This is default featured slide 1 title
This is default featured slide 2 title
This is default featured slide 3 title
This is default featured slide 4 title
This is default featured slide 5 title

Monthly Archives: November 2016

5 Ways to Commemorate Steve Jobs

1. Forgo meat. Jobs was a pescetarian — which means he eliminated meat and chicken from his diet, but he indulged in fish and seafood. In fact, in 2006 the health-conscious CEO (who also headed Pixar Animation Studios), cut ties with McDonald’s, which promoted Pixar films’ characters in its Happy Meals, because he wasn’t keen on the health implications of the meat-happy fast food chain.

Ditching meat (at least every once in a while) could benefit you, too — especially if you have a few pounds to drop. In a scientific review published in Nutritional Reviews, researchers found that vegetarian diets not promote weight loss, they also decrease risks of heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

2. Indulge in ice cream. After his cancer treatment, the Apple co-founder turned to his favorite frozen treat when he wanted to gain weight after cancer treatment. “I’m eating like crazy,” he told a New York Times reporter. What was his guilty pleasure? “A lot of ice cream.”

3. Recycle your electronics. In 2005, Jobs responded to criticism of Apple’s poor recycling programs by announcing the company would take back iPods for free. Later, he expanded the program to include most Apple products. Apple now includes free shipping and environmentally friendly disposal of old systems. But he wasn’t always popular with environmentalists — in fact, he lashed out against his green critics at Apple’s annual meeting in Cupertino that year — but he listened, and eventually changed his tune.

4. Create something insanely great. Despite being a college dropout, Jobs was a consummate innovator. From his parents’ garage, he co-founded a company that would later develop “insanely great” devices — from iPods to iPhones to iPads — used by millions worldwide every day. “Considered the Thomas Edison of his generation, Jobs has been involved in more than 300 computer-related U.S. patents,” states hisobituary on International Business Times.

5. Raise pancreatic cancer awareness. Perhaps the greatest tribute you can make in the wake of Jobs’ death is a contribution to the fight against the cancer that claimed him (charities include the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network and the Lustgarten Foundation). Although Jobs is gone, the cancer is still very much among us — and it kills one in five of its victims within the first year.

In the years since his diagnosis, Jobs went public in the fight against pancreatic cancer, joining fellow celebrity Patrick Swayze. When Swayze’s wife announced the reintroduction of the Pancreatic Cancer Research and Education Act in Congress in February, Jobs voiced his public support. The bill would create a strategic research plan for pancreatic cancer every five years, peer into the deadliest cancers, establish at least two new specialized pancreatic cancer research centers, and provide a toolkit for patients and a program to educate primary care providers about the disease.

Stay Without Breaking the Bank

The buzz about health-care reform hasn’t died down since the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was signed by President Obama last year. But although the battle rages on, one thing is clear: The new law is not likely to curb health-care expenditures in the United States. In 2009, the total U.S. health-care bill was $2.5 trillion — about $8,000 dollars per person. And, partly as a result of the population aging, that figure is projected to be $4.5 trillion a year by 2019.

What does this mean for most Americans? A typical family of four covered by employer-provided health insurance now spends about $18,000 a year on medical expenses. And even for those lucky enough to have insurance, out-of-pocket expenses are steadily rising due to higher deductibles and copayments and other costs.

An Ounce of Prevention

It is possible to spend less and stay healthy, however. That’s the message of a new book co-authored by Cynthia Haines, MD, a family physician, professor at Saint Louis University School of Medicine, chief medical officer for the news service HealthDay, and a medical reviewer for Everyday Health. Written with Eric Metcalf, MPH, The New Prescription: How to Get the Best Health Care in a Broken System (Health Communications, 2011) focuses on real-life, common-sense preventive measures, rather than on treating illnesses after they’ve already developed.

“We practice medicine backwards,” Dr. Haines says. “We focus way too much on correcting illness than we do on preventing it in the first place and maintaining optimal health.”

