Tag Archives: statistics

Your Home Accessibility as You Age

Long View: Making Your Home More Accessible

A beloved family member is aging rather rapidly, not that we’d mention it of course. He already has arthritis in both knees and his left hand. His vision is not as good as it used to be, and we notice his agility just isn’t there anymore.

The problem is that his home has incredibly steep stairs, and the bedrooms and bathrooms are on the second floor. The furnace is in the cellar, which is only accessible through heavy metal doors and down another steep flight of stairs. And of course, the front door has stairs, too. The bathroom needs a lot of work. There’s no shower, just a huge slippery clawfoot tub. Home modification would be great, but a hundred-year-old house will always have its challenges.

These days, some builders are making structures with Universal Design, which focuses on providing maximum accessibility, regardless of a person’s ability to maneuver. Wider doorways, flat thresholds, and grab bars are a few of the tools that can make a home or commercial building more convenient for all of us.

My friend Therese Cardosi is the executive director of the Options Center for Independent Living in Bourbonnais. The mission of these centers (there’s also a location in Watseka) is to provide services, support, and advocacy to enhance the rights and abilities of people with disabilities in order to help them more actively participate in their communities and live self-determined independent lives.

“We are all in the process of creating the future for ourselves and our children, “ Therese said. “We don’t know what that future will bring, but we can predict that many of us will eventually need accessible places to live. The statistical projections are staggering.”

The National Association of Area Agencies on Aging’s mission is to “build the capacity of our members so they can help older adults and people with disabilities live with dignity and choices in their homes and communities for as long as possible.”

Sadly, their many services can’t make up for a home that doesn’t accommodate someone with limited mobility or sensory loss. For those of you who haven’t figured it out, I am the “beloved family member” mentioned at the beginning.

There seems to be some movement in the right direction, but will it be enough or fast enough to support the statistical crush of the Baby Boomers? Probably not, but at least some folks are starting the conversation, and I want to be a part of it.

Patrick Harness is a community liaison with a long history of experience in health insurance. If you ask him to pick a color, he always chooses orange, and he is known for his inability to parallel park.

Flaming Hot

Hot Enough

There’s a good reason to make sure you’re always cooking your meat to the right temps: foodborne illness.

Foodborne illness, or food poisoning, is when you eat or drink foods that are contaminated by bacteria, viruses, parasites, or even poisonous chemicals. There are more than 250 different foodborne illnesses. The top 5 are the most dangerous.

Myths vs. Facts

Myth: Food poisoning is rare and not that serious.

Facts:

Foodborne Illness Stats
Statistics via the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Myth: I will know if I have food poisoning.

Facts: Food poisoning is often blamed on things like “a stomach bug,” but it can have many symptoms.

The most common symptoms are nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, and diarrhea. You could experience all of these or just one. It really depends on what caused it.

Myth: This happened because my food was dirty.

Facts: There are lots of reasons this can happen.

Fresh fruit and veggies can be contaminated if they’re washed in tainted water or touched by unwashed hands or sick people who help process the food.

Some healthy animals have certain kinds of bacteria to help their digestion. These can come in contact with the meat you eat during processing. Salmonella, one of the most dangerous foodborne illnesses, can infect a hen so that its eggs are infected from the start.

Leaving raw food to thaw out of the fridge or leaving cooked food out for too long, like at a potluck or BBQ, can let bacteria grow.

Food coming into contact during cooking with raw meats or dirty cutting boards and knives can spread the bacteria to things that were clean!

What Should I Do?

First, make sure you’re washing your fruits and veggies after you buy them and storing things safely.

Heat can kill bacteria, so always make sure you cook your food to the right temperature. You can do this by using a food thermometer.

Place the thermometer in the thickest part of the food, but it shouldn’t be touching bone or fat. Check the temp toward the end of cooking but before you think it will be done. And make sure to clean it well with hot, soapy water between each use.

Use these handy guides to cook and grill your food to safe temperatures:

Meat & Poultry Temperature Guide
Image via Food Network

 

Grill Master Guide
Image via Visual News

Up Next:

Wondering how long your food is actually good for? We can help make sense of all those dates!

