FOR YOUR HEALTH: Being 55+ Has Its Advantages

New wireless phone plans mean money savings and include Netflix.

(NAPSI) — The 55-plus crowd is more active than ever, continuing to stay in the workforce longer, growing in numbers—to the tune of 73 million and counting—and exerting an even greater economic impact. In fact, 55+ers are responsible for over half of U.S. consumer spending, according to AARP, contributing to the huge upsurge in online spending during the pandemic.

If you are one of these lucky ones—as in 55 or older—you may not realize that you are actually the envy of many. People in this age group can save thousands of dollars a year on everyday goods and services so make sure you know about ALL of the discounts available to you.

Whether planning for long-term savings for retirement or for short-term expenses like a post-pandemic vacation, saving money is front and center in today’s world. The good news is that there are so many great discounts created just for you that it makes it easy to save tons by paying attention to where you’re spending your money each month.

Here are some “55 and over” discounts to be on the lookout for — that you might not know about:

• Auto insurance: Insurance companies sometimes offer discounts for good drivers over a certain age.
• Travel: It’s almost time to travel again so be sure to check for age-related discounts with major airlines, hotel chains, and rental car companies.
• Restaurants: Over 55? Ask about special days, nights or menu items at your favorite fast-food or fancy restaurant—even if it’s takeout.
• Wireless plans: Make sure you are on a discounted 55+ plan — a failsafe way to save money each month.

Given that 55+ consumers are spending 30 percent more time on mobile devices than they did a year ago, having an affordable wireless plan that provides unlimited text, talk and data with additional valuable perks is huge. Take a look at T-Mobile’s 55+ plans that it offers to customers across the United States. Verizon and AT&T, on the other hand, only offer 55+ plans for customers who live in Florida (even though 92 percent of people in the United States who are 55 and older live outside of Florida). And T-Mobile recently announced that customers on a Magenta 55+ or Magenta MAX 55+ plan can have up to four voice lines on their account.
Always pay attention to details when considering your choice in wireless plans.

T-Mobile’s Magenta 55+ and Magenta MAX 55+ plans offer unlimited text, talk and data combined with:

• A guaranteed monthly rate that includes taxes and fees in the plan price—your price stays the same each month.
• Netflix on Us — Magenta 55+ plan includes Netflix on Us for families and its Magenta MAX 55+ plan includes Netflix Basic with one line or Netflix Standard with two lines.
• Scam Shield that helps protect people from phone scams, hacks and robocalls.
• Free stuff and discounts every Tuesday with T-Mobile Tuesdays.
• Unlimited texting and 2G data without roaming charges in 210+ countries & destinations.
• America’s largest and fastest 5G network—which is like having WiFi on the road to send pics and stay connected.

Added bonus: the MAX tier includes unlimited premium data, so you can’t be slowed down no matter how much data you use.

It’s important to highlight that T-Mobile’s 55+ plans include Scam Shield because recently scammers have become even more aggressive, targeting people with phony COVID-19 vaccine information. Scam Shield protects its users against phone scams and robocalls—and it’s free for T-Mobile customers.

Learn More

For more information about the plans, visit www.t-mobile.com/55.

FOR YOUR HEALTH: Cataract Surgery Saves An Avid Bowler’s Vision In Record Time

Better vision due to cataract surgery meant seeing lanes and pins clearly and so better bowling for one enthusiast.

(NAPSI)—If you ever have trouble seeing your way clear to getting your eyes checked, here’s a case to consider: Genida White could tell her vision was gradually getting worse, but she rationalized away the need to see an ophthalmologist—a medical doctor who specializes in eyecare. She could still do all the things she enjoyed, such as bowling every Monday. But mostly, she was nervous to hear what the doctor would say about her eyes.

Her daughter provided the encouragement she needed, telling her about a radio advertisement she heard about free eye exams with EyeCare America. No more excuses; it was time for an appointment. While, unfortunately, Genida did receive the diagnosis she feared—she would need surgery to remove cataracts in both eyes—the results were brilliant. The improvement in her vision was swift and dramatic.

