Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft

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Identity theft is a growing threat due to data breaches and hacking incidents on the rise. Due to this growing trend, identity theft protection is quickly becoming as important as home or auto coverage. With 12.7 million US adults falling victim to identity theft in 2014, you can be at risk.1

Identity theft has grown to more than just using someone’s cred it card or taking out credit cards in someone’s name. Criminals may use the stolen identity to obtain a driver’ s license and other documents and to commit fraud. In these cases, sorting out the situation requires much more than simply canceling credit cards and opening new accounts.

Victims of ID theft sometimes spend hundreds of hours trying to resolve problems that arise when their name, Social Security number, credit card numbers and other financial information are used to commit fraud. Lasting effects for victims of identity theft include debt collector calls, denial on new credit requests, closed credit cards, loan denial, utilities being cut off, criminal investigation or civil suit and difficulties obtaining or accessing bank accounts.

Steps to Protect Yourself

Remove risky items from your wallet – Social Security card; reminders noting PINs or passwords for bank cards or online accounts; blank checks; and spare keys for your home or car.

Collect mail promptly – If you will be on vacation, ask the post office to put your mail on hold.

Pay attention to your billing cycles – If bills or financial statements are late, contact the sender.

Phishing schemes – traditionally thieves used email to pose as a business in order to trick individuals into divulging personal information. However, it’s important to educate yourself on new tactics including telephone calls, instant messaging, social media and the list of tactics continues to grow.

ID theft protection services can provide counselors to walk victims through the process. Some services provide access to network attorneys but not all reimburse for losses incurred so do your research to find the best fit for your needs. In addition, stay educated about the basics and newest trends of identity theft, how to monitor personal records for evidence of fraud or theft, and about what steps to take to rectify the situation.

1 “2015 Identity Fraud,” Javelin Strategy & Research

Earth Day

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On April 22nd Earth Day will be celebrated for the 46th consecutive year. Over the years, 1 billion people in 192 countries have participated making it the largest civic observance in the world. Thanks to the efforts of the volunteers helping raise awareness about the Earth and environment, the U.S. Environmental Protective Agency, the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts and the Endangered Species Acts have all been created.

This year the theme is Trees for the Earth. The goal is to plan t 7.8 billion trees by the 50th anniversary in 2020. So far, 3 million trees have already been planted. So, why is it so important to plan more trees?

Climate Change and Pollution - Trees help to absorb pollutants, toxins and CO2 released into the air.

Biodiversity - Trees give homes to many diverse species. Due to economic growth and construction expansion many of these animals have been forced out of their homes.

Communities - Planting trees help a community’s long-term sustainability both economically and environmentally.

There are many ways that you can get involved in Earth Day. Many cities, schools and church groups host events. You can visit http://www.earthday.org/take-action/ to find events in your area. Alternatively, you can sign up online and build your own team to plant trees, plants and beautify your neighborhood and communities. If you don’t have a green thumb, you can also pick up trash on your streets and at local parks a s well as host a recycling drive to collect and help teach proper recycling practices.

Get involved! To learn more about earth day and how to volunteer and get involved visit www.earthday.org.

Tips to Battle Seasonal Allergies

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Spring is in the air, flowers are blooming, your eyes are itchy and you can’t stop sneezing. Say hello to allergy season! The American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI) estimates that more than 50 million Americans suffer from allergies each year. So, you’re not alone when the spring season’s pollen, fresh grass, weeds and mold spores bring on hay fever which keeps you inside looking at the beautiful weather out the window.

Antihistamine medications and decongestants are available over the counter and you can also go to the doctor and get allergy shots to help combat the symptoms and build up your immunity. It may take a few days for the medication to get in your system before you see relief. While you wait for that you can take action to keep your home from causing symptoms.

Close the Windows – Open windows allow pollen and other allergens to flow into the house and stick on your furniture, walls and floor. Use your air conditioning when in the car or at home. If you have forced AC or heat make sure you are using high-efficiency filters.

Vacuum Using a HEPA Filter – It’s inevitable that you will track some allergens in when you come inside. You don’t want the vacuum cleaner kicking up all the dust into t he air. A good filter ill help keep the air clean.

