Excited screaming young asian woman jumping out of a plane (please also have a look to my other pictures of this series - thanks)

Unique ideas to be gutsier in life

(BPT) – Being human takes guts, but a sense of bold confidence doesn’t come easily for everyone; and often requires you to start from the inside. You may need to overcome mental roadblocks and bulldoze through personal physical barriers that have held you back.

Now is the perfect time to break free of those internal boundaries and challenge yourself to live boldly and bravely. Here are some ideas to unlock your potential from the inside out, allowing you to live gutsier at any age:

Start with a gut check

To be your best self and have the “guts” to tackle whatever lies ahead, get your gut in check and reap the glory. According to a recent Renew Life survey, three out of four women (72 percent) report that they’ve experienced occasional digestive issues in the past 12 months, such as bloating, constipation and diarrhea. Not only may these all be signs your gut is in need of replenishment and balance, but they’re enough of a reason to sit on the sideline rather than experience a new adventure.

Nutrition experts like Ellie Krieger, RD, host of “Ellie’s Real Good Food” show and author of several healthy cookbooks, agree that one of the most efficient and impactful ways to bring balance to the digestive tract for better digestive and immune health is with a daily probiotic like Renew Life Ultimate Flora Probiotics, recommended for their blends of multiple strains and billions of live cultures, which reflects the natural diversity in the gut.

Try something new

When you try something you’ve never done before, it stimulates the body and mind. Don’t worry about failure — just keep an open mind and have fun. No matter the outcome, you’ll create lifelong memories.

For example, even if you aren’t crafty, sign up for a pottery class. Always wondered about yoga? Take an intro session. Want to make new friends? Attend that community function. When you get outside your comfort zone, you may be surprised just how much fun you have.

Eat new foods

Expand your nutritional palate with healthy items that aren’t staples on your daily menu — mix them with dishes you know and try them a couple of times. Training your brain to recognize new flavors and smells requires multiple exposures, and proximity to familiar favorites helps make things safe by association. You never know what might become your next favorite dish.

Some healthy foodie trends you may want to try include sea vegetables like dulse, a seaweed, and items that include probiotic cultures, such as kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir and yogurt. You might even consider signing up for a cooking class to learn new skills in the kitchen.

Take a spontaneous PTO day

Americans wasted 658 million paid vacation days, according to Project: Time Off’s State of American Vacation 2016 report. That means more than half of workers (55 percent) left vacation time unused. Don’t let precious time off slip away, and take a mental health day.

Call in on a random day and give yourself the gift of an unplanned day off. Maybe it’s a particularly nice day and you can go hiking or you can surprise your best friend with lunch on her birthday. Take a “me day” and enjoy.

Reflect on and be a role model

Who do you admire for their guts? Is it someone famous or someone close to you? Think about what they do that inspires you. If you can, tell them why. For example, write your mom a letter about how she’s impacted your life. It’s sure to make her day.

While thinking about role models, reflect on how you can be a better one yourself. Whether you hope to inspire your friends, children or co-workers, be the best you that you can be. Always stand up for what you believe in and be true to yourself. One way to do this is to donate to a cause close to your heart.

Challenge yourself

Need extra motivation for living gutsier? Join a fun challenge that can both guide you plus provide a sense of community and support. Sign up for a 5K with a friend or commit your family to meatless Mondays for a month. When you do challenges in groups, it can be a lot of fun.

Check out the Renew Life Guts & Glory 14-Day Gut Challenge at www.RenewLife.com/gutchallenge that will bring balance to your gut; and as a result live the life you’ve always dreamed of. The challenge will provide plenty of ideas to #getgutsy and stay healthy, and one lucky sweepstakes winner will receive $2,500 to put toward any gutsy endeavor they choose (sweepstakes from April 6 – May 19, 2017).

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Tips to reduce your health care expenses

(BPT) – Health care costs are in the news all the time. You hear about them at work and when you’re with friends and family. The comments are always the same. Health care is getting more and more expensive and it seems to be outpacing the money you make.