“I’d never had eye surgery before,” Genida said. “Before I knew it, it was over.”

Cataract Facts

A cataract is when your eye’s natural lens becomes cloudy. People with cataracts describe it as looking through a foggy window; vision is blurred and colors are dulled. About half of all Americans over age 75 have cataracts. As you age, you’re increasingly likely to develop cataracts.

Fortunately, cataracts are treatable. An ophthalmologist surgically removes the cloudy lens and replaces it with an artificial one. Cataract surgery is the most effective and most common procedure performed in all of medicine with some 3 million Americans choosing to have cataract surgery each year.

Thankful for sight-saving surgery

Within two weeks of calling EyeCare America, Genida had cataract surgery in both eyes — just in time to enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday. She was amazed at how simple it was to set up the initial eye exam with EyeCare America and at how quickly her vision was restored.

“Reading the eye chart was so bad at first,” recalls Genida. She could just barely read the last two lines of the eye chart during her initial eye exam with her ophthalmologist, Douglas Wilson, M.D. The day after surgery, Genida was able to read the whole way through the chart, top to bottom. “Dr. Wilson asked me, ‘Are you sure you couldn’t see before?!’ and I said, ‘Yes, I’m positive!’ It was amazing.”

Proof of her quick recovery was evident at the bowling alley, where Genida didn’t miss one Monday on the lanes.

Is EyeCare America right for you?

If the cost of an eye exam is a concern, the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s EyeCare America program may be able to help. This national public service program provides eyecare through thousands of volunteer ophthalmologists for eligible seniors, 65 and older, and those at increased risk for eye disease, mostly at no out-of-pocket cost to the patient.

Learn More

To see if you or someone you care for qualify, visit www.aao.org/eyecare-america or follow @AcademyEyeSmart.

FOR YOUR HEALTH: Free Professional Help For Family Caregivers

Lara Garey provides full-time care to her husband Tom, who lives with ALS, caused by his military service.

(NAPSI)—There is good news for many individuals who care for a loved one living with an injury or illness connected to military service. They’re now eligible for free professional assistance.

Who Helps

A new program offered by the Elizabeth Dole Foundation provides veteran caregivers with trained professionals to perform daily tasks, including housekeeping, meal preparation, grocery shopping, and grooming.

Military caregivers nationwide can apply for 24 hours of services free through the Foundation’s website hiddenheroes.org/respite. The number of available hours is limited, so caregivers are urged to apply right away.

“Military caregivers have always struggled with the enormous responsibility on their shoulders, but the risks and restrictions of COVID-19 have sent rates of caregiver burnout, depression and isolation soaring,” said Steve Schwab, CEO of the Elizabeth Dole Foundation. “We developed this emergency assistance program to give America’s hidden heroes the precious time they need to rest, relax and recharge.”

The Foundation is managing the program in partnership with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, CareLinx, Wounded Warrior Project, AARP, and Bob Woodruff Foundation. The professional caregivers are provided by the trusted and licensed professionals of the CareLinx network and follow CDC guidelines to ensure everyone’s safety.

“I was skeptical that using respite care would actually help—I thought it might be more work than it was worth,” said veteran caregiver Jennifer Mackinday. “But it was game-changing. It was the first step for me to start taking better care of myself mentally and physically.”

Who Can Get Help

If you assist a service member or veteran with dressing, bathing, transportation, managing medication, physical therapy, or dealing with the symptoms of post-traumatic stress, you may be a military caregiver.

Learn More

For more information about military caregiving and available services, visit hiddenheroes.org/respite.

FOR YOUR HEALTH: 9 Scientific Secrets to Healthy Aging

The second half of your life can bring some of your most rewarding decades. You may be more confident than your younger self. You gain wisdom and patience. Sure, your hair sprouts more grays and your face sports more lines. But you can grow older with your body and mind as healthy as they can possibly be.