Staying Healthy, One Small Step at a Time

Just as people put small amounts away for retirement and reap the rewards at a future date, Haines says, “with your health, it’s the little things you do day by day that will ensure you’re living healthy for years to come.” She also believes that “No matter what happens with health-care reform, we’re going to be shouldering the burden [of health-care costs], either as individuals, or as businesses, or through taxes. It’s in our own best interest to take charge of what we can control. It’s much cheaper in the long haul to spend your health-care dollars on preventive care.”

Here are the basic steps Haines recommends to take charge of your health and get better care for less money:

  • Find a primary care provider you can stick with. “Every time you need to move to a new doctor, you pretty much have to start from scratch,” says Haines. “If you can find one primary care provider and stick with them, it helps because the doctor can really get to know you.” She also notes that in most instances, you won’t need to see a specialist first. “Your primary care physician can handle the bulk of health issues that you come across in your everyday life.”
  • Be a smart shopper. Choose a physician like you would choose any other service you’re paying for, says Haines. “If you’re not satisfied with your primary care physician, you may want to look around. Talk to your friends. Who likes their doctor, and why?” When you’re at the doctor’s office, ask questions about treatment options. Why are these tests necessary? How much will they cost? Ask about treatment options — is this the lowest-cost alternative? “Even if your insurance is paying for it today, it may not tomorrow,” notes Haines. If you’re prescribed a pricey drug, ask if there’s a generic equivalent that’s cheaper or even free (for example, some large supermarket chain pharmacies have programs that offer free or heavily discounted generic medications).
  • Do what you can to avoid chronic conditions. Chronic conditions like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease account for a whopping 84 percent of all health-care spending in the United States. If you want to save money on health care, it’s more important than ever to make the lifestyle changes that can keep these illnesses at bay. “Chronic diseases are extremely expensive,” says Haines. Quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, eating a good diet, and getting enough exercise are key.

    But if you’re not sure how to start, rather than making a sweeping overhaul that may not stick, try small tweaks you can live with — like swapping butter for olive oil, replacing meat with fatty fish a few times a week, giving up soda for flavored water or green tea, and improving the quality of your sleep. Haines says, “It’s the little things you do day by day that will ensure you’re living healthy for years to come.”

You Needed a Health Emergency Fund, But Why ?

Even with good health insurance, a health emergency or a prolonged illness can be a financial disaster. Health insurance deductibles, co-payments, emergency room costs, and other costs of illness can add up in a hurry.

A health savings account (HSA) is one way you can put aside tax-free money for a health emergency. HSAs were established in 2003. If you are covered by a type of insurance known as a high-deductible insurance plan, you can make tax-deductible contributions to an HSA. Your employer may also make tax-deductible contributions.

“An HSA account is very different from having a general emergency fund account,” says Joseph J. Porco, managing member of the Financial Security Group, LLC, in Newtown, Conn. “An emergency fund is about more than just out-of-pocket medical expenses. If possible, it’s a good idea to have both.”

How Much of an Emergency Fund Do You Need?

For an older adult, a health emergency might result in the need for long-term care, possibly for the rest of the senior’s life. For a young adult supporting a family, a medical emergency might be much more than just the cost of illness. Your health emergency could cause a disability that results in loss of income over an extended period. That means you should save enough to cover all your expenses.

“Most advisers would say you should have enough emergency funds saved to cover your family expenses for three to six months. I would recommend trying to put enough aside to cover all your expenses, not just health expenses, for 6 to 12 months,” says Porco.

How much you need for a health emergency and how much you can actually put into an emergency fund will depend on your family size, your income, your health status, and your age. But your first step is to understand your health insurance situation.

“The best way to start is to sit down with a financial adviser and figure out what your insurance actually covers and what it doesn’t cover. What are your insurance limits? What kind of medical bills might arise that you would be responsible for? Get some expert advice on how best to cover your actual needs,” advises Porco.

