Tag Archives: weather

Prepare for Holiday Travel

Vantage Point: The Gift of Preparedness

The holidays provide the perfect time for people to be out and about, traveling to various destinations.

You think about if you have all the gifts and various outfits with you in case different events arise. Did your family members pack what they need, and did you pack your toothbrush? Those are all very important things to focus on, but have you thought about what you might need if something during your travels goes awry?

Do you have what you need to make it through an unplanned emergency? Yes, I know it’s not fun to think about things that could go wrong. But if you do, it just might help or even be lifesaving, depending on the circumstance. Just one tip to remember when you’re playing the mental game of what could go wrong that I like to remember: not fear, just prepare. Don’t live in fear. Just try to have the basics covered.

Let’s imagine that you’re taking a holiday trip by car to visit family. Let’s say that they are pretty far away, a few hours, and the weather hasn’t been the greatest lately, but today it’s OK. They are forecasting snow closer to where your family lives, but you think you’ll beat the snow by an hour or so. But what if you don’t?

What if the car breaks down, and it throws your timeline off, and you do encounter that snowstorm? And what if you didn’t break down, but the storm is worse than predicted, and you can’t get to your destination? Do you have the supplies you’d need to get help or wait out the storm?

I know it’s literally impossible to plan for all the potential issues, but thinking of it in categories can help you plan the best items to have for you and your family. Think shelter, food, and water as a basic start. Your vehicle can hopefully be your shelter, so what about the other variables?

  • Stay hydrated and fed. 

    Because you’re traveling, you might pass through an area where there aren’t any stores close by, and now the family is hungry, and it doesn’t look like you’ll be moving toward your destination anytime soon. The first item you should think about having with you is water. It’s always smart to have water, from a few jugs or bottles to a whole case. You can never go wrong having extra handy. Next you should think about food. These can range from snack items to protein bars and high-calorie survival bars.

     
  • Keep warm. 

    Because you’re traveling in the winter in our imagined scenario, it’s probably going to be cold in your area. If something happens where you lose the heat in your car, do you have supplies to keep everyone warm? You might think about having warm blankets, hand warmer packets, layers of clothes to put on, and a thermos of warm soup, water, cocoa, or coffee. (And this isn’t the be-all-end-all list, but just some ideas to get you thinking!)

If you’re thinking that those are great starter ideas, but you might need more robust supplies, there are plenty of things out there to help. Winter travel kits at the local box stores make it easy to be prepared in a variety of situations. You can also search for more winter car travel safety tips online.

The possibilities are endless, and you really can tailor your needs to your family and their well-being. Happy travels!

Breck Obermeyer is a community liaison with Health Alliance Northwest, serving Yakima County. She is a small-town girl from Naches and has a great husband who can fix anything and 2 kids who are her world.

Essential Summer Safety Tips

Essential Summer Safety Tips

The summer season is finally here! But as we start to enjoy the outdoors and more adventurous activities, hospitals and urgent care facilities are bracing themselves for “trauma season” as they call it in the healthcare industry. 

Emergency rooms usually see injuries and traumas double in the summer compared to the winter months. The most common causes of injuries during the summer include car accidents, severe sunburns, water-sports injuries, dehydration, heat exhaustion, and falls.

But many of these can easily be avoided by following these essential summer safety tips that will keep you and your family safe and healthy during the summer months.

WaterTo avoid dehydration, drink plenty of water or beverages high in electrolytes. Avoid drinking too much alcohol or caffeine, both of which actually make your system lose water. Eat fruits and vegetables which contain a lot of water like grapefruits, peaches, eggplants, and spinach.

Sun ProtectionTo avoid sunburns, apply sunscreen with an at least SPF 30 and make sure you’re using a waterproof formula if you’re swimming. Stay in the shade from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., cover your skin, and wear a hat if you’re exposed. Keep children in the shade as much as possible.

Heat ProtectionTo avoid heat exhaustion and heatstroke, don’t engage in physical activities during the hottest hours of the day. Get acclimated to the hot weather by slowly increasing the amount of time you spend outside.

