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Holiday Weight Gain?

Over the hills and through the woods to Grandma’s house for the holidays. A time for families to gather and enjoy each other’s company – and of course EAT! Delicious meals, cookie swaps, company parties, smorgasbord of buffets, it’s no surprise extra pounds have crept up on the waist lines. The last few months of the year can test the most disciplined weight watcher.

According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the average American’s weight increases 0.2% over Thanksgiving and 0.4% over Christmas. This averages out to about one pound gained during each holiday season. Researchers also found the bulk of this weight gain occurs in the 10 days following the Christmas holiday. Perhaps the holiday cheer throws people’s diet equilibriums into a tail spin?

However, gaining a pound might sound like a small price to pay for all the gingerbread and holiday treats, but the fact is that many people are unlikely to lose the extra pound year after year.

The holidays are over and it’s time get on the healthy eating bandwagon. Here are 5 diet tips to help lose that festive weight.
1) Drink water! 
2) Get more active. 
3) Use a smaller plate.
4) Set realistic goals.
5) Enjoy healthier foods.  
If you have put on a bit of weight after the holidays, that’s okay. With a little dedication, healthy food choices, and exercises, holiday weight loss is possible. Start off the new year with a new you.

Weight Loss Resolutions

New Year’s resolutions are easy to make but even easier to break. Some of the most common resolutions are losing weight, quitting smoking, cutting back on alcohol, eating healthier, and getting better sleep. People tend to challenge themselves by setting unrealistic goals, and they become frustrated and give up. Any resolution is obtainable by setting small goals that are easily reached. New Year’s is an opportunity to think about healthy choices and setting realistic goals to achieve them.

Having a weight loss resolution to begin the new year is a great start. Breaking down the resolution into mini-resolutions will help stay on target and meet goals. Here’s how:

Set measurable goals: Commit to a 30-minute exercise class or take a walk at break time. Trade in the soda for sparkling water. Treat yourself to a star sticker each time a goal has been accomplished.

Take it week to week: Each week, assign a new goal such as trying a new vegetable dish, adding a new spice to a recipe, and engaging in physical activity. Remember to give each goal achieved a gold star!

Find a group or buddy: Having support from peers is one of the keys to success for losing weight.

Whatever your fitness goals are for 2020, create a realistic plan, stick to it, and then benefit from all the hard work along the path for a healthy change.

Gadgets for Parkinson’s

Parkinson’s disease (PD) can make daily living challenging. PD symptoms such as shakiness, slow movements, and rigid muscles can affect daily life. As the disease progresses, it can turn ordinary tasks such as eating, dressing and writing into daunting chores. Gadgets – better known as assistive devices – can help make these tasks easier for daily living.

Assistive technology has come a long way over the past few years. Devices to assist with walking, getting dressed, and eating have been created to help balance problems experienced by those with the disease. Here are a few tools that may help make life a little less challenging.

Dressing aids such as button hooks, magnetic button covers, and zipper pulls can make getting ready in the morning easier for individuals who lack dexterity, have tremors, and difficulty with coordination and balance. Lightweight, supportive shoes with Velcro tabs are easier to slip on.

Bathroom aids such as a shower chair, grab bar, and a nonskid bath mat are essential to help make the room safer and more accessible. Electric toothbrush, electric razor, or hands-free hair dryer mounted on a vanity can help with personal grooming.

Eating tools such as weighted utensils, plate guards, rubber mats to prevent dishes from slipping, and cups with an attachable lid can provide a sense of independence. Also, using insulated bowls, mugs, and plates can help keep food warm during the meal.

Mobile phones offer a peace of mind in staying connected with family and friends. Voice activation is available on most smartphones and can help assist to make calls by just saying the name of the intended person, search the internet, and check emails. Smartphones offer many apps such as medication management and data gathering apps. These can be used to inform the person who adjusts medications or treatments of Parkinson’s.

While assistive technology or equipment does not cure or stop the tremors, it can improve independence in daily life.

Supercharge the Immune System

Cold and flu season has arrived. Family members and coworkers are beginning to cough and sneeze in unison. It’s just a matter of time before you join in the phlegmy chorus. However, there are ways to supercharge the immune system to help fight off viral and bacterial infections, and other annoying bugs. 

