Loneliness Can Literally Break Your Heart

lonelinessBeing alone can break your heart—literally.

People who lack a strong network of friends and family are at greater risk of developing—and dying from—heart disease, research shows. According to some studies, the risk of solitude is comparable to that posed by high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and even smoking.

Experts haven’t pinpointed exactly how social networks protect against heart disease, but there are a number of probable explanations. People who are socially isolated are more likely to drink, smoke, and get less exercise. And once someone has heart disease, friends and family often provide key support, such as picking up prescriptions, encouraging exercise, cooking healthy meals, and helping with household chores.

While that everyday help is important, it’s not the whole story. In recent years, researchers have begun to unravel the cardiovascular effects of social isolation, and they’ve discovered that feeling alone may hurt the heart even more than actually being alone.

“We started looking at social isolation about 20 years ago, and we found fairly quickly that objective social isolation in everyday life isn’t as important as perceived social isolation,” says John Cacioppo, PhD, a professor of psychology at the University of Chicago. “And there’s a term for perceived social isolation: It’s loneliness.”

What we call loneliness—the feeling that you have no one to turn to, that no one understands you—is a form of stress. And if it becomes chronic, it can wreak havoc on your blood vessels and heart.

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Source: Health.com


100 Things To Do With Your Grandkids!

grandparents-grandkids1. Set up a lemonade stand. Make unusual flavors like apple lemonade and pineapple lemonade along with the traditional favorite.

2. Stare at clouds. Make up stories about what you see.

3. Catch frogs.

4. Make one super-duper ice-cream sundae — don’t forget the whipped cream, cherries, and two spoons.

5. Introduce the grandkids to lobster. Have a burger handy for when they freak out.

6. Scope out populated parking lots for state license plates. Keep a list and try to find all 50.

7. Go on a nature walk, pointing out bugs, trees, birds, and butterflies. Bring binoculars.

8. Play catch until it’s too dark to see the ball.

9. Take the dogs outside and play a long game of fetch. Using the ground to scratch an itch is fun for dogs and kids!

10. Build a birdhouse.

11. Paint watercolor portraits of each other — the sillier the better.

12. Ride bicycles to someplace new or show your grandchildren around your neighborhood.

13. Spend an hour in a hammock.

14. Borrow mysteries from the library, and take turns reading chapters out loud under the stars.

15. Do karaoke together. Sing “My Generation” and “When I’m Sixty-Four.”

16. Go on a picnic, even if you travel no farther than your backyard. Set out a blanket, and bring portable music and a Frisbee.

To see the rest of the list click here.
Source: Grandparents.com

Impress Guests With This 4th of July Treat

0807_ff0603_summerberrytrifleBerry Trifle
1 package (3.4-ounce) instant vanilla pudding
4 cups fresh berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, or blackberries), washed and hulled, plus extra for garnish
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
24 to 36 ladyfingers
1. To make the fillings, prepare the pudding according to the package directions and chill it.

2. Slice the strawberries, if you’re using them, then toss all of the berries with the lemon juice and the 1/4 cup of sugar. Set aside for 30 minutes to allow the berries to release their juices.

3. In a medium mixing bowl, whip the cream, vanilla extract, and remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar until soft peaks form. Set aside.

4. To make the layers, set a layer of ladyfingers (around 7 or 8 ) on the bottom of a large, clear serving bowl (ours was 4 quarts). Top with the berries with half of the pudding.

5. Add another layer of ladyfingers, another third of the berries and juice, and the rest of the pudding. Add a final layer of ladyfingers and berries. Top with the whipped cream and a berry garnish.

6. Refrigerate until you’re ready to serve. Serves 8 to 10.

Source: FamilyFun.com

Change in Benefits for WA Medicaid Program

medicaidOLYMPIA – In order to meet budget targets for the coming biennium, the Department of Social and Health Services will no longer cover oral enteral nutrition for adult Medicaid clients who are not using the liquid nutrition in tube feeding. The new policy is effective for dates of service on or after July 1, 2009.

“We understand that reductions to health-care coverage are difficult for our clients, and we are trying to make these necessary changes in a way that minimizes any hardship,” said Doug Porter, Assistant Secretary of the Health and Recovery Services Administration within DSHS. “Clients and their doctors will have the opportunity to request higher levels of service through an exception process.”

Porter noted that the changes in nutrition and other medical supplies – from diapers for incontinence and sterile gloves to some diabetic supplies — are being forced by the state’s severe economic squeeze. These optional benefits were available when funding was more readily available. He said the nutrition change is part of $13 million in medical supply savings assigned to DSHS under the upcoming biennial budget. The nutrition change alone will save the state an estimated $3.2 million a year

“We also have determined that Medicaid was one of a few health-care payers nationally that were covering adult nutrition or incontinent supplies at these levels,” he said. “Medicare and most commercial insurance companies do not cover these items and have already implemented these limitations. Obviously, Washington taxpayers deserve to know in these economic times that we are matching industry benchmarks.”

