Live Your Healthy Lifestyle

Healthy tips that fit your lifestyle in Pennsylvania, powered by Geisinger Choice
~ Tuesday, October 21 ~
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New Study Reveals Increased Heart Health in Older Adults

A recent study of over 34 million Medicare patients (over age 65) has shown a huge decrease in hospitalizations and deaths from heart attacks and strokes over the past decade. Published by the American Heart Association, the study’s conclusions showed that between 1999 and 2011 acute cardiovascular disease and strokes declined most rapidly, compared to other conditions. Here are the highlights of the study and tips on how you can practice heart-healthy habits. 

The study produced surprisingly impressive results, and was noted as “jaw-dropping” from one researcher on the study. Yale School of Medicine professor of cardiology, Harlan Krumholz, told USA Today, “I don’t think anyone would have predicted we would have made this much progress. We’ve saved lives, we’ve saved suffering, and we’ve saved dollars. It’s amazing… What is surprising to me is how rapid and how profound the change has been.”

Using Medicare data, the study identified all patients over the last decade who were hospitalized with unstable angina, myocardial infarction, heart failure, ischemic stroke and other heart-related illnesses. After adjusting 30-day mortality, 30-day readmission and 1-year mortality rates, the scientists were able to use data from hospitalized patients to find the following:

  • 84% decrease in unstable angina (sudden chest pain that often precludes heart attack)
  • 31% decrease in number of hospitalizations for heart failure
  • 23% lower risk of dying from heart attack
  • 21% lower risk of death from angina
  • 13% lower risk of dying from stoke
  • Heart disease patients have a lower risk of dying within one year after leaving the hospital

The future of heart health

From the study, we can assume that the health care system is doing something right.  Improved quality of health care both in the hospital and out has provided faster and better treatments for heart-related diseases.  A widespread implementation of enhanced prevention strategies, such as cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, has impacted the results favorably. For the past 10 to 15 years, doctors, hospitals and health groups across the nation have diligently worked toward increasing awareness about heart disease – and it has paid off.

Your risk factors

Even with this optimistic news, heart disease still remains the leading cause of death in America for both men and women. Luckily, there are many factors you can control to decrease your risk of heart disease:

  • Diabetes
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Poor eating habits
  • Excessive alcohol use

Heart disease prevention tips

Lowering your blood pressure and cholesterol are two great places to start when it comes to maintaining a healthy heart. Performing even the simplest lifestyle changes resulted in an 86% lower risk of heart attack in a recent Swedish study of over 20,721 men. Other ways to ensure that your heart is in tip-top shape include:

  • Visiting your doctor and/or cardiologist
  • Staying on your blood pressure or cholesterol medication(s)
  • Eating a healthy diet low in salt, saturated fat and cholesterol, but high in fresh fruits and veggies
  • Exercising for up to 40 minutes a day
  • Losing weight if you are considered overweight or obese
  • Quit smoking

The heart is the center of our being, so why not treat it right? Use these tips for a happy, healthy heart today.

A healthy lifestyle starts with making healthy choices, like choosing the right health insurance. Get with the plan and choose Geisinger Health Plan today. 

Photo Credit: Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

Tags: heart health stroke heart attack heart disease
~ Monday, October 20 ~
Permalink Tags: ACA Afforable Care Act Health Care health insurance costs of being uninsured Geisinger Marketplace geisinger health plan
~ Thursday, October 16 ~
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5 Things to Consider When Choosing a Health Plan

In a few weeks, Open Enrollment to purchase health insurance will begin. There are a lot of things you’ll need to consider before picking a plan that’s right for you and your budget. Whether you’re single with a part-time job or have a family of four and are struggling to make ends meet, here’s what you should be thinking about when choosing an affordable health plan for 2015.

1. What can you afford?

Your household income plays an important role in how you’ll pay for health care. When choosing a plan, look at the cost of your deductible, monthly premiums, copayments and out-of-pocket expenses.

Health insurance plans in the Marketplace are classified into four “metal” tiers that reflect the percentage of health care costs covered by your health plan and what you’re responsible for paying. For example, a Bronze plan covers 60% of your health costs and you are responsible for paying the remaining 40%.

Depending on your income, you may be eligible for financial help in the form of a tax credit, also known as a subsidy. Depending on your income level, you may be eligible to receive health care coverage through Medical Assistance (Medicaid).

2. How healthy are you and your family?

If you consider yourself to be in good health, you may want to pick a plan that has a slightly higher deductible, which in turn will have a lower monthly premium. If you and your family are healthy, you are less likely to go to the doctor which also means you may not have to pay doctor visit copays. Bronze plans are very popular among people who don’t use health insurance too often but want to have coverage for expensive services. .

