The key ingredient to a successful school year

(BPT) – Now that school is in session, you’ve likely returned to the routine of nightly homework and packing lunches in the morning. One thing that helps ensure a safe and successful school year is polycarbonate plastic made from bisphenol A (BPA).

BPA is a building-block chemical used to make a plastic known as polycarbonate, which helps make many of the items we use throughout the school year safe, durable and reliable. This kind of plastic makes products, like lab goggles or eyeglasses, lightweight and clear. Plus, its shatter-resistant nature keeps classrooms productive and safe.

Check out our list of must-have items for school and take a look at how BPA is used in these popular items:

Sports equipment

For aspiring varsity athletes, polycarbonate is especially important. Strong, shatter-resistant polycarbonate is used to make helmets, sports safety goggles and visors used in football and lacrosse to keep athletes safe and performing at the top of their game.

Eyeglasses

When hitting the books hard, sometimes your eyes need a helping hand. Polycarbonate is used in lenses, making them highly shatter-resistant and extremely lightweight. This means looking cool and having a comfortable wear, while being protected from accidental mishaps in a book bag.

Electronic equipment

Accidents happen, but thanks to polycarbonate, students can avoid disaster. Laptops, tablets and cell phones are durable and break-resistant, and polycarbonate films help to prevent scratches on the screens.

Lab safety goggles

To prevent accidental injury to the eyes, lab safety goggles are an essential part of every school’s science projects. Polycarbonate gives these goggles their clear, shatter-resistant and lightweight properties.

Products made with polycarbonate help keep us (and our students) safe and set for a successful school year, and using BPA to make the polycarbonate for these products is safe as well. BPA is one of the most widely studied chemicals in use today, and government agencies around the world, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) all agree: BPA is safe in consumer products.

So confidently fill that backpack with these back-to-school basics to set yourself up for a successful school year.

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5 tips to keep ticks away

(BPT) – Researchers are predicting 2017 will be one of the worst years for ticks that we have seen in quite some time — and by all indications, those researchers are correct. People who have found themselves pulling ticks off their pets, children and their own bodies can readily attest to this. The question is, what to do?

While the tick population may be booming and becoming an increasing problem, there are effective measures you can take to prevent them from getting on you and your loved ones.

1. Cover up. One of the easiest ways to keep ticks off of you when you’re hiking in tall grass or a wooded area is to make sure you and your family wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants and closed-toe shoes. You may think dressing this way during warmer months is anything but comfortable, but if you dress in lightweight, breathable clothing, you’ll be surprised at how cool you can stay.

2. Keep up with your yard. Ticks love a messy yard. They seek out tall grass, patches of weeds and unkempt gardens. Take the time to keep your lawn cut, remove any loose debris and keep the weeds out of your garden. Areas you want to be particularly concerned about are around patios, play areas and anywhere people congregate or pets explore.

3. Protect your yard. Ticks and other pests may seem like an insurmountable problem, almost impossible to avoid or get rid of. But rest easy knowing there is a solution to help protect against these blood-feeding pests. Whether you’re concerned about protecting your family’s health from tick-borne illnesses or need help controlling an infestation, contact a licensed pest control professional to come in and assess the situation. The National Pest Management Association (NPMA) can help you find a qualified, local expert to identify and treat your tick problem.

4. Wear insect repellent. Just like you make it a habit to always apply sunscreen when going out on a bright, beautiful day, get in the habit of applying insect repellent any time you are out in an area that might harbor ticks. To be effective, make sure the insect repellent contains at least 20 percent DEET.

5. Perform regular inspections. At the end of the day, take the time to comb through your pet’s fur and check them for ticks, even if they are wearing a tick collar. Also, don’t forget to do a check on yourself and your children. Since it usually takes between 24 and 48 hours for a tick to attach to a host and transmit diseases like Lyme disease, it’s important to remove them quickly.

To learn more about ticks or other common pests, visit www.pestworld.org. There you’ll find a wealth of information and resources that will help you and your family have a safe and tick-free year.

