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Monday, October 15, 2012

Tips and tools to save money this open enrollment season for health insurance

Posted by: ARA on Monday, October 15, 2012 at 12:00:00 am 

(ARA) - The leaves are changing colors, children are back in school, and football rules the weekends once again. But don't forget another annual fall tradition - benefits open enrollment. This is the time of year when millions of employees across the country have a chance to review their benefits provided by their employer and decide what programs to enroll in or change for the following year.

As open enrollment season draws near, it is important to understand your health insurance options, as it's one of the biggest benefits provided by your employer. Most companies typically set aside a two-week period between September and December for open enrollment. So be prepared, because if you miss this window of opportunity you likely cannot enroll in or change your health coverage until next fall.

“When reviewing their health coverage options, 50 percent of people spend only an hour or less reviewing their choices,” says Rebecca Madsen, senior vice president of UnitedHealthcare. “But in many cases, consumers who spend quality time reviewing their health plan options can find ways to save money - whether it's through selecting a plan that better fits their expected health costs in the coming year, making sure their doctors are in their insurer's care provider network or evaluating prescription drug coverage.”

Madsen suggests the following tips and tools to help prepare for open enrollment:

Three tips to help consumers select the best health plan:

1. Set aside enough time to review your health insurance options. It's important to review each of the health insurance plans that your employer offers. Remember that there's more to each plan than co-pays and premiums. For example, some plans offer vision exam coverage and different prescription drug coverage, while others may offer wellness programs that can lead to discounts on your premiums. Also keep in mind that health reform has changed insurance coverage in recent years. As part of the new law, children under age 26 can be enrolled as dependents on their parent's plan, and many preventive care services, such as children's immunizations or mammograms, are typically covered by health plans at no cost to you.

2. Make sure your doctor is in-network - it can save you money on out-of-pocket costs. Even if you don't plan to make any changes to your health insurance this year, it's always good to ensure that any doctor you see regularly - or plan to visit in the coming year - is in your plan's care provider network. If you plan to visit a doctor or hospital outside of the network, be sure to understand how your costs will differ from an in-network care provider.

3. Look for incentive-based wellness programs. Many companies are promoting wellness programs that reward employees for making healthy choices and being more engaged in their own health. These plans could save up to $1,000 or more on annual premiums. Incentive-based programs, such as UnitedHealthcare's Personal Rewards, provide financial rewards for things such as meeting specific cholesterol or body mass index targets, or even signing up for a telephonic or online health coaching program.

Three health tools designed to help consumers learn more about their health benefits and save money:

1. Use a health care cost calculator or estimator. Health cost calculators enable you to estimate the prices of medical treatments and services between different physicians and hospitals. For example, UnitedHealthcare's myHealthcare Cost Estimator provides a retail-like “comparison shopping” experience for more than 300 procedures and services by revealing side-by-side quality and estimated cost information for doctors and hospitals. Using a planning tool is particularly important if you are expecting any significant health events in the next year, such as having a baby or undergoing surgery.

2. Take advantage of mobile apps and online tools to engage in your own health. Many health insurers have created apps and Web-based tools to help people locate a doctor, review claims, ask questions about their benefits and find more information about their health plans. For example, UnitedHealthcare's Health4Me mobile app helps plan participants easily find physicians, compare treatment costs, check the status of a claim or speak directly with a nurse for medical information at no additional cost.

3. Use reliable online resources for a “Health Care 101" lesson. Many people don't understand terms like co-pay and deductible, so it can be especially challenging to understand what a formulary is or how a Flexible Spending Account differs from a Health Savings Account. UnitedHealthcare's UHC.tv is an online educational resource where anyone can watch short videos on a variety of health insurance and wellness topics. Some videos include comedic skits as well as national health personalities. Similarly, HealthCareLane.com is a virtual community that explains a variety of different health benefits and wellness-related topics while interacting with the townspeople, such as shopkeepers along Main Street or entertainers at the community Wellness Fair.

Consumers usually have more than one option when it comes to choosing a health insurance plan, so it is important to fully understand your options and choose the plan that is best for you and your family. This year, don't miss any opportunities to save some money while taking steps toward better health.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Baby boomers: Don't forget to care for your eyes as you age

Posted by: ARA on Monday, October 1, 2012 at 9:00:00 am 

Baby boomers: Don't forget to care for your eyes as you age

(ARA) - The baby boomer generation makes up an estimated 76 million people - roughly one-fourth of the U.S. population. This means that either you or someone you love is part of this aging group. According to Eye on the Boomer, a recent survey by the Ocular Nutrition Society, almost as many baby boomers say they worry about losing their vision as those that say they worry about having heart disease or cancer. What's more, 78 percent of those surveyed ranked vision as the most important of the five senses. Yet, more than half of the survey respondents ages 45-65 said they don't typically have a recommended annual eye exam, and even fewer are aware of important nutrients that can play a key role in eye health.

Experts recommend that disease prevention, including lifestyle modification, attention to dietary intake and vitamin supplementation must become a greater focus of primary vision care. Studies indicate that proper nutrition promotes healthy eyes, however many American diets are found to be deficient of the critical nutrients that help protect eye health.