However, if you or your family make frequent visits to the doctor’s office or hospital, you may want to choose a low deductible plan so that your health care coverage will kick in sooner. While your monthly premiums will be a little higher, you’ll pay less in deductibles and will have more coverage faster. Silver and Gold plans offer lower deductibles and higher premiums.

3. Is your health care provider part of the plan’s network?

One of the most important parts of selecting a health plan is finding out if your doctors participate with your plan. If your health plan includes your primary health care provider, they are considered “in-network.” By having your doctor in-network, this will help keep your health care costs low.

If your plan doesn’t cover your doctors’ services, they are considered “out-of-network” and you will have to pay more to visit them.

As you explore health plans, search your insurer’s directory for doctors, hospitals, health centers and clinics to see if your doctor is covered by your health plan.

4. Do you require prescription coverage?

If you take regular prescription medications, make sure your plan covers the prescription drugs you need. Most health plans have a prescription drug search available on their website, or you may request a printed copy. This is called a formulary, which is an approved list of medications your plan offers that will usually be less expensive for you to purchase.

You should also find out if you can receive your prescriptions at the pharmacy you usually visit. Some plans may not allow you to purchase your medications from certain pharmacies while other plans may allow you to receive your prescriptions through the mail.

5. What benefits does your plan offer?

Under the Affordable Care Act, all qualified health plans are required to offer at least these 10 essential benefits:

  • Ambulatory patient services
  • Emergency services
  • Hospitalization
  • Pregnancy, maternity, and newborn care 
  • Mental health and substance use disorder services, including behavioral health treatment
  • Prescription drugs
  • Rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices
  • Laboratory services
  • Preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management
  • Pediatric services

These are minimum requirements for all plans in the Marketplace; however some plans may offer additional benefits and services such as dental and breastfeeding benefits.

Some plans may also offer a health savings account or flexible spending account which allows you to put money into a tax-free account for any additional out-of-pocket medical costs you may incur.

In addition, some plans don’t require you to have a referral from your doctor to see a specialist.

These are just some of the important considerations you will have to make as you explore your health care options for 2015. To find out more about health care reform, click here. Geisinger Health Plan—making health care reform work for you.

Photo credit: luminai images/Shutterstock

Tags: health plan health insurance health care health care reform ACA penalty affordable care act
~ Wednesday, October 15 ~
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In the pink: a breast cancer story

Hi!  I’m Lisa Newton.  I’m the nurse manager for wellness at GHP.  I have 2 children, 1 cat, 1 husband, and cancer.  Welcome to my world where every month is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. 

As a breast cancer survivor, I think back to the time when cancer was new to my world.  It was 2010.  I was 46…for a day.  My children were 13 and 16. I just found out I was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma. 

October was a month when I supported the cause.  I walked, I donated and I wore pink for friends who had been diagnosed…other people.  Pink was a color I wore proudly in support.  Little did I know, soon,  it would become my Pink Badge of Courage.

Photo credit: iStock/Thinkstock 

So let me set the stage for you, I was 36.  My regular physician was leaving the area and decided I needed a baseline mammogram before he goes off to get married.  I go to the hospital, get the mammogram, and they tell me to sit in the waiting room.  And I sit, and I sit. (Can you hear the Jeopardy music in the background?) The longer you sit, the more your mind plays tricks on you.   I was going to die any minute.  “We need a few more views,” the doctor said. My brain was screaming “Views?  Views of what?  What’s in there?  What do you see that you’re not telling me?”  The tech took a few more views, and it did turn out to be nothing.  But, not before living through six months of wondering if I had breast cancer and was going to die.  I did not have breast cancer…then.

Let’s fast forward 10 years.  I’m 45, almost 46.  My mammograms have been clean and I’ve been faithful about going every year since my big scare.  And every year, I would hold my breath just a little until they said, “Looks good,” and I get the smiley face letter in the mail from my physician.

So I’m 45, almost 46. I should have gone in April for my yearly mammogram but, like a lot of folks, I’m a procrastinator.  I ended up visiting in June.  I said “See ya next year!” and away I went.  However, by the time I got home, there was a message to give the center a call back.  They NEVER call you to say, “Hey, you had an awesome mammogram today!”  There was a little wee voice saying “uh oh” but I didn’t believe her and silenced her to my very depths.  All was well in my world— the call was just to check everything was ok.  Check.  Nothing was wrong.  But it was. 