Home treatments and natural remedies can help boost the immune system during the season of colds, flu, and sniffles. 
Try a few of these natural ways to boost the immune system:
• Eat a well-balanced diet. Try a variety of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains. 
• Drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated helps support the body’s defenses to function properly.
• Exercise. Moderate exercise can help maintain a healthy immune system. 
• Get plenty of sleep. If you get enough sleep, it will help your body fight off sickness. 
• Increase vitamins. Immune boosting vitamins are vitamins B6, C, and E. Some foods that are rich in these vitamins are eggs, bell peppers, spinach, and almonds.

So become a supercharged immune fighting machine by, exercising, getting plenty of sleep, and eating fruits and veggies. Your friends will be asking you why you never seem to get sick.

UTIs and Dementia in Seniors

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) in seniors can become a complex issue. It is important for family caregivers to know the signs of UTI in the elderly. UTIs can cause serious side effects like delirium and possibly lead to kidney infections and sepsis.

The elderly experience different symptoms of UTI compared to middle aged adults or even younger people, and the symptoms can be much worse. Older adults, particularly those with dementia, may not realize they have an issue and often are unable to communicate their symptoms to their caregivers.

When seniors contract a UTI, they sometimes experience a sudden and unexplained change in behavior, such as confusion, agitation, or withdrawal.

Certain UTI symptoms are easier to recognize in seniors than others. Following are a few indicators that can accompany UTI in the elderly:
• Behavioral changes
• Confused or delirium-like state
• Falling
• Hallucinations

Some UTI symptoms may be present but are ignored by elderly individuals.
• Fever
• Cloudy or bloody urine
• Pain with urination
• Strong-smelling urine

There are a few simple steps to help avoid contracting a UTI, such as drinking plenty of water, emptying the bladder frequently, and encouraging urinary hygiene. 

Are Cranberry Pills Good For You?

Cranberries are small, tart, bright red berries that are a popular treat, as well as a holiday staple. They are packed with antioxidants and provide many health benefits. Cranberry juice has a reputation for preventing Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs), though research is inconsistent. Is there a benefit to taking cranberry pills?

What are cranberry pills? They are a small tablet or capsule made from dried, powered cranberries and may contain additional ingredients such as vitamin C or probiotics. One benefit of taking cranberry pills is that they may help prevent UTIs, however there have been conflicting research.

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in November 2016, looked at 185 older women living in a nursing home. The group of women taking cranberry supplements saw a decrease in the number of bacteria in their urine in the first six months. The study did not show a decrease in UTI frequency in the first year.

According to Pennington Biomedical Research Center, cranberry pill health benefits include:
• May help with chronic disease
• May help treat stomach ailments
• High level of antioxidants

While cranberry pills are thought to be safe, there are a few mild side effects such as: 
• Stomach pain
• Potential to cause kidney stones (if you are susceptible to them)
• May increase affects of blood thinning with some medications

If you think you may have a UTI, contact your general practitioner.

Sources:

Juthani-Mehta M, Van Ness PH, Bianco L, et al. Effect of Cranberry Capsules on Bacteriuria Plus Pyuria Among Older Women in Nursing Homes: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA. 2016;316(18):1879–1887.

Roy, Heli J. “Cranberries.” Pennington Nutrition Series. Pennington Biomedical Research Center LSU. 41(2014)

Sleeping Well May Help Prevent Alzheimer’s

Getting a good night’s sleep can be rejuvenating. Sound slumber may boost the brain by protecting you against Alzheimer’s disease. A new study released by psychologists at the University of California, Berkeley, reports people with declining quality of sleep from ages 50 to 60 have more protein tangles in their brain, putting them at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease later in life. 

Studies show while we sleep, the slow-wave activity of nerve cells appears to make room for cerebral spinal fluid to move in and out of the brain – a process believed to rinse out metabolic waste products. In other words, the brain has a system for taking out the garbage while you are in dreamland.

According to the National Institute on Aging (NIH), new findings center on a protein called tau, which accumulates in abnormal tangles in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s. Lack of sleep or sleep deprivation upsets the balance allowing tau to be released and spread within the brain areas for memory. A reduction in slow-waves wash cycles would limit the brain’s ability to clear out the toxins associated with Alzheimer’s.

These new findings suggest that good sleep habits might play an important role in slowing and/or preventing Alzheimer’s disease.

