The Hidden Sodium in our Snacks

February 25th, 2015

Salt shakerWhen the snow falls and the cold winter weather makes us want to stay indoors, snacks and microwavable meals may seem like the ideal food solution. Unfortunately, snacks, frozen meals and even food at restaurants can be overloaded with sodium which is harmful to your health.

Sodium is Everywhere

The human body needs a small amount of sodium to maintain a balance of fluids, to keep muscles and nerves running smoothly, and to help certain organs work properly.  When there’s extra sodium in your bloodstream it pulls water into your blood vessels, increasing the total volume of blood inside. With more blood flowing through, blood pressure increases.  Excess sodium can increase your blood pressure and your risk for heart disease and stroke.

Americans get most of their daily sodium (more than 75%) from processed and restaurant foods. Sodium is already in these foods when you purchase them, which makes it difficult to reduce daily sodium intake on your own. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that everyone age two and up should consume 2,400 milligrams (mg) or less of sodium a day.

Learn to Read the Signs

The Nutrition Facts Label lists the Percent Daily Value (%DV) of sodium in one serving of food. The Percent Daily Value is based on 100% of the recommended amount of sodium (which is less than 2,400 mg per day).

 While the Percent Daily Value is listed for one serving, many packages contain more than one serving. Look at the serving size and see how many servings you are actually consuming. If you eat two servings, you are actually getting twice as much sodium (or double the %DV).  Make sure you understand what the %DV is telling you:

  • 5%DV (120 mg) or less of sodium per serving is low
  • 20% DV (480 mg) or more of sodium is high

Check the front of food packages as well to identify foods that may contain less sodium. You may find these labels:

  • Light in sodium or lightly salted: At least 50% less sodium than the regular product.
  • Low sodium: 140 mg or less of sodium per serving.
  • No salt added or unsalted: No salt is added during processing, but not necessarily sodium free.
  • Reduced sodium: At least 25% less sodium than in the original product.
  • Salt/sodium free: Less than 5 mg of sodium per serving.
  • Very low sodium: 35 mg of sodium or less per serving.

Cut Down on the Sodium

Americans are ingesting too much sodium! Try cutting down your sodium intake:

  • Add flavor without adding sodium: Use herbs and spices to add flavor to your foods.
  • Consider your condiments: Sodium in soy sauce, ketchup, salad dressing, and seasoning packets can add up.
  • Examine your dairy products: Choose fat-free or low-fat milk products.
  • Get fresh when you can: Buy fresh or frozen poultry, pork and lean meat rather than canned, smoked or processed.
  • Prepare your own food when you can: Don’t salt food before or during cooking and limit salt shaker use at the table.
  • Speak up at restaurants: Ask to see the nutrition information in restaurants and choose a lower sodium option.
  • Unsalt your snacks: Choose unsalted snack products that are marked low sodium or no salt added.

One estimate suggests that if Americans moved to an average intake of 1,500 mg a day of sodium it could result in a 25.6% overall decrease in blood pressure and an estimated $26.2 billion in healthcare savings.

What IAA has to Say

Insurance Administrator of America wants you to cut down on your sodium! While snacks may taste good, they are not so great for your overall health. When you go down those grocery store aisles, think of IAA reminding you to put down the chips and pick up the fresh vegetables.

Interested in reading more on this issue? Click here.

 

Winter Weather Could be Harmful to Your Feet

February 18th, 2015

BootsWhen damp and cold winter weather conditions set in, people’s feet can be at risk. What may seem like a simple cold and damp foot could turn into something potentially dangerous.

