Tricks to make your daily walk healthier!

Walking for Exercise?

7 Tricks to Make Your Daily Walking Habit Even Healthier
While walking can be as simple as putting one foot in front of the other, these specific tweaks to your walking routine can make your daily stroll an even more effective mood booster and disease fighter.
By Lauren Gelman

Stroll outside, with friends
A British study of nearly 2,000 adults found that those who’d recently endured a major life stressor (job loss, divorce, the death of a loved one) experienced a significant mood boost after they took a walk outside with others. A group nature walk may be a “very powerful, under-utilized stress buster,” senior study author Sara L. Warber, MD, an associate professor at the University of Michigan, said in a press release. Here are more non-food ways to boost your mood.

Bring your pooch

In a University of Missouri study, people who walked with a dog increased their walking speed by 28 percent over a 12-week period, while those who walked with a friend or spouse only increased their pace by 4 percent. People tend to whine or talk each other out of workouts, while dogs are always up for a stroll, study author Rebecca Johnson, PhD, an associate professor of nursing at the University of Missouri, told Women’s Health.

Add a spring to your step

Your gait can impact your mood, according to Canadian research. People were shown a list with both positive (“pretty”) and negative (“afraid”) words, then walked on a treadmill in either a depressed style—shoulders hunched forward, arms dangling—or a more upbeat way. Hunched-over people remembered far more negative words than those who had a happier pace. Skipping your way down the street may help trick your body into feeling more happy and energetic. Don’t miss these other natural energy boosters.

Walk for 15 minutes to quell a sugar craving


People who walked before doing an office assignment snacked on half the amount of chocolate as people who didn’t get any exercise beforehand, according to one study.


Walk after every meal to steady your blood sugar

A quick post-meal walk helps clear sugar from the blood, preventing spikes that can take a toll on people with diabetes or who are at risk of developing it, according to a 2013 study in Diabetes Care. These lifestyle habits can also help you achieve healthier blood sugar levels.

Put your phone away

More than 1,500 pedestrians were estimated to be treated in hospital emergency rooms in 2010 for injuries related to using a cell phone while walking—a number that’s more than doubled since 2005. And it’s likely a gross underestimate of injuries, since not all people who are hurt go to the ER. Tempted to text or sneak a peek at your email? Just don’t.

Use a tracker for motivation

It’s 7 p.m. and you’ve logged 9,400 steps—what happens next? You’ll probably find a way to squeeze in another 600 to hit the recommended 10,000 steps a day. In a 2013 study from Indiana University, adults who wore a pedometer for 12 weeks reduced their average sitting time from 4 hours a day to 3.3. They also lost about 2.5 pounds each. Here are other surprising ways your fitness tracker affects your health.


New study on Alzheimers’s risk

Even Gardening or Dancing Might Cut Alzheimer’s Risk

By Steven ReinbergHealthDay Reporter
© Provided by ScoutNews LLCFRIDAY, March 11, 2016 (HealthDay News) — Regular physical activity, including gardening or dancing, may cut Alzheimer’s risk by as much as 50 percent, a new study suggests.

Researchers who analyzed lifestyle habits and brain scans of nearly 900 older adults found that any activity that gets you moving on a regular basis seems to help the brain increase gray matter. This, in turn, may keep dementia at bay, they suggested.

“Any type of physical activity that burns calories — from jogging to gardening to walking to dancing — is associated with more gray matter in the brain,” said lead researcher Dr. Cyrus Raji. He is a postdoctoral researcher in radiology at the University of California, Los Angeles.

“The most important thing is that it’s regular,” Raji said.

More gray matter means a healthier brain and correlates with a reduced risk for Alzheimer’s disease, Raji said.

Alzheimer’s disease, a progressive brain disorder, affects 5.1 million Americans and is predicted to increase significantly over the next 30 years. Because there is no cure, Raji said the focus needs to be on prevention.

The report was published March 11 in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

The study doesn’t prove a direct cause-and-effect relationship between aerobic activity and gray matter growth, one expert noted.

“It’s just an association,” said James Hendrix, director of global science initiatives at the Alzheimer’s Association. Nevertheless, exercise is important, Hendrix said. “What’s good for your heart is good for your brain, which includes exercise,” he added.

Hendrix said that the sooner you become physically active, the better. “Exercise should be part of your lifestyle,” he explained.

While fear of dying from a heart attack hasn’t motivated people to exercise, perhaps the prospect of dying from Alzheimer’s disease is scarier and more motivating, Hendrix suggested.

“With Alzheimer’s disease, it’s a long, slow, painful way to die,” he said.