Sources:

University of California – Berkeley. “Disrupted sleep in one’s 50s, 60s raises risk of Alzheimer’s disease: Protein tangles in the aging brain throw sleep rhythms out of sync, likely leading to memory loss.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 June 2019. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/06/190627114105.htm

Makin, Simon. Deep Sleep Gives Your Brain a Deep Clean. Scientific American. Retrieved from: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/deep-sleep-gives-your-brain-a-deep-clean1/

Winer JR, Mander BA. Waking Up to the Importance of Sleep in the Pathogenesis of Alzheimer Disease. JAMA Neurol. 2018;75(6):654–656. doi:10.1001/jamaneurol.2018.0005

Benefits of Green Tea

There’s something comforting about enjoying a warm cup of tea. What’s even better is choosing green tea and reaping the health benefits that come with it. 

Green tea is made from Camellia sinensis leaves and is widely used for a beverage, which has a stimulant effect due to caffeine. Green tea is made from leaves steamed and dried, while black tea leaves are withered, rolled, fermented and dried. It is often combined with flavor additives such as jasmine flowers, orange peels and tropical fruits.

Green tea boasts of a variety of health benefits in addition to being a delicious and popular drink. Here are just a few of benefits from drinking green tea.

Heart Health – According to a study published in “Current Medicinal Chemistry”, Pon Velayutham and colleagues found flavonoids in green tea can help prevent oxidation of LDL (bad) cholesterol and reduce blood clotting as well as help lower blood pressure.

Weight Loss – Green tea is thought to aid weight loss by boosting the body’s metabolism to be more efficient. Regularly exercising and eating a healthy diet are highly effective weight loss strategies. Replacing sodas and sugary drinks with a cup of green tea may help increase positive results.

Blood Sugar – Keeping blood sugar at a reasonable level can be difficult. Green tea may help manage glycemic loads and manage blood sugar levels. In a study performed in Japan, people consumed six or more cups a day saw a stunning 33% percent risk reduction of developing Type 2 diabetes.

Pro Tip: Ideal temperature for steeping green tea is between 160-180 F. Boiling the water to hot can damage the tea leaves, causing it to taste bitter. 

Sources:

Duke, James A. “Camellia sinensis (L.) Kuntze” Handbook of Energy Crops, 1983, https://hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/duke_energy/Camellia_sinensis.html

Pon Velayutham, Anandh Babu, and Dongmin Liu. “Green tea catechins and cardiovascular health: an update.” Current Medicinal Chemistry vol. 15,18 (2008): 1840-50. doi:10.2174/092986708785132979

Kim, Hyun Min, and Jaetaek Kim. “The effects of green tea on obesity and type 2 diabetes.” Diabetes & metabolism journal vol. 37,3 (2013): 173-5. doi:10.4093/dmj.2013.37.3.173 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3689013/

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Season Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that cycles with seasonal changes. For most people with this disorder, symptoms begin in late autumn or early winter and subside during the spring and summer.

Short dark days and cold temperatures can make anyone wish for warm sunny days, but seasonal affective disorder is more than just experiencing the winter blues. According to the Mayo Clinic, decline in the amount of daylight during fall and winter months is to blame for SAD.

Symptoms of SAD can include:
• Tiredness and loss of energy
• An increased need to sleep
• Cravings for carbohydrate
• Weight gain
• Social withdrawal
• Slow, sluggish, lethargic movements

In addition to seeking help from a healthcare professional, there are a few lifestyle changes that can improve symptoms and lift your mood.
• Maximize exposure to daylight – make the home brighter, keep blinds and curtains open during the day.
• Engage in activities – spend time with friends and family, go to the mall and other activities you enjoy.
• Practice healthy habits – exercise, get enough sleep, eat a well-balanced diet, spend time outdoors if possible.
• Get plenty of sleep.

Seasonal Affective Disorder can make it hard to feel motivated, but there are plenty of steps to take to help yourself feel better. By adopting healthy habits and scheduling fun and relaxation into the day, you can help lift the SAD cloud for a sunnier day.

2019 Open Enrollment: 10 Essential Facts

2019 Open Enrollment: 10 Essential Facts

Open enrollment for 2018 health plans is over. Unless you  qualify for a special enrollment period, you are unable to obtain an individual insurance policy

until open enrollment begins in November1 1, 2018 for 2019 coverage.

Open enrollment for 2019 individual & family health plans

Begins
Nov. 1, 2018
Ends
Dec. 15, 2018

Here’s what you need to know for the open enrollment period for 2018 individual and family health insurance plans.

