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A New Benefit for Your Aging Brain!

Note: This article is over 60 days old, and may contain information that is out of date, or has been superseded by newer information.

Doctors have always told us that keeping our bodies physically fit is an important part of overall well-being as we age, but keeping your brain in shape is an equally important part of living a healthy, vibrant life.

Why Is Brain Fitness Important?

Everyone experiences a gradual decline in memory, attention, concentration, language use, and other brain functions as they age. The older adult brain commonly learns shortcuts to make everyday tasks easier, making it more likely that individuals won’t use their brains in ways that sustain cognitive abilities. The average older brain actually shrinks because people don’t use it as much as they used to. When it comes to the brain you literally have to “use it or lose it,” and targeted cognitive exercises that meet specific scientific standards have been proven to be the most effective in improving memory and keeping the brain fit and active.

That’s why Capital Health Plan will soon offer brain fitness programs from Posit Science, the leading provider of clinically validated brain health products and services.

Posit Science InSight™

Beginning in January, CHP members who are aged 65 years or more will be able to order a software copy of InSight, a Posit Science program that is designed to speed up and sharpen visual processing and memory, important parts of overall brain fitness. There is no additional out-of-pocket cost for CHP members.

Posit Science works with more than 50 leading scientists from universities around the world to develop computer programs that give the brain a workout. Proven effective in dozens of published studies, Posit Science brain fitness programs improve memory, increase brain speed, and help people get the most out of life.

Clinical trials prove InSight helps older adults:

• Drive more safely—drivers can avoid collisions by almost 40% by cutting down on dangerous driving moves, such as unsafe lane changes

• Capture more visual details when scanning medication labels, traveling, house hunting, or doing any vision-rich task

• React more quickly when playing sports, walking in a crowded area, and other situations that require quick responses to visual information

Studies have also proven that InSight helps older adults maintain their health-related quality of life and prolong their ability to live independently, along with many other benefits.

How Do Posit Science Programs Work?

Experts used to believe that the adult brain was unchangeable, like a computer with all of its parts permanently welded together, but scientists now know that declines in cognitive abilities are not inevitable—or irreversible. The brain has the ability to physically change throughout a person’s life, even to grow new cells. This phenomenon, called brain plasticity, is how people learn and remember everything during their lives, from learning how to talk, to playing a musical instrument, to driving a car.

Posit Science programs exercise the brain and drive physical changes that create new neural pathways and connections. These positive changes can directly improve memory, attention, and other cognitive abilities.

Current members who are age 65 or older and who will be CHP members in 2009 may pre-register for the program by calling 1-877-582-1852, 9:00 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. TTY/TDD users, please call 850-383-3534 or 1-800-955-8771.

Ask Dr. Nancy

Note: This article is over 60 days old, and may contain information that is out of date, or has been superseded by newer information.

Q: What activities really help in avoiding mental decline as we age?

That’s a great question—for one reason because you assume brain power need not diminish with time. You’re right. As our cover story explains, scientists now know that brain cells and neural pathways can grow throughout life. Yes, the brain does shrink from age (particularly from about the 60s on), but many easy, everyday activities counteract the process and its mental losses.

 

1. Move it or lose it.

You may be surprised at the premier strategy for keeping your brain sharp: physical exercise. The scientific evidence is clear. Just walking 30–60 minutes several times a week has a big impact on the brain’s “executive functions”: planning, focusing, working memory (for example, retaining a phone number as you dial), multitasking, and making good behavior choices. More exercise increases the benefit. Lifelong exercisers show better mental functioning and less incidence of Alzheimer’s than sedentary people. However, even inactive people of 70 years and older improve cognitive performance with regular exercise. Why? Physical activity improves blood vessel health (blood flow to the brain) and releases proteins that grow neurons and their connections. The brain shrinks less.

 

2. Use it or lose it.

Seek out mental stimulation and training, like the coming InSight™ program for CHP seniors (see page 1). Research shows that learning something new (a language, sport, skill) or improving visual and aural acuity leads to overall improvement in brain function. Practicing a specific task (memory of names, for example) has a more limited benefit.

