American Football On Grass Field

Behind the Fuss for Real Grass Playing Fields

(BPT) – Whether attending a child’s scrimmage, the hottest college bowl game of the week or a professional playoff, the vibrant expanse of a football field offers more than a colorful canvas for the action. Often an afterthought for spectators, the choice of playing surface – natural vs. artificial – is a major decision for sports teams and field managers that goes far beyond aesthetics. According to Don Follett, director of fields and grounds for the Baltimore Ravens, the decision to transition M&T Bank Stadium back to natural grass at the start of the 2016 season was driven by the players. “A few of our key players asked that we entertain natural grass,” said Follett. “Ultimately, we decided that real football should be played on real grass.”

Why the fuss over real grass for sports fields? Venues choose one surface versus another for reasons that are highly specific to their situations. The following themes, however, consistently pop up:

Injury considerations

When first introduced, artificial turf had less cushioning and more surface hardness than it does today, affecting the probability and severity of injuries. Today, the installation of artificial turf involves a mix of sand or crumb rubber infill, which absorbs impact energy and provides surface cushioning. Over time, however, as infill levels decrease from being packed down or migrating, more infill must be added to maintain the target depth range provided from the turf manufacturer. Additionally, based on some of the research, an athlete’s foot is more likely to snag in a synthetic system, which creates more force on the foot, ankle and knee when trying to turn or change directions. In comparison, natural grass can be more forgiving when players stop or turn quickly.

While injury rates are not statistically significant between one playing surface and another, given a choice, professional football players tend to favor natural grass fields over artificial turf. Their preferences have been associated with beliefs that there are more lower body injuries when playing on artificial turf. In a 2010 survey of NFL players, 69 percent preferred a natural surface. Perceptions about safety and wear on the body likely factored in, as players cited artificial turf as a contributor to injuries (82 percent), soreness and fatigue (89 percent), a shorter career (89 percent) and a reduced quality of life after football (64 percent). “In their [players’] minds, natural is better, safer,” continued Follett.

Health and comfort issues

Beyond injuries, natural and artificial turf have other health and safety impacts. Natural grass fields have regular growth, watering and mowing cycles, allowing for constant rejuvenation and decomposition of various compounds. The dense root and shoot systems characteristic of healthy turfgrass support a large population of soil micro-flora and -fauna. These organisms offer one of the most active biological systems for the degradation of trapped organic chemicals and pesticides. According to Tim Van Loo, president of the Sports Turf Managers Association (STMA) and a certified sports field manager, “the soil of natural turfgrass systems includes microbes that break down certain compounds, such as pesticides, potentially noxious organic chemicals and even bacteria from bodily fluids, such as blood and spit.” With synthetic fields, regular maintenance – sweeping, dragging, loosening and redistribution of infill, and cleaning – is necessary to keep them in top form.

Turfgrass has the added benefit of contributing to noise and glare reductions. Natural grass absorbs sound and can reduce noise levels by up to 10 decibels. Variation in the size, shape and angle of individual grass blades disperses sunlight to reduce glare and improve visibility in sunny conditions. Both qualities can benefit players and spectators alike in large and noisy stadiums.

Playability factors

Artificial fields are often cited for enabling more continuous play than their natural counterparts, which may need time to recover between heavy use. With a little pre-planning, turf managers can mitigate most of these challenges and protect the long-term playability of their natural turf fields. “The life of a natural field can be extended by rotating activities between fields, changing the daily location of practice on a field, or moving drills and practices around the field,” said Van Loo. Taking care to preserve the quality and coverage of natural turf can also reduce unpredictable ball roll and bounce that may occur with bare, patchy growth.

Likewise, modern drainage systems are mitigating much of the water concern previously associated with natural grass. When asked how the Ravens’ field manages heavy rains, Follett explained, “We put in a full sand-based drainage system that percolates at 13 inches an hour; it would take a remarkable amount of rain.”

In warmer regions, heat presents a different challenge. The University of Missouri Turfgrass Research Center conducted a study in 2010 comparing surface temperatures of different types of playing fields. The university found that synthetic fields dissipate radiant heat, with surface temperatures regularly exceeding that of natural grass fields by 50 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. In order to ensure player safety, teams must schedule practice and game times to cooler periods of the day or run irrigation systems that cool fields with water.

