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June 2018

How Seniors Can Beat the Heat: Tips for Staying Active and Safe as Temperatures Rise

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Today’s seniors are more active than ever before. Popular pastimes such as golf, cycling and gardening provide daily opportunities to exercise and socialize, and there’s no better time to enjoy these outdoor pursuits than the summer months.  

However, as temperatures rise, so do the risks of heat stress. Extreme heat can be dangerous for anyone, but older adults are especially vulnerable to conditions such as dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat stroke due to the body’s natural aging process, underlying chronic conditions and side effects from prescription drugs. Excessive exposure to heat can quickly lead to serious illness or even death in older adults, and today’s seniors could be at greater risk than previous generations as research shows summers are getting hotter over time.

The best defense against heat stress and related illnesses is staying informed, prepared and alert. The following tips can help older adults stay active, healthy and safe when temperatures are high.

1. Know the signs. Be alert for common signs of heat exhaustion, which include heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, tiredness, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea, vomiting and fainting. Seek medical attention right away if you notice any of these symptoms.

2. Stay hydrated. Your body needs more water than you may think – and you need to drink before you are thirsty. Ask your doctor how much you should be drinking if you are directed to limit your fluid intake due to certain medications.

3. Time it right and take plenty of breaks. Make the most of early morning and evening hours (before 11 a.m. and after 4 p.m.) when temperatures are cooler to do outdoor activities such as gardening or walking. Take regular breaks from the heat in air-conditioned areas or designated cooling centers, if necessary.

4. Take it inside. Don’t let the heat keep you sedentary. When it’s too hot for your usual outdoor jog or bike ride, explore indoor-based activities at the gym or your community center. Many Medicare Advantage plans cover gym memberships, so be sure to brush up on your benefits to get the most out of your plan.

5. Use the buddy system. If you choose to do an outdoor activity when it’s hot, bring a friend. Besides enjoying each other’s company, you can help each other stay alert to any signs of heat stress or get help if necessary.

6. Skip the stove. Cooking can heat up your living space quickly, so avoid turning on the stove or oven when it’s very hot. Cold foods like salad, fresh fruit and yogurt can be healthy, convenient and refreshing options when the mercury rises.

UnitedHealthcare Medicare & Retirement is the largest business dedicated to the health and well-being needs of seniors and other beneficiaries. UnitedHealthcare serves more than 12.3 million beneficiaries nationwide, including more than 1 million here in Texas.

For more information about staying safe in the summer heat, check out this AARP article, or search for “heat safety” on AARP.org. You can find additional health and wellness information and tips for healthy living at newsroom.uhc.com.

UnitedHealthcare Donates Hasbro’s NERF Energy Game Kits to Boys & Girls Clubs of the Austin Area

Members of Boys & Girls Clubs of the Austin Area were led through exercises with UnitedHealthcare mascot, Dr. Health E. Hound, to test their new NERF ENERGY Game Kit that tracks activity earning “energy points” in order to play the game.

As part of an initiative to reduce youth obesity, UnitedHealthcare and Hasbro recently donated 100 NERF ENERGY Game Kits to Boys & Girls Clubs of the Austin Area.

Each kit includes a NERF Energy Game Band, a NERF PRO FOAM soccer ball and instructions to download the NERF ENERGY RUSH mobile game to get kids moving. As children participate in physical activity, they earn “energy points” that are tracked by the activity band, and these points turn into screen time to play the mobile game on a smartphone or tablet.

UnitedHealthcare is donating 10,000 NERF Energy Game Kits to elementary schools and community organizations across the country.

Marian Cabanillas, President of UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of South Texas, distributed kits to children.

 

Health and Fitness Tips to Benefit the Whole Family This Father’s Day

Sunday is an opportunity to recognize fathers, grandfathers and great grandfathers, and the important role they play in our families’ well-being.

June is also men’s health month, an annual reminder of the many health challenges men face. These include lower life expectancy (76 years for men vs. 81 years for women); lower likelihood of visits to the doctor (76 percent of men had seen a doctor in the last year vs. 92 percent of women); and higher risk of being overweight or obese (nearly 71 percent for men vs. 59 percent for women).

With that in mind, here are some wellness tips for men to consider:

Prevention is Important: Men are three-times as likely as women to go a year without visiting the doctor, and nearly twice as likely to be without a regular go-to doctor in times of sickness. To reverse these trends, now is the time for men to schedule an annual wellness visit with a primary care physician, providing an opportunity to take charge of their health and detect any potential health issues or diseases early.  

Reduce the Risk: The medical journal BMJ recently published a study showing that men take more senseless risks than women. This behavior can manifest itself in some unfortunate consequences. For example, men are more likely to be addicted to alcohol and tobacco than women; men are twice as likely as women to binge drink; and men are 80 percent more likely to misuse drugs than women. What’s more, some men are prone to push themselves physically, such as attempting a marathon, triathlon or an extreme sport. It’s a good idea to check with a physician before engaging in any extreme sport and start a slow and steady training routine.  

Compete in a Healthy Way: Men who take fewer risks and channel their competitive spirit in a healthy way can enhance their well-being and quality of life. One strategy is to pair up with a workout partner, someone who can hold them accountable and offer encouragement to achieve wellness goals. Also, employers may offer a wellness program that enables people to earn rewards for achieving certain fitness goals or offers discounts on gym memberships. To help maintain overall health, it’s important for men to “compete with themselves” and set realistic – and specific – exercise and diet goals.   

Remember Behavioral Health: Numerous studies show that men are less likely than women to seek help, particularly for depression and other behavioral health issues. One potential barrier is some men might be embarrassed to ask for this type of assistance. To help with that, men can consider a virtual visit with a mental health provider via a mobile device or computer, a service that may already be available as part of their health care benefits. Virtual care can shorten wait times for an appointment, fit work and personal schedules, and eliminate travel time and expense. And, research shows that outcomes of a virtual visit with a mental health provider may be similar to in-person sessions for multiple disorders.

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