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Published: Tuesday, December 19, 2017 @ 9:53 AM
— If you have a flexible spending account, you're saving money on some of your health care expenses, which is definitely a good thing. The account allows you to save pretax dollars in an account that you can use for assorted medical expenses.
The only drawback is that in many cases, you have to "use it or lose it," since most FSAs require that you spend the money in your account by the end of the year or else the funds go to your employer.
Check with your employer for the specifics of your plan since the rules vary, according to CBS News. Many require you to spend it all before the end of the year. Some allow you to have a two-and-a-half-month extension, so you might have until March 2018 to spend it. Others let you carry over up to $500 to use in the next year. Plans may offer either the extension or the carryover amount, but not both.
If you've found yourself trying to spend some of your FSA money at the last minute, you probably won't have time to get a prescription for some of the items that could be covered. That eliminates over-the-counter pain relievers, vitamins and many items that wouldn't ordinarily need a prescription but require one if you're using FSA money to pay for them.
That still leaves many health care items to spend your money on, including the following nine things, according to the FSA store:
If you need a blood pressure monitor, thermometer, oximeter to measure your blood's oxygen levels, stethoscope or cholesterol meter, it's covered by your FSA.
First aid items
Pick up first aid kits or supplies such as Band-Aids, adhesive tape, antibiotic ointment, gauze, tweezers and more. Keep a larger kit at home along with smaller versions in each of your cars.
Foot care items
Over-the-counter foot care items are covered by FSAs without a prescription as long as they don't contain medical ingredients. If that's the case, a prescription would be required. Look for foot cushioning products if you have bunions, corns or other foot problems, and treat yourself to some specialized insoles to help give your feet some relief.
You may not be thinking about sunscreen this time of year, but you should use it even during winter. Check expiration dates and stock up for summer while you're at it. Since experts recommend using a shot glass of sunscreen, most people don't use nearly enough, so it pays to buy several bottles or tubes.
Treat your dry winter lips to a few new lip balms. Sure, they won't take up much of your spending account, but they'll make a nice treat if there's one you've been wanting to try.
This can include everything from TENS units, which send stimulating pulses across the skin and along nerve strands to reduce pain, to foot rollers. However, over-the-counter pain medicines like ibuprofen and acetaminophen will require a prescription to be covered.
Condoms are covered, and if they happen to fail to do their job, so are pregnancy tests.
Mobility aids such as walkers, canes and wheelchairs can be paid for with FSA funds. So can bathroom helpers such as grab bars and raised toilet seats.
Published: Thursday, April 12, 2018 @ 2:45 PM
— What is the secret to longevity? This question taunts all of humanity.
Although we have yet to discover a fountain of youth, centenarians – individuals who live to be over 100-years-old – can potentially give us clues on to how to live longer, healthier and happier lives. By taking a closer look at their lifestyles, genetics and social dynamics, some scientists are trying to find patterns that can show us their secrets.
1. Sumo wrestling and hot springs
Just this week, Guinness World Records crowned Masazo Nonaka as the world's oldest living man. At 112, the elderly Japanese man was born all the way back in 1905. That means he would have turned nine the year that World War I began.
Although he moves around in a wheelchair, Nonaka reads the newspaper every morning and feeds himself breakfast. As to the secret to his long life? Well, the centenarian soaks regularly in northern Japan's hot springs and considers watching sumo wrestling to be one of his favorite pastimes.
2. Humor and chocolate
Jeanne Louise Calment of France still holds the Guinness record as the world's oldest living person. She died at the impressive age of 122 years and 164 days in 1997. Having definitely lived a full life, Calment sold painting canvasses to Vincent Van Gogh, smoked from the age of 21 to 117 and even became a recording artist at 120-years-old.
Calment accredited her longevity to her sense of humor. When she turned 120, journalists asked her what kind of future she expected. She replied quickly: "A very short one." Also an avid lover of chocolate, Calment reportedly consumed about 1 kilogram (2 pounds 3 ounces) of the stuff each week.