 

3. Get connected.

Social ties keep your brain livelier. In a study of 2,800 people aged 65 or older, those with at least five social ties suffered less cognitive decline than those without ties. Having connections doesn’t mean a social whirl. The ties included church and social groups, regular visits, and phone calls. Walk with a friend. Your brain gets a double boost!

 

4. Eat to think.

Some nutrients, such as antioxidants, appear to protect our brains—and they’re in tasty foods. Many experts recommend diets rich in colorful fruits (berries, raisins, prunes, oranges, red grapes), dark-colored vegetables (spinach, kale, eggplant), and fish with omega-e fatty acids (salmon, trout).

 

So . . . move, learn, socialize, eat well, and stay smart! It’s your choice. Live well.

Get Your Neck and Back on Track

Note: This article is over 60 days old, and may contain information that is out of date, or has been superseded by newer information.

How many of us can say we’ve never had neck or back pain? Not many. Studies show that more than 80% of people between 20 and 60 will experience at least one episode of back pain in their lifetime. Once it happens, the chance of reoccurrence within three years is 80–90%. This high incidence, along with the cost of treatment, has made spinal pain the most researched medical condition in the past 30 years. Real advances have come from the research: effective, validated methods to assess, treat, and prevent these painful conditions.

Our Program for Members.

In response to these studies, CHP and the Center for Orthopedics and Sports Physical Therapy (COSPT) have developed the Back and Neck Program. This evidence-based program uses the process known as Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy (MDT) to evaluate spinal pain. Research has shown the initial MDT assessment process is reliable in determining the source of the problem. MDT is a philosophy of active patient involvement and education. Trusted and used by practitioners and patients around the world, this approach continues to be the most researched conservative care method available for back, neck, and extremity problems. The therapy’s success relies on three key steps: (1) assessment, (2) treatment, and (3) preventive strategy. All of the clinicians involved in the Back and Neck Program are credentialed in MDT and well trained to manage most spinal conditions. They will work with your primary care physician to find the best solution for you. The goals are to reduce pain, restore function, and give the patient tools to prevent recurrences.

 

A Two-Year Record of Success.

The program has had great success, demonstrated by data collected for the past two years. To date 252 CHP members have participated in the study, allowing us to track their outcomes using pain and function scores as a benchmark. In less than four visits, pain scores dropped from an average of 53/100 at initial evaluation to 10.6/100 at discharge. Function scores or physical activity scores improved from 57.5/100 at initial evaluation to 91.2/100 at discharge from the program. Recurrence of the pain occurred in less than 20% of the population, compared to 80–90% in the general population receiving usual care. This is a program that promotes the body’s ability to heal without medication, surgery, or dependence on practitioners.

 

In a Patient’s Own Words.

Deanna Barath reports of her experience in the Back and Neck Program:

I was in a horrible car accident one year ago and could barely walk, sit, or stand for even short periods of time. The medication I took for the pain in my legs did very little to change my symptoms. I’ve been receiving therapy for about two months—5 to 6 visits—and never thought in such a short time I could feel this great! Asking for something more than drug therapy was the best question I ever asked.

 

If you feel the Back and Neck Program could benefit you, discuss it with your primary care physician or contact COSPT to learn more (850-656-1837). No authorization is necessary.

ADVANTAGE PRIME TIME

Note: This article is over 60 days old, and may contain information that is out of date, or has been superseded by newer information.

CHP Is Medicare Made Easy

People eligible for Medicare can look forward to a lot when they join a Capital Health Plan Medicare Advantage plan. They’re not only joining the Southeast’s top-ranked Medicare plan; they’re receiving benefits in Capital Health Plan style. What does this mean? Ease, extra benefits, expansive physician network, local member service, and the savings of a nonprofit organization.

 

Additionally, CHP members enjoy the ease of “one-stop shopping” where they can find eye care, lab services, and physicians (accepting Medicare members) at our two conveniently located facilities. Radiology/imaging is also available at our Governor Square location.

