ALS: What You Need to Know

ice

Wait – why are people dumping buckets of ice water over their heads and posting the videos to social media?

Because: ALS. It’s a degenerative disease affecting the nerve cells of the brain and spinal cord, eventually leading to loss of motor control throughout the whole body. In the later stages of ALS (which stands for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and may also be known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease), a patient is paralyzed and will experience difficulty breathing and swallowing – factors which contribute to the high fatality rates amongst ALS patients.

The Ice Bucket Challenge asks celebrities – and indeed anyone – to drench themselves in ice water and publish the video, to raise awareness of ALS. Participants are also encouraged to donate to ALS research, and Time Magazine has reported that the Ice Bucket Challenge has already brought in more than US$50 million for the ALS Association.

All this ALS buzz is great for improving general knowledge and medical research, but it’s got some people wondering: what’s my ALS risk? If I become an ALS patient, will insurance cover my care? Should I take steps to protect myself right now? Continue Reading…

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Oral Hygiene: Getting to The Mouth of the Problem

oral hygiene

Most of us have grown up being instructed over and over by our parents, dentists and teachers to brush our teeth twice a day, to floss daily and that sweets will rot our teeth. We probably took that advice with a grain of salt (or perhaps ignored it completely in our youth) but we can agree that this is all sound advice to foster healthy teeth and gums. What most of us may not know is just how much the health of our teeth affects the rest of our body and overall health. Everyone wants their teeth to look and feel nice but they are also important to speaking, eating and avoiding bad breath and pain. And it’s not just our teeth. Gum, tongue and overall mouth health are equally important. Here we’ll let you know the risks of letting your oral hygiene suffer and what you can do to prevent it. Continue Reading…

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The Most Important Thing You Can Do to Prevent Diabetes

Glucose level blood test

Though diabetes is one of the most pressing issues facing world health at the moment, it isn’t nearly as scary as it looks. For the most part diabetes is entirely preventable. Just a few simple diet and lifestyle changes can reverse the disease in a matter of months. One study in the UK had patients on a strict diet of 800 calories per day, and saw most cases return to health in just a few weeks.

The Difference Between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes

Type 1 was once called “juvenile diabetes.” Though it can be diagnosed at any age, 70 percent of diagnoses are made before the age of 30.  Onset is usually very sudden, perhaps even involving a trip to the intensive care unit.

Though most believe type 1 diabetes to be incurable and unpreventable, keep in mind we used to believe the same of illnesses like appendicitis and strep throat, which by comparison appear rather mundane. Scientists are yet to figure out why, but prevalence of type 1 has been rising about 2.5 to 4 percent per year.

Previously called “adult-onset diabetes,” type 2 is far more common, making up nearly 90 percent of people with diabetes. When news outlets and doctors talk about the spike in diabetes cases worldwide, they’re probably referring to type 2, which is almost entirely diet related and affects primarily overweight people, both child and adult.

Our bodies need simple sugar to survive. It’s got intricate mechanisms in place to make sure the right amount of sugar gets to the cells. Too much or too little can be fatal. Insulin is a hormone that tells your cells it’s okay to sponge up the sugar and when to close the flood gates. Type 1 and type 2 diabetics have problems with insulin production or absorption, meaning their cells don’t know what to do with all that sugar.

Are You at Risk for Diabetes?

If you’re old enough to read this article, chances are your risk of type 1 diabetes is low. Type 2 is another story. Though genetics have some influence, diet and lifestyle are far more significant. If your mother, brother or sister has diabetes, you’re probably at risk too, but that’s likely more due to similarities is diet and activity level than it is to genetics.

Doctors will ask if you’ve been diagnosed with high-blood pressure, if you smoke or if you drink more than one or two servings of alcohol per day. While these are all important factors, some more pertinent questions might include:

  • How many hours of television do you watch?
  • How many cans of soda do you drink each week?
  • How often do you get outdoors?
  • Do you have any hobbies?
  • How often do you have sex?

