Scam Alert!

By Renea Dennison, Contributor

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Have you or a loved one been a target of a crook recently? Studies show a growing problem with thieves stealing health, dreams and life savings, especially among our aging population.

Scams come in all sizes and designs. The elderly are particular favorites for these selfish creeps. Seniors are often a favorite quarry because older people tend to have more money than younger adults, are less likely to report a theft, tend to trust ‘authority’ figures more, are frequently isolated, and can be more susceptible due to changes in the brain.

Scammers love to find a wealthy and trusting victim, playing on their emotions without a shred of conscience. For instance, a current popular scam is to call and start the conversation with, “Grandma!” The unsuspecting prey responds with a grandchild’s name like “Mike?” and the scammer starts his con. He claims he is in jail somewhere and begs for help without letting his parents know. An amazing number of people have forked over thousands of dollars because they love and want to protect their grandchildren who were, as it happens, nowhere near a jail.

Scammers also come in the guise of business people, assisting you to file your disability or health claims (and stealing millions from the government). They can pretend to be in-home health services where they get paid while you are left without the services. Some do enough service to gain trust and scam your savings while you are thinking the person is there to support you. They take money to supposedly aid you with phony credit companies, set up pretend non-profits to care for others while milking you for donations, and even take money for funerals which the recipient never gets. Some people have even been hurt or died due to the neglect of a facility or home-health scam who received money without actually helping the patient. Others have had their dreams smashed when the person they thought would love them for the rest of their lives was actually just bilking them of their life savings. And don’t forget the worker scam where the bill seems to spiral out of control. The list and types of scams are only limited by the creativity and depravity of the scammer.

How can you avoid losing money, and possibly your health, to someone so unscrupulous? I hate to tell you to be less trusting, but we must all be on our guard against such cheaters. Check out the latest senior scams regularly by going to the website for the National Center on Elder Abuse so you are less vulnerable to a new scheme. Maintain up to date contact information on your family members and the professionals who help you, and keep those lines of communication open. You want to feel like you can easily call to check a story out or discuss something with someone in case you are making a mistake. Further, your family can vet your professionals and workers (such as plumbers) for you. They can also watch for changes in memory or math skills which make you more susceptible to fraud.

Finally, increase your financial knowledge. Continue to learn by taking classes, reading or watching relevant programs. These skills not only help you recognize a scam sooner, but can keep your brain functioning at a higher level for longer.

The best advice to avoid a scam is to simply stay alert. Don’t let yourself be lulled into thinking you are safe because of your experience, or past being a target because of your age or level of wealth. Even people with low incomes can have their identities stolen and find themselves facing hungry debt collectors. Keep your dignity and the money you earned. Keep alert!

Century Health Solutions is a subsidiary of Stormont Vail Health, Topeka and provides free Medicare Educational Seminars. We are your local expert in Medicare insurance planning and will help you find the best option for your personal situation. Call us at 785-270-4593 with questions or to sign up for a free seminar. Our business hours are Monday-Friday, 8:00am-4:30pm.

Go to: http://www.centuryinsuranceagencyks.com or email info@century-health.com for more information.

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Blood Pressure – Part 2

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By Renea Dennison, Contributor

Last week we talked about what blood pressure (BP) is, how your blood pressure is determined, and that the top or systolic number gauges pressure when the heart is beating and the lower or diastolic number measures pressure when the heart is resting. This week we will talk about the different levels of hypertension or high blood pressure (HPB), and what we can do for it. Your BP can change minute by minute, so the numbers below represent consistent readings and not a one-time experience.

Normal – A systolic of less than 120 and a diastolic of less than 80. This is where everyone wants to be if possible. If you are here, wonderful! Keep up your healthy habits of a balanced diet and regular exercise.

Elevated – A systolic of 120-129 and a diastolic of less than 80. This is not good, but no need to get worked up. This is basically a warning. You are likely to develop HBP unless you take steps to control it. Eat a healthy diet, lower your salt intake, lose weight, reduce your alcohol intake, and exercise regularly. You doctor may want you to come back in 6 months for another reading. At this point, watching your BP is a good idea.

