Is Laughter Really the Best Medicine?

February 22nd, 2017

People laughingSome researchers think that laughter might be just what the doctor ordered.

Long-term Benefits of Laughter

People change physiologically when they laugh. Muscles are stretched throughout the face and body, pulse rate and blood pressure go up, and a person’s breathing comes faster, sending more oxygen to tissues

In the last few decades, researchers have studied laughter’s effect on the body:

  • Blood flow: Researchers at the University of Maryland studied the effects on blood vessels when people were shown either comedies or dramas. After the screening, the blood vessels of the group who watched the comedy behaved normally, expanding and contracting easily. The blood vessels in people who watched the drama tended to tense up, restricting blood flow.
  • Blood sugar levels: Laughter reduces blood sugar levels, increasing glucose tolerance in diabetics and non-diabetics. 
  • Immune response: Increased stress is associated with decreased immune system response. Some studies have shown that the ability to use humor may raise the infection-fighting antibodies in the body and boost the level of immune cells, as well.
  • Relieve pain: Laughter may ease pain by causing the body to produce its own natural pain killers.

One of the biggest problems with laughter research is that it’s very difficult to determine cause and effect.

Short-term Benefits of Laughter

Laughter is a good way to relieve stress and it can also provide some short-term benefits:

  • Activate and relieve your stress responses: A rollicking laugh fires up and then cools down your stress response.
  • Soothe tension: Laughter can also stimulate circulation and aid muscle relaxation, both of which can help reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress.
  • Stimulate many organs: Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain.

Researchers aren’t sure if it’s actually the act of laughing that makes people feel better. A good sense of humor, a positive attitude, and the support of friends and family might play a role too.

What IAA has to Say

If laughter really is the best medicine, make sure to have a laugh a day (it could help keep the doctor away). Insurance Administrator of America wants you to keep on laughing. Just think of IAA as your third-party joke shop, here to keep you healthy and chuckling!

Like this blog post? Let IAA know by going to our Facebook page and clicking the Like button!

Flu Continues to Spread

February 15th, 2017

Flue Season SignA report out from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says over 12,000 cases of influenza A have been reported across the country. Fifty-one of the 54 U.S. states and territories are experiencing elevated levels of flu and flu-like illnesses.

Influenza

The flu virus continues to spread in 40 states and Puerto Rico. The flu virus has been associated with 15 pediatric deaths, seven of them reported in the week ending January 28th, as shown in the report from the CDC.

Influenza is a highly contagious viral infection and is more severe than the common cold. Symptoms include:

  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Soreness

There are four types of the flu virus: A, B, C and D. In humans, influenza A & B are the two that routinely cause the seasonal flu each year.

Prevent the Flu

Looking to avoid catching the flu? Prevention is key:

  1. Avoid close contact with people who are sick: When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
  2. Wash your hands: If you can’t get to a sink, rub your hands with a sanitizer that has alcohol in it.
  3. Don’t cover your sneezes and coughs with your hands: Viruses cling to bare hands, so don’t use then to muffle your coughs or sneezes.
  4. Don’t touch your face: Flu viruses enter the body through your eyes, nose and mouth.
  5. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is ill.
  6. Do aerobic exercise regularly: It helps to increase your body’s natural virus killing cells.
  7. Eat foods containing photochemicals: “Phyto” means plants, and the natural chemicals in them give the vitamins in food a supercharged boost.
  8. Don’t smoke.
  9. Cut back on drinking alcohol: Heavy drinking curbs the immune system.

Make sure to get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.

What IAA has to Say

It is flu season which means everyone needs to make prevention a priority! Insurance Administrator of America wants you and your family to avoid catching the flu, so make sure everyone is washing their hands and steering clear of those who are sick. Just think of IAA as your third-party flu monitor, here to help prevent you from getting the flu.

Like this blog post? Let IAA know by going to our Facebook page and clicking the Like button! 

February is Children’s Dental Health Month

February 8th, 2017

TeethThink you have time before you have to worry about your little one’s teeth? Think again. Parents need to start thinking about their children’s teeth from day one.

