with preventive care
  • Get education and counseling and set health goals

Health Habits & History

One of the first things that happens at your annual appointment is a nurse or your doctor will ask you to answer some questions about your health and family history, including questions about:

  • Your medical history
  • Your family history
  • Your sexual health and partners
  • Your eating and exercise habits
  • Your use of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs
  • Your mental health history, including depression
  • Your relationships and safety

This info can help you in the future. From getting diagnosed to being protected and helping you in an emergency, this information can help save your life.

Physical Exam

At your yearly physical, you can expect your doctors or nurses to:

  • Measure your height and weight
  • Calculate your body mass index (BMI) to check if you’re at a healthy weight
  • Take your blood pressure and temperature

From there, your doctor may give you your regular preventive care screenings and shots or refer you to a specialist for certain screenings, counseling, or care.

Preventive Care

As an adult, certain preventive care and screenings are covered for you, depending on timing and what your doctor recommends.

Immunizations (Shots)

Doses, recommended timing, and need for certain immunizations can vary based on your case:

  • Diphtheria
  • Flu shot
  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • Herpes Zoster
  • Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Measles
  • Meningococcal
  • Mumps
  • Pertussis
  • Pneumococcal
  • Rubella
  • Tetanus
  • Varicella (Chickenpox)
Condition Screenings & Care
  • Aspirin use – To prevent heart disease for adults of a certain ages
  • Cholesterol screening – For adults of certain ages or at higher risk
  • Blood pressure screening
  • Type 2 diabetes screening – For adults with high blood pressure
  • Colorectal cancer screening – For adults over 50
  • Depression screening
Weight Management
  • Obesity screening and counseling
  • Diet counseling – For adults at higher risk for chronic disease
Alcohol & Tobacco Use
  • Alcohol misuse screening and counseling
  • Tobacco use screening – For all adults and cessation interventions for tobacco users
  • Lung cancer screening – For adults 55 to 80 at high risk for lung cancer because they’re heavy smokers or have quit in the past 15 years
  •  Abdominal aortic aneurysm – A one-time screening for men of certain ages who have ever smoked
Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) Screenings
  • Sexually transmitted infection (STI) prevention counseling  – For adults at higher risk
  • Hepatitis B screening – For people at high risk, including people from countries with 2% or more Hepatitis B prevalence, and American-born people not vaccinated as infants and with at least one parent born in a region with 8% or more Hepatitis B prevalence
  • Hepatitis C screening – For adults at increased risk and once for everyone born from 1945 to 1965
  • HIV screening – For everyone ages 15 to 65 and other ages at increased risk
  •  Syphilis screening – For adults at higher risk

Women also have some additional covered screenings and benefits. Get more details about this specific preventive care while learning about your well-woman visits.

And learn more about what preventive care the United States Preventive Services Task Force recommends you get and when.

Education, Counseling & Health Goals

Your doctor can help you manage your conditions or diseases and prevent future problems by talking to you about your life and health each year.

Your doctor might have valuable handouts, websites, advice, and information to help you take care of yourself or might want to refer you to a specialist who can help you further.

Your doctor is also the perfect person to help you set goals to maintain or improve your health. From quitting smoking and knowing how to self-check for cancer to changing your diet and exercise for your weight, cholesterol, or blood pressure, your doctor can help you plan to be your healthiest.

Prepare for Your Visit

Preparing yourself with questions to ask and answers to your doctor’s questions can help you make the most of your visit.

Know Your Family History

Your family’s history of health and wellness is an important part of your own health record. Histories of illness and disease can help doctor’s look out for issues that run in families and more.

This family health history tool can help you track your family’s health, so that you’re always organized to talk to your doctor. Not sure about your family history? Filling this out is the perfect time to talk to family members for firsthand details.

Talk to Your Doctor

Prepare for your appointment by knowing any questions or issues you want to talk about ahead of time. Some things you might want to ask:

  • What immunizations or shots you need
  • Your diet and eating healthy food
  • Advice for exercise and getting active
  • Mental health concerns, like depression and anxiety
  • Specific issues you might be having, like sore joints, back pain, migraines, and more

Know What’s Covered

Learn more about your covered immunizations. And log in to Your Health Alliance or search by your member number to see what preventive care your plan covers.

You can use our general preventive care guidelines and prescription drugs or our Medicare preventive care guidelines to get an idea of what our plans cover.

If you’re not sure what’s covered and what you’ll need a preauthorization for, you can check your coverage and preauthorization lists at Your Health Alliance.

Now that you’re ready to go to your annual physical, log in to Your Health Alliance if you need to set a Primary Care Provider (PCP) and find a covered doctor, or start searching for doctors in our network.