For the report, Raji and colleagues collected data on 876 seniors who took part in a long-term cardiovascular health study of people aged 65 and older. At age 78, on average, the participants had MRIs to measure the size of their brains, and answered questions about their memory and physical activity.

Among other things, the study participants were asked about 15 different recreational activities over the previous two weeks. Their physical pursuits included riding an exercise cycle at the gym, dancing, swimming, walking, raking and gardening.

Using estimates of weekly calorie expenditure, the researchers found that greater physical activity was associated with larger brain size in areas linked to memory and learning.

People with the brain benefit from physical activity saw their risk of Alzheimer’s disease decline by half, Raji said.

Physical activity also benefitted the brains of the roughly 25 percent of people who had mild brain impairment, he said.

One brain specialist considers the findings noteworthy.

“I think that these data should compel all physicians to provide some specific advice to everyone they see, either well or unwell,” said Dr. Sam Gandy, director of the Center for Cognitive Health at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.

“I have thought for some time that the most important single thing I can tell patients in order to prevent or slow down the progression of dementia is to provide them with some structured, minimal, routine exercise regimen,” he said. “This is super important.”

Finding activities you like will help you stay motivated, Raji said. “If you are going to do a physical activity to reduce your risk for Alzheimer’s disease, do the activity that you most enjoy, that you feel the most comfortable doing, because that’s the activity you are most likely to sustain throughout your life,” he said.

More information

The Alzheimer’s Association has more about brain health.

Healthcare Marketplace Open Enrollment is in full swing. Call us – we can help you select your health plan!

Everything You Need to Know About 2016 Marketplace Open Enrollment

Posted: Updated:

Marketplace open enrollment for 2016 health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act is now in full swing. For many, evaluating health care coverage options is a really big decision, as it affects both health choices and finances, but with the right information and tools at hand, the process of signing up for and later reporting health care coverage on tax returns is simpler than ever. Here are some important things to know.

New Open Enrollment Dates
For 2016, open enrollment for Marketplace health insurance coverage through healthcare.cov or your state exchange will be running through Sunday, January 31, 2016. However, if you would like your coverage to take effect on January 1, 2016, it is important to make sure to select your plan by December 15, 2015.

Even if you are already enrolled in a plan through your Health Insurance Marketplace, make sure to check that the plan you selected last year still works for you and your family in 2016 (premiums and coverage details can change from year to year).

Helpful Tools for Open Enrollment
Selecting an insurance plan is an important financial decision and you should carefully weigh your options. Luckily, there are free tools and calculators out there to give you the information you need to choose the level of health care coverage that makes the most sense for you.

If you shop around on, you will see a new website feature that will help you get an estimate of your total costs under different health plans, depending on whether you expect to use a low, medium or high volume of medical services.

You can also easily estimate your household 2016 income with TurboTax Health Care Income Estimator to determine how much assistance you may be eligible for in the Marketplace to help you pay for health insurance.

Once you have your estimated income, you can even obtain a personalized estimate of out-of-pocket costs for 2016 through Get Covered Plan Explorer. This free tool will allow you to sort and filter plans, so you can pick the plan that suits all your health care needs.

Understand the Implications of Going Uninsured
As a reminder, the fee for not having health coverage in 2016 has increased to $695 per adult or about 2.5 percent of your household income, whichever is greater. If you choose to go without health insurance for 2016, TurboTax also has a Health Care Penalty Calculator, which allows you to see how much penalty you may face. It might be wise to shop for a plan that works best for you and your family, rather than paying a fee.

Remember that this is also a good time to see if you might also be eligible for an employer or government-sponsored plan, such as Medicare or Medicaid, depending on your circumstances.

These easy-to-use free tools can make shopping for a health care plan a breeze. Open enrollment is open — it’s time to start exploring your options for you and your family!

Medicare Part B premium news

The year 2016 will send shockwaves to some Medicare beneficiaries — roughly 7 million Americans. They’re going to be paying a lot more for their monthly Medicare Part B premium.

Individuals affected will see their monthly premiums rise from about $104.90 to $159.30, and $318.60 for married couples. Those whose income exceeds the threshold, as defined by individuals making more than $214,000 or couples making more than $428,000 per year, the projected increase is anywhere from $223 per month up to $509.80 per month. For high-earning married couples, their premiums can increase from $446 to $1,019.60 per month.

It all has to do with a legal provision that addresses cost-of-living adjustments for Social Security benefits, and the fact that there won’t be an adjustment next year. Unless there is action by Congress or the Department of Health and Human Services, the premium increases will go into effect in 2016. A bill to block the premium spikes was recently introduced, but the outcome is pending.