Here are science-backed secrets to do just that.

Eat Whole Foods

It’s more a way of eating than a formal diet. You load up on veggies, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and low-fat dairy. You eat less fatty meats, butter, sugar, salt, and packaged foods.

Many studies have found that this diet can help you live longer and protects against heart disease, cancer, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers believe one way it works is by physically changing parts of your chromosomes linked to age-related diseases.

Walk

Aim for 30 minutes every day. If that’s too much, break it up into shorter strolls. Regular exercise – especially if you do it briskly enough to feel a little breathless – delivers huge health benefits. It helps keep brain cells healthy by delivering more blood and oxygen. In fact, research suggests aerobic exercise may delay or improve symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

It also helps:

Control your weight Boost your mood Keep bones and muscles strong Helps you sleep better Makes you less likely to get heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.

Stay Connected

Loneliness is harmful to your health. If you feel lonely – whether you live alone or with someone, have lots of friends or none – you are more likely to get dementia or depression. Seniors who report feeling left out and isolated have more trouble with everyday tasks like bathing and climbing stairs. They also die earlier than less-lonely folks do. Researchers found that lonely people have higher levels of stress hormones that cause inflammation, or swelling, linked to arthritis and diabetes. Another study found more antibodies to certain herpes viruses in lonely people, a sign of stress in their immune system. So stay or make friends. Do volunteer work or simply help someone in need. Just connect.

FOR YOUR HEALTH – Managing Chronic Kidney Disease: Take Charge Of Your Health

Take an active role in managing your chronic kidney disease to live a longer, healthier life.

(NAPSI)—Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a serious condition, affecting 15% of U.S. adults—an estimated 37 million Americans. Kidney disease can get worse over time and may lead to kidney failure and other serious complications. 

Early-stage CKD has few or no symptoms. In fact, many people with CKD don’t know they have the disease. Ask your doctor if you are at risk and get tested. Early diagnosis can make a big difference.

Managing CKD may be challenging, but it is key to preventing or delaying serious health problems such as heart disease. The earlier you get involved in your kidney care, the better your chances of slowing disease progression and living longer and healthier.

Take an active role in managing your kidney disease by following these healthy lifestyle tips.

Meet regularly with your health care team. Stay connected with your doctor, either in person or via telehealth. Meet with your health care team for help managing CKD, keep appointments even if you feel OK and create a care plan. Ask your doctor to explain test results and bring a list of questions or concerns to appointments.

Manage blood pressure. Work with your health care team to develop a plan to meet your blood pressure goals. Steps to meet those goals may include eating heart-healthy and low-sodium meals and being active.

Monitor blood glucose levels. Check your blood glucose level regularly if you have diabetes. Use the results to guide decisions about food, physical activity and medicines.

Take medicines as prescribed. Your pharmacist and doctor need to know about all the medicines you take, including over-the-counter medicines. Tell your doctor about any side effects before stopping or changing how you take your medicine.

Avoid nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and naproxen. NSAIDs are sold under many different brand names, so ask your pharmacist or doctor if the medicines are safe for you to use.

Stay up to date on vaccinations. The COVID-19 vaccine is especially important for people who may be more likely to get very sick from COVID-19, including people with certain medical conditions such as kidney disease.

Aim for a healthy weight. If you are overweight or have obesity, work with your health care team to create a weight-loss plan.

Develop a healthy meal plan. ­Create a meal plan that contains ­kidney-healthy foods and beverages. Ask your doctor about finding a registered dietitian who can help.

Find ways to reduce stress and make physical activity part of your routine. Consider healthy, stress-reducing activities and get at least 30 minutes of physical activity daily.

Get enough sleep. Aim for 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night. Try establishing a bedtime routine if you have trouble sleeping.

Quit smoking. Smoking cigarettes can make kidney damage worse.