"If people are at risk for heart disease they typically make lifestyle modifications," says Dr. Jeffrey Anshel, president of the Ocular Nutrition Society. "This survey found that people are as concerned about their eyes but do not know the simple steps they can incorporate into their daily lives to take care of them."

* Vitamin supplements can be used for your eyes, too
While people take a variety of different supplements to support their health, vitamins specifically formulated to help protect the eyes are often not in the mix - and for many people, they should be. While more than half of those surveyed are taking supplements to protect their joints, bones or heart health only 18 percent say they take supplements to support their eye health.

"As we grow older, the need for certain vitamins and nutrients to support the eye increases - the survey revealed low awareness of these essential nutrients," says Anshel of nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, lutein and zeaxanthin. He adds that there is a "need for greater education on the lifestyle modifications that baby boomers can incorporate into their daily lives, including proper nutrition, to help safeguard eye health as they age."

To help protect eye health as they age, Anshel recommends people aged 45-65 take the following steps:

* Stop smoking, exercise regularly and wear sunglasses with UV protection
* Make an annual appointment with an eye doctor
* Eat foods rich in eye healthy nutrients, such as tuna or salmon for omega-3s and spinach, kale and broccoli containing lutein and zeaxanthin
* To help overcome shortfalls in the diet consider a vitamin supplement specifically-formulated for eye health

To learn more about the Eye on the Boomer survey as well as eye health, please visit ocularnutritionsociety.org.

Monday, September 17, 2012

How to protect your greatest asset - your home - from subterranean termites

Posted by: ARA on Monday, September 17, 2012 at 9:00:00 am 

How to protect your greatest asset - your home - from subterranean termites

(ARA) - When it comes to protecting your home's value, you have no control over some of the factors that influence real estate values, like nearby retail development or the job market in your area. You can, however, take control over one major factor in your home's value, its health and the health of your neighborhood - termites.

Termites cause more than $2 billion in damage every year to homes in the United States, and statistics show that's likely more damage than what fire, storms or earthquakes cause.

Subterranean termites are unlike many other problematic insects or rodents in that they forage for food 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. They feed on wood and cellulose products, which are part of your home's construction.

Termites live in colonies underground or above ground in moist areas, according to the National Pest Management Association (NPMA). Each colony can contain up to 2 million termites - meaning your home could have several million termites living around the foundation and they are constantly seeking a food source.

It is important to be able to spot the signs of a termite infestation by looking around your home. Termites typically create what are called mud tubes and together they travel through these tubes in search of new food sources. Look for these mud tubes along your home's exterior. Keep in mind that termites are very small in size - from 1/8 to 3/8 of an inch - so they can travel through small non-cellulose cracks in your home, such as through your foundation.

The NPMA offers several tips to help you reduce the possibility of a termite infestation. These include lowering the humidity in crawl spaces or other areas with reduced ventilation to eliminate a moist atmosphere - the kind that termites seek out. Also, it is very important to keep wood or scraps of lumber away from your home. Never pile firewood against your home; that's a sound food source for Subterranean termites. By putting lumber against your foundation or wall, you're in essence inviting termites to feed right next to your home.

The Sentricon Termite Colony Elimination System from Dow AgroSciences provides a tough, environmentally responsible solution for protection against termites. The Sentricon System features stations that are strategically placed eight to 10 feet around the perimeter of your home. Bait in each station is highly desirable to termites, so worker termites who are responsible for feeding the colony will feed upon it and bring it back to the colony. Once other termites feed upon it they will start to die off, but even if they don't feed on it the worker termites already have and once they die off, so does the colony's food source. Soon the termite colony will be eliminated.

The Sentricon Termite Colony Elimination System currently protects more than 2 million homes. For every system that is used, fewer liquid treatments are being applied, so that means fewer liquid termiticides are being injected into the soil. For more information about the Sentricon System, visit www.sentricon.com.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Your legacy of giving: Review your beneficiary lists

Posted by: ARA on Monday, September 3, 2012 at 9:00:00 am 

Your legacy of giving: Review your beneficiary lists

(ARA) - As you prepare for tax time and organize your finances, it's also a good time to evaluate your will and legacy.

Thrivent Financial for Lutherans offers these tips to help get you started on a beneficiary review.

Your estate: for beneficiaries only
One of the most common mistakes people make is failing to update the beneficiary designations on financial contracts to coordinate with their will and other estate plan documents. Beneficiary designations supersede bequests made in a will. Your intentions for giving your estate may be at risk if your designations are not kept up to date.

Life insurance and financial services companies can distribute money only to the designated beneficiaries. Life events make it necessary to update your designations from time to time. If your beneficiary moves, you should update their address to ensure they'll be contacted should benefits need to be paid out. Also, if you become divorced or widowed, you should review your designation and possibly update it.

Wills are created to eliminate confusion for your loved ones in your absence. Some work now will be worth it when the time comes to enact your will.

Consult a financial professional
The laws related to inheriting assets are complex and can be confusing unless you have an experienced professional at your side. Financial professionals can help guide you through the process of updating your will. They can answer questions and provide insight on common solutions to will-related issues, and they can ensure that your wishes are granted with the way you set up your plans.