Fortunately you’re not helpless when it comes to controlling your health care costs. While some treatments simply have to be done in order to support your health, there are other things you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones while looking out for your pocketbook at the same time.

Employ these five tips today and you’ll enjoy the care you need without breaking your budget.

* Focus on your health first. When it comes to controlling your health care expenses, you actually have more control than you think – a lot more. The decisions you make every day – what to eat, whether or not to smoke, how much to exercise – all play a dramatic role in your overall health. So take charge, dine on fruits and vegetables, take a run and kick that nicotine habit for good. Each of these little decisions will benefit your health and your budget.

* Be decisive with your deductible. Your insurance deductible is a fixed cost and one you’ll pay every single year before receiving network coverage support. But once it’s paid, you’ll enjoy the full coverage of your plan. Thus, if you have another treatment or procedure coming up, don’t put it off any longer than you have to. Undergoing additional procedures in the same year means you get more coverage while paying only one deductible. Many health plans also cover preventive services in full, without going against a deductible.

* Be smart about where you go for care. While health care facilities across the country are all capable of delivering compassionate, quality care, they are not all priced the same. According to a Blue Cross Blue Shield, The Health of America Report, 29.8 percent of emergency room visits were for conditions that could have been treated in retail clinics. The same research also found consumers saved money on out-of-pocket costs by visiting retail clinics for routine services when compared to doctor’s offices, and the visits were much more inexpensive than receiving the same treatment in the emergency room, according to the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.

* Ask questions. Your provider may know best, but it’s all about your health. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, not only about the procedure itself, but about the price of the procedure and if there is anything you can do to reduce the expense. Sometimes there may be something you can do on your own that supports your health and lessens your costs at the same time.

* Embrace an HSA. Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) provide a cost-effective way for people who don’t use a lot of health care services, to access care and pay for services up until they reach their deductible. Plus the money you save in your HSA can be used to pay for co-insurance payments or co-pays at your doctor’s office, and it’s also an eligible tax write off, opening the door to further savings. There are ways you can manage your health care spending. Follow the tips above and be an active participant in your role as a health care consumer and you’ll be surprised at how much you save. To learn more about the The Health of America Report, visit www.bcbs.com/healthofamerica.

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5 simple steps to be your best at any age

(BPT) – They say you’re only as young as you feel, and if you’re an older American, the ability to feel young a little while longer is always appealing. Having a youthful state of mind goes a long way toward accomplishing this goal, but you can’t ignore the importance of solid physical health.

To improve your physical and mental health and prove age is just a number, apply these five tips from Mayo Clinic today.

* Find the perfect interval. If you’ve never participated in high-intensity interval training before, here’s a compelling reason to start. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic found high-intensity aerobic exercise actually reversed some cellular aspects of aging. The research also found that the exercise improved muscle proteins, enlarged muscles and increased energy levels.

* The benefit of brain games. A sharp mind is every bit as important as a healthy body, and exercising your brain can be a lot of fun. Spend time learning new things on the internet, enroll in a class for that craft you’ve always wanted to master, go out with friends or sit down and play a board game. All of these activities can greatly improve your mental health. For example, a Mayo Clinic study found playing games decreased a person’s risk of mild cognitive impairment by 22 percent making this enjoyable activity healthy as well.

* Supplementing your health. Health supplements should never completely replace whole food offerings, but they may offer you real health value as well. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, supplements may be ideal for vegans and vegetarians or those who consume less than 1,600 calories per day. People with a condition affecting the way their body absorbs nutrients and those who have had surgery on their digestive tract should also speak with their doctor about supplements that may improve their overall health.

* The importance of sleep. A good night’s sleep offers health benefits at any age, but getting enough rest can be more difficult as you get older. To get a better night’s sleep, review your medications with your doctor to see if anything is impacting your rest. You should also try to limit your daytime napping (just 10 to 20 minutes per day is best) and avoid alcohol, caffeine or even water within a couple hours before bedtime.

