April is Stress Awareness Month

Everyone has stress. Sometimes we have short-term stress, the kind that hits us when we get lost while driving or when we are late for an appointment. Even everyday events, such as dealing with difficult family members, or making time for errands can cause stress. This kind of stress can make us feel worried or anxious. Other times, we face long term stress, such as facing a chronic illness, dealing with death, divorce, or financial troubles. This kind of stress can affect your health on many levels, and can be a contributing factor in depression. Research shows how stress triggers changes in our bodies and makes us more likely to get sick. It can worsen problems we already have and can play a part in the following issues:
  • Trouble Sleeping
  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Lack of Energy
  • Heart Problems
  • Lack of Concentration
  • Anger
  • Stomach Cramping
  • Skin Problems (Hives)
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Weight Gain or Loss
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Neck and/or Back Pain
  • Asthma/Arthritis Flare-Ups
Stress Reducers - The first step is to recognize when you’re feeling stressed. The next step is to choose a way to deal with your stress. One way to choice the event o thing that causes the stress—but this is not always possible. We have to learn to change how we react to stress. There are many ways we can reduce stress levels. Some of then include: Fine time to relax: It’s important to take time for yourself and unwind. This may include a hot bath, listening to soothing music, or reading. Sleep: When the body is well-rested, the defense systems works better. Try to get 7-9 hour of sleep each night. Eat Right: Fuel up with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and proteins. Avoid caffeine and sugar. Talk to Friends: Friends can be good listeners. Finding someone who will listen freely without judging does a world of good. Get help from a professional: Talk to a therapist for help navigate stresses. Write down your thoughts: Just put your feelings to paper as a release. Set Limits: Figure out what you can really do. There are only so many hours in a day. Plan your time: Planning ahead is one single most effective ways to reduce stress from the demands on our time.  

March is National Nutrition Month

March is National Nutrition Month Everyone has heard the phrase, “You are what you eat.”  That phrase has never been more important than it is today, given the variety of snack foods and fast-food diets.  National Nutrition Month, which is celebrated in March, is an excuse to step back and take stock of what we are really eating.  “Mindful” eating is important.  Some people find it helpful to keep a food journal and are often shocked at the number of empty calories, or the wrong kinds of calories being consumed in a day. Make a meal plan and make sure it’s balanced; include healthy carbs, proteins, and fiber.  Allow yourself some cheat days every now and again. Why is it important to have a “National Nutrition Month?”  Hopefully, it promotes healthier living.  A country with healthy citizens is bound to be more productive, and a productive economy is always good news, all around.  The more a healthier diet is promoted, the greater the chance for healthy lifestyles for all ages. Healthier eating does not mean compromising on your love for food.  It means adopting a more balanced approach instead.  Ingredients in your favorite recipes can be substituted for healthier options, such as substituting yogurt for sour cream. You can find an ingredient/food substitution list at www.heart.org. The internet is full of useful sites to help you make better-informed nutrition choices.  Some of those sites are: www.choosemyplate.gov www.eatright.org www.nutrition.gov www.healthierus.gov www.diabetes.org www.heart.org www.usda.gov   With the hope of combating childhood and adult obesity in America (both on the rise), sound nutritional information and practices become ever important to the well-being of our citizens and economy.

2019 Top 100 Critical Access Hospital

Bear Lake Memorial Hospital in Montpelier, ID scored in the Top 100 Critical Access Hospitals (CAH) in the United States by iVantage Health Analytics and The Chartis Center for Rural Health. This recognition is regarded as one of the industry’s most significant designations of performance excellence. Bear Lake Memorial is one of over 1300 Critical Access Hospitals surveyed nationally. This is the third year in a row the hospital has received this recognition additionally in 2018 they ranked as a Top 20 CAH by the National Rural Health Association. “In an era of increased complexity and uncertainty, Top 100 hospitals have established themselves as a bellwether for rural provider performance,” said Michael Topchik, National Leader of The Chartis Center for Rural Health. “Top 100 status is a real indicator of how proactive these hospitals are when it comes to pushing for performance improvement in areas such as quality, outcomes, patient safety, market share and finance.” Measurements like these reinforce Bear Lake Memorial’s high standards of quality healthcare and their vision of being most caring to the visitors and residents of the Bear Lake Valley and surrounding areas.

