By Guest Blogger Madelyn Alexander, communications director, American Heart Association, St. Louis
The American Heart Association wants to help everyone live longer, healthier lives so they can enjoy all of life’s precious moments. And we know that starts with taking care of your health.
American Heart Month, a federally designated event, is a great way to remind Americans to focus on their hearts and encourage them to get their families, friends and communities involved. Together, we can build a culture of health where making the healthy choice is the easy choice. More than one in three adults has some form of cardiovascular disease. The good news is 80 percent of heart disease and stroke can be prevented.
So How Do You Protect Yourself?
Protect yourself from heart disease, the nation’s No. 1 killer, with Life’s Simple 7® — easy-to-embrace ways to significantly lower your risk of heart disease and improve your health. How simple is it?
Just take a look:
- Get active. We recommend least 75 minutes of vigorous exercise throughout the week. Along with gaining strength and stamina, exercising regularly can lower blood pressure, keep body weight under control and helps regulates blood sugar by improving how the body uses insulin.
- Control cholesterol. Keeping your cholesterol levels healthy is a great way to keep your heart healthy—and lower your chances of getting heart disease or having a stroke. But first, you have to know your cholesterol numbers.
- Eat better. Eating the right foods can help you control your weight, blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol. Follow a dietary pattern that includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and other healthy choices.
- Manage blood pressure. One in three Americans has high blood pressure—yet one out of every five doesn’t even know they have it. Keeping your blood pressure in a healthy range starts with eating a heart-healthy diet. Other important factors are exercising regularly; not smoking; maintaining a healthy weight; limiting salt and alcohol; and taking medication prescribed by your doctor.
- Lose weight. Extra weight can do serious damage to your heart. Too much fat, especially around the belly, increases your risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.
- Reduce blood sugar. Diabetes can quadruple your risk of heart disease or stroke, so keeping blood sugar levels under control is crucial to preventing medical problems involving the heart and kidneys.
- Stop smoking. It’s time to kick the habit. Going smoke-free can help prevent not only heart disease and stroke, but also cancer and chronic lung disease.
Take small steps toward a healthier life by getting your free heart score and custom plan today at
Editor’s note: Allsup is pleased to sponsor the 2016 Metro East Illinois Heart Walk in April. Get more information at www.metroeastillinoisheartwalk.org. Connect with the American Heart Association online: Facebook – American Heart Association STL, Twitter @AmerHeartSTL, #HeartWalkSTL.
By Ed of Allsup
Oprah Winfrey, pop icon Rod Stewart, songstress Linda Ronstadt and television star Sofia Vergara are among the millions of Americans suffering from thyroid disorders, but at least they’ve been diagnosed.
To raise consciousness of the disorder, the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE) has declared January as Thyroid Awareness Month. The thyroid is a small gland in the front of the neck, located above the collarbone and below the larynx. Its purpose is to make hormones that control some of your body’s most important organs, including your heart, brain, liver, kidneys and skin.
Symptoms Of Thyroid Problems
Thyroid disorder symptoms include:
- Muscle and joint pain, including carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis
- Neck discomfort, sore throat
- Weight gain or loss without changes to diet and exercise
- Vision problems
- Heart disease
- Hair loss
The AACE offers the following self-exam to determine if you may have undiagnosed thyroid problems. All you need is a handheld mirror and a glass of water.
- Hold the mirror in your hand and focus on the lower front of your neck. Your thyroid gland is located above the collarbone and below the larynx.
- Tip your head back.
- Swallow a drink of water.
- As you swallow, look at your neck and check for any bulges when you swallow. (Don’t confuse with your Adam’s apple.)
- If you do see a bulge, see your physician because you may have an enlarged thyroid gland.
SSDI And Thyroid Disorders
Thyroid disorders, such as hypoparathyroidism (the tiny gland doesn’t produce enough of the hormone thyroxine), and hyperparathyroidism (too much production) may meet a Social Security Administration medical listing for disability, if the criteria are met.
When the disorder is serious enough to keep you from working, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits.
As with all disabilities, however, you must meet other eligibility requirements and be able to provide complete medical and work histories. Click here for more information on applying for SSDI.
By Leia of Allsup
I don’t know about you, but 2015 seemed to fly by. Looking back at our blog posts made me realize why it flew by so fast—we were busy! At least once a week, and more often, you find news here from Allsup. We often feature guests from nonprofit organizations across the U.S. as well.
It’s interesting to see what our readers found most valuable. We covered so many important topics. Was your favorite in the top 10?
Allsup did a blog-a-thon for Breast Cancer Awareness Month and featured great guest bloggers who shared their amazing stories of triumphs and struggles. The No. 1, 4, 9 and 10 spots were all from the blog-a-thon in October.
