Are You Going to Use It? Or Lose It?

It’s that time of year…the Flexible Spending Account is sitting there, waiting to be used! But you never got sick, or never got around to going to the doctor, or just didn’t feel that you needed to go… Unfortunately, that money is going to be lost forever, if you don’t use it soon. Some FSAs will allow you to use the funds until March of the following year, but not all of them allow for rollovers of the money. If you’re at a loss as to how to quickly use the money that you set aside for medical expenses this year, there are a few things that are allowable expenses that you could fit in before year end: If you haven’t had a complete physical in a while now is a great time to get one. Getting a baseline of your health is always a good idea and will let you know if there are other things that you should have checked out. Maybe you’ve been to the doctor or it’s been recent enough that you don’t need to go now. It might be a good idea to get some blood tests that will keep you updated on your health status like a VAP cholesterol test, a Hormone or Comprehensive Male or Female Profile, a PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) test or even an Allergy or Food Intolerance Test. All of these are valid medical expenses but may seem expensive without insurance or a specific reason to get them. If you want to know the status of some basic health systems, like lipids, allergies, or hormones, now is a good time to make...

What Does Diabetes Look Like?

Do you know someone who has diabetes? Most of us do, even if we aren’t aware of it. It may be your coworker, your cousin or your neighbor. The obesity epidemic has recently pointed a spotlight at type 2 diabetes which can be delayed or even prevented by diet and activity changes or losing weight. But type 1 diabetes, also known as juvenile diabetes, strikes those who haven’t had a chance to make poor food choices, like very young children, or those who are physically active and at normal weight. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the body attacks the pancreas, ultimately disabling it. Because the pancreas can no longer produce insulin, these people have no alternative but to test their blood with finger pricks several times a day and inject insulin to control their blood glucose level. Diabetes Awareness Month aims to educate us about those who live with this disease every day, 24 hours a day. There is no vacation from diabetes. Since the discovery and the medical availability of insulin in 1921 lives have been prolonged and diabetics are able to lead more normal lives, but there is still no cure. The treatments have progressed to include continuous glucose monitors that alleviate finger pricks and allow diabetics to more closely monitor glucose levels. Insulin pumps are becoming more mainstream and more common so that diabetics can program the amount of insulin delivered at any given point in time and make adjustments more quickly. But, the ability for these two devices to communicate doesn’t exist yet so diabetics must still track information and program insulin...

Lyme Disease Prevention: Do You Know What to Do?

Summer is coming to an end and in most places, cooler temperatures mean less bug bites. However, with fall approaching and camping trips being planned left and right, you may want to think twice before assuming that the days of creepy bugs and itchy bites are behind you. Ticks are still out in abundance regardless of the temperature drop, and the consequences of a tick bite have the potential to be treacherous. Ticks are pesky little members of the arachnid family that are commonly found in low vegetation areas and are hematophagous; in other words, they survive by feeding off of the blood of mammals, reptiles, birds, and amphibians. Blood plays a crucial role in tick development because blood is needed to reach each new stage of a tick’s life cycle. In fact, many ticks die due to failure to find a blood host. But how do ticks latch on to a feeding source? Ticks are not something we regularly see crawling around on your floor like a spider. Instead, ticks actually identify well used paths and remain on blades of grass or twigs. When a body part brushes against the grass or twig, ticks will quickly climb up the host and latch on to feed. But there are bigger, and scarier, reasons why it is important to avoid ticks at all costs. Ticks play a massive role in disease transmission, second only to mosquitos, and are responsible for vector-borne illnesses such as Lyme disease, Colorado tick fever, and Tularemia (although it is important to remember that not all tick bites result in disease). Although all forms of tickborne illnesses are serious, Lyme...

Are Your Children Ready for School? Think Immunizations!