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Emergency preparedness 101: Know how to protect your family against carbon monoxide poisoning

(BPT) – Few areas of the country are immune to natural disasters or severe weather. Whether you live in a hurricane zone or face icy winters, it is important to prepare your home and family to weather the storm and know the potential health and safety risks that may arise in emergency situations.

Beyond inconvenience, widespread and long-term power outages resulting from storms raise a much more serious concern: carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. While the poisonous gas can come from any fossil fuel-burning appliance or vehicle, the risk posed by generators is of particular concern because of this year’s devastating storm season.

“Simple preparation, along with an understanding of the risks of CO, are key factors for protecting your home and loved ones both during storm season and throughout the year,” said Tarsila Wey, director of marketing for First Alert. “The risk of CO can occur anytime — not just during emergencies — which is why installing and regularly testing CO alarms are an integral part of any home safety plan.”

What is CO?

Often dubbed “the silent killer,” the gas is colorless and odorless, making it impossible to detect without a CO alarm. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, CO poisoning is the No. 1 cause of accidental poisoning in the United States and is responsible for an average of 450 deaths each year.

CO poisoning is notoriously difficult to diagnose — often until it’s too late. Symptoms mimic those of many other illnesses, and include nausea, headaches, dizziness, weakness, chest pain and vomiting. In more severe poisoning cases, people may experience disorientation or unconsciousness, or suffer long-term neurological disabilities, cardio-respiratory failure or death.

Sources of CO may include, but are not limited to, generators, heaters, fireplaces, furnaces, appliances or cooking sources using coal, wood, petroleum products or other fuels emitting CO as a by-product of combustion. Attached garages with doors, ductwork or ventilation shafts connected to a living space also are sources of CO.

What should you do?

The National Fire Protection Association recommends installing CO alarms on every level of the home, including the basement, and within 15 feet of all sleeping rooms. These alarms are the first line of defense against CO poisoning. Checking alarms regularly and following manufacturer instructions for alarms and all home equipment play an equally vital role.

In case of power outage, never use a generator indoors. Portable electricity generators must be used outside only and should never be used in a garage or in any confined area that can allow CO to collect. When running a generator, be sure to remain 15 to 20 feet away from the outside perimeter of the home and be careful to follow operating instructions closely.

Additional areas to consider include the kitchen stove, a frequent source of CO poisoning in the home. Ensure the kitchen vent or exhaust fan is running to limit exposure. For any fuel-burning appliances in the home, make sure to have a professional inspect them regularly to detect any CO leaks. This includes items such as the furnace, oven, fireplace, dryer and water heater.

If you have an attached garage, it is extremely important to never leave your car running inside. Even if the garage door is open, CO emissions can leak inside the home.

CO alarms should be battery-powered or hardwired with battery backup. To help ensure your family is protected, First Alert offers a variety of alarms to meet all needs, including a table-top alarm with a 10-year sealed battery and digital display to see detected CO levels in parts per million. Additional alarm options include plug-in and wall-mount alarms, hardwired alarms with battery backup, and a combination smoke and CO alarm for 2-in-1 protection.

In addition to carbon monoxide alarms, fire extinguishers, along with smoke alarms, should be an integral part of a comprehensive home safety plan.

Most importantly, if your CO alarm sounds, go outside for fresh air immediately and call 911. To learn more about CO safety or other home safety tips from First Alert, visit www.firstalert.com.

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Good health at any age: What women should watch out for

(BPT) – Being healthy is a common goal for many people, but good health does not have a finite endpoint; it’s an ongoing process that unfolds over a lifetime. For women, aging can bring on surprising health changes as they move through the decades of their life. From good nutrition and proper exercise to bone health and vaginal wellness, knowing the changes aging may cause can empower women to better care for themselves and prepare.