* Focus on your sexual health. This topic may not be as widely discussed as your physical or mental health, but it is no less important. Men should talk to their doctors about their lessening testosterone levels, which drop about 1 percent per year after age 30. Women may experience a similar drop in estrogen levels as well and should consult their doctor for treatment options. Don’t be shy about discussing sexual health issues with your doctor, from STDs to annual checkups, having a thorough understanding of your current sexual health — and what you need to do to protect or improve it — will benefit every other part of your life.

With aging comes new challenges and the need to be more vigilant in maintaining your overall well-being. By incorporating some of the tips above from the experts at Mayo Clinic, you’ll make sure the best years of your life are still to come. You can learn more about improving your health at any age through the advice offered in Mayo Clinic on Healthy Aging, or visit http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle for more healthy lifestyle ideas.

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Simple ideas to get in shape for summer

(BPT) – Getting in shape for summer is more than just feeling good in a swimsuit. It’s being healthy so you can participate in all the fun activities that come along with the warmer weather.

From hiking to swimming, you don’t want to miss out on any of the summer fun. Eating right is a great way to ensure you’re healthy and in shape for summer. Use these easy healthy-eating tips to work your way toward healthier living.

1) Eat a high-protein breakfast
A Tel Aviv University study found that adding whey protein to your breakfast can help you slim down. What’s more, you’ll feel satisfied for longer. Record-setting long distance runner Jordan Hasay eats the same whey-protein-powered breakfast before each of her races. Try out the recipe for yourself: French vanilla BiPro, cinnamon oatmeal, fresh fruit, peanut butter and flax seed.

2) Give your workout routine a jolt
A growing body of research shows that having caffeine before exercise can improve athletic performance, whether you’re lifting weights or doing an endurance workout. A study in the journal “Nutrients” found that cyclists who consumed caffeine were able to pedal for an average of 23 percent longer than other bikers. Another study, from the “European Journal of Sport Science,” indicated that pre-workout caffeine can increase muscular force and power. More research from the “American Journal of Physiology” even shows that consuming caffeine before a workout can help accelerate fat loss!

3) Join a workout challenge
There are all kinds of great fitness challenges online, which offer nutritional tips and workout advice. One of the great things about a challenge is that it not only helps you learn more about nutrition and the gym, but it can also give you a concrete workout schedule. Check out the Summer Jumpstart Challenge at Info.BiProUSA.com/jumpstart.

4) Avoid late night snacking
One of the easiest ways to eat healthier is by cutting out unneeded snacks. If you watch TV at night, it’s pretty easy to grab a bag of chips or microwave a bag of popcorn to eat while sitting on the couch. Try to cut out these unnecessary calories. If you eat a protein-packed, healthy dinner then you shouldn’t feel the need to snack later.

5) Make your desserts healthier
Ok, if you absolutely can’t go without having a late night snack then at least make it as healthy as possible. The recipe below is great because it satisfies your sweet tooth and each serving is just 30 calories.

Frozen Strawberry Yogurt Pops

Ingredients

1 cup of chopped strawberries
1 cup of Greek yogurt
1/4 cup of strawberry BiPro whey protein isolate
1-2 tablespoons of orange juice

Directions

Place 1/2 cup of strawberries, yogurt, strawberry BiPro and orange juice in a blender and puree until smooth.

Divide remaining strawberries into desired molds. Pour pureed mixture over chopped fruit.

Insert sticks and freeze for at least 5 hours.

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The rising burden of Alzheimer’s disease on health costs, caregiver health and 65+ population

(BPT) – Kristen Beatty’s 78-year-old father, Ray, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s about 10 years ago. Since then, he has developed a sense of paranoia, insomnia and the delusion that people are stealing from him. Though Beatty and her brother constantly reassure their father to allay his fears, the daily struggle can take its toll. Beatty’s mother, Sue, had previously cared for Ray for about five years. In 2012, Sue died unexpectedly of a heart attack, or as Beatty puts it, she died of a broken heart.

“She was exhausted from the constant care and the pressure that came with it,” Beatty said. “She was eating super healthy, walking every day and taking very good care of herself, so I truly believe it was the stress. My brother and I feel guilty because we could have supported her better, but she wouldn’t ask for help. She wouldn’t consider moving him to a facility or going to support groups.”

