Keep Your Stress in Check

Stress

In the most recent “Stress in America” survey released in 2013, findings clearly reveal that stress in America seems to be on the decline among seniors and Boomers. Whereas, those between the ages of 18 to 33 years of age and 34 to 47 years of age – classified as Millennials and Gen Xers – reported significantly higher levels of stress.  On a scale of 1 – 10, with 10 being the highest, their average stress level hovered around 5.4.

Higher unemployment within these two groups, combined with financial worry, a feeling of instability due to the still struggling economy and a personal sense of failure are key triggers. While Boomers and seniors tend to manage their stress better than younger Americans, the complexity of everyday life and the challenges it brings, means that we are all, at one time or the other, going to experience stress in our lifetime. How you manage your stress can determine your overall health and wellness.

Causes-of-stree

If untreated, consistently high stress could become a chronic condition, which can result in serious health problems including anxiety, insomnia, muscle pain, high blood pressure and a weakened immune system.  Research shows that stress can even contribute to the development of major illnesses, such as heart disease, depression and obesity, or exacerbate existing illnesses.  (courtesy: American Psychological Association/Stress in America)

Managing stress can begin with changing certain lifestyle factors that trigger or intensify the condition.  More Americans are turning away from unhealthy behavior as a way of managing stress, such as drinking and binge eating. There is a noticeable trend toward a more positive approach in combating everyday stress, even when the source of stress is beyond our control.

Simple actions can make a difference

We’ve all experienced a need to hide under the covers, and retreat from the world outside that’s causing our anxiety and feeling of gloom, but prolonged use of sleep, as a mechanism for coping with stress, can make it harder to deal with its root cause and effect.

Experts suggest the following simple yet practical ways to cope with stress:

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Listen to your favorite music – Whatever your favorite playlist consists of (classical, rock, jazz), listening to music can be a great way to relax the mind and body.

Go for a brisk walk – Being outdoors in the sunlight, breathing fresh air, whether in the park or in the neighborhood, according to some researchers can boost your vitamin D levels and “your levels of feel-good serotonin.”

Exercise – Jogging or doing yoga, whatever activity you happen to enjoy, can stimulate and energize.  Make it a critical part of your stress management plan.

Take a long bath – Sounds too simple?  Water is one of the most calming elements. Taking a long, warm bath before bed can be a calming agent, helps you unwind, soothes and promotes a good night’s sleep.

Find a hobby – Knitting, painting, crossword puzzles – doing anything with your hands, experts say, immediately relaxes you, it grounds you and stops stress from messing with your head.

Look for the good – You don’t have to be religious to be thankful. Looking at a glass half full and showing an appreciation for the good things in your life goes a long way toward relieving stress levels, according to the National Institutes of Health.
(courtesy: Health Magazine)

If you have been prescribed medication for the treatment of anxiety and stress and need help paying for it, download a free Watertree Health Prescription Discount Card or request one be mailed to you.  It provides significant discounts on almost all recommended medications (brand and generic).  Because as most experts agree, “medicines, when taken as prescribed, improve lives and decrease overall health care spending.”

By WHblogger

2/26/14

Instructions and Disclaimer: The content on this website is designed for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses. Always consult your health care provider with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your health.

360 Approach to Women’s Heart Health

As we come to the end of Heart Awareness Month, a few very real facts to keep in mind about heart health. According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the number one killer of women in the U.S. — heart attacks kill more women than all cancers combined. Approximately 43 million women are affected in this country and the statistics are staggering; “nearly 1,100 women are still dying each day (1 in 4).”

If you are an African American woman or a Latina, you “have more risk factors than Caucasian women.” Here are the alarming facts:

African American Women

African-American-Women-Heart-Health

  • Cardiovascular diseases kill nearly 50,000 African American women annually.
  • Of African American women ages 20 and older, 49 percent have heart diseases.
  • Only 1 in 5 African American women believes she is personally at risk.
  • Only 52 percent of African American women are aware of the signs and symptoms of heart attack.
  • Only 36 percent of African American women know that heart disease is their greatest health risk.

Latinas

Latinas

  • Hispanic women are likely to develop heart disease 10 years earlier than Caucasian women.
  • Only 1 in 3 Hispanic women are aware that heart disease is their number one killer.
  • Only 3 in 10 Hispanic women say they have been informed that they are at a higher risk.
  • Only 1 in 4 Hispanic women is aware of treatment options.
  • Hispanic women are more likely to take preventive actions for their family when it comes to health.

But you don’t have to be a victim. And you don’t have to become part of the statistics. You can apply a 360 approach in fighting heart disease – reducing the risk of becoming at risk by knowing the warning signs and adopting a proactive role in maintaining good health.