Preventing High Blood Pressure

Stroke Awareness Month and High Blood Pressure Education Month

It’s National Stroke Awareness Month and National High Blood Pressure Education Month. Learn more about managing your blood pressure.

Blood Pressure and Cholesterol Resources

Stroke is 1 of the leading causes of death and disability in the U.S., but it doesn’t have to be. For Stroke Month, learn how you can treat and prevent stroke with tools from the CDC.

Preventing Strokes

 

On average, 1 American dies from a stroke every 4 minutes. But there is good news; up to 80% of strokes are preventable. Take action to lower your risk for stroke with these resources from Million Hearts.

Lower Stroke Risk

 

Can you spot the signs and symptoms of a stroke? Knowing how to spot a stroke and respond quickly could potentially save a life. Put your stroke knowledge to the test with this quiz.

Stroke Signs Symptoms

 

Time lost is brain lost. Every minute counts! If you or someone you know shows symptoms of a stroke, call 911 right away.

Act FAST to Spot a Stroke

 

From the first symptoms of stroke to recovery at home, here’s how the CDC Coverdell Program connects healthcare professionals across the system of care to save lives and improve care.

Stroke Awareness Month

 

High blood pressure can increase your risk for stroke. This Stroke Month, make blood pressure control your goal with tips from Million Hearts.

Lowering Your Blood Pressure

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Aging with Your Pets

Long View: Aging With Our Pets

My grandparents had a Chihuahua that lived to be 20 years old. Suzy had her own knitted sweaters to wear when she went outside. Every night, Grandma cooked and cut up liver in tiny, bite-sized pieces for Suzy’s dinner.

I’m not sure what the life expectancy and living arrangements for most dogs were in the 1950s and 1960s, but I would wager that Suzy’s life was particularly plush for that era. When I came along in 1968, my parents gave me the middle name of Sue. I often wondered if this was a happy coincidence or a tribute to that beloved Chihuahua.

Today, I have a yellow Labrador retriever puppy named Harvey. Grandpa’s name was Harvey. Touché.

Americans love their pets. Take a stroll through your local big-box pet supplies chain, and the number of things a person can buy for their animals will amaze you. Strollers, raincoats, probiotics, gluten-free and vegan dog food, and even memory foam mattresses. Within just a few miles of my house, Harvey can go to a doggy day camp, swim at an indoor pool just for pooches, and later have his hair and nails done at the pet spa.

Your pet pampers you in different ways. Owning a pet lowers stress, reduces blood pressure, and raises mental sharpness. A study from the University of Missouri-Columbia showed that petting a dog for 15 minutes releases the feel-good hormones serotonin, prolactin, and oxytocin, while also lowering the stress hormone cortisol.

Pets can open up a lonely world and get you out of bed in the morning. Walking a dog (or a cat, if you are particularly brave and the cat is extremely cooperative) is good exercise. Those of us with an empty nest find a new sense of purpose. And nurturing a beloved animal gives us unconditional love in return.

An older person with a pet companion can be a heartwarming love match. I reached out to Stacey Teager, from the Quad City Animal Welfare Center, for some advice for those who are looking to add a pet to their home in later years.

  • Make sure your pet gets regular checkups and immunizations. Have your animal spayed or neutered.
  • Never give your pet “people” medications. Always consult a veterinarian before medicating your pet.
  • Have a plan in place with your family or close friends for caring for your pet should you become sick and need to be hospitalized or stay in a nursing facility.
  • Match your pet with your physical capabilities. My 50-pound Labrador retriever puppy can drag my mother down the sidewalk. This is dangerous for both her and the dog. A quieter, smaller animal is a better choice for her to walk around the neighborhood.
  • Despite my grandmother’s loving intentions, don’t feed your pet table scraps or human food. Animals can get overweight and unhealthy with just a few added ounces. If you like to bake, there are lots of recipes for animal treats that use ingredients found in your pantry.

Lora Felger is a community and broker liaison at Health Alliance. She is the mother of 2 terrific boys, a world traveler, and a major Iowa State Cyclones fan.

Fun Ahead

Social Wellness Month

July is Social Wellness Month, which calls for you to nurture yourself and your relationships through social support.

People with a strong social network tend to live longer, and their heart and blood pressure respond to stress better.

Come Together

 

Strong social networks are associated with better heart and immune system function.

Your Health and Social Support

 

Be aware of commitments and following through to make sure you make commitments you can stand by.

Follow Through for Friends

 

Break the cycle of blame and criticism to own your role in your relationships.

Own Your Role

 

Focus on resolving conflict and fixing your personal flaws instead of trying to fix others.