“Don’t Get Angry – Get Checked” was a very personal blog post for us here at Allsup. Communications director Dan Allsup lost his daughter, Chris, to breast cancer two years ago while also dealing with his wife’s diagnosis and treatment during that time. “Please Think Before You Pink” offers a valuable lesson about understanding where your donations to breast cancer-related charities actually go. “Living 20 Years With Breast Cancer” gave our readers insights on one young woman’s 20-year “cancer-versary.” And we received a powerful message about “Still Standing” after a cancer diagnosis.
The No. 2 and 5 posts came from groups working to spread awareness of some lesser known conditions. The Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome Association shared what it is doing to help those who live with the very real and invisible disability of pain. One group, Spondylitis Association of America (SAA), offered its own top list of concerns for people with this condition. Spondylitis refers to a group of auto inflammatory diseases that primarily affect the spine and other joints. I’m glad we can provide a forum for organizations that raise advocate for those who are too often unheard.
In addition, at No. 3, 6 and 7, our very own disability experts helped readers with tips and education about the Social Security Disability Insurance claims process. No. 3 was “Common Mistakes From a Social Security Disability Expert – Not Applying”. This blog post discusses retirement freezes and why some are hesitant to apply for SSDI.
No. 6 was another common mistake: “Not Telling The Whole Truth With Activities Of Daily Living.” This Social Security questionnaire evaluates how your disability affects your everyday life and is very important to your case. The No. 7 post is “What To Do When Your Social Security Benefits Are Denied.” This provides more helpful details when you are trying to figure out your next steps.
Medicare rounds out our Top 10, at No. 8: “Check Out Medicare When Turning 65 With Social Security Disability,” which gives crucial information about Medicare coverage when your SSDI benefits begin. See the full ranking below—for your reading pleasure.
Allsup Top 10 Blogs – All Things Disability
- Don’t Get Angry – Get Checked
- RSDSA: What We Do For Those In Pain
- Common Mistakes From A Social Security Disability Expert: Not Applying
- Please Think Before You Pink
- Spondylitis Awareness Matters
- Not Telling The Whole Truth With Activities Of Daily Living
- What To Do When Your Social Security Benefits Are Denied
- Check Out Medicare When Turning 65 With Social Security Disability
- Living 20 Years With Breast Cancer
- Still Standing
I’m looking forward to all of the interesting topics 2016 has in store for us.
All Things Disability welcomes a variety of perspectives on topics important to the disability community.
If you would like to raise awareness of your nonprofit organization’s mission, services or disability advocacy efforts, contact Tai Venuti, manager of Strategic Alliances at Allsup.
By Tai of Allsup
About 80 percent of sexually active people will be infected with Human Papillomavirus Virus (HPV) at some point, according to the American Sexual Health Association (ASHA).
However, you may never know you’re infected because an HPV infection usually has no signs or symptoms. Some types of HPV are responsible for genital warts and others are linked to cervical cell changes that can lead to cervical cancer.
January is Cervical Health Awareness Month, and probably the only time I will write about genital warts this year. Given the choice between dealing with genital warts or battling cervical cancer, I’d take warts. Warts are caused by low risk HPVs, rarely linked to cancer, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS), and can be treated or resolve on their own.
Cervical cancer, on the other hand, is a killer.
According to the ASHA and the National Cervical Cancer Coalition (NCCC), each year in the U.S. nearly 13,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer, and more than 4,000 die as a result.
Part of this is because many women are not being screened. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report:
- More than half of all new cervical cancers are in women who have never been screened or have not been screened in the previous five years of their lives.
- About 7 in 10 women who have not been screened in the last five years have a regular doctor and health insurance. (The emphasis is mine.)
Cervical Cancer Screening: When and How?
All women should begin cervical cancer screening at age 21. Click here for specific guidelines based on your age and risk factors. The Affordable Care Act requires health insurers to cover preventive services such as Pap tests, which can detect precancerous cells.
Medicare also fully covers cancer screenings. However, if you need assistance finding free or low cost cervical cancer screenings, NCCC offers state-specific information here.
According to the Social Security Administration, in 2011, 16,410 women obtained Social Security Disability Insurance based on a diagnosis of cancer of genitourinary organs. That compares to 43,285 women who obtained SSDI based on a breast cancer diagnosis, and 12,226 who obtained benefits because of colorectal cancer.
There is a vaccine that protects against HPV, recommended for girls and boys who are 11 or 12 years old. The CDC reports that the vaccine is generally effective for women through age 26, and men through age 21. The Vaccines for Children program provides vaccines at no cost to children ages 18 years and younger who are uninsured, Medicaid-eligible, or American Indian/Alaska Native. To learn more, click here.
By Tai of Allsup
If you’re looking for a New Year’s resolution with a big impact, January provides one with National Blood Donor Month.
Medical facilities and hospitals across the country depend on individual donations, and the start of the new year is a particularly critical time. The holidays and winter weather can lead to lower reserves of blood. And when there’s an emergency, it better be on the shelf.
The American Red Cross says that our communities need 41,000 donations every day to help individuals going through chemotherapy, following car wrecks, delivering babies and a variety of other medical procedures.
