Experts Warn of a Fast Acting Tick Born Virus

May 20th, 2015

TickEvery year in the United States there are at least 20,000 confirmed cases of Lyme disease, a painful but treatable tick borne illness. Now experts are warning of a faster acting, untreatable and potentially fatal virus called Powassan virus that is commonly found in the same tick that hosts Lyme disease.

What is Powassan Virus?

Powassan virus is found in two to three percent of the primary tick that hosts Lyme disease. If bitten by a Powassan infected tick, you can get the virus within a matter of minutes. Many people who become infected with Powassan do not develop any symptoms. For those who develop symptoms, they can include:

  • Confusion
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Loss of coordination
  • Seizures
  • Speech difficulties
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness

Powassan cannot be treated with antibiotics. People who become infected only have supportive care available. Approximately half of Powassan survivors have permanent neurological symptoms, such as recurrent headaches, muscle wasting and memory problems 

Avoid Ticks

Now that the warmer months are upon us, there is a need to be extra vigilant, as ticks are most active April through September. Avoid direct contact with ticks by:

  • Avoiding wooded and bushy areas with high grass and leaf litter
  • Cutting back wooded areas to increase the size of open lawn
  • Eliminating dense plant beds close to your home
  • Keeping grass mowed to three inches or less
  • Keeping hair covered, braided or tied when venturing into areas where ticks are apt to be
  • Keeping pets that have had outside exposure off furniture, especially bedding
  • Walking in the center of trails
  • Wearing long sleeved tops that can protect the arms, and tucking pant legs into socks and boots can prevent ticks from having easy access to legs

According to experts, ticks in the Northeastern part of the U.S. are showing up earlier in the spring and expanding their range because of warmer weather temperatures over the past two decades.

Time for a Tick Check

If you have been outdoors it is important to find and remove ticks from your body:

  • Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors (preferably within two hours)to wash off and more easily find ticks that are crawling on you
  • Conduct a full body tick check using a hand-held or full length mirror to view all parts of your body
  • Examine gear and pets as ticks can ride into the home on clothing and pets, and then attach to a person later
  • Tumble dry clothes in a dryer on high heat for an hour to kill remaining ticks

In most cases, a tick carrying Lyme disease pathogens needs to be attached for at least 36 to 48 hours before the bacteria is transmitted.

If you find a tick, it needs to be removed promptly. The longer it is attached, the higher the chance of disease transmission. Remove it carefully:

  1. Using fine pointed tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible without squeezing the tick’s body.
  2. Firmly pull it straight out.
  3. Never squeeze the tick, burn it or cover it with Vaseline (or any other substance).
  4. Remember to disinfect the site of the bite, wash your hands and disinfect your tweezers.
  5. Contact your doctor.

Tick bites are usually painless, the ticks are so tiny and consequently many people are unaware that they have been bitten.

What IAA has to Say

Insurance Administrator of America knows that going outdoors is one of the best parts of warm weather. So don’t be scared of ticks, be prepared for them! Be aware of places that ticks like to live and figure out a plan to handle the situation, be that wearing the right type of clothes or packing a pair of tweezers! IAA wants you to have a fun and safe time in the sun.

Interested in reading more blog posts on this topic? Click here and here!

New Season, New Sleep Schedule

May 13th, 2015

Guy sleeping at computerHuman beings spend 33 percent of their lives asleep, but sometimes a good night’s sleep can be hard to come by. Sleep, exercise and diet are the cornerstones of good health. Out of those three, sleep is usually the easiest to fix. Make this the season you work on fixing your bedtime routine so you can wake up feeling refreshed!