“From puberty to pregnancy to menopause, a woman’s body can go through a plethora of changes in her lifetime,” says Dr. Alyssa Dweck, an OB/GYN, author and expert on women’s health. “Once adulthood hits, the next few decades bring about expected, and some not-so-expected, physical, mental and emotional changes. Those changes mean how we care for our bodies will change, too.”

While each woman’s aging experience will be as unique as she is, Dr. Dweck points to some common health changes women may encounter during several decades of their lives:

20s

With puberty completely over, women can begin to identify what is and isn’t normal for their bodies. While diet and exercise are important at any age, during their 20s women begin to understand what is required in order to maintain a healthy weight. Menstrual health may fluctuate during this decade of life and many women will focus on both contraception and feminine hygiene, Dweck says.

“Women ages 21 and older should get a pap smear at least every three years,” she adds.

During this age range, infections are not unusual. In fact, three out of four women will experience a yeast infection in their lifetime. Diets high in sugar and/or alcohol can increase the risk, as well as other factors like staying in a damp bathing suit or tight clothing for extended periods and menstrual cycle fluctuations. For those experiencing an infection for the first time, it’s best to visit the gynecologist to confirm the diagnosis.

30s

During their 30s, women often start to focus on family planning and pregnancy, among other things.

The hormonal changes that occur with pregnancy and/or use of birth control can cause shifts in pH balance, which can lead to infections. Being familiar with yeast infection symptoms from past experience allows women to find quick and easy solutions, like the over-the-counter treatment of MONISTAT(R) in the feminine hygiene aisle of local drugstores. It relieves symptoms four times faster and works on more of the most common strains of yeast than the leading prescription.

Nutrition continues to be important during this decade, whether women choose to begin families or not, as bone loss generally commences in the fourth decade and metabolism slows. Women should adjust their diets and exercise to ensure their caloric intake meets their needs, including maintaining their intake of calcium and eating nutritious, low-fat foods.

40s

Perimenopause can cause significant health changes for women in their 40s, including a decrease in estrogen levels. Something many may find surprising is that at this age, women are at their sexual prime. However, intimate areas become thinner and less elastic in a woman’s 40s, which may cause varying degrees of discomfort.

50s

Most women will experience menopause during their 50s, and while this new stage can cause pH changes, having no more menstruation or erratic cycles can be very freeing. With diminished estrogen, drying can occur in private areas, for which moisturizers and lubricants can be useful. Women should avoid feminine products that are not both dermatologist and gynecologist tested as they can cause yeast infections, Dweck cautions.

At this age, it is more important than ever to maintain a regular exercise routine, including cardio, strength training and flexibility training.

60s and beyond

By this age, most women know their bodies intimately and can quickly tell when something isn’t right. Common health issues that can occur with age include diabetes, arthritis, cancer and heart disease, many of which also cause irregularities in feminine health.

Women should remain active and continue to eat healthily as metabolism slows and bone health decays. Brain health is also important. Along with regular exercise and intellectual stimulation, social interaction with family and friends can help prevent cognitive decline.

“Women will typically know what’s normal for them. There isn’t one normal — just normal for you,” Dweck says. “Women should never be afraid to familiarize themselves with their bodies and ask their doctors questions. Be inquisitive and don’t consider any topic taboo. Good health is a multifaceted process, and gynecological health is an important part of a woman’s overall well-being.”

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Prevent falls this fall with a home safety checklist

(BPT) – After months of sticky heat and humidity, it’s time to put away the shorts and pull out the sweaters because the autumn season is finally here. But, late September brings us more than just cooler temperatures and a wardrobe change. If you or a loved one are over the age of 65, the change in seasons is also an opportunity to think about another kind of fall — the kind that impacts one in four older Americans every year — and the steps we can all take to help prevent them.

According to the National Council on Aging, falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and account for the majority of emergency room visits for older adults. More than 75 percent of falls happen in or around the house, but fortunately there are ways to evaluate our loved ones’ homes and make them safer for everyday living.

Use the checklist below, based on suggestions from the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to help guide your review of the exterior and interior of the property. Many of the safety measures listed can be made at little to no cost, but more significant modifications could require a considerable investment.

