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Making sense of nutrition labels

(BPT) – You can find them on the side of most every product at your local grocery store. They are plain and kind of boring but nutrition labels were designed to contain vitally important information for good health and wise food choices. These labels tell you the number of servings in a container, how many calories per serving, and what amounts of vitamins and essential nutrients (like sodium) they contain.

However, they don’t just give you the raw data, they also tell you what percentage of your daily allowance of needed nutrients you are getting. When it comes to sodium, however, that may be a problem. The daily allowances are based on the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines, with guidance from the Institute of Medicine (IOM), now known as the Health and Medicine Division (HMD) of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (the National Academies).

The current FDA Dietary Guidelines call for a maximum daily sodium allowance of 2,300 mg, well below what the average American eats, which is about 3,400 mg per day of sodium. But, when the IOM studied this issue and released their report in 2013, “Sodium Intake in Populations: Assessment of Evidence,” they found no evidence to lower the daily allowance below 2,300 mg per day and some indication that doing so would be harmful. The level set by the FDA not only represents a significant population-wide sodium reduction effort, it also ignores the latest evidence.

An increasing amount of research is contradicting the FDA’s sodium guidelines. A 2014 study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the healthy range for sodium consumption was between 3,000 and 6,000 mg per day and eating less than 3,000 mg per day may increase the risk of death or cardiovascular incidents. And a 2011 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that low-sodium diets were more likely to result in death from cardiovascular disease.

Low-salt diets can lead to insulin resistance, congestive heart failure, cardiovascular events, iodine deficiency, loss of cognition, low birth weights, and higher rates of death. Dr. Michael Alderman, editor of the American Journal of Hypertension and former president of the American Society of Hypertension, has repeatedly cited his concern that a population-wide sodium reduction campaign could have unintended consequences.

Very few countries in the world meet the government recommendations. A study of almost 20,000 people in 33 countries shows the normal range of consumption around the world is 2,800 to 4,800 mg/day. This is consistent regardless of where people get their food, either from home-cooked meals, prepackaged meals or restaurants.

The new nutrition labels were supposed to go into place this year, but now the FDA has indefinitely delayed their implementation. Hopefully this will allow them time to adjust the sodium limits to more accurately reflect the evidence as well as how real people eat and the safe range of sodium consumption.

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Sports nutritionals 101: What you should know about supplementing your workout

(BPT) – Whether you’re an athlete looking for an extra competitive edge or would just like to increase the effectiveness of your daily workout, you have most likely considered adding nutritional supplements to your fitness routine. Diet, exercise and everyday lifestyle are all factors that can help determine the right supplements for you.

“It’s not uncommon for people who’ve never tried nutritional supplements to have some misconceptions about them,” says Don Saladino, a fitness and nutrition expert who trains celebrities and is a brand advocate for Garden of Life(R) SPORT. “People may think supplementation is only for die-hard athletes, but every human being is an athlete. We do things each day like move, carry items and change direction. Carrying a baby, hauling groceries or running across the street — these are the exact same patterns an athlete needs to perform, which is why it’s important to learn about all the options available and how they can help.”

As you’re considering nutritional supplements, keep these important points in mind:

* Power up with protein — Adding a protein-rich sports supplement to your diet provides many benefits. Protein fuels workouts, aids in muscle recovery after exercise and extends energy throughout the day. Supplements can provide needed nutrients that are difficult to get through diet alone. Adding protein powder into a smoothie or snacking on a protein bar can help incorporate necessary nutrients like antioxidants into your daily diet.

* Match your supplement to your objective — An exercise regimen can greatly benefit from a system of supplementation. Various nutrient-rich supplements are designed to be taken before you exercise, and others following exercise. For example, pre-workout supplements such as Garden of Life SPORT ENERGY + Focus incorporate ingredients intended to improve focus, such as organic coffeeberry, and optimize energy production, such as B12. Post-exercise supplements such as SPORT Organic Plant-Based Recovery can help your body recover faster from the rigors of vigorous exercise.

* Pick your best protein — Protein is a key component of sports nutrition, since it helps build muscle mass and supports muscle recovery post-workout. When a supplement contains all nine of the essential amino acids that the body can’t produce on its own, it contains “complete proteins.” You can get these essential amino acids from different protein sources, such as plant-based protein or whey protein. Plant-based proteins are great for people following a vegetarian or vegan diet, and they are especially effective at enhancing post-workout recovery. Whey protein is designed to refuel and repair muscles and can help maximize muscle growth when supplementing with regular exercise.