Cancer happens to other people and to other people’s wives and sisters and mothers.  Not this time.  This time, it was me.  My world was suddenly very small and very clear.  I was in survival mode.  What we don’t realize sometimes is that our families are surviving right along with us.  They too are fighting for their lives – their normal lives before a cancer diagnosis invaded their home. 

My daughter wrote about that summer and my diagnosis for her high school English class.  I never realized all those 16-year-old eyes saw.  She wrote about the early days.  The days when I thought I was protecting everyone from the elephant in the room. 

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She wrote: 

Evening falls onto the world with a crash I’m not expecting.  I can’t fathom where the sun has gone.  I’m in a sort of daze when my mother blows through the door and checks the message.  She listens, staring at the wall, and I can see, even in the black, that her features turn to marble and her flushed cheeks drain.  The acorn of a warning grows into a small apple inside me. She disappears into her bedroom, cradling the phone, hunched as if she’s protecting herself.  My dad watches the door, slumped in his chair, his face blank.  I realize I’m unwanted, and no one is really noticing me, absorbed in their own lives.  I troop down to my room and fall into bed.  The phone call is not mentioned. 

Just when we have our backs turned, another call comes, and my mother disappears for another appointment.  Nothing changes much yet again, except my mother becomes very paranoid and jumpy.  Sometimes I would see her emerge from her room, her eyes puffy, face blotchy, her tiny body wheezing.  The apple in my stomach grows to a cantaloupe as she hurriedly swipes at her eyes when she catches me in her gaze.  And that is it; strange how there seems to be an elephant hiding from us. 

My daughter talks about how I told her and her brother when I was diagnosed.  And let me tell you, she was not happy.  As parents, we try to do the best we can.  A cancer diagnosis only complicates all those family dynamics.  But that will be a story for another time.  Let me finish this one.

“I have been diagnosed with breast cancer.”  Her features are broken, but bravery shimmies its way through the cracks and sprays onto all of us.  She has to be strong for us, for her own sanity.  The one who should be smothered in self-pity is the one comforting us.  Peculiar how these things turn out.  I just hear those same words, and I can almost laugh.  How impossible!  But, it’s not.  The acorn, apple, cantaloupe, in my stomach were warnings, but suddenly, my stomach is not there.  It’s a sack on the ground beneath me, but I can’t move.  I can’t think.

We sit and pretend that the elephant has been taken away, but really, it has just been introduced to us all.  There is no teenage love, no beauty, no wonder this summer.  There is fear, there is bravery, and there is love of the most cripplingly crucial kind.  There will be battle scars on this beautiful woman when something is taken from her, but she will become more alive than ever.

As my daughter has grown and matured, so has her view of my diagnosis.  Please come back and join me as I share her spot-on and very humbling perception of my cancer journey..  Cancer … as seen through the eyes of a 16 year old. 

How did she know she was predicting the future?

Tags: breast cancer awareness breast cancer survivor go pink GHP Wellness Geisinger EmployeeBlog WeAreGHP
~ Tuesday, October 14 ~
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Move Over Pumpkins! Alternative Fall Produce

Fall is here and with it comes an abundance of fresh fruits and veggies ripe for the picking. While pumpkins, apples and sweet potatoes get a lot of attention during this season, let’s recognize some other fall produce that are just as delicious and provide added health benefits.

Pears

Give apples a break this autumn by substituting them with pears. While pears, much like apples, are generally eaten in their natural state, they are incredibly versatile when it comes to cooking. Sweet and juicy, this fruit pairs perfectly with proteins like lamb or pork, as well as desserts. Poached pears with cinnamon and honey, anyone? In addition, pears are a good source of fiber, potassium, vitamin C and copper. 

Brussels sprouts

Members of the cabbage family, Brussels sprouts are a fall veggie that is usually avoided at the dinner table. But when prepared correctly, this vegetable will make you come back for seconds. Brussels sprouts have a mild bitter taste, so they combine well with savory or tangy flavors. One popular preparation of Brussels sprouts involves sautéing them with bacon – because bacon makes everything better! Aside from being masked in bacon fat, which isn’t very nutritious of course, Brussels sprouts have quite a few nutritional benefits including vitamin K, vitamin C, fiber, folate, and antioxidants.

Pomegranate

Pomegranate juice has grown in popularity over the last few years, and for good reason. The pomegranate is a nutrition powerhouse packed with antioxidants and vitamin C to help boost your immune system. Pomegranate juice can be sweet or sour, so it’s perfect in marinades and sauces, and the seeds can be sprinkled onto salads for a burst of freshness. Pair pomegranate with cranberries to create this delicious fall-inspired relish.