The stress and the pressure Beatty’s mother faced is not unlike the experiences of millions of other Alzheimer’s caregivers around the nation, who primarily care for people with the disease because of their desire to keep their family member at home, their proximity to the person with dementia or their perceived obligation — all pressures that can lead to harsh consequences for caregivers.

For example, more than one in three caregivers for people with Alzheimer’s or other dementias report their health has gotten worse due to care responsibilities, compared with one out of five caregivers for older people without dementia. And depression and anxiety are more common among dementia caregivers than among people providing care for individuals with certain other conditions.

These findings are part of the Alzheimer’s Association “2017 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report,” released recently. The report analyzes new research about cost, prevalence, incidence, caregiving, and mortality and morbidity. The report found a dramatic surge in deaths from Alzheimer’s — the only cause of death among the top 10 in America that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed. Meanwhile, deaths from other major causes are decreasing. Between 2000 and 2014, deaths from heart disease decreased 14 percent, but deaths from Alzheimer’s increased 89 percent.

Another finding was the growing cost burden of Alzheimer’s. For the first time ever, it now costs over a quarter of a trillion dollars ($259 billion) annually to care for individuals living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias in the United States — $56 billion of which is coming right from individuals’ pockets. According to the report, out-of-pocket costs for people affected by Alzheimer’s are startlingly high, despite support from Medicare and Medicaid. In fact, annual per-person payments for seniors with Alzheimer’s and other dementias are almost five times higher ($10,315) than those for seniors without these conditions ($2,232).

According to Beth Kallmyer, vice president of constituent services for the Alzheimer’s Association, providing ongoing support for the estimated 5.5 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s will need to remain a national policy priority moving forward, as the population at risk for Alzheimer’s is projected to nearly double from 48 million to 88 million by 2050.

“As the number of people with Alzheimer’s continues to grow, so does the impact and cost of providing care to our health system and the millions of unpaid caregivers,” Kallmyer said. “While we’ve seen increases in federal research funding and access to critical care planning and support services, there’s still an urgent need to expand options and support for family-centered and community care and to fund more research that can bring us closer to effective treatment options and, ultimately, a cure.”

To read the full Facts and Figures report, visit www.alz.org/facts. For comprehensive information, support and resources on Alzheimer’s caregiving, visit www.alz.org/care/overview.asp.

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Living with an autoimmune disease? Recognize that your voice matters

(BPT) – If you are living with an autoimmune disease, you have most likely spent several years working with your doctor to find the right medication to manage your symptoms. Now that you’ve found a biologic treatment that works for you, what if at your next appointment, your doctor asks you to switch to a new medication? Would you speak up and share your concerns?

With biosimilars now available in the marketplace, you may be told you have to switch from an innovator biologic to a biosimilar — even though you may be stable and doing well on your current therapy. Biosimilars are not generic versions of biologics. Biologics — prescription medications made in living cells — are more complex than other medicines, such as aspirin; they are more difficult to make, and cannot be copied exactly.

If you are stable on your biologic, it is very likely that you have undergone a long journey. You may have tried several other medications — often over the period of many years — before achieving control of your symptoms with your current therapy.

It is important as a person living with an autoimmune disease to recognize that you have a voice in the matter. You have rights, and you can speak up to ensure the decision to switch medications remains one that is made by your physician, in consultation with you.

Finely Tuned is a new educational resource that features the stories of six individuals living with autoimmune diseases and their journeys to find the right therapy. Through these empowering stories, people who are stable on their biologic can gather tips for engaging in a conversation with their doctors about why they want to stay on their current therapy.

These videos, along with a guide for discussing this topic with your physician, can be found on FinelyTuned.com. If you or someone you love is living with an autoimmune disease, please visit www.finelytuned.com today to learn more about why your voice counts, and why it is so important in this matter.

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Get safer drinking water

(BPT) – Your home plumbing could be making you sick and costing you money. Hard water, which contains high levels of calcium and magnesium, may be directly contributing to the buildup of dangerous bacteria in your household pipes. This is a serious problem across the United States, especially when you consider that nearly 90 percent of American homes have hard water.