The Mayo Clinic lists the most common heart attack symptoms in women and they are often more subtle than what we have come to expect. Women are more likely than men, to have heart attack symptoms unrelated to chest pain, such as:

  • Neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back or abdominal discomfort
  • Shortness of breath
  • Right arm pain
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Unusual fatigue

Womenshealth.gov recommends these preventative measures that can reduce a woman’s risk of heart disease:

Don’t smoke. Women who smoke increase their risk of heart attacks. Quitting can help significantly lower your chances of developing cardiovascular disease.

Know your blood pressure. High blood pressure can lead to heart disease. Have your blood pressure tested every 1 to 2 years. Work with your health professional to lower and manage high blood pressure.

Get tested for diabetes. Diabetics have high blood glucose, which is often symptomless. So get a regular blood glucose test. If you are diabetic, make sure to follow your doctor’s advice and treatment (whether it’s pills or insulin shot). A woman with diabetes has three to seven time higher than normal risk of developing heart disease.

Know your cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Being overweight puts you at higher risk. Maintain a healthy weight relative to your Body Mass Index (a calculation of weight and height). You can start by changing up your diet and exercising:

  • Add more fruits and vegetables, as well as grain to your menu.

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Exercise and a healthy diet will improve your overall wellbeing, physical and emotional health.

Limit your alcohol intake. You don’t have to give up your occasional glass of wine, beer or other alcoholic beverages. Just manage your intake.

Take control of your stress. Find healthy ways to manage daily stressors and their impact. Find time to do the things that you enjoy – with friends or solo. Taking charge of stress can considerably decrease your chances of having a heart disease.

Remember, if you are on prescribed medication for diabetes, cholesterol management, high blood pressure or any of the other conditions that make you a high risk candidate for heart disease, and you need help affording your prescriptions, download a free Watertree Health Prescription Discount Card or request your card be mailed to you. It provides significant discounts on almost all recommended medications (brand and generic). Most experts agree, taking your medicines as prescribed improves overall health and wellbeing and lowers cost of health care for everyone.

By WHblogger

2/24/14

References:  The American Heart Association; womenheart.org; hngnews.com; cdc.gov; sciencedaily.com

Instructions and Disclaimer: The content on this website is designed for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses. Always consult your health care provider with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your health.

Take the Lead – Know the Facts – Fight the Flu

As familiar to us as the changing of the seasons, influenza or as we have come to know it – flu season is with us. Arriving at approximately the same time each year. However, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), “Flu seasons are unpredictable in a number of ways…the timing, severity and length of the season” can vary from year to year.

Flu-peaks-in-Feb

Millions (approximately 5-20% of U.S. residents), come down with flu-like symptoms and various strains of the flu each year and the best thing you can do to protect yourself against it is to get inoculated. The flu vaccine is your best protection, even if it is not the perfect remedy. It is now available at your neighborhood pharmacy or at your doctor’s office; health centers, schools and some employers even make it available on-site for employee convenience.

According to recent reports, this year in particular, the H1N1 strain has been responsible for “the uptick in young adults suffering from the flu,” proving that everyone is susceptible – no one is immune.

Among the most vulnerable and at risk during flu season are seniors, children and people with chronic illnesses.

If you are 65 or over, you should speak to your doctor about the recommended dose flu shot that you should have. Seniors are more susceptible because as you age your immune system becomes weaker. Most deaths attributed to the flu occur among people 65 and older. And, if you are a senior, you should know that Medicare covers your flu shot.

Because children and infants do not have fully developed immune systems, they fall among the more at risk. If you have a child 6 months or older, ask your pediatrician about giving them the flu vaccine. If your child has a chronic ailment, consult your pediatrician as these children are at further risk because the flu can lead to more severe complications. Flu.gov reports that on average, “20,000 children under the age of 5 are hospitalized for flu related complications,” each year.

If you are a person with a chronic condition such as Arthritis, Asthma or Cancer, getting the flu can become life threatening. It can be due in part to medication that weakens your immune system or in the case of Asthma, “the flu virus can increase the inflammation of airways and lungs that can lead to pneumonia and other acute respiratory disease”, according to Flu.gov.

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Keep in mind that the very best way to fight the flu is to get early protection. By getting one of the different types of flu vaccines available, you can protect yourself against three strains of the flu. Talk to your doctor, he will know which is best for you.

If you opt against the vaccine, there is also Tamiflu (not a substitute for the vaccine), but it can help treat flu-like symptoms or lessen the severity of the flu if you do get it.

To safeguard yourself from infection or from spreading the virus if you contract it, there are a number of everyday preventative steps you can take (courtesy of the CDC):

  • Most important, if you are sick, stay home. Avoid going to work or school. Reduce other forms of contact with people.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Be sure to wash your hands often, to reduce the spread of germs.
  • Use tissue to cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your eyes and nose as your hands are often in contact with surfaces that contain germs.
  • Disinfect frequently used surfaces at home, work and school.