Having Sleeping Issues?

Sleep Apnea Sleep Apnea, the repeated stopping and starting of your breathing while you sleep, can be a serious risk to your health. Untreated sleep apnea has been linked to high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, liver problems, and possibly even dementia. Sleep Apnea Facts Sleep apnea affects up to 18 million Americans. People with sleep apnea can stop breathing as many as 30 times or more each night. Often a spouse or family member is the first to notice signs of sleep apnea in someone. The condition affects about 4 percent of middle-aged men and 2 percent of middle –aged women. Men, in general, suffer from sleep apnea more often than women. Children can also have sleep apnea. Sleep apnea in children has been linked to attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. (ADHD) Some studies suggest that sleep apnea runs in families. People with sleep apnea are three times more likely to be involved in motor vehicle accidents. People with sleep apnea sometimes fall asleep unexpectedly during the day, such as while talking on the phone or driving. Risk factors for sleep apnea include being overweight and having a large neck. Losing even 10 percent of body weight can help reduce the number of times a person with sleep apnea stops breathing during sleep. Smoking and alcohol use increase the risk of sleep apnea. Continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, is the most common, noninvasive treatment for moderate to severe sleep apnea. If you think you may have sleep apnea, lifestyle changes such as losing weight, avoiding alcohol before bedtime and quitting smoking can help. A primary care physician can refer you to a specialist to be evaluated for sleep apnea. Most of the time, a sleep test, or polysomnography, is conducted overnight at a sleep center.  If you are wary of spending the night in a strange bed and being hooked up to an array of equipment, then you can ask your doctor about possibly doing a home test.

7 Tips to Help Your Body Cope With Winter

The season of biting winds and below zero temperatures makes one want to stay indoors and hibernate.  Though we are “toughened” Bear Lakers, winter can and does take its toll on our minds and bodies. Here are seven tips to help protect yourself mentally and physically during the winter season.
  1. Keep the winter blues at bay- Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is responsible for an estimated 10 to 20 percent of recurring cases of depression in American women. Symptoms include feelings of sadness, irritability, anxiety, and exhaustion.  This condition can be a result of the extra hours of darkness on the shorter winter days. Light therapy and antidepressants, as well as exercise and social interaction, seem to help. Talk with your doctor about for further information about ways to cope with SAD.
  2. Stay Hydrated-Losing just one percent of the water in our bodies can cause dehydration. Even in winter one needs to be vigilant about getting enough water each day.  Fruits and veggies are packed with water, so eating plenty of those helps.
  3. Fight Dry Skin- Cold weather plus dry heat often results in crackly skin. Drinking plenty of water is necessary but may not be enough to fight off dry skin.  Hydration in all forms, including lotion and lip balm can help.
  4. Stay Safe in the Snow-Shoveling snow can be a literal pain. An average of 11,500 snow shoveling-related accidents are treated in emergency rooms each year.  More than half are pulled muscle injuries.  If you plan to shovel snow, walk around and warm up your muscles first, and be sure to “push” the shovel out of the way, rather than lifting it.
  5. Ward off the flu- Getting a flu shot, washing hands frequently, and eating a healthy diet are ways to help protect our bodies against those nasty flu viruses
  6. Keep Active-Despite those well-meaning New Year’s resolutions, we tend to exercise about five percent less in winter than in summer. Exercising in short spurts, such as walking in place while watching TV, going for a brisk walk around the block, or taking the stairs a few extra times are all ways of increasing physical activity.
  7. Keep Your Energy Up- Shorter days tend to make us sleepier because of the production of melatonin, the hormone that regulates our sleep cycles. Getting seven to eight hours of sleep a night, eating regular healthy meals, and staying physically active are all ways of improving energy levels.  If all else fails, have a good laugh-----studies show that humor can increase energy!