Here’s what you need to know. The premiums will affect:

— New enrollees in 2016
— Enrollees who don’t collect Social Security yet
— Enrollees with high incomes (individuals earning $85,000 or married couples bringing in $170,000)
— Dual Medicare-Medicaid beneficiaries (Out of those whose premiums are set to rise, only about half would have to bear the cost themselves. The other half who are duel beneficiaries will have their premiums paid for by Medicaid)

If you’re part of this group, you’ll want to do some extra planning.

Those who have deferred claiming Social Security, and who enroll in Part B for the first time in 2016, may want to consider enrolling earlier if they’re already 65 and eligible. Individuals can avoid higher premiums if they start receiving their Social Security benefits, and have their premiums deducted, in November and December 2015.

If you are already on Medicare, or could apply immediately, and you were going to start Social Security benefits in the next year or so, and you are not subject to a high income threshold, some financial advisers say you should consider applying for both of those benefits rights now.

By filing earlier and receiving both your Social Security benefits and Medicare by the end of 2015, you’ll fall into the group that will be exempt from the premium increase. Generally filing a month in advance is sufficient.

There is a cost to taking Social Security early that should be factored into the decision though, said Peter Mallouk, a certified financial planner and chief investment officer for Creative Planning in Kansas City. “Given that the Medicare premium increase will likely only last one year, it may not make sense for individuals to file for Social Security benefits in 2015,” he said. “In addition, if an individual has other options for health insurance, such as continuing on a spouse’s employer health insurance plan or an employer retiree plan in 2016, that may be a better option than filing for Medicare.”

For those who have higher incomes, consider if you’ve had a life-changing event, such as a job loss, marriage, divorce, or death of a spouse, that has put you in a lower income bracket. You could qualify for an exemption based on these events.

Speak to a financial advisor and the Social Security Administration for various options that may be available to you, so you can maximize your future Social Security payments.

CORRECTION: The 2016 changes to Medicare Part B will affect 30 percent of Medicare beneficiaries, but only about half will pay the increases out of pocket. That figure was misstated in an earlier version of this article.

3 Things You Need to Know About Enrolling For Obamacare in 2015

By Sean Williams | More Articles

Source: Covered California.

By and large the Affordable Care Act, which you probably know best as Obamacare, had as bifurcated of a start as you can imagine. At its low point Obamacare was running well in excess of 1 million enrollees behind schedule due to technical glitches in the software that supported, the federally run health exchange marketplace. By the time enrollment closed at the end of March, Obamacare had enrolled more than 1 million people beyond the initial estimates offered by the Department of Health and Human Services.

However, Obamacare’s ultimate success or failure isn’t going to be determined by the number of people it enrolls in a single year. Instead, Obamacare will ultimately be weighed by how well it controls medical cost inflation over the long run and how successful it is at continuing to lower the uninsured rate.

For consumers, though, each year is essentially a new beginning as a number of factors are subject to change, including insurance rates. Today we’ll take a look at three things you need to be aware of when you’re enrolling for Obamacare in 2015.

Source: Dafne Cholet via Flickr.

No. 1: This year’s open enrollment starts more than six weeks later than last year.
The first big change that you may or may not be aware of is that the open enrollment date is much later this year than it was last year. If you recall, Oct. 1 was the first day you could enroll for 2014. This year Nov. 15 will be the official kickoff for 2015 enrollment.

Ask around and you’re liable to get plenty of opinions as to why this date was chosen, but I suspect it boils down two particular reasons. First, we have midterm elections during the first week of November, and the elections could act as an unnecessary distraction for consumers. Secondly, it’ll give Accenture (NYSE: ACN  ) , the company responsible for ensuring the functionality of, plenty of time to test its software and handle additional integrations for 2015.

In other words, you only have three months to enroll in 2015!

No. 2: You’ll automatically enroll in the same plan unless you do something about it.
Here’s something I’d venture a guess you probably didn’t know: If you don’t opt out of your existing health plan or choose a different plan, you will be automatically enrolled in your existing insurance plan for another year. If most Americans are anything like me (where they tend to let their bills be paid by auto-debit) it’s quite possible we could have a number of surprised auto-enrollees.

Source: Flickr user Marco Arment.

In addition to auto-enrollment, the premium you’ll pay is likely to change. Right now you’re probably thinking, “Tell me something I don’t know!” Well here’s that something: if you enrolled in the cheapest bronze plan you could find in your state last year there’s a really good chance that your plan is no longer the cheapest this year.

According to a recent study released by the Kaiser Family Foundation, out of the 16 locales it’s received complete premium data on (15 states plus Washington D.C.), 12 had a new lowest-priced plan for 2015. The reasoning behind these fluctuations likely has to do with the emergence of additional competition on the exchanges as well as having a number of first-time participants in the individual insurance market last year that have had to adjust their pricing for 2015.