There are also a few but easy-to-follow healthy habits that will improve your body’s ability to fight:

  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Exercise and remain as physically active as you can.
  • Avoid or manage stressful situations.
  • Hydrate frequently (drink lots of fluids, especially water).
  • Make sure that you eat balanced and nutritional meals.

You may not always be able to prevent the flu, but you can lessen the possibility of getting and spreading the virus when you know the facts and take appropriate counter measures.

Some good sites to visit for more information:

http://www.Flu.gov
http://cdc.gov
http://www.cdc.gov/flu/pdf/matte/flu-vaccine-safety.pdf
http://Webmd.com

Don’t forget, you can use the Watertree Health Prescription Discount Card to get significant savings on many of the flu vaccines and on other prescription medicines.

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Instructions and Disclaimer: The content on this website is designed for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses. Always consult your health care provider with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your health.

Why are More Americans Going to Bed Hungry?

By Matt Herfield, Co-Founder of Watertree Health

Food-Insecurity

Around the world, America is considered one of the richest and most powerful countries — where opportunities loom high and possibilities are only dwarfed by the limits you place on your own imagination.

So you might ask, why is it that, in one of the wealthiest countries, the number of people who go hungry each night is on the rise? There is no shortage of food on store shelves and as one writer points out, cheap food is everywhere, “there are 99 cent stores and value meals at fast-food chains,” (Go to any restaurant on any given night and you can see just how much food we throw away.) Still in all, nearly 50 million Americans struggle each day to put food on the table. For almost 17 million kids, food insecurity is a very real concern, and those numbers are going up.

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Photo courtesy Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma City

It would surprise many of us to know just who the real face of hunger belongs to. The image of hunger is not confined to one segment of the American population, or to the rural areas of our country. According to organizations like Feeding America and its Food Banks, many of the millions at risk of hunger, “are often hard-working adults, children and seniors who simply cannot always make ends meet.” They are our neighbors. They are part of our communities.

Hunger has real consequences beyond the impact on individuals and their families; it takes its toll on the overall U.S. economy. The cost comes from related health care issues that tax an already taxed health care system. Those living in households where hunger is a concern struggle with depression and believe it or not, obesity. Poor food choices add to further health risks – diabetes and heart disease, which are among the leading causes of death in the country.

A study by the Sodexo Foundation in 2007 estimated that the monetary cost to the U.S. was, “more than $90 billion, far more than it would take to ensure that no citizen is at risk of hunger.” In 2010 that figure was up to $167.5 billion as published by the Center for American Progress, in their 2011 report.

Hunger influences the future of our children and the future of our economic strength – a child who is hungry will have difficulty keeping up. If they cannot learn, the options are obvious. This loss is reflected in the future of our workforce. Ultimately it is a cost to all of us and we are already a tax-burdened society.

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Pew Research Center’s chart chart above – U.S. stands out as a rich country where some can’t afford food

With the latest round of Congressional cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the (abrupt) end of unemployment benefits, those already facing hunger have been placed in an untenable position. Further complicating matters has been the extreme weather. The deep freeze has meant that families already strained are having to make decisions between heating their homes and buying food. Community food pantries like the Food Banks and soup kitchens are themselves feeling the pinch, as empty shelves become a reflection of increased need. (Reuters/Washington, article by Susan Heavey – 9/12/2013)

The 2010 Feeding America Hunger Study revealed that more than a third of the people helped by Food Banks choose between putting food on the table and getting the medicines they need. Two years ago, this was the impetus for Watertree Health to create a Prescription Discount Card Program that provides a dual benefit to our partner Food Banks. We provide Cards to the Food Banks to give to their clients, which help create healthier communities by providing access to affordable prescription medicines. At the same time, our partner Food Banks receive a steady stream of unrestricted donations from Watertree Health for each discounted prescription under the Program.

The Food Banks are an important lifeline for many hard working families, individuals and most especially children and seniors living in fear of not having enough to eat. It has often made a difference between skipping a meal, substituting low quality food or falling further behind on essential bills.

Many of the programs that help to stave off increased hunger among America’s most vulnerable depend on public and private donations. It becomes even more compelling when so many factors come together to increase demand for these services and programs.

Food insecurity can lead to a cycle of serious health concerns and can play a role in “perpetuating the cycle of poverty in the U.S.” Combating hunger in America should remain a major focus for everyone and that includes organizations like Watertree Health, which can create programs to support services like the ones provided by the Food Banks and other community initiatives helping those in need.

NOTE: To help fight hunger, consider making food donations to your neighborhood Food Bank, soup kitchen and other organizations.

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Reference Material: Feeding America/hunger facts & impact of hunger; Food Bank; World Hunger.org: Hunger in America, 2013;  Do Something.org; Sodexo Foundation; Center for American Progress; 2010 Hunger Study; Nokidhungry.org