Water SafetyTo avoid water-related injuries, always bring a buddy along while participating in water sports and follow the lifeguards’ instructions. Take time to get used to the difference in temperature between in and out of the water. Don’t drink alcohol before water activities.

Car SafetyTo reduce the risk of car accidents, make sure all your car maintenance is done before you leave on a trip. Allow plenty of time to arrive and try to drive during off-peak hours. Stop and take breaks every 100 miles or 2 hours, and if possible, take turns with a passenger.

 

Sometimes accidents, illnesses, and injuries cannot be avoided, even for the most careful traveler. If you find yourself injured or sick, remember that our travel emergency partner, Assist America is here to help. 

You can download the free Assist America Mobile App to access your membership details, membership ID card, list of services, or to call the 24/7 Operations Center with the tap of a button.

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Hot Cocoa and Winter Health Risks

Long View: Cold Hands, Hot Cocoa

I always remember December from my childhood, when the weather got subzero, and the wind was playfully whipping snowflakes around. School was out for the holidays, and my sister and I always loved to play outdoors, despite the frigid temperatures.

We would come downstairs with our garb, and Mom would get us all bundled up to brave the weather. Snowsuits, scarves, hats, gloves, and boots were standard outerwear those days. My mom would secure the scarf so that it would stay put, and the hat would cover my ears and my forehead. When she was through, I could barely see and hardly move.

I remember stiffly walking out the door, hoping that with more movement, I would loosen up enough to enjoy some of the winter wonderland we called our yard. Hot cocoa would be waiting for us when we came in, and it was like magic what that cup of warmth could do!

Today, I run out of the house without a coat, hat, gloves, or scarf, thinking, I’m just going to the car, then running in to work. My days of bundling up are over. This is what happens when you go from 6 years old to 60. But honestly, what am I thinking?

Winter health risks should be a concern for our aging population. (Hey, that’s me too!) The most obvious risk is the weather itself. Midwestern winters can consist of ice and snow. Driving is a challenge. Walking is even more of a challenge. Slips on ice are a major risk, so it’s important to wear the right shoes or boots with good traction if you have to go out.  

Hypothermia is also a common winter weather health risk. Hypothermia means your body temperature has fallen below 95 degrees, and once it gets to that point for a prolonged period of time, you can’t produce enough energy to stay warm.

Symptoms include shivering, cold pale skin, lack of coordination, slowed reactions and breathing, and mental confusion. It’s good to pay attention to how cold it is where you are, whether it’s indoors or outdoors. Also, make sure you’re eating enough to keep up a healthy weight. Body fat helps you stay warm.

Frostbite is another health risk during the winter months. Frostbite means your skin has been over-exposed to cold temperatures, and it usually affects the nose, ears, cheeks, fingers, and toes. It can be severe and cause permanent damage to the skin, and even progress to the bone.

Frostbite can affect anyone who is exposed to below freezing temperatures, in particular, those who aren’t wearing the right clothing. It’s important to wear layers, preferably 2 to 3 layers of loose-fitting clothing, as well as a coat, hat, gloves, and a scarf. Covering up your nose and mouth will also protect your lungs from the cold air.

As for drinking a cup of hot cocoa, well, that is a winter weather health benefit! According to a study at Cornell University, hot cocoa has almost twice as many antioxidants as red wine, and 2 to 3 times more than green tea! This winter, enjoy the magic of the season by keeping yourself safe and warm.

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

Reduce Traveling Stress

My Healthy Journey: Traveling Stress

The end of April and beginning of May might be the craziest month-long stretch I’ve ever planned for myself. I will be battling traveling stress each week with almost no downtime in between.

First, I spent a weekend with loved ones around Indy, going to the zoo and shopping. Then, my mom, sister-in-law, and I went on a big weekend trip to New York City to see a Broadway show. The next weekend, I’m headed to Chicago to visit some old friends. The 2 weekends after that, I’m driving home for events, and then the weekend after that, I’m off to Seattle.