Cold Feet Conditions

Whenever temperatures drop below normal and as wind speed increases, heat can rapidly leave your body. When this happens it leaves your feet at potential risk for a variety of issues:

  • Chilblains: Chilblains are caused by the repeated exposure of skin temperatures just above freezing to as high as 60°F. The cold exposure causes permanent damage to the capillary beds (groups of small blood vessels) in the skin. Symptoms include:
  1. Redness
  2. Itching
  3. Possible blistering
  4. Inflammation
  5. Possible ulceration in severe cases
  • Frostbite: Frostbite is an injury to the body that is caused by freezing. Frostbite causes a loss of feeling and color in affected areas. Frostbite can permanently damage body tissues and in severe cases can lead to amputation. Symptoms of frostbite include:
  1. Reduced blood flow to the hands and feet (fingers and toes can freeze)
  2. Numbness
  3. Tingling or stinging
  4. Aching
  5. Bluish, pale or waxy skin
  • Trench foot: Trench foot, also known as immersion foot, is an injury of the feet resulting from prolonged exposure to wet and cold conditions. Trench foot can occur at temperatures as high as 60°F if the feet are constantly wet. Injury occurs because wet feet lose heat 25 times faster than dry feet. Therefore, to prevent heat loss the body constricts blood vessels to shut down circulation in the feet. Skin tissue begins to die because of lack of oxygen and nutrients. Symptoms of trench foot include:
  1. Reddening of the skin
  2. Numbness
  3. Leg cramps
  4. Swelling
  5. Tingling pain
  6. Blisters or ulcers
  7. Bleeding under the skin
  8. Gangrene (the foot may turn dark purple, blue or gray)

It is important to keep your feet covered in the cold. Make sure boots are waterproof and insulated. 

When Cold Feet are not From Cold Weather

Shivering on a chilly day is often an inescapable part of winter, and usually nothing serious. There are times, however, when feeling cold cannot be cured by an extra sweater. Feeling cold can be a sign of ill health or an underlying medical condition:

  • Acrocyanosis: A persistent blueness to the extremities (hands, feet or face). Acrocyanosis is typically symmetrical and is marked by mottled blue or red discoloration of the skin on the fingers and the wrists, the toes and the ankles, and the face.
  • Diabetes: Diabetes can lead to feet feeling numb and tingly. It is caused by nerve damage or neuropathy. The result is you may be less able to feel cold or pain and this loss of sensation could lead to skin damage.
  • Raynaud’s disease:  Raynaud’s disease is a common condition that affects blood supply to parts of the body, particularly to the fingers and toes. Raynaud’s is usually triggered by cold weather, anxiety or stress. Blood vessels go into a temporary spasm which blocks the flow of blood. Affected areas turn white, then blue and finally change to red as the blood flow returns.

Your feet may be cold from something that may be going on inside your body, not the weather outside.

What IAA has to Say

Insurance Administrator of America wants you feet to be wrapped up tight! Feet are affected by the weather so it is important to have proper winter boots. Just think of IAA as your third party shoe salesman, reminding you that your feet need protection from the winter cold.

Interested in reading a similar blog post? Click here.

National Eating Disorder Awareness Week: February 22nd-28th

February 11th, 2015

Eating Disorder SymbolEating disorders are a group of serious conditions in which a person is so preoccupied with food and weight that they can often focus on little else.

Types of Eating Disorders

Eating disorders can cause serious physical problems and at their most severe, can even be life-threatening. The different types of eating disorders are:

  • Anorexia Nervosa: A person with anorexia may have an intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat. Someone with anorexia may practice unhealthy behaviors such as restricting calories, only eating specific foods or skipping meals frequently.
  • Binge Eating Disorder: This disorder involves eating very large amounts of food rapidly (to the point of feeling sick or uncomfortable). These episodes of binging occur frequently. When binge eating, a person feels like they cannot stop eating or control how much is eaten.
  • Bulimia Nervosa: Someone with bulimia may eat large amounts of food in a short period of time (binge) and then eliminate the food and calories (purge).
  • Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder (OSFED): OSFED is a feeding or eating disorder that causes significant distress or impairment, but does not meet the criteria for another feeding or eating disorder.