Protect Your Children’s Teeth

According to the Academy of American Pediatrics (AAP), tooth decay is the most common chronic children’s disease in the country. It is very important that parents work with their child’s pediatrician to establish good oral health. Although most of us think of dental care in relation to our own dentists, parents will be working closely with a pediatrician even earlier than with a dentist.

Children with dental caries (tooth decay) in their baby teeth are at a much higher risk for cavities in their adult teeth. Avoid this by practicing good dental health for your young child:

  • Check and clean your baby’s teeth: Healthy teeth should all be one color. If you see spots or stains on the teeth, take your baby to the dentist. Clean teeth twice a day.
  • Feed your baby healthy food: Choose drinks and foods that do not have a lot of sugar in them.
  • Fluoride and your child: Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that is found in many foods.  It is also added to drinking water in some cities and towns. Fluoride can benefit dental health by strengthening tooth enamel, making it more resistant to acid attacks that can cause tooth decay. It also reduces the ability of plaque bacteria to produce acid. 

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has stated that dental caries is five times more common than asthma and seven times more common than hay fever, in children.

Toothpaste Timeline

More than 40 percent of children have tooth decay by the time they reach kindergarten. Dental decay in baby teeth can negatively affect permanent teeth and lead to future dental problems. As soon as your child has a tooth:

  1. Help brush their teeth two times a day with a smear (size of a grain of rice) of fluoride toothpaste on a child-size tooth brush that has soft bristles.
  2. At age three you can start using a pea-size amount of toothpaste.

Children are recommended to have their first dental visit by age one.

What IAA has to Say

Whether you are a first time parent or an old pro, keeping your child’s dental health in mind is always important. Insurance Administrator of America wants you to help support Children’s Dental Health Awareness Month by forwarding this blog post on to friends and colleagues.

Interested in reading more on oral health? Click here!

The Difference Between Strains, Sprains and Fractures

February 1st, 2017

Leg in castWinter sports are in full swing and you are constantly worried that your favorite athlete might be out due to an injury. But when an athlete has a strain, sprain or fracture, do you know the difference?

What is a Strain?

Strains are a twist, pull or tear of a muscle or tendon. Tendons are cords of tissue that connect muscles to bones.

 Acute strains are caused by a direct blow to the body, overstretching or excessive muscle contraction. Chronic strains are the result of overuse (prolonged repetitive movement) of muscles and tendons.

In severe strains, the muscles and/or tendons are partially or completely ruptured. With a mild strain, the muscles and/or tendons are pulled or stretched slightly

Typical indications of a strain include:

  • Cramping
  • Inflammation
  • Muscle spasm
  • Muscle weakness
  • Pain
  • Swelling

Because a strain is pain in the muscle, it may start to hurt immediately or several hours later.

What is a Sprain?

Sprains are a stretch or tear of a ligament, the tissue connecting two bones. Ligaments stabilize and support the body’s joints. A sprain is caused by a trauma (a fall, twist or blow to the body) that knocks a joint out of position and overstretches or even ruptures supporting ligaments. A person may feel a tear or pop in the joint.

With a severe sprain, ligaments tear completely or separate from the bone. This loosening impairs joint function. A moderate sprain partially tears the ligament, producing joint instability and some swelling. A ligament is stretched in a mild sprain, but there is no joint loosening or instability.

Signs and symptoms of a sprain include:

  • Difficulty moving the injured part
  • Pain in the joint
  • Swelling and bruising
  • Warmth and redness of the injured area

Though the intensity varies, pain, bruising and inflammation are common to all three categories of sprains: mild, moderate and severe.

Taking Care of Strains and Sprains

Think of R.I.C.E. for the first 48 hours after a strain or sprain:

  1. Rest: Rest the injured part until it’s less painful.
  2. Ice: Wrap an ice pack or cold compress in a towel and place over the injured part immediately.  Continue for no more than 20 minutes at a time, four to eight times a day.
  3. Compression: Support the injured part with an elastic compression bandage for at least two days.
  4. Elevation: Raise the injured part above heart level to decrease swelling.