Environmental concerns

When choosing a surface, environmental impacts must also be considered. Fertilizer and pesticides are often associated with natural turf. However, organic options are proving successful and newer environmentally friendly fertilizer applications are now available. Additionally, the root and thatch layer in natural turf systems acts as a filter and removes pollutants before they enter surface or groundwater.

If water use is a concern, field managers can take conservation steps. Many recreational fields are overwatered, and devices such as rain sensors, soil moisture probes or evapotranspiration pans can help manage irrigation efficiency. Other water-saving options include using a drought-resistant species or encouraging deeper root development by allowing grass to grow taller.

With artificial turf, other environmental issues lurk below the surface. Crumb rubber infill comes from shredded tires that contain zinc and other metals. Some fear such elements could escape into the air or leach into water. Additionally, when artificial fields are replaced, the synthetic turf often ends up in landfills.

Economic impacts

The final decision on natural grass or synthetic often comes down to immediate and long-term costs. According to the STMA, a natural field can cost from $0.60 to $5.00 per square foot, depending on soils and drainage installation, while construction of synthetic systems can run $4.50 to $10.25 per square foot. Annual natural turf maintenance costs vary based on the facility and climate regions, but annual expenditures average between $20,000 to $30,000 per field and are competitive with synthetic field maintenance and repairs. Based on Follett’s experience, while there were initial costs to transition M&T Bank Stadium back to natural turf, “there is not a significant difference in the ongoing maintenance of well-kept artificial turf and grass.”

Choosing between natural and artificial turf is not easy. It is a decision every field manager must weigh carefully, evaluating all factors including the perceptions of players and spectators to ensure long-term support for the field. “I recall one player coming up to me on the sidelines of a game,” said Follett. “He gave me a big bear hug and said, ‘Dude, you have extended my career.’ Statistically, there isn’t strong evidence in either direction, but perception is reality.”

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5 questions about applying for disability benefits

(BPT) – Age and chronic illness can take a toll. A June 2017 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that the most costly health conditions in the U.S. include: heart disease, cancer, arthritis, stroke and type 2 diabetes. An estimated 117 million people have one or more chronic health conditions.

These health issues also place in the top 10 conditions of former workers who receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits.

Social Security disability is an important alternative for former workers who can no longer work because of a severe health condition. In fact, the average SSDI recipient worked 22 years before they experienced a life-changing disability.

“More people are living with chronic illness, and many people do OK with treatment and rehabilitation,” said Mike Stein, assistant vice president of Allsup, a disability benefits representation organization. “But other people have to stop working when their health just won’t let them continue.”

About 154 million workers have paid FICA taxes and have disability insurance coverage through the SSDI program. If you know someone who may qualify, check out the Refer a Friend program. Following are answers to the top five common questions about applying for disability benefits.

1) Who applies for disability benefits? People who have experienced a work-disrupting severe health condition that will last for 12 months or longer, or is terminal. They may have a health condition, such as arthritis, a severe spinal condition, cancer, or have experienced a stroke or car accident. On average, former worker recipients are 54 years old. Last year, about 2.3 million former workers with disabilities applied for disability benefits.

2) When should I apply for disability benefits? Generally, you should apply when you cannot work because of your health condition. As soon as you have to stop working, it makes sense to apply for Social Security disability benefits if you have solid medical evidence. If you are uncertain of when to apply, you can find help from a disability representation organization that provides free assessments of your likelihood of qualifying for the program.

3) Why should I apply for disability benefits? Most people apply for disability benefits because they need the monthly income. Plus, there are several additional benefits. You can get extra dependent benefits if you have a child under 18. You can get Medicare after 24 months of receiving cash SSDI benefits. You also protect your retirement benefits, and you can receive incentives to return to work. “It’s important not to give up on the idea of returning to work, eventually, because it’s much better for your finances in the long run,” Stein said.

4) How do I apply for disability benefits? Much like filing taxes, you have different options when applying for disability benefits. You can try it on your own, or enlist the help of a professional representative who understands what the Social Security Administration needs to process your claim. Most people who apply on their own are denied at the application level, and must appeal. Having a representative early in the process can improve your chances of approval and help ensure your application is completed properly. Most people have a representative for their hearing.

