The holidays are here, which means it is time for fun, family and food! It can also mean an unplanned trip to the emergency room, which no one wants to take.
Food for Thought
One of the best parts of the holidays is eating your favorite holiday meal. But meals can turn disastrous when food poisoning and cooking injuries happen. Before cooking, make sure you know your food safety:
- Wash thoroughly: The risk of bacterial contamination can be high with any raw meat (like a Thanksgiving turkey). Wash your hands thoroughly when handling uncooked meat and keep it separate from other foods.
- Knives: One of the more common injuries that emergency physicians treat involves knives. Be careful when carving.
- Eat safely: The holidays may seem like the best time to enjoy every delicious delicacy possible, but it is important not to overdo it. For some, it can be too much consumed too fast. Eating quickly can cause heartburn, indigestion and may create chest pain, which generally requires assessment.
Food is a great part of the holidays, but don’t let it send you to the ER!
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates that there were 15,000 injuries involving holiday decorating seen in ERs nationwide in November and December 2012. While decorating for the holidays can be a fun family event, it can quickly turn into a disaster if not done carefully. Here are some tips to prevent accidents:
- Check each set of lights: Examine new and old lights for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires or loose connections.
- Circuits: Circuits that are overloaded with lights, decorations and accessories can start a fire.
- Decorating a Christmas tree with small children in the home? Avoid trimmings that resemble candies and food that may tempt a child to eat them.
- Plants: Mistletoe, holly, poinsettias, Jerusalem cherry plants, and others are commonly used as decorations during the holidays. Like many plants, they are considered potentially poisonous and should be kept out of the reach of children.
- Setting up a Christmas tree at home? Make sure to place it away from heat sources such as fireplaces, vents or radiators.
In 2012 the most frequently reported holiday decorating incidents seen in emergency departments involved falls, lacerations and back strains.
Avoid a Health Crisis
It is not just accidents that can land you in the ER over the holidays; there can be other factors as well:
- Outsmart germs: Infections spread easily where people congregate—shopping malls, holiday parties, theatres, and family dinners, to name a few. So practice good hygiene throughout the holiday season. Your best defense is to wash your hands throughout the day.
- Pack your medication: In the hustle and bustle of packing gifts and food for holiday travels, it’s easy to leave your prescription medications behind. So double check that your medications are packed and that you have enough to make it through your travels.
- Stressing out: Are you are super stressed before taking a holiday vacation? The increased cortisol levels induce a likelihood of infection during the holidays. Cortisol is a natural hormone that responds to stress, lowering immunity and making you more susceptible to infections.
- Take symptoms seriously: Fatal heart attacks spike during the holidays, in part because people on vacation often delay getting care. If you think you’re having a heart attack, stroke or any other serious health problem go to the ER immediately.
It is also important to remember to always check your insurance coverage before you head out of town. Emergencies such as broken bones or heart attacks are usually covered outside of your network area, but doctor’s visits may not be. Make sure to bring your health insurance card with you too!
What IAA has to Say
According to a recent study, diabetes is on the rise. There are 29.1 million Americans or 9.3 percent of the population with diabetes, up from 25.8 million in 2010. The prevalence of diabetes in children also shot up dramatically between 2000 and 2009. The rate of Type II diabetes in children rose more than 30% during this period.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a disease where there is too much sugar in the blood. The body normally converts the sugar/carbohydrates we eat into energy that cells can use to function. Insulin, a hormone that is secreted from the pancreas, is the hormone responsible for converting the sugars/carbohydrates into the energy that the cells need. A diabetic is someone who has too much sugar in the blood because the conversion of the sugar/carbohydrates into energy never happens.
There are two different forms of diabetes:
- Type I: Usually diagnosed in children and young adults. Type I does not produce insulin, without insulin the body cannot convert the sugar/carbohydrates into energy. The sugars ingested remain in the blood.
- Type II: In this type, the body does not make enough insulin or the cells in the body “ignore” the insulin that is produced.
There are 86 million Americans with pre-diabetes, up from 79 million in 2010.
Signs and Symptoms
It is important to try and diagnose diabetes as early as possible. Signs and symptoms of the disease are:
- Blurred vision
- Extreme fatigue or irritability
- Extreme hunger
- Frequent infections
- Frequent urination
- Sores that are slow to heal
- Unusual thirst
- Unusual weight loss
Uncontrolled diabetes or diabetics with blood sugar that is consistently too high can experience health issues such as:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Kidney failure
There are 8.1 million people who have diabetes, but have gone undiagnosed.
Diabetes and You
There are a number of ways that you can help treat and prevent diabetes:
- Be active: Daily physical activity is important for weight control and blood sugar regulation.
- Healthy eating: Promotes weight control. Try eating smaller portions, less fat, more fiber, and cutting down on sugary drinks.