If you have financial or resource challenges that make it difficult to start or maintain these behaviors—such as difficulty paying for medicines, providing enough food for you and your family or finding a safe place for physical activity—ask your health care team about support programs that may be available to help.

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) spearheads research to help improve kidney disease management and treatment. “It’s important to educate patients and their health care providers about ways to treat and manage chronic kidney disease,” said NIDDK Director Dr. Griffin P. Rodgers. “People should know their risk factors, like underlying health conditions. And they should know that, if diagnosed, chronic kidney disease is manageable. Staying engaged and managing the disease’s progression protects the kidneys.”

For more information on managing CKD, visit the NIDDK website at www.niddk.nih.gov.

FOR YOUR HEALTH: Support For People With Disabilities On The Journey To Work

Social Security may have the ticket to success you need on the path to work.

(NAPSI)—About 40.7 million Americans have some kind of disability, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. If you or someone you care about has a disability, you may wonder what it means for employment. You may be encouraged to know that there are supports and services available that can help you or your loved ones pursue work and reach your goals through Social Security’s Ticket to Work (Ticket) program.

Ticket To Work Program

The Ticket program supports career development for people ages 18 through 64 who receive Social Security disability benefits and want to work. This program is free and voluntary. Program participants select a service provider to help them prepare for, and find, a job. The provider may be a State Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) agency or an Employment Network (EN)—a public or private organization that has an agreement with Social Security—to offer:

•Career planning
•Job placement assistance
•Ongoing employment support.

These career development services and supports are unique to each individual. Participants work with their service providers to develop a customized plan and identify the supports they need to reach their work goals.

Finding A Path To Financial Independence

The road to financial independence looks different for everyone. Whether joining the workforce for the first time or returning after a difficult diagnosis, there are challenges that each person must navigate. Working with a Benefits Counselor and Ticket to Work service provider can help you remove some of the obstacles and learn more about the resources available to you.

This could include Social Security Work Incentives, which are designed to help you transition to the workplace. A Benefits Counselor can help you learn more about Work Incentives, including which ones you qualify for, and discuss how working will affect your benefits.

If you connect with an EN, the EN can help you find answers to questions, whether they’re about reporting your wages to Social Security, requesting job accommodations, or even how you can advance your career to earn even more money.

With the knowledge, support and services of a Ticket to Work service provider, you may find yourself on the path to success and financial independence through work.

Learn More

For further information about the Ticket program, call the Ticket to Work Help Line at 1-866-968-7842 or 1-866-833-2967 (TTY) Monday through Friday.

FOR YOUR HEALTH: Why Some ‘Super Ager’ Folks Keep Minds Dementia-Free

by Amy Norton
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Feb. 23, 2021 (HealthDay News) — Researchers may have uncovered a key reason some people remain sharp as a tack into their 80s and 90s: Their brains resist the buildup of certain proteins that mark Alzheimer’s disease.

The study focused on what scientists have dubbed “super agers” — a select group of older folks who have the memory performance of people decades younger.

Compared with older people who had average brain power, super agers showed far less evidence of “tau tangles” in their brains, the researchers found.

Tau is a protein that, in healthy brain cells, helps stabilize the internal structure. But abnormal versions of tau — ones that cling to other tau proteins — can develop as well.

In people with Alzheimer’s, the brain is marked by a large accumulation of those tau tangles, as well as “plaques,” which are clumps of another protein called amyloid.

For years, amyloid plaques have gotten most of the attention as a potential target for Alzheimer’s treatment, said researcher Tamar Gefen, who led the new study.

But a body of evidence tells a different story: It’s the buildup of tau — not amyloid — that correlates with a decline in memory and thinking skills, said Gefen, an assistant professor at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, in Chicago.

These latest findings on super agers, she said, are in line with that research.

It’s not clear how many super agers are out there. One reason is that there’s no single definition of the term, said Claire Sexton, director of scientific programs and initiatives at the Alzheimer’s Association.