An ongoing process
Thrivent Financial recommends you review and update your beneficiary designations at least once a year or any time you have a life event. Regular reviews can prevent surprises down the road. They also provide an opportunity to discuss the future with loved ones: conversations that may otherwise be avoided. Leaving a legacy for the people and causes you care for most is a lasting, meaningful gift. To learn more, visit Thrivent.com.

Thrivent Financial for Lutherans and its respective associates and employees cannot provide legal, accounting, or tax advice or services. Work with your Thrivent Financial representative, and as appropriate, your attorney and/or tax professional for additional information.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Ten tips to manage your money through unexpected life changes

Posted by: ARA on Wednesday, August 15, 2012 at 9:00:00 am 

Ten tips to manage your money through unexpected life changes

(ARA) - One of the many benefits of marriage is having a partner to share in the day-to-day tasks. One person might handle the laundry while the other takes over yard work. But, when it comes to money management, while you may end up delegating most of the responsibility to one person, it's in every couple's best interest to be mutually involved in the family finances.  

Life is full of uncertainty and change, and it's possible, even likely, that you will be responsible for your own finances at some point. For many, the financial impact of significant life changes, from the good, like marriage and children, to the not-so-good, like death and divorce, is often a costly afterthought. While divorce and death are difficult possibilities to accept or anticipate, they are changes that come with many financial implications. This holds especially true for women who typically outlive their male counterparts. According to the National Association of State Treasurers Foundation, 90 percent of women will be solely responsible for their finances at some point in their lives.

However, despite the likelihood of eventually living this new financial reality, less than half of women (45 percent) and men (41 percent) have a contingency plan in place should something happen, according to research by TD Ameritrade, Inc.

"It's not always the easiest conversation to discuss with your partner because it forces you to think about worst-case scenarios," says Lee McAdoo, director of Women's Initiatives at TD Ameritrade. "But you'll find that discussing your family finances and setting goals together can also give you peace of mind."

Life transitions are often times unexpected and highly emotional, which can make decision making more difficult. For those reasons, it's best to plan ahead.

Here are 10 suggestions to help you make sure you can effectively handle your personal and family finances:

1. Create a detailed household budget.
2. Compile all your financial documents, make copies and store them with your attorney or place them in a safe deposit box that you both can access.
3. Conduct an inventory of marital assets.
4. Determine medical expenses and other annual costs for your family such as activities fees for your children and gym memberships.
5. Review all your debt, including mortgages, student loans, car loans and credit cards. Obtain a current version of your credit report at least once a year.
6. Make sure each person is aware of how you file your tax returns and your tax filing status.
7. Discuss long-term savings plans and goals, including retirement and college savings plans.
8. Review beneficiary designations in your will and update if necessary.
9. Consider employee benefits for each person.
10. It can be helpful to have an attorney or financial adviser review financial documents and give you advice should you desire it.

TD Ameritrade has also launched a website dedicated to helping you navigate your finances during major life changes. More helpful tips and advice can be found at www.tdameritrade.com/life.

While involving yourself more in your finances means taking on extra responsibility, it can also help you feel empowered and set your mind at ease as you look to the future.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Planning for the inevitable: Start young and be prepared

Posted by: ARA on Wednesday, August 1, 2012 at 9:00:00 am 

Planning for the inevitable: Start young and be prepared
(ARA) - Ashley, a vibrant, active 37-year-old lawyer, mother of three young children and part-time Pilates instructor has a to-do list longer than her combined client case load. When she learned that her next-door neighbor, a mother of four children who pal around with her kids, had terminal cancer, her mind went in many directions.


How could she help? What should she say? How will the children respond? How was her friend handling this crisis? But one thought intruded regularly into her daily routine - if this happened to her, how would she and her family handle the impending end to her life? She was clueless on how to approach the subject, but day by day, as she realized the fragility of life, she became more convinced that a conversation was critical regarding her wishes and her husband's.

This is both an ordinary and an unusual scenario. Ordinary because few people younger than 40 have thoughts of planning for dying. Unusual because Ashley didn't dismiss her concerns. Rather, she wanted to tackle the issue and get to-do items done.

Hospice of the Western Reserve recognizes the courage it takes to approach one's end of life. As one of the country's best-known hospice and palliative care providers, the agency offers this kind of advice for all ages in a booklet called "Courage in Conversation: A Personal Guide."

The guide tackles not only the care you want in the event that you are no longer able to speak or think for yourself, but also how to begin the discussion - as early in your adulthood as possible. By talking about what you want, you are exhibiting the courage to confront one of life's most difficult moments - at a time when you are thinking clearly. There are a few points to consider as you begin this process:

1. Have a plan as to how you will share your wishes. Will you have things written down? With whom will you be talking?

2. Create an environment that is conducive to listening. It is usually helpful to sit down with your loved ones and try to be at the same eye level.

3. Share the information in small segments. Avoid apologizing for the information you are sharing. These are your wishes for one of life's most important moments.

4. Allow time for your loved ones to process information and respond. This is one of the most important things you can do. They may have questions or feelings to share with you, but may need time to process your desires.