5) How much money will I receive? Your monthly benefit will be calculated based on your past work earnings and the amount of FICA taxes you paid on those earnings. You can find online calculators that will help you get an estimate of what you can expect to receive before you apply for SSDI.

Unfortunately, it may take a long time to receive benefits because the Social Security disability program has stringent rules and several steps in the claim review process.

“Many people make the mistake of waiting to apply for disability,” Stein explained. “They deplete their savings, they borrow from their 401(k) plan, and they make other big sacrifices — before they apply for disability benefits. It makes it that much harder when they have to wait months or even years for Social Security to review their claim.”

An important consideration is applying for disability with a representative, Stein said. “If you can receive disability benefits at the very beginning, with your application — you can save yourself many months of time for appeals and possibly avoid a hearing on your disability claim.”

For more information about Social Security disability eligibility and applying for disability benefits, visit FileSSDI.Allsup.com.

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Control your diabetes while controlling costs

(BPT) – Controlling the “ABCs of diabetes,” namely A1C, blood pressure and cholesterol levels, is difficult enough, but when you add that second C — costly medications — it’s easy to see how one’s levels can spiral out of control very quickly.

According to the American Diabetes Association, for the 30 million people living with diabetes in the U.S., health care costs are more than double (2.3 times) the costs compared to those without diabetes. This is due to the ever-increasing costs of the medications to treat diabetes and the chronic conditions that often accompany the disease, namely high blood pressure and high cholesterol. In fact, between 2002 and 2013, the cost of insulin has tripled, and newer cholesterol- and blood pressure-lowering medications are also on the rise.

Now consider that in the U.S., more than 2 million children and adults living with diabetes do not have access to health insurance, and millions more are in high-deductible plans that can require high out-of-pocket costs. This has a compounding effect on our healthcare system and society because the lack of access to diabetes medications can lead to avoidable doctor visits, hospitalizations, amputations and even death.

So, what is the cash-paying person struggling to afford these high-cost insulins and other diabetes medications to do? The good news is there are numerous ways to save money on diabetes care without compromising on quality.

First, shop around. Medication prices can vary greatly by pharmacy. If you are not using insurance to cover the cost of prescription drugs, there are many ways to obtain prescription assistance. See if you could begin saving money immediately with Inside Rx, a free discount drug card program, which provides deep discounts on certain brand-name diabetes medications, including insulin and drugs that treat co-existing conditions such as high cholesterol and blood pressure. In fact, people who have used the Inside Rx card have saved an average $180 on featured brand insulin medications. See insiderx.com for a listing of these featured medications, as well as important terms and restrictions.

In addition, Rx Assistance provides a comprehensive database of pharmaceutical assistance programs. Most pharmaceutical companies also offer financial assistance programs to persons who have trouble affording their medications and supplies.

By doing some research into these types of discount programs and databases, it may be possible to save thousands of dollars a year, while controlling your diabetes and enhancing your quality of life.

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Hispanic health: Addressing 4 myths about Type 2 diabetes

(BPT) – Chances are you know someone with type 2 diabetes (T2D) – whether it be a parent, cousin, neighbor or a co-worker. Yet, did you know that diabetes disproportionately affects the Hispanic community in the United States? In fact, nearly 16.9 percent of Hispanic-American adults in the U.S. are living with T2D, compared to 10.2 percent of non-Hispanic white adults, according to The Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos (HCHS/SOL).

As Hispanic populations grow in the U.S., the number of Hispanics with diabetes is expected to grow with it. That’s why it’s important to get the facts about some of the common myths and misconceptions that are associated with type 2 diabetes so you and your family can make educated health care decisions.

Myths and Facts

Below are some common myths and misconceptions, and corresponding facts associated with type 2 diabetes and insulin treatment.

Myth 1: I have type 2 diabetes because I didn’t take care of myself.

Fact: The truth is diabetes is a result of a number of factors. These include family and medical history, ethnicity and age, which all play a role in whether or not someone is predisposed to diabetes.