Fix Your Nightly Routine

The way you feel when you’re awake depends in part on what happens when you’re sleeping. To make sure you’re in top shape for the day ahead, work on your nightly routine:

  • Check your bedroom temperature: The optimal temperature for sleep is between 60 and 68 degrees.
  • Create a bedtime routine: Parents have heard about the value of bedtime routines for children. Adults can benefit from this as well. If you do approximately the same thing every night, your body will start to know when it’s time for sleep.
  • Don’t eat too much or drink alcohol right before bed: Cutting out food (particularly the wrong kind of food) or alcohol before bed is pretty simple to do and may pay big dividends in sleep. A full belly keeps your body working when it should be sleeping.  Meanwhile, alcohol may help you fall asleep, but once its ingredients wear off it can leave you wide awake.
  • Include physical activity in your daily routine: Regular physical activity can promote better sleep, helping you to fall asleep faster and enjoy a deeper sleep.
  • Manage stress: When you have too much to do, and too much to think about, your sleep is likely to suffer. To help restore peace, consider healthy ways to manage your stress.
  • Stick to your schedule: Going to bed at approximately the same time every night and waking up approximately the same time every morning, even on the weekends, will help keep your biological clock in-synch.

To make sure you are at your best during the day, you need to try to get the best night of sleep possible.

The Need for Sleep

What difference can an extra hour of sleep make in your life? Studies show that the gap between getting just enough sleep and getting too little sleep may affect your health. Reasons you should go to bed an hour earlier are:

  • Better health: Study after study has found a link between insufficient sleep and some serious health problems, such as heart disease, heart attacks, diabetes, and obesity.
  • Better memory: Feeling forgetful? Sleep loss could be to blame. Studies have shown that while we sleep, our brains process and consolidate our memories from the day. If you don’t get enough sleep, it seems like those memories might not get stored correctly and can be lost. 
  • Better weight control: Getting enough sleep could help you maintain your weight—and conversely, sleep loss goes along with an increased risk of weight gain. Why? Part of the problem is behavioral. If you’re overtired you might be less likely to have the energy to exercise or cook a healthy dinner after work. The other part is physiological. The hormone leptin plays a key role in making you feel full. When you don’t get enough sleep, leptin levels drop. The result is that people who are tired are just plain hungrier—and they seem to crave high fat and high calorie foods specifically.
  • Clearer thinking: Sleep loss affects how you think. It impairs your cognition, your attention and your decision making.
  • Less pain: If you have chronic pain or acute pain from a recent injury, getting enough sleep may actually make you hurt less. Many studies have shown a link between sleep loss and a lower pain threshold.
  • Lower risk of injury: Sleeping enough at night might actually keep you safer. Sleep deprivation has been linked to notorious disasters.

After several nights of losing sleep, even a loss of just one to two hours per night, your ability to function suffers as if you haven’t slept at all for a day or two.

What IAA has to Say

Insurance Administrator of America knows that being well rested is important to businesses on all levels. As an employer you need a good night’s sleep to lead your business down the road of success. Employees need to be rested so they can keep the business moving through its daily tasks. IAA wants you to help promote better sleep (which can equate to a better business) by sharing this post with employees and colleagues.

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

May is Lupus Awareness Month

May 6th, 2015

Lupus Awarness It is believed that 5 million people throughout the world have a form of lupus. While many people may have heard of the disease, they may not know what the condition entails. As May is Lupus Awareness Month, take the time to learn more about the condition to show your support.

What is Lupus?

The immune system is designed to attack foreign substances in the body. Normally, our immune system produces antibodies that protect the body from these foreign substances. If you have lupus, something goes wrong with your immune system and it attacks healthy cells and tissues.

There are many types of lupus. The most common type, systemic lupus erythematosus, affects many parts of the body. Other types of lupus are:

  1. Discoid lupus erythematosus: Causes a skin rash that does not go away.
  2. Subacute cutaneous lupus erythematosus: Causes skin sores on parts of the body exposed to the sun.
  3. Drug induced lupus: Can be caused by medications.
  4. Neonatal lupus: A rare type of lupus that affects newborns.

More than 16,000 new cases of lupus are reported annually throughout the country.

Signs and Symptoms of Lupus

Symptoms of lupus may vary, but the most common symptoms are:

  • Butterfly shaped rash on the face that covers the cheeks and the bridge of the nose
  • Chest pain when taking a deep breathe
  • Dry eyes
  • Feeling very tired
  • Fever with no known cause
  • Fingers and toes that turn white or blue when exposed to cold or during stressful periods
  • Hair loss
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Muscle pain
  • Pain or swelling in the joints
  • Skin lesions that appear or worsen with sun exposure
  • Swelling in the legs or around the eyes
  • Swollen glands

Symptoms may come and go. The times when a person is having symptoms are called flares, which can range from mild to severe. New symptoms may appear at any time. 