Left untreated, the water you use to wash your fresh fruits and vegetables may actually contain more bacteria, and the problem isn’t only in the kitchen. When you take a hot shower the steam you are inhaling can also contain the same microbial contamination that is in the rest of your plumbing, exposing you to bacteria such as Legionella, which can cause Legionnaire’s disease.

Normally, the piping used in home plumbing, whether it is copper or PVC, has very smooth interior surfaces that don’t permit bacteria to settle and grow. However, hard water results in scale formation on the interior surfaces of those pipes and that provides a perfect home for bacteria.

Researchers at the School of Sustainable Engineering at Arizona State University found bacteria may grow in pipes filled with both hard scale and soft scale at the same rate. This is important new information because some forms of water conditioning produce this soft scale.

The only solution is to remove both hard and soft scale in the pipes with a traditional salt-based water softener. These work by running the incoming hard water through a resin filter that traps the calcium and magnesium in the water — as well as iron, manganese or radium ions — and replaces them with sodium ions.

A salt-based water softener doesn’t just help protect your health, it protects your appliances, as well. Hard water scaling clogs waterlines and plumbing, forcing appliances to work harder and operate less efficiently. Hard water can reduce the efficiency of water heaters and increase electricity costs by as much as 48 percent, according to the Battelle Memorial Institute. Hard water also damages appliances like water heaters, dishwashers, shower heads and faucets. These must be repaired and replaced more often as a result.

Kitchens also benefit from soft water because it is up to 12 times more effective at cleaning dishes than increasing the amount of detergent used. Researchers found that for clothes washing machines, the most important factor in removing stains from clothing was water softness. Reduction of water hardness was up to 100 times more effective at stain removal than increasing the detergent dose or washing with hotter water. In fact, soft water can reduce soap use by as much as half.

To determine if you have hard water, look for spots and scale buildup on fixtures. You can also test your water yourself to check for hardness with home water testing kits or you can have a water treatment professional do the testing. For more information on water softening and salt health please visit www.saltinstitute.org.

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World-renowned athlete scores big against Crohn’s disease

(BPT) – For world-renowned soccer player Brandi Chastain, having a game plan in place to achieve goals was second nature. Chastain is a former member of the United States women’s national soccer team and a retired professional soccer player who was recently elected to the U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame. When Chastain’s now 10-year-old son was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, a type of inflammatory bowel disease, she had to tackle a different type of plan. Chastain has partnered with AbbVie on My IBD Game Plan, a program designed to help people living with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, the two most common forms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), create a plan to help manage everyday life with these diseases.

The program encourages people living with IBD, and their caregivers, to proactively work with their doctors and support team to take control and manage the symptoms of these diseases. Program resources can be found at CrohnsandColitis.com.

“Being on a team is something that has always been very important to me, and when my son was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, I found myself on a new team,” said Chastain. “There are 1.6 million Americans who live with IBD daily, and CrohnsandColitis.com is a great resource for them to be able to find information, to ask questions and to talk to their doctor about an appropriate treatment plan.”

As many as 70,000 new cases of IBD are diagnosed in the U.S. each year. Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis can be serious diseases that can get worse over time, with symptoms that may change in severity or change over the course of one’s life and it is important to talk to a doctor about any change in symptoms and appropriate treatment options.

People living with IBD usually go through periods of remission, meaning few or no symptoms, alternating with periods of more active disease symptoms. Common symptoms of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis include diarrhea, abdominal pain or cramping and rectal bleeding. There is no cure for Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, but there are treatments available that directly address the causes of the symptoms and can help achieve and maintain remission.

“The symptoms of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis can not only pose physical challenges but also emotional and social ones that can really interfere with everyday life,” said Eva Szigethy, Ph.D., M.D., M.S., an associate professor of Psychiatry, Medicine and Pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. “There are tips on CrohnsandColitis.com, such as how to build confidence, manage social situations, tackle stress and find motivation, that individuals and their loved ones can put in place. Along with an individualized treatment plan, these tips and tools may help them gain control and better manage the challenges of IBD.”