HBP Stage 1 – A systolic of 130 – 139 or diastolic of 80-89. Changing your lifestyle is a must (see Elevated). Your doctor will prescribe this, and may also prescribe medications based on your risk of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (i.e. – heart attack or stoke). Your doctor will want to see you again in 1-6 months depending on your risk factors.

HPB Stage 2 – A systolic of 140 or higher or a diastolic of 90 or higher. Your doctor will give you medications to bring your BP down, as well as prescribe you a change in lifestyle (see Elevated). Your doctor will want to see you again in a month.

Hypertension Crisis – A systolic of 180 or higher or a diastolic of 120 or higher. Wait 5 minutes and take your BP again. If it is still this high, call 9-1-1.

Many people prefer to keep track of their BP at home. This is helpful for peace of mind for the patient, letting the doctor know if your medications are working, and also because some patients just get higher readings in a doctor’s office.

If you decide to keep track at home, select a monitor that goes around the upper arm (wrist and finger monitors are not as accurate). Try to get a monitor that inflates itself, has a digital readout that is easy to read, and perhaps plugs into your smartphone. Take it with you on your next visit to your doctor to be sure it matches the numbers the doctor is getting, that the cuff fits and that you are placing it correctly. Avoid caffeine, cigarettes, alcohol and exercise for 30 minutes before you take a reading. Be sure to sit up straight in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Your arm should be supported so your elbow is at heart level. Don’t talk during the measurement. Take your BP at the same time every day, and write the numbers down unless you have a smartphone to do it for you. Bring the numbers with you when you go to the doctor so they can see how your medications are working. Finally, you don’t need to actually have HBP to start monitoring it. People who are seemingly healthy rarely go to the doctor, so HBP may sneak up on you. Better to be safe than sorry.

HBP can be deadly, but fortunately is usually easy to control. Though the lifestyle changes can be challenging for some, they are all things everyone should be doing even if they are healthy. Unlike some illnesses, the treatment itself is easy and painless. Take your medications if prescribed, and measure your BP regularly. Then ta-da! You too can have safe and healthy blood pressure.

Century Health Solutions is a subsidiary of Stormont Vail Health, Topeka and provides free Medicare Educational Seminars. We are your local expert in Medicare insurance planning and will help you find the best option for your personal situation. Call us at 785-270-4593 with questions or to sign up for a free seminar. Our business hours are Monday-Friday, 8:00am-4:30pm.

Go to: http://www.centuryinsuranceagencyks.com or email info@century-health.com for more information.

Blood Pressure – Part 1

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By Renea Dennison, Contributor

Your blood cells provide oxygen and nutrition while removing waste. Those same blood cells rush through a complex structure made up of veins and arteries known as the circulatory system. Your circulatory system provides every organ in your body, including the heart which keeps it moving, life.

You might think as long as the blood is flowing without obstruction everything should be fine and you are healthy. However, there is another important factor to consider. How much force, or pressure, is the moving blood placing on the walls of the arteries as it goes through? This is an important question. High blood pressure (HBP) damages organs and can cause stroke, kidney failure, and heart attacks. Unfortunately, you cannot feel this pressure. Usually, all seems ordinary whether your blood pressure (BP) is high or normal. That is why HBP, or hypertension, is known as the ‘silent killer’.

When you go to the doctor someone takes your BP. It doesn’t matter what your symptoms, if you are age 3 and older and go to the doctor’s they will take it. They do so at every opportunity because using the cuff and measuring is the only way to know if you have developed HBP.

While at the doctor’s, you may wonder what your medical professional is doing when they pump air into the cuff and then listen through a stethoscope tucked under the cuff. They pump enough air to provide more pressure than your systolic (top) number and then wait for the whooshing sound to get your top number. When they cannot hear the pressure any more, they have the diastolic (bottom) number. So for example, they will say you have 120 (top) over 80 (bottom) also written as 120/80.