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HPV Vaccine for Back-to-School

Protect Your Kids From Cancer This Back-to-School Season

In 2015, about 12,900 new cases of invasive cervical cancer will be diagnosed, according to the American Cancer Society. And about 4,100 women will die from their cervical cancer this year.

But you can help save your daughters from this fate by making sure they get the HPV vaccine.

HPV and Cancer

HPV, or human papillomavirus, is the most common sexually transmitted infection, and it causes many health problems. In fact, nearly all sexually active adults will get it at some point in their lives, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

There are many different types of the virus, and while some may cause no problems and go away, others cause warts, cervical, vaginal, vulvar, penile, anal, and oral cancer in women or men.

In fact, the HPV infection causes 5% of all cancers worldwide, and 10,000 Americans die from cancers caused by HPV each year, according to The New York Times. And 14 million new cases of HPV are diagnosed in the U.S. each year.

HPV can cause cancer years or even decades after you first get HPV and can be spread to others that whole time, even when you have no symptoms. There is no way to know which people with HPV will develop cancer and other problems.

Debunking Concerns About the HPV Vaccine

The vaccine targets the kinds of HPV that most commonly cause cervical cancer. Gardasil also protects against the kind that causes warts. And just this year in March, the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and CDC approved a new version of the vaccine that protects against 9 different strains of HPV.

While the vaccine can literally prevent cancer and has been proven highly effective, its use isn’t as widespread as the virus it protects against.

Some worry about the safety of the vaccine. It is fully endorsed by the FDA and CDC, which continue to closely monitor the vaccine’s safety. And it has very mild side effects, such as:

• Arm pain or redness where the shot was given
• Dizziness
• Fainting
• Nausea
• Headache

When the side effects of HPV are cancer, these seem like a minor risk to protect your kids’ futures.

Others have worried that the vaccine will promote sexual behavior, especially unsafe behavior. But as this U.S. News article discusses, a study from early this year shows that the vaccine hasn’t influenced these behaviors in women.

Protecting Your Kids

The HPV vaccine is safe, effective, and highly recommended by your doctors. The HPV vaccine is just as important for your kids as vaccines that protect against diseases like mumps and measles.

The vaccine is a series of 3 shots recommended for girls AND boys between the ages of 11 and 12 but can be given anytime between the ages of 9 and 26. However, the earlier they get it, the more likely they are to be protected.

Talk to your doctor about giving your kids the HPV vaccine during back-to-school checkups and sports physicals this year. When cancer is on the line, protecting your kids now is always the best plan.

 

Health Alliance covers HPV vaccinations.

Learning About Your Family's Diabetes

Around the Web: You and Your Family’s Diabetes

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), in 2012, 29.1 million people had diabetes, and 8.1 million of them didn’t even know they had it. Managing you and your family’s diabetes can be a challenge.

Sometimes, you don’t realize the reach the disease can have on your health and your lives.

Diabetes Guides

These visual guides can help you understand the difference between type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes.

Your diabetes can affect your feet,  eyes, and mouth. These guides tell you how diabetes affects them, and ways to prevent problems.

Controlling your blood sugar through an insulin-based treatment plan can be tricky, but these tips can help.

Your blood sugar can also swing for reasons other than what you eat, so awareness is key.

When you’re first diagnosed, insulin injections can be a scary part of dealing with your diabetes. This guide can help walk you through the process.

You can also check out the YouTube video playlist Diabetes Basics from the ADA to learn more about how diabetes works and ways to protect yourself.

Your Family’s Diabetes

Of the 9.3% of the U.S. population who has diabetes, about 208,000 people are under age 20. And when you’re still growing up, the age difference can change the affects, both physically and emotionally.

The ADA’s page For Parents and Kids is a great place to start as you explore your child’s diabetes. Be Healthy Today; Be Healthy for Life is also an in-depth resource for kids and their families about living with type 2 diabetes.

The National Diabetes Education Program also has these PDFs of helpful info and tips written specifically for teens and their needs:

The ADA also has a page, Everyday Life, that helps you find resources to help your kids live with diabetes through all the stages and events of life. Topics include leaving them with babysitters, telling others, playing sports, and even parties, dating, and driving.