* Keep it clean — It’s important to be aware of what’s in your supplement. Just as you choose organic foods and beverages for their ingredient transparency, you wouldn’t want a nutritional supplement that’s made up of chemicals. Look for a truly clean sports nutrition system that’s designated with the Certified USDA Organic and Non-GMO Project Verified seals, as well as by Informed-Choice for Sport and NSF(R) Certified For Sport.

“Working out is good for you — whether you choose to supplement or not. But the right nutritional supplement can help maximize the benefits of your exercise regimen and improve how you feel during everyday life activities,” Saladino says.

Nutritional supplements may be the fuel your body needs to reach the next level of performance, whether it’s putting that extra weight into your workout or lifting an extra child at home.

To learn more about clean sport supplements, visit www.gardenoflife.com/sport.

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Medicare Advantage: 20 years, 20 million people and 4 factors

(BPT) – In 1997, the federal government created the Medicare + Choice program — later renamed Medicare Advantage — to enhance consumer choice and more efficiently deliver Medicare benefits to older Americans.

You may have heard of Medicare Advantage, but maybe you don’t know exactly what it is, what it offers and how it can help you.

Today, Medicare Advantage serves almost 20 million people — a nearly 50 percent increase from even five years ago, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Here are four important factors in why people choose Medicare Advantage:

1. Simplicity and convenience. Medicare Advantage plans combine all your Medicare coverage, including Original Medicare (Parts A and B), and often prescription drug coverage, into one plan so you only have one card to carry.

2. Predictable costs. Managing your health care costs can be especially important if you are living on a fixed budget. Many Medicare Advantage plans offer additional benefits for a $0 premium beyond the premium for Original Medicare and have set limits on what you have to pay out of pocket. Brian Thompson, CEO of UnitedHealthcare Medicare & Retirement, explains, “Original Medicare generally covers about 80 percent of a person’s costs for doctor visits and other outpatient care, leaving the individual responsible for the rest, with no limit to what that cost may be. Medicare Advantage, on the other hand, offers peace of mind and helps you plan your health care expenses by capping how much you may have to pay out of your own pocket in a given year.”

3. Care Coordination. Boston Consulting Group (BCG) analyzed 3 million Medicare claims and found that Medicare Advantage members have shorter hospital stays and fewer readmissions within 30 days of leaving. Medicare Advantage plan members are also more likely to receive preventive care to keep chronic illnesses in check, according to researchers.

A possible explanation for the favorable outcomes: care coordination. Thompson says, “The health care system is complex. With Medicare Advantage plans, doctors work as a comprehensive team, led by a primary care doctor, and together with the health plan, they help members receive the care they need. This can create more convenience and value for the member and ultimately lead to better health.”

4. Choice. Thompson also points out that “every day more than 10,000 baby boomers turn 65, and they expect to have choices.” Medicare Advantage plans come in a wide variety of options, so people can choose one that meets their unique health and budget needs. Many offer programs to support people with diabetes and other chronic conditions, and most offer additional benefits not covered by Original Medicare. Perks may include prescription drug, dental, vision and hearing coverage, home visits, 24/7 access to health care professionals and gym memberships.

If you want to learn more about Medicare and options available to you, visit MedicareMadeClear.com. You can also learn more about Medicare Advantage at UHCMedicarePlans.com.

Plans are insured through UnitedHealthcare Insurance Company or one of its affiliated companies, a Medicare Advantage organization with a Medicare contract. Enrollment in the plan depends on the plan’s contract renewal with Medicare.

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4 steps to safely recycle your household batteries

(BPT) – Do you have a pile of used household batteries hidden in your junk drawer or in a coffee can in the garage? You know you should be environmentally responsible and recycle them, but you aren’t sure where to start. So the pile grows larger.

But did you also know that extra precautions are required when storing and recycling them? Some batteries retain a residual charge even after they can no longer properly power a device. These batteries may appear dead but they can be a safety risk because their power has not been completely used up. Some batteries can combust or spark, causing a fire or other safety incident.

That’s why it’s important for anyone with used batteries to embrace some simple safety tips when storing them. Call2Recycle, the leading consumer battery recycling program in North America, offers these recommendations for safely protecting your batteries to avoid any issues:

1. Bag each battery in its own clear plastic bag before placing it in a storage container. If a bag isn’t available, you can tape the terminals with these tape types: clear packing, non-conductive electrical and duct. Avoid masking, painter and Scotch tape; opaque bags or any wax products. Make sure the label is visible.