Did that sound like gibberish to you? (It used to sound like it to me.) Let me explain. The systolic, or top number represents the pressure on your artery walls when your heart is beating. That is, when your heart is squeezing blood forcefully through your body. It is measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg). I don’t know why, except that is how they first figured it out and they are still doing it the same way today. Anyway, this is the number that is given most attention. I remember it by thinking of the S in systolic. To me it means stress or strain as in the pressure the squeezing heart puts on the walls of your arteries. People with good BP always have a systolic number under 120.

We call lower number the diastolic number. It is based on the pressure in your arty walls when your heart is not beating. That is, when it is resting, filling with blood and taking in oxygen. I remember this number by thinking of the D in diastolic and relating it to the word downtime. Don’t get me wrong, you can still be diagnosed with HBP even if your systolic number is under 120 if your diastolic number is high enough. It is just not very common. A normal healthy person will have a diastolic number under 80.

Next week we will talk a little more about the numbers and what it means to have HPB. In the meantime, eat right, exercise, and keep a happy attitude.

Century Health Solutions is a subsidiary of Stormont Vail Health, Topeka and provides free Medicare Educational Seminars. We are your local expert in Medicare insurance planning and will help you find the best option for your personal situation. Call us at 785-270-4593 with questions or to sign up for a free seminar. Our business hours are Monday-Friday, 8:00am-4:30pm.

Go to: http://www.centuryinsuranceagencyks.com or email info@century-health.com for more information.

Breathe Easy

pexels-photo-321576.jpegBy Renea Dennison, Contributor

This is National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month. We put them in the same month because they both impact breathing, and both are inflammatory illnesses. Inflammation is the enemy of wellness, especially if it becomes chronic.

Asthma can be described as airway inflammation marked by spasms in the bronchi of the lungs. It causes difficulty in breathing, and is sometimes misdiagnosed as COPD in the elderly. Asthma has a better prognosis if treated properly, so a correct diagnosis is very important.

Asthma is reported in 8-10% of the population, and though most people associate it with youngsters, anyone can develop asthma and older adults are particularly at risk. People with asthma may experience chest tightness, shortness of breath, or cough, and episodic wheezing. Short term prescriptions, such as steroids, are effective but prescribing them can be problematic with senior patients who often have multiple medications already.

In addition, older adults having mild asthma symptoms may have the same level of breathing difficulty as children experiencing a severe attack which complicates both diagnosis and treatment. Asthma in seniors rarely goes into remission, and is much more likely to become a potentially dangerous, if not disabling disease. Asthma episodes may be induced by physical activity or exposure to irritants that trigger allergies.

Allergies can be a serious issue for seniors. Like asthma, treatment can be troublesome due to other medications you may be taking. Also, physicians may overlook your allergic reactions since they are looking at bigger issues you may be experiencing. Therefore it is important to tell your doctor when you are having allergic reactions to things indoors or outdoors. Further, you should avoid traditional antihistamines unless specifically prescribed by your doctor. They can be dangerous to seniors as their side effects include confusion, drowsiness, and dizziness.

You can minimize your allergic reactions by controlling your environment. If you have seasonal allergies, check the pollen count on your weather forecast and avoid the outdoors on the worst days. You should also keep you windows closed if possible when pollen counts are high. If you do go out, wear sunglasses to protect your eyes. When you get home, wash your hands, shower, and change your clothes. If you go to bed after being outdoors without showering, change the pillowcase before retiring the next night. Make sure your air conditioner unit is serviced regularly, and your vents cleaned annually to avoid mold and dust allergies.

Asthma and allergies are nothing to sneeze at, but there are steps you can take to reduce the rate and strength of incidence. If you think you may have asthma or allergies talk to your doctor. Understanding your health situation, avoiding triggers and being prepared are the best ways you can combat these illnesses and breathe easy.

