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Exercising in Winter’s Cold Weather Months

coupleskiThere are many health benefits to continuing the exercising schedule you maintained during the warmer summer months on through the winter.

Regular exercise will boost your immune system by improving your lymphatic and cardiovascular circulation. However, the effects of exercise on improved immunity are short lived. To optimize these good effects, it’s important to exercise regularly. In addition to the boost in immunity, exercise also helps lower stress and ease the winter blues know as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Seasonal Affective Disorder may be caused by a combination of factors such as lack of sunlight, inactivity and not getting proper nutrition - especially enough Vitamin D. Regular moderate exercise helps release essential endorphins to keep the blues at bay. In addition to the energy boost and helping with weight control, moving your exercise outdoors will help maximize your Vitamin D levels.

Exercising outdoors can be fun (snowball fight anyone?) and rewarding, but be sure to take the time to prepare for the outdoor weather. It’s recommended that you dress in layers so you can remove or unzip one layer if you get too hot. Your base layer should be something made of a thin sweat-wicking fabric. The middle layer should be a thicker sweat-wicking fabric like fleece and running tights or pants. Half-zip tops work well for this layer. For the top layer, you’ll want something that is wind and water resistant. Once properly dressed be sure to warm-up before you start exercising. Take extra time warming up and start out easy. In addition to dressing appropriately for the outside temperatures, you also need to stay hydrated. We tend to drink less in winter because it’s cold, but your body still needs water to function properly. When exercising outside at night, stay in well lit areas and wear bright reflective clothing.

If the idea of an outdoor hike or run in the cooler weather is just not inviting to you, there are many indoor options. You can build your own gym for about $50. Some hand weights, an exercise ball and a jump rope are all you need to get an effective workout. You can also create your own workout by combining popular and effective calisthenics like jumping jacks, squats, planks, lunges, push-ups and crunches. If you are already fit, incorporating hand weights or an exercise ball, along with the calisthenics will increase the intensity. Various fitness magazine websites have calisthenic type workout videos that you can view. There are also workouts that require no equipment at all. “No equipment” workouts use your body weight as the resistance in the exercises, all you need is some open space and you’re good to go. DVDs and TV can be a good source for workouts like yoga or pilates. Local libraries offer exercise DVDs you can check-out for free. You could also walk at a local mall. Many malls have walking programs/clubs were you can meet new people and stay motivated. And finally, an intramural sports team or group workouts are two other great options.

Whether your exercise goal is to lose weight, sculpt your physique or improve your health and fitness, keeping motivated can help you achieve success. Small things can help keep you motivated, such as meeting a friend for an exercise class. Reward yourself for keeping up an exercise schedule or for having met a goal. Reward yourself with a movie night, a new pair of running shoes or DVD. A healthy and happy family is also motivating. Turn “WiiFit® night” into a regular fun family activity to keep active and spend time with your family all at the same time.

Whether you choose to exercise outdoors or indoors during the colder months, keeping yourself motivated to staying fit is key. Health is well worth the effort for you and your family.


Healthy Holiday Eating Tips


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The holidays are a time of many celebrations with family and friends. For some, this also can easily lead to a time of over-eating, resulting in weight gain. However, this does not need to be the case. By creating a healthy balance of fun, food and exercise, holiday festivities don’t have to put extra pounds on the scale. Following these simple tips can help:

  • Be realistic. Don’t try to lose weight during the holidays. Aim to maintain your current weight.
  • Don’t skip meals. Before a party, eat a light snack like raw veggies or a piece of fruit to curb your appetite. You’ll be less tempted to overindulge.
  • Eat until you are satisfied, not stuffed.
  • If you overeat at one meal, eat light at the next meal.
  • Drink water during your meal.
  • Load your plate with fruits and veggies, and only small portions of your favorite holiday treats.
  • It’s ok to say “no, thank you” to food pushers. Experts say the easiest way out of this is to just say “no” over and over and over. It’s called the broken record technique. If you politely refuse the food pusher, eventually they stop. Don’t be rude, but you have to be firm.
  • Go for a walk the morning of a large celebration.
  • It’s important to keep fitness a priority. Stick with your regular fitness routine.
  • Focus on visiting with family and friends not the food.

