Archive for October, 2015

Helping moms get finances on track for now and the future

Tuesday, October 27th, 2015

(BPT) – Being a mom is a full-time job. No matter how old the children are, a mom is on call at all hours of the day and night, responding to injuries and broken hearts, handling homework questions, setting household rules, and establishing consequences if said rules are broken. But moms often have other jobs as well, juggling household chores, managing finances and often holding a full-time job.

Unfortunately, when the work load becomes too much, something can fall by the wayside, and often that something is finances. Only 24 percent of moms report they are satisfied with their current financial situation. They admit they are struggling to make ends meet, or are worried about their financial future, according to the -State of the American Mom Study released by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual).

“It’s no secret in today’s world that moms are stretched thin, but their finances shouldn’t have to suffer as a result,” says Tara Reynolds, corporate vice president with MassMutual.

Moms can get their finances on track with a few tips from MassMutual:

* Be prepared – Emergencies are not predictable, but if you have an emergency fund, you can protect yourself and your future plans for your family if you find yourself in a troubling financial situation.

* Protect your income – Families often don’t take into account the salary a stay-at-home mom would earn if she were to be paid for the work she does. If something were to happen to you as a stay-at-home mom, preventing you from doing these duties, your family may experience some troubling out-of-pocket expenses. With the help of a financial professional, you can explore financial options to ensure that you’re planning ahead adequately no matter what the future holds.

“Luckily, finding an experienced professional for your finances can be easier than finding help for child care or other things that cause stress for today’s moms,” Reynolds says. “This can make all the difference in helping moms achieve financial security for themselves and their families.”

* Plan now, not later – Don’t procrastinate when it comes to planning for your financial future. No one knows what the future will bring, so now is the time to sit down and think about how to pass your assets – but not your taxes – to your heirs.

* Have the talk – Schedule a monthly meeting to sit down with your spouse or significant other – or children if they’re old enough – to discuss your finances. It’s critical for family members to have a full understanding of all debt and assets in order to build a realistic plan.

The survey found only one-third of moms currently use the services of a financial professional to help them with their investments and insurance needs. Set up a meeting today to get your finances on track for both your current needs and those of the future.

Making wellness programs work for your wallet and lifestyle

Tuesday, October 27th, 2015

Wellness programs aren’t just for those with red flag factors for chronic diseases such as high blood pressure or tobacco use. Rather, wellness programs are beneficial to everyone including otherwise healthy people who may simply be trying to lead a healthier lifestyle by increased exercise, weight loss or managing stress.

In fact, the concept of “wellness” goes far beyond merely keeping up with your annual physical and taking medications to manage chronic conditions. Wellness encompasses eating right, regularly exercising, avoiding unhealthy activities such as smoking, and being an active participant in your health decision making progress.

Wellness programs, often provided through employer-sponsored health insurance or through employers themselves, provide participants with information and tools to help avoid illness and injury. But, the path to good health is different for everyone and it is important that programs are not only designed to help the right people at the right time but also to engage people in a personalized, impactful way.

For example, a wellness offering such as Health Dialog’s WELLNESS Dialog program begins with an innovative Well-Being Assessment to better understand physical and emotional health, capacity for change, work-life satisfaction, and health risk. It then reports on personal strengths and opportunities, offers suggested goals and actions, provides people with the tools they need to realize their own personal lifestyle goals and incorporates fun group activities to engage participants for the long term.

In order to truly make a difference, a wellness program needs to be relevant to the people using it. Participating in a wellness program can be useful, as long as the program supports not only those who are well and maintaining their current level of health or improving it, but also those who are ill and managing their care.

If you would like the chance to make a wellness program work for you, here are a few steps and guidelines to help:

* Find out what your employer offers. Many support wellness programs through their health insurers, but others supplement those plans with specialized programs. Perhaps your employer offers free exercise or stress reduction classes, or offers a stipend for health club membership as part of your benefits. If your employer doesn’t currently offer any kind of wellness program, ask for one – keeping employees healthy is in a company’s best interest.

* Learn your program’s tools. Most programs offer help lines that you can call and discuss your specific needs and concerns, and receive information on available tools to help you. Your plan administrator may also be able to provide information. Or you can check the program provider’s website to learn more.

* Discuss your wellness program with your doctor and ask for his feedback on what tools might be of most use to you. Look for tools that address your specific needs, age and lifestyle. For example, if weight management is a concern, your wellness program’s nutritional counseling might be helpful. If you’re looking for ways to become more active, ask if your program offers advice on exercise.

* Take advantage of incentives. Some programs offer incentives for successful participation in weight loss or smoking cessation programs. These incentives are a great tool for tracking your progress and keeping yourself motivated to achieve your goals.

You can learn more about wellness programs like Health Dialog’s at or

Food for thought: Cutting back on salt may cause you to eat more

Wednesday, October 21st, 2015

(BPT) – Our bodies naturally crave salt, a necessary nutrient, and research shows that we gravitate to the amount we need for our bodies to function properly. Salt deficiency has been linked to a host of health concerns, including insulin resistance, increased risk of heart attacks and reduced cognition. But what if eating less salt also increases your weight by making you eat more?