How to Eliminate Your Risk of Diabetes

Exercise. A half hour a day of moderate exercise will decrease your risk of diabetes by 30 percent. Working your muscles helps them use some of that extra insulin kicking around by absorbing glucose. That doesn’t mean you need to start hitting the treadmill and pumping iron. A brisk walk or a good romp in the hay is all you need.

Eat whole grains. Gluten-free, fibre-rich grains are slower to digest than white bread and potatoes. That means sugar is released into the bloodstream gradually, giving your body time to manage it. Beware of marketing when it comes to shopping for carbs. Many of those middle-of-the-store foods are highly processed. No amount of whole grains is going to counteract the effects of high-sugar cereals like Cinnamon Toast Crunch or Cocoa Puffs.

Cook. Food writer Michael Pollan broke it down easy when he said, “Eat anything you want, just cook it yourself.” That means from scratch, by the way, not heating up a box of KD.

Skip the soda. Just one sweetened beverage per day can increase your risk of diabetes by more than 80 percent, according to the Nurses Health Study. Don’t kid yourself. A bottle of Snapple Iced Tea has nearly as much sugar as a can of Coke. A 16 oz Minute Maid Orange Juice has even more. Even some soy milks contain huge amounts of sugar. Stick to water, tea and coffee and other juices that you can prepare for yourself. Don’t be fooled by savvy marketing.

The Single Most Important Thing You Can Do to Prevent Diabetes

Stop watching television. Prolonged television watching is one of the most damaging things you can do for your health. It’s been linked to increased risk of heart disease and early death. In children, all that television has even been associated with depression in early adulthood.One study showed that for every two hours per day spent watching television instead of doing something more active, risk of diabetes is increased by 20 percent.

This figure is probably low. Since snacking is synonymous with television, it stands to reason that a more active lifestyle would mean fewer sugary treats late at night. Television also decreases your attention span, meaning you may not enjoy more fruitful activities like outdoor exercise, cooking or reading.

Watching a lot of television in the evening is very stimulating for the brain, making it difficult to get a restful sleep. If your goal is to lose weight, sleep is a key factor. Several population studies and controlled studies have demonstrated a link between healthy weight and proper sleep. Lack of sleep reduces activity in the frontal cortex of the brain, where we make rational decisions. This might explain why sleep-deprived participants in one study tended to eat more high-calorie junk foods throughout the day.

This isn’t to say there’s no place for television in life. Everything in moderation. The same could be said of sugary drinks and cereals. The fact is most of us know these things instinctively, but there’s a perception that change will be hard, or that too much of it is required.

Start with small changes. Statistically, those are the ones that tend to stick. Drink one less can of soda per day or watch one less hour of television. Instead of joining a gym and vowing to work out eight days a week, try a 20-minute stroll through the park. Aim to cook a meal once per day. Start packing lunches to avoid the noontime temptation.

Pick a small, achievable goal. There’s no reason not to start right now. What’s your goal?

Have you or one of your loved ones recently been diagnosed with diabetes? You may now be wondering about medical costs and whether a health insurance policy will cover your condition. If you want to find out more about this, contact us today to speak to one of our advisors.

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Ebola Insurance: Are You Covered? 

ebola

With no vaccination and no cure, Ebola is a disease you really don’t want to get. Unfortunately Ebola is also extremely transmissible, spreading from person to person through blood and bodily fluids, including sweat. Just touching an Ebola patient is enough to spread the disease – even if that patient is already dead. Add to this the fact that Ebola kills 90 percent of the people it infects, and it’s easy to see why the recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa is causing huge global concern. Continue Reading…

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Medical Tourism: What You Need to Know Before You Go

medical tourism For the most part, travellers are trying to stay out of a hospital whilst they’re on holidays. But across the world there is an emerging class of voyagers crossing international borders with the sole purpose of obtaining affordable medical services which can range from dental work to liposuction. The proliferation of affordable air travel, skyrocketing costs of healthcare in developed countries, extended waiting lists and strains on health services due to aging populations have all contributed to global expansion in medical tourism across the past decade. And business is booming. It’s not difficult to see why: the cost of heart bypass surgery is around $70,000 in the United States whilst the same surgery will cost just $7,000 in India — a saving of a staggering 90 percent. With rising costs of health care in developed countries, there are more and more people electing to have procedures completed abroad. But it’s not simply major invasive surgeries like gastric bypass or orthopedic operations being sought by medical tourists. There are equal numbers of people simply keen to regain their pearly white smile through laser whitening or seeking cheaper alternatives to some dermatological conditions. Here, we take a look through some of the considerations you should take into account if you are planning to hop on a plane for a nip or a tuck. Continue Reading…