3. Eating less
Currently holding the record as the man to live the longest, Jiroemon Kimura of Japan lived to be 116 years and 54 days. He died in June of 2013.
Born in 1897, Kimura worked at the post office until he retired at the age of 65. He then went on to live more than another half a century.
And what was his secret? According to him, eating less was the key. He reportedly said that his personal motto was: "eat light to live long". Notably, Kimura's philosophy has increasing support among the scientific community.
Many scientists and nutritionists believe that a 30 percent reduction in daily calorie intake may significantly slow down the physical processes that make cells heal slower, which opens up the brain and body to disease. Studies have also shown that calorie restrictive diets in mice help combat the effects of aging on the brain.
If the scientists – and Kimura – are right, cutting down on your daily consumption can help you shed a few pounds while also keeping you young.
4. Eat everything ... except pork and chicken
In July of last year, Violet Moss-Brown of Jamaica became the oldest living woman and the oldest living person. She claimed both titles at the age 117 years and 139 days old. A few months later, she died, proud to know that she had claimed both world records.
When asked about her secrets to long life, Moss-Brown suggested there wasn't much to it. However, she did say she never ate pork or chicken.
"When people ask what I eat and drink to live so long, I say to them that I eat everything, except pork and chicken," she told Guinness.
5. Smoking cigarettes
Batuli Lamichhane, who was reportedly 112 in 2016, claimed that her secret to long life was smoking cigarettes.
Born in March 1903, Lamichhane started smoking when she was 17. The centenarian told The Mirror that she smoked some 30 cigarettes a day for the past 95 years.
"I have been smoking for over 95 years. There is nothing wrong with smoking," she said.
But before you rush out to buy a pack of cigarettes, remember that any doctor or scientist will explain to you that smoking significantly increases your risk of heart disease, cancer and a range of other health issues.
Published: Sunday, April 08, 2018 @ 6:32 AM
— Grieving the death of a loved one can affect an entire family, including babies. In fact, losing a relative during pregnancy may affect the mental health of a child later in life, according to a new report.
Researchers from Stanford University recently conducted a study, published in the American Economic Review, to determine the effect a family member’s death may have on children.
To do so, they examined Swedish infants born between 1973 and 2011 whose mother lost a close relative, such as a sibling, parent, maternal grandparent, the child’s father or her own older child, during her pregnancy.
They followed those children through adulthood, comparing their health outcomes to kids whose maternal relatives died in the year after their birth. They gathered the data from their medical records and Sweden’s novel prescription drug registry, which contains all prescription drug purchases.
Lastly, they considered the impact the death may have had on the fetus, including fetal exposure to maternal stress from bereavement and even changes to family resources or household composition.
After analyzing their results, they found that “that prenatal exposure to the death of a maternal relative increases take-up of ADHD medications during childhood and anti-anxiety and depression medications in adulthood,” the researchers wrote in a statement.
Furthermore, they discovered the death of a relative up to three generations apart during pregnancy can also create consequences.
“Our study offers complementary evidence linking early-life circumstance to adult mental health, but breaks new ground by focusing on stress,” the authors wrote, “which may be more pertinent than malnutrition in modern developed countries such as the United States and Sweden, and by tracing health outcomes throughout the time period between the fetal shock and adulthood.”
To combat the issue, the researchers recommend that governments implement policies to help reduce stress during pregnancy. They believe such policies should especially target poor families as they are more likely to experience stress than more advantaged ones.
Although their findings are concerning, they hope they can better help expecting mothers have healthier pregnancies and birth healthier children.
“Of course, you cannot prevent family members from dying, and we certainly do not want our findings to constitute yet another source of stress for expecting mothers,” the scientists said. “But our findings potentially point to the importance of generally reducing stress during pregnancy, for example through prenatal paid maternity leave and programs that provide resources and social support to poor, pregnant women.”