“Over the past 30 years, an interesting phenomenon has occurred: the rates of obesity have dramatically gone up but the amount of salt we consume has remained fairly stable,” says Mort Satin of the Salt Institute. “Food producers have been lowering the amount of salt they use, under pressure from the government and consumer activists, so we are either eating a lot more food to get the salt we need or have drastically lowered our activity levels, or both.”

In the U.S., research shows that people have been consuming about the same amount of salt on a daily basis for 50 years. And around the world most people eat about the same amount of salt – about 3,500 mg/day, according to the World Health Organization. It appears that we all, when free to choose, eat enough to keep us in a “safe range” between 2,300 mg/day and 4,600/mg a day, according to medical researcher Bjorn Folkow.

“It stands to reason that if the amount of salt in food is lowered, we will eat more to get to our safe range,” Satin says. “More food equals more calories and that means more weight gain, unless we increased our physical activity to burn off the extra calories.”

This isn’t news to those who raise livestock. According to Dr. Rick Rasby, professor of animal science at the University of Nebraska, cattlemen intentionally control the amount of salt in cattle feed to either reduce the cost of feed or to fatten cows up before sale. If they add more salt to the feed, the cows naturally eat less. If they reduce the amount of salt, then the cows will eat more.

This instinct is driven by the body’s physiology designed to maintain an efficient cardiovascular system, according to researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine. This vital life-sustaining system is found in fish, reptiles and all mammals. This system is so robust that it contains multiple failsafe mechanisms. The body will actually retain salt if you try and cut back too much. Of course any excess salt is simply washed away when you drink water through the natural process.

The irony is that for most of us there is no need to reduce the amount of salt we consume, Satin says. Years of scientific evidence, including recent research by Canadian scientists published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), shows that eating the levels of salt recommended by the American Heart Association or the U.S. government would actually cause harm. Current recommendations from the American Heart Association are as low as 1,500 mg/day, an amount so low that European researchers, also writing in JAMA, found it would increase the risk of heart attacks and early death.-

“The unintended consequence of the ongoing salt reduction experiment may be an increase in obesity,” Satin says. “More research is needed, but meanwhile, individuals may want to focus on a balanced diet and regular exercise and remember that lowering the salt in food may make you want to eat more.”

Addressing the lack of diversity in lung cancer clinical trials

Tuesday, October 13th, 2015

Q: Why does lung cancer disproportionately impact minority populations?

Obasaju: Lung cancer maintains its status as one of the most prevalent and deadly of all cancers. Approximately 200,000 new cases are expected to be diagnosed in the U.S. this year – globally this figure swells to about one million. This disease takes a particularly heavy toll on African Americans. Despite their lower smoking rates, African Americans are more likely than Caucasians to develop and die from lung cancer. It is not clear why African Americans have a greater risk for developing lung cancer, but researchers believe it may be in part related to a person’s genetics, environmental and socio-economic background.

Q: Why is it so critical for minorities to participate in clinical trials?  

Obasaju: One way to get a better understanding of this situation is through increased diversity in clinical trials. Historically, minorities have been underrepresented. Several factors contribute to this, including a lack of awareness about the importance of diversity in cancer research. Economics, language and cultural barriers, coupled with a historical mistrust of the clinical trial process, also contribute to the low rates of minority participation.

Despite these challenges, we must continue to find ways to increase their participation. This change is vital to ensure researchers understand how lung cancer affects all populations and substantiate whether treatments are effective across all ethnic groups.

Q: What can be done to increase minority participation in clinical trials?

Obasaju: To start, research teams can identify clinical trial sites located in close proximity to minority groups. Other critical steps include translating details about clinical trial enrollment into different languages, creating culturally adaptable patient tools and working with patient navigators, who can help guide clinical trial participants through the treatment process. We need to continue to raise awareness on the importance of minority representation in clinical trials and trust that if minorities know more about this critical issue, it will inspire them to take action.

Q: Where can someone go for more information about participating in a clinical trial?

Obasaju: A healthcare provider is one of the best resources to explain how patients can participate in a clinical trial. Healthcare providers can direct eligible individuals to the most appropriate trial taking place in their area and explain the process for enrolling. There are also great resources available online, including the National Cancer Institute’s website ( This site allows users to search for trials that are currently enrolling participants and provides users with a variety of answers to the most pressing questions about trial participation.

Taking a look at key food issues

Tuesday, October 13th, 2015

This fall, U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance wants to help families make informed decisions when it comes to those nutritious meals and learn how food gets from the farm to kids’ plates. More and more, people have questions about food production, food safety and health. These are always top of mind for any of us, but they take on even more importance when you’re providing meals for children and your family.

Three key food issues have been getting increasing attention lately and it’s important to know what these really mean when it comes to choosing and preparing your food:

Are GM foods a healthy option?

Food from genetically-modified (GM) seeds have been commercially available and have been proven safe for human and animal consumption. GM seeds undergo testing for safety, health and nutritional value. This regulation is overseen by The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Research shows that the current commercial crops from GM seeds have the same nutritional properties as non-GM seed crops and are not harmful for humans and animals to consume.