In addition to information on how to build their own IBD Game Plan with their healthcare provider, CrohnsandColitis.com also features tools and information to help manage the physical, emotional and social challenges of IBD. It also features a Restroom Request Card that people living with IBD can use to discreetly request access to restricted restrooms when unexpected symptoms arise.

Please visit https://www.crohnsandcolitis.com/ for more information.

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Cover your nutrition bases with this popular vegetable

(BPT) – Whether you’re on or off the field, it’s important to fuel up wisely. Leading sports nutritionists across the country recommend potatoes as the go-to choice for fueling your body before or after a workout.

“To perform at your best, put potatoes on your plate,” says Dawn Jackson Blatner, RDN, CSSD, the nutritionist for the 2016 World Series Champion Chicago Cubs. That’s because the benefits of America’s most popular vegetable go far beyond its delicious taste and versatility in the kitchen.

Up to bat and gearing up for a grand slam? Here’s how potatoes can get you there.

First Base: Carbohydrate

Did you know that carbohydrate is the primary fuel for your brain and a key source of energy for muscles? Because your body’s own stores of carbohydrate are limited and may be depleted even in a single session of intense and/or prolonged exercise it’s important to replenish them for optimal mental and physical performance. With a medium (5.3 ounce) skin-on potato containing 26 grams of carbohydrate, potatoes are a nutrient-dense carb, containing as much, if not more, of several essential vitamins and minerals than spaghetti, brown rice or whole wheat bread (compared on a per-serving basis).

Second Base: Potassium

A medium (5.3 ounce) skin-on potato also contains 620 milligrams of potassium. That’s more potassium than a banana! Potassium is an important electrolyte that aids in muscle, cardiovascular and nervous system function. The 2015 Dietary Guidelines mention potassium as an under-consumed nutrient of concern and recommends consuming foods with high levels of potassium, such as white potatoes.

Third Base: Energy

As we know, adequate energy supports optimal body functions, and it’s critical to take in the appropriate number of calories to match the demands of your day. Potatoes are more energy-packed than any other popular vegetable, with a medium (5.3 ounce) skin-on potato containing 110 calories.

Home Run!

Whether you lead an active lifestyle or compete with elite athletes, there’s an all-star potato option to fuel your body and brain throughout the day. Katie Cavuto, MS, RD, chef and dietitian for the Philadelphia Flyers and Phillies, keeps her potato dishes interesting with recipes like Smoky Maple Potato Bites, combining a crunchy panko crust with a creamy and satisfying potato center to create an easy make-ahead, post-workout (or in between inning) snack.

Smoky Maple Potato Bites

Created Exclusively for Potatoes USA by Katie Cavuto, MS, RD

Yield: 16 servings (2 bites per serving)

INGREDIENTS

2 pounds russet potatoes, washed and cut into 2-inch cubes

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon sea salt, plus extra as needed

3/4 cup diced leeks, white part only (one medium leek)

1/2 cup low-fat plain strained yogurt

1 1/2 tablespoons mild smoked paprika

1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano

3 tablespoons real maple syrup

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

3 large eggs, divided

1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper, plus extra as needed

1 1/2 cups panko (regular or gluten-free)

Olive oil cooking spray

DIRECTIONS

1. Add potatoes to a large pot of water and bring them to a boil. Cook uncovered at medium-high heat for 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are fork tender. Drain the potatoes and place them in a large bowl.

2. While the potatoes are cooking, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil, leeks and 1/8 teaspoon of the salt. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring regularly, to soften. Place the cooked leeks in the bowl with the potatoes.

3. Add the yogurt, paprika, oregano, maple syrup, mustard, 1 egg, the pepper, and remaining salt to the bowl with the potatoes and leeks. Mash the potatoes, stirring periodically, until smooth.

