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Senior Living

Boomers turning 65 face complex healthcare choices

 

(BPT) - Every day, about 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 and become eligible for Medicare. Not everyone will sign up, but it’s important to understand the importance of early choices when enrolling in Medicare for the first time.

You can enroll in Medicare three months before turning 65, the month you turn 65 or up to three months afterward.

"Turning 65 opens the door to Medicare eligibility, but it brings with it some complex choices,” says Paula Muschler, manager of the Allsup Medicare Advisor, a personalized Medicare plan selection service. "Choices seniors make at this time can impact their healthcare costs over the long term and their entire family.”

Muschler offers the following key steps for Medicare first-timers.

1. Take a look at your existing group health plan coverage and think about how it will coordinate with Medicare. Many people work past age 65. As a result, Medicare-eligible individuals who have health coverage through their employer or their spouse’s employer may be able to wait to enroll in Medicare Part B, which covers outpatient medical care. This is not true in every case, however. This option depends on other factors, such as the size of the employer and how soon you expect to retire after reaching 65. You may want to consider enrolling in Medicare Part A, which includes hospital coverage, even if you defer Part B.

2. Consider the options for first-time enrollment, keeping in mind your current health needs and financial resources. If you choose traditional Medicare, you have an average of 31 Medicare Part D prescription drug plans from which to choose. You can also choose from 10 standard Medigap policies for supplemental coverage, ranging from basic to comprehensive coverage. The price for these plans also can differ from one company to the next.

Adding to the complexity, Medigap plans are not required to accept you after your initial enrollment period. This is one reason first-time choices are crucial. Seniors evaluating Medicare Advantage plans over traditional Medicare also have an array of options - an average of 20 plans, depending on where you live. "We’ve been able to help Allsup customers find plans that cost less and match their specific healthcare needs,” Muschler says.

3. Follow Medicare enrollment rules to avoid costly mistakes. Penalties are in place for decisions related to Part B and Part D coverage. The late-enrollment penalty is 10 percent for each full 12-month period you could have been enrolled in Part B. Likewise, Part D imposes a penalty if you go for more than 63 days without coverage after enrolling in Part B.

"Your first-time Medicare plan choices also are more complicated if you have retirement dates, COBRA coverage or dependent coverage to consider,” Muschler says. "These are good reasons to contact a Medicare specialist, who can help answer the right questions and provide guidance to seniors so they make choices that match their situations.”

4. Understand how higher income and changes in your income affect Medicare costs. Higher-income beneficiaries pay higher premiums for Medicare Part B and prescription drug coverage. For Part B, the 2013 monthly premium is $104.90 for joint filers with income of $170,000 or below ($85,000 for single filers). However, the premium increases to between $146.90 and $335.70 for those with incomes above these thresholds. Likewise, higher-income beneficiaries can expect to pay from $11.60 to $66.40 more each month in prescription drug premiums.

The Social Security Administration uses IRS records when determining premiums. Social Security may reduce an individual’s income-related monthly premium with verification. "Social Security has specific requirements about how you can document changes in your income when you are requesting reduced Medicare premiums,” Muschler explains.

5. Review healthcare coverage for your spouse and dependents to determine how your choices may affect their coverage. If you are nearing Medicare eligibility, you can find yourself at a crossroads when it comes to providing healthcare for your entire family.

Some employers may continue to provide coverage to a worker’s family, or you may need to purchase COBRA coverage or private coverage for family members. "One early step is to talk with your benefits plan administrator to see what options you may have and then plan for your family,” Muschler says.

Seniors turning 65 have seven months during their initial enrollment period to make critical decisions. But you can begin evaluating your options earlier to be better prepared. For a free brochure on "Turning 65 and Medicare Enrollment” or for an evaluation of Medicare options, call an Allsup Medicare Advisor specialist at (866) 521-7655 or go to Medicare.Allsup.com.

 

Is your drowsiness dangerous? Sleep apnea evaluation urged for those at risk

 

(BPT) - Despite common misconceptions, anyone – regardless of gender, weight or fitness level – can develop obstructive sleep apnea, a life-threatening condition characterized by episodes of complete or partial airway obstruction during sleep.

As many as 12 million to 18 million American adults have untreated sleep apnea, and the experts at the American Academy of Sleep Medicine are recommending the following steps for diagnosis and treatment to significantly improve overall health, mood and productivity.

Be aware of the risk factors

Your risk of sleep apnea increases between middle and older age and with the amount of excess body weight you carry. In general, men have a greater likelihood of developing the disease. However, menopause is a risk factor for sleep apnea in women. Your risk is also higher if family members have been diagnosed with sleep apnea. Smoking is another significant risk factor, as well as being a detriment to your overall health.

In addition to these more commonly known risk factors, many people don’t realize that they’re in greater danger of developing sleep apnea if they already suffer from other common diseases.

"Seven in 10 Type 2 diabetics and 30 to 40 percent of adults with hypertension also have obstructive sleep apnea,” says Dr. M. Safwan Badr, president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. "As a result, patients with these conditions should pay close attention for potential symptoms and then seek necessary treatment.”

Watch for symptoms

While the symptom most commonly associated with sleep apnea is snoring, not everyone who snores has the disease. However, when snoring is paired with choking, gasping or pauses in breathing during sleep, it’s a more likely indicator of sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea symptoms also may appear during the daytime and include morning headaches, excessive sleepiness, trouble concentrating, memory or learning problems and general moodiness, irritability or depression.

"Sleep apnea can make you wake up in the morning feeling tired, even though you believe you’ve had a full night of sleep,” says Badr. "During the day, you may feel incredibly fatigued because you’re actually waking up numerous times throughout the night and your body isn’t getting the rest it needs.”