Myth 2: Beginning treatment with insulin is going to cause me to change my entire lifestyle.

Fact: As diabetes changes over time, your treatment may need to change with it. The natural progression of type 2 diabetes may lead to a patient taking insulin – many people with diabetes are prescribed insulin, sometimes because their bodies do not use insulin properly. Insulin can be incorporated into your daily schedule as part of your meal and treatment plan.

Myth 3: “I can’t enjoy the holidays or family time because I won’t be able to have the foods I love.”

Fact: The truth is you can still enjoy the foods that you love – just in moderation. The foods you like may be a healthy option or a sweet treat, so keep an eye on portion control and make smart choices throughout the day. Talk to your health care provider to get specific guidance on a healthy meal plan.

Myth 4: “Diabetes can be cured if I eat healthy, and once I reach my blood sugar goal, I can stop my medication.”

Fact: The truth is there is no cure for diabetes. However it can often be managed with medication and lifestyle changes. Eating healthy and getting regular exercise, along with medications such as insulin, can help control your blood sugar levels. It’s best to speak with your healthcare provider about the best treatment plan for you, as well as how often you should test your blood sugar and have regular A1C tests.

Separating Fact from Fiction

“Myths and misconceptions about T2D can get in the way of people making informed decisions about their health. That’s why it’s important to talk to your doctor, ask questions and work with him or her to develop a treatment plan that works for you,” says Dr. Frank Lavernia, founder and director of the North Broward Diabetes Center in Pompano Beach, Florida. “Facts and information are empowering, but separating diabetes facts from fiction can be difficult at times. That’s where the Basado en Hechos initiative can help.”

The Basado en Hechos initiative is designed to help dispel some type 2 diabetes myths and misconceptions that may be common among the Hispanic community. At basadoenhechos.com, you can watch a video that addresses some myths about type 2 diabetes and insulin, as well as find information about a diabetes treatment option.

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Don’t let asthma ruin the holidays

(BPT) – With colder months arriving, there are a few things on everybody’s minds: festive treats, gift shopping and of course, time spent with family and friends. As many people look forward to the holiday season, asthma sufferers need to be aware and prepared for all the triggers this time of the year can bring. The change in weather, traveling or being in a relative’s home with new allergens can all trigger an asthma attack.

Charmayne Anderson has been living with asthma for as long as she can remember. Now, as Director of Advocacy at the Allergy and Asthma Network, she educates others on how to prepare for an asthma attack and enjoy life — and the holidays — unencumbered by their condition. After living with asthma through childhood, adolescence and now adulthood, she has witnessed an evolution of asthma medications and respiratory treatments firsthand.

“When I was diagnosed with asthma as a child, there were no inhalers or similar treatments for us to take home,” Anderson said. “My parents would have to take me for after-hours emergency care visits for an injection to help get my breathing under control.”

Anderson, along with the approximately 25 million asthma patients in the U.S., has more advanced and effective treatment options today to help manage symptoms and asthma attacks. For most people with asthma, having a rescue inhaler on-hand at all times is crucial, whether at home or on the go. Since asthma triggers may change frequently, it’s difficult to predict when an attack could strike. Particularly at this time of year, walking in the chilly winter air could be enough to cause wheezing and shortness of breath.

“For someone who has asthma, it can be a life-or-death situation. When you’re experiencing an attack, even if it’s minor, if you can’t get relief immediately it just escalates and becomes even greater,” said Anderson. “Having my rescue inhaler with me at all times and being able to check the dose counter is critical.”

One modern feature of asthma inhalers that has been especially helpful for Anderson and others areis dose counters integrated into rescue inhalers. For Anderson, dose counters serve as a forewarning that her inhaler is running low. Such a seemingly small reminder has certainly made a big difference; Anderson believes dose counters have helped her be more proactive in filling her prescription and being aware how much medication is left.

Every year, asthma accounts for 10.5 million doctor visits and 1.6 million emergency room visits in the United States. By utilizing dose counters and maintaining an asthma treatment plan, asthma sufferers like Anderson can help avoid emergency situations like these and travel with some confidence knowing they’re prepared.