With a little preparation you can still have a few of those special holiday treats. You can also enjoy the holiday season without any extra pounds showing up on the scale.


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Choose Whole Grains – You have Everything to Gain!


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 Most people would agree that grains are a healthy part of your diet.  But all grains are not created equal! Grains include food made from wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, or barley.  Within this category, there are refined and whole grains.  Whole grains provide the most wholesome choice.

Whole grains contain the entire kernel. They have higher levels of dietary fiber and unsaturated fat.  This can be helpful in lowering cholesterol.  Whole grains also contain B vitamins and iron, as well as disease-fighting antioxidants.  Research shows that people who eat more whole grains have a lower risk of heart disease and stroke.

Whole grains include:

  • Oatmeal
  • Brown rice
  • Barley
  • Popcorn
  • Quinoa
  • Whole – wheat, rye, oats

Refined grains, as their name implies, have been processed. As a result, the coarser parts of the grain have been removed to make the texture more pleasing and to increase its shelf life.  Unfortunately, removing parts of the grain also removes fiber and nutrients.  While nutrients are often added back, fiber can’t be included. Refined grains are usually higher in carbohydrates than whole grains.  They can add to higher triglyceride and cholesterol levels.

Refined grains include:

  • White bread/rice/pasta and noodles
  • Pretzels
  • Grits

In general, most Americans eat enough grains but few people eat enough whole grains.  Adding whole grains to your diet can be as simple as swapping some of the refined grains for healthier choices.  Consider some of the following suggestions that are part of the new website: For a change, try brown rice or whole-wheat pasta.

  • Experiment by substituting whole wheat or oat flour for up to half of the flour in pancake, muffin or other flour-based recipes.
  • Try rolled oats or a crushed, unsweetened whole grain cereal as breading for baked chicken or fish.
  • Try 100% whole-grain snack crackers.
  • Popcorn can be a healthy snack if made with little or no added salt or butter.

Read carefully when shopping for whole grain products.  Look for the terms mentioned above on the label. The words “multi-grain,” “100% wheat,” “bran,” and “cracked wheat” are generally not whole grain.

Keep this motto (from in mind: Make at least half your grains whole grains.


Keeping Your Cholesterol in Check


CholesterolWe are always hearing how important cholesterol is to our health.  But do you know what cholesterol is and why you shouldn’t have too much of it in your blood?  Take a minute to learn more about cholesterol and how you can keep yours in check.

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that your body uses for making certain chemicals, including hormones, vitamin D and acids that help your body digest fat. Your body makes all the cholesterol it needs, so it isn’t necessary to get any extra from your diet.

When the level of cholesterol in your blood gets too high, there is a greater risk for heart disease.  The LDL (bad) cholesterol builds up in the walls of your arteries. It combines with other fats, such as triglycerides, to form a plaque that can block the flow of blood.  This becomes especially dangerous when the arteries leading to the heart get clogged.

Some factors affecting your cholesterol levels are out of your control; things like heredity, age and sex can’t be helped.  Other things such as diet, physical activity and weight management can be controlled to help lower your level of LDL (bad) cholesterol and increase the level of HDL (good) cholesterol.  Here are some ways to keep your cholesterol in check:

Diet – The main cause of high cholesterol is what we eat.  A diet high in saturated fat, Trans fat and cholesterol will raise the cholesterol levels in your blood.  To lower your LDL levels, keep these tips in mind:

  • Decrease the saturated fats, Trans fats and cholesterol from your diet. Read food labels to keep track of your fat intake.  Only 25-35% of your daily calories should come from fat.
  • Add plant stanols and sterols and increase the amount of soluble fiber in your diet. (Many manufacturers add plant stanols and sterols to products like margarine and juice.)
  • Choose fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat or non-fat dairy products, fish, poultry without skin and lean meats in moderation.