The exact cause of eating disorders is unknown. Possible causes of eating disorders include:

  • Biology: There may be genes that make certain people more vulnerable to developing eating disorders. People with first degree relatives (siblings or parents) with an eating disorder may be more likely to develop an eating disorder too, suggesting a possible genetic link.
  • Psychological and emotional health: People with eating disorders may have psychological and emotional problems that contribute to the disorder. They may have low self-esteem, perfectionism, impulsive behavior, and troubled relationships.
  •   Society: Our culture often cultivates and reinforces a desire for thinness. Success and worth are often equated with being thin in popular culture.

It is estimated that eating disorders affect over 30 million people in the United States.

Signs and Symptoms

Eating disorder signs and symptoms may vary with the particular type of eating disorder.

  • Anorexia Nervosa:
  1. Refusal to eat and denial of hunger
  2. An intense fear of gaining weight
  3. A negative distorted body image
  4. Excessive exercise
  5. Flat mood or lack of emotion
  6. Fear of eating in public
  7. Preoccupation with food
  8. Social withdrawal
  9. Thin appearance
  10. Trouble sleeping
  11. Soft downy hair present on the body
  12. Constipation
  13. Abdominal pain
  14. Dry skin
  15. Frequently being cold
  16. Irregular heart rhythms
  17. Low blood pressure
  18. Dehydration
  • Binge Eating Disorder:
  1. Eating to the point of discomfort or pain
  2. Eating more food during a binge episode than during a normal meal or snack
  3. Eating faster during a binge episode
  4. Feeling that your eating behavior is out of control
  5. Frequently eating alone
  6. Feeling depressed, disgusted or upset over the amount eaten  
  • Bulimia Nervosa:
  1. Eating until the point of discomfort or pain, often with high fat or sweet foods
  2. Self-induced vomiting
  3. Laxative use
  4. Excessive exercise
  5. An unhealthy focus on body shape and weight
  6. Going to the bathroom after eating or during meals
  7. A feeling that you can’t control your eating behavior
  8. Abnormal bowel functioning
  9. Damaged teeth and gums
  10. Swollen salivary glands in the cheeks
  11. Dehydration
  12. Irregular heartbeat
  13. Sores, scars or calluses on the knuckles or hands
  14. Consistent dieting or fasting

Treatments for eating disorders usually involve:

  • Family counseling
  • Hospitalization
  • Medication
  • Nutrition education
  • Psychotherapy

Research shows that 35% of “normal dieters” progress to pathological dieting and of those, 20-25% continue on to develop partial or full-syndrome eating disorders.

What IAA has to Say

Insurance Administrator of America wants you to support Eating Disorders Awareness Week. Send this blog post out to colleagues, family and friends. You never know who it could help! IAA wants everyone to lead a healthy life and sometimes the first step is learning how to properly take care of your body.

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

 

IAA Helps Lower Prescription Costs With a Discount Card

February 4th, 2015

Prescription bottleInsurance Administrator of America wants you to be in the loop about value added products.  IAA has teamed up with the National Prescription Savings Network to offer the IAA NPSN Rx Savings Card. This card is available to anyone, even if you are not enrolled in a public or private healthcare plan.

How the Card can Help

The IAA NPSN Rx Savings Card can be a helpful tool for brokers, employers and employees. Some benefits of this card are:

  • Accepted almost everywhere: More than 50,000 participate throughout the country. This includes nearly every major pharmacy chain as well as thousands of independent ones. 
  • Affordable: The card is designed to help people afford their prescription costs. The discount provides card carriers with relief from the already high and continually rising cost of prescription medications.
  • Free and available to everyone via the IAA website
  • Lowest prices: Discounts range up to 75% off the retail price, but the average discount is nearly 50%.
  • Medications: All medications are eligible for discounts. This includes over- the- counter medications as well as diabetes supplies.  The card covers every FDA approved prescription medication. 
  • No restrictions: No paper enrollment forms, no fees, no eligibility required, no age or income requirements, no waiting period, no exclusions, and no limits.

Over 7.5 million participants have saved over $750 million to date on their prescription medications.

Who can Benefit From This Card?

Not sure if this card is right for you or your broker client? Does your situation fit into one of the following categories?