Keep in mind, there are financial options available for seniors who want to modify their homes to meet their changing needs. Area Agencies on Aging, state and local governments, and some nonprofits offer grants, loans or other assistance programs for eligible seniors in need of home repairs and modifications.

Older homeowners may also want to consider using a reverse mortgage loan to convert a portion of their home’s equity into cash proceeds that can be used for many reasons, including home modifications and maintenance. Unlike a home equity loan, a reverse mortgage requires no monthly principal or interest payments and cannot be frozen or reset.

Borrowers do not have to repay the loan balance until the last eligible spouse permanently leaves the home, or if they fail to meet their loan obligations, which include staying current on property taxes, insurance and any condominium or HOA fees.

For a comprehensive overview of reverse mortgage loans and a Borrower Roadmap to the loan process, visit http://www.reversemortgage.org/Your-Roadmap, a free consumer resource created by the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association.

Home Safety Checklist

Start on the outside:

* Make sure the driveway and any paved walkways are smooth and stable. Seal any cracks before more damage is created. Crumbling or uneven concrete surfaces should be repaired.

* Porch and deck flooring should be flat, even and nonslip. Any loose or broken floorboards should be nailed down or replaced.

* Outdoor steps should have sturdy, easily graspable handrails.

* The porch and entryway should be well-lit and light switches should be easily accessible.

* Consider whether the doorway to the home can be converted to a no-step entrance way. There are many creative ways to achieve this.

Check out the inside:

* Floors should be flat and nonslip; floorboards should be stable and carpets should be free of holes and tears that could create a tripping hazard.

* Throw rugs should be fully fastened to the floor with tacks or double-sided tape, or taken out of the house.

* All stairs and steps should be flat and even, and clutter should be removed.

* Add nonslip treads to stairs that are not carpeted.

* Stairways should have solidly mounted handrails on both sides of the steps if possible, and should be well-lit.

* If you or your loved ones face mobility challenges and stairs are an obstacle to accessing different levels of the home, consider installing a chairlift that will enable them to enjoy all the rooms in the house again.

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The top 5 things to know about opioids

(BPT) – While a decade ago you may not have heard much about opioids, today they make headlines daily. The nationwide epidemic crosses generations and socioeconomic lines, and it’s affecting your family, friends and neighbors.

“Opioids have long been used clinically to treat pain, but prior to the 1990s they were primarily reserved for patients with a limited life expectancy, such as for someone with cancer or in a hospice setting,” says Dr. W. Michael Hooten, a Mayo Clinic anesthesiologist and Pain Clinic specialist. “The potential problems associated with long-term use were secondary considerations.”

To help shed light on this growing national problem, Dr. Hooten lends his expert insight on what people need to know about opioids.

Opioids are prescribed for various reasons

Opioids are used to treat a variety of pain disorders. While they are commonly prescribed after an operation, opioids are also used to treat a host of chronic pain conditions including musculoskeletal, abdominal, pelvic, and neuropathic pain.

Length of use varies

“Following surgery, up to one in four patients may use opioids longer than anticipated,” says Dr. Hooten. “How long, exactly, depends on several clinical factors.”

He notes that after an operation, a patient might use opioids to manage acute pain for three to five days. “When opioids are used for acute postoperative pain, patients should try to use the lowest possible dose.” After this short time period, opioids should be replaced with non-opioid pain medicines including Tylenol scheduled to be taken every six hours.”

There are alternatives for pain management

There are many alternative options for chronic pain. Dr. Hooten suggests talking with your doctor about:

* Non-opioid analgesics (non-opioid pain medications).
* Interventional treatments such as image-guided spine injections or nerve blocks. * Acupuncture.
* Low-impact exercise such as walking, yoga, Pilates. Consider working with a physical therapist to develop a structured exercise program.
* For advanced pain treatment, spinal-cord stimulation can disrupt the pain stimuli and provide sustained pain relief.
* Work with a pain psychologist who can help teach individuals how to use specialized behavioral and cognitive techniques that could lead to improvements in daily functioning and quality of life.