Mushrooms

When most people think of fall produce, mushrooms don’t really come to mind. While most mushrooms are available year-round, many reach their peak in the fall and winter. From chanterelles to shiitakes, mushrooms vary in shape, texture, color and flavor. But no matter which type of mushroom you choose to cook with, you’ll benefit from B vitamins like riboflavin, thiamine and niacin, as well as vitamin D and other minerals such as iron, copper and potassium. If you’re looking to add more mushrooms to your diet, try dicing them into omelets, salads, and side dishes like this mushroom and brown rice risotto.

Parsnips

Parsnips are a root vegetable similar to carrots, but with a slightly sweeter taste. And much like carrots, they are very versatile and can be used in a variety of cooking methods. You can turn them into fries or chips, puree them into soups, roast them along with carrots, or mash them like potatoes. Parsnips are also an excellent source of vitamin C, fiber, manganese and folate.

Now that you have a few more items to add to your fall shopping list, be sure to stock up on all of your favorite fall produce by visiting one of these local Pennsylvania farmers’ markets.

A healthy lifestyle starts with making healthy choices, like choosing the right health insurance. Get with the plan and choose Geisinger Health Plan today. 

Photo Credit: Annalisa Bombarda/Shutterstock

Tags: fall produce fall recipes fruits vegetables healthy food healthy lifestyle
~ Thursday, October 9 ~
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Turning 26? Time for Health Insurance

If you’re turning 26 this year, you have some big changes coming your way. If you currently have health insurance through your parents’ plan, you will no longer be eligible for that coverage. Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), young adults can receive health insurance through their parents’ health plan until the age of 26. But after your 26th birthday, you will be responsible for finding your own health plan. Here are some options to ensure that you’re covered for 2015 and avoid the tax penalty implemented as part of the ACA.

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Since the implementation of the ACA, 2.2 million young adults between the ages of 18 – 34 purchased a Marketplace health plan through during the 2014 enrollment period. According to a July study by the Commonwealth Fund, the uninsured rate for 19-to-34-year-olds declined from 28% to 18%, lowering the number of uninsured young adults by 5.7 million.

So why is having health insurance at a young age important?

Hospital bills, doctor visits, prescription drugs, and trips to the emergency room can all be very expensive especially if you’re young and uninsured.

In fact, many young adults have health issues that require regular medical attention. If the new health care law wasn’t implemented, 1 in 2 young people could’ve been denied health coverage due to a pre-existing condition and 1 in 6 currently have a chronic illness like asthma, diabetes, or cancer.

Health insurance protects you from high medical expenses. Luckily, there are many affordable health plan options available to you.

  • Your own coverage: Now that you’re about to turn 26, you can explore your health plan options through the federal or private Marketplaces. Some states have state Marketplaces. Pennsylvania does not. Depending on your income, you may also be eligible for financial help (tax credits or subsidies) to offset the cost of care.
  • Employer coverage: You may be able to get health care coverage through your employer. Most employers are required to offer some form of health insurance that meets the minimum requirements of the health care law.
  • Spouse coverage: If your spouse has a job that offers health insurance, find out if you can get added as a dependent so you can get coverage too.
  • Medical Assistance (Medicaid): This government-funded program offers health care to those who have little to no income. Because more states, including Pennsylvania, expanded their Medical Assistance program, you may be eligible for this coverage.

Most young adults are concerned that they won’t be able to afford their own health insurance plan. If you purchase a plan through a Marketplace, you may receive financial help, in the form of subsidies or tax credits, to help lower the cost of your premiums. You could pay less than $100 in monthly premiums after tax credits have been applied. To find how much you can save on your health insurance, click here.

Now that you’re aware of all the health plan options available to you, spread the word to family and friends so that they can explore their options as well.

Open Enrollment for 2015 coverage starts November 15, 2014 and ends February 15, 2015. To learn more about health care reform, click here.

Geisinger Health Plan—making health care reform work for you.

Photo Credit: Lucky Business/Shutterstock

Tags: young adult young invincibles Health Care health care reform Afforable Care Act ACA penalty
~ Tuesday, October 7 ~
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Go Pink for October: Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Did you know that breast cancer is the most common form of cancer among women worldwide? To help fight this disease, charities around the world join together every October for Breast Cancer Awareness Month to increase awareness and raise funds for cancer research. Learn about your risk factors and the importance of regular cancer screenings.