Change Clothes and Rinse off – You don’t want to sit on the furniture or lay in bed with allergens on you. Make sure upon entering the house you rinse off and leave clothes and shoes in the laundry room so you aren’t spreading the pollen around the house.

Watch Pollen Counts – Your daily news and the weather channel are great resources to c heck when pollen counts are high. On elevated days it’s best to limit time outside.

Rinse Out Your Sinuses – After being outside it’s important to make sure you’re not carrying allergens with you. Sinus rinses come in squeeze bottles and pots and hel p run distilled, sanitized saline solutions through your sinus cavity to clean out irritants.

Test out these techniques and see how your allergy symptoms react. Making lifestyle changes during allergy season may be a way to stay out of the doctor’s office with sinu s infections or asthma flare ups.

How to Combat Negative Online Reviews

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Sites such as Yelp, Angie’s List, Consumer Reports, and TripAdvisor, just to name a few, are popping up everywhere making it very easy for consumers to go online and build first impression based on what others have to say. The age of information can either be a blessing or a curse depending on the reviews you have received. So, what happens when a bad review pops up online? What’s the best way to combat those reviews and help rebuild your reputation?

Below are some tips:

Set up Alerts – Sites like Google Alert will let you know when your business is mentioned to help keep track of the reviews.

Take a Step Back – Read the review and decide if it’s best to respond. Is it angry and using foul language or is it a legitimate complaint? If it’s an angry review with foul language you can report it. Do not respond as it can start an argument.

Respond promptly – If it is a legitimate complaint, send apologies and let them know you are taking actions to correct it. Ask them to come back and give a coupon or discount to help show them the true side of your business.

Ask for Input – How could you have made their visit or user experience better? Whether the person has a run of the mill experience or a horrible one there are always ways to improve processes.

Be Friendly – Keep a positive attitude and do not let anyone answer with a hot head. A cool, collected mind always gives the best customer service.

 

Avoiding Weight Gain During the Holidays

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The Holiday season is upon us and we can smell the turkey, ham, stuffing and desserts just from memories of holidays past. You worked hard over the summer to get into swimwear shape and improved your health, so why let the holiday season ruin it?

Below provides some tips to help you keep from putting on unnecessary weight during a season that has tradition of high-calorie food.

Drink Water – Soda, eggnog, wine, etc. are a source of unnecessary calories and usually have quite a bit of sodium. Drink water throughout the day to flush out your system. This doesn’t mean you can’t have a glass of your favorite beverage, but focusing on drinking water will help curve your appetite and cleanse your body.

Portion Control – Since there are always days and days’ worth of left overs you can pick and choose, try eating small portions at each meal. Remember, just because you have a big plate doesn’t mean every inch of real estate has to be covered with food. In a couple of hours when your appetite strikes you again, you can try different sides and desserts.

Socialize – The holidays are for catching up and remembering the good times you’ve had together. Take time to focus on being social and don’t focus solely on the food.

Exercise – Try taking a 15 minute walk or go outside and play football or catch with your family after you eat. This will help you burn off calories as well as give fun bonding time before you go into your post-food coma.

Don’t Snack – We all know you HAVE to taste the batter, the gravy and cookie dough while you go. If possible, try to not snack so you can be mindful of what you’re putting in your body throughout the day. It’s best to eat at a table away from electronic distractions, so you can stay focused on your portion size.

Don’t Wait – If you know you will have a big lunch or dinner, do not keep yourself from eating all day as this will only lead you to binge and overeat once you’re finally at the table. Eat a small breakfast of cereal or oatmeal and a protein before heading over to the event where you will want to eat everything in sight.

Leftovers – Take your leftovers and put them into meal-sized portions. This will help with impulse control and mindlessly staring at the fridge and filling your plate to the max.

Benefits of Reading

Reading is often recognized for its entertainment value or as a requirement for those in school , rather than the physical, psychological, and emotional benefits that it offers to those willing to side aside a little bit of time every day devoted to reading. Unlike other areas in culture, such as films, television, museums, etc., books are widely available to almost everyone in the United States through their local public library. While there are numerous benefits of reading, here are just a few.