Get evaluated and treated

If you suspect that you have the risk factors and symptoms of sleep apnea, it’s important that you are evaluated by a board-certified sleep medicine physician right away. Left untreated, sleep apnea may have a serious impact on your overall health, even increasing your risk of death.

The sleep medicine physician will have the training and expertise to diagnose your condition. He or she will conduct a thorough physical examination and sleep evaluation, asking questions like whether or not symptoms began when you gained weight or stopped exercising – and whether your partner or roommate has complained that you snore or make choking noises in your sleep. If the sleep physician determines that you are at risk for obstructive sleep apnea, then you will be scheduled for a sleep study. Objective sleep testing will provide the data that will enable the sleep physician to make an accurate diagnosis.

Once diagnosed, the recommended treatment for sleep apnea is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy, which provides a steady stream of air through a mask to gently keep your airway open throughout the night – making it easier to breathe. In patients with moderate or severe sleep apnea, it’s estimated that CPAP therapy reduces the 10-year risk of heart attack by 49 percent and stroke by 31 percent.

"Treating sleep apnea provides all the benefits of improved sleep, including increased alertness during the day and improved memory and cognitive function,” says Badr. "Clinical evidence also shows that sleep apnea treatment lowers blood pressure – decreasing your risk of cardiovascular disease – and improves nighttime glucose levels and insulin sensitivity among Type 2 diabetics.”

To find a sleep specialist or accredited sleep center in your area, visit www.sleepeducation.com.

 

Better sex for better health

 

(BPT) - Listen up ladies, there’s a sexual paradox. Just as you’re getting older and when - for some - sex may not be a priority, that is exactly when you need it most.

Indeed, a recent study released this May suggests as many as six in 10 women - ages 55 to 65 - avoid sexual intimacy. Yet, sexual activity is good for a woman’s health - especially if she is entering into any of the menopausal phases of life - peri-menopause, menopause or post-menopause.

"Sexual stimulation releases hormones that positively affect a woman’s overall health and well-being and keeps her vagina youthful,” says Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, Ob/Gyn and author of "The Yale Guide to Women’s Reproductive Health.” "The vagina, like any muscle found in the body, is best kept healthy with exercise - if you don’t use it, you can lose it.”

According to Dr.Minkin, the benefits of healthy sex are manifold, ranging from stress reduction and improved mood to protection of a woman’s reproductive and pelvic health. Some proof points: a study in "Biological Psychology” shows the rush of hormones released from sex boosts mood, fosters feelings of closeness and helps manage stress for days. Another study in the "Journal of Sexual Medicine” reveals that regular sexual stimulation is essential for positive sexual functioning - arousal, lubrication and avoidance of pain.

"When a patient is not sexually active, I encourage her to consider a sexual aid like a vibrator to protect the pelvic floor by increasing blood flow to that area of her body,” says Dr. Minkin. "Vibrator use can help prevent certain conditions such as vaginal atrophy - vaginal dryness or a weakening of the muscle tone in the pelvic area that can lead to sexual dysfunction and painful sex.”

Dr. Minkin advises middle-aged or older women who are not getting enough sexual stimulation to try a vibrator like the Thrill by We-Vibe. It ensures regular blood flow to the pelvis, which is particularly important for women who are in the peri-menopausal, menopausal or post-menopausal stages of life.

What’s more, the use of a vibrator may help some women by increasing their desire for sexual stimulation. The same study in May uncovered that 63 percent of women ages 55 to 65 shy away from sex because they are experiencing a loss of libido. To learn more about sexual wellness products, visit we-vibe.com.

 

Protect your eyes from sunburn: How to pick shades

 

(BPT) - Finally! Warmer weather is here, and for most people, this means more time outside. While everyone wants to enjoy summer to the fullest, outdoor enthusiasts must remember that the sun, with all the benefits it brings, also has many dangerous effects.

The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays are strongest during the summer, and can damage unprotected eyes in as little as 15 minutes. While wearing sunglasses with UVA/UVB protection is important throughout the year, taking extra sun-safety precautions during the summer is especially important.

The need for sunglasses is universal, but tastes and lifestyle needs vary. But whether your tastes run to aviators or wayfarers, mirrored or tinted, the sunglasses you choose affect far more than your style; they can directly impact your eye health, too. Fortunately, it’s possible to find sunglasses that protect your eyes and celebrate your sense of style. As you’re shopping for sunglasses, keep these tips in mind:

* Pick the right shape. Just as the shape of your face influences your choice in haircuts, it will affect what type of sunglasses look good on you. People with oval faces can wear almost any shape of sunglasses. Rectangular frames and lenses will help add length to a round face, and oval glasses will complement diamond or square faces. If your face is more oblong than oval, consider a round or square frame that rests at the widest part of your face.

* Choose the right lenses. Choose lenses that provide broad-spectrum protection from both UVA and UVB light. WebMD.com says you should look for a label indicating the lenses block 99 to 100 percent of UVB and UVA rays, meet ANSI (American National Standards Institute) requirements, and provide UV 400 protection. If glare is a concern, polarized lenses filter out sunlight reflected off flat surfaces such as water or pavement, making them a good choice if you’ll be wearing them boating or while driving an automobile.

* Find the right solution. Eyeglass wearers should use sunglasses too, but many go without proper sun protection because of the high cost of prescription sunglasses or the inconvenience of having to switch glasses when they move from indoors to outdoors. Solar Shield has solved cost, style and convenience issues with a range of attractive Fits Over sunglasses that slip on over prescription eyewear and clipon sunglasses that attach to virtually any style of eyeglasses. Significantly less expensive than prescription sunglasses, these options make it cost-effective to keep multiple pairs wherever you need them – in the car, office, at home or in your gym bag. A variety of styles ensure you can easily achieve the right look for any personality and every occasion. Lenses block 100 percent of UVA/UVB rays, are polarized to reduce glare and are scratch resistant. Log on to www.solarshield.com to learn more.