As the new school year creeps up on us, many parents are dedicating the month of August to their children and back to school. Aside from shopping for trendy clothes and school supplies, back to school serves as an important time to consider getting your children vaccinated, if you haven’t already done so. Although vaccinations are a very controversial subject to some, there are lots of good, and in some cases lifesaving, reasons to vaccinate your child. Immunizations are important because they prevent children from contracting serious illnesses such as measles, mumps, and rubella that may result in brain damage, loss of sight and/or limbs, or even death. Considering immunizations for your child, or even checking to see if everything is up to date, is important at the beginning of the school year as many school systems require children to be vaccinated in an effort to prevent the spread of diseases. Refusing to vaccinate could spark an outbreak, similar to the December 2014 measles outbreak that occurred in Southern California, in which 40 people contracted the virus while visiting Disneyland. Alarmingly, the outbreak spread to over half a dozen states before it was declared over in April, 2015. These highly contagious diseases spread like wildlife, and the results could be truly grueling for a young child- think high fever for a number of days followed by an incubation period in an effort to stop the spread of the disease. Aside from the recent measles outbreak, many parents believe that since outbreaks of many of the diseases requiring vaccinations have not been heard about in a long time, they do...

Should You Pause Before Applying Sunscreen?

Sunscreen has always been an essential part of summer, especially over the past 10 years as we have learned more about its benefits. It protects us from UV rays, painful sunburns, and helps prevent skin cancer. But debates have risen over whether or not sunscreen is actually detrimental to our health. While we have been taught that the sun emits powerful and dangerous UV rays, some physicians and scientists are arguing that UV rays provide vitamin D, which can assist in preventing certain cancers and bone diseases. So does this mean we should stop wearing sunscreen? You may want to hold off on throwing away your summer supply. According to vitamin D advocates, vitamin D is the new miracle worker, helping with everything from cancer to weight control to high blood pressure. One of the best ways to obtain this essential nutrient is to go outside and bask in the sun to catch some UV rays, all while leaving the skin protection behind. Some claim that Americans have been scared away from sun exposure, resulting in a greater number of people suffering from vitamin D deficiency. Other health issues that can contribute to low vitamin D include darker skin, obesity or gastrointestinal issues which can all reduce the body’s ability to absorb vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency in itself can be extremely painful, as it causes weak muscles, fatigue, skeletal deformities and soft bones. Although there is evidence that vitamin D is essential for bone health, it’s ability to prevent certain cancers and high blood pressure has yet to be proven. Still, some physicians are recommending that people decrease...

Hey Tough Guy! Are You Avoiding the Doctor? You May Want to Rethink That Plan!

There just aren’t enough hours in a day! You’ll make that doctor’s appointment another day, right? Especially because nothing hurts and you have no pain, aches, bumps, or bruises? Think again! It is all too common for men to skip their annual visits to their doctors, which could be a big step in the wrong direction. Although we all like to believe that since we feel fine there must be nothing wrong, there are far too many health risks and potential diseases for men to ignore their doctors, and their health altogether. June is Men’s Health Month and we encourage all men to take precautions and check up on your health! Preventative medical tests can detect diseases early, before they start to cause the aches and pains that would send someone to the doctor immediately. Here are some recommendations for screening tests and lifestyle adjustements to consider so that you can take control of your health now and prevent illness later: Check your cholesterol levels regularly, especially after the age of 20. Having high cholesterol puts men at a greater risk for heart disease and should be checked every five years, or more often if your cholesterol is high. Keep a close eye on your body weight, activity level and diet, as these lifestyle choices have a direct effect on cholesterol levels. Consider taking the Fasting Plasma Glucose Test to screen for type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes. If you are experiencing increased thirst and frequent urination, as well as weight loss and increased hunger, you may be experiencing diabetes symptoms. As with many other diseases, warning signs are not...

Does Spring Bring Suffering Along With Blooms?

Spring is officially here and so are the warm temperatures! But, are you finding yourself with the onset of a sudden, never-ending cold? If so, you may be one of the estimated 40 to 60 million Americans suffering from seasonal allergic rhinitis. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI), seasonal allergic rhinitis, more commonly referred to as “hay fever,” usually occurs in the spring, summer, and fall and is caused by “allergic sensitivity to airborne mold spores or top pollen from grass, trees, and weeds.” Hay fever symptoms consist of a runny nose and congestion, wheezing, and itchy eyes or skin. Think of it as a season-long cold that just won’t go away. For some, hay fever is an entirely new experience. You may have welcomed spring in the past, but now you feel like you’ve been hit by a nasty cold, and that the usual Dayquil or Sudafed is not doing the trick. If so, it may be time to get tested and visit an allergist to pinpoint exactly what you are experiencing. Skin tests, which consist of injecting or pricking the allergen into the skin and waiting for results, or newer blood tests that only require one blood draw, along with clues about your lifestyle can help to identify your specific allergens. If you do find yourself a victim of seasonal allergic rhinitis, here are some tips to avoid exposure to your trigger allergens and prevent allergic reactions: Avoid going outdoors between the hours of 5 am and 10 am. Pollen counts are the highest between these hours on dry, windy, and warm days....

