(BPT) - Nearly 30 million Americans have diabetes, and most (90-95 percent) have type 2 diabetes. Diabetes management isn’t always easy — some people may have difficulty visiting their doctor regularly, eating healthy foods and reaching their A1C goal. That’s why America’s Diabetes Challenge, a program from Merck and the American Diabetes Association, is encouraging people to share their stories about the challenges and successes they’ve faced managing type 2 diabetes or supporting a loved one with the disease.
The program also encourages people with type 2 diabetes to work with their doctor to set and reach their A1C goal (average blood glucose level over the past 2 to 3 months), as well as learn if they’re at risk for low blood glucose, known as hypoglycemia, and how to help reduce that risk.
In 2015, artist Tim McGraw, actress S. Epatha Merkerson and chef Leticia Moreinos Schwartz each shared their personal connection to type 2 diabetes, and now they’re calling on people around the country to share their stories too. “Even if you don’t have type 2 diabetes, chances are you know someone who does,” McGraw says. “People can help each other by talking about the steps they’re taking to get to their A1C goal, including challenges or successes they experience.”
Hoping to inspire others with type 2 diabetes, Merkerson has shared her own personal struggles and accomplishments after living with the disease for nearly 14 years. “After my diagnosis, I got serious about my health and worked with my doctor to develop a personalized diabetes management plan,” Merkerson says. “I’m sharing my story as part of America’s Diabetes Challenge and challenge you to do the same. We need to stick together, so share your story with us today and help us to inspire others to make healthy choices.”
America’s Diabetes Challenge plans to identify the most common challenges patients submit and will offer tips to help address them.
As people work with their doctor to create an individualized treatment plan that’s right for them, there are some important tips to keep in mind:
* Both blood glucose self-tests and A1C tests are needed to help a patient and their doctor understand how well blood glucose is being controlled, because these tests measure blood glucose in different ways. The American Diabetes Association recommends that people with diabetes have an individualized A1C goal; the A1C goal for many adults with diabetes is less than 7 percent. A higher or lower goal may be appropriate for some people.
* Many people with diabetes are aware of the importance of controlling high blood glucose by diet, exercise and taking medicine (if prescribed), but they may not know that blood glucose can also go too low. People should learn to recognize the signs and symptoms of both high and low blood glucose, and talk to their doctor if they’re experiencing problems. Some people may be aware that low blood glucose can be caused by skipping meals or exercising excessively, but what they may not know is that certain diabetes medicines could also cause it to go too low.
* Diet and exercise are an important part of any diabetes management program. Tips for making healthier food choices include choosing lean proteins, opting for whole grains and reducing sodium intake.
For more information and to share your story, visit AmericasDiabetesChallenge.com. Additionally, you can find Spanish-language resources at www.DesafiandoLaDiabetes.com. You can also join the America’s Diabetes Challenge community by visiting facebook.com/AmericasDiabetesChallenge.
(BPT) - Silent strokes, ones that happen in your brain without you even knowing, can lead to full-blown strokes as well as cognitive impairment and dementia.
The most common depiction of a stroke is a person unable to move on one side of their body with slurred speech, but studies show that many stroke victims had silent strokes previously, that, as the name indicates, went unnoticed. The damage caused by the silent stroke, however, can be seen through advanced imaging techniques.
Since no one is suggesting that everyone get an annual brain scan, the next best thing is to understand the risk factors for silent stroke and control those. Two of those risk factors, high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation and blockages in the carotid arteries are simple to screen for and have effective treatments.
“The upside to all this is that there are steps one can take to prevent silent stroke,” says Dr. Andrew Manganaro, a vascular surgeon and chief medical officer for Life Line Screening. “What it takes is a measure of awareness, routine screening and, if needed, treatment to prevent the blood clots that can lead to this long-term damage to the brain.”
Silent strokes are 30 to 40 percent more prevalent in women than men and the results can be serious. Impaired movement, muscle weakness, depression, memory problems and cognitive problems are all associated with silent stroke.
“So when atrial fibrillation, high blood pressure or carotid blockage is present in a patient, that should be an indicator to her physician that she’s at risk of a silent stroke,” Manganaro says.