1. The open enrollment deadlines have changed

Open enrollment starts Nov. 1, 2018, and continues through Dec. 15, 2018. But your coverage doesn’t start immediately.

  • If you sign up between Nov. 1, 2018, and Dec. 15, 2018, your coverage will start Jan. 1, 2019.

In 2018, the federal government’s current rule changes the open enrollment period from 3 months (around 90 days), as it was the last two year, to a mere 45 days. However, some states extended the time that people have to buy health insurance. For 2019 coverage, only a few states have set extended dates. These states and dates are:

  • California – Oct. 15 to Jan. 15
  • D.C. – Oct. 15 to Jan. 31
  • Minnesota – Nov. 1 to Jan. 13

If you buy after the Dec. 15 date in the states that are extending the enrollment period, you’ll need to check to see when the coverage will start as most still require you to obtain your plan by Dec. 15 for it to start on Jan. 1, 2018. If you buy after Dec. 15 your plan’s start date may be Feb. 1 or March 1, 2019.

No matter how long you have in your area, it’s important to not delay in choosing a plan once open enrollment starts.

People who qualify for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) can enroll at any time of the year. These are state-federal programs for people with limited incomes or disabilities.

2. You must sign up if you don’t have health insurance from another source

You need to sign up for health insurance during open enrollment if:

  • You don’t have health insurance through your employer or your spouse’s employer.
  • You don’t have government coverage (such as veterans, Medicare and Medicaid)
  • You’re over age 26 and can no longer be on a parent’s health insurance.
  • You qualify for tax credits to help you pay for health insurance coverage.

3. This is the time to make changes to your current plan

What you can do during open enrollment:

  • You can renew your current individual/family health insurance plan.
  • You can choose a new health insurance plan through the marketplace in your state or through private insurance.

If you are currently enrolled in a marketplace health insurance plan, it will automatically renew. However, the plan may make changes to its provider network, copays, co-insurance and drug coverage. Your plan must send you a notice of any changes it will make for 2019.

Take time to read the notice to see what it means for you.  Make certain your doctors and preferred hospital are still in your network.  Be aware, you may be able to use out-of-network doctors and hospitals, if you’re willing to pay more. In some cases, you might not be covered at all if you go out of network.

Your prescription drug coverage also could change. The plan may no longer cover the drugs you take to manage your chronic conditions. It’s important that you check your plan’s drug benefits for 2019 before you allow it to renew. You may need to find a different plan for your needs and now’s the time to do it.

Health plans must provide an online link to the list of drugs they will cover, known as formularies.

4. Marketplace open enrollment is only for health insurance

If you qualify for employer-sponsored health insurance, you will likely want to buy health insurance through your employer and will not be affected by the fall open enrollment period for the government-run marketplaces. Ask your employer when its open enrollment period is.

Open enrollment is not for auto, life insurance or long-term care insurance. Those are completely separate products that you can buy on your own any time of year. It’s also not for Medicare. The fall open enrollment period for Medicare is Oct. 15 to Dec. 7, 2018.

5. If you miss open enrollment, you may have to wait for a year to sign up

If you miss open enrollment on your state’s health insurance exchange, you won’t be able to sign up for coverage unless you qualify for a special enrollment period.

Here’s what might trigger a special enrollment period: divorce, marriage, birth or adoption of a child, death of a spouse or partner that leaves you without health insurance, your spouse or partner who has you covered loses his/her job and health insurance, you lose your job and with it your health insurance, your hours are cut making you ineligible for your employer’s health insurance plan, or you are in an HMO and move outside its coverage area.

Under the Affordable Care Act, you must have health insurance or pay a penalty at tax time.

6. Federal penalties for not having health insurance – done away with for 2019

Health plans that don’t count as “coverage”

If your state continues with a penalty you it is possible you will still pay a penalty for being uninsured if you have only these types of plans:

  • Coverage only for vision care or dental care.
  • Workers compensation.
  • Insurance that covers only a specific disease or condition, such as cancer insurance.
  • Plans that offer only discounts on medical services.

For the 2018 tax year, the penalty will remain at 2.5 percent of your income or flat amounts (whichever is more). The 2018 flat and maximum amounts have not been published yet as the government will adjust for inflation. In 2017, the flat amounts were $695 per adult and $347.50 per child. The maximum penalty was set at $2,085.

If you owe a penalty, it will be taken from your 2018 tax refund. Unlike nonpayment of child support or other activities, the federal law prohibits the government from garnishing your wages or filing liens to collect an insurance penalty.