Risk Factors

The cause of lupus is unknown. Research suggests that genes play an important role, but genes alone do not determine who gets lupus. It is likely that many factors trigger the disease. Risk factors for lupus are:

  • Age: Although lupus affects people of all ages, it is most often diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 40. Symptoms of lupus will occur before the age of 18 in 15 percent of the people who are later diagnosed with the disease.
  • Family: Relatives of people with lupus have a five to 13 percent chance of developing lupus. However, only about five percent of children will develop lupus if their mother has lupus.
  • Gender: 90 percent of people with lupus are women.

At least 1.5 million Americans have lupus.

What IAA has to Say

Insurance Administrator of America wants you to take the time to learn about lupus this month. Help make others aware by sharing this blog post with friends, family and colleagues. IAA knows that a little support can go a long way!

Like this blog post? Let IAA know by going to our Facebook page and clicking the Like button!

Spring Into a New Health Routine

April 29th, 2015

Clock Winter is gone, which means getting off the couch and starting a new health regimen for spring.

Mix up Your Exercise Routine

Like everything else in life, workouts start to feel stale if you do the same activity day in and day out. A study found that when people changed their exercise routine every two weeks, they were more likely to continue exercising compared to those following the same routine.

On a physiological level, the problem is that your body adapts to a specific routine over time. This means burning fewer calories and activating fewer muscles, which makes losing weight harder. Give your routine a spring makeover:

  • Change your location: Sometimes all it takes to breathe new life into a familiar routine is to do it someplace else.
  • Distractions: If you are totally distracted during workouts you may not be making the most of your time. Not paying attention could limit the effectiveness of your workouts.
  • Know your limits: People are more likely to get frustrated and give up when they set pie-in-the-sky goals. Start by realistically assessing where you are right now, not where you’d like to be, and base your routine off of that.
  • Reverse the order: Studies show that simply changing the order in which your body performs tasks is enough to stimulate new muscle growth.
  • Schedule: Planning out a daily schedule and factoring in specific work out times will help you stay on track and organize your day.
  • Vary your intensity: You’ll burn more calories by switching gears on your bike to add resistance. If you walk three or more days a week, try jogging. 

While changing up your fitness routine can help your body, after a long and lazy winter the key is to start off slow. Experts say you need to prepare your body for your exercise program, especially if you used the cold weather to become a couch potato.

A New Food Regimen for a New Season

It’s not unusual to let your attention to healthy eating lapse a bit during the winter. But spring is here which means it is time to get back into healthier eating habits:

  • Add probiotics: Probiotics help with digestive health. It can also help if you’ve been fighting colds and the flu throughout the winter. Probiotics help rebalance the gut-friendly bacteria that may have become out of whack due to antibiotics.
  • Chocolate break: One square of good quality chocolate (stick to dark chocolate) can go a long way in curbing cravings. Not only does the strong flavor give you more satisfaction for every bite, but the antioxidant properties of dark chocolate have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, lower blood pressure and diabetes, Dark chocolate is also a good source of magnesium, iron and potassium. It also boosts serotonin which can have a positive influence on your mood.
  • Clean out your cupboards and fridge: Go through and toss out any expired and processed foods to organize your fridge and cupboards for healthier eating.
  • Ditch the dehydrating drinks: Alcohol is a diuretic and dehydrates the body. Ditto for caffeine and soda. Replace soda with water to help keep you hydrated.
  • Plant a garden: Plan out a spring and summer’s worth of healthy eating from your very own back deck or yard.
  • Revisiting your portions: Get control of the calories to help manage the extra winter weight you might have put on. Doing so helps counteract the mindless munching habit you may have slipped into.
  • Switch up your produce: The more colorful the fruit or vegetable, the more vitamins and minerals it has.
  • Veggie it out: Fill up on foods that give you the most bang or in nutrition-speak, satiety, for the least amount of calories.

Healthy living should be a priority all year round, but spring is a preview into the delicious growing season ahead.