Exercise for the Brain – Just as you need to exercise your body in order to stay fit, t he brain also requires stimulation. Studies have suggested that reading regularly can defend against the spread of Alzheimer’s and Dementia. In addition, this stimulation leads to improved memory and critical thinking skills.

Stress Relief – Reading offers a way to escape the stress and strain of life after a particularly hard day at work or home. Instead of dwelling on the frustration or difficulties in the “real world”, readers can temporarily find comfort and distraction in fictional characters and far-off places.

Knowledge and Creativity – Books are full of facts and pieces of information, which are not only valuable for exercising your brain, but also make great conversation starters. The more information you learn about other cultures and traditions the greater creativity you can introduce into your daily life and projects.

Expanded vocabulary – The vocabulary found in many books is more sophisticated than the vocabulary of an average conversation between adults. Stories and dialogues provide an excellent way to pick up new words and exercise your brain by using context clues to figure out meaning s of new words.

Better Writing – One of the reasons why schools make students read the classic s of literature is to introduce them to different ways and styles of writing. These varied styles allow students to learn different composition techniques opening a door to new creative flow and thinking processes.

If at the end of the day you have a choice of cracking open a new book or turning on some reality TV, test out a new book. Challenge yourself to take the opportunity to broad en your mind, creative processes and increase your vocabulary. Read for an hour at the end of your night instead of watching TV and see how it enhances your evening routine.

Cooking and Eating Together as a Family

Americans today have been taken in by the fast-food and restaurant industries at the expense of home-cooking and family dinnertime. Fast food and dining out suit busy schedules and over-committed families. It’s important for families to spend time together at mealtimes, by cooking at home, or dining out together. And while there is nothing wrong with eating out every once in a while, home-cooked meals save money, support the local economy and bring families together, among other benefits.

Here are a few of the pros of cooking at home:

Cost Savings – By purchasing ingredients to cook at home, you save money. Restaurants have to pay for rent, staff and numerous other overhead costs that are passed on to the customer and pre-packaged foods have the added costs of packaging and transport. When you cook at home, you cut out those costs to provide meals for you and your family.

Health – Processed meals and fast-food are often full of chemicals, pesticides, and preservatives, which some studies have shown to be detrimental to your health. Cooking at home gives you greater control of what you’re putting into your body, so that you can make the choices that are most beneficial to you and your family. Also, you have the freedom to prepare food to your own taste and play with the recipes to make something old and worn out new again.

Sustainability – Home cooking supports local farmers and vendors. When you bu y organic or locally-grown food, you are contributing to your community’s economy, which in turn increases investment and development in other areas. Also, you have the opportunity to make use of parts like vegetable trimmings and chicken bones in stocks and other meals.

Family Time – Sitting down around the dinner table over a home-cooked meal is a fantastic way to bring the family together, even if only a few times per week. Let everyone go around the table and tell their favorite story from the week or about events coming up. You might even consider making the cooking part of family time; children love to help out in the kitchen and you can teach them to appreciate home-cooked meals early on while also practicing math skills and following directions.

Studies by Cornell University have even shown that children whose families dine together are 35% less likely to develop eating disorders, 24% more likely to eat healthier foods and 12% less likely to be overweight. Start small with one meal a week. Let your family decide what to cook together. Eventually, cooking and eating together will become a routine the family will look forward to.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

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Amidst the beauty of the orange and red leaves there’s one other striking color that catches eyes every October, pink! The minute we see the ribbons, balloons and NFL football players’ gloves and cheerleaders shaking pink pompons we know it’s Breast Cancer Awareness month. But, breast cancer awareness month is more than just wearing a pink ribbon or article of clothing or joining in on a walk or fundraiser, it’s a reminder to make sure you’re taking the necessary precautions to take care of yourself and loved ones.

In 2015, the American Cancer Society estimates there will be 23 1,840 new cases of invasive breast cancer. Regular mammograms increase your chances of finding cancers before the symptoms become present. Those with an increased risk because of age, genetics, etc. are recommended to have MRI screenings as well.

Each year we see posts about how to do your own exams at home and early detection signs so instead of that we will give you some ways that you can join the fight against breast cancer.

