Know Your Status on National HIV Testing Day

For National HIV Testing Day this year, make it your mission to know your HIV status. You’ll have powerful information to help keep yourself healthy and to make informed healthcare decisions.

See the infographic below to learn more about HIV and action steps you can take today.

9 Hacks to Make Your Summer Fitness Goals Your Reality

Whether you’re headed to a block party with neighbors, a beach day with family, or a picnic in the park with that special someone, there’s no doubt that food and fun are on your summer schedule. Some outings may include food you may be trying to avoid, and those sunny beach days may inspire you to be more leisurely than active. A few treats and a few leisurely days are surely well deserved though, right?

When it comes to staying on track with your food and fitness goals and enjoying your summer, it’s all about balance.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

Be food prepared.

If you’re headed to a summer party where you know you’ll be tempted or where there won’t be food that accommodates your diet, pack a grab-n-go. Protein bars from brands like NuGo Nutrition and Larabar are usually $1-$2 per bar, packed with plant-based nutrients, and accessible at stores nationwide and on Amazon. Sliced fresh fruit, granola bars, and nuts are other quick, easily portable options.

Pick up your pace.

Of course you’re ready to get your chair and towel positioned just right and relax on the sand. But take a lap by the water before you get settled to squeeze in a few more steps and burn a few more calories.

Make meals simple, quick, and fun.

You’ve got your neighbor’s BBQ at 3 and friends coming over to your place at 6, so you need something shareable and convenient, but impressive. Baste colorful kabobs of tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, and squash with olive oil and spices before roasting them in your oven (or whip out your grill!) for 10-12 minutes. Cut whole sweet potatoes in down the middle, place them in aluminum foil, and bake them for 40 minutes. When they’re done, add peanut butter and cinnamon to them, cut them into smaller pieces, and serve them with toothpicks. Or when time is super short, snag some hummus or salsa from your local farmers’ market or grocery store, serve it on a fun platter and call it a day!

Carry a reusable water bottle.

It can be tempting to pop open a fizzing can of Coke or hit the Starbucks drive-thru for your favorite frappuccino while riding around with the convertible down this summer, but don’t let the heat talk you into making to a decision packed with sugar and calories that you may regret later.

Find fun ways to use resistance bands.

You can do quick and simple exercises with them during long days in the office and during your activity packed weekends. If you’re traveling this summer, be sure to bring them along. They take up minimal space and can inspire you to keep moving even on vacation.

Bring the chill to your meals.

A hot kitchen can often be the least fun place on these scorching summer days. Give yourself a brrr-eak from cooking with meals that require little to no cooking and that are chockfull of nutrients and yumminess. You may find some of the meals here to be colorful and shareable enough to carry with you to summer parties. Bonus points: with cool meals, you won’t have to worry about reheating food you travel with.

Make time to disconnect.

It’s easy to get caught up in all things planned even during the summer. From work commitments to our pressing social calendar to our ever-present technology, it can be challenging to stop and unwind. Schedule time to do just that this summer – no matter how challenging that may seem. Write down an hour of mediation or reading in your calendar, turn your phone off for an afternoon, forward your calls to voicemail for a day, or turn your out of office reply on and go take a walk. Long-term health and fitness successes include consistently disconnecting and clearing your schedule so you can clear your mind

Get your family and friends moving with you.

Beating the heat in a nice cool movie theater may be a fun afternoon activity for you and your loved ones, but so may taking a hike in your local park or challenging neighbors or coworkers to a game of kickball. Find activities that your loved ones enjoy and that keep them active, and then keep them engaged consistently. Having fun and enjoying quality time together can help them see that being active can be fun and help you stay motivated to meet your health and fitness goals.

Enjoy early morning activities.

You may not be able to talk your night owl loved ones into games or hikes in the AM, but you can beat the heat and tell them about your fitness fun later. Grab your bike (or rent a bike if you’re in a metropolitan area) and hit the pavement for a few miles. Hit your local park and watch the animals wake up with the sun as you hike by. Find a local outdoor recreation center and try out some new moves like these.

 

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Cataract Awareness Month: Here’s How to Protect Your Vision

June is Cataract Awareness Month, and the nation’s leading eye health organization Prevent Blindness wants you and your family to know the risks of the leading cause of blindness worldwide1. Your vision health can be impacted by many factors, but you can protect it with proper and consistent care.

Let’s look at a few risks and symptoms of cataracts, guidelines for when you and your family should seek vision care, and connections between your vision and your overall health.

Risks1

  • Intense heat or long-term exposure to UV rays from the sun
  • Smoking
  • Certain diseases, such as diabetes
  • Inflammation in the eye
  • Hereditary influences
  • Events before birth, such as German measles
  • Long-term steroid use
  • Severe long-term nearsightedness
  • Eye diseases

Remember: it’s important for all age groups to manage risks. Prevent Blindness estimates that over 30 million Americans who are age 40 and over will have cataracts by the year 20201.