This study involved people aged 80 and older. But other research, Sexton said, has narrowed the focus to unusually sharp 90-somethings, or even centenarians.

The million-dollar question is: What does it take to be a member of this elite group?

It’s likely super agers have genetics to thank, in part, according to Sexton.

But in all probability, she said, it’s a mix of good genes, lifestyle factors and exposures over a lifetime, from physical activity, to social engagement, to mentally stimulating experiences.

In fact, previous research at Northwestern has shown those are common habits of super agers.

Gefen and her colleagues have also found brain differences between super agers and their peers with typical brain power: For example, super agers have more tissue volume in a brain region involved in processes like motivation and decision-making. Super agers also show a greater density of cells called Von Economo neurons, which are linked to social intelligence.

For the current study, Gefen’s team analyzed brain tissue from seven super agers — all women — who had died in their 80s or 90s. The results were compared with brain studies from six elderly adults who’d had normal thinking skills before their deaths.

The super agers had all taken standard memory tests, and scored at or above the norm for people 20 to 30 years younger.

The researchers found that both super agers and their peers harbored similar amounts of amyloid plaque in the brain.

They differed, however, when it came to tangles: People with average memory and thinking skills had three times the amount of tau tangles in a memory-related brain region called the entorhinal cortex.

Sexton agreed the findings align with other evidence on the importance of tau.

“It’s been understood for a while that tau tracks better with cognitive performance than amyloid does,” she said.

These findings, Sexton said, suggest a role for tau in the “secrets” to super-aging.

That does not mean plaques are unimportant, however. Abnormal amyloid and tau may interact with each other, and with other factors, to fuel Alzheimer’s brain changes, Sexton said.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, it’s thought that as amyloid increases in the brain, it hits a tipping point that triggers abnormal tau to spread throughout the brain. And that’s when memory and thinking skills head downhill.

Gefen agreed that it’s probably a complex mix of factors — nature and nurture — that allows super agers to resist typical age-related declines in brain power.

It’s unlikely to be a magic something that can be turned into a pill, she said.

More broadly, Gefen said far more work is needed to understand tau tangles, including why they zero in on memory cells.
Suggested

That’s not to say tau has been completely ignored: Tau-targeting therapies for Alzheimer’s are under development, Sexton said.

For now, it seems clear that few people will become super agers. But, Sexton said, there are ways for everyone to support their brain health, including controlling heart disease risk factors like high blood pressure and diabetes, getting regular exercise, eating healthfully and staying mentally and socially engaged.

The findings were published Feb. 17 in the journal Cerebral Cortex.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Aging has more on super agers.

SOURCES: Tamar Gefen, PhD, assistant professor, psychiatry and behavioral sciences, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago; Claire Sexton, DPhil, director, scientific programs and initiatives, Alzheimer’s Association, Chicago; Cerebral Cortex, Feb. 17, 2021, online

FOR YOUR HEALTH: A Tool To Save Lives

(NAPSI)—Heart disease is a leading cause of death for all Americans, but the death rate is higher for African American men and African American women of all ages than for whites.

To help community health workers in African American communities teach others about heart disease prevention, The Heart Truth®, a program of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, recently released a new resource, “With Every Heartbeat Is Life,” that provides culturally tailored information about heart health. It is a resource for community health workers to use when holding educational sessions on heart disease in their own communities. It has culturally relevant information, such as heart-healthy modifications of traditional recipes, to make the manual particularly useful and meaningful in African American communities.

Heart-health experts developed the toolkit to help community health workers teach the course and engage participants using idea starters and picture cards to generate conversations. The curriculum discusses heart disease risk factors and prevention, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, diabetes, alcohol consumption, weight management, sleep, physical activity, stress, and not smoking. The resource provides practical tips, such as eating healthy even when money is tight, and how to act in time to respond to heart attack signs.

Learn More For more information go to hearttruth.gov.