No matter what, traveling is stressful, so to get through it, I’m trying to plan ahead, stay on top of things, make the healthiest decisions I can on the go, and enjoy the moments of fun that are the whole point of traveling in the first place.

Planning Ahead to Avoid Traveling Stress

While tickets and such have been booked ahead of time, the planning never ends there.

Clean Before

First, I spring-cleaned my apartment like crazy so that it could survive the coming month without looking like a wasteland.

Spring Cleaning List

I pulled tons of great tips to make this list from the helpful resources we shared in our Spring Cleaning for National Cleaning Week post, like using rubber gloves to wipe dog hair off my furniture, freshening up my garbage disposal, and more.

Organize, Organize, Organize

I’ve been making a list of all the things I need to do before each trip, so I don’t do something silly and forgetful, like making myself late by forgetting to put gas in my car before driving to the airport.

And this list doesn’t just include the things I need to pack but also the things I need to do around the house and the errands I need to run first.

NYC To Do List

This helps me stay on track and not forget all the little things that have to be pulled together at the last minute.

Pack Early

I try to pack as much as I can ahead. The key to-do’s I can mark off in advance:

  • Buy or organize travel liquids if I’m flying.
  • Check the weather forecast.
  • Plan versatile outfits, like things that can mix and match and fit the weather and planned activities, including shoes because I get blisters easily.
  • Organize or switch to a purse better for travel.
  • Never forget essentials, like headphones, a book, sunscreen, bandaids, gas in the car, and meds.
  • Pack snacks.
  • Plan driving times and routes.
  • Charge devices.

Packing Ahead

Then, at the last minute, I can just add in the things I’m still using, like my makeup bag, toothbrush, and phone charger, and avoid all that last-minute packing stress.

Planning for Work

Another important key to planning ahead is making sure work is ready for me to be completely unavailable.

Usually that just means talking to my co-workers in advance and making sure anything that takes place on the weekends, like social media for the next week, is done early.

One of the easiest ways to ruin your vacation is to have to drop everything for work, so make sure you’ve talked to your co-workers and set boundaries for when you’ll be available.

Then, stick to those boundaries because vacations are an important part of avoiding burnout. If you’re only going to check email once a day, stick to that and do it at a time when it won’t ruin your day.

Staying on Top of Things to Avoid Traveling Stress

No matter how much planning you do, it can all fall apart while you’re there if you focused on the wrong thing.

Planning Activities

I like to make plans for each day with loose free time around them. You never want to have to be too many places in one day, so one meal with reservations and one event or activity that requires tickets in advance per day is probably plenty. You can munch or discover something new when you’re actually hungry the rest of the time, which can help you avoid overeating on a trip. And you’ll have more time to focus on something you love instead of rushing off to your next activity.

I also like to have extra time planned in so that if I’m exhausted, I can take a nap, shower after a hot outdoor activity, or simply enjoy downtime by watching a movie or grabbing an appetizer with my loved ones.

Get Your Bearings

Another key can be knowing your location and how to get around. I’ve lived in New York and Chicago, so I know my way around the neighborhoods and how the subways work, and pulling up a location on my phone is more than enough for me to find my way in either place.

However, I’ve never been to Seattle, so looking at maps and familiarizing myself with what’s where will be a much more important part of planning that trip so I don’t end up lost when I get there.

Identify what you need to focus on in preparation for each trip for a smooth journey to avoid hiccups in the moment.

Start the Day Off Right

Each morning of your trip, it’s a good idea to review your plans with everyone. Not only will it put you all on the same page, but it will help you remember which important tickets, confirmation numbers, or reservation details you need to bring along that day for your planned activities.

Making Healthy Choices to Avoid Traveling Stress

Traveling stress skyrockets for me when I feel guilty about it, so I’m trying to make healthy choices wherever I go.