Opioids can be deadly if misused

“Approximately 90 people per day die in the U.S. from a prescription opioid and/or an illicit opiate overdose,” says Dr. Hooten. Many of those are accidental overdoses. “People who take prescription opioids will inadvertently mix them with benzodiazepines (e.g., Valium and Xanax). Dr. Hooten warns that these two drug classes should never be taken together, as the combination can suppress the central nervous system and put the individual at risk of an accidental overdose.

Addiction can happen to anyone

As Dr. Hooten notes, “No one plans to get addicted, but it happens. Using opioids requires a high level of vigilance for the signs and symptoms of addiction.”

There are many signs of over-reliance or misuse that families should be aware of. These include an increased preoccupation with the drug, concern about the timing of the next dose or refill, hiding use of the drug, and signs of intoxication like slurred speech and excessive sleep.

If you notice these warning signs, alert your loved one about your concerns. “This might be enough to prompt a change,” says Dr. Hooten. “Otherwise relay this information to the prescriber and tell them what’s going on. They can take the correct next steps.”

For more information on pain medication and alternatives, or to make an appointment, visit www.mayoclinic.org.

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Top 4 tips to help you get the sleep you need

(BPT) – If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’re not getting enough sleep. You could probably use a nap, and you’re not alone.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that about 70 million U.S. adults report sleeping six hours or less on average. This is well below the seven or more hours of nightly sleep that the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) recommends for optimal health.

It’s important for you to get the sleep you need. No matter the age, children and adults report improved alertness, energy, mood and well-being when enjoying healthy, consistent sleep.

However, with different sleep needs for each family member, making sure that everyone gets the sleep they need can be a real challenge. Therefore, families should make it a priority to adopt routines that fit each individual’s unique lifestyle and sleep needs.

Whatever your situation, these four tips can help you and your family get on a consistent sleep schedule, sleep better, and in the process, lead healthier lives.

1. Use a bedtime calculator. The National Healthy Sleep Awareness Project has developed a bedtime calculator that can help you generate a customized sleep plan. Simply visit www.projecthealthysleep.org and enter your age and wake-up time. The calculator will tell you what time you need to go to bed to get an adequate amount of sleep. This personalized calculation can help you and your loved ones keep a schedule that allows everyone to get the sleep they need.

The AASM recommends that each age group get the following amount of sleep on a regular basis:

* Infants 4 to 12 months old: 12 to 16 hours (including naps)

* Children 1 to 2 years old: 11 to 14 hours (including naps)

* Children 3 to 5 years old: 10 to 13 hours (including naps)

* Children 6 to 12 years old: Nine to 12 hours

* Teens 13 to 18 years old: Eight to 10 hours

* Adults: Seven hours or more

2. Limit your screen activity. It may be tempting to watch television and scroll through apps until you fall asleep, but this is one of the worst bedtime habits. The blue light emitted from phones, tablets and laptops resets your circadian clock and “tricks” your brain into thinking it’s time to be awake. Late-night screen time is one of the most common sleep hygiene violations, and a new study links binge-watching in young adults with poorer sleep quality, more fatigue and increased insomnia. To promote responsible screen time, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends setting an episode or time limit each night, using one of the apps for your computer, tablet and smartphone that filters out blue light, avoiding use of mobile devices while in bed; and turning off all screens at least a half-hour before your bedtime.

3. Implement a relaxing routine before bed. Studies have shown that children sleep better when they have a bedtime routine. Parents should develop a consistent, nightly routine that includes relaxing, calming activities, like reading a story before bed. Whatever your age, it’s important to turn off your computer or television at least 30 minutes before going to bed. Prepare to go to sleep by doing something relaxing, whether it’s reading, writing in a journal or taking a warm bath.