“We are working to communicate as much information as possible to our clients to help with this transition,” he added. “We realize that sometimes exceptions are necessary, so we do have a process that allows special treatment when it is appropriate.”

Porter also noted:

There is no change in the current Medicaid enteral nutrition benefit for children
Clients who were given prior authorization to receive oral enteral nutrition will continue to receive it through the authorized period
Clients and their providers may seek authorization for an exception under the Washington Administrative Code (WAC 388-501-0160). Called “exception-to-rule,” the process basically lets the state allow coverage in cases where a client’s clinical needs are significantly different that the rest of the population.

The nutrition change is one of several benefit changes for durable medical equipment and medical supplies. All the changes below are effective for dates of service on or after August 1, 2009.

Bath or shower items, stockings and auto blood pressure cuffs are no longer a covered benefit for adults. These clients also will have the exception-to-rule option under WAC 388-501-0160. There is also no change in current policy on covering these supplies for children.
Incontinent supplies for adults and children will be limited to 200 per client per month, instead of the current limit of 240 per month for adults and 300 per month for children. This includes briefs only, or a combination of briefs and pull-ups.
Non-sterile gloves for adults and children will be limited to 200 per client per month instead of the current limit of 900 per month. Sterile gloves will be limited to 30 per month.
Diabetic supplies (lancets and test strips) for adults and children will be limited to 100 a month for clients on insulin, or 100 every three months for clients who are not on insulin.
Clients or their providers can request authorization to exceed these limits under a “limitation extension” option in the Washington Administrative Code (WAC 388-501-0169). This option allows Medicaid to authorize more supplies for a specific client when his or her health-care needs would not be met under the limit.

DSHS does not discriminate and provides equal access to its programs and services for all persons without regard to race, color, gender, religion, creed, marital status, national origin, sexual orientation, age, veteran’s status or the presence of any physical, sensory or mental disability.

Source: http://www.dshs.wa.gov
Original Article

Pets Can Help Physically and Psychologically

There’s no doubt that Americans love their pets. A new survey by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) shows that more than 57 percent of U.S. households own one or more animals. But can having pets actually provide health benefits? Yes, say experts, as long as you’re not allergic to animals or terrified of them. “Pet ownership is good for your health both physically and psychologically,” says Connecticut psychologist Herbert Nieburg, author of “Pet Loss: A Thoughtful Guide for Adults and Children” (HarperCollins).

Sure, pets provide companionship and unconditional love. But research has shown that they can also help reduce stress and blood pressure in owners, increase longevity in those who’ve had heart attacks, and even relax and improve the appetites of Alzheimer’s patients. “Any disease condition that has a stress-related component to it, we believe pets could ameliorate stress and moderate the situation,” says biologist Erika Friedmann, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Nursing. “It’s providing a focus of attention that’s outside of someone’s self. They’re actually letting you focus on them rather than focusing inward on yourself all the time.”

Many four-legged pets, especially dogs, can also get owners off the couch. “They’re there to greet you when you come home at the end of the day, and they’re ready for some play and attention,” says veterinarian Scott Line, associate editor of the “Merck/Merial Manual for Pet Health.” “They need to exercise, so it propels people out the door.” These walks also force pet owners to socialize instead of sitting around feeling sorry for themselves, which can help improve their mood. “It gives people a routine, a thing to do. You have to get up and take care of the dog. You can’t lie in bed all day,” says Friedmann.

Those walks can also help owners stick to a regular exercise routine and slim down. Rebecca Johnson, director of the Research Center for Human Animal Interaction at the University of Missouri’s College of Veterinary Medicine, has been studying 18-to-87-year-olds in the “Walk a Hound, Lose a Pound” program in Columbia, Mo., in which participants take shelter dogs for a walk each Saturday morning. “They lost weight, they felt great, and they were doing something wonderful,” Johnson says.

Pets can help prevent loneliness, too. Indeed, the AVMA survey found that nearly half of respondents considered their pets to be companions; only about 2 percent considered them to be property. “The human-animal bond is becoming increasingly strong in our society,” says veterinarian and veterinary surgeon Kimberly May of the AVMA. In fact, Alan Beck, director of the Center for Human-Animal Bond at Purdue University, found in a study that 97 percent of people talk to their pets. “The other 3 percent lied,” he quips.

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Source: Newsweek.com

6 Reasons to Grow Old

peacefulThere’s a shady side and a sunny side,” said Joshua O. Haberman, Rabbi Emeritus of Washington Hebrew Congregation in Washington, D.C. He was talking about old age.

To his own surprise, he recently turned 90, an event the congregation he has helped lead for 40 years celebrated with a dinner, music, prayers and thoughtful observations from the honoree (PDF).