 

CHP Medicare Advantage provides members with:

  • CHP’s extensive network of primary care physicians and other health care providers
  • worry-free travel knowing they have coverage for emergencies anywhere in the world.
  • a nationwide network of over 62,000 pharmacies for prescription drug coverage
  • a local customer-service team available to meet with them anytime Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
  • no need to file claims with Medicare
  • full enrollment in the government’s Medicare program with all of its covered services, rights, and protections
  • additional services from Capital Health Plan
  • $150 toward eyeglasses every two years
  • $150 health center reimbursement each year
  • CHP Health Coaching: expert answers to your personal health questions

The annual Medicare election period is November 15 through December 31. In this period non-CHP members can join one of our Medicare plans, and current CHP members can change Medicare plans.

 

Capital Health Plan offers three different Medicare plans and makes it easy to learn details through seminars, brochures, and online resources. Visit our web site at www.capitalhealth.com to learn more, or contact CHP Member Services 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., seven days a week at 850-523-7441 or 1-877-247-6512 (TTY users 850-383-3534 or 1-800-955-8771).

Benefits, formulary, pharmacy, network, premium, and/or copayments/coinsurance may change on January 1, 2009. Please contact CHP for details. Capital Health Plan is a health plan with a Medicare contract.

Medicare Members: You May Qualify for Extra Help with Prescription Costs

Note: This article is over 60 days old, and may contain information that is out of date, or has been superseded by newer information.

Some Medicare members with limited income and resources quality for a Medicare program that provides extra help for prescription drug costs. Don’t assume you can’t qualify! The Low-Income Subsidy program, or LIS, can be very valuable, even paying for most of the monthly Part D premium and lowering prescription co-payments. The extra help could be worth up to $3,600 per year. To find out if you qualify, call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778), or apply on-line at www.socialsecurity.gov.

To qualify in 2008* you must have:

  • Income limited to $15,600 for an individual or $21,000 for a married couple living together.
  • Resources limited to $11,990 for an individual or $23,970 for a married couple living together. Resources include such things as a bank account, stocks, and bonds. Your house and car are not counted as resources.

Even if your income or resources are slightly higher than these limits, you should still contact Social Security. Other deductions may be allowed, making you eligible for the extra help.

 

*These limits will change in 2009. If you support other family members, these limits may be slightly higher.

CHP Offers “Nutrition for Seniors” at Tallahassee Senior Center

Note: This article is over 60 days old, and may contain information that is out of date, or has been superseded by newer information.

All CHP members, as well as the public, are invited to attend an exciting new series of nutrition and health classes. The classes have no charge and do not require pre-registration.

Every Monday in January, please join Capital Health Plan’s registered dietitian, Melissa Dancer-Brown, R.D., L.D./N., for these informative and entertaining sessions! There will be plenty of time for questions and answers, so come prepared with all of your nutrition curiosities. If you have questions, please call the Tallahassee Senior Center at 850-891-4000.

 

Time & Place: Tallahassee Senior Center, 1400 N. Monroe Street, 11 a.m. – noon

 

January 5, 2009: “Keeping the Resolution: Starting the New Year Right”

January 12: “Healthy Eating for Whatever Ails You: Living with Diabetes, Hypertension, Obesity or High Cholesterol”

January 19: “Eating for One or Two on a Limited Budget”

January 26: “Common Misconceptions about Nutrition: What Are Your Issues?”

Caregivers: To Help Others, Also Help Yourself

Note: This article is over 60 days old, and may contain information that is out of date, or has been superseded by newer information.

Caregivers—you probably know several. You may be one. They are people caring for loved ones, usually family members. Today family caregivers provide an estimated 80% of all community care, according to the American Medical Association. Caregiving can be one of life’s most rewarding experiences: a time to be with your loved one and perhaps deepen or improve your relationship. It is an opportunity to really make a difference in someone else’s life and can be a significant period of personal and spiritual growth.