- Pat attention to your feet: High blood sugar can damage nerves in your feet and reduce blood flow to your feet. Left untreated, cuts and blisters can lead to serious infections.
- Take care of your teeth: Diabetes may leave you prone to gum infections.
- Take stress seriously: If you’re stressed it is easy to neglect your usual diabetes care routine. The hormones your body may produce in response to prolonged stress may prevent insulin from working properly, which only makes matters worse.
- Weight loss: Research has shown it only takes a modest amount of weight loss (five to seven percent of your total body weight) to reduce your risk for the development of diabetes. Being overweight or obese is a risk factor for Type II diabetes. The reason weight is related to the development of diabetes is that weight inhibits the body’s ability to make or use insulin properly.
While diabetes may require changes to your lifestyle, it is important to make those changes part of your daily life.
What IAA has to Say
Insurance Administrator of America wants you to take the time to learn about preventing diabetes. With diabetes on the rise in both adults and children, IAA does not want you to become part of the statistic.
Insurance Administrator of America is excited to offer “My Wellness” a program that clients receive for free, which can help improve their personal health and wellness. My Wellness offers everything from coaching to health and fitness programs. Own a Fitbit? Clients can help track their success through the Fitbit. A great aspect of My Wellness is the way employees can use whatever parts of the program that suits them. There are plenty of wellness tools to meet the needs of every employee. Contact your IAA Client Advocate for more information. Remember, with IAA one call does it all.
Now that it is becoming darker earlier in the evenings, some people may have trouble seeing when coming home from work. Those who have this issue may have a condition called night blindness.
What is Night Blindness?
Night blindness is a medical condition that affects a person’s ability to see things clearly at night or in an environment with dim or no light. Night blindness is due to a disorder of cells in the retina that are responsible for vision in dim light.
The causes of night blindness are:
- Cataracts: One of the most common causes of night blindness, cataracts are a formation of cloudy areas that develops around one’s eyes as one grows older in age. A person’s vision deteriorates over time, eventually resulting in night blindness.
- Glaucoma: This condition develops when there is too much fluid pressure inside the eye. It occurs when the normal flow of the watery fluid between the cornea and the lens of the eye is blocked.
- Myopia: Another term for nearsightedness.
- Poor nutrition: Though uncommon, vitamin A deficiency can cause night blindness. Vitamin A keeps our skin and eyes healthy. An inadequate supply of vitamin A to the body can result in night blindness over a period of time.
- Retinitis pigmentosa: A rare genetic disorder.
Night blindness is not a disease, but rather a symptom of an underlying disorder or problem. The treatment of night blindness will depend on the cause.
How Your Vision Works
In a normal, healthy eye, light enters the pupil and passes through the lens, which focuses it and directs it to the retina on the back of the eye where images form. The retina contains two kinds of photoreceptors: cones and rods. Cones enable us to see when it is light. They give us color vision and allow us to see details, like words on a page. Rods, on the other hand, are very sensitive. They provide only black and white images, which is critically important for night vision.
In dim light or darkness, eyes adapt by widening the pupils to let in as much light as possible. The iris (the colored part of the eye surrounding the pupil) contains muscles that control the size of the pupil. As you get older, those muscles weaken and do not respond as well. The result is a small pupil when you try to see in poor light.
There is also evidence that we lose more rods as we age, partially explaining why night vision worsens over time.
In the years after you turn 60, a number of eye diseases may develop that can change your vision permanently:
- Age related macular degeneration: An eye disease affecting the macula, the center of the light sensitive retina at the back of the eye, causing the loss of central vision. The macula is the part of the retina that allows us to see fine details and colors. Activities like reading, driving, watching TV, and recognizing faces, all require good central vision provided by the macula.
- Dry eye: A condition in which there is an insufficient amount of tears or a poor quality of tears to lubricate and nourish the eye. Tears are necessary for maintaining the health of the front surface of the eye and for providing clear vision.
- Retinal detachment: The tearing or separation of the retina from the underlying tissue.
What IAA has to Say
Insurance Administrator of America knows how important your eyes are. To make sure you are seeing clearly, it is important to get your eyes checked, especially if you have had issues in the past or are currently experiencing problems. IAA wants your eyes to be in the best shape they can be! Remember, with IAA one call does it all.
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As cold weather is quickly settling in, some people may be starting to feel the winter blues. For some, it could be more than just the change in the weather. Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.) is a type of depression that occurs at a certain time of year, usually in the winter.