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Tread Lightly: How to Minimize Your Impact and Travel Responsibly

travel responsibly

With the prices of airfare as cheap as ever, there’s never been a better time to escape the rushing monotony of ‘real life’ and jet off to a tropical island paradise, climb a mountain, go on safari or explore the ruins of an ancient civilization. Every corner of the globe is so accessible that we’re spoilt for choice on where to travel: and the question of how we should travel is often not addressed. Travelling and experiencing a different culture first hand is an important way to learn more about both ourselves and the world we inhabit, but a great number of tourists and travellers tend to disregard the impact that their travels have on local environments.

The ‘travel destinations’ that we head to on holidays or for extended trips are in fact, someone’s home. The impact of what you do and how you spend your time whilst travelling is felt long after you leave, so it is important that as responsible travellers, we respect the natural and often delicate balance of the places we visit and experience.

Tourism can have incredible benefits to local communities and indeed whole countries, but this economic gain should not be at the expense of culture or environment. By embracing a few simple principles, it’s easy to experience everything that a country has to offer without having a negative impact on the communities or environment of the areas you visit, maintaining the culture and natural beauty for generations to come. Continue Reading…

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The Wacky World of Celebrity Body Part Insurance

j lo Celebrities insure the wackiest things. Allegedly. Now that’s key, because there’s little evidence to support most of the wild claims circulating involving billions in insurance policies taken out by self-aggrandising celebrities. And yet body part insurance is very real. It’s not just for celebrities, it’s for everyone. Usually an extension of disability and life insurance, body part insurance has a necessary place in the world of specialty insurance. Continue Reading…

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5 Summer Activities to Keep the Whole Family Busy

summer fun

Ah, the lazy days of summer! Crisp mornings, balmy evenings and long afternoons of sunshine and smiles in between – until boredom sets in, that is. To keep kids and parents entertained, try these summer activities. Educational and exciting, healthy for the body and brain alike, these five ideas for family fun are sure to make the season a little brighter. Continue Reading…

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Calling All Couch Potatoes! 5 Surprising Benefits of Football

football

The biggest tournament in the world’s most popular sport has finally arrived. The build-up to the World Cup finals in Brazil has been dogged by controversy and protests, but now that the tournament is finally underway, billions of people are tuning in each day and night to watch football’s biggest stars do battle for the coveted crown of world champions. With three games each day for the next two weeks or so, it is an ideal time to be a lazy armchair football fan. Or is it?

As we all know, lounging around the living room every evening and watching TV is not exactly conducive to a healthy lifestyle, so we tip our hat to those who are currently feeling the urge to blow the dust off their football boots and go out for a kick-around. Football offers many health benefits, and here are five that may surprise you. Continue Reading…

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6 of the Worst: Football Injuries and How Much They Really Cost

football injuries As the world turns its attention to Brazil for the FIFA World Cup, it seems football is on the collective minds of the entire planet. Streamed live in 204 countries, the FIFA World Cup is the world’s most widely viewed sporting event with an estimated 715.1 million viewers tuning in across the month long sporting extravaganza. Mercifully there have been few major injuries this World Cup, but history is littered with ghastly physical afflictions on the football pitch.There are countless times when a replay of the footage is enough to make your stomach turn and your insides cringe. The times where you know instantly that the only way that player is coming off the field is on a stretcher.Thankfully these players have access to some of the best medical treatment available and in many cases are able to make full recoveries without the burden of medical costs, but in the real world sport injuries can be quite a different story. In no particular order (that would be far too macabre), we present six of the worst injuries to occur on the football field and an estimate of what the surgical costs could potentially be for those of us that don’t happen to be football superstars. Continue Reading…

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