Physical activity – Regular exercise can help to manage your weight and lower your cholesterol.  Aim to get at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week.  It can also:

  • Raise levels of HDL cholesterol
  • Lower your triglyceride level
  • Improve fitness of your heart and lungs
  • Lower blood pressure

Weight management – If you are overweight, losing weight gradually will help to lower your LDL level and raise your HDL levels.


  • Use fats and oils sparingly in your diet.  Choose unsaturated vegetable oils like canola, corn, olive, safflower and soybean.
  • The color of a food doesn’t indicate whether or not it is whole grain. Bread can be brown because it contains molasses.  Read the ingredient list to check for whole grain.



Good Mood Foods


describe the imageMention good mood foods and your first thought is probably chocolate or ice cream.  Sure, they may give you some momentary pleasure but the effects are fleeting.

There are some “good mood foods” that can help to boost, as well as stabilize, your moods.  Scientists have identified certain foods that contain natural chemicals that can change the way we feel. Some of these “good mood” chemicals include:

  •  Tryptophan, an amino acid that produces serotonin (the “feel good” substance).  You can find tryptophan in cheese, chicken, turkey, peanut butter, nuts, eggs, fish and milk.
  •  Omega-3 fatty acids also help to build serotonin in the brain.  Fish lovers are in luck since these fatty acids are found in certain fishes such as salmon, herring, sardines and tuna.
  •  Magnesium is known for producing a sense of calm.  To take advantage of its effects, choose whole grain cereals, walnuts or flaxseeds.
  •  Folic acid helps to maintain normal levels of serotonin in the brain.  Foods high in folic acid include fortified whole grain cereals, lentils and spinach.
  •  You should aim to eat a diet that is a balance of protein, carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables.  Try to limit your intake of sugar, fat and alcohol.
  •  Eating more small meals throughout the day, made up of healthy foods,   will help to keep blood sugar levels even and prevent mood swings.
  •  Lower your risk of heart disease by replacing the “white” carbs in your diet for whole grains.




Happy, Healthy Summer!


C  Documents and Settings mxk My Documents My Pictures sunPrevention is your best defense against the harmful rays of the sun. Exposure to ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays can lead to skin cancer.  Even though skin cancer is very preventable, it is still the most common type of cancer in the United States.  Make the following tips part of your daily routine to keep your skin healthy:

  • Seek shade. The sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.  Try to limit your time in direct sun during these hours.  You can also use the “shadow rule” – the sun’s UV rays are strongest when your shadow is shorter than you are.  Bright sunny days aren’t the only days to take care in the sun.  Even on a cloudy day, 80% of the sun’s ultraviolet rays pass through the clouds.
  • Taking certain medications or using certain cosmetics can make your skin and eyes more sensitive to the sun. Selected antibiotics, birth control, benzoyl peroxide and alpha hydroxyl acids can have this effect.  Read product labels and talk with your healthcare professional.
  • Dress for success!  Clothing made of tightly woven, light-colored, lightweight fabric will give you the best protection.  Complete your outfit with a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses.
  • Apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes before you head outdoors.  Choose a sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays with an SPF of 15 or greater.  Make sure you apply a generous amount, at least one ounce, and don’t forget places like ears, lips, scalp, and the back of your neck.  Reapply sunscreen every hour or two.
  • Be extra careful at the beach since water and sand reflect the sun’s rays and make them stronger.
  • Take a few minutes each month to check your skin.  If you catch skin cancer in its early stages, it is very treatable.  Watch for changes in any existing moles, or any new scaly patches or bleeding.  If in doubt, call a dermatologist.

When checking your skin for signs of melanoma, follow the American Cancer Society’s ABCD guide for any unusual spots you may have:

A is for Asymmetry: One half of a mole or birthmark does not match the other.

B is for Border: The edges are irregular, ragged, notched, or blurred.

C is for Color: The color is not the same all over and may include shades of brown or black, or sometimes with patches of pink, red, white, or blue.

D is for Diameter: The spot is larger than 6 millimeters across (about ¼ inch – the size of a pencil eraser), although melanomas can sometimes be smaller than this.