FOR YOUR HEALTH: Tiny Teeth Are A BIG Deal

The tooth fairy makes in-person and virtual visits to help improve the oral health of kids throughout Washington.

(NAPSI)—With more than half of the state’s third graders having experienced tooth decay, the Tooth Fairy is canvassing the state—virtually—to help improve the dental health habits of her young friends, in hopes of a cavity-free Washington.

“Children who experience tooth decay are more likely to miss school, have lower academic success, experience nutritional and speech development issues… and over time, become more susceptible to systemic inflammation, which may limit growth and development. It can also result in an increased risk for lifelong dental problems,” explains Abbie Goudarzi, DDS, a licensed dentist and Delta Dental consultant. “It’s really unacceptable that more than half of our state’s third graders have tooth decay, a number that’s even higher in many rural and BIPOC communities.”

To help address the issue, the Tooth Fairy is making virtual appearances in classrooms and community-based youth organizations statewide as part of her interactive pediatric dental health education program, The Tooth Fairy Experience, designed to make dental health education fun for students in kindergarten through second grade.

The free 30-minute interactive presentations led by the Tooth Fairy are customized for each learning environment—including a storybook reading, fun teeth facts, proper brushing techniques, tooth science experiment, dental health hand puppets and a sugar demonstration. It’s all aimed to improve dental health behaviors of kids as they enter their cavity-prone years, and to spur regular dental exams—which were down 17 percent statewide last year for 5-10-year-olds, claims data from the state’s largest dental benefits provider reveal.

According to Delta Dental’s National Children’s Oral Health Survey, 30 percent of U.S. parents reported that their children (between the ages of 6 and 12) missed school in the previous year due to an oral health problem (as opposed to a regularly scheduled dental appointment).

Children’s dental care may not seem like a top priority considering kids lose their first set of teeth, but baby teeth are very important. Cavities early in a child’s life can have long-term effects which linger far past the loss of baby teeth—it’s why the program’s website (www.TheToothFairyExperience.com) also offers helpful resources and tips for parents, including early signs of cavities:

  • Pain around the tooth and gums when eating or brushing
  • A new or increased sensitivity to hot or cold food and drinks
  • Aversion to hard or crunchy foods
  • Consistent bad breath
  • Visible white spots on the teeth
  • Holes or discoloration (cavities in their early stages will often appear as white spots, then become a light brown color as they progress. More serious cavities may turn a dark brown or even black)

Delta Dental reminds parents and caregivers that good dental health habits are important throughout a child’s life and are particularly impactful during the formative years—and to educate themselves and their children on the importance of dental health, noting that “the Tooth Fairy will thank you!”

The Tooth Fairy Experience was developed by Delta Dental of Washington in partnership with Arcora Foundation and School Nurse Organization of Washington.

For free downloadable materials and information on scheduling a virtual Tooth Fairy Experience presentation, visit www.TheToothFairyExperience.com.

FOR YOUR HEALTH: Keep Your Air Clean

(NAPSI)—People are increasingly concerned about dirt and germs these pandemic days, but many are neglecting an unseen area where airborne contaminants can lurk: the air ducts.

Even in the cleanest house, the indoor air system can recirculate dust, dirt, and particles from renovation and remodeling projects.

Why It’s Important

Your home’s heating and cooling system is the lungs of your home. The system pulls air from your rooms; filters, heats or cools it; and sends it back out again.

Unfortunately, the average home generates 40 pounds of dust a year, so the filters can’t get every speck. They get clogged and can send contaminants back into your home.

This can lead not only to unhealthy air—a particular problem for children, seniors and those with respiratory or autoimmune conditions—but higher energy bills as well.

What To Do

Fortunately, it can be easy to have clean ducts when you turn to a reputable, certified HVAC professional.

Where To Turn

Making it simple to find one is NADCA (National Air Duct Cleaners Association). Its members comply with a code of ethics and meet the organization’s high standards. For a list of certified, nearby professionals, visit www.nadca.com.