* Wear the right lens tint. Lens tint impacts more than just personal style. UV protecting coating is clear, so a lighter-hued lens can be just as effective at UV protection as a darker one. The color of the lens will, however, affect your perceptions of color. For minimal color distortion, choose gray, green or brown lenses, especially if you’ll wear them while driving.

* Spend the right amount. Remember that while many low-cost shades probably won’t provide adequate UV protection, you still don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars to get a good pair of sunglasses. Options like Solar Shield are affordable, durable and high-quality alternatives to prescription sunglasses or high-priced designer shades. And regardless of how much you pay, it is always important to evaluate the quality and durability of every pair before you buy.

To learn more about sunglasses, protecting your eyes from UV rays and stylish, affordable sunglasses, visit www.solarshield.com.

 

 

The truth about menopause: Debunking the myths for a happier, healthier, more satisfying life

 

(BPT) - Even in today's information age, myths about menopause and women's changing bodies abound and can take a huge toll on women. Half of women say their anxiety around menopause is caused by not knowing enough about this life stage and nearly half of menopausal women feel less confident once they start experiencing menopausal symptoms. For women going through this transitional stage of life, debunking myths and finding solutions to help them stand up to the symptoms of menopause can empower and help them lead happier, healthier lives.

'Just like all girls go through adolescence, all women go through menopause. It's a natural phase of life that has sadly been stigmatized as an illness,' says Dr. Vivian Diller, a psychologist and author of FACE IT: What Women Really Feel As Their Looks Change. 'Fortunately perceptions of menopause are changing and women are more eager to empower themselves with the facts that can help them talk more comfortably about and live more confidently through this life stage. And Poise.com is one resource that is available to help women separate the menopause myths from the facts.'

Myth: Menopause is to blame for all mid-life changes that occur in a woman's body.

Fact: Many factors, including one's overall lifestyle and health, can influence changes in a woman's body. As they age, women may experience weight gain, vision and hearing reduction or develop facial wrinkles - all of which cannot be attributed to menopause.

Myth: When it comes to life's changes, women just have to tough it out.

Fact: From medication to non-medicinal products, there are many options available to help women. The Poise brand offers a line of award-winning feminine wellness products that help address life's changes. The Poise brand has products for daily freshness, hot flash comfort, and intimacy. Visit www.Poise.com to learn more.

Myth: Forgetfulness is just a part of menopause.

Fact: Forgetfulness is a symptom of menopause, but it's not one that impacts memory in the long-term. While there is some evidence that fluctuating estrogen may influence the part of the brain that affects sleep, moods and memory, it's more likely that menopause impacts a woman's ability to concentrate, absorb and recall information.

Myth: Light bladder leakage is inevitable during menopause.

Fact: During menopause, a decline in estrogen levels may weaken the pelvic floor muscles that support bladder control, contributing to LBL (light bladder leakage). Though not all menopausal women experience LBL, it is a common condition that one-in-three women will ultimately face.

Myth: Menopause signals the end of a woman's sex life.

Fact: Many menopausal women report enjoying sex every bit as much as and sometimes more than their younger counterparts. But vaginal dryness can be one not so glorious side effect of this lifestage that can negatively impact women's intimate experiences. Fortunately lubricants can provide some relief; and since sexual health is important at any age, women who experience significant vaginal dryness or loss of libido during menopause should discuss that change with their doctors.

 

America's other drug problem: prescriptions not taken

 

(BPT) - America has a serious drug problem, but it's not the one you might be thinking about. The problem is not illegal drugs or drug abuse, but rather an alarming percentage of Americans who do not take their prescriptions as instructed. Approximately 125,000 deaths per year in the United States can be attributed to medication non-adherence, according to the National Pharmaceutical Council.

The problem of non-adherence is not new, but it is getting a closer look as experts seek to reduce costs and improve the effectiveness and efficiency of our health system. Data suggests that roughly half of the 2 billion prescriptions filled each year in America are not taken correctly. For particularly vulnerable Americans such as the elderly and those suffering from multiple chronic conditions, adherence rates are even worse. Even with such life-threatening diseases such as cancer, patients are non-adherent to medication.

The impact of non-adherence, beyond patient outcomes, is a significant source of waste in our healthcare system. Unnecessary medical costs resulting from patients not taking their medication as prescribed, such as ER visits, hospitalizations and extra tests, cost our system over $300 billion annually according to the New England Healthcare Institute.

Many factors contribute to poor medication adherence. In some patients, non-adherence is a choice, while in others non-adherence is quite unintentional. For some people, a lack of symptoms, coupled with denial, high out-of-pocket costs or concerns over potential side effects make them less inclined to even fill their prescriptions let alone adhere to medications. It is estimated that as many as 22 percent of all prescriptions filled are not picked up from the pharmacy.

For these patients, better adherence starts at the doctor's office. Physicians, nurses and other caregivers can help by better educating the patient about the importance of following directions, and by creating a treatment plan that fits patients' needs and lifestyles. Emphasizing the details on how and why patients should take their medications properly, including details on possible interactions and refill requirements, can be a good first line of defense against the problem of non-adherence.

However, experts also agree that a substantial portion of the non-adherence problem is inadvertent. The accidental misuse of prescription medications is largely a result of complexity, confusion and general forgetfulness.

'Many patients are dealing with multiple medications, all in nearly identical containers, but each one with a different set of dosage instructions,' says Ian Salditch, CEO of Medicine-On-Time. 'It's a recipe for mistakes - all of which could be addressed through better prescription packaging.'