Anderson said, “Prior to using a rescue inhaler with a dose counter built in, there were many times when I was away, out or not necessarily paying attention to how much medicine was in my inhaler. I’d get to a point when I would need it and I realized there was nothing in it, and I’d scramble to refill it.”

Now, when it comes time to travel for the holidays, the number one thing on Anderson’s to-do list is to make sure her and her children’s inhalers are filled.

“Before heading out of town I check everyone’s dose counter to make sure there is enough medication,” said Anderson. “Reaching out to a pharmacy while you’re traveling for the holidays is hard, especially when you’re experiencing an asthma attack and in an emergency situation.”

For additional information on the importance of dose counters, visit KnowYourCount.com.

Ms. Anderson has been compensated for her time in contributing to this program.

RESP-41556

September 2017

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Moms-to-be: Forget pickles and reach for pistachios

(BPT) – Results of a new study among pregnant women with impaired glucose intolerance during gestation (GIGT) or gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) — commonly known as gestational diabetes — show that eating pistachios may help manage blood sugar levels. The study is the first to evaluate the glucose response after consumption of pistachios in pregnant women with GDM or GIGT.

Diabetes is a chronic illness that affects more than 422 million people around the world. GDM develops in a pregnant woman who did not previously have diabetes. Like other types of diabetes, it affects how the body uses blood sugar. GIGT occurs when, during pregnancy, the body is unable to regulate blood glucose levels normally because of hormonal changes. The blood glucose levels rise beyond normal levels after a glucose challenge, but not high enough to warrant a diabetes diagnosis. While resolved after the baby is born, women with either GDM or GIGT have a greater risk of developing diabetes.

According to the latest diagnostic criteria established by the International Association of Diabetes and Pregnancy Study Groups (IADPSG) in 2010, GDM prevalence was estimated at 9.8 to 25.5 percent worldwide.

“Our study is the first to show that eating pistachios may help women with gestational diabetes control their blood sugar levels after eating,” said Sheng Ge, M.D., lead investigator, Chief Physician and Director of Clinical Nutrition at the Sixth People’s Hospital, Shanghai Jiao Tong University in Shanghai, China, where the study was conducted. “The results highlight pistachios as a smart food choice for women with gestational diabetes as they aim to manage their illness.”

In the study, 30 women with gestational diabetes (all between 24 and 28 gestational weeks) were randomly assigned to eat a breakfast of either 42 grams of pistachios (about 1/3 of a cup, or 1.5 servings) or 100 grams of whole wheat bread (two slices) after an overnight fast. The pistachios and whole wheat bread were matched for calories. Blood sugar and GLP-1, a key insulin-producing hormone, were measured every 30 minutes after the meal, up to 120 minutes. After seven days, the groups switched.

Blood sugar levels were significantly lower after consuming pistachios than they were after consuming whole wheat bread after 30 minutes, 60 minutes, 90 minutes and 120 minutes. In fact, blood sugar levels after eating pistachios were comparable to baseline levels. In addition, GLP-1 levels were significantly higher after consumption of pistachios compared to whole wheat bread after 60 minutes, 90 minutes and 120 minutes.

The effect on insulin levels was even more dramatic. Blood insulin levels did not increase during the two hours after eating the pistachios. Again, both groups of women had a significantly lower rise in blood insulin levels at every time point measured after eating the pistachios than they did after eating whole wheat bread.

“Elevated blood sugar during pregnancy not only impacts the mother’s health, but it may also increase the baby’s risk of developing diabetes,” said Zhaoping Li, M.D., another study investigator and Professor of Medicine, Chief of the Division of Clinical Nutrition, University of California, Los Angeles. “This study shows pistachios can be a useful addition to the diet in order to maintain healthy blood sugar levels while providing essential nutrients to the mother and baby during this critical time.”

Dr. Li added, “It’s exciting to see solutions from whole foods that are also palatable to patients. They’re much more likely to comply with a prescribed diet as a result of a diabetes diagnosis when the food is something they enjoy.”

Pistachios have a low Glycemic Index (GI), are relatively high in fiber, healthy fats, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients, all of which can benefit people with diabetes. Eating pistachios has a minimal effect on blood sugar levels after eating a meal and, when added to a carbohydrate-rich meal, they help minimize any spike in blood sugar.