Century Health Solutions is a subsidiary of Stormont Vail Health, Topeka and provides free Medicare Educational Seminars. We are your local expert in Medicare insurance planning and will help you find the best option for your personal situation. Call us at 785-270-4593 with questions or to sign up for a free seminar. Our business hours are Monday-Friday, 8:00am-4:30pm.

Go to: http://www.centuryinsuranceagencyks.com or email info@century-health.com for more information.

Engage at Every Age

By Renea Dennison, Contributor

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May is when we observe Older American’s Month. The Administration on Aging has announced the 2018 theme to be Engage at Every Age. (The Administration on Aging is part of the Administration for Community Living and can be reached at www.acl.gov. )

This month we celebrate the many ways seniors add value to the lives of others. Of course, people of any age can take part in the activities planned. The website claims the theme, “emphasizes that you are never too old (or too young) to take part in activities that can enrich your physical, mental and emotional well-being and celebrates the many ways older adults make a difference in our communities.”

This blog frequently encourages a healthy lifestyle including physical, mental and emotional wellness. During May we are reminded of all the wonderful ways seniors influence and mentor younger adults and children. Older people set an example every day by keeping active, being in emotional control, eating right, and seeking help when something is wrong.

It’s true that when we get older we tend to begin to feel forgotten. We often move slower, which causes us to fall behind. Frequently we are last to be waited on, and are sometimes ignored at service counters. We can begin to feel invisible. In addition, we can’t always participate in fun activities or helping others the way we did when we were younger. We need to remember though, that we still have loads to offer. We have so much experience in the world! We have learned heaps and earned every wisdom (gray) hair on our heads. This knowledge needs to be shared and handed down to younger generations.

Don’t worry if their interest doesn’t coincide in a timely manner with your desire to share. You can still write it down, record it, or better yet, make a video and post it for your family in social media. Tell them about your family history, or some experience you had that really taught you something. Did you lock yourself out three times in one week (like me) and learn to always have a spare? Did your grandmother tell you a story about walking across the prairie with no one in sight? Do you know a trick to folding sheets or the best way to make gravy?

You probably have many interesting tales to tell, and lots of wisdom to impart. Celebrate this month by remembering all you have given and all you still have to give. Check your local Aging agency for any events you can participate in. For Topeka, you can contact the Jayhawk Area Agency on Aging or the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability. You still have so much to offer, and nothing is more rewarding than helping and giving to others.

Century Health Solutions is a subsidiary of Stormont Vail Health, Topeka and provides free Medicare Educational Seminars. We are your local expert in Medicare insurance planning and will help you find the best option for your personal situation. Call us at 785-270-4593 with questions or to sign up for a free seminar. Our business hours are Monday-Friday, 8:00am-4:30pm.

Go to: http://www.centuryinsuranceagencyks.com or email info@century-health.com for more information.

Stress Chess – Part 2

By Renea Dennison, Contributor

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Last week we discussed stress as it relates to seniors. (You can read about it here.) We talked about some causes of stress, and how it can harm your health and shorten your life expectancy. We also discussed some moves you can make to reduce your stress and likened it to a game of chess. You just have to choose the right pieces from your arsenal. The first piece we discussed was the Pawn-Breathe/Meditate/Pray. Now we will discuss the remaining pieces.

Rook – Stretch/Practice Yoga

Lift your arms up above your head or extend your legs gently to stretch. Breathe deeply while you do so. Yoga moves a little beyond simply stretching to act as a full mind and body stress reliever. Yoga can be done just about anywhere and by anyone. There is even chair yoga for the disabled or those unable to get on the floor.

Knight – Calming music/Read

Play calming music. Music is very effective as therapy for just about anything. You can use it to wind yourself up and get motivated or to relax to the point of sleep. Reading is another way to relax. Let yourself be carried away by the story while you sit calmly. Breathe deeply and listen to calming music while you read and you will have a triple move!