A few weeks ago, I bought a Ringly ring. Ringly is a fitness tracker that syncs to your phone but looks like jewelry. I’d been wanting a tracker for a while, and the design of these adorable pieces made me finally get on board.

You charge it in a ring box and manage it from an app on your phone, and no one would ever know from looking at it that it’s a tracker.

Ringly Box Ringly Ring

Because of this new tracker, I can see how much walking I’m doing each weekend. The weekend in Indy, I walked 9.2 miles. And in NYC, we planned in time to walk the High Line and the bottom half of Central Park. We ended up walking 25.5 miles total!

I also try to choose healthier food choices most of the time without sacrificing the experience.

Enjoying the Moment to Avoid Traveling Stress

Finally, the stress-busting key for me is enjoying the fun parts of traveling. Those moments have to outweigh the stress, or it’s not worth it!

In NYC, we:

  • Ate at Bobby Flay’s Gato
  • Saw the new show Amélie
  • Spent a day at Chelsea Market
  • Walked the High Line
  • Had a ball at Waitress, including the perfect-serving-size, tiny Key Lime and Marshmallow Pies at intermission (And they raised $20,000 dollars in a little auction at the end of the show for charity!)
  • Indulged in the special Easter brunch menu at Tom Colicchio’s Craft
  • Explored Central Park

With more crazy weekends ahead of me, I hope my planning helps me stay sane!

Tips for Your Travels

If you need more tips to make it through your next trip and traveling stress, these can help:

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Summer in the South

Long View: Beat the Heat in the Dog Days of Summer

As some of you may know, I am originally from Alabama. During a recent visit there in August, I was shocked it was so miserably hot and humid.

I asked my friend Brenda how we functioned in this kind of weather when we were teenagers. She reminded me we were not very sensitive to a lot of things when we were 15 or so. Her husband told me when it’s exceptionally hot nowadays, the schools don’t let the kids go outside for recess or lunch. Really? We never minded the heat as kids.

It seems as we age, we aren’t as tolerant of weather extremes as we were when we were younger. I figure I have a 40-degree window of optimum temperatures these days. Above or below, it’s a problem. Don’t get me started on the humidity. A number of factors can impact comfort levels for any given individual.

I asked Carle Wellness Program Coordinator Karen Stefaniak for a more technical explanation for this reduced tolerance.

“People over the age of 65 are more likely to experience elevated body temperature,” she said. “As we age, the body loses its ability to adjust to sudden temperature changes. In some people, this can be caused by a chronic condition and/or prescription medications. But in general, with the process of aging comes a reduced ability to sweat and shiver. Unfortunately, decreased thirst awareness can lead to dehydration. These factors limit the body’s ability to stay cool when it’s hot outside.”

But there is hope. She shared some tips for handling the heat.

“Prevent heat-related illness by wearing lightweight, loose-fitting clothing, drinking plenty of cool (nonalcoholic) beverages, staying in the air conditioning, and remaining indoors during the heat of the day.”

As usual, Karen makes perfect sense. One thing Alabama taught me about heat is to slow down and enjoy the moment. We should all be mindful during any weather extreme.

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.

Treat Yourself During a Move

My Healthy Journey: Another Year, Another Move

Time to Move, Yet Again

My roommate just got a big job promotion and skipped town on me, which means that while I am thrilled for her, it’s time to move again.

I have moved 13 times since I started college in 2008. I went to school in Chicago, and so each year, I moved all my belongings up in the fall and then back down in the summer. Then my senior year, I moved to Manhattan… and then back to Chicago. And since I’ve been back in Central Illinois, it hasn’t been much better.

So you would think I would be a pro at the nomadic life, right? Wrong.

Moving still stresses me out. They say moving ranks high on the list of life events that cause the most stress, among things like death of a family member and divorce. I don’t know if that’s true, but by the time you get to lucky move number 13, it definitely starts to feel like it.

I’ve already signed a new lease and have until April to get everything out, which puts me in a pretty good situation. But I can feel it hanging over me like a storm cloud.