How You React to Stress May Predict Brain Health

 New research finds that our response to even minor daily stressors, such as getting stuck in traffic or waiting too long at the supermarket, can affect how healthy our brain is, particularly into old age. Prolonged chronic stress can lead to a wide range of adverse health consequences, from diabetes and heart disease, to mental health conditions, such as depression, burn-out, post-traumatic stress disorder, and even schizophrenia.  Zooming in on the effects that stress has on the brain, recent studies have suggested that high levels of the stress hormone cortisol may impair memory. How do small daily stressors affect the brain?  New research, led by Robert Stawski, an associate professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at Oregon’s State University in Corvallis, suggests that it is not so much the stressful events in themselves, but our reactions to them that harm our brain health. One study, done during a 2.5 years period, examined senior’s cognitive health using standardized assessments every 6 months.  Some of these assessments included asking the seniors to look at two sets of numbers and then say if the same numbers appeared in the two sets, even if not in the same order.  Overall, the study found that people whose response to daily stressors involved more negative emotions and were of higher intensity had higher inconsistencies in their response time, suggesting poorer mental focus and brain health. The research revealed significant age differences.  For instance, the older participants-those in their late 70’s to early 90’s-were most affected.  That is, the higher the stress reaction, the less cognitive function. However, for those in their late 60’s to mid 70’s, more stress seemed to benefit cognitive health in some cases.  These people may have had a more active life-style to begin with, or more social and professional engagement, which sharpens mental function. The results confirm that people’s daily emotions and how they react to stress will affect brain health and function.  It’s not the stressor that contributes to mental declines, but how a person responds that affects the brain.   *The finding s in this study are available in Psychosomatic Medicine, the journal of the American Psychosomatic Society.

November is Alzheimer Awareness Month

Memory loss that disrupts daily life may be a symptom of Alzheimer’s or other dementia.  Alzheimer’s is a brain disease that causes a slow decline in memory, thinking, and reasoning skills  Here are 10 warning signs: 1.Memory loss that disrupts daily life One of the most common signs of the disease, especially in the early stage, is forgetting recently learned information, or forgetting important dates or events.  Some people ask for the same information over and over again, or have to rely more and more on reminder notes. What’s a typical age-related change? Sometimes forgetting names or appointments but remembering them later.
  1. Challenges in planning or solving problems. 
Some people experience changes in their ability to follow a plan or work with numbers.  They may have trouble following a familiar recipe or keeping track of monthly bills. They find it difficult to concentrate and take much longer to do things than they did before. What’s a typical age related problem? Making occasional errors when balancing a checkbook.
  1. Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home or at work.
Sometimes, people have trouble driving to a familiar location, managing a budget or remembering the rules of a favorite game. What’s a typical age-related problem? Occasionally needing help to use the settings on a microwave or to record a television show.
  1. Confusion with time or place
People with Alzheimer’s can lose track of dates, seasons and the passage of time. Sometimes they forget where they are or how they got there. What’s a typical age-related problem? Forgetting what day of the week it is, but figuring it out later.
  1. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
For some people, having vision problems is a sign of Alzheimer’s.  They may have difficulty judging distance and determining color or contrast, which may cause problems with driving. What’s a typical age-relate problem? Vision changes related to cataracts.
  1. New problems with words in speaking or writing
People with Alzheimer’s may have trouble following or joining a conversation. They may stop in the middle of a conversation and have no idea how to continue.  They may struggle with vocabulary or have trouble finding the right word.  (like calling a watch a “hand-clock) What’s a typical age-related problem? Sometimes having trouble finding the right word.