Do not apply heat in any form for at least 24 hours after an injury. Heat increases swelling and pain.

What is a Fracture?

A fracture is a splinter or complete break in the bone. Breaks are often caused by accidents, sports injuries or bone weakness.

Signs and symptoms of a fracture are:

  • Injured part is difficult to move or hurts when moving, being touched or bearing weight
  • Swelling, bruising or tenderness
  • You heard a snap or a grinding noise during an injury

If you think someone has a fracture:

  1. Remove clothing from the injured area.
  2. Apply an ice pack wrapped in cloth.
  3. Keep the injured limb in the position you find it.
  4. Get medical care and don’t allow the person to eat or drink in case surgery is required.

According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS) physicians attend to more than 28 million Americans with musculoskeletal injuries each year, with more than 3 million requiring hospitalization

What IAA has to Say

Any kind of damage to your ligaments, joints, muscles, and bones are no fun! Insurance Administrator of America wants you to be in the know when it comes to strains, sprains and fractures. Be careful out there and remember, with IAA one call does it all.

Like this blog post? Let IAA know by going to our Facebook page and clicking the Like button!

Keep up With Your Fitness Goals

January 25th, 2017

Apple and weightsThe end of January is almost here which for some people means the end of those healthy New Year’s resolutions. Keeping fit and eating healthy are important all year round, so make the effort to keep those goals going!

Maintain Fitness Goals

According to a study from the Statistic Brain Research Institute, roughly 42 percent of Americans made New Year’s resolutions for 2017. The most common resolution, made by almost a quarter of every person making one, involves increasing fitness and activity.

Maintain fitness goals all year:

  • Commit to a date specific goal: For example, I want to lose 10 pounds by July 4th.
  • Keep moving
  • Keep smiling: Having fun helps people stick with a workout program.
  • Make it social: Humans are social animals. The more we interact with others, the more likely we are to modify our behavior. Social interaction has been shown to make people more likely to work out.
  • Recognize aches and pains: If working out doesn’t make you slightly uncomfortable, you’re probably not doing it hard enough. Effective exercise is all about pushing your limits. But when all the aches and pains of starting a new fitness program pop up—it’s important to pay attention. Many well intentioned fitness programs have been derailed by ignoring the discomfort that can turn into a more serious injury.  

Because bodies are living, breathing matter, they need to be stimulated in order to become more fit.

Work Your Willpower

No matter what your New Year’s resolution is, in order to succeed your willpower will need a workout.

How can you help your New Year’s resolutions triumph? You need to outsmart your willpower:

  1. Give it a workout: Willpower is like a muscle. That means the more it is used, the stronger it gets.
  2. Make one change at a time: Once you understand that you only have a limited amount of willpower, it’s easy to understand why multiple resolutions won’t work.
  3. Break it up: Since your supply of self-control is finite, make resolutions that require small acts of will, not weeks of vigilance.  You’ll feel good when you accomplish each goal, and your success will help booster your resolve. The better you are at making small changes, the easier it will be for you to keep going.
  4. Lift your spirits: Doing just about anything that puts you in a good mood also helps when willpower starts wearing down.
  5. Have some orange juice: Self-restraint can reduce blood glucose to less than optimum levels. But a glass of orange juice can replenish your self-control.
  6. Outwit your inner rebel: To give your willpower some wiggle room, avoid making 100 percent resolutions.
  7. Crank up your greatest hits: When you feel discouraged, remind yourself how much you’ve accomplished in the past.
  8. Get out of dodge: Get away from whatever is tempting you until you’ve eaten and rested, which will give your willpower a fighting chance.

It is also interesting to note that people who put their goals on paper are significantly more likely to achieve them than those who merely make mental vows.

What IAA has to Say

Insurance Administrator of America wants you to work that willpower! Staying fit and eating right are great resolutions, but you need to stick to them! Here’s to a healthy start to the New Year from IAA. For some inspiration, go to IAA’s website where you can use the wellness module to set goals and get supporting literature.

Interested in reading more on this topic? Click here!