There are a variety of high-tech monitoring systems aimed at improving adherence, including pills with digestible sensors. To date, strict monitoring has been seen by consumers as being overly intrusive. Solutions such as financial incentives and greater screening offer promise. But Salditch has focused on the low-tech, common sense approach of simplified packaging and has achieved encouraging results.

Using Medicine-On-Time, pharmacists will sort and organize medications into personalized pill cups labeled with the day, date and time to take them. Pharmacists provide pill cups to the patient organized into medication calendars. In addition, the packaging is designed to be easily opened by the frail and elderly.

Background information and specific details about customized packaging can be found on the company's website, www.Medicine-On-Time.com. Consumers can also find the closest retail pharmacy offering the Medicine-On-Time system and take advantage of offers at www.sortmymeds.com.

 

Life after stroke: Advice for physical and emotional recovery

 

(BPT) - Did you know a stroke occurs every 40 seconds on average? About 795,000 Americans suffer a new or recurrent stroke each year, according to the American Stroke Association. If you or a loved one has survived a stroke, recovery depends largely on the severity of the brain damage. With love, support and patience, the journey toward a new normal can begin.

A stroke is life changing for the patient as well as his or her support network. Some people make a full recovery, while others suffer from various disabilities. In addition to working closely with a doctor through a personalized recovery program, joining a support group is a great initial step. When coping with the aftermath of a stroke, it can help to be surrounded by others with similar experiences. Some difficult parts of stroke rehabilitation may include:

Communication challenges

Difficulties communicating can be some of the most frustrating effects of stroke. Depending on where the brain is damaged, it's not uncommon to suffer partial or total loss of the ability to talk, read, write or understand what people say. It's important to be patient and stay positive.

Make it a goal to practice communicating at least once a day. Relax, take your time and use communication aids as necessary, like cue cards. Using fewer words paired with gestures or tone of voice can help streamline communication. Many people benefit from speech and language therapy.

Family and friends need to remember that improving communication skills engages stroke survivors so they feel more connected and less isolated, an important part of rehabilitation.

Physical movement

Getting out of the house and being able to move independently provides a sense of freedom during recovery. Many stroke survivors regain the ability to walk, but may suffer from side effects that make it more difficult. Foot drop is a common side effect, which means difficulty lifting the front of the foot when walking, so much so that it may drag, which can be a tripping hazard.

Foot drop may be a temporary or permanent condition caused by stroke. The good news is there are options to help. Vibration therapy provided through affordable products like the Step Sensor by Brownmed can help increase mobility and retrain muscles and nerves in the leg and foot to respond as they should while walking.

Unlike traditional ankle-foot orthoses that are big and bulky, the Step Sensor is comfortable and discreet to wear under slacks. It works like some more dynamic Foot Drop Stimulators, without the costly doctor-led training or required weekly follow-ups. Simply adhere the pressure switch to the insole of your shoe, beneath your heel, and wrap the vibrating band around your leg just below the knee. A gentle vibration will occur when your heel strikes the ground, providing a subtle, yet effective, reminder to lift your toe. What's more, the Step Sensor provides only topical vibration, so it's even safe to use if you have a pacemaker or other cardiac conditions. Learn more at www.brownmed.com.

Emotional adjustment

When adjusting to life after a stroke, survivors often experience a flood of emotions. Grieving for loss of physical and mental abilities is normal and a healthy part of the adjusting process. But when normal sadness continues for extended periods, it can turn into depression and needs to be treated immediately by a mental health professional.

Stroke survivors also often feel anxiety. Extreme worry or fear can cause restlessness, fatigue, muscle tension, poor concentration and irritability. Both depression and anxiety are common for stroke survivors. The good news is they can be treated, and there are many coping mechanisms, so be sure to ask your doctor.

Whether adjusting to physical impairments or the emotions of suffering from a major health scare, it's important to remain positive. Loved ones are a crucial part of rehabilitation and can provide support when it is needed most. It might take years to adjust to a new normal after a stroke, both for the victim and the families, but patience and love can help ensure a speedier recovery for everyone.

 

Hepatitis C: Facing a threat to baby boomer health head-on

 

(BPT) - Up to 5 million Americans suffer from an often symptomless - but potentially serious - liver infection called hepatitis C. Many are surprised to learn it affects four times as many people as the number of people with HIV. Three out of four people infected with hepatitis C in the United States are baby boomers - those born between 1945 and 1965. Because of this, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends all baby boomers be tested once for hepatitis C.

Kerry Monahan, a 57-year-old teacher, mother of three and grandmother of five, was shocked to learn she had hepatitis C and may have been living with it for years. 'I had no idea I was infected,' she said. 'Like many baby boomers, I had no symptoms and thought I was in great health.'

Untreated hepatitis C is the leading cause of liver disease, liver cancer and the need for liver transplant in the United States. Deaths from hepatitis C are also on the rise. In 2007, there were 15,000 deaths in the United States from hepatitis C, surpassing the number of deaths from HIV that year.

Despite the serious nature of hepatitis C, for many people, it can be cured, unlike other viruses such as hepatitis B and HIV. A person is considered cured of hepatitis C when the virus cannot be detected in the blood six months after they have ended treatment.

After she was diagnosed, Monahan and her liver specialist discussed her options. Because of the potential risks of letting her hepatitis C go untreated, she decided to begin treatment for her hepatitis C immediately.

'When I learned that there's no way of knowing exactly how quickly my hepatitis C could progress, I wanted to begin treatment right away and not delay,' said Monahan. 'I was determined to beat this infection.'

