Health in the News: Dealing With Ebola and Enterovirus 68

October 15th, 2014

Keep away signThe news has been flooded with the movements of two viruses: Ebola and Enterovirus 68. While the government has told the nation not to panic, that does not mean Americans are not concerned.  In order to be proactive people need to know signs, symptoms and prevention tips.

Ebola Hits America

Ebola has now been diagnosed twice within the United States. Some facts about the Ebola virus are:

  1. You can’t get Ebola through air
  2. You can’t get Ebola through water
  3. You can’t get Ebola through food

You can only get Ebola from:

  1. Touching the blood or bodily fluids of a person who is sick with or has died from Ebola
  2. Touching contaminated objects like needles
  3. Touching infected animals, their blood or other bodily fluids, or their meat

Ebola is not spread through casual contact; therefore an outbreak in the U.S. is very low. Ebola does not invade healthy skin, so merely touching secretions does not mean an infection will follow.

A person must have symptoms to spread Ebola to others. Symptoms of Ebola include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever (greater than 101.5°F)
  • Muscle pain
  • Severe headache
  • Unexplained bruising or bleeding
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness

Symptoms may appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure from Ebola, but the average is 8 to 10 days. There is no way to detect the disease during the incubation period (the interval before symptoms set in) so infected people could pass fever checks at airports in West Africa.

Faced with a growing concern over the spread of the Ebola virus, on October 7 public health officials promised extra measures to screen airline passengers arriving into the U.S.  But they remain opposed to stricter travel restrictions. Among measures under consideration by the CDC, temperatures of at-risk passengers would be checked or they might be subject to detailed questioning upon their arrival in the U.S. 

The Spread of Enterovirus 68

The rapid, nationwide spread of Enterovirus 68 is unlike any previous outbreak of this infection public health officials have seen.

These germs can live on surfaces for hours and maybe as long as a day, depending on the temperature and humidity. Touching a contaminated surface and then rubbing your nose or eyes is the usual way for someone to contract the virus. You can also get it from close person to person contact. Common disinfectants and detergents will kill enteroviruses, so clean frequently touched surfaces.

Most of the patients seriously infected are children. Experts say that parents should be on the lookout for children with:

  • Blue lips
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Wheezing

These are signs that the child requires immediate medical care. Children with asthma and other chronic lung conditions are particularly vulnerable.

Right now there is not much parents can do; there is no vaccine. The only thing parents can do is the same thing that they can do to protect their kids from any respiratory virus: make sure they wash their hands thoroughly. Also, if the child feels sick, do not send them to school.

Based on what enteroviruses normally do, it should be tapering off. Normally you see a peak in September, maybe into October, and then the numbers should come down.  

What IAA has to Say

Insurance Administrator of America wants you to take care of yourself while these infections are roaming the U.S. It is important to stay vigilant and keep an eye on any potential symptoms. IAA knows that good health is important! Remember, with IAA one call does it all.

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Is Chocolate a Healthy Choice for Halloween?

October 8th, 2014

trick-or-treatTrick-or-treaters will soon be lining up at your door and trying to figure out what treats to buy can be a yearly issue. How about chocolate? It might surprise people that chocolate can be a healthy Halloween treat.

How Chocolate can be Beneficial

The possible health benefits of chocolate stem from the antioxidant, flavonoids (antioxidant compounds that increase the flexibility of veins and arteries). Chocolate comes from the cacao plant, and cacao is extremely rich in flavanols, a type of flavonoid.

It is true that cacao contains some saturated fat, but most of it is stearic acid. Studies have suggested that stearic acid doesn’t elevate blood cholesterol levels as much as saturated fatty acids.

If the chocolate contains fat ingredients other than coco butter, it might contain more saturated fats and trans fats other than stearic acid. That is why chocolate needs to be eaten in a purer form, dark chocolate. Stick to chocolate that is 70% cacao (or coco which is cacao in its roasted, ground form).

Possible health benefits of dark chocolate include:

  • A decrease in blood pressure and increased insulin sensitivity: Researchers found that insulin resistance (a risk factor for diabetes) was significantly lowered in those who ate dark chocolate.
  • Helping your brain: Drinking coco rich in flavonoids boosts blood flow to key parts of the brain.
  • Improvement in arterial blood flow: This is important for cardiovascular health.   
  • Lessening cravings: Dark chocolate can help with cravings for sweet, salty and fatty foods.
  • Reduced risk of a heart attack: Research found that blood platelets clotted more slowly in people who had eaten chocolate. This is significant because when platelets clump, a clot can form and when the clot blocks a blood vessel, it can lead to a heart attack.

The health benefits of chocolate disappear if you are adding calories above and beyond your intake. This could mean you are adding pounds along with flavonoids.  

Here are some tips to choosing and enjoying your chocolate:

  1. Keep it pure: If you want chocolate, have chocolate, don’t have chocolate cake.
  2. Choose wisely: While chocolate may have some health benefits, it should still be eaten as a treat.
  3. Think dark: The darker the chocolate, the less sugar it contains.
  4. Think bite size: It usually just takes a little chocolate to curb a craving.