Focus on Change for You

 

Show your appreciation through words and actions to build healthy relationships.

Sharing Your Appreciation

 

Grow your social network by volunteering or by joining a gym, club or group for a hobby.

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Shop Smart by Reading Labels

Breaking Down Food Labels

While you’re shopping, understanding the nutrition labels on food can help you make smart choices for your family. We can help you make the most of them.

New Food Label for a New Era

In May, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a new Nutrition Facts label with some important improvements:

What's Different?
Image via the FDA

When you see them side by side, you can see that the new label calls out the actual serving size and calories per serving much bigger. At the store, this can quickly help you see how good for you something is in terms of calories, and how much bang for your buck you’re getting in what you buy.

New vs Old Label
Image via the FDA

It also calls out added sugars, which are sugars (like sugar, honey, or corn syrup) that are added to packaged food. Fresh fruit has natural sugars, so juices don’t list the sugar that’s naturally occurring from the fruit as added sugar.

And now it calls out the exact amount of nutrients, like vitamin D, calcium, iron, and potassium.

The FDA’s new labels have also changed serving sizes to better show how much people actually eat of certain foods:

New Serving Sizes
Image via the FDA

While a half a cup of ice cream used to be the recommended serving size, most people are scooping out closer to a cup, so the FDA wanted to make sure you know how many calories you’re actually eating in that bowl of ice cream.

Making the Most of Food Labels

1. Serving Size

Serving SizeWhen you pick something up at the store, start with the serving size on the Nutrition Facts label.

It will tell you the total number of servings in the package, and the new serving size, which better shows how much of it you actually eat.

These serving sizes are standard, so it’s easier for you to compare the calories and nutrients in similar foods to find the healthiest brand for you. Serving sizes also come in measurements you know, like cups, followed by grams.

2. Calories

CaloriesNext, look at the number of calories per serving. Calories are a measure of how much energy you’ll get from food.

Many people eat more calories than they need to, so keeping track of how many you eat can help you with your weight. Most people should eat around 2,000 calories per day.

When you’re looking at the calories, if you’re eating around 2,000 calories a day, then 40 calories is low for a serving, 100 calories is in the middle, and 400 or more calories is high. In fact, you should shoot for whole meals to be around 400 calories.

3. Nutrients to Limit

The nutrients listed first are Nutrients to Limitones that most Americans get plenty or too much of.

Eating too much fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, or sugar can raise your risk of certain diseases, like heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

The bold headlines are most helpful for you when you’re shopping, so you can quickly see how much of these is in something, while the subheads, like saturated and trans fat, can help you focus on a nutrient you’re interested in.

The percentages along the side tell you how much of your 2,000 calorie diet this food takes up. So in this image, the total fat in this food takes up 10% of all the fat you should eat in a whole day.

Dietary fiber and protein that are mixed into this list are good for you and important to keep an eye on. Fiber can help you better process food and reduce the risk of heart disease, and protein can help you stay full longer and is important if you’re trying to build muscle.

4. Nutrients You Need

Important NutrientsThe bottom section of nutrients are ones that many don’t get enough of, so they’ve been highlighted to help you buy foods rich in them.

These are nutrients that can help you improve your health and help lower the risk of some diseases. For example, calcium and vitamin D can help you build strong bones and lower your risk of getting osteoporosis later in life, and potassium can help lower your blood pressure.

5. Footnote

Label FootnoteThe footnote is more simple in the new design, too. It just reminds you that the percentages are based on a 2,000 calorie per day diet.

Now that you know what the different sections of the Nutrition Facts label are telling you, it will be easy to look for food with good calorie counts, limited salt, fat, and sugar, and plenty of healthy nutrients, like calcium.

Up Next:

Why shop organic? Our Organic 101 guide makes it easy!

Make sense of expiration dates while you’re shopping to make the most of your groceries.

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Protect Your Health for Dairy Month

Dairy Month

June is Dairy Month. Do you know why you should be getting dairy in your diet?

Calcium in dairy helps build your bones and teeth and prevent breaks.

The Benefits of Dairy

 

Dairy is especially important for kids. It helps build bone mass while they’re young.

Dairy and Your Kids

 

A diet with dairy in it helps reduce your risk of osteoporosis later in life.

Dairy In Your Diet

 

Dairy, especially yogurt and milk, is rich in potassium, which helps with your blood pressure.

A diet with dairy in it helps reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and high cholesterol.

Yogurt and Milk's Benefits

 

The vitamin D in dairy helps your body maintain calcium and protect your bones.

Building Stronger Bones

 

A diet with dairy in it also helps lower your risk of type 2 diabetes.

Preventing Disease with Dairy

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