4. Add daily exercise to the routine. Many people lead busy lives that are mentally tiring but consist of little to no physical activity. This can be a recipe for a poor night’s sleep. Contrary to what you may believe, you don’t have to do an exhausting workout to sleep better. Even small amounts of routine physical activity may improve your sleep and overall well-being.

Getting enough sleep isn’t just a matter of feeling well rested and alert; it’s a necessary component of good health. Sleeping six hours or less per night increases the risk of a stroke, coronary heart disease, diabetes and obesity. Insufficient sleep is such a widespread problem that the CDC has named insufficient sleep a public health problem.

Therefore, it’s important to remember that healthy sleep is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. If you’re having trouble sleeping, help is available at more than 2,500 sleep disorders centers that are accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. For more information, visit www.aasmnet.org.

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5 tips to keep sniffles and sneezes out of your holiday plans

(BPT) – With the holidays upon us, there’s a lot to look forward to: seeing old friends, eating too much, wearing ugly sweaters; the list goes on. Likewise, there are a lot of things that might make you sigh: awkward questions from your aunts, arguing about politics and of course, how you’re going to work off all that extra weight in the new year.

One question millions of Americans should keep in mind this holiday season is how to best handle their asthma and allergies. While everyone else is singing along to carols and letting their food digest, others are tearing up, coughing and going into a sneezing fit.

“People don’t realize how many hidden triggers are associated with the holidays and winter season,” said allergist Bradley Chipps, MD, president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI). “Those who suffer from allergies and asthma assume things will ease up once the cold weather hits, but there are other factors that can cause your allergies and asthma to flare. In fact, two-thirds of allergy sufferers have year-round triggers and symptoms.”

To help make the holidays as enjoyable as possible, here are five tips to manage your allergies this season.

An excuse to stay out of the hugging circle. There are a lot of hugs and kisses during the holidays, which can make it easy for germs and viruses to spread. Catching a cold or coming down with the flu is pretty awful, but because those illnesses make asthma and allergy symptoms even worse, those with allergies must take extra precautions. One more reason to avoid the mistletoe!

Watch out for that … tree! For many, picking out a Christmas tree is a holiday tradition. For others, a tree can be pure misery. Mold on the tree and terpene found in the sap can trigger allergies you thought you had under control. A much better option is to use an artificial tree — just be sure to dust it off! Dust allergies can be a problem year-round.

Keep an eye on holiday treats. Holidays are about food, and people usually share the food they make. As a result, you need to be extra careful about food allergies. If you or your kids have food allergies, let your host know what ingredients should be avoided. If you are hosting, prepare food you know everyone in your clan can eat.

Your nose knows to sniff out those “pleasant” scents. People love to add those little touches to create a cozy holiday atmosphere in their homes. Unfortunately, scented candles, wood-burning fireplaces, aerosols and potpourri can trigger allergies and asthma. There are plenty of other nice touches you can add, but this year, forgo the scents!

Leave the house prepared. Whether it’s someone’s lovable dog, a co-worker wearing too much perfume or a moldy Christmas tree, many triggers exist out there. Before you leave the house, take your medications, and if your allergy and asthma symptoms worsen during the season, be sure to schedule an appointment with your allergist.

If you need help with allergies, visit AllergyandAsthmaRelief.org to find a board-certified allergist in your area. ACAAI member-allergists are board-certified physicians trained to diagnose allergies and asthma, administer allergy shots (immunotherapy), and provide patients with the best treatment outcomes.

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Try this science-backed way to learn in your sleep

(BPT) – The brain never rests. If you’ve shared a room with a sleep-talker or woken from an intense dream, it’s pretty clear the brain is always active, even during sleep.

If we better understand what is happening up there while we rest, perhaps we can direct that activity into something meaningful that improves our lives. Did you know that, for example, sleeping can help you learn a new language? Recent research has shown that while we sleep our brains are solidifying memory, and that has implications for our language skills.

Despite what we’ve seen in science fiction, it turns out that learning in your sleep does not happen by osmosis. You still have to learn the words while you’re awake.