Have a Healthy Halloween

While dark chocolate may be a good treat to hand out to your little ghouls and goblins, there are other ways to have a healthy Halloween:

  • Make this a fun family physical activity. Set a goal of how many houses you will walk to and stick to it.
  • Remember to have a healthy meal before you go trick-or-treating. This reduces the temptation to snack while walking.
  • Try giving out healthier treats like pencils, stickers and erasers.

Halloween can be about more than just the candy, it can also be about fun physical activity!

What IAA has to Say

Insurance Administrator of America knows that people love to give out candy for Halloween. Just make sure that the candy is (somewhat) healthy. Dark chocolate can be a good option if it’s a small amount. IAA wants you to make this Halloween not just about the chocolate and candy, but the physical activity as well! Just think of IAA as your haunted third party administrator, there to help you have a howling good time while being active.

Interested in reading another blog post on this issue? Click here!

October is Healthy Lung Month

October 1st, 2014

LungsDid you know that during a normal day you breathe nearly 25,000 times? When you have a disease that affects your lungs it can make those 25,000 breathes very difficult. Take the time during Healthy Lung Month to ensure your breathing comes nice and easy.

Keep Your Lungs in Top Shape

By keeping your lungs healthy, you may be able to prevent conditions like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). To keep you lungs healthy try the following tips:

  • Avoid exposure to environmental pollutants such as asbestos and radon gas
  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables
  • Exercise most days of the week
  • If you are at a high risk of lung disease, test your breathing function regularly
  • If you have a persistent cough that doesn’t appear related to a cold or allergy, see your doctor
  • If you work around dust or chemical fumes, make sure the area is well ventilated and that you wear a mask 
  • Quit smoking and avoid exposure to second hand smoke.

Smoking, infections and genetics are responsible for most lung diseases.

Types of Lung Diseases

When you breathe, your lungs take in oxygen from the air and deliver it to the bloodstream. People with lung disease have difficulty breathing.

Millions of people in the United States have lung disease. The term lung disease refers to many disorders affecting the lungs, such as asthma, COPD, pneumonia, lung cancer, and many other breathing problems. The lungs are part of a complex apparatus, expanding and relaxing thousands of times a day to bring in oxygen and expel carbon dioxide. Lung disease can result from problems in any part of this system.

Diseases that affect the airways include:

  • Asthma: The airways are persistently inflamed, and may occasionally spasm. This causes wheezing and shortness of breath. Allergies, infections or pollution can trigger asthma’s symptoms. 
  • COPD: A lung condition defined by an inability to exhale normally, which causes difficulty breathing.
  • Chronic bronchitis: A form of COPD characterized by a chronic productive cough
  • Emphysema: Lung damage allows air to be trapped in the lungs in this form of COPD. Difficulty blowing out is its hallmark.
  • Acute bronchitis: A sudden infection of the airways, usually by a virus.
  • Cystic fibrosis: A genetic condition causing poor clearance of mucus from the bronchi. The accumulated mucus results in repeated lung infections.

Lung diseases affecting the air sacs:

  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS): Severe, sudden injury to the lungs caused by a serious illness.
  • Emphysema: This results from damage to the fragile connections between the air sacks. Smoking is usually the cause.
  • Lung cancer: There are many forms of lung cancer and they may develop in any part of the lung. Most often it occurs in the main part of the lung, in or near the air sacks.
  • Pneumonia: An infection of the air sac; usually by bacteria.
  • Tuberculosis: A slowly progressive pneumonia caused by bacteria.
  • Pneumoconiosis: A category of conditions caused by the inhalation of a substance that injures the lungs.
  • Pulmonary edema: Fluid leaks out of the small blood vessels of the lung into the air sacks and the surrounding area. One form is caused by heart failure and back pressure in the lung’s blood vessels. In another form, direct injury to the lung causes the fluid to leak.

The lungs are different from most of the other parts of your body because their delicate tissues are directly related to the outside environment. Anything you breathe in can affect your lungs.

What IAA has to Say

Insurance Administrator of America wants you to be able to breathe without any problems. That is why it is important to take the time to see how you can improve your breathing function. Make sure you are doing all you can to keep your lungs healthy. Remember, with IAA one call does it all.

Interested in reading another blog post on this topic? Click here.

Stay Safe Indoors and Outdoors This Autumn

September 24th, 2014

Man raking leavesAs children go back to school and leaves begin to fall, autumn presents many opportunities to prevent safety hazards in and around your home.

Stay Safe While Cleaning Outdoors

Every year autumn leaves will fall, making your yard cluttered and in need of some cleaning up. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons recommends the following safety tips to help prevent injuries while performing yard work:

  • Do not overfill leaf bags, especially if the leaves are wet. To avoid back injury, you should be able to carry bags comfortably.
  • Never throw leaves over your shoulder or to the side. The twisting motion required to do so places undue stress on your back.
  • Never use your hands or feet to clear debris from under a lawnmower. Use a stick or broom handle instead. Likewise, never touch the blades with your hands or feet, even if the engine is off. The blade can still move and cause serious injury.
  • Use a rake that is comfortable for your height
  • Wear protective gear, like goggles and gloves, boots and long pants, when mowing. Never mow in bare feet or in sandals.
  • Wet leaves can be slippery; wear shoes or boots with slip resistant soles.