Avoiding SCAMS

SSA and IRS SCAM ALERT!  Anyone can become a victim of Identity theft and seniors are one of the biggest targets.  It is important to always stay vigilant in protecting your social security number and other personal information.  Be informed and be aware because scammers are creative and determined. The Acting Inspector General of Social Security, Gale Stallworth Stone, is warning citizens about ongoing Social Security Administration impersonation schemes.  The Social Security Administration (SSA) and the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) have recently received several reports of suspicious phone calls from people who claim to be with the IRS or the SSA.  Here is a list of a few of their tactics:
  • A person receives an automated phone call stating that their social security number has been suspended for suspicious illegal activity.  The person is given a phone number to call to immediately resolve the issue. The call concludes by stating that if the person doesn’t contact the provided phone number, the person’s assets will be frozen until the alleged issue is resolved.  When the victim returns the call, they are immediately asked to provide a date of birth and their social security number.
  • Someone claiming to be from Social Security calls and says that a person is guilty of fraud and is subject to prosecution in federal court.  Again, they leave a phone number and tell you to contact them immediately.
  • IRS scammers use phone spoofing to make their number come up as the ‘IRS’.  They accuse the victim of a fraudulent tax return or tax evasion and tell you to call back immediately to avoid prosecution.  They ask for payment to resolve the issue.
Know this: The IRS will NEVER contact you by phone asking for money.  They use snail mail as their only means of communication.  The SSA will NOT call you and tell you that you are going to be prosecuted in federal court.  These are scare tactics. These scams are showing up in our local area and have claimed some victims.  Remember to NEVER give personal information over the phone unless you have initiated the phone call.

Hearing Aid Assistance

Hearing loss creates confusion, frustration and isolation for those who experience it.  If we don’t struggle with this ourselves, we most certainly know someone who does.  Adding to the frustration is the fact that hearing loss tends to occur most frequently among the aging population and Medicare, the standard health care for those who are over 65 years of age or disabled, does not help with the cost of hearing aids.  It is not uncommon for a Medicare beneficiary to need hearing aids, but can’t afford them. The Starkey Hearing Foundation Hear Now program may be able to help those who are financially strapped and can’t afford hearing aids.  The foundation provides assistance to just such individuals.  There is an application processing fee of $125 per hearing aid requested.  When an application is approved, aids are given to the applicant at no additional cost. Hear Now serves low income individuals, of any age, who permanently reside in the U.S. that have no other resources to acquire hearing aids.  Anyone having a benefit for hearing aids, in part or total, is encouraged to call and discuss their individual situation. The hearing aids provided are Behind the Ear models, and are new.  Custom hearing aids are not provided by Hear Now.  Starkey Hearing Foundation-Hear Now program offers help to low income individuals. Call 800-328-8602 to discuss eligibility with a Hear Now representative or email: hearnow@starkey.com to request an application for assistance.   *This information is provided by the Idaho Senior  Health Insurance Benefits Agency  (SHIBA).  Our local SHIBA counselor/partner is Kim Hulme  847.0949.  

Adults Need More Physical Activity

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than 31 million adults age 50 years or older are inactive – that is, they are not physically active beyond the basic movements needed for daily life activities.   Any increase in activity is beneficial and leads to more vibrant health. According to the CDC, the analysis of adult activity showed:
  • Inactivity was higher for women (29.4%) compared to men (25.5%)
  • Inactivity significantly increased with age. 25% of 50-year-olds are inactive compared to almost 34% of 75-year-olds who are inactive.
  • Having a chronic disease was a major factor in inactivity. This increase is about 21% among adults of the same age.
  • Inactivity in the U.S. is highest in the South (30.1%) followed by the Midwest (28.4%) and in the Northeast (26.6%). Inactivity was lowest in the West (23.1%)
According to Kathleen B. Watson, an epidemiologist in the CDC’s Division of Nutrition, “More work is needed to make it safer and easier for people of all ages and abilities to be physically active in their communities.” Physical activity reduces the risk of premature death and can delay or prevent many chronic diseases, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, dementia, and some cancers. Four of the five most costly chronic conditions for ages 50+ can be managed or prevented with physical activity.   Being physically active helps older adults maintain the ability to live independently and reduces the risk of falling and fracturing bones.  Being physically active can also improve mental health and delay dementia and cognitive decline. Summertime is an ideal time to get out of doors and start moving.*  Yard work, gardening, walking the dog, walking with a friend, and even parking your car farther from the grocery store entrance are all ways to begin increasing activity. As previously mentioned, any increase in activity is beneficial.  It is wise to see your doctor before beginning a vigorous approach to exercise. *Remember to wear sunscreen when being outdoors.