To use an example on how to do this, take the word “tulo.” Before you go to bed tonight, repeat to yourself, “Tulo means sleep.” That’s what it means in the language of Chichewa, which is spoken in the countries of Zambia and Malawi. When you lie down and close your eyes, say it a few more times. “Tulo means sleep.”

What does the brain do while we’re sleeping?

In order to understand how you can use sleep to help you commit the word “tulo” to memory, it’s important to understand something about sleep and brain science.

When you think about it, sleep doesn’t make a lot of sense from an evolutionary standpoint. We hate to lose all that productivity, not to mention that sleep makes animals in the wild vulnerable to predators. We still don’t fully understand why we sleep, but as scientists study sleep in humans and animals, its benefits keep emerging and unfolding. For example, scientists have discovered that sleep flushes toxins from our brains, and dreaming helps us process emotional events.

In 2014, scientists from the Swiss National Science Foundation published study results in the journal “Cerebral Cortex” that could help your “tulo” game. Here, 60 German-speaking students were asked to memorize some Dutch words before 10 p.m., words that were unfamiliar to them. Half the students were then allowed to sleep. As they slept, recordings of the words were played for them. Meanwhile, the other half stayed awake, listening to the recordings.

At 2 a.m., scientists tested the knowledge of the two groups. (The first group was awakened and the second group was still awake.) The group that had slept recalled more Dutch words than the group that stayed awake.

Another finding lends startling insight as to why the sleeping minds might have had better recall. Brain scans taken from the sleeping subjects indicate that their brains responded to the spoken words, helping them solidify a meaningful connection with the words.

Tips for learning in your sleep

Before you leap into your language study, give it a test run with “tulo.” Follow these three steps to see if the insights from the brain and sleep studies help you commit the word to your memory.

Prime the mind: Again, this learning does not happen by osmosis. Before you sleep, it’s important to spend some time with the word “tulo.” Write it down, say it to yourself in a sentence, and tell others about it. “Tulo means sleep.” That alone may or may not be enough to help you remember what you need to know, but at the very least, you are creating the conditions.

Create a good sleep environment: You can’t get the full benefits of sleep if you’re not getting enough of it, and that also applies when you’re trying to memorize new words. In order to capture these full benefits, make sure you set yourself up for the best possible night’s sleep. Stay away from caffeinated beverages four to six hours before bedtime, exercise regularly, and keep your bedroom dark and quiet, and at the right temperature. Make sure you’re going to bed and waking at the same time every day.

Play a recording: Make a recording of yourself saying, “Tulo means sleep,” and have it play on repeat for a few hours while you’re in dreamland. Be sure and have a sticky note posted near your bed to remind you when you wake up — “what’s that word you have to recall?” When you wake up and read it, chances are, the answer will come right out: “Tulo.”

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Tips for choosing the Medicare plan that’s right for you


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(BPT) – Fall and winter don’t just bring cooler temperatures and the holidays — the final seasons of the year also mean open enrollment for Medicare. For most seniors in the United States, the period between Oct. 15 and Dec. 7 is the only time they can switch or make changes to their Medicare insurance plan.

“As people age, their health care needs evolve,” says Dawn Maroney, chief growth and strategy officer for Alignment Healthcare. “When that happens, they may find the Medicare plan they first chose when they became eligible no longer meets all their needs. This open enrollment period is their yearly opportunity to re-evaluate whether to continue with their plan or switch to another, with changes becoming effective the first of the new year.”

Medicare basics

Most Americans are aware that Medicare is a government program designed to ensure people older than 65 have access to affordable health insurance. The program can also cover people younger than 65 who have certain disabilities.

The Medicare program has four parts, according to Medicare.gov: A, B, C and D.

* Medicare Part A helps pay for in-patient hospital stays, care in a skilled nursing facility and hospice care.

* Medicare Part B helps cover care by doctors or other health care providers, outpatient services, some medical equipment and some preventive services.