Cleaning gutters, checking the condition of the roof and washing windows are common fall chores that require a ladder. Here are some ladder safety tips:

  • Before you climb a ladder, make sure all ladder locks and safety braces are engaged
  • Don’t stretch or lean from your ladder to reach a work area. Climb down the ladder and reposition it closer to your work area.
  • Inspect the ladder for loose screws, hinges or rungs. Clean off accumulated mud, dirt or liquids.
  • Make sure all ladder legs are on a firm, level surface. Don’t place a ladder on uneven or muddy ground.
  • Never sit or stand on the top step of the ladder or pail shelf. These areas weren’t designed to hold heavy weights.

Making sure your lawn is ready for autumn is important, but so is your safety!

Get Your Home Ready for Autumn

When the weather turns cold, most people spend more time inside their homes using fireplaces, furnaces and heaters to keep warm. There’s nothing quite as cozy as sitting under warm blankets in your warm home, but make sure to keep these safety tips in mind:

  • Exercise candle caution: Candles are a great way to give a room that warm glow, but they can also cause fires. According to the National Candle Association, almost 10,000 home fires start with improper candle use. Never leave candles burning if you go out or go to sleep, and keep candles away from pets and kids.
  • Service your furnace: Before the cold autumn and winter weather set in, a specialist should inspect the furnace to make sure everything is in working order and that there are no leaks.
  • Use caution with space heaters:  Always allow at least three feet of empty area around space heaters.
  • Use fireplaces safely: Keep that fire in its proper place by using a fireplace screen to keep sparks from flying out of the fireplace. Never leave a burning fire unattended and make sure a fire is completely out before going to bed.

Autumn is a great time to get cozy in front of the fire, but make sure that you follow safety precautions before lighting those logs.

What IAA has to Say

Insurance Administrator of America wants you to stay healthy this fall! IAA knows that you want to be comfortable indoors and outdoors, but it is important to be safe about it. Think of IAA as your self-funded fall clean up administrator. Remember, with IAA one call does it all. 

Interested in reading similar blog posts? Click here and here.

September is National Healthy Aging Month

September 17th, 2014

Active older coupleThe current growth in the number of older adults in the United States is unprecedented in our Nation’s history. By 2050 it is anticipated that Americans aged 65 or older will number nearly 89 million people, more than double the number of older adults in the United States in 2010. As September is National Healthy Aging Month, older Americans should take the time to think about their daily health and well being. 

Battle Against Chronic Conditions

Every day millions of people with chronic conditions struggle to manage their symptoms. Chronic conditions such as diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart related conditions and asthma, can make life unmanageable for millions of older adults and force them to give up their independence too soon.

There are numerous ways for older adults to keep chronic conditions at bay. One of them is to make smart food choices. People aged 50 or older should choose healthy food every day from the following:

  • Dairy: Three cups of fat free or low fat milk
  • Fruits: One and half cups to two and a half cups
  • Grains: Five to 10 ounces
  • Oils: Five to eight teaspoons
  • Protein: Five to seven ounces
  • Vegetables: Two to three cups

Regular exercise is even more important for seniors than any other age group since the risk of disease and lost mobility is greater and the positive effects are realized more quickly. The amounts of physical activity older adults need to stave off chronic conditions are:

  • Two hours and thirty minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity (i.e. brisk walking) every week and muscle strengthening activities on two or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms).

Or

  • One hour and fifteen minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic activity (i.e. jogging or running) every week and muscle strengthening activities on two or more days a week that work all major muscle groups.

Or

  • An equal mix of moderate and vigorous intensity aerobic activity and muscle strengthening activities two or more days a week that work all major muscle groups.

Physical activity can also help with keeping your memory sharp as it increases blood flow to your whole body including your brain.

Reinvent Yourself During Healthy Aging Month

For older adults, now is the time to rethink and restructure your life:

  1. Do not act your age or at least what you think your age should act like. Picture yourself at your best age and be it!
  2. Be positive in your conversations and your actions every day. When you catch yourself complaining, check yourself right there and change the conversation to something positive.
  3. Walk like a vibrant, healthy person. Make a conscious effort to take big strides, walk with your heel first and wear comfortable shoes.
  4. Stand up straight. You can knock off the appearance of an extra few years.
  5. Make this month the time to set up your annual physical and other health screenings. Go to the appointments and then, hopefully, you can stop worrying about ailments for a while.

A study found that those with satisfying social relationships remained more mentally alert and had less age related mental decline than those who were isolated.

What IAA has to Say

Insurance Administrator of America wants older adults to take time this month to evaluate their health. If you need help managing a chronic condition or just want to work on your health and wellness goals, see if an IAA wellness program is right for you! IAA also offers health tips through your member portal—try to see if you can implement those in your daily life. Just think of IAA as your self-funded health and wellness counselor, leading you on the way to better health.

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