 

Researchers know that caregivers often neglect their own well-being and that their health is typically worse than the general population’s. The rewarding experience of helping another person sometimes replaces the priority of caring for oneself. Caregivers tend not to exercise, eat, or sleep well. And they don’t visit their own doctors. The fact (and irony) is that a caregiver cannot give the best care when overwhelmed or ill. For yourself or a caregiver friend, here are steps to stay healthy:

 

Establish a good relationship with your primary care physician.

Your doctor should know about your situation. He or she not only can monitor your health, but can be an advisor or liaison to helpful services. Also connect with the patient’s doctor and health plan. Caregivers often manage all phases of their charges’ health care, from medications to questions of coverage. Know how to get answers fast. For example, CHP’s Medicare Advantage programs are completely local, a plus for direct communication about Medicare (see the Advantage Primetime article).

 

Eat well and exercise.

Don’t fall into the snack (or fast food) trap. Keep nutritious food on hand, and keep preparation simple. Promise yourself 15 minutes of exercise a day, even if it’s walking around the house or in place. You can do that! (And you’ll soon manage more.)

 

Take time off.

It may not be easy, but giving yourself a break—even for an hour—is a powerful reviver.

 

Find Out About Resources, and Use Them.

 

Capital Health Plan’s Member Services can provide excellent help, and the following two umbrella organizations can supply extensive lists of resources for caregivers, from adult daycare to support groups. You are not alone!

 

2-1-1 Big Bend

850-224-633 or dial 2-1-1

www.211bigbend.org

 

Elder Care Services, 850-921-5554

www.ecsbigbend.org

These Holiday Hustles Are Good for You

Note: This article is over 60 days old, and may contain information that is out of date, or has been superseded by newer information.

In the hustle and bustle of the holidays, exercising often gets left behind in your dust. While walking around a grocery or mall is exercise, does it unstress you? Hardly. CHP proudly sponsors two holiday walks and runs that will lift your mood, burn calories (pumpkin pie, anyone?), and benefit good causes. Have an outing with friends or family!

November 27, Tallahassee Turkey Trot

Gulfwinds Track Club Event

8:00 a.m. 1-mile Turkey Gobbler walk/run

8:30 a.m. 5K, 10K, 15K

State Office Complex, Capital Circle S.E.

Register online at www.gulfwinds.org/turkeytrot, on race day 6:45–7:30 a.m., or call 850-425-6671.

For full information, including the pre-race Music Fest on November 23, see the website.

 

December 6, Jingle Bell Run

City of Tallahassee, Winter Festival

6:15 p.m. 3K

Monroe Street at Park Avenue

For registration details, visit http://www.talgov.com/parks/winter/index.cfm or call 850-891-3860.

Community Events

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Capital Health Plan Presents

Join us to see a history of medicine in Florida at the Tallahassee Museum now through April 5, 2009. Please contact the Tallahassee Museum at 850-575-8684 for museum hours and other information.

 

 

Team CHP Walks Proudly in Making Strides 2008

CHP Fruit Stand
Breast Cancer Walk table

Capital Health Plan was the presenting sponsor for this year’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk. Making Strides Against Breast Cancer is the American Cancer Society’s premier event to raise awareness and funds to fight breast cancer. CHP had a team of more than 162 walkers, raising more than $10,000. Congratulations Team CHP!

CHPConnect has a new tool

Note: This article is over 60 days old, and may contain information that is out of date, or has been superseded by newer information.

The Continuity of Care Record (CCR) is a snapshot of your current health status (such as conditions, medications, allergies), as well as basic information about your insurance, benefit plan, and physicians. The new feature complies with industry-standard formatting, which will allow you to download the record to a file and share it with other physicians or providers. The CCR in CHPConnect can be conveniently downloaded into an XML format (for sharing with other electronic health systems), saved as a PDF, or printed on paper.

The CCR can be a valuable method to give new providers pertinent information about your health, saving time and removing the potential for errors.