The ACA individual mandate penalty for not having health insurance has been eliminated for 2019 and beyond. However, some states may replace it with a state-based mandate for individuals to have health insurance or receive a penalty. Massachusetts has had such a mandate since 2006 and New Jersey is starting the mandate in 2019. Other states may follow suit, so be aware of what your specific state may require.

7. You have a choice of four levels of individual/family health insurance plans

Plans in the health insurance marketplace are divided primarily into four categories:

  • Bronze – highest out-of-pocket expenses for services (lower premiums)
  • Silver
  • Gold
  • Platinum – least out-of-pocket expenses for services (higher premiums)

The metal level indicates how much cost-sharing they require, explains Bob Fredericks of Fredericks Benefits in Redlands, Calif. Cost-sharing includes deductibles, copays and co-insurance that you must pay until you reach your out-of-pocket maximum limit.

Bronze plans have the highest deductibles and other cost-sharing, meaning more spent out of pocket for you when you use your health care, Fredericks says. Silver plans have lower cost-sharing than bronze, and gold plans even lower than silver. Platinum plans have the lowest deductibles and copays, etc.

Generally, the more you pay in premiums the lower your cost-sharing.

Which plan is right for you depends on how much you’ll need health care in 2018. If you go to doctors frequently to help manage a chronic condition, you likely want a plan with lower copays and deductibles. If you’re pretty healthy, you may be better off signing up for a plan with lower premiums but higher costs when you use your insurance.

Of course, it’s a gamble, because you never know what’s going to happen, Fredericks says. When it comes to bronze plans, Fredericks’ advice: “Caveat emptor.” (Buyer beware.) Once you sign up for a level of coverage, you are locked into that level for the year. If you choose a bronze plan and discover you need surgery, you can’t change to a plan with a lower deductible.

Health insurers also offer plans outside the marketplace that have a variety of benefit choices.

8. All health plans must cover 10 essential benefits

All health plans, no matter the level, must provide some coverage for at least 10 essential benefits. They are:

  • Outpatient care including chronic disease management
  • Emergency care
  • Hospitalization
  • Pregnancy and newborn care
  • Mental health and substance abuse services
  • Prescription drugs
  • Rehabilitation services and devices
  • Lab tests
  • Preventive and wellness services
  • Dental and vision care for children

The level of coverage for these services can vary. All the plans in the marketplace must provide consumers with a brief, understandable description of what they cover and how their plan works. The Summary of Benefits and Coverage (SBC) must be posted on the plan’s website. Check out the SBCs for the different plans you are considering. This is a good way to compare plans and benefits.

9. Your family size and income determines your eligibility for tax credits

2018 federal poverty level guidelines (applies to 2019 coverage)

Persons in Household 2017 federal poverty level for continental U.S. Premium subsidy threshold (400% of federal poverty level)
1 $12,140 $48,560
2 $16,460 $65,840
3 $20,780 $83,120
4 $25,100 $100,400
5 $29,420 $117,680
6 $33,740 $134,960
7 $38,060 $152,240
8 $42,380 $169,520

You may qualify for a premium tax credit which is based on income and family size. To qualify, your family income must fall between 100 and 400 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL).

For 2019 coverage for a family of four, the income bracket would be $25,100 to $100,400 to quality for these credits. (The government uses FPL standards from the previous year to determine eligibility.)

If you qualify, the credits can be applied to your monthly insurance premiums. If your income changes during the year and you no longer qualify for the credits when you file your taxes, you will have to repay.

10. If you suffered a hardship, you may not be required to buy health insurance

You may not be required to buy health insurance during open enrollment if you qualify for a hardship exemption. These include:

  • Being uninsured for less than three months of the year.
  • You are the victim of domestic violence or suffered from a natural or human-caused disaster such as a fire or flood that damaged your property substantially.
  • A close family member recently died or you had unexpected expenses related to caring for an elderly, ill or disabled family member.
  • You have been evicted from your home or suffered bankruptcy.
  • You found you are ineligible for Medicaid because your state did not expand eligibility under Obamacare.
  • You are not in the U.S. legally.
  • You are incarcerated — either detained or in jail.

You also are exempt if you are a member of a recognized religious sect that has religious objections to insurance.

Finally, you aren’t required to have health insurance if you live abroad for more than 330 days out of the year.

By Insure.com – Last updated: Sep. 4, 2018