Low-cost tips for better heart health

February 24, 2014

February is American Heart Month, so it’s an ideal time to think about what lifestyle changes you could make to improve your heart health. Exercising regularly and improving your diet are two major ways you can increase your heart health, but what if you’re on a tight budget? Luckily, you don’t have to join a gym or purchase expensive foods to make heart-healthy changes. Read on for our tips to improve heart health without breaking the bank!

Know your numbers. It’s a good idea to establish your baseline numbers, which can help you understand what kinds of healthy changes to make. Visit your family doctor to find out your blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, weight, and body mass index (BMI). You can also get your blood pressure and weight checked for free at many popular pharmacies. Also, keep an eye on the events calendar at work—if your employer is having a health fair, you may be able to find out all those numbers at no cost to you!

Quit tobacco. Tobacco use is a major cause of heart disease. If you use tobacco, consider the many benefits of quitting. Not only will you be healthier for it, you’ll also save a lot of money! Click here to use the American Cancer Society’s Smoking Cost calculator, which will help you see how much money you’re spending on tobacco products.

If you are having a tough time quitting, seek help. Check with your employer to see if a free smoking cessation program is offered at your workplace. If not, there are several organizations that can help you quit smoking. Some resources include:

American Cancer Society:

Toll-free hotline: 1-800-ACS-2345

www.cancer.org

 National Cancer Institute:

Toll-free hotline: 1-877-44U-QUIT

www.smokefree.gov

Eat heart-healthy noshes. Instead of snacking on kettle chips, cheese curls, or other processed, fattening treats, reach for nuts, raw veggies, or fresh fruit. According to the Cleveland Clinic, snacking on a few walnuts before a meal can help decrease inflammation in the arteries surrounding your heart, plus help you stay fuller so that you don’t overeat. And the plant sterols in peanuts, macadamia nuts, and almonds can help lower LDL (often known as “bad”) cholesterol. Just make sure to watch your serving sizes when you eat nuts—although they’re often heart-healthy, they are not a low-calorie food. To save money, consider buying nuts and other healthy snacks in bulk.

Swap out the salt. Too much salt can damage blood vessels and increase your risk of developing high blood pressure. Try flavoring your food with herbs and spices instead of salt. Spices add healthy flavor to your meals without adding salt or fat. Experiment with different spices—buy small containers of garlic, ginger, rosemary, paprika, or any other spice or herb that interests you. Try them out in recipes and see which ones you enjoy most.

Go for a walk. According to the American Heart Association, you can reduce your risk of heart disease by engaging in as little as 30 minutes of aerobic exercise 5 times a week. This includes walking! There are so many great places to walk—in your neighborhood, a local park, your favorite mall or shopping center, outside your office at lunchtime…the possibilities are endless. And better yet, walking around any of these places won’t cost you a cent!

Unplug and unwind. Stress can raise your heart rate and blood pressure. To combat stress, take some time each day to unwind at home. Step away from your laptop, turn off your smartphone, and do something that relaxes you, such as read a book, do a workout, have dinner with a friend, or take a soothing soak in the bathtub.

Get your ZZZs. People who don’t get enough sleep are at a higher risk of obesity, high blood pressure, and heart attack, according to the Mayo Clinic. Most adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. Make sleep a priority by setting a schedule for yourself. Get up at the same time each day and go to bed at the same time each day—even on weekends. Plus, keep your bedroom dark, cool, and quiet to promote better sleep.

For more healthy, low-cost ideas, check out The Healthcare Survival Guide!

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Preventive dental care can stave off painful problems

February 14, 2014

In general, you should only visit the emergency room (ER) if you’re having a true medical emergency, such as chest pain or pressure, difficulty breathing, uncontrolled bleeding, persistent vomiting, or a severe allergic reaction. But sometimes people show up at the ER for another reason: dental problems. According to a recent National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, in 2010 more than 2.1 million people (most of whom were adults) went to the ER because of dental pain.

It’s never a good idea to visit the emergency room for dental problems. Very few hospitals are equipped to handle dental issues—they may be able to prescribe an antibiotic to treat an infection or pain medication to help you feel a little better, but the underlying issue causing the discomfort won’t be fixed. Plus, emergency room visits can be very costly. And finally, remember that when ER staff is trying to treat people who come in with preventable problems like cavity pain, it takes medical staff and resources away from patients who truly need immediate medical care.

Instead of waiting until a dental issue becomes incredibly painful, focus on making sure you and your family regularly get proper preventive dental care. Many routine problems like cavities and abscesses can be prevented by regular dental checkups and cleanings. If you don’t have dental insurance, there are still ways you can get preventive dental care. These free and low-cost resources can help.

Need dental care?

  • National Association of Free Clinics: The National Association of Free Clinics is the only national non-profit that provides a range of medical, dental, pharmacy, and/or behavioral health services to economically disadvantaged individuals who are predominately uninsured. Their website allows you to search by state to find free clinics in your area. Click here to check out The National Association of Free Clinics.
  • Bureau of Primary Healthcare: This is a searchable database of clinics that provide low-cost or free care (including dental care) to people without health insurance. Users can enter an address or zip code, or state and county for a list of clinics in their area. Click here to check out The Bureau of Primary Healthcare.
  • Local dental schools: Dental schools have clinics that allow students to gain experience by providing treatment at reduced costs to the patients. Licensed dentists closely supervise students as they treat patients. Additionally, post-graduate clinics are also available at most schools and offer services for people who are seeking an endodontist, orthodontist, periodontist, oral surgeon, etc. The American Dental Association (ADA) offers a complete list of dental schools in your area.

Need a prescription for a dental issue?

  • CVS. Some pharmacies offer prescription memberships which provide the benefit of discounted prescription medications. Some may require a small annual fee. Call 888-616-2273 or visit http://www.cvs.com/healthsavingspass.
  • PatientAssistance.com, Inc. PatientAssistance.com is a free resource designed to help connect patients who can’t afford their prescription medications with patient assistance programs. We believe that medication should be affordable for all Americans, including low-income families and the uninsured, and our database features over 1000 programs that help make that possible. Call (888) 788-7921 or visit  http://www.patientassistance.com/
  • Rite Aid.  Some pharmacies offer prescription memberships which provide the benefit of discounted prescription medications. Some may require a small annual fee. Call 800-748-3243 or visit  http://www.riteaid.com/pharmacy/rx_savings.jsf
  • Walgreens. Some pharmacies offer prescription memberships which provide the benefit of discounted prescription medications. Some may require a small annual fee. Call 866-922-7312 or visit http://www.walgreens.com/pharmacy

For more tips on locating free or low-cost dental or medical care, visit www.HealthcareSurvivalGuide.com.