Next steps may include researching resources to help support your loved ones, such as funeral and financial arrangements, creation of advance care documents - your living will and your powers of attorney - or simply stating where your advance care planning documents will be stored. Long-term planning will mean periodic review of your documents to ensure that friends, family members and even physicians are updated as necessary and that wishes have remained constant as new technologies are created and laws change.

This end-of-life planning process doesn't happen overnight. It takes thought, emotional readiness and time to sort out the options and ready oneself for this serious undertaking. Sharing your choices through conversation is an important first step. In the long run, the conversations will be the greatest gift to those you love, giving them the confidence to act knowingly on your behalf and the comfort of knowing that your wishes will be honored.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Get your pool ready for safe family fun

Posted by: ARA on Monday, July 16, 2012 at 9:00:00 am 

Get your pool ready for safe family fun

(ARA) - As the weather starts to warm, you can't help but stare at your backyard pool, anxious to begin a new season of memories with friends and family. No matter the season, pool safety should always be top of mind where children are concerned. With safety barriers - or layers of protection - in place between the home and the pool, you can experience the pleasures of backyard swimming pools and feel confident that children, grandchildren and visitors will be safeguarded from pool accidents.

It's impossible to watch your children every second of every day. There are times when a parent or caregiver is distracted by answering the phone or door, household tasks or checking email. Unfortunately, accidents tend to happen very quickly. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning is the second leading cause of accidental death in children ages 1 to 14. The CDC reports that in most cases, the children involved were out of their parents' sight for less than five minutes.

The good news: Drowning can be prevented. Barriers help buy those few minutes needed to see where children are after you've momentarily lost sight of them.

Numerous studies have shown that an isolation fence separating the home from the pool can prevent 50 to 90 percent of all toddler drownings. Only an isolation fence with a self-closing, self-latching gate in proper working order will prevent children from getting into the water without your knowledge.

Liability can become an issue if a visitor is injured. Homeowners can improve the safety and security of their pools or spas with isolation fencing with self-closing, self-latching gate hardware by D&D Technologies (www.ddtechglobal.com).

Magnetically triggered latches like D&D's self-latching MagnaLatch have been shown to offer safe, reliable operation, latching even when locked in the open position. Pool gates must also be self-closing, and D&D's TruClose hinges feature a tension adjustable enclosed spring so gates need no hazardous external spring.

Rust-free gate hardware by D&D Technologies is  available under the Stanley or National Hardware brand through select Lowe's stores or online at www.lowes.com and other hardware retailers.

If you have a pool, you have a responsibility to safeguard it. There is no substitute for vigilant supervision. But there are additional steps you can and should take to keep everyone safe - including these.

* Never prop a gate open for convenience or during pool parties. It's simply not worth the risk.

* Always ensure that doors from the home are locked, alarmed, or fitted with child-safety latching devices.

* Ensure that pet doors are secured or open into an area that is isolated from the pool.

* If the house forms one side of the barrier, doors leading into the pool area should be protected with alarms that produce a loud sound when the door is unexpectedly opened.

* Power safety covers that meet American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) standards can be very effective if closed whenever the pool is not in use.  Manually operated covers tend to be left open; closing them frequently requires two adults.

* Ensure children in the home learn how to swim, and that adults know CPR. CPR can make the difference between full recovery and brain damage or death. If anyone else will be supervising kids in the pool, make sure they learn it, too. Impress upon babysitters that they must follow your safety rules.

* When children are in the pool, designate a "water watcher" to maintain uninterrupted supervision of children in the pool at all times.

* When not in use, keep toys and other objects out of the pool area, and don't use chlorine dispensers that look like animals or toys that will attract children.

With layers of protection between your home and your pool, you can give your family years of safer relaxation and enjoyment, and build some great family memories. For drowning prevention tips, visit www.ndpa.org or poolsafely.org. Take the pledge and tell others about the Simple Steps that Save Lives at www.ddtechglobal.com/pledge.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Ten steps to conquering heart disease

Posted by: ARA on Monday, July 2, 2012 at 9:00:00 am 

Ten steps to conquering heart disease
(ARA) - You may already know that heart disease is the No. 1 killer in America, and that factors like obesity increase your risk of developing it. But of all the shocking things you know - or believe you know - about heart disease, here's the statistic that you might find the most eye-opening: 80 percent of all heart disease is preventable.


"It's important that everyone understand as much as possible about heart disease prevention, as 80 percent of heart disease can be avoided," says Dr. Martha Grogan, medical editor-in-chief of the new book "Mayo Clinic Healthy Heart for Life!"

Heart disease claims the lives of 600,000 Americans each year, and another 12.7 million suffer from heart attacks. One in three women are diagnosed with heart disease and 50 percent of men are at risk of heart attacks before age 65. Those statistics may make you feel like you, too, are in the cross-hairs for developing heart disease. Some lifestyle changes, however, can help you greatly reduce your risks.  

In the new book, available now online and in bookstores nationwide, Mayo Clinic experts discuss risk factors for heart disease, how to recognize the symptoms, and what lifestyle steps you can take to help reduce your risk. The catchphrase "Eat 5, Move 10, Sleep 8" sums up the approach Mayo experts advocate to minimize heart disease risks. The slogan reminds you to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables each day, do at least 10 minutes of moderately intense physical exercise daily, and get at least eight hours of sleep per night.