What Insurance May Not Cover

How much insurance companies actually pay for accidents, cancer treatment, or surgery depends on what kind of insurance you have, but there are usually limits. Here are some facts to consider:

  • Cost of illness. Most insurance companies have a cap on how much they will pay for a long-term illness. A recent survey found that 10 percent of people with cancer have hit their lifetime cap and are no longer covered by insurance. Looking forward, however, the new health care reform law will eliminate caps on lifetime insurance by 2014.
  • Emergency room cost. If you have an accident that requires emergency treatment and you end up in an emergency room outside your insurance network, you may not be covered. One study found that HMOs in California denied one out of every six claims for emergency room costs.
  • Surgical coverage. You may be surprised at what your insurance company considers non-covered surgery. There can be a big gray area between covered “reconstructive” surgery and uncovered “cosmetic” surgery. Even when surgery is covered, your deductible may be $500 or more, and you may still be responsible for up to 25 percent or more of surgical costs, depending on the specifics of your plan.

How to Save for a Health Emergency

Once you know what your insurance actually covers and how much you need to put away for an emergency, the next question is where to put it. “Money that you put aside for a health emergency needs to be liquid and secure,” says Porco. “That means you need to be able to get it when you need it.”

And your money needs to remain liquid. “Those who fail to set up an emergency fund may find themselves running up credit card debts to cover their expenses. The last thing you need is to be paying interest on your emergency,” warns Porco.

Examples of places to put your emergency fund include an interest-bearing checking or savings account, money market fund, or bond fund. Don’t tie your money up in anything that would penalize you for early withdrawals or any investment or account that has the potential for loss.

Walking May Helps Your Heart and Brain

Regular aerobic exercise such as walking may protect the memory center in the brain, while stretching exercise may cause the center — called the hippocampus — to shrink, researchers reported.

In a randomized study involving men and women in their mid-60s, walking three times a week for a year led to increases in the volume of the hippocampus, which plays an important role in memory, according to Dr. Arthur Kramer, of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in Urbana, Ill., and colleagues.

On the other hand, control participants who took stretching classes saw drops in the volume of the hippocampus, Kramer and colleagues reported online in theProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The findings suggest that it’s possible to overcome the age-related decline in hippocampal volume with only moderate exercise, Kramer told MedPage Today, leading to better fitness and perhaps to better spatial memory. “I don’t see a down side to it,” he said.

The volume of the hippocampus is known to fall with age by between 1 percent and 2 percent a year, the researchers noted, leading to impaired memory and increased risk for dementia.

But animal research suggests that exercise reduces the loss of volume and preserves memory, they added.

To test the effect on humans, they enrolled 120 men and women in their mid-sixties and randomly assigned 60 of them to a program of aerobic walking three times a week for a year. The remaining 60 were given stretch classes three times a week and served as a control group.

Their fitness and memory were tested before the intervention, again after six months, and for a last time after a year. Magnetic resonance images of their brains were taken at the same times in order to measure the effect on the hippocampal volume.

The study showed that overall the walkers had a 2 percent increase in the volume of the hippocampus, compared with an average loss of about 1.4% in the control participants.

The researchers also found, improvements in fitness, measured by exercise testing on a treadmill, were significantly associated with increases in the volume of the hippocampus.

On the other hand, the study fell short of demonstrating a group effect on memory – both groups showed significant improvements both in accuracy and speed on a standard test. The apparent lack of effect, Kramer told MedPage Today, is probably a statistical artifact that results from large individual differences within the groups.

Analyses showed that that higher aerobic fitness levels at baseline and after the one-year intervention were associated with better spatial memory performance, the researchers reported.

But change in aerobic fitness was not related to improvements in memory for either the entire sample or either group separately, they found.

On the other hand, larger hippocampi at baseline and after the intervention were associated with better memory performance, they reported.

The results “clearly indicate that aerobic exercise is neuroprotective and that starting an exercise regimen later in life is not futile for either enhancing cognition or augmenting brain volume,” the researchers argued.