Their YouTube channel also has a playlist of videos to help you make sure your kids are Safe at School.

For additional resources and ways we can help, visit us online and join our Diabetes Disease Management program.

Don't Fall with Tai Chi

Your Ultimate Guide to Fall Prevention

Each year as the weather turns icy, we return to one major health topic for older adults, avoiding a fall. How big is the risk actually, though?

Truth in Numbers

No matter how healthy you are, falling is a real risk. About 1 out of 3 adults age 65 or older falls each year, but less than half of those talk to their doctors about it.

Sure, you might think, but everyone falls once in a while, right? Kids fall all the time! But your mom falling could be a lot more serious than your toddler. Falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries in older adults.

In 2013, 2.5 million people were treated for nonfatal falls, and 734,000 of those had to be hospitalized. And in 2012, the medical costs from falls reached $30 billion.

They cause the most broken bones, traumatic brain injuries, and over 95% of hip fractures in older adults. And women are twice as likely as men to break a bone.

What Causes A Fall

Icy and slippery weather is of course a big reason that falls happen, but winter isn’t the only time to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Seeing is an essential part of most of our days, but as you age and your vision gets worse, it can increase your risk of falling. If you can’t see the danger, it’s harder to avoid it.

Some medications, both prescription and over-the-counter can cause side effects, like dizziness and drowsiness, that can make it more likely you’ll take a tumble.

Dangers in your homes, like tripping hazards, stairs, and slippery bathtubs, are a huge risk.

And many people who fall once are afraid of falling again and what could happen if they do. This leads them to limit their activities, lowering their mobility and fitness, which can actually increase their chances of falling and of getting hurt.

A recent study also found that many people’s falls are because of an infection, which can cause low blood pressure, which can make you feel dizzy or lightheaded. This can both lead to your fall, or make you confused about what happened afterwards.

Year-Round Protection

There are ways to help stop falls before they happen:

Get your eyes checked each year, and always keep your glasses prescription as up to date as possible.

Ask your doctor to review all your meds, and see if there are other options for any drugs that might be increasing your risk of falling.

Fall-proof your home. Adding grab bars in the bathroom and railings to stairs and even improving the lighting in your home can make a huge difference.

Get enough calcium and Vitamin D from foods like dairy, soy milk, orange juice, and salmon, or take a regular supplement.

Get tested for osteoporosis.

Remove clutter. A messy house can actually increase your chance of falling at home. Learn more.

Get active! There are great options and resources for getting healthy at any age.

  • Tai Chi is especially helpful for improving your balance and leg strength. Use this Tai Chi Fall Prevention Toolkit to get started now.
  • Try walking outside with friends or family.
  • Weight bearing exercises can lower your chance of hip fractures.
  • Water aerobics is a great way to move without stressing your joints.
  • Moving to the beat and changing to a rhythm are shown to reduce falls. Get dancing at your local senior center’s events, take lessons, or just let loose at home.
  • We want to help, too. Our Medicare members have perks to help you get fit at a gym of your choice.  Our members also get discounts at certain fitness locations.

All statistics are from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Protecting Your Baby with Vaccines

The Importance of Vaccines: Myths vs. Facts

A little boy in Germany has died, the first death in the current measles outbreak. While people take sides about vaccines in the news and politics, the medical world’s feelings are clear.

Vaccines, or immunizations, are a time-tested and scientifically proven way to prevent certain diseases to protect your kids and our society.

What are vaccines?

Vaccines, immunizations, or shots are kinds of drugs you can take to help your immune system. Inside your body, they act like the diseases they’re supposed to prevent and trick your body into producing the kinds of cells it needs to fight a certain disease. By doing this, vaccines teach your body how to beat real infections when they happen.

When enough people are vaccinated, 90 to 95% of the population, it is enough to protect everyone, which helps get rid of diseases altogether.

Inoculation, an early form of vaccines, has been saving lives since the year 1000 in China. And waves of diseases and struggles to find treatments and cures across history have shown that sometimes, vaccines are our first and best form of protection.