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Home cleaning routines for allergy relief

(BPT) – Many people turn to nasal sprays and antihistamines to combat seasonal nasal allergies or hay fever, but keeping the home clean to combat allergens, pollen and dust mite debris is just as important in the fight against allergies.

Vacuum often, and with the right filters and bags

One key to minimizing allergens at home is to vacuum at least twice per week. Start by using attachments to clean surfaces up high, working down to the floor. Make sure to vacuum curtains and upholstery as well as hard surfaces, and pay extra attention to entryways and areas around windows.

It’s also important to select vacuum accessories that have been designed specifically to capture allergens. Arm & Hammer Premium Allergen vacuum bags are specially designed of synthetic material to capture even more allergens, dust and pet hair from the home’s surfaces. In addition, the brand’s HEPA filters trap particles 75 times smaller than a human hair, including 99.97 percent of dust mite debris, animal dander, molds and pollen.

Frequently replacing vacuum bags and filters will keep vacuums running smoothly to keep a clean home happening. New bags are needed every one to two months, and filters should be replaced every three to six months. Don’t be fooled by washable filters as they too should be replaced — after one or two washes they may become less effective at capturing dust and allergens.

Wash bedding with hot water

Vacuuming high and low can help with surfaces, but bedding also should be a focus when attempting to allergen-proof the home. Sheets, blankets and comforters all attract dust mites in even the cleanest environments. Wash bedding once a week in hot water to keep allergens at bay. It’s also smart to consider protective covers for mattresses and pillows to stop dust mites from getting in too deep.

Keep air dry

Too much moisture in the air can help dust mites thrive, and may also lead to mold. Using a dehumidifier, especially in humid climates or summer months, can help control the spread of mold and dust mites.

Minimize indoor plants

While plants can be a great way to build ambiance in the home, some indoor plants can amplify allergy symptoms by releasing spores and other allergens into the air. For those with a green thumb who can’t live without plants at home, make sure to research the plants that are least likely to increase pollen or mold exposure indoors.

Keep the outdoors out

While it is hard to control exposure to pollen and other triggers when outside, those with allergies can avoid bringing pollen into the house with them. Keep shoes and jackets limited to the entryway or mudroom, and shower and wash hair before bedtime to stop the spread of pollen.

There is a range of Arm & Hammer bag and filter styles made to fit nearly all brands and models of vacuum cleaners, sold at Wal-Mart stores and www.walmart.com.

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Try this protein-packed substitute to make lunchtime more nutritious

(BPT) – Cottage cheese is having a moment.

Nutritionists and health-minded individuals have discovered that the dairy case staple can actually unlock a lot of mealtime solutions, especially when it comes to remaking recipes with a creamy base, such as tuna salad and veggie dip.

Simply swap the mayonnaise, cream cheese or sour cream with high-protein cottage cheese, and it’s pretty easy to pull off a higher-protein and lower-calorie version of your lunchtime favorites, says Amy Gorin, a registered dietitian nutritionist and writer in New York City.

“In many of these recipes, cottage cheese works beautifully, because it helps these delicious foods keep that creamy texture while decreasing the calories and saturated fat — and adding filling protein,” Gorin says. “It’s one of those foods that was hiding in plain sight all these years.”

For best results, start with a protein-packed brand of cottage cheese. Gorin always recommends Muuna Cottage Cheese to her clients, because its Lowfat Plain variety delivers a rich and creamy texture, plus it’s high in protein (14-19g per serving), is a good source of calcium and also contains potassium.

So look at your go-to breakfast, lunch and snack recipes with new eyes, grab your blender and get creative. To get you inspired, here are five easy ways you can make the cottage cheese swap and give yourself a protein boost without going hungry.

Lunch salad update

Many of us have said no to delicious and classic lunch salads we love, because mayo can add fat and calories. Turn to cottage cheese to make over your favorite lunches, and you can start enjoying things like tuna salad and potato salad, plus you’ll love that boost of protein.

On toast

Simplify your lunch hour and use cottage cheese as a creamy base for your favorite whole-grain toast, and then stack on yummy, vitamin-packed extras, like salad greens and sliced mangos, or even strawberries and avocado.