Turn Your Home Green for Spring

Springing into new healthy ways of eating and exercising are great, but what about where you live? Your home can spring into a new routine as well:

  • Purify: Not only is spring’s arrival the perfect time to dust those cobwebs off your shelves, but it’s also a great excuse to purify the water and air in your home. Install water purification systems in your sinks and showers to remove potentially harmful contaminants like lead and chlorine. Air purifiers remove germs, mold, bacteria, and dust from the air you breathe, which is particularly important during allergy season. 
  • Take stock: Now’s the perfect time to peak into your storage closet, under the sink or in the garage  to get rid of old toxic cleaning products and other agents used around the home, and replace them with greener counter parts. Not only will your home be clean, but you won’t experience any of the negative health symptoms like headaches, that conventional cleaners can inflict.

Turning your house into a “green house” could help improve your family’s health.

What IAA has to Say

Insurance Administrator of America wants you to start a new health routine. Creating a new regimen for exercising, eating and cleaning is a great way to start off spring. IAA knows that you can do it! Remember, with IAA one call does it all.

Interested in reading more blog posts on this topic? Click here and here.

Vitamin and Dietary Supplements Making News

April 22nd, 2015

Bottle of vitaminsFor the past few months vitamin and dietary supplements have been making headlines. From potentially harmful ingredients to falsely advertised products, people are wondering, what is in their supplements?

Questioning the Ingredients in Supplements

In early April, scientists alerted the public that they found a speed-like ingredient in 11 dietary supplements available at national health stores. They detected the presence of BMPEA which is chemically related to amphetamines. BMPEA is a member of a family of chemicals which includes amphetamines and hallucinogens. This class of substances can target a number of brain receptors controlling energy, but also have LSD-like effects.

Nobody knows for sure what BMPEA does to the human body. BMPEA has never been tested in people for safety or efficacy. BMPEA has been shown to raise blood pressure and heart rates in dogs and cats. It is classified as a doping agent by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

Researchers are warning consumers to avoid dietary supplements labeled as having the active ingredient acacia rigidula.  This is a shrub that grows in parts of Texas and Mexico.

Before BMPEA hit the news, in February of 2015, the New York State General’s office accused four major retailers of selling fraudulent and potentially dangerous herbal supplements. The authorities said they conducted tests on top-selling store brands of herbal supplements at four national retailers—GNC, Target, Walgreens, and Walmart—and found that four out of the five products did not contain any of the herbs on their labels.  The tests showed that pills labeled medicinal herbs often contained little more than cheap fillers like powdered rice.

Under current law, supplements are assumed to be safe until the authorities can prove otherwise.

Supplements and the FDA

The Food and Drug Administration plays a large part in our lives, but what is its role when it comes to supplements?

The FDA regulates both finished supplement products and ingredients. The FDA regulates supplements under a different set of regulations than those concerning “conventional” food and drug products.  Under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994:

  • Manufacturers and distributors of dietary supplements and dietary ingredients are prohibited from manufacturing products that are adulterated or misbranded. That means that these firms are responsible for evaluating the safety and labeling of their products before marketing to ensure that they meet all the requirements of DSHEA and FDA regulations.
  • The FDA is responsible for taking action against any adulterated or misbranded dietary supplement product after it reaches market.

Although dietary supplement manufacturers must register their facilities with the FDA, they are not required to get FDA approval before producing or selling dietary supplements.

Herbal supplements have not been subjected to the same kind of scrutiny and are not as strictly regulated as medications.  The FDA rules do not guarantee that herbal supplements are safe for anyone to use.

The FDA requires that the following information be included on the labels of all herbal supplements:

  • The name of the herbal supplement
  • The name and address of the manufacturer or distributor
  • A complete list of ingredients
  • Serving size, amount and active ingredient

There is no law that requires a firm to disclose to the FDA or consumers the information they have about the safety or purported purpose of their dietary supplement products.

What IAA has to Say

Insurance Administrator of America knows that taking supplements is part of the American culture. However, IAA wants you to research what is in your supplements. Before you start taking a supplement, make sure you really know what you are putting into your body. IAA wants you to be healthy, but also be safe while doing it!

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