In addition, Mayo experts say, 10 simple steps can help you minimize your risk of heart disease. Here's a sampling of the steps that you'll find in the clinic's new heart healthy book:

* Eat healthy - Adopt simple dietary changes such as eating at least five fruits and vegetables each day, switching to whole grains and lean proteins, and eating a healthy breakfast every day.

* Be active - A sedentary lifestyle is as deadly as smoking, experts say. Exercising just 10 minutes a day can deliver significant heart-health benefits. Have trouble sticking with an exercise plan? Finding something you enjoy doing, whether it's playing a sport, running, tai chi, yoga or extreme house cleaning, can help you maintain your commitment to exercising.  

* Sleep well - Sleep deprivation has serious health repercussions, including increasing your risk of heart disease. Conversely, getting adequate sleep can actually have a restorative effect on the heart. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says sleep deprivation has become a national public health epidemic. Creating a bedtime routine and a relaxing sleep environment can help you get the eight hours of sleep per night that your body needs.

* Plan for emergencies - A heart emergency can happen at any time, so it's important to know the warning signs of a problem. Learn to recognize symptoms of a crisis, and act quickly to get medical help.

* Enjoy life - A positive attitude, supportive network of family and friends, and good management of your stress not only improve your heart health, they can improve your overall enjoyment of life, as well.

In addition to offering solid advice and the 10 steps to heart health, the "Mayo Clinic Healthy Heart for Life!" also discusses how the heart functions, what can go wrong, tools for ongoing heart health, and tips on how to keep your whole family heart healthy.

"Following these steps can help you dramatically reduce your risk of heart disease, even though it can't be completely eliminated," Grogan says. "If you've done everything in your power to prevent heart disease or live with it as effectively as possible, then you have, indeed, conquered it."

Friday, June 15, 2012

How to prevent accidental medication poisoning in children

Posted by: ARA on Friday, June 15, 2012 at 9:00:00 am 

How to prevent accidental medication poisoning in children
(ARA) - Every day in the United States, about 165 kids - or roughly four busloads of children - are seen in emergency rooms for accidental medication poisonings. Medications are the leading cause of accidental child poisoning deaths today, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).


A new report by Safe Kids Worldwide found that the percentage of child-poisoning deaths due to medications has nearly doubled - from 36 percent to 64 percent - even though the death rate among children from poisoning overall has been cut in half since the 1970s.

The report offers several reasons for the increase in medication poisoning:
* More medications than ever are in the home, especially prescription pain medication.
* The pace of today's lifestyle may prevent caregivers from immediately putting medicines away in a high, out-of-sight and locked location after every use.
* The rise in multi-generational households means children may now have greater access to grandparents' medications.

"More than 60,000 children are treated in emergency rooms each year due to accidental medication ingestion when they were unsupervised," says Kate Carr, president and CEO of Safe Kids Worldwide, who released the research. "Every one of those trips could have been prevented. We can and must do better to ensure parents, grandparents and caregivers have the right information when it comes to safely storing and dosing medication."

Among young children, 95 percent of medication-related poisoning visits to emergency rooms are caused by a child ingesting medication while unsupervised, and approximately 5 percent are due to dosing mistakes made by caregivers, according to published studies.

Safe Kids Worldwide recommends the following tips to protect young children:

1. Always put medicines and vitamins up and away and in a locked location after every use. Never leave them on the counter between dosings. Don't be tempted to "keep them handy" in a purse, backpack or briefcase, or in an unlocked cabinet or a drawer within a child's reach.

2. Always read and follow label instructions when giving medicines to children. If your child's medication does not have dosing information or instructs you to call a doctor for the dose, be sure that the doctor knows the exact product you are trying to use, because dosing differs among products.

3. Only use the dosing device packaged with the medications. Never use a household utensil, such as a teaspoon or tablespoon, to measure medicine.

4. Up to 20 percent of pediatric poisonings involve a grandparent's medication, according to the Journal of American Osteopathic Association. Make sure that all medications in the child's environment are stored out of reach and out of sight.

5. Program the nationwide Poison Help number (800-222-1222) into your phones.

For more helpful tips and to read the full report, "Safe Storage, Safe Dosing, Safe Kids: A Report to the Nation on Safe Medication," visit www.SafeKids.org.

Friday, June 1, 2012

An apple a day keeps the dentist away

Posted by: ARA on Friday, June 1, 2012 at 9:00:00 am 

An apple a day keeps the dentist away

(ARA) - More than two-thirds of children will have at least one cavity before their 19th birthday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report. While tooth decay remains one of the most common health problems in children, it is also the most preventable, experts say.

"With proper education and regular dentist appointments, children can go their whole life without dental health problems," says LaVerne Johnson, dental assistant instructor at Everest College - Fort Worth South.

Johnson, along with the other dental assistant instructors at the Everest campuses across Texas, understands the importance of maintaining good dental health. Johnson has a few tips on what children and parents can do to protect and strengthen their smiles for years to come.