Even though you’d think the most stressful part of the process would be finding a new home, the truth is for me, that physically moving all my stuff is what I dread the most.

So here it is.

My Plan to Stay Sane for My ONLY Move in 2015

(No, really, I mean it. I refuse to move again until 2016.):

1. Make a list.

I’ll make the biggest list you’ve ever seen, so I don’t forget anything. I’m going to make a schedule, so I know which days I need to pack which rooms. Plus, this will remind me to set aside time for things like setting up my electricity, water, and renter’s insurance.

2. Do a little every day.

I’m going to plan it just right so that I get a load of stuff moved in each day when I commute before the big final furniture push. Because moving one load a day sounds totally doable, right?

3. I’m going to burn all my books…

That’s a lie. I love my books. But moving them for the 13th time will make me reconsider my life choices the next time I’m having trouble leaving Barnes & Noble without 6 new hardcovers. It’ll be great for my wallet! Positives people, focus on the positives.

4. Take my time.

I have two and a half weeks to make the switch, no need to go crazy trying to do it all the first weekend.

5. Clear out the clutter.

Each time I move, I swear I eliminate at least 3 boxes of stuff when I realize that half of the things I move, I WILL NEVER NEED AGAIN. What will go this time?! Round and round it goes! Where it lands, nobody knows…. DingDingDing! We have a winner! It’s time for those college notebooks to GO! (It’s wise to do this before physically moving them to the new place and discovering you don’t have anywhere to put any of it, trust me.)

6. Get help.

I’m going to wrangle every innocent passerby into helping me with the offer of cookies and all of the FREE things that I was planning to throw away or donate! Okay, not really. (Warning: Don’t actually welcome total strangers into your new home.) But I will torture all the family members who are still talking to me 13 moves in.

7. Stay fueled.

I’m going to get plenty of sleep and eat well. This means I will not binge on TV shows instead of sleeping. (Must not start House of Cards. Must not start House of Cards…) And I will eat a proper number of (preferably) healthy calories. Then I will have enough energy to move without replacing all bodily fluids with coffee, as I have in past moves.

8. Don’t fight the elements.

I will pay close attention to the weather, which I’m usually really bad about, so that I don’t try to move my mattress in a snowstorm  and so that I do not fall on ice and break my hip.

9. Stay safe.

I will protect my back by packing correctly (heavy items in the right size boxes and on the bottom, not overpacking, etc, etc.), not falling on the ice from #8, wearing a brace when needed, and lifting with my knees. Also by having very little furniture.

10. Control myself.

I will not unpack EVERYTHING the first day I get there. My more obsessive habits usually take over, and I must have everything perfect before I will sit down. It’s exhausting. I will not do this.

11. Focus on the positives.

My, what a wonderful, long workout this is! My new apartment is newer and nicer and will therefore be much warmer than the older house I’ve been in, (my feet will finally thaw!). My complex has a gym! And pools! It is about five minutes from my work, getting rid of my long commute, wasted gas, and added miles on my car. And because I have almost no furniture, this is a wonderful opportunity to reinvent my home. Would I like to pretend I live on the beach? In a Frank Lloyd Wright house? The future? Or perhaps Downton Abbey? The options are endless! (Or, you know, whatever’s cheapest.)

12. Treat myself.

This means that I am buying ice cream post-move. Oh, and a terrarium. What is a terrarium you ask? They’re these awesome little plant ecosystems that you keep in glass jars and bowls in your house that look kind of like this:

Look a Terrarium!

They’re adorable, they never grow too big, and you only have to water them like every two weeks. Much better than a houseplant.

13. Find my normal.

Then I will resume my schedule of working/eating/cuddling my dog in bed to Netflix/sleeping. And then I can focus on my 2015 goals of finishing my novel, getting fit, and actually watching every Oscar-nominated movie of 2015 (and 2014… and 2013…)

So there you have it, the perfect plan, ready to go for your next (now) stress-free move! You’re welcome.

Wish me luck.

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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).