Symptoms of S.A.D
Symptoms of S.A.D usually build up slowly in the late autumn and winter months. Symptoms of S.A.D are:
- Heavy leaden feeling in the arms and legs
- Increased appetite (especially a craving for carbohydrates) with weight gain
- Increased sleep
- Less energy and ability to concentrate
- Loss of interest in work or other activities
- Sluggish movements
- Social withdrawal
- Unhappiness and irritability
As with other types of depression, antidepressant medicines and talk therapy can be effective. There is another form of therapy, called light therapy that may be able to reduce symptoms as well. Light therapy involves the use of light boxes. Light boxes use fluorescent lights that are brighter than indoor lights, but not as bright as sunlight. There are two types of light therapy:
- Bright light treatment: For this treatment you place a light box at a certain distance from you at a desk or table and sit.
- Dawn simulation: For this treatment, a dim light goes on in the morning while you sleep and it gets brighter over time, like a sunrise.
Getting more sunlight may help too, so try to go outside to exercise when the sun is shining. Be active during the daytime, especially early in the day, as it may help you to have more energy.
Causes of S.A.D
The specific cause of S.A.D remains unknown. Some factors that may contribute to S.A.D are:
- Melatonin levels: The change in season can disrupt the balance of the body’s level of melatonin, which plays a role in sleep patterns and mood.
- Serotonin levels: Reduced sunlight can cause a drop in serotonin (a brain chemical that affects mood) that may trigger depression.
- Your biological clock (circadian rhythm): The decrease in sunlight during the winter may disrupt your body’s internal clock and lead to feelings of depression.
Some risk factors of S.A.D are:
- Age: Young people have a higher risk of S.A.D.
- Being female: S.A.D is diagnosed more often in women than in men.
- Family history: People with S.A.D may be more likely to have blood relatives with S.A.D or another form of depression.
- Living far from the equator: S.A.D appears to be more common among people who live far north or south of the equator. This may be due to decreased sunlight during the winter days and longer days during the summer months.
It can be hard to tell the difference between S.A.D and other types of depression, which is why it is important to check in with your doctor and get a proper diagnosis.
A minority of people have disruptive seasonal mood swings that go beyond feeling uncomfortable on hot summer days.
Those with summer S.A.D (about 0.7 percent of the population) become depressed between May and September. Those with summer S.A.D experience symptoms of insomnia, decreased appetite, agitation, and weight loss.
What IAA has to Say
Insurance Administrator of America knows that sometimes winter can bring people down. Just make sure that it is not affecting your daily life. IAA wants you to remain your cheery self all year long, so don’t let winter get you down! Remember, with IAA one call does it all.
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Insurance Administrator of America is excited to introduce “My Wellness” a program that can help you improve your personal health and wellness.
What My Wellness can Offer
The My Wellness portal offers a variety of resources for employers and employees alike. Some of the health and wellness tools offered are:
- Health and fitness programs
- Health coaching
- Healthy recipes
- Fitness tracking tools
- Personal health profile
- Wellness competition portal
- Wellness tips
- Wellness to-do list
- Wellness tutorials
A great aspect of My Wellness is the way employees can use whatever parts of the portal which suits them. There are plenty of wellness tools to meet the needs of every employee. Does one employee want to lose pounds by eating healthier, while another is all about tracking their steps? Both can find what they are looking for in this new portal.
Have a Friendly Competition
Are you looking for ways to get your employees moving? My Wellness has just the tool for you—employee wellness competitions. There are a number of employee wellness competitions for employers and employees to choose from:
- Choose to Lose
- Choose to Move
- Walk America
Find out which competition is right for your employees:
- Choose to Lose: A fun interactive weight loss challenge that will help employees track percentage of weight loss. In this competition, employees will learn to eat healthier, fit exercise into their daily routine and more. This is all done while eating the right foods, getting fitter and getting healthier. Here is how it works:
- Start losing: Eat healthier, exercise more, gain momentum, learn what works for you, and watch the number on the scale go down.
- Track your weight loss: Visit your competition website daily to track your progress. Aim to lose the largest percentage of weight.
- Choose to Move: A fitness challenge that will help employees rack up minutes of exercise in the hopes of out-moving the competition. Here is how it works:
- Get moving: Burn calories, get fit and have fun
- Track your minutes: Visit the competition site to track your progress, work to meet or surpass weekly exercise goals and celebrate your victories.
- Walk America: Virtually walk from New York City to San Francisco. Here is how it works:
- Get moving
- Check out eight cities: Virtually visit the world’s largest man made monument, stroll through America’s second most populous city and dip your toes in the largest salt lake in the world.
- Track your steps
Of course, you can always be creative and create your own competition! All competitions can be done individually or in groups.
For those in charge of the competition, they can send out directions on how to register and other promotional materials.
How IAA can Help
IAA is proud to offer health and wellness tools to clients. When exercise and healthy food are turned into something fun, everyone benefits. IAA wants clients to go and try out My Wellness and find something that can help turn their exercise and eating habits around. Not sure if you’ll be able to cross that competition finish line? Just think of IAA cheering you on to better health. Remember, with IAA one call does it all.