Monahan completed treatment and her follow-up tests revealed that she has achieved a cure. 'I'm so glad I made the decision to be treated instead of waiting. Now, I can put hepatitis C behind me and focus on my family and friends,' said Monahan.

'As someone who frequently treats people with hepatitis C, I have seen the significant health complications caused by letting it go untreated,' said Kathryn McParlane, N.P., the clinician who helped Monahan through her treatment. 'It's extremely important that those who are diagnosed with hepatitis C discuss the risks and options with their health care professionals.'

Accompanying photo is licensed stock photography that depicts models for illustrative purposes only.

 

 

One size doesn't fit all in reproductive health

 

(BPT) - Every woman knows that in the world of fashion, there's no such thing as 'one size fits all.' Yet for decades, American women have seemingly accepted the 'one size fits all' approach when it comes to dealing with reproductive health issues. This one-size approach has meant that each year, thousands of women undergo hysterectomies that they may not need.

About 600,000 women have hysterectomies each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Yet many of these highly invasive surgeries are medically unnecessary. And as more women realize they have options besides a hysterectomy, more women are seeking alternative solutions by consulting with their own doctors, tapping online medical resources, and discussing their experiences and options on websites like ChangetheCycle.com.

In 2003, the most recent year for which statistics are available, more than 90 percent of hysterectomies were performed for benign conditions; just 10 percent were done to treat cancer of the ovaries, uterus or cervix, according to a study published in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology. Among the most common benign conditions treated were fibroids (35 percent), heavy periods (30 percent), endometriosis and pelvic pain. The CDC notes that from 2000 to 2004, fibroid tumors, endometriosis and uterine prolapse were the three most common conditions associated with hysterectomy.

'If a patient does not feel comfortable with a recommendation for surgery, they should seek a second opinion,' says Dr. Jessica Shepherd, assistant professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology and director of minimally invasive gynecology at the University of Illinois College of Medicine. 'As a woman, I feel it is imperative that we feel we have options, today, women dealing with reproductive health issues such as heavy periods or fibroids have non-surgical treatment options available, too. These options come in medical and surgical forms and I always want my patients to know all of them.'

For example, fibroids or polyps in the uterus can be removed with a procedure called MyoSure, which requires no cutting into or removal of any part of the uterus. The procedure can help patients reduce heavy bleeding caused by polyps or fibroids while retaining a fully functional uterus. Heavy periods, which affect more than 10 million women, can be treated with the NovaSure procedure, a five-minute, non-surgical procedure that can be performed in your doctor's office. For more than 90 percent of women, the procedure can dramatically reduce menstrual bleeding or even stop it altogether.

'This procedure works very well and can also be done in the office setting,' says Shepherd. 'For every procedure, there are those patients that may not be a candidate for them and that is why a detailed conversation with your doctor is important. Feel comfortable asking questions and getting all the information you need.'

Some serious conditions may only be treatable by hysterectomy. According to the National Women's Health Network (NWHN), these include: invasive cancer, unmanageable infection or bleeding, and serious complications during childbirth, such as rupture of the uterus. Shepherd also adds: 'Fibroids do cause heavy bleeding and sometimes the size of the fibroid can be very large and they may require a more invasive surgery. Therefore it is important to talk to your gynecologist about your fibroids and all the options that can treat them.'

However, NWHN 'believes that unnecessary hysterectomies have put women at risk needlessly, and that health care providers should recognize the value of a woman's reproductive organs beyond their reproductive capacity and search for hysterectomy alternatives before resorting to life-changing operations,' according to the organization's website.

'Before making any serious decision about a health issue, patients should consult their doctor and educate themselves as much as possible about their specific condition and their treatment options,' Shepherd says. 'In the end, we as women should celebrate our bodies and having engaging dialogue with your gynecologist and other women only encourages healthy lifestyles. In my forum for women's health care we discuss all the topics that you may not want to or feel embarrassed about. We want you to open up about these topics and feel empowered!'

Visit her Viewpoint with Dr. Shepherd on Facebook and Twitter at Facebook.com/HerViewpointCommunity, and Twitter.com/HerViewpoint.

To learn more about non-surgical treatment for heavy periods, polyps or fibroids, visit www.changethecycle.com.

 

Better sex for better health

 

(BPT) - Listen up ladies, there's a sexual paradox. Just as you're getting older and when - for some - sex may not be a priority, that is exactly when you need it most.

Indeed, a recent study released this May suggests as many as six in 10 women - ages 55 to 65 - avoid sexual intimacy. Yet, sexual activity is good for a woman's health - especially if she is entering into any of the menopausal phases of life - peri-menopause, menopause or post-menopause.

'Sexual stimulation releases hormones that positively affect a woman's overall health and well-being and keeps her vagina youthful,' says Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, Ob/Gyn and author of 'The Yale Guide to Women's Reproductive Health.' 'The vagina, like any muscle found in the body, is best kept healthy with exercise - if you don't use it, you can lose it.'

According to Dr.Minkin, the benefits of healthy sex are manifold, ranging from stress reduction and improved mood to protection of a woman's reproductive and pelvic health. Some proof points: a study in 'Biological Psychology' shows the rush of hormones released from sex boosts mood, fosters feelings of closeness and helps manage stress for days. Another study in the 'Journal of Sexual Medicine' reveals that regular sexual stimulation is essential for positive sexual functioning - arousal, lubrication and avoidance of pain.

'When a patient is not sexually active, I encourage her to consider a sexual aid like a vibrator to protect the pelvic floor by increasing blood flow to that area of her body,' says Dr. Minkin. 'Vibrator use can help prevent certain conditions such as vaginal atrophy - vaginal dryness or a weakening of the muscle tone in the pelvic area that can lead to sexual dysfunction and painful sex.'