* Brush and floss daily - the right way. It's not new advice, but brushing and flossing remain the two most important ingredients for a healthy smile. However, to truly be effective, they must be done correctly. Parents should model and teach their children the correct techniques to keep their teeth healthy and clean. Brushing should require only a pea-sized amount of toothpaste and incorporate circular brush strokes to reach all surfaces. Often, because of their limited dexterity, children will brush too hard, which can lead to increased tooth sensitivity and receding gum lines.

* Proper flossing requires wrapping the floss around the fingers and then gliding the thread between teeth in a C-shaped motion. This prevents plaque buildup between teeth and under the gum line. Make sure your child uses a new section of floss each time he or she goes between two new teeth to avoid spreading bacteria throughout the mouth.

* Limit sugary snacks and drinks. The bacteria that form plaque feed on sugar and use it as a glue to stick to teeth. Be aware of the snacks you provide your children. Foods like raisins, peanut butter, taffies, toffees, soft candies and pastries stick to teeth and provide a long-term feast for bacteria. When your children do eat sweets, have them eat them after a meal. When eaten alone, sweets are more likely to stick to teeth and bond until the next brushing. Crunchy foods like apples, carrots and other raw vegetables, as well as foods high in vitamin C, like citrus fruits and broccoli are not only healthier, but also naturally clean teeth while kids eat them. Limiting consumption of sugary foods and drinks will not only help promote healthier children, but will also reduce cavities.

This advice is not just for older children. Many parents don't realize infants are also susceptible to cavities and often get "baby bottle cavities." Allowing a child to sip through the night on a baby bottle filled with fruit juice or milk can cause cavities.

* Protect their teeth. Using fluoride toothpaste helps your child's teeth to be less soluble to the acids created by bacteria. However, using too much creates a condition known as mottled enamel, which appears as brown spots on teeth. The key to avoiding mottled enamel is using the right amount of fluoride. For infants, a small smear of fluoride toothpaste is sufficient, and for children younger than 7, use no more than a pea-sized amount. It is also important to know if your child is consuming fluoridated water. Check with your local water utility to find out if your water has fluoride in it as well as the amount it contains. Along with fluoride, dental sealants are an excellent way to prevent tooth decay in children. The dental sealant procedure takes only minutes, is painless, is less than half the cost of a filling and is virtually 100 percent effective at stopping decay.

* Proper procedures can save teeth. Children involved in sports need proper mouth protection to prevent mouth injuries, knocked-out teeth and possible concussions. Ask your dentist about customized mouth guards. If your child knocks out a permanent tooth while playing sports, gently rinse the tooth off and place it in a cup of warm milk. If warm milk is not available, salt water or plain water will also work. Call your dentist and bring your child and the soaking tooth in immediately for re-implantation and stabilization.

* Make dentist visits fun. If children have a good attitude about their dental hygiene, they will be more likely to take proper care of their teeth. Appointments should be made right at the appearance of the first tooth, according to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD). Early visits make for a more pleasant experience for the child and help prevent future health problems. In fact, studies done by the AAPD show improper oral hygiene may increase a child's risk of eventually developing heart disease or suffering a stroke as an adult. Be positive about the dentist and explain to your children that the dentist is a friendly doctor who is helping to take care of their smiles.

"The most important thing for parents to remember is that taking care of a child's teeth is very important for his or her future health," says Johnson. "Although your children will lose their baby teeth, that doesn't mean they are not important. Healthy baby teeth influence jaw placement and future alignment of permanent teeth, which is one of the reasons parents can end up spending hundreds of dollars on future dental work and orthodontics."  

With nine campuses located throughout Texas, Everest is a leader in training dental assistants throughout the state. For more information on Everest's dental assistant program, visit www.everest.edu.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A colonoscopy can be a lifesaver: simple tips to lower your risk of colon cancer

Posted by: ARA on Tuesday, May 15, 2012 at 9:00:00 am 

A colonoscopy can be a lifesaver: simple tips to lower your risk of colon cancer

(ARA) - Every year, colon cancer takes the lives of tens of thousands of mothers, fathers, husbands, wives and friends, despite the fact that with an early screening, these deaths are highly preventable.

This March during National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, the Colon Cancer Alliance (CCA) and makers of Dulcolax (R) are urging people to make an appointment with their doctors and schedule a colon cancer screening. It is estimated that more than 30,000 lives could be saved each year if all Americans were screened for colon cancer.

"While the idea of having a colonoscopy may not be appealing to everyone, a colonoscopy can be a lifesaver," says Andrew Spiegel, Chief Executive Officer of the Colon Cancer Alliance. "The impact of the consequences of not having one can be devastating to those most important to you. Whether you do it for yourself or for the ones you love, schedule a colonoscopy today."

The goal of the partnership is to increase awareness of colon cancer which, if found early enough, is one of the most treatable forms of cancer. Another goal of the partnership is to encourage early screenings which can truly be lifesavers. A portion of proceeds from the purchase of Dulcolax (R) products supports CCA community screening programs.

About colon cancer

Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States and affects men and women equally. If diagnosed early, colon cancer is highly preventable, which is why screenings are a vital part of a healthy lifestyle. The majority of new cases occur in people ages 50 and older, yet about a third of Americans these ages have not been screened for the disease.