Set up a mammogram reminder – Visit the American Cancer Society website and sign up for your mammogram reminder. Then, share the link with your friends and family.

Become an advocate – Stay up-to-date with legislative actions and current advocacy initiatives that support funding and treatment.

Volunteer or Hold a Fundraiser – Many programs are available through Susan G. Komen and the National Breast Cancer Foundation to raise money to provide mammograms, support and education.

Breast Cancer Awareness should be practiced year round but October is a special month in the fight. Celebrate the survivors and remember those whom lost the battle by wearing your pink this October. But remember, early detection is key in increasing survival rates. Set up your reminders and stay in-the-know with the latest research so you can make the right choices for you and your loved ones.

Summer Colds

Nothing dampens the spirit of summer like a summer cold. While most people associate colds with wintertime, studies show that between 30 and 50 percent of colds are caused by rhinoviruses, which happen to be very active during the spring and summer.

Whether you already have a summer cold or you’re afraid of catching one, here are a few tips to protect yourself and those around you:

Cover your mouth - While this may seem like an obvious tip, covering your nose and mouth when you sneeze or cough prevents the airborne spread of germs to those people and surfaces around you. Use the inside of your elbow, or a tissue.

Wash your hands - Warm water and soap are one easy way to protect yourself against germs. This or hand sanitizer, along with not touching your face, offer significant protection against the viruses that cause colds.

Be wary of touching surfaces - Busy areas are far more likely to transfer germs from one person to another. Avoid touching surfaces that you don’t have to touch like doorknobs and handles, or consider opening the bathroom door with a paper towel

Stay home - If you’re already sick, avoid coming in to work if possible and take the appropriate over-the counter medication.

Stay hydrated - Increased physical exertion during the summer results in increased dehydration, which makes it more difficult for your body’s immune system to fight off sickness. Stick to water, and avoid coffee, juice, and alcohol, which can actually dehydrate you even more.

Make the most of the summer, and enjoy it without being sick.

Stroke Awareness Month

May is stroke awareness month, a time to build awareness of stroke warning signs and prevention. Nearly 800,000 strokes occur annually. In fact, stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S. Although stroke is associated with the older adults, it more often occurs in people under 65. Stroke is largely preventable and treatable, so it’s important for everyone to learn more about the warning signs and ways to prevent it.

Stroke occurs when a blockage stops the blood flow to the brain or when the blood vessel around the brain bursts. Stroke can cause paralysis or weakness on one side of the body, pain the in hands and feet, speech problems and more. Although there are demographic risk factors for stroke, there are things people can do to lower their risk including:

  • ABCS of Health
    • Aspirin Therapy – Consult with your doctor on taking aspirin
    • Blood pressure – Keep your blood pressure under control. Be sure to check your blood pressure before taking birth control pills. High levels may increase your chances of stroke.
    • Cholesterol – Manage your levels to keep your arteries in good condition.
    • Smoking – Quit smoking – it can increase your risk of stroke.
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Regular exercise
  • Healthy diet – low in sodium
  • Prevent or control diabetes
  • Limit alcohol intake (fewer than two drinks for men, one for women)

Warning Signs of Stroke

When responding to a stroke, every minute counts. Strokes can be hard to detect and the symptoms for women are unique. It can start with a headache and could then lead to hearing sounds in your head and overall confusion. Recognizing the symptoms of a stroke is critical to getting the treatment needed for recovery.

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Strokes can progress quickly, so it’s important to act fast if you feel you are having symptoms. Here is a checklist if you or someone you know may be having a stroke -- using the acronym FAST:

-  Face - Check if your face is drooping or numb on one side. Check to see if the smile is uneven.

A  -  Arms – Check to see if you can raise both arms without any weakness and if one arm drifts

downward.

S  -  Speech – Check for slurred speech or difficulty forming words. Repeat a simple sentence, like

“the sky is blue,” to see if it is correct.

T  -  Time – Call 9-1-1 for help as soon as possible. Treatment within three hours of the first 

symptoms can help reduce disability in the long term. Every 15 minute delay in a clot treatment can impact recovery of a stroke, so time is crucial.

 

Visit www.strokeassociation.org for more information on stroke.