The numbers behind breast cancer

While death rates from breast cancer have been declining since 1989, due to early detection and screenings, this disease still affects thousands of women every year. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among women, following lung cancer. In addition, in the United States:

  • 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.
  • It is estimated that over 230,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year.
  • It is also estimated that more than 40,000 women will die from the disease in 2014.
  • There are more than 2.8 million breast cancer survivors.

For more statistics on breast cancer rates in the U.S., visit BreastCancer.org.

While breast cancer in men is rare, an estimated 2,360 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer and about 430 men will die each year, according to Cancer.org.

Your risk factors

There are a number of risk factors that affect your chance of getting breast cancer, some of which you can control. For example, physical inactivity, dietary factors, weight, and excessive alcohol use are lifestyle habits that can be changed to decrease your risk of developing breast cancer.

Some factors that you can’t control include:

  • Age: Your risk of developing breast cancer increases with age.
  • Gender: Breast cancer is 100 times more common in women than in men.
  • Family history: Having a close relative with the disease increases your risk of breast cancer.
  • Genetics: As high as 10% of breast cancer cases are believed to be the result of gene defects inherited from a parent.

Keep in mind that if you have one or more of these risk factors, that doesn’t necessarily mean you will get the disease. Your risk for breast cancer can change over time, due to factors such as aging or lifestyle.

Prevention methods

While there is no cure for breast cancer, yet, your best defense against developing this disease is to practice a healthy and active lifestyle which includes eating right, getting enough exercise, and avoiding alcohol.

In addition, it’s crucial that you speak with your health care provider about your risk factors, family history, and when you should schedule a cancer screening or mammogram. If you are between the ages of 50-74, it is recommended that you have a mammogram screening every two years.

Early detection of cancer greatly increases the chances for successful treatment. When breast cancer is detected early, there is a good chance that it can be cured.

What you can do to help raise awareness

During the month of October, help raise awareness about breast cancer by joining a charity walk or run, wearing a pink ribbon, encouraging your friends and loved ones to get screened if it is appropriate, or sharing information via social media. The more people who know about this disease and preventive measures, the more lives will be saved.

A healthy lifestyle starts with making healthy choices, like choosing the right health insurance. Get with the plan and choose Geisinger Health Plan today.

Photo Credit: Syda Productions/Shutterstock

Tags: breast cancer breast cancer awareness mammogram breast cancer awareness month
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~ Monday, October 6 ~
Permalink Tags: health care reform guide to health care reform geisinger health plan making health care reform work for you Geisinger Marketplace GHP
~ Friday, October 3 ~
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Tags: pumpkin seeds pepitas fall recipes Fall GHP Life geisinger health plan GHP Wellness healthy living
~ Thursday, October 2 ~
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Health Care Enrollment 2015: Important Dates to Remember

The annual Open Enrollment period to purchase health insurance through the Marketplace is fast approaching. The good news is you still have time to learn about your health plan options and the many benefits you will receive. Be sure to mark your calendars with these important dates so you can avoid the 2015 penalty. 

Dates to remember

  • November 15, 2014: 2015 Open Enrollment starts
  • December 31, 2014: Health coverage for 2014 Marketplace plans ends
  • February 15, 2015: 2015 Open Enrollment ends

During the 2015 Open Enrollment period, you can either renew your current health plan or choose a new health plan through a public or private Marketplace.

If you don’t have health coverage in 2015, you may have to pay a penalty. The penalty for 2015 is 2% of your income or $325 per adult and $162.50 per child, whichever is greater. The penalty will be taken out of your annual income tax return.

Hardship exemptions

There are a few special circumstances that exempt individuals from paying the fee. You may be exempt if you face the following hardships:

  • Being uninsured for less than three months of the year
  • The lowest-priced health plan costs more than 8% of your household income
  • You can’t file a federal tax return because your income is too low
  • Your income is below 100% of the federal poverty level 
  • Your state hasn’t expanded Medicaid
  • You’re a member of a federally recognized tribe or eligible for services through an Indian Health Services provider

These are just some examples of payment exemptions. A complete list is available here.

Special Enrollment Period

If you need to buy health insurance, but can’t wait for the Open Enrollment period, you may qualify for a Special Enrollment Period 60 days following a qualifying life event. This can include:

  • Marriage
  • Birth or adoption of a child
  • Release from prison
  • Gaining citizenship
  • Losing a dependent
  • Loss of other health coverage (employer or parent’s)
  • Moving out of the area

Don’t wait until Open Enrollment starts to learn about your health plan options. To find out more about health care reform and if you are eligible for financial help, click here. Geisinger Health Plan—making health care reform work for you. 

Photo Credit: brt/Shutterstock

Tags: health care health care reform Afforable Care Act ACA penalty