  • Covered by a High Deductible Plan that doesn’t offer  discounts until your deductible is satisfied
  • Medicare “donut hole”
  • Purchasing prescriptions not covered by your insurer’s formulary
  • Uninsured
  • Under insured

If you are a broker who has a client with employees that fit into these categories, this savings card could help the life of their business. Healthy employees equates to a healthy business. 

How IAA can Help

When it comes to prescription benefits, IAA is there for you! To enroll for a free card, simply fill out the online form and one will be sent to you. Once you have received your card, you can use it at any participating pharmacy. One out of three Americans lack adequate prescription coverage, this card can help. Remember, with IAA one call does it all.

Interested in reading more about how IAA can help you? Click here and here.

Health in the News: The Mouse Meets the Measles

January 28th, 2015

measles stop signDisneyland is now not only home to the famous mouse, but to a measles outbreak. Numerous individuals who visited the theme park between December 15th and 20th came down with the measles. As of January 19th, 52 cases of the measles can be linked to the outbreak beginning at Disneyland.

What are the Measles?

Measles is a very contagious infection that causes a rash all over your body. The measles is caused by a virus that replicates in the nose and throat of an infected person. It is spread when an infected person coughs, sneezes or shares food or drinks. The measles virus can travel through the air. This means you can get measles if you are near someone who has the virus, even if that person doesn’t cough or sneeze directly on you.

The symptoms of the measles generally appear about seven to 14 days after a person is infected. Symptoms include:

  • Cough
  • High fever
  • Red, watery eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Swollen lymph nodes

Two to three days after symptoms begin; tiny white spots may appear inside the mouth. Three to four days after symptoms begin, a rash breaks out. It usually begins as flat red spots that appear on the face at the hairline and spread downward to the neck, trunk, arms, legs, and feet. Small red bumps may also appear on top of the flat red spots.

You can spread the virus to others from four days before the rash starts until four days after the rash appears.

Learning From Disneyland

Measles was declared eliminated from the United States in 2000. This means that it is no longer endemic—it does not continually circulate within the U.S. but can still come from outside U.S. borders.  So how did the Disneyland outbreak happen?

While we may never know who patient zero was, it was someone who was not vaccinated.  It spread to so many people, because many who were infected were not vaccinated against the virus. The Disneyland outbreak illustrates two things: it only takes one person to start an outbreak, and the best protection against the outbreak’s growth is herd immunity.

Herd immunity occurs when a population has a high level of immunity, thereby ensuring a disease can’t travel very far within a community (the measles traveled from California to three other states as well). While immunity may have been derived from having a vaccine-preventable disease in the past, today it is generally derived from vaccines.

Protection against the measles is delivered within the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine. When your child receives both MMR shots, it brings the effectiveness up to 99%. An unvaccinated person is 35 times more likely to catch measles than a vaccinated person.

Why Vaccinations are Important

What happened in Disneyland shows the importance of vaccinations. If more people had been vaccinated, the outbreak would not have spread as far.  Children should become vaccinated because:

  • Vaccinations can save your child’s life: Some diseases that once injured or killed thousands of children, have been eliminated completely and others are close to extinction, primarily due to safe and effective vaccines.
  • Vaccination is safe and effective: Vaccines are only given to children after a long and careful review by scientists, doctors and healthcare professionals.
  • Vaccinations protect those you care about: Children in the U.S. still get vaccine preventable diseases. Unfortunately, some babies are too young to be vaccinated and some people may not be able to receive certain vaccinations due to medical conditions. To help keep them safe, it is important that you and your children who are able to get vaccinated are fully immunized.  

If we continue vaccinating now, parents in the future may be able to trust that some diseases of today will no longer be around to harm children in the future.

What IAA has to Say

Insurance Administrator of America wants you to be up on your vaccinations.  Vaccinations help protect not only you, but those around you. IAA can help employers build a plan that will help cover childhood vaccinations for employee dependents. Most insurance plans now cover vaccinations at 100%. Remember, with IAA one call does it all.

Interested in reading a similar blog post? Click here.