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Senior Health

Finding the Best Medicare Supplement Plan

Just the thought of trying to choose a Medicare supplement plan can give you a headache and feeling of dread. Plan A in the Medicare group has the fewest benefits and is the least expensive and Plan J has the most benefits and is the most expensive. Somewhere in between, you should be able to find a plan that’s right for you.

The best way to look for a plan is to go to, the official government website for Medicare and peruse the wealth of information available to find out about eligibility, what you get with basic Medicare coverage and the types of plans that you’ve got to choose from. The site also offers a telephone number if you want to talk to a representative about which plan is right for you.

Medicare supplement plans are only available for one person, not a family or husband and wife. Try to find a plan during the first six months after you enroll in Medicare, Part B. Insurers have to accept you into their plan during that time even though you may have had preexisting conditions. After the six month time period, policies could cost more.

You should know that Medicare Supplemental plans which charge higher premiums don’t get you any more coverage than you’d get for the same plan with a lower premium – and, procedures for filing claims are exactly the same. Medicare’s Medigap plans increases the amount of health insurance if you’re eligible and have enrolled in Part A and B. Also, Medicare’s Medigap plans usually increase every year on January 1st, the same time that benefits are adjusted.

Along with the raises to Medicare plan premiums each year, you should know that Medicare also adjusts rates for “attained age.” So, between about 80 and 90 years old, the premiums are at their highest – just when they’re least affordable. Medigap policies are also adjusted according to others in your geographic area, so that everyone is paying the same premium.

You can purchase an issue-age or community-rated Medigap policy that charges the lowest premium. It may be a bit more expensive at first, but your premiums aren’t raised every year as you age. Medigap policies are provided by companies like Blue Cross, Blue Shield and Humana and offers extra coverage that might help healthcare deficiencies offered under the Original Medicare, Part A and B.

Some questions you should ask before you sign up for a Medicare Supplement plan are what the coverage is on the services you know you’ll need, how does the supplement work with other health care coverage you might have – such as from an employer — and how much you’ll pay out of pocket for hospital stays and doctors’ visits. Other questions might concern drugs and prescriptions you’ll need and whether or not you’ll be covered elsewhere if you travel a great deal.

Medicare and Medigap sounds complicated and can be confusing, but one of the professional health insurance representatives at Medicare can work with you and help you to find the best possible policy and premium for you.

Aging Gracefully – With Exercise

There are many reasons that senior citizens should exercise on a regular basis, but the main one is that it helps to increase your overall health and ward off life-threatening diseases – especially those associated with aging. Simply put – exercising helps us age more gracefully.

Almost everyone knows the sort of problems we face when aging – slower metabolism, bone loss and stiffness in joints, muscle loss, balance problems, less endurance and heart and lung problems. We all want a quick fix to aging, such as injections and facelifts or a pill we can take to halt or reduce the aging process. But, in reality, regular exercise is the only thing we can do for ourselves that will increase our overall health and well-being.

Exercise can help us maintain the ability to do things we love and to accomplish everyday tasks that we need to do rather than depending on someone else. Even if you’re a very out of shape senior citizen, there are simple exercises you can do that will make you feel better and enjoy your life.

Stretching is simple to do (you can even stretch while sitting) and can make remarkable strides in improving your joints and muscles. You can find online stretching exercises, choose from the many television shows that promote exercising or get a book from the library or bookstore. You’ll want to be sure to choose exercises that stretch your back, arms, calves, thighs, stomach and chest – but don’t overdo it. Stretch for 5 to 20 minutes per day or whatever you feel up to.

Any activity that increases your endurance is great for senior citizens. Those exercises might include gardening, biking, swimming or simply walking the dog. Try to increase your breathing and heart rate, but don’t exercise so strenuously that you lose your ability to talk. Take it easy and you’ll benefit more than you realize.

Strength exercises are very important to engage in as you age. The more you can strengthen your muscles, the better able you’ll be to increase your metabolism (maintain a normal weight) and keep your blood sugar at normal levels. Strength exercises can be in the form of machines at a gym or fitness center – or, you can even use items around the house, such as books and cans of food.

Exercises designed to strengthen your back should be an important part of your exercise program. Back pain can be excruciating and life-changing and is common in senior citizens. Ask your doctor for a list of exercises you can do to strengthen back muscles or research on your own to find some that are right for you.

One of the worst maladies that can affect senior citizens is balance problems. Aging can cause loss of balance, but so can certain medications. There are exercises to specifically build your leg muscles and increase your perception of balance so that you’re less likely to fall. Keep in mind that in the United States, hospitals admit over 400,000 people per year for broken hips – and most are senior citizens.

Customize Your Own Diet for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is a debilitating and devastating illness, but you can do some things to reduce the pain and fatigue, including developing a proper diet plan. For example, fatty foods can exacerbate the effects of rheumatoid arthritis as can foods that promote weight gain – sugars and breads.

Trial and error might be in order to pinpoint some foods that might be causing flare-ups of rheumatoid arthritis. Then, you can eliminate them as needed. Here are some types of foods to avoid and some to include in a diet that may ease pain, stiffness and tiredness:

· Avoid fatty foods – Saturated fats found in some foods such as butter, bacon and various dairy products might increase inflammation. Chemicals called prostaglandins are found in these foods and have been identified as culprits in arthritic joint destruction. Meats contain arachidonic acid, which can convert to prostaglandins after it’s ingested.

· A vegetarian diet can help – Some people find that eliminating meat and adopting a completely vegetarian diet helps relieve the pain and stiffness caused by rheumatoid arthritis. Others find no advantage to eating a meat-free diet.

· Eliminate alcohol – It’s best to entirely eliminate alcohol from your diet if you’ve been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. On the other hand, research shows that alcohol may protect against developing the disease. If you’re taking arthritis medication, be sure to talk to your health care provider about harmful side-effects.

· Take vitamins – Certain vitamins and minerals should be included in any diet to prevent symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis – especially if you take certain prescriptions such as methotrexate. A diet high in folic acid (a B vitamin) can help to alleviate side-effects of methotrexate and also helps manufacture important red blood cells. Selenium, found in tuna, is also a good way to prevent damage to tissue. Vitamin D can prevent bone loss.

· Foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids – Foods such as nuts, some fish, flax seed and soybean products are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids that can effectively reduce inflammation. As an added benefit, these fatty acids also help prevent heart disease, which is more likely in those who have rheumatoid arthritis.

· Consider a Mediterranean diet – Research has shown that cases of rheumatoid arthritis are rare in Mediterranean countries such as Italy and Greece – or less severe if diagnosed. A Mediterranean diet consists of fruits, vegetables and foods rich in vitamin C. Olive oil and legumes also figure in to this healthy and disease-fighting diet.

Although there is no specific “arthritis diet,” customizing your diet by identifying certain trigger foods may be a way to improve your own diet and get rid of some of the debilitating and painful symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.