The key to preventing stroke is to get a full picture of your vascular health, so you can begin treatment and monitoring. Manganaro recommends routine screenings for the damaged arteries that indicate vascular problems. Testing for high blood pressure, carotid blockages and the presence of atrial fibrillation, along with peripheral arterial disease screening and abdominal aortic aneurysm testing are safe and accurate.
“These screenings can help you and your doctor get a full picture of your vascular health,” says Manganaro.
To set up a screening appointment in your community that is affordable and convenient, visit www.LifeLineScreening.com.
To cut your risk of stroke, treating hypertension with medication and lifestyle changes can help, Manganaro said. Control your weight, reduce your consumption of red meat, eat more plant foods and talk to your doctor about starting an exercise program. If you smoke, make it a priority to quit. Smokers have double the risk of stroke than non-smokers, because smoking can lead to excessive blood clotting.
If you or your family members have noticed recent changes to your memory facility or mobility, consult with your doctor. In some patients, these have been symptoms of a silent stroke, but in any case it will benefit you to find the root cause and begin treatment.
Does silent stroke lurk in your future?
The first step in preventing stroke is knowing which conditions can enhance your risk. If you have any of these conditions, talk to your doctor.
(BPT) - Would you plug a leak if it cost $6 billion a year?
That's the amount of "leakage" or retirement savings lost every year from retirement savers defaulting on their loans from 401(k) plans, according to a 2014 report by the Pension Research Council (PRC), Borrowing from the Future: 401(k) Plans and Loan Defaults. Draining retirement savings for other purposes ultimately makes is harder to prepare for retirement.
But loans and withdrawals from 401(k) plans are sometimes the only options available to workers who are faced with unexpected financial emergencies. Bankrate.com's 2016 Financial Security Index finds that 29 percent of Americans have no savings to address emergencies. But other options are increasingly becoming available.
"Employers are focusing more on improving their employees' financial wellness by making available educational programs and introducing financial products that can help workers protect their savings," says Tom Foster, spokesperson for workplace solutions at Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co. (MassMutual). "It's important to make sure you're aware of all of the benefits your employer makes available and how they can help you manage your personal finances."
Benefits are being introduced at the workplace to help employees address financial emergencies such as a critical illnesses, disabilities, accidents, big car repair bills or other misfortunes without cracking open their retirement savings:
* Pre-approved emergency loans: Some programs allow employees to obtain credit online without having to fill out forms or visit a bank. The most helpful programs prequalify employees for credit based on their employment and their ability to repay. Often, employees can repay the loans through payroll deduction. The rates on such loans can be as low as 6 percent.
* Critical illness coverage: Medical treatment and other expenses related to a serious illness can quickly run into several thousands of dollars, especially with the growing prevalence of high-deductible health care coverage. Critical illness policies provide cash for insureds to pay for a myriad of expenses, from medical deductibles and co-pays to pharmaceuticals and comfort-related costs if an employee or a family member suffers a serious illness.
* Accident insurance: Few emergencies can derail personal finances more quickly than an injury caused by an accident, especially for those who live paycheck to paycheck. More than 40 million injuries are treated by emergency rooms every year, according to the 2014 FastStats report on Emergency Department Visits by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Policies typically pay cash in a lump-sum to cover anything from medical insurance deductibles and co-pays, down time from work and other unanticipated expenses.
* Disability protection: Many people can't make ends meet for more than a few weeks without a paycheck. A disabling accident or illness can easily knock someone out of work for weeks or even months. Group disability policies are available to cover short-term disabilities that last as long as six months or long-term disabilities that can take years or even become permanent. Many workers should consider securing a policy that protects at least 50 percent of their paycheck and buy additional coverage of up to 60 percent or 70 percent, if available.
Many employers make these benefits available on a voluntary basis, meaning employees pay the premiums at relatively low group rates.
"Taken together or individually, these protection benefits can help shield you against financial misfortunes and give you an alternative to tapping your retirement savings," Foster said. "Then, as your financial situation improves, you can gradually boost your personal and retirement savings to enhance your financial wellness."
(BPT) - Everyone knows it is important to save for retirement in order to build a nest egg and enjoy the "golden years." So why is it that state and local governments many times act irresponsibly when it comes to saving for the future of public employees?