Get more history on vaccines and the diseases they fight with this project from The College of Physicians of Philadelphia, The History of Vaccines.  

How well do they work?

Some of the scariest and most painful diseases to ever exist have been nearly wiped out by vaccination. And smallpox, one of the deadliest diseases, has been completely wiped out around the world. By doing so, according to Unicef, we’ve saved approximately 5 million lives each year.

And other diseases, like polio, have been close to being wiped out, too.

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than a dozen of the most deadly sicknesses humans have ever seen have been nearly wiped out in the last 200 years since vaccines were made. This infographic from Leon Farrant, also shared in this ThinkProgress article on vaccines, shows their power:

ThinkProgress Vaccine Infographic

Still not convinced? The Wall Street Journal can visually show you the data piece by piece for some of the main diseases your doctor vaccinates you against.

If they work so well, why are we even talking about them?

Diseases that we hadn’t seen much in the last few years, like measles, are making a comeback.

Those diseases are coming back because parents aren’t vaccinating their kids as much as they used to. And once the population falls below that 90 to 95% vaccination rate, those diseases are able to come back. And even with modern medicine, you can still die from them.

So why are parents taking that risk? Because of an old medical study that has been discredited, says The New York Times.

In 1998, a doctor said that he had linked the measles, mumps, rubella (M.M.R.) vaccine and autism in children.

Dozens of scientists and studies proved his work wrong, saying his research was bad since he’d only studied 12 kids, which is a tiny sample when doing scientific research. The British medical authorities even took away his medical license.

This is the only time a link has ever been made between vaccines and autism, and scientists and the medical field proved it wasn’t true. As this Guardian article talks about, later research studies have even made a lot of data disproving a link between the MMR vaccine and autism. Yet the story stuck.

People also worry that vaccines are just being produced by a big company to make money, not to protect patients. But as this New York Times article points out, many doctors lose money by giving you vaccines, and historically, many makers of them have made very little money off them.

As Newsweek points out, some statistics have also been skewed in a negative way. The CDC keeps a database of adverse effects from vaccines, which it’s required to do by law. Since 2004, 69 people have died after getting a measles vaccine. However, not necessarily because of the vaccine. In some cases, their death was completely unrelated, but the reporting system just gives the cold, hard numbers, not the cause-and-effect relationship between patients’ deaths and the vaccine. Numbers like these are sometimes used to convince people that vaccines are dangerous.

But the fact is that vaccines save many lives around the world. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the measles vaccine alone has saved 15.6 million lives between 2000 and 2016.

The government, your insurance companies, doctors, and pharmacies make vaccines affordable and easy to get for one reason and one reason only: to save lives.

Don’t risk your family or your community. Health Alliance covers immunizations for our members, and we can help you stay up-to-date.

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Bone and Joint Health

Bone and Joint Health National Awareness Week

This week was Bone and Joint Health National Awareness Week! That meant all week long on social media, we gave you some helpful facts and articles about keeping your bones and joints strong for life.

48% of the population over the age of 18 are affected by bone and joint conditions. Check out these quick tips for how you can protect your bones at any age.

Bone and joint conditions are the most common cause of severe long-term pain and physical disability worldwide, affecting millions of people. Look at some tips for protecting your joints long-term.

Treatment and lost wage costs associated with bone and joint conditions in the U.S. alone was an estimated $950 billion from 2004 to 2006, which is 7% of the GDP. Find out more about programs where you can learn more and help.

Keeping an eye on how much calcium and vitamin D you consume each day is crucial to your bone and joint health. Check out these easy tips and 5 foods to strengthen them.

Research funding for these conditions is less than 2% of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) annual budget. Find out more about programs where you can learn more and help.

Your diet has a huge impact on your bone and joint health. The right amount of protein and quality carbs, plus your calcium and vitamin D, can make a huge difference. And don’t forget to ditch the sodas! Read more.

Since 2011, when “Baby Boomers” began Medicare, the economic cost of bone and joint health has risen and is expected to continue for decades. Read this article about ways to improve your bone strength, including the foods and supplements that will help your body keep the most calcium.