Not every 90-year-old enjoys the good health and vigor of the rabbi, who still teaches and writes and agreed to fit in a phone interview after his half-hour of daily morning calisthenics. (“I jump around, but I’m not a fanatic.”) But it’s good to remember, with more than 1.5 million Americans having passed this once rare milestone, that extreme longevity has its compensations. Rabbi Haberman cites six.

1. Tranquility tops his list. “You have achieved in old age what you have wanted to, if you are fortunate,” he said. The important battles have been waged, the decisions made. “You no longer have to do the pushing, the striving, the struggle.”

2. Next, the cooling of passion. “You don’t rush to quick action,” Rabbi Haberman explained. “You’re more likely to stop and think.” These days he’s hardly indifferent to the world’s problems, he added, but he’s less inclined to think he can solve them, or that they’re soluble at all.

3. He’s learned “the art of submission.” Americans are activists by nature, but “more happens to us than we cause to happen,” he has found. “You have to accept the unalterable.”

4. Moreover, the rabbi confessed, he’s increasingly apt to consider the possibility he’s wrong, a gift of old age (fourth on the list) he labeled “liberation from the compulsion to set everyone else straight.” He has loosened up, he told me, since his more dogmatic youth.

Once he fiercely opposed young people living together outside marriage, for instance. He still opposes it but less vehemently, especially since several of his own children cohabited before they wed. “Conditions in the world have changed; women are economically independent,” he explained. “Singlehood for women is different than a century ago.” I could practically hear him shrugging on his end of the phone line.

5. The fifth benefit of growing old, “one of the most important marks of maturity,” is gratitude. “I’m more conscious of the little favors people do — the driver who stops and lets me cross the street, the newspaper man who brings my paper directly to the door,” Rabbi Haberman said. He feels more aware of humanity’s interconnectedness. “I am a zero by myself.”

6. Concluding the list: greater involvement with his family, including his wife of nearly 65 years, four children (one rabbi, two spouses of rabbis, one civilian), 15 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

Yes, he does think about death, but he doesn’t pretend to understand it and he’s not afraid of it. “I believe in the eternity of existence,” he said. “We remain part of this universe.”

Each night before bed, he recites in Hebrew a passage from Psalm 31: “In God’s hand I entrust my spirit, when asleep and when awake/My body and spirit, God is with me, I shall not fear.”

“And I leave it at that,” the rabbi said.

Source: The New York Times; Monday June 22, 2009

Obama’s Solution to the Doughnut Hole (Medicare Part D)

pink_sprinkled_donutIn a surprise move that will please millions of Medicare beneficiaries, President Obama yesterday announced plans to cut in half the prescription drug expenses of those who fall into the Part D coverage gap, universally known as the doughnut hole. They would only pay 50 percent of the cost of brand-name medications in the gap instead of the 100 percent they must pay now.

The new benefit is expected to be part of health care reform legislation that Congress will consider later this fall. If passed, it will likely go into effect July 2010.

“For millions of beneficiaries, especially those with high drug costs, this could literally be a life saver,” says John Rother, AARP’s executive vice-president of strategy and policy. “It’ll certainly make a substantial financial difference to everybody who falls into the doughnut hole.”

This unexpected shrinking of the doughnut hole, which affects about 26 percent of Part D enrollees, is the result of a deal between the White House and the pharmaceutical industry. All drug manufacturers agreed to donate half the cost of their brand-name and biologic products (but not generic drugs) to people in the gap, at no cost to the government.

“As part of the health reform legislation that I expect Congress to enact this year, pharmaceutical companies will extend discounts on prescription drugs to millions of seniors who currently are subjected to crushing out-of-pocket expenses within the doughnut hole,” Obama said in a statement. “This gap in coverage has been a continuing injustice that has placed a great burden on many seniors.”

The discounts will cost the drug industry about $80 billion over 10 years, according to its trade group, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA).

Part D enrollees in the gap will be able to access the discounts directly at the pharmacy, White House officials say. The amount will be half of the price already negotiated by the Part D plan they’re enrolled in. They won’t have to apply for the discounts or fill out any paperwork.

Furthermore, the full cost of drugs bought in the gap will count toward the out-of-pocket limit ($4,350 in 2009) that triggers low-cost catastrophic coverage, even though enrollees will actually pay only half of this amount to get there. So the discount will not reduce their chances of qualifying for catastrophic coverage.

The discount program would be run by an independent third party, according to Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., a key player in brokering the deal. “The agreement includes a provision to discourage private employers from dropping prescription drug coverage currently provided to retirees,” he said in a statement. “It also establishes audits of drug company manufacturers to ensure the discounted prices are appropriately set.”

The discount will apply to the great majority of Part D enrollees, though not all. Those excluded are:

– People who pay the income-related Part B premium (in 2009, those with incomes over $85,000, or $170,000 for married couples).
– Low-income people who qualify for Part D’s Extra Help benefit, as they already receive full coverage throughout the year, with no gap.

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Source: Patricia Barry | Source: AARP Bulletin Today | June 21, 2009