Published: Sunday, April 08, 2018 @ 5:51 AM
To do so, they examined 3,241 women from Kaiser Permanente of Northern California and the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. The participants were diagnosed with stages II or III breast cancer between January 2000 and December 2013. Scientists then used CT scans to observe muscle tissues.
After analyzing the results, they found that higher muscle mass upped survival rates, while lower muscle mass was linked with a higher risk of death.
In fact, more than one-third of the individuals with sarcopenia, a condition that causes muscle loss, “had a significantly increased risk of death compared with patients without sarcopenia,” the authors wrote in the study.
Furthermore, building muscle may also help with other cancers.
“Our findings are likely generalizable across many other nonmetastatic cancers because the associations with muscle and improved survival for those with metastatic cancer has been observed across a variety of solid tumors,” they said.
While the scientists did not thoroughly explore why low muscle mass is connected to low breast cancer survival rates, they think inflammation may be a factor as cancer-related inflammation can decrease muscle mass and increase fat.
The researchers now hope to continue their investigations and believe their findings will lead to better treatment practices.
“We should also consider interventions to improve muscle mass, such as resistance training or protein supplementation,” they said. “In the era of precision medicine, the direct measurement of muscle and adiposity will help to guide treatment plans and interventions to optimize survival outcomes.”
Published: Monday, February 26, 2018 @ 11:32 AM
— People who eat fruits, vegetables and whole grains may experience lower rates of depression over time.
That’s according to new preliminary research published Sunday in the journal American Academy of Neurology, for which scientists examined 964 participants with an average age of 81 for symptoms of depression.
Participants in the study were monitored for symptoms and asked to fill out questionnaires about their eating habits, including how their habits lined up with the traditional Western diet, Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet.
The DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) is a plan developed to lower blood pressure without medication. The research involved in its development was sponsored by the National Institutes of Health.
According to dashdiet.org, the lifestyle meal plan is rich in fruits, vegetables, low fat or nonfat dairy, whole grains, lean meats, fish, poultry, nuts and beans.
With a high concentration of key nutrients, such as potassium, magnesium and calcium, the diet has been shown to help lower blood pressure, as well as lower the risk of heart disease, bad cholesterol, heart failure, body weight, diabetes, kidney stones and some kinds of cancer.
Now, researchers say the diet can help reduce risk of depression.
"Depression is common in older adults and more frequent in people with memory problems, vascular risk factors such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol, or people who have had a stroke," study author Laurel Cherian said in a news release. "Making a lifestyle change such as changing your diet is often preferred over taking medications, so we wanted to see if diet could be an effective way to reduce the risk of depression."
The participants involved in the study were divided into three groups based on how closely they adhered to the three types of diets. Researchers found those in the two groups that followed the DASH diet most closely were less likely to develop depression than people in the group that did not follow the diet closely.
The people who adhered to the DASH diet most closely were 11 percent less likely to become depressed over time compared to the lowest group, the study found.
On the other hand, the participants who closely followed a Western diet, which is high in saturated fats and red meats and low in fruits and vegetables, were more likely to develop depression.
But Cherian noted that the research shows only an association and does not prove that DASH diets lead to a reduced risk of depression.
"Future studies are now needed to confirm these results and to determine the best nutritional components of the DASH diet to prevent depression later in life and to best help people keep their brains healthy," Cherian said.
Cherian and her team will present the research at the American Academy of Neurology's 70th annual meeting in Los Angeles in April.
According to the World Health Organization, more than 300 million people of all ages suffer from depression, and it’s the leading cause of disability worldwide.
Additionally, approximately 800,000 people die of suicide each year — that’s one person every 40 seconds. From 1999 to 2014, the suicide rate in the U.S. rose by 24 percent. Furthermore, according to recent data released Thursday by Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide rates among 15- to 19-year-old girls doubled from 2007 to 2015, reaching a 40-year high.