Farmers have been genetically altering plants and seeds through selective breeding to improve characteristics such as hardiness, yield, taste and nutrition for thousands of years. Today’s GM seeds are part of this evolution. Their development is sped up and more precise by inserting the genes from one plant into another in a laboratory setting.-These crops can be grown using GM seeds: sweet corn, field corn, soybeans, cotton, canola, sugar beets, papaya, alfalfa and squash.

What is the difference between organic and non-organic, and is it really important to me?

The main difference between organically and non-organically grown foods is the production method – those who raise organically grown food must follow a strict set of guidelines outlined by the USDA. The USDA organic label indicates that the food or other agricultural product has been produced through approved methods that integrate cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. Like many other value-added products, organic food can be more expensive because, in some cases, it costs more to produce. A common misconception is that the increased cost of organic food relates directly to its superior nutritional value, which is unproven.

Another common misconception about organic food production involves pesticide and fertilizer use. Organic farmers can choose from organic-certified pesticides and fungicides, which are outlined by the USDA Certified Organic program. They can also use organic matter (livestock manure) for fertilizer.

Are antibiotics being used to treat farm animals harmful to me and my family in our food?

Antibiotics are used to ensure animal safety, food safety and the safety of humans and our health. A common misconception is that antibiotics used on animals will be present in the meat you buy at the store. All animals treated with antibiotics go through a withdrawal period and must meet standards for antibiotic residue before the meat enters the food supply, ensuring that any animals treated with antibiotics are safe to enter the food supply.

Another common concern is that antibiotic use in animals has contributed to the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in humans. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria is a concern for both animal and human health and antibiotics are crucial to all of us. To date, there has been no proven link to antibiotic treatment failure in humans due to antibiotic use in animals raised for consumption.

“Providing a variety of food choices is very important to America’s farmers and ranchers, but ensuring that consumers have the right information to make the right food choices for them is just as important,” says Katie Pratt, an Illinois farm mom and U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance spokesperson. “Being an informed food consumer will help ensure healthy and nutritious meals for your kids and family throughout the upcoming school year.”

For more information about food production and the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance, visit Wholly or partially funded by one or more Checkoff programs.

Tips to improve your indoor air quality

Wednesday, October 7th, 2015

(BPT) – You pride yourself on keeping a clean home. The laundry is washed, the dishes are dry and the den where the children built their pillow fort has been restored to sanity. You’ve been vigilant about cleaning up the messes you can see, but what about the messes you can’t? What are you doing to improve the air quality in your home?

You may not think about the air quality in your home because the problem isn’t visible, but that doesn’t stop dust, dander or chemicals from polluting your air. Everyday living generates up to 40 pounds of dust in a six-room house every year, according to the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA), the HVAC Inspection, Maintenance and Restoration Association.

Taking steps to clean the air in your home will do more than just improve air quality; it will also save you money. Twenty-five to 40 percent of the energy used for heating or cooling a home is wasted because contaminants in the heating and cooling system cause it to work inefficiently, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

If you’re interested in improving the air quality in your home and saving money while you do it, here are some tips to get you headed in the right direction.

Hire a professional to clean your most important asset

Your heating and cooling system is the lungs of your home. The system literally takes air in and breathes air out. Because of this, keeping your HVAC system and your ducts clean is the most important thing you can do to improve your home’s air quality. “If your ducts look dirty, they probably are,” is NADCA’s advice to consumers.

Have your system serviced by a certified technician. This will not only improve the quality of the air in your home, it will allow your heating and cooling system to run more efficiently, saving you money on energy bills.

Make sure to hire a NADCA-certified technician. All members have certified Air Systems Cleaning Specialists (ASCS) on staff and they are required to further their education by attending seminars and to adhere to the NADCA code of ethics.

Encourage ventilation

Today’s newer homes are built air tight, making ventilation difficult. The simplest way to encourage ventilation is to simply open windows. In the bathroom, turn on the exhaust fan to stop steam from collecting dirt and keeping it in the bathroom. In the kitchen, place any appliance that creates steam or oily vapor under the stove hood. Finally, make sure vents on the outside of your home are not blocked by leaves or snow as season dictates.

Prevent mold

Mold can be one of the most harmful contaminators of air quality. You’ll find mold in areas where moisture and poor ventilation come together. Vacuum rear grills on appliances like your fridge and freezer to improve ventilation and empty and clean any drip trays to eliminate mold. If you have a leaky pipe in your home make sure it is addressed. Take a tour outside and trim any bushes or shrubs that have grown too close as that proximity can lead to mold and algae.

Replace filters and screens

In the warmer months, clean the area around your air conditioner and repair any vermin screens on your chimney flues that may be damaged. During the cooler months, remove screens from any window that may trap condensation and make sure to change your furnace filter monthly.

Keeping the air in your home clean is just as important as washing the dishes or cleaning the clothes. The first step is to have your heating and cooling systems serviced by a NADCA technician. Once that is complete, follow these tips to maintain your air quality. To learn more about NADCA and how you can benefit from an HVAC cleaning, visit