A Greek yogurt-cup alternative

For a quick on-the-go snack or lunch side, Muuna has reimagined cottage cheese into single-serve cups with real pieces of fruit on the bottom, packed with 15 grams of protein, including strawberry, blueberry, pineapple, peach and mango.

Smoothies reimagined

Swap out the yogurt and try using cottage cheese as a protein base for your favorite smoothie recipe. What you’ll have is a thick and creamy breakfast, likely with more protein than sugar.

Dip without the guilt

Kids and adults love how flavorful, creamy dips and dressings can liven up cut-up vegetables like carrots and broccoli. Sub in cottage cheese for mayo or sour cream to lower the calories and fat — and to amp up the protein and make the snack more filling and fueling. This super-simple, reimagined ranch dressing not only adds flavor to your crudites, it brings protein power to your lunchbox or your child’s.

For recipes and more inspiration, visit http://muuna.com/recipes/.

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Depressed? Drug-free treatments can make life enjoyable again

(BPT) – The cloud of depression darkens many lives, affecting 300 million people around the world, according to the World Health Organization.

While antidepressant medication works for some depression sufferers, research is increasingly revealing what those suffering from depression have said for years: Medication is not a one-size-fits-all treatment.

In fact, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association reveals that a startling 4.5 million people in the U.S. who suffer from depression don’t benefit from prescription antidepressants.

The good news is that research is uncovering new ways to treat depression without drugs and without invasive procedures, helping sufferers break free from the clutch of depression.

Magnetic pulses to the brain bring drug-free relief

One proven yet lesser-known treatment, called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), has become an effective tool in bringing relief to thousands of depression sufferers.

TMS is prescribed by a doctor to treat major depressive disorder, especially when sufferers do not experience relief from prescription medication. In fact, the American Psychiatric Association recommends TMS as a second line of treatment.

How TMS works: The patient has magnetic pulses delivered to specific areas of the brain that are underactive during depression. Brain activity is reduced in depression, but TMS can help wake up asleep neurons. This treatment is drug-free and completely noninvasive, unlike electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). During the treatment, the patient is awake and alert sitting in a spa-like chair, and can resume daily activities afterward.

The results: Clinical trials performed with NeuroStar(R) Advanced Therapy have shown that a full 58 percent of people have responded positively to the treatment, reporting significant improvement in their depression symptoms. What’s even more astounding is that 37 percent saw full remission after their TMS treatment with NeuroStar, according to a Brown University study by Dr. Linda Carpenter, published in the Depression and Anxiety Journal in 2012. It treats depression at the source because of the precision of these magnetic pulses, making it effective exactly where it needs to be.

What about side effects?: With TMS, people don’t suffer the side effects they experience with medication. In fact, the side effects from NeuroStar are associated with mild pain or discomfort at the treatment site, which typically goes away after the first week of treatment.

Back in 2008, the FDA cleared NeuroStar as the first TMS treatment for major depressive disorder in the U.S., and in recent years it has become more accessible to patients.

For one, NeuroStar is widely reimbursed by most commercial and government health plans, including Medicare and Tricare. In fact, more than 300 million patients have insurance policies that cover NeuroStar through their health plans.

In tandem with that, there are more TMS systems in doctors’ offices and clinics across the U.S. Nearly 800 physicians nationwide are delivering transformative therapy with NeuroStar every day.

Life changes can also help keep the brain in balance

Doing your part to work with the treatment and supplementing it with a healthy lifestyle will only help your progress. In addition to clinical solutions and treatments, research has also found that some lifestyle changes can be helpful for mood and mind balance.

Keep a positive outlook: Research shows that optimism can affect health and well-being. Don’t lose hope in your struggle with depression and practice positivity. Tried and true methods, such as acts of kindness or keeping a gratitude journal, can lift some of the clouds.

Try something new: The Mayo Clinic cites trying new things as one of the habits of highly healthy people. New perspectives and experiences can be good for you, as trying new things can lead to increased confidence and self-esteem. Not all change is bad and you may surprise yourself.

Surround yourself with a strong support network: Many studies show that social support is important to maintain physical and mental health. In building your support system, connect with people you trust and who have your best interests in mind.