Symptoms2

  • Cloudy or blurred vision
  • Increasing difficulty with vision at night
  • Sensitivity to light and glare
  • Seeing halos around lights
  • Frequent changes in vision prescriptions
  • Fading or yellowing of colors
  • Need for brighter light for reading or other activities

Exam Frequency

If and when you notice any change in your vision, it’s a good idea to visit a doctor. An eyecare provider can diagnose a cataract with a thorough eye exam3.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend you begin proper vision care early in life and note that less than 15% of preschool children get an eye exam and less than 22% get a vision screening4. Prevent Blindness recommends those without symptoms who are5:

  • 20-39 years old get a comprehensive eye exam every 2-5 years depending on their risk factors
  • 40-64 years old get a comprehensive eye exam every 2-4 years depending on their risk factors
  • 65 years old and older get a comprehensive eye exam every 1-2 years depending on their risk factors

Vision Care and Overall Health

Taking steps to secure you and your loved ones’ healthy vision can also help to protect your overall health. As the windows to your health, your eyes can show healthcare providers symptoms of conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, autoimmune diseases, sexually transmitted diseases, and cancers6 according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Getting proper vision care can also protect you and your loved ones while you engage in everyday activities such as driving, playing sports, or using power tools and can help ensure you are able to pursue the activities that interest you far into the future.

Let’s look at some ways you can protect your eyes from cataracts and other eye conditions7:

Have a comprehensive dilated eye exam. It’s common to not realize that your vision could be improved with contacts or glasses until you have an eye exam. It’s also common to not realize you have other common eye diseases such as glaucoma or diabetic eye disease without this exam, as there are often no warning signs.

Know your family’s eye health history. Ask about your family’s history so you know if you’re at a higher risk to develop a condition.

Eat right to protect your sight. Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, especially dark leafy greens like spinach, kale, and collard greens, can help preserve your vision.

Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese increases your risk of developing diabetes, and diabetes can lead to eye conditions or vision loss.

Wear protective eyewear. Protective eyewear can protect your vision when you’re playing sports, tanning, or using tools around your home or your workplace. Look for lenses made of polycarbonate, a material that is 10 times stronger than other plastics.

Rest your eyes. Try the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, look away about 20 feet in front of you for about 20 seconds. This can help you reduce eyestrain, a good idea if you spend a lot of time in front of a computer or focusing on any one thing.

Knowing risk and signs of cataracts and other possible eye conditions and establishing healthy habits for you and your loved ones will help to protect your vision for a long time to come. You may also consider enrolling in a vision insurance plan that gives you access to eyecare providers and provides benefits such as:

  • Eye exams every 12 months
  • Lenses every 24 months (this can include single vision, bifocal, and trifocal)
  • Frames every 24 months (this can include prescription sunglasses)
  • Contact lenses and fitting every 24 months
  • Low copays for exams
  • In-network savings
  • Individual and family coverage
  • Ease of provider access (this can include nationwide chains)

Vision insurance can offer you many valuable benefits to help secure a healthier present and future. You may also find that enrolling in memberships to discount vision programs provide you with access to eyecare while helping you save money. These memberships may require you to pay out of pocket for some costs, but these costs may be end up being lower thanks to the strength of participating provider networks.

 

With our leading edge tools and technologies, we’re upgrading how you experience your choice of coverage.

Stay tuned to our next blog post!

Click here to join our Facebook community for more information about your health and your healthcare coverage.

 

Sources:

1: “June is Cataract Awareness Month.” Prevent Blindess.  https://www.preventblindness.org/june-cataract-awareness-month-0

2: “Cataracts: Symptoms and Causes.” Mayo Clinic.  https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cataracts/symptoms-causes/syc-20353790

3: “What Are the Symptoms of Cataracts? When Should I Call the Doctor?” WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/eye-health/cataracts/symptoms-of-cataracts-when-to-call-the-doctor#1

4: “Keep an Eye on Your Vision Health.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/features/healthyvision/index.html

5: “How Often Should I Have an Eye Exam?” Prevent Blindness.  https://www.preventblindness.org/how-often-should-i-have-eye-exam

6: “Your Eyes Could Be the Windows to Your Health.” American Academy of Ophthalmogy. https://www.aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/diagnosing-systemic-diseases-eye-exams

7: “Simple Tips for Healthy Eyes.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/visionhealth/risk/tips.htm

 

 

Raise Awareness for National Men’s Health Week with These 3 Tips

National Men’s Health Week is a time to raise awareness of preventable health problems and encourage early detection of disease among men and boys. This year from June 11 – 17, healthcare providers, policy makers, media outlets around the country have the opportunity to encourage men and boys to seek regular medical advice and early treatment for disease and injury.