Many people become lifetime givers. It’s possible for a healthy donor to make a donation several times a year.
While about 4 in 10 people are eligible to give blood, only 1 in 10 step up each year to save lives through donations.
Many of Allsup’s SSDI customers have benefitted from the generosity of blood donors.
We assist tens of thousands of people with disabilities who have undergone a range of medical procedures, from back surgery to organ transplants. Blood donors are vital resources for our healthcare system.
Consider becoming a lifesaver this year. As the Red Cross says, “The need is constant. The gratification is instant.”
Finding a local blood drive is easy—they’re held daily all across the country.
Just go to RedCrossBlood.org and enter your ZIP code. Saving lives is a pretty good way to start 2016.
By Aaron of Allsup
The official Medicare season wrapped up Monday, Dec. 7. Many people know annual enrollment is the best time to make changes to their Medicare coverage for the next year.
However, it’s not the only time a Medicare change might be possible.
There are a number of things that may happen in your life next year that could allow you to change your coverage. This is important to remember if you have unexpected surprises in your health or finances.
Certain events, including life changes, can provide you with a special enrollment period (SEP) to change your Medicare coverage.
- You are losing or leaving employer-based healthcare coverage. This creates a special enrollment period during the year. Plan ahead and review your options before your coverage ending date.
- You move. This can cover a number of situations. For example, you can receive an SEP if you move to a new address that isn’t in the area covered by your Medicare Advantage or Part D prescription drug plan.
- Your Medicare plan ends. This may happen if your plan announces it is leaving Medicare or stops serving your area. If you lose coverage involuntarily, this provides an opportunity to revisit your Medicare alternatives and possibly find coverage that is more affordable.
- You qualify for Low-Income Subsidy (LIS). Also known as Extra Help, this Medicare program allows you to change your Medicare Advantage with prescription drug plan or Part D prescription drug plan any time. (Individuals on Medicaid automatically qualify for LIS.)
- Your participation in Medicaid ends or begins. Examine your Medicare coverage. You may be able to change your Medicare Advantage or Part D plan for something that better matches your needs.
- You have a 5-star plan in your area and currently have a plan with a lower rating. This provides a special enrollment opportunity to switch to the 5-star plan. You can only make this change one time from Dec. 8, 2015, through Nov. 30, 2016.
Of course, tens of thousands of people will make Medicare choices in the coming months because they turn 65. This is a critical decision-making point and provides you with your initial enrollment period (IEP).
All of these events, from now until next Medicare season, could be a good reason to reach out to a Medicare specialist.
Click here to reach an easy online form through the Allsup Medicare Advisor®. An Allsup Medicare specialist will get in touch with you and answer your questions.
By Tai Venuti of Allsup
Iraq veteran Christopher Moore has done things people shouldn’t have to do. His memories haunt him. “It never gets better,” he says, “You just try to tolerate it. There’s no cure.”
Moore must live with his experiences, but he is not alone. Behind every service member is a military family. Husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, and other close relatives often share the pain, sacrifice and struggle that comes with military service.
Military Family Month was established in 1996 by the Armed Services YMCA, and is observed each November. Growing up in a military household, having been a military spouse, and now proud parent of an active duty service member, I often forget that the number of Americans serving in the military makes up less than 1 percent of the total U.S. population.
A Closer Look At Military Families
I’ve always lived in or near military bases, where uniforms, I.D. cards and visible weapons were common. Neighbors know what “PCS” and “TDY” stand for. We shop at the commissary, not the grocery store. DEERS means healthcare, not Bambi.
For me, every month is Military Family Month. However, the fact is that most Americans don’t have a direct connection to active military service. To borrow from the Occupy movement, military families are the “less than 1 percent.”
So here’s some insight into U.S. military families. According to the U.S. Department of Defense:
- Five million Americans, including 2 million children, are part of today’s military families.
- Children in military families typically change schools six to nine times between kindergarten and high school.
- In a survey of active-duty spouses, 75 percent said being a military spouse had a negative impact on their ability to get a job.
The same survey found the top five concerns of military families are:
- Military pay and benefits. Respondents who did not feel financially secure had more uncertainty about their benefits. Those respondents were least confident that they would get their post-retirement healthcare and disability benefits.
- Changes in retirement.
- Military spouse employment. Forty-five percent have some form of job. Of those who weren’t working, 58 percent said they did want to be employed.
- Veteran employment. While the survey showed that 36 percent of veterans are working, 47 percent of post-9/11 veterans were not working in their preferred career fields. In addition, 46 percent said it took longer than they thought to find employment.
- Service member/Veteran suicide. It’s estimated the suicide rate is 50 percent higher among service members compared with civilians.
Military families, like most families, are concerned about their future financial security. However, they also face challenges related to multiple moves, deployments and higher rates of physical and mental illness.
The Web event, True Help for Veterans with Disabilities is now available on-demand. Find information and resources that address disability benefits and mental health resources.
Please share this link with any military families you are privileged to know. And thank them for their service.