Colon cancer often shows no signs or symptoms, which is why getting a colonoscopy screening or talking to a loved one about getting screened can be a lifesaver against this highly preventable cancer. Men and women over the age of 50 are being encouraged to take action and talk to their doctor to schedule their colonoscopy. Additionally, people with a family history of the disease or those who present other risk factors should get screened earlier.

Tips to lower your risk

Although there are some risk factors that cannot be controlled (like age and family history), a recent study found that about one-quarter of colon cancer cases could be avoided by following a healthy lifestyle. In addition to regular screenings, here are some things you can do to help lower your risk:

*Diet: Limit consumption of red and processed meats, eat a variety of vegetables and fruits, and choose whole grains in preference to processed grains. Additionally, consumption of milk and calcium probably decreases the risk of developing colon cancer.
*Physical activity: High levels of physical activity decrease the risk of colon cancer among men and women by possibly as much as 50 percent. The more physical activity in which people engage, the lower their risk of colon cancer.
*Weight: Being overweight or obese is associated with a higher risk of colon cancer, independent of physical activity. Maintain a healthy weight throughout life.
*Smoking: There is now sufficient evidence to conclude that tobacco smoking causes colon cancer.
*Alcohol: Individuals who have a lifetime average of 2 to 4 alcoholic drinks per day have a 23 percent higher risk of colon cancer than those who consume less than one drink per day.

To learn more about colon cancer and the importance of getting screened, visit www.ccalliance.org/Dulcolax and www.DulcolaxUSA.com.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A flu prevention guide for the workplace

Posted by: ARA on Tuesday, May 1, 2012 at 9:00:00 am 

A flu prevention guide for the workplace

(ARA) - Flu season is upon us and that means runny noses, chills and body aches. For a small business and its employees, that can mean days spent home in bed or feeling sick in your office, which results in lost working hours. Did you know that flu costs businesses approximately $10.4 billion each year in direct costs for hospitalizations and outpatient visits for adults?

The best prevention method is getting your flu vaccination. Everyone 6 months of age and older should get an annual flu vaccine, even if they were vaccinated last season.  In addition, there are some other tips you can follow to ensure you and your co-workers aren't knocked out by the flu. Staples, a trusted source for not only office supplies but office solutions, offers these easy flu prevention tips to keep your workplace as flu-free as possible.

For employees:

Most importantly, wash your hands frequently with soap and water for 20 seconds or use an effective alcohol free or alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available. Clean hands, either through washing them or using hand sanitizer, can lead to a 20 percent reduction in absenteeism in a workplace situation.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) and other flu prevention sites say you should avoid touching your nose, mouth and eyes, so any germs you may have come in contact with in the office can't make their way into your body. If you cough or sneeze, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue, or cough and sneeze into your upper sleeve. If your office has them, dispose of tissues in no-touch trash receptacles.

Routinely clean frequently-touched objects and surfaces at your own work station like keyboards and phones to help remove soils containing germs. Why is it so important to clean these areas? The average desktop has 400 times more bacteria than the average toilet seat.

Clorox, the cleaning products provider, calls these areas "germ hot spots" and recommends you try not to use other workers' phones, desks, offices or other work tools and equipment. If necessary, consider cleaning and disinfecting them. It may make for an awkward moment when you wipe down a co-worker's phone before using it, but that's better than getting sick.

If you do begin to feel sick while at work, go home as soon as possible so you can minimize your co-workers' exposure to the flu (or whatever else you may have). In a poll conducted by Staples last year, 85 percent of employees said they'd come into work even when sick, but 34 percent said they'd prefer it if their co-workers stayed home when they were sick. If you wake in the morning and feel sick, alert your boss. More and more companies these days have flexible work arrangements, so if you can work from home, do so. Call your doctor to see if you need to schedule an appointment. Your doctor may be able to prescribe medicines (anti-viral drugs) to make the flu illness milder and shorten the time you are sick, which will get you back to work quicker.

For small business owners:

If you own or run your own small business, you probably already know how the flu can affect production. On average, workplace absenteeism due to personal illness costs U.S. businesses $230 per employee. If you're a small business of even 30 people, that means almost $7,000 lost annually.

In addition to encouraging the flu vaccination for all your employees, it's also important to encourage effective communication throughout your company, according to Staples Advantage, the business-to-business division of Staples. Make sure you provide information on the importance of flu vaccination, proper cleaning and disinfection, flu facts and office wellness tips to employees and staff. If you have the available resources, spread the message about flu prevention with posters in the break room or handing out flyers in employees' mailboxes.

Also, make sure you're prepared. According to a survey cited by GOJO, makers of skin health and hygiene solutions, 25 percent of standard bulk soap dispensers have harmful levels of bacteria, so stock the office with appropriate hand sanitizers in areas identified as germ hot spots and consider hands-free soap dispensers in the bathrooms and kitchens. Not only are these low-cost items, but they're actually better at stopping the spread of germs. Step up your cleaning program to more frequently clean commonly touched surfaces like the door handles and elevator buttons. The CDC says you should keep a full supply of tissues, soap, paper towels, alcohol-based hand rubs and disposable wipes.

And finally, consider some flexibility in scheduling to let staff get their vaccination, stay home when they're sick, or work from home. Even though people should stay home for at least 24 hours when sick with the flu, the latest technologies, like tablets, laptops and other home office solutions are making it easier for employees to be productive remotely.