Dr. Minkin advises middle-aged or older women who are not getting enough sexual stimulation to try a vibrator like the Thrill by We-Vibe. It ensures regular blood flow to the pelvis, which is particularly important for women who are in the peri-menopausal, menopausal or post-menopausal stages of life.

What's more, the use of a vibrator may help some women by increasing their desire for sexual stimulation. The same study in May uncovered that 63 percent of women ages 55 to 65 shy away from sex because they are experiencing a loss of libido. To learn more about sexual wellness products, visit we-vibe.com.

 

More Americans choosing generic drugs

 

(BPT) - Have you ever gone to fill a prescription and the pharmacist asks if you'd like the generic version of the medication, perhaps reminding you that it is at a considerable cost savings over the brand-named drug? Or you're told that your insurance will only cover the generic equivalent of what your doctor has prescribed?

The first time this happens, you undoubtedly have many questions: Is there a difference between branded and generic medicines? Will the generic be just as safe and effective? Do insurance companies prefer generics? If you have, you're not alone in asking these questions.

It's no secret that the rising costs of health care services and medications have been affecting millions of Americans - indeed, our economy - and will undoubtedly continue to do so in the future. However, generic alternatives have proven to be a critical factor in slowing down national health care spending. In fact, generic drug use has saved America's health care system approximately $1.07 trillion over the past decade, with $192.8 billion in savings achieved in 2011 alone, according to a 2012 study by the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics.

However, while consumers recognize the cost advantage of generic drugs, they are reminded, from time to time, of the question of quality and efficacy of generic medications versus name-brand equivalents. Consumers should know that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the federal agency responsible for protecting and promoting public health, requires that generic drugs must be identical or 'bioequivalent' to brand name drugs in dosage form, safety, strength, route of administration, quality, performance characteristics and intended use.

'The U.S. FDA tests generic medicines just as rigorously as their branded counterparts,' explains Venkat Krishnan, senior vice president and regional director at Ranbaxy Inc. 'Generic drugs must meet rigid qualifying criteria before they can be made available to the general public. At Ranbaxy, we have stringent protocols in place to ensure that our products are both safe and effective, and we stand behind that, focused on our philosophy of 'Quality and Patients First.''

People are choosing generics in increasing numbers, out of economic necessity and because they are increasingly better informed.Of the 4 billion prescriptions written in 2011, nearly 80 percent were dispensed using generic versions of their brand name counterpart. With generics, consumers have the option of paying a price that is as much as 85 percent lower than name-brand drugs.

If you have questions about switching to a generic prescription, have a conversation with your doctor or pharmacist, or visit www.gphaonline.org for more information and the facts about generic drugs.

 

Are your food and cooking choices accelerating the aging process?

 

(BPT) - When it comes to health, many people are aware of the major do's and don'ts of maintaining a healthy lifestyle and diet. However, people often focus on their cholesterol, blood pressure, and body mass index (BMI), and overlook another key medical marker: Advanced Glycation Endproducts (AGEs). AGEs are harmful compounds in the body that accelerate the aging process and are linked to many of the top health concerns people face today.

AGEs develop in the body or are ingested through certain foods, including browned, sugary and processed foods. When people consume too many of these foods, higher than normal levels of AGEs build up in their tissues. This accumulation accelerates the aging process from the inside out. Slowing the progression of AGEs is vital to living a long, healthy life.

In an effort to educate the public about AGEs, the A.G.E. Foundation, a global not-for-profit organization, is unveiling the findings of its U.S. survey on the effect of eating habits and cooking methods on aging. The A.G.E. Foundation is dedicated to educating consumers about AGEs and how they can protect themselves.

The impact of eating habits and cooking methods on aging

Seventy-six percent of Americans know that eating and preparing processed food can accelerate aging, according to the survey. Thirty-two percent cited the manner in which they prepare food as having an impact on aging, while just 11 percent indicated cooking food at high temperatures affected aging.

As temperatures warm up and outdoor cooking season begins, people will be heating up the grill with limited awareness of the way to reduce AGEs. The survey showed that six in 10 people prefer grilling their meat over oven-roasting (23 percent), stir-frying (9 percent), steaming (3 percent) and poaching (1 percent).

'It is important for people to limit the amount of barbecued, sauteed or even toasted food,' says Dr. Michelle Davenport, a board member with the A.G.E. Foundation. 'We've found that the higher the temperature you cook something, the higher the AGE level - and excessive AGEs cause our bodies to age prematurely.'

The survey also showed that when people are eating processed, fried or sugary foods, 81 percent are more concerned with the impact on their weight compared with 58 percent who are more concerned about the effect on their internal organs.

Controlling your AGEs

The key to lowering AGEs is to reduce heat, extend cooking time and incorporate more water and acid into your food preparation, according to the A.G.E. Foundation. Water-based cooking methods (i.e., steaming, poaching) dramatically reduce AGEs. When queried about healthy ways to prepare meats for grilling, herb and oil ranked the highest (34 percent), followed by 'straight to the grill' at 21 percent. Only 17 percent of respondents knew that adding an acid-based marinade was the best cooking method to reduce AGEs. 'Adding a marinade in the form of lemon, lime or vinegar can cut AGEs by 50 percent,' says Dr. Davenport.

Avoiding foods high in AGEs and opting for brightly colored fruits and vegetables and whole grains, which are low in AGEs, is also recommended. Opt for foods that include iridoids, which are healthy elements produced in plants and found in certain fruits and vegetables like noni, blueberries, olive leaves and Cornelian cherries, as well as the supplemental beverage TruAge Max.

In addition to eating a healthy, fresh diet and preparing low-AGE level foods, it's important to quit smoking, exercise regularly, get enough sleep and control stress levels to achieve an AGE-less lifestyle.