* Medicare Part C (also known as Medicare Advantage) covers everything included in parts A and B, and usually includes Medicare prescription drug coverage as part of the plan. Medicare Advantage plans may include extra benefits and services for an extra cost. Medicare-approved private insurance companies, such as Alignment Healthcare’s Alignment Health Plan, run Medicare Advantage plans.

* Medicare Part D helps cover the cost of prescription medications and is run by Medicare-approved private insurance companies.

Original Medicare versus Medicare Advantage

Most people think of Medicare parts A and B as Original Medicare, in which the government pays directly for the health care services received. People with Original Medicare can see any doctor and hospital that accepts Medicare in the country, without prior approval from Medicare or their primary care physician. Most people do not pay a monthly premium for Part A if they paid taxes while working; everyone pays a monthly premium for Part B, based on income. The standard premium for Part B in 2017 was $134 per month, which is deducted from the individual’s Social Security benefits.

Original Medicare pays for about 80 percent of the total costs of health care. The patient is responsible for the remaining 20 percent, which can mean high out-of-pocket costs in the event of a hospitalization or other events requiring significant medical attention. To offset the financial burden of that 20 percent, some people choose to purchase supplemental insurance, called Medigap.

Private insurance companies offer Medigap to cover things Medicare doesn’t, such as deductibles, co-pays and co-insurance — but, keep in mind, Medigap only supplements Original Medicare benefits. Further, if you do not apply for Medigap in the first six months of becoming eligible, there’s no guarantee that an insurance company will sell you a Medigap policy.

With Medicare Advantage, government-approved private companies administer health plans that cover everything Original Medicare does, but can do so with different rules, costs and restrictions that can change every year. For example, a private Medicare plan may require your physician to request permission before performing a procedure in order to be paid by the plan. Medicare Advantage plans, however, usually cover extras that Original Medicare does not, like dental care, vision services, hearing exams and gym memberships.

Most Medicare Advantage plans also include prescription drug coverage (Medicare Part D), which is not included in Original Medicare, at no additional cost. If you elect to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan, you still have Medicare — this means that you must still pay your monthly premiums for parts A and B, in addition to a monthly premium for Part C, if applicable. Many Medicare Advantage plans are available for no additional monthly premium.

Considerations when choosing

When choosing between Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage, you should consider these questions:

* How likely is it your health needs will change down the road? Since health changes as you age, chances are your treatment needs will, too. If you don’t enroll in the additional insurance and drug coverage when you first sign up for Original Medicare, you may pay a monthly penalty for enrolling later and may not be eligible for additional Medigap coverage.

* Are you still working past age 65? If so, you will probably want to enroll in Part A, because there generally are no monthly premiums, and it may supplement your employer’s insurance plan. You might choose to delay enrolling in Part B, but it depends on your health coverage. Everyone has to pay a monthly premium for Part B.

* Is it more important to you to have lower or no premiums or lower out-of-pocket costs? With Original Medicare, you may pay more out of pocket without supplemental insurance and prescription drug coverage. Medicare Advantage includes supplemental insurance and sometimes prescription drug coverage, too.

* How important is it to keep your doctor? Original Medicare is accepted by any doctor or hospital that accepts Medicare, without referral. Medicare Advantage plans allow you to select a doctor from the plan network, which is usually very large; your current health care providers are likely to be in the network already.

* Do you regularly take prescription medication for chronic conditions? Prescription drug coverage is not included in Original Medicare, and if you fail to sign up for Part D at the time you enroll, you could pay a penalty for adding it later. Most Medicare Advantage plans do cover prescription drugs.

“Medicare Advantage allows patients to receive the care they need to stay well and keeps their budgets in check with set costs and annual maximums,” Maroney says. “It’s an ideal solution for patients who need frequent care or who struggle to meet medical expenses.”

To learn more about Medicare, visit www.Medicare.gov. For information about Alignment Healthcare and its affiliated Medicare Advantage plans, visit www.alignmenthealthcare.com.

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