A broad assortment of cleaning solutions - like cleaners, disinfectants, sanitizers, hand sanitizers and pre-moistened wipes - are available at StaplesAdvantage.com, Staples.com and in Staples stores nationwide.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Protecting your financial information from natural disasters

Posted by: ARA on Monday, April 16, 2012 at 9:00:00 am 

Protecting your financial information from natural disasters

(ARA) - Disaster preparedness has become more common as a result of the increasing number of floods, tornadoes, wildfires and hurricanes in recent years. According to FEMA's website, there were 99 major disasters declared in 2011 alone.

One area of disaster planning too often minimized or overlooked is financial data. "Saving and protecting your financial information can take some time," says Jessi Dolmage, spokesperson for TaxACT. "But that information can impact how quickly and extensively you recover from a natural disaster."

Dolmage recommends starting with a room-by-room inventory of personal and business belongings. Document, photograph or video record belongings - especially those of higher value - for proof of value for insurance, tax and casualty loss purposes. Visit www.irs.gov for Internal Revenue Service (IRS) workbooks and Publication 584 for inventory resources.

Next, save electronic copies of inventory and other documents on an external drive, CD or secure website. Documents should include home closing statements, homeowner and other insurance records, tax returns and W-2s. Consider keeping copies in multiple locations.

The IRS often grants extended tax return filing and payment deadlines, as well as lesser or waived penalties, to individuals and businesses in federally declared disaster areas. You don't typically need to contact the IRS for tax relief, as the agency automatically identifies the areas. However, you should call the IRS disaster hotline if you have property in the designated area but reside or have a business outside the designated area. If you move outside the declared area, be sure to notify the IRS of your new address.

Casualty losses related to your home or business, household items and vehicles not covered by insurance or other reimbursements may be deductible on your federal tax return. Depending on when the federally declared disaster happens, you may have the option of claiming related losses on the previous or current year's return.

Casualty losses for federally declared disasters can be claimed as a miscellaneous deduction. If you claimed the standard deduction last year and your casualty loss plus other itemized deductions total more than the standard deduction, you may benefit more by amending last year's return.

Amending last year's return can mean faster cash for repairs, rebuilding and replacing personal property. However, depending on your income the year of the disaster, you may increase your tax savings by waiting to claim losses on the current year return.

To determine an item's deductible amount, subtract any insurance reimbursement from the value of the item (accounting for normal wear and tear or progressive deterioration) and then subtract $100. After totaling all losses, reduce the amount by 10 percent of your adjusted gross income.

"As with all deductions," Dolmage reminds, "be sure to keep detailed documentation and receipts for each casualty item you claim."

More disaster preparation tips and resources can be found at www.irs.gov. For step-by-step guidance for claiming losses on current and previous year returns using TaxACT, visit taxact.com.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Keeping on top of your child's asthma care during allergy season

Posted by: ARA on Wednesday, April 4, 2012 at 11:00:00 am 

Keeping on top of your child's asthma care during allergy season
(ARA) - For many with seasonal allergies, the start of spring means itchy eyes and a runny nose, but for the almost 25 million Americans suffering with asthma, the season can be much more threatening. In fact, according to a recent survey, Asthma Insights and Management, conducted by the national public research organization Abt SRBI Inc., 21 percent of asthmatics note "pollen" as a trigger for their asthma symptoms.


Asthma is a chronic lung disease that inflames and narrows the airways, and may cause chest tightness, shortness of breath, coughing and wheezing. When not properly managed, these symptoms may sometimes become life threatening.

For parents of the nearly 7 million children living with asthma, monitoring of the condition and identifying when symptoms are becoming problematic can be difficult any time of year, but can be even more challenging during allergy season.

"During allergy season, assessing whether my child symptoms are asthma- or allergy-related is even more stressful as exacerbations become more frequent," said Denielle Goshinsky, mother of an 8-year-old asthmatic. "I'm often asking myself whether my child's cough is from a cold or allergies, or whether it's asthma-related and potentially more serious."

But for parents of asthmatics, there is a new tool available to help monitor and assess their child's symptoms anytime and anywhere. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) recently cleared to market Spiro PD, the first and only personal spirometer that allows patients to measure their lung function outside of the doctor's office. The device measures the amount and speed of air individual's exhale which helps evaluate how well lungs are working. It is easy-to-use, portable and affordable.

"While the National Institute of Health Clinical Guidelines call for regular spirometry, the location of the test was previously limited to doctor's offices," said Michael S. Blaiss, MD, the Board of Director of World Allergy Organization and a Clinical Professor of Pediatrics and Medicine, Division of Allergy and Immunology, University of Tennessee. "With the availability of Spiro PD, patients or parents of asthmatics are able to measure lung function and share data with their doctor anywhere and anytime, empowering patients to take an active role in managing their disease, always knowing exactly how their condition is doing and informing them as to when they may need to seek further medical attention."

Other features of Spiro PD allow patients to view their lung function trends over time; manage medications; set reminder alarms to take medicine, run spirometry tests or do breathing exercises; and, quickly upload data to their computer and share it with their health care provider. For more information visit www.SpiroPD.com.