To learn more, visit www.TruAge.com.

 

 

Hepatitis C: Facing a threat to baby boomer health head-on

 

(BPT) - Up to 5 million Americans suffer from an often symptomless - but potentially serious - liver infection called hepatitis C. Many are surprised to learn it affects four times as many people as the number of people with HIV. Three out of four people infected with hepatitis C in the United States are baby boomers - those born between 1945 and 1965. Because of this, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends all baby boomers be tested once for hepatitis C.

Kerry Monahan, a 57-year-old teacher, mother of three and grandmother of five, was shocked to learn she had hepatitis C and may have been living with it for years. 'I had no idea I was infected,' she said. 'Like many baby boomers, I had no symptoms and thought I was in great health.'

Untreated hepatitis C is the leading cause of liver disease, liver cancer and the need for liver transplant in the United States. Deaths from hepatitis C are also on the rise. In 2007, there were 15,000 deaths in the United States from hepatitis C, surpassing the number of deaths from HIV that year.

Despite the serious nature of hepatitis C, for many people, it can be cured, unlike other viruses such as hepatitis B and HIV. A person is considered cured of hepatitis C when the virus cannot be detected in the blood six months after they have ended treatment.

After she was diagnosed, Monahan and her liver specialist discussed her options. Because of the potential risks of letting her hepatitis C go untreated, she decided to begin treatment for her hepatitis C immediately.

'When I learned that there's no way of knowing exactly how quickly my hepatitis C could progress, I wanted to begin treatment right away and not delay,' said Monahan. 'I was determined to beat this infection.'

Monahan completed treatment and her follow-up tests revealed that she has achieved a cure. 'I'm so glad I made the decision to be treated instead of waiting. Now, I can put hepatitis C behind me and focus on my family and friends,' said Monahan.

'As someone who frequently treats people with hepatitis C, I have seen the significant health complications caused by letting it go untreated,' said Kathryn McParlane, N.P., the clinician who helped Monahan through her treatment. 'It's extremely important that those who are diagnosed with hepatitis C discuss the risks and options with their health care professionals.'

Accompanying photo is licensed stock photography that depicts models for illustrative purposes only.

 

Not home for the holidays: the beauty of holiday traveling

 

(BPT) - Vocalists from Perry Como and the Carpenters to Michael Buble have warbled about how wonderful it is to be home for the holidays. But who says you have to buy into that belief? Not being home for the holidays offers many advantages, including the opportunity to travel, visit far-off loved ones or just immerse yourself in total relaxation during one of the most hectic times of the year.

While families with small children may embrace the experience of decorating, cooking and gift-giving in the comfort of their own home, other groups - such as families with teens, couples without kids, and baby boomers who love to travel with friends - may feel ready to revel outside their home zone. Like traveling at any time of year, holiday trips are not without hassles, but the benefits can make the challenges worthwhile.

Here are a handful of reasons why not being home for the holidays could make the season bright:

* Total relaxation - Instead of hurrying to decorate your home, host a soiree, accept every invitation, prepare enough food to feed an armored battalion, and find exactly the right gift for everyone you've ever met, going away to a resort during the holidays can help ease holiday stress. Opt for a quintessential winter getaway like in the Village of Kohler, Wisc., and you'll enjoy a snowy holiday season, complete with carolers, hot cocoa and holiday decor around every corner. The American Club Resort, one of only 45 hotels in North America to boast both AAA Five-Diamond and Forbes Five-Star designations, has been hosting happy holidays for decades. Immerse yourself in spirit-soothing relaxation at Kohler Waters Spa, enjoy snow shoeing through an 800-acre wildlife preserve, or catch up on last-minute shopping at 25 specialty and boutique stores in the Shops at Woodlake Kohler.

* Visiting far-away loved ones - Is there an adored cousin whom you just don't get to see that much anymore? A brother who lives five states away whom you haven't shared the holidays with since you both lived with your parents? Giving up being in your own home for the holidays affords you the chance to enjoy part of the season in the home of loved ones you see infrequently. While you spend the whole year with the family you live with or the ones who live nearby, the holidays are the perfect time to re-connect with family and friends who live far away. And, if you don't want to add to their stress during the season, you can find plenty of great hotel deals in cities across the country.

* Savoring seasonal flavors without the work - Holiday cookies, pumpkin pie and elaborate dinners are an integral part of the season for many people, but they're also a lot of work. Staying in a hotel or luxury resort during the holidays ensures you'll be able to enjoy all your favorite flavors of the season - prepared by a professional chef and leaving cleanup chores to someone else. Instead of spending hours in the kitchen preparing and cleaning, you'll get to share those seasonal flavors with your traveling companions.

* Great travel deals - Knowing many people prefer to stay home for the holidays, top hotels and resorts across the country offer travel packages, deals and incentives to entice holiday travelers. Add-ons abound, from all-inclusive offerings with meals, parties and special dinners, to shopping packages that provide travelers with access to and discounts for premium shopping venues.

 

Are your food and cooking choices accelerating the aging process?

 

(BPT) - When it comes to health, many people are aware of the major do's and don'ts of maintaining a healthy lifestyle and diet. However, people often focus on their cholesterol, blood pressure, and body mass index (BMI), and overlook another key medical marker: Advanced Glycation Endproducts (AGEs). AGEs are harmful compounds in the body that accelerate the aging process and are linked to many of the top health concerns people face today.

AGEs develop in the body or are ingested through certain foods, including browned, sugary and processed foods. When people consume too many of these foods, higher than normal levels of AGEs build up in their tissues. This accumulation accelerates the aging process from the inside out. Slowing the progression of AGEs is vital to living a long, healthy life.