Government pensions are the way in which state and local public employees like teachers, police officers and firefighters receive retirement benefits. Typically both the employee and the government set aside money each year to be invested. The investments will hopefully grow over time, and both the annual contributions and the investment growth is understood to form the pool of money public employees will be able to use once they reach retirement. That's the theory.
Unfortunately, according to Unaccountable and Unaffordable 2016, a new, state-by state analysis from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), government pensions are being massively underfunded across the states, and now hardworking taxpayers are on the hook. What is the price tag? Across the 50 states, unfunded pension obligations now total $5.6 trillion. Now, that number sounds large at a national scale, but what does it mean for the average American? To be exact, this state pension debt equates to an average price tag of $17,427 for every man, woman and child in the United States.
There are numerous reasons why pension liabilities are so large. For one, the stock market is not growing as quickly as many assumed it would, exiting the recent economic downturn. Therefore, investments for many pension funds are not meeting expectations. The average pension fund assumes they will earn a whopping 7.37 percent on their investments over the long term. These overly-optimistic assumptions fly in the face of what many financial experts are calling a "new normal" of lower than expected investment earnings in the future.
Another inconvenient truth is that many state governments have failed to deposit the annually required contributions into pension funds every year. The urge to spend more money on other government projects, however well intentioned, has diverted much-needed contributions away from pensions and has contributed significantly to unfunded liabilities.
When pensions are unstable, millions of Americans are faced with an uncertain retirement. However, this is not only a problem for government workers - it affects all Americans. Without a sustainable solution to underfunded pensions, higher taxes will be the reality for all hardworking taxpayers.
What's more, an increasing percentage of state budgets are being drained to pay pension benefits, with less money available for important functions like funding public schools and fixing roads. One especially sobering story comes from Illinois, where since 2009, this trend is so extreme that 89 cents out of every new dollar of education spending has gone to teacher pensions, leaving just 11 cents for salaries, textbooks, building costs and the various in-classroom costs of education. And by 2025, Illinois will spend more on teacher-retirement costs than it will spend on the classroom.
Pension funding is not a Republican vs. Democrat issue. It's a retirement issue that affects all Americans. Unfunded pension liabilities will be harmful to the future of workers, retirees and taxpayers alike, if forward-thinking policymakers do not tackle pension reform in a timely fashion.
To find out more about how prepared your state is and to see the full report, Unaccountable and Unaffordable 2016, is available at Alec.org/PensionDebt2016.
Life insurance is a valuable asset, but over time you may find that your life insurance no longer fits your situation. You might be surprised to learn that in addition to your home, stocks, bonds and antiques, your life insurance policies can be converted to immediate cash through a life settlement. Here are some reasons to consider a life settlement.
Make Your Life Insurance Work for You
(Family Features) Life insurance is a valuable asset, but over time you may find that your life insurance no longer fits your situation. You might be surprised to learn that in addition to your home, stocks, bonds and antiques, your life insurance is another asset you can sell.
Life insurance policies can be converted to immediate cash through a life settlement, but as many as 85 percent of seniors don’t realize this option is available, according to a survey conducted by Coventry Direct.
A life settlement is a financial transaction in which a policyowner sells an unneeded life insurance policy for more than they would have received from the insurance company if they were to lapse or surrender the policy. Most life insurance policy types qualify, including universal life, whole life, variable life, survivorship and even term life policies.
Among the reasons you might consider a life settlement:
For example, one policyowner no longer had a need for several life insurance policies totaling $500,000. The life insurance company would only pay him the cash surrender value of $28,500. Instead, he contacted Coventry Direct and was able to sell the policies for $110,000, which he used to supplement his retirement and plan a family vacation.
Learn more about life settlements and whether selling your life insurance policy is right for you by calling 888-858-9344 or visiting coventrydirect.com/lifesettlements.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images
Individuals in the empty-nester stage have higher happy home scores across the board compared to all other stages of life. The main factors that contribute to their happiness are their communities, location and features of their homes. Use these tips, including remodeling, having adequate gathering space and getting to know your neighbors, to make your home a happier place that you want to stay.
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