The lesson here is that if you’re trying to pay close attention to your premium costs in 2015, you’ll need to be proactive about searching the exchange in your state for the best rates.

No. 3: The penalty for not having insurance will, at minimum, double.
Lastly, if you choose not to purchase health insurance in 2015 be prepared to open up your wallet significantly wider than you did in the previous year.

Source: via Flickr.

If you recall, penalties for violating the individual mandate – the actionable component of the ACA that requires citizens to purchase health insurance – in 2014 was the greater of $95 or 1% of your annual income. In 2015, those penalties will jump by somewhere between 100% and 242%, with the non-compliance penalty being the greater of $325 or 2% of your annual income.

On a side note, keep in mind that you won’t be taxed 2% of your annual income if you make a million dollars for example. The most you are on the line for as a citizen is the annual cost of a bronze-level plan. Similarly, there are anumber of ways a citizen can be exempt from this penalty, including situations where there is an economic hardship, as well as in situations where you’d be forced to pay too much of your annual income toward your healthcare premiums. The point being, if you aren’t planning to sign up for health insurance, prepare to pay a steeper fine when you file your taxes in April 2016 for the 2015 year.


Social Security COLA increase 2015


Social Security Announces 1.7 Percent Benefit Increase for 2015

Print Version

Monthly Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for nearly 64 million Americans will increase 1.7 percent in 2015, the Social Security Administration announced today.

The 1.7 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) will begin with benefits that more than 58 million Social Security beneficiaries receive in January 2015.  Increased payments to more than 8 million SSI beneficiaries will begin on December 31, 2014. The Social Security Act ties the annual COLA to the increase in the Consumer Price Index as determined by the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Some other changes that take effect in January of each year are based on the increase in average wages.  Based on that increase, the maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security tax (taxable maximum) will increase to $118,500 from $117,000.  Of the estimated 168 million workers who will pay Social Security taxes in 2015, about 10 million will pay higher taxes because of the increase in the taxable maximum.

Information about Medicare changes for 2015 is available at

The Social Security Act provides for how the COLA is calculated.  To read more, please

Medicare enrollees: things to know before 2015 open enrollment


This year’s annual open enrollment will be October 15 through December 7.   This is the time of year in which all Medicare enrollees can change prescription drug plans or Medicare Advantage Plans.  If you are going to make a change in your coverage this is typically the only time of the year you can change plans unless you qualify for a Special Election Period due to a special circumstance recognized by Medicare.   Not reviewing your plan each year can be a costly mistake and may leave you in a plan that may not suit your needs.

Review your Annual Notice of Change Letter (ANOC) from your present insurance plan.  These letters are very important to review and are typically sent out around October 1 by your Part D Prescription Drug Plan or Medicare Advantage Plans.  It is important to look at this letter closely as this letter is usually the easiest way to see the changes in your plan from 2014 to 2015 benefit years.   Many things can change from year to year.  Some of the changes can include deductibles, copays, formulary lists, (what medicines are covered by your plan), and premiums.

We are here to assist you in making an informed choice for your Medicare coverage!   Please call our office at (616) 350-9306 to go over your current Medicare plan and discuss any of the changes that may be coming for plan year 2015.   We would be happy to set up an appointment with you to go over your options.

Again, don’t forget that the Annual Open Enrollment for Medicare plans ends December 7, 2014.  You will need to make sure you have your Medicare plan decision made before this date!



Tips on how to stress less


Stress tip: Live a healthier lifestyle

Stress can have a significant effect on your health and well-being. Over time, stress can cause physical, mental, emotional and behavioral symptoms.

Keeping yourself healthy helps you deal better with stress. Some ways to help you live a healthier lifestyle include:

Getting enough sleep – When you don’t get enough sleep, you may be too tired to cope with stress. Also, stress can prevent you from sleeping well or may keep you awake. If you experience this, try reading or listening to soothing music before bed.

Make time for yourself – Too much to do, too little time – a common theme in most people’s lives. Try to spend a few minutes each day doing something you enjoy. This can improve the quality of your life and mental outlook and can help put you in a better state of mind for coping with stress.

Eat right – To keep your energy level steady, eat healthy meals and snacks at home and at work. It’s easy to grab a bag of chips or cup of coffee, but the initial boost soon wears off. And try not to skip meals. Low-fat diets rich in whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables are the healthiest.

Exercise – Working out helps burn off the negative energy of stress. Doing something active that you enjoy also helps you get away from stressful situations. Try walking, jogging, skating, biking, swimming, yoga or team sports. Yoga and tai chi are great for relaxation too.

Have fun – Trying a new hobby, planning a fun trip, meeting up with friends or seeing a movie are great ways to break away from stressors and enjoy yourself.