In an effort to educate the public about AGEs, the A.G.E. Foundation, a global not-for-profit organization, is unveiling the findings of its U.S. survey on the effect of eating habits and cooking methods on aging. The A.G.E. Foundation is dedicated to educating consumers about AGEs and how they can protect themselves.

The impact of eating habits and cooking methods on aging

Seventy-six percent of Americans know that eating and preparing processed food can accelerate aging, according to the survey. Thirty-two percent cited the manner in which they prepare food as having an impact on aging, while just 11 percent indicated cooking food at high temperatures affected aging.

As temperatures warm up and outdoor cooking season begins, people will be heating up the grill with limited awareness of the way to reduce AGEs. The survey showed that six in 10 people prefer grilling their meat over oven-roasting (23 percent), stir-frying (9 percent), steaming (3 percent) and poaching (1 percent).

'It is important for people to limit the amount of barbecued, sauteed or even toasted food,' says Dr. Michelle Davenport, a board member with the A.G.E. Foundation. 'We've found that the higher the temperature you cook something, the higher the AGE level - and excessive AGEs cause our bodies to age prematurely.'

The survey also showed that when people are eating processed, fried or sugary foods, 81 percent are more concerned with the impact on their weight compared with 58 percent who are more concerned about the effect on their internal organs.

Controlling your AGEs

The key to lowering AGEs is to reduce heat, extend cooking time and incorporate more water and acid into your food preparation, according to the A.G.E. Foundation. Water-based cooking methods (i.e., steaming, poaching) dramatically reduce AGEs. When queried about healthy ways to prepare meats for grilling, herb and oil ranked the highest (34 percent), followed by 'straight to the grill' at 21 percent. Only 17 percent of respondents knew that adding an acid-based marinade was the best cooking method to reduce AGEs. 'Adding a marinade in the form of lemon, lime or vinegar can cut AGEs by 50 percent,' says Dr. Davenport.

Avoiding foods high in AGEs and opting for brightly colored fruits and vegetables and whole grains, which are low in AGEs, is also recommended. Opt for foods that include iridoids, which are healthy elements produced in plants and found in certain fruits and vegetables like noni, blueberries, olive leaves and Cornelian cherries, as well as the supplemental beverage TruAge Max.

In addition to eating a healthy, fresh diet and preparing low-AGE level foods, it's important to quit smoking, exercise regularly, get enough sleep and control stress levels to achieve an AGE-less lifestyle.

To learn more, visit www.TruAge.com.

 

Behind in saving for retirement? Approaches to catching up

 

(BPT) - Does the pace of your busy personal and professional life leave you feeling like you're always playing catch up? From finally reading that best-seller that's been sitting on your book shelf for a year to getting a solid eight hours of sleep to making sure you have enough money set aside for the future, it can be difficult to regain lost ground. If you were among the millions whose retirement savings and investments suffered during the recession, there's good news: you can start to catch up with a few simple steps.

On average, baby boomers say they have saved or invested $275,000 for retirement, but believe they'll need a median of $750,000 to live comfortably, according to a Boomers & Retirement Survey released by TD Ameritrade, Inc. ('TD Ameritrade'), a broker-dealer subsidiary of TD Ameritrade Holding Corporation (NYSE: AMTD). That means some boomers may face a shortfall of nearly a half a million dollars as they head into retirement.

Smart retirement planning, thoughtful choices and a handy option called a 'catch-up contribution,' can help boomers regain ground lost during the recession. A catch-up contribution allows people older than 50 to increase their contributions to their IRA or employer-sponsored retirement plans beyond the usual limits for such tax-deferred retirement plans.

'Anyone approaching retirement should consider different opportunities, like catch-up contributions, that might make sense for their retirement investing plans,' says Lule Demmissie, managing director, retirement, TD Ameritrade. 'These catch-up contributions could help workers 50 years and older save thousands more - perhaps even hundreds of thousands of dollars more - toward their retirement. When planning for retirement, every dollar counts, especially when it's going into a tax-deferred vehicle.'

Demmissie offers some guidance for baby boomers approaching retirement:

* There is no standard target amount for retirement. When setting a target for your retirement investing or savings, you need a realistic idea of how much you'll need to maintain the standard of living you desire in retirement. Online calculators and tools, like those found on TD Ameritrade's online retirement center can help you set goals by exploring various real-world scenarios that might impact your assets over time and at retirement. For example, do you have health challenges that may create medical expenses? Perhaps you and your spouse would like to travel when retired. Different objectives and circumstances will influence how much you'll need to save in order to live comfortably.

* Don't rely on Social Security benefits, but don't overlook them, either. They should be a part of your overall retirement plan, but not the heart of it. Unfortunately, 65 percent of retired boomers said they rely on Social Security benefits, and nearly one-third said they wouldn't be able to live comfortably without these payments, according to TD Ameritrade's survey. 'The best way to avoid having to rely completely on Social Security is to set a retirement savings goal and work toward it prior to retiring,' Demmissie says.

* Take advantage of catch-up contributions. As long as you will be 50 (or older) by the end of the calendar year, you may be eligible to contribute an extra $1,000 per year toward your IRA until you turn 70 (which is the last year to contribute to a traditional IRA). If you save an additional $1,000 per year for 20 years and get a 5 percent rate of return, you could have an additional $34,719 toward retirement. Fully fund your IRA with $6,500 a year between ages 50 and 70, and that could amount to an additional $225,675 for retirement.

'Remember, it is never too late to start planning for retirement,' Demmissie says. 'If you experienced financial setbacks that stalled your retirement efforts, it may just mean you have to adjust your retirement expectations, work a little longer or think of other means of support that you may have not considered before. But it's never too late to get started.'

 

 


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