Bishop – Change the pace (Mall Browsing)/Laugh

Do something you don’t every day to change up the familiar – go to the mall. An indoor mall will have comfortable temperatures and ambiance. You can people watch, enjoy a latte at the local coffee shop, browse at the bookstore, or meet up with friends. On a nice day go to an outdoor mall to enjoy the weather. Buy something while you are out, or don’t. The idea is just to have fun and break your routine. Spend time laughing. You can laugh with your friends at the mall, or watch a comedy. Whatever it takes. The old adage ‘Laughter is the Best Medicine’ still holds true today. Your attitude can make all the difference in life.

Queen – Water/Walk/Nature

Spend some time in a pool, the ocean, or a nice bubble filled tub. Take a long walk or get some other kind of gentle exercise. Go to the park or woods and spend some time in nature. A walk in nature can be very soothing.

King – Hobbies/Pets

Enjoying your hobbies can really help you relax. Needlework, gardening, and other similar hobbies can significantly lower your stress levels. Petting a dog or cat, or playing with one helps too.

Of course, the key to managing stress comes back to my favorite theme – eat right, get enough rest and exercise properly. When you are fit and healthy the worrisome events in life are easier to handle, and have less physical impact. Remember, you have the ability to win at stress chess if you play your pieces right.

Century Health Solutions is a subsidiary of Stormont Vail Health, Topeka and provides free Medicare Educational Seminars. We are your local expert in Medicare insurance planning and will help you find the best option for your personal situation. Call us at 785-270-4593 with questions or to sign up for a free seminar. Our business hours are Monday-Friday, 8:00am-4:30pm.

Go to: http://www.centuryinsuranceagencyks.com or email info@century-health.com for more information.

Stress Chess – Part 1

By Renea Dennison, Contributor

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Google defines stress as “a state of mental or emotional tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.” We hear about stress and see it described everywhere when we have children, work, or have special projects going on like remodeling a room or planning a big event. We tend to associate it with young and middle-aged adults.

Most people do not relate the word to older people. Seniors who are still working have made their peace with their jobs. They are usually empty-nesters who we observe out in the world enjoying life. Older seniors have retired, so surely they have nothing to worry about, right? Wrong!

Seniors never stop worrying about their children, no matter how old or successful they become. They also have to deal with increasing health issues, reduced function, apprehension about having enough money to last their retirement, worrying about the health of their aging family and friends, and the pain of a growing list of lost loved ones. In addition, seniors may have to become a caregiver to a spouse or sibling. Caregivers can lose as much as four years of their life due to the stress and physical exhaustion of caregiving.

Chronic stress has long been known to increase serious health issues, and sometimes cause them. Here are the top 10: heart disease, asthma, obesity, diabetes, headaches, depression and anxiety, gastrointestinal problems, Alzheimer’s disease, accelerated aging and premature death (webmd.com).

Younger people seem to cope with stress easily. When stress is chronic or serious, they can learn a number of techniques to wrestle it under control. Older people, on the other hand, find coping is difficult, if not impossible. Like playing chess, you can make some moves to help you dispatch the tension so you can enjoy life again. Just choose the right chess pieces. The first piece is the Pawn. It should be your go-to piece when stress threatens to overwhelm you.

Pawn – Breathe/Meditate/Pray

Breathe deeply and slowly. Seriously, it is that simple. Just keep breathing. Concentrating on your breath is also a good way to meditate. Just continue breathing for 10-20 minutes and you are meditating. If you prefer, you can spend this time in prayer. Both praying and meditating have been proven to have a positive impact on the body and health.

Next week we will discuss some more pieces to have in your arsenal of stress chess. Winning against the negative effects of stress should be a key goal for everyone. If you have multiple stress factors in your life, putting these pieces to work for you cannot only improve it, they may well increase how long you live.

Century Health Solutions is a subsidiary of Stormont Vail Health, Topeka and provides free Medicare Educational Seminars. We are your local expert in Medicare insurance planning and will help you find the best option for your personal situation. Call us at 785-270-4593 with questions or to sign up for a free seminar. Our business hours are Monday-Friday, 8:00am-4:30pm.

Go to: http://www.centuryinsuranceagencyks.com or email info@century-health.com for more information.