2. Store the batteries in a cool, dry place. Incidents can occur when batteries (or the devices they power such as a cellphone or tablet) are exposed to inclement or excessively hot weather. Store them in a plastic container; avoid metal or cardboard.

3. Keep an eye out for damaged batteries. If you see a swollen or bulging battery, immediately put it in a non-flammable material such as sand or kitty litter in a cool, dry place. Do not dispose of it in the trash. Contact Call2Recycle, the manufacturer or retailer immediately for instructions, especially if the label says it is Lithium or Lithium-Ion.

4. Drop them off within six months. Call2Recycle recommends storing old batteries no longer than six months. Make sure they are bagged or taped before dropping them off for recycling.

You can drop off rechargeable batteries for free at a Call2Recycle public drop-off site anywhere in the U.S. The online locator can help you find a nearby site; its Recycle on the Way feature helps you add a recycling stop on your errand run. Retailers such as The Home Depot, Lowe’s and Staples also accept them for recycling.

For single-use batteries, you can drop them off at select Call2Recycle participating locations, purchase your own Call2Recycle recycling box or contact your local community recycling center for other options.

All household batteries can be recycled. In particular, metals in rechargeable batteries can be repurposed into other products such as new batteries, stainless steel pans and golf clubs. By dropping them at a Call2Recycle drop-off site, you can be assured that your used batteries will be kept out of the landfill and recycled in the most sustainable way possible.

Start your commitment to safe battery recycling today. For more information, visit www.Call2Recycle.org.

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Baseball legend steps up to the plate to raise awareness of fatal lung disease

(BPT) – All-Star centerfielder Bernie Williams is taking on a new role as an advocate for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) awareness in honor of his dad Bernabé who lost his life to this rare and fatal lung disease. In this new role, he’s teamed up with Boehringer Ingelheim on Breathless(TM) (www.BreathlessIPF.com), a national education campaign that offers hope to those with IPF and their loved ones — and helps them get the information and support they need.

Williams’ dad’s battle with IPF began in the ’90s, at a time when Williams’ career with the Yankees was in full swing. Bernabé, who had been in perfect health his whole life up until then, began to experience breathlessness and disruptive coughing fits, and the Williams family became concerned.

“My dad was a role model to me — and my biggest fan. When I was a kid, long before there were any thoughts of me becoming a professional baseball player, we’d go out to the local field and play catch for hours just because I enjoyed it — and it was time for the two of us together,” said Williams. “My dad was such an important part of my life. So when he started to have health problems, I became worried — and scared.”

After seeing several doctors and years of misdiagnoses, Bernabé finally saw a lung specialist, or pulmonologist, who accurately diagnosed him with IPF and explained the fatal nature of the disease — a devastating reality for the entire Williams family. Over the years that Bernabé battled IPF, Williams flew from New York to Puerto Rico to help care for him — even missing an occasional Yankees game to be by his side.

Bernabé’s breathlessness eventually progressed to the point where he could barely participate in regular telephone calls with Williams without becoming winded, and everyday tasks like walking up stairs or bending over to pick something up turned into difficult struggles. Finally, and sadly, in May 2001, Bernabé lost his fight to IPF and passed away at the age of 73.

Bernie Williams teams up with the Breathless(TM) campaign

Unfortunately, the Williams family is not alone. As many as 132,000 people are affected by IPF in the U.S., and there are approximately 50,000 new cases diagnosed each year — enough to fill some baseball stadiums. Worse still, since the symptoms of IPF, including breathlessness during activity, a dry and persistent cough and chest discomfort, are similar to more common diseases like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma, the disease is regularly misdiagnosed — sometimes by multiple doctors and for multiple years.

Williams is now on a mission to turn his family’s heart-wrenching experience into a chance to help others, and he wants anyone who thinks they may be suffering from IPF to talk to a lung specialist sooner rather than later, so that they may be accurately diagnosed early and prescribed an appropriate treatment regimen.

“IPF is a disease that has touched my life in a very profound and personal way,” said Williams. “When my dad was diagnosed with IPF, we didn’t have the information and tools we needed available to us, so now I want to educate and empower others who are affected by this difficult and oftentimes deceiving disease — but I need your help spreading the word.”

Williams is encouraging everyone to visit www.BreathlessIPF.com, where there are a number of helpful IPF resources that you can share with your loved ones through social media. A few minutes of your time — and a few simple clicks — may just provide someone with the information they need to take action.

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