Will Your Teen’s Prom Become a Statistic?

As we welcome April with open arms, enjoying the sunshine and warmer weather, many young people across America are also welcoming end-of-the-school-year celebrations that are right around the corner! Popular events like prom are exciting times for young people when many fond memories are made. Sadly, as years pass, we find that prom has a dark side: alcohol related accidents and deaths. According to the NCADD, “alcohol is the number one drug of choice for America’s youth and is more likely to kill young people than all illegal drugs combined.” The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration reported that in 2001, 1,012 children under 21 died of alcohol-related traffic incidents in the months of April, May and June alone. Although young people turn to alcohol for any number of reasons, now is a crucial time to raise awareness on underage drinking to ensure that your child is safe during the upcoming prom season. The combination of prom and alcohol is often seen as a rite of passage for teens. For many of them it is their first opportunity to experiment with alcohol and parents feel as though their children are safe drinking, as long as they are not driving. However, underage alcohol consumption can still be lethal even if they are not driving. Many adolescents are unaware of the consequences of drinking. Drinking a large amount of alcohol can cause loss of consciousness and all control over what happens to his or her body. Drinking too much too fast can cause alcohol poisoning, which could in turn lead to death. Alcohol consumption at a young age could also set...

Spring: The Perfect Season for a Nutritional Fresh Start!

Relax! Winter is almost over! For most Americans, winter is a dreaded, gloomy time of the year when food becomes a great comfort. Due to the colder temperatures and snow/ice/wintry mixed- covered roads we stay inside and inactive. Fortunately, spring is only a few weeks away and as we step into March and rising temperatures, it’s the perfect time to reassess what we put in our bodies on a daily basis. For some, controlling snacking throughout the day is a huge struggle. With vending machines and fast food joints too accessible and convenient during the workweek, it’s definitely worth looking at healthy snacking alternatives to keep your metabolism rolling at high fat-burning levels! In recent years, our nation has seen a spike in obesity rates. Snacking is a dietary habit that has greatly contributed to the rising obesity rates due to the “empty-calorie” nature of most prepared snack foods. Empty calories provide very little nutritional value, and instead are packed with added sugar and solid fat. According to the USDA, men consume two to three times their limit of sugar and fats and women two to four times their limit! So what are some snacks that steer clear of empty calories? High-protein snacks are the way to go! Protein allows our bodies to feel full over a longer period of time. If you are filling up with protein during snacking periods, chances are you’re more likely to skip seconds and wait until lunch or dinner to eat again. Here are some protein-filled snacks that are also easy to carry around throughout the day: Nuts! Especially almonds and pistachios, as they...

Changes to Make for A Heart Healthy Lifestyle

Do you know how to properly fuel and protect the most vital organ in your body? The heart is the center of the cardiovascular system and needs proper care and nourishment to remain healthy. Nearly half of Americans are at risk for heart disease, a large percentage of which are due to poor diet. Luckily, making changes in one’s diet is a quick and easy way to start to protect your heart from heart attacks, strokes, and coronary artery disease by controlling your weight and keeping your cholesterol and blood pressure in check. Here are some tips to get you started: Avoid fats! Cut out the foods filled with trans-fats and saturated fats, as well as those high in cholesterol. There are many healthier alternatives to these problematic food items, such as Greek yogurt in place of sour cream or skim milk in place of heavy whipping cream. Well-rounded diet! Try to include foods from several food groups to keep meals healthy and well rounded. Make sure to include fruits and vegetables in your daily diet as they are a great source of fiber and are low in calories. Fish is an excellent addition to your diet, rich with anti-inflammatory omega-3-fatty acids that may assist in lowering the risk of heart disease. Count calories! Although the task seems daunting, monitoring your daily caloric intake to manage your weight can help prevent stroke, diabetes, and coronary artery disease. It’s best to talk to your healthcare provider to gain insight on calorie intake for your weight, age, gender, and level of activity. Watch out for salt! Take note of your sodium...