Ready to raise awareness in your family? Here are some ideas to get you going.

1. Talk with your loved ones about common men’s health concerns.

This includes prostate cancer, blood pressure, and lung and heart health per the Men’s Health Network. See their timeline of recommendations below:

If you have men in your circle who are ages 20-39, they should:

  • Have a physical exam every 3 years
  • Have their blood pressure checked every year
  • Have a TB skin test every 5 years
  • Have blood tests and urinalysis every 3 years
  • Have a baseline EKG at age 30
  • Have a tetanus booster every 10 years
  • Have a rectal exam every year
  • Conduct a skin self-exam every month
  • Be screened for sexually transmitted diseases every year

If you have men in your circle who are ages 40-49, they should:

  • Have a physical exam every 2 years
  • Have their blood pressure checked every year
  • Have a TB skin test every 5 years
  • Have blood tests and urinalysis every 2 years
  • Have an EKG every 2 years
  • Have a tetanus booster every 10 years
  • Have a rectal exam every year
  • Have a Prostate Specific Antigen blood test*
  • Have a hemoccult exam every year
  • Discuss having a chest x-ray with a physician
  • Conduct a skin self-exam every month
  • Discuss having testosterone screening with a physician
  • Discuss having screenings for sexually transmitted diseases with a physician

*African-American men and men with a family history of prostate cancer may opt to have PSA blood tests at 40 years of age or earlier.

If you have men in your circle who are age 50+, they should:

  • Have a physical exam every year
  • Have their blood pressure checked every year
  • Have a TB skin test every 5 years
  • Have blood tests and urinalysis every year
  • Have an EKG every year
  • Have a tetanus booster every 10 years
  • Have a rectal exam every year
  • Have a Prostate Specific Antigen blood test
  • Have a hemoccult exam every year
  • Have a colorectal exam every 3-4 years
  • Discuss having a chest x-ray with a physician
  • Conduct a skin self-exam every month
  • Discuss having bone health screening with a physician
  • Discuss having testosterone screening with a physician
  • Discuss having screenings for sexually transmitted diseases with a physician

2. Talk to your loved ones about the importance of having some type of healthcare coverage.

They may find health benefits insurance (otherwise known as limited medical coverage) to fit their needs and budget. These plans can cover a wide variety of expenses for accidental injuries, sickness, inpatient surgical care, outpatient care, and even pre-existing conditions. They may also provide little to no waiting periods, which may be useful for a loved one who is in need of benefits sooner rather than later. Typically, these plans will pay out a pre-determined cash benefit based on a covered service. They are not comprehensive medical plans and are not intended to replace a major medical plan.

Or they may find short-term medical coverage to be a better fit. These plans are offered at any time in the year and are typically used during times of transition, so your loved ones who are graduating from college, waiting for employer insurance to begin, or waiting for Medicare coverage to become effective may find it useful.

If they are interested in major medical coverage that offers benefits for minimum essential health benefits, they may want to consider ACA coverage. These plans provide coverage for pre-existing conditions and preventive care and can offer subsidies to help lower costs.

* Note: Health benefit insurance plans (limited benefit insurance) and short-term medical plans of coverage do not count as minimum essential coverage required by the Affordable Care Act and is not suitable to serve as sole medical coverage. They are not sufficient forms of coverage to avoid facing a tax penalty.

3. Celebrate awareness with fun office activities.

Organize a Wear Blue Day.

  • Pose with your coworkers for photos in all blue – the signature color of the initiative – and post them to your company’s social media with the hashtags #MensHealthWeek, #WearBlueDay, and/or #ShowUsYourBlue.
  • Create a fundraising challenge for your office and donate the proceeds to heart disease or cancer research organizations (those diseases are the #1 and #2 fatal diseases for men in the United States respectively).

Work with your company’s events committee to provide coworkers with local health resources.

  • Ask a local doctor or nutritionist to make a presentation on common men’s health concerns and everyday ways they can improve their health.
  • Organize a health fair complete with health screenings for blood pressure and cholesterol levels and opportunities to speak with advocates of wellness care, doctors/nurses, dentists, fitness instructors, etc.

Challenge your coworkers to some physical activities.

  • Hold a 5K near your office and ask nearby businesses to join.
  • Bring in a fitness instructor to lead fun activities/classes for your team. Consider inviting your team’s loved ones as well.

Provide encouragement and resources to the men in your circle for National Men’s Health Week – and every week – and contribute to the growing awareness of prevention, early detection, and treatment of disease.

Click here to learn more about men’s health concerns.

Click here to see National Men’s Health Week activities across the country.

 

With our leading edge tools and technologies, we’re upgrading how you experience your choice of coverage.

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