4. Place the potato mixture in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

5. Preheat the oven to 425 F.

6. Crack the remaining 2 eggs in a small bowl and whisk.

7. Add the panko to another small bowl. Season with salt and pepper.

8. Make 2-tablespoon portions of the potato mixture and roll them into balls.

9. Working one at a time, dip the balls into the eggs, then dredge in the panko, pressing it to coat.

10. Place the balls on a baking sheet coating with olive oil cooking spray. Spray the tops of the balls with cooking spray as well.

11. Bake for 15 minutes and then, if needed, broil them for 2 to 3 minutes to brown. Serve immediately.

Per serving (2 bites): Calories: 136, Fat: 3 g, Cholesterol: 35 mg, Sodium: 273 mg, Carbohydrates: 23 g, Fiber: 2 g, Potassium: 386 mg, Protein: 5 g, Vitamin C: 9%

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An empowered patient is a healthy patient: 4 tips to make health care work for you

(BPT) – While the future of health care is still undetermined, one thing is certain: It’s important for consumers to take steps to educate themselves about their health and well-being and become active participants in their plan of care. However, it can feel overwhelming to a patient to make complicated decisions that can impact their health (and finances) in the short and long term.

Rather than relying on health care providers or insurance companies, patients can take ownership of their own health care management. AAAHC, which works with health care providers to optimize patient safety and quality of care, offers four tips to help you become a more confident, empowered patient:

1. Make the Most of Your (Face) Time

With the advancement of health care technology and digital requirements, many doctors find themselves spending more of their time in front of a computer screen, with one study revealing doctors can spend less than one-third of their time with patients.

Health care professionals are, however, transitioning towards a more patient-centered approach to care that focuses on enhancing the holistic experience and needs of each patient. To make each interaction more meaningful, health care providers should discuss your medical history, lifestyle choices and other behaviors to get a better idea of how to tailor recommendations and treatments that support overall wellness.

“Remember to always be open and honest with your doctor, and come with a list of questions,” said Mona Sweeney, RN, of AAAHC Accreditation Services. “Having a list prepared helps you stay focused on getting the information you want, and taking notes will keep new information organized for reference later. If you’ve received a diagnosis that leads to a discussion of treatment options, it also can be helpful to have someone with you as a second set of ears. It’s hard to remember all you’ve been told if you’re under stress.”

2. Know Your Risks, Options and Personal Data

Many patients do not realize it is the health care provider’s responsibility to disclose important details of any treatment plan — including potential benefits, risks and alternative options — and confirm patient understanding prior to moving forward with care. This ensures patients are able to ask questions and make informed decisions. Remember, you are the driver of your care.

“Because patient-centered health care providers want patients to play a bigger role in their health and wellness, many are providing access to information and opening up new channels of communication,” said Sweeney. “These resources help patients develop stronger relationships with providers and have a better understanding of their care.”

One way providers are achieving this is with patient engagement tools, which connect people to their personal health records and educational resources and facilitate communication with health care professionals. Ask about access to wearable health trackers, online patient portals, telemedicine channels and social media apps to learn what is available from your provider.

3. Go Through the Dollars and Cents

Once you are familiar with the medicine side, you can tackle the costs — which can be tricky. It is well within your rights as a patient to ask for your treatment costs upfront. This will allow you more time to review the price and ask questions before committing to any specific treatment or approach to care, or have a point of reference when reviewing the bill after treatment.

A survey from one payment and claims company, Navicure, found 75 percent of health care providers offer cost estimates upon request, but less than 25 percent of patients request them. You should feel comfortable discussing any concerns, including your bill or the cost of each treatment option, with your provider team.

4. Make Your Voice Heard

Helping patients become more engaged in their health care will benefit both patients and providers. Health care organizations seek feedback from patients to learn how to enhance the patient experience — which in turn will help them improve the quality of care they deliver.

“Most providers have some formal means of asking for feedback via a survey or customer service portal. Most negative patient experience issues are not the result of poor care, but of poor communications. Be authentic when providing feedback; it’s the only way a health care team can know where they need to improve,” said Sweeney.

For more information on standards for safety and quality that your health care provider must follow in order to earn accreditation, visit www.aaahc.org.

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