Sit outside and experience nature: Exposure to sunlight has been found to improve moods and serves as a mental health benefit. Additionally, Stanford University reveals that spending time outdoors may reduce the risk of depression.

Eat a healthy diet: Research shows that a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins and magnesium are all linked to improving depression symptoms, either by keeping brain chemistry in balance or enhancing mood.

Practice yoga: Research indicates a regular yoga practice can do a lot for both depression and anxiety. It not only helps you manage your body’s stress response systems, it also enhances mood and promotes relaxation.

Get moving: For some people, regular exercise is highly effective in staving off depression. In fact, people who are physically fit are less likely to receive a diagnosis of depression.

Depression brings a sense of dread and inertia to many areas of life, hitting your mood and energy level especially hard. The good news is that there are effective treatments for depression. By trying some of the above lifestyle changes and working with your doctor, you could find one that brings your world back into alignment, lifting those dark clouds and making life enjoyable again.

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5 steps to prepare for open enrollment

(BPT) – Millions of Americans will select or switch their health benefits plan during open enrollment, so now is the time to prepare for that decision that usually happens once a year.

More than 70 percent of Americans say they are prepared for open enrollment, yet most people struggle to understand basic health insurance terms, according to a recent UnitedHealthcare survey. Only 9 percent of survey respondents could successfully define all four basic health insurance concepts: plan premium, deductible, co-insurance and out-of-pocket maximum.

To help people make the most out of their health benefits, Rebecca Madsen, chief consumer officer of UnitedHealthcare, offers the following five tips.

1. Know your open enrollment dates

Open enrollment isn’t the same for everyone, so there are key dates to keep in mind depending on your situation:

* For the more than 177 million Americans with employer-provided coverage, many companies set aside a two-week period between September and December when employees can select health benefits for the following year.

* For the more than 59 million seniors and other people enrolled in Medicare, their open enrollment runs from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7 each year.

* Health insurance marketplace or individual state exchange open enrollment runs from Nov. 1 to Dec. 15.

For most people, changes made to coverage during open enrollment take effect Jan. 1, 2018.

2. Take time to review your options

Every person or family has unique health and budget needs. Take the time to explore your options, and understand the benefits and costs of each health plan so you can find the coverage that works best for you and your family members.

* Check if your current coverage still meets your needs and if your benefits will change next year.

* Determine if the plan is a good fit for your budget, and pay attention to more than just the monthly premium. You should also understand the other out-of-pocket costs, including deductibles, copays and coinsurance.

* Make sure your medications are covered. Even if you don’t expect to change plans, it’s important to ensure your drugs will still be covered next year.

3. Make sure your doctor is in your plan’s care provider network

Even if you don’t make any changes, it’s a good idea to ensure that any doctor you see regularly — or plan to visit in the coming year — is in your benefit plan’s care provider network. If you plan to visit a doctor or hospital outside of the network, be sure to understand how your costs will differ from a network care provider because those costs will most likely be higher.

Also, check if your plan includes 24/7 telehealth services for consultations on minor health issues. Often, telehealth — online, or virtual, visits with a doctor over a computer, tablet or mobile phone — is available to people enrolled in employer-sponsored health plans and group Medicare Advantage plans, as well as select individual Medicare Advantage plans. Virtual visits may provide convenient and affordable access to care for minor medical issues, including allergies, bronchitis and seasonal flu.

4. Don’t forget about additional benefits

Additional benefits such as dental, vision, accident or critical-illness insurance are often affordable options that can protect you and your family. For people enrolled in Medicare, many are surprised to find that Original Medicare doesn’t cover prescription drugs and most dental, vision and hearing services. But many Medicare Advantage plans do, often at a $0 monthly premium beyond the premium for Original Medicare.

5. Take advantage of wellness programs.

Some health plans offer discounts on gym memberships and provide financial incentives for completing health assessments, signing up for health coaching programs, lowering your cholesterol, losing weight, meeting walking goals or stopping smoking. Programs are designed to reward people for making healthy choices and being more engaged in improving their health.

Visit UHCOpenEnrollment.com for articles and videos with information about health benefits and health insurance terms.

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