Making Health Insurance for the Unemployed Affordable


describe the imageWe began talking about unemployment  and health insurance back in the beginning of 2010. A recent Bureau of Labor Statistic’s press release from March 9, 2012 stated the total number of unemployed is at 12.8 million workers. It had been as high as 15 million. And while this is a sign of the economy slowly recovering, there are still 5.4 million workers who have been unemployed for 27 weeks or longer. So it’s understandable that even though it may seem like a long time, many workers remain without work.


If that’s the case for you, while your priority is finding a job, having health insurance remains an important factor in your future planning. COBRA coverage with its extended benefits might be the option you’ve taken. These benefits may be running out for you or possibly were too expensive for you to even consider in the first place.


You may be at the point that a low-cost permanent plan suits your needs better.  A major medical health plan stills allows you to pay monthly and protects you from financial ruin should you have a costly unforeseen illness or injury.


Monthly premiums are kept low on individual health plans today by providing high deductibles, offering different coinsurance options and covering important benefits while making less used benefits as options on the plan. Plus, preventive care visits are covered by the plan at no additional charge to you and can help keep you healthy. Celtic plans even provide vision benefits and services for free (not available in all states).


So it’s definitely worth considering an individual health insurance plan. Start with the monthly rate you think you can pay for health insurance and then run some quotes for a few plans -- I think you’ll find a good fit pretty easily.   (March 9, 2012)

Protect Your Health to Protect Your Heart

February is American Heart Month

Heart disease kills an estimated 630,000 Americans each year. It’s the leading cause of death for both men and women.  Recognizing the importance of these numbers means taking a moment to consider what you can do during American Heart Month.  It may be a good time for a well-visit to the doctor, who can screen for risk factors associated with heart disease.

This is especially true, because in the United States, the most common type of heart disease is coronary artery disease (CAD), which can lead to a heart attack. You can greatly reduce your risk for CAD through lifestyle changes and, in some cases, medication.

You can make healthy changes to lower your risk of developing heart disease. Controlling and preventing risk factors is also important for people who already have heart disease. Here are some steps you can take:

  • Watch your weight
  • Quit smoking and stay away from secondhand smoke
  • Control your cholesterol and blood pressure
  • If you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation
  • Get active and eat healthy
  • Talk to your doctor about taking aspirin every day if you are a man over the age of 45, or a woman past menopause
  • Manage stress

For more information on American Heart Month visit:

HSA 2012 Contributuion Guidelines


One of the better innovations of consumer driven health care is the qualifying high-deductible health plan coupled with a Health Savings Account (HSA). It provides consumers low-cost major medical coverage with more control over their health care expenses.

And it continues to offers big advantages to enrollees for 2012. For individuals making post-tax contributions you can reduce your taxable income by the amount you contribute to your HSA. Plus, the interest on your HSA funds grows tax deferred!

There are a number of advantages to having a HSA, including the ability for funds to accumulate year after year. The 2012 annual contribution limits have increased slightly over 2011 limits. That means 2012 provides individuals and families a great opportunity to save for current and future health care expenses with the following contribution amounts, deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums:

  • Individuals with an HSA program can contribute $3,100 and families can contribute $6,250 into their accounts. HSA holders age 55 and older can contribute an extra $1,000 for the year. 
  • The minimum annual deductibles are $1,200 for individuals and $2,400 for families.
  • The annual out-of–pocket maximums (including copays, deductibles and other amounts, but not premium) are $6,050 for individuals and $12,100 for families.

Ready to learn more about Celtic HSAs?

Diabetes Prevention and Control is Within Your Power


As if we haven’t been touting the value of exercising and watching your diet enough, here’s another reason why these two important activities can pay off.  Every 17 seconds, someone new is diagnosed with diabetes. Nearly 26 million children and adults have diabetes in the United States. An additional 79 million Americans are at high risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

How do you help prevent diabetes?  For people diagnosed with prediabetes, changing your diet and increasing your physical activity can lessen the chance of getting diabetes.

During American Diabetes Month this November, the American Diabetes Association is encouraging people to take action and raise their hand to Stop Diabetes.  Participating today, may help you or someone you know from getting diabetes in the future. For more information visit:

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